2007 was exciting for us. We were a family of four, Cayle had just turned two, Alaya was five months old and we had been married for just over three years. Dwayne had been working for a great local restaurant for several months as the Assistant Manager. He really enjoyed his work and his hours. We loved having him home pretty early in the evenings which was new for us. We absolutely loved our church and felt like we had a true family there. My relationship with my parents was somewhat better. I think they were coming to terms with the fact we were our own family unit. We spent time with them a lot. I also gained a new brother this year. A boy named Travis had been connected to our family for several years through church. He and his siblings had spent several years in foster care and my parents decided they wanted to adopt him. My parents went through all of the training through DHS and he came to live with them that year. We loved him and he fit right into our family. He was a hard worker and our kids loved him dearly.
Cayle and Travis
Dwayne had started having some health issues though. He was feeling very tired and run down a lot which is not like him. Dwayne can (still!) run circles around most people on any given day. We weren't sure if the months of working 80 hours weeks was catching up with him or if age was slowing him down some or what, but it became concerning. Finally in April I convinced him to go to the doctor and he let his work know that he would need the day off on the day of his appointment because they were going to be doing a fasting glucose test. He let them know that if he was able to come in to work afterward that he would. Dwayne did not miss work, ever. He wasn't late and he worked hard. He had not missed a single day of work at this job since he started. I say this because it's important for later.
The kids and I went with Dwayne for his tests and it really depleted him having so much blood drawn. He needed me to drive him home. When we got home he went to bed and later that afternoon we got a phone call from the other assistant manager at Dwayne's job. I woke Dwayne up and the guy kind of went off on him about not showing up. Dwayne reminded him of his appointment and that he had asked off. The guy was super mad and acted as if Dwayne had not told them anything. Then Dwayne got a call from the owner of the restaurant who also chewed him out. They asked him to come in the next morning to talk about it.
When he got there they had a piece of paper they wanted him to sign saying his employment had been terminated for "failure to show." We were shocked and angry! He had made arrangements, but they swore that he said he would come in later that day, and even if that were true (which it wasn't), why would you fire someone that you knew was very sick and had proof that they had been at the doctor that day? Someone who was in management and had proven their reliability and consistency for months? It made absolutely no sense. So our sole bread winner no longer had an income and was absolutely devastated. We decided to put our house on the market because we were wanting to move to Little Rock anyway (to be closer to his job!) but now we were worried about what our financial future looked like. I started working part-time for our church doing some administrative work to help with the bills. We had been feeling for years (since Multnomah) that we really wanted to move out of state and experience adventure outside of Arkansas, and we began to feel that more and more strongly. Waco, Texas was on the table because of Dwayne's history there. But we also began to pray about Kansas City, Missouri because of the International House of Prayer. They had a ministry school and we loved what was happening at the House of Prayer. We started praying about this.
Alaya at 6 months old
Alaya at 9 months old
I was determined to breastfeed Alaya until she was a year old. I had been unable to do that with Cayle and I was fiercely determined to do it with her. We both loved nursing and I was so thankful that at 9 months old Alaya was still doing great nursing at least 4 times a day and eating table food. One morning in May I heard her wake up (she was sleeping in her own bed by then!) and I went to get her to nurse. As soon as she latched on I knew something was wrong. I had no let down sensation. I tried the other breast. Nothing. I took her off and did some squeezing and didn't get much of anything out. We had some formula so I went to make her a bottle, baffled. Was it really over, all of a sudden, like that? I thought I would be forced to dry myself up, not the other way around. I kind of shrugged it off but did think it was weird. Fortunately she did great with a bottle and formula so that made the sudden transition pretty anticlimactic.
A week later I was in the shower and decided to do a breast self exam. As soon as I started on my right breast I felt a lump. The size of a golf ball. I was like, uhhh whoa. I had suffered through a few bouts of clogged milk ducts and mastitis with Alaya so I thought maybe that's all it was. Just milk still drying out. I decided to do the exam again in a month.
In June my family invited us to go to the beach with them for a family vacation. We obviously had no money to do this because we were living off of meager savings and my part-time income as Dwayne furiously tried to find another job. They offered to cover us except gas and we were humbled and also grateful. We knew we could use a break from everyday life. While we were there, we got a phone call from our realtor (Melissa. She is a gal of many talents) that we had an offer on our house. It was basically a full price offer. We accepted and stopped to take stock. Dwayne was unemployed and we had a contract on our house. What was tying us to Little Rock now besides family? Nothing.
While we were at the beach I realized that this lump wasn't going away. I started to make preparations to get it checked out. When we came home I went to the breast center and had an ultrasound done on it. You could see an obvious "something" on the ultrasound, but the techs were not concerned and wrote on my sheet of paper "Come back at 40 for your first mammogram." They did tell me verbally to get it rechecked in six months if it was still there. They labeled it "uneven weight loss in the breast due to breast feeding." Okay. I mean I didn't know more than they did so I assumed they must be right, even though that doesn't even sound logical. But I was 24 and 24 year olds don't get breast cancer, right? That's what they kept telling me anyway.
We came back from vacation, packed up and closed on our house and moved in with my in laws again until we could figure out what we were doing. This time was not as friendly and I felt like we were a burden to them. Like nothing I could do would ever be good enough. I felt like I always did everything "wrong." Dishes, laundry, etc. It was yucky. We decided to go for a weekend to Ihop-KC and see what the Lord said while we were there. Over the weekend, we began to feel really strongly that this was the place for us. We loved everything about it. As we prayed we felt like the Lord was saying that no path we chose was wrong but if we took the path of adventure, the unknown, He would bless it like crazy. We looked at each other and jumped. We came home, secured an apartment, and Dwayne had a job interview in July. We loaded a moving truck with our belongings, our kiddos, and our dog and said goodbye to our family and embarked on our next adventure.
After six hours of driving we arrived to our apartment complex. We had already signed some papers and given them our deposit electronically. We walked into the complex with our kids and all our worldy possessions outside and I immediately did not have peace. Something was wrong. We said we we were there to sign our lease. They were expecting us. Then the next thing we knew they were saying they couldn't let us move in. They needed more information from us; tax returns. We needed to make a certain amount of income to live there, but they hadn't told us that before. They. Couldn't. Wouldn't. Let us move in. We were angry! We walked out the door, homeless, and stood in the parking lot. What now Lord? Dwayne was about to freak out. Suddenly the peace of the Lord overwhelmed me: This is faith, knowing that He already knows what we need, before we ask, and He has a good plan. I prayed silently and then had the thought: Drive to Gladheart Realty. Gladheart Realty is a realty company associated with Ihop that funnels its profits back into the house of prayer. I told Dwayne and we drove that way. I called my best friend Carrie on the way, "Pray," I said. As I'm on the phone with her I pass by another church with a sign out front that says, "Faith is the ability to not panic." I'm hearing You loud and clear Lord.
We arrived at Gladheart and went in and I immediately broke down crying from worry and stress. A gentleman came out and asked us how he could help and we told him the story. He took us to his office and told us that he is the only realtor there that deals with property management and that everyone else was gone to lunch. God. He started making some phone calls and ended up finding us an apartment complex close by. He told us it was a little run down but that some Ihop people lived there and would take care of us. We breathed a sigh of relief and drove that way. It was run down, but we were so thankful that we weren't actually homeless.
Thus began our adventure. We became fast friends with the couple who managed the complex of townhouses: Brad and Leslie who were newlyweds and expecting their first child. Our complex was mostly single moms who were on Section 8 housing and it was a wonderful opportunity to minister. Brad and Leslie and several of their friends celebrated Shabbot as Messianic Jews and invited us to do it with them each Friday. We had big meals and worshipped and prayed and prophesied over each other. It was the most thrilling Holy Spirit led season and group of people that we had ever lived with.
There were many trials during those months too though. The first interview Dwayne had, they told him he had the job, then when he came back to fill out new hire paperwork, they said, "What job?" It was super messed up. But God provided and he started delivering pizzas and working as a server at another restaurant. We were so tight financially but God provided and provided and provided. In fact He started challenging us to give more than we ever had before and we did and he kept providing. It was crazy and more faith building than I can say.
At some point I went to the Healing Room in the house of prayer to pray for healing in the nagging lump in my breast that not only wouldn't go away but was hurting me so badly that I didn't want to wear a bra most days. I had complete faith in the Lord's ability to miraculously heal me, immediately, instantly. That night as I drifted off to sleep with the lump still there, and yet such peace, I felt the Lord whisper with great love to my heart: "I'm not going to remove this from you, but I'm going to give you grace to endure what is to come." I felt the warning that came with the word, but no fear.
Cayle and Pepaw
One of the times my parents came to visit, we went to the KC Zoo.
Because of how things had been for so long with my family, it was SO good for us to be out of state because it gave us the opportunity to establish ourselves as a family without dealing with my family every single day. I know Dwayne truly felt like the man of the house and like he didn't have to answer to anyone but God and that was incredibly edifying for him. My mom absolutely was struggling with us being gone though because she didn't know what to do with herself since she couldn't really meddle in my daily affairs anymore. They came to visit us and I was always glad to see them because I missed them a lot, but the more I was around my mom, the more concerned I became about her. I remember her being out of it a lot. Shaky, slurred speech. It was weird. I didn't know what to make of it.
We traveled back to Little Rock for Alaya's 1st birthday in August and then we didn't go back again until December.
Alaya's first birthday
We stayed in KC for Thanksgiving and I cooked my first ever Thanksgiving meal and shared it with our precious friends. It was awesome. I felt so independent and special because no one ever let me really help with the Thanksgiving meal in our family. It was delicious too.
Our Christmas card picture that year
In December when we went home for Christmas, I had a regular check up appointment with my OB/Gyn. If you remember, after I had Cayle I prayed I would get at least a year before I got pregnant again and I found out a week after Cayle's first birthday that I was pregnant with Alaya. Well after Alaya I decided, since God took me literally, that I should pray for two years before I got pregnant again. I knew my body was tired and needed a break. In December, Alaya was 16 months old and I still wasn't pregnant so I knew the Lord was listening to me. Anyway, I went to see Dr. Marks for my yearly check up and I had him check the lump in my breast that had still not gone away, because it had been six months since my ultrasound. He wasn't worried, but could definitely feel it and told me to play it safe and go ahead and see a breast specialist. He figured it was fibrocystic breast tissue. I could have made an appointment to see a doctor in Little Rock then, but decided to try to find someone in KC.
After we came home from Christmas, I began calling around and asking about a good breast doctor in KC. I couldn't get the same name twice and I couldn't get peace. Dwayne and I began to feel more and more like the Lord was preparing us for something heavy. We loved KC, SO much, but we also began to wonder if I had cancer. It's the word neither of us would say, but we both were thinking. Ultimately we decided to see the only doctor we trusted because we had a reputation with him: Dr. Hagans in Little Rock. We made an appointment for the end of January. We decided at that moment that depending on what he said would determine if we needed to move back to Little Rock or not. We were readying ourselves for that possibility. But we did not want to leave. We loved our new home.
And that was how 2007 ended: happily planted in one city, but anticipating another transition ahead.