Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tis The Season.....

Remember that phrase...."Tis the season to be jolly?"  You know, in the "fa-la-la-la-la" Christmas song?  I was thinking today that, while many people enjoy this time of year, there are many, many others who find that this time of year is not so, well, "jolly."  As everything around us is screaming for us to be happy (the decorations, the music, the craziness of it all), many people start feeling isolated and alone in their pain (after all, it's bad enough to feel sad or down about is even worse when everyone is all jolly around you).  Sadly, Christmas can rub salt in the wounds of grief, stress, financial strain, relational issues, etc etc....  For many, Christmas can be a marker of yet another year of pain..... 

But I don't think this whole season is necessarily supposed to be about happiness and being "jolly."  I think there is a side of Christmas that is a bit more "un-jolly?"--a side of the holiday that connects deeply with our suffering....and that is the season of Advent.  We talk about Christmas as though it is this entire season--but really, in it's purest definition, Christmas is December 25th.  Everything else leading up to the 25th is actually the Season of Advent.

And Advent is about waiting....but not waiting, like, for a bus...but the kind of waiting that is consumed with intense longing......
Advent is about the longing for Christ, the Messiah.  Longing for the one thing that will triumph over pain and suffering. Longing for the hope that has been promised.  Many people might say, "well, hey, Jesus was the wait is over and we should all be happy!"

Yes...and No.  Advent recalls a time before Christ was born - we remember how Christ's birth was anticipated.... and we can be filled with joy and hope that Christ was born!  but Advent is also a time for us to remember that we are, now, waiting for Christ's return - we are waiting, with longing, for sin and suffering to be completely removed from our vocabulary.

So, to all those who feel some (or a lot) of pain this season - I want to encourage you that this is YOUR season!  This season isn't meant for the blissfully happy, "I-have-got-it-all-together" kind of people...this season is for the sick, the broken hearted, the weary....  This season recognizes the hurt and pain and loneliness and longing that you feel.  This season of Advent recognizes that we are still, in some ways, waiting....

But the beauty of Advent is that it finds its resolution in Christmas. Christ has come and Christ will come again.  Christ has the final word in our suffering.  Christmas reminds us to, even in our pain, wait with expectant hope because Christ IS coming.

If you are feeling sad or lonely or lost this Advent/Christmas season - remember that Christ has come that you might have life...and have it to the full..Christmas celebrates this fact. And take joy and comfort in that.  But remember that His work is on-going and, at this time, there is still suffering in this world because there is still sin in this world.  But just as God was in complete control of the timing of Christ's birth - He is in complete control of the timing of His return and the final end to sin's presence in our lives.  God has this crazy world fully in his control. So even in your pain and sadness, know that it all fits within an eternal framework of hope and peace....and we may have to wait now for complete relief....but the end of the story has already been written.  Christ was born and He is coming again....  "Come thou long expected Jesus....."

Friday, November 16, 2012

Norah Marie

I always enjoy hearing the "labor stories" of my friends and, to be honest, I think I want to write about our recent labor and delivery just because I need to process it...because it all happened so quickly.  So, if you hate hearing labor stories, don't read this post.  =)

In many ways, my labor story isn't dramatic or exciting.  I have no "war stories" from the experience.  When I was leaving the labor and delivery wing to go over to the recovery wing, my nurse told me I was "text book" and could come back any time!  But even though the story isn't dramatic, it is beautiful.  It is beautiful because we were witness to one of (in my opinion) the greatest miracles you can ever imagine (ie..a baby coming out of your body...eeek!!)  And it is beautiful because the whole story is filled with answered prayer.
Let me back up a minute and share briefly about my experience with labor and delivery....

When I had Levi, I think I had a somewhat typical "first baby" experience.  The labor wasn't any better or worse than this time around but delivery was much harder.  Levi was bigger, I was a first time mom, and, well, he came out like a shot (it is never good when everyone starts yelling "stop" to a pushing mom).  So, at the end of the day, I had a bit of repair work.  The physical pain after delivery was so incredible I still cringe when I think of it... in many ways, it was traumatic.  I also struggled with breast feeding in the early weeks and developed several issues there...and, to top it all off, I had NO idea what I was doing with a newborn!  To say that my "joy" of being a mom was decreased is a bit of an understatement.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVED Levi and could not get enough of him...but the whole experience had worn me down and stole some of the enjoyment from those precious first moments and weeks with my son.

Coming into this labor and delivery, I had some obvious concerns.  I was about half way through this pregnancy when I started telling people I really, really wanted to have a C-section!  I had seen girls bounce back WAY faster with a C-section than I had with Levi, so I decided to hope for a breach baby or something. I also struggled with the idea that God could, if He wanted to, make my delivery pain free - should I be praying for that?  Even when the Bible is very clear that we still live in a fallen world with pain and suffering....who am I to pray for pain free delivery?  What point does that have besides, well, being pain free?  So I got kind of messed up in the whole "what should I even be praying for here" idea...

I finally started getting a peace towards the end of my pregnancy....  I felt that I did not need to pray for pain free delivery.  I do not need to treat God like a vending machine where I "put in": enough faith and I "get out" my specific demand.  I also felt like I did not need to have a C section.  Instead, I felt confident in praying for joy.  After all, scripture is full of joyful, suffering people.  It is full of examples of the Lord's strength in our weakness.  This entire experience of labor and delivery is NOT about me and what I is about bringing praise to God who created life within me and is bringing that life into the world.  It is about HIS miracle...and if I was going to be so present in His work, I wanted to be joyful in it!  (even if I was in horrible pain).  So, I turned the details of labor and delivery over to God.  I asked for joy and health and told Him to make the other decisions.  (although I do remember saying that I would not mind, at all, a less painful experience!)

So with those struggles settled in my mind, I woke up last Friday morning to cramping and a thought that, "this could be the day."  In light of the fact that I perhaps had a "deadline," I started doing stuff around the house.  I finished up dishes, called the Dr to get Levi an appointment (because I was positive he had an ear infection), and drove to Babies R US to buy a few last minute essentials.  I made sure to treat myself to DD coffee...and I definitely shaved my legs.  Throughout the day the contractions kept getting stronger and closer.  I called my mom to put them on "stand by" and took Levi to the doctor (got him an anti biotic) and called Dan to tell him maybe he should not be the "late person" that night at work.  We did an early dinner out (in which I became CLEARLY aware that this baby was definitely coming) and called my parents to say, "come on up!"

I spent the rest of the evening laboring at home and, about 45mins after my parents arrived, called the hospital to say I was coming in because I was most definitely going to have a baby!  I got all excited and worked up and felt like everyone should be as excited as me!!  Therefore, I was a little off-put when I arrived in LD and the nursing staff totally acted like I was there because I was dehydrated.  News Flash - I am ALWAYS dehydrated. But that didn't seem to make the nurses care too much.  I labored quietly in the monitoring room (trying not to be dramatic...and seeeething at the male nurse who was seriously acting like I wasn't in labor) and I drank my water that they gave me....waiting....

Finally a resident came in to check me.  SURPRISE!  I am super dilated and effaced! This discovery gains me the golden key to a room of my own and the words "well, you ARE going to have a baby tonight!" from the resident.  Thanks.  I know.

So because everyone was dawdling was now after 10:30pm and I was told that I missed the anesthesiologist who just went in for a C section.  So I was told I would have to wait an hour or more for my epidural.  Not cool.  I LOVED my epidural with Levi and had been counting down the minutes until I could get mine and start snoozing.  So I took some Stadol instead.  That stuff was funny!  I was rational enough to know that I was loopy...which made me laugh and seem loopier.  I could totally still feel the pain of contractions but it was like I just didn't care as much.

As the stadol wore off, the anesthesia people were finally ready for me.  I got my epidural (not as amazing as my last one)...but TOTALLY helpful.  I was able to relax and Dan drifted off into a deep sleep (snoring and everything).  I had some final moments of quiet to pray again about the delivery that was about to happen.  All I wanted at that moment was my daughter - even if I had to go through the same or more pain than I did with Levi.  I just wanted her and I wanted her to be okay.  And I again prayed for Joy.

Just before 3am I had a feeling (not a physical one..because the guy who did the epidural completely numbed me)  It was more like I was just ready, and I knew it.  And then I saw some blood "down there."  In hind-sight I should not have been surprised...I mean, this whole experience is not "clean."  But, for some reason, I was really surprised by this discovery and so I did what seemed appropriate: I started yelling....which woke Dan up from his blissful sleep with quite a start.  I definitely laugh out loud when thinking of this moment because Dan clearly had that "I have no clue what is going on...but my wife is screaming so I should be super frantic" type look.  He was the one who finally found the remote with the call button on it and rang for the nurse.  The nurse sauntered in with the resident (clearly not as worked up as me) and said cheerfully, "we wondered when you would ring for us to tell us you were ready."  I mumbled something about being completely numb but I am not sure they heard.  They assured me that I was not bleeding to death and said that they should call the attending immediately.  Well, the attending barely made it in time...I started pushing at 3:01am and Norah Marie Thrush was born at 3:03am!  3 pushes!! (and they were not even crazy hard pushes!!)  Our sweet baby was snuggled onto my skin and I held her for a long time - looking at her in total amazement.  How does this happen?  Really?  How does this life develop so completely and perfectly...fingers, toes, hair, eye lashes...?  She was 6lbs 4oz of pure perfectness!  And she was healthy and vibrant!  (and she still is!!)   

They said that I had a small 2nd degree tear along one of my previous scars....  but I can say that I have barely felt a thing.  I kept waiting for something to "wear off" and feel that horrible pain, but it never came.  I also felt energized and crazy excited.  And most of all, I felt this total sense of JOY!  I was not overwhelmed or worried or traumatized...I was Joyful!  Some people may say that this is a "typical" 2nd baby experience...that my joy is because I was not in such pain or because I didn't have to push as long or because I am a more confident mom.  That all may be true in part, but this overwhelming joy is from the Lord... because I am still tired, I did have a bit of pain to deal with, I am trying to adjust to being Levi's mommy AND being Norah's mommy....and, hey, I still have hormones that are going crazy.  Yet my joy has remained so steady.   I know that we will have hard times....long nights...looonger days when I am home alone with two kids...but I can say that God has been so good to us and He has given so much joy.  So, my labor story, to me, is very exciting...and encouraging....and, hopefully, glorifying to God. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Time Flies

It is Friday evening and I can not believe that we are almost done with our time in Moldova!  I am very much ready to see Dan and Levi, but I am also starting to feel sad that I will have to say goodbye to my students and our host family.  It seems like we get to know them more each day and feel more and more comfortable....  I was talking with a couple of my students at lunch and we were just discussing how, even though we may be from other cultures, we share so much in common just because we are Christians.  In some ways, it is like visiting family--family you have never met before but know that you have such deep things in common with them.  It is truly wonderful to see the Church in Moldova and see the passion my students have for their ministries.

Classes have been going well and the students are preparing to take their final exam tomorrow.  I have tried to make a fair final but I understand that this week was information overload for some of them.  I have realized how much professors really do want their students to do least, I have realized how much I am rooting for my students!! 

Mom is doing well - she got to "teach" and English class and had SO much fun.  She also participated in another English class which was also a blast.  I told her she has found her second calling--to be an ESL teacher.  =)  Maybe it will be something she gets more involved in at home....or maybe she will even come back to Moldova sometime!  The students really seemed to like her and many of them even stayed late to keep talking with her!

We have both been healthy and, so far, safe (even though driving here in the city is a little, um, disorganized!).  We spend the night here on Saturday and then we will go to the airport on Sunday morning...our flight is at 1.  We have a layover in Munich but only for an hour and a half or so...then it is on to Newark.  So, a big travel day...but I know that, once I am on the plane, I will be SO ready to just get home.  Please continue to pray for health and safety and for good travel on Sunday.  I can't wait to share more when we are back.  Right now, it is getting to be about bedtime so I must sign off!!  

Saturday, April 21, 2012

First Day of Teaching!

Hello again!
Well, we are in Moldova!  Our flight from Munich was boring (which is the best kind of flight, in my opinion) and we landed a little behind schedule in Chisinau on Friday (lunchtime).  We walked out of the baggage area and I immediately saw a man standing nearby holding a sign that said "Karen Thrush."  I took that as a pretty clear sign that he was there to pick us up!  The man holding the sign was Victor and he and his wife are hosting us in their city apartment.  They have three lovely girls who are the sweetest....ages 18, 13, and 6.  The 6 year old is more adorable than can be described and I think she has connected with the "grandma" in my mom.  They have played quite a bit today despite the language barrier...but I guess playing tea and dolls is an international language in itself.

Anyways, after hopping into Victors car at the airport we took a wild ride to the college.  I am not sure which was more fun...seeing the life of the city around me or watching my mom experience Eastern European driving.  =)

At the school we had a very nice lunch waiting for us and then we met some other administrators and workers...we also figured out a way to get my computer hooked up to the internet since it was not finding the wireless.  Then we came home to Victor's apartment to meet the family and have a lovely dinner.  I am in love with these stuffed cabbage things...I want to learn to make them....they are amazing.  (and Victor's wife reheated some more for me today because she saw how much I loved them...haha...I guess I don't stay quiet about good food). But really, every bit of food that she has made so far has been outstanding.  I must admit, I am looking forward to meal times this week.

After getting a great night's sleep I woke up this morning ready for class to start!  I got dressed, ate a tasty breakfast, gathered up my gear and headed into the school....and then we waited...and no one came!  And then we realized the students were all waiting for me in another room!  So...after a little hiccup, the students settled into my classroom and we got started.  And,really, I think we had a great day!  First of all, my translator is AMAZING! Secondly, many of the students do speak some English.  3rd, I had the perfect amount of information prepared for the class so we ended right on time, and 4thly I was able to get lively discussion going which (as many of you know) is one of my favorite things to do...I love to get people thinking and engaging with material and I think that happened a bit today even though some of the material is a bit dry.  In thinking back on how great today is CLEAR that I have a whole team of people praying for me.  And, even though I am missing Levi and Dan so much, it was clear that this is the place for me right now....that these students are hungry for more knowledge and training to be effective in their ministries.  And, let me tell you, they are in some tough ministries!  I was blessed with the chance to talk with a few girls during lunch and hear more about their life and work.  They are tough cookies who serve the Lord with their whole is a pleasure to serve them in this way.

So, now it is almost 10pm on Saturday evening and I am getting ready to turn the light off and call it a day.  I look forward to church tomorrow (victor is preaching) and spending time with the family on the Sabbath.  I am sure I will need to do some prep for the week to come because it is going to be intense!  Please keep me in your prayers as I will be teaching from 9-4pm each day.  Also, continue to pray for health and safety and for my mom as she builds relationships with the family and finds things to do around the school (one teacher has already asked her to take over his English class this week...haha....seriously).

I will continue to post as time allows and I feel comfort in knowing that we have so much support!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

1 Flight down....1 to go!

We had a great train ride from Harrisburg to Newark airport...followed by a smooth flight to Munich. Mom and I are staying at a hotel right at the airport (which was SO nice) and so we got right into our hotel room, refreshed ourselves, and dropped off our luggage. Now, we will head into the city to see a few sights and get some lunch....and dinner....and then come back to the hotel for an early bedtime. =) I can not wait to sleep in a bed rather than a plane seat! Our flight out of Munich is around 9ish tomorrow morning (3am US time). And hopefully we will find someone waiting for us at the airport in Moldova! =)

Friday, January 27, 2012

How's it going?

"There's a peace I've come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There's an anchor for my soul
I can say "It is well""
Chris Tomlin - "I Will Rise"

A lot of people have been asking me how we are doing--how am I feeling physically and how are we doing emotionally. That is a hard question (sort of). Physically, I am feeling great. In fact, because the pregnancy hormones are finally out of my system, I feel more energized and perfectly healthy (no morning sickness etc). This is such a blessing because it helps me get moving during the day and I feel like I am able to accomplish things again. I also have more energy to play with Levi who is so much fun! Dan is also over his sickness and feeling better - so, yeah, physically we are GREAT!

Emotionally. humm, I have had a hard time explaining this one. However, this morning during breakfast, Levi and I were listening to Chris Tomlin's cd, "Hello Love," and heard the song "I Will Rise." The song starts out with the above quoted lyrics and I really connected with them - I felt my heart say, "THIS is how you are doing!" Grieving with hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13) is a strange feeling because, on one hand, I have been experiencing the effects of normal loss and grief; yet, on the other hand, I don't feel totally overwhelmed with sadness. I have experienced so many moments of joy during this whole process, excitement for the future, hope of what is yet to come, and peace - accepting what has happened for what it is. And yet, I sometimes have trouble sleeping at night; I still cry when I think about not meeting our little one this summer; I fight bitterness and anger and have, on a few occasions, gone down the "why me, what did I do to deserve this?" path. It is weird to have all these feelings mixed together, but that is how it is. So when people ask me, "How are you doing?" it can be difficult to respond--after all, I am healing....but I guess, even though the physical world still leaves me with pangs of sadness, my soul is anchored in a safe and quiet harbor and I can say, "It is well......I am well."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Our Grief - His Comfort

I honestly wasn't planning on blogging about the miscarriage that Dan and I experienced just this past week. I have heard many people discuss the comfort that comes in keeping this grief quiet and within a confined circle of family and friends. And I can definitely see the value in that. However, I think I am wired a little differently. I process out loud and I find rest in getting my thoughts out on the table; like the kind of feeling you have when you finally let go of a heavy secret. And for some reason, not letting others know about the miscarriage left me feeling like I had a dark secret, something hidden. And feeling like this has definitely not helped the grief process. No, I want people to know about the miscarriage--not so that we can be pitied (although the comfort we have received from others has been greatly appreciated) but so this tiny little life that has lived and died can be known in some small way to others...and to know a life existed, to me, is a way to honor that life.

We are, of course, so sad about the loss of our second child. We believe that life begins with conception and so it wasn't just a medical blooper that was discovered at the ultrasound on the 9th; it was a death. I knew before the midwife even said anything that the baby was not okay; the screen was not blinking or wiggling - it was completely still with just a tiny little marking that showed our precious baby, sleeping silently inside my womb. Laying in bed later that night, I remember telling Dan that I felt lonely and that I missed the baby - a baby who I never really knew but who had transformed from a "positive" sign on a pregnancy test into "my child."

As we started processing the miscarriage together, we talked about how pregnancies often can not continue due to genetic flaws...and if the pregnancy were to continue, would probably produce a very sick/disabled baby. And so, in some backward way, we had been given an answer to our constant prayers for "a healthy baby." God answered that prayer by not giving us a sick baby. We also recognize that our grief is shared by so many other women (and men) who have endured the same experience - that roller coaster ride of excitement and hope that free falls into grief and disappointment. And to some extent, knowing we are not alone is a comfort and also gives us perspective. After all, when 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, millions of families are affected.

This situation has challenged me to continue to praise God through my suffering. This has been difficult as I watch others having babies and continuing on with healthy pregnancies...but it has also been empowering. To trust God enough to accept this loss and have hope for a future which is totally out of my control, is actually freeing....because this means I don't have to "make things right." I can trust God to work all things for the good and bring me out of this grief into a place of peace and joy. Suffering is a part of life - and God has never said it would be different. Instead, He has promised to walk with us through the suffering--and to give us comfort and rest. I believe this is true; we have been experiencing His comfort and guidance this week as we grieve. I guess a life without suffering would be nice; but then I guess I would not experience the full impact of God's love, mercy, comfort, and peace. Dan and I believe that earth is part of our lives for a moment but that there is eternity waiting - and I have such hope for spending every day of eternity with our little one who we will one day know fully and completely.