Tag Archives: motherhood

When joy becomes a choice

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Sometimes joy doesn’t come naturally.  Sometimes you are awakened 6 times in the night by teething and feverish children, and morning comes far too quickly and the sunlight feels harsh instead of… well, sunny.  Sometimes you are so tired that you attempt to make coffee in your French Press… without putting any coffee in it.  Sometimes you sneak off to the bathroom with your coffee cup, turn on the fan, and just hope it takes the kids a few minutes to figure out that you are simply escaping to a moment of silence and solitude.  What?  Don’t tell me you’ve never done that!

These last few weeks have been rough.  The kind of month that plays a mean game of tug-o-war with your last nerve.  Car accidents (no one was hurt, thank God), losing my wallet in the back of a taxi, being home alone with 4 littles for more than half of the last month, very important relationships suffering heavy strain, and now, the latest development in our saga, the disappearance of money from our lockbox. A lot of money.  We are mystified about that last one.  This all could not really have come at a worse time of year.  November is when I historically start getting very homesick.  The realization has set in: we’re spending our 4th yr in a row in Mexico for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I think I did better when it was one year here, one year at home in Colorado with my family. It seemed less traumatic.  At any rate, I’m trying to line up activities, traditions, outings with the orphans, fun food, new crafts, and all manner of things to make these next 2 months more joy-full and less homesick.

Then the unexpected happens.  One thing after another.  Just when I think I’m recovering emotionally and psychologically from one blow, here comes a new one.  I admit, once I had a moment of silence today (I will neither confirm nor deny my whereabouts in the house when this moment occurred), I whispered through a choked back tear, “really God??? Why? Why right now?”

I just remembered the lyrics of a song that says “When you can’t see His hand, trust His heart.”  I don’t doubt for a moment that God is in control.  I don’t doubt that He is orchestrating every day of our lives, no matter how chaotic they seem to us at times.  I know this.  I’ve seen enough miracles in my relatively short life (especially in the last 8 yrs on the mission field) to readily acknowledge that God is real.  God is big.  God is intimately involved in our lives.  He cares about the details.  He is concerned with what concerns us.  I know!  But sometimes I don’t feel it.

People-to-people  relationships can be like that sometimes too, right?  Sometimes you have to remind yourself of what you know to be true, whether or not it *feels* true at the moment.  You have to choose to believe the best of your spouse, whether you feel like it or not.  Maybe you have to choose to believe that person didn’t *mean* to hurt you with the thoughtless words or actions.  Don’t assume that a lack of communication from a friend or family member is the same as a lack of love.  Assume the best.  Choose to love.

Today I’m choosing faith.  I choose to believe that God is doing something through all these weird things going on lately.

I choose to open my eyes to the blessings surrounding me.  The paintings of oddly formed butterflies on my fridge, the play-dough models of horses (I admit, I thought it was supposed to be a dragon), the perfect white calla-lily growing out in the yard, the stifled giggles and whispers escaping from my little girls’ room after the lights have been turned out for the night, the perfect aroma of coffee, the sparkle in William’s eyes… beauty.   Abundant blessings that I too often ignore for the busy-ness or refuse to acknowledge because I am *so* occupied with my pity-party.

I choose GRACE.  I choose to be a conduit that God can use to love on my kids.  I will not refuse the grace that He is attempting to give me for each moment by dwelling on the thoughts that steal my peace.

Tonight, I’m choosing joy.  Not because my situation is fantastic, or my finances stellar, or my marriage perfect, or my children well-behaved with nicely trimmed finger nails… but because I can.  Because over and over again in Scripture, joy is related to being in God’s presence.  THAT’S what I want.  That’s what I *can* do something about.  I’m learning to live my life in His presence.  I’ll letcha know when I have figured out how to do this perfectly (don’t hold your breath).  For now, I’m loving this journey.  And I’m banking on the promise Jesus gave in John 15 when He said “abide in me… your joy will be complete!”  That sounds good to me.  Complete joy.  Count me in.

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126:2-3

A small collection of the blessings I noticed today

A small collection of the blessings I noticed today

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The gift of Gab… 6 yrs!

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Every few months, someone brings up the topic of Gabi’s birth.  Nathan and I laugh at the funny memory, and then someone will ask to hear the story again.

Remember in the cartoon movie, Monsters, Inc. when a human child’s sock makes it into the monster world on accident?  Everyone runs around in a panic, yelling “2319!!! We have a 2319!”  A child (or something belonging to a child) had entered the monster world.  Well the moment Gabi was born, my wonderful doctor handed her to me and said, “Time of birth: 2319.”  I laughed outloud, in the middle of catching my breath, and several people in the room stopped to look at me.  I’m sure they thought I had lost my mind.  Just 2 minutes earlier, I had an oxygen mask on my face because I was starting to pass out in the middle of the transition contractions.  Maybe they thought I had suffered some kind of oxygen deprivation?  Anyway, they stopped and stared.  I continued to chuckle as I said “there’s a child in the monster world! Remember? 2319?”  Nathan smiled as he realized what I was saying, and the chaos of a hospital birth resumed.  Truly, I had no idea what a sweet, gentle, loving, precious light our Gabi would be in this monster world.

From the moment she was handed to me, she began staring into my eyes with those baby blues! I melted then, and I melt now.

From the moment she was born, she began staring into my eyes with those baby blues! I melted then… I melt now.

1 yr old! And just as sweet as ever.

1 yr old! And just as sweet as ever.

Gabi's 2nd birthday. Actively winning everyone's hearts!

Gabi’s 2nd birthday. Actively winning everyone’s hearts!

3 yrs old! She consistently melts us with her sweetness.

3 yrs old! She consistently melts us with her sweetness.

Her 4th birthday.  How we love that timid smile!

Her 4th birthday. How we love that timid smile!

5 yrs old, and suddenly not a toddler. But a little girl!

5 yrs old, and suddenly not a toddler. But a little girl!

Every year on each of the kids’ birthdays, we take them on a birthday date.  They get to choose where we go.  Gabi chose tacos and ice-cream!

ice cream tacos

As we ate, I decided to ask Gabi a few questions.  Here are her delightfully Gabi-like answers!

Me: What happened on your last birthday?

Gabi: I turned 5. I don’t remember what I had. When I woke up I went out the door and I thought there was aliens! But they were balloons hanging in the door!! It was funny. Oh and then Miss Jessica made me pancakes and sausage cuz you were at the hostabitle having William! And now we’re birthday buddies cuz he was born on my 5th birthday! OH! And then I got to spend the whole weekend at Mimi and Papas house and it was super fun.

Me: What did you learn this year?

Gabi: I learned how to swim and hold my breath under water. I sorta learned to read, too.

Me: What do you want to learn this next year?

Gabi: I want to learn to ride a bike. Oh and skate! And science.

Me: What are you going to be when you grow up?

Gabi: A science girl and a gymnastics girl. Cuz it’s cool to do tricks and stuff. I really enjoyed being 5. It was a great year.

Gabriella Joy, the world was blessed with extra sweetness and beauty the day you were born.  I am humbled at the responsibility, and honored by the privilege of being your mom.  I can’t wait to see what amazing things God is going to do in and through you this year!

One Mama to another

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I see you there, tired mama. Standing in the checkout line at the grocery store (how do you always pick the slowest lane??), a crying baby in your arms and a screaming toddler in the cart. I see the messy ponytail you created in a rush, in place of the freshly-washed do you had planned. I can even see that baby spit stain on the back of your sweater that *you* haven’t seen yet because you haven’t looked in the mirror all day. Don’t worry. When you do notice it tonight as you change for bed, you can just tell yourself “oh I’m sure that *just now* happened!” I’m fairly confident that the baby will not pipe up and say “oh no Mom, I did that right before we went to the store this-morning!” So go ahead and choose to believe that you didn’t wear the spit all day.

green goopsm

The same goes for that big sticky spot you just found on the back pocket of your jeans. No, I have no idea what it is. But I’m quite sure no one else noticed it.

Let me be the first to say, it’s okay to grab that over-priced little box of crackers at the check-out stand just to buy yourself a moment of calm. Sometimes peace is worth the extra few dollars.

Next, I would like to assure you that you’re not alone. While it may *seem* like every other mother in the store has perfectly calm children who are not begging you to buy every item that catches their eye, it’s an illusion. You are not alone. You are not the only mother who has cried over spilled milk today. Hey. It was chocolate milk, all over the floor that you JUST mopped. For the first time in a month. These are legitimate reasons for tears, people! You are not alone.

I’m struggling through my current season of motherhood, too. I tell myself often, “this will only get easier.” Eventually, the baby WILL sleep through the night. My 2nd grader and Kindergartener will be able to do more and more studying independently. Not every day will involve a battle-of-the-wills with my 3 yr old. One of these days, I will wake up in the morning and realize that I am actually ready to get up! I am looking forward to that day. Until then, I’m gathering tools for survival. Little keys to not only making it to my bed in one piece every night, but somehow having enough energy left to go back in for “one more kiss” when my children call for it at night. I wanted to share the few helpful things I’ve found… before I forget them.

I’m beginning to see that one of the greatest lessons to be learned in every difficult season is our need for an intimate relationship with Jesus. How else does “come to me, you who are weak and burdened, and I will give you rest” work? It’s a relationship. It’s a challenge, like any other relationship, to keep it close. But it comes with promises! Rest. Peace unlike any other. Renewed strength. He sees where we’re at, and understands the challenges. I don’t think He is offended when our prayer time happens over a stack of dishes or laundry. So long as it happens.

You probably know what I’m about to say. It’s no secret! It’s been passed down from wiser mothers for years. But somehow I guess I just didn’t think it applied to me. Maybe it sounds too selfish? But alas. The truth remains. You need YOU time. It probably looks different for all of us. For one, it may look like an hour at the gym. For another, a quiet moment in a coffee shop with a friend. Maybe it just means a hot bath with some relaxing music while your husband stands guard at the door. But really, I think the best way to recharge (at least for us mamas who are home all day every day) will be getting OUT of the house. Alone. I know, you’re going to say “alone time with a toddler?? HA!” Remember I have 4 kids, 8 and under. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it CAN be done. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Make it happen.

Ask for help. Your husband, a girlfriend, another mom with kids that you can trade babysitting hours with. Don’t be “that mom” who is too proud to ask for help and later ends up shopping for cheap hairpieces because she pulled all her hair out during the last stressful mealtime!

daddyplay

If by chance you are not a mother of small children, and you are reading this anyway, kudos. If someone forwarded this to you, tagged you in a link to it, or somehow it magically appeared in your inbox, can I say something directly to you? You can help. Don’t tell us “oh these days will be gone before you know it. I loved EVERY MINUTE of my kids being little!” First off, we know you’re lying! Some minutes are just not lovable. Beyond that, you actually CAN help! If you can spare an hour somewhere in your day to play a game with the kids while we take a walk around the block, that helps. I once had an older woman approach me in the store, pat my hand, and tell me “you’re doing a great job, honey. One day these babies will rise up and call you blessed.” This, over the din of my screaming infant. I may have hugged the woman and thanked her profusely through my tears. Not that I was crying in Walmart. *ahem*

Hang in there, friend. I have been assured that we won’t remember the level of exhaustion that these days find us in. Supposedly, by some miracle, we won’t be able to recall the thousand little things that happen throughout each day to completely unravel our nerves. We will only be left with memories of a house filled with giggles and love. And, I hope, compassion for that young mother in our lives.

A more grateful Christmas

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7 Ways to have more Grateful Kids this Christmas

1. A “Gifts We Already Have List”

Hang a long paper on a wall or on the fridge or back of door. Fill that list up before Christmas — with all the countless ways God blesses you all as a family. Count 1000 (or a bit more or less) of the gifts you already have this Christmas!

2. Thanks Mob the neighborhood

Set out a basket of Thank you postcards and leave a pen and stamps in the basket. Add a stash of chocolate bars. See if you can empty the thank-you card basket, accompanied by chocolate bars, by Christmas — a thank-you card and chocolate bar for the postman, the garbage collector, folks at the hair salon, the crossing guard, the church janitor.

3. Love-in for a Shut-In

Adopt a shut-in this Advent. One person who is home bound or elderly or in a nursing home — and have the kids think of one thing they can do for that shut-in face to face over Advent. Sing Christmas carols with them one evening? Bring them a very small tree in a pot and every week of Advent pop in with one more meaningful ornament for the tree? Bring them a meal? Find a way for the kids to be face-to-face with blessing someone.

4. Thrift Gifts

Before every trip to the mall — check out one thrift store. Before any online order — check out kijji or ebay. Help kids to thrill in the hunt for thrifted gems — and see it as a way to make gifts keep on giving! Think Thrift Gift!

5. Lower expectations to heighten Joy

“Expectations kill relationships — and joy.” (One Thousand Gifts) Consider ways of sharing with the kids that Christmas is going to be smaller and holier this year. Set low spending limits for all gift-giving and make the creativity with little part of the Christmas fun. Live by the small rule: Only buy for Christmas Day what can be paid for by New Year’s Day. Lower the expectations to heighten the joy!

6. Giving Lists not Getting Lists

Spend quiet time with each of the kids thinking and planning on what they can give and how they can be the gift, give a blessing — so that they can live out the truth of: It is more blessed to give than to receive. What can they make? Bake? Create? How could they surprise? Bless? Who is on their Giving list? Let’s focus on our Giving Lists — and not so much on any getting lists.

7. King Gifts

Hear Jesus whispering it: “When You give to the least of these — you give to Me.” Consider how to make this Christmas radical — and get out the King’s Catalogs and get excited about giving bringing gifts to our King! Gather the family around with all the catalogs and make it a family birthday party for Jesus — will you bring the King a goat, clean water, a chicken, a Bible for a new Believer, a warm coat?

“Christian hands never clasp and He doesn’t give us gifts for our gain because a gift can never stop being a gift— it is always meant to be given.” (from One Thousand Gifts)

::I did not come up with this list. I’m not even sure where it came from! But it’s too good to not share. I don’t want to lose these ideas! Because we can all stand to be more grateful… and not just at Christmas!::

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Photo proof

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This is where Nathan and the girls lived while I was in the hospital for 10 days.

The first evidence of God providing for us showed up just a few hours after I was admitted.  Nathan had to hitch up the trailer, wake up the girls, and drive about 4 hrs to get to Phoenix from Kingman.  Before he arrived, I asked my nurse if she knew where he could park the trailer for the day.  She said that the hospital (Banner Good Samaritan) had a few spaces for travel trailers, complete with hook-ups!  She gave me the phone number for the security guard, and I called to ask if there were any open spaces.  He said 4 out of the 5 were empty!  I asked how long we could stay… as long as we needed.  I asked how much it costs… it’s free.  Full hook-ups!  Water, electric, gas and sewage.  I told him my husband would be arriving soon, hung up, and whispered a “thank you, God!”  The first of many times we would see His hand on our situation.

Hospital snuggles with Cloe and Bren

The girls were so good through the hospital days!  I am not sure what I was expecting, but it definitely went better than I anticipated, where they were concerned.  Even though I got to see them every day (sometimes only for a few minutes), I was very much not available for their every-day needs.  Our hospital room was very small, so there wasn’t much room to play.  Some days (like the one pictured above) they were happy to curl up on the bed with me, talk, and snuggle.  I loved it!  I just could not believe how badly I missed them the other 23 hrs of each day!

Miss Chelsey and Brennah

I mentioned in another post about our friend Chelsey who flew out from CO just to help us take care of the girls.  I shudder to think about how those hospital days (and nights) would have gone without Chelsey!  I can’t even describe the relief that washed over me when I heard she was coming.  She took wonderful care of our girls the entire week, then made the long drive back to CO with Nathan and the girls, and has spent several days since then helping us out.  To say “what a blessing” seems like a gross understatement.  But we thank God for Chelsey!

A quiet moment with my precious man.

I really could dedicate an entire blog post to my husband.  He has been more than amazing through all of things we’ve experienced in the last 5 1/2 weeks.  Chelsey snapped this shot one afternoon, and I am so glad she did.  It’s a perfect example of how sweet Nathan has been through everything.  While I would not wish pre-term labor or bedrest on anyone, I am thankful for how close we have grown through it.

Mother’s Day `12

We escaped the hospital!!  Actually I was just discharged to home bed-rest.  My dad flew with me back to Colorado, and the girls drove with Nathan.  The day after they arrived was Mother’s Day!  We got to go to church together, and I spent the entire day loving on my sweet girls.  Baby Will was an active participant in our day, kicking and punching and responding to his sisters voices.  What a great gift this entire day was!

Deep thoughts on Mother’s Day

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This Mother’s Day was one of reflection for me. My first deep thought this-morning (don’t ask how long it took to have one of those after I’d woken up… it’s embarrassing) was about the last 2 weeks. What an incredible roller-coaster it’s been! It struck me how very different this Mother’s Day *could* have been. Just 10 days ago, doctors and nurses were attempting to prepare me for what they thought was inevitable… giving birth to a micro-preemie. He would most likely not survive. Yesterday would have felt much different, if God had allowed that. My heart is overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s merciful hand on our situation. For sparing the life of my son. For working numerous miracles that have already touched people we don’t even know.

But my heart also hurts today. For the friend who, just last week, gave birth at 19 weeks to twin baby boys and had to say goodbye as soon as she said hello. For our sweet church friend whose 18 yr old daughter died in a car accident last fall. For my own mom who still sorely misses her first-born son. He has been in Heaven for 8 yrs now. For multiple friends who are still longing for the joy of being a mother. I remember that pain. There was a Mother’s Day, 8 yrs ago, that I remember very well. I had just suffered a miscarriage at 13 weeks. I was angry at God and could not imagine why He would allow some women(who didn’t even want kids) to have one healthy pregnancy after another. Yet here we were, trying so desperately to have just one. That Mother’s Day hurt. I cried through the church service. Looking back, I can see how near God was… He was drawing us to Himself. We had things to learn through that season of tears. So today, all I can do is pray that God will be as near to my friends (and family) as He has been to me through heart-aches. Sometimes it is only after the ache has faded that we can see how near He really was. But my sincere prayer is that these women will feel His nearness today, no matter how sharp or dull the pain.

It’s hard to believe I’m writing this from Colorado. It was impossible. Out of the question! But one week ago, the doctors said “you may get to go home if this keeps up.” We were shocked! The last ultrasound had shown nothing but good news. The amnio test proved that there was no leak. Contractions have slowed to only a few random ones per day. The doctors start the weekend telling us that the bleeding will probably continue until Will is born… because placentas don’t generally heal. But last Sunday, it stopped! And hasn’t started again. Yet another reality that was not supposed to be possible.

On Wednesday morning, Dr. Clewell came in to our room and said “well? Any changes over the night?” to which I replied “nope!” He smiled and patted my leg. “Great. Let’s get you out of here!!” A few hours later, I was out! We spent the rest of Wed (May 9) at a hotel. The girls swam, we napped, ordered Chinese, and just LOVED being together. Sleeping in the same room (and bed) feels like a great privledge now.

Thursday afternoon, my dad flew in to Phoenix, and then turned around and flew back out with me! The flight to Denver was uneventful, other than turbulence as we descended. That one bumpy moment was the one contraction I had all day. SO much better than I expected! My dad dropped me off with our good friend (and dentist) and his wife, then headed home to bed. Dr. Randy and Kathy Sanders took such great care of me all weekend! They ate every meal “picnic style” with me by my bed. I wish there was some way to express my gratitude for all they did! We are truly blessed to call them friends.

After a restful weekend visiting with friends, Nathan and the girls arrived. They picked me up Sunday morning and we were able to go to church together (me in a wheelchair, them running circles around me)! Mother’s Day was spent with my babies. All 4 of them. Will made his presence known in the form of hiccups, punches and kicks. Mother’s Day marked 25 weeks and 2 days on the pregnancy calendar! I have SO many blessings to count this year.

(The original post and comments can be found here.)

His name is Asher

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Thursday, May 3rd.  The day we found out we were having a boy, I told Nathan “I want to use the name Asher.” He said “but we already picked William James!” I know. But I can’t get Asher out of my head. It means happy or blessed. I love it. Can’t we just squish it in? We say it aloud a few times “William Asher James.” Yep. I love it. I had no idea how prophetic the meaning would be to our baby boy.

You know it’s going to be a good day if it starts out with one of your closest friends flying in from Michigan! Amanda had been planning her visit to CO this weekend. She was helping Kimberly (my little sister) with baby shower plans for Saturday, and we were hoping for lots of Starbucks and shopping time together. At least, that *was* the plan! Now we have a new plan. Chill in my hospital room. Paint our nails. Talk.

The nurses have had a hard time keeping the baby on his monitor. He’s so active! Several times throughout the morning they have to track him down again and they say “he’s a happy baby!” I smile and think, “well, that is his middle name!”

The first dr we see today says “one of our best specialists looked at your ultrasound. He is not convinced that there is a blood clot, and is concerned that you have placenta previa (where the placenta covers the opening of the uterus). He wants to do another ultrasound himself. ASAP.” We ask about a shower again and the nurse says “Maybe after your ultrasound. Depending on what they find.”

The rest of the day, we wait. We talk, we get excited about the contractions continuing to space out, my parents keep the girls almost all day long. They all arrive after lunch in new matching dresses and hair all done with bows. I love seeing them walk in the door!

Just as my mom and dad are leaving for the airport, the transport guy shows up to take me to the ultrasound. Once there, we are met by one of the sweetest drs I have ever met. We learn from his assistant that Dr. C is known all over for his skills in intra-uterine infant surgery. They start the ultrasound and tell us they are looking for the source of the bleed, as well as the supposed blood clot that is causing all the issues. After much looking, they decide that the placenta is very low, but not quite previa. There is no blood clot. The amniotic fluid is a healthy normal level. William looks perfect. No clues as to what started all of this or caused the bag to refill. I am amazed that they seem to be okay with NOT knowing. I keep offering my explanation of a miracle, and no one argues. They shrug and say “well we don’t have any other ideas. This baby is just very blessed.” I smile and say “that’s his middle name.”

The dr eventually decides that everything looks fine, and says we are going to do 2 things next. The first is an amniocentesis (drawing some amniotic fluid), to rule out infection. The second is injecting a bunch of bright blue dye into the amniotic fluid to see if it’s leaking out at all. They call it the smurf test. That’s how blue this stuff is!! As they proceed with the amniocentesis, they continue doing an ultrasound, so as to be careful to not poke William. It hurt worse than I expected, and the feeling of the fluid being pulled out is VERY weird. Will tries to grab the needle that is invading his space, and Dr.C attempts to wiggle it away from him. Silly, curious boy!

Finally, it’s over. Fluid out, dye in, nothing but good news. They said that it appears to be just a slight abruption of the placenta, so we should just plan on it continuing to bleed until the baby is born. Bleeding aggravates everything though, so we will almost definitely still have a pre-term baby.

We return to our room with much hope. They let me take a shower!!! It was short, but heavenly. The evening is quiet, visiting with friends and little girls and keeping the Facebook world posted. We are completely overwhelmed by the texts, phone calls and emails from concerned people. Complete strangers are asking how they can help! God has been so gracious and provided so much already. We feel that, like baby Will, we should change our name to mean “blessed.”

(The original post and comments can be found here.)