Knowing and Believing

After three and a half years of trying, waiting and hoping, it had finally happened. A positive pregnancy test. After three and a half years of trying and waiting, I wondered if my child bearing years were maybe…just…over. Only those closest to me knew how much I longed to hold another baby in my arms, how many pregnancy tests I’d taken, how discouraged I was when they all came up negative. When you have three happy, healthy children already, you don’t necessarily talk about wanting another—it almost seems selfish. So we waited. And hoped. And trusted. Then, finally, there it was: “pregnant” printed boldly across the test I’d just taken. I burst into tears. The first thing I did was offer praise to the Giver of life who’d seen fit to bless us once again. Onan and I were ecstatic. So were the kids. We told our families, our church, and our closest friends–those who knew our story, who would rejoice with us, and who would pray for this little life growing inside of me. As is our custom, my husband and I immediately began to argue about baby names (thank goodness for veto power!). We discussed fun and creative ways to “Facebook announce” the pregnancy. And we could not stop dreaming about the new little one who would join us in the spring.

But at the first sonogram, when I should have been almost eight weeks along, the screen showed that I was only measuring just past six, and when I asked the technician about a heartbeat, she said, “If there is one, I’m not able to detect it.” Still, my doctors were cautiously optimistic. “Your hCG levels are high,” they told me, “maybe your dates are wrong? Let’s do another sonogram in a week to see where you are.” I doubted my dates were wrong. When you are waiting and hoping for a baby, you keep careful track. But I held tight to a scrap of hope, knowing that dates can be wrong and that God can do anything. We assembled our prayer warriors, and pray, they did—every day with us for that week of waiting.

But at the next sonogram, the screen showed the exact same picture it had the week before. No growth. No heartbeat. This time my doctors said “Miscarriage.”

I had felt mentally prepared for this outcome. I know the statistics. More importantly, I know women—many, many godly, precious women—who have endured miscarriages. Why should I be spared? I know Romans 8:28—I shout it out to anyone who will listen! I’ve lived it. I know people who are living it right now, suffering unfathomable loss. And I had wanted to trust no matter what. I wanted to say with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego that my God is able to deliver me from fiery furnaces, but even if he does not, I will still trust him. I wanted to say with Job, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.” I wanted to sing that the Lord gives and takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord. I know God is good. I know that he is sovereign. I know it.

But in bed that night after the second sonogram that confirmed my baby had died, I struggled to believe it. As I cried angry, bitter tears, I asked God what kind of cruel joke miscarriage is. I told him that this baby was supposed to be my rainbow baby. I asked him why taking one of my children couldn’t have been enough.

When Job questioned God, he got a whirlwind and three chapters of questions fired back at him by The Great I Am. But do you know what he did for me? As I laid there, broken and weeping, I told God what I know is true about him, and I begged him to help me believe it. I prayed for him to shift my focus. Shift. My. Focus. As soon as I uttered those words, do you know where he took me? He took me to the cross. And I saw Jesus, hanging there, bloodied and broken, as clearly as if I had been standing beneath the cross on the day he died. I saw him, and the weight of what he was doing, and why he was doing it, took my very breath away. Talk about a shift of focus! In the most loving and gracious way possible, God answered my prayer. And in an instant, I remembered. I remembered that God loves me in ways that I cannot even begin to understand. I remembered that he is the kind of God who sacrifices everything for his people. Of course he is good. Of course he will work all things together for my good. He is a God who knows suffering, One who has suffered. He is a God who cares for his children, who walks with them through the valley. I can trust him because he’s already proven that he is trustworthy. I can rest in him because he has already given me everything that I need.

We are back to waiting. I have no idea when, how or even if God will grow our family in the future. I am sure that I will need to ask him to shift my focus again and again over the next few days and weeks and months. Unbelief is the root of all my sin, after all. I don’t know why he’s chosen to take another one of our children. But I can shout from the rooftops that he is good, and that I trust him.

Charlotte’s First (Professional) Manicure

We were able to go “home” to South Florida the week of thanksgiving and were blessed to see lots of friends and family while down there. My youngest sister, Amy, even came down from the Big Apple for a few days. We hadn’t seen her in almost a year, so it was especially nice to get to spend time together. She wanted to take Charlie out for a manicure–something I hadn’t planned on doing til she was five (okay, fine, at least three), but Amy insisted: “There are ALWAYS toddlers getting their nails done when I go in New York!” (Well, I don’t doubt that.) I thought it would be something special Charlotte could share with her aunt, and she’s about as princess-y as they come, so I knew she would love it.
First things first: picking out her nail color with Aunt Amy (pink, of course!).

A little timid at the start: “Um, what exactly is going to happen here?”

Starting to relax during the massage portion (always the best part!)

Oh yes, I do think I like this!

Time for the polish…

Ooh la la!

I think we may have to make this a weekly occurence, Mom!

Time to dry…

Thanks for treating me to my first mani, Aunt Amy!

I have a feeling there will be many more to come…

Guest Post: “Learning to be a Thanks Giver”

This week, in light of Thanksgiving, and because my husband is a much better writer than I am, I’m sharing his most recent article at The Patriot Update, where he writes weekly. Obviously, I am incredibly thankful for him.

“It’s the week of Thanksgiving, one of our most important American holidays, and a writer would be remiss to not write about this important day. Several hundred years ago our forbears landed on the Atlantic coast and settled in for a long stay. These early colonizers met their challenges with fear, trepidation…and thanks. How could they be thankful for a cold, harsh, dangerous and imperfect new land where life was precarious and so many of them would die? Freedom. Not just any kind of freedom, but the freedom to worship God in the way that they believed the Bible taught was correct.

We have so many reasons to be thankful in America today, but perhaps the most important reason is our freedom to worship (or not worship) freely. No American is forced into an “underground” church, our religious leaders are not told to keep from preaching about certain topics, and our citizens are allowed to give freely of their income to their religious institutions. Perhaps there is a day coming when some of these things are not so, but for today we are a “free” people.

At my family’s Thanksgiving gathering this year we will no doubt gather around the table, holding hands and each of us recite one thing that we are thankful for this year. Someone will mention our soldiers overseas, someone else will mention having work, another their health, and invariably someone will mention family. We are so blessed to have our family, as crazy and imperfect as some of them may be. Isn’t that the crux of our society’s current ills? The failure as a culture to remember just how important our families our? Fatherlessness, single mothers, broken marriages, abuse, addiction, abortion… aren’t all of these just symptoms of a basic misunderstanding of what the family is supposed to be? The family is supposed to be a brilliant reflection of God’s desired relationship with us, a community of love, mercy, discipline, and most importantly grace.

I want to give thanks today for my family. I am so thankful for my beautiful and brilliant (in so many ways) wife, Leah. I am so thankful for my three wonderfully unique, hilarious, and energetic children who brighten my life to no end. I am so thankful for our fourth child who is on her way, due in January, Elizabeth Grace because she has taught me so much already.

It was through Elizabeth that I learned about something called anencephaly. Anencephaly is a condition where the top of the baby’s skull does not grow into place, and so the brain is left unguarded from the amniotic fluid that the baby lives in for their first 40 weeks (or so) of growth. Without this protection the brains higher function cannot develop and so the baby will grow and mature with only is lower level brain functions. The short version of the story is that while the baby will generally grow and develop normally, after she is born and removed from her mothers’ body she will not be able to live on her own. The condition was described by our doctors as … fatal. She may live outside of the womb for a few minutes, a few hours, or maybe a few days – but she will leave us, far sooner than we ever imagined.

I cannot adequately describe the absolute shock I felt when we were told, or explain the excruciating pain that comes not from a physical blow but from what feels like an emotional bludgeoning of finding out you will lose your child, and soon. The sharpness of the early pain has dulled, but the throbbing ache of loss is still constant. There are days when I feel as if I have had no sleep because of the fitfulness of my dreams, and the understanding that my night was filled with thoughts of my baby girl. Mornings are the worst, as I ready myself for my day and my mind settles on thoughts of my beautiful and precious Elizabeth. I think about all that she could have been, and all that I will miss – and how it all seems so unfair. My perfectly imperfect baby girl, who is so beautiful and precious to me, will be gone so soon. Why? That was my first question, isn’t it everyone’s? Why is this happening? What have I done to deserve this? It took months before I could say in a clear headed way, the answer is sin. We live in a world that God once said was good, but since the entrance of sin into our world and the fall of man, we and our planet are far from good. We sin against an Almighty God and there are consequences. Our perfect little world, and our chance to be perfect here – it’s gone. It seems like a sad story, that only gets sadder with the news of my perfectly imperfect baby girl, but Elizabeth’s story is not one of sadness but one of Mercy and Grace. Thinking about Elizabeth has made me realize the beautiful picture that God is painting.

You see, the story doesn’t end with the fall and our imperfections. No, as soon as man sinned God’s plan went into action, and one day His Son, Jesus Christ was born to this Earth. The Perfect, sinless Christ lived, died, and rose again to defeat our sin, and our imperfection for us because we couldn’t do it on our own. Why does Elizabeth and anencephaly remind me of this? It’s why I am so thankful this Thanksgiving, for my freedom and for my family.

The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ assure me freedom, and it can do the same for you – if you will accept it. His gift promises us freedom from sin and from the penalty of sin, which is eternal separation from God after death. In fact His gift offers us the very real promise that we can one day be made perfect again! Just like it was supposed to be way back when, before it all fell apart…and that’s where I am so thankful on behalf of my family because, I know that one day I will get to see my beautiful precious baby girl again, and she will be perfect.

This Thanksgiving, I am so thankful for my freedom and for my family. I am so blessed.”

The Duggar Debate

I hadn’t necessarily planned to use my blog as a soap box for anything (other than God’s grace), but I’m going to go a little controversial and jump on up there. The heated debate that sparks up every time the Duggars announce that they’re once again expecting always makes me a little feisty and this time it has more than ever. I think it’s because I’m carrying Elizabeth Grace—and never before has an unborn life seemed as precious and sacred. So as I read through comments about Duggar number twenty being on the way at, Babycenter and Facebook—everything from the harmless jabs, to the downright horrid vitriol—I decided I’d get my two cents in as well.

First off, I just have to say it: why the surprise, people? If there’s one thing Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar are crystal clear and extremely vocal about it’s their views on child bearing and the use of contraceptives. They’re a quiverfull family and will not do anything to prevent pregnancy. Ever. It doesn’t matter if Michelle had preeclampsia and delivered her last baby at 25 weeks gestation, or if she’s forty-five years old, or if she already has two grandchildren. They believe that God should have complete control over their reproduction practices and will not stop having children until it is a physical impossibility. Whether or not you or I or anyone else agrees with this stance doesn’t make any difference to them. It’s their conviction. It’s their right. Please don’t be shocked if they have more after this. If it’s possible, I promise you, they will!

And while I don’t necessarily agree with everything the Duggars believe I have to admit: they’re loving parents who are raising well-rounded and respectful children…and they’re debt free to boot. That’s gotta be worth a little street cred. Not to mention, they’re my brother and sister in Christ and I feel like they get enough criticism from everyone else. Speaking of, I have no doubt that their loudest opposition—those who scream that they’re crazy and irresponsible and how dare they have twenty children when all the world’s water is drying up?!—are mostly likely pro-choice. The same people who staunchly support a woman’s “right to choose” somehow become positively irate when that woman chooses to have as many children as the Lord would bless her with. Oh, if they could see the irony.

And here’s the biggest thing for me–our culture’s view of children in general is really messed up. Kids aren’t seen as a heritage from the Lord and parents certainly aren’t bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. People (even some in Christian culture) become judgmental and cruel if a couple chooses to have more than 3 or 4 or 5 or “X” amount of kids. In a day and age when the average American household has no more than 2.5 children, both parents work full-time and the accumulation of “stuff” seems to be the goal in life, I find the Duggars’ lifestyle refreshing. I’m not planning on having twenty kids, but I won’t be disparaging of the family who does and can do it well. Congratulations Jim Bob, Michelle and family!

Halloween and Hypochondria

Things have been busy around here and our sticky doorknobs are even stickier than usual thanks to that oh-so-anticipated last day of October. Actually, this was the first Halloween my kids went out trick or treating. All three of them were big fans of dressing up in costumes.

OK, Sophia doesn’t look like a super happy little Tinkerbell here…

That’s a little better. Family shot! (Charlie, look at the camera.)

My two and three year old were pretty amazed that people will give you candy just for knocking on their door and saying “trick or treat!”

They especially liked the houses where you could just go up and grab the candy yourself. Free for all!

Corban keeps asking when we can do it again. Apparently “Next year, honey,” is not a satisfactory answer. He usually suggests we go out again “tonight.”

Yesterday I had my 28 week prenatal appointment. I had to do the glucose screening and by this point I’m truly a pro at downing that drink in under the allotted five minutes. I’ve always been given the fruit punch flavor and it reminds me a lot of Tahitian Treat. And who doesn’t love Tahitian Treat? (Come to think of it, drinking Tahitian Treat on a regular basis is probably a good way to get gestational diabetes. Don’t do it.)

My appointment went well. The doctor I saw is always positive and upbeat, one of my faves in the practice. She confirmed that Elizabeth Grace is still breech but said that it may actually be better if I deliver her that way. She did have to give me a couple scary scenarios about the dangers of delivering breech, but I am confident that this baby girl will enter the world just as God intends and am choosing not to fret over the worst possibilities. She also asked if I had spoken to the neonatal doctor and about whether or not we planned to have Elizabeth taken to NICU after she was born. I wasn’t even aware that this was an option. I’d always been under the impression that life saving measures would not be performed (my OB’s are not even going to monitor her during labor) and so we would simply keep her with us for as long as we could. I believe that this will continue to be our preference unless there is some significant change down the road. My OB said when I get closer to delivery I will most likely have a consult with the neonatologist over the phone. I’ll be doing some more research in the meantime, and would certainly welcome any input from the moms reading this who have been in situations similar to mine. I plan to put together a birth plan (for the first time!) and include our wishes and expectations as well.

Another new fact I learned at the appointment: my due date is January 28th, NOT January 26th as I’d been thinking throughout this whole pregnancy. The date hadn’t changed after my 20 week ultrasound or anything—apparently this has always been what my OB’s had on file and I was unaware. I used babycenter’s due date calculator as soon as I got that positive pregnancy test result and just assumed the date determined was the same as my doctor’s. Nope! With any other pregnancy I’d be annoyed with a later due date, but with this one I don’t mind a bit.

Also discussed at the appointment were my fractured foot (which is healing quite nicely, thanks for the prayers!) and the possibility of blood clots in my leg as a direct result of the injury. “Oh goodness,” I told my OB, “no one had mentioned that. I’m sure I don’t have any blood clots!” “Well,” she told me seriously, “if you have any kind of pain or cramping whatsoever in your leg you need to make sure we know about it ASAP.” Would you believe me if I told you that when I woke up this morning I had such pain in the back of my right knee (same leg as the broken foot!) that I could barely move it? Talk about a self fulfilling prophecy. I’m no hypochondriac (really, I’m not!) and I know that I wouldn’t even have given it a second thought (would’ve chalked it up to sleeping the wrong way or a pulled muscle because I have to walk weird with my broken foot), but since just the day before the idea of blood clots had been planted in my mind, I immediately got online to self diagnose. All it took was one pregnant lady’s babycenter post about having a blood clot in her knee crease (same place I was experiencing MY pain!) to convince me that I surely had one too. I called my OB’s office and was thankfully able to talk to the doctor I saw yesterday. She didn’t think I was crazy at all and wanted me to go get checked out by a vascular doctor. I had an ultrasound done on my leg and…no blood clots. Whew. Must be that I slept on it wrong or pulled the muscle. HA! But I’m seriously glad I went because my leg is hurting worse right now then it has all day and at this point I wouldn’t be giving myself through the night to live if I hadn’t gone in to make sure I was blood clot free! 🙂 Thanks for letting me share and thanks always for your continued prayers.

In Which I Break My Foot While Scoping out the Haunted House my Husband Wants to Buy

It’s just so ridiculous. I’m turning into my mother. NOT because she’s ridiculous. My mother is sweet, precious and wonderful…and also happens to be the most accident prone person on the planet. Freak incidents hound her. Injuries afflict her. And I think it might be genetic…

For those who may not know, we are renting out our current home and squatting, er living, in our friends’ beautiful and spacious ground floor efficiency (sounds prettier than “basement apartment”, huh? And it IS pretty! We are so thankful that they are letting us crash their house—indefinitely, no less!). Our hope is to buy a new place with a bit more room and a lower mortgage. It’s possible in this market. But not necessarily easy, as we’ve found out. In the past three months we’ve had three houses under contract, all of which have fallen through for one reason or another.

All that to say, we’re house hunting. It’s kind of become a hobby. Our realtor wasn’t able to take us out this weekend, but that didn’t stop us from going to scope out a few houses on our own yesterday. It probably should have, but it didn’t. My husband has fallen in love with a charming, cozy 1920’s bungalow fixer-upper that he found online and wanted to go check out. It’s charming, cozy…and old. And if I were superstitious I would also tell you that it is haunted. I mean, it’s over 90 years old, it’s got haint blue paint on the porch ceiling (!!!) and I broke my foot there. Of course I don’t believe in ghosts, but I’m just sayin’—I broke my foot there.

After peaking in all the windows (it’s vacant, promise) we were walking around the grounds, discussing possible paint colors for the outside of the house. I was standing at the top of some steps which lead down to the driveway and took a step back to get a “broader view”, as it were (“I think yellow would be fun and really give the place some pop!”) fully expecting my right foot would meet solid ground as I did. It did not. I mean, not for like another 6 to 12 inches, anyway. And when it finally did…um, OUCH. I rolled my ankle and all my weight came crashing down on my foot. It hurt. It hurt bad. I gripped it feverishly and started to cry. And then I started to laugh because really, it was just so ridiculous.

Right away I thought that baby Elizabeth was probably fine. I fell on the soft earth, in tall grass, on my bottom. I wasn’t cramping or contracting and she was moving just fine. But my foot was swelling up big time. As soon as I unwrapped my hand from it, a golf ball sized lump ballooned out of the left side, right by my ankle. That coupled with the fact that I heard several pops on my way down made me think that I’d better go have it checked out. This was around 1:30.

We dropped the kids off at home, which, as we’ve established, is actually our friends’ home and said friends graciously offered to keep our children as we headed off to urgent care. We were there for three hours. After x-rays showed that I had, indeed, fractured my foot, I was ace-bandaged and received crutches and a stylish orthopedic boot. Told to elevate, ice, and wait for a call from the radiologist to determine whether or not I’d need to see a bone doctor. I thought we were almost home free and then the doctor handed me a prescription for pain killers. I wanted to confirm that they were safe to take while pregnant and it was at this point that we discovered that the doctor did not know that I was pregnant. I had told the receptionist first thing, and had discussed it at length with the nurse who did the x-rays, so I assumed that it had been communicated to the doctor as well. Nope. And apparently the two pound baby in my 26 week pregnant belly isn’t as obvious as I thought. Or maybe she was just really focused on my foot. At any rate, she apologized profusely, but said I would immediately need to go to the ER for a full evaluation. “You don’t have an ultrasound machine back here that we can just check her out on really fast?” Nope. We needed to get to the ER and now. She would call the hospital to let them know we were on the way.

We were at the hospital for another four hours. My OB orderd a non stress test (which Elizabeth passed with flying colors), wanted to monitor any possible contractions that I may be having (none) and wanted to run a blood test which would show if my placenta had detached/ruptured (it had not). I’m glad we were able to find these things out. Better safe than sorry and all that. Through it all Onan and I were comfortably set up in a labor and delivery room. (Well, I was as comfortable as one can be in a hospital gown.) We watched TV and ordered subs from Jimmy John’s across the street for dinner. It was practically a date. Hey, when you have a one, two and three year old, any place that they’re not present counts as a date. (Onan would like to note that I’m an “expensive date.”)

I was finally discharged and we got home around 10:00 to find that our amazing friends had taken our kids for a picnic dinner at the park, changed a bunch of diapers put everyone in PJ’s and then to bed. Amazing, I say. John and Rebecca, we don’t know what we’d do without you! Truly.

My foot still hurts. But I’m ok. And so is Elizabeth. And it was lovely to hear her precious heartbeat and the swoosh of all her movements for nearly two hours last night. If I follow in my mother’s footsteps, you can expect future visits to the ER for various broken bones and whatnot. Especially if we buy the (haunted) house. Fair warning. Thanks for letting share! And in all seriousness, we are feeling a little worn out and beat down right about now and really appreciate your continued prayers. Our hearts are comforted through your effectual, fervent prayers.