Tuesday, December 6, 2011

An Expected Blessing

Thanksgiving may be long over, but Andy and I are still overflowing with thankfulness to God for all that he has done for us.  About a month before Thanksgiving we found out that we are expecting our second child, due to arrive in mid-June.  Many people were not a bit surprised by our announcement and “had been wondering” when we would decide to have another.

This is, actually, a blog post I’ve been waiting to write for a long time since we tried for a year and a half to have another child.  Having conceived our first with very little waiting, I initially panicked and then told myself that it’s not unusual for it to take some time.  So we waited… then I got emotional.  Panic, confusion, and a feeling of failure began to set in.  Andy and I had countless conversations about our need to surrender our family and our desires (specifically in regards to the size of our family) to God.  I was really struggling with it though.  I was a little angry with God.  It seemed a tease to have given us one child so easily and then no children after that.  I felt this strong desire to have more children and I felt justified in that desire – that it was good and godly, even. 

Over the next few months God revealed to me (through Bible reading, prayer time, blogs I follow, Sunday morning services, and the words of others) that anything I desire more than Him is sin. 

“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”  James 1:13-15

Difficult words to read.  My desire was great, but it was for the wrong thing. 
In June it was recommended to me to set up a fertility consultation with one of the doctors in my OB practice.  And I did… in the fall.  I put it off all summer with the excuse being that our summer was too crazy to schedule a bunch of appointments (that was only partially true).  Although scheduling that doctor’s appointment sooner could have possibly sped up the process of conceiving, the Great Physician had some work to do in heart first.  God really used the summer to change my perspective, and by the fall I was ready to face whatever the doctor said and know that ultimately my desire was to honor God in this situation – and He definitely gave me (us) the opportunity to do so.

By the end of my initial consult, the doctor felt she had a good idea of what was probably going on but needed to run some tests (blood work and an ultrasound) to confirm.  She explained that if the tests confirmed what she thought, then there were several options that we could explore that could aid in me getting pregnant.  Andy and I weren’t sure about any of this, at this point.  We talked about the options, but mostly decided to just wait and find out the test results. 

The lab results from my blood work came back in line with what the doctor was thinking.  In fact, she said something like, “Given your blood work results, there’s really no way you can get pregnant right now, and this is probably been a problem the whole time you’ve been trying.”  The next step toward an actual diagnosis was an ultrasound.  The results were okay, hopeful, and discouraging all at the same time.  The doctor’s initial prediction was confirmed… okay.  She also said that it seemed to her that we could possibly conceive at any time… good.  But then she said that she found something questionable that, if confirmed (via yet another test) would result in having to go in for day surgery… discouraging.

Okay God… What is going on here?  How am I supposed to handle all this news?  I’m relieved… I’m scared… I’m excited… I’m everything.

It was then that I was reminded of all that God had been teaching me for that past year and half… As hard as I may try, I can’t always control the circumstances of my life, and the results of this ultrasound certainly proved that.  So I continue to trust in my unchanging God – the one who is in control and has proven himself faithful.

“For the word of the Lord is right and true, he is faithful in all he does.” (Psalm 33:4)

Even though it wasn’t easy, Andy and I kept trying to remain faithful to our God who loves us so much that (in addition to meeting our daily needs) he met our ultimate need of a Savior.  How could I doubt his faithfulness now? 

Two and a half weeks after getting the results of my ultrasound, I discovered that I was pregnant.  I wandered aimlessly around my house, audibly crying and praising God through my tears.  I was overwhelmed.  After sharing the news with Andy, we figured that the doctor had been right and I was probably 4.5 weeks pregnant.   Although we were overjoyed by the news, we decided to initially keep it to ourselves until after my first midwife appointment (which was a week later). 

The midwife agreed with our timeframe, but wanted to have an ultrasound done to confirm the due date, so the next morning we all (Andy, Jadon, and I) went in for my ultrasound.  (Jadon was clueless and munched on goldfish while “watching tv” – the ultrasound screen).  The tech said everything looked great.  The heartbeat was very strong.  Then she said she had the gestational age of the baby and my due date calculated (keep in mind this was about a week after I had discovered I was pregnant).  She calculated (because of the size of the baby) that I was 8 weeks and 3 days pregnant, due around June 16th.  I gasped and quickly blurted, “What!?”  I explained the situation to the tech and she said that even still, these early ultrasounds do not lie; in fact, they are accurate plus/minus 5 days!  She said she didn’t know what to say other than that.  We were astounded!  At my next appointment, I asked the midwife about it and she said she has no medical explanation for it at all.  At the time of my ultrasound I was pregnant, but it was too early to really tell.  The “questionable” thing that they had seen that could require surgery was actually my baby.  The blood work results are baffling because medically speaking, I should not have been able to conceive. 

We initially pointed back to the words of the doctor when giving me the results of my ultrasound – that I could possibly get pregnant soon.  What we should have been doing is looking to God, who gave us a huge reminder of his timing, love, and control over all things.  I have no earthly reason to have been blessed to carry this child.  It is simply through the providence of God that this was possible.

Andy and I are so overwhelmed by God’s working in our life.  He has used this situation, as discouraging as it felt at times, to teach us some valuable lessons on who He is and we are so grateful for that.  We don’t always see how God works in our everyday lives, and so we feel incredibly privileged for Him to have revealed Himself in this way. 

“How Can I Keep from Singing?”

My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth's lamentation,
I hear the sweet, tho' far-off hymn
That hails a new creation;
Thro' all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul--
How can I keep from singing?
What tho' my joys and comforts die?
The Lord my Saviour liveth;
What tho' the darkness gather round?
Songs in the night he giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging;
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?
I lift my eyes; the cloud grows thin;
I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smooths,
Since first I learned to love it;
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
A fountain ever springing;
All things are mine since I am his--
How can I keep from singing?


~ Carrie

Friday, November 18, 2011

My Home Pick

It's hard to believe that it is just about a week before Thanksgiving.  This time next week, we should be well on our way to Northern Maine!  With that said, I'm really, really hoping to get a good family picture taken on Thanksgiving that can be used as our family Christmas picture.  Last year we were very last minute with all of this.  Thankfully they were mailed before Christmas (although I can't guarantee that most people received them before Christmas... oh well.)  
The family picture from Christmas 2010

Before we had Jadon we typically just sent out cards, now we really like to send out photo cards because they are really easy and it's what I like to get from our friends with kids.  People like to see how your family is changing... and the littler kids are, the more they change from year to year!  

In past years for our photo card needs, we've used Wal-Mart, CVS, and Shutterfly, but I never seemed to be able to find exactly what I was looking for.  This year, my husband has a desire to create his own (using his awesome computer graphic skills - I'm jealous).  We'll see if he finds the time to make this happen.  It would be nice, but I'm not holding out because it's a busy time of year for my pastor husband!  

I also recently discovered that there are loads of people selling custom photo cards via Etsy.  Definitely something worth looking into, at least for a little inspiration! 

Hopefully our Christmas photo cards are done and crossed off our to-do list for the holidays!  Say Cheese!

~ Carrie ~

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

He's Been Faithful

I have returned from sort of an unexpected break from the blogging world.  I really enjoy blogging but made it very clear (to myself and my husband) that it would be very low on the totem pole of priorities.  When life gets busy, it’s pretty much the first thing to go.  So, after almost four weeks, I’m back!  Yes, the house could use some attention, but I have this desire to share a little of what God has been teaching me over the last few weeks. 

I’ve recently read through the book of Nehemiah – a book that, admittedly, I don’t know if I’ve ever just read straight through.  Even still, I wasn’t all that excited to read about Nehemiah.  Yeah, he was the guy who helped rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, but seriously, how exciting or applicable is this book of the Bible really going to be to me – a woman, a wife, and a mom? 

As I read about Nehemiah, I was completely struck (once again) with God’s perfect timing.  At a busy season of my life full of new adventures, full calendars, never-ending to-do lists, and particularly heavy burdens, God gave me a lesson on his faithfulness through the life of Nehemiah. 

The Israelites were in a bad place both historically speaking (as they were in Babylonian captivity) and physically speaking (as they were displaced and dispersed from Judah and particularly their sacred city, Jerusalem).  Eventually the Israelites returned to Judah, but little was done to restore what had been lost during their captivity.  They had turned their backs on God by inter-marrying with women of other nations (who did not serve the one living God).  They failed to worship God through the keeping of the Law and the practice of feasts, festivals, and Sabbaths.  All of this greatly saddened God.  When times got tough, the Israelites forgot the rich heritage of their forefathers and abandoned their faith. 

Thankfully God inspired Nehemiah to take on the seemingly impossible task of uniting a fractured nation under the God who called them His own and had always protected and forgiven them time and time again.  I like Nehemiah.  He’s organized, a hard worker, and very bold.  He saw the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem as a surefire way to, not only unite the Israelites as a people, but to unite them as believers in God. 

Nehemiah worked hard, despite the opposition of neighboring nations, to ignite a fire under God’s people, and they successfully rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem.  But that’s not the end of the story.  During the rebuilding of the walls, the Israelites were reminded of God’s never-ending love for them through his provision and protection.  They returned to their faith, and a week after the walls were completed, the people gathered to their sacred city and listened to Nehemiah recite the Book of the Law.  The people remembered and began following God immediately. 

The Israelites had a renewed sense of who God was:

“You are the Lord, you alone.  You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.” (Nehemiah 9:6)

So as I came to the end of the book of Nehemiah, I found myself so encouraged that these people – God’s people – who had turned their backs on God, had doubted His love for them and His commitment to them, returned to God.  How uplifting!  But what’s more is what they discovered once they returned to God. 

“Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people… Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly.” (Nehemiah 9:32-33)

The Israelites returned to God and realized that He was still the same. He had remained faithful, despite their circumstances (which were quite bad).  He had kept His promises to them, despite their desire to secure their own future.  He had remained perfect, despite their sinful actions and desires.  The application for me (and for all of us) is simple because I fit in perfectly with the Israelites.

God remains faithful, despite my circumstances.
God keeps His promises, despite my desire to secure my own future. 
God remains perfect, despite my sinful actions and desires.               

My blog has been quiet for almost a month, but thankfully God has not been!  God’s faithfulness has been so evident in my life, and I can’t help but overflow in thanksgiving – not just for what he’s provided for me (although for that I am grateful), but for the fact that despite all that goes on around me and all the wrong things I do, God is unchanging in his love for me.  

~ Carrie

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Peace of God

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Philippians 4:6-7

This is the passage that our family has been working on lately.  A little lengthy for a 2 year old, but he's getting a lot of it.  It seems to be a timely verse for me, too.  The the beginning of fall right through the New Year always seems to make me a little nuts and I need to remember to continually go to God with my requests because, whether God completely removes the burden or not, I know God will grant peace.  

Keep praying.  Day and night.  While doing laundry or driving to the grocery store.  During quiet nap times and toddler tantrums.  Through the good days and bad.  Keep praying.
~ Carrie ~

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Adventures in Laundry

In the last few years I've had several friends venture down the road of making their own laundry detergent - to which I scoffed... I admit it.  Recently I've begun to contemplate it as a real possibility and finally bit the bullet and went for it.  I did a little bit of research online and found that most recipes were pretty much the same.  Ultimately I decided on a recipe (recipe #1 at this site) that was a liquid, since I've heard that liquid detergents are supposed to be better for washing machines and because I have an energy efficient machine that require the detergent to be added after the clothes go in.

The ingredients for the laundry soap can be hard to find for some people, but I found all of the ingredients I needed at Market Basket.  

Ivory soap can be used instead of the Fels Naptha Soap.  I couldn't find the Fels Naptha Soap at the time that I was buying everything, but stumbled upon it on a recent grocery trip.  So, yes... all ingredients can be found at Market Basket (love that store).
The end product yielded 2 gallons of laundry detergent and I gotta say, I like it.  The clean laundry doesn't have as strong a scent to it, but that doesn't bother me at all because it is definitely still clean and clean-smelling.  Oh, and did I mention that it's a ton cheaper, too!  The bottom line is, everything is coming out clean, and I am very impressed.  I will definitely continue using this detergent!  

~ Carrie ~

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

"Day follows night..."

“Why yield to gloomy anticipations? Who told you that the night would never end in day?.... Who told you that the winter of your discontent would proceed from frost to frost, from snow and ice and hail to deeper snow and yet more heavy tempest of despair? Don’t you know that day follows night, that flood comes after ebb, that spring and summer succeed winter? Be full of hope! Hope forever! For God does not fail you. Do you know that God loves you in the midst of all this?.... You will yet, midst the splendors of eternity, forget the trials of time, or only remember them to bless the God who led you through them and works your lasting good by them. Come, sing in the midst of tribulation. Rejoice even while passing through the furnace. Cause the desert to ring with your exulting joys, for these light afflictions will soon be over, and then forever with the Lord, your bliss shall never wane.”

~Charles Spurgeon, Morning & Evening revised and edited by Alistair Begg, July 21, evening.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

"New" Kitchen Island

If you saw my Fall at the Parsonage post, then you saw the new-to-us kitchen island that we have acquired.  We have a nice, newer kitchen that suits most of our needs.  I've often wished for more storage, as I have some cabinets that are so full that it's difficult to get out what I need without multiple things tumbling out at me.  A short time ago, I wondered if we could possibly fit a small island in our kitchen.  Andy thought that it might be work, if we could find the right piece of furniture.  We were both thinking something old, vintage/antique, with room for lots of storage.  We were in no rush to find anything - well, Andy was in no rush.  I was so excited about this possibility that I began my own quiet search for something that might work as a kitchen island.  

I readily admit that the first thing that I should have done was call my mom.  She has a savvy eye for antiques, especially to refinish and re-purpose.  She has a onslaught of antique, thrift, and country stores that she frequents when on the hunt for a particular need (or for no particular need :).  But I didn't call her.  I started looking on Craig's List.  

My husband and I are huge Craig's List fans.  Not everyone is, and for good reasons too, because there are risks involved when dealing on Craig's List.  Andy and I have successfully bought and sold items through Craig's List many times - always dealing in face-to-face and cash only situations.  

Like I said, I was in no rush to find anything, but every few days I would peruse the furniture listings.  One evening, a couple of weeks after beginning my search I stumbled up something that I loved and thought would be perfect!  I showed it to Andy who agreed.  No price was listed, as it was a best offer sort of thing.  We both assumed it would be way out of our meager price range, but figured it would be worth calling on and inquiring about.  Well, Andy called the guy who said this particular piece was worth $350, and he was hoping to get at least $200.  Hah!  I have no doubt that it was worth that much, but there was no way we were going to be able to spend that amount of money on a kitchen island - beautiful or not.  

Even still, I couldn't get it out of my head.  So, I finally emailed my mom to see if she could begin her search.  I took the opportunity to also send her the link to our Craig's List find that didn't work out.  The next day I had an email from my mom about several options she'd found, with prices, and pictures.  Nothing really stuck out to us.  Most of it would need a lot of work to be usable and none of it really had the amount of storage we were looking for.  

A week went by and I had mostly put the whole kitchen island thing out of my head when Andy called me from work and told me that the Craig's List guy had called him back.  Come to find out, he'd had no one else interested in his piece of furniture and was going to re-list it for $100 but wanted to offer it to us first, since we had inquired about it.  I said yes immediately, but then Andy and I sensibly talked it over, measured it out in the kitchen to make sure it would fit and then decided yes.  

We went and picked up the kitchen island (a very old dry sink) that night and moved it right into place.  It was actually even better than I thought, and we adjusted to the change in our kitchen right away.  I was so amazed at how something I thought was down the road and (at the very least) out of reach for the time-being was suddenly in my kitchen - ours.  

So, there you have it.  Our "new" kitchen island.  Here are the pics with a few captions!  

The legs had to be cut down a couple of inches so that the whole thing was countertop height. 

Down the road, it will probably need some tlc, as some of the paint is really falling off in a few places.  I may also be adding some kind of towel rack or hook for an old cutting board on end pictured here to cover up the badly chipping paint (and keep little fingers away).  Other than that, it is perfect and holds so much stuff!  I'm already starting to think creatively about how to decorate it at Christmas!  

~ Carrie ~

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bless the Lord

Scripture memory is something that we really want Jadon to start doing from an early age.  Since it's also something that Andy and I should be working on, we're trying to do it as a family.  We're not doing anything too structured, just listening to a few choice albums of Scripture set to music (very family friendly stuff, for the most part).  We picked out a song that Jadon seemed to enjoy and started practicing the words every night at supper before we prayed for God's blessing on our food.

After several weeks, we were pretty convinced we all had our first family verse down.  

"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name!"
Psalm 103:1
This is a great, well-known verse that isn't too difficult to comprehend.  This is a verse of praise to our great God (that also challenges us to worship God with all that we say, do, and think - not an easy thing to do.  

This week, I was reading a blog that quoted the very next verse in this passage:

"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits..."
Psalm 103:2

After reading this verse, I suddenly realized that during the weeks that we had been practicing this verse I had never taken the time to read the rest of this psalm to get the bigger picture.  Psalm 103 is a wonderful chapter of God's Word (that was especially encouraging to this mom).  It's so important to praise God in all that we do, because we often "forget" (as verse 2 tells us).  Purposefully remembering all that God has done for us, especially in the midst of difficult times is honoring to God and of great encouragement to us.  We are never without God's "benefits" or mercies in some way, shape, or form.  
My life is especially busy right now, and the impending holidays are only going to make life fuller.  These verses have really challenged me to "count my blessings" - day and night, happy and sad, busy and still.  I hope you are challenged to contemplate these verses, read the rest of Psalm 103, and "forget not [God's] benefits".  

~ Carrie ~

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fall at the Parsonage

I finally got around to taking a few pictures of my fall decor, so here it is!  

 Front Hall/Entry

"New" Kitchen Island
(Future blog post to come on how this little beauty came into our possession)


 Dining Room

Rearranged my hutch quite a bit, since it'd been a while.  (I was getting bored with it.)  I have my grandmother's turkey platter out on display, in addition to other "fall" dishes (leaf candy dishes from Target's dollar spot, small turkey plates $1 each from Christmas Tree Shops, hand painted bread plate - a gift).  Why keep them hidden behind cabinet doors?  Use them with the decor! 

Living Room

Still not sure how much I love how this is all arranged, but it is what it is for now.  I've been meaning to put a few fall pictures from last year in the small frames, but just haven't gotten around to it... so they still have summer pictures in them!  Maybe I'll get around to it before Christmas comes!

 I'm not gonna lie... I'm loving my mantel this fall!  I finally got one of $1 garage sale find wooden windows up (didn't have to do a thing to it!).  Then, my tea-stained cheesecloth with lights (hard to see in the picture), some candle holders, black metal star and "R", mini pumpkins, and my believe sign and it's done.  Simple, clean, and relaxing.  Ahhh...  Even better in the evenings with the lights on and the candles lit...

 Front Door

Happy decorating!

~ Carrie ~