Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Tribute To My Mom

“Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.’ Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates.”
Proverbs 31: 28-31

Usually these types of blog posts pop up on Mothers Day in honor of the occasion, and not without good reason. But I don’t want to just spout words along with the rest of the nation on a day penned in ink as celebratory for the matronly role. I want to honor a seemingly ordinary person in a seemingly ordinary role on a perfectly ordinary day. This post has nothing to do with Mothers Day. This is just me sharing my heart with my mom, from the perspective of now being a young mother myself. So here’s to you, Cindy Strauss—my mother.

Growing up I heard you countless times lamenting that you didn’t fully appreciate your mother while she was alive. I thank the Lord that I still have the chance to share with you just how greatly I appreciate you. Back in those days, I was too young and too inexperienced to fully understand what you meant, just as you where when your mother was raising you. Now that I am a mom of two littles under the age of three, I can empathize with some of the thoughts and feelings you must have experienced while raising us four kids.  I’m struggling with how to condense and still eloquently word all the thoughts and feelings I wish to express to you in this stage of my life, but I’ll do my best. Some of this may be jumbled due to my own scrambled brain and the fact that my toddler is serenading me with a cacophony of musical distractions as I write this, but after all, that’s what this whole post is about—the high and invaluable calling of motherhood that is not for the faint of heart.

I’ll start with pregnancy. WOW. Let me just say, even if those 9 months of carrying a baby in your body were all that motherhood entailed, I would still give you a standing ovation. And probably a trophy. And maybe even a plaque engraved “SUPERWOMAN”. There are so many discomforts that accompany the joy of procreating life, and I have now experienced nearly all of them. From morning sickness to complete and utter lethargy to aches and pains, weakening bladder, stretched out skin and sagging body parts that make you feel elderly far before it’s your time (oy!)…sleepless nights, heartburn, and not to mention, keeping up with all the cooking and cleaning and laundry and bills and on TOP of all that, wrangling your older child(ren) and attempting to stay sane in the middle of it all…phew! I can’t believe how exhausting this stage of life is—and I’m just beginning! And then there’s childbirth and recovery, which could arguably rival the pregnancy stage in terms of discomfort, pain, and exhaustion. Can I just take a moment to applaud you right now? *claps emphatically*

Then there’s breastfeeding and raising babies, another often-unseen battlefield of motherhood. There’s the joy of bonding with your precious baby at your breast and knowing you are the only one who can satisfy your babe in those moments, mixed with the feelings of frustration over being the ONLY one who can satisfy your baby in those moments. It’s kind of a love/hate thing, I now see that. Oh, and being the human pacifier too. MORE sleepless nights, long days, the anxiety and racing thoughts that cause you to appear OCD and paranoid because you’re experiencing this whole new level of love and protective, worrisome instincts over your children that you just can’t turn off. Then there’s the confusion and exasperation that comes from having to learn the unique language and needs of each child because even though all 4 babies came from the same two people, they were worlds different and you had to learn new tactics and strategies to care for them in their own way which resulted in even more strain on your already-fried and burned out mommy brain (are these run-on sentences reminding you of the windedness of those days raising babies?!). And even IF you had the opportunity to nap, Mom, I imagine your mind was still running a hundred miles an hour with all the nagging chores yet to be done, bills waiting to be paid, dinner you hadn’t started yet (wait, what’s for dinner? I haven’t even thought that far!) and that book you wanted to read…someday.  Sigh.

I can now imagine and somewhat relate to the constant fatigue that became your daily acquaintance and the sometimes utter feelings of loneliness and being out of touch with the world because yours was consumed with diapers, dishes, driving the family taxi, and stretching yourself to meet every one else’s needs but your own. I now know the ache of wanting someone to share your story with and the longing to be understood, to know you’re not the only one that wears your pajamas all day because you’ve hardly had time to put your hair up, and count it a success if you got a shower AND makeup on or breakfast cooked before 11am. I feel the same constant need you likely did to be reassured that you weren’t a failure, because most of the time, Mom, I imagine you ended the day like I do, replaying all the good and bad scenes but mostly the bad because that’s all you could seem to remember, and beating yourself up over yelling at your kids or locking yourself in the bathroom to scream and cry or lashing out in impatience with your toddler and seeing the pain of their wounded spirit reflected in their eyes. And knowing God gave you these precious children, but when you’re feeling like the world’s worst Mom, you wonder why He chose you.

Now I see the sacrifices you made for us kids, and I suspect there was much more you gave up for us than what meets the eye. I sometimes wrestle with resentment that I imagine you may have over not being able to even go grocery shopping without a noisy brood getting into everything, or have two solid hours of peace and quiet to call your own; the feelings of being in a mommy prison and your parole can only last a maximum of four hours because the baby will be hungry—and remember you’re the only one who can feed her?! The opportunities that came and went—the kind that you would jump at in a moment but you couldn’t grasp because of the needs of your family at the time. So you watched from the sidelines with children crawling over you while the world went on with events that you wished you could experience. You probably fantasized about escaping to a tropical island alone with no one pawing at you or asking fifty times in a row for a snack or spilling sticky orange juice all over freshly mopped floor that you chose to clean instead of eating breakfast.  And then the jealousy you probably felt over those single ladies your age or even married ones with no kids who could just up and whisk off to a coffee shop or movie or even a mission trip to a third world country (heck, sometimes that sounds better than the daily demands of mothering littles!), but you couldn’t because your mission field was 24/7 inside your own home. And the whole time you knew this was what you wanted, and you wouldn’t trade it for anything, but golly, if only you could re-live some of those pre-Mommyhood days again! Mom, HOW did you DO it?!

Now, this next stage I have not experienced yet as a mom, but in retrospect I shake my head in wonder at how you endured the turbulent seas of raising us teenagers and young adults who at times thought we knew everything (especially better than you). I can only speak for my own actions, but I know I was selfish, demanding, prideful, and arrogant. I mistreated you and I took advantage of your graciousness, your selflessness, and your sweetness. I used and abused you in my immature stages of life, and I am in awe of how you unyieldingly responded to my immaturity with unconditional love and grace. When I fell, you helped me pick myself back up. When I strayed from God’s word and made foolish mistakes, you didn’t browbeat me or shame me. You listened, responded with truth, and provided the grace and love I needed to make the right choice moving forward. You have ALWAYS been a safe place for me to ask questions, confess sins, seek advice, and do so knowing I could receive a wise and biblical response. Despite some of the rocky moments in our relationship, I am so grateful for your delicate attempts to share your views without imposing them or expecting me to conform to your ideas. I honestly pray that I will navigate the adolescent and young adult years with my own children in the same gentle and wise way you did—inviting them to share their hearts with me and trusting me with their deepest and most vulnerable moments, as I knew I could trust you with mine.

 I now know the mommy guilt—that hovering cloud that never left you alone and which you probably fought constantly over the years, and the comparison game in seeing what other moms looked like on the outside and feeling like you always came up short. Maybe you didn’t wrestle with all of that, but if you did, I want you to know you were not a failure. You were an imperfect and beautiful mom, giving us what so many children around the world yearn for. You provided a wonderful childhood for us kids and gave us your all, shelving your own interests and desires and needs in order to see to it that we weren’t lacking anything. You poured yourself out again and again in tender love and affection; teaching, training, disciplining and repeating the whole process umpteen times a day diligently for decades as you led us toward adulthood. I honestly don’t know how you did it. Not having had that same Godly upbringing in your life, and with Dad working his tail off at school and work (doing an incredible job providing for us), you were in many ways a single mom learning as you went, somehow keeping our little world going round in a beautiful way despite the challenges of having little to no help and support those early years.

Mom, I tip my proverbial hat to you in gratitude for enduring the ups and downs of pregnancy and childbirth four times over, persevering through the exhausting years of caring for littles, prevailing during the seemingly fruitless seasons of sowing into hard-headed teenagers, and providing support now as we lead our adult lives. You are a one-of-a-kind mother and grandmother, and this world is so much better for having you in it. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all you have done and continue to do for me, my siblings, and my family. I cannot adequately express the depth of my affection and appreciation for you. You hold a place in my heart that can never be taken by another, and I will treasure you for as long as I live. I bless you, Mom, in the name of Jesus, and praise God for all He has done in and through you. I love you.

Your daughter,


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Jane's Home Birth Story

**This is long, but not graphic (at least, I don't think so). It's long because I didn't want to forget any of the amazing details that made up our first home birth, and I wanted to be somewhat detailed for those who are apprehensive about home birth. Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments about midwifery and home birth. Enjoy if you like!**
Jane Katherine Easling was born in our kitchen at 11:02 pm on August 28th, 2014. She was my second pregnancy but first planned home birth. Our experience in the hospital with Judah’s birth was a positive one with very little complaint, but with this baby I felt increasingly convinced that a home birth was the best way to go if I was to achieve the goals we had for a completely natural labor and birth free of unnecessary intervention and distraction. Andrew was on the same page with me, and in faith we trusted God for the financial provision and the protection over birthing our baby at home with a certified midwife and team of doulas. We believe without a doubt that God was leading us into this, because our midwife who usually books up far in advance had one opening for me when I called in mild desperation. It’s a long story, but just months before when I had initially called her, she was booked for August, and now she had room for me! That was one form of confirmation that our God was leading us and blessing us in this journey. May I just add that we paid out-of-pocket completely for this birth since our insurance refused coverage, and the Lord provided the funds to pay the entire bill off several months before we anticipated being able to do so! Anyway, on to the story…
      I was 42 weeks & 2 days and exhausted by the up-and-down feelings that I would be pregnant forever. All my friends who had been pregnant at the same time had already had their babies, which didn’t help the fact that I genuinely felt like she was never going to come. One morning just days before her birth, I woke up at 5am from a restless night of sleep and heard my 2 year-old son fussing. I waddled into his room, calmed him back to sleep, waddled back to my room, and plopped myself on the floor next to my bed. My husband, deep in a comfortable slumber (how jealous I was!) and thus completely unaware, did not hear me quietly sobbing and praying out loud to God, begging Him to send my body into labor. At the point when my face was puffy from crying so hard and I felt I had no tears left, I tried to get some rest. I later got up and made my way to the bathroom for what felt like the millionth time that month. Andrew was now getting ready for work, and saw my downcast face. I told him I felt like God was punishing me (absurd, I know!) and holding out on me. I was SO tired of carrying this baby and wanted to hold her on the outside. When I had finished venting, I went back to bed to try and get some sleep, still feeling discouraged. Andrew came up and prayed over me before he went to work. As he spoke the Word of God over me, I felt such a release of my frustration as the Holy Spirit brought peace and comfort. From then on, although I still ached (literally and figuratively) for our baby girl to come, I had finally resigned myself to just keep busy until the time came. It worked!
She came fast!
     I was just beginning another normal day when our midwife Brande Ruskusky called that Thursday morning suggesting we try some natural induction methods at home. I had just had a biophysical profile ultrasound two days prior at 42 weeks and wanted to avoid getting another one.  The other option being waiting until 43 weeks for natural labor to start (HA! Right!) I decided to go the route of an enema and breast pump stimulation. Brande must have been amused at my complete cluelessness as to what an enema entailed. My reaction wasn’t excitement, but hey, if it was going to get this baby out, I was all for it! I putsed around that day and met my parents in town to visit for a while, then got my supplies and went home. My mom came home with me while my Dad kept our son at their house since my husband was at work, just in case things picked up (which I doubted). I followed the instructions and natural labor took over at 5:30 pm, about when I stopped the breast stimulation (which I did on and off for an hour).
     I kept shrugging off the now-regular Braxton-Hicks and told myself not to get my hopes up; I was so sure it would probably stall or quit altogether since I hadn’t had a shred of labor-type activity up until then. Sure enough though, things picked up…and fast! Andrew came home shortly after I had quit using the breast pump and by then my contractions were about 5 minutes apart but were uncomfortable at worst. Having never had a natural contraction other than Braxton-Hicks with my firstborn (I was induced & had an epidural at 41 ½ weeks), I didn’t know what to expect from my body or how to physically gauge if I was in true labor. I had my Bradley Method training in mind and could tell things felt genuine; I was just in denial for fear of disappointment and not having anything to compare it to from experience, I doubted myself. True labor signs started to show: low backache, cramps in my lower abdomen, discomfort/pressure in my bottom area, and going to the bathroom frequently.
     Andrew was busy getting dinner ready and making sure we got things ready for action, all the while I kept telling him it wasn’t go-time yet (he disagreed, and I’m glad!). We ate dinner (fish sticks and salad, yum) and my mom timed contractions and washed dishes while I brought things downstairs for the birth team. Andrew set up the birth pool and we chatted for a while through some mildly uncomfortable contractions when I was reminded by a friend (thank you, Melissa Surber!) to SLEEP while I could. (I had forgotten that part of my Bradley training in my excitement.) I tried to go to bed; it was about 8:30 pm. My contractions were NOT going away and were definitely getting stronger. By the time I had laid down to rest, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to sleep through these.
      I came down at 9:00 pm to find my mother had gone home and Andrew had resumed preparations. He started the music playlist I had put together (I highly recommend Fernando Ortega's In The Shadow of Your Wings and Chris rice's The Living Room Sessions for relaxing worship music during labor if that's your thing). I hopped in the bath and ran hot water all over me, which felt absolutely heavenly while trying to find a comfortable position to contract through. What seemed to work best was kneeling on all fours and swaying my hips side to side. Andrew chatted with me for a while, telling me some story I can’t remember, but I knew things were getting more serious because I was less responsive to conversation and was focusing more on getting comfortable through the contractions. By then a heavy thunderstorm had rolled in and I was getting cold in the tub. I got out at about 9:30 pm and asked Andrew to call the doulas because I wanted him by my side from now on. It was getting harder to find a comfortable position and I was focusing much more on staying loose and breathing during contractions.
     We laid down on the pull-out couch bed on the main floor to try the side-lying sleep position. The quiet, calming worship music helped me to relax and reminded me that God was with us in this moment. I had to go to the bathroom again, and while we were in the bathroom, our first doula Samantha Schoenecke entered the house without a peep. Andrew had her take over filling the birth pool and he led me back to the couch bed. I saw Emilee Houchin’s headlights through the big bay window in our family room where we were, and heard her come in quiety. She was our guest doula, there to add births to her training experience and photograph once the baby came.
     While on the bed I hit hard transition, still thinking I was in late first stage! My contractions started double peaking and in no time they were 3 minutes apart.  At 10:00 pm Andrew texted Brande and asked her to come. She was in West Peoria, an hour away. I was sort of slow-motion “swimming” on the bed to keep from tensing my muscles since the “sleep imitation position” wasn’t cutting it for me. I also found relief in vocalizing my exhaling breaths. Andrew was so calmly massaging me, coaching me, and timing contractions on the phone app. He knew exactly what stage I was in, and he was a champ in being right there with me, coaching me and encouraging me, being exactly what I needed. Despite sudden nausea and the feeling that I was either going to vomit or have a bowel movement, I was STILL in denial that this was transition. I thought it was too soon! But as if those signs weren’t enough, at 10:30 I started to bear down uncontrollably, still on the bed. This wasn’t an ordinary contraction. I felt my abdomen tighten intensely and a new, heavy pressure on my bottom. I groaned “I think I’m pushing!” with my contraction. Either someone asked or I mentioned that I wanted to get in the birthing pool.
Soaking in the splendor
     Samantha came in and helped Andrew lift me off the bed. I took one step and then had another strong contraction where I had an uncontrollable urge to bear down. We made it to the kitchen, but the water was too hot for me to get in the pool, so I ended up propped up on my knees facing the pool, leaning on it. Brande was on her way but hadn’t arrived yet and I was definitely pushing. I couldn’t help the loud yelling sounds I was making with each contraction—it seemed to bring relief from the intensity and the whirlwind of my body taking over the process completely with me spinning trying to keep up. Samantha helped me get my breathing under control while Andrew hooked his arms under my shoulders to support my shaking legs.
 Angie Detwiler, Brande’s assistant, arrived and gently notified me of her presence.
     I had another contraction and felt a pop—my water broke. I reached down and felt nothing. Another push, I reached again, and I felt Jane’s head crowning. Angie was just beginning to get set up and I yelled frantically, “She’s coming! Her head is coming!” I could hear Angie talking quietly behind me and with a quick backward glance I saw her shouldering her phone with Brande on the call, describing what was going on. Baby’s head was out but she kept wiggling which was causing extra discomfort. Every time she wriggled, I shouted “OW!” and even yelled at my daughter for the first time (“STOP THAT!”). I could hear Angie talking to Brande, relaying that baby’s head was in the perfect position. It seemed like forever that baby girl was just hanging out in that spot, but soon Angie instructed me to lift my right leg, which I did. In that knelt position, with my left leg down and my right leg up, on the next push our baby slid right out!
Andrew holding Jane while I got refreshed
     Angie was there to gently catch our baby while Andrew continued to hold me up, supporting me weight. I couldn’t see her immediately since I was facing the pool, but I could hear her strong healthy cry within seconds. I was a little shaky at first but soon turned around. Samantha sat behind me so I could lean against her to receive our baby girl, wrapped in a clean bath towel, into my arms with Andrew next to me. Then Andrew and I got into the pool and just soaked in those amazing first moments with her, in awe and wonder of the incredible accomplishment we had achieved together: an unmedicated, hands-off natural childbirth in the comfort of our own home. I couldn’t believe I had just BIRTHED a child, on my own, with no pain meds! 
     Those first 10 minutes in the pool were wonderful. The water relaxed and soothed my body while providing warmth and comfort to our newborn daughter. Andrew and I traded off holding her and stroking her soft skin, taking in every detail about her. She was very pink and healthy. She had a different face than Judah, yet we could tell they looked alike. Her head was small and perfectly round (no cone shape—she came out so fast). She had petite hands and narrow feet with slender long fingers and toes. She was long and narrow, unlike her wide and broad big brother when he was born. She had little hair, but contrary to the two dreams I had had of her birth just days before, it was red instead of black! Bright red, the beautiful strawberry shade of Andrew’s hair. 
Brande, our midwife, letting Andrew weigh Jane
     Our birth team just watched with supportive and joyful grins as we took in those first few moments with our baby, and Emilee snapped some shots of the moment. Brande walked in and we all laughed at how Jane just didn’t want to wait for her. We waited for the cord to stop pulsating, and then Andrew got to cut it. The placenta was birthed within 20-30 minutes of Jane’s birth without a problem and I had minimal postpartum blood loss (my midwife and I both believe it was due to faithfully drinking Shepherd’s Purse tea the last month of pregnancy).  We got cleaned up and headed back to the pullout bed. What an incredible difference it was from Judah’s birth where I couldn’t stand or walk for the first 24 hours due to the epidural, to being able to walk myself around and use the bathroom with minimal to no help!
     I felt sore all over from using muscles I’d forgotten I had, but I felt great. My throat was sore, however, from shouting through the pushing stage, but the girls were wonderful in bringing me refills of apple juice. Emilee put Jane’s first diaper on, Angie took our vitals every few minutes with Brande right there, and Jane passed her APGAR test with flying colors. Andrew got to use Brande’s sling scale to weigh our baby, and Brande announced she was 8 lbs 11 oz. I thought that to be a small baby after having Judah at 9 lbs 14 oz two years ago. She measured at 20 ½ inches long. She soon latched on and nursed with no issues. Brande filled out paperwork, and asked for the first time there what our baby’s name would be. We looked at each other in that final awkward “are-we-still-going-with-what-we-last-talked-about” glance, and then happily announced her name: Jane Katherine. I thought for sure I had torn pretty badly, but Brande checked me and I only had a mild 1st-degree tear and a “skid mark”. I didn't need a single stitch. I was so relieved, and thankfully, that ended up healing quickly with little discomfort.
     Our birth team sat with us in the family room in the warm glow of the lamp, chatting and celebrating with us in those glorious and unforgettable first hours. Part of me didn’t want them to leave. I form a sort of strong emotional attachment to whoever is involved in the birth of my kids, and these ladies had instantly become great friends to me through their professional and invaluable help to Andrew and I. I can’t thank them enough for their sweet, caring, and amazing help and support to us. The storm had now dissipated and it was quiet. Our team left around 1:30 am, and Andrew and I began our babymoon with our sweet girl. Judah got to meet her when my parents returned the next morning, and we had a wonderful reunion and a great beginning to being a family of four.
       I never received any pain meds during labor and had not a single cervical exam the entire pregnancy. There was no heart rate monitoring the entire labor, no ultrasound, no IV. In hindsight, I can see how some might worriedly question, "What if something were wrong? What if you needed intervention?!" Well, first, we did our research before determining home birth was a safe and practical option. We had a low-risk and normal pregnancy, with no complications. It's also obvious to us that God was taking care of us because not a single fear crossed my mind that entire time. There truly was a perfect peace that our baby was to be born at home and everything would go well. I know this was God's peace because I wasn't being naive--like I said, we did our research, talked extensively to midwives and doulas, addressed every safety concern thoroughly, and had a strong sense from the Lord that this was the right thing to do for this pregnancy. 
     I want to note that I'm NOT saying home birth is the only way to go or that every mom should give birth at home. I had an interest in home birth with my firstborn, but nowhere near this level of passion or peace about it. We gave birth in a hospital with Judah, and I don't regret it. I didn't enjoy the pitocin induction, but the epidural gave us both the rest we needed after being up for hours laboring to 5 cm with no pain meds. I pushed 3 hours with him after getting a restful sleep from the relief of the epidural, and he was surprisingly a HUGE baby (9' 14"). The exhaustion I felt in pushing was, to us, a hint that the epidural had served us well because we both believe I may have gone into maternal exhaustion and gotten a C-Section otherwise. God's grace was all over us in both birthing scenarios, which were vastly different from each other. Also, with our home birth, our midwife had all the necessary medical supplies (pitocin, sutures, neonatal resuscitation equipment, etc) should she need it. Our midwife attends about 50 births a year, has never lost a mother or baby, and has only transferred her clients who either gave in and wanted the epidural in a hospital or who had enough bleeding postpartum to cause concern. 

      Jane’s name means, “God is Gracious”, and that was evidenced in the quick and relatively easy labor and birth I experienced with her. I remember praying on the couch while I was in hard labor for God to make transition come quickly and last briefly because I didn’t think I could handle much more pain. I truly believe He was giving me His grace and protection in how quickly and smoothly she came into the world, without a single complication. Katherine means “Pure”, a word we want to be prophetic over her life as a difference-maker in the world for God’s Kingdom and a precious Daughter of the Living God. I know God was there with us surrounding Jane’s entrance into the world, and I am so excited to see Him move in and throughout her life and ours as we steward our precious gift from God.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Gestation Frustration

It's easy to praise God and gush forth warm-fuzzied sentiments about Him when things are going well or He answers our prayers in the way we desire. But when His answer is "No" or "Not yet", hmmm...the challenge to trust Him completely, to surrender my so-called "rights" and yield to His plan without rebuttal, kicks in.

Today I am 41 weeks and 4 days pregnant with our second child, a girl. Ever since the 38-week mark I've been itching to hold this little one on the outside...and let's face it, I want my body back to normal. And despite my head knowledge that 40 weeks is just an average gestation and not an expiration date, I've had a hard time accepting the mantra "She'll come when she's ready." Part of my anxiety stems from not wanting to pay for the expense of a biophysical profile ultrasound at 42 weeks (coming up Tuesday) to check on baby while we await her arrival...and of course, I don't want to be induced!

The feelings of "I'm going to be pregnant forever!" are absolutely true and so very real at the final stage of pregnancy when baby could come any day and Mom is trapped in the non-stop mind games of playing out scenarios in her head of when and how she'll go into labor and birth her baby.
And alas, she waits. And waits. And waits. And....waits.

I have begged God to send my body into labor today. Tonight. Tomorrow morning. I've pleaded. Whined. Complained. And even angrily asked, "WHAT is so important about me NOT birthing this baby yet?!"
And...still, nothing.

It was this morning when I woke up for the hundredth time with a tight back, achy sides, and sore hips that I finally realized the need to stop fighting God and just accept that HE will bring her into this world at HIS appointed time.  It was 5:45 am. I hobbled downstairs for the umpteenth time to go to the bathroom. Andrew was up getting ready for work and asked how I was doing, and I confessed my discouragement: "I know God knows just feels like He's punishing me or holding out on me. Like I need to get to a certain point before He'll make labor happen. I don't understand why He's waiting so long."

I grumpily went back to bed and minutes later heard Andrew's footsteps on the stairs. He sweetly knelt next to me and asked why I felt God was "punishing" me. I elaborated. He responded by reading scripture out loud from the Bible. As I heard God's words falling gently on me, I felt a sense of conviction accompanied by His peace. I confessed to Him silently that I had been butting heads with Him, insisting I knew when and how would be a good time for me to have this baby better than He did, and insulting His loving care for me by whining for lack of getting my way. I asked Him to please, please help me surrender this pregnancy to Him and to leave this baby girl's arrival in His hands once and for all. As I silently prayed and soaked in God's Promises and Truth, Andrew gave me a long and relaxing back rub. That helped a bit too :)

My circumstances haven't changed. I'm still achy and tired. Still waddling and uncomfortable. Still pregnant...and still wondering when the hour will come. But I know that I need to praise God in ALL things. To trust Him in ALL things. And to wait on His timing in ALL things. Soon enough, this baby girl will come. And prayerfully this Mama will have a good attitude and trust in her Heavenly Papa until then!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Happy Mother's Day, Mary.

I know Mother's Day is not for a few weeks yet, but it's got me thinking.
Can you imagine being the mother of Jesus?

Stroking little cheeks that one day would be struck with the back of hateful hands?
Swaddling the soft little body that would soon be torn apart with a torturous whip?
Kissing the little brow that would eventually bleed beneath a puncturing crown of thorns?
Holding the little hands that one day would be pierced with nails to a splintery cross?

Looking into your baby's eyes, knowing that this perfect, innocent, beautiful, loving child would undergo the most excruciating death,
                                                                           for you?

The meaning of the name "Mary" is "bitter". And I can understand why. That must have been one of the most bitter experiences to ever live through.

I look into my firstborn son's eyes, see his gummy grin, hear him coo and babble, and I think about seeing him as a grown man being tortured and mocked and executed in an unspeakably painful death, and my eyes well up with tears. I could not bear to see my son undergo such a destiny. And yet, Mary knew that the little boy she nursed at her breast and sang to sleep was not just a baby boy after all, but the Son of God come to rescue every man, woman and child on this earth from the eternal sentence of death. She "pondered these things in her heart".  I cannot imagine the incessant wrestling and turmoil that accompanied the process of relinquishing her motherly instincts and dreams to God for the purpose of His glory. For, as much as it rent her to pieces to watch her son take each step of his life toward his brutal death, surely she knew it must be done for the salvation of her soul and the soul of every other human that comes into this world. And I can only imagine the overwhelming joy and relief Mary felt when Jesus rose from the dead and finished what He came to do--conquering sin to provide restoration between us and God.

Happy Mother's Day, Mary. You set an incredibly unique example of truly denying your fleshly dreams and desires for the greater glory of God's purpose and the reward of faithfully trusting in His promises. May I spend my days as a mother placing my son into the hands of my God as I believe you must have done. After all, our children are gifts from God; they are His first, and in His arms they are safest and we may have peace no matter what happens to them.


Spring. A time of renewal. Seeds lying dormant beneath the cold hard ground break through the surface and bring life and aroma and color to a dull gray landscape. There is a sense of starting anew, afresh, after a long dreary season of slumber, waiting for warmth and sunshine. What once was cold and dark and hopeless-looking now sprouts warmth and light and the beginning of something new.

So it is with my heart. I confess, for too long I have been numb toward the One whose heart skips a beat whenever I speak His name; whose breath I unknowingly take away whenever I glance in His direction. I have been, as so many Christians currently are, going through the motions. I have slowly been "falling out of love" with the One who gave everything He has to win my heart, while juggling all the Christian things I "ought" to be doing, without feeling. I've realized I've stopped pursuing God's presence because, while the answer to hearing His voice is abiding in His intimate presence, I've subconsciously concluded that I "know" all I need to about God and just want His answers, rather than knowing God Himself and understanding His heart. I have pursued God's will but not God Himself.

But out of the settled, complacent and compacted dirt of my heart is springing up seeds of rekindled affection and desire for the presence and kinship of my Jesus. Jesus. My Jesus, who knows the real me--the truths about me that I hope no one ever comes to know--and still wants to sit and talk with me. with me. Not lecture. Not condemn. Not stonewall. My Jesus wants to listen to the movements of my heart, to hear me pour out to Him in confidence...and in turn, He wants to confide in me! He wants to reveal His mysteries to me!

On Sunday a friend prayed over me for refreshment. And O, how God is answering that prayer! I feel sorry for whoever reads this, because these words on the screen cannot accurately convey the breakthrough I believe is making its way into my life. I know feelings do not define faith, but they can sure help. And I've been needing some fresh feelings for my Savior lately.

It's gone from mostly cloudy skies with a chance of rain to sunny with a high of 75 in my heart. I welcome the Spring season in my soul.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Meet Bo.

Short for Hobo. He's my newly pseudo-adopted furry friend.

A few weeks ago I saw this skittish orange Tabby hanging out on our deck. He ran and hid whenever I'd come near. Over time, whenever I'd see the giant cat lounging on one of our patio chairs, I'd slowly slip outside with a can of tuna as a peace offering, which he accepted cautiously.

Now, he's here every other day or so, soaking up the sun on the comfy padded chairs. He even stays into the dark hours of the evening, and then vanishes to who knows where else. He now will approach me within inches, and today even let me pet his head. When I first met him he was a sad looking thing, and he still is to a degree; he had scratches on his face, his fur was thinning on his back, and he just looked like a tired old Tomcat, moving slowly and emitting scratchy pathetic meows. Despite the angle of this picture, he does have a nice long tail.  Now, I'd like to believe the benefits of the hearty tuna servings he's been dished have improved the looks of his mangy coat.

I know Judah's too young to understand the concept of charity, but whenever Bo is here, I talk to Judah about the importance of doing kind things for others, as Jesus teaches us to, which can on occasion include feeding an old homeless cat a yummy meal. I look forward to the day when he's older and we can go to nursing homes and orphanages together to volunteer our time and give away the love of Jesus to others in need.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fixing Our Eyes

Last night while waiting for Andrew to get home from a late trip, I did the usual routine to put our son down for bed. I swaddled, prayed over, tucked in, and kissed Judah goodnight. About 15 minutes later I was back at his cribside to console the distressed 5 month-old who just couldn't seem to quiet himself down for sleep this time. I picked him up, kissed him, told him I loved him, and set him back down, gently tucking the fuzzy blankets around his little body again.

And then, one of those special moments happened that I hope to never forget. I was about to leave the room when Judah gazed up at my face, completely quiet and completely content, and I saw through the dark that perfectly peaceful expression...the comfort and satisfaction that he felt in just being able to look at me. There was silence between us as we held each other's gaze, yet deep inside I felt my heart being touched by his. I just want to look at you, Mommy. 

My eyes welled up with tears, and fearing I would drop a fat wet one right on his sleepy face, I leaned in and kissed him one last time before leaving the room. He was silent and drifted to sleep without a single fuss after that. I returned to the pile of laundry I had been folding, but the tears didn't go away. I wondered why I was so undone by this simple event, and then I sensed the echoing symbolism behind it. 

Just as Judah loves to gaze upon his mother's face, whom he knows and trusts and delights in, so ought we to long for the gaze of our Creator, our Heavenly Father, who treasures us above all His creation and is the Author and Finisher of our faith. And just as I felt deeply touched by the contentment Judah found in staring into my eyes, so is God's heart touched when we desire Him above all else, when we content ourselves in Him and fix our eyes on our Savior.

I was both blessed by this beautiful picture of God's longing for us as His beloved, and grieved at how I all too often fix my eyes on our checkbook, or my family, friends, T.V., etc. looking for comfort and security and peace. Especially this Christmas season, I am once again reminded that my Peace and Hope and Salvation do not come from gifts, money in the bank, Santa Claus--or even myself, but the One True God, the Living God, who is my Redeemer, Forgiver of my sin, and the Lord of my life. I need to fix my eyes on HIM.

What or who are you fixing your eyes on?

"One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple." Psalm 27:4