Category Archives: Missions

A Saga about Sisters (Part 1)

Sisters. They are a gift from the Lord! I have three of them, all equally precious to me. When you are little, growing up together in your parent’s home and sharing a room while fighting over who-took-who’s hairbrush or doll, it’s easy for the beautiful treasure of sisterhood to escape you. Growing up with three sisters was a little bit like the Bennett family from the book Pride and Prejudice. Just ask my father! That’s a lot of girls under one rooftop. My older sister is here right now visiting from overseas, and I am cherishing these moments I get to spend with her. There are few people on this planet who get you inside and out, because they have known you since you were a baby. My older sister knows where I tend to be weak and where I am strong, she knows what foods I like and activities that I enjoy. She can’t help it; she’s known me for too long to not know.

My older sister and I were like night and day growing up. It was obvious that she was blessed with super-smarts from early on. She was a bookworm and read voraciously. She skipped a grade in school. She would tolerate the outdoors but she didn’t love it, and she hated sports and exercise. She had the heart of every teacher she sat under, because she excelled so well at school. She was obedient and polite, and rarely got anything more than a stern warning from our mother. She was sensitive too, and usually didn’t have to be told that she was in the wrong. She wasn’t a tomboy but she wasn’t a girly-girl either. In fact, she didn’t have time to be either, because she was too busy reading.

My sister in all her red-haired glory

And then I came along. I was a different animal. I was loud, energetic, and boisterous. The home videos speak (or should I say shout?) for themselves. Looking back, it feels like I was always in trouble. My parents bought a whole section of books that remain on their bookshelf to this day on the subject of ‘how to raise the strong-willed child’ after I was born. It’s no wonder, I had a really rebellious spirit back then. I didn’t really like reading that much. I spent a lot of time outdoors, on my bike or in the cherry tree in the backyard. I struggled in school, and my teachers did not like me immediately. I got detention in second grade for forgetting to raise my hand too many times. I often felt that there was no way I could ever measure up to my older, seemingly more-perfect sister. I got C’s and she never got anything less than an A.

And then came high school. For the first time, I watched my sister struggle academically in a calculus class in college. I was a sophomore in high school, but I had discovered a few years prior that math wasn’t too hard for me. In fact, a lot of school was becoming easier for me. I learned how to study, how to focus and apply myself. I learned how to get help if I didn’t understand something. My sister and I started talking on the phone while she was away at school. We started emailing each other. Our relationship started to change. I was learning to find my identity in Christ, and she had already found hers. We started to share about our walks with the Lord, things we struggled with, how we could be praying for each other. We were growing up, both in stature and in the Lord.

A year later, she met her husband. As they dated and eventually prepared to marry, our relationship survived a very difficult family matter. We went running together often, stopping occasionally to pray through tears and heartache. It wasn’t easy, but it something we endured albeit through much confusion. Looking back over the years, I can see now how the Lord has brought much healing.

Then sis got married and our relationship grew even deeper. I was a freshman in college, busy with anatomy and chemistry among other classes, and work. She was completing her student teaching degree at the same college as me. She often invited me over for breakfast, or to go on walks or hikes together. I knew she cared about me and so I allowed her to speak into my life when she thought necessary. She encouraged me much in the Lord. Her husband accepted me in as his sister in law and was never threatened by our friendship. I have always appreciated his (as well as my husband’s) sacrifice to allow my sis and I to spend time together when we get the chance.

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My sis and I not very long after she gave birth to her third child.

And then it came time for my sis and brother in law to start their long journey toward becoming specialists in linguistics and overseas missionaries. Their training for this difficult and long process took them all over the U.S., including Wisconsin, Oregon, Oklahoma and Missouri. I visited them at each stop along the way, by scraping up any spare money I had towards sale tickets with Southwest. Each time I left to say goodbye I was sad but knew another trip was around the corner. They came to visit our family whenever they had the opportunity and the finances.

In the meantime, my sis had one, then two, then three little boys! I got to watch her grow into the role of becoming a wonderful mother. She welcomed me with open arms to be an auntie who could love on her children without reservation. She helped me to foster an individual relationship with each of my nephews. She trusted me, and knowing that blessed me greatly.  She often sent me hand made cards in the mail with the latest drawings her kids had done. Many of them adorn our refrigerator. Although she was often several states away, I always felt close to her.

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Getting to do what aunties do while living overseas in 2007.

When her littlest was 2, their training was completed and it came time for them to move overseas and start their missionary work. I traveled with them and worked in a medical clinic in the same country for 3 months.  When that time came to an end, I remember holding back tears (not so successfully, as I recall) on the plane coming home. I knew it would be a long time before I could see them again, their location being so remote and plane tickets being so expensive. And yet, this work that they were and are still doing — bringing HOPE to a people group bound in fears and superstition–brings a greater joy that more than covers the hardship of separation.

Over the years, I have traveled three times overseas to see my sister, and twice she has traveled to see us. We are thankful for each trip we get. It might be easy for a person to go an entire year without seeing their sibling, but for sisters who write each other almost daily, who are aware of every little need, every prayer request, and much of each other’s daily lives– a year feels like an eternity. I have to admit, I cried the day I discovered that our little unborn baby would already be fifteen months old by the time he met my sis for the first time. Separation just never gets easier. In fact, it seems to be the opposite! But the Lord continues to be faithful, He continues to bless where we don’t expect it, and to give strength when we need it most.

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This is a card my sister sent me a number of years ago that still hangs up on our fridge.

One of the things I treasure most about my friendship with my sister is her God-given ability to empathize. When I have been in a place of deepest heartache, dark despair, utter brokenness, or confusion and uncertainty, she has never failed to immediately get on the phone from several thousands of miles away and make sure that I am okay. I cannot tell you how many times she cried with me when my heart fells to pieces again and again over our struggle with infertility. I cannot tell you how many times she has prayed over me– literally hundreds of times– over any struggle or fear that I had.  She is, as Anne Shirley puts it, a “kindred spirit” to me and always will be.

Sisters are a blessing, but friendship takes work! If you have a sister but aren’t close with her, I encourage you to write her a note, give her a call, or bless her in a unexpected way. Love her well. Don’t let distance be a reason to detached!

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This is also a little note-card from my older sister… also on our fridge.

~All of my sisters are wonderful and a huge blessing in my life in their own special way. Parts 2 & 3 of this series will be about my younger sisters.~

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Not My Will, But Yours, Be Done

When I was attending Bible college, almost 5 years ago now, a dramatic change in my thinking occurred. Up until that point I had always believed that God would allow limits to my suffering. I tended to see God more in light of Him being my Father, which would somehow spur Him to want to alleviate as much of my pain and suffering as possible. Part of that is true– He is my Father, but He’s also sovereign. He works in ways we often can’t understand at the time. While at Bible college I began to read the biographies of many Christians or missionaries who had suffered in horrendous ways. They had lost their children. Endured starvation. Some were tortured and then martyred for their faith. Many endured great trials and tragedies.

At this point, I was pretty frightened, as I was considering entering the mission field myself. Christians are still being martyred today. Many still endure great pain and suffering. I realized that I was not immune from any of it, not if I truly wanted to follow the Lord. I thought of Jesus’ words to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24). Deny himself. I wanted to do everything within my power to keep myself safe and to live a careful, calculated life. But I couldn’t, not if I wanted to follow Jesus.

Last night my husband and I had a long discussion about how man’s modern philosophies and the Lord’s commands just don’t mix. “Just do what makes you happy,” a lot of people will say. Or, “You have to do what’s right for you.” In our world, success is defined as reaching our full potential, our self-actualization. But nothing could be farther from what the Lord desires of us. He wants us to be obedient, to live to give Him glory in all things. In fact, reaching our “full potential” in the Lord is being completely surrendered to Him, obeying Him in all things, even if it means we suffer or die as a direct result. Even Jesus, fully man and fully God, prayed to the Father, “Not my will, but yours, be done” (Lk. 22:42). The Son of God laid down his rights and his life to be obedient and to glorify his Father. Nothing could be a more powerful example of obedience.

And so I consider my own life, and the fact that we are still childless. I pray and ask God for children, but if I am to be wise I must not count on it happening. Just because the desire for children is great doesn’t mean that God will necessarily allow it. He may have other plans for us– better plans. So I strive to be obedient, to be courageous in this life, children or not. To follow the Lord even if it means never being a mother. Even if it means great suffering. He is faithful to me and will always call me His own. And I will be satisfied because I will be doing exactly what I was made to do. I will be worshiping my Creator.

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Filed under Infertility, Missions, Worship

You Just Never Know What’s Around the Next Corner — (Part Two)

(If you haven’t read part One and would like to do so, just click here.)

Part Two 

I recovered nicely from my surgery. It was actually a very social time, as my mom, sisters, and friends came over to help take care of me or just hang out while my husband was at work. Another wonderful aspect following my surgery was the fact that the pain (other than from the incision) was completely gone. I knew that I’d once again be able to go running and participate in other activities because I was no longer worried that the endometriomas may burst. I was excited to be pain-free again.

Five months later, with no positive pregnancy tests to show for it, I ended up going on a mission trip to Uganda with my church. Being a nurse, I was the “medical” person on the team who administered basic medical care to hundreds of school kids and many of their family members. Many people on our team jumped in there to help me out, whether they had experience or not. It was an exhausting but wonderful time.

One evening, after a long day of working in the make-shift clinic (i.e. a school office) there in Uganda, I was talking with another guy on our team who told me that he had met a Ugandan Christian man with the gift of healing. I had never met anyone with that gift before, but I did not believe it to be impossible. “Please,” I told my teammate, take me to him!” I longed desperately to be healed, and I figured it couldn’t hurt. This man, who’s name was David, happened to be nearby, and he and my teammate anointed my head with oil and prayed over me. And for the first time in my life, I was prophesied over when David said, “You will be healed, and you will conceive this year.” I gasped in amazement when his words sunk in. Had I been in America, I would have been skeptical about a prophecy like that. But this was Africa. I had gotten used to seeing the Lord work in different ways there, and I wasn’t about to discount David’s prophecy. I went back to my quarters where we were staying and journaled my experience, praying that night that God truly would heal me.

Fast forward 2 months. Still having been hopeful that God would allow me to conceive, I started to doubt the chances of that happening when my chronic pelvic pain returned. My hope turned to despair and worry as I wondered if I would need to have another surgery. “Two surgeries in one year?” I lamented to my husband. Thankful for the logical man I married, he encouraged me to schedule another appointment and “get the facts” before delving into despair. Oh, yes, that’s probably a better plan! Time for another ultrasound and trip to my ob/gyn’s office. This time, there was a 6cm endometrioma on my right ovary and a 2cm one on my left (I was getting good at identifying them on the ultrasound monitor by this time). Also, as it turned out, my left fallopian tube was blocked and it was strongly recommended that it be removed. A month later, I had laparoscopic surgery and the cysts (along with my fallopian tube) were removed. My diagnosis from “probable” endometriosis got bumped up several notches to the top of the list: Severe Endometriosis.

Take Two. Ready for surgery (again).

Given the diagnosis, we had a few options in front of us on the table. We could do nothing and I could keep having surgeries every 6-9 months. That didn’t sound like too much fun to me. Another option was to try IVF (in vitro fertilization). Lastly, I could go on birth control for a really, really long time (like until I either hit menopause or had a hysterectomy) and we could adopt. At first my husband and I went for the IVF option. But the more I researched it, the more I realized that even with IVF, my chances of getting pregnant were still pretty low. And because IVF’s so expensive, we would then have to wait even longer to adopt if it didn’t work. So after much prayer and discussion, (oh, and did I mention after many tears on my part?) we decided to adopt.

Well, we certainly didn’t pick the fastest route to having children, that’s for sure. Adoption takes a long time! We are hoping and praying to adopt a baby domestically at this point. Five years ago I never would have guessed that my husband and I would be in the adoption process right now. No one in either of our families is adopted (because they keep having a lot of kids!). But I know and look forward to this: The Lord has a massive blessing in it for us, and He will be glorified through it. What I also know is that His mercies are new every morning. They might not be what we expected, but if you look around enough you’ll find them. Yesterday may have been bleak, it may have hurt bone-deep. But you just never know what’s around the corner. His blessings may hit us square in the face.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his step.” Prov. 16:9 ESV

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Filed under Adoption, Endometriosis, Infertility, Marriage, Missions