Thursday, June 25, 2009

Happy late birthday, Katie!

Sweet Kate's birthday was Tuesday, and we had a great celebration day with The Cousins and Aunt Beka. I'm eager to tell all about the day and share pictures, but my hands are not permitting me to do that right now. Hopefully soon!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Byrd Visit

We are loving having Beka and The Cousins here to visit. They arrived Friday evening, and we get to have them with us until Wednesday morning. The Blessings and The Cousins are wearing themselves out every day having fun together.

The kids cleaned and began to fill the pool (aka stock tank) on Saturday, and had to stop midway through because we were having water issues. But the half-filled pool doesn't bother the kids at all, and they have been thoroughly enjoying it. Meanwhile, Beka and I have been thoroughly enjoying sitting in the sun beside the pool playing lifeguard.

We all went to church this morning, and the kids were terrific! Beka and most of the children sat along one side of the chapel, and it was fun to watch them. They really did a great job of being still and paying attention.

After church, we hopped in the van and the truck and ate leftover pizza for lunch on our way to Wal-mart for some groceries. Our trip to Wal-mart, while a bit crazy, was actually a lot of fun. The kids were well-mannered and cooperative (yay for them!), and we all enjoyed the two sample stands of ice cream. And I giggled, wondering how many people wondered if Jonathan was there with his two wives and eleven children on Fathers Day.

We had a fun relaxing afternoon (even Jonathan, who mowed for a while). Then we made seafood chowder for dinner and cookies for dessert. Yummy Fathers Day meal!

Here's a collage from Saturday's pictures. Somehow I didn't take a single picture today.

Happy Fathers Day!

I'm beyond thankful for the fathers in my life.

The greatest Father of all, my Heavenly Father.

The best earthly father I could have asked for,
my beloved Papa.
And the wonderful father of my Blessings, my lover and best friend, Jonathan.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Walking Tour

If you've been wanting a closer look at the beautiful property we're blessed to live on right now, here's a walking tour for you. It's really best seen by clicking on the slideshow below and viewing the pictures in their picassa album.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Why I use Google Chrome

First of all, I'm going to admit right off that I realize that Google's browser, Chrome, has its challenges. It has issues dealing with certain types of media, and just this week, it started doing a bizarre thing when I want to print stuff. But I just can't make myself leave and go back to Internet Explorer. I'll use other browsers when I have to, to get a page to work right, but I'll put up with that hassle in order to keep my Chrome.

Here are some screenshots to illustrate two reasons why I love Chrome too much to leave.

1. I love the "New Tab" tab. When I click to open a new tab in IE, I get this uninspiring view (and that's the improvement that comes with IE8!):

Oh, but when I click to open a new tab in Chrome, I get this:

Those lovely little boxes are links to the most often recently used websites. I'm very predictable, and 9 times out of 10, what I want is going to be right there. Love that. Note, none of your blogs are there, not because I don't read them, but because they're in my Reader on my homepage.

2) It's wonderfully minimalist. Look at how much room the actual webpage gets in Chrome (on the left), compared to IE8 (on the right). I am claustrophobic, and I guess that applies to the things I see in my computer screen as well. When I need to use other browsers, I feel like I'm cramped... like I should duck or something.

The advertisement for Google is rather incidental... they just happen to be who makes the browser I like best. The shameless plug for my photo blog, Yesterday, on the other hand, is totally intentional, and I hope you decide to follow it/put it in your reader/check it every day for the rest of your internet days (or for as long as I manage to be faithful to posting on it).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

And underneath...

Great post on the solid truth

And I appreciated this passage someone quoted in the comments section:

Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:23-26

A week for alkalizing

I noticed on Sunday afternoon that I was starting to feel awfully acidic (heartburn, general yucky feeling, etc). I tried to ignore it, but by Monday morning, I realized that I needed to focus on moving my body toward alkaline this week. And I needed to do it fast, because my beloved sis-in-law and The Cousins are coming on Friday (woohooo!!!!), and I know I'm going to be eating all sorts of fun stuff while they're here.

Without getting into a bunch of details, I'll try to give a brief explanation of the acid/alkaline (ph) issue. Everything you eat has the effect of causing your body to become more acidic or more alkaline. For your health, it's best to have a ph that is slightly alkaline (around 7.2). I believe most Americans have a very acidic body ph, something that leads to all sorts of health problems. Rule of thumb - fresh fruits and vegetables are the most alkalizing, meats and processed foods are the most acidifying. I've done a lot of learning and have long way to go, but that's probably the simplest way to sum it up.

I started learning about ph in the midst of my cervical cancer concern, and in conjunction with figuring out why I could no longer tolerate coffee and had constant heartburn. When I started testing my ph, it was around 5. That's truly dreadful. With a radical change of diet for several months, I brought it up to around 7.2, and have been able to maintain that with a way of eating that seems reasonable and workable for me. But there are times when I get off track with my eating, and I realize I need to adjust course.

This past weekend is the first time that I've had such obvious evidence that I was off track and needed to re-stabilize my ph. Since Monday, I've been eating more alkalizing foods and very little of foods that acidify my body, and I am feeling much better already. By the weekend, I should be ready for a few splurges. Woot!

Perhaps the reason I'm blogging about this at all is that it is a reminder to me of some of the lessons I've learned in the last few years.

In general, I believe that it is important to live in moderation. As I've learned more about health and nutrition, I've sought to implement that knowledge in a way that is workable for our family and not too extreme. I've done this with varying degrees of success, so I'm not tooting my own horn, just sharing my perspective/goals.

Alongside a growing commitment to moderation and grace has come the realization that there are times when a less moderate, dare I say - radical, approach is appropriate. When faced with the possibility of cervical cancer, I was very willing to get extreme about my way of eating! There are other times when, usually for a temporary period, it seems appropriate to "get radical" in one way or another.

The goal for me is to be able to come back to a moderate way of life. I want to be radical in my love for my Savior all the time, and I want to walk with Him steadily, in a way that demonstrates His amazing grace.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mixed emotions on the homestead

I'm sure true homesteaders might take exception to my use of the word homestead to describe our efforts here on our rental property, but it's all part of our effort to work toward becoming more self-sufficient and resourceful. So to us, it's our homestead.

This afternoon, I had a terrific time in the garden. I'll interrupt myself to acknowledge that that might sound crazy. If you had told me even last summer that those words would be typed by my fingers, I would've thought you were lacking in the marbles department. But I feel like I've discovered something wonderful. The whole process of planning, planting, weeding, tending... I love it. Some parts of the process are obviously more fun than others. But it is such a rewarding journey.

I spent some time clearing weeds around our tomato plants, staking ones that needed additional support (incidentally, in the future, the plan is to stake from the beginning and forget the cages), and trimming some of the lower branches that were sucking energy from growing tomatoes.

The corn patch is doing well, and the Blessings have it almost all weeded. I don't believe I explained my acute arthritis flare up last week... Basically, we had hoped that the corn would outpace the weeds in the corn patch. Well, the weeds were about to take the lead, so last Monday I attacked them with a vengeance... and discovered that really tall weeds take a lot of work to pull. My hands swelled up and hurt like crazy for a couple days. So finishing the corn patch weeding is now the task of younger and sprier hands.

Miscellaneous other garden updates - Our summer squash and zucchini are looking fantastic! There are actually several itty bitty squash and zucchini growing now, and it's exciting to see them. I've been working the last couple of days moving around our cardboard mulch (love that!), since the places where I placed the cardboard originally are utterly weed free now. Very cool. Still lots of places where I didn't have enough cardboard or where cardboard wouldn't fit well, but I'm definitely pleased with the results.

I have a long list of things I need to do in the garden, but as I sat staking and caring for tomatoes, listing to my man running the weed-eater around the yard, I was filled with joy and excitement over the learning that we're doing and the progress that we're making.

And then Josiah called from the chicken coop, "Mom, there are only four chicks in the pen, and one of them is limping!"

I finished the tomato plant I was working on, and called to Jonathan on my way to the chicken coop. We arrived to find that Josiah was unfortunately correct. We had gone from 7 chicks to 4.

After checking on the remaining chicks, we set about trying to figure out what had gotten the chicks, or, more importantly, how it had gotten them. The pen where the chicks have been living is attached to the chicken coop, and seemed pretty secure. Jonathan checked all along the base and found a spot where a board was pulled away and a predator could have entered. The strange thing was that there were no feathers... but Jonathan got busy clearing out around the pen and strengthening that weak area. It looks so much better now!

As he used the weed-eater on the back side of the pen (I think he figured he didn't want to leave any hiding spots for a predator), Jonathan discovered some feathers. Apparently, something had climbed the side of the pen and gotten in a small opening in the chicken wire that covers the top. Not as secure as we had thought... at least not for chickens not yet full grown.

When all was said and done (at least for tonight), we decided to put the four remaining chicks in the duck pen. One has an injured leg, and one has lost an eye. They are just too small to be accepted by the full-grown chickens, which makes it difficult to put them in the coop at night for safety. The ducks weren't thrilled, but I think we found a workable arrangement, with a spot for the chicks to roost out of the ducks' way. Hopefully they'll adjust well, and since the ducks spend most of the day up at the pond, they will all get some space.

So, I suppose it was a good reality check for us, and a reminder that we still have loads to learn. A disappointing reality check, but it's kind of like the poem that urges us to be thankful for laundry, because we have clothes to wear; to be thankful for dirty toilets, because we have indoor plumbing; etc. I'm deeply thankful that we have the opportunity to do many new things this year - plant and tend a garden, have chickens, have ducks, take care of a 10 acre piece of property, etc. We have much to be thankful for, and I'm eager to continue the learning experience.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009

Forever and Ever!

A friend had a neat post this morning about music that pulls our heartstrings. There are some lovely pieces of music listed in the ensuing comments, and I'm guessing there will be more than one post that comes of it on my blog.

One of the pieces of music that has brought me to tears more times than I can count is the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah. I've always loved it, but it gained a whole new significance to me in the early 1990's.

I was blessed to attend, with a group of family and friends, one of the performances in the New Young Messiah tour in 1993. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole evening, but the portion of the performance that had a profound affect on me was the Hallelujah Chorus. It was, in keeping with the treatment of Handel's great work, a more modern rendition, and even included some ballet dancers.

As I stood and raised my voice in praise with the thousands around me, I was brought to tears as I thought of an eternity of praising our Savior with saints through the ages. I wonder if perhaps we'll praise Him in every style of music that has been used throughout human history. I am certain that there will be no judgment of this style or that style of music or praise, because, at last, our focus will be where it truly should be - on our precious Lord!

The experience brought to mind some of the passages that talk about the praise due our Lord:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!"
(Isaiah 6:1-3)

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!" And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."
(Revelation 4:8-11)

And one of my favorite passages, Revelation 5. The portion in italics, we love to sing; the portion in bold is part of the text on which the prelude to the Hallelujah Chorus is based:

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?"
And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.
And one of the elders said to me, "Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals."
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.
And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth." Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!" And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" and the elders fell down and worshiped.
(Revelation 5:1-14)

I'm not making any statements on my view of the "end times" here. I just believe that once it's all over and done, we are going to have some fabulous praise and worship together! And I think that it's going to happen in a great many musical genres.

So, here's a traditional version of the Hallelujah Chorus:

And a more modern version:

The reprise that followed the second version:

Looking forward to Forever and Ever!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sweet Reunion, plus Weather Excitement

Last night, I had the joy of seeing some dear friends whom I hadn't seen in a while. Tracy, Heather, and I were at KBC together in the ancient days, and while Tracy and I have stayed in touch through the years, we've only recently gotten to catch up on Heather's life thanks to Facebook and blogland. I hadn't seen Heather since Rex and Shawna's wedding almost 11 years ago - and then, only for a few minutes. Tracy and Heather hadn't seen each other in 23 years!

We had a lovely evening catching up and enjoying each others company (and the amazing food) at The Cheesecake Factory last night. The weather eventually made it evident that it was time to leave our outside table and head for home, but it was a sweet time.

The wind was really whipping by the time I hiked out to the van, and I was thankful that I didn't get drenched on my way. What was obviously a large storm system was moving in quickly, and I thought I might have some heavy rain on my way home (I had about an hour's drive ahead of me).

Within minutes, it was truly pouring. As I got out of the city, I could see less and less. The water moved in waves across the road toward me - it seemed a bit like driving in the ocean. I considered pulling over to the side of the road, but I could still barely make out the white line, and I was going slow. I figured as long as those two things held true, nothing bad could happen.

Less than a half mile from where I made that decision, the world seemed to explode. It takes far more time to describe what happened than it took to happen, of course.

BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! It was as if several people set off rapid-fire, overlapping gunshots directly outside my window. The world shook with each "firing." The light was brighter and more intense than I could describe. The whole left side of my body felt numb for several minutes, while the rest of me hyperventilated!

Initially, I thought that the van itself had been struck by lightening, which actually is possible. In hindsight, it seems more likely that the lightening struck one of the mile markers along the highway. I was in the right lane of a 4 lane divided highway, and I'm certain the lightening was not as far away as the median.

I briefly re-considered pulling over, but I was too scared. I think I thought of myself as a sitting duck if I pulled over. Plus, I wasn't sure I could have made myself get back on the road until the storm was over, and I desperately wanted to get home.

It was a wild experience, to be sure. What a display of my God's awesome power! I was shaking most of the rest of the way home, and was so thankful to reach home safely.

Birthday Bashes, Round 3 - Davey

Last Saturday, Davey turned 13! We normally have small family birthday parties, but he had requested to have some families over for dinner and some guys to spend the night, and we gave it the green light. You only turn 13 once, right?

I forgot about the camera until it was time for cake, but we had a mini Mexican buffet at Davey's request: Beef enchiladas with green ench. sauce, beef and chicken ench. with red sauce, and chicken ench. with chipotle cream sauce (oh mercy, that was the crowning glory of the evening, at least, as far as my tastebuds were concerned), black bean salsa (mmmmmm good), chips, and applesauce. I was reminded, mid-afternoon on Friday, in the midst of making over 40 enchiladas, of just how much I love to cook - I had a blast!

Here's Davey careening around the corner, headed somewhere fun, I'm sure. Grace is curled up on Mike's lap in the background, next to Ellie & Maggie:

The birthday boy had requested a chocolate cake, and I made a pineapple upside down cake as well to be sure we'd have enough. I think everyone had sufficient dessert!

Some other fun pictures of friends and family. I didn't do as thorough a job as I like of making sure I had pics of everyone, but I guess we were too busy having fun to worry about it!

And this one of Davey with his buddy Nate was too good to not show by itself:

We're not much for sleepovers, and most of the families we're close to here aren't either, so the fact that Davey got to have a sleepover was a big deal. Sleepover is definitely a misnomer, though, because I don't think any of the boys got more than a couple hours of sleep. They camped out "in" a tent out back, and they also got to move out our little firepit. They enjoyed roasting some marshmallows, and they sat around the fire talking all night long!

I played short-order egg cook Saturday morning, and Barak and I made some biscuits. I thought it was a good sign that the guys all were having a great time when they jumped up and ran back outside for more fun as soon as they finished breakfast.

It was noon-ish before we loaded everyone up and took off to take the fellas home. We enjoyed sweet fellowship with their families when we dropped them off. As you can see, we were all pretty tired when we headed home:

I think Davey thoroughly enjoyed his birthday celebration, and we felt blessed to get to celebrate with precious friends. Happy Birthday, Davey! You are truly a blessing to our family!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Coming soon...

... a real post about Davey's birthday. It's just that I overdid it in the garden yesterday, and am in the midst of my first big arthritis attack. At 35. I've known it was coming since I was in my late teens/early twenties, but still...

Anyhoo, while the swelling in my hands has gone down quite a bit since yesterday, to type more than a few words is quite painful, and I think I'm already over my limit.

Hopefully back and loquacious as ever tomorrow!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Please pray for Noah!

Little Noah Estes is headed to the hospital again tonight, with what looks like another central line infection. If you don't know about Noah and his family, you can read their blog here - Our Quiverfull. And whether or not you have time to get to know them, please pray for them.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Birthday Bashes, Round 2 - Stephen

Our plans for Stephen's birthday:
Jonathan take the day off work; sleep in; have something yummy for a late brunch; leave for Little Indian Creek Conservation area with Dad and Mom Smith between one and two o'clock.

What actually happened:
Jonathan took the day off work; we slept in; Jonathan got a much needed haircut. When he got in the shower, he discovered we didn't have any water. He spent the next several hours figuring out the problem (switch on the pump went bad) and fixing it. I spent the next several hours trying to put together our picnic supper without any water. Thanks to our beloved neighbors, things came together, just later than I had hoped. We finally left the house at around 4 o'clock.

And we proceeded to have a terrific time!

Some friends mentioned Little Indian Creek Conservation Area to us last year. We visited once last summer and thoroughly enjoyed it. The creek is crystal clear and is, for the most part, quite shallow. But there are areas where the water gets deeper so the kids can get some swimming practice. There are quite a few gravel bars, lots of trees, and turns in the creek, so multiple families can string out along the creek and each feel like they have a private space.

Since we arrived late in the day, it wasn't long until we had the whole area to ourselves, which was fun. Here are some shots of our frolics:

And the birthday boy in his new floatie suit (mostly):

About the time we started thinking about our picnic supper, it started sprinkling. As we discussed what we might do about our picnic supper, it progressed to raining. So we headed to the van, where the kids changed into dry clothes. By the time that project was finished, it had stopped raining. We decided to see what we would find driving further into the cons. area, because there were signs about camping only in specified spots. We thought perhaps we would find a nice place to picnic.

Something I learned about conservation areas vs. state parks in Missouri is that when cons. areas have camping spots, they're free. At least when they are "rustic" camping spots like at Little Indian Creek. There are several camping spots spread out near the gravel road that runs through the area, as well as a good-sized loop of camping spots around the "privies," which are actually composting toilets, something I found very cool. But my thing for composting toilets is a tale for another day, I suppose.

Back to the birthday story... we found a camping spot that still had some wood in its fire pit, and spread out our quilts and food while the guys built a fire. We had a lovely picnic!

And then we headed home for cake, ice cream, and presents (not necessarily in that order). Stephen loved all of his goodies. He was also very tired and didn't make it all the way through his cake before being carried off to bed. We were glad that we had him open presents first!
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All in all, though the day ended up being much different than the one we had planned, it was a wonderful day. We all are so thankful to have this precious little boy in our family, and we thoroughly enjoyed celebrating his birthday.

And perhaps next year, I'll manage to post his birth story!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


I generally find Molly's posts to be challenging and thought-provoking. She rocks my boat on a regular basis. Molly took a break from blogging for a while, and I'm glad she's back. This post called The Way of Love: Thoughts from a Former Pharisee has been open on my computer since I first opened it on Monday. I just keep going back to it. Mulling...

Birthday Bashes, Round 1 - Grace

As you've likely already read, our sweet Gracie turned 6 on Monday. We had a fun evening celebrating her birthday.

After a supper of John Denny Casserole, peas & corn, and applesauce, we decided to go outside for a while to enjoy the beautiful evening. We headed up the hill to the pond:

Rolled down the hill:

Smiled beautifully for Mama:

And admired the ducks (who get herded up and down the hill in the morning and evening until they get bigger):

Then we headed back down to the house for Grace to blow out the candles on her Strawberry Shortcake Cake:

And to just generally have ourselves a grand ol' time:

(p.s. - the PW SSC Cake was absolutely oh-mercy-me good!)

Monday, June 01, 2009

A post-giveaway post

Just in case you're visiting because you have good news of my having won a giveaway, here's a perfect place to comment! Or you can send an email to the address on the right.

Yes, I feel silly making this post. I just don't want some generous soul to be confused about how to reach me.

Grace, through the years


Tab and Laurie have got me trying out my Picasa collage feature. How fun! You really have to click on the picture to see the big version, though.
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Grace's Birth - Part II - Happy Birthday, Grace!

(Note – One of the wonderful things about my midwives is that they have given me copies of their detailed notes from my births. I love looking back through them and get another perspective, especially regarding time. Once I get in the zone, I lose track of time, so until I can find Grace's birth records, her birth story will have little in the way of time references.)

Although I missed my family like crazy, I had a wonderful week working in the kitchen at camp during Leadership Training Camp. I even got to do devotions with the girls one night. It was a true joy and blessing to be able to invest in God's work at KBC while I awaited the beginnings of labor.

Friday night, I started feeling less and less comfortable. As I stood in the camp kitchen working on something for Saturday, I realized that I was having steady, but spaced out, contractions. I sat down to work, but the contractions didn't fade. After a while, I went to lay down in the nurse's room, and borrowed a cell phone on which to call Jonathan and say, “Drive, Babe, drive!”

My dear friend and second mom, Cheryl, drove me down to the Birth Inn that night, where I promptly got in bed to get as much rest as I could. Jonathan arrived early in the morning, and we both went to sleep after he arrived. My contractions had faded through the night, and we were both glad for the extra rest.

Saturday morning, we enjoyed making ourselves at home at the Birth Inn. It's not a birth center, but a real home with a terrific birthing room (with toilet, sink, couch that could be made into a bed, and huge jetted tub!). There is a beautiful family bedroom with an heirloom cradle, a couple of extra bedrooms for family or midwives, a comfortable and lovely living room which they also use for childbirth education classes and such, and a nice kitchen/dining area. It's intended to be used for one family at a time, and we really felt at home while we were there.

Now that Jonathan had arrived, I was more than ready for my contractions to start up again. Saturday afternoon, we walked and walked, first around the neighborhood, then around the mall, then to Aldi to get some food for our stay. The contractions would come and go, but nothing intense. I was so frustrated!! At the same time, I felt extremely thankful that Jonathan had had plently of time to get to Wichita. I was just hoping that it hadn't been a completely false alarm, with days (or weeks?) to go before Baby arrived. Kathy's wonderful assistant, Brenda, was a tremendous help to me with my attitude and perspective.

When Saturday night and Sunday morning passed without any developments, we decided to head back to camp to pick up the rest of my luggage. I had left with just an overnight bag, and with a new week of camp starting, I needed to move my stuff out of the way. We got to visit for a little while with a good friend of ours and his fiance, then headed for Wichita again.

I wonder if perhaps part of what was holding things up for my labor was a sense of unfinished business having left my stuff at camp, because on the way back to Wichita, my contractions started getting more serious. We called Kathy on the way and asked her to meet us at the Birth Inn.

A check showed that yes, things were starting to move along. I walked around the living room; I sat on the floor and sorted through baby things and chatted with Kathy's apprentices between contractions; and after a while I started gettng antsy for the tub. Kathy's general policy is to have moms wait until they're at least 5 cm before having them get in the tub, but I was sincerely requesting that they start filling it before then, because I could tell things were really starting to move along and I was looking forward to seeing how the water would ease the intensity of my labor.

I had never had the opportunity to labor in the water before, but had read a lot about it. I knew as soon as my feet hit the tub that I had found heaven on earth (at least for labor!). The water embraced and cushioned me. It muted the many incoming sensory messages, and allowed my body to focus on the business at hand. I could feel my uterus working, my cervix expanding, and yet I was amazingly comfortable.

The lights in the birthing room were dim; music I loved was playing on the CD player; Jonathan was sitting against the tub rubbing my back and neck, and chatting with me when I didn't need to focus on the contractions. I wish that I could find the word pictures to describe the warmth and comfort of that time in my labor. When I think about Grace's birth, I see/hear/feel the comfort of dim lights, the flow of water, my man next to me, calming music... It truly is one of the high points in my life. Bliss.

After a time, I needed to get up and use the toilet they had so wisely installed right next to the tub. I mentioned in passing to Jonathan that I was starting to feel a little bit “pushy,” but I didn't think anything was “imminent.” Jonathan was wise enough to go give our midwifery crew an update, and they came in to see how things were going. If I recall correctly, it was around 11.30, and I remember someone commenting that it looked like this baby wasn't going to make it in time to arrive on June 1st. It was only a few minutes since I had said nothing was imminent, but when I heard that comment I thought to myself, “Don't count on it.” My “pushy-ness” was intensifying quickly!

Sure enough, around 11.50, my body hit a “gotta push!!” contraction. It's amazing how much can happen in one contraction. I had a split second of panic, not sure that it was really time, and I don't know if the words “oh no!” were spoken out loud or only internally. The moment of panic quickly passed and I surrendered to the knowledge that my body had been made for the task at hand. My water broke and Grace's head was born, all in that same contraction. The rest of her followed quickly.

It was such a unique experience, actually giving birth in the water. Grace was so calm and quiet, and everything had a surreal feel. After we had had a few minutes to get to know each other, I got out of the tub (love that shower head with flexible hose!) and moved to the couch. We enjoyed bonding and getting to know Grace (who was a great nurser from the beginning), and eventually moving to the bedroom to get some rest. After pictures!

Jonathan, Grace, and I with our midwifery team:

We stayed at the Birth Inn for a couple nights, so that Kathy could check on Grace and I a few more times before we headed back to Missouri on Tuesday. Kathy was actually in the St. Louis area for Grace's two week check, which was a special treat.

I was so blessed to work with Kathy and Brenda for Grace's birth. They are a terrific team, whose strengths compliment each other perfectly. Kathy had asked what they could do to make this my best birth, and they did it. It was a wonderful experience, and made us sure that we had made the right choice to travel eight hours to work with a legal midwife in a home setting.

(Of course, we are thrilled that if we are blessed with another baby, there are now legal home birth midwives in Missouri, and more working towards their Certified Professional Midwife credential even as I type.)

Here's a picture of Grace with J's Grandma Hall, so you can see what she actually looked like as a newborn.

Happy Birthday, sweet Grace! You are such a living token of God's undeserved favor, and a beautiful reminder that through HIS grace we can have victory. We love you and are so very thankful that you are our precious daughter!