Sick Computers

28 08 2014

I take technology for granted. Perhaps I am too dependent on it.

My computer started acting very strange. First of all it slowed down. Way down. Every thing took a long time to do.

Then it began blanking out randomly.

The poor thing would try to carry out my demands, but kept sending me error messages saying there wasn’t enough room on the scratch disks to perform the task. I would delete files and clear as much memory as possible and it would work again for a short time and then inexplicably the 300 gb would be full again. But there was only about 60 gb of files stored on the computer.

I took my computer to get checked out as it was beyond my fixing abilities. I felt sad leaving him there. I use my computer for so many of my hobbies and jobs.

Joe called and I told him I felt as though I’d left a part of me behind. He said, “Well, come on home, I’m waiting for you!”

“I didn’t mean you,” I said. “I meant my computer.”


The computer tech said there was a worm that was just writing away… filling up my hard drive with lots of nothing and we had no choice but to wipe the whole thing.

But we are now on the mend and it’s time to dig my programs out from among the boxes that house the over abundance of things we call “our stuff” and start re-installing. Fun.

Hopefully I’ll be back and blogging with a little more regularity. And that wedding post was in progress when the computer went to the shop… i’ll try to get it out asap!


Pre-Wedding Blessings

26 07 2014

Well, It’s past time to post! My married friends told me that life after the wedding doesn’t exactly slow down. I didn’t quite believe them, but now I do!

In the past 5 weeks since we returned from our honeymoon in Florida, we’ve had two elderly members of our church pass away, been on two trips and finally moved into our own little house on Barnett Road.

I do believe, however that things have finally slowed down. We are enjoying a Saturday at home and I told Joe I absolutely MUST post today!

Last weekend we spent four days in Texas thanks to the generosity of Paul Beachy who purchased tickets for us. Joe’s Parents and three of his siblings departed on Monday for Guatemala for another two year term in mission work. They are driving a bus down through Mexico. We were so glad to be able to spend some time with them.


Maria & Andrew provided us with entertaining conversation.

I received my wedding photos and I’m so excited to show them to you! but first I’d like to give you a peek into our life the few weeks and days leading up to the event. The majority of photo credits in this post go to Rosemary Wagler & Bradlyn Wagler.

There was the invitation stuffing/addressing party. The whole family was involved including Alex. There were numerous other details being worked on as time allowed.

 image1 image2



image6 image4 image7


Joe moved to South Carolina the first of May and began tearing into the house. Several work crews came and my mom graciously fed and hosted them all. About two weeks before the wedding, Joe’s family came from Guatemala & Texas. Jason, Joe’s dad, began building our cabinets and his mom and sisters painted the entire trailer! Then they cleaned it. And would you believe that I was so consumed with wedding details that I didn’t get any photos of all that hard work?! Here’s a photo of Joe spraying the primer on the walls.


As the wedding day drew near more people started showing up and our to-do list somehow never got shorter!

These two very dear girls came the Sunday before our wedding and literally saved the day! They just jumped in and helped me sort out what was necessary and what wasn’t and found solutions for would be disasters… every girl should have friends like these to share the pre-wedding jitters!


meet Arlene & Rosalie

My Aunt Jan came the week of the wedding and did the cooking, cleaning, washing and I’m sure a host of other things we never found out about!


My cousins helped in dozens of practical ways! These folks and my sisters, worked like crazy to give me an amazing wedding! God bless them!

We made flower balls… it may have been cheaper than real flowers but it was hours and hours of work! Joe’s sisters, my cousins & youth girls came one day to work on them.


IMG_4000 IMG_3990 IMG_3997

IMG_4011 IMG_4006 IMG_3995


We even worked on them one evening when my family and Joe’s family went out to the lake…


And then there were the flowers… I ordered most of my flowers from Sam’s Club with excellent results! On time delivery and gorgeous flowers… no this isn’t a review. *grin* They too required some care. The girls enjoyed the real flowers a lot more than the t-shirt rosettes!


IMG_4110 IMG_4118 IMG_4111


However, I ordered spray roses from another online florist. The flowers arrived late. we could work with that. We had twelve hours till Leona needed them. BUT… Do these look like spray roses to you? Yeah, me neither. A sad fact. image12AAAAA! I’m a bride who spent quite a bit of time finding a wallet-friendly bouquet that I liked.

The company demanded a photo to prove they were not spray roses and said they would ship more but they wouldn’t arrive on time. We called several places but no one had the amount I needed and of course the price would be too high anyway!  I sent out a quick text to a friend who can somehow always find things or figure out a solution and my sister and I began googling bridal bouquets using the flowers we had… several minutes later my phone rang and it was Casey. “How many did you need?” She asked. I gave her the number of stems and she replied, “Ok, I found a florist that has them and I’ll have them there tomorrow.” I burst into tears! “It’s your wedding!” She said in response to my thanks. “I can’t believe they screwed up your order!”

Now flowers do not make a wedding. I would have been just as happily married and I know Leona would have done an amazing job creating a bouquet without those spray roses. But I’m glad God worked out that little detail.

Following are photos of the, may I say “organized chaos” that was our home the two days prior to the wedding…

We had groups of people out picking Queen Anne’s lace by the road side, folks cutting and tying together programs, last minute sewing and Marta made a diagram of the reception as a reference for the cooks & servers.


IMG_4154 IMG_4153

IMG_4181 IMG_4160


*photo credit C. Smucker Photography*

This is just a glimpse of all that happened those few weeks. So many people pitched in and helped, I could never name them all! But one couple I must mention is Zach & Crystal Funk. They flew in on Wednesday and WORKED hard the few days they were here. They saw work and did it. They took responsibility for different projects and we didn’t worry about it any more.

All in all… yes it was a stressful time for me. But I had family & friends to take care of things. I wasn’t feeling well the last several days before and actually only briefly saw the reception set-up before the wedding. My friends and family did all of it. They had a few photos to go by as the general look that I wanted, but otherwise they did all the decorating and set-up.

Well Saturday is almost over, and I have yet to finish this post!

I’ll leave you with one final photo…


*photo credit C. Smucker Photography*


Twenty-One Days

27 06 2014

Twenty one days ago I said, “I Do” and became Mrs. Bontrager.

It was a wonderful day!

God answered my prayers and I WALKED up the aisle! I used my wheelchair for most of the day, but I did walk up the aisle. While my walking wasn’t the greatest, I did feel well enough to enjoy the day.

I can’t wait to tell you about the rest of the day and show you more photos when I get them! I had the best photographer out there!

I’m also working on a post to let you know about all the details prior to the wedding! SO MANY people just pitched in and helped pull off a wedding of which I could only dream! I have amazing family & friends!




27 06 2014

photoWell I’m in the Greenville ER again. But this time I’m not the patient, I’m on the support team. =) It’s a very different and good feeling not being the patient! But unfortunately someone else is.

I have this friend who has been very loyal the past. Esther’s been through an awful lot and knows more than most of us just what pain is. She had a shunt put in about 15 years ago and has had approximately 15 surgeries. She’s sat with me in the ER/hospital many times and is one of my role models! She just lives her life of pain without complaining and stays cheerful & accepting through it all. She has the gift of serving and will do anything for you. The days before my wedding she worked like crazy, even though she wasn’t feeling well and then on Sunday she ended up in the ER when her headache spun out of control. Now 3 weeks later we are back again… Something isn’t right and she needs help!

So here we sit, my mom, Esther & I… all the familiar things… the IV, the different scans and tests they like to do in the ER and the waiting… the L.O.N.G. wait.

Perhaps, depending on how long this wait is, I’ll get a post written to update you on the events leading up to one of the best days of my life.

I’m In Love…

11 05 2014

…with peach orchards in the spring and a certain guy who makes them romantic.








Thanks to Heidi Mast Photography for being flexible and doing a wonderful job! Check our wedding website for a lot more photos from this session! The password is: june.

Four weeks ago was my cousin Amanda’s wedding and I was very honored to be a bridesmaid. Amanda has a few health issues also and so their wedding ceremony was adapted to fit her needs which made it easier for me as well. So after being in this wedding, I have a much better idea of how to plan for my own day in white.

I spent some time on the phone with my dear doctor the other week and we have a plan to put into action that will hopefully help me to feel well on my wedding day.

It’s only 26 days away!!! And I’m excited!




Counting Down

25 03 2014

The days are slipping past faster and faster. So much to do and my brain feels a little muddled with trying to keep it all straight! Right now it seems that if it doesn’t have something to do with school or wedding then it just doesn’t happen. And blogging has been one of those things that just hasn’t happened.

I received feedback via email after my last blog post and I was touched with the way you opened your hearts. This seems to be a struggle so many of us face and I was encouraged to hear your thoughts and how God is working in your lives. Thank you for blessing me!

Health wise things have been rather up and down. I got a cold a while back and it took awhile for things to level out again. I was doing fairly well for a bit and then for some reason I began feeling sick and triggering randomly again. This past week has been a lot better! PTL! We took our engagement photos yesterday in some gorgeous peach orchards and everything went fine and NORMAL! =) We did have to adjust the time because of the low temperatures in the morning, but God blessed us with comfortable, non-triggering weather and a very accommodating photographer. And I can’t wait to see the photos!

There has been lots of activity my corner of the world!

Planning a wedding that allows for health needs is interesting. There are many different things to consider and everyone has an idea of what could make things easier. I’m very thankful for my mom’s calm logic and for the way my family doesn’t pressure me into feeling I need to have as “normal” a wedding as possible. We’re just going to try to be realistic, have a plan B and take things as they come.

We emailed our save the dates a few weeks ago. There have been so many people who have touched our lives whom we’d love to invite but we’d like to keep the wedding as small as possible. However, so many of you blog followers have rejoiced with us and we’d like to share our wedding website with you. Click here or enter to view it. The password is: june.

Two weeks ago my sisters and mom hosted a bridal shower for me. They did an amazing job with an around the clock theme. Each guest was given a time of day and their gift was to reflect whatever they thought I would be doing at that time. People were very generous & creative and I received so many practical gifts!

I was so honored by the presence of everyone who came and it was hard to know who to talk with next! Most of my students, past & present, of the female gender were present and sang a song. It was very special to have them there. Unfortunately the photos were disturbed while in the card reader and now refuse to be seen. I’m hoping to be able to recover them and if so, I will add them to this post at that time. So check back later!

My friend Kristen Hooks came for the shower and for part of the following day. She helped me to organized the huge pile of shower gifts and we brainstormed on ways to fix up the trailer Joe & I bought and put on a piece of land a few minutes from my parents.

Last week, four of Joe’s friends, along with my Uncle Phil & family came from NC for the weekend to give us some help with the trailer. A few of the guys were there to work on Friday, but Saturday was the main day. My family and a few other others from around here were there to lend a hand.

Here is what the trailer looked like on the lot when we bought it. Charmingly ugly with lots of potential.

photo 5

Soon after it was placed on our lot, my family went over to see it. There were no steps and so dad stacked some cement blocks for us to use as stairs. Later as we drove out the lane, Alex’s little voice called out comfortingly, “Don’t worry Andrea! We will build some steps for you!”

The floors all need to be redone, the walls are yellow & ceilings brown from their former owners smoking habits and the cabinets need to be replaced. So a whole lot of energy went into sprucing up the outside and tearing out the inside! Joe and I were amazed at how much was accomplished!!

They put the skirting on, painted the ugly red to match it and sealed the roof. We’re very pleased with how it turned out and several neighbors even stopped by to give their approval. It’s amazing what a little paint and elbow grease can do for a place! I’m thinking a blue front door would be a nice touch but we’ll see. =) They also ripped out all the flooring, cabinetry and trim. They even scraped the ceilings of their browned popcorn.

Now we’re ready for the fun stuff like painting and new flooring ect. We owe a lot to these folks and are so grateful for the boost they gave us!

Now look at the difference 15 pairs of helping hands can make!

Saturday morning before they started.

Saturday morning before they started.


Erica is the painting expert of the family and spent hours getting the trim painted.

Erica is the painting expert of the family and spent hours getting the trim painted.


He's done a lot of work to find a home for us and get it livable. I'm proud of him!

He’s worked hard to find a home for us and get it livable. I’m proud of him!

My brothers, Brad & Aaron and also my sister Rozi scraped the ceilings.

My brothers, Brad & Aaron and also my sister Rozi scraped the ceilings. A very dusty job!

ripping out the cabinets in the kitchen.

ripping out the cabinets in the kitchen.


My local aunts brought lunch for everyone.

My local aunts brought a delicious lunch for everyone.







The finished product at the end of the day.

The finished product at the end of the day.

I wielded a paint brush for a fraction of the time, but the ladders made me a bit too dizzy so I mostly sat and watched or walked around documenting the event with my camera. It’s an overwhelming feeling to watch so many people tackle a project like this and know that it’s because they care about you. Joe & I are so blessed!

That evening the young people played volley ball and Joe and I went to watch. It had been such a long time since I had played and it looked so fun! Joe & I had never played together before… and what young Mennonite dating couple hasn’t played volley ball together? So I played. =) And it was fun even if it was a short, slow paced game. I knew I’d trigger, which I did about 15 minutes after I stopped playing, but it was worth it. My mom was rather surprised at me and I think I probably won’t make a habit of involving myself much more than cheering from the sidelines.

There are only six and a half weeks of school left! My students are so much fun! They are so involved in my life. They like to know what’s going on with the house and when I took them over to see it one day they were running from one end of the l.o.n.g. trailer to the other exclaiming over different features. They have claimed the guest room. Literally. In fact, one little girl went home and told her mom, in all seriousness, that in “our” room the closet has two doors. =) We also got to watch them drill the well which was especially interesting for my 2nd grade boy. They keep tabs on how much longer it is until the wedding and we’re just all excited together.

It’s 73 days and counting down! =)

The Perfect Dream

27 01 2014

In October, my sister Erica went on a short term mission trip to a children’s home in Haiti. She cared for the children there while one of the nannies went home on furlough. She had been there before and was very much anticipating being with the children again.

Lovena is 21 years old and weighs 20 pounds. She had been neglected by her family for most of her life and has recently been taken in by the children's home.
Lovena is 21 years old and weighs 20 pounds. She had been neglected by her family for most of her life with no chance to pursue any dreams of her own. She has recently been taken in by the children’s home in Haiti where Erica was.

As I watched her pack her suitcases and prepare for being out of the country, I found myself thinking back to my own globe-trotting days with a sense of longing. Then, when she returned home with her many stories of the poverty of Haiti and the needs there, I thought again of my desire as a teenager to be a foreign missionary.

I wonder sometimes why God does not allow those who want to go, to be able to serve him as a missionary. Then there are those who have the physical capabilities, but do not want to give up the comforts of home. Or those who are sent, but say, “God, it’s the wrong country! I wanted to serve those people over there!”  Seems ironic.

But then perhaps we depend too much on our own desires to interpret God’s will for our lives. There are many different ways God can use us if we are willing to give up our own will.

Several months ago, I was asked to write a guest article for Daughters of Promise, a ladies’ e-zine, on the topic of surrendering our dreams to God. It was good for me to write this article because I felt it helped me to face some of my own struggles and be able to surrender my dreams more completely to God.

I decided to share this article with you… because I know many of you have faced this same struggle of giving up your dreams.

You can also click  here to read it on page 28 of the NovDec issue of Daughters of Promise. I thought Rachel did a wonderful job with the graphics and they have lots of  articles that are worth reading!

The Perfect Dream  

Definition of a dream:  A condition or achievement that is longed for; an aspiration

As little girls, we grow up dreaming of our future. We have dozens of things on our list to be, “When I grow up.” As we get older, those childish dreams evolve as we discover our talents and interests. We are encouraged to follow our dreams and let no one stop us.

But what if God does?

What if the doors we long to have opened stay firmly closed or worse yet, slam in our faces, just as our feet reach the threshold.

As a teenager, my ambitions were so numerous I would have accumulated quite a few years before I had achieved them all. I love children. I have a passion for teaching and I love the challenge of special education. In my younger years, my family spent six years as missionaries in Belize, CA and throughout my life; my parents have fostered a love of missions. I wanted to marry, someday, and have about six kids; but after I accomplished a few other things.

I had plans for my life, and many of them were being realized.

Between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one, I took six, short term mission trips, enrolled in three terms of Bible School, taught two years of school, took photography classes and did a lot of socializing with my friends.

I had hopes of getting more education and then possibly going to a deaf school in El Salvador as a teacher.

I was busy, probably too busy, but I was pursuing my dreams.

And then those hopes and dreams were shattered by a very unladylike seizure. At church no less! As the EMTs wheeled me through the double doors of our church that cool November evening, I remember thinking, “Well Lord, What now?”

The months that followed were frustrating. No one seemed to know what was wrong with me. I did test after test and tried several doctors. All the while I was growing more and more sick and also discouraged. I really didn’t have time to be sick! I needed things to be figured out and then I could move on with my dreams!

God had much to teach me.

Within seven months’ time, I went from being a busy elementary school teacher to an invalid, spending 90% of my time in a hospital bed set up in my family’s living room and depending on a wheel chair for transportation. I dealt with excruciating pain that no amount of drugs or massaging could relieve. My mind began to betray me as my memory and ability to hold or follow conversations started to decline.

I was eventually diagnosed with late stage neurological Lyme and God miraculously provided a doctor. “Now!” I thought to myself. “I’ll take these meds, I’ll do whatever they tell me to do and then I can get back to my life.” But my journey with illness was far from over.

The treatment had extreme side effects. Some medications gave me severe nausea, another would make my teeth hurt, while still another caused my skin to become extremely sensitive to the point I couldn’t stand for even a sheet to brush against me. Once a medication caused such an extreme hurx-heimer reaction that I spent ten days in the hospital with uncontrollable seizures.  But I pushed on with a determination I didn’t know I possessed. I had to get well!

But as the months passed I began to realize that I needed to let go of my dreams for my future. Life was passing me by and God was obviously closing those doors. He had a new purpose for me and that was to be sick. I fought this for quite some time.

“God!” I cried, “these are good dreams, things that would further your kingdom! Why must I give them up? I wanted to be a missionary, why would you make me sick?” But finally one night I took my notebook and began to write out each of my dreams and give them back to God. The dreams for the future were difficult to give up, but not as hard as the things that affected me right then such as giving up my classroom, watching my friends move on in life, and losing my independence.

“God,” I prayed, “If I must give up my dreams, then you dream for me. My life is yours.” I found a verse during this time that continues to be very special to me; “I cry out to God most high, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.” Psalm 57:2

At long last the harsh treatments began to pay off and I began the slow recovery process. I cautiously entered a world that, to my surprise, had been spinning on its axis quite well without me. It was difficult; trying to find “my place” again. But I accepted a job as an aide a school and once again began to immerse myself in education

The following year I agreed to teach a small class of three first graders and one third grader. I was excited about it, but also rather nervous. While I was doing quite well, I continued to have “flares” every so often as well as constant pain. Though my brain fog was getting better, I knew it would be a challenge, and I hoped I would be reliable.

Then after almost two years of being seizure free, they invaded my life again. I was devastated! I took a 10 week leave of absence from school and someone else took on the task of teaching my precious students the things I wanted to teach them. What should I do now? Should I give up my job entirely? What was best for my students? They’d already witnessed a petit mal, when I’d fallen from my chair one day. Was it fair to put them in these situations? I struggled with God’s timing. I thought I’d been following His will when I accepted the teaching job. Had I misunderstood?

The struggle to give up my dream of finishing the school year was just as intense as when I’d gone through my list of long range goals and given them to God. Finally, I felt at peace. God had a plan, even though I didn’t know what it was.

Near the end of December, 2012, I began to feel much better. It was as if someone had flipped a switch and the next six months were the healthiest and happiest I’d had in years. I finished my school year and agreed to teach again. My summer was filled with plans of traveling and projects to tackle.

After eight amazing weeks of summer vacation, reality struck a hard blow. My boyfriend, Joe, and I were sitting at a park when I became chilled and began to shake. We got up to leave but my back was jerking hard enough that I had difficulty walking to the car. We headed for home, but I was already twisting and jerking in the passenger seat. Ten minutes after we arrived home, I was in a full blown seizure and the nightmare began all over again. Those same feelings of despair and needing to release “my plans” to His will returned.

Another hospital stay, but this time things were different. Through another miraculous turn of events, it was discovered that I had developed Dystonia within the past year. Dystonia is a movement disorder that causes the muscles to contract and spasm involuntarily and was possibly caused by the brain infection.

Dystonia is incurable but treatable. Triggers may happen at any time. At first this diagnosis was devastating to me.


It seemed the only word to penetrate my brain. Although I had given up my dreams long ago and had asked God to dream for me, things had been going so well with my health that I realized I had dared to plan my life again.

It felt as if God was saying, “Wait a minute, Andrea, You gave ME the right to that remember!?”  Yes, I was remembering all too clearly. Dystonia is so unpredictable and I was learning how to be flexible in a whole new way.

The saying goes: “To accomplish great things we must dream.” Long ago Florence Nightingale dreamt of clean hospitals with trained nurses. She pursued that dream through much opposition but, because of her courage, I, for one have benefited greatly!

So is it wrong to dream of great things? No, I don’t think so. However we must be certain follow God’s will and not our own desires.

Sometimes God allows things in our lives to prepare us for something much greater than we could imagine. For a long time I hung on to my “perfect dream” bemoaning the fact that it was now impossible for me to accomplish. But when I am honest with myself, if I had my health and energy back and my doctor gave me permission to travel anywhere I wanted, those dreams I’ve held so tightly would not even be what I wanted. I would probably pursue some type of hospital ministry with children. Because of the journey on which God sent me, I can relate to patients facing illness and life changing diseases much better than I would be able to relate to a deaf child.

But who knows? Maybe God doesn’t have that type of ministry in mind for me either.

A friend once sent me a card with the verse, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:5”

I struggled with this verse for a long time. I knew what my desires were, and they were not being realized. How could this verse be true? But someone challenged me to think of what my utmost desire is. Would it not be to glorify God? If I could be joyful in everything then God could be glorified and the desire of my heart would be met.

As Christians, our ultimate purpose is to bring Glory to God. That should be our goal. If we are open to these opportunities, God will send them our way. We just need to learn to look for them. I’ve learned to find fulfillment in school. I dearly love my little class of six students, and enjoy finding creative ways to teach them practical skills and spiritual truths. I also have a weekly devotional period with the high school girls that has been a blessing and challenge to me. I can’t count the number of times my illness has opened the door to show God’s love to other hurting people.

So does God have something for me to do? Absolutely. Am I serving Him the way I’d always dreamed? Perhaps not exactly, but if the end result is the same than who am I to argue?

What about God’s dreams for me? I can say I’ve been delightfully surprised at his blessings. Not only has He allowed me to pursue my passion of teaching, but He’s also given me a great team of co-teachers who go out of their way to help me fulfill this dream. My family is amazingly supportive and will do anything they can to help me complete a project. God also sent a really awesome young man named Joe into my life about 18 months ago. Joe loves me for who I am, seizures, awkward walking, wheelchair, cane and all. He considers it his life’s mission to help me accomplish whatever opportunities God sends my way. And since he’s good at so many things, I think it will be interesting to see what kind of opportunities they are!

Do you have dreams for the future that seem to be dashed time and again? Look around and notice the opportunities that God gives you. Make that your dream. And perhaps someday you will realize that the dream of your heart was to simply be useful in His kingdom.

As the article states, it seems we must deal with these struggles over and over again. I’d love to hear some of your comments about surrendering your dreams to God. What is something that is helpful to you?

Moving Out in Faith

An Atlanta family's story: learning to love God and others

Atlanta Childrens Lifestyle Photography by C Smucker Photography

"I cry out to God Most High, to God who fufills his purpose for me." Psalm 57:2

from the crew at creel

in business for the Lord

Life Happens...

everyday, but get's interesting when you are hit with Lyme Disease. I will journal my story on getting through this along with my ramblings on life.

"I cry out to God Most High, to God who fufills his purpose for me." Psalm 57:2

"I cry out to God Most High, to God who fufills his purpose for me." Psalm 57:2

In Sickness and in Health

Battling cancer with love, medicine, and the Giver of both.

No Speed Bumps

What I think is what I say


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 271 other followers