Saturday, February 27, 2010

Running in the Rain

I woke up this morning, and it was all windy and cloudy, but the rain hadn't started yet. So I decided to hurry up and run before it did. Of course, by the time I got ready and started a load of laundry, the clouds had burst. But I was already ready to go, so I decided to continue on with my original plan. I'm glad I did. I came back looking like a wet rat, but there's just something freeing about running in the rain. Stomping in puddles. Feeling the water drip down your face. The invigorating rush of large drops cascading off of tree boughs in the wind...Once you get past the initial shock, it's really quite fabulous. (It didn't hurt that I was wearing my Biola Cross Country jacket, which reminded me of the glory days when I was fast!)

And now I'm clean, dry, and warm, bundled up in sweats...and back in bed.

While it's the perfect day to cuddle up and read a good book, instead I'm going to attempt to WRITE a good book. Not nearly as fun and relaxing, I must say, but how can I complain? I never dreamed I'd get a chance like this. In the sequel of To Save a Life, Jake Taylor is off at the University of Louisville, and here's where I'm stuck. How does one describe in realistic (but not gratuitous, of course) detail a college frat party...when I've never been to one? Hmmm...That's what I'm about to figure out.
(The view from my bed as I write...
There's nothing quite as soothing as the patter of rain drops...
except maybe icecream...)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

To Laparoscopy or Not To Laparascopy? That is the Question...

So, I just got home from my doctor's appointment--my final attempt to get a second (actually fourth) opinion on our "unexplained" infertility. So that insurance would cover the visit, I did it under the guise of seeking help for another annoying-but-not-serious symptom I've been having that falls in the spectrum of non-fertility-related women's issues (but which I believe could be contributing to not getting pregnant even though three other doctors have said it's nothing to worry about). Well, FINALLY somebody has an explanation that may make sense! Woo hoo! If only the treatment options were as simple...
Since I realize that mixed company may read this, I'll keep the details to a minimum, but here is my new dilemma:

This wonderful new doctor took my descriptions of my symptoms along with what the other doctors tried and said and...she guesses that I may have one of two possible problems:
1--I may have something like polyps in my uterus.
2--I may have a form of endometriosis. This second one shocked me, since I have none of the normal symptoms associated with it (i.e. cramping, discomfort, etc...), but she said she has found other patients with no symptoms at all, and my mild/annoying one is consistent with endometriosis.

And here is the fun part:
The way to identify for sure if either of these is the problem, as well as then the way to treat either of these, is to do a laparoscopy/hysteroscopy. This is a surgical procedure where I will be knocked out, my abodmen inflated, my internal organs moved around, several tools inserted through incisions around my belly button, and then if they find anything (i.e. polyps or endometrial tissue) they will burn and/or scrape them away.

Doesn't that sound lovely?!

So now I find myself in the valley of decision.

My initial reaction is no way! That sounds horrible! The brief research I just did online has not calmed my fears in any way. And it isn't cheap. While they'll have to check with my insurance if I decide to proceed to get the actual price, it looks like it can range from several hundred dollars to one or two thousand dollars! From the beginning of this journey, Jim and I have decided that there are plenty of kiddos out there already born who need a family, and we don't feel comfortable spending a lot of money just so we can have one of our "own".


If I don't do it, will I wonder for the rest of my life if this one procedure could have allowed me to experience pregnancy and childbirth--something I really do think I long for? Yep, for sure. Not to mention, that it should alleviate the "annoying" symptom I mentioned earlier.


We're so close to being done with the adoption process. I anticipate that we'll be ready to go by late April, and we're really hoping/praying that we'll be matched with a kid by the end of summer. So, if this procedure worked, that would be just around the time I might be able to get preggo. But I would really love to be able to enjoy my first baby and my first pregnancy one at a time. I'm pretty sure double duty would stress me out and I'd miss out on a lot of the memories I've looked forward to so long...So, should we postpone the adoption matching process? Or postpone the laparoscopy procedure? Or...?

And, this still might not do anything...So, then, is it worth it?

Urg! While I wage this internal debate, I'm going to go prune my roses and enjoy this glorious day God has given me. Working outside tends to calm my mind and give me clarity. Let's hope it works today!

And meanwhile I ask you, what would you do if you were in my shoes? Help!

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Prayer Dilemma

Prayer has always been a spiritual discipline I've struggled with. I once heard a quote asking if your prayer life was more of a playground romp or a weightroom routine, with the insinuation that we need serious discipline in prayer, like in a weightroom. But personally, I like the playground more.
Jim's growth in the area of prayer has been amazing over the years. He "easily" knocks out an hour or two every day journaling to God. And he sees results. He regularly has amazing stories of how God has spoken to him or worked in and through him in very tangible ways.
Me, on the other hand...well, amazing isn't the adjective I'd use to describe my prayer life. I scramble to eke out 20-30 minutes with God each morning before I rush off to school, and then the rest of my day is filled with snippets of conversations that are very one-sided (i.e. me talking, not listening very well) and easily distracted. And no surprise, I don't have very many cool stories like Jim.
The past few months I have been particularly struggling in this area, primarily pondering the purpose of prayer. Why do I pray? Why do I ask God for things when I often don't see the results, at least not the results I want?
I guess this struggle has primarily revolved around my continuous struggle with our infertility. I have fasted, I have studied Scripture, I have sought godly counsel, I have been prayed over, and I have prayed, prayed, prayed, and "nothing" has happened. And so, in the last few months I have started to explore that "nothing" and have come to the conclusion that really that "nothing" is actually a very clear "something": God is saying no. And so I have taken that conclusion to others, others who are godly and are passionately praying with me for a pregnancy, hoping for affirmation of what I feel like God might be telling me. Instead what I have mostly received is rebuttal taking a variety of forms, from passive denial and reassurances all the way to a pointed accusation of not having enough faith. Not helpful, let me say.
Jim and I were discussing this a few nights ago, and I admitted that I'm not sure that I see a reason to pray anymore. And then I had to reword myself: I'm not sure that I see a reason to ask God for things anymore. Because lately, no matter what I ask of him, it seems like he does his own thing anyways--whether it be pregnancy, or success for the movie, or changing the hearts of some of my tougher students, or helping a friend out of drug addiction, etc. Jim said it sounds like I'm talking about a pretty weak God, but I said that I'm not calling into question God's strength. In fact, this view actually ascribes full sovereignty to him. But I question what good is it to tell God what I would like him to do when He is infinitely wiser than all of us, and knows what will work best in the grand scheme of things?
So then we discussed the few examples in Scripture where godly people begged God to change his mind, and God relented. But that didn't encourage me, because most of the results weren't all that positive. Moses begged God to not wipe out the Israelites for their rebellion, but really, no sooner than God agreed, they were griping and complaining and disobeying again--for the rest of their history! King Hezekiah begged God for a longer life when he was deathly sick, and God gave it to him, and those years turned out to be his worst years yet, and he ultimately screwed the kingdom over through some poor choices. Hmmmm...

Meanwhile, I still see the value of prayer as just talking to God. As we share our struggles with Him, and even ask him for strength and wisdom and such, I can see how he uses that to draw us nearer to his heart, and then he uses us to be the solution, and that's a good thing. As I talk to God about my students, he changes my heart towards them and helps me see opportunities where I can challenge them or come along side them, etc. As I ask him to help various friends who are struggling, he opens my eyes to ways I can help them. As I beg him to make the movie successful, he reminds me of all the lives he has already changed through it. As I plead with him to give us a child, he breaks our hearts for the needy kids who are already born and need a loving home.
Sure, that totally makes sense. But I am finite, and I get tired, and sometimes I'd rather God just do the dirty work. I'd like to take a break from being his hands and feet. Like the homeless guy on the corner--I'd rather just say a quick prayer for him than pull over, invite him into conversation, and figure out how I can answer that prayer.
So then, my conversation with Jim on this topic turned into me questioning that maybe my view of God limits his compassion, especially if I am his tool of mercy. And I didn't have an answer to that.
So I went to bed.
And then last night at 7-24, after an awesome message about reaching out to the hurting and lonely all around us, based on the story of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well, one of the songs we sang just jumped out and hit me.
I'm not even sure what the song is called, but after going through an adaptation of the Lord's Prayer, the chorus goes to this:
"Two things you've told me:
that you are strong
and you love me.
Yeah, you love me.....
Your love is....strong....."
And the tears spilled over onto my cheeks as I felt God was speaking directly to me, saying "I know you're struggling with how this all works together, but Rachel, let me remind you yet again. I love you. And I am strong. I love everyone else. And I am strong. I AM love. And I AM strong. And my love is strong."

I still don't have the answers; I'm still struggling with prayer. But this was such a great reassurance. And then this morning as I was reflecting on this, God reminded me of the rest of the song: the Lord's Prayer. He reminded me that when the disciples were struggling with how to pray, this is the example he gave them. So if nothing else, this is what prayer should be:
Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name--Keep praising God.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.--This doesn't answer my questions, but I'll keep praying for his will, not mine, since he knows much better than me. And I'll keep trying to do what I can to bring his kingdom to earth (i.e. his love, gracy, mercy, power, justice, etc.)
Give us this day our daily bread--God has already provided me with much more than food for just today, so I guess there's not much more I need to ask him for. Funny how we forget this!
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors--confession and passing our own forgiveness on to others. Sure, I could do this more.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one--Yeah, this is a good one.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.--Amen! My God is strong. And he loves me. What more could I ask for?

What a ride!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Silver Lining Award

Thanks to Krissi Dallas of Krissi's Confessions for granting me the "Silver Lining Award." I met Krissi in Texas at our To Save a Life Premiere and was encouraged to find someone living almost my same exact life--teacher, youth pastor's wife, writer, teen-lover, etc...She's so cool! And definitely a worthy recipient of this award.

Apparently, the "Silver Lining Award" is an attempt to recognize "blogs who make an effort to help others or uplift others in some impactful way" and once you get it you're supposed to recognize others who have impacted and uplifted you. I'm humbled and honored to receive the recognition (thanks, Krissi!), and totally excited to pass it on to others...

SOOOOOO, the next winners are....

*drumroll* :o)

Shanti Landon @ Adoption is Our Nutshell: While Shanti and I have only met a couple of times, she is a woman who amazes me. She and her husband have adopted 4 kids through the foster-adoption system, plus they have one by birth. The creative ideas she comes up with for her family are truly inspiring, and her attitude is incredible.

The Merrill Family: This is the first blog I started following, after meeting Chris at church. I have yet to meet his wife, as she has been in Ghana the entire time. They are attempting to bring home their two new kids from there, to join their two kids from Honduras. Wow! What a journey they've been on!

Katie Davis @ The Journey: This is my newest blog addition and I am just blown away by this girl. I hope I get to meet her someday. What an amazing example of what it means to pick up your cross daily and follow Christ. You definitely need to check her out!

These are people who regularly uplift and inspire me, widen my perspective on life, and make me want to be a better person. I hope you can enjoy their positive influence as well.

to do lists

I am the queen of To Do Lists. The OCD side of me just loves seeing a tidy long list of things I need to do...and I love even more the glorious feeling of checking each item off! Ahhhhh! (Can anyone feel me on this?)

So, it is Friday night, and I now have a week-long vacation, courtesy of Presidents Lincoln and Washington and Oceanside Unified School District. So what am I doing? Creating my To Do List for this week (yes, I'm a nerd). It doesn't look too daunting in my planner, so I'm posting it here, for accountability's sake:

*Exercise daily, except Sunday (I've been majorly slacking off lately!)
*Do our taxes (this will probably require about a day and a half, if I'm lucky)
*Shred files (after taxes, I need to purge my files every year--about an hour or two)
*Catch up on bills and budget stuff (2 hours?)
*Work on To Save a Life novel sequel (20 hours?)
*Scrapbook (gotta exercise my creative muscles!) (6 pages?...3 hours?)
*Finish reading book club selection, Say You're One of Them, an interesting collection of short stories addressing the resilience of African youth. My verdict is still out on this one. So far it's been a little depressing. (6 hours?)
*Hang out/meetings with various students and friends (6 hours?)
*Doctor's appointment (my final shot getting an alternative opinion on our infertility. After this, I think I'm just resigning to "fate.") (3 hours?)
*Adoption paperwork, including a 5+ page autobiography (5 hours?)
*Catch up on correspondence (i.e. email my sister who I haven't talked to since she left for Israel 3 weeks ago (sorry sis!), and finally mail out the Christmas thank you cards sitting on our kitchen counter (oops!)) (1 hour?)
*Guest room--finishing up a few small projects like hanging a mirror, cutting out holes in the wainscotting for the plug plates, etc. (5 hours?)
*A few other random fix-it projects around the house (5 hours?)
*If time, pursue my research of new carpet for upstairs (when we bought our house 8 years ago, they knocked the price down for a carpet allowance, because it was so shot. 8 years later, we figured it's about time to do something about it...)

Wow...The list kept growing as I typed. If my math is correct, that's about 68 hours of stuff, in addition to normal chores, church activities, hanging out with Jim, time with God, etc. Oh yeah, and I want to watch a lot of the Olympics (we're reinstating cable for a month so we can enjoy them).
Soooooo, now the fun begins...I can't wait to see how much I get to check off by next week!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Has anyone else out there found a remedy for disappointment? OK, I know the ol' trust-in-God routine is tried and true, but sometimes I just get stuck in a little mope-y state of mind.
And right now, I'm just feeling a little disappointed.

I'm disappointed that the Chargers weren't playing in the Super Bowl this weekend, after another DISMAL playoff performance. I mean, seriously! But...give me a moment...*deep breath*...OK, I'm over it.

At a deeper level, I'm disappointed that I haven't been able to get pregnant. Jim and I are healthy, we eat [pretty] well (if you don't count my ice cream and chocolate splurges!), we exercise, we try not to stress, we're financially stable, we have well-balanced personalities...AND all of our tests have come back normal. So why can't we manage to conceive? It boggles me. But, you know what? Even on this one, I think I've rounded the hump of disappointment and am edging toward contentment. There's still a long way to go, but I'll get over it.

But here's the one I'm stuck on: I'm disappointed that To Save a Life hasn't done better in the box office. After another low weekend, we're now dropping down to less than 100 theaters nationwide. After only 3 weeks. Bummer.

What happened? Nearly every teenager that sees it loves it, and they're bringing their friends, and they're changing their lives...Which is exactly what we hoped and prayed for. But we also dreamed that this movement would catch on and spread like wild fire. We prayed that EVERY teen in America that needed it would get to see it. We imagined box office numbers that surpassed everyone's expectations and theater runs that lasted for months. God had wildly exceeded all we could think or imagine throughout this whole film-making process, so why wouldn't he continue to do so now? And while this has never been about the money (we're giving it all away anyways), we had figured it would be easy to break even and pay off all our loans and investors (not gonna happen soon, the way things are looking now!)...
What happened?!
I'm disappointed!

But then Jim and I start recounting all the amazing stories we keep on hearing. Like the one about the girl who dragged her boyfriend to the theater to see it after he tried to kill himself that morning, and he gave his life to Christ and is struggling forward on a path of purpose. Or the guy whose friend called him to invite him to the movie JUST AS he was getting into position to kill himself, and he saw it and gained new hope and courage to live. Or the student who wrote to Jim asking for prayer because inviting new lonely kids to lunch with him everyday is making his friends get annoyed with him, but he's intent now on reaching out to the hurting and the lonely. Or my former student who has come to youth group the last two weeks because atheism wasn't working for him anymore and the movie pushed him to seek out the truth. And these stories are just a drop in the bucket! I'm overwhelmed when I think of all the lives God is changing for good through the message of this film.
And how can I be disappointed in that?

So yeah, when I look at the numbers, and think about what could have been, I can't deny it: I'm bummed. But really, the only number that truly matters in the grand scheme of things is 1...Each 1 is an individual, a life, a human being that God loves so much that he would have died for just that 1. And God has allowed us to play a vital role in changing A LOT of those 1's.

So again, how can I be disappointed in that?

Friday, February 5, 2010

"Embracing Your Child's Cultural Heritage"

Last night we had to drive down an hour to attend our first of three adoption "electives"...This one was all about trans-racial adoptions. While we aren't positive we'll get a child that isn't "white," we're kind of expecting it since non-"white" kids are more common.
And to be honest, I'm kind of hoping we will.
For some reason, I've always pictured our family as multi-racial. It could be the black baby doll head I picked out for a prize from my piano teacher when I was a little kid. Don't ask me why. For some reason, my maternal instinct goes into overdrive when I see a little African-American baby or a hispanic child, but for caucasian kids, well, it's like...ho-hum...My Italian great-grandmother called me (excuse my frankness) a "nigara-baby" when I was born thanks to my darker skin and dark curly hair. She accused my mom of being, well, you know...So maybe that's what started it?...Anyhow...
Last night was interesting. Besides the fact that the other members of the class included two single parents (I think their spouses were both at home), one bi-racial couple, two different "alternative" couples, and us--so Jim and I stuck out like a sore thumb!--the class also just seemed to be more of a venting of racism and stereotypes and intolerance in our society than a training of how to be the best parents we can be in a mixed family. I'm probably just naive, and once I actually start experiencing it I'll be more sympathetic to their discussion, but for me, right now, I look forward to the stares and comments as an opportunity to educate people.
However, I will admit I'm concerned for our child. I can handle the criticism, but a child isn't ready to and shouldn't have to!
In the class they asked us what our fears were. My fears are that by adopting trans-racially, I am setting up our child(ren) for a lifetime identity crisis. (You should have seen the video!) I would hate to ruin our kids' lives because we didn't prepare ourselves enough. That being said, I have high hopes that our love and God's love mixed with honesty and openness are going to create a wonderful atmosphere for our children to thrive--no matter what the color of their skin is!
I guess we'll just have to wait and see...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

in awe

Well, yet another friend I've been praying for shared the news that she's pregnant this morning. And while I'm absolutely thrilled for her to finally be starting this much-longed-for journey, the news hit me like a sock to the stomach and I've crumbled. The ironic thing is that I've been doing really well with this infertility thing the past month or so. Just a few days ago, I was marveling at the possibility that maybe I've FINALLY surrendered my pregnancy plans over to God. I even reached a point where I realized that I'm so excited about adopting, that getting pregnant now would kind of mess all that up...And then I heard my friend's wonderful news...and all my resolve melted like chocolate in the sun. And I've been a big gooey mess all day.

HOWEVER, God is good, and he allowed me to stumble upon an adoption blog this afternoon that messed me up in an entirely different direction! If you want to be inspired (and challenged!) by a beautiful 21-year-old girl who left the comforts of an affluent life in Tennessee to pour her life into Ugandan children (she has now "adopted" 12 girls with whom she lives there in Uganda, and she has started an AMAZING non-profit organization to provide food and an education to the poorest kids...), then check out

Holi-moli, I am in awe of this girl! The maturity and insight with which she shares her heart for her kids and her ministry is unbelievable. If only I could have 1/10 the heart and courage she has. Wow!!!!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Adoption Intake Interview

Adoption Process Update:
This afternoon we had our "adoption intake interview"...which means we got fingerprinted yet again and met our adoption social worker.
And we got a butt-load more work to do, including a 5-7 page autobiography (each!) and 3 more 3-6 hour classes (including one for parents dealing with infertility, one for parents adopting cross-culturally, and one other one we get to choose).
Whew! Adopting is definitely not for the faint of heart! But forward ho! "Embracing Your Child's Heritage" is this Thursday night...

New York Adventures Finale

My favorite part of our trip to New York 2 summers ago was Central Park. I just loved that place. So the only thing I REALLY wanted to do on this trip is go back for a jog there. Of course, I hadn't considered what running in 30 degree weather was like. But Jim was up for the challenge, and I think it was my favorite part yet again. This time I brought my camera so that I could document it. Jim kept questionning, "I thought you wanted to go RUNNING?!", to which I patiently kept explaining that now that I'm a blogger, I have to take more pictures. ;o)

We're huge Law & Order fans (back when we got cable), and we had just watched several episodes while eating cookies and ice cream in bed. Have you ever noticed that most of the victims on that show are discovered in Central Park? And many of them are killed while jogging. So we found it ironic to be greeted with this sign as we entered the park:

Yikes! Fortunately, there were tons of other runners out, and the day was much too beautiful to be scary! Oh, it was lovely!

Then we had lunch at an authentic New York Chipotle (OK, I know...but who wants a deli sandwich when you can have a burrito?!).

And then we had to head back to the airport to head home. Sad, but really, not so sad when you get to go home to San Diego.

aaaaannnnddd...On the trip home Jim and I muscled out an outline for the sequel novel to To Save A Life. It still needs A LOT of work, but we're really excited about where the story might be headed. Our publisher originally gave us a manuscript deadline of May 3 (EEEK!), but just pushed it back a month or two today (WHEW!). Crazy! Who would've ever guessed we'd write one book, let alone a sequel (and I think we're setting it up for a trilogy--everybody's doing it!)...