38 things I’m THaNKfUl for

This time last year I was heading to dinner at one of our all time favorite seafood dives at the beach for my birthday.   We had planned on going out with my sister-in-law, brother- in-law, their two girls, J and Jett.  My in-laws sadly had to leave the beach earlier that week due to my father-in-law’s
health, so it was just us.  

Until I saw that my momma and daddy had driven down to Beaufort to surprise their baby girl for my birthday.  

We ate and talked, took pictures, and the whole time I couldn’t take my mind off of this huge lump I kept catching myself feel.  The only person that knew about it was Jeremy and my doctor, since I’d messaged her earlier in the week.  It was all consuming.  I remember sitting on the beach watching the kids play, and I’d tear up.  Or we’d be at the pool, and I’d feel it. I even almost took my mom to the bathroom at the restaurant that night to tell her about it.  But I didn’t.  I never would have wanted to ruin her trip down to the low country that they’d made for my special day.  But as the beach week came to a close, i was ready to find out just what this thing was.  I just knew that the doctor would tell me that everything was ok and it was just a cyst.  I really did think that.  One in eight.  I wouldn’t be the one.  But I was.  

So I took the bull by the horns and fought the fight and
am still battling it to this very day.  

And so year 37 has been one of the hardest, saddest, and sickening of all the years God has given me, but also it’s been wonderful, full of His faithfulness, and rich with love from my friends and family.  

So what better way than to reminisce over this year, than naming 38 things I’m more thankful for than I’ve ever been...
1.  A strong faith in Jesus, God’s son
2.  My wonderful husband who never left my side
3.  My precious little fellow that calls me mommy and loves on me every second we are together 
4.  My amazing parents and in-laws who have been with us every single step of the way
5.  Our family who has loved on us and helped in many different situations
6.  My TRIBE of friends who have prayed for us and held me, wiping many tears away
7.  My precious doctors (Keith-OBGYN, Dyar-oncologist, Millican-surgeon, and Allen-radiation oncologist) who knew the plan and have constantly been by my side during each step
8.  The chemo nurses who intravenously put poison in my body to kill this disease
7.  ALL nurses and staff at St. Francis who took note of all of my concerns and gave the best care
8.  The port ladies who are still accessing my port each time without me feeling a thing and lidocaine cream for numbing
9.  Sister Dorothy and all of the sisters who shared God’s promises with me during treatments 
10.  My principal, team, and staff at BCES, who constantly came to check on me and give big hugs
11.  My Giddy-Ups and their families, who understood the situation and were always willing to help in room 202
12.  Cards from students, past and present, full of love and prayers 
13.  My precious substitute who stepped in and never missed a beat teaching my sweet students
14.  Wigs!  Three that kept me looking normal 
15.  Black out curtains that helped so much when I was so sensitive to light
16.  Sonic slushees that helped with mouth sores
17.  Clemson football-I looked forward to each game during the week
18.  Baseball hats and crocheted caps
19.  The many meals prepared with such love 
20.  Cards, texts, sursies, and phone calls that always brightened my spirits
21.  Daily devotion books that helped me focus on Him
22.  Music of all kinds,  especially during recovery with surgery
23.  Lemon drops and candy to take away the terrible taste from the flushes of my port 
24.  Visitors who kept my mind off of the scary times
25.  My home and bed that kept me comfortable and warm
26.  My sweet cleaning lady that came and helped so much
27.  Heated chairs and blankets at chemo 
28.  Foot massages every treatment 
29.  Medicine to help curb the side effects
30.  Sweet tea and lemonade
31.  Celebrating holidays, especially Christmas with so many of my friends and family and Santa! 
32.  The Clemson Tigers for taking me on a tour of the most beautiful stadium and allowing me to be the Spirit of the Tiger honoree
33.  Sunrises that remind me that I’ve lived another day and  sunsets that help me count my blessings for the day
34.  Good Netflix shows 
35.  Ka-brow eyebrow paint so I could draw them in
36.  Wendy’s frosties
37.  The book.  The Bible.  His word. 

I could go on.  But I’ll stop with these.  

A recent devotion that I read said these words...”you never know when your time is going to expire, so remember: as you add years to your life, add life to your years.”

So on this birthday, I will sit back thanking God for 1 more year of life with my tribe.  My wish this year is to live many more years, shining God’s light within me.  

And that’ll be the best gift of all.  

Today was the greatest day.  I started with breakfast with my little buddy. 

 Lunch followed with the dearest friend and the lady who molded me into the teacher I am today.  

She’s been by my side the whole way, bringing prizes for Jett on a regular basis (which makes him frelmoh so special), and loving on my whole family.  

And then dinner with the crew, which was so special.  

A night cap swim ended the night with a beautiful sunset and the sweetest cards from my guys.  

William Barclay once said, “there are two great days in a person’s life...the day we are born and the day we discover why.” 

This year, I’ve seen the why.  God put me here on this Earth for a reason. He allowed me to be a daughter, a wife, a mother, a sister, and a friend to many.   He let this cancer journey be a part of my walk to help others and share God’s love. 
And that’s my why right now.  
So today was a great day.  

Oral chemo update:  they lowered my dosage by 500 mg each time so I’m taking about 2,000 mg twice a day and after four days into round 3, I can see a slight difference. My hands are still peeling pretty bad but my feet seem a little better.  I have an appointment with the podiatrist after our beach trip to remove both big toenails as they causing lots of pain. The Taxol caused all fingernails to lift and only affected my two toenails, thankfully!  
When I get discouraged and irritated over these little things, I seriously have to stop and get myself in check.  It could be worse.  I’m still alive, I can wear flip flops and open toed shoes, and I can walk, move and function.  I’m thankful for cute bandaids too to keep these suckers held on tight and to prevent any more pain.  
Thanks for all your continuous prayers.  I go back after
our beach trip and hopefully this dosage will be the exact amount my body can handle to keep the cancer away!  

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”   John 10:10




Hope is a word I strongly believe in.  
Webster’s definition is “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.”
And I’ve felt a strong sense of hope during some very hopeless times.  
This verse helped me so much during the early days of my diagnosis.
  “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put you hope in God, for I will praise Him, my savior and my God.”  Psalm 31:24 

I know that my future is ultimately in His hands and it will be better than the present that I’m living now.  

So when I learned about the Chapel of Hope in Asheville, through a dear family friend, I knew that a trip must be made.  And what better time than during my birthday week.  

The Chapel of Hope was built in 1991
by the Barutio family, after Mrs. Barutio miraculously recovered from cancer. It only measures 12x14 feet, seats 8 at a time, and has four pews.  

As we pulled up, the silence and trickle of the nearby creek was the calmest sound you’ve ever heard.  Jett was super inquisitive and walked in the chapel, asking “is anybody here?”  I asked him if he wanted to
pray and he knelt down immediately, horses and all from the nearby general store.

  My dad then took him to
see the creek so that my mom and I could have some
quiet time together in this precious chapel.  We left a prayer cactus, a list of prayer concerns, and a little piece of our heart.  I hit my knees and thanked Him for his promise of eternal life and His faithfulness through this hard time in my life.  I prayed for many that are sick, those who have lost loved ones recently, and many who are battling situations in their lives.  

As we left the beautiful chapel, a sweet couple was waiting to enter.  They had both lost their spouses and remarried ten years ago and were renewing their vows.  

Being from South Carolina as well, they also shared my parents’ anniversary.  Talk about the hand of God being in this little adventure.  

As we pulled away, my dad reached over to show me that he left his “Prayers for Kristen” bracelet that he’s worn since right after I was diagnosed at the alter.  God blessed me with the best parents that have stood beside me daily.  

This time was so ever so special, the day before my 38th birthday.  A gorgeous sunny day with mild temperatures, in the prettiest setting, with the Holy Spirit ever so present.  It  made for  a perfect pre-birthday trip.

Knowing that He is in control, that He knows everything about us all, and that He will never remove His hand from us, in this chaotic world, leaves me with lots
of hope.  

And after visiting the Chapel of Hope today, my life is just a little sweeter, living in His peace.  

If you ever have a day that you’d like to make a road trip to Trust, North Carolina, go.  

It’s a nice drive up a very windy mountain, that leads you to a little “slice of Heaven”.  

“Hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”  Romans 5:5




Strong, unchanging, tough. 
Stacked, they can make huge mountains. 
Standing tall to see the world.  

Haiku-written by the teacher in me 😀
***You can tell I’m missing the classroom when I’m writing poetry in my spare time ?***

Father’s Day and our anniversary will always have a whole new meaning to me each year as it’s the day I found my tumor.  I’ll never forget that second my hand touched it under my armpit.  It was like a punch in the throat, my heart skipped a beat and my stomach turned all at once.  
What did I just feel?  It has to be a hormonal cyst.  It just had to be.  After a much needed nap with Jett, on a wonderful, joyous occasion celebrating my daddy,  my father-in-law, my husband, and our anniversary (which so happened to fall on Father’s Day), my mood seemed to change from happy to helpless.  I told J what I had found and then worried myself about it until I could see my doctor.
And after our beach trip the following week, my life changed forever.

As we prepare to celebrate Father’s Day this weekend, I can’t help but know that I’ll squeeze the men in my life a little tighter on their special day.  They’ve been such huge supporters of mine during this trial. I’ll never forget calling J and having him meet me at my doctor’s office, as she gave us the news of my cancer.  We crumbled together, but immediately, hand in hand, began the fight.  He was my constant and so encouraging the entire journey. 

 My daddy was the same.  Telling him the news was horrible, as both a mom and dad never want to see their child go through something like this.  He faithfully sat in my chemo room, and watched every drop of those meds enter my body.  

And then when I told my father-in-law, who at the time was ill and fighting for his life, seeing him shed tears and squeezing my hand as I asked him to fight alongside me, meant so much.

Those were some of the hardest moments,  but these three men have been like “rocks” along my path this past year. 
 In fact, miracles have taken place and my father-in-law is doing awesome, back to fishing and enjoying time with his grandchildren.  My dad spends his days refinishing his old barns, and is moving well after serious neck surgery.  He loves playing with his dog, Buddy, and of course loving on his grands too.  
And Jeremy, well...he’s just busy, working like crazy, roping, and being a great dad and husband.  

Rocks are tough, and strong, like our fathers. 
They don’t change easily, which is good because I sure need stable goodness in my life.  
And stacked, rocks make mountains.
 These men stand tall daily, like boulders, and provide for us in this life we are living.
And I can stand on the edge and see our beautiful world, with them ever so present,  thanking God for putting them in lives.   
And the best rock is Jesus.  
When things get tough and you hit the bottom, you discover that there is one rock you can completely stand on.  
Our Heavenly Father. 

This week has been tough. 
 I’ve called His name many times in need.  I feel 80 years old most days, as my body aches and my hands and feet look super gross as they are peeling and cracked from the chemo drug.   Mommy guilt has set in that my stamina isn’t what if used to be and that my 4 year old is BUSY.  His nap time days seem to be over, and mine haven’t stopped.  My sweet little buddy accidentally stepped on my old broken toe nail (caused from the Taxol drug)  as he’s always one precious inch away from me most times. He saw me cry and then he cried.  And he asked me this week if I was going to Heaven soon.  These things have had me on my knees.  Praying, crying, laughing...my emotions run wild.  But yet I grab him and hold him ever so tight as I’m thankful to be his mommy and be alive.  I’m his rock.  And he is mine.  He keeps me grounded and helps me see the important things in life.  The flowers he picks are the most gorgeous ones on the planet, his sweet kisses I’ll cherish forever.  I never tire of hearing him call me mommy.  And I relish in every second that we get to spend together.  Even when I’m tired and weak and just plain wore out.  

So as he stood on this mountain of rocks at the roping pen last night, I couldn’t help but sing this song to myself, “Rock of ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.”

  God who is unchanging, steady, and immovable, has made a way for me to hide in His cleft at times and be found by Jesus.  
There have been times when I’ve wanted to hide and try to forget about this disease, and I’ve fallen down many times during this journey, but I then remember I have so much to live for.  
Life is tough, like a rock, and with Him, there is hope.

Happy Father’s Day to all of the wonderful men out there.  

Know you are loved and appreciated for being our rocks!  

“And when my heart is faint, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”   Psalm 61:2



Side by side

This past weekend by far was one of the most wonderful, exhausting,( physically and emotionally), but so full of fun.  Thursday afternoon we set up The Swanky Steer, and started the business that Erica and I both have dreamed of for years.  I couldn’t help but be a little nervous at the beginning, thinking...

•would people come
•would they like our stuff
•would the credit card machine work
•would we have enough merchandise 
•would we be successful 

And all these “would be” statements proved to be true!  People came and then came back 10 more times over the course of the weekend, we had plenty of merchandise to offer, and the precious, compliments given, meant the most to both of us.  We had so much fun talking with all that stopped by, hearing their stories, helping them find the perfect outfit, and spending time with our family.  

Our guys were our biggest supporters, helping set up, watching the kids, bagging purchases, tearing down, grabbing food, and more.  We were all “side by side”, working together, the entire time and that brought me to tears several times.  Not only during this business journey have we been close, but throughout my treatment road, these friends have been by our side each step of the way.  

The story in the Bible that I thought of after this weekend is when the Jews rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. They stood right beside each other.  They worked together, priests worked with rulers, perfume makers worked with goldsmiths, and people from other places came help.  

And the same happened with us.  
Erica and I worked side by side, setting up, wrapping up purchases, closing up for the night, and then returning the following morning. 
Our sweet friends came and offered their time to help us launch this business, tagging clothes, preparing bags, folding tees, pricing jewelry, etc.  
We’ve all heard that it takes a village to raise a child.  
And let me just say that it takes an army to start a business.  Literally...the vendors, the UPS man, our families, friends, and more, have given their time to raise this business from the ground up, and we commend them all for loving on us during this journey.  They have stood by our side, as we’ve tried to create a community where we can love on others and share His goodness.  

So many that came by, stepped into our 10x10 set-up, carrying worry, loss, happiness, excitement, loneliness, and lots more emotions that we never knew of. 
 And as I stop to think about the broken walls of Jerusalem when they crumbled, they are just like all of our broken lives.  So many are fighting big battles daily, with new diagnosis's, family issues, and just plain brokenness.

  Just last night I went to a visitation of a young mother that passed away.  I’ve just prayed constantly for her family and young child, that God will wrap His arms around them, giving them the guidance to raise this precious girl.  He’s so good and I just know that He will walk with them every second of the day. 
 Side by side, that’s how this family will get through these hard times as they grieve the loss
of their daughter, sister, mother, and friend.  

What would we do without our God?  

I don’t see how someone can go through a trial without having Him to lean on.  

I know I’d crumble.  

I’d be in a heap on the floor. 

He’s carried me so far during my 37 years and I have faith knowing that He’s not going to leave me now.  

Zach Williams has a great song called “My Liberty” and I can’t help but love it.  

Running to Him, Wild and free.... 
And having so many by my side, have made this journey unforgettable.

So week 2 of the chemo drug, Xeloda, began today.

  My hands are peeling some and my finger nails and toe nails are acting up again.  During the Taxol chemo treatment, all of my finger nails lifted from the bed of my finger and have never grown back together.  So right now I have a thumb nail hanging on my a thread and I’m about to lose both toe nails. 

 Gross? Right!  But thank God for summertime and flipflops.  I mean what if it was 20 degrees and I had to wear socks and closed toed shoes?  
So once again, God is all knowing and knows my exact needs.  

Last Wednesday when I went to check in with my doctor after my first round of this new chemo drug, I saw a new lab nurse, who was going to get a blood sample to check those levels.  She really struggled accessing my port, which led to my nerves being shot.  Tears came on like a waterfall, and finally one of the other ladies who always accesses it, moved me to her little room, flipped me upside down so the blood would start flowing. I called His name and all my fear went away, as the blood starting flowing almost immediately.  I hugged her neck, and thanked God for having her there at that time to take my worries away.  

So side by side, the nurses, doctors, receptionists, and other staff, have been there for me. All the way.  

June is a big month with Father’s Day, our anniversary, and my birthday.   I can’t wait to celebrate these three occasions, “side by side” and “hand in hand” with my tribe. 
I’m so grateful, blessed, and lucky to have another day of life on this beautiful Earth with precious people that I hold so dear.  

So do me a favor!  Find your “side by side”
Give them a squeeze and thank them. 
 We are never promised tomorrow. 
 Never forget that!  

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9


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