Seven weeks of Eden

Hello family and friends, near and far. Here is an update on life, an apology for the sporadic communication, and a testimony to the goodness of God regarding our last seven weeks.

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Our sweet Eden Evangeline was born on July 20 weighing a splendid seven pounds and twelve ounces. At six weeks she weighed a few tenths of an ounce less than that.

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I cannot recount every detail here, but we have been through many ups and downs as we realized that Eden was struggling to gain weight. From the beginning she was horribly fussy, but seemed to nurse well and be content afterwards. At her one week visit we knew she had not gained enough. At two weeks she had actually lost a little more. At our first lactation appointment they said everything looked okay, that she might have a small tongue-tie, but that since I was experiencing no pain in nursing that it probably wasn’t a huge problem. I had been letting her sleep  long stretches and feeding her every four hours unless she woke up earlier so we decided that she just needed extra feedings and that we would continue going to have her weighed every week to see if there was improvement. She gained steadily but in small increments, we kept hoping she would turn the corner and take off. Her biggest gain was five ounces, but then only three – making it back to birth weight by five weeks. The doctor said a tongue-tie revision may or may not help. I wanted to wait; it was so tricky because she seemed to be nursing fine, was sleeping okay, had enough wet and dirty diapers, and was taking in the right amount as measured at the lactation appointments.

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At six weeks she had dipped just under birth weight again. So it was all-systems-go, whatever we had to do. We scheduled a tongue-tie revision the following day; I began pumping, and we began supplementing with formula.

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We started out not too worried and taking it in stride. But as the weeks wore on her lack of weight gain weighed heavily. Some days it felt like we listened to her fuss all day. Then it would seem to be better. Some nights she never really settled down and other nights she slept all night. Nothing was ever consistent. I knew more than likely she would be fine. I knew that other people have gone through much harder things than this. But it felt like I couldn’t keep the balance between giving her everything I had and doing the most basic of other things. (I’m not even talking about laundry/meals/cleaning; we have had amazing support from our church here.) For the first time in my life I found myself choosing sleep over showers! I would do so good taking in extra calories and water and then forget for a few days and wonder if that had been the cause for the ounces she had missed. I would stay home and rest and she would do well so I would try going out to do something fun with the kids and then feel like it took a toll on her.  (Of course you don’t know but these are the things you wonder when you’re so closely connected to this tiny little person.)

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From the beginning, the Lord helped me to see that this was good for me. After six nearly problem-free infants, here was something new. A chance to be humbled, to learn – my inclination that it would work itself out was wrong. I’m so thankful for the advice and help from the doctor and lactation consultant.

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I cried at the thought of the fierce love I felt for Eden, the determination to see good done for her even though she was weak and needy and giving nothing in return. I knew that God’s love for me, his adopted child, was far greater and more perfect than that love I felt for her. Even in these circumstances.

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We knew that God’s wisdom and timing are perfect. That in His providence He gives things that are hard to understand.

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Why our seventh baby? Why right after we moved across the country? Why literally the day before we start back to school?

I don’t know the answers at all, but I do know that this has been a time of weakness. And a time to see His perfect strength – whether it’s through a meal delivered by a friend, a text from someone who is praying for you, a song about His greatness, the ability to continue on through exhaustion, or simply the knowledge that His Spirit is at work in you when you can feel nothing else.

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There is not a perfect ending to this story as we are still quite possibly in the middle. Eden weighed eight pounds three ounces at her seven week appointment and that was a huge success. We have every reason to believe she will continue, but at several points in this process I thought we had figured things out. With our trust and hope in God, we are doing all we can to chunk that girlie up.

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Thank you so much to all who have prayed and offered encouragement and practical help. This is certainly light affliction compared to many others, but it has certainly been given to draw us closer to Christ as we see how much more valuable and sufficient He is than anything else.

Eden, I tell you all the time, but we are so happy you are here. Already we long even more for that coming perfect fellowship with God and are grateful for the work of Christ to accomplish that for us. And we have your sweet name to help us remember.

On the benefits and drawbacks of being tired

I found this fun little draft from awhile ago. Hope it’s an encouragement to someone today! 

If there is one physical state of being I have experienced most in the last ten years, it is being tired.

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I’m not speaking of the worked-all-day-in-the-yard good tired or the ran-a-marathon-that-I-trained-for-for-six-months good tired, but rather the I’m-making-a-baby-and-carrying-around-a-one-year-old-and-up-and-down-and-bending-all-day-and-woke-up-three-times-during-the-night tired. You will have to decide for yourself what brand of tired you are.

But every stage has benefits and drawbacks. Every one! Maybe pausing to think about the graces given through this “difficulty” could be encouraging.

Here are a few things I can see as benefits:

When you’re tired it is often easier to say “no” to frivolous, external engagements. This is a good thing. No, I don’t want to scroll on facebook for forty-five minutes; no, I don’t want to watch the last three innings of that baseball game; no I don’t need to watch my thirteen billionth episode of Chopped. So there’s that.

When you’re tired it is easier to see yourself as weak before God. This is an especially good thing. Yes, I can do nothing good in and of myself. Yes, if I make it ’til tonight it will be God’s grace that has sustained me; yes, your mercies are new every morning; yes, God’s faithfulness shines brightest against the backdrop of human faithlessness. Relying on Him moment by moment becomes not something we know we should do, but our basic survival instinct.

When you’re tired it can be easier to be compassionate with others. Sometimes you just don’t have the strength to be bothered with the foibles or eccentricities of others. Getting upset may take that last shred of energy that you will need to load the dishwasher that night. Or whatever. Relationships can be the precious comfort they were intended to be through the weariness of life.

Now…

Lest you pull an all-nighter to be on the receiving end of all these benefits to being tired… here are my views regarding the drawbacks.

Tiredness accentuates the difficulty of the spiritual disciplines. It’s hard to gain from reading the Bible when you fall asleep after the second sentence. (and yes, for us mamas of little ones, there will be times when no matter what we do, we will be this tired)

Tiredness exposes our hearts (perhaps this could be a benefit). If bitterness or selfishness or impatience have been lurking under a well put-together surface, being tired will probably bring those to the forefront.

Tiredness keeps our minds from working like normal. And we all collectively groan.

Tiredness keeps us from keeping up with routine tasks leaving us to feel overwhelmed and incompetent.

Sometimes being tired hurts – headaches, soreness from our body not having enough horizontal time… bleck.

Maybe there are things you can do to get a little more rest or maybe you just have to hang in there. Living in community with your husband and other sisters in Christ will help you know if you’re more in the “I need to work at getting more rest” stage or the “I’m doing the best I can and have to fight for joy and contentment” stage.

But there will be times (#youngmoms) when being tired just becomes a part of your life. We can rejoice in God’s sustaining grace and rest in His faithfulness that reaches the sky.

 

 

The Christian life is like sitting in church with kids

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Ever been frustrated by the tension of all that’s (wonderfully) true about the Christian life and actually trying to live it out among others?

A few months ago I had this humorous experience which seemed not unlike the experience of being a child of God still in this world.

Our church was blessed to have a special speaker and he was taking us on a whirlwind tour of the book of Hebrews. (You can hear the sermon here) It was so wonderful! Jesus was exalted. The Word came alive, and my heart and mind were literally thrilled with the truth.

My wonderful four oldest children were sitting with me (Paul was filling in elsewhere during that hour so unlike normal I was alone with the kids), and I guess their experience and interaction with the Word that morning wasn’t quite the same as mine. Exclude the oldest from that statement; she was not causing any problems. I’m too far removed from the scene to remember the particulars, but I had to deal with all sorts of nonsense during that sermon. Wiggles, questions, flipping pages, elbows… it went on and on even more than usual. Not all of it was bad! Of course I want the one just learning to read to ask for help to know where he is when reading Scripture, and of course I want to give a quick definition of an unfamiliar word to the four-year-old.

But I also want to just sit and listen!

See the pattern:

LISTEN: Wow! that is amazing! I cannot believe Christ would lower himself to suffer like we did. I want to love Him more! I want to go home and read the whole book of Hebrews! I am so thankful we have the Bible! God is so good! 

DISTRACTION: ***addresses wiggling***

LISTEN: Wow! This is so wonderful! I’m so thankful my kids can be in church with me. 

DISTRACTION: ***finds verse for child***

LISTEN: I hope I didn’t miss anything. Wow, that is so good. 

DISTRACTION: ***warns child about wiggling***

TRYING TO LISTEN: I wish these kids would just let me listen to the Word! 

GRACE: Wait! This is what it’s all about!

Being filled with the knowledge of Jesus and then lovingly coming alongside others to help them to know Him, too. 

Often, simultaneously.

Why doesn’t God save us and take us out of this world? His image redeemed in us brings us back to a life of worshipping Him and displaying His glory to others.

But often displaying that glory doesn’t seem so glorious. Like reminding a child to listen to the preacher, or encouraging a sibling to be kind, or confronting someone in their sin, or forgiving someone for thoughtlessness, or doing that menial task for the hundredth time, but with joy.

It’s not enough for the pastor to sit in his study and feast on the truths of Scripture – he has to communicate it to the flock and then actively help them grow and mature in what has been said, as messy and hard as that may be.

It’s not enough to sit in your quiet time and be filled with a desire for righteousness – you have to take that into the workplace and shine the light through darkness and confusion.

It’s not enough for a mom to be thrilled with the truths of Scripture in the pew on Sunday morning. She has to translate that to the nitty-gritty lives of her children. Sometimes during the sermon.

The Christian life is both a deep well of knowledge and fellowship with Christ and also a cross-channel swim against the currents of sin, time, and limitations from ourselves and others. We both rest in our position in Christ and work tirelessly to become more like Him and to make Him known in the world around us.

Don’t be discouraged when it all happens at once. God is absolutely able to make all grace abound to you in every situation.

Even when you’re alone in church with little kids.

P.S. You really should listen to that sermon.

 

Christmas in July – a challenge and giveaway!

You know it; I know it; We all know it; we should start Christmas shopping earlier than we do.

Every year by that fifth trip out my husband and I are saying to each other, “You know, if we just bought a few presents here and there throughout the year….”

But we never do.

Somewhere I read the phrase, “Wrapped and done by December 1.”

Sounds rather dreamy.

I will admit that I do love the hustle and bustle of being out during the season; but! there are always last minute gifts or parties that seem to come up which would satiate said desire for hustle and bustle. Or you could always try to make Christmas cookies with five children.

Wait; stop...don't make fun of our tree.
Wait; stop…don’t make fun of our tree.

So here’s my idea: let’s first make a list of everyone we usually buy for, brainstorm and keep an eye out for that perfect present for them, and buy them little by little -one or two things a paycheck- from now ’til December. And actually do it.

What do you think?

I even have an incentive for us!

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Prepare Him Room from Sovereign Grace Music was our absolute favorite Christmas CD last year. (And as is my usual custom to enjoy some lovely Christmas music to combat the heat ofJuly, we have pulled it out and are enjoying it again!)

As a musician, how hard is it to find fresh, fluff-free Christmas music?

**Pretty hard!**

These songs are gospel-centered, theologically driven, and stylistically diverse. You’ll love them.

And…cue infomercial music… whoever has their list of people they need to buy Christmas presents for by this Friday is entered to win either a CD or a download of Prepare Him Room!

All you have to do is make a list.

Come back on Friday, comment here or on facebook that you made your list (spare us the details), and you have a chance to win my new favorite Christmas music.

Happy list-making! And Merry Christmas (in July). = )

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January goal check-up

If you remember from New Year’s, my goals are very simple this year. Here are some thoughts on the progress so far.

1. Treasure God and His Word.

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I have to say here, that I am so thankful for my husband. Three times a week I get to hear him teach the Bible and every time I learn and grow in my desire to read and study myself. That being said, I know there are pulls in my heart to choose other things when I have the option. My prayer is that this year those would be put aside and replaced with a deeper hunger for the knowledge of God and His Word.

My current place of study is Acts because Paul is going through this with the students on Wednesday nights. The girls and I are memorizing in Proverbs, and I also would like to come up with a plan of what to read when I just want to sit down and read for awhile. (Do you ever feel like that?) That way there will be some direction of where to pick up.

The other part to this goal is the prayer that God’s Word would be right on the tip of my tongue as I go throughout ordinary life with the girls. I know I need to speak the gospel to myself constantly and I want that influence in their life as well.

Practically speaking, this goal involves nightstands, pens, journals, and a specific effort to reduce clutter. Sitting down to read or meditating throughout the day are greatly helped for me when things are in order and easily accessible.

2. Read. Read. Read.

I love reading! In January I finished The Shallows by Nicholas Carr and I highly recommend it! This month I’ll be reading Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss and The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss by her husband George. Also, Dispatches from the Front by Tim Keesee and Robinson Crusoe with Paul. Someone gave the girls the entire Little House on the Prairie boxed set for Christmas so I am officially making it a goal this year to read those aloud to them.

2a. Read aloud the Little House on the Prairie to the girls. = )

3. Regain an enthusiasm for mothering.

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What I’m realizing is that this involves a very careful putting aside of “extra weights” and a very conscious commitment to do the things I want to do with the girls. Discipline is involved in this. The girls are much more delightful to be around when I am proactive about their behavior. Also, the more involved they are with what I’m doing throughout the day, the better. Yes, everything takes three times as long, but that has to be an investment in the future that I’m willing to make.

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I’m sure this goal will continue to take shape as the year goes. More to come!

4. Make monthly menus and make one freezer meal a week. February’s menu is done! And I have two extra meals in the freezer. Hooray!

5. Make a list for every day and week. Do a monthly goals check-up. 

About halfway through January I stopped making a list every morning and I can see how it slowed progress. That’s why there’s a monthly goals check-up (yours truly) to remind me! And out of the twenty-two items on my most recent weekly list, I accomplished about nine. Oh, look at the room for progress there! = )

These next goals are specific to this month alone.

*Make and use chore charts for the girls. It’s time, people. Way time.

*Accept help with things around the house. It has come to my attention that I cannot do everything. In fact, I do it quite poorly. However, I am not content living in such a sad state of affairs, so I am going to need help.

I can think of two ladies at church who have specifically, genuinely offered their help. This month I want to contact them and make a plan to do some things around here.

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Thanks for reading! See you at the end of February. {James 4:14-15}

New Year’s questions for my kids {2015}

Last year I made a list of questions that I asked my girls on New Year’s Day. Their answers surprised me!

I didn’t have chance to do that on January 1 this year – didn’t even have the list made – but it’s not too late! I decided to make a brand new list just to keep things fresh. ; )

Here are twelve questions to ask your kids at the beginning of the year:

1. What was your favorite thing that happened last year?

2. What was the saddest thing that happened last year?

3. Where was your favorite place you visited?

4. Where is somewhere you would like to visit this year?

5. What did you most appreciate about your family last year? How could you communicate that?

6. What did you learn from the Bible last year?

7. Are there any specific sins that God convicted you about?

8. How do you think you could grow in your love for God this year?

9. Are there any things that keep you from loving God? any things that you find easier to love than God?

10. What did you most appreciate about your church?

11. What could you do to love your church family more this year?

12.What would you like to learn this year?

Zoe can wait a couple more years. = )
Zoe can wait a couple more years. = )

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This is just a place to start! I’ll probably vary it depending on the age of who I’m asking. Let me know if you try it!

What would you add to this list?

*Happy New Year!

 

The file marked “Gospel”

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Imagine a file cabinet.

The top drawer is jam-packed with files all labeled with a particular sin problem. The file folders are filled with sheets of paper with applicable verses.

It’s where you go. Why you memorize Scripture.

I am struggling with this and I go find the matching solution. Bitterness? Eph. 4:31-32. Pride? James 4:5-7. Lack of contentment? I Tim. 6:6-7. Worry? Phil. 4:6-7 Lust? Matthew 5:27-28.

So here we go. Up to the file cabinet. I’m having trouble with pride; God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. That’s right! I don’t want God to resist me… I am so sorry for this sin of pride, Lord. I reject it and want to live humbly before you. 

I go to the cabinet a lot. Work hard at adding more papers to fill the folders. Occasionally have to make a new folder for a new problem rearing an ugly head.

But something still isn’t quite right. Something is missing.

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Have you ever heard the phrase, “The gospel is not just for salvation; it is for all of life”?

I don’t think I had until several years ago. When I began to hear it I thought, Yes! That sounds good. That’s right. It connected with me, but I really didn’t understand. There was nothing to attach it to in my brain. No way to fill it out or comprehend.

But thank God, little by little I am learning.

Salvation is not just forgiveness of sins, entrance to heaven, reconciliation to God, and a means of escaping hell; it is eternal life. A life that starts right at the moment of conversion. The gospel is the foundation for everything that will happen in this new life.

While it would be great to have a neat little set of rules to govern this new life by; there’s one little problem. I am still a rebel. Sin will remain in my body until it dies. A list of do’s and don’ts isn’t going to cut it.

If random commandments is all I have to keep me in line, there will be constant defeat and struggle.

Before you think I’m against rules and commandments, let me quickly say that I am all for rules and so thankful for the many clear commands to new covenant believers in the New Testament.

But when it comes to dealing with my sin, the cross is the only answer. The solitary solution, before and after conversion.

You see, I’ve discovered the bottom drawer of the cabinet. It only has one file, and that file is marked “Gospel.”

When I approach my sin with a problem/solution mentality, I’m leaving out the gospel.

So I failed to be kind to my neighbor? coveted something that wasn’t mine? invested time in a meaningless pursuit? became bitter at someone who slandered me? lied to make myself look better?

All this, yes. But more importantly, I failed to do what I was created to do. Instead of representing my Creator God in His goodness and glory, I took on the nature of His enemy representing his rebellion against God’s authority and my desire to rule myself in the way that pleases me.

I must see every sin as rebellion against God and allegiance to myself.

I must remember that Christ’s amazing sacrifice redeemed me from my sin and placed me in a position to once again glorify and fellowship with my Maker.

When I begin at the file marked “gospel” I see my sin for what it really is. Looking at the cross brings repentance in a way that nothing else can. From there, what a joy it is to see the good and wise teachings from Scripture on how to live this new life. To learn how a follower of Christ is to walk in this now-unfriendly and uncomfortable environment called the world.

What a wonderful comfort and challenge are the death and resurrection of Christ to those who believe in Him. We remember who we were, what we have been made, and what is our eternal hope.

This daily struggle of sin is not just a meaningless fight where only scattered weapons can be used in our defense. Rather it is a war that has been singularly conquered with a death blow that was promised and delivered.

We do find all of Scripture to be proftable as we are corrected and instructed in righteousness. But we use it with the big picture in mind.

Knowing the truth of that bottom file drawer causes us to hungrily search the Scriptures to find more of this amazing life we have been given. To know the Savior in every way we can; to long to be more like Him, hating our sin and fighting it to the death at all costs.

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It’s taken me days before of trying to fight sin, trying to convict myself with all the “right” passages, praying for forgiveness… all this only to realize that never once had I pondered the gospel during that time. I had completely forgotten what is crucial. Once again I was wrapped up in the religion of self-effort towards my sin, desperately needing the cross.

I wish I could say that this was a one-and-done lesson, but it hasn’t been. Still I find myself running to the file cabinet searching frantically through the top folders as I try to fight my sin, completely forgetting that one crucial file below. But in grace God’s Holy Spirit reminds me of the gospel. And little by little I’m learning to take the burdens of sin to the cross and lay them down.