Culture, Faith, Family

What Are You Known For?

A few nights ago, as I tucked my almost 7 year old daughter into bed, she engaged her usual stall tactic as I headed to her bedroom door.  She has a knack for asking deep questions at bedtime, although come to think of it, I’m not sure it’s as much a stall tactic as just her natural inclination.  Anyway, she stops me in my tracks with the question “Mom, what are you known for?”

Now, my sweet girl did not know that this is just the question I’ve been struggling with again lately.  You see, I really hate to admit it because I KNOW, comparisons are bad and unnecessary and a sucking black vortex into discontent, but I do fall into the comparison trap much more than I would like.  I find that social media can be a snare for me when I find myself in that place, especially Ye Olde Facebook.  I love to read blogs, and typically the ones I read are by women that encourage me in my faith in Christ and inspire me to step out on faith and change my perspective in a variety of ways. Yet those same women that encourage me on one blog earlier in the week can often be the same women I compare myself to later in the week.  A series of photos or status updates by people on Facebook that I am friends/acquaintances with can send me into a vulnerable flurry of doubts if I’m already feeling down, discouraged, frustrated, or just having an “off” day.

So this leads back to the question “What are you known for?”  I had been struggling because I was buying the lie our culture tells, both purposefully and accidentally at times, that being a mom isn’t enough.  That I need to be a mom AND have a career, that I need to be a mom AND an athlete, that I need to be a mom AND be recognized for whatever else pops into my head at the moment.  And ironically, when I’m not stressed or discouraged (and even sometimes when I am), I’m one of the first people to remind other women that being a mom is a calling.  For real- A CALLING.  I think we as moms often find ourselves downplaying the importance of what we do because we share the motherhood status with so many other women.  At least, I’ve found myself in that place.  There is truth that it is hard to feel something is special when it is common. But you know?  While motherhood may be a common, everyday role, it is also exciting, extraordinary, and yes, special.  Because not one of us, not one, parents exactly the same way, with exactly the same kids, in exactly the same circumstances.  God absolutely positively chose me to be the mother to my children, fitting us together to complete part of His puzzle.  Another mom would not fit in the exact way needed.  And if you are a mom reading this, He chose you in the same way.  Ironically, I feel entirely fulfilled in being a stay-at-home-mom who happens to also homeschool my children.  At least, I feel fulfilled until I let myself buy into that terrible lie that I shouldn’t be, that I should want more.

When my daughter asked the question, the first thing that popped into my head and out of my mouth was “I suppose I’m known for being your mom.”  She asked “What else?”, so I added that I enjoy writing and since I had something I had written published, that that could qualify (not that many beyond those close to me know that, but anyway).  But as I turned to head out of her room, I realized I was answering the question wrong.  I’m not going to lie and say I don’t want to be known for something sometimes.  Yet ultimately, I want to be known as a follower of Jesus.  I want HIM to be known.  And I want whatever gifts He has given me to glorify Him, not just serve as a well-liked status update or a chance to bask in a brief moment of glory.  And I took a minute more to tell her that.  Because if she can get that idea down now, on the cusp of turning 7, then her focus will be less on herself and more on Him- something her mama is working on.


What, am I your servant or something?

Last Sunday I followed my almost 18-month-old around with a plastic bright blue colored bowl of fruit, hoping to get in a few more bites of food since he was too busy to sit still.  As I shadowed him around my parents kitchen this evening while we were there for dinner, feeding him small bites of pear by the forkful, I jokingly said aloud to him (and my sister-in-law in the kitchen with me), “it’s like I’m a servant or something”.  

And you know, last night I jumped out of bed at 12:45am as I heard his cry through our cracked bedroom door, responding to his whim to be held and fed.  Earlier I changed his diaper, wiping his bottom and disposing of that which was less than pleasant smelling.  I carry him, I wipe his runny nose, I bathe him.  Here, let me feed you more grapes as you recline on your floor pillow, son.  

A servant is defined as “a person who performs duties for others, especially a person employed in a house on domestic duties or as a personal attendant.”  Thank you Google.  So despite my flippant comment, I clearly qualify.  And I’m okay with that.  Why?  Not just because I’m a mom- in reading the above definition, all moms qualify for the title “servant” (yes, others do too, of course, but I’m speaking about what I know here).  But isn’t servant a derogatory term?  Yes, throughout history it has often been equated with someone of a lower station.  And you know?  That doesn’t really bother me either.

Because it occurred to me in a brief flash of awareness (that I attribute to getting more than just a couple of hours of sleep last night), that I am blessed to be called a servant.  I’m blessed to even be considered of lower station.  Because Jesus was.  And I want to be like him.  

In Matthew 25, Jesus is describing the final judgment- what it will be like when He returns.  He states in verses 24-40, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

So Jesus is describing service to others.  He goes on to state that in caring for others- the least of these- we are caring for HIm.  

Then in Luke 9 the disciples are arguing amongst themselves about who is the greatest.  Bless those imperfect men- they are such an encouragement in their imperfection (and I love how all their sin and mistakes makes Christ shine that much brighter- reminds me that He uses mine for His glory too!).  Anyway…as they are arguing, it says in verses 47-48 that “…Jesus took a child and put him by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”  So again Jesus reiterates serving “the least of these”, and in this example the least of these is exemplified by a child.  

I write this to remind myself, and encourage other mothers especially, to look upon the seemingly mundane tasks of wiping noses, changing of diapers, and the spoon-feeding of our babies as, yes, SERVING.  We are servants.  But we aren’t only serving our children.  We are serving the Lord.  Our kids are “the least of these”.  And aside from getting to be their mommies, they allow us to serve The Greatest of All.  


Faith, Family

Jude’s Birth Story: A Testimony of Praise. Part 2.

For the first part of Jude’s story, click here.

I left off in Part 1 with how my discouragement was starting to grow.  I mentioned that I had to fight the thoughts that were making their way into my mind, thoughts like “I can’t do this”, “This is never going to end”, and “If I transferred to the hospital now, I could have a c-section and just be done.”  I knew that I was just weary and that I needed to take those thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), but I was honestly struggling.  I am guessing it was around 9:15am or so at this point.  I was praying off and on and knew that others were praying for me.  It was at this point that Will posted on Facebook that I was getting tired and needed prayer. My mom had also sent out a request for prayer via email and the staff of the Yahweh Center had stopped during praise and worship at the weekly staff meeting to pray for us.  Prayer was going to be critical in the next hour or so.

God knew I needed encouragement, and He used my midwife at that moment to give it to me.  She looked at me and quoted the first half of Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things…”  and I finished it with …through Him who strengthens me.”  This was significant as it was the verse my mother had quoted to me ever since I was a little girl- my midwife didn’t know that.  I know this was one of the ways God let me know more directly that He was there with me.

My midwife asked me if there was anything going on mentally that I needed to discuss- I didn’t mention my thoughts of c-section at that point because I knew I didn’t really, truly want that, but I did share that I was just tired.  And afraid I wasn’t going to have the energy to do what I needed to do if (when) we were finally ready to push.I remember getting super antsy as I fought my own thoughts there in that pool.  I decided then that I could no longer try to rest.  I needed to DO something and I had the feeling that it was time to get out and have my baby.  I got out, started walking around, and felt a renewed sense of purpose.

Up until this point, my water hadn’t broken.  Like with my first two, we ended up breaking it to move things along (apparently my bag of waters is always super strong).  After my midwife broke my water, as with Asher’s birth although not quite as immediate and obvious, Jude was well on his way in descent and I was ready to push not too long afterward.  With Will behind me on the bed to help be my strength, we began to push.

My midwife worked with me to help me avoid tearing, and I could feel Jude trying to help by turning a bit as he began to crown.  But something wasn’t quite right.  He tried again to help as I pushed but still wasn’t fully coming out, even though they could see his head.  They continued to track his heartbeat with the doppler as they had throughout the entire labor, and at this last check, the results weren’t good.

It is here that things began to happen super quickly.  My midwife had me turn over onto my hands and knees and I could hear the urgency in her voice as she told me to PUSH.  Then, he was out.

I felt that familiar feeling of relief as he emerged and turned, ready to hold him.  But he wasn’t breathing.  He was grayish and floppy.

At this point, I’m not sure of anything other than seeing my midwife calmly and determinedly start applying oxygen while instructing me to pray and asking Will to call 911 in case they were needed.  I rubbed Jude’s chest as I prayed, asking the Lord to get my baby breathing.  I looked at Will’s face and could see the utter look of fear as he called 911 and looked at his baby.  I almost felt like I went on autopilot- it was scary, but somehow I felt that Jude was going to be fine.

Two minutes later, a very long two minutes in many ways while fast in others, Jude turned pink, started breathing on his own, and let out a beautiful, piercing cry that lasted awhile as he made up for lost time.  The EMTs arrived and I was thankful beyond words that they were not needed other than having me sign a form that we didn’t need transport to the hospital.  His first apgar at 1 minute after birth came in at a 3.  His second, five minutes after his birth, was a 9.

Still attached to me because we had not clamped and cut the cord yet, I delivered the placenta while helping Jude to begin nursing.  Will then cut the cord once it had stopped pulsing and all we could do was praise God that He had been the one to truly deliver our praise baby.  Jude means praise.  Our prayer all through the pregnancy had been that his birth would be a praise and a testimony to all those involved.  In talking (processing) with our midwife immediately afterward and on follow-up visits in the next couple of weeks, it was evident that God honored that prayer.  Jude is certainly our praise, and I am incredibly thankful that he is here with us.

After the birth, we learned that there had been a combination of factors going on.  Shoulder dystocia, where the baby’s shoulder is not able to pass below the pubic bone, was a major factor that caused his distress and the drop in heart tones, also affecting his breathing once out.  His cord was also caught by the shoulder.  It appeared in examining the placenta that it had started to separate from the uterus, and the umbilical cord, instead of developing from the center of the placenta, had developed from the side.  Praise again that given all those factors, Jude is here lying in my lap making that sweet little sound with his lips that he is making.

We’ve been asked since his birth if we wish we had been in a hospital given the circumstances of his birth.  Our answer is a resounding “NO!”  If we had been in a hospital, the following scenarios would have been likely:  1) when my cervical lip came back, it is possible I would have been dubbed with the infamous failure to progress label and a c-section would have been pushed/recommended.  2) When Jude was born and not breathing, the cord would have been clamped and cut immediately and he would have been whisked away to the NICU, or at least, away from me and his father.

I am thankful for my midwife’s wisdom (and it is part of her usual practice anyway) of waiting until the cord stops pulsing before it is cut.  This allowed Jude to continue to receive the life-giving blood he was receiving as she applied oxygen.  He was able to hear my voice and feel my touch as he lay there.  She had what she needed to get him breathing- we didn’t need a hospital room for that.  The Lord used her mightily in that moment, and He heard our prayers.

We said from the beginning that doing a homebirth was a huge faith walk for us.  Little did we know how much of one it would be.  Of course, birth is always a faith walk really, wherever you choose to have your baby and however he or she arrives in your arms.

Jude Christian Adair was born at 10:37am, 8 lbs and 3.5 ounces.  21 inches long.  God is so very faithful- we have our praise baby to attest to that.  And we give Him all the glory.

Faith, Family

Jude’s Birth Story: A Testimony of Praise. Part 1.

For those of you that hang with me through my sporadic blogging, you may remember that we were planning a homebirth for the birth of our third child, who is lying here sleeping in my lap as I write this.  As I look down at him going through his series of “going into a deeper sleep-cycle” faces, my heart tightens to think things could have been very different.

Jude was “due” sometime around the first or second of March, and as it was with my first two babies, he took his time.  Unlike my first two, I experienced prodromal labor this go ’round.  The contractions started getting so regular at one point that we actually had my parents come and get our first two kiddos one night because we thought our little guy was on his way.  Or not, as we learned a couple hours later when the contractions ebbed off.  Finally, a few days of this happening off and on, March 5 rolled around.  I had an appointment with my midwife that morning and had my first internal check of the pregnancy (one more reason I love having a midwife instead of a doctor).  Because I had been experiencing prodromal labor, she asked if I would like her to sweep my membranes.  Essentially, sweeping the membranes can get labor going if it is “on the fence” like mine was, but this isn’t a guaranteed jumpstart.  For me, it seems to have worked.

As the evening of March 5 rolled around, it appeared that sweeping my membranes had effectively locked my contractions into a more regular and progressive pattern.  Within the past week or so, I had had a sneaking suspicion that little man was going to start his arrival in the middle of the night, requiring us to wake up not only our midwife and her assistant, but also my parents and our two oldest children.  Sure enough, around 9pm, I began to sense that Jude was getting started on his journey.  I waited an hour to see if the contractions were going to stop, and when they didn’t ease off, I called my midwife to give her the heads up that I would probably be calling her back later that night.  She advised me to try and get some sleep and requested that I call her when the contractions became too strong for me to sleep through. I woke up off and on but managed to get some rest until around 11pm.  I then got up with the realization that I was in pain and that I couldn’t stand lying down any longer.  I walked around awhile before deciding to wake up Will and begin calling everyone we needed to call.  I called my midwife around midnight, and then called my parents.  We gathered the kids’ things (they were going to be at my parents house during the birth) and got them downstairs.

My midwife arrived and was coming in right as my parents were heading out with the kids.  At this point contractions were starting to get more intense but were still somewhat manageable.  Once our midwife’s assistant arrived, she began setting up the birth pool upstairs in our baby’s room (one of the only rooms that would allow enough space to assemble the pool since we hadn’t put his furniture in yet).  My midwife regularly took my vitals and then checked to see how dilated I was.  I was at 5cms, so halfway there.   We all sat and watched a few Cosby Show episodes as I labored, often by hanging onto my husband during contractions.  It is somewhat surreal watching the Cosby Show at 3am.

As labor became increasingly intense, I was really hoping the birth pool would be ready soon.  It took quite a while to fill it- I’m not sure how long exactly because I was otherwise occupied but I know it took longer than an hour.  We watched Cosby until the birth pool was ready and my midwife was sure I was far enough along to get in, so that it wouldn’t slow down labor.  I was thrilled when I could get into the water because, while it didn’t take the pain away, it was relaxing and took some of the pressure off. I can’t exactly tell you how long I labored in the pool.  My midwife and her assistant continued to do periodic vitals checks and used the heart doppler periodically to make sure Jude was still doing well.  Like with my first birth, when the midwife checked me at one point we found that I had a bit of a cervical lip and had to wait for it to fully dilate.   I could see that it was getting light out and realized that my assumption that Jude’s birth would be quicker than Asher’s (my second child- his story is here) was not going to be a reality.  I remember getting out at one point, relieved, when it was discovered that I was at 10 centimeters and ready to push.  I ended up on my bed despite plans to do a waterbirth- it just felt better to me somehow.  Yet as we began the pushing process, we found that the cervical lip had come back and that I couldn’t push anymore.  There are no words for how discouraged I felt at that moment.  I was getting tired. My midwife recommended I get back in the pool and take time to allow my body to rest.  Will, the midwife, and her assistant were all continuously encouraging and made sure I stayed hydrated and had food to give me energy.  I was in the pool probably for another hour or so, attempting to rest between contractions but realizing that my mind was not having it.  I had to fight the thoughts that started coming as my weariness and discouragement grew. (See Part 2 here).

Culture, Faith

Why I Don’t Want to Be a Supermom

It seems to be everywhere.  The Supermom complex, I mean.  The growing pressure in our society to “do it all”.  Whether pressure we feel from others or pressure we place on ourselves, it is a very real thing.  Oftentimes I hear (or see if on social media) people complimenting moms by calling them a supermom, implying that they have it all, do it all, and don’t break a sweat in the process.

But you know?  I don’t want to be called a supermom (and all of you that know me well know there is no real danger of that!).  I do not aspire to be the perfect cook, perfect decorator, perfect homeschooling parent, perfect crafter, sewer, baker, mom, wife, and so forth.  There are times where I long to be better than I am at any or all of the above, and I strive to do my best in the variety of roles I am called to.  However, I feel there is a difference between “Supermom” and even an example of a woman such as the Proverbs 31 woman.

Granted, reading through Proverbs 31 can be intimidating, and I confess, has left me feeling a bit inadequate at times.  Yet the P31 woman is meant to be a composite of Godly, womanly characteristics rather than a very strict job description to be followed.  For example, I may not know how to sew bed coverings (Proverbs 31:22), but I can make sure my family has what they need to stay warm at night.  If that means using a coupon at Kohls to get a blanket for 75% off, then I believe that works!  The point, from my understanding, of the P31 passage is to illustrate characteristics we as women should strive for (and characteristics men should look for in a wife): industriousness, kindness to others, honoring our husbands, loving our children, taking care of our families, being wise stewards of what we have been given, and so forth.  Will these be done perfectly?  No, of course not.   Can we do these in our own power?  Not at all.  And that is the point.

To me, the supermom moniker indicates that that mom can do it all, that she is in control and on top of things- that she doesn’t need any help and does it all in her own power.  Is a woman like that even easy to relate to?  Speaking for myself, I am much more comfortable around women that are honest about both their successes AND their failures.  It’s just more real.  When women feel pressure to do and be everything, it is exhausting and overwhelming and unrealistic.  Ironically, it can lead to the exact opposite of characteristics like caring for your family and being kind to others- I know the times where I have taken on too much in order to appear “super” in some way, I have been less than the best mom and wife I can be!  I feel like the Christmas season brings out this need to be perfect more than many other times of year.  We lay high expectations on ourselves to perform so we can have a Norman Rockwell-esque Christmas, all the while wearing ourselves ragged and missing the simple joy in the smaller things.

It tells us in both Romans 12 and in 1 Corinthians 12 that God gave us all different gifts.  While these passages speak mainly of spiritual gifts, I believe they can also be applied to the various skills and talents we have been given.  These gifts are given to us to be used to glorify the Lord and bless others, not to glorify ourselves.  And how beautifully they allow us to complement each other instead of compete with each other.   I’m not saying we can’t be excited about something we accomplish and share it with others, but I know we are supposed to point others to Him in the process.  It’s something I do strive for even though I often fall short.

How freeing is it though to really throw off the desire or attempt to be a supermom?  Think about it!  Less pressure to perform, permission to be who we are while growing in who we are called to be!  Drawing attention to Christ rather than ourselves?  I find that to be a beautiful, wonderful thing!  Yes, there are times I want to be praised, admired, have something I’ve made be pinned repeatedly on Pinterest or liked ten times over on Facebook.  But that’s when I know I need to keep my perspective in check and make sure that while my works may praise me (Proverbs 31:31), that ultimately, they praise the One who gave them to me.

Be encouraged ladies!  You don’t have to be a supermom!  Working to glorify Him and bless others is what we are called to, and we do it in His grace, not in our power, and with the unique gifts He has given us.  So relax, enjoy this season, do what you have been uniquely given to do and stop comparing your Charlie Brown Christmas tree or attempts at baking homemade bread with the mini Rockefeller trees and braided loaf breads of others.  😉


Seasons of Change

For the past couple of weeks, many of our science lessons have consisted of studying some caterpillars I ordered using a gift from my parents of a Kaplan educational gift certificate.  I spent a good deal of time scrolling through the hundreds of options on the Kaplan site to determine what would be the best use of the gift, reading reviews to ensure I wouldn’t end up with something that would be a disappointment.  We finally settled on a butterfly kit, and I eagerly ordered it and then used the coupon it came with to send away for our caterpillars.  We received 6 caterpillars instead of the usual 3-5, which was a nice bonus. Almost every day Eila and I would spend time making observations regarding growth, appearance, and the like.  I quickly began to realize that I was more excited about watching these caterpillars prepare for their transformation than anyone.

I had never watched the process before, so I learned a few new things.  I did not know, for example, that before the caterpillars begin to develop their chrysalis, that they spend a good deal of time hanging perfectly still upside down, in a J- like formation.  The pamphlet that came with the kit states that this is an intense and vulnerable period of rest and preparation immediately before the chrysalides form and the transformation begins.

This struck a chord with me.  I guess this caught my attention because I have been in a season of paradigm shift and change for the past 6 months or so.  Homeschooling is  a huge paradigm shift in our culture- despite the fact that it is becoming more common and accepted, it definitely goes against the grain and the norm in our culture.  It’s a faith journey in so many ways, as I have to rely on Christ in ways that are new and unexpected in educating my children and in regard to my own need for patience and ability to be flexible.  We did preschool last year, but knowing that we chose to dive into kindergarten this year (due to Eila’s readiness) has made it all more real.  I love the freedom of homeschooling, the opportunities to be so actively involved in my children’s education, and the time we have truly developing a love for learning, but the responsibility is downright scary some days!

Another crazy paradigm shift for me is that of homebirth.  As I sit here 22 weeks pregnant with our third child, knowing we are past the halfway point and that our goal is a safe and uneventful homebirth, I alternate between excitement and that feeling of “what-on-earth-are-we-thinking”?  I don’t know if I would have considered it if Asher’s birth hadn’t been such a great experience overall.  I have a few friends who have had homebirths, and I have strong feelings on the rising rate of hospital interventions and the risk they can pose when not needed, so as Will and I began to talk about trying for a third, we were in agreement that we would plan for a homebirth.

Once we conceived and began seeing my midwife, the reality of this decision kicked in on a more elevated level and while I am still wholeheartedly wanting a homebirth, I will not lie and say that I don’t get fearful or overwhelmed at times.  This is when I remind myself of the following:  that God is just as present in my bedroom as He is in a hospital room.  Sovereign is sovereign.  My midwife does not do daring births and at the first indication of anything wrong is quick to send the mom to the hospital.  We prayed about it and feel it is the right thing for us for this birth.  And since, in God’s grace, I was able to deliver Asher naturally and without anyone around for most of the birth, I’m trusting that we can do it again.

So what does homeschool and homebirth have to do with a caterpillar preparing to become a butterfly?  Maybe not what would seem obvious.  For me, it is not really about the end result of transformation right now.  It’s about the process.  The caterpillar to butterfly analogy is frequently used in our culture to describe something more ordinary becoming extraordinary.  In Christian circles, it is often an illustration that accompanies the idea of a person becoming a new creation when they become a follower of Christ (“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation has come.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17).  And this is absolutely appropriate and thrilling to think that we are made new!

Yet as I mentioned, it is the process of being made new that has recently caught my attention.  As I watched the caterpillars hang there in a J shape, vulnerable and preparing for the changes to come, one of my favorite words came to mind.  Abide.  The concept of abiding is to wait, to endure, to bear patiently.  To abide in Christ is to do these things in Him and by His power.  John 15:4 states, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” As I read this verse and think about both homeschooling and homebirthing, it occurs to me that unless I rest in Christ and endure the difficulties every new thing is guaranteed to bring at some point, I will not be able to accomplish what I hope.  I won’t bear fruit.  In resting, in enduring, in bearing patiently as I hang vulnerably swaying in the wind of challenge while I wait, He is preparing me for what is ahead.  The process cannot be underestimated, we shouldn’t rush through it in our eagerness to be made new, to become more beautiful, to accomplish a certain goal.  And it may not seem like we are doing much, that we are moving towards our goal; we may feel that life is dull and monotonous as we wait.  But feelings don’t equal truth, and the majority of such times we discover that it was these quiet or lackluster periods in life that preceded some of the most beautiful moments we have been blessed with.

It really is a privilege to rest in Christ as He prepares me for things ahead.  That doesn’t mean it’s always wonderful and that I revel in the process, but I am trying to remember to trust, even (especially!) as I hang there still or slightly swaying, in the One who planned my transformation.

Faith, Family

Ultrasound Rollercoaster

On Monday, Will and I prepared with excitement for our first ultrasound with Baby A.  As we drove to our appointment after dropping the kids off to stay with my mom (who had graciously agreed to take off some time from work to watch them), we discussed our hope that Baby A would be active enough during the ultrasound that we could watch him/her move around and that the tech would not only be able to get the shots and measurements she needed to get, but that we would be able to discover our little one’s gender.  I am a planner.  The thought of not knowing puts me into slight panic, as I want to get rooms painted, furniture prepared, and clothing situated.  Both Eila and Asher had graciously given their mother peace of mind during their respective ultrasounds 5 and 3 years ago, and I hoped and prayed their sibling would follow suit.

In our hurry to get out the door so we wouldn’t be late to our appointment, we decided it would be best to grab breakfast on the way rather than eat at home.  So Will and I stopped at Bojangles and I proceeded to get a cajun filet chicken biscuit.  I had joked with my MOPs group a few days prior about needing to eat or drink something that would get the baby moving and was advised orange juice and/or teddy grahams, but ended up with the biscuit.  I remember thinking, “maybe the spiciness will be effective”…I thought about adding on a sweet tea but decided that probably would be too much and that I should stick with the almost gallon of water they wanted me to drink 30 minutes prior to the appointment.  Looking back, this was probably a very good call, or the ultrasound may have been even more of a roller-coaster than it already was!

We arrived at our appointment and filled out the requisite paperwork.  My favorite part was being asked on one form “Describe your condition” to which I responded “pregnancy”.  The next question was then “How did you end up in this condition?” I left that blank.

We were called back quickly and I was so ready to see our little one that I didn’t even take the tech up on the opportunity to use the ladies room, despite the fact that I had consumed the prescribed amount of water on the way.  We got started and I was once again in awe of the technology that allows me to see our little one in the womb with the placement of an instrument on my stomach.  I don’t think I could ever be less than amazed by this process.  As we began to see our baby, I couldn’t help but tear up a little- we have never waited so long to see one of our children in utero before because with both Eila and Asher we had the initial 8-10 week scan.  I was thrilled, as was Will.

Our tech soon began to comment on how our little one was positioned in a way that was making it difficult for her to record the needed info.  Baby A (throughout the duration of the ultrasound) was head down with legs and bottom in the air hanging over the head.  But this does not mean Baby A was still.  Oh no.  Baby A decided it was a great day to prepare early for the USA gymnastics team and proceeded to perform somersaults and twists like I have never seen.  Neither of Baby A’s siblings were even close to as active as this little one was this day!  I seriously do not want to know what would have happened if I had consumed the sweet tea I considered buying that morning.  The cajun filet biscuit alone sent Baby A into joyous flips and headstands.

Ironically, my fear that the baby wouldn’t move enough became quickly laughable and then frustrating.  The tech managed to measure the head (which is measuring right where it should be), the kidneys, see the feet, get a shot of the face (but never could get a profile shot), etc.  As she tried to get the heart, she soon commented that she just couldn’t get an adequate view of all four chambers- she could see them, she thought, but couldn’t put down on paper that they were, in fact, all there, because she didn’t have the clear documentation needed.  Drat Baby A, slow down in there.

Also a challenge was the umbilical cord.  She wanted to be able to verify that the cord was a three vessel cord.  When that proved tricky, she decided to rest from that endeavor and aim to check out gender.  I was ready.  Earlier in the process, she had pointed out what appeared to be the tell-tale three white lines that would mean we had a little girl bouncing around in there.  After this, however, the tech kept commenting that she kept seeing a protrusion as Baby A danced around.  Hmm.  I didn’t give this much thought, as it was hard to see much of anything clearly- although I have to admit, with the way the baby was moving, it did cross my mind multiple times that we may be dealing with a little guy here.

I have never had such a determined tech, and thank God for her.  Even as the intercom kept beeping ever few minutes with “Code 99: Ultrasound”, reminding us that, yes, there were other people waiting, she patiently set her mind to confirm heart and cord.  At this point I went to the bathroom in hopes that Baby A would shift to a better position.  This didn’t seem to work.  The tech then went out of the room to ask the radiologist to come in and see if he could pinpoint 4 chambers.  While the tech was out of the room, Will and I sat and prayed that Baby A would give us the ability to have the three questions of heart, cord, and gender answered definitively.  Meanwhile, the tech reported that the radiologist said with the baby moving so much he didn’t see why he should come in and that we should just schedule a follow-up.

I’m feeling frustrated, and honestly guilty, as I want to kick myself over consuming that blooming biscuit (Will kept reminding me that the biscuit may have not had anything to do with it, but still).  As the tech decides to try for just a few more minutes, God generously answers our prayer and gives us 2 out of 3 answers.  First, a concrete 3 vessel cord shot.  Secondly, a moment where our little one goes spread-eagled (still upside-down) and indicates to us all that is it highly, highly likely that we are having a baby boy!

I did not realize how convinced I had been that it was a girl (I had been right with both of my other kids) until that moment.  I was stunned.  And I remained stunned as we left, knowing we would probably be coming back for one more ultrasound to confirm that there are, in fact, 4 miraculously beating chambers in our little one.  Even after this ultrasound went almost an hour and a half!

Needless to say, I had to do a paradigm shift as I processed that we are having a boy.  I had worked out everything in my head- from beds, to painting, to the fact that we would have more of a wardrobe in place because Eila has been ever so gentle on her clothes compared to Asher!  Don’t get me wrong- I am truly joyful and thankful that we are having a boy, and a healthy one at that (I’m not worried about the heart anyway, but after seeing little guy moving like that and hearing such a very strong heartbeat, I’m REALLY not worried).  But I did have to take some time to mourn the thought of a little girl.  There’s a reason the Bible says in Proverbs (chapter 16, verse 9) “The heart of man plans his way but the Lord establishes his steps.”  Or Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”  And amen for that, because His plans are certainly better than mine, and He knows that a second little boy is exactly the right thing for our family.

After the initial shock and need to re-lay some plans, I am growing just as excited by another little guy as I was another little girl.  But if for some reason, the belief that a child’s activity in the womb is a predictor for activity outside the womb proves true, please begin to pray for me now. 😉

Culture, Faith

A never fail diet.

It’s been a hard few weeks if you live in the state of NC, especially if you happen to frequent social media and have friends/acquaintances on both sides of the Amendment One issue.  My heart breaks over the hateful/inflammatory comments from both sides, the pain felt by people on both sides, and the division.  Especially the division amongst Christians.

I considered writing about the amendment and my perspective, but 1) I’m not sure I can do that right now, and 2)  I’m not sure it’s necessary.  I do feel a need to continue to process, but that can be done privately and given the current state of affairs, probably should be.  I don’t presume to think anything I have to say on these topics needs to be heard right now, at least not via a blog or social media outlet.  I think that is one of our current problems, trying to have serious, heartfelt discussions on heavily-charged issues using superficial forums like Facebook.  That’s another post though.

Related to all of this, however, is how to deal with the range of emotions all of this conflict has resulted in both personally and vicariously.  My heart has been heavy and I’ve vacillated between sorrow, anger, and feeling almost numb.  Today, as I continue to ponder all of this, I am doing it in between homeschooling, cleaning, and taking extra care of my 2 year old who seems to have a cold complete with runny nose and  fever.  As lunchtime rolled around, he initially only wanted yogurt to eat (one of his all-time faves) and I could tell he was in desperate need of nap (read:  SUPER CRANKY).  I found myself hoping he would eat something else but reminded myself that the yogurt may be all he can manage right now.  Thankfully, as he watched his sister gobble down a piece of peanut butter and jelly toast, my little guy decided that it looked rather appealing and managed a piece of PB&J toast as well.  I breathed a sigh of relief and recalled a few weeks ago when his 4 year old sister had a 24 hour stomach bug and could barely eat anything for a few hours.  Then I think back to when I was nursing both of them and how one of my biggest struggles as a new mom was worrying that they weren’t getting enough milk, that their growth was somehow being impacted, or that they would become ill or malnourished.

Even as they grow into toddlerhood and beyond, however, and their health and growth is much better established, our responsibility and desire for their continued nourishment and well-being does not change.  As parents, we know that eating healthy foods and getting enough water (and milk) is critical to their growth.  When it appears that they are not receiving adequate nourishment, whether sick or for another reason, we do our best to give them what they need, be it through encouraging, imploring, begging, bribing, supporting…we do what it takes because we know what can happen if their nourishment is inadequate.  They become weak, frail, and growth slows.

As I made my son his peanut butter toast, I had the realization that just as I am concerned about my kids’ nourishment, my Father in heaven is concerned about mine.  There are many scriptures that talk about our spiritual nourishment; one of the most significant ones to me is John 6:35: “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”  This verse alone is absolutely incredible when you really think about what it means.  When you factor in all the verses about the word of God serving as nourishment, such as Matthew 4:4 (But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”) and you equate the fact that in John 1:1 Jesus is described as being the Word (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”), the enormity of what it all means is overwhelmingly wonderful!  Jesus is the bread of life, He is also the Word, and we are instructed to live by every word from the mouth of God.  We live by Christ.  He is our sustenance.  He is our nourishment.  Without Him, we become weak, frail, and our growth slows.  And ultimately stops.

This is not a new concept to me personally- I have heard sermons on the above scriptures and have read through them multiple times.  But no matter how many times I think about the above truths, whether it be the first or the fiftieth, the beauty and significance of those truths grabs a hold of me tightly, yet in a way that frees me.

What did catch me entirely anew earlier today as I made lunch for my kids is the thought of how God may feel when we choose not to eat the Bread He offers us.  How my Father feels when we are too sick to eat, or too picky…thinking something else will satisfy.  Or, in the most desperate of times, when we don’t believe we deserve to be loved and feel so much despair that our interest in eating wanes and we slowly punish ourselves by depriving ourselves of the One Thing (Person) that would bring peace to our souls and joy to our lives.  I believe He is concerned for us, He encourages us, He implores us to seek Him.  To find our fulfillment in Him.  To satiate our deepest hunger and quench our never-ending thirst, and to answer our soul’s cry of “Am I loved?” with a resounding, passionate YES!

Without Jesus, the Bread of Life, the Word of God, all the heartaches, misunderstandings, sinful situations, and conflict would be overwhelming, hopeless, and spirit-crushing.  Only through seeking Him in the current situations we are facing do I find peace, the truth that is to be gently taught, and the love in which we are to show to others to point others to HIm.   And truthfully, I say in love that ultimately, Jesus is the answer we are all seeking and only through Him will you find the sustenance needed for your soul.

Faith, Family, Uncategorized

Stirring up and settling in…

God has been working on me.  A lot.  I could almost stop this post right there.  (Ha, some of you would probably like that!).  Anyway,  I have been blogging off and on about our adventure in listing our house for sale and our subsequent discovery of a beautiful, run-down and worn-out pre-foreclosure that my heart has been longing for ever since I laid eyes on it.  And, therein has been the problem.  I think my heart started longing for it a bit too much.

When we listed our house, it was entirely on a whim.  I have a crazy habit of scrolling through to look at what is out there, especially as I have been bitten by the DIY/decorating bug in the past couple of years.  We noticed that there were some homes that were larger than ours for the same amount of money (or a little bit less) thanks to the sadly booming short sale/foreclosure market.  Will and I did put some prayer into it and felt like we should just give it a shot and see what God does- a couple of days later we talked with the agent whom we worked with on selling our last home and voila!, we had entered MLS territory.

What started as an informal adventure grew into an ache and desire to somehow acquire this home that Will and I both felt was like our dream home.  It wasn’t normally what I would have pictured for myself, and it needs an incredible amount of work, but the potential is enormous and the location would be perfect for our family.  Since it is located in a neighborhood across the street from our church, we would often go by and pray over the house and for whomever is meant to live there, be it us or another family. I had it planned out in my mind’s eye- the front and back yards, the beautiful front room with the two bay windows, a room for homeschooling…knowing how attached I was becoming to the house, I also began praying that God would help me keep my desires in check and remove them altogether if need be.

All that to say– one day, six and a half months into the process of having our home listed, I was outside pushing my 1 1/2 year old in the swing under our big, beautiful old oak tree in the backyard.  My 3 1/2 year old was sitting on the bench swinging her legs and waiting for her turn.  I drank in the moment with all five of my senses and felt contentment wash over me.  I felt something lift inside, and knew then and there that God has answered my prayer.  Not in the way I wanted, but in the way I needed.  While I still love the house that we had been praying over and I would still love to live there, my overwhelming desire for it is gone.

It’s ironic, because before we started this process, I was reading Max Lucado’s Cure for the Common Life– I even wrote a post on it here.  There was an anecdote he shared that has stuck with me, and I remember thinking about it after we listed our house and vowing to keep it in mind.  It was the story of a farmer who decided to put his farm up for sale.  After he wrote out the ad describing his property, he sat for a moment, realizing that he already had everything he was looking for.

When we bought our current home, we were aware that it wasn’t in the middle of town. We knew that sometimes the 20 minutes down I-40 to get to town would feel inconvenient and longer than it really is, especially with two young children.  And we knew that there were things we would someday want to change about the house- like adding on a sunroom or screened porch, adding on more square footage for our bedroom and bathroom, and so forth.  But, we also knew we loved our lot- it is surrounded by old oak trees, other hardwoods, a very nice size, not too close to neighbors, and our house is situated on a small, pretty hill.  We can easily see the stars and it is quiet enough that I can hear the orchestra of a myriad of creatures at night.  It is a small neighborhood with just one street that ends with a cul-de-sac.  The house is quite pretty, isn’t cookie-cutter, and is certainly large enough for our needs, especially with our current family of 4, and will be large enough whenever we grow to five (God-willing).

So yes, it is still for sale, for another month or so.  But I’ve settled into it in a whole new way, and more importantly, this process has helped me settle into God’s will in a whole new way as well.  It’s been painful at times, but He’s using it for good.

Blogging for Books, Culture, Faith

Book Review: Out of a Far Country (and a giveaway)

I recently read Out of a Far Country by Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan.  It is an inspiring, heartbreaking, thought-provoking and remarkable memoir of a son’s struggle with homosexuality and a mother’s transformation from unyielding to a place of surrender.  Out of a Far Country is a modern, culturally relevant story of a prodigal son who finds his way through brokenness to his Savior.  It is a story both controversial and pregnant with the hope and all consuming love God has for us.

Christopher Yuan, the son of Chinese immigrants, discovered in his teen years that he was attracted to other boys.  His very controlling mother, upon her son’s announcement as an adult that he was a homosexual and her subsequent rejection of him, felt her world was falling apart.   Her loss of how to relate to her son combined with her own issues led her to try to opt out of her pain by planning to commit suicide.

Before she can carry out her plan, however, the woman who had always been an avid atheist comes to Christ.  Her desperation is replaced with hope, and as she realizes the terrible way she responded to her Christopher, one of the first things she does is reach out to her son and let him know that she loves him.

The book is written from the alternating viewpoints of both mother and son.  It follows Christopher as he becomes a fixture in the gay community, as he falls heavily into drug addiction and dealing, and ultimately, into prison.  It follows his mother’s growing determination to love him and to learn how to be there for him despite their differences, as well as her move away from self-righteousness to her ardent desire to care for her son no matter what.  Their story is a story of the power of Christ’s love to transform and to heal.

Out of a Far Country also documents both the terrible job the faith community has done in reaching out and dialoguing with the homosexual community as well as providing examples of those who have gotten it right.  The examples of those that got it right left me with tears of gratitude in seeing how they reached out in love.  The examples of those who lashed out in hate left me in tears as well; they made me long for God to work on their hearts so that they could respond in a manner that reflects Christ rather than misrepresenting Him to the world.

Christopher describes, at the end, his view of holy sexuality, describing how he didn’t suddenly become a heterosexual, nor is he likely to.  He didn’t know how to answer the question of who he was apart from his sexuality.  Christopher states, “My identity was not “gay” or “homosexual,” or even “heterosexual,” for that matter.  But my identity as a child of the living God must be in Jesus Christ alone.”  Therefore, he determines that he must choose God over his desires, thus pursuing a holy sexuality.  It is one thing we all, homosexual and heterosexual alike, are called to do.

I received this book as part of WaterBrook’s Blogging for Books program, and they happened to send me two copies by mistake.  I would love to give one away so if you are interested, leave me a comment.  I’ll ask my daughter to randomly pick a number and will send it your way if you win!

*Forgot to add that the giveaway will end Sunday evening (August 14) at 8pm EST. And comments left on Facebook (it posts there as well) also count towards the giveaway.

*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.