A Little Perspective

Gosh, sometimes I can be so dense. So wrapped up in my own little world and my own little "issues" - I let stuff in my life just consume me. My selfishness at times surprises even me. If you read my last post - you know by now Matt & I have been dealing with some fertility issues. There have been times in this last 12 months or so that I have felt so pathetically sorry for myself, sorry for us - it's just been ridiculous. After all, we still have options to become parents. It's not going to be as easy for us as for maybe many people we know - but we can still, with God's blessing, at least continue the journey to try.

And then there's just my stupid insecurities that I wrap myself in, whether I have 5 zits today or 20 (seriously, though - i'm almost 30 - when do those stop popping up!!??!!), weight issues, hair issues, work issues (am I working hard enough? Did I do a good enough job?) --- perfectionist to the max. It's exhausting. And I'm tired of it. But yet, the mantras continue to play in my head -

And then, boom - God knows when enough is enough. I was beamed back to Earth today (after lamenting my food choices yesterday, banana bread for breakfast, crawfish & cocktails for lunch, pasta, pizza & ice cream for dinner - and dreading how far I would have to run on the treadmill Monday to take care of it) -
My aunt was diagnosed with cancer (my only aunt on my dad's side) - - - and then the news that another young friend has cancer, another one still recovering from brain cancer. gosh, is it really that bad for us?
Not so much...
So this weekend, we did Relay for Life - it's American Cancer Society's community event to "fight back" against cancer. Originally I signed up b/c my church was doing it and my good friend was captaining. Little did I know how much it would hit a nerve for me - call me naive, but I was just planning on going out there and talking to friends, relaying it around a track and staying up all night eating snack bars. But then they had these touching ceremonies and lit candles for those who we have lost to cancer.
Of course, I couldn't help but think of my dad. I didn't know I could have had a candle lit for him - -- but in the end, it didn't matter... like I told Kendra, "he had the best seat in the house" ... he saw the whole thing from a high up perch - and I'd like to think he was proud of me.
As my friend Amy, said, "See you at the REAL finish line".
Love you Dad, today and always,


In Places I Never Thought I'd Be

So at one point or another in our lives, we look back and realize "we are in places we never thought we'd be". And I am so there (Kind of like the State Farm commercial, with Patrick Dempsey's voice in the background...except it isn't).

In so many ways, I have been in places that I never thought I would be. I never thought I would lose almost everything in a natural disaster (yet survive it and be better for it), I NEVER thought I would live in Houston (but have grown to love it); I never thought I would work for a church (and love it); and I certainly never thought we would be in a position to be have to consider alternate methods to have a family (but we are).

And here we are. In this place we never imagined. When we said "I do", it almost seems like a given - you'll be the happy newlyweds for a little while, travel, work your butts off - and then when the timing is right for YOU, start a family. And the key word in that is "You", because it is not our timing but His. And I have a hard time accepting that.

So about 15-18 months ago, we decided it was "our time" - our time to start a family or at least try to. So we did. Tried that is. Many months later and we have found ourselves in this place. So here we go...down the in vitro pathway. A place I never thought I'd be. But as I sit here contemplating it, damn, I am so glad this place is available to us. Without it, there might not even be the potential of kids. So this place, this time, that I never thought I would be in - God, I am so grateful. Thank you for the opportunity to try this at least. Thank you that we can be in this position.

As I sat in the doctor's office today and marveled at the absolute simplicity in which he explained everything that is forthcoming for us in the next months - I just thought of what a miracle life is. That it happens naturally is amazing. That there is science to make what can't happen naturally happen at all is nothing short of incredible.

So here ya go, Doc. Here's my check/credit card, my insane numbers of vials of blood, scans, ultrasounds, tests, histories - whatever you want. And here's my hopes. But my hopes don't go to you. My hopes and faith in the process and in this place, belong only to God. For He is the ultimate holder of my hopes. He knows the places I have gone, the places I have been and the places I am to go in the future.

"I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your heart as you trust in hHim. Your roots will grow down into God's love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God." (Ephesians 3:16-19)


25 Things I remember about Brazil

1. Taking wayyyy too long to get there - sat on the runway in H-town FOREVER and then sat again on the runway in Miami - as we watched our plane to Belo take off. Bummer. Overnight and a day in Miami - but far away from any beaches. Pure exhaustion. Thanks, AA, for finally getting us all on a flight at 11:30pm Friday night direct to Sao Paulo - what?? Then 3-4 layover in Sao Paulo before our little flight to Belo. Wow. But we made it!!!

2. Arriving in Belo Horizonte and meeting just about the most incredible people you could ever come across - biggest hearts, Miriam, Raquel, Byron, Samuel, Leandro - just to name a few of the most wonderful translators and friends you could have.

3. 1st church service outside Belo Horizonte - completely out of my element - jet-lagged to the kilt and in a foreign country and not speaking any sort of Portugese. But God can surmount any language barrier - to see the warmness & hospitality of the Brazilians - amazing.

4. 1st skit performed at that first church service - could not have gone more wrong!!! but they didn't care -they loved it!

5. Sunday morning church service where we were staying - my pastor Jim spoke through a translator. It was INCREDIBLE to hear him up there - and hear people respond to him in such a passionate way. God moved that morning. And moved me to tears. Before that service, I was completely questioning why I was there, how soon could I go home, etc etc. After that, I knew why I was there.

6. Ham & cheese sandwiches for breakfast with little mini bananas - the cutest things you will ever see - I was right at home b/c I have sandwiches for breakfast anyways, and not your normal breakfast fare of eggs/cereal/pancakes. I'm weird.

7. Rice & beans, rice & beans and more rice & beans. Enough said.

8. Talking to one of my fellow missionaries outside of the church the 1st morning and both of us looking at each in complete bewilderment - how did we get here/what do we do now/deer-in-headlights kind of thing. Feeling completely alone because everyone else was beside themselves with excitement to be there - and I can only speak for myself - but I was scared to death - and lonely and feeling completely and utterly inadequate. Had no idea what God was going to do with me down there.
8a. 6 or 7 days later, talking to that same missionary & both of us being so grateful to have been on this trip - total transformation in both of our lives. We did things we never dreamed we were capable of, all in His hands.

9. 1st time of performing skits in a park. In a park. In front of people who had no clue who we were but watched us b/c we were the crazy Americans in big Superman Jesus shirts. It was awesome. No stage fright whatsoever.

10. Driving around Belo Horizonte and then up into the hills - gorgeous!! When I managed to stay awake, it was beautiful. And sad at the same time, seeing slum upon slum upon slum.

11. First (and only bout) of sickness on about day 3 or 4 - can't remember now. Def not the most fun 6 hours of my life. Modesty at this point was completely out the window. Not that I am glad that other people got sick, but more people besides just me went down on successive days with stomach illnesses. I think there were only 2 that did not. SO IT WASN'T JUST ME. :)

12. Sleeping on a mat in a ballet studio in a slum area with the door locked/windows open in about 85 degree heat while recovering from #11. No sweating at all. That was the only scary part- being that dehydrated, that quickly.

13. First time to give testimony in Brazil - scary but awesome at the same time.

14. Driving home from an IMPACT one night after torrential rains - flooded all of the roads back - had to pull over and wait for the waters to recede. Would have been scary, but we were in a big bus so felt better about that. Got back about 11pm or midnight - and still had dinner waiting for us! Can anyone say "Rice & Beans"???

15. Eating every 5 hours. Seriously. All carbs. Thank Goodness for walking a lot of places b/c I seriously could have been waddling back to the states. But we had the sweetest and best food preparers EVER!! They were so worried about me having anything with egg in it and would specially mark my food so nothing would contaminate it.

16. My friend proudly returning from a grocery store one day with a diet coke tucked quietly in his backpack (ice cold, I might add) - this was after I had been talking obsessively about diet coke and had not had one in 4 or 5 days. Anyone who knows me - that is a record. I hit Sonic for a diet coke at least once a day if not more. And that doesn't even count for the number that I have at home in between. It's really pathetic. And boy, when I got that little present, I just leaped up and down. Small pleasures in life.

17. Me finally realizing that there was no need to blowdry my hair at night - curly/wavy and up was the way to go. What a relief! Shower and bed - and then wake up, throw on some clothes & concealor, put hair up and go ---- what?? Do people do this normally b/c I sure don't.

18. Ambien is a true god send when you are sleeping on a plastic mat in warm temperatures. You just don't care at that point. Oh, but man, I remember when we would get that rush of cool air around 2-3am and it was amazing - and cold!! Yummy!

19. Playing with the children at the orphanage - I had the opportunity to break out the ole soccer skills with all the boys - I am not sure they expected to see this little girl running around the court with them. I AM REALLY REALLY REALLY NOT GOOD AT SOCCER ANYMORE. Way uncoordinated. But they didn't care. They just thought it was fun that I tried. :)

20. Having those same kiddos perform a song for us about their home - it was amazing and drew tears.

21. Going to a church service outside Belo (one of the places my pastor had previously been) and having the most Spirit-inspired moments of my life. All I can say is God moved with me and in me and through me that evening. Incredible.

22. Eating ice cream in a parlor (and actually being allowed to do so - we weren't allowed to eat much of the food there, not knowing how it was prepared) - and it was delicious. One hour later, performing skits outside of the ice cream parlor and having to change in there. The ice cream which had smelled delicous and tasted as such before, no longer was as appetizing once you spent 2 hours in there... it's kind of like the Subway sandwich shop smell - and then it just clings. But performing and having people just watch and wait for us to finish so they could talk to us was so awesome.

23. Being invited into people's homes and having them share their lives with us - pictures of their families, their history, stories, etc. Most hospitable people I have ever met.

24. Performing our last night (after a day of mishaps) at a main plaza/square venue. Many more mishaps during those skits - mentally ill man walking around with a massive chunk of concrete in his hand threatning to throw it any of us - and many more that evening. But still, people heard our stories.

25. Leaving Brazil - never thought when we first landed that it would be so hard to do. I thought that I wouldn't be able to wait to get back on that darn plane and back to the US. But it was incredibly hard. You bond with people so quickly - especially our amazing translators - and it was hard to let go of that. Something about being unburdened & so out control of what's happening is incredibly freeing. In those 10 days, God truly worked on me to relinquish some of that death grip that I have on my life - always trying to remain in control - and I let go. Mostly :) I had my princess moments as we'll call them. But I did learn the meaning of "Let go, Let God", which before was just a really lovely sounding phrase that I would repeat and not believe or know the meaning of. I learned to listen to God when He speaks and not only just to listen, but to follow. He knows the plan. It is in His hands. We just have to move and act - and have faith. Easier said than done, yes. Easier for me done on foreign soil where I didn't have the comforts of home to fall back on or my "crutches" so to speak. No safety net. God, may the lessons that you taught me there continue to carry over here. God, would you watch over those amazing people we met? Continue to soften the hearts of even the toughest there - who seemingly have no hope. There is always hope - even in the darkest spots.

I could probably write a list of 100 things I remember/loved/or even loathed :) about Brazil - but it would probably bore my 2 readers that I have. So I will just remember and keep them in my heart. And pray that I never forget.



Brazil Brain

So ever since we returned from Brazil, I am suffering with what I call "Brazil Brain"...which basically means I THINK ABOUT BRAZIL ALL THE TIME. All throughout the day, something or someone will remind me of my time there.

When I wake up in the mornings now and walk outside, I recall walking the grounds around the church where we stayed every morning. Just me, my plastic cup of strong Brazilian coffee, my Bible and my thoughts. I spent hours just sitting on the steps of the gorgeous church (the oldest UMC in Belo Horizonte) reading my Bible like never before and talking to God. Without fail, no matter what time we got in the night before, my internal clock was always set to wake up at 6:30am...well before the 8am appointed breakfast time. So, I would quietly roll off my egyptian mummy sleeping contraption, grab my "girly" stuff to attempt to look slightly less freakish to my fellow missionaries (ie: rescue hair from the Einstein syndrome I fought the entire time I was there!), and pad down the hall - clothes in one hand, toothbrush in the other. I miraculously got my morning "getting ready" routine down to about 20 minutes - so I would have all this time before finally getting to eat breakfast. I know now that God woke me up in that early hour so that I would be focused on him - from morning to night - and so He could help prepare me for the day. I pray that I can continue these early morning devotions being back in the states and avoid the traps of facebook updating, emailing checking and tv watching that I so easily fall into.

It's amazing how just 10 short days can change your life. How quickly they pass - but how lasting the memories, lessons and impressions are. Some of y'all know the story of how I got to go on this Brazil trip - but for those who do not, here is the "quick" version. Wayyy back in Fall 2008, my pastor (and my boss) started asking me to run "blurbs" in our church newsletter and Sunday bulletins about The River UMC sending a team down to Brazil in March 2009. As I wrote the blurbs, I remember feeling a tug on my heart & I recall thinking "what if"..."what if" I were to go? But I quickly would dismiss it...too much going on, Matt wouldn't be able to go with me, my 4 or 5 hospital visits and couple of surgeries in 2008, and then the biggie: I've never been on a mission trip - EVER - of any kind! There were a lot of seemingly good reasons not to go.

Then one day I spoke with my pastor's wife (and my good friend) about going - and she really felt that I was supposed to go & at that moment, I felt it, too. I got off the phone with her and I was so excited - I was going to Brazil!!!! Yet, no less than 1 week later, I landed yet again in the hospital overnight - this time for a little internal bleeding thanks to a ruptured cyst. So Brazil was off again. How could I go tromping down to a foreign country when I could not even keep myself healthy in the good ole US?

A month or so passed & I started helping the Brazil team & my pastor get organized - setting up donation accounts, etc. Then, there was the call...2 people had dropped out of the trip and one of the spots was mine, if I wanted it. Whoa. Talk about your heart stopping. This was Tues, Feb. 3rd - departure for Brazil was just over 6 weeks away. All of the typical logistic type questions ran through my head, how quickly could I get my passport expedited (of course, I have had only about 5 1/2 years to get my name changed on my passport... nice, Meagan - way to be proactive), what about shots/visas/etc, was it safe, would I get sick? etc??

And then I stopped - if God had called me to the trip - surely He would help with all of those details. The big question loomed..."Was I ready to obey Him and follow Him and trust Him with all my heart and soul?" "Was I ready to hand over control to Him for everything and be dependent only on Him?" I was a little less sure of that. I am a major control freak - I like to be in the driver's seat as much as possible, and God and I battle this out all the time. Mostly with Him sending constant reminders that only He has the 'key' map and directions for my life. But thanks to some soul-searching, a supportive husband and a well-timed email (ask me about the email sometime..it's a cool story!!!), I called up my boss at 10:30pm, amazingly he answered and in a somewhat shaky voice that belied the confidence I was attempting to exude, I managed to exclaim, "Count me in!".

So the countdown began - passports were expedited and somehow returned in less than a week, visas were applied for and received in perfect timing, letters were sent out to friends & family and prayers and donations began to flow in. Our team met and continued with our preparations/drama practices/mini-Portugese lessons/lots of prayer.

Looking back and seeing how everything just fell into place was nothing short of amazing - think of one of those domino tower things you would build when you were a kid - I don't know the exact name of it - but you would line them all up in the kitchen/playroom or other, in some crazy design, and then "click", you would knock over just the first one to start the cascade of falling dominoes all the way down the line. All it took was for one little domino to be set up just a tad off-kilter (usually these were the ones set up by your annoying siblings who obviously didn't understand the intricacies of playing with dominoes - no mind that you had no idea to play a real game of dominoes and he did - but I digress) - so anyways, just one is a centimeter off and the whole cascade effect was ruined. Well, me saying "yes" to this trip was like tipping over that first domino - and then God just lined the rest of them up perfectly...click, click, click, click. One by one, each obstacle was overcome - even as the dominoes went around and around in crazy circles. God, it was beautiful!!!

So people have asked me "So, how was Brazil?". I'm not sure I even have the words. The idea for this original post was to write a summary for of the people who prayerfully or financially supported me. And as I sit here, I am not able to do that. What I can say is this...I saw things I will never forget for the rest of my life. I met the most warm and compassionate humans ever and had the privilege of working along side them every day. I was challenged every single minute, emotionally, physically and spiritually - but each day God would meet me where I needed to be met. He pulled me through. I experienced and did things I never dreamed I would be capable of. My team prayerfully touched many lives in short time we spent down there. People heard the story of Jesus for the first time. Some came to know what a relationship with God was all about. Children who never had a toy to play with now clutch colorful Beanie Babies or hacky sacks. Abused children at orphanages were given a couple of hour respite from their "regular" lives to play, laugh, scream with glee as they ran around with our team members - almost like they didn't have a care in the world. Nor did we at that moment. It was just about them.

Right now, there is a bald little girl - precious in every way but her body ravaged by the vicious chemo treatments- brushing the silky hair of her brand-new Barbie doll - all dressed in pink because that is her favorite color. And she is remembering. Just as I am. Remembering the crazy Americans who wore Jesus Superhero shirts :).

Here are just a few pics, however, there were over 2,000 pictures taken - so obviously they aren't all here! I also encourage you to logon to http://www.theriverumc.com/ and click on "Sunday Sermons Online" and then click on "March 22nd- Brazil testimonies". There you will hear 3 testimonies from the missionaries, including mine. You can also go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLKX0tLoLJw to view a short video of the trip.

Thank you to everyone who said a prayer for me, for our team, for the Brazilians - your prayer support carried us through. Thank you also for those who financially supported us so we could have our "feet on the ground" in Brazil. This trip has transformed me - and the same Meagan who left on March the 12th is not the same Meagan who returned just a short time later on the 21st. My life has forever been touched by this experience and faithfully I will carry with me the sweet memories for the rest of my life. And prayerfully, I will continue to be challenged as I live my life as a Christian here - and that my relationship with God will grow and deepen as I come to know more of Him.