Monday, October 28, 2013

Fall Photo Fun

I love the fall!  I know I have probably mentioned that in way too many posts, but I just can't get enough of it.  The weather is JUST PERFECT this time of year.  It also brings many perfect outdoor photo opportunities that, of course, we must take advantage of as a family.  So, that is what we did this past weekend.

We were planning on heading out to sweetberry farm, since it has been a couple of years since we visited their pumpkin patch. But, rather than spend two hours in the car (driving there and back), we decided to take a short 5 minute drive down the road to a beautiful park for some photos.

Look who is leading the way....always. (Luke)
Abbey always finds the pretty patches of flowers.
I love my little sweetie pie!
Our self-timer family photo.  I am a little shocked that both kids are looking at the un-manned camera. 

I love Abbey's funny look in this picture.

You may be wondering, why don't we see more photos of Luke?  Let me tell you--that little guy is hard to take photos of.  He is always on the move (in an unpredictable way).  I typically saw his back side.

Like in this photo.  Always on the move and always leading the way.

Still though, Luke is such a sweetheart.  He does stop to make sure we can enjoy the exciting things he has come upon.  Like the train that came by.  He took Abbey's hand and made sure she could witness it from his viewpoint.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Bubble Bath Fun at Mimi and Papa's house (and a little post-cancer update)

I love that I am able to write some blog posts that don't pertain to cancer or cancer treatment.  While I do appreciate what God's allowance of cancer in my life has done to strengthen my relationship with Him and change my perspective on life, I am hoping that I never see it again!  I had an appointment a couple of weeks ago with my oncologist.  It was my 3 month-follow up visit.   I can't believe it has been over three months since my last appointment there.  I know I shouldn't have asked her about my "odds" of recurrence, because God doesn't care about what statistics show.  But, I did ask her.  She said that there was around a 30% chance that my cancer will return.  As you may know, if it returns, it would be considered stage 4 or terminal.  But, we are still standing firm on Mark 5:36, "Do not be afraid, just believe." We are believing that God has healed me, and He is in complete control of the outcome.  But, as you can imagine, the battle is not over.  There is a serious battlefield in my mind.  As I notice changes in my body, the question of whether or not the cancer is trying to return comes to mind.  My battle plan is to quash those thoughts immediately with prayer and thanksgiving.  So far, it is a successful plan.  This time of year is really tough though, since "breast cancer awareness" and the color, pink, is everywhere.  The thoughts are happening more frequently, which tells me that Satan is trying harder.  We would truly appreciate continued prayers through this battle.  The oncologist told me that most patients (80%) who have recurrence, experience it within the first two years post diagnosis.  Another 10% experience it within years 3-5, and the remaining approximate 10% experience it within years 5-10.  She said that if you go 10 years without recurrence, the cancer is very unlikely to return.  She does think I should consider reconstruction again.  I had failed reconstruction on my left, radiated breast side, but she recommends I get another opinion.  I am sure there is something to looking somewhat normal in the mirror positively affecting one's health, as the absence of the left breast, along with the scars is a daily reminder of cancer.

My hair is really growing though (although in an extremely awkward phase right now), so that is super-exciting.  I am just happy that is getting more normal and I am being able to begin some routines.  I don't want to have to think about more surgeries for a while.   I am currently trying to establish a workout routine, and I am attending physical therapy twice a week due to some lymphedema issues and axillary cording (which has negatively affected the range of motion of my left arm.)

Okay--I just realized I started my blog post with a sentence about not writing about cancer, and then I totally wrote about cancer.  Oops.  Well, I am hoping that is the last you see of the cancer stuff for a while.  Dr. H. (my oncologist) did say she is going to scan me fairly frequently, so I will have updates about those results periodically.

Now for something super happy and fun.  Luke and Abbey had a blast in Mimi and Papa's big bath tub last weekend.  We don't do bubble baths at our house, so this was a special treat that they enjoyed.  We just had to snap some photos.

Luke made Abbey look like Princess Leia from Star Wars.

"Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi; you're my only hope."

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fun at Dewberry Farm

Last weekend we headed to the Houston area to create some memories with Drew's side of the family.  On our way down, we had the privilege of meeting Drew's sister and two girls (our nieces, Audrey and Lauren) at Dewberry farm.  They were on a field trip and she was able to secure some tickets there for our family, as well as Drew's parents, to attend.  We had a great time, and this post may appear to be an advertisement for the farm.  But, I just had to share some of the fun we had while we were there.

Our first stop:  the rope swing on hay mountain:

Our niece, Lauren, on the roller slide
Abbey was a little timid on the huge jumping pillows.
But she loved riding this slide with Mimi.
Luke loved the slide too!
My strong man, testing his strength.
Luke loved sharing a cow on the cow train with Papa.
We all got seriously lost in the corn maze. 
After being lost in the corn maze for a really long time, Abbey found comfort in Papa's arms.
Lauren got a good push from uncle Drew on the zipline.
Here comes Audrey.
Our little guy, who normally has no fear for things like this, decided to sit the zipline ride out.
Easy ridin'
They even had a show with talking and singing chickens that Abbey LOVED!
Enamored by the chickens.

A couple of little farmers.
We also participated in a duck chute race.  The duck was powered down the chute by a hand-cranked water faucet.
Audrey showed some serious competitive concentration.
The farm let us go to a large field and select our own miniature pumpkins to take home.  I'm not sure what Abbey is thinking here.  But, the girl is very expressive!
She liked the odd-shaped pumpkins.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

God cares about the small stuff, too.

Have you ever experienced something that you knew, without a doubt, was an obvious answer to prayer?  It seems I have been experiencing a lot of these lately.  It is so cool to visibly see God working, and answering the prayers of His children.  He continues to show me that He cares about all the little details of my life not just the "big things".  This reminds me to give him complete control over all areas of my life, instead of displaying anxiety in the little things as I try to handle them solo.  (Philippians 4: 6-8 says "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.")

I have been attending a women's bible study through Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) since the beginning of September.  If you aren't familiar with BSF, I highly recommend checking out their website:   The Bible study is a weekly, intense study of a particular Bible book (this semester, it's Matthew) and the bible studies are offered all across the world (hence BSF international).   I attended the introduction to BSF last May, while I was still undergoing radiation treatment, so that I could get enrolled and get a spot in class for the kids for the fall semester.  BSF is pretty popular, especially the day program, so there are not necessarily always vacant spots for the kids.  But, I was willing to be on the waiting list.  Surprisingly, I received a phone call the week following my attending the introduction class.  They had openings in the children's program for both Luke and Abbey.  The problem was that Abbey NEVER handled the "drop off" with other caregivers well.  Inevitably, every Sunday at church, we would see Abbey's number flashed on the screen, which meant she was unconsolable in her classroom and we needed to come get her.    With all of the months of being cooped up in the house during cancer treatment, Abbey wasn't keen about receiving care from outsiders.  So, I decided to just try to start the BSF study in the fall (since the Spring semester study was finishing up anyway).  Well, by September, things still had not changed.  But, instead of fretting about it and trying to deal with it alone, I asked for prayer.  I prayed.  My BSF leader prayed.   The other girls in my BSF study prayed.   The first couple of Wednesdays I stopped by the hall to check on Abbey.  The first week, Abbey was screaming.  So, I ended up staying in the classroom with her that day.  I got to experience first-hand what these little ones (18 months-2) were learning.  I was shocked at how much even these little ones learn about God.  They have bible story time, they hear bible verses, they sing songs.  And, of course there is also snack time and play time.  I was surprised to find out they even have a "quiet time" to think about Jesus.  The purpose of the quiet time is to get them into the habit of having a quiet, meditative time of prayer and conversing with God.  Five different women that work in the children's program came up to me and told me they were praying for Abbey....every day. (not just on Wednesdays, but every. single. day).  

The next week, I stopped by Abbey's classroom in between my own classroom time and the lecture.    I hoped that she wouldn't be in the hallway, inconsolably screaming.  Prayers were answered!  One of the volunteers in the program came right up to me and said, "Abbey is doing so well.  It is such an answer to prayer.  You should peek in her window and see." So, I did.  She was sitting in circle time, listening to a Bible story, eating a snack and looking happy.  Happy tears came streaming down my face.  I was just so overwhelmed with joy by seeing such a visible, tangible answer to prayer.  And folks, let me tell you--this was OBVIOUSLY an answer to prayer.  The next week, I checked on her.  Again, she was doing so well, so I just had to snap a photo:

Abbey is in the light pink shirt in the middle.  :-)
Y'all, the children's program at BSF is truly amazing.   Here is some information about the program from the BSF website:

As a part of day women's classes, loving, well-trained and committed leaders teach little ones about God and the Bible in age-appropriate ways. The leaders pray for the children and encourage them to continue learning with their registered adult throughout the week. (The preschoolers' curriculum is based on the lessons the adults study.) The children also learn other important life skills, such as how to obey instructions, cooperate, sit and listen — all taught in an atmosphere of love.
When they've outgrown the preschool program, children are eligible to attend the school program,which is included in men's classes and evening women's classes.
To find a women's daytime class, which includes the preschool program, click here.  

I think it is pretty precious that one of Abbey's teachers noticed she loved reading books, and so she brings some specific books that she thinks Abbey will enjoy.  Of course,  I am loving the Bible study as well and I am learning so much, even though I have read the book of Matthew many times.  If you want to know more about BSF, just ask me.  :-)

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at a local church's women's ministry event.  The only anxiety I had about the speaking engagement was whether Abbey would stay in her classroom, and if not, what would happen (since I would be speaking for an hour)?  So, I asked for prayer again.  Our time there went perfectly.  God provided the words for me to speak, and he comforted Abbey in her class.  In fact, she actually enjoyed it.  So, I am writing the post to make this point:   God answers our prayers--he truly cares about every detail of our lives, no matter how small.  I never asked anyone to pray before about things like Abbey enjoying her class (instead of screaming), because it didn't seem like a big enough request.  But, the ladies at BSF really encouraged me to list it as a prayer request.  Prayer is so powerful and it is the primary method God uses for communication with us.

You already know what is coming next.  I am going to end this post with some recent photos of our precious little Abbey.  :-)

waiting for daddy to get home from work.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

My New Normal

I wrote last month about finding a "new normal" in my life.   After going through a year of cancer treatment, it became my normal.   Now that active treatment is over, I find myself creating new routines.  I am thrilled to be able to get out with my kids, but I sometimes wonder if I am going in the wrong direction---to the other extreme from being hermit.

I find my new normal involving a new family gym membership at the YMCA (free for 3-months thanks to the Livestrong Cancer Survivor program) with visits several times per week, attending a free 6-week cooking class (another cancer survivor "perk"), attending an intense but really fun Bible Study through Bible Study Fellowship, "homeschooling" Luke, seeking out groups of other homeschooling kids, Luke starting AWANA at a local church and starting gymnastics (at the YMCA) to name a few things.  Last week was also crazy with a couple of extra activities added in there: speaking at a local church's women's ministry event, and then planning and having Luke's 4th birthday party.  After feeling like I may be going a bit extreme with my "involvement" in activities, I really began praying about it.   I truly felt God-led to sign up for all of these things, but I began to wonder why he would have me be this busy?  This "busy-ness" is something that the old Heather would often find herself in.  So, most of me wondered if it was me and not God that wanted to make my life this busy.  And if it was me, why was I doing this to myself?   

Well, God has been confirming that this is where He wants me.  I am meeting SO many new people that I would otherwise never have met through all of these activities.  Many of these people are very different than me, which I am excited about.  I am praying for opportunities to love them and share the gospel with them.  The old Heather would have been a little stressed by all the commitments, but God has given me a new heart.  This new heart is one that seeks out people to love and finds joy in everything.  I am grasping on to this heart, because I don't want to lose this new-found perspective. 

Cancer is definitely not something I would have chosen for myself, but God knew what I needed.  I love this joy that He has gifted me with--joy that I KNOW can only come from above.

I just wanted to share a little bit about where my heart is right now.  It also may explain why my posts have slowed down a bit.  Enough talk though.   You know my posts just HAVE to include photos.  We enjoyed a wonderful time last weekend with my parents.  It was packed full of activities (including Luke's party and party planning), but we found SO MUCH JOY in all of it.


Grandpa and Luke trying to skip stones
Trying to select the perfect skipping stone.
The balloons from Luke's party began losing helium.  Which made them even more fun to play with!


We attended a "chalk walk" in our downtown last weekend.  They had pony rides available to kiddos and Luke decided he wanted to ride.  It was his birthday weekend!

Abbey cried because she wanted to ride also.  But, then when we attempted to put her on the pony, she changed her mind.   Funny little girl!
Love her!