Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Great news!

This morning, the three of us went to visit Mabrey, our midwife. I knew it was going to be a good visit when I stepped on the scale and had LOST a pound. The visit got even better when we were told that Eden's abdomen is right in line with her other measurements at this point and Mabrey said, "All that worry for nothing!" I already gave the statistics from the ultrasound earlier this week, but to see Mabrey nothing but light-hearted during our visit as a result was great. If you do not want the intimate details of what's going on in my "belly," by all means, stop reading after this paragraph and know that a presumably healthy Eden will be on her way within the next few weeks and I'm apparently gearing up for it. If you like hearing measurements and all that, keep reading.

More good news is that I have tested beta-strep negative. This is good. Very good. My friend's baby was positive for this and it was a difficult beginning for a very sick baby. Mabrey tested me early last week, I think, just in case I would have to be induced early if Eden were not to be growing in there. One less thing to worry about.

Mabrey also asked if I would like to be examined to see how things are going in there. I'm pretty curious, so we went ahead and did it, even though she said it was not necessary at this point. (It was nice that she really didn't seem to think it was important to do at all.) The findings: I am already almost 2 cm. dilated and about 40% effaced. Eden is at a -2 position out of a +4. (Babies start out at -4. At +4, people start saying, "Look! I can see the baby!") These things are not indicators of how quickly I will go into labor -- I was at 2 cm. with Israel for weeks -- but it's good to know that things are lining up in there and are ready to go when it's time. Mabrey also said I seemed to have a Braxton-Hicks contraction while she was measuring my belly. I didn't even notice. I must shrug all of them off as Eden getting into a strange postion. That's pretty cool.

While we've been working under the assumption that everything was indeed fine with Eden, even though she measured small, I feel like a weight has been lifted today. I've been riding high from this appointment all afternoon. It's quite a relief to me that Mabrey is no longer tempering her statements about how she's sure everything is fine with promises to follow up, "just to be sure." I guess I had been letting her do my worrying for me and am glad that no one feels a need to worry for me now (that I know of). I don't have to talk about how "...there's this one issue, but we're pretty sure everything's fine." Now, I can just say everything looks good -- great, in fact! Thank you, God!

Monday, February 16, 2009

When our children ask why.

As Pat shared, we recently celebrated our dedication of Israel. Dedication anniversaries are an opportunity to light a candle and have your kids ask, "Why do you do that?" We talk about how we want to use that day in his life to share with him who we see him to be. Part of that is talking about the meaning his name has to us. Pat and I had Israel's name chosen before we ever met each other. For several reasons, I feel God gave us the name. I remember the moment when I knew that I would name my first-born Israel. A pastor was talking to me about how God honors struggle, as is evidenced by the name he gave to His children. It was the summer after my freshman year of college, when I was trying to be an atheist. When God has called us His children, not even our worst behaviour can change it. I envision sharing this with Israel over and over again.

In thinking about eventually sharing this tradition with Eden, though, we weren't sure we would be able to share anything really meaningful with her about her name. And what a let-down that would be year after year, to hear this great story about your brother's name and then, when it is your turn, your parents say, "Umm...your name means delight." I don't want my son to have a meaningful name and my daughter to have one that is merely pretty. I feel like girls get the shaft like that a lot. I want my daughter's name to have some sort of intensity and depth, too.

Before much discussion with Pat, I was dead-set on naming her Lydia. I like the character Lydia in the New Testament. She seems spunky to me -- she doesn't mess around. I like that about a person. But Pat wasn't too keen on the name, and when he once said he thought he might be alright with it, it gave me second thoughts. So we held the two names in limbo for awhile (along with a third name we knew we probably wouldn't use, but liked). Then Pat's mom addressed all the Christmas presents for the little girl we then called "Peanut" to "Eden" and I started leaning toward the name, even though I have a fear of becoming one of those crazy families whose kids all have Bible names. (I feel like those families always have a lot of kids, and I don't want a lot of kids; it would make me crazy!) Once you give your second kid a Bible name, it puts you into that category and even if you have another kid, you can't name him Billy to get out of it...it just wouldn't be right.

But we like the name. We like that it's earthy-sounding, alludes to something beautiful, is easy to pronounce, unique but not strange, and means "delight." Also, it's both the name of a person in the Bible (albeit some obscure man...) as well as a geographical location, just like Israel's name is. So we talked about it a little and decided to name her Eden. Usually our talks about "the name" came at the end of a long day, though, and not much was discussed about why we were choosing Eden over something else. The conversation went, basically, like this:
"I think I'm okay with Eden. What do you think?"
"I'm fine with it; I like it."
"So...Eden it is?"
"'Sure,' like, that's her name and we can tell people that's her name?"
"Uh...I guess so. Yeah, I think that's fine."
Nothing earth-shattering. Kind of anti-climactic, even. And very much a decision we made. I didn't like that about it; I wanted both my kids' names to be given to me by God. I know God uses our minds and works through our decisions...it's just that He's a lot harder to discern that way. (This is why I hardly ever say God speaks to me, I've discovered. Even if I think something is completely right and exactly what God wants, if I feel like I have enough reason to back up my choice without bringing in divine intervention, I am not comfortable saying, "God told me so." This is for better or for worse. It makes me a failed mystic.)

All the same, though, the name really grew on me. I remember Sue, Pat's sister, asking why we had picked that name shortly after we did. I gave her the reasons I outlined above, and added, "Besides, it has a lot of potential for good and for evil." Now, what was THAT supposed to mean? And since when is that obviously a good thing about a name? But that is how I answered her, and my words just kind of fell to her hardwood floor, where the four kids running through our conversation trampled on them before I could think about what I had meant to convey. I was left with the feeling that I had given her a really awkward, confused answer. And my answer was not any clearer to me until Saturday, on a long drive with Pat.

The potential for good and for evil is something I like about Israel's name. It worries me, too, though. I mean, what if he just struggles his whole life in his relationship with God? What will that do to him and to us? "Wrestles with God" could go either way. But God chose Israel to be His so that others could know the perfect God through His interaction with His imperfect child. In a similar way, Eden is something God chose to set apart as a perfect gift for his new creation...to be a delight to them. But He put into Eden these two trees, leaving the potential for greatness and for a very difficult path through life. In both cases, God's choice was that people would take the more simple way of having a great relationship with Him. But in both cases, people chose to make things difficult and yet He is still working the consequences of those decisions into a perfect plan for all humanity. In both cases, God's choice in initiating a relationship with His creation is purely good, but it leaves itself vulnerable; it is dangerous.

I realize I think that there are a lot of things that are truly good, yet part of what makes them so good is that they are dangerous. Good and dangerous often go hand-in-hand. Fire is like that. Sex is like that. Adventure is like that. Relationships of all kinds are like that. If you are to have a good relationship with God, with a friend, with a spouse, with your child, you are going to be close enough for that person to really be able to do you significant harm if ever they are so inclined. And I want my children to be truly good. Being able to be truly good so often seems to mean having potential to be truly terrible. Yet it is a risk that God considered worth taking and it is one I consider worth taking, too.

The intertwining of goodness and danger is a work of beauty in my mind. I'm sure someone out there has a full theory written out about danger in aesthetics and that person is not me. For now, it's another of those vague senses I have about things. The meaning of Eden's name, however, is no longer a vague sense to me. It is a recognition that she is a good gift from God. (This, though I have never hesitated to recognize that her existence was God's decision.) God's good gifts are full of potential for both joy and pain. We do not expect mediocrity from our children; we believe they have great potential and this cuts both ways. So we embark yet again on this dangerous adventure of being intimately connected to another unfolding life. We go into this with both a confidence and a whispered prayer that this life will be beautiful in the full sense of the word and a delight to all who know her.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Last ultrasound

We have returned from what will likely be our last ultrasound of Eden. She was in perfect picture-taking position while the tech did all the measurements. The tech said everything was measuring at just about 35 weeks, which is great, since I am 36 weeks along today. One week small is no big deal. I measured 3 weeks small in our appointment with Mabrey on Tuesday, which is border-line, but the tech said today that the fluid and placenta look good. Eden weighs about 5 lbs. 11 oz right now. Her brother was only 6lbs. 3oz. so it sounds right to me that she's just about done in there.

When the tech switched to the 4-D imaging wand, Eden did an about-face and was no longer in any sort of position to have a very good picture taken. She had smooshed her face against my belly, making her nose look like a big hole in the middle of her face. We were able to get a little profile shot and a picture of a fist and a foot...all of which are down by her face. It was pretty cool to sit and talk with the tech about where everything is again. She is in a kind of pike-positioned splits in there: head down, butt up, one leg sticking straight down by her face, and the other leg sticking straight out up by my ribcage on the right. This explains the crazy sideways expansion that happens from time to time when she really kicks her leg out: sharp buldge on the right, BIG bulge on the left from the foot and butt, respectively. I first felt Eden move at 14 weeks and am starting to feel as if I've known her a very long time at this point. Except for when it's time for pictures, she makes herself well-known in there.

In just a few short weeks (about 4...) we'll get to have all kinds of exciting pictures of this new little face in the world! We still can't believe it, but there she is and here she comes!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


This evening Lezlie and I lit the dedication candle to remember dedicating Israel to God last February 10th. These were my thoughts that day last year.


Some time ago, when I was young in Christ, I read through the life and adventures of David. Of course many of the stories struck me, but one of them comes to memory today, one I'd not heard before, and I haven't heard of since. I don't remember exactly where this story was, and in my cursory look back I wasn't able to find it, but I'll just tell it to you how I remember it.

David and his men were in the midst of battle. They were surrounded by a greater force, and it seems to my memory that they were backed into a cave, or surrounded in some city or something. After hours (or maybe even days) of fighting David called out saying “Oh! What I would do to have just a drink from [a certain] well!” Two of his loyal men heard him and decided that they would get their leader the drink the he so desired. So these two men risked their lives and fought through the enemy ranks. Escaping out into the open they ran as fast as they could to the well David had mentioned, drew a bowl full of water, and ran it back to the place of battle. Then after fighting their way back into the thick of the battle they found their beloved leader and presented him with his request.
David was flabbergasted. He was so overwhelmed with the honor and the extent to which these men had gone that he could not receive the gift. The greatness of the gift was too much for him to keep for himself. So instead of draining this bowl David poured it out as a drink offering to God.
After reading this story as a young man I was shook. What a crazy response! Here these guys risked their lives to get him this drink, and he goes and pours it out on the ground. On the other hand I understand it. How could he drink it? This gift was too much of an honor for any man to accept for himself. In that respect it was perfectly fitting for him to give this offering to God, and not keep it to himself.
So Lezlie and I have been planning this baby dedication for our child, Israel for a few weeks now. When Z first came to me with the idea I agreed to it, but not because I was into it, only because I felt like I should, and because this is one of the things that we do in this certain churchy culture that we're in. I felt like this is just what we do so that we don't have to say that we've baptized our children, so that we can feel superior to other parts of the Church.
So I thought about it some. “Why are we doing this?” I thought.

Then the other day as I was working I realized what this dedication is. It is my pouring out the bowl of water that is just too great of an offering for me to accept. It is my wife and my choice to give this wonderful gift back the the giver, knowing that we cannot raise him correctly, but also that our Creator can raise him correctly. To that end this dedication is also an invitation, permission, for God to work through his body: the Church, to hold us to this pouring out of our gift to God.
We do this because this gift is so great. We do this because we can't do it ourselves. We do this in thanks and humility recognizing our own limits, and God's limitlessness. We do this dedication as an act of community within the body of Christ.

Amen and amen.

It's good for me to remember why we did that. May it be so.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

feeling rich

Sometimes it doesn't take a lot to make me happy. Sometimes I get a lot anyway. Then I'm REALLY happy. We've been significantly blessed lately with...stuff. Good stuff. And I'm feeling particularly grateful for it, so here are some of the things that I have been oh-so-happy to receive recently.

- Buying a crockpot. Not just any crockpot. A big, bronze one with a lid that locks on for transport and a spoon that locks into the lid handle and a carrying case. We use it every Sunday for the carry-in at church. It means not having to make breakfast and lunch on Sunday mornings while getting ready and packing up chilren's Sunday school supplies and Israel's stuff. We wake up to the smell of whatever that has been cooking all night. Lovely.
- Israel's bedding. We got it on sale for 1/3 of its original price. When my parents were here this weekend, we put the twin bed (that was given to us years ago) in the kids' room and covered it in the new green sheets and down comforter and new feather pillows that we bought with gift money. It's the most posh bed I've ever seen for a toddler -- and all machine washable!

- The return of our home phone. This is actually an expense-saver, but it feels nice to have a phone in my dining room again.
- Meat in our freezer. We were given a gift certificate to a local farmer's store for Christmas and used the whole of it to buy good meat. We hardly ever have meat, because the kind we feel good about buying is so expensive it's easier not to bother. Right after we bought this meat (which wasn't a lot, pound-wise, but should make a few good meals), we were given as much or more again in venison that our friend's family member hunted. Meat-eating makes me smile.
- Two dressers in the kids' room that are organized and full. And I have bought hardly any of it. And I didn't have to organize it by myself.
- A tax return that is more than we actually paid in taxes. (We double-checked and it's legit!) I can't even tell you the plans we have and being able to dream about things makes me feel rich, too. I don't like to dream about things that I don't think are in my reach, so this tax return is actually acting as a sort of dream-machine for the time being. We'll have a garden and another bathroom and a wall on that part of the house and time off work when Eden is born and....
- A new (to us) car! My parents brought it up from Kentucky this weekend. It was my mom's car. We took it on a short drive around town last night and I recalled a certain feeling of euphoria that I had driving Myrtle (my old car) for the first time after we put a CD player in her. We were giddy about so many small things that I'll list them separately.
- Push-button unlocking and trunk "popping." No more holding Israel on my hip, using the key to unlock the front door, opening the door, reaching in back, pulling up the lock, shutting the front door, and opening the back door to put him in. Life suddenly seems so SIMPLE! I was sad that Pat unlocked the car this morning before I had a chance. I like pushing the button.
- A functioning CD player and radio. Myrtle had hers stolen quite some time ago and it was...quiet.
- Speakers that all WORK! My hearing has apparently adjusted to the lack of a sound system in our cars. I kept turning the music down when we were on our drive last night. Pat turned on the Beastie Boys and the bass seemed loud. I went to turn it down, only to find that it was already set to zero.
- A moon roof. Israel kept flashing his hands and saying, "light!" as we drove under the street lights last night. Cool.

- A back seat that is actually big enough to really fit two car seats.
- A car that does not have any significant body damage. We had one of these until a couple of weeks ago, when Forest got hit by a red car while sitting in front of our house. (The car left part of itself behind and on Forest's behind.) Ah...a nice-looking car!

We felt so rich last night, sitting on the bed in Israel's room on the new stuff, looking at the newly-arranged room after my parents left that we felt giddy. And we had to celebrate. And we wanted to go on a drive. So we found a friend who was free at the last minute to go out to dinner (which also makes us feel rich). And celebrating makes you feel rich, too.

Pat says we are rich, and I know what he means. Of course we are...just by virtue of being in America at this time. Plus, I have so much more than many people I know. We live in this huge (though unfinished) house, which I appreciated anew as my parents and I were remembering the size of the house my dad grew up in. I have the fondest memories of my Grandma and Papaw's house in Lynch, Kentucky, but realized as I was describing it to Pat that the whole house (with four kids) could've fit in our front four rooms!

We have all kinds of riches, both tangible and not, that we could not have earned. So yes, we are rich. Sometimes, though, it's nice to feel that way, too. Add to my list of dreams making someone else feel rich. That also will make you feel rich.