Saturday, September 7, 2013

The wrong conclusion

In the midst of pain we don't always make wise choices. It is often said that when major events happen in our lives this is not the best time to make big decisions. When our emotions are most engaged our brains are most disengaged. We often want to make the situation go away or change so we may end up doing doing something drastic.  When i have done this in my life, i almost always regret it. My deepest pains have led me to do some pretty stupid things. I wasn't always caught, but there was at least once when i was busted working out my emotions in a negative way. It was financially a bad thing as the ticket was well over $100. 
So what should we do? When emotions are exacerbated, pressed into action by circumstances, it is at this time that we must slow down. Take a step back, breath deep and wait.  Act like everything is normal. Ask to be excused for a few minutes. Remove yourself from the situations. Disengage for a time. 
Once we have been able to digest and work out the emotions then we make decisions or react. 
I will confess that many a time in my misunderstanding  and impatience, i have messed up, often at the detriment to those around me.
Today, I am reminded that before the pain, emotions or critical situations i will find myself in, I must make up my mind before hand what boundaries and actions are allowed. If not, i will end up crossing lines or saying things that will cause me to  meet regret head on, again. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The last 40 years

Entering into a new decade brings lots of contemplation and I thought I would write down some of my favorite things from the last forty years as I look forward to what lies ahead.

  1. I am a child of God and Jesus is my Savior
  2. I would choose to marry my husband, Seth, again and again
  3. Noah, my first son, is a great big brother to his siblings and so many other kids
  4. Dakota, my second son, brings joy and laughter to our home
  5. Karley, my sweet daughter, teaches me more about myself
  6. We were foster parents to 16 children and it was the fulfillment of a dream
  7. Ran 2 ½ marathons
  8. Ran a marathon before I was 40
  9. Got a masters degree in counseling once the kids were all in school
  10. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday
  11. Did a zip line El Salvador
  12. Rode in a helicopter at the Dade County Youth Fair
  13. Went on a 9 day camping trip with my college roommate
  14. Have stayed in some of the most beautiful B&Bs across the USA
  15. Went white water rafting in West Virginia
  16. Rode a tandem bike across the Golden Gate Bridge on our 1st anniversary
  17. Prepared a chicken in West Africa from the time it was walking around to when we ate it
  18. Was in a bed race in our church parking lot growing up
  19. Went to youth group camp each year
  20. Performed in the Miami Christmas pageant for 18 years
  21. Have lived near the beaches of Florida, California, and Senegal
  22. Sang the national anthem in the Yankee stadium with our youth choir
  23. Was on the dance/high kick team in high school
  24. Sold everything we owned twice to move overseas
  25. Have lived on 3 different continents
  26. I am a lifetime PTA member in Texas
  27. We were living in the Ivory Coast when a war broke out in 2002
  28. I rode on an elephant in Thailand
  29. I helped to drill a well in El Salvador
  30. I grew up in the same house for 18 years in Miami
  31. I really enjoy cooking and making my family happy
  32. I have a much greater appreciation for goldfish and Milano cookies after living in Delhi for 18 months
  33. I enjoy my teenagers much more than I ever thought I would
  34. Counseling with my husband brings me lots of joy
  35. Our family would go to upstate New York to the “farm” every year for vacation
  36. I like silver jewelry better than gold
  37. My favorite vacation was in Los Cabos
  38. I really liked having a big brother and thought it would great for my daughter to have two
  39. I still remember my childhood phone number but have forgotten all the others
  40. I got my nose pierced for my birthday, just one of the things I never thought I would do

Sunday, November 4, 2012

When Sickness Takes Over

This would be the title of the latest chapter in the book of my life, which, by the way, I have no intention of writing. I have been dealing with sickness off and on since the end of July (over 3 months). This has been the darkest time for the longest period of time in my life. I have known for a long time that sickness, in myself and/or in my family, is one of the hardest struggles for me, something that can trigger immediate anxiety. I feel powerless, and out of control; not knowing how long the sickness will last or how many family members will be affected. I don’t like not being able to do the things that are part of the normal routines of life. I don’t like missing out on things because of sickness.

For me, during this time, I would get sick for several days and then get better for about a week. The sickness would then return and this pattern continued on for weeks. I went to the doctor to break this pattern and this began a series of tests and a long list of medications, which had significant side effects. This went on for weeks with no answers. Finally, after a 3-day hospital stay and an endoscopy, I was diagnosed with H. Pylori. I was relieved to have a diagnosis, but this knowledge in and of itself did not make me feel better physically. I was so depleted physically and emotionally by this point.

I was still getting fever every few days and the doctor did not have an explanation for this, as it is not associated with my diagnosis. He wanted to wait to start the course of antibiotics until I charted the fever for several days. I was discouraged by this, but now I see it was God’s plan all along and Him demonstrating His grace and mercy to me.

A few days after getting out of the hospital here in Delhi, some in leadership with our company advised me to go to Bangkok to get some answers and go to the doctors there. We trusted them and all five of us got on a plane the next day.

I spent eight days in the hospital there and received excellent care, as well as another diagnosis of tropical sprue. I started the treatment for H. Pylori which consisted of a combination of 3 antibiotics, acid blockers, as well as lots of nausea medication via pills and IV. It was the sickest I have ever been. I was tremendously weak, staying in bed for entire hospital stay, and my weight continued to drop off. My husband and kids came to the hospital each day and stayed with me until it was time for them to go back to the guest house and sleep. They loved me and supported me in a way that was new for our family and they did a great job.

After I was released from the hospital, we stayed in Bangkok for a few more days for a follow-up appointment with my doctor. My blood levels were coming up to normal; my energy and appetite was far from normal. The doctor told me it would take time. I was so tired of waiting and feeling weak. I so desperately wanted to be fully healthy again.

I have finished one course of treatment and will be on another antibiotic to get rid of the sprue for the next 6 months. Some energy and appetite returned for a couple of weeks and now it seems that in some ways, I am back where I was before, with very little appetite and I am not sure why.

The most disheartening and difficult part of this whole ordeal has been the emotional effect my physical sickness has had on me. It is a vicious cycle of not feeling good; being anxious that I am getting really sick again; wondering if the antibiotics worked or if I will have to endure another round of treatment (20-30% chance of this); concerned that I am not hungry; getting anxious about food; etc. etc. I can take a step back and see objectively that it could make sense that I have anxiety related to these things and all that I have been through. But what do I do with it?

What is at the heart of this anxiety and fear? Is it a lack of trust? Do I doubt that God really knows what is best for me? A lack of belief? Faith?

This season has caused me to be very introspective, which comes naturally to me, but this has been ridiculous. I don’t want to miss out on anything that God wants to teach me through all of this. He is an intentional God and brings things for my good and not for harm.

Lessons I have learned:
1). Sickness affects us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This cannot be understated, especially with long-term or chronic illness. I have needed healing in each area.

2). Spiritual Tools I have used to deal with anxiety
          listen to worship music
          read scripture
          repeat scripture over and over
          listen to a  podcast
          filter out lies and replace them with truth
          have a plan before anxiety hits
          allow my husband and others to pray over me

3). There are several other methods of distraction to deal with anxiety, but in the end, they just don’t last and on their own, are not sufficient. God is the source of my strength and comfort. I am a trained counselor. I have read the books, taken the courses, and so many have asked me how to deal with anxiety. There are several practical things (relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, counseling tools, exercise, and sometimes medication) that we read in the textbooks. Our greatest resource is from our Creator. He knows us best and loves us. The simplicity of all this can be deceiving. It is a struggle when I am in the throws of dark anxiety.

4). Now it would be wonderful if these tools worked immediately, every time. That has not been the case for me. God methods are not a formula. A + B does not always equal C.  I noticed along the way that I was crying out to God in search of what He could do for me and not necessarily seeking Him for who He is.
5). What role does faith play (Eph. 6:16)?
This is still a mystery to me in some ways. I know that, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for. It is being certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1-2) This is not easy when in a state of hopelessness. It takes great training of the mind and discipline to believe in the midst of seeming blindness. It is so important to know what promises are in the Bible because this is the truth I need to cling to; these are the things in which I need to place my hope and my faith.

6). Importance of believing your current state is not permanent.
This one gets me almost every time. Once I sink down into darkness, I falsely believe that is where I am destined to stay. This simply is not true! I have to be prepared for this and ready to combat it with truth when these thoughts come. My husband has been extremely helpful in giving me hope when I don’t have any of my own. He and others have spoken hope to me and reminded of truth. We all need this at some point.

7). Diligence of others praying, as well as personal prayer.
I am so thankful that I have so many people around the world that I can call on and know that they will be praying. I believe that prayer unleashes God’s power and puts things in motion. Technology is a wonderful thing and it allowed us to communicate with lots of people and receive encouragement from them. Along the way, I had to ask myself if I was spending the time in prayer myself that I needed to. I felt like I should be doing the very thing that I was asking others to do for me.

8). How to be a Holy sick person.
I am still working on this one. I want to please God even in the midst of suffering and struggles. What does this mean? I think my lack of faith and belief during the hard times is the primary obstacle to having His perspective.

9). Trusting the wisdom of others.
There are people who have walked this road and many harder than mine. Sometimes it is hard to know what we need in the middle of a trial and a trusted friend can lead us and help us in ways that we don’t even realize we need.

10). What to do when healing does not come when I want it?
This is the question; this is when it gets down to real life. I am not in control. God knows the number of my days, not me. He has a plan for me and He loves me. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Do I trust Him?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

358 Days

This is the number of days our family has lived in India. As we come up on one year living on this side of the pond, it has caused me to be contemplative. I have been thinking about the things I have learned, how I have changed, how I thought it was going to be, and the reality of it all. I wish I could pull up all the details of the last months, but then there just wouldn't be enough time.....So here it goes (in no particular order).

We now live in a 3 bedroom flat (apartment) with a living room, kitchen, and dining room all contained in about 1100 sq. feet. We live on the second floor, which is really the third floor because the first floor is called the ground floor and there is no elevator. Our oven sits on top of the counter and it is big enough to hold a 9x13 pan.

We have a puja (poo-ja) room, which we use as a storage closet. Puja is the Hindu form of worship. Most homes and stores have areas set aside for idols and as a place to worship them with food, incense, ringing of bells, and chanting.

All of our outlets have an on/off switch and it is not at all unusual to get a shock when typing on the computer or plugging in a cell phone. We have a stabilizer hooked up to all our A/C window units to control the effects of fluctuations in electricity.

I have learned to write, read, and speak in Hindi (and the learning still continues on). Hindi is not based on the Roman alphabet, so it was starting all over again like a kindergartner. And let me say....that is what I sounded like most days.

I gave up Coke last May (my only source of caffeine) and it felt great; at least for 12 months and now I am back to indulging in one can a day. Sometimes Coke is safer than water. Oh well....

I now know what it feels like to try and function in 115 degrees.

I am surprised by the things that I can easily live without and by the things that I miss.

I buy our veggies and fruits from a guy selling them on a cart and buy groceries from a "store" that is the size of some walk-in closets in the States.

The veggies we have are roma tomatoes, white potatoes, red onions, okra, green beans, green peppers, garlic, green hot chilies, carrots, sometimes green onions, zucchini, spinach and lettuce, and several other things that I have been unable to identify.

The fruits we have are bananas, apples, watermelon, mangoes, oranges, grapes, pineapple, sometimes kiwi and strawberries.

I have not worn shorts outside of my house a single time.

I have seen the Taj Mahal, one of the great man-made wonders of the world, and it is truly magnificent.

I have not driven a car since last June and only ride in an A/C car on special occasions.

I have experienced the joy and extreme gratitude of seeing a significant reduction in my husband's migraines as a result of having heart surgery. I have also experienced the heartache of watching my children have headaches and normal life struggles.

I have experienced the peace, comfort, and strength from my heavenly Father like no other time in my life.

My incredible surprise at meeting others living here on mission from Australia, Korea, South Africa, and New Zealand. They are great people and we love hearing them talk.

I have experienced great fulfillment and contentment in counseling others who are here serving in this harvest field called South Asia, helping them to become whole as they fulfill God's purpose in their life.

I have walked underneath a stopped train to get to the other side of the tracks near our house, all the while praying that it does not suddenly move, causing me to perform some kind of Indiana Jones stunt.

Finding that I appreciate the order of American culture.

Disciplining myself to be thankful for my journey when I find thoughts of people, and places that I miss creep into my mind.

I have found the joy and wonderment of Pinterest and experienced the frustration of not being able to try out some things on Pinterest without the convenience of Hobby Lobby, canned crescent rolls, variety of cheeses, and rotel.

I have found myself in a place where I do not belong, while longing for my home in Heaven, wanting to see as many as possible from this nation around the throne.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Don't Fight India

"Embrace what God wants to teach you while you are here". I heard someone say this a couple of weeks ago and it has got me thinking. What are the ways in which I have been 'fighting India'? Well, it depends on the day as to how long or short the list is, but a few things have been swimming around in my mind lately....

*Some days I get really perturbed about my new dress code (or at least that is how I refer to it when I look in my closet each morning and try and decide what to wear). I have always tried to be modest in my dress, but feeling the need to dress a certain way (i.e. no shorts outside the house ever) sometimes really ruffles my feathers. Somehow I got the idea that dressing the way I want is my right....hmmm....those perceived personal rights of mine tend to get in the way.

*Some days I struggle with the things we are missing. Depending on the day, it ranges from Cheezits to 5k's at the kid's school to holidays to burgers to listening to the radio while driving my car to living in a culture that I understand. I have noticed that it takes more energy and intentionality to focus on the gift of living in another culture. The struggles seem to float to the surface a lot easier.

*A broader perspective on life and the world. I look around at the many temples and idols we pass daily. The outward worship of idols is so prevalent here. I often am saddened for the people and their unending attempt to appease their gods. I long for them to understand that God has provided a way for them to have a relationship with Him through His son, Jesus. He paid the price for their sin. They do not have to bring flowers or food, ring bells, light incense, or put marks on their forehead. None of those efforts will save them. Then I have to look at myself. Am I trying to do things to gain the approval of my Father? Do I think I will only be accepted by Him if I check everything off my list, be patient with my children, and put my husband ahead of myself? These are definitely things to strive for, but at the end of the day, His love for me does not change and is not based on the things I do or don't do. 

This is a journey and I welcome the things that God wants to teach me while we live here. I know that I can trust Him and that He is gentle and will work for my good.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Random thoughts running through my mind tonight:

I miss avocados and endemame.

Wondering how it is even possible that my kid has a 700 word rough draft due tomorrow and he is on word #330. It is 8:30 pm. Did I mention that this is the first we have heard of it?? Creative and logical consequences are running around in my head.

I can spend oodles of time looking at recipes online.

My oldest is officially as tall as I am.

I get really excited when my yeast dough rises.

Living in India and the idols I see every day brings a whole new context to the things I read in the Old Testament.

My kids make me laugh.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

What Do You Do On Easter?

How did we celebrate Easter this year? I did not see a single Easter bunny, plastic egg, marshmallow peep, or cadbury egg commercial (assuming that they still play them).

Dakota just said, "And football, we didn't see any football this year!" Really??

We did go to a Good Friday service that was wonderful! We worshiped with people who do not look like us or talk like us, but we all sang praises to the same God and it was beautiful.

This morning we put on nice clothes (because that is what you do on Easter) and we went early to church for an International breakfast. What is that you ask? Well, it is when people from literally all over the world bring food to share. For breakfast this morning our family ate kim-pab (Korean food - like california roll), quiche, cinnamon rolls, marbled brownies, watermelon, banana bread, crepes, naan,  mo-mos (fried dumpling), Honeycombs and other unidentifiable foods.

We then went to a great service celebrating our risen Lord. We came home in an auto, our favored mode of transportation, while experiencing all the sights, smells, and sweat (99 F. today) of our city. The chicken (which is more the size of a cornish hen) was already in the crock-pot I found in the market that obviously had been imported from China (the crock pot, not the chicken), as evidenced by the different outlet and chinese writing on the side. I formed the rolls and set them in the pan for the second rising. I finished up the mashed potatoes, green beans and the icing for the carrot cake.

Our neighbors from upstairs came down for lunch. We were very excited that they accepted our invitation to come for lunch. They had been asking some questions about Easter and what it meant. It was a good time. It is a very interesting thing to try and explain why we do what we do on this day. They had questions about the food we eat, the Easter bunny, why we dye Easter eggs, how we prepared all the food, and whether or not we always drink water or tea while we eat, instead of after. All of the sudden, I felt completely incompetent as a good American and myself wondered why I missed seeing all of that plastic green grass that I banned from the house when the kids were little, as I talked about Easter baskets and egg hunts.

A favorite moment was when the eldest man (the owner of our building, around 70) was asked if he wanted a second helping of carrot cake. His answer was that he did not want more cake, but he did want more of the cream on top (cream cheese icing). Thankfully, I had some left over and was able to grant his request.

The best part of all was being able to talk to them about why Jesus died on the cross and what it means to us that He did not stay in the grave. We prayed before we ate lunch and they asked, "Do you always pray like that before a meal?" I wasn't expecting this question and it made me realize how far a Hindu has to come to find the Savior.

We finished the night with our family watching Courageous, laughing together, and being thankful (in the midst of the ever-crazy routine of the children getting more and more wound up the closer it gets to bed time).

Bonus: My $2 top and $1 scarf I found in the market last night! And just the right color for Easter.