Changes – big small, and in between

All sorts of changes… and today on Easter, one of the most significant.


My Mom said to me many times when I was a teen, that I would do more changing in my 20s than I ever would in my teens. She was absolutely right.


I guess she didn’t want to overwhelm me, because she never mentioned the volume of changes to take place in your 30s.

You grow up sure.  You have strong opinions.  And slowly… they evolve.

I’d like to say the values I was taught as a youth are still at my core, but my expression of those values has changed over time.

And, while all that was taking place – I managed to meet the love of my life.

Sometime after we married we purchased a true “handyman special,” which we are still polishing up 13 years later.

Then there was this beautiful little girl – rocking our worlds from the very beginning.  NICU, colic unceasing, OT,PT, Speech, hospitalizations, chronic viruses, tests, doctors, surgeries – and eventually Cowden’s Syndrome.

She grew into a beautiful young lady – despite the odds stacked against her.  Her very existence changed my long standing beliefs on modern medicine, and strengthened my faith in God every step of the way.

My family unit is so strong.  We are incredibly blessed to hold each other’s hands through the twists and turns and changes life has in store.

Today was a big one.

On this, Easter Sunday, the Celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord, my family stood in front of the Moravian church and professed our intention to become members of their community.

moravian star

My history, my heritage, my core, was developed as a Lutheran.  My heart is now Moravian.

easter family

And their motto, “In essentials unity, In non-essentials liberty, In all things LOVE,” speaks to my soul.

We make decisions every day – guided by the power of the Holy Spirit, with faith that we are moving in the direction intended for us.

The fact we now attend worship as a family of THREE, leads me to be sure we are on the right path.

my prayers

My 30s have sure been a trip.  I have only a few more months left and I wonder what else is in store.  But heck, then there are the 40s to look forward to.  One day my mom will get a few minutes to sit still, and I’ll  grab a bottle of wine and ask her all about them.

Prayer Circle

There are a lot of people who pray for Meghan.  And we are grateful for every single one of them.  But, there are a special group of ladies…

Well, between them they have 9 children – 3 each.  They all have incredibly busy lives, and all of our lives connected some years ago.  We don’t see each other all that often, and rarely in the same place, but they are my prayer group of sorts.  Our children are connected, in a bunch of different ways.  Our lives are intertwined, and we have vowed to support each other.

We all seem to share the belief that –


And, with that belief comes responsibility.

So, they were among the first people I shared my blog with in its infancy last year.  They are the ones I turn to and say… lift this up…  PLEASE, and without fail it is done.  And they do the same for me.  We all pray fervently for each other.  For friends, and family.  For people we know well, and for people we haven’t met, and for people we may never meet.

We pray because we believe it works.

We pray because we have seen it work.

Last spring when my sister’s dear niece was knocking on death’s door – felled by a virus of unimaginable strength, we (along with countless others) prayed.  And we witnessed nothing short of a miracle.

The day of my mastectomy, wracked with fear – terror actually – my cell phone rang as I was checking into the hospital.  My brother-in-law, a Lutheran minister was on the phone at 6AM, ready to pray with me.  As the tears rushed down my face I felt the calm envelop me.

Prayer is powerful.

But, it doesn’t always take worry away.

sleeplessSo tonight, as I struggle to sleep, I will think of them with gratitude.  I will also think of the countless others – those we know and those we don’t, who are lifting my little girl up in prayer.

Tomorrow we go for the biopsy.  Then we wait.  I am not sure which part we will need your prayers for most.  But, please – whatever you believe, remember us this week…

life doesnt get easier you get stronger

No such thing as coincidence

I woke up this morning earlier than normal, and that is not like me.  Worry had taken its toll on me through the night.  I was up and showered with plenty of time to get Meghan to Sunday School.

She woke up sore and stiff – some combination of a difficult swim class, and her body’s realization that it had been two days without Celebrex.  That is her “wonder drug,” the one that keeps her moving pain free.  She needs to be off of it until it is determined if she will need thyroid surgery.  The pain will progress.

Still, determined, she struggled through getting dressed and found her smile before heading out the door.  She looks forward to church – the lessons, the children, the teachers.  She adores them all.

As I headed home to wait out her class I heard a song on the radio that I have heard many times before, but today Matthew West‘s “Strong Enough”  spoke to my heart.

If you don’t know the song, its worth listening to, but some of the words that spoke to me; “I know I’m not strong enough to be everything that I am supposed to be.  I give up.  I’m not strong enough… Hands of mercy won’t you cover me, Lord right now I’m askign you to be Strong Enough for the both of us…”

Tears streaming down my face I headed home.  I am always thankful and amazed when the song  I “need” hits at exactly the right time.

As Felix and I headed back for the 11 AM service I reflected on the week in front of us.  The biopsy looms large.  The results even larger.  Sandwiched in between is an appointment for my spleen.  Busy week for the Ortegas and their ever troubled organs.

I had Emailed the pastors to let them know of Meghan’s biopsy.  They have done such a wonderful job helping us feel at home, even as we are technically “guests,” that they have made it known to us they appreciate being kept “in the loop.”

This morning during Church I was introduced to a Moravian Custom.  Appranetly early in the year everyone chooses a scripture verse from a large basket.  They called it, jokingly,” Fortune Cookies, Moravian style.”

We were told that this passage would be our “watchword” for the year, and that we would would see God’s work in our lives through the scripture.

I said a quick prayer to God to send us something good.

As usual, He did not disappoint.

For Meghan – Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  For my Meghan, a verse to define the abstract “faith” that yielded lots of good discussion today.

For Felix, a verse from Job 37:5 “God thunders wondrously with His voice.  He does great things we can not comprehend.”  A reminder to the strength of our family, from Job who suffered so.

For me, Psalm 116:2 – “What shall I return to the Lord for all His bounty to me?”  The reminder to continue to “Pay it Forward,” and to remember even on the tough days, I am so blessed.

The prayers of the church lifted up my little girl, and she sighed.  So pleased to know the larger community sees her needs.  She has such a long prayer list of her own, that to be remembered and prayed for clearly touched her soul.

I left church to a hug from the pastor, who is also a mom.  As I looked into her eyes no words were needed, and meaning was clearly conveyed.

Despite our rough times… God is good to us.

I heard the Matthew West song again today.  I didn’t cry this time.  I just took a deep breath.  “I don’t have to be Strong Enough….”

There are no coincidences.  Only the hand of God through the power of the Holy Spirit, ready with exactly what we need, when we need it.  Truly amazing.

God’s got us covered.

By this time Tuesday we will be awaiting results.

What’s in a name?

It has definitely been a week, (ok – month…year) for reflection.

I started this blog in May of this year, after some encouragement from another Cowden’s sufferer.  Once I realize how to do it, I was prompted to name the blog.  I didn’t really give it much thought.  I went with the first thing that popped into my head.  And so, “beatingcowdens” was born.

The name seemed appropriate at the time, and I guess it still is.  But because situations, and people are ever changing, I don’t think the name means the same thing to me as it did 7 months ago.  Back then I had already had my double mastectomy, and I think I still was under the notion that if we got out in front of enough things we truly could “beat” Cowden’s Syndrome, the same way you “beat” a football team.

Well, I have come to realize to “beat” it would be to “defeat” it, and since I lack the power to change my genetic makeup, that simply can’t be.  So now, I view it as a process.  I spend each day, “beating” Cowden’s.  Every time I get up.  Every time I go to the doctor.  Every time I fight to get better, and recover.  Every time I explain to my daughter that it is all about HOPE and determination.  This is all part of the process we call “beating” Cowden’s.


So really, what is in a name?

I guess it’s all about perspective – but then again, isn’t everything?

I had plenty of time to think about the whole “name” question today, as Felix, and Meghan and I took a trip to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  We accompanied the Moravian Churches on a bus trip to tour Bethlehem, and to take in the Christmas Vespers at Central Moravian Church.

bethlehem 5After a few hours in the bus, we got to tour the town.  We walked up and down Main Street, enjoying the little shops, and a nice dinner.  It was a welcome switch from the normal craziness of doctors, and illnesses, and therapy.  It was better than filling out paperwork related to the car accident.  It was, even through the chilly mist, a nice family day.

bethlehem 1

Although I must admit, as we gathered into the church for the service I still felt a bit odd.  For so many years, and until so recently, I sharply defined myself as a Lutheran.  Now, I was looking up at a Moravian star, marveling at the wonders God can work, and the sometimes unusual ways our prayers can be answered.

moravian star

Personal issues with the Pastor at my home church left me unsettled and in many ways devastated earlier this year.  So, I turned to God and asked for guidance as I looked for a new place to bring my family to worship.  It was a long process, with lots of prayers, but some time in late August, I drove up Victory Blvd.  I made a left and parked.  I went into Castleton Hill Moravian Church on what I thought was a whim.  I later thanked God for sending me the message I had been asking for.  I brought my family the following week, and we have been attending faithfully as a family ever since.

So as I sat tonight in the Moravian Christmas Vespers service, I asked myself, “What’s in a name?”

I know a good deal of Lutheran theology, and I am learning the history of the Moravian church.  There are countless similarities, and a few differences – all of which I like.  Knowing that no place or person is perfect, and everyone has their shortcomings, I like the welcome feeling I get at each worship service.

bethlehem 3

So as we settled into the top row of the balcony of Central Moravian Church, I stopped and prayed.  I asked God for peace from the constant turmoil that seems to surround our lives.  And, as I sat there with my husband and my daughter a deep peace settled on my soul.  Here in this almost 300 year old building, I found peace and comfort in the fact that my family was now enjoying church with me.

bethlehem 4

What’s in a name?  Lutheran, Moravian…. I don’t think God cares.  He looks for a heart that is right and focused.

I couldn’t get through a day, especially not sharing this diagnosis with my daughter, without the firm belief that we are being watched over.


“Tell Me All Your Thoughts on God…”

lutheran church, sydney
lutheran church, sydney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The line rings in my head.  The internet gives me the artist’s name as “Dishwalla.”  The song doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, but then again the whole religion thing can be very confusing.

I have a belief in God, and faith that there is a higher power running the show here.  In many ways that confidence keeps me sane.  I mean, what would be the purpose of it all?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that we are selected to suffer.  Not with cancer, tumors, genetic disorders, or anything of the sort.  I do however believe that God can give purpose and meaning to our lives.  If we seek it, we get confidence to endure the tough times, and purpose.  A “share your experiences,” be helpful in every way you can, “pay it forward” kind of purpose.

What I haven’t sorted out, even after all these years, is well, what are the rules?

I mean, I was raised Lutheran.  I was baptized, confirmed, married, and baptized my daughter in the same church.  I spent my youth in that church.  Survived high school with close friends there, and always enjoyed the connection with the people.  I believe in the theology I was raised with, and I love the people I worshipped with for so long.  But I no longer believe in that church.

The minister has been there for almost 2 years.  Long enough to know the people in the congregation he serves.  And yet, I have gone through one of the most emotionally tumultuous years of my life and he has never extended a hand.  We had a long talk about it.  It yielded nothing.  He doesn’t care.  So, I haven’t been to worship there for months.  I would be lying if I said it didn’t hurt me.  It pains me deeply.  But to me worship has to be about God, and it has to be led by people of God. 

See, to me it doesn’t matter if you are catholic, Lutheran, or any other of the million religions out there.  I believe for the most part we all serve the same God.  What matters to me are the underlying values that go with being a person of faith.

Are you kind to others?  Are you tolerant, and understanding of differences?  Do you judge others, or do you leave the judging to God?  Do you extend a hand to a friend in need?  Do you lend an ear when someone needs to talk?  Do you hug your loved ones?  Do you value, truly value the gifts of your family, friends, and those you are yet to meet?

Those are the questions I ask myself as I interact with people each day.  And I ask those questions of ME, not them.  It is my role to be there, to be a person of faith, to share my love for others.  I don’t think it has as much to do with what building you walk into, as it does with how you live your life.

My brother-in-law is a Lutheran minister.  And, while I have at times not always agreed with him on everything (who does?)  he models what a Christian leader should be.  He has been there for me, as I try to sort out the many thoughts in my head, and his words have provided me some clarity on some tough issues.

So, I know I guess, what I need.  Now the question is where to find it?  I made a promise when I had my daughter baptized that I would teach her.  I do, but I would like so much to have a “home” base where she can be comfortable again.  This is all so confusing to her, and yet even as I watch, her faith grows.

We tried another Lutheran church.  I am just not feeling it.  We are floating right now – seeking.  But God has a plan.  Of this I am sure.

You see I am confident that the same God who sent the angels to watch over my daughter and I.  The one who blessed us with this Cowden’s Syndrome diagnosis (yes, you read “blessed” because as I see it, if she had not ever been diagnosed I would have died of the breast cancer that was hiding inside of me,) will stick by us, no matter where we travel.

I will continue to do my best to live the life of a woman of faith.  I previously sharply defined myself as Lutheran.  Now, maybe Christian is just a better term.

Forgive my ramblings, and I know this is a touchy topic.  But if you are reading this – drop a comment.  For lack of a better phrase,

“Tell Me All Your Thoughts on God…”  I really want to hear them.

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...
Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church, Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus’ description of himself “I am the Good Shepherd” (from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 11). This version of the image shows the detail of his face. The memorial window is also captioned: “To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of William Wright. Died 6th November, 1932. Aged 70 Yrs.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)