Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Guest Post: "Learning to be a Thanks Giver"

This week, in light of Thanksgiving, and because my husband is a much better writer than I am, I'm sharing his most recent article at The Patriot Update, where he writes weekly. Obviously, I am incredibly thankful for him.

"It’s the week of Thanksgiving, one of our most important American holidays, and a writer would be remiss to not write about this important day. Several hundred years ago our forbears landed on the Atlantic coast and settled in for a long stay. These early colonizers met their challenges with fear, trepidation...and thanks. How could they be thankful for a cold, harsh, dangerous and imperfect new land where life was precarious and so many of them would die? Freedom. Not just any kind of freedom, but the freedom to worship God in the way that they believed the Bible taught was correct.

We have so many reasons to be thankful in America today, but perhaps the most important reason is our freedom to worship (or not worship) freely. No American is forced into an “underground” church, our religious leaders are not told to keep from preaching about certain topics, and our citizens are allowed to give freely of their income to their religious institutions. Perhaps there is a day coming when some of these things are not so, but for today we are a “free” people.

At my family’s Thanksgiving gathering this year we will no doubt gather around the table, holding hands and each of us recite one thing that we are thankful for this year. Someone will mention our soldiers overseas, someone else will mention having work, another their health, and invariably someone will mention family. We are so blessed to have our family, as crazy and imperfect as some of them may be. Isn’t that the crux of our society’s current ills? The failure as a culture to remember just how important our families our? Fatherlessness, single mothers, broken marriages, abuse, addiction, abortion… aren’t all of these just symptoms of a basic misunderstanding of what the family is supposed to be? The family is supposed to be a brilliant reflection of God’s desired relationship with us, a community of love, mercy, discipline, and most importantly grace.

I want to give thanks today for my family. I am so thankful for my beautiful and brilliant (in so many ways) wife, Leah. I am so thankful for my three wonderfully unique, hilarious, and energetic children who brighten my life to no end. I am so thankful for our fourth child who is on her way, due in January, Elizabeth Grace because she has taught me so much already.

It was through Elizabeth that I learned about something called anencephaly. Anencephaly is a condition where the top of the baby’s skull does not grow into place, and so the brain is left unguarded from the amniotic fluid that the baby lives in for their first 40 weeks (or so) of growth. Without this protection the brains higher function cannot develop and so the baby will grow and mature with only is lower level brain functions. The short version of the story is that while the baby will generally grow and develop normally, after she is born and removed from her mothers’ body she will not be able to live on her own. The condition was described by our doctors as … fatal. She may live outside of the womb for a few minutes, a few hours, or maybe a few days – but she will leave us, far sooner than we ever imagined.

I cannot adequately describe the absolute shock I felt when we were told, or explain the excruciating pain that comes not from a physical blow but from what feels like an emotional bludgeoning of finding out you will lose your child, and soon. The sharpness of the early pain has dulled, but the throbbing ache of loss is still constant. There are days when I feel as if I have had no sleep because of the fitfulness of my dreams, and the understanding that my night was filled with thoughts of my baby girl. Mornings are the worst, as I ready myself for my day and my mind settles on thoughts of my beautiful and precious Elizabeth. I think about all that she could have been, and all that I will miss – and how it all seems so unfair. My perfectly imperfect baby girl, who is so beautiful and precious to me, will be gone so soon. Why? That was my first question, isn’t it everyone’s? Why is this happening? What have I done to deserve this? It took months before I could say in a clear headed way, the answer is sin. We live in a world that God once said was good, but since the entrance of sin into our world and the fall of man, we and our planet are far from good. We sin against an Almighty God and there are consequences. Our perfect little world, and our chance to be perfect here – it’s gone. It seems like a sad story, that only gets sadder with the news of my perfectly imperfect baby girl, but Elizabeth’s story is not one of sadness but one of Mercy and Grace. Thinking about Elizabeth has made me realize the beautiful picture that God is painting.

You see, the story doesn’t end with the fall and our imperfections. No, as soon as man sinned God’s plan went into action, and one day His Son, Jesus Christ was born to this Earth. The Perfect, sinless Christ lived, died, and rose again to defeat our sin, and our imperfection for us because we couldn’t do it on our own. Why does Elizabeth and anencephaly remind me of this? It’s why I am so thankful this Thanksgiving, for my freedom and for my family.

The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ assure me freedom, and it can do the same for you – if you will accept it. His gift promises us freedom from sin and from the penalty of sin, which is eternal separation from God after death. In fact His gift offers us the very real promise that we can one day be made perfect again! Just like it was supposed to be way back when, before it all fell apart…and that’s where I am so thankful on behalf of my family because, I know that one day I will get to see my beautiful precious baby girl again, and she will be perfect.

This Thanksgiving, I am so thankful for my freedom and for my family. I am so blessed."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Duggar Debate

I hadn’t necessarily planned to use my blog as a soap box for anything (other than God’s grace), but I’m going to go a little controversial and jump on up there. The heated debate that sparks up every time the Duggars announce that they’re once again expecting always makes me a little feisty and this time it has more than ever. I think it’s because I’m carrying Elizabeth Grace—and never before has an unborn life seemed as precious and sacred. So as I read through comments about Duggar number twenty being on the way at, Babycenter and Facebook—everything from the harmless jabs, to the downright horrid vitriol—I decided I’d get my two cents in as well.

First off, I just have to say it: why the surprise, people? If there’s one thing Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar are crystal clear and extremely vocal about it’s their views on child bearing and the use of contraceptives. They’re a quiverfull family and will not do anything to prevent pregnancy. Ever. It doesn’t matter if Michelle had preeclampsia and delivered her last baby at 25 weeks gestation, or if she’s forty-five years old, or if she already has two grandchildren. They believe that God should have complete control over their reproduction practices and will not stop having children until it is a physical impossibility. Whether or not you or I or anyone else agrees with this stance doesn’t make any difference to them. It’s their conviction. It’s their right. Please don’t be shocked if they have more after this. If it’s possible, I promise you, they will!

And while I don’t necessarily agree with everything the Duggars believe I have to admit: they’re loving parents who are raising well-rounded and respectful children…and they’re debt free to boot. That’s gotta be worth a little street cred. Not to mention, they’re my brother and sister in Christ and I feel like they get enough criticism from everyone else. Speaking of, I have no doubt that their loudest opposition—those who scream that they’re crazy and irresponsible and how dare they have twenty children when all the world’s water is drying up?!—are mostly likely pro-choice. The same people who staunchly support a woman’s “right to choose” somehow become positively irate when that woman chooses to have as many children as the Lord would bless her with. Oh, if they could see the irony.

And here’s the biggest thing for me--our culture’s view of children in general is really messed up. Kids aren’t seen as a heritage from the Lord and parents certainly aren’t bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. People (even some in Christian culture) become judgmental and cruel if a couple chooses to have more than 3 or 4 or 5 or “X” amount of kids. In a day and age when the average American household has no more than 2.5 children, both parents work full-time and the accumulation of “stuff” seems to be the goal in life, I find the Duggars’ lifestyle refreshing. I’m not planning on having twenty kids, but I won’t be disparaging of the family who does and can do it well. Congratulations Jim Bob, Michelle and family!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Halloween and Hypochondria

Things have been busy around here and our sticky doorknobs are even stickier than usual thanks to that oh-so-anticipated last day of October. Actually, this was the first Halloween my kids went out trick or treating. All three of them were big fans of dressing up in costumes.

OK, Sophia doesn't look like a super happy little Tinkerbell here...

That's a little better. Family shot! (Charlie, look at the camera.)

My two and three year old were pretty amazed that people will give you candy just for knocking on their door and saying “trick or treat!”

They especially liked the houses where you could just go up and grab the candy yourself. Free for all!

Corban keeps asking when we can do it again. Apparently “Next year, honey,” is not a satisfactory answer. He usually suggests we go out again “tonight.”

Yesterday I had my 28 week prenatal appointment. I had to do the glucose screening and by this point I’m truly a pro at downing that drink in under the allotted five minutes. I’ve always been given the fruit punch flavor and it reminds me a lot of Tahitian Treat. And who doesn’t love Tahitian Treat? (Come to think of it, drinking Tahitian Treat on a regular basis is probably a good way to get gestational diabetes. Don’t do it.)

My appointment went well. The doctor I saw is always positive and upbeat, one of my faves in the practice. She confirmed that Elizabeth Grace is still breech but said that it may actually be better if I deliver her that way. She did have to give me a couple scary scenarios about the dangers of delivering breech, but I am confident that this baby girl will enter the world just as God intends and am choosing not to fret over the worst possibilities. She also asked if I had spoken to the neonatal doctor and about whether or not we planned to have Elizabeth taken to NICU after she was born. I wasn’t even aware that this was an option. I’d always been under the impression that life saving measures would not be performed (my OB’s are not even going to monitor her during labor) and so we would simply keep her with us for as long as we could. I believe that this will continue to be our preference unless there is some significant change down the road. My OB said when I get closer to delivery I will most likely have a consult with the neonatologist over the phone. I’ll be doing some more research in the meantime, and would certainly welcome any input from the moms reading this who have been in situations similar to mine. I plan to put together a birth plan (for the first time!) and include our wishes and expectations as well.

Another new fact I learned at the appointment: my due date is January 28th, NOT January 26th as I’d been thinking throughout this whole pregnancy. The date hadn’t changed after my 20 week ultrasound or anything—apparently this has always been what my OB’s had on file and I was unaware. I used babycenter’s due date calculator as soon as I got that positive pregnancy test result and just assumed the date determined was the same as my doctor’s. Nope! With any other pregnancy I’d be annoyed with a later due date, but with this one I don’t mind a bit.

Also discussed at the appointment were my fractured foot (which is healing quite nicely, thanks for the prayers!) and the possibility of blood clots in my leg as a direct result of the injury. “Oh goodness,” I told my OB, “no one had mentioned that. I’m sure I don’t have any blood clots!” “Well,” she told me seriously, “if you have any kind of pain or cramping whatsoever in your leg you need to make sure we know about it ASAP.” Would you believe me if I told you that when I woke up this morning I had such pain in the back of my right knee (same leg as the broken foot!) that I could barely move it? Talk about a self fulfilling prophecy. I’m no hypochondriac (really, I’m not!) and I know that I wouldn’t even have given it a second thought (would’ve chalked it up to sleeping the wrong way or a pulled muscle because I have to walk weird with my broken foot), but since just the day before the idea of blood clots had been planted in my mind, I immediately got online to self diagnose. All it took was one pregnant lady’s babycenter post about having a blood clot in her knee crease (same place I was experiencing MY pain!) to convince me that I surely had one too. I called my OB’s office and was thankfully able to talk to the doctor I saw yesterday. She didn’t think I was crazy at all and wanted me to go get checked out by a vascular doctor. I had an ultrasound done on my leg and…no blood clots. Whew. Must be that I slept on it wrong or pulled the muscle. HA! But I’m seriously glad I went because my leg is hurting worse right now then it has all day and at this point I wouldn't be giving myself through the night to live if I hadn’t gone in to make sure I was blood clot free! :) Thanks for letting me share and thanks always for your continued prayers.