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JOY

JOY!  Do you have joy in your lives?  I recently watched a video of a precious friend who is taking care of her boyfriend that was in a terrible car wreck in October.  The family was told that he wouldn’t make it, would never have the trach removed, and would basically be a “vegetable” for the rest of his life. And guess what?  He’s making all of those doctors stand in awe,  doing exactly what they said he’d never do.  He’s eating, beginning to communicate some, and the trach was removed this week.  She said that she’s had a hard time finding JOY after so much sadness recently in her young life.  But that she constantly remembers the letters in JOY…(Jesus, others, and then yourself) each day, in that order.  We all have gone through hardships and pain but we must rejoice that we have a loving God.  And that should bring so much JOY each day to our lives.  Pray for her to stay strong as she’s caring for her boyfriend and for him to have a full recovery.  They are just so precious.  

Last week was our church’s first cancer support group.  It was originally planned for the beginning of February but with teaching 25 second graders and having a small child, I somehow got the flu.  SHOCKER!!!  I knew the minute my hair began hurting at school that I needed to get myself to the doctor to see if I had the dreaded virus.  And I did.  I remember getting it last year right after my mastectomy and being knocked down after trying to go and do a little too fast after surgery.  And the same thing happened this year.  So I took heed, slowed down, rested, and healed.  And rescheduled this night that I had so been looking forward to.  I’ve always worked with the children’s ministry at our church, with VBS, Sunday School, AWANA, etc. but I have felt a strong pull towards ministering to individuals who have cancer, have had cancer, and their caregivers and families.  So when asked if I would be interested in starting a group for our church/community, I gladly accepted and began planning.  JOY filled my heart as I began praying for Him to guide me as I prepared for this special time with others that have gone through cancer.  The Bible says that Jesus will MAKE us fishers of men or people.  He will use us to ”fish” for people and draw them in to HIS saving grace.  All we have to do is use the tools He’s given us to help others and then share HIS love.  And that’s exactly what has happened since July 12, the day I was diagnosed with cancer.  I remember vividly the morning of July 13, waking up to the slamming car door of an amazing cancer warrior that took the day off to love on me.  She spent hours reassuring me that I was going to be ok.  She showed me her scars, wrapped me in her arms, just like Jesus.  Her visit still brings me to tears when I think about seeing her at my door after being told the devastating news that NO ONE wants to hear.  And since that day, I felt that God’s purpose for me was to take this terrible situation, use it for HIS good, and minister to others, showing love and giving hope.  I’ve prayed so many times for Him to use me to spread the gospel and share the promise that HE’s made to us all.  The verse Deuteronomy 31:6  says “He will never leave us nor forsake us” and that rings in my ears daily, as I live each day knowing that cancer tried to take my life and draw near to His promise that He will never go back on it.  Someone once told me to seal that in my heart and wow…how I’ve done that many times when I walk in fear.  So on the morning of the support group, I woke up feeling great and ready to conquer the day.  I prayed that God would use me to love on the broken people that have been affected by cancer.  Cold and rainy weather came in, but not a single raindrop could keep me from smiling, knowing that we would praise Him that night. Chili and cornbread warmed our bellies and a precious testimony from my friend Sarah warmed our souls as she spoke about being a nurse navigator for many and then diagnosed with breast cancer herself last October.  Each time I saw her at the cancer center, she always had a smile on her face and a kind word to say.  She radiated positive energy even when she felt terrible.  And that’s what she shared with us that evening.  By having cancer herself, she can truly share real life experiences with cancer patients to help them get through their daily lives, focusing on God’s grace and love.  The men and women that came for the support group brought different stories, each with pain and sorrow.  I couldn’t help but think about how many days had been spent amongst us all feeling like our last days were near.  But then to see us all in one room, alive, after much suffering.  The tears welled in my eyes.  God is using all of us in unexpected ways.  When we turn to Him for comfort and love in our hard times, it also allows us to help others. And He never has told us to not deny our suffering, but take heart in His ability to use it for good.  So good is what came from our night.  Many relationships were formed and some were reconnected.  And I pray that many left with a full heart, knowing that they aren’t alone in this process.  He’s right there with us with each challenge that we’re given.  And having friends with similar challenges to run the race with, makes life a little easier too.  Our next meeting is on Thursday, May 16.  My best friend Erica will be speaking on the importance of having a friend to walk beside you through the cancer journey.  

As for me, I’m still feeling great.  The medicine I’m on has had no side effects which I’m so thankful for.  Each morning when I pop that tiny white pill into my mouth, I thank Jesus for modern medicine to keep the cancer away, and for allowing me another day on this Earth with my people.  We’ve been super busy with Swanky Steer, the beginning stages of remodeling our house (YIPPEE), Jett taking riding lessons, beginning tee ball, church, jobs, and the daily life of a normal family.  My hair has been the topic of many conversations as I added some color on it last week to cover up those crazy grays. My sweet hairdresser straightened it for me to see how long it actually is but the consensus vote for most people is to keep my hair CURLY.  So that’s what I’ll do.  Throwing water and a little hair cream on it each morning is so convenient and not having to crank up the straightener each day, makes life a little easier. And I like easy.


So remember the word JOY.  As I walked into the cancer center yesterday so many people radiated JOY!  I’m serious!  I’ve never seen such happy people in such a place that can be so depressing.  Jesus’ presence was so felt throughout the whole building.  Be that joy to others.  Discover your joy.  Let joy be your compass. Serve the world with your joy.  Run straight for joy.  The root of joy is gratefulness.  And grateful is exactly what I am each day, finding joy in the journey!

“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”  Habakkuk 3:18


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Lean

It’s been one year and a day since being told I was cancer free after the removal of all breast tissue and the remains of a tumor that tried to take my life.  

It seems like yesterday that we pulled up to the hospital on that cold, rainy morning for this major surgery that no woman ever wants to have.  

I’ll never forget waking up in recovery to the cutest nurse, Juan, who handed me chapstick and told me that my surgery went well.

I’ll never forget my doctor saying I was a rock star in the operating room.  

I’ll never forget Jeremy and my nurses helping me move even an inch because I was helpless.  

I’ll never forget thinking how I’d ever lift my arms over my head again.  

I’ll never forget the thought of having to wear button down shirts for the rest of my life.  

I’ll never forget one of the nurses covering Jeremy up in the hospital chair in the middle of the night.  

I’ll never forget seeing Jett’s sweet little eyes look at me and touch my legs so gently after being told that mommy couldn’t hold him for awhile.   

And I’ll never forget the peace I had that only Jesus could pour over someone.  

So as this one year celebration came closer, it was a day I was looking forward to.  This was the day we’d begin our new cancer support group at church.   We planned to start in January and then February 7 was the date and I couldn’t help but think of it as a God wink.  The anniversary of the day I was officially cancer free.  I was so looking forward to meeting many that we’ve prayed for and talked to about their diagnosis.  And I couldn’t wait to spend the evening sharing God’s love and stories of hope.  

But a not so wonderful celebration day happened when I began feeling super yucky at school and was diagnosed with the flu.  Doesn’t God have a funny way with his timing?  Sickness is everywhere, so a blessing we will consider it that I didn’t spread my flu germs and make those who are currently in the battle even more sick or compromise those with weak immunities. 

I remember vividly 10 days after my surgery last year getting the flu from the same precious one that I do believe gave it to me this year as well.  I mean who doesn’t want their momma when they feel terrible.  I do, still at 38.  And Jett made that clear too.  He wallowed and sneezed and coughed and snuggled me until I just knew I’d be sick eventually.  It’s so hard to not hold your baby when they feel their worst.  So let’s hope and pray that no one else gets these germs that we’ve gotten so good at spreading.

My devotion this morning was about leaning on God.  The song “Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms” was mentioned and that’s just what I’ve had to do these past 19 months.  Some days I’ve leaned harder than others and there have been days where I’ve actually had to stop myself and ask...are you leaning enough??  It’s so easy to talk to Him through the difficult times when you need that comfort.  But oh how I’ve learned that by leaning on Him through EVERY situation, His goodness will prevail.  He works for our good.  And if we put Him first, over ourselves, we will see how hardships can bring joy.  That’s something to be grateful for!  

So...

When you are scared

When you are lonely

When you are worried

When you are hurting

When you are celebrating

When you are the happiest you’ve ever been

Lean, lean, lean.  And thank Him for being there for you during all those different times.  

“Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff-they comfort me.”  Psalm 23:4 









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From here to there

My “here”.  
Today, Tuesday, January 22.  
A devotional from Christine Caine mentions how we are always talking about getting from “here” to “there”.  On August 9, 2017, I began my journey with chemotherapy working towards my “there”.  And I made it.  My “there” place is being a survivor, cancer free, and feeling amazingly well! This “there” is a time that I often wondered if it would ever come.  And slowly it did.  I remember laying in the bed wondering if my hair would ever grow back.  (It is growing like crazy and the red is slowly starting to trickle in.)  After losing all of my toenails and some finger nails, I was sad at the thought that I may not ever get a pedicure again.  (I currently have all of my fingernails and toenails and paint them weekly as they are growing as well.)  And I often thought if I’d ever hear the words “you are finished”, or “you’re done”, or “that’s all”.  (Just a few weeks ago, my doctor pretty much told me that with a smile.)  And so other than being on a pill for five years that is a hormone replacement to help keep the cancer away from my body, I am finished with all treatments and surgery.  And that’s wonderful but yet kind of scary.  Scary?  Yes.  When you go from seeing a doctor or nurse VERY regularly, having people lay their eyes on you to check on you VERY often, having routine blood work done and read, etc., and then go to seeing them every few months!  It’s hard to get used to.  It’s like you’ve lost your best friend or an apron string being cut.  Faith takes on a whole new meaning.  I now have to trust that my body is well and I have ultimate faith that my body is whole again.  And so this allows me to live each day to the fullest, never taking for granted the feeling of feeling good.  So that’s my new “here”.   I am standing in this “here” place that just 18 months ago was a “there” that I longed for.  Hallelujah!  Praise the Lord.  God is so good.  I can truly say to others that are just beginning this battle, that there is hope.  Their “there” will come and one day they’ll be able to reflect on the steps they have taken, the hard, miserable times where they’ve wanted to give up, and realize what got them “there”. God.  His faithfulness during the troubled times.  
A day doesn’t go by that I don’t thank Him for His grace, His unconditional love through my journey, and for allowing me another day to be a mommy, a wife, a daughter, and a friend.  My new favorite song is Michael W. Smith’s “Surrounded by You”.  If you’ve heard it, you know how repetitive it is and oh so powerful.  Whenever I’m feeling down or having a pity party for myself, I sing the words of that song.  “For the spirit of heaviness, put on the garment of praise.  This is how we fight our battles.  This is how I fight my battle.  This is how I fight my battle.  It may look like I’m surrounded but I’m surrounded by you.”   I can face the day and obstacles that come with strength and courage because of His promise.  So if I’m not singing this, I’m praying and let me say that my prayer life has changed a lot.  I find myself in prayer many times throughout the day, and in tears a lot with gratefulness. 
This week I started physical therapy for some pain that I’m having at my surgery site.  My therapist was so nice and we just clicked the moment I met her. Clemson fans, same age, both moms, and more…  Honestly, I was somewhat dreading going in on such a cold morning when I could’ve stayed at home since it was a holiday.  My pain isn’t terrible and it isn’t really keeping me from doing much but I want to stay on top of it before it does get super uncomfortable.  After talking and laughing about lots of things, she told me that she was glad that I was her patient.  Yesterday was 21 years ago since her daddy died.  As she shared her story, you could see the sadness in her eyes as she misses him terribly.   And so on a sad day, she thanked me for helping bring some sunshine into the facility.  Y’all!  That should be our goal daily.  Smile, say a kind word, and help others.  We just never know what people are going through or the day they may be having.  Going into any hospital never gives me a “feel good” feeling but leaving there yesterday, I thanked Him for giving me just that.   I felt good.  I felt like I had made a new best friend and I truly know that God placed her in my path, and I in hers.  
My year mark is approaching for my surgery date.  I often think back on what was going through my mind this time last year as I was still living with cancer.  I worked so hard making plans for my students so that they wouldn’t miss a beat while I was gone.  I remember the fear that took over many days.  And now as the one year anniversary of the mastectomy is around the corner, I can smile, knowing that I am healed.  Just in the last few weeks, I have been in contact or heard about many ladies that have just been diagnosed and are in the stage of total fear and disbelief.  My heart breaks for them as I vividly remember being in their shoes.  It truly is the worst day of your life to be told that you have cancer.  And it’s the hardest thing to tell your family and friends too.  
So if you know of anyone that would benefit from a cancer support group, please let them know about our upcoming event on Thursday, February 7th at Fountain Inn First Baptist.  And guess what that day is?  The anniversary of my surgery.  God winked when that happened, I’m sure.  
Psalm 37:23 says “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him.” That’s just what we’ll do each Thursday when we meet. Delight in Him, worship Him, pray to Him, all while making strides towards ultimate healing.   We hope to provide opportunities for sharing, give resources/assistance information, and encouraging prayer partnerships for those with similar situations.  
Once again, I’m thankful that God brought me from where I was to where I am now.  My here that was my there.  Healthy, thriving, and sharing Hope through our Savior.

“My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped.”  Psalm 28:7



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Hysterectomy



As I put on these adorable leggings from my best friend, to rock to the hospital, I couldn’t help but remember this quote a friend shared with me once.  “Why wish upon a star, when you can pray to the THE ONE that made it?”  And then I couldn’t stop singing the verse from “Do you hear what I hear?”- “a star, a star, dancing in the night, with a tail as big as a kite, with a tail as big as a kite.” So praying to THE ONE and belting out this tune was exactly what I did while getting ready for this adventure yesterday morning.  

This holiday break from school came a little early as I scheduled my hysterectomy for December 20.  This surgery had been in the works for a long while as my doctors suggested to definitely have my ovaries removed, as I had an increased risk of  ovarian cancer.  And after taking so much time off last year with chemo, a double mastectomy, and radiation...this holiday break seemed like the perfect time, without having to use many sick days.  
Yesterday morning began with tons of snuggles from my little guy as I didn’t have to be at the hospital until 10.  Jett is growing so fast but he still loves to curl up in my lap, twirl my hair, and let me love on him.  I’ll cherish every second of this time as I know it won’t last forever.  So a little Doc McStuffins and reading Christmas books was just what we spent our early morning doing.  After dropping him off at school and then heading to the hospital, one of my favorite songs happened to come on the radio.  Music speaks to me so and so when “Tremble” came on, I about lost it. 



Just last week out of the blue, Jett started singing this song in the midst of singing a Christmas carole and it was so precious.  I wonder where he gets his love of music from!?  J dropped me off at the door,  I registered, and then back we went to start the Preop process with the sweetest nurses.  I seriously cannot even count how many wonderful ones we have had, as they  all have made us feel so at peace during very scary times.  They say teaching takes a special person and nursing absolutely does too.  To all the nurses who have been by my side throughout this process...thank you for a job well done!  Blood pressure was good, IV went in easy (thank goodness), chaplain came to visit, our pastor and a dear friend came to pray with us as well, and then came the wait for the ride to the operating room.  This time was spent with my parents, J, and my best friend, as they do the best job, making fun small talk.  



My precious doctor, who has been with us the whole time and delivered Jett, performed the surgery.  She stopped by to chat before we went back and seriously just knowing that I was in her care, under the knife, made many of the anxious feelings go completely away.  God truly gave her the warmest heart, tons of knowledge, and a tender, loving spirit that so many love.  She rubbed my arm as the anesthesiologist started the “sleepy” medicine as another nurse rubbed my face while I drifted off to sleep.  That just goes above and beyond, y’all!  How could I not know that God placed these angels in my path to make this part of the process a little less scary.  So the procedure was done, and I woke up to find that I was in recovery and all went well.  Two hours later, I was headed home to be loved on by a handsome nurse who hasn’t left my side through this whole journey.  From writing down the time I take my medicine, to helping me up to shift positions, to laying beside me just to talk, and so much more, he truly is my one true love.  God knew exactly what he was doing all those years ago, putting us back together after a million silly break-ups.  At 15 and 19, we sure didn’t know what our lives would look like down the road, but I can honestly say that growing older with this man has been a joy.  Goodness, I want to be a better person like him everyday! Jett came for a visit to give us his Christmas present that he made at school.  Oh how this made my night.  He very gently kissed me on my legs and hugged my neck with such love.  



So now to heal...3 weeks is the projected time, which will be close to when we head back to school.  I’ll go back for a couple of half days just to ease myself back into the routine.  

Christmas is truly around the corner and we’ve got an excited little dude that Santa will visit with lots of goodies, I know.  I’ve had a checklist during the last few weeks and I hope that all is done and ready.  





Last year on December 22, I had my last chemo treatment and this year a hysterectomy.   I’ve tried to remember every single day just how bad I felt during the chemo, so that I could cherish the good feeling days, especially during this holiday season. 





I’m just so thankful for another year of life that God has blessed me with.   Another year to be a wife and a mommy.   Another year to spend time with my family and friends.  Another year to share my story.  God is not done with me yet and I pray that I’ll be able to walk this Earth for many more years, sharing His love, His grace, His mercy, and His truth.  Much love to you all and Merry Christmas.  May you never forget the reason for the season.  






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Do something you’ve never done before!!

What is one thing that you’ve never done before?  Think about that for a minute.  

For some it’s very easy to come up with something and for others, they may have had lots of life experiences. For me, I’ve done a lot of things in life.  But over the course of the past year,  I’ve experienced more scary events than I thought I’d have in my lifetime and wouldn’t wish them on anyone.  My morning devotion today was about “Doing Something You’ve Never Done Before” and by doing this you’ll find new things to praise God for.  And I guess I can say that this Thursday, I’ll do just that.  Chemo, radiation, a bilateral mastectomy, and more oral chemo were all things I’d never before experienced, and since ovarian and breast cancer go hand in hand, and my grandmother had ovarian cancer, a hysterectomy was another piece of this puzzle that we’ve been putting together since July 12, 2017.  And I’m hoping that it’s the final piece to place.  The one that completes it.  A hysterectomy certainly isn’t a fun event or one that is super easy but I know that it will help to hopefully keep cancer away from my body.   So with this new adventure, I also will praise Him once again for giving me a peace as I prepare for this day and afterwards, as I know he’ll be with me all the way.

So if you’ll pray for all of us this Thursday at 1, we’d appreciate it.  

December is the most wonderful time of the year and right now, in this moment of this very day, I feel great.



Looking back at where I was last year at this time, finishing up my last chemo treatment, I can’t help but thank God over and over and over for bringing me so far through the hardest days of my life.  This month has been crazy busy as we’ve prepared for the holidays with our little guy-visits with Santa, Christmas programs, decorating cookies, riding the Polar Express, wrapping presents, and more.
















But then throw in an amazing trip to Vegas in the midst of it for mommy and daddy!  WOW!  Jeremy and I went three years ago when Jett was 2 and had a ball so after all we’ve been through these last 18 months, we decided to make the trip again to attend the National Finals Rodeo. Many have asked if Jeremy participated and sadly, no he didn’t.  This is like the Super Bowl for rodeo like they have for football. We started making our plans in January, planning to stay one extra day so that we could go see our favorite musician, George Strait, while there.  Little did we know that we’d have bad winter weather in the south that would allow us to extend our stay.  When making the original vacation reservations, I saw that “TOUGH ENOUGH TO WEAR PINK” night was for round 5 and that we would miss it, as we would be coming home on Monday.  But when our flight was changed and another night was reserved at our hotel, we were able to purchase tickets to this round.  I was so excited that we could attend and rock our pink with 14,000 other rodeo fans.  The tickets for this round were pricy due to our last minute purchase but we both knew that it was something we wanted to do.  J immediately put them in his vest pocket and we continued our shopping adventure for the day.  About 2 hours later, he realized that they were missing and must have fallen out of his vest.  We both panicked and didn’t know what to do.  I called the ticket office and they recommended for us call the MGM hotel lost and found.  I did just that and guess what?  They were there!  A precious lady from California found them and turned them in on her way to the airport.  I seriously cried like a baby and thanked the Lord for this miracle.  




I mean think about it!  Vegas…the MGM GRAND HOTEL casino…TONS OF PEOPLE…and an honest soul found them and turned them in!  Unbelievable!  
So our trip was absolutely wonderful.  Our trip to the cactus garden on our first morning there was a sweet time.  Each cactus that I looked at reminded me of the one that pricked me, but also looking at the thousands of cacti in that garden, reminded me of y’all…my tribe that prayed me through this time like no other.  The next time we go, we’ll go at night to see the beauty of them lit during the Christmas season. 





 The rodeo itself each night was perfection in my guy’s eyes…strolling through the gorgeous hotels filled with beautiful Christmas decorations made me giddy, shopping literally until we dropped, singing at the top of our lungs to George Strait, meals that left us wanting to lick our plates clean, worshipping our Lord and Savior on Sunday morning with many cowboys, and just being together after my cancer journey. 







 J has been by my side for now over 23 years but he’s truly outdone himself over these last 18 months, being my number one caretaker and the best daddy to Jett.  He’s done just what he said he would as we vowed to each other our love.  For better, for worse, in sickness, and in health…I thank Jesus for him many times a day, as He blessed me with a wonderful man.  And this trip as Vegas turned into “COWBOY TOWN” was one he deserved, more than anything.  




I can’t help but think about the love I have for Jeremy and how much bigger God’s love is for us all.  He’s been so good throughout this ongoing journey and my faith has grown so much.  I’ve also seen Jett’s love for Jesus blossom like crazy lately.  He is constantly talking about God and his awesomeness.  Questions about the crucifixion are always being asked and he told us just this week that he wanted Jesus to live in his heart.  Talk about crumbling to our knees with happiness!  He’s almost 5 and we’re having many conversations with him about what that means but I’m so thankful for all those who have poured the knowledge of God’s word into our little boy, teaching him about our Savior.  What a wonderful foundation for him to grow on at such a young age.
I’m constantly in awe of how God’s timing is absolutely perfect.  After a rough morning of our “getting ready for school” routine, I got the most precious text from a friend who also battled breast cancer.  Jesus Calling is one of my all time favorite devotional books and she sent me today’s devotion that said “Your difficulty can be seen as a slight temporary distress that is producing for you a transcendent Glory never to cease!” And what a difficult time we had this morning and what a difficult year it’s been.  Whew!  So focus on the blessings and not what difficult things can take away, is just what I’ll do.  
I thank Him daily for healing my body and for using me to share hope with others.  Trusting in Him is what we HAVE to do during big storms in our life, as He will calm them, bring healing, transformation, freedom, and hope to all.  Place all your worries into His hands.  He has a way beyond what you and I can see.   

So as the new year is approaching, do something that you’ve never done before!  Going back to my devotion from this morning, French nuns were asked their secret to longevity and they had two responses:  
1.  read and learn continually to keep your mind active 
2.  do something you’ve never done each month

I plan on doing lots of new things in the new year when I am feeling better.  


Here’s a few things on my 2019 LIFE list:
-read more of God’s word and continue to grow closer to Him
-start a cancer support group for those in our community
-teach Jett to read
-join the church choir
-travel with J more to ropings/rodeos 
-go on my first cruise
-take my parents to Vegas in December
-go to the Dallas Market in March for Swanky Steer
-and many more!

I can’t wait to hear of your new adventures, as I know they’ll enlarge you, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally, helping you to praise God. 

“How precious is Your loving kindness O God!  Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.  They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.  For with You is the fountain of life;  In Your light we see light.”  Psalm 36:  7-9

“Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the ends of the Earth.”  Isaiah 42:10


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Breathe

Breathe.  
I feel as if I’m finally able to do just that.  
The last three weeks have been so busy with big, super fun events for our family that have been none short of amazing.
But, I’m somewhat excited about a week with NOTHING on my calendar, except for standardized testing with 25 sweet students at school.    

So take a minute and compare yourself to a tree.  A recent devotion that I read described a tree that was dying, and compared it to our busy lives.  We all know that trees need water, sunlight, carbon dioxide, and nutrients from the soil to live.  And much of the time, flowers are planted at the base, causing the tree to not be able to breathe.  An arborist came out to see a tree once that was dying and as soon as some of the dirt was cleaned away from the base, the tree began to flourish.  We are so much like them, planning activities around us that cause us to become exhausted and lack energy.  So as this week is beginning, I’m trying to rest and do what God wants me to do, not just survive,  but thrive and truly take the time to breathe.  
So as I said, this month has been extra busy with many amazing events.  This past weekend was one that I was so looking forward to as it would be a little down time in my favorite place on Earth.  Although my iWatch said that I walked 12,000 plus steps on Saturday, I was able to breathe in the nice crisp air in Clemson for the homecoming game.  



This was also the breast cancer game for the year and so since I was in the middle of chemo, not feeling well, and it poured rain last year when I was team captain for Bon Secours St. Francis, I was ecstatic that this year I was able to participate in some events, thanks to my friends at the cancer center.  We proudly watched Kathleen Swinney and Becky Steele share information about Dabo’s All In Foundation on the Tiger Tailgate show, and how they are helping fund a new mammography bus.  



We also were able to eat lunch with Mrs. Pearlie Harris, herself, and see one of my favorite former players, CJ Spillers.  



Tailgating with lots of friends, the tiger walk, and then the game, made the day complete.  


The band serenaded us with TIGER RAG just before leaving and sharing a special moment with the band director as his wife is battling breast cancer, allowed the day to be near perfect. 


Earlier in the week, I participated again in the Pumps and Pearls fashion show.    This event is awesome and I feel so honored to have been asked to be a part of it again this year.  Jett escorted me, wearing his full cowboy “get up”, and we had the opportunity to walk the winner of the “Pups and Pearls” dog contest, Honeysuckle.





 She was so gentle and both, her and Jett, did great, as they walked by my side down the runway with 1,200 precious women cheering for each model.  



My precious doctor, Rebecca Keith was the keynote speaker, and did a wonderful job comparing cancer to a mountain lion.  I’ve included the story that she shared below.  I laugh and cry each time I read it, as it’s SO true!

"What’s it like to go through cancer treatment? It’s something like this: one day, you’re minding your own business, you open the fridge to get some breakfast, and OH THERE’S A MOUNTAIN LION IN YOUR FRIDGE.
Wait, what? How? Why is there a mountain lion in your fridge? NO TIME TO EXPLAIN. RUN! THE MOUNTAIN LION WILL KILL YOU! UNLESS YOU FIND SOMETHING EVEN MORE FEROCIOUS TO KILL IT FIRST!

So you take off running, and the mountain lion is right behind you. You know the only thing that can kill a mountain lion is a bear, and the only bear is on top of the mountain, so you better find that bear. You start running up the mountain in hopes of finding the bear. Your friends desperately want to help, but they are powerless against mountain lions, as mountain lions are killing machines. But they really want to help, so they’re cheering you on and bringing you paper cups of water and orange slices as you run up the mountain and yelling at the mountain lion - “GET LOST, MOUNTAIN LION, NO ONE LIKES YOU” - and you really appreciate the support, but the mountain lion is still coming.
Also, for some reason, there’s someone in the crowd who’s yelling “that’s not really a mountain lion, it’s a puma” and another person yelling “I read that mountain lions are allergic to kale, have you tried rubbing kale on it?”
As you’re running up the mountain, you see other people fleeing their own mountain lions. Some of the mountain lions seem comparatively wimpy - they’re half grown and only have three legs or whatever, and you think to yourself - why couldn’t I have gotten one of those mountain lions? But then you look over at the people who are fleeing mountain lions the size of a monster truck with huge prehistoric saber fangs, and you feel like an idiot for even thinking that - and besides, who in their right mind would want to fight a mountain lion, even a three-legged one?
Finally, the person closest to you, whose job it is to take care of you - maybe a parent or sibling or best friend or, in my case, my husband - comes barging out of the woods and jumps on the mountain lion, whaling on it and screaming “MOUNTAIN LION, STOP TRYING TO EAT MY WIFE,” and the mountain lion punches your husband right in the face. Now your husband (or whatever) is rolling around on the ground clutching his nose, and he’s bought you some time, but you still need to get to the top of the mountain. 
Eventually you reach the top, finally, and the bear is there. Waiting. For both of you. You rush right up to the bear, and the bear rushes the mountain lion, but the bear has to go through you to get to the mountain lion, and in doing so, the bear TOTALLY KICKS YOUR BUTT,  but not before it also punches your husband in the face. And your husband is now staggering around with a black eye and bloody nose, and saying “can I get some help, I’ve been punched in the face by two apex predators and I think my nose is broken,” and all you can say is “I’M KIND OF BUSY IN CASE YOU HADN’T NOTICED I’M FIGHTING A MOUNTAIN LION.”
Then, IF YOU ARE LUCKY, the bear leaps on the mountain lion and they are locked in epic battle until finally the two of them roll off a cliff edge together, and the mountain lion is dead.
Maybe. You’re not sure - it fell off the cliff, but mountain lions are crafty. It could come back at any moment.
And all your friends come running up to you and say “that was amazing! You’re so brave, we’re so proud of you! You didn’t die! That must be a huge relief!”
Meanwhile, you blew out both your knees, you’re having an asthma attack, you twisted your ankle, and also you have been mauled by a bear. And everyone says “boy, you must be excited to walk down the mountain!” And all you can think as you stagger to your feet is , I never wanted to climb this mountain in the first place.” Author Unknown

This past year has been a climb like no other but I’m so thankful for all of my “bears”…my husband, my family, my doctors, my friends, and our precious Lord.  Without them, the climb would’ve been much, much harder and I’m not sure that I’d be standing here today, strong and healthy, if that mountain lion had of had his way with me.  I sure didn’t want to climb the “cancer” mountain in the first place but it brought me so much closer to God and that, I’m grateful for.
  
Last weekend I went and saw Lysa TerKeurst’s 
“The Word Alive”  tour with my mom and mother-in-love in Athens.  



It was UNBELIEVABLE.  Lysa has such a passion for leading women in the adventure of faith.  Her story is powerful and we all left there feeling closer to Him, after experiencing a deeper connection to His word with so much more understanding.   It was truly a time where I was able to recharge my soul and spirit, and spend time with two women I adore.  

So now…to rest.  I’m already excited about going to bed by 8 every night this week and having several “low key” upcoming weekends to breathe and well maybe have a little “Swanky Steer” time.  

So I’m going to challenge you to do these things…
Take time to recharge.
Do something that refreshes your soul. 
Lean in to the presence of God. 
And simply stop, and breathe. 

Life is short and I don’t want you to miss the blessings.  
 
“The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  Exodus 33:14


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Give Cancer the BOOT!







In June of this current year, I decided that I wanted to start some type of fundraiser to help bring awareness and raise money to help find a cure for breast cancer.  I prayed about this and continued to ask for guidance, as I also felt God was leading me down a path towards ministering to others dealing with cancer.  After meeting a friend for dinner one night, she told me that she had been praying for me and felt that the Lord was pulling me in that direction as well and for me to seriously be in prayer about this.  I prayed a lot, talked to my parents, Jeremy, and friends about the possibilities and just knew that I wanted to do something in October for sure, for breast cancer month.  Little did I know that “Give Cancer the Boot” would be such a successful event, and the beginning to an annual fundraiser.  



The planning began this past summer as I discussed the event with our ladies’ program leader at our church.   She was super excited about this idea and when I shared my vision to our Common Threads group of women at FIFBC, they couldn’t have been more supportive and eager to help.  Every single stage of the planning process went so smoothly.  From the catering, the musicians, the speakers, the silent auction donations, and more…God’s hand was in it ALL the way.  When working on the program I decided to include an arrow on the front.  When I shared the program with some ladies from my church, one sent the kindest message.   She mentioned how in order to launch an arrow, you must first pull it backward. A diagnosis of cancer can feel like a person is certainly being pulled in the WRONG direction. But with excellent medical care and a wonderful support team, a person, especially a Christian, can be launched in a direction that they never expected. When we make a determined effort to find a way to draw closer to Jesus, even cancer can "get the boot”.  These words meant so much to me and helped direct my focus even more on Him.   My friends and family went above and beyond to help make the fellowship hall look amazing, setting the most beautiful tables with fresh flowers and prayer boxes made by the children at our church.  Prayer cards were hand written for each attendee and the room was prayed over more than once.  When I laid my head down on Wednesday night after working at the church each afternoon, I was able to rest easy, knowing that everything was ready and it would be one to remember.  And on the night of the event, His presence was there.  It was all consuming. My oncologist spoke and shared the greatest message and sang the most beautiful song.  We never discussed what song he’d sing but I knew he’d pick the perfect one.  And he did.  The song “Somebody’s praying for me” was a song that the congregation sang at Fountain Inn First Baptist for years when I first started going after Jeremy and I got married.  Each Sunday I would cry my eyeballs out as it would touch me so.  After having a hard time getting pregnant, this song stirred many emotions as the lyrics say…



“Somebody’s praying,
I can feel it.  
Somebody’s praying for me.
Mighty hands are guiding me 
And protect from what I can’t see…
Lord, I believe, Lord I believe….
Somebody’s praying for me.”
And to know that people from coast to coast were praying for me during my battle with cancer made it that more special that this was his song choice.  
I worked for months writing my testimony and wasn’t one bit nervous to share.  My emotions did get the best of me throughout my time on stage, and my nose ran like a faucet, but God gave me the confidence to stand tall, and praise HIM as I did throughout each step of my journey.  I referenced the story of David and Goliath and how David never thought about his size in comparison to how big Goliath was.  David only thought about how big God was.  And that’s why he was confident and could say in 1 Samuel 17:46  “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down.”  I fought the giant, turning all fear over to God, knowing He would hold me as I faced the unknown over the past year.  And just to prove God’s perfect timing, my devotion for last Thursday in Christine Caine’s book Unshakeable, was about defeating giants and “what ifs”.  I think back on how many times I thought “what if cancer had not have come into my life?”.  I had to change that fear that I had to faith, being confident and trusting in Him more than in my insecurities.  And I had to do that on Thursday night as well, trust that the benefit would be a success and that many would hear how wonderful Jesus is, as He loves us all so much.
Holding Jett during the music portion of the event was super sweet, as he twirled the curls that I’m so glad to now have.  He was the only child there and told me later that he had so much fun at “my party”.  



That precious boy is my why.  He makes living sweet.  And his daddy, my husband, smiled the whole night, hugging many of our friends and family that supported us like no other over the past year.








Having many employees from the cancer center in attendance, from the foundation director, nurses, financial consultants, to Mrs. Pearlie Harris, herself, made the event complete.  Every single person that I’ve had the pleasure of working with throughout Bon Secours St. Francis Health System has been amazing.  



Their love for their job is evident, as well as their love for Christ.  My family is ever so grateful for my team of doctors, nurses, and staff that have helped to save my life.  
A very special award was given at the end of the night to my breast health navigator, Becky Steele.  


I’ll never forget the day I was diagnosed, this precious lady prayed over Jeremy and I, comforting us during this devastating time.  She has the job of telling people on a daily basis that they have breast cancer.  I cannot imagine how hard her job must be, day in and day out.  I will forever be grateful to her as she helped schedule many doctor’s appointments, checked on me regularly, and truly loved on my family and friends during this time.  She was so surprised and I hope she realizes how special she is to so many women.  The help and donations that so many people poured into this event still has me in awe.  As I looked out at our fellowship hall of over 215 people, and then found out that over $6500 was collected that night to be given to The Pearlie Harris Breast Health Center, I could hardly catch my breath to say the closing remarks.  









To think back to just 15 months ago, when I was pricked by a big ole cactus that tried to take my life, to now.  That season is over, and a new one is beginning. I couldn’t wait to feel whole again and be able to continue on with my normal life.  Habakkuk 2:3 says “The revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false.  Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.”  God opened my eyes and allowed me to prepare for this next season of life.  It has been filled with dreams and a God-given purpose.   It’s time to live that out and I couldn’t be more excited.

Thanks to all who came and donated to the Pearlie Harris Breast Health Center.  Much love!  

So save the date for next year…Thursday, October 3, 2019.  We’ll continue to raise money to GIVE CANCER THE BOOT!



“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6


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Man in Pink



He’s my main squeeze, my rock, and the true love of my life.  
He’s a cowboy who loves team roping and being with his friends. 
He loves a good steak, George Strait, Almond Joy candy bars, rodeos, horses, and a cold Coke Zero.  
He’s neat and tidy, but doesn’t mind getting his hands real dirty.  
He’s a great son, brother, and uncle to three nieces that love him tons.
He’s the best caregiver, as he’s been beside me through this last year, never wavering and always there to lift me up.  
He’s a wonderful daddy who is patient and kind with our little guy.  
He’s a hardworking man who puts forth 200% in every job he does.
He’s a man of God, who loves the Lord with all of his heart.



And now he’s a Real Man in Pink.  Raising awareness and money for the American Cancer Society is on his agenda and he’s done such a great job so far.







Last week we had the privilege of attending the reveal party as they introduced all of the 19 men in the upstate that would participate in this cause.  
(See below all of the candidates)

They asked me to speak as a survivor and I couldn’t have been prouder than to share how blessed I am to be married to my guy, a cowboy for the cause.  



So if you’d like to help him reach his goal of $2,500, see the link below.  


He’s my hero and I’m so proud of how he is helping others that are fighting the fight with cancer.  





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God’s runway



This summer I was asked to participate in the 2nd annual Couture for a Cause benefit that raises money for the American Cancer Society.  All fashions are made from recyclable/repurposed materials by super creative designers. 



 I was paired with Tasena Renner and met with her four times for measurements and fittings as she worked to create my outfit for the night.  When we met for the first time, she asked me what I envisioned and I truly had no idea.  It was after cleaning out Jett’s closet and coming across blue jeans that he’d outgrown, that an idea came to mind.  How fun to have a skirt made from his cowboy jeans?  I shared my idea with her, found some inspiration pictures, and she began sewing.  



The shirt was made from an old set of curtains with a camisole created from a bathing suit cover-up.  The button that she used on my skirt was a 2017 penny, symbolizing the year I was diagnosed.  And then I rocked my cactus Junk Gypsy boots as a reminder of the cactus that pricked me.  Tasena put hours and hours of time into creating this outfit and it’s something I’ll treasure forever.  
So on the day of the event, I opened up one of my favorite Christine Caine devotionals to find the reading was entitled “fear, trust, repeat”.  Whoa!  Fearful.  That’s a little bit of how I was feeling as I prepared for this event.  Being a model in the Pumps and Pearls event last year, eased my mind a little, but still being on a runway in front of lots of people is intimidating.  After a full day of teaching, I made the trek to Taylors for the benefit, arriving tired and a little weary.  Giving my name, I entered the backstage area which was full of make-up and hair artists, tons of clothing designers, and 17 survivor models that would walk the runway with their “one of kind” recycled outfits.





 A sister of a friend from high school did my make-up, a hair designer quickly styled my hair to look like the singer, Pink, and Tasena, my designer, added the finishing touches to my outfit.  Fear of walking the runway kept creeping in, especially when we lined up as a group.   Pressing forward was just what I had to do.  



I quickly found my friend Jenny and her precious daughter Amelia and seeing them took the anxiety away. Sweet Amelia, 9,  was diagnosed at 6 months with retinoblastoma.  I taught with her momma and remember the moment she found out about Amelia’s cancer.  We were all devasted for them but rallied around this family and prayed many prayers for this sweet girl.   Amelia told me last night that she doesn’t remember any of her treatment (thank the Lord), but only knows what her mommy has told her about her journey to become cancer free.  Twirling around in her gorgeous purple gown, no fear whatsoever, and a huge smile on her face, reminded me just what the night all about.  Through fashion and fun, this event was a night to revel in the celebration of the gift of life.  The 17 women involved in this event have fought different battles of cancer, walked many tough paths, and are thriving today.  The stories of each of them were great to hear, giving so much hope to all.  The crowd, the lights, and the music pumped us all up and helped make the walk down the runway lots of fun.  It was the moment when I looked to my left on my individual walk during the show, when I saw a blue eyed little boy that I call mine.  



He was sitting in his daddy’s lap, waving and when our eyes met, he reached out and said “mommy!”  All the tears in the world poured out of my eyes, staring at his sweet face, ever so proud of me.  






This event truly was one like no other.  I’ve never seen such unique, innovative outfits like the ones designed by these amazing designers from across the country.  The “People’s Choice” award went to the precious daughter of a young mother that lost her cancer battle a few years ago.  Sweet Amelia was so excited when that trophy was given, and squealed for her “new” friend that she met just hours before.  Watching her clap and congratulate her, beaming with pride, took the cake.  Amelia was truly tickled that this little girl won and not a jealous bone was in this little body.  That’s what it’s all about.  Cheering others on and loving them through their journey.  







Meeting another young breast cancer survivor, Phaedra, made this night super special too.  We talked about how God’s plan for our lives includes sharing our journey as a platform to help others have hope.   She gave me the prettiest pair of earrings and was just so inspiring and gorgeous.  Her sweet spirit reminded me, once again, of all the amazing people God has placed in my life over the last year that have had such an impact on me.  Her designer ended up being a young lady that went to my high school and lived within 2 miles of my parents.  



What a small world?  
So as the evening wrapped up, $45,000 was raised and went directly to the American Cancer Society.  Their mission is to save and celebrate lives, and lead the fight for a world without cancer.  And what more can we ask for?  Oh how I wish it could be taken away completely.  Oh how I wish we could find a cure.  Just this week my mom’s sister was diagnosed with colon cancer.  My heart has been so heavy as I know the feelings that she’s having right now, scared to death and fearful of what’s to come.  We have to remember that God’s plan is perfect and just.  He’ll carry you all the way, with a firm grip on you each day.  He proved that to me and is still right by my side.  The song that comes to mind when I think about the hard times we endure, especially after that word, “cancer” is mentioned by a doctor is “Great Are You Lord” by All Sons and Daughters.



“You give life, You are love
You bright light to the darkness 
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, Lord.
It’s your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only. 

I closed my eyes several times last night praising Him for giving me another day and to thank Him for these fun opportunities to be with others who have been through hard times and are thriving.  It’s really helpful and reassuring to see that there is life, a good life, after so many painful days.  I also reflected back on this time last year and how I was in full chemo mode.  







September 6 was one of my big A/C days.  I’ll never forget the sick feeling that would take me down for the weekend after these treatments.  And September 6 will always be a day of celebration too, as it was my Grandaddy’s birthday.  He loved with his whole being.  On his dying day, he told my mom to “love one another”.  Isn’t that what life is all about?  Loving one another through this crazy thing called life.  
Before walking down the long runway last night, I was super nervous, as I said earlier.  I couldn’t help but think…
Would the lights blind my eyes?  
Would I fall?  
Would I look silly?  
What would the judges think of me?  
I had to take several deep breaths and ultimately trust God, knowing that He walks with us daily, comforting us in ways beyond our understanding.  So believe His promises and rest, knowing that His love is enough.  
Walk tall, and know that you are on His runway and He’s the only judge at the end.  
With Him, through trials and happiness, you’ll win in the end.  

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”  Hebrews 13:8


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