Saturday, May 30, 2009

Grace's Birth Story - Part I

Six years ago this coming Monday, Victoria Grace arrived in our arms. In honor of Grace's birthday, I'd like to share her birth story. As I've worked on writing it, I've realized that it's going to be a two-parter. So I thought I'd share Part I today, just to tease you. I mean, give you an appetizer. Or something.

Last summer, I managed to get Kate's birth story written down. It's quite long, because there were so many extra factors surrounding Kate's birth, and it starts here if you'd like to read it. I mention Kate's story because it is the backdrop to why, at 37 weeks into my sixth pregnancy, I bid Jonathan and the Blessings farewell as they headed back to Missouri from Kansas, where I would be staying until the Baby arrived.

Here's a quote from Katie's story - "I suppose the most glaring result of our hospital experience (with Kate) is the fact that we have since returned home to Kansas for the births of our subsequent babies in order to have the attendance of a legal midwife. Within a couple of weeks after Katie's birth, we were firm in our conviction that we would not subject another of our children to birth in a hospital setting unless there were a legitimate medical reason to do so."

When we discovered in late 2002 that we were expecting another Blessing, along with the excitement came a lot of questions. The biggest one was, "Where and with whom is this baby going to be born?" We talked about quite a few options... a birth center in Missouri, unassisted birth, working with our former midwife in KS, etc. None of those seemed to be our answer.

Then one day when I was talking with Shawna by phone, she mentioned that Kathy, a wonderful midwife in Wichita, with whom we had met in the past, had a great option available. They had taken a house and transformed it into The Birth Inn, where folks like me could come and have a home away from home while using Kathy's midwifery services. Several phone calls later, we had a plan! I would get pre-natal care with a supportive OB in St. Louis, and would travel to Kansas for the birth.

My average “bake time” for babies is 38 weeks. Thankfully, Grace's expected arrival time meshed well with the beginning of the camp season. For those of you who didn't grow up with me, Kansas Bible Camp has been a huge part of my life since I was a youngster. I staffed there every summer from 1986-1995 and lived at the camp a couple of different times. Both Jonathan and I are both very tied to the ministry there, and would love to be able to be more involved. Living eight hours away makes that difficult, though! As we made plans, we realized that I would have an opportunity to work for a week or so at camp while waiting for Baby. Bonus!!

37 weeks was our target date for heading to Kansas, as anything that happened before then wouldn't be handled by a midwife anyway, and it would likely put me close to Kathy within a week of giving birth. Our whole family drove to Kansas for a Memorial Day Weekend family reunion, then Jonathan, the Blessings, and Jonathan's parents headed back to Missouri. Jonathan's parents were gracious enough to come and stay at our house during this time, caring for the other Blessings so that Jonathan could continue to work while I was in Kansas.

Before Jonathan left for Missouri, we had an appointment with Kathy and took all our birth and baby stuff to the Birth Inn (which is about 45 minutes from Hutchinson, where KBC is). I had kept in contact with Kathy by phone and email, and she had my records from the OB in St. Louis, so it was very natural and comfortable to be preparing to birth with her.

As we sat chatting during that appointment, she asked a question that I will never forget. She looked in my eyes, and with an intense attentiveness, asked me, “What can we do to make this your best birth?”

Wow. After my hospital experience, this was a wonderful reminder and affirmation of one reason I had wanted to go back to midwifery care in a home setting!

I had given a lot of thought to what I wanted this birth to be. My experience with Katie's birth had given me a huge boost in my belief and confidence that God had made my body to do what needed to be done. If Jonathan had been willing, we quite possbily would have had an unassisted birth at our home in Missouri. I knew I could birth this baby, and part of me wanted to do so alone with my man. At the same time, I loved knowing that someone with training and expertice would be close by should anything unexpected happen.

My answer to Kathy summed up those feelings first. I then shared that I would like for Jonathan and I to be alone as much as possible for the labor, and that there be minimal assistance with the delivery. Kathy and Brenda listened with attentiveness and respect, and I knew that they would honor the space I was requesting while being readily available with their expertice. After this talk, I was looking forward to this birth more than ever!

I was going to post some of the pictures we took of our family before the crew left to go back to Missouri, but I can't find them anywhere. So here is one of the Hall crew at the family reunion:

Book Giveaway!

My friend Molly, who blogs for Citizens for Midwifery, is having a giveaway in honor of her son's third birthday. She's giving a copy of Rediscovering Birth by Sheila Kitzinger. If you're one of my fellow birth junkies, be sure to check out the CfM blog and sign up for a chance at what looks like a lovely book!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Time to stop being selfish

Yesterday, I found out about this huge spring giveaway party at Sew, Mama, Sew. I've spent most of my spare moments since checking out the myriad of giveaways. So fun! There are three categories of giveaways, and I'm still working my way through the first. I would consider it too much "wasted" time, but I'm also being inspired to make some nifty stuff for my family. So I'm convincing myself it's all good. Thought it was about time I shared my find - Have fun!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Precious Moments

Stephen is adding words to his vocabulary daily, but he is at the point where sometimes the easiest thing to do is to take Mama by the hand (or clothing) and lead her to where he wants to go. He is generally very sweet and non-demanding about this leading, which makes him pretty irresistible to the aforementioned Mama.

This afternoon, a good bit after nap time, Stephen led me out of the kitchen. He led me down the hall and into the boys' room, where he took me by the hand and walked me over to his toddler bed. I sat down on the floor beside his bed, and he climbed onto the bed. He got his favorite blankets and cuddled up in my waiting arms. After a bit, he sat up and played for a while. Then he cuddled some more. And so we spent 15 minutes or longer, just being together... sometimes playing, sometimes cuddling.

How precious to me that this darling little boy (who turns two a week from today) likes to just BE with me. He didn't have an agenda; he was just a bit tired and wanted to play and relax. And he wanted to do it with me. I am honored and blessed beyond words.

A bit of catch up

I haven't posted very many pictures this month, so I'm going to try to play catch up today. The fastest way to do that is to upload them to Picasa albums and embed slideshows that you can click on if you'd like to see bigger versions.

Here are some shots of a visit to Shaw Nature Reserve with Papa & Mama Byrd and Mom Smith. It was a lovely day!

Mother's Day fun:

Also during Papa and Mama Byrd's visit from NC, we spent an afternoon at Grant's Farm in St. Louis. Papa was busy working, but Mama was able to come, as well as Dad & Mom Smith, Aunt Joyce, and Sarah with her sweet Blessings. We had a great time!

Last week, we dog sat Maggie, Dad & Mom Smith's chihuahua. I caught this cute picture of her sleeping in her little bed.

Last Thursday, my friend Sue and her Blessings came over to visit for a few hours. While they were here, Jonathan finished a movable pen for the ducks and moved them outside, so the pictures have a lot of variety!

We had planned to go to a nearby creek to play and picnic on Memorial Day, but the weather changed our plans. Instead, we had biscuits and gravy for lunch, played our new game of "Life" in the afternoon with sweet Georgia, and enjoyed a wonderful supper with Georgia and Dad & Mom Smith. I seemed to neglect the camera in the evening, though...

Wondrous Love

So I woke up this morning grumpy. Lousy attitude, stinky outlook.
I scrolled down my FB homepage, and our friend Elrond had posted this video. Talk about a dose of attitude adjustment!

Visual depictions of Christ's suffering for us can never compare with even the physical aspect of what He endured. And then there was the real suffering, the suffering that purchased my pardon - separation from the Father while He bore the eternal consequences of my sin (and that of everyone else for all of time...). It is literally beyond my comprehension, but videos like this remind me - give me the tiniest grasp of the most minute scrap. What wondrous love, indeed!

I love that the video complier included scenes depicting the resurrection. HIS sacrifice was enough! The work was done! Salvation, so far from free of cost, and yet freely available to me.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Diary of An Old Soul

Fourteen years ago I found a great treasure in a small package. Emmaus Bible College, where I studied for two years, has an annual book sale in the library. In '95, one of my precious finds was a little book by George MacDonald called The Diary of an Old Soul. MacDonald is one of my favorite authors, and to find this book of poetry, a stanza of seven lines for each day of the year, was thrilling. In the years since as I've read it, I've been alternately thrilled and pierced to the quick, with many stops in between.

I've never managed to read The Diary on a truly daily basis, which probably makes a statement about my consistency and discipline that I'd rather not consider...
This year, I have read more often than in the past, at intervals close enough that I am able to start where I last read and catch up to the stanza for the day. It has been a treat!

Just to whet your appetite, here are a few of my May favorites (so far):

Thy great deliverance is a greater thing
Than purest imagination can foregrasp;
A thing beyond all conscious hungering,
Beyond all hope that makes the poet sing.
It takes the clinging world, undoes its clasp,
Floats it afar upon a mighty sea,
And leaves us quiet with love and liberty and thee.

Christ is the pledge that I shall one day see;
That one day, still with him, I shall awake,
And know my God, at one with him and free.
O lordly essence, come to life in me;
The will-throb let me feel that doth me make;
Now have I many a mighty hope in thee,
Then shall I rest although the universe should quake.

Haste to me, Lord, when this fool-heart of mine
Begins to gnaw itself with selfish craving;
Or, like a foul thing scarcely worth the saving,
Swoln up with wrath, desireth vengeance fine.
Haste, Lord, to help, when reason favours wrong;
Haste when thy soul, the high-born thing divine,
Is torn by passion's raving, maniac throng.

Afresh I seek thee. Lead me—once more I pray—
Even should it be against my will, thy way.
Let me not feel thee foreign any hour,
Or shrink from thee as an estranged power.
Through doubt, through faith, through bliss, through stark dismay,
Through sunshine, wind, or snow, or fog, or shower,
Draw me to thee who art my only day.

O Christ, my life, possess me utterly.
Take me and make a little Christ of me.
If I am anything but thy father's son,
'Tis something not yet from the darkness won.
Oh, give me light to live with open eyes.
Oh, give me life to hope above all skies.
Give me thy spirit to haunt the Father with my cries.

If these lines resonate with you, I have good news! While I can't easily find you a beautifully yellowed copy of The Diary of an Old Soul printed in 1927, the book is readily available in other forms. For free, you can download it at Project Gutenberg. You can also find it in several formats (including Kindle!) at Amazon.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Lots to do

We've got lots going on these days. Not so much on the work end of things, for which prayers would be appreciated, but we're trying to take advantage of Jonathan's time off by getting stuff done around the home front. I'll try to post some pictures soon.

But for right now, I need to do some kitchen clean up before friends show up for some play time!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Friday, May 15, 2009

My Bubba

My brother is one of the most beloved people in my life. I'm so proud of him and I think he's fabulous. I think he likes me a bit, too.

Here are some shots from when we were little, taken of slides on my wall yesterday...

These sheep were outside of our apartment in Spain:

Eric, in Spain, ready for school:

Eric and I (and our beautiful Mama in the first picture), when we lived in Chicago briefly after coming home from Spain:

Eric and I at the Allan's house (at Turkey Hill Ranch Bible Camp):

And here we have some of the varied faces of Eric as a younster:

Thanks for enjoying my journey with me. I love you, Bubba!

Baby Pictures

I've been waiting many years to see brand new baby pictures of me, and my desire has at last been fulfilled. Here are some of the pictures I took of slides we looked at this week. It was so special to see my family when I was a baby. And isn't my Mama gorgeous for having just birthed an almost-nine-pound baby??
At the hospital:

And at home:

What a Week!

Monday, I planted 49 tomato and pepper plants, as well as the winter squash. I also got a whopper of a sunburn on my upper back, due to wearing the tank top part of my new swim suit. My arms and face have gotten a lot of sun this year already from working in the garden and running, but I kinda-sorta forgot that my back hadn't seen sunlight in who-knows-how-long.

Tuesday, we had fun at Grant's Farm with Mama Byrd, Dad & Mom Smith, Aunt Joyce, Sarah & her Blessings. It was a beautiful day, and there weren't many people, so it was very relaxing.

I also learned a lesson Tuesday about sunshine and shirts. When you already have a sunburn, a t-shirt doesn't keep it from getting worse in the sun. Tuesday night was much more painful than Monday night had been, and on Wednesday I actually felt ill and spent a good portion of the day in bed. The burn is finally starting to feel a little better today.

Thursday was the last day that we got to see Papa and Mama Byrd before they left to go back to North Carolina and Florida. Aunt Joyce very sweetly brought Mama out to the house while Papa worked in St. Louis, and he came out in the evening.

One fun thing that Mama and I have enjoyed this visit is looking through old slides together. When they were missionaries in Spain (where I was born), it was much less expensive to get slides than to have pictures printed. In my memory, I had never seen pictures of me as a newborn, and only a few as a small baby. I also had seen few pictures of the city of my birth, Valencia, Spain. So it was a thrill and a delight for me to see pictures of where we lived when I was born, of our family at the hospital when I was a newborn, of the team of missionaries with whom they worked, of a time when my Bubba still thought I was wonderful and cute, etc.

Something high on my technological wish list is the gadget they've come up with that can turn your slides and negatives into digital images at home. It's not in the budget yet, though, so I contented myself with taking a few pictures of the slides on the wall. I'll post those separately.

Last night, after a yummy supper of quiche, we let the kids stay up late playing and reading while Jonathan & I and Papa & Mama played Scramble (speed Scrabble). We all had a great time savoring those last hours together for a while. I feel so blessed that we are good friends with both sets of our parents and we thoroughly enjoy spending time with them. This was a sweet visit, and I'm already back to missing them. Love you, Papa and Mama!!

A Convicting and Encouraging Read

Time - thoughts from my friend Kathy on motherhood.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

3 Appropriate Things

The following are some thoughts from Andrew that were included in May's KBC Good News email. I found them to be a blessing.

1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples.
2 Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
Speak of all His wonders.
3 Glory in His holy name;
Let the heart of those who seek the LORD be glad.
4 Seek the LORD and His strength;
Seek His face continually.
Psalm 105:1-4
Sometimes it's hard to know what to do. I was encouraged this weekend to find these three things in Psalm 105 that are always appropriate:
1) Sing to the Lord
I love to sing, and there is nothing better to sing about than our Great God and Father. Not only can I sing about Him, I can sing to Him. He loves to hear the praises of His people. He is always ready to hear my song.
2) Speak of His wonders
There is no end to the good things God has done for us, but the biggest and best is the wonder of the incarnation, death and resurrection of His only Son so that we might have eternal life in Him. I want to be ready in season and out of season to tell others of the eternal hope I have in Christ.
3) Seek His face continually
I feel prone to wander, but I know the One who saved me continues to preserve and perfect me that He might present me holy and blameless as part of His spotless bride.
On this Monday morning I hope you are encouraged, as I am, to sing to, speak of and seek our Mighty God. - APH

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fowl Play

Jonathan came home on Friday with 8 Production Red chicks and 3 ducklings. Very cute! They're all in our room for now, but will be moving soon. A nice thing about buying chicks at a local store is that you can buy them a bit older and skip some of the less-than-cute things about newly hatched chicks. We're guessing the chicks are 2-3 weeks old.

The ducks are probably a couple weeks old as well, but we are learning that ducks are much different than chicks. They are larger and seem further developed... except for their wings, which are tiny at this point. Ducks are more direct in their communication than chicks. The first night, they woke me in the middle of the night with piercing quacks to let me know that they were out of water. They had been extremely shy, but when I got out of bed to check on them, they crowded to the side of the box close to me, prancing and quacking eagerly. The next night, the problem was that they had turned their food bowl into a solid cake of food instead of crumbles. Same routine... they made me feel like I was their best friend when I came to take care of their need. I'll admit, I didn't feel much like their best friend; I just wanted them to hush so that I could go back to sleep!

Here's some pictures of our new fowl:

A Mother's Day Lesson

Last night/this morning I was blessed to be part of an encouraging and refreshing "conversation" via Facebook. I'm going to copy it here for your enjoyment and, hopefully, blessing.

Laurel - had a really lovely day with my family, including both sets of our parents for a grilled supper. Our moms liked their gifts; I got a forsythia bush from Dad & Mom Smith, a phone from J, and a visit from Papa & Mama. Is it okay that it stings that not one of my seven beloved children told me Happy Mother's Day or acknowledged me in any way today? Or does my disappointment show my shallowness and need to grow up?

Becky at 10:58pm May 10
I think they should've been prompted! :) I don't think it's a character flaw on your part.

Nanci at 11:03pm May 10
Know what I got? I did get a couple happy mother's day wishes and my oldest fixed me a glass of water. But I am so blessed. My stinky boys love me, I know. No, your disappointment doesn't mean you're shallow. People need or expect different things on different occasions. Usually on mother's day, my mom and I go play all day together. (shopping, lunch, pampering) and I don't see my kids til evening. Go figure though, I enjoyed my whole day just being able to clean my parents' house. I love you Laurel--you're a lovely spirit. I miss those days in French class with you.

Jennifer at 11:11pm May 10
It is okay and be comforted that - it will come. They will learn to appreciate you and show it - eventually :) Mother's Day is only ONE day. I am thankful that I get to spend all the little moments with them all the time. Many moms don't get to spend as much time as we do sewing into them! Happy Mother's Day (every day)!!

Laurel at 11:21pm May 10
Thanks for the sweet thoughts, my friends. :-)
I wanted to add that the Lord showed me years ago that Mother's Days are always wonderful when I consider them to be a day for *me* to celebrate the privilege of being Mama to my Blessings. So my expectations are generally not for what I will receive or "get." Perhaps I didn't take the time to get my mind set quite right this year. Thankfully, the Lord is faithful, and He'll help me do better next year!

Shawna at 11:26pm May 10
Great attitude Laurel! And you know what, the day isn't over yet! There is still time to go kiss each of their cheeks and pray over them, thanking the Lord for the opportunity to be their mother!

Nanci at 11:38pm May 10
I think we just had a women's Bible study and I'm thankful for that. See, FB IS good for something!

Wendy at 11:44pm May 10
I had to say something to both James and Shay--Dad was the first one to acknowledge the day for me. Happy Mother's Day!

Angela at 9:23am May 11
God made us with a desire to be appreciated. He wouldn't be telling us that He will reward those who earnestly seek Him or well done good and faithful servant if He didn't make us with that need. We just need to remember that if our kiddos don't acknowledge or affirm us that Our heavenly Father DOES! That may not take the sting away, but it certainly does remind me that my worth is from Him! PRAISE GOD!

Lynn at 11:14am May 11
Ya know Laurel, it takes quite a mother to take care of 7 kids and misplace a few now and then...Here at this Smith house I do all the coooking, most of the cleaning, takin the kids to dr appts., and all of the motherly things, but yet my wife get the credit for doing the moms in a weird way i know how ya feel..but deep down my reward for my work is in seeing my children happy, and them not beeing afraid

Lynn at 11:15am May 11
oops hehe, that was suposed to say NOT misplace a few now and then..humm...

Laurel at 11:29am May 11
lol, well, I do misplace one every now and then, but usually not for long! :-) For the record, Lynn, I think you are a terrific father, and your kids are all blessed to have you.
I so appreciate the thoughts that all of you have shared, and I think it's nifty that most of you don't even know the others who have been part of this conversation. What a great use of technology!
Last night, I went in and gave each of my children a kiss/hug/pat on the leg (it was all I could reach!), thanking the Lord for them and praying that He will bless and guide them (and that they will follow). I am more thankful than I could ever express to be Mama to these precious children. Yesterday's lesson made me even more aware of that, and more grateful than ever.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

New posts and other news

...on my Yesterday blog! It's been way too long, and I'm going to try to get with the program again.

Plus, I'm getting ready to post on As we walk by the way. I am just all kinds of crazy tonight!

We had a fun day today... we took a great walk (about 3 miles) with Papa and Mama Byrd and Mom Smith at Shaw Nature Reserve. Then, frozen pizza, apple salad, bacon/cream cheese/jalepeno things for supper, and a fun game of Farkle after the kids went to bed. Whew! Pictures to come...

Friday, May 08, 2009


G'ma Byrd bought this great bubble gun (thanks, Sarah!) and brought it out for the younger kids, especially for Stephen.  He had the opportunity to play with it yesterday with G'ma, Daddy, and Mommy, and he loved it.

Stephen and G'ma watching the bubbles:

Stephen and Daddy, with Stephen figuring out how to pull the trigger. I love all the iridescent colors!

Good News Club Dinner

Jonathan's folks are the "directors" (read: workhorses) for the Good News Club our chapel sponsors at a local elementary school. Yesterday was the last Club of the school year, and was also the chosen time for the end-of-year dinner/celebration. We were honored to be asked to host the celebration at our house, and Mom Smith made it very easy to host by preparing virtually all the food. Mama Byrd and I fixed the dessert, and Jonathan grilled the meat. But mostly, I was able to simply enjoy a house full of people (20 of us!) fellowshipping and enjoying themselves. It was wonderful!

The grill chef:
Visiting on the front porch:
More visiting:
Washers game:
And there was fishing!  Max got this catfish; he's a catch-and-release kind of guy:

A New Blog

I've started a new blog called As we walk by the way to capture our home education moments. Thought I'd announce it for those who might find it interesting.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

New Look

I finally found something I like for a fresh look for the blog. Simple and clean, yet very pretty, in my opinion. Many thanks to CutestBlogontheBlock!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Quite a day

Papa and Mama Byrd are staying at the lovely Traxler "Bed and Breakfast" this week while they visit. It's a nice way for them to visit us and some dear friends at the same time. Yesterday when they were getting close to our place, their Suburban started overheating. Not a good sign! They nursed it along and got it here, then Papa and Jonathan tried a bunch of stuff to get it to stay cool. Unfortunately, it kept overheating. They wound up spending the night here last night - yay for late night games! - and having it towed in today.

Once they left with the tow truck this morning, it was time to get busy in the garden! It's been too wet to finish my planting, but it's been a terrific time for the weeds to grow. Ugh. So today I had lots of weeding and planting to do. I also finally got the various areas staked and "fenced off" with string. Next year, this will be the first thing I do after tilling!

I got all of the seeds planted except the winter squash. We'll have pie pumpkins, mini pumpkins, and butternut squash (drool...), but I wasn't sure how big of a "hill" they needed, so today I just marked where the hills will be.

After the seeds are all in, the next thing to plant will be tomatoes and peppers. We also have some rhubarb and asparagus to plant, but since those are perennials, I'm not sure where I'll put them.

Anyway, several hours and lots of dirt and sunshine later, I was glad to take a shower and relax a bit! Here is the evidence of my day's labor (I didn't take any pictures of all the dirt and sun that got on me!):

Monday, May 04, 2009

Yay for company!

My wonderful parents arrived yesterday, and it is just fabulous to have them here for a visit. I've been missing them something fierce.

And now, it's off for a walk/run before the day gets any later. I just had to share my excitement over Papa and Mama's arrival.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Identification project

A couple weeks ago, I posted a slideshow of digital "specimens" from our afternoon at Shaw Nature Reserve. Today, the older children and I spent quite a while going through and identifying those specimens. We used books and the internet, and got almost everything identified. I was surprised at how much fun it was, and I think the kids enjoyed it as well. Some of our findings were quite surprising... learning about the Kentucky Coffee tree, for one!

Here's the slideshow again, with updated captions:

Missouri Botanical Gardens Trip

On Wednesday, we went to the Botanical Gardens with Dad and Mom Smith. It was our first visit, and we were very impressed.

A few highlight pictures:
The Blessings -

J&L -

Dad and Mom Smith -

I uploaded a larger number of "highlights" to an album - in my opinion, it would be worthwhile to click on the slideshow below so that you can see them up close!