Sweaty “Digital” Exams

I’m still pregnant :)!

We’re at 27 weeks and my body is holding tight, praise the Lord! I found out that I had two infections that were causing a lot of the cramping from last week, so clearing those up has helped me feel a lot more comfortable.

The high-risk doctors I see every week are not overly concerned about how I have effaced since for now it seems to have stopped and I’m not dilating. They haven’t put me on bed rest, since apparently that’s not a “thing” anymore. There seems to be a lot of controversy about it, but the specialists I go to say that current research suggests that bed rest doesn’t really help avoid preterm labor. They do want me to take it easy and not lift anything heavy…like Mariah (ha!). I’ve done pretty well with not over-doing it, especially since my mom (and pretty much everyone else in my life) doesn’t agree with “current research” and think it’s common sense to take the pressure off the ol’ girl down south.

I did break the rules once this week when I was home alone with Mariah. We’ve been trying to potty train and she has pooped in the potty several times now (score!). Anyway, I was making lunch and heard her in the bathroom, so I rushed in only to find her with her hands submerged in the toilet bowl. Awesome.  My obvious reaction was to pick her up and carry her to the sink to minimize the amount of toilet water  being dripped everywhere. Mom fail in more ways than one. Ew.

I did better after that, though, because it was nap time and I had to try and figure out a way to get her in her crib without lifting her over. We brought in a step stool and a bar stool, climbed up, and had her put her leg over the side of the crib. Once I had her halfway over, I gave her a little nudge and she kind of flopped into bed. She looked at me kind of surprised and then we both started cracking up laughing lol.

Besides not lifting my tank of a child, I’m receiving Progesterone shots in the butt every week and getting those “digital” cervical exams. Did anyone else think for a second that “digital” meant some sort of machine was involved? Yah, it’s not like that. They’re just using the good old-fashioned digits. In fact, this week’s test was pretty comical. You may already know I’m a pro at failing gynecological appointments– but here is another one for the books. It was unseasonably warm last week, but the hospital didn’t turn down the heat, so by the time the doctor came in the examination room, I was a hot mess. Having already taken off my pants, I had been sitting (and sweating) bare-ace on that thin slip of “hygienic” paper that protects the chair. The little sheet they gave me to cover myself was doing nothing but creating a greenhouse effect over my lower half and I was pouring sweat.

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“Hygienic” Chair Protector

When the doctor, nurse, and student all came in for the special “digit” test, I tried to scoot to the end of the chair but the stupid paper was all sweaty and plastered to my butt. I tried to fix it with minimal exposure under the tiny sheet, but I’m too round to accomplish anything past my hips so I just flailed and thrashed until the paper was all torn and stuck to everything. The medical student tried to help, but it was no use. By the time the doctor snapped on her rubber glove, I had that useless tissue paper glued to my upper butt and even though I tried to arch my back to avoid it, the rest of my womanhood uncomfortably rested directly on the exposed vinyl chair that the rest of the world sits on.  Gag.

A little piece of my dignity died that day. But let’s be honest, dignity went out the door with “morning” sickness when I was puking my guts and peed myself at the same time.

Remember what I said about magical pregnancy unicorns last week? Yah, this is further proof that I am more like an awkward pregnancy hippo that isn’t very magical at all. At least it’s semi-comical.

Here’s to another week of pregnancy!

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

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Costa Ricans vs. Cold Weather

Seeing as the average annual temperature in Costa Rica is between 70-80 degrees, it’s no wonder the Ticos have a bit of a warped concept of cold weather. Here are some of my favorite examples:

  1. It is incredibly common to see a baby wearing fleece pajamas, wrapped in fleece blankets, and wearing a cotton hat on days that it is 75 degrees.
  2. Hats, gloves, and coats on children and adults alike are more than acceptable for any temperature under 65 degrees.
  3. Children shouldn’t go barefoot because it is incredibly unhealthy for them to walk on “cold” tile floors.
  4. You should never change a baby out of their pajamas when they first wake up because their body needs time to adjust to the morning “chill.”

Taking these things into consideration, naturally there was some concern as to how Albin, Mariah, and our dogs were going to adjust to the winter weather. I mean, in CR Mariah was pretty used to running around half-naked and barefoot (until sundown of course) and our dogs would shiver indoors if it was anything below 60 degrees outdoors.

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First snow!

We get asked all. the. time. from people how everyone is adjusting to Ohio winters. The answer: we should all thank God I’m not from Minnesota.

My favorite quote from Albin about the cold so far has been, “It goes straight through your pants and right to your bones.” Yes Albin, yes it does.

Mariah seemed unaffected at first, but is clearly annoyed by the amount of clothing she is required to wear these days. She has also been known to hang out by the heat vents.  In regards to snow, she was impressed at first until she actually went outside. Ten minutes later she was back in the house crying about her hands being cold.

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Just hanging around the heat vent

The dogs? Well I think they hate us. They mainly hang out in front of a space heater.

The irony? I’ve become the biggest wimp of them all. I’m always cold. Go figure.

The good news is that God knows and has blessed us with some really mild weather for January. Clearly in His mercy, He knew we’d need some unseasonably warm days to give us hope that we can survive in this frozen tundra bahaha.

So here’s to hot chocolate, heat vents, and warmer mittens for Mariah. May we all come out hardier on the other side ;).

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Warming our buns…

 

There’s More to the Story

Three months.

That’s how long we’ve been back in the U.S. and squatting at my parents’ house. We have loved being here with family, experiencing fall, and just resting- but I’m sure it’s not a surprise that the transition has been difficult as well. There is a lot to process, a myriad of emotions, and a lot of uncertainty. I’d like to think it is culture shock, but there’s nothing really shocking about where we’re at right now.

Recently Al and I have been in a weird place. While we love being here and are so thankful for my parents’ willingness to let us live here, we are wondering why we’re here and what is next. We feel like God told us to come back to the U.S.- specifically to Atlanta. He worked out everything for us to come back in amazing ways, but now that we’re here, we’re a little lost.

We don’t feel like we can move to Atlanta quite yet because I’m 20 weeks pregnant and I have to see my high-risk specialist weekly due to what happened when Mariah was born. We don’t feel like we can settle down here and have Al get a real job because we feel like we’re supposed to go to Atlanta. Several doors have closed for temporary jobs for Albin. Our house hasn’t sold in Costa Rica despite numerous people interested. The position we hoped for in Atlanta as houseparents is no longer an option since my due date is a day before the position was to begin.

It’s just confusing.

We’ve found ourselves huddling up with the Lord and asking Him what is going on. A little part of our hearts has wondered if maybe we didn’t hear Him correctly about the whole moving back thing. Why would He take us away from our community, our fostering ministry, our house, etc. and then bring us here to do seemingly nothing? It feels like we’re wasting precious time. We know the Lord has called us to open up our home and our family to those without families, but we can’t do that being unemployed and in a temporary living situation. It just doesn’t make sense right now.

Yesterday morning we had planned to try a new Hispanic church in hopes of finding some Spanish speaking community. We didn’t end up making it to church because Mariah woke up in the middle of night vomiting everywhere. Instead, we decided to listen to a sermon and God spoke straight to our hearts through it. The pastor spoke about how there is always more to the story than what is currently seen. It’s easy to get caught up on a “scene” of our story, rather than the whole story itself. We can’t possibly know how God is working in our little steps of faith to set the future in motion. He is constantly working in our lives to make our story much grander than we could have imagined.

That was a great reminder for us last night. This “scene” in our lives seems a little anti-climactic and. it’s. okay. This is only part of our story and God is setting things in motion because we stepped out in faith. I am ashamed to admit I’ve kind of been like the Israelites in the desert; whenever things got rough, they asked God why He brought them out of Egypt if they were just going to starve, die of thirst, etc. They had seen Him part the Red Sea and do tons of miracles, yet they were worried that He wouldn’t provide for them. It’s incredibly easy to judge them until  I realize that God worked everything out for us to move back and we’ve seen Him do miracles, yet the moment things look a little confusing, I start asking if it wouldn’t have been better if He’d just left us in CR. Lame.

So that’s where we’re at. I have hope that someday I will look back on this post and be able to testify that this period of transition in our lives was just a part of the story. I know God will fulfill His purpose for us and I’m resting in that.

Psalm 138:8

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
    your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Second Miscarriage

Life can feel unbelievably out of control sometimes. The trials of the last week arrived fast, unannounced, and unwelcomed–disrupting a somewhat peaceful season we were enjoying. It reminded me of swimming in a calm ocean when suddenly a dangerous undercurrent comes along and attempts to drag you away from the shore. When you try to stand up or swim to the safety of the beach, another wave comes and you barely have enough time to catch a breath before the next rolling wave threatens to pull you under. And then, just like that, it’s over and you’re left panting on the beach wondering what the heck just happened.

Ever since we received our newborn foster baby, I’ve suspected a milk allergy. Long story short and fast forward to four months later, I finally got a reference for him to have an appointment at the public children’s hospital. That day I went to pick up the reference and expected to quickly (well, as quickly as you can run an errand at a public healthcare institution in CR) make an appointment with the specialist for later in the week. After waiting in lines for about two hours (because you can’t call and make the appointment), a receptionist told me they had spoken with the doctor and felt the baby’s condition was serious and that he needed to be admitted. I was a little more than surprised and suddenly really nervous since they took him from me immediately for testing. The pediatrician had been telling me I was overreacting for four months and suddenly his condition was serious? Hours later, after explaining and re-explaining that he was a foster child and what that meant (fostering is very uncommon here), then filling out paperwork, he was assigned a bed and I called Albin and our social worker to tell them what was going on. I was so completely overwhelmed by the public hospital, the millions of questions in my second language, and the fact that I hadn’t had a chance to pee or eat all day. I was also a little concerned because my period was several days late and I was starting to feel a little “off.”

I had to go home that night, so I picked up a pregnancy test and we got a positive result. We were so excited but that literally topped off my emotional overload for the day and I passed out in five minutes. The next morning we were back at the hospital early and found out that the baby did have a milk protein allergy. Later in the day, he was discharged. Thanks to Socialism, our taxes covered his care and a prescription for 10 cans of extremely hypoallergenic formula that they will provide us with each month, which is a huge blessing because each small can costs roughly $50 each. We left tired and happy, and mildly concerned because I had experienced some light spotting that day.

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$50???

A few days later, the spotting had become more pronounced, so my doctor sent me for a blood test. As I am getting the blood drawn, Albin called and all I could hear him say above the sound of screaming babies was that our bathroom tub was leaking everywhere onto the laminate floors and concrete walls and that the plumber was taking a jackhammer  to the tub in order to be able to get to the leaking pipes. I rushed home to water and mud all over my floors, screaming kids, the insurance company calling, Albin running out to get something the plumber needed … all the while bleeding and fearing the worst.

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The black hole that was our bath tub…

The next day I received my blood results and my pregnancy hormone was low. My doctor said that either I was earlier in my pregnancy than I thought and experiencing implantation bleeding, or I was going to miscarry. She said there was absolutely nothing I could do.

That night, the mild labor pains started. My first miscarriage was before I had Mariah, so I didn’t know the pain I had was like labor contractions, but this time, there was no doubt. They started in my back, wrapped around my abdomen and pulsed down my legs. I sobbed in the shower as the pains gripped me and warned me about what was to come. The next morning, we lost the baby. Watching life pour out of you is absolutely crushing. Each contraction brought a rush of loss … physically, in the loss of blood and tissue, and emotionally, in the heartbreaking reality of death. While it was again an early miscarriage and my body was just doing what it was supposed to do with something needing to be expelled, I felt like my body was traitorous and I was devastated by its betrayal.

The next few days were foggy and I’m thankful that my mother-in-law could come and stay with us while I rested. A few days later, we had three appointments that were obviously providential in the way they were timed.

The first was a previously scheduled check-up for Mariah with the doctor who had attended her while she was in the NICU at birth. The doctor was gushing about how healthy Mariah was and how amazing her recovery had been. She reminded us how miraculous it was that Mariah has no residual side effects of that experience (thank you Father). I reflected on the night when I was told there was nothing we could do for Mariah and that we could possibly lose her. The situation was out of my hands.

The second appointment was for another blood draw to make sure my pregnancy hormone was gone and that my body had gotten rid of all the tissue. I reflected on how my doctor told me there was nothing I could do to save my unborn baby. The situation was out of my hands.

The third appointment was with the baby’s caseworker and we discussed the hospital stay, allergy, and also the status of our foster son’s case. I reflected on how God protected Him from a dangerous living situation, possible complications from a severe allergy, and how I had no control over his family, what will be decided with his case in the future, or over his health. The situation was out of my hands.

I felt those three appointments being on the same day was providential because all three situations clearly proved that I am not in control. As I thought through these things, I was overcome with a peace that can only come from God as He whispered to me: “These situations are in my hands.” Whether it’s my 16 month old daughter, my four month old foster son, or my tiny embryo just beginning to form, He holds them all in His hands.

Through my tears last week, God led me to a verse that I can’t remember reading before but I’m sure I have. It reads:

“But I trust in you, O LORD; I say “You are my God,” my times are in your hands … ” (Psalm 31:14-15)

I love this. This is peace that surpasses all understanding. My times are in God’s hands and I can completely trust  in Him. I also love the Spanish translation of this verse which says, “Mi vida entera está en Tus manos” which means, “my whole life is in your hands.

We are hurting and exhausted, but we are finding complete peace in the fact that God is trustworthy. We don’t need to despair, we have complete assurance that He is our God and that any wave that threatens to pull us under cannot stand against a God that holds our times in His hands.

 

 

What I Envisioned for My Life vs. Reality

This week I got a serious personal reality check when I was supposed to be giving some advice to a friend. As I typed a message out to her, I became increasingly aware of how close the topic hit home in my heart. She had written something about how it is difficult to submit our dreams, hopes, and desires to God’s authority.  As I told her what I thought she needed to do (i.e. surrender her dreams to God), I felt increasingly aware of my hypocrisy. 

I have so many goals, dreams, and desires. A lot of them are great, God-honoring, kingdom-bringing, world-changing desires. My problem is when God isn’t making those desires happen on my timetable, I feel discouraged, impatient, or frustrated. I know what I have envisioned for my life; but why does my reality not look like that? I put a lot of pressure on myself to do big things, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But while I’m fretting over what I’m not doing, I’m missing the joy I can have about the things I am doing. Sometimes I feel that if I’m not the president of World Vision, setting up tents in my backyard for refugees, AND adopting every child without a family in the world, I’m not doing anything. I start to minimize the ministry that I have to my daughter, our foster baby, my husband, and our neighbors. I feel like praying for my friends serving in ministries and supporting them financially isn’t enough and that I should be there fighting in the trenches with them.

And then God asked me … do you trust Me enough to surrender to My plans for your life?

My answer: yes, but Your plans involve me bringing total world peace, right?

So, my daughter is pretty strong-willed. She thinks her little 15-month-old self knows what is best. I love that kid more than life itself, which is why I don’t let her do everything she thinks is best (like sticking millipedes in her mouth. Yes, that happened). Sometimes I just randomly shout out, “I’m in charge here!” She then gives me that one going on sixteen adolescent look that says, “I got this, lady.”

Sometimes, I think that I probably sound like my 15-month-old when I’m talking to God. He’s telling me that He’s in charge and knows what best and I’m hollering back, “I GOT THIS!”

As I’ve prayed about this particular flavor of sin in my life, I’ve realized I need to surrender to His plans. For some people, those plans include being the president of World Vision, but am I going to be content if God’s plans for me are less-noticeable, not in-the-spotlight ministries? Will I submit to changing poopy diapers and be okay with not writing a book and saving every bicultural marriage today? Yes, because I’m realizing that those visions of grandeur need to be surrendered; that’s where true life is found. When I lay down my self-envisioned life, only then will I truly find the abundant life Jesus promises. Maybe my reality doesn’t look exactly how I thought it would look, but if I’m submitting to His plans, it will be exactly what God wanted for His kingdom. And really, at the end of the day, that is all that matters.

Maybe someday soon I will adopt all the orphans, direct a global ministry, and house all of the refugees. But for now, I’m going to be faithful in what God has for me today.

“I found my life when I laid it down.” –Hillsong, “Touch the Sky”

 

 

 

Two Babies: Our New Normal

Not surprisingly, I haven’t had much time to blog over the last few weeks. Having a 13 month old and a one month old in the house has been a little time-consuming. It has been interesting being back to spit-up encrusted shirts and pulling the nightshift again. If I wasn’t a frumpy-frump before, I most definitely am now. In my head, long nights with a colicky newborn and long days with a mobile toddler justify my refusal to wear anything but yoga pants and never fixing my hair (and don’t even get me started about tweezing).

Also, I don’t know if it’s just in my head (or stuck in my nose), but I’m convinced our house smells like one huge sick-nasty diaper. Along with the smell, our house is now an unsightly obstacle course set with gates, clips, and locks in order to keep our curious daughter from trashing the place (even more). Oh, and the used baby bottles strewn throughout the house are reminiscent of a frat house after a drunken party (ex. I found one under the Christmas tree this morning).

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Don’t judge me for having a blow-up pool in my living room (Hannah).

When I do get out of the house, I’m amazed at the planning and strategy that it requires. I’ve been able to successfully cut down the number of hours it takes to get everyone fed, ready and out the door, but I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that while I once lived out of backpack for a year, I now have to pack twice as much gear to do some “quick” errands.

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Pure joy over peanut butter. She’s obviously my child.

Basically, I have a whole new respect for parents. The fact that some moms keep up with things like bathing themselves AND Pinterest is impressive.

Because I’d rather sleep than write, I’m going to jot down a few highlights from the last several weeks:

  1. Our fuzzy foster baby gained almost 2 pounds since coming to us a month ago (I told you we were chunky baby experts). His pediatrician is so impressed by how strong and healthy he is despite his prenatal circumstances. Praise Jesus.
  2. I have become a ninja when changing diapers. Baby boy parts cannot be trusted under any circumstances. #peeEVERYWHERE
  3. My mother in law has been a HUGE help to me and has even spent the night a few times. We have started to really work as a team and our relationship has been strengthened immensely through this.
  4. I’m starting to really enjoy watching how people curiously approach the subject of our babies’ ages. When we’re out in public, it’s almost a guarantee that someone will casually start a conversation for the sole purpose of finding out just how soon after Mariah’s birth Albin and I got back to making babies. I usually let them do the math in their heads before I mention the tiny one isn’t ours.
  5. I’ve spent somewhere around eight hours over the last two weeks waiting in the public health clinic lines to get fuzzy registered, screened, and checked up. Thankfully, this time around wasn’t nearly as complicated as it was with our first foster daughter since now the staff know how to handle temporary custody cases. I only had to go semi-postal on one miserable secretary that tried to override a doctor’s order in scheduling our next appointment (I still don’t know why she became so belligerent). I called her out and she became sickly sweet when she realized that I wasn’t some clueless foreigner and that I was doing a public service for a high-risk newborn. It’s rare that I’ll pull out my gringo directness on a Costa Rican, but when it comes to my kids…
  6. People have been incredibly generous with clothes and baby boy items. Friends, family, and even a Pharmacist from the free clinic have showered us with clothes and diapers. God bless.
  7. Sometimes I get in the fetal position and hold myself when both babies are trying to out-cry each other.

I can’t deny it’s been chaotic with two littles under 13 months, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. Waiting in lines, dodging streams of urine, and fielding lots of curious questions are a small price to pay when I consider the privilege it is to get this little guy off to a healthy start in life. I am thankful that I can be a stay at home mom and love on these kids even if it’s not always pretty. I love falling into bed at night knowing that every ounce of my energy was spent loving on the precious lives God has entrusted to me. I know that we’re right where God wants us right now and that’s a good place to be.

October FFO

I was so excited to post about our new foster baby last week that I didn’t post about our family outing for October. By the way, all is going well with our precious baby. Besides the exhaustion that comes from waking up to feed a baby every three hours during the night and then chasing around a one year old all day, we’re feeling great. He is a really chill baby and sleeps well. He’s putting on weight and already losing those skinny, little chicken legs he had a week ago. Albin and I like to think we’re experts in growing chunky babies, so it shouldn’t take too long for this one. We’ve only gone out a little bit, but I love to see how people look at us. Surely they think Albin and I breed like rabbits with these two little people in tow. I LOVE our little family of four.

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Anyway, I committed to documenting our family adventures, so here it goes for October. We decided to make a weekend out of it since I was also celebrating my 30th birthday. We drove south down to a beach on the Pacific coast called Dominical. From there, we explored several different places and tried out a lot of new foods (coconut ceviche and berry stuffed french toast with coconut syrup…life changing). We had SO much fun together as a family and of course I was able to satisfy my deep need to get out the city and try new things, so it was a win for everyone. I’ll highlight our two favorite places:

First, we went and explored Playa Ballena (Whale Beach), which is know for the beach shaped like a whale’s tail and also for the common whale sightings at this beach. We didn’t see any whales, but we did make the trek out to the whale’s tail, which is only possible during low tide. We explored in the rocks, swam and played in the sand. Mariah loved it and Albin is so happy that he finally has someone that will play with him at the beach. When we left, we asked a local how to get to an overlook to see the tail from a distance. We went up a scary mountain road, but it was well worth almost losing our transmission (jk).

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The picture I took…

playa ballena

The picture I wish I took… Photo credit: youtube.com

The next day, we hiked the Nuayaca Waterfall. Amazing. It probably ties for first place on my favorite waterfalls in CR list. The hike was 8 km and pretty strenuous, probably around an hour and a half each way with a lot of hills. Once again, the waterfalls were well worth the trek. Absolutely breathtaking. I would definitely recommend it.

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I didn’t take this one either… photo credit: tripadvisor.com

Overall, the trip was a total success and I’m so thankful we got a chance to get some hiking in before we received our tiny, fuzzy baby. We’re not quite sure what November’s adventure will look like, but honestly, just leaving the house and running errands with those two littles seems pretty adventurous to us :).

Mariah’s First Birthday

Today we have a lot to celebrate and be thankful for. One year ago our precious daughter was in critical condition and her prognosis was bleak. Today she is a healthy and happy one year-old and we couldn’t be more grateful. For those of you who haven’t heard the long version of Mariah’s incredible story, you can read it here.

The short version goes like this: our daughter was born six weeks early with a deadly bacteria. Within 24 hours, her body started to shut down; she had a collapsed lung and her blood was septic.  When the doctors told us that she may die, we were heartbroken and started crying out to God. After two hours of praying and singing in the hallway outside of the NICU, the doctor came out and told us that Mariah had amazingly stabilized, that her lung “mysteriously” inflated on its own, and that her body had started fighting. From that moment on, every complication from her illness began to disappear.


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For the thousands of you who have prayed for Mariah, I’m going to take a moment and be specific about how your prayers were powerful and effective.

  • Mariah’s lung inflated on its own which allowed her heart to get enough oxygen to pump the medicine through her blood more effectively.
  • Her body began to stabilize its erratic sugar counts.
  • Her heart rate and blood pressure stabilized.
  • Her blood became bacteria-free.
  • Her brain scan came back normal and she has no brain damage from the many seizures she had during her first 24 hours.
  • She was able to skip the Intermediate Care Unit and went from the Intensive Care Unit straight to the General Care Unit.
  • Her virtually non-existent immune system at birth has fully recovered. White and red blood cell counts as well as platelet counts are leveled.
  • Despite being born premature, she has reached her developmental milestones.
  • Her umbilical hernia has closed up and healed.
  • Her hearing test came back perfect despite the doctors’ concerns that the strong antibiotic would cause deafness.
  • The initial concern over her inability to gain weight has clearly been erased.
  • As far as we can tell, she has outgrown her dairy allergy.
  • She has overcome the sensitivity in her arms from being tied down and stuck with many IV’s.
  • God sustained us through that difficult time in the hospital and for the four months after that we spent in isolation as we waited for Mariah’s immune system to develop.
  • We’ve gotten the opportunity to share Mariah’s story with thousands of people, many of whom were going through heartbreaking circumstances with their own newborns.

Man, we’re just thankful. There is nothing like seeing God work so directly and completely. We share her story everywhere we go because we just can’t keep quiet about it. Hearing doctors and nurses call Mariah a miracle and marvel at how there aren’t any residual side effects is such a testimony to God being the great Physician.

Obviously, we’re experiencing a lot of emotions today. I remember the trauma of hearing the doctors bluntly use the word “death” and of the nurses asking if we wanted a priest to come and say her last rites. I remember the heart wrenching sound of my strong husband’s grief-stricken sobs. I have the image of my tiny baby girl hooked up to tubes and monitors burned into my mind. I remember the feeling of complete helplessness as I held my breath willing her chest to continue its rise and fall. I remember the feeling of stroking her little hand and crying silent, hot tears about not being able to hold her as she cried.

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At the same time, I remember the absolute joy I felt when I heard her cry for the first time. I remember the doctor telling us she had stabilized miraculously. I remember the Spirit whispering to me that she wouldn’t fall. I remember singing my heart out in that dark hallway even though I could barely move after the C-section. I remember when I was finally able to hold her again and how I would sit for hours singing to her. I remember panicking when a new orderly was unsure of why my daughter wasn’t in her normal NICU bed (she had been moved to the general room). I remember the absolute relief it was to call the hospital early every morning and hear the nurse say that Mariah was stable through the night. I remember belting out the song “I’m Overwhelmed” through tears of joy in that dark hallway after the doctors moved her out of the NICU. I could go on and on…

So as we celebrate her first birthday today, I know we are blessed. We have a little girl that can scream at the top of her healthy lungs, that can lick the bottom of her shoe and have her immune system kick in, that can express herself with that strong-willed personality that fought off death, and that can bring hope to others with her testimony.

Glory to God! He has entrusted a treasure to us  and we are eternally grateful for what He has done!

Psalm 66:16 Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what He has done for me.

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Short Trip to ‘Merica

Sorry I’ve been MIA recently… we decided to take a short trip to good old Ohio. October is a month of celebrations (which is making me very pensive and I will share why soon), so we kicked off this month with a few parties. First we had my beautiful cousin Sarah’s wedding where we danced it up in a sweet barn. My old-lady knees are still sore from too many rounds of Cotton-Eyed Joe in heels. Of course my Latino lover was a hit on the dance floor and was recognized for his mid-dance poses he likes to refer to as the “statue.” lol

Next, we celebrated my little cousin Grace (for whom my daughter Mariah Grace is named after) because she has finished her 2.5 long years of chemotherapy and is cancer-free. We are so thankful that the Lord healed her and so her parents threw a “no-mo-chemo” party to thank everyone for praying. Watching her take her last chemo pill that day made me want to break into song and do another few rounds of dance moves. She has fought a long battle and won. Praise God.

Besides that, we’re just doing normal ‘Merica stuff. I’ve eaten my fair share of Chipotle and Skyline Chili while haunting the aisles of TJ Maxx and Carters. I haven’t been home for fall in a long time so I am doing all things pumpkin. I had a minor breakdown in Meijer’s because there were SO MANY baby food options. Costa Rica has a whopping six kinds of premade baby food, so I usually make all Mariah’s food myself. When I got to the baby food aisle here, I literally stood there for 20 minutes deciding while other moms tried to maneuver around me in my dazed state. I couldn’t decide, so I bought a bunch to stock up for travel days, the beach, etc. I even got a bunch of those awesome little puffs for the plane. Here’s the best part: Mariah hasn’t liked any of it. She gags on the puffs (are you kidding me?? What kid doesn’t like puffs?), and she turns her head away from the baby food. Go figure.

While she wasn’t loving the millions of food options, she was loving shoe shopping with grandma and grandpa. I was loving it too because now she is stocked up for the next year and grandpa covered the bill (bless ’em).

Shoes

Finally, we did a little early birthday celebration because Mariah will be turning ONE! soon and I will be celebrating the big 3-0 soon. As you can see, she wasn’t a fan of the sombrero they put on her at the Mexican joint. She was, however, a fan of the guac and beans they served up and was far more excited about that than any sweet potato, turkey, and apple parfait that Gerber whipped up. Saludos!!

bday

The Gospel, Dumb and Dumber, and Radical Living

“We got no food, no jobs…our pet’s heads are falling off! What the heck are we doing here Harry?”

This ranks up there in my favorite movie quotes, and believe it or not, while Dumb and Dumber wouldn’t win any awards for its profundity (or wholesomeness if we’re being honest), Albin and I have found ourselves asking each other this same question over the last few months. Thankfully, we have food and jobs (well Albin does), and fortunately our pets’ heads aren’t falling off, but as we’ve been confronted by the gospel in the last few months, we’ve looked at each other and said, “What the heck are we doing here?”

Albin and I have been passionate followers of Jesus for a long time. In the past, we’ve served Him in many different ways: overseas missions, ministering, leading bible studies, fostering, etc., but in the craziness of trying to survive our bicultural marriage, we feel like we’ve lost a little focus. What we’ve done in the past doesn’t justify what we’re not doing now. More importantly, living out the gospel is a way of life. Are we walking that out? We might have food and jobs, but there are millions who can’t say the same. Hopefully, no one’s pets’ heads are falling off, but being dead serious, billions of people are dying without Christ and without hope.

What the heck are we doing here Harry?

Recently, God has been wrecking us all over again with the gospel. I wouldn’t say it was a complete overhaul since we’ve known about this for a long time, but definitely a paradigm shift about who Jesus really was, what He really did, and HOW he really lived. His way of life was countercultural, radical, uncomfortable, and completely challenging. Albin and I have begun asking ourselves, “Do we look like Jesus? Are really living the countercultural, radical life that Jesus has called us to? What are we doing here?”

I’ve been reading two books recently that I would totally recommend. The first is Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity by Jen Hatmaker and it has challenged me immensely. Not only is she hilarious and doesn’t always use a filter (kindred spirit), but I love how she, her family, and her church have changed their focus from “blessing blessed people and serving the saved” to living missionally in order to reach the “least of these” in Austin. She challenges Christians to live out their faith according to Isaiah 58 (loose the chains of injustice, set the oppressed free, share your food with the hungry, provide the poor with shelter, clothe the naked, take care of your own) and Matthew 25 (being a faithful servant and stewarding what He has given us, and feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, visiting the imprisoned, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, etc.).

The second book I am reading is called You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity, by Francis Chan. Again, he and his wife talk more about changing their perspective from focusing on their marriage to focusing on how they can help each other impact the kingdom for eternity. As a result, they spend way less time worrying about the little annoyances in marriage and spend way more time on loving others and serving Christ…which in turn has blessed their relationship a million times over. Something he said that has stuck with me the most is this:

“Many people will tell you to focus on your marriage, to focus on each other; but we discovered that focusing on God’s mission made our marriage amazing. This caused us to experience Jesus deeply-what could be better? Eternal mindedness keeps us from silly arguments. There’s not time to fight. We have better things to pursue than our interests. Too much is at stake! God created us for a purpose. We can’t afford to waste our lives. We can’t afford to waste our marriage by merely pursuing our own happiness.”

I’ve also been spending a lot of time in Matthew from the Bible and just observing how Jesus handles situations. Wherever He went, the lame could walk, the dead were raised, the sick were healed, the blind saw, and the mute spoke (Matthew 9). In the same passage (vs. 9-12), Jesus is criticized for hanging out with drunks and “sinners” and he tells them to do something that has struck me profoundly:

“Go and learn what this means, I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

What does that mean? To me, that means to stop doing religion and start living as Jesus lived: with mercy. That means to follow the example set in Micah 6:8 “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

So again, we’ve been asking ourselves, “What the heck are we doing here Harry?” Are we living lives that mirror Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25? I know people shy away from the term “radical” because of its uncomfortable connotation, but seriously, are we living radically? Are we focusing inward to have the perfect marriage or focusing outward to use our imperfect marriage to impact the kingdom? Are we wasting our marriage by merely pursuing our own happiness, rather than being eternally minded?

People want to see the church rise up and look like Jesus, not just hide behind facebook and bash whatever topic is the new political flavor of the month. Jesus called us to live a completely different way of life, not just trying to follow all the rules and look religious, but to:

Act justly (This means taking action for just causes)

Love mercy (Love serving the least and those in need)

Walk Humbly with God (Acknowledge our need for a Savior and walk it out accordingly).

Where does that leave Albin and me? We’re still working it out. We’re not setting out for Aspen like Harry and Lloyd; but we’ve refocused and are trying to walk this out. It’s not always pretty, but we know it is the Holy Spirit in us that is going to teach us. All we know is that we need to do it. Put our faith into action and make it a way of life. Will you join us in this journey? I’m writing about this because I want to be held accountable and I want others to join us in this. I want to see two normal and imperfect people on a journey to countercultural living and using our marriage to impact eternity. I want our kids to grow up expecting our family to feed the poor, clothe the naked, and invite the homeless into our home. We want to leave that legacy and we realize that we can’t just sit around, read about it and talk about it. We need to live in a new way. Jesus said to “Go and learn” what He means when He says that He “desires mercy and not sacrifice.” That’s what we want to do … continually position ourselves in places where we can go and learn how to live out the gospel and look like Jesus.

“We cannot think our way into a new kind of living, we must live our way into a new kind of thinking.”

-Richard Rohr

Photo credit: Everett Collection

Photo credit: Everett Collection