The Pink Affair

This past weekend we did something we haven’t done probably since our wedding: dress up and go to an event with a DJ and dancing.  Man it felt good and we had a ton of fun.

The event was called ‘The Pink Affair‘ and it was a Fundraising Gala supporting Turning Point.  Turning Point is where I went for all my physical therapy after my surgery and during all my cording pain.  It is a not-for-profit treatment facility just for breast cancer patients and was truly an amazing gift to me over this past year.

I wish I could have invited everyone (and flown in a lot of out-of-towners), but I chose to use it as a celebration honoring those friends that went over and beyond anything I could have asked for in how they loved, supported, and cared for me this past year.  We all got dressed up (and got to see our hubbies in suits), put on heels (oh my how my feet hurt!), met at our house for pictures (think prom), and drove to The Westin.


There was a live and silent auction (Two words: Puppy Party! – that’s an insider for those that were there) and then dinner and dancing.  It was a blast!!


I think it’s something I will want to go to for years to come to support this amazing organization that I would have survived without, but wouldn’t have been able to thrive without.  (Save the date next year: 3/24/18 – who’s coming with me?)

Catching Up and Breathing

So life got a little crazy and I’ve ignored the need to write updates.  I remember at one point telling Mark, “Who planned all these back-to-back events on our calendar?” (knowing full-well it was me!).  Needless to say I purchased a big white board calendar with 4 months at a time rather than just my phone.  I fell into the trap of ‘it was clear so it can be filled’ without seeing the big picture of what may be happening before or after in the month.
The weekend of January 20 I went to Winshape Retreat Center for the Cup of Joy Retreat.  If you are local to Georgia and have never been to Winshape you must go – it’s amazing!  I actually took my boys and parents recently to see the campus it’s that pretty.  It rests at the back of Berry College.  I went with my friend, Kim Cone, who is an alumni so she was able to show me all the special spots on campus.
The following week we kicked off a new couples small group with our church that we are leading and we served at the GroupLink event at our church that weekend.  Mark and I have served with that ministry of our church for our entire married life and love doing it together.  (Find somewhere to serve with your spouse – it’s a game changer!).  Later that week I flew out to Texas to surprise my dad.  After 40 years of working as an insurance agent with State Farm he retired.  It was so special for our ‘original’ family of four to be together for this monumental time in my dad’s life.


Then the Super Bowl happened which was a big deal for us of course with the Atlanta Falcons representing.  (I ran out to Wal-mart  that week and got us all shirts – we are obviously BIG and LOYAL fans (ha!)).
The weekend of February 10 was wonderful.  I was honored to have been nominated to attend The Confetti Retreat which is put on for women with cancer and a friend of their choice.  It was a God thing to me that the ‘Spring’ Retreat which they always hold in March or April had to be moved up to this weekend – the weekend that just happened to be the year anniversary of my diagnosis.  They completely pampered and spoiled us and it was amazing.  Here is me and my friend Kimberly McLeod that came with me.
Mom and Dad came in town the weekend of February 17 for us to enjoy a weekend away.  We used our Marriott points and stayed at The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds Plantation Resort.  It was so relaxing and absolutely beautiful.
The following weekend, February 24, we sent the boys to my in-laws and had a ‘work weekend’.  It was the first time that we had been able to ‘work’ on our house since moving in.  I had been keeping a list of all the things I’d like to change, do, or organize, but was never able to.  Since I had my surgery the same week we moved in and then the whole year flew by with chemo, more surgeries, recoveries, injuries, etc. it just never happened.  I had sweet family and friends that unpacked me and decorated for me so it was time to put some of my own touches on the house and organize some corners and spaces that had been ignored for way too long.

And yes, if you are keeping count, that was three weekends in a row that I was away from my kids…and I’m not done yet…

The first weekend in March we had been planning (for almost 5 months) to go to Pigeon Forge, TN for a retreat with our new small group couples.  The Thursday evening before we left we ended up having to postpone the retreat to September due to illness and other conflicts with couples in the group.  This ended up being a blessing in disguise and allowed us to have a nothing-planned-and-nothing-to-do-weekend at home with our boys.

Which brings me to last week…Garrett was diagnosed with the flu (another reason it was good we weren’t traveling when he started not feeling well).  So the whole week was canceled and I stayed home and snuggled with him.  The whole family got on Tamiflu.

This past weekend my long-time friend (over 20 years!) Jenny (Faulk) Morgan came in town with her sweet family.  We have 6 boys between us…SIX!  Needless to say it was a fun time with lots of sword-fighting, outside play, and energy.  I took the boys out of school Friday and we visited (and hiked!) Stone Mountain.


So I hope you enjoyed the scrapbook of pictures so-to-speak catching you up on the last couple months.  I will be hopefully getting back to my weekly posting now.

Needless to say, I’m hopeful that the new calendar will prevent me from over-scheduling our family again.  The importance of rest became quite apparent to me over the last 8 weeks.  There is a reason God worked in a day of rest every 7 days – time to slow down and actually breathe.

Do you need to take time to rest?  Maybe you need to look at your calendar as a bigger picture and see if there are things you should start saying “no” to.  I challenge you to take the time to breathe – I know I am!

 

P.S.  Make sure to click on the hyperlinks I included.

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.

 

Merry Christmas!

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(These are the pictures and the copy of the letter we mailed out in our Christmas card this year)

Well, 2016 will for sure go down in the history books for our family as one where we saw God provide, grow, bless, and protect us.  As most of you know I was diagnosed with breast cancer on February 10.  I had mastectomy surgery at the end of March, chemo throughout the summer, reconstruction surgery in August, and an oophorectomy in October.  In the midst of the cancer journey we moved six days before my first surgery, put our beloved dog down in July, and I tore a ligament in my foot the day before my last surgery this fall.  But…God has been good to us.  (You can go to ashleyjansen.com and read all my posts from this year for those details).  There were some hard days no doubt.  And I don’t doubt there will be more hard days in our family’s future.  For now, His will has been to save me from this disease.  But even if he had not (or ultimately does not), I still serve a good God and gracious God that has saved me eternally.  He did this by sending his Son as a baby to grow up to ultimately be the redeeming sacrifice for my life (and your life).  And that, no matter what happens to my health, is so so good.  “…The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” (Job 1:21)

My prayer for you this Christmas season is that you can recognize, maybe for the first time, who this Savior, Jesus, is in your life.  Because for me, He is more real than ever before.

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*Photos courtesy of Shannon Holden Photography.

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.

Thankful

Yesterday was Thanksgiving and everyone was thanking someone or being thankful for something.  And I am no different.  We had a wonderful holiday week in Texas where I got to hug necks of family I hadn’t seen since before (or very early on in) my diagnosis. 

Sometimes we enjoy the holiday, but then forget the day after what and why we celebrated.  So, let me remind you to remember to still be thankful today.

I am thankful for you!  For praying for me this year.  For continuing to read my posts.

I am thankful for my husband!  I have never felt more loved than how he loved me this year.

I am thankful for my boys!  They were so resiliant this year and well, they are just good kids.

I am thankful for my family!  My parents, sister and BIL, in-laws, and extended family all were so selfless and generous with their time and help.

I am thankful for my friends!  Local and out of town.  They supported me so well.

I am thankful for my health and that I can declare that I am CANCER FREE!

I am thankful for Jesus!  Because he gave me all the above that I am thankful for, but he also gave me his life so that I can have mine.

 

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!


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(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.)