Saturday, August 31, 2013

{iPhone Rewind} :: August

We officially experienced the Dog Days of August. The seemingly mild summer disappeared as the 100+ degree weather settled in...

This is what Sasha does when she is pouting. She hides behind the curtains as if to say, "I'm ignoring you; don't talk to me." Mike is right. She can be such a Diva.

When Nothing Bundt Cakes shows up at work with free bundtinis, it's hard to say no to these bite sized treats! This red velvet was a nice afternoon pick-me-up :)

A sweet lady in our home group is working on a huge work project, so we offered to take her kids to their juggling practice so she could work late. I got to spend the evening watching them do all kinds of fun tricks- juggling, rope twirling, plate spinning, etc. Love these sweet kids!

Our sweet friend Becca had her baby shower, and I was so excited that I got to be there. She might be just about the cutest pregnant lady I know :) We're so excited for her and Drew, and can't wait to meet sweet Evelyn June {don't you just LOVE that name??}

We got to spend a Saturday with Ben and Lindsay at Top Golf. The weather was unbelievably gorgeous, and we had such a great time hanging out!

I have been wanting a snow cone all summer and we finally had one! We tried one in our neighborhood and found out it has been in business for 34 years. Tiger Blood is the way to go :)

We had a second fundraising night at Spoons Garage in downtown McKinney. We had a great turnout, and it was amazing to see the relationships we have formed with so many.

So my beautiful friend Austen won Mrs. Texas this year. And then she won Mrs. America. Because she is awesome. Congrats sweet friend...go share the name of Jesus!

We got to go on a double date with the Rays to a Rough Riders game. We love these sweet friends, and any time we get to spend with them!

Friday, August 30, 2013

When God Gives You a "No"

I came across this quote yesterday, and I really felt like it was fitting for where we are right now. This summer has been really busy and somewhat difficult in a number of ways. Don't get me wrong; we have seen a lot of encouraging things through our church plant. We have seen a lot of spiritual growth in individual members, and we are excited about the months ahead as we settle back into our normal rhythms for the fall and gear up for a possible launch in the winter. And God has been faithful {as He always is} to provide for us.
But it feels like we have been in a season of hearing "no" which has really started to wear on both of us. Whether it was not the answers we wanted to hear about insurance/medication cost, Mike's job not yielding the results that we feel match his efforts, or me battling sickness off and on that has resulted in more "not well" days than "well" has just been a difficult few months on a personal level.
We were talking this week about how we know the right things to say to ourselves: God works all things out for our good. He has a better plan for us than we have for ourselves. He will provide. He just wants our faithful obedience. But in seasons like these, it is really hard to believe those things to be true. We know they are, but for some reason the encouragement that comes from those truths takes a little longer to fill and nourish our souls.
Through the frustration and the disappointment, Mike has really led us well in still giving praise to Jesus for who He is and how He takes care of us. We may not understand the how or why behind the "no's" but it's important for us to continue reminding ourselves of the above truths. Just because they are harder to see/believe in the midst of our circumstances doesn't make them any less true. God is still good.
Today, I take comfort in the above quote. I say "thank you, Jesus" for knowing what's best for us and protecting us from less than that.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Baylor Move-In Day...10 Years Ago

One of my bosses was off work today, moving his son in at Baylor. Ten years ago, I was the excited freshman moving into North Russell Hall. My whole life was before me, and I was excited about the adventures to come. I LOVED my time at Baylor and often feel nostalgic for those college days...

Move-In Day at Baylor 10 years ago was nothing less than semi-controlled chaos; it was every freshman and their parent for themselves. My poor parents. Because I lived on campus, I put them through 4 move-ins and 4 move outs. Thanks mom and dad! :)

Sadly, I don't have any pictures from move-in day...those were the days before I had a digital camera and before there were camera phones haha. But this photo is from freshman year. 

Megan {on the right} was my roommate, and Nicki {on the left} was my neighbor. My first intro to Nicki was her dad nailing into our shared wall at 7am in the morning :)

After my freshman year, I became a Community Leader {which is Baylor's version of the R.A.} which automatically made me part of the move-in crew. So I was a part of many a move-in day festivities. I saw the good, the bad, and the ugly ;)

Move-In 2005

Move-In 2006

Now they have designated days, drop-off routes/maps, more sophisticated move-in crews...much more organized for sure. Thinking about my boss moving in his son got me thinking about my time at Baylor. I have great memories from my college days. I loved my professors and my classes. I loved living on campus. I loved going to the football and basketball games. I loved chapel, Dr Pepper Hour, Diadeloso, Sing, Christmas on 5th Street, and visiting the bears. 

I learned a lot in college, and not just in my classes. I learned more about myself, who I was and who God was shaping me to be. I gained more confidence and began the steps toward learning to step outside my comfort zone. I learned how to serve and think of others before myself. I grew closer to Jesus during college. I made lifelong friends.

I am so thankful for the time I had at Baylor. I will always be proud of my alma mater. Sic 'em Bears!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Crohn's Chronicles :: Humira Cost Provision REVISION

So I needed to update this post. Today I am struggling because the FANTASTIC news I thought I had received was well-intentioned, but sadly misinformed.

Right before we wrapped up my 6-month check-up, I decided to ask my doctor what my options were for paying for my medication. With the cost of Humira going up, I knew I needed to have a game plan for how I was going to tackle a lifetime of inevitable increases. You may or may not know, but there simply are no generic brands available for Humira {or Cimzia, it's competitor on the market}. Because they are considered "biologics" they fall under different laws/regulations than other medications. Unless these laws are changed, there may never be generic versions. So those who require these types of medications may always face the rising cost of "designer drugs."

My doctor asked if I had insurance: yes, and it pays 70% of the cost {so thankful}. He asked if I was enrolled in the Humira Protection Plan: yes, but I was told the benefits ran out a few months ago, so while they will cover a little less than 70% of that remaining amount {very thankful, for sure}, I am still left with a fairly high out-of-pocket expense every month {we're talking hundreds. per month.} And that doesn't account for the cost of check ups, blood work, vaccinations, etc. He referred me to his nurse, because he thought it sounded really high but wasn't sure.

Long story short...when I told her what I was paying, she told me I should only be paying $5.00 per month. 5 dollars. 1 Mr. Lincoln. When I asked her about the benefit running out, she said that I just sign up for a new card.  Unfortunately there are always restrictions. It sounded too good to be true, and it was. Unfortunately, our out-of-pocket after what insurance pays exceeds a $500 maximum that the Humira Protection Plan will apply each month. So I am still responsible for the balance, which is way higher {remember. hundreds. per month} than a $5 co-pay. And you cannot just sign up for a new card. You get one card only.

We have readjusted our budget, making major cutbacks to accommodate the crazy expense, and we were paying too much the entire time? I wanted to hug her right there in the exam room. Inside I was holding back the tears, screaming "do you have any idea what this means???" I believe so much in how much Humira has helped me that I would gladly pay more than $5 for the medication {we were doing what we needed to make it work}. But there is simply no reason to pay more than you should if there is assistance available. And it's comforting to know that I have access to affordable treatment for Crohn's. That may not always be the case, but for someone who is looking at a lifetime commitment of managing the disease, every little bit {for however long} helps. We will still need to continue our cutbacks to accommodate this crazy expense because I still believe in how much Humira has helped me. And unfortunately, my health is dependent on it. Because of my particular situation with my insurance company, they mandate which pharmacy at which I fill my prescription. So I am stuck {for now} with the price the pharmacy has contracted with Humira. Not all insurance companies mandate a particular pharmacy, but rather allow you shop around. If this is the case for you, SHOP around. The lower the total cost of the drug, the lower your out-of-pocket could be.

I still LOVE my doctor and am still thankful for his willingness to talk through all of my crazy questions/thoughts/ concerns/fears. And I am still so thankful for his nurse, who has done a lot of leg work on my behalf to make sure I have access to affordable care. She may not have had all of the information, but she was willing to go to bat for me, for which I am grateful. At least I may be able to help a patient in the future have better information. I am also thankful for a job whose leadership works hard to keep our premiums low and our benefits helpful. We recently switched insurance providers at work, which always instills a little fear of whether or not my doctors and medication will be covered. But the Lord has even taken care of that for us, even placing my medication on a better coverage tier, which will help with increases in the future. They told me that all injectables are rejected under our new plan, but that if I have a prior letter of authorization from my doctor, they will cover it. They also said that I can choose my pharmacy, which means I can find one with a better pricing contract with Humira {i.e. lower cost}. My plea for prayer is that this is really the case, and I'm not just getting the run around again. They could only provide me information under a dummy account, but we won't know for sure until I am an official member under the plan. {Kind of makes it hard to shop around for an insurance plan that makes sense for you, doesn't it? Sigh.}

I just see this as God's incredible provision. He knew I would be diagnosed with Crohn's, and when we thought we had to pay the higher prices, He provided. When we were stretched thin in our budget and didn't see how we could make it work, He provided. When we were not sure how things would be covered, He provided. Again, I realize things could change in a moment, but I know that somehow, some way, He will always provide. In the midst of the frustration and disappointment of the changed news, I am repeating these words to myself today. It's just as true now as when I thought this had been resolved and the news was better. My raise took affect this month, which was one of our Ebenezer Stones for how He provided when the total cost of Humira {and thus our out-of-pocket expense} went up last month. God is still good and still worthy of praise. And I know He will provide. Even if the provision looks different than what I wanted.

Friday, August 16, 2013

High Five for Friday!

{one} Tuesday night's Bible study was such an encouragement to my heart. One, because we had 8 women studying the Word in our living room. Remember when there were only 2 or 3?? And two, because of the discussion and study itself. This week we were in Exodus 13-14, specifically where the nation of Israel comes to the Red Sea and the Lord shows His mighty hand by rescuing the people from the hands of the Egyptians. We see that the Lord determines from the outset to take His people on the "scenic route" to the Promised Land, for their good and His glory. One of the application questions that really hit home was "Have you ever been taken on the 'scenic route' by God before seeing His promises fulfilled? How would your understanding of His character and promises have been different if He had taken you by the shortest route?" I often feel I am on the 'scenic route,' wondering what God is doing. And yet the intimacy of learning more of the character of my God through those times is so sweet. I am so thankful He allows me to see glimpses of His plans, ever encouraging me along my journey closer to His heart.

{two} Last night was our last in the summer series of Faith & Culture: Where is God in Natural Disasters? Mike does such a great job talking through these topics, helping us understand our cultural moment and how our faith fits into all of it. We had our best turnout yet, and we are excited to continue these sessions through the Fall. It's a great way for believers to come together and think critically, as well as bring the gospel to the public square {literally}.
{three} My mom emailed me this week and told me she had a coupon for a purse at DSW and that I had no choice but to pick one out. Since I wasn't allowed to say no to this sweet gift, I got to choose a new purse for the fall. How fun is that?? She said that since the boys get to go hunting, we get to buy purses :)
{four} So we are enjoying a high of 90 and a low of 64. In August. In Texas. While I am sad that we're getting closer to leaving the warmer summer days, the cooler weather has been a nice change of pace from the triple digit temps. And it's a reminder of the changing seasons and the coming of Fall!

{five} Tonight I am looking forward to hanging out with our sweet neighbors, as we enjoy dinner and watch the second half of the History Channel's Bible series together. And tomorrow morning I get to have breakfast with Laura. Thank you, Lord for sweet friends and times to catch up!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ebenezer Stones

Mike mentioned that he would like to keep track of ways that the Lord provides for us. I try to blog and keep a written record of the ways the Lord provides, but we wanted to be sure that over the years, we can pinpoint specific events. It is not only a good way for us to see the hand of God moving in our marriage and family, but also to have tangible encouragement for when things are hard.

One of my favorite hymns is "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing." There is a line in the second verse "Here I raise mine Ebenezer, hither by they help I'm come" that is taken from a passage in 1 Samuel 7. The Israelites had walked in disobedience for a long time, but under the leadership of Samuel repented and turned their hearts back to the Lord. When their commitment was tested by an attack by the Philistines, they cried out to God and He answered them. Samuel placed a large stone in that place, a public monument to God's help, faithfulness, and everlasting covenant. It was a visible reminder to all who passed by of judgment and repentance, mercy and restoration, grace and provision.
"Samuel took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer—'the stone of help'—for he said, 'Up to this point the Lord has helped us!'" ~ 1 Samuel 7:12, NLT
So we decided to begin recording our own family "Ebenezer Stones." We will record our monuments to God's faithfulness in a family journal, but we will also begin collecting actual stones as our visual representation. For now, we will collect them in this basket, but over the years, I hope to collect enough to create our own rock garden.

Samuel knew how forgetful the people were. At Ebenezer, the Israelites could stand in front of the large stone and remind themselves of the incredibly faithful God they served. We are just as forgetful, so Mike and I want to be able to stand next to our collection of stones and remind ourselves of God's incredible faithfulness and provision.

Friday, August 2, 2013

High Five for Friday!

{one} I went for my 6 month check up with my GI, and everything checked out great! My B-12 levels are adequate, and all of my bloodwork was normal. Overall, I am feeling great, and the Humira seems to be working well. We discussed the hair loss and being sick, but he assured me it was part of taking an immunosuppressant biologic {say that one 5 times fast}, and that I was really doing fairly well considering what the side effects could be {slightly encouraging?} I also received some FANTASTIC news regarding my Humira costs, but I am waiting for everything to process before I can share. It's slightly unbelievable. But trust me. It's GOOD.

{two} I got to have dinner last night with Laura, which is our first time to hang out since her wedding! It was great to see her {marriage looks good on her!} and catch up on her time in Jamaica and settling into her new home with her hubby. I'm so excited about this new journey in our friendship, as we get to share the joys of marriage together :)

{three} We recently started a membership at Academy Fitness of Texas, a locally-owned gym. We have talked for awhile about getting a gym membership, but just couldn't afford the cost of the larger chains in our area. We are SO glad we waited, because Academy Fitness recently opened, and it's great! We have 24/7 access, which is super convenient, and it has everything we need. We were able to take advantage of their grand opening prices, plus we get a gym subsidy through the wellness program at work. It was great timing, and we are excited about utilizing the gym!

{four} I just have to say that I feel so thankful for my husband. He has been working really hard to set up all the administrative aspects of the church and still maintain the relational aspects, as well as meet with potential donors and beat the pavement to make sales for WelcomeMat. And in the midst of the crazy busy schedule, he has still found time to take care of me while I have felt slightly under the weather. July was super busy, and August will be even more so, but I am thankful for his hard work. I love you, babe!

{five} Happy {2 days early} Anniversary to my parents! They will celebrate their 34th wedding anniversary this weekend, and I think they are just about the cutest couple ever ;) They have such a great relationship and have been such an example of love, selflessness, and faithfulness.

Borrowed from the way. This photo is evidence of how much my parents love you, friend. My dad doesn't do photo booths. Ever. But my mom finally convinced him. It was "for the bride" after all! :)

Happy Friday!!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

1000 Gifts #274-366

274. Feeling better after a weekend of being sick.
275. A free evening to spend time with my husband.
276. Coming home after a long day at work to dinner already made.
277. The gift of easily-accessible knowledge through the internet and social media.
278. Taking a break from our regularly scheduled Bible study to grab gelato and talk life.
279. Warm summer nights.
280. The gift of encouraging a friend to step out in faith.
281. Catch up calls with my mom.
282. The freedom to worship freely.
283. Red fireworks in the sky.
284. The men and women who sacrificed to give us freedom today. The Man who sacrficed to give us freedom forever. {Borrowed from my husband's tweet :) }
285. Blue jeans.
286. Persistence in "fighting the good fight." {2 Timothy 4:7}
287. Knowing that "suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character." {Romans 5:3-4}
288. Persistently seeking the Lord and seeing prayers answered.
289. The excitement and enthusiasm of finishing up wedding details with Laura!
290. Seeing the enthusiasm from our leadership team, the blessing of their "all-in" mentality.
291. The enthusiasm of anticipating one more week of work before vacation!
292. The challenges of growing a church from the ground up, and how it teaches us to depend on Christ.
293. The need for conflict to ultimately create commitment.
294. Witnessing first-hand the changes within our church family- lives transformed by the gospel.
295. The gift of indoor plumbing.
296. The gift of warm showers.
297. The gift of clean, fresh water.
298. The gift of an impromptu lunch date with my sister-in-law.
299. The gift of new visitors to our women's Bible study.
300. The gift of love and support from our church back in Richardson.
301. Leaning on Jesus when I feel weak in my sickness.
302. The gift of knowing that when I am weak, He is strong {2 Corinthians 12:10}
303. The gift of knowing in weakness that this is a temporary home.
304. Peanut butter in jars. Yum :)
305. Pasta sauce in jars. {Apparently, I'm hungry? haha)
306. The gift of catching up with friends over fish tacos and gelato on a summer night.
307. The gift of life in a new niece on the way!
308. The gift of watching others grow in their walk with Jesus.
309. The gift of the last day of work before a week of vacation!
310. Catching up with my best friend over breakfast before the week of wedding festivities.
311. The gift of curling up on the couch for an afternoon nap.
312. Flipping through my photos, recognizing all of the adventures with Laura through the years.
313. Watching my husband use his gifts to preach the Word of God on a Sunday morning.
314. The encouragement and support we receive from our dear friends Michael and Morgan.
315. Thankful that I wasn't counting down the days to my B-12 shot this energy is up!
316. The gift of health insurance and a company that promotes healthy living.
317. Spending the day with my husband, celebrating 2 years of marriage.
318. Time to hang out at the Klyde Warren Park and the Perot Museum.
319. Spending the day baking cookies with Laura to prepare for her wedding day.
320. The Kitchenaid mixer Mike's aunt gave us as a wedding that thing!
321. Good discussion at Bible study with a group of sweet women.
322. The reminder that my plans are not always God's {I had plans to knock out a to-do list, but with the power out, my plans were changed}.
323. Thankful for the {free} provision of a new Humira pen after I mis-fired my dose this week.
324. Thankful for sweet college friends coming into town to help celebrate Laura's wedding.
325. Thankful for an amazing GI doctor and nurse who helped me get a replacement Humira pen faster.
326. Thankful for amazing co-workers who are able to step in and help when I am out of the office.
327. Sweet time spent celebrating the bride at her bachelorette party!
328. The sweet and generous gift of manicures and pedicures from the bride's mom.
329. Remembering the joy and excitement of my own wedding week, thankful for that for Laura.
330. Delicious food at the rehearsal dinner.
331. Beautiful weather for the wedding day {it rained for most of the week, but cleared up today!}
332. Standing next to my best friend, watching her marry her love.
333. The celebration of family and friends for a beautiful wedding that honored Jesus.
334. The encouragement of our church visiting another church plant who is a few steps down the road in their journey.
335. Spending time with my parents and brother.
336. A quiet evening at home, watching The Notebook with my husband. The perfect end to a wonderful week!
337. Finding the leftover cheesecake in the back of the fridge :)
338. Snuggling with my hubby. It's the best.
339. Being the only executive assistant in the office for the week makes me appreciate my co-worker so much more!
340. The excitement of our precious niece's early arrival!
341. I managed to blow a circuit and fry my network cable at work...thankful for a patient IT staff :)
342. The joy of watching another woman step up and lead Bible study for the first time!
343. The unexpected blessing of a promotion and a raise.
344. An encouraging ministry day that reminded us not to worry, that the Lord is taking car of us.
345. Meeting Presley Kate for the first time!
346. The blessing of a gym membership, mostly paid for by our health plan!
347. Listening to my husband navigate the tough topic of defining marriage at Faith & Culture.
348. Sweet memories of our wedding as I finished posting about my best friend's wedding.
349. Date night at home with my hubby.
350. Thankful for Fridays.
351. Provision for an increase in my medication cost.
352. Thankful for weekends.
353. A day to catch up on several things at home.
354. BBQ with sweet friends at Redeemer.
355. Thankful for a rest-filled Sunday.
356. Thankful for the time to rest when I wasn't feeling well.
357. Snuggle time with my sweet niece!
358. The reminder this morning that I have a super-short commute. Makes Mondays a little easier.
359. Thankful for the groceries we can buy at the store.
360. While sad, I am thankful for cancelled plans so I can go to bed early.
361. I heard good news on my health at the GI- things look good!
362. I heard fantastic news about my Humira cost...and I may be getting my money back!!
363. I heard encouraging words on how well I am doing at my job. Always nice.
364. Crying when I take my Humira shot, but knowing it makes me feel better.
365. Working on our budget, but thankful that the Lord always provides.
366. Not feeling well, but knowing that things could be worse and having the opportunity to rest.
**Not all of the gifts match the prompts this month. I again had a lot of specific things to be thankful for, that didn't require a prompt!