Monday, July 31, 2017

New Mexico's Good Blessing

We said "Goodbye" to Chris/Daddy for the next 5 weeks. He is headed to Kirtland AFB in New Mexico for the second part of his chaplain candidate training for the Air Force. Left Sunday, July 30th and will be back on Sunday, September 3rd (not that I'm counting down the days or anything...)

Chris had a big milestone completed right before he left. On Thursday, July 27th he submitted his final assignment (Greek III class) for his M.Div. degree. He is officially an M.Div. now! I am so proud of him for finishing and for pursuing the desires that God has given to him to serve as a chaplain. He is truly a blessing to me and to our family, and I am honored to be his wife.

Friday night was "date night" for the girls. They picked a movie with Daddy (The Lego Movie) and we all ate popcorn and watched the movie together. Heidi served as our photographer. Now that she has figured out how to open my camera from the lock screen it is one of her favorite things to do. She told us how to pose ("Mommy you get close to Daddy and lay like this", "Sophie you get next to Mommy", "Say CHEESE!") and she got some semi-decent shots, for it being a dark room. She even handed me her Pooh Bear for poses. After the movie was over I went to bed and they slept on the couch together with Chris. Sophia is one of those "immediately falls asleep" kind of people so she was asleep right away; Heidi was up until about midnight watching "Do-do-do-do-do-Dora" (she never says, "Dora" by itself; she always includes the "dos").

On Saturday morning my mother-in-law watched the girls so we could go on a breakfast date. We went to our favorite breakfast spot, Jensen's, followed by a romantic time at the DVS (Department of Vehicle Services) to get a title changed for my car (Yay!). It was about 45 minutes in line; apparently they have had significant computer issues and there was one DVS in the entire state doing Titles that morning...and it was the one near us. It was quite the line. After that we did some shopping at the Outlet mall, and fixed the tire on Sophia's bike. All-in-all a very productive and fun morning. Fun in the sense that I recognize I could have been at the DVS with three small children instead of Chris; that made it much more bearable.

We had a quiet evening at home; Chris smoked some good dinner and packed and we got the kids to bed before playing a round of Tokaido (I crushed him - a rarity; with my highest score ever of 98).

The next morning, Sunday, was full of tears for me. We got him all loaded up in the car and drove him to the airport before heading for church. I have such a wonderful and supportive church family; it seems like everyone has offered their help and prayers. But, of course, every time someone asked how I was doing I just about started crying all over again. As Erica said, each day is one day closer to him coming home!

My prayer is that he serves God and his country well. I have no doubt that he will; I am eager to hear about the experiences as a base chaplain. And eager to go out there and celebrate our late anniversary! I know that while we are sad for his absence, Kirtland will benefit from him being there, and he will benefit as well.

Gifted photographer ;)
The pictures from here and above are Heidi's "artistry"
Our romantic DVS date
Another Heidi selfie
Copper photo bomb

Friday, July 28, 2017

"Love, Mommy"

Have you ever been to a funeral for an infant? I pray that it is never something that you experience.

Last week, there was a day that changed the lives of two of God's people forever. A couple in my church were expecting a baby girl, with a due date of July 25th. At a 39-week, standard follow-up appointment, the heartbeat for their daughter was not found.

I had a friend over for the afternoon and so had not checked my phone so I was alerted by voicemail. But I don't think I will ever forget the voicemail that said "they lost the baby." My heart sank, my finger tips went numb, and I was in a sort of shock.

I can only imagine, only, what was going on through the minds of her parents. It is not a burden I have had to bear. But I looked at my girls through different eyes that day; while I often thank God for them I will admit that I take their lives for granted. I wake up to them. I expect them to be there, to hear their voices, see their play. But life is a vapor, and far from guaranteed though (as I've recently said before) health gives us the illusion of independence and autonomy.

Chris and I went to visit with this couple the day their daughter was born. She was sent home after the initial discovery, and was going to be induced later but labor started spontaneously and early the next morning their daughter was born. But no cry was heard. No life was there. She had been safe with Jesus for a little while.  My heart aches and feels empty at just imagining birthing a baby that is no longer on earth with us.

When we arrived, I hugged and cried with her mother. There is no other response I can think of; there are no words I can offer. I just wanted to be there. When I was hugging her and crying with her, I was floored by her response, "it certainly wasn't what we planned."  This is amazing, and beautiful. You can hear the "but" coming at the end of that statement. It wasn't what we planned, but... They are clinging to Christ.  The response that it wasn't what they had planned points to a bigger picture, points to a savior that is omniscient and sovereign.  While the loss of their daughter is painful, and they are full of deep mourning, their response shows that they are acknowledging a powerful God. Who can know the mind of God? Who can understand His depths?  I can only pray that when I encounter trials, I can respond to them the way that this couple has.

The funeral was overwhelming. A funeral for an infant hurts; at the very gut-level all you can think to say is "this isn't right."  It doesn't seem fair! It doesn't seem right! How does one respond to this? As Pastor has said, "we mourn, but not as those without hope." They grieve the loss of their daughter. They grieve the memories they were looking forward to. As her Dad said, he has lost the experience of walking his daughter down the aisle; a lifetime of hopes and dreams vanished. But they are not hopeless.  Their anguish and their response points to Christ.

Romans 8:18-22 says "18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now."

The creation groans. This is not what we were made for. The pains of childbirth are so fresh for a mother who is not comforted by an infant. Her body will still experience signs as though a child were born; it will prepare to feed a child that is not physically with us. There is anguish, groaning, and eager longing for something better.  An occurrence like this is a stark contrast to life as we picture it should be. The world we live in, a world tainted by sin, is so ugly and so far from what God designed it to be. Sin destroys life, and we mourn when we see that destruction because it wasn't originally intended to be. Deep within us it doesn't sit right. The consequences of sin are painful and agonizing.

But God. God didn't leave us to the consequences of our sin and death. He provided a way of salvation. He experienced the death of his own son to bring us to him. Our God knows the pain of these parents. He knows the experience of a loss of a child. His perfect, sinless son was tormented, mocked, and faced a brutal death that He did not deserve so that he could die for the sins we commit.

At the funeral, Pastor read a statement that her mother had written. It was not a statement of anger. It was not a statement of bitterness. It was a statement of mournful joy. Those two sentiments can exist together. She was grateful to God for the 39 weeks and 2 days that she had with her daughter inside of her. She was looking forward to seeing her again in eternity. She is mourning the life that she had planned on; mourning the experiences she had hoped for with her daughter. But she mourns with the knowledge that she will see her daughter again. She knows that her daughter is not experiencing pain. She knows that her daughter will not experience pain of this life. She knows that her daughter is resting with Jesus, not suffering.  The end of the letter said, "Love, Mommy."  Mommy. A sweet name that she will never hear her daughter say, but she loves her daughter with the sincere and unconditional love of a mother.

It is fair to say that there was not a dry eye. At the end we sang a song with her daughter's name as part of the Hymn. I don't know how others were able to sing. I just sobbed. It is not possible for me to imagine that pain, but I am so blessed and encouraged by the response her parents have had to her passing. Their responses from very early on are pointing to a loving and sovereign God. We cannot understand the mind of God, but we can know that his plans for us are good. He has experienced the death of His son, as a sacrifice for people who continue to reject Him. We can rest in the love of our savior.

Spiritual Warfare

Last Thursday was a day full of events. I certainly believe that the spiritual battle over abortion is a very real battle, and there are few times where I can actually feel spiritual warfare as I can when I am engaged in activities that are in favor of the sanctity of human life.

I will give an example from my day.

I had spoken with a local sidewalk counselor about observing and receiving training in sidewalk counseling. If you are unfamiliar with this, a sidewalk counselor stands in front of abortion clinics and speaks to women who are pursuing abortions who may not know about other options. They equip women with truthful real information, and provide practical, tangible help. They direct women to shelters that can provide housing, and connect women with donors who can provide temporary shelter if they are in an abusive relationship. They connect women with people who can provide them with tangible things for a new baby, such a cribs and strollers, diapers, wipes, and baby clothing. They direct them to where they can receive help throughout the entirety of their pregnancy and beyond, whether they decide to raise the baby on their own or give the baby up for adoption.

I have been intrigued about sidewalk counseling for a while but was unaware of the close connection at my church until recently. I decided to follow through with it. For several weeks in a row, odd events came up that prevented my going to observe sidewalk counseling.

Eventually, I finally had the opportunity to do sidewalk counseling. I lined up a sitter for the girls and was prepared to go. I was planning to go my day off, Thursday. When I was driving home from work on Wednesday I needed to stop and get gas in my car. I realized I had left my wallet at work when I was almost home. I never take my wallet out of my purse at work but I had on Wednesday because I needed to get my skymiles number (long story). I forgot to put it back in. So I borrowed a credit card from Chris to go get gas on Thursday morning. On my way out of the door Thursday morning, with his credit card in hand, I am ready to go and then realize his credit card is missing. Somewhere between my house and my car I manage to lose Chris' card.  There was fortunately another back up inside that had not made it to Chris' wallet. But by the time I searched around, etc. I was over 15 minutes late leaving my house and didn't have time to pick up my wallet.

Spiritual warfare. Road block after little road block was placed in my way, for weeks in a row, in an attempt to stop sidewalk counseling from taking place. You had better believe I was doing a lot of praying that morning. (As an aside: I found the card lying on the console in the middle of my car a few days later. Like it just magically materialized).

I arrived in front of the abortion clinic and the ground rules were laid down for me. There are lines in the sidewalk in front of the building that I am barred from crossing. Often there will be an escort to direct women inside. The tension in front of the building was palpable. Ten abortions are performed at this clinic in Minneapolis daily, and they do them through 23 weeks and 9 days gestation. That is past viability. That is past when most mothers can feel the baby moving. And of those abortions, statistics state that most of them are performed for financial reasons, and many others because the pregnancy occurred at an inconvenient time. Less than one percent fall into the category of rape, incest, abuse, or life of the mother is at risk.

I was accompanied by a veteran of sidewalk counseling, my trainer for the day, and a local young church planter/pastor.

There was one occasion where young women walking by cussed us out. Just one.

There was another occasion where a young woman, with a 4 year old son, was going in for a consultation. She was in an abusive relationship and didn't want to carry the child for that reason. She stated that she felt abortion was wrong, and that she didn't want to do it. It was against her particular faith. But she felt as though she had no other option. She was coerced into the abortion because she wouldn't have family support if she announced an unplanned pregnancy out of wedlock (her older child was with her ex-husband). This made my heart break. This woman felt she had no other option, and nowhere to turn. This, this, is why sidewalk counseling is important. Because this woman was lied to. She was hurting. She was broken. And she didn't know what options were available to her. The whole time we were speaking to her I was praying. God, let her see she isn't stuck. God, let her know she is safe, and not alone, and that the created life you gave to her is just that: a life. God, help her to know that the child inside of her is just as much her child as the one who calls her Mama today.

It was a powerful experience, one I hope I have the occasion to repeat. Something struck me when I was speaking with the pastor who was out there as well. He strongly dislikes sidewalk counseling. He doesn't do it because he enjoys it or finds it a fulfilling ministry. He does it because he is called to it. He has compassion on these people. He wishes it didn't have to be done, but we live in a world where it is necessary.

This experience weighed on me throughout the day.  We are told throughout scripture of this spiritual warfare we will face. At times we are told to "gird up our loins," that passions will "wage war" for our souls, that we should "put on the armor of God." All images of battle, and for a very good reason. The battle is real and is ongoing. Christ will be the reigning King, but while we are here on earth we will always fight against the passions of sin that call for us, offering promises of security, simplicity, ease, when they only bring emptiness and confusion.


Monday, July 24, 2017

HEIDI BOO is 3!

This girl. My second daughter. The middle child. More personality in her pinky than some people have in their entire person. She is a strong, sassy, but secretly tender-hearted girl who is now three years old! (Actually as of this writing, she isn't officially three yet because that isn't until 10:42 a.m.)

And...now she's officially three!

She picked a Pooh Bear-themed birthday party this year, which is just wonderful. Originally she wanted a Cinderella party, and then a Batman party. At some point it was an airplane party, and then a Minnie Mouse party. She also tossed around the idea of an Elena of Avalor party.  I was just fine with any of them (though, the Batman color scheme would have been a new one in our house) but ultimately she settled on Pooh Bear. 

I think I am reaching the point where I'm (sort of) over cutesy themes. Because it's a lot of work. But we'll see what happens with Bethany's. For Heidi's first birthday party (also Pooh themed) I had "tigger tails" (chocolate covered pretzels) and "piglets in a blanket" and went all crazy. This year I asked her what she wanted (pizza) and used our existing Pooh Bears (plus added some to the collection) for decor. Ok. So I'm not exactly over it because I did make her a Pooh Bear pillowcase dress. 

The pizza was pretty successful. I made lots of pizza dough (four recipes, I will post it next blog) and sauce from scratch, and then basically did a "pizza bar" where you could add all of your own toppings. My thinking was that it would simultaneously be the activity and the dinner. We had the smoker going with pizza stones on it and traded off putting the pizzas on. They turned out great - I may try to do this for everyone's party forever. The Carpenter's and Erica and Dan and Heidi and Oma came. She had a blast - "everyone is here for my birfday!" 

The kids got out the sprinkler and pool and halfway through the party changed into swimming suits. Heidi, still learning about modesty, came outside and down the deck stairs stark naked, asking me if I could help her change into her swimming suit. Eek! We're working on propriety still. She got some fun stuffed toys and vet kit and giant bouncing balls and chalk and balloons and a step-on piano but I think her favorite thing was the Elena of Avalor bandaids that Erica bought. Why do I get things other than chapstick and bandaids? From now on, that'll fill the stocking or be the birthday gifts!

From us, she got a giant Pooh Bear, like her normal lovey Pooh with the fuzzy/curly fur but like 30" tall or something. And, my favorite, a giant back of marshmallow cereal marshmallows (Lucky Charms without the cereal part)! I found a two pound bag on Amazon for just over $10 and couldn't resist. 

My Heidi Boo is just a smart, sweet girl who oozes personality. I am so excited to see where she goes in life. We give her a hard time about being the tough girl, but she has her tender moments, too. She adores Sophia ("Heidi, what's your favorite animal?" "Whatever Sophie's is!") and loves to play with her dolls. She gets kind of freaked out by sprinklers and bumper cars, but is an energizer bunny that never quits! She is so naturally athletic and seems to pick up things (riding bikes, climbing, even swimming) with ease. She's also very smart and can count to 20 (usually without skipping numbers) and can recognize most of her alphabet. She can even write some letters. Heidi basically potty trained herself about a month ago. We have had a few accidents but she really just decided she wanted to wear underwear and that was that. I bought some pull-ups for the night time and she doesn't even want to wear those; I went through maybe 10 pull-ups out of a giant box and she's over it, already wearing underwear to bed. 

She has a quick temper, and knows James 1:19 by heart ("quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger") and the fruit of the spirit for all the times that we've talked about it with her. And she is getting better. She can be quick to strike or yell at or accuse her sisters. But I've witnessed her go to take action for a "wrong" done to her, and then catch herself. It is so interesting because while I can be quick to anger as well, I think I am perhaps better at hiding it (the advantage of age) but her personality almost exactly mirrors Chris. Those two are little peas in a pod. It makes it almost harder to discipline her compared to her sister, because Sophia and I have more similarities, which means we have similar weaknesses, which means it's easier for me to address the weaknesses. But she enjoys being with her sisters and lately one of her favorite things to do is get Bethany to chase her around the house. Bethany thinks it's hilarious and will stumble after Heidi, trying to run but not really able to, and slow to turn around, often falling on her diaper butt, while Heidi runs by laughing and playing. 

She hasn't mastered being "Minnesota Nice" which is refreshing. Heidi will tell you how it is and isn't going to be a people-pleaser about it. Probably a strength overall given that most people tend to lean towards people pleasing. "Give me a hug, Heidi?" "No." At night, she's been teasing me a lot lately because I'll give her a kiss goodnight and she'll wipe it off, look at me and say, "I wiped the kiss off!" But then I'll give her two more, and she'll laugh and wipe those off, and the game will continue until one of us gives up.  One of her Pooh Bears was knocked down from his seated position on the table at her party, and she asked Uncle Dan to set it upright, and then proceeded to tell him how he was doing it wrong. Delegation skills, already. Now we just have to add a little sugar to the spice. :)

Each child is very different. And it has been apparent with Heidi since her birth that her personality was a polar opposite to her older sister's. With Heidi the challenge is working on a temper, treating others with genuine kindness and affection, and directing her energy towards honoring God. She's a fast and eager learner, and I look forward to teaching principles to her that can hopefully help her to navigate and follow God's word. I love my sweet girl so very dearly, and I am so happy for the time that God has given to us with her. I look forward to watching her learn and grow.

She loves to do "smile faces" (what she calls Snapchat)
They found a giant beetle and were showing it around (ewwwww)

Friday, July 21, 2017

11 Months!

Really? 11 months? My baby is almost 1 year old. I think time is like a train that is picking up speed. It only seems to move faster.

Bethany Grace, my spunky, goofy, beautiful little redhead. She has had quite an exciting month, too!

She is officially weaned off of the breast; this morning was the last time I will breastfeed her in all likelihood; I hadn't fed her for 2 or 3 days prior to this morning but my milk came in a couple of times yesterday and then early this morning so I wanted to get everything all out of there. She has been doing well with a bottle (finally; now that it isn't available straight from the source anymore) and has been enjoying still taking her evening bottle right before bed time. As it was with Heidi, there is plenty of milk to last her a couple more months, and perhaps longer. I will likely end up donating some again.

Bethany attended her first soccer game this month. I can't say she was enthralled, but she did well while we were there.

Aunt Meghan and Uncle Stephen also visited during this month, so she got some good playing time in with her cousins Claire and Jane. She also had Papa visit later on, with a surprise and last-minute visit by Nana as well! Bonus visit!

She has been developing a love for water. Her growing independence and balance with walking has taken her little feet right into the kiddie pool. She is able to get her little legs up and over the edge and get inside of the pool. She loves splashing around in there and I have changed many soaking wet outfits and 5 pound diapers because she wasn't really dressed for the pool but was in it anyway. She also had a great time at the beach and I really had to restrain her from just launching her little body into the water.

Walking is going so great she's trying to move on to bigger and better things. She tries to run and loves chasing her sisters around. She can also climb onto the little yellow rocking chair without problem. She'll sit herself up and rock herself on the chair, which she finds very amusing. She'll also try to stand up on the chair, facing the back, and then rock it which gives me all kinds of anxiety.

She's picking up house chores, too. She loves to help me unload the dishwasher and will hand me all of the silverware one piece at a time, a smile on her face each time she does it.

Dog food is still Bethany's down fall. She will shovel a handful in her mouth if she knows I'm not looking and then when I catch her she will spit all of it out. And not just a gentle spit, she'll stick her tongue out and blow raspberries over and over again to get each piece out.

She is probably my biggest "sleep eater". She likes to eat, and gets hangry, but will also eat while tired to the point where she's falling asleep in her high chair but still trying to get her hands to her mouth with food in them. It's happened multiple times.

She officially has four teeth. The two middle bottom ones, the one to her left of those on the bottom, and the top one on the right. How many kids do I have to have before I recognize teething? The poor girl woke up on Friday night screaming in pain, screaming. And normally if she wakes up in the night I can go in and pat her back and she'll go back to sleep. But this time I picked her up and she wasn't settling down. I walked her and she was still screaming. Eventually, Chris took over and the two of them watched a documentary on Martin Luther (they both fell asleep but Chris may have before Bethany). The next morning at the farmer's market she looked up at me in the baby carrier and smiled and in the top gumline I could see the white lines of a big top tooth poking through. Bad Mom moment - sorry Bethany!

Her favorite foods are probably still most fruits. She loves blueberries and bananas. She also likes ground meat and small veggies (peas, corn), and beans. She isn't crazy about ice cream; she does like it but doesn't really like popsicles all that much. Which I thought was strange. She loves eating watermelon off of the rind but not when it is already cut up in small pieces for her.

One of her new favorite skills is to wave goodbye. She hears "bye" or "hi" and she'll put her little hand up and clench her fist and open it back and forth to wave.

Looking forward to her first birthday celebration! I thank God for the happy, sweet, goofy, beautiful gift He gave to us in our Bethany.

Favorite toy!

Showing her little waving skills