Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The miracle of life

You'd think that as the mother of six children, the miracle of life would be old hat. After all, I've experienced the process a few times already. Yet, somehow each baby that I hold in my arms is more a miracle than the last. Perhaps the reason is related to being pregnant four different times when I didn't hold a baby in my arms and watching the death of my younger sister. Life is very fragile. It truly is a miracle and cannot be taken for granted.

Perhaps part of the reason I'm so in awe of the baby I hold in my arms each day is because he is a boy. Honestly, though, I don't think that is the reason. Most of my pregnancy, I battled fear; fear that the baby slowing being knit together "in secret" would not actually live to be born. Even up to delivery, the nagging fear that life would be stolen from this precious child in my womb tempered my excitement. Now, though I am not guaranteed a long life for my son, or even for my five daughters, the fear is gone. In it's place is a wonder and sense of awe. This little person, so distinct and different from me, came from me. Wow.

God is so amazing. He created the miracle of life, and yet somehow I think even He is caught up in the wonder of His creation. Not only did God create the miracle of life, He watched His Son, Jesus, be born as a baby. He watched with delight as Jesus grew into a man, then He pronounced His blessing at Jesus' baptism, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." Who among us wouldn't be encouraged to hear such words coming out of the mouth of our father, good man or not?

Life is a precious gift. It is a miracle to get pregnant and a miracle when a baby is born. Well do I know that a positive pregnancy test doesn't guarantee a wee one to hold nine months later. When God's gift results in pregnancy and that pregnancy ends with a healthy baby, it truly is a miracle. A miracle of life.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Baby boy basics

Now that my son is a whole four days old, I'm astounded at how much I've learned about the difference between boys and girls. Some things are obvious; the anatomy is decidely different. Other things, though, aren't quite so obvious, like how to check a diaper for wetness.

Having changed thousands of diapers over the last 11 years, my habits are well established. Since every one of those thousands of diaper changes were on girls, I had no idea my habits needed to change. Now, I know.

When I check the diaper of a little girl, to see if it is wet and needing to be changed, I simply grab the front of the diaper and squeeze. You can't do that with little boys! That lesson I learned the hard way, though I think it was more painful for my son because he was the one that cried. Now, I'm perfecting an alternative method of checking for wetness, and being VERY careful in the process.

I'm also learning to be very quick with wetness protection maneuvers. Girls don't react to cold air the same way boys do. It is one thing to be told; it is completely different to understand. So far, we have changed multiple outfits, blankets, socks, and my pants. It could be worse. Most of the diaper changes are happening on my bed, and I've yet to need to change the whole bed, though I have a feeling it will happen sooner than later.

The other difference I've noticed is appetite. My husband has a big appetite. He should. He is a big boy (6'5") who works hard. My son also has a big appetite, but he isn't that big (9lbs, 20 inches long) and he isn't working hard. Still, he thinks he needs to eat every two hours. Sometimes I can push it to two and a half, but not without lots of coaxing. To be honest, I don't mind. There are few more enjoyable ways to spend time than with a baby whose arrival has been so greatly anticipated.

Somehow, I doubt my lessons on the difference between boys and girls are even close to being done. What a privilege to be learning such lessons, both because I've been blessed with a baby boy, and because I've been blessed with children at all. It is a wonderful and humbling experience to be the mother of a such a precious family! Children really are a blessing from the Lord.

Birth days and babies

As I write this, I am most joyously not pregnant. Instead, I'm holding perhaps the most perfect baby boy ever to grace the planet. Yes, I am biased, but he is really cute.

The occasion of this little guy's arrival is most notably wonderful because of one thing; it finally happened! After failed and frustrating attempts to have a baby on my time, God blessed me with a safe and successful delivery not even a week past my due date. And, everyone joined in the celebration.

Struggling with exhaustion, my labor went in fits and starts for a while. Finally, the wonderful OB nurse caring for me arranged for pitocin and an epidural, in that order. The pitocin went to work immediately. The epidural took a little longer, since the anesthesiologist wasn't in house. Still, once he got things in place (after one failed attempt and my husband's near black-out), life was wonderful, for about two hours. Then two things happened in quick succession. First, the doctor checked to see what was happening, then very pleased with my progress, went to change into scrubs for delivery. Second, the contractions started hurting again; picture Marlin from Nemo, "Good feeling gone."

Not realizing how close I was to delivery, I asked for the epidural to be turned up. The doctor, who had just returned from changing his clothes, said "No. You need to push." Then he told the nurse to turn up the pitocin! I said, "I don't want to push. It hurts." But, next thing I knew, my body was doing exactly what God designed it to do; pushing! Someone told me they could see a head of dark hair, and I pushed really hard. Within minutes, I was holding my new son.

We're settling in at home, celebrating the birth of our baby with balloons and cards; celebrating the births of our oldest and youngest daughters with cakes and balloons and cards. In the end, we're celebrating the gift of life, and rejoicing that we have such a privilege.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Celebrating Birthdays that Weren't

As I write this, I'm very pregnant, having carried my baby four days past my official "due date." Though I am anxious to deliver this baby and finally hold him in my arms (our first boy, after five girls!), it isn't as big a deal as it has been in the past. What is entertaining, though, is all the birthdays this little boy WON'T celebrate.

Because of a back injury, the last few weeks of pregnancy are miserable. I'm so tired from not being able to find a comfortable position in which to sleep, my brain quits functioning and the littlest challenge is too great for me to manage. It has gotten worse with each pregnancy. So, this time, I had a plan. Because of my back problems (I broke my back about 10 years ago), and the estimated size of this "little" guy (probably on the larger side of 9 lbs), the doctor was willing to induce me a week before my due date.

Expecting that my efforts at control would be effective, I made all sorts of arrangements for my five other children, called parents, and made sure my sister could break away from her commitments when the need arose. But, the need never arose. God demonstrated that while I can plan my way, ultimately, He directs my steps. His direction didn't include delivering a baby early. His direction didn't even include delivering a baby on time! In fact, at this point, this baby is going to be very late!! Try explaining that to your five year old when she says, "Mommy, you said you were going to have your baby today."

Thus begins an on-going saga of expectation and disappointment that culminated last Wednesday when my fourth scheduled induction was canceled, three hours after I arrived at the hospital. Having finally gotten the clue that maybe I should wait on God's timing instead of trying to wrest control from the Creator of the universe, I signed my discharge papers and scheduled a regular OB appt with my doctor for the next Tuesday.

This morning (Monday), about 8am, the hospital called, wondering where I was! I was scheduled for an induction at 7:15am and I was very late. Since no one had informed me of this appointment, yet another induction was canceled! All together, our little baby, who seems very content to stay where he is, has missed five different birthdays; September 21, September 22, September 26, September27, and October 2. When we finally DO get to celebrate a birthday, it will be a grand occassion, indeed. Unless we have to keep celebrating birthdays that weren't. Then, by the time this baby comes, we'll all be off doing something else and he'll have to celebrate on his own!

Friday, September 01, 2006

School Daze

Since my children have been homeschooled, the "back to school" rush that happens every year has passed mostly unnoticed by our family. This year, as mentioned in a previous post, we are in the midst of the chaos that characterizes the beginning of a new school year, because our children are actually going to school.

As a result, I have a confession to make. I truly hate shopping. It is something that must be done, so I do it when absolutely necessary. But, it is not something I delight in. My mother-in-law proved to be an invaluable asset with aquiring all the various and sundry necessities in the clothing department, for which I will always be grateful. As the mother of five, she is an experienced pro at wardrobing school-bound children. Her wisdom and decisiveness proved invaluable. But, even after a day in the mall, we still needed school supplies.

Thankfully, my oldest daughter (who, like most of her sisters, loves to shop) helped me navigate the two isles of our local market that held all the various school supplies. With four different children going into four different grades, our list was rather extensive. And, being several months pregnant, not sleeping well and very tired, it took me a loooong time to shop. After purchasing almost everything on the list (can you believe some of the items I needed were sold out?!) and spending at least two hours (I was very tired), we left the store.

The next day, I discovered that we'd used the wrong list! So, back to the store I went. It didn't require quite as long to gather the few items not on our original list, and it didn't cost nearly as much. But, after spending a ridiculous (to me) amount of money and making two different trips to the store, we STILL don't have everything we need for the girls to start school! By the time the first day of school actually arrives, it will be a non-event at our house. But, if Mom ever recovers from her "school daze," that will be something to celebrate! Can people really survive this every year?! I think maybe next year we'll go back to homeschool - it will be easier!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Humility and God's provision.

With five children on a limited budget, finances are always a challenge. It seems that no matter what we do, we have month left at the end of the money. Recognizing that God is always the One who provides for our needs, sometimes I wish He would provide the money so we could purchase what we needed, and even what we just wanted. Instead, He seems to delight in providing for us through much more glamorous and humbling methods.

Lately, though, I've been too overwhelmed at the extent of God's provision to really think about being embarrassed because of it. Let me explain, and then you can share the awe.

First, someone wrote out a check to cover most of the costs for sending three of our five daughters to a local Christian school. Then, someone took my daughters shopping for school clothes - AND PAID FOR THEM!! Not only do I hate shopping, but I honestly wasn't sure how we would manage to purchase even the basics of a school wardrobe. Someone else said they are going to help us with getting school supplies, and my sister-in-law gave our oldest daughter the jump drive she needs for 5th grade. This is all just for school.

Someone gave us a bunkbed set, making it possible to rearrange beds to accommodate a crib. Since we're expecting baby number 6 in a matter of weeks, that is a good thing! One of our partnering churches hosted a shower (even though I wasn't able to attend) and blessed us with LOTS of clothes. Others have passed on baby clothes they aren't using, and my mom has done just a little shopping (ok - more than a little!), so we are set with clothes for at least the first few months. And, along with the bunkbed set, we were given a dresser to put all our baby clothes in. After spending most of a day looking for a used dresser without success, I appreciate that gift even more.

It is sometimes difficult to be the recipient of others donations. Going through hand-me-down clothes can be overwhelming, and you don't always have the latest style. I'd love to be free of the stress that comes with a trip to the grocery store or at the gas pump (the last trip cost $85 and didn't fill our tank!) because I'm nervous about how much it will cost and if we'll have enough for what we need. I would love to take my girls to McDonald's for lunch or buy pizza for dinner just for the heck of it. I'd love to have money to pay a babysitter so my husband and I could go on a date. I'd love to go shopping without a calculator, and not worry about the total when I got done.

But, when I think of all God has blessed us with just in the last month, it is humbling. The God of Creation, who created the entire universe and calls each of the stars by name; the God who puts presidents in office and kings on thrones; this same God is concerned with little things like where my daughters go to school this fall, what they have to wear, and where they sleep. This God, who keeps the planets in space, has provided a place to keep my son's clothes. Wow. In light of that, how can I be anything but grateful?!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

All's well that ends well

Travel is part of our lives. Every summer we go on a "summer project" with students from around the country, so we can have undivided time to help them with spiritual development. It is a tremendous experience for everyone involved, but it is a lot of work. Basicaly, we pack and unpack, moving in and out of a different apartment every summer.

The day of our departure was crazy and chaotic. By the time we had everything loaded into two Suburbans (we couldn't fit into one), it was 30 minutes later than we'd planned on leaving. We were suppose to be at the airport already! To make matters worse, before we'd made it to the airport, we had to turn around and go back to the apartments to pick up the daughter we'd left behind! Finally, we arrived at the airport only an hour before our scheduled departure. It was crazy! Planning to check our bags at the curb, we discovered that curbside check-in was closed for the evening. Then, one of our bags was overweight. If only they'd averaged the weight between all 14 items, we probably would have been fine!

After clearing check-in, and discovering that our flight was delayed (Thank you Jesus!) we headed to security. Expecting a LONG wait, and not being excited about getting five tired kids to cooperate with security officers, a miracle happened. The first officer we met diverted us to a seperate line, and then they stopped everyone else so we could go through. I wonder if it had something to do with having five children and 14 carry-on items. Whatever the reason, I don't care. Thankfully, they didn't select any of us for additional screening, and we were through in a very short time. It was truly amazing!!

By the time we reached our gate, it was after our originally scheduled departure time, but the plane hadn't left yet. We made it! And, we made it home without further incident, giving new meaning to the old saying "all's well that ends well."

Left Behind

Normally, we are fairly attentive to where our children are, and which kids are with which parent. Having five children in eight years makes it absolutely necessary. I was proud of the fact that I'd never lost one of my precious daughters for very long, nor had I ever left one behind anywhere. That is, until July 30, when we were heading to the Anchorage airport.

The day was chaotic and confusing. Stuff had multiplied over the summer, so we couldn't fit it back into the 14 pieces of luggage we could stick under the plane. Dirt had multiplied and found hidden crevices only to reappear just when I thought the apartment was clean. It was pouring rain outside, and we were running behind schedule. Finally, everything was out of the apartment, loaded into two different Suburbans, and ready to be taken to the airport.

I hopped into one Suburban with two kids. My husband hopped into the other Suburban with two kids. One kid was in neither Suburban. We left her behind! Not only that, but we didn't realize she'd been left behind until she called! By then, we were more than halfway to the airport. As quickly as legally possible, we returned to the university to pick up our abandoned child. She was fine, though you could still see red splotches around her eyes from crying. Quickly I gathered her in my arms, wishing I could take away the fear and misery of the last 30 minutes, and then I cried.

By God's grace, everything worked out just fine, and now my daughter will have a story to tell. Hopefully this is the only story any of my children every have about being left behind!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Ode to a white paper bag

Yesterday I was given the privilege of a wild life cruise in Kenai Fjords National Park. My benefactor's investment was well rewarded as we watched a pod of Orcas dance in the water around our vessel, witnessed the majestic calving of a tidewater glacier, and enjoyed the unique elegance of humpback whales consuming their seasonal feast. It was truly incredible, and very memorable.

The cruise went quite well for most of the day, though the water was rough. I "surfed" the waves as the boat crashed from one crest to the next. I marveled at the beauty of God's creation, both in the water and surrounding it. Being several months pregnant, though, at one point I had to go into the small windowless space know in some places as a water closet. It didn't take long to take care of business, but it was long enough. Forgoing washing my hands (sanitizing wipes were available closer to windows and fresh air), I quickly exited that small windowless space, but not quickly enough.

Not even ten steps from the afore mentioned water closet, I realized I was in trouble! Having made it to a counter, my eyes settled on a thing of beauty; a spotless white bag with small clips at the top to seal it shut. I immediately grabbed a bag and put it to good use. Miraculously, a steward appeared; he took my used bag and handed me another. I put that bag to good use and we repeated the process. Then he took that bag and handed me yet another. Thankfully, all I deposited in the third bag was a well used paper towel. Then, with a voice only possible following such an event, I asked for some ginger ale, and headed outside.

The ginger ale and the fresh air had their desired effects, and shortly I was no longer feeling the effects of a small windowless space. In the process, I watched a huge humpback whale "dance" in the water, saw a cow and a calf (both whales) swim in unison, and again enjoyed the beauty of God's creation. I also learned a valuable lesson. NEVER spend time in small windowless spaces on any vessel in any kind of water, unless you like the feeling that requires a white paper bag with clips to seal it shut.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Parenting ins't for cowards

I have five beautiful daughters. We have boxes of Barbies, Ponies, and Polly Pockets, pony tail holders and hair brushes galore. Having dealt with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers every day for the last several years, I have a pretty good idea how to handle the tantrums and traumas that occur on a daily basis when you have a house full of girls. Unfortunately, my older girls are no longer in the "infant, toddler, or preschooler" age group. They are entering the hallowed halls of adolescence.

Even though I grew up in a house full of girls, and I am a girl (well, ok; a little older than a girl), the finer points of leading girls through the traumatic transition to young woman is foreign to me! That became very clear today when my husband traumatized our oldest daughter by killing a bee.

The bee came in through the screen during lunch, and was looking for a way out of the house, without success. Each time the bee passed over the table, all five girls would scream and cower. Finally, deciding that the bee wasn't going to make it out on his own, my husband took action to care for and protect his daughters. He grabbed a notebook, took a stance like he was ready for a tennis serve, and waited. His first pass totally missed, and almost landed him on the floor. The second pass connected with the bee, sending the bee across the room before it landed on the floor. As soon as reality set in, our oldest daughter burst into tears.

Through her sobs, this girl who is becoming a young woman expressed her great distress at the senseless murder of a bee who never did anything to our family. As she ran sobbing to her room, her dad made a comment in his defense; though the bee didn't sting him, the bee's brother probably got him on the bu*t. A short time later, our oldest daughter returned to the dining room, only to reprimand her father for his insensitive comment about the bee's brother. To his statement that he was only joking, our daughter replied with the appropriate drama, "I'm not in a mood for jokes right now!" followed by more sobs.

Though our oldest daughter wasn't in the mood for jokes at that particular moment, she adjusted quickly. As I typed this, she was reading over my shoulder. At one point, we both were doubled over with laughter. This is definitely a new stage of parenting, and one I'm not sure I'm ready for. If I've learned anything in over 10 years of being a mom, though, it is most definitely that parenting isn't for cowards!

The End

Friday, June 23, 2006

Growing Pains

I wish growing was a one-time deal. Like when you turn 10, or 21; you just are. The process is over. Or like how kids grow to a certain point and then stop. I'm 5'11" and I have been since I was 12. My sister is 6' and she has been that tall for years. We grew to a certain point and that was it. No more growing was necessary.

Unfortunately and fortunately, life isn't like that. Even though we may get physically mature, where no more growth or development is needed, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, no one ever arrives. We never stop needing to learn and grow.

While I have known this mentally, and never considered myself as having ''arrived" in any sense of the word, I have expected certain aspects of my person to get "grown." Just over three years ago, I began a journey of brokeness. Through it, I learned that the god I'd created in my mind was safe and behaved a certain way, but the God who created me ISN'T. I wrestled with the concept of a God who wasn't safe, who didn't do what I wanted, expected, or even what I felt was loving.

The wrestling was a painful process, brought about by bad theology. I thought God promised to fix up my mix-ups and make life feel good. I WANTED it to be that way. Then reality slapped me in the face; life didn't feel good, and God was the One behind all the pain. As God slowly rebuilt the foundation of my faith, I began to see Him in a different way. He wasn't safe, but He was good, and I could trust Him. One day at a time, my broken and battered heart began to beat again. Life began to hold beauty and blessing again. At some point I began to feel like everything was ok, that I'd passed through the valley of the shadow of death and grown past needing the rod and staff of my precious Savior. Boy was I wrong!

Life is a journey, and the journey alternately takes us through mountain tops, green alpine meadows, and dark valleys. Just because God carried me through one valley doesn't mean that I'm ready to trust Him to take me through the next one. Nor does it mean that the heartache is all gone. I still cry, easily, when I think about the journey I've been on and how painful it has been. I'm only beginning to realize that the journey I've been on is the journey I'm still taking. I'm not done learning, and I'm not done growing. I guess you might say I'm still having growing pains.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Righteous rags

I have a not-even-three-year-old-but-very-independent-daughter. In the throws of yet another attempt at toilet training (this motivated by my neice who is four months older and using a big girl potty), my youngest daughter had an accident. Unable to coordinate all required, she went "poopy" in her panties. Undaunted, she stripped her panties off and very carefully rinsed them in the toilet, just like she'd seen Mom do.
Of course, not even being three, her technique was a little off. She successfully smeared the contents of her soiled undergarments all over herself, the toilet, and the bathroom! Then, she proudly announced her achievement.
Immediately I was struck with how often I do exactly the same thing. I make a mess in some part of my life and then try to clean it up on my own, with the same disasterous results. So often, I desire to be justified in my own efforts. I don't really want to accept that I have absolutely nothing to offer God - I am not righteous, I do not seek after God. I don't want it to be true, even though God says just that in Romans 3.
By doing all the right things, I think maybe I can some how earn God's favor. If I keep my house clean, educate my children well, fix dinner on time, eat healthy, take care of the enviroment, and read my Bible every day, somehow I will attain a certain level of rightness, if not righteousness. Then I'll have something to offer God in exchange for the forgiveness I've received through Jesus' death on the cross. Actually, the passage from Romans is quoting the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, who describes our attempts at righteousness as something much more disgusting than what my daughter tried to wash out in the toilet!
None of us can offer God anything. His righteous standard must be met, but it can't be met by me. Jesus met God's perfect standard, and paid the price for all sin when He died on the cross. For those who accept God's free gift of salvation, the mess is cleaned up; the price of sin has been paid.
Some day my youngest daughter will know how to take care of her own messes. She may even get to the point where she doesn't make messes anymore. I will never be able to take care of my own sin; nor do I have to. Because Jesus has made my heart clean, my messes are cleaned up. When God looks at me He sees the perfect beauty of Jesus' righteousness, so I don't have to worry about cleaning up any messes ever again - at least not the kind I make when I choose to sin against God. The other kind, the kind kids make, well I'll probably be cleaning those up for a long time.

Mozzy memories

Alaska: the land of the Iditarod; Mt. McKinley; eskimoes; igloos; and mosquitoes. Mosquitoes from this beautiful land have taken on mythical proportions, with jokes being made about the "Alaska state bird" actually being the mosquito instead of the willow ptarmigan. Though Alaskan mosquitoes are not really able to carry away small children, sometimes it seems like they might! Mosquito repellant, also known as "bug dope," sells in abundant quantities and varieties, as ineffective as it may prove to be.

Hearing about Alaskan mosquitoes and actually "experiencing" them are completely different. We found that out the hard way. On our day off, we were all set for a leisurely stroll along the trail at "Earthquake Park" in Anchorage. It wasn't a beautiful day, but it wasn't too bad; a little cool with cloud cover, but no rain in the immediate forecast. So, we set off.

The first clue we might experience a problem was when my husband got out of the "rig" (our vehicles in Alaska are unique, to be sure) and was immediately attacked by mosquitoes. Being the determined people that we are, we still unloaded everyone and headed towards the trailhead. Within minutes, my husband's back was literally COVERED with mosquitoes! Before we returned to the car, he was bit multiple times, even under his pantleg above his sock!

Though the constant buzzing and swarming was very annoying, it was not so distracting that I missed the hilarity of the moment. The site of my 6'5" husband and five daughters of various sizes hightailing it to the car with arms flailing was just too much!! I had to stop my own urgent escape of the pesky predators because I was laughing so hard! The novelty the situation was, however, lost on my husband. He did NOT share my perspective or my humor. He was worrying about how much blood he'd lost and whether he'd need an emergency transfusion!

In the end, everyone survived their close encounter with mosquitoes, and I have some hilarious memories of the adventure! Not everyone shares my perspective, but I'm sure that will change in time, once all the itching stops and the bumps have gone away.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Alaskan Adventure

This year, it is our privilege to head back to Alaska to work for the summer. Last year was our "maiden" voyage to the land of the midnight sun; it was a tremendous opportunity, thoroughly enjoyed by our entire family. We also had the privilege of seeing God's creation as we'd never seen before, driving back to the Pacific Northwest through the Yukon and Canada.

The drive home was absolutely GORGEOUS, but we learned some important lessons. We learned that seven people don't fit in a 4-man tent, even if most of them are small. Murphy's Law applies to camping in the Yukon. If you are camping, it will be raining. Even beautiful territory can get boring after a while. Most importantly, we learned that it is a REALLY long way from there to here! It was, in our minds, a once in a lifetime experience.

The more I think about it, though, perhaps driving isnt' so bad after all. It might be easier to cross an international border with a loaded down vehicle pulling a loaded down trailer than to get through airport security with five tired children and their activity/snack-filled backpacks. Getting shoes off and jackets off and tickets out for five tired children will be a miraculous feat, especially with hundreds of people behind us waiting to do the same thing! With up to 14 pieces of checked luggage, just making it to airport security will be a miracle, actually.

In the end, it is well worth the effort at the airport to enjoy the privilege of serving Jesus in Alaska. Lives will be impacted; by God's grace, many will be changed; lessons will be learned, not only by the 37 young men who will join us this year, but by me, my husband, and our family. I'm excited to go. I just have to survive airport security to get there!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Fairy Tale Endings

When I was a girl, every fairy tale had a happy ending; and every story was a fairy tale. Then, I got older, and fairy tales didn't come true anymore. Life got hard; bad things happened. Every story didn't end happily ever after: my sister died; my baby died; I had to move (across the country) because of a job transfer; life really didn't look happy at all. Added to my own heartache was the pain of watching my daughters learn that every story doesn't have a happy ending.

We recently found out we were going to have a baby. After 9 pregnancies and 4 miscarriages (two late ones), my husband and I were nervous. We knew that not every pregnancy ended with a healthy baby; sometimes it ended in the hospital with a dead baby and empty arms! So, we didn't tell people for over 3 months. By that time, our girls had guessed and were extremely excited. As you can imagine, word spread quickly. For our oldest daughter, though, who best remembers our previous losses and experienced her own grief most deeply, the news brought not only excitement, but also fear. As a mom, that was hard.

When we found out that the baby I carried had a 1:80 chance of having Trisomy 18 (you can get more information at http://www.geocities.com/wilsfordmindy/), I experienced a totally new kind of fear. Because we didn't know if the baby was healthy or not, we chose not to tell our children, but they could tell Mom was upset about something. The waiting was excruciating. For one week, we were waiting for a second result, to see if perhaps the first was an anomoly. It wasn't. Then, we spent another week waiting for the ultrasound, wondering if the doctor would even be able to tell anything and what our next step might be. Each day was long and as the ultrasound drew closer, it became more and more difficult not to be anxious.

Romans 8:28 is a verse may churchgoers will recognize. The verse says "All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose." You hear it outside church circles as well, but few realize it is a Biblical principle. Growing up in church, I thought those words translated, "God will fix-up my mix-ups and life will feel good; every story will have a happy ending, even the ones where I make all the wrong choices and the mix-ups are totaly my fault." Unfortunately, as you well know, I was completely wrong. All things do work out for good, but not all things feel good, nor are all things good in and of themselves.

Matthew 6:33 and 34 say, basically, not to worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow has its own problems. Today's trouble is enough for today. Instead, seek God's kingdom (or keep your eyes on Jesus) and He will take care of the details. It isn't any more a promise of fairy tale endings than Romans 8:28, but a great admonition not to borrow trouble.

Phillipians 4:8 says to think about what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, whatever is of good repute; if there is anything excellent and anything worthy of praise, this is what you should focus on. Thinking about a baby with a chromosomal abnormality that is considered "incompatible with life" does NOT fit this description, but it was hard, as we waited, not to imagine the worst.

As a spiritual life coach, I knew borrowing trouble wasn't what I wanted to do. Instead of going where my mind naturally wanted to run, I chose to focus on what was true. John 3:16 says that God loves the whole world, including me. Psalm 91 says that he who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty; a comforting thought. Romans 8:28 is just as true in the midst of a storm as it is when life is good, and I thought about that. Over and over in my mind ran the words to an old hymn, "Be still my soul. The Lord is on thy side. Bear patiently the cross of grief and pain. Leave to thy God to order and provide; in every change, He faithful will remain. Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end."

Fortunately for us, this time the story has a happy ending. A detailed ultrasound revealed a healthy and normal baby boy - our first (and probably only) son! Though this fairy tale is on its way to a happily ever after ending, it is not a guarantee. More than a happy ending, though, I wanted to keep my eyes on Jesus as I walked the lonely road of fear and doubt. It was not fun, nor was it easy, but God's grace was enough. He held me tight in the midst of my fear, and together we weathered the storms that buffeted my faith. How thankful I am to know Jesus is in my heart, and that His promise to never leave me or forsake me applies even when my story doesn't end happily ever after and life doesn't feel good. My circumstances don't determine what is in my heart. A relationship with Jesus does.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The magic of bandaids

Today has been one of those days you really don't enjoy. When my husband got home, I told him I wanted to run away from home and let somebody else be the mommy! And, I did it without pouting (too much). He did what a good husband should and gave me a hug, made dinner, then left for an evening meeting.

When my husband left, he did take with him three of our 5 children, leaving the oldest and the youngest home with me. Thankfully, they are only on season 6 (out of 9) of "Little House on the Prairie" and have been quite content to entertain themselves with the gray-screened babysitter as I've cleaned up dinner and the rest of the carnage from the day.

At least the oldest has been. The youngest decided she needed something out of a kitchen drawer but misguaged the speed with which the drawer would close, closing her thumb in the drawer. After regaining her composure, and getting back her breath from the cries of pain that racked her little body, she asked pitifully for a "banaid." "Hurts" she said, holding up the injured digit, followed by "Banaid. I need it."

Knowing Mommies have "magic" in their kisses, I kissed the booboo, but it just wasn't enough. So, we marched into the bathroom, where a bandaid was gently applied. This time, the "magic" worked. Suddenly the pain was better, and the previously inconsolable toddler left the bathroom with the words, "All better."

Maybe the next time I have one of those days, I need to ask Jesus for a bandaid!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Not afraid of snakes

Being a modern mother, I have tried very hard not to pass my hatred of snakes to my children. When given the opportunity, I encourage my daughters to touch, hold, catch and play with snakes, as long as they have wise, careful adult supervision. When our 4th daughter was 2, that meant letting her hold a HUGE python in Florida. Her dad helped her. On Sunday, that meant sending them out to catch garder snakes.

Sunday we were invited to the home of some friends who live on acreage where they raise have many different kinds of animals. With lambing season just over, they have 3 "bummer" lambs, who need to be bottle-fed and raised by humans for one reason or another. To their delight, my daughters were invited to help with the feeding.

It was great fun for the girls, running around after the little lambs, playing tag with them, exploring the property, and generally having the kind of fun that is considered dangerous in our overly cautious society. When they came running into the house to report they'd found some snakes, my husband's immediate response was, "Did you catch any?" When they replied no, he headed out to help them. All the children joined in the fun and were soon relishing the joy of a new "pet." I, on the other hand, was hiding far away, inside the house, away from the doors.

Though I've tried very diligently not to pass my fear and hatred of snakes on to my children, I have not been able to hide my fear from them. So, being children, they wanted to tease their mommy. Safely away from the doors, I was sitting right by a rather large window, looking out into the back yard. Guess where the girls brought their new treasure. Yes, right to the window! I smiled and admired the snake, knowing that I had nothing to fear because of the safety margin of the window. When the girls left, laughing, I had no cause for concern.

The cause for concern came when the girls (laughing hysterically) brought the snake (in a butterfly net) past all my barriers of security, and stuck it in my face, literally!

Thankfully our host was sitting with me in the house (my husband hadn't returned from his snake catching adventure) and interviened for my protection. I'm even more thankful that I didn't pass out or loose control of bodily function, or do anything I'd later regret to one of my children. I did, however, totally cement in the minds of my children my absolute terror of snakes, providing them with unlimited opportunities to play pranks on me in the future. At least they don't appear to be afraid of snakes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

toothpaste terror

For some reason, the little girls in this family have a fascination with toothpaste. Most of the time, the fascination leads to fastidious focus on brushing teeth, or at least eating toothpaste. Some of the time, however, it turns into a fatal attraction, with my house bearing the brunt of the assault.

When my now 4 y.o. Elli was not quite 2, we hosted a couple of Japanese exchange students for an American home experience. The two unsuspecting students joined us in the late afternoon on a Friday, accompanying us to a college meeting that evening, on a grand adventure of southern Idaho (where we were living) the next day to see "Balanced Rock," and wrapping it all up with their first ever visit to an American church. As part of their assignment following their visit, they were suppose to record their favorite memory. It included toothpaste and a toddler who wasn't quite 2.

Just a couple of days ago, my youngest, who is just over 2, discovered the joy of toothpaste. It's texture is just perfect for smearing all over everything. Then, it dries! Now, while cleaning dried toothpaste off of toothbrushes, counters, or sinks isn't too bad, cleaning it off of carpet and upholstery is completely different. Trying to get it out of very fine blond hair is a new challenge all together. Let's just say it left a bad taste in the mouth of my youngest daughter!

Finally, though, I think the toothpaste terrorists in our house have all reformed. Now, the only use for toothpaste is brushing teeth.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Out of the mouths of babes...

As a spiritual life coach, I practice what I preach most often on my children. After all, if I don't teach it at home, how can I teach it somewhere else?

Most of the time it is a good thing. The two rules we try to follow are loving God with all that we are, and treating others as we want to be treated. These are good rules. Following them will leave little room for others to find fault with; when you follow them.

Our soon to be 9 y.o. daughter is a precious girl. She has the tender heart of a lamb and the ferocious personality of a lion. It is easy for her to get riled up and treat others in a way she DEFINITELY wouldn't like to be treated. So, to help her honor God and accomplish her goal of treating others the way she wants to be treated, we've spoken often to her of the power of prayer and asking Jesus for help. Though not yet 9, this precious girl is beginning to understand how to let Jesus help her do what He calls her to do. Actually, it is kind of fun to see, most of the time.

Recently, though, it was not very fun. It was rather uncomfortable, actually. I was having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, and it was my own fault. When one of the girls threw a fit, I threw one too. Every one of my girls knew they were in trouble. I was slamming doors, speaking harsh, and I even yelled. It was a mommy-melt-down, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. In the middle of it, when I was cleaning the sink with enough intensity to run the finish off, my precious daughter approached me.

"Mommy," she asked, "how is your heart with Jesus?" Knowing she was doing exactly what I'd done so many times, I just had to laugh! Then I faced reality. My heart wasn't very good. I'd been living my life exactly opposite of the way I know is right. I had not been loving God with everything that was in me. I wasn't even trying to love Him at all. And, I was doing anything but treating others the way I wanted to be treated.

With a gently rebuked and humbled heart, I asked my daughter to pray for me, and she did. Shortly after, I recognized some choices I was making that were not good. I asked Jesus to help me, and He did.

My precious daughters are so gracious. They all still love me. They even prayed for me while I was in the midst of the meltdown. For these children to extend me so much grace, after I'd been rotten, is a reminder of the grace I've been given by God. He knows my weaknesses; He knows my absolute inability to love Him the way I'm called to, or even to truly love others as I love myself. And, God loves me anyway.

I'm sure you can identify with some of what I've shared. You, too, may be struggling to get through the day, and need some help. Or, you may just be curious. If you want more information about what it means to know God personally, you can go to
http://www.greatcom.org/laws/englishkgp/default.htm. I, on the other hand, plan to finish up my serving of humble pie.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Technology and the passing of time

On New Year's Eve, I was buckling my 2 y.o. into her carseat, in the rain, on a busy street, in the dark. According to the principles of Murphy's Law, my purse fell out of the car. Of course, the contents dumped all over the busy street, and I mean ALL over. As I scrambled to gather all the parts and pieces, I missed a significant item. The back of my cell phone. My cell phone is black. The road was black. The night was black. It was a dark and stormy night. You get the picture.

Anyway, the back of my cell phone is lost. The battery falls out; the face plate comes off; the phone just quits. Recognizing that this was a problem, I decided to stop in where we purchased our phones a year ago last August, to get a new back. Silly me. Why should I expect the people who sold me this cell phone months ago to still have parts. It is, I was told, a pretty old phone.

Old is just a matter of perspective. My toddler is very young, and she is older than my cell phone. I've been around for way more than 18 months, and I am definitely not old! Though I don't drink, it is my understanding that the older the wine, the better. Aged meat is more tender. Vintage cars are prized. My phone isn't old, it is vintage!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Toilet training is not for cowards

Toilet training of people or pets is not to be undertaken lightly. Having 5 children in 8 years (all girls) has been an adventure all its own. Now that the youngest of those 5 is ready to make the leap from diapers to panties, a totally new adventure awaits. Though successful in my past attempts, I seem to have forgotten how to make the leap from diaper changer to potty trainer.

For Christmas, my sister gave our girls a puppy. The puppy already has several things in common with our family. She is a girl, she is young, and she isn't completely house-broken. Though her name is Lady, this little mut has been engaging in some very unladylike behavior. So, between toilet training a toddler and housebreaking a puppy, I've decided I'm a coward!

Maybe it has just been a bad day. So far, Lady has left two "aromatic" deposits in the house, on the carpet. Then, Kayla demonstrated she has absolutely NO clue what to do without a diaper, all over the kitchen floor, while I was making lunch! And our four year old has symptoms of a bladder infection. Where do I turn in my resignation?!

Ok. I guess I don't really want to resign. Even with the chaos and craziness, I love my family!! Having a housefull of girls is a little overwhelming at times, but I can't imagine life without every single one of them! Parenting isn't for cowards. Toilet training (or housebreaking) is no easy task. But, few things in life are easy, and even fewer can be undertaken by cowards. Though I am a coward, I know that God will give me the strength to navigate this road, and to live until tomorrow.