Saturday, April 23, 2016

We Have a Transplant Date!

Hey, everyone! Eric and I will be going through with our liver transplant in TEN days, on May 3rd! I’ll make sure to update you all afterwards to let you know how we’re healing as well as I’ll get back to writing my normal posts, but in the meantime, we would really appreciate it if you took the time to check out our GoFundMe page and potentially donate. We really appreciate anything you can give!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Kidnapped for Christ: a Documentary.

The times when we believe we can see right and wrong the most clearly are usually the times that we are the most blind. When we refuse to think of other beliefs and circumstances besides our own and don’t give any credence to other people’s experiences, we stunt our ability to learn, to love others, and to have our eyes opened.

I just finished watching a documentary entitled, “Kidnapped for Christ,” which features a 17-year old named David who was sent to a school in the Dominican Republic before his Senior year because of his homosexuality. It’s a very honest film about the conditions the students had to live in, and it chronicles their experiences. During his stay, David turned 18, and as an American citizen, he should’ve had the freedom to leave that place. Unfortunately, because of how horrible this place was, the leaders at the school told him that he actually didn’t have any rights because of how the government in the D.R. was structured (which was a complete lie). Eventually, he was allowed to go home, but his story of fighting for social justice and fighting against institutional abuse had just begun. Before I share my thoughts on the documentary, I want to take you behind the scenes of my relationship with David.


When I was going into 6th grade, I met a boy at my voice teacher’s house. He was just leaving from his trumpet lesson as my older sister and I walked in for our lessons; our teacher stopped and introduced us, telling me his name was David, and that he was going to be in my class at school. Little did I know that he would later become one of the most important people in my entire life.

Throughout Junior High, David and I became very close friends. We passed notes to each other in our classes, we called each other on the phone (back in the stone age when nobody had cell phones and we had to call each other’s HOME PHONES), and we would talk for hours on end. He was (and is!) adorable, sweet, fun, funny, and loves his friends with his whole heart. I deeply valued my friendship with him. He transferred to public school for high school while I stayed at the private Christian school that we attended, and our relationship deepened so much after that. We fought fairly often, but we were best friends and we loved each other. We would talk on “MSN Messenger” as often as possible, we would talk on the phone until 2 or 3 in the morning, we would go to each other’s houses and hang out, and we gave each other birthday and Christmas gifts whenever we could. At this point, in the middle of our freshman year, David had become the most important person in my life.

I’ve written about sophomore year in my blog before, and if you would like to read what happened on a rainy September night that changed both our lives forever, go ahead and click here. Otherwise, I’ll quickly summarize it here. There was a point in time where I could tell that David was distancing himself from me, and I had this strange feeling that there was something he wasn’t telling me. I couldn’t tell for sure what it was, but I knew I needed to find out. He agreed that there was something he needed to tell me, so he came to my house, and after minutes in silence, he told me he was gay. All I remember is hugging him and crying with him after that -- I don’t even know how long it lasted, but I know we sat in my basement for hours.

I screwed up. A couple weeks after that, David told me he was going to accept the fact that he was gay, and he really wanted my support. I told him that I couldn’t support his choices, and in that exact moment, our friendship was forever changed. Our relationship became rocky at best. We were mean to one another, we would go long periods of time without talking, and we both had a deep amount of resentment towards the other person; David had every right to be resentful towards me, but I had no reason to be angry with him.

This story isn’t about me, though, and it isn’t even about our relationship. It’s about what happened to him when we were about to enter our Senior year. David had attended a dance production I was in in May, 2006. At this point it looked like our relationship could be on the mend, but I knew we were very distant friends. After the production, though, I attempted to contact him to get together, but didn’t receive anything back. I left him voicemails, texted him, emailed him, and checked my messenger accounts constantly to see if he would be online. Neither I nor anyone else had heard from him since that time. It wasn’t until December 2006 that I was in my room doing my homework, when I heard my MSN messenger ping. It was David. I was ecstatic, overwhelmed, and so glad to know he was safe. We planned to meet at Starbucks the following weekend, and I could hardly wait that long.

When we talked, he told me he had been down in the Dominican Republic at the “Escuela Caribe,” which was a school for “troubled American teens.” He told me he had been sent there because he was gay, and he told me all the horrible things that happened to him while he was experiencing that awful place. For some reason, I felt completely disconnected from everything and just didn’t really understand why he would have been sent there. At this point I was still very against what I perceived to be his choice of homosexuality (even though, I realize now, it’s not something he chose), so when he told me that this school attempted to make him “straight,” I didn’t initially see the problem with that.

Now, I want to make something clear. David is and always has been the furthest thing from “troubled.” He is kind and giving, he loves people with everything he has, he is passionate about so many things, and he was a stellar student. He thrived in the drama department at his high school, and he was in many AP classes (in fact, in the documentary, he states he had a 4.3 GPA before he was sent to the D.R.). Even though this was all very true, because of my ignorance and refusal to understand other beliefs outside of my own, I found myself wondering why he didn’t just accept the help he was being offered and “change.” Even now, almost 10 years later, I shudder to think about the way I treated him.

It wasn’t until about 2 years ago that I realized how wrongly I had treated him. At the same time that I started learning about feminism, I also gained multiple friends who were both Christian and gay. Some of them had decided to live lives of celibacy, but others believe that homosexuality is no longer a sin and have clear consciences in pursuing romantic relationships with those of the same sex. It was through talking with them and others that my views started to change. To this day, I actually can’t tell you exactly what I believe about the matter, but I don’t feel like it’s my place to state what I believe. If my friends can be Christians and gay at the same time, then the Holy Spirit must not be convicting them of any wrongdoing. If they are pursuing Christ and Love, then who am I to tell them that they have “backslidden” or that they’re not actually Christians? I don’t have all the answers, but I do know now that loving others is the most important thing we can do.

Love isn’t telling someone you refuse to be in relationship with them until they change their ways. Love isn’t telling that person you’re praying for them to see the light. Love isn’t hounding that person over and over again with the reasons why you believe they’re wrong. Love is supportive. Love says, “I love all of you, no matter what.” Love pursues a deeper relationship with the other person, regardless of theological differences. Love says, “We may believe different things, but that’s okay.”

David, and many other teenagers, were very, very mistreated at Escuela Caribe. They had to endure multiple instances of emotional, spiritual, and physical abuse. This was not an isolated event, either. There are thousands upon thousands of “behavior modification” schools all over the country, and they are not subject to federal regulations. This means there’s no system for accountability with these places, and that’s not okay.

Please take the time to watch this documentary -- you won’t regret it. You can find it on iTunes, or if you live in Colorado, you can borrow it from me (but I will definitely want it back after!). I really encourage you to watch it without any distractions and to fully immerse yourself in seeing a glimpse of what life was like for these teenagers.

Please also visit to learn more about the people who made the documentary and how you can help fight against institutional abuse. Regardless how you may feel about homosexuality (which, please think of the fact that these are real people, it’s not just an “issue”), this kind of treatment is simply unacceptable. If you have any questions or would like to talk about the documentary, I would love to chat with you. We can either meet for coffee, message back and forth on Facebook, or you can email me at I would love to get connected with you, and if you would like to get in touch with David, I’m sure we can arrange that. Having the courage to stand up for yourself and for others can be incredibly difficult, but you can do it. It’s not in the least bit easy, but you’ll be so grateful once you cross that barrier.

And to David -- I love you, and I’m so proud of you. I know I keep saying it, and I know you’re probably tired of me saying these things, but you are such an inspiration to me. The kind of courage it took to get the word out about that school is mind-blowing. I want to love and support you in any way I can, so please let me know if you ever need anything. Love you!

“Love is good and Love is God. His will be done through you by loving others.”

- David Wernsman

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Peacemaking and the Third Way.

We love giving our opinions. We love giving evidence to the truth of our opinions, and we don’t like listening to opposing opinions. I feel like this describes almost all of us when it comes to social media. When something happens in our culture, we are quick to spout out what we believe and then consequently tell others why we disagree with them and why our opinion is correct.

What do we gain from doing this? What are our motives for trying to prove someone wrong? Are we doing this because we love them, or are we just trying to make sure they hear our opinion?

In our church service on Tuesday evening, we had a fantastic sermon on the beatitudes and being peacemakers. The main Scripture that was used was Matthew 5:9:

“Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.”

I know I’m the first person I should be talking to about peacemaking. I get so caught up in fighting for what I believe and for people that I can end up alienating those I disagree with. This sermon was immensely necessary for me to hear. The pastors who spoke (a male and female team from a church in North Denver called, “The Refuge”) also talked about the “third way.”

Basically, in disagreeing with others and in wanting to spout our opinions, we tend to do one of two things: fight or flee. We either will fight tooth and nail for what we believe, or we will run away from the conversation altogether. I’m sure none of you will be surprised at which one I struggle with. Even though these are our natural responses, they aren’t correct if we truly want to have an honest and respectful conversation with another individual. We are not called to either fight OR flee, but rather we are called to be peacemakers in all situations of life. This is the “third way.” These pastors gave us 5 tools to aid us in having a “dignified dialogue.”

Practicing Dignified Dialogue

  1. Consider first: “That person is first and foremost a child of God, created in God’s image, worthy of dignity and respect.”
    1. I hardly think that anyone would be confused about why this is the first and most important step in having a dignified conversation with another person. Too many times I’ve been treated unfairly by those who disagree with me, and recently I’ve even had my salvation questioned because I support legal gay marriage. I've also seen this with friends who also support gay marriage, and unfortunately I've even seen people's salvation questioned simply because of their political affiliation. This is not okay. If we want to be lights in the world and show people what Christ is like, we must treat one another with respect and dignity. The same is true of how we treat non-Christians. How can we expect to win anyone for Christ if we are rude to them and only care about their political opinions? This may look different in different situations. Sometimes this may mean declining to comment on someone’s post about what they believe. Sometimes it means not sending the person a private message explaining exactly why you disagree with them. And sometimes it simply means you consciously decide to actually listen to why they believe what they do (more on that in a second).

  1. Ask questions to clarify understanding instead of only make statements.
    1. If you notice, this specifically says, “to clarify understanding.” This means we ask questions in order to gain a better understanding of why someone believes what they do. Unfortunately, I see this misused all the time. Instead of having intentions of wanting to understand more fully, we ask leading questions to get people to admit that we’re right. Which, if we’re honest, almost never works. We end up making people more angry and frustrated by asking those leading questions. Everyone knows we’re doing it, and we’re not impressing anybody by doing so. Instead, we tend to come across as arrogant when we ask these leading questions, because it makes us look like we see ourselves as smarter and better than the other person. And that is a sure-fire way to lose any respect in a discussion.

  1. Stick with “I think,” or “My opinion is,” or “My interpretation of the Bible is,” or “I understand the Bible to be saying…” instead of making generalizations like “God says,” or “God thinks,” or “the Bible says.”
    1. I think this is the one I may get the most pushback on, but it’s the one I feel the most strongly about by far. Much too often, we tell others our opinions and use “it’s what the Bible says” in order to give our claim more clout. I know I’ve done this in the past, and I deeply regret it. When we do this, we alienate those who disagree with us. It makes those who disagree feel like they’re just wrong for believing what they do, and it’s our job to set them on the “right path.”

Honestly, if there’s anything at all that I learned from attending Bible school, it’s that so many different interpretations of Scripture exist in the world, and each interpretation is mixed with an individual’s upbringing, denomination, and social surroundings. What used to be considered as “absolute truth” is now being questioned. For example, for a long time and for some denominations still head coverings were considered biblical. Yet, as we look around, fewer and fewer women are wearing headcoverings. Do I believe in absolute truth? Definitely. I’ve met Christ-seeking people on all ends of the spectrum of different beliefs, and not once have I questioned their faith because we disagree on certain topics (gay marriage being one of them, along with whether the creation account is real or a myth).

To those who are afraid of absolute truth not being believed anymore, I give you this challenge: what if we won’t know what’s “absolutely true” until we get to heaven? What if we get to heaven and God just looks at us, laughs, and says, “that’s not what I meant at all.” Please give others respect by realizing that your interpretation of Scripture could be incorrect, or maybe both of you are incorrect on some level. What’s most important is that we both look to Jesus for our salvation, and we know it’s not of our own doing that we are saved. Everything else is peripheral, and if we end up being wrong when we enter heaven, then we’ll deal with that thenAnd, honestly, I doubt God will care what our beliefs were on homosexuality and gay marriage. I think he’ll care much more if we loved him, loved others, and cared for the widows and orphans.
4. Remember that this is an opportunity to listen and learn, not to convince, give advice, or change anyone else.
  1. I really, really hope that none of us think that by spouting our opinions on social media, we’ll somehow change someone’s mind if we just attack the situation hard enough. I’ve been lucky enough to witness beneficial conversations where each person felt respected and understood what the other party believed, but this is a rarity. Too often I see people completely overlook what the other person has said and continue to dive deeper into trying to convince them of why “I’m right and you’re wrong”. What if that person continues to disagree with us? What if nothing we say, no matter how passionately we say it, will convince the other person that we’re right? What if they already know the “right” answers, and thus have no interest in hearing advice about reading certain passages of Scripture or books? What if this person has already been in a season of questioning and has changed their beliefs on the other side of that season? We cannot possibly know everyone’s stories or thought lives, no matter how well we think we know that person. Giving others a chance to speak and actually learning from them is the only way to earn that same respect from others.

5. Honor the time with brevity and give others a chance to finish their thought before sharing yours.
  1. How many times has this happened? How many times have we been in conversation with someone, and instead of actually listening to them, we’re just waiting for them to stop talking so we can continue inserting our opinion? I know I’ve done that multiple times in the past.When we do this, we’re not actually listening or processing what the other person is saying. Our goal in these situations is not to gain a better understanding of where the other person is coming from. It’s to make sure we get our point across no matter what. This leads to frustration, alienation, and division in our conversations with others, and it’s not at all what Christ has called us to. It’s important for us all to listen to one another fully. If we don’t listen to others, there’s no reason for them to listen to us. We must earn the right to be listened to by listening to others first. And once we do, we will realize our thoughts are respected much more.

I believe that if we employ these 5 techniques while in conversation with others, we will not only discover understanding toward those we disagree with, but we will also realize that instead of creating division, we are creating a sense of community. We’re creating a safe place for others to be who they are and to express themselves in a healthy way. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll learn that we may not have all the answers to Scripture and life—and that’s okay.

Recently, because of all the anger on Facebook from the Supreme Court decisions, I have been incredibly tempted to delete my Facebook. Instead of being another angry voice on social media, I want to encourage all of us to think about being peacemakers before doing anything else. I believe the world will see the difference in us if we approach these topics with love and respect. Most importantly, they will notice the difference in us when we love and respect those we disagree with most.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

My Theme for 2015: Peace.

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the PEACE of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. [emphasis added]

For the last couple of years, I’ve noticed friends of mine using different words as their “theme” for the coming year. I’ve seen Joy, Love, Kindness, etc., and I’ve found it incredibly intriguing. I tried to do it last year, but it didn’t stick. This year, I’m committed to actually using my word as a theme.

During the Christmas season, I thought and prayed fervently that the Lord would show me what He would have me work on in this coming year. As I listened, one word came to mind repeatedly: Peace.


Yep, that’s definitely something I need (and want) to work on.

Peace doesn’t come easily for me. Between my natural tendency toward anxiety and how unpredictable my health has been recently, my mind has been filled with anything but peace. The idea of having a peace-filled life is like a breath of fresh air. I crave peace.

So, instead of making New Year’s resolutions that would likely end in two weeks (it’s totally true, especially for me. I’m horrible at keeping resolutions), I am committing to living by this one word throughout my year. This theme will most certainly pop up in different blog posts over the coming months. I’m hoping to write at least one a week on this topic, but I can’t commit to that (you all know me way too well to believe that I’d actually stick to a strict blogpost regimen).

Here are different areas of my life in which I’m hoping to display peace this coming year:

Health: As much as I would love to say that peace comes easily for me in regards to my health, it doesn’t. It’s much easier to have peace when things are going smoothly, but when either one of my diseases flares, it becomes difficult not to have anxiety about those things. I know that anxiety in these cases is normal, but I long for peace. I deeply desire to know that the Lord is in control and knows what he’s doing, and no matter what I can know that he is sovereign above all things.

Work: I love my job. My job as a manager for Solid Grounds has been the best job I’ve ever had, and most certainly the least stressful. However, there are definitely times when I have much more anxiety than is necessary. This usually happens in cases where I’ve made a mistake, when there’s conflict, and when I feel like my to-do list is so long that I can’t keep up. I know there are definitely ways I can feel more peace in these situations, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the Lord grows me in this area.

Relationships: Whether it’s my marriage, family, or friends, I inevitably feel anxiety at one point or another in this area. I feel like this one’s going to be a bear to take care of, because through working out how to find peace, I will need to set certain boundaries for myself so I don’t feel stressed or burnt out. I’m horrible at boundaries. I’ll set them, feel super confident about sticking to them, then completely forget them within a few days (and sometimes, within a few hours). I know that boundaries are critical in order for me to feel peace in my relationships, though.

Home: For some reason, I tend to have anxiety when it comes to whether my home is clean, organized, etc. I don’t want that to be the case. I want to strive to take care of my home but also not stress about it if it isn’t always the way I would like it to be. This isn’t a huge part of my anxiety, so I’ll be focusing on other areas before I tackle this one.

The idea of more peace in my life is going to be so beneficial in so many ways. My overall physical health is dependent on this, because all my doctors tell me that stress hugely affects my diseases. It’s crazy how our emotional/mental state can affect us physically, isn’t it? It was certainly hard for people at my last job to understand that -- I tried to have boundaries on when I could and couldn’t work, but instead of feeling supported, I was made to feel like I was just being lazy/unhelpful. Thankfully my job now is almost completely opposite of that, but I often have to battle those emotions because the words/attitudes of my former coworkers cut me to the core.

I know that my walk with Christ will improve dramatically if my level of peace increases -- and vice versa. As I begin trusting him more, peace will rise; and as peace rises, so my relationship with Christ will become stronger. I’m really looking forward to searching Scripture for this theme throughout the year and learning more and more about it.

So here’s my challenge to you -- is there a theme you would like to focus on in this coming year? Do you feel like the Lord is placing something on your heart to work on? If so, please feel free to share in the comments! I would love to walk with you in this and support you in what the Lord is calling you to do.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Living that Hospital Life.

Oh, hospitals. They are the bane of my existence. One day I'm feeling great and energetic, and then suddenly we're headed to the Emergency Room because my pain has gotten out of control.

Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for such amazing healthcare, but having to stay for a few days in the hospital is really not my idea of fun. I would much rather be spending time with friends and family, doing yoga, and playing with my adorable cat. But that's not our life this week, I suppose.

It all started at the beginning of the week when I began feeling some slight pain around my liver. I wasn't sure if it was anything serious yet, so I decided to go about my daily life and just have the pain in the background. I was able to be pretty active which was wonderful, and even the afternoon before the pain got worse I was able to spend some great time with my family at my nephew's 4th birthday party. The evening after is when it all started, though.

I always know something needs to be done about my pain when it starts to be debilitating. We were sitting at home just playing some video games, but even though that's not an active activity, I had to stop and go curl up in one of our lounge chairs. It took me forever to actually decide to go to the ER, because in order to do that, I have to admit that something's wrong.

For whoever knows me, you know I'm super stubborn, especially when it comes to my health. I hate admitting that I'm not totally healthy, and the idea of staying in the hospital S-U-C-K-S. But...I eventually had to decide that the pain was debilitating enough for me to need to be seen.

That was on Saturday night, and now it's Tuesday. Mer. At this point, I really just want to go home, but I know I can't. I'm still waiting on my ERCP (like an endoscopy, only I'm completely asleep and they go all the way through to the liver), but once that's done I think I just need to be watched overnight for pancreatitis, and then I can go home. So if you're the praying kind, PLEASE be praying that I'll have my ERCP sooner rather than later. That would be most helpful.

While I'm in the hospital, though, I couldn't be more happy with all the nurses and doctors who have helped me. University Hospital (Anschutz) is one of, if not THE, best hospital care I've ever experienced. Every time I have to stay here I request the 9th floor, because all the people are so kind and so clearly love their jobs. They make having to stay here much more bearable. They joke around, take me seriously when I tell them I'm experiencing pain, and they really want the best for me.  I always feel like a priority, and that makes me so happy. If I have to stay in a hospital, I'm really glad it can be this one.

Thank you to everyone who has visited, sent emails of encouragement, and posted on Facebook. I am so grateful for all of you, and you have all lifted my spirits in so many ways. I'm learning that this kind of thing is just going to be my new norm (being health for 6-9 months then in the hospital for a few days), and that's okay. I'm grateful for those few months in between where I can be a regular person and do the things I love (my job, sports, church, time with friends, yoga, etc).

God is good, though. Everything that happens is for a purpose and these things help grow us into the people that God wants us to be. We don't always fully understand why he allows things like this to happen, but we know He loves us and He's in control of the situation. Even if the healing doesn't come, God is still good and in control - I couldn't ask for anything else.

I'll be in the hospital most likely until tomorrow, so if you live in the area, I would love to see you! We can talk, laugh, watch Harry Potter, or just sit and watch TV. I've been enjoying doing all those things with my friends and family. :)

On behalf of Eric and myself, thank you so much for your continued support and love toward us. We feel so strengthened because of everyone around us who cares, and we know we'll get through this time just like we've done all the other times.

Thanks again - you all mean more to us than you could know!