Saturday, May 23, 2015

Praise the Child and She Will Flourish

~Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the parents the pride of the children.~ Pro. 17:6
Dear Graycie,
I'm pretty sure you thought today would never get here...the day you become a teenager. For us that love you, we selfishly wanted you to stay a baby forever, but that just wasn't matter how hard we tried.
You stand beautifully...all 5'8" of you. One foot poised toward young womanhood and the other firmly planted in your childhood.  Staring at you, I feel the breath leave my body as the tears roll down my cheeks.
For me darling, I treasure our little "talks" and since this is your 13th birthday, I thought I'd put a one-way "talk" down on paper. (I'm hoping this way I can stay focused and hopefully won't go all squirrel on you!)
Being a girl...and in this day and age, a teenage never easy.  Not to be a drag, but you're going to encounter haters in other girls, clueless boys that are all big talk and as much as I hate it, at least one broken heart.  If I could, I'd wrap you in saran wrap and hide you in the closet to protect you, but I've been told that's against the law. Instead I'm going to give you a little advice to help you along the way. This isn't a lecture, but for the sake of argument, let's call it the 10 Commandments for teenagers. Or at least until your 16 which more than likely will require a whole 'nother list!
1. You are given 365 days each year. Sounds like a lot doesn't it baby girl, but believe you me, they go fast. Always start your day off with a prayer of thanksgiving. When you think about it, every day is a birthday. Every day when you wake up, you will be given a fresh 24 hours to correct mistakes, make friends, give away a smile, and live to the fullest. Do it. Treat each day as if it were a lemon. Even when it starts out a bit sour and tart, sprinkle it with sugar and make it...and your words...sweet. Did you know a lemon has natural cleaning properties. Use it to cleanse yourself of anything that went wrong the day before. Don't dwell on yesterday or tomorrow. Take a deep breath of lemony goodness that today holds and at the end of the day don't toss out the peeling. Let it simmer and as you drift off to sleep, dream of the sweet smell of lemon cake.
2. Always keep your clothes on in public. Now I know right about now, those fabulous eyebrows of yours are raised as you exclaim "Nana!", but let me explain. I know you're not, nor will ever be, Lady Godiva or even Lady GaGa, but I've seen how girls dress this day. It's as if they never gave a second thought of how it looks. I've also seen how ads sell these ideas to girls of all ages. TV, movies, Internet, your friends...they all make it seem perfectly acceptable, but it's not. You want to fit in. I did. Your mom did. Your dad did. But when we say times are different, they really are. A bikini was pretty daring back in my day, but no one blinks an eye at two band aids and a piece of string. Don't let yourself fall into that trap. Confusing much? Then think for a moment how confusing it is for those clueless boys I mentioned earlier. Just keep asking yourself  as you're getting ready to go out, what's the message you want to send out. Remind yourself to never dress to the point some boy tries to read that message in Braille.
3. Use all your willpower to fight the urge to skip steps or take shortcuts to get to 16 faster. Trust me.
You don't want to miss anything that is going to come your way in the next few years. Just like you should never look back over your shoulder at yesterday, don't chase tomorrow. Concentrate on today. There are going to be dances, new friends to meet, first kisses, lessons to learn...all part of preparing you to face the world as an adult. Trying to skip these steps is almost like cheating and by doing it, you'll be cheating yourself out of memories...wonderful memories. Remember, growing up is like Christmas. Half the fun is the anticipation and if you peek, you only set yourself up for disappointment.
4. Resist tampering with God's I'm not saying you can't enhance your natural beauty. Law no! Goodness knows I love makeup and feel naked without it. But don't alter it so much that you don't even recognize yourself in the mirror. God knew what He was doing when He created you. Why on this green earth, do you think you could possibly improve on His work?
5. Try not to be a follower. This is going to be a hard one. Again, I know about wanting to fit in, but each of us were born to be standouts. The trick is finding the confidence to do that. Your friends will tell you how talented you are, your teachers how smart, your parents and family how unique, but you see, it's like this little one. You have to believe it and in yourself. Do you think all these people are fools and don't know what they're talking about? Would you say that to their face? Why then think it? Just as no one else has your fingerprints, you yourself are just that unique. Picture yourself as a snowflake. No two are alike, but each are beautiful. Floating down from Heaven, no one snowflake more beautiful than the other...just different.
6. Be kind. You are going to meet different people, each with their own insecurities and doubts. Be kind to them. Kindness heals. Sadly, you're also going to meet mean girls. Be kind...even if it kills you because generally there is pain behind cruelty and if you feel anything, let it be pity for their own unhappiness that they must attack your joy. Besides, it's can kill someone with kindness...or at least their unkind words. If you are truly a kind person (and not just faking it to be popular), no one will ever believe ugly rumors about you. Why should they if you've sincerely always tried to help others regardless of which group they run with at school or how much money their daddy makes or who has the nicest clothes. Being kind is going to be a piece of cake for you though. Your heart makes it so.
7. Never choose anything you wouldn't want God or your parents to know about. Honey, in case you didn't know it, God already does, and chances are extremely good it's just a matter of time before your parents will. The truth always comes out...especially in a small town!
8. Following that thought, never think for one moment you can't talk to your mom and dad about anything and everything. It's okay to talk to your friends, but don't expect them to have the answers. They're too young to know anything from anywhere. But when your mom and dad decided to become parents, they knew the rules and what a big responsibility they were taking on. They knew God was entrusting them with the most precious of gifts...a child....and they took that to heart. Just as God listens to us when we pray, so do your parents. If you're unhappy tell them. If you have matter how embarrassing for you or them...ask. If you've done something wrong...confess. Will they yell and possibly cry? You better believe it, but they will also help you, give you direction, and never stop loving you. If you think it's hard for you, put yourself for a moment in their shoes. All the things you want for yourself, they want to give you. And when it's out of their control to give them to you, they cry. Safe, happy and healthy...that's what they want for you. Trust them. I promise you up and down...they'll never abandon you. They love you too much.
9. Honor thy father and mother. When from time to time they have to say no, never get so angry with them you say the words "I hate you!".  Even when you think you do, why would you want to hurt the two people in the world who love you more than themselves?  God tell us no when it's wrong for us and they are following Him. They have a responsibility to protect you in the best way they know how. When they say no, it's because they are doing just that. Not as punishment, but to keep you safe. Remember, they were once 13 too and with age comes wisdom. Doesn't mean you can't are only 13 after all. It means respect them. They've earned it...if for no other reason than for not yanking a pouty 13 year old bald headed!
10. Always put God first and seek Him daily. In all your decisions and choices, from the smallest to the biggest, seek His counsel first. There is a plan in place for your life...His plan. Follow where He leads you and listen for His voice daily. But if at a point in the journey, you happen take a wrong turn., don't give up. Not on your dreams...and never in yourself. He never will. Trust in Him only and you'll safely find your way.
Graycie, you are an amazing young woman, even at such a tender age. You probably knew all this without me telling you and I hope you don't think I'm an old fogey for writing it, but it's because I love you so much I had to. I hope that's okay.
Love forever,
P.S. I think I should add a couple of more to the list...if that's ok with you.
11. Have fun as only a 13 year old can and have a wonderful birthday each and every day!
12. Life is beautiful and so are you!  Always remember that. Tell it to yourself daily and thank God for it every morning and every night.
~For I know the plans I have for you" declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."~Jer. 29

Monday, May 18, 2015

Twists in the Road

If you've visited here before you know I'm pretty transparent. I believe in truth in advertising...warts and all. And believe you me, the past weeks have shown me to be pretty warty. But the past 3 months I've been hesitant about sharing something very personal. So much so in fact, I've avoided most social media. I'm not sure why, but I think it was because I was afraid of doubt creeping into my thoughts while waiting for test results to come back. And we all know how much Satan loves to work on us when he senses even the tiniest doubt.
I don't know any other way to say this than to just say it.
Cat Daddy has renal cell carcinoma and will be having his right kidney removed in June.
To look at him, you'd never guess anything is wrong. In a way, it's very surreal.
This all began with a routine yearly exam.
(Do y'all remember me saying in my last post about our plans and God's plan for us? Stay with me here and you'll see His plan for Danny unfold.)
Our original plan for Antique Week was a space inside Zapp Hall for me and him down in Round Top at The Show. Silly us!
We had gone down a week ahead of time to drop off a small load at the storeroom when we got a phone call from the doctor's office. His chest X-ray had revealed shadows on his lung and the doctor wanted a second, more detailed X-ray performed. He also said that if he still couldn't tell what was going on, he wanted a CT scan done.
(Keep in mind, this doctor called on a Saturday...a Sat.Ur.Day! Step one.)
Not knowing how soon they could get these ordered and as we continued on down to Warrenton, we decided we needed to be close together during the show. If he had to go back to Dallas for tests, we both knew our Zapp family would be there for us. And they were. Between Cheryl squeezing him in at the last minute, right in front of the hall, Brande and Kevin being so understanding of our having to cancel at the last minute, and those few who knew the situation being so helpful, we were blessed.
(And when we had one of our top 5 shows ever, we knew we had made the right decision and were working within His will. Step two.)
The second X-ray came back inconclusive as well and the imaging department was able to squeeze him in for the scan shortly after we returned home from the show.
Then began the merry-go-round between doctor visits and imaging departments.
The good news was his lungs were fine. Just scarring from a previous surgery, but the scan had caught a little of his thyroid gland and the upper part of his kidney. Both showed abnormalities. Nodules in the thyroid and a possible cyst in the kidney. Dr. Gomez then ordered a sonogram to be done on his kidney to determine what was going on. He felt the thyroid could wait, but the kidney needed to be addressed PDQ.
(Most kidney cysts and tumors go undetected and are only found either after symptoms appear (of which he had none) or during a CT scan for something else. Step 3)
The sonogram revealed a mass roughly the size of a baseball. At this point, his doctor scheduled him an appointment with a urologist. Dr. Shuford, the urologist, couldn't be sure if the mass was benign or malignant and ordered another CT scan to make a definitive diagnosis. He did explain what the best and worst case scenarios could be, but considering the size of it, we kind of knew what to expect.
(The mass was 10 cm, his kidney 12. While this sounds scary big, if the tumor had been just a little smaller, it probably would not have shown on the initial CT scan and gone undetected until symptoms appeared. Step 4)
This past Wednesday we went in to get the results. Yes it was renal cell, but thankfully, it had not spread into the lymph nodes. It was fully contained in the kidney and Dr. Shuford was confident once the kidney was removed, there would be no need for chemo or radiation.
(I keep repeating the same thing over and over to our friends and family. Not the diagnosis we wanted, but definitely the prognosis we prayed for. Step 5)
When we asked what sort of time-table/urgency we were looking at, he reassured us it didn't have to be done immediately then asked what we had in mind.  Please don't think us crazy, but we had really wanted to take a short vacation to Tennessee. Of course that was before all this and we were prepared to do as the doctor ordered. He assured us waiting a few weeks wasn't going to change anything, but he wouldn't want us putting it off for six months! And then said "Go!"
(I don't know if that's the direction we'll head or not. God's been steering our course since the get-go and we'll continue to go with His perfect plan for us. Step 6)
I know this is a long post...even for me...but I also know we wouldn't be where we are now without God's grace. He has surrounded us with the most loving and positive people. They have covered Danny with their love and prayers. I can't help but believe that one of the ways God speaks to us is through the folks He plants in our lives...both friends and family. Their gentle touch and hugs, His. Their words of encouragement and hope, His. Their compassion...all gifts from Him that they freely share. I cannot thank them enough for their unshakable loyalty to us by their quietly respecting our privacy while keeping us in their prayers. I thank God Almighty for each of them every single day. Knowing they are there, only a phone call away, gives me a peace that cannot be measured nor bought.
In all things, God will be and should be glorified. That is why I'm writing this post. From the start of this adventure back in March until now, God has had His hands on Danny. We aren't promised a perfect existence. We lost that with the first bite of the forbidden fruit. But what we are promised is He will never forsake us. I am most beholden and I will praise Him and His mighty name...I AM...with every breath I take.