Friday, May 24, 2013

walking in obedience to his commands

It's been nearly two months since I last blogged. I am pretty sure that's a new record. I find myself blogging less for many reasons, but it's still good to share things and write things down to remember for later.

A few weeks ago we finished our Bible study for the spring semester from I, II, and III John. It was basically the same group who did Ephesians together this fall. We couldn't decide which book we wanted to study (I mean you can't go wrong studying any Scripture of course!), and one day, the Lord just put it on my heart that we should study those three together. And I'm so glad he did because I learned a lot from books that I don't recall having really studied much in depth before.

I was blown away by several things:

1. "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One." I John 2:1. I think I might have literally laughed out loud reading this verse at the beginning...because of course we all sin! "But if anybody does sin..." How wonderful to be reminded that I am already forgiven by Christ's death on the cross and his resurrection and that he is my advocate!

2. John's warnings against the antichrists. I mean these books were written probably about 60 years after Christ's ascension back into heaven, and John was already warning about them. And here we are 2000 years later without having had Christ's second coming yet, and we need to constantly be on guard. A few friends and I have talked about how do we stay open to new things God wants to teach us but making certain that they are actually from him and not something that is in actuality false but made to sound right. Does that make sense? I mean John warns that these antichrists will be coming out from the church! Oh how important it is to be rooted in God's Word!

3. There are several mentions in all three books of loving our brothers in different ways, one of which included giving of our material possessions. I was constantly reminded of how many people do that on a monthly or yearly or sporadic basis for us to be here in Hungary. It is of great significance, and it shows God's great love to us and ultimately to our God who provides for our every need. It is not something that the majority of our Hungarian friends can even understand, but it speaks volumes to them.

4. "This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome..." I John 5:3. Matthew Henry writes: "The keeping of his commandments requires a spirit inclined thereto and delighting therein...As thereby we are determined to obedience, and to keep the commandments of God, so his commandments are thereby made easy and pleasant to us." Wow. A direct correlation between loving God and the ease of following his commands. :)

5. "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of him." I John 5:14-15. Between studying Ephesians and these 3 books of John, I feel that my prayers are more bold, although I still am asking it to be done if it is his will. I remember a teacher in high school who nearly always prefaced things with "Lord willing." And even though these things that I pray are things that I truly desire for myself or for others, I ultimately still want God's will to be done because I know his will is better than my own desires, no matter how good or pure I may think mine are. It is hard when he answers in the opposite way I pray sometimes, but I am called to trust that his ways are higher and better. I might not understand, but I must trust. And oh how hard that is sometimes! Thinking of and praying for many who are walking through tough times right now...

6. "And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love." II John 6. Again, as we were told in I John, his commands are not burdensome to those who love him, which means that walking in obedience to his commands should be pleasant to those who love the Lord. That extends to my love for others, "to engage one another to walk in holiness, as this is the evidence of our sincere, mutual Christian love -- that we walk after God's commands" (Matthew Henry). I think of the most meaningful relationships I have, and it is those that pursue holiness and encourage me to follow after God's holiness that are the best ones.  My walk with God and my conversations with others should be managed by the Word of God, walking in obedience to his commands.

And there is so much more that I want to share, but those are some of the highlights. I know I missed a few good ones as well, but I can't possibly share it all. I read a lot of Matthew Henry's commentary on these three books, as you can see from some of my quotes up there. :) It was great to sit down every week with women this year and discuss God's Word together!

Friday, March 29, 2013


I am a details girl. I love it when God surprises me by caring about some of those trivial details (and of course the big ones too!). The last few days have been filled with blessings from God.

First, last Friday, we woke up to discover that our washing machine had officially broken. We bought the washer off of a family for $100 four years ago, and we have had a few issues over the years that always seemed to work themselves out. And Zsolt's dad volunteered to fix a broken part three years ago. So no complaints. But of course, the problem with broken appliances is affording the new ones to replace them. :) And God provided.

Every year we get a rather large heating bill in February or March. They read meters only once a year, and as prices increase and consumption changes, you don't find out by how much until they come read your meter in the new year. (There was a time when we were able to file our meter reading monthly on the internet, but it stopped working quite awhile ago and no solution has been found yet.) So after finding out the hard way our first year here, in preparation for the big bill, I now save a little extra each month throughout the year so that we can pay for it when it comes. And this year, we got our bill, and it was just 10% of what I had saved over the year. And the cost of the washing machine? Just a little over the extra of what I had saved. :)

And this washing machine can hold nearly double of what my old one could, AND it also is a DRYER!!! It's a combination, so I can wash and dry my load of laundry with a touch of a few buttons (which I am still learning). So for the first time in 6 years, I have ALL of my laundry done. It's just amazing! Thank you, God!

Second, we received a package in the mail the other day from Dr. Sawyer. He is the Christian OB in the States who has been helping me navigate medical stuff here. This was such a huge blessing and surprise for us. We were blessed enough by his medical advice, but then he and his family send us a big box filled with American goodies we can't get here?! WOW!

As you can see in the picture, Seth and Kate were giddy about the Tootsie Pops. They had no clue what those were until the basketball tournament 6 weeks ago. The junior class sells all sorts of food and American candy at the tournament as a fundraiser, so this is how the kids discovered them. And you know what is so neat? When we wrote to thank Dr. Sawyer and his family for their great kindness to us and just how special the Tootsie Pops of all things were to the kids, he said that he had prayed about it and that the Holy Spirit prompted him to buy those.

What an amazing, personal God we serve! Yes, he spoke the universe into existence, sent his Son to die on the cross for our sins and rose again, and yes, he will come back to rescue us all from sin one final day. But this very same God who is in charge of it all also cares about us and loves us on a deep and personal and individual level, knows every single thing about us, even the number of hairs on our head, as Seth and I discussed last night while he was getting a haircut. Gives me goosebumps!

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Today is one month since I had surgery. Time sure flies. :)

Since I last wrote, I have had a couple of doctor's appointments, and I started my third trimester this past week! I had another ultrasound on baby girl this week to see how she's been doing after everything that happened. Praise be to God that she looks perfectly healthy. And apparently she is one long-legged girl. :) My doctor had said that about Kate as well, and those who have seen her in person know that she is, as she is practically off the growth charts. One tall little three year old! Looks like her little sister might take after her.

In thinking back on the events of this past month, I'd like to recall God's goodness:

(Warning: this is really long. You don't have to read it of course, but it's good to remember these things, to have these "stones" to remember. So I remember for myself and share if you want to know.)

~ For the safety and protection of our baby girl throughout everything. I only had one moment when it all started that I was worried about her, but the Lord immediately calmed my heart and kept it that way the entire time, even when I was having all of those contractions. Still had peace.

~ For the intense pain that led to the discovery of masses on my liver. Some lab results have come back negative that lead them to think that they are benign, although we don't know with certainty at this point. But either way, we would have never known about them because they are not causing any symptoms or problems in my body that would have led to their discovery at this point.

~ For the timing of this happening just two days AFTER the biggest basketball tournament of the year. God could have allowed it to happen sooner and disrupt that weekend, but he chose to wait and allow us to enjoy another tournament together as a family and celebrate the gifted boys varsity basketball coach that Kevin is.

~ For the timing of this also happening during my second trimester. Surgery carries risks of course at any time for anyone, but risks are higher for miscarriage during the first trimester and for preterm labor in the third trimester. This all happened during 23-24 weeks in my second trimester.

~ For our mission who reached out immediately in wanting to support us in any way they could and for later putting us in touch with American doctors who could help explain and answer questions.

~ For Christian doctors in the US who have helped since day one. For Dr. Parsons who helped immediately and put me in touch with Dr. Sawyer when he didn't know things. Thank you, Dr. Sawyer, for explaining things to me that I don't understand, answering questions that no one here will, sending Scripture and prayers to encourage my soul, and offering your services and advice time and time again.

~ For my parents being able to drop everything and come for two weeks. Not only that, but the fact that they got here for the two most important weeks after surgery and between two nasty winter storms in Chicago was nothing but a miracle of God. And this all got scheduled two days before we even knew that I would have surgery. They took care of everything when they were, cleaning, laundry, kids, grocery shopping, and driving me around to appointments and whatnot since I wasn't allowed to drive. Literally everything. My mom even changed my bandages. :)

~ For a surgery that happened on a Saturday, which is the exact opposite of what I thought I would have wanted! Telki Hospital kind of operates Monday to Friday. Of course they are there on the weekends with patients, etc., but the weekends are dead and most of the staff don't speak much English then. Nothing really happens there on the weekend. So having surgery on a weekend was not what I was expecting (nor what I was told would happen), but the Lord provided a surgeon and team of doctors whom I trusted right from the start on a Saturday of all days. I had talked with other surgeons and anesthesiologists during the week, none of whom I liked or felt comfortable with. But here on a Saturday I was blessed with one of the best surgeons in the country, my own OB coming in, and a team of other people who were incredibly kind and loving, many of whom I could understand. And I will never forget the surgeon's last words to me, "Then may I be an instrument in his hands today." I think of that almost daily when I wake up as it is applicable to daily living.

~ For so many English speakers in the medical field, not just at Telki but at radiology at St. István and in the ambulance. And not just broken and hard to understand English but English that was clear! For those men in the ambulance who kept us laughing and willingly translated things for us and stayed with us during the whole process at the other hospital. For the young doctor in radiology who was slow and deliberate in his speech so that I understood, and who, quite honestly, was the most encouraging in regards to my liver.

~ For a team of nurses who took care of me around the clock that first 24 hours (well, all the time but especially then) when I couldn't do anything. For them humoring me when I asked them to open the window because I was so hot and knew I would vomit at any moment if I didn't cool down. (Here they think that a draft will make you sick.) For them monitoring my contractions and the baby's heartbeat every 20 minutes, even though it meant absolutely no sleep. Then again, I was in so much pain not sure sleep would have happened anyway. :) For my favorite nurse Gabi and the two older motherly nurses who had great kindness and compassion towards me. And for that one "no nonsense get it done" nurse who never apologized for all of the times she had to draw blood and stick me with one thing or another but did it quickly and effectively without leaving tons of bruises, unlike the other three on that third day in the hospital which left me looking pretty bad.

~ For the Lord's protection over me and our baby. Evil doctor has now advised me poorly three separate times (once when I was in the hospital when Kate was born, the other two times this past visit), and the Lord has protected us from his poor decisions each and every time. I had received medical advice from the American doctors against the liver biopsy he said I needed to have, and when I went in to my doctor to have my staples removed, he also said that I shouldn't have a liver biopsy. Then I got the report from the hospital where I had the MRI done that said that they did not recommend a biopsy but just monitor my liver for changes until after delivering at least and that they thought it was benign.

~ For two kids who had to deal with life being turned upside down for a couple weeks and being shipped off to one place or another or having one person after another come watch them. And they handled it with grace, even though I know they were tired and confused. And they never got mad when Kevin had said he'd be home to put them to bed but wasn't able to a couple times because life just didn't work like that. For the great love they already have for their little sister, even though they don't know her yet and she has already complicated their lives. :) And they have named her "Balloon Pop." Of course that name is not sticking around, but that's what they lovingly call her.

~ For the body of Christ. Where to begin?! For people taking Kevin's classes so that he could either be with me or the kids most of the time. For our dear friends who stepped up to take care of our kids when Kevin was with me. That meant a lot of last minute calls and never a complaint. It also meant later nights for them than anticipated as life doesn't always happen "on time." For friends who dropped off food so many times I can't even count. Friends also went and got groceries or even dropped off food for the other friends watching the kids. Friends offered rides to the airport to get my parents, offered rides to the hospital, offered to visit, called or texted me all the time to see how I was or what they could do. For friends who sent me emails or messages on Facebook, so many that I just couldn't keep up. Scripture and prayers were overflowing from our dear family in Christ. Near and far. Spread over at least 5 continents. I will never be able to fully explain just how incredibly humbled I am to be the recipient of so much love and prayers. It sustained me during those really dark hours when I couldn't think beyond breathing. The body of Christ's intercession was nothing but a miracle that encouraged me. Really, there are no words to describe it. And I know so many still continue to pray, and again, I am so grateful and humbled.

~ For prayer and God's Word. I know tons of other people were praying for us during this time, but the Lord had put several prayer requests and verses on my heart for myself over the last 6 or 7 months before all of this happened though that seemed to sustain me. One big prayer was that my mind would be filled with God's truth and that I wouldn't listen to Satan's lies. An older friend had also encouraged me while on bedrest back in November when we didn't know if our baby was alive or not with just the first part of Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brothers, whatever is TRUE...think about such things." And my life verses have always been Proverbs 3:5-6, but the one phrase in that passage that the Lord has had me meditate on this past year or so is "Lean not on your own understanding." I strive to take my thoughts captive to Christ, to focus only on what I know to be truth from God, and to rest in him and not on my own understanding. Some days are easier than others.

~ For opportunities to share God's goodness and our hope in him to many who aren't believers. I prayed a lot for the Holy Spirit to intercede and help them understand. I was at a loss for words especially on how to share with Zsolt and Gabi. They had "positive thoughts" for us and really think that the liver is nothing. But no matter what, our hope is in Christ and not dependent on anything else. It was hard to explain to them how we felt God working and were overwhelmed with peace and not worry. How does one explain this to others who have no hope in a Savior like us? Oh, my heart is burdened for the lost, but I am thankful for the opportunities we have had to share anyway.

~ For Kevin. In our almost ten years of marriage, I have learned that respecting him and falling under him as head of our household is not so difficult when he loves the Lord with all his heart and loves me like he does. In the midst of dark moments, he still didn't freak out or discourage me in any way. And he still managed to make me laugh. He worked tirelessly to be the husband and father that loves his family all while trying to be the teacher and coach that he is as well. He stayed overnight in the hospital with me twice and never complained how much I had messed things up or how much any of this was costing. He was always loving.

~ For our Heavenly Father. I have said it time and time again, but he graciously allowed me to experience his peace that transcends all understanding. I don't know how to describe it either, but those who have experienced it know what I mean. I don't know how I would have made it through those 9 days in the hospital had I not had his peace. I would have been my normal freaked out, stressed out, worried about everything person. (Although I did have one bad day like that after I came home!) Of course I had plenty of friends and family members doing that for me. :) But his peace was so overwhelming, and his Word continued to nourish me and point me back to him. And grateful for the wisdom he bestowed. Oh, so grateful for all that he has done and all that he continues to do.

Thus ends my list at this moment and on this day. I am sure there are many others that I will remember as time goes on as well. But it is good to remember these things. Thanks for letting me share. :)

Monday, March 4, 2013

hope in him (part 3)

I woke up Saturday morning from the most comfortable sleep I had had since the pain started. Of course the hospital would wake me up throughout the night hours to check everything, but I managed to sleep in between those. They brought breakfast in at 8 a.m., and despite being super hungry, I decided not to move from my bed since I wasn't sure how long that feeling would last. A few minutes before 9 a.m. the nurse came in and asked when I had last eaten. I told her that I was going to get up and eat breakfast when I had the energy but that I hadn't eaten since the night before. Then she said, "Don't eat!" And then she left the room.

I called Kevin and told him that I guessed that they were pushing up my surgery to Saturday because I was just instructed not to eat anything. While on the phone with him, the nurse came in with the anesthesiologist to discuss a few things and said I'd have surgery after I got my next "infusion." I asked if I could take a shower before that, and they said I could. So I showered and called them in to start my infusion. It took about an hour and a half for that infusion usually, so I assumed I'd go into surgery sometime after noon. I called Kevin and asked if he could come between 1 and 2 that afternoon, thanks to the Myers family volunteering to watch the kids all day for us.

A few minutes later my doctor (my normal OBGYN) came in with a nurse and a surgeon and then discussed the options for the procedure. While the best option is to do the least invasive surgery, they decided to open me up because they weren't convinced that my appendix was not a part of the problem along with the cyst. I told them that whatever was safest for the baby and then for me was what we should do, and they agreed. I also told them that I had literally thousands of people all over the world praying for me, our baby girl, and for wisdom for them. And my surgeon was really quiet and then responded, "Then may I be an instrument in His hands today."

My doctor came back in after they all left to make sure I understood everything. Then he told me, "I want you to know that he is one of the best in Hungary to do this surgery, well, except for me of course." Ha ha. And then he said, "Alright, let's go." I looked at my infusion bag that had just started and was confused because I thought I had to do that first. So I quickly called Kevin to let him know that I was going then.

I was at peace about the whole thing and was never worried. After having a D&C last spring, which was a minor surgery, I did learn a little about surgery procedures and knew a little more what to expect, mainly that I would have to hop up on my own operating table and that they would have to carry me after surgery to my bed. At least I knew that going in. :) I was strapped down everywhere and listening to them all talk a mile a minute in Hungarian, and then I saw the anesthesiologist's face above my head and telling me that I would fall asleep shortly. And that was that.

I woke up from surgery in a panic because I couldn't breathe. The tube was still down my throat, and I was strapped down everywhere so I couldn't do anything to get their attention. They told me to wake up because it was done, but I was in a panic because I couldn't breathe. Finally they took the tube out, and besides the tears rolling out from my eyes and me trying to catch my breath, I felt so much better and realized that my pain was finally gone. I mean I was in a ton of pain from the actual surgery, but the initial pain that brought me into the hospital was gone. They kept telling me that I could wake up, and then I finally said, "I know I can wake up, but I really would prefer to rest because I am exhausted." The next thing I know I was being lifted from the bed and carried to my bed in the room, and I think I yelled the entire time because the pain was insane at that time. I was stapled closed while flat on my back, and now they just scrunched my whole body up to carry me to my bed. I thought that my insides were going to fall out.

When Kevin showed up at the hospital after surgery, I told him that he couldn't leave me that night as I couldn't do a single thing. I've never felt so helpless. Audrey and Eric to the rescue again (and thanks to Laura Lee for the numerous times she watched the kids that whole week, and to the countless others who volunteered!) as they drove to our house and spent the night with the kids so Kevin could stay overnight with me. The kids were troopers during all of this, but it was taking a toll on them. We did FaceTime with them while they were at the Myers' house Saturday after my surgery, and I could tell Seth was trying to keep it together. It was awful for me to see that, but I knew that the Lord would get them through it, too.

The scariest part after the surgery was that I was having a lot of contractions, like every few minutes. They weren't super strong or anything, but no one wants contractions at 24 weeks. We knew this was likely after surgery, but most of the night was spent monitoring those and trying to get them to stop and monitoring the baby to make sure she wasn't in distress. She was moving around and kicking like crazy. So between the pain of the surgery, contractions happening right below my incision, and her kicking at it all the time, it was a rather restless and sleepless night. :)

I'll spare everyone the awful details of the next 20 hours or so, but it was the longest night of my entire life. I tried to think of others who had it much worse then me and how they made it through the pain. I prayed and talked to the Lord about everything. I later learned that I wasn't really on any pain medication because of being pregnant. They gave me what they could at first, but they said it was nothing and that they were sorry but they couldn't give me anything. They made me stand up and move to a chair for a few minutes first thing Sunday morning, and that was killer. A few hours later in the morning they removed my catheter, which meant then that I had to get up many times to go to the bathroom. Thankfully the nurses helped me, and Kevin was there to help for a bit too.

Kevin then left to get the kids and then my parents at the airport. We had many people offer to help with airport rides as well. My parents arrived at the hospital that afternoon, and it was a ray of sunshine I needed. I am so grateful that they were able to drop everything and come. The Lord worked out so many details for that to happen, and I can't describe how grateful I am. Even as an adult, things are just better when Mom and Dad are there. :)

The next few days at the hospital were spent monitoring me and baby girl. My contractions stopped, and she settled down a bit more. I often wondered what she experienced during all of it. But I got continual good report after good report. I moved more each day and needed less help. I had lots of time to once again to just read my Bible and meditate on his words that were a balm to my soul. I had great care, and I was grateful for my nurses. My OB came in to see me for himself because he heard that I was doing remarkably, and I know everyone was just so happy that I wasn't in constant pain anymore.

My doctor finally filled me in on the surgery since no one else had. Despite it looking like I had two cysts on my ovary, it was only one that had twisted three or four times. "No wonder you were in so much pain" was what I was told. They looked at my uterus and said it looked perfectly healthy, although they didn't actually touch it during surgery. They also looked at my appendix and said it was fine as well. It was just the cyst the whole time.

Despite desperately wanting to go home on Tuesday, they made me stay until Wednesday. I was eager to be home with my family and sleep in my own bed. I was left with a lot of overwhelming information upon checking out as we are still unsure what is going on with my liver. The evil doctors (whom I had not seen since that first day) were back to discharge me, and I fought back tears as they did nothing but frighten and discourage me the whole time. I asked questions and they didn't answer. It was frustrating. That week I had been so filled with peace from our great God, and I was encouraged by the body of Christ constantly by their prayers on our behalf. Satan was trying his hardest to leave me doubting God and his ability to heal and restore.

I will be honest and say that I feel like I am on a roller coaster. I am taking things moment by moment as we navigate other medical information that we don't understand even in English, let alone here in this foreign country we love and call home. Our mission TeachBeyond has been a great source of encouragement and help in the medical field and has already put us in touch with one doctor who now has me also communicating with a top OBGYN in the States as well. They have emailed me already a couple times and get back to me quickly and even ask for more details so as not to advise uninformed. I am overwhelmed by the Lord's provision for me in this.

I have been praying for supernatural wisdom because we are told in James that he who lacks wisdom can ask and that God will give generously to those who ask. I have had a gut feeling on a couple of occasions that I trusted, and I know that our God gave that to me. Getting conflicting medical information is confusing and stressful, so again, I keep asking for wisdom.

I am praying boldly that these things on my liver would not be malignant, and I have even asked God to completely remove them by the next ultrasound and that it would leave the doctors marveling at God's hand. But I realize that what I ask is not always God's will, so more importantly I am asking that his will be done and that it would bring glory to him. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous or scared, but those emotions and fears come in waves. That's why I pray moment by moment for what I need because I am trying to get through moment by moment.

But I look back on the last two weeks and how much our life was turned upside down, and now as we go ahead in uncertainty, I can vividly see God's hand at work in so many ways. Without the cyst and the intense pain, no one would have discovered any problems with my liver because I have no symptoms. So the Lord brought it to our attention. I ask for prayer for us for wisdom and for healing.

I am so grateful that we serve the author and creator of life, the one who was and is and is to come, the one who has gone before us all already, who knows what is going on with my liver, who will sustain and lead us. And I am grateful that I can go to the body of Christ to pray on our behalf.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

hope in him (part 2)

My dear friend Audrey and her hubby Eric came to pick me up at the hospital Wednesday night. It was easier for Kevin that way with the kids. I got home and felt pretty good, although still in pain but manageable. The evening went on and we went to bed. I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and couldn't get to sleep or get comfortable because the pain got worse. At 6 a.m., I called my parents in Chicago (11 p.m. on Wednesday night their time) and asked them to pray that the doctors would take me seriously and do something. My gut told me that surgery would be the thing to happen.

At 7 a.m., I called my friend Becky and asked her if she could come watch the kids while Kevin took me back to the hospital. (We learned on Tuesday that it's easier to NOT have kids around when doing these hospital things.) Becky got her kids ready for school and came over around 8. Sometime between 7 and 8 I noticed that I started having a lot of contractions.

Once at the hospital again, they hooked me up to some more "infusions" to stop the contractions as they figured out what to do. There were times that the pain was so awful that I couldn't even speak. I texted a couple friends and asked them to pray that the Lord would have mercy because at that time I thought I would die from the pain. (An orderly had come in for something and later came back in the day to check on me because he was so worried after seeing me.) Sometime in the next few hours I was able to breathe again.

Doctors and nurses came in and out that day trying to figure things out and monitor the baby and my contractions. The question was always, "How is the pain?" And my response was always, "I'm in pain all of the time, just not wanting to die at the moment." They would chuckle every time and look at me with sad puppy dog eyes. I don't remember much else, other than updating Facebook because I had literally thousands of people praying for me on at least five continents and then doing FaceTime with my parents back in Chicago and hearing that they were going to fly in on Sunday. Best news.

While in the hospital, I did get a lot of time (when not in the intense pain) to read God's precious Word. He seemed to light up passage after passage (ones I have read countless times before!) that encouraged my soul and reminded me in where to place my trust. It was precious time. And it also allowed for me to share some with my favorite nurse Gabi, who walked in to check on me and asked what I was studying. After talking for a bit, she said she thought that it was a good thing that I read my Bible. :)

By Friday afternoon, the pain was still there but even more manageable. I just couldn't stand up at all and had to walk around bent over to keep the pain to a minimum. I knew I would be taken to another hospital downtown Budapest that afternoon for another ultrasound and a possible MRI. I was nervous at my lack of Hungarian to understand it all, and we prayed that the Lord would provide some English speakers for us.

At 3 p.m., the ambulance came to get me. First, the Lord blew me away by giving me such kind and hilarious ambulance drivers, one of whom spoke excellent English. It was a new ambulance, so they had to figure out some things, which made us all laugh. Lying down flat on my back was intensely painful, and I was grateful that they offered that I could either lie down or sit up. So I sat up. :) It was snowing a lot, so I prayed for safety. And to be honest, I was a little disappointed that my first (and Lord willing my last!) ambulance ride I didn't get to have lights or sirens on. Of course every bump in the road made me want to die, and for those of you who haven't driven roads in Hungary, there isn't a road that exists that doesn't have huge pot holes.

My first (and Lord willing my last!) ambulance ride
Once we got out of the little villages and in the actual crowded downtown Budapest on a late Friday afternoon, the ambulance driver turned on those lights and sirens. It made me smile. :) Oh, and I forgot to mention that Kevin came with me for all of this, and I was glad to not be by myself. We arrived at the other hospital at 4 p.m., and the ambulance drivers did ALL of the communicating for me, did paperwork, and took care of everything without me ever saying a word. What an incredible blessing and better than what we had prayed for!

We waited for awhile before going in for my initial ultrasound. And guess what? He spoke English as well! He was quiet and didn't say much at first before calling in a few other people to look at my ultrasound. He explained that he saw the spots on my liver and asked when I had my last abdominal ultrasound. With my same "I've never had one before" response, he just said that they could have been there for a long time. And he decided from the ultrasound that I definitely had a cyst causing the problem but that he wasn't sure that my appendix wasn't involved as well. He said that they would need to do an MRI. I told him that I would only do one without the contrast solution, and he said, "We wouldn't use the contrast solution because you're pregnant." Ha! Those evil doctors said I HAD to, and he said they wouldn't because it wasn't safe for me.

I waited for awhile longer before being called in for the MRI. I was apprehensive about feeling claustrophobic, but it wasn't bad. I literally quoted Scripture over and over the whole time and then could think of only two songs: Great is Thy Faithfulness and Be Thou My Vision. It was a peaceful 25 minutes or so.

They wanted to do one more ultrasound after that. When it was done, he said that he was going to recommend surgery as that seemed to be the solution for now, be it just the cyst or my appendix as well. I told the radiologist that I had people all over the world praying for us and specifically for English speaking people to help us navigate this system. And I thanked him for being such a huge help and that he spoke so clearly and so well. He was an answer to prayer. And then the previously stoic man got the biggest smile on his face and said that he was so glad to help and was glad that his English was understandable as he didn't use it much. Oh, so grateful for him.

And then another hour of waiting... The ambulance driver kept making fun of the socialized system of medicine and mimicking the "only five more minutes" we were told nearly 20 times. But he and his buddy stayed close by and continued to do everything for us. What an immense blessing!

I was taken back to the hospital by ambulance, where my favorite nurse Gabi was waiting for me and told me to just rest and relax as much as possible over the weekend. I was feeling good (although still in pain) and was able to do FaceTime with our families. And after having had so many answered prayers that day, I was able to find a semi-comfortable position in which I was able to fall asleep.

Friday, March 1, 2013

hope in him

Two weeks ago we were in the middle of a glorious basketball filled weekend known as the annual ICSB basketball tournament. I have posted about it many times over the years, and it sure is fun! Teams from many parts of Central and Eastern Europe come to compete against each other at our school. Kevin's varsity boys have won the last three years, but this year they lost by one in overtime. Oh, it was so tough but it was a lot of fun!

We spent Sunday and Monday (no school) resting and hanging out as a family and enjoying time together. On Monday we played a bunch of Wii games (a Christmas present to the kids from grandparents!) and ate Kevin's yummy pizza. I went to bed Monday feeling some abdominal cramps, and I just prayed that our baby girl (yes, we're having another girl!) was okay. The Lord immediately answered my prayers by having her kick away. :)

Tuesday morning I woke up still with some painful cramping in my abdomen, but I thought that they would go away as the day went on. Not so. Around 11 a.m., after nearly collapsing in the shower earlier in the day, I called Kevin at school and asked him to come home. I kept thinking that it would pass, but about two hours later and thinking that I might just die from the pain, he drove me to the hospital.

I was admitted and was relieved to find out relatively soon after getting there that our girl was indeed okay but that they didn't know what was causing my pain. I knew I wasn't having preterm labor as it wasn't the same feeling as that. They ordered another ultrasound on my abdomen to see if they could tell what was the cause of my pain. It was during this ultrasound that they discovered some spots/masses/lesions (all words that different doctors have used to describe them) on my liver. And I have to tell you that during this whole process, the most amazing thing happened...

I was completely overwhelmed with peace. I mean, I cannot even begin to describe how I felt during this time. The pain was the most terrible thing I've ever had (birth is pretty painful, but this was different), and even after hearing that they saw something on my liver, not once did I feel panic or worry or stress. (Very unlike me!) I felt completely at peace and at ease. I know it came from our Heavenly Father, and I am incredibly grateful for him giving that to me. Over the years I have often prayed for that sort of peace for others, not knowing how to explain it but asking the Lord to give them the only kind of peace that he can. And here he graciously bestowed that upon me. It was unreal. I cry thinking about it.

It was determined from the ultrasounds that I had two cysts that might be causing the pain but they weren't sure if there was an appendicitis as well. The liver was unrelated to my pain. So they said I would be kept overnight for observation and they would do what they could for the pain. The rest of the afternoon and evening dragged on, and somewhere around 1 a.m., I got a bit of relief from the pain. It never went away, but the intensity went down a notch...and I felt like I could breathe again. I was able to get a couple hours of sleep as then it was more manageable.

Throughout the day on Wednesday, I met with several doctors. They were concerned about these spots on the liver and wanted to figure out what they were. Worst case scenario is that they are malignant, but they could also be benign things that are no big deal. We have no idea at this point, but we do know the ONE who does know. And we are asking the Lord that they be nothing. Because I have never had an abdominal ultrasound before, they can't compare it with anything nor do they know how long they have been there.

They wanted me to go to another hospital for an ultrasound again and an MRI later in the week. I had read several things (including an actual medical journal) that talked about the dangers of using the contrast solution in the MRI for pregnant women. I told them that I would do an MRI but only without the contrast solution. The two doctors insisted that I HAD to have the contrast solution and how dare I question them. So I told them that I did not give my consent to having an MRI done. Needless to say, they were very angry with me for questioning them (and hence afterwards I referred to them as the evil doctors when I talked to my family about them).

After I questioned the doctors, my internet was coincidentally cut off. :) They were still trying to figure out what to do with the pain, but at that point I could manage and asked if I could go home. I told them that I would sleep better at home, and that if the pain intensity came back, I would just come back to the hospital. They signed off on it and told me that I should go to this other hospital on Friday afternoon. I could do the ultrasound there and refuse the MRI myself.

So thus my days at the hospital came to an end...or so I thought. More to come.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

to be (perfect) or not to be

Sometimes I read some articles or blog posts that really resonate with me, encourage me, and/or challenge me. Sally Clarkson is one who so often does that.

Her post today is rather long, but you can read it here if you want.

The one part she wrote that I wanted to highlight here is this:

"If moms expect perfection, then their children will want to run far from them. If women think God wants them to be perfect, they will always live in guilt and defeat or eventually want to quit their ideals, because there will be no joy."

I find myself these days surrounded in conversations regarding motherhood. Of course this is only natural considering the stage of life I'm in with so many others. :) But I often hear women talking about loneliness, fear, and guilt...either that they are experiencing or know of others who are.

And while I struggle with these too, I am learning that I have to choose to live in the truth and rest in my Savior. An older friend had recently been encouraging me to fix my mind on what is true (Philippians 4:8) and not to allow Satan to fill my mind with fear and guilt. He sure does love to do that! But Christ offers me truth and grace.

It's so much more pleasant and joyful to choose to live in Christ than to be a slave to the guilt and fear with which Satan so often entices me. If only I could easily choose that every time!

But Christ doesn't expect that perfection in me to get it right every time. Like I have said before, "not perfect, but increasing." :) Thanks be to my Savior who guides and loves me daily, despite all of my failures and imperfections!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

christmas market

First of all, thank you to many who wrote to share in our joy. :) We are blessed to have many loved ones who love us, care for us, and pray for us. I look forward to the day when we are all in heaven together! (And when there will be no pregnancy heartburn. Oy!)

And second, I heard from a few of you as well who struggle with the whole sharing thing on Facebook. Glad to know I'm not the only one!

For the record, I am not talking about people who share some pictures of kids or trips, some status updates, or links to a good article they read. That is why I am on Facebook to connect with others! Those are the things I enjoy. But you all know the types who share too much and about every detail, though. That's what I'm talking about. :)

Anyway, on to some Christmas Eve pictures...

We had wanted to go to to the Christmas market in Budapest for quite some time, but thanks to many things happening, we weren't able to go until Christmas Eve morning. It ended up being a great time to go as it wasn't super crowded!

Kevin's gulyás bread bowl, Seth's traditional Hungarian sausage, and Kate's bread thingy :)

The food booths were pretty looking and beautifully organized this year! Best yet!

Unfortunately, I started coming down with the flu as we got there. (And I ended up being sick for many days after that. It was nasty.) At one point I didn't know if I'd make it back home in one piece. Thankfully I did. But the only time I took out the camera was while we were sitting down to eat, hence only food pictures.

Every year Budapest seems to be working on improving the Christmas market, which is full of tourists. This year was another stellar year in their organization and even the presentation. It definitely gets better every year.