Perfectly us, four increases to five!

Today my family expands! ZachKarmen
Our son, Zachary is marrying Karmen!
The joy and love we feel is real…strong…and true.

As parents we have so many hopes, dreams, and desires for our children, yet ultimately the most important one is; we want them to be truly happy and live faith-filled lives. Both our children, Jaclyn and Zachary, have found joy in life with their careers and friends. Now to watch Zach and Karmen grow individually and as a couple these past two years, has been a true blessing for our family.

Our family of four is a typical close, in your business (sometimes), Italian family. We love passionately, care deeply and have been known to have arguments occasionally (infrequently now, but those teen years…Yikes!). We are far from perfect, but we are perfectly us.

I wonder if we our family was a shock to kind, calm, and quiet Karmen, who’s family life and culture is different. Which is true for each one of us comes from a unique and special family. Each of us bring with us a lot of family “stuff”, it makes us who we are. Melding their new lives together, I trust the Lord to  guide Zach and Karmen, to create their own ‘perfectly theirs’ family.

I knew Zachary’s heart was taken the first time I met Karmen. We met Zachary and Karmen at the Museum of Science and Industry the day after Thanksgiving 2013. Watching Zach talk with her, hold her hand, and treat her like the incredible woman she is…was it.

I love Zachary with her. He was comfortable, confident and loving…he was completely himself. I love who Zach is with Karmen, true to himself.

Then in June of 2014 in Venice, Italy on our family vacation Zach talked non-stop about why he loved her and how he missed seeing her. He was head over heels in love, I was no longer the most important woman in my baby’s heart and I was so happy to share his heart for this reason. Seeing how happy he was made this transition much less painful, because you see, he is my baby…the one I held when he was sick or hurting. Yet, now I see the man that the Lord created and am so grateful He allowed me to be part of Zach’s life.

So…
As they begin their marriage, I have to reflect on a life of marriage and the graces received (and lessons learned) through my 32 years and 2 children with my husband, Kevin. This will not be and cannot be a comprehensive guide to marriage, just my reflections as thoughts come to me.

Begin each day with a prayer of praise for all that you have been blessed with.
Put each other before yourself in life, honor and cherish every breath together.
Never lose yourself, be individuals who respect each other.
Always hold hands and snuggle all the time, especially during movies.
Share dinner together, even if it happens to be leftovers or cereal.
Take time to spend alone together.
Make birthdays and your anniversary special each year.
Listen more than you talk.
Forgive easily, especially when it is not easy.
Cheer each other in good times and cling to each other in storms.
Look for rainbows and stop to watch sunsets.
Make financial decisions together and never hide purchases from each other.
The mountains are calling you, spend time breathing in the clean, pure air of God’s beauty.
Stay close to family, they are your biggest supporters and loyal confidants.
Remember you are joined and entwined together as three cords, keeping God in the center will keep you strong.
Pray each night for each other and with each other.
Love always.

All good heart-felt advice from me is solid, I still giggle at my sister Toni’s great marriage advice of “always fight naked and no one will ever run out of the house.”

And know that all our family looking down upon us are smiling and guiding you…and know deep in your hearts that Kevin and I pray for you both and your union.

Welcome to this crazy, passionate, loving family Karmen…we love you!

#KarmenandZach
#ZachandKarmen
#marriage #love #happiness

Grace embraced through the young, pure love and happiness of this day as we welcome Karmen to our family through the Sacrament of Matrimony.
Love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things, love never fails   1 Cor 13:7

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A Year of Thriving

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My mom, brothers and sisters…Love you all!

August 8, 2013 – Last treatment
of the targeted chemotherapy, Herceptin.

August 8, 2014 – A year free of treatments- JOY. A year free of needle pokes and IV bags-PEACE. A year of hair growth and personal growth-LOVE. A year filled with love of family and friends-KINDNESS. A year filled with sunshine blinding my cloudy days because I wake up every morning-GOODNESS.

My daily prayers still include some personal intentions, but they are mostly prayers of thanksgiving. I have faced the evil that cancer is and am still thriving. A sweet cousin, who also overcame breast cancer, wisely told me as I began this journey in March of 2012, that she doesn’t consider herself a survivor, she is a thriver. I have come to realize that my life too is about thriving! My prayer is that I continue to thrive and bear the fruits of the Spirit to others.

I was blessed this past year of good health to spend beautiful moments with my sisters, Diane, Teri and Toni and my brothers, Don and John. I believe our relationships grew stronger and deeper. There were many moments that I treasure with friends too, but siblings share a special bond that runs long and deep. They have seen me at my worst and my best and they continue to stand by me. I pray I have shown them and will continue to show them the love, kindness and gentleness that they have shared with me. Some of the years highlights were…

Kevin and I were blessed to vacation just before my last Herceptin with Teri and Diane for Teri’s Hawaii wedding to a wonderful new brother-in-law, Nick. Teri’s children Mindy and Jack joined us for an incredible 5 sunny days.

Kevin and I were blessed to vacation with Don and Mindy in Cancun for a glorious week in January. Yes during Chicago’s below zero temperatures we were all glad to get away and relax at the beautiful gulf waters. Their friends Tony and Diane joined us for an amazing time filled with lots of laughs.

In March we stole a few days away for my nephew’s wedding in Arizona. Pete and Melissa filled the air with the love that radiated from them. And the time with the extended Caschetta family was so much fun…lots of little ones running around the reception and leading the moves on the dance floor.

The abundant blessings came about at the end of May when we could put off no longer the trip that we had been planning in our minds and hearts for 8 years. Fifteen days in Italy…Rome, Venice, Florence, Cinque Terra and Lucca. My heart felt at home in Lucca. Maybe it was because it is where my Nonno and Noni met, or maybe it was because I knew my father had walked those streets too. I don’t know what it was, but I felt a connection to a place I had only heard stories about.

There may have been hard moments, scary moments and moments of distress this past year. But I choose to remember the moments I spent with my husband, my daughter, my son, my mother, my siblings and my friends. Laughing, loving and living…no, laughing, loving and thriving!

Grace embraced through the love I have been blessed to share with others throughout the past year. May the Lord use me to help others bear their burdens, so that I may lighten their load in some small way.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control Galatians 5:22-23

 

Anniversary thoughts

Today begins the Anniversary march. You know when you experience the “firsts” of everything.1anni

One year ago today I found my lump. Although I say “my”, I never took ownership of it. It was a foreigner in my body and as soon as I felt it I wanted it out. I remember telling my husband and he said lovely “it’s probably nothing”. I know he was trying to calm my fears and comfort me. But the one thing I was not was fearful.

I was with my father on November 24, 2006 when the doctor drained the fluid from his lungs and told him the tests were stage 4 lymphoma. He looked at my mother and lovely said “we’ve had a great life”. He would fight with everything he had, but he was not fearful but calm in those first few moments.

I remember thinking immediately of my dad and how strong he was and how faith-filled he was. And I felt the same way. I was not fearful, but I was concerned. Yet, I felt a peace over me. As if the Lord was saying to me “I’ve got this”. And I believed…

“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” Acts 1:7

And I have always trusted in my Lord…and He has never failed me.

I trusted His plan is so much better than any plan I could imagine.
I trusted His timing is perfect and that I will not be disappointed.
I trusted His healing power to guide those ministering to me.
I trusted His joy in seeing His glory in all that I would undergo.

And He exceed any expectations I could have imagined.

I would not wish this journey on anyone and I would not choose to go through it again. But I was so blessed with each step of this journey. You have read before all those that have helped me. But spiritually nothing compares to the depth of the relationship between Jesus and me.

He hears from me daily and many times throughout the day.

And I hear from Him more than ever…
I hear his voice in the friends that have reached out to me.
I hear his voice in the family that have cared for me.
I hear his voice in the doctors as they treat me.
I hear his voice in all the support techs and nurses that have shown amazing kindness.

His grace surrounds me.

When I began this blog I named it Grace Embraced, because I knew I felt grace filled moments as I walked those first few weeks alone with my husband and children. Now I know God named this Grace Embraced because He planned on filling every moment of my life with grace, as He has always done…but my eyes are now wide open and I can clearly see the grace as it flows around me.

Grace is Love.
And
Love is God.

To all the wonderful women in my life…for me, do a self-exam this evening…be aware of your own body…don’t put off until tomorrow…I love you all too much to not remind you…

So even on this anniversary that no one wants to remember, and as I approach the first anniversary of surgery and first anniversary of chemo, etc. I remember my dad’s words “we’ve had a good life” and I’m still enjoying it! Thanks Dad for looking down on me and Praise to the Lord for his goodness endures forever and flows over me we grace! According to my medical oncologist, my chances are statistically 50/50 that I will be here for more than 5 years. But my God knows statistics don’t hold any value with Him and I will continue to embrace and follow Him!

Grace embraced through you all; and you all are embraced with all the graces I have received, because I cannot receive them without sharing them with you.

“the day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Matthew 24:36

A beautiful day…a lovely walk…

Last Sunday our house woke up to a cool brisk morning air and to a determination to reach out to others in support. It was the morning of the Chicago Marathon but I had a marathon of my own.

The Cancer Support Center in Homewood and Mokena has given me, and so many others, resources and encouragement. I wanted to complete their Walk for Hope. The Walk for Hope was a 1, 3, and 5 mile walk through lovely downtown Homewood. Now I knew I could do the 1 mile. Kevin and I have been walking our circle neighborhood mile all summer, sometimes a mile and a half. I’ve only done 2 miles once since my surgery, so I was hesitate about the 3 mile walk. Also the previous Sunday, I chose to wear new shoes to work. Walking from church to the school and back several times created four blisters on the back of my feet. I have been wearing sandals all week to allow them to heal before the walk. But since my platelets are low, it seems like my blood was not clotting as easily and therefore the blisters did not seem to heal as quickly. Or was it just my impatience? I tried my gym shoes on Friday and they rubbed right on the blisters,” just keep praying, Janet”.

But God knows my heart, He would overcome any obstacles for His glory and I knew that. Some people were concerned the day might be too cold for me or it would be too long for me, but I trusted and released the day into Gods hands. I’ll stop at one mile if I need to and would not attempt the walk at all if it was raining or no sun and too cold. But I trusted.

And He always prevails! Sunday morning was brisk, but the four of us bundled up with scarves and hats. I was most concerned about my neck and the cold. My long hair usually kept my neck warm and I did not want to be chilled because my hat and fleece did not do the job as well.  So I grabbed a winter scarf, which may have been too much, but nothing was not a choice for “bald-headed” me.

Saturday, my sister-in-law called to say she had seen the walk at the Cancer Support website and was walking in my honor. Jaclyn told her we were going too and would meet up in the morning!

So off Kevin, Jaclyn, Zachary and I went. Oh yeah, Jaclyn’s is home this week for her school fall break! The perks of being a teacher!

There were so many people filling the Irwin Center grassy area, close to a thousand people came out in support of this organizations and someone they love. I received my first survivors recognition and a beautiful necklace that shouts “Spirit, Strength, Hope, Courage”. Amazing experience! I filled out my walkers name tag, I walk for “a cure”. And turned around to read the others. Tears flowed to my eyes as I read …I walk for “my beautiful Momma; my wife, the love of my life; my courageous mom; my little sister; my loving sister-in-law”. We asked someone to snap our picture together, as you can see here. Don explained that his fanny pack was not a purse, it was European (for all you Seinfield fans)! It was the joking point of the day! Of course Jaclyn uploaded the pic to Facebook and we saw that my nephew in Denver posted a pic for a Strides against Cancer walk he was participating in for his stepmother’s three-year survival and ME! Another beautiful surprise! I am so blessed!

As we walked, Kevin offered to complete the one mile with me as everyone else finished the three-mile, but God had other plans. The day was beautiful, the conversations we were having were wonderful and the time passed easily. At the one mile turn, I felt great, my heels were not hurting and my stamina was good. And Mindy and I were talking about the great restaurants in Homewood, so I pushed forward.

Seeing that we were walking down Dixie Highway for about 3/4 of a mile, I figured I can always turn back if the walk became too much. As we walked we rotated, I had a great conversation with Mindy, although we laughed at how hungry we were getting talking about restaurants for half an hour…but now I have a new repertoire of establishments to try. Don and I talked of family, friends and work, catching up on each others lives. I spent time in the sun and fresh air with my amazing adult children and husband laughing. I made the three miles easily and with a huge smile on my face! The Lord’s plan worked out perfectly, as always.

After hitting the local Blueberry Hill for breakfast/lunch together, we went home. Well the beautiful morning ended with an afternoon on the couch. My feet were okay, but the walk and fresh air took it out of me, in a good way. My spirits were on a high all day!

My stamina was something to be desired, long gone is the woman who ran 3-5 miles. The knees are older and the body more resistant. But friends who ran the marathon are my inspiration too, I refuse to let this diagnosis determine what I am capable of.

The extra fifteen pounds which chemo, steroids and recovery has added to my body will be shed. A healthy, active lifestyle is around the corner. When the final round of chemo ends, God willing, on October 18, a new chapter begins.

I know, I know, I still have treatments through August 2013, but my hair should start growing and my blood should start rebuilding its strength back and I will begin to strive once again. Fatigue will continue through the next ten months, but my spirit can’t be squashed!

So congratulations to the Chicago marathon athletes, what an amazing achievement. And a heartfelt thanks to my family for helping me with my three-mile achievement!

‘Do not fear, for I am with you;  Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Isaiah 41:10

Grace embraced through the amazing survivors and supporters that shared a beautiful day celebrating life and the work of the Cancer Support Center. And in a special way through my brother and sister-in-law, my children and my husband supporting and uplifting me all morning!