Monday, November 25, 2013

My Happiness

Yesterday Kyle and I took Bronson on a quick trip to Woodburn to purchase shoes for our upcoming Disney trip. I seriously felt as if I was walking in a dream come true movie as my little family joined hands (with Bronson in the middle) and went in search of the "five-year-old store." My thoughts were confirmed when Bronson asked his daddy last night before bed if the entire day was just a dream because it was just so good. I am beginning to realize that despite all of the bad stuff or sad stuff that comes my way I am beyond blessed.

The look that Kyle and I exchanged as our little love bug held both of our hands was one of those looks that can't be explained with words. Our hearts are just overjoyed with our boy. Last night his sense of humor, imagination, and personality made my heart bubble over with happiness. I realized as I fell asleep last night that when I need a really good laugh or to be reminded that there is good in this world I just have to look over at the sweet little boy that calls me mama and know that my prayers have been answered.

Some Bronson funnies for the night:

(Arms around my neck and practically sitting on my lap in the booth at dinner:) Hey babe, wanna go on a date with me tomorrow? Hey mama, I wonder if you are wishing that I was your boyfriend because I look so cute with my flatbill. (No confidence needed for this boy).

Hey honey, wanna go see a competition with me tomorrow? When I asked him what type of competition we were going to see he responded that he wants to compete in scooter races. He then asked me if we could go clubbin' so that we could dance.

I have no idea where Bronson comes up with half of the stuff that he does, but I enjoy being a part of his imaginary world where he thinks that a flatbill makes him a teenager and gives him endless scenarios for dates. No worries...he won't be dating until he is 30. ;P

New November

Years ago, I wrote a blog titled, November Neverland. I remember thinking when I wrote that that I couldn't imagine ever going through the month of November with a smile on my face. To even think that I could get through the 18th or 20th of November without a tear shed was something that I could hardly imagine. I am super happy and full of praise to report that God delivered me a "God-sized" amount of love and support this year. I not only got through both days successfully, but I felt such love and support from my friends. I didn't do anything sentimental or blogworthy, but I truly enjoyed those days. I did what one of my friends described as turning the days into "love days."

I know without a doubt that I have a sweet little baby waiting for me in heaven. I like to think of Jackson as my anchor in heaven. Instead of being sad that he had to leave me and I never got the chance to hold him here on earth I am choosing to smile that is safe and in the arms of Jesus. The Lord has blessed me more than I am able to even explain when he granted me the ability to be Bronson's mommy. My son delights me and gives me comparisons that I know mirror just a glimpse of how much the Lord loves me. God is so good!

I don't want a moment to pass in my life that I don't offer praise to God for loving me. This month has been amazing on so many levels. As I wrote about before the Women's Retreat that our church held was just what my heart needed to mend relationships in my heart and to tear down walls so that others had the chance to ask me about my relationship with the Lord. Please continue to pray that my testimony would be used for His kingdom. I am very excited about the stirring that it has already done in a few women's hearts.

December will be a month of many celebrations. We are taking our son to Disneyland to celebrate his 6th birthday. Kyle and I will also be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary and I beyond excited to surprise him more than I ever have. I will be blogging about this surprise after the fact as it is probably the most romantic thing that I have ever planned. My love tank is very full and I am so thankful.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Women's Retreat 2013

This weekend I was asked by a very good friend of mine, Alex Graber to share my testimony at Women's Retreat. I was trying to decide whether or not to post it on my blog, but have decided to refrain at this time as I feel that part of a testimony is the ability to interact with your listeners. I was very humbled by the wonderful introduction that Alex made as she is just as special to me. Last year was a rough year and part of what made it even harder was the fact that she was half a country away. I am so thankful that circumstances have brought her back to Dallas where we can continue to share life together and she can fulfill one of my little dreams; teaching my son kindergarten.

I love the picture above because it was the very first time that Alex ever got to hold Bronson. Kyle and I were freaks about germs and it was because of this that many of our friends and family didn't get the opportunity until after he arrived home from the hospital. By the time Alex is holding B in this picture he is actually bigger than a couple of her children were at the time of their birth. It wasn't for lack of involvement that Alex didn't get to hold B sooner. One of my fondest and most cherished memories is that Alex and her parents all decided to be there for us on the day of Bronson's delivery. The power of the prayer and love that we felt knowing that they were there can not be explained in words. It is a little treasure that I will forever store in my love tank. Alex too says that she recalls the exact moment that they wheeled our little two pound miracle out of the c-section room and how it felt to know that he was locking eyes with each person that was hoping to catch a glimpse of him. I know that watching the miracle of Bronson's birth and growth has made an impact on Alex's life as it has many, but I don't know if she knows how much her support has meant to me.

This year's women's retreat focused on friendship traits. We were so blessed to have a speaker that poured her heart out to us in regards to pregnancy loss and infertility and integrated the story of Ruth and Naomi in showing how God is forever writing our story and blessing us even in our seasons of suffering and uncertainty. I have been able to attend several women's retreats in the past and this year stands out as the best. It was amazing how each and every aspect of  women's retreat flowed into the next and how God used Kim Bucher's story to lead into Robyn's next message and provided the appropriate words during my story to lead into the next message. God's hands were all over the place. It was also a weekend of many tears as many of my friends could relate to the heart ache associated with pregnancy loss, infertility, or stillbirth. I am thankful that God provided me the strength throughout the weekend when I needed it and allowed me to love on women that needed it too.

I have mentioned several times on my blog how thankful I am for our church family. I firmly believe that attending Grace Community Church has been such a life source for Kyle and I. It is a place that is woven into so much of our story. I am so thankful for the sweet and wonderful friendships that we have made in our last twelve years and I look forward to many more retreats learning more about the women that I call my church family.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Act of Forgiveness

For the first time in my walk with the Lord I have been asked to share my testimony. Here is the twist, I am sharing it in regards to how it relates to relationships such as those of Ruth and Naomi. To say that I am a bit nervous about putting my last 20 plus years out there for my church friends to hear is a little bit of an understatement. When my friend Alex asked me to do this it was honestly an answer to prayer as I had been asking God to allow me to use my story or to develop my testimony.

It is hard to know where my testimony begins because as far back as I can remember I have loved the Lord and knew and accepted that He is my savior. I do remember going to church in my young years and being asked to "pray the sinner's prayer," but otherwise I always have known in my heart that my decision has been to follow God. My friend nicely told me to share about my childhood, relationships, and how those have impacted my walk with the Lord. This has at least given me a place to start. If you have been reading my blog for a few years you know that I have had my share of trials, but I honestly feel that those trials added to the testimony of my son and sister and I was fortunate to see God answer prayers over and over again.

To start with sharing how forgiveness has impacted my walk with the Lord I have to share that I was blessed with the ability to be a part of Andy Stanley's forgiveness series a few years ago. It came at a time in my life where I was faced with lots of unknowns including the release of my father from prison. I struggled with how to mend our relationship. I also struggled with creating healthy/yet loving relationships with others in my family as I had been hurt over and over again. This study led me to the conclusion that there was NOTHING in life that required me to carry a grudge. Jesus had made the ultimate sacrifice for me and I owed it to Him (as my savior) to do the same.

I went online to see if I could find Andy Stanley's series and I ran across the following Life App: Forgiveness by Jeff Henderson: His introduction states: "Holding a grudge is a guilty pleasure. We all love to think about how we would have just the right words to say at just the right time to make our enemies feel small in front of all the right people. But what if holding a grudge is more sinister than we think? What if the grudge is less about the other person and more about us? What if there is a better way to handles these kinds of situations?"

Jeff Henderson goes on to ask some of the similar questions that Andy Stanley does in his series. The following questions hit straight to my heart: What does the cross have to do with our ability to forgive? Read Romans 12:19-20. Do you find comfort in this verse? Do you believe that God will avenge the wrong done to you? How does the thought of meeting your enemy's needs feel to you? What is really tough with the term "enemy" is that often times that enemy is a very member of our family. I firmly believe that this grieves God's heart. He does not want there to be hate amongst us. In the study that I did years ago the most powerful activity that Andy asked us to do was to bury our grudges; literally. He gave several examples of ways that we could do this. I chose to do it the most useful way; I wrote it all out. Take a piece of paper and write the person's name at the top of the paper. In some cases this might require several pieces of paper (especially in areas of childhood abuse). Next start writing every single thing that this person has done to "wrong" you. Next pray over each and every one of them making it right between you and the Lord. Andy says that some people benefit from then taking this piece of paper and burying it outside and marking it with a cross. This step was not needed for my heart because I realized as I slowly asked the Lord to fill the gap in my heart that was so hurt that I truly felt a lifting of a heavy feeling that I had been holding on to for far too long. I urge you friends and family, forgive. There is nothing in life worth carrying around the cross that has already been done for us.

One final note: there is nothing to be gained by keeping this piece of paper or sharing it with the enemy or others. The step of reaching out to them will come later. In my case an apology/forgiveness (short and sweet) letter laid heavy on my heart and I later sent it. It was well received and allowed another piece of the puzzle to be made whole. Reach out in love and take the full forgiveness that the Lord has to offer.

Vote for Me

Vote for Bronson on Hand to Hold's Preemie Power contest. We have the chance for Bronson to be in a little contest that requires your vote.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Emotional Side of the Past Year

I started writing the two previous posts with the intention of explaining how the last year has affected me personally, spiritually, and physically. Cancer provides an emotional roller coaster that is hard for someone to explain without having experienced it personally or watching a loved one through their diagnosis and treatment plan. I have always been one to remember dates and I will never forget the days of diagnosis, surgeries, or heart breaking news. My birthday used to be something special, but after 2011 became Just Another Day. Ashley reminded me that every single day is a special day and the Lord has reminded me that He is ALWAYS there. He carries us through the storms so that we are able to handle them.

This has been a storm that I never imagined myself coming out of. I have shed countless tears, smiled when others might have been raging, and praised God for His answered prayers through it all. I owe so much thanks to a great group of friends and family that continues to fill in the gaps when they are needed. Today marks a year since I learned that my sister had a terminal diagnosis. At her last CT reading we were told that she had "no evidence of disease." I have many ask if she is now in remission or cancer-free. The answer is, "no." As a Christian I still have faith that a cure or medication could be currently in the process of being invented to save her; we have not lost faith. Ashley does still have the diagnosis of stage 4 cancer and it does often try to provide a cloud over our days, but I will continue to hold the mantra of creating our own sunshine. So...nearly 30 years later (Ash was born a month before my 2nd birthday) I am once again happy to have my sister here to be with me on my birthday. Here is to many more years of celebration.

Surgery to Now

Going into the possibility of three surgeries back to back my sister was way calmer than anyone I have ever known. My heart was pounding and I was spending a great deal of time in my closet crying out to the Lord. At times my heart was too heavy to speak any words and I knew that each tear was being counted as I prayed, pleaded, and battled with my feelings.

Surgery date: April 25, 2013...Oaklen turned 2 at Auntie Lexi's house while the rest of us braced ourselves for the first of many surgeries...I am wearing a scarf from a dear friend from smallgroup and literally felt all the prayers being said for my sister.

Facebook Updates: 

Ashley Sult is out of surgery and we are waiting to see her in the ICU. The surgeon said everything went better than expected. It went slow because she had so much scar tissue from the previous 11 hour surgery. He thinks the scar tissue could have been what has been causing her so much pain. Anyways, she had her right lobe of her liver removed and there were no surprises of any more tumors. She was very concerned prior to surgery because they were going to vent her until tomorrow, but they just told us that she would be taken off the vent before we see her in about an hour. Dr. Sheppard feels very good and solid about this surgery and doesn't think that anything should slow down the next surgery happening on the 14th. We are super thankful for this outcome. Have a great day!

Have you recently witnessed God performing miracles? I witnessed a huge one today as my sister laid in bed smiling at me from 15 feet away and acknowledging how good our God is...she then requested a kiss as we both were speechless at how blessed we are...she put it perfectly when she said why would I doubt that The Lord would bless me today when he blessed me exactly two years ago when my son was born? Wake up everyone...God provides us miracles daily! The Lord is so good.

On the 27th of April we Marched for Babies with Oaklen in tow. It was the first year we didn't complete the entire 10K, but felt blessed to have many praises in our life.

April 30, 2013: Oaklen was reunited with his mama.
Best part of my day, talking to my sister (my best friend) twice on the phone. Seriously the sweetest sound right now is her voice that reassures me that her spirit is still strong in The Lord and that he is equipping her with His strength to get through this.

Ashley's 1st lung surgery was very successful. It took a lot less time than expected. No surprise tumors were found. This was the harder of the two said the recovery will be very painful, please pray that she has some relief from the pain. Thanks for your prayers.

Talked to my mom an hour or so ago and she reported that Ash had done four laps around the floor, was back to solid foods, and was feeling good under the circumstances. Ash has chosen to stay at OHSU until her next surgery so that she will be eligible to get an epidural. Please continue to pray for successful surgery next Tuesday. As her big sister I will be walking tomorrow at Relay for Life...I raised $150 in her honor and want to do my part in fighting for a cure. I LOVE my baby sister. 

I participated in Relay for Life and had some time with some girlfriends to get my mind off the reality of what was happening with my sister. The meds that she was taking during this time were taking it out of her. I hit an emotional low that I was worried about getting out from.

Best part of my day, talking to my sister (my God given best friend) twice on the phone. Seriously the sweetest sound right now is her voice that reassures me that her spirit is still strong in The Lord and that He is equipping her with His strength to get through this. The Lord is blessing me with some serious prayers answered. Went and celebrated the upcoming birth of Jamie Davis' baby boy!

May 21, 2013: Ashley's final surgery started 30 minutes ago.
My mom's status: Ashley update: Surgery over...five tumors removed and lung clear..she's only lost aprox 2% of her lung tissue so with the other side she's only lost a total of aprox 7% ...much better than we expected...she's in recovery waiting to go to ICU so we can see her...the only issue presently is controlling the pain...3 major surgeries in 4 weeks can take their now we are praying for her comfort..both physically and spiritually..... and a super speedy recovery so that she can home to her family and enjoy her summer! God Bless you all and thank you once again for your prayers...Once again we've been blessed by God's awesomeness!

13K we meet again...having a sleep over with my baby sister Ashley Sult. For all of my fellow prayer warriors out there keep on Praying for Ashley Sult...the prayers are working. She has great nurses, pain is being managed, and the meds that she is on are allowing her to get up and take her required strolls around the floor (she does an extra lap each time, just to give it a little more effort)...she is still on a long road of recovery, but as of right now the prescription from Dr. S is keep on living and loving life. Praise our Savior Jesus Christ.

Ashley came home on May 27, 2013. She goes back into the hospital for infection at Albany General.

Watching my beautiful son cuddled up in the hospital bed with his She She watching cartoons and sharing a little secret melted my heart. When she asked him if he was bothered by her feeding tube he looked her in the eye and said, "no." He then just cuddled a little closer and enjoyed his moments. Ash has been there throughout Bronson's life changing testimony and now he spends each night pouring out his heart to a God on behalf of her. They have an amazing bond that I can't adequately put into words. Ashley Sult

June 6, 2013: 
Ashley Sult was released and is staying with us in Dallas until our Dad gets out of school. Bronson is loving having her here even if he has to share his favorite green blanket while they watch Jessie together.

July 19, 2013: Ashley has another surgery to place a tube in her abscess in the liver. 
Ashley update: Ashley is back in her room....looks amazing...a little tender but all in all...doing great...God is great! Oh and the doctors at ohsu aren't half bad have been fantastic!
Ashley Sult and I are just pinteresting, reading magazines, and catching up. Surgery doesn't even seem like it happened she is so good.

I threw Ashley a "surprise" birthday party at Grace Community Church. She was in the hospital until the day of they party. 

August 8th update: Ashley Sult's big scans are on Monday, but guess what? She is feeling well enough to join us with my dad at Family Camp this weekend. This is such an answer to prayer!
Preliminary results from today's CT scan for Ashley Sult show no evidence of reoccurrence of disease. Praise God. She does have to go back in two weeks to get a check up for the drain tube, but we are spending tonight being very thankful.Wear Yellow Wednesday for Ashley Sult; now is our time to pray with purpose that this cancer continues to stay away from my beautiful sister's body. God you are amazing and beautiful and I will never cease to praise You for blessing us with your presence and answer to prayers. Thank for you 3 more months!

Ashley feels rejuveniated enough to experience Enchanted Forest with Oaklen, Olivia, her best friend, and our Dad. Later in the month we also attend an air show.

September 4, 2013: DRAIN FREE, this is a picture from when she became PICC free (something she never wants to have again)
Celebrating Hanson's birthday

From Diagnosis to Surgery

August 10, 2012: Posted a picture on Ashley's FB page with the following status: I love you little sister. I am praising God today that He answered our prayers and healed you from cancer. Looking forward to next month when we can celebrate 1 year cancer free. God is soooo good!
August 11, 2012: Attended wedding with Ashley to celebrate the marriage of her best friend, Tiffany. Watched closely as my sister danced with her beautiful baby and felt the sudden urge to capture each and every single moment. So thankful for the intuition as I asked our HS friend Missy to snap some pictures that are some of our dearest pictures.
September 5, 2012: We knew something was wrong, but weren't quite sure to the extent yet. I wrote on my FB the next day: Delete me know if you don't want a bunch of bible verses. It is how I am making it through my days. Thanks LouAnn Vicker's for today's verse: "I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him." Psalm 39:7

September 9, 2012: My sweet nephew Hanson Asher was born. He was the bright spot in the storm.

September 12, 2012: I turned 31. I found out in the middle of our sushi dinner that my sister had stage 4 TERMINAL cancer. Her was my status: My sister's status, please do me a favor and pray: I never do this...But today I ask for prayers from everyone, that today my doctors have answers and a solid game plan to put this Cancer in remission for good thank you and I love you all:)

We pray with purpose for Ashley Sult's doctor finds the key to killing this cancer for good. We want complete healing. Lord, wrap your arms around my sister and Joe. Provide them your peace, hope, and strength. Thank you Lord for my beautiful sister; thank you for my best girlfriend. Amen

Later that night:

Once again people from around the world are praying for my baby sister. It has been a very rough night, but it feels so good to log in and see how many people are lifting up my baby sister in prayer. Keep those prayers coming for my tough as nails baby sister. God can provide miracles. He creates cures that haven't been though of. He will provide peace and I will hold on to the Hope of His promises.

On September 14, 2012 I posted a blog in regards to where my strength comes from...On the 17th I created the Praying for Ashley Sult page that quickly grew. By the following Wednesday we had people from all over the world spreading their love for my sister by wearing Yellow.

In the month of September we had some great things happen...Kyle's cousin had a beautiful wedding in Bellingham, WA, we found out that Lexi was having a baby boy, and people from everywhere provided lots of support for our family. I also got to throw a beautiful baby shower for one of my dearest friends, Kandis.

On September 22, 2012 our friend Melissa Harwood offered a priceless gift by volunteering to take our family pictures to capture the moments before my sister lost her hair to chemo:
She She with her babies

My hubby started Grad School on September 24, 2012. The Yellow Campaign continued; painted nails, t-shirts, bracelets, and wacky ways of showing support for Ashley.

October 2012:  We found out on the 1st that Ashley was picked for the clinical drug. She went to Seattle to get a 2nd opinion and they supported her staying at OHSU for treatment. We had many dark days, but stayed strong and hopeful. I was there the weekend that Ashley decided to cut her hair.
Ashley had enough energy to go to the Pumpkin patch with Oaklen before Chemo took over her life for the next few months.
I attended some chemo treatments with Ashley where I witnessed the strength of God shining through.

Ashley went to the Grace Community Church Halloween event wearing a mask so that she wouldn't contract any other illness while out and about.

Ashley received the news that sent the whole world spinning: So the skinny of our good news: Ash is no longer on the clinical trial because the growth of the tumors in her liver were slightly larger than they will allow for her to continue. THE TUMORS IN THE LUNGS ARE MUCH SMALLER. Dr. R has decided to continue Doxy and Ash is already hooked up and ready to go. We still continued to praise God.

Ashley had all of us to her house for Thanksgiving. She was very weak, but geared up and hosted a wonderful holiday complete with an outing to visit our place at Eagle Crest.
9 weeks left of chemo on November 28, 2012. All of us took turns having Ashley's wonderful boy.
Ashley went through some right stuff as she discovered that she had a blood clot right before Christmas. On December 23rd we found out that she would be able to get out of the hospital and spend the holidays with her baby boy. We were all a bit crushed to have to miss spending the holiday with her, but knew she needed to be safe.
Christmas was a beautiful occasion, made even more special by seeing Christmas through Bronson's eyes. His prayer after getting his gifts, "Thank you Lord for mommy and daddy and that it is Jesus' birthday. I just want it to be Christmas everyday.

A post made on January 15, 2013: Ashley Sult update: From our mom, Shellene D Foster:'s the run is a little worried about blood clot...she might be on blood thinners for six months...he says the tumors are so very slightly bigger but no new growth. Today is her last day of chemo and he will see her in a month and then every month thereafter...he says she is stable and he's going to watch...if no new growth in 3 or 4 months they will discuss surgery. They are going to pull her PICC today and he says overall this is good news. Here is our game plan:

1. Continue to pray for Ashley (We will let you know of doctor's appointments dates so that we can flood the gates of Heaven with prayer)

2. So...this means that Ash will be chemo free for the birth of her next nephew Jace and get to be there for the delivery.

3. Did everybody else hear 6 months??? This is encouraging! Only God knows our time, but we are feeling VERY positive that the cancer has stabilized and that we have more time to pray for the MIRACLE!

Thanks for ALL of your prayers!

In the midst of chemo: We currently don't have the daily posts of needing prayer while Ashley undergoes chemo, but I firmly believe that there is a reason for quiet times...God asks us to be still. This is from my devotional last night:

Before you know it, a sense of God's whole news, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Philippians 4:7 ...I am the goal of your searching. When you seek me, you will find me. Jesus this devotional.

Wearing yellow on Wednesdays continues and during this time of a lull in treatment, KEEP PRAYING FOR TOTAL HEALING!

February: My hubby became COO of his company and our sweet nephew Jace David was born:
Ashley finished chemo directly before so that she could be there.

And our April 10, 2013 NEWS:

Ashley just finished receiving some of the best news that would could have expected. I will start with the bad news as I elected to receive it that way from her...the tumors in her liver and lungs have doubled in size since November. The good news...she met with Dr. Sheppard this morning and he is going to do her surgery along with several other surgeons. We don't know much about the surgeries other than the fact that it will three separate surgeries; one for each lung and one for the liver. The surgeries will be over a month's time at OHSU and will require quite a bit of recovery time, but once they are over we will go back to check up (CT's) every three months.

God has continued to show me that Ashley's life will be handed back to us in three month increments. Truthfully we all have just today if it is the Lord's will. The three month increments for a cancer patient mean SO much. It means that we have time to hope, breath, and PRAY.

We are so thankful for all of the prayers lately and would appreciate them continuing through out this process. We will be utilizing the caring bridge and Praying for Ashley page to keep people updated...

A couple of common questions?

When Ashley has the surgery does that mean she is cancer free? Yes and No; the known tumors will be removed from her and at that point in time she will be without known area of disease. She will not be deemed "cured" because of the previous stage 4 status.

What will be the plan of treatment after surgery?

Ashley will continue to have CT scans every three months for the rest of her life.

If the chemo worked why did the tumors grow? The chemo worked to eliminate others areas of disease, but did the current tumors did not respond. This is good news.

What can I do? Pray and love on our family. We appreciate everyone so much and all of the offers for help. I will be setting up another meal train and other things for people to help. If you have any questions, please feel free to message us on our Facebook page.

Love Amber

Psalm 41:3
The LORD sustains them on their sickbed and restores them from their bed of illness. (NIV)

Prior to Ashley's surgeries she decided to throw little man a HUGE birthday bash. Joe rented the Redmond Gymnastics club and several friends and family came to celebrate: