the woman who gave me life

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Sometimes you just don’t know where to start with words, so I’m just going to start and I may not stop for a while.

My mother, Karen Akin, passed away on December 1 at 10:10 p.m with my dad and me at her side holding her hand and praying with her.

In early June, after spending many weeks in our home off and on after James Walker’s birth and many weeks of beautiful, sweet memories, my mom had a scan and found out that the melanoma tumors had spread to the left frontal lobe of her brain. She had been diagnosed with melanoma in 2010. It was in the lymph nodes at the time of diagnosis. It metastasized in 2013 and continued to spread for the past two years.

When we found out about the tumors in the brain and in her bones, she decided that she would remain upbeat and she really didn’t want to tell anyone about it except for a few friends and family members. My mom didn’t want to talk about cancer all the time. She didn’t want everyone constantly asking her how she was feeling. She wanted to go on about life as usual- living and loving life without people feeling sorry for her. So we didn’t really share her news either until my dad posted about it on Facebook in October.

She and my dad spent an incredible ten days in a villa in Tuscany with dear friends in June. In July, we all went to Colorado to visit my brother, Walker and his girlfriend. When we were in Colorado, it was the very first time that we’d ever seen my mom show any signs or symptoms of cancer in nearly 6 years. She was nauseated, tired, and often frustrated and overwhelmed. We went to visit my cousin’s family in Alabama in August and noticed more symptoms of the brain tumors. But we had two wonderful vacations. So many incredible memories! Playing with the boys. Talking about what heaven will be like. Singing and laughing and remembering things from childhood.

In September, Todd and I went to Indiana for the Influence Conference and my mom and dad came to visit for a few days. More brain tumor symptoms- trouble forming thoughts, difficulty multi-tasking, difficulty getting around and she was generally just not herself. In October, Todd and I took all the boys to my parents’ house for a long weekend and it was more of the same- just worse.

Since June, her health was rapidly declining. But the loss of her personality and the woman that I know was the most heartbreaking part.

My mom is such a part of me. I’m used to calling multiple times a day just to tell a funny story. I’m used to making plans for our next visit. I’m used to calling on Friday mornings to discuss what happened on Scandal the night before. And she couldn’t talk on the phone or text anymore. And, gosh, I have been missing her for months. I feel lost without my best friend.

We began to specifically pray that she wouldn’t feel anxious and she wouldn’t feel pain. That a peace that passes all understanding would overwhelm her. We prayed that she would know just how loved she is.

We know that God’s ways are higher than our ways and that He has perfectly written His story and it included a plan for a beautiful life for my sweet mom. And for all of our lives.

Watching my dad so lovingly care for my mom is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. It’s real love in its most raw form. Having the incredible opportunity to hold my mom’s face in my hands and to tell her every reason I love her is a gift I didn’t take lightly, and my dad was able to do that every day for months. He held her, he cared for her, he prayed with her, and cherished her.

We’re experiencing every emotion possible. I can’t speak for my dad and my brother, but I’m heartbroken. I’m mad. I’m grateful. I’m hopeful. I’m in shock. I’m relieved that her pain is over. But I know I can speak for my whole family when I say that we’re so thankful. We trust the Lord and we know that He is good. He is merciful. He has provided us with so many gifts and we’ve seen so many blessings. We were given more than five precious years with her before we ever experienced any setbacks from cancer.

All of my babies got to be held and rocked and sung to by the most loving woman in the world. They know a KK that would do anything in the world to be with them.

I’ve learned from a woman who trusts God. A woman who has given all of herself to others. A woman dedicated to helping those that can’t help themselves.

A woman who saw a problem and fixed it. She would stop at nothing to fix a problem for someone or to provide an opportunity for someone. She loved people and wanted to help make things better for them.

She loved movies and committed to see every Oscar-nominated movie before the awards show every year. She loved music and would bust out in song- hymns, classic rock, show tunes, Lady Gaga and Adele. She loved it all. She loved to dance and would jump to her feet any time she heard “rock me mama like a wagon wheel.” She wanted Elton John to sing “Honky Cat” at her funeral. For two decades she maintained this wish. And we honored it on Monday at her service with a recording of “Honky Cat.”

She was a staunch Republican, incredibly conservative, but also full of compassion. She adopted a homeless couple. She ministered to lost women and was committed to rescuing women from sex trafficking. She was generous to a fault and would give someone anything they needed and would drop everything to serve you if she could. Even if she wasn’t feeling well that day.

Over the past month, my mom, dad, brother and I have read letters from countless friends who have been impacted by my mom’s presence in their lives. We’ve cried and laughed and we’ve been so thankful for these incredible people who want her to know how much she is loved. And when I think about what she’s done in my life…. I just don’t know where to start.

My mom. My best friend. She was my biggest fan and the woman who pushed me. Her influence in my life has shown me what complete trust in the Lord looks like. What bravery looks like. How to mother. How to love. What it looks like to be a good friend. She is the fabric of my life. She is all over everything I see and every breath I take. My mentor. My cheerleader. My coach. My dear dear mother. The orchestrater of all the fun. The creator of all the beautiful things in every room. She had the magic touch.

She had impeccable style and so much class, but also so much sass and the ability to sit and relate to anyone without offering any nonsense. Just grace and truth and so much love for everyone she loved.

We’ve joked that she’d be saying to us, “Oh, just get over it already!” She would. She was a dust yourself off and get on with it kind of woman. But the loss we’re experiencing is immeasurable. She lit up a room. She held everyone’s attention without asking for it.

Sometimes just hearing her voice on the phone on a bad day just turned me into a puddle of tears. The comfort she provided just by knowing she loved me was all the comfort I needed. We’d schedule visits with each other before another was over. Many days now I can’t catch my breath as I imagine this life without her.

My brother, Walker, loved her dearly and she would have done anything for him. And my dad. Oh my dad. She was his best friend and he was hers. He cherished her right up until her very last breath. The example of marriage that they have set for me is amazing.

She adored Todd, and was always saying how lucky we all are to have him in our family. (I often joked that she grew to love Todd more than she loved me!) We know she’s with us. In our actions, in our words, in the songs we sing. Gosh, she’s even there when I look in the mirror now and see so much of her in me.

When I think about what she would want you to know and what she’d want me to share, it’s this. My mama was not perfect. She was precious and she changed lives, but she wasn’t perfect. She is not the hero of this story. She was a woman who was saved by grace through faith in Jesus. She loved her heavenly Father. She wanted a deeper relationship with Him. She wanted to show the love of Christ to those in her life. Jesus in her is the hero of this story. She would want you to know that and she’d want you to draw nearer to Him. To trust Him and let Him take the reigns.

And that’s what we’re doing. We’re leaning into our Savior, letting Him carry us, and not wasting a single minute that we have to tell anyone about the Good News in our lives. We’re experiencing incredible sorrow and unspeakable joy. The joy of the Lord is our strength. He is good!

counting the fruit

Counting the fruit is a new little exercise I’ve been doing since I began using the Naptime Diary. This post isn’t a plug for the Naptime Diary, but it is a plug to do this exercise daily. Because, let’s just get it out there, there are some hard days.

Days that end with a child sitting in timeout for throwing his quesadillas on the floor. The quesadillas that you made because he begged for them and you were holding your screaming newborn while making the quesadillas. And then they ended up on the floor to become food for the dog. And while this child is in timeout, you notice a puddle around his feet and see that there’s been another accident that wasn’t even really an accident. A baby’s crying, there’s food on the floor, and other messes on the floor, and it’s life.

But earlier that day, I had been texting with my mom about a trip to MD Anderson that she was excited about to explore a possible new treatment option for melanoma. (If you’re new here, you may not know that my sweet mama has stage IV melanoma.) So I wasn’t focused on my kids. I was focused on my mom which also has an element of selfishness to it because I love my mom and all I want in this world is to be with her every day.

My mom’s appointment didn’t go as she had hoped. (She is still doing the same and feeling well, but there was disappointment because the treatment option she’d hoped for isn’t available to her at this time.) And hearing such disappointment in your mom’s voice will break your heart. Can we just say that cancer sucks? I can get that on a bumper sticker, right?

So the noise in my head of worrying about and praying for my mom who was a thousand miles away in Houston mixed with the noise of my house from the above mentioned scene was just a lot for this postpartum mama’s heart.

And I cried. And I yelled. And I cleaned up messes and then hugged my little boys and apologized for yelling. I couldn’t wait to get in the bed and just sleep for as long as James Walker would let me sleep (which was, blessedly, about 7 hours.)

Yesterday morning, I got up and decided to count the fruit. The fruit? What has God been doing in my life? What is He showing me? What beautiful things are happening in the midst of the cancer storm that my family has prayed through for the past five years? What beautiful things are happening in the sweet chaos of adjusting as a family of five?

We have had five incredible years celebrating life and living life with my mama. Melanoma hasn’t stopped our family from loving each other greatly!

My mama’s courageous story has encouraged others to be their own health advocate. To research and explore and seek second opinions.

We can see God’s hand all over every part of this story. Places they’ve lived. People they’ve encountered. Lives touched. And a reminder from Him every single day that the future is in His hand and He knows the plans He has for my mama’s life.

My big boys adore their baby brother. Even if they fight with each other like crazy, at the end of the day they still have each other’s backs and they adore that sweet baby.

We are surrounded by the most wonderful friends and family who carpool and bring meals and talk through the hard things about cancer and babies and love us so stinking hard. And I’m learning to trust that, accept help, and talk to God first.

Every single day, I know that if I stop and peel the immediate struggle away from my sight, I will see the fruit. I can look a little deeper and see the beautiful, beautiful things that He’s doing in all of our lives. There is purpose in it and there is fruit.

the new normal

the new normal

James Walker is officially six weeks old today. What on earth? I had my six week appointment yesterday and everything was good. My incision is healing nicely and I got the go-ahead to exercise again. I haven’t really missed exercise, but I’m ready.

I had goals to nurse for six weeks and then see how things were going, and so far so good. I have nursed James Walker for six weeks and will continue as long as I can. And now that I have a part-time, work from home job, I had a goal this month to establish a routine for myself that helps me figure out when I’ll have my work hours.

This is all new to me. All of it. Being a family of five. Having older kiddos and an infant. And working from home. I’m excited about all of it, I want to do it all well, but I also know that I can’t do all the things and do them all well. And no one expects me to.

I can do some of the things every day and do them well.

There is laundry to do and there are meals to prepare. And there’s a marriage to focus on and older children to raise. It’s life and mine is no different than so many other women. So I’m just trying to figure out day by day what works and what doesn’t. And how to make the most of my time while still soaking up the moments with my kids.

One thing I know for sure is that we all thrive with structure. James Walker sleeps great at night when his day is structured. So he knows when he’s going to eat and when he’s going to nap and when he’s going to get his bath. And the big boys know the same things about their schedule. And they know James Walker’s schedule. It just helps all of us.

And it helps me to know what’s next. I need my own schedule so I can manage my time, the household duties, and my work tasks.

James Walker eats at 6:00 a.m. every day, and right after that feeding, I swaddle him and put him back down to go to sleep where he sleeps until 9:00 a.m. So instead of going right back to sleep like I really really want to, I get on up and make myself some coffee. (My friend Jessica would call this one of my Fringe Hours.) I start a load of laundry and then I do my devotional for the day while I sip coffee.

The laundry thing is huge. I finally, finally have a laundry system! I do a little bit of laundry every day. That’s the system. And then I fold it immediately and put it away. Genius, right? How did it take me almost 15 years to figure out what so many of you have been doing all along? I’ve spent years letting laundry pile up before washing it. And then I’d let it pile up and procrastinate on folding it. Not anymore, sister!

Anyway. After I finish my devotional, I tackle some of my Influence Network emails. Oh, email. (In heaven there will be no email. Or laundry.)

The big boys make their way downstairs around 7:00, and Todd and I get them dressed, fed, and out the door for school by 7:45.

When they leave, I get dressed and get ready for James Walker to be back up at 9:00. I feed him, play with him until 10:00. “Play” for a six week old means ten minutes on the activity mat, ten minutes in the bouncy seat, and ten minutes sitting with me while I sing and read to him. And then he’s down again for another morning nap. I sit down to do more Influence work and tackle more of my to-do list until James Walker is up around noon and the boys come home from school. And the rest of the day is spent playing with my three boys and prepping dinner if I didn’t do something in the crock pot.

At night, to prepare for the next day, I set out all the things I need to get done in the morning… the boys’ clothes are laid out, their bags are packed for school, lunch boxes are set out to be packed, and my load of laundry is already sorted and in the washer ready to start. Hudson and Hayes are in bed by 7:00 and asleep by 7:30. Then Todd and I bathe James Walker, I feed him, and I go to bed as soon as James Walker is asleep between 8:30-9:00.

I love to read and keeping that hobby is important to me. I know people sometimes think they don’t have time to read, but even if I just read a chapter every night, it helps me fall asleep and sleep well. So I try to read as much as I can before I crash every night. And then I just wait to see what time James Walker wakes up for his middle of the night feeding. And the day starts all over again.

I know that some days the plan just won’t work. Babies have a mind of their own and don’t always stick to a schedule. Hudson and Hayes have their own things on the schedule like soccer and baseball. We have doctors appointments and sickness and emails go unanswered and work goes unfinished for a day. The plan doesn’t always work. And that’s where grace comes in and where I will have to remind myself to embrace the mess, embrace the chaos, and just enjoy the kiddos.

I’d love to know if any of you have any tips. How do you work from home when your baby is having an off day? How do you break up your work hours throughout the day? How did your household management routine change as you welcomed new babies?

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I mentioned my daily devotional. Yesterday, I started the brand new Naptime Diary and, mamas, it is incredible. The devotionals are so sweet, not too long, and perfect for the mama heart. There is a place to journal your thoughts, to list out the fruit and the things you’re thankful for that day. It’s a true gift from the Naptime Diaries team. 

the new normal

For the next week, April 14-21, you can take 30% off your Naptime Diaries order by entering in the code BlueEyedBride30 at checkout

from two to three

Hey there! So I’m trying to find a little rhythm in my days so I can have my own little routine. Some days that works and some days it just doesn’t. This morning I’ve gotten a lot done, but I’m still in pajamas and just decided that half of my to-do list probably wasn’t going to get done. But sitting down to write is good for my soul. Whether I sit down and write on this blog like I’ve done for over seven years (whoa!), or if I just write in my journal.

But things here are good. They’re different, but they’re good.

I have had a few people ask me about what it’s like to go from two to three kiddos, so I wanted to share my experience… so far. Remember that I’m only five weeks into being a mom of three, so I’m hardly an expert and I hardly know anything about what I’m in for.

James Walker is a great baby. He sleeps great for naps and he is sleeping great at night- only waking up once at night now. And he’s just a sweet little squishy love.

Hudson is almost 6 and Hayes is almost 4. I think their ages have a huge impact on what our experience is like with three kids.

Another big thing to remember is that my mom was here for three full weeks after James Walker arrived. And she was here for almost two weeks before he arrived because I was carrying around an 11 pound baby and my hips felt like they were breaking. (Thank you, KK! You saved us!)

I had heard from a few friends that going from two to three kids would be a game-changer. It would overwhelm me and just be about the hardest thing ever. So I was kind of prepared for the worst.

My experience going from one to two kids really did rock my world. If you read my blog back when Hayes was a baby, you probably remember many posts about being overwhelmed and tired and feeling like a failure. It was hard! I really struggled with knowing how to raise a 23-month-old and an infant. Two extremely needy children that I loved desperately and equally. But we did survive. Of course we did!

My experience so far going from two to three is completely different. Hudson and Hayes are at school in the mornings, so I have three full hours to bond with James Walker, take a shower, fold laundry or catch up on sleep. Hudson and Hayes aren’t all that needy. They can do a lot for themselves.

So, all in all, it’s been a good experience so far. Watching them all together is my favorite thing in the world. And the moments that James Walker is napping and I can sit and play with the big boys or read to them are so much more special to me right now because my hands are so often full with James Walker. I think it does make me appreciate all of them for who they are and what they need.

I do need to share this story, though. A few nights ago, Todd was gone during bath time and bedtime, and I was doing bed and bath by myself. Todd usually bathes the big boys, and since the baby was born, he has been putting them to bed by himself while I bathe, feed, and put James Walker to bed.

So I was on my own. I bathed the big boys, got them dressed for bed, and decided to let them stay up and watch TV until I finished up with James Walker.

They loved coming in to see James Walker getting his bath and they thought it was so funny that he uses this tiny bath tub. They were in and out of the bathroom about fifteen times before I finished up with James Walker’s bath. They were getting extremely loud and wound up, too. I asked them to just go sit and watch TV and I’d be finished in just a minute.

I finished up with James Walker’s bath, wrapped him up and came out of the bathroom to see Hudson sitting and watching TV, but couldn’t see Hayes. Hudson said he didn’t know where Hayes was. And then I heard the doorbell. It was ringing over and over and over again.

So I bolted downstairs while holding James Walker, and there was Hayes. Standing on the front porch ringing the doorbell. He was just in the bathroom less than three minutes before that! But he’d just unlocked the front door and walked out to chill on the front porch because ringing the doorbell is so funny.

I about had a heart attack. I told him all about why he can’t ever do that again. And then I sent Todd a text about how we needed special hotel locks for all of our doors because Hayes thinks it’s hilarious to walk outside and scare me to death.

So we’re definitely outnumbered. But this transition has been pretty smooth so far and this family of five thing is pretty fantastic.

(Let’s revisit this topic when James Walker is 1 and mobile and trying to learn about obedience.)

 

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