{Mommy Journal} A 20-Month Letter

FullSizeRender-11DSC_3446DSC_3518Dear Caleb,

Life is going so quickly right now and I wish I could keep up with writing down all your dear little antics. You are an absolute joy and thrill to our hearts. We could not imagine a more lovable, feisty, energetic, silly, affectionate, relational 20-month-old than the one God has given us. Every day with you is a new adventure and I am just smitten with the little person you are becoming.

I realized the other day, as I was cooking and you were busy pulling dishes out of your cupboard, that somehow, wherever I am, you end up there and find something to keep you happy. If I am in the bedroom putting away laundry, you’ll be in the corner playing with Daddy’s reading light. If I am in the living room sending apartment emails, you will be at your book basket reading. If I am in the bathroom getting ready for the day, you will be at the counter, seeing what you can reach and asking to put on deodorant. If I am in your room picking up, you will be pounding your workbench. It doesn’t matter where I go…you are my shadow and you follow me and stay busy next to me. I know it won’t be like this for long, and I treasure those moments of noticing your constant presence and your desire to be where Mommy is.

We love so many quirks about you.
– your crowd cheer
– the way you run and jump onto the bed when Mommy’s making it
– your infatuation with clocks and smoke alarms
– the way you call stars “tinkle stars” and then start signing “tinkle, tinkle little star”
– your noise and hand motion for an elephant
– the way you still sign “bath” when saying it
– your love for playing Hop on Pop
– the way you ask, “shoulders?” when you see Daddy leaving for work
– how you’ve started adding “too” to words for emphasis… “too hot,” “too big,” etc.
– your passion for books. Right now your favorites are Lentil and Bread and Jam for Frances.
– the way you point out “Mommy’s oo-ee (smoothie), Cabub’s oo-ee”. You’re very intent on whose is what, and refer to yourself in the third person.
– your love for nursery
– the way you pull our faces in and give us kisses right on the lips
– your giggles as you run to get in between Daddy and Mommy’s hugs
– when you say “more neck” so I’ll keep kissing under your double chin
– your obsession with “blankie” and “other blankie” for naps and bedtime
– your love for puzzles
– how you chatter about everything you’re reading during blanket time
– the way you say “oh-gurt” (yogurt) and “pagetti”
– when you’re so excited about something, you say “oooooh, yeaaaaah!”
– your passion for all kinds of balls – beach balls, basketballs, footballs, tennis balls, etc…and your acute awareness of the difference between them
– when you say “happy” as we reach the shopping cart, because you’re going to have a happy heart when Mommy puts you in
– your excitement over time with Lukas and Emma
– your enormous appetite
– the way you ask for “eck-fast” each morning and sometimes after naps
– your hugs and kisses and “awwwwws” for baby Seggie
– your crazy dance moves and amazing sense of rhythm
– how you set your jaw when you are concentrating on something

We love you, sweet Monkey! You are going to be a wonderful big brother and we are so excited to watch you grow and learn. If I could freeze time, I would, yet I know that you will continue to delight us as you get older. We pray that God lays hold of your heart from a young age and that you follow Him with all that you are.

Love,
Mommy

A Letter to Our New Baby

IMG_0067Dear Seggie,

Just because you’re baby #2 doesn’t mean we love you any less. But your big brother sure does make life crazy, compared to when I was expecting him! Although I haven’t journaled weekly updates this time, I’ve kept up on how big you are each week and read about your developments just like I did when Caleb was still Yaffie. You are growing like a weed!

Daddy and I were so excited the day we found out about you, and we could hardly believe it was true. I felt all warm and fuzzy inside at the thought of another child to love and cuddle. It was so fun getting to tell our families in person and they were all just as excited as we were. As the days went on, you started to make me really sick. The weeks felt long, but I never for one tiny moment doubted that you were worth it. We talked about you a lot, what we would name you and when you might arrive–our little Christmas baby. We told Caleb about you and he learned to pat and kiss you through my tummy. We are reading books about being a big brother so that he will be ready when you arrive.

Gradually, I started to have some good days, after we hit 14 weeks. Between weeks 15 and 16, I started to feel some of your very subtle movements. On the Sunday I was 16 weeks, you danced to Psalm 139 put to music at church–so appropriate! We were singing about how God knew you before you were even formed in my womb.

Daddy first felt you playing at 16 weeks, 2 days. Your wiggles were soft but definitely there. Things really started getting real then. You were developing personality and we knew you could hear our voices. I feel you throughout the day now, and it brings a warm smile to my face.

We love you so much, sweet Seggie. We can’t wait to get to know you as the weeks progress. Will you be active and outgoing like your big brother? Or quiet and laid back? Will you love long snuggles, or will you be a squirmer? Will you devour books? Adore animals? Only time will tell.

Love,
Mommy

{Marriage Journal} A Baby Is Not An Escape

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Here are a few thoughts I drafted one month before Caleb was born, but never posted. 15 months later, I’m convinced more than ever that a solid marriage is the best foundation from which to begin adding children to the mix! =) 

Andrew and I are bursting with excitement to meet our first child sometime in the next several weeks. It’s truly a day we’ve talked and dreamed about for years, and it’s finally here.

Goodbye, Just Us

Saying hello to this beautiful new season of life called parenting has meant bidding farewell to an equally amazing time as just the two of us, and that makes me sad. Andrew is my very favorite person and best friend, and no matter how much one-on-one time we are blessed with, I could always enjoy even more. I’m never tired of his company, and when he is at school, I look forward to his return all day long. Sometimes we can’t even wait through his 20 minute commute and one of us calls the other when he’s out of class so we can start talking while he drives. =)

This is not to say that we do not sin against each other, behave selfishly, hurt one another’s feelings, have conflict, and hit bumps in the road, because we do. But thanks entirely to the grace of God, our relationship is characterized by unity and camaraderie. He has enabled us to establish the habit of keeping short accounts, so that matters of conflict are addressed quickly and willing forgiveness is granted regularly. This makes for an imperfect but oh, so sweet friendship. Praise God!

Hello, Parenthood

The natural progression of life is to start having children sometime after your wedding, and that’s a very good thing. But I think it would be easy to seek this “next step” of parenting as a means of escape from the monotony of a marriage that has become at best boring, or even downright unhappy.

Escape is never the right reason to begin having children. Adding babies to an unhealthy marriage is a sure way to make that marriage even worse. I cannot imagine navigating just the challenges of pregnancy with a husband I’m not close to, let alone trying to raise a little person(s) together. That sounds like the recipe for disaster.

If you happen to be someone currently married and pre-babies, I would encourage you not to crave that “next step” as a way to restore excitement or add a new distraction to your life. It may be wise to evaluate your relationship with your husband and take purposeful steps to help it flourish. (This is always a good idea, regardless of your season of life.) Pinpoint where you are sinning or slacking off in your marriage and ask the Lord to change you from the inside out and grow you into the wife He has called you to be. Communicate with your husband and work together to strengthen your friendship. Of course, all our people problems can be traced back to where our hearts are at with God, so this area of our lives must be addressed first.

Having children should be a joyful step that married couples decide to take as one happy unit. I don’t know this first hand yet, but I have observed that parenting is a team effort and should draw dad and mom closer to one another as they learn to lean on God through brand new challenges and responsibilities that children bring.

You’re Already a Family

Instead of thinking of “starting a family” as the morning you get a positive pregnancy test, think of your wedding day as that moment. You are a family, just the two of you. Soak up this precious season of life as “newlyweds” (even if it’s been years) and build into your friendship with your husband. After all, when the kids are grown and gone, you’ll be right back where you are now. If your littles were your escape from “just the two of you”, that doesn’t sound like a happy way to enter the “empty nesters” phase.

I know there are countless stories of unhappy couples having children, and God using parenting as a tool to refine the marriage and bring the husband and wife closer together. All is certainly not lost when babies are added to a rocky marriage. Praise the Lord! But it is ideal to work toward that healthy relationship before the kiddos come along, so consider how you might do that now. Never view a baby as an escape; instead ask the Lord to create a marriage you don’t want to escape from.

{Reading Report} Children’s Christmas Stories

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If you don’t read Christmas picture (or chapter) books as a family, I encourage you to begin the tradition! Many of my fondest memories from December are those of my mom and dad reading Christmas stories aloud to me and my brothers. And now it is one of my favorite things about having a toddler at Christmastime, although we very much need to start building our Christmas book library! =)

I’d like to introduce you to my favorite children’s Christmas books...

When I Celebrate His Birthday

whenicelebrateThis is a simple board book that I grew up on, and my mom was so thoughtful to order one for Caleb this year! It’s been one of his favorites, he brings it to me often. There’s not much to it, but a little girl shares about how her family celebrates Jesus’ birthday every year at Christmas time, and I love the sweet illustrations.

Christmas at Rumpole Mansion

rumpolini-001It appears to be out of print, which is a shame, because I remember this book the most fondly of them all! With a little prompting, I still have it memorized almost word-for-word to this day. It’s the story of a mouse family who learns the valuable lesson, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” at Christmas time. The illustrations of life in a cozy mouse home are absolutely captivating to little ones. Both my parents read it aloud multiple times every year and I can’t wait to do the same for our kiddos one day!

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

The old widower woodcarver is in no mood for making friends. But when a kind widow and her vivacious young son hire him to recreate their precious Nativity set in time for Christmas, gloomy Mr. Toomey’s heart begins to soften and new relationships are on the brink of forming. The paintings in this book are absolutely gorgeous and the narration of the audio book is excellent!

The Legend of the Candy Cane

9780310730125I’m disappointed that this book comes “newly illustrated”, as it would be impossible to improve on the vibrantly detailed paintings in the original. However, the message still stands. It’s about the meaning behind the candy cane–a classic piece of Christmas that tells the story of Jesus’ birth and sacrifice on the cross. This book would make the perfect gift for an unsaved family or for use as an evangelism tool in your own home.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Okay, so you’re probably all too familiar with this classic from Dr. Seuss. But I had to include it because the Christmas season was never complete without my dad reading it aloud to us multiple times. It’s a silly story, but I’m forever endeared to it. The rhyming is catchy and the original animated movie is great, too. =)

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

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I love this board book, which was introduced to me this spring by my sister-in-law Shelby. It’s a well-rhymed poem (not all poetic children’s books actually flow the way they should!) and the vibrant pictures catch Caleb’s eye every time. =)

Miracle in a Shoe Box: A Christmas Gift of Wonder

51XjPSeeL7L._SL500_SL160_This fictional account of two children who are blessed by Samaritan Purse’s shoe box ministry brings good perspective to the holiday season. We are so richly blessed in America, while so many people around the world are living in turmoil and have nothing material to enjoy. I loved this story growing up, and it inspired our family to participate in the shoe box project at least one year that I recall. Reading Miracle in a Shoe Box made picturing the children who would receive our gift that much more special.

But Adoption’s Not For Us, Is It?

DSC_0104As I shared in my most recent blog post, God has used the recent Planned Parenthood “scandal” to awaken my heart to the plight of unborn children in our nation.

But it’s neat to see how, previous to these videos being released and my awareness of abortion being heightened, God was already stirring within me a desire to help needy children.

Around February, I began giving thought to orphans. When I saw firsthand how dependent our own baby was on us for all his needs, and how he responded to the simplest gestures of affection and tenderness, it broke my heart to consider kids who don’t experience even the most basic love and care.

It’s great to be a pro-life, pro-adoption Christian, but how could I act on those convictions? I had never “felt called” to adopt, although I loved seeing adoptive families in action. I wondered to myself, What if “being called” to adopt is nothing more than simply seeing the need and our obligation to help orphans, recognizing that I am equipped to fill the need, and taking the step to do so?

Well, as soon as I thought that, suddenly my heart became very drawn to the idea of adoption and I could hardly get it off my mind. God was definitely at work!

So about this time (March?), I casually raised the topic with Andrew. I wanted to let him know that it was something I’d started thinking about, and hear his thoughts. He shared that while he had never considered adopting, he was definitely open to it, but figured during seminary was probably not workable timing. I agreed.

But over the following weeks, we discussed adoption more and more. I began looking into the various avenues for adopting children and was staggered by 1) the huge need for adoptive families and 2) the astronomical costs for both international and domestic adoptions. Then I began researching adoption through foster care. I learned that while there are huge “risks” and major challenges to this route, it is also affordable…actually, free!

By this time, Andrew and I were talking and praying more and more seriously about pursuing adoption while still in seminary. We had begun reading Adopted for Life together, which approaches the theological, gospel-centered reasons to adopt. The Lord had now clearly laid the same burden for orphans on Andrew’s heart, and we were very much “in this” together, which excited me to no end!

I looked into a local Christian foster agency and made contact. We got more questions answered and sought some trusted friends for counsel. Finally, we pulled the first of many triggers…we filled out the application and scheduled a meeting in August with the agency!

Some of the “downsides” to foster care adoption are…

  • There is no guarantee that the child placed in your home will be adoptable, even after months or years of being part of your family. He/she is likely to be reunited with their parents or relatives, which is the first goal of foster care.
  • Many foster placements require regular visits with the biological family, which can be time-consuming and emotionally draining.
  • Foster children are extremely likely to have mild-to-extreme physical, emotional, developmental, or psychological damage, even when placed as newborns.
  • The process to adopt a child from foster care can drag on for years.

While much of what we learned in our meeting with the agency made us all-the-more passionate about fostering, we learned some new information that seemed to be direction from God that continuing to pursue adoption while in seminary was not wise. We were already “running out of time” anyway due to the fact that Andrew will, Lord-willing, graduate in spring 2017, and the additional details and rules regarding the process just did not mesh well with our current situation.

All of this was extremely disappointing. I had already begun to experience maternal emotions as I prepared my heart to welcome a new child into our home, and it was difficult to have that desire denied for the time being. At the same time, it was encouraging to have clear direction, and Andrew and I were thankful that we were 100% agreed about pressing the “pause” button.

All that said, we are very hopeful and excited that the Lord may allow us to seriously pursue adoption in the future! We don’t know exactly what that will look like, as there are many factors at play, but we are eager to see what child(ren) God might choose to gift us as we follow His leading! Even if adoption is not in our own future, we desire to be more involved in promoting it and supporting others who do take this step. We’ve come to realize that as Christians, we should all love and be involved in the care of orphans, but what that looks like will be different for every family.

I wanted to share all this to hopefully encourage anyone else whose hearts might be stirred toward taking an orphan into their family. It is a huge step, but God will enable and provide if adoption is in His plan for you. I’ve seen him do it for many wonderful families I know. If you begin considering adoption, it is crucial to be unified and communicative as a couple. It has been a wonderful thing to work through and talk about with Andrew! We’ve obviously only begun to scratch the surface of all that God might desire to teach us through this, but I am excited and thankful for where the discussion has taken us so far.

In the meantime, since we will not be pouring hours into getting certified, preparing our home, etc., as we had thought we would, I am finding other ways to be involved in the care of orphans and the defense of life. Stay tuned for some updates on doors God is opening in that area!

Also, if you’re looking for an inspiring, convicting, true story of sacrificial love for orphans, go watch The Dropbox!

“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)

“Sing to God, sing praises to His name; lift up a song for Him who rides through the deserts, Whose name is the LORD, and exult before Him. A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation.” (Ps. 68:4-5)

“How blessed is he who considers the helpless; The LORD will deliver him in a day of trouble.” (Ps. 41:1)

{My Photography} Jon, Jessica, & Baby Matthew

It’s been far too long since I’ve blogged, I know. I’ve got about five different posts bouncing around in my brain, but life has been really crazy! For now I just wanted to quickly share a few photos I was privileged to capture of this sweet couple last weekend. Jon and Jessica are expecting Matthew, a sweet baby boy who has Trisomy 18. I would like to encourage you to read their story on Jessica’s blog and lift them up in prayer as they approach their due date!

http://giftofyahweh.blogspot.com/

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