Monday, October 27, 2008

let's get political, political...

*DISCLAIMER: What you are about to read is political. I needed a space to vent some thoughts about the election. If you came here to read about Maddie and don't want to hear politics, feel free to skip this post. But come back later for more Maddie goodness! :)

I've been thinking a lot lately about the election, my own beliefs, the portrayal of right-leaning Christians in the media, and the Bible's teachings. It frustrates me that many conservative Christians vote a republican ticket based on a few core values, mostly having to due with abortion rights and the family, allowing their views (and the Bible's teachings) on these issues to trump a multitude of others. 

No single political candidate, republican, democratic, green or independent, will ever embody all the values of Jesus Christ, the only perfect person ever to walk this earth. No party can adhere to every teaching of the Bible. No bill or law can ever perfectly follow God's way. All of this is because as humans, we will never measure up to the perfection of God. But we MUST carefully consider all issues individually, each platform on its own merit, as we cast our votes for the leaders of this country. Sometimes that will mean voting republican, other times democrat.

In this presidential election, I can't stop thinking of the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus is approached by a lawyer (aka an expert in Religious Law, aka OT Religious Scholar). He asks how he can attain eternal life. Jesus allows him to answer his own question, to which he replies "Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself." But taking it further, the man tests Jesus with another question, "But who is my neighbor?" 

Jesus tells the story of a Jewish man who is beaten, robbed and left for dead on the side of the road. A Jewish priest and a Levite (Jewish temple caretaker) both passed him by. A Samaritan (non-Jew) stops, tends to the man's wounds, loads him on his donkey, and takes him to an inn, where he pays to have him put up until he feels better. 

I once read a present-day example of this story told like so: A Christian man is beaten, robbed, and left for dead on the side of the road. First, a Christian pastor on his way to church sees him and hurries by on the opposite side of the road. Next, a worship pastor, also on his way to church, passes by. Who stops to take care of the Christian man? An ultra-liberal, politically active homosexual.
The point is that in Jesus' time, the Samaritans were in every way the opposite of the Jews and were despised by them. Who acted as a neighbor? The Samaritan, the very person who was supposed to be enemies with the Jew. This would have outraged the audience listening to Jesus. But what he was getting at is that to love our neighbor as our self is to treat everyone as we would want to be treated, if we were in their shoes, regardless of how they got there, regardless of who they are.

All that to say, are republicans in general looking out for the welfare of others, to be treated as they themselves would like? Not in terms of economic or welfare policy. Republican leaders typically give tax cuts to the rich while the poor continue to get poorer. "Every man for himself" is not a phrase you would have heard Jesus use. Republican politicians typically are opposed to universal health care, that is, medical care that is available and affordable to everyone, regardless of who they are, how much money they make, young or old, working or not, or whether or not they are here legally. 

We are at war. We have a completely strained relationship with the rest of the world, with world leaders, with very dangerous people who have access to very dangerous weapons. This has to change. We need to re-establish trust with the world. If Bush's dangerous regime is continued to be carried out in the Middle East, our enemies will only grow stronger.

I believe in my heart of hearts that Jesus would have been pro-family. He would have cried at the outrage of abortion and the loss of so many innocent lives. He also would have cried at the injustice of death sentences being carried out on innocent people by a flawed justice system. He would have spoken out against treating immigrants differently than our own citizens.  Jesus would have loved homosexuals in spite of their sin, embracing them first with his love, never starting with judgment, and through his unconditional love and acceptance would gently guide them into repentance and a right relationship with him. Jesus would have spoken against tax cuts for the wealthy, preferring that people pool their resources and divide them more equally so as to take care of the down and out.

There are so many issues that fall on both sides of the spectrum. While Barack Obama is far from perfect, in my mind the issues he is in favor of (health care, education, withdrawal of troops, redistribution of income) trump the others in this election. 

For more reading, I suggest "God's Politics" by Jim Wallis, the clearest and most thoughtful writing by a Christian on politics and truth that I've ever found. Also,

Saturday, October 25, 2008

for I know the plans I have for you, declares MY Lord

Yesterday we had Nemo's 20-week ultrasound. We went in hopeful, excited, and anticipating the joy of seeing our perfect, beloved child as he danced and rested in my womb. During my pregnancy with Maddie, these moments provided connection and awe as our Christian ultrasound tech delighted in our coming child's face, hands, eyes, legs, feet, pointing out each feature, exclaiming "Praise God! Look at that perfect nose/heart/brain!"

As we prayed in the car before the procedure, I felt at peace and more than ready to see Nemo's features much as we saw his big sister's before. Nothing could prepare us for the emotional roller coaster the next two and a half hours would bring. Our ultrasound tech was quiet as he spent a lot of time examining our baby's heart, brain, and kidneys. He spent so much time looking and examining the heart that I started to suspect not all was right.

After 40 long, tense minutes, with no more than a few grunts from the tech, he turned to me, notified us the doctor would be in shortly to discuss the findings, and then asked my age and whether I had any early genetic testing done. I remarked that I had not, and he made a face and a noise not unlike "tsk" before leaving the room. The few pictures he provided (two of Nemo's feet, one of his lower leg) were cut and tossed to the side next to my purse.

Ben placed his hand on my arm and asked how I was doing. I was in shock that the tech could be so judgmental about my decision to forego testing, as if the knowledge of what could possibly be wrong with our baby could change the way I feel about him. The doctor returned and gently explained that there were a few findings, none of which are worrisome on their own but together, may point to something more serious going on. Choroid plexus cyst: some extra fluid in the area of the brain that creates brain fluid, echogenic intracardiac focus: a "spot" on the heart, most likely extra calcium in the muscle, and pyelectasis: extra fluid in one of his kidneys. The doctor was quick to point out that all of these things clear up on their own 95% of the time either during pregnancy or within the first few hours of birth.

He offered to do an amniocentesis that afternoon, or another option of meeting with the genetic counselor to get some additional information about what could be going on. At the mention of amnio, my heart sunk. But immediately wisdom from the Lord filled my heart, announcing that it is the doctor's job to provide the most accurate information. But what made me so sad was the flippant way in which everyone was referring to this pregnancy, to the child we had seen moving and dancing just moments before. There was a possibility of "termination," should we find that in fact, something was going on with our child.

We chose to meet with the genetic counselor, and waited in the lobby with many other expectant women, and I immediately texted my two friends who I knew would be on their way to preschool, cellphones close by. I asked them to pray for wisdom as we met with a counselor to consider the possibility of something wrong with our child.

The meeting went well. The genetic counselor was knowledgeable and able to answer all of our questions. We had 2 markers of a possible 9 that "may increase the concern about the chance" of our baby having Down syndrome. If, by some small probability, our child did in fact have Down's, there was an additional small chance he could have a heart problem, though our ultrasound showed no structural defects or concerns, just a small "dot." I was so relieved that of all our possibilities, first of all our child was most likely healthy, and second, the next likely possibility was of Down's. Big deal. 

This is OUR child, Christ's child, God's creation, an answer to prayer and a blessing. We informed the counselor there was NO chance this baby would be terminated, and given the crazy math formulas that broke down the chances of our baby's health and well-being, we felt comfortable forgoing amnio and its own set of risks.

On the way home, again God's wisdom filled me as I said to Ben, "a healthy child is really just the first of many hurdles we will face as a parent." Who knows what our future holds? Our child could face injury, depression, illness, accident, hard times, and all of these things are one hundred percent out of our control. God is good. He holds our future and the future of our child securely in His loving hands. 

It saddens me that the state of our world is that we could choose to end the life of a perfectly healthy baby due to the inconvenience of a chromosomal disorder. It saddens me that an u/s tech would feel the need to judge a couple on their choice to embrace life, no matter what the outcome. Yet it gladdens my heart to know that as we sat in that room, my friends prayed. The Holy Spirit intervened with groans and sighs and cries to my Creator. God himself surrounded us with His love, wisdom, encouragement and grace. 

For I know the plans I have for you, declares my sovereign Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future. There is a plan for this child. Most likely, he is healthy and strong. But we are assured that he is perfect, he is beloved, and he is ours. Praise be to God, who is the source of our hope and salvation!

Friday, October 24, 2008

funny girl

"Eww...gross! Gum!" 
(Mama trying to convince Maddie not to pick up gum on the ground)

"I need some lips (chapstick)"
the girl likes her pretty things

I call this one future senior portrait
("lips" still in hand)

Friday, October 17, 2008

what to do with a toddler

Go on a nature walk

Dress up (a Halloween preview)

Read (princess attire not required)

Paint! The budding artist shows off her masterpiece

Visit the pumpkin patch

Happy to be me!!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

21 Months!

Dear Maddie Girl,

Hard to believe another month has gone by! You are now twenty-one months old, and living life to the fullest! It is a joy to see you enjoying each day, creating new adventures and games and songs in order to keep things exciting.

You love to sing! It makes your Mama so happy to hear you singing each day, sometimes songs you've learned from us, other times your very own creations! On the way home the other night, your Dada and I listened, beaming with pride, as you sang your own version of "Jesus loves me," a song we sing to you each night at bedtime. You were able to recall many of the words from each line, and it warmed our hearts to hear your little voice praising God.

You continue to grow more mature and independent each day, climbing up in your chair at meal times, zipping up your jammies, brushing your teeth, washing your hands, and helping feed the dog. But it's nice to know you still love to cuddle. You will run up to your Dada or I, arms raised, asking "Hold you!" You are kind and gentle to your babies and animals, giving hugs and kisses all day. And you love, LOVE, babies.  A few of our friends had babies this last month, and they are a source of joy and delight for you. You use the highest, sweetest, squeakiest voice as you shower them with love and affection. Luckily, most of our friends are really easygoing about their babies and allow you to kiss, hug, and give loving touches. Often, long after we've seen these friends, you will talk about "baby Barrett," "baby Claire," or even a baby you haven't met but already love, "Kayla Rose...friend." 

We still spend many hours each week coloring, but you also love to help in the kitchen and around the house, cleaning with wipes, helping dust the furniture, and even washing the floor. I keep hoping someone will invent a toddler vacuum that actually picks up dirt. THEN we will have housekeeping success! This morning I spent a few hours cleaning and you went back and forth between your toys and the cleaning supplies, working alongside me, smiling, and making the work much more enjoyable.

But having you around definitely makes everything more fun. The amount of joy and love and laughter you have brought into our house is what makes me get up each morning. I hear you singing in your crib before the sunrise, softly at first, then gradually getting stronger and stronger until it evolves into, "Mammmmma....MMMMMamaaaa....Mama! Mammmma!" That's my cue to roll out of bed. Often I'll bring you back into our bed to snuggle, and this morning you showered us with kisses and little pats, repeating our names with affection.

There are many trials of toddlerhood, but as I write this update I realize none of them come to mind. I cannot think of anything but how greatly your Dada and I love and appreciate the little person you are. You make us so excited for this next chapter of life, welcoming a new person into our family. I know that it will be really hard and caring for two small creatures will bring a new set of challenges. But at the end of each day, I will thank our Heavenly Father for giving me the greatest of gifts in allowing me to be your Mama.

I love you, baby beans!


Friday, October 10, 2008

hiking las trampas on a windy day

golden hair, golden hills

big girl hiking on her own

pausing to show Dada some special dirt

Thursday, October 09, 2008

is it a ma'am or a sir, a him or a her? pt. 2

for pt. 1 of this story, see here

Today we had the pleasure of seeing baby Nemo again. All of our suspicious were confirmed when we learned that Nemo is indeed a little boy!

Here's mama at 17 weeks, 4 days, and big sister at 20 months, 25 days.


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

pictures from our week

Mama's little helper making pumpkin muffins.
"Stir it up!"

Caught in the act:
toddler's escape attempt foiled!

Three little monkeys after an afternoon
at the park. Too cute!

Friday, October 03, 2008


Maddie's first song, caught on tape. We especially love how she switches into her high voice for the second half of the stanza. She was a little distracted, but you get the idea. Actual lyrics:
Squirrelly, squirrelly, shake your bushy tail (x2)
Wrinkle up your little nose
Hide a nut between your toes
Squirrelly, squirrelly, shake your bushy tail

Thursday, October 02, 2008

"jog" down memory lane

For a while now I've been meaning to take a photo of Maddie in her jogger stroller to compare and contrast with the first time she used it. Suffice to say, she's grown:
March 2007

October 2008