Summer 2014 Update

Once again I've fallen off of the blogging wagon.  You'll have to settle for an occasional update for now.  Several have asked about a few happenings in our lives so I thought I'd pop on here and knock it all out at once.  

First of all, we're having a great summer.  It's been packed full of swim team - which just ended.  The girls did great!  Maddie made the team this year and finished with several first place honors.  Audrey made some awesome time improvements and made it into the "double digit" club (improvements over 10 seconds).  We've had a couple of weeks of cheer camp and a week of drama camp. This week we are taking it easy before jumping into VBS and an overnight cheer camp next week.

Maddie after making the swim team.
Not sure that I ever posted this, but I took over as Coordinator for our competition cheer program.  I won't be coaching this year, but will be overseeing all the teams and doing all the "behind the scenes" stuff.  Our program has grown so much and I'm excited to see how the Lord is going to work this year.  I took several of the coaches on a cabin retreat right before camp.  It was an amazing time of rejuvenation and reflection.  God has truly anointed the ladies that are serving as coaches and I know it's going to be a wonderful year.  

Love my sweet coaches and friends!
Getting into the spirit!
We were suppose to be heading to Pure American Nationals today, but we opted out.  We had so much on our plate.  The expense was huge and our traveling/split the cost partners had to withdraw, so we chose to, as well.  It would have been loads of fun, but there are greater needs here right now.

Derek and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary in May.  We celebrated with an Eastern Caribbean Cruise.  It was so much fun!  It was our first trip without the girls and I missed them terribly!  We really had a great time.  A couple of families from our church were on the same boat, so that made it extra fun.  :)

The end of this month Derek and I are heading to my 20th high school reunion.  I still can't quite wrap my brain around that one.  Have I really been out of school that long?  I'll be honest, I'm a little freaked out with my own insecurities - ya know, that same ole battle I fight every year with the weight issues.  But, I am who I am.  I'm going to go and enjoy myself.  I'll get to see some amazing friends that I literally haven't seen in 20 years.  And, maybe by my 30th reunion, I'll be skinny.  LOL

Throw back to my Senior Pic.

Audrey turned 9 last week.  Seriously, I'm feeling super old here!  She had a great time.  We got a couple of neighbors and went to the mall.  They went to My Room Rocks and designed some rooms.  It was super cute!  Can't believe this big girl will be starting 4th grade in the fall.  (Did I mention we just bought her a size 8 women's shoe?!)

Many have asked, so here's the scoop on the house.  Have you ever fallen fast and hard for something or someone?  Well, we did!  We weren't looking to move, though we've casually talked about it for years.  We have dreamed of living out on land, having some livestock, and enjoying the quiet.  Well, we found an amazing home on 10 acres of land about 45 minutes north of us.  It was everything we ever dreamed of - and much more.  We were willing to do whatever we could to get it.  For several weeks we negotiated with the sellers and finally came to an agreement which ended in a contract on the house.  We scrounged up closing costs and down payment - the night before our cruise!  We dreamed of the animals we would get, swimming in our new pool, where our furniture would go - all the fun stuff!  Well, obviously God had other plans.  I'll spare you all the details, but about 2 weeks after we put the contract on the house - and put our own on the market - things started to fall apart.  There were numerous issues that popped up - some that our lender said she had never in her career seen.  In the end, we felt like this was not a good choice for us.  The Lord gave us a very clear "out" and we took it.  It was heartbreaking at the time, but I know that it was what was best.  As of now, we still have our house on the market.  We've had 30 showings in a little over 30 days.  We've had one offer, which we turned down.  We're looking at other properties.  We're taking our time and making sure we are wise with our decisions.  It's exciting - yet challenging!  Half of our belongings are in a storage unit 30 minutes from here.  LOL  We have to keep the house "show ready" all the time - which is difficult with 2 children, 2 dogs, and a cat.  We've looked at so many different options.  Right now we're leaning towards a "fixer upper" that's on a beautiful 3 acre lot.  We'd love to make over our own kitchen, add a swimming pool, and update with our specific tastes.  We're just going to keep looking and praying.  The Lord will put us right where He wants us - and I know we'll be happy with wherever He picks!
Lastly, I wanted to share some exciting happenings with Chosen.  We are finishing up a CD project.  It's been incredibly exciting recording and going through the whole process of making an album.  Hopefully it will be out by Christmas.  :)  In the meantime, we'll be on an episode this Friday night on TLC's Say Yes to the Dress - Atlanta!!  We filmed an episode with the beautiful bride, Chrissy, back in October.  We didn't know if the episode would get picked up or not since they only air about 20 of the 80+ brides they film.  We just found out last week that they did choose Chrissy - so we'll be on TV THIS WEEK!!  I'm scared to death - and excited all at the same time.  You never know how on earth they will edit things.  They did have us sing a few diddies here and there.  :)  No matter what they do or do not air, I pray that Chrissy's story will touch the lives of others.  She is a beautiful person inside and out.  I'm blessed to call her friend.  And, I'm proud to say that I've seen her live out a life of grace and dignity in troubled times.  God is truly faithful to those who believe.

Spring Break 2014

Best staycation ever!  I don't think we could have packed any more into our week.  I'm pretty sure I need a vacation to recover from all the activity.  I thoroughly enjoyed the time with my girls.  I feel incredibly blessed to be able to provide such amazing opportunities for my girls.  Here are a few highlights from our week.

Rode scooters on the Greenway.
Sleepover with friends.
Saw Captain America on a date night with hubby!
Massage, Mani, Pedi - woohoo!
Girls caught a fish with the neighbors.
Sliced off a knuckle, not pleasant.
Nail in the tire, but all is well now.

Saw the musical, Anne of Green Gables.

Spent a day at the Atlanta Zoo.
Went horseback riding at Sunny Farms.

Went to Griffin, GA to visit one of my best friends from college.  Our girls were instant friends.

Another favorite at the museum - digging for fossils.

Loved the Children's Museum in Chattanooga!  Check out these bee hives with all the busy bees.

Saw Beauty and the Beast

Maddie had a very busy week!

DIY Lalaloopsy House

I was feeling a little crafty today so I thought I would make Maddie a house for her Lalaloopsies.  She loves playing with the miniature ones.  In just a couple of hours and less than $20, she has a new house for her babies (and mommy loves the organization).

I started out with a quick trip to Goodwill.  I found this sturdy shelf.  Not sure what exactly it was used for, but it screamed miniature Lalaloopsies to me!  ;)

It got a good bath.  Next I used a pencil to outline the opening on the back panel.  Then I removed the back panel to add the "wall paper".  This was just old scrapbook paper I had tucked away.  I cut them into blocks and used Mod Podge to adhere them.

After that, I just used some ribbon and hot glue to cover up the dated edges around the shelf.

Last, I added the back panel back on and put a few little buttons on.

This is the final project with her babies:


Don't worry about anything, instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and then thank Him for all He's done. Phil 4:6

I have been clinging to this verse for several days now.  Waiting patiently is not something I do very well.  I haven't advertised much of what I've been dealing with because I didn't want to bring about needless worry.  It's easy for me to go online and research all the "bad words" my doctor said it could be or enter my symptoms on a website only to be given "worst case scenario" to freak me out.  I will say that the thoughts have consumed me, but I've truly had a peace that no matter what, God was in control and we would take any diagnosis as it was.  I serve a faithful God and He holds the future, MY future, in His hands.

Let me back up a bit and tell you how this journey started and why I felt like I was living an episode of House, MD.  Two weeks ago tomorrow I had a doctor appointment to check on some issues.  I was due another physical, so I called a couple of weeks prior and made the appointment.  I'll spare you all the details, but six and a half hours later I was leaving the hospital from having an emergency CT Scan.  Thankfully, there were NO blood clots in my lungs!  I was sent home with orders for a brain and neck MRI, blood tests, and appointments to see an ENT, Cardiologist, and Neurologist.

Today was my "results" appointment and I am happy to announce things are not as bad as initially thought!  The main praises at this time are: it is NOT Lupus, MS, or Cancer!  Thank you, Jesus, I am so grateful!  There are still more tests and specialists to see, and although results are not 100%, for now she is saying it is chronic mono. My spleen and liver are enlarged and some small lymph nodes are present in my neck, but given my blood counts are normal, she did rule out Leukemia.  We will recheck in a few months.  My sugar is slightly elevated, but not Diabetic.  I will be put on a small dose of meds to hopefully help my sugar, liver, and spleen.  The worst of my results, according to the doctor, is my neck.  I have several bulging discs and pinched nerves, which could explain the loss of sensation in my arm.  However, it is the wrong arm according to the findings.  :/  Again, going to the neurologist for further testing.  Additionally, I have a deviated septum and swollen sinuses, which would explain the lack of sleep and breathing.  I will be doing a sleep study soon.  The doctor will let me know if he suggests surgery or treat me for Sleep Apnea.  Not much I can do on my own about a crooked nose.  Haha!  I also still have to see the Cardiologist just to cover all the basis.

Ok, so there you have it!  Probably way more than you ever wanted to know about my medical history.  But so many asked, so there it is!  I'm so looking forward to feeling 100% again and I know it's just around the corner.  :)

I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the prayers and sweet notes.  I love you all! I'm giving God all the glory.  I do believe He brought healing.  I am convinced
that my doctor expected worse.  She said she was very pleasantly surprised at how good my blood work was, especially with some of the other findings.  So, I'm saying my God is bigger, my God is Greater!  Booya!

Chosen Says YES to the Dress

Whoa!  What a whirlwind the last few days have been!  I have to share with you one of those once in a lifetime moments that I experienced today.

First of all, in my last post I talked about how precious friendships are and that sometimes I wish I could bring both of my worlds (longtime childhood friends and special friends made later in life) together.  Today would have been one of those times, but since I can't physically do that, I want to introduce you - via my blog - to a few of my closest friends.

This is quite a love story of a beautiful couple to which I am honored and blessed to call friends.  Since their story will more than likely be shared on national television for the whole world to see, I'm sure she won't mind if I tell a few of you.  ;)

Let me introduce you to Chrissy.  Chrissy is an extraordinary woman who is beautiful both inside and out.  She is a caring, dedicated mother to 3 wonderful kids, one of which is Audrey's BFF.  For 16 years Chrissy was a faithful, loving wife to quite the comedian and guitar player, Hank.  The last five years of their marriage Chrissy sacrificed everything to care for Hank as he battled cancer.  He lived an honorable life that ended as perfectly as it possibly could - surrounded by family and friends praying with him as he left this earth.  In his final days, he made sure that his family was taken care of and gave his blessing to Chrissy to move on when she was ready.  He did not want her to live the rest of her life alone.  They were merely 39 years old when Hank passed away.

I can tell you that Chrissy has been one of the strongest, most amazing examples of faith I have ever seen.  She has kept her family going every step of the way.  She sings weekly with Chosen, helping lead worship and giving God the Glory in all things.  Chrissy is stunning and full of grace.

Now, let's fast forward a couple of years.  Chrissy meets a man named Joe.  Their stories and similarities are a bit on the eery side.  Joe's wife battled cancer for five years, passing away at almost the same time as Hank.  She also left behind 3 children.

Long story short, Chrissy and Joe fell in love.  Her friends (known as the director and lead singer for Chosen) put him through the ringer to make sure he was fit for our queen.  He passed the test.  He asked Chrissy to marry him. She said yes.  Now the wedding planning begins.....

Not only do we, Chosen, sing together every week, but we are very best friends.  We love each other, help one another, and just enjoy hanging out.  What an honor it was when Chrissy asked us to go wedding dress shopping with her -- Ms. Shabby Chic Fashionista herself!  (Did she really have a
choice?!). We went last week to a local bridal shop and had a blast.  Unfortunately she did not find the perfect dress.  So, she applied on a whim to "Say Yes to the Dress - Atlanta" from TLC.  They contacted her the next day (Thursday), approved her Friday, and we taped today (Tuesday)!  Everything happened so fast!

The experience today was awesome!  We have been praying through the whole process that our testimonies would be upheld and that God would be glorified through it all.  We had a few opportunities to sing while we were there.  (Seriously, how cool would it be to sing on national television?!)  We openly spoke of our faith.  And, we had a great time helping Chrissy find the perfect dress!
Chosen with Lori & Monte and Chrissy's daughter, Ansley.
I've never laughed so hard at times.  And, of course, we shed some serious tears at times.  It was an emotional day.  If drama and backstabbing is what they wanted, that is not what they got.  But, they did get a real life, heartfelt story of an amazing couple.  We had our share of silly moments, too.  Who knows how some of our craziness might be misconstrued for tv.  Of course, the hosts of the show really played on the whole church music gig with "Can I  get an 'Amen' from the choir?" and "Can the choir say 'Hallelujah'?" My prayer is that our words come across as genuine as they were in our hearts.
All of us with Chrissy's dress consultant, Flo.

Will they choose Chrissy and her Chosen posse to air on Season 7?  That, nobody knows for sure, but I will tell you that I have truly seen the hand of God working through this whole experience. Whether we are televised or not, we made some serious memories today!  And, I pray that we touched some lives in the process.
Mic'd up and ready to go!

Forever Friends - Part 1

This time last week I was sitting in a restaurant with friends I haven't seen in a few years.  We had just celebrated the life of an amazing woman.  She lived a beautiful life and I am beyond blessed to have known her for 23+ years of my 37.  It's so hard to say goodbye, even when we don't see each other often.  She was like a second mom to me.

It was great seeing childhood friends with their families. For some, I was meeting their children for the first time, which is always exciting.  It's fun to see how kids grow from visit to visit. Sadly, time does not stand still between those visits so I miss a lot of the growing steps.

This trip really got me to thinking about the value of friendship.  I consider myself a fortunate soul to have so many lifelong friends such as these.  I've known these guys since I was 14.  We were pretty much united by marching band (Go, Band!) and stuck together through the years.  Many miles now separate us, but thanks to outlets such as Facebook, we can communicate easily.  And, although we may seriously disagree on issues such as politics and religion, we're still friends.  No matter how many years we're apart physically, we can pick right up where we left off.

I've spent holidays with these friends.  We've been through many birthdays & celebrations, marriages & divorces, births & deaths.  I know at any given moment if I needed anything, I could pick up the phone and call one of these guys.  My prayer is that everyone has a friend like that!

Life has changed a lot over the last ten years.   I've remarried, had two babies, and live in another state.  I don't get to see these precious friends very often, but I'm still very thankful for them.  I love each and every one of them.  If I could hand pick my family, I'd give the 19 Kids and Counting crew a run for their money on the number of siblings I would have.  :-)  I am a little sad that my husband and kids haven't had the chance to get to know them all as well as I have.

Don't get me wrong.  I am incredibly happy where life has taken me.  Again, God has richly blessed me with fantastic friends in my adult life.  Sometimes I wish I could just selfishly bundle everyone up and keep in one place together forever.  :)  Oh, wait!  That's what Heaven's gonna be like!  Well, until that day comes, I know Mama Joyce is getting a great feel for the place and anxiously awaiting having all her "kids" back for a Thanksgiving feast.  RIP, sweet lady!

Guilt Free Schooling

We are a little over two weeks into school and the girls are loving it.  Audrey is out of bed and dressed before we can even come in to make sure they're up?  Maddie is not so enthusiastic at 6:45 am.  I am switching off carpooling with a neighbor and its really nice.  The kids get to sleep an extra 45 minutes since they're not riding the bus.   Two days a week I have time to make a hot breakfast (and maybe catch a few extra z's when they leave).  One morning a week I help in Maddie's class for an hour then head out for coffee and grocery shopping.  I've also enjoyed having a few lunches and breakfasts with my husband each week.  :)

I thought I would feel very guilty for not homeschooling this year, but honestly, I feel like I'm a better mom and wife right now.  I'm not stressed to the max.  I have more time to stay up with house work, meals, errands, chauffeuring girls around, and all of my volunteer work.  Audrey is thriving in the classroom.  She is taking her homework very seriously.  We've been spending about 30 minutes to an hour together on it each night and she's putting a lot more effort into her work.  I'm really proud of her.  She asked me today if they could go to school there next year, too.  It makes me happy to see her so happy!

Maddie's situation is actually going to be changing.  I got a call yesterday that in an effort to reduce the number of kids per classroom, they are taking a few kids from each class and creating a new kindergarten class.  The new teacher will start Monday.  Maddie was one of the kids pulled.  I'm not crazy about it because she's finally gotten into a routine and I was really happy with her teachers.  I know everything happens for a reason and God is in control.  I'm just praying for a smooth transition next week.

The girls' extra curricular activities are up and going.  We've eliminated a few and think we have a good balance.  Audrey is taking an hour of hip hop and an hour of drama/music each week.  Maddie has her cheer practice twice and tumbling once a week.  Our Wednesday night church activities will start back mid September and then we'll be full swing into our year.  Let's do this!!

On a totally different note, I feel the need to say how blessed I am to have such a great husband.  So many wives struggle to do it all because their husbands don't help or have much to do with their children.  Derek is an amazing dad!  He's tough, no doubt about it!  But, he loves them and enjoys spending time with them EVERY day.  He sings to them each night at bed time.  He cooks for them, plays with them and teaches them.  I am very grateful!

Here's to a relaxing weekend!  Enjoy time with your family!

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