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Somewhere Between Donuts and Blueberries

Enjoying and Sharing the Goodness of God

Before the Blog…Evan’s Story – Part II

I am trying to get my previous writings from different places all together on the blog so here is the second of three parts sharing Evan’s story of birth and the NICU. God used that time in such a profound way in my heart and life, in my marriage, in motherhood. I hope that as you read this story that your heart is touched and your faith renewed in the God of grace and miracles. 

That sleep and rest was such a gift from God. Those drugs, such a blessing. That first day was fairly pain free because I wasn’t coherent enough to realize what was happening, and I think that was God’s grace.

I am naturally a planner. I like to plan for the worst and pray for the best, but my optimistic tendencies never really plan for the worst and I end up disappointed, a lot.

In my “planning for the worst” I tried the best I could to come to terms with the fact that my baby might not live. So to wake up on January 14th to the fact that he had made it was amazing. And then just an hour later to get a visit from the director of the NICU explaining that there were more complications and with that, quite a few unknowns, it was devastating. I hadn’t planned for the NICU.

There seemed to be internal bleeding but they couldn’t pin point where it was coming from. He was stable, but it might be a while until we see changes, and answers. It’s like she was preparing us for the worst and hoping for the best. He needed another blood and platelet transfusion.

The day before I had made a choice that me and God would be ok, nothing would change between us, even if Evan died, I would trust that God was enough for me. But would I be ok now? In the unknown, in the not sure if and how he will recover? Could I keep trusting and keep believing? This one was way harder.

The reason I always wanted the c section is because it’s fairly predictable. There’s a start, a baby, and an end. Clean up, sew up and recover. Natural birth sounded so messy and terrifying. Honestly I had planned for drugs as soon as they were available and then to give up if at any point the pain or discomfort or fear made me want to shout rude things to Gunnar.

There is nothing predictable about a baby in the NICU to a first time parent. I already had no idea how to be a parent and now he was sick and I didn’t even know if he was going to live. Tears, so many tears.

I appreciated the visitors but it’s hard to have a good, solid cry when you are interrupted so many times and are trying to explain things that make no sense to begin with.

We prayed a lot. That’s all we could do. We physically could do nothing else, heck, I still had a catheter and couldn’t even get out of bed! We prayed for healing and for knowledge, wisdom and discernment for the doctors, nurses and technicians treating Evan. We prayed that he would not only live but fully recover. We prayed for faith and hope to believe that God was good no matter the outcome. We prayed that many would come to know God and his love and grace through Evan’s life. We prayed fervently and faithfully, knowing full well we had no other options.

The one bright spot was that his lungs were already doing better and they took off the cpap.

Once the catheter was removed and I met the pee quota I was allowed to get in wheel chair and go meet him. As we got to the door of the NICU I could hear crying. It was sad, that poor baby. Gunn knocked. The door opened a minute later, still a lot of crying, and they informed us that he was having an ultra sound and would have to come back in 20 minutes.

I’ve never felt bad or sad about not seeing Evan on that first day. He was well taken care of and I was in no shape to see a baby, I literally could not stay awake, much less hold one. But that first meeting, or lack of, that was hard. I didn’t even see him, just heard him and my heart broke.

I cried all the way back up to the room and the whole time we waited. Nobody warned me about the rush of post-partum hormones! Well, they probably did I just didn’t realize the intensity of them and the emotion they elicit.

Gunn is a great husband. He is the most encouraging and kind man. He is so gentle with me. And with his soft voice and reassuring hug he prayed for me and thanked God for Evan and for the fact that he was crying. The day before he wasn’t crying. Apparently when you lose that much blood you don’t have the energy to cry. Those two blood and platelet transfusions must have already been helping if he could cry for a sustained time!

What a beautiful perspective change. I was so sad for my baby and that we were missing out on each other and Gunn was just thankful he was crying.

This is why we need each other, husbands and wives, family, friends, fellow humans – to speak the truth the other needs when they can’t see it themselves.

I got myself together and we headed back down.

We went in, set the timer and washed from the elbow down for two minutes, then I went and met my baby. He was in an open bed not an isolet, I took that as a good sign. He was sleeping. He had an IV in his hand with a splint to keep him from bending it and monitors on his chest and tummy and a cuff around his ankle. They told me I could touch him. I laid my hand on his back and rubbed it side to side a little. I’m sure she was just trying to be helpful so the nurse told me to not rub, just lay my hand there. That the firm pressure is more comforting. I felt like such a failure! I didn’t know how to do this. I just met him and already I’m doing it wrong. Gosh what a terrible mother! I was embarrassed and couldn’t keep the tears in much longer so we headed up a couple minutes later. And with that a seed of insecurity planted, that I wouldn’t realize until years later when it was a huge ugly weed in my heart. But that’s a story for another time.

This sucked! All of it. It was all terrible and I was a terrible mother. And know what else was terrible? Everything!

The doctors and nurses that came in what felt like every 10 minutes to check my incision or teach me how to pump. What is more humiliating than being naked and exposed, doing it over and over and over again and then being hooked to a machine like a cow! We were on day two and motherhood was pretty much the worst thing ever, and I sucked at it. Awesome!

Thank God for grace and mercy and for love. The love and comfort of my husband, the love and care of my mother, the love and support of my dad and siblings, the love and genersosity of my in-laws, the love and encouragement of my family, friends and even acquaintances who prayed for us, sent us texts and cards and messages and voice mails. They all were a tangible expression of God’s care and provision.

I especially appreciated one lactation nurse who came back two minutes after we had finished another pumping session and said, “Can I pray for you? My husband and I had a NICU baby 17 years ago and I know how hard and scary this can be. I can tell you know God, so can I pray with you?” And pray we did as tears streamed down my face. I wished my milk ducts worked that well.

It was all these little things that pulled me out of the depths of despair and reminded me that I could trust and hope in the very same God who just yesterday had filled me with a peace that was beyond anything I had ever experienced.

How quickly we forget. How easy it is to lose faith and lose hope.

It reminds me of Peter walking on water and then sinking as he looked around and was overcome with fear and I think, silly Peter, Jesus is right there, why are you such a coward? You’re fine, don’t be such a doubter!

That was me. Just 24 hours earlier I saw miracle after miracle.

Waking up at 7 am instead of 9 or 10 like every other day of my maternity leave.

The quick wisdom to not shower and not eat the bagel. It may not seem like a miracle but me having those thoughts from the Holy Spirit and then not eating, it was huge.

As little traffic as we had on the 91 freeway. If you’re not familiar with the area then I don’t think you truly appreciate the miracle, but it definitely was one. (Think everything you’ve ever imagined about LA traffic, and then add more. That is the hell known as the 91).

The fact that I had pre-registered. The fact that I was so compliant about a c section. These all saved seconds and minutes that saved Evan’s life! It was no accident. My God was there all along, way before any of it started he was making a way!

How could I forget so quickly?!?! How could I discount it all just 24 hours later?

I love that God is gracious and kind. I love that he doesn’t despise my weakness. My weak faith. Instead he gives more grace and more faith and more love than I can ever imagine.

And we needed it, because this was just the beginning of what would be a season of new and unknown and uncomfortable and what felt like a whole lot of failure.

But we had God and we had each other, and for another day, it was enough.

Birthday Memories

I wrote this last year, wishing I had a blog to post it. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever written. Hope you enjoy and are encouraged. Miracles happen and we are forever changed by them. My miracle celebrated his 5th birthday today and my tender mama heart loved celebrating all day long. 

Evan’s birth story

The best part of telling a story is getting to remember details that you haven’t thought of in a while, and seeing God work in them – His grace and mercy in those moments . Our lives change in those details though we don’t usually realize it until we are looking back to recall, recount and reflect. In the recounting we share the facts, and in it the truth of the situation and of what God did. And we are reminded all over again of the good things God has done and why our lives changed because of that story. In the retelling my faith is renewed and I’m in awe of God’s amazing attention to detail all over again. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

37 weeks & 2 days pregnant

My alarm went off at 7 am and I knew right away something wasn’t right. After a quick trip to the rest room I called for Gunnar and he ran in.

Blood. So much blood. 

I called labor and delivery and told them. They said to come straight in and if I didn’t have someone to drive me to call 911.
“When did I last shower? I should probably shower before I go have a baby. But they mentioned 911 so maybe pass on that.”

As Gunn got our bag in the car and I found a phone charger to throw in my purse I heated a bagel then got in the car. 

As we started driving I thought about an emergency c-section. “I shouldn’t eat.” I gave it to Gunn.  

It was 7:27 or 37 when we left the house. Friday morning we had 18 miles to Kaiser Anaheim. And those 18 miles were on the 71 south and the 91 east. Instead of worry about the inevitable traffic we would encounter I decided to do my daily morning prayer journal and read my Bible. 

As I was writing I was thankful that the 71-91 interchange was not congested and we actually made it onto the 91 in good time. But now there was some slowing. I asked God to help me not worry about the traffic. I asked him to keep me calm and help me trust that he loved this little boy and knew everything about him. He was God’s, he always had been and always will be. If we have him for a day or a month or a year or a life time, or just in utero, he is God’s and I am God’s. We’ll be ok. 

My mom’s first pregnancy was a stillborn boy at 6 months. My parents left the hospital as first time parents with no baby. It was tragic. But they relied on Jesus and each other and their faith was stronger for it. I knew from the beginning that a pregnancy does not guarantee a baby. Miscarriage had been one of my biggest fears. Especially since I had spotted early on and they found two sacs but only one baby. We had no other complications, but it was always in the back of my mind. 

Gunn and I had been reading in Ecclesiates, a chapter a day. That day was chapter 11. 

Ecclesiastes 11:5 “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.”

It was so comforting. It didn’t say “your baby is ok” or “everything is going to be alright,” but God spoke straight to my heart. “I see, I know, you don’t know what I know. You don’t know how this will end, but I do. I made you and I love you. I made this baby and I love him. No matter what happens you and Gunnar have me and I’m enough, you’ll be ok.” That was enough. 

I breathed deep and thanked God and thought, “well at least I feel baby moving, that’s a good sign. Or was that a contraction?” I had no idea. 

We made it to the hospital in 28 minutes. TWENTY-EIGHT MINUTES! ON THE 91 EAST on a FRIDAY! 

We had already pre registered so we went straight into triage. They had difficulty finding the baby’s heart rate, but at my appointment the day before it was the lower right so as they made their way around – upper right, upper left, lower left lower right, I tried to keep calm and remember that I didn’t need to worry. 

They finally found it and strapped on the monitors. 

With in 5 minutes 3 other nurses rushed in and looked at the the screen, readjusted the monitors and started talking in hushed tones. 

“Put her in room [blah, blah, blah] it’s right across from OR 1.”

They let me know that I was indeed staying that the doctor would probably get me on pitocin and get things going. 

They wheeled me to the new room and started prepping me. I could feel the profuse bleeding. There were people moving in and out and two different doctors came in to check. They couldn’t secure an internal monitor. Childbirth is the grossest, most stressful thing I have experienced in my life and yet, somehow I was still calm and not afraid. 

I made sure to let them know if at any point they thought there would be a c-section then please, by all means, let us have a c-section. 

Weeks earlier I had actually asked my ObGyn if we could just schedule a c-sections to begin with. I am not a fan of pain and I’m even less a fan of the unknown and I was so scared of labor and delivery. I had had a couple surgeries and actually really enjoyed the amazing naps I got during them so I was just totally fine with the idea. My doctor was not and had informed me that even though she could see my reasoning they don’t do that and I would indeed need to at least try. 

Within 5 minutes the baby’s heart rate had plummeted for the third time and I signed the line for an emergency c-section. 

Gunn and I kissed and said I love you and off I went. 

The rest of the day really should be written by Gunn. Besides the catheter they inserted while the anesthesiologist introduced her self, I don’t really remember much more. 

People. There were a lot of people in the room and super bright lights and I was more exposed than ever and was hoping for the medicine to kick in quick so I could sleep, and…take…a…good n..a..p.

Chapstick. All I wanted was Chapstick. My lips were so dry and I just needed some Chapstick so I could go back to sleep. 

Recovery. Gunnar was there. I think. My mom? Yeah, that’s still super fuzzy. They kept insisting I wake up. Mmm, nope. More sleep. 
My room. Gunnar, mom, dad. I couldn’t keep my eyes open for more that three minutes at a time. 

I remember they said Evan was in the NICU. Downstairs. I know Gunn showed me a picture. So many wires. A cpap on his face. 
He had lost a lot of blood. He needed some help. A blood transfusion and a platelet transfusion. 

I might have been sad about not seeing him but I could barely stay awake to listen to Gunnar. I would read a text and start a response but fall asleep 3 words in. Apparently Gunn just took my phone and started responding for me. 

My baby was born (at 9:02 am, 5lbs 10oz, 19.5 in) and he was alive. God said He would be enough and take care of us. I just kept resting in that, figuratively and literally.

Acquired Taste

“Just a few more bites, then you can be done.”

I have said this phrase hundreds of times and my oldest isn’t even 5 years old. I know I’m no gourmet cook, but I also know the food I put on the table is edible and mostly tasty. More importantly, it’s what he needs to live. And because I want him to live a healthy, beautiful life we do it again and again, 3 times a day, every day.

 

Why is it so hard to like what’s healthy? Why do I love donuts and hate kale? I’m sure there are scientific answers but I believe there are spiritual ones as well.

I had no real concept of nutrition until my sophomore year of college when I took a sports nutrition class. Before that I knew only what experience taught me. I knew that my mom made me eat fruit daily and didn’t like us to eat candy or sweets and that we had to eat all the salad at dinner before we ate the rest. I knew that since ditching her rules and eating at the campus dining hall I had gained roughly 10 lbs and should probably stop having the soft service ice cream every night on my way out the door. I knew these things, but didn’t understand the why until that class taught me all about proteins, carbohydrates and fats. It wasn’t until I understood metabolic rates and muscle glycogen that my weight gain and food choices became a lot more important in my mind.

We only know what we’ve learned and until we are taught more it is difficult to want to change, much less do it.

Once I learned the physiological why to food choices (caloric intake) and exercise (caloric output) it was much easier to say no to ice cream and yes to vegetables.

 

The same is true with the word of God. We know we ought to read it. We should know what it says. But until we do we are left only with what we’ve been taught – be it by church or family or culture. Often our experience with the Bible will shape our view of it.

I am so thankful that I had a mom who not only insisted on fruits and vegetables but also a healthy diet of scripture reading and daily devotions. My parents both modeled daily Bible reading and also encouraged us to do it. I didn’t do it regularly until college, around the same time as that nutrition class, interestingly enough.

I grew up knowing it was good for me but not really feeding it to myself. Praise God for His Spirit drawing me in and awakening me to the truth of His word.

 

“My son, keep your father’s commandment,
and forsake not your mother’s teaching.
Bind them on your heart always;
tie them around your neck.

When you walk, they will lead you;
when you lie down, they will watch over you;
and when you awake, they will talk with you.
For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light,
and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life,”

Proverbs 6:20-23

 

If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and from the Lord comes wisdom and understanding then I want to know these words, I want to live by these truths. The only way to do that is to first learn them, then apply them – to hear and receive and to humbly ask God to transform us by them.

When reading Proverbs 6 this week I was struck in two ways, as a child of God and as a mother. First as His daughter I read the words and received the instruction God gives to hear and keep them close. It’s an active part we must take. And it was followed with a promise, that His words and wisdom will lead us as we walk, go to sleep and wake up. He claims that these very words will guide us in life as both a lamp and a light as we walk with Him. The way of life itself is set by the teaching, correction and discipline He offers. He is a loving God, a loving Father, who wants to teach us what is best.

 

And it is His very heart that compels me, as a mother, to heed these words so that I can model and teach them. I hope and pray my boys will develop a love and hunger for the word of God for I know there is life there. As they see Jesus, learn the character of God and interact with the Holy Spirit in these words and in their lives they will be blessed. As they obey and adore God they will have abundant life. But just like leafy greens, it’s not always appealing. So I will strive to serve them a healthy portion of God’s word, I will model it in hopes that one day they too will taste and see the goodness of the Lord. I pray that they discover that just like correctly roasted brussel sprouts or asparagus in a sun-dried tomato alfredo sauce are scrumptious and easy to eat, that the word of God is also delightfully palatable and incredibly satisfying. And really Jesus is the bread of life, can anything be more delicious than bread!? Well, perhaps a donut.

PS this post reminded me of funny meme I saw a while back. 

Why I love the Word of God

A couple years ago I got to share with some women about the word of God. It was thrilling! Not because I had something profound to say but because I passionately believed that I had something life changing. I still believe it. It has and continues to change me.

Psalm 34:8 “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” (NIV).

Have you ever eaten something so good you want everyone else to taste it too? The Monte Cristo at Disneyland, and the corn dogs, SO GOOD!

Just like food, this word is delicious and I want everyone to try it. I think that once you try it you will want more. You will taste something so satisfying you desire more and more. And just like Psalm 34:8 says, it is a refuge and a blessing.

The word – the Bible, it’s a book, but  also so much more. It’s 66 books/letters written by different authors over 1,500  years. It’s the story of God’s rule and reign and plan. Jen Wilkin has the best description I’ve read in her book Women of the Word when she says:

“From Genesis to Revelation the Bible is telling us about the reign and rule of God…It speaks of creation, fall, redemption and restoration all throughout. It’s populated with different genres of writing – Historical Narrative, Poetry, Wisdom Literature, Law, Prophecy, Parables, Epistles – all conspiring to expand our view of the reign and rule of God.”

She explains that the metanarrative – the comprehensive explanation or guiding theme –  illuminates all others themes in a text. So knowing this big story guides and informs all the smaller stories. All of it helps us find the continuity between the God of the NT and the God of the OT. They are all talking about Jesus in some way or another (Wilkins, 53-55).

It’s truth, and a guide. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (NIV). It’s truth and we can believe it. I once heard a preacher on youtube explain why he believed the Bible to be true and I just loved it.

“I choose to believe the Bible because it is a reliable collection of historical documents, written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies, and they claim to be divine rather than human in origin.” -Voddie Baucham Jr

There are a few reasons why this is important. Being in the word is a way of knowing God and communing with him. John 1:1 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (NIV). The word of God is a revelation of Jesus. Because of this I think it ought to be foundation for life for all Christians. It is in the word that we see, learn and apply the truth, commands, wisdom of God. It should shape our world-view and it should be the truth we cling to.

Ultimately we want Jesus to be what people see – the more that comes in the more He goes out.

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45, NIV).

I just want my heart to be full of Jesus!!!

So, how has it changed my life? In a few ways over time.

First, I grew up watching my parents. They both had a disciplined reading time every morning. Every time I wanted to believe the lie that it was too hard and I couldn’t do it I just had to remember that my ADHD mother and dyslexic father have been reading, studying and living it out for over 35 years. It is possible, it just takes practice. And they didn’t just read it, they have lived lives of obedience and submission to the wisdom and instruction of the word.

I wish I would have grown up following their example but it wasn’t until college when I chose to seek and really submit my whole life to God. Through a girl’s Bible study on campus I started meeting with the leaders and one day when I told her I just didn’t have time she challenged to set my alarm 10 minutes earlier and just get out of bed and read. She said it would change my life. I just did it because she said challenge…CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!

God met me and convinced me of his love and grace through his word.

“For the word is alive and active. Sharper than any double edge sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitude of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV).

It never gets old. If you systematically read through the word then there are always fresh revelations because God is faithful and because I’m not in the same spot or circumstances of life I was last time I read this book.

I could relay so many stories of specific times God spoke to me. Sometimes it’s encouragement, sometimes correction, sometimes conviction, sometimes a instruction. Sometimes I read and I don’t hear anything specific but I can rejoice that it is true and that we are simply together and that perhaps the Holy Spirit will remind me of it at a later time when I need it. Either way it is good because it is of God.

So now is the perfect time to start! Life is not going to slow down, it is not going to be easier later. Make it a habit now. My mom always told me that if you don’t make it a habit now it will be harder to squeeze it in later, I’m not sure if she meant in the morning or that time of life, but I think they both apply. If you don’t make a concerted effort then it’s going to be hard to find time later if you don’t make it now.

Also, It’s not impossible; don’t disqualify yourself. If my parents and countless other believers around the world can do it then I am sure our good and gracious God will help you too! How lovely that our God is full of grace and wants to commune with you in His word.

God is faithful and full of grace. We don’t want to be legalistic about it. We do want to practice discipline and exercise diligence but we must remember we are not earning bonus points or love and acceptance. We do it to know Him better. And I believe He will honor our efforts.

“ ‘Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you . You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:12-14, NIV).

 So let’s ask God for a desire and hunger, for his word, for his truth, for his very presence.

“But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life”  (Jude 1:20-21, NIV).

 To be built up in our most holy faith we need to know who God is. We get that in the word of God. As we read, praying in the Holy Spirit will become second nature to us. I believe the more we’re reading the more we want to be in communication with him about what we’re learning and seeing.

My Prayer is the very words of Paul when he wrote to the to the church at Colossae.

 “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:9-14

 

So go, taste, see, enjoy, rejoice!

 

 

 

BibleReadingTogether2017


A new year with new beginnings! A fresh start. As LM Mongomery said in Anne of Green Gables, “Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it.” The anticipation of a new day in the new year has such promise and hope and I am always thankful for a new one.

As optimistic as I am, I am also fully aware that it will not be perfect. We are humans in a fallen world and there is surely failure, hurt and disappointment ahead. And that is why we need an anchor for our hope. Because the cares of the world will fight for our attention and time and head space, before we even get there I want us to be full of the truth and peace that God offers. So when life comes, we are ready and able to stand firm!

Thanks for joining me in this #Biblereadingtogether2017 I believe God will meet and speak to us through his word. I believe that he loves us so much that he will teach us, comfort us, correct us and transform us as we diligently seek him in the reading and studying of the Bible. I don’t know if you are new to this daily Bible reading or an old veteran, but I do know that no matter where we are that God is faithful to give us fresh eyes and soft hearts as he reveals himself to us.

As I’ve been praying about it this week I am sure that I want this to be about helping people enjoy and appreciate God’s word. I want to invite women into the discipline of Bible reading. I want God to meet us in his word and teach us his truth, righteousness and goodness. 

This year’s plan is similar to most my plans where we’ll go back and forth from the Old Testament to the New Testament. There’s no real rhyme or reason except that I chose books that I haven’t read since getting my new journaling Bible. I have it planned so that we’ll read one chapter a day. In the picture you’ll see the start and end date for each book.

My hope is to keep a pretty steady update on it with bible lettering via the blog’s IG account and to do a corresponding weekly devo on the blog. I would love to hear your thoughts on what we’re reading and learning; what God is speaking to you so feel free to interact via these mediums. 

I am so excited about this and will be praying for each of you as we continue through. Thanks for joining. May God bless you with His presence and may His Holy Spirit fill us and teach us this year!
Many blessings, 

Deborah Joy

Long Distance Love

Have you ever known something because you were told and taught it, but then you experience it and just like that the head knowledge becomes experiential and you realize your hardly knew what you thought you knew all along?

I grew up hearing a lot of things about God and the Bible and I believed them to be true. And sometimes, because I haven’t experienced it or find my self struggling with a concept or command I catch myself questioning if I really understand what’s being said.  

A couple of months when I was writing about growing like blueberries and understanding pruning in a new and comforting way John 15 made me consider “abiding” and reflect on how I am currently doing. 

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:9-11 (ESV)

The call to abide in God’s love caused me to evaluate my life in light of that command. 

What is abiding? How do we do it? What does it look like? How can I do it better? And how do you abide with someone you can’t even see?

I was instantly reminded of Gunnar and when we were dating. 

We met at Fresno State in spring 2005. I was finishing my last semester of undergrad and had already applied for grad school at San Diego State. He was in his third year of school and knew he had two more since he had two years of eligibility left for golf. We met at Fellowship of Christian Athletes, he was the president of the club and I was just going so my friend would stop asking. But once there I really enjoyed the study and was really impressed by the handsome leader. I started to hang out with the group more and was seeing Gunn all over campus. 

A month later we had dinner just the two of us since everyone else bailed one night then went to a local church Bible study. On the way home I thanked him for a lovely evening, asked him not to make a habit of buying my dinner and dropped a bunch of hints about moving and not needing a guy. Bless his persistent heart for not heeding any of it. 

We started dating in March knowing July meant long distance for two years. It was so much harder than I imagined! Saying good bye, moving to a new city while he got to continue life in Fresno. 

That first year in San Diego was hard. I volunteered to quit often. I was home sick and not even sure for which home. My parents’? Fresno? With Gunnar?

It was lonely. I worked 40-60 hrs a week, I was going to school and traveling with various teams as the athletic trainer. 
I had found a church that I could attend fairly regularly when I wasn’t traveling, but I wasn’t exactly making friends. 

I felt like Jesus and Gunn were my only friends and neither of them could give me the hug I so desperately wanted. 

I praise God for the new technology of texting that had recently started!
As the new school year started we started a routine of texting in the morning. Texting through out the day and maybe a phone call if we both had a few minutes at lunch. Maybe some more texting in the afternoon and then the first one ready for bed would call the other to check in, talk about day, what we read in the Bible that day, the plans for the next day. We would have a chance to talk through issues or miscommunications that happened that day and then we ended the night with prayer, where I would usually fall asleep and Gunn would call back just to say Amen.

In the first year of this we got to learn so much about each other. We talked about anything and everything. It was a time to learn each other- preferences, habits, communication and conflict style. 

The first year was tough, but as it ended it was clear that God had grown us in amazing ways; in our faith and in our relationship and communication. We asked each other a bunch a questions and wanted to hear the other’s opinion and feedback on just about everything. Did I mention I got a card in the mail every Tuesday from Gunnar? A note telling me how wonderful he thought I was, and how much he couldn’t wait to see me. It was the best!!!!

The next year was significantly easier. We got engaged that summer and the count down to not only see each other regularly but get married and BE TOGETHER began. 

Long distance was still hard but we got to learn more about ourselves and each other. We learned to anticipate each other’s needs and preferences. We got to be each other’s biggest fans and learn to say I’m sorry more often. We looked forward to every visit and every letter and every call and text. The anticipation was huge and exciting. 

That two year time was a tangible picture of what it looks like to abide. To draw near and learn, to know and love. 

I love that Jesus Christ came to earth and lived a perfect life that led many people to be interested in him. He died, rose and then went to heaven and there began the longest long distance relationship in the history of man kind. 

What does it look like for God’s people to abide? To pursue closeness, to communicate often, to learn God’s character and preferences. To ask His opinion and live for His best. To lay down your preference for the one you love. Knowing that His best is ultimately the best for me. 

Just like Gunn and I had June 23, 2007 to look forward to we have the wedding feast of Jesus and his bride, The Church, to look to with anticipation. No more long distance, no more misunderstandings or miscommunication, but real intimacy and closeness. 

As we wait we must be engaged in constant communication. Little conversations here and there, lengthy dialogue with God about things that matter. Getting to know his character, his preferences, his habits and communication style. Right now we have the opportunity to know and be known by him. He has written us letters! There is love, wisdom, truth and strength to be drawn as we meet Him in His word. 

And better than any earthly relationship we have his Holy Spirit in us. Meeting us where we are, speaking to us and empowering us to live a life of love. He tells us that it is by keeping his commands that we remain in his love and that is where our joy is made complete. 

So where am I? How am I doing at abiding? These are sometimes hard questions to ask when you know you are not thrilled about the answer. 

I am making daily time to communicate with Jesus, but it is often rushed and distracted. I am reading his word daily, but I’m not always putting forth the effort to understand it and apply it. 

Praise God that he is a God who changes hearts which then changes action. In him is forgiveness and restoration, always. I love that He offers us himself in every way. And the only thing we have to do is humble ourselves to say we want and need more. To repent of the distance we create and to re-engage in intimate communication. 

So as we live to make these truths realities in our lives may we continue to seek Jesus, to know him better as we wait for him to come and may we abide in his love, knowing that in it our joy will be complete. 

Growing like Blueberries

There are a lot of benefits of marrying into a farming family. First, it’s the fruits of their labor. I have eaten some of the best fruit in the world, blueberries especially. I have learned about different varieties and seasons and harvest schedules. I’ve learned about soil acidity and the importance of water and the necessity of pruning and training the plant.

I love learning these things because I am part of this family so I want to know and care like the rest.

As a Southern California kid removed from the world of agriculture (AG) I didn’t grow up with much thought as to where my food came from and I certainly didn’t appreciate the love and care that goes into it.

I am thankful that we got to learn by immersion when we moved to the Central Valley and Gunnar started working for his family.  My favorite part was the blueberry plants he got for our back yard- three little “snow chaser” plants. They lived in pots for a bit at first and then in the fall he planted them. That spring I was so excited to see the little flowers. Gunn explained that those sweet blooms would be where they would set fruit. You could imagine my shock and disappointment when he took them off! What the!?!?! How can I eat blueberries if you just killed their opportunity to even grow? 

Gunn said the first year they’re planted you have to strip the blooms so that the plant won’t put energy into growing fruit, but growing it’s root system as well as it’s branches and leaves. It made sense, but I didn’t like it. There was some pruning and there was work done to make sure there were not stray branches growing laterally but strong canes going up.

The next year he thinned the blooms, but let me have some fruit and oh my goodness was it awesome. Fresh blueberries right on the plant in my backyard. It wasn’t even enough for a decent cobbler but it was good for an occasional snack or to sprinkle over a bowl of vanilla ice cream, (which you should totally try).

Year three there was finally a sweet pay day! All the waiting and watering, training and pruning literally came to fruition. Those pretty little blooms, tons of them, set fruit. Little green berries grew and changed color and we got lots of ripe delicious blueberries. For the month of their harvest window we ate blueberries whenever we wanted and it it was amazing. But the most beautiful part of it was that I saw that ran a pretty similar parallel to my life.

When we moved to Visalia, we were transplanted and it was traumatic in a way. All the friendships and relationships we left were severed to an extent. Thank the Lord for technology and face time and social media to stay virtually connected. But here we were starting life all over again. It felt a bit bare and scarce emotionally and relationally. We started meeting new people, and we worked hard at this new life. Gunn and I were new parents living in a new city and we were having to set a new foundation for our home. We went deeper into God and with each other, and I see now that we were needing to put our energy into these new roots!

That next year we got to enjoy more external blessing. We bought a home. We were growing closer to the friends we made in year one. We were getting more involved in our church and in our community. It was not the involvement and intimacy we had in So Cal, but it was getting there. There was some fruit so to speak, and we enjoyed it wholeheartedly!

By year three we were feeling at home and healthy. We had another son, we felt settled and secure in so many places of our lives – family, work, community. It felt like a harvest of sorts as we were enjoying the fruits of our labor. It was such a blessing and so very sweet. And then something crazy happened. It felt like all the sudden there was some more pruning!

What the what?!?!?

Gunn started school, my closest friend moved to Scotland, we had to pull back from so many of the friendships, commitments and other things we loved. We had to reevaluate our lives and it was a little uncomfortable.

I am so thankful for the word of God that gives truth and perspective. I love that he offers us his Spirit to be our helper and comforter. As we were (and continue still) adjusting in this season of reevaluation I was reminded of John 15:1-2 where Jesus says “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

I understand he’s talking about grape vines not blueberries, but I love that sweet reminder that even good things will be pruned, not just for the sake of pruning but to bear more fruit.

John 15:4-5, goes on to say to, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Dictionary.com defines abide as a verb and gives the following definitions:
1.      to remain; continue; stay:
2.      to have one’s abode; dwell; reside:

Oh how I want this!!

The passage continues and verses 7-9 say, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”

No matter where we find ourselves in the process be it transplant, root growing, cane pushing or fruit producing the only work we really have to do is abide in the love of God. He’s the one who will do work that needs to be done.

I thought it was fascinating that as I asked Gunn about what pruning looks like on a mature plant he once again described my life. The mature canes will bear fruit for years, but then must be cut out to make room for new canes to grow and produce. The “canes” of my twenties look different from the “canes” now in my thirties. The fruitful places grow and change as life goes on.

As much as I hate change I love the hope in that. As I continue to abide in Christ I am promised that as a disciple I will bear much fruit. Though the season change, when the harvest window comes there will be sweet and beautiful fruit.

Motivation in Motherhood


 I am so thankful for this life. It’s everything I never knew I always wanted. 
I wasn’t always sure I wanted to be married and have kids. But once I met Gunnar I was sure I wanted to be his wife and have his children. 

He is a good man. A great one even. He was the first guy I met that knew his Bible as well as my brother and tried to live it out. He not only loved Jesus, but lived his life to honor him. 

Gunn is smart and caring and good at just about everything he tries. He has many gifts and abilities but he doesn’t just settle for what’s easy and comes naturally he also works really hard too. He seriously strives for excellence in every task. He is a rare gem and I am so thankful he’s mine. 

I’m really proud to be his wife and I’m so thankful we get to be best friends. 

I’m also thankful that he sees the good in me and then cheers me on in those places. He’s a good encourager and is constantly supporting me. I think we’re a really good team. I think we compliment each other well and I know that our marriage is a gift. God has blessed us so abundantly and then also helped and equipped us to work hard at it and fight for unity and peace, because those things do not come easy. 

A couple weeks ago we got to team up to share our lives and our motivation in work. It was such a pleasure and an honor. I was proud to watch him teach the Bible and hear the wisdom that God spoke through him. And then I got up to share and I felt like Gunn was both my strongest supporter and beaming teammate. I loved that He stood by me because he knew I was nervous but stayed back just a bit as if to say, “I’m here if you need me, and I’ll just admire you as you shine.” Seriously, this man is a gift from the great Giver of good things. 

If you haven’t heard it yet, then please, have a listen and be encouraged! 

http://subspla.sh/606896a

Lessons From a 4 Year Old


If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 4.5 years of parenthood, it’s that parenting is not nearly as easy as I thought it was before I had kids. 

I know God says he wants humility in his people, and I tried to live a humble life, sometimes I even felt like I was nailing it (super humble right?)! But man, oh man, nothing in life has humbled me like becoming a mom. Everything I have ever prided myself in has crashed hard in one way or another in the last 4.5 years and I’m sure there’s more to come and that is almost scary. 

I’m learning that God is faithful to build humility in us and we can either submit of our own accord, or through circumstances that might very well humiliate us, or maybe a fun combination of the two. Not because he’s a jerk and wants doormats for children but because He, being God, knows what’s best and will graciously guide us in that.

God used my sweet Evan to highlight this lesson last month. We were all set for a family outing to Lowes to pick up some outdoor furniture for our new house. The boys are usually great shoppers but five minutes in and I thought we should probably reschedule this date. Instead of listening to that wise intuition, we continued on. Fifteen minutes later I was carrying a flailing, raging 4 yr old out of the store and to the car. My mind was whirling with all the things this child deserved, none of which were good. It was only by the power of the Holy Spirit that I was able to get us to the car, him strapped in and me standing outside the running car with tears streaming down both our faces.

He had humiliated me on our way out. I’ll save you the details but be sure every person we passed seemed to look down as to not stare. He’s had these melt downs before, but not in public like this. And as I stood outside the car trying to compose myself I realized that I had always prided myself in knowing my child well enough to prevent these melt downs in public. We don’t go shopping when he’s tired, we always carry snacks for him, we prepare him by talking about expectations and what is and is not acceptable behavior before going into the store. We pray for thankful hearts and good attitudes.

Not only had I not done any of these that morning, but I also chose the opinions of others over the good of my son, and I cried for the hurt and failure of that.

Gunn had told Evan he could get a new shovel for gardening, and so he held it as he whined and complained about going home. I tried to tune out the whining and continued shopping. A few minutes later I had enough, took the shovel, returned it to it’s spot and started our walk of shame to the car. I didn’t want the people around us to think I was catering to a whiney brat, I wanted to make a point that I do not reward bad behavior.

I knew it would set him off into fight or flight. I knew we would likely have a melt down, but instead of choosing an avenue of communication to peaceful resolution I waged war in all the wrong ways. 

On the way home we talked about why he was so angry and why he lost control. God blessed him with lots of words and he was able to explain that Avery kept touching him and his shovel and it made him angry and I wasn’t listening to him and that he got confused and got angry at me because Avery was annoying him.

Selfishness, displaced anger, shouting and crying and doing everything he could to create distance. That describes me to God in so many ways. And unlike God who hears us and meets us, I had instead ignored him and then provoked him. 

He had a lot to apologize for, certainly, but I did too. As parents we get to be the most tangible example of God’s Father heart to our kids. And God often uses our kids to show us the things in our own hearts that we don’t usually see. I got to apologize to Evan and walk him through his apology to me. I got to tell him that I forgive him and that even when he makes bad choices and uses words that hurt me that I still love him. It was not easy because my hurt feelings still wanted distance, but I instead chose to pursue closeness because I really do want to love like Jesus. It was good for both our hearts.

There was forgiveness and restoration and reconciliation and it was sweet. As I continue to reflect on it I also see that lately I have made so many things work based for him, ie finish dinner then get a popsicle, clean your room then get a show, etc. And I think it’s built in both of us this frustration about having to earn, and failing to do so. It’s not like I make him earn everything, but it’s been too much and that shovel was supposed to be a gift from dad and I turned it into reward to be earned. It was just what the Judaizers in the New Testament tried to do with the Gentile Christians. Salvation is a gift but you also have to be circumcised and do these other things to really get it (Acts 15:1-11).

I am so thankful that, as Gunn often says, failure isn’t fatal and it isn’t final. God’s grace is always bigger than our failure and he’s not standing there ready to strike, but waiting to forgive and restore as soon as we humble ourselves and confess and repent

Parenthood is freaking hard, and I am sure God has so many more lessons for me. But I trust that like a good parent He gives me only so much at one time as to not completely overwhelm me. He will do what is necessary to build me up, to train and teach me in a way I can understand. I love that He gets down to my level and helps me all along the way. 

That afternoon, I asked Ev if he wanted to just hang out with me. I told him we needed to buy brother’s birthday gift. I asked him if he wanted a do over for shopping with a good attitude and a thankful heart. He said yes and we had an amazing afternoon, with donuts and Starbucks to top it off! Ah, sweet redemption!

So friends, be encouraged that our Good Father is doing good work in us and is using us to build his kingdom in the next generation!

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