When You Don’t Even Know How to Pray

Since my Dad’s Cancer diagnosis in December, my mind has been warring between optimistic and realistic thoughts.

I recall sitting in the oncologist office in early January and staring at his PET Scan. The doctor explained to us that everything that was white was Cancer. There was so much white. More white than black in some places.

Both the optimist and realist in me know without a shadow of a doubt that with God ALL things are possible. I love a big and mighty God that can erase every last bit of this so-called incurable, inoperable cancer. That is my constant prayer.

I admit though, that the battle between the optimist and realist in me has brought some conflict in not only my thoughts but in my prayer life. While I know that prayers are answered every day, I know that many are not. If everyone’s prayers were answered, no one’s mama, daddy, or child would have Cancer. We don’t understand why some prayers are answered and some are not. I know that God has a plan though and He is in control.

So how do I pray expectantly as I am told to do in the Psalms, when the realist in me knows that my prayer for complete and total healing may not be answered?

Danged if I know.

Ha! You thought I had the answer?? Not quite 😉

I haven’t figured that out yet, but I have found a way to have peace in a turbulent time. Hebrews 4:16 encourages, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace in our time of need.” I do not know if God will heal my dad, but I know that He will provide my family with the mercy and grace to heal our aching hearts during our time of need.

Hebrews 416

Of course we always want the ultimate prayer of healing to be answered. However, we can be so grateful for the many prayers that have been answered along the way. Dad has had minimal to no side effects in his 8 weeks of chemotherapy. We had a CT Scan of his head, neck and chest today, and it showed that his very aggressive cancer is stable. It hasn’t grown at all since he started treatment. (The doctor thinks that there is a chance that it has even shrunk a bit!) That is a HUGE answered prayer. We don’t have to hope and wait for a clinical trial. Considering that this is a very rare cancer and there is no known protocol for treating it, this is truly a blessing. We found a drug that is effective on our first try!

And then there are the blessings that God gave to us without us even knowing. The doctors believe that the origination of Dad’s cancer is from a radiation treatment he got when he was a child. What if the cancer hit him 30 years earlier? Mama would have been a single mom to two girls who would have grown up without the most amazing dad. It totally sucks that we are dealing with this now, but it would have been so much worse any sooner in our lives. (I know that isn’t very eloquent, but that is just how I feel)

I don’t know how many of you may be dealing with a crisis and your optimistic and realistic selves are battling it out in your head. How do I pray about this situation just right?? Lucky for us that God doesn’t require us to say the perfect prayer to follow His perfect plan. He just wants us to come to Him. I encourage you to pray with all your heart and soul. Be honest with Him even when it is tough and sometimes messy. He knows what is in your heart anyway.

Ask Him to fill you with His grace and mercy during your time of need.  And He will.

Who Said Miracles Don’t Happen Anymore?

Life can be a series of highs and lows. My life has certainly been a testament to that. Met and married my wonderful husband Eric – High. Tried to conceive for a couple of years, failed fertility treatments, surgery – Low. Successfully got pregnant through IVF – HUGE High! High risk Pregnancy that left me on bed rest for what felt like most of my pregnancy – Low. Delivering premature but healthy twins – High/Low. Six weeks being separated from them in the NICU – Low.

I could go on and on. Today I wanted to tell you about one of my favorite Highs. He is my little Miracle High. Eric and I were told that there is absolutely no way that we could conceive. That is why we went through IVF to conceive Ethan and Ella. I have no doubt that it was indeed a fact. As I said this is a Miracle High.

Here is an excerpt from my family blog in 2008:

Ah I woke up just like the day before. I had no idea that this morning would change all our lives so much! Eric was getting ready for work and I was in bed watching Sports Center (his choice not mine). I remembered that I needed to call in a prescription that day. Before I could get it, I had to take a pregnancy test. My cycle was running way too long and I needed to get on progesterone to get me back on track. I always thought this was a funny thing for me of all people to have to do. I mean we know I can’t get pregnant. On top of that, I went back on birth control after I had Ethan and Ella. I simply was taking it for convenience sake. Eric and I often laughed about all the money we wasted on all those birth control pills early in our marriage. So off I went to pee on my little stick. Unloaded the dishwasher, sat down and watched TV for a minute. Should I get the kids up? Oh no wait….better go check the test and get that out of the way.

I walked into the guest bath and looked at the test on the sink. Double take…..was that TWO lines? Huh? I must be seeing things. I heard Eric say something, so I threw the hand towel over the test and jumped back in bed. Eric said, “Why do you look so weird?” I was still in shock so I said, “just tired.” He went back to the closet to finish getting dressed and I ran back to the bathroom for a second look. Yes. Definitely 2 lines. How did this happen??? I mean I know how it happens for most, but not us! We were told that we couldn’t get pregnant on our own. Holy cow. Eric’s birthday was the next day. Boy could I have fun with this!!! I ran upstairs to get the babies up and whispered my secret in their tiny ears. I am pretty sure they smiled.

Thankfully Eric left shortly after that. (I was told later that I was in MAJOR trouble for letting him go to work because he would have called in sick. Whoops 🙂 I quickly called my mom, my sister, and Kristen. Kristen, my personal OB nurse, reassured me that the home tests were pretty accurate. Even so I had my mom come over so I could get an official blood test at the doctor’s office. I still didn’t believe it. I went and looked at the home test again. Still 2 lines! When I called the doctor’s office to get the test they acted like I was crazy. “Mrs. Greer, we usually don’t do blood tests if you have a positive home test.” I replied, “I know, but I don’t believe it. When can I come in?” I went in immediately, got my blood drawn, and paid to have the results to me stat.

All day I was avoiding calls from Eric and his sister, Amy. How in the world could I play this one off? I couldn’t even sit down I was so excited! I finally got the “official positive” test results from the doctor. Hallelujah! Praise God!! I checked the home test one more time and finally threw it in the trash.

Now how in the world would I give Eric the total shock of his lifetime??? The way we found out we were pregnant with Ethan and Ella was so impersonal. We called into a voicemail box and listened to a stranger tell us the good news. Not that we minded one bit. We were finally pregnant!!

I decided I would get the kids Big Brother and Big Sister T shirts, take their pictures in it, frame it, and give it to Eric for his birthday. Well I am not sure how many of you have tried to get a 16-month old kid to stand still so you can get a good picture of them. Now throw in a second child. It isn’t possible. Just take it from me. So I decided the next best thing was to just wrap up the shirts and let Eric open those.

erics bday

We waited on pins and needles until Eric got home. Of course since we were anxiously awaiting him, he didn’t get home until after 7. After the kids bath, Eric read them a story and they just had to give their Daddy an early birthday present. He didn’t know it, but I was recording the whole thing : )

I turned the camera off right after I told him so we could all snuggle. There were lots of happy tears all around. I was told later that Eric was thinking “Why in the world did she give me some shirts for the kids for my birthday?” Apparently what I thought was pretty plain isn’t plain to a man.

Was My Diploma A Waste of Time?? SLM Collective Post

When I went away to college at The University of Tennessee, I didn’t know a soul.  At my mama’s urging, I went through Sorority Rush.  I was hesitant.  I didn’t want to feel like I was “buying” my new friends.  However, my mama’s argument that it would be a good way to meet a lot of people quickly was compelling enough for me to look past my naive notions.

And how glad I am that I did!  On the first day, I met my friend, Becky.  I don’t know if we hit it off so well because we were both from Kentucky or our mutual love of Days of Our Lives.  Nonetheless, as I sat with her on Preference night with tears running down my face, I knew I had a friend for life.  Of course ours were tears of muffled laughter while others surrounding us were much more serious 😉

I am lucky to have a lot of strong women in my life that learn from every day.  Becky is one of those people to me.  I have selfishly been looking for something for her to write about for my blog, so I could share some of her wisdom and wit with my readers.  She posted something on Facebook a couple of weeks ago and it was my aha moment!  As a Stay at Home Mom, it really resonated with me.  Enjoy!

Recently, an older gentlemen asked me what I studied in college. I answered in a humble manner explaining my degrees to which he replied “How does that help you raising kids?”

Awkward silence.

When he asked me this question, I just made a face and shrugged it off. I am not one to engage or confront.  His question insinuated that I wasted my time going to college. I allowed this thought to rent space in my head for a few days. Now, I am thankful he asked me.  It gave me the opportunity to put words to my convictions.

There is so much to say. Where do I start?

Children are sponges.  Ever heard that phrase?  Well it is true.  You pour more into those fast changing little beings with your actions and example than with the lectures you give them.  Want them to be kind to others, be that kind person.  Want them to work hard?  Show them your hard work, past and present.  Want them to have skills and succeed?  You continue to build your skills and help those around you doing the same.

Example to Pursue Learning – I hope I never stop learning.  Of course it may have started in the classroom, but those habits to follow my interests in a meaningful way are still very much alive in me.  Never stop learning, folks!  It doesn’t have to be at an expensive college, but never stop moving your mind forward. It is invaluable for your kids to see those efforts. Who wouldn’t want their children to love learning?  They are more likely to follow that path if you go first.

Discipline to Achieve Goals – School was not always fun and certainly not always easy. I had bigger goals. I set and achieved those goals.  My kids know that I worked diligently to achieve my goals and with hard work, they can too!

Equipping for Employment – I provided for our household while my husband pursued his higher degree full time.  My income bought our first home and helped us save for the flexibility to stay at home after our first child was born.  We worked together on a seemingly endless path to make a better future. I consider it a tremendous blessing for my kids to understand the partnership of hard work and mutual support involved in those early years of pursuing degrees. Unfortunately, that future we build towards is not guaranteed to be easy. I have two friends who became young widows in the past two years. Life can change so quickly and dramatically.  If I had to go back into the work force to provide for my family, then I would be better equipped to do so. It is about creating better opportunities for ourselves and our families.  My kids will understand this more and more as they mature.

Community – The future we were building was for our family, but also for friends, church and community.  We serve in different ways inside and outside our home.  Was my college education part of preparing me for that? Absolutely. If I can teach my children to place a high value on serving my community, then I consider that a huge win. My pursuit of higher learning showed me the larger communities out there to serve in ways that I never would have realized otherwise. I have friends of various backgrounds and cultures. I was blessed to see perspectives outside my immediate circles.  That sense of community holds value in the way that I influence my young children.

I do not currently earn an income outside the home. A person’s education should not be considered irrelevant base on that fact. I may never get another paycheck in my life.   I have no regrets about the time and money I spent to get those little pieces of paper called diplomas.  The whole experience shaped me for the better into the Mom I am today.

Countless blessings can come from a lifelong dedication to learning for my family and myself.

~ Becky Thomas

IMG_8047

My Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day PIc“Watch out for that first step it is a doozy!!”  – Ned Reyerson.

That is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies when I was little. Why don’t they make movies like that anymore? Bill Murray plays Phil, who must relive the same day over and over. There are several times in my life where I felt like I was smack dab in the middle of “Groundhog Day.” In fact, when I was reading back through my book, Full Heart Empty Womb, I had to take that analogy out because I used it more than once!

My most meaningful Groundhog Day experience was when I was in the hospital on bed rest pregnant with my twins. I had been through a rough couple of years prior trying to conceive. When I finally was able to conceive through IVF, I had a high-risk pregnancy. I went into pre-term labor that landed me in the hospital on bed rest at only 22 weeks.

For 11 weeks, I felt like I was relieving the same day. I would wake up. Order my breakfast from the cafeteria (blueberry muffin, cheerios, sweet acidophilis milk – which we affectionately called my sweet ass milk ;). Pee. Lay and wait for my breakfast while I watched The Today Show. Pray. Sit Up. HOORAY!! Eat. Lay back down. Wait for my morning nurse to give meds. Drink water. Pee. Nurse comes gives me meds in my IV. Shift to my other side. Drink water. Pee. Finally the doctor comes to round on me. Tells me the same thing as the day before. “Every day we keep them in you, is four days less in the NICU!!” Pray. Then the best 10 minutes of my day – SHOWER!!! Lay. Drink Water. Watch Talk of the Town. Order lunch. Pee. Drink. Shift positions. Sit Up. Hooray!!! Eat. Lay back down. Crap. Gotta pee again. Get hooked up for my daily monitoring. Shift and try to get comfortable with all the cords. Stare at the contraction monitor and wonder why I can’t feel a single contraction. Pray. Shift. Count the flowers on the wallpaper. Drift off to sleep. Wake up when the nurse comes to turn off the monitor. Pee. Drink Water. Pray. Watch “Everybody Loves Raymond” in Spanish because I am that desperate for entertainment. Drink water. Shift. Stare at the clock. Eric is here with supper!!!! Pee. Sit up!! Eat yummy take-out. Lay down. Pee. Choke down chalky Mylanta for heartburn.  Watch TV with Eric. Shift. Pray. Watch Eric make his fold out bed next to me like he does every night. Drink water. Pray.  Take my Ambien. Pee. And fall into a peaceful sleep.

Southern Lady-7

It was a treat when Eric would bring our dog, Majors, to visit me in the hospital!

Thankfully I was blessed to be able to do that for 11 weeks….or 77 days….or 1,848 hours…or 110,880 minutes. And because I was able to relive that same day over and over and over, my babies not only survived, they thrived.

Count your blessing on your Groundhog Days.

You are gonna blink, and they will be grown up!

“Oh you will blink, and they will be all grown up!”

I usually hear this in the check-out line in Publix. After I have battled my way through every dang aisle with my three children.

Put that back!

Don’t hit your brother!

Don’t hug your sister. That always ends bad.

Stay by me and the cart, so they can pass by.

OUCH!!! You don’t have to be on top of me!

Don’t stop in front of the cart!

OUCH!!! Don’t hit me with the cart!

For Pete’s Sake! Don’t put your mouth on the cart!!!!!!

Although I offer a sweet smile and nod to the little old lady, inside I may be gritting my teeth and spewing a few choice words.

But even deeper down, I know she is right.

IMG_6522Then there has been this week. We had two bursts of snow in Tennessee that has amounted to over 7 inches of snow and 6 out of the last 7 days stranded at home.

Don’t get me wrong; I LOVE snow days…. until I don’t 😉 I loved every minute of it until about hour number 96 of not leaving the house. My kids and I are all social creatures who get to a point where we long to be social with someone who doesn’t share the last name. And the homemaker in me is ready to let Chik Fil A cook a meal and give my dishwasher a break from the two loads a day it has been doing the last week. I just need a day for my sanity and, honestly, theirs too.

I know when my kids are off to college, I will miss it. I may see some sweet neighborhood kids out building a snowman and say to the mother, “Oh you will blink, and they will be all grown up!” They may force a grin with their tired, snow day weary bodies. And I hope I remember. I hope I remember that, although, there are fabulous memories being made, it is a lot of work.

This is what getting three kids ready for a snow day at my house looked like this week:

  1. Run around the house to gather a hodgepodge of snow gear for each kid. Crap! Where is the matching glove!!!
  2. Start to dress first child who promptly turns into a limp noodle – long johns, long sleeve t-shirt, hoodie, socks (help me out child!!), snow pants, gloves (one in each hole!!), coat, and finally 15 minutes later – toboggan.
  3. Repeat with each child.
  4. Start to try to get yourself dressed then….
  5. Child #1 comes in and needs a new pair of gloves, because the other ones make her fingers feel funny.
  6. Start to get dressed then….
  7. Child #2 comes in and asks has played long enough to get Hot Chocolate. NO!!!!
  8. Attempt to go to the bathroom then…
  9. Child #3 comes in and asks if you are ever going to come out…
  10. You finally get your own hodgepodge snow gear on minus your boots and gloves because your daughter is now wearing them.
  11. Repeat at least 3 times a day.

It doesn’t just have to be a snow day.  Sometimes just a Tuesday can run you ragged.  Last week my husband was working late, so I was putting my three kids to bed by myself. My older two children read to themselves before bed. I was tired after a long day and ready to trim our 30-minute going to bed routine to 20 minutes. I asked my 7 year old, Matthew, if he wanted to read to himself instead of me reading to him before bed. He was SO excited to be a big kid reader. By the time I finished snuggling, chatting, and praying with Ethan and Ella, Matthew’s light was turned off.

I couldn’t help myself as I went back in his room, snuggled a little more, and got a book to read to him.

Because I am going to blink one day, and he will be all grown up.

Relish reading books, snuggles and the snow days. But give yourself a little grace if you need a minute to recharge your batteries because being a mom is hard work.

CHOOSING to be Positive :)

Last week I wrote about how I was going to CHOOSE to be positive in light of my dad’s cancer diagnosis.  Well here it is in action:

Celebrating the small (not so small) stuff:

1. We woke up this morning.
2. We were well enough to attend church and come see Pa Pa (he stayed home to be safe)
3. Pa Pa still feels good 4 days post chemo!!
4. Getting to eat lunch with Mimi and Pa Pa.
5. Good…no awesome…hair days. Maybe we can use my trimmings to make PaPa an Awesome wig. Kinda like JT during the NSync years 󾌴󾌴;)

Southern Lady-7

Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again I say Rejoice.  Philippians 4:4

Cure for the Common Worry-Wart

Direct LIGHT.

I have always had the propensity to worry. I remember as a child staying up late stressing about anything and everything. A spelling test the next day. My locker combination. Who would I sit with at the lunch table? They were all silly things, but they weighed heavy on my small shoulders.  Now that I am a mama, I lay awake some nights and worry about my children’s spelling tests, book chats, and friendships.  It seems as though it is never ending!

I came by it honest. My mama is a worry-wart as was her mother. You could say anxiety is in my genes. (Not to be confused with the anxiety that my skinny jeans give me after Christmas 😉 Fortunately, my mama also gave me a tool to combat my anxiety. Mama always wrote scripture on post-it notes and placed them around her mirror on her vanity. She prayed over the scriptures as she got ready to face the day. She suggested that I write down Phillipians 4:6-7 and put it on my mirror to pray and meditate on each morning.

Phillipians4:6-7

The post-it is a little tattered after 12 years and 3 moves. It has long lost its sticky so it can attach to my mirror, but the verse is engrained in my heart and mind.

A couple of years ago, I was going through a particularly difficult time when my husband and I were dealing with our second battle with infertility. My sweet friend, Ginger, sent me a link to Frances Chan preaching about Phillipians 4:4-7. (Watch it and you will be blessed!)

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say rejoice. Let your reasonableness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

What a blessing it was for me to have a fresh look at the verse I had been praying over for years! By looking at the whole passage, it also gave me a better perspective. If I spend my time rejoicing, I won’t have much time to be anxious. And I don’t need to be anxious because…The Lord is near.

I am in a time in my life where I could be absolutely riddled with anxiety. I wrote recently about my Daddy diagnosis with Stage 4 of a very rare cancer (as in only two hundred cases in the last twenty years). In the last week, we have gotten bad news and even worse news. He was supposed to have surgery on Wednesday to remove his tumor and some lymph nodes. It was cancelled at the last minute because a PET scan showed that it had spread drastically. We can now add inoperable and incurable to the words that are bouncing around like a pinball in my head.

I could easily lay back and succumb to the horrible “what-ifs” that keep trying to bubble up in my head. Instead, I am choosing to rejoice in the Lord and focus on the positive things that He has blessed us with in our seemingly dire situation:

  • Although Dad’s cancer has progressed far along, he is not in any pain now.
  • As much as we wish he could have had the surgery to remove the tumor, it was an extremely complicated surgery with a tremendous amount of possible complications. He was spared that pain.
  • We live in the Nashville area, which is quickly becoming the medical capital of the world. People travel from far away to come to Vanderbilt. We drive up the street and can go home each night.  We have the best doctors in our backyard.
  • Speaking of those awesome doctors, they like to keep a close eye and their hands on people with rare cancers. Dad is personally being treated by the best of the best of the best.
  • Dad is starting chemo on Thursday, but he is going through one of the more tolerable chemo cocktails for patients. Since he hasn’t been in any pain, he will be stronger to deal with any side effects of the chemo.
  • And if/when he has a tough day(s), he is retired and is able to rest and take it easy. Heck he can watch TV and play on his iPad like it is his J-O-B.
  • I am thankful that I am close and can help out. My sister, Amy, is in Texas and it is so hard on her to be far away.
  • My parents have a church family at First Baptist in Dickson, TN that loves them so much. The level of support they have is phenomenal.
  • New drugs are coming out continually for cancer patients. Just because they haven’t found a drug that has cured his cancer, doesn’t mean they won’t.
  • Our hope is not on anything that is here on this earth. Although we don’t understand why Daddy is going through this here and now, we know that Daddy’s eternity is with Him.

None of this is by accident. It is all part of His plan. God is near us as we travel this road.

And because we know all these things, God blesses us with the peace of God which transcends all understanding and guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Thank you, Abba Father, for loving my Daddy even more than I do.