Friday, June 27, 2014

10 years...the long and short of it.

Y'all, look at the difference 10 years makes.


Don't see much of a change?  God bless you, because I can sure tell a difference :)

While I may not look so different on the outside, I can assure you my heart would tell a different story.

Since that first picture I have:

Moved to Waco, TX to begin my education at Baylor University
Completed my degree in biology
Married my sweetie
Moved to Houston, TX to start our life as newlyweds and start PA school at Baylor College of Medicine
Graduated from PA school
Started my first job in primary care in La Porte, TX
Got pregnant with Henry
Changed jobs to work in emergency medicine
Delivered Henry and became a mommy

And that is just my resume.

In that time, I have made and lost friends.  I have celebrated births, and mourned deaths.  I have laughed.  I have cried.  I've been broken, only to be restored.  I've been humbled, I've been proud.

But despite all of that, walking down the hill towards that beautiful cross that overlooks the city of Antigua, Guatemala, it was as if no time had passed.

God does that sometimes, doesn't He?

He seemingly brings us backwards, just to show how far we've come.

I've often felt like our lives here on earth are just concentric circles, getting smaller and smaller as we age.  I know I feel like I've learned the same lessons over and over again, but with a slightly different twist that only age, experience and wisdom can produce.

I forgot how much I love Guatemala.  I forgot how peaceful it is there.  I forgot how convicting, yet freeing it is to journey to a third world country and leave the comforts of home.

I needed a sweet reminder, and like a massive tidal wave of memories, it hit me.

I'll leave you with the lyrics to a song that has been stuck in my head for the past week.  I encourage you to take a listen.

From "The Call" by Regina Spektor
Let your memories grow stronger and stronger
'Til they're before your eyes
You'll come back when they call you
No need to say goodbye.

See you soon, old friend.  I'm confident this isn't goodbye, but see you later.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

11 months

Henry, your 11 month birthday was quite the occasion for us both.  It was the day of our glorious reunion after Mommy was gone for A.WHOLE.WEEK in Guatemala.  Your sweet Daddy bought me flowers and made a hand made sign, but I only had eyes for you :)

Words cannot express.

This month you really turned on the after burners.  You are such a speed crawler!  If I close my eyes, I could easily lose track of you except for the fact that you tend to laugh and scream when you crawl.  I guess you are as excited about crawling as I am.  

Your balance has gotten so much better.  You can stand while barely holding on, and you can even squat down to pick up something off the floor.  You have no problem walking as long as you hold onto Mommy's fingers, but you haven't tried to walk on your own yet.

I can really tell you are developing some memories.  For instance: you know that if you crawl into Mommy and Daddy's bedroom, Mommy's shoes can be found to the left, and the bathroom is an immediate right, behind two doors that you effortlessly push out of your way.

You are such a little thinker.  You are just like your Mommy, Lord help you, and your little face is an open book for all of your emotions.  Your little eyebrows crinkle when you are deep in thought.  

We recently bought you a couple of new toys that really bring out your intellectual side.  It's the classic box with a lid with shapes cut out, so that you have to figure out which shapes go through which hole.  Your Daddy insists that you're smarter than the average kiddo, because instead of spending time figuring out which shape goes in which hole, you take the lid off the box and just put the shapes directly in the box.  Funny little guy.

You ornery streak is ever-present.  You still love going after plugs, and you have such an affinity for crawling into the bathroom.  Your favorite climbing surface is the baby gate, especially the one at the top of the stairs.  You love finding minute pieces of who-knows-what to stick in your mouth, especially dog hair and dust bunnies.  You have learned the word "No," and most of the time you obey.

This month was Daddy's first Father's Day.  Mommy was in Guatemala, so not much celebrating happened on the day itself, but you celebrated by growing your first molar.  Daddy says you were so fussy, grouchy, and refused to take your naps.  Your crib shows the markers of your little teeth all along the edges.  We will be investing in a protective rail covering soon.

We love you more and more each and every day and love the little man you are growing into!

To top this off, I thought I would conclude with 11 pictures for your 11 months.

Pensive Henry

Frustrated Henry

"I hate this chair" Henry

Curious Henry

Content Henry

Balancing Henry

"Readers are leaders" Henry

Climbing Henry

Surfer Henry

Over the edge Henry

"My molar hurts" Henry


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Guatemala, part 2

Y'all, please forgive the disjointed-ness of this post.  I am still processing a lot of what I'm thinking and feeling about this past week.

The team just prior to departure

This trip was everything and nothing like I thought it would be.

The team after clinic
The minute we touched down in Guatemala City, I had this overwhelming sense of peace.  I was flooded with memories and a sense of familiarity.  The countryside, the volcanoes, the was as if nothing had changed.

The beautiful countryside

We arrived in Guatemala City around mid-day on Saturday, and quickly met up with our hosts, Pat and Charlie.  They treated us to lunch at Pollo Campero, a culinary must when in Guatemala.  We then journeyed about an hour and a half to our destination, Chimaltenango.  Our host home was absolutely beautiful, situated on about 4 acres on the top of a hill overlooking the village.  Their home "smelled like freedom."  

About half of our medications

The next day, Sunday, was spent organizing medications.  The majority of that time was spent counting and separating pills into individual bags so we could easily hand out the things that we knew we needed a lot of: Tylenol, ibuprofen, and vitamins.  Most of these things were donated to our team by our community at Houston's First.  While their contribution may have seemed small, these medications were the most sought after during our clinics!

The team counting and labeling medications

That afternoon, we had the honor of attending Pat and Charlie's church.  What a wonderful house of worship.  Never in my life have I felt the presence of God so palpably.  Worship with this Guatemalan church was a party!  Their band had two keyboards, two guitars, two drummers, 4 violins, three trumpets, 2 trombones and a flute.  They also had 4 young girls who danced in the front altar during worship.  Although I had no idea what they were saying, it was such a wonderful picture to be able to dance and raise my hands, knowing that God received my praise regardless of the fact that I didn't understand a word.  After the sermon, the leaders of the church prayed over us.  My goodness, what a sweet blessing.  We didn't have the opportunity to be commissioned by our home church, so we were so excited to be prayed over by the church.  Again, I didn't understand what they were saying, but we all felt the presence of God moving.

The nearest volcano, Acatenango

Monday through Wednesday we had three different clinics in three different locations.  In those three days, we saw around 460-470 patients.  Going into the week, the missionaries we were working with estimated that we would see around 300 patients.  We saw a lot of people with aching backs and bodies: a result of a lifetime of manual labor all day, every day.  We saw a lot of people with similar complaints as the United States: upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, abdominal pain, etc.  We saw some complaints that aren't so common in the US, mostly parasites.  I was surprised at how few people had diabetes and high blood pressure.  I suppose limited food due to poverty and manual labor keep the people relatively low risk for cardiac complications.

The team after our last day of clinic

The stark difference between the Guatemalan people we were serving and the American patients we serve at home was their attitude.  The Guatemalans were kind, friendly, humble people who were so excited just to see a doctor.  They were even more excited to receive vitamins, Tylenol, ibuprofen.  Coming from a background in emergency medicine where patients often feign allergies just to get the pain medication of their choice, I was so surprised at how extremely grateful these patients were for such ordinary medications.  The journey to a pharmacy and the cost of medications make even over the counter medications invaluable.

"Las Doctoras"

As I communicated with y'all before I left, the theme of this trip was fishes and loaves.  I'll take a moment to share the math with you, although obviously I can't prove the miraculous.  We took 4000 Advil and 2000 Tylenol.  We separated the Advil into bags of 30 and Tylenol into bags of 15, which makes 266 bags total.  We saw 460+ patients throughout the week, and practically every patient left with a bag of either Advil or Tylenol, or both.  Y'all, would you believe we had medicine left over?  I can't explain the abundance, but everyone received what they needed, with plenty left over.  Fishes and loaves!

One of my favorite places on earth

For those that partnered with me, either prayerfully or financially, I cannot begin to say how thankful I am!

I hope you have enjoyed this journey with me, and I hope to inspire you to find and live your own story.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Hasta luego, first world.

For your viewing pleasure, here is a video of first world "problems" as read by third world people.

This video does for me exactly what it is likely designed to do:
1.  It makes me feel guilty.
2.  It inspires me to live a life reflective of this knowledge.

Regardless of what this video does for you, I thought a little bit of education on the three "worlds" would be helpful, since I, myself, didn't know the origin of the meaning until about two weeks ago.

It all stems back to the Cold War.  Bet you didn't know that, huh?  (Unless you did, in which case, you are smarter than me).

First world: Basically developed, CAPITALIST, industrialized countries; mainly the US, Western Europe, Japan and Australia.
Second world: Basically the COMMUNIST/SOCIALIST countries; includes Russia, Eastern Europe, some of the Turk countries, and China.
Third world: EVERY OTHER COUNTRY, which pretty much includes all of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

That's not exactly how we use these terms, is it?  I've been to Russia, Eastern Europe and many socialist countries, and they don't feel second world.  Most people regard the worlds as "rich, not so rich, and poor."

There are other ways of describing countries that better encompass the ideas behind these terms.  The new terms are "developed" versus "developing."  But even the United Nations reports that there is not a set way of defining these terms.

The World Bank, however, classifies countries into one of four groups:
Low income countries: Gross National Income per capita of $1,026 or less.
Lower middle income countries: GNI per capita between $1,026 and $4,036.
Upper middle income countries: GNI per capita between $4,036 and $12,476.
High income countries:  GNI per capita above $12,476.

Whichever way you choose to "classify" countries honestly doesn't matter.  Sometimes I think classification systems just makes it easier to separate ourselves from the things we don't want to think about.  We can detach ourselves from the proverbial "them" so that we don't have to do anything about it.  Despite the technology available in this day and age, one of the biggest problems with the "first world," is that we have no idea how the rest of the world lives.  Maybe we are naively ignorant.  Maybe we are intentionally in the dark.  Maybe we know, but choose to do nothing about it.  Maybe we want to do something about it, but don't know how.

Regardless of how you classify the world, in less than 24 hours, I will journey from the comfortable wealth of Texas to the rural poverty of Guatemala.  Although this isn't my first mission trip, and not my first trip out of the country, this is my first medical mission trip, and my first trip to this particular area of Guatemala, so I honestly don't know what to expect.  But I do know that I will come back a changed person.

And that is my last piece of encouragement before I leave.  Find your passion, and let it change you.

Monday, June 9, 2014

What'll she look like?

I was sitting in my car in a parking lot several days ago and watched a familiar scene play out right in front of me.  A mom got out of her car, patiently waiting on her teenage daughter.  She patiently waited for a minute...two minutes...Finally her patience turned to annoyance and then exasperation as she waited for five minutes for her daughter to FIX HER HAIR.

OH MY LORD do I remember those days!  I certainly wasn't the most vain girl I knew, but my insecurity forced me to think and rethink every detail of my hair, my face, my clothes every moment of every day.  Behind every self doubt was the question lurking just barely under the surface: Am I beautiful?

This is the question I think every woman needs an answer to.  She needs this answer from her parents, her friends, her family, her husband.

So as I watched this interaction between mom and daughter, I found myself identifying with both ladies.  Although I am 27, happily married with a successful career and a beautiful child, I still struggle with the question, Am I beautiful?  As I transition into my mommy role, it's so important to me to remember my struggles as a teenager so hopefully one day I can help my children transition through their awkward phases.

I am not a naturally patient person.  Too often I get pressured by timelines and high expectations.  I think I will constantly struggle between settling for good enough when I crave perfection.  Fast forward 15 years and when our child is struggling with identity issues and self esteem, I hope I take the time to remember my own struggles so I can answer the question behind every action of every teenager.  You are special.  You are important.  You are loved.  You are beautiful.

If I could go back in time and tell anything to my younger self, it would be this:

Those lonely, nerdy hours of reading and studying will pay off when you confidently accept your degree as a PA and use your knowledge to help and heal others.

The painful moments of girl drama, gossip and meanness will shape you into a loving, compassionate woman who can build strong and lasting friendships.

That first painful breakup will help you guard you heart and protect it so you can give it to your husband, best friend, and father of your children.

Those tears of loneliness and despair will turn to tears of joy as you walk down the aisle and towards a life of your own.

That awful teenage acne will all too soon turn to the laugh lines and worry lines that accompany motherhood.

That awkward, changing body will carry and bear your first child.

Those fidgety, nervous hands of yours will all too soon be drying the tears of your own child.

So, cheer up, teenage Megan.  Things will only get better from here.

The inspiration for this post is THIS INCREDIBLE SONG BY STEPHEN SPEAKS.  Some people say smells can trigger a memory, but music seems to be the language of my memory.  The first few guitar riffs of this song take me back to those awkward teenage years, feeling ugly and unloved and wondering where my place in this world would be.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A loose hand.

Money, money,!

Dollars and cents seem to be overwhelming my thought processes these days.  What brought this about you might ask?  While I can't pin it down to one specific thing, I think it's a culmination of several things put together.

1.  Going from full time to part time brought a pretty significant cut in my income.  I cut my hours almost in half, which for an hourly employee, is quite dramatic.  Our budget looks quite different than it did 4 months ago.  But in all of this, I have learned that time with my son is literally priceless.

2.  As I have become more and more immersed in refugee life in Houston and as I have been preparing for my upcoming trip go Guatemala, I can't help but look at international poverty and ponder my place in that.  There are days that I am so weighed down by guilt from the overwhelming abundance that we are blessed with.  There are other days that I look around me and long for a bigger house, a nicer car, cuter clothes.  I don't know how to balance what I know about the third world with living a very comfortable life in the first.

3.  Last weekend, our little family went looking at homes.  We visited a neighborhood in the process of building huge homes on huge lots.  We thought this was our dream neighborhood.  On paper, (or the computer screen), it seems perfectly reasonable.  But in reality, we felt lost in these huge homes.  How could we ever be as involved with our kids as we want to be if we can't even find them in our home?  We are so glad that we visited in person so we could make the decision that we don't need that much.  We want a home that promotes family togetherness, transparency and frugality.  So we are back to square one looking at homes.

4.  We are in the midst of a pretty aggressive debt payoff plan.  Between college and PA school and two cars, we came to the realization that a huge portion of our income was going towards debt.  So what did we do?  Devote an even huger portion of our income towards paying our debt down faster.

All of these situations amount to a time of life where we are analyzing every single cent of every single dollar that we spend.  And it's stressful and exhausting.

Geez, there's got to be more to life than this.

I love the story of the widow's mite.  She gave the last small coin she had, but this sacrifice was more pleasing to God than a much larger offering from a much wealthier man.  I wonder what the coin in her pocket was being saved for?  Had she budgeted that money for her children?  For her next meal?  Was she putting herself in the financial red zone to give that coin?  Perhaps she didn't care.  Perhaps she was well acquainted with the feeling of physical hunger and knew that it is nothing compared to spiritual hunger.


From the depths of my soul, I want my budget to reflect her spirit.  Forget Dave Ramsey, let's fashion our finances after the widow.

I don't want to miss out on being part of God's story because I was too concerned about building my treasures on earth.

I don't want to spend money in a way that is inconsistent with the life we say we lead.

So I am trying to hold our money with a loose hand.  A hand that is open to receive, and open to give back.  I want to seek God's heart instead of His hand--seeking the freedom that He promises and not the "blessings" He can add to my life.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

How marriage changes the game.

So, the other night I had the pleasure of being hit on by my slightly inebriated patient in the ER.  He proceeded to drop cute little one-liners, which I ignored while hurriedly sewing his cut.  Until he finally asked the right question: "Are you married?"  And just like that, no more Mister Nice Guy.

Marriage is the game-changer.

It is like no other relationship you will ever have.  In past dating relationships, the other person existed to make you happy, until you weren't, and then you broke up.

So one day, you meet the person that you are sure you want to spend the rest of your life with.  Everything about this person seems different and you are sure that you are perfect together, 100% compatible, and you will live happily ever after in peaceful bliss.

And then you get married.  At last, you tell yourself, you will never have to be alone, you will spend the rest of your days with stars in your eyes, and you will melt into each other's arms each and every day just like in the movies.


It's not that marriage doesn't have these moments.  It's just that these moments aren't so much spontaneous as they are born from hard work.

Let me just tell you, my hubby and I aren't 100% compatible.  Far from it.  We are exactly opposite.  He is extroverted, I am introverted.  He is a thinker, I am a feeler.  He sees things in black and white, I see things in shades of gray.

It makes for lots of arguments, but also leaves room for a lot of learning and grace.

Grace.  Marriage does not exist without it.

I got married at the ripe age of 21.  Whoa.  I will be the first to admit I was young and immature.  There is so much that I have learned over the last 6 years, so many things I would have done differently.  Like many other young girls, I imagined that marriage was about love, passion and romance.  Over the past few years, I have learned that marriage is more about hard work, dedication, commitment, and selflessness.  I have learned that marriage is less about always being attracted to your spouse, and more about choosing your spouse each and every day.

To wake up every morning to the same person, and still be able to say "I choose you," is the most romantic thing of all.  When you're married, you know the innermost parts of that person.  You know the good, the bad, and the ugly.  But DESPITE the ugly, you choose them daily.

Now, don't get me wrong: our marriage is full of love and PDA.  But so many people base their choices on their feelings, instead of basing their feelings on their choices.

Although marriage is nothing like I thought it would be, it is everything that I need it to be.