It’s changed me – and I wouldn’t change a thing

June 11th, 2019

I once read an article about how the experience of infertility changes the experience of motherhood.

As a mother of two preemies, one “post-dates” baby, and three foster children (one at a time) – and as a woman who has now experienced miscarriage – I have to say that this too changes the experience of motherhood.

I thank God almost every day for each additional day each of my children got in the womb. For almost a month for Tirzah Mae after my blood pressure went high. For two additional weeks in the womb for Louis (compared to Tirzah Mae). For a staggering 8 additional weeks in the womb for Beth-Ellen (compared to Louis). I thank God for the things we could have experienced but didn’t in the NICU, for the things we could have experienced but didn’t regarding our children’s development.

And more and more, I thank God that I experienced two c-sections, that I have had rough pregnancies and rough postpartums, that I had children who didn’t sleep, that I have had to say goodbye to three children. Because each of those children have simultaneously been an evidence of grace (EOG) and an agent of sanctification (AOS).

I wouldn’t change a thing, even on the days when I’m singing my newest song:

(to the tune of “You are the Sunshine of My Life” by Stevie Wonder)

You are an agent of sanctification
God’s using you to make me holy
You are an agent of sanctification
God has put you in my life

And when I feel that I am. so. done.
I’m thanking God that he is no-o-o-ot

Preemies. Post-dates. C-sections. A vaginal delivery. Prolapse. Sleepless nights. Disrupted routines. Lots of young children. Saying goodbye when we’ve planned to say goodbye. Saying goodbye when we were hoping for a lifetime. None of these things are easy.

But easy isn’t how we learn to rely on God. Easy isn’t how we become like him.

Praise God that he hasn’t let me live the easy dream. He’s making me holy, teaching me to trust.

These things have absolutely changed my experience of motherhood. And though I’m crying even now thinking of the dreams we’ve lost, I’m crying too for the things we’ve gained. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Even when I am. so. done.

God is not.

You are my [fill-in-the-blank]

May 23rd, 2019

Once upon a time, I started singing “You are my sunshine” to my children while brushing their teeth.

Then someone pointed out the ridiculousness of telling each of my children that they were my “only” sunshine.

I started singing “My precious sunshine”.

But then someone else pointed out that they were not in fact sunshine.

I tried to explain how it was figurative language, but somehow all this child *cough*Tirzah Mae*cough* got was that I was singing falsehoods. She decided if I was going to sing falsehoods, I might as well sing falsehoods she liked. She requested that I sing that she was my baby.

You are my baby, my precious baby,
You make me happy when skies are gray
And when I think, dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my Tirzah Mae away

Other times, she insists that she’s not a baby but a mama. So I sing:

You’re Moses’s mama, precious Moses’s mama,
You make me happy when skies are gray
And when I think, dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take Moses’s mama away

Louis was eager to get in on the game – but unlike his sister, his selections are only consistent in their variedness.

So I might sing
“You are my dump-truck-carrying-a-large-load-of-dirt boy, my precious dump-truck-carrying-a-large-load-of-dirt boy…”

or maybe
“You are my green-tool-carrying, ant-killing boy, my precious green-tool-carrying, ant-killing boy…”

Frequently, his little hand pulls the toothbrush out of his mouth mid-brush to append an additional descriptor to his song.

“You are my dump-truck and orange water bottle boy who wears big boy underpants, my precious dump-truck-and-orange-water-bottle boy who wears big boy underpants…”

And so on and so forth.

Where are the pro-lifers now?

May 20th, 2019

Kansas’s foster care system has issues. Everyone agrees on that. Some think rapid staff turnover in agencies is the issue. Others think it’s a lack of foster homes. Some think it’s too much regulation. Others think it’s too little regulation. Some complain of a “cash for kids” incentive system that funnels kids into foster care even when there’s nothing serious going on at home. Others complain that the system leaves too many kids in bad homes.

Whatever the issue, foster care is in the news with relative frequency here – and since I’m interested in foster care, I have a bad habit of reading the Facebook comments on those news stories.

Mostly, the comments are filled with the theories I’ve listed above. DCF stinks. The contractors who do the day-to-day work stink. The agencies stink. The police stink. Foster parents stink. Families of origin stink. Everybody’s pointing fingers at everybody in the comment sections.

And then there’s always someone who asks: “Where are the pro-lifers now?”

Well, I can’t answer for all the prolifers, but I know where some of them are.

Quite a few of the prolifers I know are doing foster care. Others are adopting. Still others teach parenting classes for parents who didn’t plan to get pregnant and have no idea what to do next. Others fill “diaper pantries” for families in need. Some gather freezer meals for exhausted foster families or give them beds so they can care for more children.

Others work in the school system and quietly provide what is needed for the kids in their classes who don’t have adequate support at home. Some provide doula care for pregnant women (some of whom can pay and some who can not), helping families start off on the right foot with their newborns.

Many more pray fervently and give generously when they become aware of needs.

When it comes to foster care, what I haven’t seen many of the prolifers I know do is comment on news articles asking why someone else isn’t solving the problem. Instead, they’re quietly doing what they can to help make the lives of those around them better.

These prolifers inspire me.

They inspire me to leave the comment sections behind and do my little part in this big task of loving people.

Seasons of living and dying and living again

May 15th, 2019

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”

~Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (ESV)

My parents celebrate their 37th wedding anniversary today. Thirty-seven years of faithfulness to one another. Thirty-seven years of God’s faithfulness to them and to us.

We all mourn one year without my grandpa today. One year without being asked “What’s the best thing I ever did for you?” and one year without answering “You married Grandma!”

Tomorrow marks one month from when I started to miscarry. One month missing our baby. One month feeling a hole in our family where that baby had already been building his place. One month of explaining and re-explaining to my young son that no, mama doesn’t have a brother for him in her womb.

Our first peony

Today, my first ever peony bloomed.

Picture Book Reading Report (April 2019)

May 14th, 2019

Sometimes, you’ve just got to press publish on the post you’ve been building over the course of a month – even if you haven’t got time to edit it. So, please forgive any roughness – and enjoy this peek into our month of reading.


Asterisks represent books I recommend (3 stars or above).

Written by Dori Chaconas

  • Don’t Slam the Door, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
    Don’t slam the door, because if you do…it’ll wake the cat, who’ll set off a string of far-reaching implications. (Of course, someone slams the door!)
  • Mousie Love illustrated by Josee Masse
    A mouse falls desperately in love and keeps asking his love to marry him (only to interrupt her answer with something else he thinks he should do to be worthy of her. I thought this was terribly fun, but it was really over the kids’ heads.
  • *On a Wintry Morning illustrated by Stephen T. Johnson
    A sweet little daddy/child song that goes through a winter’s days activities. I sang the book to the tune of “Polly put the kettle on” and it worked quite nicely.
  • *Virginnie’s Hat illustrated by Holly Meade
    When Virginnie’s hat flies off into the swamp she just about encounters all sorts of scary animals. This is a fun look at perceived dangers versus real ones.

Written by Authors Last Name CHAL-CHAP

  • Mr. Frog Went A-Courting, written and illustrated by Gary Chalk
    Based on an old song (that I am unfamiliar with), the story of Mr. Frog is full of all the ridiculous twists and turns often found in folktales. Careful observation of the illustrations reveals a “hidden story”.
  • Pick a Pup, written by Marsha Wilson Chall, illustrated by Jed Henry
    How will Sam know which pup to pick? (Spoiler alert: Maybe it’s the pup who’ll pick him.)
  • Mario Chalmers’ ABCs of Basketball by Mario Chalmers and Almarie Chalmers, illustrated by Emmanuel Everett
    Part informational, part motivational – I just can’t get into the “believe in yourself and you can do anything” stuff (some kids, however hard they believe and even how hard they practice, will never play in the NBA.)
  • The Library Book by Tom Chapin and Michael Mark, illustrated by Chuck Groenink
    This was the lyrics to a song, rather a fun one, but one whose tune I don’t know. I tried singing it unsuccessfully. Perhaps if I could have seen the endpapers and tried picking it out on the piano… (Or, you know, I could have looked on Spotify – why didn’t I think of that until after I was returning it?

  • This was the lyrics to a song, rather a fun one, but one whose tune I don’t know. I tried singing it unsuccessfully. Perhaps if I could have seen the endpapers and tried picking it out on the piano… (Or, you know, I could have looked on Spotify – why didn’t I think of that until after I was returning it?
  • Me Too, Grandma written and illustrated by Jane Chapman
    A “jealous of the new baby” book except that little owl is jealous of how her baby cousin is taking Grandma’s attention. Cute illustrations, not my favorite genre.

Written and illustrated by Jared Chapman

  • Pirate, Viking, And Scientist
    A scientist is friends with a pirate and a viking – but when both come to his birthday party he discovers they’re NOT friends with each other. Time to experiment to see if he can get them to be friends with each other. Not bad.
  • T.Rex Time Machine
  • Ugly juvenile illustrations. Hard to read out loud. Not a fan.

Written by Authors Last Name CHAR-CHE?

  • The Selfish Crocodile, written by Faustin Charles and illustrated by Michael Terry
    The crocodile is selfish until he finds himself in terrible pain and someone helps him. Then it’s all sunshine and roses. A little too convenient an ending, I thought.
  • *Alphaboat written and illustrated by Michael Chesworth
    A rather silly, but very fun romp off to C, packed full of word play using the names of the letters of the alphabet. A sample: “f we go here, what will v z? Atop this hill – a lonely tree where blue J’s flutter up to rest upon their X, safe in the nest.”

Written and illustrated by Remy Charlip

  • Fortunately
    Very strange things keep happening to Ned, but fortunately… something stranger happens to save him from whatever disaster seemed so certain. This sounds like the sort of story an imaginative three year old might tell (rambling plot, no sense whatsoever, random strangeness everywhere…) I can’t like it.
  • Little Old Big Beard and Big Young Little Beard
    The eponymous characters are cowboys and best friends and lovers of beans. But then they lose their cow. This is an almost plotless book.
  • *A Perfect Day
    A simple book about what a perfect day might be – spending time together.
  • *Sleepytime Rhyme
    A mama sings how she loves everything about her baby. The rhyme can be a bit awkward in places, but it’s nice overall.

Books out of order

  • *Maisy Learns to Swim by Lucy Cousins
  • Simple description of beginner swimming lessons (which don’t involve any actual swimming). These “Maisy First Experiences Books” are a very nice way to introduce kids to common childhood experiences that might seem a little scary if they don’t know what to expect.

Books about Construction

  • *Little Excavator by Anna Dewdney
    Does this sound familiar? Yes, yes. I’ve only read it to Louis fifteen thousand times by now. Although really, if you have to read a book fifteen thousand times, this is a good choice.
  • *Mighty, Mighty Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
    Of course we read this again (and again and again). And then I returned it (because I have SO many other books to read.)

My baby beat me to it

May 13th, 2019

I remember being 9, maybe 10 years old, reading how Jacob wrestled with God, how he saw the face of God and lived (Genesis 32:30). I remember reading of how Moses spoke with God face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. I remember hearing the Aaronic blessing every week at the end of worship: “May the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you, may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” I remember getting to that part in the “Love Chapter” when Paul writes: “Now you see as in a mirror dimly, then you shall see face to face.” And I remember longing, longing for the face of God.

I remember swinging on the swings at the park while my mother and her fellow intercessors were interceding at the picnic tables a ways away. I remember pouring out my own soul in the unashamed earnestness of a rather emotional and completely socially-unaware preteen. “I want to see you, God! I want to see your face.”

My longing to see God’s face has only intensified as I’ve felt the weight of my sin, as I’ve felt how far I fall short of his image. Now, I read 1 John 3:2 and I long for the return of Christ, clinging to the promise that “when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”

Oh, for that day. Oh, for the day when I can leave off this body of corruption and see the face of God. Oh for the day when I will be conformed into his image.

Friends, my baby beat me to it.

The kids and I had been planning to go on a homeschool field trip the week I miscarried. I had to email the organizer and let her know that we wouldn’t be coming. She, a woman I’d never met, responded with what has been to me one of the most precious thoughts as I process our miscarriage:

“I read a quote somewhere to the effect that when a baby dies in the womb, the first face he or she ever sees is the face of Jesus. That has always been such a special thought for me, and I hope it is comforting to you as well!”

Friends, my baby beat me to it.

As much as I long for my baby to still be in my womb, as much as I long to know him on this earth, how can I begrudge my baby the one thing I desire most in all the world?

My baby sees the face of God.

All I Want for Mother’s Day

May 9th, 2019

Mother’s Day approaches, which means everyone and their mother is opining about what you should give your mother.

I was scrolling past headlines when I saw “What your mother really wants for Mother’s Day” – and I suddenly knew exactly what I want.

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
~3 John 4 (ESV)

This is what I want, but it’s not something my husband can get for me. It’s not something my children can make happen on their own.

This requires an act of God.

So instead of writing an article for the nearest mom’s blog (or sending a link to one of those articles to my husband), I’ll be lifting up my request to God, as I do each day.

Lord, let my children – my Tirzah Mae and my Louis, my Beth-Ellen and my sweet P, our precious C and darling J – let them walk in the truth. Grant that their affections would be stirred toward you, that they would desire relationship with you. Grant that they would see the desperate wickedness of their hearts and their utter helplessness to change themselves. Grant that they might fall upon the mercy of Christ and walk in the way of the One who is Truth.

And if you want to give me a Mother’s Day gift, join me in praying for these six God has given me (for short or for long), that they would walk in the truth.

Welcome to Grandma’s table

May 8th, 2019

Do you remember the clear vinyl your grandmother rolled out over the nice tablecloth during family gatherings?

I never thought much of it as a kid, of course; but when I was looking back to it from my teen years I was filled with all the disdain teens are known for.

“I’ll never cover my tablecloths,” I thought. “Let people spill on them. It’s only a tablecloth. It’ll wash. And if it doesn’t? It’s only a tablecloth.”

I’ve followed through, setting my table with my grandma’s tablecloths and some I’ve acquired along the way. My tablecloths have seen spaghetti spills, chili spills, grape juice spills (oh. so. many. grape juice spills during seders). I’ve happily reassured the spillers (and their parents) that it’s no problem at all – it’s only a tablecloth.

This spring, I saw a tablecloth at ALDI that was quite pretty and I impulse-bought it. I spread it across the table and I was in love.

You see, I love our table. I like how easy it is to get around the oval. It’s just the right size for six when it’s leafless – and the leaf allows me to seat ten (albeit a little tight). But our table desperately needs refinished.

Problem is, ain’t nobody got time for that.

The tablecloth kept all the magic of our table – without the reminder of yet another thing I don’t have time to do.

And then we ate lunch on it.

Folks, I have a four-year-old, a two-year-old, a one-year-old, and a ten-month-old. You know where this is going, right?

The tablecloth had to go in the washer right after lunch.

But I was in love with the tablecloth concept, so I pulled out another. I put placemats on top of the tablecloth for supper.

The tablecloth still had to go in the washer right after supper.

I swallowed hard, got on Amazon, and ordered myself a Grandma table protector.

My table with its grandma cover

A Dark Day

April 19th, 2019

Yesterday afternoon, my doctor gave me the news I’d been dreading.

I am miscarrying.

Our baby is dead.

I expected that. I started spotting on Tuesday and the bleeding and cramping has intensified over the last couple of days. The ultrasound and first blood test were inconclusive. We needed a second blood test for a trend. But my doctor and I both suspected what we would find.

Our baby is dead.

I grieve the loss of our fourth child. I grieve my children’s loss of a sibling. I grieve for baby hands I will never hold, for baby smiles I will never see.

But I do not grieve as those who have no hope.

I need not question whether or not God is for me.

His Son died.

That is answer enough. He is for me.

His Son rose.

That is answer enough. I have hope.

Please pray for us as we grieve.

Recipe: Mother Wilder’s Baked Beans

April 15th, 2019

Daniel had fond memories of his grandmother’s baked beans – but every time he had tried baked beans from a can or a restaurant, he was disappointed.

A wife has two options when faced with such a problem. She can see it as a challenge and set out to make some baked beans her husband will love – or she can assume she can never win and just opt to not make baked beans.

I chose the latter.

Until February of 2015 when I decided to cook my way through Farmer Boy for Barbara’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge.

Baked beans, cornbread, stir fry veggies, and peaches

I made baked beans using Mother Wilder’s technique – and Daniel liked them quite a lot.

Since then, with only a few modifications, I’ve been making them almost every month.


“In the pantry Mother was filling the six-quart pan with boiled beans, putting in onions and peppers and the piece of fat pork, and pouring scrolls of molasses over all. Then Almanzo saw her open the flour barrels. She flung rye flour and cornmeal into the big yellow crock, and stirred in milk and eggs and things, and poured the big baking-pan full of the yellow-gray rye’n’injun dough.

‘You fetch the rye’n’injun, Almanzo; don’t spill it,’ she said. She snatched up the pan of beans and Almanzo followed more slowly with the heavy pan of rye’n’injun. Father opened the big doors of the oven in the heater, and Mother slid the beans and the bread inside. They would slowly bake there, till Sunday dinner-time”


Ingredients:

  • Ham bone with some meat still on bone
  • 8 oz dry Great Northern beans or navy beans
  • Water
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 0.75 cups molasses
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 0.25 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke

Instructions:

  1. Stick ham bone and beans in crockpot. Cover with water and cook (on low or high, doesn’t matter which) until beans are soft (I usually start mine in the morning and let them cook on low until mid-afternoon – but you can do it on high in as little as four hours.)
  2. Beans, beans

  3. Remove beans from crockpot with slotted spoon. Place in a casserole (I use a 9″x9″ or 9″x13″ baking pan) along with onion, green pepper, and any ham you can pull from the bone and chop up (If I have extra, I sometimes add diced ham that didn’t get cooked with the beans.)
  4. Molasses plus garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and liquid smoke

  5. Mix together molasses, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and liquid smoke in a 1 cup liquid measure. Pour mixture over beans. Give one more good mix.
  6. Beans with onions and peppers and "scrolls of molasses"

  7. Bake at 350 (or 400 if that’s what your cornbread needs!) for 30-45 minutes or until just a bit crispy on top. Serve and enjoy!
  8. Baked beans, cornbread, and coleslaw