Learning Outside the Box

ImageThe longer we teach our children at home, the more I realize that opportunities for them to learn abound (actually, even we as parents learn!) ~ the fundamentals but also the endless possibilities where their passions may lead.

Wesley is our science, technology and engineering kid. He is who we go to when we need something put back together around here. Sitting at a desk and completing workbook pages is a huge struggle for him, but he can absorb information like crazy when it remotely interests him. While there are certain things we intentionally make Wesley do as his character is formed (listening is a biggie we continue to work on), we also recognize he is simply an “out of the box” kid and try to creatively allow him to teach himself as much as possible.

We have come to a place of freedom in how our family home educates……a niche just comfortable for our dynamic of all boys yet productive…..quite simply there is no formula for this, but something that each family must discover for themselves. It is okay to realize maybe there as been too much video game playing or tv watching. No guilt here! Been there, done that:) They can both be tools, certainly, but there are so many ways to allow your children to creatively play, all the while learning some essential elements to their education that they don’t even realizing they are learning.

We try to reinforce a lot of independent reading time every day and very little screen time. I read once that we as parents are actually the catalyst in helping to cultivate our children’s overall appetites for learning and creativity as well as their habits.

A sweet friend gifted Wesley with a K’NEX set she found at a garage sale. It has thoroughly captivated his free time now for an entire week. Through this project, he is growing in skills such as reading and following instructions, trouble-shooting when problems arise, patience while following through, attention to detail, and simply perseverance and hard work….while having fun! We are also able to review some basic principles of physics such as Newton’s laws of motion, gravity, engineering, architecture, and I am sure I am leaving something else out!

Don’t be afraid to follow children’s passions while applying critical pieces of their education. It doesn’t have to be a dry textbook or a boring lecture. Let their learning come alive while giving them tools to express themselves as well as a way to know they can teach themselves whatever they are interested in.

I call it a successful day of homeschooling when I have been able to plant seeds of God’s truth, they have grown in character within the family through solving disputes and serving one another, and they have worked diligently while also realizing God has given each of them a unique gift to offer the world.





Amazing how days run together, huh? No matter the duties that await, I am realizing more and more that I need to write. I need to make time for things that will nourish my own soul, while hopefully bringing a bit of encouragement to a younger mom. If nothing else, reading back to this on a crazy, difficult day ahead will be the reminder I need that it will be alright.

See, I look back when I had all little guys. When our 5th baby was born, the oldest had turned 7 that same week. I can’t believe I made it out alive! I was in a fog, pretty sure of that. I remember feeling like I was drowning but treading water mostly. Mike and I had way too many discussions about, “Okay, let’s get out of ‘survival’ mode and start being intentional!” Talk is cheap, right? But, life takes unexpected turns and then grief comes in the mix and well, years pass! Okay, so what I see today as I am waking up from a long, hard slumber is that God’s grace IS sufficient. He fills in the gaps. And, now, I am seeing that the struggles that I felt would never improve with certain children are in fact, getting better. Never perfect, but I am finally seeing fruit. And, while my heart was intentional, my actions were inconsistent and I definitely failed many days…..I yelled way too much those years. I lost my cool way too many times. I repented to them a lot! Apologizing profusely for being a bad mom, asking for new mercies every morning, then getting irritated over something all over again that very day. However, my desire was obedience and devotion to the God who actually entrusted these deposits to my care. And, I believe God knew/knows that.

One thing I have learned. God is faithful to forgive and love me. And, so are my beloved boys. So, here I am today with a 13 year old young man who I get to have deep discussions with on a daily basis (God knew I needed a “talker”, that is just how awesome He is). Yes, we have our cranky days. He is going through the teenage years so I allow him some grace in that, I just ask that he let me know he is “having a day” but be respectful about it. And, he does. Then, we have this precious 1 year old wonder who is simply a little piece of heaven for each of us to enjoy. I have seen more growth in each of the other boys SINCE this baby was born. It is honestly, unbelievable. And the amazing thing I realized very recently is that I am not in survival mode anymore. Mike and I looked at eachother recently and both agreed, “Wow, this is a great season.” I know we will have hard seasons ahead once again, but for now, this is a season of seeing fruit and hope is alive. Maybe it is the deep discussions? Maybe it is seeing in each boy their desire to lay down their lives for eachother in different ways each day? Seeing that while yes, they are selfish sinners just like their mom, they also have the presence of the Holy Spirit in their own hearts?

That would be a vital detail. All of our older boys have asked to trust Jesus as their Savior. I don’t know how much Sawyer understands, to be honest. But the others, a definitive yes. They are a picture of hope to me to keep on the fight. I realize I  just now have a teenager, so I know there is much uncharted territory I have not even approached. BUT, after too many times of threatening to throw in the towel, I decided it is definitely worth staying in the battle!

Proverbs 29:17 Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.

boys waxahachie

Hang in there, fellow mommas. It is only just the beginning.

true wisdom?

IMG_8858emailI will keep my own thoughts brief. Here is something from God’s Word to chew on:

Ecclesiastes 1

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The Futility of All Endeavor

1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

[a]Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “[b]Vanity of vanities! All is [c]vanity.”

What advantage does man have in all his work Which he does under the sun? A generation goes and a generation comes, But the earth [d]remains forever. Also, the sun rises and the sun sets; And [e]hastening to its place it rises there again. [f]Blowing toward the south, Then turning toward the north, The wind continues [g]swirling along; And on its circular courses the wind returns. All the rivers [h]flow into the sea, Yet the sea is not full. To the place where the rivers [i]flow, There they [j]flow again. All things are wearisome; Man is not able to tell it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, Nor is the ear filled with hearing. That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which one might say, “See this, it is new”? Already it has existed for ages Which were before us. 11 There is no remembrance of [k]earlier things; And also of the [l]later things which will occur, There will be for them no remembrance Among those who will come [m]later still.

The Futility of Wisdom

12 I, the Preacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 And I set my [n]mind to seek and explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven. It is [o]a grievous task which God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with. 14 I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is [p]vanity and striving after wind. 15 What is crooked cannot be straightened and what is lacking cannot be counted.

16 I [q]said to myself, “Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my [r]mind has observed [s]a wealth of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 And I set my [t]mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after wind. 18 Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.

Something I have been observing recently that has made me (once again!) re-evaluate the discipling (as well as educating) our sons is this: I can give them the “best” education, place them in the coolest “Christian” classes, give them lots of opportunities to learn and grow, but in the end, was my intent pure in heart? Sad to admit, there have been times it has been motivated by a desire “to prove myself” to the outside world….to show others that I can “school” my kiddos just as well as any institution,perhaps even better! What I realize is I see a lot of pride, an air of arrogance, and even flat out mockery in some of the young adults I follow on Facebook. I am saddened, to be honest. Where does this come from? I realize it is not solely a homeschool by-product. I see it in a lot of people, regardless of their educational or family background. Unfortunately, I have even seen it in myself. I won’t get into all of my random thoughts on this, because they are just that….MY thoughts. Not necessarily the truth as I cannot see inside anyone’s heart. What I do believe is true is this…..there is no formula to falling in love with God. In the end, that is my heart’s desire for my boys. I am going to stumble and He is faithful to help me back up. I desire for my children to know it is okay to mess up, but to look back up and repent as they allow their Savior to carry them through this journey of life.

There are definitely things to avoid and better ways to approach things, but in the end, if there is anything I know my children need to learn, it is Godly wisdom cloaked in humility. If I get anything “right”, that is my heart’s desire. Having the best behaved children around is no longer even on my radar, as it has been in times past. I want them to know their God in a remarkable way. True wisdom must begin with a revelation of our Creator. God, show us your heart today.

Simply Eli

Note: Isice is "Isaac":)

Note: Isice is “Isaac”:)

Fauxhawk Eli age 7

Fauxhawk Eli age 7

I am crazy about this boy. I hope when he is older, he just smiles as he reads this…..and realize how grateful his Mommy and Daddy truly were that God gave him to us. He has been a challenge in many ways. He needs lots of touch and patience. He would likely be labeld “ADHD” if I were to go that route. I am pretty sure that if I had put him in school, he would have come home many days with notes about behavior, not sitting still, talking too often and too loudly. He is impulsive and can touch things he shouldn’t. He realizes it all, too! That is what is special to me. He sees his struggles and is sorry for his poor behavior. Really, he is not any different than the rest of us. He just requires a little more patience from others. Once you get to know him, I mean really know him, you kinda just see past his shortcomings and see one loving little person. God has continued OVER and over to use this little guy to show me a picture of His unending love for me. He also reminds me He uses the “less than perfect” to carry out His will in this world. I learn a LOT about love from Eli……how to show love (love is patient, love is kind, it sees the best) and how to receive love (I will never be worthy of God’s unconditional love, but that is WHY His love is so amazing).
Mike has been away on a business trip out of state. Eli brought this unsolicited story to me last night. I think someone is missing his Daddy. Also, MY Mama heart was encouraged to see that God’s Word is making an actual impact on this little boy’s heart.

School days, school days, beautiful golden rule days

boys school 2013

While our school days have turned out to be less than conventional, I am so thankful to be doing life with these 6 wonders. We have have had many “come-to-Jesus” meetings, shared joys of reading first words, solving first math equations, read aloud of the the fall of great empires, played board games, refereed sibling sqabbles, expended CrAzY energy in hockey on the driveway, baseball in the yard, climbing trees, walked through deep loss coupled with darkest of grief, followed by sunshine-y days, pains of growth, watching the miracle of life….I could go on and on. I wouldn’t trade any of this for the world. Sure, I have pity party days of imagining freedom while the boys are away at school, or time with just the baby. I am pretty normal in that way. Yet, just like anything worthwhile in this life… usually comes with a sacrifice. I would be lying if I didn’t admit there were days I wished I had some sort of clone to come do the dirty work in my place. We all can understand that, right? But, when you know that you know that what you are doing is what YOU are supposed to be doing…you find that inner peace and joy beyond your most difficult of days.

I recently heard the statistic (regarding homeschooling) that by the time our boys will have graduated high school, we will have spent an additional 7 years with each of our children. That is a lot of time! My prayer today is that I will not squander any more of this gift of time. I pray that blessing over others as well. Here’s to another amazing year!

How I saw God in HFCS highs, pillows and a lego

How I saw God in HFCS highs, a pillow and a lego
Excuse the random title, but you know how God speaks to you about something REALLY important in seemingly small occurrences? He does that with me all the time if I will just take the time to be still and listen.

For as long as I have been living my life following Jesus,I have been amazed at how much I have yet to fully understand. GRACE being one biggie. Yet, THROUGH the very grace I speak of, I am learning so much more about His unending love as He removes the shackles of religion and people-pleasing that continually attempt to overshadow what the main thing really is.

I want to back up to the past 3 years. In a nutshell, I have just exited a dense fog. I realize now it was grief and depression. Losing Mom, several babies and Marshall knocked the wind out of me. God IS good and IS faithful to answer us when we cry out to Him. That doesn’t mean He turns our life into a fairytale. Nope. It does mean He wants to scoop us up in our puddle of tears and show us it hurts Him, too. He wants to teach us vital truths of this life through the difficult times. We must keep in perspective THIS life is not all there is. Just a chapter in our story. There is an eternity awaiting and this world is simply a preparation time. Chew on that for a while. I have to do it often.

Okay, so back to the grief part. I realize a part of my grief process has rendered itself as a mirror to the sin in my heart. You see, I lost any ability to fake it when I lost Marshall. I really did. Being a “good” person and impressing anyone lost its luster. Layer by layer, He has shown me serious areas of sin in my heart. One main thing is anger. When I am afraid, I get angry. So, if you can imagine, as I grappled through my own faith in WHY DOES GOD LET BAD STUFF HAPPEN TO US? type moments, I would see the anger rear its quite ugly head. My children witnessed this too often and in the form of yelling. I would like to write an entire post on why I hate yelling in general. It is simply detrimental to relationships (as well as speaking in a condescending tone, emotional manipulation, etc.). All of it makes me pretty sick to my stomach and since I absolutely hate being spoken to in any of the above manner, I vowed to never do it to my own children. Unfortunately, I have failed in this area MANY times in the past few years.

Amazingly, after many tear-stained nights and bluntly robotic days, I am finally arriving on the other side of the grief. Psalm 84 (and Psalm 23) remained my lifeline during my pregnancy with Bowen. Please read it for yourself, but in short, God showed me through Scripture that THIS journey to eternity grants us times of darkness and valleys, but also brings us refreshing springs and joys along the way. Bowen was my very own spring rain, ending in a beautiful rainbow! When I awoke from this fog of grief, I could see God working on my heart. Just one crucial piece of my puzzle was the yelling. He showed me the ugliness I had displayed and how He wanted to help us ALL heal. The yelling could be no more. I know sometimes you gotta yell just to cut through the kinetic energy of a household of boys and puppy dogs. I am talking about the “I could blow my top any second I am so stinking mad that you just made another mess” kinda yelling:) Ugh.

Fastforward to yesterday. I have had SO much victory over yelling, by taking discipline issues seriously and addressing them, but finding a consequence that best suits the crime (rather than using my emotions to guilt or shame my kids into behaving). It has been relatively peaceful and the boys seem to respond so much better when I am not frustrated. (I realize *I* respond better to patience, too….so why wouldn’t it affect children the same way? Think about that!)

Anyway, we had just had an overnight away from the boys for our 16th anniversary. As I made my rounds Saturday afternoon picking up boys from my siblings’ homes (thank you, God for willing family to help!), I realize pretty quickly that they had their fill of donuts and pancakes with syrup compounded with exhaustion….you know what I am talking about!
As we are all getting out of the van, I give out my quick reminders, “Get ALL YOUR STUFF out of the van, please!!” You know, STUFF x5 kids makes for a VERY messy vehicle, lol.
Upon exiting the van, I hear the 5 and 7 year old bickering up a storm. Ugh. My anger radar shoots up. I absolutely abhor bickering in children. So, I take a few deep breaths, don’t even bother to lecture because they are tired, hungry and won’t hear me anyway. But, as I see all the boys go in the house carrying their junk from the night before, I realize my 7 year old chose to ignore my instruction. After retrieving him back into the garage, he begins to fall to the ground in complete meltdown mode. Okay, here we go. He is our sweet, but extremely ADHD child ,who I know needs to go straight to bed. But, I really want to follow through and make sure he does what he was told. So, as I hand him his back pack and pillow from the night before, he immediately throws both to the ground and falls to the ground as well. Okay, so I am not going to yell. Nope. I am stinking mad, though! Why does he have to act like a fool and give me grief?! Doesn’t he know I just had a refreshing night away from him and want to ENJOY being his Mommy, still??

What does any loving mother do who has chosen NOT to yell at her kids anymore when her child is throwing a temper tantrum and not listening? I yanked the pillow up and bopped him on the head with it. Yes, that is the mature way to handle this, right? I was angry that he was ruining my blissful anniversary wrap up so I let him know by bopping him with the pillow not once, but three times. Okay, so I got his attention, finally….. he gathered up his things at that point:) Swiftly, I sent him to his room for some alone time for Mommy at that point:)
Admittedly, I was extremely disappointed in my actions. I did not hurt him physically since it was a soft bed pillow and I didn’t do it hard… but emotionally there is just something about hitting (like yelling) that wounds the heart. (Yelling is just a by-product of anger.) I felt immediate sadness over my sin of anger. God wants to heal us from the roots up. He uses little things like this to show us the state of our hearts. I went to this child and repented of my sin,asking forgiveness. Of course, he immediately showered me with love and affirmation that I am the “best mommy in the world and he could never be upset with me”, in fact, he didn’t mind the pillow bopping. He actually thought it was funny afterward and asked me to do it again! After a good ole fashioned pillow fight ensued, followed by all 5 boys joining in when they heard the ruckus, I contemplated it all. I couldn’t get it off my mind all night. In the dark hours of the morning I saw it clearly.

You hear about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His grace He gives us despite our sin, right? My pillow bopping episode was a picture of it, lol. You see, I sinned against my son. I was so angry with him. He responded with more love and grace than I deserved. He even said “it was okay”.
Does that mean my anger was justified and acceptable? OR, perhaps it wasn’t really wrong to begin with? Maybe I could do it again when I get upset and he will understand I just couldn’t help myself?
No. Of course not. It just means that he loves me more than enough to let go of my sin and forgive me when I repent. This boy knows he loves me all the way to the moon and back. How could I continue to hurt him after THAT kind of love? Seriously. That kind of love drives me to lavish him with MY love and ask God for strength to overcome my struggles the next time.

At 6am, I am lying in bed, overwhelmed with yet another glimpse into the grace of God. Grateful for His creativity in teaching His sheep. Thankful for forgiveness and grace to overcome the sin of anger.
And…..seeing just how incredibly humorous God can be, I woke up to find this image of an Angry Bird on my phone wallpaper. My 11 year old had awoken in the wee hours of the morning and decided to quietly create legos to pass the time. He had taken a photo of this and put it on my phone for me to see when I got up. ONLY God can pull this kinda stuff off.

New Habits

boys reading 014

boys reading 008

boys reading 006

boys reading 021

boys reading 002

There have been so many blessings with little Bowen entering our world. One of the many is this Mommy has found renewed passion in just being still and reading to our boys. Sitting and nursing multiple times a day doesn’t leave for much else that can be done, anyway:) So, after reading my friend Gwen’s blog about ways to nurture individual time with each child in a large family, I was reminded of how important reading aloud to my boys really is! Even the big boys…, I have carved out reading time every day for each boy. So far, it has worked wonderfully. I read to them a little, then they read to me. We discuss what they have read, I go over particular grammar or vocabulary I find beneficial along the way. The added benefit I have pleasantly discovered is baby brother gets read to a whole lot! I am thankful for such a sweet season of rest in our family. A season of bountiful blessing.

Bowen Shepherd First month

Eli reading The Hobbit to lil brother

Eli reading The Hobbit to lil brother

He possibly gets too much attention!

He possibly gets too much attention!

Bowen with his little spurs on riding the range;)

Bowen with his little spurs riding the range;)

Well loved lil BowShep

Well loved lil BowShep

After every storm, there is a rainbow…..

mommy and bowen

Bowen Shepherd Studt
entered this world @3:45am
7#2oz and 20 in long

mike and bowenThis really is more than another natural birth story. This is a story of His redeeming love. Beauty from ashes. Blessings indeed come in rain (trials) but it is such a sweet moment when that rain clears and the sun shines and the beauty of this gift of life is seen once again in color….

This pregnancy itself was a gift. While yes, we have 5 other children, each is such a special person individually that the thought of not enjoying Marshall in this life really was difficult. We had no idea what turn our life would take after losing our son. So, to say we were pleasantly surprised we were expecting again is an understatement. Another chance at holding a newborn in our arms, of a sweet little baby to enjoy as a family, of watching another little life enter our world……simply put, it was a very welcome gift to us all.

This pregnancy was actually one of the easiest ones in the physical, but emotionally it was undoubtedly the toughest. I did see a high-risk maternal-fetal specialist the entire time. She is a down to earth OB named Julie Lo. I am so thankful to have met her. She supplemented this pregnancy with high doses of folic acid along with prescribing me with wonderful daily injections of anticoagulants. So not fun, but totally worth every shot and each bruise:)

Fast forward to the week of December 10th (EDD Dec 17th).At my appt Monday, I had dilated to 4cm without any sign of labor so by Sunday Dec 16th, I found myself wondering how soon it would really be or if we had to wait (Dr. Lo was leaving to go on vacation on Dec 21 so I was a little concerned, to say the least). Mike was at work all day Sunday finishing up a big project he needed to complete. By later that evening, I gave him a call realizing I had been mildly contracting every 5ish minutes for about an hour. Once he got home, we timed them another hour, then decided to play it safe and make that 45 minute drive to UT Southwestern Medical Center. I have had some labors progress really quickly, so we felt it wise to get ahead of the pain and get me checked out instead of waiting til contractions got intense.

I will save all the details….suffice it to say, once we got checked in, my contractions went from every 4 minutes to maybe once every 10 minutes. They seemed to be dying down, so with the advice of a wonderful L&D nurse, decided to just go on back home, get in a bath and see if it either helped them pick back up, or go away so maybe I could sleep through the night.

Well, it worked! Actually, once we were almost back home, I could tell the contractions were closer together and stronger. Still, I wanted to make sure and not repeat that long trip without it being the real thing. We made it home and I got in the tub…. The bath definitely kicked me into gear:)

Yep, that trip back was pretty miserable for me, but we made it.

We were checked in by 2:30am. The previous nurse admitted us again. She followed all of my wishes for a natural birth. She only put a heplock in, so no cumbersome IV pole to deal with . She let me wear my own clothes. I was not placed on continuous fetal monitoring, but she intermittently checked his heart rate. She really pretty much let me do my thing and let Mike and my wonderful doula, Maria, be my labor support. (Just as an fyi: this is NOT a natural friendly hospital. There are no midwives that work there with the doctors. No labor tubs. Not cozy at all….but that is okay, because it CAN be done even in the least ideal situations as long as you have the right plan in place and SUPPORT!)

Mike and my doula, Maria

Mike and my doula, Maria

Needless to say, I was ready to push for a while and she asked me to wait for Dr. Lo to get there:) Once Dr. Lo arrived, I remember them telling me I could go ahead and push. I think it was about 2 or 3 pushes and there he was! I was so thankful they let me labor the way I had asked. It was like an extra special blessing from God….well, that and the fact that little man came on his due date! That was a first for me:)delivery 1

(Disclaimer: I don’t think natural birth is the “be all, end all”…..THAT is holding your precious little one in your arms and taking him home with you! However, giving birth naturally is my preference and since I had homebirths with the other 5 boys, it truly is my own “comfort level”….)bowen delivery

Since things went so well, we were discharged within 24 hours. I could order room service whenever I wanted, so that was a nice perk. The only funny that that happened was one of my nurses (she was pregnant with her first baby)scolded for having Bowen in the bed with me and told me I should never do that when I get home…..I was like, “are you being serious??” ….

Truly, I am just grateful. Thankful that God put the right people in my path for this pregnancy, and even the labor and delivery. I couldn’t have asked for it to go so perfectly. I am deeply grateful for so many people who cared enough along the way to share prayers of hope and encouragment to us. So very thankful to family by our side to love us through it all.

Tennah (Aunt Hannah) Birth Support!

Tennah (Aunt Hannah) Birth Support!

Aunt Lissa (Melissa).....more birth support....okay, they missed the birth, but they were on their way!

Aunt Lissa (Melissa)…..more birth support….okay, they missed the birth, but they were on their way!

(I would like to mention one sweet story that is important in this journey…..before I ever knew I was pregnant, a sweet little 3 year old boy at homeschool coop named Bennett, ran up and hugged my legs one day. His mom, Coral, told me Bennett wanted to hug me because he remembered my baby had died…..she wrote me that night and said he prayed for me the rest of the day for God to send me another baby. What Bennett didn’t know was that very night, I found myself looking at a positive test:) In Mike’s words, “Now we know who to go to when we need prayer.”:))

I wanted to name this little miracle something significant….He is our “rainbow baby”…that is actually a term used for a baby who comes on the heels of losing a baby. I liked the name Bowen, so decided to look it up. It means “Small, victorious one”..indeed, he represents us arriving on the other side of this trial.  Also, the Lord continually brought Psalm 23, the psalm of trust, before me the entire pregnancy. Despite the difficulties I faced emotionally, I knew I needed to learn to trust God no matter what may be ahead. The name Shepherd seemed very fitting as I read this Psalm over and over for nearly 9 months.rainbow

The week of Christmas (Marshall’s story part 3)

I want to go back and emphasize a couple things I left out in the story. My midwife, Amy, who I will mention had already walked through my sister, Hannah’s loss in 2005, was heartbroken to be repeating the same thing with me. She had known how concerned I was over this pregnancy, accompanied me to my visit to the perinatologist to get counsel on whether I was at risk of even going the midwife route this time, and had prayed very much for me as we discussed my fears and concerns early on. She was devestated the day she was scanning me on ultrasound. I didn’t want to leave that fact out, since my previous post was mostly about “me”:)

Second, I want to make it clear that when I have pointed out the hurtful things people might have said, that I sincerely believe they were only trying to help or encourage me. I don’t in any way believe they meant to hurt me and I hold no bitterness. It is just this: I had seen people say careless things to my sister in law, Melissa and my sister, Hannah already. I would be amazed at how insensitive people could be. Now, it was my turn. Mostly, people were so careful and so loving, but I was still surprised I was hearing some of the same things they had heard after their losses. So, in my natural “let me help you understand” personality, I was not shy from sharing these common remarks that honestly, make it worse. But, I do realize this…..I HAVE SAID THESE THINGS or at least thought them. So, I look at it as a chance to learn what really helps and actually hurts. Even then, people still need different things in times of grief so you still may mess up! And…..that’s okay, too. Mostly, grieving mothers just need you to say “I’m sorry” or “I can’t imagine your pain” because that validates that it must hurt like nothing else! For me, anything that tried to “minimize” the loss of my child was absolutely crushing. I most appreciate it when people ask about him by name. Honestly. I want to talk about him.

Back to the story……we had a week of upheavel as I was still in shock, with Christmas 3 days after my sonogram, the New Years that following weekend. I didn’t have a doctor who would induce me. The perinatologist no longer did that sort of thing, and I had seen no one else besides my midwife. Long story short, after a brief but dramatic ER visit (to see if they would induce me there….we decided after meeting the female doctor there with compassion of ZERO that there was no way we wanted her laying a hand on me), we were blessed to find THE OB to deliver Marshall.

Our divinely appointed meeting on Dec. 28 with Dr. Inzer at Baylor Dallas went so well. My first moment of peace in the whole event. He easily made me an opening for induction the next morning. He even started the process of induction that afternoon in his office. (What we later realized was that Dec. 29 was actually his day off.)

I began cramping at home that night in bed. I was relieved that next morning as I realized labor had begun. My sweet step mother, Nancy agreed to watch our boys early that morning. We arrived at Baylor L&D around 7am. My sweet nurse, Teresa, took us to our room and got us settled a little. However, we soon realized she must have just arrived on shift when we had walked up. She hadn’t had time to look at our chart at all. She reluctantly looked me up and down and asked humbly, “So…..why are you here?” I realized that the combination of what I was wearing and the fact that I just don’t “show” til later into pregnancy, she didn’t even realize I was pregnant. That made me a little sad because I had already experienced a couple people haphazardly commenting to me, “Oh, I didn’t even realize you were pregnant” or “Why are you getting induced? You are only 8 weeks along, right?” That may not seem like a big deal, but for me, after losing the baby, I needed to be validated that indeed, this was devestating.

Anyway, Mike gently handled the talking and I didn’t fall into a puddle of tears. Teresa was actually very kind and compassionate. We even realized as we talked that we had met before. She had done her pediatric rotation during nursing school on the floor at the children’s hospital I had worked at as a nurse 10 years before! She remembered me, too. SO, that was a cool thing for me which quickly bonded us in spirit.

Hannah and Melissa showed up to support me. My dear friend Rhonda also came to take our pictures. It was a calm time. I could feel the cramps getting stronger but the doctor came to check me and stated I had not dilated so it would likely be all day. He said he’d come back in a few hours and ordered the nurse to continue the oral cytotec. If that did not work, we would proceed to pitocin. Well, that was around 8:30. At 10:00 I felt the need to just go to the bathroom, so the girls left the room while Teresa and Mike stayed with me. Teresa helped me up to the bathroom while Mike stayed in the chair, updating family and friends via text. While going to the bathroom, I told Teresa I felt like I needed to “push something out”….honestly, I thought maybe it was just a large clot. It didn’t even hurt. She quickly prepped herself to catch whatever it was, though. Much to my shock, she said I was delivering the baby. He was still enclosed in his sac. Teresa caught him. I screamed for Mike. He was also shocked when Teresa told him I had just had the baby. He helped us to the bed. From that point on, all I remember is the resident doctor rushing in to help, them saying the baby was in the sac on the bed. I was pretty much squatting in the bed, scared to lay on him. They kept reassuring me that is was going well and I was fine, and so was the baby.

At that point, I began bawling. I buried my head in Mike’s shoulder as he supported me. I told him as I wept, “I can’t look. I can’t look.” They all told me it was okay, that I could take my time. Mike began crying like I have never heard him before. The nurse took the baby to the warmer and opened the sac, cleaned his body up, and swaddled him. Mike and I were in the bed across the room still. We spent a few minutes just holding eachother, weeping, just getting a grip on what just happened.

Teresa sweetly said, “You guys had another little boy.” She said something, too about the cord being wrapped tightly around his neck 4 times, and that it was tangled and twisted. I was just trying to take it all in. I wondered if that could have really been the cause of death. I found out later it was not.

Words cannot express what if felt like to see him when she brought him to us. Mike held him first. I watched Mike so tenderly look over his little body. Touching his fragile limbs, feeling of his reddish, moist unprotected skin. We looked over his facial features. We could see Seth’s upper lip. His hands looked like Mike’s hands. Even though he was not finished growing and his skin was still needed to finish developing and thickening, you could see all of his little ribs. His fingernails were clearly defined. His perfect ears. His bones and muscles clearly defined. Our little Marshall Isaac weighed over 3 oz and was about 6.5 inches long.

Mike and I spent about 10 minutes alone with him, then Hannah, Melissa and Rhonda came back in the room. They couldn’t believe I had him that quickly. I was so relieved it was over, yet sad that it was actually happening and wasn’t a dream afterall.

There is alot more, but I will stop here. Nancy brought our boys up to see him. They all held him in his makeshift bassinett. My brother Luke had come with Nancy to help. Amy, my midwife, came by and brought us a precious keepsake box with some other things. My dad stopped by later. Other than that, it was just us. It was a surreal day forever embedded on my mind and heart.

Missing Mom

Two years ago, today, marks the 2nd anniversary of my precious Mom going on to heaven. Much too soon, but I trust in God’s timing. He knows and sees far beyond what we see. Admittedly, my taste for heaven and things of eternal value are much stronger because of Mom going on so soon…..I love my life and am thankful to be here, but my perspective on earthly things has shifted….in the right direction. I love you, MOM! I miss you like crazy.

December 2011 (Marshall’s story part 2)

It had been a wonderful month, as I had come to a place where my broken heart was healing from missing Mom, and now a gift of life that I would never take for granted……all seemed like a truly blessed season of life. My children had prayed for a new baby, and God heard their prayers. I continued to pray daily against negative thoughts and walked in peace most of the time. I believed I had done all I could do to help this pregnancy, so I resolved myself to the fact that God is truly sovereign. Isaiah 55:9 is posted in our home: “Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways,” says the Lord. The past year had undoubtedly been my test to trust in that truth.

I vividly remember the week of Dec. 22. That Tuesday we had been getting ready to go to a birthday party. I recall bending over to unplug a cord from the wall. As I stood back up, I felt 2 consecutive stabbing pains midline in my abdomen from the navel down. It took my breath away, but was gone almost as fast as it came. I have been full term pregnant 5 times before this and never had experienced this type of pain before. However, I quickly brushed it off as being 39 and pregnant:)

That night, as I lay in bed, I noticed two things which I couldn’t shake from my mind. I was not feeling any movement as I pushed around my tummy. I had noticed a pattern of feeling little kicks at night as I was still. I also was aware that the “firmness” of my belly was now soft. I had actually been experiencing mild braxton hicks for a week or so, and I was noticing a difference both Tuesday and Wednesday. I quickly brushed it off as “worry” and that I needed to “quit noticing stuff!!” I am such an overly observant person, that I honestly wish I was more oblivious at times.

I had a routine 18 week appointment that Thursday morning with my midwife. December 22 will forever leave an indellible mark in my mind. It was a typical morning. Chilly, up at 6am with Mike and the boys for family devotions, made breakfast in my robe as I walked around zombie-like for a while. I looked forward to getting dressed for the day. I was taking the boys with me to this appointment. They had already seen a sono a couple weeks before. I had just scanned myself 5 days before at the center and seen a strong heartbeat and a mildly wiggling baby on the screen. I also noticed that the worry from the night before was gone. Thank you, Lord.

I had actually had a gender sono set up for less than 2 weeks away. We couldn’t wait! Today, however would just be routine…check heart tones, weigh, pee on stick, etc. When we arrived, the exam room was taken, so Amy, my midwife, asked if I wanted to go on up and see baby with their sono machine instead. Maybe, just maybe, we could take a peek at who he or she was:) I happily agreed. As I began to make the trek upstairs, I glanced at the boys quietly playing in the living room of the birth center. I whispered to Caleb that I was going on up to see the baby. He asked if he could go, too. Easily, I agreed since the other boys seemed to be quietly distracted.

I remember laying on the exam bed. Amy putting the transducer to my belly. Caleb sitting on the bed at my feet, watching the screen intently. I could see the screen as the sono began. Immediately, my mouth went dry. I could not see a heartbeat. Amy seemed to be moving the transducer so quickly, almost shakily. I kept thinking I wish she would be still with it so I could try to see the heartbeat again. I wasn’t saying anything but a million thoughts rushed through my mind. She began measuring the head and I remember wishing she would go back to the body. She did go back to the body…..again, no heartbeat. I do sonograms so I know what a live baby should look like. My throat felt like it was closing as a rush of anxiety set in. I spat out, “Amy….where is the heart beat?!” All she could say with a troubled look was, “I don’t know”…..From that moment, it is a blur yet a moment I can’t shake. I saw Caleb look puzzled, yet afraid as he watched me shaking my head, weeping off and on, my asking “why is this happening?” I kept saying, “why, Amy, Why?” “why now?” “I can’t do this!” “I feel like I am in a nightmare and want to wake up”…..I was pretty upset, to say the least. Caleb began crying as he came over to me and hugged me. He said, “I thought this baby would live, but Mom, I do know that God has a purpose and plan in this, even though it makes no sense.” Yes, my 11 year old was consoling me. I was so distraught I gave him my phone and asked him to call his Dad. I couldn’t bear to utter the words. I think I was in shock, because I almost felt disoriented. Mike was at work, over 45 minutes away. Our home was also 45 minutes away. He offered to drive over to the birth center, but I just wanted to leave. I couldn’t stay there a moment longer. I felt this incredible urge to just run away like a child running away from home. I knew I needed to pull myself together enough to drive home. Amy took some measurements of the baby, took some blood, offered some options as to what to do as I was also in the midst of the turmoil, asking “what am I going to do?” It was all so surreal. I had experienced NOTHING like cramps or bleeding that would indicate a miscarriage was about to occur. So, what was I supposed to do? She offered to have someone drive us home. I declined because in all honesty, I didn’t want to see or talk to another person. I realize that is what I do in the middle of pain…..I want to curl up and hide. I do that while in labor. No one touch me, no one talk to me, just leave me alone. It felt similar at that moment.

Somehow, I managed the drive home. Caleb kept putting his hand on my shoulder, reassuring me that he loved me and it would all be okay. I think he talked to Mike a little on the phone to let him know how I was doing. I would bawl uncontrollably, then stop suddenly. Caleb kept all the boys quiet in the van and told them to stop asking me questions. Mike met us at the house. I just wanted to burrow myself in the bed and not see or talk to anyone. I felt anger. I felt abandoned by God. I was breaking into pieces. I can’t say I had any amount of peace about what I just learned. I wasn’t blessing the name of the Lord, in all honesty. How could God allow this? He gives drug addicted, prostitutes BROODS of kids they don’t take care of (believe me, I have seen them come into the center), now He gives me a baby and just takes it away? Why would God do this? Hasn’t our family lost enough babies? Melissa lost Chloe to anencephaly and carried her to term only to lose her, Hannah lost her first baby as well, now me? What kind of God would allow this? It is Christmas for crying out loud! Made no sense. Seemed cruel at the moment. It felt like God allowed me to get to the safe zone, 18 weeks for goodness sakes, then He just pulled the rug out from under me and said, “Okay, your turn.”

Those were my honest thoughts on December 22. Thankfully, and by God’s loving mercy and grace He gives us, the Lord gradually brought me comfort as He allowed me to scream, wail, say nothing, sleep, hide from the world for the next week. It felt like I was in a cave with just Mike and the boys for that week. I never wanted to emerge, but knew I would have to at some point. I could only see Hannah and Melissa. It was the strangest place emotionally I have ever been. I knew Hannah and Melissa had walked through journeys I considered much more difficult than mine. Besides Mike, they were the only ones who I trusted with my shattered heart. They wouldn’t say the wrong thing. They couldn’t accidentally, but with good intentions, make it worse. They understood. They weren’t about to tell me to “look at the 5 healthy ones I already had” or “God has a plan and this baby is in a better place”. I was in the most fragile place I had ever been, and was literally afraid of seeing anyone. I know that may not make sense to some, but I am sure anyone who has lost a child would understand without hesitation. People handle death differently. Some stay strong and appear to handle it well. I, on the other hand, was about as raw as a person could be.  I felt like I was about to fall completely apart, and didn’t know how else to handle it.

September 2011 (Marshall’s story part 1)

I can’t believe I am just now writing this part of our story. It is now so many months later, so much has transpired. Yet, I am only now feeling ready to put it into written words. I need to back-track to the beginning. Each part of it is important to the end of the story, and I am just not a bottom line kinda gal, anyway:)

As you read my previous post, I miscarried a little baby at 8 weeks in May 2011, a few days before Mother’s Day. I had just seen the heartbeat on the sonogram that morning, little arm buds and leg buds present….yet, the beat of the heart was slow, which concerned me. I had hoped this “trend” was not really happening again. Yet, it was. This would turn out to be my 3rd miscarriage in 14 months. Mike was sad, but mostly for me. I know a lot of dads don’t get emotionally involved right at the start, so I somewhat felt alone….and so disappointed. I quickly received testing as I had requested following the miscarriage. Turned out, I had some various things going on, all of which could be contributing. Without going into all the details….something autoimmune rumbling and something possibly causing blood clotting problems only detected in pregnancy. I sought help and advice in this, but wasn’t too aggressive. Afterall, what they were finding was all “borderline” so nothing too alarming. I put myself on daily baby aspirin per research, and tried to improve my diet, and just prayed alot about it.

Fast forward to September. I was pregnant again! My due date would be May 29…..a special but bittersweet date for me as it would mark the 2 year anniversay of my beloved Mom going on to heaven at the age of 56.  Mike and I were excited and began praying over my womb and the baby right then.  It didn’t appear I had trouble GETTING pregnant, but the rest of it still felt cautious to me. Excitingly enough, my sister Hannah found it she was pregnant as well. She was due just 3 days after me. The last time she and I had shared a pregnancy this close was with her first daughter, Gwenny and my Eli. Unfortunately, we encountered tragedy in that joy as Hannah went into preterm labor and lost little Gwenny at 23 weeks. We were elated at the thought that we could take tummy pics together this time, see our midwife together, and just enjoy this special season as sisters.  However, I kept having this underlying “awareness” or knowing  I guess that this may not end up well for me this time, but I would quickly push the thoughts out and think, “surely God wouldn’t allow that to happen to Hannah and I again. Surely, he picked such a due date for this baby as to symbolize His gift of  new life, that our joy was surely coming again despite our deep grief with Mom being gone now.”

The perinatologist I consulted with felt baby aspirin should be enough and made no further recommendations. I had many sonograms this time around at the Crisis Pregnancy center I volunteered at,  along with 2 “official” sonograms as well. I was able to watch our little blessing grow, wiggle like they do, such a strong heartbeat continue. As so many weeks passed, I became increasingly comfortable in the pregnancy, but still that “knowing” would never go completely away. We made special “announcement” tshirts for our boys which said TEAM STUDT on the front, then on each of the backs stated “Big Brother” with their birth order number. When our littlest guy, Sawyer, opened his, some boys were thinking we made a mistake, but Caleb figured it out. It was a ton of fun, we posted it to facebook, and let the cat out of the bag at a whopping 15weeks!

Right after our family announcement

The longest we had ever waited to announce a pregnancy, but wanted to take time to pray and were just wanting to find the “right” time to tell the boys. We had made it past the typical first trimester concerns, so felt 15 weeks was adequate time, right? I soon took the boys to see the baby on sono. They were happy to see him or her. I was starting to feel movement at 16 weeks. I had felt one of our other boys move by 15 weeks, so this didn’t surprise me. I felt the baby wiggle quite a bit, and I was so thankful that things seemed to be progressing so well. The boys quickly began discussing names and having fun with all the possibilities. It was so different this time! The last time I had been pregnant with our 5th son, our oldest son was only 6! At the time, they were all so little so they didn’t seem nearly as involved in it as this time. Caleb, who had been praying for us to have another baby, was so happy with the news, but voiced much concern and many questions as to whether this baby would “make it” and “how do you know you won’t miscarry again?” I had to just tell him we were trusting God no matter what, but that we needed to pray the baby would indeed come at the expected time. Those were a blissful 3 weeks for me as a mother, watching my boys take such good care of me and touching my tummy. Things would quickly change, however…..

Little Studt at 12 weeks:)

Part 2: When the oceans rage, I don’t have to be afraid…

Joy is not based on our circumstances…..true joy comes from within and wells up from a relationship with our Creator.

So, Mike and I were given a life in my womb again recently. Through a series of ups and downs of the unknown, we just learned this little life, which we were so prepared to embrace, was also not meant for this world. The little heartbeat that I saw on that screen was only for a moment for my eyes to see. Another baby for my Mother to hold…..due the day after Mom’s birthday. (A small blessing to remind me He sees me.) I released this little nearly 8 week old life into eternity just a few weeks ago. I wondered why and grieved the disappointment of not sharing the news with the 5 brothers who frequently plead for us to have another one. My heart was broken, yet it was different this time.

One by one, we have read this precious little story about a little boy who visited Heaven as he was dying from a destructive unknown (at the time) infection in his abdomen. I won’t give this powerful testament away in case you haven’t read it, but the Lord used that little book at the perfect time for our family. I smiled as Caleb and Wesley shared what they read with their younger brothers. I overheard treasured discussions of our innocent, trusting children of how they had yet another sibling in heaven who they would one day get to meet. I realized that through this temporal loss, it opened up yet another meaningful time for us to share with our boys the meaning of this life. It has been precious to answer their questions and hear their thoughts. But, what has been amazing to me is how my Father used this little boy’s life to continue the work He began in my heart. I am living through the work of suffering bringing about heart change, which is gifting me with hope.

This Sunday will mark one year from the day Mom took her last breath. I remember that moment so vividly. All of us standing around in a circle holding her hands and asking eachother if she was “gone”. I had already mentioned this year has been the roughest of my life. I had not been myself. Yet, through this trial of losing this baby, God has truly made Himself real to me again. I tried to explain it to a friend the other day. I really am “okay”. I can’t even say I am hoping for another baby. I don’t have any idea where our “road” will lead us as a family, but I know He loves us and will not forsake us. I know this life is only the first phase. There really is a second one! And, it is but a “breath away”. As my mind’s eye imagines Mom and Sally in heaven dancing in white linen among fields and fields of the most radiant colors beyond what we know, I see them holding little hands and smiling and saying, “we will see them pretty soon!”

Anticipation and hope for the future, whatever may be, is not about wanting more in this life. It is about LIFE.About knowing Him and His love in a real way….not religion.  He is making all things new for us, and He will do it for any of His children. No matter the suffering which marks our life, I can truly say that it is through it, that I am changed. Below are the lyrics to Blessings by Laura Story that spoke to my heart so clearly. When you get a moment, please watch the video.

We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
But long that we’d have the faith to believe

‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know the pain reminds this heart
That this is not our home,

‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

Loss and Redemption….part 1

It has been a while. I actually can’t believe what all has transpired in my world over the course of one year….this coming from a personality that yearns for structure, consistency, nothing too extraordinary. In short, my best friend and beloved mother left this world. An indelible mark….an unfillable whole remained. Listening to the slowing of her heart and holding her as her life’s blood ceased to coarse through her veins  has unequivocally transformed my existence. Knowing at that moment in this life, her spirit ascended into her permanent home gives me much peace and true joy. To say we were “happy” for her does not even quite articulate the depth of emotion that was encapsulated in that brief vapor of time.

Really, I now can say that tragedy and loss is a necessary part of this life. Without it, most of us have no idea what compassion for others really means. I believe tragedy/loss and humility go hand in hand. Have you ever noticed that it seems when you think you know all the answers for a certain “topic” , you learn through some sort of humbling experience that you really have no clue? Well, I think death of a dear loved one is somewhat like that. It can mold you into the human God set out for you to become….or, you can play like you are tough and strong and walls begin to build that no one can break down. Yet, I can see how the latter may occur. You begin to feel forgotten and alone like no one else can understand. You may believe that you are the only one who can understand your pain. In some ways, that is truth. Death is incredibly personal.  However, I believe it is just one of the amazing doors of mortality that can reveal the mysteries of creation….that there is an amazing Creator and God who only intended this portion of the journey to last but a blink. There is indeed another phase and it is called ETERNITY. Unfortunately, even as God revealed in His Word…..the true path is straight and narrow. It is not wide and crooked. There are no other paths that lead to the same place. Even in all my fumbling around for answers this past year, that is the single most important truth upon which I never waivered and am nearly desparate to make known.

As some know, my ship was sailing smoothly pretty well at first during the grieving process. Then, the waves came at me from a multitude of directions. Suffice it to say, I am nearly certain Mike was confused and exhausted as he continually bailed water out of our sinking ship. He had gone through this very thing ten years prior during the dying of his own mother. Yet, I am confident the way *I* dealt with it was ummmm……a growing process for him! During the sometimes treacherous waves of grief, I somehow managed to feed the boys mostly 2 meals a day (Mike often prepared dinner) and at least throw laundry in the washer and dryer (it stops there, just ask Mike). They did get an education, but that is miraculous and it almost feels like a blur. Highs and lows…..we were struggling in reconciling our relationship with my dad as he moved through his own phase of grief, then the loss of  our own pregnancy in October, then came Thanksgiving, Mom’s birthday in December,the sudden loss of a longtime friend (she passed away at 39 of breast cancer leaving her young son and devoted husband behind….that put a huge crack in my heart again)….. then Christmas. Reconcilliation did occur with Dad, followed by his marriage to his new wife, Nancy (which I will say is a beautiful person and an angel by her own right)…..yet, no matter what changes I knew the Lord would carry us through, I felt so lost and unloved by the Lord in all honesty.  Well, I *knew* He loved me in my head but my heart was so broken I had to literally speak those words aloud just to convince myself it was indeed true.

Disappointment of what God had taken or changed and Dread of what may lay ahead became my new normal….people not close to me would probably never know it, but believe me, it encompassed my very existence.

I have physically suffered in many ways as well as emotionally and spiritually. I won’t discuss that now, but just wanted to mention the fact that I can honestly see how people can die of a broken heart.

Recently, I have been literally been crying out for restoration of my relationship with my Heavenly Father. Pleading for hope to be mine once again became my heart’s beat. Lack of sleep and anxiety could no longer continue. Yet, I just could not see the light ahead at all. The drought in my soul longed to be quenched, yet it all still felt so mechanical for me. I could see how futile were my attempts to be “strong in the Lord and by the power of His might”……they were just words that I knew well, but oh, there was nothin’ there. I was the last person you would want to be an encouragement during your struggle. But, that was okay. I realized it was “how I was grieving”. You see, there are no magic words someone can say to “make it all better”. It truly is a process… individual trek to (hopefully!) finding His joy once again. You will never be the same, and for that, there is also a grieving. That is where unless you have walked through it, you JUST HAVE NO IDEA (no, I am not yelling, just emphasizing:o)

Life is a gift. Eternal life is a gift. It ALL is a gift that we cannot control. God knows each of us amazingly well and will fight for our souls like we may never fully know. Passionately, He pursues us, yet it seems He lays low at times. Sometimes, though, I wonder if it is just blinders we have on our eyes and He is always running one step behind us.  Actually, I  know that to be true.

Yesterday, as I sat scanning the womb of very young mama helping her see her own baby  for the first time, I felt His amazing peace consume me. This seemingly sad young woman had a 2 year old already and had aborted a baby last year. She shared her regret over that choice, yet frankly opened up that she indeed would parent this baby despite her obvious expression of ambivalence. As the sonogram progressed, she  began asking me questions about myself….like “why do you do sonograms? Do you enjoy it? How long have you done it? What did you do before this?” This is quite peculiar considering this type of ministry, but I felt the Spirit was leading.

Sharing how the Lord led me to this “job”, I proceeded to tell her something I had never shared with another “client” before. When I told her of how I could have never been born, how my young, desperate mother much like herself, aborted both babies before and after me, and then through my teen mother’s choices and accepting God’s forgiveness once she repented, that I realized my purpose…..her purpose: living, breathing evidence of God’s Redeeming Love. What Satan meant for harm, God fashioned for HIS GREATER GOOD.

Tears streamed from her eyes as she began to say “thank you , thank you , thank you. I needed to hear that today. I needed to know that today.I needed to meet you today. God made this happen today.” At that moment, God removed the scales from my blind and dry eyes. His purpose for me revealed through words spoken from my own lips as He said to me “I do love you. You are here to know Me, to love me, to receive my love, then to freely give my love to those I put in your path.” He knit two women’s hearts together at that moment…..completely different walks of life, opposite ends of the spectrum really. I was a picture of her future….her children’s future….her redemption. As far as I am concerned, she was the door to my joy returning.

That was actually the second time that day the Lord used my mother to reveal His love for me. I will leave that for part II:o)


Remembering where my hope comes from

I have been really feeling lazy and just BLAH lately. There is not really any reason “why”, other than maybe just the monotony and mundaness that life holds sometimes has been getting to me. Also, I have been knowing in my head that I love being right where God has me, but STILL just not feeling it in my heart every day. I know that is why it is said that love is not just a feeling. But, when you “feel” that love and passion for something, it makes it so…..fulfilling, enjoyable, etc. So, today I was just having yet another day of not really giving my all to my family. Just can’t put my finger on it, but I just said to God earlier, “I love you, I love my family, I really am thankful…..but, I just don’t want to do this. I just want to go to bed and sleep and not think about ANYTHING!” I know, cast my cares on Him. I really do that…..but it has been more like I have just been going through the motions, but without any feeling. Not all the time, but off and on. I know that is life sometimes. Our fleshly nature tends to want to have something or do something than it cannot. I am free in Christ in this life. I get that. But, I think I have used my freedom in my mind a little more than is helpful lately. I mean, just thinking of random other things other than eternal things. I realize when I “go there” too often, I start to get this numb feeling. I start to have little pity parties. I notice I feel like a bad mom and wife. I start to think EVERYONE’S children are more well behaved than mine. I feel tired a lot more. I “escape” to the computer more. I feel misunderstood by others and worry about how others perceive me and my family, etc. Gosh, I can see how I start to just get too inwardly focused…..self -centered. Interesting….cuz I am sure “most” would think that is not possible if I have 5 kids and homeschool all day. Nope. It is blaringly true to me.  I wonder if I am alone in this??? Doubt it. So, if nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, what gives? Maybe it is my freedom choosing to allow a wall to go up for some reason.  I visualize it as me entering a spiritual sleep. Just slowly, drifting off. What is the point of all this hard work, persevering, seeking the kingdom of God? Why stay awake and keep trying? This sleeps feels so good for the moment……. Then suddenly, I kinda get a jolt and wake up and see the world around me again. Slowly, my blurred vision regains clarity. I still can’t see everything perfectly, but enough to get up and keep going on. I can only do this because of my Lord. He gives me the reason for living. I can’t live for others, not even my family. As much as I am crazy in love with them. I just can’t. They will fail me. I will fail them. It is simply the truth of our humanness. Then, today, this song came on (Mike made me their CD). It was so incredibly timely for me. God did that. He knew I couldn’t stay where I was. He loves me that much. I am his favorite….and so are you.

More thoughts on discipline today

You know, discipline of my children is just on my heart and mind A LOT! I know it is because I am constantly asking the Lord for clarity on how to teach and love each one of them. The issue is…..I want to do it biblically, ie…..don’t want to “spare the rod” yet, see in my own humanness, that I “tend” toward harsh rebuke and unnecessarily spanking that I desire strongly to lean toward more GRACE in my parenting. But, for me, and I think it should be for all of us…..even grace can be misapplied and can end up in the “other” ditch. Hence, on my knees asking for discernment for each child and each situation. I just CANNOT endorse books like “To Train Up a Child” without a serious disclaimer. I just realize that if I expect to teach my little people how to love others as themselves, that I must somehow teach what is TRUE, what is created by GOD (the one and only), how to ask for discernment of what is truth (sin, what is of God, etc), what real freedom in Christ is, how to love others even in blatant sin, how to love pharisees, etc etc etc.

Eye-yey-yey! Quite a task! THAT is why I am always asking for wisdom. THAT is why I prefer to never apply a “method” or specific teaching that doesn’t hold as number one…..Love the Lord with all your heart, Love you know who as yourself. If I read something that focuses much on what is outward, I pretty much wince constantly and just chuck it in the end. I believe that is because I struggle with focusing on how things look to others. Not because I necessarily want to look good. Moreso, because I have an inward battle saying “do this because you want to “glorify God”, or don’t say how you are really feeling today because you don’t want to come across as not crazy joyful in Jesus. Once again, if that is my motive, I am not being true or human. I am a spiritual being. You are, too. THIS is a spritual battlefield. I never want to negate that. But, truth is….we are in the flesh and need to do whatever it takes to teach these little beings how to live as spiritual beings in a nasty, fleshly world at times. And, I can tell you right now……teaching them how to perform for others, or even for me, is not the way to do it.

Please, read Sally Clarkson’s blogpost today. I am falling in love with her writings more each time I read her…….Thank you, Lord for this water to quench my parched soul today.

March 29, 2010Advocate Parenting–heartfelt discipline

Love is patient, love is kind………

I have noticed over the years that, in an effort to be good parents, many of us tend to extremes. If rod oriented, then we can tend to use it all the time, over-correcting, and expecting too much of even little ones in a desire to be sure children are disciplined. This often produces rebellion as it is outward oriented and can neglect the heart issues and personality and needs.


Our Children are burden lifters… John Piper

Thoughts to consider concerning this issue many Christian couples struggle with…….I like Piper’s view of children as burden lifters, while he does look at the big picture and doesn’t make blanket statements about all couples being called to have 10+ children. I believe it to be balanced, but he definitely makes the point to seek God’s kingdom in the matter…..not just convenience and lifestyle choice. Good stuff.~Andrea

What is your stance on married couples using birth control pills?

By John Piper December 12, 2009 


The following is an edited transcript of the audio.

What is your stance on married couples using birth control pills? Some claim it is still, in essence, abortion.

We did use contraceptives in the early part of our marriage. My wife’s father was a doctor, and we consulted with him about this.

The answer is fairly simple to me at one level: if it’s an abortifacient—if the egg is being fertilized and then being destroyed—it’s not right.

There’s just so much we could say here about the beginnings of life and how you understand the soul, but I’ll try to keep it short and simple.

I think a child should be given the benefit of the doubt as to whether he exists or not. And when an egg has been fertilized and all the components are physically there for a human being, we have every reason to treat it as a human being.

We shouldn’t destroy it. And if “the pill” destroys it, we shouldn’t use that pill. But here’s where the differences come, because I have had people say to me, “You can’t be sure,” or “The pills all work that way,” or “No, they don’t!”

So I would just say to the families: operate on this principle, namely, that you’re not going to destroy a fertilized egg. And then do your best, by whatever research and consultation you can, to decide what means of “conception control”—I’m avoiding “birth control” because it doesn’t quite say it right—you should use.

Now, that’s at one level. That’s the abortion level. There’s another whole level to this issue of people saying, “Well, if children are a blessing from the Lord, why would you get in the way? Have as many as you can: 15, 20! Be like Susanna Wesley and her parents.”

And that’s another question, but I’ll try to give you my short answer.

I do think children are an amazing blessing from the Lord. I have 5, and I’m glad I have 5 kids. And if I had to do it over again, I would have 5 plus. I would start adopting earlier probably. We had 4 of the biological kind and then Talitha, and we waited perhaps too long to have Talitha (Noël would say we did).

So they’re a blessing, absolutely a blessing. To decide when and how many children to have, however, seems to me to be a legitimate kingdom decision.

Because Paul himself said he wished everybody were single like himself, so that they could be utterly devoted to the kingdom. And then he paused and said, “But it is not sin to marry.” And he said that, that he wished everybody was single, even though the Bible says, “It is not good for man to be alone”!

In other words, marriage is a proper creation ordinance. Marry!—it’s normal and right and good. God ordains it and God plans it. But here comes Paul saying, “I wish we could all be single, because we’d really be totally devoted to the Lord that way!” And that’s Paul, I think, annunciating a qualification of creation ordinance with redemption ordinance.

When the Fall happened, death spread and lostness spread. And this world isn’t the idyllic world where everybody can be married, have lots of kids, and die and go to heaven (or have no death at all). It’s now a fallen world, a world that desperately needs redemption. And it needs suffering, single people to lay their lives down with no distraction whatsoever to reach certain kinds of people.

And so Paul waves that flag. And if he waves that flag and says we can forsake marriage for the sake of the kingdom—even though the Bible says that it’s not good for man to be alone—I think the same thing has to do with children.

Can you see the logic I’m using here? God says, “He who has his quiver full of [children] is blessed. Children are a blessing from the Lord.” And yet, same logic, it may be wise to have 2 or 3 or 4—not 10—if you’re going to go to Guinea.

In other words, I think kingdom issues, redemption issues—not just natural issues—should guide us. We shouldn’t just think in natural issues, like “Children are naturally good to have.” Yes they are, but there are other issues going on that should be redemptive.

Now, one last comment. That’s a redemptive issue, not a DINK (Double Income No Kids) kind of attitude. Like, “No kids, thank you very much: they get in the way. I’ll have my 2.1 children to keep the population afloat so that Muslims don’t take over, but after that I’m doing my own thing.”

Well, that’s not where I am at all. I’m saying that the criterion are not me and my own little world, so that I can have a comfortable life. But rather, what are the kingdom issues at stake here?

One other thing comes to my mind. I was in Germany when we started having a family. This was 1972. In 1972 people my age were saying it’s a sin to have more than 2 kids. And some were saying it was a sin to have kids because population blah, blah, blah.

And I just thought to myself, “OK. If you have more than 2.1 kids you’re putting a strain on the planet? I don’t think so. Because the kids I’m going to raise are going to lift a million burdens.”

You Christian, you’ve got to believe that bringing kids into the world and being brought up in the Lord makes them burden lifters, not burden adders. They are in the world to lift the world, to save the world, to love the world.

You’re not just adding dead weight to the world when you bring a child up in the kingdom. You’re bringing up lovers of people and servants of the world.

So, I’m going on and on here. I should probably just stop. I can’t even remember what the question was now. So enough on that one.

Brother, Brother……you’re doing it!

I am so short on time these days to post much….but, my friend Renee sent this “exchange” on a forum she must be on (thanks, Renee!). I wanted to just post it because it truly captures my feelings, thoughts, entire outlook on the life of this family God has given us. And, I have actually had someone say the exact same thing said to this mom. I couldn’t have said it better than she did and I am so grateful I CANNOT be the mother I wanted to be….I am becoming the mother GOD wanted me to be to these little men. HE KNOWS what they need and I need to hear Him and love them with all He gives me.  Mike and I get to witness so many “brother, brother…you’re doing its” that we just feel blessed to be part of it.

You don’t need me to tell you this, but here goes:

People can—and will—say the darndest things.
Out loud, even.
I was at the Y yesterday, signing Oliver and Manolin out of childcare just after my 45 minute biking marathon with Jo. It’s a wonderful Mother-Daughter bonding time; if you’ve got the means to work out with your daughter, I highly, highly recommend it. The conversations we’ve had in those 45 minutes have been some of the ones I know I will cherish thirty years from now. The big boys are in Karate at that time, the little guys are in childcare and it’s just Jo and me, racking up miles on those stationary bikes while everyone around us wonders what in the world we’re finding so stinking hilarious.
But I digress.
As I said, I was at the Y. Manolin had already been handed over the counter and was grinding his face into my collarbone with every ounce of his being. Oliver was being led—in protest, mind you—away from the playdough table and towards the little green exit gate. I wrote my name on the register with a flourish, and turned my attention to signing dramatically so that Oliver knew it was time to head home.
“You’ve got, what? Three boys? Holy cow,” said the worker, a woman about my age.
“You missed one,” I offered helpfully, taking a step to the side. Sure enough, Atticus was hidden just behind me in the tight reception area.
“Four boys? I couldn’t do that. No way. They would drive me nuts.”
I smiled broadly and nodded. This woman, after all, goes to my church. And you know … she really ought to know better.
“I like raising boys,” I said. “These guys are awesome. I can’t imagine how boring life would be without every single one of them.”
You think that’s it, don’t you? You’re saying to yourself—”This is a post about how people are always bashing on little boys.” Well, it could be. But no. This woman just didn’t know how to quit when she was ahead. Just then, Jo came through the door carrying our workout gear in our oversized blue duffel.
“Oh my gosh, I totally forgot! You have, like, five kids. All those boys and a girl.”
Great math skills, I thought. You must be so proud. My sunshiney thoughts had turned decidedly sour. Because at this point, let’s face it: the woman has already basically told my sons that they are a burden to their mother. Now she’s going to harp on our family size. This keeps getting better!
The woman then shook her head and delivered the jewel:
“I couldn’t have that many kids. There’s no way. I just couldn’t be the mother I want to be with that many of them.”
And you know what? I told her she was absolutely right.
“I can’t either!” I admitted. “And I’m so thankful!”
Now before you look at me like I’ve grown ten heads (which is precisely the look she delivered, by the way) let me tell you why I feel the way I do.
I am not the mother I wanted to be with these children. Can’t be. It’s not possible. There’s only one of me … and five of them. Do the math. I can not be all things to every child.
The world says I am failing. I have chosen quantity over quality. I can’t possibly be a good enough mother. Needs will not be met. There are just too many kids.
Praise God, I say.
Because I have come to realize that the things I want to do and be for my children are not necessarily the best for them.
I want to kiss every boo-boo. Fawn over every picture. Brush every head of hair. Trim every finger nail. Hold the back of each bike seat as the training wheels come off. Stop the hurts before they come. Be the ear for every heartache. Bake every afternoon snack. Cheer at every game. Warn of every danger. Read every book. Watch every impromptu performance. Be a part of every game. Lead every troop. Sing every song. I want to right the wrongs. Hold off the enemies.
I want to be their world.
With one child, I could do that. No problem. With two, I think I could manage pretty nicely. But with three, five, seven? No way.
Instead, what my kids get is something different. Maybe not better—the Lord’s plans are different for each family, and I respect that. But at the very least, what my children have is equal. It’s not some lesser thing. It’s not worthy of pity. It’s just different.
It’s not about me, The Perfect Mother, this growing up thing. No matter how much I always dreamed it would be, it just isn’t. It’s about God and the family He provided to meet every need.
Do boo-boos get kissed? Of course! But a portion of the time, it is a big brother who kisses the baby’s head after he’s tried to fit underneath the coffee table for the fifth time in an hour. Do cookies get baked? Yes. I admit, though, that Jo is turning into quite the chef thanks to being blessed with the opportunity to experiment in the kitchen without my hovering. And do you know who taught Logan to balance on his big boy bike when he shed the training wheels? It was Atticus, running behind him and shouting, “Brother! Brother! You’re doing it!” in a voice so full of pride and utter joy that I get a catch in my throat just remembering. I cried from the curb, my hands busy plaiting Jo’s hair to fit under her helmet. It was a gorgeous moment, burned into my mind, my heart, my soul.
“Brother! Brother! You’re doing it!”
Are there sweeter words?
My children have a cheering section, not a number one fan. They have a chorus of voices that sing their praises and hands that reach out to help no matter the hour of the day. Will they walk through adulthood with this same closeness? There are no guarantees, of course. My own mother is the youngest of seven children, and I wouldn’t call their family particularly close-knit. There is no formula, no one perfect thing that will bind these little personalities into a warm quilt that they will want to stay wrapped in throughout their lives.
But there is love. Abounding love. More love than I, the mother who has been entrusted with them, could ever offer on my own.
I am not the mother I wanted to be. I do not make it to every event. I am sometimes preoccupied with a diaper or a math problem when a milestone flies past me at the speed of light. My children will not remember me in the foreground, chairing every committee, meeting every need and wiping every nose.
But I am the mother God wants me to be. I am in the background, usually. One voice among many in the sea of encouragement. Cheering. Praising. And witnessing the miracle that is our family.


Let’s Dance

Dance then, wherever you may be.
I am the Lord of the dance, said He.
And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I’ll lead you all in the dance, said He.

Dance on!

I did not write the above poem, but read it this morning and thought so much of what God is teaching me right now that this spoke volumes to me. I wanted to share it.

I sometimes dream of what is ahead, wondering what God “has for us”, but completely forgetting to bloom where I am planted. I both have a desire to be like Katie, which is what God HAS called the church to do. But, when I read this woman’s testimony, it reminded me that I am also called to love that in my own life which is unlovable. As the church, we are called to do both. I am seeing more and more everyday that life doesn’t fit in a nice pretty box anymore. Jesus IS in the mess…..a mess we are not always going to escape, at least not for a while. I am realizing more that it is about seeing Him in the midst of the failures, crying out for His grace and repenting, and allowing that for others as well. I had asked God to help me see others through His eyes… eyes are being changed.  I see sin as sin, still. But, without the Phariseeism. I pray it never comes back. I hate it. Rather than judging why others aren’t “changing”, I am praying….and hopefully, loving. Thank you, God.