Though You Slay Me

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Hoop in progress for my sweet Willa

We’ve had incredible time spent with brothers and sisters over the past few days as we prepare for our trip to St. Jude. Today, our brother Jono (who is no stranger to suffering) shared this with us:

…Every millisecond of your pain…..your misery….in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory you will get because of that. I don’t care if it was cancer or criticism. I don’t care if it was slander or sickness. It wasn’t meaningless.

IT’S DOING SOMETHING. IT’S NOT MEANINGLESS. Of course you can’t see what it’s doing.

Don’t look to what is seen…..It’s working for you an eternal weight of Glory. Therefore. Therefore do not lose heart!…..

John Piper

You make me brave

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You make me brave

You call me out beyond the shore into the waves

You make me brave

You make me brave

No fear can hinder now the love that made a way

You make me brave

You make me brave

No fear can hinder now the promises you made

…gearing up for St. Jude. Lord, prepare our hearts for the family we will make there. Prepare our hearts for all of the aching parents we will meet there. Make us brave.

Schemes

Today has been a really good day. We have a plan, a direction, and we have time to be together as a family for a few days before we leave two of our children and head west to Memphis. I allowed myself to indulge in The Office last night and laugh at Michael Scott’s ridiculous comments. I played in the snow this morning with Finn and Johnnie and shrieked at every incoming snowball. If I’d had the time, I guarantee I would’ve weaved or embroidered-therapy to a crafty soul.

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The view out our front door this morning.

I often wondered, as I watched other people go through difficult seasons of suffering, how I would respond if when my “winter” season would come. Would I shut down? Would I hole myself up in a ball of tears and refuse any solace or comfort? I always kind of thought so. Just a few weeks ago I was following the story of a beautiful blonde-headed toddler, Kylie, and her fight with Neuroblastoma and I remember saying out loud to Steven “I don’t think my heart could take it.” He then replied “you’d have to take it.”

We’ve shed lots of tears so far in these few short days, but last night, Steven and I drank good wine and laughed and lived joy despite our circumstances. A friend posted this yesterday:

Happiness and joy are not interchangeable. Happiness is dependent upon our circumstances. Joy gives our circumstances no consideration. Joy is a choice…a choice to put God first and let Him handle the details, the struggles, the unknowns. To trust Him, to seek His face and will, and to stay within it….to praise Him on the mountain AND in the valley. Joy is knowing that this earth is not our home. Will you choose joy today?

But. Satan loves to scheme and he deviantly prowls around, pouncing at every chance to knock us off course. Today, on a good day, a great day, when I am not allowing fear to steal my joy, Satan slipped new thoughts into my head: “If you’re still able to laugh and enjoy, you must not love your daughter.” “Your life didn’t come to a complete stop-you must not care if you lose your daughter.” “Stop feeling joy! and prove to me how much she matters to you!” “You did this to her.” “You shouldn’t have eaten so much microwave popcorn and coke while you were pregnant.” “Remember those prenatal vitamins you didn’t take because they made you nauseous?” “It’s probably because your first prenatal visit wasn’t until 16 weeks gestation that she’s sick right now!” “Stop living into meaningless grace and pay penance for what you did to your baby.” “It’s your fault” “You can’t be happy.”

I warned y’all at the start of all of this that it was about to get real vulnerable real fast. I write all of this down tonight for exactly this…..

CONFESSION DISARMS THE DEVIL (thank you forever, Lindsay Fooshee).

And I confess that disgusting thoughts like these are swarming around in my mind. The more of you that read these words, the more I truly believe Satan tucks his tail and runs. I know that these thoughts are  lies. I know that Willa’s diagnosis does not mean that we should mourn life. Mourn, yes, mourn her innocent little body and the exhausting days ahead. Mourn the loss of her right eye. Mourn the heartache of all the parents and their sweet babies we will meet that fill the rooms of St. Jude’s hospital. But do not mourn life. Do not mourn Willa’s life.

If your heart breaks, let it be broken in order to be filled up with the love of Christ. Let all of the mud hole meaningless things you try to fill your heart with spill out over its’ broken pieces and allow it to be filled with an ocean of grace.

….don’t you see, Satan? Can you not recognize that we will see joy and feel its’ warmth more so in the midst of heartache? You have nothing on this. Nothing.

The prince of darkness grim

We tremble not for him;

His rage we can endure,

For lo! his doom is sure;

One little word will fell him.

Martin Luther (1529)

Suffering…..If it’s going to happen, if it is happening, then use it, Lord. Open my hands and use it. We have to take it.

God moves in a mysterious way

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God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;

He plants His footsteps in the sea

And rides upon the storm

 

Deep in unfathomable mines

Of never failing skill

He treasures up His bright designs

And works His sovereign will.

 

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;

The clouds ye so much dread

Are big with mercy and shall break

In blessings on your head.

 

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,

But trust Him for His grace;

Behind a frowning providence

He hides a smiling face.

 

His purposes will ripen fast,

Unfolding every hour;

The bud may have a bitter taste,

But sweet will be the flower.

 

Blind unbelief is sure to err

And scan His work in vain;

God is His own interpreter,

And He will make it plain.

-William Cowper (1774)

 

photo-177Late tonight Steven called me outside after taking the recycling bin out to the curb. We had no idea it had been snowing so much. Snow blanketed everything and kept silently falling all around us. We stood in our driveway, in the light of the bright night snow as bright as any dawn or dusk and cried and told each other about fears we had, about boldly going to the Lord in pleading with Him to not take our daughter. We  thought back together on times before children and marriage…having no clue that a summer camp crush would turn into such a vehement connection of two people and their Creator, moving together through grace upon grace.

We marveled at the snow. Unmatched. The morning we received Willa’s diagnoses we woke to the most beautiful, powdery snow. It was unexpected. When we were given her due date of December 16th, I envisioned a day like that….everything blanketed in beautiful, perfect snow. Well, it didn’t snow on the day she was born, or really any day in December. But this night, with snow just like this when it sticks to every barren branch and floats down onto your hair, slight pit-pats as the flakes hit the ground, this will always remind me of Willa and the start of this adventure with her. She is our beautiful winter baby. Unmatched.

…and yeah that’s right, we’re kissing, in a photo, after midnight, in the snow. Steven’s dad used to tell him “nothing good happens after midnight.” Well, we beg to differ. And we won’t stop living joy even in the midst of some of the scariest, most challenging moments of our lives thus far.

Yea, though I walk through the valley

This is a fair warning to all you readers…this blog just got real personal & vulnerable real fast. What was initially meant to primarily be a blog to promote my handmade business with tidbits of our life has quickly become a means to update everyone following along with our journey after being told yesterday that our youngest daughter, Willa(2 months), has Retinoblastoma (eye cancer of the retina). This is also the easiest way for me to document this season to look back on and show Willa how strong she was and how much the Lord used her to sanctify us all and make us more like Him.


We had noticed from very early on that Willa’s eyes weren’t focusing together as they should. I called them “wonky” eyes because one was always wandering off to the outside. We thought she would be diagnosed with strabismus and after eye-patching or glasses her eyes would be totally normal. We got a referral from our Pediatrician and great family friend, Dr. Gill, to go see Johnson City’s only Pediatric Ophthalmologist, Dr Carlson.

But, our appointment wasn’t scheduled until the end of March. In the meantime,  I began to notice that her right pupil had an odd color to it that I couldn’t even really describe. It was just an unsettling feeling of something not being quite right.

Yesterday, by providential events, we were able to get Willa in to see Dr. Carlson. Thank you Lord for snow storms and cancelled appointments.

At that appointment, Dr. Carlson found that Willa’s left eye was perfect, however, the retina was detached in her right eye and she had no sight in that eye. He told us that with multiple surgeries and treatments, she would possibly be able to see with her right eye. Or, there was a chance that she would be blind in that eye indefinitely.  We needed to find out the cause of the detached retina, so he referred us to the Med Center for a CT Scan.

The CT Scan was very hard to experience. The nurses couldn’t find any good veins, so an IV was inserted into a vein in her scalp. As you can imagine, that’s a lot to endure for a 2 month old.

Willa before her CT Scan with IV. You can see the odd coloring of her right pupil-the affected eye.

They bundled her up under lots of warm blankets, strapped her to the table and then I stepped out….just in case I was miraculously pregnant.

Being in the hallway and hearing her cry left me feeling completely hopeless as a mama bear. But, we survived it. And after waiting for about an hour a lifetime we still didn’t have results. We were sent home and weren’t sure when we would hear something.

Later that night, as I was feeding Johnnie June goldfish and blackberries, Chris Gill and Dr. Gill walked through the door and my heart sank. I think I remember Chris saying “It isn’t good Steve”. And then I grabbed Willa and lost it.

Retinoblastoma occurs in about 1 out of every 20,000 children. It’s a rare from of cancer, but it is the most common form of eye cancer in children. The tumor in Willa’s eye has begun to cause enough pressure to detach the retina. She will more than likely lose her right eye to get rid of the tumor and might need chemotherapy and radiation treatment as well.

Dr. Cook at Nisewonger is incredible and I feel a lot more empowered for the trip ahead after meeting with her. We are headed to St. Jude’s in Memphis on Sunday to arrive no later than Monday evening. Willa will be seeing a world renowned retinoblastoma specialist and surgeon, Dr. Matthew Wilson.

Today at the Med Center, it felt bizarre and surreal to pull up right next door to the Birthing Center where Willa was brought into this world. So many people commented on how beautiful she is and how much hair she had and I wanted to scream “She has cancer!!!!!” I’ve screamed it over and over in my head countless times already.

One of the hardest things to think about as we prepare to leave for Memphis is leaving Finn and Johnnie behind. We might be there as little as two weeks, but more than likely longer. I’m watching Johnnie prance around the living room with her juice tucked up under her arm as I’m typing this. I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to endure this. I don’t want to see her in pain again. I don’t want my daughter to lose her eye and grow up with self-image issues just like every girl, but with the added hurdle of having only one eye. I don’t want to await more results after Willa’s MRI on Thursday. I don’t want to admit that my baby daughter has cancer. CANCER. In my honest and real and selfish heart, I don’t want any of this.

But, we have been called to endure this. And we are not alone. There are moments for each of us that God designs to stretch our faith and further His kingdom and this is definitely one of those for not just me and Steven, but all of us. Reality is reality and I can either press ahead with my fists closed tightly, or with hands open.

Behind the Name

Like everyone else, I am always curious about the origin of  a business name. So, for your curiosity’s pleasure, here is the short backstory on mine:

The name Garland & Pendant originated from Proverbs 1:9 (ESV):

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,

and forsake not your mother’s teaching,

for they are a graceful garland for your head

and pendants for your neck.

While  I was trying to create a name for my (at the time inexistent) business, I was pregnant and anticipating the arrival of our son, the boy who would make me a mother. At that time, I had began reading through Proverbs, and these words stuck out to me as a daughter and a soon-to-be momma. Not only that, but “garland and pendant” sounded pretty good together too. Win!

The words of my business name are reminders of the responsibility I have as a mother. To teach and instruct. To be a constant source of grace and mercy.  I am, at the same time, encouraged by this scripture in hearing that me and Steven’s instruction and teaching to our children is comparable to adornments of grace. Really? ….sounds like the most important job in the world when held in that regard. And let’s be honest, while finding myself in mundane situations like changing diapers or burping babies, I don’t often feel like my job as a mom really means much to anyone. Especially when I start comparing how I’m doing to another mother. So, my being a mom won’t ever land me an interview on the Today Show, but Scripture sure as heck has a lot to say about the importance of doing my best(and clinging to grace in my worst)  in helping to rear three tiny souls.

Also, this Proverb reminds me that as a daughter and disciple, my obedience to God renders me more lovely and amiable than any beautiful piece of jewelry or accessory could.

Do you have an a business? What name did you go with and why?

Hand Weaving: a newfound love

This is the third wall hanging I created. It's a gift for a friend's baby girl who is due to arrive in a few months.

This is the third wall hanging I’ve created. Soon to be hanging in a sweet baby girl’s nursery.

Don’t get me wrong, embroidery is still a lovely pastime and I plan on racing back and forth between the two, but OMG WEAVING. It is all I want to do right now. SO therapeutic and SO many options! I love the use of color and texture. I love that I have a reason to go to Purl Soho in my dreams the future even though I don’t knit!

I love how the sky really is the limit with weaving….there are no rules and so much freedom to express different styles. I cannot wait to offer these woven wall hangings along with embroidered hoops when I reopen shop in a handful of weeks.

I still have a lot to learn, still don’t feel confident to do much more than horizontal lines, and still get frustrated when I don’t get it right the first time. There are some awesome tutorials out there that have helped me out immensely if you’re wanting to start yourself.

I purchased my frame loom from Loom & Spindle in Australia. They also have amazing tutorials to get you started. My loom came with a few tools and a short weaving guide.

I used this weaving class from A Beautiful Mess as well as this awesome post from Honestly WTF to get rolling. I’m sure there are countless other helpful tools out there to learn this super fun trade, but I’m still a newbie and still tied to learning only during nap time or when my husband doesn’t mind me drifting off into weaving space while we binge watch The Office.

Try it. You’ll love it. I promise. It’s like those braided friendship bracelets in elementary school that you couldn’t get enough of!