Continual Reminders of God's Sovereignty

10.29.2018

I (Hart) shared on here the other day my thoughts from the initial 36 hours after having a bomb dropped in our life (for the 2nd time). In that post I hinted some at the pain and anger and doubt and other emotions I was feeling, but I also shared how God has been relentless in His pursuit of us and I shared some examples. Well, He has continued doing that, so I thought I would share some more examples. These posts are partly for my benefit...something I have to look back on to read and reflect on. But also my hope is for your benefit too. We aren't meant to walk through this life alone. So I want to share the good, the bad and the ugly so that you might know you're not alone, and maybe you'll be encouraged too.

Basically, there are 4 ways I want to share about how God has been reminding us these last few days He's in control.

First, God has been gracious and encouraging to us through His word and the words of others. It's been special how specific texts in scripture keep popping up that bring encouragement and refreshment to our souls. It's also been incredible how the devotionals we have and are working through time after time end up being exactly what we need to hear. We've really benefited from Paul Tripp's 'New Morning Mercies' devotional, and I know Vanessa has appreciated She Reads Truth. One verse that came on our radar and has been special to us is 2 Corinthians 1:9-10:
Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.
Second, through the prayers and generosity of others. We have been so overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of others. So many people are already praying...I've lost count at this point of all the prayer lists, and prayer groups, and churches in various places around the world that are praying for Judah. Those prayers are so appreciated and were especially needed on our behalf in those first couple days as we were numb and in shock and having a hard time even finding the words to pray. We've received anonymous financial donations from people, we received a letter from Make A Wish SC that included gift cards to Target for Judah to go on a shopping spree, and we've been showered with meals. I was also told yesterday at church about a group of college students from our church working on putting a care package together for us, and we've also been asked to come up with a list of gift cards to places we like / would be practical to have for this upcoming season. Truly blown away at this generosity.

Third, this kind of piggybacks the first point, but it also further demonstrates God's provision and sovereignty, which is why I want to highlight this one. Vanessa had the wonderful idea that we should come up with some fun things to do as a family before transplant. So she talked to Judah to find out some ideas of what he would like to do. One of the things that came up was Judah wanted to go to a place with an indoor pool/waterpark, which led to him wanting to go to Great Wolf Lodge. We've never been to one of these before, but have had friends go before, so it's always been on our list of things we wanted to experience. Anyways, that was just a private conversation we've had in our home and not something we've publicized.

Yesterday, at our church's fall festival (which, btw, was such a fun thing to get to do! Our family decorated our car for the Trunk-or-Treat in a Dude Perfect theme...hence the panda head!). Anyways, at the fall fest I got a phone call. Remember, I don't like talking on the phone, and this was in the middle of our church's fall fest. But the person calling was a friend and he walked this road before and so he was very sympathetic and supportive of our family the last time we dealt with this. Anyways, it was kind of out of the blue that he was calling, so I figured I should take the call. Basically, the gist of the conversation was this. He and his wife have been praying for us, and they had reservations already paid for something, and they had talked it over and wanted to bless our family with it. Initially, he didn't say where this was for as he was telling me all this. But I'm sure you can guess. Yes, that's right. This reservation is for Great Wolf Lodge. I bet you can imagine my jaw dropped in the parking lot in the middle of the fall fest when he said that. How crazy is that!?

Fourth, I mentioned in my last post that I could think of no better place in scripture to be than in Exodus at the parting of the Red Sea. Whoa. The sermon yesterday at our church in that text was exactly what Vanessa and I needed to hear. Some of the things that stood out to me: God led the Israelites to this place. God hardened the heart of Pharaoh. The Israelite's thinking they're free all of a sudden find themselves with a sea in front of them and an army behind them, and their response is anger and bitterness ('Did you lead us out here to the desert because there's not enough graves in Egypt!?') Our God is big and mighty and powerful and nothing is impossible for Him. The biggest reminder for me was this: The text tells us several times that God did this for His glory. God Himself led them to this place and moment. God Himself hardened Pharaoh's heart so that he would pursue them. And we're told He did all this for His glory. He wanted to glorify Himself. He wanted to show the world how big and magnificent and awesome He is. But we are not simply chess pieces in His hand. We are His children and He loves us. His pursuit of His glory is NOT in opposition to our good. His pursuit of His glory is for our good. In this text we are reminded that God is with us, He fights for us, and He makes a way for us.

With it being Reformation Sunday Matt also referenced the reformation and the motto 'Post Tenebras Lux'. That was a phrase from the Reformation period. It's Latin and means 'After darkness light'. It means we are in darkness now, but the light is coming.

I'm really not normally a crier. But I cried at several moments during this sermon as these truths washed over me. You can listen to the sermon here if you'd like. At the end of the service, they brought our family up and the other elders annointed Judah with oil and prayed over him and our family. We are thankful for this church family and their support.

Y'all, these are not coincidences. This is God continuing to chip away at that wall that my flesh wants to build. This is God continuing to pursue us and draw us near to Him. This is God reminding us that He is in control. I don't know what's going to happen. I pray and plead and beg God that this is a "Red Sea" moment and that He is about to do something incredible and heal Judah. But I don't know what He's doing. But I can't ignore all these ways that God continues to display and remind us that He is sovereign and in control. So I continue clinging to those reminders, and to the promise that He's good, He's in control, and He loves us.

Sovereign Over Us

10.25.2018

I've never really experienced true shock and denial before. That moment you're presented with news, and your response is no, that's impossible. That moment where you ask the person to repeat themselves because surely you misunderstood them. I've never felt that before. Not when Judah was only a few months old and we were told he had a rare blood disorder. He had been sick so much we were just relieved to finally know what was causing it. Not even 2 years ago when we found out he had cancer. When they told us he had the blood disorder they said there was a possibility he could develop cancer. So I've never experienced that. That is, until this past Tuesday.

Our boys do one of those hybrid homeschool things (they attend the school 2 days a week, and we homeschool them the other days). And this school is awesome. They've been so kind and supportive to us over the years. The month of October has been spirit month (like spirit week, but spread out over the month since most of the kids that attend this school only come on Tuesdays). So each Tuesday this month the kids have been allowed to come to school dressed up for different themes. This past Tuesday was pajama day. What was really neat is, as many of you may know, over the years we have collected pajamas and donated to the Children's Hospital. So our boys' school joined in on this and asked families to bring new pajamas and DVDs with them to donate. So it was so cool Tuesday morning when I dropped the boys off at school to see this pile of pajamas and DVDs that had been collected.

When I came back Tuesday afternoon to pick them up the school had asked if I would come inside, and not go through the carpool line. Apparently, they had something they wanted to give us. I got to the school and went in and got the boys and then found one of the directors and she had this potted flower, balloons, and a gift bag filled a movie, candies, snacks, and several gift cards to restaurants for our family. Our family had just recently celebrated Judah's 2 years post-transplant anniversary, and they wanted to celebrate with us. It was such a sweet and kind gesture from them.

I walked the boys out to the car with these gifts. It was sunny. There was a cool crispness to the air. Life was good.

We had just turned out of the parking lot when my phone rang. I don't like talking on the phone but it was Vanessa, and I like talking to her, so I answered it. The first thing she said was 'Am I on speaker phone?' Depending on the situation, that can be a good or bad question. Perhaps she wants to whisper sweet nothings in my ear and doesn't want the boys to hear. Or maybe she's going to ask about doing something that the kids would find fun and if they find out about it they'd obsess it. Or it could be bad. There was pain and sadness in her voice. It sounded like she'd been crying. Crap.

I took her off the car speaker and said what's wrong. She said I just spoke with the Dr. It's not good. His cancer is coming back and he needs another transplant. She's had some success treating this kind, but she doesn't want to lie to us, it's more difficult to treat and the statistics are not on our side.

I didn't believe her. That's not possible. Life is good. We just celebrated his 2 year anniversary. They told us last week the results looked 'perfect'. Clearly I'm misunderstanding something. It was only for a few a seconds, but I was in shock and denial. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I didn't believe what I was hearing.

'Say all of that again', I said. She couldn't. She was crying. But I didn't need to hear her repeat it. Those sobs I heard over the phone told me all I needed to know. So I joined her in crying.

In those early hours after this news I've come to better understand groanings too deep for words. Through sobs all I could muster to God was 'Why?'

I've sensed the war raging inside of me between the Spirit and the flesh. I know what God says. I know the promises He's made. But the flesh fights back. God isn't good. He isn't in control. He doesn't love us.

These last roughly 36 hours have been somewhat of a blur. Lots of tears, lots of conversations with Drs, insurance, family and friends, and there's this cloud that is now just hovering over us.

And if I'm honest, there's a wall that has surfaced. It's been hard to pray. I've literally had moments where I tried to pray but the words just weren't there. My flesh wants me to be angry with God. But in the midst of this pain and sorrow, and the blurriness of the last 2 days, God has slowly been chipping away at that wall.

Tuesday evening my parents came over to be with us. At some point my mom responded to a group text she's on with her brothers and sister and some other family members. There's a relative on this group text that she didn't realize was on there and this relative reached out to my mom. This relative lives in Charleston, and has a separate apartment at their home that they'd be happy for us to use. It has 2 bedrooms, 1 1/2 bathrooms, a living room, and a kitchen. And get this. When we looked up the address, the house is only a few blocks from the hospital (and also Riverfront Park). Wow.

Chip, chip, chip. God began to chip away at that wall. That news was like a nice breeze across your face when you're in the scorching desert.

Our church is currently studying through the book of Exodus, and this Sunday we'll be at the parting of the Red Sea. But originally that wasn't the plan. That was supposed to happen last week. But then about a month ago we ended up restructuring the series, which moved this part of the text to this coming Sunday. After receiving the news we have I can't think of a better place in scripture to be than at one of the most desperate moments in scripture. The Israelites are finally out of Egypt. The thing they have longed for for so long. But now they find themselves in a barren land with a sea in front of them, and an angry Pharaoh and army behind them. That's not how it was supposed to go, right? But nothing is impossible for the Lord. And He would prove that in this moment.

Chip, chip, chip. God continues to chip away.

Later Tuesday evening I got a text from our worship leader with what he was proposing as the final set list of songs for church this coming Sunday (we hadn't announced any of this news yet, so he didn't know what was going on with us). And I honestly didn't pay that much attention to what he sent me. I trust him and so I just wrote back and said looks good. Wednesday I had to do some yardwork, so I decided to download the songs onto my Spotify app to listen to them while I worked. I spent the next roughly 25 minutes crying my eyes out...while doing yardwork. I'm sure anyone who saw me thought I was crazy. The songs were exactly what my soul needed to hear. Listen to some of these words:

Sovereign Over Us (Aaron Keyes)

"There is strength within the sorrow
There is beauty in our tears
And You meet us in our mourning
With a love that casts out fear

You're the lifter of the lowly
Compassionate and kind
You surround and You uphold me
And Your promises are my delight

Even what the enemy means for evil
You turn it for our good
You turn it for our good
And for Your glory
Even in the valley You are faithful
You're working for our good
You're working for our good
And for Your glory

Your plans are still to prosper
You've not forgotten us
You're with us in the fire and the flood
Faithful forever perfect in love
You are sov'reign over us"

A Mighty Fortress (Heartsong)

"And tho' this world with devils filled
Should threaten to undo us
We will not fear for God hath willed
His truth to triumph thru us

A Mighty Fortress is our God
His kingdom is forever"

Do it Again (Elevation Worship)

"Walking around these walls
I thought by now they'd fall
But you have never failed me yet
Waiting for change to come
Knowing the battle's won
For you have never failed me yet

I know the night won't last
Your word will come to pass
My heart will sing your praise again
Jesus you're still enough
Keep me within your love
My heart will sing your praise again

I've seen you move
You move the mountains
And I believe
I'll see you do it again
You made a way
Where there was no way
And I believe
I'll see you do it again

Your promise still stands
Great is your faithfulness
Faithfulness
I'm still in your hands
This is my confidence
You've never failed me yet"

Every Mother Every Father (Porters Gate)

"Every mother every father
Called to raise up sons or daughters
May your heart be patient
May your mind be clear
May our God be with you and calm your fears"

Red Sea Road (Ellie Holcomb)

"How can we trust
When you say you will deliver us
From all of this pain
That threatens to take over us well
Well this desert’s dry but the ocean may consume
And we’re scared to follow you

Oh help us believe
You are faithful you’re faithful
When our hearts are breaking
You are faithful you’re faithful
Oh grant us eyes to see
You are faithful you’re faithful
Teach us to sing
You are faithful you’re faithful
You’re faithful

We will sing to our souls
We won’t bury our hope
Where He leads us to go there’s a red sea road
When we can’t see the way He will part the waves
And we’ll never walk alone down a red sea road"

We Will Feast in the House of Zion (Sandra McCracken)

"We will not be burned by the fire
He is the Lord our God
We are not consumed by the flood
Upheld protected gathered up

In the dark of night before the dawn
My soul be not afraid
For the promised morning oh how long
Oh God of Jacob be my strength

We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things we will say together
We will feast and weep no more"

Gosh. My flesh wants to be angry at God, but despite my unfaithfulness, He lovingly and faithfully continues to chip away that wall and draw me to Himself.

I could list several more of these examples that have occurred. I could mention how on this exact date 2 years ago when Judah was in the PICU, Vanessa posted about a mom she met whose child was also in the PICU. This child, according to the Drs., wasn't going to make it early on. And yet, here they were, some 200+ days since first being admitted to the hospital, and they were about to release her from PICU because she was doing well. In that post, again, that just happened to be posted exactly 2 years ago so that it would pop up on Vanessa's facebook memories today, Vanessa said this “I need not be afraid of the miracle maker. The Author of life.”

Chip, after freaking chip. God is relentless. I can't deny His sovereignty. Yes, this absolutely sucks. It's terrifying to think that maybe our child won't make it this time. I'm reduced to tears every time the question crosses my mind, 'was that the last time I will experience this with Judah?'. Knowing what the transplant process is like...knowing the pain Judah will be in...knowing how exhausting that road is...it is overwhelming to think about the fact we have to walk it again. But I can't deny God's sovereignty. I can't deny that He is orchestrating this. There are too many things that have happened in just these past 36 hours that it would be absolutely foolish to write off as chance, or luck, or coincidence.

And if God is orchestrating this. And if He's never before proven Himself to be unfaithful or not good, then all I can do is cling to the hope that He is good. That He is in control. That He loves me. He loves Vanessa. He loves Cai. And he loves Judah. In fact, He loves Judah far more than Vanessa or I can or ever will. And His plan for us is far better than any plan we could ever imagine.




Tangled in Thankfulness

7.09.2018

These days I find myself living a life that's tangled with joy and normalcy, and yet I find myself in moments where I am forgetful of where I have been, too caught up in the earthly trivial things going on around me or selfish desires I am frustrated aren't happening. I've learned so much about God and who I am because of the insanely hard moments of having a child with cancer, that while I am so grateful to have the privilege to be caught in the mundane struggle of life, I also don't want to be stuck there without acknowledging my God story that both rebukes and encourages my heart when I stop to remember.


It's a new season for sure. Just looking back over this neglected blog, I found this I had written 1 year and about 10 months ago:

"It's Day +4 and every day has been a little harder than the last. Judah has had extreme nausea. He has been vomiting a couple of times a day. He is also very sensitive to the IV flushes and heparin that the nurses have to use after meds/changing lines, etc. 

One of the sweetest things he has done on his own is asking to hold my hand during what he considers unpleasant times."

I never wrote that for the world to see, but it brings this bittersweet remembrance to my mind of how far God has healed and how far we have come since Judah's leukemias and bone marrow transplant to today. It's not because of anything we have done, but only because of Jesus working in us and through us, and the answer so many prayers over our sweet little boy, and I am so grateful.

It's honestly incredible how much we have gone through since that time and absolutely mind blowing that it could feel as if that was someone else's life.

From the slow healing of new marrow to coming off meds one by one, to countless doctor appointments that slowly got spaced out to just once a quarter this last year, to a blessed and booming real estate business, a growing church plant, to getting to do a bathroom reno in our home, to traveling to Disney for Judah's Make-A-Wish trip, to enjoying summer fun in the pool, lots of artwork hung every which way all over the walls, messes and more messes to clean up... the lavish grace over us is beyond anything I can think or imagine!


These two sons are gifts and it's been fun entering into that stage of no diapers and more self sufficiency. I'm enjoying being their mom so much. While they wear me out beyond belief and ask for things CONSTANTLY, they are growing into these awesome little people that often make me laugh!

We go on Thursday of this week to MUSC for a quarterly visit for labs and a physical with Judah's oncologist and we once again pray and ask for prayer for healthy, normal labs and a continued healthy Judah & family.

This October will be 2 years post transplant. We will go for annual tests and biopsies, and will be praying for the C-FREE results. I walk in victory over what God has done and pray that fear and doubt won't sweep in leading up to these days! Thank you for continuing to pray over our family!

I'm thankful to be less and less hinged around this time when God fought this battle for us, but these doctor visits remind me how out of control our own lives really are. It's not about what I do, although I so often want to think if I clean up my act, then God will be pleased. No, he is already pleased, not because of me or anything I do, but because of Jesus who lived that perfect life for me!

Also, if you could pray, pray for the families who have lost their little ones and are missing them big: Madelynn, Avie, Wyatt, and Aurora. Pray for continued health for Caroline and Victoria. And pray for those fighting right now super hard and are in the thick of it big time: William and Ry.

Accepting I am a Weirdo Recovering Cancer Mom

10.24.2017

Today I was shopping in Aldi and a woman was apparently observing me and how I shop. She said, "You know just what you want and you just grab it and put it in your cart! Here I am just moseying along through the aisles not knowing what I want." I laughed and made some funny joke about having 2 boys that eat through the house and never having enough food in the house!

Now, when she said this I didn't think much of it, but I realized that I do know what I want and I am very purposeful in how I shop and what I choose these days. 

When she said this to me I happened to be on the end cap of the organic produce section at Aldi and this week there was seemingly more to choose from than others. I was grabbing all the organic produce that made reasonable sense for our family and budget. As I was checking out, I looked down and was so grateful for this store and the ever increasing "Simply Nature" organic items they seem to carry. 

You see, I am learning to accept that I am in fact a weirdo recovering cancer mom that can't go back to that other me who didn't care before cancer. 

I admit that I used to never care about if food was organic or not. I didn't really think it mattered very much. 

But then I looked at the state of my health dealing with Ulcerative Colitis in my young 20s and later having a child with cancer, a husband with ongoing asthma and digestive issues and I realized that through all of that I did decide it mattered and that I had to fight to get healthier and cleaner products and food into my home. This is something I am truly passionate about and it's shaped how I shop and even stepping into the consultant role with Beautycounter.  

We are far from perfect in this, but it was a priority I realized that I wanted to put more of our money towards. My kids still eat too much junk and it's a never ending fight to try to reduce their sugar intake from the world, but we all have to do the best we can and still try and live a normal happy and balanced life. 

Grocery shopping is just a tiny thing in the week that we all have patterns and ways we go about it. It really isn't something I stop to think much about until a stranger seems to recognize that "I know what I am doing" (even though I very much do not!). I just try to stock up on organic produce as cheap as possible and act like a kid in a candy shop when doing it! 

Looking at my cart, I found myself thinking, maybe buying organic is a hoax and it doesn't really matter at all. Maybe it truly doesn't. But then I found myself thinking about pesticides and them being spayed all over crops these days and you know, maybe I just won't take that chance as a recovering cancer mom? 

p.s. I know it's been forever since I posted on this blog and maybe a nice little family update would be good, but I just had the urge to write and maybe, just maybe I am realizing I need to make that time in this world and not worry about the order of things so much, but here's a family photo that the talented Charlie Mather took of us, that I should probably post a little more soon... in a year... when I feel like it.... hahaha
Judah is doing great and we had a clear 1 year post transplant biopsy and we celebrated his first Day 0 Re-birthday and truly we could not do anything else than to give God all the glory and thank him daily for the breath in our lungs and the life in our children! Thank you Jesus for your healing on our family! 

Almost Out

1.07.2017

It's late and quiet and I'm a night owl, so I tend to do a lot of thinking at this time when the littles are in bed. I'm pausing and thinking about where we are right now and where we just came from. We are almost out of the tunnel. The light is getting brighter in this season and soon we will bolt out into the sunshine free.

There have been very distinct moments where I felt like a wounded soldier limping out from the battlefield, going through any cancer will do that to you whether you are the patient or the mom of the patient. Moments when I cried over and over to God, asking him to protect and preserve the life of my sweet 2 year old son. And even now as we near almost the end of 100 days post bone marrow transplant, there's that quiet terrible whisper asking me, "Will God be good again THIS TIME?" Even though, I quickly say to my soul, "YES! He will be good THIS time and EVERY time!" Oh, how good he has been to this little boy and to us! Judah has his 90 day bone marrow biopsy this coming week and we are praying for clear results and 100% donor cells so he can finally go home, so that all 4 of us can go home, so that this whole back and forth, time split when we can't all be together time will end. I feel like in many ways my life is in limbo and yet at the same time, like God has used this time to mold me more into who he wants me to be.

God's opened a passion in my heart for healthy living and I can honestly say there isn't a more perfect place than Mount Pleasant, SC for that to start. My joke when I first got here was, "Where is everybody running to!?"

It's hard to put a finger on exactly how God is changing me, but I can feel it deep inside. A newness  of life is there springing up from the caked dry hard ground of my heart. I was so tired and rundown and complacent in life before and now I cannot help but feel as if God brought us through so much! There is NOTHING he cannot do! This time has helped me to stop and DREAM again, to pray and seek God to lead us to where he wants us!

I'm honestly excited about routine and life at home and running our businesses. God is good and I'm grateful for all of you and how you walked with us through this and while there is so much recovering and healing to yet go through, I cannot help but stop and look and see how far God has brought us. Praise Him for that, friends! Praise Him!
Happy 2017 to you all! 

Love,
The Traylors