Catching Up on The Journey

IMG_3819It’s been a long time since I visited the blog that I had a hard time logging back into wordpress, struggling to remember my password.

I quit writing in part because I couldn’t physically,  then I got really busy and distracted. Also the longer I waited to put notes to keys the harder time I was having to come up with the right series of words to illustrate where the journey to Amor has taken me.

First of all and in case the picture hasn’t given it away I’m officially the new Social Media Specialist for Amor Come Build Hope. For how it all started you can go here.

Although I have not raise enough support via fundraising I was still able to come on board because my colleges at Amor decided I was key for the new direction the organization is taking by giving part of their own salaries to subsidize mine until I’m able to raise more. Technically each month as I gain new supporters, my support from Amor will decrease until I’m fully sponsored, for that reason I still need your generous donations. (Go to https://www.amor.org/give/staff and input my name FJOH in the comment box and let me know so we can stay in touch). 

But that’s not the whole story and I wish I could come up with the words and really say how much has been placed in my heart in the last weeks. My hope is that my rambling makes sense.

A month ago I was preparing for a small surgery, so small that the technical term is a procedure. A hernia no bigger than a dime developed after my last pregnancy (my baby just turned 4) and I decided to take care of it taking advantage of my time off (a.k.a unemployment). I was told it was a simple surgery, which it didn’t mean a simple recovery. The following two weeks became the most grueling, humbling, painful weeks of my life, but in an incredibly ironic paralel in my disability many opportunities and projects I had been working on reached fruition and despite my affliction it was time to act.

As I was heading into the O.R. my husband turned to me cognizant of my terror for everything hospitaly and gave me a hug, I took a deep breath and prayed a silent prayer, your will be done. I know a little bit dramatic.

Upon my return, I felt like I had taken the best nap in the world and I was ready to get into action. After 10 months of transformation I was coming out of my cocoon.

When we got home I noticed that I had a voicemail from a guy named Chris, inviting me to join him as a Youth leader to take a group of high school students from Newbreak for a one week-long trip down to San Jose, Costa Rica to partner with an organization called Latin American Child Care (LACC).  He said he had heard good things about me (always a good thing to hear out of surgery) besides the fact that I’m bilingual and that I had recently developed a heart for Missions, made me an excellent candidate.

I felt like it was another appointment that God had prepared for me. So needless to say I’m going to Costa Rica in less than two weeks. Which by the way, although my fare has been covered there is still time if you want to support a youth to donate towards their trip by contacting chris@newbreak.org. The info about the trip is here. (I realized I’ve become shameless, but you don’t have to give if you don’t want to, but part of my job as a social media specialist includes the getting used to ask you to exercise your giving muscles.)

By evening time though, the medication began fading and was replaced by the most excruciating physical torture I’ve ever endured (and I’m counting here labor pains sans meds). Two days followed where I feared I would loose my mind, a mix of the medication that barely took the edge off and the pain that despite the medication showed it’s ugly face. A cycle of pain, numbness, confusion and the wall that took me back to the torment.

I was eager to get back on my feet, for the first time I had kept a running program for longer than a couple of months. I was eager to get back because I was going to Costa Rica, and I was eager to get back because my husband was leaving in a couple of days for a business trip and we did not make arrangements to care for our children or for me for that matter (I didn’t expect the extend of the disability).

The worst part were the six days following the surgery, specially the last three because my husband left on his trip and I had to make do. Fortunately and despite my lack of preparation asking for help, my mother in Law and my step mother in Law stepped up to the plate, helping me where they could. I also discovered or rather rediscover the beauty of 11 year son’s spirit and his work ethic. Much like his dad he has an amazing heart. He anticipated my needs and without being asked took upon himself the hardest task of putting his little sister in bed every night. To save myself some writing and because God synced me with similar stories I want to share something I read which feels like a version of what it is to go on the road of recovery for any care taker here.

I want to think those weeks also make me a more compassionate person. Not because I understand pain better, but because I was able to grasp the full scope of emotions from loneliness to gratitude and then most importantly surrendering. It is true that part of the problem of not getting more help was because I wanted to take care of things myself. That is my default mechanism: Independence, self-sufficiency. God had shown me how broken  my default mechanism really is, but this time the lesson was absolute. I needed Him; I needed others; I needed something I could not give my self. I forgave my self and began to reach out and with each reaching out healing began. I prayed, because I was surrendering my pain, but mostly through all I learned to give thanks for each act of love, even if it was small, it was enough more than enough.

As I began healing we received the sad news that my husband’s grandfather, a man whom I admire and love deeply for his strength and soul, had to have an emergency gallbladder surgery. The same day I found out, I was given the fabulous news about my start date with Amor.

 “No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on. And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for.” Rick Warren 

The following weeks are mostly a haze in my memory between visiting grandpa at the hospital, which very quickly made me forget any pain I had felt, and trying to rush to give my kids their last days of a very hurried fun summer before their mom headed back to work. Fortunately, and despite several complications, grandpa has a fabulous prognosis. He’s back on his feet, and although he still doesn’t look like his old self and has yet to get his swagger back, I feel confident he might even come back with a vengeance and I expect to see him soon back on the green.

As for Amor, I’ve been working at the office for one week and all I can say it’s a match made in heaven. I feel privileged to continue writing a story of Love and encourage people to follow and bravely act upon the call of Come Build Hope.

Everyone at Amor has an important job for the future of the ministry. You can be part of that vision by supporting me with a monthly donation, a one-time gift or by committing to pray for me to meet my needs to continue my employment with Amor.

You can make your donation online at https://www.amor.org/give/staff, just make sure to put designation “other” and input my name in the comment box.

You can also send a check at 1664 Precision Park Lane, San Diego, CA 92173 and put my name in the memo line (FJOH).  Or call 619.662.1200 to make a donation on my behalf.

Thank you for your support and God Bless,

His Pursuit part 3…

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“How long do I have to wait?”

“It says here three to five minutes.”

“What does two lines mean again?”

Silence.

We ended up taking six tests. For an unmarried 18 year-old few things are scarier than the sight of two lines on a pregnancy test. He laughed (probably from the shock). I went cold, for I had made up my mind. After all, this was the United States and I knew where to find the nearest Planned Parenthood.

I had dreams to pursue. I liked this boy all right, but not enough to give up my entire life plan. Did I?

Life Intertwined 

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

 Romans 8:28 (NIV)

As we talked about our “choices,” the phone rang. His mom called to inform him that the baby she was expecting had been diagnosed with Trisomy 18.  Meanwhile, Danny’s sister was also struggling to conceive after a series of miscarriages. The irony upset me .

Their mom was willing to stand behind her baby, despite a high-risk pregnancy and little statistical probabilities for survival, for life’s sake. She was living her faith in Love. I was living life in fear and selfishness. What about MY dreams?

As I’m typing this, my stomach turns inside out as I don’t even want to consider an alternative universe where my boy didn’t exist. He has the biggest heart and a brilliant mind. He is happy, funny and sweet. Everyone who knows him knows what a blessing he is to everyone around him. But more importantly, making the choice that he would live saved my life.

Danny’s youngest sister, Kelly Marie Murdock was born months later. Her short life had the purpose of showing me the meaning of love and sacrifice while giving an opportunity for their mother to witness in my life.

Danny’s youngest sister, Kelly Marie Murdock was born months later. Her short life had the purpose of showing me the meaning of love and sacrifice while giving an opportunity for their mother to witness in my life.

After the call, Danny dropped me home and told me to think about what  I wanted to do next.

The next day he took me to Mt. Helix and proposed in one knee presenting a small heart shaped ring. The gesture meant everything to me, important people had quit on me before. Yet, he didn’t want to run away, or even if he did, he was willing to face any challenge for his baby and me.

He was asking me to change my decision from whether I would have a baby or not to whether I would do it with him by my side. Looking into his eyes I knew he loved me, but I was afraid. I didn’t want to multiply into my mistake by getting married. We had nothing going for us. Even if I was not going to have an abortion, I could go home and raise the baby on my own, or perhaps consider adoption, like my big sister had recommended on the phone.

We were both young; we were going to be parents; we came from very broken homes; we didn’t even have similar views in politics and religion; he was heading to boot camp; I didn’t have a green card; we spoke different languages (although at this point most of our conversations were Franklin free); and the worst and the most painful thing: It meant I would leave my family, my country and everything I knew for good.

Marrying him meant abandoning everything for this man and my unknown child, and giving up the life that I wanted to have for the one we would create. I told him I would think about it.

I Do

In bed at night, the words of God “I will never leave you nor forsake you” echoed in my head. For the first time, I prayed with all my heart: crying, longing for answers, wanting to believe.

Why Trisomy 18?

Why the miscarriage?

Why me?

“For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5   (NIV)

Next day I paged Danny 1, 4, 3. (I love you).  He called me. I said a simple “I do.” “Pick you up at 8 to go to church?” he said. “Yes,” I said.

We had guilt written all over our faces, three days have passed since we found out we were going to be parents and we had not told anyone (except for my big sister who kept it a secret). Danny was excited to give the news to his family. I was terrified to call mine back home.

During worship I felt again the warmth and love that I felt during the service at the Baptist church four months ago.

Their pastor began speaking about faith and again I knew the message was directed at me:

Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” This verse from Ruth to her mother in Law is a common one read at Christian weddings, yet it was the first time I heard it.

It was a confirmation that God had indeed prompted me to say yes to Danny. “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God,” my fears dissipated as He held me in His hands.

For the first time I had the confirmation He was after me, and I wanted to be caught. I invited Him in.

 “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” Ephesians 1:13 (NIV)

 Joy

P.S. His pursuit for my whole self from that moment on became relentless, with the culmination several years later with my surrender. We did start with a tumultuous marriage. From the brink of divorce, he restored us and renewed time and time again our love and commitment to each other. He has been transforming us and I don’t believe He is ever done. In fact in the past two months since I started Journey to Amor he has taken us to new Mountaintops and accompanied us through some very dark valleys of doubt and fear as we take on new challenges and summit our finances and career choices to His will. But in Him we find truth. Only this weekend I received His Joy, an experience that I thought beyond my possibilities and faith. I’m extremely grateful for His unending love and His continuous grace.

This is me, this past weekend at a retreat. Joyful, full of the Holy Spirit. Thankful.

This is me, this past weekend at a retreat. Joyful, full of the Holy Spirit. Thankful.