August 19, 2012

Why Yasmin may have her surgery but never live on her own...

I've known this week would come. The one where I have to write about Yasmin. It's plagued me for weeks. Since we saw the Doctor, really. It's haunted the back of my thoughts. I've prayed harder, searched scripture longer, and tried to make sense of the plight of this sweet little girl. This fighter.

Let's rewind to the beginning of the summer. We were blessed and humbled to have so many people praying with us and donating financially to Yasmin. If you're new to this story check out the links here and here. When we met Yasmin she was 11 pounds and 17 months old, emaciated and severely sick suffering from a cleft pallet condition, fluid in her brain and lungs and anemia. A wonderful doctor named Wendy donated over 50 lbs of Pediasure and formula to help get Yasmin's weight up, which was the main reason she was denied the cleft pallet surgery. We met with the Dominican doctor in June, gave Yasmin's mom the Pediasure and a nutrition plan. 

Carina and Yasmin at the beginning of the summer

A month and a half flew by, and soon Dr. Wendy would be in the D.R. with her church facilitating a medical clinic in two impoverished communities. The day arrived and I drove to Alan's mom's house where I would pick up Yasmin and her mom and we would drive to the clinic to see Dr. Wendy. Shortly after I arrived, I was in tears. Yasmin was fat! And scooting across the ground! Smiling! Waving hi! Her eyes, which always seemed to be glossed over and cloudy were bright. I watched her eyes twinkle at me and at my girls. 

Yasmin's mom didn't meet me there. She's pregnant with her third child and had an opportunity to earn money at a lottery/gambling bank. In her place was her mom (Yasmin's grandma). I learned more in my drive with grandma and Yasmin that I had in all of my previous visits. Yasmin was born at 7 months old. She stayed in the hospital for two weeks. She had many problems at birth, but "she is a fighter," professed Grandma. On we drove. 

At the clinic there was a joyful introduction of Dr. Wendy meeting Yasmin! We sat down and caught up Dr. Wendy on Yasmin's progress. We all marveled at how plump her belly was getting. Soon, she would begin developing muscle mass! Muscle mass= cleft pallet surgery! Things were progressing along. And then Grandma said she wanted Dr. Wendy to take a look at Yasmin's back. It was completely lopsided. The left side was raised and puffed out, while the right side was flat. Dr. Wendy immediately diagnosed it as congenital scoliosis. It would be difficult for Yasmin to walk without a brace in a couple of years. I was frustrated that this was the first time anyone had mentioned her back, but what caught my eye and the Dr.'s eye even more is this swirly skin pattern on her back. It was like looking at a Nasa weather map of a hurricane on her back. Two colors swirled together. Dr. Wendy called her husband over immediately who is also a doctor. They confer, ask me to ask Grandma if Yasmin has ever had seizures. Seizures? What? 

The doctors tell me that this skin condition is a sure marker for a neurological condition. Anyone who's been around Yasmin understands that there is something else going on neurologically, but we focused so much on her cleft pallet, things we could treat that it was easier to overlook the bigger issues. Not anymore. 

Wendy calmly tells me, if she hasn't had any seizures, she likely will, someday. She will likely not walk, she will likely not be able to take of herself, she will need 24 hour care. She might get the cleft pallet surgery, but never live on her own.
I held back tears and whispered to Wendy that I could not translate that to her grandma. So I didn't. I said what an incredible fighter of a grand-daughter she has. I told her we wouldn't stop fighting on her behalf for the cleft pallet surgery and then we would continue on. We would fight with them each step of the way, one condition at a time. 

I took them back to Alan's mom's house and picked up my girls. I held them so tightly and for an instant my girls were Yasmin and I was Carina (Yasmin's mom). There was no difference between me and my girls and Yasmin and Carina. Nothing separates us from the love and joy of our Father and nothing separates us, His people whom He created to delight in. Carina and I, are the same. Yasmin and my babies, the same. I cried most of the short ride from my mother-in-law's house to our own house. I am grateful that Yasmin has her mom and a good grandma to look out after her. There are so many kids who suffer in unimaginable ways here without any care from a parent or anyone to hold them or wipe away their tears. Yasmin has that. Her grandma also has faith and believes that God brought us to her "in such a time as this."

We are committed to Yasmin and her ongoing health care. We are hopeful that she will qualify for her surgery by the end of the year. Please join us in prayer for Yasmin and her family. Grandma was right; this girl is a fighter and we will continue to stand in the gap for this child.

Yasmin 13 months ago

But what can I say?
He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this. 
I will walk humbly all my years
because of this anguish of my soul.
Lord, by such things men live;
and my spirit finds life in them too.
You restored me to health
and let me live.
Surely it was for my benefit 
that I suffered such anguish.
In your love you kept me
from the pit of destruction;
you have put all my sins 
behind your back.
For the grave cannot praise you,
death cannot sing your praise;
those who go down to the pit
cannot hope for your faithfulness.
The living, the living- they praise you,
as I am doing today;
fathers tell their children
about your faithfulness.

The Lord will save me,
and we will sing with stringed instruments
all the days of our lives
in the temple of the Lord.
Isaiah 38:15-20

August 12, 2012

South Hills Hits the Island

There aren't many things more encouraging to our work on the Island as when our home church comes to work alongside of us. As the Director of Teams for G.O., it's a continual cycle of planning and helping teams prepare their time of service in the D.R. and Haiti. I spend a lot of time working behind the scenes so that our teams have the best experience working alongside of the Nationals. I look forward to working on the field and hosting our home church, South Hills, all year long!

I came on my first mission trip with South Hills in 2004 to work with G.O. in the Dominican Republic. God began a transformation in my life on that trip that would ultimately lead to me joining staff with G.O. in 2007. South Hills has continued to be involved with G.O. over the last five years. We are incredibly thankful for, not only the financial support, but the encouragement, friendship, support, prayers, time and love they have given to us and to the Nationals.

Romans 12:2
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."

Just as God began transforming me in 2004 through my time in the D.R. we had the priveledge of watching God transform the hearts and minds of 25 people in eight short days. But it's not just about what is accomplished on the field. No, the eight days spent here with us is just the beginning. A major part of what we do is to focus on mutual transformation. Not only is it about serving the Nationals and empowering them in the work they are doing, but it's about being transformed from inside out making more passionate servants of the King and the Gospel in our own "backyard." Serving "the least of these," right where you live.

G.O.'s vision is to empower passionate local leaders serving inside their own cultures to redeem people, renew communities, and restore creation by developing dynamic, international, mutually transformational partnerships.

This incredible vision God has given our ministry is part of the reason why we are so passionate about working with G.O. We have a unique opportunity to not only minister with our Dominican and Haitian brothers and sisters, but our North-American ones as well. We also serve as a way to bridge the cultures through Jesus' peace, redemption, renewal and restoration.

Thank you South Hills for your passionate hearts to serve HIM and for partnering with us!

Special thanks to my fabulous mom (aka Nana) for coming to visit us and watch the girls so we could go to Colorado for a week and be with South Hills and for all the wonderfully yummy treats she made us nightly! (We love you Nana!)

August 5, 2012

Living Graciously and Generously with One Another

November 6, 2002- the day I fell to my knees and confessed Jesus to be my Savior
2003- Starting working in full-time ministry
October 26, 2007- the day I knew I was God was calling me to move to the D.R.
May 17, 2009- the day I married my husband
May 25, 2010- the day our beautiful twin girls were born
June 16-23, 2012- the week we spent in Colorado

“For man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
James 1:20

June 20, 2012
Sometime around 12:30pm
I could feel it begin to rise in the pit of my stomach until it reached my throat. What was happening? I thought I had everything under control. I thought I was “okay,” but in reality, there was something happening that I had no control over whatsoever. In that moment, I realized just how overtaken I was. And it had nothing to do with Alan. It was me. Shock, horror, frustration ensued… me? It was me? Surely this was wrong… but it wasn’t. Jesus had begun to uproot this vile, poisonous,  bitter anger that had been hardening my heart and choking the life out of our marriage.  And as I sat there on the side of the mountain, with  a bucket full of rocks at my side, looking down at the one, shiny, glittery rock in my hand, the one that represented perfectionism, the first one I happened to grab, as I sat there holding it fearful of letting it go,  I felt this gentle whisper “give it to me, it no longer belongs to you.” And I let it go. One by one, I let them go, asking for forgiveness, and confessing my sin.
Hardness of heart.
The future.

All 20 of them. One after another.

Alan and I spent a week in June at the Blessing Ranch receiving spiritual counseling and encouragement for our marriage. I went, cautiously optimistic of what the Lord could do in 5 days. How foolish and untrusting we can be. He spoke directly to me about the condition I had let my heart fall into. This was between me and God. Our hearts had been so hurt in a way that only God could heal. It had happened slowly, over the years as a result of me trying to handle things on my strength and not His. We needed his intervention to work out the many footholds we had given Satan.  I placed unreal and never-to-be-met expectations on Alan and looked for him to be my Savior. I put him in a position he was never called to fill. I gave him a responsibility he would never succeed at; to heal me and love me unconditionally.

I arrived at Blessing Ranch a broken and beat down person with a hard heart and a lot of baggage unsure of what the future would hold. But God’s promises are real and he will forgive us of our sins of unbelief. He will wash over us and make us new. He will renew our strength in Him and we will soar on wings like eagles. We will run and not grow weary. We will walk and not be faint. He has done these things for me, he did them in 5 days. 

An excerpt from my journal while we were in Colorado: 
Lord, I commit our marriage to you now. Father, may we feel the power of your transforming love, may  we experience the richness of being in community with you.  Give us eyes to see as you see. To see our humanity with sober judgement. To the feel the presence of the Great I am… We need only to be still and know that you are Lord. You are the Great One… I give you, all my anger, all my bitterness, all my envy, all of my jealousy, all my rage, all malice, all contempt, all my shame, all my worries to you. And would you remove them, as far as the East is from the West. Replace them with love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control.

Lord of Lords, King of Kings- heal us, oh King. Our hurts, our unmet expectations. Heal us.

May we be steadfast in obedience to you. May Satan not be given another foothold in our marriage.  Help us persevere in you. Trust in you. Hope in you.

When we stumble, pick us up graciously and gently. Replace our pride with humility and longsuffering. Grow in us long-suffering that produces faith in you.

James 1:4 Perseverance must finish it’s work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.

Matthew 5:43-48 (Message translation)
"You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
 "In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you."

The theme of the week for us was to live generously and graciously with one-another. It was a beautiful week that we will never forget of seeing the Lord bring forth his promises and restoration.

Two months after our time in Colorado and God is continuing to sustain us with his strength. He has given us new eyes to see one another with. We know the best gift we can give our daughters is to love one another well, graciously and genuinely.

We don’t claim to have it all together, but we do commit to honestly living in a way that will glorify Him amidst all of our struggles. We commit to living our lives as a faithful testimony to what He is capable of. He works miracles. Every. Day.  We have experienced them in a way that completely humbles us.

Please continue to pray for us and for our marriage.  We want to be honest about our struggles. We want to rejoice when it’s time to rejoice and mourn when it’s time to mourn with those who faithfully partner with us. 

There’s a song by Hillsong that perfectly says what I feel deep in my soul and know in the depths of my heart:

Condemnation falls away. 

Never more to call on me and I am clean, yes I am clean. 

The powerful work of you in me. 

Breaks the chains of guilt and shame and I go free, yes I go free.

I take them to your cross and leave them there. 

Captured by this grace I’m free at last.
It is the great gift of Your salvation 

Working in me, working in me

It is the life giving taste of heaven 

Your kindness revealed, Your kindness revealed to me

It’s the greatest gift of all 

It’s the greatest gift of all 

It’s the greatest gift of all

Your mercy’s pouring down on me, Your mercy’s pouring down on me.

And I am clean, I am clean.

Your mercy’s pouring down on me, Your mercy’s pouring down on me

And I go free, I go free.

Beauty at The Ranch

Blessing Ranch

The view from the top of Red Nose Mountain

Free in Him,

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