Let My Heart Speak and Not My Foot

Anyone else about to tie themselves to the nearest tree out of desperation to escape the vial nature of this election season?  Am I the only one that daily seems to say, “I can’t believe someone thought it was ok to say that?”  (This would be a good time to humor me and say, no.) And, is it just me, or has this turned into some odd version of “The Hunger Games” and things that should be offensive to even the most hardened heart flow from the mouths of folks like water down a waterfall?  And when did we lose that “My Grandma Taught Me” mentality about things that we just shouldn’t ever say, just because we chose to be a decent human being?

This past weekend, a verse was brought to my attention in the message at church.  I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind all week.  Wondering, how did we get to this point where the things even “Christians” are saying are so vial that lightening doesn’t come down from the heavens and strike their tongue? Where people actually think it’s acceptable to sit down at the computer and type words that bring such hurt to others?

That verse was Luke 6:45: A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

The part that just keeps resonating in my head and heart is “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”  When someone speaks, we see their heart.  Wow.

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If I apply this to my Facebook feed, my heart is just heavy.  When did it become acceptable to call our fellow Christians words such as, “Stupid”, “Dumb”, “Idiot”….when did it become acceptable to type out racist and bigoted words for the world to see?  Am I to judge those words to be the heart of that person?  When did it become acceptable to tear down one another in anonymity  without any guilt?  Are we really in a game of “survival of the fittest” where the winners are those who succeed to the top by eating their own?

And then I go to Matthew 15:17-18: “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body?  But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.”

I, personally, have made no attempt to disguise my political choices.  I have, however, made a very conscious attempt to choose my words carefully.  If I choose words that hurt or tear down someone else, then is that my heart?  Is that what someone that doesn’t know me will use to define me?  I should hope that we are all so mindful of what our foot tries to put into our mouth that we stop and do that “heart check.”  Will these words serve a good?  Just because I can say these words, should I?

Sadly, I’ve seen the foot talk instead of the heart even amongst those who have committed to support one another.  It’s human nature, I get it….but if those words will hurt someone…cause someone to stumble…isn’t it better to just choose to not say them and let your heart speak instead of that stinky foot?

Maybe, I am alone in on this thought train.  I just don’t see what good can come out of tearing others down to get to a point in the road.  You get there, sure…but at what cost?

And before you get your panties all tied up thinking that I think I am all that and a bag of chips, I confess that I should likely stop tweeting “someone” is a fraud.  I’ll start that now.

We have a stolen line from a movie we use often in this house….when we see something or hear something that we just want to jump into like a fly into honey…well…we just say, “Smile and Wave boys, Smile and Wave.”

So, may we all smile and wave and speak with our heart and not our foot.

 

Can a Gospel Christian Be Blue?

I was raised in the South.  I’ve lived in Mississippi, the suburbs of Memphis, Texas and Arkansas.

I’ve seen racism first hand.  I’ve seen fear of someone that didn’t look like “White America” first hand.  I’ve seen it all.  I was born in the late sixties….well after the Civil Rights marches…and still…I’ve seen it all. We live in a United States of America where not a single person over the age of 18 should have to “research” a white supremacist group.  We should all be so against the ideology of those groups that we jump to condemn  it.  America, we don’t want to go back to the days of segregation or people singled out due to the color of their skin or religion.  That’s not America.

I’ve seen poverty up close. I’ve seen homeless veterans on the street.  I’ve seen homeless single moms on the street. I’ve been able to see up close those who live in nothing more than a strong cardboard box with a door.  I’ve been a child of poverty and technical homelessness.

I’ve been part of the “poor school.” I’ve been part of the “rich school.”  I’ve been part of heated battles as districts have redrawn lines for attendance, and those arguments almost always are rooted in who parents wanted Joe and Mary to attend school with.  In 2016, we do not have equitable education in America.  I certainly don’t know the solution, but I do know it’s real.

I’ve been a child with no medical insurance.  I’ve been an adult subject to pre-existing clauses…a clause that can jeopardize the life of any American with a pre-existing disease.  Change jobs, no insurance coverage for 6-12 months on that condition.  I can’t agree to go back to that.  A mandate with issues also has some areas that protect our sick, our children, our college children.

I have never lived in a nation where the media was controlled or censored. I heard the threat of that being the case from the leader of the Red. I went back to eight grade Civics where I learned “to silence the media is the first step in silencing us all. ”

I remember the days we said the Pledge of Allegiance in schools.  The days where it seemed all was well in the United States.  We can’t go back.  Frankly, I don’t want to.  I am thrilled to know that we truly are the melting pot of the world.  Whether I like or agree with some of what we have now is irrelevant.  Give us your tired, your weary…..not give us your Baptist, or Methodist or whites.  Unless  you are Native American in heritage, you are a product of immigration.  I’m a product of immigration.  A mut.  I’m not purebred anything.  I’m a mixture of this and that, just like most Americans.

I am a Gospel Christian.  A Southern Baptist by denomination.  I am not like the WBC radicals.  I have to trust that if I can be free to practice my faith and not be associated with the radicals of the WBC, that others who practice a different religion are to be free to do so as well.  I cannot fear what I do not understand.  I cannot judge an entire group of people due to the acts of a radical few.  I would hope the same is said for not judging my faith due to the radical few within the ranks.

I’ve have a vivid memory of the Carter years, the Reagan years, the Clinton years, the Bush 1 and 2 years and now, the Obama years.  I’ve seen our country rise up in times of great trials….and I’ve also seen our country split into little pieces over a determination to “get their way.”  The word compromise has become a four letter word.

I’ve been personally chastised for even possibly considering not voting Republican.  That’s what good Christians do.  Vote Republican.

And. Here I sit today.  In disbelief that what I have been told is the “Christian” party has all but crowned a man that represents none of the values I hold to be true as a Christian.  Seeing remarks such as, “Well, I can’t stand any of his principles, but I’ll vote for him if he is the nominee…I’ll vote my party.”  “We have to take back America.”  From who? From what?  From people that don’t have white skin?  Jesus didn’t have white skin.

I sit here today in disbelief that I’ve seen a quote, “I voted Trump, but I won’t tell my kids.”  I hope there never comes a day that I am embarrassed by who I voted for.

I get people are angry.  It’s ok to be angry, but to vote with that anger.  No.  We have to vote with our values and our principles…or we become just as lost as the lost.  We can’t control who follows us, but if we look around and we are being followed by hate…what does that say about “us” or “I?”  What message are we sending?

So, can a Christian vote blue?  This year, barring a strong third party candidate, I believe it’s possibly the only way I can look into the mirror and have any hope of saying I voted for at least some Christian values and principles. Where “almost right” may have to be enough. The lesser of two evils, so to speak. This past weekend, HRC sounded more Christian than most of the candidates running Red and ten-thousand times more Christian than the Red leader.  I have to vote knowing the protection of the First Amendment is just as important as protecting the Second Amendment.  A silent America is far more devastating to our future generations than gun control.

Years ago there was a movement of WWJD.  WWJD? I can’t begin to know, but I know what he commanded of His followers…..love, spread the good news to the ends of the earth…but the greatest of these commandments was to love.  And that, is what I will do.  I choose love over hate. I choose love over fear.  I choose humanity.  I choose life, not just birth…all of it.

 

 

Surgery Ain’t for Sissies and Christmas Miracles

The title says it all. “Surgery ain’t for sissies.”  Whether going in for a small procedure or a mid-level procedure or one that requires an extended stay in the hospital, surgery knocks the wind out of the sails.  Period.

I have waited to post this update, mostly due to feeling as if someone had taken a four-wheel mud ride inside my throat and airway and wondering if typing any words at all while on Oxycodone was a wise decision.  (Surely, it might have been funny to see what I would have written.)  Tack on a little respiratory infection coming for a visit, and today, well, today is the first day I think I should type any words to be saved for prosperity.  .

Mayo had  me come in a day early for some pre-op testing and consultations.  One of those consultations was with the anesthesia team.  Normally, anesthesia is that person you see the morning of your procedure and briefly as they tell you “night-night” while injecting the “good drugs” into the IV line.  For this anxious girl, this meeting was the one that I was able to ask questions and they were able to make the notes necessary to make everything the day of surgery proceed seemlessly.  To know they were just as concerned about my anesthesia side-effects as I was….well, that’s huge.  Permission to drink clear liquids up to two hours before the procedure, even better.  It’s the little things that make the biggest difference for any patient.  They were very attentive to those details and it has been my experience at Mayo for the most part.  The patient comes first. A script for Ativan to take the night before to calm any nerves and it was time to have that “last meal” and prepare mentally for the next morning.  (Chester’s is still my favorite place to eat in Rochester…yummy!)

5:30 AM check-in.  The process is seamless at Mayo and it was literally minutes until I was back into the room that I would be taken back to after surgery.  Various things going on around me to prepare the nurses, the room and myself for the day.  Getting shorts to wear to surgery-awesomesauce.  Being told that I could go back to the OR with my glasses on and with my earbuds/iPhone for music-can we get an Amen!  Then when it was time to go back to the surgery department-being able to walk like a normal, healthy person.  I can do this!  Pre-op was even more efficient.  I was sitting up in the holding bed-another little touch that can make a huge difference, while nurses went over the various questions and anesthesia started the IV.  During IV prep, another nurse was making impressions of my teeth for a custom guard-yep, I needed that about thirty years ago-teeth and a lifetime of surgery do not go together.  Then the Head/Neck doctor made a stop by and I was quickly taken to the OR suite.  Less than ten minutes later, my awareness of anything going on was gone.  I awoke in recovery and was quickly released back to the floor where I would spend the rest of the day.  Due to how well I had done, I was being released to the hotel the same day!

I do not say this lightly, this was the best surgery experience that I can remember.  From Thursday-release, I cannot think of one thing I would want done differently.  The biggest praise for me is that I did not get sick…not one single time.  I can’t even think of a time I felt queasy.  This is not my normal pattern, so I am so grateful to the team for each process they put in place to limit this side-effect.

Friday evening-Sunday evening was tough.  I slept most of the time and dealt with some details from surgery that I will just leave off the blog.  Monday came and it was time for the post-op visit and hopefully that phrase, “You are free to go.”  The pain was still fairly even from the prior two days and eating was still a challenge as well as drinking, but it was getting a little better each day.  The doctor went over everything that took place in the OR, along with awesome pictures.  Biopsy results from the larynx and tracheal area would be ready by Tuesday at the latest.  Having a PET scan with a SUV value of 14 in the trachea, I knew it could go either way.  The doctor knew it could go either way as well.  He noted that he did not get everything in the trachea due to the large volume and would have me return in January to complete that area as well as see what my body was doing with the scar tissue.  The lung biopsy did not take place due to the bronchial scope being unable to reach any of the sites.  That will be a procedure on its own in January as well.  Just like that, we were on our way back to Wheaton.

I guess we were about two hours into our drive back when the doctor called.  With excitement in his voice, I got the all benign, squamous cell papilloma!  It would be several days later, that I could let that soak in and realize I had a positive PET scan, changes in the area and my biopsies came back benign.  God took care of this for me.  I know that He did.  I’m not in the clear 100% yet, but that phone call was a huge step forward.  There are still some questions about possibly missing the carcinoma at the base in the trachea, but we will cross that bridge in January.

Once home, I was given the gift of blessings by women I have met in our short time at WBC and in small group.  These women have shown me such love and compassion.  A little back track here.  The Bible study date before surgery, these women covered me in prayer like I had never experienced before.  I will never forget their hands, their prayers, their tears as we prayed for peace, healing, protection.  I know with every fiber in me that those prayers were answered.  I am here today looking at systemic therapies that are far less toxic than those I would be facing if these samples had come back carcinoma.  More than that, I walked down that surgery hall with confidence and peace.  My family covered me in prayer, friends from East to West, everyone that had any knowledge took the time to call out to God on my behalf.  For that alone, I am the richest person in the world.

Recovery took a solid three weeks.  I am amazed that I actually used to have surgery as a kid and would eat a hamburger that same day and be back at school usually within 36-48 hours.  Surgery ain’t for sissies, and it’s certainly not for us “At Your Age” gals!

And now, for the Christmas Miracle.

Surgery was performed to create access for instruments for biopsies and debulking.  I was never, not even once, given any hope or indication that I would gain anything back more than possibly a stronger whisper for my voice.  The goal was to simply determine if I had converted to cancer and create access for the instruments that would be used for that purpose.  The only hope was that in this, I would possibly gain some relief from oxygen-deprivation headaches.  Now, imagine my surprise when about four days ago, something louder than a whisper started to come out.  It’s not easy to do, as I have truly forgotten how to speak, but when I concentrate, there’s a voice.  Those who have known me for the majority of my life, well, they are saying it’s the voice I had in high school.  I don’t remember.  My son has no memory of me with any type of voice, and my daughter only has a scant memory of one.  I don’t know how long it will last, or if it will even come back after the next procedure…but for now, when I really try, there’s a voice. I have woken up each of the past few mornings and the first thing I do, well, is I try to speak.  This, based upon all that I have been told by more than one Head/Neck doc, really is my Christmas Miracle.  My vocal cords are so damaged, so stenosed, that a voice shouldn’t be possible.  I am trying so hard not to think about what happens when it leaves….because I cannot explain the elation I have felt being able to order my own meal in a restaurant.  Not having to depend on someone else to speak for me in that setting.  Simply being able to talk on the phone for brief periods of time without getting a headache or the person on the other side hoping they heard me correctly.

I can only give the credit to God today for everything. He lead me to Mayo. He carried me into that surgery suite.  He heard the prayers of dozens on my behalf.  So, for my Christmas miracle, I am grateful.  I think if I can have it long enough for the babies to hear their Mimi, for my Josh to be able to remember his Mom with a voice, and for me to remember not to take something so normal for granted…..then I have had the voice long enough.  I am going to work so incredibly hard to not beg God for more days with a voice, but ask Him to keep me focused and while I do have a voice that I use it to honor what He has done….not anything else.

Many of those who know this story have asked to hear my voice.  I still don’t know if I am going to make a public post with it.  The last thing I want to do is draw attention to me, when folks, anything greater than a whisper is God. Period.  It’s that simple.

So, this is my Christmas Miracle.  Recovery still has a couple areas to work on, but I am well on my way.

“He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted” (Job 5:9)IMG_1753

When the Bottom Gives Way

Most days we walk and stand confidently on whatever surface we are on at that given time.  We tend to find ourselves sturdier on concrete than we do on an old wooden bridge, but we stand firmly knowing the bottom underneath us won’t fail.  What happens on that day where the bottom underneath us does give way?  Do we say we are never standing on that surface again, that we are never trusting that surface again….or do we figure out a way to stand back up and take “faith” in that surfaces ability to withstand our weight…our burdens…our life?

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This past Friday, my beloved RRP community lost one of its brightest stars.  The bottom gave way for many of us, most of us.  That unwelcome reminder of the disease and all of its ugliness.For those of us with pulmonary involvement, it was one of those moments you wonder if you will be able to take your next breath.  I originally considered blogging specific to the RRP event of last week, but as the days have unfolded, I have found more questions regarding faith, God, the unknown….finding joy.  Not all my own questions, but a collection of questions from those in this special community that are working earnestly today to just regain the footing…..where the bottom gave way.  Then, I see these are not questions just for this community, but questions being asked daily, moment by moment….what to do when the bottom gives way.

Personally, my footing has been shaky for a few months.  I won’t go back into the details, but losing my Mother, a major life move and then learning of the progression of my disease…well….the bottom was barely hanging by a thread.  So, now I find myself consumed by my own mortality…my own unknowns….and consumed by this compelling need to find a better way….refusing to accept the  known…it’s clear it doesn’t work.  Questions to God such as, “Show me a purpose in all of this,” “Show me how this all fits,” and “Why?”  Most of all, as many in my community have expressed, finding “Joy.”

Life can kick you straight in the gut somedays.  It will knock you off your feet and send the bottom falling into the great abyss.  So, how do you get back up?  How do you function in the period between “standing firm” to “standing back up?”  What sustains you?  Clearly, death is not an area any of us are equipped to process on our own.  Just as the prospect of death is too much for a human to bear.  It’s clear we have to have something more.  It can’t just be on our own strength.

I’ll be honest.  I was one of those back in the day that would get so incredibly angry at God for taking the life of a child…cancer, RRP, tragic accidents….whatever it was. it was really only in the past couple of years that I began to see it in a different way.  My God, my savior, he mourns just as we mourn.  He grieves with us in illness and in death.  I have to know that when the fall of man took place, that fall was all of mankind.  His perfect creation forever ruined.  That brought us disease, pain, hunger…the very things we pray to end.  A world full of sinful mankind has unleashed  a world of sin….and I may never understand how or why….but I have to trust that in some way…at some point in time…everything bad will be used for good.  I have to trust this on the days that my tears and my weak human heart and mind are upset, angry, and finding anything but joy.

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I have to trust when I am paralyzed with fear or anger or hurt…that God will hold me up when the bottom gives way.  That when I think it’s impossible to take one more step, that He moves my feet for me.  I, in turn, have to be willing to let God then use me in ways I don’t see how I am even qualified for or how I even can find the strength for.  Where I find my trust is without borders.

I have to trust these words found in Romans 8:26-28 (The Message)

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

How to you manage on those days the bottom gives way?  And how do you find the joy in the midst of such pain and sorrow?  How do you find the faith that allows you to trust what holds the bottom together?

Rare of Rare and Oceans

Moment of truth here.  I find myself questioning God’s plan sometimes.  As a Christian, I feel guilty for doing so, but I also know that I am a human and I have to believe that the God of the Universe that knows every hair on my head…well, that He understands.  He understands that sometimes, I just don’t feel joy.

Today is an update, recap, something of this past week.  I am the “rare of rare” and just a girl questioning so much, but trusting that it’s all under control.  Before I begin the recap, I do want to just comment that I had the best week in between clinic time. I was able to spend time with my wonderful aunt and my incredibly talented sister.  If you are ever in the Lake Jackson, TX area, stop by “Fresh and Fit.”  Ask for Tracy.  Awesome shop, cool smoothie options and a great salad bar.  Shopping, food (oh, so much food) and just a wonderful time of connection where you could share, laugh, ponder and just enjoy being with folks that are “your people.”  I love Houston, Texas and the area of the Highlands, Galleria and Memorial…well….just a special area.  I was quickly reminded of Texas “humidity” when I arrived on day one.  It’s just so thick.  Nothing like it.  I wish I could say I saw things that triggered childhood memories, and for a moment I thought being on Holcomb did…but I can’t be sure that wasn’t all in my head.  I ate more Tex-Mex than allowed by law, but oh, it was so good. (El Toro, Chuy’s, Pappasito’s, Escalante’s) The scale is not happy with me today, but homemade tortillas can never be passed up!  Had a special lunch at the Houston icon, Oesies.  Wonderful. Texas, you are a special place.

MD Anderson is massive.  Surrounded by Texas Childrens and other clinics and UT Medical, it is just a large medical area.  MDA, by itself, is just massive.  (Wait, I said that already. Ok, so you get it’s massive.)  Some pieces of advice if you are making a trip.  Make a dry-run of where you want to be and where you need to park.  It will help so much on the morning of your check-in.  Garages are clearly marked and signs list the clinics/buildings most closely associated with that location.  Sky-walks are your friend as well as the maps scattered all over the complex.  Elevators are lettered and the clinics are all great to let you know which elevator is best for their location.  Lost?  Confused?  Anyone working will help you.  I must have looked VERY lost one morning…as a janitor came up to me and asked if I needed help.  I thought I looked well versed in all things MDA…it seems I looked like a deer in the headlights!  Thankful for his discernment over this girl from Chicagoland.  The first floor cafe is crowded…efficient, but crowded.  Allow time for the wait at all the stations.  Starbucks coffee is served in the Aquarium. (More on fish, later.) In the sky-walks, walk where the blue lines are.  Kim may or may not have walked on the other side and received a stern correction from one of the shuttle drivers.  Blue line..just sayin’.  Take a jacket, take books, tablets, coloring books…things to keep you busy.  All the clinics have a television, but I prefer to find me a corner to just “be.”  Electrical outlets are readily available for charging devices.  The lab is busy.  It will seem very cold, but once in your room, the techs are warm and very kind.  I’ll probably have more tidbits as this goes on, but that’s my start.

Now, for my MDA week one.  There was something very surreal about being there, driving onto campus.  This is “the” place for cancer and various benign conditions.  This is the place other facilities call for advice.  They are the “gold standard” for most of the issues they treat.  This place, MDA, is often the “Hail Mary” pass for many patients.  You see patients that are just beginning, in the middle, at the end and on the flip side-remission/cured.  Every age group, several economic demographics, several ethenticities…..everyone an equal the moment they walk in the doors.  I overheard the joy as a patient learned his surgery was approved by his insurance provider.  I saw the sorrow in a family that knew that they were likely not going to get a cure.  I saw the desperation as a wife pleaded for a clinical trial for her loved one.  I saw the joy of a patient who was there for “just a check-up”….they were deemed “cured.”  I saw families from China that had traveled to Houston for care.  Unable to speak English, they were relying on a translator for their information.  I saw friendships that had developed between caregivers and patients.  Surreal.  Here I sat.  In the midst of all of this.  Northwestern, Mayo and now MDA.  “Rare of rare.”

Dr. Fossella is all that his hype says he is.  It’s just a rare day as a patient to find a doctor of his stature and knowledge that has remained humble and has such a relational approach with this patients.  For those of you out there that live with a medical condition, you know what I mean by “my book.”  It’s the book with records, scans, etc..all at your finger tips.  With the exception of handing over discs for upload, my book was never used this trip.  That has not been the case up until this point.  I began to let down my brick wall as we talked through what the week would be and who would be brought alongside to make my team.  Various tests/scans were ordered and day one was complete.

I do have to interject this little tidbit of the week.  I do not get the need for aquariums in a clinical setting.  Water, yes…calming…but those fish swimming around eyeballing me at every turn…I’m sorry, but I wanted to take a net and go around MDA and release them to the pond.  I saw this one man walk up to one of the large displays and act as if he was playing with the fish.  I am thankful he didn’t see  my perplexed face.  It’s not a dog.  It’s part of the food chain..and way down on the list.  Fish is food. (Contrary to what Finding Nemo wants you to believe.) Period.  Ok…tangent over.

The morning of the scans, I opted to attempt a walk-in at 6AM.  My original time slot began at 11AM and ended at almost 2PM (NPO) and nothing about that sounded appealing.  I knew I had a follow-up that afternoon and felt if I could get there before scheduled appointments began, everyone’s day would run smoother.  Just like Mayo, the IV entry was event free.  I am confident that when you deal with cancer patients, there is a gift acquired for “hard” veins.  I learned my veins are smaller than normal and that is part of the issue, along with scar tissue.  Radioactive glucose administered and the hour wait began.  Two scans and then I was done.  By 8:30 AM, I was walking out of nuclear medicine and over to the thoracic clinic to let them know I was finished.  Breakfast (FYI, do not order the gravy.).  Waiting.  Lunch.  Waiting.  Finally.  I know many would be upset over the long wait, but I saw people go in that were very sick and families go in that had fear written on their face…I will wait so that they can be seen first.  They need the doctor more than I do right now.  I colored, I realized “The View” is just an awful program, and I learned that folks really do watch all those afternoon TV shows.  People can sleep anywhere and the kiddos there with family just didn’t see the “sickness” around them.

I won’t bore you with all the details of RRP, pulmonary metastasis, the research or all of that.  More than ever, I now know that there are no experts in pulmonary RRP.  There is no standard of care.  RRP is rare.  Pulmonary metastasis, even more so.  If the RRP converts to squamous cell carcinoma, it simply becomes the “Rare of Rare.”  When you hear that from MDA, it’s sobering.  When it’s rare to the folks who deal with rare every single day….it is honestly hard to accept.  We don’t know for certain that the pulmonary areas have converted or if the areas in the trachea are converted.  What we do know is that the PET showed size and metabolic change.  Conversion or not, I am left with rare.  No real “rule book” in which to follow.

So, today, I sit here and honestly wonder why.  The questions that have no answers spin through my head.  Trying not to think of the logistics and expense of using MDA, but trusting that it’s where I need to be.  If I am dealing with the “rare of rare”, I want to be where they see that more often than other facilities.

Where we stand today.  I go back late September to meet with Head and Neck Surgery and Head and Neck Oncology and to have a lung biopsy.  Fairly certain we will explore the area in my trachea as well.  Just that time, that season, where you simply say, “It is what it is.”

MDA is a machine, a well oiled machine.  There for one purpose.  To cure people of cancer and treat certain benign conditions and do the research that will bring an end to cancer as we know it.  If you know that going in, you are fine.  They are focused.  From the desk to the highest level provider….one purpose.  End cancer.  It does not have the same vibe as Mayo, but it’s not Mayo.  It’s MDA.  Two different missions.  I loved the Mayo vibe, but over the past few weeks, it became more and more evident that Mayo, for me, did not present the best option.  Maybe it will down the road, but for now…..I am where the “rare” goes.

I mentioned earlier that I have been questioning God’s plan in all of this.  He moved me to Chicagoland, but I’m having to travel to Houston.  I don’t get it.  I don’t get how all of this fits together in my life.  Then, I hear, “Kim, you aren’t meant to understand. That’s My job.”

Yesterday, at church, we closed with the song that so wonderfully says what I am working towards….where I want to be in all of this.  For the first time in weeks, I let the tear fall.  It’s all so much bigger than I can handle on my own….and for this person who seeks control, letting it go is easier said than done.  So, I leave you with these words…these words that speak to me so loudly.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

By: Hillsong United, “Oceans”

Vacation Review-Sandestin 2014

I love the ocean.  I love the beach.  I simply love everything about it-the sand, the water, the smell of the salt air, the way the waves roll up the back of your leg…all of it-well, minus the whole I am part of the food chain once I enter the water part.)  If I could figure out a way to pop a tent and call it home for the rest of my life, I would.  (With indoor plumbing, of course.)  I love the New England coast as much as I do the beautiful beaches of the Florida Panhandle.  From what I hear, I think I would say the same thing about the west coast.

IMG_3585

Growing up in Mississippi, going to the Florida panhandle is just what folks did.  The idea of possibly going to another part of the country to another beach area, just didn’t come up in conversation.  Some may call it the “Redneck Riviera”, but I simply see it as the closest thing we have to the Caribbean here in the United States.  Over my lifetime, I have visited the coast of Mississippi, Texas, Alabama and even the Atlantic side of Florida, but my heart belongs to that stretch called 30A.  Reaching from just outside Panama City and going west to the edges of Destin, it’s paradise.  “The Truman Show” was actually filmed in Seaside, which is on 30A.  Sandestin has been our “go to” choice now since our oldest was in early high school.  Nestled on Miramar Beach, just east of Destin, this resort has grown into almost a small town with the addition of shopping/restaurants, and everything you need to make a vacation comfortable.  We have been to the coast in May, June, July and August and this year we added October to that list….and it did not disappoint.

A glimpse into Sandestin

A glimpse into Sandestin

A Village Peek

A Village Peek

One of the biggest questions you have to answer before you book a trip to Sandestin is “Beach side or Bay side?”  We have done both.  We have stayed steps away from the beautiful turquoise water and we have stayed steps away from the bay and all the fun the Baytowne Village brings just steps away.

We love the ease of going to the “Village” when we stay on the bay-side in the village and we also love the ease of grabbing out beach gear and making the three minute walk to the beach.  One is not better than the other.  This year, the condo we enjoyed on the beach-side was undergoing some October construction, so we opted to trek across Highway 98 and stay in the Village on the bay-side.  It was a great choice for the October trip!  We were able to get to the beach in less than five minutes and in the evening were able to be in the Village after a short two minute walk.  The pool for our condo this year is my favorite pool of the entire resort, so that was an added perk!  (It’s a zero entry pool that at its deepest point is only four feet deep.  It’s a beautiful pool for kiddos, parents and adults who just want to enjoy the tranquility of the water without the cannonballs in the background.)  We were directly on the bay as well, so we had the beautiful Choctawhatchee Bay glistening between the tall pine trees that line the bay.

On the Bay

Beautiful

Beautiful Sunset

Evenings could be spent walking along the piers by the bay or biking the resort or walking in the soft, white sand of the most beautiful beaches in America.  Tennis and golf your thing?  More than you can possibly ask for….grass courts, clay courts…..several golf courses….all located in a gated, secure resort.  Dining, playing, kid/teen activities…all right there. This is not where college kids go for spring break…..winner, winner, chicken dinner!   We are huge Sandestin fans….now…we will be the first to tell you that if you go during high season-expect crowds.  That’s just the nature of the coast of Florida in the summer.  It’s never been intolerable, but I have to admit…October has been our all-time favorite visit.

The water did not have a speck of sea grass in it.  Probably the clearest I have ever seen the water.  Just beautiful.  Temps were perfect.  Warm enough to enjoy the water, the beach, the pools, but cool enough not to worry about heat danger.  (Take sunscreen!)

Beautiful Clear Water

Beautiful Clear Water

We did have one “rain day”, but even that was a fun day.  Two treks over to Seaside were both met with gully-washers and we finally got the message we were not meant to spend the day at Seaside.  Back to the Sandestin/Destin area for a little outlet shopping at Silver Sands (hello North Face, Kate Spade and Vera Bradley outlets!) and that was followed by deciding if it was a movie evening or dinner out.  (We opted for food, of course!)

It’s funny how you can spend an entire day sitting on a beach and look down and realize it’s six hours later than when you first sat down.  Beach life was how we spent our Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and most of Thursday.  Toss in some time spent at the Destin Harborwalk to view the weigh-ins for the Destin Fishing Rodeo and food excursions…and that’s pretty much our week.  One of the biggest highlights of our visits to the coast each time is that I get to see my beautiful cousin, Jan and her adorable family.  Our second trip to Cantina Laredo with another snapshot of us all together.  Granny Page would love that we are able to see one another…even if it’s just once a year or so. Jan’s son, James, has to be one of the most gregarious kids I have ever met! Imagine a twenty year old bottled up in the body of a first grader!

It was so wonderful having our Josh come in for a few days (Fall Break) and this Momma heart just overflows with how much I enjoy time with this kid and enjoy feeding him!  One of the great things about staying in a condo is that you get a full kitchen and that kitchen made my baby boy his favorite sausage gravy and biscuits!  Speaking of our condo, we did have one HUGE issue during our stay……a tree frog.  I am so afraid of frogs it’s almost silly.  I had picked out my spot for coffee on day one and that spot was my friend…until…the frog spotting.  That frog took up residence.  Finally, in desperation to have my coffee spot back, I had my hero, Lee, bag the frog and set it free in the lawn area downstairs.  (I may have looked daily for the frog after that….afraid he would return.)

The FROG!

The FROG!

As with every trip to Florida, the day the week ends always brings me such sadness.  I’m confident I am a walking billboard on that day for “pity party 101” and how not to act when it’s time to go home.  Not only do I just enjoy the coastal world and all it offers, but my health does too!  I keep wondering if I can get a RX for beach relocation and have it covered by my insurance.  Pity party aside, I am so grateful for the time we did have on the coast and am already counting down the days until our next visit.  Sometimes, the best vacations are the ones where you go and simply sit and listen and watch….the vacations that restore your joy and force you to stop for a few days.  That’s Florida for this coffee girl.

Yes, this happened.

Yes, this happened.

Now to get you up to speed on some of our favorites of the week!

Tradition is that we eat at Pompano Joes for our first meal of the week.  It’s directly on the beach and you can sit and enjoy the waves and good food at the same time!  Some of our favorites there are the crab claws, fish tacos and fried shrimp and pineapple slaw.  (For shrimp folks out there, gulf shrimp simply put every other shrimp in the world to shame!  So sweet and wonderful!)

For those night we want to cook in the condo, a trip to Sexton’s is in order.  This is our favorite seafood store!  Such fresh seafood and so clean and you won’t walk in and be knocked down by the smell of fish. (Ya’ll know what I mean!)  We were so fortunate to be able to take Royal Reds home two different nights!  Three minutes with some Old Bay and just watch how quickly they disappear!  If fish is your thing, expect some of the best grouper and flounder around.  Several other options are there too, but I am a shrimp girl and just gravitate directly to those!  The folks there are so nice and will answer all your questions!  It’s a little bit of a drive from Sandestin as it’s close to the Destin Harbor, but it’s worth the drive!  Open until dark!

Dewey Destin is our next go to place to eat.  The fried oysters, shrimp and fish (grouper) are the best we have found.  Hushpuppies are tasty too, as is the slaw!  This is not “fine dining” and they don’t pretend to be.  It’s just well cooked seafood that is fresh off the boats.  The key lime pie-oh my.  Don’t share….you won’t want to!  Harbor side seating is available.

Louisiana Lagniappe  is the place to go for sure.  It’s pricey, but oh my goodness.  Make this your “special” meal of the week.  Yes, you will think you are lost when you pull into a residential area on the bay, but you are not!  They don’t take reservations and there will be a wait during high season.

Another Broken Egg in Sandestin at the Village.  We try to eat breakfast there once or twice during our stay. Most mornings we eat in the condo before we trek to the beach.  (Huge money saver there and bring a cooler and pack your lunch!)  Some personal favorites are the Grits with gouda, bacon, tomato and green onions, the French Toast with bananas foster topping, any of the scrambles and just a word of warning-portions are HUGE!  The steel cut oatmeal is tasty too and comes with real Tupelo Honey.

Sweet Bread French Toast with Bananas Foster Topping

Sweet Bread French Toast with Bananas Foster Topping

Those are our “go to” places near Sandestin to eat, but as long as you stay away from the super touristy spots, good food is not hard to find.  (If you like seafood!)  Chains are chains and we typically stay away from any chain that isn’t a local chain.  (I can get that food anywhere!)

When planning the trip to Sandestin you also have to decide if you want to rent via Sandestin (pricey) or an outside management company or owner.  We have found VRBO to be a great rental resource and My Vacation Haven has wonderful properties and quiet often has a coupon code.

Just no words for the beauty of the ocean

Just no words for the beauty of the ocean

So, pack your bags, grab the sunscreen, and leave your cares in the driveway and head on down to the beautiful Florida gulf-coast.

My Joy.....

My Joy…..

Dreaming of Florida……

Footprints....

Footprints….

Beth Moore, Friendship, Woman of God

LPL

This past weekend our church hosted the Beth Moore Simulcast of 2014.  Women from around the world gathered together in different venues, homes, etc as Beth communicated the following truths to each woman in attendance:

  • Blessed is SHE who believed. Luke 1:45
  • You ARE a woman of God.
  • YOU have the greatest story!
  • You are woman enough because of Him!
  • ALL of Heaven rejoices over just one lost woman found!
  • Every woman is well able/equipped to share how Jesus is changing her story!
  • Lesson in friendship

First, let me say that if you are reading “Beth Moore” and going “who is that”, I want to encourage you to do a simple Google You Tube search and just watch some of her clips.  Beth has a God given gift on how to communicate to women in Biblical truth.  She is a true scholar of the Bible, but she is real-you will identify with her as a woman.  She’s just like the woman you would love to have coffee with at Starbucks.

Our church had almost three-hundred women in attendance.  It started at about 8:30 AM on a Saturday and on a Razorback game day, so that attendance folks-well, that’s a God thing!  Women of all ages, all backgrounds gathered to worship and hear Beth communicate the message God had given her for this event.  Across the globe, on that one day, over 190,000 women were listening.

One thing about Beth is this-she is FUNNY!  She can be leading you into a deep passage of scripture and how it applies to your life and then suddenly…it’s a funny story or life event that she had to share at that very moment.  Again-real.

Three sessions, each with a different message but with one overwhelming theme-Blessed is she who believes.

I mostly want to just share with you today some of my notes-my little tidbits from the day.  Every woman there probably has totally different notes-as the message spoke to each of us in a very unique way.

Not part of the message, but one thing that stood out to me that day was her telling us how her foundation they used for the broadcast lighting smelled like dough-nuts.  I now have this compelling desire to figure out the brand just so I can smell for myself…..ok…now back to the meat of the day!

beth moore woman

All across the world, we were ONE gathering of many women yearning for God to speak.

Jesus changes the story of every woman He meets.

God is not only wanting us to hear what He has to say, He wants us to RESPOND!

Sometimes to heal a hurt/broken heart, you have to take off the binding and open it back up. (She used an awesome illustration of wrapping her hand in an ace bandage.)  Ya’ll this is a hard one for me….I don’t know about you, but I don’t like that feeling of your hurt/broken heart being exposed to the air. I want to protect it…BUT…I also heard the TRUTH in her message that I can’t keep it hidden forever.

Jesus so deeply desire to know who I am…NOT who I am not!

Here and now, based upon what I know, start meeting needs!  Don’t keep waiting for some big sign.  Just like Lisa Harper said at WOF, folks, sometimes we have to simply act and not go home and pray about what to do-ACT!

Satan is out there every single day…every moment of the day trying to put tags on us as women.  Other people are in this world doing the same thing, because of Satan.  Oh he is a crafty one.  He knows our weak spots and knows how to rip off that scab and make the wound bleed again.

Your dignity is NOT for ANYONE to take from you!!!!  YOU ARE HIS!!!!!

Sometimes we need a clean sweep to remove the yuck around us so we can see/hear our direction.  (Another great illustration as Beth swept with a broom across the stage.)

A women’s joy is not the same without girlfriends to share it with.  (Ain’t that the truth)  But ya’ll, this is where Beth communicated a truth that WE ALL need to apply and really absorb-We have TONS of contacts, but FEW connections!!!!! OUCH!  So, let’s get this one down now.  Our 1200 Facebook friends or twitter followers are NOT our friends/connections.  It’s the people we make time for-the people we have face to face interaction with.  Those are the ones we must have in our lives as women for joy!  Joy is meant to be shared.  We, as women, are having a hard time connecting the dots between joy and our girlfriend deficit.  We are to make our joy complete-share it!

Ya’ll now this is when Beth started getting to some tough stuff!

  • Can you rejoice with other women when they have gains???
  • You can’t out-love someone’s insecurity.
  • Insecurity pokes a hole in your heart.
  • Competition and Comparison breed insecurity.  We have head this ten thousand times, so why are we as women still doing it!  STOP-Don’t do it!  No more-what if we all said NO MORE!  No more Mommy-competitions.  No more one-upping.  Proverbs 24:17-Do not gloat when your enemies fall.

I have said this before…I could NOT be a young  mom in today’s world.  Social media and the constant barrage of pictures/status updates about my child is better/my party for my child was better/oh look at such and such….I would have walked around with FAILURE across my chest if I had to walk in that muck daily!  Ok…back to topic!

We need to fight for one another-not against one another.

Beth wanted to give us three items to help us identify “bad friendships”…not that these can’t be fixed, just some red flags for us to watch for as women.

  • Exclusivity
  • Possessiveness
  • Jealousy

(Her illustration here was do you have that friend you have to hide your activity with other friends from?  Ya know-keep a picture off of Facebook, go to movies in secret…etc..)

So, let’s add friends, set boundaries, and learn that we can have healthy conflict if we have healthy resolve!

At the end of the day, it was still about turning to Jesus for our hope, our joy, our identity.  Some days, we will simply take a step and breathe….but we are working towards progress.  Stop the Mommy competition, stop the Woman Wars….gather in unity and say no more-I am a woman of God!

2014 Final Commissioning:

My Beloved Sister,
Jesus drew you to this day
To call you to respond.
What will you do
With what He has said?
God chose you and gifted you
For this very generation.
You are the exact woman
Jesus came looking for today.
Stop telling yourself
This is about someone else
You are the one He wants.
You’re not too young.
You’re not too old.
You haven’t strayed too far
Or waited too long.
Let Jesus step fully into your story
And write a narrative for your life
That does the world good
And gives God glory.
People out there need what you have to offer.
Quit listening to your fears and insecurities.
Stand up and step out and meet some needs.
You are my sister.
I’ll cheer you on.
I will support you and love you
I’ll stop competing and comparing.
I want to be a woman women can trust.
Let’s do this thing side by side.
We’re so much stronger together.
Sister, stay in His Word
Fight for love and keep your faith.
Follow hard after Jesus
All the rest of your days.
He will never do you wrong.
He will never reject or betray you.
He will make something beautiful
Out of all your pain.
In every loss
He will be your gain.
A lost world is waiting out there.
The darkness is aching for light.
Get out there and serve with all your might.
Because, my beloved sister.
You
Are
A woman
Of God.
Go show somebody what she looks like.

So, let’s be better women….we ARE all WOMEN of GOD!

Kim