Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Day We Fell Even More In Love

I sometimes wonder how it is possible to love our child even MORE, but today, it came true.

We know the feeling of what it is to love an unborn child. When our first 2 were knit together, we celebrated two lives that we never officially met, but held onto a love for them, that only grew. Even after they passed away.

Loving the unborn, has once again, become more and more real to us.

And today, we fell even more in love!

I had my 10 week appointment today, and we are incredibly blessed to say that we have one healthy child! Yes, there is one - and this child let us KNOW that he/she IS #1! As the doctor was doing the ultrasound, the babester goes and throws up his pointer finger and the doctor says "well, okay, this baby thinks he's number 1"! We all laughed, as the baby just waved and waved at us. So active and so full of life! (The doctor did get a picture of the "#1", but it doesn't show up in a picture of the picture).

I am actually measuring about 4-5 days ahead of schedule, but the doctor decided to keep my same due date of March 17, knowing that I am one day off from my due date being pushed forward a week. Though we are not surprised at the size, as Dan and I were large babies (Kristin a 9lb. 3oz. and Dan at 10lb. 3oz. I think).

It was wonderful to meet our doctor - the doctor we are hoping will be able to deliver baby Sterk. I will have to have some blood work done later on to determine more fully where I will deliver, but we are hoping it will be in the nearest town, not in the cities. BUT, with that said, we will do whatever it takes to ensure my health and safety and the safety of our child. As our doctor laid out all of the scenarios of what could happen, though one would assume it would instill fear, our hearts were actually at peace. We know that no matter what, God has this child already in the palm of His hand and is creating minute by minute, an environment that He sees fit. Whatever the circumstances, it doesn't change what God can do. It doesn't change what God has done to my heart and how He can preserve the health of it. Of course there are risks, but we serve a bigger God than risks can say. We know that this whole situation has been a complete miracle in and of itself, with my heart and with the miracle of life, so the rest of the process is nothing short of a miracle. EVERY. DAY.

Of course my heart is even more at peace, seeing our little one today. The reality of what is going on inside of me, just brings chills to this mother's heart. As I sit here, our baby is busy doing who knows what. Thinking about everything under the sun. Moving it's arms and legs in whatever direction it wants them to go. Letting his/her parents know today, that he's alive and well. What a celebration.

How could we fall even more in love, I wasn't so sure. But remembering and looking back to a few years ago, I am reminded of how strong LOVE is. That no matter where your children are (even if they are in heaven), your love for them continues to grow. And GROW. Til one day, the fulfillment of that perfect love will be satisfied in heaven. And today, we got just a glimpse again, of what that feeling of love is like for a child. A love that can only grow and never diminish. A love that reminds us of the unconditional love our Father has for us. To shower us with undeserved blessings of love.

Today our hearts are even fuller and even more in love, for this little one:

So, this marks 10 weeks, and I am feeling better and better by the week! I am still LOVING cereal and now watermelon. I still eat about 4-5 bowls of cereal a day, but I suppose I could be eating worse, right? Crackers, apple juice, and tortilla chips and cheese, are what I am living off of. Oh, and of course pickles. I LOVE PICKLES. Always have, but wow, do they taste even better! And anything cold. Real fruit popsicles? YUM! I am sleeping good at night and am actually becoming a warm body! Just ask Dan - I am usually so cold, but my body has been telling me that it's PLENTY warm these days! What a change! Nausea can come and go, but it is getting less and less by the week! I am still exercising and living life as normal, so to think that I am 1/4 of the way through this pregnancy, and feeling as I am, we couldn't be more thankful! Please praise God with us, for a healthy baby and for sustaining life in such a powerful way!

I will see my heart doctor in Minneapolis at the beginning of September to check on how the ole ticker is doing and then see my obgyn again mid-September. We are so blessed to be in a country where quality medical care is available! To know that we live in a country where medicine is well-advanced and the care of those who may be more at-risk, isn't as much of a worry, is such a blessing. Yes, medical expenses are expensive, but when the outcome is considered and kept as the main focus, it makes this completely worth every moment and appointment. Another reason we are thankful today! We are blessed to live in the country we do.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Savoring Every Blessing

Psalm 34:8 - Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!

When I think of savoring every blessing, I think of this verse from Psalms. I can't help but think about what it takes to SAVOR the goodness of the Lord. To SAVOR every blessing. To SAVOR His love.

It takes...

Slowing Down. Do you ever take time in your day to slow down? Sit back, and think about how God has blessed you? Think about what He is doing in your life? Think about His goodness? Putting the pen down, taking your fingers off the keyboard, setting your phone aside, sitting on the couch for maybe 5 minutes, to just SAVOR. Soak in what God is doing in your life.

Time to Reflect. It's one thing to stop and sit. It's another to reflect on the past. Sometimes I think about to a couple of years ago, and there was so much pain and hurt. Anytime I would start to think about many of the situations, I would get so teary eyed because my heart was so broken. Yet when Dan and I walked away from the physical situations and started to let go of the pain in our hearts, we realized that God was right there to catch us. Not just welcome us, but catch us. I have vivid memories of us both just in complete tears of utter loss, not knowing where to turn, yet it was in that moment, that I felt God pick us up and rub His hand on our head, reminding us that it's okay and that HE had our back. Reflecting on the past isn't always easy, but in doing so, has allowed us to SAVOR the blessings of today.

Living in Joy. I will be the first to admit, that "joy" was not always the word that I would choose to describe our situation. But in retrospect, it was in the blessings, that God helped us find true joy. We became parents to 2 beautiful children in heaven. And now, we are parents to an EARTHLY child, who has yet to enter this world. Yes, those are situations, but in those situations, God has taught us what joy is - that it is in the giving AND taking away. That true joy can be found in loss and grief. That it's our joy in Christ, that stood firm. Choosing JOY everyday, is just one more way to SAVOR the blessings of today.

Talking About It. I think as Christians (myself included), when someone asks about your day, it's easy to list the negative first and then maybe throw in the one hard-to-find positive of the day. Why is that? I think in savoring every blessing, looking at life as the saying goes, as your cup half full, is finding the ways that God has blessed the day. Talking about what God is doing in your life, is encompassing all of the above, into conversations with others. How inspiring it is, to talk with someone and hear how God is working in their life - really. Think about some conversations you have had or things you have read. When you hear about how God is working, is your faith not inspired? I LOVE hearing stories of how God is working in the lives of His children. My faith grows. So talking about how God is working, is just one more way to SAVOR the blessings of today. Don't hide your faith and the beauty of what God is doing in YOUR life!

What will it take for you to SAVOR the blessings of today?

P.S. Just a little pregnancy update! I am now over 9 weeks along! We are daily praying that this little one is safely nuzzled inside. Next week I have another ultrasound and doctor's appointment, which we are looking very forward to once again! I admit I am a little anxious, but I know that no matter what, I can't control what God's perfect plan is, and we are just savoring the blessings of today. My nausea has subsided QUITE a bit in the last week, which has been such a blessing. Certain foods taste GREAT, such as pickles and anything cold :). And well, of course, cereal. I still feel my stomach is growing, as there is no sucking in this little pooch, but every time I look down, I think of how Babester is more active than ever. Not that I can feel him/her move, but it seems as if my body is still busy making this crazy environment for a baby to grow inside of. It just still utterly amazes me! EVERYDAY. To hear Dan say good morning to what he still calls "Cletus the fetus" and to talk about what it will be like to parent. Conversations that we just treasure. What a joy it is to savor THESE blessings of today!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Family Vacation to the U.P.

Our final big summer event of the year has come and gone, all too quickly!
Last week, we headed to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, for Dan's family vacation in Munising. If you are wondering what this town has to offer, think Pictured Rocks National Park. Dan and I were both here as kids, but don't remember much of the beauty, so we were eager to head back to this gorgeous part of the country!

It is always good to get together with family - to catch up on everyone's lives, see how the nieces and nephews have grown, and spend time in God's creation! So, here is a random glimpse of our week!

Levi LOVES to fish and if you know Dan, it is evident that these two were peas in a pod all week out on the lake!

Alex was proud to catch a fish, so we had to show him how to fillet this little perch!

In the Munising area, there are NUMEROUS falls to hike to - this is just one: Munising Falls

A morning hike led us to Mosquito Falls...

 And a picturesque rocky "beach" (there was no sand - just rock cliffs that led to the water)

One of the more adventurous things the guys did was launch a bottle rocket. This sure offered a lot of laughter!

The launch recovery team in the lake (Powell Lake, that is)

One place that I have always had a heart for is Mackinaw Island. Growing up, our family went there more times than I can remember, but each time, it just got better and better. Knowing that we were only 2 hours away, we decided to make the trek down to the bridge and port out of St. Ignace. It was a GORGEOUS day to spend on this "behind the times" island!

Of course we rented bikes and cycled around the island...

Downtown Mackinaw Island - a place I never tire of. Both Dan and I said we could live here - when there are no cars, but just bikes and horse-drawn carriages, it just screams a life of simplicity!

Atop a lookout point at Fort Holmes on Mackinaw Island

Completely worth the trip and can't wait until the next time we are able to visit!

At Sand Point on Lake Superior

Perfect time for a family picture!

Dan had this crazy idea of going snorkeling in the 55 degree water of Lake Superior. There is no way my body would survive with no wet suit, but even though, I kept saying there was no way I was going to go. Although, it was my mind telling me how amazing it would be to see Pictured Rocks from a snorkeler's perspective. Even that morning, I told Dan I wasn't going to go, but to take the wet suit just in case. Well, I came back from a hike and Dan told me how fun and grand it was. Well, he convinced me. I was tired by the time we got to the part where we were supposed to jump in the water and I had second thoughts. Being prego, it just takes so much more energy to do things, but I knew this would be an experience of a lifetime. So, I threw on the mask, snorkel, fins, and dove in. I had to catch my breath because the water was so cold and allow my face to go numb, but after that, the adrenaline and scenery wiped away any other thoughts. 

Dan's dad had a GoPro, so when Dan went out with his brother, he took these pictures - obviously it looks the same as when we went - absolutely stunning

There was no sandy edge - just pure rock, which caused this beautiful color contrast

We thought we would see fish, but all we saw were minnows. The thing is, there was no algae or anything for fish to feed off of, so at the same time, it made the water that much more clear. We have never snorkeled in that clear of water. There were quarters at the bottom and you could see them clear as day!

Some of the underwater caves that we explored. It was a little scary going into them because it was dark, but we realized too, there were no fish, so we had nothing to be afraid of.

Miner's castle - you can see a little black hole at the bottom of the rock formation in the middle of the picture. We were able to climb THRU Miner's Castle and come out that hole! We realized we made have ruined some people's pictures as this picture was taken from the observation deck. I can only imagine what those people were thinking when they saw 2 people in full wet suits (hoods, gloves, and booties included) come popping out of that hole! Snorkeling in that water around the castle was so beautiful!

A grand ole view of Pictured Rocks!

If you have not been to this area before, I highly recommend it! Of course I am a little partial to Michigan, but the UP is really a different state - so different than lower Michigan! We had such a good time with family and we are reminded of how blessed we are to be surrounded by such love!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Beyond Blessed By God's Surprises

I shouldn't be surprised.

Yet I am again and again. At God's goodness and unfathomable ways in our life. Lying on the table on Tuesday, waiting to see a miracle, I wasn't so sure. Good thing I did not have a blood pressure cuff on because my reading would have been off the charts. I look back though, and think that if it wasn't for that scare, that moment of panic, that again, complete surrender of "I've got nothing left, Lord", my faith wouldn't be where it's at a few days later. 

After 30 years of life, I still do not understand God's ways. Should I feel guilty saying that? I don't think so. I think in a sense, God has a mystery about Him because it grows our faith and trust. In fact, check out these verses:

Job 5:9 - He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.

Romans 11:33 - Oh, how great are God's riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!

Psalm 139: 5-6 -  You hem me in - behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

The words "cannot be fathomed, cannot be counted, impossible for us to understand, knowledge too wonderful for me, too lofty to attain..."

I find those words as a Christian as rather comforting. Seems kind of odd as humans to be in a relationship with someone and those words come to mind, but with our heavenly Father, that is the exact relationship I want. Yet I don't always live that way. I remember crying out to God asking why I was experiencing the symptoms I was? Yet He humbles me again and again, by showing me His ways ARE unfathomable. It IS impossible to understand fully His decisions and ways - but I find that comforting. 

Have we always understood why God allowed the pain He did in our life? No, BUT. The place of beauty that He has us in now, has been worth every step. He kept saying, "just wait, my child!" Not understanding His ways, is a calling of faith and complete surrender to His plan. Not a surrender to other's plans for our life, but to HIS plans. There may be no explanation, but one of pure faith.

I have gone back to Tuesday's events and tried to rationalize it all in my mind - the sequence of events and the results. They don't make sense. They are unfathomable in a way. All those symptoms at once (spotting, diarrhea, cramping), yet the doctor's call saying that all is well. Human's can't explain, but God's ways are so much greater. What I can explain is God's grace in our life. Did He spare our child's life? I believe yes. He does everyday that the babester stays snuggled in my womb. Was Tuesday a special day? I don't know. But I can explain God's perfect plan - no matter what the results would've been. God has chosen to reveal Himself through His power, the power of prayer, and His unattainable ways.

Do you believe in the unfathomable? The unattainable? Miracles that can't be counted?

Update since Tuesday: I feel GREAT! I am so blessed to have this summer and not work a "normal" job. I have been busy blogging over at Organizing Life With Less (that's my other part-time job), but that requires rest and sitting - the two things I have needed since Tuesday. I no longer have spotting, diarrhea, or cramping. Nausea occurs throughout the day, but no throwing up, so it is very manageable with diet and water. But actually I LOVE feeling nauseous - odd, I know, but most amazing feeling to a new mom! Slow walks are a great remedy as well. Being able to feel this child "growing" (more or less my body just telling me it's changing inside), is one of the most intimate feelings. To have a beating heart within. To know that everything I do, Babester comes with, everything I eat, my baby "eats", and every prayer we pray, God hears. 

Beyond blessed. Beyond blessed to serve an unfathomable God.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Faith That Can Move Mountains

I pray that one day I would have a faith that can move mountains. To believe so much in what God is doing in our life - even in the good and bad, that there is no worry or doubt. 

Our faith was shaken a bit yesterday as I started to question what God was doing in our life. I questioned His will, His ways.

Yesterday I woke up not feeling great. I felt nauseous, I felt sick. I thought GREAT (that is a positive GREAT). I am feeling symptoms of being pregnant and that is exactly what I want - to know that my body is responding to a human growing inside of it. Symptoms are a gentle nudge I think, from God, reminding me of the miracle He has created. I hope for those nudges.

As noon rolled around, I started to feel crampy and then lo and behold, I started to spot. That was my first time, and some of my other symptoms, caused me to be very concerned. Okay, not concerned, but literally scared. The memories of old were all to fresh. I went on a walk, hoping the cramping would go away, but it didn't. I immediately walked into the house and called the doctor. Of course they were on lunch, so for the next half hour I just cried, read my Bible, and prayed. Tears of utter helplessness. Tears for this little one inside. That God would spare his/her life.

The nurse called back and asked more about my symptoms and I could tell by her voice that she was alarmed. Well, that doesn't help an already scared soul, so more tears. Of course I called Dan and he was on his way home from work (so thankful they are understanding). We were beside ourselves honestly. 

The nurse called back yet again, after she talked to the doctor about my symptoms and said they needed me to come in for an ultrasound soon. Part of me was at peace because I just wanted to know, but the other part of me was concerned that they were trying to get me in as early as they could. Talk about one scared momma.

Unfortunately the clinic I go to did not have openings until 7:30am the next day, but they said they could look at the hospital. I told them that for a peace of mind, I need to come in today. They completely understood and I was able to get in 50 minutes later. I told Dan to turn around and I would meet him in Willmar, pick him up, and head straight to the hospital.

I would love to say that we had a faith that could move mountains in all of this, but we didn't. We were both in shambles. Could this really be happening? Again? Through mumbled words, we told each other we just couldn't do it again. Yet later we both said that God is in control and that if He has taken this precious life to be with Him, that He would help us get through it. We prayed as we sat in the parking lot, that the ultrasound would have a healthy baby and that all of our worries would be carried away.

Thankfully it was really quiet at the hospital so we headed to registration right away and sat down for 30 seconds and the imager called us back. He starts off by saying that because I am only 7 weeks, that they might not see anything through the stomach because the baby is so small. Way to make us even more concerned, but at the same time, it was the right thing to tell us.

As the medical imager rolled the device on my stomach, I could see a black hole. I knew from past experience that that was a good sign (at least there was a placenta)! And almost immediately he said "I think there's the baby!" I lifted my head up ever so slightly to look into Dan's eyes. Our eyes welled up with tears. And then a few short moments later, he said there is the flickering heartbeat.


I couldn't contain the overwhelming sense of peace that ran through my entire body. The peace of God that said "My child, everything will be okay." For the next few minutes, I just had tears streaming, trying to keep as still as I could so the imager could get the best looks he could at this little miracle.

I kept apologizing that I was crying, but he said that life really is a miracle and that since this was our first one, it probably meant a lot. I timidly said that actually we had been in this position before, but in a different way, and we had seen an empty screen. So to see life is so overwhelming that all I could do was cry.

This little baby, who's parts are nowhere fully formed, but the heartbeat as strong as can be. That is what I want my faith to look like. My heart to be so in charge - a heart full of God, that it overtakes who I am. A heart that is so full of God's love and grace, that when people look at me, that is what they see. That is what I saw in our child yesterday.

We saw the heartbeat a few times as the imager said that we have a healthy baby thus far. Measuring right on (should be 1 centimeter big - Babester is 1.1) and the heartbeat should be between 80-180 and Babester's was 142. 

I wish I had a faith that could move mountains. I doubted what God was doing in our life. I cried out to Him why? We were so certain that THIS was what God wanted for us, but to have a scare like this?

As we walked back to the car, we couldn't contain ourselves. Tears just streamed. We prayed a prayer of thanksgiving and relief. And we realized, that this whole ordeal now blessed us with the gift of ultrasound pictures! Pictures we only ever dreamed of having one day. Pictures filled with so much life. Pictures that reminded us that GOD can move mountains.

So, why was I having the symptoms I did? The nurse practitioner called me about an hour later and said they were unsure, but to just take it easy the rest of the day, but that really I could continue on and just monitor how I was feeling. Various things could have caused my symptoms, but my body and the baby seem to be healthy and they were not alarmed. No abnormalities showed up. Typically you do not have an ultrasound at 7 weeks - they are usually between 10-12 weeks. But God had a different plan! A plan of reassurance.

What a blessing. What a gift. It was an extremely hard few hours yesterday as I could hear the sense of urgency on the nurse's part too when I called. But if all of that was so that we could receive the gift of an ultrasound picture and be reassured that yes, God HAS created life within, then it was all worth it. And that is what we are going to look at that situation as - a gift. A gentle reminder that God is in control and that serving God does require a faith that can move mountains, no matter what the situation. 

I told myself I wouldn't doubt as I did yesterday, yet our memories are still so fresh. But we serve a God who is so much more than our past and looks ahead to the blessings He will give us in the future. 

So today we rejoice in this little picture - a picture of perfection and beauty. A life knit together by the VERY HANDS OF GOD. A life nuzzled up in my womb, hopefully until March. We pray that God continues to keep this lil one and myself as healthy as can be - as healthy as He sees perfectly fit.

To God be the glory!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Final Glimpse of Our Mission Trip

Here are the last of the pictures of our mission trip to Lac Courte Oreilles!

On Thursday, we helped set up a large tent for a tent meeting for those who struggle with addictions. It was a gorgeous day that day and we met some wonderful people that morning!

One fun aspect of mission trips is the fact that you can have fun together - here is one painting crew!

After a lot of hard work of smoothing out the freshly poured concrete, the boys should be proud! This is the foundation for a warming house at The Shack

Wood burning stoves are quite common - so splitting and stacking wood is just part of a normal day!

Running a wood splitter was like second nature, as Dan and I did that for a whole week in Alaska 2 years ago!

Serving God may mean pulling weeds - we helped a lady clean up her yard and clear brush (so that she could see bears approaching her house - yes, this is true) and the joy it brought to her face, was priceless!

Seeing our youth group kids love on the children of Lac Courte Oreilles, brought such joy!

Dan playing with the kids on the playground

Trying to figure out how to make balloon animals - definitely an epic fail!

On Wednesday night we went to a demonstration pow-wow. How interesting to see what a pow-wow is really like!

On Friday night, our last night in Wisconsin, we headed over to nearby Hayward, where the Lumberjack World Championships were taking place. We met someone who happened upon free tickets and she generously offered them to us! We were all looking forward to it after spending a week in the woods and becoming semi-lumberjacks ourselves!

Nothing like dressing for the occasion!

The Hot Saw: WOW

I seriously don't understand how this is possible!

The 60 foot pole climb - watching them come down is breath-taking - literally

Talk about a calf muscle workout - logrolling!

Running across logs (aka women's boom run) - kind of want to give it a try

These women are so incredibly buff - women's underhand

I think this is the standing chop

The Springboard Chop - so these guys use an ax to create divets into the log and then stick a board into it and stand on it, and then cut another divet in. Insane.

The good ole 90 foot climb up a pole - at the top, the pole is swaying back and forth. 

It was a great way to end an eventful and blessed week. We all miss the trip incredibly and are learning how to live life with the changes God did in our hearts. We are spoiled by spending 24/7 with each other and now going our separate ways. But the joys of mission trips are the fact that we now have shared experiences. Dan and I are so blessed to have the opportunity to work with these kids and thank you to the parents for allowing us to be a part of their lives!