Life is full. Full of to do’s. Full of love. Full of people. Full of moments. Full. Just plain full. Sometimes it can be hard to keep your head about you. Here’s the secret – keep your focus on things above. When we are looking above, we don’t notice the flood around us; we keep our head above water and get to take in the sky.
This year the Bible Study I attend (BSF – if you’re looking for something in dept I highly suggest it!) is studying the book of John. The message of John is so singular. Time and time again Jesus’ teachings and his actions boil down to this truth – keep your focus on God, or you’ll miss His better, bigger picture.
Will likes to quote Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Jesus is all of those things.
So often I go through my day focused on the flood. I am thinking about what to make for dinner, trying to remember to put the laundry in the dryer (that struggle is real – not as real as the struggle to fold it is), being mesmerized by Charlie’s smile, and wondering how Izzy Pup can possibly shed any more. I also work from home, so I juggle that in there as well.
Life is full.
But the message of the Gospel of John has challenged me. Jesus came so that we might have life more abundantly (John 10:10). More abundantly does not equal more full. It means truly satisfying and overflowing with joy. Jesus wants to take my full life and make it abundant. He wants to take my good life and make it great. He wants to be at the center, in relationship with me, helping me, and being glorified through my life. This happens by shifting my focus to things above.
So I challenge you this week to find something practical that you can do to shift your focus to things above. For me it was changing the lock screen on my phone to something that would be a quick reminder to refocus. So what will you do?
Before I can share with you about our daughter’s birth and life so far, I feel the need to finish the story of our pregnancy. The last update I gave was at 20 weeks – half way through the pregnancy. At that point we were just about to find out the gender of the Little Pom Pom. So much happened in that second half of the pregnancy! It was a roller coaster of trips, parties/showers, doctor’s appointments, blood tests, emotions, and prayers.
The emotional roller coaster began with surrendering our anxieties about the health of our baby leading up to the 20 week anatomy scan. We surrendered that anxiety and trusted in God’s plan for the pregnancy and the baby.
At 20 weeks we were told that Charlie was a perfect baby, but that we would need to have another ultrasound at 24 weeks because her head was measuring a little small. They figured that was just an inaccurate measurement because of how active she was.
At the very end of week 20 we had our gender reveal!
In between weeks 20 and 24 I was referred to see a hematologist (blood doctor) for issues with my platelets (the cells in your blood that causes your blood to clot). I have a platelet count below the normal range. Come to find out, I have an antibody that destroys some of my body’s platelets, causing the lower count. Thanks to all of the blood work I had to have done throughout the pregnancy I am now not nearly so bad about needles, but Will’s still not ok with them… I had to have my blood drawn weekly for almost the entire second half of the pregnancy. More on that to come.
This is when I transitioned into maternity pants. I finally had an actual bump! I didn’t just look like I had one too many pieces of pie after Thanksgiving dinner anymore!
The emotional roller coaster continued in week 24. When we went in for Charlie’s growth check we found out that at 20 weeks she was measuring quite small, but her head was measuring very small. She had grown since 20 weeks, even gained some ground, but her head was still small compared to the rest of her small self. Because of this we were referred to the high risk doctor for a special ultrasound to find out if there was any cause for concern.
Week 25 – We went to the high risk doctor and had a super fancy ultrasound done – you could see the blood pumping through her heart! The doctor told us “heads come in all shapes and sizes. It’s what’s inside that matters, and what I see looks perfect.” We were elated! It was the first doctor’s appointment we had gone to in a couple of months and left without some possible bad news or some other test that needed run. Nothing but good news!
At this point we started registering and planning decorations for her room. By the end of May we had purchased a jogging stroller (our first purchase lol), the crib was up, we got a steal on a glider off of Craigslist, and we had painted. Will’s mom and my mom had also pitched in their sewing skills to help make the curtains and the crib skirt.
In June I had the opportunity to go back to Kansas for a week! While I was there my sister through me the most amazing travel themed baby shower! At the end of June we went to Texas for the wedding of one of my college roommates.
In between the two trips was the dread gestational diabetes test… I failed the one hour test. That meant I had to take the 3 hour test, which I barely passed. Between those two tests and my weekly platelet count check I had my blood drawn six times that week… there were bruises. Barely passing the glucose test was a shock and meant I had to limit sweets and carbs some.
July came before we knew it. A good portion of this month was spent working on a special quilt for Charlie. Both Will’s mom and my mom were a part of that process as well. We learned how to have a baby and started working with an amazing doula! Our friends and family blessed us with so many wonderful gifts, a beautiful shower, and the most precious prayer time. We also had our maternity pictures taken and celebrated our 4 year anniversary! July was moving a long nicely. Charlie was doing great, my belly just kept growing and growing, and I was still feeling pretty great considering I was 33-37 weeks pregnant.
But then it happened… my platelet count started dropping again. There’s a threshold that you are supposed to be above in case you have to be administered any sort of anesthetic for an emergency c-section. I was rapidly approaching that threshold, and then I crossed it. At 36 weeks they started me on steroids. Steroids can mess with your blood sugar, so in addition to the medicine I had to start pricking my finger multiple times per day.
The bright side in all of this is that we had another ultrasound, and much to our surprise, our daughter was all caught up! They told us that you would have never known we had been due to a small head size because her head (and everything other than her femur) was normal! In fact, home girl had some seriously chubby cheeks!
At 37 weeks we found out that we would most likely be induced at 39 weeks if my platelet count was up and I had started dilating. Strike while the iron is hot and not risk anything.
At our 38 week appointment I had lost weight, and my belly wasn’t measuring right. For those reasons we had another ultrasound that day to make sure that the steroids weren’t causing problems with my amniotic fluid levels. Our doctor told us as we were going back to the ultrasound room “If this doesn’t come back normal you’ll be having your baby today instead of next week.” Everything checked out though! So our induction was scheduled for the following week.
Now the story of her birth is something I will leave for another time, but I want to close by saying that it was definitely God’s timing. The night we went in for the induction my platelet count had dropped, and the next morning it had dropped below the acceptable threshold again – good thing I wasn’t planning on an epidural because I couldn’t have had one if I wanted it. Labor and delivery went well. Charlie was born. She was healthy. I was healthy. And at 39 weeks and 1 day our pregnancy was over. Now for the roller coaster of parenting.
Do you have verses that you pray over your life, your friends, or your family? Are their certain verses that really remind you of a certain person or vice versa do certain people bring certain verses to mind?
Here’s a funny story –
Will and I are reading through the Bible this year. We typically listen to the chapters for the day from our Bible app in the evenings. One night as we were listening, I heard this verse that just hit me. I knew that was the verse for the Little Pom Pom. I knew it was supposed to be my prayer for this child. The next morning, I looked the verse up in my Bible so that I could underline it and write a note next to it. Wouldn’t you know, there was already a note there from sometime in the past about how I wanted this verse to by my prayer and people’s reaction to Will and I’s future child. Isn’t God funny like that!
Luke 1:66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.
This verse sort of concludes the story of the birth of John the Baptist. It is talking about how the events leading up to John’s birth and his birth impacted people, causing them to give glory God, and recognize that God was clearly at work and with this new baby.
I want nothing more and nothing less than that for the Little Pom Pom. I want our friends, family, anyone else who hears about our child, and I especially want the Little Pom Pom to go through life with the confidence of this verse propelling and comforting him/her.
This verse (along with the prayers, words of encouragement, and verses spoken over us) was a source of peace and reassurance as we awaited our 20 ultrasound today. There are so many ways that Satan can trip you up and lead you into a place of worry and anxiety during pregnancy. Over the last month of this pregnancy Will and I found ourselves wandering down the path to anxiety and fear. But you know what – God was so faithful to gently lead us out of that place and back to security and trust in His character and the knowledge that this child is HIS plan.
Today, April 5, 2016, we had our 20 week anatomy scan ultrasound. Everything checked out! The Little Pom Pom is an A++ baby. An active, ornery, stubborn A++ baby. He/she was squirming so much the ultrasound tech could hardly get the need measurements. It took 10 minutes to get him/her to reveal the gender, and the whole time he/she kept sticking its tongue out!
We feel so blessed and relieved to know that our child is developing correctly according to the medical world’s standards, but no matter what happens, we can rest assured that this baby is developing according to God’s plan. And we, along with everyone else, can watch and say “What then shall this child be?” because the hand of the Lord is with him/her.
How many of you have ever run some point? This means we have something in common.
For me, my life on the run started at Age 4. At 4 I made two very key decisions that sculpted the rest of my life. Right now you’re probably doubting the ability to stick to a decision made at age 4, then you must not have anybody else with as much German and Irish stubbornness in them as I have.
Throughout my life those two decisions shaped my goals, the things that I pursued, and how I pursued them. I lived life on the run. I was on the run physically and metaphorically. Let me take a minute to tell you about that and how it got me where I am now.
The first decision.
The first decision I made at 4 was to play soccer. I remember it clearly. I was sitting on the couch with my parents watching the evening news, and they were doing a special about this new up and coming sport for kids – soccer. I told my parents that I wanted to play soccer, and I never looked back. I played from age 4 until I graduated college at 21. Now here’s a secret about me – I’m actually not that great at soccer. My best attribute is my ability to run. I play midfield which means I run the whole field, the whole game.
After my final college soccer season, I needed a new way to stay fit to maintain that jock identity I had developed and more importantly to look good in my wedding dress. So I signed up for a half-marathon, and running turned into my sport of choice, if you will, for life after college. I’ve run four half marathons and one full marathon. I actually qualified for the Boston Marathon, but I’m unable to run it in April now because we found out in December that were expecting our first child coming this August so that makes me 16 weeks pregnant right now.
The second decision.
I remember vividly, one night when I was 4 was sneaking out of bed, finding my parents, sitting with them in my yellow footy pajamas, and asking how to have Jesus in my heart. I grew up in a Christian home, and I was taught to take responsibility for my own faith, developing my own relationship with the Lord. All throughout high school and college I spent my summers going on overseas mission trips. I actually took a year off of college to do a ministry internship. I met my husband in China where we were both on a mission trip. Throughout every season of my life throughout all the ups and downs, that one thing has been constant. No matter if I doubted or if I was on fire, God was always there.
So what do these two things have to do with my life on the run?
No matter how good you are or try to be; crap still happens. I’ve had a pretty good life but there are plenty of things I tried to run from. I’ve tried to run from God, I’ve tried to run from responsibility, I’ve tried to run from the trials and not deal with them. And I’ve tried to do this by physically running. It used to be that when life got hard I would throw myself into soccer or I throw myself into my workouts – even to the point of injury. Because I was trying to to run away from what was happening on my life. Running and throwing myself into soccer was my way of trying to cope and escape. I was trying to put distance between myself and something.
Let’s face it. No matter how far or fast you run – you can’t escape things. You can never put enough distance between you and that thing. You will always be living your life on the run.
Through my college years, God taught me to stop running from and start running through things as I run towards Him and what He has for me. If you will run towards God, He will be faithful to run along side of you, to help you through it. Stop trying to put a negative distance between you and whatever you are running from. Run towards God, run through it, and put a positive distance of strength and healing between you and what life throws at you.
By running towards God I have found the courage to run through the trials. Even if that’s a scary unknown like going back to school for dietetics and starting to work for Trainer Joe. Or deciding to go to China where I met Will. Deciding to date a guy in Kentucky and then deciding to get married, move to Kentucky, and leave my family/life in Kansas. And now with this baby on the way, it’s knowing that God is running with me that keeps me calm.
My challenge to you is what are you running from? What are you running through? And what are you running to? Spring is upon us. To truly get out of the winters of our lives and enjoy the newness of spring – what trial or hard question do you need to run through instead of from?
The leaves are dropping like it’s hot around here, and the temperature is falling with them. Autumn is falling into winter, and the holidays are on the horizon. The beginning of October always marks the start of a very busy end of the year season for us, but this year October has been particularly insane. In fact, I really do not know how we are already finding ourselves at the end of it?!
Where is this going? This is not a time management tutorial or an October recap. This is an exhortation to have the courage to try. So why intro with a paragraph about how busy we are and how will be? Because, life will probably always be busy. As long as we live in this fast-paced American culture, there’s rarely going to be a “good” time to try new things, and there will probably never be the “perfect” time for it. We have to create those moments for ourselves.
I recently applied for a new job (and got it!). When I was contemplating if I should throw my resume at the listing Will sent me, he encouraged me with the age old adage “Nothing ventured; nothing gained.” So I made the time and ventured, and God opened doors. Sometimes we try new things and they don’t take off or they progress very slowly. Like our grocery delivery and menu planning business – we made the time (a lot of it) to start that, but it’s progressing more slowly than the new job.
In both situations, we mustered up the courage to try something. This is a lesson that we have been learning this year. It’s not necessarily about the outcome as much as it is having the courage to try.
Our prayer, and the way we navigate life has always been to ask God to open the doors He wants us to walk through and close all others. But inherent in that method is that we have the courage to knock on doors. If we don’t knock how will we know what’s opened or closed?
Will’s a great example of this. That man has gone to so many interviews. He’s knocked on the doors of multiple companies, made it very far into the interview process, but at the final decision time – God closed the door. I respect that courage to put himself out there and to try. It might not have ended up in a new career, a move, a raise, x, y, or z…. but they have all been growing experiences and have given him glimpses into other careers which has helped him shape his desires for what he wants out of life and deepened his appreciation for where God has us right now.
So, nothing ventured; nothing gained. What is it that you want to try, but haven’t worked up the courage to make a reality yet?
It could be something small and simple like homemade bread or recreating a favorite recipe your grandma makes. Maybe you want to learn a new skill like website design or knitting. Maybe you want to buy a house, but you are too afraid to even knock on the door and find out if that’s a real possibility for you. Maybe it’s your relationships – maybe you need the courage to try to get plugged in more and open up. Maybe it’s applying for jobs to find out what is out there and begin figuring out what you want to do for a living. Maybe you want to lose a couple of pounds, be able to lift a certain weight, or run a certain distance, but you are afraid to make the lifestyle changes.
Whatever the task is that you are afraid of – try it. Knock on that door. It might fling open and be easy to walk through, or it might open to some steep stairs to climb on the other side. It might stay shut. The important thing is that we try. Courage, character, memories, talents…. All of these things require action. Do you have the courage to try?
Somethings in life happen without us noticing. Somethings come and go with minimal impact on our daily autopilot. But there are other things that mess with our equilibrium, speedbumps that throw off our current rhythm, striking moments that you not only notice, but that stick with you.
For us, our recent week in Haiti was the latter. In fact, adjusting to Haiti was as easy as going to sleep the first night and waking up in the morning, but adjusting back… that has been a very different process.
I have been waiting to write this post because I was not sure how to verbalize what we learned, how it changed us, and why coming back has been so difficult.
Haiti was very different from America (except for the fact that most people had smart phones). There it is normal to only have electricity at night, it’s very odd to have air conditioning, houses are not what we are used to, jobs are rare, and to do lists are minute. It was not cushy, customizable, and programmable to meet our every desire like America, BUT it was beautiful, bursting with opportunity for relationships, and full of time to savor life.
While we were in Haiti it was obvious that what we were doing was important. Our daily lives were making an impact. I think pretty much everyone wants their life to make an impact in some way. Will and I are no exclusion – it’s something we crave. Nearly every morning we send each other off to work with the exhortation to “go make someone’s day better.” For us and all the members of our team in Haiti it was obvious that we were doing just that.
Maybe adjusting back (reverse culture shock) was so much more difficult than adjusting to Haiti because America is so fast and bursting at the seams with things to have, things to eat, and things to do. Consequently, our culture leaves little room for intentional relationships and investing in and helping those around us.
Before Haiti I was nervous about having “down time.” But down time there was good. It was spent getting to know the people around you, taking your time to eat and talk with the people at the table. After Haiti, it has taken me two weeks to feel like I am catching up to the pace of my American life.
Coming back from Haiti I realized that I have so much even when I feel like I don’t. Coming back from Haiti I realized that I want a slower pace in my life. I want to be able to invest in my friends and community. Coming back from Haiti, I have had a hard time reconciling with the lack of an impact I feel like I make here.
But perhaps the biggest thing that I still don’t know what to do about is that in Haiti I felt like I was 100% myself. 100% who God made me to be. 100% alive. And when I went to work 24 hours after getting back – I didn’t know who I was.
So where do we find the balance between our beautiful, impactful life for a week in Haiti and our “normal” lives here in America. Where’s the compromise? Where’s the marriage of the two?
I think the answer is in prioritizing properly. Make sure the things that truly matter come first and the other things fall in line accordingly. Know that making time for friends and family and ministry might come at the price of late nights and tired next days because I need to finish my homework. In the ungrateful moments remember how good and cushy we have it. In the lack luster moments, remember the luster of the God who we serve no matter what country, culture, or job we are in.
Bottom line – if you have been contemplating a short term mission trip; take the risk. Even if it requires a sacrifice of vacation days. I promise you; it’s 100% worth it.
Friday was our last full day in Haiti. It was another day full of the complete gamut of emotions. So much joy watching the primary school kids laugh and get excited in their assembly, playing with the preschoolers, visiting another elderly home in a very destitute area, going out for ice cream, and saying goodbyes.
The day started off with the rooster crowing and the customary coffee delivery. We got to play with the preschool and kindergarten kids for a little while until we terrified the 3 year olds with the color of our skin – there was a chain reaction of screaming and crying. Lol. After that we had several classes and then a little road trip. We went to a very poor town in the middle of nowhere called Derak.
We went to a new Bon Samaritan that is being started in this town. While we were there we painted several women’s nails, met a pregnant 20 year old and prayed for her, and I was told by the elderly women that they would be praying for us to have children… Maybe two. That same woman also took a selfie with me. She was do excited when she could see herself on the screen of the phone. She started reaching out and touching her face on the screen like a little kid. 🙂
We went to a French fort, Fort Liberty, that was built in the 1600’s. The fort was built on the coast to keep pirates out.
After our road trip we made it home just in time for dinner…. And it was pouring. But we didn’t let the rain stop us from going back out for ice cream. One last hurrah with each other and our translators. One of our translators gave us the sweetest, most encouraging letter.
It was a bitter sweet day, but a good note to end this trip on.
Saturday we had an extra hour before breakfast, but the coffee still came at the normal time. Will tried to teach Adrienne some English, and he tried to teach Will some Creole. The rest of the morning was spent dragging our feet packing, cleaning up, and chatting. Eventually we had to load our bags onto the bus and ride for hour and a half to the airport….
While I am glad to not be sweating constantly, I am not sure that I was ready to leave. I am sure I will be processing and responding to this trip for the next few days.
Today has been filled with a lot of emotions. Exhaustion that is setting in for most people,and Will’s been sick since Tuesday. Despite this, today overflowed with moments of joy and laughter. Mixed in there were moments of astonishment, empathy, worship, and heartbreak.
I sang worship songs with some of the students in English classes, and was so encouraged and filled with pride when our 18 year old interpreter Jaccine gave away her food to a hungry little boy in the hallway.
During our upper level English classes we had the opportunity to hear more of the stories and dreams of the students. There are many students here with big dreams and big enough hearts to make them happen. #hopeforhaiti
After school we went to a nursing home for the elderly who have no family to care for them. Many of them are deaf or blind. Some of them were brought in off of the streets. We were told these are the people who are considered to be “the poor.” At Bon Samaritan they are given food, a roof, a bed (if there are enough), and community. The goal is to provide the cast aside and forgotten with a semblance of dignity for their last days. The man who runs it is a sweet by a sweet, Christ-loving, Indian man.
Bon Samaritan is one of the most heartbreaking things I have seen in my life. We spent about am hour and a half there talking with them, painting the women’s nails, singing with them, and praying for them. There are few things more beautiful than singing in hymns in two different languages at the same time. Despite their situation, you could hear the gratitude in the elderly women’s voices when we were singing Amazing Grace with them.
After that we walked back to school and ate some really good goat for dinner. Will and I got to talk with one of the teachers here who went to school in Kentucky (his English is phenomenal). He has many passions that line up with ours. Hearing his story and his dreams was great! He has so much faith. I have no doubt God will use him in big ways!
Looking back I realize that today came full circle for me. In morning devotions I read 1 Timothy 6:6-8
“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”
With God comes contentment,not matter your situation. With God comes a focus on something more than what you have, where you are, how the pigs outside your room smell, how hot it is, how you feel, how old you are, how ratty your sheets are…. The list goes on. With God comes assurance that this world is temporary and something bigger is at work.
Today was busy. We were able to watch the debates for school president during lunch, which was pretty exciting. Judging by the cheers, I think Samuel will win.
During our break we were able to do some shopping for souvenirs from a few vendors who the school allows to sell on their property. One of the vendors has a son who is in the tenth grade here, Midnight Son. He is so sweet, and his English is very good. He has been to the Kentucky Horse Park before! He was in a choir that sang at the world equestrian games.
Two of the other vendors are 20 somethings who paint to earn a living and are also going back to finish their high school education (not at this school).
We also spent and hour talking with the TOFEL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) students to help them with their conversational English.
After school Hughes (he started the school) drove us out to his farm. He had 20 acres and the school has 200. The goal is to grow the agriculture income into something that can support the school. They grow papaya, yuca, cashews, cherries, lemons, limes, oranges, sweet potatoes, several varieties of mangos, coconuts, and lots and lots of peanuts. They also keep bees and sell the honey.
There are so many possibilities with the land. Will enjoyed seeing it and hearing Hughes’ vision to help bring jobs to the area. He sees beyond the walls of the church. He sees a beautiful and bright people who just need an opportunity to make something of themselves. His goal is to be Jesus to them by providing that opportunity. That process gives him and his staff avenues to share the Gospel and disciple along the way.
We had quite the busy day today. We started at 7 with breakfast. We started the day with an hour long sign language class which is so fun! We taught English classes the rest of the day.
We had a pretty crazy English class with the 12th graders (that’s junior year here). In that class we were guests so we just walked around and answered questions. One of the boys told us it was nice to see such beautiful women. When they found out I was married, they froze for a second and started apologizing. I pointed at Will and had him wave at them. They were so embarrassed. After I went back to my seat they asked Will to come back and talk to them. They wanted to apologize and ask if he was angry with them. So hilarious!!!
Will did great teaching today! He even taught a few of the older girls some Chinese.
Several things happen after school today. First, a man from the Dominican came and fixed the air conditioner in our bedroom. For the win. In the meantime one of our teammates and I got the chance to play soccer with a bunch of 7th grade boys. We had taught sign language to some of them, and they remembered my name.
The third thing was a little heartbreaking… There are a lot of kids who play in the field on the other side of the school’s wall. We can see them from our porch. They play and pick through the trash.
Today they spotted us sitting on the porch, came up to the wall, and started shouting “Blanc! Blanc!” at us. When I walked over they rubbed their swollen bellies and were putting their hand to their mouths asking for food….. We aren’t allowed to give them anything because it would cause trouble for the school if all the neighborhood kids were always begging when teams come to help. We wanted to, but we had no way of explaining that we wanted to help but couldn’t.
Lastly, we went on a walking tour of Ouanaminthe. We saw to the market, the clinic the school runs, and the bakery here at the school (it smelled sooo good!).
For tonight I will leave you with this:
Haiti is a beautiful place full of beautiful people made by the same God who made you and I. And it’s even more beautiful to hear them talk about God.