These are our moments

3 Jan

Through the magic of YouTube, I’ve gotten interested in the concept of vlogging, blogging in the form of video. Many people do daily vlogs, but I am realistic enough to know that I don’t have that kind of time.  So, I started compiling weekly clips of our lives and putting them on YouTube, mostly so that our families who live away could see the children.  However, for anyone who might even be remotely interested, I wanted to let you know how you can watch these weekly vlogs.

You can go to YouTube and to our channel HERE. Hit the red “subscribe” button on the right side of the page.  I try to get our weekly vlog up on Saturday night or on Sunday.  (Please don’t expect anything thrilling or exciting… most of our craziness doesn’t manage to get caught on camera!) So, each weekend you can go to your YouTube subscriptions and our weekly vlog should show up in your feed.

Thankful

30 Nov

I’ve put off writing this for no reason other than I honestly wasn’t sure exactly what to say.  I kept telling myself that I would carve out time to write over the Thanksgiving holiday, and so I am trying to stay true to the deadline I had given myself.  In some ways, I feel like my recent health scare was years ago instead of just months, but the time since has been so filled with activity and stress.  Thankfully, I have been able to sit and breathe more in the past few days than I had for some time prior, and I’m hoping that maybe I can write my thoughts with more clarity than I was anticipating.  It is yet to be seen.

Matt and I just celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary, and as I look back through the years, I recognize how gracious God was to us because we were always given just one crisis at a time.  We learned to rely on His providence in some pretty easy “tough times” which were great baby steps for our faith.  That was tested in new ways this year as beginning in early July, we started feeling pelted by life.  Matt was going through what I hope will be the hardest months he will ever have to professionally incur, and we were going through the emotional sale of our house with no house to move into.  When we were told that I was most probably facing invasive breast cancer at age 32, it was all we could do to stand under the weight of it all.  A precious friend said that it reminded her of Nehemiah 4 when the Jewish people were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and fighting their enemies simultaneously.  Yes, I felt like we were trying to build up a fortress of protection for ourselves and wielding swords all at the same time, and it was exhausting.

But as I blogged previously, we had our YET to cling to from Habakkuk.  Never for a single moment did I feel abandoned by God; I never felt despair or hopelessness.  And, I can’t explain that outside of the sheer, miraculous grace of the Lord.  In Philippians 4:4-7, Paul so accurately captured what Matt and I felt and what we continue to experience.  We rejoiced in the Lord in the unknown and felt the peace that passes all understanding.  There is no coincidence in that; it was a gift from God.

So now, it is the end of November.  We have been in our new house for about 5 weeks, and I still have moments every day when I consciously think about how much I love our house.  (I must admit though that I still greatly mourn leaving our old neighborhood and the friends we had there.)  We want to use this home to minister to others, and we are praying dutifully about how to do that.  I am feeling impatient to see how the Lord will open those doors, but I know that He will work it perfectly in His time.

I honestly don’t know what I can say about my health because I truly don’t know what happened.  Mammograms, MRIs, ultrasounds… everything pointed to invasive breast cancer.  To my knowledge, no fewer than 8 different doctors of different specialties reviewed my case multiple times, and none of them expected benign results.  Maybe there was never a single malignant cell in my body.  Or maybe it was every bit the cancer we believed it would be, and God chose to miraculously heal me without treatments. Like I said, I just don’t know, and I never will this side of heaven.  The only thing I know with certainty is that God had a divine, ordained, kingdom purpose for this, and throughout every second of it, I was humbled that He would include me in it and ask me to trust Him.  What an honor to be an ambassador of His name throughout this journey even in the moments I fall (and continue to) short!

I’ve said it in other blogs, but I cannot escape the opportunity to say it again.  Thank you.  Thank you for every prayer, text, call, email, gift, card, and word of encouragement.  I’ve never felt more loved and uplifted in my life.  Honestly, I never had the chance to be discouraged or depressed because I was so surrounded by the physical love of the body of Christ.  And it was AMAZING!  You are all amazing, and Matt and I love you deeply for it.

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In the words of Bonnie Lewis…

28 Oct

Jen Hatmaker is a Christian author and speaker with whom I think I share a very similar sense of humor, and I relate to her frequently.  She has 5 kids that she absolutely loves but who drive her crazy–um, hello, welcome to my world–and in a Facebook post today, she shared encouragement to the moms going through Target with screaming kids.

“This too shall pass.”

It is a phrase that I personally have heard more times than I can count.  For every crazy awful day with my young children, there has been someone to tell me how quickly these days go by.  And I don’t doubt that at all because when I look at my kids, I feel quite sure that just last week, I held them each as newborns.  I never thought I would be the wistful mom who got weepy about missing her babies, yet I find myself there sometimes.

BUT… oh, and it is a big but… never in my life have I doubted myself more or been so absolutely maddened by human beings than I find myself during “these days” in parenting.  Some of it is a result of some poor parenting on my part, I would imagine, but I recognize that there is so much of it that is totally about the fact that I am a very flawed woman trying to deal with 5 very flawed children who sometimes throw tantrums in public.

So, when I stumbled onto Jen’s post this afternoon, I immensely enjoyed reading through some of the comments from other moms who are clearly walking down the same path in life that I am, other ladies in the trenches.  It is in those comments that I discovered Bonnie Lewis who relayed her own thought process in the “my kid is screaming in Target” times in life… “I just survive. And I’m damn good at it.  Surviving is my JAM.”

Y’all, I basically get up every day just hoping that I can keep everyone alive. The laundry is never caught up, the dishes are never all clean, the crumbs are never all swept. In the Smith house right now, we are just surviving, just working towards getting past whatever hurdle is next. And Bonnie?  She nailed it, took the words right out of my mouth.

Surviving is my jam.

And for right now, for this moment, I’m totally ok with that.

I’m way past crazy

30 Sep

So many people are new to the blog because they were following my health updates. If you are one of those people, then you may not know that I started this thing a couple of years ago to chronicle the absolute hilarity that my life sometimes is with my kids. Basically any time I take the children in public, there is a funny story to be told from it. They aren’t bad kids… they are just really funny and awkward and precious, and they basically every day make me feel close to being crazy.

Tonight, I proved that even alone, I am well past crazy.

At 9 pm, I left Matt and 5 sleeping children at home, and I headed to Walmart for a blissful meandering of the aisles. (I love grocery shopping as long as I can do it alone!) At 10 pm, I strolled out the doors with my groceries and out to the van. I unloaded the bags into the passenger side of my van, put up my buggy, and went to the driver’s side to open my door. My door was locked. Hmm. I went to the passenger side. That door was locked. Hmm. I dug through my purse which I still had on my shoulder. I checked every door on the van. I dug back through my purse in desperation. I peered through the window, and there on the console were my daggum keys.  I didn’t remember putting them there, and I didn’t remember locking the door.  But clearly, I did.

So, after I called Matt and lamented about my serious lapse in sanity, I called my friend Lane who lives down the street from me.  I had to explain my situation and ask her to do one of two things: A) go sit at my house with my sleeping kids while Matt brought me a spare key or B) go to my house to get the spare key and then bring it to me.  At 10 o’clock. PM. On a Tuesday night.  Thankfully, she is one of the most gracious people I know, and while she laughed a good bit at my predicament, she volunteered to bring me the spare key.  She was nice enough to insist that she really needed to go to the store anyway because she was out of paper towels and coffee.

I feel like Lane has had to help me a lot recently because I am so nuts.  If she ever needs a kidney, I’m pretty sure I’m indebted enough that I should be first in the donor line.

Surgical Biopsy update (9/17/15)

17 Sep

Yesterday was my surgical biopsy.  It was a very long day and I just wasn’t able to update last night for a variety of reasons.  I had to be at the Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center at 11:15 for the radiologist to place guide wires for my surgeon to know what to biopsy.  Basically, after numbing me with a shot of local anesthetic, long wires were put into my breast tissue.  There were lots of x-rays taken to ensure that they were placed correctly, and while it wasn’t super painful, it was pretty uncomfortable.  After it was over, I had to be taped up to make sure the wires didn’t move, and I was unable to wear a bra so I stuck it down in my purse.  (Sorry if that is TMI… that is a relevant detail in a bit, though.)

We still had well over an hour before I had to be at the hospital, so Mother and I went to McKay’s Used Bookstore.  I had several bags of books and DVD’s to sell, and Mother wanted to run get herself lunch while I waited in the store.  Once my items had been sorted through, I went to the desk to get paid.  In order to receive payment, you have to show them ID, so I reached into my purse to grab my wallet.  As I pulled it out, the corner of the wallet got hung on my bra and I ended up flopping it out onto the counter.  I was mortified, but thankfully the employee who witnessed it was kind enough to ignore it.

Mother and I got to the hospital and sat in the surgery waiting room for a while until they were ready to take me back.  My surgeon came out and went to a family waiting there, and we overheard the following:

Doctor: “She did great and we got the entire mass with no trouble. You can see her in just a little bit.”
Family member: “Thank you so much. When can we expect the autopsy report?” (There was a stunned silence.) “Pathology! I meant the pathology report!”

We laughed so much about that and have joked several times since about when I will get my “autopsy report” back!

I went back and got prepped for my surgery.  I had an IV put in, and thankfully the nurse was able to give me a little something for pain because the numbing from my wire insertion had worn off.  There was a blur of nurses, the anesthesiologist, and my surgeon, plus a visit from the pastor of the church where I work.  Matt and Daddy arrived at some point, and once they administered some “knock out” drugs in my IV, I was out.  Thankfully, the surgery went really well.  The doctor told Matt and my parents that he took out a golf ball sized piece of the mass and did some reconstruction of that area as well.  He said there was very little bleeding and expected my recovery to go well.  The pathology report should hopefully be back on Monday.

When I woke up after the surgery, it is pretty fuzzy.  I know I was given a coke to drink, and Matt said that when they came into the room with me, I stopped drinking and much like a Budweiser commercial said, “Whazzzzup!”  I was very chatty (which is no surprise to anyone), and Mother asked the nurses if my behavior was normal in comparison to what other patients do.  They said the people generally do talk a lot but weren’t usually as funny.  I’m not totally sure exactly what I said, but there is a rumor floating around that as I was wheeled out of the hospital to the van, I was giving the Miss America wave and saying, “Here I am!”

As of today, I am feeling good… sore, tired, but really feeling ok.  Maybe that is in part to the mental boost that Matt and I got yesterday when we put in an offer on a house and it was accepted!  I will try to type that story up later because it is another one of those examples of the Lord working things out so perfectly that there is no doubt who was in control!

As always, thanks for the prayers.  Love to you all!

Just a “Thought Update” (Friday, 9/11/15)

11 Sep

During the summer of 2003, my parents moved from Ellisville, MS, to Jefferson City, TN.  In an effort to help Matt and me (aka poor college student newly weds), they offered for us to live in their house rent free during our senior year of college and keep it up until it could be sold.  Because we were planning a move to TN after graduation, Matt and I had a trip planned during our Spring Break to look for a house.  We ended up not being able to go because we got a stomach virus that we still actually refer to as “The Virus” because it was so horrendous.  A month later, my parents got and accepted an offer on their house and the clock started ticking on having to leave the house.  Closing was set for the Tuesday before our college graduation which meant that we had to move all of our belongings to TN the weekend before.  Because we had not been able to come look for a house in March, we planned to move all of our things into my parents’ garage.  My parents had been looking for a house for us, and before we even got the Penske truck unloaded in Jefferson City, we went to see a house in Strawberry Plains that we loved and ended up buying.  The price of the house had been dropped not long before that and had we not made an offer that day, the owners were going to do a lease purchase with someone else.

Why do I tell that story?  Because when I look back at the provisions of God, that is the first time in my life when I really saw Him orchestrate such a major retrospective “tiny details, big picture” event for me.  Had we come to TN in March, we wouldn’t have looked at that house because it was more than we wanted to spend.  Had the closing not forced us to TN the weekend before graduation, we wouldn’t have seen that house before it was leased.  It was in no means the perfect house, but I do believe it was exactly where God wanted us to be, and we were incredibly happy there.  When sold that house in 2010, we actually made money from it which became a stepping stone towards the home that we are in the process of selling now.

God has proven faithful over and over in my life in little and big situations.  Unprompted by me but moved by the Holy Spirit, we have had people give us things when we were in need.  We have come across situations of physical protection when we could have faced injury.  And, in the most difficult and trying of times, Matt and I have felt the love of God above and beyond our circumstances.  At the end of every day, we have known without a shadow of a doubt that we haven’t been alone.

Right now, the situation with my health is at a bit of a pause.  I have had 2 biopsies and am awaiting the 3rd on September 16th.  Whether I have cancer or not is still an unknown as we wait.  And honestly, I’m thankful for that for the minute because Matt and I have been pretty consumed with the thoughts of where we are going to live once our house is sold.  The details of the story are not important, but the house that we were going to buy may not work out–but we still just don’t know.  So, we have been looking for another house with the knowledge that God really may have something else planned for us that we just cannot see.  (The people who are buying our house at the end of this month have been gracious enough to say that we can rent from them for a few weeks until we figure out where to go.)

We looked at a house weeks ago that we liked, but by the time we put in an offer in, someone else had signed a contract on it the day before.  We found another house a while back that we really love and have made a couple of different offers on, but the owners haven’t been willing to budge on their price.  We cannot afford to buy it as it is now because it would require some repairs up front that we have to factor into our finances.  I’m telling you that we have considered every house that is listed with a realtor or online as For Sale By Owner in both Hamblen and Jefferson Counties, and there is not even one home that will meet all of our current needs.  We are not willing to make a purchase as large as a house if it isn’t a place we can stay for many years.

That leaves us with a few options… we can rent or around the end of October, we can move in with my parents.  If we rent in Hamblen County, then our children can stay in their schools through the end of the school year.  However, we found out yesterday that if we live with my parents, our children would have to withdraw from their schools at the end of the grading period they are in at the time of the move.  Please be praying that it doesn’t come to that and that the Lord will give us clear direction about a house to buy.

I have repeated Romans 8:28 to myself so many times over the past several days, and I know and believe that it is true… God IS working ALL things to the good for Matt and me.  As followers of Christ, we love Him and are called to His purposes, not our own.  Psalm 138:8 is a favorite of my mother’s to reference… the Lord will accomplish what concerns our family.  I truly want to live a Matthew 6:25-34 life, free from worry and full of faith in God to provide our needs.  It does not mean that Matt and I will sit back idly and wait for things to be handed to us, but we will continue to pursue every avenue that we can in full trust that He will never leave or forsake us (Deut. 31:6).

Thanks for your continued prayers and support.  I would encourage each of you to find a way today to put your trust in He who is greater than this world!

Meeting with the Surgeon

9 Sep

We met this evening with my surgeon, Dr. Webber. My parents, Matt, and I all left really pleased; he has a lot of experience in breast surgery and made us feel much better about the coming weeks.

First, my surgical biopsy is scheduled for next Wednesday afternoon.  Because of anesthesia, I am going to have a long day without food, but I’m grateful that they could get me on the schedule.  This will be a guided wire biopsy, and the doctor will be taking a portion of the abnormal area from my first biopsy, the one that showed LCIS.  If there is cancer present, my doctors feel like the odds are that it will be in this area.

Second, the surgeon said that if the results are not cancerous, then he doesn’t think the entire area needs to removed right away.  I would be closely followed to make sure that there were no changes, but it would eliminate the need (at least for the time being) for a mastectomy.  I’m grateful that we have some breathing room in regards to that, because I wasn’t feeling ready to make that decision.  Again, there is still a chance that they will find cancer, and if that happens, then everything goes out the window and we start over from square one.

Please be praying for the next week of waiting we face plus another several days following the biopsy before the pathology results return.  Of course, my constant prayer is that there is no trace of cancer, but I also am praying for grace regardless.

A precious praying friend reminded me today of the story of Moses holding his hands up during battle in Exodus 17:11-12.  Dear family, friends, and blog followers, thank you being here with me and holding up my arms when I have been ready to let them fall.  The Lord is fighting this battle, and I am grateful to be used by Him in anyway He sees fit.  And you bless me immensely by loving me through these days.  It could never be enough to say, but thank you.  A million times, thank you.