On Giving Birth

Last week, I had the incredible privilege of giving birth to a beautiful baby girl, Eliana Rose. Her name means “The Lord answers our prayers”. And what a blessing and answer to prayer she is to our little family. She came into the world via cesarean section following about 30 hours of labor. There’s no way to know if it was her slightly sideways position in the womb or the fact that the umbilical cord was wrapped twice around her neck or some other reason all together that prevented her from progressing down the birth canal as she should have. But whatever the reason, through the wisdom, counsel and skill of our doctor and by the grace and peace of God, she is here and we are both alive and healthy.

Of course, a c-section was not the birth experience we had hoped for or expected. But I am so grateful that I had the privilege of going through this experience in a clean, comfortable, sterile hospital with doctors and nurses available around the clock to care for us. So many woman and babies do not have this privilege. Even today, throughout the world, many women in my position experience the loss of their babies and even their own lives because they don’t have access to medical care.

Adriel, one of my dear YWAM friends has a project called Bloggers for Birth Kits which helps provide education and clean birthing kits for women in rural Papua New Guinea who don’t have access to birthing centers or hospitals. Please take a few minutes to read about her heart for this project and these women. And as mothers day approaches, please consider giving the gift of motherhood by partnering in this project either through assembling some birth kits yourself or with a group of friends, or making a financial contribution toward some birth kits. Through a simple act or a small contribution you can help make a difference and show these women that they are loved.

How to get involved in Bloggers for Birth Kits:

1. Make a birth kit. Assemble one yourself or gather a group of girlfriends, a moms group, work associates, or a church group to make a box full of them! Mail your kits to: Adriel Booker, Bloggers for Birth Kits, PO Box 6221, Townsville, Queensland, 4810, Australia

2. Donate for a birth kit to be made on your behalf. ($10 will buy 5 kits!) All donations for B4BK go toward the assembly and distribution of kits, as well as maternal care education. Make your online donation here. Please be sure to write “Bloggers for Birth Kits” in the box that says “additional comments” so the funds will be allocated properly!

3. Help raise awareness by posting about the cause on your blog, Facebook, pinterest, and twitter. (Please use the hash tag #B4BirthKits!)

4. Add the Bloggers for Birth Kits button to your blog.

Clean Birth Kit specifics

1. Soap (for the birth attendant to wash her hands). Use a hotel-size soap or cut a regular bar of soap into 1/8-sized pieces. (Microwave the bar of soap for 30 seconds to soften it for cutting).

2. One pair of plastic gloves (for the birth attendant to wear).

3. Five squares of gauze (to wipe the mum’s perineum and baby’s eyes). Gauze pieces should be about 10×10 centimeters or 3×3 inches.

4. One blade (to cut the cord). You can buy individually wrapped sterile blades at the pharmacist or buy utility blades (much cheaper) at the hardware store. We teach the women to boil the blades for sterilization, so utility blades work just fine.

5. Three pieces of string (2 for tying the cord, 1 for “just in case”). String should be about 30 centimeters or 10 inches long.

6. One plastic sheet (for a clean birthing surface). Sheet should be approximately 1×1 meter or 1×1 yard and can be purchased at your hardware or paint store.

7. One sandwich-size ziplock bag (to pack the contents).

The Waiting

39 Weeks

The I’m-close-to-my-due-date-when-is-this-baby-coming waiting is the worst part about being pregnant in my opinion. I have less than a week now until my due date and I can hardly stand it. I’m so excited to meet our newest little family member, to find out for sure if it is a boy or girl, to pick a name out for him or her! In fact, for the most part, it’s about the only thing I can think of these days. I’m trying to make the most of this time and get some practical things done. All the baby clothes are washed and sorted, the basinet is in place, the car seat is ready, the menu is planned out for the month. All we need now is the baby!

Bring that to Me

He doesn't like to sit still!

Most days I still can’t get enough of staring at that adorable little face. When he was a newborn, watching him sleep was one of my favorite past-times. (And truthfully, I still sneak into his room at night and watch him sleep.) But at 15 months old, he’s in a really fun stage of life where he’s busy, exploring his environment, curious about everything, testing his boundaries, establishing his independence!

The other day, he discovered the fun game of “I-know-I-shouldn’t-have-this, so-I’m-going-to-stand-just-out-of-your-reach…and-laugh!” As I stood there looking at him, and battling my internal urges of laughing at his cute little game and feeling a bit frustrated that he isn’t being obedient, the question came to mind, “How many times have I played this game with the Lord?”

It was so powerful of a question that I had to sit down for a minute as the realization hit me all over again of what it means when God refers to Himself as my Father. Oh, how it must break His heart when I stand there, staring at him with a mischievous little grin, as I cling to something of this world that He is saying is not good for me even though I know how much He loves me and wants what is best for me. I know His feelings of love and protection towards me are far, far stronger than my feelings toward Simon, and yet I still have times and circumstances when I struggle to trust Him and fail to understand why something I want might not be good for me.

The truth is, just as I have to teach my son right from wrong, good from evil, safe from unsafe, so the Lord is patiently teaching me those same things. And MOTHERHOOD! What a great new tool He has put into my life to teach me such lessons.

Missing My Sister

Lately I’ve really been missing my sister. In July of 2008, she fell off her horse and suffered a pretty severe traumatic brain injury. In the beginning the Dr’s weren’t sure she would survive. But thanks to a God of miracles and modern medical technology, she’s still alive today and slowly, very slowly, making a recovery.

Physically she is still with us, and I really am grateful for that. But she is nowhere near the person she once was. She has no short-term memory and pieces of her long-term memory seem to be missing also, she has limited mobility on one side of her body, although she’s making a lot of improvement in this lately, she’s also blind now. But harder than all of that, is the fact that for the past two years or so, she has been lost in a place of anger over being blind. I can understand this, I’m sure if I were in her shoes, I would be angry over that too. But the devastating effect of her anger is that she’s missing out on all the things she still has and can still do.

Some days, I get overwhelmed by hearing her go on and on about all that she can’t do because she can’t see. And it breaks my heart to hear her say over and over how much she wishes she could see my son. It’s on those days that I truly miss my sister. I miss the sister whose faith in God was my model while I was growing up. I miss the sister I could laugh with and cry with over the ups and downs life threw at us. I miss the sister who used to talk with me into the wee hours of the night about the boys we had crushes on. I miss the sister who used to dream with me about what it would be like when we grew up and had families of our own. I miss the sister who used to jump out of bed in the morning and run over to the heat register with an arm load of our clothes for the day to let them warm up before I got out of bed. I miss the sister who used to look forward to having girl time and doing stuff together just the two of us.

I guess, if I’m truly honest, my relationship with my sister is something that I took for granted for most of my life. I never realized how important it was to me until I lost it. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my sister and I’m learning how to love her in new ways, for who she is now, and I know somewhere deep down, she still loves me (but with her current state of existence, she has no way to express that love.)

I’m not sure where I am going with this post, except to put my feelings down in writing.  These past few years have been some of the most difficult times of my life and my family has faced some major challenges. But through all of it, I have felt the constant presence of the Lord, bringing a quiet peace and strength. I have learned just how strong my family is and how much we are capable of handling. (It’s much more than any of us thought possible.) I have seen first hand how the body of Christ comes around and loves, supports, and holds us up when we feel like we can’t go on. I have learned how to lean into the Lord and to be carried by Him, allowing Him to fill the lonely places of my heart. I have felt His blessed assurance that I will spend eternity with my sister and she will be whole, restored, beautiful and full of joy.

So, today, when my heart is breaking all over again as I think about the upcoming arrival of our next baby and how neither of my children will have the privilege of knowing my sister the way she was, I choose again to take hold of that hope and promise. I trust that they will have all eternity to know her in a joyful, peaceful state of existence where there will be no more tears and no more sorrow. And I choose to continue to seek God’s wisdom in how to love her for the person she is now. My prayer today is that the God of all wisdom and understanding would continue to use this season of life to teach me about unconditional love, grace, mercy and forgiveness. And that He would continue to use this devastating event that the enemy meant for evil to bring glory and honor to His name.

Me and my sister last Christmas

Preparing for LaBaby #2

30 Weeks

This is one of the hot topics in the little community of blogs that I follow. It seems like everyone is in the same season of life, either recently given birth to a second child, or expecting to soon. Hmm, perhaps that has something to do with why I follow their blogs?

Anyway, LaBaby #2 is scheduled to make his/her grand entrance on April 8th. (No, we didn’t find out the gender at our ultrasound. We like surprises!) Some days I  am so excited, I feel like I can hardly wait to meet this new little one. Then other days, I get a little panicky with thoughts about what it’s going to be like having another child around our house. How am I going to handle the day-to-day “stuff” that makes up life with a toddler and care for a new-born? I know the common, and obvious, response to that is that you just “do it”. You adjust and you adapt and before long, it’s not a big deal and I’ll hardly be able to remember what life was like before…

So, that has been some of my “mental” preparation for our second child. But there’s been a deeper preparation that I am working on too. And that is the “heart” preparation. There is no question I am going to love this second child. I already do. I already have that strong, indescribable bond that comes from carrying this baby inside of me for all these months. Through this time, I’ve noticed differences from my last pregnancy. It’s these differences that remind me that this child is unique, he or she will have a whole different personality from our other child. It’s a reminder that as a mother, I need to understand this and lay aside my expectations in order to truly be able to grasp how God has knit this little one together and the plans and purposes that He has for this new life.

There’s a verse in Proverbs that says “train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) Now that I have children of my own, this verse has taken on a whole new depth of meaning. I consider it such a privilege that God has entrusted Elliot and I with these little lives. And with that incredible blessing, I feel a weight of responsibility. I want our roles as parents to be that of partners with the Lord in training our children not only in the Truth of God’s Word, but also in the truth of who they are as individuals because of who He is in them and who He has created them to be. I want to see God’s plans fulfilled in their lives, whatever those plans may be.

One of the biggest pieces of preparing for this next child has been prayer. Prayer not only for the baby, but for us as parents too. That we would be open to the work of God in our lives. And that He would prepare us and shape us into the kind of parents this child is going to need. It’s going to be different from how it was with Simon and it will be different all over again with any other children we have after this one. But different is good. Already, in this last year with Simon, I can see that things are different in my life. I can see the Lord at work, refining me, chiseling away at areas of my life and my heart that are unloving, selfish, prideful, judgemental, etc.

Being a mom is a humbling journey for me. But, it’s making me into a better person and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Friends, I’d love to hear about how parenthood has shaped you. And also about things you did to prepare for your children, not just the “heart” preparations, but any “practical” tips you’ve got would be appreciated too!

Eat your heart out, girls. He’s all mine!

A walk in the park

I couldn’t resist taking a few minutes this afternoon to brag about what a fantastic husband I have. He is a God-sent blessing and I couldn’t imagine a more perfect man for my life.

Elliot loves to cook for us (and he’s really good at it) and help out around the house. He’s incredibly handy and takes pride in being a good steward of the things God has blessed us with. He’s a great dad to Simon, very involved and attentive.

But even more than all of that, he’s a spiritual leader in our home. He’s a man after God’s heart and pursuing God’s will and His best for our family is one of Elliot’s top priorities.

I was inspired to brag a little about how great Elliot is the other day when I was tired and sore from being in my third trimester of pregnancy and he encouraged me to go soak in the tub and relax and he would take care of Simon and whatever else needed doing. And even more inspired after we had a sweet time of reading the Bible and praying together early this morning before Simon woke up.

He makes me want to be a better person. And I love him!

(Thanks for letting me gush and brag a little bit. I hope you’re not too jealous!)

Oh blog, my blog, wherefore art thou?

Simon's home-made monster slippers

My blog has been floating around in the back of my mind for the past several weeks. I’ve even attempted to write a few posts during that time (still half-finished, maybe they’ll be completed one day.) But when I logged in again this morning I realized just how long it has been since my last post. Oops. I did not mean to go THAT long.

I guess these past weeks, my creative juices have been flowing in other directions. A few years ago, I went away on a girls weekend with my friend, Jenny. While we were away, she taught me how to knit! And last summer, my mother-in-law very patiently and lovingly taught me how to crochet. So, this winter, while I am pregnant with LaBaby #2 and seriously lacking energy, I’ve been doing a lot of both of those things. After all, it’s a great excuse to sit on the couch with my feet up. I’ve made hat’s, scarves, mittens, blankets and slippers for family and friends. (Right now, I’m just finishing up a pair of slippers for my dear husband.)  Ironically, this has been one of our warmest winters ever here in Minnesota. But when the cold weather finally does come, we are prepared.

As I’ve been working on these projects my thoughts often go to Proverbs chapter 31 where it describes the wife of noble character. Verse 21 says,

21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

Well, maybe I’ve not made all these things out of scarlet, but I do know they will be warm when it snows. It encourages me to know there is at least one way that I am living up to this ideal woman.

The Blessing Tree

A couple of weeks ago, I heard someone on the radio telling a story about a time when their family was going through a financial hardship. Her husband had lost his job and as Christmas approached that year, they didn’t have any money. One night there was a knock at the door and when they opened it, on the doorstep was a small Christmas tree with $100 bills tied to the branches. She was saying how every year since then, they put that tree out at Christmas time and they fill the branches with notes about things they are thankful for and all the ways God has blessed them through the year.

When I told Elliot that story, we both agreed that those blessing notes were a great idea and something we’d like to incorporate into our Christmas season. So this year, before we put any other ornaments on our tree, we spent some time writing out little notes about the things we are thankful for. Those notes went on the tree first and then we filled in the “gaps” with some of our other ornaments. It’s a simple looking tree this year, quite plain by some people’s standards, I’m sure. But it is personal and unique and probably my favorite Christmas tree. I look forward to having this become one of our family traditions.

I’d love to hear about some of your favorite Christmas traditions! Oh, and by the way, if anyone wants to come and tie some $100 bills to the branches of our tree, just let me know and we’ll leave a key under the mat.

On Finding Freedom

For the past few months, I’ve been meeting with a wonderful group of ladies from my church on a weekly basis to discuss a book we are going through by Susie Larson called “Embracing Your Freedom”. It’s a great book aimed at helping women discover the fullness of freedom that a relationship with Christ is meant to bring us. And then, once we discover this freedom for our lives, she has some meaningful input on how God wants to use us to help others find their freedom. One of her challenges from this weeks reading was to research and raise awareness on the current suffering of others around the world.

As I was reading this, the Lord brought to my mind a woman I met a few years ago when I spent the summer in Cairo working with some local churches. She and her two young boys were staying in the same building we stayed in. The boys would often come up stairs to visit or play games with us. Sometimes they even accompanied us on outings around town to buy food or visit with other local people.

One day I went down to have a little visit with this woman. When she opened the door to me, I could see that she had tears streaming down her cheeks. She invited me in and spent the next hour telling me about the struggles she had with her husband. He was very controlling and would not even let her or the boys leave the house when he wasn’t with them. She told me that they were hiding from him. In order for them to escape, she had to tie some of their clothes up in a blanket and throw it over the fence into a neighbor’s yard and then wait for the perfect opportunity to disappear. She was scared of her husband and scared of what he might do to her and the kids if he found them. She was so scared that she wouldn’t even communicate with her own family for fear that they might discover where she was staying and then her husband might find them. I took that opportunity to share with her some of my experiences and how God brought hope and freedom into a very desperate time in my life. And before I left, we spent some time praying together.

A few days after this conversation, I was talking with the pastor of the nearby church. He was sharing his concern about this woman and didn’t think it was right that she took these boys away from their father. He mentioned that he was considering calling her family and discussing the situation with them. And within a couple of days, the mother and her two boys were gone, without even a goodbye.

A month or so passed and our time in Cairo was just about finished. On one of our last days, we went to a popular tourist area for a little sight-seeing. There were some small souvenir shops in the area and I remembered this woman saying she worked at a shop in this area. So, we went looking for her and actually managed to find her. She looked well on the outside, but the light had gone out in her eyes and been replaced by a hopeless, defeated expression. Because she was at work, she wasn’t able to talk with me very much that day.

Looking at this story in light of the study I am doing about embracing our freedom, I can’t help but feel the burden of pain and oppression that so many women in this world suffer from daily. The statistics of women who are abused, enslaved, trafficked, etc. are staggering. And there are so many more like my friend in Cairo who suffer silently because they don’t believe there is any hope for them. I know that there is not a lot that I can do. But the one thing that I wanted to do was to tell this one woman’s story. Please join me in praying for her, her husband and her children as well as all the women around the world suffering in this same way. And I pray that as we lift up our sisters around the world, God would ignite in our hearts a growing passion to see his love impacting lives and bringing freedom to the oppressed.

One Woman’s Trash is Another Woman’s Treasure

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24

I love second-hand shops, thrift stores and garage sales. I love the thrill of the “treasure hunt!” I love being able to find value in things that others no longer view as valuable to them.  (Even now, I as sit here typing this, I am very distracted because I can see my neighbor across the street setting up for a garage sale!) Our house is full of items that came to us second-hand. I think this is something that started in my childhood when I used to get the occasional bag of hand-me-down clothes from a cousin. But not just any cousin. This was a cousin who wore trendy, name brand clothes. Opening up those bags of hand-me-downs always felt like Christmas to me.

This is a value that my husband and I share and one that we hope to pass on to our own children. There are more than enough “things” in this world and just because someone no longer has a use for something, that doesn’t mean it’s automatically doomed for the land fill.

Last week my son and I had our birthday. One of the gifts I bought for him came from a thrift store. It is a tractor with a farmer and sheep that rides in the wagon. It’s in great condition and when I saw it, I knew he’d like it. But as I stood there, holding this toy in my hand, I had feelings of guilt in my heart over buying my son a birthday gift that someone else had already played with. As I examined my heart and the source of this guilt, the Lord helped me to realize that I was afraid of what others might think if they knew I bought a second-hand birthday present for my son. Would they view me as a bad mother?

The truth is, it should not matter what others think of me. I know my son, and I love my son. I found something for him that I knew he would enjoy and it doesn’t matter where it came from or how much it cost. The important thing is that in my heart, I desired to bless him with something that would put a smile on his cute little face and bring joy to his life.

Of course, it’s one thing to know this truth in my head, but quite another challenge when I actually have to live it out in my life. This challenge came when, for my birthday I received a gift from someone, which was quite wonderful and useful, but probably not something they had just gone out and bought for the occasion. When I felt a measure of disappointment creeping into my heart, I again had to examine it and ask myself why I would hold a double standard? Why would it be okay to give my son a used gift, but not okay for me to receive a used gift?

This time, the truth was quite ugly as the Spirit convicted me of thinking more highly of myself than I do of others, including my own precious son. What a humbling experience this was for me. I’m so thankful that the Lord loves me enough to show me the offensive ways of my heart and bring about his gentle correction in my life. I’m grateful that He is not content to allow me to remain where I am at, but He desires to bring about more and more Christ-likeness in my life.

This is just one of many ways in which God is using motherhood to shape me into a more humble, gentle, loving and patient person. I’d love to hear some of your experiences on how being a parent has brought about growth in your life.