Saturday, December 31, 2011

And the gifts keep coming...

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:5-7

Every year around this time I like to read through journals that I've had over the last year. I'm not one to write a journal everyday, nor am I one to write a lot. In the spring, my friend Aunt Jackie recommended that I read the book "One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are." It's a celebration of grace and a recognition of the power of gratitude. The author, Ann Voskamp, has a way of weaving faith and gratitude into a beautiful poetry of words. So, I started a gratitude journal. I can honestly say that this book as well as the process of daily writing down ways God has blessed me has truly been a life changer.

So here is 2011 in a short recap and a few highlights from the gratitude journal:

1. A visit to see my niece, sister and brother-in-law and a half marathon for my World Vision sponsor child Santiaguito

2. Acquire the Fire Youth Rally with the 6th through 11th graders from Hope, stories of lives changed

3. A visit to the DR to see the kiddos I taught (all in high school now), stay with the Abreu family, visit my friend Shelley's school, and a trip to the beach.

4. Girls night with my 5th grade girls to the Macy's flower show
5. Easter--my favorite holiday. I got to help lead worship which made it even more meaningful this year.

May: Spring!
6. Planting my garden
7. Basketball at recess with my 5th grade boys
8. Eager 5th grade prayer warriors
9. Track and Field Day (one of my all time favorite days of the year)
10. Spring retreat for church which included a huge thunderstorm and tornado warnings which meant hanging out in the bathroom awhile..
11. Amen and Praise God from my 5th graders when prayers are answered at school
12. Friday morning Bible Studies with the Hope ladies

13. Mom and Dad coming to school, acting in Bible skits and Dad teaching a Bible lesson
14. A new classroom with more windows!
15. End of year class party
16. A trip to Atlanta to be part of Proskuneo Worship Institute with Aunt Jackie, Heidi, Josh, Becky, Karen, and many others--A worship time filled with the Spirit
17. Time and space to write music and worship through others' gifts
18. Multilingual concerts and people excited to sing in their own language
19. Summer school--Teaching a book kids love, and teaching about the countries of the world
20. Great Minnesota Sendoff for several friends
21. Summertime in Minneapolis which included sand volleyball, bike rides, long runs, and swims at the lakes

22. Boundary Waters trip with 5 other ladies
23. Bittersweet goodbye to my roomie of 4 years Lindsey
24. Visiting high school and college friends
25. New church, new friends, new fellowship

26. Lake Okoboji with the family
27. Rachel and Tessa visiting Minneapolis
28. A new roommate Megan
29. School year beginnings
30. My kiddos--15 little gentlemen, and 5 young ladies

31. Nikki Lerner and Josh Davis visit Minneapolis
32. Saturday morning long runs with Kari
33. 'Your Great Name' by Natalie Grant

34. Twin Cities Marathon--I finished my second marathon!
35. Encouragers and cheerleaders in the marathon, and in life.
36. Birthday celebrations
37. Meeting Mykah De Jong
38. Home visits for my kids

39. New York City Marathon with Kari Holmes
4o. Adventures in New York City
41. Evening of Hope Banquet--Stories of lives changed
42. Gift of life, gift of health each day
43. Christmas at Thanksgiving with the Wielenga and Van Hofwegen family
44. Tessa

45. Theological discussions in 5th grade
46. Ugly sweater parties
47. Christmas traditions
48. Ethan Daniel Wright
49. Christmas celebrations with family
50. Glorious, amazing Christmas night sunset

I've only skimmed the surface of my journal. Most of these listed above are events or people, but there are also many little things as well as truths that the Lord has taught me or reminded me this year.

51. Fill your life, fill your cup with the Lord. Let your satisfaction come from Him.
52. Be vulnerable with the gifts that God has given you.
53. Psalm 107: Let the steadfast love of the Lord be your strength.
54. Psalm 143: Remember the Lord and take heart.
55. "God doesn't do nothing. God is always doing something. He is doing thousands of things behind the scenes.." John Piper
56. Let us run this race with perseverance, fixing our eyes on JESUS!
57. Jesus has authority over everything. There is nothing He cannot do.
58. The Lord reproves and corrects those He loves.
59. The enemy has to flee at the sound of Jesus' name.
60. The Lord's love for me and His plans for my life are far greater than I could ever plan or imagine.

And the list goes on. I am nearing 600. I don't think the number matters, but the act of remembering what the LORD has done and his mercies each day does. This sums it up:

"This moment of my life has a root deep into time--I, my culture, and experiences shape this day and time and the beauty of all of it together is Christ. Let heaven intrude into my earthly affairs to rip my attention from the world to Christ over and over again."

So many names are in my journal, so many people that the Lord has blessed my life with. I am grateful.

And the gifts keep coming...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Did anyone catch the plates on that truck?

It's a spectacular day in the Twin Cities and I'm sitting here in the car with the windows down, awaiting word as to whether a transfusion is in order. Not quite sure which way to cheer for that. If I'm in the 7's it's a green light, 8's and they assess the impact of the anemia on my life and safety and if I'm in the 9's it's all my battle. I was 9.5 prior to this weekend's mass exodus of blood cells. Now, if I could order up my donor, I'd certainly be hoping for a 7. Yes, I'll take a healthy dose of Lance, a nice shot of Goucher, a hint of Phelps (can't swim in a straight line to save my life so swimming off course really fast doesn't help me much) a nice smack of Jobs, and several grams of any of a number of exceptional women I know and admire. Tac-Boy would most certainly order up some Angelina Jolie with a side of Megan Fox, and I think my friends would universally agree to anyone who would curtail the stubborn jackass in me. My prolific apologies friends, but you should know by now that I am hard wired to dissociate pain and I'm doing my best to sensibly read my body.

In the past month I have been scanned, xrayed, ultra sounded, and probed, I've been biopsyed, analyzed, respirated, and know the complete contents of my blood on various levels. I've been, poked, prodded, examined and cultured. There is no part of me that remains unexplored by my medical team. And yet I feel as far removed from knowing my own body as I ever have. My lungs don't breathe right, my heart rate doesn't behave, I have shooting, fiery flairs coursing up through my neck and if I don't jump on my 30 minute window between the onset of increasing cardiac pressure and "wow would someone please remove the iron poker from my chest" with a vicadin I'm reduced to clenching my chest in a corner, tears streaming down my face. Yea, it hurts that bad. For you moms out there, it's the labor pains that incapacitated you, just prior to your transition labor. But this pain is freakin in my chest, next to my heart, and it produces nothing but pain. No awesomely cute bundle of joy at the end of this ride.

In the past 2 hours I've had three people tell me their mom died at about my age from pulmonary embolism that lead to a brain aneurysm. Maybe God is trying to tell me something. In the wise words of my neighbor "I guess stuff like that happens to show you how precious life really is.". So, the labor doesn't produce a tangible bundle of joy, but joy none the less, and this joy has the added benefit of a full nights sleep.

But I don't know my body. And that is a weird sensation indeed. As an athlete and a trainer I'm accustomed to knowing every muscle bundle, how it contracts, how it reacts, what pain can be pushed through and what pain requires easing back. I know nutrition, heart rates, VO2 max and the impact of various foods and alcoholic beverages on athletic performance. But it's all turned on it's head at the moment. For me to have the thinnest, healthiest blood I need to sit on the couch swilling beer, tequila's better. Being active and eating green things (god forbid "do not touch broccoli!") drops my INR and gets me back to clotting range. Fortunately there is a solution; more frequent blood draws and pop more coumadin. I know at some point the solution will be to enjoy a long run then cool down with a icy cold beer, weekend warrior nirvana, but for now that dream is overshadowed by "my mom died" and "you're lucky to be alive" and relief on my work friends and clients faces and my 10 year old son who is covered in hives from the stress of it all.
A shot of Patron and a couch look terribly inviting from here.

However shortsighted that might seem. In general we don't have many brushes with death and since I believe our days are rightly numbered and known by God from before we are born, it just wasn't my time. I guess in many ways I'm merely trying to get the license plate of the truck that just roared past before trying to comprehend any deep, philosophical lessons from all of this. Well, that and factoring the right proportion of broccoli to beer.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Things I've learned the last several days in the ER

Things I've learned in the Emergency Room the last couple of days

1) if you call the nurse helpline with chest pain, shortness of breath or excess bleeding you are an auto send to the ER. And if you hit the jackpot and have all 3, they don't even want you to finish your most delicious hamburger at the weekend bar b que with friends.

2) when you arrive, you will want to be succinct. Turns out things are so automated it can take them a half an hour to realize your name begins with a K and you indeed are not 143 years old.

3) no matter how much you are bleeding, they will still want to draw a fistful of vials of blood and that is just plain visually disconcerting.

4). If you have a splitting headache that a vicadin and 2 Tylenol don't touch, they order a picture of your brain. On the bright side, in spite of my best efforts the ole hamster is still turning on its wheel. Although last night it felt like it was sitting on a couch with a pack of smokes and a fifth of Cuervo.

5) what happens in the ER stays in the ER or you've got not shot of reclaiming your dignity that's laying on the floor in a pool of your own bodily fluids.

6) pain is a depressant. Bring your two dear friends along. If they are slightly visually impaired, throw them your iPhone and teach them to play Angry Birds. It's good for laughs. And ladies, I warned you it's addicting.

7) when you've had enough and they've poked and prodded you to their hearts content, answer "zero" when then inquire about your location on the pain scale. They don't let you go until you are a zero.

8) there is no more glorious thing then signing your discharge papers, even if they are accompanied by a prescription of dubious merit for curbing your symptoms.

9) well perhaps even more glorious is the awakening to the sound of birds chirping outside your own bedroom window and Chopper informing you it's time to head up north with The Tribe for the day.

So, my medical journey continues. Good news of the day, my INR readings are holding in the mid 2's so my blood is sufficiently "thin" to preempt future blood clots, so no more shots in my abdominal fat and I get to space my INR blood draws a little so no more daily chats with the phlebotomist. Assuming I can stay out of the ER for a few days....

"And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it," when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ten years ago....December 31, 2000

Ten years ago was the best celebration of the end of the year I've ever experienced. My friend Kim and I brought in the new year with 19,000 other people in Urbana, Illinois at the Urbana 2000 Missions and Worship Conference. Few words describe worshipping with 19,000 people from all over the world and singing "Crown Him with Many Crowns" when the clock turned midnight. I would like to think that it was a small picture of what heaven will be like someday.
That weekend was life changing. I made a commitment to going wherever the Lord would send me and little did I know what the next ten years of my life would hold or where He would bring me. That weekend both Kim and I connected with a ministry called Carpenters Tools International. Little did we know where the Lord would bring us. ...

The following summer we both traveled on summer music missions teams and ministered to youth in Uganda (Kim) and Ukraine/Slovakia (myself). We gave concerts in orphanages, youth camps, churches and even to a prison in Ukraine where no ministries or organizations had been allowed to visit prior to our group.

A year later I graduated from college and took my two 50 pound suitcases to the Dominican Republic for my first teaching job--4th grade. Little did I know that I would spend four years of my life there and develop friendships with many Dominican and Haitian brothers and sisters in Christ. I now have a second family in the DR--with a 'niece' and 'nephew' who will graduate from high school in a few years. (both were my students in fourth grade..)

After four years in another country, I moved to Minneapolis and took another 4th grade teaching job. Coincidentally and providentially, God brought a Dominican pastor and his family to Minneapolis the same time that I moved there. And they happened to be a family from the same church that my family in the DR attends. Little did I know that two years down the road, I would be teaching their son at a different school.

After two years teaching fourth grade, I moved to an inner city school and began teaching 5th grade. I missed having diversity and other cultures at my other school and desired to be in the inner city setting. While this job has its challenges, I can honestly say that I love my job and it has caused me to depend on the Lord for strength everyday.

Little did I know that a year later I would move into one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the US with over 100 different languages spoken. My home is within a mile of my school and a mile or two from church.

As I was running today, for some reason I started thinking about Urbana again. I thought about all the missions organizations that were there, the speakers, the videos, and the worship. I loved the worship! The past few weeks have been interesting because it seems that the Lord has been putting global missions on my heart and reminding me to pray for the nations of the world. I still continue to read the book "A Hole in our Gospel" and am challenged by it. I often smile at how the Lord seems to weave conversations and people together at just the right time. Last week I had coffee with a friend and his wife who are involved in missions in Egypt and Africa. This week I have been communicating more with one of my friends (and former roommate in the DR) who has been serving in Sudan and I also got an update from my friend who is doing Bible translating work with Wycliffe in Chad.

When I was home for Christmas, I spent several hours one evening talking with good friends from high school, one of whom just was in Liberia for a few weeks. I love talking with them because they are very passionate about missions, ministry, and the Lord. I am curious to see if, how, and when the Lord brings them back to Liberia again. (Maybe next time I will go too..)

And this week I talked with my family in the DR. I used to go to their house every Tuesday for dinner and prayer. I miss that and I miss them. Perhaps a visit there soon would be good!

All this being said, the Lord's desire is for nations to come together in worship of Him. He longs for us to pray for the nations of the world, to be open to His work, and praise His name. The theme for Urbana 2000 was this:
Psalm 117:
Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!

So as 2011 approaches, I am praying that the Lord would be praised around the world, that nations would come together in worship, and that I would have a heavenly perspective/vision of the world.

So join with me in praying for the nations and many missionaries around the world:

For brothers and sisters in Christ in Ukraine and Slovakia
For friends and family in the DR
For Haitian brothers and sisters in Christ
For my friend Larissa and her work in Sudan
For Joey and the people in Chad
For the mission work of Engineering Ministries International
For my good friends Kelly and April Crull and their church plant in Madrid, Spain
For Liberia and the orphanage and church there
For missionary friends in the DR working with Young Life
For the work of World Vision in Africa and around the world
For my friend Josh Davis and Proskuneo Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia

There is much to pray for...Who but the LORD knows what the year 2011 will hold!
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Somebody Else's Kids

It's Christmas break. I've spent the last few days on the couch with a nasty cold. But also spent the last few days doing a lot of reading. Some friends of mine have been reading the book The Hole in Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns and mentioned how much it had challenged them. Coincidently, Richard is the current president of World Vision. So I picked it up and so far have been captivated by his stories and his questions of What does God expect of us? and What does it mean for God's kingdom to come?

To quote Stearns from a chapter I read today, "If we are honest with ourselves, we must simply admit that we have less empathy for people of other cultures living in faraway countries that we do for Americans. Our compassion for others seems to be directly related to whether people are close to us socially, economically, culturally, ethnically, emotionally, and geographically. But why do we distinguish the value of one human life from another? Why is it so easy to shut out the cries of these dying foreign children from our ears?"

These are somebody else's kids.

Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, prayed, "Let my heart my broken by the things that break the heart of God." In other words, may we care as God cares and love as God loves.

Reading this book brings me back to the Dominican Republic.

Living in the Dominican Republic changed how I viewed myself, the church body, and the world. I saw how large the body of Christ is and how beautiful it is to worship in another language/culture. I developed a better understanding of selflessness and the importance of enjoying people. I also was awakened to the reality of poverty and the injustice of the large gaps between the rich and the poor around the world.

Some of my favorite memories of the DR were visiting orphanages, bringing toys to kids in the barrio with my friend Bielka, delivering food to Haitian bateyes with local missionaries at Christmas time, and doing kids clubs with other teachers on the weekends. There were so many needs, so many kids and all many of them wanted was a little love and a hug.

These were somebody else's kids.

Now I come back to Santiaguito. I think he has a beautiful smile as all Dominican kids do! Santiaguito lives with his mother, 2 brothers, and 3 sisters. His mother is a housewife and struggles to provide for the family. They live in an area southwest of Santiago, the city were I lived. Their community has been affected by HIV and AIDS. Money that comes to support Santiaguito will meet his needs and also help with prevention and care programs in his community.

Santiaguito is someone else's kid.

There are lots of "somebody else's kids" out there.

"And if anyone gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."

If you are looking for a good read, pick up the book---A Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns.
At the end of the book, it gives lots of suggestions of ways to help World Vision or to serve and reach out to the poor around the world.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Meet Santiaguito

It is now the dead of winter. Our last posts were from September before our marathon. It doesn't seem real that I ran 26.2 miles in October. All that training, all those miles and long runs and's over. It was definitely the hardest race I have ever run but well worth it. I know that now somewhere in Africa several villages will have access to clean water because of all the money that was raised through World Vision and the marathon.

Now another type of training has begun for a shorter race. This time with a different purpose--for one person-- a young man named Santiaguito. Santiaguito is 10. He lives in the Dominican Republic. He loves math and baseball. I would imagine that he plays baseball with a stick and a bottle cap with other boys in his community. Many Dominican boys love baseball and that's how they start to play. Santiaguito lives in a community that has been severely affected by the HIV and AIDS crisis. Because I used to live in the Dominican Republic, I have a special love for Santiaguito and this community.

In January, I will be running a half marathon in Phoenix with World Vision in honor of Santiaguito. By running that day, I will help to provide clean water, food, health care, and economic opportunity for Santiaguito and his community.

"And Jesus took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them." Mark 10:16

Please join me in praying for Santiaguito and others who are being affected by the HIV/AIDS Crisis around the world.
If you are looking for alternative Christmas gifts, go to and search for their Gift Catalog.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mom, I'm only going to have one meltdown this week..

And I'm saving that one for Thursday night, just so you know

Duly noted. Thank you for the advance warning, if only we all could be so regulated. I expect a periodic meltdown from a kid taking 3 AP classes, pre calc, spanish 4x and international foods. Certainly it's the food class that sends her over the edge. Add to that a strenuous marching band schedule, a part time job working for her dad and nurturing her first teen romance and I'd say the kid has a lot on her plate. What else could I expect from a kid with remarkably diverse tastes?

My main concern is that she doesn't limit her meltdowns for my sake. A primary driver in my constitution is that my kids not take on responsibility for my emotional health. In other words, I don't expect my kids to carry the burdens of my soul. This is not to say that I won't share how I am doing, or be authentic with them, but rather, I won't hold them responsible for how I feel and I certainly hope to not hold their emotions hostage by my crises.

I tend to be one of those people who think about how they feel. For instance, I might begin a sentence with "I think I'm feeling sad today about..." and these sentences appear after several days of rumination. In contrast my hubby is one of those folks who feel their thoughts, generally out loud, and might begin a sentence with "I feel like (insert fact)...." and his sentence appears within a brief moment from the origination of the thought. He thinks out loud and works things out accordingly. I think in the deep, wide spaces o
f my mind. In this way we are remarkably compatible and remarkably incompatible depending on the day. I'm thankful for "broad shoulders" as I have 3 external thinker/emoters in my family and on any given day that can mean a lot of life to support. I find it no surprise that two of my closest friends are internal like me.

Last week the weight of my world pressed hard. I find it little coincidence that I separated my shoulder. More specifically my clavicle separated from it's A/C joint and one of my rotator cuff muscles decided to impinge. Most specifically, that hurt like hell. Three days of Vicatin nights to sleep. I took a long hard thinking walk, did some corrective exercises and all is better now. It's amazing to me how our bodies are created to know how to heal themselves. The best solution to my impingement was sleeping with my arm extended back over my head, which allowed the muscles to relax and return to their rightful position. I went for what felt good, and low and behold, it was right.

"Mom, I've had a lot of warnings, don't you think it's about time?" Well, given your size 10 feet and your size small frame, I think you have one last growth spurt to go before "IT's TIME". Are you ready, are you scared, do you have a supply of products in your locker in case you start at school? This one is a little slower to grow up and that is just fine by me, although she is "star struck" by one boy in particular and is planning her high school enrollment around where he might attend. I have become an advocate of the return of marrying them off at 14. Sort of. But really? I don't recall planning my life around Boy X. Perhaps this is because Boy X didn't come around til a bit later. I remember pre teen conversations about who had kissed who and who held whose hand, and it was all meaningless for the most part. In the crowd my oldest runs with they aren't dating until they are juniors, only holding hands for months and contemplating a first kiss for a very long time. In the age of one night stands and casual hook ups they are taking their stand and being counter cultural. I kind of like that. No, I really like that.

Did you know that every time a woman engages in physical intimacy she secretes the same hormone that is released when she nurses with and bonds to her baby? Did you know that one of the major causes of suicidal depression in college age girls is frequency of sexual partners. So, girls who should have the entire world as an oyster are wanting to cash it all in because their bodies are wacked out from sleeping around. I say give yourself the absolute best shot at living your hopes and dreams, the world around you is waiting.

****News Flash***** apparently Thursday's meltdown arrived a day early. Oh boy.

At least the general grounding of The Tribe from all forms of media concluded today. I suffer under the delusion that a 14, 12 and 10 year old should be able to survey the room around them and find it unacceptable to sit on a pile of unfolded clothes with dirty dishes and chip bags strewn around, watching television. I apparently also suffer under the delusion that I should be allowed to go one night a week to class for the betterment of my psyche and return home with the dinner dishes cleaned up, the counters wiped and the food put away. I am hopeful that a 48 hour ban from television and computer time might move us closer to agreement on the domestic front.

As long as we are on the topic of things that tax me mentally, we might as well throw in the delusion that it was a good idea to return to school after an 18 year hiatus and attempt to learn the dead language of Koine Greek. Had I realized this required learning a new alphabet where an R is a P an N is an E and a V is an N and three of the letters aren't letters at all but really sounds, I might have thought twice. Had I known that the second session would entail reading this new language out loud for the enrichment of the entire class I certainly would have reconsidered. I'm reasonably certain that I so tortured my share of the dissertation that the Apostle John himself rolled in his grave so violently that the earth quaked. My apologies Los Angeles. I had no intention of opening the fires of hell upon you these last few days. I will study this week. That or I'll make a point of sitting by the Korean gal who is trying to learn a third language in a second language. My class is quite a collection of characters, I'll try to report more later.

For now it's time to oversee homework, pick up from youth group and spend some quality time with the spouse.

Realizing none of this has anything at all to do with running or children in Africa or marathons, just endurance. What do you expect? It is taper week!