A Life More Beautiful

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord." Jeremiah 29:11

The Greatest of These

As I sit in our living room holding my little guy this morning, I can’t help but think about the world he and his sisters are growing up in. The world that will try to shape and mold them into it’s image at every turn. The world that will constantly tell them what they should hate blindly and also what they should accept just as blindly. The world that I will never be able to shelter them from completely….but should I want to? Because how can they be a light to anyone if they are completely hidden in my shadow? 
I don’t have the eloquence or public platform of MLK or Corrie ten Boom…but what I do have is the biggest platform of all in front of my three little ones. This is where change starts….one little one at a time….one family at a time….one neighborhood street at a time!!! I won’t pretend to be able to change the world. However, we will teach these little ones to love….to make it a goal every day to point people one step closer to Jesus…to squash the hatefulness that they see on a daily basis…and to be a light to every.single.person they come in contact with!! 
This mama heart is heavy because of all the hate being spewed on so many sides, but “we have this Hope as an anchor to our souls!!” Hope that says “the greatest of these is love!!” Hope that through Jesus, my family will be people that show HIS love and grace to all people we meet!! Because when it all comes down to it, that’s really all that matters!! 💗

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

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Selfie challenged


I am NOT a selfie girl! I have never perfected the head tilt, great angle or even looking in the right direction. Let’s be real! I am 100% selfie challenged!!

But I have to say this is my favorite selfie ever! No makeup, no instagram filter to make me look tan (as if that is possible)…. heck, a hairbrush hadn’t even touched this hair at 5:42 this morning!

But what do I see?? Love and joy and the promise that everything that sucks has “come to pass.” 

At this time last year, we were waiting for news from a suspicious mammogram…and the news that we got was NOT what we wanted. However, two months later, we got even more shocking news that we were going to be a family of FIVE!!

If you had told me one year ago today that I would have been grateful for a cancer diagnosis, I might have throat punched you! Okay, I’m not that brave, but I would have throat punched you in my mind!!

 But like Jason said two nights ago, “You know, if it weren’t for cancer, this little guy wouldn’t be here!” And he’s right. Without a diagnosis of estrogen positive breast cancer, I would still faithfully be popping medicine to prevent our little miracle!! I would be sleeping through the night completely unaware of the fact that our hearts and family could expand to include this not so little bundle of joy. 

So, today as I meet with a radiation oncologist to plan my treatment, I’ll look at this 5:42 a.m. selfie and see love, joy and a promise that crappy times “come to pass” and may even leave a surprise blessing in their wake! 

#cancersucks
#butGodisbigger

#whitepartyoffive

#caydenj

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Severe…

Hemophilia….

Hemophiliac….

Factor 8 deficiency….

less than 1% clotting factor….

SEVERE….

These are all things that Jason and I have talked about in the 30 days of Cayden’s life. We were told on the night that Cayden was born that one of his three coagulation tests came back highly abnormal. The next day, our pediatrician confirmed that our perfect little miracle has less than perfect blood….far less than perfect. Cayden was officially diagnosed as having severe hemophilia A.

And I felt totally blindsided!

When my OB walked in while the pediatrician was reviewing the blood tests with us, she offered anti-depressants to help me adjust to the news. (Granted, this isn’t a terminal diagnosis at all, but it isn’t something that we had wanted for our sweet little man.) Instead of anti-depressants, I opted for sweets, snuggles, crying and praying on Jason’s shoulder and reaching out to a cousin who also has a son with hemophilia. In one of my cousin’s (very encouraging!!) messages, she was talking about how hemophilia affects her son, and she added that hemophilia “did not define him.” That immediately jumped out at me!! Jason had already said the same thing several times when we had talked about the diagnosis. Hemophilia may be something that Cayden has, but it WILL NOT define him!!

The comments from Jason and my cousin got me to thinking about what really does define a person. Is it their appearance? Their occupation? Their reputation? Their health? Their family?

In Biblical times, the meaning behind a person’s name was so much more important than it is in modern times. In many cases, a name was picked for it’s specific meaning. It literally defined the person.

Jason……..”the healer”

Tabitha….”graceful”…Clearly, I am not living up to the meaning! Haha!!

Jabez…..”he makes me sorrowful”…that’s a great name for a son to inherit, mom!

Isaac…”he will laugh”

In some cases, if a person’s given name didn’t fit their destiny, God would give them a new and more fitting name.

Sarai became Sarah!

Abram became Abraham!

Saul became Paul!

The initial name given by their family didn’t fit into the grand plans that God had in store for them, so he passed on a new name and definition!

Back to our story…….When I was pregnant, I read that one meaning of Cayden is “fighting spirit.” I much prefer to think of Cayden as our little fighter than simply as a hemophiliac. He may still be small, but I know in my heart that this little guy is going to make an impact on those around him! He’s too much of a miracle baby for there not to be an amazing plan for his life!

A Christian speaker named Melissa Radke has a quote that perfectly fits our situation. She tells women to “choose your own tattoo.” She’s not advocating covering your arms in tattoo sleeves. Instead, “choose your own tattoo” means to choose the words that define you. Will you choose the negative words that the world throws at your life? OR will you choose to cling to the promises God has spoken over your life?

We are choosing His promises. We are choosing to tattoo the promises of God onto Cayden’s life. Hemophilia will not define Cayden or our family….only God can do that! We are exchanging a diagnosis for a promise!

hemophiliac….”fearfully and wonderfully made!!”

hemophilia A….”by His stripes we are healed!”

factor 8 deficiency….”we are God’s masterpiece!”

less than 1% clotting factor….”we have this treasure in jars of clay!”

severe….”From my mother’s womb, You have chosen me!”

“Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good” Genesis 50:20

These are the words that I am choosing to tattoo on Cayden’s life. The others? They are just small details!

#caydenj #whitepartyoffive

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Six long months ago…..

It’s so hard for me to believe how much has changed in the last six months!

Six months ago tonight, my mom and I had just gotten home from taking my girls to my aunt that was going to watch them during my first surgery for breast cancer. I fought tears as I kissed them bye because I was terrified of something going wrong during the surgery.

Six months ago tonight, I was thankful for the ambien that my doctor had prescribed to help my overly anxious mind sleep the night before surgery! I had such a hard time turning off my brain that night, and poor Jason was so sweet as he promised me for the 1,495th time that God was in control. I’m eternally grateful that God blessed me with a hubby that is so much better at trusting and resting in God’s plan than I am!!

Six months ago, I had my first semi-successful surgery. My lymph node tested negative for cancer (MAJOR answer to prayers!!), but the initial surgery didn’t get all of the cancer as we had hoped. I had another surgery in December that (thankfully) removed the last bits of this invader.

Long story short-ish, we’ve officially been given the “cancer-free” announcement that made my new year! I quite literally had to hold on to the exam table to keep myself from lunging at my surgeon to give him an enormous hug when he gave me the news!

While these six months have been trying, to say the least, I have to say that we have been met over and over with God’s grace, love and strength in the most amazing and unexpected ways….from random encouraging texts from friends, a best friend holding my hand while I told my boss that this was definitely cancer, to my very best friend dropping everything to drive across town with FIVE kids and hold me as I cried over the news that chemo was a distinct possibility. We’ve had friends call to pray with us, bring meals to us, give the girls incredibly thoughtful gifts and hold our hand along this painful and eye-opening journey! We’ve experienced supernatural peace and strength through more doctor’s appointments than I care to recount. We’ve learned our ways around the maze that is Brookwood Hospital and met some of the most caring and compassionate doctors that I could have imagined!

As He seems to do with me, God tends to get my attention through songs when I least expect it. One day around the time of my first surgery, Brynlee was in her room playing a cd and this song caught my attention.

The chorus of the song says:

“‘Cause I know that You are who You say You are
And I know that You are God alone
So I’ll stand on every promise You have made to me
‘Cause I believe who You say You are!”

This song became a prayer for me. There were SO many days that I would listen to this song on my drive to and from work. I had to remind myself so often that I know God is who He says He is! His Word promises that He is our Healer, our Peace, our Strong Tower, our Refuge, and our Friend. I can assure you He has literally been every one of those to Jason and myself!

As much as I love the chorus, my favorite part of the song says,

“I may not understand
Everything You have planned
But You hold my world with steady hands;
I will trust You!!”

As unsteady as our world has felt, I can’t explain the peace that we have felt just knowing that NO MATTER WHAT He holds our world!! Our names are engraved on the palms of His hands, and as our pastor said on Sunday, “He is madly in love with US!!!” The God of the universe is jealously in love with our little family! He knew exactly what 2016 would bring to our doorstep……BUT He also knew the blessing that would be ushered in with 2017!!!

He knew that as our world was being rocked by a cancer diagnosis, we were being prepared to bring a new life into this world again. As we were debating the pros and cons of chemo vs. radiation, He was setting the stage for a little boy to shock us with the news that he was on the way!! My plan of being a  “girl-mom” was going to have a little man thrown into the mix! He knew our shock and disbelief would turn into amazement and LOTS of laughter.

And He knew that at the end of December, we would be told that there was a chance that this little miracle had Down’s Syndrome. Through tears, I told four trusted friends and asked that they help us pray. Again, I listened to this song over and over again. I knew that either way, we would adore this new addition, but as every mom, I prayed that Cayden would be born completely healthy! A blood test and high risk ultrasound later, we’ve been assured that our little man is perfectly healthy and has an extra wide foot like his Nanna 🙂

Jason looked at me as we left the high risk OB’s office, just like he did after my surgeries, and said, “I told you everything would be okay! God is taking care of us!!”

And you know what?? HE IS!! Through good news, bad news and all of the in between news we’ve received, God is taking care of us!! 2016 was a year that we will NEVER forget, but with God’s grace and healing, we made it through…stronger, closer to each other and with a testimony that we didn’t have in 2015!

“So I’ll stand on every promise You have made to me
‘Cause I believe who You say You are!”

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Who would have guessed?

us again

Cancer….Stupid cancer!! Our culture teaches us all about four letter words that can be so hurtful and angry. However, this six letter word has made so much more of an impact on our lives in the past month than any four letter word ever has.

I never would have guessed that at 32 years old I would be facing a second surgery for breast cancer and possible chemotherapy. I never would have guessed that I would now have permanent scars to my body caused by this stupid disease. I never would have guessed that Jason and I would have had to sit down our five and seven year old girls to explain that there’s a good chance Mommy may lose her hair.

Can I just scream how much I HATE cancer?!?!?!

I was having a particularly ugly cry with my best-est friend last week and pitifully told her that I feel like God is overestimating what I can take…..”I’m not Job!!” I told her through an onslaught of tears. Her answer caught me off guard, but I have thought about it so many times since then. Summer looked at me through her own tears and said, “No, you aren’t! You are Tabitha! And Tabitha is the one that satan asked God if he can test, and you are the one that’s going to win!!”

Jason and I never would have guessed that this is the road that we would be walking this year….but here’s the thing that’s hit me. God is not surprised!! My “second mom” called to check on me yesterday, and she reiterated several times that this did not catch God by surprise! He knew what this year would bring to us…..He knew our reactions, both good and bad! He saw all of the tears that Jason, Brynlee, Camryn and I would shed. He knew that the first surgery wouldn’t be the only one, and that I would feel crushed when I found out a second surgery will be needed. God wasn’t shocked at Jason’s anger or my rivers of tears that still flow on a daily basis. He wasn’t shocked that Brynlee will randomly burst into tears or that Camryn will run her fingers through my hair and tell me that she doesn’t want me to lose my “beautiful hair.” HE’S NOT SHOCKED!

He’s been preparing our little family for our biggest test and ministry opportunity yet. He has surrounded us with an amazing support group of family, “framily,” friends, co-workers and church family. He’s brought old friends back into our lives and given us doctors that we have quickly come to love and trust.

I would NEVER have chosen this road for myself…or even my worst enemy…but here we are. Tomorrow we meet with an oncologist to get a final decision on chemotherapy. Tonight all I can do is pray that we are met with better news than we have been warned to expect. Either way, I truly know that God has seen every step of this journey and will be with us every single step of the way. This is not at all how we would have guessed we would spend our 13th wedding anniversary, but it’s the road that we are walking hand in hand. I’m thankful to know that we will never walk one step of this journey alone, but will always be guided by the God who is never caught by surprise!

#cancersucks #BUTGodisBIGGER

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32…Really?!?!

Ok, so let me start by saying that I do realize that 32 is far from old…unless you ask our girls…HOWEVER, to see the age 32 linked to my age is just a little weird. As of tomorrow morning, I will officially be 32 (ick!).

In my 31.9999 years, I have cried, laughed and loved more than I would have ever imagined. I can’t wait to see what the rest of this story holds…which brings me to the reason for this post. I have been toying with this post for several months, but as a friend said several months ago, “Don’t sing the words to the song Oceans if you don’t really mean it.” Well, here I am at 31 years and 364 days old, I can truly say that I mean these words.

Our girls love a singer named Blanca, and the bridge to her song Echo stood out to me the first time that I ever heard it.

“Whatever You ask
Whatever You want
Use me
Choose me
Wherever You go
I wanna go too
Till I echo, echo You
Whatever You ask
Whatever You want
Use me for Your glory
Wherever You go
I wanna go too
Till I echo You!!”

The words were an instant challenge and honestly, they were a little scary to sing out loud. Am I really willing to do whatever He asks? Will I really go wherever He asks in order to make His mark and not my own? Will I continue to strive to follow my own plan or will I surrender those plans to Him in faith that His ways really are so much higher than my own nearsighted ideas for my life? It’s scary, but here I stand on the edge of another birthday….and my answer is yes! Not a tentative yes, but a firm YES! Here I am, and I know that I’m here for His purpose….whatever that may be.

Jason and I, along with our closest friends, have been talking for well over a year about wanting to do something that really, truly matters. Well, I want this to be the year that I truly live out the words above. I am most definitely a fragile work in process; a work that some days has a glimmer of Jesus slip through, but that usually looks much more like my selfish self shining way too brightly. I want to become an echo and reflection of Jesus, so that when people see me they truly see His love shining back at them.

I don’t know what God has planned for our lives, but I pray that each day I make a conscious effort to show Jesus and His love to all those that I encounter…whether it be a griping car dealer on the phone, a co-worker that I pass on a daily basis, the people in the produce aisle at the grocery and especially this wonderful family that I do life with everyday!! I want this to be the year that as a mom and as a family we become a clear and loud echo of Jesus!!

“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John 3:30 (NLT)

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Day #8….Less of all the girl drama

Let me start by saying that I may just quit numbering these days….it’s getting depressing at this point. If I’m honest, by the time I have worked all day, picked up our girls, made dinner, found the couch under the laundry (again), played with the girls and hung out with Jason, I’m kinda just done. Sitting down to write has taken a back seat to extra books with the girls at bedtime or an extra show knocked off the DVR with Jason….but I digress…

I have had several conversations with girl friends lately that have had me thinking….what is the deal with all of us?! And I mean that in the nicest way that you can take it, I promise. What is it in female DNA that makes us so critical of ourselves?

In 30 seconds, I could take a Sharpie and mark every ounce of extra fat on my body…where I would like to take it from and where I would like to transplant it to….I could circle every wrinkle that is starting to form on my face (I’m too young for this!!!)…I could circle the jiggle that has taken over my arms or the “fat pack” which some idiot ironically named love handles.

And it seems I would be hard-pressed to find another female that doesn’t do the same thing!!

Even my four and six year old want to be cute and have long “Rapunzel” hair.

girls1

But then I started thinking about a verse that all of the kids learned in Adventure Kids several months ago…..

“For we are God’s MASTERPIECE!!!” HIS masterpiece!! No, I don’t have amazing, awesome (natural) red hair like my friend at work….no, I’m not a size 2 anymore….no, I don’t look cute in everything that I wear like my best friend. Just as I am, I’m GOD’S masterpiece! How awesome is that?! Just like each artist has a unique style, God created each masterpiece (US) different from the next. We wouldn’t want a whole world full of Picasso paintings, right?

I’ve had two girls, so I’m not the size 2 that I was when we got married….but I’ve had two beautiful amazing girls!!

I’m far from being a supermodel…..but I have a husband that still thinks I’m pretty cute, most days 😉

I’m definitely not toned and tanned like I would like, but ya know what….it’s okay! I have a family that loves me, and I know that God has an awesome plan for all of us just.how.HE.made.us!! Granted, I will still always secretly dream of looking like Sophia Bush, but I’ll be the best me that I can be without dissecting every little flaw. So, NO MORE GIRL DRAMA….at least until swimsuit season rolls around again 🙂

just us

“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John 3:30 (NLT)

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Day #7….Less social media, less writing, but lots of great memories!

This weekend, we went to Mississippi for a friend’s wedding reception. On our three hour road trip, we listened to random radio stations, sang incredibly loudly and off-key and I’m pretty certain our girls felt like our dancing should have been considered child abuse! But, we had fun!

The next morning, we woke up and realized that in 31 years, I have not learned to check the forecast when I’m packing an overnight bag. We left the hotel in shorts, t-shirts and flip flops in drizzly 65 degree weather….and along with our crazy, best friends decided to go hiking. One quick shopping trip later, and we all had long sleeved shirts and were ready to take on a hike. A smart person would have bought shoes too, but this cheap girl decided to hike in flip flops…. 🙂

photo 2

Jason and our girls would hike every day, as long as they were allowed to take their best friends with them, and I’m slowly learning to feel the same way! I NEVER would have imagined that I would enjoy hiking!! Give me a good book, a shopping trip or a good romantic comedy any day, and I’ll pick it over clomping through the woods with bugs and dirt.

photo 3

That is, until our friends drug me on our first hiking trip….now we end up in the woods on every trip we take. And I’m slowly learning to enjoy the great (or at least okay) outdoors.

photo 4

This weekend may not have included me taking time to catch up on writing, but it definitely included making great memories with some of my favorite people!

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And I wouldn’t trade that time for anything….not even for being caught up on my 31 day challenge! (I’m just ignoring the fact that I’m just now posting Day 7, and it’s October 13th!)

photo 1

“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John 3:30 (New Living Translation)

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Day #6…..I found the couch!!!

I would like to say that in my six days of “less,” I have had a radical transformation….Suddenly, all of my priorities are in perfect order; our house is magically spotless due to the amazing lack of clutter; everyone’s attitude has become angelic, and we all are perfect reflections of the fruit of the Spirit. However, it’s real life!

In reality, I have checked approximately three things off of my mile long To Do list since I got home; our house still looks like the Barnes and Noble/Barbie wonderland mash-up (but we have purged clothes that no longer fit both girls) and we’ve had several conversations with our oldest about her attitude tonight (oh the joys of six year old drama). BUT I did find our couch under the laundry that I wrote about yesterday, haha! Hey, a wins a win!

I may not be seeing a radical transformation, not that I expected one in six days, but I have been more aware of my attitudes and reactions to people. I pray that even after this 31 day challenge ends that I will continue to think less of myself and more of others….even in little ways and actions every day.

Now I’m off to get more laundry out of the dryer, so my couch will be hidden again. 🙂

“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John 3:30 (New Living Translation)

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Day #5….geez, this perfection thing!

So, my first post for this challenge mentioned that I’m a perfectionist. I don’t know if it mentioned how incredibly hard I am on myself. I’m an only child, a mom….heck, I’m a female! Being hard on ourselves is what we do!

Well, here I am, supposedly seven days into this 31 day challenge, and I’m frantically writing post number FIVE!!! In my little perfectionist mind, I’m totally blowing this! Just put a big ol L for “loser” on my forehead. Except that….I’m not ever going to be perfect. I’m a wife, a mom, an employee, a friend…and life is crazy hectic. Throw in feeling like crap this week, and it’s a wonder that we were all fully clothed in clean clothes this morning! I’m gonna chalk that up as a success!

So, my “less” for day five is less being hard on myself. The ginormous pile of  clean laundry on my couch will eventually be put up…probably not before we go out of town for a wedding on Friday…..and at some point I will catch up on my blog posts. But for the moment, I’m gonna give myself a break and possibly hit the vending machine at work for some chocolate.. 🙂

“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John 3:30 (New Living Translation)

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