I don't know about you but sometimes the hardest gifts to think of are what I call the "outliers." The teachers, family friends, pastors etc. Often those who provide us a service year-round. There also tends to be a lot of them. I wanted something I could duplicate. This year I decided to reduce the candy, cookies and cakes and go with a hearty meal as my gift. I am calling it "A Bag O' Chili." It doesn't break the bank either. Mine worked out to be less than $10 a bag. I found the white canvas bags at Michael's on Thanksgiving clearance. Two nights ago me and my gang sorted out beans, tomatoes and pumpkin (yes pumpkin) into ten bags. We included all the ingredients minus the perishables.
I'm hoping this is a winner, I know the recipe already is! Let me know if you try it! A big thanks to my sweet friend Christina who I gave me this original recipe.
Pumpkin: Fiber and creamyness
Beans: fiber and protein
Shallots and garlic: anti-cancer properties
Red pepper: vitamin C
Cacao powder: antioxidants
Cozy Pumpkin Chili
By: Nicole Uyboco (adapted from Nixon Family Recipe)
Servings: 6-8 people
Gluten Free - Dairy Free- Vegan (meat omitted)
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground organic turkey or grass fed beef (optional)
1 organic red bell pepper, diced
1 medium shallot, diced fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
30oz organic diced tomatoes
1 15oz can organic black beans
1 15oz can organic adzuki beans
1 15oz can organic lentils
2/3 cup organic pureed pumpkin
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cacao powder
1 Tbsp coconut sugar or maple syrup
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1-2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp pepper
Is it possible to miss a place when you haven't left yet? It is the night before our flight to the mainland and I am filled with thousands of words but also speechless.
When we first arrived all I wanted to do was go home. It was hot (really hot), I was pregnant and we only knew one family here. I kept repeating to myself, "It's only 2 years, it's only 2 years." The possibility of a third was daunting at the time. Only God knew what it would really be. Who we would become. Who we would now call family. Now, after 4 years it feels like it's been a lifetime. This island will always be the place where we were broken, but healed. And now forever changed. The best church family we have ever experienced.
I am both crushed and full of joy now that the time has finally arrived for us to leave. Sad to leave all these beautiful people, the backdrop of the Ko'olau Mountains, the turquoise water and the songbirds. I've had this feeling before, the feeling of not wanting to leave community. Not just any community, but people apart of God's kingdom. Kingdom friends. It gives us a glimpse of Heaven. So maybe that's why it's so hard to leave. But sometimes we have to move. God calls us somewhere else. So we go. And I'm reminded that He creates community again wherever he leads. Although it might not be the same, there is hope because of what He's already done. Slowly we begin to have kingdom friends all over the world. So there's joy in the remembrance and the new. Joy in returning to family and other Kingdom friends.
I am forever grateful for Kingdom friends we've loved here in Hawaii. You hold such a special place in my heart. A Hui Hou (Until we meet again).
Everything Must Go!
9 suitcases, 5 carryons and 2 carseats
Move mistake #1: forgetting to take out the car title before it was packed up, this resulted in a last minute adventure to the DMV so we could ship our van. #blogstoryforanotherday
Move mistake #2: Not checking all the cabinets and drawers before the movers left. We now have pots and pans in our luggage! #notkidding
A Hui Hou and much aloha~
Mike, Nikki, Allie & Daniel
We are 8 days from moving back to California. This week we said good-bye to our Blue House Hawaii. I realized that the more memories you make in a home, in a community, the harder it is to leave it. Don't get me wrong this house had its quirks. Geckos, cockroaches (in the light switches and sinks), even centipedes occasionally. Mike had to put shades in the kitchen to prevent me from getting sunburned while making dinner. Cracks in the floors and walls. Sometimes it felt like we were camping.
However, I don't think we understood the extent of our attachment to this house until it was time to say goodbye. I was pregnant when we arrived here (see pictures below of our first and last pictures with the house), we brought Daniel home to this house. It's the only house he's known. Even now as we are "hotel living" he's asked to go home a few times. This house gave us a home during Mike's deployment. And this is the house I got the phone call from my doctor with my diagnosis. This is the home where I rested and healed. We were served dozens of meals, laundry delivered and loved from every angle. God has been in the details from the beginning. This house has a separate master bedroom and bathroom which was a blessing for our family visiting for such long times last year. Our next door neighbors became family and our houses often functioned as one. Sharing food, children, tools etc. We often joked about removing the dilapidated fence that separated our yards. We held a small group in this house for the last 3 years almost every Sunday night with the max number of children being at 21 (for 7 families). That brings me to my next blessing, the backyard. The backyard was a huge blessing in that we were able to host our small group, hold parties and other playdates. It often was a place of respite from the heat inside the house. Every summer we spent most nights in the backyard. It felt like Hawaii.
What I will Miss Most
The dozens of Hawaiian birds outside waking me up every morning
All the natural light in the house
The sound of trade winds going thru the trees
The rare times I was able to hear the waves crashing on the shore
What I Won't Miss So Much
Bugs, Geckos and Lizards
Bugs again (if you've ever lived here you know it's worth mentioning twice)
Heat (the oven is the archenemy of the Hawaiian summer)
Never being able to keep my house clean (see camping and bug references above)
Having to store pantry items in the fridge (see bug references above)
We turned the keys over on Sunday, after saying a long good bye to the house, almost taking pictures in every room. We are forever grateful for God's provision in giving us Blue House Hawaii. It will forever mark the time we spent here. Although we are very sad to leave it, we will look back on it with such wonderful memories. God given walls, floors, rooms...not just a house but a home.
Do you ever have days you wish you could fast forward? Today wasn't that day. Today was the day I needed slow motion. Today we had to say good-bye to some of the best friends we've ever known. Our next door neighbors are moving to Boise, ID just 3 weeks before we move to San Diego.
Four years ago we met as next door neighbors, just like you always do when you move somewhere new. God must have been smiling that moment knowing what we didn't know. Knowing all that we would go thru and the friendship that would come out of it. He kept us next door to each other for 4 amazing years, and when I look back on this time in our life it will always have them in it. So much has been shared between us that my house feels more empty now that they're gone.
Last week movers packed our homes on the same day. Today, we packed up 3 vans, 20 ish pieces of luggage, 7 kids, a dog and took them to the airport. And just like that, the day we all knew was coming came. We had to say good-bye. It grieves me. The ache of knowing that on this side of Heaven what we had here probably won't happen again. And yet, God is still good. God knew the friendships I would gain here and he knows my friendships yet to come. And surely we will have neighbors in Heaven...I already have mine.
I got an email from an acquaintance (hi Angie!) a while back asking me what she could do to take care of those in her life who had cancer. I thought it was such a thoughtful idea, so I am finally writing out my thoughts. Please know this is from my personal experience and each person is different. What might have worked for me may not work for others. Please ask what people are comfortable with for their own healing.
Below are some ideas on how you can practically help someone going thru cancer (or any chronic illness)
Meals: I know when someone is going thru something difficult we often want to help with bringing a meal. This is tremendously helpful. However, this is not the time to bring a five course dinner and or loads of junk food. Please follow all dietary recommendations expressed by the patient. Specifically those going thru chemo have lots of tummy troubles, and limitations. Also, try to bring food in disposable containers, tracking whose Tupperware is whose can become complicated. When in doubt offer a gift card or meal delivery service!
Other practical ways of helping:
Laundry (Janelle Wilburn did my laundry every week in April and May of 2017, I left it outside she picked it up and brought it back folded later that week such a servant. See pic below).
Transportation: to and from appts or procedures
Yard work: weeding, lawn mowing, etc.
Childcare/carpool/playdates: For those patients with young children finding and organizing childcare becomes a job. Often patients don't get to select their appt times and so the dropping off/picking up routine is a lot. Offer to watch children at the patient's home or pick up the kids so the patient doesn't have to worry about getting them anywhere.
Fun nights out (no cancer talk allowed): On the good days invite the patient over for dinner, or out to an activity and try and skip conversations about cancer. It's nice to talk about everyday things.
Organization: organize a meal train, blog, childcare or transportation to/from appts
Caregiver Respite: relieve the main caregiver and allow them to leave the house or go do other things for a few hours. The caregiver has to take on their regular duties and now the duties of the patient plus navigate a new medical world. It is A LOT of work. They need breaks often!
Lastly, I'd like to comment on communication. Depending on how well you know the person will play a factor but you need to be more on the assertive side. Most people in general don't like asking for help. After a diagnosis, patients and caregivers are in the middle of emotions, appointments, physical limitations, stress.
Use language like: "I'm coming to clean your house this week. What day/time should I come?"
"I will be coming Saturday to mow the lawn." "I will be picking up Allie from school Thursday and bring her home before dinner." Tell them what you are going/willing to do and ask for dates and times.
Avoid language like: How can I help? What can I do to help? Let me know how I can help.
Picture someone in a hurricane and then yelling to them, "How can I help?!" It's hard to get an answer.
Other things I benefitted from:
~Visitors in the hospital, especially on chemo days
~Visitors at home, on the days I was up for it. Sometimes our tendency is to want to "give them space" or "let them be" but honestly it was very isolating at times. I didn't go to church or activities nearly as much and so it was wonderful for people to come over, even with their kids. I loved the fellowship.
~Handmade blankets, care packages, flowers etc.
Things I struggled with:
~People whispering about me while I was in the room
~People asking me about my treatment and then talking about their family members who passed away from cancer.
~Asking: "When will things be back to normal for you?" The answer is never. Normal is overrated.
~Receiving articles, research etc on anything cancer related that had to do with what treatments and or food I should or shouldn't do/eat. Ask first before sending. Remember the hurricane the patient is in? We want to take things out of the hurricane not throw things in.
I hope this helps some of you and you care for your loved ones. You are so loved and helpful in a time of need.
I left my mark this week. I finally finished my chemo clinic ceiling tile. It's been a year people. You may remember my post last year entitled "The Tile Saga." It has been a long time coming. Wednesday added a little more drama as my tile would not fit in the first location nurse Josh attempted. We found another location, not in a central area but in the hallway less traveled. After finding a location I noticed the tile next to mine had a rainbow, and a verse from Isaiah 41. Mine has Isaiah 40. So clearly God had this spot in mind from the beginning. And I've now left my mark, it's in the ceiling in the hallway outside my doctor's office. If you are ever at Tripler you can go see it in the hallway outside the oncology doctor offices. OR if you are in the OBGYN clinic and you can go to the double doors by the restroom and peek thru the windows to see it. Don't forget either, wherever God has put you...leave your mark in His name.
What I Know
God is good
I saw my surgeon in March and have a clear mammogram and MRI! PRAISE
I saw my oncologist this week. I was glad to hear about my 1/2 marathon but I told him about some of the after affects and he said, "Maybe a 1/4 marathon next time." Roger that Dr. B.
We will be moving back to San Diego this summer #someofyouarecrying #someofyouarecheering
I have started acupuncture treatments for my neuropathy
I will have my port taken out this month
What I Don't Know
Why I didn't try acupuncture sooner, I woke up today with little pain in my feet!
I have been struggling with some sciatica in my right leg...prayers for this to subside
Prayers for our transition back to the mainland. We have a growing list of things to do. Pray for our logistics and our hearts because although we will be close to family, our hearts break over leaving our church family here. We've been here in Hawaii almost 4 years.
Thank you to Shara and Emily for childcare this week
This last weekend was very special. I went to my church's women's retreat on the North Shore. This is my third year coming to the retreat. The first year I went I helped organize and plan. Last year, I was one week from starting chemo. This year I was the speaker for the weekend.
This weekend brought about so many wonderful things I wish I could write it all out. This was the first time I spoke in front of people about my story. God provided so much for me to be able to carry out the message He wanted to tell.
A friend and I were talking at the retreat about a conversation we had a year ago in the same place. She was also going thru a difficult time. Only God knew then what would happen a year later. Both our stories would show such redemption. I have been so blessed each year I've come. This year being a treasure that I will never forget.
Many people have asked for audio transcripts of the sessions, we did tape them but the background noise is pretty bad so we're hoping to fix it. Stay tuned...
In December of 2016 I gifted Mike my entry into the Hapalua half marathon. Shortly after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. A year ago this week I had my first of 16 chemo treatments. If you told me in the chemo chair I would walk a 1/2 marathon in a year I would have cried. I wouldn't have believed it. God is so good friends. He can redeem the hardest places. We prayed for 13 different people affected by cancer, one at each mile. #mikesidea
What I Know
God is good
My first half marathon! It has always been a goal of mine and I have been training for several weeks.
My feet still have neuropathy and at about mile 6 they were screaming at me
I have 4 blisters
I fell asleep on the way home
What I Don't Know
Why this lady made her dog walk a half marathon!
Why there weren't more bathrooms along the route #pitstop
Kaci/Price Ohana for watching our kids for the race
To all of you who have and continued to pray for me. I am grateful and humbled. Thank you!
Thank you all for praying for me last week. I have felt your prayers. I had a mammogram and MRI on Wednesday. In true blog form I write again...
What I know:
God is good
Both the Mammogram & MRI are clear of cancer. Please give thanks to God on my behalf!
Going forward I may have the option of only having to do one test every 6 months and then alternate them
After waiting a day and a half for the results I decided to call the office and ask. Glad I did. #pinsandneedlesherepeople
I don't like poi
I like haupia
What made today normal
We participated in Allie's 1st Grade Luau at school
Daniel cried because I told him he couldn't flush the toilet a 2nd time
Daniel asked me, "What's your name again?"
Daniel told me, "I love your beautiful face."
What I'm Reading
The 7 Experiment: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker
Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life by David Serven-Schreiber
Reminders & Connections
Last week was challenging. I had to go back to all the familiar places. The mammogram (I got my rose BTW) clinic and the hospital where I had my surgery. Lots of waiting again. I am also preparing for the women's retreat and so I've been rereading my blogs and writing a lot. It has been difficult to relive everything a year later. But as you know God met me in the hard spaces. I found him when it hurt the most. Going forward I will have to have mammograms and imaging done at least once a year. May those times remind me 1) what God has and is doing 2) that I use that time to further develop my trust in Him 3) to reflect on my life and make sure I am doing what God wants me to.
I found out the results of my scans in the afternoon just before leaving to pick up Allie from school. As my good news settled over me while driving I was waiting at a stop light. I saw a friend drive across the intersection. Their adult son has a brain tumor. I ended up following their car all the way to school (our daughters both go to the same school). I prayed for them along the way. Friday their son went home to be with Jesus. God was reminding me. As scary as cancer is I have an amazing opportunity to connect with those who are suffering. I've also been praying for Dani Pratt this week as I posted last time. Friday night I "ran into" her at Costco. I am honored and humbled God has given me this ability to empathize with those hurting.
Upon my initial diagnosis I wanted to know how long it would be before I could "get back to normal." Now I realize the flaw in my thinking. God is creating a new normal for me. I can't wait to see what he's got next. It won't be easy and comfortable along the way. BUT It will have joy. Hope you can join me.
Wow! This is the longest I've gone without an entry! I have an update/few prayer requests I want to share with you...
1) The reason I haven't been writing blog entries is because I have been preparing. Preparing for my church's women's' retreat. I have been asked to be the speaker for the weekend. It is going to be April 20-22. Please pray for my preparation, that I hear God's voice, that my nerves are calmed and lives are changed. I am very honored and humbled to be asked. I have made good progress on writing and am getting more excited about sharing what God has done and taught me. I am hoping to post my notes on the blog after the retreat.
2) I saw my surgeon this morning in "that room" and after my physical exam she said, "you passed!" Praise God! My mammogram is scheduled for Wednesday and we are waiting on clearance for the MRI. All of the emotions and fears have been brought to the surface. I am having good and bad moments of fear leading up to the appointments and scans. I know and trust God is good, however sometimes fear creeps in. Prayers against this, of course I am praying for clear scans, but I am also praying for peace and contentment in any circumstance. Prayers again...thank you~
3) I was told about Danielle Pratt and her family today and their long list of health concerns. Please pray leaps and bound for them. www.beautyfullmess.com/
Much aloha to all of you~