Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Stay-at-war Mom

Stay-at-home moms
We are a ragtag army
Not the fittest, because we carried new life in our bodies
Not the finest, because 2 year olds don't believe in showers or fixing hair
Not the clean or the organized, because our homes are well lived in
But we are an army nonetheless.
Well loved, well led, and strong enough. 

We are at war to remember that this place is not our home. We are not staying here.

We cannot stay-at-home. We must stay-at-war. 

They label us homemakers, but Jesus is our homemaker. He is preparing a place for us--for our family. So why do we think we must make our place here?

Why do I fight ingratitude for the old furniture? for the mixmatched? for the well-loved and well-used? If keeping the old means someone else can have a Bible for the first time, then I will keep fighting and love this ratty old stuff and the empty walls. My God will provide all I need according to his riches and glory.

Why do I fight ingratitude for my time? How can I be unhappy when the weeds grow wild in the yard, when the floor stays unmopped, or when the undone projects wait in the garage? If those things undone mean that I have time with my Beloved and that other people are loved on, then I will keep fighting and love the undone.

Dinner will be late. The house will be dirty. The dreams will not all come true here, but my heart will fight and love for the one thing that matters to me. I am looking forward to a wedding day--to a bridegroom who has prepared a place for me. I will not be content until I am with Him, until His dreams are my dreams,  until His kingdom is my kingdom.

God, lead me into battle and give me strength to fight.

I want to fight by giving myself to the simple act of dying. I want to change diapers, make food, play tag, and fold laundry.  I want to surrender the big dreams for little service, like You gave up heaven for a cross to make me a home with You.

I want to fight by proclaiming Your love to the ones who don't know. I don't want to look past them or be too busy for them. I want to extend the invitation to them to be a part of my life without being embarrassed by the fact that I don't have it all together and, as I said, dinner will be late and the house will be dirty. You want them in your home, Jesus, so I want them in mine too.

I want to fight by loving my children well and by receiving all the children You want to give me. You said they are arrows. They will fight the future battles that are beyond my reach. They will go to war and go further than I. God, they just look like children to me, but they are warriors to You and You are making a home for them too.

I want to never lose sight of you, Jesus. I want to remember that home is not here. Home is the kingdom I'm fighting for here on the battleground.

I will be a stay-at-war mom until the battle is won and You take me home. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Joseph's Birth Story

I woke up with no expectations on Joseph's due date, 3/13/13. Malakai was born a couple days past his due date. Caleb would have been born past his due date if I hadn’t been induced. The odds were against me, but hey, a girl can hope, right? My house was clean. I was sleeping well at night. I felt great. I felt a little too great to be about to have a baby. I met a friend at ChickfilA for breakfast and they gave us free ice cream to celebrate due date day. If anything can console a pregnant woman who is still pregnant on her due date, it’s a ChickfilA icedream.

The rest of the day passed smoothly. No action. The rest of the week passed smoothly. No action. By the weekend I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable and Joseph was starting to feel a little lower and a little too squished. I think I lost my mucous plug on Sunday. 

Monday morning, Kai woke up with the stomach bug. We had 4 really "fun" days and then Caleb caught it too. Kai barely escaped going to the ER for fluids. We asked everyone to pray that Joseph would not arrive until the boys recovered. By Sunday, the last of Caleb’s symptoms were gone.

Sunday night I also started having contractions for the first time. At first I kept thinking Joseph was making some odd movements that were causing the sharp pain in my abdomen. You would think I would recognize a contraction after doing this twice already! I began to notice the pain was rhythmic—happening every 10 minutes. It started in just one spot, but it slowly wrapped around front to back and I realized I was having contractions. They continued all night—every 10 minutes. I went to bed and they were just strong enough to wake me up for a moment at their peak.
The next morning (Monday) was Brandon's birthday. He stayed home from work to help with the boys since I didn’t sleep well and suspected labor was beginning. All day long the contractions continued right on time—every 10 minutes. My appetite kept fluctuating between feeling starving and then feeling too nauseated to even think about food. In the afternoon, Brandon drove me to my appointment at the midwifery clinic. The contractions continued and I refused the midwives' many requests to check me for dilation—afraid they would find me too dilated and pressure me to check into the hospital too early. I get too impatient in the hospital. I wanted to labor at home. They set my induction for Wednesday if I didn't go into labor on my own by then. We went into Kroger on the way home to pick up some dinner and desert for Brandon's birthday. As we walked through the store the contractions were so intense I couldn't think about anything but getting back to the car to sit down and rest. We drove home and served up salad and hot dogs to the boys while Brandon opened his birthday gifts. All the while it was becoming less and less possible for me to focus on anything but the contractions. It was time to call in the grandparents.

Brandon got the boys ready for bed while I packed their bags. When Nana and Papa arrived to save the day and pick up the boys at 9:00, I was laying down and timing contractions about a minute apart every 5 minutes. Brandon was baking his birthday cookies in the kitchen. Through the night the contractions would space out to 10 minutes apart and then drop back to every 5 minutes if I moved. I kept thinking, "I have to rest. This is going to take a long time." By 3 am I couldn't lay down through the contractions anymore. I kept finding myself on my hands and knees rocking, then quickly changing because that made the pain so much more intense.
I felt so weary and birth still felt so far away. I kept reminding myself of the curse as though it were a promise, “In pain, you WILL bring forth children.” I would bring this baby forth! He was going to come out! And I clung to Isaiah 66:9, “'Shall I bring to the point of birth and not give delivery?' says the LORD.” No, of course not. I've done this before. I know the moment seems too far away, but God does give delivery!
Brandon realized I was out of bed and came in to find me complaining that I was too tired and I needed help and we should probably go to the hospital. He immediately jumped into coach mode and before I knew it I was settled on the couch eating chobani and an apple while watching a movie ( Fitzwilly-- an old Dick Van Dyke movie on netflix). He had his arm around me through every contraction while timing them for me.
I read on Ann Voskamp's blog that during labor she visualized herself as a big bag of sand. With every contraction she imagined the pain seeping down and out through her big toe like sand seeping out of a small hole in the bottom of the sand bag. That image worked for me so well and I focused on that through every contraction. I took long slow breaths.
By 8:00 am the contractions were about 4 minutes apart and very painful so we headed for the hospital. We called my mom on the way because she was going to attend the birth as well. We told her we'd call her back once we checked in and found out how close I was.
When we checked into the hospital at 9 am I was excited to see our nurse was a familiar face—our friend Marci from our old community group. She hooked me up to the monitor and my midwife commented on my nice contraction pattern—now every 3 minutes. Then there was this long silence. Just waiting. I couldn't stand the silence. I requested that they check me and I was 7 cm. Ugh. So close, but not close enough. I stalled at 7 cm for a couple hours during Caleb's birth. I couldn't take this painful waiting for hours more. Brandon kept asking if he should call my mom and I kept shaking my head, “No, I need you here”.
I got up to use the restroom. The walking made the contractions fall one right on top of the other. I asked Brandon, “Why am I doing this again? Why shouldn't I just get an epidural right now?” “Uhhhhhh.....”, he said. Oops. Guess I should have told him ahead of time why I wanted it natural this time. That's ok. I was complaining, but I remembered why. It was curiosity really. I wanted the experience. My friends who had natural childbirths not only chose to do it that way again, but they were passionate about birth. They would tell me that it was so painful it was like an out of body experience, but then they would choose to do it again. I didn't understand it. Also, the tribulation before Jesus returns is compared to labor pains. If He returns in my generation, I want that labor experience to hold on to and compare to. This was my chance if I could hang on a little longer. I would be disappointed later if I stopped now. Yolo!! You only labor once!
 (Ok, so I didn't think Yolo! while I was in labor, but now it will be stuck in your head during you next labor, won't i?t! bwaha)

I remembered the Bradley book my friend Joanne had lent me. I remembered reading the way I would feel during transition. It was normal to feel like, “I can't do this and I need help.”. I just needed to surrender to what was happening. That feeling just meant I was close. I was almost there.
I found myself on my hands and knees rocking again. It was so painful. My slow deep breaths turned into moans that I couldn't silence. I decided I would just keep moving and pressing into the pain and if nothing happened after an hour of that then I would call it quits and get the epidural. Our nurse stepped out of the room and told Brandon to press the call button if I felt the need to push. The next contraction came there on my hands and knees and then there it was--this crazy, unmistakable urge to push. It didn't matter that the nurse and midwife were out of the room because there was no way to not push!
Brandon pushed the button and the midwife rushed in. The next contraction came and I pushed and felt Joseph's entire little body move from the place it had been resting for 9 months. It was happening. Forget moaning, I was screaming now. I think as every contraction rolled in I cried, “No, I don't want to do this!” but I did and I was doing it. I couldn't believe I was about to hold my son. Somewhere in the pushing my water broke, but I really have no memory of it. I moved from hands and knees to squatting. I reached down and felt his head—almost there. A couple more pushes through the crazy burning and I couldn't believe I was looking down at this beautiful, blue squirmy baby. A second later he was in my arms. He was so blue. Fear crept in and I remembered the special care team that was there waiting to whisk him away if need be and the ultrasound specialist's words, “Oh, he WILL need surgery.” Then the sound I had waited to hear for so long flooded the room—this soft, beautiful baby cry touched my ears and color flooded Joseph's face. I was holding my third son in my arms. God had added to me another son. He had brought delivery.

The special care team was ushered out of the room (Thank you, Lord!!) and I was given precious time to hold my Joseph and nurse him before they took him away for an echocardiogram. He was here; he was in our arms; and he was perfect.

This Is Winning

When Caleb was sick before his first surgery, I found myself on the floor crying one day. I couldn't keep up with everything and I couldn't get my sick little baby to stop fussing and I dropped down and cried to God, "I just can't win!"

The Holy Spirit said strong and clearly, "This IS winning."

When you have given of yourself to the point that it hurts, that it's hard, that it feels like sacrifice, then you have learned how to really love.

When you let it hurt, keep giving it to Jesus, and keep doing the right thing no matter how difficult it feels, then you have begun to learn perseverance.

How will you ever know the God who does the impossible unless you decide to keep loving in a way that feels impossible?

How will you find out that His strength is made perfect in weakness unless you try doing something that takes more strength than you have?

When being a wife or mother hurts, is difficult, is too big a job for doesn't mean you're losing. It is a reminder that you are running a race and you are running it to win. Keep going!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

What my Daddy Would Want You to Know

There are those nights when you can sit in the dark and the words you pray seem to hit the wall and bounce back at you and you wonder where the Father’s ears are that were supposed to catch the words you sent. That Father you haven’t seen and maybe haven’t heard, but the preachers say He loves you and hears everything and will provide for you. Where is He on that night that you hear the words bounce back to you from the wall,

Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.”

You can feel the beat of the prayer like the ball on the empty wall, but what your heart was looking for was the beat of His heart, a response, a feeling, a sound—something to let you know He hears.

Most of the time I don’t hear anything back. But when you keep throwing the ball, keep saying the prayers, keep believing He hears, keep believing He can catch it…something happens like an earthquake in the middle of the day and in an instant the wall splits and light breaks through and it happens.

His kingdom comes.

It’s a sliver in the day, a crack of light that no one else notices, but your heart felt the earthquake and you know that you just tasted the goodness of a Father. Heaven just came to earth for you. Something happens that is so right, you know the wall of this broken world just split.

That happened for me the day I told my parents I was pregnant with my first child.

My Dad danced.

He was 50 with gray in his beard. I was 21, 3 months married, and in school.

My Dad, now turned Grandpa, picked up a tambourine (seriously) and He danced.

I should have been embarrassed. Who has a 50 year old Dad that grabs a tambourine and dances in the kitchen?

But the wall was breaking and my heart was breaking because I have a Father who danced simply because another life had come into existence.

I know this was heaven breaking through because it’s the story that God wrote in the beginning breaking into my own story. It’s the story that in the beginning there was a God with a Father heart who created a man and a woman just because His heart rejoiced at life coming into existence. It’s the story that there is a God and that He seems a little crazy because He could have chosen to be anything else, but He chose to be a Dad.

My parents always lived that story for me, that story of a God who loves life. I have 6 younger brothers and sisters. I remember every two years my parents called us together for a family meeting to tell us that mom was pregnant. We cheered and smiled and hoped and it never mattered in that moment that my family was too busy, too broke, and too tired to know how another life would fit into our lives. It didn’t matter then and it didn’t matter later because there always was enough. Each of those meetings and cheers turned into a birth and first steps and first words and then into first cars and graduations. Each of those cheers is now a brother, a sister, a friend who holds my heart and my love.

I know that one day my Dad probably won’t be here to hug me anymore or to dance for us when new life breaks through. I have friends who lost their Daddy and friends who never had one to begin with. I have friends who are raising their own children without a Daddy.

But I know this Daddy I have had here loving me for 25 years is only a glimpse of the reality of my real Father who will always hold me. He is a glimpse of the crazy God Father who dances at our existence and who is always with us and for us.

All hell roars on this side of the wall to keep us from seeing that glimpse of God and the good Father that He is. Father on this side of the wall can mean rape, abuse, hatred, apathy, or absence and it’s because Satan doesn’t want you know that God the Father is really a God of love. That’s why I share my Father with you now.

When you came into existence, the Father rejoiced.

Maybe no one was praying or there was no earthquake and you couldn’t see the other side of that wall where He was shaking a tambourine, but He was just the same.

I promise that when all hell roars on this side, it’s different if you know that Father.
You can fight the roar of, “You don’t have enough,” because a Father who loves will always make sure you have enough.
You can fight the roar of, “You’re alone,” because a Father who loves will not leave you when the going gets hard.
You can fight a roar of shame, fear of judgment, and fear of the people and circumstances around you because you have a Father breaking through to be on your side with you.

But it is a fight. You have to fight.

The fight is in your heart and you win when you choose to pray and throw against the wall of sin and doubt that holds back heaven. The fight is in your heart and you win when you side with your Father and rejoice at life—all life—even your own life when it doesn’t feel like there is much good in it to rejoice about.

The fight is in the quiet moments when you choose to believe through the silence and the empty feelings and you lift up your voice and you ask Him to come and break in and shake everything.

Keep asking and looking and I promise you will feel the earthquake inside when He answers.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Joseph's Pregnancy Story

I was standing in the middle of Walmart with my arms full of party supplies when I first realized it.

My goal had been simple: run into the store and pick up party supplies for Kai's 3rd birthday party the following day. After nearly two hours of walking back and forth and wondering why I couldn't find this color table cloth or that pattern fabric and why nothing seemed just right and why I didn't really care anymore and why I was so tired, I had the thought,

"I haven't felt this out of it since I was pregnant."

A few minutes later I was checking out with party supplies and a pregnancy test. 

I peed on the little stick as soon as I got home. Nothing showed up. "I'm so paranoid," I thought, wondering if Brandon would be annoyed that I wasted money on another pregnancy test (I think I'm pregnant at least once a month). I set it down on the counter and washed my hands while Kai wiggled his fingers underneath the bathroom door and tried to tell me something about his party. As I washed my hands, the little pink line began to appear. 

Really!! Did that line really just show up?? I'm pregnant!!! I knew it! I am going to have a baby!!

I knew I couldn't keep it a secret for any amount of time. I rushed out smiling and handed my stunned husband the pregnancy test. He made his Wahhhhhht-I-can't-believe-it-I'm-so-happy face that I adore and that was the beginning of the story of our third child.

We treasured our little secret at Kai's birthday party the next day. We waited a while to tell anyone. Once you're at three kids people start to think you're a little crazy and I just wanted to treasure the news all to myself before hearing anyone say anything. 

A week or two after we found out we were pregnant, Kai walked up to me, looked me straight in the face, and asked, "Mommy, do you have a baby in your tummy?" We hadn't said a word to him or anyone else about it. He had never asked that before. I paused--shocked--then answered, "YES!"

We really thought we were having a girl. By that, I don't mean that we were trying for a girl or hoping for a girl. I mean that we thought God told us we were having a girl next. God had told us Kai and Caleb's names before we were even pregnant with them. In the same way, we thought we heard our third was a girl. We didn't know the name this time though. When we were ready to share the joy, we sent this to our families. 

Our third child due on 3/13/13. If that isn't lucky, I don't know what is. 

Other than the exhaustion, I was feeling really good at the beginning of the pregnancy. I remember craving a whole lot of beef jerky. I ate so much that my friend brought be this as a congratulations gift.

I couldn't believe that weeks were going by and I was not throwing up. I had been so terribly sick through every single month of Kai and Caleb's pregnancies. I thought I had escaped it altogether when, at 12 weeks, the nausea hit me. I started throwing up multiple times a day every single day. Looking back, I'm not really sure how we made it through the next 2 months. Giving the boys breakfast--then running to the bathroom to throw mine up...trying to wash dishes at the end of the night in between throwing up....ugh.
It was extra difficult because Brandon had just started a new job. He loved it and it was eating up all of his attention and it was really hard to have him so distracted and excited when I felt like I was barely surviving. We also did not have insurance coverage as we were waiting on paperwork to switch our coverage from his old employer to the new employer. When we finally had coverage at 20 weeks, we went for our first ultrasound and found ourselves staring at a....


We had no explanation, but we were thrilled. I think maybe God knew I needed to dream of quiet tea parties when I was chasing two little boys around while throwing up every day. I was surprised, but not disappointed. I was going to have another son. Three brothers. How incredibly special.
At the 20 week appointment, I also got a prescription for Zofran, the miracle morning sickness medicine. 

Life started to get a little easier. I got that second trimester energy and the Zofran helped get the nausea under control just in time for Halloween and Thanksgiving. 

In December, Caleb got a terrible stomach bug while Brandon was out of town.  At least--that's what I thought he had. Brandon came home on Saturday and Caleb was still very sick. I ended up taking him to the ER Sunday night because of dehydration. The ER was packed. They gave him zofran as soon as we checked in, but he still threw up multiple times all over himself and me as we waited to be seen. He would pass out from exhaustion, wake up to cry, throw up, and then pass out again. After hours of waiting, we were put in a room for more waiting. They had trouble getting an IV in him. When they finally got one in, we waited a few more hours as he received the fluid, but he didn't seem any better. After one of the most exhausting nights of my life, my doctor broke the news to me in the morning that they thought he had a blocked intestine--a complication from the surgery he had in February earlier that year--and we were going back to Scottish Rite for another surgery. We were transported there in an ambulance for surgery that afternoon. Brandon met me at Scottish Rite and took over while my mom drove me back to her house for a nap. I felt bad napping during his surgery, but I could hardly stand at that point and I knew I would need energy for the recovery.

Long story short, the surgery was successful. We spent 2 weeks at the hospital recovering. God strengthened us. Our family and friends were incredibly supportive. I was so thankful that at least it happened during the second trimester when I had the most energy and wasn't too uncomfortable to hold Caleb or to sleep on a hospital bed for two weeks.

Caleb was home and recovering in time for Christmas.

After Christmas, it was time to start thinking about the baby who would soon be joining our little family.
We still didn't have a name. God had told us what to name Malakai and Caleb. We figured He would tell us about this son too, but we hadn't heard anything yet.

On an impulse, I mentioned to Kai one day, "Hey Kai, if God tells you anything about the maybe his can tell me what God says." Kai knew I was pregnant before anyone else and God did tell us to name him after a prophet. Right then, Kai closed his eyes and looked up and asked, "God, what is the baby's name?" Without batting an eye, he looked back at me and said, "He said his name is Joseph." 

I hadn't really expected an answer. I couldn't think of any reason why Kai would pick the name Joseph. I pulled out my bible and flipped to the story of Joseph in the old testament. I read,

"She named him Joseph, and said, “May the Lord add to me another son.” Gen 30:24

My heart was struck. God had added to me another son--Joseph.

I couldn't wait to meet him.

I had another ultrasound in January because I switched practices so that the midwifery clinic I loved could deliver Joseph. The ultrasound tech kept looking at the same thing over and over again and looked serious. She referred me to an ultrasound specialist "just in case" because some of her measurements were off.

I remember feeling this desperation to just pray and be with God before my first appointment with the ultrasound specialist. He was serious too and kept taking measurements of Joseph's heart. I braced myself as he broke the news that something was wrong. He thought Joseph had something called Ebstein's Anomaly. He would need surgery--maybe as soon as he was born--to correct the problem. Somehow I was calm and even told the doctor, "I already gave this to God and I'm going to let it stay with Him." The fear hit me later. I knew everything was going to be ok in the end, but I was scared of what we would have to go through to get there. Caleb was healed both times, but it was painful and difficult to get to "all better". Brandon was a rock--sure God was going to heal our Joseph. We saw specialists over the next two months and had more ultrasounds. They decided to let me deliver with the midwifery clinic at our local hospital,but there would be a special care team in the room in case Joseph couldn't stabilize on his own at birth. 

A week or two before my due date, my parents watched Kai and Caleb while Brandon and I had a night off. We went to a meeting with friends and worship. During worship, I was asking God about Joseph and his heart and He told me, "Don't read Caleb's story into Joseph's. It's different." Before Caleb was born we had words about him being a warrior--and what warrior doesn't get a few battle scars? But Joseph's story would be different. Now I finally had a word from God to stand on. But what was "different"? What would we have  to go through this time? Would his heart be healed?