Sunday, December 8, 2013
I have said more than once along this journey there are times I haven’t “felt” the Lord’s presence. I know the passage in Hebrews (and so many others) promises He is with us – always – but it sure doesn't always feel like it.
And yet, it is often when I feel most alone, a dear friend (or quite honestly a person I don’t even know) will encourage me with a timely scripture, a hand-written note or a simple text letting me know I am not forgotten. It is then I realize Christ’s presence is often “felt” most strongly through His body of believers. It’s as if He’s whispering to me, “You see, daughter, I do love you. I know you don’t think so, but I’m pouring out my extravagant love on you through others. They know and I know what is going on. We ache with you. You are not alone.”
Time and time again, I have been overwhelmed to tears by the sacrificial love shown to me and my family (and that’s just the tangible stuff I am privileged to experience). I can’t fathom what is happening in the heavenlies when my precious army of prayer warriors lifts me and my family up to the Father. I am confident He hears each request, and I believe He can heal me if He wants (and that is our continual heart’s cry). With your petitions comes peace, so please don’t stop. BIG things happen when we plead to the Lord. (For example, I never would’ve dreamed I’d be able to make a heart shape with both of my hands again & look at what prayer, hand therapy and a big God did – see pic above.)
Although there are so many more reasons for which I’m thankful, I’m going to end my “thankful” posts with one dedicated to – YOU!! There are no words to adequately express what you’ve meant to me . . . no words. Like the paralytic man in Matthew 9, you have carried me to the foot of Jesus when I couldn’t come to Him myself. Like Aaron and Hur lifting Moses’ hands to defeat the Amalekites, you have held me up in prayer when I was too weak – physically or spiritually – to proclaim victory over the Enemy and believe big.
Although, I continually ask the Lord to remove this painful thorn from my life, I am grateful for the ways He manifests His presence to me (through you) in the midst of great darkness. I know I never would have experienced His presence in this way otherwise. Truly, truly – we are never alone.
We pray the Lord blesses you in abundance for the many, many ways you’ve blessed ours!! Here’s a small (and I mean small) sampling of the thoughtful ways you have loved on me and my family. I included the song by Matt Redman (below) for you to listen to as you read through this post. Even though the song is about the Lord’s presence with us, it always comes to mind when I think of my precious support system – for those I’ve met and for those I don’t know personally. Thank you for never leaving me or my family abandoned on this often desolate road. It would be quite desolate, indeed, without you.
Here’s a pic of the fighting wall in my room. The wall displays cards, artwork, quotations and poems from my supporters. It will soon have a verse from my sis-in-law above the boxing gloves. Our postman, Mr. V (see him below), said he’s never seen an individual receive as many cards & deliveries as I have in his tenure with the postal service. Now – that is saying something! Needless to say, I need a larger wall for all “the love” that comes my way.
Our precious postman (yes, I said postman), Mr. V has followed my story since the beginning. He has such a caring (and generous) heart. We could chat all day if he didn’t have more deliveries to make. After he found out we’d be going to MD Anderson for treatment, he dropped by our home one day after his work and gifted Alexa with her very own iPad Mini. He said it would give her something to do on the long road trips. It was all ready to go with her name on the wallpaper. She was elated! We didn’t even know what to say. It blew us away.
My dear friend, Candelon, took the reigns as my juicing guru when we began the enormous task of altering my nutrition. (Just so you know, organic juicing takes a tremendous amount of time and money.) She sacrificially gave of her time to grocery shop, clean and juice numerous jars of fresh produce for me – even delivering them fresh to my front doorstep. Then, she educated me and my mom on how it’s all done. You’re a gem, sweet Candelon!
Emily, the redhead on the right, has organized numerous “cleaning parties” at our home, where gals from our church bless my Type A, OCD heart with a wonderfully clean and anti-bacterialized home. Ty for cleaning our toilets, sweet sisters!! I don’t know if it’s more humbling for me or for you.
You’ve met Miss Carol in our Fall blog. She is a beautiful, selfless sister who took it upon herself to adopt Alexa (and Mommy) during my chemo treatments this summer. Alexa continues to visit Miss Carol each week (while I go to hand therapy) because she loves her and has so much fun. From swimming to making cookies, Miss Carol has given Alexa something to smile about each week.
My hairstylist of twelve years, Marcie, surprised me with her generosity when I had gone to her for a simple bang trim before our photo shoot in Galveston. She not only reshaped my locks but also gave me completely fresh highlights. Viola! I looked like a new woman. I posed for this pic right after the style to send my family. We love you Marcie!
One of my besties, Shannon, offered to photograph our family in Galveston before chemo claimed my hair. I will always treasure these images because I don’t when I’ll look like that again. It was a special time with Shannon’s family as well as we hung out on the beach. Shannon, you know how much I love the way you’ve captured our story from the very beginning. And, you know how much I love you. Thank you for such a meaningful gift!!
These are all handmade prayer quilts made by various friends or friends of friends. I feel quite loved when I wrap up in a quilt symbolizing the prayers of so many. Aren’t they beautiful!?
Another prayer quilt I recently received from my cousin. Ty and love you Judy!!
Another blanket and two handmade prayer shawls that are used religiously for surgeries and to keep warm in the morning when I read. Alexa sleeps with the pink blankie every night. For some reason, she thinks it is hers. This is what the label stitched on it says (my favorite verse through this season).
I love this leather wrap bracelet given to me by another sister who is fighting her own cancer battle. Ty Andrea!! She also gave me a turquoise one when I feel more funky. The bracelet also has my fave verse for this season on it – Isaiah 41:10.
On occasion, I receive gifts like the one above from an anonymous supporter. Ty to this thoughtful individual who has been faithfully praying for me for several months.
Chris’ co-workers at OU recently gave us this “blessing” tree loaded with gift cards to our favorite places. I cried when he texted me this picture – I just cried. For me, it was another indication of how deeply Chris is loved by those with whom he works. And of course, I feel deeply loved too.
This was another evening, I broke down in tears. Another body of believers (Norman Community Church) gathered together in a home to spend an evening praying over us. It was so beautiful to hear the saints cry out to God for my total healing and then sing praises to His name. Your faith deeply blessed my heart.
Robin, you know I love these socks. I wish this sentiment were true all the time but it’s a good reminder nontheless – especially when I go in for scans.
Other inspirational plaques I see every day as a reminder not to give up.
Had to include these beauties picked by Alexa Hope early on in my diagnosis.
The pink banner says “flourish.”
As I said, these are only a sampling of the love that’s been shown to us over the past eight months. There has been lawn mowing (ty Jonathan & Bo), meal providing (ty TBC ladies and BSF friends), Alexa watching (too many to thank) and so, so, so much more. We truly feel so blessed by your partnership with us to pray for healing and encourage us in big ways and small. We love you!!
In a post coming soon, I’ll share about a gift given to us of such magnitude & generosity, it will blow your socks off. Let me just say, it includes plane tickets!
Friday, December 6, 2013
New York! New York!
I distinctly remember a Sunday evening in January when Chris and I sat down at Panera to discuss and pray through our new year’s goals, dreams, budget and areas of much-needed-improvement. One thing we agreed about was the plan to travel in 2013. Chris had just graduated from grad school and we needed to celebrate. Alexa wasn’t in school yet, and we had been stashing money away for such adventures. As we dreamed about where we wanted to go, we tossed around the idea of NYC in early spring. I have been to NYC three times and instantly fell in love with the megalopolis. In fact, I pursued living there after college graduation. (I had an impressive black wardrobe to prove it.) Chris had never been but he was open to the idea, albeit mountains and fresh air are much more his style.
We eventually decided on two other “for sure” destinations and left NYC up in the air. As spring drew closer, we were yet undecided on what to do about NYC. My parents were going in March for my mom’s work. My sis’ family agreed to watch Alexa, and it just seemed like the perfect time for a rendezvous to the Big Apple. However, as we began searching for flights (and this after already booking two other vacations), we decided to nix the trip due to exorbitant flight costs along with the additional costs that come with the expensive bustling city. It just didn’t seem to make sense with our budget.
I have to admit, I was heartbroken. I had been itching to get back. I could smell the street side vendors selling hot dogs and pretzels. I could hear obsessive honking and could envision sitting on a faded red upholstered chair in a narrow Broadway theater. Even the somewhat repulsive smell of the subway enticed me. It was like not getting the puppy you really wanted for Christmas, but I truly felt it was the right thing to do. However, all of that changed when Chris surprised me with a message in my inbox saying, “Happy anniversary!” The message included our flight itinerary to NYC!! I was elated. I couldn’t believe he would do something so crazy (and spendy), but then again, I totally could. His decision for us to “bite the bullet” and go was an insightful decision.
You see, it was the last vacation we’d have as a couple before facing life-altering news. Just three days after we landed, doctors started investigating a mass in my forearm, and it didn’t look good. We eventually cancelled the two “already planned” vacations and substituted them for numerous trips to OKC and Houston for surgeries, doctor’s appointments and cancer treatments.
Indeed 2013 has proven to be the year we “traveled” but never in the way we imagined (and most definitely not as fun but ironically far more expensive). Instead of flights, we purchased a new mini van. Instead of wearing sunscreen, my body has been covered with markings for radiation. Instead of a swimsuit, I wore a surgical gown. Instead of natural sun-kissed highlights, I shaved my head. And, I never leave home without a bag of prescriptions. This is our life now.
Therefore, I’m so thankful for this very special, spur-of-the-moment trip. Honey, I love you and thank you for looking beyond mere dollar signs (quite often actually) to the value of making memories. For obvious reasons, the memories made in NYC were particularly sweet.
It’s hard to tell in this underexposed image but the restaurant in our hotel overlooked Times Square. It was a delight to eat breakfast each morning and watch the hustle & bustle of the city unfold.
Although we didn’t have time to visit all of my favorite museums. We enjoyed a day at the Met. (It’s the one I thought Chris would enjoy most.) I’m with one of my favorite artists – Chuck Close. This painting is composed of hundreds of individual squares – ah-mazing.
Cuddling at the top of Belvedere Castle in Central Park.
Where they place, in my estimation, the most famous Christmas tree in the world. If you know me at all, you know I LOVE Christmas. We’ll have to return for a visit in December next time.
The Flatiron Building from the Empire State Building.
I took a shot of the city from the same perspective with B&W film when I was a senior in college. I wanted to compare the two images and see what had changed.
If you look closely between the white and green buildings, you can see Times Square. Our hotel was across the street from the Hershey’s store. You can see the sign if you zoom in.
Seriously pigeon! How’d you get up here!? First of all, it’s freezing and we didn’t bring any bread.
Having fun with our reflection atop the ESB.
The four-faced clock at Grand Central.
Chris and the New York Stock Exchange.
No NYC trip is complete without evenings at the theater. We enjoyed seeing Cinderella (in its Broadway debut), Wicked & Newsies. Chris knows when Les Miserables returns to Broadway this spring, we are going back. It’s my all-time favorite.
We asked a local the best place to get pizza and she mentioned Rubirosa, a little hole in the wall just outside of Little Italy. We are so glad we made the trek. It was hands-down the best pizza I’ve ever had. The sweet local below ended up sharing his pizza with me because I made a comment about paying him for a few slices. He was a precious New Yorker who talked with us for over an hour. It was one of the highlights from our trip. We took my parents back to Rubirosa’s one evening for dinner. They weren’t disappointed either. And, there was a delightful local children’s boutique just across the street. If you’re in the neighborhood, it’s definitely worth a visit as well.
Chris getting his sushi fix at Ruby Foo’s.
We can’t believe we didn’t get more pics with my parents. This is proof we were here at the same time they were. We snapped a few photos before catching a taxi to the airport. Thanks for the memories, Mom & Dad! Let’s plan on a return celebration when this cancer is gone F-O-R-E-V-E-R!
Monday, December 2, 2013
Two very “memorable” events happened in our family’s life last March (Alexa’s 3rd birthday & our NYC anniversary trip). Unfortunately, they never made the blog. You see, three days after our return from NYC, our life changed in a very different way. . . we discovered something was very wrong with my forearm. Needless to say, our happy little world came to a screeching halt and thus began our unexpected journey with much less exciting posts (at least in my opinion) and a much more unpredictable future.
I’ve never gotten around to posting these very special occasions, but I’m making time to do it now (whether it’s eight months late or not). Since I have yet to make a traditional scrapbook for Alexa Hope – this digital account may be the only proof she has that we actually did celebrate three beautiful years of her life (along with her “halfsie” birthday celebration in September, also included below).
The next two posts are what I love to share. These images bring me great joy because they remind me of a time we were still naïve about my condition. Life was sweet – I was scar-less, chemo-less, radiation-less, I had eyelashes, and our insurance didn’t know me by name. Ah yes, I truly didn’t embrace how beautiful that life was until I look back and just smile (with a few tears too). I want to rewind and live it all over again. I believe I’ve always been good about savoring moments but if I could re-live it again, I’d super-savor them. I’m so thankful we made some precious memories before an ugly diagnosis forever changed (and dictated) our lives. Indeed, I am deeply grateful for “memories made” and the precious ones with whom I made them.
**If you don’t like photos or a post reminiscent of a Griswald family vacation slideshow, I would encourage you to skip the next two entries. Unless, you need to smile, and then I’d encourage you to continue. A cancer update post with prayer requests will come soon enough . . . just not today.
We did a pink Minnie Mouse party because our little girl is all about Mickey and Minnie. When I was working on invitations, Alexa informed me that Minnie’s dress was pink not red. So, I quickly changed my plans to accommodate the modern Minnie Mouse and her attire (although deep down, Mommy wanted a red party).
Because I’m still not brave enough to have a “kiddo” birthday party. Here’s the mousekateer crew – ears and all.
THE BIRTHDAY GIRL & HER CAKE
There is no denying the fact our girl delights in birthdays and birthday cake (especially when it is her own). Enjoy the video of A singing “Happy Birthday.”
ALEXA’S HALFSIE BIRTHDAY
Fast forward six months later and we celebrated A’s halfsie birthday (September 13) – a tradition we borrowed from one of my sister-in-law’s friends. Thanks again Joanna. We wear the same birthday shirt and sing the same birthday song (plus it’s an excuse for empty calories). It’s super fun for Alexa and a great reminder for Mommy that time flies so cherish it! This year included a puddle adventure and a trip to Houston (yuck) . . . at least we had a cupcake! She didn’t seem to mind the 6 1/2 hr drive to celebrate.
We love you, Sweetie, and every day’s a celebration when you’re a part of it!!