Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas from the Neisler family. We can't believe how much our lives have changed this year. This time last year, we couldn't imagine how the Lord's grace would rain down on us. We have loved these past 7 months, growing together as a family. Josh and I love being parents, and we're pretty sure Susie loves us, too!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Hard to Write

So. . .

I have thought of quite a few subjects to write about here on my blog. But I have no time. And I'm having writers block.

And after I work all week, I want to just focus on my baby!

Sigh. . . I remember when I started this blog, I worked at the Blue Kangaroo, where I had lots of extra free hours to read. That's why I named my blog what I did -- "Gretchen Reads 24/7" -- because I did feel like I read that often. Since I had Susie, I started feeling like I was falling asleep every time I got into a book! (Okay, that's an exaggeration -- I have read this summer, just NOTHING compared to how much I have read in the past).

I've been thinking about what all I can scale back on now that I am full time Mom and full time at the bookstore. I am committed to taking care of Josh and Sus as good as I can in the time I have in the evenings and weekend. And I have not been doing a good job writing this blog for a couple months now.

So. . . I think I need to take a hiatus from the blog. I hope I don't have to give it up forever. Susie and I are enjoying some children's books together, and I'd love to write about those in down the line. But for now, I'm going to take a break from the blogosphere. I know there aren't a ton of readers out there waiting to see what I'm going to write about, but for those of you who have faithfully been reading, I am sorry.

But I know it's a good decision -- more time with Suslie. And who knows? Maybe I'll think of something I absolutely have to write about, and I'll do so.

So long, for now!

Friday, July 31, 2009

What I learned from my Mom about Motherhood -- part 3

Here's part 3 -- sorry it took so long! I just hope there is someone still reading.

  • Know your children. I think this is something my sisters and I all agree we miss most about Mom. We all felt understood by her. She was a great listener -- when we were young, she enjoyed listening to our stories, etc., and when we were older she listened to our problems with friends, adults, etc. Emily and I agree that Mom was a good person to tell your issue to because she did not just automatically be on your team and hate on the person you had a problem with (this is typically my response to my sister's issues, thus making me a not-so-great confidant). Mom had 6 kids, and I can truly say she did everything she could to know each one of us individually. I know some people from large families feel like they got lost in the shuffle -- but that really did not happen to us at all. How do I apply this lesson to mothering Susie? Well, so far, it has played out mostly in how I have worked out her schedule. We have been able to ease into a very good schedule where she pretty much always sleeps through the night by combining things I liked from both Babywise and Attachement Parenting. She is a happy girl, and seems well fed and well rested. There are so many opinions out there, and some people might thing I spoil and coddle my baby too much, while others think I am too strict with my routine. But I know my baby! And I continue to work hard to see what works for us!

  • Put your best face forward. Okay, I know I've already tread on rocky ground, here is some potentially rockier ground! But I do think this is a lesson I learned from my mom, so I can't leave it out. In no way do I advocate being focused on the outward appearance -- my mom was adamant that we tell my sisters they were clever and special and kind, not just cute all the time. But she DID do her best to always get us out the door in clothes that were clean, hair that was tidy and faces and hands that were washed. I remember being envious of girls who wore their hair free as a bird, while mine was slicked back into Laura Ingalls braids. :) Mom did not want us to have stringy hair! Looking back, I see what wisdom was in that -- especially for large families. When you have a bunch of kids, it is much more noticeable if they look like ragamuffins! It can be a bad testimony to people who frown on large families because they see messy children and assume that their parents do not care for them. People DO look on the outward appearance, no matter what we think. When your children are small, they have no control over their appearances, so it is up to you to keep them and their clothes clean and teach them to care for their appearances. I know I have only 1 child, but it has to start now -- working hard to get the stains out of baby clothes, bathing regularly, washing the little face that can have a milk mustache or neck that can hold spit up. :) Keep in mind -- the goal of a tidy and lovely bunch of kiddos is not so people will complement their appearances, or to turn their hearts to love beauty, but to keep from being a distraction from what is important about you! And if you are a Christian, you want others to see Christ, not dirt!
(The picture I put up here is of Sus with her Aunt Abby at a baseball game. Everything she is wearing is a hand-me down from her cousin Cede.)

I miss my Mom so much. Almost every day a question pops into my head to ask her, before I catch myself. I hope that the lessons I remember from her are helpful to you, too.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Free Stuff Week

My birthday was Sunday, so I decided to give myself a week of free stuff. :) Here's what I've got planned.

Monday: free iced mocha from McDonald's. This is available next Monday as well, if you want to grab one! Just ask at the counter!

Tuesday: free Gymboree class for Susie. We got a free pass from the hospital when Susie was born, so we went today and it was really fun. She
was falling asleep at the end, but she was good as gold the whole time. Calm and attentive.

Wednesday: free fountain drink from Speedway.

Thursday: free ice cream from Cold Stone. Sign up for their birthday club and they'll send you a coupon in your e-mail.

Friday: free photo session for Susie at Olan Mills. This was
another coupon I got when she was born. It's actually free, even the sitting fee, and you get a new baby portrait package of one pose.

Saturday: free Penn Station sub (they're doing a tell a friend free sandwich promotion via e-mail)

Don't you love getting free stuff?

Here's a picture of my darling Susal getting so big and working on holding up her head.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Eating Zucchini and Picnik

I'll finish the posts on motherhood soon -- I just about have it written in my head -- but in the meantime, I wanted to share a couple things I've been up to lately.

1. is my new favorite website! So
easy to use and fun to play around with all the effects you can make on your pictures. I have spent way too much time playing around with cute pictures of the Sus. Here are a few of my favorites.

2. Eating Zucchini! It's that wonderful time of year when this versatile veggie is in abundance! Even if you are not personally growing it in your garden, its likely those who are growing it are sharing it! I just LOVE to eat that stuff!! Of course you can whip up some yummy zucchini bread, or slice it up and use it like chips in dips, hummus or cottage cheese. Last night I made this recipe I saw on Food Network. Here's the simple breakdown:

Cut zucchini, yellow squash and mushrooms into chunks and roast for 15 minutes at 450 degrees with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Then mix it with cooked penne pasta, a little marinara sauce and cheese (I like lots of cheese). Bake it in a greased casserole dish at 350 for 25 minutes. VERY good!

Another simple casserole that I've made for years when I have an abundance of zucchini is this:

Slice zucchini and summer squash in thin rounds and toss together with a can of Rotel. Bake at 350 until the veggies soften, then top with shredded cheese (I like to use cheddar, but you could use whatever you have) and bake until the cheese is all melted. Yum! My mouth is watering!

If you have any simple ways to enjoy this plentiful veggie, please post in the comments section!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

What I Learned from My Mom about Motherhood -- Part 2

Here are a couple more lessons in Mommy-hood 101 I attribute to my mother's diligent teaching. If you are a new reader to my blog, I will tell you that my mom, Sue Benzing, passed away in March. She was a beautiful and wonderful woman, and I'd love it if you'd read more about her by clicking on the "My Mom" tag below. That will take you to the other posts I've written about her.

3. Teach your children to love learning by being a learner yourself. When I was little, my dad gave my mom a Christmas ornament that said "Those who love teaching help others love learning". Did that describe my mom or what!? She was a voracious reader -- books, magazines, signs at the zoo or museum -- and was utterly fascinated in just about everything. W
ell, I've uncovered a whole new delightful world of beauty in baby books and CDs I've been enjoying with Susie. We read books together after she gets changed, and sometimes at naptime (bedtime is a bit more tearful -- most likely she would not be able to hear me!). I have always loved children's books, but I keep discovering new things -- and especially enjoying books of poetry and prayers. There is something about the rhythm of those books that captures Susie's attention, even at this young of an age. To be brutally honest, I thought I might be a little bored with the sorts of things newborns enjoy -- just waiting for her to get older before it's really fun! But actually, there is plenty of fun stuff now! For instance, this poem I found in Poems to Read to the Very Young that my sister gave me:
Susan Blue by Kate Greenaway

"Oh Susan Blue,
How do you do?
Please may I go for a walk with you?
Where shall we go:
Oh, I know --
Down in the meadow where the cowslips grow!"

Mom used to quote little poems to us all the time. For instance, every time we arrived home after an outing, she would say:
"To market, to market, to buy a fat pig
Home again, home again, jiggity jig!"

By the time my sisters were old enough to know the poem, "jiggity jig" was code for time to go home. :) I now say it all the time to Sus when we arrive home. Which brings me to . . .

4. Enjoy being home with your children. So many moms spend all their time with their children running them in all directions so they can be the best at everything. I know we all had designs on taking every sort of lesson under the sun, and playing every sport possible, but Mom was firm on keeping it simple so we could be home more. We started sports in junior high, and took piano, but since we lived so far out in the country, it would have been a huge time commitment to do much more than that. Mom was not concerned about comparing her little achievers with other kids (which is such a temptation, I've realized already!) -- she
wanted us all to enjoy the simplicity of a lovely home, and time spent together. So we all learned how to work in the home, cook, clean, help tend the garden/pool/whatever (depending on the house we lived in). And we learned how great it was to just relax together when Dad came home at the end of the day. So for me, I'm cherishing my maternity leave and the days spent with Susie. It's true that I'm just now feeling enough human to do much more during the day than just care for Sus and get a shower, but I've started to make to-do lists so I can care for our home and make it a lovely and enjoyable place for us to be.

Well, the lessons have continued to come to me, so part 3 is coming soon. In the meantime, stay home and read a book with your kiddos.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

What I Learned from My Mom about Motherhood -- part 1

Have you ever opened your mouth and been SHOCKED to hear yourself sound exactly like your mom? Sometimes when people hear themselves parroting Mom, they lament the fact that they now sound old, or that they have started turning into someone they didn't want to turn into! I can't tell you how many times I've heard Mom in my words these past 4 weeks. But I don't groan. I do weep, but I don't lament the way I sound. Here's why: I realize I'm now learning about motherhood without her. So her words -- even in my mouth -- are an assurance that some of those lessons are from her, passed on back from when I was growing up and watching her in her role. Here are a few precious motherhood lessons I am now applying from the school of Sue Benzing.

1. Enjoy your children. There was NEVER a question about how Mom felt about her kiddos! She enjoyed them at every age -- for real! Babies, toddlers, school age, teens -- Mom enjoyed the journey, and found pleasure as we grew and changed. Some of the things she'd say to my sisters (these are my strongest memories, since I was so much older as they were growing up) have popped out of my mouth with Sus. "You are a Dollyanna-Pollyanna!" she'd say when a tiny one was all dressed up -- I've said that to Sus. "Do you want to keep all those dirts?" she'd ask when changing a diaper or washing a face and the child fussed at the process. "You like your dirts? You want to keep them?" So good natured! Not frustrated at that menial task or the unhappy recipient. "You are just being a naughty! I will put you in a garbage can. What color garbage can do you want?" This faceteous question was always posed to a non-speaking baby -- and clearly since the baby could not choose her color of garbage can, she would not be going in one. Mom explained that logic to me -- haha! Mom's words to her children reflected her enjoyment of them. Why be so grouchy? Why not enjoy those precious babe -- even the tougher parts? They are only that age once -- don't long for it to pass! I have reminded myself of this so often when I think ahead to how it will be a bit easier when Sus is a bit less fragile and easier to understand. THIS is today -- enjoy her!

2. Spend time with your children. My mom read to us for hours, when we were very small, and continued when we were older and could read ourselves. When we were tiny she sang songs in baby talk. When we got older, the baby talk did not stop -- and it was a CONSTANT source of humor! Nicknames were abundant (that would be the case for Susan! She probably has a couple dozen nicknames already!!), and silly conversations were entirely engaging for her. I remember Mom giving the girls their bath on the counter in the kitchen and spending forever playing with their hair, making funny styles with the wet hair for our viewing pleasure. She certainly could have rushed through the bath, and bundled the baby off to bed as quick as a wink, but instead, she took her time making it more fun for everyone.

I'll finish with part 2 soon. Unless I hear myself teaching new lessons. :)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thoughts on Motherhood

18 days into my journey as a mother, I'm loving and appreciating this new role more than I ever thought possible. I'm also more overwhelmed than I ever thought possible. It certainly is a learning game -- I would describe it as starting a new career where you have to learn to do everything the job requires without very much (or mixed) instruction. You obviously can't learn a new job all at once -- it takes a while, and you learn things bit by bit. Here are a few things I have learned, or have been surprised to discover:

1. I do not mind late night feedings. My precious Susan is so wonderful to spend that sweet time with! I do love it that she needs me, and that it's just her and me at that time. I do love it when she goes right back to sleep, too. :)

2. God's design for motherhood is amazing. I am continually surprised by the instincts that have kicked in -- in just a matter of days. I have never been a huge baby person, and everyone assured me it would be different when it was MY baby. They were right! I am humbled to see the way God has designed me.

3. We're taking one day at a time. . . well, it's more like one feeding or nap at a time. I think I could describe my parenting these past 2 weeks as a form of Flexible Attachment Scheduling. :) It's really true that each family has to figure out what works for THEIR child, and their lives together! What a joy to discover, though!

4. The Lord answers the prayer of His child when she prays for wisdom. The other night I was afraid that I was not producing enough milk for Susie (she just seemed really hungry all the time for a couple days, and I was feeding her a lot, but had nothing left!), and we had one particularly difficult evening when I was crying harder than she was. :*) Hormones, grieving for my mom, and sleep-deprivation played into these tears, but as I calmed down, I asked the Lord to give me wisdom -- or show me a good source for wisdom. He graciously provided my cousin Corrie to give me some input on nursing, and several other encouraging people (including my kind husband!) to help me navigate those rocky days. James does say that if we lack wisdom, to ask God for it! THANK goodness!

5. Josh and I are like kids at Christmas with that cute baby! I love sharing the fun with him. We both think she is utterly adorable, and that she already has a fun personality. We're grabbing the camera every 2 seconds -- I see now why there are only 2 million MORE pictures of my brother than there are of me. 2 adults with one baby to watch -- that means there is always one set of hands to be snapping away. :)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Grace upon Grace

Yesterday in church we sang this song -- which was new to me -- that just seemed to be the theme song for the past 6 months of my life. It is called "Through the Precious Blood" by Mark Altrogge, and I just wanted to post some of the words here for you along with these precious pictures of Kari, Lukas, Max and Baby Sawyer going home from the hospital! God is so good, and answered the prayers of so many of you. THANK YOU for praying! Kari is now taking full care of her little guy at home, keeping him in a sling so he's close with her all the time (even that is an amazing example of God's goodness! For the 1st 2 weeks of his life, she hasn't been able to touch or hold him nearly as much as she wanted to, and now the doctors are instructing her to wear him in a sling at home! What a precious blessing!).

Here is the song:
"You have ordained every breath we take
In pleasure or pain there is no mistake
Gladness and grief, both are in Your hands,
And sufferings brief carry out Your plan
And our fleeting sorrows will yield an endless prize
When some bright tomorrow we'll see You with our eyes!

And grace upon grace flows down, flows down,
And grace upon grace flows down, flows down
Through the precious blood of Christ."

Please keep Sawyer in your prayers as he continues to recover -- and Kari, too, for strength and endurance as she now keeps up with 2 little guys! Our Lord is mighty to save!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Baby Sawyer

Josh's sister Kari was due one week after me, and ended up going into labor the same day! She didn't have beautiful little Sawyer until 2 days later when they finally induced her, but we still consider Susie and Sawyer to be birthday buddies.

Please pray for Kari's precious baby. He was born with a mass inside his nose that obstructs his breathing. After being moved to the NICU in another city, and multiple cat-scans and MRIs, the doctors still are not certain whether the mass is coming from his brain or nasal cavity. He will have to have surgery to remove it, regardless, and right now, a surgery of some kind is scheduled for Tuesday.

This darling baby has been in the NICU for a week, and Kari, Lukas and their little boy Max, have been staying away from home, by his side in the hospital. Some days have been very scary, when Sawyer's O2 levels have dropped and it seemed possible he'd have to be put on a ventilator (praise the Lord, that hasn't happened yet). Of course, Kari wants nothing more than to be able to hold and care for her baby, and take him home! But God, in His omniscience, knows just what is wrong with his sweet frame, and we are trusting the Great Shepherd to guide the Hafeli family at this time.

Please pray for this precious baby! Pray the doctors will be able to discover the source of the mass so the surgery can be done quickly and effectively. Pray also for Kari and Lukas, and the rest of the family who love this baby so much that their faith will be strengthened, and that they will be able to have peace and endurance through the long days. Pray the Lord will be ever near to Kari as she recovers from giving birth, and goes through all the physical side-effects while enduring so much stress and anxiety.

O God, our Help in ages past! Be our hope for the future. Help us to trust You -- we are so blind. You are mighty to save -- please heal this baby!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

We love you, Aunt Abby

My sister Abby has been staying with us this week, to help with the baby. We have had such sweet times together, and I cannot be thankful enough for her help! She is only 16, but showed incredible maturity and flexibility in her willingness to be helpful. She slept on the couch, which meant she couldn't go to sleep until everyone else decided to leave the living room at night, and each night she sleepily told me "I'm not that tired, so let me know if you want me to help." I will never forget how, on the first night, she offered to help get Susie through a stretch until it was time for her to eat again. I stumbled to bed, and that 45 minutes of shut eye were so refreshing. Abby woke me up "sorry, Gret, but she's really ready to eat now." I couldn't believe it! I hadn't heard a peep, because Abby had patiently cuddled Susie and kept her passy in so I could get a little rest. Abby has also been so deferential, always asking me if it was okay if she did something, which was such a kind way to treat a new mom who probably knows less about babies than her teenage sister!

I am so thankful for Abby's help these past few days. She did the job my mom would have done, and she did it sweetly, and happily. Abby is a baby expert. She should be; she learned from the best -- Sue Benzing! I know Mom would be so proud of how we are taking care of each other -- and not just the older kids taking care of younger. Abby has really taken care of me this week by caring for Susie. I will never, EVER forget it! Here are some pictures of Susie with Aunt Abby and some of the things we did together:

She taught Susie to take a passy. I wasn't going to try it yet, but it really has helped sometimes! It hasn't slowed down her eating at all!

Helped give Susie her bath -- which she has loved! There is just nothing cuter than a little wet slickery baby. Abby gave Sus this pink giraffe towel, so we will always think of Auntie Abby at our bathtime.

Took Susie for her first ride in the stroller. I can go for walks, but the doctor told me to wait a couple weeks before pushing the stroller. But Aunt Abby can push it for us, and we had a nice walk around the park (Susie snoozing the whole time) in the gorgeous June sunshine. (I guess this picture hasn't uploaded yet -- but I'll add it later).

And of course -- took a MILLION cute pictures! Sometimes a camera phone can capture those little faces better than a regular camera. So, thanks to Aunt Abby, we have some priceless shots of Susie's gorgeous face.

I love you so much, Aunt Abby. You can come stay any time!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Welcome to this World!

I began this post the day after I had the baby, but just now got to finish the story! I have been a little busy in the past few days. . .

My baby is here! And her name does not start with "J". :) Here's the story of how she came to us. . .

Thursday night (the 28th) I was watching a movie with 2 junior high girls from church. I had a contraction that caught my attention -- it took my breath away! I knew it was the start to something new . Sure enough, I was awake al
l night that night with contractions 20-30 min apart. Some were more intense than others. By the next morning, they had not increased, so I went to work. After a couple hours there, they slowed to just an hour or more apart. But throughout that day, the intense contractions would pop up every now and then! I was on the floor in the Church History department at one point. That evening, Josh and I went out to celebrate our anniversary (which is actually on Tuesday), and I had more of the same while we were at Cheesecake Factory and the mall (the worst was in Payless shoes, where I was on the floor gasping for breath while the lady shopping nearby tried to get some shoes right where I was crouched!).

Friday night I was up on the hour, or more frequently, with very intense contractions. I tried writing down the times, becau
se it seemed like something was happening, but I was so out of it during the night -- this was my second night of getting very little sleep. By early morning, I felt like things were shifting big time. Close to 7, when Josh woke up, I told him I thought things were progressing. Little did I know what a long day ahead of me I had! Josh called into work, and I started experiencing strange, heavy contractions that gave me the dry heaves surrounded by less intense more normal contractions. A few times, I threw up, and I had a contraction that lasted 9 minutes! However, the doctor I called told me my body was trying to go into active labor, but I needed to regulate more before I could head to the doctor.

Praise the Lor
d, at about 4:00 that afternoon, I started having a series of regular contractions! I actually prayed for them to continue. By 6, they'd been 5 minutes apart for an hour so we started packing up to head to the hospital! I was so relieved when they told me I could stay -- after my water broke when I got into the bed. Right away, I had another extreme contraction that lasted 7 minutes and caused me to vomit. The baby's heart rate dropped very low during my contraction. "She doesn't like that," the nurse told me "your contractions should not last that long -- we want them to be shorter and more frequent." As it turned out, it was Providential that I had that contraction, because we knew what to expect as the night went on!

My Aunt Pat arrived shortly before I got my epid
ural. She was traveling back from Alabama that day, and happened to be just an hour south of Louisville when we were admitted to the hospital. I was so thankful to see her! Around 9ish, the nurse was checking me, and suddenly another nurse was at the door. "She's dropped" the nurse said, and suddenly the room sprang into action. There were more nurses around me than I realized, and they were flipping me from side to side, and putting an oxygen mask on me. I realized that I could hear the baby's heartbeat and that it was still low. Josh and Aunt Pat were in the room, just talking -- they hadn't quite realized that things were getting urgent. The next thing I knew, everything was getting unplugged and the nurses were wheeling me into the hallway, talking about calling the doctor. I was very frightened, but the Lord graciously gave me the words to the William Cowper song:

"Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take
the clouds that you now dread,
are rich with mercy and will break
in blessing on your head.
Oh, God, we trust in You!"

I repeated the chorus softly to myself (inside the oxygen mask) over and over. My heart filled with tears, but the Lord showed me great grace!

In the operating room, I was flat on my back on the operating table when I heard the heartbeat monitor pick up again. A sweet nurse with lots of pink lipstick bent over my face and told me my baby sounded good! I lay there with these words on my lips

"Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. . . there's just something about that name,
Master, Savior, Jesus, like a fragrance after the rain."

I don't even think anyone could hear me, but in my he
art, I was able to enjoy the sweetness of Christ in that moment. I wanted Josh to be with me so bad so he could know that I was okay, and trusting in Christ, believing that God was good, even though this was scary -- he came very soon. The doctor did, too. She looked at the baby's strip very quickly and told me she wanted to go ahead and do the c-section because there was some reason the baby's heart kept dropping and she didn't want to risk it happening any more. I was so relieved. I hoped she would be very decisive about what course to take -- I trusted that the Lord would use her to show us what to do.

Moments later, a curtain was up, and Josh was talking to me, when the anasthesiologist said "Hey, Dad, get your camera ready!" and I heard a baby cry. I could NOT BELIEVE how fast it was! Was that my baby?

"Here's her trouble!" I heard the doctor say "her chord is wrapped around her wrist!"

My heart was flooded with relief
and joy as I heard the baby crying. I just sobbed as they brought her around to show me and didn't stop as Josh followed her around taking pictures as they tended to her. I was SO THANKFUL to hear her precious cry, and I couldn't believe the amazing gift the Lord had given me.

"What's her name?" someone asked.

"Susan!" I answered as loudly as I could -- it was hard to know if anyone could hear me, under that curtain, covered with hot blankets as they stitched me up. Josh explained our name -- Susan after my mom, who had passed away a couple months ago. Her middle name is Faye, after Josh's mom.

Here is the Psalm I prayed for Susie as I lay in the recovery room:

Psalm 20:5
"May we shout for joy over your salvation,
and in the name of our God set up our banners!"
Susan Faye Neisler Born, May 30th, 9:59pm 6lbs, 3oz, 18 1/2 inches long
We just LOVE her.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Action-packed day!

My co-worker told me I needed to write about my busy day today on my blog. I think she thinks I'm straight up nuts at 39 weeks pregnant. So here it is:

I ran home during my lunch break as usual, and laid out everything for the wedding I was going to attend after work. I was so busy rushing around doing little chores, I didn't really eat lunch, and I tried to leave to go back to work early so that I could leave work a touch early today. So I ran out the door, turning the lock and as soon as I got outside (with my leftover chinese food in hand that I didn't have time to eat) I realized:

I'm locked out and my keys are in the apartment!

Josh was working downtown -- no car. I had it, but no keys.

I whipped out my phone, called work to tell them I'd probably be late coming back (of course everyone I call thinks I'm calling because I'm in labor). Then I call my friend who keeps our spare key. Funnily enough she had texted me at the beginning of my lunch break to offer me a ride to the hospital if I needed it today. But when I tried to call her to get my spare key, no answer.

Good thing I didn't need a ride to the hospital! Haha! :)

They live about a mile and a half away. Without another thought, I set down my chinese food and set off for their apartment with just my purse and beverage (it was muggy -- wait, sort of sprinkling) on foot. I am sweaty immediately. I text Josh to see if he has my friend's husband's phone number. He does and I try calling him -- no answer. Josh is slightly concerned for me. I'm walking to their house and maybe they are not there! I try calling other friends who live really nearby to see if anybody is just chilling at home and wants to pick up a pregnant girl in her LifeWay uniform. No answer.

As I walk, I make 12 back-up plans. They were all pretty good. I know other people who live in the same apartment complex I was walking to. I'd try their house first. If they weren't home, I'd go through my cell-phone starting with whomever lived closest/would be willing to come fetch me. I did not plan to walk home again! Someone could drive me downtown to get my key from Josh OR to our church because I knew our friends would be going to the wedding and maybe I could track them down there to get my key.

Well, as it turns out as I walked up the drive at my friend's apartment complex, her husband was coming out to look for me. The rain streamed down RIGHT when I got in the car. It took all of 2 minutes for him to drive me back to my house, and let me run in to grab my keys.

I was back to work only a half-hour late.

Now, wouldn't that be WAY more exciting if, say, my water broke as I walked forlornly down Brownsboro Road?

Not what I hoped to accomplish during my lunch break, but as CJ Mahaney says "Only God gets His to-do list done every day!"

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Baby's Room, or, Nesting Part 2

Here are some pictures of the nursery we've put together for the baby! It's been so fun, and we are so blessed by so many generous friends who gave us wonderful things. I've honestly spent almost nothing on the baby (so far -- haha!). We tried to plan ahead a bit and not go SUPER girlie with everything, so that if we are blessed with more children, we will have some things we can use over and over. The Lord has provided for us by giving us this new apartment where we are SAVING money every month and we roughly have double the space from our last. We were blessed in Fuller, and enjoyed our time there, but it really is going to be nice to have a room for the baby! That said, here are some pictures!

First, here is the gorgeous quilt my dad got me from Pottery Barn Kids. I'm planning to have the baby's name embroidered on it once she's here. Maybe her birthdate, too. What do you think?

A shot of the room with the lovely bookcase we turned into a changing table and the Pottery Barn Magazine Rack bookshelf my friend Misty sent me. I got some good deals on baskets on sale at Michael's and then covered them with green gingham liners from Pottery Barn Kids. They are holding little toys, blankets, sleepers, onesies, socks, shoes and hairbows -- all generous gifts for our baby girl!

I tried to get a picture of the whole room from the doorway. It's hard to quite get it all in, however! But you get the feel of the room. I think it looks very classic and relaxing. I'm looking forward to spending some time in there when the baby arrives!

I'm having a hard time with blogger, so those 3 pictures will have to be enough for now. We've got everything ready for you, Baby J! You can come any time!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Praise Factory

I am so excited to link to this site! Connie Dever from Capitol Hill Baptist in Washington DC has written this amazing children's ministry curriculum called "Praise Factory". It's been a long labor of love for her, and NOW it is all up on line for FREE! This is SERIOUS good news for children's ministries everywhere!

Since I moved to Louisville, and started working in the children's ministry at my church, Clifton Baptist, I've gotten to use Praise Factory. It's organized as a systematic theology, walking children through the teachings of the Bible in "Big Ideas". What I love about this curriculum is that you park on the same big idea for 3 weeks, and have 3 different stories, activities, etc. For example, tonight we finished the 3rd week of the big idea "God shows love for His people by caring for their needs" with the story of the burning of Rome, and the martyrdom of Peter. The story illustrated this big idea by showing how Peter's spiritual needs were cared for, and Nero, who thought he could take care of himself, ended his life in suicide, spiritually hopeless. Last week our story was about Hudson Taylor, and how God supplied his needs as he went to China. Usually the 1st and 3rd week's stories are Bible lessons, and the 2nd week comes from church history, or more recent events.

I love this curriculum. Clifton has had the opportunity to use it for several years now, because our children's director is a friend of the Dever's and we were sort of using it on a trial basis. NOW it's available for anyone to use! What a BLESSING to small churches or churches with a limited children's ministry budget! Please take time to check it out, and let your children's director know about it. I think it would work best for a Wednesday night children's program, but I think Capitol Hill uses it for Children's Church time, so it's pretty flexible. There are lots of activities and ideas that go with every lesson, you probably won't have time to do them all, but it give you a bunch of choices.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Meditations

Today is my first Mother's Day as a mom. Here I am, blessed to be a mother for about 37 weeks now. It's also my first Mother's Day without my mother. Clearly, how could anything else be on my mind today? I woke this morning thinking about my mom, wishing I could think of some special, original way I could still honor her and DO something for her for mother's day. But it seemed like there was nothing to be done.

My friend Gretchen said to me at church "you can be thankful for the good mother you had", and I think she's right -- that's the best thing I can do right now. I know I've listed them on this blog several times before, but here are a couple thoughts that are a bit more fresh:

I loved how Sue Benzing was always excited for you. You could tell her you got new red shoes, and that was exciting for her. If she saw the red shoes, even before you told her they were new, she'd mention them, and tell you she thought they were cute. Little specific things like that stood out to her. She got REALLY excited for you if you told her you were going to have a baby. I've seen her shriek and jump up and down for people who were just aquaintences. I've heard her talk on the phone for hours to women who were going through adoptions to encourage them along the way. And I heard her scream for 3 solid minutes when Josh and I told her and Dad we had a baby on the way (I think the neighbors heard, too). Mom's enthusiasm was genuine!

She LOVED motherhood. She wanted me to experience it. She wanted every girl to experience it! She really thought it was the best ever path to follow. She waited to become a mother for 7 years of marriage, but she had kiddos at home for the next 31 years. Not many people get that long of a stretch of doing something they love. It is a rare gift to love exactly what the Lord has given you in life, but Mom had that gift. She loved staying home with us, and homeschooling us. She loved babysitting Cede every day. She LOVED being a Grandmommy!

My mom often battled fear and worry. I never used to understand this, but I think I identify with my mother more than ever since I have become a mother. Almost every day during this pregnancy has been a battle in my mind to trusting the Lord and His good plan for my child. I told my friend Annie that I often feel like I've been holding my breath the whole time. If you've been in this position -- every day wondering if she's moving, if she's forming okay, if she'll make it through childbirth, etc. It's fear and worry. And sin. Mom used to write out verses about fear and trust on 3x5 cards to memorize. I remember them sitting on the window frame in the kitchen, sort of water-splashed. She was fighting that sin. What a good lesson for me!

Thank you, Lord, for my wonderful Mom who left me such a legacy. Her life makes me even more excited to enter this great journey of being a mother.

Friday, May 08, 2009

My Grandpa

It's been just under 2 months since my Mom's funeral, and today I'm preparing for my Grandpa's. I think my perspective on funerals has changed a bit. I now want to embrace them as a way to honor the person who has passed away (since both my mother and grandfather were godly, honorable people), and to glorify God for the work of grace He has done in their lives and through their lives. I won't have a part in Grandpa's funeral, since I am one of 30 grandkids (the baby I'm expecting will be the 35th great-grandchild), but I do want to honor Grandpa here on my blog.

Grandpa was always a gentle giant to me. It was amazing how he still seemed like that in my recent adult years when he'd become so much more slight in size, and not much taller than me anymore. His deep rumbling voice always called my dad "Billy", and I loved to hear him talk to my big dad like he was still a kid. My dad and his siblings modeled for the grandkids the way to honor and respect our grandparents. We did not EVER ignore them or any request they gave, and we dropped our silly childishness when Grandpa or Grandma was speaking to us -- only real, honest answers were necessary, no displays for attention. I think it was easy to respond to them like that, because they seemed worthy of real respect. I've seen many of my cousins treating my grandparents in the exact same way, so I know many of us feel this way.

My Grandpa was a godly man. His favorite song was the Doxology, which we always sang before meals and family gatherings. Last September he turned 90, and we had a birthday party for him. The big cake was decorated with the words of the Doxology. It was the only time I ever heard people sing the "amen" at the end of a song when I was a kid. If I was standing near my parents when we sang, I could hear my mom harmonizing the "amen". Grandpa was always proud to hear us quoting scripture (Luke 2, every Christmas!), and loved singing old hymns.

A recent favorite memory, which I'm sure I'll always treasure as precious was when Grandpa came to Illinois for my mom's funeral, just a couple months ago. The Lord blessed him with extra strength and good health for the trip, and we enjoyed time with Grandpa, a bit more like the old days. One evening Grandpa asked for a songbook, and my aunt brought it to me to sing with him. I sat on the couch by him with my niece Cede, and we flipped through that book, singing every song we recognized. I was so hoarse since it was the day after Mom's funeral, and had been a little sick and things, but I would never have stopped singing (besides, Grandpa didn't seem to mind). My sister Abby recorded a tiny bit with her camera phone -- me and Grandpa singing "Mansion Over the Hilltop". :)

I'm so glad for setting aside a couple days where you really don't have to do anything besides reflect and consider the goodness of Christ in the life of the loved one lost. I know funerals aren't always that sort of bittersweet celebration -- for those who die without Christ, it is only mourning and pain. I am thankful to the utmost to think about how my Grandpa (and my mom) are in Heaven, rejoicing before the throne.

And when before the throne, I stand in Him complete,
Jesus died my soul to save, my lips shall still repeat!
Jesus paid it all! All to Him I owe,
Sin has left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Is She Nesting?

I personally think it's a pretty funny expression to say an expectant mother is "nesting". I know it's been a REALLY long time since I've put up pictures of any sort, but here are a few I took of some of the things I've been getting ready.

All the newborn and onesies and sleepers are clean and ready to wear when Baby J arrives.

I'm just starting to set up the baby's room -- here's a picture of the dresses I "hung on the line". Not much else is set, but I'll try to take pictures when it is.

Baby's coming home outfit -- washed and packed (the sweater was my sister Emily's when she came home from the hospital. Mom gave it to me.)

The rest of the hospital bag packed and ready.

So, maybe I am "nesting". :)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Systematic Theology for Children

It's been a long time since I've written about books, and I'm so excited to tell you about this new book! One of the elders at my church, Bruce Ware, has written a systematic theology for children, at the request of his 2 daughters, who have sweet memories of their father's bedtime instruction to them. The Wares are dear friends of mine, and knowing their daughters as grown-ups is such an inspiration to bring up children in the fear and admonition of the Lord!

The new book is called Big Truths for Young Hearts, and is set up in short chapters, designed to be read at bedtime or family devotions. It canvasses the broad spectrum of systematic theology in 9 parts: God's Word and God's Own Life as God, God as Three in One, Creator and Ruler of All, Our Human Nature and Our Sin, Who Jesus Is, The Work that Jesus Has Done, The Holy Spirit, Our Great Salvation and The Church of Jesus Christ.

Here is what C.J. Mahaney wrote about this book: "Imagine a respected theologian devoting himself to training a new generation of pastors and scholars in the seminary classroom. Now imagine him driving home at night to teach that profound theology in simple terms to his children at their bedsides. Now imagine this father compiling those bedside conversations into a book available to all pastors, parents, and chidlren alike. Imagine no more. My friend Dr. Bruce Ware has done it."

This Friday at the bookstore where I work, Dr. Ware is coming to read for Story Hour! He's going to read from his book and sign copies (which we will have on sale), and afterward, I'm going to lead the kids in a craft project based on the selection he reads. If you are a reader from the area, please consider coming by with the kids. It will begin at 10:00 am.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Reflections on Mom -- Leaving a Legacy

I'd been wanting to share the reflections on Mom I read at her funeral, and now that it has been one whole month, it seemed like a good time to do so. Some of the following will be a bit repetitive from blogs I've written in the past month or so, but I want you to be able to read my reflections on her. I miss Sue Benzing intensely, and thoughts and memories of her shadow my day, making me smile, and making me cry. If you have time to read it all, here is what I wrote:

My mom was a beautiful woman. I thought it would be fitting for me to reflect on her character qualities today.

First, Mom was fulfilled in her God-given role as a wife and mother. Like the Proverbs 31 woman, she excelled in the home; her family was a top priority to her. This was not only evident in her life and conversation, but also her prayer-life. While looking through her prayer journals, I was struck by the overwhelming amount of space she dedicated to praying for her children. She always LOVED being a mom. She waited for a long time before the Lord gave her children, and she found joy in that role for many many years. We NEVER heard her complain about her kids, or the amount of time she spent with us, every day, as a stay-at-home wife and homeschool mom, we all agreed about that. Mom and I always got along very well, which I know sounds like I’m trying to say I was her favorite, but the truth is, Mom got along well with all her kids. We probably all felt like her favorites. Her kids all remember times spent cooking for a month in anticipation of our littlest sister’s arrival, making “post people” in the basement for craft fairs, cleaning the house from top to bottom every day whenever the house was for sale when we’d move – Mom taught us to work hard together, and to find the pleasure in being together during those times. I once remember Mom telling us when we moved “You will always have your brothers and sisters, they are friends you take with you everywhere.” which was a great lesson for us, and one I’m so glad she specifically stated.

Secondly, Mom was a lifelong learner. She loved reading, a love she passed on to all of her kids. I cannot begin to imagine how many thousands of books she’d read over her lifetime. Mom loved telling me about books she read and enjoyed, and of course, reading out loud to anyone who listened. She was interested in absolutely everything – anything she read an article on, saw a special on, whatever sport Dad happened to watch on tv, NOTHING was boring to her. In fact, I cannot imagine my mom ever being bored, which is actually quite a virtue. I remember when she had her eye surgeries, and she had to sit for hours and hours with her head straight down. Even then, she did not complain or just waste the time away. She listened to every book on tape I brought her, and even read when she had energy. She was also a woman of the Word, who read her Bible every day faithfully for years. One of the things that we have found precious is the journals and notebooks Mom had written in. We found prayers here and there in notebooks, and whole journals just for prayer, and taking notes in church and her devotions. It is humbling to see how much she prayed for her children (and what she prayed, of course, is even more humbling, because you see what she saw that perhaps you did not see back then). My sister Anna read from Mom's Bible at the funeral, and remarked on how much Mom wrote in it, and how special it was to have Mom's thoughts on the Word as a legacy to us. For example, John 14 "Let not your hearts be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." Mom wrote next to this passage -- "To be comforted". What a gift God has given us through Mom's writings, speaking to us still.In her quiet time this year, she wrote in August "I can walk before the Lord in the light of the living until God's plans for me are finished. My life won't end one minute before God wants it to." She had been reading Psalm 56 "In God I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me." What a treasure these words are to my soul!In September she wrote "No matter how things look, God is in control". Writing this to assure her own soul, and speak truth to her own heart is priceless. It speaks to my heart now, telling me to trust in God's sovereignty.On the Monday before she had her stroke she wrote "God knows and plans everything."These writings are so sweet to my eyes, and honey to my heart. It is a peek into her very soul, showing the intimacy of her walk with Jesus. What a legacy for us! I hoped by sharing them, you would be encouraged to trust God and be comforted, in whatever affliction you are facing. I also hoped to encourage my sisters in Christ to deepen their walk with the Lord, spending time in His Word every day.

Third, Mom was a happy servant in her church. This was so in all the churches we attended growing up, and most evident, perhaps in her service here at Calvary. Everyone thinks of Mom as the nursery director who loves all the kids, making timid ones adjust, the naughty ones obey, and everybody certain that she was happy to see them. I never met a child my mother couldn’t love. She also was a joyful helper to her friends, making food for special occasions, throwing baby showers, and always always entering into their joy with them. Sometimes we would get frustrated with Mom for spending SO much time and energy making someone’s day special – “Mom, you do NOT have to cater that person’s wedding for FREE. You can LET them pay you!” Mom did not think of herself, though. She was only too happy to bless others. Mom also loved hosting in her home, and no number was too large for her to say yes to. “Teen group progressive dinner? Sure! Open house for Bill’s coworkers? Great! 400 people for Gretchen’s wedding? Not a problem!” She embraced our missionary friends, and loved “adopting” their families for holidays and family occasions. She even loved hosting a whole slew of teenagers, which says a lot for her patience and forbearance as well, but honestly, Mom truly enjoyed their company. I’d like to share a little passage from a book I’ve been rereading by Elisabeth Elliot called “A Path Through Suffering”; I think it illustrates Mom well:

“The maturing dandelion has long ago surrendered its golden petals and has reached its crowning stage of dying. It stands ready, holding up it little life, not knowing when or where or how the wind that bloweth where it listeth may waft it away. It holds itself no longer for its own keeping, only as something to be shared. The delicate seed-globe must break up now; it gives and gives until it has nothing left. Think of those whose lives have had the most significant impact on yours. Are they not men and women who were continuously giving themselves, loving sacrificially, and thereby giving us life? The maturing process in the Christian, as in the dandelion, is for one purpose: the giving of life. It gives and gives until it has nothing left – for itself. But it has given life – to new dandelions. So we in whom Christ dwells are the bearers both of His death and of His life. We are transmitters of life to the world.”

Once my friend Misty and I contemplated the beautiful things my mom owned, displayed around her home. Misty said to me “You know what’s different about these things than most people’s nice things? Your mom doesn’t have these just to display and make her house look nice, she uses them to LOVE people.”

I think a word I could use to summarize Mom’s character would be “selfless”. Whether it was caring for her family, pouring herself out in prayer, embracing strangers (which she would just call “new friends”), serving at church or helping a friend – she did so without a thought of herself, only love and joy for others. She related to the Lord in the same way – without selfish wishes for her own advancement, but only desiring the glory to go to Christ. With that in mind, I want to close by sharing a prayer from Blaise Pascal that I think reflected my mom’s heart toward the Lord. May it be our prayer as well.

“Take from me, O Lord, that self pity which love of myself so readily produces, and from the frustration of not succeeding in the world as I would naturally desire, for these have no regard for your glory. Rather, create in me a sorrow that is conformable to your own. Let my pains rather express the happy condition of my conversion and salvation. Let me no longer wish for health or life, but to spend it and end it for you, with you, and in you. I pray neither for health nor sickness, life nor death. Rather I pray that you will dispose of my health, my sickness, my life and my death as for your glory, for my salvation, for the usefulness to your church and your saints, among whom I hope to be numbered. You alone know what is expedient for me. You are the Sovereign Master. Do whatever pleases you. Give me or take away from me. Conform my will to yours, and grant that with a humble and perfect submission, and in holy confidence, I may dispose myself utterly to you. May I receive the orders of your everlasting, provident care. May I equally adore whatever proceeds from you.”

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

This Good Friday I'm reflecting on the last verse of one of my favorite songs for Easter: "The Power of the Cross" by Keith and Kristyn Getty. We sang it last night at our Maundy Thursday service at Clifton.

"Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love!

This, the pow'r of the cross:
Son of God—slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross."

Here is a link to a YouTube video of Kristyn singing the song. Take a moment to listen and reflect on the goodness of Christ and the greatness of His sacrifice. Don't pass by His death on your way to the excitement of Sunday!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Back into a Routine?

I've really been wanting to post for a while, but have had a hard time knowing what to write about. It was so significant to me to read my mom's journals, so that post seemed so huge that I couldn't really think of anything worth writing about since then. I decided it's better to write about not much than not write at all.

Josh and I have been back in Kentucky for a couple weeks now, back to work and school. It's amazing how different our lives feel. I struggled at first going to work and acting "normal" around everyone -- since I felt anything but normal. I confess, I half expected most people to treat me differently -- that is, treat me really kindly -- because here I am, a pregnant girl whose mom just died. I was nearly in tears when I took a snapshot of my mom to CVS to make a double of it and the photo-department woman was rather curt and unhelpful, going to charge me $10 to make a copy. I feel like saying "please me nice to me! I'm sad right now because my mom is gone!" The Lord has been good to guard my heart from falling into true self-pity. It's hard to totally know my own self, but I think I am mostly just grieving, and half wishing everyone else was grieving along with me.

So at first I struggled getting into a routine, but now I see how having a scheduled life, really is, as Jodi Ware says, "a gift from the Lord." It helps you to go forward and "do the next thing". I have never before lived through grief, and I certainly have never lost anyone close to me, so it is all a journey of learning a new normal: getting up in the morning and remembering that I lost my mom, having my family on my mind through out the day, praying for their souls, and my own, to be guarded from depressed or guilty thoughts, having waves of sadness wash over me when I see grandmothers with new babies (actually pretty common around here), or a really specific memory occurs to me. I feel like I have grown and changed so much in the past month, that I hardly feel the same, so making a new normal feels pretty abnormal.

But the truth is this: there is a sort of sweetness in knowing Christ NOW, in the midst of my pain, that I had never known before. It comes to me when I weep, or fall into deep contemplation -- the sweetness of sharing in "the fellowship of His suffering". Elisabeth Elliot says that it's not that Christ died so that we might suffer, but that because of his death, our sufferings have a purpose -- that we can share an intimate knowledge of Him in the fellowship of His suffering. I can honestly say that from my own experience, I do sense that Christ has drawn me into a closer relationship, making Him more dear to me than ever.

These days the song "Great is Thy Faithfulness" has become my favorite: "Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided." I trust you, Lord, to provide new mercy and grace for each day.

Monday, March 16, 2009

My Mom's Quiet Time

Mom's funeral was beautiful. It was a lovely, solemn, precious day. We were so blessed to have over 500 people at her visitation and funeral, including many family members from both my dad's and mom's sides of the family. How sweet to have them all gathered together! How precious to honor Mom and praise Jesus together!

One of the things that we have found precious is the journals and notebooks Mom has written in. We found prayers here and there in notebooks, and whole journals just for prayer, and taking notes in church and her devotions. It is humbling to see how much she prayed for her children (and what she prayed, of course, is even more humbling, because you see what she saw that perhaps you did not see back then). My sister Anna read from Mom's Bible at the funeral, and remarked on how much Mom wrote in it, and how special it was to have Mom's thoughts on the Word as a legacy to us.

For example, John 14 "Let not your hearts be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." Mom wrote next to this passage -- "To be comforted". What a gift God has given us through Mom's writings, speaking to us still.

In her quiet time this year, she wrote in August "I can walk before the Lord in the light of the living until God's plans for me are finished. My life won't end one minute before God wants it to." She had been reading Psalm 56 "In God I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me." What a treasure these words are to my soul!

In September she wrote "No matter how things look, God is in control". Writing this to assure her own soul, and speak truth to her own heart is priceless. It speaks to my heart now, telling me to trust in God's sovereignty.

On the Monday before she had her stroke she wrote "God knows and plans everything."

These writings are so sweet to my eyes, and honey to my heart. It is a peek into her very soul, showing the intimacy of her walk with Jesus. What a legacy for us! I considered not sharing them here in such a public way, because they are such a treasure, but I hoped by doing so, you would be encouraged to trust God and be comforted, in whatever affliction you are facing. I also hoped to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to deepen their walk with the Lord, spending time in His Word every day. And when you get the chance, write about it! My mom was not trying to write profound things for us to read; she was merely meditating on the passage. It certainly has spurred me on to pull my prayer journal more often, and I hope it does the same for you.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Psalms and My Mom

My mom once told me her favorite book of the Bible was the Psalms, and I have to agree, it may be mine as well. Mom felt deeply and so she probably drew comfort from the depths and heights the Psalmist often plunges in his writing. There is no human experience David (and other psalm writers) did not experience.

How fitting, then, that the Psalms would be a primary comfort to my soul during the hardship we faced with Mom's stroke and death. Here are some of the Psalms that I read over and over during that time:

Psalm 139 -- From the moment Anna called me to tell me Mom had a stroke, the words of this Psalm jumped into my mind. I thought of her being flown in a helicopter alone to the next city, but my heart was comforted to read "Where shall I go from Your Spirit, or where shall I flee from Your presence?" Over and over I repeated this verse, thinking of the blessed presence of the Holy Spirit with my mother in the helicopter, moving from one hospital to another. As the night went on, I read verse 12 "even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you." The night seemed so dark. The doctors did not know what all was happening in my mother's brain, but that dark place was not hidden from God. Probably the verse that I clung to the most was verse 5 "You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me." To know that everything that was happening was hemmed in by our powerful, wise, loving and sovereign God was the ultimate comfort. I prayed this verse for my mother, and for all of us, that we could trust in His direction. As the days went on, I also drew strength from verse 16 "Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them." Even though we were in an utter quandary as to whether my mom would live another day, I knew that her days were written for her, even before she was born.

Psalm 57 -- "Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in You my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. . . God will send out His steadfast love and His faithfulness!" I prayed this Psalm for my mom another night when the girls and I were visiting Mom in the SICU. Verse 4 reflected how my soul felt: "My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts."

Psalm 91 -- "He shall dwell under the Shadow of the Almighty." That phrase is so beautiful and comforting. Many people read us this psalm in the hospital during those days.

There are so many more, but I hope these words will be an encouragement to you, too!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

My Mom

When I posted my last, I had no idea that a "crazy week" would stretch into 3 and beyond. Even now, I can't quite grasp all that has taken place in my life over the past 2 weeks -- the lessons I've learned, the Scripture I've read, the tears I've shed. I couldn't begin to put it all into one blog post, so this may be the first of many on the subject.

My mom passed away this morning.

Even as I type that, though I've seen what I've seen, it still does not seem possible.

It was very sudden. On February 21st, Josh and I settled into our new apartment, and I talked to my mom on the phone. She asked about the baby, our new apartment, and asked me if I wanted some things she'd found when cleaning out my sister's room. We did not talk too long, because my dad and sisters were waiting for her to go out to eat. The last thing she said to me was "I love you, honey. I'll call you tomorrow."

At the restaurant, she began to have signs of a stroke, much like the TIA she'd had 4 years ago -- not remembering names and specific things. Later that evening at the emergency room, she had a massive stroke. My sister called me a little after midnight that night to tell me that things were really bad, and Josh and I left for Illinois right away. Though mom lived for the next 2 weeks, and underwent a serious operation, she never awoke from her coma, and never saw us or spoke to us in the time that has gone by.

We sat in the hospital all day every day during that time. For the first week, she was in SICU, and we could only visit 2 at a time (though sometimes there were 4 or so of us). My sisters and I polished her nails and toenails, and gave her lipstick. We all talked and prayed, and sang and read Scripture to her. Then last Sunday she was moved into her own room, and hospice care, and we all could gather there together, where we spent the last week by her side.

She had such pretty warm hands, with the nails painted so nicely. I held one for hours and hours every day this week. I miss it already.

What can you say about your mom? We (her 6 kids) all had a great relationship with her. She was loved by hundreds of children in the nursery ministry where she served for years, not to mention their parents. We've seen and talked to hundreds of her friends during these weeks. I can't begin to recount the memories, the things that were special about her. If you knew her, you certainly have memories of her yourself. Feel free to post them here for me, it is such a comfort to think of all the people who loved her.

I never spent a moment during these weeks in which I did not feel the Lord's gentle care for me. He seemed very close, the Spirit's ministry of comfort very real. Oh, there were, and still are, moments of aching loss and overwhelming heartache, but my Gentle Shepherd has cared for me and lead me through these days. I know that sometimes when people go through suffering, the most difficult aspect is that they do not feel the closeness of the Lord, so I am so grateful that I did. "I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name" as the hymn says. Jesus is the dearest and sweetest name I know, more than ever.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Crazy Week

We are moving this week, and things are going to be a little crazy in my world, so I probably will not have a chance to post again. I hope to get everything moved into our new apartment, and then put up some pictures of our new place sometime next week.

In the meantime, I also wanted to link to a couple new posts that CBMW is putting up by yours truly. It's overkill if you've already read my post on this blog, but if not, or if you just have time to kill, please click over and read it! This is a post from last Wednesday, and from what I understand, they are going to do parts for the next couple of Wednesdays, like a series. If you have any comments whatsoever, they LOVE feedback, and always pass it on to me, so please click on the feedback link on the CBMW blog. I'd love questions, too, as fuel to research more books!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Free Things!

These past couple days have been abundant with cashing in on some free stuff. What with coupons, gift cards, CVS bucks, charity and just generous people, I've been bringing home things left and right.

First, in the basement of our building, they have something called "The Attic" (great name, huh?) where families of the seminary can take 4 free things a week. I got several little baby clothes there (all pink, but you can't help that -- plus they were free). I also picked up a couple things from our church where they have a mother and child clothing room (it was my first visit, but not my last!). Here is a picture. I especially liked the lit
tle pink chucks -- that she obviously won't be able to wear for quite a while, but oh well. I still have not spent a dime on baby clothes yet -- though I was OVERWHELMINGLY tempted last night when I found a Polly Flinder's dress at T.J. Maxx.

Also pictured are a couple free things I got because of my generous friend Rhonda sharing her coupons with me: hairspray, a razor for Josh and toothpaste. I also have 2 free 2-liters of Diet Dr. Pepper, but we didn't get those yet, because yesterday when I was in line at Kroger, the power went out (what is WITH this city?) and I could not be rung up! Oh well, Josh and I will go redeem them after we drink up all the Diet Coke we currently have. I randomly got a magazine in the mail, too. I think it's from my mother-in-law, and I love Real Simple!!

This is the BEST thing I got yesterday (though I can't technically call it free) -- new ultrasound pictures! Poor Josh missed out (he was in class) as I got to see our little girl in her new bigger size, touching her nose and lip with one finger and wiggling her tongue. AMAZING! The good news is that her heart looks like it's normal from what they can tell, so that's great news!

I told Josh yesterday that working hard to save money with coupons and frugality has been a fun challenge, but I've found it's been really tempting not to think that I am the one responsible for all my hard work. I find it harder not to utterly rely on God to take care of our financial needs, because I'm relying on myself instead. Have you found that to be a challenge, my organized, frugal friends? This is a new challenge for me, because I have tended to be so fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, that if it all works out, I KNOW it is God's doing. Now that I'm trying to be intentional, I see myself as the force behind the windfall. How do YOU fight that mentality?