Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 - What a Year!!

It's New Year's Eve 2016 - how in the world did that happen?! I truly believe (as my mom and dad would tell me when I was a kid) that the older I get, the faster the years fly by. Sure, some of the days in 2016 were long, but the year was definitely short (even though, technically, it was long because we got one more day - leap day!). It concerns me greatly to see all these people posting on Facebook that they want this year to be over (and I'm sorry if you're one of them!). Yes, this year was full of loss and pain, difficulty, sorrow and sin and times you might not want to remember, but every day is a gift from God. Even the days you'd rather not think about again. Every day you wake up and you're breathing - that's God's gift to you. This year more than ever, I've come to realize the ordinary, yet at the same time extraordinary, gifts God lavishes on me every day. As my dad says, "Have you ever thanked the Lord for gravity?!" If not, thank Him today. :)

If 2016 never happened then I never would have gotten to experience these things:

- I would have never gotten to have deep brain stimulation surgery. It's changed my life in a beautiful (if somewhat messy at times) way. I will be eternally grateful for it.
- I would have never gotten to meet Dr. Konrad (the coolest neurosurgeon ever), Dr. Tolleson (my Nashville neurologist who is MY AGE), Dr. Issacs, whom I learned was the doctor that was asking me all the questions during my surgery and was the one who initially activated the deep brain stimulation device, and all the other amazing doctors and nurses at Vanderbilt. And yes, I do consider it a privilege and an honor to know them all. I am finally using their real names (and I hope they don't mind) because I don't want to forget them and I want to give them credit for being such awesome doctors.
- I would have never gotten to experience joy and happiness like I have this year. The deep brain stimulation surgeries didn't harden me, they actually gave me hope and that hope turned to joy.
- I would have never experienced my Mom holding my hand during the night I stayed in the hospital after the deep brain stimulation. I had never experienced pain that excruciating. It gave new meaning to "splitting head." After getting the nurse to up my pain meds and getting me saltine crackers, just my Mom's hand grabbing my hand in the darkness of the night brought comfort no drug could ever bring. I'll treasure that moment the rest of my life.
- I would have never experienced the JOY that came after my dad asked me to grab his hand and I could actually grab his hand. It had been awhile. The joy on his face when I did it will be something I'll treasure forever.
- I would have never gotten to go to Chattanooga for my sister-in-law's baby shower and I still had my REAL hair. :)
- I would have never gotten to experience being COMPLETELY bald-headed and what an experience that was! I had ALL kinds of emotions with that. How many people get to start ALL over again with hair growth?! Carrie (my friend who shaved it all off for me) made the experience so much fun. Secrets were told, tears were shed and smiles crept in. And now in the 10th month of hair growth, it's slowly but surely coming back in. I've gained confidence in the experience. It's one I didn't want to have, but it sure has been an unexpected blessing.
- I would never have experienced wig shopping with Mom and what fun that actually was!
- I would never have gotten to see "Miracles From Heaven", or "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2" in the theater with Mom.
- I would never have had trips back and forth to Nashville with Mom.
- I would never have gotten to see the theatre plays: "Church Basement Ladies" with Mom, Tina and Kristen, "South Pacific" with Mom, "Southern Fried Nuptials" with Mom, "Mamma Mia" with Mom and Dad, "Train to Nibroc" with Mom and Dad, "A Christmas Carol" with Mom, Dad and Oma and "Junie B in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells" with Mom.
- I would never have gotten to stay with Mom and Dad for a month :)
- I would never have experienced something being taken away and then slowly given back.
- I would never have experienced the selfless love of co-workers who picked up my work and tirelessly worked their magic to keep things running smoothly despite taking on double the tasks.
- I would never have experienced the pure JOY of playing with my nieces.
- I would never have had lunch at Tina's with my Mom.
- I would never have gotten to go to another fabulous Easter Festival at church.
- I would never have gotten to go to dinner with Dale, Carrie, Anna and Halle Tucker and have them come to church for Easter services.
- I would never have gotten to see my church's mortgage burning ceremony on April 10.
- I would never have gotten to celebrate my sweet niece, Hope Adeline, born on April 11.
- I would never have gotten to meet my niece, Hope, for the first time on April 16.
- I would never have gotten to go out to eat on Sunday afternoons with Mom, Dad, Stuart, Annie, Genevieve, Stanton, Aubrey and Hope to places like China Lee, Rosatina's, Lotus Garden and other places.
- I would never have experienced the undeniable excitement and joy of feeling signs of electricity in my toes for the first time on April 27.
- I would never have gotten to see my brother, Steven turn 25 on May 13.
- I would never have gotten to see Jim, Judy and Allyson Reed or Doris Higgins on May 14.
- I would never have gotten to go to Alaiah Miller's college graduation party (or see her family) on May 14.
- I would never have gotten to see my "Aunt" Kim Star-Voss and "Uncle" Barry Voss on May 15. They are my godparents.
- I would never have gotten to see my Mom and Dad go on a European cruise to France.
- I would never have gotten to go to The Cove and Soccer Taco with Stuart, Annie and Genevieve on Memorial Day.
- I would never have gotten to see cousins (my nieces) meet for the first time on May 31. That was absolutely priceless.
- I would never have gotten to see my brother, Stanton, sister-in-law, Aubrey and niece Hope become homeowners for the first time on June 1.
- I would never have gotten to babysit my niece Genevieve so many times.
- I would never have seen my paternal grandmother, MeMaw, turn 90 on June 10.
- I would never have seen my parents celebrate their 39th anniversary on June 11.
- I would never have gotten to see my brother Stanton turn 29 on the same day I turned 36 on June 12.
- I would never have gotten to see my brother Stuart turn 33 on June 16.
- I would never have heard the words that my brother, Stanton, spoke on June 18: "Aubrey and I would be honored if you would be Hope's godmother along with Anna (Aubrey's sister)."
- I would never have gotten to be excited for my brother, Stanton who worked his last night of residency on June 23 and graduated from residency on June 24.
- I would never have gotten to go the wedding of Taylor Howe on June 25.
- I would never have gotten to experience the joy I felt when Stanton, Aubrey and Hope moved to Knoxville (from Chattanooga) on June 29.
- I would never have gotten to be so proud of my brother, Stanton, when he became an ER doctor.
- I would never have gotten to go to Genevieve's 2nd birthday party on her actual birthday, July 2. She had a "Paw Patrol" themed party and LOVED every minute of it!
- I would never have gotten to see my Mom and Dad buy a new car or my brother, Steven by a new-to-him car.
- I would never have gotten to experience Hope's baptism on July 3 and becoming a godmother for the very first time.
- I would never have seen Hope in MY baptismal gown. She wasn't actually baptized in it, but she wore it to the "after-party" that day.
- I would never have experienced all the "firsts" that happened in regard to my walking. There are almost too many to write. ;) The first was when I walked around work with just a cane and not a walker on July 6. Then I walked into work with no walker on July 7.
- I would never have gotten the courage to ditch the wig and go au natural with MY hair - though it be short. ;)
- I would never have gotten closer to a friend I met in church who has her own "brain issues". Kristen and I are SO DIFFERENT in many ways and yet SO ALIKE in other ways. Her friendship has meant the world to me this year!
- I would never have gotten to go to Brad and Samantha's baby gender-reveal party on July 15. It was revealed that they were having twin girls. :) :) Those girls, Brooklyn and Blakely, arrived on December 20.
- I would never have gotten to experience tubing on the lake for the very first time on July 17. It has become my absolute favorite!!
- I would never have gotten to celebrate my maternal grandmother's 90th birthday on July 21 and her big celebration party on July 23 with the family (aunts, uncles, cousins...just missing my brother Steven) and friends at Whitestone Inn.
- I would never have experienced the pure innocence of my niece, Genevieve exclaiming (after seeing me the first time without my wig), "Hair! Pretty!! Can I touch?!" She finally has someone (again) that has hair like hers. :)
- I would never have gotten to celebrate my Dad's 63 birthday on his actual birthday (August 3) at Rafferty's restaurant with my mom, Stuart, Annie, Stanton, Aubrey and Hope.
- I would never have gotten to celebrate my Mom's 62nd birthday on her actual birthday (August 22) at Lakeside Tavern restaurant with the same crew that celebrated with my dad, plus Oma.
- I would never have gotten to celebrate Aubrey's 29th birthday on August 26.
- I would never have gotten to speak at the University of Tennessee to a dietician's class. That was unexpected, but extremely fun!!
- I would never have experienced the pure joy of walking into and out of work with only a cane on September 13!
- I would never have gotten to celebrate Annie's 30th birthday.
- I would never have gotten to drive the lawnmower train at my church's fall festival. It's my absolute favorite thing to do at the fall festival!
- I would never have tried climbing the climbing wall at the church's fall festival.
- I would never have gotten to take Genevieve to the Little Ponderosa zoo where she got to feed all the animals. Her face was priceless. We had so much fun - just me and her.
- I would never have ridden a motorcycle for the very first time on October 15. What an absolute thrill. I love riding motorcycles now. :)
- I would never have gotten to experience "Boo at the Zoo" with BOTH of my nieces who dressed as Everest (from Paw Patrol - that was Genevieve) and a little lamb (Hope).
- I would never have gotten to ride a camel with my niece, Genevieve!! I will remember that moment for the rest of my life!!
- I would never have gotten to go to small group Bible Study at Brian and Whitney's house.
- I would never have gotten to go to "Trunk or Treat" at church and see all the kids dressed up. The best costume hands-down in my book, was the mom and dad who dressed their baby girl up as a Cabbage Patch doll and made her stroller look like the box that the cabbage patch dolls come in.
- I would never have gotten to have Genevieve spend the night with me.
- I would never have gotten to take Genevieve to see Santa, although she was absolutely terrified of him. ;)
- I would never have gotten to have a day with Genevieve in Cades Cove.
- I would never have gotten to watch Hope while Aubrey practiced for the worship team at church.
- I would never have gotten to take a trip to Huntsville, AL with my mom to see Dolly Parton in concert on November 16. We had so much fun and made memories to last a life time!
- I would never have gotten to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family that included extended family: my Uncle Chris and Aunt Edith, my cousins, Markus and Lukas and my Uncle Danny.
- I would never have gotten to taste test the pumpkin pie that my Mom accidentally forgot to put sugar in - haha. It was GROSS, but thankfully, she had 3 other pies that DID have sugar in them.
- I would never have gotten to go Black Friday shopping (but thankfully for us, it was in the afternoon!) with my mom and Aunt Edith.
- I would never have been able to use my brand-new yellow umbrella.
- I would never have gotten to go to my work's Christmas party and win fountain glasses. I also got to experience the pure joy of snap bracelets. It's the little things!
- I would never have gotten to go to the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra's Christmas concert with the family.
- I would never have gotten to see the hilarity of the "Psalty's Christmas Calamity" play put on by the children of my church. Pastor Mark gets big props for playing Psalty and even singing!!
- I would never have gotten to see Hope at her first Christmas Eve service holding the battery-operated candle.
- I would never have gotten to experience Genevieve running up to me on Christmas Eve and exclaiming, "I got to go home. Santa's coming!! Santa's coming!!"
- I would never have gotten to experience the pure joy and boundless excitement that Christmas spent with Genevieve and Hope and all my family brought. It was truly magical and special and a day I will treasure in my heart.
- I would never have gotten to go over to Stanton and Aubrey's house with the rest of the family for dinner.
- I would never have gotten to hear Genevieve say my name..."Aunt Tepanie" (she's working on it, but she is SO cute saying it the way she says it now!).
- I would never have gotten to see Hope wave and smile at me.
- I would never have gotten to experience the grace and mercy, forgiveness and love that God poured down upon me.

These are just some of the joys that I experienced this year. I am SO GLAD that 2016 happened. There are so very, very, very many things to be thankful for - both big and small. So, for those of you who want 2016 to be over, I hope you'll take at least just a minute to remember a day or a moment this past year that was simply beautiful. Thank the Lord that you are breathing, that you are walking, talking, using your brain, loving and living.

In my book, 2016 was awesome. I thank the Lord for this past year and I look forward to what God will continue to do in my life in 2017. It's a wild ride we are all on - it's this thing called life. ;) It's unpredictable, messy, hurtful, filled with disappointments and sorrow, but it's also fun, unexpected, joyful and beautiful. Life is a gift. Open it and watch it bloom. I hope that each one of you reading this is filled with God's love. May your 2017 be blessed mightily and always remember...GOD'S GOT THIS!! To Him be praise and glory.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Turn-It-Up Tuesday: December 27

What a whirlwind week this past week has been! I seriously can’t believe a week has already past. Where does the time go?

First and foremost, I hope everyone had a blessed Christmas. Our Savior’s birth is one of the most mysterious, magical, blessed and holy moments this earth has ever experienced. I hope you took time to reflect on the TRUE meaning of Christmas this year. A baby born in Bethlehem of an immaculate conception. He came to die and rise again to defeat sin, death and the devil. Without Christmas there would be no Easter.

Speaking of Christmas, I had a fantastic one. And no matter what anyone else says, I know I have the BEST family in the world. About 2 weeks ago, I was in the car with my mom, dad and grandmother on our way to see the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra Christmas concert when my brother, Steven called. Among other things we discussed Christmas Eve plans. My mom said that my brother Stanton and his family would go to the 4pm service since he had to work at 6pm in the ER. My brother Stuart would go to the 7pm service since his girlfriend wasn’t getting back in town until 4pm. Then she said about me, “Stephanie will go to all services (meaning the 4pm, the 7pm and the 11pm). Haha – my mom knows me so well. I DID go to all services. I joked that I went to the 4pm to see Baby Hope (her first Christmas!!), the 7pm to see Little G and the 11pm to really hear the message. :) I reality, I heard my dad’s sermon three times. I know what he changed in each message. ;) He remarked as we walked into the church together before the 11pm service that I was the only Elseroad that went to all three services (besides him, of course!). I really, truly got something out of each service and I am blessed to have been able to go to all three. On a lighter note, I also survived all three services without catching my hair on fire OR getting sick (both of which I have done in previous years…Christmas Eve and I don’t have the best of records in the getting sick or having accidents department!). So, score one for me!! (By the way…burnt hair smells like rotten eggs and if you have to throw up – even if you can’t walk correctly – you’ll never move faster to get to the bathroom!) Again, I thank the Lord that NOTHING BAD happened on Christmas Eve this year. In fact, something special between me and my 2 year old niece happened. We were at my parent’s house between services and Genevieve and I were playing in the room my parents created for her and Hope. All of the sudden, she wanted to twirl. So she started twirling and then she wanted me to twirl with her – so I did!! We twirled and twirled. It was a precious, miraculous (for me – that I didn’t fall!) moment that I will treasure close to my heart.

As glorious as Christmas Eve was, Christmas Day was just as glorious. Church at 10am was fabulous. The offer had been made (in all fun) for those of us that came to the 11pm service on Christmas Eve to just sleep at the church and come to the 10am service on Christmas – haha. I think we ALL made it home on Christmas Eve though and most of us made it back for Christmas Day services. Dad and I were the lone Elseroads who made it to all 4 services within a span of 18 hours. Everyone else had little ones at home or were working (whether in the ER like my brother Stanton, or at home like my Mom who made Christmas so special with all of her cooking and presents). After church, we all went to my parent’s house. It was a wonderful time. All of us in the family know that our parents love us. We also know that when it comes to Christmas presents: Dad works which provides the money, but Mom makes the magic happen with gifts. It’s one of her love languages. She told me it took her 3 days to wrap all the presents and looking at all of them, I could see why. After a brunch of Belgian waffles, turkey sausage links, and fruit, in which she slaved away at, we settled into an afternoon and evening of unwrapping gifts. Seeing the faces of my nieces was priceless. Seeing my mom’s face when we reacted to gifts she picked out for us was just as priceless. She and my dad are treasured blessings to me. I will never be able to thank the Lord enough for them or be able to show them how much I love them. For every seen or unseen thing they do, they deserve blessing after blessing from the Lord.

My treasured moment with Genevieve came on Christmas Eve, but my treasured moment with my 8 month old niece, Hope, came on Christmas Day. I was holding her and we were face to face and she started to wave at me. Her smile was from ear to ear and as bright as could be. She kept smiling and waving. A moment I will again treasure forever.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were beautiful. I thank the Lord for them. I thank the Lord for time with my family and treasured moments I’ll keep close to my heart, but there was also a part of me that wanted a Christmas miracle in the form of being able to walk without any assistance. In some ways I got it, in some, I didn’t. I got it in spurts, where I was able to do certain things without a walker or cane. But, overall, my walking was slightly worse than it has been recently. I truly believe that it was all the excitement. I had been told many years ago that any excitement – whether good or bad – could and probably would affect my walking. So, I wasn’t completely surprised, but I must admit, I was a little disappointed. Within the past week I went from 2.70 volts of electricity in my deep brain stimulation device on December 20, to 2.80 volts on Thursday, December 23, to 2.90 volts on Christmas Day to 3.00 volts today. I know that the Lord is doing something. I don’t know what, but His plan is always the best plan. I have to keep reminding myself of this though because I get very discouraged and sad when I don’t see results. I have to say that I’m glad though that I was distracted for the most part from walking difficulties because of Christmas. When you surround yourself with happy people, happiness has a way of sneaking and settling in. I am SO THANKFUL for my family. They bring me happiness. They also bring me joy and joy is so much sweeter than happiness. As my dad said in a sermon a few weeks ago: We can be unhappy and still be joyful. So, even when walking difficulties get me down, I am still joyful because I know the Lord works all things out for HIS glory.

Let me make it clear, even though walking was a little more difficult this past week, I didn’t fall. I didn’t trip. I didn’t slip. Compared to last year – I’m still rejoicing in the progress I have made. God is good all the time.

In my opinion, God reveals Himself in unique ways. I had Friday, December 23 off of work. I had just returned home from dropping something off at my parent’s house. As I pulled into my garage, I got the sudden urge to pick up all the branches in my yard that my trees had left behind from the rain. I don’t usually get urges like this, so I ran with it! As I was picking up branches in the yard, using neither a walker nor cane, it struck me – God was answering my prayers right then and there. I had prayed that morning that I would be able to walk without a cane or a walker that day and I was doing so. It also made me realize that I must be very, very specific with God. When I pray I should ask not just to be able to walk without a cane or a walker, but walk ALL DAY wherever I go without a cane or a walker. I had to laugh. I mean here I was picking up branches in my yard when God decides to give me a revelation that He IS listening to my prayers and He IS answering them. Not only did I pick up branches, I then got the urge to rake leaves and pull weeds out of my front flower bed. After about an hour or so of work, my lawn guy showed up and took over. I think that was God too. He knew I wouldn’t stop until the job was done, but He also knew that I would probably wear myself out, so he sent help in the form of my lawn guy. Andre relieved me of my duties outside, so I went inside and cleaned the entire house and wrapped all the remaining presents. What a fantastic, unexpected day. Thank you, Lord.

God just reminded me of the above day and I think it was on purpose. Today (before I started writing this post), I was feeling a little depressed, like “Whoa is me.” “This is as good as my walking will ever get.” “I’m never going to be able to walk without assistance.” And the phrases could go on and on. But God reminded me of Friday. Friday gave me hope. I CAN walk at times without assistance. This journey isn’t over with yet. God’s still teaching me and I’m still learning.

And now that I have written a mini book here, I’ll close this post. I hope some of my ramblings will be able to encourage others. I hope you can see that I’m trying to be as real as possible. I love the Lord. I know ALL things work for His good. I know He can and does heal. On the flip side, I also get sad, depressed, discouraged and impatient. But God’s Got This. Of this I am sure. So I wait on Him and sometimes in the waiting I find my greatest joys. I rejoice at and thank the Lord for the fun, the laughter, the love and the pure unbridled joy that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day brought me this year. My faith in the Lord, my family and my friends (of which you are!) bring me so much joy. I have much to be JOYFUL in – on this I will reflect. Again, I say GOD’s GOT THIS!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Turn-It-Down Tuesday: December 20

Tonight’s blog post will be short mainly because it’s Christmas on Sunday and I have a lot of present wrapping to do before then and tonight’s really the only night I can make a dent in it! It’ll also be short because I’m not really “in the mood” for writing – if you can believe that!

There are no new major developments to write about. I didn’t fall this past week and got along pretty well. However, I have a cut on my toe (the one next to my pinkie – what do call that toe?!) and it’s been driving me nuts all week. I got the cut because my toes kept rubbing up against my shoe. My toes kept rubbing against my shoe because my foot (and therefore my toes) kept getting spasms and my foot (therefore my toes as well) kept getting spasms because (I’ve come to the conclusion) I had the electricity in my deep brain stimulation device set too high. I also have a major callous on that foot (the left one) because again of the way I’ve been walking. My foot is covered in Band-Aids! So, with that being said, I actually turned the electricity down by .20 volts to 2.70. I am really, really trying to learn what’s “too much” and what’s “too little.” My conclusion: I still have a lot of learning left to do. ;) I’ve been praying about what I was supposed to do today: Turn the electricity up? Turn the electricity down? Do nothing? Now I wait and see if what I did (turning it down) was the right thing to do. If not, I can always turn it back up again.

I so want to be able to see results IMMEDIATELY!! God is still teaching me patience. I'm a very slow learner when it comes to that! ;) But, I cannot – will not – get discouraged this week because it’s Christmas!! I won’t focus on whether I can or cannot walk, but I will focus on the JOY that this season is all about.

For now, I’ll watch and wait and maybe even adjust the electricity more before next Tuesday, but whether I fall, stand tall, walk without issue or walk with nothing but issue – I’ll rejoice for the Lord Jesus Christ was born a baby in Bethlehem and all to grow up and die for ME (and YOU) and rise again to declare victory over sin, death and the devil. So…yes, I will REJOICE in ALL things because after all…GOD’s GOT This!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Shouting From The Rooftop - December 13

Last week, I switched to Frequency C and was admittedly a little scared to do so – fearing that I might “lose” what I had already gained. But, God showed up in a BIG way. I am so thankful He gave me the faith to just trust Him.

I could still see signs this past week that I probably needed to go a little higher on the electricity, but for the first time I actually felt my foot COMPLETELY relax when I took a step. I couldn't believe it. I was actually (no pun intended!) stunned by it. It was an amazing feeling. It didn’t last too long (which is why I knew I still had to go up on the electricity), but for the moments it did, it was nothing short of a miracle. My hand even calmed down too.

Wednesday night was the second Wednesday of Advent. How appropriate for me that it was all about peace.

Thursday night, I went and saw “A Christmas Carol” at the Clarence Brown Theatre with my mom, dad and my grandmother. It was a fantastic production. We had second row seats! Another reason it was so wonderful was that I didn’t have to deal with a walker. ;)

I took Friday off of work and didn’t really do much. I caught a cold, so I just hung out at the house. Friday night my mom and I went and saw a production of “Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells” put on by a local Christian theater group called the Word Players. It was good and again we had second row seats!

Mom gave me her and my dad’s Christmas letter. There’s one line in there that gets me every time I read it: “We rejoice that Stephanie no longer uses a walker due to her successful deep brain stimulation at Vanderbilt!” I want to read that line over and over and over again!

Saturday, I walked into Kroger without a walker OR a cart – just my cane. I have never done that before. It wasn’t even planned. I just did it. I know this is not monumental to probably any of you reading this, but it was to me. People saw me walking in. I walked in front of people. I walked with just a cane. Ahhh!!!!! I have never, ever been this excited to go grocery shopping. The place was PACKED and several people commented on that very fact. You would have thought that it was Christmas Eve. All I could think about was shouting to people, “Did you see me? Did you see me walk in here with nothing but a cane?!!” But I kept my composure and didn’t embarrass myself. I did walk out with a cart because I had a lot of groceries. Hands down, December 10 was a monumental day. I even marked it on my calendar as such– haha.

Sunday was the 3rd Sunday in Advent – Joy! And yet again, very appropriate for what I’m going through. One thing that really, really resonated with me is a line my dad said in his sermon: “You can be unhappy and still be joyous.” How very, very true! You don’t have to necessarily be happy to still have joy in your heart. I feel that that is 100 percent me. I am definitely not always happy, but yet deep down in my heart, I am still joyous. I’m joyous because I know God’s got me in the palm of His hand. He loves me with an unending love.

After church on Sunday, my mom and I decided to take Genevieve up to the Townsend Christmas parade for a little while. She had a blast and kept telling everyone, “Merry Christmas” and then they would give her candy. She had more fun picking up all the candy than anything else. We were walking back to our car at the end and there were horses from the parade getting loaded back into their trailers. Genevieve wanted to touch them, so we asked their owners and they said it was OK. She loved that! All in all – Sunday was a fabulous day!

I took the day off from work on Monday and finally felt like doing the things I initially wanted to do on Friday. And more epic moments came my way. For the first time by myself I walked into and out of Walmart and Hobby Lobby walker/shopping cart free. NO WALKER. NO SHOPPING CART. I walked with a cane. I didn’t fall. I didn’t even stumble. You can’t even possibly begin to understand how monumental this is for me. I had in the past walked in and out of stores just using a cane but my mom or someone else was always there in case I needed them. But this time, I was all by myself. Ya’ll for 11 years I’ve been dealing with walking issues. Monday, God gave me another gift in this journey. Don’t ever, ever, ever take anything you have for granted. If you can walk or run anywhere your heart desires – thank the Lord for it.

At the very, very beginning of this journey something happened that left an indelible mark on my life. I remember, like it was yesterday, leaving my aunt and uncle’s house in GA on my way to Duke University for a consult with a neurologist there. Mom and I had stopped in GA to celebrate the baptism of my cousin, Dan’s first child – Jackson. As we headed on our way to Duke, I remember distinctly looking out the window of the car and saying to myself, “As long as I can walk, I’ll be OK.” I don’t know what possessed me to think that or even say that to myself. And all these years later, I now know that I’ll be OK even if I CAN’T walk. Oh, grant it, there are people much worse off than me who literally can’t walk. I CAN walk and always have been able to with assistance. But, I’m just reminded of how arrogant I was back then: “God, just let me be able to walk. If I can walk, I’ll be OK.” Umm….I’m sure God was sitting on His throne thinking, “My child, you have a LONG way to go.” I truly believe that God did not cause my walking issues, but He did allow them. And all these many years later, I’m just starting to see glimpses of why. I’m learning – ever so slowly – that my life is not my own. It’s God’s.

Back to yesterday. After running errands, I went over to my parent’s house for just a little bit to see Genevieve again. She completely melted my heart. Twice she told me that she liked my hair as she ran her fingers through it. I love that little girl SO MUCH!!

Do you ever tend to stop praying specifically about what you want? I mean, you still pray about it, but in general terms? I must admit, I do. I pray, “Please God, may I walk again.” But sometimes, I’m reminded that I must pray specifically for what I want: “Please God, may I be able to walk cane and walker free. May I be able to walk on my own without any assistance.” I’ve been convicted in my heart to start those specific prayers back up. I need to tell God exactly what I want. It doesn’t mean He’ll grant me everything I want, but at least I will have asked. ;)

Today, I again took another vacation day from work and again something else amazing happened. I prayed specifically that I would walk cane and walker free and that I would not need any assistance. I decided to go up by .10 in the electricity in my deep brain stimulation device. I’m now at 2.90 volts on Frequency C.

I had to make a quick trip to Walgreens to pick up some pictures. When I got there, I walked in using my cane. Once I got inside though, I spotted a coupon book. I grabbed it and started looking through it and the next thing I knew, I was walking by myself. I had “hooked” the cane over my arm when I grabbed the coupon book and literally, the next thing I knew I was walking WITHOUT a walker, shopping cart or cane. Now, grant it, I do this at home or at my parent’s house where there is carpet, but I have never done it in a store. MONUMENTAL. God gave me “just enough” distraction with the coupon book to walk without thinking and without assistance.

God reminded me once again that He is all powerful. He is good. He hears my prayers and He answers them. He’s given me faith to keep going. I must humble myself before Him. I must not be arrogant. Even if I fall a million times tomorrow or the day after, He is still with me. I know the devil will try to attack, but my God is bigger. My God will win the war EVERY TIME. God’s God This!!!!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Turn-It-Over-And-Down Tuesday: December 6

I took last week off from work and it was a wonderful week. I missed my co-workers, but it was good to get the house decorated for Christmas and run errands. I had a great walking week too. Not flawless, but a great week nonetheless.

Wednesday (Nov 30) was the first Advent Wednesday of the season. I love Advent and Lent as much as I love Christmas and Easter. The first week of Advent is about Hope. This year, more than ever, Hope took on a whole new meaning. I have hope that God hears my prayers. My dad preached a sermon on Elizabeth. She was the cousin of Mary, the mother of Jesus. She had been unable to have a child, but that didn’t stop her, nor her husband, from praying for a child. God answered. Maybe 30 years after their first prayers went up, but nevertheless, HE ANSWERED. Elizabeth became the mother of John the Baptist. We should have the same hope. Maybe God won’t answer our prayers immediately. Maybe He won’t even answer them in the manner we like, but He hears and he answers – in HIS time. The other way Hope took on a new meaning for me this year is I now have an 8 month old niece/goddaughter named Hope. I can’t imagine life without her now. So, all the way around, the first week of Advent was a wonderful reminder of the hope we have in Jesus and how He cares for us!

Thursday, I ran errands and went shopping with my mom. I stunned myself by walking from Target down to Hobby Lobby ALL BY MYSELF (using the cane). They are pretty much right next to each other in Turkey Creek shopping center, but still a little jaunt for someone who has problems walking. My mom dropped me off at Target and then went and got her nails done. While she did that, I only had my own two feet and the cane to help me get around. I could have stayed the whole time in Target, but I really needed to go to Hobby Lobby too, so I walked. Sometimes I just need to try things to get over the fear of what may not even come to fruition. I am so happy that God gave me “just enough” courage to try.

On Sunday, I did something I hadn’t done in around 11 years: I used an umbrella!! I could never carry an umbrella and hold on to the walker at the same time, so I used a raincoat. But, Sunday, I finally got to use the yellow umbrella I purchased a couple of weeks ago. I was seriously happier about using the umbrella then I should have been. I mean, that’s not really something anyone cares that much about. But when you haven’t been able to do something in years, it’s kind of a momentous thing when you ARE able to do it. So, I used my yellow umbrella every chance I got on Sunday – even when it was only misting.

Also on Sunday, a church friend (Dave) said he thought of me earlier in the week as he was reading Golf Digest of all things. He asked if I knew what “the yips” was. I had heard of it before, but couldn’t remember where I’d heard of it or in what context. “Yips (according to Wikipedia) is the loss of fine motor skills without apparent explanation, in one of a number of different sports. Athletes affected by the yips demonstrate a sudden, unexplained loss of previous skills. Athletes affected by the yips sometimes recover their ability, sometimes compensate by changing technique, or may be forced to abandon their sport at the highest level.”

According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, “Yips are involuntary wrist spasms that occur most commonly when golfers are trying to putt. However, the yips can also affect people who play other sports — such as cricket, darts and baseball. It was once thought that the yips were always associated with performance anxiety. However, it now appears that some people have yips that are caused by a focal dystonia, which is a neurological dysfunction affecting specific muscles. Some people have found relief from the yips by changing the way they perform the affected task. For example, a right-handed golfer might try putting left-handed.”

Basically, “the yips” is a type of dystonia. Kind of cool. I told Dave, I felt like I had the yips going up to communion. I walk much better than I did on Sunday when I walked up to receive communion. When I think (or know) people are watching me walk, I trip up. Yep…definitely the yips. ;)

Also, I found it fascinating what the Mayo Clinic’s site said about how people found relief from the yips, because unknowingly, I’ve been doing just that. To calm my left hand down, I hold my cane in it. I’m not left handed. In fact, I do almost everything with my right hand, but since the surgeries, I’ve been using my left hand exclusively to hold my cane. It calms it down and gives it a purpose in life (haha).

Today, my co-worker, Debbie exclaimed, “Your hair is so long!” We haven’t seen each other in 3 weeks. I had taken a week off, then she took a week off and then we kept “missing” each other because when she was at work, I was off and when I was at work, she took off. Can you tell we are trying to use our vacation time before we lose it at the end of the year?! She couldn’t believe how much my hair had grown in 3 weeks. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do with my hair yet. There are days I like it short, but then there are days that I can’t wait for it to grow just a little more. I probably won’t grow it back out as long as it was, but shoulder length may work.

Today, I also did something I’ve never done before: I hit the “max” electricity that I’m allowed – ha! I had my device set on 4.40 volts on Frequency B. I had been praying about what to do. The conclusion I came to was that I was going to “up” the electricity one more time to 4.50 volts and if nothing happened, the following week, I would switch over to Frequency C. So I got my remote control out and tried to go to 4.50 with no success. It capped me at 4.40 volts. I could go down, but not up. So, for those who had or have been questioning if I have any guidance or direction on how high I can go with the electricity, apparently it’s 4.40 volts. :) I pondered for a moment on what I should do. I could stay at 4.40. I’ve seen success at that voltage. But at the same time, I know it can better. So…I took a leap of faith and switched frequencies. I’ll admit, for the first time, I actually was a little afraid to do so. I was afraid that the progress I had made on Frequency B might all be lost if I switched. But, you know what?! Sometimes you have to do what scares you the most to move forward in life. I’m now on Frequency C and back down to 2.80 volts (what it was set at when I changed to the frequency). Frequency C will vacillate (yes, that’s the word Dr. T. used and yes, I'm ashamed to admit, I had to look it up!) or basically rotate between Frequency A and Frequency B – that’s if I remember that correctly. Both Mom and I had a little difficulty in understanding what it exactly does. She heard one thing, I heard another. Dr. T. tried to explain it to us, but I’m still not sure if we’re sure we understand it – ha! I do remember him saying that some patients thrive on this frequency and it’s a great way to save on battery life. Now, I just wait and see.

As I close this post, I’m reminded once again that God’s hand is in, over and around all things. I must not worry about what may not even come to fruition. I must trust in God and constantly remember that God’s Got This!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Turn-It-Up Tuesday: November 29

Happy Tuesday after Thanksgiving! It being Tuesday, I’ve once again upped the electricity in my deep brain stimulation device by .10. I’m now up to 4.40 volts. This past week made me realize that I’m still not “there” yet in regards to the right amount of electricity. Oh, I didn’t fall, nor did I have any really bad days, but I just know in my heart, I’m not there yet. I can’t really explain it, you’ll just have to trust me.

I do want to share some exciting news: I walked the length of my driveway and back with nothing but my own two legs and feet!! No amount of words can describe my giddiness over this. This is going to sound weird, but I didn’t even realize what I had done until I was halfway down the driveway. I was “distracted” by the fact that I was lining my driveway with Christmas lights. But, halfway down the drive, I realized what I was doing and then promptly stumbled a little, but didn’t fall. I tried walking my driveway again today and I did it - no walker OR cane!! I realize that sometimes I’m my own worst enemy. When I start to think about walking, I stumble. When there's no prompting, no over-analyzing, no overthinking, no expectations, I do it - I walk! Grant it, there are days when not even “not thinking” about it helps – that’s when I know the physical symptoms outweigh psyching myself out. Sometimes mind over matter works but other times the physical symptoms are just too much. As like most things in life, it’s a balancing act.

My toes kept curling under this past week – more than usual. I actually have callouses on my toes where I couldn’t lay them flat (even when really concentrating on doing so) and they rubbed up against my shoe. My left hand has been a little bothersome as well. My knuckles hurt from where I’ve had my hand balled up in a fist. It’s not really noticeable to anyone because thankfully I hold my cane in my left hand and it masks the symptoms. I do a "Dr. House" thing. I'm actually supposed to hold my cane in my right hand since my problematic side is my left side, but, I've found that holding the cane in my left hand works on so many different levels that I don't care that I'm "doing it wrong." My doctors don't seem to mind either, which I'm extremely thankful for. If I used my right hand to hold my cane, I do believe my left hand would be more noticeable. Let me make it clear – I’m not complaining about anything, just merely stating facts. I am in a MUCH, MUCH better place than I was a year ago. I still get overwhelmed with awe at how God has and keeps working in my life.

My mom is an eternal optimist. She is able to find something good in every situation. Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit this quality from her. I’m more the “woe is me” type. But strangely enough through this whole experience, I’m starting to see myself being a little more optimistic. I just re-read what I wrote in that last sentence and it makes no logical sense to me. I should be more pessimistic, because that’s my personality. But, when it comes right down to it, I’m not. God is changing my heart. I WANT to be more optimistic. I WANT people to see what God’s doing in my life. I WANT to be able to find some good in every situation. How can I NOT be anything but optimistic when I have so much to be thankful for, so much to praise God for? More than my walking getting better (and don’t get me wrong, great walking days make me SO happy!!), I’m learning to rely more on God then myself. I’m learning that what’s been handed to me doesn’t make me who I am in my core. Yes, my optimism is growing. My faith is growing. God’s Got This and because of that, I can be joy-filled in my soul.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Turn-It-Up Tuesday: November 22

My birthday was back in June, but the fulfillment of one of my birthday gifts happened this past week: I saw Dolly Parton in concert! The irony of it all is that while I live 45 minutes away from Pigeon Forge and Sevierville where Dolly is from, I went back to the state in which I was born (Alabama) to see her. Her Pigeon Forge concert sold out in probably mere minutes, so my mom and I took a road trip to Huntsville. As my mom commented it was my first “walker-free” road trip. A lot can change in 7 months.

Dolly was superb. Mom and I had so much fun. We had great seats and I didn’t fall once. While I did hang on to Mom while walking, it was mostly so we could go fast. I am still exceedingly slow and methodical, but holding on to Mom made me speed up. :)

Mom and I stayed at a hotel that was less than a mile away from the venue in which Dolly was performing at. We found out that there was a shuttle service to and from the concert, so we took advantage of that and it turned out to be awesome. We were let off right in front of the door and picked up at the same spot. We didn’t have to fight for or pay for parking. I found it amusing that I recognized and actually somewhat enjoyed the “perks” of walking with a cane. When people see you coming, they immediately part the Red Sea for you – ha!

Dolly, Dolly, Dolly….what can I say?! She was amazing, genuine, funny, at home, the consummate performer. Her voice was beautiful. I am so blessed and thankful that I got to see her. As Mom put it, “We have to see her before she either retires or dies.” I mean she is 70…so retirement may be soon. ;)

Mom and I had a wonderful stay at our hotel. We slept in and then ate breakfast. On our way back to Tennessee we stopped at Ollie’s discount store. Neither one of us had ever been in one. It was awesome. We spent quite a few hours in there. ;) The reason I bring Ollie’s up is two things happened there. One, I bought an umbrella!! OK, I know this isn’t breaking news, but I have not had an umbrella in 11 years, so it is kind of breaking news for me. I haven’t been able to carry an umbrella - much less use one - while using a walker. I’ve been contemplating buying one for the last few months, however I wanted a YELLOW one because it can quickly be identified in a sea of black umbrellas and because I wanted a cheerful color to brighten a rainy day. I had been looking for a yellow umbrella, but had not found one. That is until Ollie’s. I found and bought my yellow umbrella! Now, I just can’t wait to use it.

The second thing that happened at Ollie’s was that I bought some candles. But being the clumsy person I am, as soon as I got to the car, I promptly dropped them and they shattered. By this time, my legs were starting to get tired. But, I had to walk back in the store and tell the clerk what had happened. I was completely willing to pay for new ones, but she was super nice and didn’t charge me at all. I got to pick new ones out. I think it did help somewhat to be walking with a cane. ;) She made sure to bundle my new candles up so I wouldn’t have any more accidents and thankfully, I didn’t.

Mom and I had great conversation in the car and throughout the entire trip. I am so incredibly thankful for this gift of time with her and making memories.

I turned up the electricity in my DBS device again today by .10. I am still curling my toes under.

One of these days though, one of these days, I’m going to write a post and be able to proclaim success. What am I saying?! I’ve already had success! I mean, all I have to do is look back to last year and see that I’ve had success. Thank you, Jesus! I do have faith though that I will continue to see success. God’s priming me for something big. Maybe that something big is already taking place and I’m just not aware of it yet, but I know, without a shadow of a doubt that God’s plan is a million times better than anything I could ever even dream or imagine. I didn’t fall once this past week. I got everywhere I needed to go without using a walker. God’s working and I see it. Life isn’t perfect, but God is. He knows what He’s doing. I rest in that. God’s Got This!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Turn-It-Up Tuesday: November 15

I’ve stopped and started this post numerous times. I can’t find the “right” words to say. I want to be so very happy for the progress I’ve made, but on the other hand I read of people in utterly devastating circumstances, reeling from the loss of loved ones and I can’t help but feel a little guilty for my happiness. In the scheme of things, being able to walk or not walk seems completely frivolous when others are dealing with life and death situations. But, in the end, I’ve decided tonight to share my joy. I hope it helps, even for those who are hurting so deeply they don’t know where their next breath will come from. My heart breaks for those whose heart is broken. I ache for those who ache. I rejoice with those who rejoice.

This past week has been wonderful. Not perfect, but so very wonderful. I haven’t fallen. I feel (for the most part!) a lot steadier on my feet. It’s been what I needed. I’m coming to grips with the fact that I may just have “off” days/weeks/months, but in the end God makes everything beautiful again. He may bring me to the brink, but before He lets my foot fall, He pulls me back to safety. If only I remembered this in the moment that I feel like I’m falling off a cliff; that would be icing on the cake! Ha. But, seriously, God is good all the time. It may take me a day or two to realize what He’s done, but I am so, so thankful He gives me the ability to realize it at all!

I am going to say something that I never in a million years thought I’d say. It may be completely shocking to some. I confessed to my mom yesterday that I may, just may, actually, kind-of, a teeny-bit, like my hair the length it is now. For someone who has had long hair most of my life, I’ve completely shocked myself with this revelation. Grant it, I don’t love my hair every day. Who does?! But, it’s growing on me (and no, that wasn’t meant as a pun!). It took a co-worker acquaintance to help me realize this. Last week, she was walking through my row of cubes at work, stopped, turned around and said, “I’m no stylist, but I LOVE your hair. I don’t think you should grow it back out. It was one heck of an ordeal that you had to go through to get it, but I love your hair.” For the past few weeks, dare I even say months, people have been telling me how much they love my hair, but it’s been people that are close to me, whom I love. I thought they were just saying that to be nice. But hearing it from an “outsider” made it hit home. I still have time to change my mind, but as of today, I like the length. I LOVE the curl. I also love how easy it is (at least most mornings). There are terrible, no-good, bad hair days though too. On those days, I’m just grateful to have hair at all.

I turned the deep brain stimulation device up, just one notch to 4.20. I feel like I may be on the cusp of being at the right level, but just not quite there yet. So, I’ll see what 4.20 does. Eventually, I may want to test the waters with level C (I’m on level B now), especially before I go back to Vanderbilt at the end of January, but for now, I’ll leave it on B. The goal: to walk walker AND cane free.

Someone asked me today if the surgeries, the disappointments, the frustrations, the doctor’s appointments, the shaving off of all my hair were all worth it. I didn’t even let her finish her sentence before I blurted out – YES! A million times over yes! I would go through it all again if I had to – it is SO worth it. And this is coming from a perfectionist who is NOT seeing “perfect” results, but results just the same. All of this is so worth it. Last year at this time, the only way for me to get from point A to point B was using a walker. Today, I can use a cane. I never thought I’d be so happy to say I’m using just a cane, but perspectives change!! Here's an example of this: I got to an appointment a few minutes early today. I was kind of glad because I had enough time to use the bathroom before it. But then I remembered that the bathroom there was super small. At first, I thought, “Oh shoot, I can’t use the bathroom here because it’s too small and my walker won’t fit in it.” But then, a HUGE smile came across my face when I realized I wasn’t using, nor had the walker with me. It’s a small thing for most people, but for me, it’s so, so big.

The next “big step” for me will be to actually remove the walker from my car.;) It’s my safety net now. I haven’t used it in months, but it’s a comfort to know it’s there if I need it. I know it’s silly, but it is what it is. Maybe by the end of the year I’ll remove it. Maybe. I’ve learned and am continuing to learn that I have to do things on my own timeline. If I rush it, it won’t work. If I try to fit in to everyone else’s expectations (or what I think are other’s expectations of me), it won’t work. I just have to walk to the beat of my own drum. God’s timing is perfect.

This morning, I quickly got on Facebook for about two minutes and one of those “memories” posts came up. This very day last year, my sweet friend, Kristen drove me to Vanderbilt. I checked into the hospital and prepared for the spinal tap I’d have the next day to see if a Baclofen pump would help me in any way. I was very grateful that it ended up not working. It lead to where I am today and what a difference a year makes. I am so incredibly thankful and blessed. All the tears and frustrations and tests and worries – God worked (and is continuing to work) them all out.

I’ve experienced every emotion possible in this journey and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so, but for right now, I’m rejoicing in happiness. If you know me at all, you know I tend to have more of a worried/melancholy view of life. My immediate reaction to things is to be pessimistic – to always expect the worst. I think in some ways I look at life that way so as to protect myself, to prepare myself for when things go horribly wrong. I use it as a coping mechanism. But the beautiful surprise in this journey has been how God has worked and is continuing to work in my life. This journey overall has brought me more optimism then I ever thought possible. I’m seeing things through a different lens these days. I’m more joyful and content. I'm happier. It takes work to see things more optimistically when my tendency is not to see things that way, but I am seeing changes. I had heard that DBS surgery could change people's personalities for the worst, but never had I heard it changing people’s personalities for the best. In reality, I know it’s not the surgery that’s changed my outlook on life; it’s God that’s changed it. Could it be that the greatest blessing(s) I get out of this whole journey is/are something even greater than being able to walk without assistance?! God’s working on me. I still have a way to go, but GOD’S GOT THIS!!!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Turn-It-Up Tuesday: November 8

After having some not so great walking days in the past few weeks, this past week was wonderful! It’s amazing to me (but shouldn’t be) how a streak of good walking days can brighten my outlook on life. I shouldn’t be amazed by this, for I know the Lord is behind and in every fabulous day. I also know he’s there on the not-so-fabulous days too and for all of this, I thank him profusely. I continue to marvel at how He’s working in my life.

My second week of being at 4.00 volts of electricity was MUCH better than my first week at that level. I didn’t fall and felt more stable than I have in a while and yet – my toes still curled under. So – today, I upped the electricity up to 4.10 volts to see if that will allow my toes to lay flat.

This past weekend was soul reviving. Soul reviving because I got to spend some quality time with my 2 year old niece. Seeing life through her eyes is truly magical. An example of this was: She started digging in gravel and I asked her what she was doing. She said she was digging for treasure. When her treasures are rocks and pebbles, sticks and grass, it reminds me of what truly matters in life. Faith. Family. Friends. Relationships. That’s what matters most. I took Genevieve to Cades Cove.

I thought a drive around the 11 mile loop would be awesome, but it turned out to be so much more. We got out at almost every stop. We explored the cabins and walked and walked and walked in fields of grass. I didn’t fall once. I didn’t trip. I didn’t slip. I was able to move and explore and just live life without worrying about falling.

Randomly, I would say, “I love you, Genevieve.” And she would respond, “I love you, Teplanie.” Melt my heart! I took pictures of her and then she asked to take pictures of me. I gave her my phone and she went to town!

Then she chased butterflies. She chased me. We had a blast. She declared a wood shack “her house”. She doesn’t see me as “broken” or “disabled” or “different” in any way. The first time she saw me with my real hair (after I stopped wearing the wig) she said, "Hair! Pretty. I touch?" (We taught her not to touch the wig since it would get dirty faster if she did). Then she said, "Curly. I like." This past weekend, when I held her, she'd mindlessly run her fingers through my hair. Those little moments are what I'll remember forever. She’s so pure and innocent and I love that. She’s not prejudiced. She loves me for me. I love her for her. I’m her aunt and she’s my niece. She laughed and giggled all day long. Because she laughed and giggled all day, I laughed and giggled all day. That was soul reviving to me. I didn’t know how much I needed that until I had it. The only thing I could think to pray all weekend was, “Thank you”. Thank you, Jesus for giving me, TWO precious treasures to love. I have two nieces that I love with all of my heart. I can’t wait to take the other niece to Cades Cove when she’s older. When I look at my nieces, I ask God what I did to deserve them in my life. I know the answer is: I did nothing. I didn’t do anything to be this blessed, but I realize that God gave me these beautiful treasures as a gift and all I can say is, “Thank you, Jesus!”

God’s working on my fear of walking in front of people. The fear is dissipating. It’s not gone entirely, but it’s better. I feel a little more confident. I still get jittery in certain situations, but I realize that I can’t live life without having to walk in front of people – ha! So, I just have to walk and trust God that I won’t fall. And if I fall, I have to trust God that I’ll get back up again. I may be embarrassed for a moment or two, but in the grand scheme of things, I’ll be OK!! I’m a little scared that I’m typing this tonight and that I’ll fall tomorrow and not be so confident. But you know what? That’s life. I can’t just lay down and die. I have to get from Point A to Point B. No matter how hard it may be, I have to do it. Make no mistake, this past week was not perfect, but no one is perfect except God Himself. So – I walk. I pray for courage. I pray for confidence. I pray for healing. I trust God that all will be OK.

In the past, I’ve had multiple days and/or weeks of feeling like I can’t walk without falling followed by multiple days and/or weeks of good walking. Even if this remains the case, I know God’s in control. I will REJOICE greatly if good walking days remain forever, but I’ll REJOICE in whatever God’s plan is, because no matter what, God’s Got This!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Tune-In Tuesday: November 1

I’m starting this entry off with good news: no falling this past week! Oh, there were near misses, including one today, but NO FALLS.

More good news (for you!): I’m exhausted tonight and it’s only Tuesday. ;) But because of that, this blog entry will be rather short.

Nothing “big" (good or bad) happened walking wise this past week. Sometimes it’s good to be mundane!

Today, I decided to leave the electricity in my deep brain stimulation device on 4.00 volts. I’m not keeping it at 4.00 because I can suddenly walk without issue, but rather I want to see if my walking gets any better as the days go by. I would have said yesterday, that the answer to that would have been no, but God likes surprising me and today walking was just a tad bit better! My toes still curl under but not as drastically as they had been. At times, I see signs of too much electricity, but at other times, I see signs of too little. So, I’ll keep experimenting until I don't need to experiment any more. I can't tell you when that will be - only God knows! It'll happen when He speaks it.

Someone at church commented that I’m “slow and steady”. I said, “Well, I’ve got the slow part down, but not so much the steady part.” ;)

I know that God is for me, so who can be against me? God gives me everything I need, when I need it. Sometimes, I have to remind myself daily, hourly, minute-by-minute, not to worry or fear, but that’s what keeps me humble and in prayer. There is a reason that my life verse is Philippines 4:6: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

Thank you for the continued prayers and love. I am blessed beyond measure. All I need to remember is, "God's Got This!"

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Turn-It-Up Tuesday: October 25

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

One of my Facebook friends posted the above quote and it's exactly where I'm at right now, so I had to share it. This past week wasn’t what I was expecting, but maybe that’s the reason God allowed it to play out like it did. My successes weren’t final. My failures weren’t fatal and God’s given me just the right amount of courage to continue on. Thank you, Winston Churchill for saying that – it perfectly describes what I'm going through!

It’s officially been Fall for a little over a month now, but (at least here in Knoxville) it hasn’t felt like Fall until this past Thursday into Friday. Knoxville dropped 29 degrees in 24 hours.

What happens in Fall, you ask? Well, apparently, I fall. Literally. Yes, that’s right, my streak of no falling ended in fine form on Thursday with my first fall of Fall. The irony is not lost on me.

I was already having a rough morning before the fall as I woke up with a massively bloody nose. So, I had that going for me. I got to work fine and I got in to work fine…it was just on my way to my desk that I let my guard down for one tiny second and the next thing I knew I was on my knees. I was wearing a dress and was loaded down with my laptop, purse and lunch. I landed hard, but just as fast as I went down, I got back up again. Someone came out of their office and asked if I was OK. I assured her I was. Thankfully no one saw me. ;) I got to my desk and then realized, my knees were bleeding. All this before 8am. Welcome, fall-like weather!!

I thought maybe falling would actually loosen me up some (I’m weird like that), but Thursday turned out not to be the best walking day. I made it the rest of the day without falling again, but walking was definitely a struggle. At the end of the day my sweet, sweet co-worker, Debbie offered to walk out to my car with me. I didn’t object. I didn’t want to ask, but since she offered, I accepted. I was and am extremely grateful for her. She was the “just enough” distraction to get me to walk on my own (with the cane, but not needing to hold on to her or a walker or anything else) to my car without falling, tripping or slipping. I literally almost started crying because of how sweet not only she is but how sweet my entire department is towards me. I know if I asked any last one of them to help me, they would do it. They have done it. I could not be more blessed to work with the group of people that I work with. I really don’t deserve them. Thursday was a tough day, but then again was it, really? I think it was more a tough few minutes than an entirely tough day.

Friday morning I woke up and wrestled with the idea of turning the electricity up in my deep brain stimulation device. By the time I was done with my shower and after praying about it, I made the decision to do just that. Only by .10 to 3.80 volts, but UP nonetheless.

It gave me enough confidence to walk into work with minimal issues. Debbie asked if I needed/wanted her to walk out with me to my car again that day. I said no, but she must have sensed the hesitation in my voice or recognized something in me, because almost inconspicuously, she headed toward the elevator and pushed the down button. I told her again, I’d be fine, but she insisted and I think she could tell that I did really want her to walk with me. According to Debbie, I did walk better that day then on Thursday, but she knew I’d be much less stressed if she walked with me. So she did, without anything for me to show her how much I appreciated her other than a hug and a “thank you”. After I left work on Friday I did feel like I could make it around the grocery store for a few items I needed. I held on tight to a cart, but survived with no falls, slips or trips.

I slept in on Saturday. I think my body needed the rest. Sometimes, I feel like I expend more energy and burn more calories, walking to my car then I do when I actually exercise. (I know this isn’t true, but it feels like it). I did get out of the house though on Saturday and I early voted.

Sunday, I woke up and wrestled some more with the idea of turning the electricity in my DBS device up even more. In the end, I did just that. Again - only by .10 volts. I was now up to 3.90 volts.

Sometimes the brain just needs a jolt of electricity. I kept going back to what the DBS nurse said about the brain getting complacent sometimes.

Monday, I made it in to work OK. I didn’t fall, but it wasn’t as easy as it’s been in the past. When I really sit back and think about this whole thing, it makes me laugh. It really does. I mean, walking should be one of the easiest things to do in life. But it’s not for me. I can’t force myself to just walk fine. Believe me, I’ve tried! I can’t just put mind over matter. I’ve tried that too. It’s frustrating and fascinating at the same time. Monday night, Debbie asked if I needed help out to my car. This time I told her I could do it. There may have still been some hesitation in my voice, but I HAD to try it by myself or I’d never do it. As I was walking towards the elevator, I heard someone behind me, so I stopped and told him that he could pass me because it was going to take me “forever”. He laughed and as he passed by he said “but you’re doing good!” Confidence boosting. So I tried and I succeeded and God gave me just the right amount of courage and confidence to do it. It wasn’t “perfect", but I didn’t fall. I didn’t slip. I didn’t trip. So, in my book, in this chapter, that was “perfect” enough for me.

Today, I turned the device up more. I’m now at 4.00 volts.

We’ll see what happens. I didn’t trip, slip or fall, so I’m calling today a success. God is teaching me courage and patience ad confidence and trust and about a million other things!! I'm a slow leaner, but it's catching on.

On a lighter note: I found my "doctor's excuse" for never having to go skydiving. But I can't go scuba diving either and that actually sounds interesting to me now. Go figure! Oh well. At least it doesn't have parasailing, zip lining, riding in a helicopter or ice skating on the list!

This past week has been one of the tougher ones, but not the worst one. It’s given me many, many points on which to learn from and grow from. As always…God’s Got This!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Turn-It-Up Tuesday: October 18

I don’t know if this is a direct result of brain surgery, or maybe it’s a direct result of being a hermit the past 11 years, but since my surgery, I’ve wanted to do things that scare me, but also thrill me. I'm starting to knock them off the list. To date, I’ve gone tubing on the lake, I’ve tried (tried being the operative word!) climbing a rock wall, I’ve ridden a camel (I wasn’t afraid of this, I’ve just been wanting to do it for a very, very long time!) and just this past Saturday, I rode a motorcycle for the very first time. I'm not reckless in any way, however, I’m starting to finally live life. I'm starting to do things I’ve been wanting to do and not worrying, caring or otherwise letting anything else get in my way of doing those things. Grant it, I didn't tell my family or friends I was going to ride a motorcycle, but I think that was mainly me thinking I might back out of doing it! But, I did it and LOVED it. And then I told my family and friends. ;) One of my bosses asked me today what was next on my list and I told him (family - here's your warning that I may do these things soon!) it’s riding in a helicopter, zip-lining and parasailing (in no particular order). I’m by no means a daredevil and there are things that absolutely terrify me that I still have NO desire to do (skydiving, riding rollercoasters, holding a snake are just three of them), but I really, really want to do the other things. I’m terrified of heights and yet, riding in a helicopter intrigues me. I would love to ride in LifeStar (the helicopter that transports patients to hospitals), but NOT as a patient. I rode in an ambulance once and don't remember a thing about it (since I was the patient). I DON'T want to ride in LifeStar as a patient!! So maybe I'll just take a helicopter ride in the Smokies, instead of LifeStar. I’ve been wanting to zip-line for a couple of years now and parasailing has always intrigued me. Eventually, I also want to ice skate. I don’t feel like I have quite enough balance to do it yet, but who knows maybe I’ll just try it any way. I know these may be silly things to most people, but I don’t care – they are things I want to do! You know when people say “do something that scares you every day”? Well, it struck me today when I was talking with one of my bosses that I am doing something every day that scares me – I walk. He asked, “Doesn’t it get easier, the more you do it?” I had to be honest and say no. It’s not that kind of fear, I guess. I don’t really have an answer as to why it doesn’t get easier. I don't know if this will change or stay like it is. I have really good days and then really not so good days. I’m thankful for the good days and wear God’s ear out on the bad days.

On Sunday, my dad preached a sermon on persistence in prayer (Luke 18:1-8 – the parable of the persistent widow). It was just the sermon I needed! Yes, he’s my dad and yes he knows what I’m going through, but to have a sermon like he did and have it speak to my soul – that’s only a God thing!! As he was preaching, the thought came to me: What if God wants me to stay in constant prayer with Him? What if He wants me to stay in constant contact with Him? Maybe He’s allowing me to still have fear of walking, so that I will cry out to Him over and over. No sooner had I had that thought, then my dad said the exact same words. I mean seriously – that is GOD!!! It’s true though…I pray the hardest, the longest, the most earnest, the most real and the most fervent when I don’t want to fall. When things are going great in life, I tend to slack off in my prayer life (I’m just being honest). But when walking is hard or seems impossible, I wear God’s ear out. I don’t know how many times I say over and over and over again, “Please don’t let me fall. Please don’t let me slip. Please don’t let me trip. Please don’t let me get “stuck”. Please don’t let me be embarrassed.” until I reach my destination. When I reach my destination, I start praying over and over again a new prayer, “Thank you, Jesus! I didn’t trip. I didn’t slip. I didn’t fall. I made it. Thank you, thank you, thank you!” I’m not lying…this is exactly what I do, every day. Now, if I could walk flawlessly, do you think I’d be in fervent prayer every single day? Probably not! I never pray as hard and fervently as I do when I’m walking. For you it may be something entirely different. Maybe you’re praying that God would take cancer away from you or a loved one. Or maybe you are praying to find your significant other. Whatever you pray for and so desperately want – don’t you persist at it?! I also loved the fact that my dad said (echoing the words of Jesus), “There is nothing too small to pray about – nothing!!!” It gives me contentment that I can pray, “Don’t let me fall.” and God doesn’t laugh at it. If you only knew some of the other prayers I pray, I promise you, you’d probably laugh, but God doesn’t and that’s what matters most! Pray without ceasing. Pray!!

A funny story: one day this past week, I walked out of work with one of my co-workers. Once we got outside I turned to my right to go to my car and he turned to the left to go to his. He was probably in his car on the way out of the parking lot when I probably wasn’t even half-way to my car. :) I walked on until I got to my car and drove off. Just a couple of days ago, he told me what happened after that. When he was leaving the parking lot, he saw me walking on the sidewalk. The next morning, I had an appointment to go to and he was just arriving for work. He said he had to do a double-take because he saw me in the EXACT same spot I was in the night before when he drove off. He said he wondered to himself, “Surely, she hasn’t been stuck in that same spot overnight!” I laughed and assured him that I did make it to my car the night before, did go home and did come back. I told him if worse comes to worse, I’m not below crawling to my car, but thankfully, I’ve never had to do that!

All the sudden yesterday, my hair started to part automatically like I've had it for 35 years. So, I'm just going with it!

Walking has not been the best this past week, but just like last week, I can triumphantly declare that at the end of each day I was able to lie in bed and marvel at the fact that not once did I ever fall, trip or slip. I made it another week with God’s help. I turned up the electricity in my device by .10 this morning and now I’m at 3.70 volts on frequency B. I’m still seeing that my toes curl under and my foot draws in, so that means I need more electricity. But with more electricity, my left hand went a little wild today. I guess it needs time to settle down! ;) Ironically, when I needed it to do something, it did it perfectly. It was just when it was “at rest” that it started moving weird. I don’t know how to explain it in words, you'll just have to either trust me on this or see it in person. It’s annoying but not troublesome, which is how I’m going to gage things these days. I was amazed though that when I put my cane in my hand, my hand held tightly to it and worked! So we’ll see what this new level does for my walking.

I still declare deep brain surgery as one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given. If I get no better than I am right now, I’m OK with that. Of course, I DO want to still get better and better and I think I will, but no matter what I’m thankful for the progress I’ve made. I’ve been given freedom I didn’t have before. I’ve been given a new spark in life (no pun intended). I want to live life fully and abundantly. I want to be joyful always and thankful every day. I marvel at what God has done, what God is doing and what God will do in my life. God’s Got This and that being said, I know I’m safe with Him.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Turn-It-Up Tuesday: October 11

Last week I said I was going to stay at 3.40 volts for 2 weeks. Well….today, I turned it up to 3.60. I know, I know, I know…but Dr. T. had stated that I could turn it up if need be and the need arose. I’m kind of shocked I waited a full week to turn it up. My toes are still curling under and my foot is still turning in – all signs that I need more electricity. While this past week was nowhere near being the worst, it definitely hasn’t been at the top of my greatest weeks either. HOWEVER, as my co-workers reminded me, was it worse than before the surgery? Did I fall? The answer is NO and NO – so, in retrospect, it wasn’t a bad week in the least bit! The resounding theme has been God’s protection over me. Every night when I lay in bed, I marvel at how the day played out.

Thursday, I was bragging a little on how my cane was “getting in the way”. I felt like I could leave it behind and just walk at certain times. However, lest I get too boastful or proud, God only allowed a taste of what’s to come. By Friday, I was unsteady on my feet again. The good walking only lasted a day, but it was “just enough” to revive hope.

I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE how God puts people in the right place at the right time. I can’t get over how He continues to protect me and love me, even when I don’t deserve it. Like I mentioned above, I was feeling a little unsteady on my feet on Friday. I said as much to my co-workers (hence the conversation about whether it was as bad as before the surgery). One of my co-workers left for the day before I did – or so I thought. I had just exited the building when I heard the door behind me open again. My first thought was, “Oh great, now I’m going to have to walk in front of someone.” But it was Sarah!! She asked if I needed help and at the same time said she wasn’t watching me walk. Haha – she knows me!! Well, two things happened. One – something flew into my eye (even though I had sunglasses on) and I couldn’t NOT stop and try to get it out. It was so bad that it actually distracted me enough that I quit thinking solely about walking. It took FOREVER to get out of my eye, but did eventually come out. The other thing that happened was Sarah started walking with me (her car was in the opposite direction of where my car was parked) and we started talking about anything BUT walking and in so doing I walked all the way to my car without falling. I don’t know if Sarah planned this whole thing or not. She really did leave before me, but somehow ended up exiting the building AFTER me. I’m just going to say it was “God thing” and leave it at that. I couldn’t be more grateful or thankful for her. She was the “just enough” distraction to get me to walk on my own and was and is a huge blessing in my life.

Saturday night, I went to “Boo at the Zoo” with my nieces. Little G and Baby H have been hands down one of the greatest blessings in my life. I love those girls with all my heart. I can’t get enough of them. I thought I could do the zoo with just a cane. Well, first – I haven’t been to the Knoxville Zoo since I was a teenager and 2nd I still was not on my “A” game walking wise, so I was eternally grateful that Baby H came with her stroller. The zoo is surprisingly very hilly and not laid out all that great (in my opinion). It turns out, I don’t think I would have been able to do it without any help. So, I was ecstatic to push her stroller as I used it like a walker. Hope’s momma held her the whole time, so people would peek into the stroller expecting to see a baby and I’d have to tell them, “Oh, the baby’s up there!” I’m so humbled that even in that situation, God provided. I didn’t fall, I didn’t trip. I didn’t slip. Technically, I still haven’t used the walker in weeks, but I did kind of cheat on Saturday with the stroller. But sometimes you have to do what you have to do in situations like that.

Sunday, I was ever so grateful again for people placed in strategic places to help me (knowingly or not!). I love how God does that. One church member came out to meet me in the parking lot as I arrived and asked if I needed help. He said he saw that the wind got to me. Haha, this was a true statement. Not that I’m so light the wind will just carry me away, but sometimes it does make it very hard to walk!! I had a few near misses (I almost fell into someone!) but I made it into church without falling. My friend, Whitney was there to help when I felt like I was losing my balance. And then on the way back to my car after church, Sam and Kristen (whether they knew it or not!) helped me be distracted “just enough” to keep me walking “by myself” all the way to my car without falling. I did chicken out a little and decide NOT to go to the grocery store on Sunday night because I didn’t feel steady enough, but sometimes I have to realize it is what is and even if I have a “bad” day, it’s only a day (or a minute, or an hour…) and move on. At the end of the day, I can say God protected me and allowed me not to fall.

My mom truly has a servant’s heart. I casually told her that I wasn’t going to the grocery store and she offered to get my groceries for me. She didn’t have to do that. I would have found a way or just waited until I felt better, but I’m so thankful for her and her willingness to do it for me. There was a time at the very beginning of this journey that she was grocery shopping for me every single week. That’s something I’ll always remember and always be thankful for. She literally will do anything for anyone. She brought the groceries over last night. I still wasn’t feeling right, but yesterday ended with NO falls.

This morning I had a dentist appointment. The ladies in the office said I looked “glowing”. I love that. I want to glow. I hope it eventually shines through - even on bad days. I still get highly frustrated and annoyed, but underneath all of that there is truly pure joy. My goal is to let that be known to all I come in contact with. I have joy in my heart and hopefully a glow to my demeanor. God has given me a huge gift. I am so blessed to have had this surgery. I can’t stress that enough. You’re probably thinking, “Surgery, a gift?!?!”, but yes, I do consider it a gift. I know it’s not for everyone and by no means is it perfect, but compared to a year ago – wow, I’m just in awe of how the Lord works. I am incredibly grateful.

God’s Got This. He always has and He always will. That’s what I’m resting on this week. He doesn’t promise us easy, but He promises He’ll be with us every step of the way. Believe me when I tell you, I KNOW He’s with me every painfully slow, agonizingly scary, gloriously triumphant step of the way!!