December 28, 2015

The Story of Rhema, Part 3: The Arrival!

As with our 3 previous babies, we had at least a couple of occurrences during which we thought we might be heading to the hospital only to have the contractions wane. But July 15 we suspected we were finally getting close! I had awakened several times during the night with painful contractions but was able to fall asleep and get a fair amount of rest, considering. Ted chose to stay home from work just in case, and it's a good thing he did! While the morning was quite slow, starting around 11:30am I had a few breathtakingly painful contractions that had us scurrying to grab our bags and head to the hospital.

Rhonda was already with us, having arrived the evening of the 4th of July to be available in case of an early delivery. My mom was planning to drive out closer to the due date but had agreed to come before that weekend of the 18th, as Rhonda had planned to go to Montana for a family wedding. The timing was such that we were able to take Charis to the hospital with us, leaving Grandma in charge of the other kids. It was a blessing that she had been with us long enough to know the kids' routine, so they spent a pretty normal day at home!

Meanwhile, Ted was speeding down the highway to get us to the hospital, as my contractions were about 3 minutes apart and pretty intense. I think it was somewhere around 12:30 or 12:45pm when we arrived and took this picture:

Shortly after this we were ushered into the first L&D room (my status as being-pregnant-with-number-eight undoubtedly had something to do with this, lol), where I was somewhat dismayed to hear that I was only 5 cm dilated. Ah, well. Enough time to visit the restroom another time, anyway. The nurse who did my IV line set-up was close at hand when I tried to settle back onto the bed only to be overcome with a huge contraction. I tried to stand up to deal with the pain, and as I leaned on her arm, I gasped, "Is it possible that it's time to push already?!" Because that's what my body wanted to do!

Things happened in a flurry after that. Rhema was about ready to make her entrance, and the only thing that slowed her down was the fact that she was face up like her big brother Lucan had been! However, unlike during my labor with Lucan, I was not numb from the waist down, so I was actually able to more effectively push our little girl right out into the delivery room. It did take a fair amount of pushing, probably about 50 minutes or so. Definitely longer than I would have hoped, but when all was said and done, the natural delivery was a success, having hurt less than I remember it hurting with Kenna or Zaden. Whereas the doctor had had to use a vacuum with Lucan, we needed no other intervention with Rhema's delivery. But like her big brother, she arrived with some distinguished markings on her forehead indicating her sunny-side up arrival! (Even now at 5.5 months she has a pronounced red mark on her forehead, although we assume it will eventually fade.)

I had a minimal number of stitches, and the recovery from her face-up delivery was so much better than it had been with Lucan. I can't help but wonder if perhaps that labor and delivery would not have been so difficult and traumatic (25+ hours total with 4.5 hours of pushing) if I had not gotten the epidural with him? Ah, well, it's in the past...

Rhema and I got to enjoy some beautiful bonding time immediately after she came out. I was so thankful the staff weren't in a hurry to whisk her away and clean her up. In fact, they didn't even weigh or measure her until after she had nursed for awhile.

Welcome, Rhema Riyel!
Born July 15, 2015, 1:55pm
7 pounds, 9 ounces, 21 inches
Rhema (Greek, pronounced RAY-ma): the specific word of the Lord
Riyel (from the Hebrew Ariel, pronounced Rye-YELL): lioness of God

Because of having tested positive for Group B strep, I had to stay in the hospital 48 hours, which was honestly fine with me! It allowed us to get Rhema's lip tie taken care of, and while I didn't rest terribly well, it was at least nice to have that extra time to recover enough so that I would have the stamina to face the welcome-home herd, lol! Rhema has lots of adoring fans, that's for sure!

Big sister Charis was so thrilled to be able to witness Rhema's birth!

Proud big brothers Tobin and Arden

Grandma J...this is the first time Rhonda has been able to hold one of our babies in the hospital! The soonest she has seen any of our babies was after Lucan was born and she drove from CO to Las Vegas and saw him at about 2-3 days old.

Lucan and Zaden are pretty smitten!

Ted attended an ALS graduation dinner the night after Rhema was born. He stopped in at the hospital on his way home so he could see his girls!

My mom drove from Wisconsin right after she got the news and was able to spend a morning with us at the hospital right before we were discharged to go home.

At home there was a warm welcome for our new wee one! Kenna's words right before I took this photo, when I asked the kids to look at the camera and smile: "I'm looking adoringly down at her." Indeed, lol!

The Story of Rhema, Part 2: Some Specific Answers to Prayers

As I mentioned in the previous post, Rhema's due date of July 20 actually turned out to be pretty good timing after all. Instead of being in the middle of an overseas move, we were already more or less settled into our new home by the time July rolled around. I had even been able to get an additional ultrasound to ensure the placenta had moved (it was quite low initially) and see a new OBGYN a few times before the expected delivery date.

All in all the pregnancy had gone about as well as can be expected, considering I was a 40-year-old! I had experienced quite a bit of nausea in the first 14 weeks or so, but nothing too terrible, and while the varicose veins that appeared all over my right foot and ankle were (and still are, sigh) rather unsightly, the discomfort was minimal when I wore a compression sock.

As we got things in order in our new home, we finally began to feel somewhat "ready" for the arrival of a new wee one. (Do you ever feel completely ready?!)

You'd think we'd have this down "pat" by now, but I freely confess that I always battle anxiety and fear in the days leading up to the birth. God is always faithful, and His mercies flow unceasingly. Here are a few of the precious little ways He showed Himself in the arrival of our sweet girl...perhaps some of them seem insignificant to others, but they are to me an outpouring of my Lord's RHEMA words straight into my heart--numerous specific ways Jesus ministered to my heart and drew me even closer to Himself through His tender care and attention to details that mattered to me.

1. After having an overseas baby, I desired for our parents to have the opportunity to be part of this new little one's arrival. Both grandmas were able to spend time with Rhema and me in the hospital.

2. Since Charis had attended the births of Zaden and Seanin, I desired for her to be present for the birth of her baby sister as well. I will forever hold dear the memory of her bouncing with excitement on the left side of me, bringing me water when I needed a drink and cheering me on. "Oh, Mama! I can see her head! She's almost here!"

3. As always, I felt completely uncomfortable and awkward in those final days. I did NOT want to go past my due date; the previous 4 babies had been anywhere from 4 days to 2 weeks earlier than their due date. Rhema arrived on July 15, five days before due.

4. Related to the above note, the OBGYN had discussed inducing me if Rhema was at all late because of my "advanced age." I am SOOO thankful that was not even an option. God be praised, I have never had an induction!

5. At my 36-week check-up, the swab showed that I was Group Strep-B positive, which meant the "preferred protocol" involved giving me IV antibiotics to "decrease" the chance of infection in the baby. This had happened with Seanin also, but I declined the antibiotics. I planned to do the same thing this time around, despite the AF doctor's stern warnings (she was nice about it but rather stubborn!). Well...even if I had WANTED the antibiotics, the labor and delivery was way too fast for me to have gotten them anyway! Four or more hours of labor while antibiotics drip into my system?! No, thank you!

6. Ted and I often talked about how our babies seemed to choose the dark of night to either arrive or else begin the labor process, resulting in a very tired papa falling asleep by the bed during mom's laboring. We joked, couldn't we just once wake up after a decent night of sleep, have our quiet time and breakfast, and then decide, "Hey, maybe we should head to the hospital" and have a baby in the afternoon! Guess what?! We had a decent night of sleep, had our morning quiet time and breakfast, headed to the hospital just after noon, and Rhema was born before 2:00pm!

7. While I desired a drug-free delivery, I was nervous...Seanin had been 9 pounds and was not at all a quick delivery. It was nighttime before we arrived at the hospital with him, and I had already been contracting for a number of hours, so I was exhausted. Having an epidural with him felt like a necessity to me. But Rhema came quickly, so the decision of whether or not to get an epidural was out of my hands!

8. After having nursing issues with the previous two babies, and learning that lip ties had played a significant role, I wanted to have Rhema checked immediately after birth. Though we couldn't tell initially, after about 24 hours of nursing her and having pain, the lactation consultant agreed with me that Rhema's frenulum was thick enough that it was causing a poor latch. The doctor was able to do a quick little clip about 40 hours after birth, and there was immediate relief. Though we had some nursing issues later on, they were not related to the lip tie, and I really didn't have any nursing pain after this.

9. Related to her nursing problems...again, God's timing was so incredibly perfect. Rhema arrived in the middle of the summer, so we had quite a bit of time before we "needed" to begin our school schedule. This was a blessing, as I had to help Rhema learn to suck properly to get the nutrition she needed to gain weight. The whole process took about 6-7 weeks, and if Rhema had been born at a different time I may have been trying to juggle the full-time job of feeding the baby PLUS trying to keep kids engaged in school...which would not have lasted very long, I'm sure.

10. Rhema's middle name...we went for quite awhile without knowing what to call our sweet girl. I'm not sure exactly when I thought about pairing "Rhema" with "Riyel," but once I did think about it and mentioned it to Ted, it just seemed to fit. Shortly before Rhema was born, I messaged my friend Christine Duncan to ask her about using her singer name Riyel. Her response to me, as well as her joy in responding, confirmed that we should use Riyel as Rhema's middle name. Her words to me were: "Beverly, how incredible! It is actually a misspelling (which for me, when I realized what I had done, was beautifully symbolic to me) the actual word is aRiyel or Ariyel - yes, like Ariel from Little Mermaid. It is Hebrew for "Lioness of God" which is a title for Jerusalem in Scripture."

The Story of Rhema, Part 1: The Back Story

It was the fall of 2011. Zaden was a needy infant (if you don't know our backstory with Zaden's weight loss and feeding issues, you can check my blog archives from Sept and Oct 2011), and I was an exhausted mother of 6 trying to keep things together at the front end of a year-long deployment. It was not a season of life that allowed for ease in picking up and leaving the house for a Bible study, so I eagerly and gratefully accepted the opportunity to do an independent study of Priscilla Shirer's Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted study at home, watching the DVD sessions on my laptop and doing the daily studies in my own workbook. The topic seemed especially pertinent to my life at the time!

During one of the video sessions, Priscilla talked about the Greek word rhema, meaning a specific word from the Lord. I had learned about this word a few years prior, during a ladies' Bible study of Beth Moore's, John, the Beloved Disciple, and I actually remembered being struck by the subject matter to the point of making notes in my own Bible as I listened to the instruction.

Anyway, there I was...sitting in my kitchen, nursing baby Zaden, taking notes and listening to Priscilla talk about how Jonah had received a rhema word from the Lord, a specific message from God. And suddenly I knew God was putting a rhema word in my own heart. I "heard" the message, clear as day: There will be a girl, and her name will be Rhema. It was so clear I actually stopped the video and sat with my heart pounding for awhile. What?! I was so overwhelmed just trying to keep up with the day-to-day needs of the 6 children we had...I couldn't even imagine having another baby then or ever.

I journaled about the experience in my private prayer journal, recording my thoughts and reactions, and I prayed much over it, but I didn't tell anyone until Ted was home a few months later for his two-week R&R time. We prayed together about God's plans for our family but held this close to our hearts.

Life moved on. We made it through the rest of our year-long separation, welcoming Ted home in May of 2012. We eagerly embraced our new adventure: moving overseas to Naples, Italy, for our next assignment. Amidst the flurry of life in a different country, we learned another child would join our family. I assumed this was our little girl Rhema, about whom I felt God had told me more than a year previously.

But...ha, ha! The ultrasound revealed we were having a BOY! And I knew God had given us Rhema as a girl's name! So, as we welcomed to the family our chunky little boy, Seanin Gabriel, I filed away the thoughts, questions, and perplexity I was feeling at the time. After reading and teaching Richard Stearns' book The Hole in Our Gospel, I wondered if perhaps God would lead us to adopt a little girl someday, and perhaps HER name would be Rhema.

But as you probably already know, God knit Rhema together in my own womb in His own perfect timing. A week after I had completed the Athens Marathon in 2014, I took a pregnancy test and wasn't terribly surprised to see that it was positive. The due date of July 20 seemed rather puzzling to me--we were scheduled to move in August 2015, and moving overseas with a newborn did not sound appealing. With that thought putting a bit of a damper on things, Ted and I kept the news to ourselves for awhile, waiting to surprise the kids and Grandma J with an announcement on Christmas morning.

As always, God's timing proves to be ever so perfect...what we didn't know when we saw those two pink lines was that God had already chosen for Ted to be assigned to a squadron command job that would begin at the end of May, causing us to have to make the overseas move nearly 3 months ahead of schedule! And not only that, but the Lord gave us an assignment in Nebraska, smack in the middle of the country with our families located about the same distance away from us in either direction!

Honestly, we know by now that we can trust our good and gracious Father God. Sometimes we may wonder while we wait, but we KNOW His ways are perfect!

A couple of months after we started sharing the news, an ultrasound confirmed what I suspected to be true: this baby was a GIRL! And I felt peace that she was indeed our little Rhema whom God had planned all along to be a part of our family, just as He knows each and every one of us from ages past, before the foundations of the earth were laid. What an amazing God we have!

June Highlights

June 2015...

...receiving the rest of our household goods from Italy and storage...

...unpacking, organizing, settling into our beautiful, Victorian rental home...

...finalizing the purchase of a custom, 11-seat van to accommodate our growing family...

...meeting new friends, joining a new church, adapting (somewhat) to a new locale...

...attempting to create some structure to our days by staying mentally sharp with math lessons and Bible Bee activities...

Library with bay window looking toward the front yard. Isn't the stained glass lovely? And those built-in shelves!! Love them!

Gas fireplace in the library...looking toward the front entryway and main staircase.

Family room with sun room behind the large window.

Formal dining room

View from the front door

Back yard

Inside our new (to us) van! Twelve-seat customized to 11-seat (two captain chairs instead of a front row bench). Lots more room for growing legs! 

December 13, 2015

Change of Command

On May 28, 2015, the eighteenth anniversary of Ted's commission as an Air Force officer, he took command of the 20th IS at Offutt AFB. This two-year assignment is an honor, one which he fully deserves (not that I'm biased or anything!), as being chosen as a squadron commander is a highly competitive, selective process. Ted wasn't entirely sure he would even be in the running, but after much prayer and discussion, he decided to open as many doors as possible and trust that God would lead us where He wanted our family next.

It's hard to believe we are already 1/4 of the way through this job! It has been a challenging role to say the least, but one that has Ted utilizing his many gifts and people skills to bring positive change to a really incredible group of folks.

Here's a glimpse of the change of command ceremony, during which the folks at the 20th said goodbye to their former commander and welcomed their new one. We were honored to share the day with special guests, both military and civilian, the latter of whom included Rhonda (Ted's mom), Joel (his brother) and family, my parents, my aunt and uncle, some of my cousins, and mutual friends.

Color Guard

Outgoing commander on the left

National Anthem

Ted accepts command

A few brief remarks

December 06, 2015

From Naples to Nebraska

The subtitle of this post should be "The Longest 46 Hours EVER." And it all began May 15, 2015.

First of all, this was the first time the family had ever taken a military rotator anywhere. Oy. I am not sure why we decided this would be a good thing over flying commercial, but what's done is done, right? We had the morning to say goodbyes to friends on base, clear out the temporary quarters we had been living in, and drive ourselves in a borrowed van to the military airport downtown. We unloaded all of our stuff, dragged it all into the terminal...and waited. Our friends the Js were there, and Hannah told me about a play room for younger kids upstairs. This was somewhat helpful, although it was about 8 feet square and stuffed with toys and books that likely had not seen any disinfectant in a few decades. Nevertheless, it placated our wigglier family members and helped pass the time until we were ready to go through security.

Our friends Tuba and Hannah came to say goodbye to us and other friends who were traveling.
Security was easy enough, but we had to give up our water bottles. Sigh. This pregnant mama wasn't happy about that, but we'd be on the plane soon enough, right?

Bwahahahaha!!! No, just kidding! We were stuck in a small waiting room on the other side of security for an hour while plans for takeoff were in limbo. Unable to walk out to the plane--where some folks had already boarded, yet unable to return to the USO area to play and eat snacks, all we could do was sit and wait. Thankfully the security people took pity on us and we were able to get some water bottles.

Finally, after a long, sweaty hour, we resumed our shuffling and herding onto the plane...

...where we waited for another couple of hours or so before a flight plan could be approved. So much time has passed now that I don't remember the details, but it had something to do with Rome's air space. All I remember is that Seanin had not napped and was rapidly approaching manic/meltdown mode despite the "fun" of this new adventure.

Eventually we received approval to leave Naples, and while I had anticipated this would be a bittersweet moment, it actually was more of a relief than anything else to watch the city fade away below us. On to Rota, Spain!

At Rota we were required to leave the plane. Silly us, thinking we'd be boarding again after a brief visit to the bathrooms and chance to stretch our legs. This time we were in a bigger waiting area with a few hundred of our new closest friends, all contributing to the rising temperature as the sun disappeared over the horizon, taking the last vestiges of patience and good humor with it.

A couple of hours later we got back onto the plane and began the journey over the ocean. You'd have thought Seanin would have slept at this point, but let's just say it was an incredibly long night.

Landing in Norfolk, VA, should have been a relief, but the process of getting allllllll of our luggage and then a taxi was another excruciating couple of hours. We had reservations at the Navy base for a night, but by the time we arrived and got semi-settled we got a grand total of about 2-3 hours of sleep before we had to be up and loaded into the taxis to get to the airport.

Seanin enjoys waiting on the luggage cart in Norfolk while Ted and the older kids look for our bags. This is quite possibly the only time he actually smiled during this day's travels!
At least this time the flights were commercial, and we were starting from a small airport. Check-in, luggage, security, get to the gate. Somehow we managed to get from Norfolk to Atlanta to Omaha without further incidents. By the time we landed in Omaha it had been 46 hours from the time we began the whole adventure waiting in the Naples terminal. Considering the circumstances, it's a wonder we all weren't melting down, but Seanin is really the only one who had issues, and at 21 months old, who could blame him?!

A lieutenant from Ted's squadron met us at the airport to help orient us, and then we piled into a rental van and made our first Very Important Stop: Chick-Fil-A! A Star Wars troop was there for a family dinner event, which delighted the kids. (I'm sure the younger boys thought this was entirely for their benefit!) The manager heard our story...just arrived from an overseas assignment, etc...and came to thank us for our service and tell us that he was buying us dinner! What a blessing! It was a much nicer way to end our trip than we would have expected after being so tired and feeling yucky from all the travel.

Final stop: Offutt AFB temporary housing! Oh, such a joy to be in a 2-story HOUSE and get a decent night of sleep! We caught up (a bit) on our rest and met our landlords the next afternoon so we could tour the house we were pretty sure we wanted to rent. One look at the house made it a done deal! The Lord truly answered our prayers in so many ways. We set our move-in date for May 26 (the soonest the movers could schedule delivery of our household goods) and spent the next week getting familiar with the area, purchasing our own big white van, enjoying Stateside specialties (such as wide parking spots and cheeseburgers), and generally getting as settled as possible.

After all of our European travels, we can say honestly that we are glad to finally "land" and stay put for awhile! We certainly won't be pursuing air travel anytime soon at any rate, lol.

November 07, 2015

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow...

It's a part of military life...having to pick up and start all over. God is so faithful; He has provided amazing friends and communities for us to be part of wherever we move. But it doesn't make saying goodbye any easier. We are reminded that this world is not our home anyway. Thank the Lord we have all eternity to be with our dear brothers and sisters in Christ!

Our last week in Naples was a whirlwind, from our day trip to Capri to the last PWOC meeting, during which the ladies shared testimonies of how they had grown spiritually during the year of Bible study and fellowship, from last-minute meet-ups at the park to one final getaway to downtown Napoli for a double date. Friday morning came all too quickly, when we were saying our final goodbyes and making our last drive to Capodichino to join others waiting to board the military rotator. We thank God for the precious friendships He allowed us to develop during our time in Italy.

Charis and Katie B

PWOC Board retreat in Formia

Emily and Braidyn K will always be Charis's special friends!

Awesome group of homeschool kids at the fine arts recital the day before we left the country. These kids are all amazing...then are their parents!! 

As I was uploading this photo, Zaden informed me that "Caleb is my best friend." These three little boys were nearly inseparable! We are so thankful for the K family and their friendship!

Hope K with Kenna and Kira S

Charis and I love Titti, our dear friend and Italian tutor!

Christian and Connor F with our boys

Gerrit R with our boys

Even though Isaac and Zach are younger than Arden and Tobin, our boys considered them among their best buds!

Jasmine and Faith with Charis. The B family = very special to us!

Princess and Michaela with Kenna

My dear friend Tirzah

Tirzah's boy Sam was one of our boys' best friends also

Tuba and Hannah J, a special young couple, will always be like family to us!

Family Photos in Capua

My friend Mackenzie helped us squeeze in a family photo shoot at one of our favorite places in Italy, the Capua amphitheater. It's the second largest amphitheater and the one where Sparticus trained. Two days before we were to fly across the ocean we scraped together some matching clothes and captured some lovely moments! The experience was made all the more memorable as we corralled a squirmy and uncooperative Seanin, who was happiest when running wild all over the place. That came to a sudden stop when he tripped and scraped his forehead. SIGH! So our latter pictures of him include a battle wound, which is, I suppose, somewhat appropriate...