Monday, May 21, 2018

Heart Surgery Update: Wife Edition

It's been over a year since I've blogged. To some degree I can't believe I put it off so long, but mainly I can't believe January 2017 was already over a year ago! Last time I wrote around the issue of my battle with uterine fibroids. It lead to a full abdominal myomectomy to remove a large fibroid just a couple months after writing. Now I write from a hospital room for my husband who just had open vascular surgery a few days ago. I think my husband and I need a pact: let's leave the organs in our core alone for awhile! :)

I joke, but frankly this is different. It's open vascular surgery which automatically makes it intense. On top of that though, we've had a pretty serious role reversal. Phill doesn't seem to know it, but he's a natural caretaker and nurturer when someone he loves is suffering. I've been through several surgeries as a kid, at least one in college, two since we've been married, and I'm a general klutz so I run into things a lot. He's good at nurturing; I'm good at suffering. It's the perfect relationship. Things are different now. Now I am figuring out what it means to care for my normally very independent husband.

People have been asking me how I'm doing with all this. If you asked me this and I ignored your question, it's because I haven't had an answer. Truthfully, I'm still trying to put into words how I am doing. Hence why I'm writing this blog post. Waiting the many hours between when they took him to the operating room and when they let me see him in recovery was heart wrenching. When I learned I could see him, I thought it would be a huge sigh of relief. Though he was asleep when I got in, it was comforting seeing his chest rising and falling as well as seeing his solid numbers they were monitoring (pulse, blood pressure, oxygen, etc). What wasn't comforting was everything else. My lively husband had gray lips. His skin was white. He was hooked up to a million things. When he woke up he was in pain, though he fell asleep promptly so it didn't last long. His color returned the very next day and he's made incredible progress, but that image hung with me. How could someone so lively look so... dead?

Since then I've been trying to discover my role in all this: how do I take care of him? How do I take care of me? I've discovered some ways to do this since Thursday: going on walks by myself, sleeping when I can, holding his hand as they pull long tubes out of his chest, providing emotional support for him, and learning how I will assist him when it's time to come home. I don't think I realized how emotionally and physically draining it is taking care of another person - especially a person I love so dearly.

So how am I doing? Most of the time I'm drained. I'm ready to have him home and ready to watch his progress. But I'm also grateful. I'm grateful that we've received so much love and support from our closest loved ones. I'm grateful that we are at one of the best heart hospitals in the country. I'm grateful that Phill refuses to let anything stop him from pushing forward and recovering. Sure, I'm tired and worn, but I'm also secure. I'm secure in our incredible support system and most importantly in the hands of God. My prayer time is mostly me sitting in quiet saying, "Father, I'm so tired. I need help." Right now that's enough.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Break the Stigma

All day I have been seeing Women’s March pictures from the marches around the nation. I’ve seen friends and family participating. I’m thankful to live in a time where women have the freedom to fight for the things we believe in boldly. Part of that freedom is making each other and our dear men friends and family aware of some of the challenges we face. One of the things that feels out of balance is the stigma around some of problems in a women’s reproductive system versus that of a man. I don’t place blame on anyone for this, man or woman, but I figure I can do my part to break that stigma by telling my story. I’m frankly a little nervous about sharing this, but I hope my voice can give other women the strength to be honest about their struggles.

Let me get the taboo words out of the way as we begin: Blood. Period. Tampons. Diva Cup. Pads. Cramps. Sex. Pain. Pain during sex. There we go; let’s begin.

In June of 2015 I had just graduated from college and I was busy at a full-time “job” of planning a wedding set for August. My husband and I waited until our wedding night to have sex so at this point I was educating myself about birth control. Things were great and going well until I started to notice my period acting strange. It was lasting longer, bleeding harder, and causing more pain. This continued each month. I figured I was stressed and ignored it.

I got married to my incredible husband in August 8 and was no longer a virgin. I was frankly unaware of what to expect during sex, but I figured the occasional pain and the bleeding that ensued every time afterwards (not just the first time) was not normal.  I went to the doctor and, long story short, learned I had a uterine fibroid (a benign tumor). After months of incredibly long periods (a month or so), terribly heavy bleeding, uncontrollable pain, being exhausted to the point that I had to skip my afternoon classes on a regular basis, having almost no energy, and just being tired of dealing with it all, I finally had the surgery to have it removed. (It was an inch in diameter, in case you’re curious.)

Things improved vastly after the very short recovery time. My doctor was upfront and told me I would likely get another one seeing as I already had them at a mere 22 years of age. I understood and accepted this, but figured it would be a few years before it was a problem again. That was February 2016. I had energy, I bled completely normal periods, and I felt great. Things had turned around until October 2016 hit and my period started a week early and lasted two weeks. And then November’s started a week early again and was heavier. It progressed quicker than last time. I know this is graphic, but I warned you: It's been so bad that, for a couple days, each hour I was bleeding twice what an average woman bleeds her whole period. Talk about exhausted. I’ve not had the sonogram to confirm it, but I know my body and I know they’re back.

I don’t tell you this story to freak you out, but to open a door. I have met and heard stories of so many women of all walks of life who suffered or are suffering through the same or similar thing. If you start having irregular bleeding or are in an insane amount of pain, go to the doctor. It might be common, but it is not okay. If you know someone who is, send them this blog and encourage them to go to the doctor. If you started noticing weird lumps or moles that grew rapidly somewhere on your body, would you not go to a doctor? We shouldn’t have to suffer in silence just because periods are gross (okay, really, they are, I admit).  But we should not have to hide it at work when you frankly feel like you’re just going to die. Be honest with how you feel. If a friend (male or female) asks you how you feel and you feel like you’re going to fall over and die because you’re in so much pain, don’t say “I’m fine!” It’s okay to be honest. Ask for prayer from those who you tell. Encourage other women who may be going through something like this. Don’t accept abnormal bleeding as normal. Get help.

I’ve pretty much ignored men so far and I want to address them. First, my husband has been so incredibly supportive. He’s heated up my heading pad (best invention ever), bought pads and tampons by himself, rushed home as soon as he could to take care of me, and has been so encouraging through some long nights and tough conversations. Men, I know it may be uncomfortable, but I encourage you to be open and receptive if the conversation comes up. Your support and prayers are so encouraging. We love you and we value your friendship. Women, don’t be afraid to have honest conversations. If you have a male friend you trust, talk to him. Fight the stigma around this by communicating.

Despite the problems we fight in our own bodies, our bodies are incredible. They create and birth humans. They create nutritional milk for said humans. God created our bodies to do absolutely amazing things despite the problems all of us have in one way or another. Be proud of your body and what it can do. Take care of it. Don’t be ashamed of it. Talk to people. Get help. Break the stigma.

***** Side Note: There’s a lot of opinions around the women’s march. Here’s my two cents for what it’s worth. I am a pro-life Christian feminist. Yes, it’s a thing. I believe peaceful and respectful protests are a good thing. For instance, the shooting in Dallas during the summer of 2016 was during a very peaceful Black Lives Matter protest.  I was blown away by the support the Black Lives Matter protesters showed to the Dallas cops after the fact. It was beautiful. I believe life begins at conception. I realize abortion is a lot more complicated than many of us want to admit, but I do believe the life of the choice-less child should be pursued and I believe just as firmly that the church should surround these women with all the love and support they have to offer despite the marital status of the woman. I am a feminist in that I believe in equality of men and women. We have come so incredibly far. But just because things are better, does that mean we should just settle? If you are cooking a chicken and it’s halfway done, it’s more edible than it was before, but surely you’re not going to eat the thing until it’s done? Silly example, but I think it’s a good thing to continue to pursue true equality (note: not women greater than men, but women simply having the same rights, written and unwritten, as men). I love my male friends and family. I harbor no ill will. I am a Christian and I strive to share the love and light of Christ to everyone I meet. I believe we should treat each other with respect and love, regardless of political or religious opinion. This has nothing to do with what the aforementioned article was about, but I figured I’d keep you from reading between the lines and just tell you what I believe about a few of these things.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Beauty after beauty

I am sitting in the Turpin Library at DTS very excited because I have an entire 45 minutes "free"! I say "free" because there's always something to be doing in seminary, but none of it is due within 24 hours. Thus, "free". It is a cold but beautiful day here in Dallas. I am enjoying admiring it from the inside of the warm and wind-free library.

It is indeed beautiful in Dallas. The city is one of the prettiest and cleanest cities I have ever seen. The sky seems bigger here and there's always something to do as long as you know where to look. We've ventured out of Dallas before and also seen a lot of beautiful things. We've seen waterfalls and hills in Oklahoma, lakes filled with fish, and a sky that seemed to stretch out forever over the flat terrain. It has certainly been an adjustment moving from the southeast filled with humidity and mountains to near the desert where it is dry and flat. But it always pays to look for beauty especially in the midst of change.

I also love seeing the beauty in the people I encounter. Since everyone I see on a day-to-day basis are still relatively new faces, I am having the opportunity to get to know them and learn who they are. I am so enjoying seeing the hand of God working in the lives of my fellow believers and seeing His image in every person I meet and get to know.

With the onset of spring, everything seems to have turned green! (My chiweenie doesn't see the beauty in it, however. She just makes sure to taste it all making walking her a chore.) In between sneezes I am enjoying seeing all the new flowers on trees and how lush it has become. There are many parks near where we live, but we have found one that has become completely green besides the path we walk on. The trees make it feel like you've escaped into some oasis. It is beautiful and refreshing.

God has been teaching me to rely on Him through all this change and through the challenges we have faced the past few months. I have learned that though this is hard to learn, it can be beautiful too because the process of learning to rely on God makes me more of the person I should be. When I try to rely on my own will, things are ugly, challenging, and not rewarding. Relying on God, however, things are beautiful, still challenging, but very rewarding simply because of the presence of God in the things I am doing. I hope that whatever you are doing or going through, you will rely on Him and let Him show you the beauty He has in store.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

7 points from 108 days

Today marks too long since I last blogged. It also marks my 108th day of marriage, 99th day since we moved to Texas, and 92nd day as a full-time seminary student. I'm not sure it's possible to catch you up on even half of what has happened in these 108 days. Instead I will tell you about the big things and what we've learned.

First and foremost, God is good. He truly is the provider, counselor, and father.

Second, change is hard. I don't mean it's uncomfortable and no fun. It's just really difficult. Moving, starting a new career, getting married, renting our first apartment, taking care of two nervous dogs... it's a lot. Like I said before, that does not mean it's no fun. It's easy to get bogged down by the change and let it be no fun. But it's amazing how beautiful and fun life can be when we choose to pursue God and look for the joy. It's there somewhere. Always. We've just got to be willing to look for it.

This brings me to my third point: marriage. It's wonderful. Challenging and difficult, but, again, that does not mean it's bad. The best things in life take work. And apart from God, my marriage is the best thing in my life. Phill and I have been through a lot in our years of dating and now our first few months of marriage. I am so thankful that God brought him into my life. He is a blessing and a joy to be married to.

Fourth, seminary is fun. I love it. I get to hang out with fellow theology nerds all day! It also has a dangerous side, though. It's so easy to get too focused on the "nerding out" that suddenly the head overtakes the heart and it turns into cold academia. If you are considering going to seminary, pick one that has a defense against that built in to their program. It's ultimately up to you, but chapel and bible studies of some sort are signs that the seminary is fighting against it. I would strongly urge you that if the seminary you are interested in does not at least recognize this as a problem, proceed with great caution if you proceed at all for your own sake. I have also learned the benefit of church away from you seminary friends with regular people who may or may not be able to give you an outlined breakdown and analysis of the book of Philemon or be able to parse Greek words. To reiterate, I love seminary and I am so happy I am here and learning more about my Savior. I just understand the risks. Again, God is good and will help us through as long as we keep our eyes on him.

Fifth, Phill and I will always be grateful for the support of friends and family who have given us what we need to keep going. Whether a card in the mail, a text, or a phone call, it has all been a blessing as we establish our life so far away.

On a lighter sixth note, yes, Texas does believe it is its own country! I have learned that their state bird is the Mockingbird, but that Mockingbird Ln in Highland Park is always crowded. I've also learned that Dallas attracts many types of people from all over the world. Due to its strong economy, it is a hub for individuals and families wanting to start new lives in America. It makes for a rich and diverse population. Texans are also some of the friendliest people. It's been easy interacting with those I encounter day to day. Oh, and there's tacos everywhere. It's amazing.

Seventh and finally, God is good. He is always there. He was with us before our marriage, on the wedding day, and every day since and forward. I have learned to trust God through rocky circumstances. I have never felt a stronger dependence on God and I am thankful for that. He is good. He provides. He loves and cares for his children. Sometimes we don't understand why he does things or allows things to happen, but what child always understands their parents actions? He always comes through which has only served to deepen our trust and faith in Him.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Fasting in the Old Testament

Lenten Series Devotional: Fasting in the Old Testament

Fasting is a practice which has been observed throughout Judeo-Christian history. In the Old Testament, fasting was often used as a way to repent or to mourn. It often accompanied prayer and signified the person surrendering to God or mourning for a loved one. We see the example of mourning in the book of Job. Job 3:24 (ESV) tells us, “For my sighing comes instead of my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water.”

Other times, however, we see this as a time for repentance and reconciliation. In the third chapter of Jonah the people of Nineveh receive the warnings through the prophet Jonah that God was going to destroy their city because of their sin. When the king heard the message, he chose to believe the message and tried to save his city.

“The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”” Jonah 3:6-9 (ESV)

Nineveh chose to fast and repent hoping God would, “relent and turn from his fierce anger.” In the end, God did choose to do this and spared Nineveh because of their repentance through fasting. As Christians, we fast during the season of Lent also as a sign of repentance from our sin. However, we have a promise and a hope Nineveh did not. We know that Christ died for our sins. We are always forgiven as long as we repent and turn from our sin. During this journey of repentance, fasting, and prayer, remember that we are on our way to holy week. This means a cross and also forgiveness. We know our fasting is not what saves us, but rather fasting is an example of us humbling ourselves before our mighty and loving God as the people of Nineveh did.                                                 

Reflection Questions:
1) Read Jonah 3. What can we learn from the people of Nineveh?
2) Why do you think fasting has historically been a sign for repentance?

3) How can you use the fasting this week as a form of repentance and turning back to God?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Lent Devotional Series

My friend and I are doing a Lenten project for a religion class. The full project for us and the participants includes an emailed devotional each Monday, fasting a particular item each Tuesday, and a meeting to discuss what we have learned and reflected on during the week on Thursday. I will be posting the devotional piece of this project on here. I hope that you may find it beneficial during this season.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and traditionally lasts 40 days excluding Sundays since Sundays are considered “little Easters.” On Ash Wednesday many believers go to their churches to participate in this service which reminds us of our mortality and need for repentance to begin our journey of preparation before Holy Week.1 During the service the pastor makes an ash mark of a cross on the forehead of the participant and says, “From dust you came, and to dust you will return.” The ashes traditionally are from the branches of Palm Sunday. As says, “The palms that were waved in joy became ashes of sorrow.” 1

The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, but the end of Lent is different depending on which tradition you follow. The Catholic Church recognizes the season of Lent on Holy Thursday 2 (or Maundy Thursday as it is referred to in the United Methodist Church), while the United Methodist Church recognizes the end of Lent on Holy Saturday3, the Saturday before Easter. According to the United Methodist Church, “Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection.” 3

It is unclear who exactly developed the concept of Lent. Some suggest that it began in the apostolic age. Others believe that there is not enough information to support this, but that we can tell it began to develop in concept within the first three centuries of the Church. It seems, in its earliest form, believers during the apostolic age would fast on Fridays to remember Christ’s death. Over time, it is believed this tradition became holy week. At some point the concept of preparation for this holy week developed. 4

Historically, the Catholic Church has asked its adult members abstain from meat (except fish) on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent. The also ask that they have one full meal a day with two much smaller meals only if needed to maintain strength to perform their day-to-day tasks. Overtime this has changed. Many people nowadays choose something to fast during Lent which tends to be a distraction from their relationship with Christ or something they do often in order to be constantly reminded of this preparation for holy week and develop a deeper and renewed relationship with the Savior. 5

A period of 40 days has often been a time of preparation. Jesus wandered in the wilderness with the Holy Spirit for forty days and fasted. Even Moses was in the presence of God for 40 days fasting on Mount Sinai in preparation to receive the commandments. 6 The season of Lent is also a time of preparation for us as believers.

As we begin our journey of Lent together, let us remember we are participants in an old history of believers gone and current believers. In your fasting, preparation, and reflection, you are participating with many believers all over the world in this tradition. As the author of Hebrews reminds us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (12:1).  

Reflection Questions:
1) What do you think is the benefit of beginning Lent on Ash Wednesday with the reminder of "from dust you came and to dust you will return"? How does it set the tone for the rest of the season?
2) What do you think is the benefit of ending Lent on Holy Thursday or Holy Saturday? Do you feel doing one or the other has more significance?
3) What do you think about the original Lent fasting schedule of the Catholic Church as described above?

Monday, November 10, 2014


The past few weeks I have been working on a hashtag project on Facebook which I am calling #leahsthankful37 where I post something I am thankful for each weekday. This is going to become one of those posts. Often I choose my topic based on something I am struggling or busy with. Writing the post reminds me why I am doing said thing and that though it may feel burdensome or unpleasant now, it is actually a blessing.

Today is one of those types of posts.

A little over four months ago I lost my Aunt Natalie. Today would have been her birthday. Today it would be easy to be filled with sadness, but I refuse. Do I miss her? Of course. Nearly every day. But today I choose to remember the good.

We all make mistakes. We are a fallen people. At the end of your life, would you rather be remembered for the bad you did or the good? The good, of course.

So, this is how I choose to remember Natalie. She was a fun aunt. Visits with her were full of silly cat videos, stand up comedy, and always UNO. That was a must. These times were filled with silliness and laughter. I cherish these memories.

Today I am thankful for all those times and for my aunt. I am also thankful that Phill got to experience her and these times even though it was only once. I thank God that He orchestrated that visit especially.

I love you, Natalie.