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Making Good Decisions

May 15, 2011

by Misha

I have just been writing the kids’ monthly learning reports today and it finally dawned on me why this last month has seemed so blurry and a bit wild!

We had a very first piano recital, an eighth birthday and life to celebrate, a couple of broken bones with surgery, Mother’s Day secrets and sweetness, making decisions about next year’s schooling, Easter celebrations and hosting, doing a 5K as a family (even with a freshly casted arm), three very dear friends going through painful situations that we care so much about, the annual state required assessments that both kids did – proctored at home for the first time  and all the normal life things like work, education and family time. (I post lots of pictures over here.)

But in all of that, one of our main emphases for our kids’ learning this month was on how to make good, critically thought-through decisions. (And as it turned out we had a lot of application opportunities!)

The many things going on this month provided ample setting for us as a family to discuss how people make decisions and how decisions should and can be made in light of other people’s opinions; how to make choices with disappointments, with fear and nervousness and in combination with team work; how to still make good choices even when we don’t understand things and how to choose the right choices even with scary pressure around us.

The picture the kids and I drew as we talked about this was of a big umbrella. Underneath that was a little guy with a big, pounding heart and a large, exposed brain in his head holding the handle of the umbrella. There were some splashes from all the rain getting on him.

 The big umbrella represented us asking God for wisdom and trusting Him to cover and help us. The little guy’s brain represented us using our noggins to make pros and cons and learning to think implicationally. His big heart showed that feelings are definitely involved in decisions – but they are only one component of a good choice. (Not the only guiding factor!)

The rain represented the wisdom and advice we seek and ask for from others – but that we pray, too, that the right advice is what will get us wet and splash on us under God’s care. And lastly – choice. The little guy still has to choose to hold that umbrella handle – and what direction he is going to walk.

With all of life’s pain, ups and downs, beauty and excitement – that is what we are learning about as a family this month. How to make good decisions – sometimes even after things feel broken, exhausting or a whole lot blurry. I am praying this Sunday afternoon that you and your family will feel God’s care and kindness in all of your choices this next week.

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A Month for Miracles

April 23, 2011
April 2003 – in a coma. 

I have been thinking about being brave and posting some of the hospital pictures we have from our son’s birth this year. We have shown them to him now and we have been talking a lot about what it means to survive a near-death experience like that with him.

One thing I now know: a lot of it doesn’t hit you until years down the line. And that is quite something to process. Especially as my son has started absorbing it, too.

I had an amniotic embolism with my son. Some of the fluid from my uterus leaked into my body and it caused a full-blown anaphylactic reaction and cardio-respiratory collapse. I was without oxygen for about 8- 10 minutes. My son was born purple and floppy by emergency c-section and I was in a drug-induced coma for a number of days waiting to see if my brain would survive the oxygen deprivation it had experienced.

This is one of the most painful for me of all the pictures from the hospital to look at. 
This is me in the coma. They brought our son in for pictures in case I didn’t make it.

An amniotic embolism is “the most dangerous and untreatable condition in obstetrics – a set of complications associated with an 86 percent mortality rate.”* My husband was told I would unlikely regain consciousness and that I was not exhibiting any signs of awareness let alone wakefulness. It was a given that I would suffer long-term neurological damage (as a result of having insufficient oxygen for so long) and my son’s outcome – he had most likely gone without oxygen for as long as 14 minutes – was unknown, too.

Not only did I come out of that coma and have a CAT scan that showed a perfectly healthy, undamaged brain – but our son also lived and is bright and healthy, too. 81% of babies born in amniotic embolism trauma do not live. Those that do almost always have severe brain damage. In fact the odds of both of us living without either of us having brain damage is about 1 in 1.2 million.

Up until about four years ago I had absolutely zero memory of our trauma in the hospital. For four months after my son was born I had no short-term memory at all. “Easter,” my husband would say, “Easter is where Misha’s memory stops.” So April is a majorly significant month for us in this house. Easter is incredibly significant for us. Life after death hits very close to home for us.

And this April, this year, has been no exception. We just got incredible news again this week.

Some background:

My daughter had her first allergic anaphylactic reaction to a certain food when she was 5.5 months old. She had another one just before she turned two. And since then we have carried shots with us everywhere, all the time. As she said to me today: “Mom, do you realize I have never put any thing in my mouth to eat without first checking the ingredients and worrying it will hurt me?” When she has a reaction she can stop breathing in under four minutes. It’s a big deal and seeing her carry that stress as a little girl has been so hard.

Two years ago she was about to have an additional diagnosis added to her charts and that is when I (got feisty about it! and) felt the nudge to fight it unconventionally. I sought a lot of advice and worked with a variety of specialists, but most of all I prayed. And I felt a plan formulate in my head that I knew would be almost impossible.

But we did it. We changed every single thing about how our family lived and ate. We altered our entire diet and I prayed almost every night for healing in my daughter’s immune system, in her body, in her health.

Last year we saw the first big breakthrough. What her doctor had told us would never happen – and to not even hope for –  began to happen. This year we are seeing even more changes. We just got her blood work back and it is beyond good news. It is shockingly amazing news. (Honestly? It’s more than I even prayed for!)

We will have one more food challenge with her doctor and will do a series of “just-making-sure” ones here at home. But it looks like we have another beautiful miracle in my daughter.

My birth experience with my son was not my first experience with a supernatural gift. I had already been very sick before that and had a shocking encounter with years’ of prayers being answered in one day. I was very sick and expected to be sick for the rest of my life. That miracle happened on June 21st of 1999. I read a scripture early that morning that I have never forgotten.

This last week my son was reading a new devotional to us all in the dining room and, as he began reading the scripture for the day, I got chills. It was the same one I had read all those years ago. It is the same one I have prayed for my daughter’s body. It is the same one I am so, so thankful for every year, every April, for every family member. (My husband has quite an amazing story, too.)

God is no respecter of persons. He listens to all of our prayers – and if you need back-up faith to ask Him for a miracle, for a healing – please, borrow mine! I know up close and personal that He heals. He gives life. He is generous and good and kind. And as I know that I know that I know – at Easter time more than ever – He does wonderful things.

“I will not die but live, and I will declare the works and recount the beautiful, amazing and incredible acts of the Lord.” 
~ (my personalized, modified version of Psalm 118:17)
April 2011“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”
~ Agatha Christie







* Our story is told in chapter five of the book God on Mute: Engaging the Silence of Unanswered Prayer by Pete Greig.

Great News!

March 23, 2011

Lionel just got out of his appointment with the lawyers this morning (see his post from last night) – he met with two advocates that are the only two that specialize in this field in the whole state of WA. Both men happen to be men of faith and love what we are doing with GA.

The lawyers’ secretary had checked us out prior to this appointment and already had told them that they had to represent us. The head lawyer Lionel spoke with speaks at conferences about  this type of internet and money service industry and is well-respected and qualified (they represent some big names in internet commerce that we would all know.) They also know the people we are appealing to in the government by name.

They think we have a good case to make and are willing to represent us. It’s going to be pricey (just this appointment cost over $1000) – but it looks like we have the right guys!

Thank you for your prayers and please continue to pray with us for a favourable outcome!

~ by Misha

Anon and on … and on

March 23, 2011

Some of you have asked us how we are doing with Giving Anonymously (GA) and especially the situation with our state licensing.  For those who don’t know, here’s a brief summary of what happened:

In August 2010 we approached the Department of Financial Services in WA asking them what the requirements would be if FinCEN (a division of the IRS) asked us to register as a money service business (MSB).  Paypal is a good example of an MSB.  It’s a company that helps transmit money between people.  WA State responded to us and said that regardless of what the IRS decided we needed to have this license to comply with State laws.

So we sent in our application as requested.  Then late January 2011 WA Department of Financial Services told us that GA would need to file for this same license in all 48 states of the USA that require it.  The cost of filing in every state along with the net worth requirements are close to $700,000.00.   We expressed to the state that this was an impossibility for GA and submitted a proposal to be classified differently so that we would not need to get this license.

We are seeking legal counsel from a national law firm familiar with money transmission litigation to back up our proposal to WA State.  We would greatly appreciate your prayers that together, the State and lawyers, can formulate a workable plan which would allow GA to continue operating in the way that we have been.

So, how are we doing in the midst of it all?  –  It’s stressful but is also too big for us to solve on our own.  It’s one of the bigger challenges we’ve faced with GA and we are praying for Gods’ wisdom and guidance.

Our first meeting with our lawyer is tomorrow Wednesday 23rd at 10:00am.  I’d appreciate your prayers that we’d receive clear direction and sound advice.

——————-

On a personal note Misha and I continue to see provision come in for our family and are we grateful to God for that.  When we’ve needed help in some way, God has met us through our community.  Looking ahead, our family’s biggest need is to have consistency in our monthly income and we are currently trying to raise support towards that end.  If you would like information on how to help us in this way, please let me know and I will mail it to you.

~ by Lionel

Euphoria

March 11, 2011

by Lionel

This past Sunday a Psychologist, Dr. Kirk Austin, was sharing with our church about emotional health. He shared about an experiment that was recently made whereby a test group was told to spend a day doing something they’ve always wanted to do, something exciting and fun. Afterwards the duration of euphoria from that experience was measured. On average, after one or two days, the euphoria / high from that experience had gone away.

These same doctors then took another test group and instructed each of them to spend one week actively serving and helping others around them in need. The duration of euphoria after the week-long test was studied and they found that it lasted on average for six months.

The conclusion of this study is that long-lasting happiness and joy is not found investing in our own happiness but rather is found from serving others.

The math looks very appealing: one solid week of serving = six months euphoria.

Matthew 25:36 – ‘I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

Looking Backwards and Forwards

March 2, 2011

We are home. We left on Sunday and got home on Sunday having dropped a day somewhere over the ocean.

With my (Misha’s) grandfather passing away last week, the kids and I were supposed to fly back out to Tennessee yesterday, but at the last minute the ticket prices were just too prohibitive.

Instead my folks are coming to us tonight and are bringing all the videos of the funeral and stories and sharing times we missed for us to watch together. With that, with the earthquake in New Zealand last week, and the two big family reunions we had on the last day of being in New Zealand we have had a lot of mixed emotions this last week.

Our visit to New Zealand was full of precious times with loved ones and also full of beauty and meaningful times of prayer looking both forward (to potential changes in our home) and backwards (to our  lineage and heritage of family.) We thought a lot about life and the endurance and impact of our everyday choices.

In our last week in New Zealand we found a baby hammerhead shark in the waves that the kids got to open up and look inside (it’s pretty awesome when your Granddad is a doctor and your Nana is a nurse, standing by with water hose to rinse away the guts! : ) ) – we got to meet more Uncles and an Aunt the kids had only seen on computer screens – and Lionel and I got to go away for an early anniversary celebration, while the kids dug up their (live) dinner in the sand with Nana and Granddad. Lots of memories were made!

We have heard from the State that they are still reviewing our proposal regarding Giving Anonymously. Both Lionel and I have felt since coming home that our posture is to be one of rest and trust in what God has said and who He is. Our car died the first day we were home so that has given us a chance to reflect and not be out and about as much, too. : )

It’s good to be home.

the huge Kiwi flag hanging half-mast at the airport

“God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him…
courageous in seastorm and earthquake,
Before the rush and roar of oceans,
the tremors that shift mountains.

For even if the mountains walk away
and the hills fall to pieces,
My love won’t walk away from you,
my covenant commitment of peace won’t fall apart.
The God who has compassion on you says so.”

from Psalm 46 and Isaiah 54

You Know It’s Fun When You Keep Taking Off Your Wedding Rings Every Day For Fear Of Losing Them

February 18, 2011

We have been completely mesmerized by the beauty of this country. They say if you squish all the most remarkable parts of the rest of the world – the Swiss Alps, the Scandinavian Fjords, the rolling, green hills of the British Isles, the thermal wonders of Yellowstone National Park in the US… and put it all into one country –  then you have New Zealand.

We have discovered the land of a thousand secret gardens. Kiwi farmers border their fruit farms with tall trees to protect them from getting bruised by the wind and  as a result the country looks gridded by all these lovely, secret gardens that make you just itch to explore.

There is a ninety mile beach in this country ~ amazing bush and hills in all colours and shades of green imaginable ~ every type of water beauty ~ incredible history ~ a land of adventurers and out-door lovers (kindred spirits) ~ the world’s best tea ~ ocean waves on every side ~ yes, sheep ~ Vegemite ~ the Bay of Plenty’s famous fruit ~ Nana’s homemade bread and vegetable garden ~ planning to some day do the Milford Sound trek together on the south island ~ Lionel’s dream come true of taking his kids to the famous glowworm caves of Waitomo that he went to as a child ~ and time together as a family.

In one limestone cave yesterday, 80 meters underground, the acoustics were amazing. Our guide asked if anyone in our group could sing. There was lots of shuffling of feet and averting of eye-contact until one brave Welsh tourist spoke up. “Well,” he said, “ you can’t sing just anything here, you must sing something big, I reckon.”

Amidst Aussies, Koreans, Europeans and South Africans – a medley of countries visiting from all over the world all gazing up in wonder – he toke a deep breath, filled his lungs and began singing these words that reverberated all through the cave:

“Guide me, O thou great redeemer,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty,
Hold me with thy powerful hand;
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven
Feed me till I want no more;
Feed me till I want no more.”

Yesterday from a boat, as we looked up in complete stillness and midnight black at thousands of pin-points of turquoise lights (the Maori word for glowworm is ‘stars on the water’ because of their incredible reflections); as we hiked through the stunning caves of thousands of years’ of beauty dropped one splash at a time; as we saw fault lines from explosions and earthquakes that had left behind irreplaceable, sacred caverns and steaming crayola-coloured minerals, I kept thinking of that lone, accented voice singing underground and this quote kept going through my head over and over:

“Every time you feel in God’s creatures something pleasing and attractive, do not let your attention be arrested by them alone, but, passing them by, transfer your thought to God and say: ’O my God, if Thy creations are so full of beauty, delight and joy, how infinitely more full of beauty, delight and joy art Thou Thyself, Creator of all!” ~ Nicodemus