Sunday, July 31, 2011

our blog was born one year ago today.

one year ago on this day. july 31 our blog began. i had been sleep horribly since we had heard of my cancer and most nights were spent trying to settle my racing thoughts. i remember those nights like they were yesterday. scared. alone. exhausted. sad. worried. fearful. all of it. to distract myself i would read and re-read and return the emails i had received as news seemed to have traveled quickly.

family was in town. ted, sara, and tommy. happy anniversary you guys. seven years. what a joyous thing that we celebrate your marriage along with the birth of something that changed our entire cancer journey. i remember waking up, sitting in the living room of our little townhouse and telling them over dunkin donut iced mochas that i had started a blog and that i would be writing about our journey.

sharing on this blog and the passion i have for writing was something i never knew was inside me. i see life through a different lens as i think about how i will document it or if i will even write it down. this blog has been one of the greatest surprises of my life. although it started because of something sad and hard like cancer. it will never be a sad thing to me. not even a tiny bit.

it allowed me to process fears and emotions i did not know were in me. it gave me a voice and a purpose when i felt so isolated and alone. it allowed you. the reader to be a part of something. not just about cancer but real life and Jesus and the story He is telling. i am humbled to have walked this road with you. even through for most of you it has only been though the 245 blog entries to which we shared our heart through words, pictures, and videos.

this is going to be a year of reflection. a lot of "one year ago today we were doing this, or going here, or this happened...can you believe it?" i think that is apart of it though. processing all that has happened.

so thankful that one year later i am cancer free and my evening was spent on river with this guy and this girl. along with many of our dearest friends. (we had a little hoedown more pictures to come).

both surprised and excited to note that since this blog started one year ago in the early morning around 3am over very scared tears of what was ahead for my family there have been over 1,002,600 page views of this blog. thank you. thank you thank you.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

instagram and my iphone at the beach.

our day at the beach with pebbles branch. my cabin at young life camp.
pictures sometimes are not that clear. sorry.
she even found herself a little boyfriend. she liked giving him sand.
within two minutes of getting into the car she was asleep. that is my favorite. when she has ran so hard for so long she just crashes. we had such a fun a day and ava did it way better than i had anticipated. thanks girls for keeping an eye on her, taking her for walks, playing in the sand, and "swimming" in the ocean. i love that you all love her so much. means more than i know how to tell you. 

it was a good beach day. happy saturday.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

we decided tuesday night that justin and i can always find a reason to celebrate.

i like that about us. you have to be willing to take the time to celebrate the big stuff right alongside the little stuff. that is what life is you know. all the little stuff with some big things randomly thrown in along the way.
celebrate we did. we got fancy. well summer kinda fancy. i wore a dress i brought last august at the jcrew outlet in the outer banks with my mom and sisters when i first got sick. this was my first time wearing it. seemed appropriate.
we ate at pf changs. a place we love but rarely go. it was a great great night. i like eating in places with good lighting. like barely any lighting i mean and pg changs is like that. we did not want this night to just be about cancer and where we were one year ago. but we did want that a little bit. i sure did. i love talking deep and sharing my heart. especially with my husband. i like his heart the best. he has a lot of good stuff to say. 
a few highlights from the night for me:
1. looking into my husband's eyes from across the table when he said, "i do not know how we did it, lib. i mean i know it was the Lord. but how did i go to work everyday? how did i go on young life weekend trips? or speak at the young life banquet? or go to camp silver beach? or do program at triple r? how did we do it?
i am not sure babe. but somehow we did. it still does not seem like is happened to us and we were the one's living it.
2. how we decided that last august was the worst month of them all or at least the most surreal. the most not like normal life. it's because justin was not working since we were supposed to be on assignment in new york so he had no plans. no meetings. no work obligations. something i will always cherish. he was at every appointment. doctor's visit. surgery. scan. all of it. the entire month was filled with cancer stuff and then whatever we wanted after that. no responsibilities. it was nice to have that break in the midst of our entire life changing. as strange as it is i will always have fond memories of august. because we were inseparable. we did it together. every step of the way. even when we had no appointments and i would spend most of the day in would bring me mocha's and mail. man, we got a lot of mail that month. i think the longest we were away from each other the entire month was when you went golfing with my dad. secretly i would love that. to spend every second together. you would go nuts. but in all honestly i like you that much.
3. the one word we decided that described this past year: encouraged. we felt so loved and cared for the entire time i was sick. i will not go into that for the hundredth time but thank you for the ways you all encouraged us. but i will say i know that i have been given a very unique and special gift. not everyone is given the chance to hear people's hearts. the letters, emails, and fb messages...i will never be able to share what i have been a part of in that. thank you for writing. sharing what you have learned. how our story may have touched you or impacted you or something you learned. my inbox is still full. 272 unread messages. but keep writing. i still get an email almost daily from someone who reads the blog. i do not think it is strange or weird. i think it is another example of community. sharing your heart and your life. whether we know each other or we live close or far away.
thank you. thank you. thank you.
4. when i asked justin for the first time...
"what was is like taking me to chemo every other thursday?"
he did not say anything. but within seconds my husband. my dear sweet husband who should not have had to watch his wife get sick with cancer began to sob. (babe, hope it is okay i am putting this on the blog). he could barely get a word out. but when he did he said... 
"it was awful. it was so awful, babe. i hated it." 
i could see it all over him. how much my husband hurt with me. both of us trying to be strong for each other. which i knew. i knew it was awful. how could it not be? but i had never asked him before. he always seemed to be okay. not happy but not sad. just trying to be strong for me. but i like my husband vulnerable. because we were in the middle of a restaurant both sobbing we pulled it together and i asked him to still be vulnerable with me and cry when we got home that night. he agreed. 
5. we shared things about cancer and those first days that we had never told each other. it was healing for me. like when he called his dad to tell him i was sick and the screamed on the phone. legit screamed. it was all too much. i am ready now to hear his pain. his heart. for so long it was just too hard. but since i am healed we talk about it now. we will keep talking. for the most part it was too hard to do when i was sick. the pain was always right on the surface. i know what it really means now when you saw your vows on your wedding day and you promise to your spouse, God, and all the guests that you are in. you are in this marriage no. matter. what. this whole cancer thing could have torn us apart. it happens to people. but not for us and i am reminded of how thankful i am for that everyday.
6. we talked about our future. how far we have come and what is ahead for us next. then we shared highlights from this past year. there was good things. our trip to nyc. that was our best trip yet. weekends to the outer banks. naples. all the visitors. 
7. this huge piece of cake was brought to our table from four sweet girls we know from chesapeake who were dining a few tables away. along with a note. what a perfect surprise.
justin is eating real healthy so i ate it by myself. not even close to all of it. but it was real good.
i love you babe. i am glad i am better. thanks for doing this with me. could not have asked for a better partner in life. thanks for the beach house surprise after dinner. it was exactly what we needed. let's never forget where we have been and were we are going. this year changed us. in profound ways we are so different. let's never lose that. we can't. it's a part of who we are now.

ps. thanks for all the calls, texts, and emails to those of you that remembered where we were just one quick year ago.

"here's to no more cancer and celebrating that it's over"

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

365 days later.

before i really get into this post i must begin with this...

i am cancer free. although on this day last year we were told otherwise we celebrate what the Lord has done in and through our lives. i can not even type that without crying. i am in awe of who He is and how He has changed our lives. thank you for reading this blog. i have said it before and i will say it again and again....because of this blog our entire cancer journey was different. you all joined into the fight with us. from near and far you entered into our pain. confusion. fear. numbness and uncertainty. but you also entered into our joys. good chemo days (the Christmas miracle). positive PET scans. my pixie cut. and the day we were waiting for...rejoice again i say rejoice i am CANCER FREE. today is bittersweet. which i imagined it would be. thankful to be alive and healthy and a little sad that i even had cancer and had to walk this path. but i think it is okay to feel both. experience both sides of it. the joy and the heartache. the sadness i had no idea i would feel. i am not sad all the time. not at all. but there is this new place inside my heart where i ache over cancer. the road we walked. what it all looked like and what it felt like for us. i still have a hard time even believing that it even happened. i still catch myself thinking...other people get cancer. not me. not us. this happens to other people. but now i know it doesn't. it did touch my family. it will touch yours too. maybe not cancer. but something. something big. something scary. but something that if you allow it. if you really allow yourself to trust the Lord can be one of the greatest things that will ever happen to you. i do not like cancer. i do not like chemo. i do not like getting my blood drawn. or getting scans. or losing my hair. or leaving ava. or getting sick. or watching justin put his sunglasses on during those first appointments to hide his tears. seeing his pain. i hated that. i do not like calling people you love the most to share with them that you have cancer. or being alone as much as i was when i was sick. i do not like any of that. but i do like that we did not walk this road alone. we were never alone. we were not in control. we could not take it away. so we trusted. maybe for the first time. at least for me. that the Lord is good. really good. all the time the Lord is good.  He will take things like cancer. a horrible deadly disease and use it to bring me closer to Him. to experience intimacy with Him in the midst of so much pain and fear.

there is a little sting today. a little lump in my throat. i am just sad. deeply sad. not for any certain reason. maybe just because i am starting to really think about aspects of cancer i never even thought about when i was sick. still in disbelief that we walked the road we did. but what i love about it all is that the Lord used cancer to bring me closer to himself. justin too. as we continue to make decisions about our life and our future i can not help but always come back to cancer. to this day. the day we were told i had lymphoma. we did not cry really. we sat in silence mostly. letting it sink in. asked some questions because i recall being so confused. not sure if he was really talking about my body. my body was filled with cancer? no way. not me. this is not our story. but then we walked out. not really talking. justin carrying ava in her car seat and we knew. we looked at each other from either side of the car and knew we were going to be okay. i recall feeling peaceful. feeling so close to justin. thinking if we can get through cancer we get through anything. i am so thankful that cancer united us. our bond became tighter. more real. literally within seconds. we knew nothing would ever be the same again. i believe in a bigger God now than i did before cancer. i believe and trust in a God where we do not always understand why. or the timing of things. or where we are headed. or is this possibly going to be good? and we are not always able to see it all or understand why until we get to the other side. but we are on the other side. we are living on the other side. the side of life. health. joy. we are not always happy. life is hard sometimes. we do not always know what we are doing. but we know what matters. we have gained a new perspective. a new outlook on life. something not everyone has or even wants. but in Christ it is a free gift. the freedom from our sin and brokenness because of the cross. He paid it all and He loves us. so much it hurts. a love we can not even begin to fathom. but it's true and you can experience it too. that God is for us. He is for you. He is for me. He is in this with you. whether it's cancer, or death of a child, or difficulties in marriage, or the inability to have a baby. He is for you. in the pain. in the late nights when you are crying and no one else knows it because it all feels too much and you wish it was not happening to you. but it is happening. it is real. it is your life and you are walking it daily. because we all our thing. you know what i am talking about. but the truth. what is true about whatever road you are are not alone. He is for you. He loves you and His only desire is that you would give your life. remember we are talking your life here to Him. He is in control. we are not. His plan is better than our own. always. even when it hurts so bad you did not even want to try anymore. and you honestly believe with every ounce of your soul that nothing good can come from it...remember He is in the business of making all things new. He can change hearts. He can change marriages. He performs miracles. My body was covered with cancer and now it is not. so maybe your story is not cancer. but whatever your "cancer" is...He can restore it. He can make it new. He healed me and He will heal you. i believe that with everything i have. although i do not always understand why things happen the way they do or why some people's stories are so much more tragic and gut wrenching than my own...i am free because that is not my burden to bear. i am not in control He is. which is the hardest thing for me to actively live out on a daily basis. but it is my desire.

i do not want to write a lot about what this day was like for me last year. but i do a little bit. it helps me process how far we have come if i look back on where we were. just one little year ago. but one big big year. in a span of 13 months we had ava, got cancer, and beat cancer.

justin just called and asked how i was doing. i said emotional. not necessarily sad. just an emotional day. he went on to crazy it is that it has already been a year and how he remembers ever second of this day. i do too.

i remember getting up real early and going to get blood work done. i went alone. i was not scared. not yet. when i came home it was still early and ava had just gotten up. she was laying in bed with justin. i nursed her. my most favorite thing to do as a mother. that just a few days later i would have to stop. that still makes me a little sad. an hour later they called and told me i had an appointment with an endocrinologist at 11am. i quick got ready. no time for a shower. i went alone. by choice. i was not worried. met my most favorite doctor ever besides dr. lee my now oncologist. he listened. he made things happen. he took it seriously. they had found a large mass on my neck two days prior and he was checking it out. i still do not know if he knew it was serious at this point or was simply scheduling an ultrasound because we were still planning on heading to upstate new york just two days later for young life. not sure. does not really matter. i called justin right away. i was a little more anxious. but it is not my nature to jump to conclusions and plan for the worst. got home. had a babysitter come over for ava. we went together. i laugh at how we both tried to settle each other down by saying..."he is only doing this because we are heading out of town for a month, not because there could possibly be anything wrong." we checked in at the hospital. insurance card. license. the whole thing. we did that like a hundred more times throughout this little cancer journey. then we waited. we wondered the hallways. we could not find the ultrasound room. i poked my head into a room and asked..."is this where you do ultrasounds." they said yes and i went in. justin had to wait outside. it was laid back. the tech was sweet. relaxed. it was business as usual for her. i now know this is just what medical professionals do. no matter if it is serious or not they always seem relaxed. which is good. i walk out after like five minutes and justin says, "that's it?" yup and we head to the car. it was so hot outside. as we are driving home we get a call from the doctor to go back and get some additional blood work and a chest x-ray. i knew secretly this can not be good. but we will still try to assure each other that the dr. is just trying to be thorough with us. we appreciated that. get my x-ray. i ask them how long it will be until we get the results and they said 7-10 days. i remembering think we do not have that kind of time if we are heading to new york in two days. after that i get some blood work. we waited what seemed like forever. justin called to check in on ava and thankfully she was doing fine. our little girl is a champ. still is. go with the flow. might be a little more strong willed now. but we'll take it. got the blood work done and head home. i remember calling family at this point i think. sorry mom and dad that we waited so long to tell you what was going on. i just did not want to scare anyone. we got home and i started feeding ava some applesauce. we told deborah who was watching ava about the day. i do not remember if we were calm or not. i think i was calm or at least trying to be. then my phone rang. i remember it so so clearly. sitting at the kitchen table feeding ava. i pick up and it is the doctor. my results were in from the blood work and x-ray and they wanted me to come in. bring my husband and please come now. i dropped the phone. it was in slow motion as i hung up and let it fall to the ground. the tears began to roll down my cheek. i knew it was not good. i knew it was big. i knew it. i felt it. i recall panicking a bit. pulled it together and we loaded up ava. we started calling immediate family. no one tells you how to start these conversations. trying to be calm. telling them we do not know anything yet. it might be nothing. but it would be something. it is like you are not ready to say it. say that it might be something bad. it is interesting how family responded. some people immediately assume the worst. while other's are quick to say i am sure it is nothing. we drove to my dr as a family. the three of us. we sit in the waiting room and wait and wait. it was awful. your mind racing. i could not slow my thoughts down. then we get called back. secretly you never want them to call your name but at the same time every minute you wait feels like a year. i remember mindlessly looking through a magazine. pretending that everything was fine. justin was pacing. he could not sit still. we go back. he tells us it's lymphoma. in my neck and throughout my chest. shows us the x-rays. i did not even know what to ask. i do not remember what he said or what i said or what justin said. i think i cried a little. just slow tears. i was numb. shocked. not sure what to do with anything he was saying. but we move forward. he gives us some direction on what is next in the whole process. he slows us down because our mind is jumping way ahead. he says he is in this with us. whatever we need. whatever he can do. we head out. scared and peaceful at the same time. then it begin. the phone calls. i am sorry for those of you i called where i wept. or laughed. or sounded apathetic. or scared. i was all over the place. i sometimes do not know what to do with serious things so i laugh. not because it is funny. not all. i am just not always sure what to do or how to act. the calls do not stop. it was exhausting and thus our cancer journey began. finally after we put little ava to bed. i nursed her. i cried. i cried the most with her that night in her glider in the dark. our sweet precious baby. not yet seven months old. her first year of life. our first year as parents was now taking an unexpected a new turn. we laid in bed together so sad. so confused. how can this be our life? is this even real? i felt anxious and tired and scared. i remember feeling really scared. not sure i slept very much at all. but i felt loved. i felt cared for. i did not feel alone. i felt numb. like i was going through the motions of someone else's life. not my my own. and certainly not ours. but we knww that this was only the beginning and the Lord was in this with us...and thus began our seven month journey with cancer.

we are on the other side if it now. sad that it happened. but thankful for how it changed us.

i began today with a drive to dunkin donuts with ava for a skim iced mocha and donut with sprinkles. my new love when i was sick. especially those first mornings in bed. reading emails. calling doctors. making plans for this new little change in the road what seemed like a detour at the time. but we now know it was taking us exactly where we were meant to be. i prayed with ava today. thanking God for healing her momma and how we are all changed by His love. she is asleep right now. justin is doing a little work. i am sitting upstairs in my favorite chair and looking at the water. how this is the place where i healed. where we healed as a family. this was not only my journey. but all of ours. family. friends. strangers who have now become friends. what a year it has been. justin and i will celebrate tonight. we will talk about this day and how we felt living it. but after that we will continue to look ahead. to what is next and how the same God that allowed cancer. who took it away and healed me will never leave us or foresake us. no matter what happens and that bring peace to my soul.

i am off to go swimming with ava and justin. that is what i like about today. it is a big day. a significant one for us. but it is still us. our little family living life together and making memories. how precious life is. we know that a little more now.

Monday, July 25, 2011

on the eve that changed everything.

tomorrow is the day. the one year anniversary of when i was diagnosed with cancer. i am sitting in bed next to justin and my eyes are filling up with tears. i just re-read THIS post and then THIS post. my first two blogs ever. they are not even that good. pretty factual. just the beginning of sharing my heart and our life with readers. mainly just family and friends at first and now strangers, but friends all the same from all over the world. it feels like yesterday. as i re-read them it feels so so so raw and real. because it is real. it did happen. it is our life. not someone else's. i remember saying that over and over..."how can this be our life?" i want tomorrow to be joyful. it will be. it is a day of celebration. i was sick back then and now i am healed. five months cancer free. but i think i feel sad. sad that it even had to happen but thankful all the same that it changed everything about my life and my heart. you can not have cancer and not be impacted so deeply it still aches a little when someone even says the word cancer. it's like i perk up a little when i hear someone talking about it. someone they know who is sick or someone who died. i can feel their pain. confusion. heartache. i hope that never goes away. i always want to try and enter into others pain in some way or another. just so they know they are never alone. someone else gets it. what it feels like to be scared. or numb. or confused. or angry. or thankful. or hurt. or in pain.

i just stopped writing for a second because justin asked me a question and all i was thinking was how badly i want to burst into tears but i am holding them in. i am not sure why. i sometimes like to pretend like i am tough. but i am not that tough. i want to be joyful and thankful for how the Lord carried us through cancer and healed my body. but i think i might be sad too. or just need some time to be sad and then celebrate the life we are living. a life free of cancer. in my body anyway.

we are going to carrabba's tomorrow night. it's where we went on our first date after i got sick. we will use our last carrabba's gift card we got from when i was sick. i am mostly sad right now. but i think that is okay. i will write more tomorrow. more in depth on what this day meant to me last year and what it means to me now.

thank you for loving us from day one and praying for us through cancer.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

a quick vacation video

our last night on vacation with my family justin made a little video. check it out. i love it. but i always love them. out of town with my friends and it is pretty incredible. ava stayed home so i could get a little break. we just skyped and ava cried when we said good bye. broke my heart. but i know this is good. good for justin to be with her (and our sweet friends who are watching her while he is at work). good to be with friends i rarely see and really be present. it is needed. so needed. beyond thankful for these women. we sat outside by the pool at sunset and talked about this past year. how young we are and how much we have already had to go through together. not only cancer but my friends own trials. it is hard. but encouraging to see how the Lord has worked and is working in each of our lives.

off to enjoy the pool.

our little video HERE.
(i added this a few hours later after i posted) i am sitting on the bathroom floor because i need to get ready. i am about to get into a van with three of my best friends to pick up beth from the airport and watched this video for the third time today.  i am thankful for my family and for life. for celebrating yet another year we have together. on july 26 we will celebrate one year from when i was diagnosed with cancer. i will be a little sad. but mostly it will be a day of joy and as i watched this little movie my husband made real quick i thought about what might not have been and i can not hold back the tears because i am so thankful. so incredibly deep in my soul thankful i was healed. life looks and feels different. i am a broken record i know. but i am reminded more and more. this time with friends has shown me that. what a gift they are to me and my life. how they encourage me and push me to become more of the woman i was created to be. the more and more i process cancer and in many ways move through the pain and reality this past year i keep coming back to joy. the joy i see in my life and in my heart. in the midst of the joy i see the emotion and pain and sadness i still carry with me about cancer and how it changed our life. it is funny how you can have both. joy and sadness. yet they both seem so necessary. i love the song playing on this video and how it moves my soul and i love my family. that is enough. for today that is enough.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

college reunion 2011.

lately my blogs have felt so planned. i think about them before i write. not that they have been good lately because they haven't really. it has been a super busy july with not much time to sit in bed while ava naps to write. or sit upstairs during sunset and pour out my heart and what is inside of it. instead this month has been full of what we camp trips. lack of sleep. family vacations. a busy 18 month old. trying to spend time with justin. alone. it is a rarity for us these days. my heart feels full of so many emotions. thoughts. fears. excitement. all of it. but that is for another day.

today we discuss college. when i moved into my dorm at calvin college i met my five best friends. we lived on the same floor for two years and then lived in a house together for the next two. hope st. full of memories no one can take away from us. when life was full of school. homework. late nights. movies in bethany's bed. boyfriends. grey's anatomy. late night taco bell. confetti cake on your birthday. a sit down meal once a week together in the dining room with horrible teal carpet. walk to the park. to kava to brandywine. our favorite breakfast place. they were some of the best years of my life. we love each other. we had little drama because we genuinely cared for one another. something i know is such a gift and sometimes rare when you put 6 girls in a house.

when we graduated we went our different ways. that is what tends to happen after college and it is sad. it is for sure so sad. but the relationships that mean the most honestly do not depend on the zip code. i moved to kentucky for a boy named justin and graduate school in case the boy did not work out. at least i would get my MSW out of the whole thing. but we all know how that worked out. marriage, a little baby girl, and cancer. beth moved to denver colorado to be a nurse and fall more in love with the outdoors. britt finished up getting her nursing degree, got married, and had a sweet baby girl. karyn moved back to her hometown for a sweet job. married dan a few years later (i missed it last summer due to assignment/first chemo treatment). ruthy got married and headed to fremont. bethany got married and moved to pennsylvania for her husband to go to medical school. it is just what happens.

but we agreed that once a year we get together. no matter what. but because life happens and things come up...we have always celebrated with just five girls not six. but we still celebrate. we drink coffee and make breakfast. watch movies. go white water rafting. or lay out at the pool. or go out for dinner or a little karaoke. or attend a wedding. we have had to watch one anothers lives at a distance. marriages, motherhood, boyfriends, new houses, new jobs, losing a child, getting cancer, losing jobs, heartache, questions about parenting, or what is hard about marriage and what is so so good. we all do not talk all the time. some of us rarely talk or even text. but we know. deep inside that we are all in "this" together. whatever the this maybe. how we have grown and changed and how in the best way possible we are still very much the same. i am thankful for these friends. some of my first calls were to them about my cancer. my first  "you have cancer but here are some fun things to cheer you up" package was from these girls, flowers the day i got my medi port put in, texts, emails, phone calls on chemo days and post chemo days. cards. gifts for ava. every square inch of my house cleaned and organized...we all know that was britt. what a gift.

we will be together soon. in the midst of the chaos of life we make this happen. we spend the money, take the vacation time off work, drive and fly to be back together. i am grateful for all of you.

the plan was for me to be there by now. at 2pm actually. but my flight was cancelled just as i was unloading the car at the airport. perfect timing. we loaded the car back up and went to breakfast. i now leave at 8pm tonight. let's all hope ava does okay since she will be flying during her bedtime. (we do not always bring kids but this year we decided to...for them to meet ava and for some of us to meet jonah and hang with bella and max.) it will be busy and crazy but good. these are our lives now. we are no longer six single girls doing our thing...but wives, mothers, and girlfriends. we love it. the way it has changed us for the better. let's make this is a good one. you will be missed sweet karyn.
britt's bridal shower oct that right? four years now. wow. time for a new picture of the six of us. it was all i could find on facebook. ha.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

family vacation details and video to come. but for tonight i love my sisters. my parents and my nephews. my brother in law's too. it has been a little bit crazy here. life feels very much out of routine. i think that's just what happens in the summer. we got home from williamsburg yesterday and our house was immaculate. thanks to justin. but that lasted all of ten minutes. i just can not seem to get ahead. i can not fit it all in or do everything i want to do. i know that is normal. i just sometimes feels like too much. but it's not like i want it any other way. it is just busy. but good busy. full of all things i love. tomorrow is the young life golf tournament, packing for college girl reunion (so excited) and campaigners. with all the little details of life in between.  
for tonight it is folding laundry. returning some emails. writing something for a friend and going to bed. i never want to sound dramatic. people are much busier than me and i know that. chances are i will wind up going to bed once i hit publish and getting up early instead. yup that sounds about right.
my sisters and i in colonial williamsburg with my family.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

young life camp.

it is one of our most favorite weeks of the year. we took a hundred students from grassfield high school to camp. it is such a joy and so exhausting. but in a good way. a good tired. like it's worth it. so worth it to stay up late and talk and get up real early to meet with other leaders and share our hearts.

this was my first time leading in a year and a half. it felt so good to be back. this is our element. this is where justin and i shine. or we hope we do. Christ in us. our good friend john told awesome it was to see me running hard with girls. literally (camp felt a little more physically draining this year. the hill on the obstacle course. enough said.)  but also just living life with high school girls for a week. in a cabin. sleeping on the floor on mattresses because our cabin was so big. living in disarray. just like i always remembered. so messy and so crazy. but so good. it is such a unique opportunity to really get to know girls in such an intentional way. we did everything together. slept. ate meals. went on the slide. the blog. the zipline. road mountain bikes. we were the worst and the girls loved it. it was such a glimpse of these girls hearts. no complaining no questions. they trusted me. took risks. did things they did not think they could do. but they did. even that scary ropes course. we all did it. that was confirmation that i really did not have cancer anymore. i am physically back to myself. what a joy.
before we even got to camp we took all the students on a "little" hike. it was not the easiest thing but the view was incredible.
my sweet cabin of sailors. great idea ally i thought we looked great. i am currently loving all things nautical. and who won the spirit award? grassfield girls!
although not everyone loves the rope course you all did it. i love that.

yes my cabin dunked me in the dunk tank and it was freezing. it helped that justin got dunked right before me. so we were cold together. but it was fun. if getting dunked into freezing cold water is fun. 
pebbles branch. you will always be a very special cabin to me. the first group of girls since cancer and having ava. it was a joy. all of it. thanks for allowing me to experience this week with you all.
it felt good to be back. so good. i had fun. laughed more than i had in a while. danced. i like to dance. even though i look like a fool. i love it. the freedom it brings. yes i am 27 and hanging in a cabin with a bunch of high schools. but it is my heart. we did life together. for one week we did real life together. we will keep doing that too even at home. walking alongside each other. one of the best things about young life camp is that you all go there together and go home together. sharing memories and moments that no one can take away from you. the Lord worked in huge ways this week. differently for everyone. The Lord meeting them where they are at. where i am at.  that is what makes the Lord we serve so personal. keep going after what's real girls. i promise it is worth it.

young life camp. best week of your life.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

water country.

i did not know until this week but my family loves water parks. we went today for the third time this week. it was great. we went later in the day and therefore did not really have to wait in any lines. it was genius. super fun. i love that. the innocent fun of water slides. for now i am going to hang out with my family. but here is a little ava. man i love her. she is not that nice to her cousins. she hits sometimes. but i love her more than i knew i could love. besides justin of course. today she was sweet and kissed her cousin drake while playing on the playground. precious.
in the background is me. i got a romper from the jcrew outlet. before i got it i asked if it was okay for a 27 year old mom to wear a romper. the consensus was yes.
do not miss our july sponsors. some real cute stuff. check it out HERE for special deals just for you.

Monday, July 11, 2011

family vacation number two.

ava and i are in williamsburg with my family. justin will join us later this week. sorry for the lack of blogging. it's been go go go since we got back from camp. but so so so good. i am still recovering from camp...i fell asleep on the couch at 8:30pm tonight. pretty lame. but great to be away with family.

we spent most of the day at a water park. ava pretty much loved it. see...
off to bed. more to come this week. like young life camp and family vacation.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

check this sermon out. it's mostly about jesus but a little about our story.

my parents moved to OK last month. they started going to first presbyterian church in tulsa. a few days before this sermon was written my mom was talking with their new pastor. trying to get to know each other better and my cancer was brought up and in turn this blog. by friday of that week he decided to write a little sermon about 2 Peter 3:13. life's adversities and how if we choose. if we really decide we will not waste anything the Lord puts in our life. for us that was cancer. when things happen. crazy. hard. never imagined it would happen type can make a choice on how you will handle it. we chose to trust the Lord. glorify Him with our lives and His story through us. none of it is easy. not one part about cancer was easy. but no one ever said life would be easy. but it was good and it was only good because we knew we could not take my cancer away or do anything to heal myself. i was sick. full of cancer. there was nothing I could do but HE could. He healed me. we just chose to trust Him.

if you want to check it out LISTEN HERE

Thursday, July 7, 2011

everyone needs to experience a week at a young life camp. there is nothing like it.

this is always how it goes. ava is asleep and i should be sleeping. i basically got about 4-5 hours a night at camp and ran hard all day. it was incredible. it was joy. it was life. more to come on this past week at camp. needless to say students lives were changed. forever. there high schools will be different forever. we pray it changed everything.

today we rest. no emails or phone calls really. trying to just be. really rest before this month takes off. it is going to be a crazy one.

ava did great. more than great. she loved being with her roma and aunt marlene. more to come on that too. baby girl was not sure what to do when she say me this morning. took her a second to wrap her around the fact that it was me. but then she smiled. so big and ran to me. she did not leave my side until her nap. she is sleeping now i need to sleep too.

thanks for your prayers. it was truly a life changing week. in so many ways. there is nothing else i would rather do. this was week was big for me. i am seeing more and more how cancer has changed me. this week reflected that in so many ways. more to come. i like to keep you hanging. off to nap.

big blog post tomorrow.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

from a sweet friend. camp is going incredible by the way.

this is an email i got a while back from a dear friend. she did a phenomenal job of emailing me when i was sick and responded to various blog posts she liked or thoughts she had on them. always good. it was such an encouragement to me. i received thousands of emails when i was sick and most if not all brought me to tears and impacted me in a different way. however, i am unable to put them all on the blog and secretly i do not want to put them all up because they are special and intimate. many of you shared so much with me and it was such a gift. they keep coming. not in the masses like when i had cancer, but still. every once and a while when i check libbyryderblog gmail account a little email from a reader shows up in my inbox. no joke i get so pumped that i usually wait to read it until i can sit down and really read it. not read it while watching ava, cooking dinner, and doing laundry. i did that yesterday. i got a pretty incredible email from a women i do not know. i got settled on the couch upstairs. put a movie on for ava to help her learn her colors. the dvd is so annoying but she is learning her colors. pre school prep is the name of the series. anyways, i sat down and started reading and the tears began to fall. because that is what i do. she shared a video with me at the end of her email and i wept. it was about a young woman. like me. who had breast cancer and nine years later it came back and now it is not curable but manageable. i sobbed. that is my biggest fear. that after years and years of routine visits where everything looks great...we will hear the dreaded words...your cancer is back. the woman in the video's name is dawn. her and i could be friends i think. she seems to have the same outlook i do. i will try and get in touch with her and ask if i can post the video she made. i love it. i think i want to do something like that someday too. we like videos in this house.

i appreciate the emails i receive so much. it really is an honor to get the unique chance to get a glimpse of people's hearts and lives through an email. so raw and real and honest. i love all those things. thank you for writing. my goal is to return every email i received when i was sick before feb 19 2012 arrives. the day i became cancer free. i can do it. easy. i know how busy i feel at certain points in the day that it means even more that so many people take the time to sit down and write. no vague one or two sentences. but their heart. long and honest. it will never get old. it will always be special to hear from people and hear their stories and the ways the blog has played a small role in their life. thank you to those of you that have written and will write in the future.

a letter from casey to me.

Dear Libby,
I was thinking a lot about Ava today. I thought, what if Libby got cancer so that Ava could meet Jesus. That thought never crossed my mind until today. I just kept praying for Ava and Roxie today that they would know Jesus. That they would grow up in the salvation of the Lord. That they would understand the depths of the cross and resurrection and be transformed. Then I just thought, wow, I bet Libby got cancer because her cancer will change Ava's life. (I realize that that may not be true, but what if it was?) I just had this feeling today that Ava was going to know Jesus, like know know Jesus. I can't WAIT for you to share all of this with Ava, in a way where she understands what cancer really is. I know she understands a little bit now. But I am looking forward to the day where she can understand the words that you wrote on your blog and all of the medical things that you went through. You have a daughter, she will love her hair. I can't wait for her to understand how hard it was for you to lose those long locks. One day, your cancer will hit her hard. She will read your blog and you will verbally share with her your experience and it will change her. Her mother suffered from cancer. It will change her. Her love for you will grow. Your cancer has changed other people's lives. People have met Jesus because of your vulnerable heart. Ava will see that. She will understand that one day. She will read about herself and how much she helped you through this experience. She will see that her mother is loved, loved by so many. She will see how much you love Jesus. She will read about how much you love Jesus. I pray for Ava and that your testimony will impact and change her life. You are cancer free. God is faithful. I pray that Ava recognizes that and appreciates the Lords faithfulness.

Well done Libby. Well done, good and faithful servant. Though you did not physically run the marathon this past weekend. You ran your own race. You freaking ran for 6 months. That's longer than any half marathon, marathon, or ironman. Your race was long and you ran the extra mile. I am thankful for all of the people that ran. It is such a beautiful picture of the Kingdom. I love it. I absolutely love it. Isn't it amazing Libby, amazing that you are healed. I am being hit hard with God's goodness right now. It is amazing. I mean I am having trouble expressing how beautiful Christ is right now. Your cancer has glorified him. The cancer did what it was suppose to - bring people to Him. He used you and your body as a vessel to advance your kingdom. Jesus loves you Libby Ryder. He loves Ava too. 

Do not stop blogging. Please do not. I check too many times a day for an update. I love the pictures at the marathon. I just love them. I love when you post pictures.  Thank you for blogging.  It has impacted and changed me.

I love you a whole lot. Praying for you Libby. 

I met a few girls last night who did summer staff with some of our chesapeake leaders. they happen to read the blog so we talked about that. which was so cool. but Ashley said she was hesitant to send me an email and did not to seem like a creeper. not a creeper. not at all. i get it. i get what it means to read people's blogs and feel like you know them. maybe not all of them. obviously. but we wrote so people could enter into our story and see how the Lord was moving in my cancer. i think we should always be willing to share with people when something impacts us, or means something to us, or we learned something, or were inspired. everyone wants to be encouraged. let's encourage people. i like that idea.
It was great meeting Elizabeth, Ashley (we love lexington, ky) and Carlie. you are welcome to chesapeake anytime. they were able to be a part of a special night on the river. our entire porch was filled with college students as we sang, read scripture, laughed, prayed, and talked. it's what i have always wanted our home to be. thanks for making it a reality. i loved it.