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The Rebellious Boob Chronicles: Chemotherapy – Brutal but Effective

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Round three of chemotherapy was by far the harshest so far. After my treatment on Monday, I woke up with the beginnings of cold/allergies on Tuesday morning. I usually get one cold every 3 to 4 years at the most and never deal with allergies, yet this is the second cold I have had in a month. It lasted for two weeks (and the allergies are still lingering) and sucked the sap right out of me, ugh! Let me insert I also never take any over the counter cold medications but after drinking my apple cider vinegar/honey and lemon water for days to no avail, I resorted to some Alka-Seltzer plus severe cold (to no avail I might add). I missed another weekend of adventuring and I was nonetheless unhappy about that and I found myself feeling angry.

The second thing I dealt with was the mouth issue again. Thankfully using the Miracle Mouthwash at night before going to bed and the Biotene religiously throughout the day, although my mouth was raw, I was able to maintain enough where I did not get any sores. However, the metal taste was so prevalent this time and I spent two weeks not being able to eat anything. EVERYTHING I ate and drank, even water, tasted like metal, and I used plastic silverware! I survived on protein smoothies, jello and pudding for two weeks.

The little bit of food I was able to choke down stayed on my stomach for about 5 minutes and then it was the familiar mad dash to the bathroom, which I seldom won. I had some of the worst stomach cramps I have ever had in my life. I do believe I picked up a stomach virus for a couple of days upon the beloved back door trots side effect of chemotherapy. Yay me, right? Have you ever thrown up so much that you had nothing left in you and the dry heaves? Well, I didn’t throw up but experienced the same effect on the other end of the spectrum. Hello fuzzy!  And that is all I will say about that. After a few days I found myself frustrated, exhausted, 12 pounds lighter and ‘hangry.’

For someone with my background, the state of being ‘hangry’ is something that I have never been able to quite understand. Why would people get mad when they are hungry? To me, food has never been a source of pleasure or satisfaction.  From the time I was 13 until I was 33, I struggled with anorexia and bulimia. I could go for days without eating but a morsel of food, and when I felt like I did overeat, I took measures to rid my body of what I looked at as my enemy ASAP. It became a lifestyle for me, a second nature so to speak. The only time I was conscious of eating right was throughout my pregnancies, but as soon as my babies were born, I fell right back into the mindset. After coming to terms with the struggle and making a lot of changes over the years, food became a source of maintenance for me. I rarely crave anything and seldom sit down and really enjoy what I am eating. I eat to be healthy (except after a big hike and then I may eat the heck out of a pizza or a big ole burger, fries and cheesecake or pie!) So for me to be hungry to the point that I was angry about it was an extreme. Nevertheless, I was angry.

I am thankful that the week I was in Fort Lauderdale for training, food finally began to taste good again! Every morning I ate the biggest Belgium waffle you have ever laid eyes on and enjoyed every minute of it. One of my fellow trainees even commented on how I seemed to enjoy my waffle each morning, lol. After I told her my dilemma, she completely understood and celebrated with me and my ability to eat. I believe when this season of my life is over, I will actually appreciate the ability to sit down and appreciate a good meal much more than I ever have.

I experienced nosebleeds for the first time ever in 49 years. I woke up several mornings with the inside of my nose hurting so bad I could hardly touch it. I assumed it was just from the drainage from the cold however, when I went to put some Aquaphor in it to ease the pain, I noticed I had sores all on the inside of my nose and it was blood raw. Ouch! Oh, and all the nose hairs you have in your nose…gone…without a trace.  I blew my nose carefully, 5 minutes later I had a nose bleed that did not won’t to stop. Can someone say angry??

My face broke out like I was a pubescent teenager and I started noticing some small sores on one of my elbows. I developed a pin size rash on most of my body and might I add it itched like a mother cracker! Bruises from hiking and climbing lasted for weeks, and a simple nick on my skin while cutting my toenail turned into an infection by the next morning. Other simple cuts on my finger and a scratch from a cat briar from hiking bled for two dang hours! WTH! My body just seemed to be falling apart more each day. Can someone else say angry???

One morning while getting ready for work, I noticed my eyelashes and eyebrows were thinning very noticeably and my left eyebrow has this bald spot that refuses to be filled in with an eyebrow pencil. Even though I lost 12 pounds, my face felt like it was puffed up like a blowfish and, at times, when I looked in the mirror, I scarcely recognized myself and I struggled to see Christy staring back at me. I found myself, yep you guessed it, angry! and yes, I cried a little.

There were more days than usual that I felt tired, struggling to get through my work days and evenings to the point that I didn’t think I had the energy to drive 6 minutes to get home.  When my friends and family would call, text or message me to encourage me and remind me that I was ‘one of the strongest women they knew”  I wanted to scream and cry because strong was the last thing I was feeling and I somehow felt like I was failing them all. For the first time through the process, I was not just pissed off, I was angry at all that my body was enduring from the side effects of the chemicals.

I would close my eyes at night and thank God that I had made it through another day and when morning rose, I would pray for sufficient grace to make it through the day and for new mercies to find me, and they always did.

One thing I have always been is real, open and honest and, well, the truth isn’t always pretty. In fact reality can be quite harsh at times but I have always found freedom and healing in authenticity no matter how raw it looks sometimes. When people ask me how my treatments are going, I tell them the truth – brutal but effective. Why do I say brutal? This process that is working to save my life also robs me of my dignity at times. It’s a little embarrassing at work when I have to tell my co-worker that works our front desk that I have to run home and change clothes. It robs me of my confidence at times when I look in the mirror and I see a stranger looking back at me. It robs me of my motherhood at times when my children have to take care of themselves when they are sick or when I am too tired to cook a simple meal. (Let me insert – they have been more than understanding and wonderful to help me and take care of me when I need it!) It robs me of my joy at times when my grand babies want to play and I don’t have the energy. Chemotherapy is brutal yet effective and the tumors are shrinking significantly already and for that I am very thankful!

So as I gear up for round 4 today, I will be 2/3’s of the way done with this process. Insert a big Woo flipping Hoo! I remind myself that this process is working to save my life. This process is going to give me many more years of love, adventure, joy and fulfillment. Although this process is brutal it is actually on my side and rooting for me. I prepare myself as I draw strength from the One who holds me in the palm of His hand. I take with me every prayer, positive thought, word of encouragement, phone call, message, card, text, support and love that is so generously being poured out to me by so many, I am beyond blessed! I clothe myself with a warrior spirit ready to fight this dragon called cancer that has invaded my body. I will fight with a vengeance and I WILL win and I WILL be cancer free! In my near future when I am standing on the mountain top again, I will not forget those moments when it felt like that very mountain was crushing me (thank you to a wonderful friend for those words!). I will be thankful and I will be better than I am at this moment.

It is time…Let’s do this! Round 4, here I come!

 

April 15, 2019

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Posted by on April 15, 2019 in breast cancer, Uncategorized

 

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The Rebellious Boob Chronicles: Chemotherapy Round 2 – Knowledge is Power

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The unknown is always a tricky place to be. The first round of chemotherapy on February 11, 2019 was like delving into the dark pits of uncertainty. I had read entirely too much information, had talked to others who had been through it all before me, and was even informed by my wonderful medical staff of what to possibly expect (and I mean that sincerely, they really are awesome!). I went in with a positive attitude, a strong mind set (which is immensely important!) and just knew that I was going to handle the treatment like a boss and not let it wreak havoc in my incredibly healthy body. Bahahahaha, I know right, you have to love my ignorance and stubbornness. Yes, there are some common factors that come along with chemotherapy, however until the chemicals are pumped through YOUR body, you honestly do not know what is going to happen. (Refer to previous blog entry for all the gory details!) After round one gave me a rude awakening, I went into round two with a completely different mindset.

Round two came on March 4, 2019. I still walked into the treatment with a positive attitude and a strong mind set, but I also walked into it with something else that I didn’t have before – knowledge, and we all know that knowledge is power! As I said in my blog about the first round, I am a quick learner and I took every lesson in with me into the treatment room.  The side effects came, however this time I had gained my own personal experience of what might could and would happen and I was much more prepared for the next few weeks that would follow. These are some of the lessons I learned:

Biotene Mouth Rinse is a God send. Have it on hand and RINSE! RINSE! RINSE! 3 times a day, daily, beginning as soon as you get home from treatment. Do not wait until you wake up feeling like you’ve swallowed a desert of cactuses.  It is inevitable that your mouth will become raw and develop these annoying little sores all over, and some of them might be right on the pressure points of your tongue where you swallow. It can also make your throat very raw, which puts a strain on your voice to talk (I didn’t hear anyone around me complaining about me talking less 🙂 ). Preventative maintenance will make it bearable instead of overwhelming.

No matter how regular or irregular your bowel movements were before chemotherapy, they absolutely will not be regular during this season. Have plenty of Imodium AD on hand and absolutely take it just the way the doctor tells you too! She is the professional and she knows things! Used to I could take 1 Imodium and not go for a month. Now I’m lucky to not go for 5 minutes after taking 8 in one day. Insert…my apologies for talking about BM’s if it makes you uncomfortable, but another lesson I learned quickly is that BM’s become a common topic of conversation and you have no dignity in this matter during treatments especially if you have only one bathroom in your house. You will be knocking the door down with intense urgency if someone else is there when you need to go! I have told my children and others that a successful day on chemotherapy is when you don’t use the bathroom on yourself. I don’t always have successful days…but following the rules will make those unsuccessful days less few and farther between.

Bland foods are a must during the first week or two after treatments. Nothing you crave will taste like it should. Even your beloved coffee! Yikes!  Mashed potatoes, soups, jello, pudding, yogurt (non-probiotic kind!) applesauce, and my new favorite food – peaches with vanilla parfait on the bottom – will become necessary staples in your pantry. Banana popsicles and frozen cokes are heaven sent and are so soothing when your mouth sore ridden and on fire! Whatever you do DO NOT eat General Tso’s chicken – negative, no, nay, never, ever when your mouth is on fire!

God moments are everywhere! Sometimes you think that something is for you (referring to the pink wig in the picture above bought for me by one of my awesome friends!)  but it turns out to be for others too. It’s always a good feeling to bring joy and sunshine to people and put a big smile on their faces. Always be on the look out for God moments!

One of the greatest lessons I learned in round one is to say yes when people ask if they can help you. I have spent many years of my life being the caregiver, the one reaching out and taking care of others. I am a mom, that’s what we do. I am also a very independent soul and I am use to taking care of myself. Yet, so many friends have reached out to me wanting to help me during this season of my life and I honestly can’t tell you how wonderful it is! Little things mean so much! These are just a few of them:
Dinner that others bring to you for you and your family so you don’t have to cook (and they always come at just the right time!)
Your daughter cooking dinner for everyone, and cleaning up!
Cute hats that others who have walked this journey give to you.
Hats that your TRIBE orders for everyone for your support J
Cards, letters, messages, phone calls, random visits, words of encouragement, songs, and scriptures sent to you always brighten the moment!
Hand and foot spa treatments (oh yes!)
Not charging you for shaving your head when your hair is falling out (that experience will be another blog).
A listening ear when I need to vent, cry a little or talk about how I don’t want to talk about cancer time. A strong shoulder is wonderful, especially when it’s attached to a handsome face with the prettiest blue eyes ever 🙂
Care packages – some that have come from as far as Florida and New Hampshire!
Again, So many little things mean so much!

The other great lesson I have learned going through round one was a much needed reminder that I read on a precious friend’s blog who is going through Breast Cancer also. In one of her entries (quote, unquote) she spoke about how we are quick to refer to the treatments simply as ‘chemo’ leaving off the ‘therapy’ part. Do you know how many times I have done this already? When we do that, it is easy to focus on the negative aspects – the dreadful side effects – the awful things the chemicals are doing to our bodies. However these treatments are made up of two aspects – chemo (the drugs and chemicals used) and therapy – therapeutic medical treatment of impairment, injury, disease, or disorder. This chemotherapy is more, much more than toxic chemicals that are pumped through my body. It is a treatment used for the eradication of the cancer cells that is attacking my health. It is intended for good on my behalf and Praise the Lord, it is working already! I can physically feel one of the tumors already reducing in size after two treatments! Can anyone say hallelujah?!? And when it is all said and done, I am banking on the prognosis of being cancer free just like the doctor has told me I would be and the chemotherapy will play a huge part in that outcome. I will settle for nothing less! So thank you Cindy for that much needed reminder, you helped me tremendously!

While finishing this blog, round three is complete! I am halfway through this part of the journey, woot woot! I feel positive, strong minded, and much more knowledgeable which makes me more powerful and focused. The chemical warfare has been launched, now let’s eradicate those little terrorists!

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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The Rebellious Boob Chronicles: When God Makes Your Coffee…

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Do you ever have this sneaking suspicion that something just isn’t right? You hear your intuition talking to you and you try your best to acknowledge it and ignore it all at the same time? Last spring through the fall (2018), there were moments I just did not feel like myself. Times, especially on the trail, that I would feel fatigued more so than I thought I should with no reasonable explanation. With having several diabetics in my family, I too have struggled some with regulating my sugar over the past few years so I would just always reason it out as being that, and perhaps some moments that was truly what was going on. However, there was this deeper gnawing in my gut that would throw these ridiculous thoughts into my head. I would shake them off and think…what the heck Christy? I would pray, rebuke (yes, I was raised charismatic! Lol), and go about my business. Then, around July or August, I started noticing a lump in my right breast changing. In 2015 I had a mammogram come back questionable, went for a diagnostic mammogram and an ultrasound and thankfully the diagnosis was just density. It was a scary moment, scary enough to make me cautious and I kept my mammograms up from that point on, even when I didn’t have health insurance. (Kuddos to a grant at your local health department. Check it out!) Always, it showed up, always it came back as density. In November of 2018, I made yet another regular mammogram appointment, went, received the same diagnosis and was scheduled for yet another diagnostic mammogram and ultra sound for January 3, 2019. This time seemed a little different than the last, the concerns a little more pressing, more care taking during the examination and I somehow knew that a biopsy was on the menu. Now I am a faith filled woman who believes in praying about everything, I had already been talking to God about the possible outcomes and reasoning with him why having something wrong with me would not work at this stage in my life.  My biggest concern, my fear, my pleas…My children, Lord, please don’t make them walk this road again. My children lost their dad to colon cancer in 2011 and needless to say it has been a very tragic and painful road for them. Please Lord, not for my sake, but for theirs, let everything be okay.

I shared the news of the upcoming biopsy with a few close friends to have them pray for my outcome. One of my girlfriends, you know the kind that have been intertwined into your being and became an essential part of your life?  She agreed to go with me to the biopsy, just in case, for comfort and support. And thus it was scheduled, January 10, 2019. I got up that morning standing somewhere between confidence, faith and agitation. I really didn’t have time for all this. I opened my phone to Facebook and my memory from January 10, 2018 stared me in the face: “Dear Christy, when I choose not to move the mountain, then what?” Lamentations 3:21-25. (FYI: My Dear Christy series is a whole other blog!)  I felt like I had been hit with a ton of bricks. I had been fervently praying for God to move the mountain I anticipated in the distance, and it was at that moment I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, inevitably, me and my children were going to be facing a mountain not of our choosing. Emotion consumed me and I let out a huge sigh. I admit I was a little pissed off at that fact that my children would again have to walk a difficult journey that they had no control over. I was fearful of what the news would do to their precious hearts. My mind full of anguish over the terror that would be piercing to their souls when I had to tell them the news that their mother had cancer. I’m a fairly persistent woman so again I pleaded with my Lord, please; do not make them walk this journey.  Please. Not this mountain, Lord. I said nothing to my children and settled within myself that I wouldn’t say anything until I had something in concrete to tell them.

Fast forward to January 18, sitting in the doctor’s office with my soul sister again by my side. The diagnosis: invasive ductal carcinoma in my right breast. Two places, Stage 1 and 2. I scheduled an appointment with the surgeon and left the office in a fog, trying to figure out how I could get through this diagnosis perhaps without even having to tell my children. I just knew when I went to the surgeon that she would tell me that I would need a simple surgery to remove the lumps and all would be well. ROFLOL right?  I‘m so ambitious.

On January 22, a normal Tuesday evening, I asked all my children to join me for dinner at our house as I had to share the news with them. The next year of our lives would involve months of chemotherapy, surgery, more protein chemotherapy, and reconstructive surgery.  My heart broke as I saw the look in their eyes and heard the gasps escape from deep within. They were devastated and they had every right to be. Why Lord? Not why me? Hundreds of women a day hear the same news, if not worse, but my question was, why them Lord? Why again?  What on earth do you have for them to do that requires all of this suffering and growth at such an early age?  I know this journey will be different from the last one, but why, Lord? My heartfelt prayer was simply God give them grace, peace and strength for this journey. Make your presence known to us Lord. We have to know that you are with us every step of this way Lord. We have to.

Over the next several days, we talked, we cried, we talked more, laughed a little, cried more and prayed much. As the moments passed, I sensed a peace that passes understanding envelope us all. Sunday evening rolled around before my first treatment and I was busy trying to get everything prepared for the next morning. Bag packed with goodies and things to occupy the time, clothes picked and laid out, snacks, water, and oh, before I lay down, let me get my coffee pot ready so that I can just hit the button in the morning when I am ready to brew. No need to turn on the timer, I will just have it ready and it will be one less thing I have to focus on. The clock flashing 12:00 am.  Prayers. Goodnight.

Morning rose and so did I, like a warrior, ready to face what was before me. I showered, dressed and prayed fervently again for God to make his presence known to us today in a mighty way. I was collecting my things and remembered my coffee, time to turn it on! I walked into the kitchen and to my surprise there in my coffee pot sat a freshly brewed pot of coffee. It was finishing up its last drip as I flipped on the light. I was a little puzzled as how this had happened. I distinctly remembered NOT turning on the timer to set it, so I looked again at the clock and it was flashing 12:00 am as it had been doing the night before. No one had been up in my house yet, no one had been stirring except for me and God.
God? Did you make my coffee for me?   Did you really turn my pot on for me and make my coffee?

The same God who spoke the worlds into existence, and separated the day from the night. The same God who holds the stars in their place and calls them all by name. The same God who formed the mountains and measured out the seas. The same God who stores the treasuries of the snow and releases them in due season. The same God who gave his son for a ransom so that I could know Him by name. That  very same God had showed up in my quaint little kitchen on a rainy Monday morning in February and turned my coffee pot on. True story! Yes, yes He did! The same God who had walked with us so far in this journey of life is the same God who was saying to me loud and clear, I am here, I am with you, and I am going to take care of you.

I know there are a lot of unknowns that I will be facing over the next year. Lots of ups, downs, surprises, irritations. After making it through my first post-chemo week I have made new discoveries about my body that wish to never have became acquainted with.  I have been dished a rude awakening to just how unbiased chemotherapy is, it doesn’t matter how tough you are, chemo doesn’t care! Did I mention I am a little pissed off about the whole thing and what subjecting myself to chemical warfare is going to do to this rock star body I have worked hard to have? (insert a little laughter – a merry heart does good like a medicine). To even say that I am excited about this journey in the physical sense is absurd. No, I am far from excited. Yet in a few short hours, days and weeks, I have been showered with so many blessings, covered in abundant fervent prayers, received overwhelming support and love and have made connections with women that will be forever set in stone. Do I have a feeling this is going to be one of the worst times of my life? Heck yes!  However I face it head on, with courage and know that it will also be a season coupled with one of the best times of my life.  When the God of all creation cares enough about me and my children to show up and make my coffee for me, what other grand things is he going to do through this journey? This is my story, stay tuned….

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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Of Summits, Storms and a God Who Works Suddenly

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In May 2015 for my youngest son, Oliver’s 13th birthday he asked me to take him hiking. Well of course I was elated with the request and happily obliged. Our first mother, son hike was to Grayson Highlands Park in Mouth of Wilson Virginia to take in the two Pinnacles. The weather was perfect, the skies were amazing and the company simply out of this world.

As winter 2015 began to dissipate into Spring, the topic of another birthday hike arose. Where to this year? I knew the answer immediately and shared with him that I would like to take him to one of my personal favorites, Hawksbill Mountain in the Linville Gorge. I couldn’t talk enough about how mesmerized he would be with the landscape and the views the gorge had to offer so plans were set for the 2nd annual mother/son birthday hike.

Well, May came and went with busy schedules, rainy weather, baseball season and other obstacles that seemed to constantly put off the planned hike. However, finally in August (yeah I know…way belated!) on a busy Tuesday, Oliver and I loaded up the pack and headed towards the Linville Gorge. Like an efficient mom/hiker would do, I checked the weather and saw it was only a 15 – 20 % chance of rain so I figured we should be good. Partly cloudy conditions have a way of painting up the blue sky and creating stunning views over the gorge and I was beside myself that we were finally getting to go.

The drive over was a little sketchy as we were greeted with gray skies upon entering North Carolina. By the time we reached the trail head a steady drizzle of rain was falling. “Surely it won’t last long,” I thought, and with Oliver being a willing trooper off we headed up the trail. Silently I prayed for the Lord to please stop the rain and clear up the skies for us, I so wanted Oliver to behold the views from Hawksbill, but the further up we went, the more it rained. By the time we reached the top of the trail we were completely drenched from head to toe. Oliver got to experience a white-out condition for the first time and I admit my heart sunk a little as we stared off into the thick fog only to see nothing…absolutely nothing. No tree tops, no mountains, no Table Rock, no Chimneys , no  Camel in sight. No Wiseman’s View, no Linville River down below and no Shortoff Mountain in the far distance. With our eyes pierced and searching we came up empty! Everything I had excitedly shared with him for months was hidden before us as we were engulfed by the storm. I was sorely disappointed and felt like my prayers had fallen on deaf ears.

The white-out view from the top of the Spine and the Summit

We carefully played around for a few minutes at the top of the spine of Hawksbill, getting a few shots for keepsake, but after my feet slipped completely out from under me leaving me lying flat on my back in a spot that I have stepped on several times, we decided to retreat from the spine and head on up to the summit. I am a persistent little bugger at times so I continued to pray that the Lord would PLEASE let the skies clear up for Oliver to see what marvelous things surrounded him. The rain lingered, the fog thickened and my heart sank a little more with each step. We reached the summit, grabbed a few more photo ops and decided to call it a day and head back down. As I was gathering my pack Oliver pointed out a patch of blue in the skies above us. It was a small patch but nevertheless a patch of blue!! We agreed to wait for just a few more minutes and our decision seemed quite futile until suddenly…boom! The fog dissipated, the skies opened up and one by one the magnificent wonders of the gorge came into view. Oliver’s reaction to the glory that laid before him was filled with awe exactly as I imagined it would be. I shouted out loud praise and thanksgiving for an answered prayers! (okay – really they can classify as constant desperate pleas under my breath the whole way up and there). For almost an hour we carefully played and took pictures. I emphasize carefully, taking into consideration the tons of rain, slick rocks, summits, and death worthy plunges into the gorge with one false step. The rain drenched trip suddenly turned out quite fabulous and mom and son took time to enjoy a peanut butter and jelly sandwich together at 4020 feet above sea level.

 

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Jumping for joy on Hawksbill Mountain

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Suddenly everything changed!

Heading back down the mountain I pondered in my heart the overall conditions of the trip and how suddenly things changed for us. One minute the sky was covered in heavy gray fog, the next minute it seemed as if the heavens had opened up and poured its glory upon us. I was so thankful that we endured with patience and waited just a few more minutes or we would have missed out on so many marvelous moments. After stopping a few times to collect some cool mushroom shots, we made it back to the ole Honda and we were headed back to the homestead. Later on in the evening as I was kicked back and going through our pictures, I observed the incredible difference that just a few moments made and again let praise and thanksgiving escape my lips – “thank you God for answering my prayers!” It was then I heard His response, “By the way, I heard you the first time you prayed and I answered you, it just took some time for the conditions to be right. First, I had to move the storm out.” Wow, I let that sink in a little….

Yes, as soon as the conditions were right on the mountain there was a sudden change! It went from not seeing 10 feet from your face to seeing clearly to the end of the horizon.

Not immediately. Not quickly. But suddenly everything changed. Insert another life lesson from the trail:

Is life kicking your butt? Do you feel like your prayers have fallen on deaf ears? Suddenly…

Do you feel like you are wondering around blinded by all the chaos around you? Have you slipped a time or two in familiar territory falling flat on your back in failure? Suddenly…

Are the storms of life engulfing you? Suddenly…

Has your faith been dimmed by the lingering fog that envelopes your senses and leaves you feeling hopeless? Suddenly…

Have you been praying for something/someone relentlessly and things seem to only get worse? Suddenly…

Are you weary? Discouraged? Downhearted? Feeling like it’s time to give in? Suddenly…

At this moment I share with you the same thing the Almighty God of Heaven shared with me. His word assures us over and over that:

He absolutely hears our prayers. (Psalm 66:19-20, 2 Kings 20:5)

He is constantly working on our behalf. (Romans 8:28) (Psalm 68:28 NRSV)

He is our warrior and fights the battle for us. (Exodus 14:14)

He is on our side and if that is so, who can oppose us? (Romans 8:31)

He renews us and strengthens our weary hearts (Isaiah 40:31)

I am so thankful that we waited just a few more minutes on the summit of that mountain. Had we left 5 minutes earlier we would have missed what was in store for us. What are you waiting for? I can personally tell you that for the past few months I have been walking through one of the most difficult parenting seasons of my life. There are times that I think my mothering heart can’t take one more iota of aching. Times that I lay before the throne of God and weep and plea for Him to do something. Times I question whether He even hears me. Times I wonder if He is truly going to come and work on our behalf. I want Him to do things immediately! Quickly! Geez Lord hurry up! Times I am weary from the climb and drenched from the storms. But I am reminded on this day that there is a “suddenly” on the horizon for you and for me. There is an appointed ‘suddenly’ that will change everything. Keep climbing that mountain, keep enduring that storm because suddenly God is on His way.

(scripture references of God working suddenly:

On the Mount of Transfiguration: “suddenly” Moses and Elijah were seen conversing with Jesus (Matthew 17:). The Holy Spirit arrived on Pentecost “suddenly” (Acts 2:2). “Suddenly” a light blinded Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:3-4). When he and Silas were imprisoned, a severe earthquake came “suddenly” (Acts 16:25-26). There was Sirach. “For it is easy with the Lord suddenly, in an instant, to make a poor man rich” (11:21-22).

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My Oliver overlooking the Gorge from Hawksbill Summit

A few mushrooms found along the way 🙂

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Of Waterfalls and Hidden Treasures

Of Waterfalls and Hidden Treasures

Everyone has things that they love to do to feed their soul (or should!) One of the things that I enjoy doing is hiking. It is a hobby I took up 3 years ago that has provided me with an abundance of opportunities to explore some incredible places in and around East Tennessee, southwestern Virginia, western North Carolina, northwestern South Carolina and Kentucky. I’ve also been privileged to meet some of the finest folks on planet earth that share the same passion for adventuring that was birthed in me from the first step on the trail. One of my favorite things to do is venture off trail in search of treasures that are hidden away in remote places that not everyone wants to take the time and the sometimes helluva of a lot of effort it takes to get to.

One of my friends had been told about a waterfall located off trail on Holston Mountain that wasn’t well known and rarely seen. On Labor Day, 2015, several of us set out in search of this fall. We located the stream quite easily and began our trek up the mountain with hopes of finding a treasure. The journey was a fairly moderate one with some small creek crossings, quite a bit of bushwhacking through the thick mountain laurel and fallen trees, some rock hopping and some uphill scrambling. However the further up the mountain we ventured, the smaller the creek became until eventually we completely lost the water source. We found ourselves standing on a boulder filled area that appeared to be the perfect place for a waterfall, we could even hear water running underneath us, however, no waterfall was to be found. No adventure is a waste of time but I do admit we were all a little disappointed that we did not find what we were looking for so we set our sights back on the trail and headed back to the car.

Skip ahead to a rainy Sunday in February, 2016 after old man winter had dumped a few deep snows around us and then saturated us with several rainfalls. Instead of staying inside where it was warm and dry, three of us from the previous adventure decided to get out and do some exploring. A few ideas were tossed around, and after considering the amount of the recent snow and rain, we decided to revisit the location on Holston Mountain in search of the unfound fall. As soon as we approached the creek, that was swelled and raging, we knew this adventure would merit a different outcome from the last. As the rains fell from the heavens and the waters sprung up out of the earth we began a journey that would prove much more difficult this time around. The creek was at least three times wider than before with deep waters rushing violently (thigh high in places!) and crossing was impossible unless we wanted to have soaked bodies from the get go. We decided to bushwhack up the bank as far as we could, using dead logs for makeshift bridges and tight-roping fallen trees whenever possible. The laurel was thicker than thieves, the rain saturating and the ground slick. Less than halfway up the journey, the only things still dry on me were the body parts protected by my raincoat and my feet sheltered in waterproof boots. After 3 hours of travailing through any way that we could, my hands and fingers were covered in dirt from gripping on to anything I could to stay upright, my jeans were soaked and muddy from belly crawls through the brush and I’m sure my face was decorated in shades of dirt and muck from the unsuccessful attempts to wipe it dry. But oh my! Our efforts were getting ready to pay off royally and the sights we were to behold, simply breathtaking.

From a distance we looked up and saw the first sights of a waterfall! The same boulder filled area we happened upon on our last visit was now covered with rushing waters falling from high upon the mountain. I couldn’t believe my eyes! The same area that had been dry as a bone before was now waterfall heaven laden with some of the absolute most gorgeous drops I have ever seen. Valiant efforts were put forth to capture this fall on film, yet it was impossible to get the whole fall – which was at least 300ft from top to bottom – in one frame. The falling rain made it even more challenging to snap a capture, but we persisted and persevered, making our way up drop after drop. I was completely captivated with each new drop, like a kid in a candy shop trying to get a piece of all the good stuff. Even the side tributaries that flowed into the main stream possessed incredible drops and cascades that were more than picture worthy, yet I was nowhere near ready to behold the magnificence that waited for us at the top.

I’m scrambling to get as many pictures as possible with the little bit of daylight we had left, I finally climb up over the last boulder and stand upright, and oh my! I knew immediately that I had been transported to some magical place. The rock wall to the left of the waterfall was an incredible sight within itself with small streams of water trickling down from its top. My eyes scanned over to the impressive waterfall that flowed out and over the top of the mountain. My eyes teared up as gasps of wonder from deep inside my soul escaped past my lips (yes I know, I am such an emotional creature!). All of the efforts had paid off – the repeated attempts, the bushwhacking, the cuts, the bruises, being soaked to the bone, dirty as crap – and we had found her! The hidden treasure was on full display right before my eyes. Heck yes!

As I stood there engrossed in amazement, I heard that still small voice that so eloquently speaks and seizes my attention. “What if you went through that much trouble to find the treasures hidden in people? Make repeated efforts when you appear to come up empty handed on the first try. Fight through the muck and dirt of their life. Weather the storm that is raging inside of them. Not give up until you find the treasure that I know is there?” Thus began another one of the priceless moments where the great God of heaven and earth stood beside me, stopping time as I know it and conversing with me for what seemed like an eternity. We talked of those who were hurting, confused, trapped inside walls of guilt and shame. Those who felt worthless, irrelevant, insignificant. Those who appeared dark and dreary to the naked eye, but to the soul who was brave enough to take a closer look, to delve deeper into the muck, would discover a treasure so grand our hearts would be astonished. He reminded me of times that I had been broken, empty and felt worthless and ashamed. We reminisced of the anger I had exchanged for pain and the fortress I had constructed around my heart to not hurt anymore (Pink Floyd’s wall didn’t hold a candle to mine!). He took me back to that glorious place on April 10, 1994 when I knelt before Him and surrendered. The moment I joined Him on my journey to find the treasures of His spirit buried deep inside my own being (talk about an ongoing bushwhacking adventure! Hello fuzzy!). Last but not least, He addressed the weariness that was lingering in my soul from what seemed like futile attempts and exhausted efforts in my life without any treasures being found. Journeys that had left me cut, bruised, wounded and vulnerable. And then I simply stood with Him in silence as this place of visitation was being forever burned into the portals of my mind.

Only a matter of seconds had passed when I returned to the present. We were running out of daylight and it was time to bid farewell to this glorious place we had discovered. I knew with every step back to the car that, although the waterfalls we encountered on this day were nothing short of a spectacular find, the greatest treasure I had discovered was a renewed sense of hope and desire to venture on His journey, embrace His plans and continue the search for His treasures that were hidden all around me.

2 Corinthians 4:6-8Living Bible (TLB)
For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made us understand that it is the brightness of his glory that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. But this precious treasure—this light and power that now shine within us is held in a perishable container, that is, in our weak bodies. Everyone can see that the glorious power within must be from God and is not our own.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Of Friday Mornings, Mushrooms and a God Who Answers Prayers

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Fridays are my off day from my paying job (with 4 children and 1 grandchild I never have a real day off! Mommas can you feel me??) So as often as I can I venture out on a trail with a hiking partner. Last Friday rolled around and it had been a few weeks since my last adventure. Circumstances prevented a planned outing but my weeks had been extremely taxing and my soul so needed some refreshing. I concluded to set off on my own and enjoy some solo time on a familiar trail. My destination would be Laurel Run Park in Church Hill, a trail with some waterfalls that I had been on once before during the cold weather months and was curious to see in the summer season. With backpack packed, hiking boots on and pole in hand, I put sole to trail and began my day. I chuckled a little as I crossed the bridge and saw a sign that read “Caution, Dangerous Wildlife, Proceed at Own Risk.” I didn’t recall seeing that the last time but perhaps I was too caught up in conversation to notice, and I dared to proceed despite the warning.

The day was over-cast with very little light filtering in through the forest’s covering.  The deeper into the trail I went, the darker it got. After making the stream crossing I was walking along and I began to think about that caution sign…..and bears. My mind began to race. What on earth would I do if I encountered one? Did I tell anyone where I was going today? If one attacked me I would cut him! Fiddlesticks! I left my handy dandy pocket knife in my purse in the car (no I had not been using it on anyone lately) Lord, I know your plan for me is not to be eaten by a bear when I am seeking serenity!  As I think back on it now, I am amused at how entangled I became with thoughts of a bear that was nowhere near. How many times in life do we allow ourselves to get wrapped up in worries that never happen? That we let our fears get the best of us? That we focus on the things that might happen versus the things that we know are true?

It wasn’t long until the melody of the stream became the song that I longed to hear. A few more steps and I had reached my destination of the waterfall. All thoughts of anything on the outside world fled my mind and I became entranced with the sights, the sounds, the aromas that surrounded me. I lingered at the fall for about an hour, taking pictures, exploring the different angles, playing in the rushing waters, inhaling the fresh smell of the wet earth and admiring the beauty of my surroundings. I proceeded on up to the top of the falls and found the perfect spot to sit for a spell and talk to my Father about the things that were weighing on my heart. Did He hear me? Would He answer? Would things be ok? I repeated a phrase that I had uttered many times before along my journey called life, “Lord, I believe, but help me with my unbelief.”

The clock was ticking away and it was time for me to wrap things up.  I headed back to the trail and was tossing through my mind whether I had time to proceed on up to the second fall.  After checking the hour, I knew I needed to head back to the car but I put in one simple request before I began my trek back. “Lord, I would really love to see a mushroom! Something curious and interesting!” Literally within two steps I looked down and standing there, illuminated by a single ray of sun that pierced through the darkness was the most exquisite mushroom I had ever laid eyes on! I swear I heard that “ahhhhhhhh” you hear in movies when something magical happens. I knelt down to examine this handsome specimen and was awed by his stance, the way his colors complimented the blanket of green moss he sprouted from. He was magnificent and I was enamored. When I was finally able to peel my attention away from this wonderful mushroom, I saw another one, totally different in appearance but nonetheless stunning. Then another one and another one! How had I missed these beauties on my way up? Had I been too focused on thoughts of a bear that didn’t exist? Did God just answer my prayer and kaboom! They were there? I’m not sure which scenario was right, I just knew I was happier than a fat kid eating cake as I went from one mushroom to another snapping shots and admiring their uniqueness.

I stood there for a moment, somewhat shocked at how quickly my simple request had been answered. Not only did I see one mushroom, but I had been blessed with a showcase in every direction. Thanksgiving couldn’t help but escape from my lips and it was then that I heard the response that brought me to my knees somewhere in the middle of a trail nestled in the woods of Hawkins County. “If I hear you when you ask for simple things and I answer you, how much more do to you think I hear you when you ask for greater things? For your children, your family, those that you love and I love even more?” Psalm 18:6 says “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.”  On a beautiful, serene Friday morning the most High God of heaven, the creator of the universe, the maker of the sun, moon and stars, author of my life, my Father and my Friend met with me in the woods. He ministered to my spirit and soothed my soul, reminding me that, yes! He hears my every prayer, every request, whether they are simple or heartfelt cries. He assured me once again that He is always with me, His promises are ever true and His word never fails.

As I headed back to the real world with every step my feet felt a little bit lighter, my stride more joyful and my spirit rejoiced! There were no thoughts of unseen bears lurking in the distance. Instead thanksgiving and praise to my God bellowed out of my gut. I was thankful for His presence, for His assurance, for His voice and for mushrooms.

Some of the other gems I found 🙂

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Posted by on August 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Independence Day

flag

As I was on my many excursions the other day to pick up one of my children, I stopped at a very familiar intersection waiting on the cars to pass so that I could pull out. I sat there for a moment gazing at the sky before me and, as I always do, noticed the huge American flag that was prancing in the wind. I have seen this flag a hundred times or more but for some reason at this particular moment, I was enamored by her beauty. Her presence courteously demanded attention; her colors seemed bolder than other days and the gracefulness in which she moved along with the rhythm of the wind connected with my spirit. I couldn’t help but to be compelled to take a snap shot and as the sound of the shutter echoed in my ears I heard the softly spoken words, “Independence Day, do you remember when I set you free?” Yes, we had just recently celebrated the 4th of July and I was able to enjoy my sweet granddaughter’s first parade and the company of family and friends at a cookout later on that day. We were all decked out in our patriotic attire, eating, drinking and fellowshipping as we were commemorating the freedoms that we are so blessed to enjoy. Yet it was not those events that were resonating in my spirit, immediately my mind went back to that glorious day that the magnificent God of heaven had set me free from a bondage that had held me captive for most of my life.

January 8, 2013 had begun like any other day (and for you Elvis fans, YES! That is his birthday!) I woke up with the break of day spilling through my blinds. My heart was heavy and that familiar empty feeling was nagging at my gut. I had known for a while now that things were getting ready to change in my life, I had prayed for the changes fervently for many years and I had even felt God bring me to a crossroads several times. Yet I, in my humanness, resisted the choices I knew I had to make and would find myself again back on the same road running in circles. There was something different about this day, I felt almost a dire straits type of urgency so I prayed and just asked God to once again guide my heart, my life, my thoughts and my decisions. The day went about as normal and it was mid-afternoon until I heard His voice. Ironically I was driving down the same road as the above pictured flag is on and I heard Him say to me. “Today is the day, you must make a change.” Mercy! Seriously! I must? Like a necessity? Would my world end if I didn’t make the right decision today? (I am so glad that God is used to my animated, dramatic responses.) Regardless of my reaction, I knew that I could not go to sleep on this night without making the change I knew God was directing me to make.

After my marriage of 12 years ended, I felt God persistently drawing me to Himself. Because of things that had happened in my childhood with my father, I grew up thinking (in a desperate ‘oh my god I have to have it or I will die of worthlessness’ manner) I needed a man to affirm me, to give worth, to deem me of value. I spent many years and cried many tears dealing with rejection from the ones I looked up to, needing them to lift me up. No matter how well I performed, what accomplishments I achieved, how many others thought I was the shizzz, if I didn’t get approval from the man in my life, well, I was left feeling empty, destitute and completely broken. I can’t relay to you the countless times I cried out to God, begging Him to just puh-lease change me and make me worthy of someone’s love and approval!  One of my biggest fears was that I would end up alone without anyone to love me. I hated being alone. The thought terrified me even to the point of feeling anxiety a week before my children would go away to their dad for his time with them. I can look back now and see how ridiculously insane it all was, but during the time it was all happening, it was a cruel reality. So instead of being alone, I would find myself in relationships that weren’t meant for me to be in at all. Not necessarily ‘bad’ ones, just the wrong ones. The problems weren’t about who I was with, the problems were a stronghold buried deep inside of me and the God of Heaven wanted to break the stronghold.

To make a long story short, before the sun went down that day, I made the changes that I needed to make. It was scary and I felt it a little risqué to lay down all my defenses and control and to just trust God completely with every aspect of my heart and life. Just me and Him. Whew! I can tell you though that as soon as I acted on my decision, an enormous peace flooded my heart in a way that I had never ever felt before. A peace that I had fervently prayed for as a child, a young woman, as a mother. A peace that passed any understanding I could comprehend. A peace that wasn’t based on situations and circumstances all being hunky dory, but one that took up residence in a broken and empty heart and filled it to overflowing.  It has been an amazing journey over the past year and a half. My children have faced some of the most challenging times since we lost their dad, yet each challenge has brought many blessings. Times that I would have caved under the pressures of life, I found myself resting in the assurance that God had it all under control. Nights that I would wake up feeling destitute and alone were soon replaced with sweet sleep and a comforting presence that followed my every step. Moments of revelation of God’s awesome power, His incredible love and His endless mercy. With His grace and help, I began to recognize the worth and value I possess within myself.  I was discovering who I was, on a journey with just Him as my only appraiser and the treasure that dwells  inside of me. (Heck fire! The SAME spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in me, how magnificent is that!?!

Of course there have been brief moments that I allowed myself to become distracted and veered off my course just a little, but those moments never last very long.  The enemy of our soul is always seeking to trip us up, but God is always faithful to remind me of who I am, who He is and why and where He has me in my journey. The bible talks about in John 8 “if we know the truth, the truth will set us free. And if the Son sets us free, we are free indeed.” (paraphrased). As I sat there at the intersection and watched as the flag danced effortlessly with the wind beneath her, singing freedom to all who drove by, I was reminded of my freedom song, of all the things God has changed in my life and all the liberties He has planted in my heart through His truth. I pondered on the serenity I have found in singleness and the peace I have found in solitude with Him. I cried, I rejoiced, and I sang praises as I discovered a piece of myself in the beauty of that flag and I was reminded of MY Independence Day

(insert – for a woman who hated to be by herself for any given amount of time – I went on a solo hike in the Spring of this year. It was amazing!! Not only the best three hours I had ever spent, but a landmark in my journey of freedom that I cherish! The soothing melody of the waterfall, the tune of the creek as it trickled across the rocks, the gentle breeze that rustled my hair – it was all beautiful and breathtaking yet none of it could compare to the peace and tranquility that is dwelling inside of me! Yee haw!)

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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