Wine

Recently I was feeling pretty parched.  Dry.  Empty.  And not in a physicality sense, but a spiritual sense.  I was running on all four cylinders in all four directions.  I had not taken the time to sit and commune with God.  It made me think of a verse my sweet mentor, Regina, had me memorize many moons ago:

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  John 15:4-5


Remaining in him requires me to actually be on his vine.  I can’t expect to feel hydrated without spending time with him – without investing in my relationship with him.  I can’t be filled up if I’m not even on a branch.  I desire to be so overflowing with Him that I become a delicious product of His vineyard.  That I could be the wine that comes from his harvest.  I desire that when the fruit of my life is squeezed, abundance flows from it.  I don’t want my fruit to be the shriveled, dried up and dead pieces.  The ones that look so gross you don’t even want to touch them.  (Those lead to produce a different kind of ‘whine’).  I want to be the big, ripe, juicy pieces of fruit that are attractive and useful.


I say all this and still have to admit that it’s a struggle. Remaining on the vine is not easy. John also refers to the pruning process in chapter 15. Cutting back and cleaning is never comfortable, but it always produces richer and more excellent fruit. I’ll say this – whenever I have remained in him; I have never wished I hadn’t.

Here are my questions to you (and to me):  How is your fruit?  What type of wine would your fruit produce?  What do you need to start doing (or quit doing) to remain in him?

Fall Fashion

I know you will all be jealous of my latest fall fashion statement piece. 


I go back to see the doctor in three weeks where I hope I will be given the all clear. We are headed to Texas for Thanksgiving so I’d like to not have to travel in a boot. 

Recovery from surgery is going well. I’m off of Percocet and just on Tylenol. I’m bruised and sore (feels like bad PMS cramps), but getting around ok. 

I was able to drive today which was nice but still not feeling quite back to normal. Not sleeping great. It’s been such a huge help to have my mom in town to help so I can just rest and take it easy. 

We are going to (finally) celebrate Garrett’s second birthday this weekend as well as Halloween on Monday. I hope you all have a fun and enjoyable weekend. Who is believing that November is next week!?!

Thank you for continuing to pray for me and for reaching out to check on me. I have such an amazing support system. THANK YOU!!

Surgery Update


So if you follow my Team AJ page on Facebook you saw this picture already. That would be my leg Thursday night after visiting the ER. (Thank you Katey for pulling strings to get me in quickly – I got there at 7:00 and was in the car leaving at 9:00. The place was packed so for me to have been seen, have X-rays, and be done in two hours was nothing but a miracle!)

Thursday after dinner we went outside to play with the boys and enjoy the beautiful weather. Honestly, I just wanted to have some fun with the boys before I was going to be cooped up and recovering for the next week. Somehow, while running after Hamilton, I turned/stepped funny. I didn’t feel anything or hear anything pop – but my next step I just buckled and went down. 

Luckily Joan was already here and so she took the boys inside to start baths. Mark stayed with me as I started taking my shoes off to see if I could see what happened or a difference between my feet. He tried to help me stand up, and with a scream of some few choice words, I realized that wasn’t going to happen. We then knew we needed to go to the ER. Mark carried me to the car – me crying the whole way (the foot dangling and bouncing was excruciating). 


At first they thought I broke my right metatarsal bone above my pinky toe. However, Xrays showed no fractures. After feeling around my foot she felt like it must be a strained, pulled, or torn tendon in the same area. She gave me a recommendation for an orthopedist, wrapped my foot up like a football, gave me some Percocet and sent me on my way with crutches. Due to my surgery she also wrote me a Rx for a walker. Having surgery with 3 incisions along your stomach isn’t great for crutches. 

So I had my surgery Friday morning. All went well and was pretty quick. We got there at 6:30. They knocked me out about 7:30 and we were back on the road by 9:00. We stopped by the pharmacy to pick up my new mode of transportation (the walker) and some aspirin. I’m supposed to be walking around every hour to help prevent blood clots as well as get the gas pockets to absorb. But I can’t really do that so the aspirin is supposed to help. 

I feel pretty good if I keep up with the Percocet regimen. I’m supposed to follow up with Dr. Howard (my GYN who did the surgery) in a month. I have an appointment for my foot in a couple weeks. 

At first I was just so mad. It was like – seriously God – why is this happening? This is the last thing I need. But, on the way to the ER, Mark prayed over me and we talked about how this will be a part of my story. And I literally was praising his name that it happened after our vacation, and that I was already going to be recovering from surgery so it’s not putting me out, and that Joan and my mom already had plans to be here to help. God was not surprised and already had the details taken care of for me!


And…


That last graphic is 1 Peter 5:7. 

Once again I was reminded that God is a personal God and he cares for me. The hits keep on coming but as my sweet friend told me, “Nothing will keep you down.”  Throwing all my cares on Him allows Him the opportunity to sustain me. 

I appreciate your continued prayers. I will continue to keep you updated. 

AJ

Surgery Friday

I just wanted to give you an update regarding my surgery Friday.  I had my pre-op appointment this morning so I was able to get more details and information.

First, the reason for the surgery is because I am not responding as well as they had hoped to the ovary-suppression shots.  Dr. Zelnak wants my estrogen levels below 30 and I was in the mid-100s.

Surgery details:

  • I check-in at 6:30a for a 7:30a surgery Friday morning.
  • Surgery should last about 30 minutes and if all goes well then I should be discharged late morning/early afternoon time frame.
  • They are removing both ovaries and tubes (originally we thought just ovaries).
  • My mother-in-love is staying with the boys on Friday and helping through the weekend.  My mom arrives on Sunday afternoon and will stay through next week to help.  Thank you for all the offers for meals, etc. – we are taken care of.

Ways you can pray:

  • Anxiousness regarding side effects to menopause.  I currently am in chemo-induced menopause, but taking the ovaries out will obviously put me in deep menopause within an hour.  The side effects can begin within days or weeks – everyone responds differently.  My desire is for my side effects to remain minimal.
  • Once again, I am unable to lift Garrett for about 7-10 days.  Prayers for continued resilience on his part.
  • This be my last surgery EVER!
  • Overall encouragement and joy for my soul.  The last two weeks have been very hard for one reason or the other (no need to go into details).  I have been downtrodden and discouraged.

I will have someone (probably Mark) update this site and the FB page with updates regarding the surgery.  If you have not followed the Team AJ FB page you can do so here:  CLICK HERE.

Love,

AJ

No Whammies

I have received a lot of questions regarding why I decided to take some time off from social media.  First, it had become an issue of obedience for me – or rather disobedience as it turns out.  But that’s another post for another time.

The simplified reasons are:

First: Joy.  Or really lack there of.  Social media was not bringing me joy, it was bringing me down.  I was comparing myself.  In how I mothered.  In how I looked.  How my house looked.  I felt left out a lot.  I would see friends posting about their social time with other friends and find myself sad that I wasn’t included.  I got frustrated or angry at posts.  And, really, ‘mama ain’t got time for that’.

Second:  Time.  I was wasting So.  Much.  Time.  It was ridiculous.  It was the never-ended abyss of clicks and likes and comments and videos and articles and recipes and memes and…and…and…

Third:  An Unhealthy Escape.  I came to escape to social media.  If I was frustrated with my kids or down on my day I’d escape to Instagram or Facebook hoping for a laugh.  If I needed a time-out or just to veg a little I’d escape to social media looking to pass some time.  But these both led to the first two issues – I’d end up wasting more time than I intended and I’d end up feeling worse off than I started.  It was like looking for a ‘No Whammie’ and getting a ‘Double Whammie’ when ‘Double Whammie’ was all that was left to choose from.  It never provided what I went with the hopes to get.

I think that third reason is a biggie.  What do you escape to?  Diet Coke?  Chocolate?  Social Media?  Games on your phone? TV?  A good fiction book?  I am in the process of learning how to escape to the only one who can truly accept and help what I’m escaping from.  Not to sound ‘christianese’ here, but I’m talking about escaping to Jesus.  He’s the definition of freedom.  He’s the epitome of acceptance.  He can provide the deep breath and help I’m so desiring.  Jesus only offers ‘No Whammies’.    So why shouldn’t I try escaping to Him first.  I might still want to veg out in a good book or work on the puzzle in my phone app afterwards, but at least I have taken a moment and gone to Him first.

I am not saying that drinking a diet coke, while snacking on chocolate, with your nose in a good book is bad.  Not at all.  I’m just challenging you to go to Him first.  You may just find you have more cokes in the frig and chocolate on the shelf.

Amazing!


Our trip was absolutely amazing.  I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful and wonderful it was.  And to answer the question I know you have been wondering – Hurricane Matthew completely missed us.  God was so gracious to us with the weather.  We had some strong winds one night and a couple cloudy/overcast days, but considering what Haiti, the Bahamas, and the eastern coast of the U.S. got – we were completely spared.  Turks and Caicos Islands are less than 200 miles directly north of Haiti.  We were getting a littler nervous after the resort delivered a letter and some lanterns (in case we lost power) to our room stating the warning we were in and to let us know the airport had been closed.  So we tracked the radar and followed the storm.  In the picture below on the left side is the radar (we are the blue dot) and the right side is the picture at the exact same time off our balcony.  Truly no explanation, but just a vivid picture of God’s graciousness.


Our favorite place (that we drove across the island to visit three different days) was Taylor Bay.  Back when I first got diagnosed in February, Mark researched and planned this trip.  He had it booked before my surgery at the end of March.  He would periodically send me pictures of the resort or islands as an encouragement stating things like “this will be us” or “this will be over soon”.  The following picture I made my screen saver on my phone so I saw it everyday, multiple times a day, whenever I looked at my phone.


That is Taylor Bay.

And this is us in Taylor Bay.


It was surreal to literally be IN the picture I had been staring at for the last six months.  Every chemo.  Every surgery recovery.  Ever really sick day.  Or just discouraging day.  I would look at that first picture and pray.  I would find hope in the future.  And when we got there and I saw it – well it was sorta emotional.  We had made it.  God had brought us through.  And so we sat under a tree and prayed and talked about our future hopes and dreams – because God had chosen to assure us a future we could talk about.  This story is not yet over.  Cancer will not get the last word.  And yes, I don’t know what that future holds.  I don’t know if cancer has left for good or will be written again in a future chapter of the novel of my life, but I know for now it is gone and it was worth celebrating all we had survived and God had accomplished!


#takethatcancer
(In no way am I wanting to come across as insensitive regarding the true tragedy that has taking place in those areas impacted by Hurricane Matthew. We prayed then and continue to pray and support aide in those areas. It is not lost on me that I was spared for a vacation and not 200 miles away many people lost lives and homes.)

In-Loves

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These precious people are watching our munchkins this week.  Our boys call them Mimi and Papa J.  They are my in-laws, but Joan and I like to use the term “in-loves” instead.  In a previous entry I posted about my own parents and what a support and lifeline they have been during these past 8 months.  Mark’s parents, too, have been a huge help to us.  They are local to us so they were able to help during the immediate time from my diagnosis in February until my surgery in March.  Joan dropped and canceled a lot to babysit to allow me to go to doctor’s appointments (and still does).  Mark and his dad own a company together and his dad was so gracious and understanding with all the time off Mark took this year so I could have my husband by my side during the thick of it all.

I pray for my boys wives, but I also pray they are as lucky as I am with the ‘in-loves’ they marry into.  I know without the prayers, love, support, and care the Jansens have shown I would not have gotten through this year.