Friday, August 27, 2010

Counting blessings

Right now, at this very moment, due to the gracious help of my eldest daughter, my friend Gabrielle, the Lord, and Ronald McDonald's sugar-free iced coffee, you can walk all the way to my laundry room on carpet. Carpet, I say! Not on top of or wading through 6 inches of laundry. Just walking. That's a beautiful thing. And there are probably only 6 or 7 or 8 loads waiting to be done - with only 1 pee soaked comforter. One! Not only that, but all of the clean laundry is (drum-roll) sorted, folded, hung up, what-have-you, processed. That's right. Finally, all the laundry is out of my bathroom, has been collected from the first floor (including stinky diapers) and is sorted and ready to wash and (grand finale) the floor of the family closet is CLEAN. Is it Christmas already??

That's one big blessing.

Here's another. We celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary recently. At home group we jokingly talked about what you are "supposed" to get for the seventeenth, you know, wood, paper, china, silver . . . My husband looked it up and said that, traditionally, there wasn't a 17th gift, but that in modern etiquette, it's furniture. I gave a big cheer because of all the things I would ask for (cept maybe a frontload washing machine), that would be what I'd want. A week later, a family in our home group says they have some furniture that is too big for their house, do we want it. Huge blessing. Even looks good with what we have, sort of.

That's two.

Tuesday night, we are out of food, need to hit the grocery store, too tired. I got a text from a friend, asking if they can bring over pizzas! They treated us to dinner and wonderful conversation. What a blessing! And they shared some things that were really significant for my heart to hear. At the end of our delightful evening, we prayed together and God spoke to them on our behalf, and that was powerful too. I've had more grace since then to lean on the Lord and walk in obedience than I've had in years. And did I mention the pizza?

That's 3 or maybe 4.

We started school this week. My older children have hit the ground running, my middle folks are enthusiastic about their new math program, my littles are excited about their work, and my babies are, well, they're cute. The three year old even pooped in the pot today on his own (compensating for the last dozen or so poops in his pants).

That's 5, 6, 7, or so.

My husband is a Godly man who loves us, stands firm on his convictions, hears God and obeys, works hard and does everything he can to take care of and serve his family. I am so very blessed to be married to him.

Pretty sure I could go on and on, as each of my children are a huge blessing, and there are a lot of them. I've got a house big enough for them, food enough to feed them, and I'm driving my dream car. The Lord has been good to me.

To borrow from Veggie Tales:
I thank God for this day, for the sun in the sky
For my mom and my dad, for my piece of apple pie
For our home on the ground, for His love that's all around
That's why I say thanks every day
Because a thankful heart is a happy heart
I'm glad for what I have, that's an easy way to start
For the love that He shares, 'cause He listens to our prayers
That's why I say thanks every day.


I have been pregnant 11 times, counting this one. I think I get humbler with each. For my first, I was on the go up until the very end. I could have been pregnant forever. It really didn't slow me down. Even at the end, I felt good and wasn't in a big hurry to be un-pregnant. And I was very public with my pregnancy. I recorded a CD and led worship at a Kent Henry conference and danced in front of everybody days after my due date.

With my next few, I remember getting closer to the end and wanting to settle in a little bit more. Near the end of my pregnancies I was more likely to cancel a worship practice or to turn down a chance to do something.

Over the years, I have become progressively more reclusive progressively earlier in my pregnancies. Sometimes I can't get out of obligations and just force myself to do what needs done. But my heart wants to be home sooner and sooner.

I remember with my 9th or 10th that I was done almost as soon as I started. Not that I wanted to have the baby that soon, and not even that I didn't enjoy being pregnant. But the nesting thing. I don't mean that fabled burst of energy you hear about where the previously lethargic 9 months pregnant mom-to-be is going around furiously cleaning her house, supposedly indicating labor will begin soon. I just mean that thing barn cats do.

Okay, to be honest, I'm not an actually animal person. Everything I know about animals is either from reading or hearsay. But I've read and heard lots of stories about favorite cats or other pets that go missing, are assumed lost, dead, or stolen, and weeks later come out of the barn with 4 or 5 little cute babies following behind.

That's what I feel like doing. I'm sure part of it is because over the years, the world has gradually become less and less enthusiastic about me being pregnant. It's one thing to go out in public with 4 or 7 or 10 ducklings, it's something entirely differently doing the same thing with a big round announcement on the front of you proclaiming to onlookers that you obviously haven't learned your lesson yet.

I'm sort of over that. I don't care too much anymore. Sometimes the negative feeling gets to me, especially after going out in public several times in a row (last week I took all 10 to the dentist office and then immediately went to the allergy doctor, 'cuz I'm the amazing supermom . . . at the end I wanted to crawl under a rock!), but generally that's not my issue, I don't think. I just want to hide.

Hiddenness is probably a better term than nesting. It means I don't want to lead, don't want to teach, don't want to be on the spot in any way in front of people. I just want to be with my family, with my husband and children and friends who love me and feel very, very safe. Even facebook (especially facebook) feels exposed and unsafe sometimes.

I am hiding. I've quit everything that I do. I am only wife and mom. When someone asks me to do something, my head shakes no automatically. It's an instinct that kicks in as soon as I know I'm pregnant now and this time I'm not resisting.

But I was nesting even before I got pregnant. Because I'm nesting doubly right now. I'm nesting for two. I am growing somebody in my uterus AND in my heart. My van pulls to the right when I drive by St. John's, because that's where my first 10 miracles were born. But I'm also dreaming about getting on a plane and becoming a mom in a different way than I ever have before. I have ultrasound pictures on my counter and I have imaginings in my heart.

It's not one or the other. It's not that I don't care about being pregnant because I am hoping to adopt. It's BOTH/AND. God conceived two babies in our lives. One doesn't replace or invalidate the other. I'm not neglecting my "born baby" (as the kids call it) by dreaming about my adopted baby. I don't desire my adopted baby any less because God also chose to give us a "born" baby partway through the adoption process, not any more than a mother of twins prefers one child over another.

I'm waiting patiently for a day in February that I know from experience will come, give or take a couple weeks. I am trying to eat what my body needs and praying that God will give me a healthy pregnancy. I'm taking vitamins and going to checkups and asking questions and switching my wardrobe to accommodate my expanding middle.

AND I'm checking adoption agency websites and reading adoption books and praying for birthmoms and trying to be patient even though I have no idea within even years when it will happen. I'm pumping and planning and praying and picking out names. But mostly I'm waiting and leaning and longing, longing for an e-mail, a phone call, anything that takes it out of the vague maybe someday realm and moves it into reality. I'm longing to meet and hold someone I'm growing and carrying inside me, and longing to meet and hold someone who could be anywhere, arriving anytime.

And all of this longing together makes me one distracted chick. So if you miss seeing me in the usual places, or miss having me play a more active role, or miss my playing a more lively part in conversations or engaging more in what's happening around me, don't worry, I'm okay, and I'll be back later.

I'm just nesting.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Really?! Is there really a birthmom out there somewhere who would pick a family with going on eleven children? Will this really actually happen someday? Is there a need? Is there a genuine need for families to love little babies whose mothers somehow brought them to delivery? It all seems very unlikely.

Save the babies Lord! Help the mamas know their person is worth the sacrifice, that it is a short moment in their lives compared to a lifetime of suffering and guilt. Give them grace to resist the pressure, grace to hang on, grace to endure, grace to let go, if that really is the best thing.

We're saying yes Lord. People already think we're crazy. Who has a dozen kids? That's what we want. The blessing and heritage of the Lord. Not taking away from other waiting families, but saying yes to babies You've made that maybe no one else wants. We do. We'll stand at the back of the line. We don't have to be at the front.

But the longing, Jesus, I'm longing. I desire this dream You've put in my heart. I'm lovesick with a love You gave me. I want the babies You have for me, the ones You've created for me, for our family.

Could it really be? Could it be soon? Could it be later or ever? Would You who are infinitely kind be so kind to fill my arms with the desire of my heart?

I believe You will. Lord I believe. Help my unbelief. Help me believe You really, really will. Help me be ready.


Dear Lord Jesus,

Tomorrow we will attempt to begin another year of homeschooling. I will try to teach 8 children to read, write, think, add, subtract, multiply, divide, communicate, process, problem solve, and all the while to be diligent, to manage time, to be kind to each other, to know God, to clean up after themselves, to protect, to forgive, and to repent with humility.

At the same time, there are two little people who need to learn to solve problems without hitting or biting, to poop in the potty, to stay off the table (or at least not throw everything that's on the table onto the floor) (or at least to not throw food, liquid or glass), and to not take off a diaper or pair of pants that have already been pooped in without assistance.

Additionally, Lord, my house is a disaster area. It looks as though I've been out of town four consecutive weekends without ever catching up on the laundry cycle (which is, in fact, true). The kids' closet is about 4 inches deep in clothing that may or may not have been worn, much of it girls size 4T. There is a noticeable smell beginning about 15 feet from the laundry room door. Most of our bedding needs washed, and You know how I feel about washing sleeping bags and pillows and comforters - for a full 1.5 hrs washing and drying, I've only cleaned 1 or 2 items.

There is no clean room, no clean floor, and our new hand-me-down furniture arrives tomorrow. Please help me arrange it with the old in such a way that we can all sit in the same room at the same time without making the living room look like a Weekends Only furniture outlet.

We've become one of those families who have more vehicles worth less, just hoping they will take turns crapping out and not all cost money at the same time. And speaking of money, there is this almost imaginary but hopefully very real possibility of increasing our numbers by 1 and decreasing our net worth by tens of thousands that shadows every large and small decision we make with our stretchy dollars.

So starting school seems daunting. I don't know where two of my new books are, I don't think the kids hid them, but . . .

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord. No tender voice like Thine can peace afford. I need Thee, oh I need Thee. Every hour I need Thee. Oh bless me now my Savior, I come to Thee.

Help me be faithful to You in the morning when I wake up. Help me to iron with joy the shirt I'll be too tired to get to tonight. Help me get up in time to get a shower before the littles wake up and start demanding their pound of flesh. God please help me eat what my body needs and not confuse a happy mouth and full tummy with the grace that only comes from You.

Most of all, help me show my children Your beauty, Your mercy, Your faithfulness, Your character. Help me be faithful to do what is really important tomorrow, to use my energy and seconds (both of which are extremely limited) for Your eternal Kingdom. Make my house a place where Your glory dwells, where my children feel safe, where my husband finds peace when he comes home. Help me run to You when my raging hormones give me super-angry-power to knock down defenses with my sarcastic ray gun and break people's hearts. Help me be the amazing supermom and not a cross between Shrek and the incredible hulk.

I am not my own, I belong to You. Help me be faithful to my vow to give myself to You, to be set apart for You.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010


This is my eleventh pregnancy. Pregnancy for me at this point is primarily characterized by indescribably and insurmountable exhaustion, difficulty making decisions or focusing, and being the emotional equivalent of a Hawaiian island (or wherever), where the earth's crust is so thin that lava may pour out of the ground at any place at any time.

I'm not throwing up, no food aversions or cravings, just dang tired, pathetic and an emotional train wreck that keeps happening over and over like a bad dream.

Coffee helps, except that then I don't sleep as well when I do sleep. Naps just make me angry (maybe because they are constantly interrupted?). And being hot makes me angry. And mosquitoes make me angry. Grrr.

I had a prophetic word back in May, Mother's Day weekend, in the prophetic rooms in Kansas City. Be expectant. Oh, I'm expectant. I'm expecting all over the place. My brain is spinning with the possibilities.

But my husband has this strange peace. "We can't mess this up," he says. God is going to open and close doors. God is going to take care of everything. God is going to give us everything we need for both babies, for our other children, for finances, for college, for parenting. "We could say no, and if it was God, they'd call us back and ask us to reconsider."

One of the things the Lord told us early on is that we will learn to lean on Him. It reminds me of the movie "While You Were Sleeping" when Sandra Bullock is asked why Joe Junior is 'leaning', then later asked if Bill Pullman is 'leaning'. It implied intimacy (and as everyone knows, "while you were sleeping" is the video equivalent of strong's concordance as far as the implication of words goes).

It also reminds me of John the Beloved, leaning against Jesus during that tumultuous last supper with accusations flying. But mostly it makes me think of Song of Solomon, who is this coming up out of the wilderness leaning on her Beloved? The bride, with banners, triumphant in her battle, but wearing, maybe limping, needing the strength of another to make it home.

Derek Loux - "I've been wounded by love, that's why I'm leaning, it's why I'm trusting". Jacob, touched by the angel, never the same, given a new name, marked by God, walked with a limp for the rest of his life. Leaning.

So in my unknown state, which isn't doubled, it's multiplied, will I have my "born" baby early, will my blood pressure be okay, will my placenta stay attached till it's job is over, will my "adopted" baby come sooner, later, will I have milk for him/her even while pregnant, will I have two babies 6 months apart, or 5 or less, will our "born" baby come first, with more money to update the home study and profile, and time running out on some of the documents . . . . I'm leaning. He knows. I don't. I'm trusting. I'm leaning.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee. Leaning.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Our Sabbath Experiment

We are trying something new. We have been exploring the never ending question: How to fit 12 lbs of crap into a 10 lb bag. And this is a solution that we think just. might. work.

See, here's the problem. We have a whole lot of kids, see? And we believe that their walk with God will be powerfully impacted as we disciple them. But one of us is an overwhelmed introvert who works a lot and comes home to an overwhelmed extroverted wife who wants him to talk to her, to a yard that needs mowed (and a son who needs to be taught to mow it), to bills that need paid, to e-mails that need answered, that followed him home for a job he has to do. We are sucking the life out of this man. There is no time or energy to disciple anyone, to read the Bible and worship as a family, to have those meaningful conversations with older sons that are so very critical.

But recently there has been a changeover in the childrens' ministry at our church, which released all of us from our committments to serve, leaving us free to sign up again, or not. At least for the moment, we are not. We have laid down our ministry responsibilities. We will go to church on Saturday night, and keep our family together, because we don't have to put them in a class while we lead worship or whatever. We will worship as a family, listen to a sermon as a family, take notes, talk about it together.

And on Sunday, we will have a family sabbath. A big breakfast, worship and Bible time with Dad, and plenty of time left over for relaxing, talking, praying, reading, napping, whatever. A day set aside for the Lord. A delight, a day not to go our own way, not doing as we please or speaking idle words. (Isaiah 58:13)

Our children are, of course, grieved. When will we see our friends? You're supposed to go to church on Sunday! Why can't we do that stuff on Saturday? Because we don't do it. It's an experiment. So we'll see what it is like. If we find out that Dad is paying bills all Sunday morning, and that we are watching movies all day, we'll probably switch back. But that's the game plan.

The now and the not yet

It's an old Amy Grant song.

(bunny trail: I know a lot of people have been pretty hard on Amy Grant over the last several years, and I've made my share of snide remarks, but here is my stance, since I'm sure you are wondering: I think there is a lot we don't know that she could have told us in her defense that she chose not to say, and I think by saying less she has honored the Lord and Gary in a way many of us might not have.)

The song is, I think, the first one I ever played and sang at the same time. Here are the words:
No longer what we were before, but not all that we will be
Tomorrow when we lock the door on all our compromising.
When He appears He'll draw us near
And we'll be changed by His glory
Wrapped up in His glory.
We will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
But I'm caught in between the now and the not yet.
Sometimes it seems like forever and ever
That I've been reaching to be all that I am
But I'm only a few steps nearer
Yet I'm nearer

I am aware, more recently than ever, that I am not the woman of God I long to be, especially as I walk before my children. My older children are old enough to see the chasm of hypocrisy between my walk and my talk. My eldest has so much more integrity than I do. And I groan beneath the weight of desire to show them an example they can look up to.

But as I was driving the other day, and praying, I was aware of a legacy I can leave them. I can give them the legacy of longing. I am longing for more of Jesus here in my every day. I am longing for more healing and deliverance and salvation in my world. I am longing to be disciplined and healthy and full of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. But in the face of the chasm between the now and the not yet, I long most of all to see Him face to face. I long to hear His voice, to see His face, and to be completely new, having left all my old debts behind.

I know that the undulation (thank you C.S. Lewis) of this life is part of the journey, and that I will draw nearer only to find how much more desperately I need to draw near. But there is a day coming when I will no longer lack any thing because I will be truly and completely in Him. I long for that day.

And in that longing, my children, you may imitate me. Don't imitate my weaknesses, my shortcomings and failures. Don't imitate my gluttony, my temper, my laziness, my insecurity. But this desire, this longing, be like me in this - in the knowledge that that place is better than the best moment of the best day we've ever known. Enjoy what is good in this place, but in good and bad times, remember, this isn't home. And home is a very, very good place.

Things I forgot about camping

We went camping recently. All 12 of us, sleeping in a tent. Here is what I had forgotten about camping but have since remembered:

There is no 3 second rule with camping. You cannot quickly pick up a dropped s'more and eat it because it is covered with dirt and pine needles.

The migration patterns of small children sleeping on a flat surface (i.e. the ground in a tent) means that even if there is room for everyone when you go to sleep, someone will wake up with a foot or elbow in the gut, or mouth, or um, wherever, before the night is out.

Camping when pregnant works better when you are in a camper with a toilet. Taking a 10 minute round trip walk several times in the middle of the night does not make for a well rested mommy, even if the view of the stars through a pine tree canopy is great compensation.

The toilets at the john at the campground we go to flush automatically whenever you move enough to scratch a mosquito bite.

Cooking by committee for 27 or so campers while keeping food on three different locations and without running water except for what you have to walk to get is, well, a challenge.

Rain is like steroids for laundry - it radically speeds up the process so you can go through three days of laundry in a matter of hours.

The dirt. The baby looks so dirty, she might be mistaken for a chimney sweep (good luck will rub off . . . ).

Toddlers want to play in the street. Maybe it's the big kids zipping by on their bicycles, maybe it's the water spigot within visibility with the delightful puddle around it, maybe it's that pine needles don't feel as good to bare feet as pavement - they are drawn to the road like mosquitoes are drawn to my ankles and babies' foreheads (one child looked like his head was square from 20 bites, the other resembled a Clingon, with a row of bites right down the middle of her forehead).

The 3 year old doesn't actually need to pedal, he can go almost as fast as big kids with training wheels, per the Fred Flintstone method.

Things we forgot: all our lists, forks, and to put a pullup on the 3 year old before driving through the night.

Things we remembered: the joy children experience digging a hole in the ground, how good everything tastes when you're really hungry, how tired everyone gets playing at the beach, how sand gets EVERYWHERE, how much fun it is to play in the same waves on the same beach with your children that delighted you when you were their age.