Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Rest... then Risk.

The Summer was great for us – we really needed the time together. When the kids finished school we went to Niagara Falls for a few days. We came home and then left several days later to spend the 4th of July weekend to see family and friends in the Hershey area.
 We came home again and then took off again for Plymouth, MA. I enjoyed seeing the history around “Plimouth Plantation”, but the kids seemed to be more excited about the cannon tower and the cow-incident. We got some excitement when Sasha’s chin got a little too close to a cow’s head next to the fence. The little bump just scared her.

A week after we got back from camping in MA, we left again for Soulfest. It was great to be with thousands of other families praising God while having a lot of fun together. We wrapped up our summer with a few trips to our beloved Camp Spofford. Kenni went to her week first, then Sasha and then Ash and I went together on a father/son retreat in Mid-August.

When the kids started their new year of School, so did I.. and Amy. Amy had been planning to start back one class at a time in pursuit of her Master’s of Science in Nursing. She loves nursing and loves being on her floor. It’s strenuous, but she loves her coworkers and the working environment. However, considering the rigors of the nursing floor – Amy’s got her sights set on either a management position or a teaching position in the years ahead. We’ll see.

As for me, I’ve decided to continue on to complete my Master’s of Divinity. The classes are all extremely practical and they line up one right after the other. At this point, it looks like I'll finish in May 2015. I’ve been doing a lot of praying and soul searching about where God may lead us to serve next. Honestly, I’m having a hard time with that because we’d love to stay right here in Middletown where we’ve invested the last 7 years of our lives.  That said, we know God may have other plans for us. Now, we’re praying for the right fit to use the best of what we have to honor God in the most effective way.

We would appreciate your prayer for guidance for us as well. The last year has been a whirlwind for us , so ‘the waiting posture’ is nice in some ways, but neither Amy nor I like not knowing what the plan is.

I’m wrestling with the whole idea because I know none of us want to leave our community, yet there doesn’t seem to be an existing opportunity that fits us. I’ve begun to talk to an organization about planting a church, but I’m unsure if that’s the best thing for us.

Some of my hesitation is not wanting to move. Some of my hesitation is insecurity…and some of it is the weight of the responsibility we’re headed toward. However, I know God has called us to obedience and to risk it all for His Glory. So, with God’s help, that is where I’m committed to lead my family.

What’s your journey like? Is there anything you’d love to do, but are hesitating for some reason? Feel free to comment and share so we can be an encouragement to each other.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Progress with Ash

A few months ago, we met a wonderful therapist who has a practice not far from us. I’ll call her, Jan. Jan specializes in kids with traumatic backgrounds and attachment disorders. You may recall a post some time ago explaining our struggles with Ashebir.

When Ash came home with us he was almost four. We were his fourth ‘home’ and that took a toll on his heart. For maybe the last year, Amy and I couldn't decide I Ash was making emotionally and cognitively… After a few very difficult days with him, we agreed to pursue professional help (well, actually I finally came to grips with the fact that I couldn't “fix him” on my own)… Anyway, our Jan has been extremely helpful. It seems that Ash is making progress, but Amy and I agree that what’s been most helpful for us, is that we’ve learned how to respond to him in a more appropriate way.

I used to think that if I just love him and provided proper discipline - in the same way as we have done with our other three - he would just “get better”. For a long time, I was reluctant to get outside help I thought that somehow that was admitting defeat. I didn’t ever want to have to depend on a “professional” to help me parent my kids. That thought was arrogant.

After a few sessions without Ash, Jan helped Amy and I walk through a few “attachment sequences” with Ash. With Jan’s coaching, we are learning to help him process and respond appropriately to life.

The insight from Jan and the book by Dan Hughes that she’s had us read has been incredibly helpful. Now, when we’re home and some interaction causes him to “flip out” and become totally “dis-regulated” we've learned to help calm him and most importantly increase his sense of safety and security.

During these outbursts, he can be a danger to himself or to one of his siblings. I sit with him in my lap and just hold him so he doesn’t hurt himself or anyone else. I have to admit, I was skeptical… however, now when Ash calms down he almost always, turns around in my lap and gives me a hug. The other day, he flew off the handle so I sat with him, talked to him in a quiet and soothing way while he tried to resist… but several minutes later he was calm. The hard thing about this right now, is that he’s not as receptive to Amy’s pursuit of him. She’s making progress with him but, it’s hard at times.

Until recently, I just didn’t understand the critical nature of attachment to a child’s emotional and spiritual well being. Now I do, and I’m so thankful for the help that we’re getting. It might be slow, but it’s progress.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ready for Soul Fest... and for soul-rest.

Amy's working tonight so I'm just finishing some final packing for our trek to Soul Fest tomorrow!  All of us are so excited to spend four days with thousands of 'friends'- spending time with their own families and and worshiping God together.

Last night I completed my next assignment for my online class so I wouldn't have to worry about trying to submit any assignments while at the festival this weekend.  -- Which reminds me...

I remember last year trying to carve out time during the kids mid-day naps - I had to get a term paper done and submitted...what a project... what was worse, I came down with strep throat that week too.  That was ridiculous.

Anyway, the #teamzipf camper is ready to roll and we're ready for some R n R together.

I'm also looking forward for the time away to pray and reflect with Amy too...  I'll be looking to make some connections for ministry opportunities in the region as well.  At this point, I'm grateful for the connections and encouragement that God has provided so far.  I"m sure God has just the right fit for us... but He's not yet made clear where that will be.  We'll keep pushing on doors and praying for guidance, none the less.

We know that God has our best interest in mind and we know that he has led us through the experiences that he has for a reason... The refining process isn't easy, but what we do know is that God is leading.   want to use the best of what we have to minister here in New England.

We don't know yet where God will place us, but we will continue to trust that He's leading in that direction even now.

Meanwhile, we will continue to " in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding, but in all our ways acknowledge HIM... and trust that He will make our path straight.  (from Prov. 3:5-6)

Friday, July 19, 2013

HELP NEEDED for hurting 7yr old male. bn. in Ethiopia. Gotcha Date: 02.23.10

I've noticed his anger and inappropriate reactions off and on the last couple years.  Even still, whenever Ashebir has reacted disrespectfully or in a spiteful way, we've tried hard to be consistent with addressing each incident with appropriate consequences.  However, I've honestly felt like the issues he's exhibited he'd either learn from or grow out of.  But I've come to grips with the fact that we need outside help to lead and love Ashebir well.  We would appreciate your prayer for us on this journey.  

We have been referred to some good counselors, and are in the process of determining which will be the best fit for our family.

At this point we think some of his issues are related to Reactive Attachment Disorder  but some of his struggles could be related to developmental difficulties as well.  Some may understand how difficult this is to write because I can't stand labels.  I dislike putting "labels" on anyone especially kids - which often just excuses inappropriate behavior that should be dealt with through appropriate love, conflict resolution, affection and consequences.

That said, Ashebir did not have a healthy beginning... he's got a lot of baggage.  All I want to do is love my son and help him through the struggles he's unable to navigate in a way that other children are able to.

I wish I would have been more intentional before, so I've got some catching up to do.  That said, I am determined to find the help we need.  Amy feels the fact she has wanted to seek professional help for Ash for some time now but the magnitude of especially the last several months has contributed to putting this off - no more excuses.

A couple years ago, I wrote a letter from Ashebir to me... all the things that I wished he could say.  I believe that someday that we will be able to have those interactions I wrote about, but I want to walk with him one day at a time, one step at a time.  Wherever we get, it will be together.

At this point, Amy and I are trying not to feel so discouraged... We just feel like we've not made the kind of progress with him we would like. In fact we feel like we've plateaued and are not sure how to help him get through whatever anger and trust issues he has.

This past year in Kindergarten Ash had his moments, but did make a lot of progress.  For that we are incredibly grateful, but there are still some things we can't seem to over come.

Our troubles with Ashebir are related to almost any direction that Amy or I give him. Whether it's the options of cereal for breakfast, a choice of a toy or game to play with, what shoes to wear, what crayon to use, which entree to select or what seat to sit in at dinner time... It doesn't seem to matter... he's wants something completely different.  Also, he seems to have a difficult time with any change or transition - regardles of what or where it is.  I realize that some kids have issues with healthy perameters or acceptable choices, but this is different and we feel at a loss.  

He is often belligerent and seems to go the opposite direction from various instruction he's given. Also, he doesn't seem to understand or exhibit remorse for his wrongdoing (hurting his siblings during play time which may result in an altercation) Further, we've tried a few different forms of discipline and nothing seems to be very effective.

On a more encouraging note, Ash has developed very well physically.  He's a strong and coordinated athlete and dancer.  We know God has great things in store for him... and He we are confident that God will use Ashebir in some incredible ways as he matures.  

As I've been pondering these things especially over the last several days, two verses have come to mind.  I trust that they'll be equally encouraging to you as you may be dealing with your own heartaches...

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth he did so to admonish, challenge and love them..  The Corinthians were being disobedient and Paul refused to allow it to go on unaddressed.  So he gave them a lot of firm and loving counsel, but in 1 Cor 2, he quotes from the ancient prophet Isaiah (64:4) and says, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him." (1Cor. 2:9)

A few years later, Paul wrote an encouraging letter to the Christian brothers and sisters in Philippi, and in chapter one he said, "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Phil. 1:6)

This is my prayer for all my kids... and especially for Ashebir as we walk through this with him. I know God has big plans for Ash because of God's promises - not because Ash (or anyone one of us) deserve God's Grace, but because of how Great and Awesome God is, even through the trials we encounter along the way.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"hey, that'll kill ya..."

during a work out the other day, I ran by a younger guy who was smoking... and I quipped, "hey, that'll kill ya."

Now.. as a caveat... let me say first, that I'm an advocate for LIMITED Government and I believe our Political Leaders need to focus on spending less to eradicate the egregious debt they've amassed, concentrate on protecting our nation while creating an environment for business to flourish instead of tax us to death.... ok, that's it for the political rant.

I didn't stop and get in his face, I didn't quote a bunch of stuff from JAMA and I didn't say what I did secretly hoping that more laws would be passed to prevent him from smoking.

I made a quick remark in passing... and I guess I just started to think a little more about what I said, how I said it and most importantly why I said anything at all.

To get right to the point, I understand some of the consequences.  There are several directions we could go here philosophically including discussions on many other "bad habits" which can be detrimental to one's health... Just suffice it to say that in the moment I was concerned and I expressed my concern. 

Truth be told, we all have habits that aren't very healthy... but when I ran by him I felt compelled to say something because I was concerned about his well being... and more importantly his heart.

Jesus is most concerned with our hearts too - our spiritual hearts.  It is true that we should be concerned with our actions and behaviors, but our actions and behaviors flow out of the condition and position or our hearts.  Let us pray that God will move and work in us to surrender to Him as he  shapes our hearts and lives, to bring glory to Him and bless others in the process. 

For further insight check out -- Mt. 19:16:30

Thursday, June 20, 2013

15 years

We had no idea what was in store for us then... and the trend of ongoing-unknown-adventure continues.... this next chapter of our lives is no different. 

We're excited to see where God will lead next.

Happy 15th Anniversary Amy, I love you!

(The original video footage was taken by Amy's Uncle Sid Roberts, on June 20, 1998 on a VHS camcorder)

This highlight version was edited and remastered by Videographer Extraodinaire, Dustin Schultz.  He did a fantastic job with a 15 year old VHS tape... enjoy. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

two weeks... or two months

Some days it feels like two weeks...and some days it feels like I have two months of work to do in those two weeks.  Life doesn't stop in the middle of these most strenuous times either.  Last night I got a call from a close friend... he and his wife are going through a hard time.  It was good to talk and be able to encourage him.  It made for a later night, but it was worth it.

I was also encouraged by a recent email I got from my professor who oversees my final oral exam and thesis paper which I submitted and defended on 5/16.  To make a long story short, he had some valuable feedback for me, but confirmed that I passed that exam.


The next two weeks will be hard... but graduation is only 16days away.


2Cor. 12:9-10

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pressing on

The last couple weeks have been encouraging for us and we are beginning to have some renewed peace. Amy was released to drive and return to work on Friday 4/12.  They've eased her back in at work.. and she's starting to get her groove back.   

The recent visit we had with Dr Miller in NYC (for a second opinion) proved to be a huge blessing. We saw him together on 4/10 and he spent an hour and a half with us.  He was unphased by any of our questions, concerns or Amy's symptoms.  He also told us that what we thought were seizures were not seizures at all, but spasms directly related to MS, which are treatable.  (She's not had any of those spasms for over a month now.)  

Then after all that, Dr Miller scheduled an appointment see her less than a week later to discuss a treatment plan.  

So, on that Monday (4/15) Amy took Ash and made a date of it.  He had an awesome time with Mommy and can't wait to ride the train again.  

Based on that appointment, Dr Miller gave us insight on the best treatment plan which she’s begun this week.  The most difficult thing is waiting to see how this med will help… Any of the meds will take six months in her system to determine its effectiveness.  So, for now we take comfort in the fact that God will continue to lead as we press on with Him.  


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

More Refining...

Amy is beginning day 5 in the hospital.  Don't be too worried though... we're praying she has a seizure. I know... weird request - I would have never thought in all my life I'd be asking God for that.  

However, since she's hooked up to an EEG24/7 so the doctors can monitor her brain activity to isolate where the seizures are originating.. THEN they can discern a treatment plan.

As you may know she was on track to begin MS treatments soon, but on Wednesday afternoon March 13 Amy had a seizure.  It only affected her right side of her body and lasted about 30 seconds, but to her it felt like an eternity.  She was paralyzed with fear having no idea what was going on or how to stop it.  What was worse, she was walking home from our local YMCA and in the middle of a grassy area... alone.  She'd fumbled for her phone to call 911 but the experience ended almost as quickly as it had begun.  By the time a distant bystander had run over to help her, Amy was able to regain her composure and decided to walk home.  (That's Amy for ya! :) )I was home studying unaware of anything that had just happened so when she walked in the door and headed to take a shower I didn't come in to talk to her until she sat down to eat something.

When she said, "I think I just had a seizure" I picked up the phone immediately to call her Doctor.  Her doctor at first seemed to think it was an isolated event, but ordered an appointment with another Neurologist for the following Tuesday (3/19).

The next few days were filled with all kinds of additional questions as we waited for the appointment.  We were both on edge... feeling an array of emotions - anger, anxiousness, what about her job?  will I still be able to graduate in June?  should I go get a job now?  disability paperwork? will it be short term, long term?  is this how life will be from now on? Aaahhhggghh.... what do we do!??

So... after we settled down some... we went for another run on Friday (and began to think the seizure was an isolated event)  we had a good weekend with family in NJ and PA and waited to see the Neurologist on the following Tuesday.

On Monday afternoon (3/18)we went for another 5mi run and it felt great. ... Until 20 min later Amy seized again.  Same side, same length of time.  Crap.  now what!!...

We then knew it wasn't an isolated event and we knew it could be exercised induced.  Amy was crushed... she loves to run... has loved it for the last 15 years.  C'mon, God... what are you doing?! The next couple days were extra hard.  We went to the neurologist appt... but we were not really "together"... this was all so sudden... so... so... debilitating.  feeling powerless...unable to make any sense of this at all.  By Wednesday we were existing together...I wanted to help, but could only just "remain" with her... (see John 15:1-13 for what I mean)  She was hurting... and I couldn't fix her.  I prayed some more... begging God to heal her heart and her body...  The neurologist that we'd seen on Tuesday said that her only option was to go for a long term EEG test so they could tell exactly what was happening in her brain during the seizure so they could then treat it... it was  a tough call... she'd began to wonder if she just gave up running - the thing she loves so much - that she could go back to work by the weekend.

On Thursday night (3/21) I took Sasha and TK with me to a dinner/prayer time at my school.  We got home around 8.. then Amy and I were able to talk some more.  It was a good time together... just sitting at our kitchen table trying to process all of this reconnecting and praying together... we felt good about moving forward - until...

...minutes after we wrapped up our talk and started to clean up the table... Amy felt the "aura" and she seized again.  Same side, same length of time... followed by a much deeper feeling of powerlessness... now it was really unpredictable.

She headed to bed and I wrote a letter to the neurologist asking about a bed for the long term EEG... in some ways it felt good to get her assessed... but in so many other ways... it felt like we were conceding... So that brings us to today Tue (3/26) I said, she's just begun day 5 of waiting to have a seizure so the doctors can figure out what's causing it and how to treat it. As you may guess the last few weeks... especially the last several days have been very difficult, but God has shown us some snapshots that have blessed us tremendously:  We have been blessed by friends taking care of the kids so Amy and I can be together... we've been blessed by friends who encourage us and hold us accountable... we've been blessed by stories of others who are realizing their own desperateness in other ways and are reaching out toward Jesus outstretched arms... we have been so blessed by The Body of Christ who are standing in the gap for us and holding us when when can't stand.

We have also been blessed by the response of our kids... Kenni is stepping up huge and helping me with the younger three.. she has been an incredible help!...Last Thursday night I took Sasha and Tariku with me to school to the dinner and prayer time.  I wanted to go to be with other brothers and sisters that I could pray with and be encouraged by ....and hoping that Amy would feel a little less chaos at home if two of the kids were with me.

I'd planned on sitting at a back table that night, but Sasha pranced right up to the front table with TK bouncing right behind.  At first I was a little unnerved, but I must admit it was cool for Sasha to sit right next to the Dean of our Seminary.  (Afterall, Dr Fombelle is a great man and another favorite professor.)  Sash and TK were their usual joyous selves at dinner chatting away with my fellow fledgling theologians... and then it was time to pray.  When the announcement came, who jumped to pray first?   "Dear jesus, thank you for this day, please bless my mommy, help her get better, thank you for my family and for Daddy's school... oh and bless this food, AMEN."  ... it was a good thing my eyes were closed during Tariku's prayer... even though they were red and wet when I opened them.  the kids sat nicely during Dr. Fombelle's talk as well... even if I did have to bribe them with a few cookies.

At this point, we are still waiting for answers... and we are still praying and trusting. This morning I read Ps. 9:10 which says,"Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you." Ps. 9:10

That is a promise from God.  No matter where you are, or what you believe God will NEVER break his promises.  While it may APPEAR that God is distant, has broken promises, or just feels like he's not even there ... he is still God and he's still in control.  He's not left.  We live in a messed up world and the fact is that we're all desperate, it's just some days we realize it more than others.After reading that verse in Psalms, this thought came to mind...  We "live for" alot of things... but so many of them really - in the grand scheme of things - won't last and have very little value.  Sure, they last temporarily --  house, cars, wealth, prestige, power, even relationships get broken, and so does our health... -- what really matters?  when you think about your legacy... what is it that will last forever.  When the things of this life get stripped away, you find out  who you really are... but more importantly -who God really is - and you can see that He is still God and that he still has all things in his loving care.

I may write more about it later, but this weekend we celebrate Easter.  The Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single greatest event in History.  Please.. If you don't normally go to church, find a church local to you and learn about the REAL reason for life-changing Peace and Joy - regardless of your circumstances! 

If you're local to us here in Central CT there are a number of good churches in our area. if you don't have a church home, join our family at New Life Church in Meriden or if you're in Middletown check out Catalyst Church.  If you're closer to East Hampton check out, Hope Church.  Go and listen ... your life will never be the same.

 In closing, we are unable to express the breadth of our thanks for those of you who have been serving us in such awesome ways.  It means so much.  (I do wonder if there might be someone that would want to read a few hundred pages for me and write up some 'cliff's notes' so i could spend some time with Amy... if so, that would be great.)
Seriously, We're doing ok...I think rather than feeling overwhelmed and getting blown away by the storm, we're putting our heads into the wind and marching on - together. We're together in this and we're realizing more areas where God is refining us even more... we don't like it, we wouldn't wish it on anyone else... but we're certain that God knows what he's doing.

For our kids... it's all in how we present what we know.. we're not hiding anything and we're not keeping them from the struggle.  They're in this with us...and we are grateful for the invaluable lessons that God is teaching them through this experience as well. 

For me I think that God is showing me how much he loves me by caring for Amy... especially in the areas where I am truly unable to do so.

For Amy... she's doing well - she's an incredible woman and we here at #teamzipf can't wait for her to be well and home.  She's anxious for this to be over too. She wants to get back to life too, but she knows that this refining time is good for her as well. It's not easy, but she has the "peace that passes all understanding" and takes confidence in the fact that God is still on the throne and He will lead us through this... together.


"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Rom. 15:13

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

#teamzipf adventures

I created this originally for Amy for Valentine's Day but it's a fun look at our adventures from over the last year.

Monday, February 18, 2013

one step at a time

Last week, Amy and I were finally able to sit alone together and begin to process through our feelings… not like we aren’t unfiltered normally... but it was just good to just be together... and vent. All these mixed feelings… denial, uncertainty and frustration. She knows she can't deny the reality of this diagnosis (MS – now just two weeks old)... but we'd rather not have to deal with it.

In a letter to friends and family several days ago, I said,

"For a reason only known to Him, God has blessed us with this disease to steward as we walk with him. For those of you that might have a hard time wrapping your mind around that statement... that's ok. What I mean is that that while we firmly believe that God did not "curse" us with this disease, he did allow it. We live in a fallen broken, hurting world - and in an imperfect world, imperfect things happen. This is even more evidence that we are ALL desperate for a Savior... it's just that some days we notice more than others."

While I believe this whole heartedly... it still hurts...

I normally think out loud and am blessed by the transparent talks with those closest to me... Amy talks too... but she's more contemplative; then talks when she's ready to share. (Although, when she arrives at the place where she’s ready to talk.. she just emotionally vomits. J You can check out her thoughts here.)

In the last week or so, things are beginning to get back to a sense of normalcy… I’m finding it a little less cumbersome to stay focused on my seminary studies, the kids will FINALLY be getting back to school tomorrow (2/18) after “Snowpocalypse” kept them from school for just shy of two weeks… and Amy has eased back into a lighter work schedule as of last Friday.

It has been a roller coaster and we know that we’ll have more ups and downs, obstacles and new adventures ahead. We’re just taking it one step at a time.

As the noise has settled some - we have begun the long process of recalibrating our vantage point and gaining clarity with this new perspective. It’s not easy however, a recent note from a close friend has been especially meaningful:

"I never realized before how much becoming more like Jesus requires of us to suffer the pain of this life as He did. That makes sense to me, but living in the experience is different than simply reading about it in Scripture."

Let me first say that God is a God of healing and restoration… and we are relentlessly pursuing His throne for that… However, we both know that God may have different things planned, which he will endure with us. Not only does God know us better than we know ourselves, but he knows what pain and suffering is infinitely more than we do. It is true that this illness may not affect Amy’s daily life for a long time (some Doctors and other MS Patients we’ve talked to have led active healthy lives for decades!) That said, regardless of the outcome, we want are asking that God strengthen us and shape us through this (2Cor. 12:9-10) so that others truly see Him for who He is.

Walking with God requires obedience and submission… and even though I would rather that Amy NOT have to bear this weight… I know that God has bigger and better plans… as we walk with Him, one step at a time.