Tuesday, January 26, 2016

a lot of fight left.

I remember the first time I ever met her. TJ had only been my boyfriend for about three weeks when I went to cheer him on at a JV football game, and I saw her up in the stands sitting with some of the other moms. Candie, TJ's youngest older sister, hollered my name and came running over to me in true Candie fashion, and immediately asked "Do you want to meet our mom?" I mean, of course I did...but a better question to ask in that moment would have been, "Do you have the guts to meet our mom?" She smiled politely and said hello, just as you'd expect a mom meeting her baby boy's girlfriend for the first time would, and I honestly don't even remember breathing the whole time I stood in front of her trying my best to hide all of my insecurities.

Within a few months, we were hanging out, just the two of us, at any given time. I began being invited to family gatherings and vacations (well, with the exception of a few dark seasons...but that's another story for another time), and she has loved me like one of her own since. I think she was surprised at how well we got along, especially since she had her mind made up at the beginning that I was bad news (another good story for a later time), but I was thankful for the grace she showed me even when I made her son crazy from all the boyfriend-girlfriend drama we had. She's a natural redhead with a natural fierceness to match, but no bad mood or cut of the eyes has ever made an impression that overpowers her relentless compassion and on-purpose love.
She hates when people draw attention to her, especially when it's for something good that she's done. She loves a clean kitchen, but she will dirty it up in a heartbeat if her family comes over for a meal. She works hard just so she has something to give away, and she hates taking anything from anyone. She radiates beauty even when she's wearing her usual athletic gear and ball cap, and she laughs in disbelief if you say it out loud. She never ignores phone calls, which is a rarity these days. She will rearrange her schedule at a moment's notice if someone needs her help. She is the best secret keeper, and I've never known her to not make good on a promise. She worries about her kids + grandkids even when we assure her that there's nothing to worry about, but she only does it because she never wants us to hurt or be without something we need. She is a faithful Carolina Gamecock fan, but she proudly watched her son walk across the stage as he graduated from Clemson University. She has made Mimi + Trent days a tradition that warms all of our hearts. She gets down on the hardwood floors to crawl around with Braxton even when her knees start to throb. She is practically a Pottery Barn spokesperson, and she will save money for months in order to get what she really loves instead of settling for something she only halfway loves. She has black and white photos plastered on walls throughout her house, because she says that everyone looks better in black and white. She sacrifices her time for those who mean the most to her, even when we all roll our eyes at her inability to say "no," because she knows what it's like to be the person on the other end. She leaves the television on all day long, because she likes to hear the sound of it in the background. She rarely speaks badly of anyone, and she avoids conflict as often as she can.

That's the Angie I know.

The Angie we all know.

The Angie we love.
It's been about a month since we learned that a rare disease had taken root in her body.

Cancer is currently trying to ruin her life, crush her dreams, and strangle her faith, and the real battle starts once tomorrow's surgery begins and recovery follows.

Will it be hard? Absolutely. But will it defeat her? Defeat this family? Absolutely not. You see, all of those things I wrote earlier are simply a by-product of Angie's greatest character trait. She's a fighter. And if I were cancer, I'd be scared. Not just scared of the fight in her, but I'd also be afraid of all those who are fighting alongside her. I don't know many people who are as loved as our Angie is, and all of us are going to rally together to make sure that light wins over darkness, that love triumphs over fear.
The battle is just beginning, but I believe that the victory is already won. From the first moment I heard the news, my prayer has been the same: Father, use this as an opportunity for eyes to be unveiled and for Your mighty power to be put on display in ways so magnificent that Your sovereignty, mercy, and faithfulness can't be denied. As we prepare for one of the hardest seasons we've ever faced, would you join me in praying this same prayer? Of course we want her to be healed, and I've been fervently praying complete + total healing over her, too, but how wonderful would it be for these trials to be the framework for softened hearts, countless "Hallelujah"s shouted, and salvations?

Pray, also, for Troy (our beloved Pops) as he bears the weight of many responsibilities all while entering into a season where "for better or for worse" will take on a whole new meaning.

Pray for the doctors performing the surgery as well as the team of specialists that are going to be working with Angie as she recovers. This will be an extensive, meticulous surgery for Angie, but she will be in the care of healthcare professionals that she trusts.

Pray for Savannah, Candie, and TJ as they wrestle with watching their mom go through trials, support their dad in any way they can, and battle feelings of helplessness, confusion, and sorrow. Please pray for me, too, because even though she's not my mama by blood, she's been my mama for half my life. She's not your typical mom or mom-in-law, so we will all be clinging to hope in a way we never have before.

Pray for Trent as he asks questions and wonders about what's happening to his Mimi. Though he doesn't know many details, he knows that she's sick and will be going away for a while. This kiddo loves his Mimi, so please beg the Lord to calm his fears and still his heart.

Pray for Braxton, too, because he will be spending a lot of time out of town and in new environments for the next little while. He's too little to have any idea of what's going on, obviously, but even he knows how much he's loved by his Mimi.

Pray for all of Angie's family members and friends as they sit in waiting rooms, homes, and desks waiting for answers and hoping for good news. Like I mentioned before, Angie is loved by lots of people who are consumed with a full range of emotions and process things in very different ways.
My flesh is prone to worry, but God has been steadily speaking His promises over my doubts, reminding me of how His provision and providence are unmatched. He is faithful even when the enemy whispers that He's not, He loves us even though we've never deserved His love, and He delights in talking with His adopted sons + daughters even when all we have to offer are tears. This is my hope during this season of so much uncertainty: God is the one calling the shots, and no matter what shots He calls, He is doing it for His glory and the good of His people. No trial we face, no tears we cry, no desperate prayers we offer are meaningless, and God will redeem all of it for purposes that we can't see yet.

Team Angie is strong.

Team Angie is ready to fight.

"I'm hurt and in pain: give me space for healing and mountain air. Let me shout God's name with a praising song, let me tell of His greatness in a prayer of thanks. For God, this is better than oxen on the altar, far better than blue-ribbon bulls. The poor in spirit see and are glad - oh, you God-seekers, take heart!"
Psalm 69:29-32
(The Message)

Monday, January 25, 2016

do you want to build a snowman?

Why yes, yes we did. In fact, we like building snowmen so much that we built two of them on that beloved snow day. Braxton took a good nap, so TJ + I took full advantage of a little uninterrupted pretend-like-we-are-kids time. We've been making snowmen together for twelve years, and we've practically got it down to a science at this point. Even so, it is still thrilling to roll that soft snow together until it's just right.

We introduced Braxton to our new friend after he woke up, and he loved it. I wish the pictures I took came with sound, because his little oooo's and aaaa's were so stinkin' cute! TJ + I were cracking up watching him poke the snowman as he tried to decide what the odd-shaped figure in front of him was. Seriously, it was the cutest.
A little while later, we mosied on over to see what Gigi and Wuncle were doing. We convinced Wuncle to have a snowball fight with us while Gigi manned the littlest one, and he even put on long pants for the occasion (this is a big deal, people). After he + I demolished TJ with snowballs (sorry, honey),  we decided to make a snowman...and not just any snowman, but the most awkward snowman we could make. We even added muscles to it in honor of Auntie Mel, our fellow snow buddy who recently left the nest and wasn't able to play in the winter wonderland with us this time (tear, tear). Awkward was our goal, and I'm proud to say that we successfully accomplished what we set out to do. HA!
What's your favorite thing about playing in the snow?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

snow much fun.

Braxton slept through his first snow day, but he was wide awake for this one. From a distance, he thought snow was the best thing he'd ever seen, but he wasn't so sure about touching it or seeing it up close. He became best buds with his little red wagon as TJ pulled him along Brookdale, and I followed their trail and giggled as I watched his innocent eyes fill with wonder at the white covering that he saw all over everything.

My mind kept daydreaming about hearing the sound of his little feet crunch in the snow the next time it pays us a visit, but I made sure not to let those thoughts override the current moment. Even when he was crying from being in the snow, he was crying for his mama + daddy -- and that is something I count an honor. One day he will be big + independent, but for now he needs us to save him from the fluffy white stuff under his feet. I happily scooped him up + saved him on this day, because I know it won't be long until I'm watching him discover that the same stuff he once thought was scary is really quite magical.

Also, it never gets old throwing snow balls at my boyfriend-turned-husband while we both pretend like we haven't aged a day since we first met.
It's a big day when it snows in the south, and we took full advantage if it. I loved everything about this day, and I'm already itching for the next time we get to adventure through our very own winter wonderland.

Friday, January 15, 2016

his first birthday.

Braxton's first birthday was full of three of our favorite things: fun, food, and family! We were careful to soak in every second of that once-in-a-lifetime day, and I hope I never forget the way my heart fluttered as I proudly watched him experience both new + old things with all sorts of excitement. TJ took the day off so he could fully celebrate with us instead of having to hear about it after the fact, and it was such a treat having Dada to ourselves for a whole day! Mimi spent the afternoon with us, and then our immediate families gathered at the our bungalow for an intimate party before our big bash tomorrow. Although he won't remember how much he loved this day, I was careful to capture as many smiles as I could so that I can show him one day. I love this little daddy-lookin', mama-actin' boy so much that sometimes I think my heart just may explode.

We began celebrating from the very first second he woke up. In honor of this special day, his plate was full of raspberries, scrambled eggs, some toasted o's, and his very first cinnamon roll. He, also, tasted whole milk for the first time, and it didn't phase him one bit. I'm not sure when we will fully transition to whole milk, but I'm happy that he approves.
After his morning nap, we ventured to The Children's Museum of the Upstate to put our new membership to good use for the first time. His favorite spots were the shopping area (watching him push that little buggy nearly made me die from giddiness), the water area (he cried when it was time to leave this spot), and the music room (Daddy and Mimi liked this room, too). We spent nearly two hours roaming through the museum, and I'm really looking forward to making trips here a regular thing. Before heading home, we made a pit stop at Waffle House for lunch, and the birthday boy ate about a quarter of my food (he sampled everything except the raisin toast -- mama doesn't share her raisin toast).
He took a good afternoon nap, and when he woke up it was time to continue in the festivities. Grandma, Pop, Gigi, Mimi, Pops, Auntie Mel, Uncle D, Wuncle, Meeeman, Nik Nik, Cannie Ree, and Trent all came over for dinner + presents + cake, and Braxton loooooved all the attention he was getting from everyone. All of his favorite people in one place -- what could possibly be better? He got some really cool goodies + smashed his cake like a boss (no surprise there), and everyone had heart-shaped pupils as they watched him take it all in.
Braxton's first birthday was happy, indeed, and we are so very thankful. Our family was gathered together as one just as they were on this day a year ago, but we all agreed that, despite welcoming our newest member, these were much happier terms. The hard times give us a proper perspective of the good times, and that's a lesson I've learned well over the course of my life. Whether times are good or times are bad, God is always, always good -- this day, the twelfth of January, will always represent that sweet truth in our lives.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

braxton michael | watch me grow.

Each new month brought more joy, more sleep, more personality, more patience, less simplicity, less predictability, and less spit up than the month prior. Yesterday was the end of one year + the beginning of another, and I'm thankful to have a front row seat to it all. I want to remember all the moments -- even the bad ones -- because every cry, scream, belly laugh, and kiss is sanctifying me, each in their own way + for a special purpose. In what seems like the blink of an eye, our baby boy has gone from being a newborn to becoming a toddler, and we're still thrilled to be on the ride of our life.

Twelve months ago, our lives changed forever. And we wouldn't go back to the way things used to be even if we could.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

braxton michael | one year.

I'm writing this particular letter with tissues in-hand, because my heart is so full of gratitude that it all just keeps pouring out of my eyes. It has been an entire year since I first held your long, lanky, perfect body in my arms, and your daddy + I are so proud that you are ours. There are no amount of kisses I could smooch you with, squeezes I could wrap you up in, or silly smiles I could flash your way to make you know just how much you mean to me, just how much I love you. This past year has been full of lots of things, and love is at the very top of all of them. My prayer for you as I wrote you this letter, along with the all the others, too, is that you would have a small glimpse of the joy you brought me + so many others as we watched you discover the world around you, bit by bit, for the very first time. I've also become a diligent learner of you, little one. I love studying you to discover what you like + don't like, what you mean when you do certain things, and so much more. I learn as you learn, and I'm never one to shy away from discovering something new. Next to Jesus and your daddy, you are the best thing to study -- in fact, I study them when I study you, too, which is pretty awesome.

Over the past month, you have grown + changed in lots of ways. You're not walking just yet, but we know it's just a matter of time before you take off and never stop. Even without taking steps, you manage to go from place to place without ever missing a beat (as evidenced by this month's pictures). You get better at balancing on your own every day, and are still professionally going wherever you want by speed-crawling + cruising. Daddy + I like to get on our knees and chase you all over the house, mainly because you belly laugh the whole time you try to out-crawl us. You are still chatty with a big personality, you can wave and say "buh-buh" (usually while wearing a toothy grin), you love to play with and rearrange your toys (especially your new ones), and you leave a trail of those same toys throughout the house as you crawl to new destinations. "Mama" is still your favorite word, BUT (drum roll please) you have officially started saying "DADA!" Daddy tries to play it cool, but we both know what it does to him inside! You can click your tongue and make other noises with your mouth, and you love to mock us when we talk (conversing with you is pretty funny, kiddo). Our break from teething is still lingering (hallelujah), and you get better at using those six teeth every time you eat. Yep, you still loooooooove to eat, too. The holiday were full of good food, and you didn't mind at all. Once you finished your plate of food, you were pointing at mine while grunting. Real talk: it scares me to think about how much you'll eat when you become a teenager. Yikes!

Speaking of the holidays, you made things much more interesting, mister. Your favorite things about Christmas were the food (yep, you liked it enough for me to say it twice), the boxes, and the tissue paper. No one was surprised that you opened up your gifts only to get distracted by what it was wrapped in, but you did get some pretty cool gifts. Mama asked for more practical gifts for you for this first Christmas, including endless trips to the Greenville Zoo, The Children's Museum, and the South Carolina State Parks. How cool is that?! You, me, your daddy, and any always-welcome guests are going to do lots of adventuring during 2016, and we are PUMPED! These gifts will make your transition into a walking, talking, curious toddler much smoother, I'm sure of it. Daddy was home with us for two weeks over Christmas, and it was UH-MAY-ZING. You were spoiled rotten by him while he was home, and I'm still trying to convince you that you don't need to be picked up every few minutes. I knew I was going to be in trouble once he went back to school, but I didn't mind because seeing you two become best buds makes me all warm + fuzzy inside. Your daddy loves you so well, sweet B.

We've got a full day planned for you as we kick off your birthday celebrations! An entire day of adventuring followed by an intimate party with just us, your grandparents, and your aunts + uncles. Your big party is this weekend (woot woot!), and your daddy + I have been crafting for weeks to get ready for all the fun we are going to have. It's been too long since I've put my K4 creativity to good use, and I am having a BALL while trying my best to make sure your party is perfect. You know what having two parties in one week means? You get to smash two cakes in one week! Yeahhhh buddddddy! So many people love you, and I have plenty of stories + memories that prove that fact. But, I mean, with those eyes, what's not to love?

Braxton Michael Bargeron, you are a treasure to me. I have been the girl who couldn't wait to become a mommy for as long as I can remember, but I never could've fathomed that you would arrest my heart like you did when I met you for the first time a whole year ago. The first few weeks with you are a blur, quite frankly, and one of the things I hate most about being so sick when you were first born is that I wasn't able to soak it all in. I've made up for it since then, believe me, but it still makes me sad when I think about missing so many of your first moments. One thing is certain, though: I can't wait to tell you about how God protected us from losing each other, how he worked miracle after miracle during the first few months of your life, and how strong your daddy + so many others were for us when we weren't very strong by ourselves. One of my favorite miracles is this one: all of the doctors that I saw in the hospital said it would be "all but impossible" for my milk to come in after all the trauma my body had gone through, but God has seen us through twelve months of nursing. I wish I had a video of our reaction when I pumped my first little drop of milk while sitting on that hospital bed. We partied like it was 1999 (don't worry, one day you'll know what that means), and that same excitement has been the theme of our first year with you. It literally feels like my heart is being crushed when I think about the weaning process being upon us, but I'm thankful to watch you keep growing in independence (insert the ugliest cry ever here).

The year that lies ahead will be full of more highs and lows, trials and suffering, adventures and laughs, and we are humbled to keep learning as you learn, growing as you grow. We love you more every single day, and that love grows exponentially with every new second we have with you. As bittersweet as it is to say farewell to the baby stage, our hearts are overflowing with thankfulness to begin a new season. I hope you still want to snuggle in close to me in the mornings while we play with your toys + watch our beloved PBS, and I really hope you keep stopping whatever you're doing at any given time just to come sit in my lap + give me kisses out of the blue. I promise to keep singing to you, dancing with you, chasing you, toting you to beautiful places on my back, flirting with you in the rearview mirror, letting you try to destroy the blinds, praying for you throughout every day, tickling you until you laugh out of control, protecting you from as much danger as I can, and making my love for you as tangible as it can possibly get. Thank you for showing me so much in such a short amount of time, sweet boy. I'd give anything to see this world through your eyes.

Happy birthday to you, Baby B! Life has been a whole lot more fun since you joined us, and we're still just getting started. May kindness and generosity be the themes of your life, and may the love of Christ overwhelm + compel you always.

Monday, January 11, 2016

that day | reflections.

As I have been replaying the highlights of this past year like a movie reel in my mind over recent weeks, floods of various emotions have overwhelmed me like storms. Some of them are expected, because I've wrestled with them before and can see them coming, but others come completely out of nowhere and leave me like a pile of mush on the floor. On this day a year ago, January 11, 2015, I was going back and forth between the refrigerator to get more ice cold water, the couch to lay down and try to regain some strength, and the bathroom to deal with the sickness that had staked its claim over my body several days prior. I'd made two phone calls to the doctor's office by this point because I was so sick (and because everyone thought I had the flu), and I remember holding my baby bump in my hands and begging for God-breathed protection from whatever was happening during those rare moments when I was able. The next morning (twelve minutes after seven, to be exact), my water broke and even in my pitiful, severely dehydrated, nearly motionless state, I rejoiced at the reality that was before me: this was the day I was going to meet my son.

I frequently replay the events of that day + the weeks that came before + followed, because I never want to forget about the grace that covered us like a blanket, protecting us from so many almosts + could have beens. We are still under that blanket, God is still mighty to save + restore, and the healing is still fresh in my soul. Miracles are constantly happening all around us, miracles that are both big and small, and we have experienced a full range of them since I first learned I was pregnant. Braxton was completely unaffected by the disease that tried to kill both of us, and although those first few days after his birth were some of the darkest I (and many others) have ever known, my body was progressively healed within several months of the initial trauma. Several of my most treasured dreams were ripped away from me a year ago, and I still feel the sting of those wounds when certain questions are asked or when an announcement is made. Am I bitter? No; the Holy Spirit has been so good to me from the very beginning, speaking prayers and promises over me as I pray with a heavy heart -- but I am still grieving over the death of the dreams that began taking root in my heart when I was just a little girl. Do I believe that Braxton will grow up as an only child? Again, no. We are simply skipping a step in our original plans, and learning to believe this glorious, exhilarating truth in a new circumstance: the plans He has for us are always more magnificent than the ones we make for ourselves.

The grace that kept us safe during pregnancy + delivery is the same grace that has sustained us since, especially on the days + in the moments when praise is more of a sacrifice than a delight. Even if the whole world ignores the miraculous wonders of the good Father who makes all things work for the good of those who love Him, I pray I would remain steadfast in telling my story + singing my song: that the One who lives in me is greater than the one who seeks to kill, steal from, and destroy me (1 John 4:4 // John 10:10). I've believed that each new day is a miracle for as long as I can remember, but that belief was further solidified into the core of who I am when I was so close to breathing my last breath.

Charles Spurgeon once wrote, "A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble." God spared me that day, but it wasn't for or about me at all. When the clouds part and I am welcomed home, I pray that I spent my life giving more than I took, serving more than I was served, blessing others with the blessings I receive myself, loving out of purity instead of a what's-in-it-for-me attitude, and sprinkling the Gospel everywhere I tread.

My husband, the man who I have loved since before I truly knew what love was, could have been a widower. My son could have grown up with only pictures of me to look at and words to read about my anticipation of his arrival, but never be able to hear me tell him in my own voice how fiercely I loved him. My family and friends could have mourned and wept and been left with only memories. God spared more than just my life that day. He answered the prayers of people all over the world, and He rescued me by His mercy.

Tomorrow is Braxton's first birthday, but I consider it to be mine, as well. A mama was born that day, too, and she is living proof that nothing is impossible for God (Luke 1:37).

Monday, January 4, 2016

sulphur springs | plus one.

TJ and I hiked this trail last year for the second time when I was about halfway through my second trimester, and we talked about what it would be like to bring our baby with us as we trekked. This year, that conversation came to life. I love this particular trail because of all the sights you see along the way, because it's a good workout, and because it's only about fifteen minutes away from our bungalow. We spent about two hours walking along the four-mile trail, and it was thrilling to see how many others had the same idea as we did on the first day of a new year. I love passing people (or getting passed by them, hehe) and smiling at these fellow lovers of the outdoors, because it motivates me to want to be outside more. "We're not alone in our increasingly counter-culture hobbies," I think to myself, and I like to pretend that they're thinking the same thing when they see us. Everyone always gets a kick out of watching B bump along behind us, too, which is also good for a mama's heart.

As we walked, TJ and I talked about our goals for this year, our regrets from the year before, and the dreams that are continuing to grow inside of us. We chatted about being halfway through our fifth year of marriage (say whaaaat?), what we thought it will be like to raise a toddler (again, say whaaaat?), and ways that our family can seek to further the kingdom of God this year. It's such a blessing to intentionally live to serve our Creator alongside of each other. I'd pick the two of us against the world over any other team, even on our worst days. It blows my mind that we first celebrated New Years Day together in 2004, and it's even more mind-blowing how the Lord has been diligent in taking those two kids who thought they knew everything and transforming them into disciples who are learning that their lives together are simply a product of His grace. Whew, that's both the hardest and most beautiful lesson for us to learn.

Here's to more communication, and less assumptions. More vulnerability, and less bitterness. More making a big deal out of the small milestones, and less looking for the next best thing. More deep breaths, and less playing the role of the victim. More time with the ones we love, and less making excuses. More contentedness, and less comparisons. More of Him, and less of us.

I don't know what this year holds for us, and that's okay. My prayer is that I would grow in courage to simply take that next step in obedience without having to know where I'm headed. More walking by faith, and less obsessing about wanting to see the road first. That's what I pray that this year is saturated with.

Sunday, January 3, 2016


A trip to the beach wasn't on our schedule until a few days before we left, but what else is there to do except change your plans when someone graciously offers you a few nights in an ocean-front room at no cost? Exactly...YOU GO! TJ + I are still talking about how timely this little getaway was as a final refresher before a new year began, and we unashamedly spent most of it in our pajamas. We were slightly embarrassed to realize that our initial reaction to our room was very similar to the reaction that Vivian had when she walked into the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel with Edward (some of you know exactly what I'm referring to), but we were just so excited that it happened before we even knew what we were doing. True life: we don't get out much. Translation: our "out" is more trail-oriented than suite-oriented. We felt like royalty for three days, y'all.

The fog was thick, and the sun only peeked out a few times the whole time we were there, but we were faithful visitors of the indoor pool every day. My best friend, Emilie (who is also the lady responsible for our time on the coast), and her family didn't mind us tagging along with them every once in a while, too, which made for extra blessings. She even snapped a few pictures of us shortly after sunrise one morning in honor of our B's upcoming birthday (we are always thrilled to be her photo shoot guinea pigs!). Also, my grandparents were at the beach at the same time we were, so we got to have dinner with them one night. Those few days were the perfect balance of going and resting, and all three of us returned recharged and ready to begin a new year.

The snuggles were many, the king-size bed stayed unmade the whole time (the epitome of vacation, folks), we watched TV in bed while Braxton napped, I drank coffee while breathing in the ocean air, and so much more. My favorite moments were the ones where TJ and I were giggling for no other reason than just being overwhelmed with joy, humility, and thankfulness.

This story we are writing is a good one, and I love lingering on the current page before turning to the next one, refusing to blink.
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