To Charlie on your 3rd birthday….

Dear Charlie, 
I thought before you turned three I’d potty train you. 

I thought we’d be working on sharing and picking up toys before you turned three. 

I never ever would have imagined that you would be diagnosed with cancer before you turned three. 

Oh buddy, I can’t write those words without crying. 

But you. 

Chubbers, you have handled cancer like it’s any old thing. 

 You are smart and sassy, you know what you like and are quick to say what you don’t like. 

You have your own special words for things: guys (Minions), living room (the clinic), ice pack (iPad), purple bagels (cinnamon raisin bagels), why not? (When? Why? What?), jello sandwich (peanut butter and jelly sandwich). 
A small part of me wishes that when you get older, you won’t have any memory of this, the hardest year, but a bigger part of me hopes that you remember our love, our bonds. The way our family has come together, the way we all scramble to be with you, to cuddle you, carry you, do whatever you need.

I hope you remember the way you touch people’s lives: doctors, nurses, housekeeping, other families walking this same road- The light of Christ shines in dark places, and you radiate with joy, peace and love. 

I hope you remember the countless ways people have loved on you and our family. People have done little and big things, too many to count, to help you walk through this season. I hope their generosity inspires you to be a person who gives freely and serves others. 

And if by chance, you grow up and forget this season, you can count on your momma to remind you of this road. Because it has been here that we’ve found who we are. We have grown, and stretched and found who we really are when everything is dark and scary. We knew in the light, but we can say without a doubt, that in the dark is where Jesus holds you tight and where faith is all you’ve got to hold onto, because there aren’t promised days, and we’ve found that faith and God are enough. We’ve always known that, but now we know that deep in our bones. He holds. He holds. And we will testify to that truth for all our days. 
Chubbers, momma loves you more than I can say, and it is joy and honor to be your momma in all seasons.

Forever, momma. 

Advertisements

Do small things with great love

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one. ~ Mother Teresa
 
We all have stuff going on in our lives, and its easy to be overwhelmed by the needs of the devastating flooding in Texas. But there are small things that we can do, and involve our kids in, that can make a difference.
 
I stand behind this church, and they are giving 100% of the donations away. All. Of. It.  And they are on the ground doing the dirty. messy work of being the hands and feet of Jesus. Need more convincing? It’s Beth Moore’s church, where her son in law is the pastor.
One super practical need is underwear. Here is a amazon wish list where you simply select the items to purchase, and they get sent to the organization who will distribute them. This is a great way to involve the kids and have them pick out the underwear for other kids. It is a great time to talk to them about the flooding, how to help people, how to love like Jesus loves, and to giggle a little about underwear. (Maybe that’s just our family:)
If you like clothes that support as well, then this one is for you – 100% of the proceeds through September 15th go directly to the Hurricane Harvey Relief fund.
Maybe we can’t do big things, but we can do small things with great love.

One Day At A Time 

I don’t know if we’ll ever fully grasp that we have a child with cancer. I read someone’s recent update of Charlie (super kind and accurate) and my head read it as if it was another family’s story. And I know when I read stories of kids with cancer or any hard thing, my heart drops and I feel such compassion and tenderness toward a family walking through hard things with their kiddos. 

But we are the family with cancer. And it’s nothing that I could’ve imagined, no matter how compassionate or tender I have been towards other families in the past. I simply didn’t have a clue what THIS would be or feel like. And this is the road we are walking. One. Day. At. A. Time. Because every day brings it’s own challenges and highs and lows. Everyday we are fighting for faith, grace, normalcy, to make sure every member of our family is feeling loved and heard and a myriad of other things too. 

And some days are good. And some days are hard. And some days just knock you flat down. 

I thought we were on our game this week. We have five days of chemo. We made plans, we have tons of help, and we know it’s going to be a long week, but we felt prepared and ready to face this week head on.  

And then we met with radiology. And they told us more of the treatment plan. 

Here’s where I would like to add that in the past I would consider crying in public a weakness. I don’t like crying in public and especially in front of strangers or professionals. Guess where I cry the most now- in public, in front of doctors. And I can’t help it, and I just don’t care anymore. So I cry because 

Chemo + Radiation = A LOT. 

I thought this would get easier to swallow, or my mind would be able to comprehend this diagnosis or just that the treatment wouldn’t make me want to hide in my bed. 

But it’s not getting easier, my mind still has trouble wrapping itself around this thing-cancer, and it’s just harder than I ever imagined. 
So, what do you do when life is so hard? 
You just do the next thing. (My girl Elizabeth Elliot said that, “when life is hard, and you don’t know what to do, you just do the very next thing”. She knew a thing or two about suffering and surviving.)
 I talk A LOT with Ben. And we check in about how we’re feeling and what’s coming and how we’re dealing with it all.  
I tell my people about it. I try to be honest and vulnerable with them about what’s going on and how I’m feeling. And truth: I text because I can’t even speak hard things aloud these days without becoming a sobbing mess.
 I read my Bible. Just this morning God met me at my sticky dining room table, with this verse, “He is your constant source of stability; He abundantly provides safety and great wisdom; He gives all this to those who fear him. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭33‬:‭6‬ NET)
 I journal. A lot. 
 I talk honestly with God and beg Him for a miracle for my baby and listen for His still small voice.  
I listen to worship music. Here’s my Spotify playlist: https://open.spotify.com/user/1274667778/playlist/1zNuf4xUZPsd7Rdzw4YaS1
It’s not a magical formula to make everything better. The truth is, none of it changes a dang thing we’re going through. But it changes me. And gives me strength. 

 And all of it helps us make it through the day. And that’s all I need to do, take each day, as it comes, and walk through it the best I can with God’s grace and provision. 

It is dark, there are more questions than answers, there are many tears, but I can still tell you, God is here and He holds. 

It’s texts like this from dear sister friends that boost my spirits and give me truth and hope. 

“When earths painful, wretched, too much to hear or carry or even process trials happen; sometimes it’s just got to be a fall flat and let Him pick you up and brush you off and nudge you along in the marathon. There’s a goal line a prize awaiting there is a finish line. It is there sweetie. It’s there. Around the bend, up many hills, with sister saints lining the streets praying with hoarse throats and salted smeared faces FOR YOU AND BEN AND CHARLES. We will be hands of Jesus lifting you. Praying. Holding. Cheering. Soulful. Mad and sad and scared BUT most of all hopeful. So hopeful.”   

Red Sea Road 

If I’m honest, the things that I find myself judging other people about are the very things that I dislike in myself. 

Here’s some people I judge: the Israelites. Hello whiny babies, you had food literally dropped from heaven, your clothes never wore out, and yet you took every opportunity to complain, try to worship idols, and the list goes on and on. 

But I’m just like them. I’m a whiny baby. I complain about my “tough” middle class American life, I try to find comfort in every thing imaginable before I find comfort in God. 

Today, I relate to them even more. That time when they were being chased by Pharoah’s army, and they are smack against the shore of the Red Sea. The Red Sea is roughly the size of New York State. Um. It’s looking pretty grim here Moses. And then the Red Sea parts and they walk across on dry land. And they make it safely to the other side while the Sea crashes on Pharaoh’s army. 

Our family is facing our own Red Sea Road. On April 22nd our lives shifted into a new season. Our precious Charlie has stage 3 cancer. Rhabdomyosarcoma. A tumor in his abdomen that will require 40 weeks of chemo treatment. 40. The significance of that number is not lost on me. 
There’s no going back to before the diagnosis. And what’s in front of us is scary and unknown. I have a lot of fears and doubts. There are thoughts that I dare not say out loud because I can hardly bear to think them, let alone speak them. 

But God. Here in the dark, hard season… He is here. He is our strength, our comfort, our song. He gives grace and mercy and strength for each day. We are clinging to Him and His word as we face our Red Sea Road. 

Red Sea Road by Ellie Holcomb

If you were to name one piece of clothing that describes you, what would it be and why?

What article of clothing best describe me? A scarf. For a variety of reasons. One, I love a scarf, its part of my momma uniform for the fall and winter. Skinny jeans, boots, tank top, cardigan and a scarf to complete the look.  This is my “go to look”, its easy to put together and it’s a kid friendly outfit.

Two. I am always cold. Right about the time that the car has reached my comfortable temperature, Ben is reaching to turn the arrow from HOT to COLD because he is in danger of heat exhaustion. Wearing a scarf simply helps keep me warm. Not only cute but scarves are functional as well, who would’ve thought?!


I wanted to show y’all a complete look with a scarf, AND how awkward I am in photos. This photo does both things very well. Ben is looking on in complete amazement at what an big weirdo I am in front of the camera. 

Those are all reasons WHY I like a scarf, but HOW a scarf describes me is that like a scarf I want to be pretty and helpful. Like a scarf helps finish an outfit AND is pretty while doing it. I like that. I also like that scarves keep you warm. Like a hug. I set out a few years ago to stop giving limp hugs. You know the kind, where someone lays their arms on you, but it just feels lame and almost like you shouldn’t have bothered.

I decided that if I’m going to hug you, I’m GOING TO REALLY HUG YOU. I want people to know that with one gesture: I love you, I value you and you are important me. Too much to expect from a hug? I think that if we hugged each other more like we REALLY MEANT IT, we would spend less time wondering if we are loved because we just been hugged by people who REALLY MEAN IT.



Photography: Anna Maling

I lied that I liked cooking….

I lied that I liked cooking, when Ben was just this cute guy that I wanted to think I was pretty, witty and all the things. When he mentioned that he really liked cooking, I casually lied, and said, “oh, me too.” If my mother had heard me say this, she would have fainted. When I went off to college I think I had mastered mac n cheese and microwave oatmeal. Ben wasn’t looking for a girl to cook him three meals a day, he genuinely liked cooking and just wondered if I did as well. The true answer then: I make a mean bowl of Ramen noodles. He should have run for the hills.

It’s taken me a few years, and some trial and error along the way, but now, I do like cooking. I like baking too, but I like EATING that WAY TOO MUCH. So, baking is limited.

I’m like every other woman in America who wonders what to make for dinner each night, and we have the added fun of needing gluten-free, dairy free, and only grass-fed meat meals. So, there’s all that added DRAMA.

But, I have found a few recipes that we enjoy, and I thought I’d share them, because I love knowing what other people eat for dinner, and maybe you do too:)

Today’s Dinner: Originally Titled “Healthy Mama Barbecue Chicken”

I call it Delicious, but it doesn’t take like BBQ at all.

(I tried to link the original website that posted this recipe, but apparently it no longer exists)

It was in a in a post titled, “12 crock pot meals you can prep at once’. I’m sure this is a very successful and time-saving activity. I’ve yet to get my act together to prep meals long enough for them to be in the freezer prior to needing them ASAP.

Ingredients
3 medium unpeeled sweet potatoes – cut into 1/2 inch pieces

2 large green peppers cut into strips

2 large red peppers cut into strips

1 zucchini chopped

1 medium onion sliced

1 tablespoon quick cooking tapioca (sometimes I have this, sometimes I don’t, no big deal)

4 chicken breasts

1 jar of tomato sauce If you love yourself and your family you will get this sauce:

Do not but this full price, it’s CRAZY expensive, but wait til your local store has it on sale, and stock up! You will love it on pasta, but it really makes this dish fabulous!

2 tablespoons brown Sugar (Organic Evaporated Cane Juice if you’re fancy)

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce (Lea and Perrins is Gluten Free)

1 Tablespoon yellow mustard (powder or actual mustard, either one works)

1 clove of garlic minced

Salt and Pepper to taste

Throw it all in the crock pot. Turn it on low for 6-8 hours. Or high for 4-6 hours. The chicken should shred nicely when it’s done. Enjoy as is, or over rice.

Here’s the link to my pinterest board: Foodie Love for more recipes!

Dear Today Show

My 7th grade social studies teacher, Mr. Skinner, required us to watch the news and come to class with three current events along with our daily homework assignments.

Being a super star, I started watching the Today Show for my news information. (Listen, I know. There are many other reputable news sources, and channels dedicated to the news, but I liked the Today Show.)

Fast forward to being a working adult, and I would still watching the Today Show while getting ready in the morning, so I knew what was going on in the world and I could catch the weather forecast for the day. Everything was just fine.

Then, I had a baby. And I no longer could watch the Today Show. Because becoming a momma made me so soft. EVERY SEGMENT AT 7am MADE ME BUST OUT CRYING.

I can’t handle that type of high emotion that early in the morning, 5 days a week!

So, I did what was easier. I turned to twitter and social media for my news info. It’s easier to read and keep scrolling that way. No tears over a 140 character tweet.

But, now. I’m working out at our local YMCA. And I love it. And I’m there in the morning, on the eliptical for 30 minutes jamming out to my tunes, but with the tv screen above my head for distraction. And often the Today Show is on.

And I’ve handled it JUST FINE. NO TEARS. NO ANGST. ITS BEEN GOOD TO ME.

UNTIL TODAY. Firefighter rescues blind dog lost in the woods for 8 days

Go ahead. Watch the clip. I dare you not to shed a tear.

I watched it with no sound and closed captioning and still managed to CRY MY EYES OUT.  (While on the Elliptical, this is dangerous and it’s not a pretty sight to see a middle aged woman crying while working out.)

The line, “Before Sage was my neighbor, now she’s my friend.” Stop it. I’m dead on the floor.

And truth be told, I don’t even like animals.

Today Show, you know how to get me crying first thing in the morning. I thought I could handle you, but I was wrong. Blind dog found alive in the woods wrong.

So, Today Show, please keep on doing what you’re doing, you’re clearly a success. But know this momma loves you but just can’t handle all you dish out. Best of luck to you.