Monday, June 29, 2009

When I am weak, He is strong

Anna turned 15 last week.

Birthdays bring back memories. So do birth days. 15 years ago I crossed my fingers, hoping we hadn’t made a big mistake.

After Erica’s birth, I badly ruptured a disc and had back surgery. Both my surgeon and chiropractor advised we not have more children. They said four was a nice number and since pregnancy is hard on the back, we should stop with the healthy children we already had.

I was conflicted. Generally it’s best to follow a doctor’s advice. But was their advice medically valid or did it reflect a personal bias? Keith’s unmarried niece had the same surgery around the same time and her doctor did not tell her to not to have children.

We gambled that the doctors were wrong. I hoped that because God considers children a blessing, He could override a bad back. He designed the whole system so I counted on Him to make it work.

Since I had been led to believe the world would end if I got pregnant again, I religiously followed sound medical pregnancy advice. I ate right, compulsively exercised, and took all reasonable precautions.

We also had another small problem at the time. I didn’t tell my family we were expecting again because my younger brother and his wife were finally expecting after five long infertile years. They had waited so long for their second child, that I wanted all the family limelight to shine on them. They were due in March, we were due in June. I planned to break the news after their baby’s birth.

Which worked great until my parents surprised us with an unexpected visit when John’s baby arrived. My mother stared. speechless as I said, "Oh, by the way. I’m six months pregnant." My parents don’t care how many children we had, but they were shocked that I could be so far along without them knowing. It wasn’t so hard when they live 1,000 miles away.

The downside of this is she asked me for years afterward, "Are you pregnant?" I’d reassure her that I wasn’t pregnant. Then she’d always ask, "You’d tell me, wouldn’t you?" Well, not necessarily.

I went five days late. Two days before her birth, Keith had me shoot baskets for an hour, which at nine months and three days did not feel good. I asked God when Keith gets to heaven to let him be nine months pregnant for one day so he will know what it feels like.

Saturday morning bright and EARLY labor began. You’d think a night owl would have babies at night, but not this time. Things went well and after a four hour labor we welcomed another girl into our family.

The thing is Keith refused to discuss names before our babies arrived. He felt that once the baby was born and we knew if they were a boy or girl, we automatically eliminated fifty percent of the names. Then it’s critically important in his mind, to see the baby first, since as everyone knows, you can’t name a baby until you see what she looks like. He also sincerely believes that names should pass the yelling-out-the-back-door test. If a yelled name didn’t sound right, he checked it off the list.

So we left the hospital without a name. I tried explaining that if we discussed names beforehand like normal people, we would be spared disapproving looks from the hospital staff who looked down their noses and advised that we take care of this as soon as possible.

I suggested Jane because she was born in June, our nurse was Jean, our doctor was John, and Joan took care of our four other children while we were at the hospital. Keith said that Jane was a one syllable name and didn’t balance out Vik. I pointed out that Keith was a one-syllable name but he said he had no control over what his parents named him.

After two days of convoluted negotiations we came up with "Anna Grace". Since Anna’s first and middle names mean the same thing, Keith gave Anna the verse, John 1: 16, which says, "And of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace." We liked that the faithful Anna in the New Testament immediately recognized the Messiah.

Were the doctors wrong? Did my exercise and precautions pay off? Did God do a mini-miracle?

Thankfully, my back held up fine through pregnancy and delivery. I’m sure a good diet and exercise didn’t hurt, but I believe God answered our prayers and honored our faith in His word that says children are a blessing. I’m so glad we didn’t listen to my doctors in this instance because we would have missed out on not only Anna, but Amy and Lani as well.

My back will always be weak. I’m aware of it every day. But God strengthened my damaged disc to withstand the rigors of three pregnancies. Things weren't always easy but God met all our needs and then some.

Weak back + strong faith + God’s grace = A beautiful (I'm biased) daughter.

Please leave a comment and share if you had any birth day blessings. When you trusted God and He met you in the delivery room or walked you through a hard spot. I love stories of answered prayer.

(If you'd like to comment about something else, that's okay too.)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Day in Duluth

Erica and Anna finally had their Day With Mom (DWM) two weeks ago in the confusing city of Duluth.
We toured Fairlawn Mansion, ate lunch at Famous Daves, and then walked around Canal Park. Especially interesting is the Aerial Lift Bridge that raises up and down for ships to pass into the harbor.
And then I got lost. Never trust a tourist brochure that doesn't give specific woman-friendly directions. I drove around an hour and a half looking for Skyline Parkway and Enger's Tower, but to no avail. I could see the tower but couldn't get there. My van's brakes didn't smell so good after driving down the last big hill. So we ended up at beautiful Leif Erickson Park by the harbor.

When all else fails, skip rocks...

...and take pictures...

...and have fun...

...and make memories...

...building bridges while we watch bridges

Trusting God for daughters, delightful days, and drives in Duluth.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Practice Makes Perfect

For Father's Day we went to the beach in Cornucopia, about an hour from Ashland.

While the girls swam, played, and loved on other people's dogs, Keith mellowed out. Apparently intense people decompress differently. He says this is the most relaxed he's been in ages.

We forgot the camera, so you'll have to picture a bearded middle-aged man in khaki shorts standing knee-deep in Lake Superior. Who knew standing in water for two hours reading a Bible could be so relaxing?

Lani looked out at Keith and then back at me. "What's Dad doing? Practicing for a baptism?" I had a good laugh and explained he was just enjoying himself.

Our church practices believer's baptism and since we don't have a baptistry, baptisms take place in Lake Superior. For obvious reasons, few people feel led to be baptized in winter. We have a baptism scheduled for July 18th, so I guess Keith is ready.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bayfield, Birthdays, and Beaches

Here in our messy, muddy house, we have a few birthday traditions. The worst being that we rarely celebrate a birthday on its actual day. Case in point, Erica's birthday was April 23rd and we finally had our special day on June 10.

Birthday traditions include choosing, within reason, whatever cereal they want for breakfast. We usually eat practical, low-cost healthy cereals like Bran flakes, granola, or oatmeal. So once a year they can have Chocolate Captain Crunch (yuch!) or Fruit Loops or whatever their hearts desire, the caveat being, they have to share this cereal with their siblings.

Keith takes the birthday child out to the restaurant of their choice, within reason. This meal with Dad is something they all look forward to.

In addition to a birthday dinner with relatives, they can choose between a friend party or a Day with Mom (DWM). One-on-one time with Mom in a big family doesn't happen too often, so this is a big treat.

Anna is fixing to turn fifteen in two weeks so DWMs were stacking up.

My brilliant plan was to combine DWMs and take Erica and Anna for the day to Duluth, MN, the nearest big city and then spend an afternoon with them individually around Ashland at another time.

All that to say, I spent a pleasant, peaceful afternoon with Erica last week just the two of us. We bought a loaf of delicious specialty bread at a quaint bakery, split a piece of Baklava, and went towards Bayfield to hang out at the beach. What fun.
We asked a middle-aged couple on an ATV to take our picture rather than the two young girls in bikinis who were standing out in Lake Superior. Clearly they were in denial or the natives have much thicker skin. Call me picky or wimpy, but summer has not arrived yet in Northern Wisconsin.
We bought ice cream waffle cones at a cute shop and ate them by the dock in Bayfield. Then I drove around and let Erica take pictures. Time and money well spent. We had a great time.

I miss my older kids and know that even though when they lived at home some days seemed like they would never end, I am now acutely aware of how fast the time goes. My little girls are growing up fast and I enjoy making special memories with them. I no longer wish the days away. I treasure them.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I haven't done this for years, but I'm reading through the Bible this year. I don't say this in a prideful way. Rather I'm ashamed that I'd gotten out of the habit of daily Bible reading.

I'm trying a slightly different approach by using The Daily Bible which arranges Scripture in chronological order. The most noticeable difference being Psalms and prophecies are inserted in the narrative where they actually take place. For example in the Old Testament, when David sins with Bathsheba, Psalms 51 is placed there. I'm getting a better feel for context.

Six months into this and still in the Old Testament, I am struck with how for centuries the Israelites ran on a hamster wheel of turning their back on God, experiencing pain and difficulties, crying out to God, being delivered, and then turning their back again. Over and over and over again. It grieves my heart to read about Israel's follies. How God must have grieved when his beloved people turned away and put their trust in everything but Him.

The Old Testament's lessons are not just for Jews, but for everyone. Psalms 106 sums it up well: (All scripture is quoted from The New American Standard Bible)

Vs. 6 - We have sinned like our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have behaved wickedly.

7 - Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Thy wonders; They did not remember Thine abundant kindnesses, but rebelled by the Red Sea.

8 - NEVERTHELESS He saved them for the sake of His name, that He might make His power known.

9 to 12 tells how God led the Israelites through the Red Sea and saved them from their enemies.

13 - They quickly forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel, but craved intensely in the wilderness and tempted God in the desert.

20 - Thus they exchanged their glory for the image of an ox that eats grass. They forgot God their Savior who had done great things in Egypt, and awesome things by the Red Sea.

24 - Then they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe in His word, but grumbled in their tents.

25 to 39 - More descriptions of how the Israelites "did not listen to the voice of the Lord."

40 - Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against His people...Then he gave them into the hands of their enemies.

44 - (and now, my favorite part) NEVERTHELESS He looked upon their distress, when He heard their cry; and He remembered His covenant for their sake, and relented according to the greatness of His lovingkindness. He also made them objects of compassion.

Powerful. A God who continues to love us no matter how many times we fall. Inspired by this Psalm, I wrote an acrostic poem a few years back. The letters of the word "Nevertheless" start each line.


Psalms 106

Near to the

Eternal One, we turn and walk away.

Vanished are the

Earnest prayers of promises to obey.

Redeemed from

Tribulation, we easily forget

His mighty works on our behalf, His payment of our debt.

Even though we will not listen, His

Love will not let go.

Ever the

Same, He'll lead us home as He did

So long ago.


An amazing Holy God forgiving stupidity and rebellion. Hearing, Loving, Saving. Over and Over and Over again.

"Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. And let all the people say, "Amen." (Ps. 106:48)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Happy Monday

Mom asked me to post on her blog while she was gone last week so here goes.

Folks, I have alot of things to get off my chest.

Like first of all, I wouldn't dream of asking this poor little girl to kiss a toad just because I wanted a cute picture...(Sorry ladies, no prince) In my defense, she volunteered!

Whatever they may tell you, I DID NOT force my sisters to dress up, stand outside in freezing weather and smile. It was NOT cold and windy because we were told before we moved here that summers are nice in Northern Wisconsin.

But all in all I got some cute shots of my three little sisters. For instance:


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Marian the Librarian

When you read this blog, you're never quite know what's on the menu. It's like this is my newspaper and I get to decide what is news. Today you're in the entertainment section.

I went to bed early Sunday and enjoyed the treat of getting lost in a fiction book. The librarian in me decided to experiment with a book review. My husband would call this a thinly disguised attempt to justify staying up until the wee small hours of the morning binge reading.

I present Sweetwater Gap by Denise Hunter. Set in small-town America, this well-written tale of love, family ties, and overwhelming guilt beautifully tells about God's forgiveness and second chances.

Josie Mitchell has never felt good about herself. A tragedy drove her from home at age eighteen and still haunts her even six years later. She keeps the bad memories under control as long as she stays away.

Home is where Josie was hurt and home is where she'll be healed. When she returns to the family-owned apple orchard to help her pregnant sister bring in the harvest, she must face her painful past.

Grady Mackenzie, the family's distant orchard manager is clearly irritated about something. Years ago his eighteen-month marriage ended when his wife cheated on him with his best friend. Trust is a huge issue for him and he doesn't trust Josie.

Josie crumbles under her load of guilt and searches for answers. Grady sorts through his own emotional baggage and helps Josie find the peace she so desperately needs.

Sweetwater Gap shows the pain that comes from turning away from God and the pure joy of realizing any sin is forgivable. The power of God's unconditional and redemptive love comes through loud and clear.

I enjoyed reading Denise Hunter's last five books, so eagerly anticipated diving into her newest work. I liked Sweetwater Gap, though not as well as Surrender Bay, which is one of my all-time Christian fiction favorites.

Sweetwater Gap, Surrender Bay, and A Convenient Groom are all written on two levels. The stories stand on their own but also have another layer. Surrender Bay and A Convenient Groom are spiritual allegories. Sweetwater Gap also has another layer, but the illustration isn't as strong as in the other two books.

Sweetwater Gap's redemptive thread is more obvious than in Surrender Bay, which is good. A person could read Surrender Bay and never see the rich second layer. Hunter writes about salvation in a natural, unpreachy manner. She conveys spiritual truths in a subtle, heartwarming way without being overbearing.

Sweetwater Gap is the Women of Faith's 2009 Christian Fiction selection. This is a great honor and well-deserved. The first few chapters were a bit stiff in places, but once the story got going, the rest flowed well. Sweetwater Gap does a great job of showing our need for a Savior, and the healing and peace that only comes from God.

As much as I love books, the frugal side of me hates to spend money on them. I always check my library first, then use inter-library loan for the rest. On the rare occassion, inter-library loan doesn't have the book I want, I check with friends. Since I'm an hour and a half from the nearest Christian book store, I buy from the good folks at Christian Books Distributors Even then I check the bargain section first. And if it can't be found at CBD, there's always

Until my next installment, good-bye and good day.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bad Example

I try from time to time to unpack the remaining mystery boxes in our basement. I came across our battered Sorry game and remembered an incident from 1997 when Christina was 12 and Andrew was 10.

During a game of Sorry the tension kept escalating. Christina snapped at Andrew, "Don't be so immature."

"Mom, what does immature mean?" Andrew asked.

"It's when someone doesn't act their age," I replied. "Why did Christina call you that?"


I'd warned her earlier that afternoon not to call her brother names. "Tina, go to your room."

Christina threw the board, threw the cards, then stomped up the stairs, and slammed her door, all the while complaining about my unfairness and Andrew's annoying qualities.

Keith looked up from his newspaper and said, "It's not often you get an example with the definition."

Monday, June 8, 2009

Cold, Wet, and Windy...What a fun day!!

By Erica

I believe the saying is, while the cats away the mice will play...or the mices, or mouses or however that goes, Anyways, while the Mom's away the daughters will.....have a photoshoot!! (Don't try to tell me that wasn't the first thought that popped into your head!)

The temperature was fifty-five degrees (IN JUNE? WHAT IS THIS!) It was cold, wet, and windy, which you might have guessed by reading the title of this post.

But me and my brave little models defiantly put on shorts (WHY? Why not?) and tramped all around our corner of Lake Superior taking pictures and trying not to freeze our (a word Mom won't let us use because its not ladylike) off.

As you can see we aren't about to keel over from exposure or lose a limb to fact the pictures were oddly cute!!
Exhibit A:

I believe that is standard model pose number one.

Amy, on the other hand, was all business with standard model pose number two. (Hand on Hip, One leg Forward and a Cheesy Smile)

Anna quickly followed Amy's shining example. She mixed things up a bit by having the other leg forward.

And of course Lani had to get into this mix!!

All cheese aside, these guys were too cute not to get some adorable shots...

Lani's beautiful mugshot

Anna's figuring out the meaning of life pose.

Amy's perpetual smile

Anyways, all in all, in a couple years, we won't remember how cold it was, and we'll have some cute pictures to smile about. Pretty good huh?

So do you suppose Mom won't mind that we took pictures instead of cleaning our rooms?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Not Me Monday

Welcome to Not Me Monday, a blog carnival created by MckMama at You can head over to her blog to see what she and everyone else has not been doing.

First off, I did not stay up until 2:00 am every night while Keith was gone last week. That would be unwise, irresponsible, and a bad example to my children. Can you imagine what I would say to my kids if they did such a thing? I'd be a hypocrite to do something I don't want them to do.

Since Keith wasn't home, I had to put the garbage out to be picked up. I wouldn't dream of forgetting earlier in the evening and then remember at 2:00 a.m. on my way to bed. Nope, not me. Because the garbage didn't get put out, you might assume that I was too scared to go outside all by myself that late at night, but I assure you, that wasn't the case.

I wasn't worried that Keith would be irritated with a full garbage can so I didn't lay awake after not going to bed at 2:00 a.m. thinking of ways to get rid of my garbage before he got home. Maybe if I squished it down, it wouldn't look so bad. Does Wal-Mart have security cameras by their dumpsters? Maybe I could put the garbage into white plastic Wal-Mart bags and put them in trash cans at different parks. Maybe I could put my trash in the church's garbage and hope nobody notices. Perhaps drive to a friend's house in the country and burn it.

Or just be honest and face the music. So after six days apart from Keith, the first thing I said to him when he walked in the door was most certainly not, "I didn't take out the garbage." It didn't matter to me one way or the other that he smiled and said it wasn't a big deal.

With enough items on my to do list to keep three women busy, I did not sit down to write this post. Nope, not me.