Halfway There

Tah-Dah! We are twenty weeks people (twenty-one by the time this posts), and therefore halfway through this thing called pregnancy!

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Us at 20 weeks

My morning sickness is almost completely gone! I’m finally starting to gain weight. I stuff my face with spinach, eggs, and avocados. I still have an aversion to butter (most dairy actually), toast, and white flour tortillas.

Last Monday, Timothy and I went for the BIG ultrasound. They call it an Anatomy Scan, and they measured and checked out our baby from her adorable head to her sweet little toes. She’s healthy and beautiful and I’m on target for my due date of August 18th.

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Daddy’s favorite picture of his baby girl

Even before I met Timmy, whenever I pictured my future family there was always a little girl there. I pictured boys too, sometimes lots of them, but even in a family with 6 kids, there was always at least one little girl. Sometimes she was fair, sometimes dark, sometimes with blonde curls, sometimes with two brown plaits laying against her shoulders. She was sporty. She was a fairy princess. Her nails were dirty from digging up worms. She hated mud and slime. No matter what form she took, she refused to leave my imagination.

I had a laundry list of worries walking into that ultrasound, but the one that upset me the most was, “what if it’s not a girl.” Yes, it mattered more to me that the heart and brain and feet and hands were all looking healthy and strong. I say “upset me,” because I didn’t want the baby’s gender to matter to me at all. I prayed so many times, “God, just let me not care. Please, give me peace.”

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possible early evidence of thumb sucking?

Looking back, I think he answered that prayer the first time around. I think he was telling me, “Rachel, stop worrying, because I’m giving you your girl,” but I was too scared to believe that it was His voice speaking and not just my own desires. My mother-in-law later said to me, “Maybe God gave you that desire, because he wanted you to have it.” God didn’t have to give me my little girl. He chose to. He has control over the whole cosmos, and knew which soul to put in my womb because he has a purpose for her life.

One of the wacky theological teachings I heard a lot growing up was a kind of “be careful what you ask God for,” strain of belief. Ask God for patience, He’ll give you trials. Ask God for contentment, He’ll burn your house to the ground. But the HUGE thing always missing from these sermons was the truth that God isn’t sitting on his throne rubbing his hands together with glee because you’ve asked for the wrong thing, like a cosmic genie who grants your wish for a million dollars by handing you your loved one’s life insurance policy. True, ugly things will happen to us, but as I learned through my miscarriage, by His grace those ugly moments are never too much to bear.

Whatever he takes, he replaces. Sometimes materially, sometimes with more of Himself. Either way, he will satisfy.

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I prayed for God to take away my desire for a girl or to change my desire to meet his plans for my life. He answered my prayer. He kept my desire there, strong as ever, and waited for me to take hold of the peace he offered me because of the ernest nature of my prayers. I never took that peace, but at least now I’ve got the lesson.

And a baby girl. 😉

Perfect Timing

While my pregnancy was a planned pregnancy, it was still a shock to me. I just figured it wouldn’t happen when it did, and while it’s still overwhelming at times, it’s become just another one of those times in my life where I can see how perfect God’s plans are when we submit to his will.

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17 weeks

First: My Crazy First Trimester

I mean, I was sick for my first pregnancy, but all these people kept saying to me that what I was feeling “wasn’t normal.” Since they never specified what part of it was so abnormal, I guess I just assumed that a heathy baby would be less horrible to carry. As wrong as I was, the miracle of it all was the impeccable timing of my bedridden stage. My morning sickness began the week of finals, but most of my finals were papers I’d already drafted and merely needed to hand in. After that I had the entirety of winter break to do nothing but rest and vomit.

Second: Returning to school

The oncoming spring semester was looming in the background like the malevolent flaming eye of Sauron. Every day that I spent laying in bed, incapable of anything more than watching Shawn the Sheep, the soft voice of anxiety whispered, “And how do you think you’re going to manage that?”

My early religious education emphasized the idea that once you’re a wife or mother the Bible allows for you to be nothing else. I’ve come to believe this as not accurate Biblical teaching, but I wrestled with what I was supposed to do next. Was God trying to tell me through illness that being a wife and mother was all he wanted from me?

No longer wishing to blindly follow the teaching from my youth, I prayed that God would make it clear what he wanted from me: finish my degree or quit for the baby. Maybe he’d let me finish my degree later, who knew? Only Him, and I just needed to know clearly what step to take next, one semester at a time.

There were so many times when I was leaning over the toilet bowl with Tim rubbing my back when I’d gasp out the words, “I think I should drop all my classes.” Tim, ever patient, ever wise, always said, “Just wait and see. There’s still time. Just wait.”

I waited. I saw. God provided me just the right amount of miraculous strength I needed to get to every class. Even the week before my first day I was too sick to go, but despite the fact I was still throwing up to and from school, and napping on a foam mattress between my classes, I have remained on my 15 credit class schedule.

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And Tim? Well, who could expect him to be anything but my guardian angel. He walked me to all my classes, carried my books, and for several weeks sat right outside the door to my class in case I needed any help, even though it made his butt fall asleep. Speaking of blessings from God, let’s not forget the man I wake up next to every morning. Him. Always. ❤

Third: The Due Date

The baby is due August 18, 2017. Even if I go late, I will still give birth this summer, before classes can start for next semester.

Fourth: Online Classes

One night, just out of curiosity, I looked over my degree evaluation at WPU to see what else I needed to graduate on time. The idea of returning to school with a two week old infant in tow is daunting, even if your husband doesn’t mind looking after him while you’re in class. I worried if it would even be healthy for the little one.

As I looked through what I needed to graduate, I saw a lot of online courses being offered. I grabbed a notepad and began to jot down courses. Soon, I had over 7 online course options I could take in the fall, all of which were perfect for keeping me on track to graduate Spring of 2018. I now fully believe that God will allow me to take most if not all of my courses online for my first semester after giving birth. My heart nearly burst with thanksgiving for this.

Fifth: Our Living Situation

I’ve never really been in close contact to infants before, except for bits of exposure during my time working the nursery at church. Basically, I’m terrified, and given my penchant for panic attacks and overreacting due to my struggle with anxiety disorder, I know that I’ll be as neurotic as any three new mothers locked in a dark tight space for 48 hours.

First on the emergency contact list will (of course) be my dear husband, eldest of 7 and widely recognized “baby hog.” His relatives know that when they bring their little one into the room, my husband will make puppy eyes at whomever is holding the baby until somebody lets him settle down with the little one so he can snuggle and play with it.

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Timmy with our nephew Emmett

But if even he should fail to calm me and the infant (both of us probably screaming), we will still be living with his mother, grandmother of my child and veteran parent of 7 children. Honestly, watching my husband’s parents raise the two little ones at home (6yrs and 10yrs) has grown me tremendously. Their grace and patience is something I pray I’ll have in my parenting, and it is truly a privilege to watch. If I could be half the mother Mrs. Svendsen is, my children will never suffer for love and acceptance, the two things I found most lacking in my own childhood.

I will have one full year under her roof, blessed by her wisdom and tutelage before my husband and I pack up and move across the country for him to complete his seminary training.

There is too much perfection in all the timing of this baby for me not to step back, look up and say, “Thank you Lord. Thank you so much.” ❤

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Book Review: The God Who Heals by Johann & Christoph Blumhardt

First off, thank you again Plough Publishing for sending me another lovely book! There are few things more pleasing than receiving unexpected packages with free books inside. ❤

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The most recent book they sent me was The God Who Heals, a collection of devotional thoughts from  Johann and Christoph Blumhardt. They were a Lutheran father/son pastor team from 19th century Germany. The book is a collection of their thoughts on topics related to healing and patience through suffering. The book is divided into six sections: Turning to Jesus, Trusting Jesus, God Hears, God Promises to Heal, See What God Can Do, and The Hope That is Ours. Within the sections are short devotional-like thoughts on the topic, nice bite sized readings to chew and meditate on, all opening with a passage from scripture.

It’s a short book, and also sweet in that it is full of encouraging thoughts. The lessons within did not only apply to those who have life threatening or long lasting illnesses, but were applicable to suffering in general and encouraged you to hold fast in faith to Christ no matter what the outward circumstances. Here is a quote from the chapter entitled, “You Are Not Alone”:

If you can’t feel the Savior, than the more believe in him. Those to whom God’s love is nearest are precisely those who don’t see and yet believe (John 20:29). The same is true of those who don’t feel and yet believe. The enemy often wreaks havoc on our feelings; but he can’t touch your faith. The devil cannot own your faith – unless you give in.

~Johann Christoph Blumhardt

Thank you again Plough Publishing for giving me the joy of reading this book.

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If you want to read it yourself, you can get your copy here!

What She Needs, Is What I’ll Miss

IMG_3229 From the moment I came to my in-law’s house that weekend, I’d been avoiding her room. Aunt Lori warned me that she’d been packing all week. It made sense, we were getting down to the wire. Now I stood on the threshold looking in. It was everything I expected to see, but that didn’t make the sight more palatable. The pictures were down off the walls. The bible verses tacked to her mirror were removed. All that remained of her worldly possessions were piled neatly on the floor of her room. She looked up and smiled at me, blinking her glittering blue eyes.

“Where should I sit?” I asked.

“I’ll make a place for you here.” She cleared off her desk and pulled up the chair. She pointed at a pile of clothes. “This is it. I’ve always wanted to be a minimalist.”

I chuckled and said, “You know when you get there you’re not going to come back.” I was only half joking. The expression that crossed her face made me think she half hoped I was right.

The Philippines. It already looks far on a map, long before you calculate miles or flight times or time changes. Two years. It already sounds long before you break it down to months or weeks or days. But it’s hard to hold onto my selfish desire to keep her here when she’s glowing like this.

“Rachel it’s been crazy lately,” she said. “I mean through this whole thing, God has just been changing me. Like, all these little things in my life. I feel God putting his finger on everything. ‘You need to give this to me’ and ‘You need to give this to me’. Even my desire to become a missionary. He said to me, ‘What if I don’t want you to be a missionary? What if I want you to stay in New Jersey forever?’ I’m like, ‘God, why can’t you just let me be a missionary?’ But he wanted me to give him everything, even my desire to be a missionary. And when I did, he gave it back to me. Now there’s no fear. I’m sad, I mean, I know I’ll miss a lot, like Ben and Chelsea’s baby, but if this becomes permanent there will be a lot more of that.”

I’m listening with all of me, while still acutely aware of how easily I could burst into tears and how much I wish I could stealthily record our conversation. I want to be able to remember what she said word for word. I want to be able to absorb it into me, along with her confidence in Christ’s plans and ways, the lessons she’s learned and learning, and her abiding peace.

I eyed the clothes she laid aside for her journey ahead. For some in this world it would still be a lot, but for the average American in our area, not so much. But she won’t need a lot of things where she is going. What she will need is the bit of her that I will miss the most. The part I most hate to lose.

The beauty of her gracious heart. The gentleness of her christlike spirit. Her compassion. Her wisdom. Her strength. Her passionate desire to answer God’s call. That is what drew her across the ocean, with a suitcase full of love for the newborn babies she will deliver. That is what she will bring to the poor and needy mothers at the clinic God has sent her to.

Those are the things that make her beautiful, and that is what I will miss the most.IMG_0918

If You Do Not Go With Me

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If you do not go with me,
Do not send me up from here.
I cannot bear to go alone.
I need your hand to bring me home.

If you do not go with me,
Do not send me from this place.
Be the lamp who guides my feet,
Through laughter and the bittersweet.

If you do not go with me,
Do not send me from your side.
Carry me, or hold my hand.
Be the footprints in the sand.

If you do not go with me,
Do not send me up from here.
I cannot do this on my own.
God, please, don’t make me go alone.

© Rachel Svendsen 2015

Merry Christmas Little Angel

Merry Christmas Little Angel

Merry Christmas Little Angel,
Looking down from Heaven above.
Mommy’s arms are aching for you,
Wishing she could show her love.

I know you have a sweeter view,
In a painless, perfect place.
Half my heart is happy for you,
Half just wants to touch your face.

God please hold my baby for me,
Give his little face a kiss.
He was Yours, Lord, long before,
I knew his heartbeat to exist.

I couldn’t give a greater gift,
Then anything he has with You.
God, help my heart move past the hurting,
And see Christmas from his view.

My babe, I longed to see your wonder,
When we lit our Christmas tree.
But the lights you see shine brighter,
Than my blind eyes have yet to see.

God I know You know my losses,
As you watched Your own son die.
I give my child back to You Lord,
You love him even more than I.

So, blow some kisses down to Mommy,
She’ll blow some back up to you.
Merry Christmas Little Angel,
Down here I’m still missing you. ❤

© Rachel Svendsen 2014