Monday, October 29, 2012

Another Reason to Wear Pink

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us."

Ephesians 3:20

Growing up, I had three moms.

My mom is in the middle, and her twin sisters - Sandra on the left, and Sheila on the right.

My mom had me at a young age, so for a looooooong time, I was the only child around.  I was spoiled ROTTEN by my aunts.  I can still remember dragging my barbie case to stay the night with them while they were in college.  I can remember many, many nights of fingernail painting and hair fixing (which involved lots of hairspray and teasing - we're talking about the '80s here!)  I can remember many car rides singing at the top of my lungs to Wilson Phillips.  They took me on dates with their boyfriends, took me to work with them...I'm telling you, I was their little 

Okay, I wasn't gonna share this little tid-bit, but I will embarrass myself on the worldwide web and tell you that Sandra and I were members of the Travis Tritt Fan Club.  It's true.  She would take me to concerts, we would get backstage passes, where I would then get kissed on the cheek by Travis Tritt.  No lie.  I still have a picture of me and Mr. Tritt and his nice long mullet.  We were the real deal.

I can still remember the day I broke up with a high school boyfriend and Sheila was at the house...I woke up the morning after, sobbing...walked in the living room, and I can still see her sitting on the couch, I just sat down and she just cried with me.  I can always count on them to feel what I'm feeling, to support me, to laugh with me, to cry with me -- to just "get it", ya know?

They decorated my wedding, and also rushed to the hospital/house when I had my babies.  (Sheila lives in Indianapolis, and ended up driving to Kentucky when I had a false alarm....oops!) We don't mess around when it comes to babies!!!    

I could recount memories for days, but the point aunts are more than aunts to me.  They have invested so much of themselves into my life, and have so much to do with who I am as a woman.  The impression they left on my heart as a young child and even now, is something greater than any physical gift I could ever see or touch with my hands...the greatest kind of gift you could ever receive, and the kind of gift no one can ever take away from you.  For that I am forever grateful.  

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Saturday, October 20, 2012 is the date we had marked on our calendar for months for our family reunion at my aunt Sandra's house.  
The day finally came and we had lots of food and fun catching up with our extended family that we don't get to see very often.  Toward the end the crowd started to thin out, and the more "immediate" family had stuck around.
Sheila asked all the women to come have a seat.  
I heard the crack in her voice, and her face started to turn red.
Everyone asked what was going on, she said, "Just have a seat."

Then she said the words:

"I have been diagnosed with breast cancer."

My body got hot.  
My ears closed.  
I could see people crying and talking....
but it's like I couldn't even hear that moment my tears couldn't even come.  
All I could feel was anger.
All I could think was...seriously?  Cancer...I'm so sick of you.
(For those of you who don't know me, see previous post about sister-in-law,  Ali)

I stood up to hug Sheila.  And about that time Sandra said, "I think I'm going to get sick."
She proceeds to run to the bathroom and vomit for the next five minutes.  My mom, sobbing, follows her in there.
After a minute I go to offer some aid, grabbed a wet rag, and clipped her hair back.  I wish I had a picture to post of her hair-do when she lifted her head up from the toilet.  It was quite the comic relief.
We all began to just look at her and laugh - we didn't know what else to do.

Sheila went on to tell us that she went for her yearly mammogram.  The doctor saw something that looked questionable and told her she would need to come in for a biopsy.  She still didn't think much of it, and after the biopsy was over, they told her they would call her with the results. 

They called her at home and just said, "You have breast cancer, we're going to need to schedule you to come in."  Turns out it is a type of cancer, DCIS, in her milk duct, so it's not actually a place you can feel, it is contained in the left breast, thankfully, but there were two more spots that were questionable, and she would need another ultrasound the following week to see if there were more cancer cells.

Since then she has had the ultrasound, and the additional spots do not appear to be cancerous.  First answered prayer on the journey!  But now, she is meeting with several doctors to discuss radiation and surgery options...lumpectomy vs. mastectomy.  Her life has pretty much been overtaken by decisions no one wants to have to make in the first place.  This is so completely overwhelming physically, emotionally and financially.  She is married to a wonderful man, my uncle Curt, and has three beautiful daughters - Olivia and Rachael are in college this year, and Allie is a senior in high school -- this is super hard for all of them as well.

Sheila is a pretty private person.  But I wanted to blog her journey.  For one, it will fill you all in, and keep you updated, without her having to personally fill all of you in.  Two, we need ALL of your prayers.  There is power in numbers, and I believe that God hears the cry of his people.  Please pray for her, her family and her doctors during this time.  Three, it's a great outlet for you to show Sheila your support!!!  We need to shower her with our love and support, and encourage her during this fight.  She is gonna need us behind her!!!

Specifically I need you all to be praying right now for the anxiety she is experiencing, and for the decision she faces on which procedure path to take.  
Please pray that God will make it clear for her.

October 20, 2012. 
The day we all learned the news.
The beginning of Sheila's journey.
Isn't she beautiful?  Looks like a fighter to me ;)

I want to leave with this excerpt from my favorite devotional, "Streams in the Desert," by L.B.Cowman:

It is a comforting thought that trouble, in whatever form it comes to us, is a heavenly messenger that brings us something from God.  Outwardly it may appear painful or even destructive, but inwardly its spiritual work produces blessings.  Many of the richest blessings we have inherited are the fruit of sorrow or pain.  We should never forget that redemption, the world's greatest blessing, is the fruit of the world's greatest sorrow.  And whenever a time of deep pruning comes and the knife cuts deeply and the pain is severe, what an inexpressible comfort it is to know: "My father is the gardener." 

John Vincent, a Methodist Episcopal bishop of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries and a leader of the Sunday school movement in America, once told of being in a large greenhouse where clusters of luscious grapes were hanging on each side.  The owner of the greenhouse told him, "When the new gardener came here, he said he would not work with the vines unless he could cut them completely down to the stalk.  I allowed him to do so, and we had no grapes for two years, but this is now the result."   

There is rich symbolism in this account of the pruning process when applied to the Christian life.  Pruning seems to be destroying the vine, and the gardener appears to be cutting everything away.  Yet he sees the future and knows that the final result will be the enrichment of the life of the vine, and a greater abundance of fruit.

There are many blessings we will never receive until we are ready to pay the price of pain, for the path of suffering is the only way to reach them. 

Sheila, I love you beyond words.  I do believe that God is ABLE.  
Able to do more than we could ask or imagine.
I know that He is with you, and goes before you, 
and I have peace that he will protect you from harm.
He can take your sorrow and pain and turn it into your richest blessing.
We are thinking of you every moment, lifting you up in prayer throughout my days and nights.
You are giving me yet another reason to live life to the fullest...
and of course another reason to wear lots of pink :)))))   


Saturday, November 5, 2011

I will never be the same....

This is a post, I wish I never had to make.  
Words I wish I never had to speak.  
Tears I wish I never had to cry.

Many of you have been following along as I have posted several times over the past 8 months about my sister-in-law, Ali, on facebook.  Many of you have offered prayers for her and were a part of the fundraiser we held for her this summer, thank you for your prayers and support.  

Two days ago, November 3, 2011, I woke up to a rainy day, I mean, it was really pouring...but I was feeling a good day coming on - I even posted on twitter the following words, "Gonna be a good day, started with eggs, toast, quiet time & Alison Krauss - that is, after I got my crazy two year old out of the house :)"  
I love to listen to Alison Krauss when it rains.  
Work has really piled up on me for the past couple of weeks, I feel like I have been drowning in it.  Clark's grandmother offered to keep Grant so that I could try to make a dent in my big long list of things I had to do.  I got Grant out in the rain and started her way.  Before I could even get to her house...the call came.

"If you want to see Ali alive, you need to come today."

My heart stopped.  
My throat closed.
I began to sob.  

Let me share a little bit about Ali. 
I don't have to even tell you all she loved pink.  You already know that.
But I'll tell you anyway....Ali loved pink.  I loved when I drew Ali's name for Christmas, she was one of those people, anywhere you are you can see something and say, "That is SO Ali."  She was the definition of girlie-girl.  All things pink, polka-dotted and monogrammed.  She loved to wear flowers in her hair.  We shared a love for decorating, for holidays, for shopping.  

This is us shopping on vacation years ago.

She was so classy.  In the summer she always wore skirts and dresses.  And always looked her best when we went out for dinner.  She made sure Ben looked his best too.  

This was the year that I made her buy these capris because they were so darn cute on her.  It took her a while to talk herself into it, but she finally did it.

She loved babies.
Babies loved her.  
She wanted like ten....seriously.
Any time the family got together, she had a baby in her lap.  She was such a "mom" even before she was a mom.

She could sweet talk Ben into anything.
Even this...

She loved to read.
For every occasion she got the kiddos books.

This is the book Griffin received from her one Christmas.  It is his favorite book, "Smash Crash", and we have to read it almost every night.  

She was so full of life.  
We would stop at yard sales so she could buy an ugly out of date dress to add to her costume/dress-up stash.  One time we stopped and she went for this terribly ugly green dress...and said, "Oh, this is perfect for St. Patrick's Day."  And I would reply with, "Seriously!?"  Who was I kidding...she could pull off anything, with that big white smile and beautiful blonde hair.  
She was so sensitive....just like me.  Only because she had a heart the size of Texas.  
Yet at the same time, she didn't care what people thought...if she wanted to wear cute frilly aprons in the kitchen and stars on her head for 4th of July, then she was gonna do it.  Other people were just missing out.  I loved that about her.

She was dear to my heart.  My sister-in-law, my friend.

I shouldn't have to write "Ali was" "Ali did"  "Ali loved"  I wish more than anything I could write... "Ali is" "Ali loves"

We got to the hospital a little before 7 on Thursday night.  Got to her hallway, and saw her family talking with the doctor about options.  Ben led the way as we went in to see her.  We walked in the room, and she made eye contact, she was fighting for her life, lifting her head up to catch a breath as if she was in water and the level was rising.  I immediately started to sob uncontrollably, and turned around to walk away because I thought to myself, "She wouldn't want me to see her like this."  But I couldn't leave...I turned back around and right then and there, her heart stopped.  That quick.
The doctor walked up right next to me, and said in a whisper, "She's gone."  I replied, "What?"  And she shook her head, she repeated..."She's gone."
In anguish we all cried out in prayer to God, "Please, save her."  The room flooded with everyone in the family, all gathered around as Ben held her head in his arms.  We begged and pleaded.  Her heartbeat began to start again, very slowly...only to stop once again, for good.    
  She was done fighting.  The Lord had come to save her in her distress.  He had called her home to be with Him.

How do you move on from that?  How do I move on from seeing her that way.  Seeing Ben as he held onto her.  Seeing Olivia, her one year old daughter, as she hugged her Mommy for the last time.  
How will we ever...I don't yet know.  

We all went to stay the night with Ben, so him and Olivia wouldn't be alone.  He came home to a house fully decked out for Halloween...Ali went all out for each season.  He opened a package that was laying on the table...a pair of slippers that Ali had ordered for herself.  
I have never felt so helpless in my life.  I've always been the type of person to want to make things better, and I wanted to help Ben so badly, and I know all of us did.  But there was nothing we could do, but love him.

Ben....we will love you through this.

This whole time it has been so hard on me to live so far from her and Ben and Olivia, I have felt so helpless.  I was supposed to stay with her the week before, spend the day with her, and work was so overwhelming and I had deadlines to meet, and so I told her I couldn't make it, and I would "reschedule" for the next open day to help her.  I don't get that day now.  I wish I could go back so badly and change that.  Life is so unfair.  

It's unfair that Clark just walked in the room with a black suit on, trying it on to see if it will fit for her funeral, when the last place he wore it was to be the best man in her and Ben's wedding two years ago. 

I will never be the same.  
Ali has changed me forever.  
I truly know that the only moment we own, is the one we are in.  
I will love deeper.
 I will try to live life to the fullest.
Buy my children lots of books.
Not raise my voice out of frustration.
Wear cute and frilly aprons at Christmas.
Snuggle with my three boys, every.chance.I.get.
I will draw closer to the Lord.
I will fear death even less, because I know she is already there, waiting to greet me.  
And it won't be hard to find her....
she'll be the angel with big pink wings.

I know you know how much I love you and I miss you so terribly, Ali.  The only comfort my heart has, is knowing you are completely whole and full of unspeakable joy with our Heavenly Father in much joy that even if you could come back to us, you wouldn't.  Your legacy lives on in us all.  
I will never be the same.   


Ali has an amazing family. 
 Her youngest sister, Melanie, wrote her a's beautiful. 
 To read, click on the following link

Friday, July 29, 2011

Birth Story: Grant Thomas Howard

"For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." - Psalms 139:13-16

You know how they say each labor/birthing experience is different...well, "they" were right in my case.  

Let's summarize:
Griffin - Went into labor 4 days early, labored for a good 20 hours or so, 12 while at the hospital, had him naturally, no epidural, no pain medicine, 8.15 lbs/21 1/2 inches long - most awesome experience of my life!

Grant- 3 days overdue, administered prostaglandin gel to jump-start labor, emergency c-section, 8.9 Ibs, 21 inches long - most painful thing I have ever been through!  

The first eight months of this pregnancy flew by.  I was beginning to think I was superwoman!  I had a ton of energy, felt great, was getting all kinds of things done, kept working right up till time for Grant to arrive.
The last month however, crept by....I started to contract regularly and walked around 3-4 centimeters dilated forever -- but the contractions always stopped, and I never went into full-blown labor.  I was starting think this little guy would never get here!

Met with my doctor (who was also the doctor who delivered Griffin)  She knew my situation, and how I couldn't have an epidural, and I how I wanted to go naturally and not be induced - but she scheduled me to come in three days after my due date, because she didn't want the baby to get any bigger, and she wanted to administer prostaglandin gel, which is a hormone your body already produces during labor to ripen the cervix, she said since I was already 4 centimeters dilated and contracting all the time, then this should just make my contractions more consistent, therefore jump-starting labor, and that she could administer it every four hours, and we would just be patient and take however much time we needed.  So here's how it went down:     

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Here I am just arriving at the hospital, it is 6 a.m.
Grant sure is comfy in my belly!

Checked in.
Changed into ugly hospital gown.
Got an IV.
I was 5 centimeters and 70 percent effaced.
I was contracting often, but nothing consistent in timing.
Around 8/8:15 - Administered prostaglandin gel
Started contracting every three minutes.
Grant's heart rate dropped VERY low after each contraction.
Turned me on my right side - heart rate still dropped.
Turned me on my left side - heart rate still dropped.
Gave me oxygen - heart rate still dropped.

At this point my doctor, who I love and trust, came in to tell me what I already was bracing myself for.  She informed me that Grant was not tolerating labor, and that there was no way we could wait for me to dilate another 5 centimeters in order to have him naturally, and that I would need a c-section.  And with that, they rushed me off right then, put me to sleep, and 20 minutes later, Grant Thomas Howard made his arrival into this crazy world!

All 8 pound and 9 ounces of him!  Don't know how I make such big babies :)  

In the meantime, I woke up from the anesthesia and held my new sweet baby boy.  I thought he was beautiful, of course.  

Now, if you are like me, and when you would hear people talk about c-sections, you think, "Wow, that sounds much easier than having to labor and give birth naturally."  Now, that I have done been on both ends of the spectrum, I feel well qualified to say what I'm about to say, and I'm here to tell you...people who come in asking for c-sections because they think it's easier, are CRAZY!

Giving birth to Griffin, was truly the most amazing experience of my entire life, and after I had him, I felt great, and could get up and walk, and recovery was quick.   Having Grant by c-section was the most painful thing I have ever experienced, I felt like someone ripped my insides open and threw them back in place --- oh, wait....they did!  I also felt like I was hit by a train, every single muscle in body hurt.  I honestly felt like I would never stand up or walk again.  The whole first day I was hooked up to three different things and couldn't leave the bed.  I stayed in the hospital four days, compared to two with Griffin...and almost every night I reached the point of tears because I was so miserable.

Having said that, I am not trying to scare all you moms-to-be...everyday it did get much better, and I am finally feeling like my normal self :)  It's amazing what a week and-a-half to two weeks of recovery time can do for you.  I understand that emergencies happen, and c-sections are necessary, just like in my case.  I'm just here to say, if you have a choice, please trust me, God made your body to have children, and you can do it!!!  A c-section is NOT the easy way out, it is MAJOR surgery!!  Whew, okay, glad I got that off my chest.

Let me just tell you, all the was worth it, because I am in love, all over again, with another beautiful baby boy.    

He is an absolute angel.  He is so content and happy.  He is my cuddle bug.
He warms my heart.  
And so do the smiles on the faces of the people in these pictures:
Aunt Jerica and her new nephew.

Mimi admiring her new grandbaby.  She is in love too :)
Aunt Jaylin and her new nephew.
Great Aunt Sheila. 

  Great Aunt Sandra.
Gran and her second Great Grandbaby.  She is proud!

Gammy and Papaw with their new grandson!
The proud daddy.
He looks just like his daddy.  That's okay with me! 

 This was my ONLY popcicle from all four days....hard to believe, I know!  Considering I ate about 30 when I was in labor with Griffin :)
Jerica on Day #2
Griffin meeting his baby brother for the first time...
Our family. 

When I think back on the last two weeks, and everything that has happened, I look at my family, and I am amazed at what God allows us to do.  Yes, it was painful, but that has already faded away...God allowed me to create life.  

God used little old me to make his heart beat.
God used me to give him breath.
God used me to give him LIFE.

He will continue to use me and Clark to shape and mold him into the person that God wants him to be.  To grow into a person full of love, that will make the world a better place.  

What a responsibility.  What a privilege.  

When I look at both of my children, I am overwhelmed with God's love for me.  

And I praise and thank Him for allowing me to experience this kind of love...
a love that is only a fraction compared to the love he must feel for us.  Hard to imagine.

I also want to thank my Mom, who stayed with me the first week I was home, and took care of me, kept Grant at night so me and Clark could sleep, changed diapers, fed bottles, helped me keep up with housework, and just was there for me, I would have never survived without you, Mom.  What you did for me that week was something I will never forget.  I love you. 

Also to everyone else who visited, brought meals and left gifts and sent messages, you have no idea what each of those things meant to me!  Your support and love lifted my spirits right when I needed it.  Thanks a million times over. 

Here is our precious cargo on the way home :)

This is what we came home to:

Gift and flowers from the best Mother-in-law ever!
The most beautiful flowers from my sweet, sweet friend, Paige.

Welcome home Grant!

Hello there!

 I have to go for now....I've got two sweet boys to love on :)  

Love and Hugs,