Wednesday, December 18, 2013

On Trusting Well

Last week, I talked about waiting well this Advent season. But Advent is not just about waiting well, it's also about trusting well. Nowhere do we see this more clearly than in the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Imagine being a teenage girl, a virgin at that, and suddenly being told (by an angel) that you are going to become pregnant. And not just pregnant, but pregnant by God. And not just pregnant by God, but pregnant with God incarnate. I remember being a teenager and I don't know how I would have handled that news. Most likely way worse than Mary did.

In a few short moments, Mary's entire world was turned upside down. She was betrothed to a man. She was suddenly pregnant with a baby that did not come from this man. And in her culture this was a literal death sentence. In an instant, she was faced with the possibility of sudden death or lifelong banishment from society.

Yet, how does she respond?

"Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).

Here, in these short verses, Mary is exhibiting great trust in God and his word. She is not questioning God or his plan. She is not fretting over what could happen to her. She is not talking back or trying to control the situation. She is simply trusting God and taking him at his word.

Wherever you are this Christmas season, you most likely are in a time of having to trust God. The same God who was worthy of Mary's trust is worthy of yours as well. The God who came to earth and fulfilled all of his promises through his own birth, death, and resurrection still speaks today.

Mary, like Zechariah and Elizabeth, was waiting on this promised Messiah. When her circumstances looked at best uncertain, and at worst very dire, she trusted in the God who fulfills all of his promises. May we have faith to do the same.

Friday, December 13, 2013

10 Months: A Twin Update

It is so hard to believe they are 10 months already. Getting into the double digits with them makes me feel like this baby stage is quickly leaving us. And while I'm excited about the future with them, there is something about the cuddliness and sweetness of the baby stage that I will most certainly miss. It has been a while since I updated on these little twinsies, so I figured it was about time.
They are growing every day and busy as can be. They are all boy. They like to crawl, climb, pull up, and get into anything they can get their little hands on. Zach is a "swiper", as we like to call him. If you aren't careful, he will swipe anything, things like knives off the table, food off your plate, or the paper that seems out of reach. Luke is our bouncer. He likes to bounce all of the time. He also likes to stand, which can prove challenging at times. They are very happy little guys. And social. I am pretty sure they have never met a stranger. This is very comforting for me when I leave them in the nursery at church or have a babysitter for them.
Luke is still in physical therapy and helmet therapy, but doing better every week. We are so pleased with his progress. Zach is still bigger than Luke. He even likes to exert his physical dominance by stealing toys from Luke regularly. Poor Lukey doesn't mind, but Zach minds a lot when Luke takes his toys! They are learning how to babble and say things like "ma-ma" and "da-da" and even can wave and say "ba-ba"! Zach can't say it much yet, but Luke is getting there!
They absolutely love each other. It is such a joy to watch. They are never far away from each other, and if they are, they quickly come back together. Zach makes Luke laugh all of the time and I only wish I knew what he was doing that was so funny to him!
It's hard to believe that a mere 10 months ago they were my little NICU babies. God has done so much in growing them, changing them, and protecting them. They are the sweetest blessing to us and we are so very thankful for them. When I think of the Christmases without a baby, and how my heart longed for full arms, I never imagined both of my arms would be full. And full they are! We are truly celebrating God's kindness to us this Christmas. His kindness in sustaining us in the years of miscarriage and infertility. And his kindness in giving us these little miracles. We love them so!

Here are some more pictures of them in action!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

On Waiting Well

I mentioned last week that I am going to be writing a brief series on the wonder of Christmas. The Gospel accounts of Christ's birth never cease to amaze me. Every year I find myself overwhelmed by all that God reveals to us through these short verses in the Bible.

One such story that moves me is the one of Zechariah and Elizabeth. During our period of infertility (brief by their standards!) this story ministered to me in so many ways. In that time period, to be barren was a cultural death sentence. To be unable to bring a child into the world meant you were viewed as cursed. Yet, they remained faithful. Luke 1:6 tells us:

"And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statues of the Lord."

I can only imagine what years of infertility would do to a person and their trust in God. It can go two ways, can't it? You can either renounce God for his perceived failure to give you what you've asked for, or you can trust him for his good plan for your life. Zechariah and Elizabeth did the latter. And  God remembered them.

And isn't that just like God--to wait until the man-made attempts at anything are completely out of the question? There was no physical way possible for Elizabeth to conceive, and yet she did. God keeps his promises.

So what does it look like to wait well this Advent season, and every season? Luke goes on to say that Zechariah continued to serve in his role as priest (vs. 8). And he continued to pray. In all of his years of longing and waiting for God to open his wife's womb, in his old age he remained faithful. Faithfulness is measured by the daily obedience's. It is seen over the long haul, when hope seems gone and circumstances are overwhelming. Faithfulness is seen in trusting in the One who keeps us faithful to the end. That is what Zechariah and Elizabeth did. Every year, when God seemed to be forgetting them yet again, they continued to trust him.

But they didn't just trust him for their personal lives. They trusted him for the salvation of their own people as well. I don't think it is a coincidence that the waiting of Zechariah and Elizabeth for a child is placed within the greater story of the people of Israel waiting on their Messiah. They weren't just waiting for a baby. They were waiting for God to fulfill his promises to them through the long-awaited Christ. Their righteousness before God was evidenced by their faithfulness in waiting for both of these things when many around them would (and had) long given up.

We can learn a lot from them about waiting well. Whether we are waiting for God to answer a personal prayer or a collective prayer for his return, we are all waiting for something. Do we give up when it feels like it's never going to be realized in our lifetime? Or do we continue to entrust ourselves to the God who hears and answers every prayer in his time?

May we all learn to wait well this Advent season and in the years to come.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Wonder of the Incarnation

Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love Christmas so much that I have been known to bust out the Christmas music in October. My husband loves Thanksgiving, so he makes sure we don't let his favorite holiday get eclipsed by the Christmas creep. If it were up to me, we would start spreading the Christmas cheer November 1. But alas.

As I've gotten older, Christmas has become more and more meaningful to me. Maybe it's the abundance of childhood memories I can draw upon every time I decorate the Christmas tree with thirty years worth of ornaments from my mom. Maybe it's the excitement of watching (and reciting) A Charlie Brown Christmas one more time. But I think it's something even more than that. Christmas continues to move me because I've grown in my love for the Savior we celebrate. Christmas moves me because, as our pastor said last Sunday, it's about the greatest miracle that ever happened--the eternal Word became flesh. God became a man. And not just a man, but a baby.

The wonder of Christmas for me is not in the traditions, decorating, presents, or even time with family (though these are all wonderful blessings I greatly enjoy). The wonder of Christmas is in the amazing reality of the incarnation. The God who made and sustains everything humbled himself by becoming a little baby so he could rescue us from our sins.

What good news!

So as I begin this Advent season, I want to take this in and treasure it for all it is worth. I want to marvel at the kindness of God to send his Son for us. I want to worship at the feet of this Christ, who made himself nothing so we could have everything. I want to sing the familiar Christmas tunes with greater zeal because my heart has been stirred to see Christ in greater measure. And I want to long for his return again.

Christmas is truly the most wonderful time of the year.

Because Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year (in my opinion!), this is the first in a series of posts about the wonder and anticipation of Christmas. Stay tuned for more!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

So, You Had a Baby?

Whenever a celebrity has a baby the media immediately begins the dreaded waiting game before the poor woman has even checked out of the hospital. You know the game. Will she or won’t she lose all that baby wait—and in what length of time? While I wanted to buck the trend, I was just as delusional in the days leading up to the arrival of my twin boys. I wanted to look like I didn’t have twins. I wanted people to look at me and say “you don’t look like you had twins at all!”

How selfish of me!

In God’s kindness, and nature’s reality, that was hardly the case for me. Instead of basking in the praises of people who couldn’t believe I had just given birth to twins, not a day went by during our five week stint at the hospital that someone didn’t ask me when it would be my turn to come deliver my baby. And this lasted long after we brought them home.

I had twins. And I looked like it.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. If eating a Big Mac every Sunday after church kept me from throwing up on the way home, then you better believe Momma was going to eat a Big Mac. The last thing I was thinking about was my ridiculous goal of being the width of a stick post-pregnancy. I just wanted to keep down dinner. And eat what sounded good.

As I’ve worked through the emotions, and come back to reality, about this whole post-baby body thing, I have grown to love what these boys did to me. Right after they were born I dealt with some serious separation issues about the fact that they weren’t with me any longer. Of course, it was made worse by the fact that they physically weren’t with me for five weeks and medically speaking they should have still been inside of me. But now that they are growing, healthy, and amazing little boys the reality of my post-baby body is a story about how they came to be.

Here’s the deal. And it’s taken a while for me to come to this conclusion. I had babies. Why shouldn’t my body bear the marks of such a wonderful feat? We live in a culture that prizes perfection and hates children. We want them, we just don’t want the changes they bring. The fact is the change is part of life.

Our bodies are never going to be perfect this side of Eden. And our endless pursuit of a perfect body, especially post-pregnancy, is very much in vain.

Your stretch marks, extra skin and pudge around the middle, and bags under your eyes are all evidence of something beautiful—the life that grew inside of you. The life that bears the image of our God.

Our society’s obsession with the perfect body and looking like we never had kids is for naught. They are trying to get perfection without the perfect One. It’s not possible. They want to go back to the glory of Eden, but reject the Christ who himself makes us whole. We know another way. We know that this life is not all there is. One day we will have perfect bodies. But it won’t be here. And it won’t be by our own efforts. No amount of running or the 30 Day Shred can remove the fact that this old body of ours is decaying. It’s not the final story.

Until that day, our imperfect bodies are reminding us that another one is coming. But they are also reminding us that with these old, decaying bodies of ours God is bringing new life into the world, life that exists to bring glory to his name. When Adam named his wife Eve, he called her the mother of all living. Out of her life would come. And as women, we get to do the same thing.

So when I try to put on my old jeans and realize that there is a little extra skin that wasn’t there before, I don’t want to begrudge it. And I don’t want to pretend like it’s not a big deal either. Out of a decaying body God has brought forth life. He is making all things new.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How to Help Your Infertile Friend: Take Her to God

When I thought about the myriad of ways to best help an infertile person one thing kept running through my mind over and over.

Take her to God.

The pain of infertility, like the journey of the Christian life, can be so cyclical. One day you feel amazing and hopeful. The other you want to curl up in a ball on the floor and cry until there are no tears left.

But taking the infertile person to God can often be a tricky thing. What the infertile woman needs, like I have already said, is not more over-generalizations about her circumstances. And reciting theology to her can come across as that way--even though a healthy theology is necessary for dealing with the sorrow of infertility. But good theology must come before the trial, so you have a sure footing when everything else around you is shifting sand. In the midst of the trial it can sound like pithy one-liners to sensitive ears.

In my miscarriage series, I said that one of the best ways to help your friend in her loss is to know her--really know her. This will give you the opportunity to know when to speak and when to listen. This will give you insight into her soul and help you know what she needs in any given moment. Sometimes the infertile person needs to know that God loves them. Sounds simple, doesn't it? But when your womb is empty, the absence of a dearly longed for baby can feel like the very nature of hatred from God. Assure her that it isn't. Maybe she needs to know that God always keeps his promises. The Bible is full of examples of God keeping his promises to his weary saints. Remind her of that wonderful truth. Maybe she needs to know that infertility doesn't have the final word in her life. Yes, her body (or her husband's body) is broken. Yes, it feels like evil is prevailing over her right now. But it won't be that way forever. The cross is the promise that the evil that seems to be winning right now will one day be eradicated and we will be given new bodies in the new heavens and the new earth.

The reality is that none of these things will take the pain away ultimately. And these aren't concrete answers for every situation. They are merely examples of the varying ways a woman needs to know that God is for her, not against her in her infertility. But what I hope you take away from this short series on helping your infertile friend is that what suffering people need more than anything is God. They need to know that you love them and that God loves them. They need to know that you won't leave them and that God will never leave them. They need to know that you are with them for the long-haul. And so is God.

Infertility is full of complexities. And every case is different. As you seek to help your infertile friend in whatever stage of the trial she is in, ask God to give you the grace to love her well. As I already said, God delights in giving good things to his children. And by his grace, may you be that good thing for your suffering friend.

Monday, October 21, 2013

How To Help Your Infertile Friend: Treat Her Like a Normal Person

One of the most helpful things you can do for your infertile friend is to treat her like a normal person. Infertility has a way of making you feel like a freak of nature. What an infertile person needs to know is that infertility does not define them. They are not less than human because they cannot conceive. Their womanhood is not determined by a pregnant belly or a house full of children. They need to know that they are just as normal as the next woman.

When everyone around them is sharing news of another pregnancy, this truth can be hard to hold on to because the reality is that their body (or their husband's body) is not functioning like it was made to. They often feel this acutely. But what they need help seeing is that their biological failure is not a personhood failure. Their identity as God's child is not tied to what their broken body can or cannot do. This is why they need you to come along side them and treat them like their life is just as valuable and exciting even in the midst of a profound suffering.You can have a tremendous impact on our hurting friend by treating them like they are as human as you are.

So how do you do that?

Obviously, this varies from person to person, but one way I felt "normal" with my friends is that they expressed interest in the things that interested me. It might seem really small, but infertility can be an all consuming experience. From doctor's visits to charts and tests, it can often feel like your life is one big experiment. My friends helped me get outside of that experience by caring about the other things that I really loved.

Another thing is that they didn't shy away from was sharing their lives with me. It can be hard to share exciting baby news or the details of your potty training experiences with a friend who desperately wants a child of her own, but nothing makes an infertile person feel more abnormal than when he or she knows someone is intentionally holding back about their own children. Like I said in my last post, carefully composed words require knowing your friend, but so does knowing when to share your life with them. An infertile person can feel very alone at times and refraining from sharing your life with her for fear of making her pain worse can only make her feel more alone. Infertile people are very aware of the myriad of babies that are always seeming to pop up right in front of them, so you probably won't be sharing anything with her that she isn't already acutely aware of.

As you walk this road with your hurting friend she will be greatly served by you remembering that there is really very little that separates you from her. While you may be able to conceive with ease, you both bear the image of Christ and find your identity in him alone. Standing on this truth will help you see her as a normal person in need of eyes of faith to see her Savior in the midst of her pain.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

How to Help Your Infertile Friend: Part 1

It's been over a year since God opened my womb and gave us these twin boys, which means it's been over a year since I've felt the daily sting of infertility. All throughout our struggle to get pregnant, and in the months following our pregnancy, I have wanted to write something that would help others know how to help their friends in this difficult trial. I have written about how to help after miscarriage and I have written to the infertile woman, but I have never written to an outsider looking in on the infertile couple. There are a number of reasons for that. In the midst of our journey I never felt like I could really pinpoint the most helpful things. We were truly upheld by so many dear people, but in the moment I never wanted to come out swinging against the ones who maybe didn't know exactly how to help. During infertility was not the best time for me personally to write about it. I felt like God had more work to do on my own heart before I could write about it.

But as I am now farther removed from it, my prayer is that I can help those who earnestly desire to encourage their weary friends as they walk this hard road of infertility. Here is part one.


Choose Your Words Carefully

This can apply to many situations that have nothing to do with infertility, which is why I mention it first. As believers, we know that our words matter. We know that our words have value for another. And we know that our words can either bring life or bring death to a person's soul.

Nowhere is this more important to recognize than when you are dealing with a suffering person. And infertility is a form of suffering. For the infertile, there are days where the reality that she cannot get pregnant is right on her shoulder, screaming lies into her head. Lies like "you aren't really a woman." "This defines you." "You have no purpose because you can't bring life into the world." Carefully composed words can be a healing balm to a discouraged and fainthearted saint.

But another more common temptation when you are helping your infertile friends is the urge to generalize their situation and lump it into every other instance of infertility that you are aware of. I still struggle with this, and I have gone through it! The truth is there are a myriad of reasons why a couple might be infertile. And as their friend, you might want to help find out that reason. While some may know why they can’t get pregnant, some don’t. Some situations require simple procedures to fix the problem. Some require years of treatment that only amount to drained bank accounts and broken hearts. What an infertile couple needs most is not a story about how a friend of a friend got pregnant with the same treatment. That might be true. But for every story of success there is another of failure. This doesn’t mean you never offer advice or insight. Just be careful what you say and when you say it. Sometimes silence is the best policy.
And I understand how hard this can be. When I don’t know what to say, I often say too much. I just want to say something, anything, to alleviate the pain. But sometimes removing the pain is not what your friend needs. She might just need empathy. She might just need you to sit with her and cry. But here is one thing I can almost promise you, if you have thought of a reason for why she is infertile, she has probably thought of fifteen more. The infertile woman knows her body (usually) more than she ever wanted to know it. And she understands conception usually better than most.
So if your desire is to help your friend, and I trust that it is, understand that a carefully composed word goes a long way. This doesn't mean you have to walk on eggshells around your friend (we will talk about that in another post), but it does mean you think about what you say before you say it. Words, if chosen wisely, can go a long way to helping your suffering friend.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Life With Twins: 8 Months Later

Tomorrow these sweet boys will be 8 months old. I can hardly believe it. Sometimes it feels like yesterday that I saw their precious faces for the first time. And then other times it feels like they have always been part of our lives. We love them so stinking much!

So what is life like with these twinsies? One part crazy. One part totally fun. And equal parts overwhelming joy. I will say, the first 5 or 6 months were really intense. With the first 5 weeks being all things NICU, coupled with the fact that they were pretty much like newborns for the first 4 months of their life, it was exhausting. Then you add the fact that we have never been parents before, and you have a recipe for a little bit of chaos.

Would I do it again? Absolutely.

Around 4 months we realized Luke had some issues with neck rotation and it was confirmed by an occupational therapist and his pediatrician. That explained his flat head (he only slept on one side). He was diagnosed with torticollis, which started us on a busy few months of therapy evaluations, head scans, and doctor visits. He will be in physical therapy until he reaches his important developmental milestones for the first year, and he will be in the helmet about as long, too. Thankfully, we have gotten into a good routine with sitters for Zach, occasionally taking them both to therapy (Luke does better with brother there sometimes), and doing home exercises. At first, I was really sad and overwhelmed with the prospect of more doctor visits for our family. Our life has been doctor visits for the last year or so and I just wanted some normalcy--whatever that means, right?

So what are the twins like?

They are so much fun! They are really happy babies for the most part. They have their usual crabby moments, but who doesn't? They love attention and people. And they especially love women and little girls. They have really started to notice each other and "talk" to each other. I love it and can't wait to see them interact more and more! Luke is much more vocal than Zach, though they both like to talk. Luke often talks himself to sleep at night time and talks himself awake in the morning. They smile all of the time. My favorite moment with them is when I go get them from naps or in the morning. They go crazy in their cribs with excitement!

They really want to move. Just this week they both have started getting on their knees and elbows and started rocking. They roll everywhere (especially Zach) and they can scoot backwards and with their legs (while their head is down), but they often get frustrated when they can't move. They both sit up well and love being able to see the world. Luke's physical therapist told me yesterday that some babies have little interest in moving, but that is not him at all, nor is it true of his brother. They cannot wait to move, though mommy is fine with them waiting a little longer! Honestly, their drive to move doesn't surprise me at all. Luke was very active when I was pregnant with them. I don't think he ever stopped moving. Zach was active, too, but nothing like Luke was.

They also aren't as cuddly anymore because they want to move. The other day they wanted to cuddle before naps and I ate up every minute of it because it rarely happens anymore. I miss it!

Growth wise they are catching up nicely. The doctor said they are doing exactly what they should be doing. Zach is still bigger than Luke, but they both are ahead of the curve, which is what we want. They love eating solids! That is a huge prayer answer for me because bottle feeding has been a bit of a challenge at times and I was terrified to introduce something new. I think they like solids better than bottles! And Zach has a tooth coming through, so that explains his fussiness the last few weeks! I am sure Luke is not far behind.

People often asking me what the hardest part of having twins is, and while I have nothing to compare it to, I think the fact that I can't hold them both at the same time is the most challenging. Having two kids is not unique to many moms, but having two infants is. And the fact that they both need to be transported by my arms poses a challenge sometimes, especially when there are over 35 pounds of baby between the two of them. I suppose it is good that I am learning how to share my love and attention early on because that is just part of being a mom, but it does kill me sometimes that I can't pay attention to both of them at the same time. If I could multiply my arms and my affection I would be golden!

So that is where we are at with these boys of ours. Most days my eyes well up with tears thinking about God's kindness to us. I remember vividly the many months and years of begging God for a child, just one child to call my own. And in his kindness he gave me two precious, precious boys. I try to remember that especially when I feel like I am losing my mind with exhaustion and sinful lack of patience. I cannot imagine any other life than the one I have right in this moment. I love these boys with every fiber of my being. They are such a gift to Daniel and me. And we can't believe how far they have come!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Finding Joy Again

Many of us can remember a time in our life when we experienced great joy in the Lord. Perhaps it was at the time of your conversion, or in the months after. Your eyes are suddenly opened to the truth of God's word. You see Christ as supremely valuable. And you can't get enough of learning about the glories of Christ. Joy is abounding.

We have all been around new believers and seen their excitement. In many ways, the zeal they have for the Lord reminds us of young lovers. It's new. It's endless. And they want nothing more than to spend every waking moment with the One who purchased them and made them a new creation. New love is the same way. Weddings have a way of reminding us of the love we have for our own spouse. Why? Because weddings are full of joy, anticipation, and fresh encounters with love. It's infectious.

But we all can relate to feeling dry and brittle towards the Lord, too. If we were truly honest, we often look longingly at our early days as a believer and long for the fresh zeal and wonder that captured our hearts. Like a wife who is losing affection for her husband, we know acutely what it feels like to go to God's word and feel nothing. The early days of anticipation and abundant emotions are fading fast.

The psalmist, David, understood this human predicament well. Whether our dryness is owing to sin, circumstances, or a combination of it all, there are many days where we need God to restore to us the joy of our own salvation (Psalm 51:12). We come to him in prayer and in his word and we cry out for something, anything, that will resemble the joy we know is possible.

But here is the promise. God will do it. Maybe not in the moment. Maybe not even in the month. But he will give us joy. With each passing day of slowly plugging along, we must not give up hope. The dryness of today will give way to the unending joy of tomorrow if we simply trust that the God who gave us joy once will surely give it again. Even more than that, in the driest of moments he is sustaining us. David knew that he didn't just need God to restore his joy, but he also needed grace for each passing day. Sometimes God acts immediately, making our hearts alive to him again. And sometimes, he holds back. But he never leaves us alone. His grace is sustaining us even in the darkness.

So if you find yourself asking God for a renewed sense of wonder at all he has done for you in Christ, and you come up shorter than you had hoped, take heart, dear Christian. The coldness of today is not the end of the story. Faithfulness is key. And God will act. In the same way that he gave you a new heart and joy in his salvation the first time, he will do it still.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Flame Can't Destroy You

Trials have a way of taking everything out of you. Whether it is the stress of tight or non-existent finances, the burden of a wayward child, or the pain of the monthly reminder of infertility, there is no denying that trials are exhausting. In the heat of the moment it can feel like we are going to die. When everything around us is falling apart, it's hard for us to see that there could be any light at the end of the tunnel. And in the darkest days, it feels like we just won't make it.

One of my favorite hymns is "How Firm a Foundation". I often repeat the lyrics of this song in good and bad times. The line that usually stays on repeat in my head goes like this:

"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie. My grace all sufficient shall be thy supply. The flame shall not hurt you, I only design, the dross to consume and the gold to refine."

The words of this song are taken from Isaiah 41 and 43. This line in particular comes from Isaiah 43:2b-3:

"When you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, and the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."

So while I might feel like any given trial will lead to the end of me, God's word promises that the trial is not intended for my demise, but my refinement. The writer of this hymn uses the imagery of gold being refined by fire. Gold only becomes more precious the more it is put through the fire. And our faith in God grows the same way. Rarely do we see intense periods of growth when life is moving along with relative ease. But when the flames of life are rising up around us, whether it be suffering, normal daily trials, or simply the mundane realities of living in a fallen world, it is then that we are seeing our old character slowly burned away to reveal a new, Christ-like character that is precious in God's eyes.

God uses every seemingly insurmountable trial (and even the ones that seem relatively easy) to make us more into the image of his son, Jesus. He wants us purified because he knows that is what is best for us.

And even when our faith is shaken by the circumstances of our life, we can trust that the God who designed the process of our refinement will not leave us to ourselves. He will uphold us. He will restore us. And he will continue to make us new until that final day (Phil. 1:6). The flame can't destroy us because it can never take away what makes us God's child--faith in him. Faith can't be destroyed by even the most dire circumstances because God is the one who gave us the faith and he is the one who will keep it to the end.

The flame will not destroy us ultimately. It might burn us badly, but it won't take away our faith because we are upheld by the one who is the author of our faith.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Freedom, Such a Helpful Word

Our church is doing a women's bible study on Galatians. So far, we are two weeks in and every week I have been so helped in my daily desire to know more of Christ. Last week we looked at Galatians 1:10-24 and how Paul was living to please God rather than man. As long as I have been a Christian, fear of man has been a struggle for me. And I don't think I am alone. With each season of my life I find new areas where it is a daily battle to live for God rather than my peers. When I was single, I wanted to look like I was perfectly content in my singleness so those around me would praise me for my trust in God. When I first got married, I wanted to be the next Martha Stewart, always poised and ready to bake, clean, and craft at the drop of a hat. When I was pregnant, I wanted to be the glowing, happy pregnant woman who handles pregnancy and labor like a champ. And now that I am a mom of two busy 7 month olds, I want people to look at my skills and praise me for my ability to handle the daily grind of motherhood.

Let's snap back to reality. I often didn't model contentment in my single days. I struggled to maintain a clean and organized home in my early days of wedded bliss (among other things). My pregnancy was hardly a breeze. And about motherhood? Well, let's just say God is in the business of humbling people.

In the midst of my endless quest to look like I have it all together, I often forget that it's not about what others think of me anyway. Paul reminds us in Galatians 1:10 that as blood-bought followers of Christ, we no longer live for the approval of men. Rather, we are servants of Christ. And everyone knows that no one can serve two masters, at least not for long (Matt. 6:24).

As I worked on my bible study lesson last week the word that kept ringing through my mind was "freedom." Of course we know that Christ has set us free from the most important chain that binds us, our sin. But he also has freed us from having to live for other people's praise (or even their criticism). When my mood lives and dies by the approval or disapproval of those around me I am essentially saying that they are more important than God. But even more important, and freeing, is the reality that there is nothing anyone can say about us that will make us anymore sinful in God's eyes, because he sees it all--even things nobody else sees. On the flip side of that, there is nothing we can do that will make us any more righteous in God's eyes either, because Christ righteousness is all we need.

And while I am so far from having this truth down in my heart, I am thankful for the reminder from Galatians that it is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Gal. 5:1). We no longer need to live under the bondage of our own quest for self-glorification, because we have been given something far better--the Glorious One.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Lessons Learned in Six Months of Motherhood

I have only been a mother to little babies for six months now (how did that go so fast?!?!?), so I am by no means an expert. In fact, I am pretty sure I know less about parenthood today than I did the moment the boys were born. Motherhood has humbled me, big time. And (on most days), I'm so thankful for that. Before I had the boys I thought pretty highly of myself. I had watched my friends have kids and thought I had a pretty good handle on this whole parenting thing. I was going to be that "laid back mom" who made everyone marvel at my mad mothering skills. First, I don't know where I ever got the idea that I had a shred of an easy going personality. And second, I was way wrong. Like I said, motherhood has humbled me. So this post is mostly a confession about all I've learned these last crazy six months. It's not a parenting manual. It's just reality. And I'm sure in the next six months my eyes will be opened to the many more things I have yet to learn.

So consider this a letter to my first time mom self. It's what I only wish I knew six months ago.

Hold the baby. Seriously, Courtney. Pick up that sweet baby you helped create and snuggle until both your hearts are content. I was like a "holding Nazi." The boys could only be held at certain times of the day and for only a prescribed period of time. My poor dad came to visit right after they came home from the hospital and I was so stressed about them getting used to being held and never sleeping at night that I took no pictures of him holding the twins because he hardly even got to hold them. I'm sure he held them some, but not as much as he should have. Courtney, hold the baby.

Self-soothe will come later. Again, I was obsessed with this whole self-soothe idea. I read all these things about the importance of learning how to self-soothe. I didn't want them to be poorly adjusted and have issues until they were adults because they never learned this vital skill, so I stressed about it. And stressed about it and stressed about it. They will learn it, Courtney. If they don't, I'm pretty sure they won't be relying on you for comfort when they are eighteen.

Relax. Just relax. Sleep patterns will emerge. You will survive the sleepless nights with most of your sanity in place. They will eventually stop crying, and life will settle into a good routine. Relaxing will help you enjoy the moment, which is the most important thing in these early days. The precious, baby moments won't last forever and you will want to remember yourself relaxed and happy, not frazzled and crazy.

Put down the books and get to know your baby. Having twins has really made me see that no two babies are alike, even if their DNA is exactly the same. If I believed everything a book told me I would be trying to fit one or both of my children into a mold that he simply wasn't made for.

Let go of your need for control, because it's just an illusion anyway. This is a lesson that God obviously wants me to learn because he keeps bringing it up in my life. I want to learn it well.

And most importantly, Courtney, be thankful to God for these precious gifts. You aren't guaranteed more sleep. You aren't guaranteed days of ease. You aren't guaranteed obedient children. But you are guaranteed a heart full of love. And that's what I want to remember from this first year of life. I want to remember that my heart swells with love for these precious boys every time they look me in the eye and smile bigger than I knew possible. I want to remember that I'm daily brought to tears over God's provision for these boys. These are the things that will stay with me even when the most well intentioned day doesn't even come close to going as planned.

It's been a good six months as their momma. And I can't wait for every month after.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Faithfulness and Legalism

People often use Galatians in the fight against legalism, and rightfully so. In the letter, Paul is combating legalism in the lives of the Galatian Christians. Many of them are abandoning the true gospel of Jesus Christ for Judaism. They would rather work to earn their salvation than trust in the grace of Christ’s atoning work. But these days it seems the legalism label gets slapped on anything that smells of telling someone else what God requires of them. As one who tends towards legalism, I understand the dangers of believing your good works can save you. I know what it’s like to prefer a list over faith in the work of Another. I know what it’s like to turn down my nose at someone who does things differently than me, or worse does things that I have deemed unacceptable in God’s eyes (but really isn’t as bad as I think). And to turn the finger even more towards me, I know what it’s like to swell with sinful pride over my own perceived good Christian behavior, if that’s even possible.

But what concerns me about the quickness to call many things legalism is that I think it’s missing a larger point, and one that Paul makes repeatedly in Galatians. Legalism is the belief that your good works save you. Legalism is the belief that obedience to the law, whether it’s God’s law or another law, is what secures your salvation. The Jewish people believed their faith rested on this obedience. They were wrong all along.

Paul is not writing to the Galatians encouraging them to abandon obedience to God or even good works. In fact, he spends a good part of Galatians 5 talking about obedience. He even goes so far as to distinguish between walking by the Spirit and walking by the flesh. In Paul’s (and God’s) eyes those are two very different things. Galatians 5:16-24 says:
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Essentially Paul is saying that if we are saved by Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, there will be a distinctiveness to our life—i.e. good works. This doesn’t mean those works save us, make us better than others, or even give us grounds for boasting. Rather those good works prove that we were even saved to begin with. Those who “inherit the kingdom of God” are those who are redeemed by Christ. Our obedience is not our ticket to heaven bought by us. It’s our proof of purchase, and Christ is the one who purchased us.
My concern with the quickness to define any call to obedience or faithfulness as legalism is that it misses the reason for which we were called—to give God glory. God gets all the glory when we walk humbly with him. Our meager lives of faithfulness tell a wonderful story of what God has done in our lives through Christ. When we diminish faithfulness to the Savior we diminish that testimony.

Paul knew better than anybody what it was like to be tempted to boast in his own righteousness. He was a former Jewish leader who rarely did anything wrong in the world’s eyes. But instead of telling Christians to let grace be grace, namely abandon the law, he tells them to do something even greater. He tells them to walk by the Spirit. He tells them to put on love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These things defy the law because they are impossible to do on our own, which is why he tells us again in Galatians 6:9 to “not grow weary in doing good.” Christians are called to good works. Christians should expect faithfulness of one another. Christians should want to live according to the fruit of the Spirit. But Christians also know that apart from Christ all our faithfulness is in vain.
Legalism is a serious sin with serious consequences. But so is lack of faithfulness. Both acts lead to disastrous conclusions. As Christians, we should fight them both with the very weapons Paul uses, namely the Holy Spirit. It is only through his abundant work that we will be able to stand against legalism and licentiousness in our own hearts.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Kindness That Cannot Be Repaid

Every day I stare at a big stack of thank you notes from my baby shower. And that’s pretty much all I do with them. You see, my baby shower was nine days before the boys’ unexpected arrival. I barely had time to unpack and put away all of the gracious gifts before our doctor told us “it’s time to have these babies.” When the whirlwind of their birth happened even more people poured out abundant kindness to us through meals, more gifts, and rides to the hospital. There were many days that we were moved to tears by all that people were doing for us. And my thank you list kept growing. Every time someone bought something for us or did a kind deed everything in me wanted to find some way to repay them for all of their service to us. And yet, here I was helpless (and I still am pretty helpless) to do anything because I was overwhelmed by a major surgery recovery and caring for two boys in the NICU. Now that they are home I have even less time.
I have said before that this season in my life feels like I am constantly depending on people. And that’s hard for me. Now I can’t even appropriately thank the people who care for us. My inability to properly thank people in a reasonable time frame, has caused me to better understand Christ’s work on my behalf. My needy, desperate state as a busy mom of two little babies has helped me see my needy, desperate state before the God of the universe. Christ invaded my dead heart and made me alive through his blood. Christ is strong when I am weak. Christ is sufficient when I am failing. And every day is another reminder that I can’t repay him either. There is no amount of goodness that will be enough for what he did for me. There is no big enough “thank you” for his sacrifice on my behalf.

So while etiquette and thankfulness rightly tell me that sending those thank you’s is the right thing to do, and it is (and I’m finally almost done!). My feelings of inadequacy to ever say or do enough in return are here to stay. Not only do they remind me of God’s kindness to me through people, but more importantly they remind me of his kindness to me through our Savior. He has given the ultimate gift that can never be repaid.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

True Freedom

"To enjoy thee is life eternal, and to enjoy is to know. Keep me in the freedom of experiencing thy salvation continually." - Valley of Vision

Last year, my husband and I had some Muslim friends over for dinner. We had spent the entire semester getting to know them through a ministry that our church is involved in that helps them learn English. As eager young students in America for the first time, they loved hearing about all things USA, even our religion. Of course, that meant that we also would hear about their religion, which we happily obliged. We were intrigued as they talked about the many facets of Islam, many of which I had never heard before. But one statement really stayed with me, and still is with me today:

"At the end of your life you can only hope that you have done enough good for Allah to allow you into heaven."

That sobered me. In that moment it hit me--they have no assurance of their own salvation. They have no way of knowing whether or not they will spend eternity in heaven or hell. They are strictly at the mercy of a god who reserves the right to turn them away if he thinks they aren't good enough.

Christianity is the only religion that promises the exact opposite. Yes, it gives us the condemnation that we are utterly sinful and unable to save ourselves. But it also delivers good news. Someone else paid the penalty for us. And not just anyone, it was God himself.

Micah 7:18 tells us that God blots out our transgressions. This is true freedom, not that we can save ourselves, but that our gracious and merciful God saves us from ourselves. We are free because of Christ's atoning blood.

What our friends are blinded to is the reality that no amount of good will ever be enough. And yet, deep down I think they know that. They are constantly hoping and working to do enough good, all the while wondering if it will ever be enough. They are in bondage to their own quest for good works. God tells us that we are free because of Christ's good work. We can rest in his goodness and know that it saves and sanctifies us and will one day carry us to glory.

The different between Christianity and all other religions is that Christianity promises that you are free in Christ. Only by the Savior's precious blood can you be truly free, free at last.

Monday, May 6, 2013

What I've Been Up To: Being a Mom

It's hard to believe that the boys are already three months old. I feel like I say that every week! But yesterday they passed the three month mark and we are more in love with them today than we were yesterday.

They are rapidly growing boys, and they sure like to eat! Nearly two weeks ago, Zach weighed 9 lbs 7 oz and Luke weighed 8 lbs. Not bad for babies that were born in the 3 lb range. They are slowly getting better at napping and sleeping, though they go down at night pretty well (which is a huge blessing for mommy and daddy). They still get up twice in the middle of the night, but Daniel and I alternate those feedings, so only one of us gets up for each feedings. Survival is a key word around here these days.

I knew that I would love them deeply when I saw their sweet faces, but I had no context for how my heart would swell with love upon their arrival. And I had no idea how it would only grow with each passing day. Just when I thought I couldn't love them more, I wake up and there it is--more love in my heart for them.

I also feel like I'm slowly emerging from a three month coma. Life has continued on for everyone else and I've been in my own little world far, far away from everyone else. First it was the NICU that kept me away, then it was adjusting to life at home with two very little babies. I finally feel good about leaving the house with the both of them. And we even took our first family trip to Branson, MO!

I've managed to write a few things for other websites since they have been home, but as you can see by the crickets chirping on this blog that my writing has been sporadic at best. That doesn't mean I don't have a ton of ideas and half written posts in this frazzled brain of mine. I told a friend the other day that I'm learning that motherhood doesn't mean you check your thinking at the birthing room, but it sure does mean you have to write when you have time or deal with half written posts for a while.

And that's the crazy thing about motherhood. It gives you so many more new ideas to write about, but there is always a shortage of time to do much of anything, like basic personal hygiene. So writing has been low on the priority totem pole, at least writing on the blog. But, boy, do I have ideas. Hopefully in the coming days, weeks, and months I can get around to those ideas for my own soul, and for my readers as well.

So thanks for sticking around. I have not left for good. Just consider this silence as an extended maternity leave, one that will most likely be ending slowly in the near future.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The New Face of CBMW

Boy, has it been quiet around here. The boys came home from the NICU on March 11 and it has been a whirlwind of night feedings, day feedings, bottles, and sweet cuddle times with our twinsies. Needless to say,  I have had little time to think, let alone write. But I'm slowly emerging from the fog of having two newborns.

That's why I'm here to tell you some exciting news! The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (an organization I greatly care about) has launched a new website. And that's not all. There are a number of new initiatives bundled into this fresh change to the site, one being a new women's channel exclusively devoted to our female readers. I am the assistant editor of the site and I am very excited about the team of writers we have lined up! CBMW is where I got my start writing publicly and I consider it a great privilege to be back working for them.

So head on over to the CBMW site today (or any day this week) and check out the new content we have in a variety of venues. Our desire is to continue to provide excellent resources and commentary on a myriad of gender related issues from a biblical perspective. CBMW has always been about Christ and the Bible. That hasn't changed. When you have a chance, visit CBMW today. There is something there for everyone!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

What I've Been Up To: My Writing

Even though I haven't been doing much writing on this little blog (I hope that changes sometime soon!), I did write a few articles in other venues that were published shortly after the boys were born. I figured I would post them here for any who are interested.

A Higher Calling to Protect (Christianity Today women's blog)--this article was written shortly after the decision by the military to allow women in combat.

The Quest for a Bigger, Better, Cuter Pregnancy (Christianity Today women's blog)--How should Christian's think about the commercialization of pregnancy?

Limitations: Our Gift from God (Gospel Coalition)--I wrote this article nearly a year ago. It's interesting to read it again now knowing that I wrote in the midst of our infertility.

Your Womanhood is Not on Hold (Gospel Coalition)--This is another article that I wrote right before I found out I was pregnant. God is kind to remind me of all that he taught me in the days of our longings.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Twin Update: One Month Old!

One month ago yesterday two precious little boys decided to come to us eight weeks early in a whirlwind of excitement and fear. Even as I type this it's hard to believe they are already one month old. The last month has gone by so fast I can hardly remember all that has happened. And then, at times the days just drag on as we wait to bring them home from the NICU.

But I do know one thing, with each passing moment our hearts only grow fuller with love for them. They are growing and changing every day, it seems. They are much more alert now, especially before and after eating. We love watching their little eyes, facial expressions, and eagerness to eat. In fact, they are now eating every other feeding by mouth. We are hopeful that they will move to every feeding by the end of the week.

They have both gained more than a pound since their birth. Luke weighs 4 lbs 12 oz and Zach weighs 5 lbs 8 oz. They are looking more like newborns now and less like wrinkly preemies!

The other night I told my husband that it makes me sad that the first month of their life is over and we will never have their first month with them at home. He helpfully reminded me that technically I am still supposed to be pregnant, so in reality we are actually benefiting by seeing their sweet faces earlier than we anticipated. When I was pregnant I always talked about how I couldn't wait to see their faces and now I get to see them every day! I am thankful for his perspective in our not ideal situation.

For the most part the boys are keeping pace with every marker they are supposed to be hitting. They have not missed a beat their entire time in the NICU, and for that we are thankful. Right now we are praying they continue to eat well and that we can hopefully take them home soon. Until the day that I can see them face to face every night before bed, I will stare at these sweet pictures to keep me going.


Monday, March 4, 2013

God Hears Our Prayers

"Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!" -Psalm 4:1

This has been our prayer as we wait for the boys to come home. God has faithfully answered our prayers when we have been in distress before, and we have confidence that he will do it again. It's not our own strength that makes the desired relief possible, but the strength of his character and his righteousness. Left to ourselves we cannot do anything, but God is powerful enough not only to bring our boys home, but to conform us more into his likeness while we wait.

I have had to remind myself of his power and character over these last four weeks. I cannot make my boys ready to come home from the hospital. I cannot make them take their bottles and nurse well. I cannot make them gain weight. Only he can do it. Having them hooked up to monitors has only further reminded me of my helplessness and his power. He sustains our precious sons. He holds them in his hands. He orders all things. And he has been doing it since the very beginning of their lives.

So we cry out to him in these uncertain days. We are asking him to work and are depending on him for the ability to endure not knowing when their days in the NICU will end. And how do we know he will work? We know his character. We know he is good. And we know that he has worked in the past and he will work in the future. He has worked in abundant ways in our lives before, and as we remember we are reminded that he will do it again.

Will it always work out in the timetable we want? Not exactly. But he will act on our behalf. And that is how we can pray. In prayer we are crying out to the only one who can and will work for our good (Psalm 57:2, Romans 8:28). We daily fall on our faces before this great God knowing that he is good and will fulfill his purposes for us. That is our hope.

Psalm 77 is a great reminder for those wanting to remember God's faithfulness to his own. This is where we want to be--remembering God's faithfulness and mighty deeds. When we get discouraged, we want to remember. When we feel like we aren't making progress with the boys, we want to remember. God has done mighty things for us and he will not stop pouring out his kindness on us.

He has done great things and we are filled with joy. Oh Lord, help us to remember this truth in both the certain and uncertain days.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Night Before Our Lives Changed Forever

I wrote this the night before the twins ended up being born. When I wrote it I thought I would be having them a couple of days later and had no idea that I was a mere few hours away from going into labor. I thought I would be spending my 30th birthday hooked up to monitors awaiting the arrival of our boys. Instead I spent my 30th birthday in labor, and subsequently on an operating table staring at my precious sons for the very first time. Lucas Daniel Reissig was born at 1:02 PM. Zachary Garrett Reissig was born at 1:04 PM. And 30 years prior, Courtney Dawn Tarter (now Reissig) was born via c-section at 1:06 PM. How's that for crazy timing?!?

The night before they came I couldn't sleep at all, primarily because the steroid shot made me wide awake. So I read everything the NICU gave us that night, read Scripture, looked at Pinterest, checked Facebook a million times, prayed, and wrote this post. I had not stayed up all night since high school and I really hope I don't have to do it again any time soon. But I will say that I feel like God did that to help me prepare for the craziness that was awaiting me that morning. Here is what God was doing in my heart the night before our lives changed forever.


So yesterday we went to our normal ultrasound appointment knowing that Luke looked a little small last time. But honestly, I was not anticipating he would want them to come this week. After measuring Luke first he gave us the news that Luke was not keeping up with Zach and was now in the 11% while Zach was in the 64%. Plus, after examining Luke's cord on the ultrasound he thought there were some blood flow discrepancies that were contributing to his slow growth. Basically, my uterus was no longer safe for Luke. His recommendation to us was that I get started on steroids to strengthen their lungs and then deliver them after they have had 48 hours to work. He then told us it would be best to go home, pack our bags, and check-in to the hospital until we have these babies. So we did everything he said. We rushed home, got our stuff together (thankfully I started that this weekend), and headed to the hospital, our home for the next few days. The doctor who will deliver them, and who has walked through our infertility with us, came to see me and said he will deliver them via c-section on Thursday. Luke was just too small to try to have them any other way. So we will have our boys by the end of the week. And two days after my 30th birthday. Not a bad set of birthday gifts! My mom is flying in on Wednesday and my sister-in-law (one of them) is coming Thursday morning. I am so glad I will have family around for this since it will be a very emotional time, I am sure. By the time I deliver they will be 32 weeks and 1 day. And Luke could be under 3 pounds.

When we got pregnant with them we always knew this was a risk, and would be another opportunity for us to trust our great God. In fact, our entire life these last two and a half years has been one roller coaster ride of God continually calling us to trust him as good, wise, and loving. If we don't believe that now in the scariest moments of our children's lives to date, we will never be able to teach them honestly about this God we claim to love and trust. Here is where the rubber meets the road. Do I trust him? Do I believe he cares for me? Do I believe he is for me? I want to. In some moments I struggle for control. In others I feel remarkably calm, and if you know me that can only be from him.

We have felt loved beyond what we could imagine. God has shown up in so many ways these last couple of days. From the fact that my high risk doctor pushed my appointment forward so he could see me sooner, which revealed Luke's minimal growth over a 10 day period. To the countless emails, texts, gifts, flowers, and visits we have received from friends and family all over. These people have walked this road of infertility with us and loved us well in the sorrow. Now they are loving us well in the uncertainty of delivering our precious boys eight weeks early. We are overjoyed to introduce them to everyone very soon. God knew this would happen and he is not surprised by their early arrival.

God does not leave is to ourselves in uncertain and frightening days. Fear has always been a big struggle of mine. My vivid imagination does a number on my thoughts in difficult days. But I have been comforted by all of the evidences of God's sovereign hand throughout this entire experience. He knew this would happen. He knit these boys together and ordained the day of their birth. I just never thought it would be 2 days after mine! Or on my brother's birthday! So we look to him, the one who sustains every molecule in this universe, and the ones holding our sons together, too.

Thank you for your prayers. We are looking forward to meeting them on Thursday morning and introducing them to all these people, near and far, who have prayed for these miracle babies for so long.

Isaiah 25 reminds us that God has established his plans from the beginning and will accomplish them. These are his good plans for us and for our boys.


Thankfully, Luke weighed more than we thought, and their discrepancy was not as vast. Luke weighed 3 lbs 4 ozs and Zach weighed 3 lbs 15 ozs. It was discovered that Luke's cord actually implanted in the membrane of the placenta, not directly into the placenta. This accounted for his slow growth the entire pregnancy. It wasn't until after his arrival that we realized how rare and serious this was. My labor and delivery nurse told me that if my water had broken up top near that spot (rather than on the bottom) both of us could have bled out before we got the hospital. We believe that God is sovereign, but in moments like this we are even more aware of his power and authority over all things. We are thankful for life and thankful for the life of these sweet boys. And now we can't wait to take them home!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Twin Update: One Week Old!

Whew! It is hard to believe that these boys are one week old today. This time last week we were sitting in our hospital room overwhelmed by God's provision in a safe (and unexpected) delivery of our boys. And now, here we are thanking God for one week of life! I finally feel like I can sit down and write out the story of their birth. There were so many things that we saw God do in the entire process last week and I will write about that in the coming days. Because they are in the NICU my life right now pretty much revolves around pumping, visiting them in the NICU, and sleeping. And I really do love every minute of it. I knew I wanted to be a mom, but I had no context for how much I would love it. Even though I am exhausted most of the time and can't remember one day to the next, I am so happy with these precious boys that God has given us. So here is how they decided to come to us last Tuesday.

I went in for my ultrasound on Monday morning. We knew going into it that there was a possibility that Luke had further slowed in his growth, so we were a little prepared for the news that he seemed to have grown very little from my appointment ten days prior. I even had started packing a bag over the weekend just in case we had to go to the hospital on a whim. Daniel had just spent all weekend getting their room ready and we felt going into the appointment that the boys could come and we wouldn't be super stressed. But we were seriously praying that they would wait a little longer, or at least to 34 weeks. After measuring Luke first the doctor said that he had dropped to the 11th percentile (he was in the 20th before) and only gained 2 ounces in 10 days (not good). He checked Luke's cord and saw that his blood flow was not good enough and told us that it was becoming increasingly apparent that my womb was not a safe place for Luke to grow. He then proceeded to tell us that we needed to get them both out soon. I asked how soon and he said "you are having these babies this week." He allowed us to run home and pack a bag and then told us to come back to the hospital that afternoon. At the time he wanted us to spend at least 48 hours in the hospital while I received a couple rounds of steroids to strengthen their lungs. That would have allowed them to monitor the boys continuously just in case something went wrong with Luke. So we ran home and started packing. That was the fastest we have ever packed. We weren't even sure what to take. It's such a strange feeling knowing that the next time you come home you will no longer be pregnant.

So off the the hospital we went.

Because we were supposed to be there for a few days I packed tons of stuff to do. I was going to write thank you notes, read some parenting books, and catch up on some writing I wanted to finish before the boys came. I didn't touch that stuff one time. Once we got to the hospital we were surrounded by a flurry of nurses who constantly monitored the boys and me. We were given a tour of the NICU. My doctor came by to visit. And we had some good time with friends who came by to see us. Daniel and I started thinking that maybe this was God's way of giving us some extra time together before the boys came. My birthday was the next day (Tuesday) so we started thinking through how we were going to celebrate my 30th birthday while I was hooked up to a ton of monitors that were messed up with the slightest movement on my part. We were not expecting any more surprises.

The steroid shot was given to me that night and they gave me a sleeping pill too so I could at least try to sleep (since steroids make you wired). It didn't work at all. I do not usually have a hard time sleeping but for some reason I could not sleep. I was wide awake. I read every piece of material the NICU gave us. I wrote down some thoughts about the boys coming early. I read some things I wanted to read. I read Scripture and felt like God was preparing my heart for the arrival of my boys. I have not stayed up all night since high school and I forgot how long a night is when you never go to sleep. It's awful! Sometime in the middle of the night my back started hurting and I just attributed it to the fact that I was propped up some on my back and the boys were increasingly becoming heavier to me. I thought my body was just unable to handle the weight anymore. Around 5:30 the nurse came in and asked me if I felt something. I didn't feel anything, so I asked her what she was talking about.

"You are having a contraction right now. You've actually been having them pretty regularly for a while."

I told her my back hurt and she said that was why.

At first I didn't think anything of it, but I started noticing more and more that I was feeling something going on, but I thought they were just Braxton Hicks (which I got all of the time). Around 7:00 AM my new nurse came in and said that now they were 5-6 minutes apart. She decided it was probably best to check me since I was progressing, not slowing down in my contractions.

I was already 2-3 centimeters dilated.

Now that wouldn't be a huge deal except for the fact that just a few days ago I was nothing with no indicators of changing any time soon.

She proceeded to tell me I was in labor and told me that I was probably having the babies within the next few hours. I woke Daniel up and told him I was in labor. It took him a few minutes to really comprehend what was happening, but then it hit us both. We went from excitement to fear and then back to excitement and then back to fear. We knew the twins had a better chance of success if I had another round of shots, so we were hoping the doctor could stop the labor. He came to see me around 8:00 AM and confirmed that I was in labor. He originally said he was going to stop labor in order to give the boys a few more days to cook inside of me, but after talking with my high-risk doctor decided it would be best to let labor takes its course and deliver the boys within a few hours. The high-risk doctor felt like my body was telling us something, namely that Luke needed to get out in order for him to be okay.

We had to wait for an operating room to open up and since I wasn't in distress and the babies were fine we weren't high priority. Around 10:00 AM I started noticing more pain so she checked me again and I was already at a 5. At that point they were prepared to let me deliver them if I got to a 10. I was not prepared for that at all! I checked into the hospital thinking I was going to have scheduled C-section. Now I was facing the prospect of delivering them naturally! And after hearing them say that Luke would probably do better being delivered via C-section, I was really nervous about the alternative.

Thankfully, a room opened up and around 12:30 PM  I was on my way down to deliver the boys. At 1:02 PM  and 1:04 PM Lucas Daniel Reissig and Zachary Garrett Reissig entered this world at 31 weeks 6 days gestation! When they were getting me ready for the C-section I felt a sudden sense of fear about what their lungs would be like. It was almost too much to bear. I just prayed that God would bring them out screaming and thankfully they did make some noise on the way out. I didn't get to see them but for a few seconds because they NICU team took them away immediately to intubate them and evalute them. The moment I saw their faces my heart melted. Daniel and I both agree that it feels like a dream. Everything is a blur, but a happy one.

We didn't get to see them for about an hour while they NICU got them stabilized. After that they wheeled me down in my hospital bed and we were able to spend some time with them. From that moment on we continue to love them more and more. Every time we see them our heart melts a little more and we can hardly believe they are ours. The NICU doctor expects them to be there for at least four weeks, give or take a week. So we are one week down!

Here are some stats:

Luke weighed 3 lbs 4 ounces at birth. He was 16 inches long.

Zach weighed 3 lbs 15 ounce at birth. He was 19 inches long.

Both boys did not need to be intubated for long. It only lasted 30 minutes. Since then they have just had a little oxygen through a nasal canula.

And here are some pictures!



Zach and me

Daddy and Luke

Thursday, January 31, 2013

God's Love and Our Suffering

“The more I learn about the normalcy of suffering in this life, the more afraid I am that God is going to make my life harder.”

Does that statement sound familiar? Maybe you haven’t gone so far as to voice your concerns to that degree, but deep down, when you ponder suffering you are also afraid that God might choose you to be the one to bear the stamp of suffering. And if you were truly honest with yourself, you really don’t want to be that example for everyone else.

I mean, God is a loving God isn’t he? He is the very embodiment of love. How could he truly expect his child to endure lifelong suffering or terrible heartache? And when you do, how do you respond to your preconceived idea about his loving, wonderful plan for your life?

It is a term that gets thrown around quite frequently. God is love. But what does that mean? Does it mean he always gives us what we want? Does it mean he is non-judgmental? Does it mean he is a happy, father figure in the sky waiting to pour out blessing on us?

God’s Love is a Mysterious Love

To believe that God is love means we must learn to trust his heart, as Spurgeon said. We can all recall times where we have absolutely no idea what he is up to, or why is ordering our life a particular way. And I have good news for you, Christian. If you are in Christ, God’s heart is always favorable towards you (Romans 8:1). He always acts on your behalf in view of his love for you. He will never give you anything that is not sovereignly designed for your good and ultimate glory (Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28). Like every good father, he knows our deepest need—even if we cannot see it. He is ready and able to meet that need, even if it means taking us through devastating trials and suffering. It is all from his loving hand. Sometimes it is a great mystery to us, but our suffering is never an unknown to him.

God’s Love is a Better Love

Jesus knew our tendency to doubt God’s love for us, and so he used the best analogy possible for helping us see the depth of God’s care (Matthew 6:25-34). All we have to do is look at earthly fathers and their care for their children. A good father always provides, always cares, and always gives his child everything she needs. He knows his child better than she knows herself. And Jesus says something profound, “God’s love is better than that.” God is infinitely more wise, loving, and willing to provide for those who are his. Every single thing we receive is because he knows we need it, and he knows that something much better is waiting for us.

God’s Love is a Forward Looking Love

Because we are often in the dark about God’s purpose for our suffering, we are tempted to draw our conclusions about him from what our eyes can see. The reality is that in suffering our eyes are usually blurred with tears and pain. We must always go back to his character and his past promises as the basis for our hope in the midst of this suffering. If we would not make conclusions about those we hold dear in the deepest moments of suffering, we must not make conclusions about our God either.

Two and a half years ago I suffered a miscarriage. In the months following I was gripped with fear that something would happen to my husband. There were a variety of things that contributed to this fear, but the greatest one was the fact that I felt like God could not be trusted with those I loved. If he took my baby, what would stop him from taking my husband, too? I was using my circumstances as a test for his goodness, rather than trusting that he had a good, long-term purpose for all of the pain. Fundamentally, I did not believe that he was for me. Yes, he can take my husband and he will have done me no wrong. But he is also not in the business of taking every good thing from us just because he can. I needed to believe that his love for me ran much deeper than my earthly pleasure. His love, evidenced in my suffering, had eternal purposes (1 Peter 1:6-9, 5:10).

When we face suffering and trials we are tempted to think that this moment is all there is. But it’s not, and God knows that. He knows the thousands of details working behind the scene of our suffering that are preparing us for glory. He has the eternal perspective in view, which is why we can trust him.

And isn’t that so much better than believing in a love that only gives us what we want in the moment? God will have no spoiled children. How many of us can recount with thankfulness the times we asked God for relief, or for something specific, only to find out later that if the prayer had been answered our life would be much more miserable now? I know I have.

Suffering reminds us that God is God and we are not. But it also reminds us that this God is a God who takes care of his children every step of the way. It reminds us that God will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). It reminds us that everything we ever needed is found in him. It reminds us that one day our weak faith will be made sight, and then we will know the meaning of it all. And in that day, when all tears are wiped from our faces, we will praise him for his love, wisdom, and salvation forever.

Monday, January 28, 2013

How Christians Approach Death: Post at Her.meneutics

Like many of you, I was heartbroken over the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. As a mom pregnant with two little boys, all I could think about were those parents who went searching for their children only to find out they had been killed by a mad man. I wanted to know the names of these children. I wanted to know how to pray for these families. And my heart continued to break more and more.

One mother of the slain children wrote about the process of identifying her son. It is difficult to read, but moving as you get a glimpse of a mother's love even as she views her son's lifeless body. Her decision to come forward caused a journalist to write about how we owe it to these families to listen to their stories, even the gruesome ones. And I agree.

I wrote a post last week at Her.meneutics that ties her assertions to our responsibility as Christians to grieve with people. Here is an excerpt:

"When Lazarus died Jesus went to him even when he was warned that the smell of his dead friend's body would be overpowering (John 11:38-40). Not even a decomposing body could deter him because he knew that he had power over death. As those who trust in this Christ who has victory over death, we owe it to the grieving not to run from death but to run towards it with them, to look death in the face and walk with them in their pain. But also to acknowledge, like Jesus did, that for those who are in Christ that this death does not have the final word (John 11:4).

Not only did Jesus choose to face the death of his friend, but he willing took on flesh in order to defeat death and sin. Jesus became a human being who could die so that little ones, like Noah Pozner, would one day be whole and new—and unstained by the atrocities that ripped them from this world.
As Christians we can look at death and refuse to turn our faces away because we know the One who conquered death by his own and is coming again to make all things new (Rev. 21:5). We owe it to grieving families to enter their pain and hear their stories."
You can read the rest here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

In The Next 40 Years

In the next 40 years, I pray that our country would see it's endorsement of abortion as reprehensible as it's once approval of slavery.

In the next 40 years, I pray that millions more babies are born because of brave mothers who choose life over death.

In the next 40 years, I pray that thousands more crisis pregnancy centers would open up all over this nation and would continue in the work of saving the lives of the unborn and caring for scared mothers.

In the next 40 years, I pray that the idea that an unborn baby is a mere fetus would be a sad part of our past, not part of our national rhetoric.

In the next 40 years, I pray that my children and grandchildren live in a country where the killing of the unborn is as atrocious to all as segregating based on race is to us.

In the next 40 years, I pray that churches and Christians would continue in the brave endeavor to love pregnant mothers, adopt orphaned children, and serve at pregnancy centers all across this nation.

In the next 40 years, I pray that a post like this is not necessary because abortion is illegal.

Abortion on demand was legalized ten years before I was born. I don't even know a world where abortion is not part of our national conversation. I don't even know a world where abortion is not an option for a pregnant woman. I pray that one day that is no longer the case.

For all the babies who never got to experience the light of day and breathe their first breaths, God knows your names. And we have not forgotten you.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Crushed Spirit, Who Can Bear?

"A man's spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?" - Proverbs 18:14

Have you ever had a crushed spirit?

Disappointment. Grief. Pain. Sorrow. Strife. Broken relationships.

All of these in isolation, or all together, are enough to crush even the strongest among us. And a crushed spirit can often last much longer than any sickness. Illnesses often have cures or medicine to alleviate the pain. A crushed spirit knows no such relief. Or does it?

Psalm 34:18 says that the Lord is near to the broken hearted and saves the crushed in spirit. The psalmist goes on to say that while the afflictions of the righteous are many, the Lord delivers him out of them all.

The proverb is true. We cannot bear a crushed spirit. But God can. While we would break under the sheer weight of such sorrow, God upholds us. And we are not alone. God knows our circumstance and is there to deliver us. Is it always immediate? No, but it will happen one day. While he will always be near to us in our moments of deepest suffering, he might not deliver us right away. Deliverance is coming, and while we wait for that day his promise to be near sustains us.

But there is something even more profound about this God who is near to the crushed in spirit. He knows the crushing blows intimately well. How can we know this? Because he crushed his own Son for our deliverance. The Savior, God the Son, was crushed for us. The Father was momentarily separated from him so we would always be near him. No one ever experienced a more crushed spirit than Christ on that day on the cross, all so we would never face such wrath and condemnation. Our ultimate deliverance from pain and sorrow is sure because the cross is sure. Psalm 34:18 is true because the cross is true.

A crushed spirit is impossible to bear, this is true. But by God's grace and kindness we do not have to bear such crushing blows alone. We have a God who not only promises his presence in every pain, but also knows our pain most intimately. A crushed spirit only God can bear, and he daily bears us up.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Are You Pro-Life Enough? Post at Her.meneutics

Earlier this week Her.meneutics published a post I wrote called "Are You Pro-Life Enough?". Taking a statement from a pro-choice writer I try to show how some of our language in the pro-life community sometimes comes across as less than pro-life, especially when it pertains to miscarriage and IVF embryos. To my shame, I have been party to such thoughtless comments. Here is part of the article:

"It's been many years since I uttered those heartless words to my grieving friend. Having now lost one child of my own through miscarriage, and having since walked with a number of women through miscarriages, none of us would say that what we lost was the "potential" for life. It was so much more than that. Our lost baby took with it the many dreams and hopes that began forming in our minds the moment we knew of the baby's existence. What was lost was a life that will never be replicated.

It's really important to never delegitimize the life that was once growing inside of a grieving mother or was once frozen in an IVF clinic. To her (and to God), this life was never a mere blob of tissue or a fetus. He or she was a life. Treating the baby as such gives meat to the bones of our fight for the unborn. And if we want to be consistently pro-life, we must care about every life, from the tiniest dot on an ultrasound machine to the embryo in the petri dish."
You can read the rest of the article here. And be sure to browse the new website while you are there. I think they've done a great job with it!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Who is Afraid of the Ultrasound?

We’ve all grown accustomed to seeing images on an ultrasound screen, or at least the pictures held proudly by expectant parents. Some choose to share these images with their friends and family. Some broadcast it to their internet friends. Others keep the images to themselves. And there are some who just flat out think no one should really be sharing these pictures with a broader audience—namely a social media audience.

Last month the Today Show (I couldn't find the video) tackled this topic by asking whether or not it was appropriate for women to share ultrasound pictures publicly. But what was most surprising to me was not as much their uneasiness with ultrasound pictures, but their hearty approval of another form of showing your pregnancy via social media—belly pictures. Weekly belly pictures are as prolific as ultrasound pictures. I’ve been known to post both. But they went even farther than embracing simply showing off a bulging belly. Not only are belly pictures more acceptable than ultrasound pictures, apparently the more skin revealed during the photograph the more “beautiful” the picture becomes. A pregnant woman in a bikini is deemed appropriate, while a picture of an unborn baby a little bit creepy.

Nearly nude pregnancy pictures are not a new trend. From Demi Moore to Jessica Simpson, showing off your pregnant body is the thing to do when you are a pregnant celebrity. But add an ultrasound picture to that photo shoot and the image suddenly becomes awkward and inappropriate, as if the image of an unborn baby removes the beauty from a pregnant woman’s aura.

Of course this is hardly surprising in a culture that doesn’t acknowledge these babies as human beings. But it is sad. While it might seem encouraging that so many celebrities are making pregnancy fashionable and acceptable, their embrace of pregnancy only goes so far. To heartily embrace a baby on an ultrasound machine would require the media to go against its approval of abortion. By calling an ultrasound image posted on Facebook a little bit weird they are staying right in step with their belief that these babies really are nothing more than the mere potential for life—not a life itself.

Christians understand that our culture has it backwards. To embrace the pregnant woman is to embrace the life growing inside of her. You can’t have a belly picture without the little one that is making that belly grow with each passing day. No amount of dismissing ultrasound pictures as inappropriate for public consumption can deny the fact that the ultrasounds don’t lie. They tell a very powerful story about the life that is growing inside of the mom.

It shouldn’t surprise us when the media portrays images of pregnant women as more acceptable than images of their unborn babies. That’s to be expected. But we also should remember that you cannot separate the mom from the baby either—they go together.