Joy

Well I told you I have been processing a lot.  I’m a little less than 3 weeks away from the year mark of receiving my cancer call.  I’ve been feeling slightly anxious about that anniversary and I wasn’t sure why.  I’m not really fearful or scared that it’s gonna come back or anything.  But it was the looking back and comparing it to the now.  It’s like when you have a baby and he’s about to turn one.  You look back to the previous year and think, “Wow, this time last year I was still pregnant.” Or “I remember this time last year I was in the hospital in labor.” Or “How fast the time goes, he was in preemie clothes, or had his first solid food, or started crawling, etc. etc.”.  So I’m coming up on all those memories in a very different way.  February 10 I received my phone call.  March 24 I had my mastectomy.  And my list continues.

When you go through something “life-threatening” like cancer you tend to re-evaluate a lot.  Look at things differently.  Re-prioritize.  You hear those stories of people who did a complete 180 – making a lot of changes in their life.  So as February 10 kept crawling closer and closer I found myself feeling more and more oppressed.  I was looking back and comparing this time (the time before the phone call) to last year and I didn’t see anything different.  My life looked and felt the same.

See, over the last year I have made declarations like: “I will never yell at my kids again” “I am going to be a better wife now” “Things are going to be very different going forward (never defining what different meant).” All because of cancer.  So when I saw that everything was the same I started getting upset and very discouraged.


This weekend I had the opportunity to attend a women’s retreat with my sweet friend Kim at the beautiful Winshape Retreat Center.  I prayed God would meet me there because I knew I needed a fresh word from him.  The speaker spoke to us about the lies our enemy, the devil, puts in our minds.  How we needed to combat those lies with God’s truth from His Word.  How satan is sneaky making us question our worth and identity.

I kept hearing the word ‘joy’ over and over whenever I would pray or study this past weekend.  And it hit me!  What is the biggest thing God has done for me over this past year?  HEALED ME!  And what should be celebrated on February 10?  Him healing me!!  And how should I respond to me being healed?  With JOY!!  Of course!!  Stupid satan was trying to steal my joy feeding me all these lies that I hadn’t made enough changes over the last year.  That I wasn’t victorious in the battle of cancer because my life had gone back to normal.  That I wasn’t worthy to celebrate anything because there was no obvious differences in my life.

That.  Is.  A.  Lie.  From.  The.  Pit.  Of.  HELL!

I have every right to be joyful on February 10.  The definition of joy:  the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good.  Ladies and gentlemen I do declare I think something exceptionally good happened this year and by golly I’m going to claim joy on February 10.  My life doesn’t need to look different.  If I’m truthful, my prayer all along was that my life would go back to normal.  Why?  Because my life was pretty great before February 10.  I wasn’t someone who needed a complete 180 life change before cancer.  Yes, we changed some of our priorities and we look at life more intently now, but day-to-day, THANK GOD, is back to good ol’ normal!

So…bring on February 10!  I’m gonna meet you with a whole big bowl of awesome sauce and sparkly confetti!

Something for you to think about:  Where might you be believing a lie – stealing from yourself the joy, contentment and peace God has for you?  What phrases or words are floating around your head?  Is it negative or positive self-talk?  Where are you making declarations on your life that may not be God-ordained?  Words such as ‘should’, ‘always’, & ‘never’ are usually good clues to self-imposed declarations.  When you hear phrases starting with ‘you’ in your head rather than ‘I’ that is a clue that it is not God speaking to you.  For example: “You are a pitiful excuse for a survivor – you are doing nothing different with your life – what do you have to show for this year?” And my response is oppression, defeat, and discouragement.  Compare that to “I am your healer, the great physician.  I love you and am proud of how you have glorified me in your journey.  I give you joy!  Celebrate the renewed life I have given you.  I am well-pleased.  “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”(John 15:11)”.) And my response is joy, victory, and encouragement: “Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you.” (Psalm 86:4)

Becoming!

Kanakuk.  Looks like a funny word.  It’s pronounced “Can-uh-kuhk”.  It’s a Christian summer camp I attended growing up.  (And for the record they spell camp with a K at Kanakuk, so if you see it spelled with a K in this post it’s just out of habit).  One thing I told Mark when we got married and started having our boys was that I hope we could send them to Kanakuk.  I have a very specific spot in my heart for the place.  It’s where I came to know the Lord personally.  It’s where I realized Christianity is real and can be fun and cool.  It’s where I heard stories of real faith and saw the director, Joe White, literally carry a cross across the kamp grounds seeing with my own eyes the reality of the struggle Jesus chose on my behalf.  I saw my counselors, college kids, totally sold out for Jesus.  Much of the faith and relationship with God I relied on over the last year I found, learned, and grew through Kanakuk.

We went to Family Kamp (called K-Kauai) two years ago – all five us.  It was so much fun. While we were at Family Kamp we met a stellar family from Dallas (of course!).  I got to know the wife pretty well and felt an instant connection with her.  We exchanged phone numbers and kept in touch via FaceBook and texting each other.  Fast forward a year when I get diagnosed and she became a huge prayer warrior for me.

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Well, this sweet lady, Cari Trotter, has a ministry (https://caritrotter.com) that God is knocking the socks off of.  I have heard her speak, I’ve done her devotionals, and I wish I lived closer to go to her live events, but I truly feel God may just be appointing the next Beth Moore of our generation.

So the coolest thing is that she just launched an app.  I mean seriously?  (Cari, I know you are reading this – girlfriend you have an app!)  I’d love for you to check it out.  It’s free.  It’s called Becoming.  Download it!!  (Click here) Cari always stands behind and in the shadow of the cross when she teaches.  I promise God will bless you through her words.

And PSA:  send your kids to Kanakuk.  But if not Kanakuk – I know there are a lot of awesome Christian summer camps out there (Pine Cove, Winshape, Highland, etc.) – send your kids to an overnight camp.  It instills an independence and ownership of their faith.  It’s life changing.

But, seriously, go download Becoming. 🙂

Update

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Santa came and brought us a trip to the Bahamas for Christmas.  Early on in my cancer journey I told Mark I wanted things to be different now, specifically how we celebrated our holidays.  I told him, “Lets take the boys somewhere and make some memories”.  It was Christmas in Georgia this year (we go back and forth between Georgia and Texas) and so Mark got with his parents and it was cheaper to go to The Bahamas than it was to go to Florida.  So after their last day of school we surprised the kids with a couple of gifts (that was the other part of my ‘different’ deal – I wanted to scale it WAY back when it comes to the gifts) and one of their gifts was a scavenger hunt that told them we were leaving Monday for the beach.

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The boys were super excited.  The house we rented was fantastic – everyone got their own room which made sleeping arrangements much easier.  The picture below was taken on the beach right outside the back door of the house.

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It was Garrett’s first beach experience.  At first he kept saying ‘wash, wash’ (which is what he says when he wants us to clean his hands).  But by the end of the trip he was able to see the fun that sand and water can provide.

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He would literally scoot on his bottom all over the beach.  Up and down the sand hills.  The amount of sand all over this kid and in his diaper and crevices was amazing!

We took the boys to the top of the world’s only remaining kerosene lit light house:  Hope Town Light House.  Garrett and Keith were not with us on this adventure (Garrett was taking a nap on Keith down on the boat).  But Hamilton and Luke loved the climb and view and adventure of crawling through the windows.  (This is Mark’s mom with them at the top looking out at the harbor of Elbow Cay).

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Despite me having a fever, double ear infection, and just feeling junky the first couple of days overall the trip was wonderful and lots of memories were made.

I’m still trying to process the new year.  2017 seemed so far away, yet something I was striving towards for so long.  Thinking back about this time last year I want to have a conversation with myself and tell the naive Ashley to get ready, be prepared, slow down, and start letting go of control.  I obviously had no idea this time last year that in just 5 short weeks the year I was planning would be turned upside down and take a very different path.  So I’m in processing mode for how to prepare, plan, set goals, and thrive in 2017.

Have you set 2017 goals?  What are your hopes and plans for the year?  Do you have traditions to kick off a new year?  I’d be interested in hearing from you.