Layla Freeman is the author of Hope in the Struggle and the founder of the non-profit, Light of Hope. She has lived through addiction, grief, abuse, change, and ultimately, grace and salvation through Jesus.
This "Hey Mom" blog was written by Surprise Gift Co/Lisa
When my 4 kids were younger this is how mornings started for me.. Mom can I have some cereal? I don’t want cereal I want a pop tart. Not pop tarts, again, I want some pancakes. No I don’t like pancakes, will you make some waffles? Mom we’ll just have cereal. Hey mom we are out of milk…..
I’m not sure about you, but listening to that many voices all before 7:45 AM made me want to crawl back into bed and get a restart.
It’s changed a bit in my house over the years, it sounds more like Hey mom I need some money for lunch, gas, books, contacts, basketball, my date (uh, no) nail polish, dinner, shoes, Starbucks, movies, clothes, jeep parts, hairspray…. And this was just this week.
It is no wonder I have perfected the fine art of “tuning out”. I am actually quite good according to my family.. mom, mom, momma, hey mom, LISA.. and my head pops up! If only my family could come up with something different, such as “hey beautiful” and they would immediately have my attention.
There was a time tuning out did not work at all in my favor… When Kelson was a toddler he came into the kitchen, where I was whipping up the mac & cheese and cooking my food on a stick, completely tuned out as I remember because Barney the purple dinosaur was singing I love you, you love me for about the 16th time that day…. he held up his finger to me and said boo-boo. Looking down I noticed there were no blood, no big tears, and no big brother in the background about to explain how it wasn’t his fault. So I promptly kissed his little finger, gave him a smile and patted his little head. I turned my attention back to retrieving the sticks before burning and I noticed Kelson remained there looking a bit confused with his little finger still pointing at me. I let him know he was fine and he says to me… momma not boo-boo, poo-poo…. Unfortunately for me it was not a boo-boo but a dirty diaper….
Some would say I should be listening better by now especially once I have learned my lesson and kissed poopy fingers by mistake but my husband was just telling me this week how I get so absorbed in my job, my phone and the things I am working on that I don’t notice conversations around me. It’s true Real Estate is a profession that keeps you working unusual hours, and I am a busy mom and pastors wife so there is a lot to keep up with but I’m learning its not the most important thing. Family, friends and conversation can’t be recreated once the time has past. The next morning after my husbands comment I was reading my Beth Moore bible study for the day and this is an excerpt from that day “We leave someone sitting before us, waiting while we “finish one more thing” on our phone. But that’s just it; we never seem to finish. People in our lives need our full attention, after all it’s the face to face that helps us know the heart to heart is real. Lesson Learned. Just as I was finishing my study Brooklin was leaving for class, she hollered back as she was leaving, Hey mom don’t forget we are out of milk… yes I heard:)
This Breast Cancer Survivor Blog was written by Guest Blogger Becky Bressie
My Name is Becky Bressie and I am nearly a Breast Cancer Survivor! Wow, let me take a minute to let that soak in. I am 38 years old lying on a table when the doctor says, “I am 99% sure you have breast cancer.” These are not words I thought I would ever hear, and I didn’t know how I would react to something so life changing. I remember everything and yet nothing all at the same time. I remember it was my mother’s birthday, February 25th. I remember a poster of a frog on the wall, yet I couldn’t remember most of what the doctor said to me after the word “CANCER.” What I do know, is leaving the doctor’s office with a step by step planning packet for Breast Cancer.
Welcome to this blog and my story, let’s rewind just a smidge. It is Super Bowl Sunday, and the thought of my assistant’s mom and her battle with Breast Cancer entered my mind. I thought, “Wow, what a young age to battle Breast Cancer”. When we returned home, I was in the shower getting ready for the day and I thought let’s see if I can feel anything in these girls of mine. I began to poke around and was surprised by what I felt. What?!?! Not believing what I had come across, I felt again. Same outcome, same reaction. What?!?! I then resorted to my husband feeling for the same thing, in case I was just going crazy. He feels it too!! My mind was on a roller coaster of thoughts and conclusions. Then I told myself that it was nothing, and it will all be fine.
Let’s circle back to the top. I am leaving the doctor’s office with a step by step planning packet for Breast Cancer. It wasn’t nothing. It wasn’t fine. It was Stage 2 Breast Cancer. After I got the diagnosis, I thought my life had turned upside down. Just the emotion of telling my kids was overwhelming. I began the journey. Which starts with what I have come to know as “The Cancer Schedule of Doom!” Endless tests, procedures and appointments. The poking, squishing, x-rays, shots, liquids, nurses, doctors, assistants, questions, answers, forms, . . . “CANCER!!”
Now, it is without saying that everyone handles this type of life changing event in different ways. I would have a sad day with thoughts of why me, denial, and even anxious thoughts of dying. I had those days and I deserved to have them. Then you wake up the next day and put your big girl panties on and go into battle mode. I am a pretty dominate personality and extremely competitive. I looked at this as game on, get your dukes up, fighters to their corners, I was ready to get a plan together and figure out how to beat this. If you are a mother you feel the responsibility of beating this not only for yourself but your entire family. I remember thinking, “I can do this, I have to do this, and I will do this.” I have become an actor on a stage with the spotlight always on me. Everyone’s eyes are turned to me too find out how I am coping through this life changing battle.
I have been humbled and blessed by the outpouring of support and generosity from family, friends and my community. I am very independent and very much prefer to do things on my own and how I like to do them. I have learned quickly that those closest to you feel helpless in the manner of making me feel better. I have let down my guard and realized it is not a sign of weakness to allow others to pour into my life and help, but yet a sign of great strength and commitment to focusing on the battle at hand. Why? Because, I needed the help, but also because that is a way for others to deal with their emotions and feelings towards the situation. Sometimes the people that love you have a harder time dealing with this than you do. They have no control or answers so they want to do what they can, like bring dinner and scrub the floors. If you are part of a family it is not just your cancer it involves everyone.
I have four children; they range in age from 19 to 11. Three boys and a baby girl. Telling my kids that I have cancer is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. When my 12 year old boy looked at me with elephant tears in his eyes with the fear of losing mom, it ripped my guts out. From that moment on we decided life was going to be as normal as we could make it for the kids. That is what they need. I went through chemo while my oldest son graduated, travel baseball, my husband’s business trips, girl sleepovers, birthday parties, family gatherings, and I participated when I could and I rested when I couldn’t. I think back now about times I didn’t want to get out of bed on a Saturday or Sunday morning to go watch my son play ball, but it was motivation and I did it. Those were the type battles that made me feel I was winning. I was not going to see those elephant tears again.
I can’t take all the credit for my strength during this time. I believe in the power of prayer, and I know that I had many people praying for me. That too is what kept me going. When I had my first MRI or what I like to call, “The Torture Tube,” I was lying face down with my boobs hanging in holes and having to lie perfectly still for 45 minutes. Let’s just say I had some time to think and pray. I was so scared in that tube and I remember thinking, “God why did this happen?” Right then a great calm settled over me and I could almost verbally hear the words, “Relax, and know, this is just a story to tell”. It gave me the chills. I get them every time I think about that moment. Thinking and knowing that my God is much bigger than Cancer or any other obstacle. I know He has a plan and I am the leading role. I can honestly say I have never worried since that moment. Pain, exhaustion, weakness lead to some pretty bad days but I haven’t worried. My husband has struggled with the question of why as well, but told me what God had laid on his heart. He said that I was bearing this sickness for someone that did not have the strength to battle for themselves. God has given me the confidence that this is truly “just a story to tell."
This dog blog was written by Surprise Gift Co/Shannon Shaffer
It's a beautiful Saturday, and instead of being outside enjoying this perfect 80° weather that only happens like five times a year in Oklahoma, I'm sitting at the laundromat. Yes, you heard me correctly, the laundromat. And it's all because of my dog. Let me start this story by saying I'm not really an animal person. I know, I know I can't believe I just publicly admitted that. And there's not really some great personal reason either, like as a child I was bit by a dog or anything. I just don't like pet hair! So about eight years ago after years of begging and pleading by my three children we caved and got a dog. My kids reasoned their way into this "perfect for our family little dog." Mom you're gonna love him, he doesn't shed. Mom he's small so he won't eat much. Mom he's hypoallergenic. And the best one, mom we will pay for everything for him for his whole life! Bahahaha! Don't worry, I didn't agree based on that last great reason, I knew that would never last. So, we got a dog. An adorable little fluffy Maltese puppy. Things went well for quite awhile. He was super easy to potty train, the kids worked out a schedule for rotating nights of who he would sleep with. Life with this dog seemed pretty easy. Fast forward four years. It's a big day at our house, like a really big day. Both of our daughters were in homecoming court as sophomore and senior attendants. I took off of work, we got up early and had a whole girls day planned. We went to a cute little breakfast bistro, had nail, hair and make up appointments, and then I got the call. While sitting in the salon watching my girls get made into princesses our little Samson had gotten out into the front yard and was attacked by a German Shepherd. My husband and son were rushing him to the animal hospital. At this point I made a decision not to tell my girls until after the homecoming ceremony. I knew it would completely ruin the special day for them. So I'm smiling and telling them how beautiful they look, while getting text updates on our poor dog having emergency surgery. My son who was only 12 at the time, stayed with Samson during the entire thing because he couldn't bear to walk away😢. Samson made it through the surgery, and came home full of staples, stitches and drain tubes. And after the whole homecoming event I broke the news to my girls. Complete devastation ensued. So we rushed home to see the dog and couldn't believe this poor little creature was still alive. He looked pathetic. Over the next few weeks we really thought we would lose Samson; he had to go back for more surgeries because the skin around his wounds kept turning black and dying😷. He was a mess. But he did make it, much to everyone's relief!! And now we have a little white dog with dark scars all over his back, stomach and sides. So back to the reason I'm sitting in a laundromat today. As if all of that wasn't enough, this same little dog has developed the worst allergies over the years. He has chronic ear infections that have to be treated with daily drops, and for some reason this summers allergy season has really hit him harder than ever. It started with a couple of hot spots on his front paws and over the last month has turned into completely bald legs covered in staff and yeast infections! SO GROSS😷. So bright and early this morning, we went back to the vet and came home with $215 less in our account and four different types of medicine to give out twice a day. Just the thought of him laying on anything in my house has had me washing every blanket, rug and towel we own. I even threw out pillows!! The problem is my giant comforter won't fit in my washer, which is of course what brings me here today. After all that, I can still say I am not an animal person, but apparently somewhere along the way Samson stopped being an animal and became a family member😊.
This Fear blog was written by Surprise Gift Co/Shannon
My Instagram post this morning was about fear and I mentioned being a fearful person in a blog or two before. So I thought I would write about it today. First of all, what makes a person fearful? There are so many opinions on this, that there is no way I could list them all. But, I will throw out some ideas of what made me into a fearful person but first, let me start with the center of all my little branches of fear of soooo many things. I am fearful that I am not enough. Amen right? I'm sure that's at the top of most people's list. A psychologist would tell you it probably began for me when my father committed suicide when I was five years old. In a child's mind he didn't love me enough to get better, turn his life around and be a part of my world. And while that may be a small piece of it, I think it was more of what I brought upon myself than what was heaped upon me. Let me explain: see the devil is a clever and calculating being, and he knew society would feed me the idea of "daddy issues" and what more does a teenage girl need than an excuse to live like the world and dishonor her own body. The desire to find love, feel loved and be enough for a guy is such a circle of defeat, but almost every woman has been there one time in her life. Unfortunately for me that started at 15 years old. So that's fear #1- Am I enough for a man? Fear #2- Am I pretty enough? OK, OK, I know that this one is so shallow but I'll be the first to admit I want to be pretty. I don't want to look old or out of style! Please don't send me hate mail for this, I'm just trying to be real and vulnerable. I have always been told how pretty I am, but in the mirror I see it differently. Imperfections blind me to what I hear other people say. I always think pretty compared to what? Fear #3- I'm going to open my mouth and sound stupid. I have always been a quiet person, shy I guess. But what it really is is that I don't know what to say to people. I overthink conversations in my head so much that I bumble my words and can't even remember what I planned to say in the first place! So.... I just don't say anything! You know that old saying: better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. Yep that's pretty much my mantra! Fear #4- Confrontation. This is a big one for lots of people. I struggle with this because, well let's face it, I already think I'm going to sound ridiculous when I open my mouth to respond to a complaint. But really I just want everyone to always be happy with me, is that too much to ask?! That may sound like a whole secondary problem of being a people pleaser, which I wouldn't really consider myself because if I don't want to do something, I probably won't do it! What it really is though is that I would never intentionally do something to offend or inconvenience someone/anyone. And the fact that they don't already know that about me bothers me. It's another one of those sneaky fibs my mind tells me: if you were really as sweet as YOU think you are, no one would ever doubt your motives. Or, if your life were more transparent people would automatically see Jesus in you and always know your good intentions. Oh my goodness it's a never ending circle of fear, worry and doubt. I have many other irrational small fears that aren't even worth mentioning, and new ones that crop up when I'm least expecting it. But guess what?? My God tells me "if He is for me, who can be against me?" Romans 8:31, and "He has rescued me from my enemies so I can serve Him without fear" Luke 1:74. However, God doesn't take away all of my fears just because I have given my heart to Him. Daily time spent reading His word and just talking to Him about it, is what it takes. A good group of Christian women to share with is also very important. I know I would be a mess without them! And of course a husband that loves me no matter how worked up over nothing I get!! If I let it, my fear of pretty much everything would consume me, and occasionally, when it involves my children, it does. But God has grown me enough over the 18 years I have spent with Him, to recognize when I'm at that place and need extra strength to face the next day with joy. His joy. And that's when He will send someone into my life with a word of encouragement for me, or a song on my Pandora that reminds me of how many ways He has blessed me. I'm so glad I serve a God who truly cares about all of my crazy emotions!