Book Review: Chasing Slow

Book Review: Chasing Slow

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I have had the opportunity to be a part of yet another book launch team for Erin Loechner’s book, “Chasing Slow,” and you guys, this book is SO good. I had the chance to hear Erin speak at an Influence Conference, and she is an inspiring, down-to-earth woman who will point you straight back to what matters. One of the things I liked most about her when I heard her speak, is her honesty. She doesn’t apologize for who she is, and she isn’t afraid to live her life the way she believes God intended her to, regardless of what others may think. And that is someone who I know I could definitely take a lesson from!

Erin’s book, “Chasing Slow“, speaks about how running after the next best thing is exhausting. In the world we live in today with social media and Pinterest, we hold ourselves to unrealistic standards, based on what we see on the internet. This desire to do more, be more, have more. And it ultimately leads to feeling like we have less.

“More, she said, is a never-ending immeasurable. It can’t be counted or valued or summed or justified. More is always, by definition, just ahead at the horizon. That’s why we never stop chasing it. More is never enough.”

“Who would have known that more could make us feel like less?”

“Pinterest has, in a few short years, become an addicting escape, an impossible standard, an invaluable resource. A synonym for perfect.”

Erin talks a lot in the book about her life’s journey, about living with a husband who has a brain tumor, and about her pursuit to “journey off the beaten path.” A big theme throughout the book is simplicity and minimalism. I have found myself drawn to these concepts, I think even more-so because of the fast-paced world we live in. Erin talks about how she was one of the first to pioneer a capsule wardrobe (which I am so intrigued by!), and even gives some tips on how we can purge our lives and our homes from so much stuff.

“I do not want to compete. I want white space. I want room for grace.”

As the title of the book would suggest, Erin talks a lot about slowing down, and what that means. She also points out that chasing after a slow life, is still a chase. Whether we are chasing the fast life, or the slow life, it’s still a chase. Erin encourages you to really, truly stop chasing and slow down. And that what we might actually be afraid of missing out on, really wouldn’t even be missed.

“In a society that places a disproportionate emphasis on productivity, there is a true and real fear of slowing down. Will we be replaced? Left behind? Disrespected by the masses, whispered about in cubicles?”

I mentioned social media earlier, but the greatest takeaway I had from this book was that I was convicted about the time I spend on social media. Not so much about the amount of time, or the content I look at, but rather that I fall trap into so much of what Erin points out. Since reading Erin’s book, I have consciously made an effort to slow my time on all social media outlets and really be present. Present to my family, to the people I am sitting face to face with.

“Instead, I think the dangers of social media are far subtler than the distraction, than the addiction, than the habits we form by scrolling through screens multiple times a day. I think there is something far worse than the insensitivity of checking your phone in the middle of a conversation, when you unknowingly communicate to a person that what’s happening on your screen is more important that their words. I think social media has caused something much more dangerous, far more penetrating, a creeping issue that sneaks by daily, unnoticed. Social media has encouraged us to crop out the contradictions in ourselves.”

Imagine how freeing it would be, to stop the comparison. To stop holding yourself to the “perfect standard”, whatever that really even is. God didn’t create you to be just like someone else, and I would bet that He doesn’t want you to spend your life striving to be perfect. God’s grace is a powerful thing, and when we immerse ourselves in the fast-paced social media world, we somehow easily forget that it’s okay to slow down, stop, and accept that grace.

I really can’t recommend this book enough, and I probably could have quoted the entire thing here, it’s that good (and I won’t do that, so that you have plenty of more great things to read and takeaway from this book!). Something else random but worth mentioning, is that the book is beautifully designed. The layout is creative but easy to follow, and Erin put little columns in the pages of things that she wants to emphasize. There are even some recipes in the book! If you give it a read, I’d love to know what you think! Here’s to a great week, friends!

xo,

Abby

 

Looking for more?

Book Review: Hope Unfolding

Book Review: Wild and Free

Bryan’s Journey: Part Ten

Bryan’s Journey: Part Eleven (Bryan’s Perspective)

Bryan’s Journey: Part Eleven (Bryan’s Perspective)

(My wonderful husband, Bryan, is back again to share how he’s doing as we celebrate the one-year mark of his last chemotherapy treatment!)

It has been exactly one year since I checked in for my final chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and I thought it was about time to provide a first-person update.  I’m quite certain I am not a good enough writer to fully put into words how much different this holiday season has been for me thus far. Last year my Thanksgiving day was filled with a weariness and fatigue that comes from the internal chemical warfare from my final treatment.  Instead of focusing on being thankful for each and every blessing I’ve been provided, I was praying for physical and mental strength to get through this one last chemo battle.  Needless to say, I’m incredibly thankful to be experiencing this season through a drastically different lens, mostly good, but definitely also different.

First, let me share the good.

Since my final treatment last November, I have had a series of follow-up activity and testing:  blood tests, physical exams, a CT Scan, and a PET Scan.  Each of these steps has carried a series of amazingly high levels of stress for me, but each one has confirmed quite confidently that the cancerous cells that previously existed in my body appear to remain gone.  This shouldn’t have been a surprise to me given the specific variation of cancer that I had. Even before starting chemo, I had about a 74% chance of cure.  Once I had achieved a full response after 4 of my 12 treatments (full response meaning that all cancerous activity had already disappeared) the odds improved to over 80%, and now that I’m crossing the one year point, the odds touch the 90th percentile.  If I can accomplish the two-year mark without issue, statistically I’ll have accomplished cure of this particular cancer. CURE!!!  That definitely has to be up there on the list of my favorite four letter words.  🙂  In summary, I remain physically healthy and continue to approach “pre-chemo” levels of myself.

All of this seriousness and mortal awareness has also helped me truly think about what is most important to me in a way that I have never before.  I can confidently tell you that before 2015 occurred, I was a man who loved my family.  However, at the time of my diagnosis, I was a hard-working father to 2 beautiful children under the age of 3, and after a long workday, I can honestly tell you that there were many times I prayed the kids were in bed so I could have some quiet time.  Not any more.  If I don’t get the chance to tuck in my princess and prince, my night just isn’t the same.  I am not going to tell you that I’ve converted into some kind of Superdad (if I tried to tell you that, my gorgeous wife and amazing family would swiftly squash that silly-ness! 🙂 ), but I can tell you that I rarely take moments for granted, especially those moments that include the people who mean the most to me!  The quiet songs I sing to my son before bedtime; grazing my daughter’s cheek with my fingertips while she holds my nose and asks me to “talk silly, da-da”; sitting close to my wife while we catch up on some Netflix.  These are all moments I would have taken for granted before that are now some of my most treasured.   In a strange, twisty kind of way, my cancer experience has been quite the blessing.

One of the premier moments in my life since my final treatment last November had to have been in October at the “Light the Night” walk.  My mind was not prepared for the emotion of the night and I honestly didn’t even think about how meaningful and emotional this night would be for me. For those of you who don’t know much about this event, let me summarize it briefly.  The walk is a two to three-mile walk in the evening hours, where walkers carry with them a battery-powered paper “lantern” that is one of three colors:  red for supporters of those suffering from a blood cancer, gold for those walking in memory of lost loved ones, and white for survivors.  As I walked to the registration booth, my mind was far from the serious zone.  But as soon as I filled out the paperwork, and picked up my white lantern, tears of joy and relief flooded my eyes.  It was as if this ritual truly released my body from the fear, stress, and havoc of battling cancer.  I was surrounded by an army of red lanterns and I hugged them all like I never have before.  As the night turned dark, we turned on our lanterns and there was a proud, but sobering realization.  Among the crowd, there was a heavy dose of red and gold lanterns.  The white lanterns were few and far between.  Now, many of you know that I am a man who enjoys going against the flow, but this is one of those moments that I longed to blend in.  I walked proudly with my white lantern and I prayed that in future years, my eyes are blessed to see a larger percentage of “survivor white” in the skyline.

And now, the different.

Despite my body’s success with chemo and the bountiful statistical evidence pointing to a bright, healthy existence on this earth, I now face a completely different battle than I tackled last year.  The mental warfare that comes with the territory of being a “cancer survivor” is far more difficult than I ever imagined possible.  For any of you that have known me for any meaningful amount of time, you likely know me as a man of positivity and energy.  A man who often finds the light within the dark.  A guy that lives to brighten someone’s day!  Although that man still exists and can be seen relatively often, I’m shocked by the level of cynicism and skepticism that resides within me these days.  Man, there’s a sharp pain in my hip area today…cancer.  Why is there a pain in my kidney area?  Cancer.  I’m feeling a bit nauseous and tired.  Cancer.  You get the point.  Multiple times per day I find myself palpating the area of my neck where I first found an enlarged lymph node as if I am just waiting for it to happen again.  I thought for sure that my cancer was going to be my biggest hurdle I’d face, but I’ve been quickly proven wrong.  Fear is the larger, smarter, evil brother of cancer.

The other thing that definitely caught me off guard was my level of survivor guilt.  The mere typing of this concept still catches me off guard.  Like many of you reading this, I know a ton of people who have been afflicted with the cancer bug and while the odds of success continue to improve, unfortunately not everyone wins the earthly battle.  Why is it that God allowed me to remain, while others who were equally important, amazing and valuable cogs within a family have moved on?  I didn’t realize how powerful this feeling was for me until I came face to face with the family of one of those whom God selected to be with Him, leaving his family seeking answers.  My heart broke the moment I saw the family.  I physically felt ill and had the urge to run far, far away.  A moment like this would have normally had me running toward a person, seeking to create a positive connection, but now, my mind was flooded with negativity.  While this is still a surprisingly strong emotion I carry within me, I am happy to report that with prayer, a bit of counseling, and a lot of love shown to me by the surviving families of the many people I know that are missing loved ones, I am slowly beginning to cure this mental disease.

I awaken each day with optimism, perhaps cautious optimism, but nonetheless optimism.  God has given me the gift of today and I seek to use this gift wisely.  And although this Christ-centered viewpoint is often hijacked by my sin and insecurity, I end the day praying for renewed strength, and for the ability to unearth the elements of the “pre-cancer” Bryan that I so longingly miss, yet retain the updated and improved characteristics as well.

Thank you all for your love and prayers.  Although it has been years since I’ve physically touched or spoken to many of you, and I would love to remedy that with many of you, I can sincerely tell you I have never felt so loved.  These are the kind of things that provide the tipping points of strength during a tough battle, and for that, I am incredibly grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!  Cheers to another year–another blessing from God.

-B

Bryan’s Journey: Part Ten

Bryan’s Journey: Part Ten

“Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.” Psalm 145:3

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So, I guess the saying “no news, is good news” is true in this case — no news about Bryan has meant good news! 🙂 Bryan had follow-up appointments in both July and October, with nothing to report. His labs still show some of his blood counts still getting back to “normal”, but nothing concerning after the hit his body took with chemo. There hasn’t been any visible lymph node activity, and Bryan is feeling overall great! The appointments just consist of blood work and a physical exam –he won’t have any more scans for now as there aren’t concerns and to limit the amount of radiation his body is subjected to from the scans. He will have another follow-up appointment in March. We are happy that these appointments go further and further out, as that is yet another sign of Bryan staying in remission.

We were able to participate in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk again this year, and Bryan was able to walk with us — such a huge praise! Last year, he sat at home not feeling up to a walk in the rain, and this year, he was able to hold my hand while I walked alongside of him. It was a great chance to fundraise for LLS and just to raise more awareness about blood cancers. It is an unfortunate truth, that there probably aren’t many people whose lives haven’t been touched by cancer in one way or another, and societies like LLS, really help draw awareness and raise funds for research. I don’t take lightly the fact that while I believe Jesus is the One who healed Bryan, the medications and treatments that they gave him have come so far from what they used to be!

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We are approaching the date that marks a year since Bryan’s last chemo treatment (November 24th) — hard to believe it’s been that long already. It seems like just yesterday at times that we began this journey, and I know for Bryan it’s something he still thinks about daily. The chances of his cancer relapsing have been highest this first year for Bryan’s exact type of lymphoma, and so you better believe we have been watching the days pass by on the calendar this year. The chance for relapse doesn’t go away completely, but the percentage chance of it staying away increases greatly (somewhere in the 90% range after two years). We know nothing is guaranteed, but we are so thankful that Bryan is healthy and feeling back to himself.

This world is a crazy, crazy place, and I know none of us are immune to the health issues, relational issues, political issues, and moral issues that we all face on a day to day basis. I am so thankful that I have a Rock to continue to come back to. I don’t know where we would be without God’s grace and protection over Bryan and our family this past year. I know that I used to often take for granted my health and all the things God has blessed me with — and while I still feel immensely blessed, my eyes are so much more open to those around me who are not healthy, and who need to know that their Savior is walking right beside them, just as He did for Bryan. I had my fair share of emotions throughout the past year and a half, and my moments of disbelief and anger, but you know what? More often than not, I felt God’s presence right next to me — even in the anger and confusion.

“The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

I know I am speaking for Bryan here, but until I can get him back on here to finish writing out his story, I want to ask for your continued prayers for him. The physical side of this challenge he faced may be over, however, the mental and emotional side of having gone through cancer remains to be something Bryan will have to deal with. Understandably so, any sort of bump or lump or odd feeling can send Bryan back to day one of where this all started. Please continue to pray that his cancer stays in remission, and that he would have peace of mind and the strength to continue to live in the moment! We know our God is a mighty and good God, and that He will continue to walk beside Bryan and our family as we prayerfully wrap up this challenging journey in our lives.

I am so proud of Bryan, and the way he has handled all of this. It’s a true testament to how much he loves Jesus, and I am so thankful that I get to walk beside him as his wife. His upbeat attitude and joy, even in the midst of something so challenging has been an encouragement to so many people around him. Love you, Bryan!

Thank you guys for continuing to pray and support us! It means a lot to us when you ask how we are doing and how you can continue to pray for us!

xo,

Abby

 

Looking for more?

Bryan’s Journey: Part One

Bryan’s Journey: Part Three

Bryan’s Journey: Part Eight (Bryan’s Perspective)

Book Review: Hope Unfolding

Book Review: Hope Unfolding

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I just finished reading the book “Hope Unfolding,” by Becky Thompson (of Scissortail Silk), and it was hands-down one of the best books I have read. I have been awful at blogging lately, but I think it’s because I have so many things I want to blog about but I never just sit down and write. But, this book was so good, I had to share it with you. I know I have lots of mama friends, and I know that this book might just be the thing you need to read today, too. I laughed and cried as I read Becky’s story of her life, and the situations that she talks about, and found myself relating to her in many different ways. This book is a quick read, and I actually had to will myself to put it down so that I wouldn’t finish it too quickly! Sometimes, I read so quickly and don’t really let things fully sink in, and I didn’t want that to be the case with this book.

The book, “Hope Unfolding” is full of truth. It could just be that when I was reading this book, the timing was perfect for where I am in my life, but, I felt that multiple times throughout the book, the author was looking right into my heart and speaking directly to me. I love how God uses all sorts of ways to connect with us, and even though I felt that I randomly put this book into my Amazon cart, I know He didn’t see it as random at all.

Here’s the thing — being a mom is hard. It is an often overlooked “job”, a job without pay, and often without gratitude. But, it’s also the most rewarding role I’ve ever played in my life. I, probably much like you, find myself randomly scrolling through my Instagram feed, and noticing all of those moms that have it all put together. They have the cutest kids, the fanciest houses, and they have that perfect side business or Etsy shop that fuels their passion and allows them to even make some money while staying at home with their kiddos. But here’s the other thing — this type of comparison will eat away at me if I let it. Becky’s book reminded me to keep my focus where it needs to be, and that no one can really do it all, and be it all, and we shouldn’t feel that we need to be constantly put-together.

I love social media, and it inspires me and fuels my creative side, but it can also be a spot where I forget that I am me, because God made me that way, and that that is 100% enough. I love the Instagram feeds that show nothing but beautiful pictures, the ones that make you catch your breath sometimes. But, how real is that? Probably, not very. The truth is that we are not perfect, and in constant need of grace and hope that can only come from Jesus.

A lot of the points made in this book are things I have been told over and over again in my life. I was raised going to church and Sunday School, and I know that God loves me. I know that I’m not forgotten, that I’m unique and that God has an intricate plan for my life. But, sometimes, I need to be hit over the head with these truths. When I think about all that we walked through as a family in this past year and a half, it is overwhelming, and oftentimes confusing. And truthfully, it would be so easy to let the lies that the Enemy tries to speak into my soul become a reality in my thoughts. This book was a great reminder of where truth can be found.

I am not the one in control, and I am certainly not the one with a perfect plan. Becky writes in her book,

“But this moment, right where you are, is no surprise to God. He didn’t wake up this morning and say “Wow! How’d we end up here?” then shrug His shoulders and shuffle off to get some coffee…He has been with you every step of the way. Even the ones that didn’t make sense. Sometimes we just have to be willing to admit that even if it doesn’t look anything like we thought it would, God knew exactly where we would end up all along…”

I know people going through all kinds of struggles, losses and challenges, and I bet a lot of them don’t make sense. It’s so easy to sit and tell yourself that God has a plan, but if you really believe it? That’s where things will change. She also writes,

“Life is like a garment that has been intricately woven from carefully chosen thread, each moment and each event coloring the design and shaping the finished work. Our lives are made up of a million perfectly placed choices by the One who already knows how it turns out in the end.”

A million intricately placed moments. Nothing by chance. I am mom to my two exact children, because I am the mom He planned for them. I am my parent’s daughter by unique design and my two sisters are the ones He had planned out for me before I was even born. I am the wife that He planned for Bryan, and the challenges we have faced, and continue to face are not a surprise to Him.

Another thing I really took away from this book was that God’s perfect love is for us, all the time, no matter what. I would consider myself to be an achiever, and an absolute perfectionist of sorts. I feel good when I complete something, and when I do it well. But the truth is that God doesn’t expect anything from us, nor does He require it. Becky writes,

“He doesn’t respond to us because of anything we do or don’t do. He doesn’t come because of anything we are or aren’t. He doesn’t answer because we do or do not deserve it. God responds when we call because He loves us. Just because He loves us. And He runs to us every single time. Just because you say His name.”

Just like we run to our kiddos when they call us, regardless of what they do or don’t do, the same is true for how God sees us.

I’ll say it again — being a mom is hard. But it becomes a lot less difficult when we can surrender it all to Jesus, knowing that there is hope and grace on the other side of all the mistakes we’ve already made and will continue to make. It feels so good to surrender my plans, my agenda and every single one of my worries to Him, knowing full well that He will care for me far better than I ever could. The freedom that I feel from stopping that comparison, and believing that His plans are perfect, is a wonderful feeling. It definitely is a constant thing for me. I continually have to stop those thoughts, those lies, when I catch myself thinking them, and speak the things I know to be true in my heart instead.

I don’t have it all together, and I truthfully, I think we’re all a work in progress. Life isn’t always easy and doesn’t always feel safe, but I am rejoicing in the fact that I know He’s got it all in His hands. Every diaper change, every tear, every laugh — He sees it all and He can and will meet you in the midst of it. We’re all in this together, mamas, and I’m cheering you on!

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

And, with that, hop over to my Facebook page, for a quick little giveaway with this book!

On a somewhat related note, Bryan has a follow-up appointment next week with his oncologist, and we would love continued prayers for his health. I’ll be back to post an update on him, and life lately soon!

xo,

Abby

 

Looking for more?

It’s Been a Year

Book Review: Wild and Free

Easy DIY Crib Teething Guard

Book Review: Wild and Free

Book Review: Wild and Free

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I love to read, and have not made reading a priority since having kids. Well, kids and Netflix…the two things that keep me distracted. It’s so sad! In an effort to keep myself reading, and because I can’t help but share when I read something good, I am going to review a few books on my blog. The first book that I wanted to talk about today, is the book “Wild and Free” by Jess Connolly & Hayley Morgan.

I was honored to be on the launch team for this book, and I truly can not say enough good things about the authors. Both Jess and Hayley founded the Influence Network (which, by the way, I highly recommend joining if you haven’t already!), and I have been able to receive both encouragement and wise teaching from them both. This book is really one of the best I have read, and I think that every woman should read it, no matter where you are at in life. This isn’t just a book for young adults or teens, it is a book for women of all ages.

Jess and Hayley alternate chapters throughout the book, and then each of them gives their own perspective at the end of the other’s chapter. Both of the authors have different personalities and different perspectives, which makes this book super unique, but it also flows really smoothly. The only reason I didn’t read the entire book in a few days is because I was trying to take in all that I felt God was trying to teach me through it! This book is “a hope-filled anthem for the woman who feels she is both too much and never enough.” The book will remind you to live for a God who loves you and wants you to feel free, to feel unchained, and to hold nothing back. In case you aren’t already intrigued, check out some of the highlights from the book:

Book Highlights:

  • “We mean the world to Him–not because we’re good or we’ve earned it, but because we are His treasure, the apple of His eye, the daughters He is coming back for. He has never seen us as a tool. We have always been the prize worth fighting for.” Jess Connolly
  • “Because we never need to be afraid of failure–not when God’s grace will always be there to break our fall.” Hayley Morgan
  • “When our eyes are on God and His goodness, we can rightly worship. When our eyes are on ourselves, we see only our own insufficiencies. Because God is the essence of good, He is incapable of creating anything but good. With God, there are no castoffs. There are also no favorites. There are only masterpieces–every single time.” Jess Connolly
  • “You can love with abandon because your hope isn’t in being loved back. You can hope in really big ways because God is a really big God.” Hayley Morgan

The book will not only encourage you, but it will give you helpful guidelines for what it looks like to be a wild and free woman of God. You will learn that you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to do everything for everyone. You can be loud and not worried about what anyone else thinks. God created you in His image, and has set you free. Gosh, there is something profoundly relieving when you realize the God of the universe set you completely free and continues to love you unconditionally. The world doesn’t revolve around what I do or don’t do; rather we exist to worship our God and point everyone right back to Him.

In case you are interested in learning more about the authors, they both have websites & blogs that can be found here:

And, the book can be purchased on Amazon, here. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed with this book — you’ll want to pass it on to all the women in your life. Oh, and P.S. No one paid me anything to say nice things about this book! I truly loved it, and want y’all to read it and feel the freedom that radiates through the pages! Happy Tuesday! 🙂

xo,

Abby

 

Looking for more?

The Influence Conference: Recap

Train Birthday Party!

It’s Been a Year

Train Birthday Party!

Train Birthday Party!

I couldn’t let the months keep passing by without doing a quick blog post about Gavyn’s 2nd Birthday Party! We chose a train themed party for Gavyn this year, and we kept it simple, but it was still fun to plan! I actually love planning and organizing parties, but with our move being around the corner, I knew I needed to scale back on Gavyn’s party this year as compared to his 1st Birthday Party.

I, of course, started my search for ideas on Pinterest, and definitely came up with a few good ones on there. I even got adventurous and made my own cupcakes and cupcake toppers for this party, and they turned out super cute! I wanted to just highlight some of the things we did, in case you are looking for some ideas for your own train party.

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DIY Cardboard Train: My handy father-in-law was able to make us custom-sized boxes and wheels that attached with velcro, and Bryan and I just had to cut out the windows and decorate the train! The train was a hit at the party, and we have gotten great use out of it since. If you can’t have boxes made for you, any type of box would work — just decorate it however you would like! We used string and white balloons to create the engine “steam”.

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Other Decorations: I used our chalkboard to make a little sign, and then I searched through all the kids’ toys to find a few trains to use as centerpieces and such. We blew up a few red and blue balloons, too. The tablecloth is from Target.

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Cupcakes: I altered a box cake mix to make the cupcakes and made homemade frosting, as well. The toppers were ordered from Ciao Bambino Designs, and I then attached them to blue and red card stock circles. I made the circles using a circle punch. I used hot glue to attach the circles to mini sucker sticks (from Hobby Lobby). This whole project was fun and easy and it made the cupcakes seem a little more fancy!

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Birthday T-Shirt: I ordered Gavyn’s shirt from Ruffled Rose Boutique on Etsy. It was fun to watch Gavyn be so much more interactive during his birthday party this year! He loved blowing out his candles and opening presents.

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Party Favors: Each kid was given a conductor hat and a train whistle (both from Amazon). The little tags were also ordered from Ciao Bambino Designs, and I just tied them on with a little bit of decorative string that I had.

I had a lot of fun planning around a train theme, and now it’s on to wrapping up the details for Madalyn’s 4th Birthday Party (“Under the Sea”) this weekend! 🙂

xo,

Abby

 

Looking for more?

Monster 1st Birthday Party

Rainbow Birthday Party!

Minnie Mouse Centerpiece Decorations

 

 

It’s Been a Year

It’s Been a Year

So, I have decided to dust off the old blog today and try to get back in to posting once again. Life has been nothing short of chaotic this past year as we dealt with everything with Bryan’s health and building a new home together. Now that we officially moved and settled into a routine at our new house, I feel like I can breathe again! Moving with two kiddos under the age of four was as adventurous as it was stressful 🙂

We celebrated our oldest’s fourth birthday this week, and I can’t help but think back to where we were one year ago. It was on June 18th that I posted my news publicly about Bryan’s lymphoma. We celebrated Father’s Day last year not only celebrating Bryan, but celebrating his last “normal” day before his first chemotherapy treatment. The reality of that situation has come to weigh heavily on me as we vividly remember the details that unfolded as that journey of life began.

But, what I can tell you, is this: God came through. Just like He always does. It wasn’t how I wanted Him to deal with the situation. Bryan’s lymphoma certainly wasn’t what I thought He would put in our paths, but there it was. I have often wondered what life would look like for us now had we not gone through that trial. For me, the reality that I am not in control was a harsh one. A reality that I did not want to face.

I also sit here full to the brim with thankfulness. I am SO thankful that Bryan is now healthy. I am grateful that he has had another whole year to be here with our family, and to grace the world with his joyful presence. I am overjoyed that I am able to sit here and type out how thankful I am for his complete helping, as for the past 12 months, there was so much uncertainty.

What I want to do today, other than to get back to my blog, is to just reflect on where life has taken us. I want to let you know that God is good. Even when it doesn’t seem like it. Even when you want to be in control and think that you know better. My absolute favorite worship song of all time is “Oceans”, and these lyrics in particular:

Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders.

Let me walk upon the waters

Wherever You would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

In the presence of my Savior

This anthem could not have rang out in my life more truly than it did over this past year. I felt like I was deeper into a situation than I possibly ever could have wandered on my own, and yet in the midst of something I was so upset about, so sad about, so emotional about, I clung to my faith in Jesus more than I had ever before. I felt His presence as Bryan and I labored over decisions about what to do and what steps to take. I felt like at the end of the day, all I could do was relinquish complete control and trust. Trust that had no borders.

Bryan remains cancer-free today and is healthy as can be! The chances of his lymphoma returning are highest in the first year, so we would love continued prayers that God keep watch over him. Bryan has some remaining scar tissue and slightly enlarged lymph nodes that cause him some discomfort, and the mental struggle of having gone through what he did continues to weigh on him. I know that he would also appreciate prayer that anxious thoughts would stay away, and that he would continue to focus on living every day to its fullest potential.

I am so thankful as well for the community of friends and family that surrounded us during the entire time. I had read on another blog that part of the tough thing about going through cancer was that everyone reacts when you first post something with offers to help and encouragement, but it dies down after that. This definitely rang true to us, but, I can tell you that we had family and friends who stuck by the entire time and it made a huge difference to Bryan and I. He had cards of encouragement to open through the whole journey, we had our children cared for so I could help Bryan, and Bryan had family that went with him to keep him company during chemo treatments. Our lawn was mowed by neighbors, we had food and meals offered and prepared for us. I will never forget these acts of kindness, as they truly made such a huge difference to us. God showed us His perfect and powerful love through everyone that walked with us.

But, most of all. I am thankful and I am SO happy for a God who pulled us through when we couldn’t see the light at the end — when it seemed like we were in the worst possible spot. I just can’t even grasp the depth of love and grace He has for all of us.

And. This guy. My Bryan. So happy that he’s mine.

Natural Photography for your life.

xo,

Abby

 

Looking for more?

Bryan’s Journey: Part One

Bryan’s Journey: Part Two

Bryan’s Journey: Part Six

Bryan’s Journey: Part Nine (Bryan’s Perspective)

Bryan’s Journey: Part Nine (Bryan’s Perspective)

*Bryan is going to continue his reflection on his journey today here on the blog. He finished his last chemo treatment the week of Thanksgiving, and is starting to get his energy and “normal” feeling back. His last PET scan showed that the areas previously showing cancerous activity remained clear (Praise the Lord for that!), although they are watching some things in on one of his lungs which may just be an infection/negative reaction to one of the chemo drugs that he received. Continued prayers would be appreciated as we wait to figure out all of that!

As promised, I wanted to continue with the detail regarding my journey.  My last post ended with the dark moments of June 2nd, where my diagnosis was officially confirmed by my amazing surgeon.  I ended that post at that moment given its weight for me personally in my time of grace thus far.  It certainly was simply the beginning of my grieving process as I continue to learn to deal with something that is generally not ideal.  Today, I want to continue the timeline as there was so much that needed to occur yet before even beginning my actual physical battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Friday, June 5th.  My first official meeting with an oncologist. I am almost ashamed to admit I feared this day would come in my life far before it actually occurred, I just didn’t expect it to be quite this early in my life (who ever does, right?).  Cancer is no stranger to my family and I’m sure almost everyone reading this can relate as it seems to be everywhere these days (Social media bias or true expansion in cancerous activity?  Perhaps this would be an excellent topic for a future post…), but there is something far more real when you are actually sitting in that chair with the oncologist addressing you.  I learned a lot at this meeting (I did my absolute best to do ZERO online research before knowing anything for certain and I highly advise this if you can enlist your self-restraint). We reviewed my likely staging, early indications showed a Stage 2 or 3, and I was further defined as a subtype “A” as I was non-symptomatic. This meant that I showed none of the typical physiological signs of Lymphoma.  The oncologist then educated me about the options to combat Hodgkin’s Lymphoma after a brief history of the disease. He explained that most likely we would use Chemotherapy, with the potential add an element of radiation as needed, based on the effect of the chemotherapy regiment.  I learned about several chemotherapy treatment options, ABVD, BEACOPP, Stanford V, all of which have been quite successful against Hodgkin’s Lymphoma since the early 70s (and earlier) especially with patients as “young” as me (although I fell in the “old” range for younger sufferers as it typically affects males aged 16-35).  I learned about the likely temporary symptoms — hair loss, energy loss, nausea, immune system weakness, neuropathy, and more.  I also learned about some potential long-term risks, sterility, being the most likely.  I thanked the Lord that I was already blessed with two beautiful children when we came to this point, which is yet another example of how God had this all planned out for me far in advance.  We also reviewed the potential to develop other cancers, Leukemia being the most common, but still quite rare.  The oncologist then explained that before committing to a treatment plan, I would need to complete a barrage of tests in a relatively short time period in order to properly confirm staging and to ensure my body’s ability to handle a plan that would include a chemotherapy regiment.  I was incredibly impressed with the bedside manner of this oncologist — you could feel his care and concern as we discussed every detail, no matter how important or unimportant it may have been.  He dismissed us to the nurse, and I arranged the previously mentioned barrage of appointments.

Monday, June 8th.  The “baseline” testing begins.  First up, a MUGA heart scan.  This was the simplest of the tests. A radioactive tracer is injected via IV and you sit for a while to allow it to get to the heart. Then you sit under the scanner as pictures are taken of your lower chambers of the heart as they are pumping.  The objective of this test is to confirm that your heart can handle the potential treatment plan.  I passed with flying heartbeats, and prepared for the next test.

Tuesday, June 9th.  This was the day of my Pulmonary Function Test.  This was actually quite a workout, even with my singing and running background.  The objective of this test is to establish your lung health, as well as a baseline for future follow-up tests.  In short, you hook up to a mouthpiece and perform several breathing exercises. Once I was done with the exercises (took about 40 minutes), I felt as if I had just completed Al’s Run.  I was rewarded with the knowledge that I would begin my treatment plan with “Rock Star Lungs”.  My confidence continued to gain traction after learning yet another area of my body was prepared for battle.

Wednesday, June 10th.  I arrived at the facility for my PET Scan at 7:15 AM. As I was about to have the radioactive tracer injected via IV the tech came in (Marcus was his name–one of the few names I actually recall from the baseline testing as I was stuck here for a while), and let me know the scanning equipment was not properly functioning (of course!) and they had the manufacturer on the phone attempting to troubleshoot.  While I was waiting, I could hear Marcus rescheduling all of the other patients for the day.  At first, I couldn’t help but think about the fact that there were all of these other people dealing with a similarly scary situation and now they would also have to deal with delaying confirmation of their battle with cancer.  Talk about adding insult to injury!  After a moment of empathy, my brain quickly refocused to myself:  ”if they are getting rescheduled before me, how long will I have to wait to get back in here?”  I got up and went over to Marcus, and asked if I could tentatively reschedule.  Luckily, he was able to get me in again just two days later, the same day as my final baseline test:  the bone marrow biopsy.  He then shared his doubt that the machine would be up and running today, so he suggested I head back to my day, and plan to come back in two days.  However, I had a followup with my initial surgeon (from my lymph node removal) scheduled in this same building at noon, so I offered to wait in the building just in case the machine was fixed.  He agreed, and I headed upstairs to my next stop, albeit four hours early.  I checked in, asking if there was any chance I could be seen early, and was assured this was unlikely.  So I decided to set up a temporary office site in the waiting area, and got to work.  I worked in the waiting room for about 4 hours — no word from the PET tech — but I did hear quite the barrage of stories from the other visiting patients.  My name was finally called about 40 minutes after my planned visit (why are doctors always so far behind?) and I walked in to meet my surgeon.  After some personal chit-chat, I passed my inspection as all looked to be healing amazingly well.

Friday, June 12th.  PET scan attempt number two and Bone Marrow Biopsy.  All systems were go on arrival for the PET scan, and Marcus successfully injected the radioactive tracer.  I was told to relax for 45 minutes or so while the tracer worked its way through my system.  After some forced medication, I was walked into the scan room.  The goal of this test is to establish the severity and staging of the cancer cells.  The PET scanner is much “deeper” than the CT scan equipment–while the CT scan is a “donut” type scanner at about 1 foot deep, the PET scanner is a bit more like a cave with openings on each end, where at times your entire body is encapsulated.  I was in the machine for about 30 minutes as images were captured.  Once complete, I travelled home and got myself ready for my afternoon Bone Marrow biopsy.  At this point, I’m beginning to personally feel a bit cavernous as I was unable to eat or drink anything for this procedure since 10 PM the previous evening.  I was quite nervous about the biopsy as I had heard many horror stories about the pain of this procedure and I am happy to report that it was better than advertised.  Outside of the discomfort after the biopsy procedure, the biggest annoyance during this procedure was the fact that there were several “students”  there to “enjoy” the process of watching a massive needle be injected into my hip bone area.

Saturday, June 13th.  My daughter, Madalyn’s, 3rd Birthday celebration.  This was quite the emotional day for me as all of our family was together in one place.  I thought this would be exactly what I needed as a distraction as I awaited word of our treatment plan and PET results.  I was strong as the get-together began, distracting my thoughts with pleasantries and conversations with people who I love the most.  However, as I began the prayer before mealtime, while saying words of thanks about our beautiful daughter and amazing family, I just couldn’t hold it together.  My fears and insecurity were as evident as the tears in my eyes. I tried to fight through it, but could not get any proper function out of my neck and mouth muscles, so I dismissed myself as someone else finished the prayer.  I escaped to my room upstairs, and continued my breakdown privately.  How could I be so sad at such a happy event?  As I prayed to God for strength in this moment, the answer was clearly given to me:  I was fearful that I may not see my little girl grow up.  I was terrified that I may not see Gavyn become a chivalrous man.  I was frightened that I would not be there to support my beautiful wife through many more celebrations and challenges.  So many deeply rooted fears that I had been ignoring and burying into the depths of my soul were excavated as I was surrounded by so much love.  My privacy was unexpectedly interrupted, but by someone I least expected for such a moment:  my dad.  I love my dad greatly, but he has never been one to show emotion.  Like many from previous generations, there was a massive attempt to never show weakness or emotion, and my dad typically demonstrated this knight-like armor of “cool”.  Not in this moment.  We shared tears and fears.  We shared insecurities that had never been verbalized between us since the early 90s when our family fell apart.  My stepdad joined the “party” after a few minutes, and furthered the depth of this moment.  Yet another “tough” man who rarely showed emotion, and we continued the “bromance”.  More fears.  More confidence.  More forgiveness.  It was a beautiful moment that I will never forget.  We wiped our tears and dusted off our smiles, and one by one, we re-joined the party to celebrate my daughter.

Wednesday, June 17th.  Treatment plan day.  This was my second visit to the oncologist, so my awareness of details was a bit less callous than my last visit.  As I waited to see the doctor, I watched as countless other patients waited in fear.  I took some time to “tour” the treatment area.  While it had a gorgeous view and lighting, all I could see were other scared patients, looking lifeless in chairs as they received treatment.  I noticed that the majority of people there were much more “experienced” than I was.  There was a black cloud of doubt in this room.  I had heard so many stories from staff and friends of how cancer patients and survivors were some of the most positive people they had ever met.  This was definitely not evident in my experience, neither in the waiting room or the treatment room.  I was guided to my meeting room, and the doctor shared the details of my PET results. In his opinion, I was confirmed as a stage 2A.  He then shared his treatment plan suggestion:  6 cycles of chemotherapy to begin on Monday, June 22nd using the ABVD regiment.  He shared the statistics on the survival rates using this regiment (generally in the 80% range).  He also proposed I have a power port installed on that same day my treatment would begin(more on this later) in order to aid in safe administration of the toxic mix.  I left with fears, but was happy to have an action plan with a generally positive prognosis.

Friday, June 19th.  In order to be certain of my treatment plan and options, I arranged a meeting with a second oncologist, a Lymphoma specialist with quite the list of accomplishments.  While I was incredibly comfortable with my first oncologist, I was not very comfortable with the facility, specifically in regards to the environment in the treatment room, but also in regards to some of the support staff I was supposed to be working with.  Initially, the second oncologist provided a less than stellar first impression (we waited over two hours to see him).  However, it was evident as to why this was the case pretty quickly.  His experience, knowledge, and focus were top-notch, and he also had some interesting research-based insights for us that were not shared in our initial meetings with oncologist number 1.  First, in regards to staging, he pointed out an area of my PET scan that was not mentioned in my first meeting with oncologist number 1 which could cause my staging consideration to be anywhere from a 2A to a 4A.  He actually showed me the PET scan images showing the extent of the tumors in my chest and neck area.  Although the technology amazed me, this was the first time I attached visual proof of my cancer, and could not believe the extend of the tumors.  How could I not have noticed this sooner when it was this widespread?  If my staging was a 4A, I would also have the opportunity to participate in a blind clinical trial, which would remove one of the more troublesome chemo drugs from the mix (Bleomycin) and replace it with a non-chemo drug (a drug that was able to differentiate cancer cells from healthy cells as defined by a cell marked with a trait referred to as “CD32”–which is found only in cancer cells) called Brentuximab.  As he described this new drug (only approved by the FDA since 2011), I was quite excited about the potential for a future without cancer.  I was currently scheduled to begin chemo with facility number 1 the following Monday — so just in case I selected facility #2, I scheduled my chemo to begin there for the following Tuesday.  As we left the meeting, we received a quick tour of the facility and I was very pleased to see that the treatment area was a series of private “pods” or private rooms–which was very valuable to me as I was completely uncertain of how my chemo experience would be.  If I was going to feel miserably, I would really prefer to experience my misery in privacy.  Each little area also had a television w/ DVD player, another nice touch to provide some distraction during an unpleasant experience.    I also noticed that many of the patients and staff there had a very positive demeanor.  Smiles and appreciation were obvious everywhere I looked, despite the internal fears and pain that may have been occurring.

June 20th-21st.  This was the weekend of debate, and it also happened to be Father’s Day weekend.  During a weekend in which I normally would spend reflecting on the blessing of my fatherhood, instead, my mind overflowed with treatment planning decisions.  Which facility should I work with?  Should I sign up for the clinical trial?  What if this non-chemo drug has an unknown long-term side effect that we have yet to learn about given its infancy stage?  How could I choose someone other than oncologist #1, who had guided me through my initial shock, confusion, and fears?  If I chose facility #2, would I be disappointing facility #1?  I turned to some visualization techniques per the suggestion of one of my mentors, and began picturing defeating this cancer, and picturing what facility provided the strongest visualization of success.  This exercise provided the answer I needed. No matter how much I felt connected to oncologist #1, victory seemed the clearest with facility #2.  I kept my appointment for Monday to surgically install my power port at facility #1, but cancelled my scheduled chemo treatment for that same day.  Knowing how stressed I was about the upcoming challenge, my amazing wife scheduled a massage for me this weekend as a bit of a “Father’s Day/Prepare for Chemo” surprise.  I think the masseuse would have needed a week to get the stress out of my body!

Monday, June 22nd.  Power Port Surgery Day.  Given the level of toxicity of the chemo drugs, and given my plan to have 6 cycles of treatment (12 total treatments), both doctors suggested I avoid IV injection, and instead install a Power Port underneath my skin, about 2 inches below my right collarbone.  This would provide excellent access to my bloodstream, and essentially eliminate any potential for severe skin burning during the treatment process.  At this point, I am beginning to feel like a seasoned vet when it comes to surgical procedures, so my nervousness factor had approached zero as I received my pre-operative “cocktail”.  However, as I approach the surgical area, the surgeon completing my brief procedure walked out with the power port and described the process one more time to Abby and I before moving forward.  My nerves began to run rampant as I saw the hugeness of this thing, it was far larger than I expected, and despite the best efforts of the “calming cocktail”, my heart began to pound a bit.  I looked at Abby, calmed myself, and decided that all I could do was trust God here, so I uttered a quick “let’s get this done”, kissed my lady, and got it done.  Once complete, I was the proud owner of an internal power port — massively protruding from my upper chest region (far more than usual due to swelling).

I was now physically prepared to begin my battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  I prayed for mental strength as I went to bed that night. I recall getting very little sleep and praying more than I think I’ve ever prayed before — for tomorrow was chemotherapy treatment number 1, and I wanted to be ready to conquer.

**More to come.

 

Looking for more?

Bryan’s Journey: Part Eight (Bryan’s Perspective)

Bryan’s Journey: Part Eight (Bryan’s Perspective)

Bryan’s Journey: Part Eight (Bryan’s Perspective)

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**My wonderful, handsome husband, Bryan, is taking over my blog today to write out some of his thoughts and feelings that he has had during this whole journey. I am thankful for his openness and courage to share his heart, even when it isn’t easy to deal with. Love you, babe.

Here I sit, patiently awaiting my medical activities for the day, and I can’t help but think back over the last several months of my life. A blur of events — I can hardly believe there actually was a “summer” this year, primarily because there has been a bit of a frigid and icy atmosphere surrounding my reality for the last few months. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am blessed beyond belief — and I still believe this wholeheartedly, in fact, more strongly than ever, but no matter how I look at the last few months of my life, two words come crashing into my mind: This Sucks.

As many of you know, I have been relatively silent regarding my current life battle — I’ve been using a bit of a “focus on silently destroying this challenge” mentality — but I am finding that inside, my thoughts are screaming to be released. This should make perfect sense if you even know me just a bit; I certainly enjoy a great conversation, especially when that conversation includes meaningful feelings that fuel one’s soul. So today, in what I fear may turn into a series of thoughts, I begin to unlatch my thoughts. I’m not sure what this will accomplish, but I yearn for two things

  1. To free my mind of all these pent-up thoughts/details/feelings
  2. To provide the potential that my suffering may be of service to someone else (thanks to my mother-in-law for sharing this vision with me!)

Today, I want to start by sharing a timeline of important dates, so that you might know what actually all went down over the last few months. If you find this to be dry, boring reading, please do not hesitate to click the “x” on the top right corner of the page but if not, let’s go back to the beginning.

Friday, May 8th. A normal day in my life (I can’t believe how much I long for “normal” these days!); I recall the day well. I had just completed an enjoyable effort of mowing the lawn, a favorite activity of mine as I have my favorite music on blast and it provides a break from the day-to-day efforts as a parent/husband/businessman. When I came back in the house, I took a minute to rest on the couch (picture me in full “hands resting on my head mode”) as I released my hands from my head, I noticed an odd protrusion on my neck, just above my left clavicle. Instantly, my reality turned from relaxation to curiosity. My lymph node was not happy and I immediately prayed this was not what my heart feared in that first moment. I tend to be a positive thinker and I believe this was one of the last truly positive thought moments I would have for several weeks.
Monday, May 11th. After a weekend of concern, I scheduled a walk-in appointment to have my doctor check out my lymph node — I had hoped it would “disappear” over the weekend, but unfortunately this was not the case. My doctor was not available on such short notice, so I saw his Nurse Practitioner. After the usual tests and questions, she hoped it was a simple infection, and commented that this was “the most impressive lymph node she had ever seen.” I scheduled to stop by later that week to follow up, gave some blood for further testing, and prayed.
Tuesday, May 12th. I had a previously scheduled checkup with my dermatologist due to my regular “skin issues” and the moment she saw the lymph node, I could see it in her eyes that she feared this was something more serious. I remember her asking if it hurt when she palpated it. When I said it did not, she was especially concerned. She definitely did her best to play “poker face”, but I have a bit of a gift in this area, and was certain of the depth of her concern. I let her know I had a follow-up scheduled with my doctor, and she asked me to keep her posted. The treatment for my skin issues she had planned would have to wait until she had more information regarding this lymph node.
Thursday, May 14th. This was the date I was able to see my primary doctor. The first thing he did was review my lab results — everything looked fantastic. He checked out my lymph node, looked at my labs again, and I remember exactly  the way he said “hmmmmm” as he mysteriously looked into my eyes. He shared a series of words and thoughts here, but one word stood out as he spoke.  This was the first time I heard “lymphoma” thrown out as a possibility. I can still see him saying that word in slow-motion today. He was suspicious, but was confused by my lack of symptomatic behavior. He ordered an ultrasound to take a deeper look and briefly prepped me on the process should this be an item that needed greater attention.
Wednesday, May 20th. This day marked my first visit to the clinic — this time, for an ultrasound. I really hoped this was the last time I’d be there. I briefly waited for my turn, and when I was called, I was met by a pleasant woman. I was instructed by my Doctor that they were trained to keep results from me, to preserve myself from unnecessary worry. I can still feel my heart beating as she thoroughly checked my neck area. It felt like an eternity. After completing the exam, I couldn’t help but ask, “I know you are trained not to say anything, but do you have any insights for me?” She replied, “All I know is you have several lymph nodes that are not happy campers.” My doctor called me a few hours after my ultrasound, and urged me to schedule a CT scan as soon as possible as he wanted to thoroughly see how far this “unhappiness” had progressed.
Friday, May 22nd. I arrived at the clinic for my first ever CT Scan. I had no idea how this worked, and was quite surprised when a tech delivered two cups of this disgusting liquid to drink. I actually thought he was kidding, but unfortunately he was not. I was then warned that while getting the scan, it may feel like I’m peeing — oh the joys of medical stuff (I can’t say I agree with this description)! The CT Scanning device was not what I pictured. I had envisioned the fully enclosed machinery I often saw in shows like “Greys Anatomy”, but was pleased to learn it was much less intense and was nothing but a small “donut-like” circle that moved and adjusted to take internal pictures. And then, the waiting began.
May 23rd – 25th. Memorial Day weekend. My doctor advised that I meet with a surgeon right after Memorial Day in case I would need to schedule a procedure to remove the lymph node so it could be properly tested to determine what this actually was. Likely she would be able to review the results with me as well as they would be available by this point in time. I scheduled a get-together with this surgeon for the following Monday. This was possibly the longest weekend of my life — very little enjoyment, very much stress and fear, not things I am used to feeling given my preference to enjoy every bit of life.
Tuesday, May 26th. This was the day I met with the surgeon. As Abby and I arrived for this appointment, I was met with uneasiness. Perhaps it was the heavy rain and cloud-cover or perhaps it was the cloud of hope that was slowly disappearing in front of my eyes. The surgeon was a pleasant woman, the kind of person I would envision having a beautiful chat with, but her first words shared were nowhere near what I’d want to be talking about: “Have you spoken with the oncologist yet?” There were more words shared after that, but I can tell you, my heart and mind were racing. She shared a written summary of the analysis of my CT scan, which was like a foreign language to me, but there it was, right at the end: “likely lymphoma”. These two words teased me for the next week. Why couldn’t it say “certain lymphoma” or “not lymphoma”? My surgery could not be completed for another week and until reviewing the chemical results of that biopsy, we would not be certain of anything.
Monday, June 1st. This was the day of my first surgical procedure (unless you count wisdom tooth extraction—which in my opinion was more like a “mob visit” than surgery). I was incredibly nervous for this day despite the fact that I was aware that this was very simple procedure. My lack of experience here left me keenly aware of each moment of fear. So many small details stick in my mind from this day: The warnings and the disclosures. The uncomfortable attire. The conversation with the anesthesiologist as he pumped me with the magic elixir. The discussion between the surgeon and the anesthesiologist—a regular conversation about scheduling-issues and casual friendly conversation. The lights above the surgery table. The conversation with the assistant’s… and then… nothing. Next thing I knew, I was awake in recovery, drinking apple juice and eating shortbread cookies. This idea still frightens and amazes me. What did I say? Was I funny? Annoying? I guess I’ll never know. 🙂
Tuesday, June 2nd. I remember having a particularly busy and exciting day at work, and when I arrived home around 8:15 PM, I was ready to rest and relax for a moment. As I sat down after helping get the kids to bed, my phone rang. I ran to our bedroom so I wouldn’t disturb the kids, and on the other end of the line was my surgeon. I’ll never forget the hope in her voice, almost an excitement in her voice, as she said “It’s Classical Hodgkin’s!” All I heard in that moment was, “I have cancer.” And as she rattled off statistics about the cure rate being 70% or higher, my heart and soul sank deeper than they had ever been.

I want to pause here because this moment in my life feels big — intense, an inflection point in the most meaningful of ways. As I pressed the “end” button after that phone call, I was encapsulated by darkness and doubt. I’m certain my wife could see it and feel it based on the look in her eyes. I have often been told that I have an amazing ability to affect the energy of a room, usually in a positive way, but in this case, in the darkest of ways. There were no words — just the embrace of a scared couple. That embrace was one of the most intimate moments of my life. I don’t think it was possible to be any closer, physically or mentally, to one human being. I think this was the first time I let tears out in front of Abby since the tears I shed as I saw her for the first time in her wedding dress — quite the paradox of moments — equally powerfully, but on opposite ends of the spectrum.

I have experienced darkness in life on a few occasions, but none that couldn’t be solved quickly with a smile, confidence, and prayer. This darkness seemed deeper, but as God usually has a knack of doing, it was pretty evident that through this darkness, a faint light began to shine.

**More to come. We would love continued prayers for health, energy and a lifted spirit for Bryan and continued health for our family as we enter cold and flu season (we really want to keep Bryan from getting sick!). Side note: our kids have been sick ONE time this entire last five months which is nothing short of God’s hand in our lives and protecting Bryan. He is SO faithful. Bryan has TWO treatments left and we are so happy that the end is near! Thank you for praying!

Necklaces!

Necklaces!

Alright, guys. I have been sitting on this “idea” for a while, but not anymore. It’s time to give this a go!

I have been making Madalyn bubblegum necklaces for several months, and I have really enjoyed the process and resulting pieces. (Below are a few of the necklaces I have already made.)

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And, of course, I have to post a picture of my cutest model wearing one of her favorite ones:

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I have thought many times that I should try making some necklaces, and selling them. Seemed like a logical idea to me!  But, there was something missing from that equation for me. Yes, I really enjoy making the necklaces. Yes, I love picking out the beads and styling them into the necklace. And yes, I think we can all agree, it would be nice to be able to earn something from selling these necklaces to family and friends. The part that was missing for me, is that I wanted to help someone in the process. I don’t just want a ‘business’ that benefits me. I really want to help someone else that needs it.

I am so beyond blessed. Even while Bryan has been going through this trying time, I feel so blessed, and I am so thankful that I have all of my needs more than met. There are people everywhere that need help, but when I attended the Influence Conference last month, God pulled at my heart and seemed to point me in the direction of the charity that the Conference was highlighting: Shama Women.

“Shama Women helps women living marginalized lives in South Asia find their identity and purpose through vocational and spiritual training. We work to equip, encourage and engage women both in South Asia and The United States with the desire to see lives of all involved radically changed. Shama Women is a cooperative effort of a well established church and charity registered in South Asia that has operated a vocational and theological training school which has trained more than 400 women over the past 10 years and The Cross Connecting Network, a USA based non-profit organization.”

We watched a video at the Conference of a woman sharing her experience in this country–I was speechless after watching it. The women in this country do not have freedom. They do not have opportunities like we do. They can’t drive cars, or go to the grocery store alone. Can you imagine living this kind of life? Their very lives are at risk each moment. What’s amazing is that Shama Women is helping these women learn sewing and cosmetology skills so that they are employed, and can earn a living from something other than prostitution or being forced to marry a man of a faith that they do not agree with. These women are able to hear about Jesus, and what He has done for them, and their lives can be completely changed. I can not fathom what life like this would be like, but I do know that I can help.

So, here’s the deal. I have made some necklaces, and I am going to list them for sale on my personal Facebook page, for the moment. Here are a few of the ones that are available:

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As things progress, I will determine the best method of selling these–so for the time being, if you are not connected to my personal Facebook page, you can email me at: simplybeingabby@gmail.com. A portion of the proceeds from every necklace I sell, will be donated to Shama Women.

My hands are ‘free’ and I can use them to help these women who do not have the same freedom. I can help give them the opportunity to hear about a God who loves them, knows them by name, and wants to welcome them into His arms just as I run into those same arms so frequently myself.

Quick Necklace FAQ’s:

*What age are the intended ages for these necklaces? These will fit baby through about grade school age. There is an extender on each necklace, so the length can be easily adjusted. (Note: Beads are a choking hazard, and like all other jewelry, necklaces may break if mistreated. Do not leave young children unattended wearing the necklaces.)

*Can the necklaces be shipped? I would be happy to ship the necklaces; buyer will pay the cost of shipping. Payment will be accepted via Paypal. Local friends, we can figure out a way for you to pickup your necklaces.

*I love the idea of creating custom necklaces — the options are really endless! Think birthday parties, Christmas, favorite Disney princesses, etc.

Feel free to email me with any other questions or inquiries!

xo,

Abby