Sunday, August 20, 2017

Darkness to light: feeling God's nearness

As I prepare to give birth to our sweet baby boy I have been trying find a way to say goodbye to the twins as the babies of our family. It has always been hard for me to make these transitions, but with two of them I find it to be even more emotional.  These little boys have had such a profound effect on our lives and although they will be ours forever they will very soon be sharing their place in the family with a new precious one.

 Life's transitions often bring pain but generally also provide overwhelming opportunities for growth. I think of the very important transition of helping a little one sleep through the night without assistance (nursing, comforting etc). Every parent faces this challenge with their baby at some point but with our twins we felt compelled to sleep train earlier than we had with our other babies out of sheer exhaustion and the need to care for 5 other children including older kids who kept us awake at night for other reasons.

  As parents we know that sleeping alone is going to be a skill that will bless the child (and the rest of the family!) with needed sleep, and subsequent growth that can only occur during intervals of quality sleep. We also know that in order to gain this new skill, the child must experience the feeling of total abandonment in order to recognize that he can truly make it on his own.                                        
What the child doesn't know is that during those moments when he feels the most abandoned and confused that the parent is really very near. Many nights I have waited outside my child's door just feet away as they cry in confussion, I lay there listening praying, sometimes weeping, pleading with the Lord to help my child to make it through the night without me.

As adults we continue to make painful but needed transitions. We finish school and move away from home, we get married and follow our spouse across the country to a new and unfamiliar place, we lose someone who is very dear to us, we feel inspired to do something that doesn't turn out as we envisioned.  These times can make us feel such loss and abandonment. Why is it that at these times we look for God and sometimes wonder where He is?
As the parent of all mankind, it is during our painful transitions when God is outside our doorway listening, waiting and asking the Lord to comfort us as we push through our own painful transistion in order that we might gain the new skill of greater  spiritual strength and maturity.
Since discovering that this baby would be a brother and not the sister that I was sure would come to us I have tried so hard to understand God's plan for me. I find myself asking Him: was the sister the baby I lost last Fall? Am I supposed to have another baby to actually get her here? Am I just spiritually off and not able to actually discern what Thy will is for me?
I have realized that perhaps I don't need to know the answer to these questions now. Perhaps I will not know them in this lifetime.  I do know that although I have felt intense pain over this lack of understanding that God has not at all abandoned me. I believe He is closer than ever waiting, listening and pleading with the Lord to give me strength as I grow the new skill to trust and follow and believe in His power to guide, lift and nurture our family to new heights.
In less than 24 hours our little town will witness total darkness during midday during a total eclipse of the sun. This miracle of total darkness to full light is not unlike the miracle we all experience when God through His great power can take us from full darkness to endless day as He heals our broken hearts and makes us even stronger than we ever knew we could be.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

the number of the vessels was 8

Our babies turned one year in January.  As I reflect on all that has happened in our lives since they became a part of it I am filled with emotion. Even the idea that we could have chosen not to have another child (which became 2) is unthinkable to me now.  The depth to which our lives have been touched by these little people is almost impossible to describe.  I believe we are all better, happier and less selfish because of the sweetness their spirits have brought to our home.  It wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t also admit that this last year has pushed us physically, emotionally and spiritually in painful ways. There have been so many times when I wondered how I could be strong enough to do what was required to help my growing family to become all they could become with my limited abilities, many other times I felt strength come at times when I knew I was not doing this alone.  Truly God has sent heavenly and earthly angels to lift and bless our family when we have needed it the most. 
There was a time while on my mission in Russia, that I had felt that when I became I mother I would have 8 children and had shared this idea with Derek even before we were married.  This dream quickly faded as we married and had our first child and I realized my many, many weaknesses regarding parenting.  I struggled deeply with feelings of inadequacy, self doubt and discouragement that I would never be the kind of mother I had dreamed of being.  Derek lovingly encouraged me to keep trying and doing my best.  We had our first 3 babies within 3.5 years.  It was a crazy time!  I loved my boys so, so much but continued to feel overwhelmed and discouraged. I didn’t suddenly gain confidence in myself but in quiet ways I could feel myself becoming stronger and more capable of feeling joy in the journey of motherhood.  I remember having a very special moment during these difficult years when I distinctly understood that what I was doing for my children could not be done by anyone else.   I had left the classroom to spend my days changing diapers and cleaning toilets. For years I had wondered if anything that I was doing in my home from day to day made a difference. At that moment I knew that it made a world of difference to these little people in my care.  Students come and go but these little people would be mine forever.  Even in all my weaknesses, I was giving a gift to my children.  I was choosing to bring them into the world and doing all I could to help them grow to be the people God hoped them to become.  This was a sweet turning point.  
More years went by and more sweet babies joined our family.  After each baby came I experienced a degree of the postpartum depression I had felt with my first baby, but I could feel my sense of purpose gently growing and strengthening me.  After we found out that baby #6 would actually be 6 and 7 we both remembered the experience I had as a missionary.                                                                                  
When I went to the ultrasound revealing the twins gender I had felt certain that one of the babies would be a sister for Adelaide. When the ultrasound tech told us we would have 2 little boys I immediately commented to Derek that we could possibly have one more baby meant to join our family.  I’m not sure that was the right moment to bring up the idea as we were just digesting the thought of having 6 sons.  I decided to keep this thought in my heart and think on it a while.  Not too long afterward my Sister Becky had a deeply spiritual experience in the temple during which she felt impressed to share with me that there may be a sister to join our family at some point.  I was so happy to hear her experience and knew that if I was meant to have another baby that Derek would also feel the same eventually and he did.
At my postpartum checkup after the twins I made a plan with my OBGYN about the best window for conceiving our last baby.  I was fast approaching my 40th birthday and knew that we needed to try for it sooner than later but the doctor reminded me that after a C-section I needed to allow at least 18 months between births.  When I started reading up on my odds of conceiving at my age I tried not to be discouraged.  I also realized that since Adelaide was a happy surprise, we had never successfully figured out how to conceive a girl. All our attempts at conception have resulted in boys. Despite all these odds I pushed forward with confidence.  When I found out I was pregnant I was overjoyed.  Less than 8 weeks later I lost the baby.  At this point I felt spiritual confusion and doubt.  I knew I was supposed to try for this last baby but was my age the reason for the miscarriage? Did God want me to keep trying or was all of it just meant to be a spiritual exercise? I had followed heart and done my best, was that enough?  Perhaps that little sister was only meant to be conceived and not ever born.  All these thoughts kept me from feeling the confidence I had once had at trying for one last baby.  
One night I said a simple prayer explaining to God that I wanted one more baby but didn’t have the confidence or strength to move forward and that I didn’t know how.  God heard my simple prayer. On Christmas day, I discovered that I was pregnant again!  2016 was a truly remarkable year.  In one calendar year I had carried 4 babies! The twins were born in January, I became pregnant again in October and then again in early December.  Think of all those hormones, no wonder I’ve been so emotional! 

Tomorrow is our 20 week ultrasound and I find myself feeling excited and nervous.  I believe that Adelaide’s little sister could very well have been the baby that didn’t make it.  This helps me feel that no matter what we learn tomorrow we will win. The idea of having 7 sons is crazy but sweet and amazing and of course if it’s a girl we will also be thrilled.  If God can bring us to it, He will bring us through it!
Cast your vote and let us know what you think our baby will be!