down by the riverside

It’s been over two weeks now since Joey’s surgery and she’s really doing great.  She’s pretty much back to her normal self – doing what she loves to do…. homemaking, spending time in the garden and being a mommy.

Joey collage

Yesterday afternoon, we drove down to the river with some friends, family and all of our kids.  It’s just a short ride through our neighbor’s back field and two cattle-gates to get there.  The weather was beautiful and the water was perfect.  It was so much fun watching the kids of all ages (us grownups included) splash and play together.  We’ve lived here in our farmhouse next to Duck River for fifteen years, but can’t tell you when, if ever, we’ve spent time wading and swimming in it with friends.  We’ve canoed down the river and we’ve fished it dozens of times or more, but never really spent an afternoon like this one.  I’m not exactly sure who’s idea it was, but it was sure a good one.  I think our little Indy loved it as much as Joey and I did.   Our neighbors Gabe and Mandy had some friends from church over, and Joey’s sister Julie and her kids were here visiting from Indiana, so it made for a wonderful memory that I didn’t want to forget.  So I brought along an iPad and using the 8mm app, shot a few video clips to help us remember our day…

 

the joy of Joey

People have asked how Joey keeps smiling through all of this.  Well, I think a better question is how can she/we not be filled with joy through all of this?

The truth is…”cancer” is such a little word compared to the word “love”.

Indiana at 4 months

I’m reminded of that every day a hundred times.  It’s in Joey’s eyes and in mine when we hold our little one.  She’s 4 months old now and a bundle of nothing but joy.  It’s no wonder that…

…our days aren’t spent in tears, they’re spent in awe of this amazing chance to love and be loved by this little person

…our nights aren’t spent in fear, they’re spent listening for a laugh, or a coo, or a cry from the cradle, just so we can see her again and hold her in our arms

….our lives aren’t spent in worry, they’re spent in wonder at the incredible blessing that we’ve been given to be right here. right now with her, our older girls and family, our friends and with you.

 

home of the brave – Joey, courage and cancer

It’s been almost a month since my last post.  And though I had planned, and even written, some entries to share (like my trip in May to the Amish with my sister Marcy and the day I spent making homemade strawberry jam with Joey), it didn’t seem right to post stories like that right now…. not with the story that has been unfolding in our lives for the last six weeks.

In May, at a routine appointment with her gynecologist, Joey’s doctor discovered something that concerned her.  She said there was a mass on Joey’s cervix and that she wanted do a biopsy, and would let us know the results when she got them back.   A few days later, Joey woke up from a nap with a message from the doctor, asking that we come in and talk with her that afternoon.  When we walked into the her office, the doctor was clearly upset.  Before she could even say the word “cancer”, her eyes welled up with tears and sobbing she said, “I’m so sorry Joey…”.   My wife bravely smiled and said, ” it’s gonna be okay, just tell us”.   And so she did.

Joey has cervical cancer.

It’s a strange thing when your doctor starts crying before you do.  Especially when it’s a doctor you don’t really even know.  This was only the second time we had ever seen her.  Strangely, the first time was when we were at the hospital after the birth of Indiana, and she is the one who took me out into the hall and told me that she believed that our baby had Down Syndrome.   I was completely caught off guard.   In the excitement and joy of Indy’s birth, none of us had even given her little almond eyes a thought.   But from that moment on, I knew our lives and our story would forever be different.  And once again, as we heard this sweet doctor say “it’s just not fair” through her tears… we knew that our lives and our story was taking another unexpected turn.

When we got home and the news finally sank in, Joey only worried about one thing.  It wasn’t “why did this happen to me” or “am I going to be okay”, or a hundred other questions that I would’ve had.  Joey only thought of our baby.  She cried and cried worrying about Indiana, and what this might mean to her… what if she couldn’t continue breastfeeding her, or will Indy’s sleep schedule be interrupted, or worse yet…what if she won’t get to watch this precious gift grow up?

I can honestly say that in the six months that we’ve been off the road and taking a break from the music business, I haven’t picked up a guitar once and Joey and I haven’t sang a single song together.  But when I came in the house that day and saw Joey holding Indiana in her arms, singing “I Need Thee Every Hour”… I went into the closet, pulled out a guitar and came and sat beside her.  For a half-hour straight, we held our little one and we cried and we sang these words over and over.

I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain
Come quickly and abide, or life is in vain

I need Thee, O I need Thee
Every hour I need Thee
O bless me now, my Savior
I come to Thee

 And then, like turning off a faucet,… we said a prayer, dried our tears and decided to put our trust in Him.

Joey surgery day-12

A few days later we were in another office seeing a gynecology/oncology specialist in Nashville and he told us that though the mass was already 4 cm and growing aggressively, we had caught it early.  He recommended that Joey have a radical hysterectomy right away to remove the cancer and surrounding areas.

Joey surgery day-6

And so, this past Friday, we loaded up our four-month-old baby, and along with our older girls and Joey’s mama… drove to Centennial hospital in Nashville.  And soon after, my brave little wife, kissed us all goodbye and smiled as they wheeled her away to surgery.

Joey surgery day-2

About 6 hours later, they wheeled her out of the recovery room and though she was still groggy and in some pain, she waved to us and smiled again and we walked with her as they wheeled her to her room.

Joey surgery day-8

The next morning about 11 am, she got to come home to our farmhouse.

It’s been five days now, and Joey’s getting stronger every day.  Her swelling is going down and spirits continue to go up.  We had a follow-up appointment with the oncologist yesterday and he said that the margins and the lymph nodes he removed came back clean, so there’s no more cancer in her body and she won’t need chemo or radiation.   There in the waiting room after the appointment, we held each other and our baby, and we cried once more.

I heard a preacher tell a short story one time about God and a tandem bicycle.  I’m reminded of that story today.  It’s only 3 minutes long, but the lesson has stayed with me for years.

 

 

Yes, it has been quite a year for us so far.  In the past six months, God has taken us places we never dreamed we would go.  It’s been terrifying and thrilling all at the same time.  We never know what tomorrow will bring…none of us do.  But what an incredible journey life is.  We are just going to continue to trust Him and hold to each other and… pedal, pedal!

 

 

an Indiana morning

Indiana sleeps in Hopie’s old room, next to ours, in a little wooden cradle that someone made and gave to us at one of our concerts.  She’s 3 months old now and cooing and smiling and filling our hearts and home with more love than we could’ve thought possible.

Most mornings when she wakes, she just quietly plays with her hands and waits for us come pick her up and start the day.  A few days ago, I grabbed my camera to capture the first few minutes together of a new mommy and the baby daughter she never thought that she would have.

I think this is what love looks like…

 

remembering Heidi’s wedding

I can’t believe that it’s been two years since our daughter Heidi’s wedding day.  They got married on May 26, 2012.  She wanted to have it here at the farm and chose a spot in front of a half-finished barn that we’d been building as the setting for the ceremony.  Her fiancé Casey was a wonderful young man that she was crazy about and we were proud to be welcoming him into our family and also to see his sweet family welcoming Heidi into theirs.  I don’t think I realized how organized and thoughtful Heidi really could be until a day or two before the wedding, when all of her bridal party and a bunch of friends arrived to help setup for the big day.  Heidi not only had thought through every detail… she took special love, and care to find or hand-make everything.  And she did it all on the small budget that she and Casey had.

Casey and Heidi-1

When the day arrived and the ceremony started, the weather and the evening was perfect.  I’m not sure how many people were there, but it seemed like a lot.  All seated on hay bales as the sun was setting.  Our longtime family friend Manuel designed her wedding dress and she looked so beautiful.  Some of her friends performed Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling In Love” as the guests were seated and I wrote a song for her that I sang.  It was probably the toughest song I’ve ever sang.

The day they got married, we didn’t really know Casey that well yet.  We liked him a lot, but in the two years since, we’ve come to love Casey deeply.  He’s a character, like myself.  He’s not afraid to go his own path.  He is passionate about his art and life and he’s passionate about his bride Heidi.  It’s been so neat to watch their love for each other grow since their wedding day.  With his dreams of painting and her dreams of music, they’re perfect for each other.  More than anything, you want your children to experience real love.  And I think Heidi has that with Casey.

During the last couple of years while we were filming our tv show, it was important to me to try to capture important moments in our lives.  I’m so thankful that we captured this one, so we can relive it forever.  Joey, Hopie and I watched it together today with tears in our eyes.