Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Answering the Call.

As usual, I have let my blog sit vacant for months and months. I often think of things that strike me to write about but time (as with many of you, I'm sure) is an issue. Beyond time, I always hope to write something meaningful, honest, and an accurate depiction of how God is working in my life. Therefore, in these months, God left me silent as he spoke to me, blessed me, broke me, and sharpened me. As I sit here wrapping up my birthday, I think about what "year 28" held for me and how much I have changed as a person in all facets of my life. Not many people look forward to reaching their thirties but I am so incredibly ready to experience God's blessings for answering His call. Will it be hard? Sure. It keeps me up at night when I think about it. However, God always sends reminders that He will be there through it all and He has given me such a beautiful support team. So, with that I felt it on my heart to write about my year and answering God's call.

Applying to dental school is like running the longest race but you are not sure of the race course and the terrain changes with every mile. You know the race is coming, you prepare for it, you train for it but once it starts you often wonder "How did I get here?" or "How will I ever finish?". You feel like the cycle will never end as you hope and pray for interviews, you get them, and interview, and go back to waiting. It's exhausting. But then you blink... and it's over. The past two months I have taken a break from life to recover from the last year. I've needed it to rest and to reflect before I embark on my dental school journey... which I'm sure will mimic on a larger scale what I described above.

On my birthday last year, I said to Jon, "This could be the biggest year of my life." It was but ten-fold. If me today would tell me last year, that this past year (man that's a mouth full) would pan out the way it did... I wouldn't believe myself. When I felt this call on my heart to leave the realm of dental hygiene, go back to school, and apply to dental school, I was terrified. A lot of people asked why I did it and all I could simply say was I feel called to do it and it has been a dream of mine. This road has been a lot of praying and crying out to God to reaffirm His call on my life and each time he answers me... clearly. I worried about the cost of school... I received the Air Force HPSP. I prayed for at least two interviews... I received two interviews. I prayed that God would lead me to the right dental school for me and for Jon (because he is making an incredible sacrifice too)... He led me to Midwestern where we I have my in-laws nearby. I worried about where I would live... he provided a home.

But what if you don't feel God calling you to something? What if you don't feel Him answering? What if you answered His call but you feel as though nothing is happening? These are very real and tangible questions. It can feel like a very lonely and desolate place when the desires of our heart or what we feel is God's calling is not coming to fruition. I stood in that place three years ago where I thought God wanted me to pursue dental school but nothing seemed to be working. One day in a Denver coffee shop, I read my devotional and He answered me in His time. The devotional talked about that sometimes when God seems like He is telling us "no," and things are not happening like we thought they should, he may be simply telling us "not yet." That day changed my life and I realized in the months of my frustrations, He was preparing my heart to surrender fully without hesitation to His call. The "not yet" in our lives are God's masterpieces in the making and that is such a beautiful truth.

His call isn't always clear. It isn't always well-received by people. It can take time. Sometimes what you think He is calling you to, is something much more different and larger but a spiritual lesson in the making. I'd be lying if some of these very things didn't make my heart drop. The outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming for Jon and I as we embark on learning to be married but be a commuter couple during this time in our lives as we both are living and working for our dreams. Some people have met us with concern, questions, opinions (I like to think they are all well-intentioned). We do appreciate being asked out of love but the answer is simple, God's call is much greater than our comfort and much bigger than stress or worry. This aspect was one of my biggest worries and battles in this whole process, but God met me in that worry and put strong spiritual couples in our path who have walked a very similar journey to ours. He knew we needed the affirmation from couples who answered the calls in their lives... even when it was hard and not popular. God is incredibly faithful. 

As I look towards my thirties, I couldn't be more excited to see what God has in store for our family. It will be a difficult year on the way there but the joy that comes in knowing I have a husband, family, and friends, who answered this call with me... is indescribable.

Live. Love. Answer His Call.

Melissa

Sunday, April 3, 2016

"My Hope Comes from God"

"I lift up my eyes to the mountains--where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." - Psalm 121:1-2 (NIV)

April 3rd is a day that I always write, remember, reflect and share. I do these things because I feel it is imperative that the world knows Brady's amazing legacy and message. I can hardly fathom that it has been 11 years since he has been gone. My heart aches for his loss still but it rejoices in the fact that we serve a God that conquered death and lives in victory so that we can have the most beautiful of reunions one day. What a glorious day that will be. When I lived in Arkansas, I always visited his grave on this day. When I moved to Colorado, I miss that time to go reflect and just "be." Blogging has been my out and I feel the words I write cannot adequately convey all that I want to about Brady. He was the perfect example of practicing what you preach, loving people and Jesus were his passions and he followed Him so fervently, at even the most tender teenage years, that I feel he lived more life than most will in a lifetime. He shot it to you straight but loved you all the while. He was a leader.

I was talking to a good friend this week about the process of grieving a friend. It's something that you will never prepare yourself for or imagine yourself going through. But just as Psalm 121:1-2 states, my help came from God. He helped me to see the light in the darkness, the beauty in the rubble and He has given me the strength to step out and live a life that I know Brady would be proud of... one with his purpose of "Love God. Love People." I hope I make him proud and that I do his legacy justice.

Today, I had the extreme blessing of spending this hard day with my best friend, Sarah, who knew and loved Brady like I did. She experienced and walked through that immense loss along with me. We sat around this morning talking about Brady: things he loved, how he lived his life, how he impacted ours and how there is no way to really describe him perfectly. I loved that precious time today, for I know Sarah looks at her life as living Brady's purpose too. We spent the day at the Royal Gorge and taking in the magnificent views of CaƱon City and I couldn't help but to think of God's majesty and how much it commanded Brady's life. How blessed am I that I knew Brady and I get to share his legacy with others, so that they too may know Christ's love?! Brady sought after Christ with his whole heart and longed for everyone to know him on such an intimate level. He was ready to "charge hell with a water pistol." I pray everyday that I can be a "Brady," just his sweet Mom asked both Sarah and I to do on the day of his visitation. "Love God. Love People," has been a phrase that Sarah and I will never forget, as many others do not, so that we will always "be a Brady." Sarah has this tattooed on her arm in Greek. I love it.

I ask that you take up Brady Hooper's purpose in life to "Love God. Love People." Life is too short to not care about the souls of the people around you and to the ends of the Earth. Life is too short to not love God with every fiber of your being that He created and experience His abundant mercy and forgiveness. I ask that you pray and think about Brady's beautiful family tonight. His parents, Greg and Sara Lu, are so incredibly precious and dear to Jon and I, as I know they are to Sarah and Michael and many families that they have touched. I remember as I hugged Bro. Greg at Brady's visitation that he said "God gives and He takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." I've never had a bigger or deeper lesson in faith and God's mercy than I did in that moment. Where does my help come from... in the moments where the grief is too much... when the pain is too deep... and the road seems impossible? It comes from God, who gives and takes away... and who made the beautiful mountains. Blessed be HIS name.


Live. Laugh. Love. Reflect.

Melissa


Friday, October 9, 2015

Get out of the boat.

The RoMed 2015 clinics are finished and I sit here amazed at the amount of work our team accomplished and the number of lives and hearts touched. Brasov panned out to be a great clinic where actually many peoples from surrounding villages, including Feldioara, showed up to be seen. We actually saw many from Feldioara that frequented our two day clinic there and we said numerous times that we were so happy that was the case, as we feel Feldioara is "our" village. Our team has this undeniable connection with that village and my heart is so full when I think about all of my precious friends there and the work that God is doing through them for the people of Feldioara. Love... doesn't even cover it.

That love is what fuels the fire of God's calling to me in Romania. There isn't a day that I don't think about Romania and how deeply it has gripped my soul. The trip redirected the course of my life and broke my heart for what breaks God such that I could know him on such a deeper level... even if it lead me outside my comfort zone.

Tonight during our group devotion, Bro. Jerry discussed that in order to truly experience all that God has to offer, we must fall outside our comfort zones and "get out of the boat." I've thought about that more and there are many "boats" or safety nets that I fall into that ultimately keep me from experiencing all that God has laid out for me. Yes, it can be terrifying to set aside familiarity and embrace what is foreign. Yes, it is hard to see clearly when you do not have the full picture. But is the Lord not the author and creator of every moment, every breath and every fiber of our being? But Bro Jerry made a point that I haven't quite thought of in taking the "gotta get out of the boat" concept a bit further, and that is once you are out of the boat to keep your eyes fixed upon Jesus. Expounding on this further (for me personally) I thought immediately of my own journey. The moment I was called to Romania, I put a foot out of the boat and little by little, leading up to my commitment to follow God's calling to pursue dental school (when I thought this was not even a bit possible) where I finally said "I am all in." I feel like I have experienced a new level of faith and love when I stepped out of the boat and onto the water. This trip, has helped me to see just how precious my focus is on Jesus... for without it... I will surely sink.

I think of all the blessings I would have missed if I didn't go all in with God and know that whatever boat I had been sitting in, would never be as good enough as the faith that enables me to do the impossible. I wouldn't experience the love and mercy of our Father like I do. I would miss the beautiful miracle of a friend being cancer free. I wouldn't hear the love of God flow out in a different language while knowing it in my very own. I wouldn't cry sweet tears with Maria as she is finally out of pain. I would miss out on this beautiful life that God has entrusted me with. Although the waters may be rough sometimes, those revelations... the love, mercy and grace of our Father, calm even the most raging of seas.

What is your boat? Has God been calling you for quite some time to go all in... to step out of your comfort zone and focus solely on Him? All it takes is a simple, "Yes, here I am," and get out of the boat and stand firmly in Christ's calling. I pray for each of you tonight, that God reveals what your "boat" is and how to get out of it and trust in Him.

Thank you, again, for your unending prayers for this team. God has helped us reach so many during our clinics. Please pray for the hearts of our team as they begin to really process and reflect upon this experience. Pray for the hearts of the Romanian people that the seeds we have planted will bloom for God. Also, please pray for a man that our team is continuing to treat over several days beyond clinic. His situation is quite dire and our beautiful nurses are treating Him with the hand of the Lord to guide them. Pray that God heals his ailment and that he will see a miracle of God in his own life.

Live. Laugh. Get out of the boat.

Melissa

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Grace.

I can hardly believe that we have just one clinic day left. The trip always comes in such a whirlwind but it surprises me each time. I haven't blogged in a couple of days because I have found myself tired, sick and without words (shock, I know!) to describe exactly what I am thinking. Our team has been such a beautiful example of God's grace, love and divine purpose. As we finished our last clinic day in Feldioara, had a free day to rest and through our clinic day today in Sfantu Gheorghe today, the Lord was breathing life into the walls... or the courtyard (in today's case), such that our RoMed team demonstrated His goodness and purpose in every work station. He placed specific people on our team for particular patients that passed through our clinic.

I found myself in a place where God meant me for a patient. Sandy called me outside into the beautiful flower filled courtyard at the church in Feldioara where I see beautiful Maria in her wheelchair. Maria was terrified to get much of anything done but she agreed to let me clean her teeth. I stood out in the courtyard with my instruments on a paper towel in a chair and Maria was wrapped in a brand new purple blanket to keep warm. Sandy stayed with Maria as I began to clean. As I worked, I began to pray for this sweet girl with her head propped against my stomach, her beautiful brown eyes staring up at me. Those moments with Maria, during such a hectic day in clinic, made me pause and realize the divine appointment God had set up for me that day with her. When I knew I had done all I could do for her, Maria's teeth which was once covered with tartar, emerged into a smile. What a joy to my heart to see her smile in that mirror and see herself for what she is... a beautiful woman. God's grace in that moment was so tangible and His purpose for me in my meeting with Maria, so clear. I threw in special instruments at the last minute into my suitcase, meant for very heavy tartar and I couldn't have removed what I did on Maria. God knew I'd be seeing her. Be still and know... that He is God.
Working on Maria in the Courtyard
After Tuesday, I barely could hold my eyes open. The clinic day was so blessed in all areas of our team and the tired was the best kind of tired I could have asked for. Wednesday was a welcomed break as our team toured Castle Braun. Some of us Veterans who have seen the castle twice now, stayed behind and shopped around at the gypsy markets with our awesome translator, Florin. Braun is such a beautiful area and it is neat to tell your friends you were at Dracula's Castle. We then went on to walk around the main "strip" in Brasov and spend time at the town square. Although I was feeling a bit under the weather, I loved just sitting at watching at the town's beauty. It was an early night for me but in hindsight, it was just what I needed.
Town Square in Brasov

Today, our team was in a new village, Sfantu Gheorghe. It was definitely different from our norm but God was so faithful and provided decent weather so that we could see many people in the village. For quite a while, the rain chances were very high but come today, it was zero. God's grace. Although Sfantu Gheorghe is in Romania, the villagers are primarily Hungarian, which yielded double translation scenarios where I would speak English to our Romanian Translators who would then speak Romanian to a Hungarian Translator. Again, God provided much grace to our team and the translations went very smoothly. The facilities are very small at the church there, so our waiting area, pharmacy and vision team were outside in the chilly weather. Our medical team was set up in a tool shed while the dental team stayed in the church building. We were able to touch many physical needs to the people of Sfantu Gheorghe and I pray that God provided a light to those people through our team members. I know He did.
Our Medical Team Staging Area
Please pray as we finish out our last clinic day in Brasov. We have many people traveling from Feldioara to be seen again. I also pray that you pray with and for the RoMed team members as they begin to really process and reflect on this experience. Thank you again, for your kind support! We feels your prayers!

Live. Love. Grace.

Monday, October 5, 2015

He is Faithful.

What. A. Day. The girls of the mission house loft (I'll have to post pictures in reference to this... but just stay with me) had an early morning this morning that was needed and designed by God. We needed a good laugh... needed a good cry and we needed to share our hearts and as we sat in a group.... some new members to the team... some seasoned, I knew that our team was going to have a great first day of clinic, and that we did.

As we set up our clinic, it almost felt like our "dream dental team" hadn't even skipped a beat since our 2013 trip. It felt like we were just there yesterday. I couldn't believe it. Usually I get very nervous before we start clinic because I want to do nothing but the best for my sweet Romanian friends. This morning, I found myself calm and ready to get to work, as if I did it every day. I thank God for that. I have prayed for that.
The Dental Dream Team (minus our amazing translators)
This trip has been very emotional so far for me because it is reigniting the fire to my desires... my hopes... my dreams and it's been all I can a lot of this trip is to just observe and take it in. I've done a lot of observing so far, taking mental snapshots, watching our team interact and seeing God's hand in everything in this trip. It has overwhelmed me and as we worked our way through our floods of patients, it hit me as to why I have unconsciously fell into this observing mode... God has intended me to see his faithfulness. I believe this is because he knows how discouraged and stressed I have been at school where I have often I have questioned this road I have traveled down... one that ultimately started with Romania. My heart has been broken many times for things I have learned over the past couple of days and it's been hard to process these elements of culture shock at times. I won't lie... I have asked God why. So, today, God reminded me of just how faithful He is.

Today, I saw so many familiar faces of all the sweet Romanian people who have been touched by our clinic before and they would say "I remember you." They would hug you and kiss you... just as if they were greeting a long lost friend. God is faithful.

Me and David, whom I have seen every visit to Feldioara! 
I found myself on my knees, holding hands and praying with a nervous Ileana after I had numbed her up and she was waiting for the dentist. Something convicted my heart so strongly to just simply pray with her and for her. I prayed for her soul and a peace that only God could provide. I finished and I looked into her teary eyes and she said through Florin, that she needed that pray so desperately and began to share with me stories about her children and her life. She was calm going to Dr. Joel. God is faithful.

One after the other, I saw all these precious people who God has used to shape my heart over the years... and then I saw her. Beautiful Eva. If you go back to my 2010 blogs, or perhaps you remember reading about my story of Eva. Please go back and read it but long story short, God used Eva, to make me see why I had called me to Romania. The moment I held her sweet head in my hands, cried tears over her and had her grab me so tightly to tell me she knew I felt compassion for her... my life was never the same. It was a defining moment in my faith and in my heart that I will never forget. She walked into clinic today wearing the most beautiful pink head scarf and floral skirt. She looked just the same and I couldn't help but to tear up in sheer excitement because I was so disappointed when I did not see her in our clinic in 2013... but here she was. Today, I got to serve Eva again and as I told her that I remembered her through our translator... she said I remember you and we both smiled and shared a hug that cut deep into my soul. I also had the privilege of serving her beautiful 6 year old daughter who is one tough cookie. I was immediately brought back to that moment where He broke my heart for what broke His and my life was no longer mine to live but only His. God is SO faithful.

A verse came to mind about my revelations and blessings today: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). I couldn't be more thankful for today and God's steady nudge to reveal what He has been all along and that is faithful... even when we may not understand His purpose.

I ask that you pray for the Lord give our team strength to power through another clinic day that will be even busier than today and that He will plant the seeds in those who pass through our clinic doors. I also ask that you pray for our Romanian team members as they have stopped their lives to help make this clinic happen for us. We couldn't do it without them and I am so very thankful for them. Pray for their strength as well as we continue clinic this week.

Live. Laugh. And He is faithful.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

It's all about Jesus.

Our first full day in Romania is complete and I think it was much needed by everyone, as well as the perfect way to kick off what is setup to be such a fantastic week. I think everyone was having some severe jet lag from the day before because sleep was hard to come by on our series of flights. At one point when we got off of our long flight, I made the comment that I was so tired that I felt like I was having an out of body experience and I have a feeling I wasn't the only one. But overall, besides some turbulence going from Atlanta to Amsterdam, our travel was pretty uneventful.
The crew getting ready to go on the big plane.
For the first time ever leaving the Bucharest airport, we did encounter a strange moment. We always hold our breath getting through customs and getting stamped in, which went off without incident. We waited one by one for our twenty-some-odd suitcases and they were (Praise the Lord) all there and intact! After a scramble to find carts to help transport all the bags out of the airport (because once you leave you can't go back in) we loaded everything up and were prepared to walk out when we were stopped. Sandy said her heart went to her head, mine went the other direction. Guards stopped us and sternly asked, "What is in all these suitcases?" Luckily, Sandy is over prepared and every person has a sheet stating every item in their supply suitcase. We were able to produce these. As they thumbed through the sheets, they began to ask questions about our trip. After a couple of exchanges and some concerning looks on their faces. We were let through... and then we could breathe.
A portion of our gear! 
This morning we went to church service at Feldioara and of all my trips over, that was probably one of my most favorite services. It touched my heart to no end. It didn't take me but a few minutes to get in that building and begin seeing all of my precious friends before the tears began flowing. As I said before, the love and peace I feel here is so overwhelming.
Beth and I with our sweet friend, Mundra
The sermon today was about salvation and knowing Christ and our guys did an amazing job bringing a message that was so spot on and I know many souls sitting in that room today, were touched by it. The verses in the message came out of 1 Corinthians 15 and verses 54-57 stood out to me so deeply. People ask me what we do on our trip and the easiest way to put it is we touch their physical needs through our medical, dental and vision team and we touch their spiritual needs. I get asked upon return often times, "Well how many people did you see?" "How many people got saved?" "How many people made a commitment?" I think my response often baffles people but it is the very reason why I love being apart of this team: Numbers. Don't. Matter. I honestly don't know the exact number of patients that pass through our clinic, nor does it matter. What matters is that we saw the most that we can and they know that we care so deeply about them. To be honest, we are there to love on people through our gifts that the Lord has given us, whether it's medical, dental, vision or more of a heart level. God is shared and I know I personally make it abundantly clear that I am there because I love them and that God loves them. I know there are seeds planted that maybe we will never see but I do know one thing, God is so very faithful and He is claiming those souls as His own. "But thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (verse 57). That is what it is all about and why we are here... as Bro. Jerry said, "It's about Jesus."
Such a great music special brought this morning!

Beth and Mundra listening to the message. Be still my heart. 
Our team is ready for clinic and I already know people are waiting to be helped... to be healed... to be loved. This team has been so perfectly orchestrated for what is to come this week and I couldn't be more thankful! Our first clinic days are in Feldioara! The people know us and are so receptive. It is such a great place to be! Pray for things to run smoothly and that we can extend our reach to every need that walks through our doors! Pray for strength and energy for our team! Thank you for all your support and prayers, they are so needed and so helpful to our team! I'll leave you with a few more pictures from our day!
Walking into the courtyard to the church

Such a beautiful welcome to the church!

Courtyard in front of the church
Feldioara


Precious. Pure Precious.




Live. Laugh. It's all about Jesus. 

Melissa


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Here We Go!

     Whew! What a whirlwind week! I am on my flight to Arkansas and it is so surreal to be sitting on this plane. It's crazy to think that I've been preparing for months for this very week because I knew the hurdles that I had to jump over all at once and here it is...over. I can finally "be in the moment" as our team departure for Romania is tomorrow. This trip has already started out so different than all the others that I have been blessed to go on. I've always been working full time in a private practice and my build up to the trip is really gradual. I would have time in the evenings or my day off to prepare and also get to be apart of the packing process of our team's supplies. This time around, obviously, my life is significantly different. I am in Colorado, so all of my correspondence has been through phone and e-mail. I am a full time student and I even work at school. So, basically, I live there (Ha... but no really). I often have no words when I think about that. God is so good for when I thought there was no way I could do what I am doing... HE DID. Two years ago as I departed Romania, this life I am living was just a goal and a dream planted in my heart. Many times during those following months after I came home and we made our move to Colorado, my faith was tested to its core and I spent a lot of time learning to not only give everything over to God but truly surrender every fiber of my being, every doubt, every fear, all the vanity I held onto to hear His plan for me. When I finally did, God revealed that His plan was the one on my heart and RIGHT NOW was the time to begin it. I have never looked back and have only pressed this far into my journey because I am living by His design. So, to be here on this small cramped up plane, is such a testament and proof of God's unending faithfulness and love. I am very fortunate to have professors that allowed me to turn in assignments early, quiz and test early/late and drop assignments and labs all together to alleviate my stress. It was a roller coaster of a week to get through three tests, five assignments and a challenging lab this week but it happened.

     I am so blessed and excited to be able to return to the very mission that concreted my want to become a dentist and go down this path I have been called to walked on. God knows I have longed to return because I so desperately love Romania, my sweet friends there and it's precious people. I can't describe that feeling to feel so at home and hold so much love for a place that is quite different from where I live. It's foreign but it feels so familiar. The peace I feel there is undeniable and I know God will only expound upon that and let me relight the fire to keep me pressing on this journey. Who knows, hopefully one day, I'll be going as a dentist and able to do so much more. That excites me.

I am so overwhelmed at the response to be apart of my email updates through this blog. Each email address I added to the group, made my heart fill to the brim with love. So, thank you, to everyone who prayed for, encouraged and supported me and the RoMed 2015 team. I cannot wait to share the blessings that are awaiting us just "over the pond!" Until then, I ask that you continue to pray for our team's travel safety and that ALL of our supplies and luggage make it and all in one piece. Although, if you haven't read my "I saw the light" story from two years ago on our 2013 trip, scroll back a couple of years and read it, I am totally okay with a divine meeting and losing of luggage like that.

I'll leave you with some questions to think about, as I have been asked a lot about the act of service this week. Is there something that you feel like God is calling you to do? Is it something that you would never place for yourself? Is it something that terrifies you? Is it outside of your comfort zone? I challenge you to really dig deep to the calls to service in your life and answer the call. There are people and situations out there that could be waiting for your words, your touch and your love. And most certainly, there's uncovered blessings from God waiting for you, to show you love, mercy, grace and His plan.

Until next time!

Live. Love. Here We Go!

Melissa