Friday, October 22, 2010

Redemptive Space



In days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom and fill all the world with fruit. Isaiah 27:6

Several weeks ago, while traveling with Devin's parents a group from the Cincinnati area, we had the privileged of meeting a friend, Tina, in the Haifa area. Tina and her husband, Moshe, had formerly lived in a community called Nisanit which was in the northern area of the Gaza Strip. Together they built a home and grew a garden, but the Disengagement Plan forced them to leave in 2003.

They bought a shipping crate and were only able to move was able to fit inside. Much of its content included plants they had uprooted from their garden, which they believed held a great deal of prophetic significance for the last days restoration of Israel.

The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing. Isaiah 51:3

After finding a place to settle temporarily, Tina and Moshe adapted the shipping crate into a studio and gallery space to display Tina's photography, and a moving slide show of the assembly, growth and disassembly of their garden in Nisanit. They sealed the original doors, and cut openings for a glass door and windows. They left the original wood floors, but covered the interior walls with gevis (dry wall).

















We viewed the slide show while in the crate, and Tina shared her heart for forgiveness, not being resentful about the forced move, and God's heart for restoring lost inheritances. Israeli's who were forced to leave during the Disengagement were left paying two mortgages, one on their old homes in Gaza and another for their new homes where ever they were choosing to settle. Shortly after they moved to the North, Tina received a financial inheritance from a father she had not seen since she was 9 months old!

Having worked in Landscape Architecture up until Aviel's birth, and having a love for regional and indigenous spatial constructs, this little shipping crate paved way for the Lord to minister to my heart in a powerful way. I'm still sorting it out, but once I understand, maybe I'll write a little more!

And so a desert becomes a garden, then a desert again... and a space of mourning and moving becomes a space for creation.


The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. Isaiah 35:1-2


For more about Tina and Moshe's story go here. And I encourage you to watch the slide show of their garden.

Related Posts:
Adventures During Sukkot
For His Name's Sake
Hosea 3

Saturday, October 16, 2010

AAP Birthbonding

While searching for a few things on the American Academy of Pediatrics website, I came across there policy on breastfeeding and newborn care. One section, in particular, caught my interest. It is as follows:

3. Healthy infants should be placed and remain in direct skin-to-skin contact with their mothers immediately after delivery until the first feeding is accomplished.156–158

* The alert, healthy newborn infant is capable of latching on to a breast without specific assistance within the first hour after birth.156 Dry the infant, assign Apgar scores, and perform the initial physical assessment while the infant is with the mother. The mother is an optimal heat source for the infant.159,160 Delay weighing, measuring, bathing, needle-sticks, and eye prophylaxis until after the first feeding is completed. Infants affected by maternal medications may require assistance for effective latch-on.156 Except under unusual circumstances, the newborn infant should remain with the mother throughout the recovery period.161


I thought this was interesting enough to note given the rift between midwifery and medical approaches to childbirth. If you opt for a hospital birth, know that you can confidently request skin-to-skin contact and regular breastfeeding attempts following the birth, and rooming-in during recovery with the AAP on your side!

Find the full policy here under the section titled Recommendations on Breastfeeding for Healthy Term Infants.


Resources:
AAP's Breastfeeding Initiatives
AAP's Children's Health Topics: Breastfeeding
La Leche League International
WHO Breastfeeding
Birthing Naturally

Related Posts:
Saved in Childbearing?
Something Special (Part 3) Aviel's Birth Story

Monday, October 11, 2010

Shabbat Shalom

Dear Family,

It has been too long since we have last written, but the holiday season here in Israel can be an all consuming season. With Rosh Ha Shanna, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot coming one after the other, it is difficult to keep your days straight sometimes. We had a wonderful holiday season here. The Mitchell parents were here for much of it and it was fun to celebrate for the first time with Aviel. We have some very good news to share with all of you who have been praying for us over the years. Callie received her Israeli ID card and here temporary residency this past week! It is a long process that culminates in an interview that we have to go through separately. We were asked the same questions and then our answers were compared to prove that we really are a couple. The questions themselves were not difficult, but the atmosphere in the office was oppressive and unnerving. Thank the Lord for His grace! We got through it and now Callie is officially a resident of Israel. We are still waiting for a small thing to finish for Aviel and then our family's status here will finally be settled. Please pray that the Lord would give us the strength and patience to push through this last obstacle. It has been a long and difficult road, but all of your prayers have been wonderful support for us.

Israel is in desperate need of prayer at the moment. It is rare that we are able to write anything else, because of how quickly everything happens here. The "peace process" has been on the rocks for a couple weeks now and seems to be on the edge of collapse. For those of us who are praying, we can see the huge trap this whole thing has been from the beginning. The US Administration has pressing as hard as it can to push through an agreement. There have even been declarations that the boarders of the "two states" will be set in three months time. With the talks now stalled, and looking like they will stop completely, the Obama Administration has returned to the thing that can be tried when all else fails......bribery. These "incentives" (weapon sales, promise of UN vetoes in Israel's favor, a presence in the Jordan Valley after the agreement, a promise no other freeze will be asked for) are being offered to Israel IF we extend the freeze on settlement building. We can also easily see the veiled threat behind these incentives. If Israel doesn't extend the freeze, the US won't do these things for Israel. The Prime Minister is weighing these things right now and "testing the waters within his coalition. We need to pray that he will be able to stand firmly on the word of the Lord concerning this Land. It doesn't matter what is offered, if Netanyahu moves according to the Word, he will lead this nation into blessing. Please pray that he would hear the voice of the Lord and act in obedience to it.

Both of us breathed a huge sigh of relief this week after Callie received her residency here. The Lord has been with us through the whole thing, but it has been a long, tough road. Our status as a family in this country hung on this one meeting with the Ministry of Interior. It is a process that has fairly clear steps to take, but things usually never work out smoothly when it comes to Israeli bureaucracy. Sometimes it seems like there is no reason for the things you go through here and it is hard not to develop a bitter attitude in the process. It also challenges how we tend to think how our prayers should be answered. With so many people praying for our situation, it would be easy to expect that the Lord would cause everything to go smoothly for us. However, the Lord never promised us that when we prayed, things would get easier for us. He promised that He would answer us when and in what way He knows to be best. We all have expectations about how the Lord should answer our prayers. We also have a tendency to get into a little bartering arrangement with the Lord, trying to convince Him that our good conduct should warrant a quick answer and an easing of our tough situation. Many times, we go through things so that we can
learn how to depend on the Lord. If every prayer instantly made our life "easier" we wouldn't need to have persevering faith. If we could enter into a bartering relationship with Him, the Lord would be no different than the ancient pagan deities. He hears our prayers because of the love relationship He has with us. It is because He loves us that He allows us to go through difficult things, so that we can come out stronger on the other side. He never leaves us, and He there to gently talk us through it. The Lord can absolutely answer our prayers in an instant, but it is a mistake to think that this is the way it "should" happen. It is shocking how often our thoughts can stray to how God "should" do things. Thank the Lord that He has patience with us! The Lord has graciously brought us through this tough time, and we thank Him that He has answered all the prayers. Blessings to you!

In Yeshua,

Devin, Callie and Aviel

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Saved in Childbearing?

Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. 1 Tim 2:15 KJV

Saved in childbearing?

That statement sparks a number of different questions. I've heard many feminist driven arguments against this verse, and I've heard broad theological explanations about it related to the Messiah coming through a woman giving birth; but it wasn't until I actually experienced childbirth and motherhood that I understood the personal implications involved.

Sometimes the word, saved, is translated as preserved. In the Greek, it has the added meaning of delievered or healed.

Healed in childbearing.

Now there's a concept worth meditating on, and more rightly so, a promise from scripture to believe.

I can honestly say it was healing for me, and in ways I have yet to understand. Whether it was seeing the strength and compassion of my husband standing over me in servant-leadership through the pregnancy, the empowered feeling that I could do anything after natural childbirth, the way Aviel's red hair has ministered to my heart, trusting that God hears my voice through learning to be responsive to Aviel's cry, or many other revelations the Lord has provided, I am not the same as I was a year and a half ago.

Though I could write volumes on each of the examples above, it is not my own experience that I want to highlight today, but that of a friend in North Carolina. After a traumatic first birth, Ashley had a incredible VBAC with a particularly sweet story of redemption. In her own words:

...And as her head started to crown, I remember Todd saying, "I thought this would be weird. but it's not. This is awesome! Keep going baby!" He was so excited to see his baby girl enter the world. And all I could think was, sweet Jesus get her out! The pain. Lord Jesus, the pain. But a few pushes later when that sweet Liliana Joy slipped from my womb and up into my arms...the pain melted away. literally. I didn't care. I was staring into the face of someone I had loved for months - or maybe even always.

She cried and I cried.

And it was labor day, September 6, 2010. it was my 31st birthday. and it was Liliana Joy's birthday. Of all of the days that the Lord could pick to bring forth my second daughter, he chose my birthday.

It was redemption. because for years, September seemed to go all wrong. My parents separated, my dad was a no show or no call on my birthday, a long time boyfriend broke up with me, I found out my Grandad had terminal cancer, my parents divorced, my childhood home sold... For a long time, I found myself cringing when September rolled around. I was just sure that something else was looming in the dark, waiting to crush the hope that was September. And when I got married, Todd started rewriting September. He would do everything he could to make my birthday special.

But it was the Lord himself that redeemed it. It is He that only can redeem anything. And when He took my birthday and made it my daughter's, He gave me a new focus. September is so sweet now. I'll never see the sadness in it. Never. All of the pain of all of those years were worth the sadness - it was in the sadness that hope grew.

And now I look at this blue eyed girl and my heart rejoices. For so long we waited for the Lord to restore something that seemed impossible. But he showed us that it was possible. Somewhere in the quiet of the early morning hours of September 6th, God reached into my heart and reminded me that I was created for this - for this moment. And from my womb, He made new precious life - again.

Healed in childbearing.

May the word of Ashley's testimony inspire others to hope for so much more.

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." John 10:10 NASB

Go here for Ashley's full birth story.

Related Posts:
Something Special Part 3 Aviel's Birth Story
At the Sound of His Voice
Thoughts on When to Start Your Family

Friday, October 1, 2010

Adventures During Sukkot

We just concluded the last feast of the fall High Holy Days, Sukkot, or The Feast of Tabernacles, as listed in Leviticus 23. Sukkot is the plural of the Hebrew word Sukkah which means tabernacle or booth. During this feast, the Jewish people build Sukkahs, representing the temporary dwellings the lived in during their time in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt. For seven days, families eat and sleep in these delightful little booths.

Sukkot is my *personal* favorite of the Chagim (Holy Days), in part because its architectural in nature, as families construct space for celebrations, but also due to its richness of meaning. Sometimes Sukkot is referred to as The Feast of Ingathering. The Lord gathered me into my calling to live in Israel during this particular feast, so it will always serve as an anniversary marker in my life.

Possibly the most important understanding of Sukkot is that it represents the birth and return of the Messiah. Some bible scholars believe that Yeshua was likely born during the feast of Sukkot. They determined this through records kept at the temple indicating when Zecharias (father of John the Baptist) would have been burning incense (see Luke 1:5-25).

In John 1:14, the word dwelling alludes to Sukkot.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (NIV)

Jesus came to dwell with us temporarily so that we might dwell with him eternally.

Also, according to Zechariah 14:16, many bible scholars believe this feast will be celebrated by all nations during the Millennial Reign.

I didn't even begin to unpack the depth to this Feast. Hopefully some of you will be inspired to prayerfully study more on your own!

***


This year we opened Sukkot by having a Shabbat dinner with our Friends, the Cohens, in their lovely Sukkah. We went on several walks during the week, documenting Sukkah's for my thesis, and we attended the big parade in City Center.

Here's a few night images of some Sukkahs around our neighborhood:



I love the silhouette of the menorah on the one below.




Then next three are on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem's City Center. Restaurants and Cafe's build them on the sidewalks so customers can keep the tradition of eating in a Sukkah.







Later we ventured to an Ultra Orthodox neighborhood called Mea Shearim, where we recieved an extra special treat. Keep scrolling to see, but first, here are some examples of the orthodox versions of the Sukkah.





On stilts!




Ok... Here's the treat! We found this Sukkah made totally from bamboo and palm branches...



...then we ran into the owner, who invited us in! Its a Mitzvah, or good deed, to invite guests into your Sukkah.



The interior consists of a mattress so the family can sleep in their booth, a table for feasting, and they decorated the walls with images of Rabbis and Torah passages.



He was very pleased to note that their Sukkah was the most Kosher in the neighborhood because he made it completely from bamboo and palm branches, and he didn't use any nails.



Here's the three of us. His wife brought us juice and cake. We spent some time learning about their family with twin girls, and some Jewish traditions surrounding childbirth (He happened to be a Mohel, who is someone trained to perform circumcisions) They wanted us to stay for dinner but we had to get home before the buses stopped for shabbat.



Just before leaving, Devin said traditional prayers and waved the Lulav. We had such a sweet time with this wonderful Orthodox family. Maybe we'll stop by next year!



Related Posts:
Adventures
Holy Days

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

On Mothering in Israel

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me how it is to raise a baby in Israel. This question, along with some reading I've been doing on ethnopediatrics* got me thinking about how my mothering experiencing has been unique based on my location.

Here's a few things I've noticed:

  1. Sharing the News

    I first noticed a cultural difference in how Israelis approach pregnancy differently than Americans when it came to sharing the news. Most of my American friends paused for a second, sometimes asking personal questions (if the pregnancy was planned or if we were excited) before they expressed their excitement. Israelis, on the other hand, expressed instantaneous joy, almost as if the child in my womb was one of their own.

    Maybe this is because in the Judaic tradition, having children is considered to be a mitzvah or good deed, according to the Genesis 1:28 command to "Be Fruitful and Multiply." This is one of the most important mitzvot because without children in the earth, who would fulfill the law? No matter what was going on in our personal lives, having a baby was still celebrated as a good thing!


  2. Prenatal Appointments

    My OB/GYN, a Jewish immigrant from France, never took my weight and I never knew how effaced or dilated I was before I delivered. Sometimes I didn't feel quite as informed as some of my States-side friends who were expecting at the same time, but I think this helped me "live in denial" about when my labor was starting, as my Doula suggested, keeping all anxiety (positive or negative) low in the last few weeks of my pregnancy. Whether this lack of technical info is an Israeli thing, or a French thing, I don't know. In a nation of immigrants, maybe its one in the same!


  3. Out and About

    In Israel, babies are everywhere! With a birth rate of 19.7 per every 1000 people as compared to America's 13.8, there literally are more babies over here. Even so, when I first moved here I was surprised to see very small babies, like 2 weeks old, around town. Since this was the norm in Jerusalem, and I had family in town, I was out and about soon after giving birth, too. You might remember seeing photos from this trip to the North when Aviel was two weeks old.

    Although seeing so many small babies around town was a point of culture shock for me in the beginning, it didn't occur to me that going out so soon after giving birth was a bit unusual until some of my American friends commented on staying in for months and hibernating with their newborns. Whether to stay in, or go out, and when to receive guests after a baby varies from culture to culture. Just recently a Korean friend shared with me that they don't receive guest, leave the house, or shower (traditionally) for three weeks!

    I don't know how I'll do baby number two. Being out so much presented some challenges when learning to nurse, but it was fun to be the mom on the streets with the tiny baby that everyone was admiring.


  4. Babywearing

    We live in an urban environment, on the third floor of a building that does not have an elevator. Babywearing is the most efficient means of travel and something I thoroughly enjoy. If I was in the States where the most common method of travel is by car, I don't know that I would have had the opportunity to embrace this as a mothering style the way I have in Israel! I've blogged about it here and here, so no need to reiterate things I've already said about the glorious benefits of carrying my baby!

  5. Nursing isn't Taboo

    The orthodox community is very modest, but its accepted that breastfeeding is best. Aviel has eaten in parks, malls, restaurants, buses, airports, under waterfalls, in deserts.... all over. And because Jerusalem has a very international population, I've noticed that my friends from other places are not opposed to nursing beyond the first year, practicing child led weaning. I don't know how long we'll go, but from the things I've learned from my international group of friends, it does have me thinking that going beyond Aviel's first birthday might not be such a bad idea.


  6. Its Hot!

    No HVAC here. This actually means a lot for how I care for the baby, whether its giving baths during the afternoon, or not dressing him in as many layers as babies who have different interior climate conditions. The area where its affected how I care for Aviel the most is in feedings. I nurse around the clock. I don't want him to get dehydrated, so he gets his milk whenever he wants it. On some hot days, that's about every 45 minutes. I'm all for cue-based feedings (aka feeding on demand) because I've seen the best results in Aviel's weight gain, keeping milk supply up, and building a strong attachment between the two of us when I'm responsive to his cues rather than feeding by the clock. Living with more of a direct awareness of Israel's climate has only increased my convictions about this. Aviel knows if he's thirsty in the summer heat, so I trust his indications!


  7. Less Baby Stuff

    We don't have a Target. We don't have a Walmart. We don't have a huge selection of baby gear. What we do have is usually pretty expensive, because its likely imported and has a VAT along with regular sales tax added to the price. Most of the baby gear we have around the house is borrowed from friends who have had toys and products shipped in from the US. The nice thing about this is that we get to test out products to decide whether or not its a worth while purchase. For example, several months ago we borrowed a Graco pack'n'play, which we loved, so we decided to buy one. We couldn't find a Graco anywhere around town, so be bought an Infanti version.

    Another benefit of not having as much "stuff" is that it keeps us close. We don't have Aviel off in a corner entertaining himself in an exersaucer (not that I think there's anything wrong with such toys... especially if Mama wants to take a shower!). He's usually with us, in our arms, in a wrap, or playing at our feet. As architect Mies van der Rohe said, "Less is more." Our lifestyle of play with Aviel is more simplistic and organic; and I like that.


There's so much more to share about doctor visits, and biblical sites! Check back in later as the list continues!

***

*Ethnopediatics is the study of how different cultures approach pregnancy, childbirth, and raising babies.

Related Posts:
Fill the Earth
When to Start Your Family
Start Your Family
Something Special (Part 1)

Monday, September 27, 2010

At the Sound of His Voice

I believe You are listening... I believe that You move at the sound of my voice...

Three years have passed since I first heard Misty Edwards sing that line from Dove's Eyes but today it pierced my heart.

"Do I really believe you move at the sound of my voice?" I asked the Lord.

I'm not always so sure that I do. Lately its felt like my prayers are bouncing off the ceiling rather than penetrating the heavens.

"Do I really move the God of All?" I wondered.

***

Did you know Americans are amongst the slowest in the world to respond to their baby's cry? This is something I've learned since living in Israel, where total strangers will tell you to nurse your crying baby! In America, the delay is related to our cultural value of individualism. Leaving a baby cry is thought to help it foster self-reliance and independence; although, there is a body of research which indicates that a prompt response actually promotes a healthier sense of confidence in a child, long term.

In the six months that I've been mothering Aviel, as I've prayerfully taken in this information, as well as the chutzpah from fellow bus riders, the Lord has convicted me to be highly responsive to his sweet voice - and this has become a mission for me. When he cries, I do my best to soothe him. I want him to trust that when he calls, I'll answer. I want him to have a strong sense of security that I hear his voice....

that I hear his voice...

that I hear his voice... and respond.

Then the revelation hit:

I move at the sound of Aviel's voice.

All this time I have been wondering why this was so heavy on my heart. My assumption has been that it was all about growing a healthy Aviel; that there must be something about his character and personality that I would need to nurture through being responsive to his cry. I believe this to be true, but what surprised me is that the Lord also wanted to do a work of healing in me through this process. I went into the journey of parenting expecting the Lord to do a work of sanctification in my life, as I learn to selflessly care for my child at all hours of the day and night. But a work of knowing Him more intimately, healing doubts that he hears and answers my prayers, this is where I am awed and amazed by His goodness.

If my love for Aviel prompts me to move at the sound of his voice, how much greater does the Lord, whose love is perfect, move at the sound of my voice.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear... 1 John 4:18

And the Lord uses my little one to draw me to Himself.

I believe You are listening... I believe that You move at the sound of my voice...






Related Posts:
Shaken Momfidence
Something Special Part 3 (Aviel's Birth Story)
Binding the Vanity of Creativity

Sunday, September 12, 2010

And the Trumpet Blows!

Well, this year its more like a rooster's crow thanks to our neighbor's new pet! No hard feelings, though. Its fun for Aviel to hear his cookoo ree coo. This is a Hebrew speaking rooster. That's what he says over here.

We just finished up the first of the fall High Holy Days, Rosh HaShana, or The Feast of Trumpets! Rosh HaShana is the Jewish New Year, and its celebrated over two days. Last year, I gave some of the biblical background for this feast. You can read about that here. As with all of the appointed times of the Lord, Rosh HaShana is a Shabbat, or two Shabbats, actually. This year those two Shabbats fell on a Thursday and Friday, and on top of that, we had our normal Saturday Shabbat. That's three Shabbats in a row! In Israel, that means for three days, all public transportation stopped, and all businesses were closed.

We take our rest seriously over here.

This year, we hosted Safta (grandma), and our lovely friends, the Ramirezes, for dinner in our home. We feasted on a special round Challah bread and customary apples and honey (symbolizing a sweet new year), before proceeding to the main course of roast chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, carrots, and my Aunt June's Dump Cake for dessert. It was a sweet evening of fellowship! The wonderful religious* family that lives next door has a tradition of singing on Shabbat (these are different neighbors than the ones with the rooster). I fell asleep that night listening to their precious voices lifting up praises. May they one day know their Messiah.

We spent the next three days resting, taking family walks around the neighborhood, spending time with friends, doing some creative writing, and trying out a few easy recipes from this blog. We like Shabbats to be days of worship and creativity, while we abstain from laborious household chores and daily work.

The atmosphere of Jerusalem has been one of joyful celebration. The three of us had a great three days of rest and feel ready to start a New Year!

Next Holy Day: Yom Kippur.


*In Israel, when we say "religious" it is in reference to orthodox Judaism. Our neighbors happen to be "Modern Orthodox."

Related Posts:
"Shana Tova!" Its Rosh HaShana! (2009)
Shabbat Letter (a testimony of keeping Shabbat)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Babywearing Around the House

Living in an urban environment, I wear Aviel out and about pretty much every day. Its much easier to wrap him up and catch the bus, than to get the stroller out, especially if I'm by myself. We also like to take a nice evening stroll before bedtime. I'll put him in the wrap and we'll walk to the gan (garden or playground), watch the kids play, swing a little, talk about things we see, then head home in a nice mellow state, nurse and go to sleep.

A few weeks ago with the 35 plus degree days (90's F) we were having, Aviel and I didn't get outside much. To keep up with the closeness we normally had when wearing him out and about, I started wearing him around the house much more than normal. It was a nice little routine shift - and one I've kept up since then.

One of things I've realized is that I can do some housework with him in the wrap, which takes some pressure off of getting so much done during his nap times. And it provides ample bonding time.

Aviel has helped me bake cupcakes and a Key Lime Pie.* He's helped me sweep the floor, make the bed, wash the non-sharp-dishes (we save the rest for Abba).....







And we discuss what we're doing, so he's taking in some nice vocabulary words. We talk about dust bunnies, the tart smell of limes, the blueness of the mixing bowl, the colorful stripes of the comforter, and how to make suds and bubbles. He sees ingredients mix, changes in colors and textures, and tasks get completed. He's learning as we go.

Its such sweet way to get chores completed. Sometimes it might take a little longer, but because we're together, the time doesn't matter as much as it does when he's playing by himself on the floor. He's happy, and so am I.

Then when he sleeps, I get to do some creative things that I couldn't do well while he was awake. Like writing this little blog post! ;)

***

*With a front carry, I won't do anything more with Aviel than mix ingredients that do not require the use of the stove or a mixer. We need to keep kitchen time safe!

And... Front facing carries are not ideal for long periods of time. Read this post about Crotch Dangling for more info!


***


Fun Resource:
Cooking With My Kid

Related Post:

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Something Special (Part 3)

This is part of a 3 part series on Aviel's birth story. This particular entry is the actual story of his labor and delivery. I have "cast pearls" by sharing some personal information with the hope that other women will be encouraged by my testimony! If this makes you uncomfortable, stop here! Please don't forget to read Part 1 and Part 2.

***


My mom was sitting on the floor painting my toe nails and we were watching a movie together when it first started. She had just arrived, a few days prior, to help us celebrate the birth of our baby. We spent the earlier part of that day hiking through Jerusalem's Old City with Devin's mom, and I was feeling good, but tired, after a long day of walking.


At Temple Mount, 1 week before my due date, the day my labor started.


At first, I thought the tightening of my stomach was normal Braxton Hicks, but after an hour of watching the clock, and noticing that they were coming regularly, I wasn't so sure. It was now close to 10 pm on a Thrusday evening.

"Mama, I've been having Braxton Hicks at five minute intervals for the last hour."

"Hmmm... try laying on your side to see if they change." My mom replied. A mother of five - all natural births - I figured she knew a thing or two, so I rolled over.

No change. They just kept coming.

Sarah had advised us to "live in denial." One of the biggest mistakes first time moms make is rushing to the hospital too soon - before active labor has actually started. All of the excitement and adrenaline, combined with a change in environment can actually slow labor down, so its better to wait until its undeniable that active labor has been established.

With that in mind, I wasn't willing to let myself believe the labor had started until I was sure!

As the movie progressed, so did the tightening in my stomach. Still coming about five minutes a part, the feeling moved from the top of my belly, down to the bottom. Now my mom and I were pretty sure I was feeling contractions.

We had known of women who labored for days, so we still remained calm.

Devin arrived home from a meeting and I shared the news with him. We chatted for a minute about whether or not he should cancel his morning plans, but decided we'd just wait and see how things progressed. He went off to bed, and I went into the bathroom to do my pre-sleep beauty ritual. It was then that I noticed I had lost my mucus plug - more evidence that the baby was on the way!

With giggles and excitement I announced the news to Devin, who then called Sarah, and canceled his plans. Sarah encouraged me to sleep if I could, but to call if things started speeding up.

I went to bed and did actually sleep through most of the night, with light but regular contractions and hopeful expectations of holding my baby sometime that weekend.

The next morning, I woke up a little before 7 am. My contractions were still coming but they were more irregular than the night before. My mom made a nice breakfast of scrambled eggs, grits and toast, and I took a shower to get ready for the big day. After about an hour, the contractions regulated again, at about 5 minutes apart. I labored using some of the methods Sarah taught us for about an hour before she arrived, around 9 am.

With my forehead pressed up against a column in our kitchen, I swayed my hips in a figure eight formation as the contractions would come on. Devin sat close by and shared sweet love stories with me.

"The first time we met, one of the first things I noticed about you was your beautiful long eyelashes..."

He had never told me that before. I felt so loved.

At this point, my mom excused herself to her bedroom because she said this seemed like such an intimate time for us.

After each contraction (which only lasts about a minute), I was at rest - a deep and peaceful rest.

Through our pre-natal appointments with Sarah, and some reading I had been doing in The Christian Childbirth Handbook (Jennifer van der Laan) I had learned that fear and anxiety makes a woman's body tense, causing contractions to be more painful, even slowing labor. And this is not just psychological - a real physical response takes place.

The adrenaline released from being afraid causes the direction of contraction to change from "top to bottom" to "around the sides" and can lead to the cervix closing. The amount of pain experienced during labor varies from woman to woman, and besides fear, is also related to other biological factors outside of her control, such as the position of the baby, or how the bag of waters is putting pressure on the cervix. Its a great mystery in so many ways.

Since I had heard the word of the Lord, "I have something special for you," and I had seen Him move financial mountains, blessing us through our wonderful friends, I had the faith to trust him to the end. I had reason to believe.

"For we who have believed enter that rest..." says Hebrews 4:3, and "the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His." (v. 10)

As much as being "unafraid" was up to me, I was choosing to trust. It also helped to have the support of my husband and our wonderful Doula. I felt very cared for, loved, and safe through out all stages of the labor. I was thankful that I felt such peace and rest, and I do believe this minimized the amount of pain I was feeling as I worked through each surge.

As the intensity of the contractions increased, Sarah helped me find positions to keep comfortable. We tried laboring on my knees backwards on a chair, rolling on my ottomans, and hanging and stretching on Devin, who continued to share sweet stories and offer encouragement. Sarah also brought a TENS machine - which I really enjoyed. This small device has little sticky pads that sent a light vibration into my back. I simply turned it up a little as a contraction was coming on, then turned it back down after the contraction was over.

I experienced a few contractions that nearly brought me to tears.

"That one made me want to cry." I remember saying to Devin with his arms around me during one of the times of rest in between. But the peace and calm continued.

Around this time, Sarah suggested that I sit in the shower for awhile. My mom brought in a plastic chair, and there I sat, letting the water run down my back. It was so relaxing and warm. Of all crazy thoughts, I remember wondering if the humidity was going to make my hair out of control looking in any photos taken, but then decided it was worth it!

After I got out of the shower, I noticed a little bit of a blood tinged drip. This is the only time while laboring at home that I felt anxious. Sarah assessed the situation and as soon as she confirmed that it was totally normal and just another indication that my labor was progressing as it should, I was able to be at peace again. It turns out that my waters had broken in the shower! Had I not had her expertise and confidence, I might not have remained so calm!

At this point, I noticed a change in the contractions. They were coming on stronger and much closer together. I got dressed and Devin loaded up the car with my mom and our friend, Jesse. Jesse, a trained EMT and Ambulance driver offered to drive us to the hospital several weeks before. He did a great job getting us there in record time!

Sarah suggested riding to the hospital backwards facing on my knees so I could move through the contractions. They were quite close together at this point, as I was experiencing transitional labor.

With the increased intensity, I wondered if I could make it. I wasn't sure anymore. Then I remembered that those very thoughts are common during transition and an indication that time for pushing is near.

"Devin, give me something..."

I wasn't asking for pain relief, but rather emotional relief.

"I didn't understand why it was so important for things in the house to match until I started watching you paint. Then I realized this was something deep in your heart as an artist....."

His words brought a sense of calm to my being.

A minute of rest, then one powerful contraction. Sarah offered some encouragement, "That contraction has come and gone. You never have to feel it again."

I took a deep breath, and just as she had explained about my body's ability to cope, the next one was much easier.

We arrived at the hospital around 11 am. Getting out of the car and onto the hospital bed that they wheeled me in on was a little difficult. The times of rest were so short that it was hard to move.

I rode into the exam room on my knees, where I was checked by a midwife and found to be 10 centimeters dilated! We were all surprised that my labor had progressed so quickly, but excited that we would soon be meeting our baby!

In the delivery room, it was standard procedure to connect me to an IV. My veins are small, so the nurse had some trouble. She apologized for hurting me to which I giggled, "Its Ok, its not the worst thing I've felt today!"

Then my delivery room doctor and midwife arrived.

In Sarah's words,

They are both so impressed with how Callie is coping, staying on top of powerful surges and seeming to enjoy herself in the experience too! She keeps her sense of humor and there's a lovely atmosphere in the room. Everyone who walks in the room enjoys being there, and some midwives come just for a look at this amazingly calm mother and her unmedicated, first birth.


It blessed me to read that when Sarah first sent her version of our birth story. I felt so much of the Lord's presence with me while I labored, and it encourages me to know that that peace wasn't just my hormones or imagination, but it really did set Aviel's birth apart in a way that was a noticeable blessing to others.

I was given an hour to "wait the baby down" before I began pushing.

During that time, I did some light exhale pushing as my body was indicating. It was incredible to feel the baby moving down. Sometimes it was uncomfortable, which Devin was aware of because he said my eyes would get "really big!" That discomfort was easily relieved through pushing. At this point I knew it was worth it to have made it through without pain medication. I was at work, I could feel what I was doing, and it was productive!

Some women are able to push the baby out fairly quickly. My own experience was much more slow. The hospital had a policy to only allow laboring mothers to push for two hours before having an assisted delivery with suction. For two hours, I pushed and pushed. My contractions were actually slowing down, but my doctor had confidence that I could do it. He didn't want me to have an "operative birth" (with suction) so he suggested giving me a low dose of pitocin to increase the intensity of the contractions again.

In hindsight, I probably should have tried changing positions, but I had so much peace at the time that I was just sort of going with the flow of things. After the pitocin kicked in, I was able to work with my contractions again and push the baby with more force.

As the baby was crowing, my midwife made an observation!

"He's a gingy with curly hair."

Watching in a mirror, I could see his head emerging, but I couldn't tell what color his hair was! Nor did I understand how she could either!

The doctor was concerned for some molding to his head since he had been in the birth canal for quite some time. I wasn't quite getting the stretch to push him out, so he gave me a small incision (later only requiring two stitches). On the next push, the baby's head emerged and he slid right out!

RELIEF!

There he was, our little Aviel, ginger hair and all! His little arms flew open wide and his legs tucked in a froggy position. He let out a small cry and they laid him on my stomach.

He was (and still is) the most beautiful little person I had ever seen in my entire life.





We requested that the cord finish pulsating before it was clamped to allow the oxygen rich blood that was squeezed into the placenta during the birthing process to be pumped back into his body - a practice known as delayed cord clamping. This is a fairly new (yet ancient) practice in newborn care, but one that we felt very peaceful about after researching and praying through which procedures we desired for the baby. It also seemed like a much more organic alternative to cord blood banking. The pulsating only took about five minutes, then Devin cut the cord.

One procedure we had an option to refuse by Israeli law is Prophylactic Eye Treatment. This is eye drops administered to prevent the spread of infections from the mother that could cause blindness. Its wonderful that we have this technology; however, the infections that this treatment prevents against are mostly STDs. Being committed to sexual purity and remaining virgins until marriage, the irritation and blurred vision accompanying the eye drops seemed unnecessary for our little one. *





After the cord was cute, Devin accompanied the baby and midwife to the other side of the room for weight and measurements. Meanwhile, the doctor delivered the placenta and gave me a few stitches. Aviel scored 9 and 10 on his APGAR and weighed in at 3.295 kilos or about 7lbs 4 oz. Excellent stats for any baby, much less one whose mother developed Gestation Diabetes.



Devin brought the baby over to me saying, "I told you you'd have have my head! My big old head. I'm sorry, it's my fault it was so long, Sweetie. You did so well! I was like, 'Oh look at that little head (because of the molding) but then the rest came out and I was like, 'Woah! How did that fit in there?'"

We celebrated with chocolate croissants and sweet tea, two treats I had been fasting during the last trimester to help regulate my sugar, while we cuddled with the baby who was making his first attempts at nursing.



Sarah left us to bond with our baby, thanking us for a allowing her to be part of a "particularly beautiful birth." Then the Grandmas came in to visit. They met their new grandson with joy.



After they left, I took a shower in the delivery room while Devin held little Aviel. We then headed to the recovery room, just in time for shabbat, where we blessed to be able to room in with Aviel. He never left my side the entire time we were in the hospital. All blood work, screening tests, and injections were administered in our room. It was such a blessing to have him with me. Devin and I changed all of his diapers, I nursed when he seemed hungry (though it too a few weeks to figure out to feed him!), and we were always present for any procedures administer.**

Since I had Gestational Diabetes, Aviel had regular sugar tests while we recovered. After one of the tests, our nurse commented, "Are you sure you even had diabetes? His sugar is perfect." Praise the Lord!



The next morning I woke up feeling so sore from all the pushing! My back, arms, and thighs ached, but I also had this incredible feeling of "I can do anything now!" This surge of confidence that greatly contributed to a wonderful postpartum recovery, is something I might have missed out on if I would have chosen an epidural, which blocks so many of the good hormones a women experiences during a natural birth. No women should ever feel guilty or condemned for going that route by choice or necessity, but I can't testify enough to how incredible it was to make it through the birth without it!

We spent one more night in the hospital before bringing our sweet bundle of joy to his new home, and embarking on the wonderful journey of parenthood!

*** Epilogue ***


When I think back to that day, words come to mind such as joy, peace, trust, confidence, sweet, romantic, strength, support, rest..... And often when sharing the story, I always find myself saying, "It was one of the sweetest days of my life!"

Childbirth is an incredible experience. On Sarah's blog she states:

First babies, babies after a traumatic previous experience, home births, epidural births, quick births, long drawn out births and cesareans- all births can be a beautiful event when the mother and father feel safe and supported, and have the knowledge to understand their own specific miracle.


Its not about a text book perfect natural birth. My own birth was in a hosptial, and not 100% intervention free (remember my small episiotomy and low dose of pitocin) but it was still one of the most amazing days of my life. I believe so much of it had to do with the tremendous support I felt, going in knowledgeable, and the tons of prayer surrounding the day.

If you are an expecting mother reading this, I have such a huge heart to encourage you to know that your experience of childbirth can be just as blessed for you - and even more so! Your story will not be like mine, but the Lord will be with you and He is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask for think. (Eph 3:20).

The Lord really did give me something special. He gave me a romantic day with my husband, and a beautiful memory of childbirth. But the most special gift of all, He gave me my precious baby who has taught me more about His unconditional love than I've ever known, Aviel David Mitchell.



Lord, thank you for giving me something so special. Thank you for my beautiful family, Devin and Aviel, and the sweet day of our little one's birth. Thank you for being a promise keeping God for your own name's sake. I ask that you would bless each woman who reads this with an anointing to bring forth life as you intended. I ask that You would open closed wombs, bring bodies into proper order for healthy pregnancies and childbirths, and that You would speak courage, rest and perfect love in to fearful hearts. May the day of childbirth be one full joy and shalom. B'Shem Yeshua (In Jesus Name).

Amen.


***


*Neither Devin nor I are healthcare professionals. We made our own personal choices about newborn care based on prayerfully discerning the information we gathered, along with our own medical histories. Please only let this be a starting point for investigating these options with your healthcare provider on your own! And don't forget that if you can't refuse a procedure, you might be able to delay it for several hours!

**In the case that rooming in was not available, or if the baby needed to be removed from my room for procedures, we had an option to request that Devin accompany the baby into the nursery. This was never necessary for us, but it is something expecting moms can investigate!

Take some time to read Sarah's blog post Don't Bathe that New Born!, where she makes a case for delaying the baby's first bath. This is something we discussed, but in the end decided to bathe him because of visitors! Since there could be some real benefits in the delay, I thought I'd pass on the info!

Related Posts:
I love Babywearing
Thoughts on When to Start Your Family

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Something Special (Part 2)

This is second part of a 3 part series on Aviel's birth story. Please don't forget to read Part 1 and Part 3.

***


Devin and I met Sarah at a Succot dinner during the previous fall chagim (holy days). She was this cute curly brown-haired girl with big eyes and an even bigger heart. She had her two beautiful children and her English illustrator husband at dinner that night. I was still pretty sick at the time, and immediately felt at ease with her.

We chatted a little about being artists in Israel, birth, and pregnancy that night. I remember leaving thinking, "I'd really like her to be there." The big day was still about six months away, so I just laid the idea aside for awhile.

When a friend offered to pay for Doula services as a baby gift, I was ecstatic! We called Sarah that week and made an appointment to meet with her.

Sarah typically meets with her mothers three times before the birth as part of her Birth Doula Package, but because of some transportation difficulties, we planned for two longer meetings instead.

At the first meeting, besides getting an idea of what our hearts were for the birth of our baby, Sarah talked to us about the physiological process of labour, the "pyramid of intervention" and standard hospital procedures. She explained that each medical intervention increases the need for another intervention.

For example, Pitocin, which is a synthetic form of the naturally occuring hormone, Oxytocin often used to induce labor, can cause an increased heart rate in the baby. An increased heart rate will increase the likelihood of the use of suction to help remove the baby, or even cesarean.

She also explained that the use of Pitocin can interfere with the body's means of coping with pain during labor. During a natural birth, as the pain steps up a notch, the bodies ability to cope also steps up a notch, adjusting to the pain similar to how our eyes adjust to a dark room. In an induced labor, this process isn't naturally occurring, so it increases the likelihood for a laboring woman to request an epidural, which has rarely discussed side effects that may be undesirable, and increases the chance of a surgical birth by three times!

She covered the pros and cons, risks and benefits, of each procedure and she explained the other medical alternatives to an epidural if I felt as though I was not coping well (Stadol, Pethedine, Meptazimol or Mepid, Laughing Gas and walking epidural are a few). Although I had a tremendous desire to birth naturally, I also had a fear that I would not be able to handle the pain, especially if I was experiencing a particularly long labor. Knowing that there were alternatives to an epidural eased my nerves a bit.

All of this information was important for me since GDM pregnancies are often induced before the baby becomes too large. I felt very prepared to ask my doctor more detailed questions at my next visit, primarily if she would support allowing the pregnancy to continue along naturally as long as my baby's growth was healthy.

Sarah left us with a nice packet of information to read over as continued preparation and she gave us some homework: write out a birth plan, and pack the hospital bag. Most importantly, she left us in a position where we felt confident about our ability to make choices that were in the best health interest of me and the baby on the day of his delivery.

I had a renewed sense of energy to keep up with my sugar tests and to stick with the diet plan. And I got serious about praying for the timing of the baby's birth.

The Lord said he had "something special" and I had the faith to believe that meant a healthy, natural birth.

***


Several weeks later, we met with Sarah again. This time we covered natural comfort measures.

During our previous session, Sarah gave us an exercise to help understand our psychological response to pain. She asked Devin and I to each hold an ice cube. For one minute she timed us as we focused hard on what we were feeling. It was a struggle to make through the minute! After our hands recovered, she gave us both another ice cube. This time, she asked us to focus on something else. We both made it through the minute with ease.

As we discussed what to expect with contractions, she taught us comfort measures that helped relax my body, and she encouraged me to focus away from the contraction. My favorite mental distraction was the idea of having Devin share his version of our love story through my contractions. This sounded like a great way for us to connect on the big day.

We learned a few interesting facts about the progress of labor as well. For one, Sarah explained that there is a relationship between a laboring woman's mouth and throat, and cervical dilation. A relaxed or smiling mouth, and low sounds made with the throat will help everything open up for the baby. Screaming is ineffective for coping with pain, where as low and deep moans could actually help labor progress. She would also be able to tell if I was too tense in my body by the shape of my mouth.

To keep my body relaxed, she suggested various different swaying and hanging motions, most of which involved Devin for support. Some of the exercises brought comfort to the aches and pains of third trimester pregnancy, so it wasn't hard to believe that they would be effective during contractions.

After we covered comfort measures, we went over our homework from the last session: birth plan, and what to pack in our hospital bag. Then we covered procedure options for newborn care while in the hospital. Learning about the options available for the baby, and praying through what was best for him was a very sweet way to mentally and emotionally prepare for his arrival, and how we hoped he'd experience the world in his first few days outside of the womb.*

Sarah had recently received a donation of baby boy hand-me-downs, so we picked out some goodies, and she sent us home with a few books: Ina May's Guide to Childbirth (Ina May Gaskin) for continued birthing preparation, and The No-Cry Sleep Solution (Elizabeth Pantley) to help prepare us for the realities of how babies sleep and offer suggestions for night time parenting. On my own, I had also been reading The Christian Childbirth Handbook (Jennifer van der Laan).

She made us tuna sandwiches for the bus ride home, and we were off, with me feeling like I had just left a spa!

Meanwhile, on the medical side of things, we were in for an ultrasound and foetal heart monitor once a week by this point. My doctor was very pleased with how my pregnancy was progressing and how well we (and I say "we" because I couldn't have done it without Devin) were managing the diabetes. The baby was growing long, but his weight appeared to be in a healthy range. "You will have a tall and thin baby." She said. She also confirmed that he was still head down in the optimal back-to-front position.

Now all we needed was for the baby to come!

***



Besides good info, books, and support, Sarah also made us the cute mobile hanging above Aviel's head!


*For expecting moms: Each state/country has different laws about which procedures your baby is required to have before leaving the hospital. Do some research to know what these are. Don't forget that you can always ask to delay any procedures that you can't legally refuse if you feel they may impede on early birth bonding!

Related Posts:
Growing Belly
"Oh Big Baby!"

Monday, August 23, 2010

Something Special (part 1)

This is part 1 of a 3 part series on Aviel's birth story. Please don't forget to read Part 2 and Part 3.

***


"I have something special for you. Do not worry."

After three days of tears, those are the words the Lord whispered to my heart.

I was crying because I had just been diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes (GDM). The news came after a visit to Hadassa Ein Karem's Natural Birthing Center in Jerusalem. Complete with a giant bath tub, double bed, birthing balls, and fabric to swing on - not to mention the added perks of first priority "rooming in" after the delivery, and a midwife on call and present through the entire birth, this place was a a laboring woman's dream come true!

When the midwife giving the tour explained who was eligible for the use of their facilities, I knew I might not qualify. Earlier that day I had undergone the four hour long glucose challenge. My routine third trimester test comes back with high results, so I needed a more detailed sugar test to check and see if I had developed GDM. If this test came back high, my pregnancy would be considered "High Risk," so I would no longer a candidate for the Natural Birthing Center. And it did.

High Risk.

That simple phrase set the tears in motion. Fear took over as I worried about what this might mean for the health my baby, and for my desire to have a natural birth. I was plagued by mom guilt as I wondered if I had done something wrong.

Was it my diet? Had I not been exercising enough? Have a gained too much weight?

The questions swirled around in my head.

And since I didn't qualify for the Natural Birthing Center, I felt an odd sense of rejection and shame, as if something was wrong with me and the baby.

To make matters worse, I made the mistake of reading all the possible complications that could occur as a result of GDM, and the tears kept coming. I had not experienced the easiest pregnancy, dealing with an abnormal amounts of nausea and vommiting during my first trimester, while working through the hormones and emotions in a new place, with very new friendships. This news did not make it any better.

The word of the Lord was welcomed and brought rest and hope to my weary soul.

Something special...

I wondered what it might be...

A few days later, Devin and I met with my doctor to discuss my sugar test results. Unbeknownst to us at the time of coming under her care, my doctor was a "High Risk Pregnancy Specialist." I found her to be incredibly comforting and helpful as she filled us in on the details of GDM. She explained that pregnancy hormones cause all women to process sugar differently, but in about 5-8% of pregnancies it actually develops into a form a diabetes that disappears after the baby is born. This wasn't something I caused. In fact, the lifestyle I was living (eating lots of Israeli salads and walking about five miles a day) was actually prevention-airy. It was simply something genetic. I was just "a sweet girl!" she said.

But we needed to take action.

Unmonitored, the baby was at risk for high and disproportional weight gain, which could cause complications at birth. Also, we both risked developing other forms of diabetes in the future.

My doctor remained hopeful about our ability to minimize long and short term effects through diet alone. She also believed I would be fine to birth naturally as along as the baby's weight was low. "Worst case scenario," she said, "we will induce before he gets too big."

Even that idea wasn't the ideal, nonetheless, her confidence increased my confidence.

Along with Devin's support and accountability, we began the three month journey of checking my sugar six times a day, learning to fill up on raw vegetables, and precisely measuring rice, noodles, cereal and other carbs at meals.

After the first week, with raw fingertips, and increased medical expenses (we were doing this without insurance) I wondered what sort of special blessings the Lord had in mind. At that moment I could only see "giants in the land."


My belly on the day of the Glucose Challenge


***


The budget was tight. We became pregnant before I was eligible for insurance in Israel. When we finally did find a policy that I could purchase with my visa status, I didn't qualify because my pregnancy was a "pre-existing condition."

The diabetes added to the constraints. Rather than one appointment a month, I would need to visit the doctor several times each month, and at more frequent intervals, to monitor the baby's heart rate and weight, as my due date approached. We also had appointments with a Pregnancy Dietitian and added expenses from the sugar kit.

And what about my options for birthing?

I did not go into the pregnancy opposed to a more traditional hospital birth, but after hearing all the horror stories from friends, I wasn't so confident anymore. The Natural Birthing Center seemed like a great option and I was still mourning the closing of that door.

The idea of a hiring a doula crossed my mind. We met a great one at a Succot feast, but she lived outside of the city. I didn't know if we were close enough to be her clients, and I didn't know if we could afford the extra expense. Besides the medical bills, we still had quite a bit of preparation to do for the nursery, as well.

I knew Devin was feeling some stress, but I didn't I realized how much the financial pressures were weighing on me until they were miraculously lifted one morning at breakfast with a friend who handed us a card with a check inside. I looked at the numbers, quickly did a shekels to dollars translation in my head and was awed by what I saw! We were blessed to receive a financial gift large enough to cover three months rent! Devin and I both had tears in our eyes and gratitude in our hearts as we hugged our dear friend, and thanked the Lord for His provision.

Later that week, a sweet friend - a new friend - offered to throw a baby shower for us! We had one with our friends and family in North Carolina, which was a huge blessing. This one ministered to my heart in a different way. It spoke to my need for relationships.

We found out we were expecting a baby just two months after moving to Jerusalem as a married couple. Between working a full-time job, a part-time job, being enrolled in Ulpan (Hebrew classes), and working through first trimester nausea and vommiting, I had little energy to put the effort into new friendships. I was overwhelmed. Carly's offer ministered to my heart in a deep way. Her own due date was just a week before mine. The sacrifice of time and energy at the end of her pregnancy blessed me. When the shower finally rolled around, we collected tons of goodies for the little one! We were set!

Several days after Carly's offer, another friend approached me with blessed gift.

"Callie, I have an anonymous friend who is willing to pay for the services of a Doula for you, if you are interested."

Um... Yes!

We contacted Sarah several days later, making one of the best decisions possible to help create a positive and informed birthing experience.

The Lord seemed to be proving His word to be true!


Yummy cupcake treats from my shower!

Shabbat Shalom

Dear Family,

I love settling into a restful Shabbat. This is one thing that I really love about living in Israel. After a long week, it is great to have a day that can help the tension melt away. If resting on Saturday is not something that you can do in your country, make sure you can take a "Shabbat" on another day of the week. Shabbat is a time of drawing into the Lord, but it is also a gift from the Lord so that we can have rest. The Lord doesn't mean for us to be busy seven days a week. We were also blessed to have had Callie's father here with us for a short visit. He couldn't stay away any longer and he just had to see his grandson Aviel. Aviel is growing at a staggering rate. Three days short of his 5 month birthday, he started to crawl and he hasn't stopped. Two weeks ago, he started saying "Momma" and "Abba". We are pretty sure he hasn't identified yet who goes with what name, but he started to repeat these words after hearing them so much. He wakes up some mornings now and just sits in his crib, repeating these words until one of us comes to get him. It has to be the cutest thing I have ever heard. As a family, we are waiting on the Lord to either open or close a door for us. This is the first time in my life that a direction the Lord will take me depends on such a clear open or shut scenario. Please pray that the Lord would give us the patience we need to wait and the faith to know that He will lead us where He wants us to go.

Israel is in a time of calm between storms. No one quite knows yet when the next storm will come or what it will be, but everyone is expecting something. There have been rumbles on our northern border, as well as the usual rhetoric coming out of Iran. More and more, Turkey seems to be distinguishing itself as an antagonist towards Israel and UN has declared the beginning of its investigation into the flotilla incident. "Direct talks" with the Palestinians are set to start in Washington in September. All of these things are swirling around us, but have not touched us quite yet. Please pray that the Lord would strengthen our leaders. The things they are facing is more than anyone could ever imagine. Pray that Netanyahu would remain strong and would continue to find wisdom in the Word of the Lord. He has openly said that he has his time of "rest" when he reads the Scriptures with his son on Shabbat. Pray that the Lord would meet with this man in a dramatic way so that he could come to the full revelation of the truth.

It is amazing how much of our walk comes down to simple trust that the Lord is who He says He is. After many years of walking with the Lord and actively working in ministry, it still is a struggle to answer "yes" to the question, "Do I trust in the Lord?" Callie and I have both committed every part of our lives to serve Him. We gave ourselves to serve Him, trusting that He know what it best for us and He will bring it all to pass. That trust is tested again and again as our circumstances don't match up with what we think SHOULD be happening. The things that we have gone through together since we first looked with love upon each other are experiences that Callie and I never would have imagined. Constantly coming back to this basic question has been a way the Lord has kept our feet on solid ground. The Lord has said that He is faithful. Do we believe that is who He is? Yeshua said that our Father in heaven knows how to care for us and He knows how to give good things to us. Do we also trust that this is who He is? It is so much easier to trust in the things we can see. We can trust in ourselves and the abilities we have. We can trust in our church and our community of faith to provide our spiritual needs. We can trust in our democracies to grant us the rights that are afforded to us by Law. Callie and I have found that no matter how able we are, there are many things about living in Israel that have nothing to do with ability. We have seen that democracy doesn't guarantee our rights the way we all hope it will. Even though our community of faith is wonderful, it simply can't meet all the needs that we have. There is only one who can meet our needs, who is just, and who is eternally faithful. The Lord of Hosts is His name! We as a Body are looking at a time coming when this reality will be all that we have. We had better learn this lesson well now. Blessings!

In Yeshua,

Devin and Callie

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Shabbat Shalom

Dear Family,

Walking with the Lord is something that is never dull. When Aviel was born, I
had a unique feeling as if I had been born into a new life as well. There are a
few transforming moments we go through in life, and I have to say that this one
has encompassed every part of my life. Caring for this gift the Lord has been
so gracious to give us is a full time job. When we eat, where we go, how we
travel, and our schedules all have been influenced by this blessed boy. It is
so amazing to feel like our lives have been flipped upside down, but at the same
time we have never felt so right side up. The first thing the Lord commanded
was to be fruitful and multiply. Fulfilling this first command has been a
profound experience for both Callie and I. We see the light of the Lord in a we
we have never seen it before. We see how patient the Lord must be with us when
we experience how crucial patience is when caring for Aviel. Everyday he does
something new and we have to adapt to how Aviel is changing. Sometimes it seems
like too great a task, but when know the Lord can fill our weakness with His
strength. Please pray that Callie and I would continue to submit to the Lord
through all these new experiences.

Israel is experiencing relative calm after months of potential upheaval.
Nothing could have prepared us for what has transpired, but we sure got a
spiritual workout through all the intense prayer. We can already see an end to
this "calm" on the horizon. Israel, as a gesture to the Palestinians, have
frozen the construction of all settlements until September. The goal of this
freeze was to help jump start the peace process again. Netanyahu has
continually said that if there was no progress made before September, he would
order an end to the freeze and building would resume. With this deadline in
sight, everyone is starting to put pressure on this government to continue the
freeze and even extend the freeze to include East Jerusalem. Jerusalem, East
and West, are part of the unified capital of the Jewish people. No country on
this Earth would accept such a demand concerning their own capital, but for some
reason, it is fine to demand such a thing from Israel. Please pray that the
Lord would move upon this situation. Pray that Netanyhu and his government
would have wisdom in the face of this pressure.

As believers, we all have asked the Lord for a miracle at one time or another.
I know I have wanted the Lord to split the sky and work a miracle in my life,
promising that I will walk in the reality of that miracle. Many times when we
ask the Lord for a miracle, we expect that our faith will built up if we receive
it. The Lord drew me to a little passage in Luke that hit home in my spirit.
In Luke 17, starting with verse 11, there is a story about the ten lepers.
These lepers asked Yeshua to heal them. Yeshua's response was, "Go show
yourselves to the priests." Then the second part of verse 14 says this, "And as
they were going, they were cleansed." This struck me because they were asked to
take a step of faith BEFORE they were cleansed. They were not healed
immediately and then asked to go see the priests. Yeshua told them to go to the
priests before they had any evidence of healing. As they went in faith, their
healing became a reality. When we ask for our miracle, or even simply that the
Lord would direct us, we expect that if the Lord acts, it will happen
immediately. Then, having received from the Lord, we commit ourselves to
walking in the faith gained through the miracle. The Lord does work this way,
but I think we have neglected this other way of receiving the work of the Lord's
hand. He may be asking us to take a step of faith FIRST and then the answer
will follow. This is something that I am trying to take to heart and meditate
on. The danger of this is the possibility of acting in presumption. The lepers
received a direct word from Yeshua telling them to go. We must discern how the
Lord wants us to walk. Does He want us to wait until He moves, or does He want
us to take the step believing that the promised miracle will come? We can only
know this through an intimate relationship with our Creator, in which He can
speak clearly into our spirits. May we all know this intimacy and be able to
discern the direction He wants us to walk. Blessings!

In Yeshua,

Devin and Callie