Monday, October 26, 2009

My Hero

The finishing touch to Mack's nursery was a painting done by a dear friend of both Micah and I. Her name is Michele Struss and she has one of the most amazing testimonies I've ever heard. I wanted to give just a bit of background in hopes you would see why this painting is so special to us.

Michele was born with a form of Dwarfism that has limited and challenged her life in many ways; yet it is the very vehicle that God has chosen to make Himself known to her. As a result, Michele sees the treasure in the way God created her, fully aware that some things cannot be known about God apart from pain, weakness and need. These circumstances have been the stepping stones in her life towards a passionate relationship with Jesus and a resolved faith. "My faith is often tested when I'm in the heat of the battle; but while this world has no effective weapons to offer the weak, knowing Jesus, gives me weapons to slay giants." Michele is a giant slayer.

Having been born with a form of Dwarfism known as SED Congenita which causes daily physical struggles, pain and the need for multiple surgeries, Michele sees it as a precious gift as she watches the trials of her life grow her faith and deepen her relationship with Jesus. For that she calls herself blessed for being created as she is.

In 1987 as a result of neurological damage, Michele became fully dependent on crutches for the next 13 years. Michele says, "I remember in hope and utter frustration declaring, 'If the day ever comes when I don't need my crutches, I'm going to burn them!' When I asked my doctor if he thought that day would ever come, his wisdom spoke 'Most likely, no.' But I never stopped believing in the One who could heal me. On September 29, 2001 I threw the very crutches that 'man' said I would always need into a bonfire. My doctor of 28 years was there and said, 'There are many doctors but only one Healer. The Healer is the Lord above us. We have to acknowledge this.'"

From this experience came the painting "My Hero"

About the Painting (In Michele's words):

My hero was inspired by the words of someone dear to my heart. He calls me his hero because of the strength he sees in my life, but what he doesn't see is the source of that strength. In this painting I've portrayed myself as the little girl who has fallen while walking with her crutches. She looks up to the One behind her as if to say,"...but it hurts." His strong but gentle look reveals His response, "It will be okay, I am with you." On my own I am weak, but His strength is always there to pick me up. He is my hero and His name is Jesus.

After countless prayers, tears, and three attempts, which took a full year and a half, I was able to fulfill the vision God gave me and complete the work, My Hero. Those two failed attempts taught me more than any successful painting I created. Without the leading of the Holy Spirit I would never have had the strength or courage to try a second and then a third time. My prayer through it all remained the same: "Lord I cannot do this alone; I need You to be the artist and simply use me as Your paintbrush through which you reveal Your heart."

This is just one of several of Michele's amazing works of art. If you'd like to see more of Michele's work you can visit her website.

35 Weeks Pregnant

How my baby's growing:

My baby doesn't have much room to maneuver now that he's over 18 inches long and tips the scales at 5 1/4 pounds (pick up a honeydew melon). Because it's so snug in my womb, he isn't likely to be doing somersaults anymore, but the number of times he kicks should remain about the same. His kidneys are fully developed now, and his liver can process some waste products. Most of his basic physical development is now complete — he'll spend the next few weeks putting on weight.

How my life's changing:

My uterus — which was entirely tucked away inside my pelvis when I conceived — now reaches up under my rib cage. If you could peek inside my womb, you'd see that there's more baby than amniotic fluid in there now. My ballooning uterus is crowding my other internal organs, too, which is why I probably have to urinate more often and may be dealing with heartburn a little more.

From here on out, I'll start seeing my Dr. every week. I've created a birth plan to help us focus on specifics - like who'll be present, what pain management techniques I want to try, and where I want the baby to stay after I deliver. My greatest hopes are to deliver this baby as naturally as possible. Nowadays that can mean a lot of things, basically people say if you deliver vaginally you've had a natural birth experience. I on the other-hand would like to attempt to go as drug free as possible. Childbirth is unpredictable however, and chances are I won't follow my plan to the letter, but thinking about my choices ahead of time — and sharing my preferences with my caregiver — takes some of the anxiety out of the process.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

34 Weeks Pregnant

How my baby's growing:

My baby now weighs about 4 3/4 pounds (like your average cantaloupe) and is almost 18 inches long. His fat layers — which will help regulate his body temperature once he's born — are filling him out, making him rounder. His skin is also smoother than ever. His central nervous system is maturing and his lungs are continuing to mature as well. Our baby can, and does, respond just as a newborn would by opening his eyes while awake and closing them while sleeping. He can also grasp firmly. It's comforting to know that if our baby was born now, he has a 95 percent chance of full and normal survival with medical intervention, however we'd still rather hold out until at least 37 weeks.

How my life's changing:

Fatigue has definitely set in again, though not with the same coma-like intensity of the first trimester. Given the physical strain I'm under and the restless nights of frequent pee breaks and tossing and turning, while trying to get comfortable, it's said to be quite understandable. Now's the time to slow down and save up my energy for labor day (and beyond).

And the belly keeps growing at 8 months/34 weeks.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

33 Weeks Pregnant

How my baby's growing:

This week my baby weighs a little over 4 pounds (heft a pineapple) and has passed the 17-inch mark. He's rapidly losing that wrinkled, alien look and his skeleton is hardening. The bones in his skull aren't fused together, which allows them to move and slightly overlap, thus making it easier for him to fit through the birth canal. (The pressure on the head during birth is so intense that many babies are born with aconehead-like appearance.) These bones don't entirely fuse until early adulthood, so they can grow as his brain and other tissue expands during infancy and childhood.

How my life's changing:

We're in for the home stretch of the pregnancy. Getting a little anxious as I think about how life will be with this little one. Not too much has changed, well we did get the nursery completed for those of you who've been wanting to see it. Remember, it's not your traditional nursery...

This little lamp was actually made by Micah's grandfather, Mack. When you pull on the tail, it turns on and off. Karen, my mother-in-law simple covered the lamp shade to match the other curtains and lampshade she made. Karen also painted the number canvases for me - she did an amazing job!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

32 Weeks Pregnant

How my baby's growing:

I should be gaining about a pound a week and roughly half of that goes right to my baby. In fact, he'll gain a third to half of his birth weight during the next 7 weeks as he fattens up for survival outside the womb. He now has toenails, fingernails, and real hair (or at least respectable peach fuzz). His skin is becoming soft and smooth as he plumps up in preparation for birth.

How my life's changing:

To accommodate me and my baby's growing needs, my blood volume has increased 40 to 50 percent since I got pregnant. With my uterus pushing up near my diaphragm and crowding my stomach, the consequences are shortness of breath and heartburn.

Starting to have some lower-back pain as the pregnancy advances. Assuming it's not preterm labor that's ailing me, I can probably blame my growing uterus and hormonal changes for my aching back. My expanding uterus shifts my center of gravity and stretches out and weakens my abdominal muscles, changing my posture and putting a strain on my back. Hormonal changes in pregnancy loosen the joints and the ligaments that attach my pelvic bones to my spine. This can make me feel less stable and cause pain when I walk, stand, sit for long periods, roll over in bed, get out of a low chair or the tub, bend, or lift things.

In the eight month and on the count down with 8 weeks to go. Up until now, I've bee seeing my doctor about once a month. Now I am starting to see him every two weeks, until the final month and then it'll kick up to once a week. Keep me in your prayers as we make the final preparations to the nursery, purchase the last few things we need and pack bags for the hospital. We're so anxious to meet this little guy!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Together 5 Years!

In the beginning of our
marriage we had no idea
what the years would
bring, or how clearly
we would see God's grace
in the love He'd given to us.

He's been with us
every step of the way...
nurturing, growing,
and strengthening
this incredible
gift of
lifetime love.

It feels good to travel
through life with my best friend -
a man I admire, respect, and
love more than anyone
else in the world.

I know good things are ahead of us
because God is with us...
and I look forward to
seeing His best Together.

Our gift to each other was the Willow Tree Together Figurine
"For those who have found their true partner in love and life."