Monday, January 31, 2011

My Strength and Shield

I had some anxiety last night and this morning as I prepared to return to work today. This was my first day at work but out of the classroom in fifteen years. I did not know what to expect, and I'm sensitive to all the dynamics going on there.

Before I left for work, I picked up my copy of Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young. My sweet sister had given this little devotional to me for Christmas. I don't read it every day, but every time I've turned to it it's like the entry was written just for me and what I'm facing on that very day. In my anxiety, I kept reminding myself that the Lord is my strength and shield. Wouldn't you know when I opened this little gem up, this is what I read:

I am your Strength and Shield. I plan out each day and have it ready for you, long before you arise from bed. I also provide the strength you need each step of the way. Instead of assessing your energy level and wondering about what's on the road ahead, concentrate on staying in touch with Me. My Power flows freely into you through our open communication. Refuse to waste energy worrying, and you will have strength to spare.

Whenever you start to feel afraid, remember that I am your Shield. But unlike inanimate armor, I am always alert and active. My Presence watches over you continually, protecting you from both known and unknown dangers. Entrust yourself to My watch-care, which is the best security system available. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.

Based on Psalm 28:7; Matthew 6:34, Psalm 56:3-4; Genesis 28:15
What a friend we have in Jesus!

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Michael took this photo with his iPhone on one of our Sunday trips to the farmers market. He got a kick out of the shape of that large tomato in the foreground.

I miss Sundays with Michael. Since he usually had a gig on Saturday nights, I was in the habit of attending church then. That meant Sundays were free for us to spend together. We usually started the day with breakfast at home or at a nearby diner we liked.

Nearly every Sunday we went down to the farmers market at the marina. Michael made fresh orange juice for us each morning, and we always got our oranges at the farmers market. Sometimes that's all we'd get, but other times we'd bring home other seasonal fruits and veggies, and Michael liked the homemade tamales, kettle corn, and shave ice we could get there, too. I liked looking at the dogs available for adoption just outside the farmers market. Michael always indulged me while I paid them a visit.

Just across the street from the farmers market is a Whole Foods. So after shopping at the market, we'd head over there to pick up a nice piece of meat or fish for our Sunday dinner. After our trip to the market, I'd get some things done in preparation for the coming work week, and Michael would usually watch a ball game or play the horses online.

That was our Sunday routine and I really miss it. It's been more than a year since we last did that together, and I haven't had the heart to return on my own. Maybe Michaela and I will make it down there this coming summer.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Twenty-Five Weeks

A fetus at twenty-five weeks

At this point, Michaela is approximately nine inches in length (crown to rump) and she weighs more than a pound and a half. She's an active baby and I feel her movements the most when I'm in a resting position.

I had an OB appointment on Monday, and everything is looking good. My OB gave me orders for the glucose test. I need to get myself over to the lab sometime soon and get that done. If I hadn't come down with a cold this week, I would say it was the best week I've had physically in a really long time. The indigestion that has been plaguing me really let up this week, and I've hardly had to take TUMS or Mylanta. I've been better able to enjoy eating without fearing the indigestion that follows. In the last couple of days, I also feel like my crazy hunger pains have let up a bit and that's a relief. Just a few headaches this week, too. The more I do, the more likely it is I'll have a headache. I guess it's my body's way of making sure I rest enough.

Work continues to be an uncomfortable situation. However, I decided last weekend that I was going to let the Lord fight this battle for me. I have gone in and done my job the best I can, and I have been pleasant to those I come in contact with. Aside from seeking counsel from my superiors (and they have been SO supportive), I have kept my mouth shut. I have started each morning at home in the Word. Great verses have come to mind or been shared with me by others, and I have been encouraged and strengthened by them.

Here are some that have gotten me through this week:

Ephesians 6:10-18
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,a]">[a] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—

Psalm 121
1 I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.

3 He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The LORD is your keeper;
The LORD is your shade at your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

7 The LORD shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
8 The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore.

James 3
The Untamable Tongue
1 My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. 3 Indeed,a]">[a] we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. 4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.
See how great a forest a little fire kindles! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.b]">[b]
Heavenly Versus Demonic Wisdom

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Exodus 14:14
14 The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”
A Facebook friend had just posted that last one this morning, and I think it just sums it all up. The battle is the Lord's. I have done nothing wrong. Nothing to deserve such hostility. I do not need to spend my precious energy defending myself.

Lastly, I had my first dream about Michaela last night. All of a sudden, she was born and I don't think I even had to push! Then it was time to try breastfeeding her, and out came small diced carrots and zucchini. I don't think she really liked that, and I wasn't sure what I was doing wrong. So funny!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Reflections on Grief

I attended part of a widows retreat yesterday. Originally, I was supposed to be there Friday night through this morning. But, when it came down to it, I physically did not have the stamina to do so. By the time I got home in the late afternoon yesterday, I was nauseous and had a powerful headache. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to be limited by those symptoms.

Anyway, I enjoyed Saturday's session. We heard from a couple of widows who shared their experiences. I appreciated how they could acknowledge God's hand in their losses and their new lives. A frequent statement from those who shared was that God is in the details.

The main speaker yesterday runs a grief ministry here in Long Beach. I have seen signs for the ministry on a local church and on the car of one of my neighbors who is also involved in the ministry. Such a small world. She really focused on the stages of grief, and what to expect the first three years of the journey.

We had time to visit informally with other widows during lunch and tea. In between, we had a small group session where we answered some specific questions about our journeys and our feelings. This was the most emotional time. My emotions are triggered when I see and hear the pain others express for their loss and their children's loss. I think the most valuable part of the experience was connecting with other women who are walking a similar path, and being able to share freely the eternal perspective we have about this life and the next. It was very much a Christ-centered experience, and there's no other way for me to put this whole thing into perspective without that.

One thing I'm realizing this week is that others, who have not experienced loss, have a very short time line in which they will continue to tolerate the changes in a grieving person. I am experiencing this to a certain degree in the workplace. I guess it's to be expected, but it's disheartening. I don't feel like my failings this year as an educator are directly related to my grief, but rather to my health. Nevertheless, the compassion I would expect from those around me in light of all that has occurred in the last year and a half has been spent. My situation is old news and I should perform at higher level or be fired. At least that's the message I feel I'm getting from several directions.

I heard several women this weekend talk about how the Lord has provided for them and their children since their husbands' deaths. I'm going to be petitioning the Lord to do a work in my life to change my situation at work and lead me to a better place where I can have a fresh start.

Lastly, I think people are reading me wrong, or I am presenting myself in a way that is confusing to those that don't understand the power of the Holy Spirit. The only way I make it through each day is by trusting the Lord and clinging to His promises. That's how I can get up and leave the house. That's how I can smile and be interested in what others have to say. But it doesn't mean that I'm not dealing with a huge void in my personal life. Michael was everything to me. My life with him was such a joy. It doesn't mean that I'm not lonely. It doesn't mean that I don't cry about my loss when I'm alone and feel more free to express my emotions. It doesn't mean that I'm not mourning the loss of my precious husband and the dreams we had of a longer life together. I'm not over it. I'm just trying to move forward the best I can and reflect God's goodness in my life despite my circumstances.

So for anyone who thinks I'm fine. I'm not fine. I have been forever altered by this, and if I didn't have Jesus in my life I'd be a complete wreck.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Twenty-Four Weeks

Fetus at twenty-four weeks

Michaela now weighs about 1 1/2 pounds, and is 8 1/2 inches from crown to rump. I feel her moving around throughout the day, but especially in the late afternoons and evenings when I'm sitting on the couch or resting in bed. Her movements are now strong enough to be felt with my hand on my belly at times. That is such a delight!

I'm feeling okay. I still have headaches almost daily. They are worse the more I exert myself or feel stressed. The hunger is still crazy. I have to eat all the time. Although I'm not nauseous anymore, I still throw up a meal or two each week due to a very sensitive gag reflex and reflux issues. Sleeping has been better the last couple of nights since I received a new pregnancy pillow. The first pillow I purchased was not a good fit for me, but the Boppy Cuddle Pillow is. One of the strangest new things is that I am more and more absentminded. I know that's typical during pregnancy, but it's a new thing for me. I have a mind like a steel trap! What's going on?!

Work has been great. My co-teacher is fabulous and we make a terrific team. The first two days I was back before she started, I came home feeling terrible. It was just too much for me and I had terrible headaches. Since she started a week ago Wednesday, we have been sharing the load and I have been able to finish the day feeling better. Unfortunately, we only have one more week to work together. I was just told after school on Friday that the district has received complaints about the arrangement. Therefore, I will be transitioning out of the classroom, and I will start supporting our school's RtI program in the weeks or months I have left before my leave begins. Basically, I will be working with small groups of children who need intervention. I'm willing to do what they need me to, but I am very disappointed. I was really enjoying the arrangement with my co-teacher, my students were benefiting from things we were able to with two teachers, and I will miss my students. There's more to it than I will go into here, and I do have hurt feelings about it. Apparently I am the object of a lot of scorn. It's really time for me to work some place else. Sigh...

This weekend I will be attending a widows retreat. It started last night, but I didn't have the wherewithal after teaching all day to make the drive out to the retreat location and attend the night session. So, I'll head out there this morning instead. I'm looking forward to connecting with others and spending time with a friend who is a young widow like me. I'll blog about it next week.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Happy Birthday, Honey!

Today marks Michael's "spiritual birthday."

One year ago today, Michael made the very best decision of his earthly life. He humbled himself and accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

In the gospel of John (3:2-5), we learn of a conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus, a Pharisee (or Jewish ruler):

This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."

Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"

Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."

The commentary regarding these verses in my NKJV has this to say:

Upon repentance, a new order of life opens to the believer in Jesus Christ. Jesus used the figure of "new birth" to dramatically indicate three things: 1) Without New Birth, there is no life and no relationship with God (John 14:6). 2) In New Birth, new perspective comes as we "see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). God's Word becomes clear, and the Holy Spirit's works and wonders are believed and experienced - faith is alive. 3) Through New Birth we are introduced - literally we "enter" (John 3:5) - to a new realm, where God's kingdom order can be realized (2 Corinthians 5:17). New Birth is more than simply being "saved." It is a requalifying experience, opening up the possibilities of our whole being to the supernatural dimension of life and fitting us for a beginning in God's kingdom order.

After a lifetime of doing things his way - he was a self-proclaimed hedonist - Michael decided to trust the Lord with the rest of his life. He received the gift of salvation and assurance of Eternity in God's presence. And Michael gave me the very best gift that day; for I would know that he would be waiting for me in Heaven, and that our separation would only be temporary. I cannot tell you how much that knowledge comforts me while I endure our separation.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Twenty-Three Weeks

4D ultrasound of a 23 week fetus

Oh, goodness! Would you look at that? I so enjoy finding these images each week. Life is such a miracle.

So, here we are at the start of week twenty-three - just three more weeks until the third trimester begins! I just had another ultrasound on Thursday, and Michaela is developing just as she should. We were able to see her profile this time. Here she is:

Her measurements indicate that she currently weighs 1 lb. and 5 oz., and she is currently eight inches long. I feel her moving around throughout the day, but mostly at night when I get into bed. She's a night owl like her daddy. Oh, boy!

The perinatalogist says everything looks great, but he said he'd still like me to come in once a month from now on. I don't mind that at all. Their ultrasound machines are the best. We get much more detailed pictures there than at the OB's office. The technician said that we might be able to get one of these 4D images the next time I go in. I sure hope so! I'd love to see her sweet little face.

I have felt pretty good this week. Monday was my first day back at school, and I felt terrible that day. I had a powerful headache and had to take Vicodin. I was miserable, and I really began to doubt that I was going to be able to keep working during this pregnancy. Tuesday was slightly better, but by Wednesday I started to feel better. That was also the day my co-teacher started. It's nice to share some of the workload with her. I think she's going to do very well. I will gradually give her more and more of the responsibility. That way, when I can no longer work, it will already be her class/classroom in so many ways.

This weekend I hope to get some more organizing done around here. I can't wait to start putting the nursery together, but there's much to be done before I can start that.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Twenty-Two Weeks

Fetus at twenty-two weeks

This week, Michaela weighs a pound and is about eight inches long.

Eighteen or fewer weeks to go. I can hardly wait!

Pregnancy is hard work, and I'm really feeling pregnant these days. Before I was just feeling sick. Now I feel big (that's because I am!) and more uncomfortable. I'd post a picture, but it's not easy for me to take one of myself.

Some other noticeable things:

  • Stuffy nose and nasal congestion - can't sleep without my Breathe Right Strips.
  • Overly sensitive gag reflex - this is a really awful result of all the nausea and vomiting. Even though I'm not really nauseous anymore, I occasionally lose it just from clearing my throat due to the previously mentioned symptoms or from feeling too full. Yuck!
  • Sore back and hips - some days are better than others. I had a prenatal massage the other day and that really helped.
  • Crazy hunger - I need to eat lots of little meals all day long.
  • Indigestion - burping all the time and taking Tums.
  • Feeling short of breath - I can't speak in long sentences with ease anymore.
  • Headaches - still having a couple of those every day, but they are manageable with Tylenol.
  • Weird dreams - I dreamed my dad was a cocaine addict the other night.
  • Limited movement - I'm having a hard time putting my socks on, and bending over to shave my legs. It's also hard to get up off the sofa.
  • Weight gain - I'm up at least fifteen pounds from where I started.

I'm also feeling the need to prepare for Michaela's arrival. I have spent the last few days making an attempt to organize Michael's things and remove them from the back bedroom. I sent home most of the rest of his clothing with his brothers. That was hard to do, but I know it's the right and practical thing to do. One of his shirts had been put back in his wardrobe after he wore it. The sleeves were still rolled up and it smelled like him. That was bittersweet.

I am going back to work on Monday, and that has been a source of some anxiety for me. My concerns have been that I will get back and find the demands of the job too taxing for me, and I have been afraid that the migraines would return as a result of the stress.

But I decided that I would trust the Lord with the situation, and He really provided a fantastic solution for me. On Thursday I got a call from the human resources director, and she offered to provide me with a permanent substitute teacher for the remainder of the school year. Someone I could train to take over when I go out on leave again, but also someone who would be there on a daily basis to help me and to cover for me when I am not able to work. I know this must be in response to all the parent complaints about the substitutes, but I am thrilled to have the help. It will be like a team-teaching arrangement, and I really like the idea. I now feel like I can return to work and not be overwhelmed by all that entails. What a blessing!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Ten Months

This silly picture was taken on one of our very early monthly anniversaries. I had some stickers that said Happy Anniversary and I Love You, and we had some fun with them. If I remember correctly, this was on a day off from work for me. I sure do miss having those days off together. We always had a good time together.

Ten months without the love of my life.

Ten months closer to when I'll see him again.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Doula, Check

Image credit

The way I envisioned my birth experience before Michael got sick and passed, was that aside from the doctor and nurses Michael would be the only other person with me. He was such a natural caregiver that I knew he would soothe me and encourage me and be all I needed.

But here I am doing this without him, and I've had to come up with a new vision for how I want my birth experience to be.

All I knew was that I wanted my sister to be present, and then a couple of months ago, kind of out of the blue, I had the idea to look into working with a doula. No one I know of has used a doula before, but I thought that for my unique situation it might be a really good thing. The first doula I contacted seemed great, but we were never able to get together. Then she let me know that she is also pregnant, and she's experiencing complications. That meant that she needed to cut back on her work. After all I've been through, I totally understand! Thankfully, she referred me to another doula that she holds in high regard, and we were able to meet today.

I really liked her, and I've asked her to put me on her calendar. Her services include:

  • two prenatal visits
  • assistance creating a birth plan
  • childbirth education, options, and rights
  • 24/7 phone and email support throughout
  • emotional, physical, and informational support throughout labor and birth
  • assistance with initial breastfeeding at the hospital
  • one postpartum visit
She will also make additional visits postpartum for an additional cost. I thought it might be good to have her back in the month before I go back to work to help me with the transition to pumping.

We'll meet up again in March to talk about the birth plan and get to know each other better. In the meantime, my sister and I will attend birth education classes at the hospital.

I doubt I would have chosen a doula if I weren't in my situation, but I think it's going to be the best way for me to do this without Michael.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Nursery Planning

There's a lot to be done to turn the back bedroom into a suitable nursery for Michaela. Early on in our marriage, I let Michael take over that room and use it for his studio. Last year at this time, my mom helped me repurpose it into a bedroom for him. It really hasn't changed since then.

You might remember that my parents purchased the crib I picked out just a couple weeks ago:

I will use the bedding I chose back when I was adopting from China:

There's a wall sconce in that bedroom that I'm going to replace. I found this pretty one online today, and it was inexpensive so I ordered it:

And after searching the Internet for something sweet to hang over the crib, I was just about to give up until I came across this:

Of course, mine will be personalized with Michaela's name. Since it's designed to adhere to the wall, I won't have to worry about something falling off into the crib during an earthquake.

There's still a lot of sorting and packing to do in the room before I can (with help) begin to pull it all together. I also plan to have a ceiling fan installed, and replace the nearly fifteen year old cheap plastic blinds with white wood blinds like I have in several other rooms of the house. The wall color will stay the same as it's a pinky beige - very soft and feminine. It's a small room, so I really need to avoid accumulating too much decorative stuff. My goal is to make it pretty and functional. I'll post pictures when it starts coming together.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Twenty-One Weeks

Fetus at twenty-one weeks

Michaela is now about 7 inches in length and about 11 ounces. I feel her moving around throughout the day, especially when I'm sitting still or lying down. According to one of my pregnancy books, this is the start of my sixth month, but other books still consider it to be my fifth month. I think I look six months pregnant at this point!

I had a painful feeling in my lower abdomen that started last Sunday evening and continued through Monday. I called the doctor on call early Monday morning, but he gave me the brush off and told me to get a maternity girdle. Later in the morning, my mom took me to the ER and I was checked in to labor and delivery for monitoring. At first they thought I might have an irritable uterus, but after monitoring me for a while that seemed to be ruled out. The nurse was concerned that I was dehydrated and she had me drink a lot of water. Everything with the baby checked out fine, and I have been making more of an effort to drink water. Later in the morning, I saw my OB and he checked to be sure my cervix was okay, and it was.

Thankfully the nausea has all but gone away. If I let my hunger go too long, I can feel nauseated again. But, for the most part, it seems to be gone. As for my appetite, I am hungry all the time. I eat every hour and a half to two hours to avoid problems. Sometimes I feel like I can't eat enough to make the hunger pains go away. It's exhausting. I still have two headaches a day (without fail), but they are usually manageable with Tylenol.

I came home a couple of nights ago, and it is really good to be sleeping in my own bed again. At first I was nervous about coming home, but I'm managing well so far.

As I write this, it is New Year's Eve. I didn't have too many New Year's Eves with Michael because he usually had a gig. Last year was one of the rare occasions that he did not, and that was because I made him give it to another musician. He was too weak to work. I really can't remember how we spent the evening, but I'm pretty sure it was here at home. Tonight will be spent at home, too. This year has been a toughy. I don't want to dwell on all the was lost. I'm just thankful that the Lord has carried me through, and I know he will do the same in the year to come. He never changes.

Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
24 “ The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,

“ Therefore I hope in Him!”

Lamentations 3:22-24

Happy New Year!