Saturday, July 26, 2014

"The Shirt Off His Back"

Everyone knows that expression.  It’s used to describe really generous people.  Yesterday we were invited by some new friends to go swimming and hang out.  We’ve actually been overwhelmed by how friendly everyone is here in our new home.

 So we arrive at the pool play date.  The kids have a blast.  The grown ups hang out, and then it’s suggested that we go get ice cream.  Everyone is on board.  We begin to get ready to go.  J. comes up to me with a distressed look on his face.  Seeing as this happens regularly a few times a day, I am not highly alarmed.  He tells me he forgot to bring his shoes.  He’s upset because now he can’t go into the ice cream store with no shoes.  Really what kind of a mom doesn’t even notice that her kid got in the car, arrived at the house, swam etc… all without any shoes on his feet?  I must raise my hand, because apparently that mom was me yesterday.   The host of our get together notices our plight. J’s nearly in tears and I’m basically chastising him for coming without footwear.  She leaves and returns from her car with a pair of flip-flops.  “I found an extra pair in the trunk”, she tells me.  I’m so relieved.  On to the ice cream store we go.

So that was really generous of her and we’ve probably all done that once or twice; given up an extra pair of shorts or t-shirt or diaper to another mom in need.  But my story doesn’t end there, because when we arrive at the ice cream store and walk in both Ricardo and I notice that her son the same age as J. isn’t wearing any shoes!  She had literally given me her son’s only pair of shoes.  I was floored. 

 It was a gesture that only the most generous soul would do.  It’s what Jesus would do.  It really touched me to the core.  I hope I can be more generous like that.  It was an amazing lesson for J.  We noted to him later that his friend was walking around without shoes so that he wouldn’t be upset not to have them.   I think we all need to challenge ourselves to be more like that, to give not just the extra that we have, but to give sacrificially to others.   I know giving J. a pair of flip flops might not be quite on the same level as the poor woman in the bible who gave the last of her small amount of money, but it's the same concept. 

“ All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”  Luke 21:4 NIV

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Our New House!

The story of how we ended up in our new home is long.  It’s really four years long because that’s how long we pondered, prayed, and worked to get here.  We didn’t know where God was leading us for the majority of it.  We didn’t know when or how He would do it.  But in the end, He did. 

Four years ago we found out we were having a third child and knew that at some point in the nearish future we would want to move out of our apartment and give our kids some space and much needed fresh air.  That began a roller coast of emotions for me. I spent a lot of that time wondering when God would move us, how He would do it, where we would go, how we would afford it etc…  Ricardo remained steadfast and certain that God’s timing would be perfect and we must wait for that time before so much as lifting a finger. 

We looked at a lot of communities before and after we visited the town where we are currently settled.  This one just felt right.  Still there were some logistical challenges to living here, mostly centered around how far away it is from work/church.  We waited and prayed some more. 

A year and a half ago we drove by what is now our home and Ricardo immediately fell in love.    Truthfully, it really was beautiful, but to me I just saw something way out of the ballpark for us.  We admired it from the outside and drove back to New York.  Unbeknownst to us the home was almost sold that spring to another family, only to have the deal fall through at the very last minute.  It went back up for sale and a year ago we decided to tour the inside of some other homes and apprehensively I told our realtor we'd like to look at the inside of this home too.  Ricardo again was in love with this house.  I worried that it was too big, would require too much upkeep, and quite frankly was just way too wonderful for us. 

So many things had to fall into place in order for us to even consider this house a possibility, and amazingly they all did.  We had an offer accepted in March and then waited for our apartment sale to close before we would officially be able to purchase this house. 

Everything on the apartment sale went smoothly until the very end.  Our buyers had to get approval from the board as we owned a co-op apartment and at the very last hour we were told they might not be accepted.  Basically the majority of the board was voting “no”.  They were having one final meeting and if one person changed their mind it would go through and if not, we would be without a buyer and stuck in our apartment. 

I knew right then and there that God was with us.  He was going to give us a clear answer on this move.  Either He was going to shut down the whole thing or confirm for us that He was with us in buying our new home.  At 11:30 pm, four hours after the start of the meeting, we got the call that our buyers were approved!  A few days after that we were able to buy this house!

We’ve been here three weeks now.  I have a ton of boxes I’ve given up on unpacking for now.  But it’s been confirmed in my heart with every new person we meet and when I see the joy in the faces of my children, that we made the right decision.  We belong here!  I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us.  Our home is beautiful and it will be shared with everyone we know.  We know He didn’t give it to us only for our personal enjoyment, although personally I can say we are enjoying it very much!

Here's a few pics of our first week in our new digs:

                                 Last moment in our apartment.  So many memories!
The new digs!

Lots of great neighbors!
Love the wildlife!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Our Amish Swing Set

Updated pic of the new swing set!!!  
Ever since we moved two weeks ago (and actually for some time before that), I’ve been obsessed with purchasing a swing set.  I think probably it has something to do with the last 8 years of schlepping kids, stroller, scooters, snacks, diapers, change of clothes, toys, band aids, etc. to the play ground by our apartment.  Now that we are settled into a house, the idea of shooing them outside to play on their very own swing set feels so very simple and easy. 

I’ve ordered one, and then canceled it, spent hours pouring over websites that sell them, and even tried unsuccessfully to buy a few used ones on craigslist.  Somewhat on a whim yesterday I called a place that helps you design custom sets that are then built in Lancaster by the Amish.  We went on an adventure to the guy’s store about forty-five minutes from here.

Ultimately this blog post has little to do with the cool swing set we ended up ordering, and everything to do with the interesting gentleman who sold it to us.  As we sat in his office he began to tell us about how the Amish rely on outsiders such as himself to advertise, order, make phone calls etc. for them as they are forbidden to do those things.  He then shared with us that he and his family had in fact left the Amish community themselves about 16 years ago.  Knowing only a little bit about the Amish, I was surprised at his answer when I asked them why they left. 

It turns out our swing set salesmen had literally never made a phone call or driven a car 16 years ago.  He was a devout member of the community.  However, one day a close friend of his decided to become a missionary and leave the community to share the gospel overseas.  His choice, led members of the Amish community to shun him because they believe that it is both faith in Jesus Christ and complete devotion to the Amish that gets you into heaven.  This event rocked our swing set seller’s world.  He began asking questions and looking to the bible for answers.  He told us that the Amish are forbidden to read the bible for themselves.  I don’t know if that’s accurate, but that’s what he said.  When he read verses such as “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all nations.” he was blown away.  Ultimately it was contradictions between scripture and what he had been taught that led him and his family to leave the community.

This man has maintained a deep respect for his former community and his family members who are still part of it.  He applauded them for their strong sense of family and family values.  But ultimately he said, “Jesus isn’t just for the Amish.  Jesus is for all people.”  I think that’s important for us all to remember.  Jesus doesn’t just love one group of people.  He didn’t die just for Americans, or straight people, or people who try really hard to be good.  He died for everyone.  Every single one of us. 

It was a great day meeting a very interesting individual and scoring a really cool swing set.  When we get it in three weeks I’ll include a picture of it on this blog post. 

For anyone in blogger land who has wondered where I’ve been the last few months (Dad that’s probably just you even though you are well aware), we’ve obviously had a ton going on with our move.  We’re settling in now and I’m hoping to share a lot about that journey as well as get back into writing a bit more often.  Stay tuned!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Serving Behind the Scenes

For the last eight years I’ve been in love with Japan.  Besides the fact that it’s a beautiful and clean country with amazing food; it’s the people there that really won my heart.  I got to accompany Ricardo there on our church singers’ first trip.  He’s been one more time since and is there right now ministering on the northern most island.  Besides holding down the fort with all four kids all on my own, the hardest part of having him gone is wishing I could be there with him.  Every picture someone posts from the trip on Facebook makes me long to be there.   

I was having a tough moment yesterday.  M. was mouthing off to me.  I had just earlier cleaned up peed upon bed sheets.  I was in a typical regular daily monotony while my hubs was off in my favorite foreign nation doing exactly what I wish I was.  Just then I got a Facebook message from my friend who just happens to be Japanese herself.  She told me she was praying for me and reminded me that part of the work God was doing in the hearts of the people at this outreach was behind the scenes and included people like me, who were holding things down at home.  What an encouragement that was to me. 

As moms we sometimes fail to see the opportunities we have to serve God by being at home.  I wish I was in Japan so badly, but God needed me here this time.  Sometimes serving Him is boring, tedious, and thoroughly un-exciting.  But it is no less important. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Midwives, Milk, and a Stable

We’ve gotten some interesting responses to the fact that we had a homebirth almost 3 weeks ago.  I think a lot of people have just been very surprised we would choose that route.  Homebirth accounts for only a small percentage of births in the U.S. although in Europe it is much more commonplace.  Without going into tons of details and citing research that supports the idea that homebirth is a very safe choice for low risk mothers, I will say that our choice was made with much prayer.  I have now had four very low risk, textbook pregnancies and births.  I had a team of highly qualified midwives who have tackled every emergency situation and never lost a mom or baby.  The hospital setting was just not for me and thankfully Ricardo (while initially apprehensive) supported me in that decision.  T. was actually born outside a hospital as well in a local birthing center.  To anyone who has indicated they thought we were nuts, I simply stated that as Christians we seek to follow after Jesus.  Had Jesus been born in his hometown, he surely would have been born at home.  Instead he was born in a stable.  If a stable was good enough for Jesus, our safe, warm, cozy home was good enough for baby I.  ; )

A few days after I. was born I was able to do something very special which elevated my amazing midwives to an even higher state of awesomeness.  A little back story:  Almost 8 years ago when I gave birth to J. I had an incredibly difficult time breastfeeding.   My milk supply suffered after a number of interventions with my birth and complications after it.  I made an appointment with my obstetrician to discuss if there was a prescription I could take (one exists) to help increase my milk supply.  Her response was basically along the lines of this, “Well some women just don’t make enough milk for their babies and they have to accept that.  You are just one of those women”.  I was crushed.  She did end up being wrong and with much perseverance and patience I was able to stop supplementing with formula after a few months.  Still her words crushed my spirit.  For many mothers, the ability to fully nourish their babies is closely connected to their overall wellbeing and feeling of adequacy as a mother. 

When I. was only 5 days old I got a call from one of my midwives that a mother had given birth a few days after me and was unable to breastfeed her baby for a number of reasons.  She was working on getting him to nurse and would be working with a professional lactation consultant, but in the meantime the baby was extremely hungry.  She wanted to know if I could pump some milk for him.  Of course I said yes.  I’ve donated milk in the past to a mother who couldn’t fully nurse her baby.  This particular situation became so near to my heart because of how I was treated when I found myself in the same situation 8 years ago.  Instead of telling this mom that she needed to just resign herself to bottle feeding her baby, my midwife team made another choice, one that to me showed their true understanding of a mother’s fragile emotional state post partum. 

Midwives have always had a reputation of making choices that go against the status quo, but are in the best interest of mothers and babies.  In the bible midwives are held in high regard in Exodus for deceptively telling the king of Egypt they couldn’t carry out his edict to kill every baby boy born to a Hebrew mother because the mothers delivered before they could get there.

“But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.” Exodus 1:17

For my midwives to hook up two moms for a modern day wet nurse scenario is completely A-typical, but that’s what makes them so special.  It further confirms my decision to choose them for my prenatal care and birth.  Little did they know they also gave us a connection with another family who have a newborn baby.  We text each other at 3 am to share updates.  They are equally sleep deprived.  We share a pretty cool bond.  I’m so thankful for how I. came into the world.