Sunday, July 10, 2016

Finding Home - Part One and a Half

Finding Home - Part One and a Half

Jeremiah 17:7-8

"But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."

Part 1.5 - Renting

Soooo the journey of selling our old home (Part 1) was quick, in retrospect of course. While we were in the thicket of it, yes it felt like forever! It was always our plan to sell before seriously looking for a new home. I was convinced I would find the perfect house before ours sold and then we'd have to watch it sail down the river with another crew aboard. I'm that way with a lot of things. I don't like to look for things until we have the money for them. Sure I window shop to some degree but I didn't want to do any SERIOUS house shopping until we knew our house was under contract. With that being said we always knew in the back of our minds that there was a possibility that we'd not find a house in time and we'd have to rent.

Well that possibility became reality, even though I never really thought it would. We looked at a few house but God had not yet revealed our house which seemed to work out okay since we had all the drama with the first contract falling through and then getting another one. I had even begun looking for temporary housing when we found the "Hoof" house. With this house we were going to do a quick close and so if we rented back our old house from the new owners for a few days we would have been just fine, however that was not the case. The "Hoof" house didn't workout (more to come in Part 2) and so on May 10th, just a few weeks from closing and being homeless (literally), we realized we'd have to find a house or apartment to rent in between homes. 

This moment was one I have so vividly etched into my memory. I remember talking to my mom and step dad on the phone when we realized the "Hoof" house wasn't going to work out and I needed to rally and figure out where God wanted us to go. My step dad told us to pray together. I got off the phone and laid with Matt in our bed and I told him I didn't have the words to pray and I don't think he did either. Our emotions were everywhere. Our thoughts all jumbled together. Our kids and our well being on the forefront of our over loaded minds. But in these times, times when you can't come up with the words, our loving God is there no matter what. Romans 8:26-28 tells us "Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant conditions, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is working into something good." (The Message translation).

Just a few weeks earlier in my Thursday Bible study, before we'd found the "Hoof" house, I randomly asked if anyone knew of a place or had a place that my family could rent because we were about to be homeless (said in a joking manner). A lady I barely know, Darlene, (since she'd missed much of the study due to her husbands illness) said she had a place. It was in a part of town I wasn't familiar with and we exchanged information. About a week later she called me to say she didn't think the house would be ready in time for us to use it and I told her no problem since we'd found the "Hoof" house by that time, we wouldn't need temporary housing. I was so grateful for her willingness but was grateful too that I wouldn't need it.

Fast forward now two weeks and I'm at the same Bible study in tears and speechless. Frustrated and scared. Upset and nervous. In God's arms and waiting on His provision. Just two days earlier, Tuesday evening, I had found out that the "Hoof" house was no longer viable and we'd have to pass on purchasing it. The inspection report came back and it was revealed to us that we'd need another place to live and our house hunt would forge on. 

The Wednesday in between finding out we'd need temporary housing and Bible study, I had begun the day on the floor, in tears and on the phone with my mom. After getting all the frustration and tears out I began looking for townhouses and apartments. I must have called over 25 places. In the end I had two apartments complexes that could take us. The apartments available were both two bedrooms. Each one would have to be nothing less than a 6 month lease. Both of them cost over $1200 per month. And after a half day of searching I was at ends with God.

Really!?! He wanted me to put my family of 5 into TWO bedrooms. Let's not forget the cat. Plus we'd have to rent a bigger storage unit because we were not fitting our whole house into a two bedroom apartment, not to mention all of the stuff in our shed. I just cried and cried what felt like all day. I couldn't believe this is what God was asking of us?

So at Bible study that next day I just couldn't hold myself together. I just couldn't understand what God was doing with us and why. I wanted to put my faith and trust in Him who has it all worked out and I honestly had no other choice but why on earth a tiny little apartment God...really.

At the end of the study the women, oh my sisters in Christ, all showed such support as I poured out my heart. It was then that Darlene approached me again. She said "I just texted my husband and he said we will do everything in our power to get the house ready for you if you want it." I must have looked as beaten down as I felt, I could see it in her eyes as she looked at me.

The next morning we went and looked at the Darlene and Ray's rental house. Oh I can tell you now I was looking at it through God's eyes and not mine. It was in need of lots of love! It never looked unlivable but it was in rough shape. But they were going to work hard, he assured me, to get it into better shape. They were going to put new flooring in the kitchen and two bathrooms, new toilets, new vanities, new paint throughout, paint the kitchen cabinets, put up ceiling fans, new stove and dishwasher, new fence in the backyard, new shed doors, new window treatments, new kitchen facet and garbage disposal, clean up the hardwood floors, resurface the tub and put in new tub surround walls and some other things that are alluding me know. They had only 2.5 weeks to get it all done before we needed to move in. And God willing, they did got the majority of the work done hours before we moved in. And answered prayers we didn't even know to ask for. This house fit our needs- however temporary- God provided!

For instance, there were no washer and dryer here. Matt and I thought we could do the laundry mat or maybe rent a washer and dryer from one of those "Rent-a-Center" places or at times bum off friends. But the day after we walked through the house Darlene texted me that they were going to put a washer and dryer in too. Tears fell once more- we didn't even ask God but He knew. Although the washer and dryer proved to be the first of many trials we faced while living in the rental. You see, they didn't get hooked up until 5 days after we moved in- unknown to us until the day of move in. But hey those five days taught me that I wouldn't have lasted 6 weeks without a washer and dryer! God knew, oh yes, He knew!

Many more trails came to us after the washer and dryer were hooked up though. But first I want to sing the praises of God's provisions. The rental house might have been twenty plus minutes from everything and everywhere but it FIT.OUR.NEEDS. We didn't have to rent any other space. And the rent per month was a fraction of what we would have spent on those apartments! The shed fit all our 'shed stuff' and the patio fit our other outdoor stuff too (kids toys and patio furniture, etc.). There were THREE bedrooms! I never thought one bedroom could make or break me but this was HUGE after touring those tiny apartments. The biggest bedroom housed all three girls beds/crib and dressers plus three hampers and a nightstand. Matt and I had all of our bedroom stuff in a small bedroom where there is just enough room to walk around the bed and from the door to the closet (all we really need for a short stay). The third bedroom housed our many unpacked boxes, our food and Annabelle's stuff. The living room was plenty big enough and housed the majority of our furniture. The kitchen was sufficient and then there was one more room, I called it the back room- which is where we had the table and the computer desk. 

The house was only ~100 square feet less than our old house. I had to laugh when my FIL came up to me they day we moved into it and said "The movers don't think we're going to fit all your stuff in this house." I just gave him the "don't worry about it- it's going to work" kind of look. And to their astonishment it all fit fine.

One thing I wasn't prepared for, and I don't know if I ever could have been was the emotional aspect of the move. With all our physical needs being met, it was hard to anticipate the emotion roller coaster I'd be on as we moved into the rental. I was sad for leaving the old house, but not in a way that made me want to stay there. No, I was very ready to put that house behind us and found 'home' somewhere else. However, I wasn't ready to find 'home' in the rental. I was very tired after the trials of selling the house and I think I was very frail. This made living in the rental hard for me. This wasn't what I had planned, I know please keep your laughing to a minimum, but I didn't like the place. Not the actual place but what it meant emotionally.

It meant moving twice and all the physical, financial, and  emotional energy that this was going to take. It meant that I was going to have to stretch myself and live on faith that I didn't know I had. It meant that I was going to have to be patient once again. It meant that I was going to live in a state of limbo and have to hunt for my things and live out of boxes. It meant that I was going to have to rely on God more than ever before because God was taking us down a road that was going to cause us to hold onto our faith in Him and let the rest of it go, the rest of ourselves and our thoughts.

You see we didn't move in and have smooth sailing. No we had many trials during our first three weeks of living here. For the sake of organization I'm going to make a timeline of the tribulations and let you infer how we were broken down before God lifted us back up... 

Week One:
-No washer & dryer for five days
-My mom comes into town and is a huge emotion support 

Week Two:
-We lose air conditioning in the heat of summer for four days
-We lose our bathtub as they begin work on the tub surround and fixtures for three days
-My mom heads back to her home

Week Three:
-We lose power after a bad storm (just 24 hours after getting AC back) for three days

As I list it out it doesn't seem as traumatic as it felt during everything. But it just felt like one thing after another and I was emotionally spent before it all began. I went to bed exhausted each day and just waiting for what would come next. It seemed like every time I took a breath and felt like we must be through the worst of it, something else came along.

My mom had gone home on a Wednesday and the following Sunday at church (when we still had no power) she said she prayed that if nothing else God would give us back our AC. That a week without it was more than enough and if He was going to continue to mold us in these ways that he would at least give us cool air to weather the storm. 

But around the corner of each trial there was God provision. From friends who lent use of their washer and dryer and bathtub and cool house in the heat of the day. To the use of our church freezer for our food and refugee when the house was being worked on. To wonderful landlords who where doing things to make the house comfortable for us- including putting a new AC unit in. To having found our 'forever' home- giving me comfort that this time in our lives was temporary and that God's promises to provide and prosper us were as true during our trials as they were every other day of our lives.

I grew A LOT in that house. It was there that I really just lived on faith each and everyday, in a way I wouldn't have if we had gone from the old house right into a new house. God wants us to prosper. In 2 Corinthians 8:9, he says "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." and in Jeremiah 29:11 He says, "For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." And these and many other promises didn't change just because my earthly circumstances did. God was providing for us and molding us to be more like Him and to have faith that can move mountains.

I often times want to write on here to get out all the love God shows me daily. I want to write down memories to reflect on later, memories my feeble brain might forget otherwise. But I also want a written archive of my faith journey. How God took the worldly heart of one woman and transformed it into a heart worthy of God's eternal, heavenly future. Of all the things God promises, easy is not one of them. Our selfish, sinful nature wants life to be easy and for things to be handed to us but God wants us to grow and become the person He brought us into this world to be and I don't want to be anyone else and the trials of this life will just make me realize that this is not our home! We were created for something bigger. So I'll leave you with a poem I came across and it really struck a cord in my heart. Don't worry...Part 2 is coming because our newest HOME is just moments away and I can't wait to share the story of how it came to be ours!!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Finding Home - Part 1

Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Part 1 - Selling Our House

It was this time last year that God started us down the journey of finding a new home and selling our current home. In the fall we spoke with my great friends husband, Mike (he's a realtor), about if we could even do such a thing. You see we bought our house at the top of the market back in 2006- ten years ago. Little did we know then that it was the top and the housing bubble was about to burst. He said he was confident we could. We calculated the numbers and came up with the magic number of what we would need to sell our house and get out. And by that I mean to just be able to put this house behind us, not make a dime off it. We were all optimistic it was possible so we made plans to put it on the market the following spring.

It was then that I began praying for the people who would love our home as theirs and for our next home to be ready for us to grow into. This process has been bathed in prayer from the moment of conception and God's hand has been in every up and down too. But as you'll see God's plan isn't always ours and our dreams are often not as big as His. But He tells us to be transformed to His ways, His good, acceptable and perfect ways. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD (Isaiah 55:8). 

Well fall and the holiday season went by and before we knew it, January was here. This was the month we began the physical and emotional journey of selling our current home. Little did we know how this journey was going to stretch us, break us, mold us and renew us but that is exactly what has happened. 

We spent the beginning of the year preparing the house. We decluttered by renting a storage unit and cleaning out closets, donating things, and just tossing some stuff in the garbage (why have we kept this all these years??). We paired down kitchen supplies and toys. We washed windows and walls. We reorganized and simplified and depersonalized. We spent weekend after weekend working on the house. We painted and moved around furniture. We had a friend from church come and 'stage' the house with decorations. And by the beginning of March the house was ready. I'm not sure we were ready but the house was looking good- we however were a little more tattered and worse for the ware than a few months earlier.

It is kind of an uncomfortable thing to let strangers walk through your home. I would equate it to getting your pants pulled down in public. You are just exposing yourself to whomever called to look at the place. But as reluctant as I was we opened the doors to the public mid March.

Now having people come to into my house was no small thing. Each time we had a showing it took me a good solid hour or so (depending on the state of the house prior to the call) to get it ready. I would start upstairs with picking up toys and making beds. Then I'd stuff all the kids things away (baby gate under a bed, step stools in the bathtub, changing pad under the crib etc.). Then I'd vacuum the whole upstairs. Then I'd move to the downstairs where I would corral the little ones into a room with some form of TV on. I'd pick up, organized, and vacuum. I would have to strap Audrey into her car seat at some point because as soon as I'd get anything picked up she'd be pulling something else back out- oh how I was losing my mind. Then I'd pack the kids into the car with their toys from the living room and put on music or a book and run back in to do the last room and run over my check list to be sure in the hectic moments I didn't forget anything.

It.Was.Crazy!!!! We had the house on the market for only two and a half weeks before the first offer came in and it felt like a lifetime! We were ecstatic but more so me because it meant that I would be able to sleep again. I slept horribly throughout this portion of the process. It was excruciating. I was always on edge and not myself. I found it hard to relax and this was just as exhausting as not sleeping. I didn't enjoy being around myself most days and felt awful for my family who were stuck with me just the same. But that was past us now, or so we thought.

The house was off the market two weeks when we found out that the purchaser was unable to find financing. She was a single mother and had some bad past mistakes still holding her back from her dreams of owning a home. My heart went out to her. In fact, when this first setback came I was okay with it. I just took it in strides. And less that 24 hours later we were right back at the beginning.

Now God was with me, yes it was tough, but let me tell you some days it was His strength and not my own getting me through the constant cleaning and packing up kids and food (the showings during dinner hours were my least favorite, we ate a handful of meals at church due to this craziness). He was with me in the middle of the morning when I couldn't get back to bed and I lay there for hours on end wishing I could calm the anxious thought that kept me awake. He was there when I wanted to cry but instead I put on my big girl britches and did what needed to be done. He was always there.

So now it was April and the house was back on the market. This time it only lasted a week and we had TWO offers come in. I was blown away by how God was just showing us he had this. This time we accepted an offer that came in above asking price! We were jaw dropped at how good our God was. Woohoo! Not only was it a great offer but it was very apparent that they LOVED our house. They wrote a letter to us and I kept thinking "This is what I was praying for." God had answered my prayers!

They quickly did the inspection and secured financing. Everything looked great. Then the house appraised...oh yes, God was still great but the results of the appraisal were not so great. The offere were had accepted was $2,000 over asking price but asked for $4,000 back at closing. This would have given us about $8,000 net profit on the house. We priced our house with a little wiggle room so we would get at least enough to get out of the house. However, the appraisal came in at $4,000 LESS than what we needed to get out of the house without LOSING money. Yes, you read that right. Now we have to pay money to sell our house, more than what was due to the realtors. And yet, God hadn't left us.

They wanted us to fix some windows (totaling about $1,000 to do so) and they said we didn't have to fix them. They had asked for a $450 home warranty and they took that off the table (their realtor is getting it for them). They took off the $4,000 they asked toward closing costs too. So in the end it doesn't seem like much to pay $4,000 to finally put this house in our past. I told Matt multiple times that do this was worth never having to go through this process again. I mean our alternative was not selling the house until it was worth more but when would that be? And we'd have to start from scratch again at that point! No, God didn't want us to do that. He wanted us to surrender the money to Him and His plan. 

So that's where we are now. We officially lose ownership on June 1st and we need to be out of it by June 4th at noon (we've rented back from them for a few days but more about that in Part 2 - Buying a House). More to come though because along side this journey of selling our house, we've been on another journey to find our next home and oh man it has been just as bumpy of a road.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Three Months of Love

 Lord, teach me how you want me to live.
   Do this so that I will depend on you, my faithful God.
Give me a heart that doesn't want anything
   more than to worship you.
Lord my God, I will praise you with all my heart.
   I will bring glory to you forever.
Great is your love for me.
   You have kept me from going down into the place of the dead.

Psalm 86:11-13

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Audrey's Big Day!!!

I guess first I need to introduce the newest member of our family:

Audrey Ruth

Born: April 19th
6 lbs. 4.5 oz. & 19 inches long

So here it is 1 month later and I'm finally getting around to writing her sweet birth story. The story I was praying about for months and wondering what it would be like. This month has flown by and each moment/day seems to go at lightning speed. I truly enjoy every stage and age of childhood, so I get so sad when one passes but then excited for what's to come- it's a confusing thing I know. But oh what joy it's been to have a sweet little baby in the house again! We love her more and more with each passing moment. I've so enjoyed watching her big sisters love on her and having her add to the love/crazy in our house. We're truly blessed beyond measure!

Well where to begin? I'll start with week 37 of pregnancy and go from there because that's when my body started making me nuts and keeping us wondering...

So both Lauren and Olivia were born just over 37 weeks so I wondered if that was my body's limit. So at 37 weeks 1 (a Friday) I had an OB appointment. I woke that morning having some contractions. This is normal, to some degree, for me towards the end of pregnancy but that morning they seemed a little more 'regular' as I woke at an early hour to prepare for the appointment. The plan was that we were dropping Lauren and Olivia at Esther's house and then Matt and I were heading to the appointment. Well that was until I got a text from Esther that poor Evan had been up all morning sick. So as I was getting ready I was racking my brain as to who else could help us. Well since it was Good Friday, Robin didn't have school so I called her and she was able to jump in at the last minute. Problem solved! Well about ten minutes later Matt was putting on his socks and he did something to make his back get messed up. I know putting on his socks of all things, but my dad herniated a disk in his back putting on his socks so you just never know. Well Matt was in obvious pain and at one point asked me to help him walk...while I was having a contraction! I immediately started to panic...what if I am in early labor, then what?!?! He was in no way going to be able to hold a leg let alone do any other helping during labor. So then I called my great friend Heather, the only person in town I would even consider being in the labor room with me, and in panic mode asked if she could help out if this was the day. She said she could do it and to keep her posted. Things seemed to spiral into craziness as the morning continued. I got nervous as the contractions continued so I said we should bring the bag with us, just in case. I was so anxious and in wonder- was this the day??

At the appointment I told my doctor about the contractions and she got right to checking me and I was 1 cm and 'ripe' (such a nice term). She asked if I had timed them and I laughed and told her I hadn't even thought of it with our busy, hectic morning. She hooked me up to a monitor and left me there. She tended to other patients as Matt and I sat. It seemed that as I 'relaxed' (as best I could under those conditions) so did my body and the contractions slowed. I had a few spaced out contraction but the monitor had been hooked up wrong so they didn't even register. When she came back 45 minutes later I just wanted to leave, go home and sleep. So back home I went, off to work Matt went, and sweet baby girl stayed right where she was. Later that evening the contractions came back and were very regular but not very strong- an hour later they were gone altogether.

That was Easter weekend and I spent the whole weekend wondering if it was time. I kept trying to think of anything else I needed to do to prepare. And this is when I also started praying and praying fervently that when the time did come that there was nothing dramatic about it. I prayed to God for a quiet exit to the hospital where I simply had a baby and that was it. No drama, just baby.

And my poor mom was just on call waiting to book her plane ticket so she could be here to help out. She was hoping our baby girl would stay in a little longer since she had a 'can't miss' doctors appointment on the 9th that couldn't be rescheduled. 

Well the week continued, days filled with contractions and no labor. I got to the point where I would just ignore them and go about my day. I just remember being more and more exhausted as each day passed. I would get to the point of having nothing left to give each day by lunchtime- after that I was running on fumes. Only by the grace of God did I continue to put one foot in front of another. Thankfully and unfortunately the month of April was fairly empty since I was planning on having a baby sometime in that month so I didn't plan anything just in case. Well some days I was so thankful since I was just big and done and then other days I needed distractions and something to keep my mind off being big and done.

My next appointment was a week later (38 weeks), also on Friday morning. This time we just took both girls with us. I was not in fear of going into labor during the appointment so I had no problem with bringing them. We brought a wonderful sticker activity book to occupy them and told them that when the doctor came into the room they had to sit with daddy behind mommy while I talked with her. They did wonderfully. She checked me again and I was a "soft 1 cm." I really wonder who comes up with these terms! Well as my sweet little ones were keeping daddy's hands full I asked my doctor about induction.

My doctor broached the subject with me two weeks earlier and since I was so used to giving birth early I didn't even give it a second thought. Then I started to think about it more and more as the days passed. I just kept thinking about how it would really help with planning and my mom and I also thought about how it would help me relax and enjoy the last days of pregnancy as much as I could. Plus, my doctor might actually, finally deliver one of my babies if we went this route- she missed Olivia by ten minutes!  She was open to it and told me how it would all work. She also informed me that the last five patients she had scheduled for an induction went into labor on their own before hand. So that gave me hope that I would too. So we went ahead and got the ball rolling. Later that day, after the appointment, the doctors office called to tell us that we were scheduled to be induced on Monday, April 20th. They gave me all the pertinent information and that I would need to come in on the following Thursday to do all the pre-registration stuff. I got off the phone with mixed feelings.

I really wanted to go into labor on my own- I started praying now for a drama free labor that happened on it's own. I prayed and I prayed most of all for the strength to trust in Him who knows all. To trust and believe that He had it all worked out and if induction was His plan- than that was that and I didn't need to worry about it. But you know how God works- sometimes he takes us down a road that looks to us like a detour but what is to him the right road all along. 

I only spoke of the induction to my mom, Esther (since she was going to take my kids) and another prayerful friend. I know all three of those women were praying hard for me. I am eternally grateful to them for that love. 

Now that we had a set date on the books for our sweet girls potential arrival and it was now passed my mom's important doctor appointment, we could plan for my moms arrival to our house. My mom called me the Sunday following the 38 week appointment and said that her and my step-dad Bill had talked it over and they thought it would be best for her to head our way at the end of the week so she could help me out before and be here a little early incase Audrey came sooner too. My exhausted self was so glad to hear that help was on the way. God knew I needed it!! He always provides for us- Amen!!! I was praying then that the baby wasn't born Monday because that would have made for craziness but thankfully she was still tucked safely inside and content to be there. 

My mom arrived on Wednesday evening. The moment I knew her plane had arrived I let out a breath of relief and relaxed a lot. It was nothing but the grace of God that my mom provided us in those few days leading up to Audrey's birth. Especially since that Thursday I had the pre-registration appointment, right during nap time, that took two and a half hours and cost us $500 (oh we'll get our money back but not until after the hospital and the insurance company go through that long drawn out process of settling the bill- so annoying). Then the next day, Friday again, I had my 39 week OB appointment. So my mom babysat for both appointments- heaven sent!! At this early morning appointment my doctor checked me and said I was a generous 2 cm and said she would like to see me Monday morning already in labor and if I went over the weekend then it was very unlikely that she would be there due to personal obligations (she was throwing a fundraiser at her house for an early childhood preschool program for abused children- she's truly a wonderful lady). At this point I wasn't sure I cared who delivered my baby as long as she somehow made her way out. My doctor also wanted to do an ultrasound that day to check baby's weight. Another time I was overjoyed my mom was in town. So I left that appointment, got home, we all went grocery shopping, then headed back to the doctors for the ultrasound.

It was so cool to have my mom at an ultrasound- she had never had one before and this was her first chance at seeing her newest grandbaby and seeing an ultrasound. The girls came too, and they loved it. The tech gave both of them their very own picture. It was cool for me too, since I had never had an ultrasound so late into my pregnancy. Oh seeing her on the screen made me even more excited for her impending arrival.

After the ultrasound we headed to meet daddy for lunch since we were all starving and Matt works 5 minutes from the hospital. Plus, I was excited to show him the ultrasound pictures. But when we came home from that morning/afternoon I was exhausted to the core, we all were. I was grateful for mom then too, as she cooked dinner and helped with the kids too.

Saturday came and so did some time for rest. It was eighty degrees that day so we set up the pool out back. Matt mowed the lawn and mom and I rested in chairs on the deck watching the girls enjoy the first hot day of the season. As the day progressed so did the intensity of my contractions. During nap time mom and I went for a walk. During the walk she said "I have a feeling about tomorrow." I laughed and told her I've had a feeling about a lot of days when my contractions seemed more intense but I continued to brushed them off.

After dinner that night mom said we should go on another walk, "we're going to walk this baby out" she said. The girls road bikes and I waddled along. Mom took a picture of all of us (I need to get that from her) and told me "you got to look at this Jennifer, you look huge!" Yeah, just what I wanted to hear and see- big ol' Jennifer, no need to remind me- Thanks mom. I know she could just see it, see that I was done. I knew I had just a day left until for sure we were headed to the hospital so I took it in strides. That night I headed to bed around 9:00 with not an ounce of energy to have a care in the world.

At 12:35 am I awoke to a pretty strong contraction. I again didn't think much of it. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I had awoke to a few strong contractions only to fall back immediately back asleep- that's how exhausted I was! But I got up this time and headed to the bathroom. It was there that I realized what was going on, the fog lifting. I laid down only to have another contraction tell me that it's time! I woke Matt, also exhausted. He was so tired that he fell back asleep after he asked why I was waking him. He seriously fell back asleep three times after me telling him it was time to get up and start timing the contractions and start packing the bag. Each time I told him that and each time he'd fell back asleep forgetting anything I said. This annoyed me to no end so I started fussing at him and my tone was one of a very frustrated wife. It was then that he started waking only to fuss at me for fussing at him while he was trying to sleep!! Oh we were so tired. Finally, he got up and watched me breath through a few strong contraction as I was running around the room throwing things into the hospital bag while looking over my check list. After he was alert we both apologized for being so harsh and got to work. The contractions were like clock work 5 minutes apart and very obviously strong so we called the doctor.

I was feeling a little stinky from the hot day and all the walking and since I was too tired before bed to shower I wanted to hop in for a quick shower to freshen up. Since the doctor could take up to thirty minutes to call back I jumped in, only to have her call back in like two minutes- go figure. So Matt answered and talked to her. He came into the bathroom and had her on speaker phone. She made me laugh because she could hear me breathing through the contraction and she said "I think it's time to get out of the bath and head to the hospital." Oh I was planning on it doc!

We quickly finished up, Matt headed upstairs to tell my mom we were on our way out. She was awake already, she said that she heard us moving around down there and knew that it was time. Then we were out the door. Oh the ride there- the contractions were not easy to take sitting down. I remember just being so glad it was the middle of the night and the road was empty, allowing for a quick trip. It only took fifteen minutes but all three contractions I had in the car were not easy- I wanted to be up- it was so much easier to handle them walking around. 

We parked by the Women's wing and walk to the emergency room entrance, having a few contractions along the way. Matt check us in at the kiosk as I breathed through another few contractions. The emergency room check-in nurse called L&D. He was very anxious to get me up there and told me I had to ride in the wheelchair so I didn't have the baby right there. The L&D nurse who met us at the elevator said he looked very nervous and it made her laugh.

She wheeled me into the room and one of the first questions out of their mouths was "Do you want an epidural?" I said no. I was going to try again to have another natural birth- lots of prayer for that throughout the pregnancy. I told them I labor rather quickly and also that I had been scheduled for an induction the following day so my chart was already put together. They got me in the bed and checked me. At 2:00 am I was 5 cm and 70%. Wow, I thought, all that walking got me another 3 cm. Only 5 to go! 

The next hour and a half went very quickly. I had two wonderful nurses helping us. I have to laugh at the fact that we had two nurses with two totally different personalities- one just like mine and one just like Matt. One sweet, calm and quiet, and the other bubbly, talkative and encouraging. I am so very grateful for both of them. They had one of the laborist doctors come in at 3:00 am and check me. I was 8 cm and 90-100%. 

For some odd reason she wanted to do an ultrasound on me to make sure baby was head down. I'm not entirely sure why. As far as I knew she had been head down for a month. The lady who did the ultrasound on Friday afternoon never said anything that would indicate she wasn't but she did it and found that baby was indeed head down. It was not something I care to due in the middle of labor contractions but she did it anyway, only to find out all was well.

Shortly after that, I think- things are getting a little fuzzy a month out, my water broke. I was very glad I was laying in the bed at this point. Matt was a champ through the whole thing. He helped rub my back, talked to me (even if one time when I asked him to talk to me he start out by saying "I wonder how long..." in quickly interrupted that thought with "NO! Something else, talk about something else."), and he helped me out in any way I needed it. I know he was tired- it had been a long month, it had been a long week, it had been a long day but he rallied and stayed with me. 

It wasn't much longer before I was telling them I felt the need to push. They checked me again and said I was 10 cm with a little lip. I didn't seem to care about the little lip. I wanted to push. I pushed three or four times and at this point they were already hustling around trying to prepare everything for the baby who was coming soon.

I was happy to find out that the Laborist that was going to deliver her was the same one who delivered Olivia. At least if I didn't get my doctor I got someone I already knew. She was in there helping to prepare everything. Once they got the bed all set up she checked me again and said that there was still a bulge of amniotic sac behind the baby's head so the broke that. After that I was pushing through each contraction. It took a little longer to push her out than Olivia, like 5-10 pushes. 

I need to preface this next statement with the fact that I am NOT, I repeat, NOT a night person. I am a morning girl to the core. So the fact that I was giving birth at 3:30 in the morning would not have been my choice but that is how it was. So after the last big push, yeah she's out. I just flopped back like a sack of potatoes. Then I had a thought- 'oh wait, I need to look at my baby.' so with the little energy I had I sat up and looked at her with tired, relieved eyes and then plopped back down again. I was so glad for her to be there but was so ready to a rest. They then put her on my tummy, so I didn't have to sit up to see her.

Oh she was precious right from the start. I'll let some pictures do the talking now...

We laid together for the first two and a half hours. Matt tried to stay awake through that whole time but he laid down for a bit. I was even tired as the excitement wore off and the room cleared of doctors and nurses. During this time she nursed and we snuggled. I kept saying to Matt "She was just inside me and now she's out." "She's here!" "Wow, I just gave birth to her!" I think it all happened so fast, three hours from when awoke in bed to birth, and I was so tired that I just couldn't believe it had actually happened and that I actually gave birth to her.

The whole pregnancy was very reminiscent of my pregnancy with Lauren- how I felt, what I craved, how I carried and then sure enough she was born with clubbed feet just like Lauren. She was also longer and leaner, like Lauren. Oh I was so excited to finally see her sweetness outside of the womb!! To soak in her preciousness and met her gaze.

My mom brought the girls later that day. They were so excited to meet baby Audrey. They took to her right away, wanting to hold her and give her the gifts they had gotten her- Lauren a Whale lovie and Olivia an animal blanket. They were also excited to find out Audrey had gotten them a little something too. It was so precious. Lauren wanted to wrap her in her blanket and give her her Whale lovie- my heart was overflowing with love. They also got bored of that after a bit and spent the second half dancing around the room and hiding behind the curtain. Oh the joys! Then my mom so wonderfully took them to a birthday party. That day was also their friend Aliana's birthday!

I was so excited that Audrey shares a birthday with my great friend Heather's third child. In fact, Audrey shares some special thing with not only Aliana but her Aunt Carrie too. So here it is. All three girls are third babies. They're all girls- obvious I know. They all have six letters in their first name and four letters in their middle name. Aunt Carrie and Audrey share the same middle name- Ruth. All three girls are born in April. Aliana and Audrey share the same birthday and were born almost twelve hours shy of the same time too - Audrey 3:31 am and Aliana 3:35 pm. It's just really sweet. They will forever be linked in these special ways.

Matt and I enjoyed our two and a half days of quiet time at the hospital. It was our longest hospital stay since she was born so early in the morning on our first day there. Matt took a LONG nap once we made it to the post paradom room on Sunday. I however couldn't sleep, too much excitement. I was looking forward to having my sweet Audrey Ruth back in the room with me. This is when our mini vacation started. I'm tell you it was truly a vacation after the end of pregnancy! Nurses waiting on me, quiet...lots of quiet, I sat for hours at a time with nothing pressing for my attention, food being brought to me with no prep work or clean up to bother either of us, time to talk and reconnect after what seemed like a month or two of chois and crazy with each other, and nothing to do but love on our newest little girl. We watched some TV but spent most of the time with it off and just enjoying the sweet silence and talking to each other with no interruption. It felt so good to get rejuvenated- we needed it!

Before we knew it though it was time to head home and start enjoying life as a family of 5!!! We were so excited, even if it meant our vacation was over. We missed our big girls and couldn't wait for them to start loving on their newest little sister. Life couldn't feel more perfect!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Post-it Notes and People from Above!

This week has just been one of 'those' weeks. Nothing horrible but I'm just so anxious and unsettled and it shows. 

Silly things, little things keep getting me in a big way. Patience is virtue that I don't possess right now. I'm trying. I really am. But the insides keeps spilling to the outside.

I'm so grateful my mom is coming today. I'm so grateful for all of the other blessings that have come from above. We have a great God!

Yesterday blessings come in the form of a friend. Esther and the kids came for some visit time and oh I enjoyed our few moments of adult talk. She also helped pick up my kitchen and make Olivia's bed and was just a blessing to me. Then when I had a moment of reprieve I read a wonderful blog post by Jason (great blog if you want to check it out) and it calmed my soul a bit. I felt like I knew God was giving me just what I needed to not take a long walk off a short pier.

No, these blessings didn't turn me from crazy lady back to normal mama but they reminded me that God is with me. He's riding this roller coaster of life with me! Infact, he's in the car holding my hand as I plunge down the next too steep hill screaming my lungs out.

Today's blessings came in the form of a phone call. Garrett called and poor her she got an earful. I just needed to let it out. I told her how I'm okay with still be huge and tired but I'm not. I don't want to complain about it but man it's taking it's toll on me and my ability to function like a sane woman. Her phone call calmed me as I felt like I was releasing the pressure valve. Then my oldest has been nothing shy of a sweet angel today. She's been helpful, sweet, loving, and calming. Oh how I love her. If that wasn't enough for me to feel God's presence then I read another blog (great too if you want to check it out) that just poured my thoughts into black and white and reminded me I'm not alone...again.

These moments didn't snap me out of my loony toon self but they just remind me to take a breath and keep forging on. This too shall pass. I won't be a huge, hormonal, hot mess forever.

So incase you're having a moment of crazy, or two or fifty-five, like me. Remember you're not alone. Look for your post-it notes from God that will give  you a moment of peace and mercy and grace. Lord knows we need them all!

"I am writing to [Jennifer], my true [daughter] in the faith. May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace." 1 Timothy 1:2

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Hurry Up and Wait

"So I think this is where we hurry up and wait" Dr. B says just about a week ago...

So at my last checkup (37 weeks along, last week) I went in thinking things were happening. I had been having on and off contractions for a few weeks. My body felt like it was moving in the directions of potential labor and that morning I woke up unrested after a horrible night's sleep. I had been woken to a few pretty strong contractions in the middle of the night, one that caught my breath, and I was thinking okay 37 weeks is my limit. Both of my older girls were born just after 37 weeks so this would make logical sense right? Wrong!

The morning appointment had us dropping the girls at Esther's house and heading to the doctors to get checked. Well at 6:15 that morning I got a text saying Evan, her youngest, had awoke with a fever and had gotten sick in the night. So right away I had to switch up plans because after my night of restless sleep and contractions I didn't want to bring the girls with us for fear that they might want to keep me- and as fun as it sounds to have a 4 year old and a 2 year old in the room with me while laboring, I think I'll pass on putting that one in the memory books. So I called in a friend and thank goodness she was able to help us out. So problem solved! Not too bad right? Wrong!

I'm still in bed at this point and trying to get the energy to enter the shower as Matt starts putting on his socks. That's when it happened- he wrenched his back and cried out in pain. Really? Yes, really! Then I started to panic a little, okay a lot, as he hobbled about in noticeable pain. As I got ready all I could think about was how on earth he was going to be any help to me if I was indeed in labor?!? So when I was doing putting myself together for the day I called Garrett and woke her up to ask her, the only person in this state whom I would even trust to be in this position with me, if she would be able to pinch hit for Matt if today was the day. She said she would be able to and that made me feel better, I think. 

Honestly, nothing was going to make me feel better, things just seemed to out of control. After packing last minute things in the hospital bag and the girls "go" bag we were out the door. We drove separately since Matt usually heads right to work (five minutes from the hospital/doctors office) after these appointments. Every song that came on the radio made me cry- it was our local Christian station. Things were just too much. I mean I was ready for her to come but I was not ready for everything to be so up in the air and out of sorts.

We got there and that is when the nausea and hot flashes kicked in. And when I say hot flash I mean like burning hotter than the sun flash. We get into the room relatively fast and the doctor comes in. I told her I've been contracting all night and morning. Her first question "How far apart are they?" I must have looked like a deer in headlights since I was too busy/crazy to even worry about that this morning. I know they were stronger than they had been but I wasn't sure of how much time separated them. I told her about the crazy morning and that I didn't even think to worry about that. She said "let's check you" and then I heard, "oh, you're 1 cm dilated." Really? Two weeks of contractions and I'm 1 cm?! She said that she wanted to monitor me so she called in a nurse and the nurse got me hooked up.

Now mind you that I've not sat for one moment all morning and you'd think I'd be happy, as I usually am, to be resting there. But not so much that morning. I'm three fourths the way naked since they needed my belly bare to hook up the monitor. I couldn't get comfortable on the table no matter how Matt tried to fix the angle of the table back. I was hot, the lights were too bright, and I just wanted to relax which I couldn't seem to do.

We were there for over an hour. The monitor wasn't on right and it didn't pick up a single contraction. Mind you I only had 5 while lying on the table realizing that they weren't as close together as I had been imagining. At this point I just wanted to go home. The doctor comes in to check on me and I must have looked like I had gone through a storm because that is how I felt. She looked at me and said that she could keep me and monitor me more, or I could go home but that right now it looks like we're playing the "hurry up and wait game." I just wanted to go home. I wanted to lay down, I wanted to nap, I wanted someone to rub my back, I wanted someone to tend to my children, I wanted food that someone else made, and I wanted to know if I was in labor or not. She couldn't grant any of that except the 'go home' part. So that is just what I did- well I did stop at a fast food place to get lunch so another part of my 'want' list was granted.

I was just exhausted and it was only 11 in the morning. The whole way home I prayed. Thinking back I'm not sure if my prayers were specific or just for God's presence to carry me through the day. All I know is that I was restless and looking for some of His all powerful peace- you know the "peace that passing understanding" - yeah that kind of peace.

The rest of day seemed to pass uneventfully- thankfully. After dinner that night though I started to contract regularly, enough so that Matt was timing them and they were less than 5 minutes but not very strong. Then as my body as done plenty of times before, they stopped and never came back.

That night a slept so well- I was so tired. Saturday came and went with not much to say. I just remember being in a funk, not happy, not sad, not upset- just in a funk. We prepared for Easter with the girls and I spent the day wondering if she was going to be born on Easter. It was something I had prayed about- since one of our sweet heavenly babies was lost on an Easter I was wondering if this sweet baby in my belly now would be a reminder to us of the circle of life. But no baby on Easter.

Later in the evening on Easter I told Matt I'm glad my prayer wasn't answered the way I was hoping. We had a wonderful day together as a family celebrating the risen Lord and being with each other. The girls were able to enjoy Easter at their house, find their baskets when they got up, go to church, spend the day with their mommy and daddy. I'm glad God made it His was- it was very nice.

That is what my prayers have been lately. For me to not only believe in God's plan for this baby's arrival but to trust Him too. That was the message on Easter Sunday and it was one of those messages were I'm sure Pastor Spencer had wrote that sermin for me specifically. It gave me chills. But it is what I need to do. I need to believe and trust in God's plan.

Our annual Family shot on Easter. We took 30 pictures and this
was the best we got. 

Now a week later I have my 38 week appointment tomorrow. I've been contracting all week again but nothing more than what I've already been dealing with. I've basically started ignoring them and not really saying anything unless Matt or someone asks. They have been nothing super strong, not very regular, and nothing worth fretting over. I'm very interested to see if we've made some progress in the dilation and thinning though. I'm pretty sure we might set a date for induction at tomorrow's appointment- if we make it to that date only God knows. 

I was talking to my MIL about induction and how I'm really up in the air about how I feel about it. I was pretty much induced with Olivia since they had to give me pitocin to regulate my contractions and jump start my body after my water broke and nothing really happened, so I know what to expect. What I think is weird is picking her due date- shouldn't God do that? I guess in a roundabout way He is. I do like that it would make things very drama free. I could even have my mom fly in a day or two before- eliminating my need to have Esther watch them and for their lives to be uprooted in any way. That would definitely be an added bonus. I also think having an end date in sight would allow me to take a deep breath and relax a little more. So now that I write this maybe I'm not as up in the air as I thought- maybe it will be a good thing. 

I know I'm ready to meet her. The girls and Matt are too. I know that whatever day God brings her outside to meet everyone will be a special day filled with blessings that can't be described by words. A day that I hope to remember as long as I live- like pray I do with my other little cuties! Whenever that might be- it will be perfect in a way only God can create. So whenever you're ready God...so are we!!!

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take." Proverbs 3:5-6

Friday, March 13, 2015

Toenail Polish

I'm a very reflective person by nature. I learned this when I was student teaching and in college. My supervisors and professors pointed this quality out to me. I guess then I didn't realize that it was a gift I possessed, I merely thought everyone did it, but I guess that isn't the case.

I often spend my quiet moments reflecting on the day or the week. What we've done or not done. Saying small prayer as I think of a person I talked with or a need someone expressed. I also reflect on what I've got coming up ahead and how it's all going to work- filling in my mental calendar. 

My favorite moments to reflect on are the one with girls and life with Matt. The sweet moments of love that glue our days together as a family. Looking at pictures throughout the house always bring me back to when...

I think of the mountains overcome and valleys of days past. I think of how God was there with us through it all, in our hearts and alongside us. 

So as I've gone through this third pregnancy I do the same. But not with a picture, with toenail polish.

This summer my Grandma Rose passed away. This happened at the end of July/beginning of August. After an already emotional spring and summer the girls and I traveled home to honor her life and memory with our family. While we were there Lauren asked me excitedly one day to paint our toenails. I took a mental look at our week and told her that one afternoon while Olivia slept her and I would paint our toenails.

We were both excited to look through Grammy P's stash- all new colors to us making the special moment all the more fun. I found this really pretty and deep lavender and Lauren picked out a pink and blue. Then I noticed a sparkly one I could use as a top coat. We enjoyed our moment in the quiet small apartment. Grammy and Aunt Shauna were gone, Olivia was sleeping, and cousin Finn and Papa were out in the pond fishing so we had the place to ourselves. I think this was the only quiet time we were able to have together all week.

I'm not sure what brand polish I used but that polish stayed on and looked great for a few months. Then as time went on and I became pregnant with the bundle of joy I'm carrying now, I was too sick/preoccupied to remove it. Summer turned to Fall and the once opened toed shoes turned into sneakers and flats as the days got cooler. So I saw even less of a reason to remove the polish. It worn off most of my toes or grew out but hung on strong to my big toenails.

I started noticing the polish in those few brief moments when my toes were uncovered and reflecting on the time I put it on. The tough emotional spot I was in then, filled with loss and sadness. Yet I also think about the sweet moments with Lauren when her and I put it on- the joy we shared together in those few short minutes of quality alone time and pray for us. I think of the baby we lost just a month earlier and then pray for him/her. I think of the baby, the life, I have in my body right now and pray for her. I think of all the love that filled our days since then and pray for it. 

Although at first I just didn't remove the polish out of pure laziness now I leave that last little strip on as a reminder- a reminder of my journey, the mountains and valleys. I think of my Grandma up in heaven.

When my mom called me and told me that they were with Grandma Rose and it wouldn't be much longer before she passed on I cried and thought of how joyful she was going to be in heaven and I asked my mom to tell her something. I ask her to tell Grandma Rose to "Hold my babies in heaven tight for me and give them lots of kisses." My mom later told me she whispered that into her ear as she lay there waiting to walk through heaven's gates. I know she is. I know God is too. With tears in my eyes I pray for them. 

What a journey this pregnancy has been and still is. So when the day comes to deliver her into this world I plan on having my itty bitty strip of nail polish on to remind me of the journey God took us on to get to from the ashes of last spring/summer and onto the life of this spring.

I know the day it finally is gone I'll be a bit sad but I know that it will be God tell me it's time to build some new moments worth reflecting on. Add a new color to garnish those open toed shoes that will come with me as the journey of life continues.

"He replied, 'The LORD, before whom I have walked faithfully, will send his angel with you and make your journey a success...'" Genesis 24:40a