Sunday, October 14, 2012

Happy Birthday, Danny!!

Six years old!! So fun! I have a hard time believing that you are growing up so fast, Danny. Our third child...yet already in first grade, and now, reading!! (Well, a little bit!)

You're an interesting child at an interesting age.  You love life and live fully.  You're quick on the draw on some things and take your time on others.  You tend to be a very thankful child, especially if I'm taking you to see the woman that you love (a.k.a. Miss Gabby, your speech therapist).

You're generous with your hugs and kisses and you really love people.  You also love to talk and socialize... even if that might get you in trouble here and there. ;)

We love you, Danny, and we thank God for you and the sweet, unique individual that you are.  We hope this year is good for you -- that you grow more in your love for God and your love for others, that you continue to grow in self-control and selflessness, and that you are secure and confident in the fact that you are very much loved -- by us, by so many others, and most importantly, by the One who made you!!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sixteen Weeks

Disclaimer: This post is going to delve into my contemplation of death and suffering. So if you don't want to go there, you can stop reading now.

I'm sixteen weeks pregnant, now.

Starting to feel a bit better, though I still have my completely wiped out or nauseous days. (For those who know me pretty well, I'd put money on a boy.)

And for the past few weeks, I've been feeling the soft, sweet random flutter of life in my womb.

Sixteen weeks is as far along as our last baby made it, this side of heaven. And I have to say that the last few weeks have had me thinking about that fact. A lot.

We had a regularly scheduled appointment (complete with an ultrasound) at 11 1/2 weeks. By 13 weeks, I was terrified after a weekend of a low fever that something was wrong.  Went in for an unplanned check-up appointment and was happy to see that heart beating away in the ultrasound again.

But, by a day or two later, I was battling my fears again.  I'll have a sweet day, usually while nauseous and wiped out, where I'll feel a lot of baby flutters and feel happily assured that everything is good. But then I'll have a couple busy days, not feel much as far as baby goes, and start wondering if I'll ever actually get to cuddle this little one in my arms.  I'll spend my waking moments, falling asleep moments, and random times throughout the day, concentrating on my stomach and hoping to feel something. Anything.

I find myself shying away from talking about this baby, or thinking about March and our due date, and then I force myself to push aside my worries for the moment that it takes to post something on Facebook. My sweet husband, who also lost the same baby I did, patiently, graciously listens to me as I battle.

I'd love to be able to say to myself, "Don't worry!! You're just being crazy! Of course this baby will be fine. A second trimester loss was a complete abnormality... why do you think you have a greater chance of losing this baby now then you did when you were in your first trimester, when such a loss is so much more common?"

But, the truth is, we don't know that this baby will survive.  God hasn't promised us that, for this little one (that we've nicknamed CurlyQue), or any of our other children, either.  God hasn't told us how many days I have to live or my husband or any of our loved ones.  We honestly don't know. And we don't know what caused our last little one to die, apart from his (or her) ordained days coming to an end.

So that's where I have to capture my heart and my thoughts and return them to what I do know.  I don't know what tomorrow will hold, but I DO know that God knows tomorrow.  He knew it before the beginning of time, and He has promised that His grace will be sufficient, His mercies will be new, and He'll provide for all my needs.  I can rest assured, as with each of my blessings, that they are God's, first, and that He is a good and powerful God.  I don't know His plans, but I can thank Him for the fact that no matter what happens on this earth, He will never leave me nor forsake me.  And that He has made a way for me to have eternal life and security and joy in His very presence, because of what His Son has accomplished. For me.

I love, love, love Romans 8:28-29, and I know that whatever God's plan is for my future, He is using it to make me more like Jesus, and using it to show Himself, through me, to those who He is drawing to Himself. And I want that more than anything. Because not being like Jesus? That's the problem. I'm so thankful for His grace along the way.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Happy Birthday, Wazowski!

For some reason more than most of our kids, your birthday brings back to me a flood of memories of the day of your birth. Maybe it was because my labor with you was so fast that I can actually remember most of it, instead of it blurring into eternity.  But I think it might be because there were so many exceptional aspects about that time.  You were the only one of my kids, so far, to actually be delivered by my favorite doctor.  You were the kid that waited the longest after your due date, the largest baby by far, and the shortest labor and delivery by far.  And then there were the unique tears of mourning and blessing that accompanied the announcement of your actual birthdate.

But even more than the exceptional circumstances surrounding your birth, you are becoming quite an exceptional child. We are so blessed to see so many glimpses of the profound man we see our seven-year-old son becoming.  With your mother, you are gentle, compassionate, sensitive and concerned. You look out for me in a way that makes me truly marvel at the wisdom you have in already looking to your father for an example of how to treat me, and hopefully women in general.

We love how you watch protectively over your mischievous two-year-old brother. And we love how you're concerned about what I eat and drink, wondering how it will affect the tiniest of your siblings who is yet to be born.

Most of all, we love seeing evidences of the grace of God working in you, in your contemplations and your speech and your prayers.  We love seeing you grow in love and patience and self-control as you ask God for these things.  We love seeing this because it gives us sweet hope that God is at work in your heart and your life, and that is our greatest hope for you and the greatest blessing you could ever receive.

You're an amazing son, and we thank God for you, Mikey.  We pray that this year shows you growing in peace and thankfulness and joy. We love you!!

Happy, happy birthday, Mikey!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Elly's First Book Report

Just had to share... ;)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Happy Birthday, Eliana!!

I don't know how many times this year we've looked at you and said, or thought, "Wow. She's really growing up."  Certainly seems like it's been a transition year for you, Sweet Girl.  We don't doubt that you love life. You put your whole heart into everything you do, in your lovely, quiet way.  And yet the depth of that heart sometimes just...blows us away.

You lost a baby brother or sister a wee bit more than a year ago, and I know that's changed how you see life.  I don't think that, since that time, I've heard you pray without also hearing you reflect those changes. Thank you, Sweetie. Thank you for trusting God with such huge things. And thank you so much for your prayers for me and for your unborn sibling. And thank you for sharing your heart. You don't know how much that has touched our hearts.

You are changing... from a child, to a young lady. You love to read, you love art, you love animals... you love your family, close and far away.  You love your friends and flowers and Hello Kitty. And we love you. We're so thankful to have you as our first-born child.  You are a precious gift from God, and we love seeing you grow.

We hope and pray that this next year has beautiful things in store for you. We pray that you grow in your love for God, and that you find true peace and joy in His abundant love for you.  We love you, Eliana!

Happy, happy birthday, Baby Girl!!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Happy, Happy Birthday, 'Lijah!!

Dude. Seriously. For a just turned two-year-old, you are responsible for more gray hairs than any other child I know. You constantly keep me on my toes.  And you've stolen my heart. I have a feeling that you have more stolen hearts in your arsenal than you know what to do with!

When people meet you, I tell them that you are four boys wrapped into one. I also tell them that your squeaky shoes hold a much more practical purpose than simply being cute.  I think it's only fair to warn them, before you twinkle your baby blues, scrunch up your nose, remove the pacifier from your mouth and blow them a huge kiss.

I love your cuddles. You're so sweet to climb up into my lap and lay your soft face against my chest while you contemplate mass destruction. Speaking of your love for climbing, you're the first of our kids to put a hole in your birthday cake  BEFORE I even had a chance to frost it. Ahem.

I love how well your personality complements the rest of us, in ways I could never have thought of or designed. And I love how much your big brothers and sisters love you.

We love you, Elijah Joseph.  You are God's gift to us. You and all the gray hairs you've brought us.  We pray that you will grow in wisdom and love. We pray that you will treasure the mercy offered you by the most High King.  And we pray that God would protect you and your heart as you grow in creativity and the ability to enact your crazy plans.

Happy, happy second birthday, Elijah. We love you so much!!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Use E-mail Filters to Save Money

Most of us avoid signing up for e-mail lists because we don't want a bunch of commercial advertising cluttering our inbox. Besides, we know how advertising works. The more we look at advertising, the more we're tempted to buy things we don't really need.

But avoiding e-mail subscriptions to the stores and restaurants we frequent also means we are missing out on exclusive deals and coupons -- ones that aren't available on RetailMeNot.

I think you can have your cake and eat it too. The solution is simple. Here's what you need to do:
  • Sign up to receive e-mails from all of the places where you shop or dine (or might like to shop or dine if you had a decent coupon).
  • Set up e-mail filters  to automatically "skip the inbox" and categorize these incoming e-mails as coupons. (Gmail users can learn how to use filters here.)
  • Click on the label/folder to find new e-mails before you go out to eat or shop.
Here's an example from my inbox:

As more retailers offer mobile coupons (i.e. coupons you can just show on your phone instead of printing out), e-mail filtering will become even more helpful -- at least if you have a smart phone. You can just scroll through potential coupons on your phone once you're at the store -- no need to remember to print them before leaving home.

Hopefully this strategy will help a few of you save some money. If you have questions or other good ideas for saving money, please feel free to leave a comment.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Transparency and Steadfast Love

Eleven months ago today I had a D&C.  I had found out five days before, when expecting to see the sweet moving form of a seventeen week old baby in an ultrasound, that #7’s heart had already stopped beating.

In prior years, I’ve had my ACL replaced, my wisdom teeth extracted, and six natural labors and deliveries. None of these prepared me for the incredible pain and long recovery my body would go through due to the second trimester D&C. And none of the major life pains and losses we had previously endured prepared us for the loss of this precious life, and all the hopes and dreams attached to our youngest child.

Over the next several months of dark grief, we keenly felt this loss and there have been many days I’ve longed for heaven and many nights that I’ve wept in anguish.  My sweetest comfort in the darkest moments have been the assurances that my God knows the pain of such loss and that, despite my failure to come close to the holiness of His Son, He loves me as His cherished daughter and sees me with the righteousness of Jesus – the Son He watched die for my sins.

The clearest lesson that God impressed on my heart over the darkest months that followed was that He wants His people to be transparent.  The Bible contains a lot of “one anothers” — Love one another… pray for one another… weep with those who weep. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Share one another’s burdens.  How can we do any of these things if we don’t know what is going on in each other’s hearts? How can anyone know what is going on in my heart if I don’t share?

I’ve stretched myself to share our pain when I wanted to hide or pretend it wasn’t there. I’ve talked about #7 to people without knowing how they would respond. I’ve listened when people have said dumb things, warring with my heart to assume the best of their ignorance. And God sweetly comforted our hearts this past year with those of you who grieved with us.  You valued our precious baby – a baby that society counts as expendable – when you wept with us.  You loved us and carried some of our grief for us. When you continued to care for us and listened to our pain long after the “acceptable grieving period” had passed, you showed us the very heart of God.

A couple dear friends lost their five-year-old to cancer five months ago.  Logan, a precious, life-loving child who had stolen our hearts, love, and prayers, went to heaven six months to the day after we found out that #7 was already there. His loss, again, shifted my view of life on this earth and made me long for a day where there would be no more pain or tears or death.

A Facebook post that Logan’s mama wrote yesterday made me think that I still have far to grow in this whole transparency area. 

In many ways, I’ve lost some of my transparency these last few months.  I don’t want people to think that I’m not incredibly grateful for the many blessings God has given us. I don’t want people to think that I’m comparing my loss, pain, and fears to theirs.  I don’t want people to misjudge my heart… or even judge it correctly.  And I don’t want to be the one who is hurting or cause others to hurt unnecessarily. I know the path that God has chosen for others makes mine look like a piece of cake.  I don’t want to fail to see that.  And I don’t want others to think that my heart is not breaking for them, too, as I have such sweet gifts that others still long for.

We still miss #7. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard David whisper his head count this past year: “4, 5, 6… feels like someone is missing.” “Doesn’t the house feel too quiet for some reason?” A couple weeks ago, when David and I were driving on our getaway vacation, I distinctly remember looking over my shoulder to check on the baby in the backseat. I had to shake my head at the realization that there was only luggage and an ice chest back there.  When we had first started thinking of this trip, we had expected to have a six-month-old baby along.

Some friends know the continued pain the loss of #7 has wrought in our hearts… how we have desired another baby, all the while knowing that another baby would not change the reality of this loss or even how our children now have a whole new view of the fleeting reality of life. Some friends have watched me battle with my heart, knowing that God opens and closes the womb, as I’ve watched my body stay out of whack after the D&C. 

David and I don’t have a set number of kids we want to have. We’re kind of just playing it by ear, seeing what life brings, knowing that God makes babies, and He knows what He’s doing.  But my heart has ached at the thought that maybe #7 was the last baby I would carry. I certainly didn’t want our family’s count to end on that note.

These are all things that are still hard to share sometimes, especially in light of the legitimate burdens others already carry. But I also don’t want people to think that I simply love God because my life is so beautiful.  David and I have gone through some really tough situations these past few years. We’re still going through some difficult things.  Yet God has been kind to show us His mercies in many ways that we continually fail to deserve.  He is a kind, gracious, generous God.  He’s given us His Son, adopted us into His family, and has taken care of us in ways that only the King of Kings and Lord of Lords could.

And, on top of all of that, He’s blessed us with another baby, due in March. We continue to miss #7. We continue to battle fears for this next baby. But we’re blessed by His kindness.  And we’re blessed by our children’s excitement for this next baby, and even the transparency they have as they share their fears and cares for this wee one.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
 Lamentation 3:22-23

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pacific Northwest Photos

Christina's and my tenth anniversary isn't until later this month, but we've taken the liberty of starting the celebration a few weeks early.

Here are photos from our recent getaway to the Pacific Northwest.

And, yes, thanks to Lila and Amy, we left the kids at home!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Video: Kittens!

The kids call them "Princess" and "Scooter," but Christina calls them "Thing One" and "Thing Two."

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Video: Spray Park Fun

We took the kids and Auntie Danelle (who is visiting from Minnesota) to a local park this past Saturday and discovered that the spray park is up and running. Everyone had a blast!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Happy, Happy Birthday, SammySam!!

So your trademark hair may no longer be, but you are still as cute and cuddly as ever, our sweet Sammy!  This last year has been a kick, watching you grow in size and stature, in your ability to communicate (in English), and watching you gain interests (okay, passions) for trains, race cars, and most recently, firefighting! Your adorable "woowoowoo" firetruck imitation often reverberates throughout the house and the sweet way you try to include your baby brother "Wijah" in your repeated viewings of "Firefighter Barney" are quite endearing... if not a wee bit nerve-wracking at times!

We love your joyful heart.  Yes, you can get upset and the world certainly knows it when you do, but most often you are good-natured and happy.... and your cuddles, hugs, and kisses, combined with that scrunched nose and the twinkle in your eyes are absolutely awesome. And when you sing? Too sweet. Just too sweet.

We love, love, love you SammySam.  Only an awesome, creative, kind, generous, all-knowing God would put someone like you in our family... and we're so thankful that He did!! We pray that as you continue to grow in size and stature, you'll also grow in an unshakable knowledge that the same holy God who made you, loves you. And He made a way for you to love Him, too. We hope that you do that. With all of your heart.

Happy, happy THIRD birthday, Sammy!!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

for: mom, from: Eliana


Friday, January 20, 2012

Happy Fourth Birthday, Selah!!

*This entry is two days late. So sorry, Aunt Danelle. Life just gets in the way sometimes!!*

It's been a few months since we've had a four-year-old in the house... but I'm delighted to announce that as of Wednesday, our Selah is filling that bill.

Selah, I can't begin to tell you how much you have added to our family in the way of joy and entertainment. We love your bouncy personality and the intensity with which you love us and others. You have a way of making people feel so special and loved -- you're simply delightful.

We love watching you grow and seeing the world through your eyes, and we cannot thank God enough for seeing fit to give you to us. You get so excited about the little things in life, and you are so sweet to express your gratitude. You also have quite a lot of opinions for a freshly turned four-year-old. But you share your opinions with such clarity and confidence that we can't help but be entertained by them.

I love how fearless you are when you're around me and how shy and bashful you get once Daddy is around to hold you and protect you. It cracks me up. (And I KNOW that Daddy loves being able to hold you and protect you. Please remember, as you get older, that by His grace, God gave you a good Daddy who is looking out for you and is trustworthy in his counsel.)

I'm so thankful for the grace that God has shown our family, and I pray that you will know that grace more and more, our dear Selah. I pray that you'll know how very good and loving our God is, and how He's given EVERYTHING to make a way for you to be right with Him. I pray that you'll find your rest in Him and you'll delight in His goodness more and more each day. And I pray that He'll use your delightful personality to show Himself to those who don't know His love.

We love you, sweet Selah. Happy, happy birthday!!