Tirzah’s Simchat Bat

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Simchat bat means the joy of a daughter! Oh, what sublime joy!

Her fair, creamy skin, soft and delicious in its perfection like one of those disgustingly sweet frosting-filled cannolis from Cinzettis – this is the 12 lb rolls of baby delight named Tirzah Love.

Each time we bring a daughter to her introduction to the world, I am speechless even though I desire to somehow commemorate the depth of love I feel for each one I’ve had. As they get older, the sweetness is that much deeper. I looked over at my eldest two daughters, now young ladies, and was filled with gratitude for the years God has blessed me with them. I am so blessed by their words and personalities, and to grow in the Lord right alongside them has been such a treasure.

In honor of Tirzah’s simchat bat, I wrote a poem for all my children and for myself as a mama. Perhaps these words will resonate with your heart as well.

Savor
Don’t rush the savoring
This moment but a tired breath and it will be gone
Downy head, tiny grasping fists,
Skinny kicking feet
Warm body tucked perfectly into your side in the wee hours
Memorize the weight of this baby in your arms
And savor
Nurse and pray until the stars disappear in dawn’s light
Remember the tiny moments since you first became “Mother”
Insignificant, lowly, wearisome tasks strung together
Year after year
Chunky beads stained with the fingerprints of childhood
Delight in wearing that necklace, Mommy
Don it with a deliberate, quiet peace
And savor
These moments given are priceless
Know that they are gemstones in disguise
Fill the days with the incense of faithfulness
Wear well the grace of being poured out
And savor
From morning to evening, who knows what actually got done?
Grasp that enchantment that wells over in your soul
When you are swept up in the love for this baby
For all your babies grown tall and full of life
Hardly notice your shape has changed forever
Those faces looking up at you
Don’t even know your tummy isn’t flat
Savor that you are not the same woman you were
Kneel down to wipe those eager faces stained with yogurt
Listen to their stories and music and questions again and again
Marvel as you wash those chubby knuckles covered in dirt and marker
Gaze into those sleepless eyes watching yours in the darkness
Hug that daughter whose head reaches your chin now
And savor
With a heart overflowing
Discern that in receiving them in My Name
You receive Me

-November 13, 2015

F.L.E.X.I.B.L.E.

Between having a baby, starting college, celebrating the fall festivals, and a plethora of little mishaps like a clogged kitchen sink, a leaking water heater, and an emergency trip to the dentist after Noah had a close call with the deck and lost three front teeth, the past several weeks have been a flurry of activity around our household. In the midst of it, Yeshua has held me fast and shown me some ways I need to yield even more to His guiding in our school and family life.

For those who have asked for information about Sonlight, this blog is going to be a review about the curriculum we have used as the educational spine of our entire homeschool journey and how the changes it has undergone in the recent years will affect us directly. More to the point, what mileage is God going to get out of the things I wish I could change but can’t?

Since we school year-round, the times that we finish up books and start new ones usually coincide nicely together except for when I make our biggest purchase of the year: Sonlight curriculum. We love Sonlight’s program, from the literature selections to the missions focus to the balanced approach on American history (no ethnocentrism here – yay!) It represents quite an investment but since almost every book is non-consumable, I get to use everything for all of the children and that actually saves quite a bit of money in the long run. Sonlight’s printed schedule is 36 weeks long, so schooling year-round with every Sabbath week off and about six additional weeks for the fall festivals gives us a 40 week school year. Everything else we use is an average of 25-30 weeks in length, which means we can finish a whole level of Apologia, Math-U-See, and IEW writing courses and be about a third of the way through the next level by the time I have to start new Sonlight material. This staggering works very well and it keeps the overwhelm much lower.

I originally thought I would fill up those four extra weeks by taking bunny trails for unit studies and slowing down on some of the books to savor them more. But we are actually a bit ahead of schedule because we have not been able to put books down this year! We even took the biography of Adoniram Judson and shared it as a family for story time in the evenings, giving us “two-a-day” readings for several weeks. It has been incredible. I was left with the wonderful problem of a rapidly dwindling pile of unread literature. It was time to order Core E. I am glad that we will be able to ease a bit into the new year’s books. We’re covering American history and I want to be able to help the girls glean all they can from the rich stories.

Sonlight has made some key changes in the recent years to their Instructor’s Guides. The guides are an invaluable resource filled with scheduling, discussion questions, vocabulary, maps, timeline figures, and many important author’s notes throughout the year. Each week provides 5 days’ worth of material filed behind a weekly schedule-at-a-glance.

There used to be the option to purchase Language Arts (in the same Instructor Guide format) separately from the Core curriculum (history, Bible, geography, literature – namely, what I came to Sonlight for). Then that option was done away with and it became a requirement to purchase the Language Arts curriculum packaged with the Core. This meant you would have to purchase the Language Arts whether or not you would be using them, so there is more expense each year. I could file away the Language Arts pages for Cores A through C easily though because the readers do not correspond directly to the Cores but are based on skill level. However, with Core D and above, all of the Language Arts items are fitted right into the schedule along with the other material because the readers correspond with the history and most children are fluent readers by the time they get to Core D. This has added a LOT of text to filter through each day when searching for history and literature discussion questions and information.

There used to be an option to have each book’s discussion questions, notes, history, mapping, etc. separated into a book study guide that was separate from the weekly schedule. While the schedule still provided a basic suggestion for how to flow through the books each year, having a separate book study guide would enable a homeschooling parent to pull those sheets out and work through the book at his/her own pace. Falling behind or reading ahead would not be a problem because the material for each book was extremely easy to find. Since there are no book study guides offered now, I am forced to go through each week searching for information on the books through all of the Language Arts that I don’t use to find the correct day and chapter information. It is extremely frustrating. We end up missing information because I cannot find it. We are unable to read that far ahead or fall too far behind because it will make it even more difficult flipping back and forth between weeks in search of book information. This makes Sonlight much less flexible and user-friendly. Basically, I have to do their schedule as it’s written, taking away a lot of the freedom I felt initially to schedule the books and read them the way that worked for our family. Even if I do the schedule exactly the way it is written, the amount of information I must ignore (Language Arts) to find the book notes I am looking for each time I open the schedule takes away much of my joy in teaching, especially since I am usually nursing a baby with one hand and trying to go through the schedule with my other hand.

Because Sonlight’s Language Arts are not rigorous enough, I have painted myself into a corner by piecing together LA material each year on my own. After years of scouring and experimenting, I have found so many language arts programs that I love that I simply can’t use Sonlight’s LA without seeing how much is missing. We have found what works, so essentially I have to buy TWO language arts programs each year: one that we will delve into with enthusiasm, and one that is just a waste of paper and money. I liked a lot of the Sonlight LA writing prompts and suggestions for teaching vocabulary, etc. but it jumps around so much that my children had a hard time retaining information when we were experimenting with it. Sonlight does not teach Latin and at least in the younger grades does not develop writing skills with enough direction. I have to admit that it was with a little disappointment that I ordered Core E for the oldest girls.

Disappointment or not, Box Day is still quite the event around here. The first book Jaelah picked up was the encyclopedia on the World Wars, which is a serious interest for her right now. I cried when I saw all of the amazing discussion questions and historical information added neatly into each day with nice little checkboxes next to them. I don’t want to miss even one! I have always written my own schedules when homeschooling because it enables me to work around whatever is going on in our family and to make space for any extracurricular activities my children are doing. With lower Sonlight cores (Pre-K through C) it was quite a bit easier to re-arrange items as needed. All I had to do was take a few extra weeks before the start of the school year to get my own schedule set up. I use Homeschool Tracker software to keep records of all my books and lesson plans. It is amazing and has served me well despite the parts of Sonlight’s schedule that don’t work for us. Now that we are approaching middle school, however, we are covering vast amounts of material. I thought I had found a way to overcome this hurdle this past year when we did Core D. Sonlight does not offer electronic Instructor Guides that can be copied and pasted into my own software, so I purchased a pen scanner and scanned the entire 500 plus pages of material for each book and separated that out into Word documents, essentially creating my own study guides. Yes, that is how much I wanted study guides organized by book instead of day and week. Don’t ask me how long this took. When I opened the Core E box and saw the Instructor Guide lying there in its pristine plastic wrap, I looked over at my much-used pen scanner and wondered if it would actually make it through scanning another 500 pages this year. My heart sunk at the very notion of how much time I would have to invest to make my own little study guides.

It was right then that the Holy Spirit dropped a thought into my heart.

“What if you just, you know, didn’t scan 500 pages of instructor guides?”

What if you take your idea of scheduling, flexibility, re-typing and re-organizing everything until it is just so and throw it out the window?

What if for the first time in your homeschool journey YOU become flexible instead of trying to bend everything else to your version of a schedule?

And just like that, He poked at my sense of control yet again. Lord, haven’t I given up enough control yet? Apparently, He wants to take me to the as yet undiscovered heights of trust falls this year. Again, He wants me to yield another portion that I’m holding in a death grip.

After talking to Pete and praying about my options, I came to a conclusion. When we finish up Core D books in the next couple of weeks, I am going to start Core E and use it exactly as it’s written. Gulp. No, this does not deal with any of my frustrations about the Language Arts being shoved right in there with all the nuggets of information I really want, but that is an obstacle much easier to overcome than scanning everything into my own book notes. I will actually check off the boxes of someone else’s schedule this year for the first time in my homeschool journey. Not because I don’t have a gift for creating lesson plans and guides of my own, but because there are times when having all the control actually limits me more instead of giving me the freedom I need. I have to honestly ask myself if I would rather get all of the amazing insights offered in the schedule in a different order than I would choose, or risk missing some wonderful discussion tangent just so I can have my own checkboxes. The thought of using Sonlight as an open-and-go curriculum this year instead of pinching and pulling it to my own specifications is beginning to feel like a huge relief. I will still be using all of my own Language Arts materials, but those are far easier to organize and mold into our days.

Yes, I still eagerly look forward to the day when Sonlight offers electronic guides, and I’m still going to be pushing for the book study guides to be separated for maximum flexibility for homeschoolers. It is good business sense for Sonlight to offer the two different styles of Instructor Guides – one with everything laid out precisely so all you have to do is open the notebook and start reading, and one with separate book study guides that you can use at your own family’s pace and create your own lesson plans. It would be really nice if language arts went back to being an option instead of a requirement as well, but I don’t think I’ll hold my breath for that one.

I am going to take my massive blue Sonlight notebooks and go through them page by page this year. It will be an adventure for us, and it will keep me on track as I take my own college classes. I am thrilled about all the awesome books we will read together. Oh, the talks we’ll have!

There will be no flipping back and forth between pages and pages of material, so nurse on, Tirzah!

Completion and a new beginning

My five year old son defines wealth as the cuteness of his baby sister. “Mommy, we’re SO rich.” His earnest little face looks with adoration on Tirzah, and he constantly tells me how adorable she is and how he feels like he is as rich as a king because he gets to be her brother. Literally, his mind cannot comprehend how her precious life could even be compared to money. I almost don’t want to tell him what people usually mean when they talk about being “rich.” To do so would take away his perfect innocence in believing that the people in our lives are what make us wealthy. He’s absolutely right on so many levels.

Tirzah arrived into our family in a particularly special place. She is my seventh baby to live here on earth, but is really the eighth baby in line behind a brother who went home early. She was conceived on the very day he was to be born. I rejoice that Yahweh saw fit to give life to us even as we wept on that day, taking comfort in our kiddushin. When life comes forth, it is often in the darkest of night. Seedlings start to grow in the soil, being awoken to the warmth of the sun before ever seeing its light. It reminds me that He is always life-giving, always bringing forth a fulfilled promise in some area of life even when other stormy circumstances would seek to cloud us completely from His glorious workings. It takes work to look for the hope of the rainbow.

Seven is the number of completion, and eight is the number of new beginnings. Taken together, Tirzah’s life represents both closing doors and opening doors at the same time. Her name means “God delights” and also refers to the beautiful place He brings us to. When I first heard this definition, I immediately thought of Psalm 23. He restores my soul. He leads me beside still waters. I shall not be in want because HE is my Shepherd. Her middle name is Love, which has an obvious meaning on the surface and a deeper meaning in what it represents to us as her parents. We didn’t pick the Hebrew word for her middle name because there are several words for love in Hebrew, each with a slightly different focus. Chesed is a noun and means goodness and kindness, favor and mercy. God embodies chesed because His very nature is goodness and kindness, and His covenant with His people is one of everlasting mercy and favor. Racham in verb form means to “show compassion” and is often used to refer to God and how He shows compassion on His people. It is an active word, used descriptively in how He brings His people Israel back from captivity in Babylon, how He loves those who fear Him as a father loves his children, and is pictured in how He “abundantly pardons” those who repent of their sin and turn to Him. Interestingly, racham shares the same root as the word rechem, which means womb. There is much illustrated by such a tiny word as love. The compassion we show when we care about lost souls. The life-overtaking power in what I feel towards my children and husband. The sweetness of loving friendship we share with brothers and sisters in Christ. God’s love nature must be expressed. First, through Yeshua. Then He chooses to do it through us, imperfect vessels though we are.

I believe Tirzah is the last baby I will birth. There are many reasons for this, most of them being health-related. However, I have another reason to be excited that Tirzah is both a “completion” and a “new beginning.” I believe that as the door is closing to my child-bearing, the door is opening to our family adopting or fostering. Adoption has long been something on my heart, but I’ve been content thus far having all my babies through pregnancy and have put adoption on a back shelf for when God would awaken it properly. It has only been in the last year or so that God has begun doing a work in both of us for growing our family in a different way. I still have no idea how God will accomplish this. There are probably more obstacles than there are green lights. After all, we have a huge family already, we have no money for such and endeavor, and there are many things with my kids pulling my focus and energy already. But the needs of children the world over are vast and heart-wrenching and our God is not limited if indeed He has purposed us to be a family to the orphan. We’ve asked the Lord to break our hearts over the things that break His. Toddlers running around naked, alone, and hungry and children dirty, neglected, and abused break His heart. We aren’t supposed to look away just because it is uncomfortable to acknowledge the utter darkness many millions of children endure in this world. He is moving in us to say “yes” even though we have no idea what this process will look like. Saying “yes” to Yahweh’s will is part of the reason we’ve given the middle name Love to our last baby. Will we agree with Him in how He longs to show compassion? Will we act out the divine mercy and favor we’ve been shown? Will we be kind to those who God Himself passionately exhorts us to remember and care for? We are making the first step into the next frontier of our lives, whatever ministry God has destined for us to accomplish.

I’m saying goodbye to a season that has defined so much of me that sometimes I don’t know where I begin and my children end. There is grief as I look down at the precious little body nursing at my breast, willing my heart to memorize the weight of her in my arms all the while knowing how close I am to being “baby-less.” I leave the comfort and sleep of my bed to nurse her several times a night, smiling in spite of the exhaustion because I’m realizing these quiet moments are numbered. It would be easy in many ways to continue getting pregnant and having babies. It’s what I know. Indeed, there is a large part of my heart that wants to keep on having children, despite my body rebelling against this notion. I am in a comfort zone where I know what to do, what to expect, and how to survive it. Stepping out into a brand new place where I’m not only being stretched to a capacity for what teenagers will need, but towards increasingly advanced school work, not to mention what kinds of children and situations we’ll see as we pursue being foster parents and/or adoptive parents. Much has been required of me in these ten years I’ve been a mama, but I feel like I’m on a precipice, about to dive off headfirst to an even greater degree of pouring myself out. The picture I keep getting is of me letting go of a railing as I stand right over the edge. I’ve never been very good at trust falls even when I’m falling into the Everlasting Arms. But here I am! It’s thrilling and terrifying at the same time. Meanwhile, as I fall into the new season I’m reminded that it’s okay to cry tears of goodbye, to know that every fiber of my being will miss the treasure of carrying and nourishing babies. Each day seems sacred to me now that I know these moments are slipping through my fingers. Many women have told me that the ache never really goes away. How can it when we get to be part of something so divinely wonderful as creating life? The thought of not bringing any more souls into the world saddens me, but there is so much life here already that I can impact. If I keep my eyes open and on Him, He will show me where He wants me to pour out my nurturing.

For today, I embrace fully the moment I’m in. It’s amazing how this new perspective means that I am actually seeing the truly meaningful experiences of motherhood instead of the superficial ones. The mundane becomes exotically beautiful. Not even a post-seven-baby-body can take away this joy.

A rainbow after the storm is past

“Pain is only pain; unless we resist it, then it becomes torment.”

I haven’t talked a lot about pain in my previous birth stories because I have always understood that the pain is truly secondary to the fact that a new life is born into the world. Yes, it’s present, but it doesn’t have to be the focus. There are a myriad of ways to work with the pain, to accept it and embrace it and overcome it. Pain never has affected me as deeply as it did with this baby. Never before this birth did I feel that my pain was out of control or that I was unable to stay ahead of it. In fact, I’ve often been able to get all the way to 8-9 cm without even calling it “pain” and then talk myself through those last 10 contractions or so until time to push. Literally, I could always look at the clock when transition seemed to be starting and tell myself that I was going to be meeting my baby in about 30 minutes because that’s how it has always gone. I know how my body works and I’ve trusted the process completely.  I wouldn’t say there is a “magical” formula to birthing this way. What I would say is that it all comes down to perspective. How do I as a mother enter my labor? Do I start labor from a place of trust, peace, and surrender or fear, anxiety, and tension?

If we are not careful, exerting diligence in something has a way of training us to expect a certain outcome. I love pursuing diligence and excellence in my life, and I believe the Lord is pleased by an attitude of chipping away at something until we see the desired result. Holy Spirit is constantly beside us working the flesh out of our lives and working His unction into us. The downside is when we create expectations that may or may not be met and base our success on the fact that we’ve been diligent, not considering that God might have a purpose for us outside the realm of our expectations. I think that I fell into this trap during my pregnancy. I expected much of the methods I used throughout pregnancy to get baby into a good position for birth and to train my body for the marathon of labor. But what do you say when you’ve done everything “right” and still don’t get the perfectly desired result? In the case of this birth, I wanted a baby in optimal fetal position ready to be born in a straightforward way without any hassle. What do you say when eating well, exercising, chiropractic care, relaxation, red raspberry leaf, proper posture, and all the supplements don’t seem to bring about what you think they should? I was diligent during this pregnancy. With God as my witness, I did not even lean back on a couch or chair after 28 weeks. There are two ways I can look at the way I prepared. I can say it was worth the effort in retrospect because I could have had a much more difficult experience, or I can say it was a total waste of time and let resentment color the memory of the birth. I do believe that my diligence paid off, but I trusted more in the methods than in the fact that God is the One who delivers during birth no matter the circumstances. I didn’t start labor from a place of peace and trust but rather in forced confidence in something that ended up not being what delivered me anyway.

Tirzah was head down but ROT for most of the third trimester. This isn’t a problem usually because babies turn during labor anyway and will find the right way to get through the pelvis, especially with mothers who have labored successfully. A baby might turn posterior or anterior, but she will find a way through most of the time. Since I’ve been so obsessive about avoiding a posterior baby (I’ve had two who turned during labor, which isn’t very much fun) I did a lot of floor work and positioning to keep her back towards my front, and it worked for the most part. I started to sense something was different in the last month of pregnancy, however, when her body turned more into what looked to the midwives like a slight oblique lie, even though her head was really low. I had at least two to three weeks of nights of laboring contractions that did not seem to be leading to labor. The strong contractions would get close together, but then taper off without moving forward. They did not feel the same as my pre-labor nights with previous pregnancies, when I could feel my cervix being opened. I entered real labor completely exhausted, not trusting myself, not trusting the process, not trusting God, and anxious about how all the uncertainty leading up to birth day was going to affect Tirzah’s entry. She started labor dilating my cervix towards my hip due to being somewhat sideways, not down and out through my pelvis. I found that I had to be much more active during this labor and was unable to rest through early contractions. They started strong and stayed strong. Her head was slightly asynclitic all the way through 8 cm and my midwife could feel her head moving around and around trying to wiggle her way down. Struggling to find her way out, my poor baby was moving her head into ligament and bone. Fortunately, my water did not break even with this strange positioning so her head was cushioned. Pete read Scriptures to me and I listened to Fernando Ortega and Young Oceans, which are forever ingrained in my mind as the music of overcoming now. My midwives were praying and speaking to the baby to get herself aligned. Wisely, they did not tell me all that was going on while I was in the midst of the labor or I would have lost faith entirely. They didn’t say until later that they expected several more hours of labor until the cervix ridge was softened and moved. We used gravity in all positioning until it simply hurt too much and I had to lie down. I couldn’t get ahead of my emotions and cried through most of the transition. I have never asked to be transported to the hospital so I could get an epidural, but I did this time. I told Pete I was finished. I remember the moment I gave up the willingness to see this through. I no longer cared about being strong, I simply didn’t want to feel any more pain. And that was when it became unbearable to even consider going through one more contraction. They were so much harder than they had ever been before in any of my labors. I was at the end of myself utterly and completely. It was a confirmation of the picture the Lord had given me in the last few weeks of pregnancy as I was exhaustedly slogging my way through each day after nights of contractions. I saw myself as though I were dust, swept out in such a fine layer that it couldn’t be spread any further. He said He was bringing me to the end of my own capacity and desired that I would press even beyond the impossible boundaries of being completely spent. He wanted to bring me to the end of myself, where I can find Him and His strength. It was right around that moment that things started to turn around. It was just then that I moved beyond my capacity into God carrying me completely. My cervix had finally aligned with my pelvis and she was on her way. At first, I thought the second stage would move really quickly along. But because of Tirzah’s tipped position, pushing was much harder than usual. I was expecting two or three pushes and she would be out like all my other babies (even my 9 lb 12 oz fatty came out in three or four pushes), but the back of her head was presenting, not the crown of her head and her chin was tucked almost too deeply. It was the strangest sensation as I couldn’t tell what was head and what was body – it just felt like this gigantic creature inside me pressing out on all sides. I was positioned almost straight up for delivery and even with gravity working with me it still took everything in me to get her out. I cannot even describe the bliss of relief when she finally slid out onto the bed. There is nothing more euphoric than taking that first deep breath and realizing you haven’t even been able to take a deep breath for months with the baby jammed into your ribs.

This is one of those times when I see how much of a benefit home birth can be in a non-textbook birth. Had I not been able to eat and move around, I can’t imagine how I could have lasted as long as I needed to. I can’t imagine not being able to deliver in the position I needed to be in for her to come out. I’m glad that I didn’t have access to an epidural because it likely would have slowed things down or perhaps even stalled them all together even if it offered temporary relief. Gravity was a stronger force for me this time as it needed to be. I am so grateful for the home births I had that weren’t as painful and difficult, but seeing how the freedom to birth despite difficult odds this time has given me a new appreciation for midwifery. The fact is, birth is difficult. I’m hardly the only woman who ever had a baby in a non-ideal position in labor. I’ve added my story to the wisdom and experience of the millions of women who have gone before me and that feels like a great accomplishment. I feel strong, not because I overcame but because God overcame through me. He brought me over the finish line in His way. Why things had to work out the way they did is up to Him, not me, but knowing I can trust Him and that He protected me through this valley is profoundly comforting.

Tirzah Love is my rainbow baby. A rainbow baby is the one that comes after a loss. When I look at the difficulty I had to press through to bring Tirzah forth, I am reminded of how often there is darkness before a storm is past. Emotionally, the pregnancy was difficult and there were many moments of fragility as I pondered the loss of a son and bringing to birth a daughter whose life would simply not be if Joshua had not left us before it was time. She is a special and beautiful promise – one that is destined to live and has a purpose beyond imagination. She is a precious gift that I appreciate with every fiber of my being. I’ve learned much about the nature of God in His faithfulness and mercy towards me in the midst of not knowing exactly how He will reveal His promises in my life. All I need to know is that He will. What a treasure He has given me.

Of bloody noses and yearning eyes

My children can probably set their clocks to their mama’s hormone-induced rushing about that occurs toward the end of every single pregnancy they have witnessed. This summer has been no different. My planning and organization often gets the better of me as I try to cram mercilessly fit every possible item I can into our school schedule up until the very day I go into labor and prefer to even be working on some read alouds during early labor so as not to waste any precious time getting our boxes checked for the year.

Then this summer and this baby happened. I vaguely remember having to be on bed rest due to some early labor signs with my third baby seven years ago. At the time, I think the main reason I was having so many contractions was because I was running around potty training a 2 year old, still carrying around a 1 year old, and hugely pregnant with my third baby in 2.5 years. Schooling wasn’t what put me in bed for those last few weeks with Chavah; physical exhaustion was. This summer, I did have another 2 year old to potty train, but the results were abysmal and with early labor quickly becoming a real possibility I had to abandon my grand scheme of not having two children in diapers again (at least it’s not three, like we’ve already lived through twice). Besides, it’s high time I learned that exerting my will over issues of les toilettes has never worked in my favor with children who simply will. not. go. until they are ready. No box checked here.

I had a grand vision of filling my freezer with neatly labeled THM-friendly meals and having several weeks’ worth of freshly-baked sourdough bread sliced and in the big freezer for the children’s lunches. But chopping onions for 30 different casseroles and kneading dough for 20 loaves of bread while on your feet all day does not bode well for early labor. I had to give up on the “neatly frozen stacked bread loaves” box but gratefully checked the box for frozen dinners due to some amazingly selfless and beautiful women I have in my life helping me. And as God would have it, He provided a way for me to fill my freezer up with whole grain bread on sale for $1 a loaf at a bakery outlet anyway with no kneading required. He’s so good to me. Looking around at some of the organizational projects I had set aside for myself in the month of August is laughable to me now because I really thought I would be up to doing them.  Looking at crooked list of check boxes for school and home stuff has been overwhelming me quite a bit lately.

I’ve taken some mental notes of what the past few weeks of our homeschool has been like, and I’m not impressed with myself. Sure, having some stressed out moments is totally normal before a birth. But then I took a good hard look at the me who was working with Noah the other day as he struggled to get control of a bloody nose while doing a reading lesson. That mommy didn’t look with compassion on her son but pushed him hard to finish the reader. I looked at the me putting Ketziah down impatiently so I could wipe up the coffee she spilled on our vocabulary cards even though I know she’s longing for connected cuddles and senses something significant is happening soon. I listened to my tone as I finished up a very difficult math book with my oldest two girls and saw how I didn’t show them grace as they struggled through real algebra for the first time. Didn’t see that one coming when we started out the year, by the way. Word to the wise, “Solving for an Unknown with Multiplicative Inverse” is just code for “tear your hair out right now to save yourself some time.” All in all, I saw fleshliness and anxiety creeping into every corner of my life in the way my nerves were frayed and I took out my frustration on the children for having to be resting and not getting to accomplish all the things on my list.

Last week I had just crossed over into 37 weeks, which is considered full-term but is still not the ideal for a home delivery and that very night, I was up with what I thought surely must be labor. I couldn’t sleep through the contractions every five minutes that never got longer, stronger, closer together. I didn’t fall asleep until 4 in the morning. The whole time, all I was thinking about was the fact that I had so many things left undone. Oil change on the van. Finish Noah’s and Hosannah’s reader. Finish the current IEW curriculum with Jaelah and Selah. Cleaning the house. One last date night with Pete before baby. Several loads of laundry. Several items needing to be picked up at the store. Replace closet lightbulbs. Wash the towels and sheets for birth kit. So many other tedious little things. The sense of incompleteness sucked me into a pit of depression. I really thought the baby was coming, and I wasn’t excited at all because of…my list?

Holy Spirit pressed on me then that what He wants to deal with during this time of waiting until baby does arrive is my sense of completeness and how it differs from His definition. In a totally exhausted state the next day, I read a blog post about Christians being unhappy because they look for happiness and goodness apart from Yahweh Himself. It hit me squarely in the heart. For quite awhile now, I’ve been working through giving up control.  God has been showing me the areas where I try to manage and keep His hands off, and it’s been a process of learning to let those things go. I’m still not out of the woods. But now He goes and touches on my very sense of completeness and essentially, goodness? What is so good about finishing a list of tasks? Why does the need to experience that feeling mean that I have to pursue it relentlessly regardless of the cost to my children, husband, or myself? Why does it have to be me who cleans my house and freezes my meals for the sense of satisfaction it brings when I have so many friends willing to help? Is it somehow not a success when I have help? What is it about getting through a school book before the arbitrary deadline I’ve set that seems like such an accomplishment? I am seeing how I’ve been slave to finishing things for so much of my life that I don’t even know what it looks like to leave things undone. Not that follow-through and perseverance are not important aspects of the believer’s walk. But I’ve taken these concepts too far and demanded too much. I believe God is saying that there must be a point in time in my life when I can truthfully say, “good enough is enough.” Where is the me trusting God to fill in all the gaps with His way of doing things? Where is the me finding a way to keep my eyes on the eternal instead of the endless list of undones? Truly, how can I take such a deep breath of relief after I’ve just mopped my kitchen floor when I know full well it will be smeared with jam by dinnertime? The main answer to all of the question is that I’m searching for something that is apart from God. I’m both controlling and getting completeness from it. Cleaning the house is one thing – but attaching my completeness to it and being unwilling to accept anything less is looking for good apart from God. Finishing our school books for the year is wonderful and worthy of recognition. I desire to do absolutely everything we put our hands to with excellence – but there is no true goodness when I’ve pushed my kids so hard that we’ve lost any sense of enjoyment in learning and our focus on God, the Giver of learning. In the wee hours of that morning last week, I found that the question posed to me by the Lord was, “what is truly lost by having a baby before all the boxes get checked?” Nothing! Duh. How absurd that a brand new life would somehow need to be on hold so I could finish a few chores.

In keeping with His merciful nature, God has given me these past several days of not having much labor at all during the nights to ponder what He’s speaking. I have been able to finish several things and check several boxes. However, I am realizing just how deeply-seated this pattern has been in my life and I want to do something somewhat radical to break through to the lesson. What do psychologists call it – cognitive behavioral therapy? I’m going to be forcing myself to do something that up until now has been unthinkable because it’s so uncomfortable for me, but I know I must for the sake of my spiritual growth. Before Ketziah was born, I was cleaning the house from top to bottom every day because I was so obsessive about my checklist being finished on the day she was born. I did laundry constantly so there would not even be a dirty washcloth when little princess was making her debut. This time, I’m going to wash my sheets for my birth kit and wipe down the toilets when they get disgusting over the next couple of weeks, but I refuse to let even a moment of incompleteness wash over me if baby happens to arrive when there are a few dust bunnies on my dresser. No daily cleaning here! And we are going to be starting our school break now, adding two whole weeks on to what was intended to be six break weeks after baby’s arrival. What is the worst that could happen by working in a little extra break time? We won’t get through a spelling lesson. The twins will have some undone piano theory pages. Oh, the horror! I’m going to take some extra time to be fully present with my children. Seeing the yearning in their eyes for something other than pressing through school has really gotten to me and I intend connect with them fully before their new sister arrives.

This is me putting one foot in front of the other in a new kind of trust walk, one that is sure to be messy but one that is increasingly obvious as part of the next level for me. I think completeness goes hand in hand with control, and both have to be surrendered to the Father, Who is the Source of all and is in control of all. Here’s to me learning what that looks like.