A Restful End

Wow has it been a whirlwind of a week.  We drove up here early Tuesday morning for the first therapy evaluations, checked into the Ronald McDonald House, went back for more therapy evaluations, somehow fed the children in between, went back to the RMH for dinner and loaded Daddy, Jacob and Hope up in the van to spend the night with some local friends (since we only had room for four of us in our room) and had a bit of a fitful and restless night.

Woke up Wednesday morning, still trying to get our schedule down.  Quick breakfast, therapy was bright and early, we were behind all day long for some reason and that day wasn’t any easier or slower than the last.  Jake had to drive back home for work during the day, lots of craziness and optimism about how therapy would go.  Got to check into a bigger room so we could all stay together, moved everything out and over.  More business, a little better sleep.

The day before last we had another very full round of therapy sessions, lots of coming and going and trying not to be late.  Did I mention it was SO COLD this week?! Of all the weeks to have below freezing temperatures the Good and Gracious Lord decided that this was the best week to do that.  I love Him, but I just don’t understand Him sometimes… Getting five children and two wheelchairs in and out of a van multiple times a day when it is so cold is… a growing experience, let’s just call it that.  It’s an exercise in being thankful and learning to appreciate the good things.  Right?  Right.

Then Jake had to leave that night to go back home again, and we had a break from therapy yesterday morning, a bit of a breather, or so I thought.  Stephen woke up very sick and with some concerning symptoms.  My bestest friend in the world who is coming to stay with us and help out this month (YAY I AM SO EXCTIED!!!!) had her flight delayed by about seven hours and I was just telling myself that God was in control.  Somehow all crises were averted and all therapies took place and Jacob took his first ever independent step and we seven, tired and sick and stressed, piled back into the freezing van to come back to our “home away from home”.

And then a quick dinner and good-byes to Daddy again as he left to do the Epiphany service (a blessed Epiphany by the way!!) and then Candy Land and bedtime stories and cuddles and sleep.  And another long evening of being alone.  It felt like I should have been sitting at home with some sort of delicious celebratory dinner and giddily (is that a word?) talking with my hubby about how our son is going to walk and how proud I am of him and what amazing things this will open up for his life.

Concordia Seminary 2009

Concordia Seminary 2009

But the anticlimactic ending it is.  Restful, quiet, peaceful, but nothing exciting or fitting (it seems) for the miracles that are unfolding in front of our very eyes.  We have heard more than once, from more than one person, that if Jacob ever walked independently it would be a miracle.  And I agree.  Yet, I will have to probably wait until the end of the month to actually go home and soak in all the goodness that’s happening, to have that celebration with our family and the love of my life.

As for today, I woke up the usual way, by my adorable little alarm clocks that God gave me.  It’s still dark, the world isn’t as awake as my children are.  I’ll get them all dressed and fed and we will head out the door to go meet Daddy at home.  It’s the weekend, no therapy tomorrow, as Jacob says it’s a “rest day”.  I will get Evangeline and myself ready to go and say good-bye to a dear friend of ours.  A sweet lady who sat behind us in church for the last three years and was always ready to greet us with a smile.

We went and visited her in the hospital on Christmas, and she told me so many things I hadn’t known before.  We showed her how Jacob could stand up all by himself now, and she was so happy.  She said that she had been praying for him to walk since the day we brought him home.  She said such kind and lovely things about our family and blessed me more with her words than she could have possibly known.

Such a lovely woman of God, and it seems so anticlimactic to end the earthly life of such a sweet soul with a funeral and a burial… There is nothing exciting or breathtaking happening today, just a quiet, fleeting good-bye.  Yet, even now we see, dimly and through a dark glass, but we see.  This isn’t really the end, not yet.  The celebration is yet to come.  The Resurrection is nearer now than it has ever been, and that will be anything but anticlimactic.  Her life is not over, it is safe and hidden with Christ, and though we are not celebrating today, we will be soon.

Today we give thanks for a restful end, and we await the glorious culmination of the promises to come.  One day soon we will have that greatest of all celebratory meals, with all our family, and with our One True Love.  We will be home, and all will be as it should once again.  For now, we rest and we wait.  We wait even more anxiously than before for the coming of Christ.

May your weekend be restful and quiet and filled with the love and mercy of our Lord.

Therapy Therapy Therapy

Today I promised you I would talk more about the therapy program we are doing.  It’s pretty cool actually.  I have known about it for a long time, but we were just now able to get accepted into the program; we wanted to have Jacob and Hope do it at the same time (for which, the reason should become quite obvious as you read on), which meant they needed two open spots, which is even harder to get.

Fortunately for us they had just hired a new physical therapist and she had a totally open schedule, so they booked us right in!  The therapy program they have here is amazing.  They have great equipment and very experienced pediatric therapists who are used to the complexity of Jacob and Hope’s needs.  But because it’s a bit of a drive from us, it’s not been at all reasonable for us to do our weekly therapy here.  At the same time, the therapy close to us is not adequate in any way for the kinds of things our kiddos need.

The intensive program has been a godsend for us.  Jacob gets 2-3 hours of physical therapy every day and Hope gets one hour a day (she can’t tolerate quite as much).  Not only does this allow us to fit a lot of therapy into a shorter time frame but it also helps build new habits, because we are working on them daily.  Whereas before, in order for Jacob to progress I had to be working with him at home constantly.  That was not a good situation for our relationship or for the family in general.

In addition to physical therapy they are both also receiving speech therapy and occupational therapy while we are here.  So that totals to 2-3 hours of therapy for Hope each day and 3-5 hours of therapy for Jacob each day.  It has been so amazing.  This is only our third day and already Jacob has almost taken his first independent step, he jumped for the first time ever, he learned how to do buttons and we are tweaking all of his equipment and supports so he’s walking much better too.

Hope was tall kneeling earlier today, which was SO cool!  She also used an communication device to ask for more bubbles (she presses a button, the ipad says “more”).  She used it at least twice on purpose!  They are so happy with how visually attentive she is and are optimistic about her ability to learn to communicate her needs.  We really couldn’t be more thrilled with that.

While we are doing this marathon of a program we are staying at the Ronald McDonald House (which is just so amazing).  I had no idea how much their organization does for families!  We are being so well taken care of here, and I would definitely recommend to everyone to go donate or volunteer at their local Ronald McDonald House Charity.  They found us a room that actually accommodates our whole family.

My dear husband is staying with us, because it’s just impossible for me to juggle all five kids and the therapy schedule without him here.  He goes home some nights and days because there’s obviously work he can’t do here, but when he is here he stays up late getting his “office stuff” done and he wakes up around 4am to work some more.  I have no idea how he does it.  He is my hero for sure.  And I miss him because he went home last night for more work and he won’t be back until this afternoon.  Not that I can possibly complain with everything there is to be thankful for!

Volunteers come in and cook one hot meal every evening and sometimes brunches too on the weekends.  They also stock their pantry with cereal, oatmeal, bread, peanut butter, popcorn, snacks, drinks, etc.  And they have a fridge and freezer full of leftovers, so we can eat all three meals a day here.  They also have a full kitchen we are welcome to use and cook in whenever we need to, and our own little pantry and a fridge we can use.

They have two family rooms with TV’s, toys and games and they have a library room too!  They have a little playground outside, and a play area in the dining room as well.  The hospital has a shuttle we can use to get from therapy to the house and back when I don’t have a vehicle, which has saved us a couple of times, although it only fits one wheelchair so we do have to work around that.  The staff have all been so wonderful and I have no idea how we would be able to manage this month without the help of the RMH.  We are just so blessed to be here and so thankful that God has provided everything that we need.

The therapists have mentioned that, especially for Jacob, it seems like we came at exactly the right time in his development, just as he’s learning to stand independently.  And for Hope, she has just hit her emotional stride to be able to handle an intense therapy program like this.  The timing couldn’t be better for either of them, and our Lord had it all planned out so much more perfectly than I could have.

I won’t bore you with more updates today (my husband seems to think that my posts are too long, but I tell him that about his sermons so I guess we’re even… just kidding, love you sweetie!!) BUT I do have some pictures!!  Enjoy!  And if I can I will write a little more tomorrow. :)

 

Ball Pit

Kyrie joining Jacob in the ball pit during occupational therapy.

 

The kids checking out one of the family rooms at the RMH. Can you find all five? :P

The kids checking out one of the family rooms at the RMH. Can you find all five? :P

 

Jacob at physical therapy in the "cage" learning to jump for the first time!

Jacob at physical therapy in the “cage” learning to jump for the first time!

 

Practicing buttons at Occupational Therapy. It only took him a minute to do all three!

Practicing buttons at occupational therapy. It only took him a minute to do all three!

 

Hope tall kneeling at a table for physical therapy!! I can not believe how far she has come. <3

Hope tall kneeling at a table for physical therapy!! I can not believe how far she has come. <3

Love to all!!

EDIT:  I have no idea why all my pictures are turned the wrong way.  I fix them on my dashboard and they are correct in my editing box but then when I publish they’re all backwards again.  So… if anyone knows what my problem is let me know cause I have no clue. Haha

2nd EDIT:  FIXED!! Now they’re all backwards in my editing box and the right way on the post.  I feel like I’m going crazy, lol!

First 48 Hours Post-Facebook

The first 48 hours without Facebook are officially over, and I am feeling great about it honestly.  I didn’t realize just how much of my mental energy was taken up by that one, virtual part of my life.  I am purging my house of a ton of clothes, toys, etc. right now and deactivating my Facebook account feels quite a lot like hauling fifteen boxes of junk out to the car and saying “So long!” It’s a breath of fresh air, a clean home, space to think and live.

My mind is free from surfing on Facebook, free from spending time on meaningless articles I found on Facebook, free from worrying about a dozen problems that aren’t even mine, free from wondering if I have new notifications, free from the drama of Facebook groups.  I’m free from all of it. And it is a totally liberating feeling.

Freedom is one word that encapsulates all of my why.  Why leave Facebook?  Freedom is why.  When I first started using Facebook it was in its infancy, before it was super cool and when you had to be in college to get an account.  I had a few friends and it was a neat concept, to be able to keep in touch with people who were far away or who might be far away a few years down the road.  Everything I posted felt “private” because most of us only had like ten friends on there anyway.

Over the years Facebook changed and Facebook habits changed along with it.  As more and more people joined and groups became connecting points, friends lists exploded.  People began sharing more than quick chats between each other and sharing other things they had found on the internet: pictures, videos, articles galore.  Advertisements came, Facebook started becoming connected to other sites, to your email and then your phone.

Before we knew it, Facebook wasn’t just a glorified virtual directory anymore – it was an institution.  It had become woven into the fabric of our very lives, intertwined with everything we did, everywhere we went, everyone we talked to.  Before I knew it, Facebook had become my main source for information on many topics.  And it was the main mode of communication I had with almost everyone outside of my immediate family unit.  Not to mention it was the catch-all for my cherished memories, pictures and videos.

I have considered dumping Facebook for years.  There are many reasons, but mostly I realized that Facebook was no longer a tool helping me – it had become the driving force in much of my daily life and routine.  But how could I leave?  Nothing could quite replace the diverse supports and services that Facebook was offering me.  And so it stayed.

But what I realized was that some things just mattered more.  When the authenticity of some of my online friendships started coming into question it became apparent that no matter what the credientials of the person or how long I had been connected to them – if I didn’t know someone in person I really didn’t know that person.  I had to figure this out more than once before it stuck.

651662177095I needed out of this virtual relationship building platform that was so unstable and unsafe.  I needed to get back to the real, incarnate, flesh and blood relationships God had given me.  (Yes I’m talking about those lovely people right there.)  I’m only two days into this change, but the healing is already beginning to happen.  For so long I said “I wish I could give up Facebook but…” And I have others saying that to me now.

My only advice is, you can. And if you wish you could but you don’t that means that Facebook is no longer a tool in your tool box, it is running the show.  And that in itself is a reason to (Elsa voices everyone!) let it go.  😉

My First Day Without Facebook

Five minutes without Facebook… I do believe my body went through some physiological reactions to deleting my account.  I felt my blood pressure elevate, a small amount of adrenaline, quick breathing.  I am ashamed to admit it really, but it was a little scary letting go of it.  I didn’t know what I was losing, but I felt like there was something.

I tried to look at my already loaded Facebook screen on my phone, it reloaded itself and showed me a screen asking me to log in instead.  It felt like a rejection of some kind, after all Facebook and I go back ten years now, as long as any friend I’ve ever kept.  And what was everyone doing?  I didn’t have people to check in on anymore or to comment on their posts or like what they said, how would they know what I thought?  And… what if someone else wanted to read my posts?  They can’t.  They’re gone now.  How strange.

I commented to Jake, “I think I’m just as lonely as I was before, but Facebook let me pretend I wasn’t.  Now I actually have to face up to that.”  He nodded.  Facing loneliness is a scary thing, escaping into social media world allowed me to immerse myself into hundreds of shallow relationships that never really allowed for truly fulfilling connections.  Perhaps now that it’s gone I can begin to build that with the few of you who are still here.  But I won’t lie.  It’s terrifying to me.

*****

Fifteen minutes… we go upstairs to bed.  I ask Jake if I can scroll through his Facebook newsfeed before I go to sleep.  He says no.  I (reluctantly) go to sleep.  I feel frustrated, but I suppose if that’s the worst I feel that’s a good sign.

*****

It has been about ten hours now and I am not really sure what to do with myself.  Usually I wake up and scroll through my Facebook feed for a few minutes while I work up the courage to face my day.  I do this before I even get out of bed!  But I have no Facebook today, so I said a prayer instead, laid there for a few minutes missing my routine, and got up.

I usually check Facebook again while the kids are eating their breakfast.  I haven’t been eating with them most mornings because of not taking my medication on time, (have to wait an hour before I eat) so I’ll just escape into Facebook while there are a few moments of quiet before the craziness starts again.  There’s none of that today, so here I am blogging instead.  I’m not sure if that constitutes progress or not.

*****

Fourteen hours post-Facebook.  It’s mid-morning and I have sat down a couple of times, picked up my phone to do something and then went to open my Facebook browser before remembering it wasn’t there.  I get a tinge of disappointment, and then get up to do something constructive instead of wasting twenty minutes on internet rabbit trails.  Getting more productive, this is good…

*****

Fifteen hours gone and I sat and nursed Kyrie.  I didn’t have anything else to do but just enjoy her.  It was really nice.  I realize how little eye contact we usually make while she’s nursing because I’m usually looking at a screen instead.  When Evie was a baby I focused on her so much more during our nursing sessions.  I need to do that more often; she is already getting so big.

*****

And at about sixteen hours…. HOPE JUST SAT UP ALL BY HERSELF!!! AHHH!!!  I want SO badly to post it all over the internet and I can’t!!!  I am so so so excited.  I put her toy at the end of her bed and when I turned around she was sitting up to reach it!!  I am stunned.  STUNNED.  This is a huge, amazing, wonderful milestone and Jake isn’t home and I have no one to share this with!! AHHH!!!!!

*****

Three hours later (we are at 19hrs now if you are still counting) I am still really wishing I could have posted Hope’s sitting up on Facebook.  She sat up for me five times and no one has heard about it yet.   It. Is. Killing. Me.  And all of the kids are saying hilarious things that would make for great little quotes on Facebook world.  So many posts to post today!  But there will be no posts.  Sigh… Just this blog post.

I have to trust that the people who really, truly care and want to know will keep up with me and our family.  I have to believe that I’m not cutting anyone off who wasn’t ok with losing that connection.  And I have to believe that even if I did unintentionally do that that this is what is best for our family, and my husband and kids have to come first.  Lots of emotions to wrestle with.

*****

Putting Evangeline to bed at twenty-one hours post Facebook deletion and as I went downstairs she said to me “Tootle-loo for now! And do remember me to all your friends!”  Where is Facebook when I need to post these crazy, wonderful things?!  Ahh!!  I need to start a quotes journal or computer log or something…

*****

Twenty-Four Hours.  Well, I made it.  One whole full day without Facebook.  I don’t really miss it.  I miss the convenience of it, but all my muscles are sore from lots of hard work.  I have been more diligent about everything, chores, prayers, mothering intentionally… it’s been a good day.  I think the thing I miss the very most is seeing what is happening with my friends.  I have this blog, but most of my friends and family don’t blog.  I want to be involved in people’s lives.  I want to keep up with everyone who has loved and supported our family.  I’ll need to pray about that.

Realistically I can’t spread myself so thin by being involved in hundreds of people’s lives, even superficially.   I need to build relationships that truly count.  I pray God gives me the wisdom of how to do that.  But today and tomorrow, and the next day I’m just going to focus on getting my own stuff together and building my family back up again.  I’m needed here most of all.

What We Didn’t See Coming

This is not the post I was expecting to write to you all today.  Next week was actually supposed to be our back to school week with all the frills and fun that that brings.  I had just finished concocting my weekly chart, and was so excited to get to use it.  I couldn’t wait to blog about it and tell you what our first full-fledged homeschooling year would be all about.

That post will still happen, just not today.  And my lovely school chart will be used, just not next week.  Yesterday life threw us a bit of a curve ball.  They seem to be coming one after another these days, which makes it so hard to tell you how we’re truly doing.  One day we’re great, and the next we’re devastated, and then we find our footing again before finding something new to stumble on.  This entire last year has been this way and it’s quite exhausting.

Usually, though, it’s a health issue with the kids or emotional setbacks or our car breaking down.  This time it feels different, because… it’s me.  Growing up I was always the “healthy one”, I watched my brother and sister go through allergies and asthma and all kinds of hardships.  The worst thing I ever went to the doctor for was a broken finger and strep throat.  I’m used to being healthy, and I’m used to taking care of sick and fragile people around me.

Now it’s my turn to be sick, and it’s not something that will be leaving me.  I have a diagnosis, a fun little medical label that now gets to follow me around for the rest of my life.  The doctor is anxious to get me on medication, supposedly medication I would need to use for the rest of my life.  I have specialists to see and screenings to be done.  I am out of my comfort zone friends.  Specialists are for my children, not for me… right?  Right??

I won’t lie… this is hard.  But hard is not always bad.  The truth is, I haven’t been healthy for a long while; I’ve mostly just been ignoring the warning signs my body was giving me.  The ever-fluctuating hormones of post-partum, along with the stress of the last year, have seemed to trigger my underlying issues and have caused a downward spiral in both symptoms and severity.  It got to the point where we could no longer ignore the issues, and we decided it was time to find out what was wrong.

I am thankful we went in.  I’m thankful we have answers, even if I am not happy about what the answer was, we knew it couldn’t be anything great.  Nevertheless, now that I have a name for my malady, I can start finding some tools to alleviate it.  I extremely grateful that it is treatable.  Sickness and death are a part of the fall, they happen to all of us.

I am not immune from this, and am grateful for the opportunity to remember that life is a gift, each day is precious.  Being reminded of one’s mortality can be a spiritually healing experience.  I rest in the knowledge that God works all things to good for us, and that He is already using this curve ball as a catalyst to healing in our home in more ways than one.

I know that you all are praying, and I am so humbled and comforted by that.  Love to you all.  More to come soon.

A Bright Day

Hi everyone!  Ok so really quick.  For those of you who follow my Facebook page, I posted a prayer request a few days ago because I was trying to write a post (which I’ve been honestly trying to write for months) and it just wasn’t coming.  The words I needed to say were hard words.  Really hard.  And I didn’t know exactly how to say them.

Well… ya’ll are amazing prayer warriors apparently!!  Because the next morning I woke up and my life was changed.  It sounds sensational and crazy, I know. But I have no other way of describing it.  So, if you want to hear more there’s a video on my Facebook page you can look at here. (Because I still have no idea how to post a video on my blog! Lol!)

I will be posting again soon!  And the next post will have the winner of the giveaway from a long long time ago.  Thank you all so much for your patience these last few months as my posts have dwindled.  There are some seasons of life where we need much grace, and this last year has definitely been that for me.

Looking forward to brighter days with the best people in the world who have stuck by me through it all.  I love each and every one of you, even those of you I don’t know who are reading I pray for you and love you just the same.

God so Loved…

Today my husband is guest blogging his sermon from yesterday’s baptismal service for Kyrie.  He preached on the assigned text for the 4th Sunday in Lent, John 3:14-21.  Enjoy!

*******

Grace, Mercy, and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Dearly beloved, my friends, God loves you.  God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) I remember my dear mother laboring as my 3rd & 4th grade Sunday School teacher to help me memorize that verse, not to mention all the other rowdy kids she graciously and meticulously taught it to over the years as well.  She’s a saint if there ever was one!

It was in her classroom that I first heard John 3:16 called the Gospel in a nut shell, and it’s true and I’m glad she helped me understand that.  This verse captures the will of God, the Good News, that our God, Who is love, sent His only-begotten Son into the world for the life of the world.  He came, not to kill and condemn, but to restore and justify the ungodly.  Jesus dies the death of all sinners on the cross and rises again victorious over death that we might have a share of His divine life (2 Peter 1:3-4), eternal life, communion with God for all eternity.  As John says, Jesus was not sent for the purpose of condemnation but salvation! For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:17)  Jesus is the love of God in human flesh and when you believe in Him you have everlasting life.

If John 3:16 is the Gospel in a nut shell, then Holy Baptism is the Gospel in a sea shell. [The sea shell, of course, referring to what I use to pour the water on the one being baptized.]  The blessed water of Holy Baptism has given Kyrie Rose the Gospel, the gift of faith, complete and total trust and belief in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.  The gift of everlasting life, won for her on the cross, is given to her today by this means of grace that Christ our Lord has established.

Baptism is a gift, a pure gift.  One does not work for a gift, otherwise it would not be a gift.  A gift is given freely, out of love.  Baptism gives the gift of faith, not only a personal trust but the entire Christian faith. Everything we believe, everything that is necessary for salvation, the whole faith belongs to this little girl. Baptism is a mystery that one enters and grows into on our journey into the Kingdom of God.  Baptism unites us with Jesus as His name is placed upon us.

The mystery of union with God in those waters is somewhat similar to marriage, and I mean that in this way:  The day you married your husband, the day you married your wife, you did not understand fully what that would mean.  Marriage is a gift from God.  A union that is meant to bring a man and woman together for life, a union that we grow into, that changes as we age, that flourishes in different ways at different times.  It’s a gift we don’t fully understand on the day that we say “I do”, nevertheless, we receive the full gift all the same.

Baptism a gift, a work of the Spirit, not a work of man.  Baptism gives us everything we need for life in the Kingdom of God.  We get a new name as we take on the name of “Christian”, membership in God’s family, and a seat at Christ’s table where he nourishes us with His heavenly gifts.  The gift of faith is given, complete, total, and whole with the promise that God will never leave us, nor forsake us, even if we run far away from Him, even if we sprint away from Him as fast as we can at times.  Even if our faith grows weak or cold, even if we say we reject the faith we were given, nevertheless the promise remains, for God never goes back on His promise or give up on even His prodigal children even if we are unfaithful.  God is love and does not forget His children even if we forget Him.

God does not lie and He will not change His Word, He will not change the promises He made to Kyrie this day and He will not change His promises to you.  He loves you.  In His union with you He has promised to never leave you, nor forsake you.  He will provide all that you need to support this body and life.  He will feed your soul through His Word and in His Body and Blood.  He promises to forgive you all your sins and raise you from the grave.  Should you flee to the darkness and delight in your sins, still, He does not change.  His love for you compels Him to search for you, to wait for you, to long for your return home to His house.  Baptism comes with the promise that God is always for you, even when He disciplines you and allows you to feel the sting of your sins, it’s never because He hates you, but always because He loves you as a dear Father loves His dear children and desires you to repent and return to His loving embrace and to hear His assuring Word of forgiveness.

Baptism gives you everything.  The fullness of faith. A mysterious union between us and God that we cannot fully explain at the time, but only later do we learn how to describe what we have.  Our life together in the Church, our worship, our service, our teaching, our studying, our living and learning, is about unpacking the gift of Baptism, not adding something to it, learning to understand what we already possess by faith, growing into the reality of who God says we already are by His grace.  None of the things we do as Christians in Church add anything new to what we were given, rather they sustain and keep the new life in Christ growing as we ourselves grow and change.

We ought to remember and celebrate our baptisms better than we do.  What better thing is there to make a big fuss over than the gift of faith, new life, forgiveness and salvation?  I really can’t think of any.  All the other gifts we get for birthdays one day break, or rust, or we lose interest in them.  But the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation we receive never go bad!

Remember your Baptism.  Be intentional about it. You won’t regret it. In the Small Catechism Luther suggests each Christian make the sign of the cross to remember Your baptism, for when you were brought to the font you had the sign of the cross placed on your forehead and on your heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.  The sign of the cross is the perfect link between the Gospel in a nut shell and the Gospel in a sea shell.  This practice teaches us to never forget that the cross and Baptism always go together.  Both are the work of God for the salvation of world, for the salvation of you.  God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life.  That same love and promise are your gift in Holy Baptism.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.

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A Happy Break

Hello dear friends!  I have been gone recently.  I have a couple of posts in the works but I literally do not have a waking moment free these days.  So as a happy birthday present to myself (that was last weekend) I am taking a happy month-long break from blogging.  Which really just means, I’m telling you how I won’t have any time to blog in March so I can stop feeling bad about it!

I do have lots of things to write about, but there is SO much going on!  We have appointments and testing galore for Jacob and Hope this month, along with four birthdays, Kyrie’s baptism this weekend and a conference to go to.  It’s getting quite crazy around here, and I’m trying to take care of myself in the midst of the chaos so I can be present for the kids too.  (Read: I am trying to get a reasonable amount of sleep.)

So… please don’t feel abandoned.  I’ll be back, hopefully sooner rather than later.  Praying for a peaceful April…

Oh and for anyone who is local, you are very welcome to celebrate Kyrie’s baptism with us this weekend!  The service begins at 10am (email me for directions if you need them) and the reception will be at 2pm at the parsonage.  Everyone is welcome to both the Divine service and the reception afterward.  No need to RSVP, just come and celebrate God’s abundant love with us!

Blessings on the rest of your month!!

My Pride or Joy

My babies come on time.  That’s just what they do.  For nearly five years I’ve been able to brag about how my kiddos came on the day before their due dates – both of them!  It’s quite convenient to have prompt babies who follow their schedules obediently.  And with this pregnancy?  I was sure that I was going to go early.  I said as much for about a month…

Then I did go early, too early.  Pre term labor at 33 weeks was not exactly what I had in mind.  So I went on bed rest for three weeks.  I worked hard to be vigilant about my vitamins, my protein intake, my fluids.  I took an Epsom salt bath almost every night, and when all else failed, I obligingly took that horrid medicine to stop the contractions.

It was a dark three weeks, too cold for the kids to play outside, little light, not enough sleep for my husband and far too much work to do.  The kids handled it about as well as you could expect little ones to cope with not having a functioning mother.

So many people blessed us with meals, without which we probably would have been eating hot pockets and lunch meat for a month.  I couldn’t get up to greet them as they came in; I couldn’t even write any thank you notes, because when I wasn’t trying to get comfortable or force down vitamins and food I was usually attempting to put out constant fires amongst the children.  (You can imagine how effective that is when they all know you can’t leave the couch.)

I couldn’t believe how little I was able to do.  It was frustrating to put it lightly.  Then off of bed rest I went, and for a week it was just battling constant pain and fatigue.  I finally got a maternity belt which brought me back to almost 100% and that’s where I am now.

IMG_1401Today is the day before my due date.  (Yes that’s me on the right… 40 whole weeks.)  I’m not uncomfortable, actually other than persistent heart burn, I feel more comfortable for nine months pregnant than I can ever remember feeling before.  I can cook and clean and play with the kids and run errands.  For all intents and purposes I should be perfectly content staying pregnant a little longer… but I haven’t been content, not in the least.

I was venting to a friend a couple of nights ago about how on Earth I haven’t had a baby yet.  My midwife and everyone was certain that this baby was going to come as soon as I went off bed rest, and yet… baby never came.  I knew this baby was coming early… and yet here we are, right on time and it looks like probably even a little late!

What happened?  How did I get this all so wrong?  I hate being wrong and I hate not knowing things and I hate not being in control of what I feel is important.  There’s a word for all those things, and it’s called pride.  When I was talking to my friend I told her how I felt like such a fraud.  People reached out to help us at what felt like a very critical time, only for the crisis to pass and to seemingly have been pointless.

Was it pointless?  Could I have gone to term without bed rest?  Honestly, I don’t think we’ll ever know that answer… but it’s certainly not a gamble we should have taken.  And yet, it feels so wrong to still be pregnant – like I am doing something wrong.  It feels like I did nothing for anyone for a month for no reason.  And my friend?  God has given her such a kind wisdom.  She showed me that those feelings are simply lies.  “Do not regret loving your baby Dalas,” she said, “because that’s what you were doing.”

And in that moment I realized how foolish all this pride was, how not wanting to face everyone at Church on Sunday because I’m “still here”, is just plain silliness.  No one is judging me for still being pregnant!  (And even if they were it really shouldn’t matter more to me than meeting Christ in His Sacrament.) God has given our family an amazing gift by allowing my body to carry our precious child to full term.  An amazing gift.

This baby is going to be born with the very best chance at thriving on the outside of my womb, and what more could we ask for than that?  Every day longer I carry this baby is just one more day I get to express my love for our child in this unique and very short season of his or her life.  What is there to be sorry about?  Why let my pride over being wrong and needing help overshadow the immense joy that should be characterizing such a beautiful season?

How foolish of me to think my timing for this child is better than the Lord’s timing.  How foolish to spend the blessings of today in angst over details that only have meaning because it’s what I thought I wanted.  I am so thankful that God has given me the humility to see such error, so that I can spend my last few days with the joy He is intending for our family.

I reject your lies, Satan, your foolishness and your poison pride.  Instead, I will drink of the cup of joy and thankfulness.  I am thankful for one more day to prepare.  I am thankful for one more day to love my baby so uniquely, knowing we will never again be as close to each other as we are now.  I am thankful for one more opportunity to bake cookies and make crafts before another season of survival and adjustment.

I am thankful for the completion of a healthy pregnancy.  I am thankful for one more round of children kissing my belly good night.  I am thankful for one more night to cuddle with my sweet Stephen for as long as his little heart desires.  I am thankful for the possibility that my mother might actually get to be present for the birth of one of our children.  I am thankful that God’s ways are not my ways.

If it’s a choice between my foolish pride or His joy… for Heaven’s sake, today I choose joy.  And I thank God for giving me just a little moment of clarity to grasp that.

An Open Letter to the Pews Behind Me

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Last night, I once again braved the Church pew with four lively young children.  Ordinary enough, I know that thousands upon thousands of mothers complete an identical ritual every week.  But our situation is a bit unique, and for those of you in the pews behind me, you know all of this.

You know that I am not just an ordinary parishioner; I’m your pastor’s wife.  I sit up front with my four children who are absolutely capable of being well behaved during a service… but are not always.  You know that we just adopted two of our children this summer, that neither can walk and both have special needs and come from neglected orphanage backgrounds.  You know that the pastor’s kids, my kids, have been struggling more the last few weeks.  Three of the last four services I have had to take someone out screaming.

You know that last night was the worst they have ever been, one raging, cursing, flailing child (yes he was cursing at me in Russian); one uncomfortable little girl who began screaming and crying while I was on the other side of the building; a little one too quick to follow in his older brother’s disobedient footsteps; and a little girl who should know better… but just couldn’t help herself; and a poor grandmother trying desperately to salvage the entire ordeal before the entire pew made a grand exit.

I know you have concerns.  Perhaps you are concerned that I’m too strict or too lenient with my children in Church.  You might be worried about our biological children after seeing our adopted son throw punches in the middle of the sermon last night.  I know that you are concerned about my wellbeing; most of you ask every time we see each other how I’m holding up.  Maybe you’re worried that our family is too much for anyone, or how can Pastor possibly have enough time or energy for his work after all that?  You might certainly be wondering how on Earth we are going to manage with Mambo #5 who is arriving very quickly after the New Year.

I know there might be a lot of wondering and a lot of speculation, and probably even a little bit of talking after last night’s episode.  And so, since I’m in the fishbowl already, I thought I might as well join the conversation.  Our family’s struggles are no secret, or at least they aren’t after last night.  I know you have concerns and I know you have questions, so here is my two cents about the matter.  No matter how much or how little you saw last night, here’s what I really want you to know.

I take my children to Church for a reason.  Yes, they disrupt the service.  I wish they wouldn’t but they do.  I could sit in the back, or I could give them food or toys or any number of distractions.  I could make it easier on them and on myself, and on your ears too.  But I don’t.  Why?  Not because distractions are bad parenting, I certainly make use of them.  But when we go to Church to meet our Lord and Savior, to honor and thank Him, to physically touch and consume His Life, to sing praises along with the entire host of Heaven, well… why on Earth would I distract my children from such a great experience?  Why wouldn’t I want to give them a front row seat to the miracles taking place before their eyes?

No they don’t appreciate it, and they never will either – unless I teach them, show them, tell them what an honor it is to be in the presence of God at Church.  And by giving them distractions from God, I would be making it difficult to later assert that He is the One Thing Needful.  Everyone’s kids are different, and parenting during Church will look different for everyone.  I know my children, and I know what they are capable of.  Each one of them is more than capable of participating in the service without distractions.  Why would I expect less from them than what I know they can do?

Yes, I’m a bad mom.  But not last night, last night I actually did really well.  Ever since coming home with our new little ones I have struggled with my temper, really struggled.  Some Sunday mornings my little ones make it through the service, but I don’t.  I end up snapping or being too firm with their fidgety little hands.  It makes for less noise and distraction, but it puts a whole lot of sin on my plate.

Last night though?  I kept my cool under the pressure cooker of the worst rage our son has had in months.  I was hit, spit at, cursed at, bit, scratched and a myriad of other infractions.  But not once did I raise my voice at him.  Not once did I lose my temper.  I was present and calm and I weathered the storm, even when the rest of my children crumbled under the chaos – I continued to calmly go about damage control the best I could.  I refused to enter the crazy cycle with my hurting, traumatized son.  Instead I just waited him out, I put him to bed and I told him I loved him.

My son is not a bad child.  What you saw was not a temper tantrum; it is what they call a “rage”.  Raging is a behavior stemming from neglect, abuse or trauma.  It is a fear response, and it happened at least daily when we first came home.  About two months ago his rages stopped.  We had been doing very well keeping him close to us and not letting other adults give him affection that would be confusing to a child for whom every adult had been interchangeable his whole life.  One day a flip switched, and he just stopped raging.  Overnight he transformed into our best behaved child.

But the holidays are usually a very difficult time for children like my son.  More affection from other adults, more visitors, more sugar, more presents… it’s all too much and it can send them toppling back into the confusion and chaos in their mind.  In the last week we’ve seen the rages slowly come back, and last night was the grand finale topping it all off… right in the front pew for all to see.

Often these children don’t rage in public, they wait until they feel safe – at home.  But you have done such a wonderful job of making our son feel welcome and safe, and apparently he doesn’t mind showing off at church now either.  So for his sake, and the sake of all children who come with struggles and special needs – don’t assume a child is bad, especially if you see them acting unusually loud, aggressive, manipulative or crazy in public.  Over-the-top behaviors don’t indicate a bad child or even bad parenting, they indicate hurt and fear.  Show generous amounts of compassion to this child’s parents, and pray healing over their child.

Our other children are safe, but not untouched.  Yes, he came out swinging last night, and yes some of those punches landed.  But I can count on one hand the number of times, out of many many rages, that he has ever laid a finger on another child.  And I can assure you, no one has ever been really hurt.  My husband and I are the ones that trigger his insecurities and fears of being left or hurt.  He is afraid of loving us, because he’s never been able to love an adult or caregiver before without being hurt by that affection.

He’s not afraid of loving his siblings.  That means, either myself or my husband is always physically there when the raging begins, and it is very simple for us to keep other children safe at that point.  Close quarters in the pew complicates things a bit, as you might have guessed.  But my point is – don’t worry about our children.  They are safe.  This doesn’t mean that they are not untouched by the trauma that their siblings have endured; it has affected them greatly too.  Some of that you even got to see yesterday as they followed suit in acting like hooligans in the middle of the Divine Service.  They were just as tired and stressed as I was over the whole thing.

Adoption is hard for them too.  They have seen the trauma and aggression and neglect and fear and pain that their brother and sister have endured.  They are acutely aware of the suffering of people so close to them.  Both of them have been changed and, as their parents, we are working so hard to make those changes positive for them.  But it is a lot to process for little minds, and this will also take time.  Give them grace too.

One more sibling is not too much.  Yes, having five children developmentally five and under is going to be CRAZY!  I know.  And I’m so excited.  I won’t write a whole post on that here, but someone else did, and it’s a really great read if you are interested: “Why Have More Kids?”

We are bruised but not crushed.  Our family is weary of all that this adoption has taken out of us.  Adoption is not an easy road, and many of you might be looking at our ragged, weary bunch thinking that you are so glad you aren’t in our shoes, or that you could never do it or maybe even that we bit off more than we can chew or that we shouldn’t do this either.  That’s just not the case.  With God’s help we are making it.  We are surviving the transition.  Not only that, we really are thriving with His provision and mercy.  All of us are healing, growing, learning and becoming stronger.  And we’re doing it together, which is the best part.

These are our children, and we knew they were ours.  We love them dearly and want them exactly where they are now, right here with us.  Our life isn’t perfect or easy or comfortable, but we have a life together.  None of our children are starving or being drugged or beat up.  None of our children have to be cold at night or go for days without being touched.  No one is lacking medical care and no one is alone.  Those are not things that our family takes for granted anymore, because it wasn’t always this way.  We are so blessed to be where we are… and perhaps from the outside it looks like a life that is unpreferrable, one that you would not choose.

But from our point of view, we are clinging desperately to our Savior, because He’s our only hope left.  And we would not change that for the world.  Hardship, discomfort, pain, loss… it’s all a part of adoption.  And it’s a great privilege and blessing to endure it for the sake of these little ones, for the sake of our Lord.  Don’t feel sorry for us.  The joy and love we are creating is worth so much more than what we’ve lost, and we wouldn’t change it for the world.

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