It’s funny how God works sometimes, isn’t it?
I’d been toying with retiring the Blessed Chaos blog. I still write multiple times a week, but as you know, almost never for public viewing. I’ve not felt God call me to share my thoughts.
This week, however, I’ve felt this prompting. And I knew it was him, because it was on a subject I truly didn’t want to talk about. It’s my own personal struggle, my own personal fight, and it’s private to me. And the more I’ve fought him, the more he’s presented me with those “flashing neon signs” saying “talk-write-share”.
Fine. Sigh. You win, God. You win.
Three times in my life I have been privileged to have heard a somewhat audible voice of God speak to me. One of those times I’ll probably take to the grave. One of those times was regarding my child and some medical struggles (which I’ve written on) and once, God woke me up in the middle of the night and told me to pray for a specific person and to let them know.
It was the middle of the night many years ago. I did do this, but I was a bit terrified as I had not had so much as a lengthy conversation with this person prior.
And she wrote me back immediately to let me know she’d just lost another baby. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I knew God didn’t have to let me know why he had asked me to do what he did, but he chose to anyway. And my faith was encouraged by my obedience even amongst such a heartbreaking situation.
This week, years later, I felt God prompt me in a similar way. In the middle of the night, I felt God lay a name on my heart. A friend I haven’t been in touch with in awhile due to..well, just life. We all know how that just happens sometimes. I felt God say “Check on her, pray for her. Reach out.” But, God, it’s so late. So, I chose instead to send message via social media...even though a quick scan of social media showed me she hadn’t been very active on it in months. And then I went to sleep.
I woke the next day still heavily burdened with the need to reach out. And so, I obeyed. I texted her. I let her know that she’d been on my heart and my mind. And I told her I felt like I was supposed to message her last night.
She messaged back immediately. And she asked me for prayer. She was going through some rough anxiety at that moment.
I prayed. And I knew it wasn’t coincidence that I myself (who had been going through some serious winter blues) had been put in this place, asking for peace when I so desperately needed it myself.
I sent her back directions for something I have done myself for years.
“Sing these words out loud. Singing slows your breathing. Plus, the lyrics always speak straight to my heart in moments of anxiety.
‘There’s a peace I’ve come to know, though my heart and flesh my fail.
There’s an anchor for my soul, I can say ‘it is well.’
Jesus has overcome and the grave is overwhelmed.
The victory is won.
He is risen from the dead.
And I will rise when he calls my name, no more sorrow, so more pain.
I will rise on eagles’ wings..before my God, fall on my knees and rise.’” Lyrics from I Will Rise by Chris Tomlin
Since that time, I’ve prayed for my friend each day since. I hope she knows that.
And since that time, I’ve also wrestled with my own darkness. Truth be told, mine started we before this time, but I feel I should be honest now since my friend was so brave telling me. I’m not new to this, as most of you know. And I find it fascinating, shocking, and sad just how many people are struggling with depression, anxiety, and mental health issues right now. I blame this weather. I truly do. Winter blues are no stranger to many of us... and when winter has lasted for approximately 10 million years in the Midwest, it makes sense that the winter blues would be extra harsh for a lot of us. I’ve found this to be true as I browse my social media, read current event articles, and watch the nightly news.
In my darkness, I’ve struggled to put many words to paper, and if I’m being 100% honest, I’ve struggled to string sentences together in prayer. But I’m always able to go back to a single word, even on my worst days. It’s a desperate cry, it’s a heartfelt plea, and it’s quiet strength all at the same time. “Peace.” God, give me peace. Give me peace. Give me peace.
This week, due to various different life situations, I found myself sinking a bit lower and lower. Last night, I found myself up quite late just repeating that word over and over, thankful for a God who knows the heart that goes along with a simple, single word. I’m thankful I don’t have to put eloquent text behind the word in order for him to grant my desperate plea! He hears it just the same, of this I am so sure.
And if I doubted it, even for a second, he followed it up with that neon light that I seem to need sometimes. On the way to church this morning, he spoke to me through the radio (KLOVE) where the verse of the day was Isaiah 58:9 “Then when you call, the Lord will answer. He will quickly reply, “YES, I am here.” The commentators started with the word “peace” to grab my attention. Are you needing peace? Simply speak the word. He will quickly answer.
I don’t claim to have all the answers, or truly any for that matter, especially in regards to the subject of mental health. But this is what I do know:
First things first, you should know that this story has been a lifetime in the making for one of my baby girls. I say this because it took 8 years to come up with the facts that we have now, but waited her whole life to get. Because of this, you can't ever truly know the emotion, the power and the heart behind these words. I personally chose to wait a year to write this.
Here's the story of Harper.
If you’ve known us for a long time, then you know our twin baby girls....that entered this world at 5lbs, 6oz, and 4 lbs, 7oz., are no longer babies! These two sacks of sugar are currently weighing in at 52.3 lbs and 51.4lbs, still maintaining the exact difference in weight from day one.
Harper Jade and Bayler Paige celebrated their 9th birthday this summer. We can hardly believe the time has flown as fast as it has. (Don’t all parents say that?)
For the past few years we’ve really gotten to see the identities of both these special ladies. While they’ve been different as night and day since the womb, we’ve especially seen those differences translate as they have progressed through the school age years.
Bayler is still our diva, our princess and our brainiac.
Harper is still our athlete, our artist and our dreamer.
We’ve found ourselves reflecting on their newborn years quite often in the last year. And we can say with great confidence that God has his eye on these two. I believe he has great, ginormous plans for their lives, possibly bigger and greater than the sum of their personalities. :)
From almost day one, I felt that something was "off" about Harper Jade. My pregnancy with the girls was the sort of thing nightmares in hell are made of. To go from hell on earth to home with two tiny sacks of sugar was an adjustment, and I'd be lying if I said I remember it all clearly! One thing I do know with clarity is that I worried about Harper.
I can't recall the first time I felt that things weren't 100%. I can recall that she was maybe a month old when that gut feeling found a voice. I remember saying to my mother that I felt like something wasn't right. And to my absolute horror, my mother (who RARELY voices her opinion on our marriage or child raising) agreed with me.
Harper wasn't hearing us, focusing on us, or reacting to sounds the way others do. You could bang a pan behind her newborn self and she'd react maybe 50% of the time.
This led to a number of doctors appointments, tests, and a lifetime of prayer.
First, research led us to discover that Harper had failed her hearing test at birth. We were fortunate to also have the babies cared for in a place that did routine hearing checks when I started back to work. Of these hearing tests, Harper failed probably half of them. We were told she probably failed because they were much smaller than most children their age. This made perfect sense to us. They weren't even on the growth chart at birth. It would take time to catch up.
But, still, this feeling in me couldn't be shaken. I called for a specialist to check her hearing. I was told that it would be over 6 months to get that appointment. By that time, Harper was close to 6 months old. I felt like time was of the utmost importance, as speech would become an issue.
In a "mother bear" moment, I told an untruth to the lady on the phone and immediately and miraculously they found an opening within the month. I'm not proud of that, but I'd tell you without hesitancy that I'd do it again for any of my children.
That consult led to a hearing test. At 8 months old, we took her in and watched her be tested. We also found out the very next day that she passed with flying colors.. I couldn't believe it, nor could I let it go. I immediately called a specialist on the other side of the state and she was scheduled for a consult the next day. That consult led to a SEDATED hearing test on our baby. And we learned within the month that Harper Jade's hearing...was fine.
The days passed, the girls grew and grew, and still my concern for our daughter was there. I prayed, I reached out to family and friends and I know they started praying as well.
When the girls were 10 months old, I received an email from my Aunt that spilled out with emotion and many words. At the top of that email was a statement, "I believe that God will reveal what is wrong in his perfect timing." I kept that printed email in my Bible and for years I read it daily.
Time ticked on. Our concern grew. She wasn't talking much, she was still only responding part of the time. She lacked focus. And she had so many quirks about her. Issues with texture, issues with certain foods, etc.
We continued to advocate for her. We were sent to several specialists. We heard the word "autism" thrown out several times, and I'll be honest, if someone told me she was autistic, I'd of believed them. No medical professional did, though. And I can't tell you how many times we were told to try and stop comparing her to her sister. This is both impossible and unlikely for any mother of multiples. Their big brother (first born) was advanced beyond words. Bayler was not anywhere close to where big brother was at their age(s). So, we felt that our comparison was fair based on an average child developing, who happened to be the exact same age (and also happened to sleep in the same crib)!
Eventually, Harper was tested and accepted into the First Steps program. She'd failed another hearing test and was delayed in other areas. This brought us Liz. I remember Liz being concerned when she very first evaluated Harper. I also clearly remember her saying the words, "It's almost like she's a completely different child than the one I tested" during one of Harper's very first sessions with her. But, still we pressed on with speech therapy.
Months turned to years. Years led us to accept the fact that Harper simply "beats to her own drum" and if I had a nickel for each time we said that to explain her behavior, I'd be RICH!
The girls started school. As a mother of twin girls, I can tell you that there's really nothing worse than having twin girls during school ages. To watch one excel academically, socially and emotionally while the other struggles in all of those areas is beyond heartbreaking. But, we knew already that "Harper beats to her own drum.'
First grade was rough, I'll be honest. We couldn't let go of this feeling that Harper couldn't hear us. We took her to Children's Mercy for a hearing test. Harper failed. She was diagnosed with "Cookie Bite" hearing loss. Her hearing chart shows a half circle dip much like a bite out of a cookie. She was on the cusp of needing a hearing aid vs. not needing a hearing aid. We let her choose and she chose the aid. We were told that once you lose hearing, it doesn't return. We felt like this was an answer to prayers.. She also started speech therapy at school. We felt good about her future.
We made it through first grade with that hearing aid. Some days we felt like this was everything, but other days we felt like we were still seeing that "distant" Harper. We found ourselves yelling at her, constantly. And it was the flip of a coin of whether she answered the yells. Eventually, her frequent hearing test revealed a miracle. Harper's hearing had improved significantly. To the point in which she didn't need an aid at all. FROM ONE APPOINTMENT TO THE NEXT. It was a miracle and her audiologist couldn't explain it. We were more confused than happy over this and we found ourselves praying for clear answers.
We prayed the most prayers over their schools' Mixed Age program (one room with kids grades 2nd-4th). Our initial thoughts were that it would always be Bayler. But after reading the criteria, talking to parents and then to the teacher, we felt that Bayler, who is "just like her momma in every way" may due better in the routine and environment of the regular classroom. So, when we applied for one of them to get it in, during the spring of their 1st grade year, we put Harper's name on that list.
I will NEVER forget the day that Harper brought that envelope home. We had gone camping that weekend and when we arrived at the campsite, she remembered that envelope. I watched her open it and read that she'd been accepted. And I remember her saying how she "finally had something cool that Bayler didn't." It was both heartbreaking and absolutely thrilling in the same moment. And I was just beyond grateful that she was getting this "edge" she so desperately needed.
Harper started Mixed Age last August in the 2nd grade. She'd had a rough first grade year and were eager to see how this program would shake out. Her testing in reading revealed that she was on a first grade level. Not horrible as a second grader, but not great for her particularly when sister was bringing home 5th and 6th grade level books.
Not long into the school year, we received an email from her teacher. This email stopped me in my tracks, I'll be honest. It described a child of mine, but in our opinion, the wrong child. Defiance, disagreeing, not listening...those were words we typically used for our independent/feisty Bayler Paige. And because it came from a teacher that didn't know our kids at all, I immediately felt confronted with this feeling I couldn't shake. It bothered me so much that I also sent it to my mom. And then, as I drove down the road a few minutes later, I felt like God pushed a word into my mind. I then sent another text to my mom and said, "Do you think Harper could be having seizures?"
I got home, I sat on Harper's bed. I still had a couple hours before the school day was done and I prayed the prayers of a desperate mother. "God, this email has me shaken and I can't help but feel like something is wrong. God I've felt this feeling for over 8 years now...and I'm begging you to fix it."
In only the third time in my whole life, I felt God speak words directly to me. "Call a neurologist." The instructions were so incredibly clear that I picked up the phone immediately. Of course, explaining that your child needed a neuro appt because "God told me so" doesn't go over quite as well. But, the woman either believed in the power of the Holy Spirit or she completely thought I was crazy and indeed needed my child seen, because she got us an appt for two days later.
That Thursday will go down as one of the hardest days of my life. In a SEVEN hour appointment, I watched Harper be poked, prodded, tested, quizzed, read, read to, listen, talk, etc. I explained how I felt about her from day one and all that led up to this day. To finish our testing, they performed and EEG. I was able to sit in the room with her, but was told to be quiet. She was instructed to breathe in and out as quickly as possible to induce hyperventilation and put herself to sleep. Thirty seconds in, she stopped. I immediately said "You have to keep going, Harper! This test is soooo important and if you don't sleep, it won't be accurate" She stared straight through me with that blank look I'd seen so often. I raised my voice and threatened her to start breathing again. She did.
The test ended and 7 hours later, we were headed back home. The next day, we go the call. We had to come back on Monday. I asked if it was necessary to pull her out of school. We were told it was.
That day, with Harper on my lap, I listened as the doctor delivered the diagnosis that I KNEW would come.
Harper has epilepsy.
Harper's EEG revealed more absence seizures than they could count. Periods of "Blankness" while the brain takes a pause, then restarts a few seconds later, not ever knowing it paused in the first place. I then asked two questions. The first, "was she born with this." He was certain she was. Second, "During the EEG, when did they start?" He said "The first to show up was when she stopped breathing while we tried getting her to sleep." She wasn't being defiant, she was having a seizure.
Harper started medication that day and two weeks later an EEG test revealed they were working and the seizures had stopped. We have been told that there's about a 70% chance she will grow out of these by her early 20's.
That same day we were officially told her diagnosis, I opened an old Bible and a piece of paper fell on the floor. In a complete GOD written moment, I opened up an email that was 7 years old. "I believe that God will reveal what is wrong with Harper in his perfect timing."
To say I wept would be an understatement.
It's been just over a full year since Harper's diagnosis. I can tell you that we forgot her medication for a week at the beginning of the school year and both her teacher and her parents can tell you that IT MATTERS! In one short year, we feel like we have a different child. She's still the complete opposite of her sister, but it's amazing what a difference a normal functioning brain can make! Her reading level is in her grade level and almost above. She started 2nd grade with a first grade reading level and ended it with a 3.9. Miracles.
We have appointments every few months and today's appt revealed that the meds are working perfectly. Harper is happy. Harper is healthy. And she's honestly a freak of nature with the blood draws! LOOOOVES them! (Seriously) And while she beats to her own drum most of the time, still, it's a different drum than before.
It's taken me almost a year to get rid of guilt I shouldn't ever have felt in the first place. I know that God revealed the answers when we were supposed to have them. I don't understand his timing. I don't like his timing, But I know that it is perfect. I know that he orchestrated a divine plan. I know her classroom, her teacher, and all the doctors in between were put in place by The Creator. I am thankful for this child of mine. She is one of a kind and we can't wait to see how God uses her in a MIGHTY way for the future.
Parents, if you're struggling with God right now on behalf of your child(ren), I get it. But know this...his timing...it's far greater than you will ever know. Pray. Advocate. Be patient while not backing down. He's got Harper. And He's got your babies.
Destination Unknown....The RULES
*I am taking these rules straight out of the blog from our previous trip. We have adjusted accordingly, and are ready...WE THINK! New text is updated in BOLD print!
There has to be SOME sort of functionality to this trip. We don't want to be driving in a circle for 9 days! That's not very fun!
If you are just joining us, we have rolled our VERY FIRST ROLL!
A couple of fun things happened during the first roll...FIRST, we announced that we are going to be a 4-some instead of just Kurt and myself! My cousin Taylor and her husband, Guthrie, are joining us for the entire trip! YAY!!
Second, the dice landed on NORTH....and Guthrie used his one veto...
Lastly, the next roll has us headed to NW and so we picked Seattle as the furthest point as a STARTING place! We will FLY in, rent a vehicle and start our entire experience from there.
So Rule #1
1. Drive at least 6-8 hours in one direction to ensure we are out of a place we are familiar with. (This was changed to: Fly into new place and start trip from there.) DONE!
And like I mentioned above, we don't want to go in a giant circle, so that led to the next rule.
2. We can not go back the direction we just came. (If we've been traveling North and roll South, we will have to roll again.)
After MUCH MUCH MUCH deliberation on the amount of time spent between rolls, we have decided that because we want to be able to see the country... *This amount worked well on our first trip, and basically we realized we stayed in one MAJOR place the entire day and then moved on. Each night we should lay our heads a minimum of 4 hours away from where we were the night before. :)
3. We will roll AT LEAST every 6 hours, but driver has option to roll any time after 4 hours.
4. Each person will get to veto ONE roll ONE time the entire trip. It CAN be the other persons roll. But, when the veto is made, they must travel whatever the dice says to do next, unless it violates rule #2. *Guthrie's veto is gone! 3 vetoes remain!!
5.We will alternate who rolls each time. It will go in a circle to which we will draw for the order when we arrive at the airport on June 22nd.
6. Whoevers route we are on gets to drive it AND pick the music. :) (Unless agreed that someone different wants to drive.)
Clauses: Depending on how far out we are, we must make our way home around day 5.
So, that's the rules. Only 6. :) But, they aren't meant to control, just to help keep the chaos at a minimum!
WHO IS EXCITED!!!!????
I joined a group of authors (and just people in general) a couple of years back who give their year ahead a word--one word. It's kind of fun to try and pick out what you hope the year ahead of you will look like. 2015 had me wanting to be FEARLESS, and 2016 was my year of HOPE. It's funny to look back on these last two years. I was probably anything BUT fearless in 2015. I guess I saved that for the following year.
2016 was kind to me. Yes, I had my troubles, heartache, loss, and change just the same as everyone else, but nothing compared to the loss of 2015. I was able to set and achieve life long goals for myself and I am proud to be where I am staring ahead at 2017.
For the past couple of days, I've been thinking hard about my word. I poured so much of myself into last year, that some areas of my life fell behind. Some of that I am ok with, some I'm not.
The "think-fast" part of me wants to choose the word MORE. I've made 5 specific areas where I want MORE in my life for this year.
I'm thrilled to say that it's January 5th and I am about to cross my second book off the list! (Thank you audio books and forever long car rides.) I'm writing now and who cares if it's just to check an item off this gal's Type A list. Writing has always been good for my soul. I've prayed, well, probably the same amount that I always do. And as far as giving and saving, I know it will happen. It is, after all, only January 5th.
But, as I have sat here thinking on the subject, I keep thinking that MORE is a dangerous word. MORE doesn't leave my mind with a feeling of security, a comfort, or an ease. It has me feeling anxious, stressed, and like I'm setting myself up for a failure from the get-go. MORE causes me to panic a little when I think about it seriously. How much more can and should I pray? How much more should I save? How much more should I give? How much more should I write? I published a handful of blog posts in all of 2016--will setting myself a goal of weekly do me in? I read everyday. How much MORE is ok? Why do I feel the need to do more???
The truth is, if nothing in 2017 changes in these areas, the earth will more than likely keep on spinning. My friends will still be my friends, my house will still be pretty chaotic, and my life will look pretty much the same as it usually does. Of course, though, these are still areas I want to improve upon. But, not with an open ended word like MORE. Instead, my focus will be on a different word: ENOUGH.
As I look ahead to 2017, my schedule is already a little fuller than I'd like it to be. There are places I want to go, conferences I want to attend, and all sorts of fun stuff in between that I've already had to say no to. As I went to purchase a ticket to attend a local women's conference, I was so disappointed that my calendar was already full that day. My life doesn't need any MORE. My brain certainly can't handle much more. What I need, what my whole family needs, is to figure out that this life I'm living, this pace I'm traveling at--it is ENOUGH. Quite honestly, there are days it's more than enough.
I read ENOUGH. I have a goal of 52 books a year. But, when I may not make that goal, I am a MESS! And why? Who cares that I only made it to 48??
I write ENOUGH. I write in my own journal, I write speeches for other people, I write my own speeches to talk to groups of people. Setting a goal for myself to post on here is great--until I fail. Then I'm stressed.
And while I can always give more to others, I am not failing. I need to stop putting this pressure on myself, my husband, and my family.
Saving and prayer--those two may do me in. I have failed in saving as much as I wanted to this year. But, I know our family can improve. But, if I miss my mental goal, the earth--it's still going to turn.
Prayer, however, still needs to be MORE, but my prayer needs to change. I need to pray and realize that praying, asking, giving it all to God--that is ENOUGH. He's got this mess of me in his hands. He's got my scattered, tired brain. my full calendar, and my chaotic life. He knows I've been a hot mess from day one, and he still loves me more than I am capable of understanding. And that thought? It has to be ENOUGH!
Here's to your 2017 being ENOUGH. Less in the areas needed, more in the areas that make you truly happy, but always knowing that you are loved by God even when you fail to recognize that everything you have and even the things you don't--are ENOUGH.
A Season of Harvest
I published a book in March and then didn’t put pen to paper until today.
I guess that’s not necessarily 100% accurate…since I started to write on several occasions, and couldn’t ever bring myself to finish. Truth be told, I’ve been a little lost in this season of life. It’s hard for me to write things when I’m not feeling on my “A game.” But, I’ve decided that I may be sitting the bench for awhile, and might as well pick up the dang pen.
I’ve got a lot going on in life. Not much of it is great. I’m going through some personal stuff within my immediate family, my parents (who live 3 houses down) are moving in 9 days, I feel like terminal illness, sickness and death are surrounding me, and my family of 5 made an emotionally hard decision that had us feeling like the Israelites on their 40 year journey in the wilderness—searching desperately for the Promise Land, until recently.
I know for certain I am not alone in these feelings of abandonment, hopelessness, and loss. There are many around me who keep telling me that this month, this week, and even this past year truly just suck. (No, I can think of no better phrase to fit the emotion.)
Yesterday, I decided that, though I didn’t reeeeealy want to, my heart and soul needed some Jesus. Some extra Jesus, really. More than my prayer and Sunday morning worship, ya know. Some of us need that! I decided to join a bible study with a group of ladies I did not know. I was a little nervous. These people don’t know me. They don’t know that I was born without that thing that tells you not to always say what comes to your mind—I think they call it a filter. They don’t know my back story, my current story, or the season that I’m going through. And though it reached an unseasonably warm 94 yesterday, my season of heart and mind is definitely not a splish-splashy summer.
I’m living in the dead of winter.
I must admit, I left so much warmer than I came. Maybe it was the many cups of pumpkin spice coffee that I consumed. Maybe it was the 28 women that I met! Or maybe it was the fact that God met me in a place that he knew I needed to be met. I’m going to bet that it was the latter.
After two and a half hours of fellowship, these women even invited me to lunch, afterwards--and though I was tempted to enjoy dollar tacos, the dreaded grocery shopping and tending to the garden wasn’t going to complete itself. Since gardening is waaaaaay more fun to me than grocery shopping, I headed home.
I got to work cutting okra from plants that are now 12 feet high! It’s actually become a dangerous process! I’ve got quite a scar from a bit of a disaster a few weeks ago. Oh what this Oklahoma gal does for some fried okra! #WorthIt I also picked 22 more green peppers! My freezer is full of these, already. My neighbors’ freezers are also full. It’s starting to become clear that I maaaaay have planted too many pepper plants…
The surprise plant is starting to flower and I’m so excited to see what veggie we will have.
I then did a quick check on the bed that will be my only fall/winter crops. I’m trying my hand at that for the first time with broccoli and carrots. Much to my surprise, the broccoli had sprouted! I hadn’t even checked on those in the last week or so, because I’d been so busy wrestling a giant okra plant. In a way only a gardener could understand, I did a little dance like a child opening a Christmas gift. #NerdAlert
But, as soon as my half gardener dance/half my team just scored a touchdown dance was started, I was instantly moved to tears.
All at once, I hit my knees in a place that I have come to seek and find God so many times in the last couple of years—my precious garden. I knew at once why God brought me to this Bible study because two distinct quotes stood out to me as I knelt on the grass beside my broccoli sprouts.
First, “The soil of EVERY season is fertile ground.”
Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. There is reason and purpose for each of these. I am seeing it in my garden this very year as I have worked in it all year long. I’ve either had to pull weeds, till up soil, sow seeds, watch and wait, or finally get to enjoy the fruits of my labor.
My gosh! Isn’t that what God does over and over again in our lives? He pulls out the crap that we don’t need. And it’s awful! Sometimes we don’t want to let it go. Sometimes we think we so desperately need it. He works us over and enriches us with something better than we were before. He then plants something in us that we may not even know we had, needed, or wanted. And then we wait. And waiting…it’s so hard. It’s downright awful at times. But after the wait—God hits me with the second quote: “Your greatest harvest may come from seeds that you sowed with tears and affliction.”
After the wait…my friends…we get a harvest! I can not promise you when. I can not promise you how. I can not promise you that the sowing and tilling--the pulling of the weeds won’t be the toughest process that you’ve ever gone through…but God promises you that “From the fullness of His GRACE, we have all received one BLESSING after another!”-John 1:16
A harvest is coming. It’s a harvest of blessings that may come after a long season. But there is good news!
The soil of EVERY season is fertile ground.
First, let me say that I'm well aware that this post is premature. Let me also add that I don't care!! I'm just too excited.
For the past few years I've been wanting to start a foundation, organization, group, SOMETHING/ANYTHING that would help those affected by cancer and terminal disease. I've been praying about it almost daily. I've been thinking about it almost constantly. I've been pulling up that handy dandy Excel spreadsheet of mine and prepping, color coding, planning and deleting along the way.
In the last few weeks, I've been collecting information, meeting with people, talking to staff at the hospital, and members of the community. Am I ready to launch the organization, present the flyer and website and go? Absolutely not. But I am ready to share with you what it is and how YOU, YOUR FAMILY, YOUR FRIENDS, YOUR BUISNESS, and literally EVERYONE in between can get involved and help out!
From the time my friend Karen was diagnosed with breast cancer the first time, I heard her mention a few things that brought her comfort along the journey of medication and a mastectomy. I then heard that list grow larger when she was diagnosed the second time and started an even tougher journey of chemo, radiation, and surgeries. I've watched for years as many that I love, respect, and cherish have fallen prey to this devastating disease; I mourn daily for the ones who leave this world because of it.
But, I know that though the road is already dark, bumpy, and seems to be one of the longest traveled...there are still ways that those of us who are watching from the sidelines can bring some light.
I will never forget Karen getting a free potato from a restaurant because of an owners generosity as I picked up her lunch one day during chemo. Nor the smile she had when an aunt made her the best crocheted hat for her balding head. She couldn't be thankful enough for the meals and gift cards that kept her family fed when the last thing she wanted to think about herself was food, all too often.
She called these gifts and random acts of generosity "Cancer Perks." I always loved that she was able to put a perk on cancer. That was who she was. Always praising God in a storm. Perhaps that's why today seemed appropriate to share this as my devotional was on "Rejoicing Always." She seemed to fit that verse and passage so well.
And Karen was/is not the only one thankful for these things. It's a trend among all those that are fighting this same fight. So, it was never a question what I should call a foundation/organization/group named in her honor and memory.
"Cancer Perks" seems to be the perfect fit.
My goals for Cancer Perks are vast and vague and overwhelming at the present and I'm praying God will make my path clear and straight in the very near future. (Patience is for the birds.) I can tell you that I will be teaming up with a Christian support group that's just getting off the ground and working along with them. In what ways? Time will tell.
What I know for sure is two things.
First, I want to be an informational/financial resource as a foundation. This will require gathering information and having it one place. The website and in brochures. Information on "where to get a wig" "help with medications" "local support groups" "local oncologists and their specialties" "insurance"...etc. Financially, I want to be able to say "Yes, we can help you" when someone can't pay a water bill, or needs a lawn mowed, or groceries, or (insert whatever their cancer perk is).
Secondly, I want to pass out Cancer Perk bags. These bags will be distributed everyday, Monday through Friday, one week a month. This will hopefully cover the most people with the offsetting chemo schedules.
What will these bags contain? So glad you asked! Each and every bag will contain the following. These items were not just picked at random. They were the repeat items given to me over and over by tons of people after visiting the hospital, talking to friends and flailed affected by cancer, and posting it on the ever helpful social media sites.
Roll of quarters (vending machines at hospitals)
Restaurant gift card
Scent free lotion
This brings me to my favorite part...if you can't hear me or see me, please know that I'm drum rolling out loud and doing the motions in the air!
HOW CAN YOU HELP?!?!
Well, the obvious is donations! The cancer perk packages are really full of "the little things."
Chapstick, socks, hats, scent free lotion...these things can be found for $1.
Gift cards and gas cards? My goal is to make these a universal amount of $10 in order to make it fair for everyone. That should at least buy one person a meal. Though hear me when I say, I won't turn a single thing away.
Rolls of quarters= $10 (Maybe skip your Starbucks this week?
Resource pamphlets: I'm asking for a business to donate the printing cost of these. I'll design them. I've already started. Just help me out with a few hundred!
Blankets/Pillows: these will be my tricky things. I'm going to be very specific and try and order a combo set that can be a pillow when folded up. Something that can be small and fit into a bag, therefor monetary donations to purchase these may be my best bet.
This brings me to my favorite part:
A card...teachers and churches...I'm asking you to have your classes help here. If each kid could make one card before school got out, man what a difference! And can you imagine receiving a card from a child who didn't even know them but said they were thinking of them still? These don't have to be fancy...or they can be amazingly beautiful. I just know how I feel when I get a handwritten card from anyone. Of course, I'm not limiting these to just kids. Make a card! Buy a card, and share some love!
Lastly, say a prayer. That's it. Sounds so simple doesn't it. But know that not everyone has that in their life, in their journey, in their walk through darkness! I'll be adding a little card in each bag letting them know that someone here in Sedalia our surrounding Areas has prayed for them and their journey! You don't have to tell me...just pray if you feel led to pray.
Donate. I can't say it any simpler. No amount too small.
I've already started the plans for a 5k/10k.
I'll need volunteers, sponsors, t-shirt makers, food, water, and RUNNERS! Hit me up.
Let's do something great together! I LOVE the Bothwell Foundation and how it provides cutting edge technology for those in this area. We don't even know how privileged we are. That stuff is HUGE! I'm asking us to do something small...and in return...leave a mark on someone's life.
So read, pray, SHARE, and HELP!!! #CancerPerks
Love to all!!!
When God says, "JK!"
Recently I wrote about a time where God called me to do something that I didn't want to do. While I will keep the details of what it is that I was being forced...err...asked to do, I will say, again, that I obeyed. Kicking and screaming the whole entire way, I obeyed. :)
For a long while, I did what God asked me to do. To be honest, it wasn't awful. It wasn't even bad. If I'm downright truthful, I couldn't find anything REALLY negative to say about the situation. But...something just wasn't right. I couldn't put my finger on it. I couldn't name it out loud. I couldn't tell you what it was. Because I actually didn't know.
Then, God opened up another door and told me to walk through it. So, I did. I didn't even kick or scream or throw up this time! What a complete improvement over the last task! While I was in the middle of my new task, wondering why I was in the situation I was in, and better yet, why my whole family needed to be involved, God made one thing VERY clear: My first assignment had ended.
I'll be honest, when you don't want to do something, but you put it all aside and do it anyway...you don't expect God to tell you, "JK!" This week, I felt like I got a huge "Just Kidding," from God. I couldn't understand it. I was frustrated. I was a little bit angry and confused, yet somewhat thankful and relieved to have it.
As I was on the phone with my sister, yesterday, telling her of my predicament, I said these words: "I feel like Abraham. God made me take my kid all the way up to the hill. Made me pull out that knife. Then said 'JK!!'"
All of a sudden, everything made sense. For months I have been asking "God, what do you want me to do? What am I supposed to be doing? Where am I supposed to be going?" I should have been asking, "Am I willing to do what you want me to do? Whatever it is...whoever it is with...I'll go." I think I threw up a little typing that.
Obedience is hard. It's scary. Absolutely terrifying really. But, God showed me this week that sometimes if we will just obey, He will reveal that His plan really is greater than we truly think it is. Sometimes our greatest task from the Lord is not our picture-perfect final destination but the pain-staking journey we took getting there. Of course, foolish stubborn pride couldn't see that months ago when I went scratching and clawing my way into obedience...but I did go. And I think God will honor it just the same. "And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love."- 2 John 1:6
One Word: 2016
If you live in the Mid-West like me, then you probably either ventured outside today or dreamt of it. I know I hurried through my to-do list in record speed in an attempt to head to my sacred part of my fenced in yard: My garden.
As my fingers jotted down the numbers in the check register and as my OCD need for organization updated the color-coded Excel "Bill" spreadsheet, my mind was pulling weeds and hand-tilling the first of four raised beds to prepare for the upcoming seed sewing season.
As quickly as I could put on my tennis shoes and chug the last little bit of my morning’s cup of coffee, I was out the door. I almost sprinted to the garden beds. As soon as my feet hit the top soil—they sank in. And my heart sank as well. I’m only in year two of my gardening experience, but even this amateur knows that mud is not an ideal medium to work in the garden.
I stomped my tennis shoe into the ground, frustrated, and headed back inside. What was I supposed to do with my day now?
Ah, yes. I have 300 pages of a book to read and edit. My book. That should keep me busy. It’s not what I wanted to do, but it still must be done. My first entry into the book was my One Word for 2015. I’ve spent the last six weeks trying to figure out what 2016’s word is supposed to be. I’m a little late to the party, I know.
To be honest, I’ve spent the last ten months trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be, and so the word doesn’t seem like such a pressing matter when you can’t even figure out your future, huh? I knew I needed to take some time off from work early last year, but never thought I would still be home, a year later.
There have been times that sitting at home has more than caught up to me. It’s depressing. It’s boring. I can only do so many Pinterest projects and take so many Buzzfeed quizzes, ya know? I’ve always said I wasn’t meant to stay at home. Bless you moms and dads who do! Having said that, though, I am praying really hard that I will do what God wants me to do in my life, and not what Whitney wants. This is pretty hard for me. If I'm brutally honest, I’m a pretty selfish person. I typically do what I want, when I want, and how I want.
I made a vow, though, that I would start praying and waiting for the answers, rather than just jump in and question later. Have I been 100% successful at this? Absolutely not. But, I’m trying, especially when it comes to the BIG things.
So, as of now, I’m working from home, taking care of the kids, and writing when the Spirit says write. I have my dreams and my goals, but I know that if they are what God wants, they will happen when they are supposed to.
So what does this have to do with my word? Well, everything. I can’t plant seeds in my garden because I’m waiting for the mud to dry up. I’m not out speaking to the masses or leading a non-profit cancer fundraiser because I’m waiting on God to open those doors. I’m not even dressed for the day and it’s almost 2 pm because I’m waiting to go get children.
Waiting. It seems to be unpopularly popular with me these days. Since I was born without the patience gene, it’s pretty much awful. But, still, I will wait.
“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.”- Lamentations 3:25
The garden will get planted and I am sure it will produce fruit. If it doesn’t, we live a mile from the grocery store. I am sure I will be called to work again, one day. (Crossing my fingers!!) But, if I stay at home for awhile longer, I have to trust that God is using me here, even when I can’t see it.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”- Proverbs 3:5-6
I am being called to wait.
How about you?
I was headed to meet my two best girlfriends this afternoon to talk about our new Bible Study: Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl. Since the weather had finally reached a temperature in which hoodies were a requirement and coats an option, all three kids were outdoors. On my way, I stopped at the neighbors house where I knew the kids would all be. I call the house "Command." The owners that live there have 5 or 6 six kids, I can never really remember. (I feel like anything over three is more than I can wrap my brain around, and the fact that the mom greets each day fully dressed AND with makeup on deserves total praise.) Command is the fun house of the neighborhood. They have the giant pool, the treehouse that allows no boys, and all the nerf gear that a kid could ever need. When I pulled up in front of Command today, the scene laid out before my eyes was a very interesting one.
I immediately saw my own two girls, dressed in leggings and hoodies, swim goggles covering their eyes, who quickly saw me and yelled "We gotta go!" to their friends. I rolled down my window to tell them they were fine, and that I was just letting their brother know he could go to youth group with the Command house owner's kids.
Beside them, a few feet over were several more kids hiding in the bushes, the same goggles protecting their own eyes. And behind a tree in the front yard, stood one of the oldest Command children, goggles on, gun in an upright position; the orange tip giving it away to this gun loving momma that we may be dealing with more than just nerf here.
With the window down, and as I began to drive away, I heard a high-pitched voice yell, "CHARGE!" I smiled the biggest smile and said a little prayer of thanks on behalf of my children for a childhood of neighborhood kids.
Growing up, I lived on a farm. I could bore you with the tales my father would tell of his own "up the hill 30 miles in the snow both ways", but I'm only 31 years-old and it just doesn't seem appropriate yet. Ask me in another 20. But, I did grow up with no neighbors; no childhood kids that came and played airsoft guns in my yard. I grew up on the back of a horse, with a creek in my back yard. I caught crawdads with my siblings and saw a baby horse born one early morning before church, leading us to fit her with the perfect name: Sunday. There's a safety in growing up on a farm, almost as if you're shielded from part of the troubles of this life when you're out there away from all the chaos of the city life.
I'll tell you...I wouldn't trade my childhood for all the money in the world. In fact, it's the childhood that I would pick for my own children if I could. But, as I headed off to Bible Study tonight, I couldn't help but think about the stories my own three kids would write, about this very night, in their own book of life one day. From the laughter that was still echoing through the neighborhood this evening, I'd say it's safe to say, they may not want to trade their childhood either.
As I chatted with my girlfriends for the next hour over warm coffee, and sweet treats, I couldn't help but think about that feeling of safety. To be honest, I'm struggling with some areas of life right now and I'm having trouble hearing God's voice. My friend, Shelly told me at bible study that "maybe you just aren't listening." Normally, she would be right. But, I really don't feel like that's the case now. I'm listening and I'm constantly saying to him "Hello? Can you hear me?" Ok, no I don't say that, exactly, because that's an Adele lyric. But, dang. Wouldn't that be hilarious if I did start out my prayer to Jesus like that?! Moving on. I am constantly praying lately and begging God to give me direction. I am getting back:
B.) Things I don't like... At all.
I am still waiting for shiny door #3 to reveal a better option. People keep asking me what I want that option to be. I don't even know that. That's how lost I am. But, I know It's got to be better than A and B, right?
I keep coming back to a question I saw on Instagram this week. Leave it to me to find the diamonds in the sand on social media.
If God promised to give you anything, what would you ask for?
The answers that followed were all the answers you would expect. Cancer to not exist, no debt, more money, a lifetime with family and friends, never work again, great health, etc.
Immediately I was led to an answer that I know came from higher than myself. If God promised me anything I asked for, I would ask for a FAITH so great that it replaced the emotion in my brain called WORRY.
What? Who said that? Not me. While I was busy trying to think of what my answer should be, God went ahead and let me know. But isn't that the perfect answer? If my Faith is so great and so solid that I no longer can feel worry, then it doesn't matter what is thrown at me, or how God answers my endless prayers--or even if he doesn't answer them at all! It doesn't matter if my loved one is sick, if there are hard decisions in my future, if I can't find a job (or worse, he calls me to stay home forever), or if I am taken so far out of my safety zone that I no longer remember what the farm looks like, even in my mind.
It's ok. God may take me out of my farm. He may take me away from a horse and a creek and the long journey of "up the hill 30 miles both ways in the snow." It may feel awful at first. I may kick and I may scream. And I can promise you that I have physically done that this week in response to one of his answers.
But maybe...just maybe...he might toss me into a neighborhood. The Lord willing, it will have a house like Command; a place where there are others just as lost and crazy as me, ready to live out the words that will one day fill the next chapter of their book of life; a life that was so full of Faith that it had no room for worry.
I said I wasn't going to blog during the fair. There's a few reasons. 1.) My brain is so exhausted right now that I'm not sure I trust the grammar that may spew forth. So fair warning. 2.) I'm exhausted. This equals a really testy Whitney. On a good day I don't sugar coat. On a bad one....well. Fair warning.
During the fair, I will say that I haven't had much time for social media and it's kind of nice. I do get on there to post my #WhatWhitneyAte and a few random job related posts, but I don't really get to scroll down and catch up. I've been OK with that.
I didn't hear the news about Robin Williams passing until late last night. I was in the funnel cake stand. I started to recall all the movies and shows I grew up on that he was a part of. Like everyone else, the list is endless. He was a HUGE part of our screens.
I am heart broken that he is gone. I am heart broken that it happened the way it did. Above all else, though, I am pissed at the posts that I am reading about his death on social media.
I have shared many posts, blogs, etc...about mental illness. It's very personal to me. I have dealt with it for a long time. After reading a few posts that made me want to go postal on a few people this morning, I decided to bring up an old blog of mine to read through some posts of back when I first started medication to treat my bipolar disorder. Rough doesn't even begin to cover it. I can hardly recognize the words or the person that is writing them. She is not me. She does not think like I think. She doesn't act like I act. She doesn't write like I write. She doesn't live like I live.
She. Is. Not. Me.
It is like watching (reading) a yo-yo. A human-real life yo-yo. I am up and down and doing flips and tricks and I'm here and there and it's so fast that at times it doesn't even make sense. I've read them before. It's been a long time ago. I remember thinking then what I thought this morning. These should really be deleted. But, they never will be. The truth is...these things did happen. These thoughts, whether I wanted to think them or not, were actually thought. The words were really written. Now, they are a real reminder of what I was, what I wasn't and what I now am.
I am not Robin Williams. I am not in his head and I won't even pretend to say I know what he was going through. I will say, though, that I have been in a place so dark...so cold...so alone that I could not see light at the end of my tunnel. It is not something that I can describe to you. I can't talk about it with you or tell you what that place felt like. Why? Because, I'm not there anymore. Unless you are in that place, you can not get it. Even someone who has been there before. It is absolutely impossible to grasp the amount of pain that you feel. It is unbearable. It does feel like there is nothing to live for. It does feel like the world would be better off without you. It does feel like you are the only person in this life. You feel 100% alone. But, even as I type these words, I feel like a cheat. I feel like I have no business saying them because I don't live in that world anymore.
I will say one thing, though. Unless you have been there, unless you have walked even a couple steps in those million pound concrete shoes, shut up. I can't really say that with enough emphasis. You do not get to judge. You do not get to say "How can he do this?" "How could he think his life wasn't worth living for?" You do not get to say "How selfish." You do not get to call him a coward. You do not get to say he took the easy way out. Because until you have been there. Until you have felt that raw, sickening, agonizing pain...until you have had those demons wreck your mind, your body, and your soul, you DO NOT understand and how dare you even try.
I have a tattoo on my arm. It says "Changed." It's a reminder every time I see it that I am not plagued by the darkness any longer. There are days that it still tries to sneak in and rear its ugly head, but it's been years since it's consumed me. Unfortunately, not everyone is that lucky. Not everyone is able to get out of the fog.
And for those Robin Williams' of the world...to those who can't be touched by the outside, I am sorry. I pray your demons are finally quiet, that your soul has finally found rest, and that you are changed.
"God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved."- Psalms 46:5
Whitney B. Cromley
Follower of Jesus.