Sunday, December 25, 2011

We Wish You a Merry Christmas . . .




The following is our annual Christmas letter. I'm posting it a bit late because an infection that started in my hand last week turned into something serious. I spiked a high fever and Brad made me go to the ER Friday night. Silly me thought I'd be fine with an Airbourne and a good night's sleep, never connecting the dots that the problem with my hand was causing my fever.


I'm very grateful for my persistent husband because they said if the infection had gone another 24 hours I might have lost my hand! (Oh my!) I guess the moral of the story is: Never think you are too busy to go to the doctor and, if you have a degree in English, you're not really qualified to make major medical decisions.


I spent Christmas Eve in tears because it looked like I was going to miss Christmas with my family. The ER doctor said it might take 2 days of IV meds to get my white cell blood count back to normal. But by Saturday night, I was doing so much better that the doctor on that shift had mercy on me and let me go home with a goodie bag of some mega antibiotics. I was so grateful to spend Christmas morning in my own home with my sweet family. We had such fun watching Victoria enjoy her first Christmas and loved every minute being together as a family.


I haven't gotten approval from the family to post Christmas pics so I'm just using the ones above and below that we had taken earlier. There will be an upcoming new year's post looking back at our crazy year and I promise to post more then.

Merry Christmas to you all! I hope you had a blessed day celebrating the birth of our Savior.

With Much Love,
Kathie and Family



Dear Family and Friends,


Happy holidays from the old woman who lives in a shoe (she had so many children . . . you know the rest.) I was tempted to skip the whole Christmas card/letter this year, but I’m proud of the fact that I have managed to keep all five children alive and kind of wanted to prove it.


This time last year we were still trying to process the news that I was pregnant again at the biblically equivalent age of Abraham’s wife when she had Isaac. On June 6 we were blessed with Victoria Kate. It was not how we had ever dreamed we would spend our 19-year wedding anniversary, but I must say it was the best anniversary gift I’ve ever gotten. (Nothing says romance like ice chips in a hospital gown.)


We are still celebrating this sweet addition to our family. Thanks to you all for your love and prayers with her arrival. (Our photos were taken by our friend at http://www.kylevalencia.com/ . He apparently has expertise in Photoshopping dark circles and drool.)



If I have learned one thing in life, it’s been to give thanks for unexpected gifts. At times I’ve been like a typical kid at Christmastime with a thoughtfully drafted wish-list for God. My kids usually forego an itemized list, but I do get some well-meaning hints. Not wanting to act greedy, they mention a particular item then end with a disclaimer--“if it doesn’t cost too much” or “if I get this I’ll never ask for another thing . . . promise.” I’m ashamed to admit that my prayers have included some of those very same words.


There have been years that I’ve received some gifts from God I didn‘t ask for. At the time they didn’t look like gifts at all because they were packaged as sickness, need, loss, pain. I looked up at my Heavenly Father, with the same face that my kids would give me if I gave them a present of socks and underwear or coal and switches, and like a child exclaimed, “Are you kidding me? This isn’t what I asked for! There must be some mistake.” It often took years to see that this was something I could give thanks for--that He chose what I needed over what I wanted and wrapped it with His grace.


And then there have been years of opening fabulous gifts . . . extravagant gifts--gifts that I didn’t ask for, gifts that I didn’t think I needed, gifts that I certainly didn’t deserve. One such gift is the baby I’m holding in my arms this year. Another such gift is the baby Mary held in hers more than 2,000 years ago.



It was the most unexpected gift. Instead of a prince born to royalty, He came as a baby born to poor homeless parents. Instead of a King on a throne, He was a Savior on a cross. It’s this time of year that I’m convicted that I’ve been looking at the wrong wish-list.


Much of the past 12 months is a beautiful blur, but perhaps the one word that sums up how I feel this year is GRATEFUL. Although this is where I usually share the highlights of the past year, somehow all the “what we’ve done” seems so trite compared to the list of “what we’ve been given.”


The other day I read a quote that got me thinking. “What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you thanked God for today?” My list is long, but it would start with: “Thank you, God, for my five precious children granted to me by birth and by adoption. Thank you for my dear husband and partner that you’ve given me for this crazy adventure. Thank you for our wonderful family and friends, who humble us year after year with their love and support. Thank you for the gift of a Baby in a manger and a Savior on a cross. Thank you for the blessing of unexpected gifts. ”


If I wake up tomorrow with only those things, it is more than enough.






Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year from the Williams Family


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, there's about an hour left of Thanksgiving day and the rest of the world has moved full-speed ahead toward Christmas. And then there's me.

Yes, I've got big plans to do some shopping and decorating tomorrow like everyone else, but tonight I just want to hold on to Thanksgiving a bit longer. Today was such a sweet time with our extended families that I want to wrap up every memory and dine on the leftovers for the next few weeks.

Today I'm grateful for my precious family (most of these photos are from a visit a few weeks ago to a pumpkin patch, a couple are from today) . . .





For my amazing husband . . .



For my sweet boys . . .


And my sweet girls . . .





Especially the one celebrating her first Thanksgiving today.





Thank you, God, for all five pumpkins in my pumpkin patch. I'm so very grateful for your faithfulness in my life!






Happy Thanksgiving from the Williams family!



Much Love,
Kathie

Friday, November 11, 2011

Land of the Free . . . Home of the Brave

I'm feeling so grateful today. For little things like tiny hands with dimpled fingers, giggles around the breakfast table, and for a few minutes this morning to write about God's goodness in my life.

And I'm grateful for some big things. For men and women who sacrifice their lives each day to serve our country, for the blessing of waking up each morning in the land of the free, and for a son who at only 9 years old truly understands what a gift it is to be an American.

For years I've celebrated National Adoption Month as a proud adoptive mother. Many more years I've celebrated Veterans Day as a grateful American. This year those celebrations are beautifully intertwined.

My kids attend a wonderful Christian school and every November they have an amazing Veterans Day assembly. Each year they have the students write essays and make posters thanking Veterans for their service. It's a great way to make the kids really ponder the sacrifice made for our freedom.

A couple weeks ago, I asked Daniel if he wanted to write an essay in preparation for the upcoming celebration. He responded with, "I don't have much to say. I've only been an American for two years." I reminded him that he has a perspective that many don't have. That starting out in another country will give him an appreciation that many Americans will never understand.

He grabbed a few sheets of notebook paper and a pencil, went to his room and closed the door. About an hour later he returned with the following words written in his best penmanship. As he read it aloud, the tears streamed down my face. He has given me permission to share it here. I corrected his spelling and grammar--but this was all his work . . . an outpouring from his heart.




Grateful for My Country
By Daniel Williams

I am 9 years old, but I have only been an American for almost 2 years. Back in Guatemala, I was so scared sometimes that I would put furniture up against the door so no one could break in. One night I heard guns shooting and often I couldn’t sleep because I was scared. I wished I lived in a country where I was safe.

I saw kids so poor that they would make shoes out of soft drink cans and make shelter with old boxes. I saw people taking guns when they would go to the bank because they were afraid of being robbed. I saw even small children begging for food. I have never seen these things in America.

December 24, 2009 is when I knew that my life had changed. I remember when I got off of the plane when I was adopted by my family and I saw the American flag. I knew then that I would be safe, I would have a home, I would not have to worry about putting things against the door, I would have plenty of food, and I would have a family.



Thank you, Veterans, for serving our country. Thank you for being away from your families and risking your lives for us. You make our country a safe and happy country. I think the difference between Guatemala and the United States is freedom.


(Photo of Daniel and siblings on his first 4th of July as an American.)





Here's a photo taken as we were in a hurry to get out the door this morning--of Ava with the poster she made, Daniel with his essay, and Brady barely awake. (He doesn't have school on Friday and is wondering why his crazy mom is taking his pic.) The school had their beautiful celebration yesterday--such a sweet time of honoring those who serve our country.



When Daniel got home yesterday he said, "I think some day I'd like to be an Army guy and fight to protect our country." Oh, that would make this mama so proud.

Happy Veterans Day to all the brave men and women who serve our country. I'm grateful for my grandfather, my dad, and my mother-in-law's husband Bob--who passed away last April--for their service to our country and sacrifice for our freedom. Thank you, Veterans, that a little boy named Daniel is grateful to be an American because he lives in a "safe and happy country."


God Bless America!


With Gratitude,

Kathie

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Drinking from the Saucer

Oh how I've missed you! Sorry for the extended "maternity leave." All is well. I've just been busy adjusting to having a newborn and being a mommy to five. I haven't given up blogging--oh how I love my fellowship with like-minded bloggy friends. The other day I reread the precious comments posted when Victoria was born. Thanks for the blessing you have all been to me.

My days have been reduced to survival mode moments in which I must decide between taking a shower or having lunch, getting an hour of sleep or folding a pile of laundry. I have learned to feed/diaper/soothe a newborn in the carpool line and at the grocery check-out, at a soccer/baseball/ballet practice or a parent/teacher conference, while making a phone call or preparing dinner.

Our first weeks with Victoria were hard. We were so worried about making sure she was eating enough and maintaining her body temp. She would have episodes of reflux followed by gasps for air that made this veteran mom feel like a newcomer to the job. Then she finally had an appetite but her little body just wasn't able to digest it well. She had several colicky weeks but she has finally turned the corner and is now even sleeping well at night. Praise God!

Honestly, now that Baby V is no longer crying through the afternoons/evenings, she's the easiest one of the bunch. She doesn't play a sport, doesn't need to be driven somewhere, and can't question my judgement (at least not verbally). She's too little to take ballet, be invited to a birthday party, need help with her homework, surprise me with a last-minute project, get her feelings hurt, or have friends come over. She eats everything I serve her like it's the best thing she's ever had and she never complains about her clothing. (I know those days are numbered.)

Here she is with her expression that says, "Really?!" We see this face a lot.





I've never been so tired, yet I honestly don't think I've ever been this happy. I feel like Lucy in the episode of "I Love Lucy" where she and her pal Ethel are working in a chocolate factory. At first the candies come down the conveyor belt at a manageable pace. They wrap each chocolate then put it back on the assembly line. They are doing so well that the boss increases the speed of the conveyor belt. They aren't able to keep up so they start tossing unwrapped chocolates in their tops and hiding them under their hats.

And that's what I've been doing the past 4 months--stuffing figurative chocolates in my blouse and laughing at the windfall of goodness that has been showered over this crazy lady who loves children.

It reminds me of a poem I came across many years ago called "Drinking from the Saucer." Here it is in case you've never read it.

Drinking From The Saucer
by John Paul Moore

I've never made a fortune,
And I'll never make one now
But it really doesn't matter
'Cause I'm happy anyhow

As I go along my journey
I'm reaping better than I've sowed
I'm drinking from the saucer
'Cause my cup has overflowed

I don't have a lot of riches,
And sometimes the going's tough
But with kin and friends to love me
I think I'm rich enough

I thank God for the blessings
That His mercy has bestowed
I'm drinking from the saucer
'Cause my cup has overflowed

He gives me strength and courage
When the way grows steep and rough
I'll not ask for other blessings for
I'm already blessed enough

May we never be too busy
To help bear another's load
Then we'll all be drinking from the saucer
When our cups have overflowed



The words made me smile then, but even more so now that I have moved beyond "goodness and mercy shall follow" and have entered a season of "my cup overflows."

I look at my 5 blessings--age 4 months to 14 years, all given to us by the grace of God--and my sleep-deprived eyes well up with happy tears. I'm just so very grateful for each one of them.

Grateful for Olivia--our daughter with big brown eyes and a big heart for others; the patient oldest sister to one crazy crew; our first gift from God after years of praying for a child; proof that children grow up too fast.




Grateful for Ava--our daughter who loves with her whole heart; the one who keeps us laughing and makes every day feel like a party; the one always there to offer encouragement and a hug; proof that children are just sunshine packaged in human form.





Grateful for Daniel--our son born of our hearts through the miracle of adoption; the one with a smile that can light up a room and melt your heart; a little boy made up of equal parts of humor and sensitivity; proof that God can heal what has been broken and that families are made with love.





Grateful for Brady--our son given to us after the pain of losing his brother; the one who is so gentle and caring that he as the youngest has become an example to the older ones; the sweetest snuggler in the bunch; and proof that God will not leave us in the valley of the shadow of death . . . that goodness and mercy always follow.





Grateful for Victoria--our daughter given to us by surprise and by God's grace; the one who is keeping us young and reminds us each day to cherish every sweet minute;





Our little princess who is remarkably tolerant of the crazy family she's been born into; proof that God's plan is always so much better than ours.



Thank you, Heavenly Father, for all five blessings. All so special and so loved.





It's been a long time since I've posted a "Sunday Dinner" with a scripture and a song. The past four months can be summed up with these verses:

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."

Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV


The song that is currently first on my playlist says what I'm feeling. It is "Your Love is Extravagant" by Casting Crowns. Yes, His love certainly is!

So Grateful,
Kathie

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Finally Home!

Well, today is Father's Day, but for me every day feels like Mother's Day.

Forgive me for not posting since Victoria's birth. All is well, I just haven't had much time to update. I spent most of the past two weeks at our hospital's NICU(neonatal intensive care unit) until they finally let out baby girl come home last Wednesday. Since then I've been living in Eastern Standard Newborn Time and I'm cherishing every exhausting minute having a baby in the house again.

She spent the first 9 days of her life in the NICU until they felt she was ready to come home. They kicked me out of the hospital a week ago Friday, but--being the stalker mommy that I am--I hung out in the NICU from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m. so I could feed her myself and not miss too much of these precious newborn days.

A week ago Saturday, they thought she might be ready to come home and let me "room in" with her. I was thrilled to be able to have a sleepover with my tiny girl in this room that they have just off the NICU. Well, I'm embarrassed to admit that I was done in by a person the size of a sub sandwich. This trial run proved she wasn't quite ready and needed a few more days in the hospital.

Her biggest issue has been her inability to get enough in each feeding. For several days she was fed with the assistance of a feeding tube in her nose. She just didn't have the stamina to nurse or take a bottle for more than a few minutes. Her other problem was not being able to maintain a good body temp. Because she is so thin, she burns a lot of calories trying to keep herself warm. We have her dressed for an Arctic blizzard yet sometimes her temp goes dangerously low. Although she was delivered at 36 weeks, she was more like a baby born at 33 to 34 weeks, but we can already tell she's going to catch up quickly.

Since coming home on Wednesday, she has eaten well and her temp has been stable. Wooo hoooo! We took her to the pediatrician Friday and we were thrilled to hear that she's back to her birth weight of 5 pounds. She is certainly the miniature princess of the house and we are so grateful for the precious gift of this special girl.

I've got a little time before the next feeding to finally post some pics.

This is the first time I was able to see my baby girl. I'll never forget feeling her breath on my cheek as Brad held her up to my face. The tears were flowing in Operating Room number 1!



This was a quick photo with me and Brad before they took her to the NICU and while they were sewing me up.



I'm still so grateful for the wisdom of my doctors to go ahead and deliver via c-section. We know now that the reason she wasn't the size she should have been is because of issues with the cord.

The recovery has been a bit harder than with a regular delivery, but it granted me some additional days in the hospital. That extra time in the hospital was a blessing because it was so hard to leave her behind when they sent me home.

Here we are hanging out in the NICU.



This is Olivia meeting her baby sister for the first time. It's hard to believe that I have one daughter starting high school and another just starting out in life, but it's actually a lot of fun having such a range of ages.



Can you tell how excited Ava is to have a baby sister? She's been praying for one for several years and is overjoyed that Victoria is here.


Daniel was so precious the first time he met Victoria. It has been so special to experience this with him and see his pride in having a new little sister.



Brady is perhaps the proudest sibling of them all. He is already very protective of her and instructs all visitors to wash their hands and not touch her head. I know Brady and Victoria will have a very sweet bond that will grow over the years. He still doesn't have the confidence to hold her, but he sits by her bassinet and chats with her. It's very sweet.



Here's Victoria spending some time under the tanning bed while in the NICU because of jaundice. She's fine now and she and Daniel have the best summer tans in the family.


Here are some pics taken with my phone. They didn't appreciate flash photography in the NICU so I had to sneak these when I got a chance.

We were so happy when she was moved from the warming bed to this hospital bassinet. We knew it was one step closer to her coming home.



Who says babies can't smile? This was taken when she was 3 days old. We can't wait till she's able to smile all the time.


Here she is in her fleece Halo sleep sack. Even though the temps are in the 90's outside, our girl almost always has this on to keep her warm.

This was a sweet moment holding her in the NICU. I still have those "pinch me" moments of not believing that this little treasure is mine.



Finally the feeding tube is out! She hated it and was always pulling it out and frustrating the nurses. She didn't like the monitors' wires either. Ava sang the song "I've Got No Strings" from Pinocchio when they took it all off.

This is her at home dancing in her bed.

Oh, gotta run. Time for a feeding. Here's one more photo with her celebrating her first Father's Day with her dad and siblings.

I'm so grateful for my husband, my father and father-in-law, and my Heavenly Father. It was a special day indeed.



Much Love,

Kathie

Monday, June 6, 2011

She's Here!!!

This evening God blessed us with the gift of another precious daughter.

Victoria Kate arrived weighing 5 pounds and is 17 and a half inches long.

The c-section went beautifully but as she was being delivered, my doctor and midwife couldn't believe what they found. She had the cord wrapped 4 times around her neck and it was kinked in two places. They said she probably would not have survived a long labor and regular delivery.

She looks absolutely perfect, but we won't know for 48 hours if she will have any long-term medical needs. Victoria gave us a fabulous cry when she was delivered and really nothing else mattered after that. She's in the NICU now but I got a glimpse of her just after delivery and was able to see her a few minutes tonight.

A year ago I would have never believed that we would spent our 19 year wedding anniversary having a baby, but I must admit that it was a pretty special way to celebrate our marriage and God's goodness and mercy in our lives.

So Grateful,
Kathie

Ready

Well, it looks like our tiny baby/anniversary gift is coming tonight!

I think I have two male readers (you are brave), so I'll try not to cross the line of too much information, but . . . read at your own risk.

I had my appointment with my high risk doc at 9:30 this morning fully expecting to be told to wait another week. He was thrilled to see that she was head down but there were still some concerns about her being small for her gestational age (which could indicate a problem with the cord or placenta) and wanted to move quickly to deliver since she was finally in the right position. He consulted with my regular docs and they were in agreement to induce as soon as possible.

So I went straight to Labor and Delivery at the hospital and they immediately started the drugs to induce. Well, a couple hours later my doc came to check on me and, after an external exam, seemed worried. They did another ultrasound and discovered she had turned again. She's now sideways and the cord is again over my cervix which can be fatal for the baby if my water breaks and makes it not possible to deliver her the old fashioned way. When he called my high risk doc and told him she had moved, it was funny. There was a very loud, "You've got to be kidding me" on the other end. Apparently she wins the prize for the most active baby they have seen.

He wanted to do a C-section immediately, but Brad had just brought me a romantic anniversary lunch from Chick-fil-a and they have to wait till the food is out of my system. So we have a scheduled C-section at 8:00 p.m. I have about 4 hours till I get to meet my baby girl! I'm sitting here in my hospital gown with a mix of nerves and excitement.

The most frequently asked question these past few week was, "Are you ready?" It's a simple question and since I haven't been able to cough, laugh, or sneeze without wetting my pants for some time now, my first response is always yes. But to be honest, I haven't been completely ready.

Yes, I'm so ready to hold her, to feed her, to study her sweet face and marvel at her tiny hands. I'm ready to bring her home and love on her and watch her siblings adore her. But as my pregnancy has progressed I've had to ask myself harder questions. Losing a child at 36 weeks
has changed the meaning of the question, "Are you ready?"

I've been asking myself, "Are you ready to deliver a baby who might not make it?" With recent concerns about possible birth defects, I've had to ask myself, "Are you ready to hold her and be told she has physical or developmental needs?"

My nurse just gave me the rundown on what would happen during the C-section and with it a whole new list of concerns. That I might not be able to hold her or see her after she is born. That she may have to spend some time in the NICU because she is 3 and a half weeks premature and may not even be 5 pounds. That this is major surgery and I might have complications of my own.

This kind of reminds me of how many were feeling a couple weeks ago when that man was predicting that the Rapture was going to happen. There were many reasons that kept me from believing it was true, and yet it made me ask myself "Are you ready?"

And again my first answer would be yes. Yes, I'm ready to see my Savior's face; ready to worship at His throne; ready to be reunited with my mother, my grandmother, my children who I will get to meet in heaven, and many other loved ones.

But then I felt conviction that I didn't do more. I spent much of my life surrounded by fellow believers and gave myself few opportunities to share my faith. I've had a lifelong passion to care for orphans, but only gave one a family. I have to admit when that Saturday came and went, I found myself with a renewed commitment to live radically for God.

So I sit here in a hospital room, waiting for the hours to play out with an ending that only my Heavenly Father knows. There's nothing but the sound of her heartbeat on the monitor as I give thanks for this precious little life and ask myself, "Are you ready?"

And you know what? I am.

Thanks for your continued love and prayers.

Surrendered to His Plan,
Kathie

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Contractions

Made it through another week. A great week in many ways. A stressful week in many others.

The week before last my doctors appointments went well. The baby looked healthy, no signs of distress, no issues with the cord placement, and my amniotic fluid was within a more normal range.

This week showed some new concerns. The baby is fine but continues to do her Cirque du Soleil performances in utero. She prefers to be sideways or breech which is not popular with my healthcare providers this late in the pregnancy. My fluid is again in excess and, because of where the cord is, now I'm at great risk for cord prolapse and because of her continued movement there is concern about another cord accident.

Last Thursday my regular doctor treated me like I was a walking time bomb--asking me how quickly I could get to the hospital if my water broke and making me promise that if it did I wouldn't take a precious minute to call or even grab my suitcase. He said that if we can catch her head down at any time with the cord in a safe placement, they will go ahead and induce.

My next scheduled appointment is Monday morning with the specialist and then in the afternoon with my regular doctor. Monday is our 19 year wedding anniversary, so having our new baby girl in our arms would sure be a sweet gift. (Brad, you are off the hook on a romantic dinner out. Ice chips and an epidural will be fine.) But I know the docs at my specialist's office really want me to go another full week if there are no signs of her in distress (so I'd be 38 weeks), so I won't be surprised or disappointed if they send me home to let her cook a bit longer.

One thing they track often with my fetal non-stress tests is contractions. I have lots of them and have since I was 28 weeks. Just false labor that is a pain in the abdomen.

I've done this with all my pregnancies. When I was expecting Ava, I started having regular contractions at 30 weeks. They were every 4 minutes apart and strong. My doctors were sure it was the real thing and admitted me to the hospital and put me on all kinds of drugs. When they finally sent me home I was on strict bedrest, lots of meds, and drank enough water on a daily basis to fill a swimming pool. At 37 weeks they took me off the meds fully expecting her to be born within hours and . . . she ended up arriving three weeks later on her due date.

And so with subsequent pregnancies, I've kind of just ignored them. It's just my body crying wolf, every 4 to 5 minutes. (Apparently there's a correlation between my excess of fluid and the frequency/strength of the contractions.) My husband will see me holding my belly in obvious pain and ask if we need to go to the hospital and I will simply answer, "No, but I could use a hot fudge sundae and a foot massage." (Hey, I'm going to milk this for all it's worth.)

As I have these contractions, I can't help but see how much they mirror the contractions of life.

Real contractions can be scary the first time you experience them. I remember the first time I felt those muscles tighten like a boa constrictor around my waist. It was something I'd never felt before and frankly it freaked me out. As my pregnancy progressed I realized that the contractions only got stronger and lasted longer. By the end I realized these early contractions were nothing compared to the ones that left me breathless and speechless and doubled over in pain. And it's these contractions that precede the birth of something amazing.

In the same way, I've had a lifetime of different kinds of emotional and spiritual "contractions." Small trials, disappointments, detours in life. At the time I thought they were the real thing. I thought the pain couldn't get any worse. I thought it was too much to bear. But soon I realized that this was just practice labor. That my broken heart could mend. That the sun would rise the next day. That the world didn't come to an end.

It's hard to watch my children experience "contractions." Last week my kids finished school. Our sweet Christian school only goes through 8th grade and Olivia will be starting over next year in high school. She hurts leaving her dear friends and teachers and school that has been home for so long. She's feeling contractions as she faces the unknowns of what is ahead. While I know these contractions are so small compared to what she will deal with later in life, I know they are very real right now, very uncomfortable, and very scary.

Daniel also experienced contractions last week. He came home on the last day of school and wept all over his lunch. It hit him all of a sudden that his precious teacher wouldn't be going to 3rd grade with him next year. He doesn't think his teacher or group of classmates will ever be as wonderful as it was this year and he is grieving. It was such a sweet year in his life that I wish I could rewind it and play it over for him, especially after him having so many years that I wish I could erase. He has already had to deal with contractions far worse, yet this pain is very real to him as well.

When my children experience these contractions and they tell me how much it hurts and they cry in my arms, all I can do is remind them that God is good and He has a wonderful plan for their lives. This is big talk from a woman who is having contractions--literally and figuratively. I don't like the pain of uncertainty. I have moments of worry that this baby might not be okay. I have doubts as I wonder if I can be a good mom to five children.

In my mind I know that the most painful contractions of all are the ones that strengthened my faith and poured out such blessings in my life. I remember that as horrible as it was to watch my mother battle cancer, because of her faith through that trial she left a legacy that will continue for generations. I remember that as heartbreaking as it was to lose our first son, that tragedy truly changed the course of our lives and such goodness and mercy has come from it that we would not have otherwise experienced.

And yet, I still want to walk through life with an epidural. I want to be exempt from hard times and I want my family to be as well. And that's when I have to remember God's faithfulness and remind myself that "God is good and He has a wonderful plan for my life." I surrender to that truth as I face the uncertainty of the week ahead.

It's almost Sunday here in Georgia, so I'm going to go ahead a post a "Sunday Dinner" for the week. My favorite scripture about contractions is:


"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. . . .


Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. " James 1:2-3, 12, NIV



The "dessert" of song is one of my favorites right now. It's "Blessings" by Laura Story--she's one of my all-time favorite artists and sings at the church that is part of our children's school. Her lyrics so beautifully sum up what God has been trying to teach me for many years.



May you remember God's faithfulness and goodness during your own times of trials and "contractions."


Much Love,

Kathie

P.S. I'm having trouble posting comments on other blogs! For a couple weeks, when I log in to leave a comment it lists me as anonymous, then when I try to leave the comment it disappears. It seems to be a problem with Blogger. If anyone knows how to fix it let me know. Thanks!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Safe

Thanks so much to so many of you for your prayers for us this week. My appointment with the specialist went well Monday. There are still no problems with the cord, however my amniotic fluid continues to increase and the baby continues to do her acrobatic routine which makes us all a bit nervous.

My doctor at the specialist's office was much kinder at this appointment. Not a mention of words like "defect" or "problem." That was a good move on his part because I didn't have time to print out Psalm 139 and this hormonally challenged mama knows all 24 verses, was armed with a Sharpie, and spent an hour staring at a bare wall needing embellishment. (Yes, these days I'm one insensitive comment away from destruction of private property.)

I got to take Daniel and Brady with me Monday morning because the younger grades at our school had a teacher work day. They loved seeing their baby sister on the big screen. They kept saying "that's so cool" as red and blue lights illuminated the flow of blood to the baby and "oh, she's so cute" when we'd get a glimpse of her face. (I never realized my insides could provide such entertainment.) It was really a sweet time with them and was a comfort to me to hear them talk about her with such love and excitement.

I had another ultrasound today at my regular doctor. There was a bit of concern because the cord is again around her neck, but this time it's loose and not wrapped multiple times. There were no signs today of distress and my doctors felt it safe to go home.

Safe.

The definition of the word "safe" has changed for me considerably over the years. It was a word I never gave much thought to until I became a mom--then suddenly I was obsessed with keeping my children safe. Safety seats, safety locks, safety seals, safety helmets, safety precautions. I realized about 15 minutes after becoming a mother--as I watched Olivia sleep out of fear that she might stop breathing--that keeping your child safe can become a full-time job if you let it.

So when we lost a baby at 36 weeks, my first thought was that I hadn't kept him safe. That somehow I should have known he was in trouble. That I had failed him as his mother. But then I remembered something that happened just hours before he died. Some day I will try to share it, but all you really need to know is that it taught me that there are no accidents. God knew the number of our son's days. He knew that January 9, 2004, his earthly heart would stop beating and this wasn't something that was supposed to have been prevented. And He also knew this mother's heart would be broken. He knew this because thousands of years before, Christ carried my sorrow to the cross. Knowing that this was His plan released me from guilt and freed me from fear.

But here I am again, wanting to keep this baby safe. And often I fall back into my old thinking. I'll wake up at 3:00 a.m. in a cold sweat and lay there till I feel a reassuring kick. And I'll think, "She's safer outside of my body, than within it."

That's when conviction pours over me and I remember God's faithfulness. That's when I surrender that the absolute safest place this baby could be is out of my reach and completely in His hands.

I know once she is born, my tendency to want to bubble wrap her through life will continue. I will have to fight it on a daily basis.

I had proof of this last Sunday as I put my 14 year old Olivia on a bus headed to Washington D.C. for their 8th grade trip. I wished I had been able to go as one of the chaperones, not just so I could enjoy this experience with her but also so I could keep her safe.

As the bus pulled away, I'm ashamed to admit that I said a prayer for her safety out of fear of the "what-ifs"--not out of surrender to God's sovereignty. In about 30 seconds I was able to come up with a hundred reasons why I shouldn't let her go. It wasn't until I actually thought about running after the bus, 8 months pregnant, and demanding that they let her off did I realize my foolishness. And once again, I realized that the absolute safest place she could be is completely in His hands.

I will go to bed tonight with complete peace that I don't need to count kicks or go back to the hospital to be monitored. It's simply because I know God loves this baby even more than I do and has a perfect plan for her life.

Much Love,

Kathie

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Most women seem to do pregnancy well. They glow. They blossom like a spring flower. They look fashionable in their maternity attire.


They dance through 40 weeks of impending motherhood with grace. They are able to pee in a cup without getting it on their hand. They don't throw up during the gestational diabetes test. They don't pass out when giving a blood sample.


They gain just the right amount of weight. They don't get stretch marks or varicose veins. Their labors are short and easy. Their babies are born looking like they are ready to model for Pampers.


And then there's me.


Nothing about my pregnancies has ever been easy. My medical chart reads like the section in What to Expect When You're Expecting under the heading "When Something Goes Wrong."


I've had 1st trimester and 3rd trimester loss. Preterm labor, placenta previa, pre-eclampsia, high blood pressure, prolonged labor, postpartum hemorrhaging. Thus after we had Brady, I mentally put my uterus in retirement. All done. I was very much at peace with this even though I still longed for more children. But God provided a beautiful way for us to add to our family through adoption and we felt called to adopt older and special needs children.


And then on the morning of November 1 we discovered that I--at 40 years old--was pregnant! Although I was so incredibly grateful that God would bless us with another child, I wondered why in the world He had granted us the miracle of another biological child when we were so passionate about the miracle of adoption. I felt terribly undeserving of such a gift when many of my precious friends have never been able to get pregnant. But I have learned that God's plan is always so much better than anything I could ever dream up. I have learned to say thank you when I'm given a gift so extravagant, so unexpected, so undeserved.


To be honest, this pregnancy has been perhaps the easiest of all of them. Yes, I was sick those first 15 weeks and I've been so exhausted the entire 34 weeks, but really it hasn't been that bad. I can give a urine sample without peeing on my hand, I passed the gestational diabetes test the first time, my blood pressure has been low and my weight on target. I think I have finally moved from amateur to professional.


But just as I was beginning to get a little cocky about having a worry-free pregnancy, we hit a little turbulence last week.


Thursday I had one of my very frequent doctor's appointments. You see with my age and my history, I have VIP status at my OB/GYN. I get to drop in a lot. And when I do, I get to stay a long time. I might just forward my mail for the next few weeks.


One of the things I get to do as a VIP patient is fetal non-stress tests (NSTs). This is basically where they strap a couple monitors to my big belly. One tracks kicks and contractions. The other tracks the baby's heartbeat.


Well, last Thursday I was there for my NST and my precious midwife came in to check on me. She asked if I'd like something sweet to drink and I said, "Sure. And could I have a mani/pedi while I here, too?" (No, not really. Would be a total waste of money at this point because I can't see my feet.)


She informed me that the baby wasn't moving much and a sweet drink might get her going. Well, one Sprite later, Baby Girl was still not feeling like dancing for the doctors. And her heart rate was showing some signs of distress.


They moved me to the next room for an ultrasound. I was thrilled to see her cute little self
seemed okay. The dear lady who does the sonograms there quickly announced that she looked great and was even sporting a little hairdo. My heart rejoiced.


Then she left to talk with my midwife and doctors. For a long time. And my midwife returned to say that the baby looked great, but she was breech and the cord was wrapped around her neck. She reminded me that this is very common but with my history of loss due to a cord accident (Luke's story is here), she wanted to play it safe. They wanted me to see a specialist with ultrasound equipment that could determine if there was any problem with the blood flow through the cord.


I picked my boys up at school and headed home to fix them lunch and wait for the specialist's office to schedule an appointment. As soon as I walked in the door, the phone rang. They asked me to come as soon as possible. I had just enough time to call my husband who was having lunch with some friends from church and I sent a quick e-mail to my prayer group of moms from our children's school. I wasn't sure what was ahead, but wanted to enlist prayer support just in case.


As I waited in the reception area, I counted the baby's kicks and was grateful for each one. I was told that if she was in danger, they might do an emergency c-section. I couldn't believe that I might actually get to hold her so soon. But I also couldn't believe I was back on the same journey that 7 years ago ended in so much pain.



As their sonographer was doing the ultrasound, she was completely quiet. She certainly didn't have the bedside manner that the sweet sonographer had at my doctor's office. I wondered if everything was okay and finally asked. I got a quick, "Fine." I made my own uneducated assessment of the baby I could see on this high tech screen. She looked perfect.



The sonographer left to consult with the doctor. Brad and I sat in the dark room. I was still on the examining table with my belly covered in cold goo. We waited over an hour to hear if she was okay. We spent much of that time praying. By this time, word had traveled fast and many others were praying as well.


The doctor came in with a face that said, "I've got good news and bad news." He shared that the baby was no longer in danger. She had flipped and was head down and the cord was no longer around her neck. Praise God! I envision God unwrapping that cord just as so many were praying on her behalf.


But he continued sharing that they saw some concerns. I have an excess of amniotic fluid which can increase the risk of cord accidents. (This was the case with all my pregnancies.) He also shared that the baby was much smaller than she should be at almost 34 weeks, especially since my other babies have been over 8 pounds at delivery. He said that could indicate a birth defect. There were also some measurements that can indicate a chromosomal problem like Down Syndrome. He saw on my chart that we had chosen not to do any invasive testing for birth defects and he couldn't understand why at my age we didn't. We tried to explain that we didn't want to do the amnio because of my history of miscarriage when it wouldn't change the outcome. We would carry this baby to term regardless of any problems.


We left that office relieved and rejoicing that the baby was no longer in danger. We honestly are not concerned that our child might have special needs--we know that she is a Masterpiece of God. We felt led to adopt a child with special needs and Down Syndrome was one of the needs that we seriously considered. But still, I was troubled by the appointment.


You see, this baby is being knit together inside me by the Lord God Almighty. Just as Psalm 139 so beautifully describes "my frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place."


Every time we have an ultrasound, we get a peek into this secret, sacred place. We should behold this miracle in progress with awe and reverence. So for this doctor to use words like "defect" . . . well, I was offended. Don't get me wrong. I am so very grateful for the technology that can determine problems, prepare parents medically and emotionally for challenges ahead, and potentially save a baby's life. It was just the way that he flippantly assessed our baby that bothered me. Who is he to find fault with the handiwork of the Almighty God?


I go back to the specialist tomorrow to be monitored again. This week I'll divide my mornings between the two offices on my VIP tour. I am so very tempted to print out a copy of Psalm 139, stick it in a frame, and hang it in the sonographer's examining room.

We would appreciate any prayers for the safety of this little life God's has blessed us with--this little girl, perfectly made in His image.


I haven't posted a "Sunday Dinner" in a long time, but today I have two scriptures that are dear to me this week.


One is a declaration of God's majesty as the Creator:


13 "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. "
14 "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

15 "My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,"

16 "your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."



Psalm 139:13-16, NIV



The other is a scripture that I claimed last Thursday and will continue to claim this week:



"You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance."


Psalm 32:7, NIV



This week's dessert of song is based on that scripture--"You Are My Hiding Place" by Selah. They do such an amazing job with this beautiful song that my mom used to sing to me as a child.


May you find refuge and deliverance in Him this week.


Much Love,


Kathie


Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Goodness and Mercy of Motherhood

Forgive me for my unplanned bloggy sabbatical. All is well here. We've just been busy with life and my 40+ pregnant body has just enough energy to accomplish the basics . . . if even that. At the end of each day I have plans to write about what's going on in our lives, yet can't seem to keep my eyes open. But I have missed you all TREMENDOUSLY!

I have months of catching up to do--posting of birthday photos, Easter celebrations, poetry and ballet recitals, and everyday happenings in our crazy family. God has been so good to us these past few months. Not only is He weaving this new life inside me, He's weaving a beautiful story in our family. Perhaps the day I am the most grateful for His goodness and mercy in my life is Mother's Day.

I'll never forget 15 years ago sitting in church as they recognized the mothers in attendance. It had been a tough year. I had had three miscarriages, one after the other. A never-ending roller coaster of hope followed by grief.

The pastor asked all the mothers to stand and a round of applause followed. I remained seated--fighting back tears. Although I felt alone in my pain, I knew there were others who had a mother's heart but no children. Others who had lost children, those who were battling infertility, those who were still waiting to find a spouse so they could start a family.

I prayed for goodness and mercy to follow, in my life and in the lives of those who remained seated but ached to be standing. God answered my prayer and the following Mother's Day I held Olivia, just a few weeks old, in my arms.

Now 15 years later, I celebrate and marvel and laugh at how God has blessed us with biological and adopted children. I'm so grateful to have the gifts of my two daughters, my two sons, and this baby girl who will be born in a few weeks. I rejoice in knowing God isn't finished with us yet. And I pray for those who are still waiting for God's goodness and mercy.

This morning I sat in church, surrounded by my precious assortment of children in small, medium, and large with a fifth one doing a tap dance on my bladder during the praise and worship music. And I was grateful.

I was grateful for the children I have the privilege to parent on earth and grateful for the four blessings that I will some day meet in heaven. Grateful for the ridiculous number of handmade cards I received today and for the love that made them.

(This is my favorite because they worked on it together.)



I'm grateful for my amazing mother. Although she died 7 years ago, she still inspires and encourages me. I'm grateful for my grandmothers whose legacy of faith has been passed down from generation to generation. And I'm grateful for all the precious mothers in my life now--mothers by marriage and mothers through friendship. What a blessing you all are to me.

I hope you also had a very special Mother's Day. May you see His goodness and mercy in your life--today and every day.

Much Love,
Kathie

Friday, February 25, 2011

Confessions of a Special Needs Mom

It seems that God has answered our prayers in regards to what to do with our pending adoption. I'm writing that post now and will try to share soon.

But for now, I thought I'd share about what I've learned about myself during this process.

We spent many weeks compiling a list of "special needs" we would consider. And then when we found the child we felt was ours, we spent many hours researching and talking with doctors about what kind of long-term care she would need and how we could improve her quality of life.

And here's what I discovered. There was no "special need" on any listing that outdid my own "special needs." I felt that it would only be fair for any prospective adoptive child to be given the same information on this possible mother with full disclosure of all imperfections.

My file would read something like this:

She goes by the name "Kathie." She is considered an "older parent" (over the age of 40) although there are no grants available. Should you choose her, it is with the understanding that by the time you are in high school, others will think she is your grandmother.

She will need reading glasses to read you a bedtime story and may not be able to stand upright after sitting Indian style at a tea party.

She has many well-meaning behaviors that may cause extreme irritation. For example, she will take millions of photos of you but has no actual photography skills. You will have to put up with the auto-flashing and shutter-clicking, but you'll only have out-of-focus pics with your eyes closed to show for your patience.


Small toys not put away will mysteriously disappear. She can't stand "happy meal" items that didn't make anyone happy and you should note that these items are quickly donated or discarded.

She will sing you lullabies in spite of the fact that she is completely tone deaf.

She will want to dress you until you go to college. This may not be an issue in the early years, but by the time you are a teen, you will be wondering if you can escape through the air-conditioning vents of the dressing room during a shopping trip gone bad.

She will occasionally go freaky with the food she serves--going gluten-free, low-sugar, wholly whole wheat, and completely organic. You may try to trade up lunch items at school but no one will want a protein bar that tastes like cardboard in exchange for their Little Debbie snack cake. And then there are moments that she passes a Krispy Kreme establishment and the "hot donuts" sign is on. You should not call her a hypocrite if you'd like to partake of the white-flour, sugar-glazed manna that she is about to inhale.

She will often seem completely unfair. There will be movies and music and TV shows that everyone is allowed to see and hear, and you will be the ONLY one not watching/listening. If you ask why, she will simply respond with "Not Philippians 4:8 standards." ("Whatever things are good, pure, lovely, think on these things. . . .")

When you need clean socks you will be directed to a laundry basket solely dedicated to socks who have no partner. It is your job to play matchmaker and find two that are somewhat the same size and color. Good luck.

You will be fine if you need this mom to provide help in proofing papers, annotating poetry, and diagramming sentences, but you will up a creek without a scientific calculator if you need math help past the 6th grade. The Pythagorean Theorem makes her break out in hives, any attempt to find the area of a complex polygon will reduce her to her lowest common denominator, and she would rather poke her eyes out with a protractor than check your math homework.

She is a strong advocate for enjoying God's creation. She will pull over on the side of the road to behold a sunset, a rainbow, or wildflowers growing among asphalt. She will make everyone stop what they are doing to hear the birds singing outside and make you watch butterflies instead of TV. She will insist that you run outside at night to marvel at the stars and require that everyone pose for a picture with the first flower of springtime (which will no doubt capture you not smiling and cut off part of your head).


Although she cooks with love, she also cooks using whatever she has in the pantry and with the fewest number of ingredients possible. All her recipes are named something that ends in the word "surprise" (some surprises are better than others) and it's a safe bet that these culinary creations will never be featured on Food Network.

She absolutely can not handle whining or pouting. If there are words/sounds/looks that even hint at ungratefulness, you will be forced to select an item from her "consequence jar." On this little slip of paper, you will read your consequence (for example, wiping down baseboards and window blinds) for attempting to voice your concern. It's her sick way of teaching you a lesson while having you do a chore that she hates to do herself.

She suffers from Broken Record Syndrome. For example, you will hear phrases such as "good behavior equals privileges, bad behavior equals consequences" repeated till you think your ears are going to be permanently damaged.



She is a cryer. She will cry at your classroom doorway on the first day of school and at your ballet recital or soccer game. She will weep the first time you get your hair cut, swim without floaties, and ride a bike without training wheels. She will wail at birthday parties, graduations, and your wedding day. (Note: We are not talking delicate tears caught in monogrammed handkerchiefs. We are talking big ugly sobbing, sometimes snorting, pass-that-woman-a-box-of-tissues kinds of boo-hooing.) She is also a hugger and a kiss blower. You've been warned.

She might have attachment issues. Every single time another child is added to the family, she worries and wonders how she can possibly love the new one as much as the others. (But she, thus far, has had no trouble attaching to the ones God has given her.)



No matter how hard she tries, she will never understand what it feels like to be taken from your home country, to lose the only family and friends you have ever known, to have to learn a new language, adapt to a new culture, and acquire a taste for new food.


She will often feel overwhelmed in caring for your physical and emotional needs and wonder if she will ever be the mother you deserve. She won't understand that some days you need special care and other days you just want to be treated like everyone else.

Sometimes she gets tired, sometimes she feels stress, sometimes she loses her patience, sometimes she says things that she wishes she could take back.


She is a sinner, in need of a Savior, living in a fallen world, raising children who are sinners, in need of a Savior, living in a fallen world. And this means that she is flawed, that she will make mistakes, that she will need forgiveness.

And this is why she often feels so unworthy to be the mother of those precious children God has already entrusted her with and why she is so grateful for every child He brings to their family.


Hoping Someone Chooses My File,
Kathie

Monday, February 14, 2011

We're Having a . . .

After weeks of wondering . . .



the envelope please.



Our Valentine's gift is . . .




a little GIRL!


Thank you, God, for the blessing of this precious life!

Happy Valentine's Day!

I mentioned in my last post that we'd be finding out the gender of our surprise blessing on Valentine's Day. And thus far today I've had MANY people call, text, and stop me in the carpool line wondering if we are having a boy or a girl. I figured that by the time you have your 5th, people stop caring what gender you are having so it's sweet that so many have asked.

So if any of you bloggy friends are wondering if we'll be adding pink or blue this June, this is a pre-post. We haven't opened the envelope yet because Ava has early morning play practices and she and dad leave before the others wake up. We decided we could wait a few more hours and find out what we're having after dinner. Unless my computer crashes (which is very possible), I will announce later tonight what kind of little one God has graciously blessed our family with.

Anyone want to guess if it's a boy or a girl?

In the meantime, I thought I'd share a story below that I posted last year about Valentine's Day. It reminds me to thank God for the dear people that bless my life.

Much love you all!
Kathie



I have a love-hate relationship with Valentine’s Day. And considering this is a day set aside for expressing love, I’m sorry to admit that many years have been heavy on the hate.

Maybe it’s because of society-imposed expectations of what this day represents and how it should be celebrated. In a world that often seems divided into the Haves and Have-nots, on February 14 it can seem these categories have been renamed Loved and Unloved. But I was lucky to learn an important Valentine’s lesson early in life.

I must preface my story by letting you know that as a ninth grader I was two feet taller than any boy in my class and weighed less than a small domestic dog--and most of those pounds belonged to my hair. (It was the 80’s and I grew up in a city known for its humidity--you do the math.) I had taken terms like “awkward phase,” “really bad perm,” and “self-esteem issues” to new levels. That was the year someone suggested that by spray-painting myself green, I could trick-or-treat as a stalk of broccoli. But it wasn’t until that fateful February day that I felt like a character from a Judy Blume novel.

The student government at my high school had an annual fundraiser. They would take orders for carnations in white, pink, and red and on V-day deliver them to the fortunate recipients during morning classes. I didn’t think much of it when the first flowers arrived and ignored the giggles of the girls reading the attached construction paper cards from their prince charmings and “best buds 4 ever.” But soon I realized that I was the only girl in the class who hadn’t gotten a flower. (Even some boys had gotten them!)

Like listening to kernels of popcorn in a microwave, I knew that as the flurry of flower delivery slowed down they had almost finished distribution. In ten minutes the bell would ring and I would have to navigate the halls of flower laden girls empty-handed.

But then the classroom door opened and a delivery girl walked in. It seemed she was coming toward me, although I wasn’t sure because--thanks to the hair--I had very little peripheral vision. My heart raced as inside I was praying, “Please, God, let it be for me.”

And then . . . prayers were answered, angels sang, and all was right with the world as she tapped my shoulder and handed me the most beautiful pink carnation a dollar ever bought. I slowly looked down at the attached card--dying to know who had sent it--yet not wanting to look like I cared. And then I read simple words that I’ve carried with me for the rest of my life: “Thanks for being my little sister. I love you.”

It was quite a shock, because the sentiment usually coming from my sister’s mouth was along the lines of, “Get out of my room!”

She was a senior that year and perhaps she remembered what it was like to be a freshman of my make and model. But I doubt when she wrote that card she knew how much those words would make me feel valued or how “I love you” could erase insecurity.

It wasn’t because I had joined the ranks of those who had flowers, but because I had joined the ranks of those she loved. And I must say that my dear big sis is one of God's greatest blessings in my life today.

So what’s the moral of the story? That flowers have always been overpriced or that a woman nearing 40 should really let go of things that happened in high school?

Although, yes, these are valid answers, I think the real lesson is that sweethearts come in a number of varieties and that Valentine’s Day not only celebrates love between lovers, but also love between friends.

Over the years I’ve tasted a Whitman’s Sampler of Valentine’s Days. Thanks to my husband, I’ve had my share of candlelit dinners, sweet-smelling bouquets, and love letters that make me forget I was ever in the ninth grade. And, thanks to my children, I’ve gotten handmade cards, sticky hugs and kisses, and living examples of unconditional love.

But, thanks to family and friends, I’ve learned that the love of a friend can get you through the semi-sweet years and make the good years even sweeter. So this year if you find yourself the “older sister” to a little girl with big hair, send a card, make a phone call, or give a hug and say, “Thanks for being my . . . sister, brother, mother, father, grandchild, daughter, son, neighbor, friend. I love you.”

Because on Valentine’s Day there should be only one category of people. And that is Loved.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Pregnancy Update

I'm almost halfway there and finally starting to feel human again. I know Brad is happy to see me without a plastic "just in case" garbage can next to the bed at night.

Thanks so much for your prayers and support. Our biggest struggle with this pregnancy hasn't been the physical aspect but the emotional one. I simply didn't realize how hard it would be to go down the same path that has many times ended with such pain. I guess I thought all wounds had healed once Brady was born, but I'm seeing now that there's still much healing to do.

I'm ashamed to admit that I've been guarded in my excitement with this new life. Fear of what might happen is stealing from the joy of what is. But at my 12-week appointment, I realized exactly how attached I had grown to this little person.

They tried to pick up the heartbeat on their doppler thing and couldn't find it. I remained emotionless on the outside, but inside I was worried and praying that everything was okay. After several minutes of not being able to find it, they took me to the ultrasound room. Soon we were relieved to see a beating heart and a baby doing water ballet, but those moments in between made me realize that no matter how much I thought I was guarding my heart, I had already fully given it to this little life.

We recently had another ultrasound and little peanut is still growing right on target and already looks precious. Nothing else proves that there is an Almighty Creator more beautifully than watching Him knit new life in the womb.

My bloggy friend Lisa asked if we were going to find out the gender of the baby. The answer is yes. At my last appointment we had the sonographer write it down and seal it in an envelope. We are going to open it on Valentine's Day and I'll let you all know if it's a boy or a girl then.

We did this with all of our children. We opened Olivia's envelope on Christmas Eve, Ava's on Thanksgiving Day, Luke's (the son we lost near the end of our pregnancy) we opened on my dad's birthday.

We never opened Brady's envelope. Because we had lost Luke just months prior, I was concerned that if we found out it was a girl, others might feel sad for us that we didn't have another boy. While we certainly hoped that God would some day grant us another son, we knew that if we delivered a healthy baby it simply wouldn't matter if she was in pink instead of blue. I think by keeping it a surprise we felt surrendered to whatever God's plan was for our family and our baby. But Brady would not be short-changed of his holiday announcement because he was born on New Year's Day.

When we told the kids that we were waiting till Valentine's Day to find out the gender, I reminded them of all our holiday announcements. As I spoke, I looked at my sensitive Daniel and knew the thoughts playing behind his big brown eyes. "I didn't have an ultrasound photo, or a special envelope, or squeals of delight announcing that I was a boy."

But I looked over at him and asked, "Daniel, do you know what day we found out about you?" He shook his head no. "It was Daddy's 40th birthday. That was the first time we saw your photo, the day we knew that God was blessing us with another son, and the day we announced that you were ours."

His smile reached from one ear to the other.

The other day I overheard him explaining to someone why we were waiting to find out on Valentine's Day. He proudly shared the part about his special day being Daddy's birthday. (I've also shared the story of Daniel's "ultrasound" photo in this post. At the time I wrote this he was still living in Guatemala and was known as Danilo.)

We had no idea then how important this would be to him now. God is so good to provide the perfect timing with every detail.

Much Love,
Kathie

Thursday, January 13, 2011

In With the New

Thanks for your patience with me as a bloggy friend and for your words of encouragement over the past few weeks. I'm now 17 weeks pregnant and reading "What to Expect When You Never Dreamed You'd Be Expecting Again" (40 year old edition).

I'm definitely starting to show a bit more than just a "muffin top" out of control and finally surrendered to wearing maternity pants. I NEVER again thought I'd be in the market for pants with an elastic front panel and was doubled over laughing in the dressing room trying them on. But with each day, I'm more and more grateful for this surprise blessing.

I've missed sharing about so much because I've been so sick, but over the past few weeks we celebrated Daniel's 1st Gotcha Day, celebrated the birth of our Savior, celebrated our sweet Brady's 6th birthday, traveled to Orlando and spent a few days at Disney World, and now we are home enjoying some days off from school due to a rare snow and ice storm in Georgia.

When we left for our trip to Florida it was still December--Christmas tunes were on our local radio stations, decorations and lights were still adorning homes and businesses. When we returned, it was after the new year. As we drove through our familiar streets, the kids in the backseat observed with sadness that all evidence of Christmas was gone. The radio was playing the regular old songs, the lights no longer glowing, the decorations had disappeared.

It's funny how God wires all of us differently. Some people are ready to yank down and pack up every bit of Christmas the minute the last gift is opened. They are ready to usher in whatever comes next and can't wait to get moving. Then there are the folks who hang on to the remnants of the holiday season for dear life. They keep their decorations up as long as possible trying to somehow justify them as Valentine's decorations. Some of us fall somewhere between the two extremes.

My husband and Olivia seem fine to move on soon after Dec. 25. I'm a bit more sentimental and leave everything up till New Year's Day. But my three youngest kiddos are still trying to find a way to make the Christmas season last till the 4th of July.

I was pondering this the other day--the whole "out with the old, in with the new" struggle within some of us. And I realized that it's the "out with the old" part that is so difficult for me. I don't really mind the new. Bring on the new year, new season, new resolutions, new plans for the future.

But I like the old. It's comfortable like well-worn blue jeans. It's safe and predictable and familiar. And so in my effort to treasure what is old, I am sometimes resistant to what is new.

I'll never forget how Daniel was when he first came home. He wanted to eat the same meal over and over, wear the same clothes each day, and never wanted to leave the house. I made him a daily schedule and tried to stick with it as closely as possible, because I could see it brought such security in knowing what was coming next.

We spent one day at the Magic Kingdom a year ago because the girls' cheer competition had us in Orlando soon after Daniel arrived home. We were concerned it would be too overwhelming for him so we planned on going to the park just one day and kept our expectations realistic. He actually loved it but the way he approached everything was interesting.

His first ride was the Buzz Lightyear ride. It took all the courage he had to get on. When we exited, he announced that was the ONLY ride he wanted to do--"to infinity and beyond." He didn't want to do anything else. Nothing could possibly top it. We tried to convince him that there were other rides he would certainly enjoy. He wasn't buying it.

So we took him over to the race cars for him to watch for a bit. He finally got on and, of course, thought it was the coolest ride ever. He then announced that he would only go on Buzz and the race cars. This exhausting routine went on all day, but he did try just about everything.

When we were driving down to Orlando this year, I reminded him of how particular he was about the rides. He laughed at how he had acted. I rejoiced in how far he had come. (There was no hesitation this year.)

In my "lesson from mommy" voice, I talked with my kiddos about how sometimes we miss out on some great things God has planned for us because we're scared to try something new. Afraid of the unknown. Paralyzed by our limited view of what's ahead.

And then, as usual, my words came back and hit me between the eyes like a boomerang in a cartoon. I realized that I've been bargaining with God on what I'm capable of doing. Trying to convince Him that it's best for me to just stay on the nice, safe ride that I'm already on. And then I feel conviction that I'm not trusting the One whose plan is so much better. I feel regret knowing I'm missing out on the great things God has planned because of my fear.

These past several weeks we have been diligently praying for direction in many areas. Our practical thinking is battling our emotional leading. Discerning God's will has never been so difficult and accepting His answer is proving even harder.

And so my prayer has become, "Dear Heavenly Father, help me to surrender the old--the safe and secure--and help me to be faithfully obedient to the new--the unknown and uncertain." I have a feeling this will be my prayer for 2011.

Much Love from Muffin-Top Mommy,
Kathie