We began sanding the wood floors at our house on Sunday, June 15th. Our goal was to get stain down by Thursday afternoon and allow it to dry over Saturday so we could put the first coat of finish on by Sunday morning, maybe even get a second coat on by that evening. The goal was to have the house airing out so we could get back in by the end of June. It was cutting things really close, but it seemed doable especially if the baby wasn't born until a week or so into July.
Then no one was able to work on the floor as anticipated, setting us back to staining on Friday - which would still work with our original schedule but we were a little concerned since we'd heard the stain sometimes didn't dry as quickly as it ought to. After running around looking for different (faster drying) stain, we eventually came to the conclusion that we should stick with our original color and type and accept the extra day. By Thursday we were doing the last sanding and moved next door to Mom and Dad Turner's house so that we wouldn't drop anything on the floor between the last sanding and the staining.
Friday morning we encountered a snag. One of the sanders being used on Sunday had apparently developed a problem with the drum and had been sort of bouncing during the sanding, which had caused a series of small trenches or divots in the floor. It wasn't very visible normally, but when we applied stain or finish it was going to be a big problem because both things would puddle in the divots and make them very obvious. After some debate, Aaron and Benjamin and Elizabeth spent a whole day resanding the floors. We were going to try to squeak in the coat of stain before sundown but eventually had to admit there was just not enough time. There was some talk about not doing the stain until Sunday or Monday, but I basically begged and pleaded for the staining to be done after dark on Saturday - which was no small request considering it was the longest day of the year and would mean we would be staining 900 square feet of wood floor starting around 10:00 at night.
It should be noted here that I was feeling very antsy about the time and concerned we weren't going to be done anywhere near in time for the baby to be born in the house. I was uneasy about the other options that we'd have to go with if we couldn't use our house. Ben began saying that perhaps it hadn't been a good idea to try to get the floors done, but at that point everything was moved out of our house and we were pretty committed; and there was still the issue of what we were going to do if we DIDN'T try to get the floors done. It could be another two months before we did anything and that would be two months of wear on an unfinished floor. I basically pushed the "what-ifs" out of mind and firmly decided the baby was going to be born on time or late. A person's mindset had a lot to do with what happened during labor or even when a person could go into labor, I told myself. And I was pretty determined not to have that baby if things weren't ready.
Thankfully, God had the timing of this all in hand. I was upset about an extra day of sanding. God was saying, "No really, let me handle this. You need to delay a day."
However, I wasn't really listening. I was pushing to get done. So on Saturday evening around sundown, I went next door and began doing the one part of the job I hadn't been banned from: using the swiffer to tack-cloth the floor one last time in preparation for staining. My family arrived around 9:45 and got to work, which included Benjamin running back to his house and cutting and preparing a lintel piece for the basement doorway since we'd forgotten it and it wasn't something that could be easily inserted after the staining and finishing was done everywhere else. Ben and I did a quick run to Meijer for snacks and more brushes since we didn't have enough for the number of people working. I was feeling very large and uncomfortable and tired, but that's par for the course at 9.5 months pregnant after having packed up and moved an entire household of stuff out of a house. I did not feel about to go into labor, though in retrospect I did have some clues that I ignored or chalked up to strain from doing a lot.
The stain was completed around midnight - and Ben was the last person out of the house in spite of the fact that it turns out he is unusually sensitive to the fumes from both the stain and the finish and he spent the night wheezing and coughing. We turned out lights and got everything set for the night and Ben said he hoped all the activity wasn't going to put me into labor. "I'm not going into labor," I said firmly. "I'm fine."
But I had a lot of trouble going to sleep since I was unusually uncomfortable. I tried getting up and taking some Tylenol and went back to bed, but by 3:30 knew that I was feeling a lot of achiness and cramping that had nothing to do with being tired and wasn't something benign like Braxton-Hicks contractions either. At that point I was so scared by the possibility of being in labor that I stubbornly closed my eyes and went to sleep telling myself that I was just tired and everything would be back to normal in the morning.
Abigail got up bright and early at 7:45 and climbed into bed to nurse, like she usually does. I was pleased and relieved to open my eyes and feel pretty good, even back to normal. "False alarm," I thought. "I really was just tired."
Then she started nursing and it triggered three very strong contractions back to back. Ouch. Not so normal after all.
I was still trying to ignore it, though. I finished nursing her and got up and got my bathrobe on and tried to get going on my usual morning routine. I didn't feel very good, though, and there was no denying I was having real contractions. Which, by the way, in my opinion are not the most painful thing I've ever felt but there's no denying they're uncomfortable. "I need to just take some more Tylenol and sit with my feet up," I thought. I'd had two episodes of false labor with Abigail and had tested it that way - and the contractions had stopped those times. So I tried it again this time. Ben realized something was up when he saw me taking Tylenol and got concerned when I had to admit what was going on. "Maybe it's just false labor," I said. "I'll just sit for a while and everything will probably just die down. I don't think I'm going to work on the yard today, though." (That'd been our plan for that day, since we couldn't do anything inside the house.)
"Do you think we should tell Mom and Dad?" Ben asked. I didn't want to. I really wanted the whole thing to just go away. But I reluctantly agreed that we ought to and I was relieved when Ben volunteered to take Abigail and make sure she got breakfast and was changed and dressed, etc. Ben brought me a pen and some paper and I began tracking the contractions. After about an hour, I finally had to break down and admit that with contractions every 7 - 10 minutes even after taking Tylenol and resting, this was no false labor.
At that point, plan B had to go into effect.
We'd prepared our room at home so that the birth supplies were organized and ready and the room itself was most ready except for the two large armchairs and the kitchen table, which could be easily moved. Ben and Dad went next door and began moving things around and putting paper down over the just-barely-dry floors. They opened all the windows and collected every fan they could get their hands on, including some from the neighbors, Dad went to the store and got an air purifier, and I called my mom and asked her to go to the store for the few things we still needed for our birth kit - including newborn diapers, which I'd planned on getting when we went grocery shopping that week but hadn't gotten yet. I had washed all the baby clothes and the covers for the swing and bouncy chair and so on, but we didn't have any diapers. Figures.
We also had to call our stand-by midwife, since our midwife still wasn't back from the short vacation she'd gone on. We'd thought there'd be plenty of time, but now it was clear there wasn't.
By the time I went back to our house - around noon - the stain smell in the house was barely noticeable and it was an absolutely beautiful Sunday afternoon. Part of me was actually a little regretful to be missing out on such a beautiful day since I was way too busy to be paying attention to it. Mom Turner didn't really believe me at first that I was having strong contractions, I think, because I was behaving relatively normally; but by noon things were starting to get serious and it looked like we were on track to have this baby much, much sooner than we'd had Abigail. As a matter of fact, by 5:00 we were just at the point of birth when we encountered the same problem we had with Abigail: the baby was stuck behind a bubble of the amniotic sac that refused to budge or break. At 9:30, after going through four hours of very strong contractions that weren't noticeably doing anything, I finally had to summon the gumption to work on forcing the birth to happen even though things weren't really cooperating. Someone took a picture about the time I was sitting in the birthing pool having to make that decision - I don't really remember sitting there with my head against the back and my eyes closed, but I do remember being so very tired and just wanting to lie down and take a good nap and knowing I had to have that baby first. I could hear my sisters talking to one of the midwives in the other room and had been fuzzily aware of most of the family sitting on the patio next door having pizza a few hours earlier. I thought, "Okay, this has gone on long enough. Time to be done now." It had been about 18 hours since I first started thinking I might be in labor.
Once I decided to work on having her - I had to break the water myself since it just wouldn't rupture and then had to really push her even though I wasn't having any urge to, which takes a lot more energy than normal - Susannah Mary Turner was born about half an hour later at 10:06 pm. My mom and sister Leah ended up being there when she was born, which we hadn't really planned but was pretty special; and then Elizabeth and Anna brought Abigail over right away. I somehow had asked Leah to get them without specifically including Mom Turner in the invitation so she was a few minutes later when we realized she wasn't there, but she was still present before Susannah's cord was even cut yet. By the time Susannah and I were all cleaned up and resting in bed, the room gradually filled up with a good percentage of our family - another unplanned but special event. Mom Turner weighed Susannah for the first time and she and my mom and Anna got Susannah dressed for the first time while Abigail sat on my lap and shared my oatmeal. Abigail had no idea what to make of this tiny baby who had just appeared but finally began pointing to her eyes and mouth and hair and saying, "Eye. Mouth. Hair." Generally acknowledging that Susannah was a person just like her, I think.
We still had the odd situation of having a completely bare house that was full of the smell of stain if the windows were closed and fans turned off. We came to the conclusion it was probably best for Susannah's newly-tested lungs to take her back next door to Mom and Dad Turner's house for the night. So once everyone went home and Susannah had nursed for a little while, we packed up our two little girls and walked very slowly next door at about 1:00 in the morning and went to bed. It was very early in the morning of the two-week anniversary of Grandma Lila's death.
And in a wonderful, special touch, Susannah's first few weeks were spent at Nana and Grandpa Turner's house, where we were spoiled and cared for and visited before we went to my family's house for another few weeks and were again spoiled and cared for and visited. What a welcome for our little peanut!
We're just able to think about getting back into our house now. Turns out Ben is extremely sensitive to the fumes from the finish. So if we were able to follow our original plan, there would've been a brand new coat of finish on the floor and Susannah would've had to be born on the patio next door or something. God made sure that silly sander didn't work properly; and he made sure Susannah was born right in the best time for us to be out of the house: while she's still in a newborn coma and I can rest and not be waiting for the moment when I could start thinking about packing up the house...in the middle of nursing all the time and still not being able to handle my normal workload. It was not what we had planned at all, none of it. Not Grandma getting sick, not Susannah being born two weeks early, not the house progress taking place as it did. But in the end, it all has worked together for good.
I've been continually reminded of a children's song I played often as a kid: "He gave us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garments of praise for the spirit of heaviness: that we might be trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified."
God had all the timing perfectly worked out. He knew how we were going to handle having Grandma Lila and a new baby at the same time. He knew how it was going to work so we could finish our floors and have a new baby at the same time. He knew what we were going to need when and he made sure it all worked. All the things we couldn't quite figure out how to cram into the same period of time he already had planned, and in the end Susannah's birth was full of little things that made it very special and very wonderful, just as he took care of Grandma Lila and her gentle death. Thank you, Lord. You made things perfect, just as you always do.
Welcome to the family, Susannah! Yours is one birth we are certainly never going to forget.
After the recent news of Detroit declaring bankruptcy, there's been a fair amount of discussion at our house. We say things like, "How did this happen? How did such a big thriving city turn into what it is?" Ben and I spent some time a few evenings ago looking at pictures of some of the iconic buildings downtown, contrasting what they must've looked like even as recently as the 1960s and what they look like now. The place looks like a ghost-town, as if some plague came along and stole away the people right in the middle of their daily lives. There are dentist offices in one of the big empty skyscrapers that still have all the equipment sitting in the fully-furnished rooms, hotel rooms with their furniture still neatly arranged and moldering away like a time capsule of the 50s, giant office buildings with graffiti covering the stairwells and all the wooden handrails lying in a heap on the first floor after the wrought-iron spindles have been stolen away as valuable scrap. There are prairies growing where there used to be neighborhoods and big grand old mansions are falling into heaps with trees growing through the roof. Old apartment complexes sit abandoned with their windows broken out; Ben pointed out one beautiful complex full of interesting architecture and complicated brickwork and said, "I saw these same apartments in Chicago - they were expensive and they were completely occupied. It's so weird to see the same ones sitting empty like this."
There are a lot of reasons why it got this way, of course. The decline of the American car manufacturers, the rise of thoughtless unions, the terrible rift between different ethnicities, the pervasive idea in our culture that government should provide all, the meddling of the "social justice" movement that decided to mix up the neighborhoods instead of allowing people to live where they wanted their children to go to school, the uniquely Detroit concept of forcing people to pay an extra tax for the privilege of working there, the insidious corruption that gradually made it nearly impossible to do work without bribing someone...all this and more. It all adds up.
But there's been one factor that hasn't been discussed much and it's kind of hard to even put into words exactly what it is. It has to do with prosperity and how when people become prosperous, they have a tendency to forget God - to forget what is good. When things are easy, it becomes easy to reject what is good and right. It doesn't mean prosperity is evil, because prosperity is a blessing. But as Moses said to the Hebrew people before they went into the Promised Land, "When you're sitting in homes you didn't build and harvesting from fields you didn't plant, be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God!"
Detroit became a very prosperous place. At one time, I believe it was the fifth most prosperous city in the United States. And if the penalty for forgetting God is that your land becomes cursed...anyone looking at the state the city's in now would be hard-pressed not to think much of it looks pretty cursed.
As a nation, the whole way we tend to think about things and approach them has taken a hugely different path from what characterized our nation even just fifty years ago. It's not too ridiculous to say that these days, what used to be bad is now good and what used to be good is now bad. If a woman promises in her wedding vows to obey her husband, that's bad; but if she wants to marry another woman, that's good (or at least more acceptable). This is exactly opposite from how such things used to be viewed. How does such a huge change happen?
It happened because what people used to call "good" just didn't look very good to their children. The problem today is not that women want to marry each other. It's that those who said they believed in God and the marriage he created between man and woman made that marriage look so terrible that people started looking for alternatives.
Everything began changing in the 60s. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what happened, but it came down to children rejecting the "old-fashioned" ways of their parents. The 50s were marked by prosperity and a seemingly upright moral culture that is pretty widely mocked today, a culture preserved in TV shows like "Leave It To Beaver". Everything looks so stable in those shows, with pleasant stay-at-home Mom in her apron cooking dinner and clean-cut dependable Dad coming home every night from work to his nice suburban home to spend time with his orderly family. Everyone pretty much went to church, children went to nice schools (without fear of being shot and not much fear of being bullied) and everyone had peaceful homes and pleasant childhoods.
But did they?
The truth is - and it's been pointed out many times - that much of the 50s culture was a facade. People did what they thought they were supposed to do to look good but had no peace in their homes. There was alcoholism and broken marriages that just weren't visible because the parents couldn't divorce easily, and a host of other problems. We were prosperous and had forgotten God, even though we were putting up a front of still believing him. And the children of this generation looked at their parents and said, "If this is what 'good' looks like, I don't want to have anything to do with it." So they began rejecting everything their parents said they believed in, even things it really was good to believe in.
In Detroit, that meant there was less and less regard for caring for things or even for people. Everyone was "looking out for Number One". There was less regard for authority - as proved by the riots. And there was great encouragement to rebel against standards and old ways of doing things and do it all a new way.
The problem is that good is still good. If it was good once - if it was ever good - it is still good. "Good" is not subjective. There isn't one good for me and one good for you. Good is good. There is a true definitive standard of good, just as there is definite truth. We may not always know what it is, but it exists. And that is what our society has totally lost sight off. We're swimming around in a sea of relativism, lost in the idea that, "well, that's good for you but not for me and what's good for me is whatever I think is good for me."
If that sounds bad, see my above comment that good is now bad and bad is now good.
As a society, we've abandoned "old fashioned morals". (That's code for abandoning God.) We abandoned them (and him) because the people who claimed to believe in them proved to be fakes. As someone I know said last night, "Children would be better off if their parents were honest about what they believe in, even if they were honest about not believing in moral standards. At least the children would have a chance to adopt those standards themselves instead of looking at their parents' hypocrisy and deciding to have none of it."
This is something that's affecting all of us. Good has been abandoned to the point that many don't even know what it even is. It's affecting all our cities, even those more prosperous than Detroit. And more personally, if Ben and I want Abigail to follow God, then we'd better really be searching for him and not just say we want what is good. Because if our life doesn't bear any desirable fruit, Abigail will abandon it for something better. And if we've had the gall to say we believe something that we don't, we will damage her ability to ever see those beliefs truthfully so she can at least succeed where we've failed.
Of Faucets and Great Stature
I have to report that our window of opportunity to begin really building the addition was closed due to some unforeseen circumstances and we'll be waiting a bit longer to start the excavating, which is what I was originally hoping to blog about.
The good thing about delays is that they usually result in equally unforeseen advantages in the long run, and given the perfect timing that has characterized our life since we first met, we're reminding each other that the addition is running on the same timing everything else has. I remember a little over a year ago when we weren't sure when we were actually going to get keys to our house. We were trying to figure out why there was delay after delay then and in the end, the timing worked out so beautifully that the house was able to be prepared for Grandma to live here in the two weeks before our wedding...so not only did we have a house, but we were able to get Grandma home right away when we'd been thinking there was going to be a several-month-longer delay.
That said, there have definitely been some changes around here. Ben and I have gotten motivated to work on all the little projects that have been hanging around needing to be finished, probably because we have the feeling that if we can't work on the addition, we should at least work on what we can. I've put up pictures that have been sitting around for quite a while and we've been doing things like cleaning and organizing the basement (Ben organized the pantry and it's way more usable than it used to be!). Generally, just focusing on what we can to take care of our house as it is rather than how it's going to be.
Which brings us to the kitchen faucet.
About a month ago, our faucet started leaking in a really strange way I'd never seen before: straight out the side of the faucet stem about midway between the handle and the spout. It was just a little pinhole at first and the spray of water was so fine you could only feel it, not see it. I said, "Well, we were going to get a new one in a few months anyway - I guess we'll just have to work around the leak."
Then it began leaking out the other side and both leaks got considerably stronger in no time at all. After about two weeks I had to keep a washcloth over the stem of the faucet or else everything on the counter on both sides of the sink would get soaked if we turned the water on.
Then it started getting just plain ridiculous. It wasn't a leak anymore: it was more like an imitation of Old Faithful. If we weren't careful, the water pressure would throw the washcloth off and then everything around the sink (including the unwary user) would get a surprise shower. Ben said, "There's no way that's making it a couple more months. We need a faucet."
So on Black Friday, he perused websites looking at faucets, reading reviews, and asking me questions about what styles would work best in the new kitchen. My contribution to the process was to point out one style I really didn't like and say I thought the finish should be brushed nickle since that's what we were using in all the other fixtures. Ben found a faucet that got excellent reviews and was a good style, used the right sink holes, and was being sold at a decently reduced price. I didn't realize it at the time, but one of the reasons he ordered that particular one was that it had good marks for being easy to install.
After the new faucet arrived, Ben announced, "I'm going to install this."
"Sounds wonderful!" I said. "I have only one suggestion."
"Wear old clothes. It seems like plumbing always involves yucky water at some point."
So on Sunday afternoon, Ben changed into old clothes, excavated all the stuff stored under the sink, and began removing the old faucet. He kept me busy hunting for things ("Didn't we have a channel locks around here somewhere?"), but I didn't mind because it seemed like the least I could do considering he was the one lying on his back under the sink. My favorite moment - and one that partly illustrates why I decided to marry him - was when his voice emerged from under the sink excitedly saying, "Oh, look at this - I'm getting yucky water all over me just like a real plumber!"
That's Ben. It's one of the many reasons he's a wonderful man. Not to mention one of the reasons he's very easy to live with.
He would've had the faucet all installed by 7:30 that evening, except the connector hoses that came with the sink were about six inches too short and Lowes and Home Depot close early on Sundays. He even went on a determined expedition to Walmart and Meijer looking for adapters, but ultimately had to wait until Monday evening to finish up the project.
So we have a new faucet and Ben has a new skill. He's been picking up all kinds of new stuff this year and I expect he's going to pick up even more next year (there's always the important, "Being a Father" if nothing else!). I love his willingness to take on something new he's never tried before and the way he doesn't get frustrated when he has to take the faucet off and put it back on three or four times and the way he gets excited over things other people think are problems. I've been thinking over the ways I've learned more about Ben since we were married a year ago, and this is one of them. I've had the chance to get a much deeper look at the kind of courage he has, the way he will joyously tackle things other people (including me) see as obstacles, the way he doesn't let himself get upset at things. The man I got to know a year ago hasn't become any less admirable in the past year as I've gotten to know him much better. He's only grown in stature. He's getting better with every day that goes by.
By the way, I really enjoy the new faucet. It's perfect. And I don't have to wear a raincoat to turn it on.
It seems like we have a lot of things to prepare this week. It's occurred to me that at seven months pregnant, it's probably time to start gathering a few baby things - we have coupons for a few things that we can get just for shipping fees that we planned to order over the next few months and I ordered the first of them this week. And it's looking like the addition will be getting underway any day (though I know it probably looks like nothing whatsoever is going on), so this evening Ben and I are going to clear out the sunroom in preparation for tearing it down. I'm going to miss that little room, but I keep reminding myself that a new family room will be so much more pleasant and useful!
While we've been preparing little things like this, we've also been watching things happening in the outside world and wondering...how does a person really prepare for bad things to come?
A lot of people believe that we're looking at the beginnings of complete economic collapse in our country and are preparing for scenarios like no one being able to get food or water for months or years. It's pretty amazing what is advised to stockpile: everything from ibuprofen to ammunition. It's a lot like Y2K, from my perspective. We really don't know what's going to happen, so we try to think of everything that might and prepare for it.
I've had a thought that's gradually become more cohesive this time around than it was back in 1999: what is it in the Human psyche that reacts to danger by wanting to horde things? And how much will it really protect us?
I think one answer is we always want to know what's coming next and when we don't, we often place an incredible amount of emphasis on one of two things: totally ignoring the possible threat...or trying to heavily prepare for whatever we can imagine happening. And we have very vivid imaginations. The Unknown scares us enough that we try to cover all the bases we can think of, even ones that are wildly improbable, because then we feel safe. Unfortunately, when real bad things happen I don't think even our vivid imaginations cover all the results.
For instance, I know of one woman married to a man from Russia who recently mentioned what his parents did to prepare for the bad times they foresaw coming under Communist leadership. They actually did lay by supplies and try to get ready for what was coming...and the first thing the new government did was raid houses, uncover secret storehouses, and take everything.
Not sure how you can prepare for that one.
Now granted, keeping supplies on hand to deal with problems like grocery stores not being stocked for a few weeks due to storms or earthquakes or other problems like that is a sensible thing to do. But how exactly do you prepare for the collapse of your economy? How to you get ready for the end of the world? What about girding yourself to face World War III?
I think perhaps what we need to prepare isn't so much the pantry as our minds. Because the truth is, if we find our security in stockpiling enough stuff, it's going to let us down. There really is no way to physically lay by supplies for every eventuality. So ultimately, surviving any cataclysmic event can't come down to "Did I prepare enough stuff?" The answer will always be "no." If you bought a thousand dollars worth of dried rations, you probably should've bought two thousand or five thousand. If all you did was look at the future fearfully and say, "I have to DO SOMETHING!!" you will never be able to prepare enough.
But your mind drives all that you do and every response that you make to every eventually. It really does cover everything. Focusing on physical survival is one thing: preparing your mind to take anything that comes your way is another. In my opinion, the greatest thing any of us can do to prepare for anything at all is to learn to use our minds and see clearly. Because the biggest danger of all seems to be inside us. When things don't go our way, we panic, act irrationally, forget that God made us and God is in charge. When really bad things happen, we despair, lose hope, and sometimes even do crazy things like riot and kill people. When we let our minds get corrupted by things like fear, we no longer have the wisdom or the foresight to make wise preparations for even commonplace problems, let alone big ones.
We had a conversation last week about how the term "repentance" really means "to change your mind". You can't truly and usefully repent of anything until your mind has been changed and you see clearly. I think the exact same thing applies to preparing. Preparing for anything, really, even a new addition and a new baby. Ben and I have been preparing for the birth of this child for months by getting our minds ready for what's going to happen and how we're going to respond. We don't have a bassinet or diapers or baby clothes, but we've spent a lot of time saying things like, "That's how we want our baby's spirit to look - just like that!"
We don't have rifles and ammunition laid by, but we do keep preparing for whatever could happen by constantly noting and examining how God proves he's in charge. Not because we need the proof, but because that's our version of stocking the pantry so we feel safe. Considering the first urge we often have is to DO SOMETHING, this sounds like not doing very much: but it's absolutely essential. It's the foundation for being able to handle whatever comes our way. The only way for us to make wise preparations for our future, no matter what it happens to be, is to keep our minds from being filled up with junk that will prevent us from seeing what's really happening and making decisions based on that. If we put extra things in our pantry, we want to do so because we've reasonably and thoughtfully decided to, not because we're terrified we won't survive if we don't. Fear is one of the biggest corrupters of the mind out there and it's pretty easy to let it in when we hear things like "fiscal cliff" and "war" and "major tax increases". But fear has a tough time getting a foothold if you've already prepared your mind to accept that even when fearful things occur, you don't have reason to fear because you are ultimately not in charge of what's going to happen and there is someone who is, someone who is trustworthy and good and who doesn't forget even about little things like making sure we have a house next door to Mom and Dad so we can take care of Grandma Lila. Or giving Ben a job that allows us to make money to cover what we need and still give him an incredible amount of time to spend with Grandma and me. That someone is not going to suddenly forget about us just because the stock market crashes or we go to war with Iran. We keep reminding ourselves of those kinds of things and then we're at peace.
And that kind of preparation really does cover whatever happens.
I remember the first violin lesson I had after George W. won his first term of presidency. My teacher was so despondent about the results of the election that she said she didn't see how any of us were going to survive with such an idiot in office for four years. I remember the comment because I'd become politically aware during the Clinton years and had very much hoped for Bush Jr. to win; I did, however, remember how it felt to have Clinton win his second term in office. Disappointing - but I hadn't been despairing about it, either. So I sort of understood how she felt but not quite. I pointed it out to her and she said something else I haven't forgotten: "Well, you don't understand because you're just more passive than I am: I believe in actually doing something about problems I see!"
With every election, that comment comes back to me. Not because I was stung into action by her words, but because no matter how firm my opinion about current political events, there's always something lurking in the back of my mind that makes both wins and losses more matter-of-fact to me than other people I know who are fascinated by politics. I believe God is always in charge. Always. And he is good.
And he is the God who uses talking donkeys to make a point and calls an invading pagan king, "My servant."
‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: This is what you shall say to your masters: “It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me. Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him. All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes. Then many nations and great kings shall make him their slave.' (Jeremiah 27:4-7 ESV)
It probably seemed incomprehensible in those days to any of the Jewish people worshiping God that he should call the arrogant marauding barbarian Nebuchadnezzar "my servant" and should show him favor. But God is always the one who allows or ordains leaders to gain power. Not necessarily because they are holy or because he sanctions their wickedness or beliefs, but because he has a Plan: and the Plan calls for specific people to be in control at specific times.
I believed that when Bill Clinton and George W. were in charge. I believed it when Barak Obama won his first term. I believe it now.
Does that mean I don't stick to my philosophy of life or that I'll vote for an incumbent president no matter what because, "Well, God put him there..."? No. I always vote for, as my brother Aaron puts it, "the person who most closely believes what I believe to be right." That might mean out of two guys running, one of them is only a fraction closer to my beliefs of right and wrong: but it does make it a lot easier to vote. I never vote for "the perfect candidate" but make the best choice I can between the options presented. And then I say, "Well, Lord, I answered the question as best I could and I'm glad you're deciding the end result."
Which means I feel no bitterness when the candidate I didn't vote for wins. I might say, "Uh oh. We're in for it now." But I don't despair. After all, King Herod was no joy of a leader and God chose him to be in charge when his own son was born; not to mention Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire. A little reading on the history of that time makes our complaints about higher taxes look pretty piddly, to be honest.
Of course, I'm not sure what I would've done back during the Revolutionary War days. I hope I would've said, "Yes, God places Kings in charge; but he also removes them and it looks like we're going to be a tool to do that."
But those days are not now. I firmly contributed my opinion about who should be in charge of this country and I do have to admit I'm disappointed that's not what God had in mind. But I'm sure glad he's the one ultimately deciding and I do believe whatever things come up in the next four years, it's part of the Plan. Yes, higher taxes and giving Israel the cold shoulder and being ever-more-consistently being labeled a "religious right wacko" and all. If that makes me passive, than I suppose I am. Still, I'm glad I'm continuing to have joy in life regardless of what leader happens to be in charge. Because the leader of the Kingdom I belong to doesn't change and I have every confidence he's got this, no matter what comes next.
A Little Of Everything
Ben and I have had an interesting week. So far, it's included two plane trips, walking about 25 miles, watching sunrise over the Atlantic at a beach, tasting seven or eight different olive oils (hey, for those of us who don't do wine tastings...), having another double birthday celebration (Kim and I have birthdays only four days apart), and having our baby finally tip out in front. I went from looking a little pregnant at the beginning of the week to looking VERY pregnant by the end of it. My ribs are eternally grateful - on Tuesday they were so sore they were driving me crazy, which tells me the baby had grown up just about as far as he possibly could and since he had to go somewhere, now he's growing out instead.
On the downside, now when I look in the mirror I wonder where that fat girl came from and why she's wearing my clothes. Ben said, "Maybe a little too much pasta."
We've enjoyed pretty much every minute of our trip to Florida, even when we opted out of going through the body scanner at the airport and submitted ourselves to the full pat-down instead. Turns out it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected; but whatever it was, we weren't interested in taking the baby through the scanner. We haven't even made free use of a Doppler heart monitor because we were reading about what the sound waves can do to a developing baby's cells...why bombard him with whatever super-rays are used in those big body scanners? Pat downs are much safer.
Our plane trips were a lot of fun for us - we enjoy doing everything together and plane rides were no exception. We had one little hop from Detroit to Atlanta and then another little hop from Atlanta to Jacksonville, where we walked off the plane to a beautiful Florida autumn day complete with a breeze that smelled like salt water. It hasn't been particularly hot here, but we certainly aren't going to complain at 70 - 75 degree temps and sunshine after 40 and rainy had become the norm back home. It feels pretty good.
We got some good advice on the plane ride from Atlanta to Jacksonville, too. In a bland professional voice, the flight attendant advised that "in the event that our flight should become a cruise", we should stop screaming and clutching our neighbor's leg and don the life jacket located under the seat in front of us. "If you're traveling with a child or someone acting like a child, be sure you prepare yourself before helping them," she continued. "And if you're traveling with multiple children, this would be the time to pick your favorite."
I'm guessing she's had to make that safety announcement one too many times. But at least she made it interesting.
Stephen and Kim have a beautiful home in the suburbs of Jacksonville and we've agreed they have a very nice guest room bed. We have been very relaxed about the schedule of things and have basically eaten our meals peacefully, taken a lot of very long walks, done what we could to keep Emma's naptimes and bedtimes as secure and uninterrupted as possible, and enjoyed Kim and Stephen's company a lot. Stephen was unexpectedly able to be home for the week since Hurricane Sandy closed the airport he would normally fly into during business hours to do his business - which turns out to be setting up IT for very large companies. I didn't realize I was marrying into a family of computer guys, but the definite upside to this is they are very keen on new gadgets and it's a lot of fun to see all kinds of new stuff in action. Ben has gotten hooked on another new iPad game and says there is absolutely no way we can ever get an iPad. He would be much too addicted to playing on it. And the truth is, now I've been playing the games with him so we'd both be hooked. Our bed would never get made and we'd be eating TV dinners.
As for Hurricane Sandy, as Mrs. G. always said..."It's an ill wind that blows no good." Out of all the mess and mayhem, the good in this instance was extra time with the Man of the Izzo Household. Who ran twenty miles this morning instead of the fourteen he was planning on. I just can't imagine being able to run that far - it was a major accomplishment to me when I reached ONE mile!
On Thursday, Ben and I went out to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory for my birthday, which was a present from Kim and Stephen. We sat outside since 75 felt plenty warm enough to us for eating outside and the rest of the clientele seemed to think it was too cold, so it was quiet in the outdoor dining room. Ben proposed again, which he pretty much does every time we go out to eat. As I get more pregnant, this either gets funnier or more embarrassing depending on how you look at it.
We've noticed that we make decisions very decisively as a team, too - there were about two dozen different cheesecakes on the menu for dessert and it took us about five minutes to pick one. Typically, I find three or four that I like the sounds of and Ben casts the deciding vote. In this instance, I said, "I think the Banana Cream, the Wild Blueberry, or the Coconut cheesecakes sound really good." Ben said, "Blueberry it is, then." He very rarely says, "Hm....none of them," though that does happen on occasion.
Friday we went out to dinner at Maggiano's with Kim and Stephen, which Kim was excited about because she said it was like a double date. That was fun; and we came home with so many leftovers we had enough for dinner last night too. (This is where Ben's comment about my suddenly much-expanded belly being due to too much pasta came from.)
Yesterday morning, we got up relatively early and drove out to Jax Beach to watch the sunrise, since it's not often we have the opportunity to see sunrise over the Atlantic and it's not even like we had to get up all that early to do so. The sun came over the horizon at 7:42 and it was only about a 10 - 15 minute ride to the beach. We left at 7:15 and got there in plenty of time. We'd already been out to the beach on Thursday afternoon and discovered it's pretty quiet out there this time of the year. Not to mention no one seems interested in wearing bikinis, which is a plus. The interesting thing I've noticed about Florida beaches before is that there's a huge percentage of the female population present in bikinis; and the percentage of women who could even think of looking reasonably un-ridiculous in a bikini is a lot lower than that. Modesty issues aside, sometimes I wonder if maybe people don't look closely in the mirror before heading out the door.
But coming to Jacksonville in November mitigates this particular issue. In fact, most people who were out even in the warm afternoon were wearing sweaters (not necessary to our Michigan way of thinking) and at sunrise, folks were out in their pants and jackets. We drank coffee and hot chocolate respectively and walked a ways down the beach keeping an eye out for some of the nice big waves that came in now and then. I haven't been up that early on a Saturday morning in years and it was absolutely worth it.
In the afternoon we went to visit Stephen's mom (his dad is out of town - and planning to visit the Jordan River today, to give you an indication of how far out of town he actually is) and had lunch with her. They've just finished some fairly major renovation on their house and it was fun to see all the results. I got some very good ideas for our kitchen in the process - I've been trying to figure out if we should try to get cupboards that go up to the ceiling to make the ceiling appear taller or if that would just be kind of pointless, but after looking at the Izzo's new kitchen it looks to me like having the cupboards go up like that really does give the sense of the ceiling being higher than it is. I also liked that Mrs. Izzo picked out an island that was stained/painted a color (a beautiful blue, in this instance) rather than using the same cabinets. I'm not positive we can do this easily in our kitchen, but I have considered what would happen if I over-finished the cabinets at the island to get this effect and I really like it, so even if we don't do it now it might be a project for the future some day.
Mrs. Izzo also told us some really good stories about things like the politics of becoming a general's wife (in the military, the capability of a wife to support her husband and take good care of other military wives and keep order in their home is actually one of the things that weighs into her husband's eventual promotion, something I found really intriguing because it reminds me of Paul talking to Timothy about choosing deacons to lead a church) and living in Germany at the time Stephen was born. She said she had to quit before we got bored. We were a long way from being bored.
Speaking of our addition, Mom told me today that she'd called MISDIG and our yard is now full of little colored flags. Ben and I picked up the building permit the day before we left for Florida, so it sounds like when we get home we're going to be heading straight into addition-building. I'm relieved and excited that things are underway, but I expect these next few months are going to be some very super-busy ones. Sometimes it's hard to believe that by this time next year we'll have a totally different house and a baby who's starting to talk!
I should probably wrap this up and go find out if we've figured out what to do today. We've been playing our days very much by ear, which means we probably aren't seeing all kinds of things there are to see...but that's okay with us. Getting to spend every day together is quite a special thing for us all by itself, and getting to spend the time with Kim and Stephen and Emma is icing on the cake. The warm weather just puts everything over the top! We're pretty glad we're the ones that came out in November and Grandma went out in September, though. While we think the weather's lovely, it's a little cool for swimming and I think Grandma would still think it was cold. Ben talked to her on the phone yesterday and she doesn't really believe him that it's only in the early 70s, but I can see her out here sitting on the patio in a jacket and blanket while I'm barefoot and in summer clothes.
So long for now...and in my next post, perhaps there'll be something new and exciting about house preparations to talk about. You know we're going to really get to it eventually!
With the elections coming up, we've been watching debates and discussing politics probably like a lot of people around the country this week. Oddly enough, our thought process went off in a tangent from national issues to one that's seriously affecting local churches.
Christian children are abandoning their beliefs as adults.
The churches are in trouble. It's not completely obvious on the surface. There are churches all over the place and they have attendance every Sunday and lots of weekdays as well. There are activities and programs and all kinds of stuff going on.
But 50% of the kids raised in these churches and attending all the special children's programs are no longer active Christians as adults. (I did some research on this and the numbers are pretty dicey, but I found an interesting Barna Group study here that talked about how kids raised in church are affected as adults - the paragraph I'm referencing is under the sub-heading "Faith Journeys" and actually sounds positive in the context of the article...but in this instance, I'm a glass-half-empty girl).
What gives? How can we be losing half the kids in church - kids of Christian parents who were raised attending church all the time?
I'm going to say something really controversial and extremely unpopular in the church today, but please bear with me.
We're losing the kids because we're separating them from their parents.
The churches - at least, all the ones I've been to in the area over the past two years in the course of some area-wide church programs - are splitting up their attending families. The kids go to Children's Church, the teens go to their own special classes, and the parents and grandparents attend the adult service. Men and women split up to study the Bible. Everywhere you turn, you find families splitting all different ways at church.
The more Ben and I watch and discuss, the more we're concluding that this has become an incredibly destructive influence the broader culture has had on mainstream Christian philosophy.
When I was little, there was a very common feature attached to most church sanctuaries called a "Cry Room". It was usually small with a couple of rocking chairs and a glass window allowing anyone inside to be able to watch and listen to the service. It was a good place for nursing moms to be able to go if they weren't comfortable nursing in the congregation, and it encouraged something very simple: even the youngest are welcome to listen in.
But even in my fairly short lifetime, something has subtly shifted in Christian philosophy and the Cry Rooms have all but vanished. It's another step in a process that's been happening over the past two hundred years or so, a process that involves something unheard-of in the past two thousand years of Christian life: children are no longer expected to be present in service with their parents in a startling majority of churches.
At the founding of our country, those incredibly dedicated Christian parents who first made it to these shores wouldn't dream of attending a church service without their children seated quietly and neatly in the pews with them. Those children grew up simply and naturally accepting the faith of their fathers in large percentages. Families that prayed together stayed together, the saying went. Parents were somehow able to learn about God with their children all seated around them because they expected nothing less. They knew how to train them not to be disruptive because there wasn't another choice.
Sometime around the invention of our modern school system, though - right in sync with the Industrial Revolution and the concept of having masses of people separated into types to accomplish specific workforce goals - came a new idea to the churches: separating kids from the parents so they could more effectively learn about God. Sunday School became just as much a fixture of church life as the Sunday sermon.
Still, as my kind elderly neighbor Bertha was just telling me this week, even when kids back nearly a hundred years ago went to Sunday school, they joined their parents for the majority of the Sunday service, including the sermon.
Not so today.
In the church Ben and I attend, the children and teenagers are present for the beginning of the service only. After the singing and the opening prayers, they're dismissed to their separate classes where various dedicated adults from the church do their best every week to present Godly principles to the kids "at their level" while their parents stay behind and hear a sermon being preached "at their level" in the sanctuary.
The more I watch this happen, the more I want to cry every Sunday when all the kids in every family get up and leave before the serious stuff ever gets started. There are only three children left in the room, and even they are only there because they're a little young to be left in the nursery (or in the case of one very outspoken little toddler, she refuses to be parted from her parents and protests loudly when they try to put her in the nursery). Other members are ecstatic about the number of children in the church. All I feel is worry and grief when they disappear. Something is wrong. Very, very terribly wrong. The services are too quiet. Half our assembly is missing; and they're missing what their parents are hearing.
Yes, I've heard over and over, "Well, the adult sermon goes over their heads." That's only true to a point. I was one of those kids once. Yeah, it went over my head for a while. But little by little, I began understanding. I knew what my parents were talking about when they discussed things they'd heard. Even if I didn't totally understand all the time, I learned what they were hearing and what they were learning. I wasn't left behind when they made decisions because I'd been hearing the whole process of how they thought and where they were coming from. I absorbed my parents' beliefs and understanding from being exposed to what they were hearing through the filter of what they thought about it. I remember being about four or five when I first grasped the concept of "atonement"...from hearing adult discussion and matching it to constantly listening to the Bible read aloud on tape. Four or five! And I'm no genius.
Jesus was not kidding when he said his Father revealed himself to little children. Little children that were given to their parents, to grow under their leadership and be taught the things their parents know and understand.
But today in church...children aren't expected to understand. They're expected to only be able to learn if they're separated from the adults, given a special lesson tailored to their age, kept out of the way so the adults can learn the really serious stuff without them.
Where did this come from? When did it become a good idea to separate whole families during the time when perhaps they should most be together? Because from what I can see of Jesus' teaching, he found it absolutely critical that the very young children be included in what his disciples thought was much too adult for the little crumb-crunchers to be wandering around. That very famous phrase, "Let the little children come to me" came about because Jesus was chastising his closest followers from trying to shut children out of their adult discussion. Every time I see the kids get up and leave, I wonder what would happen if Jesus walked into the service and looked around. Once our three little representatives have graduated to nursery and Children's Church, where would be the little fellow he could call over and use as an example in his teaching?
We think one huge factor is that Christians today are accepting a very dangerous philosophy, one Ben and I have started calling "Babel Again".
Our whole society right now is very eager to accept the idea that only by banding together as a worldwide people will we be able to achieve the great ends we believe we're capable of. We want to end World Hunger, ensure World Peace, think of ourselves as People Without Borders, change our entire planet's climate, redefine entire Human relationship structures, rise above racial differences, decide who should live or die...all things that God himself stated are his prerogative alone. So by ambitiously staking our claim on becoming a World Society, we are in essence saying, "Let's build a tower up to the sky where God lives!"
Last time we tried that, God was so alarmed by our attitude that he broke our ability to communicate as we used to. We call that incident the "Tower of Babel" story, a gigantic warning about the consequences of trying to set ourselves up as gods. It hasn't totally stopped us, though. We're still out here tower-building; and anyone who's alarmed by it is considered irrelevant because there's been a huge system setup to inexorably continue training the youngest generations how to "think properly" and totally break from their parents if they're such sticks-in-the-mud as to think maybe this or that current philosophy isn't such a good idea. Because a Global Society only works if you get a huge majority of the world to fall in line with a specific, homogenized way of thinking. Independent thinkers can destroy the whole construct; and those who believe in a God greater than any Human institution have to be silenced or made irrelevant for the Humans-as-gods dream to succeed.
Hence, massively organized school systems designed to separate children from their parents' views so they can be remolded into whatever form the system desires to create.
And we Christians, rather than being wary of going along with our society's ambitions and philosophies, are trying to take that idea and customize it to our own purposes. We're transferring the philosophies meant to indoctrinate young children into abandoning their parents' faith onto our methods of teaching the children in our churches. We're accepting a model of schooling meant to divide children from their parents for the purpose of more easily influencing them and transferring it to teaching about God. We believe that if the purpose of this style of teaching is to train kids in Christianity, the ends justify the means. The kids will be learning what they need to know regardless of what their parents think or teach...and we even think it's a plus that we have a chance to take children of unbelieving parents and pull the parents in by working with their kids. But that's worldly philosophy, not God's! God's philosophy is to work from the parent to the child, from the authority to those under the authority. The children were brought to Jesus by their parents, not the other way around.
Separating children from their parents - and even from their siblings of different ages - was a method originally conceived to indoctrinate them away from parents, not to encourage strong, vibrant families where children are in harmony and agreement with their parents and look to their authority first. We're training children to constantly look to their teachers and give them the love and respect that should only belong to parents; and by sabotaging parents this way, we're wreaking havoc in the churches. We're sowing a wind that's reaping a whirlwind and each successive generation abandoning God in higher percentages should be a wake-up call. More and more elaborate children's programs are not solving the problem of adults abandoning the faith they were brought up in. We're losing at least half of them and that is a percentage that sends a chill up my spine. It indicates that if Ben and I have two children and follow the current model of spiritual training being advocated in the churches, we stand a high chance if losing one of those children to the world. That's not a percentage we can live with. It would be better for us not to have children than accept this.
But instead of recognizing we've let the snake into the garden, let worldly ideas poison our philosophy, we just keep trying more and more fervently to make the world's methods work for us. Jesus told us pretty plainly that we can't patch an old garment with new patches. We can't serve two masters. We can't put new wine in old wineskins. We're going to simply destroy what we're trying to fix.
The problem is not the sincerity of the church leaders. It's not the fervency of their goals or the energy they put into doing their very best to teach Godliness to the children entrusted to them. It's not the parents who diligently bring their children to church every week and conscientiously keep them involved in the programs meant to keep the kids interested in God and learning about him.
The problem is no matter how good the program and how dedicated the teachers, the children are still being separated from their parents. When it comes to children and families, God's way is to join together. The world's way is to separate. God's way unites. The world's way tears apart. God says, "I hate divorce" (divorce being a separation of what God has joined together, including parents and children as well as husbands and wives). The world says, "Separation is healthy and necessary." God says, "I have called you to be set apart, a peculiar people." The world says, "Hey, using a few of our ideas will solve all your problems!"
Over the past two hundred years, Christians have accepted the "healthy necessity" of separation and the results are increasingly stark. The marriage failure rate in our churches has exploded to match that of the general population. The failure rate of children to maintain the faith they were raised in is astronomical. Even those who carry their faith into adulthood are far too often suffering a crisis of faith for some period of time that puts them in open rebellion against their parents and what they were taught to believe. Even if they recover, it's as if they suffered a life-threatening illness and often carry the scars of it the rest of their lives. This is not successfully raising up a new generation of Godly men and women. It's a deadly serious gamble.
The definition of insanity is to keep following the same methods and expect different results.
If separating the children from the parents in churches for several generations is resulting in each generation abandoning God in greater numbers, we have to do something different. Something radical. Something unheard-of.
We need to keep the kids with their parents. Abandon the separation indoctrination model. Quit worrying about sermons going over little kids' heads so they can be one with their parents in learning and talking about and finding God.
We can't afford to be insane.
This week I can definitely tell I'm no longer in the first trimester of this pregnancy. I suddenly have the overwhelming urge to take care of all the little odds and ends I've been putting off for the past three months. So far I've been painting doors, cleaning corners of the house that have been building up dust and clutter, finally beginning to think about how to actually decorate around here, weeding the flowers, trying out new recipes, and no longer needing a nap every afternoon in order to have energy to make dinner. I notice that I can go up and down the stairs without feeling achy. How exactly does that work, I wonder, considering the baby is a hundred times bigger and heavier than three months ago?
I can also take a shower first thing in the morning before breakfast without passing out. Betcha everyone was just itching to know about that.
Furthermore, I had the energy to also be interested enough in politics again to go read up on all the candidates on yesterday's ballot before we went in to vote. I haven't even wanted to hear the radio lately; and for anyone who knows me well, this should be an indication of just how tired I was. There was an exciting bunch of skulduggery going on in my hometown...but I wasn't voting there. Bummer. Apparently there were some similar fireworks in our new hometown, but I didn't have the same kind of background to know what was going on and who to really vote for. So yesterday morning - the first big election I haven't worked in twelve years! - Ben and I sat down and read through a lot of candidate statements and news articles before going in to vote. That's when I realized the fog must really be lifting off my brain because my reaction wasn't "eh...okay...big deal..."
A lot of people have told me, "Oh, you're going to feel really good these next couple of months." It's not that I didn't believe them, but it is actually surprising to me how much better I feel. After all, I just did two first trimesters in a row between Joshua and this baby, so feeling better while still expecting is all new territory.
And folks have started with the patting-the-tummy thing. I wasn't sure how I was going to respond to that, if it would be really weird and uncomfortable or if it wouldn't bother me. Turns out...so far it doesn't bother me. Maybe because I'm so very pleased this baby is still around and getting around-er, so to speak.
Our Miracle For The Day
A week ago, Ben and I ran across the possibility that we could purchase a fetal doppler monitor at 73% off. It was $35 and it was a little pocket model that didn't tend to work accurately until 12 weeks. We'd just gotten to nine, but we thought about it and said, "Well, we're not the only ones we know having babies right now. Other people might have a use for this sometime as well...and it sure would be nice if we could listen to the baby's heartbeat on our own."
So we bought it. Mom Turner said, "You know you're going to try it out anyway, whether it's too early or not."
"Yeah, we know," we said a little sheepishly. "But hey, it's a really neat little thing and if we know it's too early, it's not like we're going to be bothered if we don't hear anything."
The box came in the mail today.
Considering all our conversations of the past week, I'd already come to the point of saying, "If the baby's fine, then we just have to wait a few weeks and we'll get a good chance to hear the heartbeat then." But of course, when I opened the box and looked everything over, I thought, "Aw...give it a shot."
I heard nothing but what I suspected was the baby's placenta - sort of a whooshy thing that clearly has my heartbeat in it, but it's the only thing like that you can hear in my stomach so I figured that's what it was. Still, no baby heartbeat.
But then, Ben wasn't home.
I put the machine away and told Ben about it later. After dinner he said, "Hey, I'd like to take a look at this little thing we bought."
I got it back out and showed him the parts and explained what I'd read in the instructions about how it worked. "So what did you hear?" he wanted to know.
"Not much," I said. "Maybe the placenta, but then that's only to be expected."
"What's it sound like?" he said.
I tried to think how to describe it better than I already had. "Here, I'll just show you," I said. So I put the pieces together and got it all angled properly...and there was that whooshy sound again. I handed him one of the two earbuds and said, "Like this."
And then it happened.
Cutting right into my heartbeat was another much fainter sound. Fainter, but pretty unmistakable. I've heard it a hundred times over the years, multiple times with every one of my siblings.
"BEN!" I squeaked. "THAT'S THE BABY!"
Of course I was so excited that I moved the monitor and we totally lost the sound. I think the last time I was that excited was the day Ben asked me to marry him.
"Okay, now we're going to find it again," Ben said. "Just a minute."
He went and got the laptop and the line-in jack and hooked everything up. "I don't know," I said. "I think it was pretty much a miracle we found it once - I may not be able to do it again."
"Just try," he said.
So we did. I went to the same place and listened for my heartbeat and realized it was pretty far over to my right, so I slid the monitor to the left just a touch...and there it was again. So strong and clear and unmistakable that the monitor flashed the little sign that it'd found a fetal heart rate and the numbers started climbing. I couldn't see them, but Ben was saying, "It's 100...no, 110...no 150...no, 170. It's 170!"
The baby obliged us by lying there calmly for a whole minute and thirty seconds before moving. One minute and thirty seconds of a strong little heartbeat chugging away at 170 - 173 beats per minute. Right perfectly on target for a baby this age. I think I must've held my breath half the time. I know - lack of oxygen is bad for babies. But I was afraid if I breathed I might jostle everything around and we wouldn't be able to hear any more.
Almost best of all, we have a recording.
We called up my family and Ben's and played it over the phone for them. We played it over the big speakers for Grandma and her mouth dropped open and she said, "That's the baby's heartbeat?!! That's absolutely marvelous! How did you do that?!"
I don't think Grandma's ever heard a baby heartbeat before. They weren't using monitors like that when Mom was born.
Thing is, being able to hear the baby's heart on a little pocket monitor at just barely 10 weeks old is no small feat. It wasn't a coincidence. It was a very, very precious gift. Jenny asked me why I thought we could hear the baby so early and I said, "Because God just gave us a very special gift."
And he did.
Click the play button if you want to hear our blessing of the year so far!
Last Monday - well, two Mondays ago, now - we had a very productive day. Ben and I spent about six hours out in the yard weeding, cleaning, pruning, and planting (3 flats of impatiens, all under the Kanzan cherry in the front yard). We also spent a while working on the big project we've been working on with Dad Turner over the past few weeks. I didn't think much of it - there was a lot to get done and we were just tackling it like usual.
Then Tuesday morning, I began doing the laundry which had been put off by a day because of all our outdoor work. I was carrying laundry baskets downstairs when I felt something I hadn't felt for a while and had sort of forgotten about: a sort of tugging in my stomach muscles that was just on the edge of uncomfortable, like when you've worked the muscles in your legs too much and they keep threatening to cramp. I was standing downstairs sorting clothes and thinking about the feeling and started to do a little simple math.
That's when I got suspicious. I came upstairs and said to Ben, "I think it's time to buy a test now."
"What?" he said.
"Well, we can wait a few weeks like last time," I said. "But I think we're expecting again."
By that evening, I was practically sure of it. We went over to Leah's family's house for dinner and I was helping make hamburgers when the uncomfortable feeling got strong enough that I finally sat down and then put my feet up for good measure. Instant relief. Yep, I thought. Something is definitely going on. I'm not the kind of girl who sits around with her feet up very often, especially when there's a lot going on in the kitchen. Leah's mother-in-law looked at me and said, "How long ago did you miscarry?"
"Late February," I said.
"Hm," she said.
"I know. I'm suspicious too," I said. Last time around we were a lot more secretive for a lot longer. This time I pretty much gave up. Everyone we know already knows that we were expecting a baby before and it was only a matter of time before we were again.
It took us until Thursday to get around buying a test. And I woke Ben out of a sound sleep Friday morning to inform him that it was very definitely positive. At which point, we promptly began spilling the beans to our family just as fast as we possibly could.
If you would've asked me a year ago if I'd be the kind of person who would tell the whole world she was expecting as soon as she knew about it or if I would be the kind of person who would just keep it to herself (well, herself, her husband, and their parents/siblings...) for a few months, I would definitely have picked the latter. The problem is, we did that last time and we found out something: Joshua's life was something to take joy in and most people barely knew of his existence before he was gone. We told everyone and then immediately had to turn around and tell everyone of his death.
This does not mean that I think everyone should know our private business all the time. But life is very precious, even life that's a baby only the size of a sesame seed. It is something to treasure and rejoice in for the miracle and the gift that it is, a gift God gave us just as certainly if we possess it for one day or three million. I treasure every day this baby is continuing to live and grow, every day that brings on a little greater loss of energy and all the other symptoms that are making me lose ambition to get other projects around here done again. I suppose I would be lying if I said I have perfect unshaken confidence this baby will join our family as a newborn at the end of January: it's sometimes a moment-by-moment thing to keep my mind on being at peace and not being afraid. There is just such a long way to go and so many things that could happen. It even makes me feel quite vulnerable to tell everyone about this baby so soon, as if he's a secret I'd like to hold onto for a while just to make sure he's really real. In a way, boldly telling everyone of his existence is a gesture of faith, at least on my part, because it's flat out claiming, "Yes, we are having a new baby!" Not "maybe", not "if everything goes well", not "well, we hope..." Those things are all true, of course, but at the point you announce, "We're expecting again" it's an unqualified statement. It's a statement of hope. As much as my doubts want to take over, as much as I want to hold back and do the pessimistic "wait and see", I am joyfully saying, "We're expecting again!"
We named our last baby Joshua because it was a declaration that this child was ours and had a place and was known to God; we also named him Hope because we wanted to remind ourselves that it was something we still had even if we could not keep the child himself. Joshua's death was not the death of hope. This baby's life is something entirely new and distinct and different, and we are full of hope - also translated "expectation" - that we will hold this child in our arms and raise him (or her!) to Godly adulthood.
And that is our very wonderful news for this week.
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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