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Friday, February 26, 2010

Ransom's Story, Part 3... and the Beginning of Aspen's Story

Do Everything Without Complaining.


This has been the theme of this pregnancy thus far, and really, of my parenting with Ephraim since my loss. The most tragic event of my life has ironically been one of the very best experiences of my life, and the consequences of that are still reverberating daily. It's funny, and kind of sad how losing a child gives you such a major change in perspective on the child or children who are there with you. If the hardest, most horrible experience in my life was used for good, doesn't it stand to reason that the less hard situations of life can also be used for my good? I think about this all the time. Don't get me wrong. I definitely still fall into the complaining trap, but when I catch myself doing it, it almost makes me sick to my stomach. For heavens sake, I would "suffer through" a million diaper accidents, painful labors, sleepless nights, and other inconveniences if it meant that I were able to have the little one that I lost. The reality is, though, if I hadn't lost him, I'd be complaining about every single one of those things. I'd be complaining about them with Ephraim. I'd be complaining about the pregnancy aches and pains with the little one currently growing inside me. I'd surely complain about all the struggles of new baby life once she arrived. I just don't want to do that.

I look back on my first few months with Ephraim and see how much joy was stolen from me, or how much I willingly gave up. I had a horribly painful infection that made nursing a complete nightmare. The pain of nursing would be horrific during feedings and then last between them even. That pain couldn't necessarily have been any different, but boy, could my attitude have been different in regard to it. Ransom's labor was this crazy experience in my life that taught me how God can LITERALLY bear our burdens for us, carry our pain, and hold us through our struggles if we will let him. It DOES apply to the everyday. It does apply to parenting. I've seen that. I've experienced it. During those painful nursing sessions, I wish I'd had the insight to say, "Ok God, what are you trying to show me through this? How can I rely on You? How can you grow me and teach me and make me more like You?" Instead, I don't really ever remember thinking about God in relation to my nursing struggles. I might have thought, "God, why did you let this happen to me?" but that was the extent of it.

My favorite, favorite, favorite parenting book is called "Sacred Parenting." (By the way, it's written by Gary Thomas, and he is also the author of my favorite marriage book. ALL his books are excellent.) Anyway, "Sacred Parenting" doesn't necessarily give practical parenting tips or suggestions, as most parenting books do. It is based on the theme that "parenting is a school for spiritual formation - and our children are our teachers." Yikes. I don't know why this thought didn't cross my mind much more often. Being a parent is not just about training our kids, it's about God training us. There is no role in life more sacrificial than a parent's role. There are few things more challenging than going from the season of carefree childlessness to sacrificial love. John 15:13 says, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Replace friends with children, and you get my point. "Laying down our lives" isn't just a one-time simple act on behalf of our children, though. That's almost too easy. It would be reflexive. If a car were coming toward my son, I would immediately, and naturally, throw myself in harm's way to get my child out of it......... but, here's the tougher question. If my child's needs constantly and consistently inconvenience my life, am I willing to "lay down my life" on their behalf? Am I even considering it to be a spiritual choice?

I probably belong in some foreign country, because most of the parenting choices that God has led me to are much more in line with the rest of the world, not America. America is a pretty self-centered, me-first kind of place. That's how we live. That's how we parent. That's how I parented, a lot of the time, until God changed my heart and started to show me how He parented me.

Anyway, I give you all permission to hold me accountable to the pregnancy and parenting without complaints commitment that I've made. And, don't take this personally if you've been complaining a lot... it's a commitment that I've made, not a commitment that I expect everyone else to make. :) On the other hand, if it challenges you and is for your good, examine it. Pray about it. Make a choice. I can certainly use other people on this journey with me.

Much Love,
Jennifer

P.S. - Note about our ultrasound experience coming soon.

I CHOOSE OPTION 2

Thursday was our big day. Ultrasound day. With Ransom, it was at this ultrasound (the one where they are able to tell you the sex) that we found out he had gone to be with Jesus.

The first several weeks of this pregnancy I had nothing but confidence about this baby. I knew without a doubt that she was a girl, that she was healthy, and that everything was going to "work out." (I hate that phrase. Things ALWAYS work out. They even "worked out" with the child that died. I digress.)

Anyway, on July 13, 2009, I dreamt that Aspen died. It was the first hard day of this pregnancy. I'm going to paste an email that I sent to a few people below.

"OK, so far this pregnancy I have had a great deal of peace, and it’s really been a joyous time.

Well, last night I dreamt that Aspen died. It does feel somewhat crazy of me to be putting so much stock in dreams these days, but it is also really difficult not to do so.

I debated about even telling Quincy, because he’s had many more hard days this pregnancy than easy ones. I think it’s just that when Ransom died, the Lord showed me Aspen and not him. So, I get a slightly greater degree of peace than he does. I told him though. He asked me if it made me afraid. Of course, it did. He reminded me that the Lord does not give a spirit of fear, and was just encouraging me that the dream was not from the Lord. Anyway, I also read “My Utmost” for today, which didn’t help so much.

July 13th.
THE PRICE OF VISION
"In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord." Isaiah 6:1
Our soul's history with God is frequently the history of the "passing of the hero." Over and over again God has to remove our friends in order to bring Himself in their place, and that is where we faint and fail and get discouraged. Take it personally: In the year that the one who stood to me for all that God was, died - I gave up everything? I became ill? I got disheartened? or - I saw the Lord?
My vision of God depends upon the state of my character. Character determines revelation. Before I can say "I saw also the Lord," there must be something corresponding to God in my character. Until I am born again and begin to see the Kingdom of God , I see along the line of my prejudices only; I need the surgical operation of external events and an internal purification.
It must be God first, God second, and God third, until the life is faced steadily with God and no one else is of any account whatever. "In all the world there is none but thee, my God, there is none but thee." Keep paying the price. Let God see that you are willing to live up to the vision."

I know that I know that I know, that when Ransom died, I saw the Lord. It was more intimate than I’d ever seen. So, I continued on my path of fear and yuck.

When I had the dream last night, I woke up in the middle of the night, and my first semi-coherent thoughts were, “I rebuke that. In the name of Jesus Christ, I rebuke that dream. You will not invade my dreams. You will not make me afraid. You will not steal my peace.” Then I prayed that if the dream was not from the Lord, that He would help me to forget it. I immediately began forgetting the “contents” of the dream. I can’t tell you now what happened, other than that I know she died. To me, that is confirmation that the dream was not from the Lord.

Despite all that, I’ve had a pretty funky morning, just feeling down and defeated about the situation.

I ended up going for a drive and listening to the song, “Healer.” I was thinking about all the controversy surrounding the song and how the guy who’d written it totally made up a story about an illness, etc. I was thinking how, despite that, God uses all things together for the good of those who are called according to His purpose. I was thinking how the people singing that song in his church were surely praying for his healing as they sang, and wondering if he got it. Was he healed of his true ailment? Did God give him freedom? Do those who prayed and sang realize that God understood and would apply those prayers to his true need? I then started thinking, “OK God. What is my true need? I need you to be my healer. Give me peace again. Show me.” I started crying and praising Him, and basically came to the point of saying, “Lord, Aspen is yours. If it is your will for her to be with You and not here on earth, I WANT you to have her.” That was probably the hardest statement I’ve ever made in my life… but it’s true. God gave me peace again in that recognition of releasing her to Him.

I was offered an ultrasound. I declined. One of the promises I made myself at the beginning of this pregnancy was that I would not start adding in more “things” to give me temporary or even false peace. I just feel like, once I start down that path, there is no turning back. With Ransom, we heard his heartbeat one week, and he was gone the next. I had someone else offer me a Doppler. I can’t imagine. I’d probably try to rig a way to keep it attached to my body at all times and definitely become neurotic in the process. Please pray that I can keep this promise to myself.

Pray that I can continue to enjoy this pregnancy and live with TRUE peace.

I’ve been watching LOTR today just to see that Gandalf “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” moment again and remind myself of my true identity, power, and the fact that I truly have nothing to fear.

I’m sure that our friends losing their baby a few days ago, along with a number of other things, have become my circumstantial challenges. I, however, am more than a conqueror. Please pray that I can continue to live in that place."

After I sent that email, Ephraim and I went to pick up Quincy. When we were in the car, we listened to the song, "Mighty to Save." My 2-year-old started belting out the words to this song! He had NEVER done that before. NEVER. I don't know if he's even heard the song more than once. Here is the chorus, if you aren't familiar with it. "Savior, He can move the mountains. My God is mighty to save. He is mighty to save. Forever, Author of Salvation. He rose and conquered the grave. Jesus conquered the grave." You can imagine the waterworks. Since that day, he hasn't stopped singing it.

So, that day was a turning point in this pregnancy. It was the real moment of stepping onto the battlefield.

Since then, I've had good moments and bad moments. I'd say I'm living in more victory than defeat. The days drawing nearer to the ultrasound were met with a bit of growing anxiety though. I asked one favor of my midwife, that she allow us to schedule our ultrasound right after seeing her. To be honest, if the baby's heartbeat wasn't there, I wanted her to be the one to tell us. She met and exceeded that favor. The ultrasound technician would be the same person who told us Ephraim was a boy, and that Ransom had died. The look on her face at Ransom's ultrasound was etched so firmly in my mind, there was a part of me that was not looking forward to seeing her at all.

At the ultrasound appointment, I was relieved to see her when she walked into the waiting room. Her hair looked much blonder than I remembered, and she looked thinner. I don't know why that was such a relief to me, but it was. It was like she was different, so things were different. The fearful part of me was still concerned, though I knew my baby's heart was beating, that something could be wrong with her. Maybe she had the cystic hygroma that Ransom had, but it had not yet killed her. I laid on the table and we began. She knew our history and, though I think she was trying to be sensitive, I wouldn't say her bedside is her biggest asset. She spoke mostly in medical terminology, never really saying, "Everything looks good. Your baby is just fine." At one point, she actually said, "This isn't my favorite 4-ventricle heart." What? What does that mean? What she meant was that the baby was moving around so much, it was difficult for her to get the right view of the heart, not that anything was wrong with it. Our baby is indeed, just fine. All the parts are there and working. We have some pictures that I will upload later.

We decided in advance not to have her tell us the sex. We just want to believe what we feel the Lord has already told us. So, she didn't divulge the secret. (We still believe she's a girl.)

Later that day, we went to Babies R Us and registered for her. It was fun and a life-affirming thing.

I realized, prior to the appointment, I had scheduled nothing for the days following. My subconscious fearfulness told me to keep things open, because the hammer just might fall. Once I realized it, I scheduled a whole bunch of things. I don't want to live in fear.

I am very relieved to be past this "landmark" in this pregnancy. If the entire pregnancy is a going to be a spiritual battle, I feel like I've won the first part. I didn't back down, freak out, or lose hope. I had moments of fear, but was quickly reminded that the Lord doesn't give me a spirit of fear. And honestly, what is the worst thing that could happen? My baby could die. I survived that once. It was beautiful, miraculous, and God changed me through it. If that's the path He's chosen for me again, I am confident that my Father knows best. My baby is His. Even if I hold her in my arms, she's His. All you parents out there know that, despite all our best efforts, we cannot keep our children from all harm. Should we live in fear of that? Or should we live confident in the One who truly holds our little ones in His hands?

I choose option 2.


ONE YEAR AGO

One year ago today, we learned that our second son, Ransom Everett, had gone to be with Jesus. It was probably the hardest day of my life. If you've read the whole story, you know how God drew near to us and carried us through that day, the subsequent days, and his beautiful labor and delivery on November 25th.

It is kind of surreal that a year has passed since that day. In those moments, I couldn't even imagine the next hour, much less the next year, but here I am. One year later. I'm 33 weeks pregnant with our next little one, the child I believe God promised us after the sacrifice we gave Him. I've survived a year. I haven't quite finished a subsequent pregnancy though, and that still holds some mixed emotion for me. The major lesson and help that Ransom's life and loss has been to this pregnancy is just not to be afraid. I truly have nothing to fear. Even if, God forbid, I were to lose this baby as well, I know now that I would survive. I am more than a conqueror, really. Not just in word, in practice. As believers, we all are. What an empowering thought that is to me today.

As this November began, I started to again feel the weight of sadness of our loss. I had a couple weeks of missing my son. I knew it was the one year anniversary drawing near. God lifted me out of that place very quickly though. What a beautiful and amazing life my son had! I am not sad for him. He is so much better off. And, on top of that, God gave us another child that would not even be here if we hadn't lost Ransom. What a blessing this little one is and will continue to be. This month, I definitely felt the attacks and temptation to be overwhelmed with despair, though. Here are the practical things that happened.

We had 2 cars. A Ford Explorer and a Jeep Grand Cherokee with a broken air conditioner. Quincy has always done our car repairs and I am SO thankful that God blessed me with a husband with tremendous mechanical ability. Our Explorer had an issue. Quincy fixed it... or so we thought. It died. We ended up having to get it towed to a mechanic, as the damage was beyond Quincy's tool availability and time. It needed a new engine. Um. Ok. Sure. We'll get right on that. NOT. Now, let me tell you what God did. Three weeks before the death of this car, my dad noticed that a neighbor was selling a minivan. He felt like God wanted him to buy that minivan for us, but he wasn't totally sure. He just started praying. The day that Quincy thought he'd fixed the Explorer, my dad asked to meet with him. He told Quincy what he felt like God was leading him to do. Quincy said he'd pray about it and discuss it with me, and basically told my dad to do whatever God told him to do. Some of you know that I made a commitment at the beginning of 2009 to get back to our roots and not use that credit card again. That was the specific commitment. The heart behind it was not to go any further into debt at all. We don't do car payments. The choices before us were driving the 1 broken air conditioning car, which we would do, or God's miraculous intervention. God intervened. My parents hugely blessed us with a beautiful new minivan, with plenty of room for our expanding family. Every time we get in the car, we thank God for this blessing and for the great blessing my parents have been to us.

In the meantime, our dishwasher broke. Yay. Another temptation to freak out. I can definitely live without a dishwasher though, although it isn't my preference. My husband fixed it within 2 days. Praise God!

I should add that, because of my commitment, I have been faithfully buying Christmas presents all year. Not because I "have" to, but because I want to. One of my favorite things about Christmas is buying gifts for people that they will truly appreciate. I like to spend time and think it over. I like to get things for people that they would actually want. I do not like the holiday rush just to get any old thing to meet a quota. I finished my Christmas shopping in October, and was so happy we wouldn't feel the financial crush of Thanksgiving and Christmas, like we have in years past, and be sorely tempted by that credit card again. The continuous breaking of things was not a predicted result of being prepared for the holiday season, but at least we aren't feeling that PLUS the pressure to purchase a bunch of gifts! :)

Next up, the dryer broke. This one is still unrepaired. Quincy started to work on it a couple nights ago and almost electrocuted himself, so he took a break. :) I have confidence that God will either give him the ability and help to fix that thing, provide miraculously for us again (as that dryer and washer was a gift to us when I was pregnant with Ephraim, because our last set died then), or teach us how to be content with less.

What's next? I don't know. It doesn't really matter. In the whole scheme of things, these are just minor bumps in the road. Little inconveniences. Losing my little boy helped me to get some major perspective on those things, not just in understanding, but in experience. I promise you, I used to really freak out about this sort of thing. I'd be upset and stressed. Instead, Quincy and I both have just been at peace. It's ok. Whatever's in front of us, we'll choose to say "hallelujah." :) So my dryer's broken? Guess what, I still get to have this wonderful, amazing day with my genius 2-year-old son, the wee one kicking me in the belly, and the husband that I love dearly. Do I really want the joy of that day stolen by a DRYER???? No. I don't. It isn't worth it.

So, God has provided for us once again. He comes through. We made a financial commitment to Him at the beginning of 2009, have not taken on a dime of additional debt, and have, thus far, ended up with a new, paid-for vehicle, and guess what else? Someone anonymously paid our bill to our midwife.... essentially free medical care. God comes through. I'm telling you, He comes through. I'm living prrof. I know He has used His people to bless us several times over this year, and for that, I am so grateful. Thank you to those of you who anonymously provided for us. Thank you Dad & Mom. Thank you to those of us who have prayed and lifted us up. What a crazy, amazing year.

Thank you, Ransom, for spending 17 weeks with us. Thank You, Jesus, for the gift you gave us through him.... for the gifts you continue to give us through his life and loss... for the peace and perspective. Thank You for loving us.

LABOR, BIRTH, AND GENDER REASSURANCE

I will officially be "in the window" on Thursday and thought it would be a good idea to seek prayer for certain things and offer reassurance for others. :)

Labor. I basically cry every time I really think about it. Not a bad cry. God used Ransom's labor to really open my eyes to this whole other world... what labor COULD be. Words just can't describe what happened that day. God drew near. That's the best explanation I can give. There was pain, but I wasn't really feeling it. It was incredible. Don't get me wrong. There is certainly still that corner of my mind that remembers all too well that labor hurts. I'm trying not to feed that monster, though. I don't want that to be my focus. I just want God to show up. That's all. My "birth plan" this time looks something like this.

BIRTH PLAN
1. Do whatever God leads us to do.

That's it. For that reason, I have no idea who will or won't be in attendance. At this point, I feel pretty guarded about the whole thing and am only comfortable with my husband, and Sharon (midwife extraordinaire), of course. I don't want to feel distracted by others... but... I don't know that I would be distracted by others. If God did lead me to call others, I'm pretty confident that they wouldn't be a distraction to me. So, be aware. Should I randomly call you at a strange hour and invite you to my birth, it is because I felt like God wanted me to do so. If you can come, great. If not, perhaps my calling you was all God wanted. Please don't be offended if I've been to your births but you are not in attendance at mine. This is a healing, full circle, kind of unusual situation. It is nothing personal. Just really focusing on the God thing.

Gender. I know that there are those of you who are concerned about us, should this baby NOT be a girl. I just want to address that. First, God allowed me to have a dream that has given me hope. In that dream, this baby was dressed in pink, so I suppose even a boy whose mom has made tons of pink clothes could be dressed in pink. At the time of the dream, I took it as indication that she would be a girl. We have both worked to hold on to the crazy faith and hope that makes no sense to most people. Seriously, I'm so thankful that God didn't ask me to spend a zillion years building an ark. I feel crazy enough just believing I'm having a girl. hahah :) Anyway, I just wanted to let you know, if this baby should be a boy, we would rejoice. We would be so thankful for another boy. We would praise God for him. It would take us a couple days to figure out his name. I would pack away Aspen's goodies for a later date. We'd pull out Ephraim's hand-me-downs and things would be just fine. I personally, have a preference for more boys than girls anyway. :) That does not mean that I think this baby is a boy. I don't. I still believe it's a girl. I just wanted to reassure those of you who love us and are concerned about us. Thank you for your love. Just affirm and feed our faith for now. If we're wrong, it won't be the first time, and we can deal with that later. :)

So, here are the things that you can pray for.

Pray that I can focus on God more than fear or pain.

Pray that God would draw near to us again.

Pray for our health and safety.

Pray that God prepares us to be parents of a newborn again.

Pray that God prepares Ephraim to be a big brother.

Pray for whatever else God leads you to pray for. He knows the future better than me! ;)

Love you folks! Thanks for lovin' me back.

COMINGS AND GOINGS

It’s taken us quite a long time to settle on Aspen’s middle name, but as of a couple days ago, our decision became clear. Quincy’s Grannie, Elzie Wainwright, was moved from at-home care to Community Hospice. She will soon be going home to be with Jesus, and our little Aspen will take Grannie’s name as her middle name. She will be Aspen Elzie.

I think it is so sweet of the Lord to work out little blessings like these in our life. He will take someone home and give a new life to the same family all in a short window of time. God never leaves us without hope. When I was pregnant with Ephraim, Grannie’s husband, Papa (Allan Wainwright) passed away. I remember being pretty pregnant at that funeral and although everyone was sad that Papa was no longer with them, they all smiled at me and at my belly. Papa’s legacy would go on.

Though Quincy and I have been married 7 years, I never really got to know Grannie. She has been sick and suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia to some degree, the entire course of our marriage. She’s never really remembered me, but now that we’ve decided to give her name to our little one, I asked Quincy today to tell me about his memories of Grannie, about her life, and about her love for the Lord. It is funny because Quincy is the youngest of the Wainwright grandchildren, so I’m sure that his cousins’ memories are a bit longer. I am the oldest of the grandchildren in my family, so it didn’t occur to me until today how much more I do and will remember of my own grandparents than my cousins. With that said, if any Wainwright cousins (or aunts, for that matter!) happen to read this and want to share, feel free.

I will preface this by saying this is Quincy’s understanding and perspective of Grannie’s life. I’m sure lots of details are muddied, but the important things, I think, will stand out.

Grannie grew up in the Middleburg/Penney Farms area. She had a stepsister named Elsie, which must have been terribly confusing at times. Quincy really didn’t know details about her childhood or family life, but I think he’ll soon ask. We do know that the first time Papa went to pick up Grannie for a date, Grannie’s mom was standing on the front porch with a shotgun. Hahah The good old days!

Grannie was really feisty, vivacious, and funny. I’ve always heard to avoid a game of cards (or anything else for that matter) with Grannie, because she liked to win, and she would cheat! If things went missing or pranks were pulled, Grannie was likely the culprit. Sounds like a fun lady to me.

Grannie was also very crafty. You know, of course, this speaks straight to my heart. I have already inherited an ENORMOUS amount of crafting items from Grannie’s craft room… sewing notions, fabrics, zippers, trash bags full of yarn. In fact, all the hats that I’ve made for Aspen have been crafted from Grannie’s yarn. I told Quincy that when I was going through a lot of the items, I felt like I could decorate the walls of a Cracker Barrel. I have spools of yarn that were sold for 15 cents, for heaven’s sake! She made rugs, sewed clothing, did lots of crocheting, and painted ceramics. She obviously loved to be creative, and I hope that my little one will feel the same.

Quincy told me he remembered playing Tiddlywinks with Grannie at the kitchen table. He remembered going fishing with her often. He remembered that she often read him books, including a family favorite, “Ookpik the Owl.” Quincy even has a toy Ookpik that Grannie gave him long ago. He remembered that she and Papa always had a garden. She was a canning queen. He remembered eating some potted peppers on Grannie’s porch, that he was always warned not to eat. He believes his sister instigated this transgression.

Most importantly though, he remembered that Grannie made him feel important. He started to cry when he was telling me this. He said that it might sound silly, but his Grannie always made him feel loved. She gave him her full attention. She played and interacted with him on his level. When Quincy was with his Grannie, he felt valued. Oh that my children would know and feel as important as Grannie made my husband feel. What a convicting statement. I can’t help but think of all the times I push my firstborn aside because I have other things to do, or fail to engage him fully, but man, when my time comes, if my son can say to his wife, “You know, my mom always made me feel important,” I would be very glad.

Grannie and Papa traveled A LOT. They spent months on the road together, first in a conversion van, and later in an RV. They certainly must have been great companions and friends, to desire and enjoy each other’s company to such a degree. When I tell people that my husband works at home and that I am at home also, I often get the response, “We would kill each other! I couldn’t handle that.” Well, I want a Grannie & Papa type marriage. Right now, we have it. There’s no one I’d rather be with than my husband. I hope that remains true for as many years as Grannie and Papa were married.

Quincy and I were married on Grannie & Papa’s 60th wedding anniversary, on May 3, 2002. Papa died about 3 years ago, so we figure they must have been married about 65 years at that point. That fact, in and of itself, should tell you a lot about the kind of woman Grannie was. Quincy felt as though Grannie was a godly wife, who let her husband be the spiritual leader in their home. This was always his perspective of their marriage.

Over the past several years, when Grannie was ill, she spent most of her time in bed. These are my only and Quincy’s most recent memories of Grannie. One of the things he pointed out was that she always said to him, any time he visited her, that she didn’t understand why things were the way they were, but she knew God was taking care of her. Can you imagine being sick and bedridden for years of your life, and faithfully trusting that God knew what He was doing? That’s faith. It speaks a great deal to her character to know that, despite the constancy of her struggles, she continued to rely on and hold fast to the Lord. She has definitely passed on this quiet perseverance and trust in the Lord to her family. I hope my little one will reap the benefits of this part of her legacy as well.

The day that Papa died was a huge shock to the entire family. He was out tilling his garden. He had been Grannie’s caretaker for several years at that point. Everyone expected that Grannie would go first. The Lord had a different plan, though. Quincy wept as he remembered that day. He said he remembered his mom and Uncle Benny going outside to talk with someone. He was alone in a room with Grannie. He said he was just holding her hand and that he had absolutely no idea what to say to her. Her companion of 65 years had just passed away, her best friend, her caretaker, and the one with whom God had knit her heart. Again, she didn’t understand, but she trusted that God knew what was best. Constant faithful perseverance.

Right now, Grannie is very close to joining Jesus, Papa, and our little Ransom. Isn’t it interesting that if we hadn’t lost Ransom, we wouldn’t be about to bring life into the world at this moment, when Grannie is about to leave us? God certainly sees the entire tapestry of our lives and knows exactly how to weave the pains and the joys together for a much more beautiful picture than we could ever come up with on our own. Grannie is laying in a bed in Hospice, with morphine keeping her pain levels down as much as possible, and I pray that she will soon be released from her earthly body. I pray that she knows her life of faith will live on in her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

So, if the Lord needs Aspen to enter at the same time Grannie leaves, it will certainly be worth the wait. What a blessing it will be to have a brand new great grandbaby at Grannie’s memorial service, and one who will bear her name. What a blessing Grannie has been to me, by contributing so much to the mother of the man I love, and to the man I love himself. Quincy would not be who he is if it weren’t for Grannie. I hope that our children and grandchildren will gain as much value and faith from us as Grannie imparted to hers.


A PROMISE FULFILLED – THE BIRTH OF ASPEN ELZIE

God is so amazing. I’m constantly in awe of His perfect timing for all things. I admit I was struggling to be patient for the arrival of this little girl, but yet again, He showed me that His timing is best.

Aspen’s due date was January 7, 2010. The day came and went. Ephraim had been born on his due date, so I did not expect to go past this one. God knew better. I was able to be reminded to enjoy every minute with my baby girl, whether she was inside or outside the womb. I was gently redirected to praise Him while I waited. I had been having contractions on and off for several weeks, so I was frequently wondering, “Is this it? Is it the real thing?” It gave me several opportunities to pray for preparation and increased patience.

On the morning of January 12, 2010, I woke up and told Quincy that we all needed to go see Grannie at Hospice. He had already gone to see her by himself and tell her goodbye, but I really felt like the Lord was prompting us all to go, to let her “see the baby in my belly,” and to tell her goodbye. We went and did just that. When one of the nurses came in the room, she asked when I was due. I told her I was 5 days overdue, and she immediately replied, “Oh, they are waiting on each other. I know some people might think I’m crazy when I say things like that, but I’ve worked at Hospice long enough to know that things like that happen all the time.” I told her I didn’t think she was crazy at all, and that I felt exactly the same way. When we were leaving, I felt confident that Grannie would soon go be with Jesus and that Aspen would soon come be with us.

That night, January 12, 2010, our family joined the Fosters and the Warners for a Tied Together shoe sorting party. We found out that several families were in need after the fire at a Chets Creek apartment complex and spent the evening working to provide their footwear needs. During this time, I had about 5 contractions. They were about a half an hour apart, so I wasn’t sure it was the real thing, though they were more intense. Is it a coincidence that my labor would begin at a Tied Together shoe sorting, the ministry that was born and grew, in many ways, out of little Ransom’s life and death? Is it a coincidence that, after Ransom’s death, God showed me through a dream, the exact little girl that I hold in my arms now? My God is not a God of coincidence.

I went home and contractions continued. They became a bit more regular, so I called Sharon to give her a heads up and started baking a cake! I also called my mom to come watch Ephraim, because it was getting late and he needed a slumber party friend so that we wouldn’t have to worry about him.

The contractions quickly progressed to every 5 minutes, but they were still very manageable. During this time, I was sitting on the ball or on our bed, listening to worship music. Quincy was with me most of the time, and also trying to get the birth tub filled and all the other things prepared for labor. As I was listening to music, praying, and having contractions, I was remembering my dream about this little baby. I was remembering that she was a big girl with little bits of dark brown hair. I had seen her. I cried and cried thinking about how God did not have to show me this baby or give me any sort of promise after Ransom’s death, but He had done it anyway. I was overwhelmed with my own unworthiness. I told Quincy how it felt easier to deal with contractions for a baby that I already knew. It was quite humbling.

Sharon arrived and we sat around discussing life. At around 3 a.m., we had been sharing what we’d learned of Grannie’s life with Sharon. We later found out that this was around the time that Grannie went to be with Jesus.

Not longer after, I decided to get into the birth tub. Contractions continued, but remained very manageable. At some point, I felt “pushy.” This labor felt very different than Ephraim’s had. He was posterior and a full 2 pounds lighter, so it is really difficult to compare the two. I suppose that her size and position allowed me to feel the coming down a little more acutely than I had with Ephraim. To be honest, I felt like I was pushing with every contraction from 5 cm on. I did not notice a real delineation between the two types of contractions. Anyway, Sharon checked me and I was only at 5 cm. It was not time to push.

After 4 ½ hours in the tub, things seemed to be stalling. I had slept between lots of contractions and was really exhausted. We all were. Sharon suggested that I go sit on the potty and try to be out of the tub for awhile. I did. The contractions immediately picked up. After some time in the bathroom, I laid in my bed with Quincy. Contractions became intense. Enter the “Jesus-prayer-for-mercy-labor-mode.”

Those of you who know me know that I am not typically an outwardly emotional person. There are a variety of reasons for this, but I think it really boils down to pride and/or insecurity. I’m convinced that God uses labor in my life to humble me and break through that tough exterior. I am a vocal birther. If you are there, you know exactly what I’m thinking and feeling, because I AM TELLING YOU. Actually, I’m mostly praying. Throughout these next contractions, I was praying a variety of things, like, “Jesus, help me. Jesus, rescue me. Jesus, let me push. Jesus, carry me, etc.” Also, I spent some time focusing on the “Jesus Jesus Jesus” prayer method.

Once we were all pretty convinced that labor had really picked up, Sharon wanted to check me. I was terrified. I told Quincy that I needed him to pray for me because I was afraid of being checked, afraid of where I would be at, etc. He prayed. He and Sharon both reassured me, telling me I had nothing to fear, and I remember agreeing with them and saying, “I know you’re right. I know you’re right.” She checked me and I was at 6 cm. I actually wasn’t disappointed though. I knew that whatever was about to happen, was about to happen fast. Things were intense. I was on the verge of complete panic, and I knew this was transition.

Sharon suggested I get back in the tub and back into a squatting position. I did. I remember looking at the clock when we left the bed to return to the tub. It was 10 am. I remember praying, “Lord, just let me be done before lunch.” Hahah

Wow. Things were intense in that tub. That squatting position really does its job, but it is painful. I was still vocal and praying throughout contractions, but my focus shifted slightly. I was fighting really hard to praise God through these contractions. I knew that I could praise God, but I was hurting. I was praying, “Jesus, help me praise You. I know You are good. I know this is what’s best. Help me.” I’m not sure of the exact timing, but about 30 minutes later, I was complete. Again, I really felt like I was pushing since I had been at 5 cm, but pushing began in earnest at around that time. I had been moaning, grunting, and making all the primal sounds of birth, but it only took 8 minutes to push her out! Her head was a full inch larger than Ephraim’s had been, and the pushing felt much more painful than it had with Ephraim (although a dulled memory is probably the real culprit for that). I know that, at one point, Sharon tried to get me to reach down and feel my baby. I thought I was going to completely fall over into the tub, so I refused.

When Aspen had come out, Sharon told me to reach down and get her. I did. As I pulled her out of the water, the only way I know how to describe the moment was being absolutely crushed by the weight of God’s glory. There she was. It was the baby in my dream. She was big, she was a girl, and she had little bits of dark hair. I wept. I don’t mean that I cried a sweet cry. I wept. It was the whole body heaving kind of cry. We had come full circle. The promise had been fulfilled. God did not have to show me this baby before her birth. He had done it. We had trusted Him that she would be a girl. We hadn’t had a backup plan. No “just-in-case” boy names. No purchasing of lots of gender-neutral items. We’d stepped out and believed Him…. And here she was. My baby girl, the promised child. Quincy cried with me. My mom and Ephraim came to see her. I know my mom was crying, but Ephraim was just excited. My mom said that when the two of them went back downstairs, he started picking out the toys that she could have. What a sweet big brother.

I am absolutely amazed and in awe of our God. The miracle of new life is overwhelming in itself, but to have this little miracle in this way is just crushing, in a good way. Why does the God of the universe love me so much? Who am I that He is mindful of me? I keep thinking of the lyric from Addison Road’s “What Do I Know of Holy” that says “Then I caught a glimpse of who You might be, the slightest hint of You brought me down to my knees.” I have such an infinitesimally tiny understanding of the King of Glory, and He peeled back a bit more of the veil to reveal His blinding light to me. I am astounded. To God be the glory, forever and ever.

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