Saturday, January 2, 2016

2015:The Year of Change

I feel like I have written this post in my head about 1,000 times. Every few days these past two months, I began to think about how much had changed in my life in 2015. I told Keith that I have dubbed 2015 “The Year of Change”. So many things in our lives changed and besides Ryeland joining our family, most of the other changes were unexpected and some even unimaginable. I decided to take some time to write out what has been going through my mind over the past year.

Last year at this time, we were hoping and waiting and thinking and PRAYING that little Ryeland would make his appearance. I had told myself he would be here EARLY. Wow…was I ever wrong on that one! As the clock struck midnight and 2015 rang in, we realized that 2015 would bring many changes to our little family. The days passed and each day I would leave work trying to finish all my task just in case I went into labor that night. That was a LONG couple of weeks. Finally they scheduled me to be induced and we started the long process of birth! After 2 days our sweet Ryeland arrived at 1:24am, January 16. He was a 7lb 11oz bundle of joy.

The hospital stay was not what every new mother expects. Shortly after he was born, he was rolled away to the NICU. He had a fever and issues with his breathing. That began a long week in the NICU and lots of tears, stress and worry. We didn’t get to have the normal birth experience and it was hard on both of us. At the same time, it was a time where God really showed his love, grace and faithfulness to Keith and I. It is hard enough becoming first time parents, but adding in a NICU stay that was unexpected really made things so hard.

After that LONG week, we arrived home and began our life as a family of three. Having a baby brings change to every aspect of your life, as I know all the parents out there know. Over the past year it has been a blessing and joy to get to have Ryeland in our lives and we love every minute of our life with him! He is 100% the BEST change in our lives in 2015.

As we began to get used to being parents, another big change in my life began. On January 9th, I had a dream. Pregnant women are known for having crazy and very vivid dreams. I had my share of them throughout my pregnancy. I woke up that next morning literally in tears. I had a dream that one of my best friends Artan had died. It was one of those dreams that seemed so real, the emotions stuck with me when I woke and I couldn’t seem to shake them. I had told my sister Madison that morning about it and that I couldn’t imagine what that would be like. Artan, one of my dearest and closest friends, lived in Kosova. I had met him back in 2006 when I lived in Kosova for the summer. Such a shy highschooler back then, he had become a best friend of mine over the past few years. He could not WAIT for Ryeland to be born and had joked with me on December 31st that that was the day he had predicted Ryeland would be born. He could not WAIT for Ryeland to come.

We spoke everyday over our favorite messenger app “Whatsapp”. On January 11th, he told me that he had to be put in the hospital overnight for some issue going on with his organs. I short of shrugged it off, just thinking it was a bad case of food poisoning. I did not know at that time, it would be the last time we had a conversation. I went in and had Ryeland a few days later. Sending him short notes and pictures of course over Whatsapp, but I never heard back from him. I knew he was sick, and just thought being in the hospital he didn’t have internet or service or needed to add some credit on his phone. As Keith and I came home and the craziness of new parenthood began to wear off a little. I learned more about Artan’s condition. He was having liver failure and his condition was very rare.
We all spent the next two months praying, hoping, crying, and doing all we could from afar to help him. Many of us got together to create fundraising campaigns and we were able to raise over $200,000 to move him from Kosova to Germany to get to a better hospital there. There were conflicting reports and one day it seemed like he would make it through and others he seemed like he was on his last days. I did get one message from him mid March sending me a selfie. He knew I loved them and he let me know he had seen all the pictures I had sent him of Ryeland. That meant a lot because I knew how much he was waiting on Ryeland to arrive. So it was a hard few months to say the least. I had a new baby and the emotions of that are hard enough, then throwing in having my best friend so sick, it was rough.

On March 19th, around 2am, I got a call that Artan has passed. It was shocking, it was unimaginable, it was in all honesty, devastating. I had lost three grandparents over the past few years, but this was beyond what I could formulate in my head. Probably because we spoke daily or maybe because he was so young, only 25, I just took it so hard. There were so many who were affected by the loss of Artan. Literally hundreds of people came out to his funeral. He touched so many lives and never left people the same who knew him. I was blessed with the 10 years I knew him and it has been a long year without him. It has been just about a year since we spoke and had a conversation together. It is a hole in my life that is still very empty.

God has taught me a lot over the past year with the loss of Artan. I have had to lean on Him more than ever. I never expected ringing in the New Year in 2015, that I would lose Artan. I never knew that the dream I had would come true. It has been an unwelcome change of 2015 and I’m still working through the emotions and feelings that have come with this loss in my life. I’m praying that God would continue to use this for His glory and that He would continue to be my strength and Joy during this season.

The final big CHANGE of 2015 was the position change for Keith. He had been the Youth pastor at our church for just over three years, when he was asked by our pastor to consider a move to become the Next Generation Pastor, which would be working with Nursery-5th instead of our current 6th-12th role. We had served in youth together for over 7 years and this was a big decision. Keith went ahead and took over the role and it has been a whirlwind of changes, updates and lots of new faces and kids since June of this year. It has been a great experience, but much different than the work we did with the youth. I had been one of the leaders of the 6th-9th grade girls for three years. It was especially hard for me to leave the girls in my small group. I had watched them grow and change and it was hard for me to let that go.

Keith and I have really enjoyed working with the kids and really letting our creativity run. We have put so many new things in to effect in the ministry and it has been fun to see the newness of the ministry. Keith is great at what he does and God has given him so many great qualities and gifts. It is a blessing to get to serve alongside him in this big change.


Obviously there have been many other changes in our lives with my sister having a baby and moving out of the state to my youngest sister going off to college this past fall. This was the first year in 3 years I wasn’t able to go to Kosova. This was the first year in almost 8 years that I wasn’t helping to lead youth or adult worship (although I am singing and dancing with the kids). So lots of changes in 2015 for sure!

I have been blessed this year so much by the birth of Ryeland, by the love of my family, by really great friends and by God who continues to bless Keith and I and show us His unfailing love day to day. Keith already joked and asked me what 2016 would be named. I have no clue! We’ve only been in it a few hours now. I know that many things can change in a year and that anything can come our way. I am blessed to have him by my side day to day. Here’s to 2016 and whatever might come our way. I’m thanking God for his faithfulness through it all and that no matter what, he never changes.