He Will Satisfy My Desires with Good Things

I looked up from cooking in the kitchen and caught a glimpse of something that made my heart swell with an unfamiliar joy.  What was I feeling?  A thrill? A wave of delight?  It happened a few more times that day as I gazed across my home to see the view past the dining room, past the sitting room, and through the large front window to the porch. This strange sensation reminded me of Is 60:5 (NIV), “Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy…”

                What was causing this unexpected joy?  I could see four hanging baskets overflowing with pink and yellow flowers on my porch.  MY PORCH!! I had dreamed of having hanging baskets for as long as we had had a porch.  Every spring I thought, “This might just be the year!”  Then every spring reality hit.  Food was more important that hanging baskets, which at their cheapest were $20 a pop.  Yet now I was beholding them in all their horticultural glory, and they made me so happy!

                It seemed rather silly to get so excited about plants. I had just seen them at Sharp Shopper, a little past their prime and disheveled.  I got the lot of them for $24.  Once we hung them up outside, they had bloomed all over again.  It almost felt like a miracle. 

Then I remembered something I had written in my journal last year.  I looked it up and found an entry from 2/2/18.  I had been feeling horrible for about a month and a half with my pregnancy.  It had been just long enough to convince me that I would always feel this way and would never enjoy life again.  I would sit on the sofa trying to be still, taking peaceful cleansing breaths to keep the nausea away.  I found that it helped to close my eyes and picture things that made me happy.  I pictured Chris and me on a Baby-moon to Cape May, sun on our faces, and sand in our toes. 

I also pictured our front yard, landscaped and beautiful.  There would be a raised bed in front of the porch where I could plant veggies and herbs.  There would be planters overflowing with flowers on the concrete blocks next to the steps up to the porch. More planters would grace either side of our lovely front door.  Most importantly there would be hanging baskets all around the porch.  Just thinking of springtime and the beauty and aroma of flowers made me feel better. In fact, I drew a picture of it in my journal and wrote, “Flowers are a sign of prosperity to me, to have the extra time and money to have flowers.” I didn’t expect to see this dream realized for a few years yet.  But it helped me to imagine.

                That is why I felt my heart thrill and rejoice when I saw those flowers hanging outside.  It was a desired fulfilled, a dream realized, a sign of God’s faithfulness to bring prosperity into my life before I thought that He would.

After coming out of a season of disappointment, over and over again disappointment, the thrill that went through my heart felt foreign. I almost wanted to dismiss it as unimportant.  No need to get crazy and all bent out of shape over flowers!  I didn’t want to rush in and think that all my desires would be fulfilled.  I didn’t want to really start to dream very much again.

                Thankfully God showed me scriptures that allowed me to savor this joy, rather than toss it aside. One had been up on my mirror for months.

Ps 103:5 “…who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Others He gave me in the next week.

Pr. 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desired fulfilled is a tree of life.

Pr. 13:19 A desire realized is sweet to the soul…

                I sat down and wrote down all my desires that had been fulfilled lately. I came up with 14 of them.  Things I had been thinking about, researching, longing for, and praying for. 

                FOURTEEN OF MY DESIRES HAD BEEN FULFILLED!

Just to look at them all in a list lifted my spirit and caused me to praise God.  I was no longer in a season of disappointment. 

I was in a season of desires and promises being fulfilled.

                Yet I almost MISSED IT!  I was so used to being disappointed that it was easy to continue to be.  If I thought of all the challenges that lay ahead, all the prayers that had not yet been answered, I would feel like a victim.  If I thought of my dream journal sitting up in my closet for over 4 years, untouched because I didn’t want to open old wounds, I felt tired and washed out.  Dreaming like that was for the young who have extra time and energy to invest in their dreams. I need to just be happy with my lot and make it through the day.

                NO WAIT! God said that He is satisfying my desires so that my youth is being renewed!

                I am not a victim!

                I am not in a season of disappointment!

                I can look at my world with eyes wide open.  When I see the flowers overflowing – I can let my heart thrill!

                When I see the butterflies and the hummingbirds flock to the beauty – I can be radiant!

I know that God cares about what we care about.  I know that He loves beauty. I know He delights to see His children rejoice because they have received their heart’s desire. I love it when I can give my children a gift that awakens wonder and excitement in them. How much more does God feel that way?

                If we delight ourselves in the Lord, He WILL give us the desires of our hearts.  He is doing it right now, every day.  Let’s open our eyes and notice it.  Let’s make a big fuss over it! Let’s put a smile on our Father’s face when we realize how very good He is!

It’s OK to be Yellow Goo (The Death of Signarama part 5)

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“What in the world do we do now?”

When one season ends before you expect it to, and nothing turned out the way you thought it would…transition is inevitable.

What will our future look like?

Who are we supposed to be?

What do we do now?

It can feel very sad and scary to face transition.  Yet, transition is just what is needed to form a butterfly from a caterpillar.  When all our plans fail, it could be that God’s plans are better, but we just can’t see that yet.

Signarama had died.  Chris was no longer a business owner, but rather a loader at UPS.  We weren’t able to buy that house we were hoping for or take that family vacation we had dreamed of or even budget how we would pay our bills from week to week.

Driving to Little Buffalo for a family fun day, we were trying to stay hopeful for the future.  I put in a CD of Lance Wallnau, and once again God orchestrated the perfect encouraging word for us.  Lance was talking about transition!  He pointed out the fact that when a caterpillar is in the cocoon, it dissolves into a mass of cells…essentially a glob of yellow goo.

It is not a caterpillar.

It is not a butterfly.

It may not even know what it will become, yet the imaginal cells are floating around trying to locate matching imaginal cells.  When one future antenna cell meets another future antenna cell they begin to form…

You guessed it…an antenna.  Slowly it becomes the very specific butterfly that God had imprinted into its cells from the beginning.  Yet in the yellow goo stage it looks nothing like that butterfly at all.

AND THAT IS OK!

It is ok to have absolutely no answers or clarity during the yellow goo stage.  Trust is more important than clarity.  We can trust that God knew what our butterfly would look like when he created us.

“I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust.  So I will pray that you will trust God.” – Mother Teresa

It is a funny thing to be 40 and not yet know what you want to be when you grow up!  Then again…the possibilities are endless, and rather exciting to consider.

The next time I was snuggling with Annalise and having a quiet time, I asked God a question just for fun. I knew that He didn’t have to answer me; that clarity wasn’t important, but I was curious about what was on His mind.  So I asked it.

“Can you give me clarity on the next step?”

“The Lord had done great things for me, and we are filled with joy.

Restore our fortunes oh Lord.

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.

He who goes out weeping, carrying seeds to sow,

 Will return with songs of joy carrying sheaves with him.” Ps 126

What a wonderful picture!  Even though we had sown in tears and could see no harvest, WE WILL REAP WITH JOY!  When God speaks a word like that to your spirit, faith and the atmosphere of the future surrounds you in the present.  You feel certain that it will happen right away.

Tomorrow!

Or maybe next week!

Undoubtedly the breakthrough is right around the corner!

The very next day, God prepared me for the possibility that it may not happen right away. I was reading the book, The Cross and the Switchblade.  I had never read this famous book before, and I was loving it!  Right around 1960, David Wilkerson was a small town pastor who had made one little change in his life.  He decided to turn off the TV in the evenings and spend that time praying instead.  One night during his prayer time, he glanced at a Time magazine he had in his office.  On the front cover were the boys in New York City who were going on trial for murder.  They were part of a gang and had murdered another boy.

“Go to New York City and help those boys,” he heard God say.  He knew nothing about the city or about gangs, but he felt compelled to be obedient.

His church sent him on his mission.  As he drove to the city with a friend, they asked God for a verse.  The verse they received was the very verse that God had just given me!  How exciting!  Surely God was going to do amazing things to show these boys His love!

David ended up being able to be in the courtroom for the trial.  At the end of the day, afraid that this window of opportunity would close forever, he called out to the judge with a request to speak to the boys.  The judge had no patience for David’s outburst, yet David persisted.  He ended up being dragged out of the courtroom by security.  He left the city and went back to his friends and family in shame and disgrace.  What was worse, the media had snapped a picture of him being manhandled by the police and put it in the newspaper.  Now everyone could see his colossal mistake.  This did not appear to be “reaping with songs of joy.”

David could not stay away from New York City, however.  The young people living in the violence and drugs of the gangs were in his heart, and he had to minister to them.  He encountered these teens, but he had no way to connect with them, no way to establish rapport and cause them to trust him.  When one of the teens recognized him as the man in the paper who had a run in with the police, they suddenly let him in.  His ministry had finally begun!  The very thing that had plagued his mind as a stupid decision was the very thing that gave him a breakthrough!

He was able to bring many of them to Jesus; getting them off of drugs, discipling them, and training them to disciple others.  This ministry has grown into Teen Challenge which has helped thousands of drug addicts find Jesus and freedom!  That is certainly “reaping with songs of joy” an abundant harvest!  I am sure it has grown into much more than David had ever imagined, but it didn’t happen immediately.

“OK God, messaged received!  I can’t imagine the wonderful things you have prepared for us, and I might not even get a glimpse of them for a while.  I will trust you,” I prayed.

It was frustrating to stay in the confinement of our cocoon of transition.  It felt like a prison, and we knew we weren’t really free after years of striving after that freedom.  We weren’t financially free nor had Chris found his dream job.  I thought about Joseph when he was in prison.  The Bible says that Joseph had God’s presence, His unfailing love, and His favor while he was in prison.  Prison wasn’t evidence that God had left him or was displeased with him.

Our prison was serving an important role in our lives.  It was keeping us safe while God put our butterflies together.  Just imagine if that “caterpillar-turned-yellow-goo creature” was freed of its cocoon too early.  It would never become the stunning aerial masterpiece it was meant to be.  It would simply be a puddle of yellow slime, formless on the ground.

Some weeks later my mom brought over a bunch of clothes she had purchased for Ashlyn.  We sat together on the sofa and “ooooed” and “ahhhhed” over the pretty clothes.  After the fourth or fifth shirt embellished with butterflies, I blurted out, “This is the year of the butterfly!”

It was just a trivia comment, but my own words hit me in the chest like a prophecy.

Maybe this would be the year of MY butterfly!

For my birthday a friend gave me a very thoughtful gift, and on the packaging was a butterfly.  Another friend created a piece of art with names and favorite scriptures of many friends.  Next to my name was a butterfly.

So as I dream of the butterfly that will emerge this year or next year or in 10 years, I will embrace the yellow goo of today…

And trust that God knows exactly what He is doing.

 

God is ALWAYS better than we think He is

“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

This is a famous quote from the Hiding Place, a true story written by Corrie Ten Boom.  She and her sister Betsy had defied the Nazis by hiding Jews in their home.  When their house was raided, the Jews were never discovered in the expertly designed hiding place, but Corrie and Betsy were taken into custody and eventually put into a concentration camp.  Corrie experienced the horrors of a hell on earth.  She witnessed the death of many, including her beloved sister.  Yet she learned that in the darkest pit, God was there…and He was good…so incredibly good.

She came out of that experience more in love with Jesus, more devoted to following Him.  She spent the rest of her life encouraging other people to love Jesus.  That is a testimony that no one can deny.  No imaginary God, no fairy tale God, no boring or religious God could work a miracle like that; placing a life into the crucible of suffering and making it a joyous offering.

I have often pondered Corrie’s life and wondered what I would have done in her place.  It is unlikely that any of us will have to make the choices she had to make.  Yet each one of us will have our own personal hell on earth that we will have to navigate through.

On Thursday night, I heard the stories of five women from my church; each I knew well; each had faced their own crucible.

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Kristi is a wonderful deejay on the local Christian radio station.  She lives in my neighborhood and I sometimes see her pass my house, taking a walk with her little boy in a stroller.  She told how just months after their marriage, her husband was diagnosed with cancer.  Years later cancer was found in her body as well.  In addition, the doctors told them it would be impossible for them to have children.  Her story wasn’t about the seven long years of treatment and tests, sorrow and disappointments.  Her story was about the goodness of God, His healing power, and their miracle baby!

Bobbie is the mother of one of my first youth leaders, and one of the hardest working, sweetest ladies you will ever meet.  She faced breast cancer and multiple cancer scares after that. Does she live in fear?  No!  Her life is full of joy because of her amazing God!

Tiffany was just a junior higher when I met her.  I was in senior high and would sing on stage with the youth worship band.  She wrote me a sweet little note at one of the youth retreats that said something like this, “I see you on stage with such grace and confidence, and I know that God does that.”  Well, my singing voice is not what it used to be, and I have faded into the background.  Now I watch Tiffany on stage worshipping with a clear and powerful voice, singing songs that she has written and recorded, and I am looking up to her in admiration!

Tiffany told the story of suffering a blood clot in her lungs, dying twice, and surviving a surgery that would have killed 499,999 people out of 500,000.  Her story wasn’t about the pain and suffering she had to enduring during the recovery process.  She didn’t complain about the interruption in their lives with two little girls and a newborn baby boy.  She told of how God’s goodness was there every step of the way.  She said, “You can NEVER exaggerate the goodness of God.  He is ALWAYS better that we think he is!”

Sharon was a leader in youth group when I was in high school.  A few years later, I actually saw myself in her wedding album.  She and her husband were honeymooning in Boston.  I just happened to be there on a missions trip with YWAM, and we randomly ran into each other on the street and snapped a picture!  I admired both her and her husband, and when I heard the news that he had left her for another woman while she was pregnant with their second child, I was heartbroken for them.  She was devastated and was a single parent for almost 15 years.  Yet her story is not one of loss and betrayal.  It is a story of learning to love herself, learning to forgive, and learning how much God loved her.  Now she sees restoration in all the broken relationships and just married a man who is better than the very best she had ever imagined for herself.  God gave her more that she had asked for!

Sue is a powerful woman of God at our church.  I first met her when I volunteered to help out with vacation Bible school when I was in high school.  I was assigned to help in her room which was the dancing room.  Each day, four different groups of children would rotate through our room.  Sue led them with a microphone (which she really didn’t need) and tireless energy. I had never had so much fun at vacation Bible school before!

Sue told of her battle with cancer.  She was in so much pain that she wished for death.  She survived the surgery that took out her entire stomach, part of her esophagus, part of her intestines, and her gallbladder.  Her doctors were so surprised, they hadn’t developed a follow-up plan.  Cancer free six years later, she doesn’t moan about how unlucky she was.  She sings and shouts and passionately tells of her beloved Jesus!  She looks like she would explode if she didn’t proclaim her love.

How can this be?  Shouldn’t all these women be bitter and cynical, wondering why a loving God would lead them through the valley of the shadow of death?  All of these women have a real relationship with a real God who never left them for a moment.  In fact He was always right there with them, carrying them, listening to them, speaking to them, and healing them.  He was sending answers, giving provision, working miracles and loving on them until they were filled to overflowing with that love.

This is a God that we just cannot deny.  I pray that you and I will be encouraged to trust more in His great love for us and have the courage to say in our own trials…

“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

 

The Gifts of Christmas are made of the Little Things

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1. My mom brought some crafts over for the children.  The colors of the tissue paper were just so pretty, I had to sit down and make a star myself.  I love to create all kinds of arts and crafts, but I have so little time for that these days.  I gained the joy of being crafty and a brilliant sun-catcher at the same time.

0022. Chris had gotten me some socks at Costco which turned out to be the most wonderful socks I have ever owned!  Chris bought me more colors of the same kind, just because he loves me.  An added bonus is that they actually match my clothes.  I love to match!

 

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3. Our church receives donations of food quite often.  Sometimes we check to see what is available.  We found bottles and bottle of kombucha.  I just love kombucha, but I rarely buy it at the store because it is so expensive.  Maybe no one else took it because they don’t know how wonderful it is or what it is.  Are you in that boat?  Click here to learn more about it.

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4. I took some greens from our tree, winter berries from my mom’s yard, and this burlap star she found, and I got a rustic wreath.

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5. I love receiving Christmas cards in the mail.  I love to see the pictures and think about the person who sent it.

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6. My mom found these magnetic picture frames.  Now I can see my friends and remember to pray for them all year long without  the mess of little magnets that keep falling off the fridge and the smudges of little hands.

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7. Because I picked Ireland to learn about this Christmas, I have a whole new country full of recipes to discover!

december 2015 0078. Little boys who are eager to go Christmas shopping for their family make very diligent workers around the house.  Our house gets so clean around Christmas time with the incentive of earning dollars.  I love a clean house and I love to see my children considering how to purchase gifts that will bless others.

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9. I asked my daughter to find some Christmas music to play and she found Michael Buble’s entire Christmas album on YouTube.  I received the gift of wonderful music filling the kitchen thanks to my daughter, my phone, a purple cable, and our stereo.

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10. My mom discovered my little, wooden rocking chair and brought it over.  I received the joy of seeing my two youngest sitting in the chair that I used to sit in when I was their age.

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11. So many of these gifts originated from my mom.  (Thank you, Mom!)She is a wonderful gift and being at the women’s breakfast at church with her this Christmas was icing on the cake.

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12. Caroling with friends and their children around the neighborhood and signing about the joy of Jesus!

13. My children keep reminding me that Christmas is not about the presents but THE PRESENCE.  How thankful I am for the wonderful children’s ministry at our church and the fact that my children listen, remember, and take it to heart.  How thankful I am for God with us, Emmanuel!  I love his presence and in his presence is fullness of joy!  I am realizing that at any moment I can enter into his presence and feel that joy and begin to see all the gifts that are always around me.

 

 

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.

 

I Am So Good, My Goodness is Running Over!

The week that Chris and I spent moving Grammy into a nursing home was an interesting one, because we were the youngest residents of Primrose Assisted Living Community by at least 20 years.  I felt a little out of my comfort zone.  Chris was outgoing and friendly as usual, striking up conversations in the hallways and elevators.  We encountered all sorts of older folks.  Some were very friendly and smiled when they saw us.  Others didn’t pay us any mind.  Many  looked downright miserable.  Most of the residents we never saw at all.  The dining rooms and open spaces were not very full.  The special library and computer room which offered free internet access was always deserted.  I am talking crickets, it was so quiet!  Chris and I used that computer constantly and never encountered another soul.  I think most of the residents spent their days in their rooms.

We would see two ladies working at a table in the hallway, putting together a puzzle.  The one woman told me that she and her husband had moved into Primrose together, but now she was alone.  I saw the sadness in her eyes.  I realized that everyone there had a story to tell, had a burden to carry, and had a cross to bear.

Chris and I would eat breakfast in their dining room in an effort to save time and money.  A few older folks would gather each morning to eat the yucky food.  Sorry, but the food was not very tasty or healthy!  All I wanted was scrambled eggs.  Just simple eggs without any refined flour or sugars to upset my stomach.  They never had eggs, and when I special ordered them from the kitchen, they came out looking like a lumpy yellow mound, certainly not like the eggs I made at home.

The conversations in the dining room often centered around what ailments were plaguing the speaker that particular day and who was going to what doctor’s appointments.  There were many chronic problems and diseases that brought constant pain.  My compassion was aroused and I wished desperately that I could lay hands on all of them and bring healing like Jesus did.

One resident was different from all the rest.  His smile was wider and his face shown brighter.  Every person he encountered got the feeling that he was just delighted to talk to them.  I don’t even remember his name, but I remember his joy.  It was as though everything in the limited world of Primrose Assisted Living brought him endless happiness.  Perhaps it wasn’t the world of Primrose at all that brought him such pleasure.  Perhaps it was the inner world of his spirit

We sat with this pleasant man at breakfast one morning.  I hesitated to ask the residents how they were doing, fearing what sad story that question might invoke.  However, when we asked this man how he was that morning, his response was memorable.

“I am so good, my goodness is running over!” he said with a smile.

He went on to tell us that he had grown up in Wisconsin.  He told us some charming stories about his childhood.  He told us that he was a priest and he never married or had any children.  It didn’t sound like he had any family at all.  But he loved being a priest, and he loved his present life, that was apparent.

Someone else walked up to chat with him and asked how he was.  Same response.

“I am so good, my goodness is running over!”

He was the bright spot during my stay at Primrose.  I can no longer remember the details of the stories that he shared with me, but I will never forget that statement.

“I am so good, my goodness is running over!”

My life is so full of family, home, health, youth, and blessings.  Yet I cannot yet say truthfully what he did.  I still have my list of complaints and worries, woes and concerns.  I hope to someday learn to love life the way that dear man did.  I hope to experience the truth that God’s goodness is actually always overflowing my boundaries and running over my limits and filling my life to overflowing with His love!

 

 

I Love a Good Birth Story: Part One – Areli Endura

I love hearing about the miraculous journey that brings a new baby into the world.  I adore talking with a mother of a newborn to hear her entire story.  I enjoy reading about births, and I must have watched about 30 episodes of “A Baby Story” on TV.  But 15 years ago, when it was time for me to give birth for the first time, I had none of these inspirational and informational stories under my belt.  I was young and rather clueless.

I got married at 20 and had my first baby at 23.  The birth of my first child was the first birth I had ever been to.  I didn’t have older sisters or close friends who had given birth to talk to, so I didn’t have many stories to draw information from.  My husband and I did attend a birthing class while I was pregnant, and I learned a lot.  They showed us a video of three births.  Wow!  Talk about graphic and horrific and wonderful all at the same time.  Still, I wasn’t scared to give birth.  I figured that women have been giving birth since time began and if they all could do it, I could do it too!  Many women have very easy labors, and maybe I would be one of them.  Maybe I wouldn’t even feel much pain at all!

I quit my job as a bank teller two weeks before my due date.  I spent those two weeks cleaning every inch of the house, taking walks, taking naps, and enjoying some alone time.  Finally, I had done everything I could think of to do, and waiting was all that was left as my due date came and went.

Chris and I snuggled on the futon for a three-hour movie that Saturday night.  I was getting Braxton Hicks contractions and Chris decided to time them.  They came every 20 minutes like clockwork throughout the entire movie.  We decided to try to get some sleep since the next day, we might be having baby!  I lay down and got comfy in bed, but I just couldn’t sleep.  Those contractions kept coming! We headed to the hospital at 3am.

We arrived to find that my doctor was the doctor on call that night.  I was thrilled, because I really liked him!  He said I was dilated 5 cm (only half way there), and without explaining or asking my permission, he pulled out something like a knitting needle and broke my water.  Experience has taught me to keep the bag of waters intact as long as possible.  Boy did the contractions become intense after that!

I sat in a rocking chair and just rested with my eyes closed.  When a contraction came, I felt like my entire body would cramp up, and I couldn’t relax it.  Chris encouraged me to try all the wonderful positions we had learned in birthing class to bring the baby down.  All of them made the pain worse!  So I resumed my post in the rocking chair as my mother-in-law and a dear friend of the family looked on.

The sun began to rise and the contractions started to come one right on top of another.  I never cried out, but sat as still and relaxed as possible, breathing slowly and deeply.

“Do you think you want to push?” asked my mother-in-law?

“I don’t know.” I said.  I really didn’t know anything about giving birth or pushing.  Now I could tell you that I was in transition and that the baby would be coming soon.  But at the time, I had no idea whether it was going to be 5 minutes or 5 hours until I was ready to push.

They called the doctor in and he confirmed that I was completely dilated and could start pushing.  He had me lay in the bed and push with every contraction for 1 hour and a half.  Most exhausting work I had ever done!  With subsequent births I have learned that it is best to wait to bear down until you really feel the urge, rather than start pushing with all your might as soon as your doctor gives you the go ahead.  I was unsure what the urge felt like, yet when it comes…whoa baby!!!  Heaven and earth couldn’t keep you from recognizing and obeying that powerful force.  Using gravity to help the baby descend is another great idea.  Standing, swatting, or kneeling are great positions!  When that baby is in just the right position, your body and the baby work together in a beautiful dance of spirit, hormones, and love.  It is glorious when you don’t even need those red-faced, blood vessel bursting efforts.  Without much exertion at all, your baby will slip from you quickly and peacefully.  But I am getting ahead of myself and telling a different birth story!

This time I didn’t know any of that, so I was in bed on my back pushing for a very long time.  The doctor gave me a local anesthesia and an episiotomy before the baby emerged.  Again, he did not explain or ask; he just did it.  I would recommend not doing those things and talking about it with your doctor beforehand.  The postpartum pain was 10 times worse and the recovery time was 10 times longer than with any of my other 7 births.

But I wasn’t even thinking about any of that at that moment!  No pain, no worries…just joy and excitement and bliss!

“It’s a girl!” I heard someone announce at 9:21am on Palm Sunday.

The precious dark-haired princess latched on right away and nursed for the next hour.  I was so happy and complete.  I was holding my Areli Endura, “Heroic Lioness of God with Endurance.”

My doctor visited me the next day.

“You had a wonderful, natural birth.  It was good for the nurses to see that.”

I marveled at his comment.  I thought my birth was pretty normal, but perhaps not, if the nurses were not used to witnessing a birth like mine.  I have since learned that most births do contain some interventions and medications that often lead to complications and other interventions.  As the years went by, I started collecting birth stories from other women and a common thread emerged.

PAIN!  Intense pain that would push the woman to submit to any procedure recommended in an effort to escape it.  This was a little curious to me.  Sure, I had experienced the worse pain I had ever felt in my entire life!  Yet I never felt like I couldn’t handle it, and the thought of medication never enter my mind.  Why?  I just don’t think I experienced the pain that most women do when giving birth.  But why, I kept asking myself.

Then I remembered a teaching tape I had listened to before I was ever married.  The preacher was talking about the verse in Genesis 3:16 that refers to “multiplied pain” in child-birth.  He said that it was a curse and that ALL curses were broken when Jesus became a curse and hung on that tree.  I could be free from the curse of multiplied pain in childbirth!  I prayed that prayer right then and there in my bedroom 4 years before I ever gave birth.

“Jesus, I thank you that you have taken every curse.  In your name I break the curse of multiplied pain in childbirth.  I will not believe the reports and stories that say that childbirth has to be excruciatingly painful!  I will give birth without multiplied pain!”

And it really did work, all those years later without me even actively thinking about it.  And guess what?  Jesus died to take every curse from you as well!  Pray that prayer, I dare you!

The first step to experiencing a natural birth with very little pain is to believe that it is possible! There are hundreds of factors that come into play to determine the outcome of labor.  Many of these factors we have no control over whatsoever. But God is in control of everything, and I am convinced that He meant childbirth to be an honor for a woman to participate in with overflowing joy!  Jesus suffered pain so that we would not have to.  And the pain that we do experience in pregnancy, labor, and motherhood can always be used by Him to bring forth something beautiful!

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God Needs Me?

“He can do all things without us, but He had chosen to do them through us.” – The Call by Rick Joyner

I was pregnant with baby number eight.  It had been three years since my last pregnancy, and I felt the strongest, the healthiest, the most alive I had ever felt!  That was…until the morning sickness settled in.  It was actually “all day but much worse in the evening sickness”.  I had not felt horribly nauseous during my previous pregnancies, more like continuous car sickness.  How I had wished I could stop the invisible car and just get out!  I was optimistic that this pregnancy would be the exception, that I could say with a smile on my face and a twinkle in my eye, “I love being pregnant!”

Just the opposite had happened.  I had never felt so bad!  My days consisted of sitting on the sofa with my eyes closed, trying to feel better.  My children ran around unattended.  Home school, which we should have started a month ago, remained untouched.  My older children did all the chores around the house and kept it running, though not as orderly or smoothly as I would have.  My precious firstborn girl, Areli, carried an enormous burden.  She heard my pitiful pleas all day long.

“Areli, could you make me some eggs?”

“Areli, could you fill up my water glass?”

“Areli, could you see who is crying upstairs, please?”

I tried to be a good mom; but mostly I whined, moaned, slept, felt sick, got sick, and slept some more.  I felt useless and wretched.  I knew theoretically that despite the weakened state of my body, my spirit could still soar high above my circumstances, like an eagle above the clouds.  Yet, after days, weeks, and months of feeling crummy, my eagle had forgotten how to fly.  My mind kept thinking about scriptures such as

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” 2 Cor 4:17

I knew that it was true, but it didn’t help me feel any better.

I thought about my joy in a newborn baby and how it was all worth it.

But it didn’t make me feel any better.

I reread every “Above Rubies” magazines I had ever received to encourage myself.

My mind was encouraged but my flesh still felt miserable!

My body felt like it was not capable to getting up off the sofa and doing anything productive or enjoyable, yet my mind continued to churn, swirling in descending circles.

“I just want to die.  I can’t live like this.  Why do I have to suffer?  Why does God allow me to feel so horrible?”

Pregnancy is such a miracle, a blessing, a gift!  So why did I feel so bad?  My suffering was nothing compared to other women I knew, who kept almost nothing down for nine months, yet my suffering felt like too much for me to bear.

The question I kept asking was, “Is this worth it?” and I knew that it was.  A new life is always worth it.  After a mother is holding that precious bundle, her sorrow is turned into joy.

Then the question became, “How much is a human life worth?  How much pain and sorrow is one life worth?  How much would I suffer for one human life?  Would I get pregnant and do this all again for one more human life?  How much is a life worth to God?  How much suffering did Jesus endure?”

The only conclusion I could come to was this; one human life is worth IT ALL!  There is no limit to the value God puts on a life, no price too high to pay, no suffering too severe.  Jesus suffered more than any of us.  He went through betrayal, slander, hatred, lies, scourging, mocking, and the cruelest execution ever conceived.  He felt the wretched, incurable sickness of the evil of the entire world. And he bore the effects of that twisted iniquity; separation with all that is good and beautiful and holy, his Father.

He said that his suffering was worth it because of the joy set before him. (Hebrews 12:2) That joy was human life, redeemed and set free.  He said that I am worth it.  He said that you are worth it.  He said that the child in my womb was worth it.  If Jesus was willing to suffer for my child, shouldn’t I?  After the suffering of His soul, he saw the light of life (my life, your life, my child’s life) and he was satisfied. (Isaiah 53:11)

I knew that my suffering wasn’t in vain, but I still didn’t feel any better.

“God, give me a vision of this child!  Something to keep me going,” I prayed.

In my mind’s eye I saw beams of life coming from this child and shooting out to the far reaches of the earth.  This child would be a blessing to me and my family, yes.  But he would also have an impact on the entire world!  How?  I have no idea!  But if I could have some small part in sending life to the whole of mankind, sign me up!

Then I heard God’s loving voice.

“Thank you for being available.  Without you, I couldn’t bring this child of destiny into the world.”

Then I felt the peace that only God’s voice can bring.  I felt His gratitude sink deep into my soul until I was saturated by the unbelievable goodness of it. God needs me?  The all powerful God NEEDS ME to be available?  What if I had said that seven children were quite enough, and that there were too many children in the world already?  THIS particular child, with unique DNA from his father and from me that could never be duplicated, would have never existed!  His very individual purpose and destiny would have never been manifested.  His precious personality, which was a dream in God’s heart since before the world began (Ephesians 1:4), would have never been realized.  And now he exists…because of me!  I cannot think of anything more powerful.  I cannot think of any higher honor for God to give me, than helping Him to create something of inestimable value and eternal impact.

I never could say during that pregnancy that I enjoyed being pregnant.  But I could say that pregnancy was when I relied on God the most and sensed His presence the closest and felt His glory the heaviest.  And the moment that precious Babe was born…I could say…

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HE WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT!