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Mom's Cancer Diagnosis and How Friends Can Help

What in the world do I title this post... I am so scattered and frazzled right now that it is just mean for blogger to try to force me to be creative. Life has once again turned into a roller coaster here, with a steep uphill climb ahead of us right now. 3 weeks ago my mom told me she had found a lump in her breast. Yesterday, she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer on both sides. It has spread to the lymph nodes, although we won't know how far until after surgery. Today she will visit a surgeon to schedule a double mastectomy.

Aside from the factual information, I have no idea how to express what is going on in my brain right now. I am scared, I am sad, I am angry... BUT I also have hope. I have friends who have been praying us through, and sending messages of encouragement at just the perfect times. I didn't say much publicly in the beginning because we of course prayed it would be nothing. Now that we have a diagnosis, though... well it is time to spread the prayer circle. So, I am asking all of you to pray for my Mom, Candi (her name is Carren, but she goes by Candi always!). Pray for strength, encouragement and healing. Pray that God would be with all of us along this journey... mom, the family, the doctors and nurses, and anyone else who will be a part of her recovery. My mother-in-law told me last night that it seems to her that cancer is a whole family illness. I know that I for one am ready to fight it, but I also know that there will be times when I need a reminder of that.

Obviously we don't know the exact details of what all of this is going to look like. What we do know is that surgery is step one. Lots of people have asked how they can help, so here is what I have to suggest right now:
  • Meals are always a good place to start. I would like to have meals lined up for 2 weeks post-surgery for sure. Freezer meals are ideal... there are three (mostly) grown boys living with her so they can stick something in the oven or crock pot (I hope, haha). However, I can also arrange for hot meals to make it to her if someone wants to cook one night and I will pick it up.
  • Mom loves to read, especially mysteries. I know I contributed to a book collection for a friend when I lived in MO. Audio books would also be great. Or relaxing cds too! Mom loves Irish music and chanting.
  • Cards, especially funny ones, with notes of encouragement would be great. Mom loves to laugh, so I am thinking things like cartoons stuck in them would be good... but also handwritten prayers can be so encouraging when life is hard.
  • Surgery, and most likely future treatments, will take place in Lincoln which is a 30 minute drive each way. Gas cards would be helpful for this.
I will know more as we go of course, but these are the things I am thinking of right now. I know that some of you have been through this, and may have other ideas. I can't tell you enough how much your messages and prayers have meant to me so far! Honestly, that is one of the most powerful things you can do to help! If you decide you want to do something I can provide a mailing address by email.

And you know I can't do posts without photos... here is one of my favorite pics of my Mom and Annabelle:

1000 Instagrams... a snapshot of our life

It is no secret that I love taking photos. When I got the chance to start using Instagram last April, though... well, let's just say I take more photos than ever. I love sharing our little moments with some of my favorite friends, and now with my Good Morning Girls group doing our Bible study together there it is by far my favorite online community. There is something so special about just being real with people who truly care about your life... especially as a stay-at-home mama. I know that my IG girls will get it when I talk about the joys and trials of this motherhood gig. When I am lonely during the day, and need some conversation with someone who uses full sentences, I know where to find it. I used to tell Matt that my blogging community was like my co-workers. Now, as much as I love blogging, this is how I describe instagram. After all, chasing a toddler doesn't always leave time for blogging, but it does create moments just begging for a quick snapshot.

So anyways, I hit 1000 posts on instagram yesterday, and I just had to sit down and put together some of my favorites! 100 favorites to be exact! So, here you go... a glimpse into the everyday life that I love so much... (you can click each collage to view it larger)




Leaves and Laughter... Happy Fall!


Yesterday we got a lovely warm day after some dreary, cold, very windy weather... we definitely had to get out and take advantage of it! We headed over to my mom's house, and ended up having some good, old-fashioned fun in the fall leaves. Matt and my brother raked and bagged (that part wasn't exactly "fun" for them, but you know...) and A jumped in piles and spread it all back out. I, of course, sat on the steps snapping photos. Every time the season changes I miss my "big girl" camera, but then I remind myself what a blessing it is to have a camera at all.






Yep, we can cross playing in the leaves off our fall bucket list! Happy fall, y'all! :)

Ranch Bean Chili {Freezer Meal}

I finally found a local freezer meal swap group, and I am so excited! I love freezer meals, and this will be a chance for me to branch out and keep the freezer stocked. For this first meeting I played it safe and did a yummy, veggie-packed ranch chili and cornbread. Now that I know how it works I can get a little more adventurous next time I think! Here is the recipe for the chili:

Ranch Bean Chili

1 lb lean ground beef
3/4 c. chopped onion
1 large carrot, peeled and diced small
1 of each: green, yellow, red, orange bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1 can dark kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can light kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can chili beans with sauce
1 lg can crushed tomatoes
1-1/3 cups frozen corn
1 cup water
1 envelope ranch salad dressing mix

Cook beef, onion, carrot and peppers over medium heat until meat is browned and vegetables are tender. Drain. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Cool and transfer to freezer containers. Freeze up to 3 months. To use frozen chili thaw in the refrigerator then heat through in sauce pan or crock pot.



Attitude of Gratitude Challenge {Free Printable}

In my Colossians Bible study group we recently read Colossians 2:6-7:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

I found myself drawn to the phrase overflowing with thankfulness. Actually, the whole passage is very visual for me... I picture myself as a strong tree, with roots planted deeply, held firmly in place by a solid rock, with a well nearby overflowing with life-giving water to sustain me. That overflowing well would not just sustain me, though... when something is overflowing, it draws attention! Just like when our lives are overflowing with gratitude it gives us the opportunity to share the absolute love and security that comes with having a relationship with Christ.

I am sure I am not the only one who has know people on both sides of this spectrum... there is the person who is always complaining about what they don't have, and there is the person who is content no matter what. I know that I would much rather stand in the company of person number two. This person is not bragging about how they have it good, or trying to shine a light on their possessions or achievements. Instead they are quietly thankful, and it is this humble gratitude that really stand out among the crowd in the world we live in.

Last night we talked about thankfulness with out Godparents group (Matt and I meet with 12 teens every week in our home for Bible study and fellowship) and we started with Psalm 100:

A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

This Psalm is a blueprint for leading a life full of thanksgiving. It shows us the "who" - the Lord is God, Creator of all things and worthy of our praise. It tells us "how" - we show our thanks with words and actions. It tells us "why" - He is good, His love is eternal, and He is always faithful! When we recognize who God is and what He does for us, our praise and thanksgiving should naturally follow! (You can get a copy of the lesson we used here by the way!)

We then read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus

Along with this verse, I gave them a challenge. I called it the Attitude of Gratitude Challenge. This week they will record 5 things they are thankful for each day. I have kept a gratitude journal off and on during the last year, and it is amazing how it can change my attitude. Sometimes we need to just take some time to slow down and really think about the abundance of blessings in our lives. In fact, this verse from 1 Thessalonians tells us that we need to do this more often than just sometimes. It tells us to rejoice always! Pray continually! Give thanks in all circumstances!

So, just as I challenged my teens, I am challenging myself to be more intentional about my gratitude. I thought I would make the printable I made for them available in case any of you wanted to do the same! You can download it here. By the way, these teens we work with are pretty amazing and definitely gave us some challenging questions to answer last night! So, at the top of my list for this week is being thankful for the Holy Spirit working through me to provide answers for them... I was impressed with how they really dug into the Word, and gave the questions serious thought! I have a feeling these kids will be changing the world in the coming years! :)

Putting Down Roots and Overflowing With Thankfulness

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. - Colossians 2:6-7

I love how God can make His Word so uniquely personal through the working of the Spirit. I have found more and more that as I study the passages each day with my Good Morning Girls group we all see each verse a little differently. I have learned so much from the amazing girls in my group, and when I truly allow myself to focus on God's Word and listen for the Spirit's guidance, I find that every verse is full of truth for my life. We are working our way through the book of Colossians, and I could blog for months about what I have learned so far probably. Unfortunately, finding computer time just isn't that easy! When I finished my quiet time today, though, I knew I needed to do some writing. After all, for me writing is as much about processing my thoughts as it is about sharing them!

So, for some time now I have been struggling with loneliness and a lack of community here in my small town. I have talked here before about how my recovery from postpartum anxiety and depression have left me feeling out of place. I feel like I am starting over in many ways, yet in reality we have lived here for 4 years now. Those years have been devoted first to my extended family, and then to my little family of three. Now, here I am... 4 years later and still feeling like a stranger.

During the past year especially, I have seen how God has used this time of isolation to really work in my life. He has taught me to say no, and to listen to Him even when it is hard to do. I have learned so much about myself, and my relationship with my Heavenly Father has definitely filled my heart with love that cannot be denied. Recently I felt that God was leading me to finally step outside of my home to serve Him in new ways, and I have loved that challenge! I have found a growing sense of community in our church, and feel so at home working with teenagers again. Yet still I have had the feeling that I was missing something. I would see my online friends talk about play dates and parties, and wonder if I would ever have that again.

So, how does all of this relate to the verses above? I promise I am getting there! You see, for weeks now I have been trying so hard to be more social. I have been making an effort to put myself out there, and be the one that approaches people instead of waiting for an invitation. I kept thinking about this blog post and trying to step outside my comfort zone. And let me tell you, stepping outside my comfort zone left me incredibly uncomfortable... big shock, huh? I started doubting myself even more... wondering if I had said the right thing or tried too hard. Worrying that I looked like a fool more than a friend. Ugh. God kept trying to remind me of key lessons I have learned this year about Him being my reputation manager, and having a plan for me. Yet I continued to worry that there was something wrong with me. Why was I so alone?

So finally, that bring me to today. As I read the words of Colossians 2:7, I realized that my thankfulness had not exactly been overflowing lately. I have been so focused on what I think I need that I have failed to recognize how my real needs have been provided for! I have failed to recognize the amazing blessing of the congregation we have made out church family. I have focused so much on trying to find girlfriends that I have missed the beauty of different kinds of relationships that are being built. I have also taken for granted the amazing friends I have all over the world. I get so wrapped up sometimes in wanting my life to look "normal" that I forget that my life is uniquely mine. I may not get to sit down for a cup of coffee with my best friend each week, but I do get to have the love and support of truly amazing women every day.

I have found myself thinking about Paul a lot as I read his letter to the Colossians. This letter, as well as several others, was written from the solitude of prison. And to be honest, I get the impression that even when Paul wasn't in prison he probably wasn't the most popular guy or the life of the party. Yet he was able to impact countless lives for the glory of God! He was able to genuinely love people, even if he couldn't see them in person. He was able to care deeply enough to share some tough love and truth that wasn't easy to hear. He truly let God use him just as he was, instead of pretending to be someone else. He was content in every circumstance, instead of wanting things he didn't need (well, as much as any human is capable of all these things! He wasn't perfect of course...).

It is so common to hear people talk about putting down roots in a community. In fact those very words have gone through my mind at times when I feel like a social failure. I worry that waiting so long to put down roots here means I will never fit in. Yet Colossians 2:6 reminds me that I am to be rooted in Christ! I can't ever really put down roots here on earth, because this is not my home! While I absolutely believe fellowship is important, I need to stop focusing so much on the picture in my head of what it should look like. I need to focus on what I have been given already, sink my roots even deeper into the rock of Christ, and let Him show me His perfect plan for me. Perhaps those plans include some local friends, but maybe not. I need to be okay with either outcome, and have faith in the fact that God knows me better than I know myself and He knows exactly what I need.  After all, He has blessed me with all of you!

So that is where I am this morning. Obviously I could not have fit all of that in an instagram caption (although I am definitely quite verbose there as well), but it was a message I needed to share. I look forward to continuing to grow and learn as we continue this study, and thank God daily for the amazing gals going through it with me! Yes, I wish we could all meet in person, but I am definitely overflowing with thankfulness that we have been brought together here! Have a beautiful day, friends.