Thursday, December 27, 2007

Havilah's Expanded Birth Story

My midwife asked me for an expanded version of Havilah's birth story for her website. So here goes, for anyone who's interested in more detail! It's actually a lot more than her birth, but I wanted to include some of our journey along the way - what led us to homebirth.

***

This would be our fourth birth, and we were very excited! My husband, Mark, and I were so thankful for another blessing from the Lord. When we were feeling very frustrated as parents, and were prepared to stop having children after having two, the Lord surprised us when we prayed for His guidance. His answer, that very week that we were praying, was "have as many as I bless you with!" This was an answer that didn't match up with what anyone around us was doing. But we knew that He would help us in our frustration and lead us down this new path. He was certainly faithful in doing so, and we were excited to welcome another new life from Him since that answer to prayer!

Our previous births were steps (unknowingly) taking us toward having a water birth at home. In 2000, our first son was born in a Phoenix hospital with the help of a midwife. Besides the joy we felt regarding his birth, it was a terrible experience due to the interventions that were taken. Our midwife was part of my OB/Gyn office, and she may as well have been an obstetrician, due to her philosophy on birth. My husband would go into the bathroom to cry at times because of the pain I was experiencing. My son was posterior and the pitocin amplified the pain and took the breaks down to practically nothing between contractions. On top of that, the pitocin brought on nausea and vomiting. After three hours of pushing and threats of a C-section, I was given an episiotomy and finally gave birth to our son, Pierce.

In 2002, we planned to go to a hospital again, this time in San Diego. I was under the impression that I'd better stick with a hospital, since my first baby seemed 'stuck' and an episiotomy was 'necessary.' But just two weeks before my due date, our doctor called us 'crazy' when reviewing our birth plan (which was very basic, practically copied from Dr. Sears' book) and informed us that birth was not a natural process. I was so upset, especially while in my nesting phase, that my doctor was revealing his true colors this close to the birth. But I knew that I did not want him at our birth. I checked out the Best Start Birth Center in downtown San Diego and we decided to have our son there (we were not educated about home birth at this point). When the time came, we drove to the birthing center - 45 excruciating minutes - and I was dilated to 9 cm at my arrival. Though my son was posterior, and I pushed for two hours, it was an amazing birth. It was wonderful not having pitocin, because I was able to experience breaks between contractions. I also enjoyed laboring in the water (I ended up birthing on a birthing stool), and we loved the peaceful atmosphere. We had Jaden in the afternoon, and were home again putting our toddler to bed by 8 PM that night!

For our third birth in 2005, in Houston, we decided to have a home birth. After getting together with a few midwives in the area, we decided on Cathy. She had an easy manner about her and certainly had a lot of experience (including her own!). I enjoyed the peaceful 30 minute drives to Cathy's home for our prenatal care. For the birth, we rented a hard-sided birthing tub which would allow me to labor in deeper water than the garden tub in our bathroom. I had labored in a large tub for my previous birth, but my belly stuck out of the water which felt very uncomfortable. Sure enough, laboring in the deeper tub was wonderful. But I got out to move into different positions because our son was posterior (for the third time!). Our third son was born as I squatted by our bed after doing a 'tug of war' exercise with my husband that helped move my son down after 2 to 3 hours of pushing. It was helpful laboring in the birthing tub and being in the comfort of our own home for the birth of Elijah.

During this fourth pregnancy, I experienced something new... fear of the pain of childbirth. During transition with my third labor, this same fear had gripped me - the reality of what I was about to experience again. But it was new to be dwelling on it throughout pregnancy. For a few months with this fourth pregnancy, every night before I fell asleep, my mind would go in circles over the pain. I have a high pain tolerance, and though my first birth was difficult, I felt a sense of accomplishment. Then with each new pregnancy I would have expectations that it would be different - easier - somehow. It will be easier because it's my second birth... and then it will be easier because I'm exercising through the pregnancy. But with this fourth pregnancy, I did not have those expectations. I was coming to terms with the fact that childbirth just might not get 'easier!' But the fear gripping me was not from God, and I came to Him repeatedly in prayer. He answered my prayer and lifted that fear, so that my mind did not dwell on pain for the second half of the pregnancy.

Friday morning, six days before my due date, I awoke to a sudden leak in my bed at 6 AM. It wasn't much at all - perhaps a couple of tablespoons - so I wasn't sure if my water had broken. My water had never broken on its own with either of my three previous pregnancies, so I wasn't sure. I began to assume that I'd just had a little accident for some reason, since nothing else happened that day. But leaking resumed at around 7 PM, when we were at a park after having a dinner picnic. With my water leaking to my ankles, I knew that I hadn't had an accident that morning after all! But labor still had not started. We headed home and called Cathy. After discussing the situation with her, we decided that it would be best to get a good night's rest before inducing labor the next morning. Induction seemed the right thing to do since I had tested positive for beta strep. Our hope, however, was that labor would start on its own during the night so we could avoid induction and antibiotics.

When Cathy arrived Saturday morning, we started induction with a breast pump for one hour, and she started the IV of antibiotics to guard against the beta strep. I was pleased to hear that my baby was still anterior - a first for me, after three posterior labors! Natalie was there to assist for the day. Cathy and Natalie accidentally both wore the same t-shirt, which read "Before Moses Delivered Israel, Shifra & Puah Delivered Moses." My husband, Mark, and I really liked that. It was neat having Cathy and Natalie there, since they were both present for Elijah's home birth in February 2005.

After a (very uncomfortable!) check to 'stir things up' which showed that I was at 5 cm, we headed out for an acupuncture appointment for induction just before noon. Mark was feeling terrible with a cold, so he stayed home to rest. We were thankful for our dear friend, Alicia, who had come over to play with our three boys, take them to the park, Chick Fil A, and her home. Without her help, Mark would not have been able to nap, which he desperately needed in preparation for the birth.The breast pump had caused some contractions which were lasting about 30 seconds. The check that Cathy did intensified the discomfort of the contractions. Then, after the acupuncture appointment, the contractions were very uncomfortable, and lasted about 45 seconds each. It felt strange to be out driving around with Cathy and Natalie. The company and conversation was great, but this was a strange home birth! Despite the contractions, we decided to stop and have lunch, though I was starting to long to come home once we arrived at the restaurant. The chiropractor, Dr. Elliott, was only 5 minutes away, so we decided that it wouldn't hurt to go there for an induction adjustment after having lunch. Normally, Dr. Elliott does four induction adjustments, 15 minutes apart. After the first adjustment, Cathy suggested that I walk up and down the stairs while we waited for the next one. After walking up the stairs and halfway back down, I'd already had two very strong contractions. The fear and reality of the pain ahead came upon me, and I just wanted to go home. I crouched on the stairs and cried, and Cathy came and prayed over me. We decided to head home.The 15 minute drive home was very uncomfortable, with hard labor. Calls were made for Mark to have the birthing tub ready, which he had already done, and to have the front door unlocked. Though he was able to lay down and rest while we were gone, he was feeling terrible with a fever. Arrangements were made for Alicia to return home with the boys, and to bring along Ashlee, one of their favorite babysitters. We are so thankful for their help!

When I arrived home at 2:50 PM, I was desperate to get inside. I came down on all fours in the driveway through a contraction, and then made my way into the house. After using the bathroom, I changed into a tank top and a swimming skirt and got into the birthing tub. What a relief to slip into that warm water and feel it support my body! It was also soothing to hear music playing which I had prepared for labor, helping me to focus on the Lord and my surrender to Him. Labor had come on strong and fast, and there didn't seem to be the breaks that I longed for, perhaps due to all of the induction measures that we took. I was reminded of the labor I had with my first son in the hospital, when I was induced using pitocin, and didn't have breaks between contractions. The pain felt unbearable, and I so longed for it to be over - to be sitting on my bed, holding my baby.

Once I began pushing, I felt encouraged to measure progress using my finger, feeling my baby's head. What soft, soft skin! After each push, I would hold up my finger, marking on my finger how far back the baby's head was. Gradually, the mark was moving closer to my fingertip. This was different from past experiences, where the baby's head could be seen or felt, but tended to stay put. After pushing for a while, I was determined to speed things up. Mark and I began our "tug of war" trick that worked well for me in the past - but this time we did it while I remained in the birthing tub. I really wanted to stay in the tub and have a water birth! With Mark on the outside of the birthing tub and my feet on the inside wall of the birthing tub, we gripped hands and pulled through contractions. This brought the baby down quickly toward the end. As the baby came out, Cathy worked to maneuver the baby's shoulders. Relief and thankfulness poured over me as I scooped my baby out of the water and kissed that soft head! With three boys, I just knew that I'd had another boy (and I would have been thrilled to have four boys), but to my surprise, this baby in my arms was a girl! Havilah Praise was born with just 45 minutes of pushing - a record for me! - at 4:21 PM, October 20, 2007. She weighed in at 8 lbs., 3 oz. and measured 21 inches. Though I wouldn't wish for a fast, intense birth after experiencing one, I was certainly thankful that the induction worked and we were able to have a healthy home birth, and a water birth at that!

"Havilah" can be found in Genesis 2. The river that ran through the garden of Eden split into four headwaters. The first, the Pishon, wound through the land of Havilah, where there was gold. I first heard the name "Havilah" in the movie "Fiddler on the Roof." One of the daughters was named Havilah, and there is a beautiful song and dance about her. I love the name for its 'softness.' We also love the nickname "Hava" which means "life." We praise the Lord for the incredible blessing of life He has given us!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Smiling for the Camera


Havilah's been smiling for a few weeks now, but not so frequently that it's easy to catch her for a picture. When Mark took these pictures, she was responding to Pierce's big smile.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Jesus Lights!


Hello! This is Mark, making my first post to our blog! There are a lot of things I'd like to post here but there always seems to not be enough time.

Pierce, Jaden, Elijah and I spent a lot of time in the garage the past few days working on this project. We wanted to do something different with our Christmas lights this year; something that proclaimed Christ to those around us. This is what we came up with.

The boys enjoyed sawing, testing lights, screwing in screws and especially, climbing dad's ladders! Just for reference, the middle 'S' is 7.5 feet tall.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

Clogged Kitchen Sink

Our kitchen sink has been clogged for a week. I appreciated Mark's silly note Friday morning reminding me not to use it. And no, many of those are not real languages.

Mark tried everything, including renting a 50 foot snake from Home Depot (is my lingo correct?)... Anyway, nothing worked. He's been running the situation by brilliant minds for days. Everyone was stumped.

We actually prayed over the sink. Wouldn't you know, this morning it is clear as can be? Lesson learned... pray first.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Jaden - Ready for Bed?

So, this is how Jaden came out to say goodnight. And yes, I edited the photo and added the black square. That was not a part of the original costume. : ) Very interesting.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sunshine at the Park

After a good night with Havilah (each night is better than the one before - yay!!), I emerged from the bedroom at 11 AM, feeling rested. The relentless Houston summer broke shortly after Havilah was born, and I've been longing to go outside. So we went to the park and ate lunch, and I rested on the bench and enjoyed the sun for a bit. Havilah enjoyed the sun for a few minutes, but spent most of her time cozy in the sling, protected from the breeze.



Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Havilah - 4 days old!




I was telling my mom that the pictures we take don't seem to pick up on Havilah's dark hair color - they all make her hair look lighter than it is. I took these without flash, and the color is closer to the chestnut brown that it is.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Havilah Praise

We decided on a middle name. She is Havilah Praise! With her nickname being "Hava," which means "life," we find that this name fits how we feel. We praise the LORD for this new life, and pray that her life will be one lived for Him.

The boys are always eager to take turns holding Havilah. Mark is having a hard time finding a chance to hold his new daughter. It's a very good problem to have!


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Havilah!

Our special day has come! Havilah arrived at 4:21 PM today, weighing in at 8 lbs, 3 oz & measuring 21 inches. We are still pondering her middle name. We are so thankful that she is healthy and was able to be born at home.

Yesterday my water broke, and since I tested positive for beta strep, we decided with our midwife, Cathy Rude, to induce this morning. Mark came down with a terrible cold yesterday, so we were thankful for our friend Alicia to come over and play with the boys, take them to the park, Chick Fil A, and her home.

When Cathy arrived this morning, we started induction with a breastpump for one hour, and she started the IV of antibiotics to guard against the beta strep. Another great midwife, Natalie Wommack, was there to assist for the day. They accidentally both wore the same t-shirt, which read "Before Moses Delivered Israel, Shifra & Puah Delivered Moses." : )

After a check which showed that I was at 5 cm, we headed out for an acupuncture appointment for induction before noon. The breastpump had caused some contractions which were lasting about 30 seconds. After the acupuncture appointment, the contractions were very uncomfortable, and lasted about 45 seconds each. We decided to stop and have lunch, though I was starting to long to come home once we arrived at the restaurant.

The chiropractor was only 5 minutes away, so we decided that it wouldn't hurt to go there for an induction adjustment. Normally, she does four induction adjustments, 15 minutes apart. After the first adjustment, Cathy suggested that I walk up and down the stairs while we waited for the next one. After walking up the stairs and halfway back down, I'd already had two very strong contractions, and was feeling very fearful and wanting to go home. I crouched on the stairs and cried, and Cathy came and prayed over me. We decided to head home.

The 15 minute drive home was very uncomfortable, with hard labor. Calls were made for Mark to have the birthing tub ready, which he had already done, and to have the front door unlocked. Though he was able to lay down and rest while we were gone, he was feeling terrible with a fever. Arrangements were made for Alicia to return home with the boys, and to bring along Ashlee, one of their favorite babysitters. We are so thankful for their help!

Once I arrived home at 2:50 PM, I got into the birthing tub, which helped incredibly with the pain. Labor had come on strong and fast, and there didn't seem to be the breaks that I longed for, perhaps due to all of the induction measures that we took. After pushing for a while, Mark and I began a "tug of war" trick that worked well for us in the past. With him on the outside of the birthing tub, we gripped hands and pulled through contractions. This brought Havilah down quickly toward the end. Thankfully, she was born just a couple of hours after hard labor began, at 4:21 PM. We're so thankful that the pushing phase was only 45 minutes, as I've only experienced 2 to 3 hours with posterior births in the past. What a wonderful change!

We were shocked to find that our new baby is a girl! Though we weren't 'trying' for a girl, we are all thrilled to have one. Jaden has especially been hoping that he'd have a baby sister.

Our friend Melissa arrived after the birth, and agreed to stay the night to help, since Mark was sick. We so appreciate all of her hard work with the boys and the housework.

To answer the questions, Havilah can be found in Genesis 2. The river that ran through the garden of Eden split into four headwaters. The first, the Pishon, wound through the land of Havilah, where there was gold. I first heard the name in the movie "Fiddler on the Roof." One of the daughters was named Havilah, and there is a beautiful song and dance about her. I loved the name for it's 'softness.' We also love the nickname Hava which means "life." Thank you, LORD, for this incredible blessing of life!

The birthing tub.

Cathy wearing her snazzy shirt.


Jaden checking out the placenta with Cathy.

Proud big brother Pierce.


Havilah, Pierce & Momma


Havilah!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Home Visit

Today was our home visit with our midwife, Cathy, and her assistant, Connie. It's exciting to be to this point! Typically, I drive to Cathy's home for appointments. But four weeks before the due date, Cathy comes for a home visit to make sure everything is ready for the big day. We have the birthing tub set up in our bedroom, and all of the supplies handy. Cathy took my blood pressure and we listened to the baby's heartbeat, like we do at every appointment. Elijah likes to stick close to me and see what's going on. He's just really not too sure about Cathy and what she's doing to me, even though I assure him that everything is 'fine' and 'fun!'

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Great Day on the Beach

Today we surprised the boys by going to the beach at Galveston. We had lunch downtown at Treebeards (yummy Cajun food!), then 'got lost' and went the wrong way home. Jaden was quite concerned as we drove over the long bridge to Galveston, but ten minutes later tried to convince us that he 'knew all along!' The weather was perfect, with a nice soft breeze. It was blissful sitting in the shade, watching Mark play with the boys (at 8 months pregnant, it was nice to take it easy).

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

10 Years... and Great Steak, too!

We enjoyed a special meal to celebrate that we met ten years ago today. I'm so thankful to be blessed with Mark - he's a gift... an answer to prayer.

This is quick & easy to prepare, but oh so good!

Filet with Peppercorn Mustard Sauce

4 thick slices beef tenderloin
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2/3 cup whipping cream
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. drained green or pink peppercorns

If the peppercorns you're using are dried, then let them soak 15 minutes in water. Trim any fat from steaks, and season with salt, pepper and crushed garlic, rubbing it in.

Heat butter and oil in a heavy frying pan, and saute steaks on both sides for 5 minutes, or until cooked to your liking.

Remove steaks to a heated platter. Add cream to pan, stirring to get up crusty bits from the bottom. Add mustard and peppercorns and continue stirring over low heat until sauce thickens a little. Taste for seasoning, spoon over steaks. Serves 4.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Lifehouse Everything Skit



Thought this was very effective at showing some realities our eyes aren't typically open to. There is a real battle going on...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Our Favorite Hummus

I've been experimenting, and I think this is it!

2 cups drained canned chickpeas, liquid reserved
1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste), with some of its oil
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus oil for drizzling
3 cloves garlic, peeled, or to taste
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
Juice of 2 lemons

Process everything in a food processor; add the chickpea liquid or water as needed to allow the machine to produce a smooth puree. Serve, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with a bit more paprika. Great with pita bread or pita chips, sliced tomatoes, and feta cheese on the side. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley, if desired.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Exhaustion and Smiles

I'm exhausted. Last week Mark was in Honduras for a mission trip (I hope he'll get to post about it!), and the week without him just about did me in. Besides missing him immensely during those chaotic times when I was on my own getting three little ones to bed, a close friend went through a crisis that sent me for an emotional loop. I missed Mark's emotional support terribly. Praise God, He's got my friend in the palm of His hand, and she's healing.

Back to the less important topic of my exhaustion. Why am I awake at 5:00 a.m.? Elijah cried out at 2:30 a.m., but I was able to fall back asleep. However, my brain clicked into a different gear when Elijah cried out at 3:30 a.m. Mark kindly got up again and was able to fix the problem - Elijah had a little rash and needed a new diaper. Must be those terrible cloth diapers we use (hey, hey, that's just a joke - they actually help prevent diaper rash! : ) Despite the fact that all was well, my brain was 'on' due to pregnancy hormones. I finally gave up after trying to fall back asleep for an hour, and came to the computer, where I discovered something silly that I want to share. Very timely. So, here's to all you parents who sacrifice more than you figured you would for your precious children. I hope it makes you chuckle.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Jaden the Ring Bearer

Today was a great day - Jaden got to be the ring bearer for Jacob & Sharon's wedding. Jacob is the oldest of my dear friend Alicia's four children. As I sat with Pierce in the front row, ready for Jaden to sit by us after standing at the front for a couple of minutes, a feeling of thankfulness came over me. For now, even with the challenges and chaos, my sons are still home. Their departures and weddings are still a ways off. I know it will fly by, but it was nice to get that reminder today - they're still in the nest. I gave Pierce an extra tight hug...

Monday, July 30, 2007

Epicurious... Yummy Quiche!

I just love http://www.epicurious.com/. We have found many of our favorite meals through that site. Here's my recommendation... type the ingredient in the search bar that you're interested in, then once the results pop up, sort the results by "Rating" instead of "Best Match." Give it a try with burgers and you'll discover the best burger we've ever tasted (listed down a few)... the Jamaican Jerk Burgers with Orange-Chipotle Mayonnaise. And don't let the name scare you; they're not hard to make.

Tonight I tried the Cheese & Chile Quiche, made with roasted poblanos. It was really yummy served with red salsa and sour cream, with pinto beans as a side (black beans would have been better, but we were out of them). I changed some things up from the original recipe (like not making a homemade crust!), so here goes:

Cheese & Chile Quiche

2 frozen deep dish pie crusts
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 large poblano chiles, roasted and peeled
9 large eggs
1 1/3 cup whole milk
2/3 cup Mexican crema (can use heavy cream, but I went for the Mexican crema)
3 tablespoons finely grated white onion
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup white corn
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
12 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, coarsely grated (3 to 3 1/2 cups)

Roast poblanos by placing directly under broiler, turning every 5 minutes until skin is blistering all over. Remove from the oven and place in a bag for 10 minutes to allow the steam to soften the skin, making it easy to peel off by hand.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Mince garlic and mash to a paste with salt using side of a large knife. Discard seeds, ribs, and stems from poblano chiles, then pat dry if necessary and cut into 1/3-inch-wide strips. Saute onions in butter until almost transparent. Whisk together eggs, milk, crema, onion, garlic paste, and black pepper in a large bowl until just combined, then pour into unbaked frozen pie crusts. Sprinkle cheese and chiles over custard (chiles will sink slightly) and bake until custard is just set, 50 to 60 minutes. (Center will jiggle slightly; filling will continue to set as it cools.) Cool quiche in pan at least 10 minutes before serving.

Serve warm or at room temperature with fresh tomato salsa and sour cream. Quiche can be baked 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Reheat, uncovered, in a 325°F oven until just heated through, about 25 minutes.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Elijah Dress-Up

It doesn't take much... underwear, a shirt. Fancy!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sharon's Wedding Shower

May God bless Jacob & Sharon as they start their new life together!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Monday, July 2, 2007

Eight Dollar Hot Dog

This is an excellent video from Chris Seay of Ecclesia, here in Houston.

Eight Dollar Hot Dog

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Listening to His Voice

I appreciate the message from "Ransomed Heart" ministries that we recently received in a letter:

I was reading this week in chapter ten of the Gospel of John. Listen to the offer:

The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice (2-4).
We are invited to become followers of Christ. Not just believers in Christ. Followers of Christ. There is a difference. Jesus leads, we follow, because we hear his voice. I know that many Christians have never been taught how to hear the voice of God. Some have even been taught that we can't hear the voice of God. But Jesus says we do.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me (Rev. 3:20).
Who is the offer for? "Anyone." That would include you. What does Jesus say will happen? "Hears my voice." As in, hear his voice. Now, I know, I know - the prevailing belief is that God only speaks to his people through the Bible. And let me make this clear: He does speak to us first and foremost through the Bible. That is the basis for our relationship. The Bible is the eternal and unchanging word of God to us. We know right off the bat that any other supposed revelation from God that contradicts the Bible is not to be trusted. So, I am not minimizing in any way the authority of the Scriptures or the fact that God speaks to us through the Bible.

But many Christians believe that God only speaks to us through the Bible. The irony of that belief is, that's not what the Bible says. Consider John 10 and Revelation 3.

The Bible is filled with stories of God talking to his people. Abraham. Moses. David. Gideon. Noah. And lesser characters like Hagar, and a disciple simply called Ananias who gets a few paragraphs in Acts 17. Now, if God doesn't also speak to us, why would he have given us hundreds of stories of him speaking to others? "Look - here are inspiring and hopeful stories how God spoke to his people. Isn't it amazing?! But he doesn't speak like that anymore." That makes no sense at all. The Bible is not a book of exceptions. It is a book of examples of what it looks like to walk with God.
...

If we will enter into a conversational intimacy with Christ, we will say with David, "You have made known to me the path of life" (Psalm 16:11). I can't tell you the number of times he's rescued me. Don't send that e-mail. Don't go to Dallas. Call your mother. After all, he is the Shepherd. We, the sheep. His is to lead, and ours is to follow. If you want to learn more about hearing God's voice, I think Dallas Willard's book Hearing God is really good...
I recall a time in college when a fellow student was sharing about hearing God's voice regularly. A small crowd of us surrounded him, asking him questions. Like John Eldredge mentioned above, we were Christians who believed that God simply didn't work that way anymore. Our questions were meant to show our friend that he was mistaken. Inside, I was chuckling and considered him to be a bit "out there."

So it was a little ironic when last summer, during a time of Bible reading and prayer, I asked a question out loud in prayer, and heard an answer. That was a first for me, and my mind went back to my fellow student about a dozen years before. What I experienced was similar to what he had described. Not a lightning bolt. Not a deep, loud voice like in the movies. No, it was a quiet, small voice. A voice that changed my perspective.

It's comforting to know that God didn't just create this world and then stand off to the side, detached. He's been involved from day one, pursuing us in the longest love story there is. He's already done what He needed to do in order to save the marriage, through Jesus Christ. I'm humbled to be a part of the church, the bride of Christ. What a leprous bride we are (to use a phrase from Rubel Shelley). Ugly, and often a horrible witness to the world. But pursued by God Himself, nonetheless. I pray that the world can look past us and our often ugly nature, to see Christ Himself, flawless at our side. He's the one making the marriage proposal, not us, thank goodness : )

Thank you, Father, for your plan to save us. Thank you for speaking to us then, and speaking to us now. Whatever you have to say, I pray that my ears will be open. I want to follow.

Ransomed Heart Ministries * http://www.ransomedheart.com/

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Believing God

I had heard many times that Beth Moore's "Believing God" was an incredible Bible study. I'm just starting it this summer with a group of ladies, and - wow! - what I heard is right. I don't want to just believe that God exists. I want to believe that He is who He says He is - and He's so much bigger than anything I can imagine. "Believing God" is a great reminder of that. In last night's 'homework,' I related to what Beth said regarding belief:
I'd like to set the record straight: the last thing I'm trying to encourage a thinking person to do is to surrender to a life of nothing but stark, blind faith. The reason I don't believe that aliens live on Mars is that we've never seen evidence to suggest they do. If we had evidence, I'd be far more inclined to believe, even if I never saw them with my own eyes. More importantly, I wouldn't encourage anyone to believe in a God of heaven if we had no evidence to support that He exists as the Bible says He does. Beloved, the reason I teach belief in God is that, again and again, I have found Him to be astoundingly believable.
In the same way, I have found God to be astoundingly believable, over and over again. Perhaps as a 'baby' Christian my faith was not one where the reality of my experience met with my beliefs yet. But God is gracing me by taking me down a new path. I've only been a few steps, but I know I want to keep going. It started several years ago, with prayers answered through strangely 'coincidental' circumstances. Since then, there have been some flat-out miracles. And my idea of what a prayer relationship could be was turned upside down last summer when I raised a question in prayer and actually heard an answer (that made me jump right up from where I was). There's no denying He exists. He's crashed through and graced me with experiencing Him in a new way.

Beyond experiencing God, I love that God's word stands up to scrutiny. Further in the study, Beth hits on this:

While the waves of godless intellectualism rise and fall and the trends set the tides, you and I are better off watching from the nearest solid Rock. To be sure, believers should seek to be well educated about current events and intellectual trends, but we need not feel quite so responsible to defend God. I have a tremendous respect for theological apologists, and their arguments strengthen my faith, but most of us are not called to prove unbelievers intellectually wrong...

The Bible opens with the words "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." In the remarkable and reader-friendly book The Source, authors John Clayton and Nils Jansma make one of many cases for creationism by the gross improbability of planet Earth's possessing all of the necessary conditions to support life by chance. They explain how probabilities are figured, using the example of a deck of cards. The chances of drawing a specified card from a shuffled deck are obviously 1 in 52. If the card is reinserted into the deck and the deck is reshuffled, the chances of randomly choosing the same card becomes 1/52 x 1/52, or 1 in 2,704. Applying the same kind of math probability, Clayton and Jansma offer the following "Estimated Odds of Selected Variables Vital to an Earth-like Planet Occurring by Chance."

Being in the right kind of galaxy... 1 in 100
Being in the right place in the galaxy... 1 in 150
Having the right kind of star... 1 in 1,000
Being the right distance from the star... 1 in 10
Having the proper planetary mass... 1 in 10
Having the proper planetary spin... 1 in 10
Having the proper planetary tilt... 1 in 10
Having comet-sweeping planets... 1 in 40
Not being near a black hole... 1 in 250
Having a large solitary moon... 1 in 10
Possessing a magnetic field capable of shielding... 1 in 10

Total odds... 1 in 150,000,000,000,000,000
I like the way Clayton brings his point home: "If I offered you a billion dollars (tax free) to jump out of an airplane at 10,000 feet without a parachute, with the proviso that you had to live to collect it, would you accept the offer? Not if you were in your right mind. Obviously, the odds of survival are much too small for any rational person to accept. Yet the odds of there being an 'accidental' planet hospitable for life using only the few parameters we have considered are 15 billion times less likely than surviving a free-fall from an airplane."

Incidentally, John Clayton is a scientist and a former second-generation atheist who "came to believe in God while attempting to prove that the Bible contradicts known scientific facts. Instead of disproving the Bible, he found it to be absolutely reliable."
What amazes me is that the probability shown is simply for 'setting the stage.' I shudder to think of the complexity of life 'randomly occurring' on this planet so coincidentally suited for it.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Benefits of Babywearing

As we prepare content for our new SlingEZee website, I'd like to post some 'good stuff' from it. Baby wearing has been a huge blessing for our family!


Baby wearing helps babies feel content and safe. One study showed that worn babies cried 40 - 50% less than the norm. Not carrying infants may predispose them to crying and colic.

Baby wearing is convenient for outings. Wearing your baby means there is no heavy carrier to lug around and no bulky stroller to navigate with.

Baby wearing encourages mothers to respond more to their babies. One study showed that mothers who wore their babies were more responsive to their infants' vocalizations.

Baby wearing helps babies thrive. Close to their milk supply, babies nurse more frequently. As a result of there being shorter time between feedings, the breast milk is higher in healthy fat. Frequent feedings of higher fat milk may help babies gain more weight. Worn babies also spend less energy fussing for feedings, so their bodies can devote more energy to growing!

Baby wearing allows parents to have evenings out at adult gatherings. With baby awake and content in the sling, or settled down to sleep, parents are free to enjoy their evening out.

Baby wearing encourages language development. Placing baby on the level of adult conversation and eye contact is the perfect spot for learning.

Baby wearing gives parents a boost in confidence. A happy baby makes parents feel more competent and at ease. Parents are able to sense what is wrong with baby when they stir, because baby is right next to them. Meeting needs before baby becomes upset results in a more relaxed parent.

Baby wearing allows parents to have two free hands for day to day tasks while providing comfort to baby. With baby more content, parents are free to go about their tasks without as many interruptions.

Baby wearing supports transitions to other caregivers. Encouraging caregivers to wear baby in the sling helps baby, as they are able to feel the familiar security of being close to a loving adult.

Baby wearing is great for preemies. One study showed that wearing preterm babies skin-to-skin helped them cry less, have more quiet sleep, and maintain healthier temperature.

Baby wearing reduces instances of plagiocephaly (abnormal head shape). Wearing your infant means less time with pressure against their head due to hard carriers, car seat and swings.

Baby wearing helps mothers feel happier. One study showed that mothers of pre-term babies who wore them skin-to-skin reported less depression than traditionally cared for babies.

Baby wearing is great for baby's digestion. Wearing baby encourages frequent, smaller breastfeeding sessions. This, combined with the motion of being worn improves digestion.

Baby wearing helps babies develop security. One study found that babies who are worn by their mothers are more secure when left with a stranger.

Baby wearing feels better for the parent. Carrying baby in your arms without a sling is tiring. Worn properly, a sling provides much-needed support.

Baby wearing aids parents of older children when a new baby is welcomed into the family. With baby content in the sling, mom or dad are free to parent older children while bonding with the new baby.

Baby wearing supports breastfeeding. Wearing baby encourages them to nurse and allows for easier, discreet breastfeeding in public. More attention is drawn to a baby who is crying frantically to nurse. With baby worn close in a sling, mother is able to quietly respond to early feeding cues beneath the privacy of the sling.

Baby wearing is great for mental and psychomotor development. One study showed higher scores for babies worn skin-to-skin on the Bayley Mental Developmental Index and the Psychomotor Developmental Index.

Baby wearing gives parents the freedom to bring their babies to their place of employment or to their volunteer activities, as they are able to care for them while they go about their work.

Baby wearing gives parents freedom while out. Strollers are hard to navigate through some areas and difficult to push through sand or wood chips at the playground. With baby in a sling, parents are able to get where they need to at the mall and help their active toddlers at the park.

Baby wearing is great for baby's development. Equivalent to "tummy time," Baby wearing allowing baby's balance to improve and muscles to strengthen as baby responds to mother's movements.

Baby wearing helps parents have flexibility with sleep schedules. Wearing baby is a great way to lull baby to sleep no matter where you are.

References:

Anisfeld E, Casper V, Nozyce M, Cunningham N. 1990 "Does infant carrying promote attachment? An experimental study of the effects of increased physical contact on the development of attachment." Child Development 61:1617-1627.

Chwo MJ, Anderson GC, Good M, Dowling DA, Shiau SH, Chu DM. 2002. "A randomized controlled trial of early kangaroo care for preterm infants: effects on temperature, weight, behavior, and acuity." J Nurs Res 10(2):129-42.

Feldman R, Eidelman AI, Sirota L, Weller A. 2002. "Comparison of Skin-to-Skin (Kangaroo) and Traditional Care: Parenting Outcomes and Preterm Infant Development." Pediatrics 110(1):16-26.

Hunziker UA, Barr RG. 1986. "Increased carrying reduces infant crying: A randomized controlled trial." Pediatrics 77:641-648.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Children: A Footstep in our Freedom Adventure

I had always wanted a large family, which in my mind meant having 4 children. But in the spring of 2004, with 2 and 4 year old boys, Mark and I found ourselves especially exasperated as parents once again. Our introduction to parenthood was very intense for us four years before, making us wonder at a very base level, "would we do this over again if we knew??" I'm not sure we ever verbalized that, but it was felt. Our first son, wonderful as he is, was incredibly challenging the first several years - a high-need, strong-willed, persistent child. Feeling maxed out with two, Mark verbalized "we are done" and was considering a vasectomy. Though I, too, felt overwhelmed and frustrated, I was saddened by his oncoming decision and asked him to pray about it with an open heart. He has since mentioned that he did not want to pray about it, but I'm so thankful he did. Practically speaking, I knew that neither Mark nor I were exactly easy-going people - perhaps we just weren't cut out for more! Our continual prayers regarding our struggles with frustration and anger seemed to have no end in sight. Here we were once again, feeling like we were against a wall, on our knees crying out to God.

That week while working at Nurtured Family, Mark noticed a quote at the bottom of a customer’s e-mail:
"The Bible calls debt a curse and children a blessing. But in our culture, we apply for a curse and reject blessings. Something is wrong with this picture."
When Mark asked about it, the customer, Christine, responded with her testimony. She had become pregnant as a teenager, but was encouraged not to marry her boyfriend because he would not be a good choice. Late in her pregnancy, God brought a wonderful man, Pete, into her life (their first date was 4 days before her son was born) and they later married. Pete adopted and loved her son as his own. After the birth of their daughter, they decided on a vasectomy. As Christine says, "We had a very selfish attitude. Our son was high maintenance, and we thought that we could never handle any more like that. We didn't know what God said about it, but we ‘acted’ like we had prayed about it. When actually, we had told God what we were going to do, instead of the other way around." Later, a mission trip to an orphanage in Mexico opened Christine's heart to children. With a burden on her heart for children, she wondered just what had they done? But on top of these questions, Christine was suffering from major female problems - severe pain, endometriosis - and was scheduled for a full hysterectomy at the age of 25. When she mentioned to Pete the desire for more children and the desire to put family planning in God's hands, he was not in agreement. But Christine responded, "don't tell me now, pray about it, see what the Lord lays on your heart and we'll go from there." Just days later, Pete said, "let's have the vasectomy reversal done!" and it turned out that insurance even paid for it! After making that decision, Christine had no more pain in her ovaries or uterus, and the hysterectomy was not needed. Now, Pete & Christine have two vasectomy reversal babies and are open to welcoming as many children as God will give them.

Later that week, Mark received an e-mail asking for a door prize for a ladies’ retreat. I went to check out the website of the ministry, and the focus was on surrendering to God – including the areas of motherhood and even family planning. How very 'coincidental' for this e-mail to come our way, the very week we started praying regarding children. We were especially surprised when we asked the lady who was requesting a door prize how she’d heard of us. We assumed that she knew we were a Christian company based in Houston, just an hour from where the retreat would be. But, no - she had found us through a Yahoo! Search, and had no idea. Also that week, Mark ran into a lady with ten children running around at a nearby park. It turned out that they were her children and her sister’s children. She and Mark had an encouraging conversation regarding turning control over to God regarding family planning. Lastly, to top off that week (and perhaps the strangest thing for me to witness)… Mark actually encouraged me to attend the ladies’ retreat to check things out for myself, since we were receiving a consistent message since we began praying. That was really something, knowing how Mark wanted the answer to our prayers to be "no more children."

I'd seen God work in such "coincidental" ways before. Not believing any of this was actually chance, I did attend the retreat. While there, I felt as if the Lord was taking a pair of tinted glasses away from my eyes. I had grown numb to how my culture truly viewed children -- and I had bought into it. I had bought into the idea that raising children was a burden - an inconvenience that I should put a halt to in the name of stewardship. I had paid lip service to the idea that children were a blessing, but deep down felt that this was an overwhelming phase of life that I longed to get under control (my control!). Studying scripture that weekend, I saw a picture of God's vision for family that I was previously blind to. It was a picture of abundance, inheritance, legacy, and blessing, which we had never truly taken to heart. The weekend was also incredible due to seeing a whole new picture of large families. Here were mothers of 6, 10... 14 children, who were joyful, beautiful and vibrant - not falling apart, depressed and haggard as our culture would suggest. It was inspiring to hear how their families functioned, with joyful teamwork and community. These families had a spirit of dependence on the Lord and a passion for Him that was contagious - and it was rubbing off on their children.

Mark and I felt that the Lord’s answer for us was to receive His blessing of children. If it was His will, then I knew that He would deal with our hearts. And He has. So much of the feeling of being burdened was lifted with our new perspective of children. Now, when facing frustration, I see it as a blessing that keeps me on my knees, resting in Christ’s grace, as spoken of in 2 Corinthians:
…He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  2 Corinthians 12:9
Ironically, God's answer for us regarding children would seem to be an additional burden. But the reality is that we have been set free by His answer. His ways are not our ways, and His wisdom appears foolish to man. But I'd much rather taste of His wisdom and the ultimate freedom that flows out of it.

One of the coolest things about this experience was simply the joy that comes from experiencing God and resting in Him.  How amazing that when I seek the Lord concerning the details of my life, He is all too eager to give His guidance. His love is intimate – He really cares. Every area of my life that I’m willing to surrender to Him will be made new by allowing Him in.