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.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Our Sweet Baby I.'s Homebirth Story!

At 12:45 am on November 24th I woke up to a few contractions.  They felt different than what I had been feeling before.  I began to panic as it was 2 weeks until my due date and I really didn’t feel ready to go through labor.  Ricardo had just gotten back from working straight for 24 hours and hadn’t slept in almost 2 days.  It wasn’t a good time.  Besides that, I had pretty much spent my entire pregnancy not wanting to have to go through labor.  Obviously this was an inevitable end and beginning that I needed to complete at some point, but I wasn’t ready for it to be that night. 

I went to the bathroom and after I peed and wiped the toilet paper was slightly pink tinged. Blood.  Darn this was happening.  I knew this was happening.  I called my midwife telling her I didn’t want to go through it, that I wasn’t ready.  I told her I wanted to go to the hospital and drug myself up and just not have to deal with the pain.   She said, take a bath and maybe they would stop.  I knew she was wrong, but I took her advice.  I got in the shower and had some more contractions there.  When I got out I got dressed and felt a gush and knew my water was leaking.  I called back my midwife and she said she thought she should come over.  My water usually doesn’t break until the very end of labor so having it happen this early on signaled to her that it might be quick.  Our apartment was in a bit of disarray so Ricardo got busy straightening things up for our birth team to arrive.  I continued to have contractions, but they were pretty manageable.

When my midwife arrived I had surrendered to the process and journey ahead.  I had hoped this time I would be able to lean on the two rocks in my life, Jesus and Ricardo.  I hadn’t ever managed to keep my focus on them during labor before, but this time I really did.  Ricardo put on some music for me that really kept me in prayer and I would pray to Jesus during each contraction and in between too.  I thought about how he had endured so much more than I ever would.  I was also hopeful and asked God if we could have the baby before the older kids woke up in the morning.  The assistants arrived shortly.  I alternated laboring on the bed, the exercise ball, and just standing.  One the assistants was a massage therapist so she helped relax my legs in between contractions as they were shaking badly.  This helped so much because spasming legs is not conducive to rest in between contractions.  I went back into the shower and labored there through a few contractions, but it was too hot and I wanted to get out.  Back to my room and the labor ball and then back to the bed.  Through the whole things I just kept praying for God to help me through and leaning on Ricardo for support.  We were totally in sync.  My birth team monitored the baby and was very hands off.  They let me do my thing and followed my lead.

Eventually I started to feel I.’s head much lower and my body began to push.  At my request I was never checked for dilation.  I just wanted to go with the flow.  I pushed for what felt like a really, really long time.  My midwife told me later it was just light pushing for about 20 minutes and then really intense insanely hard pushing for about 20 minutes.  It hurt so much and I badly wanted breaks, but my body was just doing it and so I went with it had pushed with all I had.  Eventually I pushed I.’s head out, but his shoulders got a little bit stuck in the position I was in (on my side) so they flipped me on all fours.  I have never been in so much pain and I was worried he was stuck and wouldn’t come out.  In maybe only a minute more I pushed his shoulders out and the rest of him came.  What sweet relief!  He was born at 6:14 am about 20 minutes before our other 3 woke up and came in to greet their new brother and sing happy birthday!

We immediately noticed he was sort of chunky and sure enough he is the heaviest of all our four kids at 8 lbs 4 oz.  Surprising for being the earliest by far.  We are so in love and blessed to have him here.  Recovery is going well.  He nurses wonderfully.  I couldn’t be more happy that God chose a different plan for our family than the one I had planned for myself.

Monday, November 11, 2013

4 weeks to go! or 3? or 2? or 5?

I have exactly 3 weeks and 6 days until our fourth little human is due to make his appearance.  I was reflecting the last day or two about how much anticipation I always feel in the final weeks of pregnancy.  When I ponder it, it feels quite huge.  On some pre-set date, that only God knows about, our child will arrive into this world, and I have no idea what day that's going to be.  It's exciting and nerve wracking all at the same time.  I think to myself, "It could be next week or in three weeks or five" I'm not sure if I like the anticipation of it or not.  The planner side of me certainly does not like it.  But it's a lesson in trusting God.  It will be soon though.  I will meet my fourth sweet little baby face to face.  It's been a long long roller coaster ride of a pregnancy.  But God has brought me a long way.  I'm excited.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

On the Fence

For the last year I've been part of an online community of Christian women.  It's been interesting to discuss different topics and I've learned a lot about where I stand in my own walk with God.  The debates at time can get very intense.  I do enjoy a good debate however and often find myself straddling the fence on whatever topic is being discussed.

Lately I've been pondering my place as a fence straddler.  I don't know what I believe about a lot of things.  To name a few: I see the biblical basis for both believer and infant baptism, predestination vs. free will, remarriage being acceptable vs. never being acceptable.  I have absolutely no certainty over where I stand politically on gay marriage and abortion, although I tend to lean more liberally in the political arena while keeping my bible minded beliefs out of that area.

I feel like there is so much I just don't know and in the past that concerned me.  When the online debates get heated over things like Halloween, modesty, should every believer speak in tongues etc… there is an ever present Catholic voice on the board that points out that we Protestants can never figure out what we believe about anything, are constantly divided, and that leads to bickering and dissension.  She's certainly correct.  She points out that the Catholic Church's solution to this is to have a stance on everything, therefore eliminating the need to wonder about anything.  The leader being infallible and ordained by God cannot make a mistake, therefore Catholic doctrine comes directly from God and solves the problem of what is right, wrong, and what to do about it if you're wrong about something.

It makes nice, neat sense, except for one thing I've been feeling lately:  I just don't feel like God wants us to know and have all the answers.  I don't doubt the answers exist.  But perhaps being uncertain leads us to just trust Him and have faith that one day it WILL all make sense.  If we have all the answers down pat we as human beings have this nasty tendency of becoming self righteous and legalistic, trusting in rules and not God Himself.

With all that said, I could be entirely wrong.  : )   I'm okay with that.  I'm actually very okay with saying I don't know how I feel about a lot of stuff.  I think I have the important stuff down.  Love God, follow Jesus, love people.  Leave everything else in His hands and listen to His voice.  Someday I will see Him face to face and maybe then everything will be perfectly clear.