Child of God

Happy Sunday! We've had another busy weekend - what else is new? I spent Friday night and all day Saturday at Skycroft retreat/conference center for part of the annual women's ministry retreat. More on that in another blog (hopefully).

What I really wanted to write about is church this morning. Do you know what it means to be "used by God?" I recognize it is kind of an odd phrase, and one that probably is pretty deeply embedded in the "Christianese language," if you will. You know, the terms and phrases Christians use all of the time to describe their faith life, cool things God is doing, how they relate to others, and church stuff in general. Yeah, that kind of phrase. I try not to use them too much. I feel a little fake-y when I do, and I don't want to - intentionally or not - put up a barrier between myself and anyone who I don't attend church with, may feel left out, or who may misunderstand/misconstrue my words.

So anyhow, when we usually think of using something, or being used by someone, I don't think the connotations that accompany those phrases are necessarily positive. Quite the opposite, actually. Someone used me to cheat on a test in middle school, "he used her for her body," "she used him for his money," and a used tissue is pretty gross. So isn't it just like God to take something like that and turn it on its head? Turn it around? Use the phrase to relate the opposite meaning? Because really, for a believer and follower of Christ...what an honor.

And this morning, I could feel God using me as I led our congregation in worship. It doesn't happen all the time. Well, let me rephrase. I'm fairly certain I am unaware that God is using me most of the times I lead worship. Dangit, I need to rephrase that, too. Let me just put it this way. I'm aware that God is using me when I lead worship (when I commit myself to glorifying Him and being used by Him), it's just that I think many times, I'm unaware of the specific ways and times He may choose to do so. There have been plenty of Sundays when I feel completely "off," and yet hear multiple stories of how a certain song I sang or words I said (that I can't even remember) encouraged someone. In case you hadn't noticed, it's a difficult concept (for me) to put into words.

So this morning, for some reason, God chose to clue me into the fact that He was using me as His vessel. It is an unquestionably humbling and (simultaneously) very challenging realization. I know that the more I open myself up to allowing God to speak through me and use me to minister to people, the more I am going to find myself under attack by Satan, both inside and out. I've been in this place before. Spiritual warfare is a very real thing, and it's dang scary when you realize you are the battleground.

I can see how to some this may all seem arrogant or self-important. Really, I hope not, because that is the complete opposite of my intention. I'm not sitting here blogging trying to toot my own horn and say, "Look at me, people! God is using me to speak into people's hearts! I must be awfully important to Him!" Totally NOT what I am trying to communicate, because I believe He uses all of us, all the time, in many ways, regardless of who we are or what we happen to do. I just happen to sing and play and speak to people from a church stage roughly 2-3 times a month. And I know He uses me just as often (if not more so) when I am not on that stage.

But I'm writing about this morning. Thank you for continuing to read as I wrestle and work out my thoughts as I blog. It's really quite therapeutic for me. Hopefully, it's a decently interesting read, too.

This morning, I had the opportunity to sing a really powerful song, "Child of God," by Kathryn Scott (Vineyard Music). I've only sung it once before, but it just speaks loads to me each time I hear and sing it. The chorus says:

Father, You're all I need,
My sole sufficiency.
My strength when I am weak,
The love that carries me.
Your arms enfold me,
'til I am only
a child of God.

Our worship pastor had asked me at Thursday's rehearsal if I wanted to briefly say something about what Kyler and I have recently experienced with this pregnancy before I sung the song. At the time, I was having similar thoughts, and agreed to. But all weekend, I just couldn't get these nagging thoughts out of my head that maybe that wasn't what I needed to say. Some of it may be personal; I'm having a hard time trusting that we're done with this trial, and I think God was using my struggle with that to guide me in a different direction as far as what He wanted me to say this morning.

As I drove home from the retreat last night, I sung the words to the chorus and thought over all of them. I talked with God about them, and He began to shape in my mind the words He wanted me to say. It's kindof neat, actually, and I've begun to get better at recognizing when He is doing this. Many, many times, it is difficult and I probably usually think my mind is just wandering aimlessly. He brought to mind the concept of relying on Him as my "sole sufficiency," as the song lyrics say.

Let me share a little of what I said this morning. So often, we base our feelings of worth on what the world values. For women, that is frequently how we look. We are constantly bombarded by pictures of airbrushed perfection, pushing ourselves to achieve that weight or that look. And even though we know the images are unrealistic and it's unhealthy for us to do so, we beat ourselves up over how we don't look. Even Christian women who reject those images do this to themselves in an effort to achieve the attractive and wholesome "Christian" look. Ummm....wake up girls, same concept, still not healthy. Or Biblical.

For men, I imagine the same is true in areas of career and provision, in addition to emotional and physical strength. I imagine it's easy to get caught up in climbing the career ladder just for the sake of climbing and competing. Who you work for, how prestigious your career, and how much money you bring home to support your family become issues that affect self-worth.

Working with teens and young adults, (and come on, I'm not that far removed from those years, am I? Yeah, probably....but anyway....) I see first hand the effects of images marketed to convince those generations they need these things to be accepted by their peers. The number of hospital and rehab center visits Kyler makes to visit with teen cutters, teens with eating disorders or drug problems, or teens caught in a cycle of depression increases each year. These issues are still present with young adults, the issues are generally just more complicated, and the individuals more adept at hiding them.

And yet very young children, in that innocent and beautiful way, care nothing for the things the world values. The only thing they know is love, both the giving and receiving of it. Funny...that's what our Father wants from us. He wants to wrap us in His arms and cradle us like a small child, and just love on us. He wants to provide everything we need, and asks only that we love Him and through that love honor and obey the commands He has so carefully crafted for our good.

So really, we spend all of this time fretting for nothing. For nothing! God tells us in his Word that He despises those things that are highly valued by the world. (That particular verse is in Luke, and is referring to money.) For those of us who have put our trust in Jesus and are striving to live for Him, and live out His will for our lives, there is nothing else that we need to achieve an acceptable worth. We are already of infinite value in His eyes, because He loves us.

He is our sole sufficiency. All we need. End of discussion.

This should come as a great relief, but for some reason, our human nature (and Satan's crafty attacks) convince us that this is not enough. I am absolutely no exception to this rule. I struggle daily with how I look, what I have and do not have, and the woman I have not become that I so desperately want to (and think I should) be. Although I long ago rejected the world's images of how I should look, dress, and behave, I struggle instead with my idea of how my house should look, how my kids look and behave, and how others view me. Ugh - the perpetual cycle.

SO - God revealed His will for me in this morning's song, and used me to speak into the heart of...me. Crazy how that works sometimes. He gently and beautifully reminded me that just as He is purely and perfectly sufficient for me, I should find my sufficiency, my value - ALL of it - in Him.


Teen Luau


Wednesday was a crazy day for our family. We had our echocardiogram appt. at noon, then rushed over to SAM's Club to pick up the remaining items for the teen end-of-year Luau that night, then off to pick up the boys and head to church for the event. Craziness doesn't quite describe it...but it was lots of fun!

Some pics for you to enjoy...

Lovely Luau ladies!

Cam helping Daddy make announcements...

Game time! First was the coconut and pineapple relay...

Then LIMBO, of course...

The cutest LIMBO judges...

And the ever-popular chunk-blowing contests...
(Turns out those Crawfords can really blow some chunks!) :)

Synchronized chunk catching...

And of course I couldn't resist throwing in a few pics of our own handsome kiddos...

Cam trying to figure out how to catch the pineapple chunks in his mouth...

Cam and our incredible babysitter Debbie
(she has watched the boys at our house when I've taken long-term subbing jobs).
The boys LOVE her and we do too!

Can words really express just how cute Cameron is?


All Is Well

First things first.

A great big THANK YOU to all of you who have been diligently praying for us and for our precious little baby. I have needed prayers for peace especially, so thank you for those, and for your encouragement and little notes letting me know you were thinking of us. Emotions are hard to keep in check in a normal pregnancy, so on a "low" day, added complications make keeping emotions in check, well, complicated.

Our God is an awesome God, and we know He answers all prayer in His timing. And since He knows the whole story, including many things we don't, we knew we may not understand the answer He chose to give us today, or that we may not even receive an answer today. But we were certain that all would be well with our little baby, regardless of what the doctors found, not because of who our baby is, but because of whose he is. Except that they didn't find a thing.


In fact, Dr. E's words were something like, "They sent you here for a consult, but I just can't find anything to consult with you about. Everything is fine. Looks normal." For whatever reason, what was once clearly there several weeks ago is gone. Disappeared. Healed. And we are so grateful!

We were so pleased with this office and the staff there. They were very straightforward and thorough about everything. I think I even came away with a complete understanding of my insurance benefits for these appointments, and that's impressive! As of right now, I don't need to return to the perinatologist for a follow-up. We discussed my medical background and things I may have been exposed to, and because I have been working in schools (specifically elementary) in the last 12 weeks, he ordered some blood tests be done at my next OB appointment (Monday) to rule out any infection (specifically Parvovirus) that may be present and could have caused the extra pericardial fluid. However, at this time he doesn't see anything that causes him to believe there is a problem.

So all is well.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
Psalm 13:5

Praise the Lord!


Fun In A Box

Oh, to be a toddler! I love how the simplest things make the best toys! And I love these boys!


"Not Me!" Monday


So as usual, we had an eventful week and plenty of it warranted a spot on this week's "Not me!" list. In fact, we weren't 12 hours (9 of them sleeping!) past my previous "Not Me!" post when I started my new list. Never a dull moment...

Every now and then, I try and do the dishes. You know, so I don't have to feed the kids off of tupperware lids (which I never do, of course. But it is a great idea, if you know, I neglect to do the dishes, isn't it?) Anyway, I'm quite sure I must have imagined that our living room was suddenly awash in bright streaks of yellow when I looked up from filling the dishwasher one morning. You see, my children know that markers are for coloring on paper. So naturally, Kayden would never take it upon himself to redecorate our living room. And...my boys play together wonderfully all day long, every day, all week long, so it really shouldn't have alerted me when they were so quiet and allowed me to fill an entire dishwasher without having to stop three times to referee a skirmish the likes of which you only see in hockey...

And when I did go into the living room to investigate the bright yellow streaks I could see from the kitchen on the kids' play kitchen, I certainly didn't then find them on the clock, the throw blanket, the couch cushions, the couch pillows, the tv set, the coffee table, the windows, the living room table and chairs, the legos, Cameron's ears and neck, and Kayden's arms and legs from the thighs down.

And I am not still finding yellow-colored items strewn about our downstairs.

And it definitely hasn't taken the better part of a week of nightly baths to remove the yellow from my children's limbs.

Moving on.

No pregnant woman caves into her cravings first thing in the morning and allows herself to have orange juice and oatmeal raisin cookies for breakfast. I know I didn't.

I enjoy making baby gifts. So when I made these adorable burp cloths and taggie blanket three months ago, I was so excited to mail them to Ashley and Patrick when sweet baby Benjamin was born. I lovingly finished them, wrapped them up and found the perfect little box for them to fit in and be mailed. I did not then lose them for two-and-a-half months, thinking I must have mailed the box, only to find it in (the enormous black hole in...) the back of my husband's car last week. Not me! (ps - sorry for the spoiler, Ash, but the box is finally on the way - promise!)

Another fine day this week, I was diligently working upstairs in the boys' room and needed more light. I am an observant, responsible homemaker, so it certainly wasn't me that completely forgot that one evening prior, my husband had relocated the boys' monitor up inside the floor lamp (certainly not because they wouldn't stop using it like a microphone at 2am...), and it wasn't me that didn't see the cord from said monitor dangling right in front of my face, and I know it mustn't have been yours truly that then turned on that floor lamp and left it on until nap time. The reason I quick-as-lightning determined that the lamp should be turned off had nothing to do with the aroma of melting plastic that was pervading the air upstairs, nor the fact that the lamp's light bulb had effectively transformed the monitor into a useless blob. I then did not have to explain to my 3-year-old why I was thanking God that our house did not burn down during our nap time prayers. Nope, not me!


"Not Me!" Monday is an incredibly fun, blogging carnival started by MckMama on her blog, my charming kids. Basically, it's where we all can be brutally honest about the ridiculous things that will inevitably happen in everyday life.

Follow this link to her blog, where you can read hundreds more fun stories about all of the things that she and everyone else didn't do this week. And, if you decide to join in the fun, be sure to leave me a comment so I can read about all of the things you didn't do this week!


Yay for Date Nights!

Kyler and I enjoyed a rare treat on Friday night - a date! His parents are wonderful, and watch the boys on a myriad of occasions throughout the year, but usually because we have some other function to coordinate, volunteer for, or attend. Seldom do we have the opportunity to use these "child-free" nights just for us. So Friday night was an exceptional little getaway.

Last spring, at the end of my 18-week long-term subbing run, the parents (and students) of the first grade class I taught went in together for a very generous gift card to The Bavarian Inn, a restaurant and hotel in Shepherdstown. (I thought this was so sweet, and very thoughtful, since they did the research to find an extra special place near where we live, rather than near where I taught.) I've only been to the Bavarian once before, when we were treated to a celebratory dinner with Kyler's grandparents and parents just after we were engaged.

Kyler, completely unbeknownst to me, arranged for his parents to watch the boys and made reservations for us to have dinner there on Friday, during the middle of a "seafood festival" they've been advertising during the past two months. The Bavarian is up on a cliff overlooking the Potomac, and our early reservation earned us a table at the window, so we had a spectacular view. It was especially nice not only to go out for dinner, but to order whatever we wanted in (what I consider) a very expensive restaurant! Just wonderful.

Just in case you're wondering, (because I know you are...) we had bread and a crab bisque appetizer (yum!) and I ordered lobster tail stuffed with crab meat and Kyler ordered lump crab cakes. We ended up switching, because the lobster had some horseradishy (like that term?) sauce all mixed into the meat. I'm not much of a sauce person (or many condiments, really) and Kyler very much is, so this worked out well. (Don't worry, he ended up eating one of the crab cakes anyway, so he got some of both.) :)

When dinner was finished, we ran a few errands (how is it that we frequently end up at Wal-Mart on date night? ugh...) and then went home for a movie. We were both pretty tired, so instead opted to cuddle up in front of the computer (we don't have tv, so only occasionally follow a couple of shows that are posted online) for an episode of "Castle." It was a pretty good one (ended in a cliffhanger, though...hate that.)

Just for good measure (and because Mom's been asking nearly every time we talk...) I'll throw in a few pictures from before the date - complete with baby bump. I know I've been rambling on this post; it's late, long weekend, I'm tired. Thanks for reading! :)


Fetal Pericardial Effusion

I've learned a new medical term in the past week. It's one I certainly don't mind knowing, (since I do enjoy learning, and little tidbits here and there are good to store away...) but it's also one I hadn't expected to learn, and one I admittedly would have liked to learn under different circumstances.

Fetal Pericardial Effusion. It's actually a medical diagnosis, given to the sweet baby boy growing inside of me. Basically, it means that doctors have found that our baby has an (as yet) unspecified amount of extra fluid in the sac that surrounds his heart. You can learn more about it here if you like, but keep in mind this article is referring to adults with heart disease. There's no reason to get all worked up about all of the doom and gloom in these articles. Information about this condition in the womb is hard to find, and so far, we really don't have any specifics about our unique situation with our unique baby.

A little background...

This started about five weeks ago, when I had a routine fetal survey (ultrasound) at 21 weeks. The radiologist saw a "sliver of fluid" around Baby's heart that indicated there was more there than is normal. We asked the radiologist if finding this sort of thing is fairly common, and she gave us a pretty standard non-answer (love those). So, having no prior experience with this sort of medical condition, and given her "answer," we assume it probably isn't common. Outside of the womb, extra fluid around the heart is usually indicative of some sort of infection or heart anomaly, congenital or not, but we don't want to jump to any conclusions. I had a follow-up ultrasound this past Monday, and a second radiologist confirmed that the extra fluid is still present. She recommended a fetal echocardiogram, which my OB later concurred she'd like to have done in the next week or so.

So...I've been referred to a medical group that specializes in high-risk pregnancies. They are a team of perinatologists specially trained in dealing with complications of pregnancy, and can perform more specialized diagnostic procedures, like an echocardiogram (from what I understand, is done just like an ultrasound - using sonography - just with more specialized equipment). This team will likely follow me the remainder of my pregnancy, along with my OB. Again, we are not jumping to any conclusions about how serious/routine this is or is not - and we don't want you to, either. Our baby is growing, the structure and function of his heart are normal, and he isn't under any duress. You know how it is in the medical world - everyone is just trying to make sure they don't get sued. They want to catch every single imperfection just to make sure we can't come back and place blame. So, this could be nothing. We have to keep all of that in mind, and proceed as if it will resolve itself until we have information that tells us otherwise, or gives us a more specific understanding of a particular complication. We should know more after I have the appointment with the perinatologist and have the echocardiogram done. My appointment is scheduled for Wednesday the 27th at 12:15pm.

I have had minor complications with both of my previous pregnancies that did, over time, resolve themselves. In fact, I have joked with my OB before about whether or not I would ever have a "normal" pregnancy. This is not something that is causing us (or should cause you) an inordinate amount of concern, stress, or worry. Our family has weathered complicated pregnancies before, and I have a beautiful, healthy nephew born out of one such "high-risk" pregnancy (and his mommy is pregnant again, when doctors said she'd likely never be able to conceive at all!)

I do not know where this road will take us, but I can say with confidence that my God is an awesome God, and He has been preparing me for something like this over the past few weeks. As I've started my own blog, I've been reading quite a few others, many of which are written by mothers of babies with significant health issues. I've mentioned these blogs (and you can find links to them) here. Not only am I a little more educated going into this, but I'm at peace and confident that God is working out His perfect will in our lives, and in the life of our unborn baby.

So...pray for us, yes. Pray for our baby, absolutely. Pray for our doctors, and the outcome of our next appointment, and the echocardiogram. Please do not walk on eggshells around us or refrain from asking how I am feeling or how our baby is doing. We have faith that God will reveal everything in His perfect timing, and we trust that He is in complete control.

We'll keep you updated! Until then, some more beautiful ultrasound pictures of our handsome little man...

And the 3D...
It amazes me how much he has changed in just 4 weeks since the last picture!
And so precious...I love him so much already!

13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Birthday Cookout

We had such a great time at the birthday cookout for Kyler and Kayden on Sunday! Kyler borrowed a super grill from some of our church friends, proudly adorned the WVU grilling apron given to him by our great friends the Moyers, and went to town on that thing.

Yummy hamburgers!
(yucky mustard...blech!) :)

Happy couple...

It was so nice to spend some time relaxing and visiting with friends that we don't get to hang out with enough, and to see some folks that we only see a few times a year at gatherings like these.

The horseshoe pits were a huge hit with the kids, who used them as sandboxes. Many a castle and mountain were built that afternoon! :)

Cam "borrowed" Tony's sunglasses, and wouldn't take them off. Isn't my son so handsome?

Yay for football!

And friends!


A few pics of Kyler opening his presents from my parents...

An electric razor!
(This thing ought to last the rest of his life...the kid only needs to shave once a week!)

I was very proud of myself for arranging the next present after Kyler saw it (and didn't stop talking about it) during our last trip to Texas...

Yep, it's a hat.
But the very cool thing about this hat is who it belonged to.

My maternal grandfather was friends with President Lyndon B. Johnson. The two corresponded all throughout LBJ's presidency, and the President often sent my grandfather pictures and small tokens of appreciation, such as this hat, which was made especially for him (LBJ).

Pretty cool, eh?

I don't think it fits. :)
(But it does fit Kayden! I'll post a pic of that later.)

As a history/political science major, Kyler is so excited to have such a neat, historical heirloom to pass on to our children.


And a few more cookout pics...

Kayden telling everyone, "I'm THREE!"

My nephew being cute...

And my two own adorable cake faces...
(Despite my best efforts to keep them away, I received many reports that they each had somewhere in the neighborhood of five cupcakes! Ugh...)

Getting a little cheesy (har, har har...) with my sis-in-law.
We are both pregnant at the same time - again! :)

And my two favorite shots (THANK YOU, Melissa!!!)
What a fun day!

Oh my soul! I love them all SO much!