Thursday, June 23, 2016

Elizabeth Prentiss: Joyfully Embracing Motherhood and Suffering

It had been an especially difficult morning at home with my little people. There were at least five reasons why the day should be dubbed as unrecoverable, and it wasn't even 9 a.m. By this time I had broken up a few fights, corrected children who needed to re-do chores, and begun nursing the baby when my toddler notified me she needed a diaper change. Immediately.

I suppressed a sigh. I was getting nowhere fast on my to-do list, and feelings of discouragement threatened me. As I mentally revisited my priorities as a wife and mother, I reflected on my recent readings about the life of Elizabeth Prentiss.

Today I'm contributing at Revive Our Hearts, as we continue a series on 25 Women Who Impacted the World for Christ.  Head over there to continue reading.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

A Few Reasons to Love Daddy

The more kindness and love a father shows his children, the more effective will be his rebukes. And it takes a lot of effort, especially when you're tired after a long day, to give kindness and love to a child. I'm thankful Kevin knows this. There are many ways to provoke a child to anger but I think giving out lots of discipline, in the absence of a loving relationship, has got to be near the top.

(Selah, 2, trying to get away from him as he reads to us after supper.)

Children take time (and often, blood, sweat and tears). They aren't here to make us look good and we don't collect them as if they're a fun hobby. They are people created in the image of God to bring Him glory. I'm thankful Kevin knows this too. He looks with eternal eyes past the temporary work of this life. He doesn't change as many diapers or wipe as many noses as I do, but he does worse things, like shopping for car insurance and weed eating and waiting up for teenagers and spraying wasp nests where the kids play. Every day, he is faithful to us in details that aren't glamorous and that no one cares about but us.

(June, 2000)

(November, 2015)

But the thing I could go on and on about, is that Kevin has welcomed each of our ten children (as well as the one in Heaven), with joy and love, no matter if they were somewhat expected, or completely unexpected. He has opened his heart and arms to them all. He serves, teaches, cares for, protects and provides for Sharlotte (6months) as much as he has Shelbi (20). He is often spread thin, but he handles the pressure with grace. Except when he doesn't, and then he isn't too proud to ask for our forgiveness. We give God praise for our leader and we're thankful for a special day to say it.

We love you, Kevin. Happy Father's Day!

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Weekend Links

Happy Friday, Friends!

Here are some articles that fired me up lately. 

On Family Discipleship

A tough question that kids ask and that many of us may bumble over:

On Motherhood

  • "So one morning I drew a line. I will see Jesus in this. I cannot be the annoyed and tedious person that I keep running into.  I will, whatever it takes, see Him. So I sat down in my pajamas too late to be in pajamas, and the baby was playing on a blanket  in just his diaper, the breakfast dishes were out to play still, and you could see the remains of the blowout carnage waiting to go down to the laundry room for stain treatment."  Continue reading:  Come Down

  • "Imagine if you and I awoke each day thinking accurately that our real work is mothering. Not only that, but imagine if we were honest about the job description and consciously surrendered to the cost of love. What if we went into the day anticipating all of the hard work?" Read: A Game-Changing Perspective of Motherhood

My friend Lauren lets us take a laugh at her expense.  But most of us have been in a situation similar to this at some point, if you are caring for little ones. The moments where chaos reins and you are tempted to have a mommy meltdown because of it:

On Gender Issues and Social Engineering

Attempting to follow the logic in all this transgender nonsense results in, well, nonsense.  Kevin DeYoung tries it:

  • "They have your comfort and safety in mind. They do! In fact, they want all their “guests” to be comfortable in their own skin. That’s why they’re allowing any grown man who “feels” like a woman to follow your 10 yr old right into their bathrooms. That guy has feelings! Don’t you care? Come one! Have a heart!"  Read: Target's Guest Policy is About More Than Bathrooms

  • "Things have changed, dear parents. The way we live has to change. Christianity is about to become the most radical mission we were ever a part of, if we’re doing it right. We aren’t culture warriors anymore–the culture is lost and we aren’t getting it back. But, our children are still ours. And, I propose that it’s going to take some radical reform in our homes in order to lead them in Christ’s way."  Read: What  #GiveElsaAGirlfriend Really Means

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Friday, May 6, 2016

A Mother's Love

I love that there is a day set aside to honor God's gift of mothers. It's a big, life-long job.  In fact it is probably the most influential job a person can have. And it is a work that must be rooted in the love of God.

All of  Scripture points to the ultimate conclusion that our Father loves us.  He loved us all the way to the cross.  And when we are firmly rooted in the knowledge of this love it allows us to overflow with love for our children and others. If we are not experiencing the love of God in our lives we will eventually run out of natural affection for the kids.  Sleepless nights, bad attitudes and overcrowded schedules can dry up our reserves very quickly.

But God's love refreshes our hearts and guides us into loving our children well.  When we receive the abundant love of Christ, we are free to pursue others with love.  We are free to give back what we have already received.  God pursued us with His love when we were enemies of His grace.  We were dead in our trespasses and enslaved to our own passions and pleasure yet His love sought us out.

Once the Holy Spirit awakens our hearts, we come to Christ. Then we can extend practical love, patience and kindness to our children when they fail because we remember that God first extended His grace to us.  We can bear with their faults because we realize how patiently God has borne our faults.  We can give new mercy to our children every morning with a clean slate, because we know how often God has wiped our own slate clean. When we reflect on the many ways God has shown love to us, especially through the Cross, it spurs us on to love our children in tangible ways.

Imitators of God

I love listening to my Serenity (4), playing pretend with her siblings or dolls. Very often when she speaks and I hear my own voice and even my mannerisms are imitated. In his letter to the Ephesians Paul said, "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

Just as "dearly loved children" will imitate the ones who love them (their parents), we can, as image-bearers, reflect the love God gives us.  Though it will be imperfect, to increasingly reflect the love of Jesus to our kids, is our hope.

There are people in my life with such inviting dispositions that I believe even strangers would know at once, that they are Christians.  Their homes are warmly inviting and hospitable and strangers are drawn to their loving warmth. By the Spirit's work in our lives, our love will increasingly grow to resemble the love of Christ.

Faithful Tilling

The love of a mother can till the soil of a child's heart. She can be the one to make soft, fertile ground where the gospel takes root!  A mother who gives her love diligently, thoughtfully, and joyfully, is equipping her children with a firm foundation for the rest of their lives.  Her love is a key tool in God's hand to prepare her children to understand and accept His love for them. When Paul wrote to Titus to instruct the older women to teach the younger women to love their husbands and children, he did so because God uses the love of a wife and mother to build up and influence the family.

Deeds That Strengthen and Secure

Today I was chatting with  my sister at the park when her toddler fell off the bench and whacked his head. She stopped what she was doing and helped him to his feet and dried his tears and gave him a hug.  This is what Mamas do. These quiet acts of service and tender words of affection and daily hugs are strengthening and securing your children.  These little acts performed day after day give them a solid place to rest, no matter the age or the type of hurt (teens, anyone?). We want to love in both word and deed, guiding them to the love of God.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Cor. 13:1-3

Be encouraged, Mamas, that loving your children is foundational to their lives. May God give us grace to love them well.  May our warmest affection, welcoming smiles and gentle care, overflow from God's love being established in our own hearts.

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Blogosphere, I'm Coming For You.

Hello Friends!  I am still here.  My heart's desire is to rejoin this community of Christian women in the blogosphere.  But here in Texas we don't get down to business without saying our howdys first.  We edge into things and hang around on the front porch until the mosquitoes start to bite, before we say anything substantial.

So just know that, by the grace of God, I am still standing.  Sharlotte has left IUGR in the dust, praise Jesus.  My young adults are all young adulting.  They insist on continuing in that. But our homeschooling academics have started to wind down, and I hope that will leave a spare moment from time to time, to pursue infrequently dabble in writing again.  And if not, just know that our mega sized family is still alive and well and doing our best to love Jesus and eachother and bloom where we are planted.

Much love to you all, and I hope to see you soon with a real blog post :)

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Sharlotte's Birth Story {Part 3}: Unending Mercy

Read the introduction, part 1 and part 2 here.

Throughout this entire ordeal Kevin and I could see God's mercy to us time after time in various ways.  To point to Jesus and His love is the purpose of this birth story.

One of those mercies was the day of waiting before the C-section.  It was a scary day for me, now knowing that my baby was deteriorating day by day.  But it was still a merciful providence.  We enjoyed the evening with our children. We had dinner together, ate the pie and had a time of prayer and thanksgiving, reassuring our children that all was in the Lord's hands and we were resigned to His will.  Our young adults (ages 15-20) particularly needed this time. They needed to see us trusting that "underneath are the everlasting arms."  One of our most fervent prayers was for our young adults, that this would be an opportunity for them to grow in faith. 

That evening I sent out some more emails to friends that I knew would pray. I asked them to petition the Lord specifically for:
Knowledgeable and compassionate nurses,
That if there was a problem with the baby's health when she was born, Kevin and I would make wise decisions for her,
That I would be steadfast in faith, and a good example of trust and peace to my family.

There were some tears from my little ones that Mama would be away from home for a few days.

My sister-in-law texted me around 9:30 and said she was praying I would sleep.  I did.  For two hours.

At midnight I was awake and never went back to sleep.  I waited on the baby to move time and again, I made sandwiches to take to the hospital, I read and prayed, I watched you-tube videos of C-sections (gulp). It was a night I will never forget. I thought hard on how my life was about to drastically change, especially the next several weeks. I knew God would sustain me.

I read the Psalms all the way to the hospital the next morning.

When we arrived, the first thing to happen was an answer to prayer.  The nurse assigned to me was an older nurse with decades of experience under her belt. No matter how much you trust your doctor or midwife, the nurses can make or break the experience in a hospital. God's kindness to me was given in a nurse that I felt I could trust.

She hooked me up to the fetal monitor and the Braxton Hicks contractions I had been having the last few days immediately showed on the monitor.  Some were pretty strong.  It was still a few hours until the surgery.

During some of the stronger Braxton Hicks, our baby began to have decels, an indication that she was not tolerating the false contractions well.  Our nurse said, "I don't know what's going on with her...but it's a good thing she's coming out." Once again I began to question just what we were going to discover when she was born. Clearly she never would have been able to tolerate labor.  And once again, I remembered the dilemma of several months ago, choosing hospital over birth center and how the Lord had mercifully led us to this point.

The morning was spent waiting and chatting easily with my mom, Kevin and a few other visitors like my wonderful in-laws who came in with hugs and sweet smiles.  I was told that all our children were in the waiting room now.  My doctor came in and thoroughly explained every move that would be made during the surgery and that extra nursery personnel were there for the baby's sake. My midwife came in too and the three of us chatted. One sweet memory (remember, I am writing this for myself too :)) is how our doctor made mention of how many children we had.  She said, "We all talk about you guys.  We love your fertility.  Its odd and wonderful to see a happy couple bringing children into the world that they love." (Did I mention how much I loved this doctor? I don't think anyone has ever loved our fertility before, lol)

Finally my turn in the OR came.  Kevin put on the mask and other garb but he was told he had to wait until the surgery was started before they would let him into the O.R.  Being wheeled away from him, on my own now, I got emotional and started to shake.  I could not stop shaking.  Then I wondered how I would hold still for the epidural, shaking like that. Surely this would end in paralysis or some such catastrophe. So that made me shake worse. It crossed my mind that if I didn't hold it together they would knock me out and I wouldn't see my baby for hours and who knew what could happen during that time. It felt like a tidal wave was just about to wash over me and there was no way I could pull out of it. a panic attack was on the horizon.

But that sweet nurse spoke love and compassion to me. "This is all fine.  You are fine.  We do this every day.  You are going to be fine." She gave me a few pats on the shoulder. She said they were in no rush, they would wait on my shakes.

Doesn't seem like much, but it was enough for me to breathe again. 

I repeated Psalms in my head, I couldn't think of references but many short phrases.  And I felt the prayers of all the ones praying for me.  I knew there were people praying.  And what a mercy is that?  To know other people love and care for you and will bring your name before the Throne of Grace at your weakest moment, is such a gift.  And God hears the prayers of His people!

The epidural was done without a problem, I was completely numb. The anesthesiologist cracked some joke about how many kids I had and I thought, "Seriously. Dude. Is this really the time for that?" Everyone else was the picture of professionalism.

Finally Kevin was beside me again.  Within just a few minutes I felt that creepy sensation of tugging and pulling and they had Sharlotte out.  She didn't cry.  I was beside myself asking Kevin, "How does she look?  How does she look?"  He said, "She looks fine" but I could tell he hadn't had a really long look at her yet and couldn't tell.  Some long seconds passed and we finally heard her cry.  I was asking my doctor and midwife questions, "What do ya'll think?  What do ya'll think?  WILL SOMEONE TELL ME SOMETHING."

"Placenta looks okay,"  I heard them say.

I sent Kevin to look at the baby and bring me a picture from his phone.  He came back reporting she did look good and not all that small and looked healthy and was pinking up. 6 pounds, 3 ounces.

Within five minutes of being born the nursery nurse brought me the baby.  She unwrapped her and laid her on my bare skin.  I was not expecting this.  Although I was glad, I was afraid because  I couldn't hold onto her.  But she gave Kevin instructions on how to hold Sharlotte still right there and told him it was important that the baby be skin-to-skin with me.  This was all a happy surprise to me, that they would be so concerned about the bonding aspect.

They left her on me like that until I was wheeled into a recovery room and she was immediately put back onto my bare skin there.  She did not have any interest in nursing, though I tried. That was a first, as my other babies rooted and nursed immediately after birth. I still wasn't able to see much of her because of all the equipment my arms were hooked up to.  I could only see how tiny she was. My relief came a few hours later when Kevin and I looked her over so well and she finally nursed a little.

Doctor said the reason for the IUGR was a true knot in the cord. Like a water hose that gets knotted has a decreased output, the nourishment just wasn't making it to my baby. A true knot occurs is 0.3% to 2% of births and it can end in still birth or an emergency in labor. Additionally, the cord was wrapped around Sharlott'es neck tightly three times, which would have complicated things further if I had gone into labor with her. 

Throughout our stay at the hospital we were told often by different staff, "Do you know how lucky you are?"  They told us stories of births that ended in tragedy.  We were quick to give all glory to our Lord and Savior for His sustaining of Sharlotte Hosanna.  There was no luck in this situation.  All was His merciful intervening on our behalf.

We give God praise for His love and kindness in the midst of a storm. Sharlotte has continued to give us cause to pray often and depend on the Lord's grace as we have kept a close eye on her growth.  But the last two weeks she has seemed to "turn a corner" and has started a good growth pattern.

Thank you all for reading and for the many comments and emails.  I know I will not be able to respond to them all, but please know I have treasured each one.  I have not been sorry that I shared this with ya'll.  I hope that it has encouraged some of you Mamas.  There is a lot of "trust your body" and "trust the process of birth" that goes on in our culture.  I encourage you to only trust in Jesus.  He is the only One who is trustworthy.  He is an anchor in the storm of childbirth whether it goes according to your plan, whether it is at home, a birth center or a hospital and whether it is medicated or unmedicated.  All praise to Him for all things, in every place, for every thing.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Sharlotte's Birth Story {Part 2}: Peace That Transcends Understanding

(Read the introduction and part 1 here.)

November arrived and so did weekly prenatal appointments, even though I had already had a few "bonus" appointments. A non-stress-test showed that the baby was moving and active for her gestational age. However, the next sonogram showed that she had not grown much since the last one. Midwife, no longer willing to be brushed off, recommended that I see a doctor in their office for a second opinion.  An appointment was made for the following week, so as to give the baby another chance to prove she could grow, if she was ever going to.

Until this time I was still inwardly rolling my eyes that there was any problem. I had claimed the title of Mom Who Giveth Birth To Large Babies Always and Forever Amen, thus there is simply no reason to worry about a small baby. But no longer was this just a nagging little issue. My midwife was willing to hand my care over to someone else.  I am so thankful she did.

The first thing our new doctor did was her own sonogram. Her readings showed that although our baby had been growing slowly all along, she had now stopped growing. I was 38 weeks and she measured 34-35 weeks, even making allowances for a sonogram's possible discrepancies. The measurements were worse than the week prior.

Her recommendation was a caesarean. An induction would be the normal course of action, but with a c-section in my past, that wasn't an option for me.

The doctor suspected a problem with the placenta. I had gained 1-2 pounds per week the last 3 months but for some reason none of that nourishment was making it to the baby. (It was a good theory, but we discovered later that it wasn't the answer.) My question of "Why not just let the baby stay put and keep growing?" was answered by my new doctor:  "Because she won't." And if the problem was the placenta, it could decide to just stop working at all.

The term IUGR was given.  Intrauterine Growth Restriction.  And my history in the nursing profession brought back memories of tiny babies who weren't actually premature at all.  The mom had smoked cigarettes or used drugs while pregnant and given birth to these frail little malnourished babies. But there are other causes of IUGR, and sometimes the cause is never even determined.

There are no such things as coincidences, only the sovereignty of God.  And He made it so that this young doctor was an exact "fit" for me.  Not only did she have a kind and compassionate bedside manner, her first child had been born by caesarean because of IUGR.  She empathized with me to the smallest detail. She understood my fear and the roller coaster of emotions I just embarked on.  She shared with me pictures of her son when he was born and the trial afterward of getting him to grow, how he lost even more weight at first. Yet now he was a healthy toddler.

I never want to forget that (^^) part of this story. It is one of my favorite parts. God allowed me to see so clearly, so unmistakably, that His hand was upon this entire situation from the first phone call I made to that office 7 months prior.  His love in this small, comforting detail moves me to tears of gratitude even as I type. What amazing love (I am unable to fathom it), would move Him to comfort me like this in a moment of fear!

We asked for some time alone in the exam room. We prayed together and asked God for help, strength and wisdom. We called others for counsel. This was a small hospital and we were concerned about their ability to handle a complicated baby.  They assured us that for now they saw no medical problems other than that she had just stopped growing.  They were confident they could handle it. They predicted a weight of 6 pounds-- hardly an emergency.

The doctor returned and we agreed to start arrangements for the surgery in the morning. It was two days until Thanksgiving.

Kevin and I drove to Cracker Barrel and ate lunch together before heading back to the hospital for pre-op things.  I cried at times, overcome with emotion at what was about to happen.  The pain and long recovery of a C-section, what I had hoped to avoid, was now the last thing on my mind. 

I had moments of fear that my placenta would up and die before we could get her out.  I became more aware of the baby moving and prayed for her with each kick. My mind went to many "what-if" scenarios including fear of my own life. Yet the Lord's peace guided us through those hours of the realization that "something was wrong and we didn't really know what."  It was a living promise of Philippians 4:6-7.  God did not rescue us from this trial, but he did give us peace in the midst of it.

We bought pecan pie at Cracker Barrel to take home for the other kids, in celebration that tomorrow, they would have a new sister. 

(To be continued.)

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