Evangeline’s Birth Story

 
Evangeline is here, and our world has changed again. For those of you who like birth stories, here is the story of her arrival.

My contractions started about 3 a.m. on Monday 08/03. They were an average of 6-7 minutes apart for a few hours. It was definitely early labor (they were not really painful or terribly close together), but I was nervous that this one would go quickly since my second baby Jack was born 4 hours from the first contraction. I was too excited to sleep, so I packed a few more things and ate a small breakfast. I finally decided around 6:30 to take a shower. I could easily handle the contractions still at this point, but the thought of hanging out at home with the kids waiting for things to progress did not appeal to me at all, so I figured we would make our way to the hospital and see where I was by the time we arrived there. I woke up Matt and asked him to call his dad and get ready to go, but I said we should have time so that he didn’t need to rush around. 
At about 8, my father-in-law arrived to be there when the kids got up, and we drove to the hospital (about 30 minutes away). Matt stopped and grabbed breakfast, I ate a few crackers, and we were still waiting for labor to kick into high gear.

I checked into the hospital and was taken to triage in the labor and delivery area. The nurse who checked me in said I was 2 cm. She monitored me and the baby for a while, but all I wanted to do was walk around and see if we could get labor moving. She finally had me walk around for about 30-45 minutes. She checked me again, and after being there for 2 hours, I was still 2 cm. She sent me home since I planned to go unmedicated and didn’t want any help with induction. 

We decided not to drive home but to the mall which is closer and walk around there for a little while. As soon as we arrived at 11 a.m., contractions were now 2-3 minutes apart and stayed that way for an hour. It was nearing lunchtime, so Matt got a sandwich and sat down to eat for a few minutes. I ate a bag of baked chips and kept walking. I called my mom, and she thought that walking or shopping would be a good idea to kill some time and keep moving. After I hung up with her, the contractions intensified and I had a couple that stopped me in my tracks. We were going to walk more at Target, but as we drove there, I had a few big contractions and felt we should go back to the hospital. We walked there for about 15 min before checking in at 1 pm. By the time we checked back in, the contractions were pretty intense and I couldn’t walk or talk through them anymore.

When I checked in with the same nurse, I was at 4 cm and they admitted me. The nurse knew I wanted to labor in the water, so she filled the tub and I got in to labor. When I got in the water during Jack’s labor, it really relieved pressure and helped with the pain. This time, I did not feel like it helped as much. I just kept remembering something I read about not tensing up during contractions, so I concentrated on dropping my jaw to remain loose and breathing through them. I was in the tub for about an hour, and the nurse returned. She said that she would like to check me if I felt things were moving along because the midwife was at least 20 minutes away. I said that, in that case, she had better check me now. I was 9 cm (from 4 to 9 in 1.5 hours). She said, “You were right, that did go fast!” At that point, I labored on the birthing ball to 10 cm and waiting for the midwife. I concentrated on breathing and not thinking about how much time was passing or whether or not the midwife was getting close.

When she arrived, I was ready and moved to the bed to push. I always wonder in the moments of transition and pushing what I was thinking going unmedicated. I have never pushed more than 15 minutes with any of my babies, and I think the pain of pushing while experiencing the pain of a contraction is motivating enough for me to hurry up and get this done. The midwife said I was a rock star at pushing, which I will take as a compliment even though I don’t intend to improve on those skills in the future. 

It was over quickly in the grand scheme of things, and Evangeline arrived at 3:03 p.m., two hours after we arrived back at the hospital. I had in mind that I would love for her to be born on the 4th because Isabella’s birthday is the 14th and Jack’s is the 24th, and I just like numbers that match up. However, she showed up at 3:03 on the 3rd and she is our third baby, so I was very happy with those numbers. 

Evangeline was 7 pounds, 6.5 ounces, just about 8 ounces smaller than her brother and almost a pound and a half bigger than Isabella at birth. She still seemed so tiny! I forgot how small they start out. 

Since I am 37 years old, the midwife had said it would be best for me to deliver by my due date, which was August 8, but I could choose not to be induced if I didn’t want to be. I did not like my experience of being induced with Isabella (due to pre-eclampsia), so I said I would rather wait. I am very thankful she came in her own time and, once again, I didn’t have to deal with any medication other than ibuprofen afterwards. 🙂 

Matt was great for the entire labor experience. He did everything I asked, which is all I wanted since you can’t exactly plan ahead how it will go or what you will want or need in the moment. He went with the flow and was very supportive when I needed it. I am so glad to have had the incredible experience of sharing the birth of our three children with my husband by my side every step of the way. I don’t take it for granted that God has greatly blessed us with these three babies. The newborn and postpartum days have so many challenges of their own, but this third time around brings a perspective that it will all soon be a memory. We figured out how to adjust to two kids, and we will make this transition eventually as well. I am doing my best to drink in the sweet moments and survive the hard ones, knowing that children are a blessing from the Lord and the challenges remind me to fix my eyes on Him for the strength I need in each moment.

We love you, sweet Evangeline Grace!

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Does It Matter?

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We took a trip with the kids last week. Notice that I said “trip” and not “vacation.” My friend Wendy reminded me that traveling with a 2 and 5 year old can rarely be considered a vacation. My husband and I love to travel, but having children certainly changes the experience of traveling. We haven’t stopped doing it, but we have adjusted our expectations. We also plan trips without the kids so we can enjoy the things we loved about traveling together in our first few years of marriage.

I have been trying for literally years to visit dear friends who live in Arkansas. They live about 2 hours from Springfield, Missouri, which is where both my sisters live along with their families (the only 5 cousins that my kids have right now). I work on getting to Springfield with the kids once or twice a year so they can know their cousins and spend a little time together, but it is challenging because I often go without my husband. Since I no longer work outside the home, spending more time with my family was something I wanted to do with some of that time. I have been to Springfield a few times when I fully intended to drive down to Arkansas for a half day or so to see my friends. However, when traveling with little ones, unexpected things happen, mostly pure exhaustion and survival mode kicks in quickly. So I have never been to visit my friends Jim and Sharon Brewer and Bill and Natalie Burchit in Arkansas until last week.

Nothing makes me believe in the local church and its ministry more than my youth pastor. I’m 37, so I suppose I don’t have a youth pastor anymore, but 23 years ago a new youth pastor came to our church with his family, and vividly recall my little 8th grade self being so excited to meet them and willing to do anything to be around Jim and Sharon Brewer (yes, I even showed up for cleaning days and baby-sat their sweet little kids).

It is impossible to quantify what these 23 years have meant to me personally. I know that in that time, his life and his ministry have touched hundreds and thousands of lives, but I know intimately how much my one life has been changed. At age 10, my parents chose to change churches to attend one with a vibrant youth ministry. I can’t imagine the direction my life would have gone if they had not made that choice. Most of the kids in that church had been attending there since birth (or it felt like it to me). I had a couple of friends, but I don’t recall feeling really included or important until Pastor Jim arrived. I felt like I had a clean slate, a chance to not be the invisible “new” girl, a chance to show that I loved God and wanted a place to belong during those turbulent high school years.

I showed up to church whenever the doors were open and volunteered to help any time that I could. High school was not an easy season of my life in many ways, but my memories of church and the group of friends I made there remind me that God has always been on my side, watching out for me and providing what I needed even when I did not realize it.

Pastor Jim always believed in me. I did not have a lot of confidence in myself outside of my  academic performance in school, but Jim did not seem to notice or go easy on me, anyway. 🙂 I loved playing piano for the youth services, but I will never forget the fear that struck my heart when I walked in half an hour before church started one Wednesday evening and he told me to choose the songs and get ready to play that evening. I don’t like last minute surprises, and it was definitely one of my first experiences of being put on the spot and feeling the pressure. I look back and that and many similar moments, and I realize the impact those times had in building my confidence by just knowing that he believed I could do it.

After I graduated from Bible college, Pastor Jim made it clear that he would love for me to come and work for him at the church he had recently begun to serve as senior pastor. The idea did not appeal to me. Well, moving to a small town in Iowa did not appeal to me. Being close to Jim and Sharon again sounded great. Three years after I graduated, some very close friends were all moving away and leaving the job I was working at the time, and I decided to check back with him about working in Waverly.

I moved to Waverly. I worked for Jim for three and a half years, and I learned so much in that time. Jim still pushed me out of my comfort zone and challenged me to do things that intimidated me A LOT. Jim and Sharon left Waverly and I stayed (I was close to being engaged at the time). It has been almost ten years since he left Waverly, yet any time I pick up the phone to ask him a question or get his perspective on a situation, I am reminded that he believes in me, he is for me, and he has no doubt that God has a plan to use my life and He is not finished with me yet.

I don’t know if you have ever followed a leader like Jim. In my 37 years, I have come to believe it is quite rare to have the leadership skills, humility, and love for God and others that I have seen in him for over two decades. He is the real thing, and I can only pray that I might possibly have an impact on a few lives in the way that Jim has impacted mine.

The local church is a challenging, frustrating, amazing place to serve. Any time I wonder if it is worth the struggle, I am reminded of 8th grade Angela, 10th grade Angela, college Angela and the difference it made in my life to have a youth pastor who loved, who cared, who invested, who had fun, who prayed, who believed, and who became a senior pastor who did all the same things for this staff pastor. And now still, he is my friend who is in my corner, the corner of this stay-at-home mom who can hardly see through the fog of laundry, tantrums, dishes, and errands to remember that God is not done with me in ministry yet.

Ministry matters. People matter. Every life that you reach matters to God. And to that precious life, you may be the life preserver that keeps her afloat or the wings that help him soar beyond what he can imagine.

Thank you, Jim. Is thank you enough? It never feels like enough. But I could never be more grateful to God for bringing Jim and Sharon Brewer to Des Moines, Iowa, in 1992.

Things Hoped for but Not Seen

“Time flies when you’re having fun.”

Time also flies when you are having no fun at all. I have had no idea what to say here for the past month, so I have said nothing at all. I believe I am rather transparent about my life and it’s challenges, but I also have a pretty consistent pattern of clamming up when life gets really tough. I go to my closest friends in those times, but I am not comfortable letting loose with the deepest hurt and pain of life as it is happening. I’m not sure that a lot of people are, really.

I won’t go into a lot of detail about the past month because I could write for much longer than anyone wants to read. One of the things I don’t like to admit about having a strong-willed, difficult child is that it brings me face to face with my own shortcomings in a hurry. I say it regularly, but I am so glad Isabella was born first. I heard on a Dr. James Dobson podcast series recently that many parents have an easy first child, convincing themselves that they have this parenting thing down and can easily handle another one. Number two comes along and blows them away with a much different, stronger personality that challenges them at every turn.

This is not how it worked out for us, and I am very glad. It would have been VERY easy for me to convince myself I was an incredible mom if Jack was my first child. It was very difficult to have Isabella first in many ways, but I am so glad God chose to do it that way. I am much more grateful for Jack’s personality and easygoing nature than I would have been if I thought that’s how all children are. (Now that he is 2 1/2, he is picking up more of Isabella’s stubbornness than I hoped for, but it’s still completely different and not even close to what we have faced with his sister.)

The past month has been incredibly challenging for this mother, and pregnancy hormones are in full effect for me, which means I am easily frustrated, easily brought to tears, and overall feel much less equipped to deal with the challenges Isabella brings. I feel very inadequate for this task right now. I know we all have those moments, but when day after day adds up to week after week of incredibly challenging days with nary a break in the stress, it takes its toll on me. I have been thinking about some of the challenges she presents in her attitude and behavior and what God wants to teach me through it. Today I read a quote that summed it up so nicely (and painfully) for me:

“It is no abstract thing – the state of your heart is the state of your home. You cannot harbor resentment secretly toward your children and expect their hearts to be submissive and tender. Uou cannot be greedy with your time and expect them to share their toys. And perhaps most importantly, you cannot resist your opportunities to be corrected by God and expect them to receive correction from you.” (Rachel Jankovic, Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches)

This is what I have been thinking about this week, but she wrote it so eloquently. God wanted to speak to me about a few things, and I was not really interested in listening. A couple of days ago, I finally heard what He was saying and was convicted that I had been pretty much choosing not to slow down and listen to Him. Reading this today put two and two together for me.

I am well aware that much of my child’s behavior is her own choice. I am amazed that I can ask her to do something on different days, same tone of voice and the same situation, and she will respond in wildly different ways depending on…her. On Thursday, I said, “Isabella, please come here so I can finish doing your hair.” She screamed and called me a name. On Friday, I made the same statement, and her response included no screaming or names and she made her way to me after finishing something she was doing. I work hard at not blaming myself for the days when she has a terrible attitude, sassy mouth, and all that goes with it. But I would be lying if I did not admit that I fail at this all the time and deep down, something in me believes I should be able to “change” or fix her. This small passage was so helpful in that it helps me to realize what I can control, my own attitude and my own response to God, can in fact help set the right tone in my home to foster cooperation and obedience in my children. I can in no way control my child, but I can allow God to work in my heart and pray that He would do the same in hers.

It takes a lot of faith to believe in something you cannot see at all. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 ESV) Some days I struggle with hope. Other days, I get a glimpse of something that gives me a surge of hope. Then there are the days when all hope is gone and I turn to despair. I first heard Matt Chandler speak of this passage with the great reminder that we don’t need hope if we can see something. Faith is only necessary when things are not able to be seen. What kind of faith does it take to believe God will provide when you hold the miracle check in your hands? It sure takes a lot of faith to trust in His provision when you hold all the bills and have no idea how they will get paid.

Isabella had a few great days this week. It was refreshing for this mama. I have struggled to enjoy the good when it feels like the bad is coming right around the corner. I am getting better. My focus in prayer is that God would change her heart and use her incredible personality for His glory. I don’t see the finish line yet. I have faith but no idea how He will get us there. I do know that He is faithful beyond what I can imagine.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV)

Numbers don’t lie…or do they?

  Do you like quantity or quality?

Would you rather buy 15 pairs of sandals from Target or one pair of more expensive, high quality sandals? Do you like to have 30 different t-shirts hanging in your closet or a handful of higher quality, longer-lasting t-shirts? Do you buy the expensive, high quality cell phone case or go for 5 of the cheapest ones that look cute and break after a month or two?

I will admit that I tend to like quantity. I like choices, options, and if I buy one really nice thing, I am afraid I will get sick of it before it wears out and just be stuck with something I don’t like anymore. I have changed some over the years, but my closet is still filled with cheap clearance finds that were worn once. I have learned that if I am patient and wait until I find a shirt I really love, I will wear it more and feel better when I wear it, too.

There is something about numbers that can get to us before we realize it. Unfortunately, I think Facebook has made it much more obvious to me than it was in the past. In high school, it was pretty clear who the popular people were – those who were elected to student council, those who performed well in sports or other clubs, those who always had a crowded table surrounding them at lunch. High school ended 20 years ago for me, but Facebook and Instagram have kept the popularity contest alive (just in case you were missing it) I notice how many people like my pictures or how many visitors read my blog. And yes, if I’m going to be honest here, I wonder why that friend always gets so many likes or why this person has dozens of comments on everything she posts.

What is it about numbers that makes us feel important? Why do I think that if a larger number of people read my blog, then I will really make a difference? I don’t see this anywhere in the teachings of Jesus other than the fact that we are to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19 ESV)

Jesus spoke to large crowds, and He attracted lots of people wherever He went. But He also surrounded Himself with a few chosen disciples with whom He shared the days and nights of His ministry. When Jesus spoke the Sermon on the Mount, I don’t see any indication that those who speak to thousands of people regularly or who have large Facebook or blog followings will be blessed. I read blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the peacemakers (selections from Matthew 5 ESV).

Hmmm. Do the poor in spirit, the meek, and the peacemakers have a lot of Facebook followers? Some of them do. But when Jesus says that He came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45 ESV), He was encouraging His disciples to follow in His very footsteps.

I served in ministry positions in both a local church and a national denomination for 10 years before I became a mother. Even in the quest to share the gospel, the tendency to count the numbers is always there. Do we have more than we had at this event last year? Did our district give more money than we gave last year? Did our church rank higher this year than we have in the past? It is exciting to reach more people with the Good News of Jesus, and we can feel that our work and our efforts matter more if they reach an increasing number of people. The more people we reach, the more souls will be saved, right?

Except that saving souls is God’s business, not ours. We fulfill our calling with humility and grace, and we remember that God is the one who brings the fruit of salvation.

In mothering and parenting, we fulfill our calling with humility and grace, and we remember that God is the one who brings the fruit of salvation. Except in this case, our efforts are concentrated on a handful of souls into whom we pour our very lives. I honestly think this is one of the toughest underlying challenges of motherhood. This is the most concentrated effort of servanthood you or I will ever experience. No one else gets the full weight of our efforts in the way that our children do. Yet those efforts are seen by just a few and acknowledged sparingly. There are no large, ever increasing numbers to count and impress ourselves or others unless you want to count the hours spent scrubbing dishes, folding laundry, buying groceries, and changing diapers.

I am too easily impressed by numbers. I am too easily disappointed by the lack of them.

Jesus, please change my heart. Make me grateful for what you have given me and where you have placed me today. Encourage me to be faithful in my calling and responsible with the gifts you have given to me. Thank you for glimpses that remind me that I do make a difference, and that is why I am still here on this earth.

New Life (or, I am the worst pregnant woman in the history of ever)

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I am terrible at being pregnant. I feel like a zombie. An exhausted, hormone-riddled, angry, crying zombie. I think for 9 months that something has completely taken over my body and I will never be the same. Okay, so those things are both true. Due to my extreme hormonal surges and intense anger at, well, everything, I rarely sit around and bask in the joy of being a part of the creation of a new life.

A new life is growing inside my body right now. I can hardly think that thought without simultaneously being completely amazed and terrified. I do not spend a lot of time considering what an absolute miracle this is. It is hard to believe that God would choose to use me to be a part of the creation of an entirely new life, one with a heart and soul and an eternity. As I write this, I feel her kicking me and think about how much she is growing right now. I wonder why I am tired all the time, and I miss having more energy. I have to regularly remind myself that growing new life is hard, hard work. Even though no one can see the work, that doesn’t diminish its value. Others may not know or remember what it feels like to carry a child inside your body, so I have to be wise enough to set my own boundaries and to give myself permission to rest as needed. I am 23 weeks pregnant, and the next 17 weeks will be gone before I know it. I will not be a pregnant or a nursing mom forever, so I do my best to give myself grace and compassion in these short months.

Now that I have a 2 year old and a 5 year old, I don’t get to spend a lot of time contemplating this new sweet baby and what she will be like. When I do consider that I will soon be the mother of three children under the age of 6, I remember that many, many mothers have gone before me in this three-child land. If they can manage it, I certainly can, too! My mom had three pre-school aged children for a full two years! I am looking at about two weeks between the time the baby is born and Isabella goes to kindergarten. I am certainly planning on awarding my mom some sort of medal for her heroic efforts to keep herself and us three girls alive during those years.

Even as I have these thoughts on pregnancy, it breaks my heart to have very close friends who cannot and will never have this experience of carrying a baby. I wish I could change this for them, I somehow wish I could share it with them. One of my dearest friends told me that she recognizes God gives each of us a different path with different struggles to work through, and she didn’t want me to feel inhibited or worried about sharing my struggles in motherhood with her just because she is not in that position right now. Her wisdom really blessed me and challenged me to remember that perspective when jealousy wants to get the better of me.

My challenge for the next 17 weeks is to keep a perspective on pregnancy and the things I will miss when it is over. Pregnancy is interesting because experiencing it for the third time gives me a perspective that I did not have the first time. I know that parenting multiple children is the same way, and I am really grateful for the opportunity to learn from my mistakes and actually get another chance at it.

So if I look mad or weary when you see me, I am. I really, really am. But the end result will be worth it.

In the Silence

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I am a pretty firm believer that you don’t wake a sleeping baby. I feel like I am in the minority here, but I rarely check on my children while they are sleeping. I have no desire to accidentally wake a child from peaceful slumber, and I certainly need the quiet time myself, so I have chosen to just stay out.

Matt and I listened to a podcast by Dr. James Dobson a few years ago regarding strong-willed children, and a lot of it stuck with me. I have gone back to it on some of my really difficult days. Some of the mothers told great stories about their strong-willed children that reminded me I am not alone. I don’t know if it was that podcast or another, but I believe one of the moms talked about going in after her daughter was in bed and praying over her. That came back to me a few months ago, and I decided to try it with Isabella as I can use all the help I can get with her.

I was amazed at how much easier it was to speak words of prayer over her when she is in her peaceful sleeping state. The frustrations of the day and even the impatience of bedtime routines have faded, and I love to look at her sweet face as she slumbers. It helps me to remember that her obstinate behavior throughout the day is only a part of who she is. The truth is, most of the time I just stare at her and pray, “Help me, help me, help me.” I love to read and listen to experts on parenting and children, but many days I still feel I am doing nothing right and this stage of constant discipline and correction will never end.

Experts don’t give me hope. Jesus gives me hope. He reminds me to look hard for the blessings in each day, and over and over I am reminded that this time is short. She will not be a small, slumbering pre-schooler for much longer. Every once in a while I get a tiny glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. She will demonstrate that she is learning so much about Jesus and the Bible, and my heart swells with the knowledge that things are sinking into her mind that will impact her soul.

I will add that I do not do this with Jack. My two children are so different, and I have many moments throughout the day in which I connect with Jack and feel close to him. Those times are few and far between with Isabella. She is and has always been a much more independent child who rarely wants to cuddle or have a quiet moment with me. I am grateful I can take those moments even when she is sleeping and be encouraged by them.

I press on, day after day, and those small glimpses certainly give me the fuel I need to keep going. Kneeling beside Isabella’s bed, looking at her sweet face, I am reminded whose child she is and how grateful I am that He gave her to me.

It’s the Thought That Counts

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Philemon 1:4 “I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers.” (ESV)

As a woman, I am used to a large number of thoughts passing through my brain every day, many at the same time. As a mom, it has risen to a frenzied level. I no longer sit at a desk every day, and I do not currently have a good way of organizing my life or thoughts at this stage. So I hold a lot in my head, but that doesn’t mean I get a lot done.

When I was single, I spent a good amount of time writing encouraging cards to friends and family. I really enjoyed it, and it was so fulfilling to know that I was used by God to bring encouragement to someone in a moment of need. I remember a few times when I woke up in the middle of the night with a specific encouraging word for a friend. When I married my husband, it was a shock to realize how my life changed. I am not sure it occurred to me that he would be there all. the. time. At the same time, I really wanted to be with him, and that limited the amount of time I had to spend on writing cards like I previously loved to do.

Isabella joined our world, and I have barely had a chance to look back. I still spend a good amount of time thinking about the people I love. I have been incredibly blessed with a lot of friends who are scattered across the country, serving in big and small places. I interact on Facebook, I see them on Instagram, but I think so often of the things I would say if I grabbed a pen and paper to write a special note.

I think of those who could use an encouraging word in a tough stage of life and what I would like to say to them (or what podcast I would recommend). 🙂

I think of a friend whose birthday is around the corner, and I promise myself I will get a card during nap time and write that note.

I think of someone who encouraged me and helped me through a tough season in life, and the words of thanks roll around in my brain.

I think of all the fun, thoughtful notes and surprises I used to do for my husband before kids, and I have more great ideas in between putting away laundry and getting glasses of ice water that I hope to work on soon.

I have heard “it’s the thought that counts.” I don’t really believe that the thought counts if no one knows about it. But I desperately hope they do. I hope the quick texts and short Facebook messages can convey the depth of feeling that is behind them. I do my best to not feel guilty about all the things I’m not doing at this stage of life. The list is long, but the time is so limited. One day my children will be more independent, and I will be able to finish a task without being interrupted or maybe write a card or two while they do homework.

If God has placed this longing in my heart, I know He will provide a way to fulfill it. In the meantime, I do the best I can with the time I have and trust that God can use others as well when my time and energy is limited.

If you have an unfulfilled longing as well, I pray today that God would encourage you in your season of life. He is not finished with you yet, and He still wants to use you today and in the future. Don’t let go of dreams He has placed in your heart. Some are big and others may be smaller, but His timing will bring His plan to pass.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV