Hell0, 2017!

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I have a love/hate relationship with midnight, New Year’s Eve. I appreciate the opportunity to turn a new leaf, but I am very nostalgic, so I always cry as we bid farewell to another year. One year, Andrew and I took a getaway over New Year’s with two couples. While the other five were drinking sparkling cider and watching fireworks from the balcony, I was sitting inside with tears streaming down my face. It’s become a big joke…my friend Brittney always texts me to ask how my annual cry was. ;)

This year, I missed the countdown. My hubby was in bed and I was in the dark living room feeding my baby. I felt contented and peaceful as I looked at the clock and realized it was midnight, 2017. I didn’t cry.

I’ve come a long way in the past year. When I reflect on where I was at as of January 1, 2016, I am thrilled to see tangible ways that God changed and grew me. If I had to pick one word to describe my 2016 “journey” it would have to be “trust”. I continued down the path of learning to give my mommy anxiety to God and let Him care for my little ones. I gave our future job/ministry plans to God as we waited for Him to open doors. I let go of stressing about when God would give us another baby. Over and over, God met our needs and gave us answers, sometimes to questions we hadn’t even thought to ask. He showed me repeatedly that trusting Him is always best, and He is always faithful. I am so grateful for the work He did in me, through pain and through joy, and I look forward to 2017 with great anticipation for what He will accomplish!

In some ways, with the excitement of a new baby and Andrew’s completion of seminary, the New Year caught me off guard. So I’m behind on goals and plans. But here are a few scattered ones I’ve been mulling over for awhile. These are mostly practical/tangible. There are also many other ways I am asking God to grow me in godliness and Christlikeness this year.

I am purposing NOT to push through the days and “just try to make it” to crib time or bed time or Daddy getting home. All the frustrations and accidents and challenges that happen on our way to those times of respite are what these little years are made of. How can I wish them away?? I want to be very present and to enjoy my children even when it is hard to see past the spilled juice and the meltdowns and the blowouts. These sweet little souls will only be little for so long and I will choose to embrace this season, each part of it!

I hope to grow in my prayer life, to sieze many small opportunities to commune with God throughout my day. I have grown in being faithful to actually pray for people when I say I will, and I desire to be even more consistent in this and remember to check in with those I am lifting up.

I will seek to grow in having a “helper mindset” toward Andrew. To be flexible and adaptable, eager to free him up for ministry to others. I was dependedent on him so much last year when I was in the throes of pregnancy sickness, and I am excited to use my good health and energy this year to better serve and help him fulfill his callings. I want to be a gracious and humble wife, with low expectations.

I desire to train our children with their salvation and love for the gospel in mind. To correct for the purpose of showing them their need for Christ and His perfect fulfillment of that need, rather than for the purpose of making my life easier, making me look good, etc. I want to train them unselfishly with true, biblical love, and to be consistent and not lazy in my correction.

I will take consistent preventative measures to build up our immune systems as best we can, while knowing that God alone oversees our health. I did some research over the past few months and with Andrew’s permission, picked a few realistic things to create our new daily supplements “regimen”. They are a good probiotic (I’ll be rotating which one we take every few weeks), vitamin C, and cod liver/fish oil. I also just bought elderberries to make elderberry syrup, and we have almost entirely cut refined sugar from Caleb’s diet. I am still taking my prenatal vitamins, magnesium, and a large dose of Vitamin D daily, per my midwife. I hope these efforts help us achieve a healthier year, but I know that God is in charge of whether or not we get sick.

I hope to read six books. I hope I read more, but I figured I’d start with a super realistic goal and go from there. ;)

These are a few of my random goals for 2017, what’s left of it now that we’re in February. :) What are you working toward?

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{Mommy Journal} The Difference 15 Minutes Can Make

imageWell, here we are almost into February, and I’m still working on my list of 2017 goals. The New Year took me kind of by surprise, with a new baby and all. So far it’s been a stretching and fulfilling one and I am so eager to keep growing over the next twelve months.

I thought I would at least share one specific goal I came up with a few weeks ago, in case it resonates with other mamas. I am purposing to, whenever possible, leave the house 15-20 minutes before I actually need to. We live in an apartment, a flight of stairs and two doors from our parking garage, which makes getting two kiddos and their paraphernalia to the car a bit of an ordeal. Leaving really early will allow for my mom brain to go back inside for things I have forgotten, and give me time to address correction with Caleb if needed, without arriving late.

But more importantly, I want to stop rushing Caleb. When I leave with only minutes to spare, we have to hurry. Caleb likes to stop and pick up leaves on his walk down the steps. He spots bugs and wants to discuss them. He gets distracted by the construction across the street. He is two and he will only be two for 10 more months. I want to leave time for him to be a child, and for me to enjoy that. Our trips will be much more pleasant and peaceful if we can take our time walking down to the garage.

I’ve been implementing this simple goal, and already it has led to much happier treks to the car. I can interact patiently with my little man over his observations and discoveries. We make small memories and Caleb learns new things. It is a very simple and realistic decision that is already bearing sweet fruit.

I hope that one day when I look back on our LA apartment life, I will remember getting out the door with my little ones with a fond smile and a full heart.

A Letter to Our New Baby

IMG_0067Dear Seggie,

Just because you’re baby #2 doesn’t mean we love you any less. But your big brother sure does make life crazy, compared to when I was expecting him! Although I haven’t journaled weekly updates this time, I’ve kept up on how big you are each week and read about your developments just like I did when Caleb was still Yaffie. You are growing like a weed!

Daddy and I were so excited the day we found out about you, and we could hardly believe it was true. I felt all warm and fuzzy inside at the thought of another child to love and cuddle. It was so fun getting to tell our families in person and they were all just as excited as we were. As the days went on, you started to make me really sick. The weeks felt long, but I never for one tiny moment doubted that you were worth it. We talked about you a lot, what we would name you and when you might arrive–our little Christmas baby. We told Caleb about you and he learned to pat and kiss you through my tummy. We are reading books about being a big brother so that he will be ready when you arrive.

Gradually, I started to have some good days, after we hit 14 weeks. Between weeks 15 and 16, I started to feel some of your very subtle movements. On the Sunday I was 16 weeks, you danced to Psalm 139 put to music at church–so appropriate! We were singing about how God knew you before you were even formed in my womb.

Daddy first felt you playing at 16 weeks, 2 days. Your wiggles were soft but definitely there. Things really started getting real then. You were developing personality and we knew you could hear our voices. I feel you throughout the day now, and it brings a warm smile to my face.

We love you so much, sweet Seggie. We can’t wait to get to know you as the weeks progress. Will you be active and outgoing like your big brother? Or quiet and laid back? Will you love long snuggles, or will you be a squirmer? Will you devour books? Adore animals? Only time will tell.

Love,
Mommy

{Marriage Journal} A Baby Is Not An Escape

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Here are a few thoughts I drafted one month before Caleb was born, but never posted. 15 months later, I’m convinced more than ever that a solid marriage is the best foundation from which to begin adding children to the mix! =) 

Andrew and I are bursting with excitement to meet our first child sometime in the next several weeks. It’s truly a day we’ve talked and dreamed about for years, and it’s finally here.

Goodbye, Just Us

Saying hello to this beautiful new season of life called parenting has meant bidding farewell to an equally amazing time as just the two of us, and that makes me sad. Andrew is my very favorite person and best friend, and no matter how much one-on-one time we are blessed with, I could always enjoy even more. I’m never tired of his company, and when he is at school, I look forward to his return all day long. Sometimes we can’t even wait through his 20 minute commute and one of us calls the other when he’s out of class so we can start talking while he drives. =)

This is not to say that we do not sin against each other, behave selfishly, hurt one another’s feelings, have conflict, and hit bumps in the road, because we do. But thanks entirely to the grace of God, our relationship is characterized by unity and camaraderie. He has enabled us to establish the habit of keeping short accounts, so that matters of conflict are addressed quickly and willing forgiveness is granted regularly. This makes for an imperfect but oh, so sweet friendship. Praise God!

Hello, Parenthood

The natural progression of life is to start having children sometime after your wedding, and that’s a very good thing. But I think it would be easy to seek this “next step” of parenting as a means of escape from the monotony of a marriage that has become at best boring, or even downright unhappy.

Escape is never the right reason to begin having children. Adding babies to an unhealthy marriage is a sure way to make that marriage even worse. I cannot imagine navigating just the challenges of pregnancy with a husband I’m not close to, let alone trying to raise a little person(s) together. That sounds like the recipe for disaster.

If you happen to be someone currently married and pre-babies, I would encourage you not to crave that “next step” as a way to restore excitement or add a new distraction to your life. It may be wise to evaluate your relationship with your husband and take purposeful steps to help it flourish. (This is always a good idea, regardless of your season of life.) Pinpoint where you are sinning or slacking off in your marriage and ask the Lord to change you from the inside out and grow you into the wife He has called you to be. Communicate with your husband and work together to strengthen your friendship. Of course, all our people problems can be traced back to where our hearts are at with God, so this area of our lives must be addressed first.

Having children should be a joyful step that married couples decide to take as one happy unit. I don’t know this first hand yet, but I have observed that parenting is a team effort and should draw dad and mom closer to one another as they learn to lean on God through brand new challenges and responsibilities that children bring.

You’re Already a Family

Instead of thinking of “starting a family” as the morning you get a positive pregnancy test, think of your wedding day as that moment. You are a family, just the two of you. Soak up this precious season of life as “newlyweds” (even if it’s been years) and build into your friendship with your husband. After all, when the kids are grown and gone, you’ll be right back where you are now. If your littles were your escape from “just the two of you”, that doesn’t sound like a happy way to enter the “empty nesters” phase.

I know there are countless stories of unhappy couples having children, and God using parenting as a tool to refine the marriage and bring the husband and wife closer together. All is certainly not lost when babies are added to a rocky marriage. Praise the Lord! But it is ideal to work toward that healthy relationship before the kiddos come along, so consider how you might do that now. Never view a baby as an escape; instead ask the Lord to create a marriage you don’t want to escape from.

{Mommy Journal} The “Yes” Cupboard

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I have gleaned a lot of wisdom from experienced mothers throughout this journey thus far. I’m so thankful for God’s design of older women who can mentor and counsel and advise as we first-timers stumble along. I thought as time allows, I would start sharing little parenting tips that have been passed along to me.

An older wise woman in our Bible study, who has several of her own (almost) grown children and currently nannies little ones, strongly recommended having a “yes” cupboard in the kitchen: one cupboard that Caleb was allowed to get into and do anything he wanted with.

“You want him to be in the kitchen with you, don’t you?” she pointed out. “So designating a cupboard that he is allowed to play in is a great way to encourage him to ‘help’ you.”

DSC_0676This was around the age of 8 months, and although I liked the concept, I was skeptical that Caleb would understand the difference between the “yes” cupboard and all the other “no” cupboards. But I gave it a try, and sure enough, through training, Caleb learned within a couple of days which cupboard he had the green light on. He had already been taught that all the cupboards were off-limits, it wasn’t difficult to show him that one special cupboard was his to enjoy.

Now, he frequently joins me  in the kitchen and goes straight for his cupboard. I keep the pots and pans, a rice cooker, and a basket of bottle accessories in it. He usually pulls everything out and makes a racket, plants roadblocks for me to maneuver while cooking, and creates memories that I’ll treasure forever.

But Adoption’s Not For Us, Is It?

DSC_0104As I shared in my most recent blog post, God has used the recent Planned Parenthood “scandal” to awaken my heart to the plight of unborn children in our nation.

But it’s neat to see how, previous to these videos being released and my awareness of abortion being heightened, God was already stirring within me a desire to help needy children.

Around February, I began giving thought to orphans. When I saw firsthand how dependent our own baby was on us for all his needs, and how he responded to the simplest gestures of affection and tenderness, it broke my heart to consider kids who don’t experience even the most basic love and care.

It’s great to be a pro-life, pro-adoption Christian, but how could I act on those convictions? I had never “felt called” to adopt, although I loved seeing adoptive families in action. I wondered to myself, What if “being called” to adopt is nothing more than simply seeing the need and our obligation to help orphans, recognizing that I am equipped to fill the need, and taking the step to do so?

Well, as soon as I thought that, suddenly my heart became very drawn to the idea of adoption and I could hardly get it off my mind. God was definitely at work!

So about this time (March?), I casually raised the topic with Andrew. I wanted to let him know that it was something I’d started thinking about, and hear his thoughts. He shared that while he had never considered adopting, he was definitely open to it, but figured during seminary was probably not workable timing. I agreed.

But over the following weeks, we discussed adoption more and more. I began looking into the various avenues for adopting children and was staggered by 1) the huge need for adoptive families and 2) the astronomical costs for both international and domestic adoptions. Then I began researching adoption through foster care. I learned that while there are huge “risks” and major challenges to this route, it is also affordable…actually, free!

By this time, Andrew and I were talking and praying more and more seriously about pursuing adoption while still in seminary. We had begun reading Adopted for Life together, which approaches the theological, gospel-centered reasons to adopt. The Lord had now clearly laid the same burden for orphans on Andrew’s heart, and we were very much “in this” together, which excited me to no end!

I looked into a local Christian foster agency and made contact. We got more questions answered and sought some trusted friends for counsel. Finally, we pulled the first of many triggers…we filled out the application and scheduled a meeting in August with the agency!

Some of the “downsides” to foster care adoption are…

  • There is no guarantee that the child placed in your home will be adoptable, even after months or years of being part of your family. He/she is likely to be reunited with their parents or relatives, which is the first goal of foster care.
  • Many foster placements require regular visits with the biological family, which can be time-consuming and emotionally draining.
  • Foster children are extremely likely to have mild-to-extreme physical, emotional, developmental, or psychological damage, even when placed as newborns.
  • The process to adopt a child from foster care can drag on for years.

While much of what we learned in our meeting with the agency made us all-the-more passionate about fostering, we learned some new information that seemed to be direction from God that continuing to pursue adoption while in seminary was not wise. We were already “running out of time” anyway due to the fact that Andrew will, Lord-willing, graduate in spring 2017, and the additional details and rules regarding the process just did not mesh well with our current situation.

All of this was extremely disappointing. I had already begun to experience maternal emotions as I prepared my heart to welcome a new child into our home, and it was difficult to have that desire denied for the time being. At the same time, it was encouraging to have clear direction, and Andrew and I were thankful that we were 100% agreed about pressing the “pause” button.

All that said, we are very hopeful and excited that the Lord may allow us to seriously pursue adoption in the future! We don’t know exactly what that will look like, as there are many factors at play, but we are eager to see what child(ren) God might choose to gift us as we follow His leading! Even if adoption is not in our own future, we desire to be more involved in promoting it and supporting others who do take this step. We’ve come to realize that as Christians, we should all love and be involved in the care of orphans, but what that looks like will be different for every family.

I wanted to share all this to hopefully encourage anyone else whose hearts might be stirred toward taking an orphan into their family. It is a huge step, but God will enable and provide if adoption is in His plan for you. I’ve seen him do it for many wonderful families I know. If you begin considering adoption, it is crucial to be unified and communicative as a couple. It has been a wonderful thing to work through and talk about with Andrew! We’ve obviously only begun to scratch the surface of all that God might desire to teach us through this, but I am excited and thankful for where the discussion has taken us so far.

In the meantime, since we will not be pouring hours into getting certified, preparing our home, etc., as we had thought we would, I am finding other ways to be involved in the care of orphans and the defense of life. Stay tuned for some updates on doors God is opening in that area!

Also, if you’re looking for an inspiring, convicting, true story of sacrificial love for orphans, go watch The Dropbox!

“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)

“Sing to God, sing praises to His name; lift up a song for Him who rides through the deserts, Whose name is the LORD, and exult before Him. A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation.” (Ps. 68:4-5)

“How blessed is he who considers the helpless; The LORD will deliver him in a day of trouble.” (Ps. 41:1)