Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Christmas In the Air

Posted: December 12, 2014 in Family, Health

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since I posted anything on this blog. I guess I’ve been involved in other things that are more important. I guess the Mission Network News website redesign has taken most of my free time. My family has taken the rest. And, so has my recovery. Let me explain.

Last year, about this time, I was trying to get my knee into good enough shape so I could go to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. I made it. Unfortunately, though, me knee was pretty damaged. I completely tore a ligament in my knee, the medial patellofemoral ligament. That’s the thing that keeps your knee cap from sliding to the outside part of your leg. Despite the fact that it was torn, I eventually started running on it again. In fact, I was getting close to running as fast as I was before my injury. Unfortunately, though, I had to wear a brace to keep the knee cap in place.

GregKnee09-2014So, On September 16 I had another surgery. This one was the medial patellofemoral ligament reconstruction where the doctor takes a piece of your hamstring tendon, the screws it into your femur and knee cap. This surgery was a little different, in terms of recovery. 1. The doctor didn’t limit my weigh bearing on my leg. As soon as I could feel it, I could put weight on it as long as I had my knee brace on. 2. I could bent it up to 90 degrees right away. 3. Therapy started pretty quickly.

I started therapy two weeks after surgery and continue working on it. I am making progress. Today, nearly three months after surgery I am riding a bike and on the elliptical riding at least 30 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. I’m also lifting weights and other exercises. I’m hoping by January to be running again.

Okay, why is this about Christmas in the air? It’s because it is. It’s December 11 and I can’t wait until we can get together as family and just hang out together. In the mean time, I love the smells of homemade hard candy, the snow and the music.

This year, our church – Grace Community Church in Hudsonville, Michigan is having a great concert feature the Annie Moses Band.

Our church choir will be singing with them. On one hand I’m excited about being a part of the concert, but disappointed that I won’t be able to hear them as well.

If you live in West Michigan, I hope you’ll join us. Tickets are only $15 at itickets.com.

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On Saturday, December 21 it will be four weeks since I dislocated my knee while trying to be safe while running in Johnson Park in Kent County, Michigan. It’s funny how I have played the scene over and over again in my mind. I keep asking myself, “how could I have avoided this injury.”  The more I think about it, the more I realize this wasn’t an “accident.”  This was planned. It wasn’t MY plan, but God’s plan.  I’ll explain that in a minute.

My knee December 19, 2013

My knee December 19, 2013

Today marked my fourth physical therapy appointment. I have made some significant progress. I’m now bending my knee to 130 degrees, I’m doing step-ups, leg extensions, squats, and other exercises. The swelling is still there, but it’s much less than it was 10 days ago. What is the goal? According to my physical therapists, “it’s to get you to Sochi, Russia.”  At least that’s what she said today. I said, “I thought it was to get me running again?”  She’s pretty cut and dry. She said, “Do you want your knee going out before you leave, or while you’re there?  Don’t plan on trying to run until you return.”

What does that mean for my recovery, or the possibility for surgery? It means I’m going to continue with therapy until I have to leave for the Olympics, hoping the strength in my quadriceps improve to where I won’t need surgery. The knee cap isn’t as stable as I would like right now, but it’s making progress. If I was allowed to, I could jog and run up stairs. But, I am only allowed to spend as long as I like on a stationary bike. I enjoy that. I’m finally working up a sweat.

Why do I think God planned this for me? As I look back on the past four weeks I’ve been forced to slow down. Instead of focusing on make my mileage goal for the week or month, I’ve been focusing on my family. I’ve spent more time keeping the holiday traditions alive. I actually made Christmas candy this year. I’ve spend more time in God’s Word than I have in a long time. I’ve been forced to trust the Lord more.

What are my plans? I plan to work hard and run again. While I may not be  able to start running again until February, I may be forced to run the 10K at the Fifth-Third Riverbank Run, rather than the 25k. But, we’ll see.

 

It has been nearly a week since my misfortune, or God’s sovereign plan (whichever you choose call it in this instance), hit me. I dislocated my knee as I was running in Johnson Park. I took two days to try and get the swelling under control. With it being Thanksgiving Week, I had to get to work to help write ahead so we could take Thursday and Friday off for Thanksgiving.

IMG_2018[1]Today, was a discouraging day. I woke up with pain in my knee that I haven’t had until now. I’m beginning to wonder if indeed I’m going to need surgery. This isn’t something I want or have time for. It doesn’t look like I’m coming to terms with God’s sovereignty, am I? I’m trying to wrap my arms around it, but I’m feeling more like Solomon than Paul. In other words, I’m believing more and more that all is vanity. I woke up to my knee looking like this. While it doesn’t look too bad, maybe even a little bit better, I now can only bend it about 80 degrees. That means it difficult doing anything — dressing, taking a shower, getting out of cars, sleeping (I sleep on my side in a ball — at least i did)anything that requires me to bend my knee.

In 2010 when I injured the same knee in about the same way it required a very painful surgery. They don’t do arthroscopic surgery. They have to open up the whole knee to repair the patellofemoral ligament. It is so painful that they planned on keeping me overnight. The second and third day after surgery is horrible. Then, no weight bearing for almost a month. Therapy is intense. The first step is getting the knee to bend again, while at the same time doing a little strength training. It took a long time. I had the surgery in March and didn’t start exercising on it until June or July.

The last six days have been frustrating for a number of reasons:
1. I only have 45 miles to hit my goal of 700. I have all but come to the conclusion that I won’t be hitting that goal.
2. I’m supposed to travel to Russia to cover the Olympics in February. If I have to have surgery, I won’t be going. That’s so disappointing.
3. I have worked so hard to lose 30 pounds running and cross-training. To think I’m going to have to start over from square one is deflating.
4. I was hoping to run in the 5th 3rd River Bank Run (25k) again in May 2014 and if I need surgery, that won’t be possible.
5. If I have surgery, I won’t be able to drive.

I know, all of this seems selfish and childish. I’m sure there are many others who have much more difficult issues facing them. Issues that are life threatening, debilitating, and scary. For me, I’m just wallowing in self pity, even though I’m scared trying to figure out what’s ahead for me. The stupid thing is, I haven’t even seen the surgeon yet. He may say I don’t need surgery, in which case I’ll be working my tail off trying to get my knee back into shape so I can run again.

All of this takes me back to Scripture. I Peter 5:7 “Casting all your cares upon Him for He cares for you.” Is just one verse that’s a little convicting. Or Matthew 6:25-34 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Or how about, “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. Lamentations 3:22-24.

I know all these things in my head, but understanding them with my heart is tough right now.

So, what do I do? I just keep plugging along re-reading and re-reading Scripture that I know is true and reminding myself that I DO believe it, which I do. I’m just being a little hard headed.

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching I can’t help but think about that holiday season. It’s really my favorite time of the year. I love the family gathering, the festive mood, the traditions, the music, the food — everything. Believe it or not, I even enough the shopping, but I would say that it’s not my favorite thing about Christmas — there, I said the politically incorrect WORD.  Christmas. There I said it again.

I didn’t mean for this blog to be political, instead I’m writing this blog to tell you about something exciting our family is doing this year that will actually give to orphans in the former Soviet Union.

Anastasia before she was adopted and now.

Anastasia before she was adopted and now.

As some of you know, my daughter is from Irkutsk, Russia. We adopted her in 2002 from Baby Home #1 in December of that year. In fact, the adoption was official just one day before the New Year. Why is this an important fact? Well, because my daughter wants to give something to her former orphanage at Christmas time, and you can help her.

The program is called Project Hope. When you donate $25 at http://www.YouCaring.com/projecthope you can provide more than a Christmas gift to a child without a family at Christmas time. You’re providing the greatest gift of all — the Christ of Christ.

How does it work?

Because Russia and other countries in the former Soviet Union don’t allow Christmas gifts to be SENT in to the country, Russian Ministries started a program called, Project Hope, the Great Gift Exchange. The money is collected in the United States and sent to partnering evangelical churches in country. These churches then purchase toys, candy, personal care items and God’s Word. These items are placed in a festive boxes and are then hand delivered by Christians.

In partnership with Baptist Bible Church of Irkutsk, my daughter wants to send Project Hope Christmas boxes to all 150 children in her former orphanage. While the goal of $3,750 is a formidable goal, the church has a goal of distributing 1,000 gifts 12 orphanages in Irkutsk.

Nikolas Yonker before and now.

Nikolas Yonker before and now.

Anastasia isn’t working alone, however. She’s working with three other families who have adopted children from the same city, who now living in the United States. Niikolas Yonker, Annika Tuls, and Matt and Katie Olsen are joining together to help the Baptist Bible Church accomplish their goal.

From now through December 18, 2013 these young people are collecting money to help provide these gifts. They want to make sure these children have more than a Christmas this year, they want them to hear about Jesus. Through Project Hope and your contribution, you’ll ensure they have both.

Anika Tuls before and now photo.

Anika Tuls before and now photo.

Today, there are more than 700,000 children in the orphanage system in Russia alone. Since Russia has banned all adoptions to the United States, and more countries could be banned in months today come, these children have little hope of being adopted. That’s why this program is so important. It gives a child hope during one of the most hopeful times of the year — a time when Jesus brought hope to the world when he was born in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago.

Katie and Matt Olsen before and now.

Katie and Matt Olsen before and now.

 

Please give generously. $100 provides four Project Hope Christmas gifts. Your donation could make an eternal difference in the life of one child, or many children. It will also empower the Baptist Bible Church to have incredible impact in their community.

You can give safely and securely on-line at https://www.YouCaring.com/projecthope. If you have questions, please email me your personal information at gregsyoder@gmail.com and I’ll get back with you asap.

Greg just before the start of The Crim

Greg, without his glasses, already looks like he’s run 10 miles, but really he’s thinking about running 10 miles and wonders if he’ll finish because of his cold and nagging cough.

After I ran the Fifth Third Riverbank Run in Grand Rapids, Michigan in May, I needed motivation to continue running. So, I set my sights on the Crim 10 Mile Road Race in Flint, Michigan. I grew up in the Flint area. In 1982 I ran The Crim. At 16 years old, not much of a runner, I ran 10 miles in 1:17, that’s about a 7:40 a mile split. I was 2, 224 place. That was better than half, I guess. That was 30 years ago to the day.

Well, I’m not 16 any more. And, I’m probably 50 pounds heavier. But, I competed and I finished!

On Saturday, August 25 I was hoping to finish at 90 minutes, or a 9 minute mile pace. Unfortunately, I had a couple of things going against me.
1. I have been battling an upper respiratory infection and my cough has prevented me from training the last 10 days.
2. I’m older, and I had forgotten about all the hills on this course.
3. My will to push on this day was — well — NOT THERE.

I started my day with little sleep. My cough from my cold kept me awake. I maybe got five hours of sleep, if that much. An hour here, 90 minutes there, not very restful. I woke up tired, not very excited, and worried whether or not my body would let me run, let alone meet my goal.

My dad dropped me off on the U of M, Flint campus and I walked the rest of the way to the starting line. There were surprisingly few people there one hour before the race. I watched the wheelers start, then the 30 year runners, and then it was our turn.

I was in wave C, based on the pace I had select when I registered. So, about three minutes after the front runners started, our wave was allowed to start. I actually felt pretty well. My fist quarter mile spit was about 2:15. My first mile was 8:50ish. And, no coughing at all. I made it to mile four and I was still at about a 9 minute pace. Then at mile five I hit a gradual hill. Then, turned a corner and there they were — the dreaded BRADLEY HILLS. This is a section of the race course that has a series of three hills that climb about 100 feet in about three quarters of a mile or less. These hills kicked my tail. When I saw them, my goal was to run up all oft them.

I did it! But, I was spent.

I got to the top of the last of the three hills and there was another one — a gradual one — but a hill none-the-less — and WATER. The last four miles of the race my body kept saying, STOP, walk a little. So, at each water break I walked through them. It was so frustrating. I had trained all summer to RUN the Crim, not walk it. Not just run it, but do it at 90 minutes.

So, how did I do? My official time was 1:41:44. Not what I was hoping for. 11 minutes and 44 seconds slower than I had hoped.

But, I did finish and I did my best. Next year, IF I run it again I will do a couple of things differently.
1. I will do more hill training.
2. I will do everything in my power NOT to get a cold.
3. I will conserve a little more for the dreaded Bradley Hills.

I will say this, going back to where I grew up was kinda sad. A town that used to call itself, “Buick City” or “Vehicle City” isn’t much of a city anymore. Most of the GM plants have been completely torn down. The home of the famous Sit Down Strike is gone. GM and the Unions have pretty much destroyed a city that was once a bustling city full of hope and pride. Now, the main focus of downtown Flint, colleges and universities.

I’m glad I was able to do my part to give this city a boost. If you remember to, pray for the city of Flint. It really needs it.

What an experience. Two years of work came to a conclusion this weekend. What a weekend.

It all started about two years ago when I blew out my knee playing basketball. After surgery ended my basketball playing days. I began strengthening my damaged knee. Elliptical, bike and the running on a tread mill were the tools used to get me to even consider running. I worked hard. I worked my way up to 3 miles each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. In January, my sister Laura challenged me to start running a little further. Then she started talking about running in the Fifth Third Riverbank Run.

In January, we run four miles. A few weeks later five miles. Then I thought, Hmmm, I might be able to do it. So, I started training for the 25k.

Laura and Greg finish Fifth Third 25k

Laura and Greg finish Fifth Third 25k

Thanks to Patty Riva at CU Radio, she was able to get me a complementary registration and I registered for it. I ran four times a week…running up at 13.5 miles in preparation for the race, which is the largest 25k in the United States.

The day before the race, my sister and I picked up our registration and took a tour of the course.

Then, on Saturday May 12, we ran. And, ran, and ran. 15.5 miles later, we finished the race together. It’ll be something I’ll never forgot. An overweight 46 year old guy was able to finish 15.5 miles. Not too many people can say they did that.

I just thank God for allowing me to do it. Pretty cool stuff. Even though I still hate to run — I loved the discipline that came with it. It’s really taught me a lot.

Will I do it again? If my body holds up, absolutely!

I would like to thank the hundreds of volunteers who gave up their Saturday to help give us water, Gatoraid, Oranges, and ice.

It was an amazing day. Hard to believe it’s over already. I can’t hard wait to get back to running 9 miles a week. That sounds so much better than 25 to 30.

It’s been four days since my latest surgery to remove a rather large piece of cartilage from my left knee. You may have read that I had knee surgery on my right knee in March. So, this has been a few months of painful knees. I hurt my knee February 26. So, I’ve been dealing with some kind of knee pain for three months. Pain is good, however. If you think about it, when were some of the greatest moments of spiritual growth in your life?

For me, spiritual growth came during incredible times of pain. They may not have been physical pains, but they could be spiritual pains.  Mental pains that are brought on by situations in our lives. Perhaps they’re circumstances brought on through our family situations. All of these things have helped form the person I am spiritually.

This latest knee issue has actually been kinda interesting. Many friends have asked, “How can you do this again? What next?  Aren’t you frustrated? Are you depressed? Are you asking God why?

The interesting thing is, I feel incredibly blessed. If you believe God is sovereign (which I do), He allows these trials in our lives. It’s in His plan. If He thinks it’s important enough for me to go through these ‘trials’, shouldn’t I look for Him through them?  It’s interesting, though. I don’t look at this as a trial. I seems more a like a time out. You know, something you do in the middle of a big basketball game. Things are going great, you’re winning, time is running out — but the coach wants to make sure everyone’s on the same page. So, he calls a time out and talks it over. That’s how I view this. God wants me to take a moment, listen to Him and get ready to finish the task ahead.

I have a funny feeling that there could be a lot of ‘time outs’ because I have so much to learn.

The verses that keeps coming to mind are 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 which says:

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

It’s strange talking about my knee being ‘trouble’ because it isn’t something that was caused in persecution or attacks, but something God has been allowing me to go through.

So, what the ‘take away’ value from this?  I turn to James 1:2 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials fo various kinds.”

Here is a recent video I made on Saturday. If you don’t like blood or swelling, don’t watch it.

What a great day! This morning I went to my physical therapy for my right knee. I bent my knee to 131 degrees. Not much progress on the bending, but great progress on the strength. I was able to bike 2.2 miles in 10 minutes on the bike, I did 30 squats with no pain. I actually saw my quad flex and bulge (bulge is a relative term).

Then, I went to the hospital for my second knee surgery. This one was on my LEFT knee. I injured it in 1992 (yes, playing basketball). But, back in April I noticed, what appeared to me, a second (but much small) knee cap.  The doctor had thought it was a bone chip, which he thought had broken lose from a bone spur.

Well, that’s not what it was. Through an arthroscope, the doctor was able to go in and identify a very large piece of cartilage. He told my wife it was about the size of a golf ball. So, he removed it and we’re good to go.

In terms of recovery?  He said it’ll be about a month until my knee is ‘happy’ again. But, I’m supposed to bend it and do straight leg lifts and keep it iced for the short term.

When I arrived home I started icing it, propping in up on pillows and walking a little. It felt (feels) pretty good. But, I noticed some blood soaking through the ace wrap. So, I call the doctor and he told me to stop doing any bending and walking on it and just allow it to heal a little. Tomorrow should be better.

Here’s a video of my day.

At around 7:30 pm tonight I noticed a rather large blood spot on the ace bandage outside my knee. This really surprised me because with my open knee surgery, I didn’t have hardly ANY bleeding. So, I called the doctor’s after hours service. He called back and told me to put more packing around the knee to help stop the bleeding and keep ice on it. I’m doing that. We’ll see what happens.

I’ve taken a little video about my day today, but nothing graphic this time….unless you don’t like the sight of blood.

Keep praying for my recovery.

Vacation – yeah!

Posted: July 25, 2009 in Family, life, spiritual

It’s day one of my summer vacation. I have been looking forward to this for soooo long.  For the past couple of year, vacation for the Yoder family has been traveling 4 hours away to the family cottage on the northeast side of Michigan along the coast of Lake Huron. I grew up coming to this cottage, built by my grandfather in 1955.

There are so many memories ‘up north.’ Each year, we have traveled to ‘the cottage’ along with my four grown kids, grand-kids, and my my nine year old daughter. It is heart-warming to hear how much they look forward to this one week in the summer where we can just relax, play games, swim, play in the sand and soak in the sun.

For me this is a time to not only renew myself with my family, but to renew my life to God. I spend almost every morning (weather permitting) with a frest cup of coffee, and read God’s Word outside on the beach. What a blessing to be able to take my time going through God’s word.

Stay tuned. I hope to blog about my time with the Lord all week.

Greg

I knew today would be difficult. Sunday is my favorite day of the week. Today, I was dreading it.For those of you who know me, I love to sing. Not just to sing, but sing in worship of a Holy God. I really don’t enjoy it otherwise.

But, today was different. Today, I would be worshiping God WITHOUT singing, without talking, without verbally praying and even without whispering. I would be confessing sin, adoring God and praising whoGod is without a voice of any kind.

This is the second time in my life I’ve done this. But, it was a totally different response from my first. 16 years ago I went through a similar situation where I lost my voice and couldn’t participate in worship, but the whole time I kept feeling sorry for myself. Each second was focused on, “What if I never sing again? Will I ever be able to talk with a clear voice? What would happen to my career? God, I don’t understand.”

Today, I only asked that question once. And, the reply I heard was, “Greg, it’s NOT your voice. I gave it to you. I’m the one using it. I’m the one who gave you the idea to sing. I’m the one who gave you that gift. And, I’m the one who CAN and did take it away.” That’s when I said, “You’re right — who am I to say ANYTHING.” So, I spent the remainder of my time in church marveling at how incredible it is that I have a relationship with God at all.

The songs that were selected were ordained by God (as they are every Sunday). But, I sensed they were for me today. Each one made me turn to Christ. Each one reassured me that everything was okay because God is in TOTAL control. He’s not depending and waiting on me. He’s not putting his trust in a doctor’s ability to treat me. In fact, He’s ordained everything.

Then Bible study hour came and I think I may understand why trials come in people’s lives. Let me give you my perspective.

In 2 Peter 1:10 is says, “Therefore, be even more diligent to make your calling (salvation) sure.” In 2 Corinthians 13:5 is says, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.” While may say it’s a ‘sin’ to question your faith, the New Testament talks about it more than once. It looks like a command to me. The problem for me is, I really don’t WANT to. I don’t want to test my faith and force myself to question the foundation on which I stand. If I don’t want to, wouldn’t you think God is going to do something to FORCE me to do it?

I think so. I think because I like my comfortable world, God shakes it. He wants to see what I’m made of. He wants to test my faith, I’M suppose to be “diligent in making my calling sure.” He wants me to examine myself as to whether I’m in the faith. When He rocks our world with life changing moments we will either fall on our face before HIM (if we’re in the faith), or we’ll cry out with disgust to Him for making our lives miserable. He wants these moments to be precious times we won’t forget because they’re life changing.

When my friend Dan Cummings was struggling with cancer, I couldn’t understand how he could say his cancer was a blessing from God. I just couldn’t wrap my arms around that. NOW I CAN. I finally see that in Dan’s cancer, he was forced to be closer to God than he’d ever been. He understood that this was a test from God, not to be a mean God, but to put Dan in a position of total reliance on Him.

While my voice problem isn’t ANYTHING like cancer, my lack of voice could have a devastating effect on my career. But, for the first time I can honestly say — “this IS a blessing from God.” If it weren’t for my lack of voice, I wouldn’t have been able to witness one of the most incredible worship services ever. While I shed lots of tears, they weren’t self pity tears. They were tears of utter joy that God loves me so much. Why?  It’s only because of His Amazing Grace.

That’s not to say I won’t get frustrated. I’m human. But, now I understand what’s going on.