Titus 2:11-13

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Unconditional Obedience

God expects unconditional obedience from His children.  Can you imagine God saying, "If you will obey my voice, I will give you $100"?  How absurd would it be if our Heavenly Father purchased compliance from His children through bribery?  And even if He did, what purpose would it accomplish?  The obedience would be the result of a satisfying promise of reward and not the product of love, respect, submission, or fear.  Every instance of obedience would be contingent upon the favorableness of the reward, and no pattern of obedience to God would be established.

The same concept applies to raising children.  Like God, I, too, expect unconditional obedience from my children.  This means that when I give my children a command, I expect them to obey without conditions (i.e. without the promise of a new toy, a yummy snack, etc.)  Granted, this does not always happen naturally or easily--after all, we are talking about sinful human beings--but it can be accomplished through proper training and discipline!  Training and discipline are necessary steps on the path to obedience as well as an investment in the heart of a child.  Obedience should not come as the result of the promise of reward; it should be an outpouring of a proper posture of the heart.  I want my children to obey me unconditionally because they love and respect me.  When submission out of love, respect, and even fear becomes the posture of their hearts, they will not only obey their parents unconditionally but also their Heavenly Father.  And that is why I do not bribe my children.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

God's Purpose Will Prevail

As I have been reflecting more on my seemingly impossible desire to avoid a planned cesearean of my twin babies, God has given me counsel and encouragement that has taken away my anxiety about the situation.  But before I share that counsel, let me back up just a little bit....

After having my hopes of a VBAC assualted at my first OB appointment, I spent the next four weeks in prayer that my second appointment would be a good indication of what our next move should be.  (Should we stay with our current doctor group, or should we transfer to another practice where my chances of getting a VBAC might be better?)  As I mentioned in my post about that second appointment, I didn't exactly get the answer I was hoping for (which would have gone something like this:  "You bet you can have a trial of labor!  In fact, all seven of us doctors agree that's your best option!"); yet I left that appointment feeling an extreme amount of peace that could have come only from God.  I didn't (and still don't) know exactly what our next move is to be, but in that state of peace I knew that my God is not bound by the date of a planned cesearean or even by five of seven doctors (or should I say all but a couple of the doctors in Des Moines) being completely uncomfortable with a twin VBAC.  In my heart I knew that God's purpose would prevail.

To confirm my conclusions, the Lord subsequently gave me a couple Scriptures--the wise counsel I spoke of above.  The first one was given through a friend who, as she was listening to my story, felt led to share Job 42:2 with me.  "I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted."  As she read this verse and the truth sunk deep into my heart and mind, tears of thankfulness filled my eyes.  My awesome, sovereign Father, who had heard my prayers and who knows my heart and who cares for my affairs, showed me once again that He knows all things, He can do all things, and no one can mess up His plans.

The second encouraging Scripture God gave me was in my personal reading time.  My husband and I have been going through the Proverbs a chapter a day, and on December 19th, Proverbs 19:21 sunk into my heart and again confirmed that God is in control.  "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."

I praise God that regardless of my birth plan or my doctors' plan, it is God's plan that will prevail.  I pray that He will reveal that plan to me, align my heart with His, and give my doctors divine wisdom as I rest and trust in Him.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Weaker Vessel

"You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is woman" (1 Peter 3:7a).

The Lord brougt this verse to my mind the other day as my husband was repeatedly obeying it. I realized once again how blessed I am to have a godly husband who loves and serves me, and I thought it would be fun to share some of the ways he "lives with me in a understanding way, as with someone weaker."

  • My husband always fills the cars with gas--something I've come to especially appreciate in this recent frigid Iowa weather.
  • Knowing that I'm always on the cold side, my husband keeps the thermostat in our house a few degrees higher than his preferred living temperature to ensure my comfort. On the cold nights he makes it to bed before me, he lays on my side until I'm ready to crawl in to warm the sheets up for me.
  • A couple days ago when I forgot to return some books to the library, my husband--with no complaints about my forgetfulness--offered to run the errand himself.
  • When I'm not feeling up to cooking (such as during the 1st trimester of pregnancy!), my husband offers to order out or throws something together himself.
These are just some of the most recent examples of how my husband appropriately treats me as a woman--someone weaker. In a culture where many women strive to be "strong" and "independent," I am fulfilled and blessed to live in my God-given womanly role, "weaker" than my husband and "dependent" upon him. God knew what I needed in a husband when He sent me mine!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Making Christmas Meaningful

Tomorrow Travis and I are celebrating Christmas with our children.  I'm not usually one to go for opening gifts before Christmas Day--and at this time in years past I'm pretty sure we hadn't even started our shopping yet--but we are really excited to spend the day focusing on the birth of Christ, family time, and new traditions.

The new traditions part has me a little worked up, I must admit.  As the mom and wife, I guess I feel a self-induced pressure to make the day as memorable as possible and to set some fun traditions that can be carried on through the years.  I have to keep reminding myself that the main point of Christmas is the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and not the food we will eat, the clothes we will wear, or the special activities we will do.  Still, I think it is fun and healthy to have family traditions, especially at Christmas time.  We are a unit, and I think the right kinds of traditions accompanied by a correct understanding of the meaning of Christmas will only make us a stronger unit.

I guess I still don't know exactly what our day will look like tomorrow, but I know that my prayer is that Christ would be at the center of it.

Thank you, God, for sending Your Son to be born as a man, to live and serve among us, and ultimately to die for our sins.  May You, Jesus, be the focus of our family both this Christmas time and always.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Like Mother, Like Son

I have become particularly anal of late about all toys being put away in their proper places at certain times throughout the day: especially before we leave a room, at naptime, and at bedtime. Today I was playing with the kids in Abel's room right before naptime, and a handful of toys not being played with was scattered across the floor. I was noticing these toys and thinking that someone was surely going to step on one or trip over one, but I didn't say anything. Just a few minutes later, Abel paused from our game of catch, looked around his bedroom floor, and said matter-of-factly and with a hint of annoyance, "Me pick up these toys." He and Amariah proceeded to clear the floor of all but two toys, neither of which I even noticed until...

Finally, it was naptime. (I've been looking forward to a nap since about the time I got out of bed this morning.) Abel's room was back in order, he was crawling into bed, and I was heading out the door with Amariah when Abel stopped me. "Uh oh, Mom. There's two toys on floor. That one goes 'Yiyah's' room. That one goes right there." I sluggishly bent over and picked up the toys as I smiled to myself and thought, You've made him this way.

Abel's room now officially in order, Amariah and I headed into her room to lay her down. I noticed some toys scattered on her floor, too, and in my tired state briefly considered leaving them there until bedtime tonight. But thinking of how my 2 1/2-year old had just called me to action in me-like fashion, I again sluggishly bent over and picked up the toys as I smiled to myself. Not the worst habit to teach my kids.

Friday, December 12, 2008

12/12/08 OB Appointment

Bring on the second trimester!  Today I am 13 weeks pregnant!  This morning was our second regular OB appointment, and we met with the doctor who delivered Amariah, my VBAC baby, and who saw me through our miscarriage this past summer.  I was really looking forward to this first meeting with him of this pregnancy, especially after my less than desirable experience with one of his colleagues four weeks ago.

Today's discussion with the doctor went somewhat as I had come to expect.  He gently approached the topic that he surely knew was going to come up anway, telling me that I won't be able to VBAC with twins.  We were able to have a fairly lengthy discussion in this regard that I felt was conducted with mutual respect and understanding.  We got a lot of facts about how a planned cesarean works and discussed his opinions of the risks associated with a twin VBAC vs. a repeat cesarean.  He also reminded me that just because I'm pregnant doesn't mean I've lost my rights, and that should I go into labor before the date of a planned cesarean (should we consent to going that route), I would have every right to refuse a cesarean at that time, "signing my life away" and proceeding with an attempt at vaginal delivery.  He also said that were it to happen this way while he was on call, he would be fairly libertarian in allowing me to make that choice.

I have been praying for the last four weeks that today's appointment would be a good indication of what our next move (if any) should be.  While the doctor didn't say exactly what I had hoped to hear, and while we're not exactly sure what to think or do at this point, I can say that I left my appointment with extreme peace.  I know that my God is the same God today in the face of what seems an impossible desire as He was before I ever had the cesarean that puts me in this situation.  He has known for all time that my scarred womb would be housing these two little babies, and I know with all my heart that the God who opened my scarred womb and filled it with a double blessing will be faithful to see us through what lies ahead.  I believe that He will guide us and grant us wisdom as we seek, trust, and rely upon Him.

The best part of today's appointment was definitely getting to see our two little babies!  I wasn't expecting to get this opportunity today, but apparently using the ultrasound machine is the preferred method of getting twins' heartbeats.  Baby A's heart was beating at 168 beats per minute and Baby B's at 158 beats per minute.  We were blessed to watch as both babies squirmed, turned, and twisted.  We even saw a grabbing of the toes and a feeling of the head (that one must be related to Abel!). :-)  What a miracle is happening within me!

Oh, and in other fun news, my 13-week pregnant uterus is measuring 17 cm (the normal size of the uterus at 17 weeks pregnant with one baby).  Praise God for the healthy growth and development of my babies!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

If in Doubt, Don't!

If in doubt, don't.  But I did.  And it hurt....

About five weeks ago, when Travis and I found out that I'm pregnant with twins, we decided it would be fun to take weekly pictures of my growing belly.  When I looked in the mirror and realized, "This body has to stretch enough to accommodate two babies.  I may never look quite like this again," I decided we better hurry up and get a picture before the growing started.

A couple weeks into taking these weekly pictures, I began to consider sharing them with my friends by posting them on Facebook.  But then the thought crossed my mind, "At what point in pregnancy does it become 'appropriate' to show off a naked belly?  How big does a naked pregnant belly have to be in order to not be 'offensive' or 'immodest'?"... Doubt #1.

So I let the idea ride for while and didn't post any pictures.

A couple weeks later, our weekly picture showed a significant change from the initial this-is-how-my-body-used-to-look picture.  Excited to finally see some change, I thought, "Well, now those initial pictures don't seem immodest because they are just a reference point for my growth."  And despite the doubts I had had a couple weeks prior, I posted the pictures and felt okay about it.

But then people started commenting on the photos--all positive comments, granted--yet with each comment came another twinge of doubt.  "Maybe I should take those pictures off Facebook...."  Doubt #2.  #3.  #4.  Maybe more.

Still I didn't remove the pictures.  Hundreds of my Facebook friends remained able to see my naked, barely pregnant belly.

A few more days passed, and then came the consequence.  As I was getting ready for church on Sunday morning, I noticed an email from a respected and older sister in Christ.  I opened it up to find the most humble, gentle, loving, yet extremely painful rebuke (for lack of a better word) concerning my belly pictures.  Of them, she said, "I believe because of your joy and excitement, you share.  But I do not think it is proper or modest.  I ask you to please consider this.  Today the world reveals all and has no shame, but we are of Christ and are to be modest, discreet, and above reproach.... Many struggle in this culture of immodest dress, and so as women of God we need to be examples."

Totally ashamed and embarrassed, I archived the email before my husband could see it and resumed getting ready for church, feeling horrible and knowing I wasn't really going to hide the email from my husband.  About then he sat down at the computer, and nonchalantly I said, "Honey, do you think I should take those pictures off Facebook?"  I proceeded to have him read the email from my respected Sister, and we then immediately changed the privacy settings so that only I could view the pictures (although I'm not sure my decision at that point was based on anything more than knowing I had offended (again, for lack of a better word) at least one person).

As we walked into church that morning, I felt guilt-ridden and ashamed.  What if people from our church saw my pictures and felt the same as the friend who emailed?  I could hardly get my mind off my own feeling of guilt enough to even engage in converation.  Even through the service, my mind was preoccupied.  I just wanted to go home, curl up in a ball, and retreat to some place inside myself.

Back at home, as I was preparing our lunch, I finally asked my husband, "Honey, why do I feel so guilty? like I did something wrong?"  Responding as with the voice of God (and not knowing about the former doubts which I had ignored), he said, "You're still thinking about that?  Well, if it's really bothering you that much... I'm just wondering... is it possible you sinned against your conscience?"

I don't think I ever really answered his question, but in my heart and in my mind, I immediately knew the answer.  Remembrances of my initial doubts--and of subsequent doubts--all reasoned away by my own justifying conclusions, flooded my memory.  I asked him, "Well... what do I do now?"  And again as if speaking with the voice of God, he said, "Repent."

I would like to say I fell on my knees in broken repentance right at the moment, but no, it took me a little bit to get my heart completely aligned with God's--to rid myself of my pride and to truly agree with Him.  Once I knew my heart was in the right posture, I confessed my sin to God and begged Him to keep my conscience sharp, knowing full well that each ingoring of the conscience has a tendency to dull it just a little more.  When I was done praying, our gracious, merciful, forgiving God took away my feelings of guilt and replaced them with feelings of gratitude that I had been chastened by my loving Father and then forgiven.

I would like to clarify that my feelings of guilt were not because of a Godly friend's opinion being shared with me or even because I had shown my bare belly to the world of Facebook.  My feelings of guilt were brought on solely by the fact that I had sinned against my conscience.  Romans 14:22-23 says, The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God.  Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.  But he who doubts is condemned if he eats (or in my case, if she posts these pictures), because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.  I had condemned myself in what I approved because it was done not in faith, but in opposition to the conviciton of the Holy Spirit.

I would also like to clarify that the older Christian woman who "rebuked" me did so humbly and lovingly, with the proper motivation of preserving me and my testimony and out of total obedience to the Scripture:  Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored (Titus 2:3-5).

Lastly, I would like to say that it is so like Satan to try to talk us out of our convictions.  In Genesis 3:1, the serpent said to Eve, "Did God really say...?"  Be on the lookout against his schemes!  Remember that the Holy Spirit speaks to you through your conscience and that the old saying, "If in doubt, don't," is often a pretty good guide.

I hope the story of my painful lesson in listening to my conscience will preserve some of you from a similar chastening, but with much gratitude in my heart I recognize that the most important point in my story is this:  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

CHRISTmas Music

I love Christmas music--well, maybe not all of it, but for sure the songs that tell of the true meaning of Christmas (i.e. the birth of Christ).  Every year when I hear these CHRISTmas songs playing on the radio, I find myself wondering how many people across the globe are singing along and not really believing the words or paying their truth any attention... and how many secular musicians have recorded them just because they are traditional Christmas songs that tell a good story.  Wouldn't it be awesome if people everywhere were truly changed by these words of truth which we sing once a year in our holiday cheer?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

At Least Give Me a Chance...

I just spent the larger part of my morning on the phone hoping for leads to an obstetrician who will give me a trial of labor.  It seems that so many doctors are opposed to both vaginal birth after cesarean and vaginal birth of twins; so throw my desire of a vaginal birth of twins after cesarean in there, and you start feeling like there is little hope.

The doctors I'm currently seeing haven't given me an answer either way, but one midwife I spoke to this morning, upon finding out which OB practice I'm with, warned me that I need to get out of there as quickly as possible and said that with them I don't stand a chance.  The problem, she said, is that they aren't all on the same page (as I began to discover at my last appointment).  However, I won't completely give up on them until (and if) they nix my idea all together.  And if that happens, at least I've started the grueling process of finding a credible doctor who will give me a chance at labor.  (I did find a possible lead, by the way, pending review of my medical records!)

I do understand that no matter what doctor I'm with, certain factors will have to be just so in order for me to have a vaginal delivery of twins.  It's not that I would refuse a cesarean to the point of endangering my babies' lives.  But I do have a deep desire to once again experience the beauty of natural childbirth, and I am praying very specifically and very often that all these determining factors will take place in order to allow for that.  I know that God hears my petitions and knows my heart, and it's only in Him that I can place my trust.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

He Gave Himself Away

This story is for all you parents out there--including myself--who don't fully realize the intelligence of a toddler....

We spent the week of Thanksgiving at my parents' house--a treat for everyone since we aren't able to make the seven-hour drive as often as we would like.  Abel and Amariah always look forward to all the special things that come with being on my parents' farm.  The chickens--gathering their eggs, feeding them, petting them, even just looking at them--were probably the highlight for the kids.  Every morning and every evening, when it came time to turn the chickens out for the day or to shut the coop up for the night, Abel made sure he was a part of the chore.  (And don't forget Amariah!  The moment she suspected someone might be going outside, she was running for her shoes and coat!)

The aforementioned story comes from one of these outings to the chicken coop.  This particular morning my mom had taken the kids up to turn the chickens out while Travis and I stayed in the house (probably watching HGTV (since we don't have satellite at home!)).  Somewhere along the way, my mom gave Abel some instruction to which he responded argumentatively.  My mom then said, "Hey, don't talk to me like that.  You do what I tell you to."  To which two year-old Abel self-incriminatingly replied, "Okay, Grandma!  Me won't talk back to you like do Mommy!"

Now, don't misunderstand the way we run our household.  Abel definitely gets disciplined... and disciplined... for talking back.  Why he continues to do it in spite of our consistency, I'm not sure.  The point is, Abel knows he "talks back" to Mommy, and now I have proof that he knows!

Parents, your children aren't stupid.  Expecting a toddler to understand instruction and to carry it out with happy obedience is not too much to ask.  Obviously, we are still working on the happy part of obedience; but let this story encourage you (as it has me) to not grow weary!  Don't buy into the thinking that your toddler doesn't understand.  He does!

Monday, December 1, 2008

"A Word to Busy Mothers"

This morning as I was going through my cookbooks looking for new recipes to try, I came across this encouraging poem. I don't know who wrote it, but it comes from the Amish cookbook Tasteful Treasures from the Horse and Buggy Country of Conewango Valley, New York, 2003, pg. 49.

A Word to Busy Mothers
Since you are a busy mother, you have much to do.
Things are often in a rush and you are often in a stew.
Meals to fix, clothes to wash, and dirty floor to sweep,
Little tots and babies, too, to care for and to keep.

Garden must be tended; there is sewing to be done;
Certain deadlines must be met; you are always on the run.
Though this work is all important, keep it in it's place.
Never let it shut out God or stop His flow of grace.

While you are hanging out the wash or ironing with care,
Still your thoughts to meditate and breathe a silent prayer.
Read a portion of God's Word while rocking babies to sleep;
Count your blessings while you work although you feel to weep.

Sing about His goodness as you pick, prepare, and can;
Speak about His praises and His mercies to mere man.
Tell the children of His love while tucking them in bed;
Thank Him daily that His hand has clothed them, warmed and fed.

In the evening leave your work and worry in God's care;
'Ere you start another day prepare yourself in prayer,
And God will surely bless your day and give you grace to do
All those things that must be done and always fall on you.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Growing Up and Filling Out

I realized this morning after a chain of random happenings that all around me are signs of growth and passing time.

A couple months ago I reorganized Abel's dresser to enable him to reach all of his everyday/play clothing in order that he could start learning to dress himself. He has been very excited about this new "big boy" responsibility, but getting to the point where he could fully dress himself (minus the shoes) on his own happened only this morning. Pants and big boy underwear he conquered right away, followed much later by shirts. And now this morning I looked down at Abel to find that he had gotten his socks on all by himself. Perhaps that doesn't seem like a big accomplishment, but let me say that getting socks on feet as wide and thick as Abel's is sometimes difficult even for me. And so I realized, my little boy is growing up.

As I was getting Amariah dressed this morning I decided to try pulling back some of her hair to help keep it out of her face. I had never put anything in her hair before because I wasn't sure it would be long enough to stay. As I finished securing the little ponytail on top of her head, I thought to myself, my baby girl is growing up.

A little later this morning Abel asked me to play him a song. One of his current favorites is John Waller's "While I'm Waiting" (from the movie Fireproof). As he sat at the computer watching the music video on YouTube, he began singing the words in a softened voice--another sign that my little boy is growing up.

A little bit ago as I put my hands on my hips, I noticed that the muscles on both sides of my waist are sore. It was the same feeling of muscles stretching that I remember from both of my first two pregnancies (only it's coming a little sooner this time around!). Then I looked at myself in the mirror and saw that my formerly loosely-fitting shirt isn't so loose anymore--not in the belly or in the chest. And on the heels of the things mentioned above, I realized that with each passing day, growth is happening all around me. For my kids, it's a growing up; but for me, it's a filling out (currently speaking, anyway).

We all know that time brings change; and the changes I'm witnessing every day are a most blessed and exciting part of my life. Praise God for my children--for Abel and Amariah whose growth I'm watching daily, and for little Ande and these twins whose meeting I anticipate is growing me daily.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Veggie Tales

I think I've expressed in a previous post that our sweet little Amariah can turn pretty stubborn when it comes to eating.  Although things have gotten much better since the one-hour long training session we had several months back, she still periodically tries her hand at refusing to eat.

For supper last night I served the delicious meal that my friend Emily so graciously blessed us with--pork roast with potatoes, carrots, and green beans.  Amariah rather quickly devoured the bites of meat (doused in ketchup, of course) and promptly indicated her wish for more.  When I denied her request with an, "Eat your vegetables first," the battle began.

Her refusal to even taste the vegetables earned her a few swats on the hand until she submitted and opened her mouth.  However, about the same moment the vegetables made contact with her tongue, her tongue decidedly ejected them from her mouth.  I stuck to my decision to withhold another helping of meat since she didn't eat her vegetables and got her down from her highchair with the plan that she would eat nothing until she had eaten those vegetables--no matter how long it took.  (I guess I can be pretty stubborn, too!)

Amariah went to bed last night on what I figured was a somewhat hungry stomach, but she didn't complain.  (She probably knew that if she had complained, out would have come those vegetables!)  This morning the dreaded vegetables made their way back to her plate for a late breakfast/early lunch and were still intact at the end of mealtime.  Still determined to win the veggie battle, I put Amariah down for her nap, this time certain it was on a hungry stomach.  But again, no complaints.

After naptime, I put Amariah in her highchair with the same rejected vegetables from the night before and decided she would sit there until she was ready to eat them.  After some period of crying she suddenly submitted her will and ate her potatoes, carrots, and green beans--and when they were gone, she asked for more!

I tell this veggie tale as an encouragement to other parents of picky eaters and as a reminder to myself.  Persevere, and win these battles that seem so insignificant.  In doing so, you are laying the groundwork to win--and maybe even to avoid altogether--larger battles down the road.

Friday, November 14, 2008

11/14/08 OB Appointment

Today I had what was supposed to be my first OB appointment of this pregnancy.  (Because I was having some spotting last week, I was called in last Friday for an ultrasound which showed us not one but two healthy babies!  But, even though everything looked great last Friday, I had to keep today's appointment in order to get the "full OB workup," as they call it.)

The doctor we met with today is new to the practice since my last pregnancy and was therefore new to me.  Because my first pregnancy unexpectedly ended in a cesearn, the topic of repeat ceserean vs. VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Ceserean) is always up for discussion.  Although I was told by one of the doctors in the practice last week that a VBAC delivery of twins may certainly be a possibility for me--especially since I've already had a successful VBAC--the doctor we met today showed no glimmer of hope for a VBAC because "the College doesn't recommend it for twins."  I gently spoke with him about last week's discussion with the other doctor, but he didn't seem like he will be easily persuaded to even let me try.  Needless to say, I was super disappointed by his by-the-book attitude and expressly told him that I would be extremely disappointed if I wasn't at least given a chance at laboring.  Besides the fact that he was very pessimistic about my having a vaginal delivery, he was so rough when doing the pelvic exam.  Those metal things are never comfortable anyway, and especially for me whose cervix is tilted way back, but they are especially painful when rammed in at the wrong angle.  When I squirmed away with an "Ouch!" he coldly responded, "You shouldn't be that tender.  Are you always that tender?"  I'd like to know how "tender" he would be when undergoing the same procedure done by himself....

Anyway, I'm sure you can tell by my tone that I am slightly discouraged and maybe even a bit angered by today's experience with this doctor.  I guess now my prayers must get even more specific as I ask God to do the specific things that must happen in order for the (seven) doctors to collaberatively agree to let me have a trial of labor.

On a better note, we were privileged to have another ultrasound today and were able to again hear our babies' heartbeats (183 bpm and 178 bpm) and even to see them both wiggling around.  Since I've never had two back-to-back ultrasounds so early on in a pregnancy, I was amazed to see the changes that have occured in only seven days time.  The babies who looked like elongated blobs last week today had distinguishable stubs for arms and legs (which were already being exercised!).  How in the world can anyone believe that there is no Creator God or that life doesn't begin at conception?  What amazing miracles are taking place in my womb.  I feel so blessed to be a part of it.

My next appointment is scheduled for December 12th with my favorite doctor--the one who delivered my VBAC baby and who saw me through my recent miscarriage--and I look forward to hearing his opinion on giving me (or at least considering giving me) a trial of labor with these twins.  I suspect that in the meantime the doctors may be discussing my case; so pray, pray, pray I will!  May God grant the doctors wisdom, and may He also safely grant my request for a successful and natural birth of my babies!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Laundry Day

Laundry Day is an exciting day in the Squires household.  Abel and Amariah's button-pushing craze finally gets satisfied as they take turns starting the washer and dryer.  (Whoever designed my machines to require two pushes of the button was a genius... because one push and beep just isn't quite enough.)  Then, we all get to hang out upstairs where the best toys dwell while Mommy folds the laundry and fends off the little "helpers."  And finally, Mommy gets the satisfaction of every article of clothing being clean and in its place (if only for a couple hours).

Yes, fellow housewives, I may be strange, but I like doing laundry.  And ironing?  Well, I must say there is something satisfying about making things look perfect. :-)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Genetics of Twinning

So, I found out today that my great-Grandma and Grandpa Hanneman have 13 sets of twins in their family!  In fact, my great-grandma herself was a twin!  Apparently her sister died at birth, so that's why I never knew she was a twin.

It sounds like there are twins (and even some triplets) down other lines of my family, but we don't know just yet where in the family tree they fall.

I've always wondered what role genetics plays in the conception of twins, but only now do I have the motivation to look into it!  I did some reading on the Internet (I know you can't trust everything you read on the Internet, but several sites confirmed the same information), and here is what I came up with:
  • Fraternal twins run in families on the mother's side only, if she inherits the gene for hyper ovulation (the tendency to release multiple eggs during ovulation).  Men can carry this gene and pass it on to their daughters; but since men don't ovulate, a family history of twins doesn't make them any more likely to have twins themselves.*
  • Identical twins are random and do not run in families except by coincidence.*  The biological mechanisms that prompt the single fertilized egg to split in two remain a mystery.**
Obviously we won't know for a while if our twins are fraternal or identical, but we do know they are blessings from the Lord!  Praise God that He has blessed our family tree with many children! :-)


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Today's Meeting

This afternoon two Jehovah's Witnesses, Don and Brooke, returned to our home for our scheduled meeting.  I wish I could say things went as expected, but that wasn't really the case.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we invited Tom, a Christian friend who recently started a ministry to the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, to join us for today's meeting.  Apparently, Tom's name and reputation for being firmly grounded in the Truth has been buzzing around the Kingdom Hall--as soon as introductions were done and Tom started talking, our JW visitors recalled having heard about him and began to bristle.  They had no intention of allowing any of the three of us Christians--especially Tom--to do any talking, and though we approached the situation with much respect and gentleness, they stated that there was no point in having any further conversation with us.  I was able to say a few things to Brooke (the woman who had originally come to our door a couple weeks ago) before they left, so I pray that somehow God will use something that was said to culitvate unrest in her soul and to cause her to begin to question her own beliefs.  Also, Don, the older gentleman, did agree to meet one-on-one with Tom at the Kingdom Hall next week.  (It seemed that Don was both unprepared and unwilling to hold such a conversation in front of "these kids" (referring to Travis and me--my husband had to bite his tongue on that one!) since we are so "young and impressionable" (which was the gist of his words).)

It's hard to imagine that hearts such as these, hardened by false teaching after false teaching, could be softened to eventually receive the Truth; but praise God that He is able!  Though I feel a bit disappointed about today's meeting, I know that God can still use it for good; and I pray that He will!

Consider God's power to SAVE as you read Paul's words to Timothy....

"I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor.  Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.  It is a trustworthy statement, derserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.  Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.  Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.  Amen."  (1 Timothy 1:12-17)

And for encouragement to all you "kids" out there,...

"Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe." (1 Timothy 4:12)

Although we now probably have a big red X on our door, I hope God will entrust us with more of these opportunities.  I'm so thankful that we do not have to be afraid of non-Christians or their beliefs, for we have the gospel--the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16)!

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Double Blessing

Monday, October 13th, 8:00 a.m.:
I think I'm late.
Travis convinces me to take a pregnancy test.
Result:  Positive!

Monday, October 13th, 9:30 p.m.:
I tell Abel, "Mommy has a baby in her tummy."
Abel replies, "Two babies?"

Every Day, All Day:
I'm so sick!  My nausea is never-ceasing, and sleep is all I can think about.
Day or night, I must go to the bathroom every couple hours.
You'd think I were having twins or something....

Wednesday, November 5th, 4:00 p.m.:
I'm spotting a little.
I never spotted with Abel or Amariah.
I'm not really worried.
Should I be worried?...

Thursday, November 6th, 5:30 p.m.:
Another spot.
Maybe I should call the doctor.

Friday, November 7th, 9:50 a.m.:
Doctor orders bloodwork and an ultrasound.

Friday, November 7th, 10:45 a.m.:
Ultrasound begins.
Whoa, did I just see two black spots?
Ultrasound technician toggles to a different screen. 
She just typed "2."  What does that mean?
If there were two, wouldn't she say something?...
Why isn't she looking at the other black spot?
Suddenly, a heartbeat!  166 beats per minute!
Our baby is okay!  Thank You, God!
On to the other black spot.
At last, she speaks.  "Well, I don't know if you're seeing what I'm seeing..."
"Are there two?"
And another heartbeat!  154 beats per minute!
God, You've blessed us double!  And they're both okay!

Since Then...:
I'm shocked.
I'm ecstatic.
I'm blessed beyond comprehension.
Abel called it.

Monday, November 3, 2008

JW Meeting Postponed

Dear Readers,

I wanted to let those of you who were praying for our meeting with the Jehovah's Witnesses this past Saturday know that they postponed the meeting until this coming Saturday at 1:00.  We did go ahead and meet with the Christian man who will be joining us for Saturday's meeting, and he taught us more about how to approach such an opportunity.  We would appreciate your continued prayers in the coming days.  Specifically, we are asking for prayer that this woman and whoever comes along with her would question the authority of the Watchtower and that seeds would be planted for them to know the Truth.  May God be glorified.

In Christ,

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Serving Others

My friend Marcia just wrote about Givers and Takers on her blog, and it kind of touched on something I was just thinking about the other day....

Abel, my 2 1/2-year old, is getting to the age where he is pretty handy to have around.  I can ask him to do the most menial of tasks--throw a dirty diaper in the trash, run outside and grab the paper, carry dirty dishes from the table to the sink--and nine out of ten times he will do it promptly and joyfully.  His willing obedience brings joy to my heart, and it also saves me a few steps.  The other day as he was happily fulfilling my request to get a tissue for Amariah's nose, I thought to myself, "How much longer until he realizes it isn't always 'fun' to help?"

Looking back on this, I realize that the fact that I even had such a thought doesn't say too much about me.  I think one can easily infer that I must not think it's always fun to help others.  Thanks to Abel's willingness to serve joyfully, I am now forced to reevaluate my own attitude towards serving others.  I pray that rather than Abel learning from my attitude that "serving isn't always fun," I will instead learn from Abel's attitude that serving others is a joy and a privilege.

Monday, October 27, 2008

And the Doorbell Rings

Saturday morning a nice young lady with two sweet little girls came ringing our doorbell.  One little girl handed me a flyer, and my ears closed as I turned it over in my hands quickly trying to discover who these people were.  Without any thought, I asked, "What church are you with?"  When the answer, "Kingdom Hall," came, I again spoke without thinking, "Oh, well, I'm a Christian" and handed the flyer back to the dutiful little girl.  When the woman then began to equate her beliefs with mine, I retorted that I was pretty sure Jehovah's Witnesses believe things about Jesus that don't agree with Christian doctrine.  Unable to articulate these differences off the top of my head, I sincerely told the woman and her daughters that I was sorry they were being deceived and that I would pray for them.  At that they left my doorstep and headed to the next house down the street.

Not exactly pleased with the way I had handled (or not handled) this opportunity, I quickly called a man from our church who just recently started a ministry to the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons.  I told him how I had turned this woman away before even thinking to invite her back for further discussion and asked him when he would be available to join such a discussion should she accept the invitation.  He told me anytime next Saturday would work for him, and I got off the phone hoping for an opportunity to catch the woman before she left the neighborhood.

I watched from my front door as neighbor after neighbor turned this woman away.  Finally, she made it back to the van which she and another family had apparently carpooled in, and they drove back down the street towards our house.  Heart racing, I walked to the end of our driveway and waved them down.  They pulled right over, she reluctantly accepted my invitation to return Saturday morning at 11:00, and they drove away.

A short while later, my doorbell rang again.  The two women from the van had returned to ask me what specifically I wanted to discuss with them and to give me some literature that would correspond to that topic.  I took the booklet entitled What Does the Bible Really Teach? and told the woman that I would like to discuss our differences of beliefs on Jesus.  They wanted to stay and talk right then, but since we were getting ready to head out to run some errands, I was able to again get her agreement to return (this) Saturday.

Travis and I are preparing spiritually and academically for this meeting and are praying fervently that our speech will be seasoned with salt and full of grace.  I am sincerely grieved that these people are being deceived and am praying that God will use this meeting to begin the process of this family finding the Truth.

We would appreciate your prayers in these upcoming days.  May God be glorified.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Thoughts from a Tired Woman

Can I just say... I feel terrible! Being pregnant is kicking my butt! I'm so tired I could hardly care less about anything but sleep (which poses a slight problem considering the fact that I have a husband, two toddlers, and a home to care for); and on top of that, I have a cold that has left me with a sore throat, headache, chronic cough, and no voice. Combine all this and you get an extremely tired pregnant woman who can't sleep and doesn't have enough time to try. Not a very good scenario.

There. Those are my complaints from my temporal perspective.

BUT... if I can get over myself for a moment and look at this with an eternal perspective, I would realize that the privilege and blessing of carrying a child whom God has given me is worth the short-lived (it will be short-lived, right?) misery. I would realize that I am called to put the needs of others before my own. I would realize that I have a God who provides for all my needs and who never slumbers nor sleeps. I would realize how blessed I am to have an understanding, helpful husband. I would realize that I am to praise God and give Him thanks in all things--even when I feel terrible.

So, as I search for the capacity to praise God in spite of myself, I'm off to bed for what I hope will not be another sleepless night.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Second Line

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!  Last Monday morning, October 13th, I watched with complete surprise as once again two little pink lines appeared before my eyes.  Not wanting the disappointment of another negative pregnancy test (apparently my PMS symptoms are becoming more and more like pregnancy symptoms), I had been determined to wait for several more days before even considering that I might be pregnant.  But all it took was my husband's question, "Aren't you going to take a pregnancy test?" and my mind was changed.  Completely prepared for and expecting a negative result, I was quite shocked (but happy!) when that second line appeared.  I kind of think my husband somehow knew that I was pregnant--or that he was at least hoping so.  A few days before when I made a comment with the assumption that I was not pregnant, Travis said, "Why would you say that?  Don't you want to be pregnant?"  I'm so blessed to have a husband who, like me, trusts God's timing for children and welcomes them as a blessing.

We are praying fervently for this child whom God is forming in my womb.  I know of so many women who have conceived only months after suffering a miscarriage, and now it is me in those shoes.  I am humbled by the knowledge of God's sovereignty in this situation, and it is my hope and prayer that, like my first two pregnancies, all will go well this fourth time around.  I know that this baby will never "replace" Ande in our hearts but just like the first three will find a whole new place of its own there.  And so I will end as I began as my heart joyfully sings, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow!"

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Remembering Ande Lynn

I have learned through a couple of the blogs I read that today, October 15th, is the National Day of Remembrance for Pregnancy and Infant Loss.  I understand that people all over the world are invited to light a candle at 7:00 tonight in remembrance of babies lost to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, still birth, or early infant death.

We will be lighting a candle in remembrance of our baby Ande Lynn whom we lost to miscarriage on July 14, 2008.  Only three months have passed since we said goodbye to our hope of meeting our sweet baby on this side of Heaven, and the pain of loss is still very real to us.  Yet God, by His sovereignty and grace, has strengthened us (thus the name Ande, which means "strong, courageous") and taught us a great deal throughout this trial.  I praise God for the promise we have of meeting Ande one day in Heaven, and I am greatly comforted in knowing that Ande is already there.

To my many friends who have also lost a precious baby to miscarriage or early infant death, my thoughts and prayers are with you today.  May God grant you the same strength and courage that He has supplied to me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Forgive and Forget

If you haven't noticed, the issue of forgiveness has been on my mind lately. Specifically,  I've been reflecting on the nature of God's forgiveness, our call to forgive one another, and our responsibility to seek forgiveness from those whom we have wronged.  I believe that these three forgiveness issues are related:  because we are forgiven by God, we must forgive those who wrong us and seek forgiveness from those whom we have wronged.

Speaking of those who will accept God's forgiveness, Psalm 103:12 states, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us."  And in Isaiah 43:25,  "I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins." 

God forgives our sins, and then He forgets them.  I've been thinking about this for a while now and trying to figure out how it applies to our human-to-human relationships.  Is it really possible, humanly speaking, to forget a sin committed against you?  And if you haven't forgotten it, does that mean you haven't truly forgiven it?

After listening to a sermon yesterday, I think I've come closer to an answer for these questions.  I don't know yet if my partial conclusions hold true to Scripture (and if they don't, then throw them out!); but I do think they hold true to my life experience.

In his teaching on the Lord's prayer, this pastor spoke of forgiveness as a choice to "let it go"--not to pretend like it didn't happen or like it didn't hurt, but to decide to give up one's right to seek vengeance and justice.  He then clarified that just because forgiveness has then taken place does not necessarily mean that reconciliation has occurred.  Reconciliation, he said, only happens when both repentance and forgiveness are involved.

So then I started thinking about reconciliation and the role it seems to play in my finding the capacity to forget.  I realized that in the instances where I have been wronged and reconciliation has occurred, I seem to naturally forget the wrong committed against me.  But in the instances where I have had to choose to forgive in the absence of repentance--and thereby in the absence of reconciliation--I find it much more difficult to forget.

The danger in this remembering of sins is the tendency to develop bitterness towards the person whom you are forgiving.  I say "are forgiving" because, for me, this choice to forgive an unrepentant person is an ongoing action.  Each time I remember the wrong, I have to forgive again.  This makes me still wonder if my inability to forget stems from a possibly incomplete or insincere forgiveness.

May God search my heart and reveal to me any people or sins which I haven't truly and completely forgiven that I may be fully obedient to the Scripture: "Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.  [But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions"] (Mark 11:25-26).

If anyone has any thoughts or words of encouragement on this issue, please share!

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Practice of Prayer

I don't pray as much as I should.  There, I said it.  There are several things currently happening in my life that have driven me to pray and praise more; but as my heart becomes more aligned with God's through prayer, I am seeing how short I am falling when it comes to talking to my Father.

There are some things I've noticed about prayer in my life personally: 
  1. that the more I pray, the more I desire to pray;
  2. that prayer makes my heart soft towards God; 
  3. and that praying teaches me of my dependence upon God.  
So why don't I pray more?  Often times when I am examining myself, it is my prayerlessness that God shows me.  This isn't to say that I lead a prayer-less life.  But I'm not sure to what extent I'd call it a prayer-full life, either.  Regardless, God is calling me to pray more.

In Christian circles, prayer is often referred to as a discipline.  According to thefreedictionary.com, discipline is defined as "training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior."  In addition, common experience tells us that discipline involves time, energy, and commitment.  So, God is training me through various trials, conversations, sermons, and circumstances to become more prayerful.  But in order for that training to produce the desired character or behavior (i.e. prayerfulness), I must put forth the time, energy, and commitment to pray.

Undoubtedly, this is a hard thing to do.  This world (i.e. Satan) is in opposition to prayer and to God.  But God who calls us to pray can teach, motivate, and enable us to pray!  Praying, which is communicating with our Abba Father ("Daddy"), accomplishes at least a couple things:
  1. it deepens our relationship with God,
  2. and it aligns our hearts with God's.
So no wonder Satan doesn't want us to pray, right?!

Needless to say, I think I have the necessary knowledge of prayer; but it is the greater practice of prayer which God is calling me to.  May He grant me the desire and the discipline to pray, and may He continue to align my heart with His as I communicate with Him!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Heart Full of Praise

Tonight I am writing with a heart full of praise.  I don't know if I can even put into words all that is welling up within me, but for God's glory I would like to try....

As I think about God's forgiveness, I am driven to praise.  Nothing in us merits forgiveness, and yet while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)--the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18).

Praise You, God, for the free gift of forgiveness which You have given to all who will believe.  Thank You for the atoning death of Your Son that paid my ransom and erased my debt.  Thank You for remembering my sins no more.  You have removed them from me as far as the East is from the West.  I praise You and thank You, God, that You forgive and forget.

As I think about God's patience, I am driven to praise.  The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation (2 Peter 3:15)!

Praise You, God, for Your patience.  Because You are willing to suffer long, people come to repentance and are saved.  Thank You for waiting to bring about justice on the Earth, and thank You for the promise that one day You will.  Thank You for patiently working in the lives of the people whom You have created to draw them to Yourself.  Thank You for being patient with me as I learn, grow, fall down, and get back up again.  I praise You and thank You that, despite my failures, You who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.

As I think about God's love, I am driven to praise.   For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).  We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 John 3:16).

Praise You, God, for loving me so much that You sent Your holy and blameless Son to suffer and die in my place.  Because of Jesus' death and resurrection, I can have eternal life.  Thank You, Jesus, for laying down Your life for me.  Thank You for demonstrating Your love for me through Your death on the cross.  And thank You for Your people who demonstrate the love of Christ by laying down their lives for others.

Our God is great and greatly to be praised!  He has done great things!  Hallelujah!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Dirty Consequences

Okay, so this morning I had one of those moments that every mom dad dreads.  I was out running errands with my children.  They each had a bag of Cheerios and things were going well--no crying, no whining, no fighting, not even much talking.  Suddenly Abel announced that he needed to go potty.  It was at that moment, as I surveyed our surroundings only to find us in the heart of a residential area with no public restrooms in sight, that I realized Abel had dressed himself this morning.  This wouldn't have been a problem if I had remembered to put a diaper--or at least training pants--on him before we left home.  Slightly worried about the possible consequences of my forgetfulness, I told Abel to hold it until we could get to a bathroom.  He agreed that he would do that, and I kept driving down the bathroom-less street.

Fast forward about sixty seconds.  "Mommy, me not need go potty more."  "What, did you potty in your pants?"  "Yeah, me not need go potty more."  "Are you serious?!"  "Yeah.  Me wet."

Upon confirming the truth of his confession, I pulled the car over to strip him in hopes of salvaging the car seat.  Too late.  So, reloading his bare butt into the soaked car seat, we headed home for a new pair of pants, some super absorbent cloths... oh, and training pants.  I just needed a quick fix so I could make my last stop with a fully clothed, dry child.

We pulled into our garage, and I sent half-naked Abel inside to finish pottying while I attempted to soak up the mess in his car seat.  Just then, from across the van, I heard a familiar grunting.  I looked up to see the blank stare on Amariah's face as she loaded her diaper.  (Yes, I had remembered to diaper her... thank goodness.)  I believe I uttered the words, "Oh.  Great."  About then Abel hollered for help with his new pants, so I stepped inside to finish dressing him.  Having remedied his situation (well, except for the telling stench filling the van), I reloaded him and headed out for my last errand:  the grocery store.

Has anybody noticed that I forgot something again?  I didn't until I started to unload Amariah in the Hy-Vee parking lot and was hit in the face with another stench.  All I can say is, I hope no one else in the store caught wind of my forgetfulness....

Thursday, October 2, 2008

An "Exercise" in Thanksgiving

O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord,
Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God
And a great King above all gods,
In whose hand are the depths of the earth,
The peaks of the mountains are His also.
The sea is His, for it was He who made it,
And His hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
~Psalm 95:1-7a

My friend Amber is leading a woman's prayer group (of which I am excited to be a part!); and at our first meeting Monday night she challenged us to make a list of all the things we are thankful for and then come before God with prayers of thanksgiving. I think this is a great application of the Biblical command to give thanks (see Ephesians 5:20) because, unfortunately, in our self-centeredness, we human beings tend to fill our prayers with a whole lot of requests and not much praise and thanksgiving.

Anyway, I thought this "exercise" in thanksgiving would make a good blog topic. So, here is my non-exhaustive list as it comes to my mind.

I am thankful for...
  • the Word of God. "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  • prayer. "The Lord has heard my supplication, the Lord receives my prayer." (Psalm 6:9)
  • salvation. "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2:4-8)
  • a godly husband. "Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.'" (Genesis 2:18)
  • my children. "Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." (Psalm 127:3-5a)
  • my home. "Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?'... for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:31-33)
  • my parents. "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)
  • godly friends. "Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." (Proverbs 27:17)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Running from the Cold

Does anyone know what the temperature was at 7:30 this morning?  I know we're a little ways from Winter yet, but this morning was just a little too cold for me....

I decided last week that it was time to stop talking about getting back into shape and start doing it.  Abel had woke me up at 7:00 a.m. as usual, and feeling surprisingly well-rested and motivated, I decided to go for a run before Travis left for work.  I was out the door, done and back before he ever even knew I was gone.  I repeated my new routine for several days in a row but was unable to go Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday morning.  (Well, I suppose I could've gone Saturday morning, but it was Saturday....)

Anyway, when Abel woke me up this morning, I felt less than excited about going for my morning run (Why is it that a break in routine can ruin a routine??), but I did it anyway.  My first step out the door in my tank top forced me to return to my closet for some warmer apparel--slightly different from last week's perfect morning running weather.  As I got started I felt pretty good.  It didn't take long, though, and man were my lungs burning!  And my hands!  My hands felt like they were going to freeze off!  Hesitantly admitting to myself that I'm in no shape for cold-weather running--and unmotivated to push through with a running nose, burning lungs, and freezing hands--I slowed to a walk halfway through.

Needless to say, I think I see either a gym membership, a treadmill, or some workout videos in my future....

Monday, September 29, 2008

As Told By Abel...

A few nights ago Abel decided that Mommy and Daddy should "tell stories" at bedtime.  The first night we told the story of Noah and the Ark.  The second night we told the story of Jonah.  The third night we told the story of Adam and Eve.  Last night, I was beginning to retell the story of Adam and Eve when Abel jumped in to complete it:  "Build boat.  Big fish coming!"

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Poem for My Man

February 14, 2003, was Travis and my first Valentine's Day as a couple.  At that time we had officially been dating for just over two months.  (I know, that isn't a very long time, but it was more than enough time for me to know he was the man I would marry!)  It was a snowy, windy weeknight--and Travis had to go to baseball practice from 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.--but we were determined to celebrate anyway!  I put so much time into the gifts I would give Travis that night.  Yeah, I bought him a cute balloon and a few other cheap things (I was a sophomore in college...), but everything else I gave him that night came straight from my heart.  The good husband that he is, Travis has kept each of these things in a special file in our filing cabinet.  And as we were de-junking our office (i.e. the corner of our bedroom where our desk and filing cabinet sit) this weekend, I found these few things that to us aren't junk at all.  Tonight, I would like to share one of those things with you....

 10 Things I Love About You

The way your eyes sparkle when you look deep into mine
The way you hug me tight
The way you can't stand to wait for a surprise
The way you live in Christ's light

The way you hold me when I need to be close
The way you genuinely care
The way your smile can light up a room
The way that you're always there

The way your eyes reflect your heart
The way your heart is true
I can't put into words all I love about you
I only know that I do

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Healthy Mac 'n' Cheese

Mealtimes aren't always a pleasurable experience at my house.  With a 14-month old who's a picky eater and a 2 1/2-year old who's an easily distracted eater, successful and peaceful meals have become a less than "normal" event.  I pretty much expect my children to eat whatever I put in front of them, and I don't give into the temptation to always fix a "kid-friendly" meal.  But like any mom, there are times when I purposely choose to prepare their favorite foods (mostly for the sake of their happiness, but partly for the sake of mine!).  Today's lunch was one of those times; and my new "kid-friendly" recipe was so successful--in more ways than one--that I've decided to share it.  I'll call it...

"Healthy Mac 'n' Cheese"
1 1/2 c 100% whole wheat elbow macaroni
4 oz Velveeta
1/4 c butternut squash, cooked and pureed
milk, for desired consistency
sea salt and pepper, to taste

(I guessed on the amount of Velveeta and butternut squash I used, by the way.  Just add these ingredients to desired taste.)

This sneaky twist on traditional mac 'n' cheese is not only delicious but also healthy!  My picky eater wanted seconds, and my easily distracted eater devoured his portion with no delay.  Mark one up for Mom!  (I must say, considering my successful vegetable hiding adventure and my Suzy-Homemaker-like side dish, homemade applesauce, I'm feeling pretty good about myself!) :-)  I'm certain this kid- (and husband-) friendly dish will find it's way back to our table; and I suggest it finds its way to yours!

And by the way, if you have any good suggestions for my next vegetable hiding adventure, I'd love to hear about them!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Show Yourself an Example

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you. (Titus 2:11-15)
Did you ever know that five verses could be packed full of so much great stuff?! After Travis and I came up with a vision and a name for our new website, we started searching our Bibles for a passage of Scripture that could serve as a theme verse, capturing and summarizing what it means to live with an eternal outlook. Travis came across Titus 2:11-15, read it to me, received my "Wow!" of approval, and moved forward with creating our site (which is still under construction, by the way). This being only a month ago, I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I had sort of forgotten about this amazing passage until this morning when I sat down to read the book of Titus. As I came to Titus 2:11, I saw line after line of highlighted text. Apparently, this passage had stood out to me before. The verses became familiar as I read them, and they again elicited from me an emphatic "Wow!" So now I'd like to give them a little more thought....

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men....
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8; John 3:16).

...instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires...
"Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. Do not love the world nor the things in the world. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 6:12-13; 1 John 2:15; Romans 12:2).

...and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age...
The word for 'sensibly' means "'[with] self control, prudence, restraint.' This emphasizes the believer's relationship to himself, while 'righteously' deals with his relationships with other people. 'Godly' speaks of the Christian's relationship to the Lord, though the qualities must not be separated" (Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary). "The one who says he abides in [Jesus] ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked" (1 John 2:6).

...looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus...
"But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life" (Jude 20-21).

...who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession...
"And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed" (1 Peter 2:24).

...zealous for good deeds....
"The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. He must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil" (1 Peter 3:10-12).

These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
"Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe" (1 Timothy 4:12).

And so this is our goal:  to show ourselves an example of those who believe as we live our lives with an eternal outlook.  And if as our lives are reflected in cyberspace we can make a difference in someone else's, then to God be the glory!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Meaningful Existance

"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account" (Hebrews 4:13).

Someday when I have to account for my life before God, am I going to regret the way I lived?  Am I going to wish I had sat down to pray instead of running for the computer?  Am I going to wish I had shared my faith with the unbeliever instead of engaging in meaningless chatter?  Am I going to wish I had considered the needs of others before my own?  Am I going to wish I had treasured my possessions less and the Word of God more?

Life is meaningless if it isn't lived to worship and serve the Giver of life.

Lord, I want my life to mean something.  I want my life to testify to the great things You have done.  I offer my life unto You and ask that You use it for Your glory.  May my life be one of worship and service to You.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Eternal Outlook

Live in the light of eternity.

If I were to live this life with an eternal outlook, how would my life change?  What would I devote my time to?  How would I treat my husband?  How would I raise my children?  What would I say, think, and feel?  What would I treasure in my heart?

I'm certain that God is not pleased by our near-sightedness.  In America--where life is easy and comfort is king--we so often fail to look past the present.  We succumb to choosing an earthly and instant gratification instead of stopping to consider eternity.

God, please continue to work in me and to cultivate the desire to live in the light of eternity.  Develop my far-sightedness that I might make present choices which result in eternal rewards.  Change me, oh God, and use me.  Grant me the wisdom and grace to live this life with an eternal outlook.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Crunch Time

I'm starting to feel like it's crunch time!  Where has Summer gone?!  Warm weather is about to leave us for a season, and I must enjoy what's left of it!  One of my favorite feelings in the whole world is the warmth of the sun soaking into my skin.  (Amber, you know what I'm talking about!...)  When Abel asked me this morning if we could go to the park, I stepped outside, felt the warm sun beating down on me, and said, "Sure!  Let's go to the park today!"  (I'm afraid I wouldn't have so eagerly agreed with his suggestion had the morning greeted me with a chilly wind or a cloudy sky.)  Judging by the forecast, we may be going to the park--or at least finding excuses to be outside--every day this week!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Live Trac PT-10 GPS Tracker

I am amazed by the technology of today and often wonder what will be next. DVDs, cell phones, iPods... these are just a few of the developments I've seen in my short life. I am especially amazed by one of the latest technological developments: GPS Tracking. The Live Trac PT-10 Mobile GPS Tracker gives position updates every 10 seconds (when travelling over 10 mph) or every 20 feet (when walking). This live Internet GPS tracking device makes tracking an elderly person, a child, a teenage driver, a company vehicle--anyone or anything--easy (and with a subscription fee of only $39.99 per month, affordable). Its extended operation capabilites, portability, and global usability make the PT-10 the best option in GPS Tracking. Check it out at liveviewgps.com!

Here I Am

I can't help but feel like the Lord is preparing me for something.  What that something is, I am yet unsure.  It seems that every time I go through a significant trial I am drawn closer to God, desiring more to live for Him and to serve Him in all that I do.  Perhaps the unassigned excitement I feel in my heart is a result of my new eternal perspective gained only after my recent trial of miscarriage.  Faced with having a child go to heaven far earlier than I would have expected or hoped, I have been forced to really consider what this life is all about.  I conclude that, as Paul said, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If my life is not lived for Christ, it is meaningless.  Outside of fulfilling my duties as a godly wife and mother, I, as I said, am yet unsure of where God might call me.  But as I ponder my excitement to serve Him, I say, "Here I am, Lord.  Send me!"

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I Wonder as I Wait

Twenty-one weeks today.  That's how far along I would be with baby Ande whom we lost through miscarriage eight weeks ago.  Eight weeks, yet it feels like forever.  Just as I can scarecly remember life without Abel and Amariah, I can scarcely remember life without Ande--or at least without the hope of Ande.  I miss my baby every day, and I long for the day when we'll meet in heaven.  I am at peace with the waiting (to meet, that is), and yet I wonder.  I wonder what life is like for Ande, privileged to skip out of this sin stained world and right into heaven with Jesus.  I wonder if my baby knows me though we've never met.  I wonder if Ande is a boy or a girl.  I wonder how my baby's early departure will play out in God's perfect plan.  I wonder how I would be looking and feeling at 21 weeks pregnant.  I wonder if God will again open my womb before the January 20, 2009, due date.  I wonder.  I wait.  I trust.  I hope.  "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known" (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

But For a Moment

This morning I got up with an agenda. Mistake #1. I should know by now that the days I have a plan of attack are the days that seem to attack me.

After getting the kids sat down at the table with their cereals of choice, I headed to the computer to start working on today's first task. Mistake #2. Messes happen when I'm at the table, so why wouldn't they happen when I'm not?

It's funny how my ears turned motherly upon having children. I can now do something I never could before: I can recognize the sound of trouble. So when I heard the sound of the vent cover in the kitchen falling back into place, I knew it was time to see what was going on.

A few weeks ago, Abel unfortunately discovered that the floor vents in our house are designed to be simply lifted out of place. (Why, I don't know. Maybe to get Abel into trouble?) Upon his innocent discovery, I gently instructed him that he was not to remove the vent cover, warning him that it isn't a toy and that he and Amariah could get hurt if the hole was left open. Have I mentioned that Abel is a strong-willed child? At least a few times since then I've had to remind my curious little Abel not to mess with the vent. Immediate obedience has occurred in each instance; but, obviously, not much can be said of his long-term conviction in that area.

This morning as I re-entered the kitchen to investigate the telling sound, I found the kitchen floor covered with cereal, my broom and dust pan lying on the outskirts of the mess, and Abel laying in the midst of the mess with his face over the kitchen vent. As I came closer I realized that he was "cleaning up" the mess by placing the cereal pieces down the vent. (He later confessed that it was indeed he who spilled the cereal and that he had gotten the broom out to clean it up just prior to deciding it would be more fun to push it down the vent. [That's my rough paraphrase, by the way.])

I confess, I was instantly mad. How many times had I told him not to lift the vent cover, to leave it alone and not mess with it? I told him why I was mad, spanked him, and sent him to his room "to think about it." In the meantime, I went to my room to think about it and to calm my anger before further discussing the episode with him.

As I was reflecting on my anger and trying to talk myself out of it, the Lord suddenly called to my mind a verse that I've never memorized but that was nevertheless instantaneously known to me: "His anger is but for a moment" (Psalm 30:5).

But I want to stay angry, I thought. He knew better.

Still fighting the conviction of the Holy Spirit, I started singing as a song came to my mind.

Everyone needs compassion
Love that's never failing
Let mercy fall on me.
Everyone needs forgiveness
The kindness of a Savior
The hope of nations....

Double conviction! Everyone Abel needs compassion. Everyone Abel needs forgiveness. I knew by the manner in which he went to his room and by the silence with which he sat alone on his bed that he was sorry for what he had done and was surely awaiting my coming that he might repent. It wasn't fair or godly to let my anger remain. He needed relief from his suffering. He needed forgiveness.

Oh, God, I thank You and praise You for the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I thank You for Your word which is "living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). God, I pray that You would continue to teach me to be "slow to anger, for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God" (James 1:19-20). I thank You for forgiveness and that Your anger is but for a moment, Your favor for a lifetime. Where would I be if not for that?...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Confessions of a Busy Mom

  • I allow my children to eat food that's been dropped on the floor. In fact, Amariah spilled her cereal in the bathroom this morning, and I still let her eat it.... What she doesn't know won't hurt her... I hope....
  • Sometimes I lock my kids out of my bedroom for a few minutes so I can get something done without "help."
  • When dozens of toys and plenty of discontentment began to take over our living room, I moved all the toys to the kids' bedrooms. Now my house looks like a home again; my kids find contentment in playing with a few toys at a time; and Mommy trades a little busyness for some purposeful, uninterrupted play time.
  • Last night I left the kids with Travis while I went to a nice salon for a haircut. As I sank deep into the soft leather couch in the quiet waiting area, the thought crossed my mind that maybe I should get my hair cut more frequently....
  • I have a bowl of ice cream every day when the kids lay down for their naps.... And once in a while I have another bowl of ice cream when they lay down for the night.
  • Abel still likes to sit on my lap and play with my hair while he drinks his milk... and that makes me feel good.
  • I love my children and hope for more, but it's kind of nice to not be pregnant and/or nursing... for now.
  • When Amariah started throwing fits at the table and refusing to eat, I thought she was boycotting food. It turns out she was just boycotting my feeding it to her. (I tend to forget she's not a baby anymore!)
  • Sometimes I can't help but laugh at my kids when I'm trying to discipline them.
  • The first thing I do when I get up in the mornings is to open up the curtains and let the sun shine in. The second thing--pour Abel's morning cup of diluted juice. (Shhh! He assumes the water is supposed to go in it!)
  • I rarely take a shower by myself. Three bodies and a handful of toys in a standard-size shower is crowded but do-able.
  • I used to pass judgment when I saw a two-year-old wearing a diaper. Abel is almost 2 1/2, and I just bought him another box of diapers this week. (We're getting there, though!)
  • When I was in high school I was rarely seen without full make-up. Seven years and two kids later, I am rarely seen with it.
  • Once in a while I miss having a career. But with every sign that my children are learning and growing at every moment of every day, I know without a doubt I am right where I belong.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Four Things...

I saw this on Megan's blog and thought it looked like fun....

Four jobs I've had:
1. Wife and Mother
2. Personal Banker
3. Bank Teller
4. Pizza Hut waitress

Four movies I've seen more than once:
1. Dirty Dancing
2. Pretty Woman
3. You've Got Mail
4. The Notebook

Four TV shows I watch:
1. House
2. American Idol
3. Everybody Loves Raymond
4. Anything on HGTV (when I get the chance--we don't have satellite!)

Four places I've been:
1. India
2. Niagara Falls
3. Orlando
4. Toronto

Four people who email me regularly:
1. Travis (and we talk on the phone a few times a day!)
2. my mom
3. Melissa
4. Emily

Four of my favorite foods:
1. Sweet corn
2. Chocolate ice cream
3. Texas Roadhouse rolls and cinnamon butter
4. Chocolate

Four things I'm looking forward to in the next year:
1. Paying off debt!
2. Watching my kids grow
3. Growing through church, Lighthouse (small group), and Bible study
4. Teaching my children

I'm tagging Travis and Amber!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

"Kneading" Heaven

I never would have guessed that making noodles would make me long for heaven....

If you've been following my blog, you know from previous posts that I LOVE to write. Putting written words together to convey my thoughts is one of the most enjoyable things I do on a daily basis. These days I use a computer for nearly all of my writing, but that hasn't always been the case.

Until about six years ago, I used to hand write letters, papers, notes... and then sometimes rewrite them just for fun. Not only did I love to write, I loved to hand write. I always thought I had pretty penmanship, and making it look just perfect was enjoyable to me.

About six years ago, towards the beginning of my sophomore year of college, something changed. I began to experience a frustrating problem that completely stumped me. I would be sitting in class taking notes or in the library doing homework, and my grip on the pen would suddenly become very uncomfortable to me. I would try different grips, but nothing felt quite right. Before long, the problem advanced to where my pen would suddenly fly out of my hand mid-word, and my wrist would involuntarily bend into an uncomfortable 90-degree angle. I started noticing a gradual decline in the "prettiness" of my penmanship, and handwriting--which had always been easy and enjoyable--began to become laborious and painful.

I started seeing a chiropractor in hopes that maybe my problem was due to a simple misalignment. After a couple months of treatment and no improvement, my chiropractor referred me to a sports medicine doctor. There I had either MRIs or CT scans--I can't remember which--and the results came back normal. They gave me cortisone shots in both wrists (next to childbirth, the most painful thing I've ever experienced) which caused absolutely no change in my mystery condition.

I and those who love me were all distressed by and greatly concerned with what was going on, and we were all praying that God would bring healing or at least give direction in our search for a diagnosis. Then one morning I got a call from my mom. She couldn't sleep the night before, so she had decided to get up and watch TV for a while. Turning to the Discovery Health channel, she stumbled upon the bizarre story of a man suffering from a debilitating condition called dystonia. Throughout the course of the program, she learned that dystonia comes in different forms and degrees; and she felt sure that this was the very thing which was causing my strange problems.

I began to research this disorder called dystonia and soon came to agree that it had to be the answer. I learned that my next course of action was to see a neurologist; and upon doing so, the diagnosis was confirmed: I have a focal point dystonia of the forearm more commonly referred to as (simple) writer's cramp. While the diagnonis brought peace of mind, it did not lead to a cure. With no good treatment options, this was something I would probably deal with for the rest of my life. Praising God for my unaffected left hand (and for computers!), I moved forward by teaching myself to write left-handed and utilizing the computer for as much of my writing needs as possible.

Six years later, I still ask God to remove this thorn from my side; but knowing that He might not, I continue to thank Him that the dystonia has not "jumped" to my left hand (as I have learned it can do) and that He has allowed me to function in spite of it. (Many people tell me that not everyone can learn to write with the opposite hand.)

So when I say I love to write, there is much more passion and pain behind my words than most people realize.

I'm sure you're wondering what all this has to do with making noodles....

While my form of writer's cramp is "simple" (meaning it causes difficulty with only one specific task (i.e. writing)), I have experienced increased weakness and pain in my right wrist which affects and/or is affected by many other tasks. Things as simple as opening jars, carrying my children, and kneading dough cause pain in addition to agitation of the muscles in my forearm.

As I was kneading the dough for my homemade noodles yesterday, the pain it caused made me simultaneously long for heaven and for my new and perfect body. Someday there will be no more pain and suffering; and I guess if it takes pain and suffering to make me long for that day, then I will gladly endure it until the end.

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