Choose Joy!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Yesterday, I was privledged to be part of Choose Joy, an event for those surviving infertility and adoption.  The event is in it's second year, and it has been an amazing blessing to so many women and families suffering infertility and/or going through adoption.  Emmy Blakely, the woman who puts on the even is the sister of a very close friend of mine, and since she knows our story, she has asked me to speak at the event both years.  Last year, I spoke about open adoption.  It was a beautiful opportunity to meet so many couples who were considering open adoption or were currently part of an open adoption.  Although I am no expert, I was able to share our story - the good, the bad, and the ugly :).  In this past year, I've been able to connect with a few of the ladies who attended my session, and it has been amazing to watch God's plan for their lives unfold.  I was even lucky enough to see a few of their sweet faces again yesterday and hear even more about their stories!  I love how the Lord uses our own brokenness and suffering to bring joy and allow us to encourage others on their own specific journeys.
This has SO much meaning to me...maybe in July,
I'll be able share in more detail!

This year, Emmy asked me if I would speak on infertility.  Quickly, I said yes, knowing that I had several months to plan my talk and think about what I might want to share.  Well, I thought about it a lot in the months leading up to Choose Joy, but it wasn't until about a week ago that I actually started putting pen to paper (yes, I'm still old school that way) and writing an outline for my talk.  What was I thinking???  Here I sat, realizing that I had agreed to share about my heart's deepest suffering!  Oh my, my, my!  I finally figured out how I wanted to organize my talk and what I would share, but there was just one problem...every time I sat down to practice my talk, I would burst into tears and I couldn't get through it.

 Let me just say that my infertility journey started back in 2001.  That was 13 years ago, but as I recounted each step of our journey, the pain felt so fresh.  I was actually shocked by my reaction to the whole process.  I practiced over and over again, and then I just prayed that I wouldn't have a total meltdown during my sessions.  I wanted to be real, but I didn't want any of it to be about me (and my crying!).  There were many fears going in, but I just prayed for God to bring the people He wanted to hear my sessions and I prayed that He would use my words for peace, healing, and encouragement.

He is so faithful.  As I sat down to each session, I felt His complete peace (I was still nervous about the talking part, but I just trusted in what He was doing).  What a gift each session turned out to be.  It was obvious that the people who were there needed to hear our story and how the Lord was so completely faithful to our family - even in our suffering - even in His silence.  Afterwards, I was able to talk with several couples and hear their stories, which was an encouragement to my heart as well.  I was thankful that I went out on faith to share my story - not for my own sake, but so that God could get the glory.
With my sweet friend, Brianne, who shared about her THREE
international adoptions!

Do you have a story to share?  Are there ways that God has worked in your life and your heart that would bring Him glory if you simply shared?  I think so often I get caught up in the idea that I'm no expert and so I have nothing valuable to share.  But, that's just not true.  I sat in other sessions yesterday and talked with many people who are not experts, but in sharing their stories, they encouraged my heart and my faith.  They gave me perspective that I needed, and they used their unique journeys to bring glory to God.

I even got to share the day with my dearest friend Holly.
Seriously, we've been friends since 1979ish...yeah, we're old.
I would encourage you to think and pray about how God might use you and your story (like I said, the good, the bad, and the ugly of your life).  And...if you've suffered or are currently suffering through infertility, please, please, come to Choose Joy next year!  In the meantime, you can email me if you'd like to talk.  It can be so lonely and isolating, but you are NOT alone in this.  People don't talk about it as often as they should, but it is so wonderful to know that others are on that road with you.  Also, if you know someone struggling with infertility or going through adoption, pray for them - what a gift we can give when we're willing to stand in the gap for one another!

Staring at a blank page...

Thursday, March 6, 2014

For a few weeks now, I have been struggling with what to write.  I think it's because I'm not sure how to feel about a few things going on in my life.  Ian's halo is off, and as of today, the collar is off as well, and as I write this, the boys are happily (for now) playing basketball in the backyard.  It's supposed to be 80 degrees here today, and at 10 AM, it's already warm enough to play outside in shorts!  Ian keeps popping his head in every few minutes (no, make that every few seconds) with running commentary - mostly about Flynn and the funny things he's doing.  Life is good.

For some reason, despite all the good things I just mentioned, I continue to struggle with finding joy.  Don't get me wrong, I am happy and I don't feel like I'm struggling with anything dark or depressing, I just feel like my go to emotion isn't joy, and I want it to be.  I want to pursue joy found only in Christ.  I feel like I've been in a funk for a few weeks that I just can't seem to get out of.  And, therein lies the problem...I can't get out of this.  I completely realize that this is something I need to bring to the feet of Jesus (and I have), but I keep taking it back and trying to fix it myself.  I rationalize my life.  I tell myself about all the blessings in my life and I try to muster up all the joy I can find in my heart.  But, that doesn't work.  Now, I'm trying to work through ways of finding joy in Christ - and for me right now, it has to be minute by minute.

How does one go about pursuing joy in Christ?  To some of you, this may sound crazy, like trying to force yourself to be happy.  That's not at all what I'm referring to.  In the past, I've found myself pursuing joy in God's word, but more with the attitude of, "Yeah, yeah, I know that, but..."  Thankfully, the Lord continues to grow my faith, and I think that I'm starting to see things a little differently.  I often find myself dwelling on my problems, insecurities, hurts, etc.  I keep looking at myself, and I'm not looking to Christ.

Currently, I am in a situation that has brought to the surface so many of my lifelong insecurities, and they've been magnified by a difficult family situation.  Let's just suffice it to say that it's been very difficult for me.  Like sleepless nights kind of difficult.  Since they've been issues I've struggled with for a long time, the feelings weren't new and I seemed to respond in the same first.  But then I came across a question in my BSF lesson that encouraged me to pray about a mountain that was getting in the way of what God wanted for my life (or something like that).  So, after a few days of pondering that question, I came to the decision that I would pray that my focus would be on how I could glorify Christ in this and STOP focusing on myself.  What a freeing decision!  Over the last week or so, I've been praying for ways to handle these things in a godly way instead of just doing my usual...which is to shut down emotionally and basically feel sorry for myself.  Things haven't been resolved as of right now, and I am still dealing with all my same "stuff," but I feel like I'm finally seeing it from a new place.  I can stop focusing on me and LOOK UP.

Maybe someday, I'll feel free enough to share the details of some of these struggles (because I know they're not unique to me), but for now, I am just thankful to have a new perspective.  All of this makes me realize that I am such a work in progress.  I'm so grateful for God's grace!  I know I'll need to be reminded to keep looking up, but it truly is my hearts desire.  Is it yours too?  Are there areas of your life where you find yourself completely wrapped up in yourself and not looking to the Lord?  I would encourage you to pray about this.  Pray that the Lord would reveal the areas of your life where you're self-focused and need a new perspective.  It's really helped me, and maybe that will help you too!

Thankful For This Storm

Monday, February 10, 2014

IAN'S BONES HAVE FUSED, AND THE HALO HAS BEEN REMOVED!  I can't believe that we're finally here.  Last Thursday morning, Dr. Fedor, confident of Ian's healing, removed the halo in a surgery that took all of 15 minutes.  Although I definitely feel relief to know that the bones are fused and that the halo is gone, I don't quite feel like I can breathe yet.  Why?  I don't know.  I've always been a little slow that my emotions don't quite keep pace with what is going on in my life.  It's always been a struggle that I feel few understand.  I tend to take time to "feel" things - if that makes any sense!

A before and after with Ian's awesome neurosurgeon, Dr. Fedor

Over the last few days, I have prayed so often, thanking God for Ian's healing and for sustaining us through this time in the halo.  With every day that passes, I can see more clearly His provision for us through this, and I'm grateful.  My life has had it's fair share of storms and at the end of this one, I truly see myself in a different place.  I actually feel grateful for the pain and suffering we endured over the last several months.  I know, this sounds completely weird to most of you, and I'm not talking about the physical suffering and pain that Ian endured (I would NEVER want that...ever, ever, ever!!!).  But, I am thankful for this very real journey of faith.  The pain and suffering we went through strengthened my faith and drew me ever closer to Jesus.  It made me think of a quote I came across a while back.  In her book Living Sacrifice: Willing to be Whittled as an Arrow, Helen Roseveare said, "He offered me the inestimable privilege of sharing with him in the fellowship of his sufferings.  And it was all privilege."  At the time, I did not understand that quote at all, but today, I do.  So today, I thank Him for the storms, because it is in those storms that I seek Him relentlessly, and He alone is my comfort and my peace. 

Ian has continued to do amazingly well.  He has never once complained about any pain or discomfort...praise God!  He is wearing real shirts (woohoo!) and best of all, we can HUG him!!!  I think the hardest part of the halo time was not being able to wrap my arms around him and squeeze him!  I could barely get my face through the bars for a little kiss.  This has been a real gift for us these last several days.  Ian's love language is definitely touching, and so through all of this, I just wanted to be able to hold him and love on him, and finally on Thursday, I could do just that.  When Ian was coming out of the anesthesia, he was having a hard time, and was crying quite a bit.  Once they brought us in, they told me I could pick him up.  I was able to get him off the bed and into my arms (wires, IV, and all) and hug him.  I immediately burst into tears.  I think the nurses thought I was upset that he was crying, but truly they were tears of joy...being able to hold and hug him close for the first time in six months!!!

I started this post not really knowing where it was going (generally, I feel a very clear direction), and I'm so happy because it truly made me reflect on the thankfulness aspect of this storm.  I hope that somehow this will inspire you to think about a storm in your own life (big or small) and reflect on how you respond.  Do you lean into Jesus?  Do you know He can be trusted?  Are you feeling like you're in it all alone?  So many times, I feel overwhelmed by a situation and I don't know what to do or who to talk to.  I would encourage you to talk to Jesus.  Trust Him.  He is faithful.  You might not know what it looks like or where to start, but He knows that too.  He will show you.  I'm confident of that, and we know that when we truly seek Him, we will find Him.

Ok, and here are a few more pictures, just because :)!

Getting used to his new collar and headband :)

Thumbs-up as we leave the hospital
He fell asleep almost instantly in the car!

Visiting Papa and Grandma - everyone was SO excited!
His usual joyful self :)

Where the Rubber Hits the Road

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Over the last several weeks, I have been thinking a lot about what my faith looks like in real life.  So often, my head and my heart do not work well together.  I know that God is good, He is faithful, and that I can trust His best for me.  But what does that look like when trials come?

Yesterday morning, I got up early, got ready and was ready to head out the door for Bible study.  Both boys were up and ready too.  Flynn was going to come with me, and Ian was going to have a "Daddy Day" with Jason.  As I was getting things together, I heard Ian and Jason playing in the family room.  Jason was tickling Ian, and both of them were having a great time.  I was giving kisses goodbye when Jason asked me if I thought Ian's head looked normal.  One look told me that everything was definitely NOT ok.  His halo had shifted significantly, and his head was actually tilted up.  The halo is never supposed to move at all!  My first thought was NOOOOO!  These are the last few weeks in the halo, and his neurosurgeon is out of town this week!!!  Both Jason and I knew we had to take him to LA.

I made a few frantic phone calls (Kaiser has given us amazing care, but their system of getting the care can be frustrating).  I was able to leave an urgent message for Dr. Fedor's office telling them what happened and that we were on our way.  The operator assured me that they would call me back.  The office opened at 8:30 and it was 8:00 when I called.  So, every minute after 8:30 was agonizing!  As we drove, I prayed fervently for Ian.  It is in times like this when I think the rubber hits the road, so to speak.  All the things I know about God in my head have to work in my heart too.  Because I had been thinking about it so often lately, I kept praying that God would show me what that looked like in times of my fear and uncertainty.  So many things were going through my head and I was trying not to lose it.

As I prayed, I just kept saying to myself (and to God) over and over, "You are good.  I can trust you.  You are faithful to meet me here.  Show me what my faith really looks like."  Not by chance, the song You Are Good by Nicole Nordeman came on and of course, I lost it.  So grateful for the kindness and mercy He was showing me - even in that moment.  I want to have the kind of faith that trusts God regardless of the outcome.  Even if everything isn't going to be ok, I want to trust in my heart that He is so very faithful and that I can trust His best for me.  In my fear, in the darkness, in the unknown, HE IS GOOD.  The only way I get to learn that is by trusting Him.

At 9:33, neurosurgery called and said there was another pediatric neurosurgeon that was seeing Dr. Fedor's patients and that he would be expecting us in the emergency room.  We checked in and waited - I'm aways amazed at people's response to Ian!  Here is is waiting in the emergency room.  You can see how his head it tilted up, and he was having some pain, but as you can see, he's his same joyful self.  Amazing.

Long story short, the other doctor did meet us right away, he was fully competent, and he was able to readjust the halo for Ian.  He did a CT first to make sure that the movement hadn't caused any additional injury, and after looking at that, he was also able to see (and show us) how the bone was fused.  Praise the Lord!!!  I know that Dr. Fedor still has to look at the CT scan and get a second opinion from his mentor at UC Davis, but I see that all as a huge praise!  Now, instead of having two doctors look at the scan, three will have looked at it and hopefully agree that all is healed and the halo can safely be removed.

I think that it's important for us to be aware what our faith really looks like - in real life.  I have said so many times that I struggle with faith and fear in the darkness, but God knows that and He is faithful to meet us in those places.  We just have to ask Him.  In my own faith, it is critical for me to know (and seek to know more deeply) the character of trust Who He is, and to recognize His voice.  He knows our hearts so intimately, and He knows if we fight with fear, but we have to lay that fear right at His feet.  He will be faithful to meet us and to connect what we know in our heads with what goes on in our hearts.

If you haven't listened to this song, you should!

Yeah, but...

Monday, January 13, 2014

It's always a humbling experience when I learn valuable life lessons from my kids.  My two year old, Flynn has lovingly been nicknamed Yabut (as in, yeah, but...).  Recently, when someone asks or tells him something, his response generally begins with, "Yeah, but..."  I'd ask him if he was hungry, and he'd say "Yeah, but I need to finish this first,"  I'd ask him to clean up, and he'd say, "Yeah, but I am still playing."  Every question or instruction was met with opposition, thinking that what he was doing was more important than anything I (or my husband, or his brother) asked of him.  I knew it was a control issue.  At first, it was frustrating for me, then it just became funny (a secret kind of mom funny that I would never reveal to my kids), and now whenever I say it - which apparently is quite often, Ian quickly reminds me with, "MOM, you just said yeah, but!"
Mr. Yabut
Here's the humbling part.  I started thinking about my own life and how I interact (or fail to interact) with God.  There are times in life, both big things and little things that God allows to grow my faith, and my response is so very often, Yeah, but...  For example, several years ago - like 12 to be exact, Jason was finishing law school, I had just finished my master's degree and had a few years of teaching under my belt, and we thought that finally we would start our family.  We had been married for six years at that point and had patiently waited for just the right time (yes, I laugh at this now too!).  God had other plans for our family.

Over many painful years of struggling with infertility, I found myself trying to reason with God.  Yeah, God, I know you want to grow me, but I get it now.  Yeah, God, I know you love me, but why won't you answer my prayers for a child.  Over and over again, I was thinking I knew better.  Truly, this trial was wasted on me for many years.  I was in so much emotional strife, yet I failed to rely on God, even in the most painful parts of my struggle.  Yes, I would call out to God and He was there, but it wasn't until about 4 years into our journey that I actually began to learn what it meant to lean into God and trust His truth and His promises.  Even then, I wasn't very good at it, but I was beginning to realize God's character more clearly as He revealed it to me through my faith.  There have been countless other instances in which generally the same thing has happened (but I won't bore you with all the details!).  I can see the way God has worked on my lack of faith throughout my life - bringing it to the forefront of many situations.

Yesterday, during my prayer time, I was praying for our sweet Flynn and a few issues that I've been having with him, like the yeah, but...  As I was praying, I think I laughed out loud because it was so clear that to God, I was that same child.  I have been a believer most of my life, and although my faith has continued to grow, I am still a stubborn-hearted child that wants to be in control.  I am so thankful to the Lord that He continues to show me my true character (both the good and the bad), and uses that to draw me to Himself. I am also grateful that He uses my own issues to allow me to parent with grace - seeing myself and my own heart in my kids.

During our most recent life storm with Ian, there have been SO many days and situations where I have had absolutely no control.  Although it has been extremely difficult, I have grown by leaps and bounds in trusting God with the details of my life.  When your four year old breaks his neck and the neurosurgeon sympathetically tells you that he really shouldn't be alive, let alone moving extremities, well, those are things that are way too big for me and I have no choice but to trust them to the Lord.  Even in the midst of this storm, I can see what a gift the storm really is.  I can see His goodness, knowing that He created me and fully understands who I am and where my heart wants to go with these things (like to try to control them), but this is completly out of my control and I have to trust Him.  Through this storm, I see His kindness, grace, and mercy to me and to our family.

So, when I think back on Flynn, I guess I can relate.  I would encourage you to look at your life and ask what seemingly impossible situation you could lay at the feet of Jesus.  I am absolutely convinced that He cares about the big things and the little things.  Trusting Him through the big stuff has shown me that His promises are true.  Even when I don't "feel" Him, He's there with me.  I will admit that I still have HUGE control issues to deal with.  After all these years, it's still hard to give up my perception of control and trust the sovreignty of my God, but I see the beauty in it.  I see Him more clearly when I let Him be my comfort and my strength.  Just like God says to Abraham in Genesis 15:1 He will be my shield and my very great reward.

Quick Ian Update

Monday, January 13, 2014

I just wanted to post a quick update about our trip to the case you didn't see what Jason posted on Facebook or want more detail.  Things didn't go exactly as we were hoping, but overall, it's still good news.  We were thinking Ian would get the halo off at the end of January or early February at the latest, but it looks like it will be mid-February at the earliest.  Ian had x-rays done, and as far as the doctor can see, the bones are fusing well.
Ian's becoming quite the x-ray pro
Dr. Fedor wants to do a final CT scan the first week of February to make sure the bones are fully fused.  He also wants the head neurosurgeon at UC Davis (his mentor) to look over the CT and "give him his blessing" to remove the halo.  So, after the CT scan, removal will be scheduled for the following week if all looks goes well.  I am beyond grateful for Dr. Fedor and his humility in caring for Ian.  He is a very competent and accomplished neurosurgeon, and yet he still consults with other experts to provide the best care.  I know it will be a couple extra weeks, but after talking to Dr. Fedor, it all makes sense, and want to be certain everything looks great before removing the halo.
And, as usual, our trip to LA meant that Flynn got another special day with Papa (who's always too busy having fun with the boys, so he never takes any pictures, but here's a picture of Flynn when we got to Papa and Grandma's house)!

Encouragement for a Fearful Heart

Thursday, January 2, 2014 it comes again.  Having a four year old in a halo has brought to the surface one of my greatest battles in life.  Even though I'm aware of it, and even though I'm praying through it, I have struggled with fear in one way or another every single day since July 30th when Ian had his accident.  Tomorrow, we go see Dr. Fedor, his neurosurgeon for his fifth month evaluation.  I'm thinking (and hoping) that he'll just do an x-ray, then give us a date for the next CT scan and schedule a date for the halo removal.  Truly, I can't wait for him to get the halo off.  I want to hug him and kiss him (without the halo poking or hitting me) and cuddle him close, play with him, and give him a real bath in the bathtub.  But, why am I SO emotional about all of this?!

Even right now, as I look over at him and see him playing trash truck, I want to cry.  The time in the halo has been challenging, but it has protected him.  It has protected his neck and is allowing it to heal.  If I'm being completely honest, I want the halo off, but I'm afraid of it coming off too.  He will no longer have that protection, and I worry that something will happen with his neck.  I realize that I'm being completely irrational, but it's just how I feel.  After many talks with Dr. Fedor, I know that he is being very conservative with the time he is keeping Ian in the halo.  He wants him to be completely healed when he takes it off, since it's impossible to tell a four year old to "take it easy."  In my head, I know I'm not trusting the Lord with Ian, but my's stuck in fear.

This morning, I came across this verse from Psalm 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but GOD is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  Funny thing is that I've come across countless verses like that over the last few months.  I know that God is speaking directly to my heart about my fear.  I've said this before, but I can just be so stubborn.  I struggle with the same "stuff" over and over and over again.  But one thing about this verse that encourages me is that He knows.  He knows my struggles and my fear and He speaks right to my heart.  He knows my flesh and my heart will fail, but He remains enough.  He truly is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  Thank goodness I don't have to rely on my own strength, because obviously, I don't have any.  My fear reminds me to give it back to him.

So, as we head to LA tomorrow, I can go knowing that my God goes before me.  As it says so beautifully in Psalm 139 (which if you haven't read it, or even if you have...go read it!!!) v. 5 You hem me in - behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.  How beautiful a picture that is.  I'm so thankful for such a personal God who can deal with my fear in such a sweet and tender way.  These verses have so encouraged my heart and allowed me to give my fear back to the Lord (again!).

I'll try to remember to update tomorrow after Ian's appointment :)!
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