Cancer

Be Intentional With Family ~ In the Midst of Trials

BE-INTENTIONAL-WITH-FAMILY

 

Today I am thrilled to share with y’all a video interview that I had with my friend Alysha from An Intentional Future! She has been hosting a wonderful series this month on living intentionally, and I was honored when she asked me to be part of it! She has such a wonderful message – and I am so grateful to have connected with her through this crazy world of blogging!

 

This is what Alysha wrote about chat our on her blog:

Ginger of justoneoftheboys.com is no stranger to trials and heartache. From being left a single parent of three young boys as she watched her first marriage dissolve, to being transformed into a caregiver as her husband was diagnosed with cancer, she is no stranger to incredible difficulties. Despite it all, she has managed to thrive.

I believe the key to intentionality is effort. Ginger is constantly reevaluating how she can not only better serve her family, but herself. I hope you’ll watch and listen as Ginger shares specific tips for being intentional with family. I also hope you’ll visit and subscribe to her blog!

 

I had such a wonderful time chatting with Alysha! I had been nervous about my very first video chat, but she made me feel right at home. She even made me cry a little as I talked about my boys – in a good way, I assure you! Click HERE to watch our chat – and don’t forget to leave a comment to enter her FANTASTIC GIVEAWAY!

*Hugs*

~ G

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In Her Shoes ~ An Intentional Future…

In Her Shoes is a series written by readers to give us a glimpse into their lives – to see what it is like to walk in their shoes. Today I am honored to introduce you to a woman who has really touched my heart. Alysha shares her inspiring story and encouragement with others on her blog – An Intentional Future. Please do me a favor – grab a box of tissues and join us as our friend shares with us what it is like to walk in her shoes. ~ Love, G

In Her Shoes ~ An Intentional Future

The year I turned 22 I met the man I envisioned myself spending the rest of my life with. Pete was a young, strapping military man with a passion for risky outdoor activities such as high-altitude mountain climbing. He was also a romantic who longed to be married and to one day have a family of his own. We shared a love for God, a similar sense of humor, a desire to live a life of adventure, and deep compassion for those in need.

When I was 23, he proposed while in a hot air balloon over Napa Valley. I was ecstatic. We were soon married and shortly after I became pregnant with our first child. I was 24 years old.

Amidst military deployments our precious daughter, Isabella, was born. Our love grew exponentially as I witnessed the depth of a father’s love for his daughter.

We continued to live adventurously when at 25 I found myself nursing a baby in a foreign land. He had accepted a position working in the Middle East. We rejoiced as the opportunity meant the end of deployments and the beginning of life as a family.

During our time abroad, we sought respite while on vacations trekking in Nepal and climbing mountains in Europe. We formed life-long friendships with people from all around the world and cherished our little budding family of three.

At 26, we welcomed our second child, our son Lucas. Our family was now complete. We were beyond blessed.

My 27th year included a move back home. We bought and renovated our first home and settled into life together. Daddy commuted to work and mommy stayed at home caring for two young babies. We looked forward to weekends together, which included rides pulling a bike trailer, visits to the park, and service at our local church. Once again, we counted our blessings.

Later that year, the ball dropped. My young, strapping military man was diagnosed with cancer and it was stage IV.

We accepted the challenge and pursued a cure. There was no way I could ever live without him, I thought. Surely, God would never allow him to die. We declared victory over cancer before victory was ours to claim. The treatments came and went and soon we heard those dreaded words, “It is terminal and there is nothing more we can do.”

So, at 28 my worst nightmare occurred when I buried my husband. I was not only a single parent to two young children, but also a widow. Upon saying goodbye, I set about attempting to live without the man I once envisioned myself growing old with. Clearly my plan was not God’s; He had other plans.

When I was 29, it happened, I met my Chapter 2, who coincidentally is a widower. Now at 30 I will marry Dave and we will set about pursuing our life together, while purposefully living to honor our past.

Alysha's photos 1

The reality of love after loss is very bittersweet. There is an intense realization that without the pain of loss, new love would not be possible. The truth is, grief does not end where new love begins. It simply morphs into something different by making concessions for the past.

It is possible to love again. When my Pete said goodbye, my finite mind was incapable of envisioning how I could ever possibly love again. I wondered how I could love anyone as deeply. Now that I have experienced the joy of love after loss, I know it is possible to love again and to love just as deeply as I loved before, if not more deeply.

Loss has allowed me to be more vulnerable in my current relationships. Loss has left me with an intense desire to experience relationships on a new level for which a real vulnerability is required. This vulnerability is capable of creating a love that is unrivaled by any other because I know how fleeting life can be.

Alysha's Photos #2

I have also learned that comparisons are inevitable. I don’t mean this in a Dave does this better than Pete sort of way, but in a Pete did it this way and Dave does it this way and this with why I love(d) them. I enjoy recalling memories of Pete and often share them with Dave. I also enjoy hearing about his Becky because I understand that if it were not for her, he would not be the man he is today.

I am still actively grieving my loss. There are days I am overtaken with intense sadness for my loss, my children’s, and the life Pete lost. There are days I recall memories of our cancer journey with the same realism as if it all happened yesterday. On those days, my Dave listens to me and comforts me. There are also days when we talk about Becky and Pete as if they are still with us, because in reality, they are. They will always be with us in spirit and we intend to do our best to keep their memories alive. The vulnerability of love after loss allows me to grieve his loss in addition to my own.

Lastly, I am scared to commit. I have struggled with an overwhelming fear that the past will repeat itself. I also have to remind myself that even if I had known about Pete’s illness before we were married, it would not have changed my love for him or the fact that I desired to share my life with him. In other words, worrying about the future will not help anything. Worry will only impact the fullness of joy I can experience in the present.

Despite the pain of loss I am thankful for my experience. I have had to accept that my experience has brought with it many blessings; for one, it has made me a better lover. I now have an intense understanding for the fragility of life and for that reason, I intend to make the most of the opportunity to love and be loved once again.

Alysha's Photos #3

To read more encouraging stories, or if you are interested in sharing your own story, please go to the In Her Shoes tab near the top of the page. I love learning about the people in this series. Connecting with others seems to make the world feel not quite as big and scary. We’re all in this together. I can’t wait to hear from you, to read your stories, and learn more of what it is like to walk in your shoes.

~ Love, 

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When You Can’t Fix It…

I wanted to bring this story out of the archives today. It has been one year since we found out that my Beloved had kidney cancer. We are incredibly grateful for the good health and clear scans that he has had since his kidney and cancer were removed last May! When I feel sad about my husband deploying next week, I am reminded of the huge blessing and answer to prayer it is that he is healthy enough to deploy! Thank you for letting me share this part of our story again with you today. *hugs* ~ Ginger

When You Can't Fix It

~ May 2013~

I am a fixer. I fix things.

His pain. Emergency Room. Appendicitis. Scans. Doctors. “I’m sorry…” Kidney mass. Large. Cancer? Maybe. We don’t know. Blessing. In disguise. Quick kiss goodbye. Emergency appendectomy. Worry. Recovery. More pain. Please let me fix this. IV machines. Sleeplessness. Fear. So alone. Don’t cry yet. Specialists. Consults. Family history? Surgery. In two weeks. This can’t be. Must be strong. Breathe. Get him home. I can’t do this. More fear. It’s okay to ask for help. Wonderful family. Amazing friends. Prayer. Meals. Lawn mowed. Childcare. Breathe. Cry. Lean on my Beloved. Let him lean on me. Waiting. Why? Why can’t I fix this?

Surgery Day. Hold his hand. Gaze into his eyes. Treasure. Kiss goodbye. “I love you…” So alone. So afraid. Then not alone. Family. Friends. Sitting beside me. Holding me up. Calling and texting. Loving us. Waiting. Small talk. Waiting. Hours pass. Finally. He’s resting. Kidney is gone. Surgery went well. Pathology? Wait for results. 10-14 days. Probably benign. Relief. Call family. More waiting. So much pain! Somebody do something! I want so badly fix this! I can’t kiss this away. I can’t wish this away. No sleep. More pain. More waiting. Breathing machines. More IV machines. Pain meds. No sleep. Friend with chai latte. Hug. Emails. Calls. Researching. More waiting. Don’t cry yet.

Home. Resting. Waiting. Recovering. Nursing. Mothering. Hold his hand. Get him better. Cry. Probably benign. Breathe.

Phone call. The one we’ve been waiting for. News. It can’t be. Heart racing. Veins turn to ice. Stomach drops. Nightmare. Please, no. Renal Cell Carcinoma. Cancer. Prognosis. Recurrence rate. Treatment options. Chemo? No. Doesn’t work. Career? Unknown. Future? Hope. Plan? Scans. Watch. Wait. Pray. Scans. Watch. Wait. Pray. Five years of scanning. Watching. Waiting. Praying…

Our lives took a dramatic turn that night in May when I took my Beloved into the Emergency Room because he wasn’t feeling well. His chills and warmth to the touch were proof of a fever. His stomach ache had gradually crept over to the right side. I talked him into going to the ER to “just rule it out,” but my previous life in the medical field told me that he would be having his appendix removed that night. My Beloved was the picture of health. This was his first CT Scan – to confirm the appendicitis that I had suspected.

What I wasn’t expecting was for the doctor to come back into the room and say, “I’m sorry, but not only does he need to have his appendix removed, but we found a large mass on his kidney.” I knew that it wasn’t a good sign if a doctor started out by saying, “I’m sorry.” “A blessing in disguise,” he called it. Unable to give us further answers, my husband was given over to the hospital surgeon who would perform the emergency surgery. He, too, told us how lucky we were to have discovered the mass through the unrelated bout of an unhappy appendix.

Two weeks later we were back at the hospital to have the affected kidney removed. Everything really did happen in a blur like I described above. Experiencing it at the time, and trying to look back at it now, all that comes to me are these short bursts. I can’t put more than a few words together when I go back to that place. Words escape me. Perhaps the fear still hasn’t left my mind and my heart. Maybe it’s knowing that an intruder, an enemy, had been lurking under the surface for who knows how long devising, waiting, and plotting to take away our happily ever after – scheming to forever alter our bliss and our future.

The doctors believe that the cancer was confined to the kidney that was removed, and they are hopeful, but the recurrence rate has us scheduled to check in with his body and make sure that cancer is not forming or spreading where it doesn’t belong in the one whom I love.

I’m a fixer. I fix things. I kiss scrapes and bruises. I cuddle away bad dreams. I wipe the tears. But what happens when something comes into your life that you can’t fix? I can’t fix cancer. I can’t… But it has somehow fixed how I look at life around me – at my loved ones. I can now hold tighter to the ones that I love. I have never wanted to take my blessings for granted, but now I can appreciate every moment that I might not have treasured before our news. I can soak in their very essence every day. I can overlook the little things that don’t matter, and I can cherish the little things that do. I can curl up in his arms, and I can gather them into mine – where I know that I am at home. I am whole, I am loved, I am safe, and I am so grateful for the gift of new beginnings. I still can’t change it, but maybe – just maybe – it has changed me.

 

*Photo courtesy of NZ Portraits by Joanne

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In Her Shoes ~ Poured Out…At His Feet

In Her Shoes is a series written by readers to give us a glimpse into their lives – to see what it is like to walk in their shoes. Today I’m honored to introduce you to my friend Amanda! Her journey is very close to my heart. Let’s join our friend as she shares with us what it is like to walk in her shoes. ~ Love, G

In Her Shoes ~ Poured Out At His Feet

In my thoughts on Easter, fast approaching, have been on feet. My reaction to the feet of Jesus specifically and the direction of my feet in response to Him, what will it be?

This week I have been thinking about the woman who washed Jesus’s feet in an act of complete surrender. Her most valuable asset, an alabaster jar filled with perfume, ushered Jesus into preparations for the grave and his ultimate resurrection. His feet had been covered in dust and dirt from the roads he walked to bring light, truth and healing to those around him. I have been thinking about my reaction to this story, this woman whose worship led her to extravagant outpouring of her life. I feel that my story intersects at many points. Her life had been riddled by pain. Some inflicted by her choices, some by desperation and her choice was worship.

But without Jesus, she had no options.

No way out.

My life has been a series of desperation as well, looking for hope and answers.

My beautiful little girl at age 4, with life overflowing, soft brown curls and bright blue eyes was sentenced to a period of prolonged suffering.  She had a series of stomachaches and leg pain, which sent us to integrative health specialists, pediatricians, and nutritionists. Leaving us without answers. Her pain was unexplained and her suffering continued. My mother’s heart felt desperation, as doctor after doctor could not help us.

Amanda 3a

 

After a prolonged fever, we went to a local Urgent Care facility and thankfully the Doctor on call had years of children’s hospital experience, he took one look at her an knew we needed to go to the ER and test her blood. Two days later her scans came back. My daughter was diagnosed with Faviorable Histology Wilms Tumor, Kidney Cancer, at the age of four.

My mind was spinning, what did this mean for our family? Would she survive? This point in my life was shocking, paralyzing and overwhelming. I would give anything to trade places with this little girl. My heart battled with God. Was He still good in the midst of an innocent child facing suffering with an uncertain outcome? The mother bear in me rose up, wanting to stand over my child and protect her at any cost. The reality rose up in me that she was my most precious of all gifts, beyond what even an alabaster jar could represent.

I felt flat, numb, isolated, alone, in a very deep pit that felt impossible to be scaled.

But there was a back story. God had reached out to me from earliest years, He had been the one I had run to when my father’s bipolar depression swallowed him up and left me needy as a daughter. He had reached down to me when confronted with loneliness and isolation as teenaged entrapped by legalism. He had reached out to me when I longed for true love and provided my husband, who would heal my heart in ways I could not have imagined. Yes, my God had pursued my heart. He had loved me beyond my wildest dreams in the past. I could offer my daughter back to Him. Not understanding what that would mean, if it would work out in the end. Would she survive this disease?

Amanda a

But this would not be my last surrender, after going through a full course of chemo. My little girl was re-diagnosed with Unfaviorable Histology Wilms Tumor, that little prefix “un” would mean a whole new prognosis, and treatment plan. An extra year of treatment, the harshest of chemotherapy and radiation regimens, followed by a lowered immune system confronted our family. She would walk through deadly side effects, weekly hospitalizations, deadly diseases that could take life because of her weakened state.

All the questions came back to me, how could this be again God? My life felt ripped from beneath me. How could you ask more of her and of us? She has suffered so much already. I could not wrap my head around it. My whole family would be deeply affected. Her little brother would be taken from us for the better part of each week as we were hospitalized. My marriage was placed under such pressure, that the breaking point seemed eminent. Friendships were strained by the awkwardness of our extreme pain. Many people did not know how to keep us in their lives so they left us behind. My world felt broken beyond recognition.

Amanda 1a

But in the pain, just like buds of spring, breaking through the dry, dead ground. Redemption sprouted sunward. The God miracles showed up. He provided a grace. That grace carried us through every chemo, every hospitalization, every needle, every scream of terror my daughter faced in the face of injury.

How can this be?

Amanda 2a

It is in some ways indescribable to me, but there is a gift in seeing the Holy Spirit meet you, show up in miraculous small and big ways. He has spared my daughter’s life. He has miraculously healed her from life-threatening side effects.  He has shown us the love of a community that has shown us the love of Christ in the most beautiful and basic of ways. They have been there for us through the tears, a messy house, the need for meals and childcare for my son. My marriage did not tear apart, but grew closer, deeper, and richer than I could have ever hoped for in my wildest dreams. I was able to see how our differences compliment each other so strongly, and reveal the intricacies that only God could have planned. I have seen redemption and rebuilding in my sweet little boy, his resilience astounds me.

Amanda Cancer Did Not Come Back

I am grateful to say that it has been two years, and my daughter’s cancer has not come back. In my heart of hearts, I believe she is fully healed.

Amanda family a

But does this mean the outpouring is over? No. God continues to challenge my heart to new and greater challenges. Many beyond my scope of vision, He has given me a job as PE teacher for students from young fives to graduating seniors. I help lead a group of women in our community, sharing their wounds and looking to Jesus to reframe their stories. My heart’s desire is to continue to offer my alabaster jar, of all my worship. To say “Yes” to my trustworthy Father in all He asks me to do. This is my challenge to myself and to each of you.

Let’s pour out our worship at His feet.

You might remember that my Beloved was diagnosed with kidney cancer almost one year ago. Amanda and her precious little girl were the major reason that I decided to donate my hair to Children With Hair Loss last fall. Her story hits so close to home, and I am so grateful that she was willing to share her story with us today! 

To read more encouraging stories, or if you are interested in sharing your own story, please go to the In Her Shoes tab near the top of the page. I love learning about the people in this series. Connecting with others seems to make the world feel not quite as big and scary. We’re all in this together. I can’t wait to hear from you, to read your stories, and learn more of what it is like to walk in your shoes.

~ Love, 

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In Her Shoes ~ Joy in Giving Their Beautiful Locks

In Her Shoes ~ Joy in Giving Their Beautiful Locks

In Her Shoes is a series written by readers to give us a glimpse into their lives – what it is like to walk in their shoes. Today I am thrilled to introduce you to my friends Sarah and Katya. They are from different parts of the world, but they both recently made a big change. Let’s join our friends as tell us what it is like to walk in their shoes, and with their new hairdos! ~ Love, Ginger

In Her Shoes - Joy in giving and donating hair

As a hairstylist, I’ve had many different hairstyles over the years. When I was working in a salon, I was constantly growing and cutting and trimming and changing my styles. But after I’d had a particularly short hairstyle for quite awhile, I decided to let it grow out. Partially because I was tired of it, and partially because I knew my husband would like it better longer for change.

So in January 2009, I got it cut short one more time before I started growing it out. Then it grew, and grew, and grew! I would get it trimmed occasionally to keep it looking healthy and fresh, but otherwise, it just kept growing. For probably about a year, I kept debating whether to cut it or to keep it long. I loved it long, and other people did too…but then again, I was kind of tired of just having long hair, and not a cute style. But I was worried about chopping it and then regretting it. Oh! Decisions decisions!

Sarah Choppedhair

 

Finally when Ginger posted about her decision to donate her hair, it was like a lightbulb went off in my head. All of a sudden, I knew what I wanted to do with my hair! I knew I wouldn’t regret chopping it all off, if someone else could enjoy my hair, instead of it just being thrown in the trash. I couldn’t believe that idea hadn’t even crossed my mind before, especially seeing as I used to help people donate their own hair as a hairstylist.

Sarah long short hair

 So on November 20th 2013, I went to get it cut and actually ended up cutting off about 12 inches! I haven’t missed my long hair for a minute and it’s already growing out fast again. After a good bit of research, I ended up deciding to donate it to Pantene Beautiful Lengths.

Sarah Shorthair1

 

Now the great decision is upon me again…keep it short or grow it out to donate again?

In Her Shoes - Joy in Giving

One day in late October I was looking through the newsfeed on my Facebook page and came across a link to a blog post by my friend Ginger. Ginger and I used to know each other when we both were still teenagers, then parted paths for quite a few years, and now, thanks to a social media site, were able to reconnect again. The title of the blog post, The One about Someday, caught my attention and I clicked on the link. The article talked about things we would love to do in our lifetime that we keep putting off to ‘someday’… It hit it close to home for me. Since having my second son almost four months earlier I had often thought about the meaning of my life, my purpose, my hopes and dreams for my life and the life of my family. After reading Ginger’s ‘Someday’ list, I’d started to mentally compile my own. Even though a lot of items would be different for me (for instance, unlike Ginger, I have absolutely no desire to write a book or run a marathon, and I’ve already read War and Peace in Russian, twice (which, of course, is not such a great achievement since it is in my native language), but reading Consuelo in French would be another story).

However, a couple of items stood out, one of them being donating my hair to a worthy cause. Somehow it convicted me. I’ve been blessed with good hair, but I’m ashamed to admit that up until that day in late October it had never occurred to me to donate it. And I’m not talking about shaving my head bold (I doubt I would be courageous enough for that), but just cut it off a few inches shorter than my normal length and share it with someone in need. So I looked online at the length requirements, and the minimum I could donate was eight inches (20 cm). To take that much off would bring my hair to about my shoulders, which is a rather big change to what I was used to, but not really that drastic. I felt that now I had no excuse to not give out of the abundance that I had. So I made an appointment with my hair stylist and on October 31st I got a new haircut, having her cut off full nine inches. It was a big step out of my comfort zone, but it felt great! For a person who is not that big into change and taking risks, it felt surprisingly freeing and liberating.

Katya's ponytail

Everyone seemed to like the new look, myself included. I don’t think I would have made such a big change unless I had a worthy cause to do it for – a free wig for a woman battling cancer. The organization I chose to give to was Pantene Beautiful Lengths, who partners with the American Cancer Society to provide free wigs for women with cancer. It was important to me that they do not charge anything – women battling cancer already have a lot to deal with, and this is something that may make their lives just a bit easier without an added expense. I’d debated giving it to the Children with Hair Loss organization, who makes free wigs for children, but had decided to give to the one that gives to adults instead. I have a friend (and a former colleague) who used to volunteer at a Russian organization that helped children battling cancer and other life-threatening illnesses – Gift of Life – and she once mentioned that it was much easier to raise funds/get donations for treatment of a baby or a young child than it was for a teenager or a young adult. I know that the medical care system here in the States is vastly different from what it is in Russia and having the money to pay for a life-saving procedure is not a requirement to get the necessary care, but her words stuck with me, swaying my decision toward donating to help an adult instead.

Katya after

I don’t know if Pantene has already used my hair for a wig and given it to a woman in need of it or if the wig is still being made, but doing this has definitely given me a lot of satisfaction – there is definitely a lot of joy in giving, not just receiving. It will probably take me several years to grow my hair out again, but hopefully one day I will be able to do this again. Thanks to Ginger for writing the blog post about her ‘Someday’ – it was convicting and inspiring in more than just one way!

To read more stories, or if you would are interested in sharing your story, please go to the In Her Shoes tab near the top of the page. I love learning about the people in this series. Connecting with others seems to make the world feel not quite as big and scary. We’re all in this together. I can’t wait to hear from you, to read your stories, and learn more of what it is like to walk in your shoes. ~ Love, Ginger

 

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What I’m Into ~ November 2013 Edition

Happy December, everyone! It’s that time again – I’m linking up again with the lovely Leigh Kramer to share what we’ve been into lately. I’m going to fix myself a cup of tea, grab a snuggly blanket, and curl up to see what everyone has been up to during the month of November!

Decking the halls stairways ~

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! The day after Thanksgiving the boys and I did a little Christmas decorating! When it finally grew dark, we turned on the lights and took in the sight. I snapped this photo to send to my Beloved – even he approves! I am hoping to take the boys tree shopping next week, so hopefully soon we’ll have a Christmas tree in our midst!

christmas

Marching orders ~

My Beloved had his 6 month CT scan and oncology appointment to make sure that everything is still fine post-surgery. We received the great news from his doctor – all clear! The cancer has not returned! We drew a huge sigh of relief! The next day he had to leave for 7 weeks of training away from home. He won’t he back until a couple of days before Christmas. It was a rough first couple of weeks, and Thanksgiving was bittersweet without him here, but we are anxiously counting down the days until he is home once more!

Family and friends ~

Sometimes a long coffee date with a friend is exactly what a girl needs! I had a much-needed Saturday morning out with a childhood friend earlier this month, and I couldn’t believe how time flew as we were catching up from the last 20 years! It was just what the doctor ordered!

I had another quick yummy coffee time with a friend before her family left for a cruise, and a delicious sushi outing with another wonderful friend! Nothing warms my heart like time with a good friend!

I went to see Hunger Games: Catching Fire with two of my favorite people – my brother and his wife. Such a good movie, and I love getting to hang out with these two lovebirds!

The boys and I spent Thanksgiving Day with my parents, my sister, and one of my other brothers. We finished lunch just in time to watch our Kansas Jayhawks “gobble up” Wake Forest in basketball! Rock Chalk, Jayhawk!

November book love ~

The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant – An interesting look at a famous family in the Bible. This story is told through the eyes of Jacob’s daughter. Being historical/Biblical fiction, one needs to take it with a grain of salt, but it was a fascinating look at what life might have been like for Dinah, her brothers, and her mothers.

Jesus Feminist, by Sarah Bessey – Ok, I knew that this book would be an interesting read, but no one prepared me for the fact that I would cry so much while reading it! I cried while reading it in bed, on the exercise bike at the YMCA, and blinked away tears while waiting for Camden to get out of school. Because of the weight that comes with the word “feminist,” the title is sure to grab attention, but Jesus Feminist is beautifully written. The author, Sarah Bessey, says, “At the core, feminism simply consists of the radical notion that women are people, too.” Another part that really touched my heart is where she wrote, “You are not forgotten. Your story has not been forgotten; your heart cry has not been forgotten. Your sisters are not forgotten, and glorious times are ahead because ‘this resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike, ‘What’s next, Papa?’ God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are.

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A Million Little Ways, by Emily P. Freeman – I wrote about this wonderful book earlier this month ~ When have you felt fully alive? I couldn’t recommend this book higher – LOVE! Psssst…this would also make a wonderful Christmas gift!

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Takedown Twenty, by Janet Evanovich – Oh, Stephanie Plum, I can’t quit you. This is the latest in the crazy adventures of the lovable New Jersey bounty hunter. It was typical Stephanie – bad luck with cars, way-bad language, too many love interests, and her always hilarious sidekicks – Grandma Mazur and Lula! It’s a November tradition of mine to read the latest in the series, and this one didn’t disappoint!

Parenting Your Powerful Child, by Dr. Kevin Leman – Did y’all know that Dr. Leman wrote this book just for me? Well, at least it seems like he wrote it with my little family in mind! I bought it thinking that it would apply to a particular little boy o’mine that likes to engage in arguments, but a few chapters in I found that I have two powerful children! A few more pages reveled that I have three powerful sons! I love that each of my children have special, powerful qualities – and this book is changing how I deal with the power issues that arise in our house. I think that I highlighted about half of this book on my Kindle – a must read for all parents that suspect that they, too, might have a powerful child!

On deck for December ~

The 5 Love Languages Military Edition: The Secret to Love That Lasts, by Gary Chapman and Jocelyn Green – Joe and I are reading this book together long-distance. We are reading a chapter each day and talking about it over the phone. I am thrilled that Gary Chapman has written an edition just for military families! It has many ideas for expressing your loved one’s love language while you are apart. Quality Time and Meaningful Touch are not the easiest love languages to have in our situation, but I’m hopeful that this book will guide us in better expressing our love for each other and keeping those love tanks full while we are away from one another!

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss – This was on my list for last month, but I haven’t quite get around to finishing it just yet.

The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde – I keep hearing awesome things about this book!

What’s So Amazing About Grace, by Philip Yancey – Recommended by my sweet friend, Crystal – Money Saving Mom,  I am reading this a little bit each day – and I just might break my “no writing/underlining” rule with this book because there is just so much goodness that I want to remember!

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman – My first Gaiman book, I also keep hearing intriguing things about this little book. I snatched up the only remaining copy at my library – the large print edition – huzzah!

Screen time ~

On top of seeing Catching Fire with my brother and sister-in-law, I also had a few long-distance movie dates with my Beloved! One night we saw a double feature – the new Thor movie, and About Time. Thor was a typical superhero movie…I really enjoy Anthony Hopkins and Tom Huddleston – such great actors – but other than that, it didn’t have enough romance for me. I mean, Thor just came back to rescue Jane after standing her up for three years, and now he’s off saving the universe again. The least he could do is spend a little quality time with her!  Men Demigods!

About Time was such a beautiful movie! It has quite a bit of language, but the story is so sweet, so endearing – please make sure you take a box of Kleenex with you when you go see this movie!

My Main Squeeze and I also saw Ender’s Game this month. Great story, the child actors were very believable, and now I want to read the book!

As far as TV goes, I’m still trying to keep up with Scandal, and Hart of Dixie is fun to unwind with at the end of a long day. Joe and I try to watch Big Bang Theory, Parks and Rec, and Blacklist together when we can arrange long-distance couch dates. Love those!

 

A look back ~

Along with the posts that I linked above, November was a busy month! We had several wonderful In Her Shoes guest posts, found out what books are on my bookshelves, got an Instagram peek into my life, learned what makes me – me, and I shared about a very different kind of anniversary – looking back at the five years since my first marriage crumbled.

Thank you, again, for all of your support, encouragement, and for coming to visit me here in my little corner of the world! I can’t tell you what this has meant to me!

Coming up in December ~

I’m going to visit my Beloved! *happy Snoopy dance!!!* A couple weeks after that, he’ll finally be finished with his TDY and come home for Christmas!

This week I am hosting my very first giveaway! Eeeek! Please come back Wednesday for all of the giveaway scoop! And I promise that you won’t have to donate any major body organs or name your firstborn after me to enter the drawing!

That’s about all of the news from this neck of the woods…Thank you so much for coming to spend a little time with me today!

Hoping that you have a most lovely December and a very Merry Christmas!

Love,

G

 

 

*Disclosure – the Amazon links in this post are Affiliate links, which means that if you happen to purchase anything through Amazon after clicking on my link, I may receive a small kickback on the sale. You won’t pay more for clicking through the links, I promise. And I won’t recommend anything that I don’t absolutely LOVE to you!

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A Different Kind of Anniversary ~ Chapter Ten

A Different Kind of Anniversary - justoneoftheboys.com

It’s been five years. Five years ago my marriage was destroyed, and I felt helpless to save it as my family crumbled around me.

 

When you’re in the middle of a crisis, it’s as though your time stands still, and it’s unbelievable that life can just keep going for everyone around you. I distinctly remember that feeling. People were lined up at movie theaters to see a paranormal romance. The radio kept right on playing songs, one after the other. Reminders of the upcoming holiday season were everywhere that I turned. Life went on all around me, and it felt as if I would never catch up.

 

I look around at my life now, my cozy home, my growing boys, and I see the comforting signs that life really has moved on…that I have moved on.

 

At six months ~ I was still married. Confused, hurting, betrayed, and desperate to understand why this had happened, I was also hopeful that we could repair the damage that our little family had endured. I read every book that I could get my hands on that dealt with healing a marriage after infidelity. That Thanksgiving, my broken heart felt far from thankful.

 

At one year ~ My ex had told me that all men knew that if a husband had an affair, it was entirely the wife’s fault for not being enough. Recognizing the lies, my heart felt free to distance itself and to heal. I was a single mother. I had met my Beloved. The understanding of our similar hurts turned into a beautiful friendship. My boys asked Mr. Joe if he would marry their mommy, and to please be their stepdad. Our friendship was turning into a love and a desire to become a family.

 

At two years ~ I was my Beloved’s and he was mine. We were married and becoming a family, and yet had to live apart so that my boys could stay near their father while my husband was stationed elsewhere. My Beloved spent every possible moment with us, deepening our family relationships. The pain was still there, but it was fading.

 

At three years ~ Because of co-parenting, I saw my ex more than I was able to see my husband. We had gone through a custody trial, and had found out that even though I had retained primary care over my boys, we could not join my Beloved where he had been stationed across the country. We must continue to be apart. It was during the third anniversary that my Beloved came to be stationed much closer to us – only five hours away – and so we were finally able to see him on the weekends. The custody trial brought back all of those feelings of hurt and betrayal once more. For the second time, my family had been torn apart…and my heart was breaking.

 

At four years ~ Healing and forgiveness had continued their work in my life. We did our best to remain a family over the miles. My Beloved had been deployed, and we had eagerly waited for the time that he could come home to our arms, safe and sound.

 

At five years ~ Our boys are growing into their roles as young men-in-training. Our little family was shocked to learn that cancer was in our midst. After two surgeries and a clean scan, we are grateful that we are now in the clear! Because my Beloved is healthy now, we have learned that he will most likely be deployed again next year. And his contract with the Air Force was extended for another six months. There will be another anniversary before we can finally live together as a family.

 

At times, my heart still aches. Even after all of these years. I long to be with the one whom my soul loves. Even though the hurt of the infidelity has healed, scarred over on the surface, its painful effects are still present. I ache to be a complete family. There is the deep pain every time I watch my boys drive away from my protective arms. The ache of loneliness because of why my Beloved and I must be apart. The fear of further heartbreak when painful words replay in my mind…It was all my fault. I wasn’t pretty enough. I wasn’t submissive enough. What if I’m not enough now…

 

I must call out those thoughts for what they truly are – lies. This is when I have to tell myself that the nightmare is really over. I think back to the quiet doormat of a girl that I once was – what I had thought that I needed to be in order to fit the definition of a good, Christian wife. I see the growth that has taken place in my heart, and all of the growing that I still need to do. I think of my Beloved and all that he taken on – becoming part of an instant family of five, having to be apart from us, and all of his sacrifice. When those lies attack, I try to tell myself that HE chose me. He CHOSE me. He chose ME. I will never be perfect, but he somehow picked me, all of my boys, all of my faults, and all of my fears.

 

This anniversary, I am looking back on the journey that has brought me to this point, and I am oddly thankful…

 

I am thankful for my ex – Because of him, I have been given three of the most beautiful little treasures…Camden, Aiden, and Quinn.

 

I am thankful for discovering the affair – The truth really did set me free.

 

I am thankful that I took him back and worked with all of my heart to restore our marriage for six months – Otherwise I may have always wondered if I did the right thing.

 

I am thankful for the divorce – It was the painful gift of strength and independence that my heart desperately needed.

 

I am thankful for meeting my Beloved when I did – I believe that it was orchestrated by a Heavenly Matchmaker, and was the perfect balm for my healing heart.

 

I am thankful for the young men that our sons are becoming – Navigating through a broken home was never something that I wanted for our boys, but they have handled it with more grace than I ever did in my own childhood.

 

I am thankful for our military life – My husband’s willingness to protect and serve the country and its people that he loves so much is a wonderful example to me of laying down one’s life for others.

 

This is difficult to write, but I am truly thankful for the cancer – It reminded me of how incredibly blessed that I am for the gift of my loved ones. I pray that I will cherish each and every moment with them…for the rest of my life.

 

This anniversary, I am incredibly thankful…

I hope that you don’t mind, but I fast-forwarded Our Story a bit today. Being thankful for the more unusual things has recently weighed heavily on my heart, and it wouldn’t let go until I had written the very last word. I will be back soon with the continuing chapters of Our Story. I hope that each and every one of you have an extra special time of Thanksgiving! ~ Love, G

Photo is courtesy of Joanne Funk

 

~ Our Story ~

There’s No Place Like Home ~ Chapter One

Letter to the Other Woman ~ Chapter Two

The Nightmare ~ Chapter Three

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan ~ Chapter Four

With this Ring…Saying Goodbye ~ Chapter Five

A Letter to a Graduate ~ Chapter Six

Over the Miles and Years ~ Chapter Seven

Someone Like Him ~ Chapter Eight

In the Quiet ~ Chapter Nine

A Different Kind of Anniversary ~ Chapter Ten

Healing a Little More Each Day ~ Chapter Eleven

My New Friend ~ Chapter Twelve

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In Her Shoes ~ The Search for Sydney’s Hero

In Her Shoes is a series written by readers to give us a glimpse into their lives – what it is like to walk in their shoes. I am honored to share the story of a very special little girl today – and an opportunity for you to help! Please read her message and SHARE this with your friends and family – Facebook, emails, texts, and Pinterest! We need to find this little girl a hero – and it just might be YOU! ~ Love, Ginger

thesearchforsydneyshero

I would like to introduce you to Sydney Balzer. Sydney is a 9 year old, she loves making crafts, spending time with friends, playing soccer, playing piano and doing gymnastics. In September 2010, Sydney was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. It was a complete shock. She went through 2 ½ years of chemotherapy treatments…losing her hair twice, taking many medicines that made her feel very sick, and spending several days in the hospital. During the first year of treatment, she missed over 100 days of school. That being said, she never let the leukemia stop her from doing the things she loved…she still attended as many soccer games as possible (often on the sidelines as a cheerleader) and eventually (during maintenance treatment) was allowed to play and do gymnastics. In February 2013, Sydney completed her treatments and was deemed Cancer Free. It was a very exciting day!

 Sydney Balzar 3

Unfortunately, in September 2013, the Leukemia returned. She is currently undergoing very aggressive chemotherapy treatments. During the first two weeks of this round of chemo, Sydney suffered a seizure that caused her breathing and heart to stop. Thankfully, Sydney was brought back to life by the staff at the children’s hospital at record speed. Placed on a ventilator, Sydney’s life hung in the balance. The extended family rushed from Kansas, the cruelty of cancer was thrown in her 12 year old brother’s face and her parents clung to a sliver of hope. But…Sydney is a fighter! She fought her way back, defying the dire proclamations of the doctors and a week later was off the ventilator and out of PICU. Each time she takes a chemo treatment, the family holds their breath, understanding what could happen again. Doctors feel the best chance of curing the leukemia is to pursue a Bone Marrow Transplant. Unfortunately, family members have been tested and are not matches.

 

We need to find a match! Join Team Sydney on Tuesday, November 19th from 10:00 am – 7:00 pm at Asbury Church in Wichita, KS. It’s an easy cheek swab – less than 10 minutes of your time. Your swab will be tested and placed on the National Bone Marrow Registry. To be eligible you must be 18-55 years old, weigh more than 110 lbs and in good general health. Please see the website for complete eligibility guidelines ( www.deletebloodcancer.org ). Delete Blood Cancer is a non-profit organization that works to fight against blood cancers. Each new potential life-saver costs Delete Blood Cancer $65. Delete Blood Cancer does NOT require donors or the volunteer group to cover this cost, 100% of donated funds are used to cover the costs of registering new bone marrow donors. If you are ineligible to donate, please consider making a tax-deductible monetary donation to Delete Blood Cancer. (www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/teamsydney1/teamsydneyfundraisingpage)

Sydney Balzar

Not in the Wichita, Kansas, area? No problem! We want to take this search far and wide! Please go to www.deletebloodcancer.org for information on how YOU can become registered as a bone marrow donor! Let’s find Sydney a match – you just might be her hero!

Thank you,

Stefanie Roth & Team Sydney

Here is a video of little Sydney filmed recently by her local news. Please, please, please don’t delay! Let’s spread the word, and let’s find a match for little Sydney Balzer! Please go to the Delete Bone Marrow website and sign up to become a donor in THREE easy steps! Just like Stefanie mentioned, it is only a cheek-swab and will only take 10 minutes of your time. That’s 10 minutes to save someone’s life – to be a hero! 

Thank you so much, Stefanie & Team Sydney, for sharing with us what it is like to be in Sydney’s shoes. We send our thoughts, prayers, and hopes for a match with you! ~ G

* Photos are courtesy of Stefanie Roth and Team Sydney

*Linking up with Women Living Well Wednesdays

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The sigh of relief ~

When Cancer Touches Your Family

It was a surreal feeling, walking into a cancer center with my 30 year old husband this week. This was it, the day that I had longed for and dreaded all at the same time. We were there for my Beloved’s six month checkup. The sign in the atrium said that this cancer center was nationally ranked – one of the best in the country. This was supposed to be comforting news, but it didn’t stop the shiver that I felt run through my body as I stepped into the elevator.

We walked past the Life Renewal room – a gift shop of sorts – filled with encouraging sayings, ribbons, t-shirts, snacks, and wigs. Then we passed a conference room where doctors and families may gather to discuss a diagnosis, treatments, prognosis, and counseling.

When we checked in, they handed my Beloved a paper with questions about his stress level. Was he in any pain? What were his concerns? Was he or his family in need of counseling? Here was a website. “Fighting cancer is hard, but finding help shouldn’t be.” It began to hit me. Unlike the rest of the world, cancer was not shied away from here in this warm, yet modern, care center. Cancer, here, was not a death sentence. It’s a way of life.

Hating to have anyone fuss over him, my Beloved is not a fan of these kinds of days. He had his blood drawn, and then we sat and waited for his CT scan. We even had a bit of time until we could see the doctor for the scan’s results, and so we wandered out of the clinic for breakfast at a nearby cafe.

When it was time, we returned to the cancer center to meet with the oncologist. He smiled as he entered the room, reassuring us that this morning’s scan was clear – everything looked fine! The cancer had not returned!

The very depths of my soul let out a most grateful sigh – a prayer –  of relief. Thank you, thank you, thank you. In that instant my shoulders felt a little lighter, and the fear that had gripped my heart started to loosen its grasp.

The doctor finished his examination, and then we went over our questions. “Yes,” he said, “Joe can be deployed, but he will still need to be scanned every six months to make sure that the cancer has not returned. They can scan him in Afghanistan.” Even though I don’t want to think about the next deployment, not just yet, I’ll happily take the wonderful news!

My Beloved, ever my rock, seemed to take everything in his even stride. I, on the other hand, was feeling so relieved with our results that I’m may have floated out of the doctor’s office that morning. Ahhh… Six more months.  Six months to try and forget that we will be coming to these appointments again in the spring. And six months later, and so on…

But infinitely higher than that, six months of rejoicing in our good news! Six months to celebrate life, love, and second chances. Six more months to treasure our family’s happily ever after…a gift for which my heart is overwhelmingly thankful!

 

* Photo courtesy of Joanne Funk

*Linking up to Women Living Well Wednesdays

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The one with Someday revisited ~ Donating my hair

The one with Someday revisited ~ Donating my hair

“The most interesting things in life happen just outside your comfort zone.” ~ Michael Hyatt

Last week I shared a couple of posts with you about confronting the fear that has held me back from the hopes, dreams, and ambitions that I have always said that I would do… Someday.

In the first post I let you in on my little secret. As I was reading back over my own article, it had me thinking…and coming back to my list of Somedays. The first one on my list was that Someday I would donate my hair. This led me to tell you that I had decided to not put it off for another Someday.

The way that cancer touched my little family this year, and looking over the list of things that I have always said that I would get around to accomplishing…I refuse to let this continue. I researched the different hair donation organizations, and I settled on Children With Hair Loss. They provide free wigs to little ones who are battling cancer, alopecia, and other reasons for hair loss. It was so exciting that I felt that my haircut couldn’t come fast enough!

I visited my stylist at The Perfect Touch on Friday night. She has been cutting my hair since I was 13, and I trust her completely with my mop top! As I explained to her why I wanted to do this, she hugged me as I cried in her chair. I cried mixed tears of fear about my Beloved’s history with cancer, a little bit of “attagirl” for finally stepping outside of my comfort zone, and happiness to be doing something that might help someone else. We wiped the tears, I found my smile again, and we were ready to get started!

Before ~

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During ~

Jen, my stylist, sectioned off 5 separate ponytails as the Children With Hair Loss website instructed. After one final check to make sure that I was ready to make the chop, she cut away 12 inch sections of my hair. Not once in the three days since then have I regretted my decision at all. I liked my long hair. It was familiar. It was my security blanket and my comfort zone, but now it will belong to someone else. It will possibly belong to a little girl fighting the battle of her life – someone so much braver than I could ever hope to be. It is my prayer that running her fingers through her new locks will bring a smile to her face, and will help her family to know that someone in Kansas is thinking of them!

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After!

I have been blessed with good hair genes – thanks, Mom and Dad! – and my thick head of hair could take forEVER to dry before my cut. Since cutting my hair, it’s dry in only a few minutes! This is going to free up so much extra time in the mornings! For this picture, I styled it exactly the same as I did my long hair – the only difference being that it didn’t take as long. Win-win all around!

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Seeing our boys’ reactions was pretty funny! They stopped, tilted their heads to study me, and said, “Uhh…oooookaaaaaay.” After taking it in for a few minutes, Camden said that it was the same as my old hair, only now my long earrings showed. Aiden had been under the impression that I would be shaving my head to give ALL of my hair away – I guess that’s what he took away from my conversation with him the day before – so he seemed to be relieved that not all of my hair was gone! Quinn hesitantly touched the ends and said that he missed my old hair, but he would still like my new hair.

Even my Beloved likes it! It was so nice to feel his fingers running through my shorter curls and to know that he thinks it’s cute! That was my worst fear – that he wouldn’t like it – but now my remaining fear has been put to rest!

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I can’t believe that I let fear keep me from donating my hair in the past. It was so easy, and it’s amazing how happy I feel to be going this short! Knowing that the hair is on its way to a wonderful organization to be made into a wig for a little girl – it warms my heart and makes me anxious for my hair to grow long enough to donate again!

Let’s encourage each other! I would love to hear from you…What can you cross off of your Someday list TODAY? What is holding you back from reaching the goals that sit a little out of your reach – just a bit outside of your comfort zone? Please, please, please don’t let fear hold you back for one more day. Do something, anything to break those chains that are keeping you from so much more. You will never know how good it feels to be free – and how much you may be able to bless someone else – until you let go.

Here’s to letting go…

Love,

~ G

*Linking up to Women Living Well Wednesdays

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I’m Ginger ~
I'm a wife to my Beloved, mom of three boys, bookworm, survivor of a broken heart, and Kansas Girl. It is my desire to encourage you. No matter what storm you're going through right now, you are not alone. I promise.
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MY GIFT TO YOU!