This is my fight song Take back my life song Prove I'm alright song My power's turned on Starting right now I'll be strong I'll play my fight song And I don't really care if nobody else believes 'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me-Rachel ...

 

This Is My Fight Song and more...




This Is My Fight Song

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I'm alright song
My power's turned on
Starting right now I'll be strong
I'll play my fight song
And I don't really care if nobody else believes
'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me
-Rachel Platten


One of our family's favorite music groups right now is the Piano Guys. We love how they combine new and old songs, inventing new moves and techniques on the piano and cello. They really are awesome.

Their newest album, Uncharted, came out last fall. It has become our minivan sound track. The songs are very stirring. Our favorite of the favorites is Track 1.

Amazing Grace-Fight Song.

It's the piano. And drums. And bagpipes. And the cello. Plus some good, hearty Oomphs! by kilted Scotsmen. 


Here's my confession...I had no idea that Fight Song was a song. I mean, obviously it was a song. I didn't know it was a thing. But my kids did. I think they heard it at their cousins' house? 

Anyway...

There was the morning in January that Meres and I were driving to the hospital for her last chemo treatment. The player rotated the disks to Uncharted. Fight Song-Amazing Grace started playing. And Meres belted out the first few lines.

Being the only lines of the song she knows...

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I'm alright song
-oh yeah (a  Meres' improvisation)

It seemed so fitting to hear her sing those words on her way to chemo. She hasn't let cancer get her down. Not for half a minute. Not her barfing or her prosthetic eye or her hair loss or the really long chemo days or the unending pokes.


I'm proud of her indomitable spirit. 

Of course, being a hormonal mother, I also cried in the front seat that morning.

Not from Fight Song, and her robust little girl voice piping the lyrics. But as the Amazing Grace harmonies played, and it's lyrics wound through my head. Not the first verse, but the (traditionally) third...

Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come.
'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.
-John Newton

It was a promise and reminder that spoke to my heart that morning. We have been through so much this year. But, by God's grace, we have safely come through these dangers, toils and snares. And, what a mercy to know that God's grace will continue to lead us-step by step, year by year, trial by trial-safely home!

It's May. Four months later. We still listen to this soundtrack almost every time we are in the car. And I oomph with the Fight Song, and praise God with the chords of Amazing Grace. We are still fighting. We've still got a lot of fight left in us. We are alright. (maybe barely, some days, but nevertheless, alright.)

The pairing of these two songs is absolutely genius. It the glorious combo of not giving up because God's grace is empowering each step. For me, forever and ever, amen, this Piano Guys' arrangement will always be associated with Meres' cancer, and the way that cancer changed our family. 

It has become our fight song. 

The grace of God.

 

Thinking About: Scars

The Barefoot Hippie(s) survived (sometimes I think barely) 2016.

And we’ve got the scars to prove it.

LC has an inch long scar on her left bicep, from where she had a lump removed last May. It was a simple surgery, but when the lump was removed, it proved an anomaly. After weeks of testing at various labs, the report came back that it was a cellular neurothekeoma. Very rare, and thankfully, benign.

BMV has a scar on his scalp. From that day in 2016 that he decided to jump in the basement and knocked his head on the support beam. Gushing blood. His scar is there, buried under a ton of hair.

I have an almost six inch scar on the outside of my left knee. It reminds me daily of how vital knees are to life, and how fragile they are. The torn LCL, plus the achilles tendon ripped off bone in two places. Surgery, recovery, rest, and rehab, that lasted months and months.

Meres has a rather small, one and a half inch, scar on her chest, right above her heart. It is still a vivid red, because the original cut was made to place her port, and then a second cut was made to remove it almost six months later. She has another scar that isn’t obvious and is considerably smaller, but with far more serious ramifications. I’m thinking of the scar on the stump of her optic nerve, where her eye used to be.

So many scars.

Scars tell stories. They tell of pain. Always. There is not a scar that doesn’t represent some level of pain. They tell of battles fought and won (or lost, for that matter). Scars often are the original wound, but just as often, they signify the first step to the healing process.

Scars fade, but never fully disappear. They become an integral part of our framework. They might be invisible to most onlookers, but we can always put our finger on them.

Scars don’t necessarily make us who we are, but they do represent who we are, and they point to where we have been and what we’ve survived.

When I see my family’s scars, I see progress made. I see healing. I still see the painful journey, the poignance of which will lessen as time goes by. In time, these scars might become a badge of honor. “Look what we’ve been through and what we’ve become because of the journey.”

When I reflect over my family’s scars, I can’t help but thinking of another set of scars. These scars don’t belong to me. They belong to my Savior.

There are scars in both of His palms, through the tendons and bones, to the back of His hand. There are similar scars on His feet. On the slope of his foot, through to the sole. These four scars are distinct. At least the size of a quarter. They are very obvious. These scars are from the nails pounded through His hands and feet. The spikes that held Him to the cross.

There is the scar in His side, between or under the ribs. This scar a drastic scar, ragged edges and deep. Inflicted by a Roman soldier’s spear. Healed, but visible.

There are the scars on His head from the crown of thorns. A unique pattern of scratches and punctures that encircles the head, buried in the hair-visible on the forehead. 

Source

There are the scars on His back. His back that was plowed like a field. Whipped with leather embedded with bits of glass and metal. Deep furrows, healed to the trademark smooth texture of scars. 

So many scars. Horrific pain and suffering.

For me.

I get a little choked up when I think about my family’s scars.

Contemplating Christ’s scars does a bit more than choke me up. It brings me to tears.

He was wounded for our (my) transgressions, He was bruised for our (my) iniquities, the chastisement of our (my) peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we (I am) are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

So costly. But, what a result!

I wonder if, when Christ catches sight of His scars, does He think of me? Of you? Of believers and unbelievers both?

Before the Throne of God above, I have a strong and perfect plea,
A Great High Priest whose name is love, who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands, my name is written on His heart,
I know that while in heaven He stands, no tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair, and tells me of my guilt within,
I will look up and see Him there, who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free,
For God the Just is satisfied, to look on Him and pardon me. 

Behold him there! the risen Lamb, my perfect, spotless righteousness;
The great unchangeable "I AM," the King of glory and of grace!
One with himself, I cannot die, my soul is purchased by his blood;
My life is hid with Christ on high, with Christ my Savior and my God.
-Charitie Lees Bancroft

What I am absolutely confident of, is that when Christ sees His scars, there is no regret.

who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 ESV)

His scars tell the story of propitiation. His scars tell of battle won and the victory gained over sin, death and hell. Christ’s scars tell the price of my healing and are the proof of my redemption.

Love so amazing, so divine, demands my heart, my life, my all.

 

All the Randomness, Plus My Hummus Recipe

Occasionally I've got a lot on my mind. Well, actually, I always have a lot on my mind. Sometimes each of those a lots is not big enough to merit it's own post, but is worth cobbling into a random post. So, here it goes...

1. Hair. I got my hair cut this week. I saw some pictures of myself from the party weekend, and I was quite horrified. Being the efficient soul that I am, I love a mostly wash and wear do. I was being super spiritual the past few months (snort), going even to the lengths of reading my Bible while blow drying my hair. Two birds with one stone, and all that. (in all honesty, I figured it was better to be reading the Bible first thing, than to be on FB. It got my day started off on a good foot. And I usually finished my daily reading while the kids were eating breakfast-after I was done with my hair.)


The effect I was going for was care-free. The pictures instead highlighted more of a don't care vibe. Which was not what I was looking for, because, I do in fact care. I care enough to spend about 5 minutes, and that is about it....

Anyway,  I went to a salon-salon on Monday and got my hair cut and styled. The girl was awesome. She chopped the locks, and then showed me how to dry and style the coif for maximum oomph. Moral of the story...reading your Bible while drying your hair is a no-no. Hair drying requires full attention to make it work right. She showed me how to partition my hair, and dry in layers. And, believe it or not, I've got the routine down to about 5-6 minutes. Which works. My new do involves less bang, shorter hair, lots of layers, embracing the gray, and going big. I love it.

Also, I have to be back in the salon on Monday for Meres, and I'm slightly afraid that the hair-stylist is going to look and my hair and secretly think..."well, that's ONE interpretation of that hair style."




2. Painting. It's spring. Which means that it is time for Mr. Hippie's annual Bible study weekend. Which also means that we once again have a distinguished guest from the British Isles staying with us for a few nights. Which is quite the motivator when it comes to cleaning and house projects. Not that the guest cares. But I care. So, we've done some hole patching and painting in our upstairs landing. And the bathrooms will be getting a thorough scrub down before Wednesday (well, probably ON Wednesday).

Since Brian will be gone for three days, I'm not packing away the paint brushes after the landing is done. They will get a good rinsing in preparation for painting the kitchen this week. We've lived in this house for over 10 years, and the kitchen is the one room that has not been repainted. I patch painted once or twice, but it has needed to be completely redone since the tile was put in last year.

Brian put new trim around the doorways, and sanded down the window casing. I'm going to paint the walls and ceiling this next week, and the trim if I get around to it. (I don't want to work too hard while he is away...) I will do the trim in early May if I don't get it done this week.

I will be painting the currently pink ceiling a nice cream color. And the currently terra cotta walls will be a shade called "spiced berry." It reminds me of a burgundy leaning more to red than purple, with a hint of cinnamon brown. It is a dark color, and I think it will look fabulous! I love dark paint colors. The light ceiling and white cabinets will keep everything nice and bright. I might splurge and get buffed silver or bronze plate covers. We will see...

I am very excited. There is nothing like a fresh coat of paint to make everything look new and fresh!

3. Reading. Guys! Meres has finished reading Dick and Jane!!! Whoot-whoot! My goal with each of my kids has been to have them reading by the end of kindergarten. But, I reach Christmas each year, and they are just starting word families, and I wonder if each particular kid is going to be the one who upsets my goals.

Thankfully, not a single one of them has. Meres has made tons of progress on her reading. Her comprehension seems quite good. She tends to guess at words (according to what she is seeing in the pictures), but she is starting to memorize more and more words, and so they just flow out as she is reading.

We will start the BJU first grade readers this Monday, and just work through all of them, keeping on throughout the summer.

What is really thrilling to me is seeing her sitting on the couch with books. She is trying to sound out words, and she is thinking. She loves reading and books, and that makes me smile.

4. School. We have 5 weeks of regular school left, plus one week devoted entirely to fun school. We are all super excited about this fact!!! Me, no less than the kids. Our fun school week will be taken up with finishing our history and art lectures for the year, plus doing double duty on biology to get it close to done, and we will finish our ancient Rome maps and make timelines.

The kids have been doing biology and they are on the dissection module. They are not exactly enjoying it, but at least they are learning-I think.

5. Hummus. I have been making a batch of hummus every week for over a month. It is such a healthy snack, and we all love it. We love it so much that I made four batches for Meres' end of treatment party and I came home with only about 1-1/2 cups of hummus. That's it. I was surprised. I like hummus, and I know other people like my hummus. But, I had no idea that people liked it that much. The BFF thinks I should make and sell it. One of my article club friends thinks I could call it Vampire Slayer hummus, because of the garlicky goodness of it. We shall see, we shall see.

I was sure I had shared this recipe on here. I always send people to my blog for the recipe. But, I guess I never have. Oops. So, here it is....

Hummus
Prep time: 15 minutes
2 (15 oz) cans garbanzo beans
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup tahini paste
2 lemons, juiced
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp salt

-Drain beans, saving the liquid from one can.
-Add olive oil, tahini paste, garlic, 1/4 cup lemon juice, salt and cumin to the blender, then add beans. Pour 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid in the blender on top of the beans, and pulse until smooth. Add more liquid as necessary to get the thick dip effect.
-Taste and add more lemon juice to get desired lemony flavor.
-The key to good hummus is blending it enough. Even when all the big chunks are gone, blend it more. It will always look gritty, but if it is gritty in your mouth, blend more. And add more liquid as needed. Hummus thickens when it is refrigerated.
-Makes about 4 cups of hummus.


Have a great weekend!

 

In the Scheme of Things

*could alternately be titled Things I Just Don't Care About Anymore or Bigger Fish to Fry

I do realize that the majority of my posts lately (since last summer) have been about cancer. I feel marginally bad about that. But, only marginally.

Because a cancer diagnosis rocks your world. And fighting the fight against cancer completely changes your life. There is a definite before and after. The relatively easy, care-free before. The horrendously hard ever-after.

Your life changes. Your approach to life changes. A lot of it is simply being in survival mode. But, some of it is that you come to realize that there are important things, and not important things. And there is no need to sweat the unimportant.

In the scheme of things, some things really don't matter all that much. They are not worth the extra mental energy. And they certainly aren't worth a burden of guilt.

That ever touted "mom guilt". I'm just not buying it.

Things like....

Sugary cereal. The past 9 months my family has single-handedly kept box tops for education afloat. Between Lucky Charms and Cheerios, we are funding school(s). I'm doing my part. In all seriousness, we actually haven't eaten that much cold cereal, but we've eaten a ton for our family. And, I'm okay with that. My kids eat tons of fruit and vegetables, so sugary cold cereal a couple times a week will not kill them. It has been totally worth it, for my peace of mind. The same goes for pizza, and Stouffer's lasagna, and store bought bread, and Aldi's simmer sauce. Sanity and rest in this season made the decision a no brainer. Taking the easy path occasionally on these few items has allowed me to parent much better on other fronts.

Dyed Hair. Last spring I dyed Meres' and LC's hair. And, I got some flack for it. Which I actually thought was kind of ironic because women dye their hair every day of the week, and everyone is polite enough to not notice. I guess it only crosses a line when it is blue or pink? Anyway...pink hair is nothing when lined up against hair loss from chemo. It becomes a total non issue. Meres is going to the salon next week, and guess what? She is planning to get streaks of color in her hair. It is beautiful and it is her personality. Her "boy" hair has been hard for her. Sometimes people equate hair color with rebellion, but today it is a whole lot deeper for her than that. Today it's a way to make her feel beautiful, and I'm all for that.



Cinderella dresses. The girls got princess dresses from Disney World. And Meres, especially, has been wearing hers everywhere. To the grocery store. To the salon. To the dentist. To school. To church. And frankly, I don't care. Before cancer me would have wondered about the appropriateness of wearing a glittery princess dress to church. After cancer me really doesn't care. There are bigger fish to fry. I'm just thankful that she is healthy enough to be out and about, wearing a princess dress. Yes, I'm sure there is more appropriate church garb, and she will eventually be wearing it to church again. But, for now, I just smile in her glittery wake, and I thank God for her indomitable personality.

Drama. When your child has cancer, there is enough drama in your life. It truly is a life and death struggle, and there is no room for trumped up drama in your life. Politics, elections, protests, just don't matter nearly as much. All the social media back and forth this past year, it only made me think, "you are so blessed to have nothing more urgent to worry about than ____." I'm also done with relationship drama. When a relationship is sapping energy and focus that is needed for God, spouse and children, then it is time to let it loose. Especially when you try and try, and just dig yourself deeper. It is super sad and hard, but sometimes necessary.



See, it's not that any of these things aren't important. Eating healthy is important. Dressing appropriately is important. (hair color is NOT important.) Elections and voting are important. Relationships are very important.

But, in the contexts I've listed, these things are just not important to me, right now.

And, for the record, important is rather subjective. What is important or non-important to me, could be the exact opposite for you. Which is quite right and good.

For me, this year, it all has boiled down (once again) to priorities. My first priority is my relationship with God. My next priority is my husband-loving him well, meeting his needs, and cultivating our relationship. My third priority is my kids. Parenting to the glory of God. Educating them, and tending to their spiritual growth, and caring for their health.

That's my filter. There is no perfect formula that works best for all time and in all life seasons. It requires flexibility, and grace, and reliance on God for direction and filling in the gaps that I miss in my humanity.

What is just not important in your scheme of things today?


 

Party Like a Princess

Wow!

It has been an intense nine months. Nine months to the day today, Meres was diagnoses with retinoblastoma. It was a shocking diagnosis. Many repercussions, some of which we have yet to realize.

But, thankfully, it has also been nine months of many, many answers to prayer.

-three clear MRIs
-six chemo treatments successfully completed
-no hereditary retinoblastoma
-a gorgeous new prosthetic eye
-a port in and a port removed

So many people have walked this road with us, supporting us with their prayers, meals, words of encouragement, cards, gifts, monetary gifts, child care, hugs, and more. People have cried with us, and laughed with us. People have been there for our kids in ways that we couldn't be, in that we are just finite human beings. Organizations have chipped in with dinners, support groups, Christmas gifts, parties, a wish trip, and even a gorgeous cake.

We felt the need to celebrate where we've been this year. To celebrate the healing. To tangibly thank the friends and family who have stood shoulder to shoulder with us.

So, we threw a HUGE party last Saturday, one month after Meres' port had been removed.

We invited hundreds of people. And hundreds of people came. (though probably less than half the hundreds that had been invited. Whew!) The party itself was one more labor of love on the part of so many of those who have been here this past year.

My sister-in-law, Brenda, came up with the theme. (And she also kept the food replenished so I could mingle with our guests.) I was stuck on what food to serve, and she suggested serving Meres' favorite foods. That got my wheels turning. The theme of the party became Meres' favorite things. Her favorite snacks, candy, desserts, colors. 

My friend, Bethany, graciously agreed to do the decorations, even though she had a prior commitment for that day. She found ideas, and then she and Elsie spent an afternoon painting and making flowers. She took time late on Friday to help set up, which is quite the sacrifice-especially for a tired, pregnant mom.

My friends, Rich and Linda, drove up from Chicago, and helped decorate Friday night, finish food prep on Saturday, host and clean up.

My friends, Ann, Amber (also a sister-in-law. I'm doubly blessed in this relationship.), Mary Lou, Katie, and Mary, all made batches of Spice Cake cupcakes. Believe me, that saved me tons of time.

My sister in law, Anna, lent me her corn hole game, which the kids loved. It was a cold and rainy day, and it gave the younger set something to do. She and my brother in law, Ian, also helped clean up after the party.

My friends, Hannah and Mary, both leant me serving pieces and gave good advice as I talked numbers and technicalities. 

So many people, so much love, so much generous giving of time and talents. It is very humbling to be on the receiving end of that.



I had the idea for this banner, and through hook and crook, it turned out pretty well-for a crafty thing that I've attempted. I also made the mobile type thing that you can kind of see hanging next to the fire hydrant in this photo. Each card listed an organization that has benefited our family this year. BMV helped me with the logos on each card.


This is Debra. She is a baker, and also volunteers her time and talents to create magnificent cakes for kids with life threatening diseases. She totally planned and executed this fantastic compilation of sugar and flour and eggs. Isn't it amazing!!! What a gift!


Every part of the cake was edible. And it was delicious! 



Favorite snacks and desserts included gouda cheese, pretzels, pita chips, fresh veggies, hummus, brownies, grapes, mini peanut butter pies, and the spice cake cupcakes.

I also had almost 20 pounds of candy-gummy bears, jelly bellies, and M&Ms. I took home maybe a pound of M&Ms. The candy was a big hit!





I made this timeline with notable dates from this past year, interspersed with photos of Meredith from the past year. What a testimony to the journey, and the God who faithfully carried us through.






I saw this dum-dum sucker bouquet thing on Pinterest. I made that for the guest book table. The kids loved that too. You can kind of see it in this photo.










Once cancer strikes, it is a part of your life forever. But, we are thankful to have reached the end of active treatment, with a decent prognosis. Meredith is currently cancer free, and we pray that she stays that way forever and ever.

And, Meredith, well, she partied like a princess. Which makes everyone smile.
 
 
   
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