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Monthly Archives: December 2015

Finding Purpose, Place and Peace in the New Year

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2015 was new, crazy, challenging, a bit here, there and everywhere.

In January and February, I was empty, then filled. My husband was sick, then sick some more.

In March and April, I was incredibly inspired, then incredibly humbled.

In May, I started fresh again.

In June, I was hopeful, then spirit crushed.

In July, I said no to one thing, then yes to two others.

In August, I was completely confused, then crystal clear.

In September, I started dashing like a mad woman.

October, too.

By November, I was sure of myself, then totally unsure of myself.

I started working hard, really hard trying to prove myself, my worth, my existence on this planet. I circled, round and round, then round some more. I started seeing everyone else and their place, but couldn’t see where I fit. I wasn’t the dentist nor the hygienist, the assistant nor the billing specialist. I wasn’t the teacher nor the aide, the secretary nor the principal. I wasn’t the server nor the manager, the clerk nor the cashier. I wasn’t the business woman or corporate ladder climber, the 9-5’er nor the stay-at-homer. I wasn’t the plumber or electrician, the postal worker or swim instructor. I wasn’t a pastor or preacher, a small group leader or a youth worker. I wasn’t an awesome mom or a horrible mom, a pool mom, a room mom, a snow sledding mom, or an awesome-at-remembering-to-give-Christmas-gifts-to-teachers kind of mom. I wasn’t an income-earning wife or deadbeat wife, nor was I earning much of any income kind of wife. I wasn’t a practicing speech-language therapist anymore, but I had the credentials and experience to say I was. I wasn’t a real photographer, but I wasn’t a phony either. I wasn’t a journalist, an author, or a highly-known blogger, and I wasn’t sure I was really cut out for this writing business but I wasn’t really sure I was cut out for anything else either. I wasn’t a missionary in real life, but I totally was in my heart.

I was lost, but so sure.

Confident, but totally not.

I knew, but I didn’t know at all.

Yes lost, but finding?

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In December, I found myself. In Africa. In Kenya. At Shangilia Orphanage. In huts. In the slums. I found myself holding tiny orphan hands, strolling down red roads and garbage-littered roads, slipping unexpectedly in piles of cow dung, and traversing narrow walkways. I found myself wide awake to drums and chanting, crying to God in the middle of the night. I found myself feeling beautiful. I found myself in two little boys I loved like a mama. I found myself kneeling naked to receive a morning trickle of a shower. I found myself in flowing dresses and pant-skirts and rugged lace headbands. I found myself in the middle of the mess. I found myself thousands of miles from home. I found myself thousands of miles from all the loved ones I’d ever known. I found myself near to loved ones He’s always known. I found myself exactly where I expected to find myself. I found myself where God expected me to find myself. I found peace.

I didn’t plan to go to Africa in 2015. Nor did I plan to go anytime soon. But I always dreamed it. I always knew it would happen.

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Two years ago, I stopped dead in my tracks. I stopped the blogging madness and took time in solitude to reflect on all that had been, all that could be from there on out. I wasn’t writing resolutions. I was articulating visions, dreams and callings that had been mulling in my brain for years. It took 15 pages of writing to get it all out, to get to the point.

I didn’t know IF or WHEN any of it would happen. But I wrote it all down. I needed to. My heart said yes. It’s time to acknowledge the dreams of my heart, God’s dreams for my life.

Among those words were these…

Dirty during the day. Dressy at night.

15 pages of spewing led to that revelation, that vision of my future. Vague to others, clear enough to me.

In Africa and when I returned home to several long dresses and skirts that needed to be hand scrubbed because they were so dirty on the bottom, I knew God had begun fulfilling the vision I’d scribbled in a journal two years ago.

Dirty during the day. Dressy at night.

I sensed it in my heart.

This is the beginning.

I let those dresses and skirts sit on the laundry room floor for 2 1/2 weeks before I scrubbed them. I wanted to remember, to grasp, to literally SMELL God’s provision in my own two hands. I’m weird, I know. I needed to know with all my heart that through all the floundering, God’s been working something out in me this year.

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I was flip-floppy. He said, I’m working my plan.

I was insecure. He said Be secure in me.

I needed to prove my worth. He said Accept my grace.

I didn’t fit anywhere anymore. He said I’m making a way.

I wanted to know what was going to happen. He said Trust me.

I couldn’t find my place in this world. He said Be not conformed to this world.

I thought the invitation to Africa was pretty much a joke. He said It’s time to get dirty. It’s time to love and be loved, beloved. Let me show you a homeland for your heart.

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As I edit this, there’s only 10 hours left of 2015. For six days now, I’ve sensed the dead space, the quiet before what’s next. In this limbo between one year and the next, it’s tempting to become hopeless, bored and withdrawn. It’s tempting to believe God’s done with us, that nothing more could be accomplished through our lives. It’s tempting to be fearful, afraid, peeking ’round every corner wondering which shoe will drop next. It’s tempting to control, manipulate and plan every resolution, leaving little room for God’s provision. It’s tempting to believe we’re less than, less than capable, less than everyone else, less than worthy of anything and everything on this moving mass called earth. It’s tempting to shut down. It’s tempting to ramp up the volume and manipulate facts, figures and details to our liking. It’s tempting to stop believing. It’s tempting to believe we have power, control and authority over every minute of our lives, over all of heaven and earth. It’s tempting to adopt crazes and follow masses this way and that. It’s tempting to give up, give in. It’s tempting to take control, take over.

But we mustn’t.

We mustn’t succumb.

God is at work.

His plans are unfolding. For me. For you.

He has a purpose, a place and peace for us that passes all understanding.

We must be patient.

In the meantime, let’s “Work like it depends on us [and] pray like it depends on God.” – Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker

This year, I intend to dream big and pray boldly about dirty during the day. God’s given me a good hunch about the work I need to do for dressy at night. And believe me, there’s a whole lot of life that fits in between and all around those two sentences that’ll need plenty of praying and trusting, working and believing for.

View More: http://kimdeloachphoto.pass.us/allume2014

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So how about you?

If you took time, real time, to honor the life God’s given you and write it all down….

What would you resolve to believe next year?

What are your dreams, your visions? How bold are they?

What will you work for like it depends on you?

What will you pray for like it depends on God?

What’s next, friend?

What are you trusting for?

God’s got this. He has it all. He’s bringing us through. He’s bringing us to.

We’re here for a reason. Let’s live like it.

pinksig

You’re Almost There

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In loving memory of Olivia and Steve. In honor of their families.

Music’s pulled me through the two weeks between Africa and Christmas. It’s fitting that the only post I visioned for Christmas is inspired by song.

Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant’s rendition of “Almost There” caught me off guard this week. I’d almost forgotten I’d heard it and loved it before. This time it was fresh, inspired, divinely grand – more than before.

I’ve been thinking about you…and me.

We’re almost there.

You’re almost there.

Christmas.

It’s a promise of love. A promise of light, life and better days ahead. A promise of a Savior, Jesus. A promise of eternal hope that exceeds all earthly hopes. A promise that our pain is temporary, absolutely incomparable to the glory yet to be revealed. A promise that we can surrender and receive the gift of grace, no strings attached.

I could’ve mustered a light-hearted post, a Christmas giveaway post or a “Christmas Wishes for You” post. I could’ve skipped a Christmas post, just forgotten about it this year. I could’ve counted my sister’s words as my Christmas post and left it at that. I could’ve decided or written just about anything, really. But my heart of heart’s telling me a whole lot of people are hurting, hopeless, lonely, overwhelmed, and seeking something more this Christmas.

Sure, not everyone.

But many.

We’re hiding in the woodwork, aren’t we?

Hiding.

Waiting.

For someone to acknowledge. For someone to tell us…you’re almost there. You’ve got this, friend. You’re going to make it.

And your life? It’s brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. You’re here for a reason, a purpose. You’re part of a grand design, an epic story you can’t even begin to wrap your mind around.

Keep pressing on, friend.

You’re almost there.

It’s Christmas.

Your promise.

Your hope.

Your firm foundation.

The place and peace you’ve been waiting for.

You’re almost there, friend. You’re almost there.

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To the ones who lost their spouse this year, I see you. Whether your spouse’s death came tragically and senselessly, or you knew it was coming for years and years, it hurts all the same. Who knows WHY, HOW, or NOW? Only God, dear ones. Only God. Surround yourself with loved ones. Rest. Believe. Seek peace. Absolutely, without a doubt, cry when you need to. Know you were and are loved. Deeply. Wholeheartedly. Unconditionally. You are a fighter. You are a lover, a believer. Keep pressing on, friend. Life’s waiting for you. We’re here for you.

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To the ones who felt lonely this year, I see you. Life’s demanding. Fast paced. Achievement oriented. Life leaves little time for relationship. Friend, if you’ve been lonely, take heart. Believe you’re worthy of pursuit, friendship and love. Reach out. Let someone know you’re not doing this alone, you can’t do this alone. Let your heart come undone. Be vulnerable. Take a risk. If someone strikes your fancy, make sure they know. “Hey, can we chat?” Or “Hey, you wanna go get coffee?” Let that guard down. Be a little vulnerable next year. Show your colors, friend. Start a friendship and relationship revolution. And when all else fails, turn to God. Tell him you’re lonely, trust Him to fill the void with Himself, with others.

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To the ones who lost a child this year, I see you. Why was her life taken so soon, God? Why? We don’t understand. We don’t know why. Why show us the glimmer, the hope of a life filled with promise, then take her sweet soul home well before the timeline we deem satisfactory? To you, oh you, I see you. I don’t even begin to fathom your pain this Christmas, your love and your loss. Nobody will ever fill your sweet baby’s spot at the Christmas table. You don’t ever need to take down that stocking. That special spot, that special place she held in your heart and your life, it’s reserved for her and her alone. You move on, yes. Life goes on, yes. But your precious baby’s spirit lives on, too. Through your living. Through your being brave. Through your fragility, your vulnerability. Through your strength. Through your living example of what it means to trust and believe you’ll meet again, you’ll embrace again, you’ll be together again. And in the meantime, love like your heart’s on fire. Together or separated for now, LOVE.

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To the ones sick and in forever limbo this year, I see you. If one thing’s for sure, you’ve been through a lot. While you’ve frequented clinics, hospitals and ERs, the world’s gone on. Sometimes it seems nobody sees, nobody knows the full extent of your pain, your half-living, half-dying life. Nobody knows the steps you’ve taken, the places you’ve limped, the ground you’ve wheeled. Only you, my friend, know what it’s like to live and know this life is truly temporary. I’ve not been sick, my friend, but I see you. I honor you. Lift your head high. Conquer that illness. Live fearlessly. Live each day like it’s your last. Be loved. Love. Trust that better days are ahead. Teach us how to fight the good fight.

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To the ones wandering blankly through life, I see you. I saw you in Target yesterday, friend. Your eyes were empty. You barely saw me. You’re empty, friend. Life’s taken it out of you. You’re literally wandering, wondering, lost. I’m not sure if you even know, friend. I’m not sure you’re aware. I want to enter your world, stop you in your tracks. Stop moving, friend. Stop going. Stop trying all the things to fill the void. Stop believing you’re a robot. Friend, you’re so much more than this. So much more. You’re so much more than productivity, accomplishment and achievement. You’re so much more than your actions, your decisions, your duties and daily delights. Stop, friend. See. Be. Live. Connect. Look into someone’s eyes. Feel something, anything. Cry. Release it all. Sit down, friend. You are MORE THAN THIS. Take in the beauty. See the sights. Rest. You are not a machine. Life is better than it’s been. Take heart, friend. Take ahold of your heart. Open your eyes. I want to see your eyes. I want to see your soul. Wipe our eyes, God, so we can see. And be. All you want us to be.

We’re almost there, friends.

You’re almost there.

Christmas.

The promise of Jesus, a Savior.

The promise of love and peace and joy that passes all understanding.

To Mary, I see you. You’re carrying Him, baby Jesus. He who has…shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.”  (Isaiah 9:4-7) Thank you for pondering these things in your heart. Thank you.

You’re almost there.

We’re almost there.

To God, our Heavenly Father, I see you. Thank you. For sending Jesus. For creating us. For releasing us from death, sin, loneliness, fear and pain. For giving us hope. For extending grace when we least deserve it and most need it. For living in us so we might see truth and life. For living in us so we can shine and be a light unto the world. For bringing and being beauty amidst our earthly existence. For everything, yes, everything. Thank you.

You’re almost here.

You’re here.

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Gayle Gilbertson - Thanks Amy! You write beautifully.December 28, 2015 – 4:58 am

Judy Sandberg - Thank you, Amy.December 26, 2015 – 10:51 pm

Giving. Receiving. Charity and Love.

This is a guest post written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Once a month, Tiffany documents a single day in her life. The purpose of these posts is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness. I’m also hoping the posts will help readers recognize that we all have hopes, dreams, challenges and mountains to climb regardless of our mental health status. If you’d like to read the posts I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the guest posts she’s shared on this blog, check out the mental health page. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.

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I started to feel the Christmas spirit a few weeks ago. Sometimes the world tries to knock it out of you, but I still believe. Personally, I feel that whether a believer or not, the spirit is in us all. All the hustle and bustle over Christmas comes down to Jesus who was born on Christmas day.

I started to hear the Christmas tunes playing around Christmas. I felt something spiritual while listening to that music. Now, just days before Christmas, I turn the radio up super loud and just listen. This season shall pass, but the spirit should remain.

Giving and receiving during the holidays has been important to me the last several years. We exchanged names for Christmas this year. My dad got my name, so I had fun telling him what I wanted from the outlet shops in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I’m getting a bunch of Nike stuff. My dad was in South Carolina for his health. He hopes to be put on the lung transplant list. The process is long, and he must continue to take care of himself in all ways. Having him pick out my gifts this year was extra special and added to the spirit in my heart. I have my mom this year for the gift exchange. She does more than enough to help each and every day. I attempted to put heart and soul into the gifts I selected for her. I hope she likes them! Giving is just as important as receiving!

I signed up for the toy drive through the Salvation Army, a truly amazing program for kids whose families need a little extra help. My mental health worker usually comes with me to pick up the gifts. Bags lined the room when we walked in. I recognized other people from the area. Raegan got a scooter two years in a row, a three-wheel scooter last year and a two-wheel scooter this year. I asked my mental health worker who the toy drive is targeted at. Should I be doing this? My kids get enough, right? She told me the toy drive is for families like mine whose parents don’t have a very high income, for people who want to do a little bit extra for their kids.

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Another way our family celebrated the holidays was attending a Christmas dance show that my daughter, Raegan, participated in. For the past few years, I volunteered during the shows, but this year I stayed in the audience with my mom. The show was great, Raegan was great, and I felt the holiday spirit.
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Another way we celebrated Christmas was by making a gingerbread house at Raegan’s school. Parents were invited. I had been feeling fairly depressed during this holiday season and wasn’t feeling the best that day, so I brought my son, Xander, to daycare for the afternoon. I may not have helped Raegan as much as I should have, but I made it there. The smile on her face when I walked into the room brightened my day for sure!
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To get into the Christmas spirit I always used to listen to Amy Grant’s Christmas CD. This year, my siblings and I bought my parents tickets to an Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith concert. My dad couldn’t go because he was in South Carolina, so I went with my mom. The day consisted of dinner and Christmas lights with my brother and his girlfriend. Then the show! I got to spend some quality time with my mom and much needed time in a bigger city. The talent of some people is amazing. I focused on the lovers and pretty people all over. I tend to compare myself to others too often, but I need to realize that we are all on our own unique path. After the concert, I spent a few minutes on the streets. I got to practice my love of street photography. The night was a cherished holiday event and memories that will last forever.
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Even if I don’t feel much emotion all the time, I know what love is from experiencing it from family, friends and strangers. I look back on this holiday season and consider it a success. If you’re feeling lonely during this time, know you’re always in someone’s heart.

Our family looks forward to celebrating Jesus’ birth on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. The month long preparations and concerts we’ve been participating in has my family excited about celebrating with family and friends. Merry Christmas!

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Doreen Auger - Well “spoken”! Sending wishes of Christmas Blessings to you and your family!!!!!!December 24, 2015 – 2:58 am

Sandi Bishop - Thank you for sharing from your heart Tiffany. May you and your family have a blessed Christmas.December 23, 2015 – 7:43 pm

David Carol Cave - Merry Christmas Tiffany…..beautiful blog!!!!December 23, 2015 – 4:52 pm

Angela Hanlon - Tiffany, this is so beautiful and well-written. I know, from working with your mom, how proud she is of you and how much she enjoys spending quality time with you. The pictures of your little girl are so cute, and make me think if what you looked like when you were that little. You and your family are in my prayers. I hope you have good, good days during the holidays, and can truly enjoy your family! :)December 23, 2015 – 3:39 pm

Nicole Marie Newfield - So beautifully written. The first two paragraphs just drew me in. You have a talent for writing! My sister and I also used to listen to the Amy Grant Christmas CD and she also plays it on the piano still. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas!December 23, 2015 – 3:22 pm

Tom Baunsgard - Nice Post Tiffany! Merry Christmas!December 23, 2015 – 3:08 pm

Africa. The Untold Stories.

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“…all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”  –Psalm 139:16

I’ve already published 10 posts about my trip to Africa. Technically, the series is complete. But my heart knows you haven’t heard the whole story.

I’ve been holding a lot inside, handling memories tenderly, delicately and dear. I’ve been debating and waiting to discern what to share and what to guard close – for me, for my heart, for God, for always.

Africa. So many untold stories.

Africa. So much of my heart.

Africa. So NOT a passing phase or craze.

Africa. The place I found peace that passes understanding.

May I be so bold to say…

Africa. A homeland for my heart.

I was called so long ago, I don’t recall when or why I ever wanted to go to Africa in the first place. He knew. He ordained those days, these days, with wildfire in His belly, with a passion and love so beautiful. He waited this long, then brought me to and through this fast, then wrestled me to the ground this deep, then expanded my heart so big it wanted to jump out and flood all over the place.

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My heart, it cries long and deep and wide, WHY?

Why this great love, this great peace, this great purpose and place?

Why Africa?

Why so far?

Why must they be there, and I be here?

Why attach me, God, then pull me away?

Why the love?

Why the loss?

Why now?

Why split my heart between here and there?

And HOW…

How God?

How are you going to take this heart, so full of love for Africa, and reconcile it with a heart so full of love for family and my grounding place in America?

How will you reconcile this, God?

How in the world are you going to do this, and where in the world are you going to take this next, God?

I’m not angry, God.

I’m rejoicing and mourning simultaneously.

How God, can this be?

Thank you, God.

Thank you for this, this Africa place.

Thank you for William. And Juma. My boys. My heart. What to do, God? What to do? For red shirts and orange flip flops, for long walks holding hands down the dirt road, for a head on my heart and a prayer request I can’t answer, for a hug so long and so big my heart wants to pop open, God. Oh why, God? The love so deep. The mourning so deep. When, God? When will I see them again?

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Thank you for the mid-night revelation. For things only you needed me to see, only you needed me to hear. You are so loving, God. Thank you. For only a God who knows me most intimately would wake me mid-night in tears, in Africa, to resolve this pain, this unknown matter of the heart there’s only one answer to. Thank you for the words I needed to hear, the words I needed to write, the words I needed to remember, the words I needed now, the words I needed a long time coming. I understand WHY you brought me to Africa. My heart knows. My heart has peace. Thank you for a beautiful heart revelation.

Thank you for the day I felt more loved and beautiful than I had in a very long time. Thank you again for the mid-night revelation that allowed me to feel so.

Thank you for rain, pouring rain. Thank you for a preacher who preached it when I needed it. Thank you for letting me stand out there, soaking wet and not caring for a second. Thank you for forcing my guard down. Thank you for a hand to hold. Thank you for making me weak. Thank you for sitting me among orphans. Oh God, that was so good.

Thank you for sending prayers over me. Prayers I didn’t know I needed. Prayers I knew I needed but never knew how to ask for. Prayers so powerful I could feel your presence and release right there, right then, right now. Prayers I didn’t think I deserved. Prayers.

Thank you for that worship, that tender place where I was invited in, yet again, with the orphans. Thank you for frailty, for breaking me, for bringing me to a place of nothingness and absolutely everything all at once. Thank you for stripping my pride. Thank you for drawing me in and reminding me who I am. Thank you for singing over me in song I understand.

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Thank you for a woman who showed me friendship, for going deep in seconds, for jumping the gun with wild abandon. “I like you,” she said, just minutes into our conversation. You saw, God. You saw. You know what I like. You know what I need. Thank you for showing me what my heart has been longing for. Thank you for putting it out there so there was never a doubt. Thank you for held hands and “smart” shoes. Thank you for verifying and double verifying your plans for me. Thank you for revealing your heart for me and women around the globe.

Thank you for fireflies in the field.

Thank you for prompting me to bring that coral dress, that coral sweatshirt, and that white wrap right before closing that last bag at home. Thank you for prompting me to pray over those clothes that last night at the orphanage. Thank you for sending the girl whose clothing it’d be, the random girl on the long dirt road between sides of the orphanage. She wasn’t from the orphanage, I’d never seen her, but I knew, YOU knew, God, she was the one. You saved that dress, those clothes all week for HER. She skipped with joy and I’ll never see her again. But you, God. Oh you. You saw. You knew her heart would leap. Thank you, God. This gift, it’s too good, so good.

Thank you, God, for drawing my attention to the hut between the two sides of the orphanage. Thank you for drawing that little girl with Down syndrome to me. Thank you for confirming, yet again, that my intuition, my gut can be trusted. Someone important was there, someone important is there, someone extra special’s there. Bring me back, God. Bring me back so I can talk to her, so I can see her again. Bring me back so I enter in, see what she loves, see what she does, see who loves her much.

Thank you, God, for Karen and Helen, for John who loves Jesus, and Godwill’s example of faith and trust.

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Thank you for shoes. Thank you for providing funds before the need became apparent and pressed, pressed, pressed on my heart. Thank you for Jodi’s donation of shoes, shoes and more shoes. Thank you for another walk down that long dirt road with those old orange shoes. Thank you for showing me you’d had enough of those old shoes, God. He couldn’t walk a second longer. He had to take that one off, God. He couldn’t. You couldn’t do it anymore. Not one more step in those shoes. Thank you, God, for showing me with 100% certainty that your heart was my heart. Thank you, God, for socks and underwear, for dignity for girls in poverty, for revealing your heart to me TIME and TIME and TIME and TIME again. “I needed clothes and you clothed me…” God, thank you for making yourself oh so clear. You press and you press, and you press and press again. The gentleness and beauty with which you reveal your plans has not gone unnoticed, God. May I be your hands and feet.

Thank you for the ride back to the airport, for the silence, the music, the warmth, peace and love, the tender last grip of Shangilia, Kenya, Africa. Thank you for the song that’s on replay, the song that reminds me of the peace I felt, the place I found.

Thank you, God, for baby wipes in the airport. Thank you for tears unhinged, unbridled, unmanaged. Thank you for words whispered softly to my heart as I wiped the week’s dirt away….”I’ll never remove the Africa stain from your heart.” Never. You said never. I trust you, God. I believe you. I know it’s true.

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Thank you for answering prayers for peace. Thank you for peace that passed all understanding. Thank you for bringing me to a place where I felt more comfortable and centered in my own skin than I’d ever before. Thank you for that, God. I needed to know what that felt like. It was so good, God. Thank you. Thank you for helping me acknowledge my peace out loud to three at the table. Thank you for helping me recognize peace when I felt it. Thank you and please bring a piece of that peace here, would you God?

Thank you, God, for the stories left untold. Thank you for the nearest and the dearest. Thank you for piecing things together, for revealing your truth in subtle, beautiful and bold ways. Thank you for showing me your heart. Thank you for opening my heart. Thank you for reaching across the divide. Thank you for standing with me, knowing me, understanding me, being still with me, serving me and protecting me. Thank you, God, for answered prayers. Thank you, God, for Africa.

pinksig

 

 

 

Kenya_smallbuttonThis blog post is part of a series I’m writing about my journey to Kenya, Africa, with the nonprofit organization, Love for Kenya, in the fall of 2015. Click here and you’ll be directed to the landing page where you can read ALL the posts from the series. If you haven’t already, read the post I wrote when I announced the trip. Otherwise, scroll to the bottom and you’ll find ALL the Kenya posts listed and linked for your reading enjoyment. Thanks for joining the journey, friends.

Tricia Wells Olson - No words, amy! Just eyes filled with tears as I read your words, your heart and Gods love for Africa! This is by far my favorite post from you…feeling like I’m there with you and I love each one of these special gifts from God that you have touched, that God has loved from the beginning…even though I have not met even one of them! Thank you, Amy, for being Gods hands, His feet, His heart!!! And most of all…THANK YOU GOD!!!December 19, 2015 – 2:45 pm

A Tumor. A Piano. Princesses. And Waiting.

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At this point, I can’t remember how many times we’ve been to Mayo Clinic since Seth’s initial diagnosis of choroidal melanoma (eye cancer) 11 1/2 months ago. Let’s just say we’ve been to Mayo a lot in 2015, so much so it’s almost like a second home. During our most recent visit in August, we received the good news that the tumor in Seth’s eye had shrunk 12% from its original measurements in January 2014.

Monday, we woke well before the crack of dawn to get ready for another trip to Mayo. Seth had a long day of appointments ahead, eight to be exact.

We found before and after school childcare for our two oldest, but didn’t have care for our youngest, Maisie, so we decided to bring her with us this time. It’s not ideal to bring a near four year old to Mayo for a day of appointments, but if there’s one thing I learned when she accompanied us for 3-4 days of appointments last January, it’s that a preschooler is sure to be a blessing to patients, caregivers and doctors alike. So we brought her.

The first of Seth’s eight appointments was blood work, so we headed straight there. The line was CRAZY long, the longest we’ve seen at Mayo by a landslide. We had to wait a good 20 minutes in line before Seth checked in. Apparently, Christmas and blood work go hand in hand.

The waiting room was loaded with patients. Crazy full.

Lots of waiting going on in the waiting room. No surprises there, I guess.

Maisie broke out some Peppermint Muddy Buddy’s Chex Mix along with the new Disney Clip Princesses she received at her birthday party last weekend, and played until her heart was content. She managed to entertain a few folks behind her, too.

Why not break out the princesses? Why not?

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Seth was called in for blood work. At that point, we were already 25 minutes late for his 9:00 a.m. CT scan, but we didn’t bother with asking or calling ahead to let them know we were still coming. Mayo time typically runs late, but everything works itself out by the end of the day.

We waited until Seth was called in for his CT scan, then Maisie and I headed to subway level to hang by the piano in hopes of some music. (If you’ve read ANY of my Mayo posts, you know I’m in LOVE with this piano.)

No pianist had arrived, but we still had hope.

We got great seats, chairs two and three down from the piano bench. Charlie got one of the best two seats in the house, right next to the bench. Then there was the lady on the other side. Charlie and the other lady, they were regulars here. Much more regular than us. Charlie’s been battling cancer all over his body for two years straight. He’s lived in a local hotel since May. He’d clearly become friends with the woman on the other side of the bench. I never learned her story, but she’s been at Mayo quite a while, too. She leaves her camper here, in fact. At $60 for 2 months in spring and summer, it’s way cheaper than a hotel.

I got to know Charlie.

Maisie got to know Charlie.

“I like to be up here,” said Charlie.

I like to be down here.

Perhaps Charlie and I were a bit kindred.

“You think Jane’s coming soon?” said Charlie.

“Yep, that’s what we’re hoping for, I replied without a second’s delay.

Jane’s the lead pianist here at Mayo Clinic. I’ve written about her before. I’ve seen her perform here more than once. There’s something special about that woman, and since Seth gave us permission to wander during his long CT appointment, I wanted every second to catch a chance at seeing Jane again.

Before long, Jane arrived. Ahhh, yes. Jane and her beautiful, delightful, one-of-a-kind, patient and caregiver ministering, piano-playing gift.

“How Great Thou Art” was first. Jane on piano. Then a male singer arrived and they performed it all over again for an even larger crowd.

“That was incredible. Totally worth being here for that,” proclaimed Charlie. I agreed. Totally agreed.

A bunch of Christmas tunes.

Happy Birthday and The Itsy Bitsy Spider for Maisie.

Marine Hymn for a veteran on the other side.

Over the Rainbow with an impromptu solo from the elderly woman on second floor.

Wow. Just wow.

And then there was Jane, always Jane and her wandering eyes. Scanning patients, caregivers, doctors and passers by to intuit their mood, the tunes that would best lift their spirits and meet their needs today…now.

I watched Jane watch them. I watched them. Then I watched Jane watch them again. What can I learn from this great, wise woman? This is the most amazing gift I’ve had the pleasure to witness again and again and again. To minister to a “revolving audience” so profoundly? Wow. Just wow. This is a gift worth cultivating. I get this, admire this, and could totally nurture this kind of art.

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After a long while of listening, Seth texted he was done and appeared at subway level. I invited him to sit, listen. We had more than two hours before his afternoon of six appointments.

Maisie made friends with Stephen, another Mayo pianist who sat on my other side. Pretty princesses broke the ice between Stephen and Maisie. By the time daddy arrived, Maisie had made herself comfortable on the ground and invited daddy to join in play.

They played.

We listened to Jane.

Daddy grew weary of princesses just in time for a little patient with sparkly, red shoes to approach and show interest. Her mama prompted her with the words to say, the actions to take. The red-shoed girl wasn’t sure about these princesses, but she knew one thing. They were worth a stop to play.

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A woman arrived to sing. Stephen joined for a duet. Jane played on.

Before long, it was time for the little girl to go.

An elderly couple was our cue to go. They needed seats. We needed lunch.

Cafeteria food sufficed before a walk to the other side of Mayo for more waiting.

A concert! Who knew? We were looking for quiet, but instead found a crowd, cameras and Christmas carols.

We listened. And Maisie made fast friends with “grandma and grandpa” to my left. Wouldn’t you know, those princesses came in mighty handy. “Grandma” invited Maisie closer, wishing to see Cinderella, Rapunzel and Ariel. I do have to admit, however, that when “grandma and grandpa” left, the man down the way wasn’t so interested in princess play.

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Finally, back up to 7th floor for an afternoon of six, back-to-back appointments.

We decided there was no use for me to join Seth for appointments since we had Maisie, so he went in and we continued to wait in the main waiting room.

The receptionist noticed us waiting and brought Maisie a Santa coloring page, stickers and crayons. Maisie colored her page and the receptionist hung it high on the wall behind check in.

Seth returned. There was a LOT more waiting for his next appointment. He was called in at 2:50 for his 1:50 appointment.

Maisie broke out the princesses. She lined them on the ground, made castles out of leftover sticker backs, had them hop over pop bottles and jump on sticker-back lily pads, then lined them on chairs and tables. Those princesses did just about everything. Rest assured, they entertained more than just Maisie. A patient’s wife, an elderly couple and an amputee all smiled and enjoyed the afternoon entertainment.

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We waited and waited and waited some more.

Maisie played and played princesses until her heart was content.

YouTube videos presented an opportunity for a blanket break.

3:26. I’d lost my sense of purpose, but Maisie still claimed hers. She was back up, bringing smiles and joy to the receptionist, patients and caregivers.

3:46. Still waiting. The receptionist left. Maisie was hot and bored. We changed her into short sleeve. “Where’s dad?” she asked.

3:48. Received a text from Seth. He was done with eye photography and waiting for ultrasound examinations. The waiting room had cleared notably at this point.

4:13. Still waiting. In 3-year-old boredom, we’d moved to the other side of the waiting room for a change of pace. Standing now.

4:20. Still waiting. I caught Maisie jumping off a waiting room chair, so we’re wandering the halls now.

4:30. Still waiting. Camped in the hallway. No word from Seth since 3:48.

4:33. Text from Seth. He was back in the small waiting area and invited us to join him since it was quiet back there. We decided to take a chance at me and Maisie joining him for his last and most important appointment with “Dr. G.”

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4:43. Finally in “Dr. G’s” exam room.

This was the first time we’d ever brought a child into a visit with Dr. G. We weren’t sure how it’d go, but it went swimmingly well.

Dr. G arrived. He got straight to business. “You’re doing very well,” he exclaimed. “The CT scan is clear, the tumor is shrinking.” He gave Seth a hug and joked “So what are you doing here?!”

Dr. G met Maisie and noticed her bag of Princesses promptly. To my surprise, he even gave Princess Ariel a whirl, picking her up, gliding her on the floor, and bringing her outside the exam room to show a colleague in the hallway.

He returned in a flash, gave Maisie her princess, and got back to work. (As the mom, I was delighted and relieved to know our daughter wasn’t a burden in this typically very serious examination room.)

Dr. G took a second look through the eye photography, and a first look through the ultrasounds.

Tumor was initially measured at 4.8 mm in January 2015.

Down to 4.1 – 4.3 mm in August 2015.

Tumor measuring 3.8 – 4.0 mm today, December 14, 2015.

A 20% REDUCTION in tumor size since initial diagnosis nearly 11 months ago.

Dr. G was pleased. The tumor continues to shrink. He’ll see us again in EIGHT months. EIGHT MONTHS. Wow. If that’s not a sign of good news, I don’t know what is.

Thanks, y’all, for following our journey through my husband’s eye cancer. I won’t be writing with updates again until our next appointment in August 2016.

So long, farewell. May health and peace be with you in 2016.

pinksig

 

 

 

This blog post is part of a series I’m writing about our journey through my husband’s eye cancer. If you’d like to read the rest of the posts in the series, click here and you’ll be connected to the first post I published about our journey. All posts in the eye cancer series are listed and linked at the bottom of that post for your convenience. You can also access the series anytime by clicking the apple picture on the right sidebar of my blog’s home page at divineinthedaily.com.

Tom Baunsgard - Great News and a really nice post Amy! Blessings Abound! This good news is a wonderful Christmas Gift!December 16, 2015 – 6:00 pm