New adventure, new blog!

21 09 2010

Friends and family…

As God has called our family to begin the journey of adopting a little girl from Uganda, I’ve decided to start a blog specifically about our adoption. The website is www.familyhopelove.com

As my time is limited, I’m guessing most of my blogging will be on this new site! I’ll be adding a subscribe link to my new blog soon.





Life, or why I haven’t blogged in two months

23 07 2010

Why haven’t I blogged since May?

Life has been busy and complicated. This season has been intense, as we’ve been faced with one thing after another. There are some amazing things happening in our family, but I will save writing about that for another post.

The good news is coming.

But for now, the not so good news.

In April, my wedding ring was stolen. We filed a claim with the insurance company where we thought we had a policy insuring the ring, only to discover they cancelled the policy without notifying us.

The long story short, my ring is gone and we cannot replace it.

This spring, my husband bought a new suit, his first in a decade. But the second time he wore it, the pants got torn. And the suit designer does not sell separates. So my husband is left with a great suit coat and no pants.

The first week of May, our son Micah had heart surgery.

My husband Mark spent the rest of the month of May on a business trip in Australia, China and Korea.

When he got home, my business was threatened with a lawsuit after my logo was “borrowed” without my consent.

As soon as that was resolved, my website crashed.

The next week we discovered that the triathlon I had been training towards for a year was full. This may seem like a small thing, but a year of triathlon training is something like 400 hours of work.

And then my laptop crashed.

Life.

Is why I haven’t blogged in two months.





Why am I weary?

18 05 2010

Why am I weary?

The simple answer is Mark is on a business trip in Australia, China and Korea for three weeks.

Moreover, several days before he left our son Micah had heart surgery. We have had a year full of doctors appointments. My husband’s job is demanding. I am starting a business. We have three children under the age of six. We have a yard full of weeds and a house full of toys and laundry and life.

The simple answer is life. But this morning I read my friend Kelly’s blog about Mondays. In the blog, which I sort of read on my iphone while breastfeeding and drinking espresso, Kelly wrote about this verse:

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:30-31)

Normally I like to run. When I read this verse, I remember some of the best runs of my life. I remember running through vineyards in Switzerland, along dirt roads in Guatemala, across Lake Washington on a cold, sunny day. I am theoretically training for an olympic distance triathlon. But lately, when I run I grow weary. I am out of breath, struggling with exercise and allergy induced athsma.

So tonight, instead of running four or five miles, I’m blogging. I needed my inhaler just to get through this post. I am frustrated that my body is not working how I want it to. I want to be able to breathe. I don’t want my knees to hurt. I want to be able to run and not grow weary.

Why am I weary?

To dig a little deeper, I opened up my Bible to look at the causes of weariness. I found several examples of how weariness is caused by physical suffering:

  1. Weariness is a longing for rest (Job 3:17).
  2. Weariness is a response to unsatisfied thirst and hunger (Job 22:7).
  3. Weariness is a response to poverty (Job 31:16).

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1)

Job is weary, however he is not weary as a result of just physical suffering. Job has lost everything and he is weary from sorrow. He uses the metaphor of physical suffering to illustrate the depth of his emotional and spiritual pain. David’s struggle in Psalm 119:28 is similar: “My soul is weary with sorrow.”

Digging even deeper, I came across Isaiah 46. Why are the people in Babylon weary? They are weary because they have created idols that are burdensome. Read with me:

 1 Bel bows down, Nebo stoops low;
       their idols are borne by beasts of burden.

 The images that are carried about are burdensome,
       a burden for the weary.

 2 They stoop and bow down together;
       unable to rescue the burden,
       they themselves go off into captivity.

 3 “Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
       all you who remain of the house of Israel,
       you whom I have upheld since you were conceived,
       and have carried since your birth.

 4 Even to your old age and gray hairs
       I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
       I have made you and I will carry you;
       I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

 5 “To whom will you compare me or count me equal?
       To whom will you liken me that we may be compared?

 6 Some pour out gold from their bags
       and weigh out silver on the scales;
       they hire a goldsmith to make it into a god,
       and they bow down and worship it.

 7 They lift it to their shoulders and carry it;
       they set it up in its place, and there it stands.
       From that spot it cannot move.
       Though one cries out to it, it does not answer;
       it cannot save him from his troubles.

 8 “Remember this, fix it in mind,
       take it to heart, you rebels.

 9 Remember the former things, those of long ago;
       I am God, and there is no other;
       I am God, and there is none like me.

 10 I make known the end from the beginning,
       from ancient times, what is still to come.
       I say: My purpose will stand,
       and I will do all that I please.

 11 From the east I summon a bird of prey;
       from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose.
       What I have said, that will I bring about;
       what I have planned, that will I do.

 12 Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted,
       you who are far from righteousness.

 13 I am bringing my righteousness near,
       it is not far away;
       and my salvation will not be delayed.
       I will grant salvation to Zion,
       my splendor to Israel.

How many times have I built something in my life into an idol? How often do I look to something other than God for a sense of identity or significance? How frequently do I give my time and treasure to worship stuff or people rather than God? 

Did I not see that my idols would become a heavy burden?

Seriously at the end of the day, I often feel weary – but I don’t think it is because I am not doing the things God has asked me to do. I think I am weary because my proud, idolatrous heart wants to do more. I worship the things God has given me to do. I work exceedingly hard to do things well. But no matter how hard I work, I often feel like I failure because I do not do these things perfectly. The images that are carried about are burdensome, a burden for the weary.

Looking again, the Isaiah verse is full of promises for rebellious, stubborn-hearted people like me.

God has carried me since my birth. He is the one who sustains me (even as I am plucking out my first gray hairs). I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. My idol can not save me from my troubles. I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. God is sovereign. He calls me to fulfill his purpose, not my own.

God is so gracious. Here I am running around to the point of exhaustion. I am wearing myself out for nothing. But God, like a gentle father, gives me two gifts I do not deserve:

First, God has given me Truth in his Word. God’s word - the Bible - sustains the weary and he wakes me up in the morning to hear from him.

       The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue,
       to know the word that sustains the weary.
       He wakens me morning by morning,
       wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. (Isaiah 50:4)

Second, God has given me Jesus. Jesus died for stubborn-hearted, rebellious idolaters like me. He made me his own. He promises to take away the burden of my idolatry and to give me rest.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:29-30)





Rediscovering Rwanda

22 04 2010

In 1994, when genocide swept through the hills of Rwanda, I was in the seventh grade.

Two years later, as a freshman in high school, I remember learning about Rwanda from one of my favorite teachers: Mrs. Joan Malkin. My family had recently moved from Boulder, Colorado to Irvine, California. I was a liberal kid plopped down in a conservative community, wearing birkenstocks and corduroy while my classmates wore cardigans and polo shirts. In the freshman social studies class, Mrs. Malkin challenged her students to think carefully and critically about how they saw the world.

Among other things, I remember learning about Rwanda and the failure of the United Nations and the international community to intervene during the genocide. This remarkable teacher sparked my curiousity for politics and economics. In college, I earned a degree in international relations. Although I’ve spent the last six years focused on loving and serving my husband and our three children, I have never forgotten this passion.

Fourteen years later, I am rediscovering Rwanda. As my husband and I have continued to learn and pray about adoption, we’re beginning to consider adopting from Rwanda. We are learning not only about the international adoption process, but also about the country, which has undergone a remarkable – if flawed – process of rebuilding over the last sixteen years.

I have many questions - and at this point few answers.

Yesterday I read Left to Tell, a memoir written by a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. I finished the book at maybe 2 am. And then I cried and prayed and tried to understand: how could a country could be consumed with such evil? How the same country could be transformed? Rebuilt? Redeemed?

I do not know where this journey will lead me. I do not know if our family will be called to adopt from Rwanda or from elsewhere in Africa. But I do feel God’s hand leading me and drawing my heart to see. And I believe that as God opens my eyes, he will guide my steps.





I heart Micah

24 03 2010

What do you do when you find our your child has something wrong with his heart?

In January, we took Micah to a walk-in clinic with another cold and ear infection. The on-call doctor mentioned that Micah had a heart murmur, but thought it was probably nothing.

Two months later, at Micah’s three year old check-up, his pediatrician spent more time listening to his heart. Normally this part of an exam is quick, but Dr. Sarah was slow and kept asking everyone in the room to be quiet. She then told me she wanted Micah to see a cardiologist at Children’s Hospital. She said that most likely we would go and the doctor would say everything was fine.

But somehow I knew there was more to the story.

Micah was born at 35 weeks, just about one month premature. He weighed 5 pounds 8 ounces, breathed and breastfed well by the end of his first day, and spent less than a week in the NICU. But over the last three years, Micah has grown slowly. He gets sick often and when he catches a cold, he gets much sicker than his big brother. He is calm and he tires easily.

Maybe he does have something wrong with his heart?

When I was pregnant with Micah’s younger brother, Zephaniah, I had dozens of ultrasounds with the high-risk obtetricians. At every ultrasound, the technicians would look for Zephan’s ductus arteriosis. The ductus arteriosus allows the blood pumped by a fetus’ heart to bypass the developing baby’s fluid filled lungs. In most babies, the ductus arteriosus closes shortly after birth. When I was pregnant with Zephan, I was taking medication that could potentially close his ductus while I was still pregnant, which would stress his lungs and heart. So week after week we watched and prayed, hoping that Zephan’s ductus arteriosus would stay open.

Fast forward nearly two years and we’re sitting in the Cardiology Clinic at Children’s Hospital. The kind, experienced doctor spends a few minutes listening to three-year old Micah’s heart. He thinks Micah has two murmurs.

Over the last week, as we waited to see the cardiologist, I have climbed into Micah’s bed when he was sleeping to listen to his heart. Instead of a rythmic lub-lub, Micah’s heart has lubs and gallops and whooshes.

One murmur is normal, just the sound of blood moving through the heart of a young child. The second murmur is the sound of a patent ductus ateriosus. The PDA allows some of the oxygenated blood from the left side of Micah’s heart to flow back to the lungs by flowing from the aorta to the pulmonary artery. Micah’s PDA appears to be small and it seems to have had a limited impact on his health.

Thanks to incredible medical technology, the cardiologists are able to close the PDA without actual heart surgery. The cardiologist will insert a small plastic catheter into a vein in Micah’s leg and follow it to his heart where they will place a small device closing ductus arteriosus. The procedure is relatively simple and on the other side of surgery, Micah should be completely normal.

Even though rationally I understand all of this – that everything is going to be okay - it is hard to discover there is something wrong  with your child’s heart.

I’m sitting here, drinking a beer, probably letting dinner burn on the stove while my older boys play outside and the baby finishes off his second bag of veggie booty. Am I a little numb? I think maybe I should be feeling more than I do, but with everything going on with our children right now, I don’t know that I can stop and let myself dwell.

Heart condition, failure to thrive, developmental delay, hearing loss.

Today we also had an appointment with Zephan’s early intervention therapists. Although Zephan has always been small, we have become more concerned about his growth over the last four months has he has not really gained weight since his first birthday. Over the last month we’ve done testing at Children’s Hospital to look for possible causes of Zephan’s failure to thrive. So far, we do not have any answers and we’re doing everything we can to help him grow. Today at his assesment, we learned he may also have a partial or temporary hearing loss as a result of repeated ear infections. We will have his hearing tested soon. We also talked with the therapists about what we already know, that Zephan is nowhere near walking even though he is 16 months old.

So tonight we ate dinner. We will rest. And we will wake up tomorrow and clean the house and visit friends. Life will keep moving. I am thankful for my boys tonight as the sleep in their beds.

For more information about PDA, click here.





At the end of the day

4 03 2010

For the last six years, I have been a full-time mom. It has been a blessing to be home with my children focused on being wife and mom.

When I was growing up, I did not think I would ever want to stay home with my children. I was not sure I would have kids and if I did I thought I would wait until I was in my thirties. Shortly after Mark and I got married, however, the desires of my heart changed and we decided to start a family.

When we first tried to get pregnant, I had too many jobs. I was a real estate agent, doing communications and college ministry at a church, on Young Life staff, a nanny and working retail. I worked all the time. Little by little, God called me to quit my jobs and surrender my calling to him.

At the end of the summer of 2003, I stopped working as an administrator for Young Life. I stepped down from the college ministry position at the church as I increased my hours in the communications department. I quit being a nanny and after the holidays, I quit my job at Pottery Barn. In the winter, I gave up my real estate license. Finally in the spring of 2004, I quit my job as the director of communications for the church.

The same week, we found out we were pregnant with our first child.

This was six years ago. Other than working part time at Pottery Barn Kids while I was pregnant, I have not had a job for six years.

I have become very content and productive as a wife, mom and homemaker. I’ve tried to approach these roles as a calling and a career. Little by little, I’ve learned how to cook and clean and manage a home fairly well. I’ve learned a little about being a mom of boys.

Throughout this season of being home with my family, I struggled to be content as “just a mom”. Over the last year, God brought me to a place of total peace with this role and calling.

And then he called me to go back to work.

As we prayed about how to train and educate our children, we felt it was very important to put them in a small private Christian school. While this is certainly not right for every family and we know many friends who have chosen homeschool or public school for their children, we know it is right for our boys. At least for this season. In order to pay for private school, however, we realized I might need to go back to work.

To this end, I became certified as a nutrition coach and educator and I am launching my business, Grow Family Nutrition. It is fun, challenging and exciting.. I am excited to help other families be healthier.

But it is also really hard to figure out this new balance.

It is HARD. Like crazy hard!

It is hard to know when to work on my business and when to do laundry and when to play with my kids. It is hard to find the time to feed my family well, even as I am planning to teach other parents how to feed their families well. It is hard to be creative while also handing out snacks and wiping noses and solving conflicts. It is hard to fit in sleep and exercise.

And it is hard at the end of the day to not feel guilty about everything that did not get done.

I am a perfectionist. This is probably one of my most significant areas of idolatry. Through and through, I struggle with perfectionism. I care what other people think of me to a point, but at the end of the day, I am my harshest critic.

And so as a perfectionist, I just hate that I cannot get everything done. I feel like I fail myself constantly.

I need a pedicure and to shave my legs and pluck my eyebrows and get a haircut. I need to do laundry and fold clothes and reorganize the kids clothes by size and hang my husband’s shirts in the closet by color and hem my pants and polish my boots. I need to write the content for my website and obtain insurance and learn small business accounting and schedule classes and fill out paperwork for that school auction. I need to swim and bike and run and do yoga. I need to cook dinner and clean the kitchen and polish the stainless steel appliances and granite again. I need to vacuum the floors. I need to clean out the garage. I need to clean out the minivan, because if I don’t the dirty socks and day-old coffee cups might consume me.

Now that I’ve given you a little insight into my insane perfectionism, you probably think I am crazy. People come over to my house and ask how I get it so clean. Do you want the truth? It’s because I am a little nuts.

What do I do with this mess? Not my schedule, but my heart? How do I rest at the end of the day? How do I give up the guilt?

It would be easier to ask you all how to do it all. This is what my self-righteous, perfectionist flesh wants. I want to do it all. But instead, I am asking you all how to stop. How to say no. How to trust God that enough is enough and that I don’t have to feel guilty, consumed, even condemned by everything I didn’t get done?





Choosing life in Ethiopia

12 02 2010

Over the last six months, as I have been praying and learning about Ethiopia, several blog posts about the desperate situation at a rural hospital caught my attention. The first blog post, written by the leader of YWAM’s Ethiopia Adoption Ministry, describes how unsafe abortion and limited access to medical care lead to high infant and maternal mortality. A second article, written by a nurse serving at the rural hospital, explains the situation in heart breaking detail. I have thought about the significance of these blogs for months, but this week I felt compelled to learn more. Here is a little of what I have discovered.

In Ethiopia, one in seven women dies from pregnancy related complications. An astonishing one in 16 African women die in pregnancy. In comparison, only one in 2,800 women in high-income countries die in pregnancy. Due to limited resources and the lack of midwives and doctors, 94% of women in Ethiopia give birth without the help of a properly trained health worker.

The situation in Gimbie where desperate mothers are performing abortions with a stick, killing their child and risking their own life, is just the beginning. Unsafe abortion is a major contributor to maternal death rate in Ethiopia.  It is the second leading cause of death for women of reproductive age, accounting for 55% of maternal mortality. In one survey of 15-24 year old women in Addis Ababa, half the women reported having been pregnant and 74% told interviewers they had an abortion. Another study estimated that at least 70% of young women have had an abortion. The vast majority of these abortions are unsafe.

When I began to research the issue of unsafe abortion in Ethiopia, I found plenty of articles from pro-choice organizations. They advocate for a strong national family planning program. They believe the answer to unsafe abortion in Ethiopia comes down to more widespread use of contraceptives and easier access to safe, legal abortion. They also write about the importance of education, as there are relatively high levels of knowledge about methods for inducing an abortion and low levels of knowledge about contraceptive use.

Ethiopia has a relatively conservative abortion law, permitting abortion when the pregnancy results from rape or incest, when the health or life of the woman is in danger, in cases of fetal abnormalities as well as for disabled women or minors who are unable on unprepared to raise a child. Organizations like IPAS and IPPF suggest that abortion should be legal for a broader range of indications, effectively giving women the choice to have an abortion.

But if the goal is freedom of choice, simply increasing access to safe and legal abortion does little to truly give Ethiopian women the ability to freely choose. What if a young woman wants to choose life?

Sadly, there are numerous obstacles to a culture where young women can freely choose life for themselves and their children. What follows is my attempt to piece together just a few of the complicated issues that drive young women to kill their babies and risk their own lives.

Poverty

The statistics – and the realities of life in much of Ethiopia – are harsh. Over 85% of Ethiopian women live in rural areas where poor families are primarily engaged in subsistence agriculture. Over 65% of the population of 75 million people live below the poverty level. One in five children will not live to see their fifth birthday. Life expectancy is not quite 55 years. Nearly half of the population is undernourished and famine is a recurring problem.

Illiteracy

Ethiopia has among the worst rates of school enrollment for girls in Africa. The literacy rate for girls and women in Ethiopia is just 35%. When girls and women have access to education and are able to read, their status and the wellbeing of their families improves significantly. 

Violence against women

In Ethiopia, almost 60 percent of women have been subjected to sexual violence including rape. Abortion is linked to violence, as approximately 25% of women seeking an abortion are pregnant as a result of rape. Ethiopian women face further violence in the form of early and forced marriage or marriage by abduction. Although it is hard to believe, an estimated 72% of women are married by abduction, a practice that often involves rape. According to one study, 85% of women believe their husbands have the right to beat them if they burn food, refuse sex, or go somewhere without their husband’s consent.

Access to Medical Care during Pregnancy

Another issue affecting Ethiopian women is fistula, which is a hole in the birth canal caused by prolonged labour without prompt medical intervention. When labor is obstructed and the woman does not have access to a c-section or other medical treatment, there are severe consequences: the woman is left with chronic incontinence and, in most cases, a stillborn baby.

To prevent fistula, rural women are told to eat little and work hard while pregnant in order to have a small baby, but this doesn’t work. When women give birth, they are weak and malnourished and at higher risk for complications.

When complications occur – as they do in approximately 5-15% of births – women have extremely limited access to medical care. Rural women in Ethiopia may need to walk an average of sixty miles while in labor to reach a medical clinic where it is unlikely there would be an OB or midwife. There is approximately one midwife to every 20,000 women of childbearing age in Ethiopia, and the majority of those are not in the rural areas where 85% of the women live. As a result, 94% of women in Ethiopia give birth without the help of a doctor or midwife. It takes women in Ethiopia an average of 2.5 days to reach a hospital where they could have a c-section if needed. Sadly, by the time a woman makes it to a hospital, her baby may be dead and she may have undergone significant physical trauma, including fistula or uterine rupture.

HIV/AIDS

The HIV/AIDS epidemic has made matters worse. An estimated 2% of the population is HIV positive, although the rate of HIV infection is significantly higher in urban areas, close to 10%. An estimated 1.5 million people in Ethiopia have HIV or AIDS and there are approximately 650,000 AIDS orphans. Although most men and women have some knowledge about AIDS, high rates of unprotected sex persist.

While access to medicine in the West has made AIDS a chronic condition rather than a death sentence, few HIV positive men and women in Ethiopia have access to these lifesaving drugs. Only 7% of HIV positive pregnant women received antiretroviral drugs to reduce the risk of mother to child transmission.

So what can we do to help young women choose life?

I know all of this information is overwhelming. And these are just some of the issues facing women and children in Ethiopia. Where do we even begin to make a difference? Try to imagine what it would be like to be a young, unmarried woman in rural Ethiopia facing an unwanted pregnancy. As Mark and I are continuing to pray about adoption, we’re aware that international adoption is a very small part of the solution. I don’t have any answers, but I hope that you will join me in praying. I hope that you will feel this burden too. I hope that your heart will be broken like my heart is broken. I hope that together we can make a difference – one child, one woman at a time.








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