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.

Dear blog, I’m sorry.

Dear Blog,

I’m not quite sure exactly how it happened, but I quit you. I wrote about Charlie’s 1st birthday last September and up and left the building. Truth be told, it hasn’t been a banner year  or even a nightmare of a year, it’s been a normal year with ups and downs just like always.

I think I doubted us. I doubted that words would work. I didn’t know if I had any more thoughts to share. I wondered if putting myself out on the internet was a good idea. I worried that people judged me.

But the thoughts and words kept coming. And I wrote a lot for myself and did some creative writing (this is an amazing workbook: http://amzn.to/2cBDJVm) and secret writing. I even set goals for myself and tried my hand at some other creative ventures. But blog, you kept creeping into my mind.

So blog, here I am, saying I’m sorry I abandoned you. I hope you’ll forgive me. I’m just a girl, asking a blog to take her back. (Notting Hill reference for anyone else who misses romantic comedies 🙂

I’m back and I can’t wait to see where the words take us.

Always,

Jenn

To Charlie, on your 1st birthday

My dear Sir Charles,

Even though you were born one year ago today, your birth story begins in the summer of 2013, when I was innocently knee deep in a Bible Study called “Anything” by Jennie Allen. One day one of the discussion questions was: Are you willing to do anything for Jesus? Is there something that you’re holding onto so tightly, that’s keeping you from fully surrendering your life to Christ?

You know when YOU KNOW  your heart’s answer to a question and you immediately try and push it away?! THAT.

I knew what was keeping me from full surrender was the fact that I thought I was in control of my family, and I was controlling not having another baby.

Here was my rational: Sadie and Owen were FINALLY big kids, I don’t like being pregnant, I’ve had two c-sections, breastfeeding is really hard for me, we have one car, I don’t really like babies and I’m OLD.

BUT God. And isn’t that always the way? He worked in your old momma’s heart. I talked with your daddy with tears in my eyes, and a surrendered heart, because Daddy always wanted more kiddos, it was your stubborn momma that held back.

With your brother and your sister, it was very easy to get pregnant. We waited 6 months to get pregnant with you. Those were long months. Months when I questioned if I really wanted to surrender THIS. Months when I wrestled with fully surrendering my life, and our family to the God of the universe. And God kept pressing me to trust Him, with this, and with hands held open, I kept surrendering.

January 2014. The month I found out I was pregnant with you. We were over the moon! But cautious. We have known the heartbreak of miscarriage and so we kept the news of you quiet for a while. You made me feel like death, but I knew you were growing so I ate crackers and laid down every chance I got and waited for it to pass.

I had a great pregnancy with you. I thought for sure I was going to be able to deliver you naturally. Until we found out you were breech. You little stinker! You were cozy as could be with your head up and your feet down. No matter what homeopathic trick I tried, you were unmoveable.

September 15, 2014. Your birth day. You were placed on my chest the second you took your first breath and I was instantly in love with you. You were adorable. And GINORMOUS. 9 pounds 6oz. With surprisingly dark brown hair. And lots of it!

This past year has been an absolute gift. You light up our family like no one else. Everyone clamours to see you and hold you when they get home from school and work. You are sweet and kind and funny. You mimic your brother and sister when they laugh and cough. You give high fives, but are stingy with your kisses. You love to cuddle and dance and be a dare devil. You sleep with your binky and one of your Mimi’s scarves as your lovey. You would eat the whole refrigerator if you were given the chance. I see glimpses of the boy and man you are going to become and I can’t believe that I get to be your momma.

I tell people that you are my God baby. Because only God could’ve changed my heart to open it up to have another baby. I could lay on the floor and weep when I think that I almost missed this, missed YOU, Charlie because I was too caught up in MY plan.

Charlie, you are a gift and blessing. Daddy and I love you more than we can say, and we are so thankful to God, that we get to be your parents. I pray you surrender your life to God at an early age and live your days for Him.

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Happy 1st Birthday my sweet boy!

Forever,

Momma