Monthly Archives: September 2008

My Beautiful Boy

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Ephraim turned seven months old on February 18. Here are his portraits that we had made that week. Our friend Lezlie Andrew took these amazing photos. Check her out.

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Awake …

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I think Ephraim is either going through a growth spurt or cutting his first tooth or both. Either way the last few nights have been difficult resulting in me having to get up at least once to feed him (something I have not done since he was 12 weeks old). He is averaging between 11-12 hours of sleep at night now, so Michael and I have both grown accustomed to some uninterrupted sleep again. Last night (friday) he went down at 8:00 pm and awoke at 4:45 starving. Since I am food for him, I got up.

I am very blessed that my husband is very hands on with E. From day one he has helped with all the late-night feedings and like last night, he stays awake while I fed until I came back to bed. Michael is what I consider to be very blessed in that he can easily fall asleep and back to sleep and stay asleep. I am not as fortunate. I have struggled with my sleep for the past 10 years. It started shortly after we were married and has affected me ever since. Michael does snore, so that could be part of it. I have to wear ear plugs at night, but event that doesn’t help with the main issue. 

My problem is that I can fall asleep, but I wake easily and then have trouble going back to sleep. I have taken everything from Tylenol PM to Calcium to Ambien CR. Only the Ambien has been truly effective, but it is not compatible with nursing. It is incredibley frustrating and especially difficult with a newborn in the house. So when E woke us up and I got up, I knew I might not be able to go back to sleep. Sure enough, I climbed back in bed by 5:00 am and there I laid … Awake.

My mind was a whirlwind that could not be stopped. I started thinking about the Pilates reformer that was just delivered and sitting in our living room. I thought about rearranging the office to accomadate it and where the overflow of furniture would need to be stored. Pretty soon I had mentally rearranged the whole house, refinished and old dresser and bought new accessories for a sofa table I want to put in the den. Whew! Then I moved onto myself … those stubborn last pounds of baby weight, the new clothes I want to get and how to decorate my Christmas tree this year. At that point I thought, “This is ridiculous!”

I could feel the anxiousness in my bones. A mixture of excitement and stress and the need to control the uncontrollable. I was exhausted, both physically and mentally. in that moment I felt the gentleness of the Lord say to me, “What do you really need Rachael?” and the only answer was “You God.”

I don’t need a bigger house, a nicer car or clothes. The room arrangments in my home are fine as is and so are the furnishings. None of the things I was accomplishing in my mind have any bearing on my current circumstance. What I need and need to long for is God.

I need a Father… a Father whose lap I can crawl into at the end of the day and rest. Real and true rest. I need someone to comfort and encourage me. I need help and endurance and grace. 

I need Jesus … a friend and a bridegroom. Someone who loves my life more than his own and shows me that everyday. Someone to turn to who is fully human, but fully God so gets the me that I am now and the one that I will be in eternity. I need to see myself through his eyes and not my own. To look beyond my past, leave it there and walk away for good into the “wastefulness of grace.” (a Shack reference)

I need the Holy Spirit … a companion and mentor. A counselor and leader. Someone to show me how to tap into the immense power and authority that is mine through Christ and show me how to use it for His glory. I need a teacher and a guide, to speak a languauge that is not my own but one of heaven, to bring that kingdom into this one on earth.

As I prayed this I began to feel the anxiousness and restlessness lift. Slowly, slowly I was able to drift back to sleep until Ephraim woke at his normal wake time. Once he was fed, changed and played with we placed him back in his crib for his first nap. It was then that I felt drawn to share this experience and embrace the breakthrough God has given me. To call out in my need and have Him answer. It is a beautiful thing.

As I drifted off to sleep I silently worshipped along with the soundtrack in my mind. It was Misty Edwards and the song was “I Am Yours.” She sings …

For when I heard your voice, and when you said my name

When I heard Your voice my heart it yearned

In the middle of the night, In the middle of the night my heart it yearns

And though you far away

Still I’m here to say I am yours

I am so tired of this …

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While “surfing the net” (as the kids used to say back in the ’90″s) I cam across this little lovely …

Josh Howard Disrespects National Anthem

I am not going to pretend to be the world’s greatest sports fan, but I do infact love to watch sports and as far as basketball goes, I am a pretty rabid Dallas Mav’s fan. Michael and I watch a lot of sports together, it is one of our mutual loves. Josh Howard has been one of Michael’s favorite players up until now.

As mentioned in the article, this isn’t the first public relations blunder Mr. Howard has faced, however it does seem that a dangerous pattern is emerging. When I read this article to Michael lastnight his reaction was not one of suprise or even disappointment. Instead, it was a mixture of anger and disgust. He was quick to make the statement many of would, “If you don’t like it here then leave,” and added “See where else in the world you can go and play a game for living and get paid millions of dollars to it.” I can’t say that I disagree, but I also think the root goes deeper to an overwhelming sense of entitlement and ungratefulness that is pervaiding our culture these days. 

It seems like every piece of pop culture news media these days has some overly privileged and ego-maniacal public figure making the mistake of thinking themselves and their opinion overly important. Josh Howard, in this case, is no different. Now I could go on and on lecturing about the forefathers, the flag and the freedoms both represent and how it is that very freedom that makes what he said ok. The quote, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” pretty well sums that up. It is true, we live in a free country. But as the Apostle Paul wrote, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable.”

Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” I don’t mean to cast judgement on this guy, but as a new parent I am also stepping into the reality that I must be the gatekeeper of my own heart as well as our home. While I was pregnant I prayed everyday for Ephraim. I prayed for his safety and for his life, but I also prayed for his heart. As Michael often said, “We are having a little boy, but we are raising him to be a man of God.” So each day I prayed for the attributes and attitudes of the heart that we wanted to instill in him. We prayed at length that he would have a heart of compassion and thankfulness. We live in a very blessed country. There are things we will be able to give to our children (the least of which is food, shelter and safety) that other parents in other parts of the world can only dream of giving. I am trying to learn not to take things for granted.

Before having a child I could watch World Vision infomercials and the like and be moved, yes, but not with the heart of a mother. Now, I can’t hardly stand it. I don’t know nor can I even imagine what it must be like for mothers and fathers in far off (and not so far) places to listen to their children cry out in hunger and know that you are powerless to do anything about it. Too many people in this world face this crisis on a daily basis.

This is what Jesus says this in Matthew Chapter 5:(The Message)

3“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

 4“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

 5“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

 6“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

 7“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

 8“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

 9“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

 10“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

 11-12“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

 

The truth is our idea of being blessed in this life is, on most days, completely opposite to this. No great revelation in that statement. But, for me, I want change to come … into my own heart and into my home. I am grateful for the blessings we have been given, but I need to remember that the real and true blessing awaits us when we return home. If we could ever wrap our minds around this the world would be a much different place.

Hello world, here I am!

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Wow! I feel as if I am emerging from a long winter’s nap! Except to say that implies sleep which anyone who has recently given birth knows there is little of. Those commercials don’t lie when they say “Having a baby changes everything!” As many of you know Michael and I welcomed our first child, a son named Ephraim, on February 18th of this year. 

While having a child is the most amazing thing I have ever experienced it has also changed every aspect of my life. First and foremost I realize and live dying to self on a daily basis now. As I type this I am listening to my IPod and it is a playlist titled “Labor” that I made the night before I went into the hospital to give birth to Ephraim. I remember searching through the 1000’s of songs in my library and trying to select the exact songs that I wanted or felt would help either motivate or calm me during labor. Michael and I had elected to induce labor because of some blood pressure issues I was having so I knew what to expect from the coming day … or so I thought. Let me just say the experience was entirely “other” than what I had envisioned and in reality prayed for. 

From the get go I had wanted to do childbirth as naturally as possible. Even “Supernaturally” if possible, meaning without pain. I had prayed everyday of the pregnancy for my son and his health and even his personality,  physical attributes and attitudes. I tried to leave no stone unturned and sought the Holy Spirit for how to pray. It wasn’t until the approaching due date was upon me that I started to focus on labor. I was naive, I’ll admit it. And probably a little double-minded too. See I had confessed with my mouth what I wanted my labor experience to be, but I am not sure I really bought into the confession i was making. In the end, the fatigue of a long 40 weeks, mounting fears about the babies safety and amidst incredible internal anxiety I gladly gave into my doctor when he suggested inducing me the day before my actual due date. 

I realized that would mean giving me Pitocin to bring on the contractions and intensify them and that he would also want to break my water himself. I also accepted the inevitability of an epidural which I initially had opposed. We arrived at the hospital at 5:00 am and by 9:30 the IV was in the pitocin flowing and the bag of waters busted. They came in every half hour and increased the pitocin. For those of you who don’t know, pitocin causes the uterus to contract (just like it would normally) only it “ramps” up the intensity and pain commonly associated with labor. By noon I had taken all I thought I could and begged for the anthesiologist to come and put me out my misery. Too late they said … she was already in a c-section and I would have to wait at least an hour. You can imagine how I felt right about then …

So an hour and a half later, fully effaced and dilated to an 8 she arrives, drugs in hand. They sat me up and tried to insert the catheter but the problem was my contractions were piggy-backing each other and I was getting no break from it. Finally they got it in and after thirty minutes of full body shakes I was feeling pretty good and ready to chill until it was time to push. By 3:30 we were ready to go and they assured me I would be holding baby boy within the hour. Not so much ….

I pushed and pushed and pushed, to no avail. His head would crown but as soon as I stopped pushing he immediately sucked back up. The doctor realized that he was “hung up” in my pelvis because he entered the birth canal at an angle. After 2 1/2 hours of intense pushing I was faced with a choice, either use forceps or suction to remove him vaginally or have a c-section. I opted for the c-section and immediately preparations were underway. All I could do was cry. I crumbled into tears from the emotional upheaval of exhaustion and failure I was feeling. My sister cried, Michael reassured me and the nurse (heather) brought quick encouragement. I will never forget her telling me “There are variables at work her that we just don’t understand but for whatever reason you are meant to do it this way.” It comforted, but also brought confusion. I kept thinking, this is not what I prayed for. Not what I “wanted”.

Once in the operating room they got to work right away and at 6:54 pm I heard the sound I have waited my whole life to hear, the cry of my child. He was perfect (except his cone head) and healthy. My doctor then informed us that the umbilical cord had been around his neck and that we made the right decision to have the C-Section. If we had waited any longer, pushed any harder or used the suction to pull him out we would have had a devastating outcome. Indeed, Heather’s wisdom and intuition were right on the money.

Ephraim is now a few days shy of seven months old and a living miracle in too many ways to mention in this blog. He is a promise fulfilled and 1000 prayers answered. As I type this I can see him asleep in his crib on the video monitor and my heart is full. In retelling the story of his delivery God is showing me his hand at work. I am realizing that so many times when a circumstance has an expectation other than what we envisioned it can bring confusion and disappointment, but also opportunity. The opportunity to better understand ourselves and God.

I realize now that I wanted the natural childbirth, but was perhaps not as committed to it as I would have liked to believe. There was a multitude of anxieties bearing down on me and I was overwhelmed (Psalm 94). I confessed yes, but was not committed in my belief. I heard a quote this past Sunday that “What we believe about the end will directly affect how we behave in the middle.” The truth is I was so engulfed in the battle of the middle that I was unprepared for the end. Here is the miracle though, it didn’t matter. God was still there and still at work and still in control. He knows my days and Ephraim’s and that is that.

The reality is that if I had been patient in my endurance and waited for labor to come on naturally the baby probably would have been in the right position and labor much easier. I don’t know if that would have changed the umbilical cord thing and I never will. It doesn’t matter at this point. The allegory that see in all of this is my professed plan at odds with my own impatience. This resulted in me trying to control the outcome because I didn’t trust my body to do it on its own. How much is that a reflection of how I handle other situations in my life. I say I trust the plans God has for me, that they are for my good. His intentions are to bless and not to harm … but do I live like I really believe that? Depends on the day honestly. Sometimes yes and others, no. It is in these times that things get the messiest for me. I tend to put my grubby paws on the wheel and control things myself. Thats bad enough, but it also opens a door for the enemy to ramp it up. Like pitocin, it takes the trial I am in and intensifies it beyond what I can do for myself. Praise God, He makes a way of escape for me and saves the day. He delivers me from the enemy and from myself, sets my feet on the rock.

 

Whose “View” is it anyway?

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We begin our days around here pretty much the same day in say out. Ephraim wakes and that is Mommy and Daddy’s new alarm clock. I get up, go in and nurse and then feed him some cereal. After that, while Michael and I have our breakfast, E plays in the bed with us and then has some quality time with his Papa before Michael leaves the house for work. We follow the same pattern most everyday, but this one was an exception and thats got me thinking …

Ephraim slept until 9:00 am this morning which is awesome, but abnormal. Usually he wakes by 7:30 at the latest. I got up nursed and Michael changed his diaper while I got his cereal ready. Michael and I have decided (along with several in our church) to fast on Wednesdays so that meant no breakfast in bed for either of us this morning. Besides that, it was so late that Daddy had to work right after the diaper change. I fed E his cereal, took him into our room and got some coffee. We played, watched Clifford and by 10:00 he was rubbing his eyes and ready for a nap. I put him down and climbed back in bed to finish my coffee and watch a little TV. Nothing was one except “The View”.

I don’t frequent this show, for reasons I think are probably obvious, however, it is entertaining from time to time. This morning the ladies were discussing the government “bail-out” of AIG and other banks. They were asking questions like, “Why is welfare when they help people, but a bail out when its a corporation?” and stuff like that. Then they began to discuss all the possible ramifications and worse case scenarios that actions such as these by the government can lead to. I felt a mixture of intrigue and fear begin to grip my heart. 

Now I will cop to the fact that since having a child I have become much less informed about current events that in my previous life. Unlike most people, I actually enjoy the news and newspaper. I think it is a through back to seventh grade history when we had to bring a current event every Friday and discuss infront of the whole class. I have not had an opportunity to “read up” on the latest economic crisis facing our country so I had to let Whoopi and the gals educate me this morning (read that with a lot of sarcasm). Let me just say that while everything they said could possibly happen, it all sounded like a lot of doomsday prophecy to me. Joy Behar mentioned that she had called her accountant to make sure that all of her millions were invested in FDIC insured banks. Sherry Shephard said she actually went to her bank to verify that it was also FDIC and they assured her she would be fine because her account had less that $100,000 in it anyway. (And these women are supposed to be ones that the average American female can identify with???) Whoopi spoke of a man interviewed by the media that had lost $20 million in the bail out and had no idea what would become of him. She said she did, “You gotta get a job, just like anyone else.” Barbara Walters started using terms like “a run on banks” that most of us have not heard since studying the Great Depression at some point during our education.

As I watched this I felt the gentle call of the Holy Spirit to turn it off and remember a word that He had given me months ago that I shared at church. Here is the deal, there is truth and then there is TRUTH. I can’t dispute anything these women were saying because it is all within the realm of possibilty, plausibilty and worse case scenario. However, there is nothing new under the sun and situations such as these go back to the foundations of time. We can read in any given chapter of the Bible about hard times befalling a nation, a city, and a people. Some of this was direct prophetic revelation from God. Other times it was the voice of the enemy intent on speaking fear and hopelessness to a generation. Many times it was both and the question was “Who are you going to listen to?” Think Job.

What I feel the Lord saying is that there is a way that man thinks is right, but that leads to death. Now this could mean literal death, but it can also lead to other deaths. Deaths of hopes, dreams, promises and vision. Remember, He said His people perished because they had a lack of vision. Vision meaning the ability to see where they were headed through the Spirit of God, a.k.a prophetic revelation. We live in a time, unfortunately, where we will seldom turn on the news and hear anything good about our futures. If it isn’t the economy, it is the environment or lack of health care or cancer or ______________ (fill in the blank). The doomsday prophets are everywhere and we have to make a choice about whose “view” or vision we are going to listen to. 

Joseph, son of Israel, faced the same predicament. As pharoah’s captive he operated in his God given ability to interpret dreams and this brought him favor and freedom from captivity. When asked to interpret one of pharoah’s dark and gloomy dreams, Joseph listened to the voice of the Lord. Rather than saying, “Well, famine is coming! Certain death is upon us” He tuned into what God was really saying. “Yes, hard times are upon us, but I will make a way for your preservation.” The nation instituted a means of storing up grain and goods that would sustain them through the crisis. This also enabled Joseph to reconcile and forgive his own family with whom he had been estranged.

We serve a great and mighty God who is ready and able to dispense vision beyond the evening news. The Word assures us that in this life we will face struggles and difficulties. You can stop reading there if you so choose. You will reap the fruit of that though. God promises his people a means of escape and also abundant life. We have to choose to hear the voice of the Lord during these times and remember the vision He has given us for our families. 

The Church is on the presipice of something great and restorative. We have wandered in the wilderness and reached the Jordan with the promises of God within our grasp. We must choose His View over our own and begin to act accordingly. He is for us, not against us …but above all He is “I am” and that is all we need.