When Body Image Becomes an Idol

During my high school years, I struggled with an eating disorder. Looking back, I am now able to put it in biblically accurate terms: I practiced body idolatry that resulted in extremely disordered eating. Having total control over my body to ensure that it looked exactly as I thought it should was so important that I restricted my caloric intake to a dangerous low while exercising excessively. My thoughts and feelings concerning my body and food trumped what God had to say about these things in His Word. At the time, I wouldn’t have called my problem idolatry or unbelief, but deep down I knew this was an area of my life not surrendered to God. If not for His
pursuing grace, things could have gotten very bad.

I saw a Christian counselor a few times, but ultimately my parents were the ones who spoke biblical truth into this area of my life and helped me see my problem as more than just physical. God used their close watch-care over my physical state and their faithfulness to nourish me with truth as vital parts of my journey to restoration. Like me, people struggling with body idolatry and disordered eating are not thinking biblically or rationally. They need faithful men and women in the Body of Christ to come alongside and care for them in grace and truth before it is too late.

Awareness and physical care

A person with an eating disorder is typically not going to be upfront and honest about it. With this issue comes hiding, denying, and often lying. To help a struggling person, you must be attuned to warning signs (weight loss, restricted eating, etc.) and become aware that there is a problem. You must insist that the person struggling be physically examined by a medical doctor to assess potential danger and harm. Seeing a doctor or nutritionist regularly may be a vital part of someone’s physical care and something she will not receive apart from the insistence and help of another.

Nourishment of the Word

Along with physical care and nourishment, those struggling with disordered eating need to be constantly nourished by the Word of God. Jesus make this clear in Matthew 4:4 when He says, “Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” For those with disordered eating, spiritual components are tightly interwoven with the physical. Issues of the heart need to be exposed and confronted with the truth of God’s Word. The Scriptures have the power to draw out these divisions (Heb 4:12) and shine a light on lies the heart is believing. A person consumed with body idolatry will likely not be feeding consistently on the Word herself. She will need to be fed specific biblical truths about her identity, her body, and food by others.

Identity and the Gospel

Body idolatry at its root is an issue of misplaced identity and worship. God tells us in his Word that all human being possess great dignity and worth as those made in His image (Gen 1:27). We are the crown of God’s creation, and we reflect something true about His nature. But we have all sought to find our loveliness and worth in something other than God (something like our own bodies), and we’ve worshipped the created rather than the Creator (Rom 1:22-25). God has not left us in our idolatry, though. While we were running away, God sent Jesus to die the death we deserved for our rebellion (Rom 5:8) and to restore our misplaced identity by giving us a new, righteous identity in Him. If we agree with God about our sin, turn from it, and look to Jesus in faith we can be forgiven and healed (1 John 1:9). This is the good news that someone with an eating disorder needs to hear over and over and over. Helping this person find her true identity in Christ, rather than the size of her body or the control she exercises over it, is the foundation for helping her find freedom.

Truth about the body and food.

When a person’s identity is rooted in Christ, it frees her think to rightly about her body and food. The Bible tells us that life is more than food and the body more than clothes (Matt 6:5) In other words, the body and food are not ends in themselves for us to control and worship for our own fulfillment. They are important in that they are means to help us accomplish God’s Kingdom purposes, and they should be cared for and enjoyed to this great and glorious end (Matt 6:33). For we who are in Christ, our bodies are the dwelling place of His Holy Spirit (1Cor 6:19), created in Him for the purpose of good works (Eph 2:10). We should strive to eat in ways that appropriately fuel our bodies to bring God glory by accomplishing the various works he has ordained for each of us to do. For some this will mean eating more. For some it will mean eating less. For others it will mean eating differently. A person struggling with body or food idolatry needs to be trained, in concrete and practical ways, to eat to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31).

Body idolatry and eating disorders are multifaceted problems. There is not one formula that will lead to immediate restoration. Helping a person with these issues requires time, wisdom, prayer and the involvement of multiple people, including medical professionals. But eating disorders are not a problem the church needs to shy away from in fear. We need to speak truth to those who struggle because ultimately only one person who has the divine power needed to overcome (2 Peter 1:3). He shares freely with all who come to Him, and we are the ones who know His name.

The Home as the Hub of Life on Mission

Our family is in the process of moving from one house to another, and I’m kind of feeling all the feels about it. There’s the nostalgia and twinge of sadness as we say goodbye to a house where we’ve made sweet memories and grown as a family, but there’s also the excitement about a new place for a new season. All these feelings brought about by our upcoming change of address have gotten me thinking about the fact that a home is much more than just brick and mortar.

When we think of a house, we may think of shelter or a space to decorate according to our various styles. When we think of a home, we might envision a refuge or place of belonging. But in the Kingdom of God, does a home have a deeper purpose than even these good things? Does the Bible have anything to say about God’s purpose for the home?

Women who are familiar with the Bible may remember that in Titus chapter two, the work of the home is mentioned. Here, the apostle Paul exhorts Titus to teach what accords with sound doctrine (the gospel): Older women are to train younger women to “love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home . . . that the word of God will not be reviled” (2:4-5). Paul is not here saying that women should only work in the home. The point Paul makes is that the home is significant in God’s gospel mission; therefore, the work of the home is extremely valuable to Him. The Bible is clear that the mission of believers is to spread God’s glory to all the world by making disciples through the power of the gospel (Matt 28:19-20, Rom 1:16). This mission is not disconnected from Paul’s exhortations to women concerning work in the home. When Titus chapter two is interpreted in light of Christ’s great commission mandate, women will begin to see that their homes can serve as a “hub” or effective center for living a life on mission for Christ .

The mission begins within the walls.

I love Mother Teresa’s thought provoking words: “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” Al Mohler recently made a similar statement: “If we can’t reach our children, we can’t reach the world.” Our mission to reach the world with the gospel starts at home. The people who live within our walls {spouses, children, roommates} are our closest neighbors and usually the people with whom God has given us the greatest influence. Hearts and minds are shaped early and, as parents, we have the hearts of our children first. As we are faithful to love and care for our kids in the day-to-day, we have thousands of opportunities to make intentional deposits of gospel truth into their hearts and lives while praying for God to bring transformation and growth.

When we view the home as the hub of our mission efforts, even the most mundane and exhausting work required in keeping a house and caring for those we love is important and meaningful; yet, at the same time, it doesn’t rule us. Christ rules us. We can work faithfully by His strength and for His glory while recognizing that our joy is not dependent on whether or not we have a beautifully decorated and tidy home, a thankful spouse, or well-behaved children.

To use our homes as the hub of our mission efforts does not mean we are domestic goddesses who keep picture-perfect homes and never make mistakes in front of those who live in our home. In fact, it’s really just the opposite. Being on mission within the walls of our homes means that we really get the gospel ourselves. We understand that apart from Christ we are broken and flawed and weak. We recognize that every failure–every bad attitude, impatient word or careless act–is an opportunity to point to the Perfect One whose righteousness has been credited to us through faith and who is slowly transforming our hearts as we turn from our sin and look to Him alone. The ugly things in our hearts that are exposed in front of those we love give us the chance to demonstrate humility and true repentance as we shout the good news that the gospel of Jesus is our greatest hope in our weakest moments. To be on mission in our homes, we must model our deep need and highlight God’s great grace.

The mission moves beyond the walls when the door is open.

God has provided us earthly homes as temporary places of refuge, not that we may sequester ourselves behind closed doors and only minister to those within our walls, but that we may open our doors and bid others to come in and see that the it is The Lord is good. These physical structures we live in are just temporary dwellings, but they can be a powerful  tool to point others forward to our eternal dwelling in Christ if we will simply open our doors.

A missional home is an open home, not a perfect home. Are we willing to welcome others into our imperfect (and in my case, messy) homes to share of our time, our food, and ourselves? In the book of Acts, Luke records that the early Church did life together. Followers of Christ gathered daily to learn, worship, break bread, and remember the gospel together. They also applied the gospel together as they generously gave of what they had to meet the needs of others. In short, they lived life with a “what’s mine is yours” mentality. “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were beings saved” (Acts 2:47b). As they lived life together with open homes and hands, the gospel spread.

We live in an individualistic culture of locked doors, drawn curtains and privacy fences. The American mentality is “you can only count on what you earn”. But if our homes are going to function as little gospel outposts for taking the good news to the world, we must work by Christ’s strength to keep our doors open regardless of how uncomfortable or costly it may feel.

We each need to ask ourselves questions such as these: Is my home open to those in the Body of Christ? Do I regularly welcome believers in to share a meal or coffee and speak about the things of the Lord together? Is my home a refuge for others in need of a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, godly counsel or just a free place to spend the night? As I welcome the Body of Christ, am I intentionally seeking to build relationships with the lost in my circle of influence while petitioning the Lord to add to [our] number those who are being saved? Do I speak to neighbors and try to get to know them through time? Do I develop friendships with lost coworkers who do not know the Lord and invite them into my home? Do I pray for them and ask the Lord for opportunities? There are countless creative ways to use our homes for God’s Kingdom mission if we will open our eyes and ask daily for his strength and help.

Lest we become easily discouraged, let us remember that we will not be perfect in managing our homes for effective gospel mission. We will struggle and always have room to grow, but weakness itself is a gift. It reminds us that our hope is in something greater than our home and our own efforts at faithful obedience. In the hard moments, let us shift our perspective to the truth that Gloria Furman communicates so well:

The remnant Israelites learned that their home was not their refuge. In our modern time, we need to know this too. We need to know that our home is not a projection of our image but a space in which we work to display the image of Christ. Home points to a peace that is beyond color schemes and adornments. It points to the fact that the Lord is our refuge. Jesus Christ is the greatest missional home manager the world has ever seen. He builds his house, and he sets his house in order. He is head over his church, and he loves her perfectly. He nourishes her with his word. Christ reigns in sovereign superiority; he is the basis of all our joy. We must live our lives focused on his sovereign lordship over the cosmos.“

Yes. And amen.

 

Reflections on 2016

I’ve had writer’s block for a year.

Well, that’s not entirely true. So many thoughts have fluttered back and forth between my heart and head that have just never made it out through my hand. More often than not, my thoughts have found a page by necessity. Typically, it’s been impossible to keep them in. Writing is how I have processed, meditated, and spoken truth to my own heart. Writing is how I have remembered. But not this year.

Maybe it would be more accurate to say that I’ve been too exhausted to write for an entire year. Never really a coffee person, I have found coffee a dear friend of late.

I asked Adam how he would describe 2016. He responded, “Hard!” without even looking up from his computer. And I feel the same way. There has been no major crisis in our family. No one is sick. No one has died. We have numerous blessings to count and countless reasons to give thanks. Nonetheless, the year has been hard. And that is ok. Because hard and good aren’t mutually exclusive. Testings and blessings are often two sides of the same coin.

For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried . . . we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance. -Psalm 66:10,12b

At the close of 2015, just when {I thought} I was finally getting the hang of life with two little boys, we welcomed our third baby boy into the family. What a precious, undeserved Christmas gift! Truly, I could not have picked a sweeter baby. What joy it is to have three sons to love and nurture in the admonition of the Lord–what fun to trod this unlikely journey of “life with boys” —a journey I certainly never anticipated or could have orchestrated for my own life. What a gift for them to have the camaraderie and deep love of brotherhood. Nevertheless, I would be lying if I said the journey has been easy thus far.

Trials and testings are part of living in world that is fractured by the curse of sin. Sometimes testings come in powerful, shocking blows of crisis that knock us off our feet and send us into what feels like a tailspin. In other seasons, trials and testings are more subtle. They come in the form of a daily grind that feels like a weight so heavy it might eventually crush us–a responsibility so demanding that we feel sucked in and fear we might be drowned in the quicksand. Sometimes challenges take the form of numerous little life stresses that compile to wear and tear. Different personalities respond to hardship in various ways, but regardless of the form it takes, hard is hard and very real nonetheless. And no one is exempt.

This year held a lot of adjustment for us. If I’m being honest, it held a lot of “daily grind hard” in both parenthood and ministry. It held a host of real life, real world stress. I could not have imagined the heavy demands wrapped up in the beautiful blessing of caring for three small boys. No one can prepare you for it. And eight years ago, when we moved nine hours from home to start seminary with nothing but about five hundred dollars and {rather weak} faith, I never could have imagined the strength of faith I would need for the journey of vocational ministry–a faith God is still growing in me 8 years later. There were times during 2016 that I distinctly longed for 2017…a new year and a fresh start…an easier day-to-day that hopefully involved more sleep and time to sit in a chair and read.

But when I reflect on 2016, I see more than the hard. I see the good. I see the refinement in us. I am reminded that our God is so merciful that he uses the hardships of a world broken by our making to accomplish his own good and perfect purposes. He uses the fire to refine us until He sees His own image. Beauty from ashes.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,

My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.

The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design

Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

Were we not laid bare in the hardships and trials of day-to-day life, would we ever really see our need? Would we ever cling to God as our ultimate provider and be amazed at his consistent and abundant faithfulness to us? Would our hearts ever cry out with the Psalmist, Whom have I in heaven but you? And besides you, I desire nothing on earth! My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. God is so kind to show us our constant need for him–to force us out of ourselves and into Him. To show us that He is willing to be our portion, a portion that will fill and satisfy. 

The constant demands of marriage and  motherhood have exposed my tendency to worship so many golden calves–self-sufficiency, productivity, order, ease, and “me-time” to name a few. Though I would not trade this season, at times I have mourned what it has required me to lay down. In addition, the unknowns of ministry have exposed my desire for control and my struggle to really trust the sovereign God I proclaim. But where I am weak, God is strong. He is so patient and forgiving–an ever-present help in times of need. He is a Father who loves to give good gifts to His Children and a perfect husband who is burning away impurities and preparing for Himself a holy and beautiful bride.

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. {Matt 10:39}

But when we ourselves become refined like silver to the glory of God, the transformation pays back what has been lost or owed. We are not yet “gold”; that awaits the restoration of all things. On this side of heaven, the closest we become is silvered. We gain this gleam from walking with the God who walks with us, and giving Him back the glory and the praise. Our silvering reflects him to a world much in need of reflection. {Carolyn Weber, in Holy is the Day}

God has been faithful every step of the way–through every beautiful and hard moment of 2016. What a joy it has been to see his love and care for us–His perfect {and sometimes unexpected} provision and his abundant grace! I don’t know what 2017 will hold, but I can march forward without fear or angst because our times are in His hands, and He has proven time and again that He is good.

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. {Corrie Ten Boom}

What I want for you Most

To my boys…my little arrows…my warriors in training:

I often think about what I want for you most.  Hopes deep within my soul turn into prayers poured  from my heart and oftentimes whispered from my lips throughout my days. Do I want you to have good health and talent and success and a life of happiness? Well, certainly those things would be wonderful blessings. Do I desire for you a well-adjusted childhood? Academic and athletic achievement? Loyal friends? A solid career? Financial stability and ease? What parent wouldn’t want these good gifts for their children. I hope God sees fit to bless each of you in some or all of these ways during your life on earth, but the truth is that I rarely pray any of these things for you. They are not the most important things. They are not what I want for you most, and they are not what I want for you at all if they come at the expense of what I want most.

What I desire for each of you more than anything is that God would grow you into mighty warriors for the Kingdom of Christ–the Kingdom of Light. In Psalm 127, God tells us that you boys are a heritage to your dad and me. You are a reward to us from God Himself. As children born into a household built by the Lord, God’s Word describes you as “arrows in the hand of a mighty warrior.” The passage goes on to say that warriors who fill their quiver with these arrows are  abundantly blessed. While your dad and I are not warriors in a physical sense, we are very much warriors in a spiritual sense. Ephesians 6 tells us that, as followers of Jesus, we are warriors in a battle that we cannot see with our eyes but a battle that is very real and very intense, nonetheless. This battle is not against flesh and blood, but it is a battle against a very present darkness in our world–a battle against spiritual forces of evil.

You will not have to live long in our world to see this darkness. It is pervasive. It has left our world broken and seemingly beyond repair. Broken hearts. Broken bodies. Hatred. Violence. Abuse. Dysfunction. Destruction. Despair. Death. Things are not as they should be and it hurts so deeply. No one is unaffected. Suffering comes to all, and the burdens of this present darkness are too many and too heavy for us to bear. The worst part of it all is that the darkness starts in you and me—in the deepest crevices of our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9), and God’s Word says that we love this darkness (John 3:19). My precious boys, you will never become warriors against this great darkness in our world until you first recognize and mourn the great darkness in your own hearts. You will never fight for the light until a supernatural and transformative Light shines in your own hearts. This Light is my greatest hope and prayer for you.

. . .the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord . . . For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Only Jesus has borne the full burden of our brokenness through His death in our place on the cross of Calvary. Jesus alone is the Light that will shine in our hearts and vanquish the darkness. Look to Him, little Arrows, look to Him. And one day, I pray you will fly from our quiver and into the world as strong Warriors–full of integrity and kindness– ready to do battle for The Light as you love others deeply and make an eternal difference here on Earth to the glory of God. May every part of my parenting be shaped by this deep desire of my heart—what I want for you most.

I Love you deeply.

The Beauty and Pain of Mother’s Day

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This Sunday is Mother’s Day–an entire day set aside to acknowledge the irreplaceable role of “mother” and the invaluable work of “mothering” in its various forms. It is a day to honor and thank those who have given themselves to that essential, albeit challenging, work of mothering both in our own lives and in the lives of others. In His great wisdom, God chose daughters of Eve, the “mother of all living”, to bear and nurture life in fulfillment of His great purposes in the world. Thus, “mothers” and those who “mother” are essential to both the existence and sustenance of life itself. Mother’s Day is beautiful.

But Mother’s Day is also painful. From the time humanity fell into sin until now, women have experienced  deep pain in childbearing and all related issues. For women waiting and longing to mother children not yet received, there is pain. For women grieving children who have died before them, there is pain. For women watching children walk a path of suffering or a path of foolishness and destruction, there is pain. For women struggling under the hard work of mothering difficult children in difficult seasons, there is pain. For women grieving their own sins and inadequacies in mothering, there is pain. For women who don’t long for children of their own or fit the typical mold of “mother” but are seeking to discover how God has equipped them to nurture life in His world, there may be feelings of loneliness, estrangement, or pain. On Mother’s Day, the pain in childbearing is especially raw and real for so many women.

Every day, but especially on Mother’s Day, women must keep the gospel in view. God created women in His image with the capacity to bear and nurture life. All women, even those who are not mothers of biological or adopted children, are created to “mother”. . . to nurture God-given life in some sense. But because of sin, our world is terribly broken. Motherhood is broken. Things are not as they should be. Women struggle with their identity. Wombs are barren. Children die. Mothers grieve. Mothers cry. Mothers sin. Mothers fail. Mothers feel lost and unsure. Mothers feel lonely. Motherhood is hard.

But GOD….

How glorious to discover that God hasn’t left us alone in the struggles and hardships of our womanhood. The good news of the gospel is that our God redeems brokenness through His son Jesus Christ. “In him we have redemption through his [Christ’s] blood, the forgiveness of our tresspasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us in all wisdom and spiritual insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

God is redeeming a people for himself through the work of His Son Jesus Christ on the cross in order that He might one day reconcile a sin-corrupted world back to himself. Wrongs made right. Brokenness healed. Beauty in the place of ashes. All things new. For every woman who is turning away from sin and looking to Jesus as the only way to be healed and made right with God, there is hope for the brokenness of motherhood and womanhood in general. This is the good news that overcomes deep pain. And for the woman who is in Christ, there is assurance that God does not waste any pain that comes through childbearing, or any pain at all for that matter. Even the bitter pain itself has a role in God’s story of redemption and reconciliation as he uses it to refine His children, to make them strong and beautiful, to make them more like Christ. Romans 8:28 tells us that God is using all things (even pain) to work for the believer’s ultimate good in conforming us to the image of His Son.

So, on this Mother’s Day, let’s acknowledge both the beauty and the pain. Let’s highly esteem the work of mothering and give thanks to those who “mother”. Let’s honor and praise the precious mothers who birthed and raised us, but let’s also broaden our view of motherhood to see all the women around us who nurture life in various ways every day: grandmothers, spiritual mothers in the faith, teachers, caretakers of children, physicians, and many others. These women have much to give and our lives are richer because of them. On this Mother’s Day, let’s also be sensitive to the countless women who are struggling with “pain in childbearing” in all its various forms. So many women struggle to see the beauty in this day because the depth of their pain is so overwhelming. Hug a friend. Say a prayer. Send a text that acknowledges the hurt. Encourage the weary.  Above all, let’s hope in the good news of the gospel this Mother’s Day and hold it out to others. Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus, the redeemer, the healer, the true giver and sustainer of life, and the one takes deep pain and turns it into glorious beauty.

2 months with Nate

Our Natey baby boy has been with us two whole months, and even though we’re still sort of stumbling through the newborn fog, we absolutely adore him. He is truly the sweetest baby. Rarely cries, sleeps well, and does not seem one bit bothered by his brothers’ wild antics, loud screaming, and inability to give him personal space at times. This one knows how to go with the flow.

With Luke and John Wicks, I wrote detailed blog posts to record their milestones for each month of their first year(s). Not sure I’m gonna be able to pull that off for my little Nathan. Third child probs. Most days, I feel a tad overwhelmed with all that needs to be done to care for three little (very) dependent people, and blogging has fallen way down the priority totem pole. But I’m hoping to carve out some time here and there to record little updates.

I prayed that #3 would be an easy baby, and God was gracious. Nate slept for most of his first month of life it seems, and he’s finally started waking up this past month. He loves to lay on his playmat, kick his legs and arms, and stare intently at the colorful star toy above him. He nurses about every 3 hours during the day and has never had a bottle, mostly because I just haven’t wanted to take the time to pump and fix him one when it’s so much quicker to just nurse. Poor guy has LOTS of gas and had to have some tests run because of a very bloated stomach and frequent projectile vomiting. Everything checked out fine, and he seems to be spitting up less and less. To have so much gas, he is still a very calm baby.

I’ve been less stringent with the Baby Wise schedule that I used with L and JW, but Nate has still pretty naturally fallen into an eat, wake, sleep pattern.  Like his brothers, he’s not great at taking long naps in his bassinet, but he’s sleeping 4 to 6 hour stretches at night. He sleeps great in his car seat when we’re on the go.

I call him “Mr. Serious” because he’s pretty hard to impress, but we are starting to get sweet smiles more frequently. This time around, I’ve been much more intentional about trying to relax and enjoy this fleeting season.

Sweet Natey, I’ve loved every second of these first two months. You are a joy and a blessing to our family. I can’t wait to watch you grow and see God’s plans for you unfold, and I’m praying that he’ll make you a mighty warrior for His Kingdom. 

Nate’s Birth Story

Our sweet Nathan Kenyon entered this world on December 21, 2015 at 2:22 pm. He weighed 7 pounds 2 ounces, and was 20 inches long. He came out pink, healthy, and screaming. His birth story is still surreal and surprising to me–so different from his brothers’ births. I want to record the details now while they are still fresh in my memory.

Nate was due December 24, and I was scheduled to have labor induced at 10 am on December 21. At my last OB appointment, my doctor determined that I was already 2 cm dilated and 70% effaced. He felt confident that I would not make it through Christmas and could very possibly go into labor on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day (while he was off work). I was planning to let baby boy come whenever he decided to come, but with Christmas quickly approaching, my body progressing, and my doctor’s (plus my dad’s) assurance that I was favorable for a successful induction, we decided that inducing a few days before Christmas Eve would be the best plan.

Adam’s parents came into town Sunday night (Dec 20) to have their Christmas with the boys and keep them Monday morning when we went to the hospital. My sister also arrived Sunday night to go the hospital with us the next day. On Monday morning, Jenny, Adam and I arrived at Crestwood Maternity Center 15 minutes late, per the usual. We opted to wait a few minutes while a larger (than the others available) Labor and Delivery room was cleaned. Before long, a friendly nurse named Molly was getting us settled in our room. Molly told us that she was Nurse Manager for all the Labor and Delivery nurses. Even though she didn’t normally work directly with patients, she would be my nurse since they were short staffed that morning. I am so thankful that God placed us in Molly’s care.

Molly started IV fluids and began to monitor the baby’s heartrate. Before long, Dr. Conrad showed up to check my progress. I had not progressed any more since my last appointment, so he decided to go ahead and start pitocin and come back a bit later to break my water. They started me on a pretty high dose of pitocin, and Molly felt like things would move pretty quickly. She said, “You’ll be eating dinner tonight!” Things were very calm and relaxed. Jenny, Adam, and I were all laughing and chatting and watching videos of Steve Harvey announcing the wrong Miss Universe. My parents arrived at the hospital about 1 pm (straight from Memphis and from celebrating my brother’s engagement to his soon-to-be-bride, Lucy.) They arrived shortly before Adam’s parents who had taken the boys out to lunch and were bringing them to the hospital to visit while we waited. Everyone came up to my room and we enjoyed chatting as the pitocin was kicking in and I was starting to feel mild but regular contractions. The family had only been in the room for a little over half an hour when they were all shooed out to the waiting room so Dr. Conrad could come in and break my water. Jenny and Adam stayed with me. WIth the birth of my first two, I had my water broken after receiving an epidural, so I felt nothing. This was a different experience. Let’s just say, there was a LOT of fluid that left my body very quickly. So much that the doctor and nurse (Molly) seemed a bit surprised by the volume, and my body felt significantly lighter to me. Dr. Conrad left, and Jenny (ironically) commented, “You have such anticlimactic birth experiences.” With the births of both Luke and John Wicks, I had an epidural early on during labor, progressed fairly quickly, and both babies were out after about 10 to 15 minutes of pushing. Being the future MD that she is, I guess she was hoping for a little more action—at least for me to feel a couple of rough contractions.

Just minutes after Jenny’s comment, Molly (who had been quietly watching the monitor) calmly said, “I’m going to call in some help.” Her voice was calm, so we didn’t think much about it. Within seconds, two (maybe three?) other nurses had rushed into the room and snapped into immediate action. There was an urgency in their voices: “Alright, honey, we’re going to help you roll onto your side….Ok, now roll to the other side…We need you to flip over and get on your hands and knees….Call Dr. Conrad….Get Dr. Conrad back now…FIND HIM!” I was so shocked and remember mumbling to Jenny, “What is going on?” Someone told me that the baby’s heart rate had dropped dangerously low (below 50, I think), and they couldn’t get it back up. They were having me change positions in case the cord was compressed in some way with hopes that things would shift and his heart rate would go back up.  Molly shouted, “We’re headed to the OR!” And just like that, with me still on my hands and knees, they started rolling my bed out of the room and down the hall to the operating room. I heard someone say to Adam, “Stay here. We’ll be back if it goes up, and if not we’ll send someone back with clothes for you.” The rest of the day was like a whirlwind, and some of the details are a little foggy.

In seconds, I was in the operating room and being transferred from my bed to the operating table. There were lots of medical professionals running around. “Have you had an epidural?” someone asked. “No.” Someone else said, “I’m going to take your rings off and take them straight to your husband. Is that ok?” “Yes.”  Then, I managed to whisper the dreaded question, “Is the baby still alive?” Molly was by my side: “Yes, baby, he’s alive. His heart rate has gone back up, but it still isn’t high enough. We’re going to take care of you and your baby. Everything is going to be ok.” The nurse anesthetist and someone else introduced themselves and reassured me that they would take good care of me. Dr. Conrad showed up and checked to see if the cord was around the baby’s neck. No cord around the neck and no other obvious explanation as to why Nate’s heart rate plummeted with every contraction. Sweet Dr. Conrad looked me in the eye: “I can’t explain why his heart rate keeps dropping, but it’s not high enough for me to feel certain that he can make it through labor and delivery. We’re going to put you to sleep and get him out, ok?” “Ok,” I managed. Dr. Conrad said, “I’m going to go talk to your husband quickly.” (Adam couldn’t be in the OR for delivery since they had to put me to sleep).  In what seemed like seconds, he was back preparing to operate. Slightly panicked, I remember saying, “I can still feel everything.” The nurse anesthetist said, “We’re waiting to put you to sleep until Dr. Conrad is ready to cut so the baby gets as little of the anesthesia as possible….Are you ready Dr. Conrad?” “I’m ready,” he said. Two fingers on my throat, and I was out.

In what seemed to me a few seconds (but was actually about four hours), I started waking up. The worst pain I’ve had since the C-section was right when I woke up, and I remember groaning and saying over and over that my stomach hurt. But it wasn’t long until the pain meds kicked in, and I was feeling some relief, though still mostly asleep. At some point, Adam was by my side: “He’s here, and he’s completely healthy. They got him out in minutes! He’s beautiful! Do you want to see him?” Adam held Nate in front of my face for me to see, but I could barely open my eyes and when I did, my view was still blurry. I could see that he was all cleaned up and swaddled with his cute little hat on, but I honestly couldn’t really tell what he looked like. This was so different than the way I met my first two boys who were placed on my chest immediately after delivery. I am so glad that Adam got to meet Nate and be in the nursery with him immediately after delivery. I’m also thankful that my sister got pictures of their first meeting and that she was with Adam when I was rushed to the OR.

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Somehow, Adam and the nurses got Nate to latch and nurse for the first time even though I was basically still asleep. The rest of that night, I was in and out of sleep and extremely emotional during the brief awake periods. Our families had been in the waiting room (with the boys! YIKES!) for at least four hours waiting for me to wake up. I was rolled into a room and saw the family for a brief minute before they headed out to get dinner and let me sleep. After seeing me, Luke could tell something wasn’t right. Jenny told me that when they got to the car, he said, “I’m kinda worried about my mom!” Sweet thing. I remember reading and trying to respond to texts from friends who knew I had been induced that morning and were worried because they hadn’t heard anything from me or Adam in hours. I think they brought Nate in from the nursery to nurse several times that night, but it’s honestly hard to remember. By the morning of the 22nd, I was much more awake and feeling better (thanks to the meds :)). Several of the nurses even commented, “Wow, you look so much better today!”

When I reflect on Nate’s birth, there are so many reasons to give thanks. First, I’m thankful that I was induced and my water broke at the hospital. Had it broken at home and the baby been in distress, I would not have known it, and the outcome could have been different. I am also unbelievably thankful for the excellent staff/medical professionals at Crestwood Hospital. They immediately jumped into action at the first sign of a problem and took no chances. And they were all extremely kind. I later told Molly that I was so grateful for her because she saved my baby. Finally, I’m thankful that God saw fit to bring our third son safely into the world. He would be no less good, loving, and kind had he sovereignly chosen to call our Nate home to heaven at that time. Nonetheless, I’m just overjoyed because of his safe arrival and the time we’ve had with him so far. He has been such a sweet, easy baby, and I am so excited to watch him grow and see the plans the Lord has for him unfold. Nate’s Christmastime birth led me to relate often to Mary  who treasured the events surrounding Christ’s birth, “pondering them in her heart” and worshiped God saying, “. . . for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”