How Daddy Prepared Me For His Cancer Diagnosis – #Pray4PaPa

Brian lesion.  Growth.  Cancer.  Rare.  Malignant.  Cancer.  Aggressive.  Surgery.  Cancer.  Stage 4.  Chemo.

These are the words that have been bouncing around in my head like a pinball and have me struggling to catch my breath at times.

No. Not my Daddy.

It started a couple of months ago when I got a call from my Dad, and he told me in a way too calm voice about a suspicious growth behind his ear. That started weeks of biopsies, CT scans, appointments with various specialists, and waiting. Waiting for insurance, waiting for phone calls, waiting for appointments, waiting for test results. Waiting, Waiting, Waiting.

Getting a Cancer diagnosis is overwhelming. I went from worst-case scenario to complete denial in my head. No. Not my Daddy.  So many questions and often no answers…or a long, painful wait to get some half-answers…or even incorrect answers in some cases.

Now we have an almost complete diagnosis and a plan of action, which puts this control freak somewhat at ease. I am extremely thankful to be living in Nashville, which is quickly becoming the healthcare capital of the world. Dad has the best medical team that is trying to identify and fit all the pieces of his complicated Cancer puzzle.

He didn’t know it at the time, but Dad has raised me with the tools that I need to face his cancer diagnosis and any other trial that comes my way.

Hugs Give Instant Comfort. My Dad has always been very affectionate which he has passed down to me and I to my children. I treasured the time over Christmas that I had to just sit with my Dad and snuggle. I will never take any of his hugs for granted. Even though I have kept my emotions somewhat guarded around my kids, they have a 6th sense and have showered me with hugs, kisses and “I Love Yous” at just the right moment.

Music Soothes the Soul. I remember listening to Three Dog Night and Deep Purple with Dad on his record player for hours when I was a kid.

When I pray for people going through hard times, I pray for Jesus to wrap His arms around them. Jesus wraps His arms around me through music.

When we were waiting for the diagnosis about what type of cancer he had, it was excruciating. God sent me the opportunity to write my first music review. For the days leading up to his appointment, I had MercyMe’s Christmas album on in a constant loop. God blessed me with the ability to be in a constant state of praise in a very uncertain time.

Another time I was trying to get some shopping in before the kids got out of school for break. I had just gotten off the phone with my parents. Dad always waits until Mom gets off the phone and we have our own “Goodbye & I Love You.” I completely lost it in the parking lot. No. Not my Daddy. I sat in the car bawling until Jesus dried my tears through Mindy Smith’s “Come to Jesus” playing on the radio.

Come to Jesus and let Him hold you in His arms.

A Positive Attitude Crushes Negative Thoughts. Dad has such a great outlook about his prognosis. His medical team at Vanderbilt is the best of the best of the best. God has placed his care in very capable hands. Dad’s sense of humor helps us all think positively too. He says he can’t wait to be bald, beautiful, and skinny when he is through all this 🙂 We even laughed last night about Eric and I finally having the time to watch “Catching Fire” during his long surgery since we can’t stay awake for a whole two hours after the kids go to bed 😉

Our Faith is a Verb not just a Noun. Of course we can do all of these things because of the Faith that Dad and Mom instilled in our family. Our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is deep in our heart and souls. I, honestly, don’t know how people deal with struggles without having Him as their rock to lean on. We do not know what God’s will is in this situation. We pray that it complete and total healing for Dad. Whatever direction we go, we know that Jesus will have us wrapped up in His arms and give us the strength to face the next step.

Now the words that I will pray over will be:

Strength.  Faith.  Love.  Jesus.  Healing.  Comfort.

Pray4PaPaSLM

My youngest son, Matthew, wanted to make bracelets for everyone in our family. They are our #Pray4PaPa bracelets. Every time we look at them we say a prayer for Pa Pa, Mimi, & his doctors.

 

When Does School Start Again??

I LOVE my kids. However, they have been out of school almost two weeks with one week to go. Here are 5 reasons I will be the first in drop off line in January:
1. I have no clue what day of the week it is.
2. At one point, I had each kid, my husband and the dog in separate corners. And they were still finding a way to fight through the air vents!!!
3. I desperately need a buy lunch option in the cafeteria
4. They keep uncleaning my Spring cleaning. (Husband included)
5. When I banish them to the backyard for 15 minutes, I spend an hour scrapping mud pies off tennis shoes from our torrential Tennessee Winter Thunderstorms.
But here are 5 reasons I will miss the 3 littles pieces of my heart the instant they step on the sidewalk:
1. Morning snuggles
2. Lazy breakfast with lots of laughter
3. Movie popcorn and snuggles
4. Random “I Love Yous” throughout he day
5. No 3rd grade homework or tears 😉

Holiday Hangover

Sweet tea and bacon grease are seeping through my pores. My skinny jeans are mocking me and saying, “Don’t even think about it until at least 2016.” I ran out of eye makeup remover yesterday, so I used my coconut oil today. Now I smell like popcorn. My ears are ringing from all the noise, Noise, NOISE, NOISE, NOISE!!!!! I am sweating through my Christmas sweater that I packed in my suitcase eight days ago when it felt like Winter instead of Summer. (Really, 75 degrees in December???!!!) My inner Introvert is screaming for some alone time for the L-O-V-E.

It is official. I have a Holiday Hangover.

Don’t get me wrong. I love, Love, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my family. God blessed me with a double portion of awesomeness in the family department. But being surrounded 24/7 by anyone for a week can drive this social butterfly into a wall. Even in college when I went on the “Best Spring Break I Don’t Remember” with my girlfriends, I was holed up on Hodges Library by Sunday night just for some peace and quiet.

If only I could lock myself in a closet and make Rainbow Loom bracelets like my 7 year old did…unfortunately, that isn’t socially acceptable for a 38 year old 😉 Instead, I am reduced to stealing a few extra minutes of peace in the bathroom on my iPhone where I can still be social but with less commitment and no electronic shaming.

Apparently, I have passed it on to my offspring. When we got home today, we all peeled off to our rooms (Eric to the garage) and shut the door without saying a word. We all needed a little “Peace Out” time.

I just need 24 hours to drink ten gallons of water, eat nothing but green leafy vegetables, walk around the block 1,000 times, recharge my socialable batteries and be lord of my thermostat (It got up to 78 degrees!!!) and my children’s plates (one is enough desserts!!!)

And then I will be ready to do it all over again.

Have the Hap HAP HAPPIEST of New Years!!

Holiday Hangover

Oh Christmas Tree…how droopy & tired are your branches.  (Just like me)

The Fruit of the Christmas Spirit

fruit of the Christmas Spirit pic

In Galatians 5:22 – 23, Paul tells us about the Fruit of the Spirit:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,

peace, patience, kindness, goodness,

faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

What if we thought about how we could embody the Fruit of the Spirit this Christmas season?

Love: God’s love for us is the heart of Christmas. He loves us, his children, so much that He sent Jesus to this world. “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son.” John 3:16. We can demonstrate our love this Christmas season by being present in our loved ones’ lives. “We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 5:19

Joy: Relish the beautiful Christmas music. Blast it. Sing It. Dance to it. Christmas can be a tough time for many; God will help you find joy when you seek it. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say rejoice.” Phillipians 4:4.

Peace: In a time that seems anything but peaceful, we can rest in the truth that God is with us – Immanuel. He is the Prince of Peace and the battle is already won. Turn off the news for a little while and enjoy some peace and quiet with your family. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.

Patience: The new clerk at Target that can’t figure out the cash register (who is working a 2nd job during the holidays to provide for her family), Aunt Mildred who always gets under your skin (who has a tough time in the holidays), your kids when they are constantly fighting on Day TWO of Christmas break (who are over tired from all the Christmas fun and are secretly missing the structure of their school days). There are a lot of opportunities to exercise patience during the Christmas season. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another with love.” Ephesians 4:2.

Kindness: The holidays can be very difficult for those who have lost loved ones or are going through a crisis. Being kind is being aware and having a genuine desire to treat these people gently. “I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love.” Hosiah 11:4

Goodness: Goodness is kindness in action. Send a card to someone going through a hard time. Make them some cookies. Sing carols in a nursing home. Serve a meal in a homeless shelter. Don’t just think about it… Do It. “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

Faithfulness: The Christmas Story needs to be told to our children as more than a story that falls between “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” and “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” As parents, it is our responsibility to really impress on our children that when we read about Christ’s birth in the book of Luke, it is fact. Don’t get me wrong, I love even the secular parts of Christmas; however, it is important that we instill in the next generation the certainty of Christ Jesus. “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17

Gentleness:  In America we live in a nation that is quite diverse.  Different cultures and religions are all around us.  What a remarkable opportunity to share the true Christmas story.  Bashing Red Coffee cups and “Happy Holidays” wishers doesn’t exactly demonstrate God’s love.  Instead we can be respectful of others’ beliefs while we share our own.  If we don’t respect others, how can we expect it in return?And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth” 2 Timothy 2:24

Self-Control: Whether it is too much egg nog at the office Christmas party, cookies at Mimi’s house, or spoiling your adorable kids a bit too much, losing some of your self-control is all too easy. In fact, many may over indulge in the name of Christmas (myself included). While my self-control may falter at the dinner table (because how often do I get to eat Nana and Mimi’s food??), I am making it my goal to maintain my self-control and not slack on my workouts. “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.” Proverbs 25:28

Eeeeks. Those are some tall orders. But that is why they are called the Fruit of the Spirit. As imperfect humans, we are incapable of these attributes on our own. Only by the Holy Spirit living within us, can we personify the Fruit of the Spirit. 

While the rest of the world waits for New Years to make changes and start fresh, we can have a New Start any and every day of the year. When God sent His son on Christmas Day, we were given the gift to be redeemed and start a new life in Christ.

And all you have to do is receive His gift.

Merry Christmas, Sweet Friends.

Oh MercyMe I Have Yet Another Favorite Christmas Album!

I didn’t get my nickname, DJ Jazzy Steph, in the 90s in college by accident. Back in those days, there was no such thing as a “playlist.” It was a big, fat, black Case Logic CD case. Mine was decorated with puffy paint and alphabetized of course 😉

But I have evolved with the times.

190 songs. 12 hours and 19 minutes.

That is how big the Christmas Playlist is on 2015 DJ Jazzy Steph’s iPhone. Don’t talk to me about Pandora or Spotify. I want to pick my own tunes. I work hard to craft the perfect playlist.

And this perfect Christmas playlist has been playing continually since November 1st. Eric jokes that I can’t sneak up on anyone because my iPhone is always stuck in my back pocket with my Christmas music playing.

MercyMeAlbumCoverEvery year I get a new Christmas album (are they still called that?) and sometimes two. Last year it was Lady Antebellum and the year before was Michael Buble’. This year my buddy, Patrick, gave me MercyMe “It’s Christmas!”

Guys. This seriously has moved to the coveted “repeat” position on DJ Jazzy Steph’s Christmas Playlist!! It is one that I can listen to til the cows come home. (Or in my case the kids, to which Matthew will ask, “Seriously? Still listening to this?”)

My first introduction to MercyMe was actually a few Christmases ago. The local Christian station (94 FM the Fish) plays Christmas music 24/7 in December, so we started listening to it on the way to school. I had grown up in church, but had not ever really given Contemporary Christian music a fair shake. Turns out a lot has changed in the Contemporary Music industry since the 80s!

I think that is part of what I love about the music so much. MercyMe weaves their unique style through traditional and contemporary music.

From the very first words sung … “Hallalujah. The newborn is come” … one word immediately comes to my mind … worship. Yes. This is what Christmas is all about. Worshiping the newborn king that came to save us. The first song, “Newborn,” is a compilation of some traditional Christmas hymns that is arranged in a fresh, upbeat song. I am not a hand raiser, but this song brought me pretty close!

Hands down (no pun intended) my favorite song is “Our Lullaby.” Literally, I put it on repeat for an hour straight. This tender lullaby is written for Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and us. The lyrics are beautiful, and the acoustic guitar is out of this world.

I love that they included fun, secular songs too. Who doesn’t love “Sleigh Ride” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas?” They even wrote a couple that could become instant classics. “Christmastime Again” may be my own personal soundtrack. It reminds me to slow down, enjoy this season because it will be over before I know it. It is the perfect song to keep me grounded as I rush from shop to shop getting ready for Christmas parties, Santa Claus, making cookies, and stuffing stockings. Listen to it and I dare you to not get up and dance. And just in case I need another reminder, “Hold On Christmas” emphasizes that Christmas waits for no one. I have nine days before Christmas now. Am I going to make them count? Or rush them away? 

I know you are wondering, how can I get my copy??

  1. Head over to the Southern Lady Mama Facebook page. LIKE and Share this blog post (I’ll pin it to the top!) and you will be entered into a drawing for the MercyMe “It’s Christmas!” CD. Contest will be going on until Saturday, December 19 at 10 a.m. CST.
  2. If you are one of my lucky MidWest readers, you can head to your pr_logo1_4clocal Pizza Ranch to get your copy for only $5 AND it has four bonus tracks (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, O Holy Night, Silent Night and one of my favorites – Joseph’s Lullaby). Or you can get it for FREE if you purchase $25 in gift cards to Pizza Ranch. If you purchase $50 in Pizza Ranch gift cards, you not only get the CD for FREE but you get a $5 bounceback coupon for your next visit. Take care of some of those gifts, get your new fav Christmas CD, and support a wonderful Christian company!
  3. iTunes.  It doesn’t have the bonus tracks, but the ones on it are the bomb.com

Merry Christmas, friends. I hope you take time this Christmas season to slow down, enjoy some good music, snuggle with your loved ones, and remember why we celebrate this wonderful season.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 (NIV)

 Immanuel, God with us.

How to Go from Party Rock Star to Party Pariah in 2 Seconds Flat

Saturday night my family went to a Christmas party at our good friend’s Party Rock Star pichouse. I love me a good Christmas party. Get dressed up. Talk to adults. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

When we got there, the kids rushed to the basement to play with the other kids. Eric and I mingled between the eclectic group of his, hers and their friends at the party. I found myself standing at the kitchen island talking to a guy having the standard get to know you chit-chat.

Where are you from?

Do you have kids?

What do you do?

I am finally able to say “Writer” with a straight face. Instantly, I was the most interesting woman in the world. We had a good conversation about blogging and the publishing process. Then came the question. “So what is your book about? Is it a novel? Mystery? Thriller?”

“No. Actually, I wrote a book about infertility. It is about my battle with it, how I overcame it and what I learned along the way.”

His eyes instantly started darting around the room searching for his wife, his buddy, anyone that he could rush to talk to instead of me.

As Matthew would say, Seriously??

Grow. A. Pair. My Infertility isn’t catching. Your swimmers will keep on swimming in spite of your proximity to an infertile person. That’s not how it works. And remember the first part of our conversation? I have three kids. Obviously I overcame infertility and am not going to turn into a babbling pile of hormonal tears on you.

As Eric likes to say, “We kicked infertility’s a$$.”

I remember when I was younger and in the trenches with infertility, I felt the same way. I only told a hand full of people because it is such a private struggle. Some were supportive but some avoided me like the plague.

If someone is brave enough to share their struggle with you, then reciprocate that bravery. Be there for them. Don’t avoid them. You can’t catch Infertility.

Nothing you can say will magically make things better. You aren’t expected to fix things.  We, of all people, know that there are no easy fixes.  And as hard as it is for you, it is a million times harder for them.  A hug, an “I love you,” and “I’m praying for you” go a long way.

Then don’t just say you will pray. Do it. Pray for peace for them. Pray for the strength of their marriage. Pray for them to be surrounded by supportive people. And pray for God to give you comforting words for them when they need them.

This is totally written tongue and cheek. Had we not gone through the experience with our own battle, we could have had the same reaction. Alas, that is why I write – to help raise what I like to call your C.Q. – Compassion Quotient.

And because we could all use a laugh….check out these  “Most Interesting Man in the World” quotes.  Hysterical. Oh gosh.  It is toss up which one is my favorite.  The Weeping Willow, the Holy Grail and Russian all had me in tears.

Happy Monday.  Just eleven days till Christmas!