Tuesday, May 3

The Winner!

Thanks everyone, for your participate in the book giveaway! The winner is Carrie! I'll be emailing you soon!!

Please don't forget to pick up a copy of each of Adam's books (maybe drop a hint for Mother's Day!) or buy it for a friend!!

Happy Reading!

Monday, April 25

Book Giveaway!

A long time ago, I attended school in the north woods of Wisconsin, and there met Adam Blumer, whose fiction works are some of my favorite of this genre (Christian suspense). I've done a couple of interviews (here and here) with Adam over the years, and he contacted me last week upon the release of the paperback version of his second novel, The Tenth Plague, to see if I'd be willing to host a giveaway of his e-book! 

OF COURSE!

So, if you are in the US, and interested in receiving a free copy of Adam's e-book, follow these instructions: for one entry, comment on this post to let me know what your favorite fictional genre is.  For additional entries, "Like" Adam's author page on Facebook, and help spread the word by linking this giveaway on social media!  Then leave a comment letting me know which items you have done! The giveaway closes on Monday the 2nd! Also, don't forget to check out his first book, Fatal Illusions!

Tuesday, April 19

Diagnosis

About a month ago, I received a call that brought both relief and dread. I'm sure many other people have gotten such calls, but it was my first and I was not prepared for the odd mix of feelings.

Our middle son, Evan, has always been a little bit spacey (in a totally endearing way), but this school year, when he was required to do a lot more (it is first grade, after all), I started to wonder if his inattention was a little bit more than just typical childhood daydreaming. I started reading up and highly suspected absence epilepsy. We went to see the family doctor, who referred us to a pediatric neurologist. At the appointment, the doctor evaluated Evan, and although he had several "absences" in her office, she didn't seem to notice - he covered very well as he has done the entire time. She ordered an EEG to rule it out completely, but was fairly confident that the result would be no epilepsy.

Well, she called after the EEG to let me know that he did, indeed, have absence epilepsy, she estimated from his test results that he has been having about 6-10 absence seizures per hour lasting up to 7 seconds. The really good news is that most kids who have a later onset (in Evan's age group) grow out of the absences around the time they hit puberty, which is excellent news.  The bad news was that he will need to be on medication to treat the seizures for a minimum of two years or until the EEG results come back clear, then we will be able to try to wean him off the meds.

Now, I will admit, I balked at the idea of medicating him. I researched and read, and the list of possible side effects was dizzying. I talked to a pharmacist friend who recommended putting the list of side effects away and giving the medication a try. I'm so glad I took his advice.

We've seen a drastic improvement in Evan already, and, while I am sure there are challenges ahead, and more tests and evaluations and things I don't even know about, I'm both happy to know how to help him and thankful that we have an answer.

Sunday, April 17

The Call to Rest

"These days with kids at home pass so quickly" I've often heard, in fact so often that when I hear them in the midst of them, I admit to rolling my eyes a bit and feeling a bit like a cartoon student hearing the "blah blah blah blah" of the teacher. I have definitely repeated a mantra of, "long days, short years" as a kind of balm over the worst of days, the ones where all the plans go out the window while you hold a sobbing child, clean up messes that ought to have been avoided, make dinner again because the first one flopped. But it is sinking in, a bit.

This past summer, on the first day of a mild August, the oldest of my children turned nine. NINE. It hit me harder than I expected as I made the requested LEGO Ninjago cake, that we are halfway "done" with the race to adulthood, and in reality, probably more than halfway. With the passing of the years, more things will pass - how many themed birthday cake years will I have left?! How many discussions about his LEGO creations do I have left? It got a little emotional as I carefully layered fruit rollups over the cake man's molded body. The process took longer than expected as I took frequent breaks to tend to my one month old baby, my youngest boy.

I admit I've enjoyed the youngest in these tender months a lot more than I was able to enjoy the others - maybe because PPD interfered with my firstborn's first year, and definitely because I had multiple small busy people to tend to with my second (7yrs) and third (4yrs) born children. This fourth, born last July, my beautiful bonus in my mid thirties, has me appreciating motherhood in new ways. And it's not just that I'm appreciating the baby stage more. I'm savoring each of my children more, feeling with them, more deeply.  I'm listening better. I'm more deeply convinced that building our relationships is the most important part of our homeschool days. Even amidst the burnout, I've been learning this.

Along that line, I've been reading a fantastic book about the concept of schole, or restfulness in our school days. Not restfulness as in relaxing and laziness, but restfulness as in peace, a calm assurance, confident faithfulness to the tasks at hand. Restfulness in the creation of margin, in freedom from over-filled days. I'm really looking forward to exploring more about how this concept will allow us to deepen our understanding of our academia and our other learning experiences here. I already feel that it will definitely strengthen our relationships with each other, which is one of the reasons we've chosen homeschool. I've got some awesome kids, and each day I forward to watching them bloom. I don't want to miss it.

One of my favorite quotes so far from this book is this one: "What if, instead of trying to make the most of our time, we worked harder at savoring it? What if we were more lavish with our time and more detached from our checklists?" (Sarah MacKenzie)

Yes, what if we ceased with the multitasking and used up all of our focus on one thing? How would that transform our days?  How would I be a better mom, a better wife, if I laid aside as many distractions as possible to listen, really listen, be present and engage? I would guess it would only benefit all of us.

So with renewed vigor, we begin. We are working together as a family to simplify our lives, so that we can restfully live, at peace, with purpose, deeply. I'll keep you posted. *grin*

Friday, April 1

Burnout

I'm a woman, a wife, a mom, a teacher. I've been more things and I've had fewer titles. I'm not a stranger to sleeplessness, or frustration, or discouragement, or any number of words that seem cliche to me when I say them out loud.

And now, I'm in a season of wading through the deep waters of discouragement. There doesn't seem to be a "good" reason - my family is healthy, we have what we need, there is no crisis. My marriage is amazing. Despite those not inconsequential blessings, the little things of life have compounded, and the littlest additions or subtractions have me often melting into a puddle of uselessness and tears. I have felt like a failure at just about everything and I'm not always (or ever) sure of what to change or do to make it better.

We've hit the Spring Slump in homeschooling progress. Our parenting skills need a refresher course in consistency and an update for maturing progeny. My house is a wreck and I feel like all I do is rush around in a fog of forgetfulness and unreliability. My best efforts end up failing. I'm losing things and losing it, both very much too often. 

Today, for example, my dishes are piled up like grimy soldiers returning from who-knows-where, my dishwasher has failed to clean the ones I carefully loaded this morning. The blade is out so I can clean the filter, but I can't find the star bit I need to loosen the screen and clean it out. I've lost my gumption for this task, so the parts have been laid aside and my dishes wait for the return of my husband and the magic of his knowledge of where the tools are. It seems like a little thing, and it is, but it derailed me. Now dinner will not be ready until later, children will clamor, and all the Things That Can Possibly Go Wrong probably will. I have turned into Eeyore because one element of my carefully planned day went askew.

Tightly wound, much?

I could say "If ONLY I had more sleep" but I wouldn't trade sleep for the baby snuggles. I could say "If only I had a cleaning lady" or "If only there was a perfect school for my kids so I wouldn't have to home school" but we've made other choices that I'm mostly happy for the trade off.

Really, it's not a problem with the dishwasher, or the lack of sleep - or even the postpartum hormones that make dealing with the normal ups and downs of life seem impossible. It is my primary struggle now (and looking back, always has been) about my perception of control. It's a problem with ME and one that (as God would have it) I'm trying to help my children understand - life is NOT about me and my agenda. I do not have to be in control or even know what's coming next. I can trust my Father. Enjoy the journey, He is in charge. Easy to say, so hard to live.

It's so easy to let the dark waters get you. SO EASY to wallow in weariness. So, SO easy. My brain yells "RETREAT!! HIDE!!! INTROVERT!!!"  But Someone is drawing me out, past the failure and past my ridiculous tears - I have a Savior who calls to me, the weary one. He calls me because His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. And he wants to bear my burdens, even the littlest ones. He calls me to come, rest, not just because His sacrifice has paid for my eternal life, but because His love compels me. He is enough.

This is the struggle, to trust Him. To teach my children to trust Him. To seek to see Him at work, to purposely give thanks. To see past my struggles, to realize the temporary nature of them and ask for joy, to ask for patience, to beg Him for grace for each moment. To understand that this is how He draws me closer.

Our church has been singing this new hymn lately. I learned it a couple of years ago, but I still can't make it through without tears.


COME, LONELY HEART (Text by Chris Anderson; Tune by Greg Habegger)

Come, lonely heart, to the outsider’s Friend—
To Jesus, Who seeks out the lost.
Your cruel seclusion has come to an end;
Find welcome, find home, at the cross.
No soul is too small for His mercy;
No sin is too great for His grace! 
Come, lonely heart, to the outsider’s Friend;
Find welcome, find home, at the cross.

Drink, thirsty heart, of the water of life—
Of bountiful, soul-quenching grace.
The world’s broken cisterns cannot satisfy;
The Savior is what your heart craves.
No soul is too small for His mercy;
No sin is too great for His grace!
Drink, thirsty heart, of the water of life;
The Savior is what your heart craves.


Rest, guilty heart, in forgiveness of sin—
In pardon from shame-stirring vice.
Though Satan and sinners and conscience condemn,
Your soul may be spotless as Christ.
No soul is too small for His mercy;
No sin is too great for His grace! 
Rest, guilty heart, in forgiveness of sin;
Your soul may be spotless as Christ.

Joy, grateful heart, in the hope you have found—
In God, Who is seeking your praise.
Then go to the outcast, that grace may resound,
For Jesus is mighty to save.
No soul is too small for His mercy;
No sin is too great for His grace!
Joy, grateful heart, in the hope you have found,
For Jesus is mighty to save.

Monday, February 22

El Roi, Jehovah Jireh

El Roi, God sees me. Jehovah Jireh, God is my provider.

These words, one of the names of God, were tossed around (in retrospect, almost casually) at college, every time some need was met - an anonymously paid school bill, a few dollars in the mail for laundry, a care package from home - "wow, man, Jehovah Jireh!" and I never thought of it as irreverent. It was a continual reminder of how God saw, and provided.

Looking back, it became so commonplace at that time of my life, I took for granted that God would provide. I mean, everyone knows college students have no money, and I suppose it could have been a strange type of entitlement, I'm not sure. All I do know is that I was trusting that everything would happen as God wanted it to.  And back then, when life was a little simpler, I expected God to show Himself and provide. I saw it readily, I praised Him often. Even for little things.

But then, we grew up (a little) and started adulting - bills to pay, budgets to balance, children to provide for, and jobs to work to bring in the money for these things. OF COURSE we understood that God is the one who provides the work, the money, the bonus jobs, but at the same time, it's really easy to start relying on yourself, to stop asking God for things.

You see the deep needs of others and pray instead for them, not wishing to "bother" with your "little" need. "I can do it, it's fine, we'll be fine." becomes an easy rut to settle into. And when you stop asking, sometimes you stop being grateful for those little things. Sometimes you become self-reliant. Sometimes you stop looking to see Him working in those same, simple ways. So a couple of months ago, I picked out one thing to pray about. It was a legitimate need, something we had forgotten about the need for replacing, and we simply didn't have the extra in the budget. I wanted to pray specifically so that I could watch God work specifically.

And this weekend, we were humbled by our Jehovah Jireh. This item that I'd prayed about for a couple of months was very unexpectedly taken care of - a friend called and asked point blank if this exact thing was a need. He said he and his wife had been asking God to show them how they could bless others, and that God had laid it on his heart, very specifically, very clearly, just like that.

I didn't know HOW God was going to choose to provide, or if it would be obvious or just through extra hours, through trivet + board sales, or other random earnings. I assumed it would be through work and earnings, not through a gift. I hadn't told anyone I was praying about it except for Michael and my mom. I know she was praying too.

But God chose differently, and now we have freshly tasted, seen, and experienced God's knowledge of our needs. He is reminding us that He is not "generic" Jehovah Jireh, He is OUR Jehovah Jireh.  And it is so humbling - to be reminded that not only does God see, and know, and love, and care, but He can and does provide - however and through whomever He chooses.

I have been so encouraged and challenged through our friends' prayers and obedience that I now seek to pray this way. My prayer? God, show me how I can bless others. Show me who, what, and how. Show me specifically, because I want to see YOU. Being on the receiving end of the blessing just makes us want to give what we can to others. It's a beautiful and multifaceted gift we've been given. All because of God's amazing grace.

So much grace.

Friday, February 19

Resurrected (and a birth story)

Or at least the blog has come out of a coma.

This blog, like other aspects of our life, kind of came to a standstill in 2013. I'm not sure what happened. Perhaps the housing transition proved too much. Perhaps Facebook took too much of my time. Scratch that. DEFINITELY Facebook. It's so easy to sit and blurb a word here or there to update the family or vent or post a picture of my kids, but there's really no record that is journal-like there. It's like two years have passed without record. There are no gradual home improvement posts. There are no newsy updates. There are many things about these two years that I didn't record here, and I'm really sad about that.

And Amos, our fourth-born child, simply doesn't exist on this blog. There are no posts about the blessings and pains of pregnancy and childbirth at age 35, no quips about the looks and questions you get from friends and random strangers when they realize that you're carrying a fourth.

So now, when Amos is seven months, I sit down to log his birth story. Because if you don't take the time, it gets away from you.

The pregnancy went pretty well, I had lost about 40lbs following Trim Healthy Mama prior to becoming pregnant so that was great. I had to work REALLY hard not to continue to lose while I was pregnant, and I had a rougher pregnancy in general than I expected. It turns out that I was accidentally glutening myself the entire pregnancy with a magnesium supplement containing brewer's yeast. Which explains A LOT of the aches and pains and brain fog and headaches!! I also had a lot of anxiety this time around, and I'm fairly confident it was due to the early pregnancy losses we have suffered. I really had to make a conscious effort to keep my thoughts focused during the days. At night I would wake with awful panic attacks, unable to breathe. These are small things to some but it was a pretty rough time for me over all. I am thankful that I wasn't bedridden and that the baby was totally find during all of this!

We decided once again not to find out the baby's gender, and nicknamed the baby "Disco" because all throughout the pregnancy, he would move like CRAZY at night; it truly felt as if he was breaking it down in my belly. It was NUTS.

About 12 days before my due date, I thought *THIS IS IT* and buckled down for some serious contraction counting. The contractions came fast and furious until they were about a minute apart and lasting about a minute, however, around midnight they tapered off and stopped. Not cool. And then, this kind of thing continued for 17 days.

I do not wish prodromal labor on anyone. It's awful. The worst part was how it messed with my brain. I mean, I'm a mom of FOUR. I'd birthed two babies at home by this point, so shouldn't I be aware of what real labor is? What was my deal? Was I losing it? Combined with the night waking and panic attacks, it was not fun. The midwife and her entire crew were over several times. It was embarrassing. We tried several maneuvers and hundreds of trips up and down the stairway sideways. No progress.

The morning of July 3, 5 days past my due date, I woke up with contractions, no surprise. I wasn't overjoyed, I was TICKED OFF. I made an appointment with a chiropractor to try to get things lined up and I just assumed that today would be the same as any other day. I texted my midwife and said "well, more contractions today!" and told her how grumpy I was. The chiropractor appointment was at 11 and I went shopping for a bit after that. Then I went home and spent some time praying that I would be able to persevere and not be grumpy about it. (this had been my prayer for about 2 weeks...) Around 1, I thought it was maybe different, but probably not, so my parents came to get the kids because that's what we'd been doing when it got to be too much for me to handle!

Around 3, I called Kelly (my midwife) because I knew something was happening. She called her team and headed over. I was uncomfortable and just so happy that things were progressing, but trying not to get my hopes up too much.

Well, things got pretty intense between the time I called and the time she arrived. And I think I was probably in transition within the hour after she arrived. Then I started feeling faint every time I had a contraction. This happened with Cadence's birth also, but UNLIKE that birth, resting between contractions wasn't doing it for me. I had to lie down on my side, which helped with the near-blackout-experiences, but I ended up giving birth while side lying, which I don't recommend. :-)

HOWEVER, when Amos was born, I cannot even tell you how happy I was to be holding that baby who had tried so long to come. We still had no name, but he was here, he was gorgeous, I didn't have much blood loss at all and overall the birth itself went really well. It was a trial endured for a moment (although that moment seemed extremely long). And the sweet rush of new motherhood washed over me with it's old familiar euphoria.

Amos means "carried by God" and Tobiah, his middle name, means "God is Good" and HE IS GOOD. I learned so many things about my God and myself through this pregnancy and birth. His plan is best, and perfect. Our thoughts cannot begin to nail down who God is and what He does in us and in the world.

And our Amos? Oh, what a joy. He has been the happiest baby, snuggliest little man, and so well loved by his older siblings. His grin will not quit. Cadey will be five shortly after Amos' first birthday, and watching my older children love on and interact with the baby has been such a gift. So many gracious and unexpected blessings have visited our family this year, and Amos is one of them.

Hopefully, I can continue to journal more blessings in the days and weeks to come!