Words: Part Two

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Ethan is adventure personified. He is funny. He is deliberate and decisive. He is silly. He is so smart. He is so many things that make my heart burst. Where I left off on my last post, I take back up now to tell the story of this incredible kid I could not be more proud of. 

Since Lauren had been diagnosed with a language delay, we were more aware of what was going on with Ethan much quicker than we were with Lauren. Shaking some of our rookie newness off, it was clear to us by Ethan’s second birthday that he was behind on speech related developmental milestones so we talked with our pediatrician again. If you don’t have a pediatrician you love, go find one. I can testify to the importance of having a pediatrician who loves your kids enough to go above and beyond to help them. You need someone who wants to partner with you in doing what is best for your kids, but also someone who deeply cares about them. I could never thank Dr. White enough for being an advocate and partner in their successes. 

We talked to her about Ethan’s lack of speech. One thing she said was that him having constant ear infections and fluid were probably a big part of his delay because those things keep you from hearing well, and you can’t acquire language if you can’t clearly hear what’s being said around you. That makes perfect sense. She told us about Infant Toddler Services (ITS), and recommended them as a resource to get a speech therapist to come to our home to work with Ethan. She gave us the information and ITS gave us Amy. Amy is…

I can’t begin to think of adequate words. She cares so deeply about our babies. She is all in. She helps me learn how to help Ethan. She wants to see Ethan develop and succeed. She is for him and his wins. Since she started helping us, Ethan had started and continued to make huge developmental gains. Every day he says new words. 

I can’t stress what is was like to wait for him to able to ask for a drink. I can’t express what it meant hearing him say “I love you” for the first time. He has had to work so hard at those things. He is incredible, and I am so proud. 

As he approaches turning three he will “age out” of ITS services and will transition into a preschool classroom just like Lauren did. I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity for him to be a part of the same preschool program Lauren took part in. He will have an amazing team, and he will have his own story to tell. I know one day he’ll be able to tell it because of the people that are in his life now and who will be soon. 

This year we started gymnastics again at Lauren’s request. I won’t pretend that there wasn’t a deep sense of fear underneath my excitement about her wanting to try something new. This year has been incredible for her in this and every area. She now can understand not just that something is going on around her but that there are things being communicated to her that she can process and communicate back. This is huge. This is where life has changed for us.

There are parents who get annoyed by their child’s talking all the time or going on and on about the same things. To them I would say, soak up every word because you have no idea what a blessing each one is in the place of uncommunicated needs and wants where silence lingers. 

We watch Ethan gain new words and now multiple word phrases each day. He is such a formidable opponent to the challenge that he’s been given at two and a half that seeing him conquer whatever lies ahead is going to be great to watch. 

Today we are in such a different place than we were two years ago or one year ago or one day ago. It hasn’t been easy getting here, and there is more work ahead. We are so committed to doing whatever it takes that I know my babies will continue to grow and thrive. 

Next post I’ll talk about the battleground of my own heart in this. 

Words: Part One

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Words. These are words I have had a hard time finding for a while now. In a sense I am completely cognizant of the emotions they are tied to because I’ve lived with them so long, but I haven’t been able to find the words that can express these well-worn feelings. It’s something in the deepest parts of me, and it’s something that hurts. 

For a long time I didn’t share because I felt so alone in it. It was a lonely, isolating feeling to have felt something so strongly that could not be conveyed. This pain wasn’t just mine, and that was the problem. As I have drowned and struggled for words, like air, to understand what I felt, my babies struggled for words of their own. 

It started about three years ago. We went to Lauren’s first gymnastics class, and it did not go well. We sat down and thought maybe it was separation anxiety, but as weeks progressed and she seemed more lost in everything around her, there was something that left us unsettled, and we had to face it. There was something more. 

I had to face it after trying to go to class with her to see if I could help her connect in a way that Rob couldn’t. I failed hard. She was overwhelmed and frustrated trying to understand and follow the directions being given to her. I was frustrated with her because I thought she was just not listening. This was not a struggle at home, but she shut down hard in this new environment. She couldn’t, and we couldn’t understand why.

We went to her next pediatrician’s appointment, and talked to our doctor. She said that we should do an evaluation to see if maybe Lauren had a developmental delay. The first evaluation done was a nightmare that was bigger than the terror we felt in knowing there could be something that was going to give Lauren challenges we weren’t sure how to face. 

Rob took her to the evaluation because Ethan had strep and one of us had to stay home. We were in a new place without a support system of any kind trying to get through one of the hardest things any parent could face. The lady at the appointment worked with Lauren trying to get her to answer questions for a few minutes before she grabbed her and tried to force her into a chair. Like most three year olds, being grabbed by a stranger terrified her and she lost it. My husband immediately stepped in and ended the evaluation. After less than five minutes of consideration, the lady scribbled the word “autism” on a piece of paper and tried to say Lauren would need more evaluating by a team of five. We opted to not continue with this medical practice because there was no way a child can be diagnosed responsibly with a cold in eight minutes, and this person who was brash and unconcerned tried to give Lauren a diagnosis that made her life and paperwork easier. We prayed and knew this wasn’t the place that would help Lauren. We talked to friends who were educators who knew Lauren and they backed our feeling that what happened wasn’t right. 

We were so fortunate to call our doctor’s office and have her agree that this was inappropriate and probably not correct. She referred us to our local school district to see if being in a more social environment along with speech therapy would help Lauren be more communicative. Her loving investment in my daughter cracked the door to a world that changed everything for us. On the other side we found a teacher named Megan.

Megan invited us to meet her after we got set up for Lauren to be evaluated in her classroom. She was so incredibly warm and sweet that first meeting, and Lauren was so glad to meet her and check out the classroom. It was an incredible feeling to see Lauren go into a space so different than the first evaluation and engage it. It was the first flicker of hope that this could help us get her the tools she needed. 

The next step was to take her for the in-class evaluation where she would attend for three weeks to see if that environment and speech therapy would be services that would help her. It was a rough start because it was a whole new place and new people, and it was the first time she had ever been left alone with people she hadn’t known her whole life. In that really hard start, Megan never failed to be supportive and kind. Robyn and Angie who also worked/work in the class have become two people who we will always love because of how loved they make Lauren feel; they have hung in there with us for over two years, and I could never express my gratitude. Lauren also got to start working with the speech therapist Chelsie at the school. Chelsie is a treasure. Lauren says all the time that Ms. Chelsie loves her. She talks about the fun she has with her, and because of Chelsie, she’s able to do that. I don’t know that you can adequately thank someone who does for your child what Chelsie has done for Lauren, but the gratitude I feel knows no bounds. It is a great thing to have people who love your child partner in helping them through challenges that they don’t know how to face; challenges you don’t know how to face. 

Lauren finished her evaluation, and it was discovered that she has an expressive language delay. Another other term for this is “late talker” or simply put, it means she has a hard time sharing what she’s thinking or feeling – especially with abstract parts of language. In turn it makes understanding or processing those same abstract parts of speech more challenging. We talked about a plan to help her gain skills and best next steps to do everything we could to see her develop and succeed. This classroom and this team were the one we prayed for, and we’ve never looked back. Lauren has made tremendous strides and progress, and at the end of the school year last year, we had so much to celebrate on behalf of Lauren in the midst of a new devastating revelation: Ethan was almost two and seemed to be behind verbally as well. 

The truth is that every child has a challenge, and this was the one that would be most real for our kids. This is where they would need us to rise up to support and advocate for them. 

My Cathy

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There are people in the world that flood it with love and light. There are people in the world who just being with them is enough to make so much about life feel better. There are also really special people who can make you feel and look beautiful while accomplishing all those other things. That’s Our Cathy. 

Cathy Brown is a rare treasure. She has been taking care of the hair and hearts of our family for almost 10 years now. She’s one of those people you meet and know immediately that they are special because of how they make you feel. Set at ease. Okay to be yourself. Okay to be honest. Loved, no matter what. That is rare. 

We were just in San Angelo and I got to sit in one of my favorite places – her chair. My daughter rushed in to see “My Cathy.” That’s just what Lauren has always called her – claiming her for herself as if to want to soak up all the special love she gives alone. She just loves her Cathy, and at five she isn’t aware just yet that Cathy has plenty of love to go around. That love Cathy has is in her heart is due in large part to a sweet man named Pete Chappa. He is Cathy’s daddy, and because of how Pete loved Cathy, the world is so well loved by her. 

One day Cathy was cutting my hair and her daddy called her to tell her he was outside and wanted her to run out for a minute. She came back in with a huge smile on her face and a tiny bag that held a fish sandwich inside. He was driving and thought to himself that she might be hungry because she works so hard so he stopped and got her something to eat. This grown woman with her own family glowed like a little girl being adored. That’s exactly who she was in that moment and who she had always been. Adored by her daddy. That adoration carried her her whole life and even through having to say goodbye. 

Being loved so well meant that Cathy knew her daddy loved her because he was loved so well by his Father and her seeing him at the end of his time here before walking into the presence of his Savior filled her heart with a joy mingled with the pain of loss. Oh that we would all love our babies so well that joy in knowing the race was won and crown received would guard their hearts after our lives are over. Her assurance in this flowed from how she was loved. 

Every day her daddy taught her something that changed my life. Pete may not have ever fully known this side of heaven how far his influence would reach. Everyday he sat with his children and said so much to let them know they were loved. 

“What’s the most important thing?” They would say, “My daddy loves me!” “Does your daddy love you in the storms?” “Yes, my daddy loves me in the storms!” “When does your daddy love you?” “My daddy loves me all the time!”

Wow! Every day. No matter what they were rushing off to, he slowed everything down to have that moment. Every day. Why? I think he had to know there would be days ahead where that would be a guidepost. It was. When Cathy found out she was pregnant at sixteen, she had to tell her daddy. 

She said the words wouldn’t come, but then this conversation did:

“Cathy, are you going to have a baby?”

“Yes daddy.”

Silence
Silence.
It probably felt like 20 years to her but wasn’t even a full minute. 

“What’s the most important thing?”

“My daddy loves me.”

“Does your daddy love you in the storm?”

“My daddy loves me in the storm.”

“This is a storm, but I will love you and walk with you through it. When does your daddy love you?”

“My daddy loves me all the time.”

It took ten minutes to type that because I couldn’t see through the tears that come when I think about that conversation! In a world of “love” based on conditions, her daddy loved her all the time. That is unconditional love. That is a life covered by that blessed assurance that no matter what, Cathy would be loved and cared for and cherished. No matter what. How could there be a more beautiful a picture of God’s love?

Since Cathy told me this story that she shared at Pete’s funeral and with me that I share now with her permission, my heart swells at the very thought of it. She said during our conversation, “I don’t know how I ever got such a good daddy.” I looked at her and said, “God gave you such a good daddy because he knew the world would need a Cathy Brown!” He knew I would need Cathy. 

Those kind of legacies go forward. Pete has blessed the world with children who knew what it meant to be loved by a father unconditionally and what it meant to know it deeply. He gave them an anchor that pointed them to the love of God. When you have that framework the beautiful picture of God’s love makes more sense and you can give it away. 

Cathy has. She had given her love away to me and my family selflessly. Unconditionally. I may never have adequate words to express to her what she means to me and how I love her, but after our last visit I know that I need to thank God for her daddy Pete. Without him, I wouldn’t have begun to say and sing the same thing to my babies. 

“Momma loves you. Momma loves you. Momma loves you all the time. I love you in the sunshine. I love you in the rain. That’s the most important thing. Momma loves you. Momma loves you all the time.”

I’ve been singing this and saying this to my babies everyday since Cathy shared it with me. I am thankful. I want them to know. I want there to never be a doubt that any part of my love or affection will ever be conditional. I will love them no matter the weather. I will love them all the time, and I hope that teaches them about God’s character and love for them. 

Thank you for this Cathy. Thank you for everything. 

Brave❤

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I really believe the bravest thing we can learn to be is ourselves. I believe in a fallen world there is great opposition that pulls us away from all that God is doing in us for our good and His glory. In this life, it’s hard to be brave sometimes. It’s hard to be honest enough to be our real selves. It’s hard to be willing to let go of expectation and our own ideas of who that person should be in order to become who we are meant to become. 

The world is filled with uncertainty. We are now and always have been living in uncertain times. As for today, I feel the weight of uncertainty. I feel this weight as things begin to shift all around the world. These things will require me to be brave. 

In this we have to remember that silence is complacency and the unwillingness to raise our voices is death to “We the people,” and unity. We have to be a force for good. We can’t burn down buildings and scream obscenities and expect change to come that benefits everyone. That’s cowardice. 

In the days ahead I know I have to be brave for me, but I know I have to be brave for my babies. I have to have the strength to tell my beautiful daughter that no one ever has the right to grab and grope her. I have to tell her that her value isn’t just found in the beauty of her face. I have to tell her she was created in the image and likeness of God and that her value has no bounds. 

I have to raise my sons to believe in themselves enough to be humble. That is different than pulling and pushing everyone around you down so that you can be exalted. I have to teach my sons to be careful- always careful in how they love and respect those around them so that they can always be safe. 

All my children have to be raised knowing that minorities and immigrants and Caucasians and Native Americans, and everyone else in America and around the world has been born with the same dignity, value, and worth. That is only stripped from people when others see them as less than, and that is never okay for them to do or to allow it to be done to them. 

How dare we not be involved! How dare we not cherish the great American experiment in all of its diversity and complexity enough to engage what is going on globally. If you sit in uncertainty today with me, I hope it’s not because you threw away your right to a voice. I hope you are praying beyond your individual bubble and thoughts and hoping for others with an open heart and mind. 

Though I feel uncertain about the global climate because of the minds of men, I am always certain about my God who creates each day. No matter the chaos we and our sinfulness creates, days like today remind me that this world is not my home. Days like today make me thankful for citizenship in heaven. 

Be brave. Use your voice. Teach the next generation love, respect, and humility. Be brave for yourself. Be brave for your children. Never let the status quo define or change you. I am most certain that in the days ahead those are the people the world will most need. 

Unconditional Love IS NOT Unconditional License

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I have been and will always be praying for several specific people. Sometimes God puts a burden on your heart for someone and you can’t shake it – even when it hurts. 

My heart hurts as I see people I love and pray for walk further and further from the Lord and towards their own kingdoms. That’s what I see in it. They are building their own kingdoms because they know better than God as they establish their own thrones as their own God. I began to see this pulling away from God’s authority but still wanting His blessings this way the last week in prayer, and the implications behind it are heartbreaking. 

1. When you walk in what you know God does not have for you or says no to, you are telling Him that  you value that thing more than Him. He is not your highest treasure if you pursue what He despises. He is not your greatest treasure if you just want His stuff and not Him. 

2. Where you don’t honor God for who He says He is, you open yourself up to deception. If we push back against Him and say no to His way and yes to ours, it becomes easier and easier to be led astray. As holding onto what we want to do or believe for our own sake of comfort in having our way becomes priority, we can only let go of what He says because the two realities can not exist. We can’t have our way not aimed at making much of Him and make much of Him. We can’t be the god of our own hearts and have room for Him. 

3. As you build a life on the shaky foundation of your own wisdom and will and establish your allegiance to your idols, you woship them. You can become your own god in the way you live; your own golden calf. That idol can be your job, your romantic relationship, sex, attention, status, money, gratification, or so many other things. Just because you honor that thing as God doesn’t mean that it will fill you like He will. The terrible thing is that when someone who knows better does this, the idol falls, and instead of seeing their choices as being the reason for the fall, they blame the God they forsook to have that thing in the first place. 

4. This kind of living is so unsteady because the idol will fall. Ever know someone who lives in “seasons” of wanting to know and honor God? It’s because they have never fully surrendered if not having what they want from God sends them running. That either pushes people toward blaming God or into Him.

5. When God gets all the blame for people pursuing their own plans that didn’t work out it makes God the wish granter. They did things their way and forsook His but still expected Him to bless their sin. That does not happen. That will not happen. The holiness of God is so opposed to sin that you can’t just do what you want, expect Him to bless it, and then become bitter towards Him when He doesn’t. He never promised you He would. He promised you that He would always be better than the idols of our hearts. He’s proven it over and over, but people who are unwilling to surrender fully can’t know the joy of that. They want to have just enough God in their lives to get them where they want to go, but don’t want Him to impose on that plan. As long as He lets them have their way, God can hang around, but when that becomes disturbed by what He requires of His followers, following the enemy to our own thrown seems better. The problem is that the enemy and the sin in your heart will build up your treasure and kingdom in hell where you will no longer have the option of surrender to God after you exhale your final breath.

6. We don’t like to think of disobedience this way. We want to make it lighter and say, “God’s love is unconditional,” instead of saying that as you pursue the Lord and love Him more, His way will become your way. The things of the world will pale in comparison. All things that were good will taste like ash compared to wanting to know Him more and more. The more you love Him the more obedience feels like ease and not work because you will count it joy to love Him and everything else will feel like the best loss to not hold onto in higher reverence than Him. It’s like the parent who knows their child is sinning but says, “I’m just going to trust God to take care of them because if I say anything, they are just going to run away.” No. No. NO. NO! You have been given a responsibility to shepard and correct your children and to train them up in the Lord. How did David respond when a bear came to devour the sheep He was given to care for? He killed it with his hands! You have been given that responsibility as a parent. If you see sin devouring your child, you fight for them. You don’t just hope it works out. You help them kill it. Would you let an actual bear devour your child? No! That sin you see that you don’t call out in love and point them back to truth is mauling and destroying their soul. “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” John Owen said this and it is so true. 

I will close by saying this: stop being surprised by willfully choosing to not walk in the way or truths of God and things going badly. Stop being your own god and being surprised when you can’t make your world spin. Stop half-hearted surrender to a God who paid it all for you. He doesn’t want your falsely raised hands or only Sunday mornings. 

He does love you unconditionally, but that does not give you license to do what you want with the expectation that a God who really loved you will make all that just work out your way. He loves you too much to abandon you in your sin and in the ways of our depraved hearts. He loves you too much to abandon you. 

In Christ Alone…

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2016. The world is flooded with negative sentiment about the year 2016. New articles and my Facebook newsfeed are filled with people being upset about the deaths of celebrities, the election results, what may or may not be ahead, and personal woes. As the calendar page turns one last time this year, I reminded of something:

WHAT THE CALENDAR SAYS DOESN’T MATTER BECAUSE HOPE ISN’T FOUND IN ANY DAY OR YEAR. 

I love Jesus & in difficult circumstances and as troubles and uncertainties brew around me, I am reminded to place my hope in Christ alone. I’m reminded that He is sufficient in whatever comes. I can rest in Him through the chaos. 

There’s a song I love (this post is named after it) that I’ll share a link to at the close of this post that reminds me that everything about who I am and what I believe has to be rooted in Christ alone. When the days of trouble come, that foundation won’t be shaken. 

This doesn’t mean there weren’t troubles this year or that there won’t be in 2017, but it does mean that the depths of me won’t be shaken in them because of who God is – not because of what is happening in the world. Having Christ doesn’t mean I am promised an easy life with nice things and status and stuff; it means I get Him, and He is more than enough. 

I like the idea of new beginnings, but believers, you are promised new mercies everyday. Stop waiting for January 1st to have what is available at each dawn!

I don’t know what this year holds, and I am definitely not saying that I have no idea what the global climate looks like or that I don’t have uncertainty in my own mind, but the one thing in my mind that is certain is the sovereignty of a God who created it all. Today as this year closes, I am so thankful for that certainty that secures me. 

Remember in hope that God is faithful. He is I AM. He is ever-present. He has not ever and will not abandon His children. That’s what He says about who He is, and we can trust the divine nature and character of God in all things. 

As we walk into uncertain days, rest in knowing where real hope is. Remember not to hope in people or in circumstances. Those places will always fail us. Remembering that will be important in the days ahead. Hope in Christ alone. 

Happy New Year to all, and as we begin a year with so much uncertainty, I hope we all remember and cling to the one thing we can be certain of. Unchanging. Unshakable. Never failing. 

Let It Be Jesus

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This morning was busy. I mean, most are, but add in being 39 weeks pregnant and it’s a whole new ballgame!

Rob has been blessed with the opportunity to serve as part of the worship team at church so Sunday mornings will be interesting until I get a solid routine down. All of that to say, I have not gotten a routine down so I was not near as organized as I like to be today. 

Lauren got up first and while she was hanging out I started to get dressed. About 30% into that, Ethan woke up so I twisted my hair in a bun and kept on trucking. My current fashion goal is very simple – must cover baby mountain! After I found a shirt and popped in my contacts, I left our room. 

Upside to mornings no matter how busy: Ethan is always happy to see me. I got him downstairs and my sweet girl grabbed a diaper for him. After he was clean and dry, I tried to give him some snuggles, but we were T-minus one hour until we needed to leave the house. I got him on the couch and plugged in the Foreman on my way by. I then got out the griddle. 

I always joke that I have ruined my kids. They seriously will not eat anything from a box besides one kind of organic, steel-cut oatmeal, and we were out of it. As I began mixing pancake batter, Ethan voiced his displeasure at the fact that I wasn’t holding him. I let him in the kitchen and he watched. I like how fascinated he is by seeing eggs and flour and vanilla and everything mix together to become one of his favorite breakfasts. After he calmed and roamed around the island, he was ready to go back in the living room to play.

I thought to myself that life would be easier if they would eat cereal – especially given my current circumference. Then my next thought was that what is important isn’t what’s easy for me – what’s important is that they know even when I am not comfortable and tired I will show up giving 100% that I have to give for them. I set this in my mind when I found out we were pregnant again. I knew it would be hard, but I also knew that it was good practice for when I feel that way and there’s a new baby to bounce. I wanted to keep loving them and caring for them the way they expected me to. This does not mean I’m Super Mom or that I want to or will tie my identity into measuring up to anyone’s standards, but it does mean knowing that my 100% may not be what I want it to be but in that, I can be okay with that being enough. That was not easy to reconcile for me. It was not easy to let myself off that “hook” I’ve written about before, but I thank God for the freedom in it. 

I got pancakes and bacon on plates and got my babies fed and dressed,(15 minutes behind schedule). I was packing bags and loading up – friends, remind me to start doing this on Saturday nights! I got everyone and everything loaded and started driving to church. 

About four minutes down the road a song I love came on. I am a big fan of the Passion movement, the 268 generation, and the worship band. I listen to them often. Today Let It Be Jesus sung by Christy Knockles came on. I turned it up a bit and started singing along. At that same moment, Lauren did too. 

She sang every word. I looked back in my “kid mirror” and watched her raise her little hands and lift up her voice without hesitation or reservation. She just sang and worshipped. I cried the rest of the way to church. 

It’s easy to miss it. It’s easy to do “all the things” while not being ultimately mindful that I’m really shepherding hearts and living a life of worship in all things. Yes in the songs I sing and listen to and what I put in front of my babies, but also in making pancakes and getting everyone to church 20 minutes late because that’s the best I could do. If my 100% is reaping that fruit, I’ll take it and thank God for the grace He’s given me in it. 

Here’s a link to the song. I am sure I’ll be listening to it and reading this again soon in the days ahead. I have a feeling the next time I get myself and three babies to church there will be hiccups, but I’m glad to have a Name above every name to call on. 

Modern Christmas Letter

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It’s hard to know where to start. I run out of words trying to describe 2016 and life for today. Globally and in our home there have been changes that have shaken life up, but my unchanging God has and will continue to see us through all the change around us. One of the things I’ve most been called to that I encourage is prayer. We need to pray for our families, but we also need to pray for all that is happening around the globe. Just because something is not in our backyards today doesn’t mean that we aren’t responsible for interceding in love. 

This year we have so much to be thankful for:

  • Rob turned 30! We had a great birthday bash to celebrate. 
  • We got to see our families multiple times here in Kansas City. 
  • We found out we were pregnant! 
  • Lauren finished her first full year of preschool & made her first best friends. 
  • Ethan turned two & began to really discover his own likes and has developed an amazing heart and super-fun personality. 
  • I completed my first year of Graduate school while adding another Master’s Certificate to my degree plan and keeping my 4.0 GPA. 
  • We were able to travel back to Texas several times. These trips were filled with joyous celebrations, time with those we love, and new adventures. 
  • We found out Joshua was a boy at a gender reveal party in Texas surrounded by family and friends. 
  • Rob celebrated his 5 year milestone with CalTech. I can’t say how proud I am with what he has accomplished in his time there. The business that has been built in this new market has come with cost that has been counted (LOTS of travel, many late nights and early mornings, & some grey hair to name a few), but I could not be more proud because in every challenge Rob has worked unto the Lord. He laid down his yes in being a part of building up this new office, and he has honored that so well. God has blessed his and Trent’s efforts, and it has been an honor to lift them up and to have a close-up view to watch it from. 
  • We went to Colorado & had a phenomenal time with the Grissom’s and getting to know some of Rob’s favorite customers. 
  • Lauren started her last year of preschool after playing soccer over the summer and earning her first medal. 
  • Both kids started gymnastics & both of them took to it really well and have had so much fun with it. 
  • We had a family invite us into joining them in ministry and in helping with a church campus plant. We have searched for a church and community to do life with for so long that the blessing of being able to be invited into that- in the most “God moved this” way possible.
  • Ethan discovered Paw Patrol. It’s his first serious favorite thing! 
  • Lauren has a new love for music. She really loves playing music at school, playing music with Rob, and singing. 
  • I turned 30, and the next day Joshua was born. At the end of a really hard pregnancy, I could not have been more relieved to have him join us & I never could have received a better birthday present. 
  • Lauren turned FIVE! I’m still not sure how that happened. She was just born a blink of an eye ago right? The highlights of the party for her were that Tante got to be here & that Elsa came to her party.
  • We prepared for our first Christmas as a family of five while setteling into what that looks like now. 
  • Joshua celebrated his one month milestone by growing off the charts! He is the sweetest baby with such a kind and peaceful temperament. 

It’s been a year! I could never say how thankful I am for who I have become at the end of 2016. I could not say enough to express how truly blessed we’ve been or how much love I feel resting in God’s grace that covers us. I am looking forward to Christmas celebrations the next few days and a new year. 

I hope to pursue the heart of God more for myself in this year. Time with Him is surely what roots and sustains my soul. I hope to continue to grow into the gifts He has given me for my good and His glory. I am excited about what lies ahead, and I am thankful for what we have walked and stumbled and sometimes crawled through. An ugly finish is still a finish y’all!

Thank you to anyone who reads these words and cares to know my heart. It means so much today and has meant so much in this new place that made me feel so lonely and disconnected from the world for so long. Your kind words and support are cherished.

Keep your eyes on the lookout. I’m sure there will be plenty to write about and share in the coming year. 

Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. May God bless you and keep you! May you find yourself more thankful than ever and truly aware that you are loved. 

Joshua’s Birth Story

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I just sat down for the first time today. It really feels like it’s the first time I’ve done much of any sitting for two weeks, but I’ve never been more over the moon to be so tired. Today Joshua is two weeks old, and it seems like a good day to capture the moments that tell the story of his birth. 

There was great doubt at some point that Joshua was ever going to try to make his debut. In fact, he didn’t make his debut until forced out – or evicted as my doctor’s nurse teased. We had been trying to get me on the schedule to be induced for almost two weeks, but wouldn’t you know a Super Moon would come along and have every baby in the Kansas City area rushing to be born. Well, every baby except Joshua! 

The reason we were looking at trying to get me induced was because there was no doubt that he was going to be a big guy, but there was doubt that I would be able to birth him the way I wanted if he got much bigger. At my last appointment, my belly measured almost 42 weeks and I wouldn’t be 40 weeks until Sunday. My appointment was on a Wednesday. It was the first appointment I cried at because I had really terrible insomnia and hadn’t been able to sleep more than two hours a night for 12 days. This isn’t sustainable. No one can go on chasing an almost five year old and two and a half year old who never stop moving while growing a person and not sleeping. My doctor hugged me and let me cry. She also wrote me a safe prescription for a sleep aid & life was so much better. After just one night of actual sleep, I felt like a person again – well, more than I had in a while. I knew I could stay pregnant as long as was safe for both of us if I could just sleep. 

I think of a scene from Gilmore girls where Sookie is convinced she’s never going to go into labor. She says, “The ship’s too big and the bottle’s too small!” That’s really how I felt and that was the real risk at this point. I was bounced around on the induction schedule and left to hold my breath hoping for a spot until my doctor called in to be sure I was still at the list and that Monday would be the day. I can’t express how much I love Dr. Wittek. It was such a scary thing to have a new doctor when I had such an amazing one before, but God heard my prayers and blessed me so well with her. Her heart was so for me and Joshua. She was in this with us the whole way through – loving us both. 

As emotions wound down over the weekend, Monday morning came with a phone call that said it was my turn! I was already up praying and getting dressed – hair fixed and some make-up so I could look the best I could to meet my new little guy. I had to be in early to be induced so Rob stayed at home with the kids, and I drove to the hospital. Well, before I did, I wanted to do what I could on our last car ride with Joshua in my tummy to bless those who would be taking care of us so soon so we took a detour through Krispy Kreme. I really believe that if you have a chance to bless others in any way, even something as small as donuts, you should do it! 

As we arrived and got checked in, I sat in a waiting room and watched two older parents talking nervously. A man came out of the patient area and sat down looking utterly exhausted. As their conversation continued, I learned that his wife had been laboring for 18 hours and the doctors were getting ready to do a C-section if nothing changed within the hour. As the mom noticed the bag of donuts she began visiting with me. She asked if I was nervous and I said no because this was baby number three so I had an idea of what to expect. The dad looked worried. He just asked her husband to tell her that he loved her so much as he got choked up at the very thought of her struggling. This daddy loved his baby girl. The mom asked how my other two deliveries went and I shared, and the husband looked at me and said he was glad they went well because it had been so hard to watch his wife struggle. I told him that his wife’s doctors would only do what’s best for her and their baby, and that trusting him meant getting to breathe and know that having a C-section would be more than fine. He thanked me, and as they called me back, I prayed for them. I prayed that she would be able to trust what was going to be her best option and that her and the baby and her family would be guarded by peace. 

As I walked up to the registration desk, I met Jayne. Jayne was going to be my nurse and her warm smile made me immediately like her and put me at ease. We walked to my room, and on the way, I saw my doctor at the nurse’s station. As soon as she saw me she said, “Oh thank God, today is the day!” She hugged me as I handed donuts off to the nurses and told them to enjoy breakfast! Jayne took me in and got me all hooked up and settled in. 

Next, we waited. We waited and talked. We talked as contractions ebbed and flowed and grew.

We were so blessed to have our friend Brianna come and hang with our kids for the day. It was such a relief to know they would be so well cared for by someone who loves them. Rob tagged her in as the contractions were growing, and he headed to the hospital. 

As he walked in the room, they had me up and ready to get my epidural. It was different than the two I had before. It didn’t ever make me numb, and it had a control button that I could click up to once every ten minutes to administer the medicine. I was not good at remembering to push until the contractions really started rolling in. 

One really funny thing that happened showcased Joshua’s personality. He kept kicking the heart monitor off. They had to keep adjusting it so Jayne just went ahead and did an internal one which was clipped to his hair. They aren’t supposed to be able to remove them, but after about two hours, Joshua somehow managed to get it completely unclipped! Jayne went back and did it again all while calling him Baby Houdini. 

Things really picked up from there. Since we’re in a bigger city, things work differently here. You aren’t guaranteed to get your OB for delivery. If you have your baby out of office hours, you get whoever is on call. When Jayne came in and told me another doctor would probably be delivering Joshua, I looked at Rob and cried a little. Within five minutes, Dr. Wittek, my doctor, walked in. Jayne was just as surprised to see her as we were, and she said, “There’s no way I’m not delivering this baby!” I can’t express how much that meant. Having her in the room after walking through a whole difficult pregnancy just felt incredibly right. She was the only person I would have wanted to catch Joshua, and her being there was such a comfort and encouragement to me. 

We got to work from there! Twenty-five minutes of work to be exact. Through playing tug of war with Rob to focus my pushes down to feeling the pressure build as I was cheered on through each push by a great team, we moved closer to Joshua being born. Rob kept kissing the top of my head and telling me he was proud of me. In the final moments, they called for extra help because it didn’t look like something was going to go right with his shoulders, and he got a little twisted in the umbilical cord right as he was coming out. The room FILLED with nurses, and then one last big push brought him safely into the world. 

The second she held him up, he let out a beautiful cry. He then popped out his bottom lip in the cutest pout that illicited a room filled with laugher and smiles. He then peed on me! Dr. Wittek tried to get his heart monitor off, but he had such a tight grip on the string she finally said, “Ok fine! You just keep that then!”

Then the moment I waited for happened. She handed him to me. She gave me my son, and my first words to him were, “Joshua, I love you. The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26).” I didn’t pray it seamlessly because I cried and had to stop because I was completely overcome with gratitude and love for Joshua. 

It was then my honor to hand him to my husband and to see him look at our son with such adoration and love while he looked back at me in the same way. I got to hold him again for a minute before they took him to weigh him and get his vitals and everything. They initially recorded his weight as 8 pounds 7 ounces, but later had to correct it to 8 pounds 12 ounces. He was 20 inches long, and so incredibly gorgeous. When they let me have him back, the sound of my voice calmed him as he snuggled into me for some skin to skin time. We just got to look at each other while he lay there on my chest. It was one of the most special moments of my whole life. 

After Rob got to help him get his first bath and I got to watch. Dr. Wittek gave me a hug and told me she was proud of me. Jayne was also due for a shift change but stayed an hour after to get everything done for me. She gave me a hug and I thanked her and told her I couldn’t have done it without her. 

After Rob went and grabbed dinner for me. I got to have Chick-fil-A, and then they moved me to another room while he went to get our “bigs” – brother and sister. As soon as Lauren walked in the room she asked, “Where’s my Baby Buddy?” She’s always called Ethan “Buddy” and when we found out we were having a boy she started calling the baby “Baby Buddy.” The sweetness in that warms my heart so much. Then she said, “I need to hold him. I love him!” Oh how blessed we are and how blessed those boys are to have Lauren as a big sister. 

As Rob helped Lauren get situated on the couch to hold Joshua, Ethan ran and climbed up next to me and held me so tigh. With Lauren going to school in the afternoon, he is so used to getting to have adventures with just the two of us that he never really has to miss me. I love that, but it was also a blessing to know that when I’m not there, he really does notice and as he gave me a big kiss and held my hand, I knew without a doubt that my guy missed his momma. He just sat and let me hold him. This never happens. He always is moving. That night, he just wanted me to hold him. 

After a good visit, Rob and the kids headed home to get some good rest. It was just Joshua and me those first two nights, and I knew so quickly that he was going to be such a good baby. I just watched him sleep in the dimmed lights with the sound of the playlist I made for birthing on quietly as we both rested. Everyone who came in loved the vibe of our room. 

Joshua has this really calm and easy temperament. He’s just very content, and that has some sweetness in it that just looks like he’s always covered in peace. I’m not surprised. I have been praying that blesssing over him that I did the moment I held him from the first time I knew he was alive in my body. His few weeks of life have already been marked by this peace given by God. 

As we loaded up to head home, all five of us, I felt nothing but gratitude and love. I am grateful that we have been able to have these beautiful, healthy babies. I am thankful that we have been able to grow God’s kingdom. I am grateful that we are a family. 

I know so much of the world today has opinions about people having larger families. I think so much of the time people aren’t as pro-life as they think they are. Life makes noise in restaurants, life needs to be fed in public, and life looks like real babies that do real baby things – not just the idea of a “cute” baby. I could hear that and see that clearly when people couldn’t understand us having a third baby when we had the coveted “one of each.” I hear it now when people say things like, “Three kids? You are going to have your hands full.” Rob sees it when he’s out and people look so confused to see him alone with 1-3 of our kids. They ask him if he’s babysitting or if he’s ready for me to get back from where I am. 

Joshua isn’t just something else to balance or an inconvenience. He’s a person who makes our family better. He’s a person who has been loved since before we knew he existed, and the best part of his birth story is that he is part of God’s story for us and our family. Unique him. A him no one else could ever be. A gift and a blessing and a joy. 

I am tired. I am exhausted, and I couldn’t think of a better reason to be than serving in the most important mission field I will ever have – our home. My goodness, I love Joshua and now I already can’t imagine or remember what our family was like without him. 

Joshua, I will love you. I will always be on your side – even when it doesn’t feel like I am. I will always defend and love you fiercely. I will always cherish you at each phase. I will support you and your dreams. I will be in your corner cheering you on as you pursue whatever passsions God has for you. I will always be here. I will always love you, no matter what!

I’m Not A “Boy Mom”

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I have been asked a few times since finding out our third child will be a boy if I feel more like a “boy mom” now. I don’t like that question or that phrase because there are some undertones in it that go back to something I’ve already written about before – the perfect family. 

I will start by saying something important upfront – THE GENDER OF OUR CHILDREN SHOULD NEVER MATTER SO MUCH THAT WE PUT PRESSURE ON WHAT IT WILL BE OR FIND DISAPPOINTMENT IN THE OUTCOME!

That drives me crazy. I know people who were genuinely nervous or worried to let other people or even their own husbands down if the baby wasn’t the gender that person wanted. The level of selfishness that it would take to be able to look at your pregnant wife or daughter or daughter-in-law and send her the message, “I only really want a boy” is so repulsive to me that it makes me angry.

I never prayed for a girl. I never prayed for a boy. I prayed for healthy babies who would have hearts that would someday love and trust God and have Christ as their Savior. The end. The rest isn’t important compared to that. 

This idea of the ideal or perfect family is rooted so deeply in the “American dream” that people feel like failures or are treated as “less than” when they don’t reach this biological goal, or worse, society seems to elevate those who have a son, daughter, dog, and tidy home and life in the suburbs. It’s as if this is the ultimate picture of what it means to be successful, and it’s achieving a status to be admired. People actually chase this like it’s the Holy Grail, and it’s crazy. 

After Ethan was born so many people would ask things like if I was tying my tubes now that we had a girl and boy. First of all, rude and none of your business. Secondly, I’m going to go with rude and none of your business again. Now that we’re having three the response we get from people is almost like a grimmace of not getting why we would have more children when we already had a girl and boy. 

This goes back and has roots that can be seen ripping down through generations. I had a conversation at a local Fall festival we go to each year with a lady who was shopping in the same booth I was. She was somewhere between 65-70. I found a sign for Joshua’s nursery and I was checking out as she walked up. 

Her: “Oh, I love that sign. It’s beautiful.”

Me: “Thanks very much. It’s for the nursery. It’ll be perfect.”

She looked at the stroller, and only saw Ethan because Lauren was standing on the other side of Rob. 

Her: “Oh, did you get stuck with two boys. You poor thing!”

I got my immediate response in check because what would have just flown out of my mouth would not have been a great response in the sense of being respectful. 

Me: “No. We definitely didn’t get stuck with anything (Lauren got back on her seat at that moment).  We already have a girl and boy. This will be our third baby, and we’re so excited to have another baby.”

Her: “Oh. Three? Good luck to you because you’re going to have your hands full. Three!”

Me: “They won’t be half as full as my life or heart.”

I walked away because this conversation was probably going to spiral to a place of me saying things I shouldn’t. 

This?!?!? What is wrong with people? It makes me understand why people took shelter under terms like “girl mom” or “boy mom” because people treat you like this when you don’t have the “perfect” set of “one of each.” To any of my friends or readers who have only girls or boys, I am so sorry if this has ever happened to you. I am so sorry that people would think it’s okay to talk to you like this. I’m not saying I pity you, I’m saying I hurt for you. This was awful, and the fact that people put such a premium on their ideas of perfection that they could hurt you makes me furious. 

The reason I don’t like the phrase is because I think it is almost like saying, “I’m going to find a way to make this okay.” There are a million “boy mom” and “girl mom” hashtags, mugs, and t-shirts that are worn like an electric fence in front of a heart I’m sure that’s been hurt by these kind of comments.

Here’s the deal, you don’t have to make something okay that is beautiful! You can tell people who would dare try to shackle you with not meeting some crazy “ideal” that you are happy with your boys or girls and didn’t miss the mark. You can tell people how thrilled you are to have been given the privilege or honor of having babies at all. You can tell them that you are just happy to be a momma. 

I have so many friends that struggled with infertility or child loss. Before I ever got pregnant I saw the heartache. I felt so incredibly thankful when I saw the positive sign that told me I would be a mommy each time. I think that’s one of the reasons I never cared about gender. I just saw it as an honor and privilege to be able to have babies. I saw it as a beautiful gift that I never wanted to take for granted. 

When I was first asked this question, “Do you see yourself as a boy mom now that you’ll have two?”, I said this, “No, I definitely don’t. I’m so glad to be having another son, but I’m thankful for each of my babies, and am just glad I get to be THEIR mom.” 

I’m glad that I’ll someday get to help Lauren pick out prom dresses and teach her about fun, girly stuff, and her being outnumbered doesn’t change everything I have to look forward with her as her mom. 

I have had moms tell me when seeing me out and about that they were so jealous because we had a boy and girl. That is probably the other big reason I don’t like this “boy mom” and “girl mom” thing. It creates competition and divide. I’ve written so many posts about the importance of moms encouraging each other and supporting one another that anything that rubs up against that bothers me. No one needs to be “jealous” of anyone because their family looks different than yours. You didn’t fail. If we could all just see trying to raise great kids as success than we would treat ourselves and those around us differently. 

Friends, don’t live under a banner or in a box that anyone or society puts you into in regards to the gender of your children or anything about your life. We can all just support each other in this wing and prayer mission of motherhood everyday. We can all just be happy to be moms.