Two weeks ago today, our little Indiana turned six months old. At about 6 am, when she woke up…Joey and I brought her into our bed, laid her between us and sang “half-a-birthday to you”. It was a precious moment.
The last six months of our lives has been filled full of moments that we never dreamed that we’d get to experience. And not just because we have a beautiful baby in the house to watch grow. But because, we’ve been really living. Because there’s been ups and downs and true joy and true pain… we’ve been able to really feel life.
In honor of Indy’s half-birthday, I put together some video clips of her that I have taken since she was born in February and put them to music. The song is one my friend Tim Johnson wrote before he passed away in 2012. His co-writer, Julie Durden, is singing. It’s written about her niece who is deaf, so it’s not exactly Indiana’s story. But in other way, it is.
Indiana is perfect…just the way God made her.
A couple weeks ago, we took a family trip to Alaska. We were actually part of a music cruise with some other wonderful country music artists and fans that were on the ship too. Although my wife and I are taking this year off from touring and playing shows, we were booked to perform on this cruise long before we knew a baby was coming or we made plans to take time off. So we all went and made a family vacation out of it. Me, Joey, Indy, Heidi, Hopie, Joey’s mama June, our niece Magen and the kids’ good friend Kenzie all boarded a flight on the 18th of July and got home the night of the 26th. We did perform a couple of songs on stage and during one of the songs “If I Needed You”, we brought little Indiana out and Joey sang to her. It was precious. The scenery was breathtaking and the whole trip was incredibly special for all of us.
I made this video for my blog a day or two after we got back, but my mother got sick and I never got the chance to post it. Then on the 30th she passed away and it just didn’t seem right to share something that was filled with so much joy in a time that my family was hurting and grieving the loss of someone we love so much.
Mom has been gone a dozen days now and I still am now sure what to write or say about it. I think, like some of my siblings, I’m still trying to fully process what has taken place. I do know that my mother loved to smile and laugh and that in the end she wanted us to celebrate her life and not mourn it. The day after we got home from the cruise, Mom had asked me to show her some pics or video from our trip to Alaska when I had them ready, so I had brought this over to her house to show her the morning she passed away, but of course, she never got to see it.
I sure hope they have internet in heaven.
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.
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…
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!