A Thrill of Hope

The King is Coming!

Open up your eyes to see it,

Open up your ears to hear it…

The King is Coming!

Open up your mind believe it,

Open up your heart receive Him…

So if you know me even a little bit you know I’m a HUGE fan of Christy Nockels.  Her music has ministered to me endlessly throughout college and my adult life.  I was first introduced to her music when I was a student at Baylor and she was a part of a duo named Watermark with her husband Nathan.  I would go all over the place to hear them sing live.  Random churches in Texas.  The Christian radio concerts at malls (KLTY called it Lunch Bunch I think).  I would stand in line and have her sign my CD.  Then I’d go to the next concert and just turn the page and stand in line again.  Looking back that was probably pretty weird.  HA!  Each time I would talk to her though I’d say, “Please record a Christmas album,” and she’d always say, “I hope to one day”.

So fast forward, I’m living in Georgia and meeting with my mentor, Regina.  Regina had asked me to come be on a panel at a conference she was speaking at.  By now, Christy had gone out on her own as a solo artist.  I walk in and Regina (knowing I was a huge fan of Christy’s) walks me right up to her.  I had no idea she was leading worship at the conference.  We talked for a bit (me all red faced) and again I said, “Please record a Christmas album (and put O Holy Night on it)”.  She smiled and said, “I hope to one day.”

Most recently, Regina’s husband Bill, ran into Christy at a conference.  I’m not sure how she had heard about my story, but she had.  She wrote me a note and gave it to Bill to give to me.  I received some awesome notes and encouraging words from some stellar people this year, but that by far is my most treasured!


So I’m of course a member of Christy’s fan club and get her emails.  So you can imagine my excitement when I got an email announcing that she was putting out a…wait for it…CHRISTMAS ALBUM!!  It released on November 4 and does in fact have O, Holy Night on it.  The track list:

  1. The King is Coming Prelude
  2. Advent Hymn
  3. O Come O Come Emmanuel
  4. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing/O Come Let Us Adore Him
  5. Angels’ Lullaby (Mary’s Song)
  6. Song In the Air (featuring Chris McClarney)
  7. Dance at Migdal Eder
  8. Wrap This One Up
  9. Amaryllis
  10. O Holy Night
  11. Silent Night (Holding Us Now)
  12. Our Christmas Song/Make Good Your Christmas Day
  13. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
  14. Joy to The World/The King is Coming

It is called A Thrill Of Hope and I highly recommend you get yourself a copy.  It is AMAZING!!  Here is the link to purchase in iTunes (Click Here) – I’d love for you to support the album and her.  I promise you it will bless your Christmas season!

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*The chorus at the top of this post is sung on a couple songs on the album – absolutely beautiful.

Jonah

I mentioned in an earlier blog post about my disobedience.  Twice I can recall times in my life where I knew God was telling me to go one direction and I deliberately went the opposite.  Now, before you go assuming that I think I’m some high & holy Christian that has only sinned twice in her life, let me correct you.  I’m not saying sin – I do that everyday.  I’m saying God told me/called me out to do something (in both of my situations to stop doing something) and I deliberately disobeyed.

The first was in 2008 when I know God was calling me to stay at home full-time with Hamilton and quit the job I loved at North Point Ministries.  I remember crying to Mark saying I think God wants me to resign from my job.  I loved working there.  I loved my boss.  They offer on-site childcare which was amazing.  The insurance benefits were awesome.  So I had a plan to sit down with my boss and turn in my resignation.  The weekend before my meeting I got a call from Browns Bridge Church (this is the church we attend – it is a campus of North Point Ministries) asking if I might be interested in interviewing for the Director of Assimilation position.  This position helped facilitate the formation of small groups at the church and coordinated the GroupLink events the church hosted 4x a year.  Would I be interested?  Heck yeah I’d be interested?  Work with GroupLink?  Be promoted to Director?  (Background: Mark and I have served and volunteered at each GroupLink since 2001.  We have totally drunk the small group Kool-Aid and have the mustache to show for it so-to-speak.  I had always told Mark I love what I do, but man, I’d love to work in Groups).  This must be what God was telling me – he didn’t want me to quit.  He had my dream job waiting for me and just wanted me to leave my current position.  (But in my gut I knew it wasn’t right).  I decided I’d interview. And to make a long-story short – I got the job.  And it was wonderful, but it was a struggle, and about a year later I realized why.  I had disobeyed.  I was supposed to be at home doing the dream job God had for me, not the dream job I had for me.  More tears and a different boss – I tweaked my resignation letter and turned it in.  It was almost as if God was saying “Will you trust me?  Even if something better, according to you, comes along, will you trust me in what I’m asking you to do?”  I failed that test, but I learned a lot!

The second time was with social media.  I already posted about why I got off social media.  The part I didn’t tell you was that I felt God was telling me to get off at the beginning of 2016.  Well I had been slow and hadn’t really gotten off, but decided I would Valentine’s Day (why I feel there has to be a significant day I don’t know).  But…then I got diagnosed. And again I thought there’s no way now, God, you’d want me to get off social media.  People are going to want to know what’s happening.  How can I say ‘I have breast cancer’ and ‘I’m getting off social media’ in the same post?  (Ultimately…I wanted to be known.)  I had seen a friend walk through this and she had a FB page with 700+ people that followed her and prayed for her.  I needed the same thing.  Right?  Wrong.  The only person that I needed to know or be known by was Jesus.  I could send out updates without social media and still have people praying for me.  At one of my low points during the last 9 months I was up alone just crying.  I was frustrated.  I was in pain.  I was discouraged.  And I decided to look at social media (read: escape to social media) hoping for something funny to laugh at or something to smile about.  And instead, the first three posts I saw hurt.  They wounded me and I found myself discouraged in a whole new way.  Why wasn’t I invited?  Why wasn’t I included?  How did I not know about that gathering?  God knew.  If I had been off social media I would have never seen those things.  And I wouldn’t have escaped to FaceBook & Instagram, but to Him.  I would’ve allowed him the opportunity to give me something to smile about.  And so, the next day was my birthday and I signed off – went dark – on social media.  Again, I failed that test, but I learned a lot.

So…Jonah.  Remember Jonah and the whale story in Sunday school growing up?  Or maybe it’s one of those stories you have always heard about and never really thought could be true (a man living in the belly of a fish…really?!?).  I’m one of those people that just believes that everything in the Bible is true.  Jesus even references Jonah and the great fish as told by Matthew in the 12th chapter of his gospel.

So here’s a quick synopsis:  Jonah lives in a town called Gath-hepher.  God calls him to go to Ninevah to basically be a missionary.  He decides, “Nope, not gonna do it.  I’m gonna go down to Joppa where I can catch a boat to Tarshish instead.”  Look at the map below.

Ha!  Jonah was going 2,000 (yes thousand) miles in the opposite direction.  He wasn’t just saying “No!”, he was saying, “Hell, No!”.  (Is it bad I just said hell in telling the story of Jonah?  Oh well…).  So God sends a big storm and the boat starts to capsize and the sailors ask Jonah if he brought them bad luck.  He says yes and asks them to throw him over board.  As soon as they do the storm calms and “the LORD had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah.  And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17)  Jonah prays to God and “the LORD ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.” (Jonah 2:10)  Jonah then goes to Nineveh and guides the people to turn from their wicked ways and trust God.

So in my study of this story I came to a certain conclusion.  I’ve never (call me stupid) looked at this story as the whale being sent to SAVE Jonah.  Just to SWALLOW him.  “The fish swallowed up Jonah, not to devour him, but to protect him.”  Isn’t that amazing?  When we disobey, God isn’t out to swallow us, he’s out to save us!  That’s a HUGE difference!  “God could have rescued Jonah in any number of ways.  He chose this specific way because of the effect it would have on Jonah’s heart.”  Three days by myself in the belly of a stinky fish – I think my heart would’ve been humbled too.  Ultimately, “Jonah shows us that God has a way of bringing us to the place where we want what He wants.”  God didn’t swallow me when I disobeyed and took another job.  God still used me in that roll to connect 100s of people into life-changing small groups.  But he still brought me to the place of wanting what He wanted more than what I wanted.  God didn’t swallow me when I disobeyed and didn’t get off social media.  He saved me from it that night I finally surrendered and gave it up bringing me to the place of wanting what He wanted more than what I wanted.

So I ask, Is there an area in your life where God asked you to go to Ninevah, but you are experiencing the storms of going to Tarshish?  Would you choose to allow him to save you, even if it means feeling like you are being swallowed? The result in the turning from your Tarshish is true peace, because you will be smack dab in the middle of what He wants for you; His will.

 

 

Quotations taken from commentaries on BlueLetterBible.com.

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?

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.

Weathering The Storm

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I posted on my Team AJ FB page this week the following: “So we are supposed to leave on our “cancer free celebration” trip this weekend. There is now threat of tropical storms in the Atlantic. Mark bought trip insurance (thank goodness) but obviously we would really love to go. This may be a selfish prayer request but I believe my God can control the wind and rain with but two simple words “Be Calm!” (Matthew 8:26-27). Please join me in praying that this storm stays toward Central America and doesn’t turn North. But to be bold, pray that it completely dissipates!!”

The Scripture I referenced states: 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. 27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!””

(If you are wondering, we are headed to the small islands just under the ‘H’ in Hurricane in the red box in the above picture.)

We have gone back and forth.  Do we go?  Do we not go?  Is it safe?  Will the storm turn north or stay west?  All questions without any way of getting answers.  I even threw myself a pretty big (embarrassingly big) pity party this morning – I mean I was in it – streamers, balloons, and all.  Thank goodness I have some friends that could slap me silly and knock some sense in this head of mine.

Because here is the deal – we have weathered the biggest storm (to date) in our lives over the last 8 months.  And honestly – here is what I said, “God I tried to give you glory throughout it all, and all I wanted was a little celebration trip.  And you give me another storm.  A literal one this time.  That’s not fair and it hurts my feelings.”  Oh my!  Yuck!  (I seriously want to erase that paragraph, but I’m trying to be real with y’all.)

My sweet friends sympathized with me, but they also said, “Ashley, you can go and still celebrate and enjoy life.”  Of course I can.  Again, I say, where is that pause button I mentioned in my previous post?  When I can hit my head and say, “Duh!  Of Course!”  Sometimes the enemy manipulates his way into our emotions and steals all the joy from a situation, doesn’t he?

O, Lord! O, Lord!  How dare I say, “all I wanted was…”.  Don’t I sing “You are more than enough” – I don’t need (I am not in want) of anything.  I don’t deserve anything from You.  How dare I be so selfish to steal the joy from this amazing gift of time you have given me.  Not only more precious days on this earth, but sweet one-on-one time with my husband.  Time to reflect.  Time with you.  Lord, I can’t wait to spend time in your beautiful creation with you, even among the storm clouds.  Because you are always among it all.  Of course, Lord, even in this you are teaching me.   You are still present in the storm and joy can still be found!  In what situation do you need to find Him in?  He is there!  Where do you need to find joy in your life?  It is there!

So here is what I decided.  I decided I am going to go on my vacation with my man and celebrate life, rain or shine!  Abundant life!  Eternal life!  Both of which God has graciously gifted to me (and to you).

Now you tell me, how completely ironic is it that I quote Matthew 8 in reference to the storm on September 27, the day before it gets named Tropical Storm Matthew (now Hurricane Matthew).  And, just to throw some more humble pie to the face, do you know what Matthew means?  ‘Gift of God’.  I stand surrendered Lord.

…and I may just come home with a T-shirt that says, “I survived Hurricane Matthew!”

It’s My Birthday…

…And I’ll cry if I want to, cry if I want to, cry if I want to.  You would cry to if it happened to you.

Are you humming this song from the 60s now?  I’m so thankful I had parents that played the oldies radio station growing up and I can have songs like this in my memory bank.  I need to play that station for my boys – I’m failing them in the history of good music.  (by the way the picture of my parents from the previous post was taken by none other than my almost 5 year old son Luke – we thought he did a pretty good job).

Ok – back to the crying during my birthday song.  (And yes I know the words are It’s My Party, but she does say in the verse “Oh what a birthday surprise” so I took liberty with the words for the sake of this post.)  I spent the last hours of last night and the first few hours of today crying.  Just could not dry it up people – the tears kept coming and the sweet birthday texts and facebook posts kept dinging on my phone.

Here’s the deal people the last 24 hours have been rough.  I told Mark last night I wish my birthday was next week, maybe I’ll be in a better place to celebrate.  But right now…ugh!  Just ugh!  It’s just a lot and it’s heavy.

The month of July was like a big ol’ torment.  I got the taste of my life being normal.  But now I’m back sleeping in my chair because it’s more comfortable than the bed.  It hurts to walk.  It hurts to sit up.  My bruises are purple and green.  The scars are big and messy.  (I thought I mentioned this, but maybe I didn’t, they used fat grafting on my sides so the bruises go around each of the sides of my waists in addition to my chest).  I never wanted plastic surgery.  Some people consider this a ‘bonus’ when it comes to breast cancer.  I don’t honestly.  I never would have gone to a plastic surgeon on my own.  I had to face time with my baby for my birthday – he even kissed the phone.  Oh my word the preciousness – and he’s so happy.  But that’s not normal people.  I have no hair and I’m just tired of it.  I’m tired of touching my bald head.  Yes it’s growing back, but I’m tired of having to match hats to outfits every day.  That’s not normal.  You are supposed to get dressed and fix your hair – not have to make your head match or coordinate with whatever you want to wear.  And as much as I wanted today to be about celebrating life, I just couldn’t get there.  I kept thinking about six months ago today.  I thought that this time, six months later, would feel better.  Would feel further.  And it just didn’t.

Didn’t – past tense.  Not doesn’t – present tense.

I decided to tell Satan to stick his pity party up his *** and that I was done with him stealing my joy.  And so I sat down and just started journaling, writing, crying like a baby and begging God to help me, to show up, to comfort me.  And here is what I wrote:

Lord I need your comfort and your help.  I need you to lift me up on wings of eagles right now.  So high out of this shadow; out of this pit.  I’m tired.  I’m tired of climbing when falling is just easier, but if I could climb onto your back fly out under the shadow of your wings instead.  Please Father.  Sweet Abba Father help me.

Isaiah 40:31 “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.  They will soar high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not faint.” New Living Translation

 “But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired.” Amplified Version

Lord I needed this verse.  I needed it to refocus on the new life I have.  The new hair that is growing.  The new boobs that took place of the sick ones.  Celebrate new days as a survivor.  This being my first birthday after cancer.

Psalm 55:22 was my verse from the very beginning – still thinking of that Veggie Tales song.  “He will take care of you”.

Amplified Version “Cast your burden on the Lord [releasing the weight of it] and He will sustain you; He will never allow the [consistently] righteous to be moved (made to slip, fall, or fail).

1 Peter 5:7 “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” New Living Translation

Amplified “Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He care for you affectionately and care about you watchfully.”

Whew Lord.  Deep breath.  Hold my hand.  Help me take one step at a time.  I’m leaning on you Lord for support.

So there you have it.  Straight from my journal.  And I knew I had to share it with you.  I wanted his encouragement to reach out to you as well.  I feel lighter, not necessarily better.  All of those things are still my reality, but I’m not carrying them anymore.  He is.

___________

On another note I feel very strongly that the Lord is asking me to get off social media for a year.  One whole year…AAKK!  I will post occasionally on my Team AJ page, but my personal Facebook and Instagram page I will be going dark.  Birthday to Birthday.

I will continue posting updates on this public, easily accessible website since the care calendar time came to a close.  Please sign up to receive these updates to your inbox, I will slowly start migrating my health updates and posts to this site.  You can do this by clicking at the top right corner and putting your email in the blank under ‘Follow blog via email’ (if you are viewing this on your phone you have to scroll to the bottom).

Thank you for your continued prayers.

Love,

AJ

Cancer Free?

Why, YES INDEED!!
That’s been my most popular question I’ve received and I asked my oncologist, Dr. Zelnak, specifically, “What does this mean? Am I in remission? What do I call myself?” Her response was (and as my witnesses Katey and Rachael were there to hear it), “You are cancer free!” (Remission, I learned, is not really a word used for breast cancer patients.) She said you call yourself a “Cancer Survivor”. So I mean, I think that’s something to celebrate people – so please join me in rejoicing and lifting up a prayer of praise to our Heavenly Father!!
But what does this mean going forward?
  1. I have my final reconstruction (implant transfer) surgery the afternoon of August 4. I will have about a month of recovery where I won’t be able to pick G-man up, etc. My parents will be taking him back to Texas for a couple weeks to make this easier and hopefully by Labor Day (his 2nd birthday) I will be good-to-go!
  2. I will have a PET scan sometime later this fall. This will be probably my only scan. I will not have routine follow-up scans. Due to the large clean margins from my mastectomy and it being fully encapsulated in only two of the 10 lymph nodes they took there is nothing they are watching or need to watch in future scans. Chemo was completely a precaution to kill any trace of any cell of cancer. So all of this = CANCER FREE!!
  3. I will see Dr. Zelnak every three months for the first two years, every six months for the eight years after that, and then yearly from then on. I will have blood work done and routine checks/tests at each visit.
  4. I will continue to have yearly gynecology visits and mammograms (on my left side). (But just to be clear, breast cancer rarely spreads to the other breast. If I ever got cancer in my left breast it would be a completely separate cancer occurrence, not this current cancer spreading.)
  5. Starting at the end of July I will start a monthly ovary suppression shot as well as a daily estrogen-blocking pill. I will do this for 10 years (yes years). This will force me into menopause (you can start praying now for low side-effects). There is discussion whether I will just have my ovaries taken out to avoid a monthly shot for 10 years, but for now I am going to just have the monthly shot.
So, does this mean my cancer journey is over? Sorta…but, no, not really. I guess it never really is over. I will always have to check yes on the form that says ‘Have you ever been diagnosed with cancer?’. I will have the daily reminder thru a pill I’m taking and pretty frequent doctor appointments taking blood and giving me results of levels that ‘normal’ people don’t have to check. BUT!! But I refuse to be defined by cancer because I am defined by my creator. My creator says that I am (and He says that you are):
  • A child of God (John 1:12)
  • A friend of Jesus (John 15:15)
  • Justified & Redeemed (Romans 3:24)
  • Fellow heir with Christ (Romans 8:17)
  • Set Free! (Galatians 5:1)
  • Chosen, Holy, & Blameless (Ephesians 1:4)
  • Redeemed & Forgiven (Ephesians 1:7)
  • His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
  • A citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)
Don’t just quickly read over those statements and move on. Jot down those phrases and verses and read over them this week. Truly digest what God thinks about you – what your identity is. Because I can tell you it’s easy to define yourself by your circumstances, or someone’s social media update (which is usually their hi-light real, not their reality by the way), or by your job, or your education, or the size of your house, or the amount in your bank account, or whether you have ship-lap on your wall (thank you Joanna Gaines). Seriously, when was the last time you looked in the mirror and thought to yourself, “I am okay because I know that I am a redeemed child of God.”? I think we usually look in the mirror and pick out a flaw. Or when did you walk into someone’s home and instead of thinking you failed in the decorating department you thought, “It really doesn’t matter because my actual house is where my citizenship lies which is in heaven”? Or what about reading a social media status and instead of speaking negative self-talk of how big a failure you are you instead think, “I’m exactly as God created me to be, his amazing workmanship, and I’m not supposed to be like him/her, God is pleased with me!”?
That may sound all cheesy. I really hope it doesn’t. They are actually examples from my own life if I’m honest. But this latest circumstance in our life has made us not focus on cancer but on whose I really am and what He has to say about me. It’s very easy to get caught up in the pity glances and stares when I walk into a restaurant with no hair, an obvious PIC line in my arm, and three young children around me. It’s easy to only define myself with ‘cancer’. But that’s not me. It’s a part of my story, but it’s not who I am.
I recently read that God’s view of us must come first in our hearts and minds. We must reorient everything else around it. We should start with this truth. Then and only then are we really ‘suited up’ for the ‘battle’ of life. (Fervant p.62)
So take an inventory of what you think your identity is. Read those phrases and verses above and throw out the lies and take hold of the truths. Because those words of truth are the words that actually define you.
Sorry for the wordiness of this. But with these updates you’ll always get some of my heart too.
Love you,
Ashley
P.S. I’m feeling great by the way. Even took the boys to the train museum today. Hamilton is gone for two weeks to Kanakuk. The only side effect that remains right now is my yucky mouth and taste-buds – that usually takes a few weeks to fully come back. I canceled meals for July so that I can resume some of my mom responsibilities before my surgery in August. Meals in August will be a huge help – thank you so much!
P.S.S. As always you can respond to this email to comment or reply to me. Love hearing from you. Thank you for your continued prayers.

PICC is in!

I had my PICC put in this afternoon. The whole procedure itself took all of maybe 10 minutes. But I had to be there at noon. Procedure was scheduled for 1:00. I didn’t go back until about 1:30 and was back out at 2:15. The waiting and prep time was the worst. I wasn’t expecting to have to put a hospital gown on and do that whole bit. The process of just getting prepped was crazy. I kept saying “If you are about to poke a needle in me I need to hold someone’s hand” and he would say, “the doctor isn’t in here so I won’t be sticking you with anything”. Next time I requested a hand he said, “still no doctor”. Ha! He just kept messing with my arm strapping this, wrapping that, saying this will be cold, this will be tight, doing a sonogram, the whole thing. I was breathing hard needless to say.
They told me the numbing shot would feel like a bee sting. But it was nothing. (Remember I’ve had so many biopsies on much more sensitive areas – I know bee sting and that was no bee sting). It felt a little strange when they were putting the line in. I learned you don’t have nerve endings on veins – thought that was interesting. The doctor was a little strange. Told me, “Your arm and veins are tiny – I’ll give it a shot”. Umm – that did not give me confidence. Then he asked if I was going on vacation anytime soon and I told him about our trip to T&C. He said, “Oh, I have a funny story about going there. I was snorkling and came up on an eight foot shark.” Dude! Just shut up! My heart rate is going up and my anxiety rising with every word you say.
I am prayerful that the PICC will make tomorrow’s chemo infusion (which is at 9:45 in the morning) much shorter in time and much less painful. Won’t need to get poked at all tomorrow!! They can even do my blood-work through the PICC so that’s wonderful! Please join me in praying that tomorrow will go much smoother because of today’s procedure.
We are officially over the hump (HA! I just thought of those ‘Geico Hump Day’ commercials. If you have no idea what I’m talking about click here! Ha! That made me laugh. And can I just say a disclaimer – in no way am I supporting Geico – my dad is still the best State Farm agent in the world!) OK…Back on track….we are officially over the hump of chemo. After tomorrow we only have one chemo left! (I say “we” because I feel very much not alone in all of this and know that ‘Team AJ’ is with me!)
If all you wanted to read was an update on me, then you can stop reading, but if you are interested in a few more of my thoughts – feel free to keep reading or come back and read later…
There were a couple things I wanted to mention and while I’m feeling good I thought I would just…well…mention them.
1. I have received a lot questions regarding my ‘prayer requests’ in my updates. Whether it be, “I didn’t know you could pray so specifically” to “How do you pray?” or “How should I pray?”. First, let me say I am no master at prayer. I’m actually reading a book on prayer currently called Fervent by: Priscilla Shiver. (I linked the book title to Amazon – there is also a version not specific for women called The Battle Plan for Prayer.) If you saw the movie War Room awhile back – she was the main actress. Anyway, I have loved her book and really like her ‘methods’ if you will. But I personally like the acronym she gives in her book with PRAY:
  • P=Praise: Showing gratitude and being thankful for who God is and what he’s already done in your life.
  • R=Repentance: Allowing space for Him to claim your heart and hearts of those you love. Asking for the courage to trust, and turn, and walk His way.
  • A=Ask: Making your requests be known.
  • Y=Yes: This one may not make sense at first glance. 1 Corinthians 1:20 says, “All of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes!'” So accentuate your prayers with His own words from Scripture, His promises to you that correspond to your need. She gives lots of options in her book, but you could even go back and pray some of the verses I have mentioned in my posts. (i.e. Proverbs 16:9, 1 Timothy 1:12, Psalm 66:12, Psalm 55:22, Isaiah 41:10, 2 Timothy 1:7-8).
Also, just to note regarding praying specifically, look at Phillipians 4:6 in the AMP version, “Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God.” I think He wants us to be specific and personal. If you have ever heard me pray out loud there isn’t much formality to my prayers – I’ll greet him like my friend because, well, He is. I usually don’t say ‘Dear Heavenly Father’. I’ll say “Hey God”, or “What up Jesus”, or “Spirit I need some help here”. Just my thoughts.
2. I have received some questions regarding how to read your Bible. Again I am no expert and try to read my Bible consistently (outside of church or my CBS Bible study), but I miss days, even weeks. I’m not perfect with it. But I have found different Bibles have helped me in different seasons of my life. The Life Application Study Bible I loved in high school and college and even reference some of it’s study guides today. The KeyWord Study Bible I used a lot in college when I was wanting to know more of the meanings of the Greek and Hebrew words. I like jumping to different Bible versions to read the same verse and get more meaning. (I’ve thought about getting a Parallel Bible where there are different versions next to each other on the page.) You will notice I’ve done that in times I’ve referenced verses in my posts. I find the Amplified Version (AMP) or the New Living Translation (NLT) and sometimes even The Message (MSG) help bring new meaning to some verses I’m reading. But if I’m reading just to read I usually stick to the New International Version (NIV) which is probably most popular. Although the Bible I’m using right now is the NLT Study Bible.
As far as what to read or where to start reading. I would start in a gospel book: Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John because you will be reading about the life of Jesus. Typically people (whoever ‘people’ are) say to start with John. Reading a chapter in Proverbs a day (there are 31 chapters) and just repeating that every month you would gain incredible wisdom. Or you could read a Psalm a day and you would read through the book twice in a year. But really, you could read in John, reading the commentary and notes to gain insight and background context from start to finish. What I do is read until something hits me. When I think “I don’t want to keep reading because I want to think about what that verse is saying” then sometimes I’ll pray about it. Sometimes I’ll highlight it on the Bible app on my phone (which you have to download if you don’t have – it’s amazing) and then just read it different times throughout the day. Sometimes, I’ll write the verse in my journal. Or I’ll look it up in different versions and see what words are different and what else it could mean. Then I’ll start where I left off the next day. Another practice that lots of my friends do is just rewriting the Bible. That sounds daunting when I say it that way. There is a blog my friends and I found that we have started over the last month: Click Here. She comes out with a new Scripture Writing plan each month. She offers a women, Spanish, and men version and they are on different topics each month and a few verses (no more than 10 min. of time) each day. This month is on Forgiveness.
So there are some ideas for you. As always, whether it is about my cancer journey, prayer, the Bible, or anything else feel free to leave a comment or just respond to this email.
Hope you are enjoying your first week of June!
Love Always,
AJ