Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I am a day late, but given that Kellah is only 10 days old, I am going to play the "I just had a baby card," and hope you still read our Christmas letter :)

And to make me feel a little better, I did have this written a couple of days before Kellah was born, but I just haven't had a chance to actually send out the letter since her arrival -- it is kind of a busy time of year after all :)

Coralyn had a break down before we left for the Christmas Eve service so those family pictures didn't turn out all that great (though as Jeanne Hewitt said, we will look back 15 years from now and think Coralyn's pouty face is cute). Thankfully, she was in a much better mood after we got back from church. We were able to get a few good pictures, though with a toddler, a newborn, and a cat we never did get everyone's eyes open and looking at the camera at the same time :)

Looking Back and Pressing On

Paul says in Philippians we are supposed to forget what lies behind us and press on towards the goal ahead of us. However, I think writing a Christmas letter allows for an exception. Looking back through the year’s memories actually provides you with the opportunity to remember all that God has done, how He has faithfully provided for you, protected you, and guided you every step of the way. Knowing God was so faithful and good this past year is certainly necessary as I look ahead at the year to come. I will certainly need those memories to keep me going as I press on and continue to run with endurance the race that God is setting before us in 2012.

This past year has seemed like the roller coaster ride of a lifetime. We have experienced emotional highs and lows we never imagined possible. We have zigged and zagged and zoomed our way through sharp turns, steep drops, and dark tunnels. We have twisted and turned, and even looped completely upside down several times, but somehow we have managed to always end right side up and stay on track. God certainly knows how to make following Him an adventure!

Last December we were devastated when we miscarried right before Christmas. Our loss was great and our pain was deep. Yet, we found comfort in the support of our family and friends. Through our tears, we were able to see that many other people are hurting all around us. We decided to do our best to share the strength and peace and hope we found in Jesus with these individuals, as God brought them to our attention.

In January, I ran my first 10K, the Groundhog Run which supports the Therapeutic Learning Center for Children here in Kansas City. The race was completely underground so I wasn’t bothered by the freezing temperatures outside and was actually able to enjoy myself. I even finished with what I thought was a good time (about 54 minutes).

Soon after that, we signed up to become licensed foster parents and started taking classes in February. We had been thinking about this since our trip to Haiti in March 2009, and finally felt God’s nudge to go ahead with the idea. The classes were eye-opening as we realized we wouldn’t only be loving on the kids placed in our home, but also working with their parents. This was an extremely difficult concept for me, as I went in thinking these parents had lost their right to be mom and dad to these precious kiddos. I didn’t really want anything to do with the parents who had neglected, abused, abandoned, or somehow else put their innocent children at risk. I just wanted to love the kids, showing them they are special and that our home would be a safe place for them to grow and reach their full potential. God was working on my heart, reminding me how undeserving I am of His love and helping me see that I needed to show these parents the same grace He has repeatedly shown me. We finished classes in April and were licensed by the end of May.

Speaking of May…on May 12, I donated two 18-inch ponytails to Locks of Love and had my head completely shaved to support the American Cancer Society’s Shave to Save event that raises money for the Hope Lodge, a place where cancer patients and their families can stay for free while receiving treatment in Kansas City. Originally, I signed up as a shavee in response to our miscarriage. God had shown me that I needed to be willing to make a sacrifice in order to help people see the radical love of Jesus. When we lost our baby I questioned if God really knew what it felt like to lose a child. Yes, of course, He gave up His one and only Son, having Him die on a cross to pay the penalty for my sin! And so I was willing to give up what was precious to me – my hair – if it meant I would have the opportunity to tell others about God’s deep, deep love for them. Little did I know that I would also have the chance to share how God turns mourning into dancing and changes tears to laughter. Just a few weeks before the big event, we found out we were pregnant again! Not only that, but we were due almost to the exact day of when we had miscarried! Only God can do something like that! So, as I went out on stage to explain why I was participating in Shave to Save, I was able to tell hundreds of people our story. I think for our families the news of another grandbaby helped lessen the blow of me going bald, but I also hope that the strangers in the audience saw firsthand how God can take pain and grief and use them for His good, a bigger plan that is far better than we would ever have begun to imagine ourselves. I pray they saw Jesus in action and wanted to know more about Him, how they too could experience the joy and peace I had in my heart despite the difficult times we had endured.

In the summer, as usual, we made the trek to Ponca Bible Camp, but this year we changed things up a bit and went down in June for high school week! Last year I had seen a need for “older” counselors during the high school week, so God tapped my shoulder and let me know I was going to fill that need. I was terrified, however, as high-schoolers intimidate me like crazy. God wouldn’t let me off the hook though, so I signed up to counsel. I had an amazing cabin of girls and realized teenagers aren’t all that bad after all! J At the end of July, we went back to Ponca (we just can’t stay away) for the last two weeks of camp. Working with the 4th through 6th graders is always a blast. Lawrence directed both weeks that we were there, which was the first time he hadn’t counseled in a long while. As always, God blew us away with the work He was doing in the lives of both the campers and counselors. We were humbled to realize that God doesn’t need us to do this work, but are so thankful He continues to give us the opportunity to be involved in the amazing things He is doing at Ponca, one of our favorite places on earth!

Right when we got back from camp, we had our first foster care placement. “Shadow,” came to live with us, and things went great for about two weeks. Lawrence and Shadow went to the gym almost every morning to swim, we registered him for middle school, and even celebrated his 12th birthday! However, things went terribly wrong when our lives were actually threatened, and we had to ask Shadow to leave immediately. Our hearts were broken as we had poured so much into this boy’s life, even in the short time he was with us. We saw firsthand how Satan is working to ruin and destroy lives. We could smell the evil and felt the darkness pressing in on this boy. Even though Shadow isn’t with us anymore, we still pray for him and hope he will make choices that take him on a different path than the one he has known his whole life.

A month later (September), we were still healing from our experience with Shadow, but said “yes” to another foster placement. This time, we took in two young boys: “T-Rex” who was 3 and his brother “X-Man” who had just turned 1. These boys were so cute with curly blonde hair and bright blue eyes that melted your heart. While they were with us, we got to take them to the Liberty Fall Festival parade and enjoyed watching their excitement over all the floats and of course candy J We only had T-Rex and X-Man for a week, as they were able to return to their mom (a happy story!), but they brought us such joy in that short time!

The past few months have been somewhat quieter and more “normal” as Lawrence is in his 6th year of teaching 3rd grade and I am at home with Coralyn for the 3rd school year now (I am still a teacher at heart and look at time according to a school calendar). While Lawrence has quite the class this year and has been overwhelmed at times trying to meet all the individual needs of his students, I have had a much more relaxing semester in that I only had 1 full-time daycare kiddo (Carson) and 1 other little boy who I watched whenever his mom was able to substitute teach (about 1-2 days a week). While I was thankful for less stress and more time to breathe, fewer daycare kiddos also meant less money in the bank. The strain on our wallet caused me to worry and fear as I wondered how in the world we were going to pay our bills. God was so, so, so good though. We never went without, although we did do some major cutting back. I was amazed at the various ways God came through for us, meeting our every need, often going above and beyond in blessing us. As we look ahead to the new year, we are still completely dependent on God to provide for us, month by month, day by day (especially since I am not watching any daycare kiddos now). We know that He will, but we still aren’t clear as to how. I am patiently waiting (or trying my best to do so) for God to show me how I am going to work from home. I would love to have more daycare kiddos, especially those of preschool age, come February. I also pray God continues to grow my business of teaching childbirth classes and serving as a doula (assistant for the couple during labor). And I still have the dream of writing a book (or getting the two I have already written published and on the shelves). For now, all I can do is watch and wait for God to reveal His perfect plans to me.

As I watch and wait, I definitely won’t be twiddling my thumbs. Any day now, our little baby will be born, and I will have my hands full as a mom of two! While we never would have planned to have a baby in December, we couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome this precious child to our family at this time! Our little girl is the best Christmas present we could ever ask for! Once again, God has blessed us beyond measure and lavished His grace upon us. We are blown away at His goodness and so thankful for His constant presence in our lives. While we still face many unknowns at the beginning of this new year, we are certain of this: God is not only with us, but He has gone before us to prepare the way. He will keep on leading us, every step of the way, bringing us closer and closer to Him until the great day of Christ’s return. So, as we look back on this past year, we are reminded of God’s faithfulness and can confidently press on to whatever lies ahead, fixing our eyes on Jesus and straining to receive the prize God has waiting for us.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,

May you too enjoy the celebration of Christ’s birth and look forward with anticipation to all that God has planned for you in 2012,

Lawrence, Sarah, Coralyn, and Kellah Young

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Naughty or Nice

Happy Christmas Eve!

Today is pretty laid back in the Young household. I am still doing my best to rest as much as possible as I "recover" from Kellah's birth last week (is she really a week old already?!). Taking it easy is getting harder for me as I really want to be up and about, but my body has kindly reminded me that I do indeed to rest a bit more.

And so this morning I sat and watched a Diego with Coralyn. In the spirit of the season I chose a Christmas episode. Santa's reindeer are stuck in the snow and can't pull the sleigh. Unless Diego helps them Santa won't be able to deliver all the presents to the animals! Thankfully, a kind and strong llama comes to the rescue and helps pull the sleigh free so Santa and his reindeer can be on their merry little way. At one point in the show Diego comes across the Bobo brothers (two monkeys who are always causing trouble). They are crying because they are so worried that Santa won't bring them any presents. The monkeys think they have been too naughty for Santa to give them anything. Diego assures the Bobos that though they are indeed naughty at times, they never really mean to cause trouble and they are always sorry when they do. He explains that Santa will still bring them presents, and the Bobos are relieved. Diego is then able to continue on his rescue mission to find Santa's reindeer. Of course Diego and his friend the llama are able to get the sleigh out of the snow and Santa flies off to deliver the presents to all the animals. What a happy ending!

But, of course I couldn't just sit and mindlessly watch Deigo. I simply "had" to make a spiritual connection. If I can't be up and about doing something, then at least my brain is going to be busy. Lawrence always teases me about my inability to stop thinking. My mind is always at work, and this morning was no different.

So here's what I got out of the special Christmas episode of Diego: I am so very glad God's grace doesn't depend on whether we are "naughty or nice." With Santa, the kind of gifts or the amount of presents you get is based on your behavior throughout the year. If you are "nice," you get what you want. If you are "naughty," you get nothing, or maybe just a little present (if you're lucky).

God is nothing like Santa (although He does know when we are sleeping or when we are awake, and He certainly knows if we've been bad or be good for goodness sake). His blessings (gifts) do not depend on us at all. That's why it's called grace. We don't deserve a single thing, yet God showers us with love and mercy. He fills us with peace and hope and joy. He gives us strength and courage. He provides for us (abudantly), protects us, guides us, and lives in us! And He does all of this because HE is good. He chooses to love us, even though we certailny haven't earned His love. If anything, we deserve His hatred. We sin against Him, time and time again. In all honesty, we have earned a place in hell. We should be eternally separated from God. Instead, He invites us to dwell in His presence. He welcomes us to come to Him, at any time.

Today is Christmas Eve, and as we look forward to Christmas day tomorrow, I am overwhlemed yet again with God's love, and grace. If He had to wait until we were worthy of His presence, Jesus never would have come! Thankfully, He didn't wait. Hence, we have something to celebrate this Christmas! Not only did Jesus leave all of heaven's glory and come to earth as a tiny baby, He grew up and willingly gave His life so that we might live. Once again, He didn't wait for us to be worthy of this present. Rather, "God demonstrated His love toward us in this way: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Yet again, God has used my need to rest as an opportunity to speak to me, to teach me, to draw me closer to Him. When I sat down this morning, knowing I would pretty much be on the couch until I have to get ready for the Christmas Eve service tonight, I was extremely frustrated. However, God has turned that disappointment into gratefulness. As is His custom, He has blessed me in an expected way, and thankfully His gift didn't depend on me being "naughty or nice" because I certainly wasn't thinking very nice thoughts as I plopped myself on the couch earlier today.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Stress-Fee Christmas

*Warning: this post is pretty long, but I hope you can make it all the way to the end…that’s where I get to share how amazing God is and how He has blessed us yet again.

Today is supposedly the busiest shopping day of the year, trumping even Black Friday. I guess people are frantic as they realize they only have 48 hours until Christmas morning but still have presents to not only buy but wrap as well. Many probably have less than 48 hours to get these gifts purchased and placed under the tree as quite a few families celebrate Christmas Eve together. Or, as we do, some have a tradition of opening one select present on the night of Christmas Eve. Hence, the traffic today was absolutely horrific as we made our way to pick up a few items. No, we weren’t out getting last-minute presents. Our list included 99 cent pineapples at Aldi, a box of size 4 diapers (for Coralyn at night) and body wash at Wal-Mart, and finally $1 hot chocolate and $7 Folgers coffee at Hy-Vee. How could we pass up these great deals?! We braved the craziness and ventured out for the second time as an entire family since Kellah was born.

I am so glad that we weren’t rushing from store to store to find the perfect present for that hard-to-buy person. Don’t get me wrong; I do enjoy Christmas shopping and buying (or making) gifts for people in my family. I find joy in knowing the person will enjoy the gift and look forward to watching their reaction as they unwrap their presents. I especially get a thrill selecting items for Lawrence. However, this year we decided to do things a bit differently for Christmas.

We didn’t buy any gifts for each other, not even a simple stocking stuffer.

Things are financially tight at our house these days, and we couldn’t really justify spending money on presents for each other, especially when we have everything we truly need. Plus, we figured we got to celebrate Christmas about a week early when we “opened” the best present we could have ever gotten and welcomed Kellah Grace to our family!

Not having the money to buy gifts didn’t make us bitter. Quite the opposite. We were able to focus on what we already have and appreciate those things even more. We saved ourselves a lot of stress too!

Granted, we still “had” to do some Christmas shopping for our immediate families. Thankfully, Lawrence’s family draws names, so we can focus on just one person and getting that person exactly what they want/need. AND there is a set amount for how much to spend so you don’t have to break the bank (I was really excited to find out the amount had been cut in half from last year and that we wouldn’t have to completely rearrange our budget). I got to shop for Lawrence’s mom this year and had lots of fun getting the items on her list. Coralyn, of course, enjoyed helping me and would give me her opinion about what Grandmas Sherry would like best. :)

My parents understood our financial situation and didn’t make a big deal about presents this year either. We got them some picture frames and a photo calendar with a picture of Coralyn for each month. They gave us gift cards (Yay! Free/family nights), bought us groceries, and filled our Yukon up with gas! I am pretty sure we got the better end of the deal, as usual. When Kellah was born, they came to see their new granddaughter, and we just celebrated Christmas then. There was no big fuss over a fancy meal or a huge hurrah about unwrapping presents, but that didn’t matter. We were too busy ooing and aahing over a new baby anyway. We had a great time together and were so thankful for our newest addition to the family. I guess we did give my parents a new grandbaby, so maybe they got the better end of the deal after all. :)

And we did get Coralyn a few things so that she would have some presents to open on Christmas. Not that she needs anything. I think the gifts are more for our sake than hers anyway. The joy of a child and the sparkle in their eye on Christmas morning as they open up their gifts is something special, something we couldn’t do without – no matter how tight our budget may be. So, we were creative. Friends gave us a few clothing items and these absolutely adorable pink cowgirl boots. Rather than showing them to Coralyn immediately, I set them aside and saved them for Christmas. I am especially excited about the boots as Coralyn is in love with boots right now and will probably want to wear these cowgirl boots all.the.time. I did the same thing with some shoes that my parents (or Lawrence’s parents, I can’t really remember…all of her clothes and belongings come from one of them anyway) got for Coralyn that were too big for her earlier this year but will be a perfect fit now. They just happen to be Dora the Explorer shoes, and I can hardly wait to see Coralyn’s face when she opens that present as well (she loves Dora)! I found a felt bag with a snowman on it as I was wrapping Sherry’s presents and went searching through our stash of Christmas gift bags. Coralyn is all about purses, and filling them with as much stuff as she possibly can, so I figured this snowman bag would make a perfect gift. It could be her special Christmas purse! Then, a student gave Lawrence a present in a cute red felt bag, so I wrapped that right up and now Coralyn will have not one but TWO purses for the holiday (a girl can never have too many purses, right? :) ). I did actually spend some money on her gifts: I bought her 3 new “big girl” sippy cups (with straws!) from Target and was really excited to stack a store coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon to get $6 off the price. I also bought a notebook and decorated the cover. Coralyn will use this book kind of like a scrapbook to keep track of all we learn during our “school” time come January. Her final present, her “big ticket item,” was a pillow mattress I made for her with my mom’s help. She got to open this early though when she needed it when she went to our friend’s house while I was in labor with Kellah. Coralyn was pretty excited about her new bed and hasn’t slept on her actual toddler bed since Kellah arrived; she now sleeps on the floor on her pillow mattress every.single.night (and for nap time too). I would say it was a pretty good Christmas present! :)

All that to say, this Christmas is a bit different from previous years. And it’s been great, better than any Christmas I can remember. What could have been an extremely stressful time has been one of the most enjoyable times of the entire year. I do believe that not buying presents for each other has played a HUGE factor is this; however, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another, even bigger, reason for our stress-free holiday. In fact, this is the whole reason why I am writing this blog post in the first place (sorry it has taken me so long to get to the point…I never was one for short research papers in high school and college)!

I mentioned earlier that our stops today included Aldi, Wal-Mart, and Hy-Vee, but I left out one other place we visited– the bank. And amazingly we weren’t going there to take money out of our account. Instead, we were stopping by to deposit a check, a very “hefty” check we received in the mail yesterday from an anonymous friend. All I know about the giver (or givers) is that he/she/they are extremely generous!
Lawrence brought the mail in yesterday, and there were some nice Christmas cards, the grocery store ads, and of course the usual junk from credit card companies. I sorted out the pieces into piles (can you say OCD), read all the yearly updates from our friends, quickly perused the grocery ads (as we don’t really need anything this week since we have been blessed by friends bringing us meals every night since Kellah was born!), and was checking the junk mail to make sure I hadn’t overlooked a Christmas card or something of importance. Good thing too!

There in the “junk” pile was what I thought was a letter from some strange bank trying to get me to take advantage of low rates and change our mortgage over to them. Instead, I found a cashier’s check for $500 and a little note that read, “Congratulations on the birth of your daughter! Kellah is blessed to have parents who love each other and the Lord.” The only signature was the Bible verse Matthew 6:25-34. Like I said, I have absolutely no idea who sent the check or how they knew we could use the extra money. All I know is that God used them to bless us BIG time!

Earlier this month we were given another anonymous gift from some people at our church. This gift was timely to say the least as we needed to pay our midwife but didn’t have the funds to do so. Jeanne brought the envelope full of cash over to our house just hours before our scheduled prenatal appointment that afternoon! We were able to make a very large payment, which we later found out came at a perfect time for our midwife (so awesome how someone blessed us and with that blessing we were able to bless someone else).

If not for these two LARGE gifts, we would not have had enough money to pay for Kellah’s birth and all our regular bills, let alone purchase any gifts for our immediate families. We are so humbled to have received these gifts and can’t say thank you enough to those responsible for them, or to our God who yet again has blown our faces off as He reveals Himself as our Jehovah Jireh, meeting our needs in ways we never could have imagined on our own. Our financial situation could have been a huge source of stress for our family, especially at this time of year. BUT, God has made this Christmas different, and BETTER, than any other! Only by His continual faithfulness, abundant goodness, and marvelous grace we haven’t become overwhelmed with worry, fear, and doubt! He alone is the real reason why we have been able to enjoy a stress-free Christmas this year!

*I told saved the best part for last! Thanks for reading all the way through the post to get here! :)

Little Giant

I think Coralyn doubled in size overnight! Not really, but it certainly seems like she is a little giant these days. Even when she’s not next to Kellah, Coralyn just seems bigger. Her head is massive, and she must have gained 10 pounds because she’s so much heavier when I try to help her climb up on the couch. I think she’s taller too.

I realize Coralyn’s new giant status is directly related to Kellah being a newborn, and a somewhat small one at that. People “warned” us that Coralyn would look so much bigger as we compared her to Kellah. And I was ready, or so I thought, to see my firstborn all “grown-up” as a big sister.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE watching Coralyn interact with Kellah and am delighted that she is adjusting so well to her new role as the big girl of the house. I am not all that thrilled, however, that in a matter of days Coralyn has lost all sense of “baby” and “little girl.” These changes only serve to remind me that time is flying by all too quickly, that if I keep blinking Coralyn is going to be getting on the bus for her first day of school and then waving her high school diploma and then driving off to college and before I know it she will be walking down the aisle in her wedding dress! Pure madness, I tell you, pure madness!

What can I do to slow things down? Nothing! I am absolutely helpless here. The only thing I can do is to enjoy every moment, to treasure each day. And in the process, be intentional about filling each day with memories. They don’t have to be big, spectacular memories. Ordinary, basic memories – baking muffins or cookies, finger painting, reading books, playing hide and seek – will do.

And so that is the plan for today. While Kellah sleeps, the Little Giant and I will bake Christmas cookies. Maybe I’ll even be brave enough to include frosting in this special memory.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Other Sarah Young

Some of you might have heard of the “other” Sarah Young. She happens to be a pretty famous author. You may have read her book Jesus Calling.

I first saw this book when I was still living in Haiti. I was at another missionary’s house, and there on the back of their toilet was a devotional book by none other than Sarah Young. I was Sarah Smith at the time, but I knew that in less than a year my name would be the same as this author. Having always wanted to be a published author, I had to smile. I guess I had accomplished my goal without even knowing! :)

I still hope to become a published author someday. Maybe this other Sarah Young has paved the way for me and by mistake people will think I am her and accidentally agree to publish something I write. And then, when the book is on the shelves, shoppers will think I am the other Sarah Young and actually buy my work! I can dream right :)

With all that said, my whole purpose in this blog post is to share something that this other Sarah Young has taught me. Jeanne Hewitt generously gave me a copy of her book Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions for Kids. Her gift was extremely fitting in several ways: the book itself is orange, our favorite color; the bird on the book is teal, another one of our preferred colors; the devotions are geared toward kids, with whom we love working and just so happen to think like them too! The devotions are nice and short, so I can read them even if I only have a few minutes to sit and catch my breath before I am beckoned back to my duties as a stay-at-home mom. And although the entries aren’t long, they are deep, speaking to my heart and mind in profound ways. I always put the book down challenged, inspired, encouraged, or uplifted.

Yesterday and today were no different. Both entries hit home and go along well with the blog post I wrote yesterday (but didn’t get posted until this morning). Like our pastor says, “Where you are in the Word is where you are at in life,” meaning that God’s Word is active and alive, sharper than a two-edged sword, and very much speaks to us still today.

The devotion entry for December 21 (the anniversary of our miscarriage) is entitled “Traveling”:

I have a perfect plan for your life. But I don’t show it to you all at once. It is like a road that you must travel one step at a time.

Sometimes the road seems blocked, or it opens up so slowly that you feel frustrated. But then, when the time is right, the way before you suddenly clears. All that you have longed for and worked for is given to you freely – as a gift. And that is when you catch a glimpse of My Power and My Glory.

Don’t be afraid of your weakness. It’s like a stage where My Power and My Glory are the actors, putting on amazing shows. Just keep walking along the path I have prepared for you, depending on My Strength to keep you going. Expect to see some miracles – and you will. Not just anyone can see My miracles, but those who live by faith can see them clearly. When you walk by faith – going step by step with Me – you are able to see my Glory.

If you go back and look at the blog post from yesterday (this morning), you will see how fitting this journal entry was. I love how God blows my face off like this. I was brought to tears as God yet again confirmed His power and presence in our lives, reassuring me that He is still guiding and directing us along the perfect path He has laid out for us. He has gone before us to prepare the way, and He will be right there with us each and every step of the way. He will provide for all our needs no matter how big or small, give us the courage to face any obstacles on the journey, draw us closer to Himself as He transforms us into the people He created us to be, and best of all reveal His glory to us in some amazing ways (like He just did with Kellah!).

As if that wasn’t enough, the devotion entry for today was also fitting, combining my blog post about Rest and the idea of following God wherever He leads. It’s titled, “Do as the Wise Men Did”:

Come and sit with Me for a while. I want you to think about who I really am…

Praise and worship are the best responses to the wonder of who I am. Sing praises to My holy Name. Gaze at Me in silent worship. Look for a “star” of guidance in your own life, and be ready to follow wherever I lead you. I am the Light from heaven that shines upon you – to guide you along the path of Peace.

Yet again, God reminds me that this time of rest and recovery is a blessing, a gift, an opportunity to look back at how He has been working in my life and to prepare my heart for what is to come. He reiterates the importance of keeping my eyes on Jesus so that I will be able to run with endurance the race He has set before me. And despite not knowing what I will encounter along the way, God keeps me from becoming overwhelmed with worry and fear as He tells me time and time again that the path He has for me leads to peace (even if it may not seem like it at a particular moment of the journey).

God is pretty awesome! I am glad He uses people like this “other” Sarah Young to remind me of that and to keep me going as I do my best to follow hard after Him.

What a Difference a Year Can Make

Last year on this day, a Tuesday, I woke up to a puddle of blood on my bed. When I went to the bathroom, I “gave birth” to our 12-week old baby. What could I do but flush the toilet?! Oh the tears as I watched my little one disappear! I would never know this little one, at least not this side of heaven. The pain and grief of the following days and weeks were almost unbearable.

God was good though, and faithful too. We had absolutely no idea where He was leading us, or why He was even taking us this way. We didn’t understand why this was necessary and certainly didn’t like this part of the journey. BUT, we followed…one step at a time.

We have come such a long way since then, experiencing both ups and downs as we have done our best to stay the course God has laid before us.

How glad I am that this morning is so different from that fateful Tuesday one year ago. Today, I woke up with Kellah nestled by my side. She was nursing when Coralyn woke up and made her way to our room. She climbed onto the bed to join the fun, and we hung out as a happy little family for a bit. Eventually we made our way to the kitchen where we made and enjoyed a yummy breakfast of French toast, scrambled eggs with cheese, and yogurt. Then we cleaned up the dishes and got ready to take our first outing as an entire family. Our destination: Chick-fil-A, of course!
Wednesdays mean Kids Korner at Chick-fil-A, so we knew Miss Julie would be there, and we just had to introduce her to Kellah! I can’t say enough good things about this amazing lady. She was thrilled to see us, and Coralyn was just as excited to see Miss Julie, running up to her and giving her a huge hug. We had planned on just saying hi, but we ended up staying to see Mr. Oggie, the “Magic Tricker,” a friend of Miss Julie who had come for story time. Coralyn had a blast throwing Mr. Oggie’s imaginary ball into his “magic” sack, which he would make pop everything a kiddo threw the ball. An added bonus was seeing our friend Heather and her two boys Bennett and baby Wyatt.

Since then we’ve just been chillin’ at home. Coralyn was supposed to take a nap, but she ended up just singing and talking to her animals for about an hour before she just had to go potty :) As she “rested” in her room, I used the opportunity to journal, with Kellah resting contentedly on my chest. Just a little later, Amber, our midwife, came over to check on Kellah and me. We now have Kellah’s cute little footprints on paper (which reminds me that I need to paint her feet so I can finish a Big Sister/Little Sister t-shirt project I am working on).

As I was writing in my journal, I couldn’t help but bending down to kiss Kellah’s tiny head, every two minutes. I am so in love. My heart is full of joy, hope, and peace. I am overwhelmed by God’s grace as He has blessed us so abundantly.

Yes, we still have our difficulties – financial uncertainties mainly, BUT we are in a much better place this year than last. And just as God proved Himself faithful and good last year, we trust He will do the same this coming year. Again, one step at a time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Sitting, being still, resting, doing “nothing”…they are all extremely hard for me. And so, for me, “recovering” from birth is not easy.

Since I feel like I had an “easy” birth, it’s especially hard for me to rest. I don’t feel like I need to rest. I think I am good to go and should be able to return to my normal routine without any problems. BUT, I know that resting is actually the best thing for me. Plus, Lawrence is doing an excellent job taking care of everything around the house anyway. He’s not really giving me a chance to find things to do.

Right now, Lawrence and Coralyn are out having some special Daddy-Daughter Time. They plan to visit the library, pick up some things at Wal-Mart, buy a Christmas present for Lawrence’s dad, and maybe even stop by the play area in Zona Rosa. You would think that having the house all to myself (well, Kellah is with me, of course) would be a dream come true. Peace and quiet. Nothing on the agenda. Pure bliss, right?

Everything within me wants to get up off the couch and clean the kitchen like I do every Tuesday, or go downstairs and work on the computer (I am being a good girl and using Lawrence’s laptop right now), or clean up the bathrooms just a bit, or at least bake something (oh wait, both my fridge and freezer are completely full due to generous family and friends!). I am resisting all those temptations, however. I am ignoring Satan’s lies that I am not accomplishing anything important, that I am wasting time, that I am not valuable since I am not really truly “doing” anything. Instead, I am listening to God’s voice, as He whispers in my ear to come and sit with Him, to enjoy these moments, to cherish this time as a precious gift from Him. For that indeed is what this period of rest and recovery is.

Kellah will never be 3 days old again. She won’t always sleep contentedly on my chest. I won’t have her completely to myself for the whole morning very often, if ever! And so, I am just sitting here on the couch “doing nothing.” Or so it would seem. In reality, I am doing 2 things, the two most important and valuable things I could possibly be doing: loving on my beautiful baby girl and soaking up the presence of my own heavenly Father.

How fitting that today’s entry in the devotional book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young is called, “Clear the Clutter.” The last paragraph spoke directly to me and quieted my heart and mind as I was feeling guilty about doing “nothing” this morning.

Remember, your real goal in this life is not to check everything off a to-do list.
It is to live close to Me.
Seek My Face all throughout this day.
Let My Presence clear away the clutter in your mind, and flood you with My Peace.

Monday, December 19, 2011

"Kellah's Birth Story"

Kellah’s Birth Story

Friday was a typical day. Lawrence headed off to work, and Coralyn and I prepared for a day at home together. Since the baby hadn’t arrived yet, we would be able to go to our play group’s Christmas party that morning. Before the party, we made a little trip to Target to use some coupons. I was able to get a few great deals and wrap a couple of presents for Coralyn when we got home. Then, we headed over to the party. We had a great time with our friends: eating lunch, playing, making a Christmas craft, and exchanging presents. After Coralyn took her nap, we made some chocolate granola, read books, and just hung out together.

Lawrence came home right after work, ready for the weekend (and hoping it would be the early start to his Christmas break since he wouldn’t head back to school if the baby did arrive over the weekend). We had planned to go to a Christmas party for our small group, but due to sickness in the group, we had to postpone the party (after I had hung on and waited to have the baby!). We were bummed about not having the party, but enjoyed the evening together by watching a Charlie Brown movie on TV: Happiness Is a Warm Blanket. Coralyn was quite into the movie and extremely distraught every time poor Linus had his precious blue blanket taken away from him! After the movie, we read our Christmas story cards (thanks, Jeanne Hewitt!), put an ornament on the tree that has a picture and short explanation about a name for Jesus, and read our Bible story for the night.

Once Coralyn was asleep, Lawrence and I watched two episodes of Lost on Netflix. We thought about watching a third, as they get you so wrapped up in the story and make you want to find out what happens next. We wisely chose to go to bed instead, although we had no idea we wouldn’t get much sleep!

I was sleeping really well, but as usual woke up to go to the bathroom. When I got up at 1:30, I did my business and got a drink, but then I couldn’t go back to sleep. At 2:11, I was still awake and had my very first contraction. I wasn’t overly excited though because it was totally different than when I started labor with Coralyn. The contraction was super low, but definitely wrapped all the way around my back. I had been having pain in my groin and lower abdomen off and on for a few days, but it wasn’t anything to get excited about: just extra pressure from the baby being so low. At times I really thought I could feel her moving her head back and forth or that her hand was going to shoot out of me! :)

Anyway, I kept my eye on the clock so I could see if my contractions would be at set intervals right away like they were with Coralyn. Nope, about 8 to 10 minutes later I did have a second contraction, but then I didn’t have a third one for another 20 minutes or more. I figured nothing special was going on since they weren’t regular, and they weren’t really too painful at all. Around 3:30, I had another contraction and was debating about waking up Lawrence, but he was so peaceful I couldn’t bring myself to do it. But, then when I had another one 10 minutes later, I decided to let him in on what was happening. I told him I couldn’t sleep, and he said I was just thinking too much about things, which was true. I had been worrying about the baby’s condition, still scared that something could be wrong with her (I kept picturing a baby with Down’s Syndrome to be specific). I really think I was too fearful to believe that all would be well. I didn’t want to get my hopes up because of our loss last year. I had to pray yet again for God to help me trust Him and surrender all the details of the birth and the health of the baby to Him one more time. Lawrence and I were talking about this when I had another contraction.

By 4 am, my contractions were coming every 10 minutes, but still not too strong. If I had been home by myself with Coralyn, I would have been able to go about our regular routine, just stopping to breathe through the contraction. Lawrence was ready to call Amber, our midwife. I thought we should wait, at least until 5, that way we wouldn’t wake her up in the middle of the night (at least 5 is the start of the morning, in my mind anyway). So, to compromise, we got up and started setting out the supplies that Amber would need so that everything would be ready when she did come.

Thankfully, Lawrence had tried out the pump Friday morning. It wasn’t working, so we thought maybe it needed to be charged. Plugged it in all day, but when Lawrence got home from work it still wasn’t working! I was a little concerned, seeing as how we would need that pump to blow up the birth tub! After playing with the pump for a bit, Lawrence realized you can’t charge the pump and use it at the same time. Once he unplugged it, the pump started working. Lawrence figured he might as well blow up the tub while the pump was on. Coralyn had a great time watching him and then playing in the tub for just a bit. We moved the tub to the baby’s room and planned on storing it there until it was time for the birth. Little did we know we would be getting it out in just a few hours!

Back to the morning of the birth…Lawrence got the tub set up in the living room. While he did that, I put out the other supplies Amber would need and then tidied up around the living room. I had to straighten the Christmas blanket on the couch, put one pillow on each side, put away random items, etc. People were coming over to my house for goodness sake, and I wanted everything in its place! :) I then went and got the coffee cake out of the freezer. Coralyn and I had made it a couple weeks earlier, as I wanted to have a “birthday” cake for the baby, just like we did at the Birth Center when Coralyn was born. When I was in the kitchen I noticed the sink had dirty dishes, so I put the clean dishes away and started reloading the dishwasher. In the middle of this process Lawrence came in to ask if I was ready to “fill it up.” I thought he was referring to the dishwasher and was glad for the help; he was talking about the birthing tub! I said sure, but still thought it was a bit premature as my contractions still weren’t anything to get excited about! He got the hose hooked up and started the water. I went around the house and lit all the candles and plugged in the Christmas tree lights.

About this time Coralyn woke up and needed to use the potty. Her pajamas were a bit wet, as she didn’t quite make it in time, so I took her to the bathroom and changed her. I explained to her that the baby was going to be born soon. Lawrence decided to go ahead and call our friends the O’Briens to come and get her since she was already awake. I told Coralyn she was going to head over to Mr. Jay and Mrs. Jessi’s house, and boy did she get excited. She had been waiting for this moment! We got her bag, blanket, Nana (monkey) and Pink Bear all ready. She even got to open her Christmas present early and take her pillow mattress I made with her so she would have a special bed. As we waited for Jay, we cuddled on the couch and talked about how she would go sleep at the O’Briens, wake up (again), eat and play with them, and when she got back home she would get to meet the baby. She left excited, which I was thankful for as I didn’t want her upset and crying. I had really hoped I would be able to explain what was happening to her, and God answered that prayer. Jay wished us luck and headed out with Coralyn (it was really cool to see Jay actually as he and Jessi just took my childbirth class and are planning for a natural birth themselves come February!). Speaking of which, being a childbirth instructor I knew I had to practice what I preach so that I could have a good story for my students :)

Lawrence had called Amber right after he got off the phone with Jay. I still thought it was too soon and figured she would get bored since I was so early on in labor (I was still walking around the house, doing squats every once in a while, while we waited for her to arrive). I felt bad that she would get here and have nothing to do but sit around and wait on me for hours. She arrived around 5:45 and got her things set up. I was able to chat with her, although my contractions were coming about every 3-5 minutes by now. We were talking about people at church who had their babies recently. When a contraction would come, I would motion for her to hold that thought, do my thing, and then casually continue where we left off. :) About 6:15, Amber’s assistant Debbie arrived (she is a midwife I had known at the Birth Center and had several appointments with during my pregnancy with Coralyn). I was excited to see her again, and we chatted for a bit, and then we put on a Christmas CD. Around 6:45 the ladies moved to our bedroom to give Lawrence and me some time alone (they didn’t want me to feel like a watched pot). I had to go to the bathroom, so I got out of the tub and made my way down the hall. As soon as I got out of the water, my contractions were much more intense. I had to stay in the bathroom for a bit as I had 3 contractions one after the other. Needless to say, I was ready to get back in the water because it made my contractions more bearable. I was kind of worried that being in the water would slow things down, but Lawrence assured me I didn’t need to feel like I had to go faster this time than I did with Coralyn (oh how well my husband knows me!). I was indeed thinking that very thing, as people tell you that you go faster with your second one, and I had placed this expectation on myself. I was doubtful this would happen, though, as I had already been in labor for 4ish hours at this time and wasn’t anywhere close to giving birth, or so I thought. I remember looking at the clock at 6:45 and then again at 7:15 thinking things were moving slowly!

Well, things didn’t slow down one bit as I returned from the bathroom and got back in the tub. I guess the midwives leaving us alone helped me relax even more (I didn’t feel pressured by them or uncomfortable or tense or anything with them in the room though) and within a few contractions I was starting to feel pressure as the baby moved down and began to make more moaning, heavy breathing noises during the contractions. Amber came out to see what was happening, as she and I both knew that when a mama starts those guttural sounds she is getting close to birth! She asked me how I was feeling, and I said it was kind of like how I felt during Coralyn’s birth when I told the midwife that time, “I think I need to push” (which I definitely had not needed to as I ended up pushing for 2 hours!). At this point, I still hadn’t had any exams and didn’t know how far dilated I was or anything like that. I didn’t want to know actually, as I was “scared” it wouldn’t be good news and I would get discouraged. But then Amber just observed me during another contraction and mentioned she could see the top of the baby’s head. I was pleasantly surprised (shocked actually!), and still doubtful that I was actually so far along. I figured we still had a long road ahead of us, which didn’t thrill me all that much :)

I couldn’t have been more wrong (and just this once I was okay with not being right :))! My back was really starting to hurt, all the time, not just during contractions. I was starting to have a hard time getting comfortable and switched sides of the pool. I was leaning up against the side of the pool and doing my best to stay relaxed during contractions. Being a teacher and all, I knew I needed to release any and all tension and especially keep my face relaxed. By this point, the only way I could do this was to moan. I kept thinking I was being super loud, but Lawrence assures me I wasn’t all that bad :) I wasn’t pushing or anything yet, but I wasn’t not pushing either (if that makes any sense). I was just letting my body and the baby do their thing and knew I could feel movement downward. Pretty soon both Amber and Debbie were telling me they could see her head and suggested I start guiding the baby out! What?! With the next contraction I felt my water break and remember saying, “Oh my water!” The very next contraction I was getting ready to apologize that I was about ready to poop in the tub (sorry if that is TMI, but it’s what was going through my head) and then I felt the baby’s entire head. I announced I was “holding” her head, and sure enough Amber could see her ears. Lawrence was quite surprised at this, as he didn’t even know I was actually pushing! I was really taken aback too since Coralyn’s birth was so different (I had that ring of fire sensation for a LONG time as she slowly made her way out, with the whole “two steps forward, one step back” thing happening).

Debbie and Amber both cautioned me from pushing too hard or too fast, so I did my best to NOT push, knowing that patience here would help prevent me from tearing. With the next contraction, I let go and sure enough the baby came! Lawrence was just getting ready to help catch her, but I made him stay right up by me so I could hold his hand. I needed his support to remain calm and keep letting the baby move at her own pace. I felt her whole body come out and semi-shouted, “There she is!”

Unknown to any of us, the umbilical cord was wrapped, tightly, around her stomach (of all things) twice. Throughout the labor (every hour or so) Amber would use the Doppler to check the baby’s heartbeat and her heart tones had been excellent, giving absolutely no indication that anything was wrong. Amber just unwrapped the cord, spun the baby several times and brought her up to me. I leaned back in the tub and held our little girl (I even asked, “It is a girl, right?” and checked to make sure we didn’t have any surprises). I commented on how small she was and gave her a big hug, welcoming our precious little one to the world for the first time.

Kellah cried right away (also different than Coralyn), but was quite content after she settled in on my chest. We covered her with a pink wash cloth, and I just held her close. She was perfect in every way! Ten fingers, ten toes. A head full of red hair! :) My heart was full (and overflowing) with happiness, joy, peace, and love. God had blessed us with a strong, healthy baby…not to mention a great labor!

After hanging out in the birth tub for a bit, we moved to the bedroom and rested on the bed. While we bonded with Kellah, Amber and Debbie cleaned up everything in the living room. Every few minutes Amber would come check on us, and I remember Debbie asking if I was still pregnant (you’re still considered pregnant until after the placenta comes out). I was surprised that it hadn’t come yet since it only took around 15 minutes during Coralyn’s birth. Finally, almost an hour after Kellah was born, I gave “birth” to the placenta. Amber checked it out to make sure everything looked good on that end, and then Lawrence got to help cut Kellah’s umbilical cord. By this time, he had taken his shirt off and got some skin to skin bonding time with Kellah too. Then, they did all the measurements and “tests” (no shots or pricks, just the APGAR stuff). I had been right, Kellah was indeed smaller than Coralyn, weighing in at 7 pounds on the dot (Coralyn had been 8 pounds, 5 ounces!). Like her big sister, Kellah wasn’t all that long – 19 inches (same as Coralyn). Her head was 13 and ½ inches around, also smaller than Coralyn (15ish inches). Her chest was 13 inches as well. All I knew (and truly cared about) was that Kellah was finally here, was perfectly healthy, and had arrived without any complications.

Lawrence got to hold Kellah a little longer as Amber and Debbie checked me out and helped me get all situated on the bed to rest. They brought me some orange juice (the infamous Bradley cocktail :) ) and some of the mango coffee cake to celebrate Kellah’s safe arrival. Pretty soon, Amber and Debbie had everything all cleaned up (you couldn’t even tell we had had a baby in our living room just an hour earlier!). They had the pool emptied and deflated, the coffee table back in place, the candles blown out, and all the dirty towels and such in the washer. All their supplies were sterilized and the kitchen was clean too. The ladies then got to enjoy a piece of “birthday cake” as well before leaving us to enjoy our new baby. I think they were gone just a little after 10 am, not even two hours after Kellah had made her grand entrance at 8:16!

We called our families to let them know the good news, sent out some texts, posted our announcement on facebook, and then settled in to rest! Kellah was very cooperative and slept for almost 2 hours!

From start to finish, very first contraction to the birth, I was in labor for a total of 6 hours and 5 minutes (to be exact :)). That in itself is great! And the reality that I was only in “hard” labor for about 45 minutes is even better. The whole process was amazing and beautiful, definitely a testimony to God’s faithfulness and GRACE (fitting since that is Kellah’s middle name!). I had prayed for the birth to bring glory and honor to God, and I think it truly did! I couldn’t have asked for a better experience and feel so blessed with the family God has given me. Coralyn has adjusted extremely well to her role as a big sister (though she is acting even sillier than normal in attempt to get extra attention, but all the grandparents have gone home now so…). She likes to kiss Baby Kellah and brings her toys. She even got to “hold” her little sister for the first time yesterday. Every time I see my two girls together, my heart just melts. Add Lawrence to the mix, and I am just a big puddle of joy and love. :)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Our Best Christmas Present Ever"

Kellah Grace Young

Our precious little girl is here! She is the best Christmas present we could ever ask for!
We are delighted to welcome her to our family and to introduce Kellah to you all.
Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers throughout the pregnancy and especially these last few days and weeks leading up to her arrival.

I wrote this before Kellah was actually born, not knowing when I would get the chance to blog and express my thoughts and feelings via the internet once I was a mother of two. So some of this will apply to the time before her arrival and some of it deals with explaining how we chose her name and the prayers we have for our new baby girl.

With that said:

I am a planner, and I NEVER would have planned to have a baby in December (or November, for that matter). The holidays make life so busy and I didn’t want any child of mine to have to compete with all the chaos and craziness that takes place between Halloween and New Year’s Day. I think birthdays are extremely special and like to make as big of deal as possible when celebrating my child’s birthday. So again, I didn’t want my child’s birthday to be anywhere near a major holiday, especially ones like Thanksgiving or Christmas. But here I am having a baby in December. And I couldn’t be happier! Little Kellah has come at just the perfect time, and I am so very blessed to have this holiday baby in my arms.

Last year at this time, my heart felt empty and void. I was experiencing grief and sorrow I had never known, nor ever wished to encounter in my entire life. I was asking God “WHY” and left without an answer, except that somehow this would all work out for His glory and my eternal good. While I did find comfort in knowing that God is both in control and a good God, I was still searching for relief from my pain. I was scared, angry, frustrated, confused, disappointed, and had a whole host of other emotions as well. I just wanted to curl up in a ball and let life pass me by.

My precious Coralyn kept me from staying in the depths of despair though (and Lawrence too, of course). She brought such happiness to our lives. Her innocence of the situation brought peace. Her laughter and giggles brought joy. Her new accomplishments allowed for celebration in the midst of mourning. And slowly but surely, life began to return to “normal.”

With some hesitation we began to hope and dream for another baby. Fear and doubt would creep into my heart daily as I wondered if I would ever be able to have a safe and healthy pregnancy again, would ever have the privilege of welcoming another child into the world. God graciously allowed me to become pregnant right after my 27th birthday though, and we were delighted! God went a step further in blessing us, however. Not only did He give us another child, He orchestrated everything so that this baby would be born within days of the time we miscarried. Total redemption! I was blown away when I figured out my due date. God is so awesome! I love how He cares about the tiniest of details of our lives. I love how He can turn tears to laughter, mourning to dancing. And so from the beginning of the pregnancy, I was excited to see all that God has in store for this precious child.

But still, questions remained. Would the same tragedy happen all over again? As each week passed, I grew more and more confident that all would be okay. Every time Satan would try to worm his way into my mind and heart, God would give me verses from Scripture or encouragement from friends. I was able to fight back and come out victorious against Satan’s attacks. Now, here we are just days (I think) from meeting our precious little baby. She has been healthy the entire pregnancy. We haven’t had any complications. Everything looks good to go for the birth. All the supplies are ready. We are just waiting now, waiting for God’s perfect timing yet again.

I don’t like waiting. I am not good at it. I get very impatient. But through all this God has been teaching me to enjoy where I am at, to take in all the “little” moments He gives me each day. Baking with Coralyn, reading books to her, making crafts, having the opportunity to stay at home and just love on my little girl (who is growing up way to fast). I will never get this time back. Once the baby arrives, life will be forever changed, in a good way, but still never the same. Instead of getting impatient or focusing so much on what lies ahead, I need to appreciate what I have now. And boy am I blessed! These past few weeks with just Coralyn have amazing, and hopefully we have created some special memories.

I am ready though, I think, to become a mother of two, and make even more memories, with both of my lovely little ladies. Not only am I ready to welcome this new baby to our family, but to share her with you all. I am so glad that she will have so many wonderful people in her life, to help her see Jesus in action and hopefully bring her to know Him in a personal and life-changing way.

So without any further ado, we would like to introduce you to
Kellah Grace Young!

We picked her name a long, long time ago…before I was even pregnant with her. When we chose her name, we didn’t know exactly what it meant. But of course, God knew. And as usual, He works in mysterious ways, and the meaning is perfect for where we are at in life, and perfect for this little girl, our Christmas baby, our most timely present.

We have three criteria for all of our children’s names: has to come from our family, have a biblical reference, and be unique.

*Family: Coralyn is named after Lawrence’s side. (Lynne is his mom’s middle name. It is also his sister’s middle name. And our niece is Katlynne.) So we decided our next girl would be named after my side of the family. My mom’s middle name is Estella, so we took the “ella” part to create our own unique name of Kellah. At first, we were going to spell it Kella, but just recently we chose to add the “h” at the end. The past few months have been kind of rough for us with our foster care experiences, financial situation, stress at work for Lawrence, and the like. Through it all, God has been so faithful and good. He has shown us that He is with us every step of the way and will always take care of us. He has given us peace that passes understanding. One Sunday while at church I was beginning to feel overwhelmed with the demands of life, but the words of each song kept reminding me of God’s power and strength, of the hope I have in Him. Once again, I was overcome with a sense of peace, as if God was helping me breathe and let out all the tension. It was as though He was allowing me to say “ahhhh” in the midst of the unknowns that were causing my fear. Lawrence was deer hunting that weekend, but I explained the situation to him and we agreed to add the “h” to the end of Kellah’s name, seeing as how she is God’s gift to us and has brought us such relief and peace during these uncertain times.

*Biblical Reference: Just like Coralyn Ruth, Kellah’s biblical reference is in her middle name Grace. Simple, yet so profound. God’s grace is a mystery to me. We are so undeserving and yet His love for us never fails. Plus, He lavishes His grace on us so abundantly, not only in the gift of His Son, through whom we have salvation, but also in our daily lives as He protects us and provides for us (often way more than what we really truly need). It is only because of God’s grace that I have life…and hope and joy and peace.

*Unique: We have never heard of another Kellah. We couldn’t even find the name Kella in most of the baby name books or websites we searched.

So, that is how we picked Kellah’s name. The meaning is pretty cool too. Like I said, we didn’t know the meaning when we chose her name, but God did. And it couldn’t be more fitting.

Kellah means “brave warrior.”

We have had to fight against Satan on various fronts this past year. More than ever we have become aware of the spiritual battle that is going on in and around us. God has helped us be more than conquerors though and come out on top against that nasty devil! We pray that our little girl will also fight hard in this epic battle against evil and sin and Satan. We pray that she will stand firm in her faith and come out victorious, putting Satan in his place and letting him know that the Jesus in her is greater than anything he can possibly throw her way.

We also pray that she will boldly stand up for what is right and good once she is in school. Whether she befriends someone who is not very popular or goes against the crowd making herself not very popular. Perhaps she will speak up when a teacher asks about how the world began in science class or share how a Bible verse relates to a moral lesson an author was trying to communicate in book they read. Or maybe she will refuse to attend parties where alcohol and drugs are available. Hopefully, she will give it her all on the athletic field or on the theatrical stage, braving any fears she may have about performing in front of large crowds or comparing her abilities to others. Her battles may come on a more personal level as she works hard to do her best in the classroom, especially if learning doesn’t come easy for her. Whatever the case may be, we pray that Kellah will be a brave warrior at her school.

Kellah’s middle name is Grace.

Like Coralyn, we want Kellah to be a “go-getter,” to love life and adventure, to take risks, to be curious, and to make the most of every moment. But coupled with this tenacity, we pray Kellah will have a quiet grace to her. That she will be a leader by example, not necessarily because she is the most outspoken person in her class. We pray that she will have a sensitive spirit, one that allows her to observe and understand the needs of others, the little things that may go unnoticed unless one takes special time and effort to see inside the heart of another person. We pray that Kellah will possess a gentleness that allows her to reach out to those who are hurting, to touch and impact them in a deep way, a way that leads them to Jesus.

Kellah’s is God’s gracious gift to us. After losing our baby last year at this time, we are blown away by God’s grace in blessing us with Kellah’s arrival, almost to the exact day of our miscarriage. He has turned us full circle, making this time that could have been spent remembering and grieving our unborn baby be a time of celebration and joy as we welcome Kellah to our family. Of course we will always mourn the loss of our child, but God has blessed us with another beautiful and precious baby girl. We couldn’t ask for a better Christmas present! So yes, our hearts are still saddened by what happened last year, but they are filled to overflowing with happiness and delight as well. In His grace, God has given us more than we ever imagined.

And so, this is Kellah Grace.
We look forward to watching her grow and seeing all that God has in store for this little miracle.
We are sure to be blown away!

Friday, December 16, 2011

This Is Out of Control

Earlier this week a friend shared with me something one of her friends had posted on facebook. And now I am going to pass on the friend of a friend's words of wisdom to you (hopefully I come pretty close to the original).

I told God things are out of control. He replied, "Whose control are you talking about? Everything seems to be under control to Me."

How true, how true! So often I feel like my life is spinning out of control. I don't like or understand what is going on. I don't enjoy what is happening. I feel like I am at a loss of what to do or how to solve the "problem." So I throw my hands up in the air, let out a huge sigh or even better just start crying.

I kind of feel like this right now actually. While I may appear calm and relaxed and non-chalant about being "overdue," I am quite ready to have my baby. I am so eager to meet her, and introduce her to the world. After waiting nine months for this special moment, having to hold out a few more days seems like torture. BUT, I know that God has His reasons for making me wait, for "delaying" the baby's birth. He keeps reminding me of Psalm 139 and how He has numbered all the days of this child's life, including the very first day. I know His timing is perfect, and so I try to be patient while I wait for the day He has planned for our little one's arrival.

BUT, I don't like not being in control. I don't like not knowing the details of her birth. I don't like not being able to make definite plans. The verse about not saying "tomorrow we will do this and that" is really hitting home about right now, as we have to keep on telling family and friends, "We'll have to play that one by ear" or "If we haven't had the baby yet..." I have no idea what tomorrow will hold, let alone the rest of today! I really could go into labor at any moment :)

And so right now things seem to be out of control. Not just with the extra days of pregnancy, but also with our financial situation and the unknowns of what the year ahead holds for our family. With all this uncertainty, I find it very easy to think that things are "out of control." All too often these days I find myself all wrapped up in worry, my mind racing a thousand miles an hour as I try to figure out what our next step is going to be and how in the world everything is going to work out. Which is why I am very thankful God used a friend of a friend to remind me that things aren't out of control at all. Quite the contrary. Everything is completely under control -- HIS control.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Big Sister

Nope, Coralyn's not a big sister yet. Didn't want to get your hopes up! ;)

Well, she technically is a big sister already, but the baby just hasn't been born. All in good time...

BUT, I do believe she is ready to fill her role as a big sister. We have talked about her being a big sister, read books about big sisters and their babies, practiced holding baby dolls, and all that good stuff you do to prepare your older child for the arrival of a new baby. I don't really know how much she understands or how prepared she is. She's only two. I do think she gets that we are having a baby and she will be a big sister, but I definitely don't think she realizes how dramatically this little baby is going to change her world! She will find out soon enough! :)

Today, my heart was blessed, big time, as Coralyn showed me she how wonderful of a big sister she is going to be for this new little one. We dropped a gift off at church, and Jeanne invited us to stay and play with Jude, her grandson. Of course we said YES! Who wouldn't want to hang out in Jeanne's office, play with her toys, read her books, draw a picture with her markers, and ride in her wagon?! Oh, and get to sample vanilla wafers, animal crackers, goldfish, and cheezits while she filled up the nursery snack buckets?! I figured Coralyn would enjoy playing with Jude, who will be two next month. However, Jude was content to watch a music DVD and Coralyn was too busy taking care of her baby doll to notice the other toddler in the room. That's perfectly okay though, because I was able to see firsthand Coralyn role play being a big sister. She rocked her baby, pushed the baby in the swing, sat beside the baby in a bumbo seat, and gave the baby some pretend juice. So sweet. But the most precious thing of all was when Coralyn came over to baby Jade (Jude's little sister who is 4 months old) and gave her a kiss. She did this several times actually. My heart melted.

And now I am more ready than ever to meet my new baby girl, and introduce this precious little one to her absolutely amazing big sister!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Boys Are Stupid

I am referring to male animals, not men. I want to make that perfectly clear.

This weekend Lawrence and I watched a documentary on Yellowstone National Park. We were amazed at the beauty of God's creation and in awe of how He created each animal to survive in that environment. The fact that anything survives the brutal 6-month long winter there is astonishing in and off itself. However, one other thing stood out to me in particular: boy animals are stupid!

Throughout the documentary, we would see how various animals live. They featured elk, moose, bears, otters, wolves, rams, bison, and several other creatures. For each and every animal, I can now give you an example of how the male of the species is, in my opinion, a moron.

Elk: the male elk struts around for like 6 weeks, bugling and showing off how wonderful he is, in an attempt to win females for his harem. During this time he often goes without eating. That right there is stupid. The females, on the other hand, are smartly eating all they can to store up for winter, knowing the time is coming when food will be extremely scarce. Plus, the girls aren't even ready to mate yet, so why waste so much time trying to get their attention?! Anyway, once the girls are ready, the male elk battle it out with each other to see who will win the harem of females. They clang their antlers together, trying their best to stab one another in the neck and show the girls who is strongest. Usually the loser dies. On a good day, he walks away with minor injuries and his pride hurt. He gets no girls. All that strutting and bugling and going without food for nothing. Moron.

Moose: are very similar to the elk. Only, they pee on themselves and go dip their antlers in the muddy water and get them all covered in gunk. Apparently, this is supposed to impress the female moose. Like the elk, they clash their antlers together, fighting to the death in most cases. Winner gets all, looser either dies or goes away with nothing. Morons.

Bison: again, they fight each other to prove who is biggest, baddest, and strongest. Only one male gets the girls in the herd. All the other lesser males have to wait until next year to try to prove again they are worthy of mating with the girls. There are plenty of female bison. Why can't each male get a girl and have a happy little bison family? Morons.

Rams: this was my favorite. Before the boys fight, they check each other out. Literally, they walk around and kick each other. Once they have a feel for their competition, the fight begins. They stand apart, face one another, and then run full force and smash their heads together. Just like the elk, moose, and bison, only one male gets to mate with the females. All the others are losers and have made idiots of themselves. I think they're all morons.

Bears: changing gears a little. The documentary didn't mention anything about male bears fighting each other to win the respect of a female and the privilege of mating with her. Instead, it talked about how mother bears don't want male bears coming anywhere near her cubs. Why? Because the male won't hesitate to eat them! After all that effort to get offspring, he would go and eat a cub?! Moron!

Otters: same as bears, only the documentary just said the male otters would be more than okay with taking food from the babies to eat for themselves. So, the mother otter has to fight off the males who try to come close to her family. Once again, why go to all the trouble of having offspring if you are going to eat their food and make it hard for them to survive? Morons.

Wolves: I can't remember what retarded thing the male wolves did, but I am sure they were morons too.

I know God had a plan and purpose for making each animal the way He did. And I realize His way is best. I am not questioning that. Though I do wonder why in the world His plan and purpose includes the males of the species acting so stupid. At least, they are stupid in my mind. I am really glad God's plan and purpose for the human race was quite different. Can you imagine a guy trying to win a girl's heart by covering his hair in mud, strutting around, yelling at the top of his lungs, and head-butting other guys? It would definitely get my attention, but not my love and affection. Thankfully, Lawrence isn't a moron. Quite the opposite. So, I guess all boys aren't stupid after all, at least not mine!

Thank You, Simon

Well, I am still pregnant, so I'm not blogging to announce the joyous arrival of our precious little one! Sorry. I know many of you are waiting in eager are we! :) But for now, we just have to wait. This baby already has a mind of her own and is going to come when she is ready. I can't imagine where she gets her stubbornness :)

Actually, I am writing today to share how God has blown us away, yet again. You would think by now I would be "used" to God doing amazing things, going above and beyond our wildest dreams to answer our prayers. But I'm not. Every time He does something like this I am speechless. I can't help but stand in awe. I think that is okay though. I think God likes to surprise us, to bless our socks off, to cause us to fall to our faces and worship Him because there is nothing else we can do.

Yesterday afternoon, Coralyn was actually taking a nap (that right there is a huge blessing these days!) and Lawrence and I were enjoying the opportunity to just sit on the couch and veg. We had been watching the Chiefs' game, but it wasn't really much of a football game as the Jets were winning by a landslide. We turned on Netflix and started watching a documentary about Yellowstone. We were learning quite a bit about the harsh, 6-month-long winter and how the animals survive the extreme conditions. Fascinating actually and reminding us how awesome of a creator God is as He equipped these plants and animals to survive in the freezing cold and icy snow.

About half-way through the film, my cell phone rang. I automatically assumed it was my mom or some family member calling to see if we were doing okay since they hadn't received news of a baby yet. I was surprised to see Jeanne Hewitt's name on the caller ID. Happy though, as Jeanne is one of my favorite people on the planet. She wanted to know if we were home so she could drop off an envelope that was left on her desk. Someone had typed our names on the envelope and written her a letter asking if she would deliver it to us. A few minutes later, Jeanne was in our living room, and we were curious about this mysterious envelope.

Inside was a letter explaining that a group of people at our church had gotten together to bless other families at DC. Somehow they chose us and wanted to give us some money.


We started crying, as we were taken aback by the extreme generosity of this group of people from our church. We were speechless as God showed how He had heard our prayers for Him to provide for our needs and decided to answer above and beyond what we ever had imagined.

With me not having any daycare kiddos our budget has been very tight. And since we don't have any idea if or when I will have daycare kiddos again, we don't really know how our finances are going to work out in the coming months. We just know that I am supposed to be at home with our girls and that God will open a door for me to work from home, whether that be watching daycare kiddos, having a preschool in our home, cleaning other people's house, writing a book, or something totally different. We are playing the waiting game (seems to be a theme in our lives right now!). As we wait, we simply have to trust that God is in control, that He has prepared the way before us, and that He will show us every step to take. This has not been easy for us, especially me as I hate waiting and really like to know all the details so I can plan everything out just perfectly.

God is faithful though. And good. He has been working on my heart, and in my mind, to give me peace as I learn to let Him do His thing, in His timing. I am getting better at trusting Him, but it still doesn't come naturally.

Today, I am still in awe of God's provision. We had no idea really how we were going to be able to pay our midwife when the baby was born (any day now!) and still pay all our bills for the month. Lawrence is working a second job at the gym and giving plasma. We are doing everything in our own power to make ends meet, but still we are falling short. We are totally and completely dependent on God to miraculously come through for us.

And He did!
We had a prenatal appointment just hours later and were able to give the money we had just received to our midwife. We still owe her a little more, but now we have enough money in our bank account to pay her the remaining sum and still pay our bills for the month!

I have no idea who the people are who gave us this money. Not even the leaders of our church know. But, I want to say a great big thank you to them. And to God, our Jehovah Jireh, who not only provides for our every need, but goes above and beyond in answering our prayers.

Just this weekend our pastor talked about how following Jesus, taking up your cross daily to deny yourself and put His kingdom first, can be hard. So hard at times that you simply can't carry your cross on your own. You have to get help from other believers. Just as Simon carried Jesus' cross for Him, so we too must rely on our brothers and sisters to help us along the way. I certainly am thankful for the Simons who came along beside us yesterday. I don't know how they knew of our need. I don't know why they chose to bless us when there are so many other families at our church. All I know is that God must have whispered our names in their ears and that they were listening.

So, once again I want to say THANK YOU to the Simons from Desperation Church!
I pray God's blessing upon each and every one of you.
May He lavish His love on you as you have done for us.

And THANK YOU, GOD, for taking such good care of us.
As you have blessed us, may be in turn bless others.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Could Today Be the Day?

Every morning now I wake up and think to myself, "Today could be the day."

At night before I go to bed, I wonder, "Could today have been my last day as a mommy of just one precious child?"

This weekend could have been the last time I go to church pregnant (this time around at least).

Was this morning's storytime at the library the last time I will go and hear the question, "So when are you due?"

When Lawrence leaves for work, I wonder if I will be calling him later in the day, telling him to come home because it's baby time.

Was my prenatal appointment yesterday the last one I will have with this pregnancy?

All this anticipation. All this waiting and wondering. All this eagerness and excitement. And well there should be! A new baby is definitely worth all the fuss :)

As each day passes, I think more and more, "Will today be the day? Will I get to meet my baby today? Will I get to hold her and kiss her? Will I find out what she looks like? Will I get to count those fingers and toes that have been jabbing me for the past months? Will today be the day?" God gently reminded me that I should be this excited, this eager to meet Jesus. Every morning when I wake up, my first thought should be, "Is today the day I will see Jesus face to face? Is today the day I will meet my Lord and Savior? Is today the day?"

I have done as much as possible to prepare for my baby's arrival. I have been busy, busy, busy getting ready for her. Is the same true of me getting ready for Jesus' return? Am I as dedicated and committed and anxious to be ready for the day I meet Him?

Sadly, the honest answer has to be NO. I get so caught up in the responsibilities and tasks of this life that I forget about the one that is to come, the one that really matters. I lose focus. I get distracted.

Christmas is the perfect time to be refocus though. As we countdown the days to Christmas, we can remember that we are preparing to celebrate Christ's birth. While we read familiar stories about Mary and Joseph and their trip to Bethlehem and the glorious night of Jesus' arrival, our hearts overflow with joy and gratitude for God's amazing gift, His one and only Son. We marvel at the thought of God becoming man and living among us. How thankful I am for His sacrifice in giving up the majesties of heaven and exchanging them for the pitfalls of this world. This year, though, as I anticipate meeting my own precious child, I am above all blown away that Jesus too was a tiny baby, completely helpless and dependent on Mary. I can only imagine what Mary was thinking as she held Jesus for the first time, knowing that the Son of God was in her arms, that she was responsible for Him. WOW!

But as I try to get my mind around the idea of Jesus being a newborn, I am also more than ever impressed with the fact that I must be prepared for His return. That sweet little baby grew up and gave His life for me on the cross. One day He will come back, and I want to be ready! Just as I wonder if today will be the day that I meet my precious baby, I should be so eager to see my Jesus face to face.

And so I go about the rest of my tasks for the day, I will be asking myself the same question over and over again about two very different things. Could TODAY be the day?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas Spirit

December is finally here! This month means many things:
*new creamer flavors (hazelnut, cinnamon vanilla, gingerbread)
*fun candle scents (pine tree, apple pie, cinnamon, brown sugar)
*Christmas decorations (lights, wreaths, trees, stockings, nativity sets)
*holiday foods (chocolate covered anything, fudge, ham)
*Christmas music (the gospel is proclaimed through the words of so many songs that are played in stores across the nation)
*time with family and friends
*Christmas Eve service
*Celebrating God's precious gift, His Son Jesus

But best of all, this month means the birth of our little baby! I guess that should come right under celebrating Jesus' birth, but you know what I mean :)

It's so weird to think that a year ago I was pregnant and would miscarry in just a few short weeks. Now, we are anticipating the birth of our precious baby girl. God couldn't be more sovereign and good in His planning. Last Christmas was one of the hardest, most difficult ones I have ever experienced. We experienced one of the greatest losses one can imagine. This year we are looking forward to becoming a family of four and receiving one of the greatest blessings one can ever have.

We won't really have many presents under our tree this year (just a few items for Coralyn...and the baby isn't going to notice she doesn't have any gifts to open). We don't need anything that we don't already have. Instead of rushing around buying gifts and all that other normal Christmas stuff, we have been busy getting ready for the new baby. We have moved furniture, painted shelves, hung frames, washed bedding, folded and put away clothes, made meals and breads for the freezer, and cleaned the house thoroughly. Of course, we also found time to put up the Christmas tree, hang lights, and decorate the house for the holiday season. :)

Strange that in all this busyness, I have found such a peace. God has been teaching me to trust Him. To provide. To show me the plans He has for us. To lead me in that way. To follow Him, one step at a time. I still have lots of questions. Many unknowns still remain. But, that is okay. I can say with confidence that God is good and faithful. If ever I doubt, all I have to do is look down at my swollen pregnant belly or feel the baby kick, and I am reminded of how wonderful God is, how abundantly He blesses us, how graciously He lavishes us with His unending love.

And so this December and holiday season, I feel more in the Christmas Spirit than ever before. As I anticipate the birth of my child, I can only imagine how Mary must have felt that night in the stable when she held and kissed Jesus for the first time. As I cherish the thought of meeting my baby, I am deeply grateful for God's sacrifice in giving up His only Son and sending Jesus to earth that we might have Life through Him.

Yes, indeed, this is going to be the best Christmas ever!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Today was supposed to be Carson's last day with us, but due to sickness he wasn't able to come over to play today. Thankfully, he is going to stop by next week to have an official good-bye. Our world has forever changed now that Carson won't be Coralyn's daily playmate. I am not sure how Coralyn is going to adjust to this change. She has become pretty fond of Carson (as have I!) and will miss him dearly!

I started taking care of Carson when Coralyn was just under 2 months old, so she hasn't ever really known life without Carson. He has always been there, and through the past two years, he has become like a big brother to her. Whenever we go somewhere with Carson, people always assume they are siblings, and I have stopped trying to explain that I only "babysit" Carson. I don't mind claiming him as my own for just that short time. He's such a good kid. And has brought such joy to our lives. I could go on and on about how fantastic he is and how wonderful it has been for Coralyn to play with him every week day for the past 2 years, but instead I will just share some of my favorite pictures of Carson and Coralyn. It will be fun to look back and see how much both of them have grown since the day I started watching Carson back in 2009!

Carson and Virg when she came as a surprise Christmas present in Dec 09

Enjoying a nice spring day in March 2010

Coralyn at 7-8 months, May 2010
Carson doesn't look too thrilled about this picture though! :)

Carson looks like he had fun playing outside (and getting dirty)

The Gang, August 2010
Harper, Coralyn (10 months), Carson, Aaron, and Jayden

And so begins Coralyn's fascination with cars, September 2010

Sportin' the Shades, October 2010

Getting ready for Thanksgiving, November 2010

Who needs new toys when you can have a cool box?
Coralyn and the boys, December 2010

All bundled up, January 2011

What a good "big brother" February 2011

Tool belts...Can we fix it? Yes we can!
March 2011

King of the Mountain (or tree stump)
April 2011

Waiting for the Trash Man, May 2011

Feeding the baby goats at Deanna Rose Farm, June 2011

Playing with Coralyn's trucks, August 2011

Goofy Carson, September 2011

Pudding Paint, October 2011

Love the boots!
November 2011

As you can see, we have had a terrific time with Carson over the past two years! We will greatly miss that special boy (I'm sure that Coralyn will be asking about him every morning for days and days to come)! Even though he's not coming over every day, he is welcome to come visit any time he wants! And, of course, we will still have a special place in our heart for Carson forever and always!

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