Roads blanketed in snow, hands sweaty gripping the steering wheel. Eyes locked on the tail lights ahead of me, but my ears attuned to what the radio host just asked the listeners, myself, to consider.
What is one word that would describe my year?
Challenge accepted. I could not help but ponder the question that I could not wrap my head around. How in the world would I describe the craziest year of our lives, but also the most life-changing? In ONE word?
Few words started to run through my head, but none of them nailed it down. Except the very word that has been such a deep part of our lives from the beginning:
The more I let that word sink in, the more I felt I lost control of my thoughts. My mind wandered the events of this past year and I became uneasy. I felt I couldn’t make sense of them all. Squirming, I felt this pressure to figure it all out and have answers. A weight I was only putting on myself. Just let it go, Kristin, just let it go. Quit trying to figure it all out. Because what we have been given is…
God’s unconditional, unwavering, undeniable, GRACE. The very word we named our daughter after. And why did I think that the influence of grace would stop there?
We have experienced God’s grace, His undeserving blessings, time and time again. Let me explain this through pictures:
We started off our year with a trip to Mexico with my sister and brother-in-law. Little did we know at the time, that this trip was exactly what we would need, in preparation for the upcoming 2017 year. A grace-trip; God knew.
Two months later, our sweet Mazy Grace turned 2!
Dan and I do not keep secrets, but one thing we did keep under wraps is that we went to Michigan for a “short” weekend, to interview at the church we are now at. That meant Mazy had her first airplane ride! Unfortunately she got sick that weekend:
After Dan accepted a new job, we had to sell our home that we had been renting out for the past 4 1/2 years in St. Joseph; meanwhile, we also wanted to buy in Zeeland as well. Sure enough, our house sold and we were able to find a new place within a few weeks. A place that is our dream home. A house we felt we did not have a CHANCE at. We offered all we had. And God’s grace overflowed. I will never forget the moment our realtor called and said “how would you like to be homeowners again?” I wept. Our new home:
It was a busy summer getting settled, unpacking, and making our new place, home.
It was our pool that gave us that family time and made us feel like we were on vacation every weekend! It was a chillier summer, but by September, it was finally warm and we could not stay out of it. Neither could Mazy!
We also enjoyed two family vacations! One to Beaver Island with Dan’s family, and the other to Gladwin (Secord Lake), with my family!
Three weeks before we moved, my cardiologist in Minnesota said I would probably need surgery sooner rather than later. A few weeks after we moved, I saw a new cardiologist at the University of Michigan, who immediately referred me to a surgeon, to repair my mitral valve. A common surgery, so one that we anticipated with excitement, knowing I would have the opportunity to live a more “normal” life after. Because of my impending surgery on October 20, I wanted to have our family pics taken, just in case I would not get to it after surgery:
The mitral valve surgery went perfectly. A perfect repair was done and within 5 days, I was home. Though it was a very painful surgery going through the ribcage, I was ready to conquer and start this “new” chapter. The highlight? Being able to go outside while still in the ICU. The nurse who made it all happen:
After arriving home, the days got better and better, until Sunday. Something felt off. It was just a bad day, right? BY Tuesday, I could barely walk, talk, and was confused. I knew I was sick and so did the local hospital, who then had me flown back via AeroMed, to the University of Michigan.
We soon learned that the repair on my mitral valve did not last and a suture blew, causing incredible fluid build up that effected my other organs. The only way to deal with the issue was to have yet a second open heart surgery, this time through the sternum. At the time, it was extremely difficult news to hear, but I was ready to conquer once again. Little did I know that the days leading up to the surgery would test every part of my being. I had never been so weak and at times was unsure if I was going to make it. I knew one could not die of pain, but at times I wondered. These pictures represent not only the struggle, but even more so, God’s GRACE. When I thought I had nothing left, God showered His grace, time and time again. Undeserving in every way. In those difficult times, it was nothing I did, but everything about what GOD did. And that is the testimony we shared in the hospital and hope to continue to share.
When I was first asked to walk, I couldn’t, due to a blood clot and weakness. A day later though, I was able to take my first steps.
It was a long 16 days in the hospital, but you can’t live life without a little humor…even when you have compression socks on!
And this picture is a picture of God’s grace, through and through. After a long journey of ER visits and trips back to the U of M, I was released of all restrictions. It seemed like such a far off dream, but God gave us, once again, his undeserving blessings, time and time again.
And then we made it to Christmas. To see this little face, it is filled with so much grace. That smile. Her posture. This picture screams God’s grace. Every day as a family of 3 is a day of grace. So undeserving.
Another part that is completely undeserving, is the love that you all have shown to us. 2017 has taught us that we are not meant to walk this journey alone. God knew we couldn’t do it alone. From saying see you laters in Minnesota, to moving, to a new church and new church family, to living by family, to where we are today. YOU are part of this grace story. Thank you.
God’s faithfulness has been so evident. God’s goodness. God’s GRACE.
The year, 2017, will always have significant meaning to me:
James 1:17 New International Version (NIV)
17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
I never put much thought into numbers. The only numbers I really cared about were scores of my favorite basketball teams and I suppose numbers on a scale. I used to think that those who talked about the trend of numbers in their life, meant they were superstitious in some way. Though the more I have become aware of numbers in the Bible and the meaning behind them, the more I have learned that God can work and show Himself to be omnipotent and omniscient through something as simple as numbers. I find it to be no coincidence, but a God-cidence, that God has used the number 17 to have significance in our life.
It was at the age of 17, that I found out I had a congenital heart condition.
On January 17, 2001 I had open heart surgery.
On May 17 our two little babies were to be born, through our gestational carrier.
On Monday, September 17, 2012 God took our babies home to be with Him.
On Tuesday, March 17, 2015, our little girl, Mazy Grace was born at 6:52pm.
God has used the number 17 to teach me that He does not change, even though our circumstances do. Our circumstantial hope may waiver, but it is our faith that we believe and live for an unchanging God, that will hold us strong.
2017, well, it was a chapter for the books. Actually, a book that we hope to publish, we pray, in 2018. We aren’t sure how because we know nothing about doing such a thing. But what we do know is that where there is God, there is a way.
Because God’s grace doesn’t stop. In ALL of the moments.
I would love to sit here and say that we look forward to a “healthy” 2018, but you know what? It’s not for us to decide. Whatever gives God the most glory, that’s what WE want. My heart function is abnormal, which was hard to hear last week at my post-op appointment, but we are hoping with medication that it will one day improve. Regardless, God’s in control and this too, does not surprise Him. So here’s to another year, in whatever direction God’s grace may lead us.
Thank you for continuing to walk this journey with us.