Manna from Heaven

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Daily Bread. It’s a phrase I’ve heard so many times that I hardly think about it anymore. However, yesterday as I was reading to the girls, I was struck anew with an ancient truth.

So there we were, sitting around the breakfast table, when I pulled out the giant story Bible we’ve been reading. The title of the story for the day was “Manna from Heaven”. In case you don’t know, or don’t remember the story, you can look it up in Exodus 16. God’s people are wandering in the wilderness and they’re hungry. They complain and God gives Moses the plan for what’s to happen next. He sends bread from heaven with the morning dew. Each day the people are supposed to collect enough food for the day, no more and no less. The next day God sends the bread again. And again. On the sixth day, the people are told to gather twice as much as they need for one day, because the next day is a day of rest and there won’t be any new manna. Some people do as they are told, but some don’t trust God. They gather more than enough manna (or they gather just enough but don’t eat it all) and they save some for the next day. In the morning it stinks and it’s full of worms. Then Day Six rolls around and, again, some of the people do as they are supposed to and others disobey and only collect enough for one day. The seventh day comes and those who didn’t collect extra just don’t have any food. The ones who saved their extra overnight wake up to find it not stinking and not full of worms this time. When I read this story I often wonder if it’s the same people who disobey God in each incident or if it’s different people – the ones who don’t trust God to provide again, the ones who don’t trust God to keep His word, or maybe some who are just bad at listening to directions.

God still provides for His people. Sometimes it’s money. He provides enough for everything He wants us to have, no more, no less. When Dan was in school we didn’t have a lot of money. We lived on what we had and God took care of us. When He got his first “real” job, we were so excited about the huge increase in our income. Then we had to move out of cheap, subsidized, campus housing and into a condo in Ann Arbor. That hurt the freshly filled bank account. Then came medical bills with our second baby. That hurt too. For a while I was a little down about that.

“Just when we start making a little more, then all these bills come in and it’s all gone.”

But God showed me differently. He had provided two days worth of manna for the time when we would need it. “Just before the bills came in, God gave us more so that we would be able to pay them.”

It has happened again and again in our lives, and not just with money. Sometimes it’s other material things. Sometimes it’s feeling God’s presence or getting time alone with Dan or having some peace in our home before something crazy happens. No matter what, He just wants us to trust that He will provide what we need, when we need it, but no more and no less. And, at least in my experience, He tends to provide in such a way and in such timing that keep me dependent on Him.

If God is truly the God of our lives, our time, our bodies, and our bank accounts, it’s also important that we ask Him how to be spending these things.

A couple of months ago Paul was about to run out of clothes. He was getting bigger and we just didn’t have any bigger boy clothes. Most of our baby clothes (we have half a room full right now!) are pink and purple with bows and ruffles. We could have run straight to the store and picked out some really cute baseball-themed pajamas, but one of us had the idea to pray and ask God first. So we did, We prayed something like, “God, our money is yours. If you want us to go buy clothes for Paul we are happy to do so, but if you want us to use this money for something else, please provide the clothing he needs”. Then we waited.

A couple of weeks later we took a trip up North. Dan’s mom surprised us with a dozen like-new garage sale outfits for Paul, in the right sizes. My mom surprised me with a trip to Kohl’s and treated the kids and me to a new outfit each. On our way home, one of our dear friends handed over two diaper boxes full of little boy clothes. The picture up above is of Paul on our walk this morning, decked out entirely in clothing that was given to us by a family from church, my mom, Dan’s mom, and one of our friends.

I used to think that God only provided for people who didn’t have enough. I thought that anyone who had a large enough income was already provided for by their job, that they should thank God for their job and budget away. I have recently been realizing that there is far greater blessing in asking God how we should use our resources and then being obedient. Then He will provide the manna we need for one day, or two days, but no more and no less.

One Year of Thankful…Complete

One year ago, on my birthday, I began a project I called “One Year of Thankful“. My 26th year had been tough. We moved a pile of times, endured unpleasant job changes, suffered through 12 unexpected weeks with a baby in the hospital, and were in the process of adjusting to having two kiddos at home. I was having a hard time, feeling down, getting angry, and realizing the lack of joy in my life. So I began this project: record one blessing a day and take a picture to go with it.

Now my “year of thankful” is complete. I’ve learned a few things along the way and I’ve enjoyed counting my blessings. I’ve learned that it’s not enough to pick one thing a day, an attitude of thankfulness has to be continuous. I’ve learned that blessings come in showers and sometimes there are droughts. At times I would have to choose between a number of blessings in a day. Other times I would go for days struggling to think of anything for my “thankful”.

As I was wrapping up my year, I thought it would be fun to go through my complete album to see what I was the most thankful for. I think this says something about my personality and it definitely says something about what I treasure in life. Here are my top ten:

10. Finding Things – Apparently I lose things somewhat frequently and really dislike it. Every time I find a lost item I have reason to rejoice.

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Day 54 – I found my lost phone.

9. Nature and Beauty – From the beauty of freshly fallen snow, to a colorful sunset, to my favorite flowering trees, I love enjoying the beauty God has placed all around me.

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Day 79 – Baby bunnies.

8. Relief from My Job – You don’t even know how many times I took pictures of dishes washed by someone other than me! Or sometimes it was folded laundry, someone to watch the kiddos, or a discovery that made my life easier. A break from the grueling task of “domestic engineer” frequently made my thankful list.

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Day 216 – Having my parents here while Dan and I were at the hospital, being able to take it easy as the girls were cared for and all the dishes and laundry done.

7. Material Things and Comforts – Material things were often gifts and comforts often included warmth or sleep. I’m blessed with so many nice “things”: a house, clothing, all sorts of kitchen knick-knacks, and so many comforts like warm blankets, medicine when I’m sick, or the exercise ball that brought so much relief late in the pregnancy.

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Day 71 – Nap time.

6. Love – Originally this was lumped under “Family and Friends”, but it came up so many times I gave it a category of its own. From date nights to flowers, love letters, and special chats with Dan, it’s clear that I enjoy any language of love from my husband.

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Day 315 – My one and only Valentine.

5. Walking with God and Answered Prayers – This category skyrocketed late in my pregnancy with Paul. Every week was an answered prayer. But it wasn’t just weekly milestones that made the list. During some of the most pressing trials of the year God brought much peace, guidance, and comfort.

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Day 348 – This moment. I thought it would never happen. Psalm 37:4

4. Quiet, Precious, and Meaningful Moments – I am a creature of habit. Special moments that we enjoyed every day (like breakfasting in the breakfast nook or snuggling with Lydia in the morning) often made my list. I’m also an introvert and any quiet or peaceful moments made it into my thankful album.

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Day 82 – This Moment: Snuggled up with his girls.

3. Food and Fun Times – I was amused at how often food came up as my thankful for the day. Especially special occasion food (aka something with cheese) or fruit. Fun times were also a favorite, including family outings, trips up North, and weddings and showers.

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Day 156 – Another perfect pre-baseball picnic.

2. Productivity – This one really surprised me. It’s back to those pictures of dishes I guess! The second most frequent thankful has something to do with making progress on housework, organization, research, or projects.

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Day 233 – Finished!

1. Family and Friends – This one isn’t much of a surprise. Family and friends and the special moments we have together were the most common thankful by far. God has blessed me with many loved ones, but most frequent were my loving husband, and crazy kids.

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Day 364 – Adding another little one to our family has only made me love them all more.

Paul’s Birth Story

Ever since Lydia was born, 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 this is Paul’s birth story. Here’s 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.

To understand the full impact of this story, it may be helpful to read (or reread) this post from a year and a half ago. I recently went back and read it and was so surprised at how similar the beginning is to Paul’s story. God is so kind.

Monday Morning

Monday (March 16) started off in a pretty routine way. We woke up, ate breakfast, and Dan went out to the garage to exercise. While he was out, I snapped this picture, my 35 week photo. I never thought I could make it to 35 weeks and we were thrilled to get this far. In fact, when Abby was born my doctor told me I would probably never go past 32 weeks. Our current doctor told us a 35 weeker is usually a “take home baby” and we were thankful for even a chance to bring Baby home without spending time in the NICU.

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We were running low on leftovers so we had a pretty small lunch. I had just a peanut butter, banana sandwich, figuring I would grab a more substantial snack after my nap and dinner-time would come soon enough. After lunch, one of the girls from our church came over for a couple of hours to clean our floors and play with the kids outside, since I have been unable to do those things for a while now. They stayed out extra late and didn’t come in and get settled down for naps until after 2:00.

I was chatting with Dan (who happened to be home that day) while he washed dishes. “Aren’t you going to go take a nap?”, he asked me. I told him I was headed that way, just wanted to print off a couple of things from the computer. I had spent the morning tidying up our kitchen from the months I’ve spent “taking it easy”, and I had just finished and wanted to move our printer upstairs so the counter would be clear. I printed my documents and was just looking through them when I felt a big gush.

Just a second later I felt another gush, and then a third. My water had broke, and it took a moment to realize what was happening. I hesitantly tried to get Dan’s attention while he worked away at a particularly dirty pot. As soon as he knew what was going on he sprang into action, gathering items for the hospital, calling our babysitters, getting the girls up from their short nap. I was all but helpless because I was leaking so much fluid and I didn’t want to move around and risk speeding up the coming labor.

After half an hour, what seemed like a very long half hour, we were in the car on our way to the babysitters, and then the hospital. Contractions had started but they weren’t coming in any predictable pattern yet, they just hurt.

3:45 PM

By 3:45 the contractions were coming more regularly and we were in the waiting room of the family birth center. I was excited, restless, and nervous, so we just stood in the waiting room holding hands and waiting to be called in. A nurse came and got us settled in our triage room, where we spent the next two hours.

I was amazed at how peaceful everything was. In the past our room has been full of medical staff poking and prodding me in a million ways. This time there was just one midwife entering my data on the computer and hooking me up to be monitored for the next 20 minutes (which turned out to be two hours). This was the first time I got to see a graph of a baby’s heartbeat and my contractions during labor. It was almost fun, watching the coming contraction and then seeing how far apart they were (3 minutes) and how long they were lasting (1 1/2 to 2 minutes). I thought to ask Dan to take a picture but by the time he got the camera ready I was right in the middle of a contraction. We took the picture anyway.

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We gave the midwife a copy of my birth plan, which was as simple as I could keep it while still being meaningful:

-Please direct any possible questions to Dan.
-Unless it becomes medically necessary I would like not to have an IV.
-I would like to have as natural of a delivery as possible.
-If at all possible, I would like to hold the baby immediately after delivery.

The midwife informed us that at 4:00 our doctor had started a c-section and we would have to wait at least half an hour before he could come do anything.

Now, back at 16 weeks, I had a surgery to put stitches in the cervix, adding support that would hopefully enable things to stretch and Baby to stay put longer. My fear during our time in triage was that I would dilate too quickly and the stitches would tear. So we waited and prayed and watched my contractions on the graph. Dan named the unitless graph, the “Graph of Awesomness” and let me know when my “awesomeness” was “off the charts”.

By 5:00 I was starting to feel the stitches pulling and we kept waiting to hear some word from our doctor. A very sweet resident came in and chatted with us for a while. She did an ultrasound to check that Baby was head-down, and she told us that she could remove the stitches if our doctor took too long.

5:30 PM

Our doctor rushed in around 5:30 and sat down with the resident immediately to start taking out the stitches. The procedure took longer and hurt more than I was anticipating. Dan held one arm while a nurse held the other and both kept streams of encouragement coming as I scrunched up my face and braced myself through each painful poke. Finally the stitches came out and I was able to get up and walk to our labor and delivery room. Much to my dismay, I was only dilated to 1 1/2.

As we walked to the room where Baby would hopefully be born, I drilled our nurse with questions about 35 weekers. Would I get to hold the Baby? Would I be able to have a “normal” delivery? She told me that Baby had to be a certain weight (4 pounds, 9 ounces?) to stay in our room. The resident had predicted Baby was probably 6 – 6 1/2 pounds, so that was encouraging. I could have a normal delivery in a normal labor and delivery room, but there would have to be a special team present to evaluate Baby and decide if s/he needed to be taken to the NICU.

6:30

When we got to our room a new nurse took over and chatted with us for a long time. I was leaning against the bed waiting for her to finish so I could try to get into some sort of more comfortable position. She kept offering me all sorts of natural pain relief methods: bean bags, birthing balls, the shower, heating pads…I was overwhelmed and just wanted her to leave. I knew it would help to move around but I could hardly bring myself to do that, so I asked for the birthing ball, figuring I’d been using it over the past couple of weeks and maybe I would have some idea what to do with it.

During the entire labor I had Philippians 4:13 playing in my head to a tune I learned when I was a kid:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I can do. All things through. Christ who strengthens me. Christ who strengthens me.

Because this was going to be a VBAC, I had to be hooked up to the monitor continuously and I had to have a hep lock so I could be hooked up to an IV quickly if that became necessary. I asked for some water, determined to stay hydrated and avoid that IV. I was feeling the contractions almost entirely in my back and legs, so the nurse showed me how I could sit on the ball and lean forward on the bed to help with the back labor. Dan was a champ and started massaging my lower back. When the contractions became more intense he would press hard on my back, which helped significantly with the pain. Then in between contractions it was back to massaging. As soon as a contraction would end I would whisper, “Water” and Dan would grab my ice water and hold it for me to take a sip, then I would relax for about thirty seconds before another contraction came.

7:30 PM

There was a shift change and our new nurse came in and brought a heading pad for my back. Dan and I were in our groove now, but wondering how long labor would last. We were spoiled with Lydia and the entire labor was 8 hours. I was starving, but couldn’t bear to eat anything, and Dan was hungry too. Those pb sandwiches were not holding us over very well. Occasionally we would discuss the likelihood that Baby would be born early enough for Dan to run out and get us some Qdoba.

When Lydia was born I didn’t make a sound until very close to her actual delivery. So when I started moaning through the contractions we thought for sure we must be close. We kept waiting for the signs of transition. Dan was sure I would throw up, and I kept waiting for that moment when I would feel the urge to push. Time seemed to be moving so slowly. I know, it’s kind of pathetic when others have labors that last days, but like I said, we’ve been spoiled.

8:00 PM

I’m guessing on the times here, because I was to absorbed in labor to pay much attention to the clock. I would occasionally check it to guess at the likelihood of Qdoba though. I was so hungry. Dan kept asking if I was going to throw up and if I felt pressure. Both the nurse and Dan could tell by my behavior that the contractions were getting really intense, but I still didn’t feel any urge to push.

The pain reached a new level and I started standing up for the contractions, leaning forward on the bed. Afterward I would collapse back onto the ball and dread the next one. The pain was so intense I bit my tongue to resist yelling out, “God, help me”, and I was silently praying all along. Although I was fully aware of the things happening all around, I couldn’t respond to them. When Dan asked me questions I didn’t respond. When he tried doing something different, like rubbing my back higher up, it was all I could do to grab his arms and move them back down. I kept looking back at the contraction chart to see how much time I had before another one came. I guess at this point, I was in transition.

The nurse and Dan made the call that it was time to check me, something I had been avoiding because I was terrified I would only be dilated to 4. But I did what they told me, hoping for some encouraging news. I climbed on the bed and a resident came in. I was dilate to 8, fully effaced, and Baby was at station zero. He said there was a little bit of the cervix over Baby’s head.

The nurse suggested that if I roll on my side and try another position, it might be enough to pull the cervix away from Baby and speed things up a little. I was all to happy to oblige. I think it was two contractions later when the nurse panicked a little because she saw Baby’s head.

She hit an “emergency staff” button and a team of doctors, residents, nurses, and pediatricians came storming into the room “like a SWAT team” (said Dan). I didn’t know if I was supposed to be pushing or not, so I didn’t try to push, but I didn’t fight it either. But it became pretty apparent to us all that Baby was coming whether or not I was “supposed” to be pushing.

Our doctor told us his part of the story later. Normally if he has a patient dilated to 1 1/2 at 5:00 in the evening, he doesn’t stick around. He knew my history with Lydia’s speedy labor so he grabbed some dinner at the hospital and was just sitting down to read a book when he got the page. He came walking to my room, not aware of how quickly things had been progressing. As he walked into my room, he saw Baby’s head.

I asked Dan later how long I was pushing. “Three minutes” was his guess. The nurse said I pushed through two contractions. I remember pushing the head out and hearing the nurse suggest I curl up to feel the head. Not a chance. I was just going to get that baby out. I pushed once more and was surprised that Baby wasn’t coming. The head was out, after all. It turns out Baby came down so fast and hard that he didn’t have time to straighten out. Dan says his knees were still curled up to his chest when he was born.

Then it was all over. Just like that. Baby was placed on my stomach and Dan cut the cord. Somebody said, “You have a little boy.” We were shocked. Both of us had convinced ourselves Baby was a girl. The pediatricians took Baby to the warmer and started their evaluations with lots of exclamations about how bruised his face and feet were from the delivery.

The doctor and resident began stitching up some second degree tears, a process that took half an hour and was miserable for me. I had an episiotomy with Lydia and this time I tore in the same spot, where the skin was still weak. Sadly, as soon as Baby was ready to be held, I couldn’t hold him. I was in too much pain as they stitched me. So they kept him on the warmer and waited for my stitches to be complete.

I remember looking over at the bed, thrilled to have a little boy this time, and thinking, “He’s a Paul.” We had discussed a few baby names but hadn’t picked one out yet. When they handed him back to me, Dan said, “I kind of like the name Paul.” And his name was chosen.

Then I got to hold him. This was a moment I’ve wanted since Lydia was born. I’ve prayed for it more times than I could count. I almost cried just thinking about the possibility as we got further along in the pregnancy. And God made it happen. It was so happy.

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Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

We could have made it to Qdoba but it just felt wrong to have Dan leave me or Paul that soon after birth. So we just waited. I had brought some energy bites, made and frozen long ago, and they were lifesavers in those hours following birth. Much better than the hospital’s jello or popsicles.

11:15 PM

When our two hours in recovery were over, the nurse helped me to a wheel chair. I got the much loved heated blanket and the even more loved swaddled Baby and they wheeled me to the Mother-Baby Unit. As we rolled along, and I marveled at the birth story we got to have this time, the hospital played a little lullaby announcing Paul’s birth.

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He was perfect. Twice the size of Abigail at her birth. Much older than Abby or Lydia. Able to eat and breath on his own. And he had hair.

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My 10 Favorite Things About Being Pregnant

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I realize not everyone gets to experience the miracle of pregnancy. And for those of us that do, it’s far too easy to list all of the hardships that come along with these months of waiting. Since I don’t know how long I’ll get to enjoy having Baby safe inside of me, I wanted to list a few of my favorite things about being pregnant.

1. Baby is safe.

I know bad things can still happen before or after Baby is born, but I am enjoying this time when Baby is where s/he should be. Every morning I wake up and thank God for another day before Baby is born. Every time I have trouble sleeping because Baby is kicking, my joints hurt, or I just can’t catch my breath, I remember how much better this is than watching Baby hooked up to all sorts of tubes and wires in the hospital. Stay in there Baby!

2. Snacks. All the time.

Right now I eat sort of like a cow and no one really gives me a hard time about it. Breakfast, morning snack, lunch, snack before naps, snack after naps, dinner, bedtime snack. And, if I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep, sometimes I get a snack then too.

3. Sleeping through the night.

My kids have a pretty bad track record as far as sleeping through the night. Although, God really answered my desperate prayers when we found out we were pregnant, and Abby was still getting up twice a night. She was weaned and sleeping through the night by the time I hit 17 weeks. Lydia, on the other hand, didn’t sleep through the night until she was almost two, so I am savoring these sleep-filled nights before Baby comes.

4. Quiet.

Our kids aren’t really quiet, but there are certainly moments of quiet throughout the day and during the night. I’m fully aware that our babies usually come with a nice long fussy time in the evenings, something we don’t have to deal with right now. Our girls enjoy eating dinner and playing before bedtime, then go down pretty easy so Dan and I get some time to ourselves. As much as I’m looking forward to having Baby here and even hearing that little cry, I’m enjoying the quiet for now.

5. High hopes.

As long as Baby is in my belly I can imagine anything I want for his/her birth. Maybe I’ll make it to 32…34…36 weeks. Maybe I’ll get to have an all-natural delivery where we don’t have to rush to the hospital in a state of emergency because my water broke at 28 weeks. Maybe we will, but for now I get to hope for the best.

6. Our routine.

We’ve settled into such a lovely routine around here. I look forward to starting each new day, the moments with the girls, moments to myself, everything running more or less like clockwork. I know once baby comes that routine is going to be out the window, NICU or not, and my main focus will be keeping everyone alive and getting enough sleep.

7. Always having something to talk about.

I don’t get out much. Sundays are church and Wednesdays are Hope Group. Since I’m supposed to be “taking it easy” I try to stay off my feet in the minutes or hours following the service/study, and during that time different people usually stop by to chat. Small talk isn’t always easy for me but with Baby on the way I always have plenty to talk about. 🙂

8. Taking it easy.

Lately I’ve been taking a long nap almost every day. In the afternoons I sometimes take a moment to decide what to do next. Then I remind myself that I’m supposed to be “taking it easy” so I’ll curl up and read to the girls or listen to Adventures in Odyssey with them. No guilt. I’m taking care of baby. And I’m fully aware that when Baby comes, especially if s/he comes early, I won’t be nearly as able to take it easy.

9. Time with our girls

When Abby was born, Dan and I were suddenly torn away from Lydia for long periods every day. Even when we were with her we were busy with NICU things, necessary chores, and napping. Mentally we were distracted and stressed and it affected her too. So I am enjoying this season to enjoy my girls, snuggle them, love on them, and give them my time while I have time to spare.

10. The anticipation.

It hit me just the other week that we’re going to have another little person in our family! It may seem strange, but with all the focus on prenatal visits, extra ultrasounds, steroid shots, and preparing for a potential NICU stay, there hasn’t been a lot of time left to think about actually having another baby. So the other day I pulled out the Newborn clothes and separated everything that was gender neutral. Soon we’ll have a little one to snuggle, feed, and play with. Soon the girls will get to enjoy another little baby in the house and Abby will get to be a big sister for the very first time. And soon we’ll have to actually decide on a name! (We’re pretty much down to four names, two girl and two boy.) We’re enjoying these moments of quiet and routine, lying low and hoping for the best, but we’re also excited to meet our new little family member, whenever the time comes for him/her to arrive.

Treading Dangerous Waters: 25 Week Pregnancy Update

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I am now in the phase of this pregnancy my doctor recently referred to as “dangerous waters”: 20-28 weeks. As far as preemies go, 28 weeks is a huge milestone we really want to reach (and pass). So far, so good. Baby is staying put and there have been no signs of coming labor. Good job, Baby!

Three main things have happened since the last update.

First of all, Baby has been breech in every ultrasound from 10 weeks up to my last update, at 22 weeks. Happily for me, Baby flipped shortly after the last update and has been head-down during both of our most recent prenatal visits.

Abigail had to be delivered via c-section because she was breech. While it’s sometimes possible to deliver term babies in a breech presentation, this would be especially dangerous for a preemie. According to my doctor, I have a 50% chance of having a breech baby, so this was a concern of mine over the past several weeks. Somewhere between some baby-flipping exercises, Baby’s own desire to be upside-down, and (most importantly) lots of prayer, our Baby has flipped and will hopefully stay that way. (And for a nice long time too!)

Second, I have packed a hospital bag. I don’t know if this is a big step for most people or not, but for us it is. I’ve never made it far enough along in a pregnancy to do any nesting or preparing for birth. With both of our girls, my water broke and Dan had to scramble around gathering some items before we rushed to the hospital. This time, I planned far ahead and put together as much of my hospital bag as possible, along with a list of some last-minute items for Dan to throw in if we have another surprise labor.

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Along with the hospital bag, we’ve also lined up babysitters for the girls for whenever I do go into labor. This is a huge burden off my back; I feel like I can really just relax and be ready for Baby to come whenever s/he is ready.

Finally, we got our betamethasone shots! For those who are unfamiliar, this is a shot that comes in two doses, given 24 hours apart, that helps prepare Baby’s lungs in case Baby does come early. Baby’s lungs are one of the last things to develop in utero, so breathing is the first and biggest obstacle most preemies have to face. Getting this set of steroid shots gives Baby an easier time learning to breath early. I got the first dose of the shot with both Lydia and Abigail while I was in labor, but it was too late to do any good. This Baby has his/her full dose and will be set for the next 6 weeks.

Baby is moving around a lot, more than I remember with Lydia or Abby. Baby also feels big. I was concerned about this over Christmas and kept telling Dan, “I just feel like Baby is running out of room.” After a couple nights of this, Dan pointed out to me that all pregnant women probably feel like they’re running out of room. That doesn’t mean Baby is coming tonight, this week, or even this month. We certainly hope not.

In our ultrasounds, Baby is measuring about 4 days big for his/her age, and everything looks normal. No signs of labor. No signs of complications. And there is plenty of amniotic fluid.

Here’s Baby’s latest picture. It’s a little hard to see, but Baby’s head is sideways and the left side is in shadow. You can see Baby’s chin (on the left), nose, and his/her right eye (near the top of the picture), which looks shut. Baby just might have been sleeping when this picture was taken. 🙂

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My Thankful for 2014

When Lydia was not yet one year old,  I started a tradition that I hope to continue with each of our children.  Instead of creating a Baby book by hand (I’ve never been much of a scrapbooker) I designed a photo book online.  A month or so ago, I continued this tradition with Abby.  This is really irrelevant to the rest of my post except to explain the pictures.  The pictures used in this post are taken from Abby’s little book.  Moving on.

As Thanksgiving Day approaches, our family has taken time to reminisce on the past year and share some of the things for which we are the most grateful. Lydia’s favorites have been Sandy rides at Meijer, and the color pink. Some of Dan’s top blessings have been God’s provision for us with a new home and job, and Abby’s long awaited homecoming last December. Abby’s only “Thankful” has been food. Although, she is, in general, pretty happy about everything.

Today I thought I’d share one of my “Thankfuls”.

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About a year and a half ago, we were still living on campus at Dan’s college, and I was pregnant with Abigail. Since we didn’t know why Lydia had been born early, we didn’t know whether or not Abby would follow in her footsteps. It was a struggle not to be anxious. Would Abby be born early? Would she be born earlier than Lydia? Would she be born too early to survive?

Frequently I would lay in bed at night praying over these questions and God would bring to mind Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” It felt like a Word from God assuring me good things for Baby, but not answering my questions about when she would be born.

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As it turned out, Abby was born early. She was born earlier than Lydia, and she stayed in the hospital far longer. She had more issues to deal with and was a puzzle to the doctors. There were even nights I wondered if she would ever come home.

Finally, last Thanksgiving Day, Abby had two surgeries that allowed her to come home. Her surgeries were Thursday and we brought her home Sunday morning.

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Shortly after Abby came home, I was holding her one morning as I sat in my glider. She was asleep and I was praying for her and asking God what specific things I should be praying for her future. Among other things, I felt led to pray that Abby would bring joy to others. Abby wasn’t even smiling yet, and the prayer didn’t spring from anything I had observed in her character, only what I thought the Lord had in mind for her future.

Soon Abby learned to smile, and since then she has rarely stopped. Others have observed, and I agree, that she is simply the happiest baby we’ve ever met. A week or so ago, as we were tucking Abby in one night, Dan commented that, “Our family wouldn’t be the same without Abby. We have more joy because she’s here.”

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This year, among a host of other things, I am thankful that God gave us Abby: that He created her and protected her, brought her home, and had a plan for her future. Even while I was laying pregnant in bed anxiously praying for an unknown future, God could already see far beyond the pregnancy, the hospital stay, and even past today. How reassuring it is to know that a good God holds our futures in His hands, and the futures of our most loved ones as well.

Four Things a Husband Should Do for His Wife

Today Dan and I are celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary. Dan took a few days off of work, and, as I mentioned in the last post, we have a lot of fun planned. So, I’m not making any promises about when the next update will come. In the meantime, I’d like to celebrate this fourth anniversary by sharing four things my husband does for me, four things every husband should do for his wife.

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He loves me.

I have a problem. We call it the “goldfish syndrome” and I’ve read enough marriage books to know I’m not the only wife who has it. No matter how creatively, lavishly, romantically, or frequently Dan tells me he loves me, I forget.

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It’s not always that I forget. The problem is really that I stop feeling loved and so I start to believe I’m not. Or sometimes I know that Dan loved me…at one time, but what if it changed? What if he stopped? So Dan has his work set out, but he is constantly, faithfully, patiently reminding me of his love for me.

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He leads me.

I really enjoy having Dan as a leader in our home. It has become my second nature to ask his opinion on everything. Picking out fabric for Abby’s quilt? I asked Dan’s opinion. (He picked out the backing) Trying to figure out a new schedule? Ask Dan. Feeling like I’m doing a bad job at keeping a home and raising the girls? Go to Dan and get some input.

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But it’s not just when I ask that Dan leads. He leads us in so many areas of our lives.

Spiritually – he reads the Bible to us after our meals and prays with me every night before we go to sleep
Financially – he earns us a living even on days when he would rather do anything but go to work
Emotionally – he holds it together when everything else seems to be falling apart
Decision Making – he always gets the final say, although he appreciates my input, he’s not afraid to make the call
As a Dad – Dan doesn’t just leave me to raise our kiddos. Even when they are less than four pounds and growing in an isolette in the NICU, Dan is a present and loving father (and a really good one too)

There are so many ways Dan is a leader in our home, I couldn’t list them all if I tried.

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He helps me.

Maybe if I was perfect I could do it all. Manage and keep a beautiful home (all the time). Teach and train the girls. Feed and diaper the baby. Clean and fold laundry. Plan and cook meals. Keep track of our budget and all our finances. Correspond with friends and relatives. Plan doctor visits, vacations, and dates. Exercise and get plenty of rest. Even while kids are sick, babies aren’t sleeping, and we live in transitional sorts of places.

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Since I’m not perfect, I can’t do it all by myself, and even when I seem to be accomplishing a lot, I’m known to have occasional break downs. But Dan doesn’t expect me to be perfect or self-sustaining. He helps me do my job as I help him do his. We’re spouses, but we’re also partners, teammates, and friends.

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He spurs me on.

Dan and I first started talking at a time when I was discouraged and far from home, but learning good things from God. He started emailing me once in a while to encourage me, pray for me, and ask what God was doing in my life. My God’s grace, Jesus has stayed the center of our relationship through all of the transitions and changes over the past four (plus!) years. Dan is the one I go to first with my Bible questions, thoughts, and troubles. We pray together and seek God together. He’s my husband, and he’s my leader. He’s my helper and my friend, but he’s also my brother in Christ and always will be.

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Halfway Blessings, Halfway Thanks

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This is Part 2 of a two-part post. If you haven’t already, you may want to read Post 1 before reading on…

If you remember, we left off here:

My run involved ten minutes of semi-dodging wheelies, one sweaty hand holding my cell-phone timer, one hand scrolling through all 34 chapters of Deuteronomy before I could get to the next real song (which was a slow one anyway), and one jogging stroller running into the grass while I tried to push it with my forearms…

This was the routine that continued for a couple of weeks. One afternoon, after a 25-minute run, I was making my way back along the busy road to our home. Every ten feet or so I would have to pull off to the side of the road while a car or two came speeding by in the lane closest to me. Lydia was eagerly asking to get out of the stroller to “run with you!”, which can’t happen until we are off the busy road and closer to the house. I was hot and tired and wishing for a longer stretch between cars so I didn’t have to keep exerting all my energy to roll the girls into the grass and wait for more traffic to pass. I wanted to get home, get clean, and get some water.

Then I saw in the distance a red truck pulling a noisy trailer. I continued walking along the side of the road with my eyes glued to the truck, waiting until the last minute to pull off into the grass again. Just as the truck closed in on that particular distance when I have to turn off my path, the driver changed lanes. He turned his big truck and trailer into the left-most lane and zoomed by at a safe distance so that I wouldn’t have to pull off into the grass.

He made my day. I was so happy I didn’t have to do any wheelies or take any breaks. I just kept walking on that skinny bike lane on the side of the road. And, as I rejoiced in that little blessing I was struck by my attitude change. I was still making an inconvenient trek from the trail where I could safely run, but I was rejoicing in a blessing instead of sulking over the inconvenience.

There were so many factors about my runs that I was considering “halfway blessings”.

The stroller that allowed me to go running…but didn’t maneuver well.

The cell phone that kept time…but was hard to see and couldn’t strap to my wrist.

The charged mp3 player that gave me good running music…but a whole lot of other content too.

The running trail that allowed me to run without stopping for cars…but the distance I had to walk to get to it.

The sidewalk that made my trek a little easier…but was only five houses long.

OR

The red truck with a trailer that came zooming by…but changed lanes so I wouldn’t have to stop.

It is so easy to focus on the half of my circumstances that aren’t what I want them to be. But how much happier it is to focus on the “blessing half”. Isn’t that true all throughout life? The grass is greener on the other side, where the stroller wheels swivel and the sidewalks don’t end. But watching that “greener” grass grow does nothing but leave me grumpy and unthankful.

Thankfulness. It’s been a theme lately, and I feel like I’m just learning the same lessons over and over again in different ways. But even as I write this I think…

I’m learning to be thankful…but I’m just going to have to learn again.

I’m so glad God doesn’t give up on me.

Sweet Potato Prayers

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This Thursday will mark six weeks of basement living for our family, and, as we don’t have an accepted offer on any houses yet, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. I daily ask God to provide the right house for us in His timing, but that His timing would be soon. It was during one of these prayers that I realized a change (for the better) that has come over me in these past few weeks. I am more desperately depending on God for help. For me, that looks like lots and lots of praying. It’s not the kind of “close yourself in your closet and get on your knees” praying. It’s the “in the middle of the chaos” sort of praying.

And as I pray, God answers. I don’t want to forget those answers, and I thought it might be fun to share some little answered prayers from this past weekend.

Friday was Lydia’s birthday. We had big plans of spending the whole morning at the playground. We were even going to eat lunch there and come back for a later nap time than usual. Then, as Lydia and Abby napped, I was going to clean up and cook up a Mexican feast which was to include this sauce that Lydia loves. She affectionately refers to this as simply, “Sauce”.

Somewhere in the middle of our morning (pre-playground trip) I realized that I didn’t have a sweet potato for Lydia’s special sauce that I had promised her. And Dan had taken the car to work with the stroller in the back seat. Bummer. I prayed that God would somehow provide me with a sweet potato for Lydia’s sauce. I decided to go to the playground without the stroller and just eat lunch at home. And I went on with the day.

After breakfast I asked Lydia to go to the bathroom so I could brush her teeth. She scurried off and I took care of a couple of things before heading off to join her. When I got to the bathroom, the door was shut. And locked. And Lydia didn’t know how to unlock it. After messing with the lock for a while myself I went upstairs to get RJ (the real homeowner) to ask for help. He graciously came down and we spent the next twenty minutes trying to explain to Lydia how to unlock the door while he tried various tools in the lock.

She had been in the bathroom for almost half an hour when RJ went upstairs to look for some different tools. I had been praying silently all along, but after unsuccessfully trying to explain one more time to Lydia how to unlock the door I decided to pray out loud. We asked God to help us get the door unlocked and within minutes RJ tried the right tool and Lydia was free.

I had been on and off the phone with Dan all along and called him once more to tell him the emergency was over. Then we got ready to go to the playground. Just then, the door opened and there was Dan! He had been sent home to work for the day because they didn’t have the internet working at the office. And Dan brought home the stroller and the sweet potato.

Lydia enjoyed the rest of her birthday with a long-awaited visit to the playground, a necessary nap, and a Mexican feast, including her special sauce.

God gave us a sweet potato, an unlocked door, and even a stroller (an unvoiced prayer) all in one short morning. These are just a few examples of the daily ways God hears our calls for help and gives us what we need. One of these days I believe He will give us the house we’ve been praying for, but in the meantime (and long after) we will be thankful for answers to our “sweet potato prayers”.

First Month of Thankful

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It has already been more than a month since I started keeping track of a blessing-a-day, and what a month it has been! Little did I know when I started this project that I would wrap up my first month living in a new home and house-hunting. The past week has been very busy with last minute packing, moving, cleaning, rearranging, and unpacking, but I’ve managed to keep my resolution so far and I thought it would be fun to share some of the things I’ve been learning along the way.

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1. I am so very thankful for my husband and kiddos. Can you tell? The munchkins make it in to the majority of my pictures and even the ones that don’t include a munchkin usually represent a moment that did involve one or both of them. While two little ones make life busy and sometimes overwhelming, I certainly am grateful for my girls and wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. Not clean floors or grown-up conversation or free time or sleep or anything else! As for Dan, I’ve been resisting the urge to write down “Dan” or “time with Dan” or anything of the sort, saving those ones for special days. No repeats allowed, you know.

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2. I love weekends! I actually keep a journal and during my quiet time each day I try to write down at least three things I’m thankful for. One Friday I looked back and realized that “Friday!” was making the list over and over (exclamation mark and all). I love Fridays because once Dan comes home from work, he doesn’t leave me until Monday. (I do not love Mondays). Saturdays are my Dan day. Sundays are nice too, but with church we spend more time talking to others. My “Fridays” haven’t made it into a picture yet because it feels too easy. I’m trying to make myself be specific.

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3. The real lesson I’ve been learning is that it’s just not enough to be thankful for one thing a day. I can quite vividly recall fuming in frustration one afternoon. I was standing in my kitchen looking out at the messy living room, upset that the day had gone so terribly. There was not a grateful bone in my body as I stood there and this lesson hit me. It wasn’t working. Not that day anyway. And I realized that it’s not enough to make a little list of blessings, even if you do it every day. I want my life to be one of continual gratitude and joy, in each moment, in each difficulty, trusting God and rejoicing in the blessings He’s given me. I am learning to count my blessings and trust God’s long-term plan. It’s not quick or clean or easy, but I can see that God is making me a more grateful person. But I always come back to the place where I am so thankful that it’s not based on me at all but on what Jesus did for me. I’ll never be good enough. This project is just another way that God is showing me I’m not and never will be. Thank God I don’t have to be. He is.

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And so wraps up one month of twelve. One month closer to my 27th birthday. One month behind me filled with little happy moments. Eleven months to go.

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