Saturday, December 20, 2014

Would you have spoken up?

It was such a typical conversation.  I wasn't surprised to hear it.  But my reaction did surprise me.

I was at the farmer's market today with Esther to buy some bulk honey for some Christmas presents I plan to make.  Now, the critical information that you need to know here is that Bloomington is a very liberal, crunchy, atheistic town.  And in our much beloved liberal, crunchy, atheistic town (and we really do love it here) the farmer's market is like the Sunday worship where all the like minded people meet on a weekly basis.  So being as such, it was no surprise that there was a table there to protest some deer killing going on at a local park that is apparently over-ridden with deer.

I happened to be by the table for a minute and overheard a very passionate conversation going on.  Two women and a man were going on about how pro-life people only care about babies inside the womb, but after they are born, they couldn't care less.  Their words oozed with pride at how much they clearly cared for children and how right their stereotype was.

Now, I have heard statements like this before, and I usually don't speak up, because I doubt that my opinion can change anything.  But as they went on and on, my blood began to boil as I though of the years of my life that I have spent in full time service to kids (out of the womb!!) in need through foster parenting.  In fact, I have met many foster parents over the years and know for a fact that there are many more pro-life foster parents than pro-choice.

I decided that living in the town that we do, their stereotype had probably never been challenged, so without much forethought of what I was going to say, I spoke up.  "Excuse me, I don't think that you can say that all pro-life people don't care about babies after they are born.  My husband and I are foster parents and have sacrificed a lot to serve children in need.  We care about children both in and outside of the womb."

Their response was to play this off, that I was the exception to the rule.  But I stood fast.  I wanted to ask them how many of their liberal friends had sacrificed years of their lives to serve foster children, but instead, I just said, "No.  Its not even most pro-life people who don't care about babies outside of the womb." To which they finally backed down to saying that some pro-life people don't care about babies outside of the womb, since "they wont vote to give more money to schools".

We ended the conversation cordially, they asked about Esther, she gave them her favorite line ("I'm free") and after a minute she and I walked away.

Some thoughts from this interaction:

1. Money is different than your time and your life.  It is one thing to vote to give a little more of your paycheck to kids in need (especially when the brunt of the money is going to come from someone else's paycheck and not your own.)  It is a vastly different thing to sacrifice your time and your life to serve kids in need.  Children in need usually come from broken homes.  They don't need money so much as positive relationships, true mother and father figures in their lives.  But most people would rather throw a little money at them and feel like they did a good thing to prevent these children from starving, when in reality the real starvation is for love, not food.

2. Evangelism - As I walked away from the conversation, the man followed me.  He stopped me and asked how many kids we have.  I told him that we have two biological children and have been able to serve six foster children.  He told me (this is pretty much an exact quote) "I am ok if you have two biological children as long as you don't have any more."

Um, excuse me, when did it become polite conversation to tell someone else how to run their family?  But I wasn't surprised to hear his opinion on this.  You see, in our culture, anyone but Christians are allowed to share (even push) the tenants of their religion.  For the man I talked to today, the gospel of his self-made religion is all about abortion, politics and family size.  But if I had turned around and tried to share the Biblical gospel with him?  I would have been seen as pushy and intolerant.  This is a double standard and Americans needs to wake up and see it as such.

3. Deer vs. Babies - The irony didn't phase me, but people, can we please all notice that they are giving their time to protest a few deer being killed, but celebrate babies being killed?

4. Did my speaking up make a difference?  Should I have even said anything?  This is a question I discussed with Alex after we got home.

In the end we came to the conclusion: yes, it was a good thing.  Honestly, I do think my words affected the two women.  They even thanked me for sharing my thoughts before I walked away and seemed to truly take in the things I said.  I probably didn't change their mind, but they might think twice before loudly sharing their opinion on this topic again.

But more than changing people's opinion about politics or even abortion, I want people to hear the true gospel, that Jesus Christ died to save sinners, including prideful baby-haters like them, and prideful rule-lovers like me.  And I didn't get to share that with them today, but we prayed for them that this conversation will prepare them to hear gospel and accept it in the future.  Who knows, maybe God will even allow me to be the person to share it with them.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Year Ago Today

A year ago today we arrived in Bloomington, having moved here from California.  We were a bit beat up and battered: our incredibly difficult 4.5 years was topped off by an even more stressful moving process.  The week of our move was one of the hardest weeks of my life.

But after that week we finally got here.  We didn't have a home yet, but God graciously provided one within a few days.  We were fortunate to already have a good, welcoming church, but didn't yet have any good friends.  We had hopes for our new town, new church and new life, but didn't exactly know what to expect. 

When I look back on this year, there is a verse that very clearly describes what God has done in our lives:
"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 5:10-11
Our "little while" was our time in California.  Though painful for 4.5 years, it is but a blink in the light of eternity.  And God is gracious, because after our time of suffering, he has used this year to "restore, confirm, strengthen and establish" us.

A lot has happened in this past year.  We added another member to our family.  We moved twice (with a third move planned for next month).  We made friends, and will say a sad goodbye tomorrow to one of the families we have become closest to, who are making their own big cross country move.  We have grown in our love for God and holiness.  We have grown in our abilities as parents.

But most of all, I thank God for rest.  Not every moment has been easy, but much easier than it has been for a while.  I am thankful for a time of spiritual recovery, as we get ready to jump back into the battle.

Because, as John Piper says, "Life is war".  And times of rest are just preparation to get back into the fight.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

My Simplified Winter Meal Plan

I have been feeling a need of recent to simplify my meal planning and prep, and in effort to do so I decided to make a 4 week meal rotation that I am going to use for the next few months.  Having my meals for the week already selected makes life much easier.
Photo Credit: Janine on Flickr
I had a few main goals when making this rotation.  First (as usual), I wanted to pick meals that are healthy and loved by my family.  All of these are "made from scratch" as this is healthier and cheaper than boxed foods.  Esther is picky, so mostly I try to pick meals that Alex likes (it would be impossible to please her!).  Alex, like many men, isn't a big fan of soup, but I have soup every week in this rotation because these are all meaty, hearty, yummy hubby-approved soups (I asked!).  We like a lot of ethnic foods (Indian, Thai, Mexican, etc) and this meal plan reflects that.

Secondly, I wanted meals with easy prep, with a focus on crock pot meals.  The hours between nap time and dinner tend to be hard so I wanted to make this easier by picking meals I could at least start earlier in the day.  I find that soup can be made mid afternoon, and left on the stove to be heated up right at dinner time.  Some of these meals I will make 2 pans of and freeze one, or at least double the sauce, crust, etc and freeze it to make life easier next time I made it.  Along the same lines, most of these meals only require one or two pans/pots to be used, which also makes things simpler.  I just can't do a main dish with 3 side dishes... too much clean up, especially right now while we don't have a dish washer!  Lastly, I picked meals that are good winter meals: lots of soups/stews, casseroles, and other hot, hearty meals.

You might notice that I tend to rotate through meats: most weeks I have one dish with each beef, chicken, fish, sausage and one meatless.  I know I'm probably weird, but I just like including each of these in our various meals each week for variety.

A few notes.  First, we have dinner with our small group on Sundays, so I only planned 6 days worth of dinners each week.  At the bottom I did list some ideas for small group meals for when its my turn to make the main; meals that are easy to make in large batches, generally liked by most adults and kids and able to be transported.  Secondly, I linked recipes where I use them on line, but many of these are meals that I make often enough that I don't really use a recipe, I just know how to make it.  But you can always try google or pintrest for some recipe suggestions!  Third, whenever it says rolls, I use an ABi5 sourdough recipe which makes life so easy and seriously fresh baked bread is sooooooo yummy.  Once you go ABi5 you never go back.

So, here it is.  I hope it helps you to simplify your life or at least inspires you to try something new!

Week 1
1 Beef Enchilladas with guacamole (this recipe for the sauce)
2 Crockpot seafood paella
3 Pesto chicken pasta (frozen pesto from last summer's bounty- yum!)
4 Pumpkin Sausage soup with rolls
5 Greek Chicken Pizza (w/ sourdough pizza crust)
6 Spinach and Swiss quiche

Week 2
1 Beef Lasagna
2 Fettucine Alfredo with baked salmon (This recipe for the sauce.  Shh... don't tell bean haters it contains beans.  They will never know.)
3 Crockpot Coconut Indian Chicken (This recipe is so easy I wish I could do it weekly, but I am afraid we'd get burnt out)
4 Beef Chili with rolls or biscuits
5 Sausage, onion, mushroom and olive pizza (w/ sourdough pizza crust)
6 Black Bean Tostadas

Week 3
1 Crockpot Tex Mex Quinoa (with ground beef)
2 Brazillian Fish Stew over rice
3 Crockpot Tiki Masala Chicken
4 Sausage and Gnocchi soup with rolls
5 Pizza with Beef sausage (w/ sourdough pizza crust)
6 Broccoli and Cheddar Quiche

Week 4
1 Beef Burritos
2 Salmon Casserole (like tuna casserole but made with salmon instead)
3 Thai Green Chicken Curry
4 Hungarian Goulash with rolls
5 Sausage, onion, mushroom and olive pizza (w/ sourdough pizza crust)
6 Spaghetti Squash casserole (basically this recipe but with spaghetti squash instead of pasta)

Small group meals: Chicken Enchiladas (this recipe for the sauce but I made the enchiladas themselves differently), sausage breakfast casserole, lasagna or stuffed shells, chicken and dumplings.

What are some ways that you have found help to simplify your meal planning?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

My first time protesting at Planned Parenthood

A few years ago, there is no way I would have done this.

Protest at Planned Parenthood, that is.

You see, while I was against abortion in theory, I gave into the typical American thought that abortion clinic protesters are mean, angry and graceless.  I felt that protesting at a clinic wouldn't change people's minds and would just harden people against Christianity.

What changed?

A number of things have changed in the past few years that would bring me to the point of wanting to protest at an abortuary, but probably the biggest motivating factor is how God has increased my compassion for the weak and helpless, and shown me through His word how big of a priority it is to him.  One example (of many) is Deuteronomy 27:18-20.  If you look at the larger context of these verses, God lays out curses for disobedience and blessings for obedience.  Of the 12 specific curses listed, three of them have to do with preying on the weak and innocent.  The number of curses in this category is only surpassed by curses for sexual perversion.

When it comes to defending the helpless and the weak in our day and age, few others in the world are more helpless and weak than an unborn baby.

It helps me to think of it this way.  If there were concentration camps in our country, and it was legal to protest outside of them, would you do it?  There are places as bad as concentration camps in our country.  I stood outside of one today, and at least 10 lives were taken in there this morning.  I cannot keep silent.

But even though I knew it was right to go, I was still a little nervous going for the first time.  What would I do?  What should I say to the people?  Would they get angry or violent?

My heart raced as the first car pulled into the parking lot.  It was a college-aged white girl and her mother.  Before I could say anything one of the other women said "You are a mother to this baby already!  Please, don't do this!  Don't kill your baby!".  And I lost it.  That college girl is a mother.  Its easy to just think of her as a young girl with an inconvenient pregnancy. But no, she is a mother, like I am a mother, and at that moment she is going to end her baby's life.  I was crying and praying for her, praying that God would change her heart, and help her to repent of this sin, and turn to Him and raise her baby to know Him.

After the first car it was a lot easier.  Or did my heart just get a little more hard about the reality of what was happening?  I didn't cry any more, but I did  do a lot of praying.  I prayed for the clinic, and for each woman who went inside and each man who sometimes accompanied her.  I prayed for them to repent of their sin and turn to God.  I thought about how each of them will have to stand before God one day and answer to him for this sin.  And I hope that Jesus' blood will cover each and every one of them for what they have done to their children.  I hope that they will all see their children in heaven one day.

One thing that really saddened me this morning was the racial make-up of the women going for abortions.  Alex and I have remarked a number of times since we moved here on the severe lack of black people we have seen around town.  But today, about half of the women were black.

But why should I be surprised?  The founder of Planned Parenthood was a supporter of eugenics.  She once said, "Colored people are like human weeds and are to be exterminated".  And she would be happy to hear that her vision is still being carried out today: blacks make up 12% of the US population, but account for 35% of all abortions.  At this rate, the black vote in America will be insignificant by 2038.  Some people call it black genocide.

At one point a delivery truck pulled into the parking lot and the driver went in to drop something off.  As she got into her truck to leave, I wondered, "What does she think of us?  Is she cheering us on or mad that we are trying to restrict 'women's rights'"?  As she pulled by me, I was surprised to see her smile and wave.  She called out the window to me (as I was the only person there with a baby in arms) "That's better than any sign you can carry!"  It was a refreshing encouragement.  Maybe I didn't have all of the right words to convince people to turn around, but even just standing there, loving on a baby was an active protest.

No, don't listen to the Planned Parenthood workers.  Its not just tissue.  Its a baby.

Last week I made the phone call to DCS to get us started with getting re-certified for foster parenting. And there is always a little trepidation in my heart with this step.  Will I have the time/energy/ability to love on another little life?  Don't we already have enough on our plate as it is?  But today was a helpful reminder of what is most important in the world.  Defending the weak and needy is important. We want to actively participate in loving and defending those children, whether they are in or out of the womb.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

6 Reasons Why Revelation is My Favorite Book of The Bible

Many people find the book of Revelation confusing, scary and hard to read.  Not me.  Ever since I read it deeply for the first time it has been my favorite book of the Bible.

This is not to say that I understand 100% of the content.  Indeed, I still haven't chosen a position on my view of the time frame of Revelation or of the Millenium (mentioned in Revelation 20) even after a great deal of thought and research over the past 6 years.  But you don't need to know exactly what each detail means to get an incredible amount of insight and encouragement from this book.  Here are six reasons why Revelation is my favorite book of the Bible.

The Descriptions of Jesus
 "The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze" Revelation 2:18
"The First and the Last, who died and came to life" Revelation 2:8
"The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation" Revelation 3:14
"A lamb standing, as though it had been slain" Revelation 5:6 (Jesus WAS slain but IS standing!)
"He is clothed in a robe dipped in Blood... From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron.  He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.  On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written: King of kings and Lord of lords." 19:13, 15-16
"[He] is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war" 19:11

Does this sound like a long haired, skirt wearing, hippie Jesus? No, Jesus' character is so much deeper and wider than he is commonly portrayed these days.  That's why I love the mind-blowing descriptions of him in Revelation.

The Descriptions of God
"And he who sat there [on the throne] had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald... from the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings, and peals of thunder..." 4:3, 5
"And one of the four living creatures gave to the seen angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever, and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary of God until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished" 15:7-8

And these don't even do the real thing justice... they are just the closest John could come using human language.

God's Victory Over Evil
"We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
who is and who was,
for you have taken your great power
and begun to reign.
The nations raged,
but your wrath came,
and the time for the dead to be judged,
and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints,
and those who fear your name,
both small and great,
and for destroying the destroyers of the earth." 11:17-18
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
for his judgements are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants." 19:1-2

When I see all the evil in the world and am tempted to be discouraged, I always go back to Revelation, and remember that on the day he has appointed, God will destroy all the destroyers of the earth. Praise Him!

The Descriptions of Believers
"And they have conquered him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives, even unto death" 12:11
"Here is the call for the endurance of the Saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus" 14:12
"They loved not their lives even unto death." 12:11
"The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life.  I will confess him name before my Father and before his angels." 3:5

This isn't somebody who "prayed a prayer".  These are people who take the commands of God seriously, whose lives have been changed permanently, to a course where they don't even love their lives, they have been given up to following Jesus even if it means to death.  And the reward is eternal.

The Prayers Directed Towards God
"Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord,
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship you
for your righteous acts have been revealed." 15:3-4
"Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created." 4:11
"Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain and by your blood you ransomed a people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth." 5:9-10

How many churches sing praise and worship songs that sound like this?  This is powerful stuff.

Descriptions of Non-Believers 
[after seeing incredible plagues of God being poured out upon the earth] "The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hand nor give up worshipping demons and and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts" 9:20-21
"And all who dwell on the earth worship will worship it [the Beast], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain." 13:8
"They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues.  They did not repent or give him glory." 16:9
"People gnawed their tongues in anguish and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores.  They did not repent of their deeds." 16:10-11
"And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the hail was so severe" 16:21

These verses make it clear that there is a kind of belief in God, belief without repentance, that does not save.  It also shows that God can make himself very obvious and people still choose not to trust in Him.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

July in our Home

First, something (big) that actually happened last month, but I forgot to mention: we got a van!  We've shared one car for most of our marriage (and all of the last 3 years) so this is big news.  Its a 1997 Honda Odyssey, so it'll probably last until we outgrow it (it only seats 6, not 7 like most vans) and the nice part is that its old and rusty so I don't have to worry about dents and scratches and the kids getting the seats dirty, etc.  Its also nice to have plenty of room to haul things around, like our huge double stroller, random items that I garbage pick, freecycle acquisitions, etc...

Now on to July.
Love these dudes.
The second weekend of July was our church's annual conference (and it was actually our second time going, as we had flown in from California last year to attend.)  The topic was "Salt and Light: Confessing Christ in the Public Square" and Doug Wilson flew in to speak, and several of our pastors spoke as well.  You can listen to the talks here.  I especially recommend the breakout sessions "Who is my Neighbor? Confessing Christ on our Block" and "Sharp Arrows: Training our Children to Confess Christ".  The conference was especially fun as my cousin came in from Cincinnati to attend.  We're counting down our visits with her as she is planning to go to Bulgaria for 2 years at the end of this month.  We're really going to miss her!

The last week of July saw our first trip back to California since our big move.  It was a great time.  We went for a wedding that Alex was in, but stayed for a full week, hanging out with friends the whole time.  We also got to see a sweet little girl who lived with us the first year of her life (I have really missed seeing her!).  It was really nice to be in California and actually get to enjoy it.  Our time living there was filled with so many different stress factors that when we left it was easy to forget the parts we loved.  Catching up with friends we care about was refreshing and encouraging.

Esther and "Lala".  A year younger than
Esther with 3x as much hair!
Did I mention that I now have a sewing table?  Since we moved to our new apartment last month, I now have a table in our bedroom devoted to my sewing machine and other craftiness.  This has made sewing so much easier and quicker, and I have been taking advantage!  In July I made a couple sets of bean bags, fabric blocks and a little girl's purse - all gifts for different friends.  I've been so grateful to be able to have the time and space to do these projects!  I'm not artsy, but I do need some sort of sewing/crafty outlet in my life.

Books I read this month:

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Montessouri Play and Learn: a Parent's Guide to Purposeful Play from Two to Six by Lesley Britton

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hot Days, Cold Drinks: Iced Pumpkin Spice Latte

In the summer, I love a cold, sweet drink in the middle of the afternoon as a refreshing pick-me-up, or after dinner for a cooling dessert.  Last summer, I did a series of my favorite cold drink recipes.  This summer, I want to link back to those recipes and add one that I just recently made up: iced pumpkin spice latte.

Pumpkin spiced goodies are usually enjoyed in the fall, but having recently discovered how to make this at home, I have been making it quite a bit.  Not only is it tasty, but you can feel good about having a vegetable in your snack/dessert!

Iced Pumpkin Spice Latte
1 cup of milk (I use whole milk,  raw when we can afford it)
1 tsp instant coffee or powdered coffee substitute (cafix is my favorite coffee substitute)
3 T pumpkin puree
1 T raw honey or 5 drops stevia
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or you can use 1/2 tsp of cinnamon with a pinch of ginger and a pinch of nutmeg)

Blend together until smooth (if you are using raw honey, make sure the honey is well blended in, raw honey tends to just break into small lumps in a cold beverage).

Pour over ice and enjoy!

Did you miss the series last summer?  Be sure to try one of these yummy recipes:

Chocolate Banana Shake - thick and chocolately
Green Tea Smoothie - creamy and energizing
Mocha Avocado Shake - my favorite pick-me-up
Hazelnut Iced Latte - slightly bitter but balanced
Vanilla Peanut Butter Banana Shake - smooth and rich
Homemade Lemonade - tart and refreshing
Coconut Iced Chai Latte - sweet n' spicy
Sun Tea - brisk and easy
Green Peach Smoothie - nutritious and fruity

Monday, July 7, 2014

Best Biblical Advice for Newlyweds

"When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken." Deuteronomy 24:5
Noivinhos from Flickr via Wylio
© 2006 Jeff Belmonte, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

As far as I am aware, this is the only Bible verse that has a direct command to newlyweds (feel free to correct me in the comments if I am wrong!).  Though this verse was intended specifically to be directed to the Israelites and how they should run their society, the principles of this verse are instructive to modern-day believers as well.

Commentators say that there are likely two main reasons for this command.  First, so that newly wed couples could have time to develop their relationship without distraction.  Secondly, so that they would have time to conceive and bear a child early on.  Many newlyweds would do much better in their relationship if they would heed this advice.

Take time to develop your relationship.  When you first get married, it is important to continue pursing building your relationship.  Indeed this should be happening during the entirety of your marriage, but to do so in the first year is laying a good foundation for your future years together.  Make it a priority to go on regular dates, weekly or every other week at least.  Look for things to do together; it is not enough to simply live together under the same roof, but it if important to really live life together.

It is also important to avoid major changes and other things that can put strain on this foundational year of marriage building.  Many couples marry and then move right away to start a new job or grad school.  It is very difficult to lay a healthy foundation for marriage while also trying to find a new church, make new friends, and figure out a new city.  It is worth putting off a job or grad school for a year to stay put in your familiar area to make sure you can focus on your marriage.

Make babies.  Early (and often!) God tells us to be fruitful and multiply and that children are a blessing.  Couples who reject the modern philosophy of children being a burden and choose to obey this will receive God's blessing for obedience.  Having children makes a marriage stronger as it gives husband and wife something to work on as partners: a ministry that involves their whole lives together.  Having children is also incredibly sanctifying, which has the added benefit of making a marriage stronger as man and wife are humbled before God and seek him more and more for godly character and help to be good parents.

It is important to remember that the advice to wait to have children is coming from a society that kills 1.3 million babies per year, doesn't honor God and has an incredibly high divorce rate.  Believers choose to follow God and do things differently, because we know that the ways of God are higher and better than the ways of man.  This includes seeing children as a blessing ALWAYS (not just when they are convenient), which practically means having children early and often while the world says wait and stop.

When thinking about this verse, I realized that ALL of the Christian couples I know who are already divorced chose not to have children in the early years of their marriage.  On the other hand, most of the couples I know who have mature walks with God and good marriages had children very early on in their marriage.  I know that this is not a scientific study, and that correlation is not causation, but it is interesting to note that I have seen in practice how this does affect a relationship.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Post Modern 10 Commandments

The Bible tells Christians not to love the things of the world.  Many people rightfully acknowledge that this includes the material items that are rampant in our country: cars, clothes, houses, etc.  But just as important (maybe even more important) is that we do not love the world's systems, the world's philopsophies (Romans 12:2, 1 John 2:15-17, 1 John 5:1-5).

There are many philosophies that are popular in our world today.  But the dominant one in our country is post-modernism.  And while followers of Post Modern philosophy say to ignore the "oppressive" commands of the Bible, they lay out their own oppressive commands.  These rules stand in direct opposition to God, whose commands are actually freeing, not enslaving.

To help you identify and flee from these worldly values, I have compiled a list of the 10 Post Modern Commandments

The 10 Commandments from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 John Taylor, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
1. Thou shalt not judge.  You may not tell other people what to do or judge them for what they are doing, no matter what.  There are a few exceptions though.  One is if they are doing something that goes against your personal pet issues, like not recycling, not breastfeeding, driving a big car, having too many kids or not eating organic food.  Then you can judge them.

Another exception if they fall into a class of people whom you look down upon (usually, someone less educated).  For example, you may condemn and judge the sexual perversions of the red neck who loves his sister, but you will adamantly stand by the "right" of the educated upper middle class man tempted by homosexuality to "choose whom he loves".

2. Thou shalt tolerate thy neighbor.  You need not love your neighbor, because loving your neighbor sometimes involves sacrifice or having hard conversations if they are doing something to destroy their life.  You should let them live their own life and do whatever they want without comment from yourself.  In other words, thou shalt ignore thy neighbor, but that doesn't sound as nice as tolerate.

3.  Thou shalt not take responsibility.  Don't worry about it, someone else will take care of it.  Sign up for $100,000 of college loans and then blame every one else for your debt (clearly it was unavoidable and you were making a wise decision to do so).  And then if you don't feel like facing the music, sign up for grad school and complain about how much that costs too.  If you conceive a child at an inconvenient time, just kill the baby or abandon the mother, but don't take responsibility for the life you created if it doesn't fit into your plan for your life at the moment.  If you lose your job, it is because your boss hated you, not because you were a poor worker.  If you fail your class, its because of your professor's funny accent, not because you didn't do the reading.

4.  Thou shalt be a victim.  The world is out to get you.  Make sure everyone knows how hard your life is and how you've been victimized by sexism, racism, classism, poverty, riches, your parents, your boss, your significant other, "the system", your genetic make up, etc.  Its much easier to evade responsibility if you can pinpoint all of the ways that other people have caused your life to be hard, therefore making it impossible to succeed.

5.  Thou shalt not obey authority.  Everyone in a position of authority is corrupt.  Their aim is to victimize you.  You have a much better idea of how to run your life.

6. Thou shalt feel entitled. The world owes you something, if not everything.  You do not need to work hard or provide for yourself, or take responsibility.  The world needs to pay back the debt of your victimhood, so sit around and complain until they pay up.

7.  Thou shalt not believe in truth.  There is no one real truth, so follow your feelings.  Feelings will never cease to guide you to the right path for your life. If someone breaks the first commandment and dares to challenge you on something in your life, then talk about your feelings and how hard everything is.

8. Thou shalt do what seems right in thine own eyes.  The world would be a much smoother and well run place if everyone did their own thing.  Clearly, each person is the best judge of what is right for their own life, and need not even bend an inch to live up to some higher standard.  So go ahead, plow forth in your own direction, heeding not those you trample on in your way.

9. Thou shalt not feel conviction for sin.  Don't feel bad for what you did.  You were doing the best you could at that time.  Ignore or stuff down any feelings of guilt.  Remember that you make the rules for your own life.  Everything will feel better if you just don't think about your wrongdoings.  Kinda.

10.  Thou shalt honor thy educated people (of choice).  It is clear that educated people are without sin, so you should honor and heed all that they say (if it fits in line with what you already feel on a certain subject).  If you are a university professor, you must be right.  Educated people never have underlying motives, never seek to justify their preconceived notions in their research, never have any selfishness. If the educated individual is a woman or minority, s/he is even more right.  They are seeking the greater good of the world and should always be honored as such.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

June in Our Home

Midway through this month we moved into an apartment complex 3 minutes from our church.  Not only is the rent just over half of what we were paying at our old place, its only about 1/5 of what we paid in California! Another plus is that 8 other families from church live in this complex, giving Esther tons of other kiddo friends to play with.  We also have a little postage stamp sized back yard now, which is just big enough to dry some laundry and give Esther playing room.  And when that's not enough, there are several play sets around the complex within walking distance.

Hudson turned a bit of a corner in June, moving from wanting to be held constantly while awake to playing on the floor or bouncy seat for 10-15 minutes here and there (but still wanting plenty of snuggle time :) ).  He also moved from very little personality to lots of personality.  He's quite smiley, as his sister was at this age, and loves to converse (in oohs and aahs of course). 

This month has been a funky mix of I-feel-like-we-should-be-past-the-newborn-stage, but why-can-I-still-not-get-anything-done-all-day!  I have a never ending list of sewing projects, books to read, blog posts to write, work outs to do, but most days I'm just keeping my head above water with keeping people fed and clothed.  Its meant to increase my trust in God, to keep me humble as I realize how finite I am.  It keeps me repenting as I keep feeling like I could be the perfect mom if only I didn't have these kids to care for!

And it has also been a month of thinking about and looking forward to getting back in to fostering.  We heard from friends who are also foster parents that every single house in our county is at full capacity for foster kiddos.  It breaks my heart and makes me want to sign up tomorrow.  But on the other side, there is fear.  How will fostering affect Hudson and Esther?  What if we adopt a child who never comes to love and know and fear God?  What if we get a very fussy/difficult baby?  What if...?  There is so much to trust God for, to seek him in.

Books I started this month (but yet to finish!)

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austin

Don't Make Me Count to Three! by Ginger Plowman

Monday, June 30, 2014

Christian, why are you playing it safe?

When I talk to people about foster care, the number one thing I hear in response is "I commend you for being a foster parent, but I could never do that.  I would be so sad when the kids leave!"

I get it.  I get that feeling.  I too want to protect my heart.  I want to keep it safe, keep it hidden, keep it close.  I don't want to pour out my love, my time, my energy, never getting any return for it when the kids leave.  I don't want to cry.  I don't want to wonder what their life is like when they are gone.  I don't want to bear the burden of finding out later that after their parents got them back and moved them away, things blew up in their family again and they are back in the system.  And I can't do anything about it.  And I don't even know where they are sleeping at night or who is tucking them in or if anyone is even tucking them in.

I don't want to care.  Because caring hurts.  I would rather ignore the problem and play it safe.
Healing from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 Dare*2*Dream, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

But the reality is that there are almost a half million children in the foster care system in the US today.  More than a third of them are adoptable if someone would step up.  And thinking about these numbers crushes me.  Because I know that it is more than just a massive number, that each precious one has a face, a story, a name.  And I am reminded of this by thinking about the six little ones that we have been able to serve so far in our time as foster parents.  And I know that each one of these nearly 500,000 children is precious, made by God, with potential to know Him and be known by Him.

And then I think about how my God is the Father of the fatherless.  I remember that he has tender care for the orphan, the afflicted and the needy.  And I think about how he has transferred his heart, his compassion for "the least of these" to my heart, and that I need to reflect his love for them by pouring out my life for them.

Most importantly, I remember that Jesus says that he came to bind up the broken hearted.  That implies that it is an expectation that as Christians, our hearts will be broken.  If you do any kind of ministry, any thing to serve others, your heart WILL be broken.  But the good news is: Jesus will bind it up.  And each time he binds up my broken heart, I find that it is actually a better heart than it was before the breaking.

So, Christian, don't play it safe.  Don't keep your heart in a little protective box, away from the sin and dirt of the word.  Put it out there.  Let it get stomped on, kicked around and beaten up.  Because you have the promise that Jesus will bind it up, and the promise that our work for the gospel and the inevitable trials that come with it will be rewarded in heaven.

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Friday, June 27, 2014

On Joy in the Home

How would a visitor describe your home?  How would your children describe your home?  How would your husband describe your home?

By God's grace, all three of these questions would be answered with a description that includes the words, "full of joy."  One of the most important things you can do to build your house is to work hard to make it a joyful home.

Joy from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 John Taylor, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
A home that is full of joy is a display of the gospel.  It is a foretaste of the future joy that we are to experience in Heaven, a taste of the joy that comes from knowing God.

A home that is full of joy is obedient to the repeated commands of scripture to be joyful.

A home that is full of joy rejects the enemy's lie that God isn't good, that pleasure is bad and that joy can wait until Heaven.

A home that is joyful is full of the Holy Spirit, as true joy cannot come apart from the Spirit.

But this doesn't mean that working for joy isn't hard work.

Making a joy filled home is work for me.  As a recovering curmudgeon, my natural bent is towards frugality and stoicism.  Joy takes too much energy, too much time, and too much money.  I want to reserve these things for more important work, for Kingdom work!  But, alas, working for joy IS kingdom work.

"When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
  Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
 The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad." Psalm 126:1-3

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Growing Empathy for Foster Children

I don't love everything about this video.  But I do think it is a great starting place for having empathy for children in the foster care system, which is especially helpful for foster parents dealing with the type of outbursts in the video...

Lord, please raise up more foster parents who love you and foster as ministry!  Please give all of us foster parents abounding love and patience with these precious children.

Monday, June 9, 2014

On Parenting Emotional Toddlers

Recently, a Girl Talk Blog (one of my faves!) did a series on dealing with emotional toddlers.  The timing was good as its something we are working through at the moment.  Here are several of the articles from the series, with a tidbit from each.  I highly recommend reading the whole series:

How Do We Deal with Our Daughter's Emotions? - "Emotions are from God and emotions are for God. Emotions have a purpose. They are to assist and aid us in directing our whole being and our whole lives to the worship of our glorious Savior!
But like everything else about us, our feelings have been corrupted by the fall, and if not “rightly handled” they cause all kinds of problems. If we are inclined to coddle our child’s emotions (giving them too much attention or credibility) or if we try to ignore our child’s emotions, either way they (and we!) will experience the consequences..."
Godly Feeling Flourish Behind Walls of Self-Control - "But a wall of self-control is not like the Berlin Wall, erected to entrap and exclude. It is a wall like that of an ancient city or of a beautiful estate that needs protection in order for the inhabitants to dwell in peace."
Teaching Toddlers Self-Control: A Few Practical Thoughts - "Teaching our little ones how to handle their feelings is some of the “grunt work” of mothering. It doesn’t feel fun, for us or for our kids, but it creates an environment in which we can experience wonderful, bonding, moments with our children. More importantly, we are tilling the ground for gospel seeds..."
When Momma Feels Hopeless - "Raising an emotional child is an emotional experience. I cried a lot in those early years of training Caly. It wasn’t just the lack of sleep or the long, exhausting days or the embarrassing situations, all of which took their toll—most of all it was the feeling of hopelessness that hung over me because all my efforts to teach Caly self-control seemed to be making little or no difference at all.
Consistent Parenting Leads to Self-Control - "Over time, as Caly learned the daily habit of self-control, we were able to expand her horizons. We began to participate in more activities, go on spontaneous outings, and focus on other training issues (such as eating her peas!). Through consistent discipline, Caly acquired the ability to respond with emotional self-control to all kinds of unexpected situations."
"What do you want to feel when you grow up?" - "As Christian parents, we have a grander goal than managing our child’s emotional outbursts: we want our children’s feelings to explode with affection for God.  We want our children to passionately love the Savior, tenderly love others, and serve the Lord with gladness (Ps. 100:2). We want our children’s hearts to be filled with God-glorifying emotions!"
The Playroom as Training Ground for Joy - "But according to Scripture, I should care how my children feel about picking up their toys or taking a bath or doing whatever it is I tell them to do. Scripture cares a lot about how we feel about obeying, and as a parent, I should too.
God commands us not only to give, but to give cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7). We are not just to serve the Lord faithfully, but serve him with gladness (Ps. 100:2).
I am called to teach my children not only to obey, but how to obey cheerfully. “Cheerfulness” is one of the best places to start teaching young children how to handle their feelings..."

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What is Christian Contentment?

Recently I read The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs with some ladies from my church.  The inspiration for this series is largely from that book, and most of these writings are paraphrased or summarized from Burrough's writing in this book.

"I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low and how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:11-13

'Family Christian Stores -- Devoted Duck -- Strength (Philippians 4:13)' photo (c) 2012, Joshua Smith - license:
"I can do all things through him who strengthens me."  This is a beautiful verse, but what does it mean?  Unfortunately this verse is all too commonly taken out of context, as Christians wave it around and print it on t-shirts to show that they can run a marathon or pass their finals or whatever because Jesus gives them strength.  This isn't Paul's intention with writing this at all.

The context of his writing is dealing with hardship and trials in life.  And Paul's trials were more difficult than a marathon, and much harder than the average American Christian will ever face:  
 "Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure." (2 Corinthians 11:24-27 ESV)
But through all of this, he was content.  How? Because he had learned to do all things through him who strengthened him.  This kind of settled state of heart is not possible apart from the grace of God.

What does this kind of contentment look like in the Christian life? Burroughs defines contentment like this:  "Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition" (p. 19).  There are a few things I will point out from this definition.

*It is an inward thing.  Sometimes I am able to keep my mouth from grumbling, because I know that complaining is a sin.  But is my heart content?  Or am I filled with grumbling, bitterness and discontent, though I keep peace outwardly?  This inward malcontent is as evil as outward complaining.

*It is quiet.  This does not exclude making a prayer to God about our burdens, or groaning in the spirit of the Psalmist.  But a quiet heart is sedate and still before the Lord, which is a result of trust in Him.

*It freely submits to God's work.  Have you ever been to a chiropractor? If so, you have probably felt that what the chiro is doing during an adjustment is not natural, potentially painful.  The hardest thing for me is to get my neck adjusted.  Every fiber in my body says that I should tense up and not allow my head to be whipped to the side while my neck crackles up and down my spine.  But I have to force myself to relax, trusting that the chiropractor isn't going to break my neck (and guess what, he never does!), and is actually helping me.

This is what it is like to freely submit to God.  We trust that he is doing good, even when in our eyes, what he is doing seems scary or unwise.  A heart that trusts like this relaxes and freely submits to his work.

*It delights in God's work.  Many times we can look back and praise God for the good he wrought in a past hardship.  But the truly contented heart praises God for what he is doing in a current hardship, even if there is no way to see the good he is bringing out of it at the moment.  Burroughs puts it this way, "The height of this art of contentment to come to this pitch and to be able to say, 'Well, my condition and afflictions are so and so, and very grievous and sore; yet, through God's mercy, I am in a good condition, and the hand of God is good upon me notwithstanding" (p. 34).

He sums it up this way: "Whatever particular afflictions God may place us in, we must be content with them" (p. 37).

What are your current afflictions?  Is your heart at peace or do you grumble about them?  Do you delight in God's work in your life in this trial?  Is your heart still before God in this trial?  Take time to confess and repent of any sin that God reveals in this, and ask him to give you a heart of deep contentment, which is only possible by his grace.

Monday, June 2, 2014

May in Our Home

Hard to believe that this month has already come and gone.  Harder still to believe is that our little man is already 2 months old!  We are starting to get into a rhythm with Hudson, which has made for a fairly predictable nursing and sleep pattern (emphasis on fairly :) ).  I also made an exciting discovery which has made carrying him much easier (he's over 13lb now and getting to heavy for the Moby and sling, but not quite big enough for the Ergo, which is a much more comfortable wear)... I can wear him in the Ergo in a cradle hold position (ie sideways, with his head sticking out of the top but two feet hanging out of one side).  (If you try this, be careful because its not a recommended carrying position by the manufacturer and baby could potentially slide out of the side, but I always wear him snug and usually have one hand resting on him all times to help be aware of his position, so this hasn't been an issue)
The shirt just about sums it up...

Our garden is starting to sprout and grow.  So exciting!  But as our plants grow, so do the weeds.  So, we've also been weeding a lot this month.  But the work is already paying off: we got our first harvest this past week!  The quick growing, cool weather crops are what have come in first: radishes (which didn't do super well because I failed to thin them), lettuce, swiss chard and spinach.  Eating that first salad with baby lettuce greens and radishes was very satisfying.  And delicious. :)

Have you ever tried to get through the day with only three functioning brain cells?  I have.  Or at least that is how this entire month has felt.  A combination of getting to bed late (due to Alex's job), having trouble falling asleep, waking up at night to nurse, choosing not to nap in order to get stuff done around the house, carrying a fussy baby all day, choosing not to drink caffeine to help with aforementioned fussiness and giving all my body's needed nutrients to milk-making has left me feeling like a zombie most of the day.  Each day my to do list barely got touched as looking at it made me want to take a nap.  I know this is normal with a newborn, but I do hope that something changes soon because I'm getting behind in a lot of the big picture homemaking tasks I hope to accomplish (though, thankfully, the small picture tasks of laundry, dishes, cooking, etc are happening).  So, we are still at the point of just making it through the day each day.  I am content with that (for now) but hope it changes soon.

I did manage a small sewing project the last couple days of the month.  Esther has become quite motherly in the past 6 months, and even more so since Hudson was born.  One thing she likes to do is to "change" her stuffed animal's diapers with our cloth diapers.  So I decided to make couple doll sized cloth diapers for her to play with.  I thought she would be really excited about it, but she basically ignored it when I showed it to her after I was done.  Buuut... hopefully she grows into it. :)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Gavin's Birth Story

I am delighted to share this birth story from my friend Jamie.  Not only do I love how she and I connect on so many things- cloth diapering, extended breastfeeding and following Jesus, we also have mirror families, as her daughter was born about 5 weeks before Esther, and her son (whose birth story is below) was born about 5 weeks before Hudson.  I hope you find this story an encouragement, no matter where you are at in life! :)

Our son was due on 2/12/14. At my 39 week appointment, they found that he was no longer in the head down position like he had been for the several weeks prior, but he was now in an oblique (diagonal) position. They threatened C-section if he didn't turn, but were willing to let me go into labor naturally like I did with our daughter Colbie. We started praying that he turn, as well as going on to find ways to have him turn at home- like hanging off the couch upside down. I saw a chiropractor, and went to get acupuncture. I also tried moxabustion! Thankfully, when I went in for my 40th week appointment, he was head down, so they let me be. 

Now I had to worry about when he would come. I told my midwife, Kerry, that I did not want to be induced, so they were going to let me go into labor naturally, as long as I didn't go too far past 41 weeks. So, I again looked online at natural labor induction techniques and decided to try a few harmless ones. I made a fresh pineapple smoothie, ate some spicy salsa, and the night before I went into labor- we went out to Italian and I ate eggplant parmigiana (which was quite delicious!) I hadn't slept well the previous few nights because I was worried about when I would go into labor- if it was the middle of the night how our babysitter would get to our daughter, or if our doula would get here in time. But, Sunday night after the eggplant- I slept wonderfully. Probably the best night of sleep I'd had in a long time. 

When I woke up around 7:20am on Monday, February 17th, 2014- I felt like I was having mild contractions. I immediately texted my doula, Bethany, and our babysitter, Claire, to give them a heads up. It didn't feel like real labor yet, but it was the first regular waves of pain I had experienced, so I wanted them to be on alert- just in case. By 8:30am, I was certain it was real labor. I had showered, eaten breakfast, drank water, and laid down- and the waves were getting stronger. I still wasn't sure how long I would be experiencing them, so no need for Claire and Bethany to come over yet. I did laundry, changed the sheets for Claire and her husband Randy, woke up and fed my daughter breakfast- just kept things normal as possible. At 10:00 or so, I felt like things were maybe getting a bit more intense. It was so hard to tell!! I figured, worst case scenario- Claire and Bethany come over and have to leave...but something in me just told them to come, and they did. I think they both arrived around 10:30am

Bethany started timing my contractions while Claire played with Colbie. My contractions hadn't been lasting the typical 60 seconds, but they were coming consistently at 2.5 mins apart for an hour or more. I was standing for all of them, it was the most comfortable position. I went in to go to the bathroom fairly soon after they arrived, and there was some blood- so I knew this was the real thing. I was having a lot of lower back pain. Bethany told us a trick to look at my lower back for a line coming up from my perineum- and sure enough, it was there! So crazy to see this line that had never been there before. Apparently it can give you a rough estimate as to how far you are dilated or how far the baby has descended. I can't remember exactly, but it was crazy!

Anyhow, I was beginning to feel a lot of pressure down below and decided I wanted to go to the hospital around 11:30. Bethany followed us in her car, and Claire stayed home with Colbie. The 20 minutes to the hospital were AWFUL. I thought I was going to have the baby in the car. SO MUCH PAIN. We got to the hospital and I hurried up to Labor and Delivery while my husband Taka and Bethany parked. Taka came into intake with me, but I immediately started having a contraction and the nurse let me skip all the paperwork and go into the intake room to be checked for dilation. To our surprise, the midwife I had been seeing the whole pregnancy was working! I was so happy. She came in to check me and I was at 9cm!! I was so surprised! It had been painful, but not unbearable. I was so excited that our son was going to be here soon. They rushed me into the delivery room. Some of the nurses commented as I was walking by, "That's the 9??" Apparently I looked pretty good for being that far along!

When we got into the delivery room, the nurses said they needed to take some blood and put in a hep lock, "just in case." I said, "Is that necessary?" They said, "yes." But I guess Kerry had walked in at that point and told them to skip it. Yay! We had been taught at Bradley class that it would be a fight not to get the hep lock, and I didn't even have to fight it. When Bethany told me later that Kerry had told them not to do it, I was so happy.

At this point, I was taking every contraction standing up, leaning on the rolling table they have in each room. It was the most comfortable position. I remember looking at the clock which was annoyingly right in my direct line of view from the bed around 1pm, and hoping our son would beat his sister and be born before 1:50pm because I was feeling the need to push really bad and wanted him out! With Colbie, I only had to push for 15 minutes, so I was hoping Gavin would be quicker! I was wrong. :( I think around 1:00-1:30 or so my legs were just done from standing up, and I wanted to get in the bed to finish pushing. Bethany suggested maybe I try getting on all fours to alleviate some of the back pain I was having. I felt super awkward and I only stayed in that position for one contraction- but it happened to be the contraction that my water broke! It was so crazy. With Colbie, my water didn't break at all. With Gav, I felt super intense back pain when I was on all fours and then all of a sudden this huge POP and water went EVERYWHERE. My hubby wasn't even standing super close to me, and it soaked his shoes and one leg of his jeans. Luckily nobody was behind me or they would have been soaked. It made a huge mess for the nurse to clean up. Once my water broke, it was immediate relief. Well, until the next contraction! It actually felt really nice having the warm amniotic fluid all over my feet and legs when my water broke. Makes me definitely see how people enjoy water births.

Anyhow, I knew that laying on your back was one of the worst positions for laboring, but I still wanted it. Bethany had the nurse get the squat bar, so I could try to labor in a squat position in bed- I probably did that for about an hour. Also, by this point, Kerry had discovered that I had a lip or rim of cervix that was making the whole thing more painful and taking longer. I was feeling like my pushing was ineffective since it was taking so long. Kerry ended up needing to manually push out the lip/rim which was so awful. She had her hand in my cervix during contractions, while I was pushing. Ugh. I ended up putting my legs up in the stirrups because I thought maybe I could push more effectively to try and get rid of this complication. Finally after some hardcore pushing, the lip/rim was gone! After it went away, it only took 3 more pushes and Gavin was here! There was so much excitement in the room once he was coming out. I felt like I had a million cheerleaders. Oh, and speaking of being loud...with Colbie, I don't think I made a single noise. With Gavin, the entire hospital probably could have heard me! I was so loud, but I couldn't help it. It was just such a different experience. When Gavin was born, he had his hand up by his head- yet another thing that caused the labor to be more painful than usual. When I was doing those final 3 pushes, I was just thinking to myself (and maybe even said out loud)- "Get out! Get out!" I was so ready for the labor to be over with. My body felt so beat up.

Like his sister, there was some meconium in the amniotic fluid, so Kerry did a quick suction, while the cord was still attached, and then put him to my chest immediately. I didn't get to hold Colbie until she was all cleaned up. Gavin was on my chest within a minute. I always thought it was a bit gross seeing this vernix and blood covered babies, but Gavin was really clean. And, he was so warm! Kerry let the umbilical cord finish pulsating before having Taka cut the cord right on my chest.

They gave me a shot of pitocin in my arm, which I had originally wanted to decline, but at this point I was so exhausted, I didn't really care. Bethany said it is pretty routine, and helps with hemorrhaging so I just let them do it without a fight. Soon after the placenta was expelled. I could see it laying on a table near the foot of the bed, pretty cool looking. They put it in a bucket and gave it to Bethany to take home. Crazy that some meaty looking part of my body was being sent home in a bucket with someone we barely knew. Bethany had been with us for about 4-5 hours at this point and I knew she was tired too, so we told her she could head home.

They let Gavin lay on my chest and attempt to nurse, and cover me in poop, for what seemed like forever. They said I needed to stay in the delivery room for 2 hours before being sent to the postpartum room, and I held Gavin on my chest for most of that time. He nursed really well, and then they weighed him and measured him and cleaned the poop off of him, did a few tests, etc. Taka was right next to him and I could see him the whole time. They brought me some nasty food to eat, and I drank SO much. Two glasses of orange juice, some other juice they had, and probably 96 ounces of water within an hour. My throat was so sore from all the moaning, etc during labor. I felt like I had been at a rock concert or something.

We went to the postpartum room and started to arrange visitors for the evening. We wanted Colbie to come by asap because we missed her! So, Claire brought Colbie by, and also Taka's dad came by. Good thing he did because he brought us some dinner and I was soooo hungry again already. I felt like I had ran a marathon. That night, the nurses came in every 1-2 hours to test Gavin's glucose level since he was close to being 9lbs. They said that he was a big baby (8lbs 15.5oz) and so they have to keep an eye out for low blood sugar. Ugh. So annoying. We probably only got 2 hours sleep that night with all the nurse visits. We were set on getting out the following day because we wanted to get home to Colbie, so I nursed Gavin as much as possible to keep his blood sugar up and he ended up passing, so we were good to go!

After a bunch of other vitals and tests, we were finally able to go home around 5pm on Tuesday, 2/18/14. Since Gavin was born at 2:51pm the 17th, they wanted him to stay until he was at least 24 hours old. Claire had made us dinner that night at home and we slept so much better our first night than we did at the hospital!