Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 I hate you then I love you then I love you then I hate you...then I love you

I started writing a 2013 review blog, and I have to be honest--it was terrible.  Not that I'm the most talented writer or the most enlightening communicator....but my 2013 blog was just plain depressing.  I started recounting all of the nasty things that happened and maybe a little bit of the good things here and there, and as I was editing I realized that it was very imbalanced.  How easy it is to focus on the negative!  The negative is more interesting, the negative is more entertaining, the negative is easier to remember and easier to dwell on.  Right?  So instead I decided that for the top 5 negative things that happened in 2013 I would write 3 positive things that happened or were a result of the negative thing.  Most of you know 2013 was a hard year for us in many ways.  But I want to finish 2013 not by focusing on the negative, but on our blessings.  Sometimes they were hard to see in the midst of the pain, the tears, the heartbreak, the confusion...but they were there.  As you can see right here, they were there.  Which is why I both hate and love 2013.

#5 Johnny lost his job

1. Johnny has the interview experience of a champion
2. Johnny gained the confidence to realize his potential in ministry
3. Johnny started Discover Family Church

#4 Sarah quit her job

1. Sarah's new job has less stress
2. Sarah's new job has better salary and benefits
3. Sarah's new job allows much more family and friends time

#3 Sarah and Johnny had no steady income for 3 months

1. Johnny's summer speaking engagements paid more than expected
2. Sarah, Johnny, and Arlis never went without a meal or diapers or milk
3. Sarah and Johnny's bills were paid on time every month

#2 Sarah and Johnny moved out of their house and subsequently had nowhere to live

1. Sarah, Johnny, and Arlis spent quality time with Kim and Betty
2. Sarah and Johnny have rental income from renting their home
3. Sarah and Johnny now live in the perfect little condo and are saving lots of money

#1 Sarah and Johnny lost Baby Blueberry

1. Sarah and Johnny now have valuable wisdom and experience regarding miscarriage and loss
2. Sarah and Johnny have a lot of family and friends who love them
3. Sarah and Johnny are stronger than they thought they were

I won't even pretend that these positive things were always apparent.  But what was apparent and so clear was God's grace.  We made mistakes this year...we were so disappointed in ourselves and in our circumstances, and sometimes on top of that we were criticized by others, which made that feeling even worse...but thank GOD for his grace, made perfect in our weakness as Paul so eloquently wrote in 2 Corinthians.  We most certainly were weak this year, but that weakness has positioned us for Christ to work more deeply in our family and in our ministry.  Though this year has been one of our hardest it has not left us discouraged or defeated.  Instead it has left us with confidence to walk boldly and intentionally into 2014 knowing that we can rest assuredly in God's grace.  It has left us even more determined to accomplish the goals of 2014.  I'm excited that 2013 is over, but I'm even more excited to use what we learned this year to make next year even better.  Thank you, friends, for your support and love this year.  It has meant more than you will ever know.  Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Celebrating Baby Arlis

I hate to say it, but I'm one of "those" moms.  I love talking about my baby.  I love showing people pictures and videos of him.  I love posting on Facebook every last adorable thing that he says or does.  I'm sure I've been blocked by lots of my cyber-friends due to my motherhood.  I always said I wouldn't be one of "those" moms....when I was single and childless.  I think the fact that I waited so long to get married and start a family makes me even more one of "those" moms.  I'm excited to be doing this.  I'm in love with being a mom.

I am blessed with a little man, Arlis James Kelley.  He is now 2 years old.

When Arlis was first born, a week would go by and I would panic.  Newborns are newborns for just a flicker of time and between figuring out what in the world this little creature needed from me and how to feed him and dress him and keep him from harm...I felt like I was rushing all the time.  Then I would sit and cry as I realized how I rushed through the week and my newborn was a week older.  He wasn't going to make those precious, squeaky sounds forever.  He wasn't going to let me hold him while he slept for the rest of his life.  On top of it all, when you are a new parent, you get SO much unsolicited advice from SO many people....you better enjoy this and you better enjoy that because they won't be this young/cute/cuddly/sweet/small/good/nice-smelling forever....as red strobe lights and alarms explode in your head and more sand empties from the proverbial hourglass.

Finally Jonathan and I sat down and decided we would take every day and live it for what it was worth. While Arlis was a little slug, we would enjoy him being a slug.  And when he got older we wouldn't regret that he wasn't a slug, but celebrate that his personality was emerging...and then he was smiling....and then crawling, creeping, walking, talking.  On each step, instead of mourning the loss of the last step, we were joyful about his accomplishment and the new chapter.  Yes, they do grow up quickly.  But instead of regretting this fact that we can't change, we decided to embrace it....which is why I'm one of "those" moms.

And now my little spawn...Baby Arlis...isn't a baby.  I have to be honest, part of me is like, hm!  You embracing this?  How's that working for ya now?  He's a little boy and the Baby is almost gone.  I had lunch this week with a friend I hadn't seen in 10 years.  She wanted to see all the pictures of Arlis that I had.  As she scrolled through them it was kind of like a review of his little life.  I was both incredibly happy and proud of my boy but I'll admit it, I also was a bit wistful.  He's my baby.  The little human who made me a mother. It's tough to say goodbye to these precious days.  But I'm choosing to embrace it.  So here is a little review of Arlis's second year.  To CELEBRATE!

December 2012

Learned To Dance 

                   Had Too Much Christmas               

January 2013

First Football Practice

Jammed On His Keyboard

February 2013

First Solo

First Baby Powder Incident

Trip To The Florida Aquarium With Meme & Pepe

March 2013

Had Some Disney Fun

                                                         Flirted With The Ladies

First Haircut

April 2013

                   Read Some Books                   
Got Ear Tubes :(

Played In the Rain

May 2013

Danced The Polka In Germany At Epcot

Said "I Love You"

Learned What The Letter "D" Says

Enjoyed Playing His Instruments

June 2013

Counted To 6

Took Pappy's Truck For A Spin

Played Piano With Amelia

Got In touch With His Inner Cowboy

July 2013

Spent Time With Amelia

First Time On The Slip N Slide

Lived It Up In Miami

August 2013

Had A Nuclear Baby Powder Incident

First Coconut Race

Enjoyed The Sunshine...In Daddy's Glasses

Swept Up With Amelia

September 2013

Sat On Pappy's Harley

Attended Pappy's Last Kidtricity Service

Spent Lots Of Time With Pappy & YaYa

October 2013

Painted A Pumpkin

Was The Count For Halloween

                                                          Got His First Soccer Ball

November 2013

Flew Planes With Pepe

Super Baby!  Big Boy!

Used the potty! (No pic needed)

December 2013

Became a little boy.  Happy Birthday, Arlis!  We love you!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Figure It Out

I'm one of those people who likes to figure things out...probably to a fault.  One of my strengths (that I can usually state quite easily in a job interview) is that I am a problem solver.  If I can't solve the problem with my own knowledge and/or experience, I search for a solution and I usually don't rest until I find a good one.  I love to improve the big picture. My mind is constantly running...constantly. Even in my sleep I sometimes come up with an idea (I get this from my mother).  The gratification that comes with knowing the reasons why something isn't working or why something happened, and then identifying solutions to those problems is what drives me. I love learning and I love challenge. Although problem solving is one of my strengths it is also, as I have figured out, a huge weakness.

Whenever something bad happens...I don't even need to list examples of bad things because ALL of us have had bad things happen...the first question most of us ask is, "Why?".  If you are a praying person, or even if you rarely pray, you probably have asked God, "Why?".  Frustratingly so, we don't typically get an answer...at least not in the way that we would want.  For me, I would really like God to quickly send me an email with a detailed explanation.  I'd also appreciate an Excel attachment so that I could visually follow the logic and fully understand his reasoning and long term implications of his decision/actions.  Instead, 5 years...maybe 10 years down the line, if I'm lucky, I get this thing called "hindsight".  It gives me NOT the complete picture, but a better glimpse--possibly--of what God may have been up to.  As a problem solver, I do not like this arrangement at all.

When it comes to understanding the loss of Baby Blueberry, I've spent the last month trying to guess the logic of God.  I felt like if I could figure it out, I'd move to the next level....kind of like those Myst games my brother and I used to play.  This is not a recommended practice, by the way, and you will see why.  I've listed below some of my human thoughts and theories as to why God let Baby Blueberry die.  Brace yourself, you are entering Sarah's world of crazy:
  • God never wanted me to be pregnant in the first place.  It was bad timing and I should have been more careful
  • I may get sick next year or Johnny might get sick next year and we wouldn't be able to take care of 2 kids physically or otherwise
  • I might die next year and Blueberry would have no mother
  • Johnny might die next year and Blueberry would have no father
  • We are going to be so financially destitute by the time Blueberry would have been born that it was just better off for Blueberry that he or she wasn't born
  • We are screwing up so badly with Arlis, God is not going to let us have another life until we get it together
  • I have an undiagnosed medical problem and I will never have another baby and this is just part of life and I will have to accept it
  • Blueberry would have turned out to be a serial killer and broken all of our hearts and destroyed our lives (yeah, I know...too much Dateline)
  • Something bad is going to happen to our family next year and having a new baby in the midst of it all would be too much for us to handle
There are plenty more I could list, but as you can see there are no pleasant and not too many rational reasons in my mind as to why Baby Blueberry died.  I can't imagine that it's for any good reason because how is the loss of my baby good?  Still, the point is, I tried to figure out what God is doing....as if I'm as smart or smarter...as if God's plan is a jigsaw puzzle that I can complete once I find the missing piece.  And when I see the big picture I'll magically be okay with all of it.

I'm SO SO WRONG!  I'm WAY off, friends.  Waaaaaaay off.

Isaiah 55:8-9 
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LordFor as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

I've known this scripture my entire life and I don't think I even came close to truly appreciating its meaning until now.  I recently read this book called Proof of Heaven, by Dr. Eben Alexander.  In it, he describes what he believes to be his near-death journey to heaven and back.  It's so different than other near-death experiences that I've read because he talks in detail about how the capacity of knowledge and understanding in heaven was so incredibly vast and intense--almost concentrated.  He has difficulty even describing with our earthly human language the way heaven was and the way he could communicate with God while he was there.  I think reading about his experience made me realize that even with all of our intellect as humans, even with our incredible technological and medical advances, we are so very primitive compared to where God is and how God is.  We are remarkable creatures, created in the image of God, but definitely not with his brain-power.  God was trying to tell us exactly that with this scripture.  God could have made me a genius--Einstein-like-- and yet I'd still not have the capacity to even consider his thoughts and ways.  Because he's God and I'm....a human.

After working myself up into a tizzy....yes, I just used the word "tizzy"....this scripture came to mind. And I felt like an idiot.  I felt like I had been advising a world renown neurosurgeon how to perform an operation while knowing absolutely nothing about neurosurgery.  God gave me a decent, problem-solving mind but I stepped so very far out of my league when I tried to figure out the "Why?" of losing my Baby Blueberry.   Don't get me wrong, I think it's normal and okay to ask the "Why?".   I think it's great to communicate to God those emotions...whatever they may be.  It's part of the human grieving process to feel what we feel when something bad happens or when we experience loss.  He made us that way.  However, making a list of purported schemes that I think God is entertaining....not so great.

The "Why?" is still out there for me.  It probably will be for a very long time, if not the rest of my life. I'm sure my "Why?" is not alone.  In fact I know it's not.  But I can't spend my short time left on earth answering a question that is beyond my capacity.  My husband needs me to help him with the problems that we can solve together.  My Baby Arlis needs me to help him with his daily needs.  I needed to recognize that as much as I want to know...as much as I think I needed to know...God intends for me to understand in his timing and in his way and there is 0% probability that I'm going to correctly guess when and how that is.  To think otherwise is nothing short of ridiculous.  I will know the full and complete "Why?" when I meet him.  But until then, I have to trust in his great love for me. And for Blueberry.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

This is it....don't get scared now!

I once worked at a place that was obsessed with the Meyers-Briggs personality test.  No seriously, I was made to take it at least 3 times and made to sit in on meetings way many more times regarding my personality and the personality of everyone else in the workplace.  Through this process I learned that my personality is pretty split.  LOL.  It's not like I have 2 people living inside of me (although I'm sure at times Johnny would question this fact) but on each spectrum of personality elements I fell almost exactly in the middle.  For example I am not a blatant introvert or extrovert...I am simply both and neither all at once.  Hypothetically this would mean that I am not an extreme person....yeah even I would question that fact!  When it comes to change....changes in life, changes in work, changes in experience, etc....I actually do find myself literally split.  I love trying new things and experiencing new things, but I also have moments of fear, even panic, when the time gets close to something new happening.  This was me about a week ago.
The day of my D&C surgery I received a call (while lying and crying on a stretcher in pre-op...you can't make this stuff up) offering me the job that I had been hoping and praying for.  Talk about a schizophrenic week....this was surely a contender.  The next morning Arlis woke up, screaming, around 4 a.m.  Poor Johnny tried to take care of the situation, but if you have or have had an almost 2-year-old, you may understand that when they want their mommy they will have their mommy or they will explode.  This was one of those moments.  I took Arlis and Johnny went to get him some milk....which he quickly vomited all over him, me, the bed, the floor, and so on.  He had a fever and milk was probably not the best avenue to take with a fever but when it's 4 a.m. and your baby is screaming and you just had surgery and you haven't slept for 48 hours other than under anesthesia, logic is not something that happens naturally.  I managed to calm Arlis down and he fell back asleep and I.........woke up with Arlis's fever.  When you have surgery, your immune system takes a hit.  Mine was already kind of wobbly according to my pre-op bloodwork and this threw me straight over the cliff of infirmity.
Fortunately for my physical recovery my start date for my new job wasn't for another couple of weeks.  Unfortunately for my mental recovery I had caught the toddler virus from hell and would be in bed to ponder life and the loss of Blueberry for those couple of weeks.  In the midst of that....we would be moving out of my in-laws house and into a condo the week that I started work.  And I was pretty much helpless to help my poor husband juggle poor Arlis and the menial tasks that come with moving. 
Everything was happening...and all at once.  What we had been praying for....the right job for me, the right place to live, the right timing for the church plant, getting out of Johnny's parents' house...was happening.  This was a time to be happy, excited...gleeful even.  I found myself terrified.  For the past 3 months we had established a way of life.  Compared to the 3 months before it was almost stable.  It was not a way of life I wanted to continue....but the thought of yet another major change in such a short period of time under the circumstances that had just happened to us made me want to run and hide.  I knew for a fact that once the change happened that I would be in such a better place....physically, mentally, and emotionally.  But I still dreaded what was going to happen.  I was fearful.  I was anxious.  By the time it was time for me to start my new job I was a disaster.  I don't think I slept more than 2 or 3 hours the night before.  I was still not healthy physically and my mind was even less healthy.  What if I fail at this job?  What if I hate it?  What if our new place turns out to be awful?  What if Arlis won't sleep in his new room?  Yeah if you can imagine it, I thought of it.  My moment was at hand....and I was scared.
What I didn't think of was what Mrs. Appiah and Mrs. Ellis taught me in 4th grade Missionettes at church.  Phillipians 4:8&9 --
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
If you were a Missionette, you memorized this verse.  We learned the KJV and we loved to recite it a.k.a. scream it during class every week.  God bless Mrs. Appiah and Mrs. Ellis. 
The other thing I didn't think of was the scripture I had been carrying around, taped to the back of my phone, for the past 9 months.  Deuteronomy 31:8--
And the Lord, He it is that doth go before thee; He will be with thee, He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not; neither be dismayed.
There are a few different opinions of  what "fear not" means in the Bible.  My husband says, the Bible says not to do it, so simply, do not be afraid.  Maybe that is possible for him or you or other people.  I truly believe he is capable of turning it off.  I do not believe I am capable of flipping that switch.  Fear is a reflex to me.  Scientifically, fear is something that is human and natural.  Without fear we wouldn't stay alive for very long...we'd be walking into streets and sticking our hands into flames and laughing in the face of gun-wielding men.  Personally, I think all of the "fear not" scriptures, including the ones above, mean when you are afraid REMEMBER and BE COMFORTED.  Remember the times God has seen you through--and all of the good things that are--and his peace will comfort you, as a parent comforts a child.  When I tell Arlis not to be afraid I don't expect him to say, "OK mommy," and then assume he's not going to be scared anymore.  I'm telling him, I'm here, I will protect you, you will be OK.  And when he realizes that, he is calm.  He is at peace.  When I am afraid I need to think of the things listed above....the true, the honorable, the just, the pure, the lovely...and I will realize yet again the goodness of God and I will be at peace.  He goes before me, wherever I go.  That, my friends, is really something to think about.
It's not easy not to get scared.  Especially when BIG things (good or bad) have happened to you or are happening to you.  For me, I need to respond to my reflex of fear and anxiety with thoughts of goodness and rememberance of what God has done for me.  I want it to become a habit that when something rocks my world I remember those things and I am comforted.  When I close my eyes and I see our baby Blueberry, lifeless and gone, I need to remember the goodness of God.  When God has given me an incredible new job and I immediately think I will fail, I need to remember the goodness of God.  When the moment has arrived for us to begin meeting for our church plant and I know this is going to bring hard and fast changes around every corner, I need to remember the goodness of God.  That's not something that just happens.  That's something that I have to develop.  I feel like I'll be developing it for the rest of my life, but wherever I am in that process, I know God will meet me there.  So here we go.  This is it...don't get scared now!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Losing Baby Blueberry

It's been quite a while since I've paid attention to my blog.  Honestly, putting things in writing make them more real.  And some things you just don't want to be real.  I've struggled for the last few days with sharing this story.  For many reasons, I just didn't want to.  But for many more reasons, I think I should.  I don't think I've physically been capable of typing this out until now.  And I want to do it before I'm not able to any more.

We found out we were expecting our second baby in July.  It was a surprise, but a pleasant surprise!  Yes, awkward timing, considering I was actively interviewing for jobs (a.k.a. unemployed) and we were living with Jonathan's parents (a.k.a. homeless) but we would figure it out.  :)  We told our immediate family in August along with just a few close friends.  At the time, the baby was the size of a blueberry, according to whatever app we had installed to track the pregnancy.  The name stuck with the family and Baby Blueberry was a source of pleasant talk in the midst of some trying times my family has had over the past month.  Blueberry represented hope, the future, good times to come.  If I weren't unemployed I'm sure I would have gone out and bought Blueberry an outfit or 2.....definitely some socks.

Two Sundays ago was my 12 week mark.  I felt great.  The horrible nausea that I never had with Arlis disappeared and I felt like I had a twinge of energy.  Then Monday morning I woke up and just felt off.  My stomach was upset, I thought maybe I was coming down with something.  Jonathan suggested that I rest a bit.  I went to the bathroom...and saw the blood.  My heart sank.  I screamed for Jonathan and burst into tears.  I didn't know but I knew.  After I composed myself I called and spoke to the nurse practitioner in the OB practice and she reassured me that it could be completely normal.  They would see me the next day.  But my heart was unsettled.  I didn't sleep that night.  First from the anxiety that was innately there and second from the cramping that gave me more anxiety.  The cramping became contractions and by morning I knew something was wrong with Blueberry.  I got in the shower and told God I simply couldn't do this.  I couldn't handle losing a baby.  I couldn't bear to hear them tell me it was dead.  I couldn't bear to see my dead baby on the screen.  We drove to the doctor in unusual silence.  Jonathan periodically tried to instill hope in me as only a good husband should do and I had maybe a teeny tiny speck of it left in my heart, but mostly there was dread.  

I was startlingly composed in the waiting room.  I had imagined all night that I'd be that hysterical crazy lady.  The one people would stare at and later talk about.  The one they'd have to call in psych for...or social services....or maybe even security.  After a short wait we finally headed back to the ultrasound room with the big screen television.  The tech (who is absolutely the most lovely person on the planet and was the same one who showed us our Baby Arlis) had problems finding Blueberry.  For a split second I thought maybe I never was pregnant in the first place.  And if I was never pregnant then I wouldn't have to lose Blueberry.  The mind plays so many tricks on you in times like these.  Then she found Blueberry and there Blueberry was.  I knew what Arlis looked like at this stage--full of life, waving his little arms and legs.  Blueberry was lifeless.  Floating.  Still.  She searched for a heartbeat.  Nothing.  There was a thick, flat line across the big screen television.  She didn't have to tell me for me to know, but she did.  There's no heartbeat.  I'm so sorry.  Based on her measurements, Blueberry had actually died a few weeks earlier.  I didn't scream like I thought I would.  I didn't ask for a sedative and for the psych unit to come take me away.  I just existed.  And we scheduled surgery for the next day.

I had a wonderful surgeon who sat down and talked to me before the surgery.  In our discussion she explained the statistics of miscarriage to me.  The logical part of my brain loved this.  What I never wanted to understand before (I mean what woman trying to have a baby wants to know miscarriage statistics??) was almost soothing to me now.  I'm not going to post them here because I know not everyone wants to know them.  Just know that it's common.  More common than you think.  And as I shared our news with just a few I realized how many people are affected by miscarriage.  It's painful.  It's isolating.  For me it is isolating out of my own choosing.  I have a wonderful, supportive family and great friends.  But having lost Blueberry makes me want to be all by myself when and for however long I want.  For me, that's how I can process it.  That's how I can figure it out enough to write this down. For others it may be isolating because it is so personal that they never share their experience or they don't have a doctor to explain that they really are not alone.  Either way it is isolating because you are going through it in that moment all by yourself. 

My woman-crush ;) Darlene Zschech wrote in her book, Extravagant Worship, about her experience with miscarriage and how on the way home from finding out that she lost her baby, God told her to sing....

Darlene wrote, “So after years of learning it is much better to obey quickly, I started to sing. My head didn’t sing, and I do not even know if my heart sang, but my soul sang.” The first song she heard coming out of her mouth was the hymn “Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee, how great thou art....” Even though her thoughts were full of despair, the core of her being, her soul, was singing rather than her intellect. Next she sang a song she had written years earlier called “I Will Bless You, Lord.” 

I always remembered that part of her book, years and years after I read it.  I don't know why....but maybe now I do.  That night, after Blueberry was gone from me, my body could not even sing.  I couldn't speak much less sing.  So I pulled up the song I Will Bless You Lord on YouTube and I listened to Miriam Webster sing the song that I could not.  And in that moment I realized that Blueberry was with God.  Blueberry was being held by Jesus, playing with Jonathan's sister Emily's baby that she and Geoff lost 3 years ago.  Blueberry would never know us here on earth but Blueberry also would never know pain, never know sorrow, never be sick, never cry, never feel the loss that I feel.  And the loss I feel is temporary....

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison 2 Corinthians 4:17 

I don't blame God for taking my baby.  I cling to him.  I thought maybe I'd be mad at him.  More than anything I just want to be with him because he is PEACE.  It doesn't mean I'm not sad.  I am devastated.  I wake up in the middle of the night and cry for Baby Blueberry.  I wonder if Blueberry was a boy or a girl.  I wonder if Blueberry knows how much we loved and still love him or her.  I wonder if Blueberry can see us or hear us or know us somehow.  But there is peace in the midst of the storm.

Please pray for our family.  We are about to start a new chapter--move into a new home, start new jobs, start a new church.  All of these things are exciting and wonderful.  We did not expect to do them in the midst of grief.  Thanks so much for your support and thoughts and prayers.  We appreciate them so very much.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I Married an (cough) Evangelist

I don't know about you, but the first image that pops into my head when I hear the word "evangelist" is Steve Martin in his glittery jacket, arms raised, angelic look on his face, in his film Leap of Faith.

I grew up in church and that's the first thing that I think of....along with orange-y tan, stiff haired preachers on television shoving people down on the ground so they will be "healed" or begging viewers for their lives' savings and in return a promise to send them a lovely bookmark and/or handkerchief soaked in prayer (oh goody!).  I can only imagine what people with other backgrounds think when I tell them I married an evangelist.  I'll be honest, sometimes I cringe a little when I say my husband is a pastor.  I feel a little bit like George Costanza because sometimes I sort of mumble my answer hoping the other person just nods in semi-understanding.  I'm not ashamed of who he is or who we are.  I just don't want people to think that he's Steve Martin. He certainly is not.

I started dating Jonathan a few weeks before my brush with death.  We had been seeing each other for about a month before our dates were in the ICU.  Yeah, craziest start to a relationship ever!  And then the day after I was discharged out of the hospital, he left for 9 months on his first bicycle tour.  He started cycling in San Francisco and zig-zagged across the USA speaking to teenagers about missions.  Not just Africa missions, but missions right in their own communities.  Feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, making a difference in the world one person at a time.  He went on a second tour the next year and, in total, cycled tens of thousands of miles speaking to over 100,000 youth.

Since then, that has been his primary message, and it's a great one.  It's simple.  It embodies Christ and it follows his commandment to love.  If this were not Jonathan's message I don't think I could have married an evangelist.  I don't like schemes.  I don't like tricks.  And that's what I thought of when I thought of evangelism in America.  It's what lots of people still think about evangelism in America.  This is why I am so excited about our new adventure: a new church.  After Arlis was born Johnny and I both decided that his extensive travel wasn't the best for our family.  We have been praying and trying to figure out our next step in life and in ministry.  That next step is Discover Family Church.   You can read about it here: http://www.johnnykelley.com/2013/07/the-next-journey.html

Discover Family Church is taking the evangelistic message that Johnny has been speaking about for the past 5 years and bringing it home.  Evangelism is missions.  And missions begins in your home, in your family, and in your personal relationships.  It is loving the ones closest to you so that you can, together, love the unloved out there.  And there are many, many out there.  I'm excited that I married an evangelist with a heart for families.  A missionary who sees the potential right here in our community and wants to see that potential grow and develop.  A man who desires to create a place where families support each other, and those without their own family can find one within ours.  I married an evangelist and I am so glad I did!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

So you don't believe in miracles....

When I was a senior in high school, taking AP English and Writing, we were reading the New Testament.  We had to choose a topic to write about and I chose the healing ministry of Jesus.  Not because I was particularly interested in it, actually, but because it was the easiest to outline, the easiest to talk about (because I had 4 books of the Bible that referenced it), and overall, in my mind, the easiest A.  I did get my A, of course, and I actually found the paper when I was moving out of our house last month.  When I read it, it kind of made me chuckle to think about my 17-year-old mind and my 17-year-old faith.

I grew up in church.  Yes, I'm one of those kids who went to Sunday School AND Children's Church every single week and mid-week.  I have to say I enjoyed myself.  In Massachusetts, where I was born and halfway raised, we attended a fabulous church with excellent programming for children and families.  I credit that church for providing me with the foundation of my faith.  And I had FUN, had wonderful friends, made great memories.  All of that aside, as we all know, at some point we have to decide for ourselves what we believe, if we believe it, how we believe it, etc.  I was taught that God could do anything...anything!  He could move mountains if He wanted to, He could appear and disappear like magic...the proof was in the Bible.  If you are a reader of scripture you are probably familiar with all of God's activities....the parting of the sea, Daniel being spared his life in the lions den, the water turning into wine, and the healing of the blind, just to name a few.

Be honest with yourself.  Do you REALLY believe in miracles?  Not just that they happened in the Bible,  I mean REALLY believe in them?  And not just for someone else but for yourself?  By the time I became an adult I think I believed God could do miracles, but I didn't actually believe He would do them.  At least not for me.  Which meant I didn't believe in miracles.  I have come to realize that first-hand experience is something that most human beings need to really feel confident about something.  This is where God has challenged us.  He wants us to have faith.  I had weak faith.

In December 2008 I came down with the flu.  It was horrible.  High fever, throwing up, misery, misery, misery.  After about a week of this, and after my temperature hit about 104 degrees I went to Urgent Care to see a doctor.  I assumed I was dehydrated and needed some fluids and I would be just fine.  They ordered some labs and as I waited for the results I received a bag of fluids. The doctor came in shortly and told me that I did not have the flu, I had hepatitis.  Hepatitis?  How would I get that?  I had received my vaccinations for Hep A and B, and I'm not a drug addict or sexually promiscuous.....so how would I get hepatitis?  The doctor said he did not know, but that my labs were off the charts.  I needed to come back on Monday for more tests.  I never made it to Monday because on Sunday I was feeling terrible and decided to take a bath.  I looked down at my legs and they were yellow.  Yes, like Tweety Bird.  I freaked out and had my parents take me to the ER. 

The hospital had difficulty figuring out what was wrong.  They at first thought it was my gallbladder and then realized that wasn't it.  I had lots of tests and scans and no one seemed to know what the problem was.  About that time I developed pneumonia due to something going awry with one of the gallbladder tests.  Off to the ICU I went.  It was there that we received the news that I had mononucleosis.  They believed that the virus was causing my liver to fail.  Ok, what???  Looking back I can see that God had his hand on me.  Because my primary care physician just happened to have an interest in hepatology, and he realized that I needed to be at a different hospital.  He already had started the transfer request.  Meanwhile, I was losing my mind, literally.  My memories are clear in some places but unclear in others.  I remember my parents trying to convince me to sign the transfer request.  I refused for a solid 3 days.  Fortunately behind the scenes, my PCP was looking out for me, and by the time I was convinced to sign the papers the EMT's were walking in my room with a stretcher to take me away.

I went to Tampa where my condition declined.  My liver was failing, my kidneys as well.  The second or third night there I collapsed on my way to the bathroom.  My red blood cells were depleted to the point where I could easily stroke out.  I feel so bad for my poor mom who witnessed this whole scene.  I can't imagine what she was thinking or feeling watching them squeeze blood into my body.  I went to the ICU again, but I was alive.  They told me I had to have a liver transplant or I would die.  One of the nurses told my mom that it appeared I had cancer and that she wouldn't be surprised if the tests revealed that over the next day or two.  The transplant team met with me and my family and it was determined that in the next 48 hours I would have a transplant, provided there was a donor.  My liver was in complete failure and had no hope of working again.  I remember one nurse telling me, Miss Casey, you will be going into a coma soon.  I think I may have sworn at her.  Other nurses told my parents to prepare for my death.  It would be soon.  I was moved up to number 1 on the UNOS list for a liver.  I remember asking my mom if I was going to die.  I wasn't asking because I wanted to know.  I knew I was dying.  I was asking because I wondered if she realized it.  Of course not!, she said.  I remember my pastor coming to pray for me.  I remember asking him the same thing.  No darling, you're not going to die, he said.  But I could see it in their eyes.  I was going to die.

The next day was to be final preparation for the transplant.  Final tests, final labs, etc.  Every morning at 6:30 am I had my levels checked.  This day, they came back at 8:30 am to get more blood.  I thought nothing of it.  My mom woke up and looked at me.  She said, you're pink!  Of course I had no idea what she was talking about at the time.  My initial morning labs indicated that my liver was working...that's why they came back for more blood.  The second set of labs confirmed it.  My liver was working.  It simply began to function.  I was so much less Tweety Bird yellow than I was the day before that I even looked pink to my mom. 

Recovery was difficult.  I remained in the hospital for another week because my hemoglobin remained low and needed to recover.  Slowly it rose and I was released to go home.  Over the next 3-4 months I made a complete recovery.  Then my body, still reacting to what happened to it, began to kill my blood platelets.  Over the course of 2 years I had to be treated for that.  When I had my little Arlis, all of it went away.  I am perfectly healthy today and that is my miracle.

Today I do believe in miracles.  Not just big ones like the one that happened to me, but little ones all around me.  We live in a world full of pain and sickness and corruption but we also live in a world full of miracles.  Breathing is a miracle.  Laughter....a miracle.  I have no doubt that God healed my liver.  I credit the many, MANY prayers of my family, my church family, my friends, my co-workers, and even people I don't even know who heard of my story.  I also know that there are skeptics out there.  I was one of them.  I believed God only healed through medicine, through science.  I believed the miracles of the Bible were for that moment in history not this one.  I was wrong.  I don't know why God healed my liver.  I'm no better than you or your sick child, or your sick mom or dad.  But I know God hears our prayers, He listens, and He has this whole messed up world under control.  So if someone is sick, do what the Bible says--pray!  Know that whatever the outcome, God has a plan.  And remember Isaiah's words-- But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 


Monday, July 22, 2013

Who Am I?

I'm excited about my first "real" blog.  I always have felt that my most effective mode of communication was through writing.  Back in junior high school my best friend, Amanda and I decided, after a few quite disastrous oral arguments, that we would only disagree on paper.  We would pass a sheet of paper back and forth discussing/disagreeing/fighting over whatever 13-year-old girls fight about and then we'd work it out, on paper, and then walk away as if nothing happened. It was old-fashioned, rudimentary text messaging, with the shouting in capital letters and everything.  Since then I have worked on my oral communication skills, of course, but I have always enjoyed and still do enjoy putting my thoughts into written word.

There's all kinds of pressure when you start a blog....I mean, it's kind of presumptuous to think people will actually read what you have to say, isn't it?  I  don't have great weight loss tips or nutrition facts or the perfect way to apply lipstick.  I don't and I won't pretend that I know the answers to all of the mysteries of life.  I certainly don't want a cliche blog about being a working mom or a crafty cooking female (although I wish I were crafty and that I had genius recipes, haha!) or the political decline of America, or a blog Jesus juking everything and everyone I see.  I just want to share a bit of my life with as many as I can.

Who am I?  And what makes me think you would want to read what I have to say?  I'm nobody special....but I have a special life.  We all do!  I'll spend some time filling in the details as I write, but here's the rundown:  I'm Sarah.  I'm almost 36 (yikes!).  I'm married to Jonathan Kelley, I have a baby boy, Arlis, that will be 2 in December, and I live in Lakeland, Polk County, FL.  I'm a pediatric audiologist (google it).  My husband is a pastor.  Here's my family:

And just for the sake of pure adorableness, here's one more of Arlis:

Yeah, he likes to wear hats and impress the ladies with his charm.  :)

This blog is going to be about the journey.  What has brought me here to this moment and what is to come.  There are a lot of exciting things ahead, so join me if you will.