Sunday, December 28, 2014

One Week of Reflection: Family

In an effort to celebrate the amazing things that God has done in my life in 2014, and to reflect on how He has moved, I am dedicating the next week (up until 2015) to reflect on what I've learned throughout 2014.
Today, I reflect on July and August, which were the months I drew very close to family.

We were very blessed to be a part of Matt & Angela's wedding in July and got the opportunity to spend about a week in New York, not only sight-seeing, but simply spending time together in a different environment, as well as getting to know Angela's side. What a blessing it was to have that time, especially in light of what the first part of the year had been like.
We drew closer together (at least I did with others), and got to know each other in a different way. It was fun and a much needed laid back time for all of us.
As summer progressed, things got better and better, and we got to enjoy each others' company outside of the context of holidays, which is something my side doesn't do very often. Many game nights were had and cookouts were partaken.

We also took some time to camp out with our Dominican Team family, which was of course so much fun! Another element of family that is so different and so needed in my life. I can't wait to do that again with them all next year, and hopefully more of them will be able to join in on the fun we all had!

I truly learned the blessing of family in those couple months, and carry that with me today.   Pin It

Saturday, December 27, 2014

One Week of Reflection: Crazy Bold

In an effort to celebrate the amazing things that God has done in my life in 2014, and to reflect on how He has moved, I am dedicating the next week (up until 2015) to reflect on what I've learned throughout 2014.
Today, I reflect on May and June 2014, which I title the "Crazy Bold" months.

Not only because I attended the "Crazy Bold" conference at MCRC in May, but because I was in an "I don't care what people think" mode those couple of months. I shared my heart, I shared my faith, even if it meant people hating me for it, and I shared my thoughts on church and life in general a lot.
In fact, I was looking through my posts on Facebook from May and June, a couple of them had me saying "wow...that was what I said?"

But as I read those, I realized that they were things that needed to be said, or reflected on. In fact, as a Christian, my job is to proclaim His Word no matter how "uncomfortable" it is. I think the circumstances I faced the prior months showed me that there is no time to waste, and no time to do what pleases the world. We are called to be the "salt", the "light", the "ambassadors" for Christ in a world that is plain and dark. That doesn't mean we are to offend or to shove our values on people. We are called to love and live with all people. We are not called to become what they are, however. I've actually learned to agree to disagree many times this year. If someone knows where I stand and what I'm trying to accomplish, and still wants nothing to do with it, I back off. The Bible says not to waste time on those who could care less about changing their ways. (Matthew 7:6 puts it pretty bluntly.)

I need to be better at this. I need to sometimes open my mouth when I need to speak up. I need to move when something needs to be done. I need to live in such a way, that others question why the powerhouse light shines through me. And I need to learn who not to waste my time on.   Pin It

Friday, December 26, 2014

One Week of Reflection: Major Turbulence

In an effort to celebrate the amazing things that God has done in my life in 2014, and to reflect on how He has moved, I am dedicating the next week (up until 2015) to reflect on what I've learned throughout 2014.
Today, I reflect on March and April 2014, which I title the "Major Turbulence" months.

These were the months that my life took a drastic turn and that changed me for the rest of my life. I can't remember any other time I went through such an altering.
Lucy was due to come April 1st, but I was scheduled to be induced end of March.
March 10th, however, Lucy had her own ideas, and "popped" her own bubble to come quicker.
I had a c-section to get our little bundle here and I can't tell you how amazing it was to meet my little girl and see her for the first time. It was love at first sight with her.
I was in ICU for the first night after having her (precaution), and didn't get to see her as much as I would have liked.
We got home with Lucy and it was most definitely a struggle. She had her days and nights mixed up. She was colicky. And I was still dealing with the c-section recovery, as well as on many different meds that made me feel funky. I wasn't really sure how to feel that week, so I assumed all of the lack of sleep, meds and the arena of new motherhood were all taking its toll on me.

On Sunday, March 23rd, just over a week of having Lucy home from the hospital, we went to Meijer to get groceries and just get out of the house. The night before I took a shower to try and get rid of a migraine and felt like I would pass out. I slept it off and felt better though. I wasn't really sure how to feel at this point since I had been through a c-section and spent nights up with Lucy, so I knew I wouldn't feel 100%. But in Meijer, it solidified that something more was wrong. 

I walked into the store from the car, while Mark pushed a cart with Lucy in it. I couldn't catch my breath. It was the oddest, and most eerie feeling ever. I can't even explain it. I tried to pass it off as either not exercising in months or a panic attack. I decided to wait in the pharmacy area while Mark grabbed our shopping list. He came back and I attempted to walk back out to the car, feeling better than I had walking in. But again, the same "can't catch my breath" feeling returned. So, next stop was the ER.

Judging by the crazy rate they got me in, I knew I probably looked like crap. I didn't know it at the time, by my O2 saturation was in the 60's (that's 60%, when you're supposed to be upper 90's or 100.) I was covered in wires and tubes in a matter of minutes. I felt better, but something wasn't right. After getting a CT Scan, we learned I had a significant blood clot in my lungs. The ER doc didn't feel comfortable moving forward there due to the size and my previous condition. So, I got a helicopter ride to GR.

I finally began to panic for the first time that whole night. Even when I couldn't breathe in Meijer, I felt like it was nothing. I had the eerie feelings, but not the panic feeling. Now, I was in the panic/what will happen feeling. I must say I enjoyed my ride. The sun was just setting over Lake Michigan, and the snow actually sparkled on the ground below. I felt warm and hopeful, and was reminded of God's love and comfort as I watched the impressive scenery whirling by outside.

We arrived in GR in 30 minutes! I was quite impressed with the timing. From there, I remembered being wheeled through many hallways, with the helicopter guy keeping the mood light the whole time. I was quite grateful for him in those moments. The people God sent to me throughout this whole ordeal was perfect timing for when I needed them. We got to the room, and again, more wires, tubes and poking.

I don't remember too much more from before my surgery except for finding out I'd need surgery, and the terror that I felt. It wasn't just any surgery. There would be opening my sternum (again) and bypass and heart & lung machines. Dr. Haw explained it, and only a few things stuck with me, like those descriptions. By this time, I had Mark, his dad, Seth and Eric there, as I had texted them to let them know what was going on. Again, very grateful to have that support in this critical time. Visitors are great when things settle down, but having core people around you as you endure the unknown is a necessity.

I felt scared, but hopeful, and surprisingly at a certain peace that I knew came straight from heaven. Dr. Haw was so confident, but very careful with his wording. He made us aware that he had never faced a situation quite like mine, but he knew exactly the condition I had and how to work around it. He was quite hopeful and positive, but still made the risk very evident.

Everyone there prayed with me. It was probably one of the hardest prayers I ever contributed to. I kissed my husband and was taken back to surgery.

From there, things are blank. But I woke up. God had decided my work wasn't done. I still had a little girl to raise and work to do. Recovery the few days after were rough. I remember that. I felt like I had been hit by a bus, as every bone, muscle and joint hurt. I spent about 4 days in the ICU, then was transferred to the heart center where I spent the next 2 weeks.

I got to visit Lucy every few days, thanks to the people who brought her to see me, as well as many friends. All were so encouraging to my healing process. Along the way, I learned just how incredibly lucky and blessed I was. They had pulled a 7 inch clot out of my lungs... 7 inches!!!! Plus, my condition had actually been a blessing, as I has larger blood vessels that allowed blood flow to continue around the clot. I shouldn't have made it through this, yet God wanted me to. He had the best doctors there, and His hand was what brought me though.

 Seeing Lucy the first time after surgery in the ICU.

This was how I watched the sunrise each morning, as it reflected off the children's hospital.

Visiting Lucy was so great, but every time she had to leave, it broke me.

This story goes on further, and it continues even today, but hopefully it will be in book format someday, and told in a more creative way. The bottom line is that God worked in my life in incredible ways, and I want to tell the world about the miracles He still does and be a light for Him through all of this. 

I call this story in particular "Easy Faith" because it can be so easy to seek God's face when things are at their lowest. When all the cards are stacked against us and when we have no where to look, but up. However, when we remember these incredible things God does for us, then apply that faith in the times that are awesome and great in life, we have faith indeed. Let this inspire you to always look to Him alone. Pin It

Thursday, December 25, 2014

One Week of Reflection: How I'm Loved

In an effort to celebrate the amazing things that God has done in my life in 2014, and to reflect on how He has moved, I am dedicating the next week (up until 2015) to reflect on what I've learned throughout 2014.
Today, I reflect on January and February 2014, which were indeed the "How I am Loved" Months.

God surely showed me people who poured out their love and encouragement on me in January and February this past year. Being in my 3rd trimester of pregnancy and enduring the icy, cruel, subzero winter, I was feeling very down in those months. But I was blessed in so many ways by friends and family who threw me baby showers, got me pedicures, haircut, drove me around, bought me treats and showered me with the blessings that I know came straight from heaven.

January 14, I celebrated 2 years with my hubby.
Late January, I was showered with baby shower number 1!
Early February, I took a fall down our stairs that left me worried about our little Lucy. After a time of monitoring, we learned she was just fine. Mommy was left a bit sore, but also good.
Early February I was again showered with baby shower number 2 (a big surprise one!)
Early February (same week as the above events) I went through a time that left me shaken and scared of what could come. I don't want to go into detail about this one, but it was horrible.
Mid February, I felt so much love from so many people in getting pampered!
Late February - another shower!

I faced trials in early February that left me bruised physically and emotionally, but God showed me that He was in control and could provide the people in my life that kept me strong, even when it felt the bottom fell out.
Little did I know at the time, He was preparing me for bigger, more major things to come.
I reflect on how He places blessings in places just when we need them and have learned that He will provide for me no matter how major or minor the problem is. It is incredible to look back on these months and realize that though things at the time seemed hard, God was only preparing me for what was to come. He knew where I'd be heading and He covered me in amazing love and grace.
Remember to look to Him for your blessings and strength!
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Saturday, January 11, 2014

My Problem with American Christianity

I've been wrestling with this whole being a Christian in America thing for the last few months...years, actually. I'm not 100% sure what stirred it. Maybe it was a combination of the books I've been reading and my trips to the Dominican Republic, but all I know is that it has been a stirring topic in my heart and mind for some time now. Perhaps this scenario really began to brew it for me:

We entered a good-sized chunk of land carved out in the middle of the busy community. Busy, as in many kids, a lot of foot traffic, and the noise of roosters, people, and those kids calling out our presence. A gate opened to a section of property with rocky, uneven ground and a single gazebo in the middle of the surrounding area. We were going to have a church service here tonight.

A bus filled with Dominicans from the city unloaded on the inside of the compound walls, releasing folks with different types of clothes, and I would imagine, different backgrounds in life. They seemed excited to be here, in this property with hardly anything. A band set up their instruments and started playing before the service was to begin. Children interacted with us, and we played games, told stories (with translators of course) and did an Easter craft with them, while parents mingled with other parents. Some kids just came from down the street to check out the fun and the commotion.
I couldn't help but think about this service that was about to happen, and wonder how it would be pulled off. My mentality was always on the details of the power point slides, the worship practices, the timings, the people who spoke and that they said the right things...yet the people who seemed to be in charge here didn't even fuss about anything. There was nothing in the worries of details or the technicalities of this service.

Once the service began, there was a worship set, pumping from the center gazebo, typical of what you'd expect at any American church, but in Spanish. The tunes were familiar, but the words were in another language, still in God's language though. People didn't care if they knew the words or not. They stilled danced and swayed and seemed to lift their hearts up. I couldn't help but think about the glances at home the poor power point guy would get if the words weren't right on the screen, or the leader of the band would get for not following them. They were in a company of believers and that's all that mattered.

The message didn't entail all the flair of videos or pictures. In fact, dark clouds threatened from above, relieving us from the heat. No one cared. Everyone was so thrilled to have this here on a Saturday night. A service they usually never have. The message was from the Bible and there were people listening intently. No one seemed to worry if the message would hit them in "just the right way" or if it meant anything to them. It was God's Word. Of course it meant something to them!
No power points. No videos. Barely "today's hit Christian music" or even the "good ol' hymns". Not even a roof! Just people gathering to be in the company of believer and to lead their neighbors and children to something amazing.

After coming home after this touching experience, I stood in our church the following Sunday, glancing around at the details, as I normally do at a Sunday service. My nerves always high and wondering what people thought of the service. Some sang along with the words, staring at the screens. Others just stared. One or two had a hand up or were swaying. This atmosphere seemed...dead.
Suddenly, I realized I was missing something. Many of us were missing something. My whole life, growing up in the church, I was missing it. I was focused on the details. On the people around me. On what their thoughts were. On my feelings of the church experience. On their feelings of the church experience.
Yet I had JUST realized that in the Dominican at that church service, I hardly cared about my OWN feelings and my comfort. I was in awe of the simplicity and of the hearts that also didn't care what people thought. They didn't wait to sing until a song they knew. Heck, if they didn't know the song, they still were enthralled in the words and the worship. All that this thing "church" was to them was giving back to God, no matter how it was.It was something they invited their neighbors to, and they didn't care what kind of experience it would be either. They just wanted to know more.
And it was at some point after that, that I realized that we are a spoiled nation.
And we are a nation of spoiled Christians.
Blunt - yes. Maybe even enough to send you into a fit about me being unfair, and argue that I don't know your heart. And you're right, I don't. I don't need to know your heart. If you think you are in a good, complacent place with God in your heart, then I'm so happy for you. I don't sing the songs sometimes. Sometimes I leave church unsatisfied, and I'm pretty certain I'm in a good spot with God. But this is a heart matter to me.
The atmospheres are different. People with nothing are happier than us with everything. We're particular about the seats we put our butts on. (Did I mention that cinder blocks were a common seat at the Dominican church?) We're particular about our music. We're particular about our building and the color of it. We're particular about who's preaching and how they're preaching. All are valid and even deal-breakers for people. But when you live in a society where everything is within reach, that is what happens.
The fight is not about the inside of the church. It is about the outside. We are a blessed, free nation with endless resources for "how to do church". The fact is, however, we can do church straight out of the Bible. Yes, that book that sits around until Sunday rolls around. And yes, you can use that book for more than Sunday mornings.
It doesn't need the flair, the particular music, the coffee, or even the roof! It takes an open heart and an attitude of thankfulness to what God has given us. Since when is it about us? This is the mentality that will sink Christianity in a society that continually looks at the "us" factor. Let's heed Jesus' words from Matthew 9:12b-13: "Jesus replied, 'Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” (Message)

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