Remembering Our October Baby

If you know me in real life and this is the first you’ve heard of this–please understand that it isn’t personal. We haven’t been keeping it a secret, but we haven’t made any announcements either.

In November we lost a baby. I miscarried at about 8 weeks pregnant.

Such an early loss might sound insignificant. I know people who have suffered far more heartbreaking losses. But let me tell you–even this has been pretty heartbreaking.

No one knew about our baby until he or she had died. I was pretty sure that I was pregnant, but I did not find out conclusively until I was miscarrying. My hormone levels finally rose high enough to be detectible on a home test when the pregnancy began to end.

My baby was never celebrated during his/her short life. That has been one of the most challenging pieces for me. Even as the parents we didn’t rejoice in the blessing until we were also mourning the loss. But, I remind myself that our baby is in heaven celebrating the One who holds all of our lives in His hands.

I know that losing a pregnancy further along would be more difficult. There would be more hopes shattered, more tiny clothes to put away, more painful comments from those who didn’t know what happened. I don’t know if I can explain why, but I long for some of those things.

I wish I had momentos from announcing our pregnancy, or an ultrasound photo of our little cutie. I wish I knew his or her gender, or felt those wonderful kicks. Yes, it would make this all the more painful. I just ache for some good memories. Mine are all sorrowful. A pregnancy test that sparked tears of sorrow instead of tears of joy. Memories of the intense physical pain of the miscarriage, and the exhaustion of anemia that followed. The pregnancy symptoms that continued to increase for weeks following the miscarriage, and served as painful reminders of our loss.

As my due date approaches, the what-ifs flood my mind. They crowd in and try to suffocate the truth. God has a good plan for me, for my husband, and for all of our children. I don’t understand it. I probably never will. But, He is still good, and He still loves us.

My biggest fear is that my baby–who nobody ever knew–will be forgotten. So let me tell you about him or her.

Our child was conceived sometime in September. A surprise blessing from the Lord. A gift, however short her life was.

Many grieving parents remember their children by what month they were conceived, or what month they died, or what month they were due. I remember mine by what month (s)he was alive. October. My baby was alive for the whole month of October. Hence, the name October Baby.

The baby was due June 26. While I know that my recent health problems would have been far more serious and challenging if I were pregnant–I still want to be. I want to be waddling around and anticipating the birth of my child. Frantically preparing, cranking the air conditioning while my family dons sweatshirts.

Instead, I can only remember. So, remember I will. Thank you for letting me share.

I will leave you with some beautiful words from Watermark’s song Glory Baby.

Glory baby, you slipped away as fast as we could say baby, baby
You were growing, what happened, dear?
You disappeared on us, baby, baby

Heaven will hold you before we do
Heaven will keep you safe until we’re home with you
Until we’re home with you

We miss you every day, miss you in every way
But I know there’s a day when we will hold you, we will hold you
And you’ll kiss our tears away, when we’re home to stay
We can’t wait for that day when we will see you, we will see you

I can’t imagine heaven’s lullabies
And what they must sound like
But I will rest in knowing
Heaven is your home
And it’s all you’ll ever know
All you’ll ever know

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Just Obey…Darn It!

We have been going through an extra-difficult time with parenting lately. With our daughter approaching 3 and our son just turning 18 months, they have both hit new levels of disobedience and mischief-making. Our busyness and exhaustion hasn’t been helping anything either.

This morning I thought they were sleeping a bit longer than usual. Ha! I opened their bedroom door to find this.

In case it isn’t clear, there is a large patch of paint that was peeled off the wall. And, no, I didn’t take this picture when the kids were present!

Yesterday, there was a little bubble of paint that my little girl was picking at by her crib, and we discussed that she wasn’t allowed to do that anymore. But, lo and behold, she certainly didn’t heed my instruction!

She was on a roll this morning. Later she dumped a bowl of milk and cereal in our carpeted dining room while throwing a fit.

Why doesn’t she just obey? Why does this have to be so hard? Doesn’t she know that things are already hard for me right now?Just obey…darn it!

While there are a multitude of ways that we can continue to train our children, the recent uptick in disobedience reminds me…we are ultimately unable to fix our kids’ behavior. Only God can change their hearts. Only when they see Christ’s perfect obedience in their stead will they truly desire to obey. I don’t want my children to obey simply because I want them to obey. Well…actually I do. But I’m learning not to want that.

My prayer is that the Lord softens the hearts of my children to see His glory, and goodness, and grace. That He teaches me patience and kindness. That He works despite me, and sees fit to use me to teach my children about Him.

I recently received a copy of “Give Them Grace” by Elyse Fitzpatrick and her daughter Jessica Thompson, which is about how the gospel should affect our parenting. I have so much to learn and I am so eager to read it! If you’re interested, the facebook group Intentional Womanhood will be reading and discussing the book online starting June 13. I plan to join in and I hope to “see” you there!

A Miserable Wretch

Since I wrote last I have received great news about my diagnosis–it was wrong! No spinal cord problems. No brain surgery. No activity restrictions. Praise God!

Instead, I have some type of neuromuscular problem that causes my nerves to send incorrect signals. The doctor thinks that this is usually triggered by stress and overdoing it. Me? Try to do too much? Never. *note my sarcastic tone*

It has been an incredible blessing to have no activity restrictions. Our days have been much more normal without helpers coming and going. Our friends, who have been so sacrificially helping us, are finally able to get back to their busy lives.

BUT (you saw that coming, didn’t you!?) we are facing a whole new set of challenges. My numbness and tingling is still here. And the more I do, the worse it is. I am forced to pick and choose my activities. I can no longer decide to tackle all the chaos in one day…unless I don’t mind being unable to walk the next day!

I am freshly aware of how dearly I cling to my performance instead of the cross. I feel like a miserable wretch because I can’t catch up on dishes and laundry in the same day. And you know what? Apart from Christ I am a miserable wretch.

If I woke cheerfully, made the beds, dressed my children, cooked a healthy breakfast, washed laundry, did crafts with my toddlers, scrubbed the kitchen floor, made 11 meals for my freezer, read 7 chapters of the Bible, greeted my husband with a kiss and a hot meal, and went to bed with the house spotless–I would still be a miserable wretch apart from Christ.

If I woke to children screaming and decided to join in, left my kids in their PJs and the rooms a mess, served Captain Crunch for breakfast, played Toy Story three times through, unloaded only half the dishwasher, passed out while the kids napped, greeted my husband with peanut butter in my hair and fish sticks for dinner, and moved piles of junk to get in bed–I am a miserable wretch apart from Christ.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once live in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:1-10, emphasis mine

The Lord is teaching me how deep the root of self-justification runs in me. I am physically unable to do some of the things that I think can help me earn grace, so I despair. But He is teaching me that I can’t earn grace. I need to depend on Him no matter how much or how little I am able to do. Through the cross I am His beloved child who has the righteousness of Christ–even though I am today washing laundry that has been dirty for three weeks.

Plan B

To put it mildly, the last 2 weeks haven’t gone as I planned.

I went in to my doctor on the Wednesday after Easter for some numbness and tingling that I was experiencing in my left leg, arm, and face. I was concerned enough to go to the doctor, but mostly just thought I should get the big stuff ruled out.

My doctor freaked out when I described my symptoms, and sent me immediately to the ER. She (and the ER docs) presented me with some grim possibilities…MS, tumors, stroke. While I had to consciously choose to trust God, I wasn’t beset with worry yet. In fact, I joked with my husband that I was the least worried of anyone!

I was admitted to the hospital for further testing and, one by one, our worst fears were ruled out. However, with no diagnosis, I had to face the test that I dreaded the most–a lumbar puncture. I developed a complication from this test which put me in intense pain and in need of significant care (I needed to be fed, etc.) until I had a corrective procedure, which involved sticking yet another needle in my back. This all kept me in the hospital for over a week.

Near the end of my hospital stay I was told that there was a diagnosis: syringomyelia. The neurologist said, “it’s serious,” and that I needed to be evaluated by the best neurosurgeons in our area (which, praise God, are some of the best in the world!). Between the language barrier, the number of letters in syringomyelia and the loopy drugs I was on, I still wasn’t too worried.

Fast-forward to my discharge instructions and a clearer explanation of the condition, and I was definitely worried. There is a pocket of spinal fluid within my spinal cord that is irreversably damaging the nerves. Every time I do something strenuous, it worsens. I was sent home with strict instructions not to do any housework and not to lift anything including my children–who are both under 3!

We are learning more about the condition, and the questions continue to grow. What will this do to the plans we’ve made for our family? We don’t know yet.

BUT, I am so comforted to remember that whatever we learn from these neurosurgeons, and whatever “plan B” that we have to implement, it isn’t–and never has been–God’s plan B. He has ordained this as part of my life, and part of His good plan for me.

And even if this means that I can’t care for my children, or I’m a burden to my family, or I can never have another baby…God is good. He cares, and He is in control.

Now, please remind me of all this when I start freaking out again tomorrow!

Snack Time

Is post-nap snack time as much of a nightmare for the rest of you as it is for me?

My nearly 3 year-old daughter has a pretty specific definition of “snack.” Junk food. Today she informed me that a graham cracker “IS NOT A SNACK!”

In an effort to trick her into eating healthily at snack time, I whipped up one of the first recipes I ever learned this afternoon. So far it is going over pretty well.

Peanut Butter Dip
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Peanut Butter Dip Ingredients

Here comes the hard part…
Mix thoroughly. Actually, that is a little hard because it’s so thick.

Serve with sliced apples (or whatever your little heart desires).

Peanut butter dip and apples

I love this because it adds some stick-to-your-ribs protein to the fruit.

What are the favorite snacks at your house?

Bread

Bread in a basket

I made my favorite roll recipe the other day for a family Easter celebration.  My kids (and hubby) went bananas.  I hadn’t made bread since we moved, and homemade bread definitely is a favorite around here.

I’ve always loved making bread, and my bread machine actually makes it pretty easy.  My hubby and I aren’t big sandwich-eaters, so it never has been worth making sandwich bread since it goes bad faster than we eat it.  But, now that my kids have officially hit the PB&J sandwiches phase, so we suddenly are going through much more bread.

So, there I am, making rolls for the first time in a couple months, feeling guilty that I’m not making my kids fresh, healthy, homemade bread for everyday eating.  I was at a homeschool fair the other day and saw the grain mill booth (I would kill for one of those, by the way).  I’m sure that intensified my guilt.  Then I started thinking that maybe I should start making my own peanut butter and jelly to go on the homemade bread.  That would make me a good mom….right?!?!

Then I  realized that I was doing the whole trying to justify myself by my own good works thing again.  “Right…Jesus…Jesus makes me a good mom.  Not feeding my children the most delicious nutritious food out there.”

Anyway, it got me thinking about bread and the symbolism of bread down through the ages (I’m a history nerd).  Bread is provision…sustenance…comfort.  It even has  significance to many religions.  And then I remembered John 6:26-35.

Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

Kinda goes along with the whole, “making my kids bread is good but not of eternal importance” thing doesn’t it?

I pray that the Lord gives me the strength and wisdom to teach my children more about the Bread of Life than about the healthiness of homemade sandwich bread!  I don’t want to “labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life…”

New House, Old Sin

I would attempt to explain my absence on the blog over the last several weeks, but I’m guessing that you’ve already figured out that blogging is among the many things that I only do halfway!

Since I wrote last, we’ve been blessed to move into a home of our own, and have been overwhelmed with all the projects that need to be done. We’ve also been hit with several illnesses, the most recent of which was a violent stomach bug that reached its crescendo the day before my husband left town for a week, and the day that our basement began to flood (again).

Needless to say, I have spent the last few weeks being:

  • an all-day pajama-wearing woman
  • a stick-my-kids-in-front-of-the-tv mom
  • a “I don’t care if it’s wrinkled, you can still wear it to work” wife
  • a boxed mac & cheese for dinner–ahem, again–cook
  • a lousy, faithless, never-able-to-earn grace daughter of the Lord

Wait, scratch that…

All those things may be true, BUT

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1-4

When God looks at me, He sees the perfect obedience of Jesus, even when I stumble or outright disobey Him. Try as I might, I never could be righteous on my own, and I never could earn God’s grace. But, God sees me as a forgiven sinner, perfectly and completely justified before Him.

When will I learn to define myself in God’s terms?

In Which I am Stiff-Necked, But God is Compassionate

Sometimes I feel as though my attempts to build friendships are thwarted.  Being in a new area and a new church, I have been determined to attend every possible fellowship-building event.  However, sick kids, snowstorms, misbehaving kids, serving in children’s ministry, more sickness, and more snowstorms have taken their toll over the last couple of months.  Events that I am able to attend (and church services I am actually able to participate in) have been the exception rather than the rule, and loneliness has set in.

If a friend in the same situation asked my advice, I would have told her that the Lord was probably drawing her to Himself and to look to Him for comfort, fellowship, and strength.  Have I been following my own advice?  No.

The very circumstances that God orchestrated to remind me to lean on Him I have used as excuses that I’m too busy to spend time with Him.

You know what is the saddest part of all?  I have been thinking more about missing human friendships than missing sweet communion with the King of the universe and the Savior of my heart.

Open Bible

As I collapsed into bed last night, exhausted from a long day of vomit, croupy coughing, Mr. Fix-It working late, pedialyte and vaporub, I cried out to the Lord.  “God, I’m so exhausted and alone.  I can’t do this.”  And He so graciously reminded me that He has never left me alone, and He is here to give me the strength that I need if I seek Him.

The Lord blessed me with a good night’s sleep (rare when the kids are sick) and the ability to wake before them this morning and read my Bible (which I had to really look for; how sad is that?!).  Despite my repeated, stubborn attitude that I don’t need God, He compassionately met me in His Word, specifically Nehemiah 9.  The Israelites are praising the Lord for His consistent compassion on them despite their consistent, stiff-necked rebellion against Him.

16“But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. 17They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. 18Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, 19you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. 20You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. 21Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.”

Just as He did for Israel, God, in His compassionate mercy, has continued to lead me and provide for me despite my rebellion.  Just in the last week He has given us a house, along with family and friends to help us fix it up.  But I have claimed to be “too busy” for the Lord because I am preparing for the move and taking care of sick children.

He has certainly not treated me as my sins deserve (Psalm 103:10).  Moreover, although I deserve to be separated from God for this very sin, I can still fellowship with Him.  On the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for my stubborn refusal to seek Him.  Since He brought me to my senses, I can once again enjoy that wonderful communion with my God.  How compassionate and merciful He is!

To be clear, the sin that I committed wasn’t “missing my quiet times,” but having a heart attitude that I didn’t have time for God’s Word and didn’t really need God that much.  If I genuinely didn’t have 30 minutes to sit down and read the Bible, but I looked for ways to seek the Lord during my day, I probably wouldn’t be writing this post!

Stuffed Mushrooms

I don’t think I’ve ever met a mushroom that I didn’t like.  I will eat them every chance I get.  So when I saw a recipe for stuffed mushrooms, I had to give them a try.

I expected them to be good, but what I didn’t expect was how simple they turned out to be.  You can make this recipe a day or two in advance, and just bake when you are ready to serve them.  There are not enough make-ahead recipes in this world, and the great thing about this one is that no one will be the wiser that you made these yesterday!

I have some kind of genetic inability to follow recipes as they are written, so here is my own version of stuffed mushrooms!

Mushrooms in a colanderStart with cremini mushrooms.  White button mushrooms would be okay, but creminis have so much more flavor.  These are often marketed as “baby bellas” in the grocery stores.  They are a brown, flavorful mushroom like portabellos, but as I understand it, they are not actually miniature portabellos.  Incidentally, if you have a Giant grocery store near you, mine usually has creminis for the same price as white mushrooms!  Choose medium-sized mushrooms: the small ones can be hard to fill, and if they’re too big the filling to mushroom ratio gets too high.

Wash the mushrooms.  This is a controversial issue in the foodie world.  Many people say not to wash mushrooms since they can get soggy.  However, some recent tests have debunked that theory, which is good because I don’t like to eat dirt.  😉  If you’re interested in more details about mushroom-washing, check out Alton Brown’s Good Eats, Myth Smashers episode.  Here it is on youtube; 1:20 on is the mushroom segment.

Once your mushrooms are clean, remove the stems.  Depending on the mushroom, you might be able to gently twist the stem and it will come completely out.  You may also need to use a small paring knife to remove the stem.  Carefully remove the firm part of the stem that is in the head of the mushroom, leaving a cavity.  They won’t look very pretty at this point, but don’t worry…no one sees the inside!

hollow mushroom

Next, cut the tough end of the stem off and discard it.  Then, finely dice the stems.

diced mushroom stems

Dice a small to medium–sized onion equally finely.  Shallots would probably be a really nice substitution for the onion here as well.

diced onion

Heat 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.

heating olive oil

When oil is hot (shimmering) add mushroom stems, onion and 1/4 tsp or so of salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally for several minutes until mushrooms and onion soften and begin to brown.  Add about 1/4 tsp of ground pepper, 1/4 tsp of garlic granules (you can use garlic powder or 1 clove of crushed fresh garlic instead), and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

browned mushrooms and onion

Add the mushroom/onion mixture to an 8-ounce brick of cream cheese.  I use the reduced fat neufchâtel cheese for this recipe with zero problems.  Add about 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese.

stuffing ingredients

Stir mixture until well-blended.  At this point, it is a really good idea to taste your filling and tweak it to your taste.  You want to be slightly strong, since it will be balanced by the mushroom itself in the finished dish.

mushroom fillingFilling the mushrooms is next.  This part wasn’t nearly as hard as I expected it to be.  The first time that I made these I put the filling in a zipper bag and cut the corner off and filled the mushrooms with that.  This time I used my cake decorating kit with the largest tip.  It worked like a charm, except for a few pieces of onion that clogged it.  You can also simply use a small spoon to fill the mushrooms.

filled mushroomsIf you are making these ahead of time, cover and refrigerate the mushrooms at this point.

When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  I like to sprinkle the mushrooms with a little parmesan before baking, which gives some nice browning variation to the finished mushroom.  This time I tried doing that before refrigerating, and they weren’t nearly as pretty.

Bake for 20 minutes, until mushrooms are quite hot and liquid just begins to form under them.  Like I said, these weren’t as pretty as usual, but yum, oh yum.

finished mushrooms

Here is a printable, pdf version of this recipe.  Worth Doing Halfway-Stuffed Mushrooms

If you try this recipe, would you please leave a comment to let me know how it turns out?

This recipe is linked to Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty & Bedlam

Cooking with Ground Turkey

Recently I have been substituting ground turkey for ground beef in several of my recipes because of its health benefits.  My local grocery store has also had some pretty good deals on ground turkey lately.

My husband, Mr. Fix-It, is more of a beef kind of guy, and doesn’t care for the turkey when he can taste the difference.  Necessity is the mother of invention; hence, my new trick.

Add tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce to any recipe in which you substitute ground turkey for ground beef.  It gives that nice, robust, beefy undertone that you miss with the ground turkey.

I usually use 1-2 Tbsp of tomato paste and 1-2 tsp of Worcestershire sauce per pound of ground turkey.

There have been several times that Mr. Fix-It has been surprised to learn that the meal he just ate was turkey!  Now that’s the kind of healthy eating we like at my house.  🙂

I skipped these ingredients in some turkey meatballs I made recently, and boy, were they a disappointment.  I’m curious to try them again with the tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce and see if it makes a difference.

Anyone else have tips for making healthy substitutes more appealing?