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.

Friday, January 4, 2013

How a Type-A Mama Prepares for Birth

All my friends are cracking up at that title.  I'm a psycho.  I know it.  I like to double check every detail... of everything.  Okay... triple check.  As much as I'd love to say that getting ready for a third child has given me permission to just chill out, I still have a long way to go.  Just ask Teacher Man. He's been witness to the psychosis during his entire Christmas break.  Are you ready for this crazy list of behaviors he is observing?  Here goes...

I stockpile.  Like a chipmunk preparing for winter.  Right now our family has enough toilet paper, paper towels, dish soap, laundry soap, dishwasher detergent, personal care products, and household cleaners to get us through the first few months of life as a family of five.  I know.  I know.  The grocery store is right across the street, but I'm thinking that getting out with three children under the age of five in the middle of January will be a lot harder than just picking up some extras now.  A LOT harder.

I cook double.  I've been freezing a few extra casseroles and containers of soup.  I was way better at this before Benjamin was born.  Perhaps this is because we had more leftovers before Benjamin was born... hmmm....  I know I'll be grateful for each meal frozen when the busy days and long nights begin, but we have a freezer full of beef so I have limited space to hoard casseroles.  Limits are good.

I plan distractions.  Right now I have a basket full of surprises for the boys that can be pulled out only when I'm feeding baby sister.  I know my littler guy especially is going to struggle with sharing attention and time so I've got several things set aside to keep him busy during the hours that I'm nursing or catching a nap.  These distractions also include finally breaking down and investing in Amazon Prime.  Yes, I'm loving the two-day shipping; but I'm also really jazzed with all the seasons of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.  Way slower-paced than most of children's television produced these days, Mr. Rogers introduces my little guys to experiences and ideas in a gentle, non-threatening way.  And, yes, I'm pretty fascinated by the episodes where they explore how towels, crayons, graham crackers, etc. are made.

I keep the house current.  No telling when the next bathroom cleaning, bill paying, or laundry washing will be so I've been trying to stay on top of the household stuff so I can pay attention to all my little ones and not all my piles when I get home from the hospital.

I take my herbs and vitamins.  I think prenatal vitamins are pretty much amazing.  I rarely get sick when I'm pregnant, and I'm giving the vitamins all the credit.  Why I don't take them all the time, I have no idea.  Also, as I prepare for delivery, I've started taking evening primrose oil and red raspberry leaf supplements to prepare my body for a (hopefully) smooth and short delivery.

I purge.  If we don't use it (or haven't used it in years), it goes.  No, I didn't get rid of the fine china, and I still have closets of stuff to prove that I'm a novice purger.  However, I've gone through a ton of drawers and closets to make sure that the things that we do need and use are at easy access.  I've also gone through my closet so that all the comfy clothes are at easy access because let's face it, I will be wearing comfy pants for a long time.

I prepare the nursery.  Okay, this is where the type-A in me really breaks out.  For whatever reason, having a little girl just felt different.  I wanted to create a different space for her.  Something completely new, fresh, and a little feminine to welcome our daughter home.  After weeks of sewing, framing pictures, and crafting, I'm 95% done.  Sigh.  Teacher Man spent a very long night hanging picture frames, moving furniture, and helping me set up the nursery so it was just. right.  Bless him for humoring the perfectionist in me.  Pictures to come soon.

I focus more on training the boys for independent play.  This has not been as easy as I thought it would be (the story of parenting, right?), but they are doing so. much. better.  Ben now realizes that he is expected to share and to be gentler with toys and people.  Caleb is acting more like a loving leader and less like a short-tempered dictator.  I consider this to be success.  They also have come to the amazing discovery that they don't always have to play together.  It's okay for one to color and the other to play with dinosaurs.  As long as they're both playing nicely, I'm a happy momma.

I sleep.  It's not like I can help it.  At the end of the day, I can't keep my eyes open.  Often I'm so tired, I don't even hear the boys if they wake up.  Teacher Man takes more than his fair share of the night calls so I can get as much rest as possible.  Not knowing when I'll be spending a full night laboring makes sleep even more critical as we get closer to the end of the pregnant days.

I talk about the baby. a lot.  It's not like it doesn't come up in conversation... with every stranger I meet.  I'm almost 39 weeks pregnant today so I'm rather rotund, and everyone from the check-out gal to our postman wants to know when the big day will be.  Join the club.  But the best conversations about this sweet girl have been happening with my sons and with Teacher Man, sharing our dreams and hopes for her little life and talking candidly about how different our little home will be when we're a family of five.  Different in amazing and hard ways but so right. So so right.

Yep.  I'm nesting, but the happy truth is that I see my list of things to be done getting shorter and my excitement over welcoming this sweet babe growing.  My hospital bag is packed.  My guys are prepped.  Just waiting for my daughter and the God of the universe to pick her birthday, but while I wait... might as well snuggle just a little closer to my little men... and throw in another load of laundry.