Saturday, January 19, 2019

Life Since October...

Happy belated New Year everyone! I've decided to revive my blog...not so much as to get readers, but because this seems to be the best way for me to keep a photo album of sorts for our family. I "dusted off" this space a few weeks ago, looking back over the past six years of posts, and decided to get back to it. It's so fun to be able to look back at so many moments in our life, kind of a "highlight reel" of sorts. Plus, with us living far from family and friends, I thought blogging more often would be a nice way for anyone who's interested to keep up with us in more ways than the phone. 
So, here goes! Photo wise, this post is a bit sporadic, partly because I'm condensing four months into a relatively short post, but also because I broke my phone a couple of months ago and lost all my pictures. My mom sent me what she had on her phone from pictures I've texted her, but other than that, the rest are gone. 

Life in TX: Can I just say, we love January! I mean, we have honestly enjoyed each month and the slow changing of seasons, but winter is proving to be absolutely fabulous. The weather is up and down, from the 40's (less often) to the high 60's (more often). It rains every week, which warrants a "winter" day in to cozy up with books and blankets and hot chocolate, but within a couple of days, the sun is back out bright and we are all spending our days outside again. The girls decided winter is the best here because it's the perfect temperature, the mosquitoes and bees are dormant, we don't have to worry about sunburns, and they can scamper through the middle of the woods instead of sticking to trails because the snakes are hibernating! (If anyone needs a break from snow, we have a guest room...come on down!)

I'll start way back in September with a story of God's providence in our lives. Eden was just a few weeks old, and more lethargic than I remembered our other girls being. Near the end of the month, she started spiking these high fevers that would surface and then go away as fast as they came. My mom had planned on coming in early September, closer to when Eden was born, but my dad had surgery (the day of Eden's birth) that ended up being much more difficult than expected, so she wasn't able to make it to Waco until the end of the month. Late one night a few days after she got here, Eden spiked another fever and Brad and I decided to take her to the ER. They found that she had a UTI and gave her a shot of antibiotics, sent us home with a prescription and orders to come back the next afternoon just to make sure she was looking better. The next day, I dropped Brad, my mom and the girls off at the children's museum and headed to the ER for her re-check, assuming we'd be in and out. While we were there, her fever spiked again and her blood work showed high white blood count, so they admitted us. She got an IV (watching my tiny infant go through getting an IV put in their arm is the least fun thing I've ever done) and hours later we were settling in to the pediatric wing of the hospital for what would be a four day stay. Brad was just a couple of weeks into his new job, and we didn't have a home church or anyone we knew very well at that point, so my mom "just happening" to be here when she was was such a huge blessing, as she was able to take care of the girls all day every day while Brad worked and I stayed with Eden at the hospital. She was able to extend her trip a few extra days, so after Eden was discharged and in good health, we got to do some fun things with mom:)




A few highlights for us the past few months have been hosting Brads parents for Thanksgiving, a spontaneous afternoon visit from some dear friends/mentors from Helena who stopped by and ate lunch by the pool with the girls and me, a quick visit from my aunt, uncle and cousin which happened to be while my mom was here, buying a house(!!!), exploring all the little nature spots in and around Waco we can find, and joining an amazing group of women and kids called Wild and Free (it's a local branch of a nationwide home school group...I'm meeting my cousin at a W and F conference in Dallas next month!)  Another thing we did this past fall and hope to go to each year is the annual Homestead Fair, where a large community of Anabaptists open up their community for the city of Waco to come hear live music, watch and even participate in pottery making, blacksmithing, woodworking, weaving, etc. There was a hay bail maze for kids, a petting zoo, and amazing home made food around every corner. Such a fun time!

Christmas, well, it was hard on all of us leading up to it. December was a sentimental month filled with nostalgia of the past seven Christmases spent in MT, and there were more than a few tears shed over the course of the month. However, not feeling in the "spirit" of Christmas made me focus of Christ more than ever, remembering that no matter how far we are from family and how alone and sad we feel, we are in the presence of Christ wherever we are; that the spirit of Christmas is really all about how much of the Spirit we are inviting into our space, whether that space is with or without the people we desire to be with. That said, we did have a lovely Christmas Eve service, watched The Snowman before bed as is tradition, and had a lovely Christmas day, taking goodies to the Waco dispatchers and going to some friends' for dinner. We hope to go to MT next year for the holiday. 

And so here we are, mid January, with a nearly 5 month old Eden, and a spunky kid (see immediate picture below for proof!) who's about to turn four...FOUR!!! We've got several visitors coming over the next couple of months, some light travel plans for Spring break in March, and before we know it, summer will be upon us and it'll be road trip time! 

I hope January finds you well and enjoying the calm after the holidays, drinking something warm and delicious by the fireplace, reading something that stirs your soul, and tackling those 2019 goals! 

To everyone far...we miss you more that words on a screen can convey. You are tucked close in our hearts and we think of you each and every day, and look forward to summer!

Much love... 
 



Lily, working on school, snuggling the baby

Thanksgiving



Mother Neff State Park: enjoying it in the winter. We've heard there are too many rattlesnakes to go the rest of the year.

New outfits to match their dolls, and (unintentionally) matching new sewing boxes from Grammy and Papa. They spend much spare time since Christmas making little things for their dolls...and I find pins and needles everywhere! 

Not as fun as going in the woods, but a Christmas tree farm got the job done:)

The Sunday before Christmas


At the Silos with Mom


Closing Day!!!!!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Eden, in Pictures

I didn't want to photo dump on Eden's birth story, but I just have to share some more pictures from the last days of pregnancy and from the first moments and months of her life. She's brings so much joy to our family!

Less than 24 hours old

The girls with my midwife, feeding the goats a few days before Eden was born. So fun!

39 weeks...

My 36th birthday with my girls. Eden was 5 days old.




More recent...Lily loving on her baby sis:)

Izzie talks about how she and Eden will be best friends. She's already "reading" books to her:)

Just a few days new. Addison is smitten

In the hospital at 5 weeks old:(

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Eden Keziah

Our fourth little blessing was born August 27, 2018, in a little house on a little farm on the outskirts of Waco, TX. She came a bit unexpectedly, one week early, unlike my three other late arrivers. 

Sunday (the 26th), I waddled my way to church, thinking briefly about how embarrassing it would be if my water broke in the middle of worship or something (yes, this is fully where my brain was). I quickly pushed that particular thought aside, remembering that I was still a full week away from my due date, and that I likely still had two or three weeks to go. We came home from church, and I worked on several projects, unusually full of energy. I baked two loaves of banana bread, organized the baby's closet area, vacuumed the apartment, and went swimming with the family at the pool. We came in and had a nice leisurely dinner and put the girls to bed. Brad and I stayed up reading for awhile, while I fought for a comfortable position to lay in bed and hoped for a good night's sleep. Brad fell asleep, so I reluctantly turned out the light and got "comfortable", and almost immediately started having little contractions. I figured if I just relaxed and went to sleep, they would stop. An hour later, sleep still eluding me, I decided to get up, and lo and behold, for the first time ever, my water broke!


I called Joycelyn around midnight to tell her we would be on our way, and we got our things together, woke up two excited girls and one grumpy one who wasn't interested, and headed off into the night to have a baby. 
We got the girls settled in their sleeping bags in a spare room, Brad promptly fell asleep, and I labored alone for a few hours until sometime around four in the morning, at which point, I was clearly in transition, ready to have this baby! I fully expected a quick and easy labor and birth, as she was my forth, and Izzie had come so fast and (relatively) easy. This did not happen. Instead, I stayed in transition for six hours, Eden "stuck" and me wishing with everything in me that I could magically transport myself to a hospital and have a dang epidural and MAKE THE PAIN STOP! (This did not happen either...)



At 10:04 the morning of the 27th, she finally made her appearance. Never before in all my life had I felt so exhausted, but also so fiercely strong. It was by far the hardest thing I've done in all my 36 years. Within a minute or two of her being born, Addison, Lily and Izzie were in the room, up on the bed peering at her with wonder and so much instant love! I fed her for awhile and then nodded off, in and out of sleep for the next four hours, until we were given the "all looks great" and sent on our way home to rest and snuggle up with our new baby. 

It's been four months (I'm a bit late in finally getting around to writing the birth story), and I still can't stop telling people how great the experience of having a home birth was. My three experiences of having babies at hospitals wasn't bad per say, but the difference between a hospital birth and a home birth was just staggering to me! It was so peaceful! The lights were dim, when I needed to walk around, Brad or the midwife would help me up and even took me outside to get some fresh air during the thick of it. When I was convinced I couldn't do it, they prayed over me, and there was music, laughter, and just a beautiful ambiance the whole time. No one ever seemed in a hurry or alarmed, although they were absolutely clear in the last minutes that I had to get her out NOW or else she was in danger. I felt completely secure that both the baby and I were in perfectly capable hands, and where at a hospital I surely would have been forced into having a c-section after being in transition for so long, Joycelyn allowed things to happen naturally. And then, getting to go home four hours later! That was a bit nerve wracking at first, but it was really amazing, sleeping in my own comfortable bed after such a grueling labor and delivery. To wake up to a home cooked breakfast from Brad instead of florescent lights and hospital coffee and eggs, well, it was pretty perfect.

And just like that, we are a family of 6.

Monday, August 20, 2018

A Slow Summer and a Big Move

This summer was just what my soul desperately needed...
Slowness. Intentionality. Savoring. Just...being. We had a long and beautiful Spring with more rain than usual (more than I can remember in my whole life, really). Everything that would have normally been brown and dry was still alive and magnificently green for weeks longer than normal, and it was so enjoyable! Brad mowed lawns for our pastor's lawn care business, and the girls and I enjoyed the great outdoors in a multitude of ways. It was, as far as I can remember, the first summer in years that we weren't either traveling or madly house hunting and moving and stressed to the max. Literally, time seemed to stop most days, as the sun lingered well past ten each evening, long after little ones were tucked in to bed.




While Brad worked, we got into a groove, taking care of our pastor's gardens while they were on vacation for three weeks, and taking care of our neighbor's chickens several times while she traveled here and there. We started every morning with a quick breakfast, and then headed off to do our "chores" (though I hesitate to call feeding chickens and taking care of vegetable gardens "chores", since we so thoroughly enjoy those activities). We'd water and pull weeks and eat a handful of raspberries, and then head off to either ride bikes or take a hike before it got hot for the day. My memories of July will not soon fade! My eighth month of pregnancy was dreamy (I'm actually being serious)...I felt energized and healthy and like I could carry this little girl around forever! Having all that energy was such a blessing, as we are in a short season where my littlest, being three and a half, can actually ride her little bike for quite a ways and keep up with her sisters pretty well, and all of them can hike or take long walks without anyone needing to be carried half the time. I say a short season because it just started recently, and it's all going to end here in a few weeks, when I start all over again with another baby. And so, we took full advantage and soaked up biking and hiking, just us four girls each morning.





My other simple pleasure this summer was eating dinner on the porch each night. We had a covered porch in the front of the house, so no matter how hot it was at dinnertime, it was really quite comfortable to eat outside. I don't think we ate more than one meal inside for two solid months! Simple summer meals made without turning on the oven as much as possible, eating ALL the farmer's market bounty we could get our hands on, savoring the flavors and the sounds of summer and just slow time spent as a family around the table. After dinner the girls would get back on their bikes and ride until at last, we would have to be semi-responsible parents and call them in to get ready for bed before dark.




Popsicles and copious amounts of watermelon and Flathead cherries, live music in the park, friends splashing through sprinklers in the back yard, cold brew coffee, neighborhood chickens dropping by, plenty of time playing in the woods, miles logged walking alongside littles on bicycles, late night talks with friends on the porch, and countless wilted wildflower bouquets gifted to me by proud chubby little hands. MY HEART COULDN'T HAVE BEEN MORE FULL.

And then I remember one day as I stood quietly watering the raspberry patch, marveling at fact that life was so peaceful. My second thought was, "Uh-oh, what's about to happen?" It seems to be a definitive pattern in our married life, that the Lord provides us with an abundance of peace, allowing us to be rested and filled to the brim just before something difficult comes. Sure enough, within two days of me having that thought, Brad got an unexpected call from Waco, TX, three job interviews, and two offers on the table. If we said yes, we would have eleven days before we had to be on the road headed across the country. I would be 37 weeks pregnant.

We laid our options on the table. We talked pros and cons. We stayed up late into the night most nights talking, or sometimes just sitting quietly just thinking. We prayed...and prayed, and prayed some more. We asked for wise counsel. And then we made the seemingly crazy decision to say yes.

Here we are, a few extremely short weeks later, relocated in a place we've joked about moving to for years. We live in Texas, Brad once again has a teaching job, the girls and I are homeschooling by morning, exploring our new city by afternoon, and acclimatizing to the heat and humidity of August in Texas! Life is strangely peaceful, and I don't think it has much to do with the details of life itself (packing, taking care of a thousand details to tie things up in one state followed by taking care of a thousand more details to get things started in another state, driving for five days, moving into an apartment, sharing one vehicle, navigating a new city with three kids, being two weeks from my due date, and starting a new home school year, plus learning to exist in such a small space as a family of five--soon to be six...these are not the life events that come together to create a peaceful feeling!) Rather, I can sense the Lord so deeply intertwined in every little detail of our life right now. His peace has sustained me in a way that is virtually unexplainable. I felt His presence on the road--not that the trip was easy, but as hard as it was, there was no anxiety (except for a momentary melt-down I had in a gas station in the middle of Kansas, where I suddenly felt we had come too far to turn back, yet we were so far from our destination I thought my poor body would never make it there!) When we got to this unfamiliar city, He provided eight of the kindest men to help Brad unload the U-Haul and a teenage girl to watch the girls while I helped direct the unloading (I'm a little bossy like that).



Slowly but surely, we are settling in. If the baby came today, it would be just fine. We are unpacked, we've met the midwife (and love her!), baby will share our room and everything is ready for her, we're a week into school, Brad's job is well underway, and amazingly enough, we have some semblance of routine going. Things are starting to feel familiar. Life in Texas has officially begun!



Monday, May 21, 2018

Refreshment


Burnt out.
     Insignificant.
          Aimless.
               Exhausted.
                    Frustrated.
                         Mentally fatigued.

Sadly, these have been my thoughts as a mom lately.

Though my winter blues are gone, I've still struggled to find my way back to joyful motherhood. I find joy in the lovely parts...the morning snuggles and taking them on little nature walks and all the fun, happy parts that encompass each day. But then there's the spills and the dirty socks on the kitchen table and the broken glass and the tantrums over who got the bigger cookie. The sass and the little one who won't comply and the attitude and my personal least favorite, the sibling fighting. These things have been monopolizing my mind, and instead of focusing on all the gifts, all that's good and beautiful about each day, all I've been able to see are the hard things, the ugly in hearts (mine and theirs), and the way the stress of long days, plus the carrying of a new life is taking a toll on my own physical body, though I don't like admitting that.



Mother's Day was a day of reflection, rest, and refreshment for me, and I'm happy to say my mind is moving in the right direction again. The day itself was hard not to love: the girls made me an amazing breakfast of avocado toast with an over-easy fried egg and bacon slices, and a strawberry smoothie. We went to church and then out for lunch at one of my favorite little cafes. After a lazy afternoon at home--them napping and me reading a new book and just laying in bed pondering motherhood and life as it is in this particular season--we went for a hike and I was surprised and thrilled to find that our little hiking spot had turned green and was at it's peak for wild flowers blooming. We ended the day with homemade shrimp cobb salads eaten on the porch. Not a bad Mother's Day!

I've known my heart towards motherhood was in the wrong place for awhile now. So many things in my screwy brain got shifted around this winter, and it's as if I've had to deal with each one separately in it's own time to get my thoughts right again. (I dread the thought of this happening every winter...one of the reasons I'm praying for the Lord to allow us an open door to TX). I've always thought that only the physical body was capable of hard "work". When I'm out of shape, like after a pregnancy, I know that I can push my body to get it strong and lean again, functioning well and feeling it's best. Well, I'm learning that I've go to do hard "work" to get my mind in a healthy state again, and that's just what I've been doing. It takes sitting in silence and thinking right thoughts instead of letting distractions take control. It takes a lot of prayer and a lot of studying/meditation on scriptures, and the discipline of preaching truth to myself the moment my thoughts start going the wrong way. It takes practicing gratitude constantly. Mother's Day afforded me lots of quiet time to really dig deep and acknowledge my sinful and skewed attitudes toward being a stay at home, homeschool mom.




Some things I'd been struggling with the past few months included...
Frustration over sibling arguments
     Annoyance at being interrupted all the time
          Disdain regarding the monotony of my days
               Discontentment as I compared my life to the lives of my working friends
                    Wishing for more purpose in my days; the lost ability to see purpose in the here & now
                         Feeling inadequate and pitying myself over my perceived lack

And then besides the wrong thoughts, were the very real aspects contributing to my unhappiness in motherhood, namely, exhaustion. Pregnancy number four has made me so tired, it seems like accomplishing the basic necessities each day is a constant struggle and my body is flat out done by eight o'clock every night. I find that cheerfulness and patience are the first things to go when I'm exhausted, so it's been a fight to have patience and joy around my girls.



THANKFULLY, I serve a God who hears my desperate pleas for help, who listens to and answers my prayers, though not always on my time table. I went to bed Saturday night pleading with him to fix my broken, pessimistic mom heart. I spent time Sunday doing the same thing, as well as taking intentional time to reflect upon all the amazing gifts I have in my children...so much to be thankful for! I sought out quotes and scripture I remembered reading in the past, whether from books, the Bible, or random Instrgram posts. I went back to a podcast from 2014 on parenting from grace, reminding me that I am, in fact, completely insufficient for the task of raising these girls, but that HE is sufficient. How freeing to remember that where I lack, God is more than enough. I CAN'T parent perfectly. Much of my frustration and irritation is rooted in not being able to control my kids: I can't control their obedience, their attitudes, their messy habits, their lack of getting along some days, or anything else! I can do my best to shape them, but only God can sanctify them and move their hearts towards Him. My frustration leads me towards behavior modification parenting, which does nothing for heart change. My job is to point them to Jesus: first and foremost, his work on the cross; then his characteristics and his commands, namely, loving him and loving others.

Monday morning, I woke up early, laced up my shoes, and went for a walk, asking for a fresh start. My favorite prayer when I feel like I need a complete do-over is from Psalm 51:
 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 

I prayed for renewed joy, right thinking, patience, wisdom, endurance, selflessness, and the ability to see every difficulty as an opportunity for heart shaping in these little one's who have been entrusted to my care each day. That I wouldn't see cooking and dishes and cleaning up spills and taking out trash and cleaning toilets and wiping snotty noses as drudgery and meaningless, monotonous work, but as a high calling and an opportunity to serve my family. And guess what? My prayers and pleading were heard! I can honestly say that I feel enormously refreshed and renewed in body, mind and spirit.



This isn't to say everything is rainbows and butterflies (although there are lots of rainbows and butterflies this time of year;)). The girls still fight. The little one is at the age where, although she is an exceptionally happy and silly kid, everything seems to set her off and I never know when a meltdown is going to strike. There are still peed pants and spilled milk and broken dishes and bad attitudes. But the peace I once had in the midst of these daily events has returned. I see the tantrums as a glorious opportunity to get at eye level and speak truth into my little girl's heart. Spills and messes an opportunity to serve and/or teach responsibility. Bad attitudes an opportunity to teach life lessons. And most importantly, I'm letting the truth sink in, that I don't have to be perfect, because HE is. I don't have to get it all right. When I lose my cool, deal unfairly with one of them, or act out of selfishness (all of which I will do...repeatedly), the cross stands in the gap for me. I don't have to wallow in shame or decide I'm the worst mom ever, or stress out that I'm ruining them. I can teach my kids through my mistakes, by admitting my error and asking their forgiveness.




Maybe the point of this long winded post is to encourage you to stop when you feel something is off. Perhaps it's your marriage or some other relationship, or maybe your parenting, or it could be something altogether different. Stop and take time to acknowledge the issue, to pray, to reflect, to do battle with the enemy! Make your mind do hard work just like your body does hard work. Sure, it's easier to jump on social media and scroll your way to false bliss (numbness), but making the decision of getting right with God and asking him to do a massive work in your area of struggle is infinitely worth the work. And ultimately, when we open our hands and hearts and ask, He does the real work!