My Ebenezer

Five Years
On July 29th, 2012, I flew out of Atlanta to spend a year in Romania.

Five years later, I’m still here.

They have not been easy years.

In 1st Samuel chapter 7, we read about Samuel praying to God on behalf of his people, Israel. Under Samuel’s leadership, they had just destroyed all of their idols and repented of worshiping false gods. They had gathered to fast and repent together as a nation, and this gathering made them an easy target for their enemy, the Philistines. They had been obedient, but now they were about to be attacked, and they were afraid. They begged Samuel, “Do not cease to cry to the Lord our God for us, that He may save us.” So Samuel cried out to the Lord, and the Lord did save them.

In that place where the Israelites had repented, where they had cried out to God, and where He had come to their rescue, Samuel set up a memorial stone. He named it Ebenezer, which means “stone of help,” and declared “thus far the Lord has helped us.”

Like the Israelites, I’ve had to destroy many idols in the last five years. I’ve thrown out false gods of pride, insecurity, jealousy, pessimism, and even my own thoughts about what my life should be like. I let go of some things I thought I wanted, and accepted some things I wouln’t have chosen for myself.

I’ve fought battles, too -- language, cultural differences, doubt, conflict, moments of fear, and temptation in many forms. But every time I cried out to the Lord, He was faithful. He has shown me His goodness and blessed me in ways I never expected and don’t deserve.

I got married. I worked five years at my dream job. I’ve seen lives changed and prayers answered. They have not been easy years, but they have been good.

So how did I celebrate five years in Romania? What did I do to mark the fact that thus far, the Lord has helped me?

My Stone of Help
On July 29th, 2017, I had a baby.

I, an American, had a baby in a Romanian public hospital.

Does that sound as crazy to you as it did to the hospital employee who checked me in?

“Don’t you know there’s a private hospital? And why aren’t you having this baby in America, anyway?”

When I found out I was pregnant, I had to make a lot of decisions, and it seemed like everyone I talked to had an opinion about what I should do. It was all quite overwhelming, and I was already terrified of giving birth. But thank God for my husband, whose faith is often much stronger than mine. Every time I second-guessed a decision, he would ask me, “Didn’t we already pray about this? And what was the answer?”

In hindsight, I can see that every choice I made in faith turned out to be the best choice. Everything was arranged perfectly by the One who is perfectly good, and I can see His faithfulness in every detail.

I can see it in the little bird that sat on the skylight of the operating room for the whole hour during my C-Section, although my heart had been set on a natural birth. Somehow, that bird was like a sign to me that this was for the best.

I can see it in the nurse who kept rubbing my head and telling me everything was ok. This was my first surgery, first time even being in the hospital, and it was scary.

I can see it in my doctor, who’d tried to change shifts so he could be home for his daughter’s birthday. I’m sorry nobody would trade with him, but I am so thankful he was on call that day so I could be with a doctor I trusted.

I can see it in the three other ladies who shared my hospital room, even though I’d been hoping for a private room. We became a team for those five days, a community.

I can see it in all of the hospital staff who were so nice and took such good care of us, even without bribing them, which is what most people think happens in Romanian hospitals.

I can see it in a roommate’s mom who tried to comfort me when I was in pain. I appreciated that.

I can see it in the two times I got sent home from the hospital because the baby just wasn’t ready yet. If he’d come sooner, I wouldn’t have given birth on a Saturday afternoon when the hospital was less busy. Any sooner and his birthday wouldn’t have been on the five year anniversary of my coming to Romania.

Most of all, I see His help and His goodness every morning as I sing old hymns over my sweet baby boy. He is my stone of help, given to me as a a reminder forever of how faithful the Lord is when we trust Him. He is my Ebenezer.

“Here I raise mine Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’ve come...”


Two Heartbeats.

This is what I can't get over -- I have two heartbeats. 

This week I went for my 12-week checkup. (By the way, I AM PREGNANT.) This is the checkup where they measure the baby's neck and nose, then ask if you want to do the bloodwork to check for chance of genetic disorders like Down Syndrome. When I left my last checkup, the doctor made sure I understood how important it was that I come in at 12 weeks. 

Yes, I understand. It's important. After 12 weeks, you'll only have a few weeks left to legally terminate the pregnancy if something doesn't look right. 

So I went. I went at 12 weeks. For 6 weeks I had been showing around my first ultrasound picture, which was basically a little blob, or maybe a bean. It wasn't much to look at, but what that picture didn't show was the heartbeat. In the same week that I got a positive pregnancy test, I also heard the baby's heartbeat. My doctor showed me how the little bean was sort of moving, and explained how that movement was actually the heart beating, then turned up the volume so I could hear. 

I went home and cried. I had one heart beating in my chest and one in my belly.

For the next six weeks, when I looked at the black and white image of my little bean-child, I could still hear the thump-thump-thump that meant it was alive. 

I knew the baby was growing and developing, but I don't think I was prepared for that 12-week checkup. I watched the screen as the doctor measured the neck and showed me the nose. I looked at the head and belly that had formed out of that first bean shape. I saw little feet kicking around. I heard the heartbeat again.

And then, with kindness and respect, my doctor asked me a question she already knew the answer to: "Of course you'll keep it no matter what, right? I know how you all think, that you always keep it." 

Of course I'll keep it. 

She's had enough patients of my kind to know that we keep miracles. We keep wiggly feet. We keep heartbeats. We keep life. 

I assured her that I still wanted to comply with every test and every recommendation she had for mine and the baby's health, but with the understanding that regardless of any outcome, I will keep it. She assured me that everything looks good, that all the measurements are normal, and that she understands. She knows that we always choose to keep the baby. 

I looked back at the screen and tried to process the reality that, if I'd chosen, if something hadn't been "normal," I could've terminated. I could've stopped the feet from wiggling. I could've stopped my second heart from beating. 

But how could I? 

I have two heartbeats now, and I could no more willingly stop one than the other.



Back in September, after much begging and pouting and pleading, I finally convinced Dani that NOW IS THE TIME! We NEED a puppy! 

Now, I know it may seem silly to pray about a dog... But I really wanted this to happen. So I asked God that, if it's meant for us to have a dog, He would help us find just the right puppy for us. With school having just started, I would be gone until around 2:00 every afternoon, so I wasn't sure how we would handle training. We also really wanted a Yorkie, since I know from my parents' Yorkie that they are good with kids and don't shed. But what were the chances of us finding a Yorkie that wasn't a tiny puppy? Nobody raises a Yorkie and then gets rid of it, right?

When we started to search local classified ads, guess what we found? A 6-month-old Yorkie, already partially potty-trained, whose owner was moving to Austria and really needed to find him a new home. Perfect! 

He is absolutely the sweetest puppy I've ever seen! Sometimes I'm convinced he's actually smiling. Aside from just being the cutest thing ever, I love how friendly he is. He has forced me to get out and go for walks more often, and to learn to talk to strangers. 

We live beside a river, and there are many older people who sit outside in the afternoons on the benches that line the sidewalk. Spike seems to have a special talent for finding the ones who need a little bit of joy -- he goes straight up to them and demands attention! I love to see how happy they are to pick him up and cuddle him, and it gives me an opportunity to talk with and encourage them. It's become one of my favorite things to do in the afternoon. 

So I guess I've become one of those people who gushes over their animals. I think we make a pretty good team!