Monday, March 30, 2009

Allow me to introduce myself part #2

So picking up where I left off, Dave and I got married in 1985 and I took a job as a secretary in the development office of a Christian K-12 school while Dave finished his degree and then landed a corporate job several months later. After two years we moved into our first home, an old duplex - very spacious but in need of a lot of upgrades. We replaced the heating system, plumbing, and roof, along with doing major improvements on the kitchen, bathroom, walls, and woodwork.

In the late 80's I felt called to pursue a new degree that would enable me to teach ESL - both Dave and myself were being drawn to work with international students. I was able to start teaching while still completing my degree. Wouldn't you know, the week I was to take my final comprehensive exam I found out I was pregnant with Ethan. What timing! I continued teaching through my pregnancy, then took a break after he was born and later went back part-time. I think I ended up teaching about three years total. It was a wonderful experience. I loved working with many nationalities at all different proficiency levels, and one of the best parts was that we were able to house students from the program on our 3rd floor attic room with its own bath.

To backtrack a little, earlier in our marriage, when we were praying about our future, God put China on our hearts. I made a point of tutoring in Chinatown to fulfill a requirement for my coursework. We were open to God leading us to China for short or long-term missions. After I started working with international students and became a mom, I thought international adoption might be another way to live out the desires God had implanted in me.

Fast forward through Bryan and Katrina's birth, when I became a full-time mom. At this time Dave and I were planning for his career change into academia and he was diagnosed with Crohn's, which made it apparent we weren't being called overseas. For those of you who don't know, he had one surgery during those years and was in remission for six years following. (He's had a second surgery since we've been in Illinois).

When we first moved, we made the decision to send Ethan to public kindergarten. Three years later, when Ethan was entering 3rd and Bryan 1st, we decided to home-school. Even though I was convinced this was God's leading, I really wrestled with the decision because of all it would mean, the extra responsibility and changes it would bring. But an even more amazing thing happened while I was still going through that process. One Sunday at church, God woke me up and renewed the latent desire I'd had for international adoption. Here I was debating whether to take the plunge into home-schooling and God said "You think THAT'S a sacrifice, what about taking an even MORE dramatic step that will require an even bigger life change?" Wow, I was blown away.

Backtrack a little to what God was doing in the more public specter in bringing us to Illinois. We really felt called to campus ministry of some kind. The doors God opened for us were assisting in a home-based ministry to internationals, Dave being the faculty adviser to IVCF and speaking occasionally to their large groups, and Dave co-leading the Faculty Christian Fellowship. Dave was also able to lead a Bible Study with internationals, mostly who were Chinese! This was not because he went out looking for them, but rather because he was approached by a Chinese Econ student our family hosted thru a secular campus program, and that student's interest led to more students' involvement (most of whom were also Econ students).

Fast-forwarding again, we adopted Samantha and the latent dream became a reality. Our whole family went to China to bring her home, what an awesome experience. Our kids keep talking about wanting to go back for a visit.

I'm going to stop here because the rest of my story is "old news." This past year has definitely been the most life-changing of all, with Ethan's leukemia and my chronic pain condition. Life is hard, but God is good. My weakness is the means by which He can display His strength and power.

As Samantha and I were talking about the big scary ocean the other day, I told her the waves remind me of God's power. I sang "My God is so big, so strong and so mighty" with her as we left the beach and were walking to our hotel. I reminded her of the Bible story where Jesus calmed the waves. It was satisfying to hear her sing and to dialogue with her about spiritual things. All the pain is worth the gain if in the end we're focused on the Lord and His greatness.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Allow me to introduce myself

A few people have responded to my blog with the comment that it's helping them to get to know me better. I thought I'd follow that theme today by telling you a little more about my life. I hope I can highlight the most significant things without getting too rambly. One thing we learned as journalism majors was "brevity, brevity, brevity." We'll see how it goes.

I was born into a Christian family. I have three older brothers. We lived in the country and moved a few times depending on the pastorate my father had at the time, sometimes full-time and sometimes part-time. Our denomination was similar to the Mennonites who back then were pretty conservative. My mother's father grew up Amish and became a dynamic preacher after he left the Amish because of his claim to salvation. Both my grandmothers wore head coverings and were considered "plain." My own parents veered away from some of the older traditions but were still strong supporters of a simple lifestyle, mostly out of belief and partly out of necessity. I always had plenty growing up, but we were never indulgent. I'm thankful for being rooted in simplicity and continue to weigh all the choices we make in modernity. One example is TV - I never had a TV growing up but have just recently acquired a satellite dish service. Hmmm. We are trying to be careful with how we use it. We're still avoiding a large screen or HDTV, although anything else is almost impossible to find at stores anymore.

I had all the benefits of growing up a country girl, and as a teen had lots of fun in high school with extra-curriculars. By the way I was an A student so I hung out with the brains. My high school resume includes one year of track where I rarely qualified to compete (WHY did a short person like myself choose long jump???!!!), then three years of field hockey, choir and a smaller ladies' choral group called the Nine Sharps (no kidding), and both small drama productions and big musicals. I never had a major role in theater but enjoyed the parts I had. Contrary to my sons' opinions, musicals are a blast. Maybe not to watch, but to do - YES. (They're planning to do an anti-musical video which will be hilarious I'm sure.)

Fast forward. Most of you know a lot about me already so this will be really quick. I went to a Christian college for two years then transferred to a big secular university that had a small suburban campus. I majored in journalism/public relations. I met Dave through Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. We both had come out of hard relationships and were just looking for friendship at first. But the trip to Wendy's was the turning point. He sat down at another table just to be his silly self, then came over and asked me, "is this seat taken?". About two seconds later after he sat down, he asked me, "will you marry me?". I quickly responded "give me three good reasons why". He then gave me three lame reasons and I asked for seven more. Seven more lame reasons, but then a serious conversation about what we'd like in a mate and both of us felt "the chemistry" so to say at that point. The next day was WEIRDDDDD!!! But we finally took the plunge after much fear and trepidation that our friendship would be ruined and we are still best friends to this day. I knew he was the one for me when he showed his true romanticism through mathematics. He wrote me a cute little note saying you plus me equals love along with other similar equations. He used to sing songs to me like "I'm standing at the lightpost of the corner of the street when a pretty little lady walks by, oh me, oh my..."

It's interesting that I'm writing about this while I'm at the beach. The beach is Dave's ideal vacation spot and we've spent many wonderful hours here together. One that stands out in my mind is before we were married. We were strolling along the sand in the evening and my silly guy suddenly turned serious on the subject of marriage (this was before we got engaged). He told me that he didn't know if he could love someone the way his parents loved each other. I think he was wrestling with his feelings for me, not sure what to make of them. I have no doubt now that his love for me equals or surpasses the love he saw modeled growing up.

Well this may be TMI but when I'm writing I try to be free with where my thoughts lead. Because I've written so much already, I'll sign off and do a part two soon. Stay posted...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Yes and Amen

This morning our dear Pastor Bob Smart preached another excellent sermon on Daniel. For those of you who'd like to hear his powerful Christ-centered handling of the Word, you can go to and download his podcasts.

I say Yes and Amen to his point about God's love. In Daniel Chapter 10, Daniel mourned for three weeks (v.2) about a great war that was to come. His vision terrified and overwhelmed him so he had no strength left (v.9). He was interacting w/ a messenger about the revelation and several times the messenger called him "you who are highly esteemed"(NIV version). In some other versions this same phrase is translated "you who are loved."

Pastor Bob said our experience often leads us to question God's love, but that God's Word is our greater authority. We lose our identity for a time, feel like a stranger or orphan, but there's no question we are loved - His Word and the way He works in our hearts give us all the evidence we need.

It's hard to process God's personal love for us in the midst of pain. Sometimes if it's an accumulative thing over a period of years, we may feel like we're being picked on or bullied or maybe just forgotten. Yet we know that's not God's character. There has to be another reality at work. Rather than saying "Why me" it's better to say "why NOT me". If God truly loves me and is allowing this to happen, the conclusion I must come to is that He wants to love me through it and fulfill His perfect will for me in it. We may be tempted to think God is withdrawing His love for a time, but as Stephen Curtis Chapman reminds us we are ALWAYS being loved, "right now at this very moment", no matter what. If we're God's child His love is a constant. There are times when He may be silent, but that doesn't remove His love. We may be in a time of testing, but that's just PROOF of His love. Everything comes back to love. The cross proves it, and as we see the weightiness of the cross and look to the One who suffered for us, we begin to grasp how our own suffering has meaning. He's calling us to give of ourselves, just as He did. To put our own agenda on hold and let Him grow us up, so to speak.

So yes and amen to the final authority of the Word - God is continually loving us through each step of our journey.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Time for something serious

Normally I'll keep things more light-hearted, but today I want to share some of the realities I've had to face in my journey. In my last post, I shared about Paul and his thorn. I've been thinking about him and his perspective on life, shaped by suffering from His first blinding encounter with Christ. I hope I don't ever have to face all he faced, but knowing what he went through helps me as I look at some of my own hardships.

Without sounding negative, I just want to be honest about where I've been since I turned forty. On my fortieth birthday (I'm now 46), I made an intercontinental call and talked with a nanny who was caring for Samantha. What an awesome experience that was. Then a month later, I held her in my arms. She was so resistant to so many things I tried to do for her as a mom because of her sensory processing problems, her developmental delays, and her strong will. I just wanted to love her and parent her well, but things were and are still very hard at times. From what I've heard, some of her struggles are normal, and some are a little more challenging than other adoptive families' experiences. I also know there are lots of birth kids that face similar challenges. One friend I've known for years had similar difficulties with her son, and now he's doing very well, so that's an encouragement to me. I've never doubted Samantha belonged in our family but it's been more draining on me than I ever expected.

Along with that, I've had some major hormonal changes the past couple years that have required medical attention, and since emotional PMS has always affected me, I've also struggled to keep my emotions in check. Enough said about that.

When Ethan got sick last year, I was really worried about him prior to diagnosis, then afterward there was still a lot of worry about his health but along with that such a feeling of loss. Knowing his life was on hold, my mother's heart was just crushed. Our firstborn had almost made it to being fully independent, and then it all changed. So much good came out of it though. Ethan and I and Dave were able to connect in ways that I will treasure forever, and I'm thankful at least for that part, that our relationship became so much stronger.

Is this all leading somewhere? Yes. Back to this long journey and how I'm gaining more and more of Paul's perspective through it. We've had a rough year, especially in April and then again in June with Ethan's health crises. I was starting to experience some more extreme anxiety through those times. Then when my own health took a nosedive, I went through another period of major anxiety. There was a point when I thought MS was a possibility, but even though that was frightening, some of the other things I got tested for could have been even more serious. I had swelling in my ankle and had an ultrasound and an ex-ray to see if there was a bigger problem there. The spine MRI could have shown a tumor. The EMG could have shown evidence of ALS (Lou Gehrig's). It was overwhelming to think about with all the other things leading up to it. It was especially overwhelming not to be able to fulfill my role and identity, in caring for my family.

This is getting long so let me just close by saying I'm doing okay. It's been rough, but with the help of family, friends, caring doctors, calming medications, negative test results, and God's faithfulness each and every day I've come to say along with Paul what can happen to me apart from God's love? As long as I know He's the one running my life, I don't need to fear the future.

Friday, March 6, 2009

What's in a Shoe

I have never been overly extravagant when it comes to shoes. For the most part I prefer comfort to style, but a few years back I decided since comfortable heels could be found that suited me, it would make sense to use them to give me a couple inches, esp. with the height differentiation between myself and Dave. Then I fell in love with the bootleg jean look which along with the heels gives me more "presence".

Not only this, we've had a rule since we moved into our new house thirteen years ago that we'd take off our shoes when coming indoors. That rule has held even though our carpets and floors are very well worn now and it doesn't really matter.

For the past month, I've been stuck wearing athletic shoes all day, outside and inside, as part of my therapy. I've gotten used to it but I miss running around in socks and wearing more stylish shoes when I go out. Oh well, my body knows better and thanks me for those shoes, without them my leg immediately starts its thing. Unbelievable. All because of one tiny heel lift and solid arch support that keeps me aligned.

God's design of the body is truly remarkable. Everything affects everything else. If one part isn't doing its job, it leads to one problem after another. I'm doing what I know to do to get things working the way they're supposed to again, but sometimes I struggle between being a good steward of my body and accepting the "thorns" that will inevitably come. Paul didn't spend all his time and energy on seeking a cure, apart from the Lord Himself; rather He focused on doing the business of the kingdom and allowed his thorn to be a means for God to display His power in weakness.

And so, at the end of the day, when I've had it with my shoes and I'm tired of having to position my body properly, when I just want to kick back and be myself again, I block out the doggone pain and say "God knows". He knows where I've been with my strong-willed Samantha, He knows how I've tried to avoid the stairs but just can't because I need to check Katrina's schoolwork or do wash, He knows the family needs a good solid meal, He knows Bryan needs an errand run, He knows Ethan needs another trip to Peoria, and He knows that Dave needs me to faithfully love and support him. God knows. He's not putting pressure on me to be something I can't be, and He'll heal me if He chooses, and in the meantime, I'll do what I can but leave the rest up to Him.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Fun Family Time

One of the things I wanted to talk about at some point is the joy of family life. Last night we had a great dinner together. Nothing spectacular, but good conversation with Samantha being fairly "appropriate" with her input and not talking over us the whole time, which has been a problem we've frequently had with her. I don't think we talked about any grandiose topic, but that's precisely my point, that we just enjoyed being together. This is something I think I wouldn't be as thankful for if business had continued as usual without the situation with Ethan or my own health struggles.

Families go through ups and downs with how they relate to each other. We have our share of disagreements, misunderstandings, snapping at each other and all that "stuff". We're sinners, it goes with the territory. But when the rubber meets the road, we make sure we're there for each other. With teenagers coming into their own, there's a more distinct line being drawn between one generation vs. another, but we try to major on the majors and not get caught up in the minors. We know how radically things can change in an instant and don't want to waste time fretting over things that will all eventually pass.

I want my children to be responsible and all that stuff. I've seen all of them grow incredibly in that way this past year. So when there are the minors of clutter piling up around, I remind myself that Ethan is being very productive in school, taking his meds independently (and there are LOTS of them), participating in youth group and a couple Bible studies with friends and a mentor, running his own video business, and finding time to have meaningful relationships with his peers. I remind myself that Bryan is producing original music, leading worship at youth group, being a witness at school, maintaining a near perfect GPA, teaching guitar, and doing Bible study with friends and a mentor, and so on. Katrina and Samantha are each developing in so many ways with their various activities, ice skating, piano, swimming, ballet, to name a few. I'm out of time but the point is it's great to watch them do their thing and make the most of the precious time they have.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

It's Okay

I'm learning to say it's okay to myself a lot more. If you know me well, you know I have perfectionist tendencies. That can be a good thing at times - I wouldn't want my roof caving in because the roofer decided it didn't really matter if he was precise. But sometimes things don't require perfection, and that's when it's time to say it's okay. First, my health is one of those things. Right now I can't have a perfect body (which I hope you know I don't mean in the cosmetic sense)and I've got to say okay, this is the way I'm going to feel. If I try to do anything physical, I'm going to have symptoms. That's just the facts, pure and simple. So what do I do, I push through till I've had enough and then try to find a comfortable position to rest. Right now I'm sitting on my bed with a lumbar pillow behind me and it feels pretty good. Earlier this evening I went to church and couldn't stay standing for the whole song set. I got what I guess I could call my "twisty" symptom when the inside of my leg feels like someone's ringing it out like a dishrag, yeah, ouch. But when I sat down I was fine. Back to the topic at hand - being okay with imperfection. The second main thing I've had to say it's okay about is my daughter Samantha's behavior. She is really something. Today she was having a loud screaming, crying episode which fortunately she doesn't have much anymore (thankfully). But there are so many other things that aren't really in that category that go against my perfectionist mindset. She still stands up on her chair sometimes during meals, she wants to dress and fix her hair in socially unacceptable ways, she splashes too much in the bath, etc. etc. She is now seven and I KNOW each of my other three were better "behaved" by her age, but who's comparing? Samantha is Samantha and I'm okay with her for now. I can't help but hope that someday she'll get with the program, and it won't be because of me. Believe me, I've tried.