One Year of Thankful

Last Wednesday was my twenty-sixth birthday. Reflective person that I am, birthdays always cause me to think back over the past year and notice any blessings, hardships, lessons, or changes in my life. So this year, as I took some time to reflect, I came to a conclusion.

My twenty-sixth year was the hardest one yet.

From moves to job changes to NICU trauma, the year was full of hard things, harder things than I’ve ever gone through before. I started to wonder…was it a particularly hard year? Or is life just hard and I’m noticing it for the first time? It was a depressing thought, but I really was wondering if being a grown up is just plain old hard and I need to get used to it.

Whether it was a hard year or this is a hard life, I decided that I need to work a little more at thoroughly soaking up and enjoying my blessings, and thanking God for them. So I made a resolution. For my twenty-seventh year I want to be more purposefully thankful, deeply thankful.

This is nothing new, I know. But for this year I’m going to try to record one thing for which I am thankful every day. And, since I’m a visual person, I’m going to take a picture for each day, so I can easily look back and literally see some of my favorite blessings. I’m not sure how often I’ll share these on this blog, but I thought I could at least share a few to start.

God is good, all the time, whether life is hard or not. But God has also been so good as to fill my life with blessings. So call them gifts, or Edelweiss, or blessings, or silver linings, or woodchips or flowers…but here we go.

Day 1 – A fresh new year ahead to walk with the Lord

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Day 2 – A husband who will stop at nothing to make my birthday special and show me I am loved

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Day 3 – The opportunity and creativity to redo Lydia’s room, and enjoy the process

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Day 4 – Even when our plans don’t work out well, Dan and I can laugh about it together and still create happy memories

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Day 5 – My first real workout run to train for a 5K

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Day 6 – Dan doesn’t have unreasonable expectations. He sympathizes with the challenges of my job and helps me prioritize. Then he is pleased with the things I do and doesn’t care about the things I don’t get done.

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Day 7 – Watching my girls play together

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Day 8 – A gradual start to an early morning

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Eight days down…357 to go!

This is Love

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A few nights ago I was up at three in the morning with Abby. Dan had taken a few days off of work when Abby came home but he went back on Thursday and Friday, and he had asked me to start taking over all of the night time feedings, which was what both of us had planned on happening all along.

But I was so tired. As I sat in the glider with Abby my mind drifted off to all of the couples I have seen lately who have recently become engaged, or married, or celebrated their first wedding anniversaries. According to their Facebook pages their days and nights have been quite full with a lot of dates, love letters, flowers, and special time together.

My mind drifted through Dan and my own early days of marriage, then fast-forwarded to the past few months. We spent almost three long months with Abby in the hospital. At times, it felt like one long nightmare. Three emotional, exhausting, painful, long months. There wasn’t time, energy, or money for flowers or chocolate or date nights. We didn’t even have a free moment to just sit together on our couch.

And now Abby is home. Things are happier and much less crazy. Our house is cleaner than it has been since we moved in. But things are still busy, as any mother of two or more would surely understand. And once again there has been no time, money, or energy for date nights or flowers or love letters…you get the idea.

So as I sat there with Abby, so tired, thinking about all these latest events in my life and others, I was struggling to have a good attitude. I began to pray.

God reminded me of the reasons I married Dan. And I remembered my first joy I at being the one who gets to serve him for the rest of his life. I remembered how Eve was created to be Adam’s helper, and how that’s my main job today. And then God brought to mind a passage from Philippians:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

It occurred to me then, that this is true love. It isn’t always happy, or easy, or pretty. This is how Jesus loved us. He humbled himself, came to earth, suffered, was rejected, and died. If this is God’s great example of love, then I can follow His example in how I love Dan. So even when there’s no money for flowers, no time for date nights, and no energy to stay up a few minutes longer together and talk at night, I can still love Dan like Jesus did.

During the late nights, the hard work, and the times apart I can still demonstrate real love to Dan.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the other stuff.

I know it’s an old lesson, and I’ll probably need to learn it again. But it was a good one I thought worth sharing. I made it through the three AM feeding with a song in my heart and a smile (a sleepy smile, that is) on my face. And a couple of nights later the girls were asleep and Dan and I, for the first time in a long time, had the time and energy to sit together on our couch chatting and looking at the lights on our newly decorated Christmas tree.

Abby Update: 18 Days Old

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Weight: Almost 2 pounds, 15 ounces
Feedings: 25 milliliters fortified to 24 cal every 3 hours given over the course of 1 1/2 hours

This week Abby is just making slow and steady progress. Now that she is off the breathing support and has reached full feedings, she really just needs to keep doing what she’s doing and gain weight. Once she reaches 32 weeks, she’ll be allowed to start learning to nurse (although it will probably take two or three weeks before she “gets it”). Until then, this Saturday, no news is good news.

Abby has continued to spit up at the end of her feedings. On top of that, her blood sugars were starting to drop. So the nurses began to check her blood sugars a couple of times a day. This weekend they extended her feedings to stretch over 1 1/2 hours to try to help the blood sugar issue. Dan and I were just thinking today that Abby is literally eating half of the time! Today her blood sugar levels were nice and high so tomorrow she will probably go back to hour long feeds. As for the spit up issue, she continues to spit up, especially if we move her at all, but the amount is small and no one is really concerned.

For about the past week Abby has only been gaining about 15 grams (half and ounce) every two days. Now that she is getting 25 ml every three hours and it’s being fortified to 24 calories, she is expected to gain faster. Since the last weight check (they weigh every other day) she gained 45 grams (about an ounce and a half) which is much better.

On Friday Abigail reached the age at which Lydia was born. I pulled out Lydia’s NICU scrapbook and have been reading my updates that correspond to Abby’s current age. Contrary to how things have seemed to us, Abby is not progressing faster than Lydia. In fact, they’re pretty much at the same pace. However, with a busier schedule and a toddler to chase around, time seems to be going faster this time. And Dan and I were commenting that, although we never would have expected to say this a couple of years ago, Abby makes Lydia look like a chubby baby. Hopefully that won’t be the case for long!

As for the rest of us, we’re doing much better than we were a week ago. Dan’s Mom came down last Wednesday and stocked us up on some fresh produce. Then, his Aunt Debbie joined her on Thursday and together they unpacked us and moved us in. This is the second time we’ve had a baby in the NICU and had to have others move us in and it is SUCH a blessing. Now we don’t have to go home to boxes and dig around to find our stuff.

Our NICU Routine

How do you manage parenting a toddler and spending time with a NICU preemie? Leading up to Abby’s birth I really thought this would be completely impossible. When Lydia was in the NICU we were busy enough, never eating regular meals, never getting to the grocery store, never getting any sleep…however God gives us the grace we need to meet our present needs. Three different families are taking turns watching Lydia from Sundays through Fridays and we keep her all day on Saturdays. For a family that never left Lydia with anyone ever, it’s a little strange to pack her a lunch and drop her off at someone else’s house, but we are grateful for the help. Another family is picking up fresh produce for us once a week and bringing it to us at church. We’ve put together a weekly meal plan and have actually been able to sit down together for dinner almost every night. Other families have helped by bringing food, gift cards, and gifts for Abby. We certainly would be floundering without our family and church family.

Others have asked how they can help. At the moment the best thing anyone can do for us is pray. For those who are able, we do enjoy having visitors and showing off our tiny bundle. I’ll post the times we are usually at the hospital and available for visitors, but it’s always best to give us a call ahead of time to make sure we’ll be here so you don’t waste a trip. The bold times are when we have Lydia with us and are easier times for us to have visitors as we probably won’t be holding Abby during those times. (Getting to hold Abby is quite the process. We have to get her out of her isolette with all those wires and wrap her up in warm blankets with Mom or Dad. Then she gets her feeding while we hold for an hour or more. We usually don’t have people in to visit while we are holding.)

Sunday: 1:30 PM – 2:30 PM (we come right from church) and 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
Monday: 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM and 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
Tuesday: 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM and 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM
Wednesday: 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM and 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM
Thursday: 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM and 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
Friday: 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM and 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM
Saturday: 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM and 4:30 PM – 6:30 PM

Praise the Lord
We are thanking the Lord for:
-Abby’s continued progress with no major bumps in the road yet
-generous friends and family who have helped and are helping with moving, food, and watching Lydia
-a more relaxed pace as we settle into a routine
-a sweet husband who has been sacrificing his turns to hold Abby and letting me hold her instead (he says it’s “good for a Mommy’s heart)

Please Pray
-that Abby would gain weight and that spitting up would not be a problem
-for continued healing for me…it takes a long time to recover from a c-section, I am learning
-for strength, energy, and endurance for all of us as this is a tiring lifestyle

Abby Update: 2 Weeks Old

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Weight: 2 pounds, 13 ½ ounces
Feedings: 23 mililiters fortified to 22 cal every 3 hours given over the course of 1 hour

Abby keeps on cruising along. Preemies are given lipids and TPN through a PICC line. The lipids are basically fat. The TPN is basically food. As Abby has increased her feeding amounts each day, she has needed less and less of the lipids and TPN. On Sunday the doctor gave orders to stop lipids and on Monday her TPN was replaced with clear fluid. Yesterday they took out her PICC line! So now little Abby only has a feeding tube and the leads that monitor her breathing, heart rate, and oxygen level.

Yesterday the nurses started to feed Abby by connecting her food syringe to a pump that slowly gives her the food over the course of half and hour. Today they slowed it to one hour. Previously the food was just “plunged” in the syringe and given to her by gravity. However, research seems to show that babies do better with the slower, consistent rate of food being given using the pump. We’re hoping this helps reduce the amount of milk Abby is spitting up. Preemies often develop reflux, so it’s not terrible if she does too, but we’re hoping to pump will help.

Now that Abby has reached her “full feed” amount of milk, she has started receiving fortified milk. This means that formula is added to the milk to give it extra calories and is pretty typical for every preemie. We’ll wait and see over the next few days to find out how much weight she starts to gain with full feeds and fortified milk.

As for the rest of us, thank you all for your prayers! Yesterday as I held Abby I was so filled with thankfulness and peace as I reflected on God’s leading in all of this. What a change that was from a few nights ago! I am encouraged to think that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed” and also that our trials and suffering produce perseverance, character, and hope. I have also been thinking about how God definitely does give us more than we can handle on our own, but never more than we can handle with His help. God has been helping us and the past couple of days have been so much better. We are so thankful.

On Monday night, a couple from church came over to babysit while Lydia slept and Dan and I got to spend some nice time alone with Abby. Dan also started going in to work for a few hours on Monday and Lydia and I have been surviving alright without him. Since I’m not able to lift Lydia for two more weeks, I’ve been building “stairs” up to her high chair and crib for lunch and nap times. The first day was rough at nap time, but she’s figuring things out and cooperating very sweetly.

We are growing more and more certain that Dan’s nausea was due to stress, lack of sleep, and irregular meals. As we continue to adjust and figure out a routine all of those things have been starting to improve. I am enjoying our new apartment a lot already, even without having unpacked anything yet, and Lydia loves it here now that Dan has started taking her to the pond to feed the ducks every day or so. Since we expect to spend another 6-10 weeks in the NICU and then have a newborn at home, we know that we’ll be sleep deprived for quite a while (though I, at least, get a nap a day when Lydia naps) so if anyone has any tips for keeping our energy up besides drinking caffeine, we’re all ears!

Praise the Lord
We are thanking God for:
-Abby’s continued progress, that she is off her PICC line and continuing to breath well
-a new normal, settling into some sort of structure and no longer feeling quite like chickens running around with our heads cut off
-an apartment that is already feeling like home (to me) and doesn’t appear to be the cause of Dan’s illness
-that our first little munchkin has done so well with an irregular schedule, lots of different babysitters, late bed times, and less play time with Mommy and Daddy
-generous friends who have offered help in so many ways: watching Lydia, providing healthy food and gift cards, and so many who are praying

Please Pray
-that Abby would gain weight quickly, continue to breath and digest well, and not have problems with reflux
-for a more consistent routine for us
-for strength as we are both (Dan and I) very tired

Abigail’s Birth Story

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Ever since Lydia was born two years ago, I have enjoyed hearing others’ birth stories. Some are encouraging, inspiring, or at times, intimidating, but all have been useful in preparing me for another birth. So now, I’m going to take my own turn to share Abby’s birth story. So here is my disclaimer: this is going to be long (for the most part) unedited. If you don’t enjoy hearing lots of medical sorts of details, this post may not be for you.

The weekend of September 6-8, God began to prepare us for Abby’s birth. I originally had scheduled my next prenatal appointment for September 11th, which turned out to be Abby’s birthday. However, the week before she was born I suspected that I had developed an infection and we scheduled a quick appointment for Friday, September 6. The infection turned out to be nothing serious, and nothing that would affect Baby. During the appointment, our midwife decided to go ahead with the normal prenatal care instead of waiting until the next Wednesday. Because Lydia was born early, the doctors had been periodically doing ultrasounds to measure the length of the cervix. A shortening cervix is an indication that labor could start soon. All of our previous measurements had been around 4.5 cm, but this time it was only 2.5 cm. While still within the range of normal, Dan and I were concerned at such a large change in just a few weeks. Our midwife wasn’t concerned, so we scheduled the next visit to take place in two weeks, and headed home.

On our drive home, Dan and I discussed the unusual change in length. I decided to research it a little bit, but couldn’t find anything conclusive. I sent out messages to friends and family asking for prayer. Dan and I started to wonder if perhaps Baby would surprise us by coming early…again. On Saturday, Dan and I decided to take our belated anniversary date in fear that it might be our last chance before Baby was born (and we were right!). Sunday I had a long talk with a friend at church who happens to be a midwife. After hearing the details of my situation, she also was concerned and recommended I try to stay off my feet as much as possible.

Also during the weekend, a couple different families offered to watch Lydia, should I go in to early labor. Everything was falling into place so that if Baby came, we were ready (as ready as we could be).

The next few days I stayed off my feet as much as I could. Dan took over all of my chores and I made a little calendar countdown to 36 weeks, my goal for Baby 2. We decided that each Saturday we made it without having Baby, we would reward ourselves with a treat. Still, we kept talking about how we were mentally preparing for Baby to come.

Dan and I were hoping for another natural delivery with this baby, and I was reading up on all that goes on during labor, ways to handle the contractions, and how Dad can be a good coach. Dan doesn’t do well with medical things so I was taking notes to make him a little cheat sheet with the things I felt he should know and the different ways he could be helping me. Tuesday night, I stayed up late reading over some of this material, taking lots of notes. In fact, I stayed up far later than I should have, and it was close to midnight before I was ready for bed.

Tuesday had been a strange day for me. I wasn’t sure if it was just the strangeness of staying off my feet for a few days in a row, or something else. I had started taking two naps a day, and during my afternoon nap I felt Baby moving like crazy and in positions I hadn’t felt her in before. In the evening we decided to run to the grocery store as the rest of our week was looking pretty busy. I went along for the ride, but stayed in the car while Dan and Lydia went in. Dan came out with some “extras” that hadn’t been on my list: a beautiful bouquet of flowers for me, some tasty snack food, and a frozen dessert treat, which we were calling the treat for the coming Saturday, assuming Baby wasn’t born yet. Then we had gone home, tucked in Lydia, and stayed up late reading. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite “right”, so after I got ready for bed, I stayed up for about 10 minutes reading about the signs of labor, trying to find some correlation to the strangeness I had been feeling all day. I couldn’t find anything definitive, so when Dan came in, we prayed together and then I went to sleep.

12:00 AM, September 11
Ten minutes later, I felt a huge gush of liquid and realized with dread that my water had broken. For a moment I wondered if I could have just wet the bed, but I got up and ran to the bathroom. By the time I was fully awake I knew Baby was coming and I burst into tears. Scared and shaking and wishing this wasn’t happening I yelled for Dan. He came toward the bathroom asking what was wrong and I told him: “My water just broke!”

I was losing amniotic fluid like crazy, so I just stayed in the bathroom, giving Dan instructions on what to pack for me and asking him, “What are we going to do with Lydia?” I was trying to keep it together, but I kept thinking about months in the NICU, this time with a toddler… “I can’t do this”. Dan called my midwife friend, who happened to be awake. She agreed to come over with her baby and stay with Lydia so we wouldn’t have to wake Lydia up and take her somewhere.

During the phone call, Dan asked which hospital we should go to. There was a hospital just minutes from our house in Plymouth or the one in Ypsilanti where Lydia was born and we were preregistered, but that one was 30 minutes away (I had just preregistered on Monday). No one was really sure but our friends advised us to go to the hospital we knew the best, so soon we were in the car on our way to Ypsi. Later we found out that the hospital near our house in Plymouth has no NICU and doesn’t know what to do with babies. Had Abby been born there, she probably wouldn’t not have survived. In the best case scenario, they would have put me in an ambulance and sent me to the Ypsi hospital anyway.

During the drive Dan prayed for me and Baby, and for Lydia as well. I took half the drive to tell Dan all the things I wanted him to know about labor, because we were pretty sure Baby was going to be born by morning. I told him some things like, “Answer as many questions for me as you can, especially if I’m in the middle of a contraction”, “If they ask about pain medicine, let me answer first and then if they keep bugging me, just keep telling them what I want. That way they won’t get mad at you”, and “Most importantly, just don’t leave me. Stay as close to me as you can. I like you more than them!” (During Lydia’s birth the doctors pushed Dan out of the way and he could only reach out sometimes and hold my foot. I was not a fan of that situation.)

Once I had filled Dan in, I told him that I was freaking out.  I knew that wasn’t going to help anything. So we decided to sing a song. We sang “Before the Throne of God Above” and then spent the rest of the drive praying some more. Suddenly we were at the hospital, but we couldn’t remember where to go! We made a couple of wrong turns and then Dan got me to the right drop off place. I told him to park the car and run in. I wanted to be dropped off, but I didn’t want to go in alone.

When he dropped me off, the security guard asked if she could help me. I stood there awkwardly for a moment trying to figure out what to say, “Uh…my water broke…and I’m only 28 weeks along…and I don’t remember where to go.” She grabbed a wheelchair and looked toward the parking lot. “Is he fast?”, she asked me. “Yes,” I assured her, “I told him to run”. Dan had caught up to us by the time we were at the elevator and he was soon holding my hand again. Apparently I like him to hold my hand non-stop during labor and delivery.

1:00 AM
At triage I had to fill out and sign a few forms. I was flustered, trying to get in as fast as possible. Dan, annoyed at the delay, asked if we could hurry things along. “She’s only 28 weeks!” The nurses assured us they were going as fast as they could. Over the next couple of hours Dan and I just wanted them to give me the shot of bethatmethatsone, which is a steroid that helps early baby’s lungs…if it has enough time to get into their system. We suspected, from Lydia’s birth, that they would not be able to stop labor, and that our time was extremely limited.

By this time contractions had started and I was battling the physical pain along with the emotional trauma of imagining the next few months of living in tbe NICU. After all of our hoping, praying, extra prenatal care, and precautions, Baby was still coming early in a scenario that was eerily similar to Lydia’s birth. I was devastated, but trying not to dwell on the next months as I knew I needed to be emotionally strong and mentally focused to make it through the next hours.

Soon I was in a triage room and the doctor had wheeled in an ultrasound machine. “She’s breech”. Another blow. On Friday she had been head down. I looked and Dan and told him, “She must have been flipping during my nap. That’s why it felt so strange.” That stinker. The doctor went on to poke and prod me in lots of unpleasant and painful ways. Dan was my hero, when she kept asking, “How are you doing?” I kept squeezing his hand and he answered for me, “She’s hurting a lot.” Finally the doctor got what she needed and made a rough estimate that I was dilated to 1 cm. Then I was wheeled into a labor and delivery room.

1:30 AM
By this point my contractions were about 3 minutes apart and were lasting about 45 seconds. I was able to focus on the clock or the cross on the wall and take deep breaths, and it wasn’t too bad. Occasionally a doctor or nurse would comment on how “stoic” I was, that they couldn’t tell how much pain I was in. We met two more nurses who started hooking me up to antibiotics and fluids through an IV. The antibiotics were to protect Baby in case labor had been triggered by an infection. Then they told me I would have to be on magnesium and they would be giving me the bethatmethatsone shot soon.

I have been dreading the bethatmethatsone shot since I got it with Lydia. When Dan saw the nurse preparing the shot, he told me he understood why. Apparently it is a very thick liquid which makes it hurt a lot as it enters the muscle. I was so nervous for the shot, I kept flinching and couldn’t relax. In the end it wasn’t quite as terrible as I had dreaded. It hurts, and it takes a while to inject it all, but I just lay on my side moaning into my pillow and soon enough it was over and I was just a little sore.

Then it was time for the magnesium. Magnesium, some suppose, may help stop labor. More than that, it protects Baby’s brain and decreases their risk of getting Cerebral Palsy. Magnesium.  Everyone who mentioned it apologized and told me how terrible it is. It only took a few moments before I felt the effects. You suddenly get very hot. You feel like you’re in a fog and everything is slow and groggy. You start sweating like crazy and your body feels heavy. And while the nurses and your husband put cold wash cloths on your head you try to think clearly and ask how long the magnesium will last. Twelve to twenty-four hours. And on top of that, you’re still sore from the shot. You’re still having contractions which are getting more intense. And you’re still trying not to think about everything that’s in store for the next months with a preemie in the NICU. You’re devastated that this is happening again. And then the doctor comes in to tell you that you have to have a c-section.

Because Baby’s head would be so big in comparison to her tiny preemie body, there was a danger that the head would get stuck on the way out, and all of that trauma would go to her fragile neck.  The doctor went on to explain the difference between a classical and transverse caesarean section. A classical c-section uses a vertical incision to get to Baby and is reserved for deliveries with complications or that need to be done very quickly. Many women are able to have natural vaginal deliveries after a c-section, but not after a classical c-section. Once you have a classical c-section, there’s no going back.  No more natural deliveries.  There’s too much risk of the incision reopening during delivery.  The doctor explained that, because Baby was breach and so early, a natural delivery was not possible. And based on Baby’s specific position, it looked like we would need to do a classical c-section.

Dan asked if there was any other option, besides the classical c-section, but the doctor wasn’t optimistic. As I lay there with my contractions and my magnesium, and my disappointment that Baby was coming early, the doctor began to explain all of the risks of a c-section. I know she had to do that for legal reasons, but it was a bit ridiculous given the circumstances. When she finished talking I managed, through my haze, to inform her that Lydia’s labor was extremely fast. “If you’re going to do a c-section, I’m guessing you want to do it before it’s time for me to push baby out, right?” She agreed. Dan and I warned her that they better check me often, because with Lydia no one knew I was really in labor until it was time to push.

2:30 AM
The doctors gave me instructions to call them immediately if I felt pressure of if the contractions began to get more intense. Multiple times they urged me to tell them what I was feeling because I was so “stoic” that they couldn’t tell how much pain I was in. They asked if I wanted a NICU representative to come in and tell me what’s involved in having a 28 week old baby and I said “definitely not”. That was the last thing I needed to be thinking about right then. They had checked me and confirmed that I was only dilated to 1 cm, then left me to labor away.

Once they left, I lost it. I couldn’t stop crying. I kept thinking and telling Dan, “Some women just have to go through labor! I have to go through labor pinned to a bed with painful exams, shots, and magnesium, the devastation of failing to get to term, the dread of the coming months, the disappointment of having a to have a c-section even though Baby was head down a few days ago, and now the probability that I could never have a natural delivery again”.  I think the nurses picked up on my wanting to be left alone, so they didn’t bother us much at that point. Over and over again throughout the labor, Dan had been helping me so much. This was another one of those moments. He began to sing to me “Jesus, all for Jesus” (one of our wedding songs and a family favorite) as he put wet wash cloths on my head. He assured me that things were going to be ok, that God was in control even over this, and that I was doing a good job. I still couldn’t stop crying, but was grateful for my wonderful husband.

I don’t know how long we were left alone. When the nurses came in and saw that I was crying they asked why, wondering if it was from the pain of the contractions. “Everything”, was all I could say.  I was overwhelmed by it all.

3:00 AM
It wasn’t long before my contractions did start to feel more intense. I reluctantly called in the doctors and they decided to check me. Now I was dilated to 2 cm and they took some time to decide what to do. At this point, my doctor had showed up and was calling the shots. She said, while we could wait until I was dilated as far as 4 cm, it was getting risky because we didn’t want Baby to “fall out” and get stuck. We also didn’t want the c-section to be rushed.  On the other hand, laboring longer gave time for the steroid and magnesium to work. It also gave time for labor to stop on its own (which we weren’t expecting). Our doctor decided to go ahead with the c-section and left to get things lined up.

3:30 AM
Things got busy as nurses began to prep me for the c-section, explain what would happen, and gave Dan clothes for the operating room. They told us we would have to be separated briefly but that Dan would be with me during the procedure. I asked Dan, “Aren’t we going to pray?” and he asked everybody if we could have a moment. They all politely stopped what they were doing and we took a moment to pray for Baby, me, and a safe delivery.

4:30 AM
I was wheeled into an operating room and separated briefly from Dan. As soon as I saw some metal instruments I got scared and thought I would be the random person for whom a spinal block wouldn’t work. They gave me a numbing shot (which did hurt) and then the spinal and I lay down on the operating table. Soon enough my legs felt warm, then tingly, then I couldn’t lift them. An anesthesiologist near my head kept asking what I was feeling to make sure the spinal was working. She told me I should be able to feel pressure, but not pain. Finally I confirmed that the spinal worked, even though I was bothered by how clearly I could feel what they were doing, just not the sharp pain associated with it.

Dan came in to join me and I realized that there was a glass cabinet to my side that allowed me to see what the doctors were doing behind the curtain they had put up to block my view. I told Dan not to look and then made sure not to look myself! The procedure was miserable. It’s one thing to breath and relax your way through contractions. It feels natural. Your body is doing what it was made to do. The pain of the c-section was completely different. No, I couldn’t feel sharp pain, but it felt like they were ripping out my insides. I groaned and moaned and cried my way through and the anesthesiologist by my head kept telling me I was doing great.

At 4:53 AM, our Baby was delivered. Dan got to see her before she was rushed to the NICU. He told me, “She’s purple, and I think she has hair.” As the doctors put my insides back in (or that’s what it felt like) a NICU doctor came to report that Baby was doing well. She weighed 2 pounds, 15 ounces and she was 15 ¾ inches long. She was crying and was able to breath without a ventilator, just a CPAP.

At some point as the doctors were finishing up, my doctor told me some good news. I had labored long enough to make some extra room for the surgery and they were able to do the transverse incision after all. No classical c-section! I breathed a silent prayer of thanks to God, because I had been praying over the past hour that He would make it possible to do the transverse incision.

Dan was ushered out of the operating room and a nurse asked me if I wanted to see my placenta. I said, “No thanks”, but she said, “I’m going to show you anyway”. As it turned out, Baby’s umbilical cord had been connected to the membrane, that is, the sack of “water” that broke. The nurse showed me the umbilical cord with all the blood vessels and then a big hole right next to it where my water broke. “You’re lucky,” she said, “Someone’s watching out for you!”. I learned later how serious it could have been if those blood vessels had disconnected when my water broke. Under those circumstances I would have been immediately put under and there would have been an emergency c-section. However, without that connection between me and Baby, both our lives would have been in serious danger and even the emergency c-section might not have been fast enough to save Baby or possibly me. (That’s my best understanding of the situation, at least) It was one of those moments, in the middle of a lot of bad, when God reminded me that He was taking care of everything after all.

Recovery was miserable. I received multiple different pain medications, including two doses of morphine and I was still squirming. Dan was loyally staying by my side, waiting to see Baby with me after recovery. However, he hadn’t slept in about 36 hours and was really struggling to stay awake. I was struggling not to be mad at him for being sleepy! Our “two hours” in recovery somehow turned in to four, but finally we got to go see Baby.

We spent a few minutes in the NICU looking at our new Baby, and by 10 AM we were back in the Mother/Baby unit (finally) alone. We were able to pray together and confirm Baby’s name: Abigail Faith. Then we made the phone calls to our parents telling them that Baby had come early.

And now little Abby is working her way through the NICU. We have a long road ahead of us, but are grateful for God’s hand in everything that has happened so far. He prepared us mentally and emotionally for Baby’s coming. He provided someone to watch Lydia and advice that sent us to the right hospital. He gave us peace during the car ride and a unity that lasted through the whole labor. He gave us a special moment together just before the c-section to worship and refocus on trusting Him. He allowed us to pray together before the surgery, and display to the nurses and doctors where we were placing our trust.  He protected me and Abby when her water broke from severing the umbilical cord and putting us both in danger. He allowed me to labor just the right amount of time for the doctors to perform a transverse incision, opening the possibility for natural labors in the future. He gave us a baby who is feisty and strong, big for her age and amazing at breathing even though there probably wasn’t time for the steroid shot to really reach her. And He revealed the reason I have been having early babies (but I’ll post about that later).

God is good, and taking care of us. We are so grateful that, even during a labor completely different from anything we ever wanted, He was in control. While it was all happening, I was devastated, but looking back I only see His goodness and protection.

Anniversary Date

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During the past week, Dan and I realized a few different things:

1. We had yet to take our belated anniversary date
2. A recent doctor’s visit revealed the first warning sign that Baby 2 could be born early
3. The next four or five weekends are all full (weddings, moving, church events)

We concluded that if we wanted to get in our special date before Baby 2 is born, we were going to have to take it on Saturday. (We realized this on Saturday morning)

After a few quick phone calls, Dan had made arrangements for a family from church to watch Lydia for us all afternoon. This was only the second time that we had left Lydia with anyone ever. And, it was the very first time we’d left Lydia with anyone to go out on a date, just the two of us. Was I excited?

I was excited.

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So we dropped the Munchkin off and soon she was happy playing with her friends from church. To be honest, there was a part of me that wondered if it’d feel weird not having her with us. I even wondered if we would run out of things to talk about. When we got back in the car, there was a moment of silence and we realized we hadn’t driven anywhere together without Lydia since she came home from the hospital over two years ago.

Soon, however, we were chatting away and the GPS on Dan’s phone, Waze, was taking us back to downtown Plymouth for our date. We were well on our way to the restaurant when all of a sudden I glaced up to see a ferris wheel in the center of the road! To our surprise, this weekend also happened to be the Plymouth Fall Festival, a relatively huge carnival that takes place right in the heart of Plymouth. So, we ditched our plans to sit by the lovely fountain (because of the extremely loud music, crowds of high school couples, and cheerleaders) and found a cozy little bench just outside of all the activity.

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On our way to this bench, we noticed some obscenely large stuffed animals, and kids abducting aliens (a funny twist you don’t often hear about, we thought). Anyway, we enjoyed just sitting on a bench, not carrying a diaper bag, not chasing a toddler, free to chat away for more than three minutes without interruption.

Don’t get me wrong. We love Lydia. We love having her around. We love chasing her around. And we get plenty of time to talk when she’s napping, in bed, in the car, or during meal times. But, well, we loved this too.

Eventually we decided to head over to our chosen restaurant, a highly recommended Italian place. We opted to sit inside to escape the Festival noises, and enjoyed a much longer and much more expensive dinner than we usually eat. Everything was delicious. And I particularly enjoyed sitting and waiting for the waiter to bring the bill because that meant I wasn’t trying to entertain a Munchkin with a much shorter attention span than her parents.

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After dinner, Dan offered to buy me a frozen lemonade or other treat of my choice. Having spent a lot of money already, I opted for our favorite not too expensive Starbucks drink (I’ll tell you all what that is in a later post). There are three flavors to choose from and (don’t get weirded out), the green one actually tastes the best.

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Our two-hour parking limit was about to run out, so we drove back to a park near the home where Lydia was having the time of her life without us. (For someone who never gets left with anyone, separation anxiety is definitely not a problem for her) We walked a little, and found a picnic table where some child had forgotten his or her stuffed animals. Both of us found it humorous that even without the Munchkin, we were hanging out at a playground.

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So we wrapped up our date chatting away, and sitting in the quiet, enjoying some uninterrupted time together as the sun was just starting to sink in the sky, making everything glow in a way that reflected the happiness of the day. Our third anniversary date was belated, and it wasn’t exactly what we’d planned, but it was absolutely perfect.

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Muchkin Update: 2 Years, 3 Months

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When Lydia wasn’t yet two years old, I started writing down monthly “reports” describing the latest things she was learning, saying, or doing. I thought it would be fun to keep a record of how she was growing and changing, and to be able to look back with her later and show her how much we enjoyed her and all the precious things she brought into our lives.

Lydia has made some huge strides in the past month, language-wise! Some of our favorites include her pronunciation of “All finished” when she’s done eating (sounds like “All fiscious!”, and her latest expression of independence, “I do it!”. She also asks me every morning, “Odyssey? Blankey? At Stef?”, which translated means, “Are we going to listen to Adventures in Odyssey while I sit on the blanket and then watch an Aunt Steph vlog?”. The answer, on most days, is “yes”. Whenever we listen to music in the car and the cd gets to the silent gap in between tracks, Lydia almost always asks, “More?”

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Lydia is back to loving her books. She often asks us to read to her (“Book?”) and can even identify some of the books with a name. A favorite is called Grandma’s Are for Giving Tickles, which she just calls, “Gramma”. It has flaps, and she is starting to memorize, not only what picture is under each flap, but the writing under the flaps as well. So, when I open the hop scotch flap, she says, “No cheating!” When I open the flap that shows a fireplace scene with hot cocoa, she says, “Cocoa”. And when I open the flap where Grandma is sending grandson out to play in the snow, she says, “Have fun!” She also enjoys reading her First Words book and identifying an impressive number of the pictures inside. She has another book with flaps, but it also has buttons that make sounds. For each flap there is a picture that matches a picture on a button, and Lydia can successfully match every flap to the corresponding button without help.

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Lydia loves the playground. We are sad to think that, once we move, we will no longer be within walking distance of a playground. So I’ve been trying to take Lydia there extra to get some time in. She just recently started going down the tunnel-slide by herself, and has even done one of the bigger twirly slides. Recently Lydia went down the tunnel-slide 13 times in a row! I noticed that she followed the exact same routine every time.

Lydia sits down on the slide, on her knees.
Lydia: Sit down!
Tries to pull her feet out in front of her.
Lydia: Feet first!
Gets stuck.
Lydia: Stuck!
Gets unstuck
Lydia: Ready?!
Goes down slide. Gets up. Looks up the slide.
Lydia: Me?
Dan: You want me to come down?
Lydia: Yeah
Dan comes down slide.
Lydia runs back around to the spot where Dan lifts her up to the top.
Lydia: Again!

I don’t know if it’s an age-thing, a phase-thing, or a personality-thing, but Lydia really likes repetition and routine. (Maybe she takes after me!) It will be fun to see if she grows out of it or if it sticks with her.

 photo slide_zps1d9312b8.jpgAs always, Lydia is super sweet. Yes, independent, feisty, stubborn, but super sweet. She’s almost always smiley and giggly, doesn’t get down even if others around her are, and loves meeting and watching other kids at the park. Sometimes, without a nap for a couple of busy days, she’ll get emotional and whiney. But as soon as she gets her rest, she’s her perky, happy, giggly self. She loves playing games, being tickled, pretending, helping, cuddling when she’s sleepy, and watching baseball. At the end of her Grandma book, the last page talks about giving Grandma a big hug and Lydia will say “Big Hug!” then turn and give the reader a big hug (and anyone else nearby). And this week, for the first time, when I tucked her in for a nap and said “I love you”, she shouted back “I luff oo!”.

10 Things I’ve Learned in 3 Years of Marriage

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Today Dan and I are celebrating our 3rd wedding anniversary. So, in celebration mode, I thought I’d share 10 things I’ve learned in 3 years of marriage. (photo credit: Dan Carlson)

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1. Respect is love

During our first months of marriage, Dan and I read a book together called Love and Respect. Through that book and our premarital counseling, I learned that the best way I can love Dan is by respecting him. What does that look like for us? (I’m all about the practical application) Well, Dan’s a visionary sort of fellow. So that means when he comes home and tells me his latest brilliant idea (that I may or may not think is brilliant), I don’t squash him like a bug! I listen and support his ideas, because I know I have a trustworthy husband who won’t put us into bankruptcy following some crazy idea he had during his lunch hour.

I can’t imagine any feeling better than the feeling of being loved, but for Dan, it’s the feeling of being respected. So, I can’t say I completely understand, but it really does work.

2. Physical exercise is to Dan what sleep is to a pregnant Justine

This is one I just figured out in recent months. For most of my pregnancy I’ve required a nap-a-day. Ok, so I can go one day without a nap and be alright. But give me two days in a row and I turn into a basket case. I just need the rest.

I used to get annoyed at how much Dan enjoyed exercise. Every single day he wanted to go lift weights or run or play a sport. When he started working full time, I realized that he starts to go crazy if he doesn’t get his exercise. So, I finally figured out that it’s not something to resent. I need my sleep and Dan graciously guards my naptimes. In turn, I’m learning to guard his exercise time.

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3. Efficiency makes us a happy couple

Because Dan and I have one car, we usually do all of our grocery shopping on the weekends. For one semester, we had an arrangement where Dan was able to work out while Lydia and I did the shopping. In fact, Dan was so busy that semester that we had to do it that way. When the semester was over, I was thrilled to be able to have that shopping time with Dan once again. However, much to my disappointment, we seemed to get frustrated with each other during every single shopping trip. I figured out that Dan just felt like shopping was taking way longer than it should (even though it always took me that long). So, I decided to change things.

I started organizing my list in the order of the store aisles. We have a very particular route we take through each store now, every single time. On top of that, I planned far enough ahead so that we weren’t shopping at three stores in one weekend. I rotated every other week for two of the stores and bought things ahead of time.

Then Dan developed Super Shopper. It’s a simple, yet wonderful invention. I have an excel sheet where I keep a database of everything we’ve bought from three different stores. In the excel file, I list the items in order of our in-store route. When I make my grocery list (in totally random order), I run the program, and it automatically sorts my list by store and puts the items in the correct order for each store. This ingenious program took my grocery planning from over an hour to just minutes a week.

Efficiency saves me time during the week doing a chore I don’t enjoy much, it saves us time on the weekends so we can get in and out of stores crazy-fast, and it saves unnecessary tension and frustration between the two of us.

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4. Love is doing what Dan loves

When we were first married, I would always try to make Thursday nights (our “date nights”) special by cooking some elaborate meal. Finally I figured out that Dan wasn’t big on elaborate meals. He much rather would have tacos or meat and potatoes than anything gourmet, and those things were easier for me to cook! Likewise, for my birthday a couple years ago I planned an elaborate surprise date night where we dressed up and ate a fancy meal in our apartment which I had decorated to look like a fancy private restaurant. It was fun, but afterwards I talked to Dan and found out his dream date with me would be to go to a Tigers game.

So I have learned and am learning, to love Dan by doing what he loves, not just what I love.

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5. Love is loving what Dan loves

Like my last point, I have learned to love what Dan loves, even if it’s not necessarily my “cup of tea”. This is another recent lesson that I remember journaling about last anniversary. Dan was on a kick where he read the news every day and would come home and talk to me about it. I thought it was boring. Finally I realized we would both enjoy our dinners together much more if I actually made an effort to care about what he was telling me. Later the conversations switched from news to business ideas and more recently it’s been a lot of talk about Dan’s career. It’s not annoying anymore. I’m thankful that I have a husband who trusts me enough to tell me what’s on his mind, and I don’t ever want to risk shutting that out because the topic isn’t one I would have chosen on my own.

6. Research is in the job description

After Dan and I were married, I had one semester of college left. Once that semester ended, I became a full-time homemaker. Through some well suggested reading from ladies at church, I learned that being a homemaker is a real job and should be treated like one. Dan and I always joke that stay-at-home-moms sit at home all day eating bon bons. Then Dan tells me that I’m the best stay-at-home-mom because I don’t just eat the bon bons, I make them!

Joking aside, there is plenty to do around the home to stay busy and part of that job (a big part in my case) has been research: nutrition, pregnancy, parenting, budgeting, cleaning…the list could go on! Since I am a steward of my home, I want to make sure I’m doing my job well, not just going with the flow.

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7. It’s ok to take a nap

That last point being said, I was a pretty driven homemaker and new mommy after Lydia was born. I felt like it would be lazy for me to take a break. After all, Dan doesn’t take a nap in the middle his work day. However, Dan also isn’t on call 24/7!

I’ve learned to take time out of the day to nap, rest, or at least relax. It makes for a happy wife when Dan gets home, which makes him a happier husband.

8. Having a preemie is more stressful than taking 19 credits at UofM any day

Dan and I don’t really fight. Our “fights” involve my being super sad and Dan being kind of distant until we can reconcile. But we had never had any of even these fights until Lydia was born. Through friendship, dating, engagement, wedding planning, and being married and in school full time we didn’t fight. When we got married, I had to take a bus every day to get to campus and stay until evening. We were super busy, super poor, and super happy.

The most stressful period of my life was my 19 credit semester at the University of Michigan, in engineering mind you! I would go home in tears regularly because I was so overworked and sleep-deprived.

But none of that comes even close to comparing with Lydia’s birth. For six weeks we dealt with postpartum emotions, going home every night without our baby, not getting enough food or rest, and to top it off, we had moved the weekend Lydia was born and hadn’t had a chance to unpack. That is when we had our first “fights”. (The best gift anyone ever gave me was when Dan’s parents and grandparents came home and completely moved us in about a week after Lydia was born)

Ladies and gentlemen, if you don’t handle stress well, I would advise you to never have a preemie. That being said, God helped us through that hard time and we made it and are stronger for it. And, I’m extra grateful to have a wonderful husband who did go through all of that with me, and who stayed with me and even tells me that he still likes me in spite of it all!

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9. I will always love to hold his hand

When we were dating, Dan and I decided not to touch each other at all until we were engaged. Sure enough, when Dan proposed, I said yes, and he asked if he could put the ring on my hand. Many nights just before we fall asleep, Dan reaches over for my hand. Or while we are riding in the car, he’ll put his hand out to hold mine. Maybe I’m just a hand-holding sort of person, or maybe because of our history, it still always makes me grin.

10. It’s just better together

Each year I sit back and think to myself, “What is my favorite part of being married?” The answer has always been, “No more goodbyes!”. I just love being together every single day. Three years in and I still tell Dan I’ll miss him when he goes away to work, I still want to sit and watch when he plays sports, and I still look forward to Friday nights when Dan comes home and I get him for the whole weekend. Things just go better when we can be together.

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Happy Anniversary, Love!  It’s been three wonderful years, and I’m looking forward to many, many more.

My Flock

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The only signs that are left from Leslie’s Bridal shower this weekend are a vase full of flowers and a “wall of streamers” that we put up to hide our packed boxes in the stairwell. As I look back, this whole shower, and the planning process that led up to it, all feel like one big whirlwind.

I remember lying in bed one night, very shortly after Bob proposed to Leslie, thinking about this great idea I had for a Bridal shower talk. That’s probably how it all started. It was one of the many ideas I propose to Dan, and then brace myself as I expect him to tell me why it’s actually not a good idea (usually the case, sad but true). This was one of those ideas. However, this was one of the few that Dan approved, which led us to the Bridal shower that happened this weekend. I’m planning to tell all about the shower on Wednesday, so those who are interested will have to stop on by later to hear more about that.

This post is about the talk I gave at the shower, and even more so, it’s about the aftermath of that talk. As one of the hostesses of this shower, I was given the go-ahead to share a little talk on “How to be a good wife”. This was based on the Bible, and not just my own experience, because I really don’t have that much experience! (Three years at the end of the month, but that’s nothing compared to some of the other ladies in the room) In my talk I had the chance to tell some of my own stories, share advice from other wives, read a couple Bible verses, and even explain the Gospel message as an example of the beauty of submission (Jesus’ submission to the Father). I think it went really well.

After spending so much time preparing, praying, and finally giving a talk like this, I can totally understand why so many stay-at-home-moms seek more ministry opportunities. However, after my own little ministry experience, I feel content and assured of the flock that God has given me.

Let me back up a little. A few weeks ago, at Hope Group (which is what our church calls its Bible studies which happen throughout the week), our Pastor was reading to us from a book called Signs of a Healthy Church. There was a bit of an aside in the book in which the author addressed pastors. He was warning against a common desire for pastors to have a bigger or more important ministry. He told of a nineteenth-century pastor named John Brown, who had a young friend that had recently begun to pastor a small congregation. In a letter to his friend, John Brown said,

“I know the vanity of your heart, and that you will feel mortified that your congregation is very small, in comparison with those of your brethren around you; but assure yourself on the word of an old man, that when you come to give an account of them to the Lord Christ at his judgment seat, you will think you have had enough.”

Even though John Brown and the author of this book were talking to pastors, the parallel to my role as a stay-at-home-mom was clear in my mind. How easy it is for a mom to look at her kids, and the daily grind that she goes through, and long for a different ministry. How many other people could she reach if she wasn’t busy all day changing diapers and potty training, homeschooling and preparing snacks, disrupting sibling arguments and teaching her toddlers not to say “no” to Mommy?

In fact, I wrestled through this myself not too long ago. I emailed a few other Christian ladies, asked for book suggestions, and had long talks with my husband. Was I really doing everything God wanted me to, or was I settling for a simpler, easier, more comfortable, and certainly more “normal” Christian life? I would read about missionaries from long ago, and missionaries who are still living, and wonder if I could have reached more people if I wasn’t “just a stay-at-home-mom”. And then, to make things worse, many of my resources seemed to imply that toddler-raising is a season, after which we women are freed up for more meaningful ministry. But that’s wrong. It is noble to be a stay-at-home-mom, and not just so that your kids can grow up to be missionaries.

What finally ended the search for me was when I realized that family is God’s primary method for ministry, and it is (I do believe) the most effective. Before I go any further, I better explain that I do support missionaries, and I do believe God calls different men and women to serve in alternative ways, and that is a good thing. However, the discipleship relationship that very many Christians wish they could have is really just an imitation of what a parent-child relationship was designed to be.

So, while I am happy for any opportunities that God gives me to minister to others, I am also happy with my own little flock: Lydia (and soon Baby #2). Together with Dan, I am content to spend my time, my prayers, my experiences (and hopefully wisdom!) and Bible knowledge with our precious little Munchkin who still can’t understand most of what I’m telling her.

Maybe the days aren’t always exciting. Maybe potty training is really unpleasant. But when I comfort Lydia because she scraped her knees on the sidewalk and “it hurts!” (pronounced in a very touching, tear-filled toddler voice and also without the ‘r’, which is still to difficult for her to pronounce, so it sounds a bit like she has an English accent), I am demonstrating God’s love to her. After all, is it so different? Our little problems, our temper tantrums, our anxieties must seem so small in His eyes. And yet, He tells the children to come.

So, I can honestly say that I am happy with my little flock. It doesn’t feel like too much for me, but I know that it is. Yet, I know and can stand confidently on the truth that this is the assignment God has given me and He can give me what I need to do a faithful job. So this is my ministry. This is my flock. And on judgment day I know that it will have been more than enough.

The Cherry Picking Project

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When we took our trip up to Traverse City last month, we decided to do a little project. You see, Dan and I had been trying to think of ways to earn some extra money to help pay some of the medical bills for Baby #2. Most of our ideas never came to much of anything, but this idea actually did. It was our cherry picking project.

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While we were up in Traverse City we took a morning to drive out on the peninsula to pick some cherries for $2 a pound. My parents and brother came along to help. We didn’t want to invest too much money in case our plans failed and all the cherries just went bad. So we decided to try to pick about 10 pounds.

It was a hot day, but the picking went fast and soon I realized that Dan didn’t even really need my help. So I picked a few, ate a few, and took some pictures. Lydia, also enjoyed picking cherries, eating cherries, and trying to get cherry juice all over her dress.

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When we were getting close to 10 pounds, Dan found a nice tree with branches that hung down a bit like a willow. He camped out for a while enjoying fresh cherries in the shade, and I joined him.

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When our bucket was full we left the orchard to pay and found that we had picked 12 pounds. Dan was short on cash and my mom ended up pitching in a little rather than wait for him to run all the way to the car and back. That ended the picking portion of our project.

We made a short commute to Dan’s parents’ house, where we washed, and double washed the cherries, and spread them out to dry. Later we learned that it’s best to wash the cherries right before you eat them so they stay fresh longer…oops. We wrapped up our weekend with Dan’s folks, spent the next days with the Dame’s, and arrived back home late Sunday night.

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Our plan had been to sell the cherries in pint-sized cups at the playgrounds and parks near our house. Monday morning, however, was cool and rainy and the weather report called for thunderstorms all night Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday nights we have Bible study, and we always have one of Dan’s relatives over for dinner on Thursday. There was no way the cherries were going to stay fresh until Friday, so in a desperate attempt I threw a message up on my Facebook wall:

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And much to our relief, a couple families from church bought all of our cherries! In the end we came out $20 ahead, despite all of the hiccups in our plan. (As a side note, the day we made the $20, Dan went to a college campus to tutor one of his old classmates. He ran inside to ask if he was allowed to park in a particular parking lot and on the way back found a young man writing him a ticket. He explained that he was just running in to ask if he could park there and the man responded, “Well, you can’t.” and handed him the ticket for $25)

So, was our cherry picking project a success? Yes and no. Now we know a little more about keeping cherries fresh, and we know they’ll sell down here for a profit. Maybe next year we’ll take orders ahead of time.