Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Dear Grandma Laura & Grandpa Robert,

I cannot tell you how many times that I have thought of one or both of you in the last month.  Even though this isn't the first Christmas you have been gone, I am feeling the loss of your presence most this Christmas.

A thousand little and big things remind me of you.  Starting out the day with a piece of hot buttered toast, just like you used to make for me, Grandpa, after you came in from milking the cows in the morning.  Taking a shower and smelling well water.  That smell will forever take me back to your farm.  Tucking my daughter, your namesake, under one of your afghans, Grandma.  And saying her name... Laura.  You are everywhere.

Our home is full of reminders of tangible reminders of you.  Your nativity rests on top of my piano this year.  All set up and waiting for the Christ child.  Your books (and the notes you made in them) reside on my bookshelves.  Your china served my family at Thanksgiving.

Your traditions have made their mark on the next generation.  Mom is carefully making sure every child and grandchild has gifts that delight each of them in a personal way.  And just so you know, she buys socks every year for my husband now just like you used to for Dad.  No one is allowed to open a single present until the obligatory "kids under the Christmas tree" picture is taken.  The youngest children still pass out the gifts.  And Mom has made at least six kinds of cookies... just. like. you.

One more thing.  We worship the Lord you love.  The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The God Who meets with people at camp meeting and at the kitchen sink.  It's in Him that I take hope tonight.  That the love that I received from you was just a tiny taste of the love God has for me.  That the longing that I feel to talk to you, laugh with you, wrap my arms around you is a small reflection of a deeper longing for Heaven.  The land of no more goodbyes.  Home.

And as I put the Baby Jesus in the Nativity tonight to celebrate His coming, it just seems so right.  God with us.  Emmanuel.  He came down to us.  And you both are now with Him.  Whole. They say we will all sing together in Heaven, but something in me wonders, Grandma, if you'll be playing the piano.

Your granddaughter,

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Meeting Ben

This is my son, Ben.  Smiley. Sweet. Sneaky. So darn squishy and huggable. And if you look closely, you'll see the tear in his eye. Ben has always been my weapy child, never too far from a frustrated meltdown of tears.  He bounces back quickly (as this photo demonstrates), but his tears are never far from the surface... until recently.

Almost exactly a year ago, we were referred to an allergist.  Ben had frequent facial rashes around his mouth, which I just assumed were eczema.  He can thank me someday for the sensitive skin.  The allergist recommended removing eggs from his diet, which was a bigger deal than you might think.  Custard, baked goods, salad dressings... they all have eggs or an egg by-product in them.  We faithfully removed the eggs and would know when we slipped up by the rash that would immediately form around Benjamin's mouth.  

However, even when we had gotten really good at weeding out the eggs, Ben was still getting the awful rashes around his mouth.  I trekked back to the allergist (who is an hour away from our home) to see what else we should be avoiding, and he immediately suggested taking Ben off of milk and ALL milk products.  

Doesn't sound so bad until you remember how many things have milk in them.  Like EVERYTHING.  Let's just review the basics: cheese (oh my word, do I love cheese), yogurt (a staple in our home), ice cream, sour cream, and butter.  Oh wait... butter is in every baked good known to man.  AND whey is in far too many breakfast cereals, crackers, breads, and boxed mixes.  While I initially looked at this milk allergy as a cooking-everything-from-scratch death sentence, I wanted to give it a try.

Just as an aside, the allergist told me that I might notice a difference in personality if Ben were really allergic to milk.  You see, the body of an allergic person reacts to the allergy-inducing foods as it would to a drug.  Kids with milk allergies often are described sleepy, dazed, foggy-brained, or lazy; but, in reality, they are living in a drugged state 24/7 due to the whey, cheese, yogurt, and milk that the food pyramid tells us we are supposed to be feeding them.

We came home and cleaned out the cupboards, putting all the foods containing whey aside so we could help Ben make good snack choices.  I changed our menu to more a whole-foods diet since we were going to need to know exactly what had been put into everything.  Might as well keep it simple and just have meats, veggies, fruits, and homemade breads.  Besides, no one feels like they are being deprived when they are eating a good spoon roll.  Amen??  In fact, just writing this sentence has caused me to get up and get myself a spoon roll.  Oh. so. good.

Two weeks went by.  Teacher Man and I were both eager to debunk this allergy because... well... we missed cheese.  And Ben cried at lunch when he couldn't have yogurt.  Poor little guy.  

After about three and a half weeks, I was out doing errands with Ben and little Laura, when I noticed something was different.  Ben was talking.  Like non-stop, just like his mama, talking.  And it made sense.  And it was directed at me.  And he was waiting for me to answer him.  And when I did, he listened.  And when I gave instructions, he obeyed.  And when we had to leave the playplace, he was cool about it, understanding that we would come back another day.  Hmmm...

Every night at supper, everyone in our family shares his favorite part of the day.  Ben always wants to go first, but often says, "I forget," when we ask him and then he copies his brother's favorite part.  Every. night. That night, Ben would. not. be. quiet.  He shared all about his morning out with Mama in great detail.  I had never heard him retain information like that.  Poor Caleb. He had never had to share the airwaves at the dinner table before.  It took forever for Ben to share all of the details and for us to get to Caleb's favorite part of the day; but by that time, I was in tears.  I had just met my son.

I hadn't even realized the toll that Ben's spacey behavior had taken on me until that moment.  Suddenly I had a fully coherent child.  And it wasn't just his speech that changed. 

The next day, Benjamin stepped on me.  If you know Ben, you know that he often uses his limbs in ways that are painful.  He's not being malicious.  He just flops around and really never notices when he's causing pain.  I cried out, "Ouch!  Ben, you hurt Mommy!" which normally would not even phase him, but immediately he looked right into my eyes with sadness and said, "I sorry, Mommy.  Are you okay?"  And then, he started moving more carefully and even sat in my lap gently to be sure he wouldn't hurt me again.  Never before had we been able to get through to him the need for gentleness and caution.  Suddenly, he got it.

The next day, he played with the same toy for over two hours.  Ben had always struggled to full engage with anything besides the television.  Board games were over for him after a couple of turns.  Not so any more.  He finished a board game with my Mom yesterday.  I cannot tell you how huge that is.

There have been WAY fewer tears.  WAY fewer tantrums.  And no wonder.  He's living with a lot less frustration.  He can think clearly.  Hear us clearly.  Wake up feeling rested.

It makes me think of when I am on cold medicine.  I feel fuzzy-brained, and I'm not being thoughtful of the needs of others.  I'm just trying to put one foot in front of the other.  I also eat more because I feel tired (this is totally Ben!).  And I'm more clumsy (totally Ben too!).  That's how it seems he felt when his body had dairy.  

Our family loves Jesus.  That's who we are.  My kids are pumped about going to church any time the doors are open because of all the people there who show Christ's love to them so well.  Last Sunday evening I decided to do something brave.  Go to evening church.  There is no children's program during evening church, but it was the choir's Christmas program so I thought we'd give it a try.  Ben normally flops around in the pew, can't sit still, chews on things incessantly (including the pews), and cries.  It's a trying experience every time.  Halfway through the cantata that night, I started to cry.  Ben was sitting on the edge of the pew with perfect posture (he NEVER engages his abdominal muscles if he can help it), listening to every word.  He sat like that for forty-five minutes, hardly moving a muscle except to look up at us and smile because he loved the music.

This is not a scientific study.  It's just our family's experience, but it makes me wonder how many other children are out there, feeling dopey all the time because their bodies are reacting to milk products like normal peoples' bodies react to a strong drug.  I feel immeasurably blessed to have met my son.  To finally truly know the spunky, energetic, hilariously funny boy he was created to be.  It would be easy to beat myself up for not having figured this out earlier, but when I watch Ben (right now he's outside building a snowman with Teacher Man) all I feel is joy and excitement for the new world that has opened up to him.  And if I am ever having a pity party about my cheese-less existence, I only need to watch my son for a moment to realize that it is worth every extra step I take to keep him plugged in, alert, and whole.

(photo courtesy of Nathan Holloway Photography)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

When the adrenaline runs out...

We have been running at breakneck speed, dragging our kids behind us.  Late nights.  Early mornings.  Long days.  Lots of tears.  We're ready to rest, but it doesn't look like an extended stay at a spa is anywhere in this girl's future.

I can feel it.  Feel the adrenaline wearing off.  See my unpacking pace slowing to a mere crawl.  Watch my kiddos having breakdowns.  We've pushed them and ourselves to our limit, but what an incredible ride!

We've moved into a new house.  More space inside.  More space outside.  Which is creating a bit more sanity in our lives (okay, maybe even more sanity when the boxes are all gone).  Despite issue after issue with this new house, we know that God is sovereign, that He has a purpose in placing us in this home.  Therefore, we will be thankful.

Teacher Man is back to school, having had zero summer break.  During the month of June, he packed box after box.  Throughout July, he worked tirelessly at turning our construction site of a house into a safe home for our family.  And in August, he went back to school.  If you are one of the warriors who battle alongside him for the minds of our city's children, be nice to Teacher Man.  It's been a hard, incredibly fast summer.

The kids and I are trying to figure out a new routine.  After much deliberation, Caleb started preschool the week after we moved.  He loves it, but he is also a morning person.  The 8 o'clock starting time is the bane of my existence right now. I hate alarm clocks.

Ben has figured out that Caleb's preschool mornings are his "no one steals my toys" mornings.  He is a different boy!  Non-stop talking.  Funny stories.  Great memories made.  Loving my mornings with my little boy and my little girl.

Laura.  Oh my.  Well, Laura has decided to create her own version of crawling/dragging herself across the floor.  She is incredibly mobile, and in this last week of her life she has mastered da-da, ba-ba, and ma-ma.  Yesterday she even decided to start clapping for herself, and there IS so much to clap about.

I look around every room of our new home with the old mindset of "I'll take care of that on Kitchen Day or Cleaning Day."  One problem though.  Life is so different now that Office Day and Laundry Day aren't always happening in their orderly fashion.  They just aren't.  I'm too busy playing The Very Hungry Caterpillar Game or feeding a baby or reading The House at Pooh Corner because I'm burned out on tasks.

The adrenaline is gone.  Coffee is no longer enjoyable.  It's foundational to functioning.  And the boxes no longer annoy me enough to motivate me.  In fact, if you figure out a way to decorate with corrugated cardboard boxes, our friendship might just get a little deeper.  Having a routine would be great, and I'm sure we'll get there.  For the moment though, just SEEING the people that I live with is so much more important than attacking the next to-do list.

So for those of you who wondered what had happened to us, we're here.  Well... we're in a new here, still seeking to be gracious and show Christ's love to a world in need; but oh so tired. Despite exhaustion, we are reveling in the grace shown to us by the Body of Christ.  And we have about 453 thank-you dinners to host in order to begin to show our gratitude to those who have sacrificially served our family over these summer weeks.  If you've swung a sledge hammer, carried a box, watched our babies, or brought us a meal; consider this your first "thank you" of many.  We are grateful.  Where our adrenaline has run out, grace has filled in the gaps.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Children's Book Baby Shower

So when you tell an elementary teacher that she can throw you a children's book-themed baby shower, be prepared for her to go a little crazy.  Names like Eric Carle, Dr. Seuss, and Beatrix Potter send a teacher into a frenzy.  And don't get me started on Margaret Wise Brown... My sister had no idea how much fun we would have when she told my mom and I we could do this!

Here's a peek at the invite:
I just glued an off-white cardstock rectangle to a 5x7 piece of colored cardstock, used a clear sticker for the "Property of" words, and printed these personalized invite cards from Etsy onto blank 3x5 notecards to be slipped into the pocket that I had created.  So easy!  If you look at the invites on Etsy, you'll notice that our guests were encouraged to bring a favorite children's book in lieu of a card.  My new nephew got a GREAT start to his collection.  One of the reading teachers who came had the wonderful idea of going to the local used bookstore and picking out a great variety of picture books and chapter books so she could really expand this baby's library!  There are really too many great ones to just pick one.

And here's a peek at the shower:

The gift table

And then a different book theme for every guest table.  

Check out the fun, color-coordinating buttons my mom found for this table!

 And Wind and Willow dips for prizes.  YUM!!

Cute, right?  Now for the food...

Jam thumbprint cookies for Jamberry

Strawberries and chocolate dip for The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear

Blue and red goldfish for One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (They sell these for the Fourth of July!  How lucky is that?)

Deviled Eggs with parsley on top for Green Eggs and Ham (I could NOT have served green deviled eggs.  We have to draw a line somewhere.)

Carrots and herb dip for The Carrot Seed

Cheese in the shapes of bunnies and moons for Goodnight Moon (cause everyone knows the moon is made of cheese!)

And a caterpillar of veggies for The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Oh, and don't forget cookies and milk just in case the mouse from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie drops by.

And if you think this spread looks crazy...

you should see our family at Christmas.

My mom helped me out by wrapping all the display boxes and picking up items for the guest and display tables that I didn't have among the kids' toys. 

We used squares of solid colored wrapping paper for the tables to give them a little extra color.

And you know the best part?  Since I've been crazy busy with the move, I got to pass on the ideas to my amazing mom, and then she took over and made all the food!  Talk about sweet deals!!!!

There's my beautiful mom.  And who is that adorable baby she's holding??  Oh, right.  That's my baby!!!  Clearly, she enjoyed the party.  And I think my sister did too.

Oh, and we played this game and a spin on Scategories where the ladies tried to think of a book title for each letter of the alphabet.  You want to know who won?  The two reading teachers in the room!  

And believe it or not, we had more ideas that we did not have time to get ready.  Oh well.  Next time, right?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I impulse bought some decorative letters from Dayspring a couple months ago.  They were an amazing price, and I loved the message behind them.  REDEEMED.  It's what I am.  What Teacher man is.  What our family is.  We are redeemed at a great price from our bondage to sin and death.  We are redeemed to be the  children of God.  We are a mess.  But we are of great value to God.  So He chose to redeem us.  Amen.

The letters still sit in the box, waiting for us to be able to hang them in our new home.  I had no idea how much those words were going to mean across the entry to our home until today.  This is the first time in a long time that I have hit rock bottom.  It feels as if we are being attacked from every side, but for whatever reason I remembered those letters as I was trying to process all that's going on.

We are finding out one horrible thing after another about our new home.  A giant cement pad under the tile that should NOT be there.  Damaged drywall.  Incorrect plumbing.  Overbooked contractors.  Extra costs.  I find myself just waiting in discouragement for what they will find next.  How will this be redeemed?

Two relationships in my life right now are just broken.  Painfully broken.  How will this be redeemed?

Our two-day vacation this week was riddled with miscommunication and plagued by issues with the house via my cell phone.  What was supposed to be a pleasant trip together as a family ended up having far too many low points to be relaxing.  How will this be redeemed?

Our home is in bits and boxes.  For those of you who know me well, you know that disorder drives me bananas.  Better bring on the monkeys because nothing is where it normally is, and it won't be for a long time.  How will this be redeemed?

The van's brake system warning light just went on right before we were supposed to go on vacation.  My amazing mom came to the rescue and offered to let us take their vehicle, but I sit here and wonder what the mechanics will find when they inspect the brakes to the only vehicle in our family that can hold our whole family.  How will this be redeemed?

Right now, I am clinging to my hope in Christ by my fingernails.  Clinging to the truth of God's love for me, His hand in my life.  Desperately wanting to know how He will redeem each of these situations.  It seems like a horrible mess, like a nightmare really.  Unfortunately, I know I don't get to just wake up out of this one, nor will this story of redemption have a quick, happy ending.

I told a friend today that it feels like the pillars that I lean on most often are being kicked out from under me.  Family.  Friends.  Finances.  The only One left is the Rock on which I should have been wholly standing from the beginning.  My hope and my joy are surviving only because I know that He is in control.  He will work all things together for the good of His Kingdom because He is in the business of redemption.  Redeeming the messy.  The broken.  The hurt.  The ugly things of this world.  Redeeming them to bring about beauty, to refine me, and to remind us of what is truly eternal.

My response to the truth of His promise means that my hammer and nails are ready.  We will not be broken.  Our home, our lives, these hurts will be redeemed.  And that word will proclaim our faith in His power of all circumstances will hang over the entrance to our home.  We have been and all these momentary troubles will be REDEEMED.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Possessing Two Hands

I don't blog much anymore.  Okay... I don't finish a blog post very often.  I start a lot of posts... in my head.  Yep.  I've blogged at least two dozen times in the last few months... in my head... normally in my shower since it's the only semi-quiet place in my house between the hours of  7 a.m. and 8 p.m.  You know the frustrating part about blogging in your head?  No one reads it.  No one relates to it.  It's not really blogging.  Blogging requires two hands working together.  I really don't possess two hands.  I'm pretty sure that my daughter has commandeered my left arm.

I'd love to get these posts down.  There are so many moments of these days with little Laura that I want to capture for all time.  Like today when she rolled herself under her brothers bunk beds because her ever-responsible parents were wrestling with her brothers like a pair of hooligans.  And she was not happy when I had to fish her back out of the dark kingdom that is the underside of her brothers' bed.  Or the fact that she loves her daddy.  I mean, flat out, LOVES him.  Smiles when he comes in a room.  Leans for him to grab her.  Falls asleep in his arms just cause he's holding her.  And I'm all like, "Seriously! I spend hours trying to get you to sleep and you just drift off for your dad!?  Where is the justice in that?!?"  There is no justice for parents in parenting.  That's hard for me.  Really hard.

Tonight Miss Laura is five months old.  FIVE.  Yep.  We've had our beautiful daughter for almost half a year.  I'd like to share with you now how I have become some kind of amazing warrior mother who can simultaneously cook, feed a baby, answer a phone, and speak calmly to the misbehaving children who are beating each other with Thomas trains; but here's the truth: I have discovered that there is a limit to how much I can multi-task.  There is also a limit to the amount of chaos I can currently handle before I blow my top.  I'm proud to say that I can take a lot more than I could five months ago, but there still is a limit.  And when I'm about at that limit with no reinforcements in sight, Amazon Prime becomes my best friend.  Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, anyone?  That's the truth.  Anyone out there feel better now?

That said, life with three children is immeasurably rich.  Watching them love each other.  Listening to the boys making Laura laugh in the back of the van.  Spying on my sons' secret plots via the baby monitor.  Hearing Ben sing his own version of "Old McDonald/Mary Had a Little Lamb/BINGO."  You didn't know those could be made into one song did you?  They can. Having Ben pray for God to change his heart.  I wouldn't trade any of them for the world.

You might ask, "How is she blogging now?"  Well, we are just entering a new phase of life with three.  Laura is far more independent and sleeps much more predictably.  And (da da da daaaaa) Teacher Man is home for the summer!!!  I'm pretty sure that the entire neighborhood heard me cheering when he came home for the summer to help with the monkeys... I mean, children.

The next few weeks start a new journey.  Our Family... under construction.  That's right.  We're going to be tackling several demo projects at the new house over the next few weeks... new flooring, a bathroom remodel, a closet remodel, etc.... You get the idea.  Several plates all spinning at the same time. My brain feels like it's going to explode, but a month from now I hope we're really glad we took on all these crazy projects.

I just wanted to have this moment of honesty with you.  There are dirty bottles in my sink.  Small toy cars all over my kitchen floor.  Paper shreds in the family room.  And laundry waiting to be put away throughout the house.  The boys room looks like a toy store exploded, and I have no idea what's for dinner.  These are jobs to tackle in a normal week, but the next month will be anything but normal.  So normal standards are gone, and a new normal is beginning to take shape and to shape us.  May it transform us into the image of Christ.  May we reflect the love of God rather than the selfishness of this world. And may this season of change reveal the Kingdom to us in a new way as we remember Who is truly in control.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Because we needed more going on around here...

A few weeks after the birth of our precious little girl I casually mentioned to a friend that the inn was feeling a little full.  With two little boys running around making messes and a little girl making her presence known by a variety of pink items spread throughout our home, the walls felt like they were closing in on me.  Who would have thought that that casual conversation would have led to some of the most life-changing months I have experienced?

Because that same friend called me back a few days later and asked if we would be willing to sell our house to her and her husband.

Because we started looking for a home to house our growing family.

Because we found a house... our dream house... within a few blocks of our current home.

Because we did it all while also parenting three children under the age of five and getting Teacher Man through the end of the school year.

Because meanwhile, Baby Laura GREW!  And she has forever changed our family.

Because now I am feeding a baby and packing a box and making dinner and packing a box and making phone calls and packing a box... Are you sensing a theme?

So, if you've missed the updates on our family, rest assured, we are still here.  And also know that I miss this ongoing conversation in my life.  I frequently think of posts that I want to write while in the shower (the only quiet moment of my day) or perhaps in the .002 seconds I have between when my head hits the pillow and when I fall asleep.They are great posts and will eventually be written, but until we are settled in our new home, my two hands will probably be holding our precious baby girl, playing another game of Candyland, or (you guessed it!) packing a box.

For those of you who know our family personally, we will be publishing our new address soon so that we don't miss any updates from your sweet families!  We will officially be residing in the new house in August.  Until then, would you pray?  Please?  For a smooth transition.  For God's blessing on our new home.  For grace as we take on this moving project while also loving the little movers in our care.

And to those of you who have asked about the blog, thanks. It's nice to be missed.  The feeling is mutual.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The How's and the Why's

Today I stood with a phone to my ear, my overbooked calendar on the counter, and three (yes, all three) children crying simultaneously.  It's been a rough day for me.  Laura has a cold, which has been keeping us awake in the night.  Teacher Man went back to school this morning after treating me like a queen all week (spring break was last week).  Ben and Caleb were in "daddy detox" as well as "Easter festivities detox."  All this added up to make this an unexpectedly ugly morning.  At noon, when I stood on the phone, un-showered, still wearing my pajamas and trying to keep up with normal emergency moments involved in raising 3 kids under 5, I let myself have a good cry.  Because THE question came up on the phone.  The question that has been asked of us at least five different times this weekend: Are you done having kids?

Wow. Great timing.  I love having this conversation with close friends. No sarcasm.  I really do. What is God calling us to?  Is another baby in the future?  Is the inn full?  But I have no idea how to grapple with the question in my own life.

When we had Caleb, it was easy to judge people who said that they didn't want more kids.  Not want more kids?!?!  Are you crazy?!?!  How could you say "no" to a beautiful blessing?  A new little life grafted into your family through birth or adoption?  What could be more precious?

Yet, here I stand.  Three kids down, who-knows-how-many-more to go, and the question gets more tricky. How would life look if we outgrew a minivan?  How many little ones will fit in our walls?  How will we educate or facilitate the education of each of our children?  How?  How?  How?'s becoming amazingly clear to me that the how's have never ever been the bottom line in the Kingdom.  It is the why's.  In every story, God took care of the logistics when the people involved were humble and sought His face.  So for today, I will focus only on why I am raising my children... why I am living: to bring glory to God and to enjoy Him. Oh, that my children will one day delight themselves in the Lord and live lives that bring Him glory!

And the how for that why for today is this: I will listen to God's voice to me in Scripture. I will love the children that I've been given.  I will read to them.  I will wipe their noses (and a few other parts).  I will listen to their hearts.  I will feed their minds and their bodies.  I will pray for them.  I will not miss the gift that this moment of life is.

And I will love lavishly on these people.

Because I don't know right now how many children God will gift to our family.  I only know that we have been gifted with three incredible human beings who have infinite potential in the Kingdom, and I want to live a life worthy of these blessings that have been entrusted to our home.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Baby Haze

My goodness have I had blog posts on my mind!  As I am perpetually feeding a baby, loving on the boys, and figuring out this whole "I have three kids" thing; I keep coming up with GREAT post ideas.  Things I want to share.  Things that are working so well for our family right now.  Things that are not working at all.  Concepts we are still struggling through as we raise a preschooler who is quickly becoming school-age, a toddler that is acting more like a preschooler, and a newborn that we are just getting to know.

But here's the deal: it is still very much survival mode around here.  People are still bringing us dinner, taking the big boys so I can sleep, and picking up my groceries.  I am still napping in the afternoons, going to bed right after dinner so I can get enough sleep by morning, and nursing constantly.  We feel very loved and incredibly supported by the hands and feet of the Body, but we are definitely giving thanks for the daily provision the Lord gives us.  Just enough for that day.  And with just enough time to feed the baby, get much-needed rest, and care for the beautiful boys that we have; there just aren't many/any two-hands-available moments in the day. 

Someday soon I'll be able to share the incredible story of Laura's birth and a few of the sweet moments of the last 4 weeks (Yes, it's been four weeks!). Until then, we deeply appreciate your prayers as we continue adjusting to nurturing a family of five.  Keep 'em coming, please!  And thank you!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What's in a name?

When it comes to naming our children, the names have just clicked.  I mean it.  One minute Teacher Man and I are going through a list of possible names; the next minute we have permanently named a human life.  No turning back.  No need.  It's not that we take the job lightly.  It's just been an incredibly clear, peace-filled decision each and every time.

When I was only few weeks pregnant with our first son, we had already narrowed the name list down to four or five names.  Then one evening as I was watching Sarah, Plain and Tall and grading a mountain of papers, I fell in love with the name Caleb (yes, the little boy in the movie is named Caleb).  At one point in the movie, the little boy says, "Caleb means bold."  For that season in our life, we needed boldness.  We needed the courage of the Biblical Caleb too... the courage to face giants with faith in the God who is so much bigger.  Even Caleb's middle name was clear.  Teacher Man was very young when he lost his father.  Honoring Wes's memory with his first grandson just fit.  So Caleb Wesley it was. Click. Done.  So right.

Our second son was even easier.  Every engaged couple has to jump through the hoops of premarital counseling before hitting the altar, but Teacher Man and I were honored to have his former youth pastor walk alongside us through those months before we were married and then continue to mentor us after our "I do's."  This man had stepped into Teacher Man's life throughout junior high and high school to be a father to my fatherless husband.  I cannot thank him enough.  From teaching my husband to tie a tie to modeling how a man treats his wife, I owe a debt that can never be repaid to Pastor Ben.  Thus, Benjamin was named, and Benjamin was given Teacher Man's middle name.  Click.  Done.  So right.

Our daughter has been the hardest to name.  The boys were named within a few weeks of a positive pregnancy test.  I think I was past 20-weeks pregnant when we finally settled, but her name so fitly honors three women in my life that there was no question in our minds of its rightness.

My maternal grandmother Laura shaped my life in more ways than I can count.  She was a woman of the Word, a faithful wife for almost sixty years, creative in more ways than I ever knew, and one of my favorite people.  I could think of no better way to honor a life well-lived than to give her name to our first daughter.

My paternal grandmother I know by reputation and photographs alone as a godly, kind woman.  When I was not yet one year old, Grandma Helen lost her battle with breast cancer but won the victory in Jesus.  The French would say "Helen" as "Elaine."  I said it aloud once... Laura Elaine.  And then I remembered...

A very special woman named Laura Elaine changed my life.  During my time as a teacher in Argentina, this Laura mentored me weekly in the Word of God.  She placed books in my hands, asked big questions that demanded answers, and found time to just sit with me over precious cups of imported Starbucks coffee.  My beliefs, my family, my life have been forever changed by the time that she invested in my life over seven years ago.  And the humbling truth is that she and her family still pray for our family each and every month.

Laura... the name means "glory, honor."  Elaine means "light."  Oh, may our daughter be one who brings glory and honor to the Light of the World.  May she benefit from the investments that each of these faithful women made in my life.  Click. Done.  So right.

Welcome to the world, Laura Elaine!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

I never thought...

I never thought I would have a daughter.

When the Lord gives you two sons in a row, 23 months apart, you get stuck in the mindset of raising men, constructing train tracks, refereeing wrestling matches.  You get used to shunning the pink section of the baby department, knowing it's not for you.  It's for those other moms.  The ones who can do hair and tie bows.  The ones who have been given daughters.

I was sure that would never be me.  But there it was on the ultrasound screen. "It looks like a girl."

My first response, "Are you sure?  Could you check again?"

"I'll check again, but it's pretty clear.  You're having a girl."

My second response: mental panic.  I don't know how to do hair.  To dress a girl.  And then bigger panic.  I don't know how to help her see her great worth when so often I am blind to my own.  To hold her hand as she navigates a world of confusing messages, so many of them attacking the soul of who God made her to be.  I'm pretty sure that this momma is still wading through those deep waters, still grappling to discern truth from fiction.

But then peace.  Jehovah does not give as the world gives.  In this world we receive tasks as we show ourselves worthy, as we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and prove our value.  But in His Kingdom, He lavishly gives good gifts, and then He supplies the grace we need to follow Him in obedience and in caring for those gifts, even the precious little gifts of life that He has placed deep within my being before bringing them into the light of this confusing world.

Do I feel better that her room is prepared and there are clean, pale pink shirts in her drawer? Yes.  But the bigger mountain I face, walking my girl through a world that has destroyed so many daughters of Eve,  I can't prepare for in an few months of momentous effort.  I have to journey hand-in-hand with my Savior, clinging to the truth of His Word, so that I have the strength to hold this little one's tiny grasp.

I don't know why I didn't feel this sense of urgency with the boys.  Perhaps in my mind boys are more resilient.  Perhaps I knew that my little men were looking to Teacher Man as their model, and he is so solid. So clear.  So confident.  Yet as important as her relationship with her daddy will be, I know she'll watch me to know what it is to be a woman.  Deeper: what it is to be a woman of the Word, to be a believer priestess.  And that challenges me to my core.

Knowing this is beyond my might, all I can do is lift up my hands for grace and say... thank you.  Thank you, Lord, that You are not content to leave me where I am.  Thank You for bringing me this girl child, who is already mining her way deep into my heart, exposing hurt and a immeasurable need for You.  Thank You for being sufficient, for healing those hurts, for redeeming the pain, for drawing me close into Your heart.  And thank You for the gift of a daughter, such a special delight in this house full of rowdy, wonderful boys.  Yes.  Thank You for this gift, more precious than we will ever know.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Her Room.

Her oldest brother tucked the blanket in himself.  Her grandmother brought the tiny sleeper.  Her great-great grandmother crocheted the blanket underneath, patterned it with nimble fingers for her mother... for me.

They fly above her crib, waiting to dance for her.

The Words of life dance too, a reminder of the Word that we pray will one day captivate her heart.

And His names: Jesus, Messiah, Comforter.  These names hover over her resting place.

Reminders more for her parents than for the wee one who cannot yet read them.  

Keep calm and count on.  Keep counting the gifts.  Keep reminding her that she is a precious gift.  Keep pointing her back to the great Gift Giver.

And, yes, in everything, even the 2 a.m. feedings, give thanks.  Give eucharisteo.

The purple blanket waits to keep her snug and warm, handcrafted by her great-grandmother to nestle her mother in its folds.  Though this small child will never know the beautiful soul of her great-grandma, she will know her legacy and will be wrapped in the love passed on.

Jars from her great-grandmother's kitchen.  May this small one grow be a woman of noble character who follows in the same godly footsteps.

Shelves from her mother's bedroom that once held the trinkets and tokens of dreams now realized... Now these wooden planks wait to hold those things most precious to her small, girlish heart.

And another reminder: yes, even her inmost being has been created by a Loving Father who knows her fully.

Little girl, your room is waiting.  Waiting for you to enter the world.  To take your first breath of air.  To dance before your Maker.  To give your earthly mother and father yet one more reason to return thanks.