Little things, pt. 2

Here is the next roundup of the things I took time to notice and appreciate the past couple of weeks. It’s hard to believe January is almost over. I think 2018 is going to pass just as quickly — if not quicker — than 2017 did.

Pray for those who experience extreme temperatures and have nowhere to go to stay safe. Help them find warmth however you can.

First, I’m grateful to have a job where I have the ability to work from home on cold days like we had during the polar vortex week. I know many people who had no choice but to go out during those days, but God gave me a wonderful job with wonderful employers who let me work from my warm bedroom.

Remember, too, to pray for those experiencing the harsh winter and have nowhere to take shelter from it. Provide for them if you can.

Uncle Donny explained the ministry God laid on his heart during his Person of the Year speech at the Rainsville Chamber of Commerce annual meeting.

My mom’s oldest brother was honored as the Rainsville Person of the Year. He has always loved helping people, and when God put it on his heart to start a ministry, Helping Hands Mission Center was born. It doesn’t matter how big or little the need; Uncle Donny will help. He takes God’s love with him everywhere he goes, and he uses each encounter to spread a little bit of it with those he meets.

Uncle Donny also helps with disaster relief, and he’s traveled all over to help the broken. I’m very proud to know him, as he truly has a heart for others.

Two or More, my Bible study group, is going through Revelation together, and I chose a few books to help guide my studying. Wiersbe is one of my favorites.

I started reading this book to assist in my Bible study, and it’s been a wonderful journey so far. Revelation may seem like an odd book to enjoy, but I’ll be honest. I love it.

When I started reading novels, I never could seem to get to the end of the book fast enough. I didn’t want it to be over, but I wanted to know what happened. I even flipped to the back and spoiled some books for myself a few times because I couldn’t read at the pace I wanted to. I was a fast reader, but I just had to know.

The same goes for my Bible reading. When I get to the end, I can’t get enough of my Jesus in all His glory. I get excited about His return and about an eternity worshipping the One who redeemed me.

At the same time, it keeps me aware of a world who doesn’t know Him and reminds me that time is short. I want others to know the God I know, to experience the love I know every day, and I want them to be able to eternally celebrate a victorious King, too.

That’s what reading the whole Bible does for me, but getting to the end and being reminded of what’s coming moves me in its own special way.

Mom and Ethan almost share a birthday, so I baked them a chocolate cake to share. Best. Chocolate. Cake. Ever.

Ethan was born the day after my mom’s birthday, and since he was home this year, I made them a joint cake. It has about 1,000 grams of sugar and 6,000 calories per slice*, but it’s my mom’s favorite chocolate cake.

Click here for the recipe.

That’s all for now! Encourage someone today!

*Numbers are approximate, but I don’t care to know the actual nutritional values.

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Little things, pt. 1

How many times a day do you pause to look at things you love? Do you notice them at all? I’m one of those people who is always thinking about schedules and getting everything accomplished on my to-do list. I haven’t taken enough time to stop and enjoy the world around me, but that’s begun to change in the past year or so.

I started thinking about the beautiful things in my life when I learned about my retinitis pigmentosa. What would it be like to no longer be able to see the beauty of the world around me? What would I miss the most?

I thought about those questions for a while, and I decided to be intentional about noticing my world. While I’ve never been one to take many photos, I’m trying to take more than usual of the things I notice. Sometimes they’re silly things, sometimes they’re serious things, and sometimes they’re simple things. Still, each has meaning to me for various reasons; therefore, they are beautiful to me.

From time to time, I’ll share a few of my favorites with you. Here are some from the past few weeks to get it started.

Singing “Feliz Navidad” at my family Christmas party.
A few of my favorite things: candle, Evernote, diagramming sentences, hourglasses, and knickknacks. (“In the end, we’ll all become stories.” – Margaret Atwood)
We call her Cat or Kitty most of the time, but her name is Ebony. She usually won’t hang out with me, but I had an electric blanket. The warmth was enough to where she sat with me a while. I’m not a cat person, but I do think she’s the cutest cat.
I had my hair trimmed and styled for WordSouth’s annual After-Christmas Christmas Party. I don’t have the patience to style my hair every day, so I have to document the times that it actually looks put together.

I would miss seeing flowers and sunsets, my family and friends, and beaches and mountains. Still, how amazing would it be for my next vision to be that of my Savior? I smile just thinking about it.

I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know the one who does, and He’s promised that His plans for me are greater than my plans. Time and time again He’s proven himself, and so I will trust Him with this little thing called RP and enjoy the sights He gives me for as long as He continues to give them.

Take time to be a blessing to someone today!

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The photo I wouldn’t share

I believe that we are all created by God, knit beautifully together just as He sees fit. I believe He’s God over genetics and that He has ordained which genes are passed to each child.

I’ve already talked about how genetics gifted me with RP, and now I’m going to explain how genetics gifted me with a specific tooth problem and how tomorrow it will be fixed once and for all.

When I was a probably 8 years old, I lost the baby tooth next to my front one (lateral incisor if you want to be technical about it), and I’ve been missing a tooth since then. The permanent tooth came in, and it was a funky shape. And up in the gum above that tooth was a permanent canine one.

My mom is missing her incisors, so the dentist was not surprised that I had issues with both of mine. One was bonded to make it the right size, and the other one abscessed when I was about 12. I had a root canal, and that was the worst dental surgery to date. It took two days!

In six months, the tooth abscessed again. With no guarantee that another root canal would fix it and that the abscesses would stop, we decided to have it pulled.

Keep in mind that the baby tooth beside it had come out but the permanent one was above the abscessed one. That means I had a two-tooth gap for a while. Mom said I didn’t smile much.

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This photo was taken while my flipper was out. I loved the photo so much, though, that I downloaded a free photo editing program and added a tooth before sharing it on Facebook.

Fast-forward to the summer before ninth grade. My parents chose to get me braces. My mom told me later that she didn’t want me to have to be embarrassed of my teeth like she was of her own. Parents can make sweet, sweet sacrifices for their children.

At some point during the time period I was in braces, I was referred to an oral surgeon in Chattanooga to talk about an implant. When we got there, they told us it would be $10,000, and I was crushed. I knew that wouldn’t be happening, but I figured I could live with a partial/flipper and be fine.

Getting my braces off turned out to be a bittersweet experience, though. I had pretty, straight teeth, but the braces had hidden the fact that I was missing a tooth. I had the flipper, but it came out when I ate, so the gap became more obvious post-braces. Everyone knew.

Eight years later, I have come to the point where I am comfortable taking it out around people, but I’ve refused to have a photo taken without my tooth in place. I have been too embarrassed to make a permanent image of something like that.

Tonight, though, I want to share a photo with you. It’s a photo of a toothless me, only one of three in existence since I had my braces removed. At least, it’s one of the only three I can find. I took these three photos once I started the implant process only because I knew the end was in sight. (I was able to find somewhere that could do the implant for way less than $10,000, so I started the process in March 2016.)

Before I drop in the photo, let me say that I understand that beauty goes deeper than an outward appearance. I understand that my character and my spirit will always and forever be more important than any tooth. I want to be a good example to others, and that will never ever have anything to do with teeth. Teeth are not important in the long run. What matters is how I treat people; that’s what they will always remember.

So, without further ado, let’s make my snaggletooth self public.

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Snaggletooth for the last time.

There you have it! While this look will change tomorrow, I’m not going to forget the toothless period of my life. Those days taught me about true beauty, to look past outward appearances of others and to look at their hearts instead, and I’m grateful for that.

I won’t know what to do when I have all my teeth, and that’s a problem I’ve looked forward to having for about 19 years. It’s been a long journey here, but I’m excited for what tomorrow brings!

Retinitis pigmentosa

A couple of years ago, I woke up with a bunch of eye floaters and some cloudiness. Nervous about what it could mean, I called my optometrist to set up an appointment. He referred me to a retina specialist, and thus the journey began.

The retina specialist did not see anything to indicate a detached or torn retina, but he did ask me if anyone in my family had blindness. I thought it was a weird question, but I answered no, not anyone I knew.

I scheduled follow-ups, and the specialist asked me more questions about my family and explained that he was suspicious that I had retinitis pigmentosa (RP) but that we would keep an eye on it. RP is genetic, and because I didn’t know of anyone blind in my family, I figured it wasn’t that.

A month ago, RP made my chart.

Simply put, the rods and the cones are dying, and pigment changes are the first indicator of the problem. For me, RP is the primary issue but is followed by my high level of myopia (nearsightedness) and my floaters. I have the pigment changes in both eyes, but it’s happening very slowly, so there’s nothing more I need to do other than checking it each year and staying healthy.

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The most shocking moment was getting the appointment overview in the mail and seeing RP on paper. I cried some and prayed some, but mostly I stayed quiet, processing in my own time what the news meant.

Even though the news isn’t great, God has been more than gracious in all this. To begin with, He has given me the very best of friends, family, and co-workers who support me and love me through the chaos. I know there are always people praying not necessarily for healing but for God’s will to be done, which is precious to me.

God has put some special individuals in my life who have blessed me in many ways: giving me good-quality sunglasses to protect my eyes, sharing articles about possible treatments, and offering to connect me with someone who has the same thing. It’s humbling to have people like that in your life, people who truly care about you.

And those experiences aren’t the only ways that God has been gracious. To begin with, I do have sight. There are plenty of people who would love to have the limited vision I have if it meant they had vision at all. I don’t take being able to wake up and see for granted. In fact, most mornings that’s the first thing I thank God for. I realize I have such a gift in my vision, and I don’t want to miss the opportunities to thank Him.

Also, I have the resources to get the medical attention I need, and that is a gift from a very loving and caring Father. He has gifted me with all of my needs and most of my wants. He has put the right professionals in my path to where they can explain what’s going on with my eyes and help me through this part of life. That’s no big deal to some people, but it’s all grace to me.

Finally, I find so much comfort in the fact that the God I know is Healer and that RP is under His authority. I will not see one day longer than He has ordained, and He knew how many days of sight I would have when He created me. Because of that, I can rest knowing that RP will not disqualify me from doing God’s work. His plans for me don’t stop if I get to the point that I can no longer see. He will still use my life for His glory, and I find peace in that.

I’ve never been one to have favorite Bible verses or stories because I change them out too often, but the two that stand out in this whole situation are these: the leper and Bartimaeus.

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By eating leafy greens and tomatoes, I can help my eyes stay healthy. I don’t like tomatoes, but I will certainly learn to love them if it means I can see longer.

Read Luke 5 for the whole story, but for now, Jesus was passing through a town when a leper saw him. The leper fell to the ground and said to Jesus, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” I love that. For the leper, it wasn’t a question of whether or not Christ could heal him; he knew Jesus had the power. The only question was whether or not Christ would be willing to do it. The same is true for me. My eyes can be healed, but is He willing to do it?

The other story I like is found in Mark 10. Bartimaeus hears that Jesus is passing by, so he calls for Him. The people try to quiet him, but Bartimaeus keeps on calling. When he meets Jesus, Jesus asks Bartimaeus what he wants. Bartimaeus replies, “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight,” and Jesus says his faith has healed him.

I love the honesty of Bartimaeus here. He didn’t have to come up with a super spiritual answer but could be honest with Christ and simply tell Him what he wanted. I do pray for God’s will to be done with my eyes, but I’ve certainly prayed with a broken spirit asking to see. I’ve had people tell me that if I’m praying using anything other than the phrase “God’s will” that I’m praying wrong because I could potentially be praying against His will, but I don’t find that in God’s word. In His word, I find that I can pray for what I want. I just have to understand that sometimes my wants are not God’s best, and I have to follow where He leads.

So that’s the new part of my journey. It’s a little scary, but I’m excited to see how God can take this and turn it into something that glorifies Him. I know He is able!