Wednesday, December 31, 2014


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“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful." -John 15:1-2 
A couple of weeks ago I needed some time to myself.  Our baby was being overly clingy, the older two were driving me up a wall and I felt like I was on the fast-track to Crazy Town.  Mike took care of things around the house and I went outside; work gloves on, clippers in my hand and the determination to accomplish something...anything.

I stared at our nine lime bushes and realized they were looking pretty pathetic.  Limbs were hanging on the ground, weedy vines had taken home in their branches.  I knew what needed to be done.

I started on the first bush and it went fairly smooth.  Nothing crazy to do, just some general maintenance and the loss of just a few, small limes.  I was feeling good.  Accomplished.  I stepped back, admired my work and moved on to the next bush.

Each lime bush following the first became a little more difficult.  They were larger bushes and had more overgrowth but they also had quite a few limes growing on the low-lying branches.  I don't like to waste anything, especially not precious limes that make the most amazing limeade known to mankind.  Very quickly I realized I was going to have to make some significant cuts to this bush.  Ones that were likely to remove some incredible limes not quite ready for harvest.  They still had potential and I had to think long and hard about what I was going to do.

I almost grimaced the first time I had to prune a branch that had a bundle of those beautiful, green fruits.  I thought to myself, "How silly I am being, they are only limes."  After finishing the first round of pruning on our biggest lime bush I stood back and looked at the slaughter.  All around me were perfectly good limes laying on the ground, never to be used to make limeade or anything else for that matter.  It seems a little dramatic but I must have just been in one of those moods.  I was really distraught over the loss of these limes.

As I stood for awhile, staring at the other six bushes I had left to prune, I wondered if I had it in me.  "They are fine," I said, "they are producing limes, I should just leave them alone."  No sooner than I completed the conversation in my head, I got a little nudging from the Holy Spirit.  I knew a lesson was on its way.

When most people think of pruning they think of it as cutting off what is dead so something new can grow.  It's a beautiful metaphor for life, isn't it?  Sacrifice for the greater good.  Prune the hurt, the pain, the past, the sin and the anger out of your life so that peace, hope, love and patience can grow in their place.  But what if pruning has more to do with something you deem good in your life?  Has God ever asked you to give up something that produces fruit?  Has He ever asked you to prune something out of your life that you love, that isn't destructive or sinful?

John 15:2 says, "...every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."  Did you catch that?  He's not cutting off a branch that is already dead, He is pruning a branch that is bearing fruit.  Kind of a game-changer.

I've always been ok with cutting off dead branches in my life.  It hurts and it's hard but I know that it is worth the discomfort in the end.  But pruning a good branch?  That just seems counter-productive, doesn't it?  But any gardener or farmer will tell you different.  And our Gardener will tell you that too.

So what does a fruit-bearing branch that needs to be cut, look like?  Maybe you are super involved in a lot of outreach at your church.  But you are so involved and can never say no, that you aren't focusing the right time and energy into what God has designed you specifically for.  You are bearing fruit but not the kind of fruit God knows you are capable of.

Maybe you are a stellar athlete.  On top of your game, better than the rest.  But your sport or sports keeps you from plugging into your church and your church body.  All of your games or competitions are during services or youth group or volunteer hours.  Or you are too exhausted from all of your competitions that you can't pull yourself out of the house during your few, free hours.  But God gave you that talent, why would He ask you to prune it out?  You can use your gifts as an athlete to impact others, right?  But maybe you can use your gifts in a way that will bear more fruit.

Maybe you are in ministry now but you have crazy gifts and talents in the business world.  Maybe God is asking you to leave ministry (gasp!) and join the business world so that you can impact others for Christ and use your financial resources to spur on others in ministry.

Or in my case, photography.  When we started this whole process to open up an orphanage, I was perfectly content being a photographer/missionary...or so I thought.  Over these few months as I dug deep and really contemplated why God asked us to give up working with a ministry we loved to start something new I realized that I was just using the wrong gift for His glory.  Sure, my talents as a photographer were bearing fruit; it was drawing attention to the needs here in the Dominican Republic.  But God designed me to be more than just a photographer. 

He gave me a sensitive heart and an intense burden for orphaned children.  He made me a hugger and a nurturer; specifically to bring comfort to those that are hurting.  He made me a dreamer and a planner and an innovator.  He designed me to be stubborn and hard-headed and relentless when I am fighting for something I truly believe in.

It is not easy pruning the branches in your life because, in reality, it may mean giving up something you are really good at or that bring you accolades.  But you know what happened three weeks after I wearily pruned my beloved lime bushes?  The limes that are on the trees now are bigger and produce almost twice as much juice as the ones before.  And if a clumsy gardener like myself can prune my way to a better bounty, imagine what our all-knowing Gardener can do in you, if you let Him.

Friday, November 28, 2014

I was desperate for a brother...

When I was a kid there was very little I wanted more than a brother.

I have a brother.  One that shares my DNA.  One that has my fair skin.  But because of difficult circumstances I have never been able to meet him.

As broken families and broken people go, a thing like not having a brother left a gap in my life.  From very young I clung to boys.  Not in the way that most girls do with crushes and blushing and passing notes in class.  I played football with them at recess.  And high-fived them in the hallway.  I played video games with them at parties while the other girls were huddled around talking about which one they were going to the dance with on Friday.  I identified with them probably more than a girl normally would because --

I was desperate for a brother.

I had a father that adored and supported me.  I had a mother that loved and cared for me.  I had beautiful sisters who fought and argued with me.  But it was never enough.  I was never really content --

because I was desperate for a brother.

My oldest sister is seven years older than me.  It was the perfect age for "brother" candidates, or boyfriends as most people know them by.  I was always so excited when she had a new boyfriend.  A new chance at a new brother.  But as young love and boyfriends go, they didn't stick around as long as I had hoped --

because I was desperate for a brother.

I don't remember the day she brought him home from college but I remember thinking it was my one real shot at one real brother.  I mean, college boyfriends turn into husbands, right?  And they turn into brother-in-laws.  Turns out, he was sticking around.

I ended up working for him for four summers doing concrete work.  We had long hours of driving in a truck and staying too late finishing up driveways and too many early mornings prepping equipment.  But turns out I didn't mind the driving and the driveways and the prepping because --

I was desperate for a brother.

Somewhere in the King-Sized Reece's breakfasts of champions and the consumption of too many bottles of Dr. Pepper and the red-faced frustration of other guys messing up jobs and the contractors who were punks, I got something I had been so desperate for...a brother.

We talked about life.  He told me how stupid I was for some of the guys I dated.  We laughed about things that happened on the job site.  We laughed even harder at the number of accidents I had on the job site.  He was honest with me and told me I deserved better than I was letting myself believe.  I had hours and hours of undivided attention from a brother I so desperately needed.  And he was so willing to oblige.

When I look back I know without a doubt that there was no one more influential in my life for those four summers than him.  And the repercussions of my time with a guy that loved my sister but also chose to love me, too, undoubtedly changed me and helped make me the person I am today.

He is tough and strict and demanding and hard-working and when you hug him it's like hugging a bag of cement.  But there is no one more committed, more dedicated, more trustworthy or more honorable than him.  And he filled a void in my life that he probably has no idea he filled, until now.

I love you, you big Lug.  Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

a loving home trumps the difficulties of providing it

Posted by Mike:

Well another year has passed and what a year it has been.  God continues to bless our family and guide us on an incredible journey.  This past year of life sure has been full, and today I get to sit back and reflect on all that has happened.

Next to me is my precious baby boy, asleep.  I am such a happy and proud dad to care for and raise three amazing kids.  I love the feeling of watching over, protecting, teaching, and sometimes disciplining a child.  I don’t really know if there is any preparation or training one could have to be a parent but it is awesome!

I also can’t help but reflect on the big news from baseball with the passing of Oscar Tavares.  He was way too young to die and he had such a bright future ahead of him.  The thing that caught my attention the most though was reading somewhere that Oscar and his girlfriend had a baby.  I can’t help but think about a little boy now who suddenly has no earthly parents.  I know the pain of losing a father but I also had the benefit and blessing of being grown when my dad passed away.  I had an incredible example to follow and still continue to feel dad’s guidance in life.  Is it easier to lose a father at such a young age?  I don’t know if anyone can really answer that.

The sad thing is that there are so many other kids out there right now who have lost parents to death, drugs, or abuse.  God laid a big burden on my heart for kids just like Oscar’s son, kids who in some way lost the right a family.  I was raised in an incredible family and have been blessed with my own family to raise but to me that’s not good enough anymore.  Kids are out there all around us because of tragedy and they deserve the right to a father and a mother who love them, who will teach them, who will discipline them, who will show them the love of Christ.

I am grateful for every family member out there who has taken into his or her home a young relative.  For some it may be easy to incorporate them straight into the family and for others it is a huge challenge.  Unfortunately there are many out there who don’t have that opportunity, to be with family.  I know this journey God has placed before us won’t be easy but for me the right to a loving home trumps the difficulties of providing it. 

I jokingly started growing a beard several weeks ago and said I won’t shave it off until we purchase the land to build Hope House.  It was something fun when I started it and it’s fun to tease my wife about the beard since she hates it so much.  Something happened shortly after I started letting it grow.  The beard became a reminder of the kids that need a home.  It is a physical daily reminder for me to not stop working on opening the doors for Hope House.  I know it sounds cheesy but every day when it itches a little or sweat drips down it I know that we are one step closer to providing a life that these kids deserve and it makes me want to work harder and prepare more for the opportunity to invest in these little lives.

I am thankful to celebrate another year of life but I reflect on a life taken too soon.  I reflect on the lives of those who right now are losing their right to a family and the potential peace that God can bring them with a new family at Hope House.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


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"Sometimes you have to believe God beyond what you can presently see." -Pete Wilson

I watch the plantain trees sway, the breeze a slow dance, the rain a welcome friend.  The sound of my two oldest in the distance, their squeals of delight as they forage through the darkened dirt for treasures and tiny critters.  Raindrops surely on their backs like tiny vessels of relief from the humidity.  My littlest tucked in his crib, breathing to the beat of the rain on the roof…unaware and unscathed by the changes in the weather.

Rain makes me feel nostalgic.  It makes me want to hurl a warm blanket about me, curl up with a warm cup of tea.  The happiest memories I have of childhood all revolve around rain; my mom and sisters and I watching movies while drinking hot chocolate.  A flood at our local park, a water fight in a field.  Games with slow-moving soccer balls and skids of mud on uniforms.  Rain also makes me reflect.  Makes me think.  Makes me stop and go deep.  Thus, my fingers clicking away.

Our lives have been in transition; a new baby, a new move, a new ministry.  I’ve hardly had the chance to pull my stuff out of boxes let alone be pensive on the inner workings of my heart.  But today, with the rain, I can’t help but succumb.

Change is inevitable and Transition is part of life.  I’m almost thirty-three, I know these things.  But I have never met Transition the way we have welcomed her these past few months.  She has been kind to me -- in some regards -- has even invigorated me, inspired me to do something beyond my own abilities.  But she is also cruel.  She brings doubt and dark nights and lonely thoughts in a place so unfamiliar.  She pushes me past my zones of comfort and resists me when I ask for some of it back.  She makes me second-guess my decisions, my mothering, my capabilities.  She mocks me and reminds me that this thing, this new Calling, is too big for me.  Too big for us.

The one thing Transition doesn’t know is that in my almost thirty-three years I have fallen in love with a God who is bigger than her unwelcome presence in my life.  He is bigger than my doubts and my fears and my failures.  He is bigger than my inadequacies which Transition is enthusiastic to draw attention to.  Because on the other side of Transition, there will be children who have not known a hug, or a hold or a cuddle, who will only know those things.  When Transition is done and gone, there will be full bellies, and clean clothes and comfy beds.  When Transition is a distant memory, there will be smiling faces, and holding hands, and belonging.  BELONGING.  There will be children who have never felt like they belonged anywhere that will belong to someone.  And the crazy thing I keep telling Transition that quiets her resounding voice -- God has chosen us for them to belong to and I am too excited thinking about that than to listen to her nagging.

There is one thing I have learned about dear old Transition that brings me comfort during her short stay and it’s just that; her stay is short.  She is a traveling visitor, a momentary passenger.  She comes on you fast and she leaves just the same.  And when she’s gone, Life resumes.  Not in the same way it did before her visit but in a way that makes her stay so very worth it.  And I can't wait for Transition to hit the road so Life can settle in and I get to waste the day away rocking children who need to be rocked.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Death is Redemptive

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I remember the way the muscles in my face fell, a smile erased.  I remember the muffled tone of my husband's voice trying to tell me the news.  I watched his eyes change, the creases of happier times melting to pain.  I screamed as if every ounce of air left in my chest would evaporate.  Sitting on our stoop my chest began to tighten, things were starting to spin.  Words spoken, unbelieved. Joe was gone.

Emotions still well up in me when I remember the day we got the phone call that my Father-in-law passed away.  Passed away--no--was taken.  Although the sting is gone the ache remains as a forever reminder of what we lost.

Until that day, death of a loved one was absolutely my number one fear.  It caused me anxiety, brought on robbed me of time worrying about it and thinking about it that I can never get back.  I was sure that if it happened to me it would paralyze me.  I wouldn't be able to recover.  I would be a shell of a person from that day forward.  And then it did happen to me--to my family--and things didn't go as I expected.

Months after his death, I'd had time to grieve and process it all, and life somehow went on for everyone else around us.  It's a funny thing to expect everyone else's lives to fall apart too, and then they don't.  I felt unexpectedly angry and bitter toward families who still had their dads, whose children still had their grandfathers.  I avoided places we had gone with Joe so that I didn't have to remember the void.  I had two kids, a devastated husband and I would soon be headed back to the mission field a broken, depleted mess.  Something had to give.

God began to plant reminders of his grace every chance He got.  I wasn't receptive to it at first because I was too angry and confused to really even want to receive anything from God, especially since I knew it was Him who took Joe.  But as my heart softened, as I realized the state I was in was only self-destructive, I recognized what God was trying to whisper:

Death is redemptive.

I thought He was crazy, telling me that death was redemptive, I almost wanted to shut Him out.  But the more I stopped being angry and the more I started listening, change creeped in in the most beautifully challenging ways.

Back in the Garden, when Satan tempted and humans fell and relationship was broken, the Evil One thought he had won.  But let me tell you, The Deceiver was deceived.  It wasn't just lip-service when God breathed the words, "...For I know the plans I have for you.  Plans to prosper you, not to harm you..."  It wasn't just a great quote for sermon notes or a pumped up pep talk or a parent's last attempt at encouraging a fallaway teenager.  He meant those words for us, in all situations.  Even in death.

Especially in death.

You see, God is good at taking what Satan intends for evil and turning it into something good, something redemptive.  If you ask most Believers who have lost a loved one, down the road they will say, "I wouldn't have the relationship I have with God today, if I hadn't walked through that valley with Him."

Losing Joe changed Mike and I.  It changed our marriage.  It changed our parenting.  It changed how we viewed our lost world.  Joe lived with such amazing purpose to bring people to Jesus that somehow with him gone, we felt the honored responsibility of carrying on his torch.  We decided in those fragile months following his death that we were done living a comfortable life.  We were ready to live more radically for Him, just as Joe did.

It's been a painful road.  It's been a road paved with grace.  It's been a road leading to redemption, not only for us and the precious life we felt we were wasting on comfort and safety but also a road to redemption for the people we were, and are, determined to introduce to a God who pulled us out of the miry muck into His glorious light.

Our son, Levi, never had the chance to meet his "Gaga" this side of Heaven.  But because of a God who turns tragedy to treasure, Levi will have a front row viewing of his grandfather's eternal impact in the years to come.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Levi {Four weeks} 

I'm always a little amazed when we reach four weeks of life with our children.  I've begun coming out of the "birth fog" and things seem a little more clear.  We did it -- kept our child alive -- for one whole month.  And by we, I mean me.  Yes, my husband helped keep our other kids fed, helped me with diaper changes and burping and kept me from losing my mind from lack of sleep, but I sustained a life for a month, doing nothing more than what my body was designed to do.  Incredible.

Our little Bugg is such an amazing addition to our family.  I marvel at him.  I stare at him.  I memorize every inch of him.  This is our last one.  The last one I'll carry in my womb and the last one that will have the Braisted/Goodwin genes.  I don't want to forget these moments, I want to cherish them and hide them in my heart and pull them out whenever the going gets tough.  Those little hooded eyelids and pointed lips, they will only be four weeks old once, and I don't want to forget them.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Levi {Two Weeks}

At two weeks, you sleep 22 hours a day.  You smile in your sleep.  You eat in your sleep.  You fill your britches in your sleep.  We've hardly seen those beautiful eyes open.  But I'm not going to complain because your big brother and big sister go one hundred miles a minute all day long until they crash in their beds at night.  For now, I will be content with my sleeping Third.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Levi {One Week}

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One week.  Seven Days.  168 Hours.  10080 Minutes.  604800 Seconds.  Just enough time to be totally in love with you.

Friday, April 4, 2014

the funny thing about love

You try and remember the details of the big events in your life.  The things that matter.  The things that change you.  Big days, big moments, big trials, big struggles -- you think they stay fresh in your mind.  But as time passes and moments pass, you realize the finer things -- the intimate things -- you sometimes forget as the mundane parts take over your memories.

I want to remember the intimate things.

As I parted from my love and walked alone to the operating room, I became aware of how much I depend on him to calm me.  I could feel the anxiety of the next minutes without him overwhelm me; the needle, the numbing, the slowed breathing.  I desperately wanted to hold his hand through it, rather than the stranger, the masked nurse who tried to comfort me.

You forget those things, you know, in the hustle and bustle of your day.  When almost nine years have passed you by as sippy cups and homework assignments and temper tantrums rule your conversations.  You forget that there's no one else's hand you would rather hold, whether you were scared or happy or just high on love.

I don't want to forget it again.

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I could hear my slow breaths in my ears.  The sounds of machines and alarms, checking my vitals.  Voices with unfamiliar faces -- then they called him into the room.  Fears and worries melted and I smiled when I saw his gentle eyes peering over his mask.  How could one man change how I feel so quickly?  He quietly whispered, "Are you ready to meet our little boy?"  I remember answering in my head, not sure if I said it outloud.  "Yes."
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When you have one child, you can't possibly imagine loving another as much as the first.  When you have two children, you can't possibly imagine stuffing more love in that heart of yours to make room for a third.  But when I heard his cry, when he was released from my body into a sterile room with bright, white lights -- I was filled with him again.  Not in the empty cavity he came from but with a swell in my chest.  I hadn't even seen him, hadn't even smelled him, and he was mine.  I had enough love, more than enough, for him.  And his big brother.  And his big sister.  And his daddy.   photo levibirth_0016_zps9c5fc751.jpg
Because you see the funny thing about love is, when another person is added to that totem pole you keep -- the one with the names of all of those you share this life with -- love actually spills out on them too.  My love for my newest Little increased my love for all the others I had loved before him.  My capacity wasn't filled like I had thought.  There was even more left to be given.   photo levibirth_0036_zps46ce0f5c.jpg
And when I held my First and my Second and my Third in my arms, I couldn't help but know the Father's love for me in a deeper and more intimate way.  Not just in the blessing of bringing new life, new love, to this Earth but in how His love for me increases because of the love He has for all of His other children too.   photo levibirth_0021_zps07114d89.jpg
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I watched the events of the day unfold in slow motion.  Not trying to remember his size or the hour and minute he arrived but trying to remember the way He, my Father, was in each intimate moment.   Holding onto the things I knew I would want to recall, things I didn't want the mundane to steal.  I want to remember how my capacity for love doesn't end with the children I grew in my own body, but that my chest can and will swell with each opportunity to love another that God places in my path.

*Levi Frank was born at 8:01am on April 4th, 2014.  He was 8 pounds and 20.5 inches long.  Happy, healthy and strong.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I Choose Love

"But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." -1 Peter 3:15-16

I am not political, nor am I a public debater.  Although I hold my own personal set of beliefs and opinions, I rarely voice them loudly, or in the case of many others -- passively aggressive.  But I am continually disappointed, and really just outright disturbed, by the apparent condition that many of my fellow Christians are in today.  Scripture says in Matthew 15:18, "But the things that come out of a person's mouth come from the heart, and these defile them."  And if I believed that Scripture is true, and I do, then there are a lot of Christians today who are deceived by the condition of their own hearts.

I have come to the conclusion that our Christian culture must be coming up with their own version of Scripture that fits to their own desires of how they want to act.  The reality is you can't pull verses out of context.  You can't pick which parts of Scripture you choose to act on and which ones you choose to ignore.  There is a reason God placed each truth-breathed verse in His "manual."  

I am no theologian, so I could be wrong, but it seems to me that God didn't write the Bible for non-Believers, that is until they become Believers.  The things in His Book are guidelines for people who believe in Christ as their Lord and Savior and are charged to live accordingly.  Unfortunately, as Believers, we continually try and hold others, that are not Believers, to this standard of living.  And then judge them harshly when they don't.  Have we forgotten that we aren't the Ultimate Judge?  Have we forgotten the only instructions that God gave to us, our only responsibility, is to love others unconditionally as Christ loves us?

We all know what topics are red-hot this day and age.  We know the debates all over Facebook.  We see the riots and pickets and protests on the News.  We hear the stories, we aren't oblivious or living in an isolated cave.  But what really disturbs me is seeing people, who are supposedly representing the God I love, I follow and have dedicated my life to, acting completely contrary to what He says in His Word.

Just because I am a missionary in a third world country doesn't mean I am exempt from these conversations.  In fact, it hits closer to home than you may realize.  I have friends who are gay.  I have friends who are atheists.  I have friends who are addicts and alcoholics.  I have friends who have had abortions.  I have friends who are Democrats (gasp!).  I even have friends who were literally Satan-worshippers but have since found the love of Christ.  And having relationships with all of these "types" of people has never once lessoned my effectiveness as a Christian, at least not in God's eyes.  In fact, my relationships with these people have actually enriched my life, made me want to live a more zealous life of love.  I have seen kindness, generosity and selflessness through these people in ways that have heavily impacted me.  And you know what is the most amazing thing?  They bring meals to a sick member of their community, take in abandoned and unloved children and care for the homeless too.  Not because a pastor or elder or church member asked for it but because it was just in their hearts to do.

I am not for a second saying that we give up on winning people for Christ.  Quite the opposite, actually.  In fact, I spent the first 20 years of my life as an unbelieving "pagan" myself.  I have been a Believer for less time than I had been a non-Believer and I am quite thankful I had people in my life who never gave up on me.  But if you look through the New Testament and follow the life of Jesus, he didn't win people over with harsh words of condemnation, rants over equality and value of life or having the best argument for a particular debate.  No.  He won them over with "gentleness and respect."  He won them over with unconventional mercy and forgiveness.  He won them over by dining with them, talking about life with them and genuinely praying for their circumstances.  And ultimately, he loved them, unconditionally, despite the seemingly huge differences between them.

It's time Christians are known across the globe for following the practices of our fearless, humble, kind and gentle leader instead of being the intolerant, judgmental, boisterous people we have been.  

Which is why as I reflected on today, the first day of Lent, I remember that on the cross Christ chose me, therefore I choose love.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Lord, my faithful God

"Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, LORD, my faithful God." -Psalm 31:5

I wasn't really dreading the doctor's visit but I did feel apprehensive.  I brought Emi with me to relieve some of the tension of waiting for results and hearing the news again.  She proved to be a great companion.

I looked around the waiting room at all of the other women with their bulging bellies, some of them most definitely further along than I, but others with just a hint that life was growing in them.  There is something so comforting about being in this waiting room, knowing that all of the women know, or will know what you are going through.  No one stares at you with pity because of how life will be radically different.  No one uninvitingly touches your belly or says things like, "You're huge, are you having twins?"  No, we all glance in each other's direction, half-smiles, because we all share the same secret love for a child that we have all been hoping for.

When they called my name after waiting an eternity, I drudgingly stepped on the scale.  Up another two pounds.  I'll never get used to that.  Emi charmed the nurses sitting at their desks and going about their daily tasks.  Three Dora stickers, just for being cute.

We walked the long corridor and turned into a dark room with the awkward OB table and it's scary looking stirrups.  I stared at the blank screen, wondering what news it would reveal today.  As I clumsily got up on the bed, I whispered a quiet prayer and held a strong face so Emi wouldn't worry.  Today we would come up with a plan for our little guy.  We would do our best to decide his safest entry into our world.

Sitting there, I wondered how many women received devastating news on this bed, watching dreams shattered on a black and white screen.  I'm wired to minimize the situations in my life, compare them to the heartache others suffer that are greater than mine.  But as I lay there, without my husband -- my rock -- I couldn't help but turn my attention to the fact that I felt so alone, so scared.

As the ultrasound tech swished that blasted, warm goo around and the scanner touched my child's temporary home, I took a deep breath.  She was silent, with no expression.  She didn't smile or make eye contact with me.  She just kept moving it around on my stomach, clicking on the keys and taking measurements.  Does she even know why I'm here?  Does she know that this Mama is dying inside, waiting for more bad news?  Couldn't she just spit it out, tell me the truth quickly?  Knowing is better than wondering, right?

As soon as these words were jotted in my head she began to point to the screen, there was my little boy's profile.  My heart swelled.  What a handsome little thing.  As handsome as white lines and gray nothingness can be.  There is his heart, pumping well.  Emi ran to the machine as she heard her brother's heartbeat in surround sound.  "This is the cord..." she said, "...let me just...hmmm."  Is it wrapped two times now?  Three?  Is he not getting the oxygen he needs?  "I'm not sure how," this twenty-something bearer of news, says, "but the cord is no longer wrapped around his neck."


Are you sure? I asked in my head.  And almost as if she had heard my thoughts, she responded with, "You have a healthy, baby boy in there.  And a cord that is completely out of harm's way."

I've learned to guard my emotions, somewhat, living on the mission field for eight years.  But tears streamed quietly down my face.  Only Emi noticed them and she rushed over to ask if I was alright.  That little thing has a sixth-sense, I swear, she knows when someone can use a comforting touch.

The tech printed off a plethora of photos and Emi squealed with glee as she glanced through them all.  "That's my bruhver," she would say.

Yes, it is, my sweet girl...our miracle baby.  And our God has been faithful once again.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Waiting Patiently...

I am not a patient person.  Although becoming a mother thrust me into "patience training" whether I liked it or not.  I am happy to report that I am a much more patient person than I used to be but my natural default is still to take things into my own hands, handle it myself and take control of the situation.

But there are some things in life we can't control.

Around week 27 of my pregnancy, Mike and I went in for a scheduled appointment with our OB in the Dominican after a routine ultrasound just to make sure all was well.  Come to find out, it wasn't.  As Dr. Santillan began spouting off some explanations in Spanish I struggled to understand a phrase I wasn't familiar with.  I kept nervously looking at Mike hoping that he would cut her off and calm my panicked look with a simple explanation because surely I had misunderstood her when I thought she said the cord was wrapped around our baby's neck.  But as she finished her explanation my fears were confirmed and she moved right along with when we would schedule our next monthly appointment.

I left the doctor's office with nothing more than the instructions to keep track of our little guy's movements and if anything changed to get to the hospital right away.  I held it together until I was in the comfort of our van and then the floodgates opened.  Did my "perfect pregnancy" really just change that quickly?

Over the next couple of days, Mike and I had some decisions to make.  Many phone calls and texts were made to my sisters in the States, who are both in the medical field.  Trying to get the best information I could get my hands on.  I avoided the internet and researching this "condition" as I knew I would find way more tragic stories than good ones.  The last thing I needed to do was add gasoline to a fire that was already brewing.

The day after we received the news, a scripture that I had read so many times before spoke quietly to my heart:
"We who have this spiritual treasure are like common clay pots, in order to show that the supreme power belongs to God, not to us.  We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed." - 2 Corinthians 4:7-9
It would be easy, and maybe even expected or "normal" to doubt God's plan for a situation like this.  Too often, Christians have been brainwashed into thinking that because of our adoption into God's kingdom we are somehow exempt from heartache, pain and disappointment.  If we love God enough, obey His commands and live a good life, all will be well.  But I have learned over my lifetime, and especially over the last four years which have been exceptionally difficult, that we are not exempt.  In fact, we will more than likely experience extra doses of difficult circumstances.

As I meditated on the scripture I felt an overwhelming sense of God's peace rush over me.  Not the kind of peace that said, "My child, everything is alright.  Everything will turn out fine.  Your baby will be born, alive and healthy."  In fact, the comfort was just the opposite.  I felt at peace with whatever the outcome was.  I have walked the path of worry, disappointment and loss, with my Savior before -- experiencing His rejuvenating peace, love and comfort even in the midst of trials.  The peace I felt, and still feel, comes from knowing and trusting a God that has had my heart in His hands before and has my heart in His hands now.

So I wait patiently.  Waiting for God's story to unfold.  Waiting for a baby to be born.  Waiting for the ways that God will glorify Himself through this situation.  A lesson in patience that I would have never asked for myself, but will surely someday look back and be blown away by the ways God carried me through these times.

Friday, January 17, 2014

28 weeks

Welcome to the third trimester!  It isn't long now!  And obviously my belly has transformed from me looking a little "pudgy" around the middle to full blown roundness!  It has been so fun to watch all of these changes.  I know that this is my last pregnancy so I have been trying to enjoy it, remember it, savor it and just all around love every second.  It has made this feel so special.  You almost forget how much of a miracle this process is because of how "common" it is.  But today, I just can't help but be utterly grateful.

I've had a few days of returned sickness after nearly a month without a single symptom.  But I will praise Him even in that!  My back has started to ache from the very obvious growth happening on the front side.  And the lovely shortness of breath that I remember all two well from my first two pregnancies has joined the party as well.  It seems LB's (yes, we have a name, but it shall remain a secret!) favorite place to hang out is under my ribs and up in my lungs.  Fun times!

Landon continues to be totally excited about the pending birth of his brother and Emi continues to be completely disappointed that it is not a girl.  I have a feeling roles will switch though at some point after his birth, when Landon is sick of sharing his room and Emi is still excited to be playing "mom" with her baby brother.

Here's to our final trimester and a healthy little one coming soon!  See you next month!