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."

Saturday, January 31, 2009

(Not) Binding Circumstances

"I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted." (Job 42:2)

GOD IS AMAZING.  As I begin this post I know no better words than that.

At the beginning of the year, Travis and I began a chronological read-the-Bible-in-one-year plan which, to date, has taken us through Genesis, Job, and the first six chapters of Exodus.  Every night as I sit reading the day's portion of Scripture I am repeatedly amazed by God and His sovereignty.  Woven all throughout these books (and throughout all of Scripture, for that matter) I see God working in every detail to bring about His purpose:
  • making a covenant with Abraham to make him a great nation, promising to give him land and many descendants when at present he had not even one child (Genesis 12);
  • giving Abraham and Sarah a child through whom God's covenant would continue to be fulfilled even when Sarah was past the age of childbearing (Genesis 18);
  • preserving Sarah when she was innocently taken as wife by Abimelech and restoring her to Abraham (Genesis 20);
  • providing a wife for Isaac and confirming it in direct answer to prayer (Genesis 24);
  • opening and closing wombs in His time and for His purposes (Genesis 20, 29, 30);
  • using Joseph's displacement to Egypt to preserve His people Israel (Genesis 37-47);
  • preserving the life of baby Moses who would eventually lead Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 2-3);
  • compelling Pharaoh to let Israel go (Exodus 6);
  • and more to come, I'm certain!
Most definitely, this is not an exhaustive list of how the great I AM worked in, through, and in spite of circumstances to bring His purpose about; for every bit of the story plays into the big picture of God's plan, and we see His hand woven all throughout it.  Often, in the face of what seems from a human perspective to be an impossible circumstance, our God who "can do all things" is seen working and bringing about His purpose.

If you've been following my blog you know that I am 20 weeks pregnant with twins and being told by doctors that I cannot have a trial of labor due to a prior cesarean section.  But God has shown me through answered prayer, through His Word, and through a general feeling of great peace that He is not bound by my circumstances.  Weeks ago He showed me this and then just spent the last month confirming it to me through His Word.  (Romans 15:4 comes to mind:  "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.")  Even as I sit here fully realizing that, my eyes fill with tears of awe and gratitude in knowing that my God is working in, through, and maybe even in spite of my circumstances to bring about His purpose.

I suppose it's important to note that I do not claim to know what that purpose is.  And, further, I realize that His purpose may very well be the thing which I am not hoping for (i.e. a repeat cesarean).  But I am praying that God would align the desires of my heart with His and that the great peace He has given me in knowing of His sovereignty would extend into a great peace concerning the outcome which prevails.

From my human perspective, the circumstances seem impossible.
  • Five out of seven of my doctors are completely opposed to VBAC for twins, and of those in the area whom I've contacted, no other obstetrician would feel differently (with the exception of maybe one who, coincidentally, is not accepting new patients at this time).
  • IF in the last month of my pregnancy I were to refuse to plan a cesarean, I would venture to guess that I would no longer have a doctor at all.
  • If I do consent to planning a cesarean, logistically I would have to go into labor naturally prior to that date in order to avoid the said cesarean (and that done only by exercising my right to refuse surgery at the time labor begins).
  • And IF labor were to begin prior to the date of a planned cesarean AND the babies are in the right position to try a vaginal delivery and I do exercise my right to refuse surgery, I have only a two out of seven chance that a doctor who would be somewhat supportive of and comfortable with my decision would be on call.
Seems pretty impossible, right?!  Even with the faith and knowledge that God has given me, I have found myself doubting the possibility of a vaginal delivery.  The circumstances just seem too impossible.  BUT...

"I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted." (Job 42:2)

Despite my occasional humanly doubt, I rest assured that God's purpose for the birth of these babies--whatever that may be--will prevail.  I know that, as He has shown me, He is not bound by circumstances.  If He were, just think how differently history would have played out....

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Missing Something

All month I have had this feeling that I'm forgetting something.  Every morning when I change the date on my perpetual block calendar I have to stop and think, What is it that I have going on this month, and when is it?  What am I forgetting about?

A couple days ago I finally figured it out.  Today, January 27, 2009, is the due date we originally calculated for Ande Lynn, the baby we lost to miscarriage this past July.  Apparently, somewhere in the back of my mind, I was still "expecting" a baby this month.  I guess I didn't foresee having that feeling since in the meantime the good Lord has once again filled my womb.  Yet, I knew all along that getting pregnant again before Ande's due date would not somehow "erase" the memory or hope of him/her or ever "replace" the baby we will never meet on this side of heaven.

And still, it's not to say that we would rather be meeting Ande this month than be 19 1/2 weeks pregnant with these twins.  Even in our lack of understanding, we praise God for His ways.  In the midst of our loss we were comforted with the thought that God knew the end of the matter and that He would somehow cause this thing to work for our good.  And now that I am seeing the very beginning of the end of the matter, I stand in awe of my God.  For, in opening our womb just two short months after losing our baby Ande and in filling it with not one but two babies, God truly is causing all things--even the loss of a baby--to work together for our good.

Understand that with all of my heart I praise God for His ways.  Not only did He provide us with much comfort and peace during our time of loss, but He has also given us three children in the span of time that most would only get one.  Two we will meet here on this earth, and one we have waiting for us in heaven.  I can think of no better way for this all to have played out than the way which God has seen fit.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Woes and Wows of Pregnancy

Woe:  I'm only 19 weeks and 12 extra pounds into this pregnancy, and my back is already feeling the strain...
Wow:  ...but all back pain is erased when my husband puts this awesome massage tool to use!  (This is a great comfort during labor, too, by the way!)

Woe:  Not-so-attractive random patches of spider veins are appearing on my legs...
Wow:  ...but still no stretch marks on my tummy!  (Yay for cocoa butter!) :-)

  My belly is getting big enough to occasionally get in the way, I'm starting to feel a slight shortness of breath, my strained ligament is a source of nagging discomfort, and sometimes I feel like someone is pushing out on my rib cage from within...
Wow:  ...but how amazing is God's design for the female body, able to adapt and accommodate a growing baby...or babies!

Woe:  Because of my prior cesarean, I have not been able to find a doctor who will grant me my wish for a trial of labor...
WOW:   ...but "I know that [God] can do all things and that no purpose of [His] can be thwarted" (Job 42:2); for "many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails" (Proverbs 19:21)!

Woe:  We still have many more weeks of waiting until we meet these babies whom God has blessed us with...
WOW:  ...but God knows them already!

For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother's womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
(Psalm 139:13-16)

Wow:  "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)... even if the bearing of them is woeful!

A New Arrangement

We did it!  Abel and Amariah are officially sharing a bedroom as of yesterday morning!  My wonderful husband put Amariah's toddler bed together after breakfast, and she had her first sleep in her new bed at nap time!  We tried to make the room feel personal to both Abel and Amariah, so we put Abel's drawing desk next to his bed and Amariah's baby high chair and crib (full of babies and stuffed animals) next to her bed.  (One of the first things she did when this phase was completed was to pull each baby doll and stuffed animal out of the baby crib one at a time and strategically lay it on her new bed.  I knew at that point that this would be a fun change for her.)  All other toys were moved to Amariah's old room--what will be the babies' room--for now, but obviously that will have to change again before the babies arrive.  This is the first time Abel and Amariah have ever had a "toy room," and I must say they both came alive at the sight of (most) of their toys being all in one place.  It was like everything in there was new again!  I have to admit, having a toy room is super fun and exciting for me, too, but I have to be careful not to get too attached to it since it can only be a temporary, at-least-get-us-through-the-Winter arrangement. :-)

As for the "sleeping" part of the new arrangement, I must say it went pretty well.  I followed my instinct to "lay down the law," setting the precedent that nap time and bedtime are for sleeping and not for talking and playing.  This was a little harder for Amariah the antagonist than it was for Abel the sleeper, but progress from nap time's lesson was shown even at bedtime last night. :-)

So anyway, one more nesting project can be checked off my list!  Now on to the next thing.... :-)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Fresh Air!

What a breath of fresh air the weather here today is!  I think this is the point during Winter at which the kids and I start feeling a little cooped up and start getting anxious for Spring.  So when I heard the forecast for today, I determined to make the most of the warm(er) weather.  This morning when I told Abel and Amariah that we were going to take a walk after lunch, their little faces lit up, and they practically ran for the table, anxious to get eating out of the way.  As we walked around the neighborhood hand in hand, Abel couldn't stop talking about our surroundings for even a moment, and Amariah pulled Abel and I along as she sped from slushy pile to slushy pile.

When we got back to our yard, Abel and Amariah, excited to play outside, started retrieving all of their outdoor toys from the garage.  The funny thing about that was that none of their outdoor toys are Winter toys.  So here's Abel riding a tricycle in snow boots (a frustrating effort he gave up rather quickly) and little Amariah carrying around sand buckets and whoofle balls.  But whatever the toys, we were all just glad to be getting a little sunshine and fresh air!

And now that we've had some of that, I think it's time for a little nap! :-)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Preparing My Nest

Nesting:  the distinctive urge that occurs during pregnancy to clean, tidy, and organize.

Yep, I think that's what I'm doing.  The past week or so I have found myself doing things like cleaning my oven, washing the blinds, looking for things to rearrange, and begging my husband to assemble Amariah's toddler bed (which would free up the crib and the nursery).  At 18 weeks, it might seem a little early to be nesting, I know.  (Right, honey?!)  But knowing that the final weeks and maybe even months of this pregnancy could be pretty uncomfortable for me, I'm kind of glad for this maternal nesting instinct to be kicking in already.

What exactly causes the nesting instinct?  According to this website, "nesting is thought to be caused by both biological and emotional factors."  Biologically speaking, "it is believed that females are programmed to experience this nesting instinct in order to ensure that their offspring will be cared for properly after birth."  Emotionally speaking, as a pregnant woman's hormones begin to settle down during the second trimester, increased energy and excitement can incite her to begin cleaning, organizing, and planning for baby's arrival.

Other things I've been doing to instill a little extra order in our home before the twins arrive include creating a daily "household tasks" list (which helps me to keep the house cleaner and to do it in a shorter amount of time), creating weekly menu plans with corresponding grocery lists which can be repeated on a monthly basis (which will save at least an hour of planning each week), organizing and uploading to Shutterfly 3 1/2 years worth of pictures (look for a link to our completed site within the next couple months!), and diligently continuing with the training and discipline of Abel and Amariah.

Despite the fact that I am feeling the need to prepare for the arrival of our twins, I must say that I am in no way overwhelmed or anxious about the double addition to our family.  Call me naive if you want, those of you who have gone before me--and maybe I'll be doing the same in 20+ weeks!--but I do believe that God will not give us more than we can handle; and I do believe that the blessing of the Lord makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it (Proverbs 10:22)!  I am also certain that no matter how much preparation I make, my nest will never reach the point of complete cleanliness and organization; but it sure is fun and rewarding to make strides towards that end!  (Bear with me, honey.) :-)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

01/09/09 OB Appointment

A week ago Friday I had my 17-week OB appointment.  There isn't really too much to say about the doctor part of the appointment.  My weight and blood pressure were good, and my uterus was measuring 21 cm.  (For a point of reference, my uterus didn't measure 21 cm until 21 weeks with Abel and not until 22 1/2 weeks with Amariah.)  I asked if there is a "normal" measurement for twin pregnancies like there is with singleton pregnancies (for a singleton pregnancy, 17 cm would be considered "normal" at 17 weeks, 18 cm at 18 weeks, etc.), but the doctor said it's really too hard to tell with twins.  He did say, though, that most women pregnant with twins measure 40 cm by the time they reach 32 weeks, making the last couple months of a twin pregnancy pretty uncomfortable.

After seeing the doctor we were again sent to the ultrasound technician to get the babies' heartbeats.  Baby A's heart was beating 156 bpm, and Baby B's was beating 145 bpm.  We also learned that the babies had shifted positions slightly.  Baby A was head down in the center of my uterus, and Baby B was lying cross-wise at Baby A's feet forming the top part of a "T."  The babies were pretty active, flexing their little spines and moving their arms.

The most exciting part of the ultrasound, though, was getting to take a look at the babies' genders!  With our first two pregnancies we had decided pretty firmly against finding out, but I guess there's something about having two that made us change our minds this time around!  And the results?!?!...

...I wish I could say!  The ultrasound technician felt pretty confident about Baby B but not as sure about Baby A.  She did say what she thought she was seeing but told us not to hold her to it just yet.  So... stay tuned!  Our next appointment and first big ultrasound when they'll do all the measurements is scheduled for February 6th!  The ultrasound will actually be done by the "high risk" doctors who work alongside my OB group.  We're praying that day will bring good reports on the growth and development of our babies--and we're hoping for confirmation on the genders, too!

I can't tell you what an amazing privilege and blessing it is to be carrying twins.  With every trip to the bathroom, with every glance in the mirror, with every minor discomfort, with every kick, poke, twist and turn, I am reminded of God's sovereignty, His goodness, and His promises.  What an absolute privilege and blessing it is to be carrying these two children whom God has known from before there was time.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Finding Joy

About a year ago Travis and I were laying in bed when in the darkness came his gentle and concerned voice:  "Honey, why aren't you joyful anymore?  You used to be joyful."  The question went like a dagger through my heart.  Not because of the way it was said but because of the stinging reality that it made me face.  Am I not joyful?  Have I changed?  Is something wrong with me?  Why does he think I'm not joyful?

I don't remember exactly how I responded to Travis' question that night, but I think my initial response was something along the lines of, "I didn't realize I'm not joyful."

Travis' sincere concern plagued me for several weeks--even months, I think.  Once in a while we would revisit the topic and I would report my latest ideas of why I didn't seem joyful.  "I'm just really tired all the time.... I just have so much to get done in a day.... I just feel like my body is every one's but mine.... Maybe I've just never quite gotten over the baby blues..." etc.

I continued to give Travis answers that were entirely true, but all the while I was giving them I honestly didn't see in myself that I was lacking joy.  I thought I was just a normal, busy, tired mom and that Travis would eventually understand that it was simply that.

And so I continued on in my normal, tired, busy state, lacking joy but not realizing it.

About a month ago while visiting with some friends of ours--a married couple somewhat new to the faith--Travis presented them with a challenge:  "Over the next few weeks, think of five or six ways that you can help your spouse grow spiritually, and implement them.  Angela and I will do it, too."  This was the first I'd heard of the idea, but I thought it was great and was excited to get started!

I spent a couple weeks thinking about how I could encourage Travis' spiritual growth; and, surprisingly, the first two things that came to mind were changes that I needed to make in myself.  One was to stop complaining about things.  (Kind of like the "lacking joy" thing, I didn't realize my tendency to complain until my husband recently brought it to my attention.  But this I actually conceded to... eventually.)  And the second was to go about my work willingly and joyfully.  (Let me note here that when I came up with this one, it was not as a direct result of the piercing year-old question, but more as a result of reading Proverbs 31.  As I read about this "excellent wife," something made me think that she would not have been blessed by her children and praised by her husband for her work if she was not doing it with a willing and joyful spirit.)

So that was it.  I will be joyful.  It's decided.

A few days later, just after the first of the year, Travis proposed the idea of doing a read-through-the-Bible-in-one-year plan together.  For some reason it took me an entire day before I suddenly came to the conclusion, That would be awesome!, but he was patient and promptly got us started as soon as I came around.

A few days into the plan, I realized that I felt differently than I had in a long time.  I felt joyful.  I noticed that I was laughing more, enjoying my husband and children more, even finding joy in getting up three times a night with my sick children.

And then it struck me.  Travis was right.  I was lacking joy.  I just couldn't recognize my joylessness until I had rediscovered joyfulness.  And the funny thing is, it wasn't my decision to be joyful that is bringing me joy; it is reading the Word of God every day that is bringing me joy.

I am so thankful to have a godly husband who encourages my spiritual growth, and I am even more thankful to have a God who fills me with all joy, hope, and peace.  How awesome is His Word and how fulfilling is the joy that can be found only in Him!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

An Unseemly Conviction

I'm starting to think I'm making a name for myself amongst the local medical community--first in the world of obstetrics with my unseemly hope of VBACing twins, and now in the world of pediatrics with my (and my husband's) unseemly decision to not vaccinate our children.

Before Travis and I were married, I was somehow enlightened to the fact that not all parents choose to vaccinate their children.  I guess I had thought it was something that everyone just did without question and hadn't realized that any controversy surrounded the subject.  Now knowing that it could be a parental choice, however, I made a mental note to look further into it when the time came.

The time came about three weeks after our wedding when we found out we were expecting our first child.  Knowing that an important decision lay ahead of us, I began doing some research on childhood immunizations.  It didn't take me long to realize that our decision to vaccinate or not to vaccinate could not be based solely on what I was reading, as I felt that each resource was strongly biased either for or against vaccinations.  Which side were we to believe?

Travis and I began praying that God would lead us in our decision, knowing that He would give us peace regarding the direction we were to take.  Abel was born and still we had no peace at the thought of vaccinating him.  Following God's lead, we sought out a pediatrician who was comfortable with our decision to not vaccinate and moved forward against the grain and in faith.

When Abel was four months old we moved to a new city.  We began seeing a new pediatrician whom we liked and whom we thought understood our wishes to not vaccinate our son.  After several well child visits, however, we discovered that the doctor was actually not aware that Abel had never received any vaccinations and that we didn't intend to start them.  When this clicked in his head, his countenance immediately changed and his words became very defensive.  Needless to say, we left Abel's appointment that day with the feeling that we were not welcome to return.

Soon after that we again moved, this time just to a different suburb.  For a third time we began the search for a pediatrician, this time fully realizing what we were up against.  We were nearing the end of our second pregnancy and needed to find a doctor both for Abel and for the baby.  We went with the first and only pediatrician we interviewed, getting the feeling that although she strongly disagreed with our decision against vaccinations, we were still welcome in her office.

That baby--my Amariah--just had her 18-month well child visit with this same doctor this morning.  Things were going really well during the appointment; nothing was being said about vaccinations, and at one point I even thought to myself, "Ahh, finally we have come to a mutual understanding." 

But I guess that's where I was wrong--at least somewhat.  At the end of the appointment, the doctor pulled out a piece of paper and said, "I didn't want to bring this up, but I have to."  She proceeded to tell me about a practice-wide vaccination policy that was written up at a meeting just after Amariah's 15-month check-up, the last time we were in.  The new policy states, "Our doctors believe it is necessary to vaccinate children to help keep them healthy.  If you do not agree with the Childhood Vaccination Schedule or choose not to have your child vaccinated, we ask that you choose another doctor to care for your child."

Feeling that there is a strong chance this policy was written at least in part because of my family (I have been informed numerous times that we are the practice's only patients who do not vaccinate their children), I listened to and accepted the doctor's words, took down her referrals for a new pediatrician, and left without scheduling our next well child visit.  I didn't argue; I didn't get angry or upset.  What's the point?  How can you make a group of doctors understand a decision that is ultimately based on prayer when even some Christians don't understand?

So here we are with two children and two on the way and once again without a doctor to treat them.  I don't know what our quest for a new pediatrician might hold, and I don't know what the purpose in all of this is.  But I do know that our hope is not in doctors, and I do know that no matter what the odds we won't be deterred from following our convictions.

So yes, I do think I may be making a name for myself.  And I hope it is one that points to the Name that is above all names.

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