The Day That Changed My Life

We all have defining moments in our lives; ones that shape us into who we are at the very core. Experiences that drive change – sometimes good change, sometimes regrettable change – but change nonetheless. Over the course of my life I’ve had several such moments, and I’ve weighed in my heart and mind which are the ones that have changed me the most. Unquestionably, the day I accepted Jesus as my Savior at the age of 10 was a turning point in my life. When I was baptized two years ago, it was another moment of remarkable change in choosing who I wanted to be and what direction I wanted my life to take. But those were conscious choices to change – rooted in what has developed into an incredible faith-life that is spent fulfilling my purpose to glorify God.

Today, I’d like to take you back 30 years – to a day that changed my life, and I had no choice in the matter.

May 16, 1989 – my good friend Janine picked me up in the early morning and drove me to the hospital for a scheduled out-patient surgery. We arrived at the hospital and checked in for my diagnostic laparoscopy. When I woke up in the recovery room, I was given the news that I did not have a uterus. This is the day that MRKH entered my life.

I probably sum it up best on my Courageous page –
On that day I was told that I was born without a uterus, cervix, and the upper 2/3 of my vaginal canal – I had a birth defect that no one could see, and I would never be able to carry a child. On that day, my world quietly shattered. My hopes, my dreams, my plans, everything I thought I would or could do with my life…shattered. Yet, somehow my life continued. As I look back on my young life, the things I did and didn’t do…I look back at a young woman who learned to be Courageous.

In so many ways MRKH has shaped my life. I have grieved deeply over a life changed by MRKH. I have faced off with clinical depression. I have lived through abusive relationships. I have conquered fears. I have learned that not only does MRKH mean I won’t have a period or carry a child, but for me it also means I have kidney abnormalities and joint and skeletal issues as well. Over the course 30 years I’ve had 7 additional surgeries because my body wears out joints very quickly. When I was 23 the sports medicine doctor who operated on my shoulders said that I had the shoulder joints of a 60 year old. (um…thanks???) When I was 41 the podiatrist had to fuse my toe because the joint was so damaged there was no saving it. Last year (9 months ago actually) I had my spine fused because of degenerative disk disease and spondylolithesis.

But this post is not about the details of my entire medical history (there are plenty of posts about that in the archives) – this post is about looking back and reflecting on the day I was diagnosed with MRKH and how over time, I’ve made the best with what God has given me.

For starters, I’m still blessed to call Janine one of my best friends, all these years later. Turns out she struggled with infertility too, and ultimately adopted 2 beautiful children. She has been a solid rock in my world for some of the most trying times, and even when we go years without visiting in person, we still pick up right where we left off. She encourages me, prays with me, and reminds me that God puts the right people in our lives exactly when we need them.

While I ultimately never became a mother for all variety of reasons, I have spent my life working with youth and young adults in a wide range of rolls. I’ve been a mentor and not a mother. I’ve been a 4-H leader. I’ve worked with our teen-girls youth group. I’m blessed to be an aunt to 3 awesome nephews, and 2 beautiful nieces, one of which gave me a great-nephew too! I’ve worked for the last 15 years in a university setting where I work with students training to be teachers. This past spring one of my students said this to me, ” I love how you’ve developed your life story into one in which your career ultimately focuses so heavily on flowering integral intellectual fertility within the minds of countless kids, both within Washington and beyond. ” That one got me right in the feels. All of these experiences have given me the chance to influence many more lives in my lifetime. And I love that I can watch these folks grow and prosper in their own lives. I celebrate their victories, watch them graduate, get married, and I pray with them when things get rough.

As I’ve journeyed through my 40s, I’ve felt the impact of MRKH in a variety of ways. I’ve probably experienced the most change and healing during this time. I’ve accepted that I’m a mentor and not a mother. I’ve focused my life on physical and emotional healing. I’ve had 4 surgeries (both feet and my back) that have tested my resilience. I’ve fought through depression and grieved the death of some incredible people and beloved pets. I got a full sleeve MRKH tattoo. I’ve come to rely on the grace of Jesus to get through everything life throws at me. I found other MRKH sisters just like me, and ultimately partnered with the Beautiful You MRKH Foundation to create the Courageous Project. I can’t begin to tell you difference in my life that has made. Sharing my story. Raising awareness. Meeting some incredible women – Amy, Kay, Christina, Dawn, Hailee, Ang, Britt, Erin, Jaclyn, Kristen, Jen, Barb, Chrissy, Allison, MaryBetsy, Kristen, Lizzie, Ayala, Hanah, Krystina, Elyce, Christie, Lyndsay, Lindsey, Julie, and so many others. The love that we share, the way we support each other, the hugs, the laughs, the tears…it has been, and continues to, inspire and change me.

And when I truly embraced who I was – that is when I surrendered it all to God. I’ve grown as a woman and sought to serve God’s Kingdom. I’ve launched a women’s ministry through a Facebook group of MRKH sisters – MRKH Journey through Faith and started a women’s ministry group at our church we call Ladies’ Night In. I’ve been ordained and serve as Head of the Board of Deacons for our church. I’ve completed training and been commissioned as a Stephens Minister. I’ve never been as complete and fulfilled as I am today.

30 years after learning that I had Meyer Rokitanksy Kuster Houser Syndrome, today I’m living my best life.

Spring??

According to the calendar, it is officially still winter for another week. But we did change the clocks for daylight savings time, and the sky is actually blue today, so maybe…

This has been a heck of a winter here in the Pacific North West. We got most of our snow in February – but so far March has done it’s fair share of adding to the difficult morning commutes. I’m honestly not sure which is worse, a morning commute after a foot of snow, or a morning commute after 4 inches of snow. I’m grateful for the highway department who provides snow plows and ice melt, and generally makes it possible for me to get to and from work each day. I’m also grateful for 40 degree days and 20 degree nights with blue skies. This allows the snow to melt during the day, but slows it back down overnight – which ultimately helps me not be quite so nervous about spring run-off and the potential for flooding! We currently have about 2 feet of snow on the level, but mountains of snow banks where it’s been plowed off the driveway. While we often have some snowbanks left still thawing in April, I’m thinking it may very well be May before they all melt this year.

Speaking of spring…I’ve been spending my weekends preparing for spring craft shows. This past weekend (which I extended to a 4-day weekend!) I did quite a bit of production. 144 bars of soap, 120 tubes of lip balm, and an assortment of lotions, creams and salves. I still need to do a couple more varieties of lotions, but I’m feeling much more comfortable with what I have on hand preparing for the spring craft shows. Over the next couple of weekends I will spend some time actually packing up my craft show bins and getting things organized. My craft show trailer is currently surrounded by snow all the way around past the tops of the fenders, I am hopeful that most of that will melt off on it’s own and I won’t have to do too much to get it pulled out and loaded up. Just under a month, so I’ve got my fingers crossed!

It’s been 7 months now since my back surgery. I’m fairly well settled into a routine and feeling pretty normal. I’m increasing my activity level slowly, trying not to aggravate anything – and paying particular attention to my body mechanics and alignment. I’m able to do more yoga and more walking, and making sure I’m doing my stretches and exercises for my back and core regularly. In general I feel really good, and I’m looking at what I can be doing long term to keep myself healthy. I’m hopeful that as the driveway thaws out I will be able to walk at home more regularly – Bella sure enjoys it when we go for a walk, since it usually involves a ball!

I’m still eating cleanly and well – tracking my food daily and noticing/correcting patterns as necessary. The scale is still working itself down slowly and I’m trying to be disciplined about making a weekly meal plan and sticking to it. This helps me to not cook the same old thing over and over again, but also makes me think about what is in the freezer that needs to be eaten. A couple months back I went online and ordered a binder for organizing my recipes. It came with an assortment of page protectors, scrapbook style pages, and pages to fit recipe cards. After about 3 marathon sessions, I managed to get most of my recipes into the binder with some semblance of order. I often cruise around recipe blogs looking for inspiration, and print off recipes that entice me. I rarely follow them to the letter, but it at least gives me a good place to start….and if I like my modifications, I generally make notes about what I did. So now I have a binder that has all my recipes in mostly one spot. I of course, still have my cookbook collection – but all the family recipes that have been handed down, and all the magazine clippings and internet printed recipes now all live together in the binder.

For Lent this year I’m reading a book called 40 days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole. Each day has a scripture reading and mini lesson, a passage about Lent, and a focus on something to fast for the day: Regrets, Tidy Faith, Rationalism, Isolation, etc. It’s been an interesting read so far, and a good reminder of love, self-care, discipline, and sacrifice. It’s a great way to focus my daily devotional and bible study time, and to get a fresh outlook on scripture passages and stories I already know well. The more I immerse myself in God’s word, the stronger my faith becomes, and the more I see the relevance in my own life – as God planned it of course.

Image result for matthew 5 15-16

6 Months Post Spinal Fusion

It hardly seems possible that it’s really been 6 months since my surgery, but I can’t deny the truth of the calendar. I’ve gone from the heat of summer, to a beautiful fall of color, to the depths of a snow packed winter. I’ve gone from walking with a walker, to a cane, to slow but deliberate walking, to the ability to walk as much as I want. I’ve gone from no lifting, bending, twisting, through a slow and steady recovery, to being able to lift what I need, bend forward and touch my toes, and gentle twists in my upper body. I’ve learned how to protect my back muscles and keep my spine stable. I’ve learned to kneel and squat down instead of bending at the waist to reach things on the floor. I’ve strengthened my hips and legs, and I’ve worked to strengthen my core muscles, the big and little ones, and I’ve worked to strengthen and stretch my back muscles and the muscles in my legs and hips. It’s been a huge recovery process, but I feel good with my process and what I can do now.

This past week I had a visit with my surgeon. New x-rays show my fusion is growing stronger, and all the rods and screws and cages are doing their job. He is pleased with my progress, and the strength and flexibility I’ve gained. He commented that it looked like I’d dropped a few pounds (yes, validation!), and that it looked like I was more comfortable. I agreed with him, and asked him about continuing restrictions. For the past 6 months I’ve been to avoid using a heating pad, and no use of NSAIDS. I’m cleared to use them now if i feel the need. I’m cleared to lift safely and smartly. We talked about craft shows, and that I am to be careful and not lifting while bending or twisting, and to keep my boxes packed on the light side. I’m allowed to walk, jog if I want (not likely), ride a bike, swim (also not likely), and do as much yoga as I like so long as I’m careful during twisting poses and don’t ask too much of my body. I’m to be careful and extra cautious in the snow and ice – NO FALLING. The fusion itself will continue to heal for the next year, but I’m right on track. His parting words to me were, “Call me if something comes up, but you MUST DO YOUR EXERCISES EVERYDAY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.” Alrighty then, message delivered doc!

The next day was my appointment with Brenda, my physical therapist. She put me through the paces and did some massage on my whole back (I was a little extra stiff apparently). She talked about challenging my strength and using some resistance along with more repetitions. She sent me home with some bands to use. She agrees with the doc’s assessment to keep doing what I’m doing, and keep adding strength challenges. She talked a lot about being aware of my body mechanics, and listening as my muscles gain strength. When you get stiff or sore, take the time to rest and stretch things out before doing more. When you feel like you need to sit and rest, do so. When you feel like you need to get up and move, do so. When your muscles get tight, use your massage stick and tennis ball to release the tension. And you MUST DO YOUR EXERCISES EVERYDAY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

So apparently, I keep moving along and doing my exercises for the rest of my life. I knew going into this surgery that as important as what happened that day in the operating room was, that my recovery and rehab would be even more important, and a life long commitment.

My food tracking app tells me that I’ve been tracking food and eating cleanly for 47 days now. I’ve also been riding my exercise bike regularly, and working hard on my PT exercises and doing yoga a few times a week. I feel like I’m in a healthy mindset, and the doc was right, I have lost weight since the first of the year. I’m not dieting per say, but I’m also not eating crap. I’m monitoring my calories each day, and avoiding eating grains and starches, and avoiding sweets and overly processed food. I don’t feel deprived, and I’ve been enjoying looking for and trying new recipes. We have been eating a lot more fresh produce, and I know I’m feeling much better in general – I have more energy and am sleeping better too.

If you aren’t in the Pacific North West, let me share that we have been given our entire dose of winter…in a couple week’s time. It just keeps snowing…many inches in the cities, a lot of wind, and out in the hinterlands where I live – we are measuring the snow in FEET. There have been school closures, road closures, and when you do get out and about, the roads have been a mixed bag of snow covered, slush covered, clear, and drifts. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful…but I’m tired of it. The closed the university for a day last week, and we had late start another day…and those things hardly ever happen. It’s been several years since the last time it happened.

Last weekend the snow created all kinds of havoc. Wind gusted snow across the roads creating white out conditions, and drifts accumulating in the roads. It just wasn’t safe to travel out of the cities. After a series of messages between our pastor, the elders in the church, and myself, and a bit of prayer – I was asked to not only lead our service because our pastor couldn’t make it down, but also to deliver the sermon. I’ve had to do this before due to weather, but she wrote the sermon, and I just read it. This time, she and I spoke at length, and her sermon wasn’t a good fit for me to deliver. God has been pushing me recently to step out of my comfort zone more and more. So I spoke to my pastor about a sermon idea I had. She approved of the direction I was being led, and I sat down Saturday evening using a sermon outline another pastor had written, I wrote a sermon on the Power of Prayer. I used my lovely new bible to find appropriate scripture references, and listened to my heart as I was writing. I sent it to my pastor to look at, and for any last minute changes, and I went to bed.

Sunday morning I got up and ready for church, printed the bulletin that Pastor E had sent me, read her words of encouragement, and printed my sermon notes. My little country church congregation was lovely and supportive as I not only lead our service, but delivered my first official sermon. I went ahead and recorded it with my phone, to send to pastor, and a few close friends. After prayerfully considering my options, and the motivations behind them, I’ve decided to share it with you as well. May my words truly bless you.

Power of Prayer