Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Birthday Fun!

FUN FACT: Did you know that on any given day of the year, 17.7 million people around the world are celebrating a birthday?

In my immediate family, my birthday in early February use to kick off the birthday season which would last through May. That's seven birthdays we celebrated in just a four-month time span! By the time we got to my mom's birthday, she was so tired of eating cake that she often opted not to have one. Now that we have a larger family with in-laws, nieces, nephews, and significant others, there are many more birthdays to celebrate, all throughout the year.

For those of us who live here in Bismarck, we have a great time getting together (usually at Mom and Dad's) to celebrate. It's kind of funny because after we get done celebrating a birthday, Faith will ask, "Who's birthday is next, Mom?"

Unfortunately, this year on my birthday, I wasn't feeling the best but it was still fun to get together with family. One of the reasons I still wanted to go ahead with the party was because Faith had been looking so forward to it.

I'll be the first to admit, I don't do a beard very well!
The three of us celebrating my special day!
My sister Dawn and I
When my parents first moved here, Faith wasn't too gung-ho about going to their place for any type of celebration or holiday. Over the past couple of years, however, she has gotten to thoroughly enjoy our family get-togethers. I think it's because pretty much the same people show up every time so she's getting to know everyone better.

Faith helping her cousin, Justine celebrate her birthday
Faith LOVES it when baby Marla comes to the party!
Despite the fact her dad didn't want to have a party, she wanted to have a surprise party for him anyway. Well, Faith's version of a surprise party is different than most people's. On his birthday, Rob was out running errands so Faith wanted to decorate the apartment for him. We hung up red and blue streamers along with some balloons. Then she wanted us to "hide" and yell surprise when Rob came through the door.

When I saw him in the parking lot, I covered her up with a blanket (she was laying on the couch) and I hid behind the loveseat. I found out later it wasn't the best hiding spot because Rob looked up and saw me through the window, which is right behind the loveseat!

When Rob got to the door, Faith was giggling and laughing (she would never be able to hide from someone for real). Then, when he opened the door we both yelled, "SURPRISE!" And that was her idea of a surprise party, which was perfectly fine with Rob! The surprise we did manage to pull off was a "sushi cake." Faith's favorite part of a birthday party is blowing out the candles and since Rob didn't want a cake, I had to find something to put birthday candles in. It turned out quite well!

Rob's sushi cake!
The inside of the birthday card Faith made (with help from Janie)
The next birthday on the calendar was Grandpa's. He wasn't having a party but Faith still wanted to go to Grandma's. She told Faith that Grandpa would probably like to see her on his birthday, which of course turned into him having a party (although a very small one but complete with homemade pizza, burgers, chicken, cupcakes, and ice cream!)

Faith and Grandpa
I LOVE this photo of me, my daughter, and my dad!
Thanks Dad and Mom for hosting such fun birthday parties!

So even though Faith only has one birthday a year, celebrating other people's special day has become just as fun!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Holidays, Snow, and Saying Hello to 2017

It's hard to believe but the holidays have come and gone and once again we're saying hello to another new year. Honestly, I'm NOT going to miss 2016! I know I'm not alone when I say the previous year was quite a challenging one. I'm hopeful that this year will be much better!

During Thanksgiving, we had a family get together at my mom and dad's. My sister and her family were able to come up from Nebraska for the festivities. Neither of my brothers were able to make it, but for good reason, as they were both able to return work on the oil rigs. 

Faith celebrating Thanksgiving with her cousins
Me, Tesa, Dawn - sisters!
 Thanksgiving is a great reminder that even in the midst of tough times, there is always something to be thankful for. I continue to give thanks my parents and most of my family lives nearby and that I have enjoyed being in good health. I am also thankful we were finally able to hire respite care, and that we found the perfect person to work with Faith!

Shortly after Thanksgiving, both Rob and Faith took turns having really bad colds. It didn’t help that winter had arrived in full force. It's crazy that on Thanksgiving Day, both my nephews were outside in short-sleeved shirts, and the Monday after, we had our first major snowstorm of the season. 

My nephews, Donnie and Preston on Thanksgiving
A few days after Thanksgiving
The following week, we got hit again, but this time it was with a 3-day blizzard that shut down the entire city. Faith had been scheduled for a doctor's appointment but we couldn't go because the clinic she needed to go to had closed. Even if the clinic had been open, however, we would not have been able to get out of our parking lot.

The worst part of Faith being sick was that she had a really bad cough that was keeping her from getting any rest. We were going to try to get out of our parking lot to get her some medicine, but we heard it was best not to venture out. Thankfully, some friends of ours were able to get out in their 4-wheel drive pickup and get some cough medicine for her!

On Thursday, even though the temperatures were well below zero, we managed to get Faith to her chiropractor appointment, and then a walk-in clinic. Because her throat was so red and sore, they tested her for strep, which turned out negative. 

Faith is getting ready to face the frozen tundra.
The weather continued to be a major challenge all through December with a Christmas blizzard thwarting holiday plans for many people. We got another 12.5 inches of snow, making it the 4th snowiest winter on record in Bismarck. While we didn't have much planned, it did prevent us from going to my mom and dad's on Christmas Day. Instead, Mom had a small gathering on Christmas Eve where we ate our traditional meal of homemade pizza. It was a small but fun gathering and I even learned how to play a new board game - Apples to Apples, which my dad won! 

Part of our small Christmas Eve gathering.
My mom and dad on Christmas Eve.
On Christmas Day, Rob made it to church by himself. For a while it looked like the blizzard that had been forecast for days wasn't going to hit after all. It may have arrived later than expected, but it hit a lot harder than people thought it would. At one point while sitting on our couch, I looked out our patio door and couldn't even see past our balcony. The city once again shut down.

Because the snow was so incredibly heavy, even the snow plows were getting stuck. All that could be used to clear the streets were front loaders. My dad told me Bismarck had 350 miles of streets - that's a lot of plowing that needs to get done! Many people were stuck in their homes for 4 or 5 days because their street had not yet been cleared. According to my in-laws, our Christmas blizzard even made the news in Toronto! Earlier this week, Bismarck received another 8.5 inches, putting us over 50 inches, making it the snowiest winter on record. 

Besides all the challenges of the past year, and the harsh winter weather, my husband lost two of his uncles, and a family friend from the church in which I grew up, passed away quite unexpectedly. She was only 47.

Lots of snow!
I'm not sure what my dad would do this winter without his Bobcat!
Faith has the right idea - snuggling under her new blanket!
Despite the difficulties that 2016 held, we can still remember that God is on the throne. With Him, there is always a way - even when it looks impossible. I pray the year 2017 brings much hope and restoration, and that we all find something to rejoice in each and every day.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Faith's Thankful List 2016

Every year I try to get Faith to come up with a thankful list so that we can remember what Thanksgiving Day is all about. But really, though, Faith is pretty good at being mindful of the things she is thankful for throughout the whole year.

Here are some of the things that made her list this year:

Family - She really does love her family, including all four of her grandparents, her aunts, uncles, and cousins. This year, a new baby joined the family - my great niece, Marla. Faith loves seeing her and likes to say she is her "big cousin." Besides seeing all of her mom's side of the family on a regular basis, she also enjoys talking to her auntie Joh to hear all about her pets - Rosie and Ruby. She even gets to hear Ruby purr over the phone. She also likes talking to Rob's parents whom she calls grandfather and grandmother.

Faith at her grandma and grandpa's house with most of her cousins
 Prayers -  She still loves having people pray for her, and some of the people who pray for her have been doing so most of her life. She has a wonderful group from church who pray for and with her on a regular basis, and they have been such a blessing to us. Many people in this group come to our home for visits as well. This year Faith had made a lot of headway in learning to pray for herself, and for others, which we do every night as a family.

TV Shows - Faith still loves watching some of her favorite TV shows. This year we got Amazon Prime so she's been watching a lot of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. She still likes Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood and good 'ol Barney. I've been trying to get her to watch some new shows that are more appropriate for her age such as 7th Heaven (which is also on Amazon Prime). She'll watch it, but I really have to coax her to watch the entire thing. And of course we still watch Wheel of Fortune every night! This year, she even had a WOF birthday cake!

Faith's Wheel of Fortune Cake
Learning Spanish - Faith really wanted to learn Spanish this year as part of her homeschooling curriculum. Her auntie Barbara and uncle Todd got her a book and a dictionary so that we could look up all the words. Every day she'll ask something like, "how do you say neighbor in Spanish?" She's good at counting to ten and we're also trying to learn the Spanish alphabet, colors, and other words.

Faith with her auntie Barbara - her inspiration for learning Spanish!
Chiro and PT -  Faith really likes her chiropractor. In the past, it's been hard to get her out of the apartment to get her to go to some of her appointments but she always looks forward to her chiropractic appointments. Part of it is because she feels better afterward but sometimes she wants to go just to visit. She also enjoys going to physical therapy. We found the perfect pediatric physical therapist to work with her, for which I'm also very thankful. 

Other things Faith is thankful for include:
  • Cozy pajamas and slippers
  • Our van
  • Books and stories
  • Cheetos
  • Her home
  • Our friend Janie doing respite care
  • Tim Horton's coffee (she's glad her dad can finally get it in North Dakota!) 
Rob getting Tim Horton's in Fargo!

Faith with her prayer warrior, respite care provider, and friend - Janie!
 May you, too, find something or many things to be thankful for, not only on Thanksgiving, but each and every day. But most of all remember to "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His love endures forever." Psalm 107:1


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Faith Turns 13!

Faith turned 13 on October 25th. We celebrated her milestone birthday a week ago today at my parents house, which has become the official family party place.

It still has sunken in quite yet that I am the mother of a teenager. Despite exhibiting some telltale signs, like hormone overload and emotions running rampant, she is still in many ways my little girl. I'm not sure if that will ever change.

She has had to endure a lot during these past 13 years and every time we are faced with a new challenge, and wonder how we're going to overcome it, it's always her tenacity and warrior-like attitude that completely amazes us.

Though she may be feeling discomfort, she's still able to laugh. Though she might get frustrated by something she can't do, she still has hope. Though she experiences disappointment, she still finds joy. Both Rob and I have learned so much from her, and as we continue to move forward in our journey, I look forward to seeing God's plans for her life continue to unfold.

Here are some photos (and a video) from her 13th birthday party. We are so grateful she had a such good day, and that she was able to relax and enjoy herself while being surrounded by so many loved ones.

Our birthday girl!
Faith visiting with some of her guests!
Faith's auntie Dawn and her cute cousin Marla!
Faith's amazing Wheel of Fortune cake

Thanks Grandma and Grandpa for hosting such a great party!
Faith and Rob with some wonderful friends of the family!
Faith with Auntie Barbara and Uncle Todd!
Faith was super excited her "big" cousins were there along with Haley and baby!
Faith was blessed with many beautiful cards, gifts, and flowers!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Walking by Faith Not by Sight

Ever since I began this blog (back in 2009), I've always had the faith verse from Hebrews 11:1 on the header. But as of late, I feel the passage from 2 Corinthians 5:7 better reflects our current season of life.

This past year has been one of the more challenging ones we've had in light of caring for our daughter. As she has gotten heavier, I found lifting her has presented opportunities for straining my back. Thankfully, I’ve been able to receive healing through both prayer and the hands of a wonderful friend who is also a massage therapist. At the same time, I know I can no longer lift Faith as I once used to.

Faith hanging out at the eye doctor. She received a good report and still does not need glasses!

 Another huge change is that this past spring, Faith officially became a woman. While this is usually something for girls to celebrate, for us it provided a new set of challenges, including major PMS symptoms. Her sensitivity to loud noises heightens during this time and her already high tone kicks into overdrive, causing her to be very uncomfortable in her chair.

Because of her discomfort, we have spent a lot of time sitting on the couch together and the benefit for me is I have been getting a ton of reading done. A benefit for her is that my body serves as a dynamic seating system so that she’s not stuck in the same position for long periods of time. (Unfortunately, I have to turn down my husband’s suggestions that I submit myself to cloning.) On the upside regarding her cycle, she has been pretty regular so we can prepare for when she's going to be overly emotional and having physical symptoms.

Faith with me and two of her aunties  - look how big she's getting!

At one time Faith did occupational therapy but after a while it was advised Faith get physical therapy instead. Her OT made a recommendation and after being on a waiting list for months due to the fact they had to hire more pediatric physical therapists, we were finally able to get in. The PT has helped somewhat, and along with that, she also continues to see a chiropractor. We are glad to have made the switch to a wonderful lady chiropractor who can help us with some of Faith's hormonal issues.

Besides everything going on with Faith, we have had the most humid summer I can recall in all my years of living in North Dakota. We have had our wall air conditioner running almost nonstop all summer. Faith has a portable air conditioner (thanks to her uncle Todd) in her room that I don't know what we would do without.

Just as I have been feeling the intense heat in the physical realm, I have been feeling it in a spiritual sense as well. There have been days I have felt as though I had reached my limit and hit my breaking point. I have literally felt like I was walking through the fire. As I thought and prayed about it, I realized that it was my own fault. I mean, I had picked the word "RENEW" for my word of the year. How can God make things new without getting rid of the some of the old stuff first?

Many times I have had the thought I am going through the "Refiner's fire." While this was not always a good feeling, it did give me hope that I was going to come out stronger and that it would deepen my trust in God.

Staying nice and cool at Grandma's - Faith and most of her cousins, including the newest addition to our family.

It has certainly been a time of dying to self and I know that although it doesn't feel very good, it will end up being a good thing. It is also somewhat comforting to know that there are many other believers who are going through some very difficult situations. It has been wonderful to lift one another up in prayer.

Recent double rainbow
All of these challenges have caused us to keep our eyes on Jesus more than ever, and to depend on Him for our strength. And as we do, we continue to walk by faith, not by sight and know that whatever has already taken place in the physical realm will one day manifest in the physical.

As for right now I am really looking forward to the next season. I can't wait to feel the cool, refreshing breeze and see the beautiful transition of the leaves that always comes along with autumn.

This video of the song "King of My Heart" has been very encouraging to me during this difficult season. It's a reminder of God's goodness and that He will never let me down!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

I Believe in Miracles

Twelve years ago in late April, we were given the dreaded news that our daughter had spastic quadriplegia - the most debilitating form of cerebral palsy. 

I will never forget looking down at my six-month old baby, fast asleep in my arms, while her doctor talked about the possibility of her being in a wheelchair as she became older. 

At the time, it was not like me to show such public displays of emotion but on that day I couldn't hold back the tears. In the days that followed I had so many questions. 

Of all the questions though, there was one that I asked more often than others. "Can God heal my daughter?" I came to believe that He could, even though I knew it would take a miracle. 

Faith shortly after we brought her home from the NICU where she had a 73-day stay
By definition a miracle is, "an unusual or wonderful event that is believed to be caused by the power of God." When a true miracle occurs, there is usually no scientific explanation for it. I love these phenomenons as they are a way of proving not only God's existence but his awesomeness! 

While miracles can take many forms, one of the most exciting is His miraculous healing power. I have heard many testimonies of God healing someone of an incurable disease. I have seen people receive prayer and they were instantly healed. For some, healing isn't always instantaneous but rather a process. It's really however God chooses to do it! 

 Not too long ago I was preparing a message for New Life's Redefinition Cafe service entitled, "Three Things that Can Help Us to Truly Believe 'All Things are Possible with God.'" My second point was that it's not up to us to figure out how God is going to do the impossible. 

As I searched the Internet, I came across an article about a girl who had been diagnosed with an incurable gastrointestinal disorder. She had been in and out of the hospital several times and had to take all kinds of medications. Even though she normally didn't have a lot of energy, her oldest sister had convinced her to come outside and play. After falling into a hollow tree, she went to heaven and returned to earth completely healed. Last week I finally was able to see Annabel Beam's amazing story turned into the movie - Miracles From Heaven. 

Most of the scenes in the movie that caused me to cry were the ones where the mom was doing the best she could to care for her sick child. She had given up hope and even quit praying because she didn't think God heard them anyway. She alluded to the fact that another reason she didn't want to pray is because she didn't want to be disappointed if her prayers were not answered. I felt as though I could totally relate. 

There was a time in my life where I didn't think I'd be able to bear the disappointment of God not answering my prayers for my daughter. When I did pray for Faith, I wasn't praying with belief. I can't pinpoint what changed in me, but somewhere along the way I decided that I was going to believe for Faith's healing and believe wholeheartedly for it.

Faith and I at home after attending a friend's wedding
Admittedly, there are some days I wonder if I should just give up on believing for Faith's healing. But as soon as I get to that level of discouragement, God shows me something amazing. 

One particular evening not all that long ago, I was having one of those discouraging days. A friend of mine had given me the link to a video to watch and after taking a look at it, I began searching the Internet. I really didn't even know what I was looking for until I found it. 

It was a video of a lady who had been healed of cerebral palsy 25 years ago when she was 19 years old. The lady's name is Marlene Klepees and she now goes around the country giving her testimony. WOW did seeing her story fill my heart with hope!

A few people have told me they have had a vision or a dream of Faith either walking or dancing. I truly believe it's possible, and that what He did for Anabel or Marlene, He can do for Faith. Call me crazy but isn't that what faith is truly all about? (Believing first and then seeing). Even though Faith being healed would require a miracle, I truly do BELIEVE.

How about you? Have you ever received a miraculous healing in your body? Do you believe in miracles? I would love to hear about it!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

RENEW at 42!

For the past couple of years instead of making New Year's resolutions, I have instead chosen just one word to focus on throughout the year. (I got this great idea from my friend, Fran Dwelle of JOY International.) Last year my word was strength and my corresponding scripture was "The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).

This year, without even realizing it rhymed with the age I would be turning, I chose the word, "RENEW." The corresponding scripture the Lord gave me was this one: Create in me a clean heart O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)

First and foremost the one thing I wanted to renew was my relationship with the Lord. Not that I felt I had fallen away or anything but because I wanted to have a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him than ever. I have a strong desire to hear Him more clearly and to operate more in the realm of the supernatural. I also felt I need to renew my hope and my trust in Him after some discouraging things that happened toward the end of last year.

Yet another reason I felt this word was so important for me was because I wanted to "renew" my motivation to live a more healthy lifestyle. Every year I say I want to do this and I always start out well but never end well. By the time December rolled around in 2015 I was into a very bad habit of drinking too much caffeine and every time I had a cup of coffee I wanted something sweet to go with it. Not a good habit at all!

I confess I did have birthday cake today - but no coffee to go with it!
I am so grateful that I go to a church that dedicates the first part of the year to God by going on a 21-day fast! This forced me to give up some of my bad eating habits and once again, I am praying I never go back to them. I have learned that one way to stop a bad habit is to replace it with a new one.

During our fast, I began a Bible reading plan where I will end up reading the entire Bible this year. The plan I chose was a chronological one - which I have really been enjoying. I've also been reading a great devotional by Beth Moore called "Portraits of Devotion." One more book I've incorporated into my daily reading is a little book called, "God's Guide to Food, Fitness and Faith for Women." So instead of waking up wanting to drink coffee and sweets, I look forward to my daily reading!

Eventually I would like to start exercising and add that to my daily schedule each day. Like I mentioned earlier, my word last year was strength and this year I would like to RENEW my physical strength (and my energy) so I can better care for my daughter.

Thank goodness for Grandpa - he was the only one who could figure out how to blow up her inflatable guitar!
RENEW at 42 - that's my motto this year. What about you? 
Do you have a word for the year? I would love to hear about it! 

I'm so thankful for this guy who always supports me when I try to better myself!
I'm blessed to have such wonderful parents who made my day extra special!
Have a blessed 2016!