She’s finally here!  Arriving on Father’s Day, 2013, Ketziah has entered our family unit and we’ll never be the same.

A lot has been transpiring in my heart and mind over the past several weeks leading up to her birth.  Since we never know how a birth is going to change us, I have had to hold on to words I’ve received by faith, believing that they will come to pass in a mighty way.  And they did come to pass, God was faithful, and I’m so glad that this particular mountain climb is behind me.

The very fact that Ketziah is here today can all be traced back to a simple act of obedience.  I’ve already talked often about the journey of heart change I went through after the twins’ arrival and subsequent difficult choice to let God work on our hearts and enlarge them to include more children in our family.  When I look at her dear little face today, I can’t even believe that we had considered making a permanent choice that would have kept her from ever arriving.  I’m so grateful that Abba changed my heart.  Who even knows how many blessings we cut off from our lives because we’re either too afraid or too selfish or too ignorant of His plan to walk in obedience?  How close I came to never having this precious gift.  It’s sobering in every part of my being.

To her mama and papa, Ketziah has represented obedience to us, throughout the entire pregnancy and birth.  I foolishly thought that just the choice to allow myself to get pregnant again after such a commitment to avoid it would be enough of a submission to God’s plan and that He would somehow make this pregnancy and delivery a breeze because He was so glad I had made the right choice.  I was wrong.  This was probably my most difficult pregnancy – a very close second even to carrying the twins.  Perhaps it was more difficult because I was so focused on how it “should be” after what I went through previously.  I battled more anxiety and fear than ever before.  It was an active, daily struggle of embracing all that God had for me and resisting the enemy’s desire to take away the joy of my choice to serve the Lord in this way.  That’s when her name came to us.  Her name means “sweet spice” and originates from a spice that was traditionally used in incense.  In repenting of shortsightedness as it relates to children, I believe God put her name on our hearts because what He really wanted from us was an offering of praise, of incense, before His throne.  Not only did He want us to say “yes” to His ancient ways for our family, but He wanted us to make it clear even by naming our daughter “incense” that we were wholeheartedly committing to serve Him by being partners in creation with Him.  Ketziah’s middle name is Eden, which represents our heart’s desire to reach our hands into His and walk with Him in His plans and perfect will, as He once walked with Adam and Eve in the garden and as we will one day with Him in eternity.

Bringing forth incense to the Lord seems like such a straightforward act, and yet there are many nuances of self and flesh that can get mixed into this practice.  I had many words that this baby was going to bring our family to a new level in many ways.  I trusted that she was special because having her had been and was going to be an act of worship.  There were two very important lessons for me to learn regarding this labor and delivery.

The first lesson was about making pure, undefiled offerings to the Lord.  Around my 7th month, I started listening to my HypnoBabies sound tracks daily.  HypnoBabies is a program that employs deep relaxation techniques to help pregnant moms “hypnotize” themselves in order to stay in a state of peace and rest during a time (labor) when it is very easy to lose complete control and get into a place of painful fear.  Deep relaxation is something that has to be practiced and I had experienced wonderful results with this program when I was pregnant with the twins.  Perhaps some would be put off by the idea of self-hypnotization, but these CDs are mainly filled with birth affirmations that are spoken in a positive, helpful way – not scriptural, necessarily, but certainly not negative.  I had no check in my spirit while using it with the twins’ pregnancy, mainly because I was choosing to relax myself and not submitting myself to someone else to “guide” me, and the many of the affirmations were things I would meditate on for myself anyway.  After listening to the HypnoBabies tracks for a few weeks with this pregnancy, however, I started to get uncomfortable about it.  I don’t know the reason, I just know that I wasn’t feeling as peaceful as I was during the previous pregnancy.  I prayed about it halfheartedly, asking the Lord to show me if He was asking me to stop using the tracks.  I didn’t really have a “back up relaxation plan” in place, but I promised to obey if He would make it very obvious to me what I was to do.  I went to a women’s retreat, and upon returning (and not having heard anything clearly) I plugged in my mp3 player to download my daily HypnoBabies track so I could take a nap and listen to it, but I could not find it anywhere on my computer.  I searched through every folder, trying to locate any HypnoBabies tracks, but they were all gone, completely gone.  They were not even in my Recycle bin.  I had not deleted them, nor had Pete and even a quick search in our shared database revealed that those files had simply vanished.  In that moment, the voice of the Lord came clearly to my heart.  “I do not want my incense defiled by anything; I want it to be pure.”  I had my answer.  Now, I do not believe that HypnoBabies is a bad program or evil in some way, and I would even recommend it to mamas looking for a way to train their bodies and minds to relax because it does work.  However, sometimes God asks something of us not because doing the ulterior would be sinful, but because He has something better for us.  I wanted the best portion, not something that would simply be allowable but not His perfect plan.  In meditating on this incredible experience, Yeshua began to speak to me that He wanted to be my birth coach during this birth.  He had some things that He wanted to speak, and other voices getting in the way would spoil that.  It also sobered me when I realized that He takes our offering of incense to Him very seriously.  If He deleted those files on my computer, then I knew I had better heed and obey.  To this day, I have no idea what happened to those files – only that they were there one day and gone the next.

The next lesson I had to learn was about offering incense and obedience to the Lord out of the flesh.  My pregnancies have always gone to 39 weeks with singletons, and then went to 37 weeks with my twins.  In other words, I’m always a bit early.  In the past, I consistently found myself unprepared for the early deliveries.  I would plan on 40 weeks, only to go early and not have everything ready.  With this pregnancy, I was determined to be prepared.  I had my freezer stocked with 6 weeks’ worth of frozen dinners, we had finished our school assignments, the house was clean, the laundry finished, and bags packed for the kids – all right on schedule for a 39 week delivery.  I jokingly mentioned to a few people that this might very well be the one baby that would go full term.  And so she was.  I waited with the kids for labor to start, and it didn’t.  I had plenty of Braxton Hicks contractions for several weeks, but they never really went anywhere.  Then came Shabbat, when I really thought things were going to be moving along.  I was up with pretty regular contractions all night Friday night, but they didn’t really get more intense.  By the morning, I was tired, but the contractions were still going and nothing seemed to stop them – eating, drinking, walking, lying down, etc.  They just kept right on going but not getting closer together.  Mamas who have had long labors know how frustrating this can be.  I called my midwives and they arrived and sat with me throughout the day as my contractions got closer together but only a little more intense until they were literally coming right on top of each other.  Towards the late afternoon, I started to feel like I needed to push, but it didn’t seem as clear cut as it had with previous births.  I didn’t feel like I could trust the labor, but then I also had been experiencing what certainly was not just Braxton Hicks contractions, so I didn’t really know what to do.  My midwives could see that I was pushing ineffectively, so they asked me to wait until I couldn’t NOT push.  My mom had checked me earlier in the afternoon and she could feel Ketziah’s head coming down right where it needed to be, cervix soft and opening completely, but then when I had her check me again to see if perhaps the bag of water was preventing the baby from coming down, she discovered that Ketziah had gone back up until she was not even on my cervix anymore.  The contractions started slowing down until they stopped completely.  I lay back on the bed completely exhausted, bewildered, angry, and frustrated, not to mention sore and crampy.  How could they be telling me that my labor was not even “the real thing” when I had been working so hard all day?  I couldn’t believe it when they said that what I needed most was to take a nap because my body was shutting down in exhaustion.  This was clearly a practice labor and not the real thing, and though they see things like this happen many times, they were not concerned that anything was wrong.  Fortunately, my water had not broken and Ketziah’s heartbeat was steady.  Sure enough, I felt her move up above my pelvis again, shoving her butt into my ribs where it had been planted the whole pregnancy.  After feeling her move and work down and down throughout the day, I was devastated when it seemed like we were right back where we started.  My midwives were dear to me, trying to encourage me to just let my body rest and not get anxious about what “should” have been a straightforward birth experience.  I took a long nap with almost no interrupting contractions, then got up and had some dinner, and we decided that our midwives would go home and rest and we would see what happened during the night.  By this point, the contractions were really unreliable and starting to feel like Braxton Hicks again (unpainful) though I didn’t want to admit that to myself.  I went to bed straight after dinner and slept like a log for 12 hours.  I was trying to be grateful that I was at home because had I been delivering in the hospital, it is very likely I would have had many interventions like Pitocin to force the labor to happen more efficiently, and I might very well have ended up with a c-section for failure to progress.  I knew in every fiber of my being that the desire I had for a non-violent, completely non-intervention birth and spontaneous labor was lined up with what God wanted for Ketziah’s entry into the world as well.  As hard as it would be, I would have to face the coming days with a deep commitment to stay encouraged and not allow the enemy to get me off track by trying to get me to force labor to start.  When I woke up on Sunday after a long, deep rest, Holy Spirit ever so gently but very clearly spoke to my heart.  “Are you ready to hear about why yesterday happened the way it did?”  “Yes,” I timidly and a little fearfully replied.  “I want you to know in every part of your heart and body what it is like to bring forth incense to me in the flesh.  It will be hard work, sometimes even seeming to lead to something truly fruitful.  But the fruit will not come when you obey Me in the flesh.  There will be labor, but there will be no baby.”  Ouch.  Here I had been working in the flesh on the day of rest, and bringing forth no baby.  The Lord had already made it clear to me that He would not accept my obedience on my terms, but only on His own.  I could be honest with Him in that moment and admit that I had very little patience for His timing and throughout the whole practice labor was only thinking that I needed it to happen, I needed to do whatever I could to ram this baby through, I just HAD to have this baby TODAY!  I had completely forgotten that He told me it would be in His timing.  There was nothing I could do to control His actions.  He wanted His incense to be offered to Him in the way He prescribed it to be, not with my own flesh and will mixed in.  He was not going to let me get away with defiling His plans, whether intentionally or not.  Sunday came and went, with only sore muscles and lots of pressure.  Monday came and went.  Tuesday came and went.  Wednesday, her actual due date, came and went.  I was dealing with contractions almost constantly day and night.  Some were painful and required me to breathe through them, some were barely noticeable.  But what was difficult was getting more and more exhausted with each sleepless night.  As my attitude seriously deteriorated, even after promising the Lord I would do my best to remember His word to me that this was NOT to be a labor in the flesh, but would need the empowerment of His Spirit, I was reminded over and over again of my utter humanness.  I got to the point where I asked the Lord to please ignore my whining and know that my spirit was willing but my flesh was weak.  I knew in my heart that the reality existed that I was healthy, giving birth to a healthy baby, in a loving marriage with a wonderful man, gently allowing my body to move forward to whenever would be the real delivery day.  There was absolutely nothing to complain about, and I knew it.  I’m so blessed, yet every piece of my flesh reared its ugly head all week long as morning after morning came with no baby, leaving my body sore and tired, I admitted to the Lord that I was not really in a place of receiving truth and walking it out as much as I wanted to.  I repented of a resistant heart and asked Him to be merciful to me.  He showed such love and grace to me, and I had this sense that He understood perfectly my humanness and that it would take time for these huge revelations to sink it.  But He also wasn’t going to let me have the baby until it was HIS TIMING.  So Thursday came and went.  Friday came and went.  Another Shabbat, this time with no acts of the flesh but only rest and fellowship.  Then, it was time.

Sunday, Father’s Day, I woke up and these contractions were different immediately.  I had forgotten what real labor felt like, but all that cell memory comes back in a flash!  I was in a much more peaceful place this time around.  Nothing really started getting serious until about 9:30 or 10:00 in the morning.  It was a beautiful morning, breezy and warm, just as I envisioned.  I rocked on my birth ball, listening to worship and just letting labor happen.  This was the first birth I’ve had with my midwife using doTERRA oils for helping relaxation.  They were amazing, and fit right into the theme of incense being brought forth to the King.  I smelled them almost constantly as I labored closer and closer to the finish line.  The whole birth was covered with a beautiful essence and I felt my whole body peacefully entering a state of rest.  As I got to the place of transition, I remembered what Yeshua had spoken to me earlier about wanting to be my birth coach.  Of course, I had an amazing team in the flesh, but I really wanted to be connected to the Lord during the difficult part.  In my spirit I saw Him sitting next to my right side and He kept telling me to smile when I entered the peak of each contraction.  I did, and it actually hurt quite a bit less.  “We’re bringing a baby into the world today, together, you and Me.”  He said it over and over again, and I could almost see a sheen of tears in His eyes and smile.  “Thank you, Faith, for saying yes to Me.”  I realized with those words He spoke that He was blessed by my obedience and accepted my offering of worship to Him – for without being willing, He would have had to choose a different vessel and Ketziah’s life would not have existed.  “Thank you for bringing my baby to Me on Father’s Day.”  Of course, Pete was blessed by this awesome Father’s Day gift, but we both sensed in the Spirit that it was actually Yahweh who was establishing Himself as Ketziah’s Father on that special day.  He could have chosen any day, but He chose Father’s Day.  I sensed so strongly His deep, deep pleasure in this baby, this birth, in the whole experience occurring exactly as HE planned.  In my heart, I can still see His glowing smile as He looked over every aspect of this gentle birth.  In only about 4 hours, we had arrived at the time for actual pushing.   This time, it was going to be fruitful.  This time, though I felt quite out of control in the intensity of the moment and feeling my baby turn anterior, everyone at the birth said it was actually quite peaceful and gentle.  We opened all the windows and allowed a breeze to come through the living room, where I was kneeling in preparation to deliver her.  A delicious scent of rain washed over all of us as a gentle thunderstorm passed over our house.  Nothing loud or shouting, just gentle and peaceful, as though God were announcing her arrival Himself.  Though I didn’t know just how big this baby was, I felt every ounce of her 9 lb 12 oz weight.  I’ve never had a big baby like this, and I’ve never been this connected to every sensation and every moment of birth.  I’ve always escaped or found my mind wandering away from the intensity.  Not this time.  I wanted to be there, feeling every panting breath that brought her out.  Selah, my second daughter, was determined to be there for her sister’s arrival.  I looked over at her sitting close by.  I was trying to smile and not grimace or make too much noise that might scare her.  But she gave me a huge smile and went on reading her book and waiting.  Ketziah finally rolled out, inch by tiny inch, not tearing but gently sliding out.  It was beautiful.  The whole room was filled with the scent of oils and her beautiful screaming.  She went on and on and on, letting her little lungs bellow out the sounds of her own birth experience.  I reached down and pulled her up, weeping and relishing the joy of her actually being here!  I laid down, listening to my new baby and the gentle rain storm.  As I had been delivering her, all of my children were playing in the backyard.  They came rushing into the house and all lined up on the couch to watch the baby and listen to her.  It was actually quite funny as I think back, but nobody remembered that the children were there all sitting on the couch watching us before the placenta was delivered, and we were all so excited about the baby that no one thought to have them go back outside for that part.  I’ll never forget it – I was looking down through my knees at all the kids sitting on the couch with lollipops, pointing and exclaiming as only children can do at their new baby sister.  And then it was time to deliver the placenta.  Their eyes were round like saucers as they stared at this strange process, but none of them asked to leave, even when it was offered to them to go back outside to play.  I had to laugh because it’s only a weird homeschool family like ours who would have an impromptu culmination to a unit study like this (we had been discussing birth and pregnancy for quite some time at the children’s request).  I had originally worried that at least one of them would be concerned by the sight of blood, but there was only joy and curiosity present.  Perhaps God ordained the timing so that they would not have a sense of fear of birth, but only of wonder.  Since Noah, my only boy, is still a toddler and barely understands the idea of a new baby, I hardly think he will be scarred by seeing what he saw – and fortunately, my midwives often have other kids in the room during deliveries and had the foresight to throw a cover over all the right places.  For my daughters, my prayer has been that they would understand birth from a childlike perspective of faith and trust, not terror or misunderstanding (no thanks to Hollywood for giving birth a terrible image).  I believe seeds have been planted in their hearts toward that end.

All in all, as I sit and reflect on this past week, I am so filled with amazement at God’s faithfulness.  I love that He wants to show me something new with each child that I deliver.  I am blessed in the deepest core of my soul that He accepted my offering of obedience, though I may only ever understand the full extent of that choice in eternity.  Ketziah is a gorgeous baby, nursing beautifully, growing beautifully, and may I always be grateful to my heavenly Abba, Who is so committed to my becoming holy and molded into His Son’s image that He will not let me get away with anything less than complete surrender to His plan.  I also have to say that I have the most amazing husband in the world – one who doesn’t shy away from the lessons God is teaching at the given season, and one who has been the most amazing support and coach a girl could have.  I couldn’t ask for a better man!

Bless you, my precious baby girl.  May your life always carry the scent of incense, a reminder to everyone that you are here to be a pleasure to your King.   May people be touched as you pass by them, and may the smell of offering draw them ever closer to that eternal Voice, whispering, beckoning for them to come near and experience that beautiful garden with Him as they once did so long ago.