Sunday, April 6, 2014

My Life's Blueprint

My church just finished up a three week series today on God's will. I can say that my prayer life has immensely changed in just that time because of week one's sermon. I believed God had a blueprint for my life. I thought He had a grand design for the major points in my life - my parent's divorce, their second marriages, college, jobs, relationships, etc. Everything I've gone through has been a small part of some cosmic great plan, right? Wrong. So so so wrong.

Everything I've gone through in my life has definitely played a part in shaping the person that I am today. I won't go into all of the lessons that I've learned along the way, but I can say that my life would look completely different had my parents stayed together or I chose a different college for example.

The one part I could never figure out was my heart. Why me? Why not my brothers? Why not one of the telemarketers who calls my office and bugs me? I always figured that there was some divine reason that I was born with TGA. I don't think about it often, but having a purpose to my different life would at least offer some comfort. I don't think God ordained for me to be born with a heart defect. I think I was just the lucky one in 100. I do know though that had I been born healthy, I would not have any reason to show God's love to the other members of my community.

This is the part where the logic starts to unravel and my brain feels like it's going to explode. I get so close to understanding a small part of God, but my human mind just can't handle it.

It's like God's plan all along was that people who love him need different circles to share his love with so that everyone can hear about it and have a chance to experience it. I'm in introvert through and through. I don't typically choose to go out of my way to meet new people. It's like he knew that I would need some help reaching others I typically wouldn't reach. Some people are given a heart for overseas missions. Some people are given a heart for domestic missions. Some people are great public speakers. Some people will reach millions through their books. I get to reach the congenital heart defect community - a community that is unique. A community that is mine, but not my family or friends'. It's an incredible burden that I'm honored to have. I get the humbling opportunity to love on spiritually broken as well as physically broken hearts. My ultimate purpose is to love those around me. I believe God has intentionally made each of us different to fulfill that purpose. It's knowing this and having the two lines below of a song we sing often at my church playing in my head that will remind me of God's plan for my life.

Give me faith to trust what You say
That You're good and Your love is great

Sunday, March 2, 2014

#3 - Pennsylvania

To be perfectly honest, I'm drawing a blank as to why I chose Pennsylvania as the third state I visited. My guess is because my other aunt and uncle currently live there so it made sense after my Virginia post. I'm racking my brain trying to recall a memory of visiting there before my aunt and uncle moved there.

I've never been to Hershey Park or Amish country or Pittsburgh or other places for which Pennsylvania is known.

I have been to Elizabethtown and Philadelphia multiple times and so I'll just write about those places.

My Aunt Janine and Uncle Tom used to live about ten minutes away from us. When I was in high school, my uncle got transferred to St. Louis (why I have been to Missouri) and then he got transferred again to Pennsylvania. Elizabethtown is adorable. It has a college in it that reminds me a lot of where I went and they have Turkey Hill stores which means yummy ice cream all the time. I haven't really explored the town too much past the college and the high school. My youngest cousin performed in "High School Musical" while I was in college so it turned into a road trip with my roommate, a friend from school, and one of my other cousins. I should probably tour that place a little more.

My favorite city in PA is Philadelphia. Cheesesteaks from South Street? Yes please. One time I went and for some reason the only outerwear I had was a Redskins hoodie. I most certainly turned it inside out and wore it around the city. The zoo in Philly is cute. You know what else is cute? The King of Prussia Mall. By cute I obviously mean humongous. While technically not actually in Philly, it's close enough that most people assume it is. One of my previous jobs held my training in King of Prussia. I spent many evenings of those 3 weeks walking around that mall.

The last city that I've spent memorable time in is Johnstown. My sister-in-law is from there so I spent a fun filled Saturday there at a winery and out to eat at hibachi. I also spent a weekend up there for the wedding.

I clearly haven't been to nearly a fraction of the places that PA has to offer. You would think with my undying love of chocolate that I would've at least gone to Hershey Park. Maybe I'll try to remedy that this year.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

I Have a Blog?

Yes, I'm a slacker. No, I haven't completely forgotten that I have a blog, I just remember it at inopportune times.

At some point I'll do my Pennsylvania entry. It should hopefully be a little more exciting than my Virginia entry, but I'm not making any promises. Spoiler alert - It won't include Hershey Park; I've never been.

Since my last update my adorable and incredibly smart nephew turned two! Last weekend at his birthday party I found out that he will be a big brother in August and I am overjoyed. My favorite role in life right now is the one of aunt. It's probably because I love my aunts so much. I love the special bond that I'm making with Owen and I love watching him grow. At Christmas he wasn't willing to give me a hug and kiss goodbye, but at the end of his party I figured I'd take my chances. I bent down and asked for a hug and he came walking over so I scooped him up. I asked him for a kiss and he gave me the cute open-mouthed toddler kiss that could melt a hardened criminal's heart.

While I'm excited, I'm guarded. My sister-in-law will once again have a level two ultrasound to make sure the baby's heart is alright. I'm praying that this baby checks out healthy just like Owen did.

Speaking of praying, life has a funny way of making us eat our words. I changed churches. I'm still adjusting and it's still not "home" to me, but I believe I made the right decision. I'm connecting each week with a great group of women and I've never been more consistent in my prayer life. Maybe I was back in high school or college at some point, but it's been years at the very least. I'm genuinely praying for a few close friends who don't go to church. I'm moving in with one of the friends and another girl we went to college with in May. I know my integrity as a Christian will come into focus and it's a challenge I'm preparing myself for. I'm praying that I have the strength to be a consistent mirror of Jesus' love in their lives.

On the health front, I will not be having surgery to repair the complication from the catheterization. It's a decision that the vascular specialist made and that my cardiologist supports and I trust my cardiologist with everything in me. Next week I have the awesome opportunity to go to Capitol Hill and speak with most likely the aides of my Senators and Representative about the Congenital Heart Futures Act. I have a chance to share my story with the people who allocate the funding for a surveillance program and research. I was telling my growth group girls about it since I will miss group this week and they all gasped when I told them that congenital heart defects are the number one birth defects in the world. Their reaction reaffirmed why I decided to become an ambassador for the Adult Congenital Heart Association and relit the fire to make sure everyone within ear shot hears about CHD.

As much as I have a passion for speaking about CHD, I should have an even larger passion about sharing Jesus. Jesus is love and love is symbolized by the heart so I think there's a connection I can make somewhere in there. I feel like I'm coming out of a fog of confusion and I can clearly see my purposes in life. I'm meant to fight for people to know they are loved by a God who is big enough to create galaxies and small enough to know every hair on their head. I'm meant to fight for people who are born with heart defects to make sure they get the care they need and deserve while measures are taken to provide answers to questions previously unanswered. I'm meant to fight for the education system to ensure that every student is getting the best education for them to prepare them to do great things in this world. I'm truly happy these days and I love the passions that God has placed inside of me.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 = The Year of the Tease

I know I haven't written in a while. Since I last updated I crossed another state off of my list. I went to Texas near the end of October to train for a volunteer position for an organization that I love. I can't wait to see all of the people I met at the training this year and to welcome in the new people selected to join our group. Since it is a worldwide day of reflection though, I thought I would look back at this year.

In 2013 I found a perfect condo well within my price range, but was outbid on it. Then it came back onto the market for like a split second and was dashed from my within my reach again.

I was supposed to have a final surgical procedure before Christmas and finally close the saga of tests and procedures since I switched to an adult clinic, but surgery is now tentative for February/March so that case is still open.

A year ago this month I ended things mutually with a good guy then went a looooooong part of the year not dating anyone. I met the guy from the last post, but he and I are destined for friendship. I met another guy and things were going okay until red flag after red flag crowded my vision of him and I ended things.

As soon as I ended things with him I reconnected with a guy I talked to almost 2 years ago and went out on a date with once. He didn't remember the date which was fine with me because I remember that I was super awkward. We had an intense few weeks of dating which involved meeting his parents, his next door neighbors that he adores, and having brief conversations with him discussing money and the next step in his career. Things were going really well and then he told me that he didn't have time for me. I found a great guy who supported my moral standing on things, was willing to go to church with me sometimes, and had dreams and ambitions with the motivation to achieve them. His dog loved me. It was easy to spend time together and I never felt worried if he didn't get back to me right away. I had an incredible guy within my reach and all of a sudden, he removed himself from the situation.

When he walked away I was devastated. I felt hurt and betrayed. I don't fall for many guys and I threw caution to the wind and fell hard for him. I try to view these things that happen in my life as having a purpose because that's what a good Christian girl does. She looks at the bad in her life and moves on because God has something better in store for her. The only time she is supposed to look back is to find the lessons and meaning behind what she went through.

God and I have had it out over the past couple of weeks. There's been pleading and reasoning of my disbelief that he would be okay with seeing his little girl cry. If he hurts when I hurt, why didn't he just take the pain away and bring him back to me? I'm not sure what grand lesson I'm supposed to take from this year. It seems like the obvious answer is to stay faithful to God, but I've been faithful for 12 years. I think I've learned that lesson. Maybe I'm supposed to learn how to tune out that evil voice in my head that is trying to make me feel inadequate and broken. Unfortunately, that voice still wins most of the time.

If there's one thing I've learned from having CHD, it's that life is uncertain and can change instantly, for better or worse. CHDers, especially those of us who have known since we were little, adjust because we have to even if we don't like it. I know I don't handle adjustments well especially when I have no control over them, but I've learned to just keep going. It's the only option available. Thankfully there are glimpses along the way that remind you why you kept going. I'm living for those glimpses these days because after a year of disappointment, they're a bright spot that I know I can count on.

Here's to hoping this year is full of fulfilled expectations! Happy 2014!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Roller Coasters and Deal Breakers

I like to keep my dating life private except for a few of my close friends. Sometimes my family doesn't even know that I'm dating someone. Two days into this week and a guy that I've been on one date with has become my boyfriend to my coworkers. Oh the industry I work in. It's a funny little one. The problem with my coworkers teasing assessment is that I don't think I'm making it to date two with my "boyfriend." Part of me is sad, but a bigger part is relieved.

Dating is such a roller coaster of emotions. My roommate and I were talking about it today because I had a rough day (not all dating related) and so I needed to unload a little bit. I've been perfectly content not dating anyone, but then I met someone in a place that I never wanted to meet a guy and of course my hopes got built up and now we've been on a date and there were signs that things were going to progress, but now? Now I think it's done. It gets better though. See now that I've written him off in a sense, I'm sure he'll make an appearance back in my life tomorrow. It's how my dating life has always worked. I try to not go to extremes, but it's hard for me. I'm a commitment type of person. I stick by people through thick and thin. Once I've decided to let you in, I'll give you anything. I'm just not sure I'd ever be able to let this guy in though. CHD makes up a small part of why.

I try to hold off on telling guys about my CHD. My roommate says that any guy who is scared by it is an idiot. That was encouraging to hear, but I know I can't get mad if a guy doesn't want to live a life with a partner with a chronic condition. It's a lot to ask someone. It's a commitment to at least yearly doctor appointments, genetic counseling to make sure it's safe for me to get pregnant, extra care during a pregnancy, being asked to make my health decisions for me if I can't, a lifetime of uncertainty, and many other things. It would be easy not to bring it up with a guy I meet right now and the guy I just went out with doesn't know about my health. Ask me again after I've trained to be an ambassador for the Adult Congenital Heart Association. Do I just leave out my volunteering when he asks what I do in my free time? What about in December when I'm facing a minor surgical procedure? If he wants to go out near my surgery, I either have to lie or tell him I'm having surgery and then explain why and about my condition and so on.

I'm also a total hypocrite. I don't want to be with someone with a chronic illness. One chronic illness is enough for me. A beautiful woman I look up to is married to a wonderful man and both of them have chronic illnesses. It doesn't phase their relationship one bit. I don't think I could handle it though. I go through enough emotions over me. Please don't make me add the emotions and worry over someone else's medical problems. I'm on an emotional roller coaster on a daily basis as is and am not looking to add in extra loops or drops. I know people in general look at me and don't see the label "sick" and it's a label I prefer not to use, but in an essence, I am. While I'm capable and ready to navigate this CHD road on my own, I have faith that a co-pilot is going to come along someday and help smooth out the roller coaster it is. All I have to do is get past the first date...

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Feeling Lost

My best friend and her husband went to Boston this weekend. I was extremely jealous and all I could think about as she and I texted was the trip I took in the fall. Usually, I have a pretty good sense of direction, but something about that city completely threw me for a loop. I had to use Google Maps on my phone to give me walking directions and even then I still ended up walking in circles trying to find the nearest T station. At one point I remember just busting out laughing because it seemed so ridiculous - I'm a fairly smart person who rarely gets lost driving places so why is walking around a city so incredibly difficult? I was in an unfamiliar place with an excellent guide, but something wasn't clicking in my brain.

Today was the fourth Sunday that I've gone to another church in my area. My roommate and a bunch of people I went to church with in high school go there. It is a church that markets itself as a place for people who don't go to church. You can become as connected as you want or stay as anonymous as you want. It's up to you. They use some gimmicks to lure people in like free Dunkin Donuts coffee and first time visitors get a free t-shirt and a sticker. Side note - the shirt is literally the softest shirt I've ever owned in my life. I told my roommate that I wanted all of my clothes to be as soft and comfy as that t-shirt. The gimmicks are great selling points. For Easter, they encouraged their regular attenders to invite people by giving out gift cards to food places that they could use to take whoever they wanted to invite and show love through a simple cup of coffee or a lunch. They're clearly doing something right to bring new people in. Besides holidays, they had a new high in attendance one of the earlier Sundays of the current series. I can't speak on the individual and personal growth of the people who go there as I won't be switching churches, but they have programs in place to help people grow as much as they want.

The pastor has been preaching a series on our stories as Christians. He's basing it out of John 9 in the Bible which is the story of the man who was blind, but could see after Jesus spit in the dirt, made mud, rubbed it on the man's eyes, and told him to wash it off in the pool of Siloam. The pastor spoke on spiritual blindness and encouraged us to ask God to reveal where we've been blind and God hit me with a ton of bricks on that one. While I love the church I go to, it is not remotely close to being unchurched friendly.

I've had the opportunity to sit and look at my church through a new set of eyes. When I became a Christian, I was in a church that was very focused on outreach and I felt comfortable inviting my unchurched friends to it. The thought of inviting my unchurched friends to the church I currently go to makes me incredibly uncomfortable. That feeling has trickled so deep into who I am as a Christian that I realized I barely even share the story of Jesus with those closest to me. I want to, but what if they want to know more and ask to come to my church? I don't want my church to scare them away with all of the Christian talk, the forced socialization, and the length of the service. My church is definitely a church for those who go to church or have a background in it. There are many things in place to help us grow personally in our walks. I am a testament to that. One of the ways God wants us to grow is by sharing our stories with those who don't know Jesus and frankly, I'm failing. I'm afraid if I invite my unchurched friends to my church, they'll be in an excellent place with a great guide in me and in the Bible, but something won't click because everything will be so unfamiliar.

It's created a dilemma in my heart. Do I jump ship on the church home I've had for almost 6 years to go to a new place where I would have the tools to grow in an area that I desperately need to grow in? Not to mention, the amount of young men there - church can't touch that. Or do I stay and fight for my church to open its eyes to what I see? Unfortunately for my love life, I think it's best for me to stay and fight. I can't be the only one who feels like I'm starving in this area. I already know where part of the issue stems from, but I haven't figured out a tangible place to start. How do you help change the culture of the church you go to? My church has a heart to reach the community - we're in a building phase right now and leadership is trusting God to fill the spaces with people, but in order to do that, we have to become a place that's open and receptive and comfortable for people who have never gone to church to feel right at home. It starts with me and my actions. I don't know where it goes after that, but I know God wants his churches to be places where prostitutes and tax collectors can feel the love that Jesus showed to those same types of people back when he was alive. It's time to put aside my fears and insecurities because a man died on a cross to save my life and that's too good of a story not to share.

Friday, June 28, 2013

#2 - Virginia

I'm going to say it's safe to assume that the second state I ever visited was Virginia. If it wasn't, let's just pretend so.

One of my first memories is of my Aunt Joan and Uncle Dave's apartment in Virginia Beach. He was in the Navy at the time and before he left, or maybe when he got back, my family went to go and have dinner on the ship that he was leaving on for Operation Desert Storm. One of the guys offered me bug juice to have with my dinner and I completely freaked out until my uncle explained to me that it was just fruit punch. My dad and brothers got to go in the cockpit of one of the planes and wear a pilot's helmet. While my uncle was gone, my mom took my brothers and I to visit my aunt and keep her company. He brought us back pretty cool presents. There's an epitome of the 90s picture somewhere of the three of us with our gifts. I'll try to find it for you guys.

They also lived in Ashburn, VA and that house holds a lot of memories. We used to play football like we were the Kennedys. Apparently a story goes that my brother slammed my uncle into the side of the house one time. We haven't played much football since that incident. We switched to playing soccer, but my youngest cousin is extra fragile and has injured/broken one too many things in her body because of the games. We haven't played a family game since my 21st birthday. The youngest sat out that one and the game ended with my other female cousin throwing her flip-flops at my brother. None of us will be quitting our day jobs to play sports anytime soon.

Currently, my aunt and uncle live all the way down in Fredericksburg. I visited a few summers ago when I was between jobs and got to go to Lake Anna which is beautiful. Once my beautiful cousin graduates college, they will probably move again (my aunt blames the Navy for not staying in one place even though my uncle has been out for a while). I really hope they move closer to MD. They're just too far away for my liking right now. Fredericksburg has some pretty yummy restaurants though. It's such a cute small town despite having a college in it. William & Mary seems to respect the coziness of what Fredericksburg has to offer and I really liked that. Granted, I visited when school was out, so it might be a rowdy mess during the school year.

Some other favorite memories from VA include seeing my favorite musician at a coffee house after I drove the wrong way on the Capitol Beltway and ended up driving the entire loop just to get to my destination. I spent my 19th birthday at then what was called Nissan Pavilion to see Mat Kearney, John Mayer, and Sheryl Crow. I've shopped the outlets in Williamsburg and rumor has it I went to Busch Gardens when I was a wee one. I've also been to Kings Dominion several times. I went once in high school with friends from youth group to go to Fright Fest. I somehow ended up at the end of the group and went right on the defense against the actors so that I wouldn't get scared. We got to a girl who was pretend slitting her wrists and I told her that Jesus loved her and life wasn't that bad. It really drove the actors insane that they weren't scaring me, but I had a great time laughing through the whole thing.

I don't spend too much time in Virginia even though it's not that far from me. I'm usually there for family functions and while I love my family and sometimes think we should pitch a TV show idea from our shenanigans, I know that most people won't find my family as entertaining as I do. This is also another one of those states that wasn't a one hit visit so putting together an album of pictures will be a little difficult. Check back though, I have some quiet and free time coming up so I might just endeavor to create an album.