The Heartbreak and Joy of a C-section

As a young girl, I read that one out of every ten babies in the United States was born by C-section.  I remember thinking, “If I have ten children, I will probably have a C-section in my lifetime.”  But who really has ten children anyway?  So I dismissed it as a very unlikely possibility.  Despite the fact that cesareans have become more and more common (one out of every three births), I estimated that my chances were dropping.  I was healthy and strong, educated in natural childbirth.  I had beautiful, easy deliveries…eight of them!  Although theoretically, I knew that anything can happen in this life, and I was not exempt from the risks of childbearing, I never thought it would happen to me.

I was so excited to be pregnant with my ninth child.  I became even more excited when I found out that it was a girl!  I had longed for a girl for so long, that I had almost given up.  I felt the overwhelming joy of a dream come true.  Yet along with it came a suffocating fear.

I had never before worried about the life of any my unborn babies.  I just loved them, prepared a room for them, and anticipated a future for them.  Yet this time I began to wonder if my preparations were in vain.  What if I never got to hold my baby girl in my arms?  What if I never got to dress her in all the pretty clothes?  What if the sweetness and the tenderness of who she was, left my life forever?

I didn’t speak of these thoughts.  If I uttered them out loud, they might become more real.  Finally one night I tried to explain it to my husband, and I began to cry.  Why was I crying?  The baby was healthy and moving around in my belly.  This had been my easiest pregnancy yet.  There was no reason to worry.

“I think you have fear with this baby because she is so connected to the promises of God,” Chris said.  At that instant I realized that it was true.  We had already named her Annalise Promise which means “Oath of God” and “Graced with God’s Bounty.”  Her name was a sign to us that we would be entering a season of promises fulfilled, promises for abundance.  We had always prayed for that season. We had been looking for it ever since we had gotten married, straining our eyes across the horizon for any sign that the prosperity might be on its way.  We felt deep in our bones that God meant for us to have more than enough of everything we needed, everything our children needed.  Yet we hadn’t been able to live in that prosperity, cycling between the highs of great opportunities and the lows of dashed dreams.

Now we were having a girl whose very name meant the Boundless Generosity of God, and I was terrified that I would never be able to keep her or God’s Goodness, that both would slip through my fingers no matter how hard I tried to grasp them.

Of course I realized that God does not work that way.  This fear was not from Him, yet He would take it from me, I was sure.  I laid my fear at His feet and He gave me hope and joy and promises!  He had me read Zephanaiah 3:14-20 over and over again.  I could almost hear Him rejoicing over me with happy songs.  I could feel Him hold me in his strong arms.  I could sit back and watch him fight for me and gain the victory!  I did not have to fear disaster! He was holding my little girl in His hands and she was safe!

My other babies were always head down in my womb, settling into a familiar position that I knew so well.  But this little girl would not do that no matter how much we talked to her, coaxed her, and prayed for her.  She would flip and turn and end up in all sorts of positions.

I was becoming quite nervous about her position as I headed into week 37.  Our whole family had been hoping for an Easter baby which was only days away, yet Annalise was still not head down.  I would lay in bed at night, tired yet unable to sleep.  My belly was so big, I found it hard to breath.  I could feel her do flips inside of me.

“I think we need to get another ultrasound to check on your placenta.  If it is too low, that may be why the baby is not able to descend.” Mary, my midwife said as I was getting close to 38 weeks.

I had no intention of getting another ultrasound, but the night before Chris had expressed concern about the same issue.  I felt peaceful that Annalise was safe and sound in God’s hands, but for Chris’ peace of mind, I agreed to go in and get checked.  I prayed that if all was well, I would go into labor before the ultrasound.  A peaceful homebirth was my heart’s desire.  I would rehearse the wonder and beauty of it in my mind to cheer my weary bones.  Yet I also prayed, “Don’t let me give birth at home if you want me in the hospital.”

Labor did not come and I found myself lying on a table in a darkened room.  It only took the ultrasound tech a few minutes to see that placenta was covering the cervix.

“I am so sorry!” Mary said, “I know how much you wanted a home birth, but we just can’t deliver you at home.  If the placenta is born first, your baby could die.  You will need to choose a hospital and I suggest you go in tomorrow.  It would be better to get a C-section as soon as possible so you don’t go into labor.”

I was in shock.  I couldn’t believe what was happening.  Yet, I knew that it was what God wanted.  Otherwise He could have easily moved that placenta and brought labor on the week before.  When I returned home from the ultrasound, all I could manage to do was cry.  Most of my other eight children were around the house playing or doing homework after school.  My oldest daughter hugged me and said, “It will be ok, Mama.”

I tried to believe her.  I cried and grieved the loss of my perfect homebirth. I had wanted to be close to my other children.  I had wanted a fast and easy recovery that would allow me to continue taking care of the needs of the home and homeschooling.  I tried to wrap my brain around the fact that I had offered my body to God as a living sacrifice, to carry this child of promise, and He was going allow doctors to cut into me tomorrow.

The next day Chris and I began the work of getting ready to go to the hospital. As soon as Chris’ mom had heard about the situation, she had started driving to Pennsylvania from Florida.  She would be able to get to our house by the evening to take care of the other children.  How that eased my mind!

I sent a prayer request to all the ladies who had been to my baby shower a few weeks earlier.  I also called my mom to explain the situation.  She had been hoping to be at the birth, but I told her that I had to get surgery and she probably wouldn’t be able to see the baby until hours afterward.  Mom happened to be at the ladies meeting at church.  She stopped the meeting right then and there and asked for prayer for me!

A lovely thing began to happen.  As I was trying to get ready, rushing around the house, up the stairs and down the stairs again, I started to receive emails and texts and calls from loving friends.  They were praying for me and speaking encouraging words and offering help!  One dear friend even prayed out loud for Annalise while I turned on the speaker phone so Annalise listen.

I was feeling an overwhelming sadness about having to endure a C-section, but I didn’t want Annalise to feel sad.  I didn’t want her to feel like she was being torn from her safe haven too early or experience anguish on the day of her birth.  The prayer I heard coming from the other end of my phone brought peace to my body and soul.

“Annalise will be so peaceful.  It will be a sign to you.”  I heard my friend pray.

Chris and I arrived at the hospital in the early afternoon.  Mary was already there.  It took hours for the staff to assess me and determine that the placenta was not actually covering the cervix but was dangerously close, only .9 cm away.  Studies had shown that 90% of women with a marginal placenta like mine bled during labor and required an emergency C-section to save the life of the baby.  Thankfully, I had not yet gone into labor and we could have a planned C-section.

It took several more hours to prep me for the C-section. During this time I felt oddly peaceful.  God was in control and it was going to be ok. Finally at 8pm I was taken into the operating room where the anesthesiologist started the spinal.

“No pain.  You will feel no pain, only pressure.  No pain,” he kept saying over and over again.

I must admit that I didn’t believe him.  How could I feel no pain at all during such a major surgery?  Yet almost immediately, I started to lose feeling in my lower body.  I started feeling woozy. My body felt so heavy.  I was so tired, that I could hardly respond to the questions the nurses would ask from time to time.  Before I knew it, Chris was next to me.

I heard the voice of a doctor instruct the intern on how to begin.  I had never seen the doctor’s face.  The intern had introduced himself and explained the entire procedure beforehand.  He said he had done at least 50 to 60 C-sections in the past. He was friendly and I liked him a lot. The doctor, however, was gruff and rude to this nice intern, acting like the intern had never done a C-section before.

“NO, not like that! Not like that! Here, let me do it!”  I heard from the other side of the blue curtain.  I really experienced no pain at all!  It was amazing to me.  It almost felt like this procedure was happening to someone else.  Even the abrasive voice of the doctor and the extreme pressure on my pelvic bone couldn’t bring me out of my medicated haze.  But more than that, I felt the peace that surpasses understanding.  I knew that God had every detail of this birth planned out for the best.

“She is almost here.” I heard Chris say with joy and excitement.  I just couldn’t muster up excitement myself.  I felt pushing and then a weight was lifted.  I was lighter!

“She is here!” Chris said.  Quickly the little bundle was taken to a table just a few yards behind me.  I couldn’t see her, but I could hear her.  She was crying for all she was worth!  A good sound.  I wanted to call out to her.  I wanted her to know that I was close by, that I was so excited that she was here, but I didn’t have the energy.  Someone brought her to me and placed her on my chest.  She was little and perfect.  I was too numb to hold her, so she was whisked away again, this time out of the operating room.  Chris went with her and suddenly I was alone…so alone.

I was lying on the operation table in the middle of the large room.  I was vaguely aware of nurses and doctors working to stitch me up.  They were talking among themselves, but not acknowledging me.  I knew that the bright lights were highlighting my nakedness and my gaping wound.

“My baby is here!  She has been born!”  I thought to myself. “Yet how could this really be considered her birth?  I didn’t give birth.  Is today really her birthday?  I didn’t push her out.  The doctors pulled her out.  It didn’t feel like a birth.”

As these thoughts floated around in my clouded mind, sadness descended.   Instead of feeling the overwhelming relief and bliss that enveloped me after the birth of my other eight children, I felt a stark and cold loneliness.  I wouldn’t allow the weeping to begin.  I knew it would overwhelm my consciousness.  I didn’t want to meet Annalise in the recovery room with tears.

Soon I was being wheeled to where my baby was.  She was placed into my arms and I got my first really good look at her.  Her face was tiny and beautiful, and she was looking up at me with open eyes.  So serene.  So peaceful.

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She was a sign to me that everything was going to be ok.  I would heal.  The sadness would fade.  I had suffered loss, but it hadn’t been the disaster I had most feared.  My little girl was safe.  Safe too were all of God’s promises.  Our finances were still in an unstable place.  But I was certain that we would see His goodness.  I was sure that Annalise would live a life marked by God’s generosity.

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The bliss didn’t rush in and seep into every cell as I had hoped.  It crept in slowly.

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It increased slightly with every look into her eyes, every touch of her soft skin, every time she nursed.

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My heart was full of sorrow and joy, but the joy would overtake and overwhelm, one miracle moment at a time.

 

The Term is Over: the Holidays Have Begun

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It doesn’t take much.  Just a cool breeze, the smell of bread in the toaster, or the sound of a train whistle.  I am transported to my carefree childhood summers, spent at my maternal grandparents’ home in Wisconsin.  The memories flood my mind and I am filled with a sense of peace and order…and a terrible longing to go back there again.  Not just to the home, but to the time when I didn’t have the responsibilities of adulthood on my shoulders.  To the time when my days consisted of sitting in the sun reading an old book I found in the attic (like Louisa May Alcott’s Old Fashioned Girl), or feeding chipmunks out of my hand, or playing Cowboys and Indians in the yard.

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The memories are a bit fuzzy and golden with age.  I remember more of the good and less of the bad.  I remember the cleanliness and order of the home, the cool wood floors and the shaggy aqua carpet.  I remember the wall paper in the kitchen, decorated with pictures of fanciful boutiques.

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I remember eating Papa’s homemade rhubarb jam at the kitchen table that boasted an eating surface made entirely of glass.  How enchanting that table seemed to me.  It was like the table in Alice in wonderland through which a shrunken Alice saw the all important key.  The tragedy of being able to see your heart’s desire but being unable to reach it was not lost on me.

I remember the sun room that served as the bedroom for my brother and me on those summer nights.  We would lie on the perfect sofas, full of swirling colors and patterns from the 60s and listen to Alice and Wonderland on the record player as we were falling asleep.

I said goodbye to my grandmother at her funeral on a frigid Wisconsin winter day.  I felt like I wanted to say goodbye to her home as well, which contained most of my memories of her.  My husband drove me to 921 Humbolt Ave.  Grammy had sold it years before, but I was surprised by how different it looked.  Sure, it was surrounded with snow rather than all the greens and reds and oranges of summer.  But it just wasn’t as beautiful as I remembered it.  And there was a hot tub outback were Grammy’s cucumbers used to grow!  Was it that my memories were just better than reality…or had the place really changed so much under new ownership?  One thing was clear to me; I could never physically return to the place that had brought me such joy.  I could never relive the memories in that house of the people who were so dear.  I felt a grief flood my soul at the irrevocable loss.

I felt a similar grief and bewilderment when I drove past the childhood home of my father after his passing.  I had wonderful memories of that little house as well, the home of my Grandmother and Grandfather Beyer.  The yard was like a fairy wonderland, full of trees and ferns and mosses, dotted with bird seed for the always welcomed feathered friends.  The inside was always exactly the same.  Every piece of furniture, every old and charming knickknack, just where it had been the last visit, always polished and dusted.  The only change I remember over the years was the addition of a large TV the sat on the floor.  My brother and I thought we had hit the jackpot as we watched the early years of MTV on that TV.

Grandfather always had to show us some wildlife slides, play a classical piece on his record player, or read us the Robert Louis Stevenson poem about how the robin ate the “fellar raw.”  He would always let out a loud chuckle after he read that line. Grandmother wanted to sit on the sofa with us and read Snip, Snap, and Snur.

Their kitchen always smelled like coffee and contained one of my favorite treats…malted milk tablets.  The upstairs had beds for all of us, a strange bath tub, and a little kitchen that we never used.  We visited during the Thanksgiving holiday each year.  I remember my mom addressing what seemed to be hundreds of Christmas cards, spread out over their living room.

When we drove past the home after my father’s internment, I was shocked at what I saw.  The yard had been cleared of most of the trees and looked barren.  The house was tiny and rather unpleasant.  What had happened to the 75 Prospect Street that I remembered.  It was gone forever…and I mourned that loss.

But are they truly gone?  Need we mourn when something beautiful on this earth passes away, or is destroyed, or is changed beyond recognition?  I found a lovely picture of hope in The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis.  It is one of my favorite books containing one of my favorite descriptions of heaven.  The Pevensie children, along with their Narnian companions, find themselves in a beautiful land after Narnia had been destroyed.  They grieved for their beloved land, but they began to notice that this new place was oddly familiar.

  “Kings and Queens,” he (Farsight the Eagle) cried, “we have all been blind. We are only beginning to see where we are.  From up there I have seen it all – Ettinsmuir, Beaversdam, the Great River, and Cair Paravel still shining on the edge of the Eastern Sea.  Narnia is not dead.  This is Narnia.”…

            “The Eagle is right,” said the Lord Digory. “Listen  Peter. When Aslan said you could never go back to Narnia, he meant the Narnia you were thinking of.  But that was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end.  It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia which has always been here and always will be here: just as our own world, England and all, is only a show or copy of something in Aslan’s real world.  You need not mourn over Narnia, Lucy.”

I believe that it is true.  We need not mourn over what we lose here in the shadow lands.  All that is stunning and marvelous and true and real and loved in this world will be healed and restored and renewed and made to be all that it was intended to be from the beginning.  All that is precious to us in this life is being kept safe for us in the “real” life that we will someday enter into, if we trust Jesus to take us there.

Then we will say, like the noble Unicorn in Narnia, “I have come home at last!  This is my real country! I belong here.  This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now.”

We will hear Aslan (Jesus) say, “The term is over: the holidays have begun!”

And it will be a holiday full of sights, sounds, aromas,  and tastes that are as familiar as being home for Christmas, cozy and surrounded by family.  Yet they will be brighter, fuller, more majestic, and more magnificent than anything we had ever imagined.  After millions and millions of years, the wonder of it all will still be fresh and new.  All mourning will be long forgotten and our joy will be everlasting!

Blue, White and Yellow = The Goodness of God

It all started in my parents’ basement; the part of the basement that was used for storage of boxes of old stuff, stacks of newspapers, flowerpots with dirt still in them, tomato stakes, and odds and ends.

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I found this lovely example of blue and white china down there, and I claimed them as my own.  I placed them in my room among my eclectic collection of all things I considered pretty as a young girl.  It was one of the only decorations I took with me when I got married and moved into my first apartment.  It took an honored place on my grandfather Beyer’s old bookshelf, one of the only actual pieces of furniture we owned in those early years.

Somehow that piece of china took hold in my mind as a representative of a happy home.  I developed a picture of my dream home over the course the next few years.  It was a big farm-house with a wrap around porch, a happy place for our happy family.  The most important rooms of the house (the kitchen and dinning rooms) were painted a warm, sunny yellow and adorned with white trim and white shelves.  And what graced those white shelves?  Blue and white china!

We lived many years in rentals or in a home we thought we would soon sell.  I lived with the Realtor beige and white, still seeing those yellow walls in my mind.  In 2007 we purchased a nice home in Pennsylvania.  It wasn’t a farm-house, but it was big with a porch in front.  I didn’t have “THE dream home” or the yellow walls…or the white shelves, but I started to collect the china.  My in-laws purchased my next few plates at an antique store for my birthday.  I had nowhere to display them, so I carefully packed them away.  I started picking up pieces here and there, at thrift stores or yard sales.  A tea-cup with delicate blue flowers, a plate with a cozy cottage and a bridge, a pitcher with an unusual design of blue triangles.  A dollar here, fifty cents there.  Each one a treasure, each one unique, each one a representative of God’s goodness to me.  He has the entire universe to run, yet I felt Him share my joy with each special find.

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Some friends had a china cabinet in their basement that they didn’t use, and they offered it to us.  I was overjoyed!  I had a place to store my treasures where I could see them each day.

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It was my birthday in February of 2010.  That was the glorious year that IT happened!  My husband bought me bright yellow paint!  I could hardly believe my good fortune!  Our weird sage/aqua walls in the kitchen and dinning room were going to be transformed to yellow!  We still had many young children, so we  had to prep and paint after they went to bed.  We continued to paint until 3 o’clock in the morning.  Chris was a trooper.  I was high on excitement and hardly felt tired.  I was getting my yellow walls!

It was quite a shock at first.  It wondered if I had picked the correct yellow color.  But the sun was shinning inside my home 24 hours a day, seven days a week!  “Daffodil” yellow grew on me until I couldn’t keep from saying, “I just love this!”  It is amazing how small things can make such a dramatic different.  Slowly I acquired some white shelves and more blue and white china.  Now I am surrounded by beauty everyday, and it has improved the quality of my life.

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Some days I marvel at the fact that we are still dwelling here, in this beautiful home.  We were close to foreclosure during the hard times.  While we were living through those difficult months, we thought back to the miracle that this home was.  We knew that God had given it to us, and we knew that He could take it away. Chris was walking on our porch one night, feeling the heartbreak of loss, when God spoke to him.

This is YOUR home, and you will sell it when YOU want to.

When Chris told me that, I was so touched by the loving heart of my Father.  He owned everything, everywhere.  He had bought our very lives with the blood of His son.  He did the miracle to get us this house.  Yet He said that it was ours, and that we could choose when we wanted to sell it!

God was true to His word and worked out the details so we could continue to own this house, our dream home!  He has done many more miracles to enable us to put food on the table day after day, pay all our bills month after month, and go shopping for blue and white china year after year.

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Each piece reminds me of His incredible concern for every small detail of my life.  Here I am, living my dream!  My husband doesn’t care a thing about blue and white china; but to me, it symbolizes the amazing, unending goodness of God.

 

 

My Adventurous Husband with the Crazy, Impossible Dreams Might Just Be Right

 

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My husband, Chris, is very different from me.  In fact, he is quite the opposite.  He is spontaneous and impatient, prone to making rash and risky decisions.  He is also very driven.  When he has a certain goal in mind, all else fades to the background as he plows through valleys and climbs over mountains to reach that goal.  When he gets an idea in his head, it seems like an obsession to me.  I am a steady and reliable creature of habit.  I like to dwell, remain, and stay in my comfort zone.  I feel no need to go trailblazing into unknown and possibly scary territory.  To change my course is like trying to alter the flow of a river.  I have found that trying to deter Chris from a goal is like trying to stop a freight train once it is barreling down the tracks.  It is much easier to jump aboard and enjoy the ride!

We faced our first major financial decision as newlyweds.  Our apartment had washer and dryer hookups, but we had no washer and dryer.  We would spend hours at the Laundromat.  Chris reasoned that if we could put our Laundromat money towards payments on our own washer and dryer, we would be much better off.  I agreed, but when I saw the large price tag, I was terrified.  We ended up in our car in the Sears parking discussing the pros and cons. The worry of making a bad decision brought me to tears.  We ended up buying the brand-new, super-capacity Kenmore beauties, despite my abiding nervousness.  Eighteen years, 6 moves, and eight children later, they are still washing 2-3 loads a day!  Chris was totally right!

In 2006 we were renting a nice house on Market St where I found my Little Piece of Heaven.  Sure, I wanted to move eventually, but I figured that God would bring that opportunity right to us at the proper time.  But Chris was obsessed.  He was unsatisfied with our living conditions and upset that our rent money was going into someone else’s pocket instead of building up equity for us.  He talked to realtors.  He got lists of homes sent to him every week on the internet.  He kept finding houses that he wanted me to look at. The available four bedroom homes priced around $100,000 were not at all what I would call attractive or comfortable!  I didn’t want to look at these homes, not to mention consider living in them.  But I did it, because Chris asked me to.  We even put offers on two of them.  They had been on the market for a long time.  We thought we could get a good deal, fix them up and then sell them for more…all in an effort to get closer to our real dream house.  Both houses were snatched up right before our offers came in.

Chris didn’t give up, however.  He talked to other realtors, looked at other houses, and kept viewing homes on the internet.  None of the homes interested me at all.  Basically, I had given up on owning a home.  One day Chris came across a picture of an older home, shrouded in dark awnings and overgrown shrubbery.  He set up a time to see it.  He walked in the front door, took one look at the high ceilings and beautiful woodwork and thought, “This is it!”

There was just one mountain of a problem.  It was more than twice what we could afford.  He set up a second time to view the house and wanted me to come along.  I so desperately wanted to refuse him, and I almost did.  I didn’t want to go see another ugly house.  I definitely didn’t want to go see a beautiful house, fall in love with it, and then have to face the reality that we could never afford it.  But I did it, because Chris asked me to.

The house was built in 1924 and was in a beautiful neighborhood with tree lined streets.  I toured the gorgeous home, loving every detail of it! I tried NOT to love it…but I couldn’t help it.  I took a paper containing the specs of the home that included a tiny black and white picture of the exterior.  In my mind, that dreary picture was a picture of my dream home.  I placed the paper on top of my filing cabinet.  Every time I passed by and caught a glimpse of that paper, I would pray that God would do a miracle and give us that house!  Every time we passed the exit on the highway that would take us to the house, longing would fill my heart that someday that exit would lead to my home!  Every night before bed, the children would pray and ask God to give them that house!  Chris’ obsession had become a family obsession!

The realtor went to the owners with a crazy idea.  Even though the house had only been on the market for two weeks, he urged them to consider a sellers agreement, where we would make payments to them directly and take over the mortgage in a few years. It seemed like an eternity before they responded…THAT THEY WOULD!  Amazing miracle number one! Yet our soaring spirits sank a bit as we heard the terms.  The monthly payment was way too much, and we had to come up with $10,000 upfront.  Chris countered with $300 less per month.  They accepted! Amazing miracle number two!

Time came to sign the paperwork, and we still had no money to put down. Chris continued to plow ahead, scaling that mountain and signing away!  I was terrified and thought back to the washer and dryer purchase so long ago.  How small that decision seemed compared to this one was!  I sat with the realtor, the paperwork, and a kitchen timer in front of me.  I was timing contractions that had been coming every twenty minutes for baby number six.  I was about to have a baby, and here I was, facing one of the biggest decisions of my life!  I wanted to call it all off, or have a conference like we did in our car in the Sears parking lot.  I wanted to cry my heart out and beg Chris to back out of the whole thing!

Quietly a peace descended upon me, and my emotions stilled.  My contractions stopped.  I saw the hand of God moving heaven and earth.  I saw that it was He who had put that obsession into my husband’s heart.  I signed the paperwork and believed that God would work out the rest.  Amazing miracle number three!

I didn’t have any more contractions for almost a week.  My grandmother joyfully offered to give us the money we needed and a bit more!  Amazing miracle number four! Chris’ mom flew in from Colorado in anticipation of the new baby’s arrival.  That night my water broke, but there were no contractions.  In the morning, we thought we would pass the hours by showing my mother-in-law our new home!  It was a hot and humid day in August. I walked around my home, and I began to get contractions.  They increased as I showed off my four large bedrooms and gigantic bathroom on the second floor.  They increased even more as I went down to view my spacious and clean basement with shelves and shelves of storage space.  Finally, we all gathered outside to return to our rental house.  I leaned on the truck with one intense contraction.  It was hard to escape the pain with heat emanating from the sun above and rising from the blacktop below.  I thought, “What have I done, coming here while in labor?  I need to get home!”

We arrived home in plenty of time to fill the baby pool in our bedroom and call the midwife.  Our little Cooper was born a few hours later, healthy and happy!  Some weeks after that, we began to move into our new home.

june 2014 229We are still in this home, paying the mortgage (our mortgage!) eight years later.  That is the real miracle!  We have weathered job losses, economic downturns, and debt reduction programs.  We were close to foreclosure during the hard times, yet we are still here!

Three years ago Chris became obsessed with another goal, to become a business owner.  He talked to a business broker and received emails about local businesses for sale.  He read books about entrepreneurs and conversed with friends who were business owners.

“Oh brother,” I thought. “Here we go again!”

He inquired about a Signarama shop just blocks from our house.  He went to visit with the owner and saw the shop.  He was convinced that this was it.  He wanted me to see it all and tell him what I thought.  I really didn’t want to!  But I did, because he asked me to.

When I saw the shop I thought, “This is definitely NOT it!”  A sign shop, full of vinyl to make signs?  How boring!  I never had any interest in being a business owner, nor ever thought about making signs.  Chris began the slow process of turning my course.

We talked with the regional VP of Signarama to learn more about the franchise.  What emotions surfaced when I thought about this proposition; spending all we had plus going into debt to acquire a business?  Terror!  Pure fear!  Fear of not having enough to pay our bills.  Fear of heading towards foreclosure again!  Fear of making a big whopper mess-up of a decision!  Quietly peace descended upon me, and I heard the voice of God.

“Do not fear making mistakes.  Mistakes aren’t as powerful as you think they are.  You see them as huge giants that can rob you of your destiny.  That is not true.  Your mistakes cannot negate my promises or my power or my faithfulness in your life.  I can cause all your mistakes to prosper and use them for good.  In fact, your mistakes are your servants.  Use them to learn about me, yourself, and your destiny.  Use them to draw near to me.  Do not fear making mistakes.  Make all decisions in confidence and faith.  I AM able to lead you and keep you in my perfect will.  I AM faithful!”

So we took the plunge into business ownership.  It has been harder than we had ever imagined.  Some of my fears have come to pass, but I realized that they weren’t so bad after all.  God is in control, and He is bringing us through this into the abundant prosperity that He has promised!  Chris is learning to slow down his freight train to prayerfully consider my wisdom.  I am learning that my adventurous husband with his crazy obsessions might just be tapping into the very heart of God!

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“The moment you are in is pregnant with possibility.  DON’T kill it with fear.” – Bill Johnson

            I won’t kill it with fear!  I will move forward with faith and confidence!

I WILL ENJOY THE RIDE!

           hershey park

My Little Piece of Heaven

 

Our first apartment as a married couple was a little piece of heaven, a sweet and tiny oasis of newlywed bliss (well, usually…except for those times when we were fighting over whether we should throw the budget out the window and buy a Vfirst apartmentCR.) It had the charm and character of an older building.  It was situated in an established neighborhood with tree lined streets.  We used to take long walks and imagine which one of the beautiful homes we would buy one day.  We were excited that it had a garage, a rare find for an apartment building.  We were delighted when we pulled into the garage that first time, only to realize that there was no extra room for the driver to open his door and actually exit the vehicle while still in the garage.  On a particularity hot summer day, the second story apartment became just oppressive.  We realized that running two air conditioners at once was too much for the old electrical panel to handle. Just minor details that added to the charm.

After a year we decided to shake off the dust of that boring, little town and find a real adventure in Colorado Springs.  There we found another piece of heaven in a garden level apartment.  Oh, the sweet memories of our younger married days!  It had a spare bedroom and a cozy fireplace.  It also boasted mice and a snake (totally uninvited!)  In the big snowstorm of 1997, hundreds of travelers got trapped on the highway between Colorado Springs and Denver.  Chris thankfully found shelter in a Denver hotel.  Meanwhile, I was being buried alive in that underground apartment, feeling claustrophobic and horribly bored.  The little apartment was sparsely furnished with only a bed, dresser, and kitchen table.  We would sit on the carpet in the living room to watch movies.  That’s right!  We did own a TV and VCR by this time.  Our lives were full of blessings!

After six months we found the perfect townhouse that seemed just massive to us; two bedrooms and two bathrooms!  It was new and pristine with an open floor plan.  Heaven again relocated to be with us in this lovely place.  We had our first babyplumtree 4 and settled her into the extra room.  I can’t describe how beautiful it was, that cherub sleeping in her own crib in her own room.  We had our second child and added another crib.  We had our third child and added a set of bunk beds.  Then we had our fourth child, and she ended up in our walk in closet.  The walls felt as though they were closing in on us, and the concrete slab in back wasn’t what our children needed for a back yard.

We were able to sell that little piece of heaven (finally!) and find a little larger piece of heaven to rent; a rrental house Colorado 2eal house with a real fenced in yard!   With four, then five young children, I felt like I had won the lottery!  The fence was not an effective barrier for the little neighbor boy down the street, who would escape by climbing over his fence and into the neighbor’s yard and eventually into our yard…all without his parents having a clue.  They would find him wandering around the neighborhood doing interesting things, such as “selling” free ice cubes door to door out of a soggy cardboard box.  My children didn’t feel inclined to follow little Nick, but rather played contentedly in our own back yard, safe and secure, and life was good!camp hill

Having had more than our fill of adventure in Colorado, Chris accepted a job back in the boring, little town where we had started.  Yet now it had been transformed into our Promised Land. The 5 day trip camp hill 2across the c ountry was like crossing the Jordan.  As we drove into Central Pennsylvania, I could hardly believe it!  We had arrived!  We had reached our own little piece of heaven in a rental house on Market Street.  Sure, there was constant traffic and sirens passing our house 4 or 5 times a day.  Sure, there was a lot of air pollution and mold in the house. (We have never been so sick as a family as we were in that house.)  Yet, out the kitchen window I could see a stunning dogwood tree, showing off its incamp hill 3credible blooms just for me. And the view from the living room – Amazing!  I wou ld sit in my recliner and nurse baby number six while my eyes would feast on the sight of the magnolia tree.  For two weeks out of the year, it would look so glorious; I thought that this must be what the Garden of Eden looked like.

camphill 4

I was content in my little piece of heaven, but my husband found a house online that he was interested in.  There were no pictures of the inside.  The outside looked old and outdated, hidden in dark awnings.  But there was a huge front porch and my imagination painted the inside with much charm and character.  I t was less than a mile from our fist apartment. When we actually got inside to take a real look at it, it was better than I had imagined.  “This is it!” we thought, “Our piece of Heaven!”

Miraculously God gave us that house which cost twice the amount we were qualified to borrow, and that is where we live today.  I love the custom woodwork, all original from 1924.  I love the high ceilings and wide hallways.  The large downstairs bathroom, which used to be part of the original doctor’s office, has built-in shelves and cabinets and a counter just perfect for a baby changing station.  I imagine that when Dr. Christian was drawing up the plans for this house to his own specific needs, God was quietly whispering in his ear.  He was giving his loving “suggestions” that would make this the perfect home for the Brandenburg family 80 years later.  It is true; the house is very old.  The lead paint on the windows is chipping, the porch is rotting, and the doorknobs come off in your hand if you pull too hard.  Yet, this is where heaven resides, and this is where I want to be!  Our seventh and eighth babies were born in the bedroom upstairs.  The older children have grown into teenagers here.  The younger boys ride their bikes on the sidewalk and play with the neighbor children. I love to watch them in the back yard, glowing golden in the setting summer sun.sept 3fun outside 012fun outside 035fun outside 037

It is true; we have a lot of people sharing five bedrooms and one bathtub!  We have our eye on a much bigger place; seven bedrooms, six bathrooms, and ten acres of wooded land.  And when we finally get there, heaven will be there too!  I am sure that even that divine home will have its issues.  Maybe it will feel like too many square feet to keep clean and heat.  Maybe the mosquitoes will be breeding in that idyllic lake out back.  Whatever the issues are, they are just details.  The real truth is, heaven is wherever the center of God’s will is…and for me, that is in the heart of my family’s home.