another year for my favorite

Today is Tim’s birthday.  He is my favorite person, ever.  And he gives me more reasons every year to be amazed by his character and humbled by his example.  I don’t want to ever pretend to think he’s perfect, or to give the impression that there isn’t occasionally friction between us, but the truth is that there’s never a day that goes by that I am not immeasurably grateful for my husband.

I struggle to put it into words, honestly.  I can’t adequately paint a picture of his heart for you…how he never picks the easier road unless it’s the right road, how he takes so much off my shoulders when what he is bearing already seems like an impossible load, how he can hold up my errors to the truth of the Word without making me feel condemned, how I know he will always choose for himself the worst seat, or the burnt toast, or whatever is the least desirable or the hardest or the thing that will most bless someone else – anyone else.

I’m not like that.  And there are times when it annoys me, ’cause it’s just so much less effort to be selfish and lazy.  I know that’s kind of blunt, but it’s really what is in my heart much of the time, and it shows this disparity – this difference – between Tim and me, that is a constant challenge to my natural bent.  It’s also a regular reminder to me of the grace my husband shows me.  He sees the difference, too, and I’m sure this part of me is anything but beautiful and lovable.  But he loves me still.  He pours out his life for me and for our family still.  I will never get tired of saying how much this has taught me of the depth of Christ’s love.

He is my “better half”, without question.  I am so thankful for any chance to celebrate him.

Isabelle at 3

Today, our Sweetpea turns three.

She loves…

…books, right now her particular favorite is Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs

…blocks and legos

…pretty dresses

…candy

…helping, with anything and everything, whether requested or not

…singing loudly

…sampling veggies being prepped for dinner

She dislikes…

…the potty

…car seat buckles

…bed-time

…apologizing

…bread crusts

…water on her head

Isabelle is rough-and-tumble, overly silly at times, and a bit too quick to hit and pinch and kick when things aren’t going her way, but she is also tender-hearted, forthright, encouraging, and eager to serve. She is smart and strong and lovely and her smile still melts my heart.  We are so grateful for this precious girl, and are thrilled to celebrate her three years today.

Lucas William

We knew from the start of this pregnancy that we would have to go some distance to deliver the baby if we were to have any hope of avoiding a fourth c-section.  After many phone calls to various providers, we finally determined that a delivery in Burlington would be our best option.  This meant a good amount of nervousness on my part about how to know when we should plan to leave during labor, so when contractions started to come consistently 20 minutes apart about 6pm on May 1st, we wavered back and forth about not wanting to leave too early…especially given previous labors that extended from 24 hours to 3 days from similar contraction patterns…to not wanting to wait too long and, at best have a really uncomfortable 3 hour drive, or worse, not make it to Burlington on time.  We finally decided, when contractions were 10 minutes apart while lying down, but still 20 minutes apart when moving around (somewhere around 2:30 am) that we should get ready to go.  My amazing aunt came in the dead of night to stay with the kids, and by 3:30 am we were on our way to the hospital.

The 3.5 hour drive was a bit all over the map, contraction-wise.  Some came close to five minutes apart, some fifteen to twenty minutes apart.  I was nauseous the whole time, and ended up getting sick about a half hour from Burlington, at which point I became extra-thankful for our emergency bucket that we always have on hand for car-sickness.  When we arrived at 7 am, I felt like it was too early in labor to head to the hospital, so we went for a short walk in a park, then decided to get a hotel room so that I could have a private place to labor while contractions were still somewhat spread out.

After about 3 hours at the hotel, contractions got to be pretty consistently under 5 minutes apart, so Tim called ahead to the hospital, and we made our way there.  Hospitals aren’t my favorite place, and I felt a lot of nervousness about still not being certain about how “active ” my labor really was as the nurse asked all of the “required” questions, got a heplock needle put into my arm, hooked me up to the fetal monitor, and took my vitals.  Around 11:30, the OB resident checked my cervix and said I was about 5cm dilated, but the baby was still fairly high.  While the OB and the nurse seemed to think this was excellent progress, I was honestly discouraged to hear that I was only “halfway” to where I needed to be.  But, I tried to just focus on doing the best I could in the moment and not think about how much longer things might take.

Contractions became fairly regular at this point, and very slowly, grew in intensity.  After a short while, my nurse was able to procure a wireless monitor for me to wear, so I was able to make a couple short trips around the birth center as I labored.  Tim faithfully encouraged me through my contractions, and offered suggestions and helped with anything he could.  Sometime around 2 in the afternoon,  when the contractions were maybe two minutes apart, and – I thought – fairly strong, the nurse asked if I’d like to labor in the shower for a while, to which I readily agreed, thankful that a shower was an option.  While in the shower, I felt a “pop”, and knew that my water had broken – a first for me in labor, and immediately somewhat nerve-wracking since I knew that it meant the contractions would become even more intense.

Once I was out of the shower, around 3pm?,  the OB checked my progress again.  When I heard that I was only at 7cm, I was pretty devastated.  Only 2cm in almost 4 hours of what felt like fairly hard labor??  I started to lose my resolve.  Tim was helping to hold me up during contractions now, and I struggled to maintain control.  Occasionally, I just half-sobbed/half-screamed my way through contractions that now only seemed to have seconds between the end of one and the start of another.  I kept thinking that at any moment I would have the urge to push, but it didn’t come.  Instead, this was the time that they had me sign a c-section consent form, and explained anesthesia options to me, and introduced the attending OB…for the record, all things that are NOT helpful to a woman in hard, active labor.  To add to all of that, every time I leaned forward during a contraction, the monitor lost the baby’s heartbeat, so the nurse was constantly trying to adjust the monitor as I did my best to not be overwhelmed by the pain.  Eventually, my nurse strongly urged me to try laboring on my side for a contraction or two.  I protested, knowing that laying down ALWAYS makes my contractions a zillion times worse, but she persisted, so I figured one or two contractions on my side wouldn’t be unbearable, and I laid down.

But it was unbearable.  I can’t even describe the pain other than to say it felt like my back and hips were on fire and being crushed by a thousand-pound weight all at the same time.  Without even close exception, it was the worst pain I have ever felt.  But I stayed laying there through a second contraction, mostly because, for whatever reason, there was a several minute gap between the two contractions and I just didn’t want to move.  After the second one was over my cervix was checked again and when I heard that I was now only at 8 cm, I was convinced that I couldn’t handle any more.

Tim did his best to reassure me that I would get through it, that I was doing great, that I was getting close to the end, but I just didn’t believe it.  I told him I wanted an epidural.  I had asked him to discourage me from an epidural, to remind me of how bad my only other experience with one was, to reassure me that I could get through it.  And he tried, and he prayed for me.  But as he was trying, the nurse and the OB were pretty much arguing against him “she’s so tired”, “it’s going to take a while for her to finish dilating”, “she needs to rest so her body can do what it needs to do”…and after maybe another 20 minutes (?), Tim lost the “argument”.

So, they started prepping for the epidural.  I sat on the edge of the bed, and as they scrubbed my back to sanitize it, I felt – slightly – an urge to push, and I said so.  Tim asked if maybe they could check my dilation before they started the epidural, and was told no, they wanted to get the epidural in first.  For my part, I was beginning to question the epidural, but had no confidence that what I felt like my body was telling me was actually true, so I stayed silent.  They got the epidural catheter in and then told me I had to lay down and that it would take about 15 minutes for the anesthesia to take effect.  Um…what?!?!  I was not counting on having to lay down again and endure more of those horrific contractions before the epidural took effect.  I was fairly annoyed, since both the nurse and the OB knew how excruciating those first two “laying-down” contractions had been for me, and never felt compelled to inform me that the epidural would require more of the same.  But, it was done, so I laid down and now the OB finally checked my cervix…and the best news of the day…I was fully dilated and could begin pushing.

Thankfully, though the epidural never fully “took” on my left side (the same problem I’d had the one previous time I’d had an epidural), the worst of the contractions was done and the fact that I would meet my baby soon made the pain now seem hardly noteworthy.  I pushed through, I think, three contractions.  Once his head was delivered, it took a couple more pushes for his shoulders, followed by the rest of him, to deliver.  Tim announced that we had a boy as the OB handed me our new, beautiful, messy bundle.  9 lbs, 5 oz., 22 inches long…nameless for days, but eventually Lucas William Ruehle…which means “bringer of light, determined protector”.

It always amazes me how, in that instant, the worst pain in the world can seem utterly insignificant compared to the joy of holding a new baby.  The good and the bad, the best and worst choices, are reduced to simple gratitude that the end result of it all is a baby that is healthy and here.  And we ARE so thankful for our sweet boy.  He is a treasure, one more of God’s very best gifts to us.

our girl

Okay…yes…we have more than one now.  But 11 years ago today, she came into the world as our first girl, and remained our only girl for 6 more years.  Raising her has been nothing like raising her brothers, partly because she’s a girl, but mostly because she is entirely unique in her personality, her perspectives, her strengths and her weaknesses.

I don’t think I’ll ever understand how she can be totally unconcerned for whether she has spelled a word correctly, and I remain baffled by her ability to understand the mechanics of things.  She has considerable talent in art and math (quite a combination, huh?) but both can be limited at times by lack of attention and carelessness.  She loves girly things (anything that sparkles or shimmers or ruffles), but wants to be stronger and faster and better at everything than her brothers.  She gets easily distracted from almost any chore, but when she does apply herself, can be extremely detailed and thorough.

And now, she’s entering her “pre-teen” years.  There’s more tears, more attitude, more wonderings of what-part-of-left-field-did-that-just-come-from?  But there’s also a greater interest in just being near me, which I am trying my best to not take for granted.  She is learning patience with her little sisters, too, and I find her randomly snuggled up to them, reading books or quietly playing.  She has a fairly new-found love of baking, and continues to work on developing her skills with the sewing machine.  And I see, albeit sometimes more slowly than I’d like, character traits taking shape in her that I’ve long worried could never be.

This girl of mine continues to be my greatest challenge, but also the catalyst God most uses to humble, and shape, and teach me.  I know that doesn’t evoke much of the sappy sentiment that I so often think should be all that my thoughts of my children evoke.  But she is a gift.  She is precious to me.  I am so very thankful for her – for the unique and wonderful person she is, and for the ways I am forced to my knees (sometimes in petition, sometimes in repentance) because of her.  It is truly with great joy that we celebrate these 11 years that she has been our girl.

I was watching a tv show recently where one of the characters had a nervous breakdown.  Life was overwhelming and the character was losing control of it all…felt like he had to be in control of it all, but wasn’t.

And all I could think as I watched it was I am so thankful for Jesus I am so thankful I don’t have to manage this life on my own.  I am so thankful that when life is overwhelming, I have Someone I can run to who will never lose control of it all.  How can anyone survive without Him?

This past year and a half has been more than I’ve felt like I could bear at times.  Sometimes, my running to God hasn’t looked like it “should”.  My faith has had many moments of faltering.  And I’m sure others have dealt with much harder things than I have.  But whether I just need to find a little shoe when we need to head out the door, or I feel like life is caving in on me, I know that He is there to hear my cry.  I know that His hands are holding me, no matter what.  Even just a few moments on my knees gives me strength to stand.

He is life.  The source and the sustenance.  Nothing can compare.

our teenager

Caedmon is 13 today.  And, yes, I’m more than a little taken aback by the fact that our little guy is now a teenager.  I almost broke down when it hit me as I was walking through Walmart the other day.  I got teary-eyed and suddenly wanted to buy anything I could find to make his day special.  I mostly restrained myself with reminders that “stuff” isn’t really the best way to communicate love, but that momentary perspective shift from the everyday myopia of just addressing whatever the day brings, to the recognition (not for the first time) of how thankful I am for Caedmon and how much I like him, has stayed with me.  He’s really an amazing kid.  He is so genuine, so smart, so funny.  He takes on so many responsibilities without complaint.  He has such an earnest desire to know the Lord and to honor Him in his days.

Yeah, there’s plenty of less-than-perfect in the kid, but for thirteen?  He’s got a lot figured out.

I’m glad for his birthday this year if only for the fact that it forces me to pause and reflect on just how much of a blessing I have in this son of mine.

how I do a project

Last week I decided I was going to start a house project “on my own”.  Our upstairs bathroom – which has been on the re-do docket for years now, but always gets shelved because of more pressing projects – has had wallpaper peeling off for years, and a serious mold issue caused by lack of ventilation, but made worse by the wallpaper.  So, I decided that I would remove the wallpaper and paint.

Tim is in the middle of his own project of redoing a bedroom, but I wanted to find some way to be productive and I convinced myself that this wouldn’t be too bad.  I insisted to him that I could do it all by myself – that since the wallpaper was literally falling off the walls, that must mean that it would be a breeze.  He remained skeptical (with good reason), but I pushed forward in my uncharacteristic optimism.  My willingness to stupidly ignore the fact that, in this house, wallpaper was always used to cover problems is something I will chalk up to the fact that this is the first window of time I’ve had this pregnancy when I’ve felt capable of accomplishing something beyond life’s everyday priorities and I didn’t want to squander it.

But I was dumb.

For some reason, the areas where the wallpaper had peeled off already only had one layer of wallpaper, but the walls I had left to do had three layers…layers that did not want to peel off.  I also discovered, when I took off the gross white laminated board that was covering the lower half of the wall, that not only was the plaster underneath cracked and bowed, but someone along the way had cut out a chunk of the plaster and lath to put in a two by four to hold the wall-mounted sink.  Plus the wall was slathered with thick brown adhesive that did not respond well to my scraping.  I felt like a fool.

So, Tim stepped in to rescue me.  With his far superior upper body strength, as well as the inspiration to try a razor-blade scraper on the wall instead of the putty knives and vinegar-water solution I had been using with limited success, he managed to take wallpaper and brown crud off with ease.  I insisted, though, that I could manage now that I saw that the razor worked.  Knowing that I was definitely going to need his help with repairing the plaster (his preference over just covering it over with wainscoting and calling it a day), I didn’t want him to take any more of his time to work on this project that I had quite vehemently claimed I could do myself.

So the next day, I set about scraping.  And I got most of it done…with just the high edges of the wall, and some stubborn sections that seemed like they would come off more easily with sanding.  But that night, my elbow…which I had injured almost two years ago, but hasn’t bothered me in months…hurt so much that I couldn’t sleep.  So much for doing any more scraping…or sanding…or anything else that might require me to exert force with my right arm.  Ugh.

Actually, I did try to sand with my left arm today, briefly.  Until Tim interrupted me and basically said that it was just pointless for me to do with my left arm that which he could accomplish with an orbital sander in a fraction of the time (I wasn’t going to attempt the orbital sander myself because, well, I’m very non-ambidextrous, and my right arm would be too strained by it…really, I feel pathetic even writing that).  I did argue with Tim for a minute…but finally just asked if there was something I could take off his plate to compensate.

So now, I’ll be helping with taxes.

Elijah is seven

Yesterday was our Buddy’s birthday.

He is tall and strong and articulate.

When I’m reading aloud to the kids, he often interrupts to ask what words mean.

His volume is naturally very loud.

He is very easily distracted, but can do most tasks exceptionally well if he really applies himself.

He likes to style his hair in the morning, and insists on tucking in his shirts and wearing his socks pulled up as high as they’ll go…and he doesn’t care if someone thinks he looks like a dork, ’cause he likes how he looks.

He told us this year, just matter-of-factly as we were talking to him about receiving Jesus as Savior, that he has already believed in Jesus as his Lord.  And we asked him questions to find out if he really understood what it meant, and he did.  No wrestling or angst, just a calm decisiveness.

He still gives me hugs often…usually when he notices that I’m bummed about something and without a word just wraps his arms around me.

He loves baseball, and animals, and the “color” black.

He’s just seven, and he has areas that we’re working on, and there are times when I still need to remind myself to no expect as much from him as from the older kids, but he is growing and learning and contributing more and more to the daily running of things.  He is precious and smart and capable and funny and so many intangible things that make my heart full, and inexpressibly grateful to have him as my son.

I love this kid.  So much.

 

this Christmas

Christmas.

I know it’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but it never really is for me.  And it definitely isn’t this year.  I’m trying, mostly so it can still be special for my kids, but this year has left me pretty faithless and pretty hopeless, and I can’t help but face this celebration with a lot of heartache, and more than a little cynicism.

I know it sounds terrible for me to say that.  It’s part of why this blog has been mostly silent lately.  I’m afraid of being judged for admitting that I just can’t see God in any of this – for being angry at how silent He has been through this whole mess.  I’m afraid that some people will say it’s somehow proof that we’re wrong – this sense that God is not being our defender or helper when we have most needed Him to be.  But I mostly just don’t care anymore what anyone else thinks.

Yes, a whole lot of our hope and trust was misplaced.  And now, though everyone wants to just say move on and get over it, we struggle to even see an alternate path to go down.  We trusted people who proved untrustworthy.  For more than six years – crucial years in establishing a sense of home and relationships and faith in our children – we invested our lives in things that have now been stripped from us.  Every week, at least, I find myself searching real estate listings – sometimes not too far away, sometimes hundreds of miles away – because here doesn’t seem to be possible any more. The problem is, for all we’ve already lost, we have to lose more if we leave, with nothing anywhere that really makes us believe we could ever find a safe place to call home.

And it’s hard to find hope in any of it.  It’s hard to believe in a good and faithful God.  It’s hard to rejoice in anything so intangible like the significance of Christ’s coming when everything else in life feels like we’re fighting losing battles.  It’s not that there haven’t been lessons, I’m just finding that what we’re learning doesn’t seem to be valuable enough to justify the cost.

So about all I can do right now is not run away.  I can do my best to say the right things and do the right things and grasp at whatever fleeting hope there is in my heart that God has a plan for all of this that will be for our good in the end.  Not much of an advent lesson, but maybe – in some small way – it is.

another song

Because I can’t seem to come up with my own words these days, and because this song was good for my melancholy soul today…

Endless Hallelujah by Matt Redman

When I stand before Your throne
Dressed in glory not my own
What a joy I’ll sing of on that day
No more tears or broken dreams
Forgotten is the minor key
Everything as it was meant to be

And we will worship, worship
Forever in Your presence we will singing
We will worship, worship You
An endless hallelujah to the King

I will see You as You are
Love You with unsinning heart
And see how much You paid to bring me home
Not till then, Lord, shall I know
Not till then, how much I owe
Everything I am before Your throne

And we will worship, worship
Forever in Your presence we will sing
We will worship, worship You
An endless hallelujah to the King

No more tears, no more shame
No more sin or sorrow ever known again
No more fears, no more pain
We will see You face to face
See You face to face

An endless hallelujah to the King
We’ll sing an endless hallelujah to the King