This post has been a long time in coming. The last thing I blogged about was Hananiah’s birth 20 months ago. Twenty months. That’s how long I have felt as if my head was being held under water, struggling to the surface for a breath of air only to be shoved back down into the depths again. Twenty months.

I have not been the same since my sweet baby girl was born. I never recovered from her birth. My body has been carrying a burden laced with different labels. At first it was hypothyroidism. Then chronic fatigue. Then fibromyalgia. Then adrenal fatigue. Next came POTS. Then finally, a chronic Epstein-Barr Infection which, more than likely, is the root cause for all of the above.

Regardless of what it’s called, I’ve been wrestling with a chronic, “invisible” illness. They call them invisible illnesses because those suffering do not look sick. The people who pass by me in the grocery store have no idea that being in that store is such a big deal and fills me with such panic. They might think it’s strange that I pump my legs up and down to try and get the blood flowing to my brain. If they cast a second glance (which they just might since my cart is so full from shopping for a family of nine) they might notice that I look tired. They don’t know about the time I nearly passed out at a different grocery store. They don’t understand that standing in line for me is more than a minor annoyance. It’s potentially dangerous. They don’t realize that this grocery trip might just leave me bedridden the entire next day because it costs me so much energy. They might see me parking in a handicapped spot and think “She doesn’t look handicapped.” More than likely, though, they don’t see me at all because they have their own lives, their own thoughts, and this is just one stop in their normal day.

I’ve noticed how people don’t see me when I really need to be seen. Some people do. some people stop and help. Most don’t.

When you are sick for a few days or a few weeks, people seem to care. People seem to want to help. The longer you are sick, the fewer offers for help you receive. People check up on you less, and when they do they really just want to hear that you’re feeling better. No one wants to hear you complain. Negativity is to be avoided. It’s even labeled “toxic” and we are told to stay away from toxic people who bring you down. So, you must find the silver lining no matter how much you hurt if you don’t want to be alone at the end of the day. You learn to not talk about it, to deflect half-hearted questions with trite, incomplete answers. You learn that not many people really understand and most people don’t really want to. So, you tell them what they want to hear. When you are honest, you hear crickets. It’s awkward. You feel even more alone if that’s possible.

I recently re-read Job. I have never liked reading Job. The beginning and the end are great, but I have always wanted to skip through the middle. Only this time, I cried through the middle. I felt, like a dagger, every cruel word and every thoughtless remark made by Job’s good buddies, the only people he had who didn’t leave him high and dry. I felt Job’s pain and empathized with his journey. He went through a journey. It wasn’t pretty and he was pretty darn negative most of the time. I wonder if, at the end, when everything was restored and his friends came and comforted him… Did he have the thought of “Where in the world have you guys been?” What, they only wanted to be his friend when he was well and whole? Was there hurt and bitterness there? Of course, Job had just encountered God, so maybe not. Maybe all that was broken was put together from that wirlwind. Maybe I just haven’t had my whirlwind experience yet.

This is what it’s like. I don’t want sympathy or pity. I don’t want someone to find a Bible verse or Christian cliche to smooth everything over. I don’t want someone to compare what I’m going through with something worse in an effort to make me feel better or slap me into gratefulness for what I do have. It is possible to be grateful and hurting at the same time. I don’t want someone’s health advice unless they actually know what they are talking about, which would require really, really listening to what is going on. I don’t want anyone to sell me anything. Or even tell me much of anything if they haven’t sat down with me in the dust for awhile. Sometimes the best response is “That’s hard. I’m praying for you.” Even better would be the addendum of “Let me do a load of laundry for you,” or something like that. But please don’t treat me like a leper, and let me contribute when I can.

I want to be productive. I want to be a giver, not a taker. Somedays I end up in tears because simple tasks like changing a diaper and putting my babies to bed feel next to impossible. Somedays I look up the steps and think “There’s no way I can do this.” And yet, I manage to do it time and time again. Because laying down and giving up is not an option. And then, for a day or a week I manage to find the surface. My head comes up out of the  water and I breathe in deep. I feel normal. I can do normal things. I feel hope. Maybe this is over. Maybe it was all just a bad  dream, a bad behind-me dream. Can I  announce this ? That I’m normal again and people can stop avoiding me? I’m healed and whole and who wants to meet  at the park for a playdate? Look! I’m better. I’m who you want me to be! Until I pass out again or succomb to the depths of fatigue.

This is what it’s like. Just in case you were wondering.

 

 

Contractions started around 5 p.m. on Sunday, July 6th. A week previously I had 16 1/2 hours of false labor, so I wasn’t thinking that this was the real thing. For me, early labor feels almost exactly like “practice contractions”. Generally the only way I can distinguish between false labor and early real labor is that the real deal doesn’t stop and continues overnight. False labor at least weakens when I lay down. That and my level of crabbiness increases with the real deal. My tolerance for chaos and noise goes waaaaay down.

So, when all of the sudden I couldn’t take the noise of children in the house and had to go outside on the deck, I started to wonder. Unlike the false alarm the week before, the contractions that started at 5 p.m. started out strong. All of the sudden, I was like “Oh my gosh! I HAVE to scrub my kitchen floor NOW.” And I did. Kevin and I cleaned the house just in case. Then we settled down and watched a movie. The contractions weakened, so I thought “Oh well. At least we have a clean house.” After the movie and some “special spouse time”, we went to bed.

At 1 a.m. I was blasted away by stronger contractions. Woah! I thought. This could be it! They kept me awake until I managed to get a little light rest in between contractions from around 5 a.m. – 6 a.m. Although they were getting stronger, they were mostly the heavy pressure contractions and I knew they weren’t strong enough. They continued, so I texted my midwife to see if I could just come in to her office and have her check me to just see.

The noise of the children was really bothering me, so I sent them to my friend across the street. My other friend Rene who came in town for the birth went to drop her daughter off at her brothers, so Joel watched me blow up the birth pool “just in case” while he waited for the bus. He kept saying “Baby swim! Baby swim! Mommy swim?”

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The rest of the children go across the street.

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Joel waits for his bus.

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The birth pool is blown up. (No water yet though).

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The diffuser is on and the scent of lavender is released throughout the room. (Maternity pictures are a nice choice for the digital picture frame.)

Joel went off to school. Rene came to pick me off and we were off to the midwife.

We got there and she checked my pulse and blood pressure (which I think was 116 over something – high for me!) Then she asked me if I wanted her to strip my membranes if I was dilated enough. I said yes, but when she checked me I was only 2 cm dilated. However, I was 50% effaced and my cervix was soft, so she figured the contractions were doing something and she stripped my membranes anyway.

She told me to go home and rest and then go walking somewhere indoors (’cause baby it was hot outside!) That past Thursday I did something to my hip walking around the block and I was getting shooting pains from it making that whole walking idea near impossible. So, I called and made an appointment with the chiropractor at noon. I went home to rest and got almost an hour nap in! (I didn’t know then how much I was going to need that!)

Rene and I went to the chiropractor, out to lunch and then we went walking around the mall. The window ac unit in the baby’s room broke the day before and the repair man was coming at 3 p.m. that day, so we had to come home for that. (Good thing it was still early labor or that might have really freaked the repair guy out!) The midwife texted to ask how I was doing and I answered “About the same. I think I’m making very slow progress, maybe?”

My dear husband came home about then…

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and I told him to start filling the birth pool up with water (since it takes a long time to fill) while Rene and I went walking again at K-mart and Hobby Lobby.

The contractions were coming more intense, but they were still more pressure than the crampy kind. As we walked (very slowly) I felt like my body was going to explode with the pressure. They weren’t painful, though, except for on my back. Baby had been posterior the previous prenatal appointment, so I figured that was why. She must have been hitting a nerve.

I was in good spirits until the car ride back where the back pain got a lot worse and the contractions were on top of each other. As soon as we got home I said “I don’t care what she says. I’m getting in that pool!” I then told Kevin to call the midwife and say that maybe she should come check me now. Instead of saying that he just said “She’s getting in the birth pool now” to which the midwife answered that she’d be right over.

That birth pool is AMAZING!!!!!

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It completely took all of the back pain away!

I had a bootlegged (not really) version of “I Lift My Eyes” from Bizzy that I wanted to listen to over and over and over and over again. It reminded me that this was bigger than me.

“I bend low and I put my head down

Under the weight of promises to end this drought…

He is good. He will come. Salvation is on it’s way.”

The midwives arrived and checked on me.

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And on baby.

Then I asked her to check my dilated. I braced myself as I was afraid I hadn’t made progress and called them too soon for nothing.

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She said I was definitely more effaced and baby was super, super low BUT my dilation hadn’t changed much. I was only 3 c.m.

Yeah. Slightly discouraging.

I tried to rest a little but couldn’t.

At some point the midwife told me that she thought it was in my best interest to either try and speed this labor up or try to slow it down. I was getting tired and I couldn’t rest. I didn’t know what to do. I cried and asked Kevin and Rene what I should do. My choices were castor oil and a breast pump or Tylenol p.m. with the hopes that it would stop my contractions and let me sleep.

I felt like a total idiot. I mean, this was my 6th labor and I felt like I still couldn’t “get it right”. The midwives told me, however, that a really long early labor was extremely common with women who had 3 or more babies. Their reassurance that I was, in fact, normal really helped me. I chose the speed it up method and downed a castor oil shake. Yum!

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Baby was doing great and very happy.

I needed to eat something to maintain energy. That’s one great thing about homebirths! You don’t have to starve yourself.

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Rene and I then went walking down the street. It had just rained and the air was cool. Lightening still hung in the sky. It was such a beautiful night.

I labored some more.

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My mom used a tennis ball for the back pain.

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Baby was still happy.

But at 3:30 a.m. they checked me again and I was only at 4 c.m. (That’s Kevin sound asleep beside me. He had gone to bed around 11 and

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The castor oil hadn’t taken effect. I had also done a couple rounds of the breast pump, but it didn’t seem to help either. The decision was made that I should take benedryl and try to get some rest. They didn’t say this to me, but told Rene they guessed it would be Thursday. I went to bed. The midwives went home.

I got a good 2 hours of sleep when the contractions BLASTED me out of bed. Because Kevin and I have SUCH great communication, he went to work thinking that my labor had stopped. In fact, not only was it still going, but it had picked up a bunch on notches.

At this point, no one knew this as Rene and my mom were asleep upstairs, the midwives were gone and Kevin was at work.

I had gotten it into my head that I was waiting for the PAIN to set in because that would mean that we were getting somewhere. Well, here was the pain. So, since I figured this is what a NORMAL labor was like, I should act like a NORMAL woman in labor and vocalize during contractions.

I don’t know why I got this into my head. I normally labor very quietly, which is quite misunderstood by the birth attendants. They think I’m not having strong contractions when I am because I’m so quiet. But at this point, I was going on a long labor with very little sleep and wasn’t thinking clearly. Alone in my kitchen, I moaned and groaned and said “I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay” through the contractions.

It was getting close to the time for Joel’s bus to arrive and I hadn’t called to let them know he wouldn’t be at school that day. I shouted up the stairs “Will somebody get up!” and my mom came downstairs. She watched for the bus and told them Joel wouldn’t be there. I timed the contractions and they were 2-3 minutes apart lasting around 45 seconds a piece, pretty darn consistent. My mom convinced me to text the midwife and tell her to come back. I also texted Kevin and told him to come home.

This time when the midwife came, I was 6 c.m.

More laboring.  More vocalizing…

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And then I realized something.

I HAD NOTHING TO PROVE TO ANYONE.  I did not have to moan and groan to prove to anyone that I was making progress. When I did that, I noticed that I tensed up all over and then IT HURT!  (Go figure!) Of course, I would have realized this earlier if I had been thinking clearly, but the lack of sleep was doing a number on my thought process.

So I went out on the deck and found my place and my peace. I began to rebuke the pain with each contraction.

“Pain, go away. I DON’T NEED YOU.” And as I relaxed, everything got so much easier.

It was so peaceful.

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It was delightful.

I really wanted to get back into the pool, so I had her check me again to see if I was far enough along. I was 7 1/2 cm, so she agreed that I could labor in the birthpool for awhile. If it slowed down my labor, she would tell me to get out.

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Have I mentioned that the birth pool is AMAZING?

While I was in the pool, Rene blew up blue and pink balloons, getting ready to announce the gender.

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The contractions were strong. I rebuked the pain with each one. Once again, I listened to Bizzy’s song “I Lift My Eyes” over and over and over again.

“He is good. He will come. Salvation is on it’s way.”

The contractions did not slow down, but at some point I realized that I probably needed more pressure on my cervix, so I got out.

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She checked me and then told me “The good news is that your bag is more bulgy so I can break your water now. But actually your cervix seems to have tightened up. You’re more like a 6 now.”

WHAT?!?! YOU CAN GO BACKWARDS?!?!?

I can not TELL you how this made me feel.

But I agreed to have her break my water.

 

 

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I then sat on the toilet for a few minutes as the rest of my water drained out. Within 10 minutes I felt the urge to push, but I restrained myself. I was not thinking clearly. I was thinking “You’re only 6 c.m. It’s not time. You’re going backwards, not forwards.”

I got back out into the prayer tent area and clung to my husband for a few contractions in which I tried not to push.

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My mind was going all irrational. I was thinking “I know. I’ll tell them I want a hospital transport and then I’ll go get an epidural. I can’t do this anymore.” That didn’t come out of my mouth just yet.

Instead I told the midwife “I’m trying not to push, but I feel like I need to.” She told me to try having Kevin sit in a chair and then use him to squat. There was no way I was going to squat. My body just wouldn’t do it. “If you still feel the need to push after that, we’ll take a look and see what’s going on.”

In other words, she didn’t think it was time to push either.

Then everything happened so fast.

Kevin sat down in the chair and I went over to lean on him. I yelled “I want an epidural! I can’t do this anymore!” Kevin whispered that I was doing a great job. Then I yelled “I WANT THIS BABY OUT!” Then I yelled “I’M PUSHING THIS BABY OUT!”

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And I did! One push and the head was out.

Head

One more push and the rest was out.

It's a girl

It was so FAST and so unlike previous labors. Pushing has always been my least favorite part. I had to summon up all this energy to do it. This time it was so easy. No ring of fire. No great effort. It just happened.

My mom yelled “It’s a girl!” But I didn’t believe her. I asked the midwives and they confirmed. They asked me if I wanted to hold her and then passed her up to me. Then they put chucks pads on the couch and backed me up so I could hold her.

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My mom prayed over baby girl Hananiah.

 

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Kevin cut the cord.

 

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Daddy held his new princess while I delivered the placenta.

Then I asked to take a shower.

Well, that didn’t go over very well. I started to lose a lot of blood in the shower. I heard the midwife yell out that she needed something to stop the blood loss. I started getting dizzy. She asked if I wanted pitocin or herbal. I said herbal. Then I passed out.

They got me back to the room and made me eat and drink like crazy. My blood pressure had gone from 116 over something to 85 over something. But with some food I was ready to see my baby again.

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She was weighed. 7 lbs 6 oz – our smallest baby!

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She was measured. 20 ” long.

We took our announcement picture with the pink balloons. The original idea was to throw the balloons in the pool and take a picture, but I never made it back into the pool.

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Some baby snuggles after she got her outfit on.

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So 45 hours of labor. Sounds completely grueling, but really of that 45 hours, only the last 45 minutes was horrible. And that only because I was trying not to push when I was supposed to be pushing!  Once I came to terms with the fact that I didn’t need the pain to make progress (remembering that I had a nearly painless labor with Humility and we made it through just fine, thank you very much!) we were good. I had way more energy than I did with Hunter’s labor. Hunter’s labor was long and hard. Hananiah’s labor was longer but easier.

I am now reflecting on the fact that I didn’t give birth in the prayer tent. The last two babies were born under that prayer canopy and it was my every intention that this baby be the same. But she was born in the living room. I’m thinking there’s something significant about that. I labored in the prayer tent, but birthed in the living room. Laboring in prayer for that nameless, faceless generation but coming out into where I LIVE to birth something there. I need more time to ponder this, but I have a feeling it’s just how it was meant to be.

Hananiah Mishael Azariah was born on 7/8/14. I was wanting 7/11. I was praying for and claiming that day. Hosanna was due on 7/4/08 but I agreed to be induced with her. I choose the date 7/7 for her birth. I chose. Not God. I took matters into my own hands and I have regretted it ever since. I thought that maybe if I would have waited, she would have been born on 7/11 which is the first number God ever used to speak to me. It was one of the first times I heard His voice in that way. It is a VERY significant number to me. I regretted not letting God do His thing with Hosanna’s birth, thinking I could do it better than Him. So I wondered if this was my second chance.

7/7/14 is a very cool due date. My ultrasound due date was 4 days later – 7/11/14.

But Hananiah was born on 7/8.

8 is the number of new beginnings.

Somehow it’s all perfect. New beginnings. Yes, He’s spoken to me through the # 7/11 in the past and He gave me that ultrasound due date to confirm it… but He’s doing a new thing.

He is still speaking.

Hananiah Mishael Azariah… Our little girl is named after 3 men in the Bible. Those were Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s Hebrew names.

 God will raise up a generation who will not bow to the

spirit of the age. He will raise up a glorious, spotless, sold

out, consecrated bride. They will STAND and, even through

fiery trials, will emerge MORE than victorious (with clothes

that don’t even smell of fire). Jesus will walk in their midst.

Finding out the gender of our baby-in-the-womb has always been a highly anticipated event. I counted down the weeks until we could have that gender revealing ultrasound. It was at that time that I could begin calling the baby by name and praying into the name. It was a way to connect with the life inside me, a clue when dreaming about who the child would become. I didn’t understand why anyone would choose not to have that.

This time around, with my 6th pregnancy of my 7th child, as the time drew near to schedule that ultrasound appointment, I felt a hesitancy. I heard an invitation. It wasn’t a heavenly decree or demand. I just felt the Lord say “Why don’t you choose not to find out.” WHAT!?!? Of course that couldn’t be God! Must be my own thoughts betraying me. Or..

I felt like it was an invitation to hear God in a new way. With each child, I have put so much stock into the name as a way to seek out the destiny of that baby. Maybe this time around, God wanted to speak to me differently. Reluctantly, I said yes. Or maybe it was more like “Fine! Okay!” But I think that still counts.

So with an acceptance of that invitation, I awaited some deep revelation. Surely God would speak now in some thundering way. This was going to be good. It had better be good! But… nothing.

Nothing.

Nothing.

Seriously God? Did I miss You in this?

No revelation came to me. I didn’t hear Him say anything about this baby. I heard nothing. I felt annoyed. I kept forgetting that I was going to have a baby because I felt so disconnected. I keep a notebook for each child of letters I have written them along the way, starting with pregnancy. This baby’s notebook was labeled “#7” and I didn’t have much to say.

Then my intelligent seven-year-old boy started calling the baby “Baby Anonymous”. It stuck. At first it was cleaver. Then it became significant.

What does anonymous mean?

There are some negative associations. People who leave rude comments on other people’s blogs often hide under the title of “anonymous”. Some people complain anonymously. But by and large, the associations that come to my mind are much more positive.

Think of all the poems that have the name anonymous at the bottom of them.

Think of the large donations given anonymously.

As I began to feel this little one wriggling around inside of me more and more I kept thinking that the name just fit. The baby feels like he or she is doing something significant in there, but I can’t see what it is. The midwife wasn’t able to find the heartbeat at first. Baby wanted to remain anonymous. When we opted to get an ultrasound done to reassure ourselves that all was well, baby covered his or her eyes as if he or she didn’t want to be seen.

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(Side note: Isn’t it annoying to have to say “he or she” and “his or her”?)

Months went by and I had nothing to go on. Nothing except for this nick name.

Finally, with less than a month to go until my due date, I felt like I heard God speaking to me..

About a nameless, faceless generation.

That’s a phrase that’s thrown around in the circle I run with and I had always nodded agreement to it, but now it was becoming a part of me.

A generation that doesn’t need the credit. A generation that’s not out for their own glory, but for His. A generation that’s content to seek Him in the secret place, to do His will even when they won’t receive praise from man. A generation living before His eyes alone.

Sound great, doesn’t it?

Unless you’re part of that generation!

Okay, so maybe it’s just me, but I know that in my own heart there’s way to much that goes against that grain. I really, really like when people notice the work I do and tell me I did a good job. I crave words of affirmation. I long for that pat on the back. I’m drawn to the spotlight like a moth to a porch light. I know, I KNOW, that I shouldn’t be. I know that and I remind myself on a consistent basis that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. His opinion is what matters. My mind is on board with this, but there’s something in me that kicks against it and protests.

I wanted to be a lot of things when I was a child. A famous astronaut. (I don’t remember this, but my second grade essay is proof enough.) A famous actress. A famous singer. A famous writer. A famous public speaker.

Do you see the common denominator here? I didn’t care what I did as long as I was famous.

That’s a far cry from anonymous.

Oh Lord, change my heart! I am powerless to fight against this current apart from the grace of God!

A nameless, faceless generation.

The title of anonymous is not synonymous with insignificant. Far from it! Anonymous doesn’t mean the person never did anything of value, wasted their life and had nothing to show for it. It’s a title of greatness with no name attached.

We have a boy name and a girl name picked out and ready to go. You’ll have to wait for that one because we’re not sharing. I’ve read about and prayed through both names and I’m excited to find out which one will fit with this anonymous baby. They are both powerful names, powerful functions. But I think the identity is found more in the nickname. The character is in the nickname. How it plays out will be on the birth certificate.

If it works like that. God taught me so much about humility as I was pregnant with, birthed and began to nurture our daughter Humility. Her personality today does NOT fit what I would EVER typically think of that virtue. She’s a firecracker! But she really does love to be upside-down!

God also began talking to me about how the names I choose for my children are not just for my children. They are somehow some kind of declaration for a generation. I really don’t get that, but my Hannah heart agrees. The prophets were given names for their children that had very little to do with their actual children and were prophetic declarations to nations (mostly Israel). When I read those passages, I feel sorry for the children because many were declarations of judgement. (And the names weren’t cute or catchy!) But God has His reasons.

So as I carry this little one inside of me for this next couple of weeks or so, I carry a burden in my heart for a generation that is so in love with the Lord, so enamored by His glory that they think nothing of their own.  As I birth this baby, I will birth that cry. (Don’t ask me how that works. I haven’t got a clue.) Humility’s birth was so easy and peaceful. Hunter’s birth was challenging. I have no idea what to expect here!

And as I carry, birth and raise this child, I will continue to pray that the Lord would work on my heart and make me content in His love and approval; That He would make me a fit mother for a nameless and faceless generation.

 

   I sit here running my fingers over a proverbial scar where the Lord did open heart surgery, exchanging a stone for flesh. It’s been two years since that knife sliced deep, seeming to rip me open. If I had not had conviction of coming redemption, I would have run from the table. I would have been left with… no heart? A badly damaged one?

  You see, there are people who tell us that we’re “good people” or “some kind of family” or something of the like. As if we were in some category far off over there, untouchable to them. The truth is we are just people. We were born selfish to the very bone. If given the choice between life being easy and life being hard, we’d choose easy. Every time. A nice job, a nice house, well behaved children – yes, sign us up. Okay, yes, we talked about adoption before we were married. Ignorantly talked about it as if it was a scene from a Disney movie. Sure, that sounds great. We’ll just take an easy, well behaved child from a different family and raise him or her as our own. Why not? There’s nothing to it. 

It did not include a vision of a 7 year-old with special needs that wasn’t potty trained. It did not include dealing with other children at the park asking “What’s wrong with your child?” It did not include going through testing that shows that your 7 year-old is mentally 18 month in these areas. It did not include the looks and comments from others when his pull up is stinky. It didn’t include the frustration of not being able to understand him when he’s desperately trying to tell us something. It did not include the insecurity of not knowing what in the world we were doing and feeling responsible for things beyond our control. It did not include dealing with issues from his past that were murky and unclear. It didn’t include going to bed at night in tears wondering if we did the right thing. Wondering if we’re cut out for this thing. For him. Wondering if we’re enough… for him. 

Our compassion had limits. Our love had limits. 

We needed nothing less than a scalpel. 

I don’t know what you’ve heard or what your experience has been, but to me adoption was akin to ripping my heart out, shaking it up like a can of Dr. Pepper and popping the lid. Oh, and while that’s going on inside of you, you have to look and act normal because no one really gets it unless they’ve been there. 

Yes, adoption wrecked me. 

Completely. 

The journey before we were matched:

What are you doing God? What are you saying? Oh look! This must be what God is doing! Look at all these signs! These signs have to be pointing to this. Of course this is it! Of course! It’s perfect! Oh wait. No. Not chosen. Okay, it’s okay. Look, over here. Maybe this is it…..

I prayed many prayers. Many of them were not answered. One was.

We were matched before Christmas. 

It was a “just because You love me” prayer. He answered in a miraculous way. A way that matched up with dreams and signs and prompting that had been building up for 3 1/2 years. 

The call that we were not chosen for him. The call a few days later that we were.

The anticipation! The excitement! The sheer JOY!

I’m a sucker for a great story, and this was a GREAT one!

The awkward wait at the agency… our new son walking in… a complete stranger that we didn’t know how to communicate with. We knew very little about him and then suddenly we’re driving back to the hotel with this precious boy in the backseat. Talk about reeling. 

And then… well, did I mention the first year was hard?

But you see, in the Disney version of adoption that we were dreaming of, love was shallow. And it didn’t come close to touching the joy that is now ours. When he says “Mommy, will you help me?” , when he comes up for a hug and says “Squeeze!” (Because he didn’t know how to really hug when he came to us. He would just lean. We had to teach the boy to hug.), when he lays his hands on me and prays for me… the look in his eyes when he’s proud of himself (which is a lot because he has a whole LOT to be proud of) the way he plays with my hair, the way his progress has inspired people all over the country.. that joy is deep. 

I look at Joel dancing in the front of our church, knocking into people with his flag, randomly going up to people and praying for them (when they don’t know what he’s doing or saying) and I see myself. And I see how God loves me, so ferociously. He’s proud of me – of every little accomplishment. He brings me into fullness with love, not shame. He takes my ashes and gives me beauty instead. Beauty. Life. Wholeness. 

All of life is about being transformed into the image of Jesus. He is LOVE. So, it’s learning how to walk like, talk like, feel like, BE like Him. Loving well. That’s it. 

He took on flesh.

He takes hearts of stone and makes them hearts of flesh. Hearts like His. 

I am so flawed and weak. I fail so many times, daily. I am not conformed to His image… but I am being transformed. 

Adoption was like a fast track to His heart. 

It wasn’t Disney. It’s got a much better author than that. 

He makes beautiful things. He writes beautiful stories. 

Last night we watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It was the movie we watched on our first date and I hadn’t seen it since. I’ve been calling it my favorite movie for years because it was. Then again… I was. I was a completely different person, or a completely different version of this person. I’ve been going through a season lately of remembering where I came from and watching my old favorite movie brought it all back – those gut emotions. The feeling of running. Always running. Never letting anyone close. Oh yes, I came from that place.

I grew up with a bipolar father who had a problem with alcohol. There are worse stories, I know, but this is mine. I never knew who would greet me at the door – which dad would be there that day. Nothing was solid. Nothing was stable. I always had one foot out the door because I was never quite sure it was going to be safe. I never, ever, doubted that my dad loved me and I never stopped loving him. But I was afraid. Pretty much always afraid. And I lived life with one foot out the door.

When I spun out of control in college, I was a runner AND a user. I used people constantly. Which is why I could so relate to Holly Golightly.

God saved me by bringing Kevin in my life and somehow we found our way to God together. It’s not a picture perfect love story, and I don’t like to tell it much, but in all reality it is redemption. I could have been on a much different path. I look at my life now and wonder how in the world I got here- I mean, how did this happen? How did God take all of that brokenness and pain and somehow bring me to this beautiful place?

It’s been a journey.

The first year of marriage, I probably ran away 3-4 times a week. I couldn’t handle conflict, couldn’t handle the real/raw love where messy people actually do life together. I would get in the car and drive. I’d come back eventually. I’m not sure Kevin knew what to do with me. I ran again the other day – got in the car and just drove. I beat myself up about it… am I still running after all these years? Then I realized that it had been almost a year since I had done that. Compared to where I was 9 years ago, that’s a miracle. All those times I have wanted to run, but have clenched my teeth and made myself stay in that moment – that’s victory right there. And of course, I always come back. I adore my husband. I love my children. I am very happy with my life. It’s just this who LOVE thing… learning to be open and raw and allow someone in… belonging to someone… that ain’t easy folks!

I was lost. Now I am found. I am being found.

Found as imperfect. And messy.

Found as me.

What great love the Father has lavished upon us that we should be called children of God!

To be adopted by a Forever Father who never changes.

To – after fighting against His embrace, never quite sure that His love is real- To Finally just give in and let Him love you. How freeing is that?

To learn to live with both feet in, all in.

To learn to love.

And be loved.

My life is a song of redemption.

 

God is so amazing. He can change the human heart so quickly.

I said I would never move. This was our house for life. We went through so much to get this house and it represents promises of God, one of which has been fulfilled and two of which we’re still waiting on.  311. I thought that meant the 3 children who we would adopt would be living here in this home. God’s been speaking about these 3 for years, a group of one and a group of 2. Two boys. 1 girl. We never fully forget that this whole adoption thing is not complete. There’s more. We’re waiting for a green light, and waiting to catch our breath. And while we’re waiting, we’re working at knocking down the obstacle that kept us from adopting internationally: our debt. 

When we moved into this house and I ordered our checks, I picked a random image for the check only to realize that it was an icon of 2 boys and a girl in a house. I thought it was the three we would adopt – that they would all be under this roof and I wasn’t budging from this place until that happened. And then…

God baited me.

With the pretty yellow house across the street. “That adorable yellow house is for sale. I know we’re not going to move, but let’s just look at it. Just for fun.” It was bait and I was hooked. I began to think about the possibilities. Wait, I could actually see the children from the kitchen… I could cook dinner and keep an eye on them. Little things, things that this precious promise of a house didn’t provide. Was I coveting? Maybe looking at this yellow house was a very bad idea. And then I felt like God was speaking to me through the address: 321. 3…2…1… blast off. A count down. He was about to launch us into something new, into an orientation. It was an invitation. 

And just like that my dig-in-my-heels-we-are-NEVER-moving evaporated. 

And I realized that since we’ve moved into this house, we’ve added 2 boys and a girl into our family. Only 1 is adopted, and we know 2 more are coming, but the promise of this particular house has been fulfilled. There’s something new to walk into. 

God knows what bait to use on the end of a hook.

The yellow house sold before we could get in on the deal, but now the wheels were churning. Our house would work better as a two family. It has all separate utilities and is split into two sides. It would work well to rent out each side. It would save us money on utilities and renting out both sides would give us extra income n addition to having someone else pay our mortgage. It’s risky, but not too risky. Just a baby step in risk. Without risk, you will never move forward.

So we begin to look at other houses. I fall in love with a yard and we put a contract down on that house. The inspection shows there’s too much wrong with the house and we pull out. Okay, God, what now? We look again and I fall head over heels in love with an absolutely beautiful house – a yellow one- and then we find out, on my birthday no less, that we wouldn’t be able to get it due to occupancy requirements. (When you have 6 children, you can’t just move anywhere).

At that point we’ve looked at so many houses. We’re tired of looking. My best friend since high school tells us about the house for sale across the street from her. I do NOT want to move to that area. It’s further from our church, etc. It’s further from most everyone else I know. But truly it felt like we completely exhausted every other option. We look at it. We like it. We pray. We find peace. Our contract is accepted for this house with 311 in the zip code.

Ahhh… the search is finished. We are ready to relax, right?

Then it happens. Everything. Getting our current house ready to rent begins presenting problem after problem after problem. This needs to be repaired. That needs to be repaired. This needs to be fixed. That needs to be done. One thing after another after another after another. Then our car breaks down. Then our van needs to be fixed. Then our car breaks down again. Then our car breaks down again. Then our car breaks down again. Then something else goes wrong with the house. 

Well, at least everything is going smoothly with the new house. Wait? No?

There’s a problem with occupancy. Now we’re almost set to close and there’s an issue. We fix that issue. Now there’s another issue. We fix that issue. Now there’s another issue. We fix that issue. Now there’s a seemingly impossible road block. A $9,000 roadblock. The lender says “I guess this is the end of the road.”

Now, we’ve been almost completely certain we’ve been following God’s will throughout this whole thing. Of course, there’s always doubts when there’s such resistance, but we are diligently seeking Him, praying, trying to follow His leading in all of this. But He’s lead us into a brick wall before, or what seemed like it. We know it’s possible that all of this was about a journey and not the destination of the house. It would have been a very expensive journey, but…

God did not think it was the end of the road. 

He did a miracle.

We got $9,000 in our bank in a matter of hours.

Throughout this whole journey, I had been proud of myself for not freaking out. I had a very positive outlook. I did not vent. I did not complain. I didn’t throw a temper tantrum. I kept the faith. I put my eyes on God. And then when that $9k miracle wasn’t quite documented correctly I lost my cool. I threw a fit. 

God, if this was a test, did I just fail? Please, please , please God don’t make me re-take this!

So we go back to “God, is this really You? Did we miss you? Did we completely miss the boat? Is this all just flesh and not of the Spirit? Why are we putting ourselves through all of this? We have a house. We are fine. We don’t need to move. What is this all about?”

I’m praying this all night. God show me that this is you. Show me I didn’t miss it.

I wake up and my hubby randomly tells me his work address. I never realized it before, but it has the #s 321 in it. And he tells me he works from 7-11. 

321

711

7:11 is the first number God spoke to me through. It is our special thing. All 11s are special to me now, but 711, that is something extra sweet. That shows me it is Him speaking. In my language. You know how twins, etc. have a secret language that only the two of them can understand. That’s how the numbers thing is with God and I. It’s our thing. A special friendship thing. And in our special language He just used my husband to say “This whole move thing? 321 blast off? Orientation? Yes, it was me. I started it. I will finish it.”

Then today there was another hiccup that seemed like a roadblock. But sooner than we could even tell people what was going on, it was over. 

I hope it’s over.

Why does it always seem like one thing after another?

Resistance builds muscle. 

When someone lifts weights, they don’t just do one bench press. They do reps. They do it over and over and over until they feel like they can’t do even one more. And then they do one more. And when they do it, they often make a loud noise. A I-don’t-like-this-very-much noise. I noise of using all of their strength. The noise doesn’t mean they have failed. It’s part of the process. 

And my husband said “God wants me to tell you that you didn’t fail the test.”

That’s mercy right there. 

Mercy.

Man, look at these muscles. 

He’s a good leader. Even when I am not a good follower. He leads well. He completely changed my heart. He parted the red sea. He showed off His stuff. He speaks. To me. HE speaks. To ME. Little me. The God of the universe. Speaks to me. He leads me. He guides me. 

He’s amazing.

I don’t blog much anymore. This used to be my thing, until a bunch of little people invaded my life. Now they are my thing and this blog is something I turn to when I absolutely NEED to. Like right now.

I’m changing. 

When I think back to when I walked down the aisle, I can see clearly that I was a spoiled rotten brat. For sure. I felt beautiful, full of hope and dreams… and full of myself. MY hopes. MY dreams. MY life. MY way. 

And for about 8 years of our almost 9 years of marriage, I can’t say that I saw much change. The refining times of life seemed to expose the ugliness of my heart, but as much as I prayed and cried and *wanted* to be more like Christ, one baby step after another, I made very, very slow progress. 

That’s my assessment anyway. My assessment doesn’t count, so I’ll have to await a final verdict. 

But this –

This past year… not even a year… 7 months or so..

My default has been “freak out”, followed by attempting to calm myself down, praying, trying to trust God, freaking out again, calming myself back down… THAT is how I’ve approached tests and trials for most of my Christian walk. Over time, perhaps the “freak out” part took up less time and I more quickly switched over to the “Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you”. 

Over the past couple of months, we’ve been hit with a bunch of small, expensive but not life threatening stuff. Car problems, then van problems, then car problems again. Numerous things going wrong with the house. Numerous things going wrong with the home buying process. Just seemingly constant. And I’ve noticed something – freak out has not been my default. 

Peace has a greater place in my heart and life. 

I haven’t cried over this stuff and haven’t lost any sleep. I haven’t spent hours wondering how we’re going to come up with the money… 

I can barely recognize my reactions (or lack thereof). I can barely recognize MYSELF! In a good way, like a just-lost-100-pounds type of way (I’m guessing. I never lost 100 lbs!)

How did this happen? After all these years, how did this change that I’ve been longing for, this metamorphosis occur? 

I know this is abrasive to some people, but it’s the truth: some kind of switch went off on the inside of me while I was at First Steps to Success in Dallas in January. It was a switch of HOPE and it changed everything. I began to hear God speak to me in a way I hadn’t before. My eyes were opened up to Scripture in a new way. I began to think differently, feel differently, live differently, love differently. Not that the transformation is complete, but this girl is sprouting wings. 

Some people have mentioned seeing the change in me. Others haven’t said a thing. It doesn’t matter – I notice. I’m becoming more like Jesus. 

Dani Johnson isn’t my savior, but our Savior has used her voice to speak LIFE into my life. These past hindrances aren’t hindering me anymore- at least to that degree. It is as if I had layers of plaster caked on me, hard and brittle, preventing movement. One by one, they are being peeled off and what’s underneath is visible. 

Do I have a long way to go? Absolutely. But look how far I’ve come. 

 

Lists of what not to say are everywhere. There’s “The Top 10 Things NOT to say to (Fill-in-the-blank)” circulating like crazy. Don’t say this to someone battling infertility. To adoptive families. To pregnant women. To someone who’s had a miscarriage or lost a loved one. To someone with a child with special needs. To large families.

I appreciate the intention behind it all. I really do. Words can hurt. Bad. Well meaning people can say things that sting. Sometimes the words that fly out of our mouths are insensitive. And most of the time we just don’t know what to say, so perhaps a list of what NOT to say could be helpful.

I’m guilty of saying the absolute WRONG thing. In talking to someone who adopted children, I found myself in a “What’s that word? What is that word… you know… the “right” word..” I was looking for the word “biological” and instead I said the word “real”. Are they “real” siblings? Yep. That’s definitely the WRONG thing to say and I should have known better. Let me slap myself upside the head. But really, I wasn’t trying to be offensive. The correct terminology escaped me in that moment. I should have carried that list around with me and referred to it.

Here’s the problem I’ve encountered. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve been so concerned about saying the wrong thing that I haven’t said much at all. And maybe for some circumstances that’s for the best. Two of my best friends recently had miscarriages. I was terrified of saying the wrong thing. So I prayed for them, of course, and said very, very little.

If I dare to venture out in public with my 6 darling children, I inevitably attract people who say all of those things that are on the lists of the wrong things to say. Strangers have something to say about how many children I have. They have something to say about the fact that one of them doesn’t look like the other ones. And for some reason, a number of people ask if I’m pregnant again WHEN I AM NOT! Can we just please, in the name of all that is sacred, all agree that NO ONE should ask/say “Are you pregnant again?”, “When are you due?”, “How far along are you?”, etc. to any woman who is not obviously in her 9th month? For someone who has struggled with body image all her life, this would be helpful.

But really, most people are well meaning. And if the alternative is that no one talks to me because they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing, I would much rather shake off the “wrong” comments and actually interact with human beings. Haven’t we just all become a little too easily offended? If we don’t want anyone to say anything offensive, we should live in a bubble. ‘Cause this whole real life thing isn’t conducive for our expectations. People are flawed and fumbling. Things come out of our mouths that haven’t passed through a filter. It’d be great if we could all say exactly the right thing at exactly the right time, but wouldn’t you rather well meaning people just say something rather than nothing at all?

Or is that the wrong thing to say?

A couple months ago God spoke to me during the prayer cave portion of our family prayer time. This alone is a small miracle. Although we are training our children to listen to God’s voice, it’s rather difficult when the time of “silence” is interrupted by Millie chatting, Joel laughing, someone bothering somebody else, “Shhh! Be quiet!”, “You’re in my way”, “Millie! Get off me!”, “Quiet guys. I can’t hear anything!”, “I already heard something.”, “I’m done.”, “I can’t hear the Holy Spirit when you guys won’t be quiet.”, “Kiah kicked me”, “I didn’t kick you”, “SHHHHH!”

Okay, you get the point. Not exactly conducive for hearing God’s voice. We’re working on it. And I’m working on finding God in the midst of the chaos because if I only wait for the perfect circumstances I may not hear His voice again until I’m 60. 

BUT I heard Him. Clearly. I’m not sure if He only said one word or if that’s all I heard before I had to redirect someone yet again. But it was a very important word. It was “expectancy”. 

I didn’t realize the weight of it then. I’m starting to get it. I FEEL it. I feel the Holy Spirit’s presence on that word. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had that experience before or not. 

When all of the emergency preparedness stuff started coming to the surface a couple years ago, I really fought fear. There are hard times coming. The US economy is crumbling. Natural disasters. Martial law. There are all these words about these things and God, in His kindness, saw it fit to warn us ahead of time. 

But He didn’t do it so we could be paralyzed in fear. 

Oh, I know I’m not supposed to fear. So, day after day, I would talk myself out of it. I would remind myself of God’s goodness. I would remind myself that He is in control.

Then my mind would go to the what ifs… what if my children die in an earthquake? What if? What if? What if?

Stop it, Sarah. Remember that God is FOR you. He will be with you. 

And on and on it would go. Back and forth. The battle of the mind. 

I really wanted to sing and MEAN song lyrics like “Let the winds blow, let the winds blow… I won’t be afraid. I’ll embrace the flame.”… “Fling wide”… “Arms wide open”… And yet, I was afraid. Very afraid. 

What was there to look forward to? There’s this whole tension in praying for God to hold back judgement, all the while knowing that certain things have to happen before Jesus returns and Oh how we want Him to come and establish righteousness on the earth. 

At any rate, just recently, God has done a transformation in my heart. 

I’M NOT AFRAID ANYMORE! 

Instead I have EXPECTANCY! In that God has really, really GREAT things in store for me this year! This is going to be the BEST YEAR YET! Am I ignoring the fact that hard times will come? No. But I’m not focusing on it. I don’t want to waste another minute of my life thinking about the what ifs (At least in that way. There’s wisdom in being prepared. There’s not wisdom in worrying.) 

The #11 means transition. The #12 means entering into God’s promises and His government. The #12 is the completion of an era, which means the #13 is the beginning of a new era. 

In 2011 we were going through our adoption journey. Talk about a year of transition! It was so uncomfortable, but exciting knowing what was just around the corner. In 2012 we entered into what God had been promising for a long time. We had a double portion of blessing in Harvest and Hunter. If 2011 and 2012 lined up so perfectly with what the #s mean, why wouldn’t 2013?

2013 is the beginning of a new era. 

God is up to something. God is good. God is up to something GOOD!

For the first time in a long time I have hope! Excitement! EXPECTANCY!

God is birthing something. He is doing a new thing. In the midst of whatever hard stuff comes, He is being Himself and doing what He does best. He does beautiful things. Wondrous things. 

I can feel it… this rumbling on the inside of me. 

Expect something great from Someone great. 

I am. 

SO I got a LaundryPure.

It had been on my wish list for nearly a year. WHY IN THE WORLD DID I WAIT SO LONG?!?! Actually, I know why. We had a whole bunch of medical bills we had to pay before we could even start thinking about it. A dishwasher was also on that wish list (and had been for over 3 years) BUT in the end I detested doing the laundry more than doing the dishes.(And after washing dishes by hand for 3 years, I’m pretty much used to it. It doesn’t bother me much anymore.)

*Sigh* Laundry. Oh, the overflowing baskets. The procrastination. The “I’ll get to that tomorrow” that somehow creates this Monster Pile that threatens to envelop the entire bedroom. Which causes me to overload the washer. Which causes the clothes to come out looking just as dirty as when I put them in.

Okay, maybe that’s just me.

But it’s me NO MORE!

Oh yeah, the LaundryPure has revolutionized my housewifeness. (Like my new word?) I am SO very serious. I now look FORWARD to doing the laundry. My baskets are not overflowing any longer. In fact, they look like this:

Image

The other day I went throughout the house LOOKING for something else to wash.

Why?

Because the clothes come out smelling so fresh and clean and they are getting softer and softer.

The reason why I wanted the LaundryPure in the first place was to SAVE MONEY. I am all about saving money and if I can do the wash without using hot water or detergent, thereby saving me hundreds of dollars a year, I’m in.

And then I read more about all of the chemicals that leech into your skin via your clothes. I had thought that, because we used free and clear detergent, we were… well, free and clear of all that junk. Then I found out that actually, no. Chemicals were still present and leeching into our bodies through every inch of skin that our clothes touch. Kind of gives you the heebie geebies, huh?

So, we made the plunge. And I am telling you sincerely, I absolutely, positively, honestly LOVE my LaundryPure. It has taken a huge burden off me.

And on top of that, I got the hose that comes with it so I can, at any time, get my own non Chemical laden multipurpose cleaner. Stronger than bleach  gentle on skin, no overpowering cleaner smells and so, so easy.

Okay, so there’s all this technical stuff about how it works, but I am so not technical and I just wanted to know THAT it works. And it does. So there.

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