reflections while waiting

Tiny toes and feet. As you kick me, it’s a reminder of the secret weaving together your Creator is engaged in – of you, inside me. What a mysterious miracle! The kicks are as if you are seeking to let me know you’re here. I feel you. I await the moment when I will behold you as your Maker now sees you. The invisible made visible. The imagined becoming reality.

Times two – twice as amazing. It is hard to believe you will have an instant sister from birth and that our family’s size will instantaneously double. It is overwhelming at moments to try to picture what this will mean for us who have for almost four years just been two. What will it be like for us to now be four? How will our lives change? I can’t possibly begin to fathom it. But I cling to the promise of grace that is always equal to the moment and the day. So we will have twice the grace, and we already do.

I am resting now so that you can rest in the place safest for you. I am resting so you can be active. Once you are born, I will be active so that you can rest. You feel at home now, and you cannot imagine a home outside of me. Good! Stay that way for awhile longer yet. But there will come a day when you will be delivered into a larger home that you cannot imagine yet. You will be brought to our home, to a nursery lovingly prepared for you. It will feel strange. It will not feel like home at first. Yet our prayer is that you will find a home in our love, which will ultimately lead you to the One whose love is the best Home in which you can dwell. Enjoy your temporary, mysterious-to-me-yet-within-me dwelling for now. Kick away … and I will await your arrival with an expectant yet patient joy.

Posting today as part of Emily Wierenga’s Imperfect Prose on Thursdays. In Emily’s words, “This is going to be a place where we dig word-deep. where we uncover language lure, and breathe poetry. prose. in the name of faith. . . . Each week, let’s meet and find redemption in the grace of the other. let’s be broken on canvas, on material, on paper, on screen, together . . . for God is there.” Read more Imperfect Prose on Emily’s blog, in the hush of the moon. My friend Julie inspired me to join this.

celebrating in numbers

An odd title for a post, isn’t it? Especially coming from someone who has admittedly never been really fond of mathematics or anything else number-related. Yet I am finding that these days of bed rest, I am paying much closer attention to numbers than before.

For every ONE day further that the babies stay put, that is saving them about SEVEN days in the hospital. So I take each day as a gift, which it always has been, but I am much more aware of that than before.

Yesterday marked ONE MONTH on bed rest. It really has flown by! Restlessness is starting to set in a bit, but I try to focus on just ONE MOMENT at a time. And there’s always grace given for that, whether it comes through a friend’s timely phone call or visit or through prayer, God’s Word, or a cherished line from a book I’m enjoying.

Today “baby A – a.k.a. Anna baby (her nickname)” measured THREE pounds, “baby B – a.k.a. Banana baby (her nickname)” weighed THREE pounds, TWO ounces. Keep growing, girls!!

I have gained THIRTY-SEVEN pounds during pregnancy, which is really good for twins since the mother’s rate of growth is thought to be crucial to the babies’ continued growth. And, yep, I just admitted that. Walking in the light of the truth from my previous post …

And I am now TWENTY-NINE weeks and TWO days along in pregnancy.

Praying for at least FIVE more weeks of growth for these TWO daughters of ours, so that they’re not born until THIRTY-FOUR weeks along.

EIGHT books I’ve completed during this past month of bed rest! And SEVEN blog posts … 🙂

Trusting God When You’re Expecting, part 4: body image


I found this picture on a miscellaneous website. I am not one for the bare belly shots myself, but I know each pregnant woman has a different opinion about that. It seems that for some, pregnancy is a time to embrace all the new curves and to feel proud that it shows you’re carrying a life. I suspect that for many others of us, pregnancy is a time when there is more unwanted attention to our bodies than we’re used to or would desire. And it feels like our bodies are really out of our control as well. Although the weight gain is purposeful (and needed!), it’s still hard to feel yourself getting larger by the week – and dramatically so by each month. Double all of that if you’re having twins.

What I find interesting about being pregnant is that the typical “taboos” that apply about commenting on a woman’s body weight seem to fly out the window, particularly for random strangers and (sorry to apply a stereotype) men in general. A few of the comments I’ve heard during pregnancy are:

“Wow … you’re just so … BIG!”

“You’re going to be ENORMOUS by the time these babies come.”

“Well, you’ve really gotten bigger since I last saw you.”

And I could go on, but you get the picture. No woman, even if pregnant, wants to hear someone connect the word “big” or any of its synonyms with her body. As someone who has always been on the thinner side of things (I can take no credit – all genetics – thanks, Mom!), it came as shock to hear these comments and then to notice the way I responded to these comments inside. I would get angry, frustrated, and feel resentful.

I realized that my identity was more wrapped up in my body image than I had previously thought. It was exposed by pregnancy. And as I processed through my thoughts and feelings in response to others’ comments, I realized I was giving them more power than I should. I noticed that my self-concept would rise and fall depending on whether I encountered the store clerk who said, “No way! You don’t look big enough to be carrying twins!” or the one who said, “You look much bigger than 15 weeks along!” Why were their comments so powerful? Because I was defining myself by my body image. I was internalizing the belief that my worth was equal to whether or not someone else perceived me as “big.” This is certainly quite different from where my true identity lies as a woman created in God’s image and redeemed by Christ (I taught on that in January through our Ephesians study, ironically enough).

When I began to meditate on who I really am – what is most true about me – others’ comments began to have much less effect on me. This also freed me from the inward judging and resentment I felt towards others because of what they said. I could laugh it off and let the comments “bounce off me” instead of letting them set the tone for my day.

Now I won’t say that it wasn’t still a struggle to go to Virginia Beach during the height of tourist season as the only pregnant woman for miles … but at least I began struggling against the lies instead of simply accepting them. And, hey, one benefit of bed rest is that there is much less opportunity for strangers’ comments about my ever-expanding belly!

Sunday: reflections on worship when you can’t attend church

One of the hardest parts of strict bed rest has to be Sunday mornings, when I can’t go to church but my husband (our assistant pastor) spends half of his day there (8:00 am – 12:30 or 1:00 pm). I don’t think I can remember a time when I couldn’t go to church for such a long stint of time. Yet I am thankful that our God is one who comes to us, so that we can worship him wherever we are and that I don’t miss out on his grace simply because I can’t attend church right now. I miss church – don’t get me wrong – and it is a source of rich grace to be able to go, but God knows (and has arranged) the particular seasons of my life. And so he will also arrange another way for me to experience church on Sundays. So with this unique season comes unique opportunities. I get to be my own “worship director”, and so I try to make Sundays different from the rest of the days.

The church bells around the corner regularly call me to worship when their hymns begin at 9:00 am (lasting until 9:30 am). That’s a nice start to the morning. Then I choose a sermon to listen to online from one of my favorites: our pastor, Jack Howell; Joe Novenson at Lookout Mountain Pres.; Ruffin Alphin at Westminster Pres. Church here in Suffolk; Bob Willetts at Grace Pres. Church here in Chesapeake; or Andy Lewis from the church I grew up in, Mitchell Road Pres. Church in Greenville, SC. It’s been great to listen to these sermons and be taught by God speaking through them. It’s been great to see how God’s led me exactly to the right sermon I’ve needed each week. And really there are too many good ones to choose from, so I’ll probably be adding another one as my “Sunday school.”

I listen to some favorite worship music and sing along [but this part I think I miss the most about not being able to physically be present for worship at Trinity Pres.], trying to focus on the words and make them my prayer.

Another way I am seeking to tangibly engage in worship on Sundays is by spending time reflecting on what I am thankful for and then communicating that to various people who have loved and served us in the past week. Truly the list seems too large to recount, and when I begin reflecting, I am aware of God’s gifts in the church and the way that he is sending the Church to me when I can’t go to church. Seth and I have been so overwhelmed by the many who have helped us. I won’t list them by name, but I do want to list a few of the acts of service I’m thankful for today:

  • the friends who traveled from Philadelphia to spend last weekend with me and totally pampered me all weekend through their cooking, cleaning, creativity, laughter, and conversation
  • friends from church who have brought us meals, visited me for lunch, ran errands for us, went grocery shopping for us, helped Seth paint our home (a seemingly never-ending project), and even cleaned our house … wow. we are overwhelmed!
  • friends and family who continue to call or text to check in with me and see how we’re doing
  • thoughtful and encouraging cards we’ve received in the mail
  • two friends who threw their baby shower for me at our house – bringing everything with them, including serving dishes and utensils [since finding ours amidst the boxes could still be a bit dubious]
  • my parents who have made the 14 hour roundtrip yet again to come and help us get settled in, paint the nursery, etc …
  • and it goes without saying (but I should still say it!), my faithful and persevering husband who is not only assistant pastor, but also now home-repair project manager (a solo position now), chief chef, and home healthcare aide to a needy pregnant woman who can sometimes be cranky as well …

For all of these, and many many more, these verses Paul wrote to the Thessalonians come to mind: “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3)

Bed rest doesn’t guarantee spiritual rest …

Strangely enough, that’s one thing that I’m learning now that I’m at home and on bed rest “for the duration.” We hope it’s several more weeks so that these girls can fully develop, and yet I’ve noticed that there is still the pull away from true soul rest. I could spend each day engaged in lots of activity that would leave my soul more tired instead of more rested. There’s the almost infinite pull of the internet — blogs to read, online shopping, news websites, youtube videos … and none of these are bad in and of themselves, but I could quite easily spend an entire day doing just that. And not to mention wearing out my eyesight, it could be a bit of a soul-depletion rather than rest. Then there’s the endless TV shows and movies to watch. And magazines and newspapers to read. And “preparing for twins” books to read. Not to mention trying to plan the nursery and think through what’s needed for our new home (and then ask others to do what I am limited to do by bed rest).

Ironically, rest is a topic that I’ve read a lot about and longed for in the past few years of busyness. The kind of rest Jesus invites us into when he says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28) The rest spoken of by the Psalmist in Psalm 116:7 – “Return, oh my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.” And so it seems that all the study and teaching on rest now has the opportunity to be fully experienced.

Yet I must still be intentional to rest. To remember that it is more important for me to communicate with my Father in prayer than to promptly answer every phone call and email. To allow my soul rest by soaking in God’s Word daily instead of exclusively devouring entertainment literature. To not have to fill each moment with “noise” but to allow my soul to rest and be restored in these moments of silence and solitude. To take time to reflect and capture the unique lessons of this season in writing instead of wishing the days and hours away.

This is not to say that any of those other activities are bad in & of themselves, but I must remember “everything in its season.” And I don’t want to miss the truly important things Jesus has for me to learn during this season. It’s kind of like boot camp preparation for being a mom to twins. I will certainly wish I had soaked up each moment to rest as I look back on this season (perhaps even wistfully) on the other side of the twins’ birth.

For those of you who have been on bed rest, what helped you to cultivate soul rest?

Trusting God When You’re Expecting, part 3: a new chapter called “bed rest”

Twenty-five weeks along, the beginning of the third trimester, a move into the first home Seth and I own and the first home our daughters will know, and then the unexpected: the initiation into the “bed rest” stage of pregnancy. I’m getting a thorough orientation through a three to five stay (total length yet TBD, going on day 3 now) in the ante-partum hall of the maternity ward (a.k.a. a hall of pregnant women trying to stay that way for awhile longer for their babies’ safety).

How to survive hospitalized bed rest? I’m compiling a list:

  1. Entertainment through reading [lots of it and a variety (magazines, books, newspapers)] and movies/DVD/tv shows – but be careful not to become a total tv junkie as being on bed rest certainly predisposes you to becoming a couch potato anyway
  2. Visitors – not too many to be exhausting, not too few to leave you with long stretches of alone time in which you begin inventing ways to pull a stint (and maybe make local headlines?) by becoming an escape artist from the hospital
  3. Music!
  4. A laptop – they have free internet here, but be aware that most of the sites you’ll want to visit (at least here at Norfolk General Hospital) will be blocked – and I’m not talking about the obviously obscene ones, but Facebook, all blogspot.com and wordpress.com and other obvious blog sites of your friends – the places you desperately want to visit to be reminded that there is an outside world, and to feel as if you are somehow connected to it (even virtually)
  5. Frequent stretches – your only hope for exercising any now-latent muscles
  6. Constant pleas to be allowed bathroom privileges (mine were finally reinstated this morning – hallelujah – no more bed pans!)
  7. The expectation that even though you are here to rest, you won’t be allowed to sleep more than 4-5 hours without the interruption of medications/monitoring
  8. Food from the “outside.” Hospital food and airline food are very similar – the only difference being that the former is “free” (included in the price of admission) and the latter is virtually now non-existent unless you’re willing to pay restaurant prices in-flight
  9. Your own hygiene/pampering products – nothing like your favorite scented lotion and putting on make-up to make you feel just a bit like yourself and not so “institutionalized”
  10. Jesus. For real. He is the only Person who will be constantly attentive to you (thus freeing you from the already “natural” self-pitying feelings of pregnancy, which are only amplified by bed rest) and He is the only resting place for your soul (which tends to get quite restless in proportion to the amount of bed rest you’re forced to get, ironically enough).

UPDATE: They actually discharged me the afternoon I wrote this, so I am now resting at home. Much better. Yet still a bit different because it’s a home that we’re still settling into – “we” meaning Seth and my parents and brother Bryan who came up to help. Our internet was finally connected tonight, so I’m sure I will be posting MUCH more frequently now!

Trusting God when you’re expecting, part 2: what to do about fear

It’s 6:15 am and I’m awake. These baby girls’ kicking awoke me this morning. They’re active in the morning (unlike their mom, generally speaking). I am glad that they’re getting some exercise … but wow, has their movement kicked up a notch over the last week (pun intended)! Seth was finally able to feel their movement last Thursday, which is fun to have him join in the excitement of the ever-dawning reality of two lives being knit together inside me.

The next two topics I want to address in my “trusting God when you’re expecting” series are fears/anxieties and body image. And which one do I begin with? I think I’ll go with the fear/anxiety topic first because I feel as if that’s such a huge place to learn to trust God while pregnant. Soon after finding out we were pregnant, I wrote this: “I think this pregnancy journey will certainly reveal the fear factory my heart often can be: there are truly an almost infinite number of things to worry about, over which I have virtually no control.” If the last post focused on how my heart is a desire factory, this one is about how my heart is also quite expert at producing fear, too. Pregnancy only magnifies this!

I have noticed that I have moved through different stages of fear along the journey of this pregnancy so far. Initially, there was the fear of losing the baby through miscarriage. I have had several friends who have walked through this grief, and I would imagine there are many more who have experienced this yet have not shared the grief with me or others. It’s such a private pain, really. I experienced some unsettling symptoms early on in our pregnancy that led us to think that I might be miscarrying. It was terrifying and dreadful as we waited for our first doctor’s appointment. The wait seemed to be forever – and then to finally be there and anticipate bad news … there just is no way to prepare yourself for that.

Here’s an entry from my journal early during those weeks of waiting:

“Lord, I do not want to be consumed by worry over what I cannot control anyway! So I’m officially crying out to you for help in a big way today. Make this refrain of Psalm 136 mine as well: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

“…to him who led his people through the wilderness for his steadfast love endures forever;

It is he who remembered us in our low estate, For his steadfast love endures forever;

And rescued us from our foes [fear], For his steadfast love endures forever.”

Help me in my unbelief – in my insatiable desire to control the uncontrollable [having a miscarriage] and to know the unknowable [whether this baby is healthy].”

That’s the thing with anxiety: it is my attempt to control what I cannot control – and in fact, what is not mine to control. My role was to actively trust God, come what may. Easy to say when looking in the “rear-view mirror” of life but it feels impossible when you’re in the midst of the dark valley of death’s shadow. I remember repeating over and over again the words of Psalm 23 and Psalm 139, seeking to meditate on these truths of my Shepherd and entrust these little lives into His care. Practically, I also restricted myself from searching on the internet for more information, as this only served to increase my fear and anxiety at all of the “what ifs” out there.

As the fear of miscarriage faded a bit with each week, it was replaced with the fear of “how in the world will I take care of TWO babies?” This is an anxiety that I am still working through. It certainly comes in waves. For example, I remember the day I went grocery shopping and noticed how cute a mom and her baby were. Immediately following this was the realization that grocery carts don’t have space for TWO infants! And my “natural” fear/thought progression led me to the conclusion that I would never be able to even venture out to buy groceries by myself after the twins’ birth. (twin friends, please leave me in blissful ignorance if that is, in fact, true) I fear the loss of my independence.

Other fears that I experienced especially during the first trimester included fears of whether I was eating enough and the right kinds of food to nourish the babies, whether I was unknowingly exposing them to harmful toxins (did using my aerosol hairspray once or twice damage them? What about the day they were refinishing the floors at my workplace and I smelled the fumes for a few hours?), even how my fears and anxiety might have a negative impact on their growth and development.

More than any pregnancy book I turned to for answers (and there were a lot – a book review post will be coming at some point in time), reading this book on anxiety, Calm My Anxious Heart (by Linda Dillow), and hearing sermons on the book of Hebrews about the faithfulness of God reminded me of God’s care and provision. The God who created the universe is intricately involved in my life, speaking to my fears and reassuring me with His presence – in fact, inviting me into His presence. And I have many friends who helped to demonstrate this truth to me through their prayers and encouraging words and presence with me.

Where does fear show up currently? As I approach the end of my second trimester (23 weeks along … just a couple more weeks until trimester #3), I have (naturally) begun worrying about whether I’ll go into premature labor. This fear is certainly grounded in the risks associated with twin pregnancy, as they are much more likely to arrive earlier than their due date, but I find myself again in the realm of needing to actively trust in a God who knows when these babies will be born. This doesn’t mean that I throw caution to the wind. In fact, I have stopped exercising vigorously and I am more tuned in to resting when I’m tired (novel concept for me) and seeking to continue to eat well. Yet beyond that, the details of when these babies will arrive is really out of my hands.

A few years ago at a baby shower, a woman in my church who was pregnant with her fourth child at the time told me that pregnancy was the best opportunity she had been given to learn how to surrender completely to God because every aspect of pregnancy, labor, and delivery is really out of your control. That has stuck with me, and I pray that I will continue to grow in trust – rather than fear – throughout the remaining weeks of this pregnancy.

Are there more fears? Of course … this post just began to scratch the surface. So you’ll have to buy my book one day to read more!

trusting God when you’re expecting, part 1: using pregnancy as an excuse to be self-indulgent

One of the popular pregnancy books is the “What To Expect” series. I’ve read bits and pieces of a few of them and they are helpful enough, but one of my desires in pregnancy is to find a book that addresses the spiritual side of pregnancy . I want a book that highlights both the unique joys and struggles of this season, and points readers to the hope of the gospel and the truth of God’s promises to encourage them during this unique time. I haven’t found it yet. So I think I just might write it, and I would call it “Trusting God When You’re Expecting.” Read along for the first installment that I write … the first of many, I hope.

How can I believe Christ more than I believe some of the lies the “culture of pregnancy” in America would tell me? First of all, I can’t fall prey to the temptation to use pregnancy as an excuse to indulge unduly. Everyone says, “you’re pregnant – so you should have what you want!” It’s a little similar to the “bride-zilla” phenomena engaged women planning a wedding face – suddenly this new stage of life becomes an excuse to act how you want and get whatever you want because “you’re the bride,” or in my case, “you’re pregnant.” And I do think this can be heightened because, “I’m pregnant with TWINS.”

It’s easy for me to put a guilt trip on Seth and use pregnancy as a reason to be waited on hand and foot. [quick aside: while I was sick with a really bad cold/cough for two weeks and when I was experiencing some complications at the beginning of our pregnancy, it was necessary for me to lay low and for Seth to do much more than usual … but I’ve had to be careful not to take advantage of that now that I am physically better] Just last week, when Seth took the last serving of a meal, I said (with a bit of humor, granted), “You’re stealing food from the babies!” (because I had wanted another helping, too) Now that’s just not fair if I really began to think like that for everything!

It’s also easy to use the “pregnancy hormones” as an excuse to act demanding, critical, or even plain ole mean. Again, Seth usually gets the brunt of this behavior. There are days when I have felt emotionally “off” but these days should make me more dependent on God, more prayerful as I ask for sufficient grace, and more careful with my words and attitudes than other days. I am convinced that the Spirit’s power at work in me is greater than pregnancy hormones (if it worked to raise Jesus from the dead, I don’t think the Spirit can be limited by hormonal changes).

I’ve noticed that pregnancy enhances my natural bent to want to be self-indulgent, too. “Because I’m pregnant” can easily become an excuse to spend more than I should on clothes, shoes, jewelry, etc … all the “vain things that charm me most.” I would love to use pregnancy as an excuse for monthly manicures and pedicures. And let’s add massages to the list, while I’m at it. And why not buy the dream car I’ve always wanted? We’ll need it for the twins’ arrival, after all. (and, no, it’s not a mini-van but an SUV) Desires can easily take me over.

So what do I need to remember to battle these pregnancy-shaped temptations? That God, as before and as always, has given me everything I need for life and godliness [not self-indulgence]. That God will give me grace that’s abundant for my situation so that I can love Him and others better. That no temptation is too great for me to bear and God will always provide a way of escape. And, most importantly of all, that I can’t do this on my own! I will fail and I will succomb to these temptations, but I have a Savior who died even for that and who lives now to give me life and hope and daily grace. I won’t do any of this perfectly, and I don’t have to, because Jesus has already lived the perfect life for me and intercedes for me as my eternal High Priest. He is the one who has fought and overcome each of these temptations for me, and my role is to depend on Him and live in light of that truth and hope of victory.

tiny miracles

“For you [Oh God] created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb. … “

From Psalm 139

Images from our 19 week ultrasound – there really are no words for these tiny miracles, being wrought so carefully and delicately by their Maker:

Baby “A” and Baby “B”

What a tiny hand!

why i love the 2nd trimester

No lies – the first trimester was not really fun. I felt more exhausted than I could imagine was possible (to the point that putting my clothes away at the end of the day felt like too much effort!); semi-nauseous most of the day – most days (but not nearly as bad as many other friends); and I had a few complications early in the pregnancy that meant forced rest (so hard for me as one who likes to measure the day’s success by what I’ve accomplished). The best advice that I got during that trimester was:

(1) to eat constantly as a way of staving off nausea (counter-intuitive though it was – it helped tremendously!)

(2) get an anti-nausea prescription when it just felt too overwhelming  – which I did at week 11 (thank you, Anne and Lisa!)

(3) rest when you’re tired (which meant frequent naps)

And now that I’m 19 weeks into this twin pregnancy, my experience of being pregnant is so much different. A few reasons why I love it (or at least prefer it to trimester #1):

  • my energy really did return (not entirely – still going to bed earlier than my previous “normal” – but I can do most tasks like before)
  • the nausea faded gradually and completely
  • I look pregnant now and all of our friends and family know (no veiled excuses of “I’m not feeling well … let’s reschedule”)
  • beginning the registry process really is so much fun (we’re registered at Babies R Us, Target, and Restoration Hardware Baby & Child) – helps us imagine the reality of these babies’ arrival this fall
  • I can feel the babies move … just the tiniest of movements now that I began identifying last week (they apparently love the beach, ice cream, and Wendell Kimbrough’s music – great house show last Saturday night, Sabins!)
  • and best of all … we found out their genders: TWO GIRLS!

On this last point, this was actually a surprise to me. My intuition was that it was two boys or a boy and a girl … so I was totally wrong. Seth is trying to gear up for a house full of women yet I know these daughters will be wrapped around their daddy’s little finger from day one. I must say that girls’ clothes and nursery decor is much cuter than for boys … so it’s fun to picture their room and imagine them in these tiny outfits we’re registering for.

After another doctor appointment today, she confirmed that they seem to be progressing well and that I am also healthy. It’s such a relief to be able to hear their little heartbeats every two weeks … one benefit of a twin pregnancy (frequent office visits!). A coming post will be a review of the myriads of books on twins, pregnancy, babies … Seth and I are avid readers and are seeking to prepare ourselves as best we can through education. Yet I have a feeling that no amount of reading will be able to prepare us for the overwhelming excitement of becoming parents of TWO this fall. Instant family … !