Monday, June 11, 2018

Summer Bucket List

I'm not normally one to make lists.  I either forget where I put the list, much less what was on it, or I get so frustrated that I'm not accomplishing anything on the list that I just throw it away.  But the other day, I read a Facebook article from a teacher about her suggestions for parents when they make their summer bucket lists, and it really got me thinking about the things I want to do with my kids this summer.

You see, her suggestions were things like “Make sure your child has good table manners, because so many of my students don’t,” and “Make sure your kids can tie their own shoes so others don’t have to help them,” and “Put your kids to bed at a normal time, so it’s easier for them when they start school again in the fall.”  While these are valuable ideas and skills that all children need, they all sound like horrible summer ideas to me!  Maybe it’s because we homeschool and our school year consists of studies and lessons and schedules, all that I’m responsible for, but I like our summer to be more relaxed, more free, and more fun.  So, here’s my summer bucket list:

-Play with my kids.  While normal barn and house chores must be done in the summer as well as extra summertime activities like gardening and canning, not having to get school work done allows us some extra free time.  This summer, I hope to spend some of those extra hours playing some games with my children that we often don’t have time for during the school year.  Whether it’s sitting down to build Legos, playing a board game, or getting out the deck of Uno cards, I want to spend some time doing something that they want to do, instead of something we have to do.

-Go outdoors.  Behind our house we have a little woods and a creek the kids love to play in.  I want to take the kids back there several times this summer to play in the water, to explore, to catch frogs and bugs and find shells and crawdads.  I want them to get dirty and discover things for themselves and enjoy being outside while it’s warm and sunny.  It’s also something the boys absolutely love to do, so it won’t be hard to get them out the door for this activity.

-Maintain a sense of normalcy.  It’s easy for me to let schedules and chore lists slip in the summer, mostly because I hate schedules and lists.  I have to constantly struggle against my nature during the school year to stay on a (very loose) schedule, so summer days usually devolve into messy, tv-watching, running around, accomplishing-nothing days.  I’ve let the kids take about a 2-week break from their normal routine, so it’s time to bring some of it back.  We’ll be trying to keep our chore, night-time reading, Bible memory work, and Bible reading times throughout the summer, even though everything in me wants to totally give in and give it up for the next two months.

-Enjoy them.   I want to look them in the eyes, snuggle them, laugh at their terrible knock-knock jokes, watch them play, and just enjoy being with them.   It seems they grow older every second, and I want to savor it all while they’re still little and still here.  It’s easy to get frustrated and just zone in on their messes, fights, and faults.  But, when I really observe them closely, I’m reminded that they are really good kids!  That they are pretty fun to have around!  That I really do like them!  I want to take the summer months to reconnect with each of them.

Our list may not involve anything terribly exciting, like trips to the zoo or ice cream every Friday, nor is it filled with extra homework or practicing important life skills so we can catch up before the next school year, but I hope that this summer we can make new memories, enjoy some down time, and relax from the school year grind.  And I hope you get to cross off many things from your summer bucket list too, whether they are exciting or not.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

April Showers Bring Blessings

I grew up in a small church that sang mostly hymns.  I loved them.  Today I've been remembering a specific hymn from my childhood.  Do you remember that old hymn Showers of Blessings?  It went like this:

Showers of blessings.  
Showers of blessings we need.
Mercy drops round us are falling.
But for the showers we plead.

I've never really thought about what showers of blessings really look like.  In my mind, I have this picture of a million dollars falling from the sky, but I really don't think that's what the songwriter had in mind.  It could just mean we want lots of blessings (who really only wants a couple?), but I think it also has to do with comparing the blessings of life to the refreshing rain.  When we count how many blessings we have, it refreshes our mind, body, and spirit.

I'll admit that lately, it's been difficult for me to see the blessings.  Life is busy for us.  We seemed to have three peaceful months after Haven was born, but once kidding season began it felt like we went from 0 to 100 mph in the blink of an eye.  There were goats to milk, baby goats to feed, milk to pasteurize, jars to wash, then there was soccer practice to drive to, and soccer games to watch, and homeschool co-ops and concerts.  Not to mention the everyday chores of dishes (do they ever end?), laundry, a baby to nurse every three hours, meals to cook for boys who like to eat (and eat and eat some more, which results in more dirty dishes), homeschool work to finish, while every night it seems Greg goes one way while I go another.  All this has left me feeling frazzled, tired, and more than a little bit sorry for myself.

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way.  I know we all go through seasons of life where things are hectic, and we feel like all we do is run from one activity to another leaving a trail of dirty laundry and sink full of dirty dishes in our wake.  It's too easy to go so fast that I fail to see the blessings in it all.  It's too easy to become bogged down by the messy, hectic, mundane chaos that I miss the best parts of this life God has given me.  When I'm drowning so far beneath the weight of all I haven't accomplished today, that life's little blessings seem to drift away.

There's another hymn we used to sing.  Its words have soothed my soul today.

When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
Do not be discouraged thinking all is lost.
Count your many blessings; name them one by one.
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

So tonight I'm counting my blessings:

-The sun was shining, and I didn't have to turn my space heater on today.
-Boston sat on my lap this morning while I milked goats.  I so rarely have time to sit with him during the day, and it was so nice to spend time with just him, even while I was getting chores done.  He thought he was milking, I got some snuggles.  It was a win-win.
-The boys played in the mud today, and even though it made an extra load of laundry, they were having a blast instead of sitting inside watching TV.
-During Canaan and Deacon's soccer practice, I got to play one-on-one with Lincoln tonight.  I never get to play soccer with just Lincoln.  It was quite fun!
-Greg has been making a lot of extra soap lately to keep our stores stocked and prepare for upcoming shows.  He has been having our niece come to help him wash his soap molds and various other jobs.  She got done early tonight with his tasks, and so she washed my dishes without being asked!  (Thanks Lydia!  You are the best!)
-I went to the grocery tonight with all the kids. Usually, strangers look at me like I'm an alien from outer space when I go anywhere with all six kiddos alone.  But today, a lady told me I had my hands full.  But then she said, "Aren't they all such blessings?"  No one ever says that to me.  What a smile that brought to my face.
-Besides milking, the boys can now do all the other barn chores without me.  (This is probably the most exciting blessing of all!)
-We only have 2 weeks of school left, and then we will be done. until. September!! (Scratch that, this is the most exciting blessing of all!)

When life seems to be streaming by me in a blur of never-ending chores and tasks, the best way for me to find peace is to stop, breathe, and look around.  There are showers of blessings all around.  All I have to do is collect and count them.  

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Oh Boy, We're Having a Girl!

If I hadn’t been laying down already, I probably would have fallen over.  “I think you’re finally going to get a little girl,” the ultrasound tech said.  I have to admit my heart dropped and even a few tears squeezed out.  I sat in the bathroom when the ultrasound was done, and prayed, “Are you sure, God?  Are you absolutely sure I can do this?  Because I’m not!”  In case you don’t know, we have a house full of boys.  Five of them.  They are my life, my heart, my everything.  They are a bundle of dirt, energy, gas, and a sloppy wet kiss all rolled into one.  We love having a house full of boys, as I've said before here.  We’ve never really wanted a girl.  When strangers would ask us if we were going to try for one, we’d laugh and say we’d probably have more, but they won’t be girls.  In fact, it was so far off my radar, I had not even thought about the fact that this baby I’m carrying might be anything else other than another boy. 

Growing up, I always felt easier around boys.  They are oftentimes easier to get along with, not having the pettiness or complicated emotions that go with girl relationships.  Boys typically cause less drama (though I have a couple that would give any girl a run for her money in this department).  I’m not very emotional, and I tend to not have a lot of patience for emotional outbursts, crying, or hurt feelings.   Boys seem to require less stuff, and we really don’t have room for a whole new set of clothing and toys that inevitably come with a girl.  I cringe at the potential “I’m in charge” and “I’m the princess” shirts she’ll receive.  Boys can be a handful, but girls have their own set of difficulties and pitfalls that come with raising them; I know because I was one.  I also don’t want to share my husband with anyone.  I seriously asked him if he would still love me as we drove home from the ultrasound.  I’m sad that Boston won’t have a brother super close to him in age like the other boys.  Then there are the little weird insecurities I have when I think about her: Will I screw her up?  Will it be weird nursing a daughter? What if she only loves Daddy?  Will I be able to love her the same as I love my boys?  Am I enough for her?  Will it be weird to no longer be the mom with all the boys, just the mom with all the kids?

You should hear some of the comments people say to us when they find out we have all boys.  “Oh, I feel so sorry for you!” “How do you do it?  I only have one boy, and he drives me crazy!” “Wait until they’re teenagers and you have to feed them!”  I try to smile and nod and be polite, but sometimes I want to scream.  We live in a society that seriously undervalues boys and men.  The innate desire to fight and defend, their lack of touchy-feely emotions, their energy and lack of stillness, their competitive spirit—these are not usually considered assets to our society.  But our boys are valuable because of their boyish characteristics.  They are valuable and precious and loved.  And this is the main reason I’ve never really wanted a girl: I never wanted my boys to feel less-than.  You should also hear the things people say to us when they find out we’re having a girl this time.  “Finally getting your girl!” (Assuming we’ve been waiting for 9 years for this moment) “Oh, now you won’t be alone anymore!” (Do these people realize I have 5 kids and am NEVER alone?) “Well, you can be done now!” (I’ll have five more if I want, but thanks anyway.)  And that’s the one that kills me.  Many people assume we’ve kept having children because we were trying to have a girl.  One lady actually said this to me when I told her we had five boys.  She rolled her eyes and said, “Oh, were you just really wanting a girl or what?”  I got a blank stare when I said that no, we just really like our kids.  Because no one in their right mind would keep having children just for the sake of having children, especially if they kept coming out male.  I never want my boys to feel like we kept having more children because we were trying to get it right—that they were the wrong ones we didn’t really want. I’ve dreaded them being ignored for her when we go places just because she’s the only girl.  I don't want them to feel like they are loved less and she’s loved more.  When we told the boys they were having a sister, I let them know that we would love them the same as we always have; that having a girl wouldn’t make us love them any differently.  They looked at me like the thought had never occurred to them.  Maybe I can let that one go, but I still worry.  I'm their mom, and it's my job.  

So you can laugh at my insecurities.  You can tell me it will be fine when she gets here.  And I know all this.  But it’s taken my heart a while to adjust.  Having a girl will change our life, but I’m gradually getting excited.  I smiled when I found myself in the little girls’ aisle for the first time at a store the other day.  Suddenly, despite her brothers' very loud protests, there will be some things that are pink, and possibly dolls and princess dresses and tea parties, though I’m sure with five older brothers she’ll be just as rough and tumble as I was a young girl.  Now when there’s a ladies’ event at church I won’t have to go alone.  I’ll be able to do her hair.  The boys will hopefully learn to be a little more gentle, a little more sweet, and they might start closing the door before the use the bathroom or strip naked.  One of the boys hopefully commented that now he has a sister, she can do all the work, and he won’t have to do any chores anymore.  (Nice try, kid.)  Our family isn’t incomplete without her, but it will be completed when she gets here.  That’s the dichotomy of having another child regardless of their gender—you don’t know they’re missing until they get here, and then you wonder what you did without them. 

I’ve always said that I never wanted a girl, but if God gave us one, it meant He knew something about me that I didn’t.  Now it’s my turn to actually believe my words, and trust Him.  He knows what He’s doing.  And when she comes, for a while, she’ll just be a baby in need of love, care, and a lot of snuggles.  That I know I can handle.  Her brothers have given me lots of practice.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I Shouldn't Be Here

This week we celebrated Boston's first birthday!  (He loves cake, can you tell?)  So I've spent a lot of time thinking of his birth.  I’ve also spent a year mulling this post over.  But it seemed I just couldn’t ever get it written.  Words can never fully describe what we experienced at the moment of Boston’s birth and in the months after, but I figured in honor of Boston’s one-year birthday, I would try my best.

On July 29, 2016 at 4:22 pm our sweet Boston Carl was born peacefully and easily.  I cried tears of joy. Unfortunately, the hard part was just beginning.  Unknown to us, he had somehow lost (or possibly never had) over half his blood at birth, which prevented oxygen from circulating to his lungs and other organs.  After only 10-15 minutes, our midwife let us know that he needed to be transferred to a hospital.  Greg, the midwife, and Boston sped off toward the hospital while her assistant stayed with me.  I threw on some clothes, grabbed a drink, and jumped into the car.  All I remember thinking on the way to the hospital was what I should have been doing.  I should have been holding my sweet newborn, nursing him for the first time, talking and laughing with my husband and the midwife, seeing how much our new baby boy weighed.  My favorite thing about having our babies at home is those peaceful moments after birth, when the room is filled with light and love and precious, newborn snuggles.  I texted a few people, asking for prayers, but I couldn’t really process what was going on.  We had no idea how serious Boston’s condition was.  I assumed he just needed a little oxygen for a few hours, and then we’d come home.   I remember the same thought kept running in my head, over and over and over: I shouldn’t be here.

We arrived at the hospital and practically ran in.  Boston was in a room full of doctors and nurses running around and a red light flashing over the door.  As soon as I walked in, they told me they were sending him to Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis.  I was honestly shocked, and I realized things were probably worse than I had imagined.  About this time, I started to feel bad.  I don’t know if you realize this, but 20 minutes postpartum is not the time to run out the door frantic, and then sit in a waiting room after barely eating for over 24 hours and being in labor for almost 12 of them.  My arms were empty, my heart was aching, and the rest of me was woozy.  They brought me something to eat, but that didn’t help.  I kept feeling worse and worse until the next thing I knew I was being wheeled on a table into the next emergency room while someone cut off my shirt.  I remember thinking, “Wow, I passed out.  So this is what passing out feels like.  I’ve never done that before.  Don’t they know I’m fine?  Wait, that’s my nice nursing tank.  Why are they cutting it?  Where’s Greg?  My baby is really sick. I. shouldn’t. be. here.

The many machines that kept Boston alive 
When Lifeline arrived, the paramedic on board came in to give me some information about Boston’s condition.  I remember her saying, “We don’t know if he’s going to make it.  He’s a fighter, I think he will, but as a medical professional, I have to be honest.”  Boston left the local hospital in a helicopter close to 9 pm.  When Greg and I arrived at Riley, and we were finally able to go into our sweet baby’s room, it was surreal.  Seeing your baby kept alive by at least 10 different machines that breathed for him, pumped him full of medicine, helped him go to the bathroom, and a myriad of other things, it takes your breath away.  I could barely find a piece of his bare skin to touch. The amazing night nurse patiently explained what every tube, needle, cord, and beeping was for.  We decided since it was already very late that we would head home in order to see our other children and pack our stuff for what was probably going to be an extended stay.  Coming home to a house without your baby is heartbreaking.  His bassinet by our bed was empty, all the diapers and clothes and general birthing stuff were unopened and unused.  I tried not to think about it.  I got up in the middle of the night to pump, feeling the cold plastic against my skin instead of a warm baby.  I remember thinking as I slipped into bed that maybe I could finally sleep well for the first time in months, since I was no longer pregnant and uncomfortable, but without that baby beside me that thought brought me no comfort.  All I could think was: I shouldn’t be here.

Boston after coming off everything but oxygen
For the next 18 days we sat at the hospital.  There were agonizing moments when we wondered if we would ever bring him home and how we would tell our other children that they would never meet their long-awaited new brother, and then there were moments when we finally got to breathe, to enjoy him, but always wondering “What will tomorrow bring?”  His head was covered with monitors because of his increased risk for seizures, then they were removed, then they were put back on.  Every time I could hold him it was an acrobatic dance of pillows, and wires, and getting the intubation/oxygen tubes just right so he was still breathing.  We watched him struggle to breathe after they removed his ventilator and then be slowly weaned through every other form of oxygen machines available.  Minutes, hours, days of just watching monitors and your stomach lurching every time his heart rate or oxygen level or blood pressure was abnormal.  Times when I stood by his bed, holding him while he screamed as they drew his blood one more time, thinking I just couldn’t take it anymore.  After the first week, we finally were reassured that Boston would get better, it was just a matter of how long would it take for him to get well enough to go home.  We started to relax a bit, get to know our incredible nurses, respiratory therapists, and doctors, but life in the NICU isn’t easy, especially when you have other children at home.  We ran home for a visit to see the other boys one evening, and Lincoln gave me one of his blankets to keep with me at the hospital to keep me warm.  I remember curling up in the awful bed in Boston’s hospital room, snuggling that blanket and just wishing I could be home with all my kids in one place.  On a rare moment at home with the kids, we wanted to rush back to the hospital to be with Boston.  Sitting in the hospital doing absolutely nothing, we just wanted to be home with the other kids.  No matter where we were, the thought was always there: I shouldn’t be here.

Life in the NICU with a newborn gives you lots of time to think.  So I began to wonder about the company I was in.  The great heroes of the Bible who had to also think: I shouldn’t be here.  I’m sure that’s what Abraham thought as he walked Isaac up the hill with specific instructions to sacrifice his beloved son.  I’m sure Joseph thought that as he sat rotting in prison after being sold by his brothers into slavery and then falsely accused by his master’s wife.  I’m sure Moses had the same thought as he wandered around the desert of running from his life of luxury in an Egyptian palace.  I’m sure Daniel cried that out to God as he sat all night surrounded by hungry lions.  I’m sure that Jesus, the Creator of the Universe and all human life, had to know that as He suffered and died on the cross, of all places on heaven and earth, that He was in the one place He definitely should not have been.  So, if God had not spared some of the greatest men in the Bible, nor His own Son, from pain and suffering and hardship, why should I be any different?  Not only had He not spared these people from hard times, but He’d also had very specific plans and goals through all of it, and I knew that there was a plan and a goal for us as well. 

After Boston came home
I wish I could say now, a year later, that there was one specific, amazing, Spiritual principal that I learned from our experience with Boston, but I can’t say that.  I can say I learned several little things along the way.  God sees us and watches over us even when things do not happen the way we want.  He loves us so much, and we were continually loved by Him, especially through His people during our whole ordeal.  I’ve learned to trust and lean on Him more.  Our kids are never safe from this world.  Not after 1 year, or 10 years, or even after they’re adults and have left our care.  There is no guarantee that they’ll be safe and sound, but God is our Rock through it all, even when tragedy strikes, even in the little struggles of life, even in tiny moments that really aren’t life-changing but feel so very desperate in that instant.  I learned that the one place I didn’t really want to be is usually the place God uses to grow, stretch, and refine me—that usually the one place I don’t want to be is usually exactly where God wants me.

After 3 weeks in the NICU keeping Boston alive and well enough to bring home, we spent the next 9 months trying to get him to drink from a bottle and gain weight, and we feel we’ve finally gotten to spend the last 3 months actually enjoying him and being a family of 7.  He’s doing amazing, and aside from some small developmental delays, you’d never know he had such a rough start.  He’s the happiest baby we’ve ever had, bringing us so much laughter and joy.  Every morning when I get Boston out of bed and every night when I snuggle him one last time before laying him down, I thank God for letting us keep him and love him and raise him.  It makes me try harder to love all our children more, to be a better parent, to raise them to love and obey the Lord with all their heart. 

Boston on his birthday

The last few days, I can’t help but remember what we were doing at this exact moment a year ago.  I can remember the pain and worry, but also the joy that our fifth son brought us.  I hope that’s the worst thing we ever go through, but I know that there will be other hard times in the future.  I hope that I’ve learned enough from Boston’s birth that when I think, “I shouldn’t be here,”  I remember and take comfort in the fact that it’s probably exactly where God wants and needs me to be.  And thank you to everyone who prayed for us, brought us food, encouraged us, and loved us last year when Boston was sick.  It meant more to us than we can express.  So happy birthday Boston!  We love you and can't wait to see what special plans God has for you!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: The Year With No Baby

2014 was the first full year ever in our almost 8-year marriage that there has been no baby.  No new baby born, no growing infant to cuddle, not even a new baby on the way.  I won’t say that I now magically understand the pain of a couple who has struggled with infertility for a long time.  I do have four beautiful blessings who came easily and without much trying on our part—a fact I never cease to thank God for.  But I now can understand in a small way that ache that comes from the desire for a child that is never fulfilled.  We've wanted to have more children, but God in His infinite wisdom has decided that now is not yet the time.  It may not ever be the time.  I’m not saying there will absolutely be no more babies, but for so long we've lived with the mindset of “when the next one comes”, that it’s come as quite a shock to think what life will be like for us if there are no more babies.    

It’s also interesting to think of how different our home will be if there are no more babies.  It’s difficult to look around and see things in our home through new eyes.  The eyes of a mother without a baby.  I've never done that before.  It’s so new and different…and sometimes painful.  I've never even realized how many things in our home pertain only to babies—mainly because it seems they've always been a part of our life.      

Deacon is almost 20 months old.  My other boys all potty-trained before 2.  We are nearing that mark with him, but what will we do without a baby in diapers?  What will we do with the cloth diapers?  I was so proud and excited when I bought my first cloth diaper.  It’s still my favorite one.  But big boys don’t need diapers.  Diapers are only for babies.

There are boxes and boxes of clothes no one wears any longer.  They've always sat upstairs, waiting for “the next one”.  Now suddenly, I’m wondering why I’m letting them take up space.  The outfit Gideon wore home from the hospital; the first outfit all my other boys wore, when I would reluctantly dress them for the first time after the midwife had cleaned up and left; the tiny socks; the memories in a box.  But big boys don’t need tiny clothes.  Those are for babies.

I’m in the process of cleaning out my kitchen cabinets.  One shelf holds the baby bottles I used occasionally with my boys.  My boys who will no longer lay in my arms and neither nurse or drink from those bottles.  I left a space for them on the shelf, even though big boys don’t need bottles.  Those are only for babies.    

Deacon really could have moved out of the crib a couple of months ago, but I have waited.  If there is no new baby to fill it, I’ll have to take it down.  There’s something so final about taking that crib down, and I might have to really admit to myself that there are no more babies in the house.  Because big boys don’t sleep in cribs.  Cribs are only for babies.     

There are positives to the kids growing up.  Gideon and Lincoln dress themselves, fold and put their own laundry away.  They’re getting better at washing dishes and doing barn chores, and opening their own doors, and putting on their own coats.  It’s fun that they can all communicate and have a conversation with us and each other.  We get to learn new and exciting things in school, and join the local homeschool co-op.  There, Gideon, Lincoln, and Canaan were in their first “school” performance.  The kids are learning more and more about Jesus every day.  They are making connections between what the Bible says and how it affects their lives and their hearts.  All these things are terribly exciting and fun and sometimes scary.  Watching them grow is a blessing and a curse. 

But the fact remains.  They are no longer babies.
So what does a mom with no babies do, when all she ever wanted to do was have babies?   She quietly mourns, she moves on, she tries to live in the here and now.  She savors each stage, watches them grow, tries to live each day to the fullest. 

While I still can, I snuggle my babies close.  Because even though they aren't actually babies, as long as I’m their mom, they’ll always be my babies.

So we press on.  We leave the “Year With No Baby” behind, and take on another year full of new and exciting memories to make.  Maybe 2015 will include another baby, or maybe it will see this family growing in different ways than just its size. 

Bring it on, 2015.  Bring it on. 

And Happy New Year from the six of us at Lonely Windmill Farm.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Holiday Curse Strikes Again!

Greg and I have spent seven holiday seasons together as a little family.  We have spent almost half of them sick.  And not just any old sick, but puking-your-guts-out and running-to-the-toilet sick.  It's such a pleasant picture right up there with roasted turkeys and angels in the sky, isn't it?  But it has happened so often, that it seems almost normal for us...almost.  In fact, when Thanksgiving rolled around two weeks ago, I was not surprised when one of the boys started throwing up.  Then I started thinking about our other holidays spent with the joyous bug that ruins all of our holidays--past, present, and future.  So here, I have recounted for your reading pleasure, our three worst holidays.  So read, and remember that no matter how weird your family is, spending a holiday with the "gift" that keeps on giving is worse.

Thanksgiving 2010
We only had two children at the time, and we were supposed to eat Thanksgiving lunch with Greg's parents, then drive most of the afternoon and evening to Missouri to surprise my grandma with a short stay there, along with my parents who were also spending Thanksgiving with her.  Gideon got it first.  He spent Monday or Tuesday throwing up through the day.  On Wednesday, it struck me.  I remember it being the first time I had to call Greg home from work, because I couldn't care for the kids. I was still nursing Lincoln, so Greg would bring him to me, I would nurse as much as I was able, and then Greg would carry out Lincoln to give the poor, starving kid a bottle.  (Turns out, not eating and drinking isn't great for your milk supply.)  I recovered enough that night, that we decided to go ahead and make the trip to Missouri, but skip Thanksgiving dinner with Greg's family to avoid passing on the germs.

Result: We ate our Thanksgiving dinner in a McDonald's somewhere between here and the Illinois state line.  We spent two days in Missouri before heading back.  Greg woke up Sunday morning so sick, we skipped church and I drove most of the way home.  Luckily he just felt bad, but didn't actually puke all the way home.  We also gave the flu to my mom, who got stuck in Missouri for a couple of more days before the stomach flu finally ended its not-so-pleasant visit.

Christmas 2011
This was the true Nightmare before Christmas.  It began again with Gideon about a week before Christmas.  He spent a night throwing up, and then it was over.  I thought we were safe.  Until the pesky bug attacked the rest of the same time.  Canaan was only two months old, and it was only by God's grace that he stayed well.  The rest of the story actually seems almost hysterical now.  Greg and I were already feeling bad, though the actually violent vomiting and diarrhea had not appeared.  We had put the kids to bed and were expecting to sleep it off.  Until I checked on Lincoln, who was 19 months old.  He was lying in his crib, and he was covered in vomit.  A mother's worst nightmare.  I was rapidly feeling worse, but I stripped the crib, cleaned up Lincoln and brought him to our bed.  By now, I could barely stand, and that's when the fun started.  Greg and I took turns holding Lincoln, desperately trying to catch the upchuck with a trash can, while his poor little body spewed it every 15 minutes for the next hour or so.  It felt like an eternity.  One of us held Lincoln, the other ran to the bathroom spending the entire 15 minutes either throwing up or suffering through the other.  I have never been so sick in my life.  I remember yelling, "You have to come hold him.  I need the bathroom!" and then vaulting myself to the toilet.  Finally, Lincoln calmed down and started singing and dancing around.  Kids recover so quickly.  He laid down in his playpen and went right to sleep.  Oh, if we had all been so lucky.  Greg and I caught small snatches of sleep while we kept taking turns in the bathroom.  Unfortunately, Canaan was a terrible sleeper, and though I hoped and begged God to let him miraculously sleep all night, it was not to be.  Babies have to eat, and he woke up in the middle of the night like always.  I staggered to his bassinet , and tried to nurse him while laying on the couch.  But, I could tell I was going to be sick.  So I threw him carefully laid him back down, and ran to the bathroom.  I remember listening to him scream while I puked out my soul for the (praise God!) last time.  By morning, it was all over, but we were exhausted.

Result:  We had to cancel our plans (again with Greg's family) for Christmas day because we had re-gifted this delightful illness with Greg's sister's family and her four kids and Greg's parents.  This illness was so contagious that we also re-gifted it to just about everyone we knew.  We did get to reschedule Christmas, though the illness lingered, and my sister-in-law still missed our holiday dinner an entire week later.

Thanksgiving 2014: This year, for the first time, we were to host Thanksgiving.  I had bought a beautiful, grass-fed turkey from our good friends at Becker Farms.  It was a gigantic turkey, 28-pounds to be exact, that we had bought to feed everyone.  Then Canaan threw up all over the couch.  Then Deacon and Lincoln and Gideon had terrible diarrhea.  Then I got sick.  Just as I was recovering, Greg started throwing up all night.  When Greg got sick, my one thought was "I thought this would at least get me out of milking the goats for one morning, but not now."

Result:  We spent Thanksgiving day eating nothing.  I scrounged up a little soup for the kids to eat, while Greg and I tried to recover.  My sister-in-law and her family ate their Thanksgiving meal at home...with no turkey.  We cooked our turkey the next day and delivered it to everyone.  Greg left the turkey on his sister's front porch, because they refused to let him in.  We'd ruined enough of their holidays to risk it.

The moral of the story: Family, we apologize for all the times we've ruined your holiday plans.  Luckily, we all live close and can just reschedule.  At least we don't live out of town, and have to stay at your house while being down with the stomach flu!  And for the rest of you, don't plan your holiday dinner with us.  We will inevitably start barfing and have to cancel, or we'll just share the barfing with you.  We'll let you pick, because we're gracious like that!

We hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving, and we pray your Christmas is merry and bright...and vomit-less.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

I'm thankful for: A Legacy

On this Thanksgiving, I was thinking of things I am thankful for.  The kids and I made a fun list to go with their memory verse this week, which included things like being thankful for not having to take a nap anymore (Gideon) and for horses (Canaan) and for tractors (Lincoln).  But I began thinking the one thing I am most thankful for is that my parents told me about Jesus.  I often think where I would be if I hadn't grown up with the family I had.  Mine was a very strong Christian family.  Not just my immediate family, but my extended family on all sides were Bible-believing, faithful people.  For me, it was normal.  I never realized until high school that most people did not grow up with this kind of very functional family.  And even then I didn't realize how truly blessed I was until I joined a ladies Bible study last winter.  We spent one evening discussing our testimonies.  Some of the women looked at me with disbelief when I talked about my extended Christian family.  When I talked about the faithful example I had to follow in not only my parents, but my grandparents and even great-grandparents, and then some of them talked about how few examples they had, it started to sink in.  I am really blessed.  More than that, I am really, really thankful.

Every Thanksgiving we loaded up the car and drove to Missouri to celebrate with my grandmother's family.  My great-great Grandpa had preferred the Thanksgiving holiday over Christmas, so he made a deal. His family could spend Thanksgiving with him, and Christmas with their in-laws.  This seemed to work for everybody, and it became a tradition.  So every year we gathered: 40, 50, 60 of us, though one year for my great-grandparents 60th anniversary, there were 80.  It was always a fun time, seeing cousins we hadn't seen all year.  My family was also inundated with good cooks, so the food was always homemade and incredible.  The day after Thanksgiving, we always went bowling, even my great-grandparents.  We got to stay in a hotel.  But what made it even more special is how many of us were united in our love for and faith in Jesus Christ.

Then there was my grandpa's family, which was smaller, but just as dedicated to their faith.  I watched my other great-grandma come to church every Sunday of her life, until she finally became bedridden.

And my dad's family, who we gathered with every Christmas day, the memories of which give me more peace and joy than almost any other childhood memories.  Sitting around my grandma's table, with my parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, which we did much more often than merely on holidays, was where I learned the value of family, of hard work, of our faith.

I was surrounded by faithful examples everywhere I went.  I'm not saying I had a better family than everyone else, and they certainly weren't perfect.  But I realize more and more what a rarity it was to grow up in the family I did.

I always thought my testimony was boring.  "I grew up in a Christian family.  I became a Christian.  The end."  Then, I had a good friend tell me, "Amber, you're their legacy.  The result of the faithfulness of your great-grandparents on down.   There's nothing boring in that."  I had never thought of it that way.  Thanks to the decision of those who came before me to raise their families to fear God and to honor His commands, I know the Truth!  What came as a result of my great-grandparents' decision spread out into all branches of our family tree.  But what strikes me as more exciting is that even if you didn't grow up with the legacy I did; even if you didn't have family after family member who obeyed the Gospel; even if you're the first one in the family to follow Christ, your legacy can start today.  All it takes is one person, just one decision, and your family legacy can change forever.  Our God is a God of restoration, of change, of redemption.  All it takes is your choice to follow our Savior, to actively teach your children about Him, and then someday your grandchildren can say, "I'm here because of you."  The power of our decision to honor the Gospel is amazing.

When my grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, our family gathered at their church on a Sunday and sang the song "Find us Faithful."  I'll never forget the words.

Oh may all who go behind us find us faithful.
May the fire of our devotion light their way.
May the footprints that we leave,
lead them to succeed.
May the life we live inspire them to obey.
Oh may all who go behind us find us faithful.

While it is a prayer for our own lives, I have reflected on those words as I've thought about the family that came before me.  Yes, I found so many of you faithful.  For that, I am eternally grateful.