The Naming of Aria Iolani

It was an early Sunday morning in July.  Most of the family was still in bed.  I was on the computer Googling “names meaning eagle” and hoping no one would come down the stairs and see what I was doing.

I felt rather silly, looking up baby names.  I was 41.  I already had 9 beautiful children.  I had no reason to think that I would ever be blessed with another one.  I would say from time to time, “I think I would like to have a baby in my 40s.”  My husband would always respond, “You’re crazy.”

I felt a little crazy just then, but I felt compelled to do it.  I just had to know what names were out there that meant “eagle.”  Over the past few years God had used many amazing encounters to convince me that I was meant to be an eagle.  I was beginning to let go of who I thought I was (a quiet girl who was deathly afraid of heights) and believe who God made me to be.

I found many names that fit the bill.  However, I needed an “A” name for a girl and a “C” name for a boy to follow the pattern of all our other children.  I could find no suitable boy name, try as I might!  A girl’s name struck me as though it were jumping off the computer screen .

Aria Iolani

 Aria:

Hebrew from Ariel – lion or lioness of God

Italian – air, melody

Sanskrit and Persian – noble, honorable

Teutonic – intelligence of an eagle

Iolani (ee-oh-lahn-ee):

Hawaiian – hawk of royalty, bird of heaven, to soar like an eagle

How perfect!  How beautiful!  A dream had been planted in my heart; a tiny seed carrying the perfect name. A dream that I would one day have a daughter who would bear this name.  A daughter who would have the vision and intelligence of an eagle.  A daughter who would know her identity from the womb. She would not have to live 40 years on the ground before it began to dawn on her…she was meant to FLY!

A few months later, in December, I found that I was pregnant.  The revelation came at a time I didn’t expect.  It didn’t seem like the right time for another baby.  But …perhaps this dream in my heart had been a dream in God’s heart all along.  Perhaps now was THE TIME!

My oldest daughter, Areli, loved the girl’s name I had found!  The boys did not like it, mostly because they wanted the baby to be a boy.  Chris liked the named “Aria” but wasn’t sure about “Iolani.”  It was too hard for him to remember and pronounce correctly, and he thought it would difficult for others as well.

I checked out a bunch of books from the library about Hawaii since Areli was planning on going there for school in the next year or so.  I discovered that there is an Iolani Palace in Hawaii, the only royal palace in the United States.  That settled it.  “Iolani” was THE middle name!

I was excited but told myself that this baby could easily be a boy.  Soon sickness and other pregnancy discomforts (that I had never experienced before) came upon me.  The dream of “Aria Iolani” was still a lovely thought, but it was overpowered by the thoughts of a victim pleading for release from her prison.  I understood that all that was going on in my spirit was being experienced by my baby’s spirit as well.  I tried to be thankful and upbeat.  I tried to speak over my baby love and peace and truth.  Half the time I doubted the truth myself.  That God really loved me and that someday I would feel good again.

Many fears started to plague my mind.  What if there was something wrong with this baby?  What if there was something wrong with my body?  And the worst fear of all, what if this child had a chromosomal abnormality like Ashlyn had?  I love Ashlyn and I am still amazed that God would trust us with such a special child.  Still, I always thought that having two special children would be absolutely too much to handle, and I would break under the strain of it.  With each pregnancy there has been a small chance, and each time this fear rears its ugly head.  This pregnancy the fear was worse than usual, almost suffocating me at times.

I didn’t go to church for two months.  Finally I was feeling well enough to go to a Sunday morning service.  As I entered the balcony of the sanctuary, I heard the Helsers leading worship.  I felt the sweet presence of God, and I longed to linger there forever!  They were singing, “Mt. Zion.”

We have come to Mount Zion

City of the living God

Heavenly Jerusalem

By his blood we have come

I felt God’s presence.  I felt peace and joy.  I felt safety and security.  The fears dissipated.  Hope started rising.  This is where I should have been living this whole time.  This is where I wanted my baby to live, even in the womb.  I felt sad that I had been such a bad mother so far.  I had tried to abide in the presence of God in my own home.  But most of the time I just felt sick and discouraged.

Here at church I could feel His presence, as though Mount Zion was a reality I was dwelling in. The song continued:

Thousands of angels dance around his throne

Thousands more sing out new songs

And elders throw their crowns down

As all of heaven sings out

 

“Baby, this is where you are to live all the time,” I told the precious little one.

                “I know, mama.”

I heard a sweet little girl’s voice say these words.  At least I thought it sounded like a girl. I knew it was my baby.  This was very unexpected and unusual.  It wasn’t said in a sassy voice as if to imply that I was being dumb for thinking my baby didn’t already know this.

It was said in a comforting voice as if to say, “Mama, you worry too much.  I am just fine.  I just recently came to you from heaven.  I could see those angels in person, and I can see them still.  I am still surrounded by His presence.”

I felt more at peace than I had in a long time.  My baby was more aware of spiritual realities than I was.  She was most definitely an amazing child.  I began to remember all the fears I had confronted during previous pregnancies.  One by one those fears had fallen by the wayside, replace by peace.  Almost across board just the opposite had proven to be true.

I didn’t need to worry about this baby’s health, well-being, or intelligence.  She (or possibly he, I had to remind myself) was extraordinary…a super baby!  She (or he) had just spoken to me from the womb for goodness sake!

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On March 30th we had an ultrasound that revealed a perfect and beautiful baby girl!  My dream was growing inside me.

Aria Iolani

About four weeks before my due date, Aria dropped.  She was sitting low and I was uncomfortable.

“At least she is head down and in the right position.  She is getting ready to be born, and it won’t be long now,” I thought.

Each week she dropped a little lower.  Each week I was more uncomfortable.  I kept having signs that labor was near, but no real labor would come.  The last week, each day felt exponentially worse than the day before.  My due date, August 16th came and went, and Aria became my first baby that was actually late.

Finally my water broke the night of August 17th.  The next day labor still had not started, but my homebirth midwife came over to check on me.  I was already dilated to 5 cm and Aria was at +3 station.  The midwife said that babies normally are not that low unless the mom was already in labor.  We both thought that once labor started, Aria would be born quickly.  We were wrong.

Labor finally began around 3pm on August 18th but it progressed very slowly.  I was listening to worship music, scriptures, and birth affirmations.  I was enjoying God’s presence.  He was speaking to me and showing me visions of Himself.   Before I knew it, it was evening.  I didn’t feel like I was in transition even though I was dilated to 10.

Then it got difficult.  I never really had a difficult labor, so it was a new experience.  Aria was so close to being born, yet she wasn’t being born!  I am sure it was difficult for her too, but her heart-rate remained steady.  Finally after an ambulance ride, an epidural, Pitocin, and some sleep; Aria supernaturally came into the outside world at 2:33 am on August 19, 2018.  I felt no pain and consciously did nothing at all.

I simply slept and prayed, “Jesus, you do this because I can’t.”

I woke up to the slightest bit of pressure.  My midwife looked under my covers to see that Aria’s head was crowning!

She was born quickly and placed in my arms.  The rest of the room faded away.  There was only my baby.

Aria Iolani

She was beautiful and peaceful.  I noticed her eyes first.  They were open wide and moving slowly back and forth, scanning and taking it all in.  To me they looked like the eyes of an eagle.

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She is now six weeks old.  Aria had not been as sleepy as my other newborns.  She is more alert and her eyes are always looking.

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The midwife saw her at three weeks and said, “She seems more like a 6 week old that a 3 week old.”  At 3 ½ weeks she began to really look at our faces and smile! The most adorable smile.

Not all is prefect of course.  My recovery had been much slower this time.  Aria finds it hard to just fall asleep, and she spends a good amount of time crying when she is tired.  She also had the worst case of thrush I have ever seen.  Then came the baby acne.

But when I nurse her and look at her baby face, I am so thankful for the chance to have her as a daughter, my 10th child.

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What a rare and precious jewel.  When I prayed for her during my difficult pregnancy, God showed me so clearly that Aria is vitally important – to this family, to this world, and to eternity.  She was not an extra baby or an optional baby.  She NEEDED to be here.  Just like every single baby ever to be conceived.

Of course to me Aria is amazing!  Brilliant, observant, and born to fly.

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Aria Iolani

A dream come true.

Discouraged Much? Me Too!

I was looking forward to 2018 with great expectations.  This is what I wrote in my journal about the coming year.

The Best is Yet to Come

Best Year Yet

Open Doors

God Encounters

Becoming Eagles

When the New Year arrived, it came in a way that I didn’t expect.  During January and February I became very discouraged. Three major sorrows had come upon me.

Sorrow #1 – I felt sicker than I ever had in my life

I discovered that I was carrying a new child of destiny in my womb. It was a dream come true, and I was elated!  I felt wonderful with my last pregnancy, so I thought this one would be even better.  Wrong!  I had never felt so weird and nauseous before.  I had never thrown up so much before!  I have never had hot flashes and cold chills before.

When I believed that 2018 would be the year that I would become an eagle, I imagined writing more.  So many beautiful God stories were in my heart, crying out to be crafted into words.  Maybe I would even put together a manuscript and work on a book!  For Christmas my husband and children surprised me with a new laptop…OF MY VERY OWN!  I was so surprised and excited!

I also thought I would be able to be more involved at church.  Oh, all the beautiful times of prayer and worship and God encounters that awaited me!

Yet January and February found me sitting on the sofa or sleeping in my bed with a weak body and a fuzzy brain.  It was hard to think about anything except how to avoid throwing up again. I tried to write, but I couldn’t.  Sitting at the computer even for a few minutes made me feel even sicker!  (It still does so this article was a bit of a struggle to produce.)  I didn’t go to church at all.

Sorrow #2 – Finances

God was going do wonderful things in our finances this year.  I was sure of it!  Early in the New Year Chris got promoted to full-time at UPS.  This was amazing, happening more quickly than usual.  However, it didn’t play out so well in real life.  First of all, peak was over, so his hours went from 70 hrs to 50-55 hrs a week.  That is normal, just life at UPS.  However, because of a rule that says all full-time employees have to be paid for at least 8 hours each day they are called in to work, Chris lost the opportunity to pick up 4 hours of air-rate overtime on Saturdays.  This had a significant impact on each paycheck.  In addition, full-time employees have to pay more union dues.  We had less instead of more, and it was feeling like a struggle again.

Sorrow #3 – Lack of Healing

It has been difficult for me to believe in miraculous healing.  I do believe theoretically, but I just haven’t had much experience in my own life.  This year I felt faith arising!  Perhaps this was the time that I would see healing with my own eyes!  We were planning a double foot surgery for Ashlyn, but what if God would heal her first?

I took Ashlyn to a healing room.  It was lovely, and the people were beautiful, and I felt the goodness of God.  Prayers were prayed, but nothing happened with Ashlyn that I could see.

They also prayed for me for two specific health problems.  The following week those two issues became significantly worse. Talk about being discouraged!

One of those issues was varicose veins.  I had bad veins in my right leg since my 4th pregnancy which was 14 years ago.  14 years of no shorts, no dresses.  14 years of feeling rather ugly and old.  Last June I had the worst vein removed and the faulty vein repaired.  It took three days of surgery with local anesthesia.  It required one incision and 58 small holes.  The recovery was more painful than I had expected, and I wondered if it was really worth it.

It was supposed to heal and leave me with a normal looking leg.  Yet I had to attend my daughter’s High School Graduation in baggy, frumpy pants to accommodate the bandages.  I developed a dream in my heart that encouraged me greatly.  My son’s graduation would be next June.  I would attend that important event in a pretty summer dress!

In this New Year, I was so excited to be pregnant without those horrible veins!  No pain, no awful compression stockings!  As this pregnancy progressed, I noticed pain in my leg again.  It was awhile before I realized that it was new veins popping out on the back of my leg.  The leg that still bore 59 little scars.  Slowly the veins traveled down my entire leg.  After receiving prayer, they began to hurt so much that I had to wear a compression stocking.

My beautiful dream had officially died a pathetic and mournful death!

The Sorrows are so small

Now that I am in my second trimester, I can look at my life and see a hundred joys outnumbering those three little sorrows.  I can give thanks for a thousand different blessings each day!!!

Still, I feel discouraged.  If only things were a little different in certain areas.  If only I didn’t feel my faith slipping away.

One Sunday morning during worship I gave my discouragement to God.  Still I wished for my sorrows to be gone.  Then God helped me to realize.

There is something Deeper (than my reality).

There is something more Real (than my circumstances).

There is something more Important (than my discouragement).

Like this baby growing healthy and strong.  Like the delight that God has when He looks at me.  Like the fact that this suffering is nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed in me, the glory that will be revealed in my daughter.  Like my character being formed into the character of Christ.

Like Becoming An Eagle!

I had asked God to transform me into an eagle this year.  To help me to worship Him until the wind of His presence surrounded me.  To help me to stretch out my wings in faith.  To teach me to fly.  To teach me to see EVERYTHING from His higher perspective.

He has been answering my prayer this whole time.  No one ever learns to do something new without practice.  All these sorrows are training me to rise above and SEE!

Your eyes will see the King in his beauty, and the highlands of heaven far away.” Is 33:17 Living Bible

This has been His promise to me.  I have asked Him to help me live in it.  I have asked for a difficult thing…

But it is worth it!

 

P.S. Just a note to all of my followers.  I am so delighted that you enjoy my writing! I probably will not be posting much until August or September when I hope that I will be reconciled to my laptop.  Praying you will bask in all the joys!

P.P.S. Ashlyn’s surgery well very well!  She has been recovering beautifully and I am so thankful.

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.

 

They are Lifting Their Brave Little Heads

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It is still winter in Central Pennsylvania despite the fact that it becomes spring today.  Spring seems to be talking much too long to catch up with the calendar.  Breakthroughs in our business and personal lives seem to be taking much too long to break through.  This baby seems to be taking much too long to grow.  It is true that I am not even to my due date yet, being 35 weeks.  Yet my body keeps complaining that surely it must time, that it cannot continue under this heavy load any longer.

A week ago I started having signs of preterm labor.  This has never happened in any of my previous eight pregnancies.  It was weird and unexpected and unsettling.  I would have loved to give birth and be done with pregnancy.  I would have loved to hold my little girl in my arms!  Yet, it just wasn’t time yet.  She wasn’t ready yet, and who knows what problems could have popped up.  I would have to forfeit my cozy homebirth for a hospital birth where every little bit of the process is monitored.  My tired and sore body feels like it cannot go on…yet it can and it must.  Just a few more weeks!
Thankfully the contractions went away and peace has settled again.  What’s a few more weeks?  It is a privilege and an honor to provide a safe place for my baby to grow until the fullness of time.  I would continue past my due date if I had to (though I sincerely wish I do NOT have to!)

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My daughter took some lovely pictures that caused me to take heart again and see the beauty of the here and now.

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This brave little robin and these courageous young crocuses have lifted their heads despite the adversity to become harbingers of a new season.

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They proclaim that nothing can hold back the sunshine and warmer temperatures!  No woman is pregnant forever!  Every promise has it’s time of fulfillment!  And it will be the perfect time and well worth the wait.

 

Christmas and the Seasons of My Life

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I love the Christmas season.  I am sorry to see it end so quickly.  As I enjoyed the sights and sounds and smells of this glorious time, I remembered all of the Christmases that I have known.

As a child, the magic of Christmas emerged from the basement and took residence in our home once again, as we hung our stockings, trimmed our tree and set up the manger scene.  I would study the solemn cast of characters in the small wooden stable all covered with moss.  I would lie under our artificial tree, looking up through the branches at the multicolored lights and soak in the wonder of it all.  We would attend our Quaker Meeting’s yearly tradition; a potluck dinner (with an entire room full of desserts) followed by a carol sing and candlelight service.

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I would sit on a bench in that meeting room surrounded by the scent of evergreen branches and the flickering, golden light.  I would listen to the members of the congregation read the Christmas story from the Bible.  The words sounded so beautiful and sacred to me.

I remember the Christmases of my teenage years.  I had a small group of friends who were all very talented singers.  I could sing a melody clear and true.  My friends could harmonize any song in the most beautiful way.  We began a tradition of gathering at my house and then venturing out into the cold to sing carols to my neighbors.  The most beautiful music I have ever heard was made by our voices lifted into the frosty night air.  I felt so blessed to be a part of that wonderful sound of praise.  I have not been able to make such beautiful melodies matched with such lovely harmonies since that season, and I miss it, especially at Christmas.  I console myself with the thought that someday heaven will be filled with music like that all the time!

I think back to our very first Christmas as a married couple.  We were excited to have some family and friends over to our very first place for Christmas dinner.  It was only a tiny apartment with no real furniture, but it was ours.  We got a little tree and decorated it with the set of tiny, wooden ornaments that my grandmother had given us…our only ornaments!

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Those precious little things have since gone into hiding, being choking hazards and not suitable for a house perpetually inhabited by at least one baby and one toddler.  But that Christmas, there were no babies yet.  I wanted to make some dessert for our dinner, yet I hadn’t planned ahead.  I had only flour, sugar, and some Hershey Kisses.  I made a trip to the closest gas station (the only place open on Christmas morning) and made some short bread.  That evening, everyone piled into our small kitchen to eat around card tables, and it seemed a very joyous occasion.

I remember Christmases with little ones.  It was hard to keep the ornaments on the tree, and the wrapping paper was much more appreciated than the gifts themselves.  I remember the 7 Christmases that I was pregnant.  I wasn’t feeling very good during most of those, and didn’t care if we even put up a tree.  But I still enjoyed the joy and excitement in those little faces.

One of our children was conceived over the Christmas holiday.  What a precious gift!  The baby was a boy, and all our boys have names that begin with the letter “C.”  Chris and I joked that we should name him, Colorado Christmas Conception.  We decided to go with Chai Erik instead!

This year was a lovely Christmas.  I was pregnant but feeling very good!

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We had our 8th annual Christmas party with a house full of friends and caroling around the neighbor hood.

Chai demonstrating the joy of caroling!

Chai demonstrating the joy of caroling!

We attended the candlelight service at our church and felt that holiness again.  On Christmas morning our house was full of two parents, one grandmother, teenagers, preteens, children, and a toddler.

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We had a little of everything from toys to video games,

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from big helpers to little messer-uppers.

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  A glorious chaos of noise and joy,

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frustration and love!

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I wanted to soak in every detail of the present Christmas, as I knew it would never come around again.

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The teenagers will be thinking about college.  The preteens will become teens.  The younger ones will grow into more mature ones.

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We will get older and wiser and never be quite the same people we are right now.  Only God knows what each new Christmas will bring.  My vision of Christmas future is a huge dining room table surrounded by my children, their spouses, and their children; my grandchildren!  There could end up being quite a lot of them…perhaps 10, 20, 30, or more!

Looking back over all the Christmas seasons of my life there is a common thread.  Always there is Jesus, lying in the manger; whether he is small or large,

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made from wood or ceramic,

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set up high on a self or cradled in the arms of a child.

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Jesus is always there.  Yet the baby Jesus is just a symbol…a symbol of God’s amazing, crazy, unfathomable love!

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Jesus is a baby so longer.  He grew and became a man.  He pleased his Father in every way.  He was obedient in everything, even obedient to die on a cross.  He was revealed as the Lamb that was slain before the foundations of the world.  He decided to die for us before any of us were even here.  He set us free to enjoy all the wonderment and joy that the human heart can possess!

Yet looking back, I also see him as a Lion.  The Lion of the Tribe of Judah, always at my side, whether I knew He was there or not.  A strong and ferocious kind of God; violent in dealing with my enemies and fears and doubts, unrelenting in His jealousy for me, bold and courageous in the ways He loves me, yet soft and gentle when He draws me near.  That Lion was always with me; during the innocent years of childlike faith when I would talk to Him every night before falling asleep.  During the cynical early teenage years when I sat in that candlelight service and thought how foolish someone must be to believe that a baby born in Bethlehem was actually God.  During my last years in High School, discovering the wonder of a real God who loved me just as I was.  During my young married years when I didn’t know very much about anything.  During all of the pregnancies and births and babies and toddlers and growing and learning and sorrows and joys.  Jesus was there!

The Great I AM limited Himself to the smallness and helplessness of a baby just so He could always and forever BE WITH US!  May we never get over the miracle of Christmas; that the Lion and the Lamb, the Almighty God IS WITH US!  And we can spend eternity exploring the height and depth and breadth of His great love for us.

Merry Christmas!!!

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!