Our Series of Unfortunate Events, Conclusion

 

 

2014-06-20 00.27.41Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

I am sitting on our front porch, steaming cup of hot coffee in one hand, freshly baked mocha chip muffin in the other, looking out over the miles of corn fields. Country dirt roads cross up and down the hills, and in the distance, I can see cars driving on the interstate and the even more distant blinking lights of the airport.  But out here it is still, quiet, peaceful.  The crickets chirp, and the mud swallow cheeps, fluttering overhead, frustrated that we keep knocking down the nest he was building over our window, then on our porch light. I can hear the cows lowing in the back yard. I hope they didn’t get out again.

The past few weeks has been insane. Tumultuous. Hectic. Crazy.  A strange mash up of both awful and wonderful all at once. Our transition to our new life was anything but smooth.  But it was blessed. It was grace filled. At every turn, we’d look around the corner of confusion and anxiety, and see God’s hand at work, just like always.

In the weeks since we have moved, there have been times when I just sat down and cried from sheer exhaustion–so many new people, new places, new things.  There have been emotional eruptions similar to that of Mount St. Helen when I am asked a simple, innocent question by one of the kids.  And there has also been supernatural calm, comfort, and peace of “God with us.” Through all the changes, God has been good.

When we received word that our new temporary home was ready for us, a group of church people came over to help us unload and welcome us with all sorts of delightful homemade treats: strawberry rhubarb jam and fresh rolls, blueberry rhubarb jam, sweet rolls, the list goes on.  We were overwhelmed with the love, support, and encouragement we met with upon our arrival.  We have been meeting so many new and wonderful people and exploring delightful, fun places. And we really, really like it here.

Despite feeling comfortable here and settling in, there have been times when I simply long for “normal”–I long to simply be able to get dressed and brush my teeth in the morning instead of being faced with still more boxes needing unpacked.  I wish I could put up our wedding photo at the end of the hall, just like it always has been, but since this place is furnished already and we hope to move in a few months, we are trying to keep as much of our things packed up as we can.  But that doesn’t stop me from wanting to put the kids’ baby pictures out in their bedroom, and find the best possible way to organize each closet and space. I want to have our “favorites”–parks, hiking trails, biking paths, restaurants, playplaces, friends, etc. Everything that feels like home. I am ready to feel “normal” here.  But I know it will take awhile.

In the meantime, I love the “normal” of holding my baby, snuggled into the crook of my arm contentedly after a good feeding. The milk-drunk glazed eyes that stare up into mine as the tiny thumb pops into her mouth and she coos quietly past her thumb, her little leg thumping softly in her mellowed, blissful state. I take an extra few minutes to rock with her and wait for that precious, beautiful feeling of limp heaviness as she passes into sweet slumber before I lay her down for the night.  I love the “normal” of driving a Lego car around with my kids, reenacting a storyline always including bad guys vs. good guys.  I love the “normal” or sautéing butter in a pan and the sizzle as I add the garlic and onions and enjoy the aroma of a home cooked meal. For now, these are my “normal,” and soon we will have a new “normal” that feels just as normal as the last one did.

As I sit on my front porch and enjoy the stillness, I am amazed at how God has worked these last few weeks. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to relive them.  They were majorly stressful.  But God’s mercy, grace, and love was evident every step of the way. We never felt abandoned or alone. He brought us through to the other side, up to the top of the mountain to see the valley below and see the paths on which he carried us. And I know He will continue to carry us on this journey.  He will lead us, guide us, and give us strength for each new day. He is faithful. And He is good.

Our Series of Unfortunate Events, Part 3

Click here for Part 1 and Part 2.s

That night, I got sicker and sicker until, by morning, I knew I could not take care of the kids while Stephen went to church. So, on our first Sunday at our new church, we all stayed home, sick and miserable. It was not at all how we wanted to start our ministry, but we had little choice.  So we prayed for grace and buckled down.

We were staying in a beautiful basement apartment, thirty miles into the country and on a lake.  It was idyllic, restful, and a tremendous blessing.  But with five people and one bedroom, a week was about the longest I was praying we would have to wait before we were into our new place.  We had found a large, three bedroom apartment with a two car garage across the road from the church, and I had spent the last month meticulously charting out each room for furniture and decor arrangements. I had ordered new window treatment, shower curtains, and we had taken a huge shopping trip to Ikea to buy bunk beds for the kids and everything else we would need to make life work in our new apartment.  But it wasn’t vacant until the end of the month, which gave us a week-10 days to wait until we could get in.

As I lay in bed, drifting in and out of troubled, sickly sleep, I kept having a sense of foreboding that something would go wrong in our plans, and we wouldn’t be able to get into the apartment right away.  I worried that maybe necessary paperwork had been packed, or the people wouldn’t vacate, or that somehow the whole thing would fall through. And if it did…then what? We were in a tricky spot because we had not sold our home back in Illinois. We were renting it out with the intention to sell to the renters in a year.  At that point, we could then buy a home.  But until then, we needed to find a place to rent.  And there was a serious shortage on houses or rentals in our new location.  We had already been watching the market for the last six months, and the pickin’s were extremely slim. The apartment we had found was the only thing large enough for our family that was also affordable.

By Tuesday evening I was beginning to feel better, and the world was looking like a brighter place. Wednesday, we woke up to an email from the apartment complex.

“I’m sorry, but, because you still own your house and yadayadayada super complicated, etc. We are not able to approve you for our apartments.”

My blood ran cold. This was the one thing we were concerned about and waiting for the final answer on. This simply could not be happening. I immediately picked up the phone and called my parents, realtors and landlords themselves. We talked through every possible solution and the ins and outs of every detail.  We called our bank and crunched numbers and drew up spreadsheets to prove to the apartment complex that we did indeed qualify, they simply were not understanding our situation correctly. The whole time our housing hung in the balance, I was filled with a strange mixture of both dread and peace.  I had no idea what we were going to do if this fell apart.  But I knew that God knew about all of this before the beginning of time, and He had a plan of His own.

Wednesday night, Stephen came home from work. He came in through the sliding door, closed it, and leaned back against it, his face ashen.

“I don’t feel so good,” he said.

Ellie had been acting fussy and hot all day, and I was concerned that she was catching The Sickness, too.  And in two days, Paul Tripp was coming to our church for a marriage conference that Stephen was supposed to be at–and we wouldn’t miss for the world–come on, Paul Tripp??!!

Normally, I would have tucked Stephen in on the couch, pulled out all of my supplements and essential oils, and begun a healing regimen as I prayed that God would spare him The Sickness.  But all of that had been packed in the truck.  I had Campbell’s chicken soup from our host family, and that would have to do. We were waiting by our phones, anxiously awaiting the final word on whether or not the apartments would reconsider, and that added to our digestive misery.

Thursday morning we got our answer. No. We would not be approved. We had no choice but to look for other options.

My phone rang.

“Hello??”

“Hello, this is Old Dominion, and we have your moving truck full of all your stuff. Where would you like the delivered and when?”

The truck had made it.  All our stuff was here.  Now, where were we going to put it? I briefly explained our situation, and asked how long they could hold off on delivering it. I knew once they dropped off the truck, we had three days to unload it. That would buy us a little time, but we still had to know where they were going to unload. If at all possible, we wanted to avoid unloading the whole thing into storage for a few days only to turn around, get another truck, and move it to wherever we were going to live.  And the bigger problem was that there was so much stuff buried and randomly packed into that truck that we really, really needed.

The trucking company said they would hold our truck until we let them know where we wanted it. “Thank you, thank you!!” I said, relieved that we at least had a couple more days to figure this out.  I instantly dove into motion, calling, emailing, and spreading the word through the church that we were desperate for a place to move into in the next 48 hours.

The next twenty four hours were a blur of phone calls, emails, and prayers for provision.  I didn’t even have time to think about how disappointed I was not to be in the apartment.  I knew God had a plan, and whatever it was, it was for our good.  At any one time, we typically had two or three housing options.  And as soon as I hung up one phone call that closed one option, another one opened up. My mind was spinning going from one possibility to the next.  Finally, Thursday night, Stephen got a phone call. When he hung up, his face beamed.

“We have a place!” He exclaimed.

“What? Where??”

“I don’t know,” he said. “Someone has a missionary house that is being vacated this weekend and will be empty for the next 8-12 months.  They are offering it to us for as long as we need it, rent free!”

Relief washed over me. We had a place! We could unload our things and begin unpacking. We had never seen the place, we didn’t understand whose it was, where it was, or what it was like, but we had a place. And that was all we needed to know for the moment. The Lord had provided.

To Be Continued…

Our Series of Unfortunate Events, Part 2

For Part 1, click here.

The morning of The Big Drive to South Dakota dawned crisp, clear, and very, very early. Light streamed in through my in-law’s large guest room window, and Jubilee kicked and cooed softly in her bed. It was 5:40am, but there was no going back to sleep now. Our adrenaline was pumping, and we were just ready to get going on our new adventure.

I wrapped a borrowed robe around my mother-in-law’s floral nightgown and headed to the kitchen for coffee. As soon as my clothes from the day before (the one pair I had, remember) finished in the dryer, we would say our goodbyes and head out. I hate goodbyes and much prefer “see you later” with a promise to visit soon. I was ready to be done feeling sad and start feeling excited for this next step. We had been waiting a long time for this!

We had to swing past our house one last time though before leaving town, to fill up our coolers from our fridge and freezer. But I could only find one cooler. With a sinking feeling, I realized the other empty cooler had been packed into the truck. I would just have to leave half my food behind.

The first leg of our trip was a short hour and a half to my parents’ house for brunch on our way past.  I stopped at my favorite “baby and mama” store to grab two pairs of jammies I had been wishing for, thankful for a good excuse to buy them:) We got to my parents’ house, where my brothers, their wives and little ones were waiting. As we sat down to brunch, Mom eagerly presented me with a Target bag. Her eyes glowed as she prompted me to open it.  I reached in and withdrew three blouses and a cardigan.

“Jenna helped me choose,” she beamed, and I knew my sister had FaceTimed from Indianapolis while she shopped.

I exclaimed my delight and thanks as Jess handed me another bag.  “This is from us and Jenna and Joey,” she explained.

Eyes wide, I reached into the proffered bag. Inside was a beautiful necklace and two gift cards.

I gasped. “I LOVE this necklace!! Every time I go to Target I covet it!”

“I know.” They smiled.

“And Starbucks and Subway giftcards…we HAVE a Subway in our little town! Thank you, thank you!”

Stephen and I were overwhelmed and so grateful.

The Brother handed me my absolute favorite treat of all time: Coffeesmith’s white chocolate mocha and chocolate chip cookie dough. “For the drive,” he smiled.

Mom mentioned there were also diapers to load into the van before we left. Oh, and a going away dress Sister had bought me that mom meant to give me the week before, but had forgotten.

“I am so glad you forgot! Now I have something to wear to church!”

Before long, it was time to get back on the road. We all gathered around and prayed God’s blessing on us as we headed into the great unknown. Then, we loaded up again and hit the road.

I drove the van with Jubilee and a host of boxes and suitcases, while Stephen had the two older kids in his car. Forty five minutes into the 5 hour trip, he called me.

“Shuah says he is going to throw up.”

My stomach dropped. “Seriously?”

“He’s huffing and puffing.”

*panic* “Pull over NOW!” Few children hate throwing up as much as Shuah does. He does anything to avoid it. But if he starts huffing and puffing, there is no stopping it. It is inevitable.

We whipped into a gas station and got Shuah out of the car just seconds before he got sick.

Praise God for not having to clean it out of the car!

And 7 hours later, we pulled into our temporary residence in South Dakota. Just seconds before I got sick.

Praise God for that, too!

It was late, we were all exhausted, but we had made it in time for Stephen’s first Sunday at church.

We wouldn’t be going to church in the morning, though.

To Be Continued…

 

Our Series of Unfortunate Events, Part 1

Lemony Snicket’s got nothin’ on us this last week.

To quote my favorite youth pastor, quoting his favorite movie, “Lemme ‘splain. No ‘stoo much.  Lemme sumup.”

For those of you who don’t know, my husband, Stephen accepted the call of associate pastor in South Dakota a few weeks ago.  Ever since then, we have been busy planning, packing, and preparing for moving our family of five out to make a new home for ourselves among the people there.  The plan was to rent an apartment for a year while waiting to sell our house back in Illinois so we could buy something here.  We found a great apartment, right near the church, which was the same size as our house PLUS a two car garage! But it wouldn’t come available until the week after we had to be in SD. So we planned to pack up our suitcases for the week and stay in the basement apartment of some wonderful and generous church members while we waited for our apartment to be ready.  I spent hours laying out the floor plan on the computer, calculating every piece of furniture and where it would go, analyzing window treatments and assessing where to use which and which to replace…and on, and on, and on. I am a planner. I love to plan.  I don’t always love to follow the plan, but I totally love the planning part.

Turns out God doesn’t always follow our plans either.

As the Big Moving Day approached, I had lists and charts and plans all over the place of what needed packed and when it was going to get packed. I had The Plan, and I was more than ready to attack it. The problem is I also have an imaginative 4 year old, an inquisitive 2 year old, and a just plain, simply adorable 5 month old.  And they do not ever seem to follow The Plan.

With just twenty four hours to go before the moving help from church descended on us, I looked around my home.  Mass chaos surrounded me.  And not the kind the was neatly organized and packed into nicely labeled boxes, stacked and waiting for the moving truck.  The kind that was socks strewn about the floor, legos under chairs, dishes piled on counters, and unmentionables hanging out to dry.  Still.

This was not the way I envisioned my house looking twenty-four hours before The Big Day. I sent a quick SOS to some of my moving help to let them know there was an urgent need for more boxes, tape, and bubble wrap…and that they might need to just plan on finishing packing for a couple hours before the loading started.  I figured my packers could show up at 9, and my movers could come by 11, and we should have things squared away by then.

In a perfect world, all of the things we needed to live “intermediately” for the week, like clothes, toothbrushes, food items, pack ‘n plays, kids toys and books, etc., would be tidily, carefully, orderly packed into the back of my van long before the moving craze began. But Moving Day dawned without even having the back of the van emptied and ready to receive all its goods. I looked at my list of things that still needed packed:

-desk stuff

-hall closet

-coat closet

-storage room

-storage hall

-bathrooms

-laundry room

-kitchen

 

Seriously. It felt like half the house still hadn’t been packed.

And then they lowered The Boom.

The movers were not coming at 11am.

They were coming at 8:30am. That’s what time had been announced at church. And that’s what time people would start showing up. My heart dropped to my stomach.  It was 7:49, and the first car pulled in the driveway to help.  I looked around my very messy, very unpacked house.  It was officially time to panic.

While the guys ran out to get donuts for the movers, I threw on some clothes and began gathering up the kids things to run them over a block to Grandma’s for the day.  I couldn’t think clearly about a solution until the little munchkins were no longer underfoot. I strapped the two oldest into Stephen’s Corolla (we had moved their seats into his car in order to use the van to transport stuff) and realized the infant seat was not going to fit. *sigh* that meant another trip over. I dropped the kids off with hasty, haphazard instructions and drove back for the baby. As I pulled into our driveway, I saw a steady stream of men carrying all of my worldly goods and loading them into the truck.

Oh, no, no, no! I thought. They’re not ready! I’m not ready! Then…The unmentionables!! They were still out in plain sight. Tears of humiliation, panic, and sorrow over leaving our home began to prick at my eyes, fighting to finally be released. Up until this point, I hadn’t let myself think too much about the fact that we were not only going to a new place, we were leaving a beloved place.  This quaint home on a hill with a yard that melted into a woods and a ravine at the bottom.  A home we bought with our first baby in hand, dreaming of our kids running, playing, and having adventures in the woods.  The home that we spent hours meticulously planning and finishing the basement into a beautiful addition that enabled us to stay there as our family grew and grew.  The home where we lost one baby and welcomed two more.  The home where we learned firsthand that jumping headfirst into God’s plan resulted in the joy that was having Rehan be our host daughter for a year.  Our first home–a home with so many sweet memories.  Packed up in boxes, and being carried into a truck.

And as I stood back to survey the scene, I knew it was too late. It was too late to turn back and change our minds. This thing was really happening.  And, as far as my Plan was concerned, it was happening all wrong.  But there was no stopping the momentum now.  The movers had arrived. They had a job to do.  And all my complicated directions about “this goes, this doesn’t,” etc. were of little use now.  The best I could do was get the baby to my mother-in-law and hurry back to do some damage control.

The emotions that had begun to well at seeing my household carried out in boxes (and some not) grew deeper and deeper, finally overflowing into a cascade of tearful sobs as my mother-in-law opened her door to receive me and her grandbaby. My wonderful mother-in-law folded me in her arms and just let me cry, sobbing out how my house wasn’t ready and for goodness’ sake I had nursing pads on the floor, and she empathized and consoled and comforted as only a mom can do. I finally stood back, wiped my puffy eyes, and said “Thanks. I just really needed a good cry.” I put on my brave face, and headed back to the chaos.

The first thing I noticed upon arriving back on the moving scene, was that the nursery was now empty. Completely empty. Where was the suitcase of all the kids’ things for the next week?? I hurriedly went from one man to the next, asking “Has anyone seen a black suitcase?” Finally someone said yes. He had loaded it on the truck.

I ran headlong to the truck, where Mike was meticulously packing everything into the truck with order and precision. I relayed my request, and he looked back in dismay, then hope, then dismay.

“I know I packed it in here recently. Let me see if I can access it.”

Oh, Lord, let him access it. Grandma just took us on a major shopping spree to clothe all three kids for the next six months, and they are all in that suitcase!

“Found it!” He exclaimed, proudly presenting the suitcase.

“THANK YOU!” I cheered, and promptly moved it to the van. After securing the help of one of the boys to take down all the seats in the van, I quickly began thinking through everything else that needed to be set aside to go with us in the van. I ran around the house, gathering as much as I could between being stopped and asked for direction.

The Cavalry, also known as the Freeman Clan, had arrived with more boxes, tape, and many hands to help.  I hadn’t even seen Jenny yet, but I could hear her already at work in my kitchen, elbow deep in suds washing the mounds of dishes that littered the countertops. Just like my Mama would do, I smiled to myself, eager to thank her.

DeAnna closeted herself in the laundry room (literally), folding clean laundry, packing it in boxes, then starting the next load as I delivered the rest of the bedding, towels, and curtains from our last night’s stay.

And finally, at 11:00, my best friend arrived all the way from my hometown, two large coffees in hand. She instantly handed one to me and said, “Where do you want me?”

I was really thinking we have some of the best friends ever.

I sent her after more boxes, and all the random little items began disappearing into boxes, clearly and neatly labeled by my ever-thoughtful sister-in-law.

And then, everything was gone.

I went from one room to the next, surveying the scene.  Every room was empty. Every closet, every cupboard.  And now it was time to clean. The moving team transitioned into cleaning, and I began delegating tasks to each person.  Windows. Check. Window Wells. Check. Fans. Check. Floors. Check. Cupboards. Check.

One by one each task was checked off. And one by one each wonderful, helpful friend left to go home.  Until it was only Jenny and me left. We were still in the kitchen. Singing “Sound of Music” and our favorite hymns as we wiped every last crumb from every last corner (we hope!). And then Jenny was gone, too, and it was just Stephen and me in our empty little house.  We had a final family farewell cookout at 5:30, and I knew we were almost done, so I sent Stephen to his parents’ house to shower while I mopped the last rooms.

That’s when the First of Many in our very own Serious of Unfortunate Events was noted.

“Where’s the green tag for the moving truck? It was on the top of the fireplace with the paperwork, and no one was supposed to pack it.”

We had no idea where it was, but it definitely was not in the house. Surely the moving company would have a replacement tag? I thought, hoping, praying, all the while feeling a hard knot forming in my stomach.

I checked in each one of the rooms and closets one last time before I left that evening. And each time I saw those vast, empty rooms, that knot in my stomach tightened. I looked in the study and thought, oh no, oh no, the pile of things that needed to be returned, the library book included…it’s in the truck somewhere! and The books I set aside for the kids for the road trip…they are in the truck somewhere.  And The diapers-THE DIAPERS!!!! That huge Sam’s club box of diapers and wipes I bought specifically for the move–it’s packed AND all the cloth diapers got packed–all in the truck somewhere!!

I was feeling sicker and sicker, realizing with every minute, more items which we needed in the next week that had been quickly swiftly swept up in the hubbub and loaded into the truck.

Oh, well. I thought. We will survive.  All I wanted was a hot shower and some clean clothes.  I was overwhelmingly thankful for all the help we had received that day.  We never could have done it without them all.  All our stuff was packed, loaded, and the house was spotless and ready for the new occupants.  God was good.

When we finally got back to my in-law’s that night, exhausted and spent, I headed for the shower, opened our suitcase, and rifled through it for my jammies.

Stephen’s clothes, Stephen’s pants, Stephen’s socks…Wait a minute. Where are my clothes?

I sank back against the wall as realization hit me.

They, too, were packed somewhere in the truck.

In all the crazy and the chaos, I had set aside my clothes to pack into the suitcase, but I had not finished getting them to the suitcase.  When the men arrived, I set aside the suitcase, saying “Don’t pack this!” but forgot that my own clothes were not yet in there.  When the guys asked about the dresser, “Hey, there’s still some stuff in here, is that okay?” I thought it was just those sachet packets and some nylons and waved them past.  When they asked about the clothes in the closet, I only remembered Stephen’s piles that had yet to be packed.  Not my own that had been set aside for the suitcase.

The whole thing was a comedy of errors that was in no way comedic.  A million things could have been done to avoid all the catastophies that descended upon us that Moving Day.  But we just didn’t have time. We didn’t get them done. And we would just have to survive the next week without all that stuff.

And it will only be a week, right, Lord??

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

Another Time, Another Place: A Conclusion to The GAPS Introduction

If you have been following this blog in hopes of GAPS information and resources, I profusely apologize.  Shortly after we posted our initial post, my friend (who was going to co-author with me) moved halfway across the country, I gave birth to my third child in four years, and we moved our entire family two states away to start a whole new life.

Needless to say, blogging has not been one of my highest priorities.

And as much as I would like to detail our journey, I find that this simply is not the season of my life to do that.  Maybe someday. But today is not that day.

I also found that, much to my relief, the internet is now alive with wonderful, amazing, informative GAPS blogs and websites and information!! There are so many great resources out there, and all you have to do is Google “GAPS diet” and you will find the best sources for recipes, helpful hints, stories, information, etc.

So go there, enjoy those sites, because it is all we can do just to keep our heads above water, here:-)

If you are interested in hearing about the “whole new life” mentioned above, then, by all means, keep reading! As time permits, I will post updates, pictures, stories, from our personal lives for those who know and love us.

Thanks!

Jubilee Noelle’s Birth Story

Jubilee Noelle Willcox

“Deliverance & Peace”

December 31, 2013

12:16am

7 lbs, 4 ounces 19.5 inches

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I remember the day I found out I was pregnant again.  Stephen and I had just returned from an all-expense paid trip to Costa Rica to find our house had flooded while we were away.  We were staying with Stephen’s parents down the street, and all week I had begun to suspect that I might be expecting.  I don’t remember exactly what tipped me off, but I do know the constant drop in blood sugar on our trip, as well as a couple of random near-panic attacks had me guessing by the time our plane landed on American soil again.

As soon as I saw that positive line on the pregnancy test, the dual emotions began.  At once elation, joy, gratitude.  And at the same time fear, anxiety, dread. How could I be both so excited and so fearful at the same time? But the parallel emotions of both anticipation and anxiety plagued me throughout this pregnancy much as they had my last.    Though I had seen God’s goodness over and over and over again, I still struggled to believe that He would be good to me yet again.  Though He had always shown himself faithful, I wrestled with believing He would remain faithful. Doubt plagued me as I wondered if I was strong enough to care for three children when every day I felt like I was failing miserably with the two I already had.  Fear assaulted me when I remembered the terrifying post-partum depression I had experienced with my first two.  Anxiety encompassed me when I thought about childbirth and everything that could go wrong—especially since my first two births had been so amazing, I figured I had to be “due” for a really awful birth.

But a couple of months into my pregnancy, Stephen and I were reading the Bible one morning, and Stephen looked up.

“What do you think about the name ‘Jubilee’ if it’s a girl?”

I frowned, pondering.  “Well, I like the meaning and significance of it, but I’m not sure if I’m sold on it as a name. It’s so…unusual.  What makes you think of it?” When God delivered the Israelites from slavery and gave them his law, He instituted a year of Jubilee.  Every 50th year, the slaves would be set free, debts would be forgiven, and the land would be given rest.  It was to be a year of redemption and celebration, a foreshadowing of how Christ would set us free from our bondage to sin and give us eternal rest in Him.

“I just sense that God is calling us to rest in Him this next season of our life, whatever it is.”

As the months passed, I grew more and more certain that I was carrying our “Jubilee,” and that God was calling me to rest in Him and His goodness, something I have struggled to do for my entire life.

As the weeks ticked by and my due date grew closer, I became more and more anxious.  I couldn’t escape the sense of foreboding that something terrible was going to happen this time around.  Everything had fallen into place so beautifully for both Jeshuah’s and Eliana’s births, I simply could not expect that to happen a third time.  Once again, I felt God gently prodding me to rest in Him.

From the time I was 35 weeks pregnant, Stephen and I were constantly on the alert.  Shuah was born at 38 weeks and Eliana at 36 weeks, and we just couldn’t be certain when this one would choose to arrive.  And since the first two had arrived quite speedily and we had been unable to find a homebirth midwife near enough, we were anxious about road conditions and getting ahold of someone to stay with the kids in time for us to get to the hospital. Christmas came and went, and we were all shocked that I had not had the baby yet.  I was a little disappointed, too, since we had decided on Noelle as a middle name, and I thought it would be so fitting for her to be a Christmas baby and we would call her Noelle.  But when Christmas passed without a baby, I doubted even more that God had uniquely planned this baby’s birth as He had the others.

Oh, ye, of little faith.

And then, I made it all the way to 39 weeks.  After being “always ready” for the last 4 weeks, having tons of Braxton hicks and false labor, we had begun to think it was never really going to happen. And we had been really hoping to have this baby before the new year. Up until that point, I had Braxton hicks constantly, sometimes as often as every 2 minutes for hours, but they were never the real thing.  The whole week after Christmas I didn’t even have Braxton hicks contractions. I felt like my body had just gone to sleep on the job and would never pop this baby out.

But that morning I visited my midwife, found that I was no more dilated than I had been 3 weeks ago, and she asked if I wanted to jump start things by stripping the membranes.  I said “Sure, if you want to,” but didn’t believe her at all when she assured me I would go into labor in the next day or two.  Still, I contacted my mother in law to let her know the midwife’s prediction and asked our middle-of-the-night couple if they would be “on call” in case I went into labor that night.

My brother, Alex, and his wife Jessica, were driving through town that evening on their way home from their Christmas trip and had been really hoping to see the baby. I told them I would eat Chipotle and hope the spices put me into labor before they arrived.  Around noon, the Braxton hicks contractions started up again and I hoped that maybe they would turn into something real this time. By 5, my contractions had gotten pretty close together, but they were still painless and merely abdominal.  Alex and Jess arrived with more Chipotle to spice things up a bit and we debated if they should stay the night.  It had been snowing all afternoon and the roads were getting pretty slick.  They still had an hour and a half drive back home, and I was really nervous that I would end up in labor in the middle of the night with no one to watch the kids back home.

But by 7, my contractions had slowed, and by 8, they had stopped altogether.   I despondently told Alex and Jess they might as well head home if the roads were clear, since there wasn’t going to be anything happening tonight. Alex and Jess decided that was best, since they had their two dogs with them, but Alex remarked as they headed out the door, “Just watch, as soon as we leave you’ll go into labor and have had the baby by the time we get home. So I guess we’ll just leave, so you will have the baby, then we’ll just come back tomorrow to see it!” We laughed, but none of us knew how accurate his prediction would turn out to be.

They left around 9pm, and Stephen and I headed downstairs to watch an episode of Sherlock, and about halfway through, I began feeling contractions.  And these ones were different. They reminded me vaguely of actual, real labor contractions, but I couldn’t be certain yet.  A few minutes later I had another one. By the third contraction, I realized I was having trouble relaxing and breathing through the contractions. Warning bells went off in my head.  It was entirely possible that this was the real thing!  I looked at the clock. It was 10:15, and I figured my contractions had been about 5 minutes apart, beginning at 10pm.  I told Stephen to pause the movie and that I was pretty sure I might actually be in labor and that we should at least call our night sitters before it got too much later.

Zack and Hannah were on their way in minutes, and Stephen threw everything into the car.  He told me he wanted to head the hospital right away, but I still wasn’t convinced I was truly in labor.  Seriously. When you experience contractions your entire pregnancy and they don’t mean anything, you really doubt even the real ones.  We were also really jumpy because we knew how fast my labors were and we didn’t want to end up delivering a baby on the side of the road in a snowstorm.

But when Zack and Hannah arrived fifteen minutes later, I could barely walk up the stairs and was finally convinced that yes, I was truly in labor, and we needed to leave now.

I quickly ran over the kids’ instructions with Hannah, stopping to breathe through contractions every couple minutes, and Stephen and I headed to the car.  It was 11 pm and no one was on the roads. A light snow was falling, and everything was quiet, peaceful. I remember thinking how different this trip to the hospital was from my last one, Stephen on the phone with 911 dodging in and out of traffic, me hollering and huffing and puffing and just trying desperately NOT to have the baby.

By the time we got to the hospital, I was pretty uncomfortable, but the contractions were still manageable if Stephen rubbed my back and pressed pressure points during each contraction.  However, as soon as I got there, the nurse checked me, announced I was dilated to 5 cm, and wanted me to lie down in the bed so she could hook me up to all the monitors for thirty minutes. (At this point in the story, I will relay my thought process in italics, though none of it was spoken aloud, and when I told Stephen later all I was thinking he was shocked. “You were thinking all of that?? I had no idea. You seemed so calm!”)

As the nurse began strapping belts around my belly, I began my internal diatribe.  Are you kidding me?? You want me to lie still in that bed for thirty minutes with belts and cords strapped all over me!? I was having a hard time staying still, let alone lying down in a bed. But until my midwife arrived to advocate for me, I could tell this nurse was not in the mood to cater to a laboring woman who desperately wished she was having a homebirth.

This labor felt very different from the other two, with a lot of pain in my back, and I wondered if baby was sunny side up, causing back labor, which I had never personally experienced.  The delightful thing about it, though, was that Stephen could massage my lower back during contractions and ease 80% of the pain.  So when I climbed into that bed and she strapped two belts on me—one to monitor me, one to monitor baby, and then wound the blood pressure monitor around my arm, Stephen couldn’t reach my back, and the contractions became quite uncomfortable indeed.  I simply could not sit still.

I sat up in the bed and knelt, rocking back and forth to ease the pain and giving Stephen access to my back. When the blood pressure monitor automatically turned on, I knew fifteen minutes had passed and took hope in the fact that I only had to be strapped down for another 15 minutes before I could be free to move around.  At that point, my nurse came back in and began working on getting the IV hooked into my left arm, since I was GBS positive and was required to be given antibiotics during labor to prevent passing an infection to the baby. I tried to ignore her as she wiped off the top of my hand and then inserted the needle as I rocked back and forth and vocalized through the contractions to help speed labor up.  But I began to feel like it was taking her forever, that my hand was really beginning to hurt, and then, out of the corner of my eye, seeing blood begin pouring out of my hand as my skin began forming a huge, bruised balloon over my veins. I heard her mutter that she had blown out a vein and had to try again.  But this time, she called in the professionals. I nearly told her to not even bother, since by the time she finally got the IV in I would have had the baby, but I didn’t want to get in trouble for denying the treatment, so I submitted to yet another person jabbing me with a needle.

About this time, I asked how much longer I needed to be hooked up to the monitors.  Being confined was beginning to feel unbearable.  My nurse informed me, quite unsympathetically, that since I had been moving around so much, the monitors had not been accurately monitoring me, so she would have to reposition them and then I would need to be hooked up for another 30 minutes and possibly more, depending on what the monitors told them.  She then put a heartbeat monitor on my right hand and left the labs tech to finish with my IV.

I think I began thinking murderous thoughts around this time. Are you kidding me??! You know I want to get off the monitors and into the bath, and the monitors have not been working for the last 15 minutes and you just now come in to do something about it??  The last fifteen minutes had felt like an hour, as my contractions were so intense and close together, and my confined state made everything so much worse.  I now had two belts around my stomach, a blood pressure monitor and an IV sticking out of my very tender, bruised, and swollen left arm, and a finger monitor on my right hand.  At this point I was seriously wondering if hospitals simply devised ways to torture laboring women.

I realized I was not going to get unplugged from any of this any time soon with this nurse, so I asked for a birthing ball, knowing I would at least be more comfortable in a sitting position and could lean up against the bed.  As I sat on the ball, rocking back and forth, and Stephen rubbed my back, I leaned my head onto the bed and whimpered softly, “I want my mama.” I wished she was there, as she had been in my first labor, to remind me to breathe, and think about peaceful waters, trees, and not to think about bears! Stephen reminded me to think about our baby and how I would get to meet him or her soon and find out who it was. I smiled at the thought, and drew strength from the knowledge.

In the next minute, I didn’t have time to think about wanting mama anymore. I couldn’t sit down through the next three contractions, barely seconds apart. I had to stand up and lean on Stephen, recognizing that it was nearly time to push.

Just then, my midwife Janelle walked in. She began rubbing my shoulders and asked how I was doing. I was standing, swaying back and forth, eyes closed in concentration, and I nodded to her that I was doing well. She had just mentioned that she was going to go look over my birth plan, when I felt the baby descending.

“Here comes the baby!” I said urgently, and the room went into a flurry of motion. Drawers were opened and shut, boxes and pads and lights and equipment thrown onto the bed and tables around me. As I felt the baby descending and my body react by instinctively bearing down, I was eager to climb onto the bed, as I was afraid this baby might just fall out as my last one had, and if I was standing over the hard floor, that would be horrible.  But climbing onto the bed proved quite difficult, tangled up in all the cords as I was.  Janelle whipped on a pair of gloves and calmly assured me that she was not going to make me lie down to give birth, but that I was free to kneel however I liked. As the urge to push increased, I tried to blow through the next contractions in hopes that this time I might not tear as the baby was born. But then, I didn’t care anymore, I just wanted this baby out!! I was on all fours on the bed when the head was born and my water broke and the rest of the baby followed. The baby plopped into the bed and Janelle encouraged me to reach down and pick up my baby. I remember looking down onto the bed, where my newborn baby lay, purple and red and covered in white vernix. The first thing I did was check to know the answer to the question of the last nine months—was it a girl or a boy?? It was a girl! I tried to reach down and pick her up, but by this point, my arms had gone numb and were so wrapped up in monitors and cords, I could barely move. I tried to pick her up, but my arms were too weak, and the cords too tangled, so I asked for help. Janelle lifted her long enough to let me settle onto my back, and then they placed her on my chest.  While they began all the clean up work around me, Stephen and I stared down at our new baby.  She still had not even cried yet, she just lay in my arms, still and peaceful, despite all the chaos that surrounded her.  I quickly looked up at the clock.  She had been born at 12:16am, New Year’s Eve.

I looked up at Stephen in amazement.  “She is our Jubilee Noelle! And born on New Year’s Eve!”  Through all the scenarios that had played out in my head, I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful story of God’s faithfulness.  After all the doubt, anxiety, and fear that had encompassed me throughout the pregnancy, God’s sovereign care awed me once again.  Months ago, God had given us the name “Jubilee Noelle” to signify new beginnings, celebration, freedom from bondage to sin, and the rest and peace that is ours through Christ.

And she has been just that.  From the moment she was born, I have felt a freedom I have never felt before.  Freedom from anxiety, from fear, from discontentment.  My heart is at peace, resting in God’s goodness and his will for me.  For the first time, I feel like my head and my heart have combined to give me rest in what God’s plan is for us.

Our Jubilee Noelle is the most peaceful, restful baby I have ever seen in my life.  From the time she was born, she has been the picture of calm.  She never even cried for the thirty minutes it took the nurse to try to draw her blood for the GSB labs (as it happened, the nurse never did get all the blood she needed and they had to come back and try again later!).  She sleeps most of the time, but when she is awake, she simply gazes around in quiet wonder at the world, rarely fussing, and bringing such a restful presence to our home.  It is more than just her serenity, but it is rather unexplainable, really.  I find that when I try to put it into words, there simply are none to adequately describe it. She is a gift, that is all I can say.  A gift of celebration, joy, freedom, and rest.  And I cannot help but marvel at the perfection of her name, chosen for her by our Heavenly Father long before she was even born.

Jubilee

Michael Card

The Lord provided for a time

For the slaves to be set free

For the debts to all be canceled

So His chosen ones could see

His deep desire was for forgiveness

He longed to see their liberty

And His yearning was embodied

In the Year of Jubilee

At the Lord’s appointed time

His deep desire became a man

The heart of all true jubilation

And with joy we understand

In his voice we hear a trumpet sound

That tells us we are free

He is the incarnation

Of the year of Jubilee

To be so completely guilty

Given over to despair

To look into your judges face

And see a Savior there

Jubilee, Jubilee

Jesus is our Jubilee

Debts forgiven

Slaves set free

Jesus is our Jubilee

The Gut Brain Connection: What is it and Why Does it Matter?

“All disease begins in the gut.” –Hippocrates

“Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.”  –Hippocrates

This is the first post in a series of posts my friend, Abby, and I will be writing on the Gut Brain Connection, its affect on our own families, and specific healing dietary suggestions.  But before we begin, we must answer the question, just what is the Gut Brain Connection, and why does it matter?

What Is The GBC and Why Does It Matter?

There has been a recent flurry of activity regarding the study of what is frequently called the Gut Brain Connection (GBC). Perhaps you have seen articles posting new study results. Perhaps you have heard of people implementing radical dietary changes in hopes of curing autism, depression, anxiety, and a host of other illnesses, both mental and physical. But the more this issue is researched, especially recently in the wake of what is now becoming an epidemic of autism and other learning disabilities and disorders, the more resoundingly clear the results are: A huge part of our health is directly related to the health of our gut. And much of our mental state has to do with what we are putting in our mouths.

How is the Gut Connected to the Brain?

The gut (our intestinal tract) is the huge tube-like structure that carries our food from our mouth to our stomachs. It engages in tireless work consisting of breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, and eliminating waste. Our guts also contain neurotransmitters, some 100 million of them! that send signals to our brains. In fact, the gut has been coined the “second brain”.  Just like the brain in our heads, our “second brain” can by both functional and dysfunctional.  If our second brain is dysfunctional, it can result in a whole host of diseases and disorders, including autism, ADHD, allergies, mental illness (depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc), eczema, autoimmune disorders, IBS, OCD and many others.

How does this work?  This is where the GBC begins to get really interesting.

So What Goes Wrong?

Our gut is designed to be filled with all sorts of beneficial bacteria called flora.  The average adult should contain about five pounds of this bacteria! The flora provides a sort of wall of protection between the thin walls of our intestines and our bloodstream. But this “wall” can become eroded and leave our bodies susceptible to harmful toxins, chemicals, parasites, and undigested foods.  In the words of Dr. Natasha Campbell, author of Gut and Psychology Syndrome, “If the beneficial bacteria in the gut are damaged and are not functioning as they should, then the “walls of the city” are not protected very well…Without protection the gut wall is open to invasion by anything that comes along: a virus from vaccination or the environment, a ubiquitous fungus…various bacteria and parasites and toxic substances, all of which are very capable of damaging our digestive system and causing a chronic inflammation in its walls.” To make matters worse, when “gut flora is compromised, the lack of nourishment it would produce adds to the damage of the digestive wall” and further impairs the guts ability to digest and absorb nutrients.  The is a major reason why so many autistic children have digestive issues.  (This is also the reason why so many autistic, hyperactive, autoimmune people are unable to eat dairy and gluten products.  The gut does not contain the proper tools to digest these nutrients, and so they actually turn into a type of morphine and opiate in their systems. But more on that in future posts!)

Babies are born with sterile guts and acquire their beneficial bacteria through passing through the birth canal and through breastfeeding. Our guts are then continuously populated through diet and environmental factors.

Why Does All This Matter?

“On the whole it is hard to overestimate how important the state of our gut flora is in the appropriate functioning of our immune system.  It has been estimated that around 80-85% of our immunity is located in the gut wall.”  We can begin to clearly see how the health of our gut affects our overall health.  People with damaged guts also have compromised immunity to disease and infection.  This explains why these people catch every illness within ten miles of them.  They lack the protection they are meant to have to fend off pathogens.

But most importantly, when our “walls of defense” are compromised, they are easily breached.  So the food that we eat is not digested properly, resulting not only in malnutrition, but in toxins being released into the bloodstream and brain. Our diets can be full of nutrients, but if the gut is damaged, our body is unable to use them properly. And if our gut is damaged, toxins cannot be properly disposed of, resulting in a buildup of toxicity in a person’s system.

What Harms the Gut Flora?

Our flora is most put at risk when we are taking a prescription antibiotic of some form.  Antibiotics are designed to wipe out all bacteria, good and bad, from the gut.  This then leaves the gut unprotected from flora and open to a host of problems. This “bad flora” can then establish colonies that breed disease and infection because there was not enough beneficial flora to crowd them out.  This, in turn, releases toxins directly into the bloodstream, which affects the brain.  Antibiotics change bacteria, viruses, and fungi present in our guts from benign to pathogenic, giving them the ability to invade tissues and cause diseases.  When antibiotics first came on the market, doctors routinely recommended or prescribed a probiotic along with the antibiotic, recognizing the need to replenish the beneficial bacteria.  But as the years have passed, probiotics have fallen by the wayside, and antibiotics have become the “cure-all” and are even routinely given preventatively to humans and animals alike.  Antibiotics should always be a last resort, but are especially harmful to those who already has compromised gut flora.

Our gut flora is also damaged by other drugs, such as contraceptives, pain killers, and analgesics.  “The Pill” has a particularly devastating effect, since a baby inherits its gut flora from its mother.  If mom has been taking a contraceptive, her gut flora has already been damaged, so she then passes on her abnormal gut flora to her baby.  This can result in eczema, allergies, and other severe learning disabilities.

More recently, a connection has been made between laxatives, specifically Miralax, and damaged gut flora,  leading to severe disabilities such as autism, ADHD, allergies, etc.  If a woman habitually takes a laxative during pregnancy, her unborn baby’s gut is being compromised (this, we have recently learned, is one of the major reasons for our son’s gut damage, which I will detail in later posts).  Autistic children are now routinely prescribed laxatives on a long-term basis, due to their digestive issues.  Many doctors do not yet realize the catastrophic effect this is having on their already compromised patient.

Diet also plays a huge role in healthy gut flora.  “Too many sugary foods and processed carbs increase numbers of different fungi…Processed and sugary carbs also promote population of the gut with worms and other parasites. A diet high in fiber from grains has a profound negative effect on the gut flora.”  Breastfeeding populates the gut with balanced, healthy flora. A diet lacking in probiotic rich foods (as the modern western diet is) is one of the chief culprits of a damaged gut.

What Heals the Gut Flora?

Now we come to the fun part! A damaged gut can be healed! Many people suffering from the diseases and disorders mentioned above have seen dramatic decrease, if not complete reversal of symptoms as they begin to heal their gut.   By implementing a careful diet of nutrient dense foods that are easily digestible (bone broths, eggs, certain vegetables and meats), soothes the damaged gut and prepares it for healing.  Adding a host of probiotics (such as lacto-fermented foods) repopulates the gut with healthy flora.  And most importantly, avoiding the foods that cause more damage to the already damaged gut (sugar, starches, gluten, specifically).  These steps can heal and seal the gut, allowing symptoms to reverse and possibly heal altogether.

There are many forms of dietary suggestions to heal the gut.  In our research on this issue, Abby and I have become convinced that Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s approach to healing the gut is the most beneficial.  She has written extensively on the subject in her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome, which I highly recommend. Be on the lookout for the next post in this series, where we will talk more specifically about Dr. Campbell-McBride’s GAPS diet and how it heals and seals the gut.

For more reading, here is the GAPS website and some recently published articles on the GBC:

GAPS
The Gut Brain Connection-Harvard Health
Think Twice: How the Gut’s “Second Brain” Influences Mood and Well-Being
Your Gut Bacteria Affects Your Brain, Study Confirms
Eat More Yogurt!

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