About rossdykstra

Ramblings & stories from a stay at home dad. Our non-conventional life story wrapped into God's bigger story.

An inadequate thank you.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

While we were in Mexico we worked in a squatters village during our last day there. This part of town in Monterrey was a place of extreme poverty. While we were serving with the church in the squatters community the pastor said something to us that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. It wasn’t anything super profound or insightful and at the time I thought it was simply just a nice way to say thank you. However, what he said stuck with MaKenzie and I and we have experienced the reality of what he spoke of on a deeper level over the last several weeks.

The pastor said this, through the broken English of a translator, “Thank you for coming to help us today. I feel like Moses when the Israelites were battling the Amalekites. As long as Moses kept his hands raised to the Lord, the Israelites were winning the battle. Moses’ arms grew tired and he could not keep his arms raised, so Aaron and Hur stood with Moses and helped him keep his arms lifted to The Lord. You guys coming to help is like Arron and Hur helping us keep our arms lifted to The Lord.” I thought I understood what he was saying but to be honest it sounded like a really spiritual way of saying “thank you” and I was impressed (and slightly confused). Over the last month or so I think The Lord has revealed to me what it was this pastor was speaking of and it has been a deeply humbling experience.

Ever since we received the news that our girls have TTTS we have seen an outpouring of love from family, friends, acquaintances, blog followers, and most surprisingly, people we don’t even know or have any connection to. From receiving emails, Facebook messages, phone calls, dinners and letters, one thing has been so clear to us… we weren’t the only ones on our knees for our girls. It was deeply humbling to have people thinking of us and praying for us on a daily basis. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such an outpouring of support in my life. MaK and I would often talk in awe about how shocked we were that so many people felt called to pray for us, geesh. It seemed like every single day we were being encouraged by one person or another. I don’t know why but this deeply confused me. How could people care so much for our little girls and for us, even some who were complete strangers? I don’t have a great answer for this question but I do know that God used everyone of your cards, emails, gestures and calls to speak encouragement into our lives in a time where we desperately needed it.

I guess the real point of this blog post is that MaKenzie and I want to say thank you. Thank you so much, we truly do not have words to explain how much your kindness and prayers have meant. You were our Arron and Hur during this battle in our lives. You helped us keep our arms lifted to the Lord and we hope you also celebrate with us in the Lord’s victory. There were many times where our arms were tired but your encouragement and prayer helped us keep them up. We can not say thank you enough for the support. I know I’ve said it before but it was so humbling to hear over and over again how many of you took us to the Lord in prayer. Those prayers were priceless to us and appreciate them more than you will ever know. Thank you for joining in on this story God is writing in our lives. This was a great reminder to MaK and I of what the church is suppose to look like, many parts of the body, working together to encourage one another and glorify the Father.

All glory be to God.

Ross and MaK

My brother’s wedding

Ryans WeddingThis past weekend my little brother got married to a wonderful woman (formally known as Taylor Timmer, now the newest Mrs. Dykstra). It was so special to me for many reasons. Reason #1… a month ago we weren’t sure we’d even be able to attend but by God’s mercy and healing power, He allowed us to make the trip as a family. Reason #2… I got to be the best man in my little brother’s wedding, what an honor. Reason #3… I had such a fun time this weekend getting to be around all of my family. Sometimes it just feels so good to be home and this weekend was one of those times.

Below is my best man speech from the wedding. It’s not exactly what I said, because I basically cried through the entire thing and lost my place several times and then freestyled at the end, but you get the drift. The opening line/ joke was compliments of Brent Kruithof (thanks buddy, everyone seemed to like it). I wanted to post this just to honor my brother Ryan and remind him of how much getting to be his best man meant to me.

I’m not very comfortable speaking in front of large crowds, so this is probably going to be the most awkward five minutes of my life. Of course, the most awkward five minutes of Ryan’s life will come later tonight.

Ryan, We’ve been brothers now for almost 23 years. I remember the day you were born. I was so excited to have a brother. At 6, I wasn’t really sure what all that entailed but I remember vividly being so excited you were a boy. When we were younger the fondest memories I have of us is how much we use to play together. I think I spent most of my childhood throwing things at you and you spent most of yours dodging them. Whether it was dodgeball in the dark, running from room to room not trying to get hit with a ball, dodge ball off of the diving board, or playing pickle, one thing is for certain and that is we spent a lot of time playing together. I was so proud to be your big brother.

As we grew up together you began to copy just about everything I did. If you don’t know me and you only know Ryan… Basically, every phase ryan has gone through in his life, I’ve also gone through, whether its shoes, big earrings, hats, baseball, or whatever… I’m not sure why but this always seemed to annoy me and at the same time I wanted you to copy me and I liked it. Over the past couple years I feel like I’m actually just starting to get to know you. It’s funny to me to see how much alike we are, and even funnier how much like dad we both are. The more I get to know you the more alike I see that we are. You have quickly become my best friend. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to realize that. The first thing that came to my mind when you asked me to be your best man, was I wish you had been mine. I’m so honored that you asked me to be your best man on this day. I’m very proud of who you are, who you’ve chosen to marry, and the way you live your life. I am so thankful to have a brother like you. You are marrying a great girl that I know will only encourage you to walk deeper with The Lord. Taylor you have a beautiful heart and I am so thankful Ryan has you to walk through life with.

One thing that The Lord has taught me over the last year is that one of the biggest ways He disciples our hearts to look more like His is through marriage/family. You will learn more about yourselves, each other, and most importantly God through these two things. The only peace of advice that I would give to you is, be ever mindful of what The Lord is teaching you. Everything you go through is for his good purposes and He is guiding you every step of the way.

Love your big brother,

Ross

 

Medically impossible?

Fight TTTSIt has been a good week… a very good week to say the least. Our Monday ultrasound got moved to Tuesday due to the holiday weekend and we were anxious to find out what was going on with the girls. We had received good reports the week prior and MaK and I were curious to find out if the pessimistic doctors’ negativity was actually the reality of the TTTS diagnosis. I guess in order to accurately describe what happened today I’ll have to start at the beginning of our diagnosis and go from there.

On May 6, we spent about ten hours at Cincinnati Children’s hospital having an MRI, high level ultrasound, and echocardiogram performed on MaK and the girls. After the MRI and ultrasound, we got a call from our nurse informing MaK that she should not eat anything until our final consultation. Based on the results from the testing thus far – they expected us to be in the operating room by end of day. At the time, the nurse didn’t explain anything further and just reiterated that we would have a consultation with the specialist(s)/surgeons after our last test. We had no idea what was going on. We had no idea why we might need surgery at the end of the day. And we had no idea what the results of the tests were. Going into this day, MaKenzie and I prayed that we would not hope or despair in anything the doctors told us. We would not worry and we would walk through this hoping in the Lord and resting in the fact that He is in control.

Around 4 in the afternoon we finally got to meet with our team of specialists. All our tests were completed and we had just been sitting around for about an hour or so waiting for our consultation. Our hearts were heavy and we were pretty sure that MaK would have surgery that night. We met with a maternal fetal specialist, another doctor (I don’t remember his fancy title), our nurse and a liaison for the hospital. It was a pretty intimidating meeting. They had all of our tests pulled up on a projection screen and through a series of detailed reports and images, they began to give us the prognosis. In Twin-to-Twin (TTTS), there is a “donor” and “recipient” – the donor baby is the smaller of the two who is essentially sharing too much with the “recipient” baby, who is larger and receiving much more blood and nutrients. They told us that the donor baby had less than 2 cm of amniotic fluid and the recipient had around 17 cm (average is around 5-6 per baby with identicals, but can range some). With that knowledge, it was obvious that one twin was working extra, extra hard to process the extreme excess fluid in her sac and her heart was showing signs of being overworked. In turn, the smaller twin wasn’t getting what she needed in the process. The specialists’ diagnosis was that our girls had Twin-to-Twin Transfusion, a very serious (and extremely rare) condition that happens only with identical twins. Without any treatment, the mortality rate of TTTS is 80-100%. At the end of our consultation I asked the doctors if they ever saw this condition right itself, or if the fluid levels could ever even out “on their own”. His response was, if they diagnose it as true Twin-to-Twin (which they had), the fluid levels never equal out and medical intervention is necessary for the best chance of survival for the babies. He said they found enough evidence that suggested that our girls were currently in Stage 1, with a forecast of progression on the horizon. The TTTS can progress quickly or remain at a plateau at any moments notice. The good news from that day was MaK did not need to have any immediate procedures and we could go home and continue to pray for God to heal.

The following Monday we had another ultrasound to see if the symptoms were still progressing. The tests showed that the twins still had fluid levels of 17 and 2. Our doctor came in after the ultrasound and basically explained to us that we should do an amniotic reduction because it is the first step in battling this disease and that we were on a time crunch for a number of different reasons. We asked for a couple minutes to talk over what we wanted to do. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to do medical procedure, it was the fact that if we did a medical procedure it felt like our hope would transfer from God to the procedure and we were desperately trying to hope in the Lords healing. MaK and I said a quick prayer and asked God to not let us step outside of His will for this situation and that He would be clear on what we should do. After a couple minutes the doctor came back in and we told him we would do the amniotic reduction. He looked at us like we were crazy and said “why?” We were flabbergasted he reacted this way. Just 5 minutes ago he was telling us we needed to have the procedure done. His response surprised us, “Even though I’d get paid for this procedure and it’s no sweat off my back, I know you both are uncomfortable with doing this right now, so why don’t we just wait a few days?”. WOW… answered prayer!!! Later that week we found out that even though the fluid levels had not changed it looked like we were progressing into stage three of Twin-to-Twin but still no procedures were necessary.

All of this leads me to yesterday. We had our ultrasound Tuesday morning and the girls fluid levels were at 5.5 and 5.6… an almost identical measurement, something all the specialists had ruled out as impossible to happen naturally. Ever since we received the diagnosis just one week ago that it looked like we were entering into Stage three, our girls’ have been slowly but surely sharing with one another (that’s what MaK and I keep saying). Literally, one is decreasing so that the other might increase – so that both can grow. This trend has been so obvious that every time we go in for our bi-weekly test the medical teams that perform our ultrasound keep asking if we’ve had any procedures and when we tell them no… they can’t believe it. Our medical team can’t explain what is going on, in fact at the last appointment one of the doctors kept shaking his head and saying “I don’t know, I just.. I don’t know… this is not medically possible”.

There’s no “out of the woods” with Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome. It is a battle that carries a lingering unknown with each new day. Progression can occur at any moment in the pregnancy. Today, though, and this week, we are recognizing that our Healer is on the move and we are thankful for the three, healthy growing Dykstra girls that God has entrusted to MaK and I. Maebyn and her sisters have a story to tell and we pray that we are able to lead them and love them the way our God is so deeply loving us through this journey. It’s His story after all, not ours.

Ross & MaKenzie

An unexpected journey

the_girlsMay 6, 9:30 am: It’s Monday morning, we arrive to the hospital to have another ultrasound and see how the twins are progressing. We had just gotten back home from Mexico the day before and MaK, Maebs and I were so excited to see the girls again. We’d been in just a week and a half prior (around 20 weeks) for our anatomy scan and everything looked great, we were so thankful. Things started pretty normal and two hours later the nurse excused herself from the room to “call the doctor”. Something’s wrong. MaK and I tried not to over analyze and sat still with Maebyn in the room until the nurse walked back in. “MaKenzie, can you come back in today? This afternoon maybe? The maternal fetal specialist is reviewing your ultrasound and would like to speak with you.” Two hours and one consultation later, MaK and I sat on the couch in our living room repeating the doctor’s words over and over in our minds and aloud. Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome, high mortality rate, triple fluid levels for one twin, heart complications, MRI, high risk, Stage 1

God is in control.

I know I’ve mentioned this multiple times, but after MaKenzie gave birth to Maebyn we decided that we would let the Lord decide how many children we would have. That meant no more contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. This seemed like a huge leap of faith to us but it was something we felt the Lord leading us to do. Needless to say, if you’ve read my previous blogs, God has taken our act of faith and flipped it on its head. Pregnant three months later? Twins? We were shocked by the news of both. Ever since we decided that we would let the Lord decide how many children we would have our faith has seemed to be tested in almost every area of our lives. Now we faced an even bigger test with an even more uncertain outcome and we could feel fear and doubt creeping in strong.

As the weeks have progressed, the feelings of just being straight overwhelmed have only increased exponentially. We’ve started getting bills from our ultrasounds for the girls and they are nearly four times more than what they were with Maebyn. We knew we’d have to have faith in our finances but we didn’t think it would start even before the twins were born. We’ve spent our fair share of time at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and the Maternal Fetal Specialists office and MaK has been undergoing testing nearly every 2-3 days to monitor the girls’ progress.

Since the moment we found out about the girls having Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome we haven’t been sure of how exactly to walk through this but one thing we do know is our hope is in the Lord. A couple of weeks ago I was reading through Exodus where the Israelites are led to the Red Sea by God. Ironically enough, MaK and I were talking about this just a week or so before we got “the news”. The Isaraelites had just been set free from their enslavement through miraculous events and were headed to the Promised Land. They were literally walking away from their life as slaves, following the exact path God was leading them to and suddenly they are faced with the Red Sea. With the Egyptians coming in close behind them to reclaim them, they start to say “if only we could go back to being slaves”. They could not imagine how they could be freed from their situation. Here they were…. trusting God, following His leading, only to be faced with an obstacle that in their minds was too huge to cross over. I bet no one in that entire camp even entertained the idea that God was going to part the water, allow them to cross through and then collapse the water in on the Egyptians who were trying to reclaim them as slaves.

It’s here that MaK and I find ourselves. The situation we are in feels so overwhelming in just about every area of our lives. If we both sat down and tried to think of a way out, I don’t think either of us could even imagine what that would look like. We have been made ever aware that we have no control in this situation and that this story belongs to the Lord. We don’t know what is going to happen, and MaK and I have spent the majority of the last few weeks just crying because the unknown can be so scary, but I promise you this… we serve a real living God and when this situation is over His name will be glorified, no matter the outcome. That may mean that we have two healthy little girls and that may also mean the opposite but with everything inside of us we are trying to trust the Lord. This is His story and all we can do is trust that He is in control.

We’ve had a roller coaster of a month – one week hearing that we were considered Stage 1, the next that there may be complications with blood flow in one twin that could mean progression to Stage 3, to recent news this week that both girls are now in stable condition and seem to be growing well. We are humbled to report that this week our team of specialists at Cincinnati Children’s have determined that “prayers seem to be working” and the fluid levels of both girls are slowly reaching stable amounts. The days, weeks and hopefully months ahead are completely unknown but the certain fact is this, our hope is in the Lord, not in what the doctors tell us from day to day.

Ross

Back from Mexico

Ross_and_TueyWe got back from the Back2Back campus in Monterrey, Mexico, early Sunday morning and I’ve been wanting to post about how our trip went but hadn’t been able to pin point exactly what I wanted to say. It was great to be able to go on this trip with MaKenzie but we both sure did miss our little baby Maebyn. Funny how your life changes from checking facebook or email in your free time to watching (and re-watching) the same videos over and over of your kids when you’re away from them. Even though MaKenzie and I were together on this trip, our family still felt separated. Although we greatly missed our daughter the trip was great and we experienced a lot in the 5 days we were in Mexico. I couldn’t help but see her face in the faces of the kids at the orphanages we visited and my heart broke over and over, thinking that they did not have a parent somewhere out there who was missing them like I was her.

While we were in Mexico our days were pretty planned out for us. Some days we worked, some days we played with kids, and some days we did both. Our main work project consisted of laying a concrete floor in a new building that was being constructed as a new MaK_Ross_Mexicoorphan home. We worked tirelessly and managed to lay 50 yards of concrete in 115 degree heat (yes, you read that right… 115 heat index one day). It was tough work to say the least but it felt good to be working and working with a purpose. It was also fun to spend some time with MaKenzie’s co-workers and get to know the people she is around everyday in the office. She’s lucky, they are a great bunch and tons of fun. All in all, it was just fun for us to serve. Isn’t there something about rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty with hard work that makes the end of the day that much sweeter? MaK had a big impact on the children and the adults there. She did not do or say anything that made that impact, it was merely the fact that she was pregnant, in a vulnerable state, and still willing to serve and work alongside of us. She did everything we did and did not sit out of anything – despite my asking millions of times for her to slow down. The Lord greatly used this act of servant-hood to speak to the people there. Everyone we came in contact with couldn’t believe that a woman, pregnant, much less pregnant with twins, would come and help serve them. I think her act of merely “going” really showed the people of Monterrey love and that was really humbling to see. She’s got a pretty cool testimony from the whole experience too, God worked in some powerful ways in her own life.

Work_Team_AngleAfter having several days to think about our experience there was one point I felt like God kept impressing on my heart in a different way each day and that was the reality of poverty – in many different facets – that exists in our world today. In the places we personally visited throughout Monterrey, physical poverty was obvious and all around, yet that wasn’t what struck me. Beth Guckenberger, the woman who started Back2Back Ministries with her husband Todd, talked about different kinds of poverty; financial poverty, relational poverty, spiritual poverty, and emotional poverty. All I could see was the physical poverty that was all around me but as the week went on, I started to see that the physical/ financial poverty was not having the biggest impact on the children and the other areas of poverty (relational, spiritual, emotional, etc.) was really making an impact on them individually. Don’t get me wrong, we are called to serve the poor and needy and there is a big need there but I began to see how we all live in a state of literal poverty in so many areas of our life and just because it might not be as obvious to the naked eye as financial poverty, we ignore it.

As we went from one orphanage to the next and met different kids from different areas it became more and more obvious what a significant impact Back2Back was having. Children who were a part of the Hope Program and in the Back2Back sponsored MaKenzieorphanages seemed to be more spiritually, emotionally, and relationally rich. The impact of being in a family setting where there was a father and mother figure teaching these things made a huge difference into the whole development of the children. I was impressed by the development of children who have had to deal with abandonment, abuse, and neglect from the moment they were born. Was there still financial poverty there? Yes, but what stuck out to me the most was that the kids that were in the most danger where the ones stricken with emotional, spiritual, and relational poverty. These areas of poverty were all directly correlated to events that have taken place in these kids lives – events that warrant feeling angry, hurt and confused about relationships, especially their relationship with God. Whether it was abuse, abandonment, no provision, or not feeling loved they all lead to a place of poverty in their lives.

Ross DykstraI couldn’t help but feel like we all live in poverty in one or more of these areas. We live in an affluent culture where we rarely come in contact with physical poverty like in Mexico but the other forms of poverty are alive and well within every society and culture. No parent wants to pass along the burden of financial poverty to their children. This is eminent in almost every culture and especially America. We all want better lives for our kids and for most of us that means trying to pass down more opportunities for provision than what we had – or continuing the trend of tirelessly working at the cost of our family. Whether knowingly or unknowingly we pass down our emotional, spiritual, and relational poverty to our kids without a second thought. These are things that we can not always see, they aren’t valued by our culture, and it’s hard to measure so they get shoved aside in our pursuit for “a better life”. I’ve been wondering how often I excuse my own decisions and motivations to obtain something that is here and now, while making my family and children sacrifice in the process. Makes me think of 1 Corinthians 9: 25 – “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

The lasting impression from Monterrey that I pray stays with me always is that I want my family to be spiritually, relationally, and emotionally rich. I don’t want my family to live in financial poverty but the thing that I most long for our family to be wealthy in is loving one another and others from a holistic, healthy heart. To love as we have been so greatly loved.

Happy to back in America but thankful to have had the opportunity to serve,

Ross

Off to Mexico

In about 6 hours we will be on our way to the airport to start our trip to Monterrey, Mexico to help out at back2back ministries. Makenzie’s employer, Will Housh of Housh Inc., supports the Cincinnati-based orphan ministry and takes anyone on staff who is willing to go down to Monterrey each year. We decided that if MaKenzie was going to go at nearly 6 months pregnant, then I would be there too. Our decision behind us both going was we want to be a family on a mission and not just individuals coming together under the same house. So, in attempt to make the team aspect more of a reality in the Dykstra household we decided this was an experience for the both of us (and now, coincidentally, 4 of us – Maebyn will be spending 6 days relaxing with both sets of her grandparents).

We’ll only be in Mexico for 6 days but it should be an adventure. We will greatly miss our little Maebyn but we are excited to see what The Lord has for us in Mexico. It should definitely be interesting with MaK being pregnant with twins. If you think of it, say a prayer for the entire team going and ask God to use us in a way that only He can. Can’t wait to share our experiences and excited to join the rest of the Housh Inc. team in the 102 degree weather!

Til next week,

Ross

Thoughts on faith

Ross_Maebyn_8monthsI’ve talked a lot about trying to increase our family’s faith in the last couple of posts and since I can’t think of anything else to write about I’m going to ramble on more about faith. Why? Well, the reason I started this blog was to record in some way our families story. My hope is that over the next couple days, weeks, months I can look back on this post and see areas where our faith has grown and areas where we still need to have more faith. It’s a good way to remember along the journey.

Even now, it’s funny to look back 5 months when I first started writing and see where a seemingly simple decision to trust God with conception has landed us in a place where we will have three girls in less than a year. I’m still amazed by this and if children are a blessing, we have been richly blessed this year. Although I have been humbled by this blessing, I’m tempted everyday to stare into the details of life and become overwhelmed. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times… I hate not being in control. If I look back on my life, I have some pretty strong examples that I’ve never really been in control in the first place but feeling out of control starts to grip me with fear. If I’m really honest, the root of my fear rests in the fact that at the core of me I don’t want to trust God. It’s too scary. Too risky. I don’t trust that He is good and that He is trying to train me up in His ways. I’ve had the tendency to look upon my circumstances with fear and that has downward spiraled me into some of the hardest years of my life.

I’ve always viewed faith like this – Sure, God, I’ll take a leap of faith, now God please lead me into a place of comfort and security. I see how God has honored my steps of faith but it hasn’t always led me into a place of comfort. Actually, the opposite has often been the case. I’ve often taken the lack of comfort not as an opportunity to walk in increased faith but more as a punishment for something good I was trying to do. It’s caused me to doubt and question my decisions that I knew where right and wish I had chosen the latter. And interestingly enough, years (sometimes months) down the road I can look back and see why the landing place that seemed comfort-free was exactly what my heart needed. Need examples? OK, here we go…

When I got married about five years ago, MaKenzie and I decided to live in Cincinnati. I took a job as an insurance provider and she found a job at a publishing company. Long story short, she’s found nothing but success in her career thereafter and I found nothing but failure.  For years I was mad at God. I walked in faith moving down to Cincinnati. I knew this is where He wanted us to live, so why was this happening? I started to doubt Gods plan for me in Cincinnati. I thought to myself, our family should have moved to Michigan where my dad could have helped me find a job and then things would have been better for ME. This lasted for about 3 years. It was not fun and I was not the best husband I could have been. The story revolved around me and since I hadn’t found “my calling” just yet, I was unhappy. Not a fun way to live.

A lot has changed in me over the past couple of months and a lot of that has to do with my new found title of Stay at Home Dad. However, the biggest change has been one of perspective. If I’m the center of the story then all these things I’ve discussed previously in this blog culminate into me being one gigantic failure and that’s tough to live with. However, if God is the center of the story then all these circumstances are ones in which He was trying to train, teach, and disciple me for His good purposes. This has brought me and my family so much freedom. What I’ve learned about faith is its not about taking huge leaps into the unknown hoping to come out into a place of comfort but rather willingly walking in the unknown and trusting that the Lord will train, teach, and disciple your hearts so that you can dive deeper into knowing He’s in control.

Ross