Contractions Contractions Everywhere!

But not a baby in sight!  I’ve been having quite a few good contractions over the last several days, but they aren’t amounting to anything yet.  I was 37 weeks yesterday, so Baby is allowed to come any time now.  The birth tub is set up in the living room; I’m trying to get as much set up with the house as I can before real labor starts, I’m watching birth videos with the kiddos getting them ready for the birth and mostly sleeping a lot otherwise!  I have had no appetite the last few days and I’m very tired which, I believe, are both common symptoms at the end of a pregnancy.

The website is coming along and I hope to have it up and running before Baby gets here!  I won’t have all the blog posts transferred yet, that will take a bit more time.  There are lots of other happenings, but my brain can’t really focus on anything but Baby at this point!  Love you all and will keep you updated on contraction progress :)  Hey, I might even live blog the birth if my labor is long enough this time!

Coming Up for Air

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Every time I think we are turning a corner and getting to a point where we will be settled and things will slow down, something else comes up and more chaos ensues.  Jacob celebrated his 10th birthday in November and today is Hope’s 13th birthday!  I officially have a teenager in the house; pray for me 😉

We were sick most of the rest of November and over the holidays we made an unexpected road trip for a family funeral, which put us behind on several fronts.  We have been trying to find therapists and doctors for everyone, and we are still looking for most of them, especially the specialists we need for Jacob and Hope.  All the appointments take up quite a bit of time; we still aren’t fully unpacked or moved in and the baby is due very soon!

Kyrie needs dental surgery before baby comes, pray for her, poor girl.  She has enamel hypoplasia which is not preventable (or so they say) or treatable, and she is in pain now so we are going in to get that taken care of.  She’ll have to go under general anesthesia just because she is so young.  I should post something on enamel hypoplasia since it’s something we have dealt with extensively for several years now.  But that’s for another day!

On a happier note, we were Chrismated (welcomed into the Orthodox Church) on New Year’s Eve; it was a beautiful service and a huge relief for us.  We are now all taking Communion together as a family, and we are fully incorporated into the Church.

I am in full-on nesting mode now, but I’m too tired to do anything about it.  So perhaps I’ll spend the next few weeks working on the new blog and getting it ready to go since I can do that in bed if I want to :)  I hope you all had a very blessed Christmas season and are enjoying the afterfeast of Theophany (Epiphany) and the celebration of our Lord’s baptism and the tangible revelation of the Holy Trinity to mankind.

Love Always in Christ,

ALERT for Missouri Friends!

I wanted to give everyone in Missouri a heads up that we are back in town this week unexpectedly.  Jake’s grandpa passed away on Sunday, so we are here for the funeral and decided to stay until after Christmas.  We’d definitely also love to see anyone in town who is interested, so if you are one of those people you can give Jake or I a call or email or message me on Facebook.  We are going to make seeing people a priority while we are here, so please don’t hesitate.  It won’t inconvenience us at all; it’s one of the main reasons we will be sticking around.  Have a Merry Christmas!

Welcome Home Sweet Girl

Yesterday at church we commemorated (remembered) Saint Sophia and her three daughters Faith, Hope and Love.  Sophia lived in the 100’s during the reign of Hadrian and was a widow; she was also a pious Christian (as you probably could have guessed by the names of her children).  Word of their Christianity spread to the emperor and he ordered them brought in for torture, as Christianity was not a legal religion during this time.

Faith was twelve years old, Hope was ten years old and Love was nine years old when they suffered for Christ.  None of them renounced Christ, even during terrible torments, and neither did their mother, though she was forced to watch her children endure such pain.  One by one they were martyred for their faith, and after they had each received their heavenly crowns, Sophia was allowed to go and bury them.  After their burial, she never left their graveside and died of grief a few days afterward.  They are remembered and honored as martyrs and saints of the Church, examples that we are to follow.  You can read more of their story here.

Hope is the patron saint of our daughter, whose name she shares.  I have always loved this, as Hope is a child-martyr, and our sweet girl also suffered much in her childhood.  She came home to us at about the same age as Hope went to her Heavenly Home with Christ.  I see parallels in their stories, and I have always known that as one who suffered so much at such a young age, she would have special concern for other children who suffer as well.

Sophia and her daughters hold a very dear place in my heart, and in our family.  Unfortunately, we are still getting our  bearings, and I haven’t been keeping up with our family’s feast days.  But when we realized whose day it was yesterday my husband told our priest after liturgy that it was Hope’s “name day” as it’s called.  And he did a special anointing for her right then and there!  I was off running around with other kiddos while they were talking, so I missed it.  But Jake said that she calmed down considerably when our priest anointed her with the oil.  Which was very significant, as she had been upset for a long while, and had several people touching her head that day (which she absolutely hates).  But when he touched her forehead with the oil, it was not frightening or agitating but soothing.  What a gift.

When we left for Orthodoxy we said quite often to people that even though the Lutheran Church has much good to offer people, it wasn’t the “fullness” of the Church.  There are things missing.  This is an example of that for me.  Christ comes to us in so much more than just His literal words and a few pre-determined sacraments.  There are an infinite number of ways that we encounter Christ.  And for our sweet girl, that is very good news.  Without the ability to intellectually absorb catechesis or to participate in the Lord’s Supper – what did church give to her after her baptism?  How did it strengthen her faith?  By hearing preaching that meant nothing?  Why even take her to church?  I can read her the Bible at home.

But here there is so much more.  Christ encounters her in a personal, meaningful way here, a way that we never would have had in the Lutheran Church.  There are gifts here, just for her!  There is life here and the glimpse of that Eternal Feast of the Lamb – and she felt that yesterday.  She was able to participate in it along with us.  For a brief moment she wasn’t simply present while Christ was present, she felt His presence in a way I don’t think I have ever seen her feel Him before.  Yes there was screaming and grumpiness and being overstimulated.  But for that one instant she was home and she knew it.

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Welcome home sweet girl.

P.S. – It’s come to my attention that depending on which browser you’re using sometimes the pictures is upside down or sideways.  Sorry!  If I change it, it messes it up for everyone else so… I’m not sure how to fix that.  Bear with me.  We will be at a new site soon :)

The First Feast

For those who don’t know yet, our family is joining the Orthodox Church.  I just realized not too long ago that the church year for the Orthodox just began at the first of the month, and the first feast of the year is today when we commemorate the Nativity of the Theotokos (or in layman’s terms… Mary’s birthday :) )

The greeting in Orthodoxy for celebrating a feast is typically “Joyous feast!”  And I do think this was true for us today.  There are still tears and grieving, anxiety, sadness, all of those things are present, but today is a day for joy.  And the Lord, in His great mercy, has imparted a bit of that joy to us today as we celebrate the birth of His dear mother.

We were able to attend church this morning and later this afternoon we had cupcakes and sang the hymn for the feast today.  There is certainly turmoil and loss here, but there is peace and joy in the midst of it all.  Here is a picture of the kids at our family’s little observance of the feast, and below it are the lyrics for the hymn.

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Your Nativity, O Virgin,
Has proclaimed joy to the whole universe!
The Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God,
Has shone from You, O Theotokos!
By annulling the curse,
He bestowed a blessing.
By destroying death, He has granted us eternal Life.

All Moved In

After an utterly exhausting two weeks, we are moved into the house here.  Unpacking is going really, really slowly.  I think I’m totally out of energy at this point.  Not only is it hard to stay up and moving to get things done, but my brain is having a lot of trouble trying to process how to organize everything.  Typically I’m great at that sort of thing, but I just still feel in a fog and not back to full speed yet.

We are working on the new blog now.  Jake told me he thinks maybe we should have two blogs so that my readership doesn’t get annoyed by all his intellectual and theology-oriented stuff.  I’m not sure which way I’m leaning right now, might make up a poll for all of you and see what the preference is.  I don’t really want to manage two blogs, and I think we could separate topics well enough for people who aren’t interested in one or the other, but I also don’t want a bunch of frustrated readers trying to sort through intricate discussions on church history when all they really wanted was an update on kiddos or to have people looking for doctrinal discussions lost in a sea of cute babies.

Although… really, who could get upset about being lost in a sea of cute babies? 😀

The other reason I would rather have a family blog at this point where Jake and I both contribute is because I won’t feel the need to come up with a new name for a personal blog.  I’ve been the Crunchy Lutheran Mommy for so long I don’t have any other blog names that seem to even fit.  So, having a family blog and doing something totally new gives me a bit of an out on that one.  Is that a good enough excuse?

Anyway, thoughts appreciated.  Prayers appreciated.  Have a blessed night everyone.

A Brief Statement

We move the day after tomorrow.  My allergies are being as wacky as my emotions, must be all the dust we are kicking up while we sort through eight and a half years of accumulated stuff.  I know I promised an update soon, but I’m not really sure what to say right now.  My brain is about as foggy and dazed as ever, and I know that I have some readers who are really close to our current situation and some who aren’t at all; it’s difficult to balance tender issues and a broad audience.  So perhaps I should speak just briefly to both groups.

First, to those of you who are distanced from our “in person” life, who aren’t part of our congregation or fellow LCMS pastors families, and who are truly on the outside looking in…

You all have been so kind and encouraging.  It was certainly uplifting to receive your words in the midst of such a tumultuous time and while very painful and difficult decisions were being made.  At the same time, I also worried how others who are closer to us felt reading such overwhelming positivity about a decision that has undoubtedly been hurtful to them.

As much as we cherish your love and support,  I would ask that right now, if you feel led to pray or encourage anyone, you would send those thoughts and prayers to our beloved congregation and those who have been negatively affected by our need to leave the ministry.  Our family is in a crazy whirlwind of chaos in pretty much every area of our lives right now.  But we have also had time to prepare ourselves for the added burden we would be taking on.  Those we are leaving haven’t had any time to process what’s happening, and they are much more in need of your love and prayers right now.

We aren’t leaving because of anything that anyone here has done.  We love our congregation dearly (and those of you who have been reading for any length of time know that I just don’t say things.  We really do feel that way.)  I have lived in this parsonage now longer than I have lived anywhere else, and I have become more attached to this church family than any other I’ve been a part of.  This group of people is the only congregation Jake has ever been a spiritual father to, and that’s a bond not easily broken.

This congregation is amazing; they’re good people, and they take care of their pastors better than most churches care to do.  They don’t deserve to be left in the lurch like this, and if it were just based on those factors, there’s no way we could possibly leave them.  Please remember them in your prayers and think of them when you leave us public comments about our departure.  It’s not that we are ungrateful for your support, but I just ask that you keep everyone’s feelings in mind during what is a painful transition for everyone involved.

To those of you who are closer in proximity to us and our situation here, please know that we have been praying and crying over this resignation for months.  Not for ourselves, but because we knew we were about to do something that was going to hurt the people we loved.  We looked for so long for a way to resolve our inner struggle that didn’t bring others pain or grief.  And after a long time of praying and seeking counsel from those who were older and wiser and had more experience, it became obvious that we had no other options available.

I know that some of you were offended by my last post.  For that I am sorry, but like everything else in the midst of this resignation, I tried to write that post in the best possible way, and there simply is no getting around the hard parts.  We meticulously thought out every step of this resignation to ease the burden on our congregation and those around us, and despite our best efforts there are still quite a few who believe we didn’t do it the right or best way.  It is probably impossible to leave in a way that’s right for everyone.

And to all those who feel that way, you are quite correct.  We didn’t.  We could have done better.  But please know that any extra grief or distress that was unnecessarily caused we are deeply sorry for, and in no way did we ever intend to create a greater hardship.  Nor were we negligent or self-serving.  We truly tried to make choices that would bring the greatest benefit and the least strain to everyone in our congregation.

All of you will be in our prayers, and know that there will be many more tears on our end as we grieve the loss of this relationship that is unique to a pastor’s family and their church.  We are not simply moving on with our lives and forgetting these last four years.  Being a pastor is much more than just a job, and the gravity of that reality is not lost on us.  This decision was not made lightly, rashly or flippantly.  You all mean more to us than you know.

Good-Bye Blog

I have been meaning to post for a while. I had an adorable video of Hope that I couldn’t figure out how to get off of my phone for some reason. And in the last few weeks things have simply become more intense. On Sunday Jake resigned from his call as a pastor at our church. Obviously, a lot has been going on behind the scenes in the last month. Probably most of which I won’t ever be posting publicly here.

His decision to resign is a difficult one, and it has been extremely painful for both of us as we walk through this process. He has to resign for doctrinal differences we have developed with the Lutheran Church. Throughout our formal education on the Lutheran confessions and practice we learned things about Lutheranism that raised questions. We’ve tried for many years to answer those questions and settle our doubts. But the questions were not resolved, instead more questions appeared and our discomfort with the LCMS’ doctrine and practice grew.

Many people have said to us that it doesn’t matter what denomination you are in, as long as you are a sincere Christian. And I agree with that in some ways; certainly you don’t have to belong to any particular denomination to receive God’s gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation. However, some churches do have a fuller understanding of these gifts and of the Gospel than others. And when you are teaching and preaching the faith, as Jake was, Scripture clearly tells us that you will be held to a higher standard. It is wrong to go on teaching publicly something that you have found to not be consistent with God’s Word.

And so for these reasons, we do need to go. I’m not sure yet what I will do about my little blog here. I don’t think I can go on being the Crunchy Lutheran Mommy, so we will likely be saying good-bye to this blog. But no worries, I have no plans to stop blogging! I have talked to Jake about getting a family blog put together where I can continue going on about my typical things and perhaps he can start writing about his journey and thoughts as well.

We will be moving out of state next week, and we certainly want to stay in touch. Both with our far away friends, and our friends who have been our local family for the last four years. I do hope everyone knows how dear they are to us and how much we will miss them. Thank you all for your continuing prayers for our family, we are very much in need of them right now.  And please also pray for the amazing people in this congregation that we are leaving behind.  Will post more soon.

A Happy Post

I thought today everyone might appreciate a bit more of a lighthearted post.  :)  So, I went through my phone and found one favorite picture of each kiddo from the last few months or so.  Fun, right?!  No.  Not fun.  Do you realize how hard it is to pick just one picture for each kiddo???  I guess it’s just motivation to post again in the near future.  Right?  Ok, so here goes…

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This is such a fun picture of Hope.  It captures her personality really well.  Her little tomato chair that she sits in, we usually set on the floor; that way she is at the same level as the other kids when they play on the floor.  She gets more interaction that way, can pick up her own toys, etc.  But the chair is getting too small for her!  (Sad day, must find a new one…)  So now if she’s wearing her shoes or braces we have to strap the seat portion of it into a real chair.

The first time we did this for her, she was a little bit nervous.  Kind of that jittery excitement you get when the operator comes and straps you into a roller coaster.  And she was telling us all about her thoughts.  She’s smiling, but she’s also talking in this picture!  She was making her very specific sound that lets us know if she’s sort of enjoying something and sort nervous about it.  So yes, I just love this picture.  Makes me smile.

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After taking this picture I started thinking maybe we need to sign Jacob up for a modeling career… I love how perfect he looks.  And the great thing is, he wasn’t posing at all.  He had no idea I was even taking a picture.  He’s just doing his thing, playing in the sandbox (which is one of his favorite outdoor activities) and practicing his newfound ability to stand without help.  I can’t help but love it, his thoughtful look, his thick flowy hair, the casual stance.  Just love it.  :)

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I almost hate taking photos of Evie right now because she looks so old in all of them!  She’s had a growth spurt recently and I don’t think my Mommy brain… or emotions… have caught up yet.  Of course I don’t actually hate taking her picture; I love her pictures.  She is growing into such a lovely young lady in every way.  In this picture she is holding some test strips that we just finished using for a science experiment.  I took an environmental science course this summer (It was my last gen ed course for my bachelor’s degree.  I only have a few elective credits left after that so I figured I’d better knock them out and get it done.  I’m so close…) and she did almost all of the experiments with me.  It was super fun, and we had a great time doing it together.  Nature, science, medicine, all things she has always loved.  So it was great to get to share that with her.  Her happy smile says it all.

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I picked this picture out of just sheer cuteness.  Between his hip new glasses (they were the only blue pair that Stephen liked in the whole store that Mommy and Daddy could both live with lol) and the fuzzy little guinea pig – there’s just so much cuteness!  I’m sorry, I mean handsomeness.  As my boys remind me all the time “We aren’t cute; girls are cute!  We’re handsome!”  Evie got guinea pigs for her baptism birthday this year; this is the younger one, Penelope.  Stephen also loves the guinea pigs and holds them quite a lot.  He needs a little more guidance… ahem.  But he’s getting there.  He has a genuinely soft heart, and I think this picture captures that sweetness quite well.  Make no mistake, he’s as rough and tumble as any boy, but there’s a soft, squishy, gentle side too.  <3

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Oh my darling not-the-baby-anymore Kyrie!  Jake hates it when I say that, but I told him he’s going to have to get used to it.  And by the looks of this picture, he really will!  Kyrie loves her girly things.  Shoes, jewelry, hair accessories, purses especially… all of it.  She got herself dressed up in this outfit (with heels later but they aren’t in this picture) and I couldn’t help but snap a shot of her.  We got her those toy glasses because she really really wanted a pair after Jacob and Stephen got theirs, and I figured this was safer than letting her try the other ones on!  I thought it would be one of those short lived toys that gets old after a week, but it’s been a few months now, and she still wears them quite a lot.  We all love Kiki to pieces.  She is spoiled by her older siblings, and not being the youngest will probably be a really good exercise for her. 😉  Speaking of which…

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Here is the first ever picture of Bambino!  Have you ever seen such a cute ultrasound?!  Lol… Ok I’m biased, but seriously.  So. Cute.  And it was just really good to see that adorable little baby and that adorable little heartbeat on the monitor.  We don’t typically do ultrasounds, but the midwife said it was too early to hear anything on a Doppler and I just needed a little extra assurance this time around.  It was a good decision.  All the kids were there too, so they all got to see Baby, and I feel much better knowing everything is going well so far.  Early February here we come!

Left Behind

Oh gosh… do you remember that series?  I cringe now, but they used to be one of my favorite books to read!  Such bad theology… and then the plot just went on forever and ever… and ever.  I mean really, how long can you stretch out the end of the world?  Ok, so this post isn’t really about the Left Behind books or end times theology.  But that’s what my title made me think of.

What I really wanted to talk about is the feeling of being left behind by people… people who are currently still present on the planet with you. 😉  I have been feeling this way a lot lately.  And while I know intellectually that it’s important not to compare my life to the lives of my friends and internet acquaintances, it’s so hard to do that in practice!  Sometimes my emotions just get the better of me.

image1 (5)How is it that I can have all these beautiful little children with me every minute of every day and feel like I am somehow lacking something or not doing enough?  That’s a great question, and my answer doesn’t justify my negativity, but perhaps it will help it make more sense.

When we were pregnant with Evie I started researching all kinds of things, and her little life really jump started my crunchiness in a big way.  I didn’t just want to parent the way everyone else did, not because I thought anyone was doing it wrong, but because I wanted to be super intentional about how we raised our children.  I wanted to know why I was doing what I was doing, and it’s been a great exercise, not just for parenting, but for my whole life.

One of the things I found while doing all this research was something called ecological breastfeeding.  I’ve talked about it before; we’ve done it with all our bio kiddos and I wouldn’t change a thing.  But something that has always made me a teency bit sad is the long spacing it provides between children.  For some families this is great, and it’s probably helpful for us too, but it’s been hard for me to accept at times.  I’ve always wanted lots of kids, and my other friends who have decided to be open to as many children as God gives them… well they typically were always pregnant before we were.  They have more children and they’re closer together, and I struggle not to envy that.  It’s ridiculous when I think about it.  As if having children was some kind of race and I was losing!  Wow.  Motherhood is so not about that.  It’s embarrassing to admit how childish I can be sometimes.

And then there’s the adoption, oh boy do I feel left in the dust on that one!  We have several friends that adopted around the same time (or after) we did and I know a few of them who are already going back for more!  I always dreamed we would be one of those families who did multiple adoptions, and started planning our next adoption as soon as our new kiddos were settled (which, of course, wouldn’t take any longer than six months).  But here we are, three years in, and still not planning any adoption any time soon.

Will we ever adopt again?  I hope so.  But I don’t have the answer to that.  Still.  After three years.  And that’s a hard pill to swallow.  It’s so good to see my friends and their strong families and their ability to bring home more sweet children that need families.  It brings me incredible joy.  But that little whisper of “Hey, if you had just done a better job of x, y or z you could be doing more too,” comes in and tries to steal that joy away.  I tell that voice exactly where it can return to… ahem.  But yeah, it hurts.

And then I went to one of my longtime favorite blogs yesterday.  I haven’t read an actual blog in several months (maybe longer?) but since I blogged again it reminded me, and sometimes I like to see how my favorite families are doing.   So I read this post from Adeye (who many of you know), and her family is just doing so amazingly well.  Her sweet lovies, as she calls them, are absolutely blossoming.  And yes, I know it’s the internet.  And yes, I know they have gone through the hard stuff.  And yes, I know I don’t know everything they are going through.  But when I see so much progress, I realize that our kids just haven’t gotten there yet.  We simply don’t have the earth shattering success stories at our house that many adopted families do.  And again… I start feeling left behind.

So what do we do with these feelings?  They are real and painful, and even the childish ones have a reason.  We can’t dismiss our feelings out of hand because we don’t like them.  They demand to be dealt with, and by not dealing with them we are just asking for them to come back.  Constantly comparing ourselves to others is not a helpful practice, obviously.  But it’s impossible to not notice differences sometimes, especially now that our life is so segmented.  We don’t spend our time walking the neighborhood and getting to know our closest neighbors who likely have very different lives than we do.  Instead we have social media and the internet where we can find groups and like-minded people to talk to and associate with.  In these groups and pages where we have so much in common with everyone else, it’s hard not to notice the differences!

So what do we do about it? Disconnecting can be a helpful start.  I’ve said it before, leaving Facebook was one of the best things I ever did for myself.  But when these issues do come up, we need to look at them in light of Christ and His love toward us.  We know that even though some things in our life are not good, that He works everything for good anyway.  (Romans 8:28)  This is a really beautiful perspective with which we can frame our lives.

When we start feeling like the world or our friends or like-minded acquaintances are leaving us in the dust, how can we process those feelings and allow God to work good in that situation?  Humility comes to mind for me.  If I didn’t have these struggles I might think much more highly of myself than I ought.  I might begin to forget how desperately I need my Savior, how I am nothing without Him.  Pride is a struggle for me; it’s good for me to see others doing better or more than I do.  I can be thankful for those reminders, knowing that my Heavenly Father allows them for the benefit of my soul.

These feelings are also helpful reminders to practice thankfulness.  How can I complain about what we don’t have if I’m truly thankful for the many, many things I do have?  If I was recognizing the vast blessings I have in my life, I would not be able to sit and sulk about my circumstances or covet those of others.  I can be thankful for the reminder to be thankful.

Something I have been learning over this last year is that it’s ok to struggle.  It’s good to struggle.  I often say that hard doesn’t mean bad, and I think this new idea of struggling as beneficial is related to that.  When we see our failings, shortcomings or humbling circumstances we can see the problem… Or we can see the opportunity, an opportunity to practice humility and gratitude, an opportunity to work on ourselves and struggle against those things we see that we don’t like.  It’s in the struggle that we grow and learn and lean in close to God.

So, in summary…

Bad things happen.

God loves to turn bad things into good things.

Let’s thank Him for the bad along with the good, trusting that in the end, we’re going to get to see Him transform it into something awesome.

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