While I am recovering from surgery this week, my lovely friend, Kristianne, is stopping by to grace us with her beautiful words. I first met Kristianne in January when I received one of her Compassion Bags. We spoke on the phone a few weeks later and I knew it was a friendship born in heaven. Over the last few months, we have spoken often--sharing our hearts, baring our souls, and covering one another in prayer.

Kristianne is the founder of Compassion That Compels, an amazing ministry to women who are battling cancer. You really need to go check out her web site and hear her heart for women!

But first...I'd like you to meet my friend, Kristianne...

love-smells

Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

love-smell-1Grace’s ringlet curls wrapped around her spangly bracelets as she leaned across our bubble gum tea party. She wiggled her index finger in the space between our faces. “C’mere, mommy…real close and breathe big with me,” and we did as if together, we could breathe in tiny moments like solid molecules.

“Mmmm…I love you. You stink really good today, mommy.” Of course, I completely understood that it was the scent of my perfume but what Grace really smelled was my love.

Everybodys love smells different.

love-smells-2My Italian grandma was never a gushing geyser of sentiments but I do remember the endless flow of Little Debbies that grew within the pockets of her flowered, polyester housecoat and sent me on cream filling waves across her kitchen linoleum to the gold, shag-carpeted guest room. I never knew what treasures waited behind the real imitation wood closet doors with their shiny brass knobs. There were always stacks of toys, games, and primary-colored, striped clothes that, if they were too big for me, I could pass to my older sister and too small, given to a younger cousin.

My grandmas love smelled like a mix of garlic and mothballs.

In the Old Testament, around the time of the battles between the ites and the ambivalent Israelites, animal sacrifices were pleasing aromas to God. I’ve read the New Testament starting with the red letters enough to know what Jesus saw, heard, tasted, touched but what did Jesus smell?

But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.  (2 Corinthians 2:16)

Lazarus was dead for four days

A woman with an issue of blood for 12 years

Legion and his tomb dwelling demons

And how about that mid-dinner pedi Jesus did for all of his disciples? 

Let’s face it, what Jesus had to smell would leave us gagging. Nowhere do we read about Jesus priming his hand sanitizer bottle or getting into a Febreze spraying frenzy after each encounter.

Not a mention of what He smelled, because maybe what Jesus smelled was love.

Live a life filled with love following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.     (Ephesians 5:2)

Retracing the steps across and around the decades of my life, I see first my 20’s “if God loved me.” Then, 30’s “when he loves me”. Now in my 40’s and no longer an “unsecure person”,  but firmly rooted in faith and realizing that grace isn’t acquired like a scouting merit badge, it’s because He is love.

He loves me because God is love, and to Jesus, I hopefully stink really good.

kristianneKristianne is a writer, speaker and founder of Compassion That Compels. Her life of love is filled to overflowing for her husband Royal, and their daughters Grace and Annelise. Collecting people and gardening are among her passions. Painting lives in brilliant hues of God’s love and compassion is her purpose. Join Kristianne on Facebook Compassion That Compels. Follow her on Twitter Kristiannefaith and Instagram.

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Last weekend someone mentioned to me that they hadn't seen anything from my blog in their inbox lately. They were starting to worry and asked if they might have inadvertently unsubscribed from my blog.  I assured them that, no, they had not unsubscribed; the lack of correspondence was entirely my fault.

In case you, too, have noticed the crickets around here over the last several weeks, I thought I'd share what I have been up to. Plus, two exciting announcements at the end...don't miss them!:

Last month my daughter and I went to camp . It was awesome, as you can see:

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We barely had time to do laundry and catch up on sleep before we piled into our van for a two-day road trip so we could do this...

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And this...

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Ah....those were the days.

We arrived home just in time for a quick visit from family before we began the mad dash to the first day of school. Every year, I forget how crazy the days can be leading up to the start of school: shopping for supplies, shopping for clothes, organizing supplies, and preparing for 180 days of packed lunches. (Are you in the midst of the craziness and in need of inspiration? Check out my Back to School board on Pinterest!)

It's a wonder we made it to the first day, but we did--successfully sending them off to 4th and 1st grades!

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Of course, in the midst of it all, there were the ongoing doctor's visits, scans, and check-ups that come with battling cancer, plus the changes in our diet and lifestyle to support our ongoing battle.

Whew! Just writing it all down wears me out! So, now that we're all caught up let's get on to the announcements (insert drumroll here)...

The first BIG announcement: I will be having surgery next Tuesday, August 26 to remove the first of the three tumors! While surgery is never fun and always a little scary, we are excited about this for a couple of reasons: 1) We were told last year we wouldn't get to this point...but, of course, we know that GOD IS BIGGER than cancer!! 2. This is the first time in a year that ALL my doctors are on the same page...a miracle in its own right! :)

While I will be posting on occasion, my main focus will be on recovery in the next few weeks. So I've asked a few friends to stop in from time to time and grace us with a guest post. I'm excited about hearing from them...you won't want to miss it!

As I go into surgery next week, I would greatly appreciate your prayers, especially for the following: Logistics--we have a fantastic support system, but there is still a lot of juggling involved to accommodate everyone's schedules and specific needs;  Peace--we know God is going before us, but there are moments of anxiety when one is facing surgery of any kind; Healing--We are praying for an easier-than-expected procedure--free from any complications--and for a quick recovery. Thank you!

Now, for the second BIG announcement....

Unshakable-coming-soon 500

It's coming...MY GOD'S STORY!! There are still some details to work out, and of course the timeline will have to accommodate surgery and recovery, but I couldn't stand to keep it a secret any longer!

If you want to be among the first to know when it's available (and receive special discounts), subscribe by entering your e-mail in the sidebar!

So, what have you been up to this summer?
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My daughter and I head to church camp next week. Am I crazy to voluntarily spend four days with a group of 4th and 5th grade girls at age 41? Maybe. But I know how important a camp experience is for kids (if you want to know how important, read this post.) I also realize in a few short years my girl won't want me tagging along to camp. So when she said she wanted me be a leader again this year, I signed us both up! (And who are we kidding...I love camp!)

Sitting in the leadership training last weekend, I realized that in my many years of camp experience, I've encountered several "rock star" leaders. These are the leaders who made camp memorable and successful for the campers, the other leaders, and even the camp staff.

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I've also seen some who, well...didn't. If you've been to camp, there's a good chance you've seen them, too...

My Way or the Highway Ray
Ray has certain preferences and doesn't mind telling you about them. He doesn't like potatoes, so he gripes about the food. He's not a morning person, so he grumbles about the 7:00 am staff meetings. He's not big on getting wet, so he thinks the water games are lame...and he lets everyone know. Don't be this guy: Check your preferences at the door. Be a team player, and remember it's not about you! Don't like the top bunk? Determine you will love it for this week. (And dream about your own, comfy bed waiting for you at home!)

Clueless Carissa
Carissa's group is always late and never where they're supposed to be. It's not because she's new; it's because she's unaware and uninformed. She's always one step behind her group so the more seasoned campers discover they can walk right over her, which they do mercilessly. Don't be this girl: Be informed; read the rules and attend leadership training and meetings. Talk to other leaders and discover the no-nos and the must-dos. Most of all, remember you are the leader and follow the advice of my high school youth pastor: "When in doubt, take charge!"

Party Marty
Marty is all fun all the time. The campers love him, and he's a big hit from the cafeteria to the activity field. So what's the problem? He doesn't know when to stop. His group is rowdy and out of control. They quickly learn to not take anything (including safety and rules) seriously. Camp leadership can't trust him and end up spending valuable time and resources keeping on eye on him. Don't be this guy: Be the adult. Have fun, but be responsible. When it's time to be serious, lead by example. When it's time to sleep, bring the energy level down and get some sleep yourself. Then when it's time for fun, lead the way and party on!

Militant Marsha
Marsha is all business, no play. Her girls know the sound of her whistle (or shriek), and fall in accordingly. They march from event to event and eat in silence. They win the Cleanest Bunk award every year (you can bounce a quarter off those bunks!) They are the first to each activity and set out to win every event (and if they don't, their leader is a poor loser.) Don't be this girl: Relax, and have fun. This isn't the army; it's not even the Girl Scouts. There's nothing wrong with winning events or having a clean bunk, but that's not really the end-goal of camp. Remember, it's OK to cut loose and have a little fun, too!

Rock Star Rick and Rebecca
Rick and Rebecca used vacation time to come to camp, but they realize this week is anything but a vacation; it's not about them...it's about the campers. They came ready to build relationships and invest in others. You'd never know they "aren't the outdoorsy type" because they put on their big-boy and big-girl pants when they got on the bus. They are encouraging of others and cheer on the campers whether they are winning or losing. The campers love them...especially those who started out shy and withdrawn (because Rick and Rebecca made a point to draw them in.) They came ready to work hard and serve others. They eagerly jump in wherever they're needed. That's why they're heroes, not only to the campers, but to the staff as well. Rick and Rebecca make every camp experience a success!

Do you have any rock-star camp experiences (either as a leader or a camper)?

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This post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase The Veggie Book from the link below, I receive a small compensation at no additional charge to you.

Until recently, my veggie repertoire consisted of canned green beans and frozen corn. If I was feeling especially fancy, I'd throw some corn cobs on the grill, or chop up a salad. (Yes, be jealous of my culinary skills.) I knew veggies are good for me and my family, but I didn't know how to select or prepare them so that they were anything but tolerable. Now, I'm happy to say, I've introduced my family to new foods, including veggies, and to my surprise, even my one anti-veggie child has started eating them...he actually asked for salad the other night. I'd say that's a victory!

I didn't do it alone, however. Our recent journey into healthier eating has not only opened my eyes to new foods (and ways to prepare them), it's also led me to many new resources. One of those resources is The Veggie Book. This is more than just a cookbook. It's like having your own personal Veggie Coach (who doesn't need one of those, right?).

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Here's what I love about this book:

It's simple. I'm still adjusting to this new way of shopping and eating, and it can honestly become overwhelming at times. The Veggie Book is chocked full of veggies I am familiar with...whether it's new ways to prepare old favorites or highlighting veggies I've heard of, but never been brave enough to buy or prepare. No dandelion greens or gai lan here. Chances are you've heard of every single vegetable in this book. You've probably seen them time and again in the produce section of your grocery store. And, if you're like me, you've thought Hmmm, I should get that, but I have no idea what to do with it! That excuse will no longer fly, my friend!

It's thorough. The Veggie Book is a collaboration of three author-moms who tested the 52+ recipes on their own husbands and kids. In addition to the tried-and-true recipes, The Veggie Book gives you information on each vegetable's nutrition (because how many of us really know why we should eat more asparagus?!), how to select good produce (can I hear an "amen"?!) plus tips for washing, storing, and preparing it. They also include tips for making stock, seasoning your dishes, and which veggies are important to purchase organic.

It's affordable. A new adventure in eating healthy is expensive enough...with all the new foods, testing new recipes, and initial moves to whole, healthier foods. I know the payoff is worth it, but I think anyone would agree the first steps can seem overwhelming mentally and financially. Moms, at only $9.95, it's a great deal for a priceless weapon in your culinary arsenal. (Seriously, I made the Buttered Cabbage for dinner last night, and my husband had seconds...seconds on cabbage!)

In case you're still not convinced, the authors of The Veggie Book have offered to give one of you, my dear readers, a copy of their book! See details below to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a  free copy of  The Veggie Book for my honest review.
As always, opinions  stated are 100% mine.

Happy Eating!
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Yes, that's a pretty tall order; one I probably can't deliver on. But I believe you can have a happy and productive summer while maintaining a level of sanity.

happy-summer

Summer lends itself to lazy days and a carefree spirit, but I've learned that too much laziness sends everyone spiraling into a meltdown by about 3:00 p.m.  And while summertime means more free time and fun, it also means an opportunity to do things we can't during the busyness of the school year.

Here's how I plan to tackle such a tall order:

1. Routine
It will be much more relaxed and move at a slower pace, but there will be a routine. We won't wake up at the same time everyday, or be forced to rush out the door (except for the week of VBS). And there will be days we stay in our PJs until dinnertime (mom included!). But those days will be the exception, not the rule. We'll enjoy plenty of movies (especially during those pop-up summer thunderstorms), but screen time will have its limits. Our days will have a rhythm, but it will be more like a "smooth jazz" groove with a lot of improvisation, not the driving "marching band" beat that drives us through the school year.

2. Responsibilities
Yes, summer is a great time to kick back and relax, but unfortunately, the laundry, cleaning, shopping, and cooking don't take a summer break! Now that everyone is home all day, every day, there are more hands to pitch in and help. That way, Mom can enjoy some summertime fun, too! So in addition to their regular responsibilities (taking care of themselves and their space) each child will choose 1 job to do each day. (These are jobs they get paid for in addition to their regular chores. I explain our job/chore system in more detail here.)

3. Resources
The phrase, "I'm bored" is not allowed in our house, because we believe that a creative person should never be bored. And since kids have endless imaginations, they are some of the most creative people in the world! Still, even they need a little inspiration from time to time.

If you've been on Pinterest more than 5 minutes, I'm sure you've seen ideas for this Bored Board or these Boredom Jars. Ours have been used every day so far this week!

3. Research
My kids LOVE to learn, and I want to keep that going through the summer. Since my kids attend school outside the home, summer is the perfect time for us to do some fun, educational things together (and they'll never know they're learning!). Here are some ways we do that:

  • Library reading program
  • Special arts & crafts projects
  • Trips to museums, zoos, and nature parks
  • Keep a "science" journal about our garden (what they observe, how it grows, etc.)
  • Focus on character traits we want to develop
  • Reading books as a family
  • Taking swimming lessons (that counts as education and exercise!)
  • Cooking projects (reading recipes, life skills, and math!)
  • We'll also continue music lessons and a few sports activities through the summer

4. Rest
Summer is a time to relax and refresh, and we'll do that with lazy mornings and long afternoons at the pool. But we'll also take some time every day to intentionally "power down" and recharge. This is the first year that we are a nap-free home (at least the kids are, anyway!), so the days can get long and the house can grow small when everyone is home all day. So, I'm borrowing an idea from our church camp and instituting a "feet off the floor" time every afternoon. Everyone will spends an hour (or so, depending on what's going on that day) in his or her own room doing something calm and quiet (reading a book, playing legos, doing puzzles, listening to an audiobook, etc.). No screens allowed.

This is how we plan to find a balance between fun and slothfulness this summer. There will still be plenty of lazy mornings where we sleep in (which we've already done a couple times this week!) and lots of time playing with friends, eating ice cream, and swimming! But when August rolls around, I want to look back at these weeks with a sense of satisfaction, knowing we made the most of every opportunity.

What does your summer routine look like?

Need more ideas for an intentionally fun summer? Check out How to Survive Summer with Your Kids! , or The Best Summer Ever, or follow my Summer Fun board on Pinterest!

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I remember how it felt, standing in the grocery aisle reading label after label on the boxes of crackers. Then putting each one back because it contained a potential threat to my son...a food allergy. I exhausted every brand of cracker in that store. That's when it hit me: I have no idea what to feed my child.

This week is Food Allergy Awareness Week, and all the articles and discussions online have reminded me what it was like in the beginning...when we first learned of my son's allergies. The information was overwhelming. At only 2 years old, my son relied completely on me to provide him with food. And I suddenly had no idea what he could eat. That first trip to the grocery store was, in a word, traumatic.

If that's you, overwhelmed mom whose child has just been diagnosed with a food allergy (or additional food allergies), here are a few tips that helped me get through those early days, and continue to help me today:

food-allergies-child

1. Learn to read labels. At first, this can be a daunting task....You want me to read every single label of every single food my child puts in his mouth?! Yes. Always. Even (and especially!) the "allergen statement" listed after the ingredients. This is the "May contain" line after the ingredients that will tell you if there's a potential for cross-contamination. You'll soon learn what brands are safe and which ones contain allergens, but always read labels as ingredients and manufacturing practices can change.

2. Learn to ask questions. Of everyone...restaurant servers, daycare workers, teachers, church nursery volunteers, and other parents. If they will be serving food your child will eat, it is your responsibility to know what is in it. If you're not satisfied with the answer, keep asking. I've actually had young, inexperienced wait staff respond to my allergy questions with, "Oh, he should be fine." Yeah, that's not gonna fly with this mama. I'm going to need to talk to someone who knows something (and maybe has a driver's license). Be kind, but firm...and tenacious if you need to. Your child's health (and possibly her life) depends on it.

3. Start with what you know and go slow. You don't have to chuck everything out of your kitchen and start from scratch. (If it's a serious allergy, you may want to get the allergen completely out of the house, at least for a while.) Start with what you know is safe. Can your child have fruit? Stock up on fresh fruit, frozen fruit, and fruit cups. No dairy allergy? Load the fridge with cheese sticks and yogurt cups. Don't make it too complicated at first. Find a few meal options and snacks you know are safe and stick with those for a while. You'll soon find other options you can add to your rotation.

4. Join a community. Believe it or not, when my son was first diagnosed, it was difficult to find much practical information online. Everything I found was from a medical journal. Oh, how far we've come in four years! If you know another mom who navigates food allergies, pick her brain. I'm sure she's a wealth of information and would love to share what she's learned. There's great value in online community as well. Need some recipe inspiration? Debra at Worth Cooking has some great allergy-friendly recipes, and I've heard Food Allergy Mama's cookbook is very helpful. (I've not read it, but I've heard good things.) And you can find some great, allergy-friendly recipes every Wednesday at The Domestic Diva's Allergy-Free link-up. You can also find some of my favorite recipes here, follow my Food Allergy board on Pinterest, or join the Food Allergy 411 Facebook page.

5. Always, always carry your Epi-pen. Just last week, my son had a reaction to some muffins I made with garbanzo flour....garbanzo flour?!? He has eaten hummus too many times to count, so it never dawned on me that he would react to garbanzo flour (even though he is allergic to peanuts and soy...both legumes). Fortunately, I did not have to use the Epi, but I was glad I had it with me...just in case. The thing about allergic reactions is that each one can be more severe than the last. So, even though we've never had to use our Epi, that doesn't mean we won't. And I'd rather be safe than sorry.

So, take a breath, Mama. It's going to be OK. You can get up off the grocery store aisle floor where you've been in the fetal position for the last 30 minutes. You don't have to answer all your questions today. You don't have to know what you'll serve at your child's graduation party or wedding. You just have to get through today. Tomorrow you'll know more than you do today, and the next day you'll know even more.

And someday, even sooner than you think, when you see another mom in the grocery aisle with 14 boxes of crackers in her arms and that deer-in-the-headlights look, you'll be the one to walk up to her and say, "It's going to be OK. I did this, and you can, too!"

What advice would you give a mom who is just starting the food allergy journey?

If you're looking for more helpful tips on food allergies...
A Crash Course in Food Allergies
Making the Most of Food Allergies
What's the Difference Between a Food Allergy and Food Sensitivity?
Navigating Parties with Food Allergies

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It was my first Mother's Day as a mom...I had only been a mom for thirteen days. I was physically exhausted and emotionally overwhelmed.

Just a few days earlier, my own mother, who had been with me since my daughter was born, abandoned me. She had hugged me tight and said in her calm, motherly voice, "You're going to be fine. Happy Mother's Day." Then she got on a plane and flew home to my dad...as if he needed her more than I did!

I cried big, crocodile tears as I held my new baby, right there in the middle of the nursery. I had no idea how this little person and I would make it through the next 8 hours until my husband came home, let alone how I'd manage the next 5 years until she started school.

How was I supposed to take care of this little person when I couldn't even figure out how to put her in the baby carrier?

I was a mom, and all I wanted was my mommy. 

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Not only did we make it through that day, we eventually made it through the first year. Then the next, and the next. We even managed to add another baby to our family, and I learned the secret to motherhood: multi-tasking. I could cook dinner with one child in my arms, one around my feet, a dog scratching at the door, and a phone to my ear. Still, there were times I struggled.

Nine years into this parenting journey, I now realize those moments are  universal...life for moms is simply varying seasons of insanity. Some are less chaotic, but all are some level of crazy. And hard. And stressful.

I am blessed to have a legacy of strong and generous women in my family, and motherhood allowed me to see them in a new light. These are the moms who have had the greatest influence in my life:

motherhood-2My Grandmothers To the untrained eye, my grandmothers couldn't be more opposite: One raised her only  son as a single mom, working a 9-5 to keep the bills paid; the other worked at home, caring for her four children and any neighborhood kids who might need a safe place and a loving hug. One was a genius in the kitchen, with a specialty for comfort foods and chocolate chip cookies; the other's culinary repertoire included only macaroni and cheese. One would not live long enough to see me marry or to meet my children; the other carries on, serving her kids, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren.

Although very different, each of these women served her family faithfully through long days of hard work. I'm sure there were many times they didn't feel like getting out of bed to go to work or take care of a family...Those weary days we mamas know so well. But they did it with a warm smile and eager hands, because that's what a mom does.

motherhood-3My Mom When I was younger, my mom represented all I had yet to learn and all I wanted to be. Married at 19 and a young mom at 20, I'm sure she wondered often if she was making the right decisions for her children, for her family. I've watched her sacrifice much over the years. She has worked alongside my dad in ministry and stretched grocery money to feed her family. She has sacrificed her own desires to create lasting memories for her children and now for her grandchildren, because that's what a mom does.

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My mother-in-law I've heard it said that men marry women who remind them of their mothers. If that's the case, I am truly honored to be in the same category as my mother-in-law. She and my father-in-law saw some difficult times over the years, suffering job losses that uprooted their young family. She worked hard, right alongside her husband, to put food on the table and raise three kids born within four years. The days were long and I'm sure her energy gave out long before her to-do list was accomplished. Still, she got up every day and did it all over again, because that's what a mom does.

Thanks to the examples of these women, I have learned what motherhood is truly about; I have learned to be thankful for what the chaos represents...a home, and a life, filled with love and family.

To my mom, my grandma, my mother-in-law and the many other women I am honored to call family....thank you for your love, your example, and the legacy you've given me and my children.

To moms everywhere...I know you don't need to hear it, but you really are the rock stars.

And to you, weary, first-time mom...trust me when I tell you, "You're going to be fine...Happy Mother's Day!"

photo source

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This week we celebrate my daughter's birthday. Nine years ago, she burst into this world and stole our hearts. NINE YEARS!!

It's becoming increasingly evident that my relationship with her is shifting. We've squarely entered that phase where she needs me to be close, but not too close (especially in front of her friends). And as I watch her stretch her wings a little more with each passing day, I realize there are a few things I want to be sure she knows--really knows in her heart of hearts--before she ventures too far from the nest.

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1. You are beautiful. I know there will be times when you doubt that. Unfortunately, there will be times when you are made to feel anything but beautiful. Whether it's the airbrushed images in magazines or the hurtful words of others, remember that those images--those words--are untrue. When they say you are anything less than gorgeous, they are lying. Your beauty is more than your raven-like hair and chocolate-drop eyes. It's more than your body shape or your smile. Your beauty goes much deeper...it's in your heart, in your soul, in your purpose. You were crafted by the Master Craftsman, and He only makes the finest. So, my dear, always remember...you. are. beautiful.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! (Psalm 119:14, MSG)

2. You are smart. In a world that puts much emphasis on a woman's appearance and less on her knowledge, hold tightly to the hunger you have now for information. Feed that hunger, and never apologize for it, but always, always seek Truth, even above "knowledge." For there is no true knowledge apart from Truth. You may be tempted someday to hide your knowledge (or the Truth), to get the attention of a boy. Don't do it! Instead, do what I did...find a boy who's smarter than you. :)

“Let not the wise [woman] boast in [her] wisdom...but let [she] who boasts boast in this, that [she] understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth..” (Jeremiah 9:23, 24)

3. You are strong. You'll learn soon enough that as women, we are often asked to be feminine or strong...tough or tender. The world screams at us to be tough while many well-meaning Christians are quick to call us back to femininity. It can become overwhelming and confusing, but God has created us with an unique ability to be both: to be soft (gentle, not weak) on the outside and strong on the inside. Not a strength that you have to muster on your own, but a strength--God's strength--that is there for the taking, if you simply ask.

She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong...Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. (Proverbs 31:17, 25).

4. You are clever. More than book smart, you are clever...quick-witted. You have inherited your mother's love for words and her gift for wit and sarcasm. (You're welcome and I'm sorry.) Fortunately, you have also inherited your dad's love of silliness.  Learn to use them with grace, and they will serve you well. Always use your words, even witty words, to build up and bring life to others.

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. (Proverbs 31:26).

5. You are loved. You love deeply and want to be deeply loved; your dad and I treasure that about you. Unfortunately, that means you will have your heart broken in the years to come...probably more than once. A friend will betray you for another friendship, and it will cut deeply. A boy will come along and crush your tender heart, perhaps without even realizing it. And you'll wonder if anyone will ever love you. In those moments, please remember you are already loved...deeply, unconditionally loved. You can't do anything to make us love you more, you can't do anything to make us love you less, than we already do. When all else fails, know this: we love you, but God loves you even more.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

So, dear, sweet girl as you continue to outgrow your jeans and flip flops year after year, I pray you continue to grow into the beauty and the grace with which you were created.

Love, Mom

Wonder what 5 Things I Want my Son to Know?

 

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If you've faced cancer, or have walked through it with someone you love, you know there are typically three ways to treat the dreaded disease: surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. I have been fortunate enough (yes, that's sarcasm) to experience all three in the last 3 1/2 years.

In 2010, I had surgery to remove a 6-inch, malignant tumor from the muscle of my thigh. That was followed by 7 weeks of radiation treatment. Last August, doctors found a "suspicious mass" on a routine follow-up visit, and I started chemotherapy 6 weeks later. Each treatment worked...to an extent. Doctors removed the entire tumor through the first surgery, and the radiation treatments "killed off" any remaining cancer cells in the area. When the cancer returned (to a different area) last year, chemotherapy was a "success," meaning it successfully shrunk the tumors, even when doctors were skeptical that it would.

In January, my oncologists decided to give me a break from chemo. The tumors had continued to shrink after six rounds of chemotherapy, so it seemed like a good time to give my body a break from the toxicity of the chemo drugs. That's when we began looking into other, "alternative," options.

alternative-cancer-treatment

I know the very term "alternative cancer treatment" is rife with controversy. (Rife...adjective, "of common or frequent occurrence; prevalent"...you're welcome). I've read/heard stories of people abandoning traditional medicine, clinging to the belief that either God would heal them without the use of drugs or they could "heal themselves" naturally through non-traditional methods. I can't speak to those experiences, because I am not those people. I simply want to share how we have come to the place we now find ourselves.

**This is where I remind you that I AM NOT A DOCTOR...I do not play one on TV, nor pretend to be one on the Internet. This is NOT medical advice, and should not be taken as such. This is simply an account of my experience.**

Step 1: We exhausted medical expertise. We have literally done everything traditional, medical doctors have told us to do. When they said, "Start chemo right away," we did (after doing our own research and having all our questions sufficiently answered, of course). But we have reached a point where doctors have no other tricks up their sleeve and have told us (on multiple occasions), "All we can do is wait  for the tumors to grow again. Then we will do chemo...probably a more aggressive type." We are constantly reminded that (as far as they are concerned), the goal is to control the cancer, not get rid of it. We've done surgery. We've done radiation. We've done chemo. Now we simply wait.

Step 2: We prayed...a lot. I've never been very good at just waiting. I'm always looking for "the next thing," or wondering what I can be doing while I wait. So I prayed...I literally blocked off time every day for several days to pray for healing. My husband prayed for me and with me. We asked friends and family to pray with us and for us. Our church has special prayer each week for healing, and we have gone forward every week. I know God is able to heal miraculously. I've seen it happen in my own family. I prayed...and believed...for total healing. The more we prayed, however, the more I felt led to research other options for treatment. So, in addition to healing, we began to ask God for wisdom.

Step 3: We found an expert. When I began researching alternative options to cancer treatment, the information and advice was overwhelming: stop eating anything that tastes good and sip on a satisfying wheatgrass smoothie throughout the day (or something like that), rub exotic-sounding oils on your body in various, random places (hmmm...maybe not), avoid any type of radioactive airwaves (so, no microwave popcorn?). OK, maybe that wasn't exactly the advice I read, but that's kind of what it sounded like to me. I obviously needed someone with more knowledge and experience than I had.

As we continued to pray and research, one name kept coming up in various conversations. Different friends and acquaintances, on separate occasions, recommended a local naturopath who had experience with treating cancer naturally. I was still a little skeptical. Honestly, I feared what he would say. Would he make me disavow all traditional medicine? Would I have to drink my own urine or sacrifice a small animal in a bubbling cauldron? (I exaggerate...a little.) Still, we kept hearing this man's name mentioned with high regard, so it seemed we should at least check it out.

The short version is this: We met with him and liked him very much. So much of what he said concerning diseases, and how our bodies fight them, made sense to us. We (including my even-more-skeptical husband!) were encouraged by him and by the things he recommended.  He is a born-again Christian, and he views natural medicine as a supplement to traditional medicine.

But here's the kicker...when his wife faced cancer FOR THE THIRD time, doctors told her she had a year to live. He determined to find an "alternative" treatment for her, and he did. That was 16 years ago...she beat it and she's doing well today! So, not only does he know what vitamins and supplements you need to take to beat this year's toughest cold, he knows all the latest and greatest treatments to cancer (both traditional and alternative)!

So, we have begun a new leg of the journey....one that involves a new approach to eating and nutrition among other things. As I learn, I will be sharing more about our lifestyle and dietary changes here. (Probably reworking some of my favorite recipes, and sharing new ones I find/create!)

Don't worry...I am still under the care of a medical doctor (several, actually). As a matter of fact, I had a PET scan at the end of March that showed the tumors are still shrinking...even though I am no longer taking chemo! Woo-Hoo! :D

I believe this next step is part of the journey God has for us. Yes, He can heal me miraculously. Yes, He can use modern medicine to destroy the tumors. I also believe He can give me the knowledge and wisdom to equip my body to fight the tumors. We continue to pray for healing, and we continue to pray for wisdom in the journey. Personally, I don't care how He heals me, I just believe He will!

If you are searching for alternative treatment to cancer, here are some resources I found helpful:

Books
Beating Cancer: Twenty Natural, Spiritual, and Medical Remedies That Can Slow--and Even Reverse--Cancer's Progression by Francisco Contreras, MD and Daniel Kennedy MC
The Bible Cure for Cancer by Don Colbert, MD

Web Sites (I do not have firsthand experience with these programs, but you may find their sites helpful in your research):
Oasis of Hope Cancer Center
Cancer Treatment Centers of America
Dr. Nicholas Gonzales

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"Did you see how strong I am, Mama?"

We were on a walk in the woods...just the two of us. He had just defeated a near-dead limb with ninja-like movements and a walking stick bigger than he was. I smiled to myself and affirmed his feat of great strength.

His increasing sense of adventure is matched only by his passion to be with, and be like, his Dad. I love and encourage that endeavor, even though it means I take the back seat for awhile. So I treasure these fleeting moments when he seeks my acknowledgement and approval. In that brief window of opportunity, it dawned on me that strength is not the only thing I see in him. And I want to make sure he knows it.

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1. You are strong. Yes, Son, you are strong. You are growing stronger (and taller!) every day. But more than physical height and brawn, I hope you always remember your greatest strength comes from Christ. The day will come when you face challenges greater than sticks and leaves. You'll face choices that could potentially threaten your innocence and your character. When that time comes, remember that in Christ you are strong. No matter what your friends do, no matter what the world says you should do, be strong. Because your strength comes from Someone greater.

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you
is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

2. You are smart. In a world that insists on "dumbing us down" by feeding us a steady diet of entertainment, ideologies, and philosophies they deem important, I pray you always seek Truth. I hope you love to learn, but not just for knowledge's sake. Remember where true knowledge and wisdom are found...search out that Truth, and always, always speak up for it. Determine to choose what's right, even when it's not popular (and especially then).

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise
wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)

3. You have a purpose. God has has given you specific abilities and talents for a reason...there are things He created you to do. It's OK if you make some mistakes along the way, everyone does. Learn from them, and grow from them. As much as you can, learn from the mistakes others have already made. Run hard after God. Discover what He created you for. Then pursue those things with great passion.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

4. You are funny. This one isn't too deep, but seriously...you are funny! You have brought such joy and laughter to our family, and we are happier because you're here. Your humor and silliness will serve you well in the years to come if you learn to use it well. It can keep you from taking yourself too seriously. But remember to never use it at someone else's expense. As a great philosopher once said, "with great power comes great responsibility!" ;)

A joyful heart is good medicine (Proverbs 17:22)

5. You are loved. Of course Dad and I love you. Your 6-year-old self never questions that. I pray your 16-year-old self, your 26-year-old self, and all the "selfs" between and beyond never question it either.  I pray you also know that God loves you. He loved you before you were born. He loves you when you mess up and when you get it right. Nothing you do can make Him love you any more, or any less, than He already does. In the years to come...when you wrestle with what you believe and struggle to understand all that you've been shown and taught...remember this one thing: God, and Dad, and I all love you more than you know.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you (Philippians 1:3)

Yes, Son, I see how strong you are, but more than that, I see how strong you will become.

Love, Mom

Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe,
and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
~ A.A. Milne

Want to know what 5 Things I Want my Daughter to Know?
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