Thursday, December 29, 2011

Loud and Proud

In my last blog I talked about Living Out Loud and now I guess this blog is really to explain what that happens to look like in this moment in our lives. Its my way I guess of showing you that I don't just blog to tell people what they should be doing with their lives. I actually attempt to practice what I preach. Of course sometimes I fail but even then its ok because sometimes we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. In this case I hope that its a success and not a failure but only time will tell.

My bucket list grows more and more each week but I'm happy to say that I'm checking things off every chance I get. I marked 3 things off on Halloween night alone. I took my girls trick or treating which also happened to be my first time going as well. Later that night I went to my first haunted house and also shot zombies with paintball guns. Ok so shooting Zombies wasn't really on my bucket list but it was so much fun that I added it after the fact because frankly I think it should be on everyone's list lol. I told you my list was full of fun not so serious things and these are just a couple that I have crossed off my list.

There are of course bigger more serious things on my list and I'm proud to say that one is quickly becoming a reality. There are several things on my list that are things I used to dream of doing and I realized that there is never a better time than now. I tried to figure out what stopped me from doing all these things. Sure there are a million excuses, time and money are the biggest two but really neither of these or any other excuses I came up with really explained what was stopping me. You see thats part of goal setting. You have to think up everything you can that might get in your way and then find a solution. Becoming a photographer has always been a dream of mine. Long before I ever really knew how to work a camera. Now part of this was because I wanted to be like my uber cool Uncle Tim. He is the reason I have done many things like learn to play drums and be adventurous. Then in high school I had the chance to actually learn photography. OK sure it was one class and it certainly didn't make me an expert but it sure made me realize how much I loved it. Then life happened. I grew up, got a job, and got busy with life. While going through Chemo I promised myself I would write down every dream I had and I would think back to old ones. If I still had a desire to do them I would see to it that it happened. Photography was the first on that list the only things stopping me was a camera. Then as a gift from my in-laws this summer I was given the camera of my dreams. So I set out to make it happen. Shawn encouraged me supported me along the way. I'm happy to say that one of my biggest goals on my bucket list is quickly becoming a reality. I have officially started a photography business. Shawn just finished my website last week. You can view my work at and you can also find Beal Photography on facebook. This is what we hope is the first of many changes we are making to our lives. Remember what I said about goal setting. Its not about the future. If it was I never would have taken the first steps to having my own photography website. Its about what you can do right now to make your dreams come true. What that meant for me was going out and taking pictures. It meant setting aside time to read about it, to learn my camera and about editing and most importantly it meant taking pictures as often as I could. I love capturing life! As I said if Loving Out Loud means having compassion than Living Out Loud means having passion and photography is my passion. Its not my only one though so expect to hear more on this topic in the future. Sometimes compassion and passion join forces and I'm hoping that in the not too distant future my passion for photography will join my compassion for something else. More on that if and when it happens.

Many of my past blogs have been about finding purpose and giving back. There are things on my bucket list regarding this as well and I'm hoping that one of them will be a reality in the very near future. This has nothing to do with what I mentioned above with photography. I have been trying to find ways to give back to the breast cancer community since my diagnosis. To use this disease to also give back to God and serve him. Now I won't go into a lot of detail because frankly I'm still working those details out and trying to recruit the people needed to get it started. I will tell you that I'm working on starting a non profit organization for breast cancer survivors. No this isn't about raising money to find a cure. There are already organizations out there that do that and do it quite well. If you would like to help raise money or support one of these organizations the two I recommend are the Susan G. Komen foundation and the IBC Network Foundation This new organization I'm working on is a faith based organization for survivors and their spouses. Its more about healing the soul than the body.There is a lot of work ahead of us. So why blog about it at this stage of the game? Well because for the past several blogs I have talked about reaching out and and seeing the bigger picture. About making a difference in this world while we are here and have the chance. I believe so strongly in finding Gods purpose for us and seeing it through. I want want readers to understand that I don't just talk a big game but try honestly to live by my words but the results are not always immediate.

This is only one part of why I think He put me here but I feel like my readers should know that I don't just say things because they sound good. Things like this take time though and I can assure you that when the time is right there will be more information to follow. In the mean time we will continue to follow God's purpose in our lives however that may look. I'm hoping that overtime there will be more blogs about not just how we intend to live our lives but on how we are actually doing that. I'm not big on new years resolutions because I think that we should be daily living our lives to the fullest and following our dreams but as this year draws to a close I encourage you to think about this next one. Think back on your dreams from the past. Did you see them through? If not what stopped you? Would you still like to see it happen? If so then there is no better time than this moment to commit to doing it. Weather its something silly or serious set out and make it happen. While you are at it look at the bigger picture. What is Gods purpose for you life? What are you doing to for Him today? Maybe its time to make some changes. Think big, dream big because with God all things are possible.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Live Out Loud

Its not often that my house is quiet and I have a moment to sit and write. Don't get me wrong I love the noise of my girls playing, of laughter and giggling coming from their playroom, of children singing or even the fact that I'm still here to hear them fighting but its not often that I can sit in the peace and quiet. When it happens I try and take advantage of it. With Shawn gone and the girls watching a new movie. For once most of my household responsibilities are done I have no excuse to not sit down and fully enjoy this moment and spend it writing. I have been telling myself that I need to make more time to write and I will but I have had to set it aside for a while in order to focus on some other things. In fact that's part of what this particular blog is about and I'm glad I have a chance to sit down and write it. Back when I wrote Love Out Loud I fully had this blog in mind to follow it but then after writing that one I thought this would be over kill. So I let it go...except that it didn't let me go. Every where I turn, every conversation I have had every day since then I have been reminded of this thought of living out loud and not just about doing it myself but about how I must get others to do the same. If Loving Out Loud is about compassion than Living Out Loud is about passion. Its about being mindful of each moment, its about following our hopes and dreams, its about boldly going about our lives and not tip toeing around things, its about sharing our hopes and our dreams and our beliefs with the world.

Living Out Loud means so many things to me but those words has become my overall motto for life these days. Carpe Diem....seize the day. How many times have I heard that saying and never really understood what it means. It means living every single moment of life to its fullest. No it doesn't mean you have to spend every moment doing something exciting like bungee jumping. It means being mindful. Instead of just driving to work and not even remembering how you got there because of the trans you are in or because your mind was so busy thinking about your day and all the things you have to do; being mindful means that you enjoy your drive. You notice the changing colors of the leaves or the music on the radio. You notice how tight your grip gets on the wheel as you sit in traffic frustrated that the person in front of you missed the green light and you now have to wait longer. And instead of getting angry or frustrated you simply take that extra cycle of the light to have a conversation with your children or to hit repeat on your favorite song. Being mindful means making yourself notice whats happening right now and enjoying it. Not spending your time wishing you had done things differently yesterday or worrying about tomorrow. You can't change the past and you may not even have a tomorrow so take the time to enjoy the very moment you are in.

While Living Out Loud means enjoying the moment and being mindful of it it also means setting goals. Now I realize this might sound somewhat in contradiction to the last paragraph but stick with me. Setting goals doesn't mean that you have to spend all your time worrying about them and they don't need to take away from your today. The goals I'm talking about are a little different than planning your future. In a way setting goals helps us figure out who we are in this moment as well. I recently took a workshop during and HR conference at work and one of the classes I took was on goal setting. I heard the coolest thing in that workshop. I can't remember if it was something the speaker had read or if it was something she came up with and I don't even remember her name although I need to go back and figure that out because it was a great class. She said that goal setting is important because even if we fail at a particular goal its OK because as we look back at old goals it reminds us of who we are and what our values were. She said it much more eloquently but that's the basic point she was trying to make. Sometimes we get so caught up in life and what we want or dream of and if you put your goals in writing and find them years later most of the time even if you goal has changed it will remind you of who you were and what your values were. Its nice sometimes to be reminded of that and sometimes we find out that we like that person we used to be and not necessarily who we have become. Then again sometimes we find that we have come a long way and our goals are in conflict with who we have become. OK so if you ware still thinking that setting goals conflicts with living in each moment I can tell you that its doesn't and here is why. Just because we have a goal for the future it should never really be about the end result. It should be more about the process. Each goal we set is really about today. For instance. Someday I would like to be a writer. Now that's all fine and dandy but will I just become a writer because I made it a goal in life? No. You see goal setting is really more about today. What can I do today to make tomorrows goal come true. Will I ever become a writer if I don't write? No. So what can I do about it? Well that's part of the reason I blog. Now at the rate my blog is going I will never become a writer because I hardly ever blog. Honestly though I set this goal aside because I wanted to see a couple others through first. I have a lot of goals and sometimes we have to prioritize them. This one is making its way up the list so don't be surprised if you start to see more blogs in the near future. You see one aspect of Living Out Loud has been figuring out not only who I am but who I hope to be. Its about not wasting this life we have been given. Of course now your probably wondering what was on the top of that list of mine right? Well Shawn and I have been very busy lately that is what my next blog will be about. It will be about more of the results of Living Out Loud rather than the process. Why? Because if I tried to put it all in this one blog it would be crazy long (I'm sure it will be long enough already). Lets just say I have checked a couple more things off that bucket list of mine.

Speaking of that bucket list Living Out Loud also means living boldly and doing things that bring us enjoyment. Its not only about setting goals and seeing them through. Sometimes living out loud means riding the wave of life. Its about not letting opportunities pass you by. This is so important for those of us who are Christians. I think its so important that we live out loud to show others in the world that we don't have to live stuffy lives full of bible study and prayer. Not that I'm against those things but really sometimes we give others this idea that a christian life is no fun. That we aren't allowed to have fun. We act like letting our hair down (OK mine still isn't long enough to go up but you get my point) and doing something nuts like cliff diving or windsurfing would be a sin. Maybe its about concurring your fears and walking through a parking garage or petting a turtle (hey don't laugh those are ligament fears that some unnamed people may or may not have). Or maybe its just about doing something you have always wanted and maybe sometimes its even about doing something so off the wall that the thought never even crossed your mind until now.

Finally Living Out Loud means speaking boldly even though it may surprise or even upset people BUT not BECAUSE it will upset people. Now I say this and most of my Christian friends and followers are nodding their heads in agreement but my guess is your not thinking along the same lines as I am. You see I'm not talking about boldly speaking our beliefs to non Christians. Thats more about the Loving Out Loud. Ya know that song that says “and they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love”? Well I think our actions should speak to the world but to our fellow Christians sometimes we let things go that we shouldn't. Maybe we just let them believe that because we attend the same church, love and follow the same God and read the same Bible that we believe the same things. I'm pretty guilty of this. Of course I also don't go offering my opinion for no reason either and that's not what I think we should do either. Its about finding that balance between taking an opportunity to speak up and speaking up for the sake of an argument or because we are stubborn. Its a lesson I'm still learning. I seem to want to speak up to argue and not because I feel people should know that many of the things we get so worked up about are not really salvation issues and that many of them are the very things that tend to drive non Christians away for God instead of to him. Now I won't go into what I think those things are here because I don't think upsetting a great deal of people on a blog does any good for the Kingdom of God. Religious discussions/debates are some of mine and Shawn's favorite things to talk about between the two of us and with our close friends. I can tell you though that the best conversations that I have are with our non Christian friends for two reasons. First because they don't just tell you want the want you to here and keep quiet about the things they don't agree with and because they are also much more open to hearing your side of things instead of shutting down because its simply “not what they believe” or because its outside of their tiny conservative box.

This idea of Living Out Loud is one of my favorite things that I have learned from my time fighting cancer. Sometimes I think that I need to move away from talking about cancer and not mentioning it because I don't want to to be one of THOSE people who make everything about cancer. At the same time I feel like that would be short changing myself but more importantly it would be short changing God. I mean after all he choose me to have this cancer knowing full well that I would use it to serve him. By not acknowledging it or shying away from mentioning cancer would be like shying away from the purpose He put me here for. So if you tired of hearing about cancer or religion or find my antics offensive then you should probably not follow this blog. I say what I think and sometimes that upsets people from all walks of life.

I hope after reading this blog you will take a look at your own life. That you will start enjoying each moment of your life and being mindful of all that goes on. That you will seize opportunities that come your way. That you will take some time to set goals both big and small and not just do it to plan out your future but then to figure out what you can do in that moment, today, to make your dreams of tomorrow come true. That you will use those goals to figure out who you are and who you hope to be. I pray that you will Live Out Loud by boldly doing things that bring you enjoyment. That you will make a bucket list and set to marking things off on a regular basis and show the world that we as Christians know how to have a good time and lead adventurous lives. Finally I hope that you will step up and speak boldly to others even if it means that you may be an “outcast” among fellow believers if it means helping to build the Kingdom of Christ which is why we happen to be here. So go live out loud whatever that may look like for yourself and stay tuned for scenes from our next episode in which I tell you about what living out loud has been looking like in our lives for the past few months.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Just over a year ago on September 18th 2010 I was crashed out sleeping from my first round of Chemo two days before. Yesterday on Sept. 18th I was decked out in pink and freaking running the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure here in CoMo. Now how awesome was that. Being at the Komen event was amazing, overwhelming, and all around fabulous.

Ok so it took me 39.40 minutes and I came in 250th out of 263 but by golly I ran it! Seeing that sea of pink was so moving knowing all those people were united for the same cause. Knowing that each person had somehow been touched by breast cancer and motivated to help find a cure for people like me was awesome. I had 14 people on my team, the Udder Believers, some walked, some ran and some were pink in the pew or sleep in for the cure team members but I'm great-full to each of them for helping me support the cure.

It was fun seeing other survivors that I have met along the way either at other events or during treatments.  Breast cancer survivors are a unique group of people. They are so full of support, and love, and laughter and most of all unity. We don’t have to explain what its like having BC because we already know. You don’t have to say what your struggles are or explain the fear that it might come back because they fear the same thing. Standing there amongst so many other strong brave women laughing and cheering was a great experience and its one that I have been waiting for for multiple reasons. Yes partly because I enjoy being with other women who have walked in my wig. Ok not really since I never wore a wig but you get my point. There is this “hot topic” among some women with breast cancer over the whole “pink thing”. I wondered how I would really feel being at an event where nearly every single person was in pink. Not only that but we were being handed pink bags, pink buttons, pink scarves, pink toilet paper (ok not really but they might as well have) and I wondered how I would really feel surrounded by so much pink. Would I be upset by it? Would I think it was just some stupid ploy or waste of money? Would I feel like it was down playing the seriousness of having breast cancer? There are so many women who dread the month of October because of all the pink and frankly I wondered if I would be one of those women. 

*Stepping up on my soap box* As it turns out I loved the Komen event. And not only that but I’m counting down the days till Pinktober. I realize that some people have their issues with it but I don’t see how it’s a bad thing. If my carrying around a pink coffee travel mug with me that has a ribbon on it makes even one person stop and think to do a self breast exam, or schedule a mammogram or appointment wither their doctor then its well worth it. If even a few cents of a T-shirt I buy goes to help fund awareness, screenings, treatment or research then how can that be such a bad thing? If my pink bible with words of hope highlighted in pink brings me encouragement during hard days then I don’t see how this can be hurting our cause. Its also not only about awareness, research, screening or treatments for me. You see if my cleaver pink t-shirt brings a laugh or even the slightest encouragement to someone else, especially another survivor than I don’t see how this is such a terrible thing. There is healing in laughter and there is laughter in breast cancer if you just look around. 

Some survivors don’t like seeing a sea of pink because they don't believe it shows the true nature of cancer. I guess sometimes life is what you make of it. No its not all sunshine and roses. Back when I was first diagnosed we kind of got tired of answering the question “how are you” to people. No offense to anyone that asked I realize that you just never know what to say or to ask at a time like that but we got sick of trying to answer that because there is no good answer. Shawn and I being the unique people that we are just started telling people “well we aren’t farting rainbows”. That usually ended the questions and gave people a good laugh. I think that response helped remind people that while yes times were tough, and scary and we didn't know what the outcome would be, that we would get through and we would do it the only way we knew how...together with laughter and love. Now don't get me wrong cancer isn’t this super happy fun time but I don’t see why people think that trying to add a little happy color or a sense of humor downplays what we went through. So you struggled that’s ok! You had a hard dark time and that’s fine. As one of the shirts at the Komen race said “your race your pace”. Everyone deals with things different but I just don’t see why that makes people feel that have to hate on the pink. There are even anti pink campaigns like "think before you pink". I don’t know maybe it doesn’t bother me because I love the color pink. Maybe its because I owned so many pink things already. Maybe its because my roller derby name was PinkE BreakHer. Yes for those who were not aware I was part of the CoMo Derby Dames and I still love my CoMo girls and the sport in general (big shout out to my CoMo girls I hear I missed an amazing bout this weekend).

I love the fact that I get to wear my PinkE gear anytime I want with the best excuse possible. Frankly I think that as survivors of this terrible disease we deserve some joy and happiness and pink makes me happy. I think that after all the treatments we go through leaving us boobless and bald that we deserve to wear a color that’s so pretty and feminine. Because even boobless and bald we can still be feminine and beautiful! So go out there and wear a funny t-shirt that makes someone laugh. Buy some yogurt and send the pink lid in, dye a strip of your hair pink this month, get a pink tattoo. Heck even go out to hooters who happen to be huge supporters (pun intended) of breast cancer and eat some chicken wings just do something that helps raise awareness! If you want a great excuse to buy pink feel free to say that your doing it in support of me I promise you I won’t be offended. If it raises money for research that’s fantastic but even if it doesn’t but it makes one person, even if its you, do a self breast exam or schedule a mammogram then go for it. Yes a cure would be fantastic and of course it is something I hope to see in my lifetime but prevention and awareness are so important especially for those of us with BRCA 1. I know people say that everyone is aware but that’s simply not true. I had no idea that women in their twenties and sometimes even younger can have breast cancer. I thought you had to have a history of it in your family.  I thought that very few people die from breast cancer now days and that too was wrong.There are still so many misconceptions about breast cancer out there. Yes we need a cure but we also need this awareness.

As for the pink haters out there…I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you have so much trouble finding hope and happiness in the color pink. I’m sorry if my plethora of pink offends and upsets you. I’m sorry if my happy carefree attitude about cancer makes you angry and I’m sorry if  I find Pinktober inspiring but stop trying to end the awareness campaigns. Don't try and keep people from attending large events like the race for the cure. If you don't want to participate in those things or wear pink to support your sisters then don't but quit trying to put a global halt on it finding a cure because that is what it appears you are trying to do. As for me, I will gladly support Komen and all the other cancer foundations out there working diligently to promote awareness and prevention, to aid in treatment and researching to find a cure. *stepping down off my soap box now*
Spend this next month sporting your pink and helping raise awareness, find ways to help raise money to fight for the cure and most importantly don't forget to do a self breast exam and schedule an appointment with your doctor and one for a mamo if your of "that age". "Big or small lets save them all"

Friday, September 9, 2011

"The Big C"

 Today marks my one year cancerversary. I can't tell you how blessed I feel to be here today able to write about my life and how much its changed in one short year. I'll never forget the day that I received that call and was told I had the “big c” cancer. Not that I was surprised because I was 99% sure that is what I would hear when I picked up my phone to answer it on September 9th 2010. In fact I would have been more surprised if I had been told that it wasn't cancer. For those out there with IBC you know what I mean; this cancer has a life of its own. That day was surreal and so were the days that followed. It was as if I was living in slow motion while everything around me was going at supper stealth speed. I sat there and watched people buzz around me using tons of words I had never heard of and telling me about treatments and medications and only about every 24th word registered as English. It was a hard time and yet Shawn and I had this peace about us that everything would be ok. Sure we didn't know how I would handle treatments or really just what all the treatments would entail and frankly we didn't really even know if I would physically survive and beat this cancer but we knew that in the end it didn't matter because we had the other “Big C” on our side...Christ. While we prayed before and after the biopsy that everything would turn out fine we also prayed that if it was in fact cancer that we would be able to accept it and to use it as a way to reach out to others, to share our faith with those around us. We prayed over and over that no matter what the results were of the biopsy that we would praise Him.

Today I’m still praising Him and celebrating one of the greatest most life changing moments in my life. Was I happy to hear that I had cancer. No. Not at all. Had I hoped that I would hear good news from the other end of the line? Of course! Did I cry as I hung up the phone? Absolutely! Was I full of questions? Well yea who wouldn't be? Its not as if it was an easy transition to make but at the same time having the “Big C” in our lives before hearing I had the “big c” made it all seem easier to take in. I have spent the day looking back on the last year and I'm so happy that it turned out the way it did. I’m thrilled that I'm here writing and telling the world about my journey. I can't help but wonder how hard fighting the “big c” would have been without the real “Big C” in my life. Today I played my playlist of praise songs that have become one of my greatest comforts over the last year. Not all of them are praise songs but they all are inspirational. I played this list over and over as I dealt with three sick kiddos and disinfected the house today. What a way to celebrate huh? As I got to one of our China hutches and began cleaning it off I picked up the stack of cards that sit there. I have saved every card I have received since this whole cancer thing started. One of my Aunts sent a card with one of my favorite scriptures on it and I'm betting that she didn't even know this was one that I have always loved and that I had quoted often to myself. Romans 8:28 says “and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose”. It was going back over these cards a little while back as I have done so many times over the last year that this one made me stop and put them all down and pull out my bible. How long had it been since I had really studied the book of Romans I'm not sure but here I sat reading it, taking in every chapter and every word, I read things that I had somehow missed many times before. In particular was Romans 5:2-5 “We also have joy with our troubles because we know that these troubles produce patients and patience produces character and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts”. did I miss this so many times. I often quote James when talking about perseverance. Don't get me wrong I love that James talks about perseverance and says to “consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds” and continues to say that perseverance makes you “mature and complete not lacking anything” and while I still love that scripture I think this one better describes both the journey with the “big c” but also my ongoing journey with the “Big C” because it talks of our trials and not just finding joy in them like James says also but because it talks about it producing patients and character and hope. Those my friends are things that you learn from cancer. I'm not saying I'm a patient person in fact I'm far from it but I'm a heck of a lot more patient now than I ever was. I think that my character though it still has a ways to go is also far better than it used to be. There is a song out there by Sammy Kershaw that happens to be on my play list called “Better Than I Used to Be” The lyrics of this song describe me to a T. I encourage you to look this song up sometime and listen to it. The first verse says:

“I know how to hold a grudge\I can send a bridge up in smoke
And I can't count the people I've let down
Or the hearts I've broke
You ain't gota dig too deep if you want to find some dirt on me
But I'm learnin' who you've been ain't you you've gotta be
Its gonna be an uphill climb
but Honey I won't lie

I ain't no angel
But I've been sittin out a few more dances with the devil
and cleanin' up my act little by little
I'm getting there
I can finally stand the man in the mirror I see
I ain't as good as I'm gonna get
But I'm better than I used to be

I’m so happy that that God has spent the last year humbling me. It was in my trials and my weakness that I learned who I am. That I was able to reflect on my character and not only what it was but what I wanted it to be. I’m so thankful that as the song says “I’m learnin’ who you’ve been ain’t who you’ve gotta be” I have joy that my troubles with the “big c” have helped become this new person and that never could have happened without the “Big C” in my life. Its His grace and love that covers us from all those mistakes in the past. Maybe sometimes its not even mistakes as much as it is not doing everything you can to fulfill His purpose. Just as it says in Romans it is certainly from building my character during my trials that I have found hope. Hope that if we unite and dedicate our time, energy and resources we can someday find a cure for cancer. Hope that we can change who we are. Hope that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose”. Hope that we can make a difference in the lives of those around us. Hope that “I ain’t as good as I’m gonna get…but I’m better than I used to be”

Friday, September 2, 2011

Love Out Loud

 If there is one thing that cancer changes about your life its that it forces you to look at everything in new ways. Not only does it force you to see things differently it also does the same to those closest to you. Shawn and I have always enjoyed staying up late and talking with each other. Sometimes its about the silliest most unimportant and odd things. Sometimes its about our plans for the next day or the rest of the week, sometimes its about our hopes and dreams and then sometimes its about so much more. Lately after we have chased the girls off to bed for the 15th time and they have finally given in and gone to sleep we have been talking about some of those ideas from my last blog. Most of my blogs come from our late night talks actually. Its that lesson of compassion and clothing ourselves in it that keeps coming up in our conversations. It nags at me daily about what it means to be compassionate and the more we talk about it the more I realize that we must do more than just talk about it. I probably learned the most throughout this cancer from our late night talks.

To show compassion is really to Love out loud. Now of course this applies to so many areas of our lives. The most obvious is those whom we are closest to. Do you give your spouse a kiss each morning as you go your separate ways? Do you give each other a hug every evening when you get home? When you kids get up for the 23rd time after they have been put to bed do you yell at them to get back in bed or do you give them a hug and explain to them that you love them but they need their rest so that we can have fun again tomorrow? Bed time is exhausting in my house these days. Not as bad as nap time but it is exhausting to say the least. They find every excuse to get up. First for a drink, then to potty, then another drink, then of course to potty again, finally when I’m starting to get tired of the game and they can hear it in my voice they say “mommy I just need one more hug and kiss” in the sweetest and most innocent voice and of course I melt and give them one. I usually tell them at some point that they have had enough to drink or that they need to cover themselves after I have done it a couple times but loving out loud means NEVER refusing them a hug and kiss no matter how tired and frustrated I am of chasing them back to bed. Besides who could say no to this face?

Do you love those close to your heart out loud by sending them cards and notes just because? When you see a friend that you haven’t seen in a while do you say “good to see you” and then carry on or do you love them out loud and show them its good to see them by giving them a hug. What about when they leave? Do you just let them go or do you give them a giant hug and refuse to let go? I apologize to my friends for this because I’m terrible at this! I hate that I’m terrible at this but I’m going to get better at it I promise. Next time your getting the biggest bestest hug!

The thing is you never know just how much time you have left or how much time your loved ones have. That is what makes loving out loud so important. In an instant they could be out of our lives and if that were to happen would they know just how much you loved them? Do me a favor tomorrow and kiss your spouse as you go your separate ways and leave for work, greet them upon return that evening and when your kids get up for the millionth time smile and give them a kiss and go tuck them in one more time.

Loving out loud also means taking compassion on anyone we greet. Again its something that as Christians we are called upon to show compassion just as Christ did. When you are asked for money by a stranger do you stop and question what they may use it for. Do you stand there and judge them for the possible bad choices that may have been the reason that they are living on the street begging or do you reach in your pocket and give them money no questions asked? If you give them some or all of the money in your pocket do you also stand there and preach to them and tell them how if they don’t change their ways they will go to hell? If you do I can tell you that the last thing they need is someone judging them and preaching at them. Do you hand it over and tell them that God loves you and he wants so much for them, that this money is gift not from you but from Him for them. That I believe is more likely what Christ would have done and it will make a much bigger impact on them. Tell them simply to go find a church, to find God if they haven’t already because he can make their life amazing.
 One night when we were talking about what it means to love out loud as I call it Shawn pointed out just how often we fail at this. He asked why we don’t stop to help someone stranded alongside the road. Duh, because its not safe. They could rob you or hurt you or maybe even worse. Then he said “well if say we trust God and this is something that Jesus would have done then shouldn’t we also trust God that he will take care of us if we are doing his work and that even if something does happen that its part of His plan” we sat there in silence for a few minutes. I tried to think of every reason I could to say that he was wrong but I couldn’t do it. No matter how I look at it he is right. If we are going to profess that we are Christians and as Christians we are supposed to try and live our lives just as Christ did then our own fears should not stop us from doing the right thing. In the book of Matthew we are told “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the vary hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” Matthew 10:29-32. That scripture has always been one of my favorites and yet it has taken me most of my life to actually understand the depth of its meaning. No longer will I be afraid to love out loud because God WILL take care of me and my family if we are out there doing His will.
Loving out loud also means finding ways to love those that need it most even when we don’t have contact with them. It breaks my heart to think of all the children and families in the world who are going without food, water and basic needs. Those who are treated poorly by the world that surrounds them, those who each day fear for their lives. Its one thing to think about it and be sad for them and its another to actually do something about it. No I don’t suggest everyone go run and join the mission field. For some maybe that’s the best answer and the way they are meant to love out loud, for some it may mean sending money or other material goods and yet for others it could be something entirely different. I’m not even sure what it means right now for our own family but I know that its something we are praying about and trying to figure out. (For any family that reads this and freaks out no we will not be moving and joining the mission field. I had cancer and need only the best medical care so that I can continue to find ways to better his kingdom. This means staying right where we are. Also this does not mean we will be fostering or adopting children because again I had cancer. A rare and aggressive type that doesn't allow for such things so please do not call freaking out about such things).

Now I'll be honest. Shawn and I have always felt this way and we have had this exact conversation many times since we have been married. The difference is that an experience like this last year forces you to not just talk about things like loving out loud but to actually do it. I challenge you to join our family in our quest to find ways to love out loud in all aspects of life and to embrace what it really means to be a Christian and walk the road the Christ would have walked in our world today.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lessons in the Rain

No woman in her 20’s expects to hear the words you have breast cancer. I know I didn’t. I was young and in good health. I had just given birth to my third daughter. I loved my life and I was sure it just couldn’t get any better. Then came the diagnosis that would turn my world upside down and challenge me in ways I never could have imagined. Given the choice of course I would not have chosen to have breast cancer but now that I have been down that road I would do it again in a heartbeat. You see cancer changed my life in the most amazing ways. I learned many lessons from my battle with cancer.

The first lesson I learned is that God loves me and choose me for this purpose. In the book of John we are told that  "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit-fruit that will last-and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you" (John 15:16). From the day I heard those words “you have cancer” I knew that it wasn’t all about me. God was getting ready to do great things in my life and the life of my family if we would just surrender and trust him. I’m not saying we never shed a tear, I’m not saying we didn’t wonder how would get through the journey and I’m not saying it was easy. We prayed from the beginning that we would be able to “draw close to him” and trust him. We learned to take everything day by day and moment by moment and to “lean not on our own understanding but in all our ways to acknowledge him” (Proverbs 3:5) and let me tell you he made what would have otherwise been a bumpy crooked road straight.  

The second lesson was about learning to be joyful and to share that joy with those around me. Don’t get me wrong I was happy with the way my life was. I was in love with my husband of 10 years and raising three wonderful children. I was happy. I wasn’t always joyful though. You see you can be happy and smile and enjoy your life but to find and experience Joy is something altogether different. Joy comes from such a deep part of your soul and joy is what makes you triumph through such dark and hard times. Growing up I had a youth minister who had a passion for the book of James. I had no idea when I was younger that his passion for such a small book in the bible would become one of my greatest comforts while fighting cancer. In the very first chapter of James it says to “Consider it pure joy, my bothers (and sisters), whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be made mature and complete, not lacking anything”. Now I know I’m still lacking and I’m not sure I will every truly be mature but I can tell you that even in the face of trials there is Joy! With each round of chemo I struggled to keep up with work, to play with and enjoy my children, to teach bible study, to keep up on everything it means to be a wife, and mother, and friend and sometimes I even struggled to get out of bed. Sometimes I didn’t make it out of bed and that’s ok because it was in my weakest moments, during my hardest and sickest days that I discovered who I was and who God wanted me to be. It was during those days that I learned what it meant to “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12). I prayed daily that God would show me his will for my life and use me for his purpose and he has, and he does, and I’m confident that he will continue to use me and my Joy to bless those around me.

The last lesson I learned was about compassion. It was about learning to be encouraging and compassionate to others. There is a world of people out there scared and hurting. Everyone faces trials and as Christians we are called to be like God, to be “compassionate and abounding in love” (Psalm 86:15). So many times we take this command of helping others and showing compassion to mean helping only those we go to church with or our friends but God clearly calls us to do more. He says not simply to just help someone here and there but to “cloth ourselves with Compassion” (Colossians 3:12) and I  can’t help but believe that he meant for us to become so full of compassion for others that your heart aches to help people. You can’t truly understand what it is to be compassionate until you have been in need of the compassion, love and encouragement of others. This was one of the greatest and most humbling lessons I learned while fighting cancer. To have both friends and strangers taking compassion on me and showing me support in ways I never could have imagined changed me in a way I can’t even begin to describe.  

I believe everything happens for a reason. Each trial and each hardship helps mold us into the people that we are meant to be. I pray that you take your trials and hardships and use them to discover that purpose that God created you for. Maybe like me it will take facing your own mortality to find that purpose and then again maybe for you its more simple than that. I pray also that you are able to find joy even in your trials and I pray that you use your experiences to learn what it means to be compassionate.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bucket List

I have been spending a lot of time lately reevaluating my life. I have said before that I want to spend this next year and the rest of my life for that matter learning new things and rediscovering the things I loved in the past. I started writing things down that I wanted to do and before I knew it I had  a pretty good bucket list. If you don't have one I recommend that you start one. It started out with a few things like traveling to certain places and as my list grew I began to add more complicated things. It started out as something that I thought would be just for fun and then something weird happened. Some of the dreams on my list started coming true and others (some of them really big) I'm starting to see come together right before my eyes. It may be a while before I see them play out but knowing that the pieces are coming together is awesome to see. Now at first I thought it was kind of silly to have a list of such big wishes and dreams. Although some of the things on my list would impact other people most are selfish wishes and for a moment I started to feel bad.  After all shouldn't I be more focused on God and on his dreams for me. On the world around me and the millions of people suffering and hurting. The answer to that is yes I should be focused on that and I am but at the same time I realized that God wants our dreams to come true. Psalm 37 says "take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this." and then in John 14 we are told that we can ask anything not just somethings but anything in His name and He will give it to us. I have a couple of things on my bucket list that are pretty far fetched. I didn't tell anyone about them I just started praying that God would take me down this journey so that I could show others what it meant to truly live. I call it legacy living. I want to show people what it means to live fully in each moment and part of that is doing crazy things and dreaming crazy dreams. Now I won't say just yet what kind of big dreams I have because thats part of the fun of seeing God work in my life.
 Psalm 37 also says "be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him". Part of the fun is that I don't set out to accomplish all of these dreams on my own but instead I wait patiently and then when God thinks I'm ready he opens a door. There are so many things that can stand in the way of our dreams if we let them. Even after God opens a door I can think of a hundred reasons that something could get in the way but with God and a little hard work the sky is the limit. Randy Pausch in his last lecture said that "The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something".

I think in my case the brick walls are not only there for me to show how bad I want something but they are also there to show the world that its not me alone making my dreams come true. God wants so much for us to be happy and to enjoy what he has given us but by not asking we are limiting what he can give us. The day I was told that one of my biggest dreams really might come true I felt God wrap his arms around me and hug me as if saying "you go girl...Keep the dreams coming because we are going to do great things together. You dream it and I'll make it happen". Now several things on my list are pretty simple such as falling in love with hobbies that I enjoy all the time and just haven't had time or money for. One of those things is photography and here I am with a brand new camera that I could have never afforded on my own and a new macro lens. Just the other day we took our kids to the zoo. We have been trying to do that for over a year but each time we plan it something happens and one of the children get sick. Out of no where this weekend my husband said lets go to the zoo not knowing that I had added it to my list. I played the drums for the first time in 12 years a couple weeks ago and it was so much fun leading me one step closer to checking another thing off my list. In a couple of months I'm going to get to do something I have always dreamed of doing and I can't wait for it to happen so I can tell you all about it. Each time I mark something off its as if God is saying good job we did it but you need to dream bigger, I have so much to show you and we have so much to show this world. That my girlfriends is legacy living! Me and God, hand in hand, planning to show the world that living for him doesn't have to me sitting in a pew its so much more than that. Its making every moment count. Its dreaming the impossible because Jesus said in Matthew 19:26 "with man this is impossible, but with God ALL things are possible". Thats what dancing in the rain is all about. Its about learning how to live your life in a way that pleases God but also in a way that helps show the world what God is really like. He wants to give you so much but he can't do it if you don't ask him. So make a bucket list, ditch your umbrella and come and dance with me in the rain!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Count Down to the New Year (Fiscal New Year that is)

There are only 9 days left in this fiscal year and they can't get here soon enough. My job is doing fiscal work for a University so June 30th is a very exciting day for me and several of my co-workers. The the nice thing about working in the fiscal world is you get to celebrate two New Years and yes if your wondering I will be celebrating by shooting off fireworks and drinking a strawberry daiquiri and then turn around and do it again 4 days later for the 4th. Ok so once my "new year" gets here I pretty much just keep the celebration going till after the 4th. This is partly because my husband like so many other men loves to blow things up. These last couple of weeks leading up to our new year is spent working our tails off to get everything left for the year done by June 30th.  I look at each year as a fresh start. Its a great time to change anything that didn't work well last year and to implement and try new things. Its also a time where we  slow down a bit. Of course slowing down here really just means we finally have a chance to catch up on things that were behind and deal with anything we have been neglecting. We also spend this time box up old files for archiving and getting our new ones ready. Out with the old and in with the new as they say. As we head into the new year here at work we are reorganizing and planning our goals for this next year. Its been a long and difficult year at work for various reasons besides the struggles that came from cancer and I'm looking forward to a new year here full of change and new opportunities.  This year I have also looked at the new year as a time to reflect on my personal life. I really didn't even consider doing that for the real new year. I had just finished Chemo a day before new years eve and was planning for my mastectomy that took place in January. I was only taking things a day at a time and still wasn't sure I could even look far enough into the future to plan for an entire year. This last year was all about trying to keep things as "normal" as possible while I was going through treatments. This year, however, will be all about change! For me its about reconnecting with things that I love but haven't had time for in years like photography and writing and maybe even music. Its about being bold and daring and trying new things. Who knows maybe we will get a motorcycle or go sky diving. Its about conquering things I have always wanted to do but just couldn't master like sewing or staying organized. I wouldn't count on the latter happening and time soon if ever.  Its about discovering all those things out in this great world that I never knew existed or was to scared to try. Cancer changes a lot of things in your life and while most people think its all bad I have to tell you its been a wonderful experience for me. Its made me such a stronger person but also a more compassionate and caring person. So this year will also be about figuring out how I can give back to the world around me and to my God who brought me through this last year. He brought me through this for a reason and I intend to figure out what that is. Somehow I believe my struggles will be used for others. Maybe its to give hope to others with IBC, maybe its to give encouragement to people with various struggles in life and maybe just maybe its about helping to grow the kingdom of God. Its possible that this will be through volunteering, it may mean working directly or indirectly with people and it may just simply be in the form of setting and example with me living and loving life the way its intended. I have no idea what God has planned for me in the next year and I don't know what it will look like but I won't know if I don't get out there and try new things.  I'm sure there are many things out there I will try and fail miserably at and thats ok. Failing is part of every great discovery. Its part of success in general. All the great explorers, inventors and  scientists didn't reach success without first failing a few times. Thats how we figure out what works and what doesn't. So I'm off to embark on a new adventure this year. To try new things, to explore new things, "to boldly go where no man has gone before" *said with my best Ernest impression* What these new things are I'm not sure just yet but I'll let ya know when I figure it out. In the mean time I challenge you to look at your own life. Are you doing everything you ever wanted? If not what is stopping you? Take this as your chance to get out there and try something new!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

What is IBC?

We hear a lot about breast cancer these days. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, and there are millions living with it in the U.S. today alone. But did you know that there is more than one type of breast cancer? I didn’t. I thought that breast cancer was all the same. I was very wrong! It turns out that there are several types of breast cancer and you don’t even have to have a lump to have breast cancer. 
Inflammatory breast cancer is often misdiagnosed as mastitis because many doctors have never seen it before and consider it rare. “Rare” or not, there are over 100,000 women in the U.S. with this cancer right now; only half will survive five years. I was one of the few lucky ones that actually have a lump along with IBC. Most women don't. Because I was diagnosed while my daughter was less than a month old I probably would have been misdiagnosed as having mastitis but because of the lump and the severity of my IBC my doctors did a biopsy right away. Most don't. Many women are given antibiotics and sent away not once but multiple times.

Please call your OB/GYN if you experience several of the following symptoms in your breast, or any unusual changes: redness, rapid increase in size of one breast, persistent itching of breast or nipple, thickening of breast tissue, stabbing pain, soreness, swelling under the arm, dimpling or ridging (for example, when you take your bra off, the bra marks stay – for a while), flattening or retracting of the nipple, or a texture that looks or feels like an orange (called peau d’orange). Ask if your GYN is familiar with inflammatory breast cancer, and tell her that you’re concerned and want to come in to rule it out.

There is more than one kind of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is the most aggressive form out there, and early detection is critical. It’s not usually detected by mammogram. It does not usually present with a lump. It may be overlooked with all of the changes that our breasts undergo during the years when we’re pregnant and/or nursing our little ones. It’s important not to miss this one.

Survival rates for women diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer are grim.  Only 25 to 50 percent of women will survive five years.  Believe it or not, this is a HUGE improvement over the survival statistics of just a few years ago — when only 1-2% could expect to be alive five years after diagnosis.  Even with chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation, 90% of women will suffer a recurrence.  This is a lifelong battle for those that are diagnosed, and it is a very difficult disease to battle, as it’s one of the few cancers that are obvious on the surface of the body; as it marches across a woman’s breast, it is very hard to watch. While the survival rates are still grim its expected that with new drugs that have been widely used just in the last few years we should start to see those statistics rise. One last thing about IBC and breast cancer in general it doesn't matter what race you are, what age you are or even if your male or female you are still at risk. Yes men can have this too. I was only 28 at the time of my diagnosis and while I felt way to young to have it I found out there are many more even younger than me who have also been diagnosed.

Thanks to Toddler Planet for letting IBCers all over the world "steal" and rewrite your blog.

For more information on IBC or to figure out how you can help visit

Friday, June 3, 2011

Learning to dance in the rain

I love the rain. I love everything about the rain. Its our stormy season here and my favorite time of the year. Each new storm is unique and unpredictable but at the same time beautiful. I could sit and listen to the rain for hours. It just brings me closer to nature, to my surroundings and to God. While rain can bring destruction in many forms especially this time of year with flooding and tornado's its also needed to bring about life. The storm that has the ability to destroy is the same storm that causes the flowers to grow and bloom.
Sometimes its hard to see in a storm. Things can seem so dark and dreary. Sometime you wonder if the storm will ever pass. Surely it can't rain forever right?
Right! Every storm will eventually pass and have you ever notice how much brighter the sky is after a storm? 
With every storm if you look hard enough you will also find a rainbow. It’s the same in life and while those storms can be hard and sometime devastating I still love them. Its during the storms of life that you see so much beauty in yourself and those around you. The tornado that hit Joplin here in the MidWest was devastating. It breaks my heart to see so much destruction and sadness. At the same time it has been beautiful watching people from all backgrounds, locations and places in life come together to help and support so many in need. So many beautiful stories of people sacrificing themselves to save loved ones and sometimes even to save strangers. Storms also cause us to seek shelter and my storm has lead me to seek shelter in the arms of my God. I have been a Christian all my life but this year I went from being a Christian to really embracing God and seeking his purpose for my life. This last year has been a giant storm for me and my family. I have seen friends, family and even strangers rally together  in order to  support me. Last year brought a third precious daughter into our lives but it also brought a lot of heartache. As we were enjoying the newness of our daughter we were also facing the uncertainty of cancer and what has become our greatest storm so far.
 I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)  in September and began treatments all within a month after having her prematurely. IBC very rare and aggressive cancer (more on that later). While it has been a long and hard storm there have been so many rainbows and let me tell you the sky is most certainly brighter now than it has ever been. 
 I hope this blog will inspire and give hope to others with IBC. Not just hope that we can beat this thing but that we can even dance our way through it. I still don’t know what the future will hold but I wouldn’t change anything about this last year. Every part of the storm brought about something wonderful and beautiful and has made me a much better person, mom, wife and friend. Thats what this blog is about. Its about my storms and my rainbows. Its about my fight with IBC and about life in general. What that will look like I have no idea because frankly I don’t know what life will bring next but I’m sure it will something spectacular! One of my favorite quotes and one that has become my life moto is “life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass its about learning to dance in the rain”. I don’t know who wrote it though I have tried to find out but I try and live each day that way. As a family we have learned how to have fun on even the rainiest of days. So next time you have a storm in you life get out there and dance!