March 09, 2016

Why I Will Not Be Voting for Donald Trump

I'm rowing into unchartered waters today and I'm a leetle bit skurred of the sharks. Because it's politics and here's how many people I talk politics with: one.

(Hi, babe!)

I got off of Facebook permanently about a year ago and I haven't reactivated my account a single time in that time. But you know what I remember from the last time our country was in an election season?

One party: you don't agree with me and you're going to vote for That Guy; you're an idiot and a million laughing emojis because of how stupid you are.

Other party: You're the idiot. *insert hateful meme with Other Party's face on it designed to shame the other party for being so stupid as to actually believe fill-in-the-blank*

I can't tell you how many times Matt and I have turned to each other and said, Wow, sooo happy to be off Facebook.

Which is why I'm a lotta bit cautious about this post.

I have written this post in my head a hundred times but I've left it there because of how divisive politics can be, and of all the things I want this blog to be, divisive is not one of them. I also think politics are a huge distraction for many Christians from the gospel and really knowing God and his word. If we get our "doctrine" from a major news channel and surround ourselves with a lot of people who agree with us, then we tend to think Jesus does too.

I use a reading plan for reading my Bible. I'm not a fan of devotional reading (i.e. a random verse a day coupled with a feel-good blurb) because it tends to put the emphasis on us: what is this doing for me, where do I fit into this, how does this conform to me. Me, me, me. I think it's so important to understand context while also fully aware that because it's a living and active word God does use it to speak into our lives all these thousands of years later.

I'm at the end of my plan which has me in books like Daniel, Ezekiel, Micah, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, and because it's a plan that has Old, New, and a Gospel everyday, I've also been in John and Revelation.


The timing and congruency of these passages is unreal. Here's how I would narrow down the themes in many of these books:

1) Trusting in ungodly and arrogant rulers to protect from outside threats and their promises to make rich and subsequently God's discipline, whether it be through famine, captivity, or poverty.

and,

2) because of this, repent, repent, repent. Repent while there's still time that God may have mercy not only on us but on our nations.

I just finished Jonah yesterday and because this is a book I've read many times and seen the Veggie Tales version of even more times than that, I wanted to read it with fresh eyes and fresh perspective. And right out of the gate, my commentary from the ESV Bible blew me away.

"The Lord is a God of boundless compassion not just for 'us' (Jonah and the Israelites) but also for the 'them' (the pagan sailors and Ninevites)" (ESV Bible, pg. 1683).

The entire book of Jonah is about God sending one of his people to a ruthless and cruel nation (historians say that the Ninevites had rows and piles of human skulls because of their evil and cruelty) to relay God's message of mercy and compassion towards them if they would repent. Which they did. And Jonah was furious that God would extend compassion to outsiders, and to such cruel outsiders at that. In fact, Ravi Zacharias says that when God asks Jonah if he's angry about it, that in the original Hebrew language, Jonah's response is so strong that it could be translated, Yes, I'm damned angry!

I've narrowed down two reasons why I think Donald Trump is so popular in this presidential race:

1) His promises to protect us from fill-in-the-blank, but most notably Muslims and Islam.

2) His promises to make us richer.

In Daniel chapter 5, Daniel is called upon by King Belshazzar to interpret a terrifying message that was literally written on the wall for him; for brevity's sake, I'll summarize what Daniel said:

King Belshazzar, your father was given power and wealth by God. What he said and purposed happened because of his great power and wealth and renown. But, BUT

"when his heart was lifted up and his spirit hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. He was driven from among the children of mankind (literally driven insane)... until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this... And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, (material wealth) which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored" (vs. 20-23).

Daniel went on to say that Belshazzar had been weighed in God's balance and found wanting and the days of his kingdom were numbered. That night Belshazzar's kingdom was taken captive and he was killed.

Let me tell a quick story. Matt and I have friends that we love dearly, she's American and he's Moroccan. He's also Muslim. We have them in our home, they have us in their home. He's cooked Moroccan food for us (yum). He's shared his family and stories with us. He's painted a vibrant picture of growing up in a small town in Morocco and the way everyone cares for one another and the way they eat their meals on cushions gathered tightly around one big table. The way the siblings take care of their aging parents. Agh, our hearts are just so tender towards him. We truly love them both.

And I just told Matt the other day that I had prayed and told the Lord that I would have no greater joy than to see ____ come to know Jesus. It would truly be my greatest delight to see him come to know Christ and have new life. My heart aches when I think of him being separated from the Lord.

To me, and so many others who love those of other beliefs, it's not "those people". It's not Them and Us. It's people by name that we love and desperately want to see turn to Jesus.

As long as we allow Party lines and groupthink to control how we think and vote, it stays Us and Them. I think one of the most astounding things about Jesus is that he came to us and has chosen to know each of us intimately. Knowing makes all the difference. It's a lot harder to spew hateful rhetoric towards a person or group when you know what keeps that person up at night; the fears they have for their children; you've seen the tears trace their cheeks; you've cried your own tears for their loss and abuse; when you read in God's own Word how desperately he loves those in darkness and the great lengths he goes to rescue and redeem.

No, I won't be voting for Donald Trump. By God's grace, I want to avoid the pitfall that the Israelites found themselves in time and time again: putting their trust and the future of their nation in the hands of an arrogant and rich ruler to protect them and make them rich and ultimately turning away from God in the process.

And an interesting thing is that they kept up their religious habits. They kept offering sacrifices and worshiping in the temple, but Amos 5 says that because they had trusted in other things and their hearts had turned from the Lord, God tells them:

"I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."
Amos 5:21-24

(It's also interesting that just before these verses it says in verse 10 that the people "hate those who speak the truth." This is just as true today, though it should in no way mean we stop being truth-tellers.)

And if we think that this message is only for the Israelites in the Old Testament, here's what Revelation says to believers now:

"For you say, 'I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing,' not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked" (5:17).

And a couple verses later, "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent" (vs. 19).

Be zealous about God's truth and repent where we've believed anything else. Repent where we've trusted in anyone and anything other than God alone.

Repent.

"'Yet even now,' declares the Lord,
'return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
and rend your hearts and not your garments.'
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster." 
Joel 2:13

2nd Corinthians 7:10 puts it this way:

"For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death."

Listen, I know what grief feels like. It's severe and it's painful. Repentance isn't free from pain; it brings grief when we see how and where we've turned from God and put our trust in earthly things, but God's ultimate goal is our true freedom. Freedom from misplaced trust that leads to unavoidable disappointment and discipline. He reproves us because he loves us. It's his kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). It's unkindness that allows a friend to keep a steady pace in darkness towards death.

Ultimately this isn't about just Donald or even Hilary or Bernie or Ted. It's about the lens with which we see and vote and live in this country. Is it a Biblical lens? Are we using godly wisdom and not the "wisdom" that comes naturally to our coddled selves, that James 3 tells us is demonic in origin? We can always find something to substantiate what we believe but if it contradicts Biblical truth and godly wisdom then it's origin is demonic. The Bible is clear on that.

The early Christians didn't respond to an ungodly nation and ruler with legislation and hateful two-party lines. They preached the gospel: turn from sin, receive God's free gift of mercy and forgiveness through Jesus Christ, have new life and eternal life. And then they took that new life and spent it on behalf of others in Jesus' Name. And Acts 11:26 tells us that other people first called the believers Christians (like Christ/of Christ). Their lives so looked like Jesus' that they became his literal namesake.

So let's repent. Let us return to the Lord and repent. Let us put our hope and trust and belief in Jesus only.

May our hearts be wholly His and may we walk in truth, armed with godly wisdom found in his word alone.

March 02, 2016

Eden's Birth Story, Part 2

Ok, contrary to popular belief, I did not mean to leave you hanging off a cliff. I just have like 27 kids and all their laundry too.

Read part 1 here.

When we left off, I had Eden in my arms but things were taking a turn for the worse. Some of you may remember that when Luke was 10 days old I hemorrhaged pretty severely and had to have an emergency D&C. I also mentioned briefly in another post that I had had bleeding in Eden's pregnancy too that was subsequently diagnosed as placenta previa. (This all relates, stick with me.)

Only a few hours old! I couldn't resist the head wrap. 


Proud daddy.

Ok, here's a little more to Eden's story. When I was 13 weeks pregnant with her, I had a deja vu moment when I again woke up in a puddle of blood. (I'm so sorry for the graphic picture, but it's what happened.)

When they diagnosed it as a complete previa, it was thought to most likely be a result of the D&C I'd had when I hemorrhaged with Luke. If you've had a D&C it increases your risk for a placenta previa. So from weeks 13-19 with Eden I was on bed rest/light duty. Obviously total bed rest wasn't possible so I had to cut back severely on everything else. My mom was totally even more amazing than she normally is during that time, coming by almost everyday to keep the laundry going and kids bathed and everything else that goes with life. She's the best.

My sweet mama.

This next part is actually a really cool story but I'm trying to avoid a novella so, in short, the elders and pastors of our church anointed us with oil and prayed for a complete healing (like James 5 says to do) and when I went in the next day for my appointment it had completely moved. Completely and totally moved. Amazing and a true miracle because exactly one week prior it had still been a complete previa. Now, they can move and that's the hope but not in a single week's time. So, truly a miracle.

But because I'd had it I was still under supervision from the high-risk OB and at several ultrasounds he noticed concerning things with my placenta, mainly what he called "placental lakes." He said it can cause IUGR (intra-uterine growth restriction), so he wanted to keep a close watch on her growth, especially since she'd consistently measured behind. It wasn't concerning enough at that time to set an induction date but something to keep an eye on.

We had been hoping she'd be born before the New Year for our insurance purposes but again wasn't something we could force.

Ok, now fast forward to right after she was born. The nurses had just finished cleaning things up and when I sat up I felt a huge gush of blood. They quickly got my midwife who flew back into the room and sure enough blood was gushing out of me. She said she was going to have to do a manual sweep (um, ouch) and amazingly was able to get several large pieces of placenta (called a retained placenta) but the bleeding wouldn't stop. She made the call to have the on-call OB come in and do an emergency D&C. This is where things for me get very hazy and I'm relying on Matt's account of the story. I didn't know for several weeks that I had gone into shock. I couldn't figure out why I had such little to non-existent memory of what happened.

Matt said that the anesthesiologist came in and this is where it became like a movie. He said he was barking orders to everyone, saying things like, I don't want you to think her blood (for a transfusion) is on its way, I want you to know exactly where it's at!

Everything was a flurry of action and working to try and stop the bleeding.

I had so much fluid pumped into me in such a short amount of time (Matt said that the anesthesiologist was literally pumping the fluid bag by hand) that my eyes were swollen shut. Which I didn't know was the reason I couldn't see so when I came to I kept asking Matt to wipe my eyes, thinking I had something on them that kept me from being able to see anything.

So I was whisked away for surgery and my favorite story Matt told me about coming to was that I croaked to the recovery nurse that I could still feel blood coming out and she leaned over and said so sweetly, That's ok sweetie, a little blood is normal. Is this your first baby? He said I didn't even say anything, I just held up 5 fingers.

I tell you, I can't even escape myself in my unconsciousness.

When I finally came fully to I was a wreck. Not only was my body recovering from having a baby but also severe blood loss and surgery. I despaired that entire first day of her life, totally unable to fathom how I was going to be able to parent three other kids and have a newborn. All I could think about was how difficult it was recovering after Luke's hemorrhage and now I had another kid and another newborn.

The boys seeing her for the first time!

Sweet Luke was (and is) so gentle with her. 

One of my favorite moments of my entire life.

That was Sunday and on Monday the high-risk OB made the call to do a blood transfusion. He said in this day and age odds are 1 in a million of having an adverse reaction, but I could have honestly cared less. All I wanted was a  jump start to recovery. There was no way I could go home with how depleted I was from all the blood loss.

I got two full bags of blood and I do not exaggerate when I say the effect was immediate. I couldn't believe that I hadn't gotten one after my first hemorrhage. It would have made all the difference in my recovery. But I'm so thankful I did this time because it truly was just what I needed.

The boys meeting her for the first time was amazing. They were so sweet with her, even our wild Lukey.




Our other Nana, Matt's mom. She's awesome too.

Hospital room shenanigans.


How to keep three kids entertained: food and TV. 

Because of all that I had to stay in the hospital for a couple days longer than normal and I was so happy to finally go home.

Going home!


One last thing. I'll be writing a whole post on this but Matt and I have always used Natural Family Planning (NFP) in our marriage, and though I had felt from the beginning of Eden's pregnancy that it was my last one neither Matt nor I felt good about making that kind of permanent decision just because we felt that way. We literally talked about it the entire pregnancy. And in such a gracious way, the Lord really answered the question for us.

I said in the beginning that everything related and the common denominator was my uterus. The doctors said I have so much scar tissue in my uterus that another pregnancy is almost guaranteed to result in the same way.

One of the most sobering things that we learned from my midwife was that as unhealthy as my placenta was, that Eden really came when she needed to (she was 12 days early). Which is also why she was so tiny, my uterus simply wasn't healthy enough. To give you some perspective, Asher our second son, was ten days early and weighed 8lbs, 3oz.

So Eden is our last baby. And I have total peace about it. We couldn't ask for a sweeter, more perfect ending to this childbearing season.

Just a few days old.

(More on our experience with NFP in a future post. I know it can be a divisive subject but I promise it won't be inflammatory, just informative.)

Thanks for following our journey, friends!

March 01, 2016

Eden's Birth Story, Part 1

Finally. Here we are. Only 9 weeks from her birth. Her story. Eden Hope's story.


Her stats.

Born: December 27th at 2:44am

Weight: 6lbs, 1oz

Height: 19 inches




Ok, her story begins the week before she made her appearance. But let's recap first.

Eden is my 5th baby in six years. I've carried and delivered naturally (no c-sections) five babies. Five. So this isn't what you call my first rodeo. I know a thing or two about having babies.

Says the mama who's about to have experience thrown in her face.

Back to one week prior.

I should also say that I have never experienced false labor. For me, once the first signs of labor started, baby was on the way.

Ok, back to one week prior. (Oh my gosh, I'm driving myself crazy.)

Eden was born late on a Saturday night but that previous Monday I had taken all the boys to the Y to have a break from parenting and to walk the track. That had been my routine for some time but that day as I was walking I kept having to stop and breathe through painful...pain. I wasn't necessarily terming them "contractions" yet. But it eventually got to the point that I barely made it down the stairs and to the bathroom to call my midwife's office.

She wanted me to come in right away so I gathered all the boys and took them to her office. It was only right in the middle of lunch and nap time so not a big deal at all. Optimal time really. The pains continued and while I was there she said I was dilating and definitely in the early stages of labor and didn't feel comfortable with me driving myself home to pack our things so to have Matt leave work and come get me.

Well, this was big because Matt has patients scheduled and his time off wasn't set to start for another week so it was going to be a huge deal if it turned out to be nothing.

I bet you can see where this is going.

So we grabbed lunch, went home, I took a shower, packed my bags and then...nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not only had that never happened to me before but now Matt had canceled his patients for the entire week and it was looking like it was all going to be for no reason at all.

Ugh, the frustration.

(And I know, I know, babies will come when they're ready but this is my story so blah, blah, blah.)

There's a lot that happened during the following days (stripped membranes, walking, jumping jacks, etc.) but let's move ahead to Saturday or we'll be here all day.

Saturday morning (the day after Christmas) Matt and I woke up ready and recharged to walk this baby out. So we took the entire fam to the Y again where I speed-walked a mile and a half; whatever I could to encourage the whole baby actually coming out thing.

We decided to skip naptime and hit the mall and run errands and then we decided to go sledding again. We had already been sledding several times that week but I had just watched every time. But this time I decided I was going to sled too. And it was so much ridiculous fun. I belly laughed every single time I went down. It was one of the most fun times of that week for me.


We got back home a little after 5 and within an hour contractions had started again. But after my previous experience I was terrified to get my hopes up. We did alert our moms just in case it was the real deal and I walked our house while watching worship from Passion 2015. It's such a sweet memory for me, walking the house in the dark with snow outside and worship inside. I love those kinds of memories that stay with you.

The contractions continued to pick up in intensity and were getting closer and closer together so we finally headed for the hospital around 8 that night where my midwife met us. They immediately got me checked in and hooked up, and when they checked me I was a...3.

A three. A measly, small, insignificant, tiny 3. Little bitty 3. Just sitting there, so cute, in its teensiness.

I was truly shocked. At the level of pain I was experiencing I expected to at least be a 6 or 7, based on my previous labors. Again, maybe I've had kids before? I don't know. I was starting to second-guess my entire existence. I've had an epidural with every labor but I've gotten them when I was dilated to 8s and 9s, not baby-faced 3s.

Anyways, that set the precedent for an entirely different labor experience.

My midwife broke my water to keep things going and I turned down the epidural until I felt "like I needed it." (Future me hates past me for that.) Matt and I walked the halls to keep moving and after one particular contraction that doubled me over in the halls, I said, I want to go back and get the epidural now.


So we made our way back but every contraction that hit doubled me over until I barely made it to the room. Matt let the nurse know who then made her way to me and what I can now recognize as that tone of voice you use with unstable people said, He (the anesthesiologist) just went next door. 

Next door, like another building, next door? I asked with crazy eyes.

No, next door to another laboring woman's room, she responded with such the utmost care.

Commence literally the most physically painful hour of my entire life. Listen, I've experienced transition pain. I know what contractions feel like. I love natural births and home births and birthy births. I love everything about them. Never enough to experience one completely, but I still love them.


No. Not after this. Honestly, this is the one labor I don't look back on fondly, except for to be glad it's over. I have never panicked like I did with Eden's labor. Every time a contraction would begin I would start crying all over again and sink into a dark pit of despair. I literally (I can't think of another way to describe it) felt like my bum was going to split in half.

This continued for an hour at least, during which time I may probably have said things like, I just hate herHer being the laboring woman next door. And, Babe, please just go in there and ask him what's taking him so long. There being the laboring woman's room.

Matt was amazing. So steady and calm and ready to help however I needed him. Except for barging into our neighbor's room. He drew the line at helpfulness right there.


Finally (FINALLY) he came to our room, I loved him at first sight, he placed my epidural, and I settled in for some rest. (I don't know what time this was, but after 11 I think? Maybe later?)

At 2:30 in the morning on the nose, I felt something in my body drastically shift and change. I asked the nurse to check me and she said I was a 6, maybe a 7. Seriously, again I was so shocked. I expected to be complete with the way my body felt and the way I was feeling the contractions and bearing down, even with the epi.


Turns out I did know a little something about labor because 14 minutes later, Eden was born. In 14 minutes, I went from a 6 to complete to a baby in my arms.


Oh, that relief to hold her! To finally have my sweet baby girl in my arms. I cannot even describe it. I didn't even cry, I just stared and stared at her face, just overcome and overwhelmed that she was finally here.



And she was so tiny! Barely cracking 6 pounds, a teeny squish of delight.



Unfortunately, after her birth things went downhill very fast. Matt said it looked like a scene out of a movie.

Eyes swollen shut, barely out of surgery, oxygen in, massive blood loss, and all I kept asking for was Eden. Amazing how deep God makes a mother's love. 
But I'll have to save that for Part 2! Coming soon, I promise!

Part 2 here.