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“Redemption comes in strange places, small spaces
Calling out the best of who we are” Sara Groves

Oh Sara – you have lyrics for every occasion!  Seriously, friends, if you have never listened to Sara Groves’ music, go out and buy every album she has recorded – you won’t regret it!

Today marks 4 months since we moved to west TN.  It still seems strange that we travelled 10 hours west of the familiar and embarked on a new journey in Jackson.  The transition has been better and harder than I imagined before we left NC.  Because this post is about the positive changes, let me just summarize the “hard” by saying that the reality of being away from extended family has sunk in and boy, we miss our loved ones!!  It has been particularly difficult as we watch our boys struggle to be away from grandparents and cousins, as well as our old house.

Yet in spite of the distance from the familiar, we are doing well overall and extremely happy!  I was telling my mother recently that though our move was precipitated by a job change for Randy, it has been such a gift to me personally.  To explain a little of where I’m coming from, Randy and I have been married for almost 8 years and have been parents for a little over 5 years.  While we have fond memories of our 7 years in Alamance County, these were years of great transition and stress.  Marriage, home ownership, job changes, parenthood – all were gifts and yet very challenging.  Until our last year or so when I started getting more involved in church activities, I felt very lonely there.  Since graduating from grad school in 2005, I had not had the peer relationships I once had – “heart friends” I like to call them.  I experienced small doses of this from time to time through various outlets, but not constant and steady like I once knew.  Added to this was being a new mom without much local support and also an obsession with job hunting for Randy, who struggled with his last job from day one.  Seven years of praying and asking God to direct us took its toll and I found myself not really living in the present – always looking ahead to the moment when God would finally deliver us!  You can imagine that after 7 years and several interviews later, we were thrilled about the offer to move to TN for a great company with excellent benefits!  I do regret that I did not make the most of my time in Graham, and moving and selling our house had its own set of challenges, but God’s timing is perfect and I am beginning to see now why He led us to Jackson.

I decided when we moved here that I would be content no matter what.  Regardless of whether Randy liked his new job, I was going to live in the present and not plan our next steps.  I have enough on my plate with raising my boys, homeschooling, tending to a dog and household responsibilities!  Our goal is to get out of our revolving debt as quickly as possible, and also enjoy exploring this part of the country.  What a gift to be near two big cities, Memphis and Nashville, and be quite close to states we’ve never visited, like Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi!  We discovered quickly that we love the Jackson area as well, with its farmland and quaint, cute small towns.  Jackson itself has more to offer than our previous community, so we are enjoying the parks, museums, libraries, shopping, and other recreational activities.

Apartment living has proven to be a challenge, but also a blessing.  We miss the freedom of a yard, in particular – my boys aren’t used to having to be with us every second!  Nevertheless, there is a nice dog park for Cobie and a large pool and kiddie pool for refreshment on these hot summer days.  Randy, thankfully, likes his new job a lot but works longer hours, so apartment life is nice for him because there is nothing to maintain and even the trash is picked up outside our door!  When he is home, he can focus on family time and not chores.  We were able to get a garage onsite to store our larger items, so the boys can ride their power wheels and bikes in a vacant lot and not have to give up some of their favorite activities from our old house.  There are several children that live here, and one boy in our building who is exactly Jack’s age, so Jack and Judson have playmates.  Randy and I have made friends through the dog park; our next door neighbors are awesome and another couple in a nearby building are great, too.

With only so much to do at the apartment complex, I take the boys out on excursions quite often, which is a change from our old house where the primary entertainment was our own large yard.  We have made dear friends at the park (mommies and kids!) and see familiar faces at the different kids’ programs we attend.  Most importantly for me, I have become close friends with a few women who also mother young children, bringing my total to around 5 women that I am in regular contact with – SO significant to my emotional and mental health!!!  I am even facilitating a Bible study with a handful of women from different churches in the area, starting in September.  I am so excited how God has provided these avenues for me in such a short time – heart friends and a discipleship opportunity!

I feel like I am slowly getting my “groove” back.  I’ve even had some neat personal reminders of the carefree, social Lauren that I used to be.  In June I was privileged to attend a reunion of some of my dearest college friends in Nashville.  In July I got to visit with a dear friend from grad school when she visited family in Memphis, then later that month I reconnected with another dear friend in Memphis, also from my college days.  Just last week, I got a random call from a friend in MA that I hadn’t talked to in a long time.  This past Sunday night, I attended a women’s conference at church nearby.  It had been 10 years since I worshipped and learned with hundreds of women.  Experiencing great biblical teaching and vibrant worship awakened my heart.  It is clear that God is giving me these gifts in this season, in this place, for a reason.

Cue the lines from the beginning of this post:  “Redemption comes in strange places, small spaces, calling out the best of who we are.”  In January of this year, I just knew it was going to be a “big year.”  Little did I know I’d be packing up my family and moving to an apartment in Jackson, TN.  Has it been easy?  No.  But, wow, God is using this move to draw me closer to Him and to draw me out of my shell of worry and self-centeredness.  The growth my family and I are experiencing spiritually, relationally, and emotionally has been well worth the costs.

“Could it be that He is only waiting there to see, if I will learn to love the dreams that He has dreamed for me?  Can’t imagine what the future holds, but I’ve already made my choice – and this is where I stand, until He moves me on. I will listen to His voice.” Twila Paris

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I Saw What I Saw

I saw what I saw and I can’t forget it

I heard what I heard and I can’t go back

I know what I know and I can’t deny it

Something on the road, cut me to the soul

Your pain has changed me

your dream inspires

your face a memory

your hope a fire

your courage asks me what I’m afraid of

(what I am made of)

and what I know of love

Sara Groves

This evening, as I was stirring spaghetti sauce, my mind wandered back to a face I saw over 25 years ago.  It’s amazing how moments in time – even a “snapshot” of a memory – can shape our worldview and serve as landmarks on the journey of life.  I can see trends in my own experience:  so much of what I define as “meaningful” in my life are things I have seen and done that have become part of my life’s purpose – conversations I’ve had, lessons I’ve learned, people I’ve met that have left an indelible mark and I will never be the same.  I am thankful for the family members, teachers, mentors, and friends who have helped open my eyes to the world around me.

The face I was referring to earlier is the face of a little girl about my age in the 1980s.  I was probably in the second or third grade when my Sunday School teachers took our class to a local Children’s Home to host a birthday celebration for the kids there.  We brought cake and ice cream and had a party.  The details are somewhat hazy, but I will never forget one girl there.  At the end of the party, she hugged each one of us in the Sunday School class and thanked us for coming.  I’ll never forget her face.  My heart still melts when I think about her joy and her openness to us, strangers though we were.  It was the first time in my life I became aware of children my age without parents and my heart broke with compassion that day.  I am thankful for my Sunday School teachers who took us out of our comfort zones and heightened our awareness of the needs of others – people our own age even.

Around the same time period, I accompanied my mother to a Pregnancy Care Center where she volunteered.  While she was serving, I sat in the waiting room.  I probably had basic knowledge of “the birds and the bees” at that point, but I certainly did not know about getting pregnant outside of marriage or the plight of women in unplanned situations.  A young woman and (I’m assuming) her mother walked in and the young woman’s jeans were unbuttoned, clearly a sign that she was starting to show and needed maternity clothes.  She is someone else I will never forget.  My young and impressionable heart broke again that day.  To this day, I have a significant burden for “women’s issues” – identity/image, abuse, neglect, emotional/spiritual concerns, etc.  I credit this day with the start of God giving me the gift of compassion for such issues, and I’m thankful to my mom for taking me with her and opening my eyes to the needs of women.

When I was 16, I spent the summer babysitting for children of Campus Crusade staff who were doing an outreach project based at the University of Maryland.  Up to that point, I had been considering a career in medicine, but a conversation with a staff worker on the Washington DC Metro changed my direction.  She said that she had considered becoming a doctor as well, but then she realized that she felt called to heal hearts in a different way – by sharing the gospel.  God used this woman to speak to me that day.  I, too, wanted to minister to others spiritually and not necessarily physically.

This led me to major in Sociology in college – the study of people.  Classes I took in that major, particularly Social Inequality and Male and Female Roles in Society with Dr. Hattery, continued to shape the course of my future.  I could write for days on my experiences in these classes and others at Wake Forest – I truly had remarkable professors who lived out the Pro Humanitate motto.  For the sake of time and space I’ll mention two experiences that are burned in my memory.  One was visiting a women’s shelter for the first time, for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.  Helping stock the food pantry there, and attending other events sponsored by the women’s agency in Winston-Salem, helped me realize that I wanted to focus my career aspirations on abused women.  Another experience was volunteering at a local men’s homeless shelter.  The first time I went, I met a young black man and we started talking.  The conversation turned to music and he asked me about my favorite singer.  It is Twila Paris and most people have never heard of her – I certainly did not expect this man to know her music.  Well, I was wrong!  He said he liked her music and immediately started singing his favorite:  “Oh, the light is shining.  I can feel it warm and glowing.  Oh, the day is breaking, waking here inside my longing heart.”  I can still see his face and hear his lovely voice singing this song.  It was beautiful – angelic even, and to this day I wonder if that is what he was.  Regardless, meeting he and the other men at the shelter helped reshape my view of the homeless and my eyes and heart were opened to needs I had not seriously considered before.

I went to grad school for counseling, and I chose a domestic violence/sexual assault agency for my practicum.  I will never forget my first client there, a woman who had been in an abusive marriage for over 20 years and had not had access to medical care, a hairdresser – no one outside the walls of her home and family.  It was a big deal for her to be sharing her story, seeking help.  I can still tear up thinking about her.

My first job after school was at a domestic violence/sexual assault agency near my hometown.  As shelter manager, I still remember the first client I ever accepted into the shelter, her pain and anger and struggles.  I remember so many faces of the women and children I met during that two-year period.  Their stories still haunt me and stir me to action concerning this horrific and heartbreaking injustice.

I will save the story of how I transitioned from this line of work to campus ministry for another day, but it is another memory that I hope to never forget.  So, there I was, stirring spaghetti sauce and contemplating all these faces and experiences, rolling through them like a filmstrip in my mind.  Now days, I am a wife and mother at home with small children.  I realize that what I am doing is ministry as well, but it has become easy to focus just on Jack, Judson, and our little family and not look outward to the needs of others.  I found myself praying, “God, break my heart again for a hurting world, for people in overwhelming situations in need of hope and love.”  At the very least, I want to expose my sons to the world’s needs and invite them to serve others with me.  I don’t want to raise self-centered, entitled men who do not have compassion for the orphaned, widowed, poor, abused, and oppressed people in our community and world.  I want to raise sons who live out the words of Jesus in Mark 9:35, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

2014 Verse of the Year

The passage I have chosen to pray for myself and my sons this year is James 1:5-8.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”  James 1:5-8, NIV

I also really like Eugene Peterson’s translation:

“If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.” James 1:5-8, The Message

As I was thinking through which verse to choose this year, the word “wisdom” kept coming to mind.  As a mother raising two young boys, I need wisdom!!  I need wisdom in how to nurture them physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.  Raising godly men who love Jesus and others is no small task, not to mention raising them to be healthy and responsible adults who may someday become husbands and fathers.

It seems that mothers “grow” and develop as fast as their children do!  We are not given a handbook the moment our child is placed in our arms, and everyone we read or talk to has a differing (and passionate!) opinion on how to feed, diaper, dress, discipline, and educate them!  “Mom guilt” is a common catchphrase today and describes the deafening lies we mothers hear inside our heads, telling us that we’re not enough or not doing things correctly compared to other, “better” mothers.  Couple that with the fact that every child is different, motherhood is challenging as we make big and small decisions for our little ones’ well-being every day.

One thing that stands out to me about this passage of Scripture is that it is immediately preceded by James telling us to consider it joy *when* we face trials of many kinds.  Trials are not an option (ask any mother!), but the good news is that when we don’t know what we’re doing, we can ask God for wisdom.  He gives generously; He loves to help!  What a relief for this often insecure and weary mother.  He’s not thinking, “I can’t believe she doesn’t know how to do this.”  Other mothers/people may make you feel this way, but not God!!

I consulted the IVP New Testament Commentary about the part about doubt, because certainly unbelief is a part of all of our experience.  I found this explanation helpful:

“James certainly does place doubt in immediate contrast to believe (or, literally, in contrast to the noun faith) in 1:6. But James is writing about something much deeper than surface thoughts. The actual point of his warning about doubt is to expose a basic soul-condition of unbelief. That basic soul-condition is described with the term double-minded in 1:8. It means a double-souled person, a person whose heart’s loyalties are divided, a person who has not decided to give his or her love to God. The doubt then is a vacillation between self-reliance and God-reliance. This person is not looking to God from a stance of faith, and for this person there is no promise that God will give wisdom. The instability of this vacillating person is captured in the vivid imagery of the unstable sea wave, and this image stands in contrast to the perseverance in 1:3 (cf. Is 57:20). The testing of faith develops perseverance, but doubt (as a root unbelief) makes a person unstable.”

I love the part about vacillating between self-reliance and God-reliance.  How often do I say I trust God, but I’m really relying on myself?  I told Randy a few days ago that I sometimes remind myself of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.  Even after God makes a covenant with Abram, promising an heir (Genesis 15:4), Sarai persuades Abram to take her servant as his wife and start a family.  She created a heap of trouble for herself when she just needed to be patient, trusting God’s promise.  Fourteen years later, she indeed bore a son in her old age.  How many times do we make our own plans, trust in our own abilities and limited strength, perhaps only giving lip-service to consulting God?

As I pray through this passage this year, I pray for myself and for my sons that we will not be double-minded.  I echo David’s prayer in Psalm 86:11:  “Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”  God has always been faithful to me and my family, even when circumstances did not turn out like I thought they would.  I want to rely on His faithfulness and not on myself.  I do not want my heart divided between the entanglements of my flesh and this world and the Kingdom of God.

So, there you have it folks.  My bold prayer this year is for wisdom to be the wife, mother, and daughter of the King that I am.  I pray for wisdom for my sons as well, that they will come to know God through Jesus and learn to walk in His ways.  I pray God will help us in our unbelief and divided hearts.  I want to trust Him more and more, and I want Jack and Judson to put their trust in Him at early ages.  He is a trustworthy God!

2013 was a great year!  It was our first full calendar year with sweet Judson and it was so fun to watch him grow and develop into a busy toddler.  This year, he learned to crawl, eat solids, walk, and parrot everything we say!  He loves animals, and his animal sounds are quite realistic. 🙂  Jack keeps him laughing and they are starting to be able to play together for longer stretches as they get older.  Toy vehicles, animals, balls, and our indoor plastic slide are the toys of choice around here, and both boys enjoy the great outdoors as well.

Jack turned three in March and was potty-trained in late September – hallelujah!!  This was a huge accomplishment in our house and having only one in diapers again is fabulous. 🙂  Jack is becoming more and more independent (bittersweet for me) and wants to be just like daddy.  He loves visiting Randy at “the plant” and all things involving heavy equipment, tools, and safety equipment.  His reward for potty-training was a toy weed-eater, much to his delight, to use alongside his toy chainsaw and leaf blower.  He still enjoys watching Randy mow and getting to ride on the lawnmower – for the first 6 months of his third year he even spoke in a “lawnmower voice.”  His latest phase is wearing safety glasses *all the time* with a baseball cap, or occasionally a hard hat with work gloves.  One perk to all this “big man” play is that Jack is very helpful around the house.  Despite his manly interests, he is a sensitive boy that still loves to be held and hugged and kissed – so grateful for that!!  I love my boys and cuddle them as much as I can.  Jack’s other interests are riding his bike and playing outside, driving his kid-sized jeep, having fun with Baxter (our dog), and watching “Snoopy” and Curious George.  As much as I would enjoy some female company around here sometimes, I have to say that I love being a “boy mom” and feel it’s the perfect fit for my personality and skill set.

Randy finished his second year as Plant Manager at a mine in Hillsborough, where he has worked for almost 6 years.  His job can be demanding at times, but he is great at what he does and I am thankful for the way he provides for us so that I can stay at home.  The boys started Kindermusik this past summer and absolutely love it!  I hope their love for music continues to grow.

2013 was also a fun year for travel!  The boys ride in the car relatively well and it’s so fun going to new and familiar places alike and experiencing the world through their eyes.  Since my grandparents have a house in the mountains and one of Randy’s sisters lives in New Bern, we enjoyed visiting and exploring these places a few times this year.  We also spent a week at Ocean Isle Beach this summer and took a couple of long weekends to Virginia Beach as well.  Jack and Judson love to swim and hike, and I look forward to more adventures with them in the future.

We rang in the New Year with my next-to-last sister and her husband.  We had a great time eating way too much and playing games!  It’s hard to believe that 2014 is already here, but I feel really hopeful and excited about this year.  I’m not one to make resolutions (because I never keep them), but a few general goals come to mind right away:

1.  Date my husband:  Since having kids almost 4 years ago, it seems our time has been mainly focused on the children.  Even in the evenings, our tendency is to either “veg out” in front of the TV or focus on our own personal hobbies.  While relaxing and individual time is certainly needed and fun, I want to make more of an effort to spend quality time together.  In the first few years of marriage we read books out loud to one another, for example, or went out to dinner, concerts, etc.  This year, whether it’s an evening out or in, I want to prioritize our relationship, not just as parents, but as lovers and friends (ok, you can gag now! haha).

2.  Extend grace to the kids and myself:  Being home all day with two small children can be hard.  There are good days and bad days, for the boys and for me.  I think I often place unrealistic expectations of myself and them, especially Jack, since he is older.  I expect myself to be the “perfect mom” – always patient and kind and attentive to every need.  That doesn’t always happen.  And that’s okay – God’s grace is enough to handle the bad days and situations.  Likewise, Jack is only 3.5 and growing up is overwhelming – of course there are going to be temper tantrums and other forms of irrational behavior!  I can model God’s grace to him as well, teaching him that no behavior can change the way I love him or, most importantly, God loves him.  We say “I’m sorry” and “I love you” a lot around here and talk about God’s love and forgiveness, but this year I want to internalize this on a personal heart level, so that I’m not feeling so bruised and battered by the end of the day from all the struggles and failures.  That’s life.

3.  Forget all the “ifs, ands, and buts” and just do it:  I can come up with a million excuses for not doing something I actually really want to do.  Aside from just my normal anxiety, perfectionistic tendencies, and procrastination problems, I’m someone who looks ahead and creates future scenarios for myself and our family (a plan A, B, C, D…).  This keeps me from being fully present and making the most of my current circumstances.  This year, I want to jump in and just do some of the things I’ve been meaning to do, whether all my “ducks are in a row” or not!  Otherwise, I’m missing out on a lot of life!  For example, I’ve been meaning to blog for a long time and have umpteen writing prompts and this year, I really want to do it!  Also, I’ve been planning and preparing for about a year now to start preschool with Jack and in a couple of weeks, I’m doing it!  Let the fun begin, whether I feel ready and competent or not!

One of the ministry blogs I follow is the M.O.B. Society (Mother of Boys), and one of the writers suggested that we pick a Bible verse to pray for our boys this year.  I’ve picked one that I’ll be praying for not only Jack and Judson but myself as well, so I’ll be sharing that in the next day or two.  Stay tuned, and happy New Year!!!

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“Shattered dreams are the prelude to joy.  Always.  In the middle of our pain, God is working for our joy.  At some point, He works in ways we can see.”  Larry Crabb

My sweet Judson Andrew will turn one on October 8th.  As we approach his birthday, I can’t help but reflect on the miraculous circumstances of his conception and arrival into this world.  My story has a happy ending, but like most stories, it is riddled with heartache, doubt, and fear.  I also realize that not all stories end “happily ever after,” so it is with humility and sensitivity that I write this one.  Most of all, I want this account to serve as a testimony of God’s grace (unmerited favor) and mercy (withholding what we deserve) to me and my family.  He answered our prayers and so lovingly placed this gift, Judson Andrew, into our lives a year ago.  I feel so blessed to be his mommy!

Shortly before Jack turned one, I told Randy that I desired to be pregnant again.  We were fortunate to conceive Jack right away, so I naively assumed that getting pregnant a second time would be just as easy for us.  Instead, several months of negative tests passed.  Randy describes me as a “bear” during this time. 🙂  I found it hard to be patient and trust God’s timing.  I was fearful that I may not ever birth another baby; several of my family members had secondary infertility, some taking years to conceive between children.  Already being over 30, I did not want to wait that long.  Each month I just “knew” I would conceive, only to be let down.  I was angry at God for not giving me my one desire right away, in my timing, thinking I could control such a miracle.

After around 10 months of trying, I did get pregnant and couldn’t be any happier!  We found out just before Thanksgiving; in fact, it was the day before a planned trip to Valle Crucis, NC to take our annual Christmas picture of Jack.  November 19, 2011 was such a beautiful, happy day:  Jack was a cute 20-month-old and we spent a magical afternoon at the original Mast General Store and surrounding areas.  All day, I kept tearing up, thinking about how bittersweet it would be to no longer be a family of three, but at the same time celebrating that Jack was going to be a big brother and my dream was coming true.  Randy and I started thinking and planning for the year ahead, about how we would have two kids to photograph the following year, and we wondered who this little one inside me would turn out to be.  I tried to really capture each moment of the day, the sights and smells and Jack running around ahead of us; looking back, this day was one of the happiest in my life, and I’m glad I was intentional about being fully present.

We almost stayed the night in Valle Crucis, but decided to drive home late that night.  On the way home, I started having cramps but just figured it was an early pregnancy symptom.  The next morning, I woke up and miscarried my baby a few minutes later.  Awful does not begin to describe it.  I was only cognizant of my 4-5 week old baby’s existence for about 24-36 hours and so was only able to celebrate him/her for that length of time; the next moment, all my hopes, dreams, and plans came crashing down.  Months of praying and planning led to my prayers being answered, only to have it taken away rather abruptly.  I didn’t understand it, I still don’t.  What I do know is that even in such a short window of time, that baby was loved and celebrated.  I still feel sad thinking about that little life, taken much too soon.  But now that I am nearly two years past that sad day, November 20, 2011, I can see the bigger picture and even more fully appreciate the next answered prayer, our little Judson.

In January, Judson was conceived and I’ll admit my happiness was tinged in fear.  What if the same thing happened again?!  I was so nervous when I had my first appointment around 10 weeks.  Fortunately, I heard that sweet little heartbeat and my fears were temporarily assuaged.  Easter was a few weeks later and we gathered at my parents’ house on Saturday afternoon for our annual Easter party.  While there, I began bleeding and feared the worst.  I felt cramping and had to wait until Monday to confirm a heartbeat.  I was terrified of a repeat miscarriage.  My mom and Randy were present for the appointment, where we got to not only hear the still-beating heart, but also see Judson’s little body kicking on the portable ultrasound machine for the first time.  It was a huge relief to know he was still safe and alive in my womb.  It was later determined that I had a harmless blood clot that hemorrhaged, something that healed itself in several weeks.

Thinking the stress was over, weeks passed and my pregnancy was going smoothly.  We found out around 18 weeks that it was definitely Judson who would be joining our family!  I had been thinking all along that we were having a girl, but when I saw his little body once again on the ultrasound screen and knew this time that it was a boy, my heart filled with love even more!!  I was also happy that Jack would have a brother to share life with!  I often “measured big” at my appointments, not unlike my experience with Jack, but this time my midwives ordered another ultrasound just to make sure everything was okay.  Around 20 weeks, I was told that I had “extra” amniotic fluid, signaling one of three things:  an infection in my uterus, an anomaly with the baby’s development, or absolutely nothing – just an unexplained phenomenon.  An amniocentesis was suggested, to be more certain of the problem, but I declined, not wanting to put Judson at risk in any way.  So, for the rest of my pregnancy, I had non-stress tests and amniotic fluid measurements (via ultrasound) every single week – in addition to my midwife appointments!  While it was wonderful seeing my baby so often, I found it hard not to worry about what was happening.  The infections that could have explained the problem normally caused severe problems for the baby in utero or even months postpartum.  Furthermore, most weeks my fluid levels stayed the same or went up, only occasionally going down.  I felt disappointed and worried.

Probably my biggest worry was delivering Judson.  Women with extra amniotic fluid have a heightened risk of having a prolapsed cord, if the cord floats in front of the canal before the baby’s head.  I was so scared of my water breaking while at home and panicking if my cord came out first, or worse – not making it to the hospital in time should this happen.  Also, because there was so much fluid, contractions were basically just “bouncing” off my uterus.  A few days before my 39th week, I was having regular contractions that were becoming more intense and closer together.  My mom and I went to the hospital in the middle of the night, only to be sent home.  The crazy thing is that I was already 4 cm dilated, but the midwife felt that I would need pitocin to bring on harder contractions that would actually break my water.  We scheduled an induction for the day I turned 39 weeks – October 8th.  I felt better knowing that I would be at the hospital in the event of a prolapsed cord and an emergency c-section.

The morning of October 8th, 2012, my sister Susanna came to babysit Jack and Randy, my mom (and doula!) and me went to the hospital.  Just as with Jack, I was induced with pitocin.  Unlike Jack, it took much more pitocin to do the job (read:  even stronger contractions and less breaks between them).  It was excruciating!  However, I did not have an internal fetal monitor like I did with Jack, so I wasn’t as confined to a small radius.  This was a good thing, as Judson seemed to prefer me laboring while standing rather than sitting (his heart rate would drop when I sat).  It was a tiring day, but the whole process was less than 12 hours, so I can’t complain.  The best part was that when my water did break, it was just a trickle (an answered prayer), and I literally only pushed once or twice and Judson was on the outside, thanks to big brother paving the way! 😉  I can remember my midwife preparing for a big gush of fluid as he came out, but again – no tidal wave!  At 8:43 pm, my sweet Judson Andrew arrived safely, with a head full of hair (even sideburns!) and weighing just under 9 lbs.  Once again, Randy and I fell in love with our little miraculous boy and marveled at God’s goodness to us.  I cannot even describe the joy I felt when Jack met Judson and our little family was together in the same room for the first time.

Early on in my pregnancy, my Nana wrote to me and said:  “We just feel this is going to be the dream child you need to complete your family!”  Do you know what?!  She was right!  Judson has been the perfect addition to our family.  Aside from the fog I was in for 6 months trying to figure out mothering two children all day, I have to say that he was such an easy newborn.  For the most part, Judson is a laid back, go-with-the-flow kind of guy.  He is happy and smiling most of the time and loves his big brother (I can see he’ll grow up much faster, trying to keep up with Jack)!  My world is now filled with tractors, cars, trains, balls, and animals.  I love that little boys look up to their daddies but still love to cuddle with their mamas!

Over the months it has taken to write this post, a favorite song keeps coming to mind:

Not Forgotten by Twila Paris

When you think your dream is dying

He has not forgotten you

When your body aches from tryin’

He has not forgotten you

When you worry for tomorrow

Even though the sky is blue

See the sun is shining

He has not forgotten you

When July feels like December

He has not forgotten you

When it’s painful to remember

He has not forgotten you

When it seems you cannot win

And there is not much left to lose

He has got a plan

And He has not forgotten you

And hope will spring eternal

In the home of those who know

That loving eyes will follow

Everywhere we go

And even in the darkness

His promises are true

Keep this in your heart

He has not forgotten you.

He is faithful

He is present

He is listening

He is love

He is faithful

He is with you

He is listening

He is love

If your tired flesh has squandered

What your spirit would have saved

And your aimless feet have wandered

Far from all you truly crave

Turn and run toward your Father

Do not wait another day

See His arms are open

And He is calling out your name

And hope will spring eternal

In the home of those who know

That loving eyes will follow

Everywhere we go

And even in the darkness

His promises are true

Keep this in your heart

He has not forgotten you

He is in your heart

And He has not… forgotten….. you.

All those months I feared that God had forgotten me, my hopes and my prayers, He had not, and He had a beautiful plan for my life and for the sweet life of Judson.  I’m forever grateful.

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Time in a Bottle

One of the most gripping reminders of the brevity of life is spending time in a hospital “procedural care suite.” This is the place where people are prepped for surgery and their loved ones wait until news of the outcome is delivered to them. Last Tuesday, Randy had a routine gall bladder operation. Despite the high success rate of such a procedure, it is still sobering to watch someone you care about so deeply undergo general anesthesia and know that you cannot control the outcome. There was something surreal about tying Randy’s hospital gown, giving him one last kiss and hug goodbye, and watching him be rolled away into the unknown. As he and I spent about an hour alone together before the surgery, my mind raced with all the “what ifs”: What if this was the last “I love you” I would ever say to him? What if this was the last moment I would ever spend with him? What if I had to raise my boys without him? It was all I could do not to hop onto the stretcher with him and hang on for dear life. While I was relatively certain I would see him alive and well in about 2-3 hours, I don’t believe I was being “negative” thinking this way. In fact, I wish it didn’t take a potentially life-or-death situation to remind me of the brevity of life and time.
Sure, I watch Jack grow and change everyday and I am reminded of how quickly time passes and children grow up. I try to take “mental pictures” in the midst of the chaos, but I know I ultimately take him and this time in our lives for granted. I look at photographs of me and Randy when we first met and it’s easy to observe the passage of time: the laugh lines, expanding waistlines, and graying hair give it away. But knowing this in my head doesn’t always translate into making more conscientious choices on a daily basis. How many times do I choose time on Facebook over time with Randy and Jack? One more blog, one more Google search, one more chore, one more TV show, one more phone call…all distractions that keep me away from doing the more important work of living in relationship with the people I say I love most.

If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day ’til eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you…

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do once you find them
I’ve looked around enough to know
That you’re the one I want to go through time with.
(Jim Croce)

Growing up, my dad would often talk about how we were “on loan” to him. He recognized that each family member was a gift that God entrusted to his care. Oh that I would live in this reality!! Instead, I often fall into the category of people that I heard one speaker describe: they pray for husbands and children and then complain when God answers their requests! How many days do I get caught up in the blowout diapers, dirty clothes, toys dumped on the floor, dishes and laundry quickly piling up, and forget to thank God for the precious gifts who reside in my home? My house may be cleaner if I were single (maybe); I may not have to remove as many stains or do as many dishes, but how I would miss my loving husband who makes me laugh, provides for our family, puts up with my crazy quirks, and has been a true friend to me! How I would miss my sweet little two-year-old with his charming smile, unrelenting courage and curiosity, expanding vocabulary that keeps me in stitches, and obsession with lawnmowers!
No, “I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.” I am blessed beyond measure with a husband, toddler, little baby in utero, a roof over my head, and (too much) food in the cabinet. Most importantly, I have Jesus, who loves me most of all, paid for my sins and gives me abundant life, and promises to walk with me every step of every day – no matter what. Since I can’t bottle up time with my loved ones and save it for later, I pray that God will give me an eternal perspective. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. In the words of the Gaithers, “We have this moment today.” So today, I choose to live gratefully and love well, instead of complaining and wasting time on things that are not as important as the relationships I’ve been blessed with.
By God’s grace, tomorrow I will choose the same.

Judson Andrew

It seems like only yesterday I was blogging about Jack’s name…Jasper Augustus, and now here I am, writing about our name choice for our second son! I am now 20 weeks along – halfway through my pregnancy if all goes well! Judson is quite the little kicker already and I’m curious to see what his personality will be like!
At first glance, you’ll notice that our boys have the same initials. It was not our primary intention to pick another “J” name, but we knew we wanted both names, so I suggested pairing them in this way so that the boys could share the same monogram – perfect for hand-me-downs and cute matching attire and décor. 🙂
When Randy first read about missionary Adoniram Judson (1788-1850), he admired the man and the name. Judson was one of the first American missionaries to travel to Burma (modern-day Myanmar), where he spent nearly 40 years ministering. Despite the deaths of wives and children, he continued to serve God and the people of Burma. He and his first wife are credited with translating the Bible into the Burmese language. Not only is this Bible translation a part of his legacy, but at the time of his death, there were 100 churches in Burma and over 8,000 believers. Countless men and women have been inspired to become or support missionaries because of his example as well. One of my prayers for our Judson is that he becomes a man who follows Jesus no matter the cost. I pray that he will dedicate his life to serving God and others. Whether it is on the mission field or not, my hope is that both Jack and Judson will be men who are godly leaders in their homes and communities someday.
I was also drawn to the name Judson for another more personal reason – Adoniram Judson Gordon (1836-1895) founded Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, the former my sister’s alma mater and the latter my own. A.J. Gordon also composed the music for several hymns, including the popular, “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” I like that Judson will share the name of two great men whose influence has spanned the ages.
Judson’s middle name, Andrew, also carries a couple of special meanings. The first is that “Andrew” is the name of my only brother. Born a short 18 months after me, I do not remember life without my brother. We were the best (and worst) of playmates growing up; we spent countless hours playing in the backyard or riding our bikes together. We loved going on family beach trips; we shared a love for music; we went to the same schools most of our lives. In short, we always had each other around until I left for college and that was such a comfort. It seems appropriate to honor my brother and our relationship with this namesake.
Another reason I love the name “Andrew” is because of Jesus’ disciple, Andrew, which is a reason my parents chose my brother’s name as well. John 1 tells us that Andrew was one of John the Baptist’s followers. When John sees Jesus walking by, he says, “Look, the Lamb of God!” Upon hearing this, Andrew immediately follows Jesus and spends the day with him. What follows is my favorite verse about Andrew: “The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas’ (which, when translated, is Peter).” (John 1:41-42). Wow – the first thing Andrew did after spending a day with Jesus was to go get his brother and bring him to Jesus. This tells me two key things about Andrew – he deeply loved his brother, and he deeply believed in Jesus – two qualities I would love for Judson Andrew to have. When Judson grows up and dedicates his life to Jesus, I pray that he will not hesitate to bring his friends and family to Jesus. You never know who you are going to impact for Christ or how they will be used in the Kingdom. Andrew’s brother, Simon, became Peter – the “rock” on which the church was built. Even though Peter gets way more “page time” in the Bible than Andrew, Andrew played a pivotal role in Peter’s conversion. Andrew was faithful to place his brother in front of Jesus, and Jesus did the rest – transforming Peter into a man that He used for His glory and purposes. Whether Judson is a “behind the scenes” guy like Andrew or more in the spotlight like Peter, I pray that he will be a faithful follower of Jesus who draws others to Him.
I love my little Judson Andrew already and I can’t wait to meet him!