this everyday life.

this past monday, one of those completely awesome, out of the blue things happened where i crossed paths in the most unusual of places with a sweet friend i haven’t seen in at least two years. we keep in touch sporadically through texts & instagram, but nothing beats a big hug & getting to catch up ever-so-quickly; it was the greatest surprise.

in the maybe five minutes we had for catching up, i love that as we talked about what our families have been up to, we both mentioned that we’ve been enjoying a slower pace. more home time. more down time. more playing in the backyard & going for walks & finding airplanes in the sky and trucks passing by.

this, mind you, is coming from someone who is wired for productivity & multi-tasking. left to my own devices, i can really kick things in to high gear & make things happen.

however, a few years ago, when i met my husband, for the first time i realized – to my surprise – that i didn’t always miss doing all-the-things…because i was able to really be present when i was hanging out with him. i started saying no to after work groups and coffee with friends so that i could be home with him. a few years into marriage and with our sweet boy now, it’s even more important to not be gone more than one night a week. even that is hard for me sometimes!

although i’m aware of my natural tendency towards productivity, sometimes it still takes a second thought for me to not over-fill our time (even with fun things), be picking up toys when we’re playing with something else, or working on a project while we watch a movie.

but every. single. time., it’s worth it. the unplanned days when we get to wander around the farmer’s market – waving to all the puppies, high-fiving farmers & vendors, and dancing to the local musicians…planting flowers and vegetables in our backyard with our boy – watching him waddle around with his watering can, watering every patio paver and some plants sometimes, too, and teaching him in some tiny way about gardening…walking to the bench at the end of the block to watch the trucks – holding hands with my husband and talking about our days.

the everyday things that so often slip right by.

as laura & i sent devo card drafts back & forth to each other one bazillion times, there were a few cards that struck a chord for one reason or another. this one got me first with it’s whimsical font and unexpected pop of color. it just plain made me smile.

then i read the prompt that laura wrote to go along with the verse…and i have come back to this card every day since, considering this question she posed:

“What does it look like to like to live with [God] in everyday ways?”

i don’t know about you, but there are a number of big things i’m asking God for. trusting Him for. but most of all, i need Him in the everyday ways. i need to slow down my thoughts, my worries, my questions, my schedule so that i can see Him at work in my interactions, my family, and, go figure – my thoughts, my worries, my questions, my schedule. a slower, less full, dare i say less check-things-off-my-to-do-list-productive pace creates space for me to be more present and attentive to noticing the little everyday ways that i sense God’s nearness, see Him at work around me, and rest in Him.

when i am present in the little moments – the, “mama, see?” moments where i am more often smiling & laughing at what he’s pointing at as he’s asking me to look at it than i am asking him to show me again because i was doing something else (which also happens; don’t get me wrong – i’m a work in progress) – i am reminded of how deeply important the everyday things of life and the everyday ways of God are.

IMG_2196

Advertisements

loss, faith, & celebration.

i’m a new year’s girl; there’s no disputing it. it’s not about resolutions (which i love) or being over christmas (impossible), or even the countdown to my impending birthday (christmas + the new year + my birthday = a trifecta of goodness). it’s the fresh canvas…the newness…the hope of what’s to come.

last year was the first year in a long time that the new year came & went, and i didn’t pay it much attention. ditto for my birthday. i actually kind of dreaded both of them; my heart just wasn’t ready to celebrate. when i am most honest, when i looked out to the 2014 that was ahead of us, i was anxious, scared, & desperately wanted to wish it away.

you see, just one week before christmas the year before (2013), we had an appointment that confirmed that the abdominal surgeries i have had in my life have done permanent damage that would not allow us to get pregnant. we were told that IVF would be our only option for trying to have a baby and that there would be a number of things that would need to fall into place in order for that to even be a possibility.

for a girl who had spent most of her childhood boasting that she was going to have 14 kids and most of her adult life thinking there was good reason to scale back just a little but still dreamt of a big family, the news was devastating.

to put it simply, 2014 was not my best year. it started out tough (lots of tears on new year’s day & we went to an IVF info session on my birthday), and it felt pretty awful more often than i’d like to admit. however, for all the hard stuff it brought, 2014 was undeniably a really important year. (do not be fooled – there were no rainbows & sunshine. remember the new year’s & birthday dreading?) in my heart, i knew it would be a long year.

early on i remember admitting that i had a deep sense that it would be a year of mountain-top-highs and deep-valley-lows. that could not have been more true. there was sadness, loss, heartache, and grieving that i still can’t quite put to words, yet there was sweetness, too. it was a year marked throughout with wonderful celebrations of my husband – things he worked incredibly hard for, and celebrating him was wonderful, with our first wedding anniversary, with deepened relationships that brought healing, and with words spoken over me & us by people that have been relentless & intentional about sticking right by our sides through everything.

the Lord is tender like that. He knows about the heartache & loss & sadness, and He carries us through. He gives us strength in ways we never though possible. He brings beauty from ashes.

although i closed the door on 2014 with a bit more gusto than other years and am deeply thankful for a new year, 2014 was – and still is – a formative year for me. in the way that only challenges & grieving do, i was faced with questions, fears, and decisions that helped me dig deeper into my faith, priorities, and dreams. i was invited to sit in hard places with people that love me & know me – people that reminded me i wasn’t alone, encouraged me, and supported me. we have a little tribe of people that continue to pray us through doctor’s appointments, procedures, and decisions…offer to come to doctor’s appointments…and text, call, send cards, and shower us with love – in person & across state lines. through it all, i can honestly look back on 2014 with a thankful heart – holding all of the joys & all of the sorrows – knowing that i & we could not be in this place today without what we came through. i know a greater depth of the strength the Lord through me, i know His character more intimately, our marriage is stronger, and our faith in the Lord’s provision, nearness, and grace is even stronger.

to bring things full circle, 10 days before this past christmas (2014), after a year of appointments, waiting, procedures, and more waiting, we got the news we had been hoping & praying for – one of the biggest pieces in our journey to IVF fell into place. with hopeful anticipation, we scheduled our last two appointments for January 2nd, and got ready to celebrate 2015. this year, i was ready to celebrate again. not because we got good news (although that was certainly a big part of it) but because we had come so far.

and celebrate we did. we even managed an extra fun celebration a few days before my birthday when we officially got our IVF protocol & found out that we could start our first cycle of IVF the next week! i think we both floated out of the doctor’s office that day! then my husband planned the sweetest birthday for me, and we got to sit and revel in the glory & grace of it all.

i wouldn’t have ever willingly chosen the path that we have been on for the past year, but i know that i know that i know that God is with us in it. i know that our babies are being fought for with every shred of our beings & that one day we will tell them the story of how we longed for them & loved them well before we ever knew them.

this isn’t easy to share, but i genuinely believe that each our stories matter. over this past year, it’s been the voices of women & my incredible spiritual dad (who walked this road with his daughter, Nicole) who have been down this awful infertility road that have brought me comfort, relief, and encouragement – blogs, conversations with the dearest friends, and even instagram posts. although each journey is unique and personal, there is a shared ache & hope that knits us all together. for that reason alone, i want to share our experience. because if it offers hope, encouragement, or makes just one person feel a little less alone, that’s all that matters.

[i’ll recount what our first few days have been like & our first check-up (which is tomorrow – Monday – morning) in the next post.]

holding hope

i am.

this. on repeat. since sunday.

wherever you are…whatever you are carrying…He’s with you in the middle of all of it. He’s holding onto you, & you can cling to him.

He will not leave you.
you are not alone.

there’s no space that His love can’t reach
there’s no place where we can’t find peace
there’s no end to Amazing Grace
take me in with your arms spread wide
take me in like an orphan child
Never let go, never leave my side.

i am,
holding on to You.
i am,
holding on to You.
in the middle of the storm,
i am holding on,
i am

i am,
holding on to You.
i am,
holding on to you.
in the middle of the storm,
i am holding on,
i am

Love like this, oh my God to find!
i am overwhelmed what a joy divine!
Love like this sets our hearts on fire!

i am,
holding on to You.
i am,
holding on to You.
in the middle of the storm,
i am holding on,
i am

i am,
holding on to You.
i am,
holding on to You.
in the middle of the storm,
i am holding on,
i am

this is my Resurrection Song
this is my Hallelujah Come
this is why to You i run
this is my Resurrection Song
this is my Hallelujah Come
this is why to You i run
there’s no space that His love can’t reach
there’s no place that we can’t find peace
there’s no end to Amazing Grace

i am,
holding on to You.
i am,
holding on to You.
in the middle of the storm,
i am holding on,
i am

i am,
holding on to You.
i am,
holding on to You.
in the middle of the storm,
i am holding on,
i am

gratitude, day 12.

gratitude_xsgratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for Hope & Love.

sunset sky

i am thankful beyond explanation for the nearness of God and His tenderness. on my worst & best days, He loves me the same and His presence has been constant. i am thankful that we can trust Him in hard, sad seasons because abiding in His Love & Hope is always enough and will always, always see us through. and i am so, so thankful for days when things that have felt far away & nearly impossible start to fall into place.

He is Hope. He is Love.

gratitude, day 1.
gratitude, day 2.
gratitude, day 3.
gratitude, day 4.
gratitude, day 5.
gratitude, day 6.
gratitude, day 7.
gratitude, day 8.
gratitude, day 9.
gratitude, day 10.
gratitude, day 11.

dear beginners, there is a gap.

there is a gap_ira glass

image from 7Plums on etsy

i first stumbled upon this quote from ira glass a few years ago, and it stopped me in my tracks. [side note: i think it’s one of the first things i ever pinned on Pinterest. although the original pin was a different version, a few years may very well = vintage in Pinterest years.]

to this day, i still come back to it regularly. for encouragement, reassurance…and sometimes for a little push. at my core, i am a creative, full of dreams & hope, but i am also a practical realist. as a result, i can easily get caught between the scales of these traits.

at my best, my hopes & dreams cheer me on, and ira’s words are comforting: keep trying new things. you’re not alone! it’s normal that this part is hard. but at my worst, the potential failure, disappointment, rejection, and unmet expectations can be paralyzing. fears loom large, threatening to cast long, dark shadows on my creativity, passions, dreams – everything. i get caught up in ira’s other words: it’s just not that good. a lot of people never get past this phase. it takes a long time (years).

it’s such a normal struggle. not just for a creative – for all of us, in all of our roles.

what i’m learning helps me tip the scales towards hopes & dreams is to be honest with & true to myself. on tough days, i’m learning to acknowledge the fears & even name them (not an easy task). i’m finding that when i know what i’m up against in my mind (fear & doubt’s favorite playground), i can start to knock them down with truth, and i can ask for help & prayer. i’m learning to not push past this part but to instead honor my real feelings. that has been helpful for me in two ways. first, i’m learning to give my real feelings time & space because denying them doesn’t help me grow. second, i’m learning that when i allow myself to feel my real feelings, often i better understand the root of them. as i’ve begun to try to do this more often, i’ve seen some little wins where a past fear or doubt actually motivated me in a positive way to achieve something i once thought was impossible (hello, starting – and re-starting – the blog! hello, writing a post about fears!).

and then, of course, there are the good days. days when i’m humming along jotting ideas, reading blogs & sites that inspire me, trying new things, and dreaming. even those days can get a little sticky here or there, but my perspective is set further ahead. i remind myself of the bigger picture & realize that little bumps are ok – they’re actually part of the adventure.

most importantly, whether it’s a good day or a tougher one, having people who support, encourage, & believe in me makes all the difference. i’m lucky to have people in my life who see & call out of me the potential that i sometimes lose sight of. they hold me accountable, dream with me, cheer me on, and love me unconditionally. being honest with them about my fears helps call out the truth that combats doubt, and wins & growth are that much sweeter to celebrate together.

i have a few more thoughts on this that i’ll follow up with this week, but in the meantime…

do you have some favorite resources that help as you dream & plan? favorite practices or routines?

who are your go-to creative inspirations?

how has having a community/tribe of friends & family helped shape & grow your dreams?

*my friend laura sent me this sweet vimeo version of ira glass’ interview that captures this quote with a visual of a fun overlay of the words. very creative, and it’s great to both see the words and hear ira speaking them.

the story of us: our first anniversary.

our first anniversary_us

our first anniversarythe covenant of marriage is, first & foremost, sacred ground. i have experienced unconditional love throughout my life, however the love my husband – and God through my husband – has introduced me to this year is overwhelming.

when i first learned about covenants seven years ago or so, the term instantly, deeply resonated. a covenant is sort of like a promise, but so, so much more. like agape is sort of like love, but so, so much more. although the Greek word “agape” is often translated as similar to “unconditional love,” it is infinitely more than that. so much so that there aren’t adequate words in the English language to accurately describe all that “agape” truly means & encompasses. the same is true, for me, with “covenant” and “promise.” when you make a promise with someone, it is deeply important and meaningful. a covenant, though, takes everything to another level. entering into a covenant with someone is intrinsically more rich, transformative, and powerful than a promise. covenants require us to give more of ourselves; to truly be honored, we have to commit everything to them.

and then – then, there is the covenant of marriage. what. in. the. world! it is true that the covenant of marriage is sacred, above all. however, the first word that actually comes to mind when i think about the covenant of marriage is audacious. the two words play rather perfectly off of each other. after months of loving the word connection, i finally looked up the definition of “audacious,” and what i found matched strong, encouraging words to what i’d been feeling as the words rolled around in my thoughts. the definition of ‘audacious’ is, “showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks.” synonyms for “audacious” (ack! so incredible!) are: bold, daring, fearless, intrepid, brave, courageous, valiant, heroic, plucky.

this man that i am still baffled & giddy that i get to call my husband & i are such rookies. in every way we are just beginning to figure out marriage & each other & how to love each other well. however, what i think we’ve gotten right so far are these: we laugh a lot. we hold hands. we enjoy time with family & friends and encourage time with the guys/girls…but prefer each other & being together. with very few exceptions, we go to bed at the same time. we share our passions. some we enjoy together, and some we like to learn about & talk to each other about. we pray together. we realize how easy it is to mis-communicate & try hard to learn how to communicate better for & with each other. and, most importantly, we choose audacious love.

i actually think that if we do this marriage thing well, we will be old, gray-haired, & wrinkled, still figuring out marriage & each other & how to love each other well. we’ll just have more years & experience & stories of taking surprisingly bold risks in loving each other well to build from & grown on.

our first anniversary group 1

10 things: 12.2013.

10things_witness

  1. i would love to have a “year of the sock” à la amanda.
  2. dear youtube, thank you for helping me determine that our washing machine was, in fact, broken and for showing me how to fix it so easily!
  3. and then there is this (unfortunately they re-did the video & added annoying extra commentary – skip that part. the little boy is incredible!): 
  4. it took everything in me to not put up our advent calendar the day we got it. this is the first time either one of us has done an advent calendar, and we for sure picked a stellar one – this beauty from naptime diaries. it was my favorite decoration, and it was my very favorite way to end each day.IMG_3747
  5. this month was full of great highs & hard lows…
  6. but through both, we learned deeper value in God’s vision of marriage. and we are so, so thankful.
  7. our little JulieAnne is still rockin’ through the winter, still giving us beautiful lemons. it’s, like, “infinity x ten” times better than a unity candle. and the flowers that are still blooming in december…in minnesota?! our house smells heavenly with the sweetest smelling perfume.
  8. our contribution to christmas eve dinner was, per usual, dessert. we ended up tweaking this gingerbread latte cake with this eggnog buttercream. YUM!
  9. my absolute favorite memory of our first married christmas was christmas morning with just us. it was more special than i imagined it could be.
  10. we got to have a fun new year’s eve night with just the girls while we sent michael & joy to the thunder game. it was our second annual celebration, kicked off with pan-a-cakes for dinner :o)

words with power & of peace: 2 years.

last week was full of rich celebrations. and they were so well timed – something every other day :o) we kicked things off with dustin’s birthday on monday, and wednesday brought us to my 2nd hospital-free-iversary. what a gift march 26th became two years ago. today’s post is long, but it’s an important one to me, so i hope you don’t mind.

on december 15, 2010, i gleefully checked into the u of m surgery center. early mornings are not really my thing, but this morning was different. this morning, i was checking in for my 7th – and hopefully final – visit to the operating room in 15 months. i would have hugged every single person helping mom & me that morning if it would have been appropriate.

previous visits to my beloved hospital (not a drop of sarcasm here – i absolutely love & am deeply grateful & thankful for the people there) ranged from exams under anesthesia to much more intensive surgeries. the longest stay i had had was six days, but there had been lots & lots of recovery time at home. and lots & lots of praying, hoping, & waiting. it had truly been 15 months of waiting after 23 months of not knowing what was wrong in the first place (which, not surprisingly, included lots & lots of praying, hoping, & waiting…).

that special morning, i was getting put back together & would be done with the ileostomy. needless to say, i was pumped.

the surgery went well. i remember waking up in the recovery area, gently feeling my abdomen: bag free. praise Jesus! after all of my surgeries i had always been placed on the same floor, and a benefit of my frequent visits was that i quickly grew to love the nurses, aides, & support staff. so when i was wheeled up to my room that afternoon, all put back together, we had a bit of a celebration. glory, glory!

unfortunately, the next few days went downhill pretty quickly. when all was said & done, i was in the hospital for 15 days (including christmas)…and then back 3 more times. i think i was in for 50-some days. as you could imagine, there was lots & lots of praying, hoping, & waiting. it was the most physically & emotionally tiring experience i have gone through. yet, as our Gracious Father would have it, it was also one of the most spiritually rich seasons i’ve ever experienced. there isn’t a day that has gone by in the past two years that i haven’t paused to thank God – even briefly, but often much more deeply – for my health.

over the three & a half years, i often wished i was able to journal more about it, but no matter how much i wanted to, i couldn’t. what i did, thankfully, manage to get on paper, though, were marking moments & advice from loved ones. for the past two years, on this very special anniversary, i go back & re-read those journal entries. it’s an incredible blessing to see the power those words had to move me into a new place at that time & to realize the power & peace they still have today.

  1. a dear friend introduced me to the process of Biblical lamenting, based on Psalms 13 and 28. it’s a process that begins with addressing God, describing your need or pain, affirming your trust in God, prayer for help or deliverance, and ends with praise to God for who He is. as personal & intimate as my relationship with God was and, further, with as deep as i could imagine it ever getting, i would never have imagined that God would approve of my lamenting. at the time, in my head, lamenting was on par with pouting. if God is God of the universe & had a good & perfect plan for me, what right did i have to lament to Him about it? obviously i had a lot to learn; this process continues to bring light to deep places in my heart.
  2. i read shauna’s latest (at that time) blog post. she’s one of my very favorite writers & has a way of striking a deep chord in me. her post, on asking for help, changed my perspective on how i’d been handling the doctor’s appointments, procedures, surgeries, recovery – everything. in my wanting to be strong & handle everything like a champ, i wasn’t allowing people who love & care for me the opportunity to love & care for me. i will work on this one for a long time. somewhere in me is a need to be the strong one & “keep it together.” but letting others in can be so freeing, and allowing others to do what they love & do best is a win-win for everyone!
  3. i went with my new philosophy (above) when one of my mentors called to check in on me, and i had been having a tough day. when she called, i was actually driving home, feeling particularly discouraged, tears streaming down my face. i was honest about fears i was wrestling with, and, after saying some wonderful, encouraging, grace-giving things, she said, “i don’t know how Biblical this is, but i feel like maybe you can just let us pray for you. let us hold you up.” enter: paradigm shift. to think that God would be ok with me not praying wasn’t something i’d ever considered. in all honesty, i had been feeling utterly exhausted of prayers, and that made me feel like i was failing Him. but our loving God draws a tribe around us specifically to love, refine, & pray for us.  He knows that we are weak, and He allows those around us to be His hands & feet in these times.
  4. one night, while i was praying before bed, i noticed that my whole body was tense; my hands were completely clenched tight. i bet i had been praying like that a lot: speaking words of trust, faith, & hope, braced for “what if?” probably trying to holding on to each truth so none of them could slip away. God sweetly reminded me to take a deep breath, relax, & open my hands. i returned to my focus verse, hebrews 11:1, “now faith is being sure of what we hope for & certain of what we do not see.” to this day, i focus on these three things while i’m praying, & i always, always make sure my hands are relaxed & open when i fall asleep.
  5. i think it was the day after Christmas that a close friend came to visit and, as she was leaving, i asked if she could help me get up so i could go for a walk.  walking was the single thing that I could do to try to coax my body to get better, so I walked laps around the nurses’ stations as often as possible. she asked how many laps i was going to do, and i said, quite decidedly, “seven! i haven’t had a plan for my laps before, but this is my Jericho, right?!” from that walk on, i kept track of my walks.i told a few people about my new plan, including one of my mentors, and she promptly responded that the Israelites actually marched around the walls of Jericho thirteen times before they fell. well, wouldn’t you know that it was after my thirteenth lap that i was discharged from the hospital (that first time)!
  6. the only time i actually journalled from the hospital was on what ended up being my last night there, march 26, 2011. i can still remember how raw it felt to type this entry, but i can also still vividly remember how important i knew it was to do & how healing it would be:

    as i walked the halls tonight in my routine before-bedtime walk, i kept tearing up. i blinked the tears away quickly so each nurse’s station full of nurses & aides that know me wouldn’t see, but on each straight-away, i almost fell apart.
    i’m scared to go home tomorrow. i’m so excited to be in my own house, my own bed, my own bathroom, with my own comforts & stuff…but i’m so, so scared to go home & start feeling better & get into my routine & feel normal only to end up on the bathroom floor feeling awful, again…and end up here, again.as i walked, and as i sit here typing with tears streaming down my face, i keep repeating, “God, i trust you. period. please show me that you have healed me completely. please, please let me be your example. let me be a testimony to your miraculous healing. please.” i can’t live in fear. i refuse to live in fear. i have to not only believe but live in the place where every day is a new day, and You, God, are guiding me completely. because You, God, are a God that can do infinitely more than i can hope or imagine, i am not settling for less than Your complete & total healing over my body. i will not go home for 5 days or 5 weeks & fall ill again. i will leave this hospital tomorrow, and i will not come back with these illnesses. by the blood of Jesus, i am healed, and there are no strongholds over my body, mind, or spirit. i am healed, and i will live to be an old woman, full of stories, memories & life because of what You have given me & the healing that You have made complete in me. i will live every day of my life as a testimony to Your goodness, provision, healing, miracles, & love. i will pray earnestly with thanksgiving, glorifying Your name. i am nothing without You. it is wholly due to Your spirit within me that i am able to live a life full of love, truth & grace, and i will spend all of my days learning how to honor & glorify You more truly, authentically, & intentionally. i love You more than i’ll ever ever understand. You are my God, and i am Yours completely.
  7. then there was one last entry, six days after going home, on April 1, 2011. it reminds me of three things: 1.) God’s faithfulness since before i truly knew Him, 2.) how quickly i can fall into old fears, and 3.) God’s patience & grace to set me straight again when I do:

    as I’ve been getting settled again at home, during a quiet moment this week, God brought me right back to the beginning. to the vision i had before my very first surgery [when i was 12 years old] of Him holding me. since i left the hospital six days ago, i have been wrestling the fear that caused me to fall into tears as i walked those pre-bedtime laps. fear of feeling better, but not being better. fear of getting into a routine, then ending up back at the hospital. there are no guarantees that the infection won’t come back. but i have a choice: to live each day in fear, or to live each day as if i am healed. erwin mcmanus said in his book, Chasing Daylight, “the most spiritual activity you will engage in today is making choices. …while moments are the context within which we live, choices chart the course and determine the destination.”

    this is one of my more important choices in life. i am choosing to live each day as though i am healed. so i find it quite fitting that in that quiet moment earlier this week, He brought to mind the image of me wrapped up in His arms.

     

there were many times when i thought that season might never end; but it did. as cliché as it sounds, it truly is a blessing to reflect, each year, on everything that happened & appreciate, humble myself, & rest in the goodness of where He brought me through it all.

words with power & of peace: 2 years

last week was full of rich celebrations. and they were so well timed – something every other day :o) we kicked things off with dustin’s birthday on monday, and wednesday brought us to my 2nd hospital-free-iversary. what a gift march 26th became two years ago. today’s post is long, but it’s an important one to me, so i hope you don’t mind.

on december 15, 2010, i gleefully checked into the u of m surgery center. early mornings are not really my thing, but this morning was different. this morning, i was checking in for my 7th – and hopefully final – visit to the operating room in 15 months. i would have hugged every single person helping mom & me that morning if it would have been appropriate.

previous visits to my beloved hospital (not a drop of sarcasm here – i absolutely love & am deeply grateful & thankful for the people there) ranged from exams under anesthesia to much more intensive surgeries. the longest stay i had had was six days, but there had been lots & lots of recovery time at home. and lots & lots of praying, hoping, & waiting. it had truly been 15 months of waiting after 23 months of not knowing what was wrong in the first place (which, not surprisingly, included lots & lots of praying, hoping, & waiting…).

that special morning, i was getting put back together & would be done with the ileostomy. needless to say, i was pumped.

the surgery went well. i remember waking up in the recovery area, gently feeling my abdomen: bag free. praise Jesus! after all of my surgeries i had always been placed on the same floor, and a benefit of my frequent visits was that i quickly grew to love the nurses, aides, & support staff. so when i was wheeled up to my room that afternoon, all put back together, we had a bit of a celebration. glory, glory!

unfortunately, the next few days went downhill pretty quickly. when all was said & done, i was in the hospital for 15 days (including christmas)…and then back 3 more times. i think i was in for 50-some days. as you could imagine, there was lots & lots of praying, hoping, & waiting. it was the most physically & emotionally tiring experience i have gone through. yet, as our Gracious Father would have it, it was also one of the most spiritually rich seasons i’ve ever experienced. there isn’t a day that has gone by in the past two years that i haven’t paused to thank God – even briefly, but often much more deeply – for my health.

over the three & a half years, i often wished i was able to journal more about it, but no matter how much i wanted to, i couldn’t. what i did, thankfully, manage to get on paper, though, were marking moments & advice from loved ones. for the past two years, on this very special anniversary, i go back & re-read those journal entries. it’s an incredible blessing to see the power those words had to move me into a new place at that time & to realize the power & peace they still have today.

  1. a dear friend introduced me to the process of Biblical lamenting, based on Psalms 13 and 28. it’s a process that begins with addressing God, describing your need or pain, affirming your trust in God, prayer for help or deliverance, and ends with praise to God for who He is. as personal & intimate as my relationship with God was and, further, with as deep as i could imagine it ever getting, i would never have imagined that God would approve of my lamenting. at the time, in my head, lamenting was on par with pouting. if God is God of the universe & had a good & perfect plan for me, what right did i have to lament to Him about it? obviously i had a lot to learn; this process continues to bring light to deep places in my heart.
  2. i read shauna’s latest (at that time) blog post. she’s one of my very favorite writers & has a way of striking a deep chord in me. her post, on asking for help, changed my perspective on how i’d been handling the doctor’s appointments, procedures, surgeries, recovery – everything. in my wanting to be strong & handle everything like a champ, i wasn’t allowing people who love & care for me the opportunity to love & care for me. i will work on this one for a long time. somewhere in me is a need to be the strong one & “keep it together.” but letting others in can be so freeing, and allowing others to do what they love & do best is a win-win for everyone!
  3. i went with my new philosophy (above) when one of my mentors called to check in on me, and i had been having a tough day. when she called, i was actually driving home, feeling particularly discouraged, tears streaming down my face. i was honest about fears i was wrestling with, and, after saying some wonderful, encouraging, grace-giving things, she said, “i don’t know how Biblical this is, but i feel like maybe you can just let us pray for you. let us hold you up.” enter: paradigm shift. to think that God would be ok with me not praying wasn’t something i’d ever considered. in all honesty, i had been feeling utterly exhausted of prayers, and that made me feel like i was failing Him. but our loving God draws a tribe around us specifically to love, refine, & pray for us.  He knows that we are weak, and He allows those around us to be His hands & feet in these times.
  4. one night, while i was praying before bed, i noticed that my whole body was tense; my hands were completely clenched tight. i bet i had been praying like that a lot: speaking words of trust, faith, & hope, braced for “what if?” probably trying to holding on to each truth so none of them could slip away. God sweetly reminded me to take a deep breath, relax, & open my hands. i returned to my focus verse, hebrews 11:1, “now faith is being sure of what we hope for & certain of what we do not see.” to this day, i focus on these three things while i’m praying, & i always, always make sure my hands are relaxed & open when i fall asleep.
  5. i think it was the day after Christmas that a close friend came to visit and, as she was leaving, i asked if she could help me get up so i could go for a walk.  walking was the single thing that I could do to try to coax my body to get better, so I walked laps around the nurses’ stations as often as possible. she asked how many laps i was going to do, and i said, quite decidedly, “seven! i haven’t had a plan for my laps before, but this is my Jericho, right?!” from that walk on, i kept track of my walks.i told a few people about my new plan, including one of my mentors, and she promptly responded that the Israelites actually marched around the walls of Jericho thirteen times before they fell. well, wouldn’t you know that it was after my thirteenth lap that i was discharged from the hospital (that first time)!
  6. the only time i actually journalled from the hospital was on what ended up being my last night there, march 26, 2011. i can still remember how raw it felt to type this entry, but i can also still vividly remember how important i knew it was to do & how healing it would be:

    as i walked the halls tonight in my routine before-bedtime walk, i kept tearing up. i blinked the tears away quickly so each nurse’s station full of nurses & aides that know me wouldn’t see, but on each straight-away, i almost fell apart.
    i’m scared to go home tomorrow. i’m so excited to be in my own house, my own bed, my own bathroom, with my own comforts & stuff…but i’m so, so scared to go home & start feeling better & get into my routine & feel normal only to end up on the bathroom floor feeling awful, again…and end up here, again.as i walked, and as i sit here typing with tears streaming down my face, i keep repeating, “God, i trust you. period. please show me that you have healed me completely. please, please let me be your example. let me be a testimony to your miraculous healing. please.” i can’t live in fear. i refuse to live in fear. i have to not only believe but live in the place where every day is a new day, and You, God, are guiding me completely. because You, God, are a God that can do infinitely more than i can hope or imagine, i am not settling for less than Your complete & total healing over my body. i will not go home for 5 days or 5 weeks & fall ill again. i will leave this hospital tomorrow, and i will not come back with these illnesses. by the blood of Jesus, i am healed, and there are no strongholds over my body, mind, or spirit. i am healed, and i will live to be an old woman, full of stories, memories & life because of what You have given me & the healing that You have made complete in me. i will live every day of my life as a testimony to Your goodness, provision, healing, miracles, & love. i will pray earnestly with thanksgiving, glorifying Your name. i am nothing without You. it is wholly due to Your spirit within me that i am able to live a life full of love, truth & grace, and i will spend all of my days learning how to honor & glorify You more truly, authentically, & intentionally. i love You more than i’ll ever ever understand. You are my God, and i am Yours completely.
  7. then there was one last entry, six days after going home, on April 1, 2011. it reminds me of three things: 1.) God’s faithfulness since before i truly knew Him, 2.) how quickly i can fall into old fears, and 3.) God’s patience & grace to set me straight again when I do:

    as I’ve been getting settled again at home, during a quiet moment this week, God brought me right back to the beginning. to the vision i had before my very first surgery [when i was 12 years old] of Him holding me. since i left the hospital six days ago, i have been wrestling the fear that caused me to fall into tears as i walked those pre-bedtime laps. fear of feeling better, but not being better. fear of getting into a routine, then ending up back at the hospital. there are no guarantees that the infection won’t come back. but i have a choice: to live each day in fear, or to live each day as if i am healed. erwin mcmanus said in his book, Chasing Daylight, “the most spiritual activity you will engage in today is making choices. …while moments are the context within which we live, choices chart the course and determine the destination.”

    this is one of my more important choices in life. i am choosing to live each day as though i am healed. so i find it quite fitting that in that quiet moment earlier this week, He brought to mind the image of me wrapped up in His arms.

     

there were many times when i thought that season might never end; but it did. as cliché as it sounds, it truly is a blessing to reflect, each year, on everything that happened & appreciate, humble myself, & rest in the goodness of where He brought me through it all.

10 things: 02.2013.

10things_witness

  1. i can count the number of months until our wedding on one hand. eeek! my heart beats faster just thinking about it…
  2. i get to read an advance copy of bread & wine! (!!!) and it ARRIVED! i can’t wait to read it this weekend. post coming soon.
  3. these pepper jack stuffed pretzel bites. oh! my! goodness! insanely good.
  4. JT’s performance at the grammys – woah!
  5. i love ellen. the dancing, clumbsy thumbsy, the practical jokes. and then she went & had kindness week. major happy tears.
  6. bob goff’s twitter & facebook posts regularly change the course of my day, thoughts, & prayers. two of the most recent:
    :: Jesus won’t try to speak over the noise in our lives; love whispers so we won’t be confused about who’s doing the talking.
    :: Every time we love people extravagantly we answer one more question the world has about God’s character.
  7. i stumbled upon the influence network. i can’t wait to dig in & learn more!
  8. the later sunsets & longer days of daylight are such a wonderful a treat!!
  9. loving these posts: brave moms raise brave kids (jen hatmaker) & how to be a better lover (ann voskamp)
  10. this video about brothers connor & cayden long, the bond that they have, & the way connor looks out for his brother leaves me speechless, soggy from tears, & gives me hope for raising our kids one day: