Saturday, January 19, 2013

Something for Saturday {2}

I work a lot of Saturdays the past couple of months, but I have an excellent husband who keeps me posted on what's happening at home while I'm gone.

1. Pups enjoying a long-awaited sunny day.
2. Spanish wine find -- $50 total with a Groupon!




Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Twitterature: Bookworms Unite [#1]


Trying a little bookish linkup with Modern Mrs Darcy today, because who doesn't want to get a little more reading done?

So the key is, I give you "short, casual reviews of books I've been reading."

A Year of Biblical Womanhood, Rachel Held Evans
Self-proclaimed "liberated woman" spends one entire year trying to follow the Bible's commands for women in a literal fashion -- down to sleeping in a tent during her period and calling her husband "master." Really about how we interpret Scripture and live out faith, but fun and adventurous.


The Lemon Tree, Sandy Tolan
A non-fiction account of a friendship that develops between an two adults: one Arab, one Jew -- which two have ended up living in the same house at different points in time. Jacket claims that Tolan "brings the Israeli-Palestinian conflict down to its most human level." Just getting started. 


Unexpected Love, Julie Zine Coleman
9 chapters of down-to-earth scholarship on Jesus' conversations with women, as they appear in the Bible. Jesus can be tricky sometimes, so Julie breaks down the cultural / historic significance of His conversations and brings to life His immense love for women (and people) in general. Will make you love Jesus more than you do today.

First Steps Out, Christy McFerren
Written from the highly controversial perspective of someone who has personally overcome homosexuality, Christy is writing to try and open up the Christian vs. homosexuality dialogue. Her mantra is love and truth, and trying to teach families and friends how to keep the conversation open.

Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas
It's a marriage book that can apply to pretty much any relationship or set of circumstances. The idea is we think marriage is happily ever after, but sometimes it seems like hardship ever after. Gary is about teaching that the true riches of marriage are the ways it makes us holier, more aligned with our God-given purpose, rather than the ways it makes us happy.

How to Cook Everything: The Basics, Mark Bittman
My sister gave me this one for Christmas. It's exactly what it sounds like, only way better because there are lots of full-color photos (1,000, it boasts on the cover), and it teaches you things such as what to keep on hand in your pantry at all times, so you're not running out to the grocery store in the middle of every recipe. Pretty much a book on how to do life. 


Now go check out what Modern Mrs Darcy is reading, because she reads way more way faster with more variety than I. Worth it!


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Scripture Memory Team 2013 - #2


This verse chose me. It's been following me everywhere.

Join in by adding your verse to the comments section on this post. It's not too late!

*Photo credit: Daniel at merinophoto.com.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Much in a Name

Joseph's story, Part I
Joseph's story, Part II

After the first shocking night of Joseph's life, once we knew he'd made it safely to Children's, we all tried to sleep. It was difficult, fitful sleep with strange dreams and grasping for cell phones throughout the night, wondering if there was any emergent news.

I awoke Friday morning, January 4th, with no thought on my mind except that I needed to be with my Sister. I took care of work the best I could, letting them know I'd be out, and tried to adequately dress myself for a day of wakefulness. The grief and uncertainty and shock was still coursing through my body. I felt I couldn't remain in one piece unless I was doing it for someone else -- my Sister. I had to get to her as soon as my tired body would drag me. Then I could do anything.

Once I got to AAMC, I knew it was a sad morning for Sister, too. She was exhausted and had barely slept, she was recovering from surgery, her baby was out of her reach with no conclusive updates on his condition, and everything was so new and ominous. We knew visitors would be coming throughout much of the day, so she tried to sleep on and off throughout the morning. 

While she was sleeping, I was filled with restlessness. I needed to DO something, but there was nothing I could really do. I couldn't change anything from the past 24 hours. I just needed to be by Sister's side. I decided to occupy myself with the internet. I thought maybe searching the origins of Joseph's name would distract me or give me some threads of hope or comfort. 

I searched many baby name lists until I found one that had a meaning for the name Joseph: 
"he will add."

Interesting. In my confused state I was thinking only of mathematics. Not much comfort in that.

I read on to learn that the name was first introduced in the Bible when Jacob's first son is born to him by his favorite -- and previously barren -- wife, Rachel. No surprise there, the story is familiar to me. I decided to check out the Scriptures surrounding the first Joseph's birth. What I found next utterly floored me. 


Selection from BibleGateway.com












I was frozen on the spot as the Bible story came alive in my mind, in my life. 

Clever Rachel. I know it was no accident that she had named her son ironically, applying a bit of wit to the emotional occasion. Joseph means "he will add," but it sounds like the Hebrew for "taken away." 

Rachel, when her Joseph was born, had finally received victory after years of anguished attempts to bring a son to life for her husband. When she finally received what she had so longed for, she was still remembering and holding onto everything that she had lost -- the dignity and honor that had been taken away from her by her years of barrenness, or even her struggle brought on by her own father's schemes to supplant her place in her husband's heart. 

Rachel's historic losses were legitimate sorrows, and understandably bitter pains. In her joy, in her triumph, she celebrated! She knew the son she held in her arms was an answer to her prayers, an act of God. But was she still keenly aware of what had been taken away from her for so many years? Or was she expressing that her despair and shame, finally, with this adding of her Joseph, had been taken away?


In a newer Joseph's first day, God had added to my sister another son. His life still hung in the balance, tied to machines and computer monitors and questions. How critical was his condition? How long? When would we know what is wrong and how much it means? Did it change our days? Weeks? Years? Decades? 

Although he was born, we were still groaning in our spirits and begging for God to bring him to LIFE. Lord, may you add to my Sister another son!

Although we had his birth to celebrate, we had our questions to hold, gingerly, seeking answers slowly. What will you take from us, Lord? Will you take from us our expectations and plans? Will you take from us our doubts and weaknesses? Will you take away our sorrows? 

Please, add to our family another son. Let it sound like taking away, a taking away of our sorrows.

Joseph's story, Part I
Joseph's story, Part II

Making a Move

Part I of Joseph's early hours is told here: A New Life. That was only the beginning of the story.  

While we were all still fully immersed in shock and uncertainty, less than 8 hours from Joseph's birth, it was really time for Daniel to go home and rest. My mom would stay with my sister. Everyone was exhausted but silently wondering how they'd ever sleep again while not knowing what the next hours would hold for tiny Joseph -- they kept telling us that we'd learn a lot about his future by the way the next 24-48 hours rolled. 

Somehow, I prevailed upon my brother-in-law to just briefly escort me to the NICU at Anne Arundel Medical Center so I could see the baby for the first time. I'd be the last to visit him for the evening. Everyone else had already gone. 

When we got to the room, two women in scrubs were standing over Joseph's bed, talking quietly. We couldn't quite approach. Before I'd had an introduction with my new nephew, one of the women turned to my brother-in-law and explained that Joseph needed to be moved to another hospital. They weren't happy with some of his oxygen levels and they didn't have the treatment he needed at AAMC. She explained that Daniel could choose between Johns Hopkins / University of Maryland system, or Children's Medical in DC. Daniel and Bethany could make the choice, and then it would be a matter of checking for which place had the most availability. 

More shock, at least for me. I hadn't expected that the baby would get moved all alone to another location, at least a 45-60 minute drive from his parents and grandparents. 

The lady was just standing there, as if she was waiting for Daniel to tell her his answer. He explained that he needed to talk to his wife and he would let her know. This gave us a moment to say hello to Joseph, but I couldn't concentrate or relax, knowing what a big decision needed making. I took a hard look at my new nephew, tried to memorize everything I could about how he looked, and then went back to my sister's room so she and her husband could talk. 

The decision for Children's Medical in DC was made after consulting with insurance. None of the AAMC workers were quite sure when the transport team would arrive, but they thought it could be a few hours. Sister's nurse was explaining to her that she could try sitting up in a wheelchair, and that it would be best to start working towards that in the next couple of hours so they could take her to say goodbye to Joseph. If she were not able to do that, she'd have to be wheeled down to the NICU in her hospital bed, which would not easily fit in Joseph's room.

If they'd ended up having hours to play with, they might've gotten Sister up in a wheelchair, in spite of the fact that she was dealing with incredible dizziness and was only a few hours beyond major surgery. As it was, I recall less than an hour had passed before the nurse came back to tell us that the transport team from Children's was on its way, and they'd have about 30 minutes to say goodbye to Joseph. The nurse and a tech immediately wheeled Sister's bed down to the NICU, and mom and dad had their chance to adore and visit and say goodbye until they could get to Children's the next morning.

Mama Bethany says goodbye to tiny Joseph Adam
Then he was gone. I remember the nurse saying, "They took him lights and sirens the whole way," and I knew I would never see an ambulance the same way again. Somebody's Joseph could be fighting for his life in there.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Something for Saturday

They pee on themselves, roll around in the dirt, lick their butts, lick each other's butts/ears/feet/whatever, consume unmentionables from the garbage, eat nondescript kibble and strange dogs' waste products + their own waste products, and then

they lick my face

and sleep on my pillow.

Awkward Photo of my Dogs
And I love them. Aren't they wonderful?

Whimsical photo of my dogs smelling flowers

Friday, January 11, 2013

7 Quick Takes: in honor of Joseph Adam Coleman

Jen bravely posted her 7 quick takes this morning, in spite of everything happening with her right now. Please take a look at what she has to say, and take a moment to breathe a prayer for her healing and her baby's health.

1. As many of you know, my nephew was born 7 weeks early and with many complications. You can read the story as told by me, by clicking here. He is still in critical condition, living at the NICU at Children's National Medical Center here in DC. While he's an hour away from his mom, dad, brothers and grandparents, as well as most of his aunts and uncles, this auntie is only a 20-minute drive away. So far this week I've gotten to visit him every day, and he's making progress daily.
Some people will extol the virtues of modern medicine, and those are a huge blessing.

I, however, am a firm believer that Joseph's daily progress is only attributable to a massive prayer network spanning the globe. We have humbled ourselves before an all-powerful God, who showing what He is able to do, even when the doctors say all they can do is follow the baby's cues (and they aren't sure what's making him sick). When we just don't know, all we can do is bow the knee. Hundreds and hundreds have done so in the past week, and we are seeing the fruit!

2. To stay up-to-date on Joseph's daily developments, you can "Like" his Facebook page here. The prayers of friends, family, acquaintances and strangers are felt on a regular basis.

3. The way that Joseph's tiny life has progressed thus far has taught me to never take life for granted. I will certainly never again take a healthy baby for granted. Holding a baby, hearing it coo, even hearing it cry -- all things that have begun to seem like priceless treasures when they are not yet part of our experience with Joseph.

This has made me so much more in awe of another friend of mine who is due February 17th with her third (the day before Joseph was scheduled to be born!). Her baby has received a diagnosis of fetal acrania -- a condition which is terminal. She is sharing her story with an immense amount of courage on her own blog, which you can and should read here, and I encourage everyone to read it. Her faith and commitment to her convictions is unparalleled in my life. I hope you will pray for her and her baby and their family, and stay with her story over the next 6 weeks and beyond.

4. Fear in all it's forms, good and bad, is shaping up to be a theme of my year, if not my entire life. 2013 started out with a bang, almost as soon as I'd chosen my first memory verse, the most frightening episode of my life came on the scene without warning. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells me "God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline."

The fact that I am memorizing Scripture with the express intention of changing the way I respond to everyday life has caused me to go back to my memory verse and think about how it might be helpful for what I am facing. Because of this, I am actually applying Scripture to my life. I have always wondered what it meant to do that, and it's a mysterious thing, but it's finally actually seeming to happen. Baby steps. Joseph would approve, methinks (especially based on his current bedding).

You can still join the Scripture memory team! Click here and add your memory verse to the comments. There is no deadline, you can join at any time!

5. One way that fear popped up again in a new and different manifestation is through the discussion group I attended lastnight with my husband, which was started by one of his friends from his youth. Our topic of discussion lastnight was, "What does it mean to fear the Lord?" I'd love to share with you our conclusions, but first, I'd like to know what YOU think the answer is? Anybody?

6. A song that has really be comforting me through this past week was given to me at Christmastime by my brother-in-law, the father of baby Joseph. Because I don't know how to put mp3's into my blog, you shall receive a YouTube video:

And also, the lyrics as translated into English:
Where charity and love are, God is there.
Christ's love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
As we are gathered into one body,
Beware, lest we be divided in mind.
Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease,
And may Christ our God be in our midst.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
And may we with the saints also,
See Thy face in glory, O Christ our God:
The joy that is immense and good,
Unto the ages through infinite ages. Amen.
Our recent circumstances have shown us what true charity and love really are. They have shown me how many people FULL of sincere love are surrounding me in my life. And, not least, they have shown me how many controversies in life are really just a wretched waste of time and opportunities to love.

7. Finally, if you have stayed with me this long, I have the exciting news that not one but TWO new businesses are opening up in the building I manage (for a living)! You can now eat frozen yogurt from Menchie's while getting a pedicure at Mancini de Paris! This weekend is going to be warm and beautiful and absolutely hopping, so if you're in the Arlington, VA / Columbia Pike area, please stop by Penrose Square and say hello!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A New Life

It still makes me smile to think about how my Sister told me that she was pregnant. I got engaged on April 1, 2012. Shortly after, we started talking about concepts for bridesmaids dresses. When I finally picked one, I told her where to go to try it out and she went with our aunt Liz. I was texting her while she was trying it on, "What do you think??" I had to know she would approve, and feel comfortable.

She liked it a lot, she told me. The style would perfectly accommodate her 5 months pregnant belly at the time of the September wedding. Excuse me?!

I can still remember where I was standing when she told me that. I was completely surprised and utterly delighted. 

Some of you know that my Sister and bro-in-law make the sweetest, most beautiful babies. My nephews are the crowning jewels of life. They're a constant topic of thought and conversation. They are sweet, beloved, and adorable. To think there would be a third?? I was ecstatic (possibly more so than my Sister!).

With her second birth, my Sister had endured a lot of complications physically. It had really taken it's toll in some frightening "close call" episodes in the days after she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Those of us closest to her wouldn't soon forget. There were a lot of permanent issues she had to deal with, but outwardly the greatest blessing was her adorable baby boy. 

And she does look lovely at 5 months in that bridesmaid dress, don't you think??

When I knew my Sister would have another baby, I knew it wasn't going to be an easy birth, but I believed strongly that the outcome would be worthwhile.

What I didn't expect was a difficult pregnancy. Her pregnancies have always run fairly smoothly. This time has been different. 

I don't remember exactly when, although Sister could tell you, but sometime shortly after my late September wedding, my Sister started making regular unplanned visits to the doctor for strong contractions. Every time they said everything looked good, she was fine, baby was fine. They would give her medicine to help her out with the contractions and send her home to rest and drink water. 

She drank a huge amount of water and rested as much as humanly possible for the mom of a 4-year-old and 1.5-year-old. Still the contractions would flare up frequently. Frequent trips to the hospital kept needing to happen, with the same result. She had a stomach virus at Thanksgiving and landed in the ER again. The weekend after Christmas, we visited friends in Pennsylvania and she made a trip to the ER there, due to vision disturbance. They sent her home.

Less than a week later, just after the New Year, January 3 at 11:05 am, I received a message from my Sister that she was back in the hospital with contractions that had been quite painful. When they found she was 3 cm dilated, it became a more serious issue. She was in pre-term labor, officially, at "32 6/7" weeks. She might be having the baby today... or they might send her home 4 hours later!

Around 1 pm she updated me with the first inkling of a problem with the baby, and the first inkling of how life would soon be changed:
  

We were both nervous, but trying to keep it light. They had found on a sonogram that there was fluid around the baby's head and abdomen, but they didn't know the cause. They wanted to slow the labor another 48 hours to have time to give him another steroid shot for his lungs, if possible.

About an hour later, she let me know they couldn't stop her labor. Baby would be born January 3, 2013, and before 5pm. 

I told my supervisor and the owners what was happening, called my husband, and we drove to Annapolis from Arlington as fast as we could safely manage. 

C-section was scheduled for 4pm. 

By 5pm, I was sitting in the waiting room, and she was texting me to ask where I was. Not until 5:45 did my brother-in-law come down to  see us. Something was obviously wrong the second we saw him.

My mom, his mom, and I went to him. Tears began to flow. He told us that the surgery had gone smoothly, and my Sister was doing well, but that there were several complications. Many attempts were made to resuscitate the baby after he was delivered. There was something visibly wrong with the baby, even when they successfully resuscitated him. He is extremely swollen in face and body. Ideas of viruses and genetics syndromes were floated, with no sure diagnoses, only the message that the lives of this baby's family would be permanently altered.

After he was stabilized, they brought him next to my sister's bed in his incubator and took the side down so she could see him. She reached out her hand to him and he grasped her finger in his hand like he knew she was always his line to life. She spoke to him and he opened his eyes at the sound of her voice.


Then the baby was immediately taken to the NICU and put on oxygen. They needed to give him blood transfusions immediately, which took several tries. While this was happening, we were allowed to go in and see my Sister.

By God's great mercy, Sister was doing very well physically, and has continued to recover rapidly and very well. I cannot say thanks enough for this blessing.


As I write this story from my memory of those early hours, I am reminded of our devastation again. Tears flow again for the pain of the truth that "this is not how things should be." But who writes our "shoulds"? It's not what we thought, but apparently it is what was planned.

We as a family have experienced so much mercy, as my Sister is alive and well. The baby has remained stable since the night of his birth.

Over and over during my Sister's pregnancy, I have had to turn over to God real, almost tangible fear for her life. After what happened last time, and how many difficulties she experienced throughout this pregnancy, I didn't know what to expect around the time of her scheduled birth, February 18th. I was girding myself up for that time. Little did I know, I had 7 weeks fewer to prepare than I had thought.

In truth, there is no way to prepare for good hopes and dreams to be wrenched from your grasp unexpectedly. You have to consistently stay with God, and learn His character, and know that He moves in mysterious ways, and hang on for dear life to see the goodness of His plan unfold. We will say thanks in the end for deepest blessings that were just as unexpected and surely more manifold than our sorrows. 

God has provided so much encouragement, so much prayer, and so much love. We are buoyed by this. Every day it hurts. It hurts desperately to think of the stabbing in the hearts of my Sister and her husband in that moment when they heard that everything was not okay. It hurts to see the baby in critical condition. He cannot be held. It hurts to be uncertain of what is wrong or if or when it will be made better. It hurts not knowing how much better he can get. 

But my Sister and I have talked, and we are both sure, God loves this baby boy more than we do. This is no mere platitude. God LOVES him and adores him and looks on his beauty and suffering with utter compassion. We believe that God is with him even now, ministering unseen comfort in ways his baby soul can receive. We know that God knows how to love him perfectly, and He will do what is best. 

For the continuing story of Joseph's life, click to read: Making a Move.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year, New Me(mory)

Some things in me really need changing. I think it's pretty cool that culturally, and internationally, we celebrate the New Year. We get so excited about new beginnings, because we all need them. We all need a fresh start. Thankfully, in a way, we have 365 fresh starts ahead of us. Or I don't know how many hours or minutes there are in a year, but those are fresh starts, too. It's just that the New Year is a fresh start of epic proportions, and boy do we know it.

I wouldn't say I've made any concrete resolutions, but there are a few things I'm really trying to learn and apply.

One thing is that I am trying to do to help myself change is memorize Scriptures. I tried to do this a couple of years ago, but it was unsuccessful. What's going to make this year any different? I'm trying again. And when you fail, I guess that's all you can do, until you succeed. And I'm also praying for the ability, which I don't recall doing last time. I usually forget to pray about most things, even though I'm supposed to "pray without ceasing." Gotta learn sometime!

I'm also trying to incorporate some other new habits to aid memorization and consistency, which perhaps I'll discuss more later.

It would be really fun if any ladies out there wanted to join me, which you can do by clicking here and posting your verse for the first two weeks of the year in the comments section. If you're confused about what's going on, click here for instructions.

Personally, I think it would be super cool to meet up with you at the celebration next January. All you need is air fare and a place to stay, which is usually a hotel. Maybe you can share a room with me??