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.





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.





Top ten things I want to do this year

2 01 2010

In lieu of New Years Resolutions, a list of the Top ten things I want to do in 2010:

10. Buy more unique, handmade things on Etsy or from local boutiques instead of big companies

9. Run a half marathon in less than 2 hours

8. Finish my current sewing projects – and then take a long break from sewing

7. Read twelve books

6. Drink less coffee and more water and eat more fruits and vegetables

5. Finish an Olympic distance triathlon in less than 3 hours

4. Start a business to do family nutrition education and coaching

3. Let the house be messy so I can spend more time playing with my children

2. Date my husband more often

1. Grow in spending time with the Lord





Goodbye 2009

31 12 2009

I don’t know if I have ever been so thankful to say goodbye to a year.

The last few years of our lives have been full of trials. Four years ago, we were newly pregnant with a child whom I miscarried soon therafter. Three years ago, I was on bed rest, just five months pregnant with our second son Micah who was later born prematurely. Two years ago, we were in the middle of building a new home while our old home sat unsold on the market. One year ago, we were just home from the hospital after our youngest son was born two months early.

We groan and are burdened. 2 Corinthians 5:4

As I look for words to describe our year, I cannot think of anything that more fully captures the heaviness of this season. Though it was a blessing to finally be together as a family, the first few months of last year were difficult. Recovering from being pregnant four times in as many years was exhausting. Our children were struggling with the stress our family had been through. Although Mark and I had survived the months of bed rest and hospitalization with Zephan, the fear, worry and grief hit us like a  truck after everything was supposed to be back to normal.

As the spring arrived, we began to feel more alive. I began to train for my first triathlon and Mark began cycling to work. We were regaining strength and energy. Asher, Micah and Zephan were growing in many ways. After a sweet family vacation in Hawaii, we felt refreshed and exited about the future.

Over the summer, however, the burden returned. Although I cannot get into the specifics online, we went through a situation where some people whom we had considered friends became  harsh and judgmental about our family. They lied about our character and wrongly accused us of sin. We discovered that many people in our lives had been gossiping about us. For a season, we were more or less kicked out of Christian community. We felt broken and isolated. We were angry and confused too.

As we went into the fall, it seemed like everything around us was broken. People we loved were hurting and lost. I was struck as never before by the weight of poverty, injustice and sin in the world.  I grieved as I watched four friends bury their babies. I cried as I read about AIDS in Africa and as I looked at the faces of children orphaned by poverty and disease. I felt numb as I watched previously happy marriages end in divorce. I wept as I felt so alone in the midst of this, wondering why God’s people were so busy trying to look good while children were dying and marriages were falling apart and people were lost…

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Corinthians 4:1

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 2 Corinthians 4:7-12

 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 16-18

Do you need these words as much as I do?

God’s promises are clear. God is a compassionate Father who comforts his children. God is merciful. We are not crushed, in despair, abandoned or destroyed. No matter our outward circumstances, we do not lose heart. As heavy as life feels, glory weighs more. What we can see is temporary, but God is eternal.

This has been a hard year. My life has truly felt heavy, but glory weighs more. My light and momentary troubles are acheiving for me an eternal glory that outweighs them all.

Friends and family, as I say goodbye to 2009, I want to leave you with one final question:

Do you know Jesus?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 3:17-21

Jesus died for your sin so that you could be reconciled to God. I implore you: be reconciled to God.





Lessons in friendship

30 10 2009

About four years ago, I met one of my dearest friends. I will call her Radiant: although this is not her given name, she in every way radiates the love of God.

At first, we were not good friends. She was unlike anyone I had ever met. She loved Jesus with a passion I can hardly explain. She had survived much pain, sorrow and loss. In some ways she was difficult. She was not practical and did not want to listen to my “advice”. She believed God could do anything. And she expected a lot of the people in her life. I made an effort for maybe a year to be her friend, but eventually gave up when it was too hard for me.

rose

But my friend, Radiant, did not give up on me. For the next three years, she pursued me. She was one of the only people to call me on my birthday. She sent me cards, writing sincre words of encouragement. She prayed. And prayed and prayed.

About a year ago, my heart softened towards her. I realized that I had sinned against her. I was humbled to see her faithfulness towards me. I went out and bought her some note cards. I may not be gifted like her to write hundreds of letters of encouragement each year, but I wanted to recognize the grace God has given to her.

Over the last six months, this friend has continued to pursue me. One day this summer, as I was struggling with believing lies about our family, Radiant called. She prayed with me and shared her heart. She spoke words of wisdom into my life and challenged me to be more like Jesus.

A few weeks later, she and her husband came over for dessert and tea. It was lovely having them in our home. Together these friends are a tremendous example of God’s loving kindness and faithfulness. Although I had given up on them, God did not. He has been faithful to knit them together in marriage, transforming each of their hearts. He is thriving in his career because she respects him sincerely. She is more beautiful because of his adoration. I have no doubt that God will do something amazing through them.

This precious daugther of God has taught me much about friendship. She has been faithful. She loves sincerely. She prays constantly, even for those who have hurt her, because she does not want to become bitter. She blesses people who don’t deserve it. She gives generously. She fully understands the grace she has been given and loves others with abandon. Ultimately, she trusts, obeys and loves God. What an example.

My friend, if you read this, you are truly Radiant. Thank you for loving me and not giving up on me. You have been a gift from God.