Mother’s Day Prayer

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart. Luke 6:45

My sweet Madison, above all else, I pray that you will know God. I pray that he will claim your heart and that you will passionately love and serve him. I pray that you will bring God glory and that you will enjoy him. I pray that Christ will store up good in your heart and that it will overflow to all those around you. I pray that you will realize how much JESUS loves you and how much I love you!

Thank you Jesus, not only that I am a mom, but that I am Madison’s mom!  

My Cancer Fairytale

Life is a story.  The setting is loving parents and all the possibilities of the world, an ugly boy abandoned on the street tortured by all he encounters, or perhaps a past you would like to forget.  And we must have a conflict.  Cinderella is all the more beautiful for the cruelty she endured, Snow White can only be rescued by her prince because the witch seeks to kill her, and a story is not a fairytale unless there is a conflict.

Suffering does not always feel like a fairytale.  And that is why it is called “conflict.”  The world deals with suffering in numerous ways.  When confronted with pain, those that never acknowledged God before, then curse him.  Buddhism deals with pain by seeking stoicism.  Atheist run from pain, seeing that it serves no purpose.  Only in Christianity can pain and suffering be embraced.  What in the hell do I mean?

This:  Jesus Christ was a man of sorrows.  He wept bloody tears, he overturned tables in the temple, he cursed a tree that did not bear fruit, he cried upon the death of his friend, he welcomed little children, he forgave, and he loved.

The Bible says that this world is screwed up.  The Bible says that this is not the way things are supposed to be.  Is your life at peace?  Praise God!  Life is emotion!  Cry for sorrows, celebrate accomplishments, hate evil, and love abundantly!  We were made to FEEL life!

My conflict is cancer.  I can not tell you about my life without that word creeping into the story.  Why?  Because it has been the biggest struggle of my life.  And do you know what?  IT HAS MADE ME STRONGER!  Cancer came into my life at the age of 15 and guess what?  I am an 18 year survivor!

I have cried out, I have questioned, I have had my own little (ok big) pity party…AND I HAVE COME OUT STRONGER!  In this world we will have trouble, we may get thrown into that fiery furnace, but I can say without a doubt that Jesus has walked with me through that fire!

Hardships, Suffering, Conflict, IS THAT ALL YOU’VE GOT?!  When marriages fall apart, Mine is a rock!  There is absolutely nothing that no other man has to offer me!  The best a man can do is promise and James has fulfilled that promise!  He has loved me through sickness and health!  He has provided for me despite hardship.  Hard?  We have overcome impossible!  Together we have seen God walk us through a journey that we never chose and come out of it all amazingly blessed!  Love happens during hard times.  I am loved and I love James more than I love myself!

I have cried out to God in agony over my daughter that I would gladly give my life for and I have seen God answer my prayers.  Madison’s talents, love of people and love of life, imagination, curiosity, and brilliant mind overwhelm me with thanksgiving and love.

When trials come my way, I know I can do hard.  I can suffer and come out of it stronger than ever!

Conflict, cancer, it is all part of the fairytale.  I am living my happily ever after.  And one day, I will never cry again.  One day, Jesus will call me home to perfection in eternity.  I will eat whatever I want and my body will be perfect.  I will never worry for my daughter ever again.  There will be no panic of evil that may come our way.  My home will be a mansion and I may paint the walls with new colors only to be found in heaven.  Life will be perfect.  Eternal Life will be the very best HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

I Am Wrong

Somewhere around five years ago, James and I set our minds on buying a leather couch. I had a little bitty budget that I wanted to spend and unrealistic expectations on what I could get. Routinely, I scanned Craigslist and was discovering that I had set the bar a little too high.  Perhaps, our old couch would have to do for a while longer. 

And then it happened, like the ad was shining and glittery and playing angelic music, I found it. The couch. It was exactly what I wanted for exactly my budget. It had to be a typo or a scam, it was a little too good to be true.  But I am a sucker for these kind of things, so I gave the number a call.

Nope, it hadn’t sold yet. Yep, he was available that afternoon. So, a few hours later, I loaded up toddler Madison and dragged along husband James (poor guy with a logical brain that falls in love with a dreamer like me.)

On the short drive, Madison fell asleep, so we were the kind of dorks that do things like this:  James “went in” first to scope out the safety situation and returned to watch the baby. Next, I knocked on the door to give the fashion approval.  James would return to break the deal. That is pretty much how we operate. 

Well, approximately two minutes later, I return to the car decorated in a huge silly grin, “I bought it.”

“Huh?”  I had overstepped boundaries, James is the final deal maker.

So I explained the situation:  the couch was perfect. In fact, it was a practically brand new $1,500 couch and the guy was asking $400.  Yes, I was going to buy it. I was already thrilled about the situation. But just because I am American and good enough is never good enough, I just have to ask, “Will you take anything less?”  And I waited for the guy to tell me to leave for being rude, insulting, and ungrateful of a good deal when I see one.

But he pauses and smiles at me like I am his daughter that he can’t tell no, “Sure, I’ll take $300.”  If I had the strength, I would have grabbed the couch and ran at that point, but the man is not done yet, “No…” And damnit, I should have grabbed the thing and ran while I could, sure he was changing his mind, but he continues, “No…I’ll take $250.” (!!!)

At that point, I felt a little obligated to explain Math to him, “Dude, you just dealt in the wrong direction.”

I smiled, offered my many thanks and walked away with the furniture I wanted and a little extra cash. 

I love the story, but I am just like that man, almost every single day. There is something that comes with proclaiming the truth, people want to debate. But it goes a little like this with me:

Person:  You call yourself a Christian?  Well, You are a sinner!  Me: oh yes!  The very worst!

Person:  Well, Jesus said to give all your stuff to the poor!  Me:  I know.  I should do that. I really suck!

Person:  Yeah?  Well, the church is a bunch of hypocrites!  Me:  oh, much worse!  They are liars, cheats, murderers….much worse than hypocrites!

Person:  I am my own god. Nobody tells me what to do.  Me:  I suck as a god!  Glad you have it all figured out because I am really screwed up!

Ya see, being a Christian is not about winning the debate or having a clean house or a new car or well behaved children or going to a Wednesday morning Bible study. It looks more like the outcast guy scraping the bloody man up off the pavement and taking him to the hospital, it looks more like the Mommy sitting with her eight year old for the tenth time in one day and apologizing that Mommy is a sinner, it is more like the woman dragged into the streets and having her tongue cut out by her brother because she rejected the family faith and gave her life to Jesus. 

So, in this debate, before you even say it, I confess I AM WRONG but the only hope is JESUS IS RIGHT. 

The Journey Begins

Christ is my author.  He wrote my life.  God makes no mistakes.  I was first diagnosed with cancer the summer of 1996.  My cancer story does not begin here.  I graduated from high school.  I received my degree in Elementary Education.  I married the man of my dreams.  I had a baby.  Not just any baby.  A miracle baby.  The most amazing little human being that I have ever laid my eyes on. The nurse laid her on my stomach and immediately all the pains of childbirth disappeared.  She was everything.  Michael Phelps on the starting block.  Chocolate chip cookies in the oven.  The sun rising.  Christmas Eve.  She was the possibility of everything.  I would give it to her.  I was raised in a family with eight children, I babysat, I nannied, I had a degree in Elementary Education and teaching experience behind me.  I thought I had this kid thing down pat.  But when my eyes first fell on her, my whole entire world got flipped upside down.  

From the moment she came into our lives, her Daddy and I worked harder, we researched with intensity, we read more, and we did everything to better ourselves and the world that surrounded her.  We were about to learn that we were completely out of control. 

Prior to Madison’s birth, we researched.  We had been given the green light to try to get pregnant. However, with my medical past, it would be incredibly hard to get pregnant and once I was pregnant, it would be incredibly hard to keep the baby.  God had different plans, I got pregnant right away with my little miracle baby.  

When Madison was three months old, we visited a genetic counselor.  We were not prepared for what we were about to hear.  We had been told that Madison had a 50% chance of inheriting my cancer gene.  We had been told that if she inherited cancer, she would have her thyroid removed and that would be the end of the story.  Well, on this day, we held our three month old miracle in our arms as the genetic counselor told us it was not that easy.  She had a 50% chance of inheriting my cancer gene.  If it was positive, she would have surgery to have her thyroid removed.  However, that would not be the end.  She would spend her life having routine scans, blood work, and the label of cancer hovering over her entire life. 

No.  I had given God my life.  I had accepted cancer in my life since the age of 15.  He could not have my daughter.  He could not have my baby.  No God.  This was too much.  He was asking too much of me. 

James (my husband, Madison’s Daddy) and I prayed.  We prayed every morning.  We prayed every night.  We prayed during the day.  We prayed together.  We prayed alone.  

I was angry.  I was angry at God.  This was my daughter.  She needed me.  I would protect her.  I would give her everything.  I had trusted God with my life.  I had defended my faith to the bitter end and now I questioned everything.  Was it all real?  Was there a God?  Did he hear my prayers?  Could he change anything?  Did he love Madison?  I wanted so much to claim control.  I wanted so much to be in charge.  I wanted so much to walk away from my faith and say, “I’ve got this.”  But I had nothing.  I could do nothing.  I was completely helpless.  I fell to my knees. James and I placed infant Madison on our bed.  She was laid upon the altar.  We literally fell to our knees.  We prayed.  We begged.  I cried out to God and I begged him for the health and for the life of my baby.  “God, I need you.  You are the only one who can save her.  I can do nothing.” I learned to pray. 

And this is where my cancer journey began.  It did not begin when I was fifteen and I was diagnosed with cancer.  I could have given that.  I could have given myself.  I could have given my life and never trusted God in this way.  It was here, when I had to lay my daughter on the altar and say, “God, she is yours.  She is not mine.  I trust you.  I trust you with my baby.  I trust you with my everything.” We did not get an answer.  We played with our precious baby.  We cared for her every need and every desire.  I placed her soft cheek to mine and sang softly of the love of Jesus.  I was singing more to myself than to her, reminding myself of God’s promises.  I began to realize that as much as I loved Madison, I was only getting a tiny glimpse of the love that God has for me.  

I am his daughter.  He held me in his arms and loved me just like I love Madison. Why then?  Why would he give me cancer?  If I am his daughter, and he loves me, why would God give me cancer? 

I looked at my life as a parent.  I took Madison to the pediatrician to get shots.  She cried.  It hurt.  She had no idea why I was letting this happen.  I allowed it to happen.  Why?  Because I love her.  I allowed this hurtful thing to happen because I love her.  Even though she did not understand it, it was the best thing for her. I learned just a little bit more of how much my Heavenly Father loves me.

Time passed, we continued to pray.  We were waiting on results from the genetic counselor to see if Madison had tested positive for the gene.  It was a simple blood test, but the results took time.  Two months had passed and we still had no result.

One night, as James and I crawled into bed, I turned to James, “She is going to be ok.  God told me she is going to be ok.”  I had not heard an audible voice, but he spoke directly to my heart.  As I started to pray, he said, “OK. I will answer your prayer.  Madison will be healthy.  Now, pray for something else.”  I had not gotten the results from the doctor, but I knew, my daughter was healthy. 

Two more weeks passed, then on July 31, 2007, I received the call, “Madison is healthy.  She tested negative for the gene.  She has no more chance of getting cancer than the general public.  You never need to see a doctor about this for her ever again.” 

Those were the hardest two and a  half months of my life.  But I learned Madison is not mine.  She belongs to God.  And he is a much better parent than I am.  Not only can he give her the world, he can give her a perfect heaven. And this is where my journey begins.  This is where I learned what real hurt is.  This is where I learned real fear.  This is where I learned to trust God.  I learned to pray.  I learned I am not in control. 

My name is Caroline.  I have cancer.  I have battled an extremely rare form of MEN2A cancer for the last 18 years.  I travel frequently from TN to Duke University Hospital in NC to see doctors and specialists.  I have scans.  I have blood work.  I have been left with Addison’s Disease.  I take lots of medicine.  I have a medical alert bracelet.  I get sick.  I crave salt.  I have scars covering my neck and my stomach.  I have a scar on my arm and on my leg.  My back itches.  I have a husband that loves me.  I have a daughter that needs me. My name is Caroline.  I have cancer.  I have God.  I have a beautiful life.

What is This Running Down My Cheek?

The ceiling tiles in Radiology Room 2 appear square at first glance. Upon further inspection, while laying on my back for an hour, I calculate they are a little given to a rectanglular shape. 

I have entered for a routine ultrasound. The sonographer is pretty and sweet and kindly informs me of the procedure, “I will perform the ultrasound on your neck. If there is any reason for concern, I have orders to perform a biopsy.”

I am waiting. Waiting on the head of radiology to come and perform a biopsy. A feeling runs down my cheek. I am fighting for stoicism. What is it that wells inside me?  I push with all my strength to keep from thinking, to keep from thinking of what it all could mean. 

What is the worst that it could mean?  And I have achieved it. Not the stoic emotion I was fighting for, something beyond that. When I ask the right questions, WHAT IS THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN?  

The worst is that I would not feel what is happening. The worst is that I would not feel the comfort of my husband when he takes me out to the dinner of my choice. The worst is that my heart will not smile when my eight year old slides her hand into mine. 

And a feeling of happiness rolls down my cheek. 

I Saw an Angel

Spring Break with a second grader is AMAZING!  Spring Break with an eight year old and extra time to do all the extras is fulfilling. Shopping on Spring Break with my eight year old daughter can be quite entertaining. 

I am a list maker. I haven’t determined yet if it is a good or a bad thing, but I have passed this trait down to my daughter, be it my genes or daily example. She wakes up, reads my to do list, and then makes her own. So, here we are running through one of our crazier days of spring break, checking off my list and checking off her list. 

We had a little catastrophe in the “sew new stuffy” department and had to start over so we were running behind schedule. Now, we had four quick errands to run:

1.  Two oversized chair cushions from Target. All means:  Stand in the restroom balancing two just purchased oversized chair cushions, the bag containing the prize egg for the egg hunt that we added to our purchase, and my girl’s new large bunny stuffy that was finally a success. 

2.  White flowers from Lowes. None here. White flowers from Home Depot. 

3.  Return to Hobby Lobby. Run to the back of the store to show the lady in Fabrics the new stuffy my girl made. 

4.  Pick up makeup at the mall. Meet angel. 

Okay, James has called and is headed home early. So, our errands turn to a marathon, as much as they can with an eight year old and her own agenda, as I am trying to be successful and get home. 

Makeup. Check. Our errands list is accomplished. “AND HOME WE GO!” I proudly announce in the car as I am trying to maneuver through the packed mall parking lot. And here it comes, I am about to meet an angel. 

I back out of my spot to notice someone else two spots down, backing up. I stop waiting for the go. Cue angel sighting. 

A lady is sitting waiting on this other car’s spot. “Momma, what is she saying?”

Oh!  She looks angry. She looks very angry. This lady is yelling, arm motions and all AT ME!

Oh, she appears concerned that I want her parking spot. I don’t. “Don’t you dare take my spot!  That is my beepin spot!  Beep!  Beep!  You beep!”

Oh, I wonder how I can convey to her that I am not interested in taking her parking spot?  I smile. This seems to make her even madder. BEEP!  BEEP!

Eventually time tells the truth as the car backs out and I let her have what was always her parking spot. As she was pulling in, she was still beeping. 

And now I will always think of this woman as an angel. 

Say what?  Because my daughter was with me. Hmmm?  Because my daughter was with me and I was able to keep my cool. 

Here’s the thing, if I have learned anything, I have learned: 1.  I make mistakes. 2.  Other people make mistakes. 3.  My daughter mimics me. 

What matters is how I deal with it. Few and far between are the times that I can see a woman cursing and raging mad at me and keep my cool. Few and far are the times my daughter can witness me wrongly accused and I can respond, “Madison, there will always be angry, rude people in the world.  You can give in and let them change you for the worse.  Or you can chose to respond with kindness and chose to do what is right despite everyone else.”

Madison sat wide eyed in disbelief of the woman’s misdirected anger. And the lesson sunk in. 

Therefore, Angel of a lady, THANK YOU. Thank you for helping me teach my daughter a lesson. And as you passed by, I noticed you are very beautiful. 

Birth. Death. Living Forever. 

“I think, I think my water broke.”  Before the sun came up, we arrived at the hospital. Since I was a child, I had been nervous, terrified, of this day. Labor. I knew I was about to be in infamous, excruciating pain.  But my mind did not settle here. Life. My baby, I was about to see my baby for the first time. 

They stood under the sky. The night was falling. Here they came, led by Judas. Jesus and his disciples stood waiting for them. This moment, since a young child he had been nervous, terrified, of this moment. He knew he was about to be in tormenting, shocking pain that would be written down and read about. But his mind did not stop on the cross. Love. He so overwhelmingly loved me.

I believe in miracles. The nurse laid her in my arms. Happy tears burst forth in a moment forever cemented in my mind. She was perfection, beauty, redemption, the promises of the world. The pains of childbirth, quickly forgotten. My pain brought life.  

“HE IS NOT HERE!  HE IS RISEN!”  I believe in miracles!  Jesus was dead but now he is alive!  ALIVE!  His pain was forgiveness. Like a parent, he looks at me and smiles and laughs.  Like a parent, there is nothing he would not do for me. And he did, he did it all!  He made the world, the hidden beauties to be found. When sin came, he did not turn his back. He had a plan. He paid my debt. He set me free. His pain bought me eternity!  

I am so far from the perfect parent, but it gives me a tiny glimpse of the love my Savior has for me. Jesus loves me, even me. 

 

Wonderfully Wrecked

My heart skipped a beat, my breath stopped, and my brain studdered. I stared in complete admiration of the man that stood before me. I could not take my eyes off him. Khaki pants and a red button down shirt. Dressed up for the special night at King College and just standing there in my path. He might as well have been wearing a president’s mask and holding an automatic because that is the night he stole my heart. 

Twenty year old Caroline lay stoic on my dorm room bed staring up at the white ceiling. I was holding my 2001 cell phone to my heart as a lonely tear slipped down the side of my face and then the gun fired and the race horses bolted through the metal gate. Tears raced down my face like the Kentucky Derby. I had a countdown. Four weeks and six days. Four Weeks and six lonely, miserable days. My love was fourteen hours away. I would see him again in four weeks and six days but I would die if I did not see him in the next minute. 

A proposal on his knee, a white dress walked down the isle and promised forever, and purchasing our first old one bedroom condo. I thought I was the richest woman in those newly wed days, pinching pennies to buy things for our home and making do with what we had. But immensely, lavishly, spoiled rotten in love, which is far greater than money. 

My life was wonderfully wrecked by this outrageously beautiful dream come true that has her Daddy’s smile. Miracle of miracles, she medically never should have been born. But one more time, God’s blessings did not depend on human logic. In one more way, she bonds and holds us together as we share the greatest responsibility of a human life we both adore. Her logical mind is due to her Daddy and her hosting spirit must belong to me. Her life and her smile and her blonde hair is because of us. 

Every other day I am grumpy and moody and outright mean. I demand and pout and insist on my way. And every single day, this man choses me. He listens to my rants and gives and serves and loves. Hot fresh coffee early in the morning, making new dreams on a Friday hot date because our old ones have already come true, a new handmade coffee table in my living room, and laughing til I’m crying with him when I should already be asleep.  

If love is an attraction, I have loved the deepest. Could love just be a desire to be together?  Then I have been made one. Is love promising my life to him?  Then that duty is done. But could love be a miracle of something otherwise that never could be?  Well then, she walks among us smiling so innocently. But I have come to realize, maybe love is when I am at my worst and he still choses me. 

It can’t be defined nor wrapped up and contained, but one thing is certain, I have been loved beyond explaining and I love beyond words. 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY FAVORITE MAN IN THE WHOLE WORLD!  I LOVE YOU JAMES!  

I Am Growing Up

One of the best things about being a parent is learning alongside children. Starting back at the very basics and building from there. The continued education of James and Caroline began the day the test had two lines. 

With Madison in my tummy, her Daddy and I began to research and read like never before.  We were about to be responsible for a miracle called: life. One of my favorite pictures shows James sitting Indian style on our bed reading a children’s book. On first glance, it looks like he is reading to himself. You really have to search to find the brand new baby (maybe three days old) sleeping among the covers to know the book is not for his own enjoyment. 

One of my favorite traditions is, every year for Christmas, buying Madison a new Bible. We started with Children’s Bibles like The Big Picture Storybook, The Jesus Storybook Bible, I Can Read Bible, The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos, and other jewels. With her Daddy reading every night, she has read through the Bible several times moving up to an NIRV Bible. Guess what that means?  It means James and I have been more consistent in our devotions than ever before. 

And when Madison wants to know why Evergreen Trees don’t turn brown, and every single thing about every single animal, and how to make origami, and where all the fifty states are located and who all the presidents were, and why doggies don’t get married. Guess what that means?  It means that Momma learns them also!

Recently, my little Renaissance girl wanted to learn to sew. So, (haha. Homophone)…so, her Daddy and I purchased a sewing machine for her birthday. You should have seen James and I trying to figure it out. But we did!  And Madison and I spent one of our Spring Break days purchasing fabric and making a travel laundry bag, couch pillows, and her new very favorite stuffed bunny. I can sew!  And that is one of the very small ways that having a daughter has made me a better person. 

Being a mother, gazing into the eyes of a precious little girl with a curious mind, has taught me something I should have known before I was a mother. Knowledge may be power, but LEARNING IS JOY. 

Hosanna!  An Emotional Entry

I know it is Easter time, but I am painting a picture of CHRISTMAS.  The season took it’s time, but the night air was whispering winter time. It was time to build a fire and cuddle indoors. The weekend after Thanksgiving holds the tradition of the Hendrys picking out a Christmas tree and decorating. The day was perfect. Picture perfect memories. The tree was chosen, the lights glowed, and we sat and gave a sigh of adoration of the tree and the promise of Christmas before us. Madison’s eyes had sparkled with joy and excitement the entire day and now was the great cresendo. And then she did something her Daddy and I did not expect.

Madison plopped down on the couch, crossed her arms, puckered out her bottom lip and complained, “Humph!  It is all going to go away!”

Her Daddy looked at me with terrified, shocked eyes, “What is the matter?”

I, surprisingly, smiled with understanding and replied, “She’s a girl.”

Madison understood, maybe for the first time, that nothing of this earth is forever.  Madison was conflicted with emotions of wonder and excitement, and celebration, and a realization of something sad. 

Although girls can sometimes be labeled as emotional roller coasters, emotions are to be shared by both genders. The human race is fickle, easily given to extremes in emotion. 

A few thousand years ago, a man walked into Jerusalem. The word had spread about his arrival. Some of them had recently seen him raise a man from the dead and they thought, “This is our King! He has come to be our ruler!”  

As was fitting, they rolled out the red carpet, spreading their coats and palm branches for the triumphant entry. They yelled out, “Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

They praised and worshiped Jesus!  As should be done!  As he is deserved!  

But just a few days later, they let their emotions get the best of them. They were the same crowd yelling out, “Crucify him!”

Why?  They saw he was not going to lead an army. He was not going to be their earthly king.  They got mad. Jesus was not who they thought he was. 

HE WAS MORE!  He was not going to be a great King to rule Jesusalem, grow old and die. He came to set them, and us, free forever!  He had come to crush Satan and deliver us from the grips of Hell!  He was MORE than they could have possibly imagined!  

As mirrored by my daughter, sometimes my emotions get the better of me. But next time I am pouting about some earthly condition, I want to think on a grander scale. Today, while I worship Jesus on Palm Sunday, I want to look ahead to the purpose Jesus came to accomplish. 

Jesus is King not just of earth, but also of Heaven!  He is not only King now, but he is King of eternity.  

And, like the emotional crowd, sometimes when things take a bitter turn and it looks like defeat (the cross had to apper to be a crushing defeat!) I want to get ready and learn from experience that SOMETHING EVEN BETTER THAN I THOUGHT IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN!