Last Minute Thoughts

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Thanksgiving is almost here. As if you didn’t already know that fact. Most of you are probably traveling, or hunkering down in your warm houses against the cold outside to celebrate in the light of candles and the love of family. Boy, that sounded sappy.

I have the Thanksgiving jitters right now. I always feel this way before a major holiday. Especially if I am contributing to the dinner menu, which I am this year. It’s not that I’m not a competent cook, on the contrary, I am an excellent cook (sheesh, now I’m sounding arrogant), I just pause for two seconds in this rushed week, and try and take in the picture as a whole, and it makes me feel restless, jittery, and joyful, all at the same time. It’s a feeling akin to drinking a large cup of coffee on an empty stomach. These days, ordinary and holy during this gradual ascent into Christmas season remind me so much of my own frailty. These days remind me that they are fleeting beyond belief.

The now and the not yet are in constant revolution in our lives. One doesn’t stop so the other can catch up. Which is why during holidays especially, we are drawn in the now to be reflective over what has, is, and will be to come. We are living lives in the now that will reflect our lives in the not yet. Holy feasts, feasts beyond compare, will be held in the not yet, but we are commanded to mimic them in the now. Of course, the most important reminder feast and sacrament that we are commanded to observe is communion, (all other feasts are up to personal preference, and we are NOT to judge other people if they observe them or not). That feast, communion, fully combines the was, is, and is to come in our lives through JESUS, and puts all other feasts into perspective.

If you are living your life completely focused on the was, it’s time to stop. If you are living your life completely focused on the now, cease and desist. And if you are living life always looking for the to come, you need to look around you again. Try as much as you can to live life focused on all three, and you will be doing better than most people.

Try and have a Happy Thanksgiving, and a joyful start to your Christmas season.

Coram Deo!

Anna

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Sleep, Sleep!

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Two year olds are fascinating to listen to. When you can interpret what they are saying. Of course, they get fixated on certain words, and then their conversations are comprised of 4-5 different words. Which they use for everything.

My conversation with Kristina this afternoon occurred while we were lying together in mommy and daddy’s bed, trying to rest for a few minutes while smallest one was napping in her room.

Roo, “Mommy, sleep, sleep!”

Mommy, “Yes, Roo, we are trying to sleep.”

Roo decides to stand up and start bouncing on the bed. 

Mommy, “No no, Roo, you need to lay back down.”

Roo flops down with her blankie. “Sleep, sleep, pillow.” This excites her, and she flails her arms while lying face down on the pillow. Mommy tries to avoid getting hit in the head.

Roo giggles. “Sleeping on the bed, Mommy. Nap! Daddy?”

Mommy, “Yes, Roo, we are napping on the bed. Close your eyes and go to sleep. Daddy’s not here right now.

Roo half squints her eyes, then spies the flower patterned curtains hanging behind the headboard.

“Flowers, sleep, sleep!” She is excited and proud of herself for identifying the flowers.

“Yes, flowers, aren’t they pretty?” 

“Hi! Pretty, flowers!” 

Mommy encourages Roo to lay back down and close her eyes again in a futile attempt to get a couple minutes of rest. Then the kitty jumps on the bed. Roo promptly throws her blankie on the cate and lies on top of her. 

“No, Roo! Get off the cat!” Mommy rescues the kitty, and throws the indignant kitty off the bed.

“Sleep, sleep!” 

Well, we tried.

Coram Deo,

Anna

From a Railway Carriage

This poem is dedicated to mine and Bekah’s trip with four young children on the train this coming Sunday. There’s a magic about seeing life fly by from the window of a railcar that I’ve longed to enjoy. I hope all goes well for us! 🙂

From A Railway Carriage
by Robert Louis Stevenson

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.
Here is a child who clamber and scrambles, —
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And there is the green for stringing daisies!
Here is a cart run away in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill, and there is the river:
Each a glimpse and gone for ever!

Coram Deo!
Anna

Catch 22

Sarah is still not quite ready to come home. Her blood pressure needs to come down more before the doctors feel comfortable with releasing her. Eclampsia seizures or even a stroke can sometimes occur, even after the baby is born, so they are making darn sure that she is going to be on the road to recovery with lowered blood pressure and improved cognitive ability before they give her the green light to go home.

It’s a bit of a Catch 22, however, since Sarah is a homebody who doesn’t like being at the hospital. Not that the staff hasn’t been helpful and caring with her, she just misses the familiarity of her home, and family around her — tonic clonic seizures will almost always cause some memory loss, as well, so she feels disoriented about not being able to fill in the gaps. All she remembers is that the ambulance transported her to the hospital, and then she woke up in a hospital room without Athanasius. It’s hard to feel secure when you are wake up after being in labor, and you don’t have your baby, and you are surrounded by strange people!

Anyway, it is stressful on Sarah being stuck in a hospital room 24/7, especially while being disoriented. She is doing better now that Athanasius is with her. But she still wants to come home right now, but can’t until her blood pressure comes down. At the same time, her blood pressure is still high because she is stressed about not being home! It’s a Catch 22.

So, dear friends, be praying for her BP to lower so that she will be released and come back where we can take care of her more easily, and she will continue to get the rest that she needs… It will be a major blessing to have that happen. She needs lots of assistance with nursing and taking care of Athanasius, too, and it’s hard on Steve being the only one to help with that all night long. I’m sure I’ll be on night duty to help with getting Athanasius up and changed, and put back down — it’ll be like having a newborn myself again! 😉 But it will be so much better than Sarah attempting to do all those things in the hospital room alone.

Coram Deo!
Anna

Arriving Home

Yesterday went well, considering I was flying with alone with a two year old and a five month old. There were no major meltdowns, just a few close calls, even on my part. My connection time to Sacramento was a mere 41 minutes (bearing in mind that I was juggling taking care of two little girls), and when I had located my gate, changed diapers, given Roo her snack, and sat down on the one spare seat at my gate to nurse a screaming Sofia, they started boarding. It wasn’t a happy Mommy moment. But we managed to make it here in one piece, all the same!

Sarah will be released from the hospital tomorrow, Lord willing, after everything checks out all right. Recovering completely from eclamptic seizures, on top of recovering from a cesarean, ON TOP of recovering from already going through 24 hours of labor is going to be slow and hard — I am so thankful for my family — on down to 11 year old William who is GREAT with entertaining and helping little toddler. Everyone is showing their love for Sarah in very real ways. Athanasius will not lack for anybody to hold him! I’m grateful for the blessings of church family and friends who are also jumping in and offering their help in any way possible.

Bekah and Dylan also drove down to help out with Sarah and Athanasisus, as well as just taking care of daily home duties here while Mom and Dad have been so busy at the hospital. So Roo has her buddy Dubbers to play with for a while, and Ellie has miles and miles of carpet to crawl across. They’re all learning to sleep in a room together, which has been an interesting experience… “sleeping” might not be the word for it.

Life is abuzz with business. Breakfasts, lunches, and dinners are constantly being prepared for people of all ages and diets. Entertaining toddlers and babies is a non-stop job, as well as making sure all the little people take naps, and get diaper changes and baths. I end up realizing halfway through the morning that I need to eat breakfast, too! Coffee is always first thing, food is secondary.

We’re all feeling much better about Sarah and Athanasius’ situation, we just want to get them home so it’s easier on everybody to help take care of them, and get Sarah into full-time recovery mode. Hospitals are a hard place to do that because even with the best of care, they just aren’t home, and there is something about being at home that contributes mentally to the healing process.

More updates will come. For now, I need to go take care of more children, and make sure dinner gets to the table before 9 in the evening! 😉

Coram Deo,
Anna

Not a Schmaltzy Peace

In just a little while, I am flying to California to see my family. I’m braving the airports by myself with a two year old and a five month old in tow. Either it will be much easier than I imagine, or it will be a long, long 5 hours on airplanes and in the airports! Come what may, toddler tantrums, blowouts, or screaming baby, I resolve to be a mommy rock of utter calmness. 🙂 Snacks will be passed out, books will be read, songs will be sung. But I am looking forward to finally arriving at my parent’s house at the end of it!

My original plan was to fly out towards the end of October and stay for a while to see my grandparents and oldest brother in the middle of November. We’ll have to see about that happening now. I might miss my own home too much to stay quite that long… but I don’t have the chance to see my grandparents or brother too often, either!

Plans changed quickly when my sister Sarah went into labor at 39 weeks pregnant. After 24 hours of labor she was transferred to a hospital because of the sudden onset of pre-eclampsia which quickly turned into the real deal, eclampsia. Pre-clampsia and eclampsia are very scary, as they can be a life-threatening condition for mom and baby.

Pre-eclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure, edema, headaches, blurred vision, or even temporary loss of vision. Pre-eclampsia can occur any time after 20 weeks, and is more common in first time moms (like Sarah). My mother never had it, even with 10 pregnancies. My sister, Bekah, and I have also never had it with any of our pregnancies.

Eclampsia, the next stage of pre-eclampsia, can be life-threatening if it isn’t treated immediately. It involves seizures, usually until the placenta is delivered, and the patient can suffer a stroke, or fall into a coma (long or short), and during the early weeks of pregnancy, can cause placental bleeding or placental abruption (detachment of the placenta), resulting in the loss of the baby.

Sarah suffered a series of small seizures on her way to the hospital, at the hospital, and during her c-section, and then suffered a gran mal seizure after the cesarean. She’s been in the ICU there, and is not quite ready to be released from the hospital until the neurologist gives her the OK, and her vision returns to normal.

My new nephew, Athanasius Peter, born via cesarean, was transferred to the NICU unit of another hospital 45 minutes away because of some breathing issues he had, which is common in babies born via c-section. Those issues have cleared up now, and he will be going home in the next day or so. My mom and dad have faithfully been with him, as Sarah hasn’t been able to see or hold him yet. I can’t wait to hold the little guy myself, and help take care of him while Sarah gets as much rest and recovery as she needs.

We all have the tendency to think “nothing bad will ever happen to us or our family.” Bad things happen to other people, not to us or people we know! But then something big and scary like this whole episode with Sarah’s labor comes along, and throws me for a loop. Hearing about the news via the phone was almost not real. I kept feeling that I should have been there to help — to have it feel more real to me. But, in God’s timing, I wasn’t. In His timing, all of this happened. In His timing, Sarah was transferred to the hospital not a minute too soon so that the team of doctors and nurses were able to operate and birth Athanasius before he suffered distress and treat Sarah while she was still in the early stages of Eclampsia. In His timing, I already had tickets purchased for later this month, and was able to call up and have those changed right away.

God’s providential handiwork is the reason why we look back, reexamining the details and events of life. You can’t always easily see the “reason,” for why things happen the way they do, but we can rest on the comfort of knowing that He has the perfect reason every time for why things go down the way they do. And as His children, it is always for our good, never doubt that. Not in a “you’ve just got to suck it up and take your medicine,” sort of way, but in a tangible, ever humbling, always loving sort of way. It always brings a peace with it, a peace that I have struggled at times to find on my own, until I remember after a lot of heartache to ask for it.

It is not a schmaltzy peace, either. It is God’s peace. This is peace that allows martyrs to stand their ground. Peace that brings comfort in sickness and in death. Peace to weather on through the situations and life events that we cannot change, cannot remove. Peace to keep going through the dailiness of life. It’s a mothers peace, a fathers peace, a peace we teach to our children because we are frail men of dust who cannot find this peace in our own beings, no matter how hard we try. We will always be led back to God’s peace. Peace is God’s gift to us because we cannot and never will be able to control our life circumstances apart from His perfect will — that is a good thing, too, because it would crush us to attempt to do so.

Keep praying for that peace when you find yourself facing down life. He will give it to you, don’t doubt it.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Phillipians 4:7

Coram Deo!

Anya and the Wolf

Anya brushed her fingertips against the bracken, quickening her pace.

Night crouched on the other side of the valley, shadows swelling towards her as the cold reached further inside her coat.

Shaking hands clutched her loaf of bread tighter. She mustn’t drop it; her feet continued picking their way down the rocky hillside. Branches clawed at her legs and arms, begging her to slow down. Not so fast, Anya — why the hurry? They asked.

Home. Must get home. She thought of the quiet little cottage in the woods, smoke rising from the warm heart of the hearth, moss covering the cedar shingles outside, people waiting within… she must get home before the dark really set in. Anya knew the creatures that came out at night — they were much more skilled at maneuvering around trees and boulders in the dark than she was. They were hungry, too, just as she hungered to stop and eat the bread she carried.

She marched on. No stopping, not unless she wanted to never make it home.

Peter and Ivan must be practicing carving wood soldiers and horses in front of the fire. Hopefully, Sasha had finished tanning the pelts today to take to town next week; he had better not have forgotten to stir the pot of stew over the fire!

Anya let her mind drift to happy thoughts of life when life was not such a struggle. Peter and Ivan when they were three, and life was nothing more than play. Her first years of being married to Sasha, carefree and young — wrinkles and tedious responsibilities far in the future for both of them. Life before the War had impoverished the land, and destroyed so many families she knew. Thank God, that Sasha had not been called to serve on the Western front, like every other able-bodied man under forty had been. But that was only because Sasha was no longer able-bodied after his fall from the cliffs five years ago. He survived, but his ability to walk easily was gone forever. Peter and Ivan were a much needed help now with checking the traps and loading the horses. Eight years old, and already behaving like little men.

The wind picked up, bringing with it the chill of night and the smell of rain. Just the encouragement she needed to walk faster!

Anya thought about the house she had left just a little while ago to head back home. Perhaps she should have stayed the night with Alex and Nadia. They had offered, after all. Too late now. She could barely see the path anymore. Breathing in hurt because she was so cold. Nadia’s baby girl was healthy and doing well after the difficult time they had bringing her into the world. Her red hair was almost equal in color to her red, scrunched up face! New life always gave Anya joy to see it.

A sudden, small sound made Anya stop and listen. Her mind sensed movement in front of her. She hoped it was just a skittish deer making way for her on the path. If not… she dared not wrap her mind around other possibilities. She plunged her left hand into her coat pocket and grasped the small knife there. It wasn’t much, but it was something. She no longer heard any noise other than the wind shifting in the treetops. Cautious, she crept forward, taking her knife out of the sheath and holding if by her side. The darkness still didn’t feel right. It was uncommon that people were robbed on this path, but it could happen, especially to a woman all alone.

Suddenly, Anya’s mouth tasted like dirt and blood, and her ears were filled with loud ringing. Her loaf of bread, given to her by Alex and Nadia, was gone, lost on the dark path. Her right arm felt heavy, then a bright pain burst on her mind. Sharp teeth bit down harder, going all the way through her wool coat. Anya’s scream came out so high-pitched she could barely hear it. Her arm was being shaken like a rabbit in the mouth of a dog. Hot blood flicked her face. Anya’s mind lagged as her body moved faster than she knew. Time after time after time, her free hand rose and fell, searching for a target, anything. The massive head and bright yellow eyes glowered down on her, her right hand still crushed between its jaws. Then her knife met resistance, and she pushed down with all her might. A howl rose through the trees, echoing off the mountainside, and sinking deep into Anya’s soul. Her arm dropped, and Anya’s gasp of relief caught in her throat where it mingled with a scream of pain. She waited, tense, as her body anticipated another bite.

Instead, sharp claws clipped her in the stomach as her attacker jumped over her and loped away into the dark.

Fur and blood clotted in her good hand, as the other one simply pulsed, her blood dripping out on the ground. Anya knew that her knife had lodged deeply in the wolf’s throat, and hoped it did not live much longer to come back again.

Stumbling to her feet, she fell back down again, waves of pain and dizziness overwhelming her. She could see nothing now in the dark, and she was only able to imagine the damage the wolf had done to her arm. If she did not make it home she’d die out here, food for the wild animals. Sasha would never even find her body!

She held her other hand out in the dark, feeling for branches and tree trunks, her feet trying to just go straight ahead.

Time dragged on… Her head grew heavier and heavier to hold up. Her eyes began winking, blinking. She could not tell the difference between the night and the dark behind her eyelids. Sleep would be so sweet. There wasn’t any pain in sleep.

Anya slipped to her knees. Deep in her mind she knew she shouldn’t, but she no longer cared. Her body took over what she would have rationally ignored had the blood flowing down her arm not slowed a trickle. She sank her head into the forest moss — it was the softest of pillows she had ever felt.

When Anya awoke, she almost couldn’t stand the brightness of the morning sun. Mist rose from the ground as the sun summoned life to rise once more. She looked down. Where was her wound? She held up her arm, fingers flexing, working again. Had it all been a dream? She must have slipped in the dark, hitting her head, and dreaming about things that did not happen. That would explain why she was in the woods instead of at home.

She set off running, her feet carrying her faster than ever before. Home was soon in sight; woodsmoke was rising from the chimney. Sasha must have been worried with her gone all night. Hopefully, he hadn’t gone looking for her yet. Anya ran through her yard, past the geese and the horse corral.

She stopped in the doorway, joy filling her to see Sasha, Peter, and Ivan inside; she opened her mouth, ready to greet them with happy words.

Then the sheepdog barked outside. Ivan jumped up, his eyes bright as he ran through the doorway, stopping to look around the yard.

Disappointment clouded his face as he turned around.

“Mother still isn’t home.” He said, as he walked back through doorway. Sitting down, he picked up his toy soldier and began whittling again.