18 April 2014

Of Hananiah

"Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding, learning and competent to stand in the king's palace, and to teach them the literature and the language of the Chaldeans. . . . Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego." - Daniel 1:3-4, 6-7

A number of years ago, back when we were a mere family of three, I studied the book of Daniel with a precious group of women through a study written by Beth Moore. While I'm sure I had learned previously that Daniel, of the lion's den, was a close friend of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, of fiery furnace fame, I believe this to be the first time it had ever occurred to me that, for some reason, while Daniel retains the usage of his Hebrew name throughout the book, his three friends must endure their fifteen minutes with the pagan, Babylonian names bestowed on them at the time of their capture. Almost no one refers to their true identities - the names given by their parents, the ones that pointed to their God in Heaven.

Shadrach had been Hananiah, meaning "God is gracious," in his previous life. Meshach was Mishael, "Who is like God?" (another form of the name we gave our first-born, Micaiah) and Abednego had been Azariah, "God is our help."

When I learned these names, I loved them all and thought about how beautiful they would be for children of this day, even. Hananiah was my favorite and it remained a strong name contender (only as a girl name, in my mind) from that time forward.
 
Fast forward a few years and we are finally having a second girl and now we have to name her. And our indecisive nature when it came to picking baby names shone bright and clear. The names I had once held dear I rejected. I actually pulled away from the name Hananiah for quite awhile. Though I loved the story, of standing firm through the fire, of Shadrach and his companions, I felt the name was too soft for our little girl - the one I felt, even in the womb, would be giving us a run for our money with her boldness.

And then the fires came - we watched loved ones lose their loved ones, we fought for a home to call our own, we waited, endured, for her arrival - but God was faithful through it all. And I knew, if I wanted nothing else for our precious girl, I wanted her to know who her God was and to be willing to cling to him when the world turned up the fire of opposition to all she believed. I wanted a daughter who would stand firm and - through the reminder of her name of God's good grace - push us all to stand firm, as well.

I remembered the words of Hananiah and his friends, as King Nebuchadnezzar threatened to throw them into the flames for not bowing to his idol, "[O]ur God whom we serve is able to deliver us out of your hand, O king." (Daniel 3:17) Our God is able. In ALL circumstances, He is able.

And then what followed, "But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods" (Daniel 3:18, emphasis added)

But if not.

Our God is able to deliver us from earthly suffering, but sometimes He chooses not to - and yet He is faithful, and as these men stood firm, even with the knowledge that God may choose not to deliver them from the fire, they declared their loyalty to the God of Heaven.

This is the strength I wish for all of us - the strength to trust in the goodness of our God, knowing He is able in all circumstances, and trusting that if He should choose not to deliver us from the fire, He is sovereign and His will is good. And this is the reason we chose to name our daughter for one of the many great heroes of faith.


16 March 2014

Of Our Real Homebirth

A week ago this evening, eleven days after her initial "due date," after a little prodding, I began feeling contractions (for the umpteenth time in the past couple of months). Twenty-two hours (and much, much prodding) later, another baby entered this world.

After my previous home-birth, I would often say I felt like I cheated, because it wouldn't have mattered where I had the baby - his 3.5 hour entrance into this world would not have varied too widely. Honestly, I didn't feel I'd earned any kind of special home-birther badge.

This time, I earned it. In fact, I earned a whole freakin' trophy. It should be large, the kind that gets its own pedestal.

In some ways, the tale is much less harrowing. Hour after hour of labor that started and stopped and a body that really didn't seem very interested in hurrying this baby into the world.

According to conventional wisdom, each child comes progressively quicker. Thus, after such a short delivery time for her older brother, I expected this baby to fly out. I was mentally prepared for that.

I was not mentally prepared for a marathon. Or my longest birth yet. To say I was discouraged would be an understatement. And the process of continually reminding my body it was in labor was exhausting and, to be honest, boring.

So much of me, after decrying the unnecessary tactics of the hospital's over-use of the drug pitocin to hurry along labor, wanted nothing more than to head on out, lay down in an uncomfortable bed and let them hook me up to the machine. Let the drugs tell my body what to do so I didn't have to.

Then, of course, hook me up to the drugs that make it so I can't feel the other drugs bossing my body around.

Yep, I wanted it all.

Not that I was in an intense amount of pain. I was, really, just bored. And just wanted to sleep.

No, the pain didn't come until later.

That would have been the final two hours.

Those final two hours when my labor took a turn for the immortalized births of film legend, the ones with the crazy pregnant lady (a role I've never before taken on), screaming at those around me about my inability to do this and just someone get this baby out of me - yelling talking back to my ever-patient midwife that I did not WANT to send the energy down to my baby. I did not WANT her to check me and I did not WANT whatever suggestions she had to offer.

All I WANTED was to push the baby out. Because that would make it all stop.

But then there was that cervix. The one that didn't want to get out of the way so the baby would come. The one that made the pushing that much more excruciating because it required outside intervention. The problems I've never had before. All I've ever had before was the urge to push, a few contractions of shoving and a baby in my arms.

This was NOT the birth I had imagined.

Not in the least.

And all I wanted, after decrying the unnecessary C-sections the hospital dishes out, was for someone to just cut me open and pull this baby out. Anything so I didn't have to do it anymore.

Meanwhile, throug it all, there was my husband. My wonderfully patient husband who stayed by my side for 22 hours. Sleeping while I slept, holding my hand while I contracted, rubbing my back as I moaned in discomfort, swaying with me as I contracted, reassuring me of the strength God had given me, crying while I cried out in pain. He was surprised and fearful, only for me, when I turned into evil, pregnant lady, screaming at all those around me, but never did he shy away or take it personally (and I never did claim to hate him or blame him for any of it, so there's that redeeming factor for my crazy stage).

And even though his rightful role, the one he'd been anticipating long before the process was even in full swing, was of being the one to catch our precious new baby in his arms as she entered the world, he gave it up without questioning when I would not allow him to leave my side or let go of my hand. He did what he needed, what I needed, whatever that was.

I am immensely proud of him.


And, thankfully, in the end, we got our trophy. Our preciously squishy bundle of snuggles that has been placed on her proverbial pedestal by all those around her.



And while the tale of her arrival may be much less exciting and much more filled with pain, impatience and unpleasant memories, the ending remains the same - worth every bit of it all.


28 February 2014

Of Our Perfect Storm

We sold our house last week.

Somewhere along the road, as we shuffled between my 39 week check-up with the midwives and gathering my mother from the airport who has graciously committed an indeterminable amount of time to helping us keep our sanity in these last days of pregnancy (as well as accepting the added perk of being here to welcome her coming grand-daughter to the world), I clicked send on the text that said, "We will accept that offer."

And our house was sold.

And a baby was going to come any day.

And there were papers to sign, inspections to schedule, loans to get rolling, and boxes to pack.

And a baby is going to come any day.

It would seem to the outsider now would be the time my head would be spinning and the stress would be almost insurmountable. I mean, I'm pretty sure the moving process and welcoming a new baby into the family are generally considered high stressors in the counseling world, and God, in His perfect wisdom, has coordinated all of these to encircle us at once.

And His wisdom is perfect.

Because where I would normally be sitting around wallowing in my pregnancy, wondering when this baby will come, counting every contraction and maybe begging a few extra foot rubs to get things moving (we are in the full-term category these days, having already surpassed the due date allotted by the midwives from the very beginning), I am, instead, grateful she has opted to stay put, allowing us time to get things moving along in the home buying/selling process. She didn't enter the world before the inspectors, appraiser, realtor, buyer and anyone else who claims to be a part of all of this came parading in and out our front door. I didn't have to sign loan paperwork in bed or tell our realtor that list of priority repairs on the new house would just have to wait.

She has given us time and this house has given me a focus on something other than the inevitable waiting for baby.

Meanwhile, while the packing process has begun, I have been able to refrain from the impulse to put anything not moving or breathing into a box, folded shut and labeled semi-neatly with a Sharpie. I can hold back simply out of necessity - my body can't do all I would normally force it to do if I knew I was moving in a month. Which is just as well, because we do kind of still need to use the things in our house. And knowing this baby will come has given me pause - time to slow down and recognize the work can get done later.

And so God, in His perfect wisdom, has coordinated these high stressors to coincide perfectly, bringing about the perfect balance between hurried work and patient waiting.

And the nerves have stayed calm and the world has carried on.

And having an extra mom in the house hasn't hurt any of it one bit ;)

God is good.

22 February 2014

Of Our Hope in Troubled Times

We received one of those phone calls today that comes from a most unexpected place. Because who ever honestly expects to answer the ringing or click open the text to learn someone they love has endured the unthinkable?

That the photos you saw on Facebook yesterday of a little girl placing a plastic crown atop the head of her baby brother, calling him "Princess Bubba" as he sat in his bouncer, those pictures that made you smile and warmed you with the love that Facebook-posting momma has for her precious little ones, that momma you saw at Thanksgiving nestling her weeks-old son in her careful arms, would be the last you would see of that toddler sister loving on her little brother.

When someone you love woke to a sunny Saturday morning, only to go to bed physically aching for a little boy that's not coming back into her arms. While my body squirms with the life inside bursting to get out, her body seeks the suckler that won't return, whose life has vanished too quickly.

How can this be fair? How can one not collapse under the weight of such a world where things happen we can't control and life changes without a moment's notice?

Only hope.

Only faith.

Only by the knowledge that there is a God in Heaven who nestles the little one in His arms - the little one we would all snatch back without a second thought, given the chance. And that God is our Rock. When nothing else makes sense. When the pain is great and undeserved, He remains faithful, the strength of our hearts, when no other strength can be found within us.

In this truth we hope. Without it we are nothing.

So we rest in that hope tonight. Lifting prayers for the hurting and asking peace for those to whom our human words are meaningless. Because we have nothing more to offer.

17 February 2014

Of His Words

Twelve seconds after I'd closed their door for naptime, as soon as I'm on the potty (because that's when kids always have urgent things to say to Mommy), Emmett rushes out of his room, "Momma! I didn't get to say all of my words!"

I smiled, because I realized what he meant. And even though most of their delay tactics when it's time to lay down tend to frustrate Mommy and Daddy, this is one I kind of like.

"Ok, say your words." His look clearly indicated he couldn't do it while he was out of bed, let alone while he was talking to me on the potty. So, I finished and allowed him to get back into bed, snuggled up under his blanket, before he proceeded.

"Ok, now say them," I encouraged him.

"Good night. I love you. Sleep tight. I'll see you in the morning!"

Yeah, he's kind of adorable.

Also, his father pointed out, a bit like Dread Pirate Roberts. Perhaps he should start building up his immunity to Iocane Powder.

12 February 2014

Of His Second Birrthday

It was two years ago that our youngest boy made his frantic and harrowing arrival into this world. Two years ago that I gave birth on my bedroom floor to the little baby without a name and snuggled him close, not at all disappointed not to have had the baby sister Micaiah had insisted was coming.

And that kid.

I wish I could describe him accurately, but words won't do him justice. If you could just spend a day or two with this child, you would see what I mean.

You'd see the way he lights up a room with his ever-present grin. He is truly the most expressive and joyful child we have had - and considering the other two weren't terribly cranky kids, that's saying something. (Even his most recent exclamation of "Ew, yucky!" as we change his diaper accompanies an appropriate facial expression of disgust.) The way he says, "Tank ou" every time anything is given to him - and will repeat it ("Tank ou, Momma. Tank ou, Momma. Momma, tank ou!") until he is told he is welcome. And, of course, he responds with the same courtesy, "Welcome!" with pointed politeness whenever gratitude is expressed to him.

You'd see how he puckers his precious lips whenever Momma asks for a kiss, or how she doesn't even have to ask often, because he offers them freely to everyone. In fact, you'd melt at the kisses he blows EVERY time he tells someone bye, bye or the way he has to run to the other bedroom for hugs and kisses with brother and sissy every night before bed, scampering off yelling, "Tisses, Caiah!" And the way they greet him eagerly, often falling over giggling mid-hug, just as happy with the night-time ritual as he is.

You would think it was adorable the way he runs to the garage door whenever he hears the car pull in, yelling, "Daddy home!" waiting for his hug, or even the way he asks every morning, "Daddy?" as I change his diaper, hoping it's not a work day. But that doesn't mean Mommy doesn't get any appreciation. If I've stepped out for a run to the grocery store, I get to see his happy face as soon as I come through the door, while he's tugging on Daddy, "Momma home! Momma home!" He definitely knows how to make us feel loved.


You'd probably also get to see his ornery streak - the side that snatches a toy from his siblings and runs away with glee, not necessarily because he wanted it, but because he knows they did. Or the angry glare he shoots at anyone who dare suggest he relinquish the pilfered play-thing and then the pouty reluctance with which he offers it back to the child in question.

You would definitely appreciate his eagerness to help. If he sees trash, he holds it up to confirm, "Tash?" and then dashes on his little toddler legs to dutifully place it in the proper receptacle. If we're cooking, he'll pull up a stool to help or run to the cabinet where his dishes are kept to find a plate, fork or cup (or all of the above). And if we're dishing out snack, he'll serve his brother and sister their snack cups before he accepts his own.


And even after noticing all the above, you'd be surprised just how many times a day you won't be able to help saying, "He's just so cute!" because it really is surprising just how many ways it shines through. You kind of want to give him a big hug all the time - unless he's getting into something he shouldn't just about every time you turn your back. Then you'll curse his blessed cuteness because it's just so hard to want to discipline that face.

I can't believe he's only been here two years and I wish I could freeze time, because I just love his tender and spirited personality and I wish I could frame it and keep it forever.

So, happy birthday to this guy - one of the many reasons I smile.


09 February 2014

Of Savoring the Days

Just because I don't revel in small talk about my belly doesn't mean I can't blog about it, right?

In just the past few days I have come to truly relish these last precious days and weeks with this rotund protrusion that limits my ability to see my pink-painted toes (in honor of that precious girl inside).


Though I have resorted to rolling off the couch, rather than attempting to stand from a position of laying on a throw pillow, and I have to visit the bathroom much more frequently than I'd prefer (making me question why I still have no stock in toilet paper), overall I enjoy pulling a sweater over this bulging belly holding my beautiful baby. I love feeling her movements inside me and rubbing my hands over the roundness that will be mere bulge in a few weeks.

As one who has left her "family planning" up to the God of the universe, I never know which child will be my last. Though it seems unlikely my womb will close after this one enters the world, one never knows what the uncertain future holds. Thus, I hold precious every moment of this pregnancy.

Yes, I eagerly await her transition into the world and fantasize about those moments when I will push my daughter from my body and carry her tiny, wrinkly body in my arms. I long to see her face and watch her grow. But it does not mean wishing away these amazing days when she is held safe inside, cuddled by my stretching skin, nestled in my womb, where she pushes and tugs in sometimes uncomfortable ways.

These are the moments I treasure.