Category Archives: FAITH

I think this is supposed to be the worst

But it doesn’t really feel like it.

I’m going to tell you a story. It’s kind of long, but I feel unapologetic about that. It starts almost exactly a year ago.

In the beginning of 2016 we decided to try for one more baby. We’d [eventually] come to the agreement that four babes would complete our family. I’d like to think we’d prayed a lot about it and sought wisdom and insight, but it was more of just a feeling. So when we received a positive pregnancy test just after celebrating our 10th anniversary we were elated! I’d never told my mom I was pregnant in person. The first time I’d told her had been more of a shocked, “what have we done!?”, kind of blurting. So, as terrible as I am at keeping secrets, we decided not to tell anyone until after I saw my parents at the end of July.

Everything was pretty normal. At 7 weeks we got a dating ultrasound and saw the baby and its sweet little heartbeat. At 10 weeks my clothes were getting a little snug so I went on a little maternity shopping spree. Everything. Was. Perfect. We celebrated a beautiful 4th of July with our families and basked in that summer glow that’s so easy to find. The next day we walked around Ikea and talked about where we would put a boy or a girl. That night I went to bed early. I wasn’t feeling great but I had an ultrasound scheduled for the next day so I was glad not to worry.

And then I woke up. I was having terrible stomach pains. I thought maybe my appendix had burst! I took a handful of tums hoping it would help but it still hurt. I woke Chuck up and told him I was going to drive myself to the hospital; something was wrong.

I got to the hospital and parked the van. I got out and started walking to the ER entrance; thinking of how quiet it looked in the pre-dawn light. And then something happened. Pain started shooting from my stomach down my legs and blood poured out of me and down my jeans. I walked into the ER covered in blood, losing my resolve.

As I checked myself in, my lower half hidden from the nurse admitting me. I told her I needed help. I needed faster help. Something was wrong. She looked at me with the sweetest eyes and said, “Oh honey, don’t you worry. I bled once when I was pregnant and I had twins!” I dared a glance towards my feet and the blood was creeping down towards my knees.

And that’s when someone finally saw me. They rushed behind me with a wheelchair and wheeled me towards a room. It was too late. Everybody knew that but nobody would say it. They got me into a room and I asked for something to change into. I couldn’t find the strength not to cry anymore; what was the point? She gave me a gown and left so I could change. As I undressed another gush of blood came. It splattered everywhere. It was so messy. I didn’t know it would be so messy. I chided myself for the thought that an ER co-pay was worth not having to clean up this mess. I wondered what I was looking at. Some fluid that could have been clear if it wasn’t tinged with little bits of blood and tissue. Some larger clots of blood. Clots too big. I must have made a noise when everything came out because the nurse came back in.

Her face was worried. And then she told me she had to keep samples of everything. And she scooped all my bits off the floor and lined them up along the counter in little jars. I hated that she did that.

By now it was 6 a.m. and I knew I needed to call Chuck. His mom came over and stayed with the kids so he could come to me. He held my hand while I had contractions that got closer and closer. And then it was done. At least some of it was. My body knew what it needed to do. Something had gone wrong. It was all wrong.

The doctor came in a little later and said, “So I guess you know you lost the pregnancy.”

But here lies the craziest part of the miscarriage experience to me. You have to tell people that you were pregnant and that you lost the baby. Or you just don’t tell people. It’s not even that you’re necessarily ashamed, you just don’t want to open it back up. It hurts.

It hurts all different kinds of hurt. Emotional, obviously. But I didn’t know about the physical hurt.

And people might say that you only think it  hurts so much because you’ve only had c-sections. So you don’t know what “it’s” really like. And that will hurt too. And then your doctor will call you in some serious pain relievers and you’ll think she’s overreacting. But she’s not. Your body is on a mission to get everything out quickly. Violently. And, unfortunately for me, after a week of labor pains I still had to have a d&c to finish the process.

The literal worst thing. The worst thing I’d faced. But God was there. I looked back and saw so many ways he’d quietly been preparing me for that week. Like a huge grocery sale at the Target by our house where we completely stocked our deep freeze. Or the fact that Chuck had only just finished summer school the week before, giving me the whole summer to heal. He knew. He cared. He cares for us.

That baby was 11 weeks when we lost it. It would have been born on January 17th. We mourned it. But we trusted God. We weren’t sure if we would try again. Maybe our family was complete with three babies entrusted to us on Earth and one in Heaven above. I felt a renewed stirring in my heart for this mission of motherhood. Feeling so incredibly thankful for the three amazing kids I get to spend my days with. To see a pregnancy go so wrong made me so thankful for the miracle of the three I’d had.

So summer turned to fall and we wondered still if we should try again. We prayed and prayed. And there was no answer. In the past I would have pressed Him for an answer. I would have wondered why He was forsaking me when I called out to Him. But I couldn’t ignore the peace I had. And then one day, I felt like my answer came. I realized that I had to give it up. All of me wanted an assurance from Him. For Him to tell me that wasn’t going to happen again! That He wanted me to have what I wanted! But we can’t pray that way. We can’t put conditions on God. We can’t ask for His will our way. So I humbly prayed for forgiveness. That I still have so much to learn about grieving well. So much to learn about trusting and following. About not interjecting myself in what He has for me. I stepped back, held up my hands, and said, “I don’t care! I don’t care what happens to me, I only want  what you have for me. Good or bad. Easy or hard. Just You and Yours.” And I felt the stirring that said it was okay to try again.

And we did. And we got to experience the same elation and joy to think we would add another member to our family. I looked at the dates and realized I would be exactly 11 weeks to the day on the date that our first baby would have been born. There are no coincidences with God, I thought. This is a sign that everything would be okay.

But it wasn’t okay. This time we only made it as far as the dating ultrasound. There wasn’t a heartbeat where there should have been. I decided to wait and let things happen naturally. It took a long time. A long time of still feeling pregnant. Blood work numbers still rising, knowing that the chances of a viable pregnancy were slim. And, eventually, my body was ready. On January 17th, the day our first miscarriage would have been born, we lost for a second time.

I knew what to expect this time. And had less of everything to pass. But it still hurt. And it was still hard. And my heart still ached in the confusion of it all. Why did it have to be that day, I wondered.

But I felt fresh hope through this loss, too. I looked back to the previous summer and saw how many other ways we’d been protected. We went eight months without a single illness in our family. Not so much as a cold while it seemed like our friends were fighting off plagues. There are no coincidences with God. He’s faithful. He’s just. He gives. He takes away. There’s beauty in all of that. There’s peace and comfort in his protecting hand. There’s hope that He knows all, knows what’s best, knew that would happen and knew what you would need.

I told you this was a long story. I’m really not even sure why I decided it was time to tell it. I’m just letting my heart speak.

And that brings us to this week. It should be the worst week. We met with the doctor after the second loss and she said there was no reason or explanation. That it was unusual to have three “normal” pregnancies and then experience this. So we tried again.

And we lost again.

This week seemed to be the culmination of our hopes, dashed. I know that sounds dramatic. We put our house on the market two weeks ago and the realtor said to expect multiple offers the first weekend. And they didn’t come. If you look at the stats on our listing, they look great! There are realtors sharing it with their clients on the MLS. There are three times as many people looking at our listing over any listing within a mile of our house. But no one’s biting. And that should worry me. But it’s not a coincidence.

My doctor said she’s never had someone like me. Someone with three healthy pregnancies to go on to have three different types of miscarriages in a row. That’s right, they’ve all been different. There can’t be one reason because they’ve all had different causes. But it’s not a coincidence.

And then we came to today. Sorry, my youngest love, but what made you so angry today was the easiest disappointment I faced all week. A failed food challenge for the one that was supposed to be a sure bet. His little heart crushed, his hopes deflated. But it’s not a coincidence.

Instead, it feels like opportunity. Opportunity for God to show all that He is. He is so good. He cares about everything that happened to me this week. This year! He knows it all. He knew it all when the world began. How else can we survive living in this world without the faith that He has plans. That he’s in control. How else could we face weeks where it feels like everything is lining up to try to get me to throw my hands up and scream at the Heavens. To give up and break down.

But instead I opened my Bible. Not seeking out a specific verse, but to make sure I get the reading in for the day. One of those read the Bible in a year plans. And Ecclesiastes 8 came up.

Who is like the wise?
    Who knows the explanation of things?
A person’s wisdom brightens their face
    and changes its hard appearance.

Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm,
    and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure.
For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter,
    though a person may be weighed down by misery.

Since no one knows the future,
    who can tell someone else what is to come?
As no one has power over the wind to contain it,
    so[a] no one has power over the time of their death.
As no one is discharged in time of war,
    so wickedness will not release those who practice it.

So what are we left with? The hope that there’s a season for everything. That He is working and I can grow through this season. If I let it wash over me, He will be there to make sure I don’t go under. I’m sad. And my heart hurts. But I can invite him into those places. New places. More space for Him. More letting go of everything I thought I needed and trusting in what He has for me. That’s hard. But it’s a good kind of hard.

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Thinking and Telling

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The husband and I have spent many a mile on the road this week. Which I love. Is that weird? I mean we get to spend hours holding hands and listening to podcasts while the kiddos are strapped into seats. Lucy makes up songs for us and let’s us get a glimpse of the logic of her crazy rational four-year-old brain. Landon sends me lots of sweet smiles and does some great car seat dancing. Cohen had a few minutes of “get me out of this seat” screaming but he was a trooper for the most part, too.

But I think the best part of traveling, especially through the endless fields in the Land of Lincoln, is the time for thinking and telling. When Chuck gets home from 10 or 12 hours of being away at work, he’s mostly thinking about how he can help me with the feeding, bathing, pajama dressing of the kids. But roadtrips? Roadtrips were made for roaming thoughts.

One of the things that came up this trip was Chuck telling me how he felt really supported by me this past year. That I was transitioning to a bigger helpmate I guess you could say. My first thought was, “Well of course I’m supporting you, I think you’re the coolest guy I know.” But then, it occurred to me to ask what I was doing that made him feel supported. And I was a little surprised to find that one of the examples he had was when I prayed aloud for him last summer. I was surprised because it didn’t seem that extraordinary to me. I mean, I pray for him in my mind everyday! But I could be doing a much better job of telling him my specific prayers for him. Isn’t that better than when someone says, “Oh, I’ll pray for you.” Instead saying, “I’m going to pray for you right now.” Or if we’re not together, sending him a little message saying a few specific prayers.

And then I started thinking about the rest of the relationships in my life. Am I telling my friends when they’re on my heart? Am I telling them how much they mean to me? Am I making time to have them in my life? Thinking and telling. Not just thinking. Being intentional. Treating friends like family and treating family like blessings.

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Oh God that you chose this life for me. That your mission would not be lost on me.

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Kind

I had this post half-written called “Lucy’s Lamentations”. It was supposed to make you giggle [and maybe commiserate] as I recounted the reasons my sensitive daughter cried today. I feel confident mentioning the 30 minute saga that followed after the dress she chose from her closet was deemed “not twirly enough” would have accomplished just that. You’d maybe give me a “been there” when I told you about the shopping cart crying heard round the store and control-your-child stares received.

But I couldn’t finish it. Because she was awful. And she had a bad day. And it felt like she was trying to bring us all down with her. And it felt like one of those bad morning of a bad day of a bad week cycles. But when I think about my reaction to her, it’s not really funny anymore.

I was impatient. I was quick to anger, not abounding in love. Today could have been a different day if I’d reacted differently. Reflecting on it tonight, I was reminded of something I heard in a sermon a few weeks back: the way we look at others is a great indicator of what’s going on in our hearts. And then I thought of the main point that Chuck and I taught [taught!] in Sunday School last week, “The greatest kindness to us was God sending His own son, the Son of God, so we could be with Him now and forevermore. We should share this kindness with others!”

mama confessions | hey, beth baker!

It’s easy to be embarrassed when our children act out. It’s easy to focus on our imperfections. To try to redeem ourselves with our social images. To find solace in how we might be perceived; so much that the real mission of motherhood is forgotten. That we might raise our children to know Christ, to follow after Him, and to draw others to Him.

And when, in the everyday jungle that is raising toddlers, I find my boiling point tipped- I have to refocus on that mission. To set aside my daily ambitions and seek that greater cause. To chase after Christ and just… become less.

Less pride. Less rush. Less on the to-do list. More focus. More forgiveness. More patience.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. [Colossians 3: 12-17]

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Grateful

Each day presents us with opportunities to be grateful. As more storms passed very near our home this weekend, we are grateful to emerge unscathed. We are grateful to have power when so many do not. Storms are scary. They give me heartburn and kind of put me in a bad mood. It’s true. I’m working on it.

Grateful has kind of been the theme of the week. This Forbes article caught my eye with the headline, “Astonishing Numbers: America’s Poor Still Live Better Than Most Of The Rest Of Humanity.” I have so much. How could I ever focus on my have nots?

I have a husband who works crazy hard to support our family. He values our family. He values me! He values what I do each day. And he does the dishes. And helps me weed my garden. He gives horseback rides around the living room before his keys have stilled on the hook. He rolls over just before our eyes close for the night and says, “Let me pray for you.”

I have this crazy, imaginative, lovingly sweet daughter who fills my days with deep, belly-aching laughter. She greets me [crazy early] each morning with the sweetest smile; one that reaches so deep in her eyes I have to close mine to try to capture its love. She holds her brother’s hand and tells him he’s her best friend. She is quick to apologize and quick to forgive. And I get to be her mom!

Even with all of Landon’s health stuff that we’ve dealt with lately, I’m still struck with gratefulness. He is healthy. The impact to his life is minimal. We have health insurance. And even the good news of this week: we now qualify for speech therapy [he stopped using words after he started having seizures]. Good. Perspective. He is the sweetest, most snuggly little guy I’ve ever met. He has the best facial expressions, making you forget he’s not using words. He’s the first to help clean, the first to eat all his veggies, and the last to let go during his sweet hugs.

And it’s impossible to forget the blessing of being pregnant. The opportunity to add another member to our family. It’s truly been a great pregnancy so far. It started out pretty rocky and I was diagnosed with a threatened miscarriage after a lot of bleeding. Looking back I think it was just the stress of finding out I was pregnant not long after my son was hospitalized with seizures, but one day there was a lot of blood. A lot. [God bless my mom the day I called her, bawling, saying, “I think I just peed my baby into the toilet.”] And after three [yeah!] ultrasounds I’ve had the opportunity to see that tiny, beautiful little babe jumping [seriously] around in my belly. I’m struck by how precious life is. How full life is. And how much there is to be grateful for.

We have all of these things here. All of the fullness of our lives on Earth. Gifts. And yet it’s not even our greatest Gift! [Totally inspired by this devo.]

“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” [1 Peter 1:3-9]

So feeling grateful. And wanting to spend time with these great people. Appreciating our gifts and His glory: we set out for an adventure this weekend.

strawberry picking

Our adventure starts when we head to the orchard after dance class to find the pick your own strawberry fields do not open for over an hour. What do you do to entertain a 22-month-old and a 3-year-old for an hour?

strawberry picking

Toys and candy. Say it with me…

strawberry picking

Enough joking, lady. Gimme all your berries.

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Also, I need to know who taught my children how to make a funny face. Who did it?

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[Just to be clear, these are not their funny faces.]

We had so much fun. The ground was so wet but we managed to miss the rain. And the orchard was having a p-y-o sale [since it was so gross out] and we snagged six pounds of berries for 99 cents a pound!

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strawberry picking

This was my favorite part: she grabs his hand and says, “C’mon Buddy, I’m gonna show you how to run in the river!” Hehe. It wasn’t that wet.

We had so much fun, I don’t think we’ll need a sale to give us incentive next year. It was definitely the perfect excuse to spend a day focusing on gratefulness.

Concern I May Have, But Worry I Will Not

I don’t really want to write this, but I want it written. After recounting the story numerous times to each of the doctors and neurologists who came to see Landon, its re-telling should be second nature.

To give you the background and bring you up to speed, you might want to start with this story where Landon joined the Blue Lips Kids Club during what I thought was an asthma attack. After the first episode, we put him on antibiotics for a double ear infection and increased his asthma medicine while he finished fighting the end of a little cold. He seemed to be completely on the mend, and we spent the next week enjoying a glorious staycation during Chuck’s spring break.

On Friday we made plans to ride the carousel at the zoo and then enjoy the toddler discovery room at the science center. Unfortunately, Friday morning Landon slept over 15 hours and our timeline was set back. When he finally woke, we all went in to greet him and he seemed tired. He wasn’t interested in eating breakfast [which was a red flag], but we’d already told Lucy our plans for the morning and were anxious to press on. We strapped everyone in the van and were backing out of the driveway when I turned to look at Landon. He was slumped down with his chin on his shoulder, his eyes fluttering in recognition when I called his name. I jumped out of the car and ran to unbuckle him. By the time I reached him, his lips and hands were blue and there was an ashen color to his complexion.

We rushed him inside and started another breathing treatment, unsure of what else to do. Unlike his first episode, he allowed us to hold him and calm him during this one. Within a few minutes, his color began to return. The breathing treatment took 15 minutes and he seemed to be fighting sleep through most of it. After the treatment he still seemed sleepy but without discomfort so we once again loaded everyone in the van. We decided to abandon the carousel plan and go straight to the science center. On the way there, I called Landon’s allergist/pulmonologist to let them know about the morning’s events.

When we arrived, everyone seemed thrilled with the toys and exhibits of the toddler room. Landon quickly found some plastic dinosaurs and had a great time making them come to life. My phone rang and it was the allergists’ office calling to get more details about Landon. As I was filling the nurse in, I saw Chuck walking towards me with a limp and blue-lipped Landon. I asked the nurse what to do and she seemed baffled. All she could do was ask over and over, “So it’s happening again right now!? Right this instant!?” I told her I was going to take him to the ER and she agreed. I told her I was going to use his epi-pen and she gave us the go ahead.

We injected him with the epinephrine and he seemed to relax a little. The run through the science center and back to our van seemed impossibly long, the walkways impossibly crowded. Gracefully, in a course of events only God could orchestrate, the science center sits minutes away from one of the best children’s hospitals in the country.

We arrived in the emergency room and were seen pretty soon after. Rather than hearing the news we expected, that he was having acute asthma attacks, the doctors seemed puzzled and brought in more doctors to consult with them. We found out rather quickly that his blood sugar was elevated and his blood work was giving them some concerns. As the doctor was giving Landon a physical exam, he started to seem very tired. She asked me to set him on the table and within moments he closed his eyes and fell asleep. “Is this normal behavior for him?” The doctor asked. I wanted to scream. No! It’s not normal for my twenty month old son to fall asleep sitting up in a strange environment at 10:30 in the morning! It was then, covered with helplessness, that I began to pray. God, please don’t let this be it. Don’t let this be the end. Surround him. Protect him. Heal him.

My concern soon shifted to Lucy. She was with us, behaving wonderfully but asking when we were going to the zoo. Chuck called a friend of ours from church and arranged for her to be picked up from the hospital. I will be eternally grateful for those friends. I could not imagine Lucy seeing or hearing what happened next.

Because the first set of tests gave so many concerns, the doctors came in to collect a urine sample and start an IV to make the blood collection easier. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than holding down your child while strangers insert needles into their little bodies. It took the strength of myself and three nurses to hold Landon down while the nurses did their work. His eyes looked at mine, filled with fear and absent of understanding. Tears streamed down his face, red from the battle he was waging. The nurses finished [God bless nurses] and left us to, once again, wait for results.

I climbed onto the bed and held Landon in my arms. Sleep and relaxation came mercifully quickly and he spent the next few hours resting. A nurse came in and told us we were being admitted and that the doctors had called for more tests, which would require more blood. The doctor followed and explained that yes, they were admitting him, but they couldn’t decide which floor to send him to. She explained to us that they believed he was not having asthma attacks but was more likely having seizures when his lips turned blue. His blood sugar was elevated. His electrolytes were imbalanced. His blood was carrying too much acid. Would they send him to endocrinology to treat his elevated blood sugar levels, neurology to determine if the spells were in fact seizures, or general medicine to treat all of the problems as one?

Concern I May Have, But Worry I Will Not

After the taxing day, we were eventually sent to the neurology floor and settled in for the night. Landon was such a sweetheart. He smiled and waved to all of the nurses and doctors who came into his room. He seemed rather unfazed by the whole process, thankful to have the two-on-one time with Mama and Daddy. He ate a hearty dinner and played with some animal friends Chuck brought him. He tried to explore every inch of the room attached to both a heart monitor and an IV line providing him fluids. His vitals were checked every hour, and sleep did not come easily for any of us. The heart rate monitor and O2 sensor provided an unfortunate soundtrack for the night as they rang out at random. After hours of trying to help Landon sleep in the hospital crib that looked like a rocket ship from the future, I held him in my arms. Snuggling with him and hoping my silent tears fell onto the pillow rather than his sweet smelling head.

Concern I May Have, But Worry I Will Not

Concern I May Have, But Worry I Will Not

Around 2 a.m., we were told the doctors would like to set up an MRI for the morning and Landon wouldn’t be able to eat or drink anything until that was done. At 8 a.m. We met another round of doctors who came in separately to ask us to tell them about the spells and then met in a conference room to discuss the case. The day offered us little more than waiting [and trying to comfort a hungry, sleep-deprived toddler], but at 10 a.m. we were informed that due to the holiday weekend there was no one available to run the tests they were seeking. We would be discharged to wait until the next incident.

Concern I May Have, But Worry I Will Not

So that’s where we stand now: waiting. Waiting for the next time he slumps over and his lips turn blue. Waiting to try to catch that spell on video to show the neurologists. Waiting for an MRI and an EEG that still stand a week and a half away. Sneaking into his room while he sleeps to make sure he’s breathing. Waiting. Praying. Trusting. Waiting.

What struck me as most absurd about this whole situation was the peace brushed on my heart. I truly have a peace that passes all understanding [Phil. 4:7]. I trust that God is in control of this situation [Rom. 8:28]. That He cares for my little family and is watching over us [Josh. 1:9]. I have seen the power of two or more gathering [Matt. 18:20]. I have felt the burden lifted from my shoulders [Ps. 55:22]. It is unexplainable without faith [Heb. 11:6]. It is impossible without a church of believers who know that together we are stronger [Ecc. 4:9-12; 1 Cor. 12:26]. We are not alone in this and because of that: concern I may have, but worry I will not [Matt. 6:33-34].

Concern I may have, but worry I will not.

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Love Is A Decision

So I have a confession to make [Oh my gosh, I’m always confessing something]. I love Christian Fiction novels. They may sometimes get a little contrived or cheesy, but I just can’t help it. There’s nothing worse [for me] then picking up a book from the library and getting invested in the characters only to turn the page and get smacked in the face with some raucous reading [I’ve always been quick to blush]. So, I like them. And I think Chuck would rather me read them than the alternatively safe Young Adult Fiction. The poor guy is all vampired out, I’m afraid.

Recently, I was reading through a series by Karen Kingsbury and something one of the main characters said really resonated with me: Love Is a decision. It’s true in our marriages, our families, our friendships, even our jobs. It’s just truth. We’re called to it. We’re defined by it. We can aspire to it. Love gives us strength and courage. Strength when this season of life pulls you a little lower than you’d like. Courage when despair rises up or justice needs to be sought.

love is a decision | hey, beth baker!

Love means choosing to put the hard, frustrating things behind you and focus on the affirming, positive ones. Love is a decision to be happy where you are, with what you have. Love is steadfast. It’s permanent and imminent. Love.

“And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” [1 Cor 13:2-3,7-8a]

love is a decision | hey, beth baker!

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Mama Confessions

I have a confession to make.

No, I’m being serious.

My kids were a little crazy this week. We caught a little tummy bug so in the course of one day I had one vomit-spewer and two diarrhea-ridden children [I realize the math may not add up: I watch a 4 month old sweet babe during the week]. But I call the bug little because it didn’t seem to really tire them out. You know how sometimes when your kids are sick all they want to do is cuddle and watch movies and you’re secretly a teeny, tiny bit thinking to yourself, “This is dreamy and totally worth the lysol.” I did not reap the cuddle benefit. Boo. So as I’m picking up toys for the trillionth [hyperbole] time with my crackly I’ve-been-washing-away-germs-all-day hands listening to the increased whining [that’s right I didn’t get sick cuddles but I did get sick whining] I thought:

I must be doing this motherhood thing wrong because it should definitely not be this hard.

Which is sort of funny because I feel like I’m not supposed to admit that. But come on, seriously, sometimes it’s hard. Then I thought about this question my husband asked me a few months ago. He asked if I ever thought, “Man, I am just really nailing this mom thing. I am amazing.” He makes me smile. He sees the “I sprinted around the house cleaning after I got your ‘coming home’ text” house and the dinners he sweetly commends. He sees bathed and put together children. He gets updates during the day with pictures of our latest art project or living room obstacle course. But sometimes I think he’s like a battlefield commander that doesn’t see life in the trenches. Not because he doesn’t want to or because he’s insensitive to it. He’s out making the bacon 50 hours a week; you know, like it’s his job or something.

So, that’s why we’ve got to stick together. To immerse ourselves in community with other mothers. A Band of Mothers if you will [hehe]. It’s what we’re called to do. It’s what will save our sanity. So here’s to opening up: to being honest about our struggles, to recipe sharing, to truth speaking, to hug giving, and to check-in texting. Hallelujah.

mama confessions at heybethbaker

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Mama Confessions

I feel like my mind is presently a big heaping bowl of vegetable soup. There’s a huge variety of stuff floating around, everything is a little muddled. I’m working on it.

A lot of my life is explained [by me, to myself… kind of a red flag] through food metaphors. Am I the only one? I mean, I think food is the ultimate time machine. One taste or smell can immediately transport you back to a time or place [good or bad] where some memory was made. Potato soup brings back memories of being a picky eater and cheese toast that stuck to the roof of my mouth.

I’m thankful for food memories. And for a mom who made home-cooked meals every night. A mom who made pans [and pans] of lasagna and drove it the 30 minutes to my school so that whatever sports team I was playing on at the time could appreciate those same home-cooked meals before a big game.

Parents make a huge impression on our lives. Even when we’re not living with them anymore. They are empowered [whether they accept the power or not] to completely mold our psyches. Of course we grow up and become adults and start working things out for ourselves, but it’s incredible how they shape us.

So incredible that when you actually become a parent -and probably for most when that baby is still growing in your belly- you start thinking of what you want and don’t want for your little lady or mister. I mean, this is a big deal. A huge responsibility.

We talked a lot during the Christmas season of the teenager Mary: a virgin chosen to be the mom of the Savior of the Universe. But I couldn’t help but think: what did Mary’s parents think of her sitch? I mean it seems like they raised her to be a Godly woman so they must have been pretty legit.

So Mary made me think, what do I really want for these kids? What’s the really important stuff I want to pass on to them? I mean of course I want them to be smart and well-rounded. And awesome. Doesn’t every parent? But what am I going to instill in them that’s going to have an infinite, universal purpose? How am I going to teach them to be warriors for Christ? I mean, I’m just a sinner. How do I break this [what I want them to be] down into something chewable for a toddler and a three-going-on-thirteen year-old. And how do I figure it out well enough that my understanding is fluid enough to grow with them [because it’s crazy how fast they grow].

And then it all seems sort of daunting. So in addition to keeping them fed, clean, loved, and, well, alive… I also have to figure out a way to mold them into awesome [you know, Christ-sharing, God-fearing, selfless] people. But then it occurred to me that this is the most indirect, ever-present lesson motherhood has taught me. It is the way that motherhood is the most character revealing, make-you-want-to-be-a-better-person thing I’ve ever done.

In order to teach my kids how be the people I want them to be, I have to model those behaviors for them. I have to live it out, because that’s what they’re soaking up. They are with me all day: there is a direct relationship between my sin and their sin [at this point in their baby lives]. Eek.

But that’s kind of good, right? That to succeed in parenthood we need only to try to make ourselves better. And really, the effort on our part is minimal. I mean to say, it’s attainable. We just have to give it over to God.

“He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.'” [Matthew 17:20]

It’s the same idea of setting up the nursery: every new parent spends a lot of time making that space just right. We just have to create an environment for our kids that points them back to Christ.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” [Deuteronomy 6:4-9]

mama confessions at heybethbaker

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New Year, New You [And That Sort Of Thing]

Discerning God's Will

I get this magazine in the mail called “Worldwide Challenge“. I’m pretty sure we get it because we support our friends who work with Campus Crusade on the University of Colorado – Boulder campus. It’s a good magazine. It’s inspiring and that sort of thing. But there was an article this month that literally left me with my mouth agape. Spot on.

The article was entitled “The Art of Following God” by Rick James. I wish I could link to a copy of the article, but as vast as the world wide web glows, it’s no where to be found.

Subtitled “Tips for seeing the whole picture” the article quotes Romans 12:2, “…so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” James asks how we should discern a will as “dynamic and at times as mysterious as the wind.” Isn’t that what we’re all trying to figure out? What we should be doing. How we should be living. What our future holds for us. Which path we should take. And ultimately it all comes back to trying to discern God’s will for our lives. So that’s what I loved about this article. Mr. James listed out six ways God communicates His will to us.

Desires and Emotions: The things we deeply want and love [or don’t] can be influenced by the Holy Spirit.
Reasoning: There’s something to be said for logic and rationale.
Wisdom: We’re given God’s word and it’s full of knowledge and examples of God’s work. We have both our stored knowledge as well as impressions imparted to us by the Holy Spirit.
Circumstances: That moment [sometimes in hindsight] when you realize how many things had to [and did] perfectly align to make something possible.
The Counsel of Others: I think this is my favorite. I think that’s true because I’ve been so blessed with so many wise friends and family members.
Scripture: Biblical principles are black and white, laid out, available to us.

I think what I loved most about this article was the variety of “colors” on the palette of tools available to us as we attempt to align our impressions to create a masterpiece master plan. Sometimes it’s easier to spend time worrying about what we should do and what our next step should be. But how much greater and fulfilling would it be to direct that energy towards discerning God’s will. It would certainly be more productive.

“This palette of colors, if mixed skillfully by a mature Christian, can yield a beautiful portrait of where God is leading. But, if we use only one color (say, emotions), we risk creating a reflection of our own wants and desires.”

“And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:27-28

This article totally spoke to my heart. As the New Year turns we’re all thinking of ways we can put forth a better version of ourselves for 2013. We’re daily painting the path that’s before us. We’re trying to find the picture most aligned with God’s will. And we have all of these tools available to us. All of these ways God speaks to us daily. Sometimes I forget. I forget that it’s an open line of communication. I’m not charged with deciding all of these big, life-changing decisions. I just need to follow. And trust. And maybe have a little faith.

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Handmade Christmas: Advent Calendar

Every year I feast on all the goodness Thanksgiving has to offer and I smile as I think of the coming Christmas season. When kids came into the picture the idea of setting up holiday tradition gained importance and I dreamed of ways to make their holidays both meaningful and mindful. I wanted to make sure they had memories to look back on fondly, that their little hearts burst with joy from gifts given and received, and that [most importantly] they understood why we were celebrating.

So, every year as I did this thinking with my belly fully of turkey I’d think, “Oh, we should do an advent calendar.” But, you know, it’s Thanksgiving: there are dishes to be washed, gift shopping to brave, and halls to deck. I always think of it too late. So this year I committed: We’re going to do an advent calendar. And I’m going to make it. And I’m going to tell my sister what I’m doing so she can hold me accountable [isn’t that what older sisters are for!?].

With just enough pride and excitement for the impending season, here’s what I came up with.

I started with a neutral backdrop because I wanted this calendar to match the decor of our house [we’ve got a blue, tan, brown thing going]. The tan is actually a piece of a painter’s drop cloth that I removed the plastic backing from. So I serged the edges of my tan guy. I didn’t measure, I actually just cut the biggest piece I could from the drop cloth, left over from another project. The final project ended up being about 13 inches wide by 33 inches long.

I also serged a piece of blue lightweight upholstery fabric 9 1/2 inches wide by 28 1/2 inches long. I took my blue fabric and had my lovely husband with dreamy handwriting [I know!] write out the numbers one through twenty-five in lower-case cursive. I put that into an embroidery hoop and went to town. I’m no hand embroidery whiz [I like to do a lot of things marginally well. Insert a winky faced emoticon here.] but my goal was to not spend all of my time embroidering the words. I tried to meet at the intersection of cute enough and quick enough. After the embroidery was done [it took about four nights of post-bedtime tv watching] I sewed the blue fabric to the tan. I did so by using a zigzag stitch over the serged edge in the same color thread. I didn’t want to distract from the serged edges.

I used the red thread to sew a couple evergreens on top. I was inspired by this tutorial for hanging a map to come up with the dowel situation.

So I went back and forth for how to “point” to the days. I considered sewing lines between each of the words before I attached the blue to the tan to create pockets on the right side. I also considered sewing a button beside each word and having something that attached to it [still considering that]. But for now, because projects looming more than a week make me twitch and project making time is slim, I made a felt star and attached a magnet to the back. To make it I first cut out two stars from grey felt. I used those as a guide to cut out two smaller stars from quilt batting and then I used a whip stitch [here’s an example] to sew it up.

[I just noticed, looking at this picture, that somebody knocked the frame off the blue books and gave ’em a shake. Landon, I’m looking at you, kid.]

Here’s the calendar hanging out underneath our acorn display and next to the bookcase. It’s going to be a lot of fun to move the star down each day. To engage the kids we’re going to try out the Truth in Tinsel e-book with a cousin [maybe some skype crafting playdates!].

I also like The Activity Mom’s Advent Activity Links. So I think we’ll be adding some of those in, too.

Anyone else feeling the joy, yet? I’m ready to get that tree up. Let’s celebrate!

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