One Month to PNG!

Hi – it’s Genae…normally Jake is the writer, but I have a lot on my mind lately 🙂

I can’t believe that I’m finally saying this – we have our plane tickets!!! We officially leave for Papua New Guinea on April 5th, 2023! We will arrive on Good Friday, and our first weekend there will be Easter Sunday.

“We have our plane tickets!!!”

This has been a very long process, and it’s finally becoming a reality. Since May 2022, we have mailed in countless pages of documentation/paperwork all over the world – birth certificates, passports, VISA’s, work permits, passport stamps, flights, etc. When January rolled around, we began packing a little here and there, and now we have 15 suitcases and large bins lining our basement floor filled with school supplies, clothing, camping gear, cloth diapers, household supplies, etc. We’re running a little frazzled for sure, but we are sloooowly getting all of our checklist completed, which feels good. People always ask how we’re going to do it – travel around the world with all that luggage and 6 kids in tow? Well, we just expect it to be really miserable for a few days, and maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised and it won’t be as bad as we think 🙂 Prayers for that would be much appreciated.

But let me back up a little. Two+ years ago when God started leading our hearts again towards missions, we didn’t realize the amount of time it would take for it to become an actuality. But I’ll say it again and again. God’s timing is better than mine. 

Jake has written other blogs about how the past couple of years have been a trying time for our family. I’d like to delve into that a little more and talk about what God has been teaching me. 

In September of 2021 we made a commitment to move to PNG for a two-year term. About one week later, we found out we were expecting our twins. This is around the time that my battle with anxiety/panic began (shocking, I know :))

“This is around the time that my battle with anxiety/panic began.”

“Battle” might not be an appropriate word for it at this point, because for a long time, I didn’t feel equipped to fight. If you asked me, I would have said that I was battling anxiety with the help of God, but that isn’t exactly accurate. I was finding my strength in my own ability to “figure it out” and trying to overcome anxiety on my own with God on the outskirts.

One main reason I was struggling with anxiety is that I was born with a heart condition known as Wolff-Parkinson-White, or WPW. I’ve known about having WPW for years. It occasionally caused palpitations, but I had mostly been able to keep my heart steady with a healthy diet and getting enough sleep. I never had any problems in my other pregnancies, but with twin pregnancy hormones, something changed. I started having palpitations all day and night. It was hard to sleep because I could feel every beat of my heart. I went to specialists and wore monitors and everything seemed to be okay apart from frequent palpitations, just par-for-the-course with having WPW.

But my heart, my inmost heart, was broken. Because of the palpitations, I was in a constant state of fear. The adrenaline rushed through my mind and my body and I began having panic attacks. With every palpitation, I worried there was something seriously wrong with my heart and I had a feeling of impending disaster. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you know the signs – heart racing, palpitations, sweating, a feeling of doom, tingling hands, rapid breathing, uncontrollable shaking. Honestly, I felt like I was losing my mind (even more than I do with trying to take care of our six kids lol). And even when I wasn’t facing a panic attack, I still felt on edge, fearful, anxious and stressed every day. Like someone was sitting on my chest and I just couldn’t get out. 

This persisted throughout the pregnancy – 8 months of it. Thankfully, I believe God gave me some relief after the twins were born, and the summer sun poured into my soul. We had a good few months of being outdoors and spending time getting used to our new family of 8. But winter must come again in Wisconsin, and with it brought more anxiety and panic. I could feel myself being pulled back down into that cycle of anxiety, and the palpitations were relentless. 

Because of the endless palpitations, I saw a cardiologist. He recommended I wear a Holter monitor and undergo a stress test. After that, he referred me to an electrophysiologist – a doctor who specializes in heart arrhythmias. Jake and I met with the electrophysiologist at the end of December. We were hoping for some advice on how to decrease the palpitations, and perhaps some medications to help manage them. However, after he reviewed the other tests, he actually said that I had a more concerning type of WPW and recommended that I get a cardiac ablation before we move to PNG.

It was a surprise to us that he wanted me to have surgery, that the threat of having complications with the condition was real. Our doctor was explaining what the surgery would entail, and he said this condition is one of the few that they can actually “cure”! In that moment I felt peace about the surgery and we decided to proceed with it. In an attempt to protect my mind, I even asked Jake to make all of the arrangements and not tell me when the surgery date was until a few days beforehand, so I wouldn’t live in anxiety for a month before the surgery.

Suddenly, we were trying to fit in ALL THE THINGS in this last month of being in the States (Heart surgery, LASIK for both of us, birthday parties, packing, etc.). I went in for heart surgery on Feb. 22, 2023. I was riddled with anxiety about the procedure, but even in the midst of the fear, there were so many God moments. My main nurse was a strong Christian and was incredibly encouraging during the whole process – I’m so thankful for her presence and calming spirit! The surgery took longer than expected, but the doctor was able to complete the ablation very thoroughly. I was battling fear and anxiety even after coming out of the surgery. Anxiety and fear have a way of creeping back in even if you’re actively fighting against them – pathways in my brain were formed that need time to heal. Thankfully, after a few days of recovery, and choosing with everything in me to trust in God and spend devoted time with Him,  I started to experience more peace. Now, two weeks out, my heart has settled into a normal rhythm. Before the surgery, I had many hours every day of sustained arrhythmias. Now, my heart is regular. At my follow-up appointment yesterday, they said I was cured of WPW! Let me shout it from the rooftops – I DON’T HAVE WPW! Praise Jesus!!

This season has been so incredibly hard for me, for Jake who has taken up all the slack for the past 2 years, and for the kids who don’t even know why we are on edge most days. I wouldn’t wish this refining process on myself, but I can sincerely say that I wouldn’t wish it away either. It is such a paradox that in our most trying moments, God is near. He has been teaching me that I have been fighting for control, for understanding, for something to cling to in my earthly mind. He is chiseling away the fear and anxiety and panic, but He is also teaching me that in every situation, I can truly TRUST in him. He is a good father. Even in the midst of the fear, even if the circumstances didn’t change, even if the WPW didn’t go away, I am still safe in his love for me.

Jake and I have learned a lot about spiritual warfare during this time. I have realized the importance of faith in facts instead of feelings, of resting in the truth of my identity as a beloved daughter of God and not living in fear. I am trusting God to care for me, and battling against the enemy’s relentless attacks on my life. God is my anchor. We have recently started saying, “our stake is set”, meaning that there is no going back, no turning away from our faith in Jesus. He is enough. 

“Our stake is set.”

There’s a beautiful Shane and Shane song that says, “Though you slay me, yet I will praise you. Though you ruin me, I will bless your name.” This beautiful wording from the book of Job has become so real to me. No matter what – I will bless His name.

This sounds like it’s past tense, but – it is still a daily fight. 

Now I can say that “battle” is the correct term. I have learned so much about what it means to trust God when in the midst of a debilitating season of anxiety. That his burden is light. That I can truly cast all my anxieties on him because he cares for me. That spiritual warfare is constant and that the enemy is so real. But Jesus is enough for me. I was listening to a podcast this week that talked about how anxiety is being focused on what we’re running from – living in joy is being focused on what we’re running towards. Our stake is set.

We wanted to leave for PNG in January, but God knew there was more to be done here in this season of our lives and in our hearts.  I wanted to have it all planned out, but God already did.  I’m so grateful that I can trust in the timing of the one who holds it all in his hands. Let me say it again…God’s timing is more perfect than mine. Here we come, PNG!

Bright lights / Surgical table / Surgery of the heart, the inmost heart //

There are so many parallels. You are the strength of my heart / The peace of God will guard your heart in Christ Jesus /  Return to me with all your heart / Rend your heart, not your garments //

Hospital gowns and panic attacks / God’s miraculous healing through scientific modern medicine – together / Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome, cured //

My heart is being pulled, torn, shredded in two. At war / Faith versus Sight in an epic battle /  Sneak peak – the victor has already been named. So, why? Why the anxiety / worry / panic? When will I feel the peace of God? / For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” / I will know peace fully in my eternal home, but I can know peace fully here //

Belt of Truth / Breastplate of Righteousness / Feet ready with the gospel of peace / Shield of Faith / Helmet of Salvation / Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God //

Surgery of my heart / Healing / God, bring healing to my soul / Sneak Peak – the Victor has already been named.

7 responses to “One Month to PNG!”

  1. Natalie cromer Avatar
    Natalie cromer

    Hey genae. Loved reading this and catching up on your plans ahead. This is amazing. What a story. What a God! I have prayed in times past for you all and will again as your family embarks on this part of your journey.

  2. Kristina McCabe Avatar
    Kristina McCabe

    Thank you for sharing your story Genae. God’s timing truly is perfect! I can see how He was preparing you for missionary work. I’ll be praying for you and your family in this next season!

  3. LINDSAY Avatar

    Amen and amen! Praise God for his kindness and healing! So proud to watch you walk in faithfulness. What treasure of friends you are to us.

  4. Launa Clough Avatar
    Launa Clough

    Thank you Genae! I appreciate so much your vulnerability here. We are all praying for your family as you get ready to head out. Praise Jesus for healing and steady heart rhythms.

  5. Amanda Schwartz Avatar
    Amanda Schwartz

    Beautiful testimony! I love you guys so much and will be praying alongside you all the way. Yes, God is your anchor!

  6. kholdensamaritanorg Avatar

    Genea, I read this with tears of joy for you and your family! I know God will use you all in a mighty way here and in PNG. God is so faithful and good!! Praise Him for your healed heart!!

  7. Stuart Ostby Avatar
    Stuart Ostby

    As Abraham followed God, he built progressive altars with each significant experience. I hope you continue to share in the writing – I find that these written memories are quite meaningful in remembering God’s goodness to us. As God interrupts our plans, or the way things would have made sense to us, I have found those to be the instances most naturally leading to personal revelation from God and worth remembering. Thank you for your service and faithfulness to set out!

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily the views of Samaritan’s Purse or World Medical Mission. Photos from patients are used with their or their parent’s permission. Names are often changed for the sake of privacy.

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