Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Heartwarming Tale of Bedwetting...

One of our children wets the bed, not every night, but often enough that it sometimes feels pointless to even bother with sheets. Which is why we haven't been lately... except for that nice, big, waterproof plastic sheet. (Yes, this is a very humbling confession). It's so much easier to deal with in the middle of the night. You see, when 3 children sleep in the same bed, if just one of them wets the bed in the night, all three of the children must be moved, in the middle of the night, in order to change the sheets. Unless there are no sheets, in which case the little wetter can simply be rinsed and re-dressed, her spot washed, and she can then be replaced and snuggled back under dry, cozy blankets while the others sleep on undisturbed. Unless she managed to soak her sister in the process, which is a whole different story. Can you imagine how horrible it would be to be woken out of a deep, peaceful sleep to discover that you had been the victim of someone else's bed-wetting? Definitely not warm and cozy. Warm, maybe.... but not cozy.
     A few nights ago, I had gone to bed miserable with the flu. Sometime shortly after 1:30 in the morning, I woke up to find Philip checking on the girls, and discovering that our one particular daughter had wet the bed. "Already??" I exclaimed. I lay there listening as Philip gently woke the wet child and  broke the news to her: "You're soaked." He got her up, gave her a bath, scrubbed and dried her place in bed, then tucked her back in with a snuggle and a kiss and a warm, dry blanket. We all drifted off to sleep and all was dry and happy.
     Until about 5 hours later. Philip had gotten up to go to work, but had just gotten the call that due to the rain, start time was delayed. Yes! He could come back to bed for an hour! One cozy,  rainy morning hour of extra sleep. Before he came back to bed he checked on the girls...and found that our child had once again soaked herself. "She wet the bed again!" I heard him whisper in astonishment. So once again, he gently woke up the poor, wet child and broke the news. "You wet the bed". Any irritation or frustration I had felt toward the child melted away the moment I heard her surprised and very disappointed-in-herself response: "I did?! Again?!" She seemed so frustrated with herself as she stumbled towards the bathroom, the only thing I could feel towards her was pity. I was impressed by Philip's kind attitude as he went through the routine all over again... warm bath, clean clothes, scrub bed, snuggle, kiss, "goodnight"... all the while his precious extra time to sleep was quickly slipping away.
     I hadn't thought much more about it throughout the day, until the child-who-shall-remain-nameless brought it up. "Mama" she said. "Papa was SO sweet to me when I wet the bed in the night. Even though I did it two times, he was just so sweet and he didn't even act like he minded." Wow. Moment of enlightenment. It would have been SO easy in a situation like Philip faced, to NOT be "so sweet", to give in to the feeling of frustration. To let your child know that you are just a little irritated to be having to deal with this, especially twice in one night. It would even seem justifiable. I mean, she is really too old to be wetting the bed, and this is just a little ridiculous... I know I probably would have been guilty of it! I might have even said some little comment like, "this is crazy... you're going to have to stop drinking so much water at night" just to make sure that she realized that I wasn't thrilled to be doing this. When I saw, though, how much it meant to her that her Papa had handled it so sweetly, and that he "didn't even act like he minded", I was struck by the blessings that would have been missed had Philip acted impatiently. Our daughter was blessed by her Papa's kindness, I was blessed by witnessing her Papa's kindness, I was blessed by her appreciation of her Papa's kindness, and then he was blessed when I relayed to him how much his kindness had meant to her. It made me wonder, how many blessings do we miss out on because we give vent to our feelings, because we go ahead and make that one little cutting comment, or allow that one little huff of a bad attitude to make sure that someone is aware of the bother that we're going to for them... You know, when God says "do ALL things without murmurings and disputings" (Philippians 2:14) he's not just talking to kids to tell them to eat their veggies and do their chores without complaining. He's talking to US, and He means, do ALL things without murmurings and disputings. Even dealing with a child soaking the bed twice in one night. When   I saw how much Philip's sweetness had meant to her, it also made me realize how much a less-kind reaction would have affected her. She probably wouldn't have thought to put it into words, or maybe she wouldn't have even given it a second thought at all, but at that moment in the middle of the night, waking up wet and disappointed in herself, it would have just been one more negative element added  to an already uncomfortable interruption in her night's rest. Instead, because her Papa chose to obey and honor God with his attitude, a warm and cozy memory was made, and heart strings were tied. And my heart swells with gratitude and love and joy every time I think about it. :)
Cute, but... don't even THINK about drinking all that water before bed.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." -Philippians 4:11. When I was about 17, I sort of took this verse as one of my life goals. I had become chronically ill with nobody-knew-what, but whatever it was, I was in total-body pain and physical misery day and night. It lasted about 3 years before the Lord healed me. During that time, some Biblical concepts that I had always heard but never really practiced became very real to me. Things like, "In EVERYthing give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ concerning you". (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and "the joy of the Lord is your strength" and the one I mentioned above. After years of testing, I thought I pretty much had it down....


every few weeks, I am tested again. It happens in that moment when I realize that there is still no new little Litteral on the way. All these emotions erupt inside of me, and I have a split second of feeling my heart crying out, in a whiney, immature way: "Whyyyyyy, God??" Sometimes it lasts more than a split second, and I have to give myself a good, hard verbal spanking. "Clara, is God Sovereign?? Do you ACTUALLY believe that He is Sovereign? Do you believe that He knows what is best? Do you REALLY believe it?? Then why are you whining??!" Then I have to answer: "YES, YES!! He is completely Sovereign! And yes, He knows what is best!! I know, I know... I have no reason to whine..."

Then I feel ashamed and horribly ungrateful... I have 3 BEAUTIFUL, precious children, who delight us and bless us constantly; wonderful gifts from God!! How dare I complain because He hasn't given me even MORE, at the time when I think He should?

Then a few weeks later.... *bam* the eruption of emotions, "WHYYYYY, God???", the tears and then... the verbal spanking, and the surrender. Again.

A few weeks ago, we were at a get-together with a bunch of the family, and I was talking with Grandpa E., doing the usual catching up. He asked if we were enjoying our 3 girls, and I was telling him that we definitely were. Someone asked: "Where are the boys??" and I had laughed and replied: "Hopefully they're still-to-come!" Then Grandpa smiled, in his wise, kind Grandpa way, and he said: "You know, we would have enjoyed having a boy, but we were sure content with our 5 girls." When he said that, I was struck with conviction. I had never thought about this matter in that light. I thought about it more and more.... God says that children are a blessing, a reward. I just ache to have a whole houseful of them, a whole army to raise for the Lord, a whole quiver full of Godly arrows prepared to do serious damage to the enemy's plans. What I want is a good thing. And I'm not going to stop wanting it. Longing for it. Praying for it. But, in the meantime, I have to find the balance, and still be content with where God has me right now. Still trust that He DOES know what is best! And He knows every desire of my heart, as well as every bit of disappointment and sadness. He also has plans that we know nothing about. Plans that are always for our best, and for His glory. Even at 5, 4 and going-on-3, our girls are learning this lesson. They ask me why God doesn't give us a new baby, they pray and ask Him to please give us one. (actually, they specifically ask Him for 14 children.) They ask me why other families, who have a whole bunch of children, are "more blessed" than us. Anja told me with tears in her eyes, that she loves playing with her baby cousins and friends, but "it's sad because all the babies get to go home with other families and we don't have one". I see how much these 3 girls love babies SO much, and to me it makes perfect sense that God would give us one. But I explain to them that we ARE blessed, in SO many ways!! Then we talk about all the ways that God has blessed us. Then we talk about how God knows best, and we have to trust Him even when it doesn't make sense to us. God is glorified in these conversations, and so even right there, I can see a little bit of how He is working. These are precious and eternally valuable lessons for the girls to be learning so young, and we can't see yet how God is going to use these things in their lives. God's ways are NOT our ways, but God's ways ARE BEST.

One blessed Mama!
I just saw this quote on Facebook, posted by my dear Auntie Kara: "I cried because I had no shoes; then I saw a man who had no feet". How timely. I look at my 3 little girls, and I am overwhelmed by how much God has blessed me. It probably seems completely ridiculous to a lot of people that I would even be struggling with all these things when my youngest child isn't even 3 yet. But by the time my oldest was this age, she had 2 younger siblings already. I LOVE being pregnant, and I've always envisioned myself being Mama to a huge bunch of children... and my time is ticking. If you don't understand my heart on that, then it will just seem silly to you. That's ok, just take away the lessons I've learned about trusting God and His Sovereignty and apply them in your life to whatever your area of struggle is.

When I say "lessons I've learned", don't think that that means I will never have to learn them again. Life goes on, and there will always be those things we don't understand, those things we don't like, and those times when we're tempted to ask God, "why???" But in those times, we have to remember....
One blessed Papa!

Rom 11:33O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable [are] his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
Rom 11:34For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?
Rom 11:36
For of him, and through him, and to him, [are] all things: to whom [be] glory for ever. Amen.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Romantic Tale... part deux (I thought it would be more romantic if I wrote it in French)

Ok, I'm back with another strong cup of coffee, this time cold (same pot as earlier) even though I should be in bed. I am determined to get this done, though. Even if I have to eat the last of the vanilla ice cream (with a spoonful of peanut butter in it) to keep me awake! THAT is how dedicated I am.

I thought I'd share a poem that I wrote one night when I couldn't sleep. It kind of shows my heart on this whole matter. Ahem...
    'Tis true there are plenty of fish in the sea,
    but there's only just ONE fish who's the right fish for me.
    I'll not have a boyfriend, no try-him-out dating; 
    when my husband arrives, he'll find a faithful wife waiting!

     I'll not give my heart to just any nice boy,
     my heart is a treasure not a cheap little toy.
     So I'll guard it, protect it, save it for ONE.
     I'll not trade my heart for some temporary "fun".
     This is one fish I'll not cast my line after;
     in the story of my life I'll let God write this chapter!
     So I'll sit on the bank with my eyes tightly closed,
     until God puts this "fish" right under my nose. 
                                    (insert copyright thing here)

So we left off with my being Dusty McPherson. This went on for awhile and I found some sort of strange comfort in the character of Dusty. 

Meanwhile, I was having a harder and harder time being around this Philip fellow with the cool hair, and not letting myself start to like him just a little too much. I mean, he was really, really likable. And good-looking. And the more I got to know him, the more ways I discovered that he was everything I wanted in a husband. I mean, when he was a young teenager he told his mom that he guessed he would have to marry an Amish woman, because no other girl would want to have as many kids as he wanted. And while all the other teenage boys were drooling over sports cars, he unashamedly declared that his favorite was a station wagon because you could fit the most kids in it. Ok, maybe that doesn't do anything for you, but I thought that was wonderful. ;) 

Philip was also determined to guard his heart, and really careful not to do anything to get my hopes up. For instance, he would sit down beside me in church, but then be sure to whisper: "Don't be defrauded, ok?" I'm not sure how effective that was, but his heart was in the right place. ;)

People started teasing me more about Philip, and after awhile it wasn't even just teasing. Adults that barely knew us would see us both at the same event, not even so much as speaking to each other or hanging out, and comment to my mom that Philip seemed perfect for me. I would mention Philip's name in passing, and people who had no idea who he even was would say, "Ohhh, he seems perfect for you! Do you think he's 'the one'?" Everywhere I turned I was being bombarded by people with the idea that Philip and I were perfect for each other. 

It didn't help that we often showed up at church in totally coordinating outfits! People used to joke that we must have planned our outfits ahead! Week after week, we'd walk in, glance at each other, and have to laugh and shake our heads. It was almost ridiculous.

At one point, some people from our church went on a mission trip to Ukraine. Then a bunch of us became interested in Ukraine, including Philip. I didn't want to seem like I was copying him, so I quietly gave up any interest I had in going to Ukraine, and instead privately turned my mind to El Salvador. I didn't tell anyone, but I was starting to really set my heart on taking a trip to El Salvador someday. Well, one day, out-of-the-blue, a bunch of us were talking about Ukraine, and Philip announces: "I actually really want to go to El Salvador." *Gulp*. I was genuinely irritated by this, because now I knew I didn't dare mention my own desire to go to El Salvador. I guess I could have just been like, "I want to go to El Salvador with you. Don't be defrauded, ok?" but I just didn't think of that at the time.

I don't remember exactly when it was, but somewhere in the months leading up to our engagement (Oh shoot, I just gave away the ending!) I was going grocery shopping alone. I pulled into the parking lot, and the song "Go Light Your World" sung by Chris Rice had just come on the radio. I had heard bits and pieces of it before, but I wanted to hear the whole thing, so I sat in the car and listened. For some reason, much to my complete shock, as I listened to this song I started to sob...and sob...and sob. I had absolutely no idea why I was sobbing, and I didn't feel sad. It was more of an overwhelmed sob, and I somehow knew that this was a very special song that was going to play a very special role in my life. The song ended, and I dried my eyes and did my shopping, still very puzzled but really loving that song.

This whole time, I didn't really have a clue as to how Philip felt about me. I mean, I knew he enjoyed my siblings and me, but for all I knew he thought I was hideously ugly and would be horrified at the thought of marrying me. (I had self-esteem issues, ok? ;) ) In fact, I drove my poor younger sister crazy saying things like, "I don't think Philip even likes me". She would just roll her eyes and say, "Oh brother". I was very confused because one week Philip would be really friendly, and the next week he would hardly speak to me. What I didn't realize is that he was also fighting to guard his heart, and struggling to keep his emotions in check. I later found out that he prayed about me for over a year before speaking to my dad about me.I'll have to see if I can get him to share his side of the story sometime. It's incredible to see the ways that God was leading us both at this time. 

My list of character qualities had, over time, sort of morphed into what I called my "MAN-equin", the model I would try men on to see if they fit. (Clever, I know. ;) ) My MAN-equin was named, of course, Marshall Grant.

Finally one day in June or July, Philip had been hanging out with my family over at my older sister and brother-in-law's house. We were going to be leaving soon, and we noticed that Philip followed my dad out to the van and hopped in with him before we got out there. It never crossed my mind what he might want to talk to my dad about. (I'm slow, ok?) We were getting ready to take a trip up to Alaska (Oh, excuse me! I mean ALASKA), and I guess Philip was freaked out that I would go back up there and reconnect with someone and be stolen out from under him. He at least wanted to get his word in before we left. He asked my dad if he would pray about allowing him to court me, and my dad said that he would. 

We did meet a young man while we were up there, and after we got home he was very upfront about having an interest in me. I directed him to my Dad, and they started emailing back and forth a bit. He was a really nice guy, and it was very exciting to know that there was at least someone who didn't find me hideous or gag at the thought of marrying me. On the other hand, the more I thought about marrying anyone other than Philip, the more the thought made me literally sick to my stomach. I still hadn't let myself give my heart to Philip, but it was like I knew deep inside that there was no other person on the face of the earth that was right for me. I even had nightmares where I was about to marry someone else, in my wedding dress and everything, but feeling totally panicked because I knew it was wrong because it wasn't Philip. From this point on, it became harder than ever to not let myself fall totally in love with Philip. On the other hand, he was acting weirder than ever, and at times would hardly even look at me. In my mind that settled it. He was obviously repulsed by me. I didn't know that him and my dad were having secret meetings this whole time, and that the poor guy was just trying to guard both of our hearts. 

This struggle went on for months. In January, Philip did take a trip to El Salvador, much to my dismay. I was sure he was going to go there and find some godly, beautiful El Salvadorian girl and marry her and never come back. I ended up being slammed hard with strep throat as soon as Philip left the country, and was so sick that I literally spent almost the entire 2 weeks that he was gone, in bed. I was so miserable that I had nothing to do but lay there and pray. So I prayed for Philip. I prayed and prayed and prayed for him. At one point as I was praying, I suddenly felt like God filled me with an unselfish love for Philip, and suddenly I felt like, if he did find some godly girl there in El Salvador, and that was the right thing for him, then I could be happy for him. This lasted all of... maybe a day. My birthday was in January, and I had, as is the tradition in our family, made a nice little list of my birthday desires. It was a simple, short list. A Newsboys CD, a Newsboys T-shirt, a pair of cute cowgirl boots (from the catalog that I got Dusty McPherson's picture out of) and... Marshall Grant. I got the CD, I got the shirt, and I got the boots. But no man.  Philip even sent me an email from El Salvador on my birthday, telling me that he hoped I had a happy birthday, and he hoped I got a visit from Marshall Grant. Well, the fact that he was in El Salvador and hoping that Marshall Grant came to my house proved to me that he obviously wasn't thinking of himself in that role. In reality, Philip was in torment wishing my dad would give him an answer and desperately hoping that Marshall Grant was nowhere near me. ;)

While Philip was gone in El Salvador, my dad flew to Colorado for work. Finally they both came home, I was over my strep, and life returned to normal. Shortly after Philip came home, I was babysitting for some friends of ours. The kids were relentlessly teasing me about Philip, asking me when we were going to get married and stuff. I was so frustrated at this point, and this whole saving my heart thing was really getting harder every time someone mentioned  Philip to me. The kids were at school during the day, and I was reading my Bible and just pleading with God to please at least show me some sort of a sign, let me know if there was even any hope of Philip being the right one, and caring for me. I don't remember anything particular that I read, but I just remember all of a sudden finding myself on the floor, on my face, totally overwhelmed with the Sovereignty and awesomeness of God. I don't think I had ever felt God's presence so real before. I finally stood up, and left to go pick up the kids from school. Only minutes after asking God for a sign, as I was driving along I passed a church. They were apparently going through a study of the book of Philippians, because they had a scripture reference and a topic written in big letters on their sign. In big, bold letters, this is what it said: "PHIL. HE TRULY LOVES YOU." Again, jaw-dropping awe. I had asked for a sign, and that was definitely a sign. 

I think it was the next night or so, and it had come to a point where I was just miserable. I knew I couldn't go on like this, fighting these feelings, trying to keep from giving my heart before it was time.I had almost decided to just go to my parents and tell them what I was going through, in hopes that they could help me somehow. I was laying on my bed, again just begging God for help. I decided to look up some verses, and when I opened my Bible I saw the word "wait" so I started looking up verses with the word "wait" in them. I started reading verse after verse that I had read before, but they felt different, like it was God speaking right to me. Psalm 69:3 I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God. Psalm 69:6 Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed... Psalm 130:5 I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.  The more I read, the more excited I became. Then finally I read Isaiah 64:4 For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him. When I read that verse it was like I could feel God's excitement, as if He was standing there, clasping His hands in excitement, saying: "Hang on!! Just hang on a little bit longer!!! Wait until you see what I have coming!!!" I remember actually gasping out loud, and wanting to squeal into my pillow. I really didn't know what it meant, but I was filled with such excitement and joy and delight, and I knew that God was completely sharing in my feelings at that moment! 

The next  Sunday, the Litterals had invited us (as well as my older sister and her family) and some mutual close friends of ours, over to have lunch with them at the barn where Philip worked training horses. We had never been there, and they said they thought we might like to see a little of what Philip did. Saturday night, I was getting my clothes ready to take to the barn the next day and my Mom said to me: "Why don't you wear jeans with your new boots?"  I was like, "Mom, I'll look cheesy, like 'Oh, I'm going to a barn so I'm going to dress up like a cowgirl!'." But she encouraged me again to wear my jeans and boots, so I, being the good little daughter that I am, complied. 

At church that day, Philip was totally unfriendly, and again would hardly even look at me to say hi. When we got to the barn, he was brushing and saddling up a gorgeous, black Friesian. I noticed that Philip was really spiffied up himself. Cowboy hat, crisp, button down shirt, cowboy jeans... I was surprised, because he's not usually the type to want to make any sort of a show of himself. I thought it was kind of weird that he had to dress like that just to show us how he trained horses. 

We were about to start eating lunch, when we were all called into the arena to "see what Philip does". First, though, Philip had a birthday present for me. He handed me a big gift bag, and told me to open it, right then, in front of everyone. I reached inside, and I pulled out, to my total surprise, the very same shirt that "Dusty McPherson" was wearing in the catalog. Then I dug a little deeper, and pulled out, to my even greater surprise, the very jacket that Dusty McPherson was wearing in the catalog. Everybody was laughing, and I exclaimed "Ha ha! Dusty McPherson's clothes!!" but inside I was thinking, "He had better NOT be giving me all this and expecting me to NOT be defrauded!!!" Everyone insisted I go try it on, so I went and put on my new Dusty outfit. Good thing I was wearing jeans and my new boots, it would have looked awfully stupid with the bright green warm-up pants and tennis shoes I was wanting to wear.

I nervously came back into the arena, kind of feeling like something weird was going on. We all stood back to watch Philip's demonstration. The arena was silent for a moment, and then as Philip began to ride a song started playing over the loud speakers. Go Light Your World played as Philip rode a beautiful pattern right to the music. At this point I definitely knew something was going on. As the song finished, Philip slid off his horse and led it over to right in front of me. He knelt down in front of me, and said: "Clara, I do this on the full authority of your father. I can't go on another day without you knowing how I feel about you. I love you, Clara." He said some other beautiful things and then ended with: "Can I be your Marshall Grant?"  I wanted to throw my arms around him and scream "YES!!! YES!!! I LOVE YOU TOO!!" but instead I came up with this poignant and powerful response. I said: "Sure!" Then, I guess out of habit, I turned to my dad and, half laughing, half crying, asked: "Can he be my Marshall Grant??!!" Yeah, I'm kind of known for saying just the right thing at a moment's notice. (ha.)

So after happy tears and exclamations and hugs all around, my Dad proceeded to tell his side of the story. After praying about Philip for 6 months, my Dad said that he knew in his head that Philip was everything right for me. But that wasn't enough; he wanted to know it in his heart, straight from God.  So while Philip was in El Salvador, my dad was flying home from his working trip to Colorado, not even having a thought of Philip at the time. He decided to listen to some music, so he put on his headphones, and the song that came on "just happened to be"... Go Light Your World. As my dad listened to the words, he thought to himself: "Hey, that's kind of like what Philip's doing over in El Salvador", and at that moment he began to cry as he was filled with a peace, and a love for Philip like he hadn't had before, and God just sealed it to his heart that this was right.

Then Philip told his story. The day before my dad was flying home, Philip was in the back of a bus in El Salvador. He was thinking about how amazing it was that even though he only spoke a few simple words in Spanish, the Lord was able to use that. He thought of the portion in Isaiah 6 where it says "Then said I, Woe [is] me! for I am undone; because I [am] a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, [which] he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:And he laid [it] upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged." He was marveling at how God uses us unworthy people for His glory. As He was thinking about these things, a song came to his mind. He didn't even realize that he knew the whole thing, but there alone, in the back of the bus, he sang quietly to himself the entire song, "God Light Your World." As he thought about the words, he thought about the whole situation with me, and completely gave it over to the Lord. He committed in his heart, that if I wasn't the right one for him, he was going to accept that, and he would serve the Lord full time as a single man.

I felt completely like I was in a dream; I was afraid I was going to wake up and feel really stupid. As we headed in to eat lunch, Philip handed me a beautiful ring. I had always thought that I wanted an engagement ring that had a row of little diamonds inset in a silver band. Then just a week or so before, I had changed my mind and decided that I actually wanted one with just a single, bigger diamond inset in the middle. I had never seen one like it, though, so I figured they didn't exist. Well, it turns out Philip had bought 2 rings to try to decide between. One had a row of little diamonds inset, and one - the one he decided to keep and give to me - was a silver band with a single, bigger diamond inset in the middle. It was exactly what I had pictured. :)

Oh yeah, and the whole thing was videotaped. And yes, my cowboy was wearing tight jeans. ;)

We managed to eat lunch (actually, I don't remember if I ate anything at all. I probably did, because my appetite is pretty much indestructible) and then it was time to head back to church for the evening meeting. On our way, we passed the church that had the sign out front before. The sign was still there, but apparently they had moved on in their series, because they had changed the words on it. Now, in big, bold letters it said: "PHIL. LOVING ONE ANOTHER". 

In 6 months we were married. The first wedding plan we made was to have 3 tiers of donuts for our wedding "cake". The girls all carried beautiful bouquets of orange Daylillies, we had an adorable little group of "flower children", and after we were pronounced man and wife, we shared our first kiss, and walked down the aisle together as a song played. You guessed it. Go Light Your World. :)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Romantic Tale...

The girls are napping, the house is clean (enough...for now) and I've got a strong cup of coffee beside me. I think I'm ready for this. I'm going to attempt to tell "our story", of how the Lord brought Philip and I together and set us on this wonderful journey of being a family. I was wanting to do this in a series of shorter posts, leading up to our anniversary... but life has been busy, too busy for blogging (I know, my priorities must be really messed up ;) ) and so here I am, the day before our anniversary. Stick with me, this could be long. Or I might get a paragraph done and then have something else demand my attention and you could be left hanging for who knows how long. Maybe til our next anniversary when I finish the story. So you better hope it's long. (I even signed out of Facebook to minimize distractions. That's how serious I am about this.)

Ok, our story begins... well, before the beginning of time. Way back when God knew that someday He would create a little baby girl named Clara, and a little baby boy named Philip, and someday He would give them to each other as wonderful gifts. The part of the story that I remember begins long ago, in a land far away. You guessed it. ALASKA. (It must always be written in all caps like that. It is only fitting for such a grand place.) This little girl moved to ALASKA as a 4-year-old, and this is pretty much where my main memory kicked in. I was actually born in ohio (nothing really grand about it, ha ha.) then lived a year or so in California (Definitely deserves at least that much respect. After all, raw milk IS legal there) before heading to the great north. Back in Ohio was a little boy, born just miles from where I was born, and being raised very much the way I was being raised. Except he was in ohio and I was waaaaaay over in ALASKA. (also, please stand whenever you come to this word. I just thought of that.) Now how on earth would we ever meet?? He was a strong, hardworking farm boy and I was a wild mountain woman, wrestling 40-pound salmon and narrowly escaping attacks from moose and bears (sort of true. Sort of.). 

I don't remember exactly when I came to this conviction, but sometime in my childhood I started hearing teaching about not dating, about saving your heart for one person, and about praying for your future spouse. I remember it being very real to me that there was one, specific boy out there somewhere, that would one day be the man I would marry. I had no idea who he was, but I fell in love with him. I prayed for him often, and was sure that he would show up in time for me to get married at 18. I had always declared that that's when I was going to get married, and any older than 18 was basically pointless because how could it even be romantic after that? After that it was just kind of old and...gross. Yeah, in retrospect that seems kind of dumb. ;) 

I also heard talk about "courtship", which I never, ever liked. I know it's a broad term with many different definitions, but the courtship I always heard about still left room for hearts being given away prematurely and a certain "trying each other out". I wanted to go even more extreme. (They don't call me "Clara the Extreme" for nothing! What do you mean you've never heard me called that?) When I was about 15 or 16, I told my parents: "I want you guys to pick me out a husband. I don't even want to be involved in the process. You know what I like, I trust you." Now, I did take that back at one point, when my mother was saying that she thought that Con Madigan from the show Five Mile Creek was handsome. I thought he was just skinny and dumb looking, so I said to her: "Never mind, you can NOT pick out my husband. You'd probably pick some cowboy in tight jeans", and I'm pretty sure I had a sneer on my face. Someday I would eat those words.
Con Madigan. NOT what I had in mind.
Somewhere around this time, my mom encouraged my older sister and brother and I to start writing a list of character qualities that were important for us in a spouse. That way, as she put it, "You won't get swept off your feet by the first good-looking face to come along".  It started out as a joke. "Number 1. He must be male.  Number 2. He must be good-looking." As time went on, though, I started really thinking of things that were important to me in a man. I would get ideas from the examples of Godly men that I knew. "Patient, good with kids, a leader, close walk with the Lord..." My list grew and grew. Eventually I had over 70 things listed, and someone once told me: "You just watch, as you get older you'll start crossing things off." I found the opposite to be true, though! As time went on, I got more and more picky! 

I can't understand how I didn't have more suitors. I was quite a catch.
When I was 18, guess what. We left our beloved (but very cold and snowy) ALASKA, and moved back to.... you got it... ohio. We drove through snowstorms in the mountains and arrived in June to record-breaking high temperatures. Yep, nothing gradual about this adjustment. We started going to a church here, where we met a lovely family named the Litterals. Ok, to be totally honest, my first thoughts were not "what a lovely family". I was still suffering from a bit of an attitude towards all-things-ohio (ok, maybe I still am... just a tad ;) ) ... so when I first saw the Litterals' son, who happened to be my age, walk into church, I immediately noticed that he had very cool hair and thought to my bitter little self: "Now HE looks like a jerk". It wasn't long, though, before he totally proved me wrong. Right after church was over, his sisters were over welcoming us, and I noticed that the guy with the cool hair had gone right over and introduced himself to my brothers. We quickly discovered many, many similarities between our families. Over the next few years, the Litteral kids and the Caeton kids did all kinds of things together, and became close friends.

I think the first time anything crossed my mind about me marrying Philip was one night, early on in our friendship. I had a dream, completely out-of-the blue, that our friends from Alaska were coming for a visit. In my dream, Philip went with us to pick them up from the airport, and when they got off the plane, he put his arm around me and said: "See what I got??" I woke up thinking, "WHERE on earth did that come from?!" But I had a weird feeling about it. I couldn't shake the feeling that it meant something. So I prayed about it, and I asked God to show me if it meant something, or if I was just being silly. At this point, I was very determined not to let myself give my heart to the wrong guy, so I did not want to start down this road. I was kind of upset at myself for even having a dream like that. So after I prayed about it, I decided to read some in my Bible. Well, I opened up my Bible and looked down and BAM. The words I read were: "You shall marry one another". Ha! Yes, open-mouthed amazement would probably describe my response. I remember just quickly closing my Bible and totally not knowing what to think. I had read in a book by Isobel Kuhn, that if you think God has given you a verse to tell you something, keep it to yourself until you see it proven out. She warned that satan can also use scripture, so we must be very careful not to take a verse and make a big decision based only on the assumption that it was God speaking to us. So I thought I'd just kind of sit on this one for awhile and see what happened. I was pretty sure I was being clever not to let the devil trick me into falling in love with the wrong guy.

In the meantime, I was still praying for my future husband, and one thing that I always prayed was that, when the right guy came along, God would make it crystal clear to EVERYONE. To our parents, our siblings, even just to the people around us. I didn't know how God would do it, but I knew He could. I also had it in my head, that when the guy proposed, I wanted it to be a TOTAL surprise, and I wanted it to be in front of a bunch of people, and I wanted it to be videotaped. Pretty specific, I know. Pretty weird, too. I know. Some of my friends thought I was crazy: "How on earth do you think this is going to happen?! How would you get to the point where a guy is proposing to you without ever dating or courting anyone??" I really didn't know how, but I was excited to see how God was going to work it out. He is SO much more creative than us. :)

It wasn't long before people started teasing me about Philip, the guy with the cool hair. I always assured people that there was NOTHING going on like that, our families were just friends. I did start noticing, though, that this guy fit an awful lot of the things on my list. I also started noticing that we sure got along well, and I started kind of wishing that he was a girl, so we could be best friends. I loved his sisters, and got along great with them! But I knew that if I let myself, I could REALLY get along great with HIM. I later found out that he had told his dad that he wished I was a guy, because he knew we would be best friends. (We both have since come to terms with the fact that we're opposite genders. We're ok with it now.)

So I woke up on my 23rd birthday, and I was still single. I woke up feeling very old-maidish.  I said to my sister Abby: "I can't believe I'm 23 and not married. The only way it's ok to be this old and single is if I was like, a rancher woman or something, and my name was...Dusty."  Then I started making up this story about this rancher woman Dusty, who was independent and tough, but still feminine and beautiful, and she was about to lose her ranch, when along came this also-single rancher man, who helped her save her ranch, and they fell in love and got married. The rancher man name that popped into my head was "Marshall Grant". So, that morning, just like that, I became Dusty McPherson, waiting for my Marshall Grant. (I said I was 23. I didn't say I was mature.) It became a big joke, and it wasn't long before all the kids in our homeschool group knew the story and started calling me "Dusty". Eventually the story grew to include a villain named "Slater Malone" and a sheriff named "Malone Slater". I found a cowgirl in a catalog that I thought looked like the perfect Dusty, so I cut out her picture and had it on my wall. 

Now, the girls are awake and other responsibilities beckon me. I know, I know... sorry, I'm a Mom first, blogger second. If you want me to finish the story, I need you all to clap your hands together and shout: "I do believe in fairies! I do, I do!" over and over. It won't do any good, but it makes me laugh to picture it. 

Ok, actually, if you want to hear the rest of the story (it gets even BETTER from here, I promise!) then FOLLOW MY BLOG, and leave a comment to let me know I'm not just writing to empty air. The more followers and comments I get, the more I'll be motivated to write, ok?? Unless they're comments like "You are a loser. No one cares about your stupid life". That would probably kind of make me not want to ever write again. So please, don't write that.  Actually, I just got this really great idea!! When I get 20,000 followers, I will do a giveaway!! There will be a drawing for the winner's choice of a). an arm warmer made by me out of a plastic newspaper bag. I used to make these when I was little, they're really cool. or b). A bookmark made by me. I also used to make these. Come on people! Tell your friends! All 20,000 of them!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Anja, Our Miracle Baby

Ok, I know, I've been absent again. But I have a good reason! Is it ok to use the same reason twice in a row?? It's true, we've been busy celebrating another birthday! See, we don't just have "birthdays" around here... we have what we call "birthday seasons". Birthday seasons can keep you pretty busy for awhile. When you think about what you're celebrating - the LIFE of your precious child! - it kind of seems like there's never a good time to NOT be celebrating! :)

Anja Verity turned 4 this past week. A couple of months before she was born, Philip said to me, completely out-of-the-blue: "If it's a girl, what do you think of  the name Anja Verity? It means Full of Grace and Truth". It was one of those moments where you almost see a sunbeam breaking through and shining on you directly from Heaven. (I said "almost"). "Grace and Truth". One of those "that's IT" moments.  

Anja has been Divinely protected since the very earliest parts of her existence. I had some little scares early on in my pregnancy; just some little signs that something wasn't quite right. Through my whole pregnancy I had a sort of uneasy feeling about the baby. 2 weeks before she was born, my water broke. I waited to go into labor... and waited, and waited. Nothing happened, so I went on with life. People were telling me I needed to go into the hospital and be induced, that once the water broke I needed to have the baby within 24 hours. After a chat with my faithful midwife, I was totally comfortable just waiting. (I mean, as comfortable as you can be when you're hugely pregnant in the middle of summer in Ohio). Then on the 4th of July, right in the middle of our small-town 4th of July celebration at the park, it happened again. Let's just say that put an end to my swinging and teeter-tottering for the day, and totally spoiled my plans for competing in the inflatable boxing ring. 
Reduced to being a bench-warmer with my dad and brother. ;)
It wasn't until a week later, on July 11th, that I actually went into labor. My last labor had been so long and so hard, that I didn't think there was a point to calling the midwife or even waking up Philip as I breathed through contractions every few minutes all night long. Finally at some point in the morning, I woke up Philip and told him what had been going on. The contractions started getting a little harder, so I decided to go ahead and call Joan (our midwife). Having been with me through my last birth, she was also pretty laid-back about getting there. A few hours later she arrived, all of us figuring we still had many hours of work ahead of us. I think I was a little traumatized from my last birth, and I had just been begging God, to please let this one be easier and go quicker. I was dreading transition, hoping that it at least wouldn't last 10 hours like it did with Zarah. After Joan checked me out, I asked her "Do you think I'm almost in transition?" With a big smile on her face, she said, "Oh, Clara - you're past transition!" That was the biggest relief, and when she said it I burst out crying and just praised God. Anyhow, to cut down on the icky details, a few hours of what I would call "gentle labor" later,  Anja made her grand entrance! She had the most wonderful rolls of chub, and a head of dark hair.
As I was lying in bed, just enjoying that wonderful new baby smell and the feeling of your brand new baby lying on top of you instead of inside you, Philip came to me with this verse. "John 1:17. ...Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ." I remember getting goosebumps and praising God for our little Grace and Truth. My midwife over-heard the verse and said, "actually, you can call this baby a miracle baby." She had just finished doing all her final check-ups on everything, and while examining the placenta she had discovered a very rare thing called "velementous insertion of the umbilical cord". The umbilical cord has 3 blood vessels running through it, which are usually bound together and protected by a thick covering. With velementous insertion, that protective layer is not there, and the 3 vessels are separate and exposed. Mine was the especially dangerous kind, where the vessels run completely across from one side of the womb to the other before connecting to the baby. At any point in the pregnancy or labor, if any one of those vessels had broken, the baby would have most likely bled to death, and possibly me, too. This could have been caused by anything like a bump to the belly, a jolt, or even a hard labor. But, the biggest cause of death from velementous insertion is... induced labor by an artificial rupture of the membranes! I was SO GRATEFUL (and still am!) that the Lord had led us to wait on His timing for Anja's birth and not try to rush things! And I was SO grateful that the Lord had given me a gentle birth this time!! He knew just what our baby needed!! Grace and Truth, our Anja Verity, came by Jesus Christ!! 

A year later, once again in the middle of a stifling Ohio summer day, one of Philip's clients was showing a horse at the state fair. We were all there for the day. I pretty much spent the day pushing Zarah and Anja around in our big double stroller, trying to find ways to keep them cool. I noticed Anja was acting really listless, quietly dozing off and on and just being kind of quiet. I figured she'd just had a long day and was worn out from the heat and all the commotion. On our way home late that afternoon, my family called and invited us to meet them at a restaurant in town for dinner. At that point we thought Anja seemed fine, so we pulled into a Planet Smoothie parking lot to turn around and head to meet my family. That's when we heard horrible gagging, choking sounds coming from the back seat. Philip and I both whipped around to see Anja's little body jerking uncontrollably, her tongue hanging out of her mouth and her eyes rolling back in her head. It was the most frightening thing I've ever seen. I gasped, "She's having a seizure!!!" For a moment I felt frozen, neither of us knew what to do. I kept thinking she would just stop, I knew heat-induced seizures happened in little kids sometimes, but I also knew they only lasted like a minute or so. But she wasn't stopping. Philip called 911, and I frantically got her out of her carseat and held her and cried, "Anja! Anja! Mama's here, Anja! Mama's got you! Mama loves you!" It was the most desperate, panicky feeling, to just not be able to MAKE HER STOP! But then, I was actually afraid of what would happen when she stopped. I didn't know if she was aware of what was going on, if she could hear us, if she was afraid... Philip and I were both crying out to God, asking him to make the seizure stop, to protect Anja. Poor 2-year-old Zarah was in the backseat asking over and over, "What's Anja doing?? What's wrong with Anja??" Philip called a friend of ours who is a nurse and asked her if there was anything we could do to stop the seizure. She told us to get Anja cooled down as much as we could, so we stripped her down and had the air conditioning blowing in the truck. It seemed like it took hours, but finally the ambulance arrived. By that time Anja's face was blue, and I really thought I was watching her die. We jumped out of the truck and ran to meet them when we saw them pull in. At first the paramedics seemed annoyingly relaxed. I think they probably dealt with a lot of heat-induced seizures in kids with the fair going on and the weather being so hot. Then they caught sight of Anja and it was like they flipped into high gear. They started shouting things to each other that I didn't understand as they rushed Anja into the ambulance and shouted to me, "Come on, Mama!" as they threw me in with her. Almost instantly, sirens were blaring and we were flying through downtown rush-hour traffic.I remember at one point realizing that I didn't even have shoes on. My flip flops were back in the truck. As was poor Philip, who was left behind without even being told where they were taking his precious baby! He tried desperately to follow us, but between the frantic tears blurring his vision and the traffic, he couldn't keep up. He was finally able to get ahold of his dad, a firefighter and paramedic, who told Philip where they most likely would be taking Anja. Philip headed that way, terrified of what he was going to find when he got there.

Meanwhile, in the ambulance, the paramedic got Anja on oxygen, and ever-so-slowly a little pink began to replace the blue in her face. He was so sweet and kind, and really tried to be reassuring. Finally he said, "Hear that noise, Mama?" Then I noticed this weird, distant-sounding little noise... almost like a quiet, tiny siren. I asked him "What is that??" He smiled and said, "believe it or not, that's a good sound. That's your baby trying to cry." From that time on, Anja very slowly came out of the seizure. For the next couple of hours at the hospital, she was still unable to move much but her eyes. She looked around with these big, terrified eyes, and just cried and cried and cried. Her arms were clenched  by her side and her body was rigid. Eventually she calmed down, and finally she was able to relax her poor little body. They ran some tests to make sure there was nothing seriously wrong, and they didn't find anything more than a slight fever. Both mine and Philip's parents came to the hospital, along with my wonderful brother and sister-in-law, who were some of Anja's very favorite people. It was so good to have family there with us! After a very long night, we went home and slept (with one eye open). 

We later found out that most fever-induced seizures in children last around a minute, and then stop on their own. Very rarely, though, one will carry on longer and won't stop without oxygen or a certain kind of shot being given. These kind can result in brain damage or death. When Anja's seizure started, Philip checked the clock and made a mental note of the time. From the time it started to the time the ambulance got there, it was almost 20 minutes, and she didn't stop until several minutes later, after she had the oxygen on. Once again, we praised God for His protection of our Anja!!!

Wow, that ended up being a LOT longer than I meant it to! The point of it all is... We PRAISE GOD for Anja's LIFE, and we think it's reason to celebrate EVERY day!!! :) And have cake every day!!! (ok... every other day?) 

Anja loves babies!!! Cousin Rory is one of her favorites :)

So now Anja's 4, and she's a beautiful (she looks like her Papa!), wacky, witty, sweet, loving, fun, bright girl! She is best friends with her 2 sisters, and they think she's the funniest, most clever person there is. For her birthday season, she is now on day 3 of wearing her Princess tutu all day long. Usually they're only allowed to wear their tutus if the day's work is done and we're not going outside, so this is a very special thing. ;) She also requested to ride her horse, so last night all 3 girls got to ride their horses. We still have more celebrating to do, because 2 of her uncles were out-of-town for her first, mini, unofficial birthday party, and she still hasn't had the peach frozen yogurt that she requested. Oh well, more celebrating is fine by me! Our next birthday isn't until Philip's in November, so we have to squeeze as much out of this one as we can. ;)

Anja and Papa
Anja and her best friends :)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Our Birthday Girl! *warning: I believe in parents bragging on their children...especially when it's their birthday*

Ok, so this is a few days late, but I have a good excuse. We've been busy around here; we've had a birthday to celebrate, and that's not something we take lightly. Zarah, our oldest, turned 5.  In a way, it's hard to believe it's already been 5 years since she was born, but in a way, it's hard to believe that there was ever life before Zarah!  I can say with all heartfelt sincerity, that she is a joy and a delight to have as a daughter. She's always been really mature for her age; I think it's because she was born 11 days after her due date, so when she was born she was already 11 days older than most newborns. She already needed her fingernails clipped when she was born. That's how mature she's always been. (I'm glad you see my point.)

I won't go into details, but let me just say that after what I went through to give birth to her, I think she knew she'd better be one pretty special kid to make it up to me. And she certainly has made it alllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll (that represents the first 12 hours of labor. I don't have room to write a long enough "all" to represent the next 10 hours of transition... the part that "only lasts about half-an-hour, which is good because it's the most painful part"... or the almost 4 hours of pushing... or the hemorrage once she was finally out...) worth while.

It's funny, because both Philip and I are third-borns, so we're both the laid-back ones who always had older siblings to be responsible and stress out over things and boss everyone around. (I'm not saying that my big sister Jen, of Noble Womanhood was bossy. But.... I'm not saying that she wasn't ;)) So I honestly didn't know if we would be able to have a first-born that acted like a first-born. Zarah has pleasantly surprised us, though, and she is every bit a first-born! A few examples: We had tucked the girls into bed, and I was about to head downstairs when Zarah called out: "Mama... when you go downstairs, can you check the plug in the bathroom and make sure it's plugged all the way in, and if it's coming out can you push it all the way in?" Now maybe I'm just slow, but at 4 years old I don't remember being concerned about potentially dangerous outlet situations. Honestly, at 4 years old, I probably would have been the child thinking it was neat to stick the metal screwdriver into the outlet. (those who know me know I'm not joking).

Zarah drew this on her birthday. She didn't know how to write a "5", so she just drew 5  fingers instead!
Another example: Just a few nights ago, we had stopped at the  grocery store on our way home from a Bible study, so it was fairly (ok, ridiculously) late. I ran in to grab a few essentials and Philip stayed out in the car with the girls. When I came back out, the girls were all sound asleep. Philip told me that the 2 younger girls had fallen asleep first and then he drifted off for awhile. When he woke up, Zarah, who was still awake but having a hard time staying that way, said, "Papa, can you stay awake for awhile now so I can sleep?"

She also has a hilarious and witty sense of humor, and all through the day she keeps us laughing. I have this desire that my children be funny, but be more known for being sweet and kind. I'm not so sure that's going quite the way I wanted it to.... ;) In my family humor is very highly valued, and after living with my family for 2 1/2 years starting when Zarah was 10 months old, my children definitely picked up on that! Which is great,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  and I trust that before Zarah's 15 or so, she'll learn that there are times and places when it's not appropriate to do your baby dinosaur/troll face.
Zarah with her handsome Uncle Caleb
She does have a wonderful sweetness, too, which blesses her Papa and I again and again. On her birthday she told me: "Last night I was praying and I asked God to help me be a better big sister as a 5-year-old".  When she received birthday money from my Nanna, her first reaction was to hand it to Philip and say, "Here, Papa... you can use it to buy things that we need". (No, he didn't take her up on it. ;) She chose a lovely doll stroller/playpen/diaper bag set. Even though I was trying to get her to buy an inflatable pool. But that's another story...)      
Zarah and her Papa

Lest I give the wrong impression, Zarah is not perfect, and trust me... we're aware of that. She sometimes can be a bit tightly strung and quick to show a little temper. We're working on that, though, and if you hang around much you'll hear the reminder to be "slow to wrath" (James 1:19) uttered a time or two. But the good thing about her being a sinner, is that that's exactly who the Lord Jesus died to save! We pray and trust God and look forward to the day that Zarah knows, without a doubt, that she is going to spend eternity in Heaven because her sins were paid for in all their ugly entirety when the Lord Jesus died on the cross, and that God the Father was satisfied with that, and Jesus rose from the dead! Her favorite song right now, which you'll hear her singing many times through the day, goes like this: "Living He loved me, dying He saved me; buried He carried my sins far away. Rising He justified, freely forever, one day He's coming, oh glorious day!" Our prayer is that it won't be long before she realizes and really understands the beautiful truth of those words.

Now, a few fun pictures to end on.......

Zarah is a wonderful big sister!
P.S. As I was finishing this up, I heard Zarah screaming from upstairs.... I ran up to find that she had buckled herself in the baby swing and was panicking because she couldn't unbuckle it. Maybe I should rewrite the part about being mature.... ;)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

One Fun Summer Morning

Anja and I chilling in the most wonderful chair in the world. Our "Air Chair".

Having a good laugh during our morning picnic in their "tent". What are they laughing at??

This! Anja tipped over backwards in her chair! She was just silent for a moment, then said "weeee".

Our driveway.

Here's where we started REALLY having fun....

Yes, that's right... 3 sets of identical twins. It gets pretty crazy around here but we have a lot of fun.

We may not have gotten a lot done off of our "to-do" lists for the day, but we sure enjoyed our morning! Maybe tomorrow I'll put that on our "to-do" list! :)