Monday, June 30, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
As I read that story, I cried. I just can't fathom not being able to help Loralai. I mean really, I can't begin to put myself in the shoes of these mothers and fathers who are staring at death themselves, but then worse, are staring at their babies who are dying in their arms. These are moms who would give any food given to them, to their babies. And their babies are just as adored as mine is. And so I looked at my chunky 16pound 18week old Loralai and just said, "God, what can I do?" I don't have a crop of corn in my backyard (darn those evil garden eating squirrels) and I don't have a lot of money to give. And as quickly as I asked the question, it came to me: your milk.
Loralai will finish a meal and lean back and immediately start giggling and talking - with milk oozing down the side of her face. Most times I try to push the falling milk back into her mouth. I have to believe that's some sort of instinct: to make sure our babies get all of the food they can. But even better is when I go to the pediatrician and she says two things to me...one is that she is so glad that I'm still breastfeeding because it's the best nutrition for Loralai and the second is the same thing I just wrote. She always emphasizes, "you're STILL breastfeeding?!" It makes me sad that her reaction is STILL. We live in a culture of convenience - if it doesn't fit into our schedule, then we don't do it.
Breastfeeding is hard, at first. But once you establish your milk and make up your mind that this is what you're going to do - I truly believe that it's the greatest gift to your baby (and it's precious to be able to feed your baby with your body). Now I know that some moms can't breastfeed: their milk didn't establish well or their baby was hospitalized and a pump just couldn't stimulate like a baby's mouth could. So please don't think that I look down on the non-breastfeeding moms. I know that there can be snags and sometimes it doesn't work.
But today it hit me and I realized how absolutely blessed Loralai and I are. I get to stay at home with her - which means I have a little bit more time (private time away from a work environment anyway) and I do get to solely breastfeed her without having to pump. I am so incredibly grateful. I remember talking to a friend about her milk and she said that she had heard that you can donate milk. I didn't think twice about it until this morning...
So I took a look around and found an awesome organization http://www.breastmilkproject.org/
They collect breast milk from mothers and deliver and donate it to diseased and HIV/AIDS infected children in Africa and the United States. Because diseased children are born with such a compromised immune system (and infants have very little immunities when born anyway), breast milk has proven to be the greatest asset to the start of their lives. In fact, it's helped some get past those first few months that are so hard for all infants. It simply helps to give them a chance to live.
If you didn't know, know this: breast milk has been proven to fight disease, it improves immunity, it helps digestion, it aids in neurological development and there was even a case that i was personally told about where a baby was formula fed. His esophogas had a small tear in it (though his doctor or parents didn't know this until later) and with each sip of formula, the formula would seep through his esophogas and poison his body. The formula was looked at as an antigen throughout the rest of his body - he was dying. When the doctors finally figured out what the problem was, there was no way they could do surgery. They told the mother that the baby's only hope was breastfeeding. So she worked and worked to get her milk to come in. And it did. And she breastfed. And don't you know that her milk healed the tear in her son's esophogas and he was healed - and fat.
I know that breastfeeding isn't a choice that all mom's make - but it is for this mom. I consider my milk to be honey flowing straight from God. I prayed and prayed that God would help me to be nourishment enough for Loralai and that she would receive my milk and grow hardy from it. But some moms don't produce enough milk, or they die after childbirth, or they aren't able to establish and their babies are desperate for life.
So I'm asking you to pray with me. I have filled out a form to be a milk donor. Please pray that I will be chosen as a candidate and be able to help continue giving life to these precious babies who just want to live.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
i meant to add: loralai has grown 2 3/4 inches and now weighs 16 pounds. the pediatrician said: she's the size of an average 6 month old. oh how proud we are ;) ha. i love it. we prayed for a hardy baby when i was pregnant - when she was born, i knew that it was God's will for little miss loralai to be just that: hardy. and she's continued to grow so strong. and God bless breast milk. it's like honey flowing straight from Heaven :)
3 generations of dimples ;)
gigi and the giggling loralai loralai, aunt julie and the baby in her belly
what toddy found when he got loralai up from a nap. a few tears and a big smile for daddy.
Monday, June 23, 2008
I'm a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a woman, a christian, and i work at home (they call that a stay-at-home mom). i talked to my mom about all of these titles this past weekend. i asked her when people were going to realize that i wasn't a little kid anymore? when would they understand that i am now a wife and a mother and a wife? when would they understand that i'm not a little girl anymore? i'm a woman.
we talked a long time about that. and i cried. it's hard to feel like you have to prove yourself to people - and it's even shameful for me to realize that i have that need...to prove myself. being loved in the sight of Jesus should be enough for me, but i'm realizing that i'm not letting it be. i'm wanting to fill voids with what other people think of me. that frustrates me. it leaves me realizing more and more how much growing i have to do. but i'm also glad that i'm struggling with that - and that i became a little bit more aware of it. it means that i'm not sitting still in my walk. i am growing.
i asked mom why life had to be so painful sometimes. we both agreed that when we struggle, we should be thankful for the opportunity to learn. that no matter how old we are, we should continue to learn from our mistakes, our shortcomings, our successes - our faith.
i'm a wife. i'm a mother. i'm a woman. i'm a daughter. i'm a friend. i'm a sister. i'm a christian. i'm a child created by God.
each of those titles makes me proud. i love being a wife and getting to care for my husband. i love that God gave me a husband that makes me laugh. i love thinking about when i was two and splashing in a backyard sprinkler, that God was forming Todd's heart just for me. i love being a mom. i never knew i would be so insanely giddy over the little giggles that my baby makes. i never knew that i could jump up out of a deep sleep so fast (without the blood rushing to my head and making me dizzy - that HAS to be a gift straight from God!) for the sounds of my little one crying in the night. i adore every minute with our loralai - and i think back to when i was 5 and listening to mrs. stephenson reading me stories of mister peabody and i smile knowing that God knew that 23 years later, i would fall madly in love with a daughter of my own and pray that someone just as tender as my kindergarden assistant teacher would love her and read to her. i'm a woman. while it comes with an insane bag of hormones, stretch marks, sagging parts, and eyelash curlers - i love being a woman. i treasure all of the gifts that God gives only to women. i'm thankful for being taught to be gentle, and tender, to nurture, to hug, to cheer on, to wipe tears, to adore, to laugh with and cry with, to send cards for no reason, to write love letters, to record music for the car ride, to laugh openly and love deeply. i find it so freeing to be a woman - God gave us such goodness when he gave man woman. and i love being a daughter. especially now. i love my mom to pieces. i love looking in the mirror when we're both getting dressed and realizing that our bodies are twins - only mine is 5 inches taller. i love knowing that at 58, i'm still going to be just as beautiful as i am today. i love the hugs my mom gives, the advice she offers, the peaceful silence she shares and the insane bouts of giggles we share. there are few people i've nearly peed my pants with laughing - she's one of them. it's true. (especially the time she got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and she tripped over the scales and fell - oh if you could have only heard the things that came out of her sweet little mouth.). i love being a daughter. and i love being a friend and a sister. i think they go hand-in-hand. once you leave the house and no longer have to slam doors, or share telephone time, or turn up your music to play out the other's, or have to share bathroom time...you realize that the last 18 years taught you how to be someone's best friend. i treasure my brother. living with him taught me a lot - like how to run really fast and dodge pinecones flying at your face - and how to love.
but most importantly, i'm a Christian.
and i love being a Christian and know that i am so blessed that i was sealed at a young age. i know that without Jesus, i would have wrecked so much. let's face it, with him i wrecked so much. i can't imagine what my life would have been like if i didn't have the holy spirit nudging me, then finally yelling at me, to pick up the pieces during certain times in my life.
so that leads me to my point. i love all of the things i am. but all of them are nothing if i'm not centered in Christ. truly. they're nothing and worthless. if i'm a mother, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a wife, a whatever, and my focus isn't on Christ - then i'm no good to any of them. and certainly, i'm no good to the kingdom.
God tells us that our riches aren't here -that earth isn't where we should store them (save them, desire them). eternity is where our hearts are focused. whether we realize it and or conscious of it or not, our longing isn't for this life. that's why it's so conflicting, at times, to be here. that's why it hurts when you feel left out, overwhelmed, over worked, disappointed, etc. we weren't meant to spend forever in these emotions - we were created for perfection and righteousness in heaven. oh hallelujah to that. hallelujah that when we're saved, we sit at the right hand with Jesus, already sitting in perfection with the king, but only waiting for our day of arrival to enjoy his presence. hallelujah, right?
so then the question remains, what am i here? that's what mom and i talked about? without my house, my baby, my husband, my dogs, our income - what are we? where does my identity rest? could i survive without them? do i live for them? God tells us that in order to come to him fully, we must put to death the old life and we must hate our parents - not like, 'oh you stink. you wretched 'ole mama and daddy.' no. he means that we must love him more than we love anyone else on this earth. because in Him is peace, purity, prosperity, wisdom and wealth. God blesses us with financial riches, not so that we'll build a bigger house and buy fancier things, but so that we'll use the money HE has blessed us with to further his kingdom. to spread his word. to somehow make better the world we live in. a fallen world. and the perk - we get nicer things because he's blessed us. not because we deserved them.
i am undeserving, but i am blessed. i am a sinner, but i am saved by grace. i stumble all of the time and get caught up in the identity of all of those roles that compromise me - but the one that matters most, that will last for eternity, is the one role that was given to me at a price i can't even comprehend. i can only be thankful for. and i can try hard to use the gifts God has given me, the grace that only the holy spirit can muster out of me and the love that Jesus has shown me to somehow be a reflection of God so that in all of those roles i will be the walking face of the savior.
so that when people talk about me, they'll refer to me as that christian woman, ashley dengler...not jack leg, joe schmo or dwight.
Matthew 6 19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
1Peter2 11Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
Ecclesiastes 5 10 Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.
Luke 9 23Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? 26If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God."
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Sunday, June 15, 2008
there's something so special between a daddy and his little girl.
i try telling todd - really impressing it upon his heart - the importance, and weight really, of how much is love for her will affect the rest of her life. forever, he will be the one she compares all boys, guys, men to. he knows this. i know he does. but not having a dad, and having had a dad who struggled to stay emotionally present for some time, has made me want to give loralai the security in that part of her life that i didn't have.
being a dad is important. being a parent is important. it's hard. it's rewarding. it's exciting. it's precious and tender and filled with snuggles and more love than a heart should be capable of holding.
i have fond memories of my dad. we rubbed noses - eskimo kisses. every night before bed, he would come and tuck me in and before he kissed me goodnight we would rub noses. sounds silly, i'm sure. he had little nicknames for me: shoogs, booger-bear, boogs, ashley mac. i liked crawling in bed with him in the mornings - he called himself the heater - that man's body temperature alone could have heated a room. i liked snuggling with him in his recliner.
i can't speak for sons, but for daughters, in a dad's arms is where you feel safe.
dads are called to be a reflection of God - they are the example of the Father. that's huge. and i'm thankful for that calling. i'm thankful, also, that God gave me todd. that he gave me todd for loralai. because in his arms she is safe. he prays for her, adores her and tries hard, daily, to become a better man, a better christian, a better husband, and a better friend so that he can show her more clearly what the face of God looks like. being a dad has changed him. it's made his purpose greater and sweeter.
i hope one day she'll know how much he loves her. and i hope that when she says the word 'dad' that she holds it dear to her heart - that she feels the unfailing love that comes from the Father.
....this weekend was wonderful. loralai had her first trip to the beach. it was finally overcast enough for us to head out. it's been so hot lately that we haven't gone during the day time. so we went around 5:00 this weekend. it was perfect. i've never seen our baby NOT smile so much. she was so serious - her eyes were darting everywhere. i can't imagine the newness of it all. her toes dipped into the ocean and her little feet started dancing a wild little jig. it was so much fun.
happy father's day, papa, daddy, todd.
Monday, June 9, 2008
loralai sitting on aunt kristy's belly (and on top of baby anna and ella) :)
yay for tummy time and a quacking duck from her buddy, taylor.
finally home, back in the bouncy seat, and full of giggly energy.
Friday, June 6, 2008
loralai with her daddy. doing her little baby situps. and one, and two and three...
i haven't posted new pictures of the babe lately. so while she's napping, i thought i'd put a few up. she's such a happy little thing. but let's see, changes. she's started rolling over back to belly. but not belly to back. we lost a few night's of sleep over this. non-parents say, 'awwe', parents say, 'oooh, ouch.' lack of sleep is tough. but you power through. you have middle of the night disagreements. you wake up, ask for forgiveness, eat some oatmeal and keep on going.
yesterday loralai attempted to sit up by herself. she keeps doing these little half sit-ups. so i sat her up and don't you know it - she sat there for a good 5 seconds all by herself. i'm betting that her little baby ab muscles are sore today from that feat. all in all, life is good. and being a stay-at-home mom means that every day is photoshoot day. so forgive the self-taken pictures - sometimes it's all i've got: my two hands.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
This week I went to the grocery store. It was just a quick trip for one item. But as I checked out, I looked over to my left and noticed a man waiting in line. He was in a wheelchair. It was obvious that he was a paraplegic. His legs were atrophic. But his upper body was so strong. I imagined him being a football player in his younger days – or maybe he was born like this. Either way, I couldn’t pull my eyes away. I wasn’t sure why, though.
So there I was driving to the YMCA and listening to a song that sounded like this:
Whatever's in front of me
Help me to sing hallelujah
Whatever's in front of me
I'll choose to sing hallelujah
And immediately my thoughts went back to the man at the grocery store a few days before. I thought – I wonder if he sang hallelujah. And then my mind meandered through the pages of my memory – to days that aren’t so pretty. To days that have been challenging. And I shook my head in disappointment. So many times I don’t sing hallelujah. I don’t even say thank you. I just get so so frustrated – or disheartened – or faith shaken – rattled – upset – sad. Name the adjective and I’ve felt it and expressed it. Some of you say ‘Awwwee, it’s ok. You’re human.’ You’re right. I am. But I’m a human Christian and I’m called to rise above humanity – to rise above the world – and let the holy spirit utter words of praise when I can’t. And when I can’t utter or pray or call out to God – the last thing that I need to do is reach for words that not only don’t glorify God but hurt him.
I pulled into the parking spot at the Y. I finished listening to my song and started praying. Choose. You want me to Choose, God? Is that right?
I got a towel from the dressing room and headed towards the gym. I climbed on an elliptical machine, chose my workout mode, put on my headphones and started pedaling my way through the workout. And still, I was complaining in my head. …my legs are so out of shape, my tummy doesn’t feel toned like it used to, wow my endurance is still weak…and then again my spirit felt: Choose. So I wiped the slate of words flowing through my mind and focused on the song in my headphones and found myself enjoying the burn in my legs. I moved over to machines to exercise my legs more – I wanted to shock them back to life.
And then, I was shocked back to life.
I walked over to the free weights to work on my arms. And sitting there in his wheelchair pumping iron with the rest of us was the same man that I saw at the grocery store the other night. He is so strong. His arms bulge muscles. His chest is thick with power. His stomach looks like a blow to his abs wouldn’t phase him for a second. His neck says he’s been working out for years. I so desperately wanted to ask him, “Did you sing hallelujah? Did you? Do you?”
Quietly I went about my workout, choosing. I chose to do one more rep each time I wanted to give up. I chose to smile at strangers. I made choices while thinking. Try it. I bet you don’t realize how many choices you make in a day without really thinking about it.
As I finished up my workout and started leaving the gym, I glanced goodbye at my friend in the wheelchair. He was at a station created especially for those in wheelchairs. It was a hand driven cycle machine and man was he tearing it up! I admired him – and then I wondered if he even knew the clarity he’d offered me.
At our church we talk about new year’s resolutions. But we never make them. Instead we pick a word, one word, and we marinate on it all year long. Last year my word was Wait. It seemed like every time I turned around, God was revealing to me himself in new ways with that word.
I have struggled, this year, in trying to decide on a word. I thought I had one picked out, but it wasn’t turning up in my day-to-day life. Until this past Sunday. At church I was still asking God what my word was and I can’t recall the moment that he revealed it to me. But suddenly the chalkboard in my mind drew up the word Choose. So I asked God to confirm choose.
And then I had a conversation with my husband – it didn’t go so well. Immediately I realized that I’d chosen the wrong words. I had to humble and ask for forgiveness. The rest of the day I constantly was thinking about what my choices were – what would I eat next. What would I do with the baby next. Would I do laundry or dishes, cook dinner or think about tomorrow’s lunch, take a shower or put away clothes, shave my legs or paint my toenails, read the bible or watch tv, talk to my husband or seek silence for a few minutes, reflect on the day or think about tomorrow…
I don’t know his name. I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again or have courage enough to introduce myself to him, but the man in the wheelchair changed me. He may not have chosen it on the day he was born or the day that he became paralyzed, but at some point he chose. He had to have. He illuminated peace. Somewhere in his life God changed him and my friend chose: he sang hallelujah.
He praised God for his life and he chose to live. For the glory of God, this man lives.
So did Christ. And he chose to lay down his life for mine. For yours. He chose. He was, he is, God and he could have chosen another way. He is perfect. He could have done something more simple. But God came in the form of man, a beautiful, gentle, sinless, glorious, tender, wise man who allowed himself to be nailed to a cross and take on the sins of the world – of everyone – so that we might live.
And all he asks…ALL he asks is that daily I choose to live for him. I choose to pick up my sorry excuses and find new words, new ways, new love, new examples, new promises, new mornings, new nights, new visions, new dreams…so that my life is reformed, refined and sanctified so that I might fully live so that my life will fully glorify His.
How else will anyone know the love of Christ if they don’t see it through his brothers and sisters? How else will anyone feel the touch of the savior if Christians aren’t the lamps for the holy one?
I pray that in the face of good or bad that God will give me the courage to sing hallelujah and that in the midst of every regular day, I will learn to practice self control and become more diligent in choosing to live so that my friends and family can look at me like I looked at the man at the Y.
So today I’m choosing to choose.