Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Let the Children Come

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me,
and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

Matthew 19:14


Throughout the month of December, in the midst of tree trimmings and family gatherings and stockings overflowing with candy, the Lord has continually pressed one idea upon my heart: these days with my little ones are so very precious. This earthly life is so fleeting anyway, and as any parent will agree, children grow up too quickly. Don shared that one of his coworkers was surprised when, at his six year old daughter's birthday party, someone told him, "Congratulations, you're one third of the way through!" While parenting is in many ways a life-long job, these years of raising young children are a special time that we can never get back. Our children's beliefs, values, and character are being formed and molded before our eyes each day. With Hayden recently turning three, Donny turning five, and Lydia reaching the half-year mark, I am reminded that they will not be little forever, and I must cherish each day that the Lord graciously gives me with them. A verse from the poem "Song for a Fifth Child" by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton has been echoing through my mind:

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.


So in recent weeks, I have been more mindful to savor the moments of nursing my smiley baby Lydia, or hugging my snuggly Hayden, or learning the intricate imaginations of Donny's five year old mind. Yet today the Lord convicted me, as He has in the past, of missing opportunities, not to merely enjoy my children, but to teach them to love his Word. After a few years of reading children's Bibles, I read through Mark and Acts with the boys, reading a half chapter or more before they went to bed each night. After Lydia arrived, we struggled to finish the final chapters of Paul's journeys chronicled in Acts. And now that Don is working evenings again and Hayden requires a nebulizer treatment before bed, I often find that I don't "feel like" reading a Bible story. Sometimes there are dishes to wash and diapers to change, other days it's just too late by the time the boys have jammies on and teeth brushed, many days Lydia is fussy right at the time they are getting ready for bed, but whatever the excuse, regular scheduled Bible time continually gets pushed aside.

With this in mind tonight, while Hayden sat on the couch breathing in his asthma medication, I opened up his children's Bible and raised my voice over the loud hum of the nebulizer machine to read, "Jesus loves the little children." While I read the rhyming words of the toddler storybook, I envisioned the scene I have read so many times in the familiar passage from Mark:

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.
Mark 10:13-16

If you have children, or have ever met one, you know that their presence is not always desirable. If they are anything like some children I know, they will interrupt your conversations, wake up when you want to sleep, crowd your bed or lap or personal space, and pound the bathroom door the second you lock it behind you, insisting that they have to go "right now!" They assault your ears with bickering and repetitive songs, your eyes with messy faces and messy bedrooms, and your nose with noxious diapers and garlic hommus breath. And yet, Jesus - God Himself! - told His disciples to bring those little people to His arms. He put His gentle Hands on them, never averting His eyes from their uncombed hair or despairing over their childish antics, and held them up as an example of faith for us. He commanded us to let the children come to Him. And how, I wonder, can I obey this command unless I take their hands and lead them to His loving arms?

Father God, how often do I miss an opportunity to bring my children before you! When I am too busy, too self-absorbed, too discouraged by their disobedience and noise and mess, you still want them to come to you. You see in children that something that I only catch a glimmer of during their before-meal prayers or their peacefully sleeping faces: an uncompromised faith and trust in you. Let me remember that always, and cherish each moment with them not just because they are my precious children, but because they are yours. Help me to carve out moments to build Lego creations and color pictures and sing songs with them because the days are fleeting. But even if I am never the "fun" mom or the perfect mom, even if I miss opportunities to play, or fail to keep their toys perfectly organized, or if dinner consists of peanut butter sandwiches for several nights in a row, let me never fail to bring my children to you. As you draw me closer to Yourself, may my children develop the same passion to know the living God, and to live their lives in accordance with Your Word.

In the coming year, I pray that I will make the most of every moment, living each day to be more like Christ. In doing so, may I never hinder my children from knowing their Heavenly Father. As I bask in their smiles, their hugs, and their stories, may I remember that every moment counts...and that this moment is one of the few precious ones I have to show them what true Love looks like.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Card 2009

Dear friends,

Merry Christmas 2009! This year has brought many new things to our family. Last December, despite last-minute closing glitches and a major ice storm that delayed our move, we had the privilege of purchasing our first home. It has been a wonderful blessing to be close to family, friends, and our church again! Our first winter here was a crash course in New England home ownership. We learned valuable lessons, like never to choose a paint color online, how to replace a toilet, and to fill the oil tank before an ice-cold shower alerts you that it is empty. In spite of the six-foot icicles and an ant infestation (yes, in winter!), we have really enjoyed having more space for our growing family, our own yard, and a living/dining area that is perfect for hosting social gatherings - something we love to do!

In addition to indoor parties, we have enjoyed several outdoor evenings with friends toasting marshmallows over a campfire in the firepit Don built. In late spring, we also decided to repair and open our inground pool. After six straight weeks of rain and a leak issue, we were finally able to enjoy a few pool parties and several afternoon swims during the warmer weather of August. Another major investment this spring was the purchase of a minivan to fit three car seats, which has been quite a luxury after sharing one small car for over a year. Our new purchase was made possible, in part, by an unexpected blessing: when he was not even seeking it, Don got a new job! His new position in the IT department at a large hospital has provided for our family’s needs and shortened his commute significantly. And though he took the summer off, Don has continued to coach gymnastics – his true passion – a few evenings a week through most of the year. His dream is still to own his own gymnastics facility, and we eagerly look forward to having the resources necessary to make that a reality.

On June 11, after a long and slow labor, our daughter Lydia Faith was born by cesarean section. She is such a joy and blessing to our family. She is a good natured baby who sleeps well, eats well, and bestows enormous grins on anyone who talks to her. Lydia’s brothers adore her, often showering her with hugs, songs, and baby talk. It is hard to believe she is halfway to her first birthday already! Manda is happy to be a mom of three, and even though she has less time to blog about the details, she enjoys her busy days at home…some of which are even busier thanks to our friends’ two little girls, whom Manda watches two mornings a week. In our spare bits of free time, Don and Manda are likely to be found working out, having people over, or serving as volunteer youth leaders for the youth ministry at church.

Our Hayden is now a bright and affectionate three year old, while Donny is turning five, and just as imaginative and intelligent as ever. This year Donny has been working on intricate creations with his “tiny” Legos, even mastering a building kit that is supposedly for ages 8-10! He also loves crafts, especially making cards for people. Hayden is often singing and loves working out with Daddy. He is currently perfecting his forward roll, which makes his gymnastics coach Daddy very proud! In September, we also started more formal homeschooling with the boys. We are using My Father’s World kindergarten for Donny, and Hayden keeps up with most of the lessons. So far we have had fun learning about the sun, moon, leaves, apples, nests, and turtles together.

In September, the five of us also enjoyed our annual apple picking excursion and a trip to Kittery Trading Post, where Don purchased his first shotgun. He hopes to complete a hunter safety course in time for hunting season next year. September also brought challenges to our family: Hayden was hospitalized for two days with wheezing and pneumonia. It appears that he has developed a viral-induced asthma that leaves him coughing and wheezing whenever he catches the slightest germ. He is currently on a daily nebulizer medication to prevent symptoms, and whenever he gets a cold, additional medications are necessary to help him breathe. It is difficult to see our little guy so uncomfortable, but we praise God for doctors and medicines to help him, and for Hayden’s joyful spirit. He has been quite a trooper, from charming the hospital nurses to enduring twice-daily nebulizer treatments without complaint.

Now that we have been in our home for nearly one year, we are excited to spend our first Christmas here, complete with our first real Christmas tree! As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior, we thank God for the gifts He has given us, but we thank Him for His Son most of all. It is because of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we, broken and sinful people, can have hope for our family and our future. We pray that you too will find new life in Christ this Christmas season!

With love,
Don, Manda, Donny, Hayden, and Lydia



The LORD has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.

Psalm 126:3

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Today's Status

This life may be temporary, but it is complicated and engrossing nevertheless, filled with moments of joy and pain and routine, with memories and hopes and problems and people. My readers who are fellow Facebook members may understand the difficulty inherent in summarizing one's daily thoughts, emotions, and activities into one witty, pithy, or remotely interesting comment that is fit to present to the virtual world as our "status." I feel a bit stuck today, not because I have nothing to say, but because there are so many things to say...there is not enough substance for a blog post, and no one thought that stands out clearly above the rest. Below are several accurate assessments of my current status. You can help me choose the best one for today!

Manda...

...loves staying inside on rainy and snowy days.
...got the winter gear out of the attic, went out in the snow, and made a snowman with the boys this morning.
...saw the snowman melting in the rain this afternoon.
...heard thunder this evening!
...wishes her camera wasn't broken; there are so many picture-worthy moments to capture.
...hopes to get a new camera for Christmas!
...is entertained by Lydia's frequent spit bubbles and raspberries.
...smells our yet-to-be-decorated Christmas tree.
...made some yummy beef dip sandwiches for dinner.
...was amused when Donny called his sandwich a "bundle" instead of a bun.
...has almost finished the cookies from Saturday's cookie swap.
...is getting addicted to working out, but knows that doesn't excuse the extreme cookie consumption.
...will someday be able to do a perfect push-up.
...refuses to turn on the oil heat. We're trying to use just our electric heaters this winter.
...knows she is a stubborn New Englander when a 62 degree room feels comfortably toasty compared to the rest of the house.
...wonders why Donny is still awake...
...doesn't like to hear Hayden coughing at night.
...loves putting fresh clean sheets on the bed.
...read Proverbs 9 and 1 Peter 1 today.
...is thankful for time spent in the Word, and wants to make Bible study and prayer more of a priority.
...rejoices in the love of her Savior!
...needs to address the stack of Christmas photo cards. ("Hello, cards!")
...finds Candy Cane Lane tea delicious.
...hears, "You have your hands full!" at least three times during every trip to the store.
...is thinking about New Year's already.
...thinks she might actually be caught up on email and laundry.
...is glad to be part of the youth ministry team.
...will have a five year old, a three year old, and a half year old by the end of the week.
... is "filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy."
...should probably sweep up the Cheerios on the floor from yesterday.
...will be getting a phone call from her husband soon.
...is being growled at by a tired baby.
...has a lot on her mind.
...has a lot to do.
...has a lot to be thankful for!

Be joyful always; pray continually;
give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

- 1 Thessalonains 6:16-18

Friday, November 6, 2009

Lucky Me

Our everyday dinnerware is a set of blue and white willow china that belonged to my grandparents. When Don and I moved into our first apartment owning few of the necessities for living on our own, my mom's parents showed up with boxes of dishes that they no longer needed. They remembered that I liked the china set depicting Asian scenes reminiscent of Tiki Tiki Tembo, and I was thrilled to have our own dish set, especially such a special one.

Of course, through the years with young children and daily use, some of the dishes have broken or chipped. At one point when Donny was a toddler, he commented that his bowl was broken, and not wanting him to see it as something to complain about, I replied, "Lucky you!" After repeating this interaction a few times, Donny came to believe that he really was lucky when he got the chipped plate or bowl. In fact, apparently the word "lucky" is exclusively associated in his mind with broken dinnerware, because a few weeks ago, when I said something along the lines of, "I'm so lucky," his response was a confused, "You're not lucky. You don't have the chipped bowl!" And after glorying in his chipped plate one day, he even comforted his brother by pointing out all the cracks inside Hayden's teacup. "See Hayden, you're lucky too!"

When most people think of being lucky, they don't think about dishes. They think about big houses, cars, health, wealth, perfect bodies, perfect spouses and children, and tropical vacations. When things go wrong, we don't say we're lucky. We see the chip on our plate or the crack in our teacup and wonder why we were the unfortunate ones to get an imperfect dish. We see our spouse's bad mood, our children's disobedience, a stack of overwhelming bills, or a rainy day when we wanted sunshine, and we become unhappy. Instead of thanking God for giving us a plate, we carelessly pile things on, around, and under it while sighing over the menacing flaws, or perhaps wondering why we don't just break the whole thing.

Yet we each have so much to be thankful for if we choose to see it. I am blessed - or lucky if you will - to have a hardworking husband who commutes through rain, snow, and traffic jams to provide for our family, who protects and leads us, and who always makes me laugh. I am blessed with three healthy, intelligent, adorable children. We have a comfortable home with three bedrooms, space for entertaining, and locks on the doors. (If you have small children, you can appreciate the luxury of bedroom and bathroom doors that lock!) We have a yard full of trees and flowers and enough wildlife to provide countless hours of nature study. We have cupboards full of food and a reliable minivan to haul the food and children home from the nearby grocery store. We have family and friends and our amazing church family all within a fifteen minute drive. God has given me so much!

It's easy to forget how lucky we are when catalogues full of delightful but unaffordable items fill the mailbox. Or when we wake up to find toys strewn all over the living room and the adorable children inside - yes, inside - the couch cushions, pulling the stuffing out to make room for their mischievous bodies. Toys break, cars break, computers break, washers and dryers break, sometimes all at the same time. In these moments - and lives are made up of moments - it would be easy to complain about the chipped plate of my life. But God doesn't see it that way. No matter what our specifics look like, He commands us to be thankful, giving "thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

So I pray that I will give thanks in all the imperfect circumstances that threaten to shatter my joy. May I rejoice in the life God has given me instead of dwelling on my wishlist of improvements. And next time one of our heirloom dishes crashes to the floor, instead of sinking into despair or anger, may I say along with Donny, "Lucky me!"

But beyond being lucky, God has an amazing way of working things together for His glory. I thought through this blog post last Friday, but when I finally sat down at the computer to type it out, I was too tired to begin. The weekend with its busyness quickly pushed any thoughts of blogging to the back of my mind. Then on Tuesday morning, I had just finished getting dressed when I was startled by a crash. I hurried into the kitchen to find my charming helpers carrying out my instructions to unload the dishwasher, but instead of neatly stacking the breakable dishes on the counter as usual, they had decided to use them as building blocks. Plates, bowls, mugs, and pots were all stacked together on table, counter, and floor. And Hayden was guiltily standing in china dust, apologizing for dropping my plate. I quickly hurried the boys out of the room so that I could sweep up the shards before they stepped on the mess with their bare feet.

But on second glance, there wasn't much to sweep up. A tiny bit of dust, yes, but the plate had not shattered as one might expect. On the floor beside it was simply a chip - a big, perfect chip broken off the edge of the dinner plate - resulting in the second chipped dinner plate of our collection. I used to keep the other one on top of the stack, figuring that if one was to be broken, in our frequent use of it, it would be the plate that was already chipped. Yet for some strange reason, on Tuesday the previously chipped plate was about six plates down in the stack, even though we normally only use a few large plates each days, and the the dishwasher is emptied daily. So now, if you join us for dinner, please excuse our chipped plates...and know that your chances for being the lucky dinner guest have doubled!

I don't believe in coincidence; God is in control of every situation. He knows exactly what we need to be encouraged, convicted, or reminded of His Greatness. And while yes, I forgave Hayden, and no, he won't be unloading the breakable dishes for a long time, I do not see this as an isolated accident. Instead, I see the hand of my Heavenly Father, lovingly handing me another chipped plate to remind me how lucky I really am.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fall in All Its Glory


Sing for joy, O heavens,
for the LORD has done this;
shout aloud, O earth beneath.
Burst into song, you mountains,
you forests and all your trees,
for the LORD has redeemed Jacob,
he displays his glory in Israel.

Isaiah 44:23

Monday, October 19, 2009

Seasons

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven...
Ecclesiastes 3:1

Autumn is undoubtedly my favorite season. The crisp cool breezes on sunny afternoons, the blazing radiance of maple and birch trees as their leaves explode into shades of red and yellow, the aromas of homemade pies wafting from the oven or cider donuts at the farm store, and the crunch of withered leaves beneath my feet all fill me with delight. Fall is also the time for our annual apple picking excursion (a.k.a. photo shoot). This year we actually went to one orchard with family and visited a different farm the day with friends from church. It was the perfect weekend to start our A-a-Apple homeschool unit, especially since we used our apples for baking and art projects. As always, we had fun picking the apples and eating them, too!






I am afraid it may be a short season this year; this weekend, in mid-October, we had snow! Thankfully none of it stuck to the ground, but we drove to church yesterday with giant, slushy flakes splashing against our windshield. Occasionally it will snow as early as Thanksgiving here in New England, but these flakes were quite out of place when the trees - and lawns - are still decked in colorful leaves.

My faithful readers have surely noticed that the birth of our third child has ushered a new season into my life, a season in which endless hours of composing blog posts are replaced with loads of pink laundry and snippets of comuter time during nursing sessions. I love my blog because besides providing a record of my thoughts and daily experiences, I see it as a ministry, with the purpose of encouraging other young wives, mothers, and homemakers. Of course, my primary ministry has been and will continue to be to care for my husband and children. I decided at the last minute to start kindergarten work with Donny this fall instead of waiting until next year, so besides regular chores and routines, we are now busily engaged in My Father's World kindergarten curriculum. Hayden joins us for most of the activities, and I am amazed at how much he comprehends even though he is not yet three years old!

This fall, the Lord has also given me some new ministry opportunities. Two mornings a week, our school lessons are also shared with another two year old and her baby sister. I am watching our friends' two girls while their mom works as a teacher, and the mornings of five-children-under-five are busy and demanding. This ministry has been more challenging than I anticipated since the baby, who is now eight months old, cries unless I hold her. I have been wearing her on my back in my Ergo baby carrier sometimes and hope that she will grow to like being at our home with the other children. In the meantime, prayers are welcome!

I have also joined my husband in ministering to the teens at our church. Don has always loved teenagers (and they adore him!), and thanks to some changes in church and work schedules, he had the privilege of becoming a youth leader at our church early this summer. In the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to join him for the youth ministry's small group discussions and service projects. While some of the so-called fun activities are not really "my thing" (I never like playing games, even when I was in youth group myself!), I love the opportunity to build relationships with the teens and encourage them in their spiritual walks. Much like having our own children, being a mentor or youth leader is a great responsibility that forces Don and I to deepen our own relationships with God. It is only through our own prayers, study of Scripture, and acts of worship to God that we can set a godly example and gain the wisdom we need to encourage our young friends.

Seasons are always changing. Given this weekend's strange weather, I have no doubt that these sunny autumn afternoons will soon give way to barren branches and cold wintry mornings. I am not sure how long this current season of my life will last, or where blogging will fit in among the other things on my plate. I do know that before I can sit down and compose lengthy blog posts, I must tend to the other responsibilities God has given me. In fact, a smiley, chubby-cheeked responsibility dressed in pink is waking up now and reminding me that God has truly blessed me with a beautiful season.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Oh Happy Tree


Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy;
they will sing before the LORD, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his truth.
Psalm 96:12,13

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Lydia's First Quarter

Believe it or not, sweet Lydia is already more than three months old. Sometime around two months postpartum, I lost track of her age in weeks. I know it will be just the blink of an eye before I am baking her first birthday cake!

I have to admit, although life is busy with three small children, Lydia is the easiest three month old I have had. In her newborn days, she cried whenever I put her down, but in recent weeks she has been content to stretch and smile while playing in her baby gym or lying on a blanket. For the most part, she only fusses when she is wet, tired, or hungry...or when I (attempt to) clean the grub out of her stinky neck folds. She is certainly the most smiley baby in our family. Though she has been smiling at random times since birth, her first seemingly responsive smile was delivered at five weeks. Since then, the amount of smile time has increased each day, and she now spends long periods enchanting us with her mirthful grins.

Another wonderful improvement has been in her sleep habits. Even in the early weeks, she typically had a stretch of four or five hours of sleep during the night. Then she fell into a pattern of sleeping from 12 to 6, but her wide-awake and often fussy periods in the late evenings left me quite sleepy. Around two months old, she started sleeping for even longer periods, up to eight hours, and now she typically goes to bed around 10pm, may or may not wake up to nurse in the early morning, and gets up for the day around 7:30. After having two boys who wanted to nurse every two hours around the clock for most of the first year, these full nights of sleep have been an unexpected blessing. Her tendency to sleep in makes it easier to get breakfast on the table or get ready for church on Sunday mornings. She sleeps well in her own bed or mine, on her back or (shh!) on her belly, and is quite likely to wake up full of smiles!

She continues to nurse well, to adapt well to different situations, and to patiently tolerate her brothers' affections. We are so blessed to have such a happy, healthy little girl in our family. Here's how the princess has grown in her first quarter!





Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
1 Peter 2:2,3

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Name Those Cheeks



Safe with the Father



After last week's post about Hayden being rushed to the hospital with a cough, he ended up spending another day and night there. They attributed the coughing to viral bronchitis and the wheezing to what they are calling reactive airway disease. According to our understanding, it is similar to asthma, and the virus caused it to flare up. The diagnosis - if it is one - makes sense, since allergies and asthma tend to be related, and Hayden always sounds like a purring cat when he has a cold. On top of this, his x-ray indicated pneumonia. After a two nights and a day of nebulizer treatments and antibiotics, they released Hayden around lunchtime on Thursday with a few medications to take home, including an inhaler for his breathing. In the future, we may have to use the inhaler again if a bad cold or anything else causes coughing fits and wheezing. For now, though, he seems to be happy and healthy - praise God!

God was gracious to provide helpful family members, paid time off for Don, and peace in my heart through those two crazy days. I was able to visit Hayden at the hospital on Wednesday afternoon (while my sister-in-law watched Lydia in the waiting room so as not to expose her to Hayden's germs), but Don was with him the entire time. I was greatly comforted to know that Hayden had Daddy by his side, and I'm sure he was too. I also praise God for Hayden's good spirits; he never complained about the medicines, having to use an inhaler, or even about being hooked up to hospital monitors. The doctors were impressed with his verbal skills and the nurses could not resist his two year old charms. One nurse couldn't believe that he said thank you when she brought him something. Another saw me with a gift bag and said, "You must be looking for someone who had a baby!" I responded, "Actually I'm looking for my son; he's in room 316?" She exclaimed, "Oh, that sweet little Hayden! I'm his nurse today!"

Thank you, Lord, for keeping my sweet, sunggly little Hayden safe and healthy and joyful. Thank you for protecting the rest of us from Hayden's illness, and especially that Lydia has not had so much as a sniffle during these recent weeks of sickness. Thank you for his loving father who cuddled and comforted him during what could have been a scary time, and for the peace I had while staying home with our other children. And thank you for being my loving Heavenly Father who never leaves my side. You give me comfort through the times that could be scary, joy through painful times, and peace through the chaos and craziness of life.



Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.

Psalm 73:23

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Human Frailty

First it was a stomach bug - the kind that many erroneously refer to as "the flu." Donny was the first to wake up feeling "hungry" and requiring a change of sheets shortly thereafter. Several days later, Don and I suddenly had stomachaches. Even Hayden had a few episodes of vomiting, though he managed to escape the fever and fatigue that plagued the rest of us. By the grace of God, Lydia was sweetly content and stayed healthy even when both parents were miserable. And miserable I was, at least during those intense moments of insurmountable nausea. Truly, it is humbling to find oneself utterly incapable of doing anything other than lying limply on the bathroom floor.

The next Friday, I told Don I was seeing spots. Only it wasn't really spots; it was a strange wave in the lower right corner of my vision that would not go away, even when I tried taking my contacts out. And when it finally stopped, my head started to hurt. I always have frequent migraines when I am not pregnant, but this visual disturbance was new - and quite unwelcome. I spent the weekend battling a migraine with rest, cold packs, medicine, and prayer.

Then yesterday, Hayden woke up from his nap in a fit of coughing. Judging by the barking sounds echoing from his room, I was sure he had croup. After a night and day of sleep punctuated by fits of dry coughing, Don took him in to the doctor. Apparently his breathing troubles were more serious than I thought. The doctors advised taking him to the hospital by ambulance. Tonight he is in the pediatric ER, having his breathing monitored to make sure he gets enough oxygen to avoid passing out. I am home, holding down the fort with Donny (who thankfully, seems to be fine) and Lydia, who has been fussy with teething pains all day. Currently she is trying to eat her entire fist, and seems quite angry at her inability to do so.

These three back-to-back interruptions of health have disrupted our schedules and my grandest intentions of getting anything cleaned, organized, caught up, or otherwise accomplished. They have forced me to sit on the couch, rest in my bed, or snuggle some feverish little body while contemplating the frailty of our human existence. Yes, I admit, I am a frail, mortal person. Each migraine or bout of nausea reminds me that I am not the capable supermom I may, in the far recesses of my mind, imagine myself to be. And besides this exercise in humility, illness brings an opportunity to practice unselfishness, especially when it is a loved one who suffers. I saw it displayed by my oldest son who willingly did his brother's chores this morning, and by a sweet daddy who gave up his comfortable bed to spend one night being coughed on by a restless toddler and the next confined in a pediatric hospital room. Amidst the inconvenience and outright pain, there is some good to be found.

I am so thankful to live in a time and place where we have access to medicine, doctors, and even hospitals when we need them. I am thankful for the prescription that helps me recover from migraines, and that unlike my great-great-grandmother, I do not have to fear that my baby will die from a cough or fever. I am thankful for my own and my family's health that we so often take for granted. If nothing else, sickness reminds us of how precious a blessing our health is, and how wonderful it is to be well.

But more importantly, I praise God for the viruses, the migraines, and the painful conditions that force me to become more like Him. I thank Him for the opportunities to grow in love, humility, and selflessness in the face of suffering. And though my fleshly discomforts may be all-encompassing during those moments of agony, I must thank Him for more than restoring health to my physical body. I was a sinner, a broken and diseased soul destined for a place of torments that make migraines and vomiting seem like a tropical vacation. And just as I cannot save my body from death and disease, I alone am incapable of saving my soul from hell.

Yet God, in His infinite mercy, chose me to be one of His own. He lovingly lifted me up from the bathroom floors of this sinful world and breathed new life into me. As a loving Father, He holds me close to His side. There is no supplement, no prescription, no miracle cure that can do for my body what God has done for my soul. He has saved me in order that I might spend eternity with Him in a place where there is no more sorrow or suffering or death.

My body is weak. One microscopic germ can take down my entire family. But there is One who is strong, and He can use these inconveniences to remind me of His power and greatness and love. He heals my brokenness, inside and out. Praise the Lord!


I cried like a swift or thrush,
I moaned like a mourning dove.
My eyes grew weak as I looked to the heavens.
I am troubled; O Lord, come to my aid!"
But what can I say?
He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this.
I will walk humbly all my years
because of this anguish of my soul.
Lord, by such things men live;
and my spirit finds life in them too.
You restored me to health
and let me live.
Surely it was for my benefit
that I suffered such anguish.
In your love you kept me
from the pit of destruction;
you have put all my sins
behind your back.

Isaiah 38:14-17

Friday, September 4, 2009

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Did you ever have to write one of those essays? I think I still have my assignment from the first day of second grade, which includes a crayon portrait of a girl with long brown hair riding a horse, captioned with a few sentences about my trip to Oklahoma. And now that it's "back to school" time, I feel that I owe my blog readers - if there are any of you left - an essay of sorts explaining where I have been all August.

Those of you who have not seen me in real life or on Facebook may have suspected that I went on vacation. But actually, there were no glimpses of palm trees or famous landmarks for our family. We didn't have out-of-town relatives staying with us for weeks, nor did we sign our children up for summer camp, vacation Bible school, and swim lessons at the Y. Yet this summer has been what my teen friends from church would describe as "amazing." Although the season started off with six weeks of rain and recovering from major surgery, the fun of late July and August were enough to cast a warm light over the memory of Summer 2009.

We have been quite spoiled in our opportunities for swimming this summer. Besides a few visits to friends with pools, we have been able to swim in our own backyard. We bought this house with anticipation of enjoying the inground pool when warm weather arrived, but in the spring, it was a mosquito breeding ground full of tree limbs that had fallen during a winter ice storm. Our dreams of creating an outdoor oasis with freshly poured concrete were quickly dashed by five digit price tags, but we invested the money to have the basics: new liner, steps, and the pool opened for the season. We bought a pool cover for the off-season, which we ended up putting on for several weeks just to keep the pine needles out of the 65 degree water. I listened, oh so patiently, to my husband's daily tirades about how determined he was to chop down every bud-, leaf-, and needle-dropping tree in our forested backyard. It rained so much that we didn't even think of using the pool for about a month. Then we had to buy chemicals and a pool vacuum to keep it clean, and run the filter daily. And in spite of the abundant rain, the water level in the pool was dropping. Yes, there was a leak, which cost a mere $100 just to diagnose; the job to repair the cracked pipe was estimated to be several hundred dollars. Thinking we would rather drain the pool than drain our savings, Don and I wondered whether we should bother to fix it at all.

But as it turned out, we were greatly blessed by a good friend who is knowledgeable about pipes. He and Don spent an entire day in early July digging a giant hole next to our pool. After a quick trip to Home Depot, they were able to replace the damaged piece of pipe for a mere $30. By the end of July, Don had the pool clean, the chemicals balanced, and the water level stable. In August, we finally enjoyed swimming in our pool! The boys loved paddling around in their floaties while Lydia looked on - or slept - in her poolside seat. We hosted several birthday parties and other gatherings by the water, which were lots of fun even when the weather was uncooperative or when Don popped the boys' pool toy while diving through it. And even I, the one who has never liked the bother of getting changed and getting wet, snuck out on more than one naptime occasion to quickly cool off in the refreshing water. Though I love fall, it's too bad our swimming season is so short - before August had even ended, it was too cold to swim!

We, especially the children and I, were also were privileged to spend several lazy lake days with my mom. Last fall, she and my step-dad bought a house on a quiet pond just 15 minutes away from us, and their small strip of shore is just right for young waders. The boys spent hours digging and splashing, sliding into the water, going for boat rides, and paddling out to the raft in their floatie tubes. With some help from their uncle and Daddy, they even caught a few fish!



The tranquility of the water and lakeside picnics (not to mention the built-in babysitter grandparents) made it feel like vacation. I enjoyed a canoe ride with my husband as well as swimming (always staying afloat to avoid touching any muck at the bottom!) and floating on the inflatable raft...though after last time, I will be hesitant to get in the water again. I thought the bugs, frogs, and small rodents in our pool were bad enough, but they pale in comparison to leeches and a watersnake! In this picture, taken just prior to the vile creature's beheading, my heroic husband has him pinned with a rake.



Oblivious to the wildlife encounters, Lydia enjoyed the fresh air and family snuggles, whether she was looking "berry sweet," or modeling vintage (okay, hand-me-downs from mom) fashions.





I have more to share, but it will have to wait for another day. Meanwhile, I want to post this one before another month goes by!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Generations

This week: My mom, me, 6 week old Lydia, and my grandmother



A quarter century ago: My great-grandmother, grandmother, mom, and one week old me



For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Psalm 100:5

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Fiesta for Family and Friends

I have been blogging very little while I enjoy my babymoon with sweet Lydia, who is now six weeks old. Yet somewhere between nursing, changing diapers, and completing chores with one hand (the other hand holding baby, of course), I managed to plan a little party for my dear husband's birthday. Don thought we were going to my mom's house for his birthday dinner, but instead, he came home from work to find my parents, his family, and a few friends waiting in our living room. Surprise!

For any readers who may be planning a similar social gathering, I would like to offer a few helpful hints. First, if your husband and all of his relatives love tacos, a taco buffet with salsa music in the background will make for a great party. A piñata is an excellent complement to the Mexican theme, but be sure that the bat you use to break it is sturdy, rather than something like, say, a piece of plastic tubing that is likely to shatter when smashed into a solid object. And if you have the space and the boldness to hang your piñata indoors, be sure to leave plenty of open space around it, especially if the Daddies will be given a turn to smash the overstuffed item open. You may wish to stuff your piñata with Tootsie Rolls and caramels, but unless you enjoy finding crumb-size candy under your table, couch, and toes, avoid tiny packages of Nerds, Sweet Tarts, and other small treats that may burst out of the packages. If you fail to follow these hints, you may end up with quite a mess, not unlike the one I had the joy of cleaning after the festivities were ended.

Besides the yummy food (the make-your-own strawberry shortcake buffet was also a success!) and the excitement of the piñata smashing, we enjoyed the time visiting with family and friends. Remember the picture of my two pregnant friends and me at our Superbowl party? Almost six months later, we took the "after" picture with our three baby girls! Here is Lydia (6 weeks) with her friends Claire (4 months) and Riley (5 1/2 months):



It was a fun evening, and I was thankful to have many helping hands to chop vegetables, cook tortillas, blow up balloons, arrange chairs, and hold my sweet Lydia. She is a happy baby if (and only if) she is held and snuggled, so it is always a little easier to get things done if one of her many admirers is available to hold her. I may not be able to post much right now, but I trust that you know what is keeping my hands occupied. If you start to wonder how I am spending these summer days, just check the picture above...and imagine me doing something similar while making dinner, reading to toddlers, and sweeping candy out from under the couch.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Life Is Good




Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Psalm 23:6

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

An Inconvenient Life

...And live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. - Ephesians 5:2

Americans love convenience. The easiest road is the best one, we reason. Drive-through windows, fast food, remote controls, cruise control, and diet pills (because who actually wants to exercise to lose weight?) are just a sampling of the many products of our ease-loving society. Do you want to know something about anything? No need to bother with the old-fashioned strategies of 1)Looking it up in an encyclopedia at the library or 2) Calling your parents to ask. Simply "Google" it and learn everything you need to know on Wikipedia. And if by some chance you are not near a computer or other device with internet capabilities, a new service promises to send the answer to any question to your cell phone via text message, for only $.99 an answer. A waste of money? Maybe. But like with ATM and pizza delivery fees, people are willing to pay for convenience.

Just this week, I experienced an easier-than-usual outing that made me consider the convenience factor in motherhood. While the boys spent a day with their grandparents, I took advantage of the relative freedom, and ran errands with no one but my three week old Lydia. It was so much easier to get out of the house with only one little person to bundle, buckle, pack for, and keep fed and happy during the outing - at least when compared to outings with two or three (or more) children. We even left the house at an unusual hour - the boys' lunch and nap time - just because we could; Lydia's naptime is anytime, and I made sure to feed her just before heading out the door. Of course, I still had to keep her need for milk and clean diapers in mind as she and I ventured in and out of the pharmacy and library. In the grocery store, I kept the cart moving through the aisles to prevent any unhappy awakenings. And as I precariously balanced groceries for four other people around Lydia's infant seat, I could not help but think how easy shopping must be for people who have no children to worry about.

In fact, there are many aspects of life that would be easier without the inconvenient cares of a family. When I run out of eggs or my nightly ice cream, it would be nice to hop in the car without a second thought, instead of packing a bag and wrestling three little people into carseats and carriages for a few measly groceries (and in actuality, I am much more likely to live without the missing item than to attempt the latter scenario). It would be easier to keep the floors clean (and oh, how I love clean floors!) if there were no muddy-shoed guests, toilet training accidents, or sticky bananas and soggy Cheerios dropped at mealtime. And having a newborn can be particularly inconvenient, especially if she is the sort to cry whenever one attempts to put her down. My ability to do things that other people take for granted - like sleep, shower, or make and eat dinner - is often squelched by my lack of free hands while I cradle a tiny baby. I cannot go on a cruise (babies must be at least six months old), or plan an impromptu movie date without finding a babysitter, or dash out the door with the careless freedom of the single world. There is nothing convenient about cleaning up spills or being woken up at 3am or comforting a sick child or cleaning up messes from a sick child at 3am.

But honestly, would I trade my family for the sake of convenience? Never. What would be the point in concocting a delicious meal if there were no loved ones to enjoy it (or at least eat the minimum number of required bites)? If I dropped my children off at daycare to get some "me time" or make errands easier, I would miss out on the joys of teaching, playing with, and caring for them. I don't mind exchanging the convenience of free hands and free time for the sweetness of snuggling my precious baby. And though families are messy and time-consuming, I would much rather be loved in an imperfect home than lonely in a spotless one. It might be nice to have a job that ends at 5:00 with no late-night calls, but even with its crazy hours, I love the job that God has given me.

Besides, God has not called us to an easy life. I cannot find a single Biblical reference commanding us to bear or raise children - or do anything, for that matter - according to what is convenient. Instead, He calls us to live a life of love and sacrifice. Some sacrifices are grand and admirable, but much more often (and especially for mothers), they are small and unseen, like running errands with three children in tow - or staying home when it would be nice to get out. If I do them with joy, the mountains of dirty diapers, dishes, and laundry I tackle are not a burden, but a fragrant offering to God. I may not be able to complete all of my projects, or have time to unwind at the end of the day, or go to the bathroom without children banging on the door, but instead of becoming resentful, I can choose to see these little sacrifices as my offering to my family, and to God.

I am typing this with a baby asleep on my lap. It might be easier, and less strain on my back, to blog without a sleepy spectator between me and the laptop screen. But I cannot imagine trading these sweet little sighs and fluttering eyelids for all the ergonomic chairs in the world. And tonight, when the house is in a state of disarray and I am needing a shower and my dinner is cold because Princess Lydia likes to have all of Mumma's attention in the evenings, may I praise God for every inconvenience that gives me opportunity to sacrifice. Just as Christ gave himself for us, I pray that I will be willing to give myself for my husband and children.

Dear friends, spend your money on pizza delivery and text messages if you choose, but let us spend our lives in loving sacrifice for others.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sister and Brothers



"Say of your brothers, 'My people,'
and of your sisters, 'My loved one.' "
Hosea 2:1

Monday, June 29, 2009

Notes to a Newborn

Dear Lydia Faith,

It was just two and a half weeks ago that you made your grand entrance into the world. Despite the drama of labor and your surgical birth, your life outside the womb has been happy and healthy so far. Your early scowl quickly gave way to a variety of expressions, including sweet smiles and the rooting "popeye" face. You are a great nurser; in the hospital, the lactation consultant noted that you have a very powerful suck, and at your two week checkup, you had already gained a pound and grown an inch! While lying down, you wiggle and roll from side to stomach. In typical newborn fashion, you sleep a lot, sometimes in a deep sleep, and sometimes in a light, twitchy sleep that exists only as long as some warm arms are holding you. You can be quite vocal if your needs are not attended to immediately, but so long as you are fed, burped, changed, and held, you are content.

You are the perfect addition to our little family. Your two older brothers adore you; Donny lets you suck his knuckle, Hayden gives you hugs and kisses, and they both like to visit with you and sing songs to you. I am more in love with your Daddy than ever to see him hold you and know that God has used him and me to create these beautiful children. Everyone is happy to have a girl in the family, and even people we don't know are sending little dresses for you to wear and pink fuzzy blankets to keep you warm. It is fun to dress you in bubblegum pink baby gowns and cloth diapers, adding a softly feminine touch to your infantile innocence. You are the princess, not the spoiled brat princess, but one who is born to royalty and great expectations. We do not yet know what your personality will be like, but we expect you to conduct yourself as a proper little lady. And like the Lydia of the Bible, we pray that the Lord would open your heart to the gospel, that you might become a woman of faith and a worshiper of God.

For now, you are everything a newborn should be: small, sweet, sleepy, soft-skinned, and wonderfully precious. I delight in every part of your little body, from the scent of your softly fuzzy head to your tiny fingers and toes, your penetrating dark blue eyes, your perfect button nose, the nursing callous on your upper lip, your funny folded legs and feet, and even your cheesy-smelling neck folds. I keep you near me by holding you with one arm when we are busy at home, wearing you in a carrier when we are out, and cuddling you close when it is time to sleep. I could snuggle with you and watch your face for hours on end, because I know these days are all too fleeting, and I want to soak up every moment of your babyhood.

You will be an infant for such a short time, and a newborn for even less than that. All too soon you will be a toddler, a girl, and someday, a woman. When that day comes, I hope that you will be as blessed as I am, to hold your baby in your arms and know that he or she is a perfect, precious gift from a perfect, holy God. I pray that you will welcome your own children as blessings, just as we have joyfully welcomed you into our family and our lives.

Sweet Lyddie Bitty, I am so thankful for the privilege of being your mother. You are a precious gift from God!



Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you
even at my mother's breast.
From birth I was cast upon you;
from my mother's womb you have been my God.

Psalm 22:9-10

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancakes

When a mother has a new baby, friends and relatives often bring meals so that the mother does not have to worry about cooking. In our family, this normal act of kindness becomes a bit more complicated. Between Hayden's allergies, Donny's self-determined vegetarianism, and the entire family's pickiness, it is difficult even for me to make a dinner we can all eat. And what sensible person would volunteer to concoct a meal that contains no milk, eggs, nuts, soy, meat, MSG, trans fats, unusual vegetables, or mysterious textures?

So recently, when a well-meaning aquaintance from church asked if we needed meals, my first instinct was to say no and spare myself the trouble of explaining our dietary restrictions. My mom suggested that maybe someone could bring us a fruit basket instead, since we love fruit, and no one is allergic to it. It turned out to be a great idea! Yesterday a generous church friend arrived with a bag filled with fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, watermelon, and bananas - what a blessing! The fruit provides an easy snack and is full of nutrients to benefit my postpartum body and growing boys. If any of my readers are thinking of bringing something to a new mother, instead of the stereotypical casserole, perhaps she would be blessed by a basket of fresh fruit instead!

I am especially enjoying the abundance of berries that I would not normally buy for myself. Donny and Hayden love blueberries, but Don and I do not care for them, and most berries are so expensive that I usually hurry past them while filling my shopping cart with apples and bananas. With the abundance of berries in our house this week, though, I decided to search for a nutritious blueberry recipe to make use of some of the antioxidant-laden fruits.

I found some tempting muffin and pancake recipes, and settled on pancakes due to popular demand. The boys have been asking me to make pancakes for weeks, but it always seems like such a big project that I usually answer, "Not today." But this morning I surprised them by adapting a recipe for Hayden's allergies and our preferences, and while Lydia was napping, the boys and I mixed up these yummy blueberry pancakes!

Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancakes


- 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar or other sweetener
- 1 mashed yellow banana (or 2 eggs)
- 2 1/4 cups (rice) milk
- 1 cup fresh blueberries

- Sift dry ingredients.
Add wet ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Fold in blueberries.
Pour 1/4 cup batter onto pan or griddle, and cook like pancakes. :)
Yields approximately 20 pancakes. The boys and I each ate four, so the recipe makes about 5 servings in our house.

Even though I am not normally a blueberry fan, I enjoyed these pancakes, and hope you do too!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Long Journey of Lydia Faith: A Birth Story



Today is Wednesday, just six days after the birth of my third child and first daughter, Lydia Faith. As part of Wednesday's Walk Down Memory Lane hosted by Lynnette Kraft, I would like to share the long story of her journey into the world.

With my first and second pregnancies, I wrote out a birth plan well in advance to communicate my desires surrounding childbirth to my doctors, midwife, and nurses. This time, I finally got around to composing my birth plan the night before my 39 week appointment. As with my previous deliveries, I hoped for a natural birth with minimal interventions. I planned a waterbirth in the same hospital room where Donny and Hayden were born. Though I knew there was a good chance this little girl would be tangled in her umbilical cord like her brothers were, I hoped that maybe I would actually be able to hold this baby immediately after her birth.

My birth plan also included a list of things I wished to avoid: medication, continuous fetal monitoring, pitocin or other medical induction/augmentation of labor, episiotomy or excessive tearing, cesarean delivery, and passing out after delivery (snce I passed out twice after Hayden's birth and gave my dear husband quite a scare). I have often said that I am not afraid of the pain of natural labor - since I know my body is just doing what God intended it to do, and I think it is amazing to experience the sensations of childbirth - but I am afraid of medical interventions. I hate the side effects of drugs, am concerned that one intervention will lead to another, and the idea of being numb for such an exciting moment is completely unappealing. Despite the nervousness that inevitably surrounds impending labor, I looked forward to once again bringing a tiny little person into the world.

On the night of Tuesday June 9, just after finishing my Almost Ready post, I had trouble sleeping. After lying awake for much of the night, I woke up in the morning with contractions - contractions that indicated real labor. Though I did not have any other signs of labor, the radiating pains in my lower back every five minutes were enough for me to ask Don to stay home from work. I packed the boys' overnight bags, and Don dropped them off at his sister's house so that I could labor at home in peace. I planned to wait until the contractions were very intense and close together before heading to the hospital in order to enjoy the comforts of home and avoid any unnecessary hospital interventions.

By noon I had showered, tidied up the house, packed the last few things for the hospital, and done a load of laundry. The contractions continued steadily, but lacked the intensity I was waiting for. After lunch, I took a short nap, figuring I might as well rest while I could. Don and I went for a walk and timed my contractions, which were about three minutes apart. I could still walk through them, but by the end of our excursion, it was more comfortable to stop during each contraction. They lessened a bit when we returned home, leaving me wondering how long this early labor would continue.

In the late afternoon, I decided to check in with the doctor just to see what was happening with my body. I called to make an appointment with my midwife, Linda, and brought our bags along in case I was far enough to stay at the hospital. Judging by the frequency and intensity of my contractions, I expected to be about 4cm dilated. As we drove to Linda's office, though, the contractions slowed down. When Linda came in to check me, she concluded that I had dilated...all of one centimeter. Knowing this, and remembering how long I was in labor with Hayden, I had a sinking feeling that this could be another long labor stretching over several days. Though I hoped we would be returning later that night to check in to the hospital, only God knew when Lydia would actually be born.

I had no desire to go home and cook dinner while in labor, so Don and I went to the nearby Olive Garden, and ate soup and breadsticks while I quietly braced through contractions every five minutes. Back at home, I took a bath and tried to rest, getting a few hours' sleep before contractions woke me up at 3:30am. These were stronger, and seemed to be coming on top of each other, growing in intensity. After a half hour or so I concluded it was time to wake Don up and make the 30 minute drive again. We checked into labor and delivery at the hospital around 5am.

After getting settled in the familiar waterbirthing room, it was time to be checked out. Imagine my surprise to find that despite the intense contractions I was having at home, I had dilated to only 2 or 3 centimeters. I was not even considered to be in active labor yet! "Should I just go home then?" I asked. But Linda and the nurses encouraged me to wait a while and see if anything happened. Don and I walked around the maternity ward, and at my next check, I had progressed to 4cm dilation, so Linda decided to officially admit me to the hospital. She noted that the baby's head was not all the way down, and suggested that I try resting on my side to encourage her to move into the correct position.

Around 7am, the obstetrician Linda works under, Dr. M, came in to check on me. She felt the baby's head, estimated that I was at 5 or 6cm, and wanted to break my water to get things moving. Although I wanted to let labor progress naturally without intervening, the doctor was convinced that the baby would be born in a few hours after breaking the water. With a bit of reluctance, but a desire to get things moving, I agreed. Soon I was leaking fluid, waiting for the contractions to pick up speed and intensity. After all, breaking the bag of waters makes labor move quickly. At least in most cases. In mine, it seemed to make no difference at all.

The morning passed as I walked, rested, and bounced on the birthing ball. I knew it was still too early to get into the birthing tub, since the relaxing water can actually stall a slow labor. I walked as much as I could to keep things moving, but the varicose veins in my legs soon left me sore and longing to sit down. The best part of labor occurred when my husband wondered if he could blow up a non-latex examination glove like a balloon - and he did. We passed time batting the fingered balloon back and forth in an impromptu game I dubbed "High Five," until we finally lost our toy behind the bed.

All of our friends and relatives were waiting for the news that Lydia was here, but we didn't seem to be getting any closer, despite the continued contractions. At noon I thought about calling my mom just to check in, but decided to wait, lest she think the ringing phone was a birth announcement. My self-employed father-in-law insisted on doing his work from the hospital waiting room because he was so exciting about his granddaughter's birth. He kindly offered to go out and get me some soup, and even after he got delayed in a traffic jam, I had plenty of time to enjoy my lunch. My nurse, who started her shift shortly after we arrived, checked me and said I was still dilated 6cm, but she could stretch me to 7. When her shift ended, the next nurse thought I was at 7, but she could stretch me to 8. It appeared that progress was being made - very slow progress, but progress nonetheless.

At one point, I asked for my Bible and opened randomly to Psalm 103. I love that I can always find comfort in the Psalms. I was reminded to praise the Lord, that He satisfies our desires with good things, that He has compassion on His children, and that He knows how we are formed. The afternoon wore on, but I knew that God had a plan for this birth, and that I simply needed to wait on Him.

When the second nurse's shift started, the hospital policy was for me to spend a short time on the electronic fetal monitor, just as I had when we first came in. The nurse noticed a pattern of the fetal heartrate dropping during contractions. Although baby's heartrate always returned to normal, the significance of the drop was cause enough to keep me on the monitor - one of the interventions I had wished to avoid. With the use of telemetry, I was able to walk around the room, but I could feel the pressure mounting to hurry up and have this baby. Dr. M arrived back on the scene and checked my cervix. In her estimation, I was still at 6cm - no change from the morning. Her pronouncement: "You need pitocin, my friend."

I did not want pitocin. I wanted this baby to come out, on her own, in her own time. My sweet husband was prepared to advocate for me, knowing that I wanted to avoid interventions, but the doctor was not easily persuaded. After some discussion, Dr. M finally agreed to let me try natural methods for an hour; if that did not get things moving, we would start pitocin at 5:00.

I paced tearfully in my room, weighing the options. Would I protest the pitocin? I did not want a medically managed birth, yet I seemed to be on the road towards that very thing. The options of running out of the hospital or screaming a refusal of the synthetic hormone, though tempting, obviously would not help the situation, and would also cause stress for everyone. Don encouraged me to talk through my thoughts and emotions, but it was hard to put them into words. I did not like the way Dr. M had spoken to me; she seemed more concerned about getting the birth over with than about how I felt. The nurse was much more sympathetic, but admitted that ultimately she had to follow the doctor's orders.

More than anything, I was deeply regretting that we had come to the hospital so soon. Hadn't my plan been to labor at home for as long as possible in order to avoid this very situation? Why had I experienced those intense contractions that pushed me out the door at 4am, but now at 4pm the doctor claimed nothing was happening? One of the verses I had printed out for encouragement, Isaiah 66:9, ran through my mind: "Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?" says the LORD. "Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?" says your God. I trusted that God would bring this baby forth in His time. But how long would the Lord - and the doctors - allow this labor to continue before bringing me to the moment of birth? Would He grant me the delivery in time to avoid unnatural interventions?

Though Dr. M. was technically on call that day, Linda had been keeping tabs on me and had left instructions to call her when things picked up and I was ready to get into the birthing tub. While I was pacing the room, Linda called at Dr. M's request to explain things in her more gentle way. Pitocin, she said, is just a synthetic version of oxytocin, the hormone my body was already producing. She felt confident that I would only need a small amount, and that with ten to twelve good solid contractions, the baby would be on her way out. She also offered to stay with me until the baby was born, which was a much more comforting prospect than having the pushier Dr. M. attend my delivery. In addition, the nurse assured me that I could be in the tub even with the IV and fetal monitors required when administering pitocin. By the end of our conversation, I agreed to start a small dose if Linda would be there, so she said she would finish with her patients at the office and then join me at the hospital.

I was shaking - a sign of transition for some, but by the nurse's estimate, I was still less than 8cm. Don and the nurse started filling the deep birthing tub, and then it was time to insert my IV for the pitocin. The nurse tried to insert it in my left arm, but the vein kept rolling away, and even a second nurse could not get it to work. After a few painful jabs, they inserted it in my right wrist instead. Don assured me I was doing the right thing, and soon the tub was filled with hot water, ready for us.

As usual, Don put on his bathing suit and climbed into the tub with me. I am surprised to learn that most fathers do not get in the tub; for me, having my husband there to put counter pressure on my back is what makes contractions bearable. It was a bit awkward to get settled, with the IV hanging from one arm, the fetal monitor around my abdomen (continuous monitoring is required while pitocin is being administered), and frequent blood pressure checks (another requirement for pitocin). I managed to find a position where Don could push on my back during contractions, and my body remembered the familiar feeling of laboring in the water. Despite the intensity of the contractions, I could tell I was not close to the end yet - as I said to Don and Linda, I know that when I feel like I cannot possibly endure any more, that means that it is almost time to push. I had not yet reached that point, which told me I was not yet in transition. In addition, I found it strange that my stomach kept growling. I had read that once in active labor, most women lose their appetite. But as Don pointed out, my body was not following the books.

Between contractions, when I had to stop to close my eyes and breathe, I chatted with Don and with Linda, who was seated beside the tub, just as she had been for Donny and Hayden's births. Don commented that he and I should teach childbirth classes, since now we had done everything. I silently hoped that we would not actually experience everything in the realm of childbirth possibilities...after all, I still had never used pain medications or had a cesarean birth, and I was happy to keep it that way.

The warm tub water was soothing and freeing, but the monitors kept sliding around, forcing me to basically stay in one position so that my contractions and baby's heartbeat would register on the machine. Finally the nurse was having trouble finding the baby's heartbeat in any position, a problem that was reminiscent of my labor with Donny, but this time I didn't have a baby crowning. I did not mind getting out of the tub; I figured that I could always get back in later when it was time to push. Once I had dried off and was wrapped in warm blankets, Linda checked me. I was still at 6cm.

And according to Linda, instead of thinning like it normally does during labor, my cervix felt thicker. Baby's head was not pressing against it as it should have been, and without the pressure from baby, the cervix was not going to dilate enough to let baby through. A 10cm opening is required for birth, but for whatever reason, my body seemed to be stuck at 6. Linda thought perhaps the umbilical cord had tangled in such a way as to prevent baby from descending any farther. Knowing our children's history of umbilical cord entanglement, Don and I agreed that could be possible. I laughed when my gymnast husband suggested, "She's practicing the aerial silks with the umbilical cord." Meanwhile, the baby's heartrate continued to drop during each contraction. We decided to give it one more hour, but in the meantime, I breathed through each contraction as we all discussed and prepared me for the likely possibility of a C-section.

I had been in labor for two days, and there was no end in sight. With my membranes ruptured, there was an increased risk of infection as time wore on. I was stuck on the bed, hooked up to monitors and IVs, because it was the only way to make sure baby was safe. There was a good chance that the stress of continued labor could cause fetal distress. As much as I had never wanted to have a C-section, I was ready. The week when she was in breech position had given me a chance to, in some way, mentally prepare for this possibility. And now I wanted to be done with the painful contractions that were getting me nowhere. Don and I were sick of labor; we were ready to hold our baby girl. And we wanted to make sure she was safe. So I agreed to the cesarean, knowing that it would be the best - and possibly the only - solution for baby and me.

Even more than the thought of being cut open, the idea of an epidural always scared me - and of course, that was the anesthesia of choice for this operation. Thankfully, the anesthesiologist was friendly and reassuring. Sitting up to have the epidural inserted (and still contracting every few miutes) was the most difficult part for me, but it was not long before my legs felt warm and fuzzy. The anesthesiologist administered some anti-nausea medication, gave Don his scrubs, and by the time I was wheeled into the operating room, I was completely relaxed. When someone asked me how I felt, I could only reply, "Sleepy." In fact, when we got to the OR and all the people dressed in blue were introducing themselves and bustling about, I asked, "Can I go to sleep?"

The operation itself was painless. Dr. M performed the surgery, while another OB, Linda and several nurses assisted. Don stayed by my side, peeking over the curtain to watch his wife being cut open and his daughter lifted out of the womb. Within a few minutes, a newborn cry told us that Lydia was here. Finally. The little girl who was tangled in her cord and "sunny side up" was born at 9:36pm, right on her due date - June 11, 2009.



Don took pictures of our baby girl while the doctors sewed me up and congratulated us. Soon we were recovering back in the waterbirthing room, the room where both of our boys were born. I was still sleepy, but I stayed awake long enough to call my parents with the news and to nurse my sweet newborn. She latched on right away, and I rejoiced that finally, something was going right!

We had planned to name her Lydia Joy, using Grace as the middle name for our (Lord willing) second girl, and possibly others like Hope and Faith in the future. Yet in the hours and day following her birth, I was unsure. I still loved the name Joy and thought it sounded pretty with Lydia, but another name kept coming to mind: Faith. Honestly, the end result was the only part of this process that really involved joy. And even then, in the first few moments of life, Lydia was already scowling at the nurses - not exactly the perfect picture of Joy!

On the other hand, it was faith that brought us through this trial: Faith in a loving Father, faith that Lydia would be born in His perfect time, and in His way (which in this case, certainly was neither my time nor my way!). Afterwards, Linda told me that when they cut me open, my uterus was so thin that they could almost see through it. Had I continued to labor for many more hours, it could have ruptured, causing a life-threatening emergency for Lydia and me. No one had suspected this problem, nor would they have known about it if a C-section had not been performed, but God is His wisdom worked everything out for good. Though the method of birth was not what I would have chosen, it is clear that God's hand was in it - perhaps even holding Lydia back from the birth canal in order to spare our lives.

I thought I needed to trust God to persevere through the pain and intensity and unknowns of labor. And armed with a printed sheet of Bible verses, I was ready to do so. I never expected that He would test my faith in other ways; instead of just seeing how patiently and long I could endure regular contractions, He forced me to face my fears of medical interventions. Instead of trusting my body, and knowing that I wouldn't trust doctors, I had to place my hope in Him alone. And in the end, the Author of Life, the One who forms us in the womb, carried me through, and placed Lydia Faith safe in my arms.

Shortly before Lydia's birth, I read the birth story of Mrs. Parunak at Pursuing Titus 2, a similarly long and intense labor with a different ending. In her story, she mentioned 1 Peter 1:7, and it was snippets of this same verse that came to my mind in connection with Lydia's birth:

These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Despite my best laid plans, in the end, I got most of the things on my "wish to avoid" list. (I obviously avoided tearing, since I never got to the pushing stage, though I certainly was cut open! And I did not pass out after delivery, probably because it was a full day before I felt well enough to even attempt standing.) Maybe it was not fire, but this labor was certainly an exercise in faith. I am so thankful that the Lord protected both of us and blessed Don and me with a beautiful, healthy daughter. May the praise, glory, and honor be forever His!

Friday, June 12, 2009

She's Here!

After a long and unpredictable labor, Lydia Faith was born on Thursday June 11, 2009 - right on her due date! She was 6 lbs. 15 oz. and 19 1/2" long. I'll share the lengthy birth story when I get a chance. For now, we are resting and recovering at the hospital and all are doing well, praise God!



From birth I have relied on you;
you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
I will ever praise you.

Psalm 71:6


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Almost Ready

In case you were wondering, I don't have a new baby yet.

Instead, I have been busy getting ready for the new addition, keeping up with chores, and resting in preparation for the days to come. My due date is now two days away, but other than some Braxton-Hicks contractions in the evenings the past two weeks, I have not experienced any indications that labor is near. I wonder if this may be my first "late" baby, since Donny was born right on his due date and Hayden the day before. At the same time, I am not in a rush. I know my life is about to become much more busy and challenging, so I am enjoying this time with just my two boys - and my full nights of sleep.

Last weekend, I finally packed my hospital bags and overnight bags for the boys, completing one of the final steps of necessary preparation. I checked it off on the paper that has been hanging on my fridge since early spring, an ambitious list of projects that I hoped to tackle before baby's arrival. It is nice to feel a sense of accomplishment when looking over the items I have been able to complete, including:

- make doctor and dentist appointments for the boys and transfer the appropriate medical records
- organize hall and office closets
- dust window sills and corners (this was my limited attempt at spring cleaning)
- vacuum behind and under things (I vacuum exposed areas regularly, but once in a while it is a good idea to make sure nothing is growing behind the couch)
- rake front yard
- start seedlings for garden
- prepare garden area
- start compost pile
- get pool repaired and opened
- buy (and borrow!) maternity clothes
- research and purchase newborn diapers
- organize boys' clothes; put away winter and get out summer clothes
- write out birth plan (I finally did this just in time for my 39 week appointment!)
- sort, organize, and wash baby clothes
- get baby things out of attic; set up Pack N Play bassinet
- acquire vehicle to fit three car seats
- read Honey for a Child's Heart and The Duggars: 20 and Counting
- go to the zoo

I still have plenty of projects to keep me busy if I have the time: filing papers, sewing, freezing meals to eat after baby is born, organizing digital photos, working on my little garden. There will always be projects to do, but for now, I am feeling content. For the most part, we are ready for this little girl to arrive anytime in the next couple weeks. And then I will have many more things to add to my daily list...like snuggling a sweet newborn dressed in freshly washed pink clothes.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Photos by Preschoolers

The boys were kind enough to let Don and I sleep in last Saturday. In fact, it was surprising to spend an extra hour in bed without an invasion of rowdy would-be snugglers or the sound of toy disputes echoing down the hall.

When I found my camera in the office later that day, I discovered the cause of their silence: they used the forbidden gadget to take no less than 40 digital photos!



And of course, every one was taken on the scenery setting with a slow shutter speed, so not a single picture is in focus. :)








But when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
When I was a child, I talked like a child,
I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror;
then we shall see face to face.
Now I know in part;
then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

1 Corinthians 13:10-12