Catching Up

I had a baby three weeks ago. Her name is Chloe May and she is doing wonderfully well. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been using her as an excuse for every failing these past few weeks, much like I was using my pregnancy before that. Sorry we haven’t met for coffee, sorry I haven’t gotten back to you, sorry that isn’t finished…I may just keep this up as long as I can. Ha.

Postpartum is the perfect time for rest, for quiet, for filling the hours with some good-for-the-soul reading. I did have some lows that first week, some times of dread and panic. Telling myself it was the hormones at work and on their way out helped some, but reading good things has helped a lot. I’m going through the Psalms this month, and some real gems have revealed themselves. One trying day I read

May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble!

Another day

For the king trusts in the LORD, and through the lovingkindness of the Most High he will never be shaken.

I’m also reading through the Love Comes Softly series again. This is a heart-warming story set in pioneer times, showing characters trusting in God during good times and bad.

My stack of Above Rubies is getting read again, too. These are such a treasure. I noticed on my Summer Reading Program sheet that magazines count, so I’ve been keeping track of those in addition to my books finished. Hopefully I can start a good conversation with the librarian if they are curious about the magazine.

One book I read before Chloe came really contributed to my encouragement in life and mothering. It is called Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins. I felt such a kinship with the author, and was dismayed to not find a way of contacting her to tell her how much I loved what she wrote in her book. If it were cheaper, I would buy a copy of the book for every mother I know. It is that good. I eventually found Cindy on Facebook, and am composing a letter in my head that I will message her there. It has to convey my admiration and gratitude without coming across like I am a total crazy stalker.

Today’s encouragement from the Psalms is in chapter 9:

Arise, O LORD, do not let man prevail…

What a prayer to pray moment by moment. There’s my way, and there’s God’s way. I want to want God’s way more and more, but I know there are many places in my life where man and his ways prevail. I’m glad there is a time like this right now in my life, with my newborn, to slow down and fill my mind and heart with good things, with the truth.

Echoes

Tomorrow morning, I will either still be here, or I won’t.

This applies to every one of us; no one knows just what the next hours will bring. But I am talking about the sore back I’ve got and the erratic but painful contractions I’m having. It’s too early, I say. This will all smooth over after a good night’s sleep, and, hey, any disappointment over this time not being IT will be dwarfed by that good night’s sleep!

But, man, my back hurts.

I pass a church often that has a wayside pulpit. The pastor has put many a thought provoking message there over the months and years. This week it says, BE A VOICE, NOT AN ECHO. Huh? I came away scratching my head. Just keeping to the surface of it, I suppose it is a decent saying. Be a leader, not a follower, be the solution not the problem, etc. But if I really think about it, I can’t agree. Not everyone has the opportunity to be out front, making the big plays, in the starring roles. Most of us will live ordinary, unnoticed lives, and will only have echoes of those gone before us to speak. Our task is to make sure we are listening to the right voices in our lives, and echoing accordingly. “My sheep hear My voice, and they follow Me.”

All this analyzing made me think of one of my favorite hymns- O Thou In Whose Presence. The next to last verse transports us to the throne of God, with countless angels attentive to His WORD, catch that? The last line of the verse never fails to bring me to tears:

He speaks, and eternity, filled with His voice,

Re-echoes the praise of the Lord.

That’s what we are here to be, now and for all time- the echoes of His praise.

W.C.E. (Worst Cold Ever)

This may be my new method of dating time: the days, months, and seasons since I suffered so mightily. Definitely a new common era.

All winter we were doing so well not getting sick. Maybe I had gotten too proud, too self congratulatory and needed knocked down a peg or ten. As I type, my throat is still in shock, leaving no room for any more complacency.

It is difficult to experience a cold while pregnant. There’s the coughing, in all its forms. The heavy cough can often stir up some nausea, and the later dry cough can catch one needing a bathroom quickly! At one point I was stranded on the toilet, coughing over a bucket in case I threw up, and only just made it there on my limited bladder tolerance.

But I have nothing to complain about compared to the man I just read about in a book called Alone. This man, Brett Archibald, fell over board in the Indian Ocean, and was stranded for 28 hours! So many people and events crossed to make his rescue possible, it was truly miraculous. During his time in the water, he came to a deeper faith in God- sometimes very angry with Him, but always with the knowledge that He was with him and responsible for his protection from many dangers, and eventual rescue.

Apparently Brett is on an inspirational speaking circuit, sharing his story with many. There’s something missing from his testimony, though: he acknowledges God as his Maker and sustainer, but there is no mention of Jesus as his Savior and Lord. I think that as he continues in a journey of true seeking, he will see this, God will show him, but for now, it is incomplete to share about God the way he has. A verse in my BSF lesson this week seemed to be making this point, among others:

For this reason Christ died, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living (Rom 14:9)

Jesus is central to everything. Anything else is just useless religion.

So, I’m at day 22 of this cold. If it reaches day 28, W.C.E., I may just have the makings of an impossible-survival book of my own.

 

 

 

 

Scenes From A Foot Washing

We are into our eighth year of our family gathering for a Last Supper service the Thursday before Easter. In it we have communion with bread and wine, and Luke washes our feet.

My preparations for our little feast began a while ago, but didn’t start with the bread. I was thinking about my feet. The last year has been difficult for them, inside and out. Over last summer I developed what we thought was plantar fasciitis in my left foot, and began targeting the pain with massage, ice, a tight sock, and new running shoes that had extremely high arch support. Unfortunately, even though the shoes were good for my heel, they quickly became a nemesis for my big toe nails, as they were a tighter fit than any pairs I had worn in the past. It was love versus duty putting them on each day, thinking this was what was best but not being very happy about it ( much like my compression hose! ). I thought I would eventually need to see a foot doctor, to confirm the pf, and probably to remove my big toe nails, as they were a sorry lot. It didn’t seem right to do this during pregnancy; I didn’t feel like dealing with it yet.

Long about last month, I noticed the nail on my right foot wasn’t hurting anymore. Woo hoo! Maybe I could get over this on my own after all. Then a few weeks ago, I realized that my left nail wasn’t bothering me anymore either. But my right was looking like it was going to fall off; it was halfway there. That must be the ultimate price I pay to doctor my plantar fasciitis at home. We’ll have to see.

So last week, I’m looking at my feet and thinking about the upcoming foot washing. How did they look? Actually, they looked better than they had all year, but I toyed with the idea of painting the nails to hide the half dead one. Then nobody would notice, especially Luke. I ended up just going into it au naturale, and got no comments from him. It was dark, which helped.

The darkness is because we lay a spread of bread, wine, and a candle on a low table, and turn out the lights. This helps some with littles and their wiggles. While they are excited at this strange event, they are also wanting to tune in to see what is going to happen, so mostly sit still. Elijah and Julia’s act this year included a minion like ‘step towards the candle flame and see how close you can get before a parent or grandma or sibling grabs you’.

Also noted were the conversations around the circle that had nothing to do with anything, jabbing at elbows, and giggles when their feet got wet. Elijah moved from Sam’s lap to a bench beside Kenan, so when Luke got to Kenan, he didn’t remember he had already washed Elijah’s feet. So many of them.

I like to think that THE last supper was kind of like this, with familiar jabbing and poking, jokes about stinky feet and meaningless chatter in that hallowed room. Though Jesus’ subject matter was heavy, and there were a lot of unknowns, this was still a family, with shy ones and clowns, some serious and some silly.

I’m not sure why we started doing this as a part of our Easter celebration, but it probably has to do with wanting some traditions that our children can learn from and look back on. One probing question for me has always been, would Jesus rather us celebrate His birthday, or His death and resurrection? Of course, we are free to do both, but the more we try to absorb what He did for us in His sacrificial death and raising in new life, the better we can know Him.

“That I may know Him…” -Paul

New Thoughts

Since having my blog hacked last summer, Luke has outfitted me with a great new password. It would mean nothing to anyone but us, and I love that. No part of our present technological lives is unhackable, but it is nice to have a strong password and feel like we’re doing something in the war for the web.

I’m a book addict, I think. Yesterday I finished a book, and had a moment of panic that there was not another one to pick up. But of course there always is, and if nothing else I have my Aubrey Maturin series which numbers in the teens (I’m only on book 3) and my old standbys, Laura and Father Tim and Ralph. And, there is my read the Bible thru the years challenge, working through Exodus currently.

Two noteworthy books I have and am reading are How to Be A Christian Without Going To Church, and Revolution. The first is by a woman (Kelly Bean), the second by a man (George Barna). Together these have been such an encouragement to me as we navigate this time of our lives not going to church. Even though we don’t attend Sunday service in a building set aside for that purpose, we are still The Church, God’s called out people, learning and growing every day into His perfect plan for our lives. I’m eager to see what the future looks like for our family, without some of the traditional practices that both Luke and I were part of, growing up. God is always up to something new, and I am finally to the point of not feeling guilty, or not feeling guilty about not feeling guilty, if that makes sense. Because for me, so much of ‘doing church’ was exhausting. Being His church is already feeling much more free.

Giving Up

My poor baby. My big, red, four-wheeled baby. I just watched it get hauled up onto the bed of a tow truck, and what an amazing sight. The strength that the tow cable, and the motor, need to have, and the near delicacy the driver needs as he lowers the bed so that gravity doesn’t begin to work too hard against things…it was something to see. The driver asked me if I was coming along to the mechanic since I was still standing there gawking when he was done. But I just had to watch a mighty machine at work.

My last visit to the obstetrician I measured 24 inches. I was close to making that the title of this post, as just those two little words were enough to rob me of my joy and peace for a few hours…okay, days. I had thought I was further along, maybe even 26 or 27 weeks. Was baby shrinking? What was wrong? What should I do? Would I remind the doc that baby was older than that? Would I have to go back in for another check up sooner?

Then the most wonderful thoughts filled my mind. Thoughts of when Sam was born with that scary thing on his back. We had no knowledge beforehand, but if we had, I would have worried myself into a frenzy. But, all we had was ‘now’ and we made decisions from then on that were for Sam’s best quality of life. God let us in on that at just the right time, I think.

Another thought came to me- when the twins got sick. I’d just gone for a routine ultrasound, a higher level one done at OSU (hey, why not have a closer look because we can), and the doctor was telling us I’d have to have surgery that afternoon!!! We slowed the doctor down a bit, opting instead for the next morning, but we could see that this was needed to provide the best chance at life for our precious girls. God allowed us into this moment, and we were grateful there were ways we could help them.

Back to this baby. These memories reminded me of something powerful- when, and only when, the Lord sees fit for us to be involved in the care and decision making for each child, He has been faithful to let us know what is going on. The time that we spend not knowing, when He knits each in secret, is not time for me to worry and stew about anything. This was confirmed during my next OB visit, when I found out I am only 28 weeks along now, putting me at- you guessed it- 24 weeks then. Ha! God must laugh at His little ninny down here.

On Valentine’s Day I googled when Lent was. Um, it started on Valentine’s Day. We joked as a family about things we needed to give up, such as Studio C skits and movie quoting every. Single. Time. I had it in my head to confront a certain issue with a certain person, and was ready to have it out with them, that very week. But it was if a voice in my head said, why don’t you give up the control you are trying to exert over this issue? Why don’t you give that up for Lent? Wow. I’m not sure God really cares if we observe Lent or not, but the idea seemed just strange enough to be from Him, and I released any plans of pursuing my previous conversation. Here again was the Lord letting me in, not for me to get involved, but for me to see His mighty hand at work.

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law. Deuteronomy 29:29

So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

 

Milk And A Song

Julia is a great toddler, but she has some kinks we’re hoping are worked out by spring. There’s the fact that she’s still in our bedroom, making it difficult to do anything very early or very late without waking her. Then there’s the bedtime routine, which consists of putting her down with blanket, binky, and a sippy cup of milk. Up until last week this last item was a bottle, so we are making progress.

Many times when I cover her up, she will say, ‘gong’, which means she wants me to sing her a song. Not just any song- oh, no, she wants to hear Jesus Loves Me. Again. And again. And again. I’ve had to learn the less common verses to this ditty, to keep my sanity.

Last night when I lay her down, I tried to change the subject every time she asked for a gong. Finally I lay down myself, letting her complain her way to sleep. Am I neglecting her? I asked myself. No, I had to conclude. First, she asks for this song in such a demanding way, that to keep giving her her way is likely worse for her in the long run. And, if we have the ultimate goal of her going to sleep on her own, this part of the routine has to go.

A ministry we support in South America has the opportunity to open a home for at risk girls. So many details had to come together in such a short time for the home to be up and running, that I told our kids we were praying for a miracle. My little girls drafted a prayer calendar, and faithfully prayed for this need for the past month. Today I got word that only one thing remains for the home to be open. This is big. This is God- big. I am so excited that He is answering our prayers and working this miracle on behalf of these girls, so that my girls can see how much He loves us.

I came away from this news so pumped, that a news post on Facebook sent me crashing. A couple were discovered, having chained their children in their rooms, neglected and abused. Oh, God, how much evil can go on under our noses. Here we make some headway against trafficking in South America, only to be reminded that it exists everywhere there are people wanting to hurt other people.

For the rest of the day today, I saw my tasks of caring for my family in a new light. I get to kiss you again. I get to change your diaper to make you more comfortable. I get to make some delicious food for us all, and we get to sit and eat together. Only by God’s grace am I in a position of trying to get this right, and not be stuck in a filthy home, chained to a bed, or worse, the one who bought the chains for my child. Thank You, O merciful One.

Tonight, I get to tuck Julia in and make sure she is warm and comfortable in her bed. I may just sing a gong to her, too. Thank you, Jesus, for showing me how to love.

Together

I tried to comment on my sister’s new blog, but was unable because I don’t have a Blogger or Google account (well, actually I have both) that was wanting to cooperate. This is what I would have said.

I loved Steven Curtis Chapman’s book. I read it this fall, and was encouraged in many ways. What I didn’t expect was to find that the journey he and his wife are on closely resembles Luke’s and mine. They and we have struggled, for a myriad of reasons. We couples both have read the marriage books and gone to the marriage counselor expecting at some point there to be that magic solution that fixes it, whatever ‘it’ may be. But that isn’t how it has worked out. The best Steven and Mary Beth, and we ourselves, can do, is to say, “Today, we are together. Today, we are okay.” That is all we have, all we are ever given. And it is a precious gift.

I’m beyond words at having the chance to wake up for nineteen years, going on twenty, and making trouble, making up, and making babies with my best friend.

Happy anniversary to us.

Christmas Thoughts

As I ate breakfast this morning, I spoke to my unborn child about movement. “It simply won’t do to not feel you today, or any day of the coming Christmas holiday. I can’t go there again.” Mine is a family filled to the brim and overflowing with gifts from the Father of lights, but there remains that choked sob this time of year that sighs, why? What space time continuum would it have altered to have allowed her to live, except ours, in the most wonderful of ways? But I know better than to complain for too long.

Luke is so good at buying the kids gifts. He is a sucker for a good deal, and has a heart that always wants to give. I’ll have to pay close attention to what the kids unwrap on Christmas morning, because I am only aware of some of the things they are getting. He ordered much online this year, or bought it when I wasn’t along.

He has wanted to take the family out to dinner at a restaurant for some time. Last year it didn’t make it to the calendar, but this year, we go out tonight. Some of the younger kids have never been to a sit down restaurant ever, so this is big. This afternoon, I’m working on making sure we all have something decent to wear. Should be a memorable time.

For Micaiah

‘Pet and her baby sister were so exactly alike, and so completely one, that in our thoughts we have never been able to separate them since. It would be of no use to tell us that our dead child was a mere infant. We have changed that child according to the changes in the child spared to us and always with us. As Pet has grown, that child has grown; as Pet has become more sensible and womanly, her sister has become more sensible and womanly by just the same degrees. It would be as hard to convince me that if I was to pass into the other world to-morrow, I should not, through the mercy of God, be received there by a daughter, just like Pet, as to persuade me that Pet herself is not a reality at my side.’

-Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit