Sunday, May 26, 2013

Summer Staff 2013!!

Blessed... there's really no other way to describe how I feel! This week I was blessed with the amazing opportunity to meet all of the summer staffers for the 2013 summer retreat season. I honestly can't believe God has blessed me with the opportunity to pour into them this summer and work for Lighthouse Family Retreat. It really just blows me away. Such an honor.

The one word that describes our summer family... Love. Love literally pours out of every single person that sat around that table. The first thing we did as a team was talk about the "highs" and "lows" of their week of training so far. (They had already been through some training before I had the chance to meet them) The overwhelming common "high" of the week... meeting each other. Warms my heart. They are already hard at work posting on Facebook how much they love each other and creating silly videos. Out of love and respect for each other... God is going to be able to do an amazing work for the families they will be serving. Great things are going to happen this summer... God things are going to happen this summer... and I'm so excited for everyone that is going to have the opportunity to experience it... and experience their love. They're a special group... it's already obvious that God put them together Himself.

Below are a few prayer requests and thoughts before we head out. Please join our team in prayer!!

Prayer requests:
1) Pray for safe travels for the staff and summer staffers. Travel will take place this Thursday, as well as for Julie, Retreat Family Coordinator, during the first two days of each retreat.
2) Pray for the safe travels of the families and volunteers each week.
3) Pray for good health for families, volunteers, and staff. If you weren't aware, there are often a few families each year that are not able to make the retreat because a child in treatment is too ill to come down last minute. Please pray this is not the case this year, and that all volunteers are able to take part in the full week without becoming ill.
4) Pray for open hearts for the families. Not all families that attend LFR know our Lord. Please pray for them to hear the message of the gospel and that they may find comfort in His endless power and love.
5) Pray for open hearts for the staff, summer staff, and volunteers. That during the most taxing of days, God's love and strength will rain over them (just not literal rain, please) :)
6) Pray for wisdom: for the staff and volunteers to make decisions where they count most and make them with the wisdom the Lord provides through careful prayer and peaceful understanding. 
7) And please pray that during the most confusing, and difficult days, that we remember the one phrase that sticks out most from my very first retreat, "God doesn't call the qualified... He qualifies the called!" Thank the Lord for this truth!! I have definitely had my "I'm building the wings of the plane while it's flying" moments lately ;)
 
Love you all! This link will take you to the retreat dates to pray over: http://www.lighthousefamilyretreat.org/what-we-do/retreat-dates/
 
 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ready to Follow... Lighthouse Here We Come!

"I'm something that sits in your house... <a7 year old stands with her left arm straight out and the other arm moving in a circular, jerky motion>... starts with a "c" and ends in "lock"... YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS!!"

Today I had the distinct pleasure of playing charades with one of the funniest kids I've ever met. I'm not so sure she means to be funny... it just comes naturally to her. It's like watching Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory... only she isn't dorky, she wears huge pink bows in her hair, and she's 7. Ironically, as a teacher, I've always found that I loved teaching 7th graders... not 7 year olds. I like playing with 7 year olds. In fact, I'm not sure I've found anything else in life I love more than to play with kids, but teaching, I thought I was called to teach middle schoolers.

But we all know God has a funny sense of humor and in His own time He will reveal to us His plan. Sure, I believe there's a season for things and even though we have a difficult time letting go, sometimes we have to move on from the things that we enjoy most. This time I'm thankful God is following it up with something I'm excited to move forward with... we'll see where He takes me... but I've never been more ready to follow!

Next Thursday morning I leave for 5 amazing weeks with Lighthouse Family Retreat. I've been blessed with the amazing opportunity to lead as their Summer Staff Supervisor. This is an amazing opportunity to pour into college students and help create an environment where families of children living through childhood cancer can relax and spend time being a family outside of the daily obligations of treatments, hospital clinic visits, etc. In two days I get to meet my summer staffers. All college students from around the south coming together to serve these families throughout the summer. It gives me chills just thinking about it. My journey with Lighthouse continues to grow and I couldn't be more thankful for the opportunities God continues to afford me. To Him I am faithful, therefore He is faithful.

Please join me in praying for all of the families and volunteers that will come to Lighthouse this year. Please pray for their safety during travel, their health, and open hearts. Please pray that God will allow them to listen for Him during this time of relaxation and fun, that God will energize the volunteers and summer staff, and that God's love will POUR like rain (not actual rain, please) into the hearts of each of the families we will serve.

Pictures and updates will follow over the next 6 weeks... so stay tuned!! :)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Interphase...

... is the preparation phase for cell division. During this phase, our cells grow in size and make copies of our DNA. OK... that flew over your head? How about this... you can't make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich until you get the ingredients out of the pantry... you have to prepare first! Our entire life is a preparation phase. Preparing us for only one thing... one Person... but we'll get back to that...

All of my life I grew up NOT OK with blood or bodily fluids. Even at 28 I look the other direction when a nurse sticks me with a needle (and that's been a lot lately). I did my best not to be injured. Rarely rode on anything with less than four wheels for fear of scraping my knees, but the last two years of my life have started looking much different. As most of you know I lost an amazing student almost 2 years ago and it absolutely rocked my world. I've lost a lot of people in my life, but there was something different, something about him being so young, that changed my perspective on many things. God took me through a series of challenges and lessons on grief during that time.

One way I used to always handle grief was to pack up and run. So when I got a phone call about a really awesome job opening at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta it only seemed appropriate to look further into it. I didn't want to have to walk passed his locker one more time. The job was, for me, a dream job... working with pateints and their families, communicating between doctors, parents, and schools about the educational need of the patients so they didn't fall behind in school... basically the child life specialist of the education world. Who even knew that type of job existed?! So... I applied... and got denied. :) It just simply wasn't in God's timing... but I KNEW it was what I was supposed to be doing. I could feel Him calling me for it and soon after I would quickly see Him preparing me for it.

A few months later I began talking to a close friend of mine, Jessica, about an organization called Lighthouse Family Retreat. LFR is an organization that takes families living through childhood cancer to the beach. Honestly, I thought I would be a hot mess if I ever had to work with those families. I mean... I'm an emotional person! Just ask my mom, siblings, or basically any person who has sat next to me at church, or next to me during a cell phone commercial... you know... the one where the guy sends the girl the pics of places he is visiting and then shows up next to her?! Melts my heart every time! Anyway, I never imagined I'd have the strength to support a family and love on them in a way that would be helpful. These conversations with Jessica occured while she was talking about her experience with LFR and also when she was planning to have them present at Cornerstone, a gathering of people in Atlanta to learn about service opportunities in our city. This also happened to be during the time I was 100% certain I was going to Kenya over the summer. As is the story of my life... God's plans are usually MUCH different than mine and Kenya didn't happen, but Lighthouse Family Retreat did!

Transit, the middle school ministry inside of North Point Ministries, added a rising 8th grade mission trip to LFR last summer. I felt called to reach out and see if there was a way I could help... so they made me a co-leader. I went from being certain I would never be good at it, to feeling called and leaning in, to being a frightened co-leader not knowing what at all to expect... but knowing I cried during EVERY SINGLE video we watched as a team. Small secret: I wasn't completely comfortable until someone from Lighthouse said to us: "God doesn't call the qualified. He qualifies the called." Thank goodness for that... because this little lady was having some serious doubts and fears. God quickly showed me the power of an open heart, love for His people, and the goodness through even some of life's most difficult trials.

I got home from Lighthouse knowing it would never leave me. I got plugged in as a hospital ambassador for the organization at Egleston and Scottish Rite in Atlanta and loved every minute I got to spend with the incredible patients and their families. We laughed, rolled beach balls, sang with clowns, made necklaces, and colored paper fish... my own personal Disney World in Atlanta. (FYI: DW is my most favorite place... and the happiest place... on earth)

Now... I don't know if you're following this... but I went from not getting a job at Children's, to volunteering for an organization that serves their patients, to serving INSIDE of Children's for an organization that serves their families. God is pretty crafty!

Also... if you have read anything else I've posted, or know me closely... you know I've been dealing with a lot of medical issues myself. It's actually a blessing to have the experiences I have and to be able to relate to the kids and their families on a familiar level. It's not fun, scary at times, and exhausting... but I honestly wouldn't change it.

Once I got back into Children's... it was so incredibly 100% clear... I was supposed to be there. I didn't know when and I didn't know how, but God was preparing me. Of that I was certain. In July, another position, the same job description as last time, opened up (I checked daily... I'm not going to lie). I applied... and waited... and waited... and waited. Unbeknownst to me... Children's HR froze the hiring of the position, so I didn't hear anything until October 9th. The phone call was something like this, "Can you come in tomorrow at 9 for an interview?" Of course I said yes... went... and the people sitting at the table were: two people who had interviewed me last year, along with the person who got the "yes" when I got the "no." Again... I'm not going to lie... it was awkward... up until they mentioned they were going to skip a few parts they already knew about me from last year, to which I replied, "No! Don't do that! It didn't work out too great for me last time. Let's start over!" I got a nice loud laugh from the table :)

I start my Educational Advocacy position at Children's on December 17, 2012 :)

God is faithful... especially when we are faithful. He uses every aspect of our life to prepare us for what He has planned... not what we have planned. Our role... just follow Him. The easiest thing I've ever done is follow His lead... after I released control ;) You see, our preparation is for His purpose, not our own. Every single day we are being prepared, by our amazing Heavenly Father, to serve Him on this Earth. If we aren't allowing Him to do just that... we are only holding ourselves back from sharing His glory. I didn't want to stay in my job after Sanders passed, but in the time the Lord had me there I've learned to grieve, face difficult circumstances, reach out and hold someone's hand, ask for help, and to love on people who need it more than I do. I learned how to live my days for Him... not for myself.

Interphase... it's the preparation phase for cell division. Not even our cells work without preparation first! Why should we expect anything different from our God? After all... He made our cells to work that way!

 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Here goes... well... everything...

I've always been a pretty active person. I participated in several different sports growing up: tennis, swimming, t-ball (OK... one game), dance, and competitive cheerleading. So, when I got older and began to view myself as lazy I started wondering what was wrong. I always loved being outside with my friends, but through my mid 20's to now I began finding myself more comfortable at home and not doing much of anything considered active. Last year I decided to change that, so I trained for and ran my first half marathon. I should have seen the warning signs then...

More notably, over the summer I began having severe headaches and my right eye began to slightly droop. I noticed it, but figured I was just getting old (HA). Then my mom noticed it. If you've read any of my posts before today you probably already know about the Aneurysm Scare of 2012. Thankfully it was only a scare and all was well in that area, BUT we still didn't have answers for any of my symptoms. While AS2012 was occuring my neurologist was running a blood panel for several other options. One came back positive... an acetylcholine receptor antibody. I know... that means nothing to you... basically it is an antibody of "little white soldiers" that stand between my nerve endings and my voluntary muscles. The "soldiers" block the messages from getting to my muscles causing fatigue of the limbs, droopy eyelids, double vision, and in more advanced cases, breathing problems. All of that to say... I tested positive for one out of the two indicators for an autoimmune disorder called Myasthenia Gravis. I know... I had never heard of it before either! But... they have a foundation and a 5k... whoot whoot!

From there I was ordered to have a CT scan performed... and behold! they found that my thymus (a gland that should no longer be active in an adult body that produces these "little white soldiers") is still going strong in mine... SO... I'm having mine removed on November 12th. Thanks to modern technology they won't have to open my chest and instead a tiny little camera will go in with a skilled team from the Emory Cardiothoracic Surgery department to remove the gland and all of its tissues. The goal: to be in the 60% remission category after the surgery!

Now... if I still exhibit symptoms of the disorder (which I won't) then I will take medication... but please hear me when I say... This is NOT life threatening for me and I will live to be as old as the Good Lord intends me to be. In fact... After my surgery I begin training for my second half marathon, The Nashville Country Music Half in April 2013. Currently I'm receiving IVIG treatments to help build my immune system before the surgery. This is just a precaution so that I'm healthy enough to have a successful surgery.

I am 100% confident that our amazing God has a plan that is best for me and those I love. I'm also 100% reliant and peaceful in that plan. No the plan isn't always easy, and no I may not always be comfortable in every second of it, but I know that if I stick it out, the reward is far greater than anything I could imagine. God has placed amazing people in my life that are sticking this out with me and have continued to support me every step of the way. I'm more grateful than you will ever know.

Here's to praying for sturdy veins during IVIG and steady hands during surgery ;) hehe

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Jordan Elizabeth White

We will never understand why a man, ironically named Lucky, decided to drive 4 times over the legal alcohol limit last Wednesday night... and while at the same time he was running a red light, our Jordan was taking a left turn as her arrow turned green. We will NEVER understand why Jordan was called to be with our Heavenly Father so young and, honestly, none of us have the energy or the right to try to reason it. But I do know that we have faith in our Heavenly Father's plan and that even though we mourn here selfishly on Earth... they are rejoicing her arrival in Heaven.

Our precious Jordan continues her journey on this Earth through 4 strangers. These 4 strangers are still on this Earth because she gave them life through the donation of her organs. If you are not a registered organ donor... please consider registering: http://donatelife.net/register-now/.




 






I Will Rise - by Chris Tomlin

There's a peace I've come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There's an anchor for my soul
I can say "It is well"

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

[Chorus:]
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

There's a day that's drawing near
When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

[Chorus:]
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

And I hear the voice of many angels sing,
"Worthy is the Lamb"
And I hear the cry of every longing heart,
"Worthy is the Lamb"
[x2]

[Chorus:]
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

Sunday, August 12, 2012

My Journey of Uncertainty... Grounded in Faith

The past week and a half has been quite the adventure! There's nothing like believing your life may end soon, to realizing it won't end but may dramatically change, to finding out it's actually all going to be OK.

I've been debating whether I was going to openly share this, but if it can inspire one person, or help one person through a difficult time it will be worth it. I don't know how to better describe it than to just post the updates I sent to my family and friends for support and prayer. Below you will find these updates.

Spend time every day thanking God for being who He is, for all He has given you and will continue to give. ~ Steph

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." - Hebrews 11:1

"The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." - Exodus 14:14

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August 3, 2012 - Update #1

So... My mom coming to pick me up has been the best thing I could have asked for. The conversation (as I was sobbing, of course): "Mommy, I have an aneurysm." "What can I do, honey?" "I want to see you!" "When?" "Now!" "I'm getting in the car!"

Thank goodness for amazing parents!!! God blessed me with the best!

So I'm in St. Simons... we've named my aneurysm... her name is Annie. My mom says it's because she's so small so it reminded her of little orphan Annie. I guess that just goes to show all of you where I get my sense of humor from ;)

So just to give you all a little more info now that I'm able to communicate it without breaking down: I went to my primary care physician a few weeks ago for my annual blood work. I have been having headaches for a few months and my eyelid started drooping. We talked about it and she referred me to a neurologist. I met with her last week and all of my neurowork was OK and everything was operating fine, but she wanted to do a MRI just in case. Last minute she decided to add on the MRA (I think she decided I had good insurance!) ;) Last Saturday I went in for my 45 minute MRI/MRA. Her last minute addition of the MRA may have saved my life!

Everything on the MRI came back OK... I figured it would since I wasn't having any of the nausea symptoms that come with possible tumors, etc. I actually told my Mom before the scan that if anything was going to show up it would be in my blood flow... something about the pressure and the way my headaches have been moving... I'm not a medical professional... but maybe I should be ;)

So for the past 4 days I was trying to get my results. The nurses kept giving me the run around and nobody would tell me anything. Finally yesterday I had 3 missed calls during my meetings on my first day back at work... it was my neurologist's office. They called to tell me they've found a small aneurysm in the right artery of my brain. The discussion with the doctor is blurry right now, in fact I asked her to repeat herself 3 times, but she either said it was 1.3mm or 3mm... either way... TINY in comparison to those that typically burst.

I am scheduled to meet with a neurosurgeon on Wednesday morning at 8:15 to discuss what was found and what/if we are going to do about it. My neurologist even mentioned the neurosurgeon may want to just "watch" it... I find that unacceptable... so does my Mom... so we're prepared to fight for a "laaaaaaaaser" removal. They do that... right?!

Anyway... until then I'm working from St. Simons... getting ready for the new school year. Some amazing coworkers came into my classroom yesterday and helped me get everything up and ready... now I'm just going through paperwork and online trainings.

Thank you all SO much for your love, prayers, and support. Thank you to those who have taken the time to call, text, email, provide movie rentals, etc. I know I haven't gotten around to calling you all back... I will... promise... but please know I've received all of the messages and couldn't pray for a better group of people in my life. God has blessed me with the most wonderful people!! He has a plan... I TRUST HIS PLAN... and I KNOW He will take care of me! Love you all and I'll be in touch!

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See "Faith Defining Moments" blog post from August 4 :)

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August 6, 2012 - Update #2

I'm coming home today :) My mom and I are driving back after she gets off work. Y'all know me... I can't sit at home any longer. Don't worry, though... My body is good at telling me when I'm tired and need to rest now... And for once in my life I'm listening! I need normalcy, so I'm going to work tomorrow as if nothing is wrong! Well... Except for the zit that has taken up residence on my face... And y'all know me... I NEVER get zits! Ugh!!!

Each day it is getting easier to find God's peace. I've definitely decided its not my time to go... God has a lot left for me here to do, so He must be planning to heal me. So right now most of my worry and stress is related to the unknown of the treatment plan, if any, and we'll find that out Wednesday morning at 8:15. Dr. Barrow is my neurosurgeon and after a little research (not on aneurysms... I refuse to google that) I've come to see he was quite the attractive man... 20 years ago... And he's the chief of neurosurgery at Emory. So God's taking good care of me by getting me the best :) Mom was hoping for a younger Christian version of Dr. Barrow... But she assures me he may have a son... Forever the matchmaker my mom. I told her nobody will want to marry an aneurysm so we should focus on evicting Annie first ;)

Again... God continues to amaze me with the love and support I continue to receive from each of you. I am so thankful and will never be able to repay each of you enough. I feel your prayers everyday and to be completely transparent... Each time I want to get upset I remember all of you praying and know everything is going to be ok. Praying for total healing and a report from the neurosurgeon that we're all clear and can go about our normal lives... It's possible... God can do that ;) And if not... Of course praying for His will and that whatever treatment or procedure I must go through creates a pretty magnificent story about His love and glory! My amazing friend and 2nd member of my Super Trooper club (my mom being the first member), Marissa Carney, reminded me that God is here... Has already walked this road, and now wants to walk it with me. I just hope He's a speed walker ;)

Love you all SO very much!!! I'll be in touch after my appointment on Wednesday and want to see each and every one of your faces VERY soon... After my zit goes away ;)

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August 8, 2012 - Final Update

God is AMAZING... but we all know that already ;) I don't believe that God tests our faith... just as we should never test Him... but I do believe He puts us in positions where we can glorify His name through evidence that others may be able to see and understand. All of the fear, insecurities, and anxiety I've experienced in the past week were well worth it for the opportunity to be able to lift up His name and glorify His amazing works!!

Today I went to the neurosurgeon for the appointment about my aneurysm. When I first found out about the aneurysm I was told it was located in the right artery of my brain... turns out this is not the case, and as the neurosurgeon said I'm a victim of "modern technology." The aneurysm... or "baby aneurysm" as they call it, is actually located in the right carotid artery, near my cheek bone way outside of my skull. In fact, it's cavernous, meaning it is located in a pocket of my skull facing away from my brain so that if it ever did decide to grow and rupture, it may cause eye problems, but is not at all life threatening and they could even correct the eye problems. My neurologist will be treating me for migraines (unconnected to my baby aneurysm) and I will get a MRI in 5 years to compare to see if there has been any growth. All in all... Dr. Barrow... my favorite neurosurgeon... says all is completely fine and I'm completely safe and healthy.

Now... how my aneurysm went from inside of my brain to way far away from even close can only be explained one of two ways... my neurologist and radiologist need to go back to medical school OR God moved it to a safe place. I choose God!

To Him be the glory forever!!

Thank you all SO much for your prayers and support!! God has listened, answered, and showed us all once again He is here and for us!!!!!!!!!!!! It was your prayers, strength, love, and relationship with Him that pulled this one through. I am so incredibly grateful!!

I love you all and can't wait to see your faces!! My step-sister says I "have a new lease on life." I'm ready to live it... fearless... openly... and shouting how much I LOVE MY GOD!!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Faith Defining Moments

Life defining moments... If you "Google" life defining moments you get sites and explanations related to choices, experiences, meetings, deaths, etc. While we have all experienced many life defining moments, I feel like we often forget to find the faith defining moments within them.

It's easy to be scared, happy, or inquisitive. We all want answers and we all have emotions. What's hard to do is during those moments, finding God... not just finding Him... trusting Him. As a Christian, I've said my fair shares of "I trust God!" "I trust His plan!" BUT do I always really feel it? I believe it without a shadow of a doubt... but do I always FEEL it?!

Human beings are so incredibly built. The intricacies of our bodies, our emotions... our minds (ironic in my current situation... but it's amazing how it works) are beyond our comprehension. Scientists have spent thousands of years trying to cure illnesses and to create technology that allows us to identify problems BEFORE they exist. It's one of those pieces of technology that has literally saved my life... yes a scientist created the machine I layed in... but it was GOD that allowed a neurologist to find the one TINY blip that shouldn't have been found. As my mom says, "It was meant to be found."

I've found myself scared... just scared. I haven't asked "Why me?" I haven't screamed "It isn't fair!" but I have been scared.

Does God have a plan? Absolutely!

Can He heal me? Absolutely (and He will)!

Is this a defining faith moment for me? Absolutely!

You see... God uses us for His glory! He's going to heal me... and everyone will be able to see how miraculous our God is! I have faith in Him! I did before we found "Annie" and I will forever after! Am I scared? Yes... I'm a baby when it comes to pain... but I'm NOT scared my God won't show up! He's been here all along... and (as my dear friend Marissa reminded me) He's already walked this journey... now He's here to walk me through it.

I'm taking His hand... Hopefully He's a speed walker ;)