The Purple Dress

 

I remember early on peeking into the boy’s room, and wondering where we would fit the new baby? The crib was still up, Elijah hadn’t quite made the transition to a big boy bed yet. We wondered how we should make the new sleeping arrangements work. Is it time to move some of them to the bedroom in the basement? Then I moved on and surveyed our bedroom and decided we would need a basinet for the foot of the bed for the first few months. And then I started thinking about our van… it would be tight, but the van still had one more seat in it that had not yet been filled.

Mentally I started creating space for our little one. The little one that one day we planned on bringing home.

The minute you see those two pink lines on the test, you start creating space for that little one. I think the first space created is usually a mental one, as you start processing the new information. Depending on where you are at in life, there can be a whole range of emotions. There can be sheer joy, disbelief, fear, anger, relief, trepidation, worry, laughter, thankfulness…  the list goes on. But from the moment you find out, whether you like it or not, you can’t help but start the path of creating space.

After receiving Ava’s diagnosis, on multiple occasion’s I would walk into the boy’s room, see the crib that she would probably never sleep in… and I would cry.

The space that I had started dreaming about, and planned on creating for her, the doctors told me she would most likely never use it.

In the day’s following Ava’s passing, everything that came into my house seemed to be purple. There was a memory box from the hospital that had a little gown and a few things that were purple. The flowers that came, the little notebooks and the different special things people sent us, the majority of them were purple. It was a special gift from God, I knew my daughter’s color was purple.

Following a loss there are certain things that hit you, and they make you so angry… irrationally angry. Like when I started my search for the urn to hold her remains. This wasn’t the space I should be making. Instead of preparing the bedroom for her to sleep in, I was looking for an urn for her ashes. It felt so unfair and made me so angry.

Another thing that broke my heart and filled me with anger, was not getting to buy my first little girl a dress. I have bought adorable sweaters, jeans, and hats for my boys. There have beenso many boy clothes that I have bought and gone through over the years, and don’t get me wrong I am more than thankful for my little men. I wouldn’t change them for a second! But I was pregnant with my baby girl and I didn’t get to buy her a dress. It hurt…

At some point I decided, I would buy her a dress. I can add it to her memory box even if she is already gone. I wanted to do this for her… for me…

I went to target, hunting for that purple dress. Everything that came in surrounding her was purple, her dress also needed to be purple. After picking up a few necessities, I headed for the baby section. I started looking for that dress, I found pink dress, after pink dress and a few other colors as well. But no purple…

This thought hit me like a ton of brinks in the middle of the baby section at Target…

“Of course, there are no purple dresses! There is no place for her here, she’s gone.”

All of a sudden, I felt like I couldn’t breath, my vision seemed foggy, everything became completely overwhelming and I had to get OUT of Target. I couldn’t stay in this place. The emotions, the fear and the panic, were waging attacks against which I had no defense but to flee. And so I fled.

It’s a wonder I didn’t just abandon my cart… or crumple to the floor till someone found me… Somehow, I got checked out with my toilet paper and who knows what else. Then I was in the solace of my car where the tears came hard and fast once again. Where I waited for my heart to slow, and my brain to clear so I could drive home.

I talked to Daniel about what happened at Target. I told him about my wanting to buy our little girl a dress, even though she would never where it. He wanted to do that with me as well. The next week we went to the mall together to keep looking for the dress. We couldn’t find one there either, purple must have not been the color that was “in” during that season.

We sat down over dinner and lamented over the daughter we will never get to know this side of heaven. We lamented the dresses that we would never get to buy. And we talked about what we wanted to do for her memorial. The nature of some conversations are so incredibly hard to wade into, but in the end bring balm to your open wounds.

I ended up ordering Ava’s purple dress and my dress for her memorial online. What can I say? The internet has everything.

I brought her dress up at bedtime to show the boys. Caleb looked up at me with a smile “I can just picture her running around up here in that dress mom. “ And with that statement, suddenly all of this hunting for a dress was absolutely worth it. We were all picturing our little blond girl running around the upstairs in that dress.

One of the hardest truths surrounding losing a baby, is that the space you created, the space you made and pictured them in, will never be filled. The crib will remain empty, the drawers as well, that space at the dinner table remains void.

But this whole idea of creating space brought me to these verses.

 

John 14:1-4
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”
Revelation 21:3-5
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

 

The realization that I would no longer need to create space for my daughter hurt, it was hard.

But we are all finite, someday I will no longer be here either, and my things will be cleared out, passed on, given away, thrown away. I won’t need them. This place will no longer be my home. I will be mourned, missed remembered and eventually forgotten. I’m going to be gone. My place here isn’t for forever.

And while that can seem scary or sad, I’m perfectly content with it. Content to wait, and content to leave. For there is someone who has gone before me, who promises that He is creating space for me, that He has prepared a place for me. That He has a forever home for me, for all who believe in Jesus. And this home is so important. For even though we don’t deserve to be a part of a home that is so perfect there is no sin and death, we have one waiting for us. It is just on the other side of the grave for those who believe in Jesus. Because let’s face it, we cannot deny that on our own, we are sinful, and we drag around our sin and our mess with us. And yet, because of his great love for us, Jesus paid for our sin and our mess on the cross, so that we can be completely forgiven, so that He can clothe us in His perfection. So that we can join Him in His home that he is preparing for us. The space that he has made for us.

Isn’t it a wonder that our perfect, gracious, and huge God promises us that He cares about us so much, that He has prepared for us a place in heaven? That He goes before us and assures us of the space that he has made for us. He loves us, and he walks up into that bedroom we’ll live in someday and smiles about how he can’t wait for us to fill that space for eternity.

This home will never wear out. We will never have to say goodbye, and there will always be space for us. We will never worry about being gone and forgotten.

When I am remined that I never got to bring Ava “home” to the space we dreamed of for her.

This also brings me to the place of thanking God that there was a place He prepared for Her to come Home to forever.

I picture her running free in her purple dress in the perfect care of our Savior, Jesus.

What a loving faithful God we serve.

 

 

 

 

Bedtime Questions

Mommy, why does the bible call me a sheep?

I kiss soft cheeks good night and tuck little feet under covers, the room dimly lit by the glow of the light coming from the hallway. In this place I hear deep questions uttered from the mouths of my boys.

“Mommy, why does the bible call me a sheep?”

I see light come to his eyes with the next questions. “Does this mean that sheep are really special? They are really smart right?” The confounded look he had with the very first question was replaced with a knowing smile, he thought he had figured it out! ‘Sheep must be a worthy, special, intelligent, animal, right?!?’

I breath a deep sigh as I think about how I will answer this question, for this question is deeper than he realizes.

But first! Before, we get to the picturesque moment of sweet boys tucked comfortably in their beds, you need the bigger picture, you need the context, and for this we need to back up 15 to 20min.

This place is chaos, peace is a stranger here. This place contains the bickering over who brushes their teeth first, or if someone got more dessert. It’s a two year old disappearing to who knows where because he loves being found. It’s yelling at them to stop jumping on the beds. It’s children’s feet pounding on the hardwood, belly laughing while they run with no clothes on. The night sky may be cloudy, but there are plenty of moons out, running through the upstairs of the house.It’s tired parents trying to wrangle children who have found a second wind the minute the word bedtime is spoken. The level of crazy varies from night to night. But it’s usually there to some degree.

However after the crazy, the “quiet” turns their minds to talking about everything, from  farts, to questions like “Why are there homeless people? Why can’t we give them houses and food, so they don’t have to be homeless anymore?”

After teeth are brushed, pajamas are on, and they are in the right bed… my brain is tired. Deep thinking is not convenient.  The couch and a bowl of my favorite ice cream is calling my name. Idleness is what I crave when the house gets quiets.

But as I have come to realize, you never know when God is going to call you to attention, it’s most often not what we expect or when we consider it convenient.

I clear my head, and as I look at my son, I chuckle. “Ok, Let’s talk about sheep…. and no, they are not super smart…”

Sheep… Let me share these couple tidbits I found on the internet!

If a sheep rolls over onto its back, it may not be able to get up without assistance, according to the Sheep101 website. A fallen sheep is called a “cast” sheep. They can become distressed and if they are not rolled back into a normal position within a short period of time they will die. When back on their feet, they may need to be supported for a few minutes to ensure they are steady.

  • Live Science.com

 

(What? For real??)

 

Sheep are frequently thought of as unintelligent animals. Their flocking behavior and quickness to flee and panic can make shepherding a difficult endeavor for the uninitiated.

  • Wikipedia

 

OK, so there are more nice things to say about the usefulness of sheep on the internet as well. But these made me laugh, and they also talk about the nature of sheep and how they respond to certain things.

We see here that sheep are not considered smart animals. They can’t defend themselves against their predator’s, they are prone to wander, quick to flee in a panic, and when flipped on their back they get completely stuck in their predicament until help comes… or death…

They need a shepherd to make sure they are protected, to stay with the herd, to be led to pastures that have enough food and a place with water.

If I was going to be compared to an animal, a sheep wouldn’t be my first choice.

I understand why my boys are confused with the Sunday school song “I just want to be a sheep… baa baa baa..”

They would much rather be a cheetah, a horse, a wolf, maybe a dog… but a sheep?? The wheels in their brain spin trying to figure out why God would ever compare them to a sheep?!

Oh, how even in our young minds we cling to the understanding that we have done something to be special! That we are “awesome” enough to be worthy of God’s love and attention.

Let’s take a look at one of the scripture passages that got this whole conversation started in the first place.

 

John 10:7-18

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.  The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

 

When we take a closer look here, it has nothing to do with the sheep and their awesome skills.

The focus isn’t on who the sheep are.

The focus is on the relationship between the sheep and the shepherd, and on the character of the Shepherd.

The focus is on how much the Shepherd loves the sheep and the lengths that He will go to care for them, and to bring those home that are not in His sheep pen yet.

The focus is on the Good Shepherd’s voice, and how the sheep know his voice.

And so, though the Bible calls us sheep, these helpless, stubborn and ridiculous animals, it does not leave us without a Shepherd.

We have a shepherd that sees us with our faults, our flaws. He sees us with our hearts that are so prone to wander from the good pastures in search of someplace ‘better’. He sees us when we get stuck in the muck of life and become overwhelmed and start to panic.

He sees us in the wilderness of certain death, and he hunts us down and carries us home.

He doesn’t hunt us down because of our special behavior in the wilderness, he doesn’t come running for us because we deserve it, or because we have won His approval.

He comes running for us because He is the Good Shepherd, because He chose to love us with this crazy love. With a love that dies for underserving sinners like me.

He has brought me, the underserving sinner into His pasture. He calls me His own, and leads me to life and not just life, but a life of abundant love and grace and mercy and care.

Just because He loves me.

We know His voice. The reason we know the Good Shepherds voice, is all because of Jesus, who laid down His life for us, the sheep. When He died on that cross and took our punishment, He gave us life. Jesus is the gate that we enter through into His pasture by grace. Because of Jesus we can now be called children of God, and children know their Fathers voice.

So… at bedtime when I am tired, when the timing seems inconvenient, and I don’t think I will be able to find the right words. Here God invites me to share of His goodness, His grace with my children. Even here in this conversation I continue to see how the Good Shepherd pursues us, He is always at work, bringing in His lost ones, tending to us and loving us, His sheep.

We are special.

Not special because we are so awesome. But because God has made us so.

 

 

Emotions… So many layers

 

Spring is coming. I can feel it. There’s an anticipation deep in my bones.

I can see spring is coming by the way people start driving. The way kids suddenly have more fidgety energy, and declare they NEED to get out. The way teenage boys and girls playfully yell at each other from their cars or across the street. And little purple and white flowers have started peeking out from the ground.

I’m looking forward to spring. I’m looking forward to taking the kids to the park, going on long walks, going to the zoo. Watching the boys play baseball. I’m looking forward to opening the windows and feeling the breeze through the house.

There is a busyness that comes with this season. I love to be busy. I love to go out and do “all the things”. I love people, activities and the sunshine. Daniel often has to remind me to slow down.

Don’t get me wrong I need down time, and I love cuddling up on the couch with a cup of coffee for a quiet afternoon. I love sitting in the back yard with a good book or just watching the kids and dog run freely, while they squeal…eh… screech around the yard.

For a while here I have craved the distraction of spring.

We watched the Pixar movie ‘Inside Out’ the other day. We hadn’t seen it in a while. But man… that movie… all the adults were crying!! The next day Daniel and I were talking about the movie and how it really hits a lot of deep issues regarding our feelings, and how we deal with them. As I was introspectively thinking about my own feelings, I looked over at Daniel and said “Man… I think I just like to have ‘Joy’ running my console all the time…” He just looked back at me, laughed and nodded in agreement.

Nothing makes you realize you can’t have ‘Joy’ running the console all the time like experiencing loss. Experiencing loss has made me feel many layers of emotions. Sometimes these layers of emotions have made it incredibly hard to pick out how I’m actually doing, or what I’m actually feeling.

I’ve had so many conversations with friends in the past year about how important it is to feel your emotions and work through them. Taking the time to do this is a good thing! We have an emotional God. We are made in his image. We are going to experience the full range of emotions. He doesn’t expect us to be ‘happy’ all the time. That’s just not how He made us!

And here I am facing my own advice. Isn’t that just how it works!?! I really just want to stuff it down, burry it and ignore it…but I know I need let all the painful, and complicated emotions roll in and wash over me.

The bright sun and warm winds of Spring are carrying me away from the Winter of loss.

Honestly it’s a really good thing for me that this all happened in the winter. There is so much less distraction, especially in January and February. It’s given me more time to face the rolling emptions.  More time to sit with God. More time to talk with family and friends. More time to talk with the kids. More time to talk with my husband. More time to face my thoughts.

The rain, the sleet and gray days of winter have reflected my mood. It’s a strange feeling, to look out your window and appreciate the weather and its reflection of your grief, the tears in the rain, like the tears in my heart.

As much as I love to encourage and be upbeat. I can’t have ‘joy’ running the ship all the time. I have experienced deep loss, and I need to feel that. Later in time when I am sitting with people in their loss, I want to remember how my heart felt. I need to remember the physical pain. The pit in my stomach and the looming fear of the unknown. I need to let God use all these things to make me look more like Jesus. To bring me close to Him. And also, so I can minister to others who are experiencing deep hurt. So that I can remember the pain and remember the healing on the other side. And allow the time it takes, for me and for others, to heal.

The time table of healing isn’t something we can hurry up and ‘get through’. As they say, “you can’t rush art!” And there is an art to grieving. It leaves a mark on your soul. It leaves a different reflection for each of us. It looks different for every person and experience. Our own expression, our own fingerprint, of loss.

Dealing with these rolling emotions during the cold months has allowed me more time to sit and process.

It’s a dance, to sit in the moments and feel the hurt, pain and sorrow, and then know when it needs to be time to get up and push through. It’s not a cut and dry process. It’s a back and forth  dance.

In the movie Inside Out the characters learn the importance of the range of emotions, and that experiences are often colored with multiple emotions. It’s not unusual to experience joy and sorrow simultaneously. Often our memories of different times bring up a range of feelings.

As things start to feel easier again, I’m learning to not feel guilty on the days when I feel joy and want to tackle the world. And I’m learning to have grace for myself on the days where the layers of feelings vary, and are complicated.

I don’t have to be happy all the time!! Sigh of relief… There is freedom in letting go.

And you know, if I feel like dancing in my kitchen, I am going to kick aside those thoughts of “you shouldn’t be feeling happy yet”, and I am going to dance in my kitchen!

I am looking forward to the warmth of spring. I am having more good days. More joy coming out again.

In a lot of ways sitting in the warmth of the sun reminds me of basking in the warmth of God’s love. I think I’ve felt this way about it since I was a child. And in this season as the weather changes there is a new depth to this feeling.

I am thankful for the different creative ways God uses to wrap His arms around us.

 

Psalm 31:7-8
I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
because you have seen my affliction;
you have known the distress of my soul,
and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
you have set my feet in a broad place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter to Ava

 

I shared this letter at Ava’s memorial. Now I’m sharing it here with you.

 

Dear Ava,

My Ava Hope. My first little girl.

You were only with me for 20 weeks, or in other words, 4 and a half months. But you impacted our lives on such a deep level. Honestly it’s still hard to understand the depth. But we all feel the absence of your presence and we miss you.

My list of experiences with you are much too short. But I will still treasure them. I treasure the times I saw you flipping and wiggling all around in the ultrasounds. I’ll treasure feeling you move. I craved pop tarts and halal guys, very weird… but those things will always remind me of you. I’ll treasure all the trips I took with you, trips to the zoo, New York city, Niagara falls, and just being pregnant with you through the regular routine’s of our life. We even flew out to Washington with your brother Elijah. You were right there with me for my first big speaking engagement. It’s fitting that I was speaking on encouraging women in the Lord. My prayer is that your story will bring encouragement and hope to many women throughout my life.

There are so many things that I hoped to experience with you. I wish we had been able to gaze into each others eyes and meet face to face for the first time.

I wish that you would have flooded our very blue world with pink and purple. Even before we found out you were a girl we were teasing your brothers about the possibility of all the girl toys that would invade their playroom and the girl shows that would be on the tv. They would act so upset! But the truth is they were all wishing it would be true. You see they had prayed for you dear Ava, they had prayed for a baby sister. They were excited about you the second they found out mommy was expecting another baby.

I wish that you would have given me sleepless nights, times for priceless moments with just me and you, quiet moments with me nursing you and rocking you while you fall back to sleep.

I wish that I could have bathed and dressed you. I wish that I could have hugged you and wiped away your tears.

I wish that I could have fought with you over all of the things…

I wish that I could have watched the wonder in your eyes as you discovered your world.

I wish that I could have known your personality and the way you laugh.

I wish that I could have known the fear and pride that parents talk about when they watch their little girl turn into a woman.

I wish that I could have watched your daddy with His little girl. I know you would have brought out a new tender side of him.

I wish that I could have watched him walk you down the aisle someday…

I wish that I could have told you about Jesus and how much He loves you. But that is something you now understand better than your mommy. And that makes me smile and again brings me hope.

There are a thousand things that I long to have experienced with you, and hoped for you.

It’s funny because I will always picture what things would have been like with you in a perfect world. Because from the very beginning things were imperfect.

I will always picture you whole and perfect here. And I will always romanticize what our relationship would have looked like and how you would have fit into our family and who you would have grown up to be.

I know things would never have been as perfect as I picture them.

But in so many ways imagining the perfect relationship is so fitting for us. Because someday when I meet you there on the other side of death, our relationship will be perfect. It will be more perfect than any romanticized version of us I could have imagined. With Jesus, with the Lord where there is no more sin. No more darkness. We will be both be perfect and I will enjoy getting to know you and being with you forever.

Ava Hope-   I love your name little girl. Ava means bird, and it also means life.

Living Hope-   Your name is a reminder of the living hope we have because of Jesus. Just thinking about your name brings me comfort.

There is sorrow in this life, but with the Lord there is a greater hope little one. And I am clinging to that.

I am clinging to the foundational truth of God’s word and the hope that it gives me.

I love you Ava Hope. And I will miss you until we meet again someday.

 

Your Mommy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weak

Weak…

This is not a word that we like to use when describing ourselves. It’s not a word that lifts me up and brings me encouragement. It’s not a word that propels me forward through the day. In fact, if you really reach down to the bottom of how I would prefer to associate that word, I would rather use it to label other things, situations or sometimes even people.

Using the word weak to describe something outside myself, well, it can give me a false sense of feeling stronger in the face of my own weakness.

Weak…  I’ve felt weak a lot in the past months. I mean don’t get me wrong I’ve been aware of so many of my struggles and weaknesses forever. But the past months have just taken a big fat, squeaky, bright highlighter to them. The glare is blinding. They cannot be ignored.

When I found out about having our 6thbaby I felt weak. How am I going to be enough for all these children? How am I going to do this?

When I found out about Ava’s diagnosis. After the shock abated a little bit, and the reality of the situation started to settle in, I wanted nothing more than to get off this train. Get back to where I planned on having a healthy baby in the spring. I wanted to stop sitting in the unknowns.

“Can I go back in time? Can I just start this whole thing over and hope for a different outcome?”

Of course, the answer to this is no.

This is my precious baby girl. This is where I am. With her. Our weaknesses exposed together. I can do nothing on my own to fix this.

I felt so weak.

I felt weak as fear would creep in at unexpected times during the day and then also at expected times like when I went to the doctor’s appointments.

I felt weak in the face of one of my biggest fears…losing a baby, a child. And in turn preparing and attending Ava’s memorial.

I felt weak when I didn’t want to get out of bed some mornings, some afternoons….some days.

I felt weak at the thought of having to go through my normal routines, when I felt like my world had stopped. I felt weak when I needed my world to stop…at least for a while.

The reality of facing my weaknesses at such a raw and real level has been hard… gut wrenchingly hard…

and Beautiful

Here in my utter weakness and brokenness there is Good News. Here, there is gospel that shines bright and lifts me up.

As the simple, elementary, yet oh so true, children’s song ‘Jesus loves me’ says:

“When I am weak, He is strong.”

I am weak, but my God is Strong!

When I felt fear and inadequacy at having a 6thchild. When I knew I couldn’t be enough, I was reminded that God is enough. He is strong. And He will give me what I need for the days ahead. And often this doesn’t mean it all falls on me. I have an amazing husband who parents alongside me. And other people in our family’s life that also love on my children, encourage me as a mom and a wife.

When I struggled with fear and wanting to give up after Ava’s diagnosis, God reminded me that she is His child first and foremost. And he has entrusted me to carry and take care of her. And through that truth He gave me peace, a peace that doesn’t make sense.

And He gave me joy. Joy that I do get to carry her right now. And joy in being reminded that He carries me. It’s hard to convey how it feels to be ‘carried’ by the Lord in a place of such deep hardship. All I can say about that right now is, it is true.

As I expressed in my last post(Ava Hope), God was with me every step of my terrifying and hard trip to the doctor’s office and hospital. He was with me through her delivery and goodbye.

When faced with the reality of losing a baby, the phrase “hurts like hell” is accurate. However, with the Lord I am not filled with suffocating despair.

I grieve with hope.

In facing one of my biggest fears God has never been absent. Some days I didn’t do much but grieve in my bed. And that’s ok, it was healthy and needed. I may still have some of those days. But God has given me new strength and mercies each morning, to face the day in the capacity that was needed. Some days the pain wasn’t so much, and some days it felt like more than I could bare. But God gave me what I needed for each of them. This is still ongoing and true.

Now let me add a “Life is real in the Stenberg house” story here:

I finally had enough courage to sit down and rip off whatever band aid I had plastered on. I was ready to write Ava a letter. Obviously she is gone, but I needed it.

So here I am, I’m writing, I’m crying,… I look like a mess. Facing this hurts in a healthy way, it feels good to do this. In the middle of writing the letter, I hear a knock on the door. It’s an older man and a young guy. I peek out the window and see their truck. These guys have been working on getting our furnace fixed. Not too long ago they ordered a part and told us it wouldn’t be showing up for a couple more weeks….It came early.

I open the door say hello, and let them in. Those poor guys. They couldn’t have been more uncomfortable after taking a look at my face. They sheepishly explained that the part to the furnace came in faster than expected and they were here to replace it. “We will be done quickly” they said.  And they were, they ducked out of my house so fast after they were done! I thought about giving them a simple explanation, but really, I couldn’t come up with anything that would make things less awkward! I am just left to laugh about it now.

OK back to the letter and memorial.

While getting ready for the memorial we had so much help and support. We are so thankful for all the people that made a very hard day, as easy as it could be. It takes a village and ours loved on us that day and the days surrounding. It was a good day and good day in our process of healing.

Daniel sang and played a special song at the memorial and he also gave the message. I shared the letter I wrote to Ava.

We did not know if we were going to be able to make it through what we had planned. In fact, we had a backup plan in the event of an emotional meltdown! I didn’t know how I was going to get up there and share my letter without falling apart. I felt so very weak and afraid of facing that day.

But when I am weak, He is strong.

God’s peace and strength carried us up there, God’s peace and strength transcended all the difficulties, fears and the tears that threatened to take over. Because there were tears, but they didn’t take over. God’s peace and strength carried us through the service through the day.

I wish I could explain to you the feeling of being upheld by God that day, sharing about my girl and the hope we have in the midst of sorrow because of our Lord and Savior. But there are really no words to convey what it feels like when God is carrying you.

God’s message of His love shined that day.

And God’s peace and strength are still carrying us through.

I am no “super Christian”.

I have no “super faith”.

This process has been so hard and messy.

But God is rich in His mercy, grace and provision for all of His children that have faith in Jesus.

This is good news for all of us! Because He desires all of us to be His children.

He desires to carry all of us, and to be a stronghold in times of hardship, hurt and fear.

Whatever the situation now or to come. Take heart because God is enough.

 When we are weak, He is Strong.

 

2 Corinthians 12:9-10
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
 

 

I Need a Nap!

It’s November now. I wrote this in August. Before we were expecting #6! It’s been a while now. Sorry!!! But here it is anyway!

~

It’s a beautiful Tuesday afternoon in August. And to be honest Daniel and I need a break. Maybe not necessarily a date night or a weekend away. But a brake from the schedule, a break from work, a break from the kids. I “need” a break from Elijah.

My little(one year old) Elijah has been sick. He requires so much physical attention. This past week, he needed day and night attention. He is also going through a shy phase, which means he is hardly going to anyone besides his daddy and of course me. While Elijah may be the most taxing, my other four also need plenty of attention.

I want a break.

So this afternoon I said no to the splash park, I said no to catching up on things in the house, I said no to making sure the boys are getting in their daily reading and I ditched the to do list this afternoon.

I am letting both of us(Daniel and I) take a break.

What does that mean??? Daniel is playing on his computer, Judah is on the old computer playing next to Daniel. Asher, Caleb and Silas are watching the Disney channel. And I took Elijah with me. We are sitting in the nursery at church where I have the AC blasting(it’s like 100 degrees outside),and Elijah is playing with “new” toys in a room he can’t escape. As for me, I am sitting with an iced coffee writing this blog post. Right now this is a break. I might even order some cheap Chinese take out for dinner. I need to breath today. And I am refusing to feel guilty about it!

Now when I say I said “no” to those different things. The only person I actually had to say “no” to, was myself. I love to go, go, go and I have a hard time remembering that it’s fine to let certain things “go”. Being a mom in this big family teaches me everyday that things can’t be perfect! Just last week at church the kids were totally squirrelly on me and numerous people encouraged me after the service that, it was just fine, that’s just kids. I train them the best I can but, they are little humans that have little personality’s. Sometimes without them knowing it, they gang up on me and it all falls to chaos! And you know what, it is ok. And I’m thankful to have people that remind me that it’s ok.

But I have an issue with saying “no” to myself and taking a rest.

I was putting Elijah down for a nap the other day. It was a little later than it should have been so he was over tired. He was just wailing and screaming because he didn’t want to take a nap.

He wants to be a part of everything. He doesn’t want to miss a thing! All of his brothers are still awake playing and I’m putting him in baby jail… his crib. I give him a kiss whisper good night and leave him all by himself. I am the worst! At least that’s what his screaming seems to communicate!

But the reality here is, He really needed to take that nap. He was not going to have fun playing with his brothers that tired and cranky. He most definitely did not need to be a part of everything, right then he needed a rest!

As I closed the door part of me felt relief “Yeah! It’s nap time!” Part of me felt a little bad because he was especially mad today.

But that got me thinking, how much I relate to my little guy.

I want to be a part of everything. I want to know what’s going on, and be on top of all the things. I want to make sure all the fun summer things happen with the kids, I want to make sure, they are caught up and ready to go when the school year starts, and I want to make sure I’m catching up on my summer reading or catching up on mundane paperwork. My time seems so limited right now, so I try to be productive with all that I have to spare.

But man the reality is, sometimes I need to be unproductive and restful. I need a nap!

Um what did I just say??? I need to stop the train of thought that taking a rest is unproductive!!! How productive can I be with anything while I’m running on empty?? And I also have an issue with realizing how low my tank is getting.

I don’t really, realize how much I have put off rest until it’s too late. At these times I am not a nice person. I’m like that grumpy baby I couldn’t wait to get a break from!

Usually the rest of the world doesn’t get to see that side of “Karen”. I save that side of me for my sweet unsuspecting family.

And then literally, Daniel will say, “Hey, Babe I can come home after lunch and you can take a nap..” And even then sometimes I argue with him, and he continues to assure me its ok if I don’t get it all done. It’s ok, Go take a rest.

When I’m sitting burdened in my struggle, the struggle not to let any of the “ball’s drop”. God’s word gently reminds me of what His expectation of me is.

Matthew 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

God doesn’t mean for me to keep going and going and going. He is not throwing on this big burden of stuff that I have to complete on my own. He’s not telling me that I just need to be stronger. He’s not telling me that if I was better at following Him then I wouldn’t be in this mess.

He’s showing me the gospel here.

God desires for me to rest physically and spiritually in His grace. To come to a greater dependence on Him. He desires to show me His grace in the form of rest and refreshment.

He designed us to need it!

In my need I am pointed to the cross, in my insufficiency I’m pointed to Jesus and what’s already been done. And He reminds me of what is actually important. If I could keep on top of it all, there is a good chance I would forget to bring these things to the cross. I would forget my utter need for being dependent in Christ.

Praise be to God that I can’t do it all! Praise God He keeps me turning to Him! Praise God He keeps me thirsting for the refreshment I will find in His word. Praise God He keeps me longing for prayerful dependence in my chaotic world!

Praise God He shows up there with me in my mess and my unfinished list.

Praise God for the rest in Gods’ grace that He has promised is mine.

When I turn to Jesus and seek rest and dependence in Him, He often surprises me with His literal provision and grace for the things I am worried about letting go of, this may come as a shock… but… my world does not fall apart. However, it does remind me that its not all about my ability, but Christ’s ability. Praise God!

Chafing Against my Role

Motherhood! Oh! Motherhood. It is a glamorous calling isn’t it?

Said no woman ever….

At least in this current setting and culture.

Motherhood is messy, frustrating and often thankless. However, you can actually broaden this quite a bit. I think it’s safe to say many stages in life are messy, frustrating and often thankless. There are many times we find ourselves in the trenches, chafing against our calling or just the status quo of our current situation.

There was a time I felt like my sole purpose in life was to take care of my babies and support my husband in his ministry.

And if I’m being honest, it was a struggle. It was also a struggle I didn’t see coming.

In my younger years I would often look forward to the days when I would have my own baby’s and an amazing husband. When I would stay home and read books, take the kids to play dates and the zoo, make dinner and sit down around the table with the family.

I still love all of these things. But they were often serene pictures in my head. Seen through unknowing rose-colored glasses. Absent of the crying, discipline, inconsistency, exhaustion and yogurt melts fused to my hair.

When the time came that I had all of it, I was surprised to find out how different it felt with a front row seat.

(I talked a bit about it in my last blog post in particular with the struggle of little ones.) You are Not Alone.

Sometimes I would take stock at the end of the day and think about what I had been able to be accomplish. There were days I would get so much done! And at the end of those I would feel pretty good about myself! Then there are the days when we didn’t get out of our pajamas, and I ordered take out for dinner because I didn’t want to deal with the massive pile of dishes in the sink. And, at the end of those days, I found myself frustrated that I couldn’t “get it together”.

In doing this I started associating my work accomplishments, with my self-worth.

This method of estimating value is…..  A DISASTER!

Confession… I still struggle in this department…. I have to bring this one over and over again to the Lord.

Also, let’s just take a minute and talk about this whole ‘stay at home mom’ thing. What was once considered the ideal: supporting your husband by staying at home and taking care of the children, is no longer loved by society.

It’s all over the television, music, and the internet how, as a woman, I should have goals and dreams and all the people in my life, especially my husband, should support these dreams and goals at all costs.

Career is highly valued. And, hey, having a career is great, and should be valued. But am I ‘settling’ because I don’t have a career? Does it mean that I am worth less because I don’t currently bring home a paycheck? Or does it mean that I am worth less because I don’t have a career that is valued high in society? Or maybe just one that “I” don’t value?

Does it mean that my husband loves me less because my dreams or passions are on hold while he follows his calling?

My husband has often been involved in more “glamorous” callings than I have. When we met and were married he was in a band for 8 years. He was the “front man” in the band. (OK, so his work life was not glamorous.) But the whole band thing was pretty cool. Watching him play all the shows was fun. Their band had a bit of a following for some years, and eventually they were really good. Then we started having kids (that’s a longer story than I feel like getting into right now) and shortly after kids he went into ministry full time, and then to school full time. And now he is Pastoring full time. He gets the chance to preach the gospel into people’s lives from the pulpit every Sunday. Really, it’s an everyday type of thing, but Sundays are a big deal.

Honestly, I’m so proud of Him and all that God does through Him. He will be the first to tell you, it’s not about him, it’s never about Him. It’s all about Jesus and what he is doing through him in ministry. And using it to glorify God.

But God has called him into some roles throughout our marriage that sometimes take a lot of time and energy. Which means at times I have needed to put more time and energy into the kids or work. And there are times I have struggled with this…because it makes my life harder. (God loves to inconvenience me… haha!)

Not only does it make my life harder, but if I look at it from a worldly perspective (which I never do…right? Hah!) …his role is more exciting than mine.

Come on God? Can’t I glorify in a more glamorous way? I feel like you put me in the back seat! …. And there’s kids back here!?!

As I wrestle through evaluating my self-worth and my general purpose in life, God grabs hold of me and gently leads me back to the truth.

My confidence in myself, and my self-worth, can’t come from my accomplishments or big dreams, or a title. My self-worth can only come from who I am in Christ.

In truth, it’s really not about me at all. It’s about bringing Glory to God.

My role currently is just as important as my husbands. And I’m enabling Him to follow God’s call on his life. Really God’s call on our lives. We are very much in this together.

Daniel and I can both pursue passions and callings that God has put on our hearts, but we need to do them together, centered on Christ. Supporting one another and enabling one another.  Always talking through what is working and what isn’t. Making a point to be sensitive to the other person, and at times that means putting something on the back burner, for a season.

I want to be cheering each other on and not jockeying for position.

If I start looking for my worth in a more “glamorous” calling you can bet that is when I will start jockeying for my position and pushing my agenda through.

I am thankful that I have the opportunity to support Daniel in this way.  He could not do the ministry that God has called him to if I didn’t. I’m thankful for the opportunity to raise all these awesome little men with an amazing husband. They are the biggest blessing and I am so grateful that I can teach them about the hope, security, love and grace found in our Lord and Savior. He is our shelter, He is their shelter, in this broken world. What is more important than that?

And later in life, if I have a more “glamorous” calling it can’t be about me. It must start in the humble submission to Christ, and glorifying God, it always must be about bringing glory to God.

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power,12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Goals 2018???

Here we are. The beginning of January. I feel like I have a bit of a Christmas hangover. Not in the traditional sense of the word hangover. But the week between Christmas and New years, I usually designate to do nothing but “party” with my family. We play with the new toys(AKA put together legos.) Play games, eat cookies, go to movies, read books and just spend time together not worrying about the to do list. This year I made a Turkey dinner for Christmas eve so we could eat left overs for a few days and when I did cook, it was light easy meals.

I love that week, it’s one of my favorites of the whole year. But now I’m in recovery mode. There is lots to do as I catch up from the month of December. It’s a bit overwhelming.

Often the week between Christmas and New Years also brings about a time of reflection. And then expectation as we go into the new year. We set goals and resolutions for the upcoming year.

As I reflected on this past year, I can’t help but feel thankful and undeserving of all the blessing the Lord has placed in my life. There is also a part of me that feels sad, missing the close relationships and some of the fun activities I used to do with the boys in Fergus. Although, side note: I heard that the bakery there is closing. So sad! I used to take the boys there all the time.

As I sat down with my coffee in hand and my planner in my lap I started to think about my expectations and goals for this new year. And let me tell you, this is an issue for me! My expectations often exceed the reality!

Here are some things that I thought of for goals for myself for 2018.

First of all, my messy house drives me crazy, My messy house. If I go to someone else’s it doesn’t bother me. But when I am living in my families mess I can go a little nuts. One goal would be prioritizing cleaning up after myself, and teaching the boys likewise. Haha!

Here’s a video of my house for fun. This is often my normal! 🙂

Secondly I had a beautiful baby this year. My adorable Elijah. But as many of you know he came via c-section and, well, I had a baby. So my core is super weak. I never did anything to strengthen it this time. The biggest problem with my weak core, is my back. My back is hurting more with all the daily lifting of toddlers and sometimes waking up in the morning my back is already hurting. Strengthening my core, wold be another goal.

Thirdly, (this I mentioned a little bit in my video.) I need to potty train Silas. Its time. I will leave it at that.

Ok and let me just throw in a few more things I would love to start on this year.

Piano for Judah and Asher

Learn to cook some more meals.

Continue to find ways to get to know my neighbors and get into the community

Explore the area more, there is so much to do here!

Read more

Be more consistent with my blog, and continue to grow in my writing skill

Run again

Train the best dog 😉

And continue to make new friends

 

You can see how quickly my expectations get out of hand!!! I’m ridiculous.

So I Prayed about it. I thought about all of these things. All of them being good things.

And you know which ones God put on my heart to strive for in 2018?

 

NONE OF THEM!

 

“Seriously, I came up with a lot of good options God!”

But no, as I prayed and read Gods word over that week between Christmas and New Years I had a resounding thought over and over.

Prayer, make Prayer the foundation.

Sadly too, often when I’m striving to get all of “the things” done, I let those things trump prayer.

Prayer can seem unproductive and pointless because, it doesn’t make sense in our human minds. God is not here in the flesh for us to talk to, and often results are not what we expect or in our timing. Satan wants to undermine the importance of prayer in our hearts and minds. He wants us to keep thinking its pointless.

But prayer is the opposite of that. It’s our direct line to the maker of the universe. Who holds all things in His hands. He is capable of accomplishing so much more that we can imagine. We are so simple and small, and yet He cares for us and longs to hear us pray. In the big and the small.

God has put prayer on my heart so strongly as I look into the new year. When I think of my kids, my marriage, my church, my community, my writing. I want to start with prayer. To let that be the undercurrent of all my goals. To set right my priority’s and to forge a way where maybe there wasn’t one. To bring  Prayer and God’s word should be the guiding light as I walk through my life.

Prayer and the truth of the bible is exactly where God wants us to start as we live out our days.

It’s simple and yet so hard. But as I look at being immersed in ministry and the community here. I know it’s exactly what I need.

Prayer is powerful! How great is our God!

 

Ephesians 6:18

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Psalm 5:1-3

Listen to my words, Lord,
consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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.

What If?

Over the past months I have often drifted back in thought to the day Elijah was born and the events that surrounded his birth.

(Daniel wrote a blog post talking about those events Here.)

I have played the “what if?” game. What if we had both died? What would that have meant for the family left behind?

The week leading up to his birth J-Term was going on. J-Term is a week where they bring in special speakers to the seminary and many of the Lutheran Brethren pastors, as well as some lay people and of course the students from the school attend, and receive further training. I was able to attend this past one because my mother and father-in-law were staying with us and my mother-in-law was able to watch the kids.

It was really nice to go and sit and just listen and soak up the training and speakers. Mostly it was wonderful to not have a child hanging on me begging for more gummies while I try and listen to the sermon. Ha!

At J-Term I had so many people come up to me and tell me that they would be praying for me and my baby and the delivery. In fact, so many people came up to me to tell me they were praying, I said “Daniel I’m starting to get worried that something is wrong or going to go wrong! Everyone is praying for me!” Then I proceeded to laugh my worry off and go about my day.

But God was at work long before Elijah’s delivery day.

Shortly after I found out I was pregnant I had a dream. And in my dream, I knew that something bad was going to happen to Silas so I was doing everything in my power to protect him. He still fell and got a nasty cut on his head. But I was relieved, I thought to myself. Ok that was it! I saved it from being worse. But then I realized that event was an illusion and what was actually happening was Silas was in the bathtub by himself and it was filling up with water. And I watched as if from a distance helpless to do anything about it. Then I saw Daniel go in pick him up out of the bath and “save him”.  When I thought on the dream the next day I knew God was just telling me to entrust my children to Him. He knows all, He loves them more than I possibly can and He is in control, not me.

Flash forward to Elijah’s birth. As I was bleeding and they were prepping me for surgery I knew something was very wrong. Before I knew it, I was on oxygen and they were running, literally running at points to the operating room. Panic was overtaking me. But there was nothing within my power that I could do about my situation. As I felt the blood leaving my body and the panic overtaking, it wasn’t an audible voice but it felt audible in my head. “Do not fear, I am with you.” And then there was an overwhelming peace that descended on me. Whether I lived or died I had nothing to fear. God has me. I am His child.

God reached down His hand of intervention and saved Elijah and I that day. There was nothing I could do to save me, or him.

Pondering these events this afternoon brought me to think about our state as human beings. We think we have it under control. We have the illusion that we can save ourselves. There are so many religions that say you can earn your spot in heaven. Or that the path to peace is through ourselves or that we simply just need to be good. As long as we are a decent human being we are in the clear. We think that our view of the world dictates how the world actually is. We think we got it. I have it under control.

But the fact is, we don’t have it under control and our view of who we are doesn’t change reality. The illusion is just that: an illusion, a mirage in the distance that never comes.

The reality is, I am a helpless human being that has no ability to save myself. I am bleeding out in my sin, and there is nothing I can do about it. I can try to staunch the blood, but that is not fixing my inner problem. I’m still dying.

But God in His ever-loving mercy reached down His hand of grace and divinely saved me. Jesus came and did what I could not do. He did only what He can do. He lived a perfect life, and then He died on that cross, He shed his blood on my behalf, He covered me in is grace so that God the Father no longer sees my black heart, but sees His Son. He healed my inner problem. It is finished.

Now I still deal with sin. I won’t be perfected until God actually does call me home.

But I am right before the Father. There is no longer sin that separates us. Because of my faith in Jesus I am now a child of God.

I can’t explain the inner spiritual workings of how God makes this all possible. Just like I can’t explain the inner workings God did to physically save me and my son. Elijah was the most physically healthy baby that I have ever delivered. The doctor pronounced him a 10 and said, “I can’t find anything wrong with this baby.”

God has made me whole and complete in Jesus.

But Jesus didn’t just die for me, He died for all of humanity. And He longs for all to come to Him.

God brought glory to Himself that day. God showed His mercy and love to us. Just like He showed the world when He sent His son.

I will just share one last thing.

A few days before Elijah was born we finally settled on his name.

Elijah – Meaning: My God is YAHWEH

God brings Glory to Himself throughout all of it.

Praise be to God.

John 3:16-17

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

The Day Elijah Came Into the World

By Daniel Stenberg

Karen gave birth to Elijah Quentin at 9:06 am on February 3rd, 2017.

He didn’t come when we hoped, or how we had hoped. But if he had come according to our hopes, he wouldn’t be here at all.

It seemed like we had been waiting for Elijah forever. True, the nine-month incubation that is pregnancy can drag on seemingly ‘forever’, especially towards the end, but there was more to it this time.

Being in my 3rd year of Seminary it’s time to start interviewing, or ‘candidating’ at churches. We had to wait for Elijah to be born however, as Karen couldn’t travel at the end of pregnancy, and then of course there would be the recovery time after birth. It felt like our future was stalled, like it was just waiting on the baby. So the sooner he came the better.

At least, that’s how it felt.

Also, my parents were visiting in January. My dad would be here for a week, and my mom would be here for three. Being as we don’t live close to each other it would have been nice for dad to be able to hold his newest grandson before catching the plane back to the Pacific Northwest. So the sooner he came the better.

We did all that we knew how to try to convince our youngest that it was time to breathe the fresh Minnesota air. It was time to meet his grandpa. It was time to let mommy and daddy take steps towards the future.

We went for walks. Not easy to do during a frigid Midwest winter. Thankfully the YMCA in town is heated and has a nice walking track. Karen kept working at her cleaning job. She ate spicy food. Short of taking castor oil (no offense dad, but you weren’t quite THAT important) we did all that we knew of to get baby to come.

Nothing worked. There were many occasions of false labor that we hoped would lead to actual labor, but again, our hopes were not realized. The little guy could not be convinced.

Dad left, and the days went by. It was getting close to the time when mom was going to have to leave. Karen went to her Doctor’s appointment the day before her due date and everything looked great. Baby was looking really good, and Karen’s body was ready to have the baby. It wouldn’t take much to set the wheels in motion, and so the Doctor agreed to induce Karen a couple of days later, so that Grandma would have a chance to meet the little guy before she too had to take a plane home.

Karen was pretty excited about this. She had never been induced before, and this meant that maybe she could actually get the drugs! Previous labors had been so quick, that there hadn’t been time. She didn’t regret having children au naturale, but given that this would be the last one, the allure of it being relatively painless was strong. Karen was looking forward to experiencing this side of labor and delivery.

On Feb. 3rd, at 5 am they started Karen’s induction, and everything started out pretty normal. All the vitals were looking good. The Pitocin had begun to get things going and her body was responding well. The Doctor showed up around 8:30, saw that things were progressing well and decided it was time to break the water. The water looked good, and since contractions were going to start getting more intense it was time to get Karen her epidural.

Now I didn’t eat breakfast, we woke up a little too late for that (4:30 am comes WAY too early for me) and since I have an aversion to seeing people stick huge needles into my wife’s backbone I decided it was time to go grab breakfast. Since she was getting an epidural labor should slow down a little, and I should have the 15 minutes it would take to grab a bite to eat.

So I left.

I got down to the car and there, to my intense frustration, my windshield had frozen over. Again. I had scraped it that morning. Well, scraped might be generous. I had cleared sight lines that morning in the frigid cold, and was frustrated that I would have to do so again. It is not a fast process, and it hadn’t warmed up much in the few hours since my last attempts. I decided against it. Who needs breakfast anyway? I headed back up to Karen and the delivery room.

When I walked in the door I was greeted by bloody towels. Everywhere. Not what I wanted, or expected to see. Karen was bleeding, and I didn’t know why, or how, or what was going on.

While I had been down fuming at the cold, my frozen windshield and empty belly, Karen had decided that since the epidural would remove feeling from the lower half of her body that she should get up and use the bathroom.

When she stood up, a gush of blood hit the floor.

That is not supposed to happen.

The nurse had her get right back into bed and called the doctor. I returned seconds before the Doctor arrived. I will never forget sitting in that chair and watching his face. He looked at my wife, he looked at the towels and floor, and back to my wife. His brow was furrowed, with growing worry.

“I know this isn’t what we had planned, but we need to do an emergency C-section.”

Those words tore into me.

They also kicked over a beehive of commotion. Nurses just magically appeared out of nowhere. Suddenly there was another bed in the room and they were moving Karen onto it. Next thing I know we’re being whisked down the hall, and into an elevator. Out the elevator and down the hall, around corners, through doors with keycards. We’re practically running now. Our pace couldn’t match what was going on in my head however. What was going on? Was Karen in danger? Was the baby? Both? Why is this happening? The questions spilled over, filling my cup of panic.

“Swallow it Stenberg, swallow it and listen”, I told myself.

The Doctor was telling me how maybe I could still be in the room, maybe they would have time to give Karen an epidural in the Operating Room (OR), and then I could still be there, and she could be awake. We could go through this together. At least I could hold her hand.

Except when we got to the OR they pushed her into the room, and they left me outside. There was no time. They had to get the baby out as quickly as possible. There would be no epidural. They were going to put Karen under. It had to be quick. The bleeding had to stop. There was no time.

I was ushered into a room that resembled a large closet. There was a patched couch along one wall, some stacked chairs in the corner, an overused desk and a squeaky rolling chair. I slowly sank into the chair, rested my head on the desk and prayed. The rush of the last five minutes washed over me and I began to feel tears carve paths down my cheeks and then fall to the floor. I reached out to family and friends via text and asked for prayer.

“Pray for my wife. Pray for my child. Please, just pray.”

One friend asked if he could come and join me, to be there as a support for me. I laughed ironically to myself. I didn’t even know where I was. I didn’t know where this room was. I didn’t know how to get into, or out of, this part of the hospital. I told him that I didn’t know how to get to him, or how to get him to me, so thanks for the thought, but at this point, just pray.

What else could we do?

Soon, a nurse found me. I don’t know how, but she found me. Maybe they put all the dads in that little storage room? I dunno. Just glad I’m not still stuck in there. She brought me back up through the labyrinth and into the Labor and Delivery department. She took me to the room they had moved Karen’s stuff into and told me that it wouldn’t be too long now. It was probably only 8 minutes, but it felt like an hour. Suddenly she was back at the door, asking me if I wanted to hold my son.

My son. He had made it. Praise God. I was filled with joy, but in the back of my head I couldn’t help but wonder: how was Karen?

I was brought to a room where Elijah was undergoing the battery of tests that newborns are subjected to. They told me he was great. Beyond great. He was an incredibly and surprisingly healthy baby. The awe in the room was almost palpable. For those of you ‘in the know’, Elijah scored an 8 on his first APGAR test, and a 10 on his second. 10s are unheard of. They just don’t give those out. But they did to Elijah.

Soon I was holding my 5th son. This was the first time I had held one of my children before my wife had been able to. Which brought my mind back to Karen.

How is my wife doing?

It wasn’t too long before the Doctor came in. He came in and congratulated me on an amazingly healthy son. He told me Karen was doing really well. She was on her way to the room they called ‘recovery’ and that as soon as she was awake and coherent they would bring her up, and she could start feeding Elijah.

She was OK. It was a good thing that I was sitting down. As the relief flooded my body and the tension that had been building relaxed I felt my legs go weak. Thank God that my wife is OK, and thank God for whoever invented chairs.

So what happened? Why the bleeding? Why the emergency C-section?

The Doctor told me that it turned out that Karen had a condition called ‘Vasa Previa’. It is a rare occurrence, and it is hard to spot during Ultrasounds, unless one is looking for it specifically.

Vasa Previa is a condition where the blood vessels that attach the umbilical cord to the placenta run in between the baby and the birth canal. When Karen’s water broke, the blood vessels broke as well, and that is what caused the bleeding. That blood was supposed to be going to Elijah, and since he wasn’t getting it they had to perform the emergency C-section.

About an hour later, Karen was wheeled into the room that she would spend the next three days in. I brought her Elijah, and they began the mother-baby bonding process. We were both so relieved to have a safe and healthy baby and mother that it took a while for the emotions to settle. It wasn’t until Saturday night that we decided to do a bit more research on Vasa Previa.

I hopped on my laptop and took a stroll through vasaprevia.com.

What I found filled me with a humble thankfulness that I find hard to accurately describe.

Here are a few statistics from vasaprevia.com:

  1. 95% of vasa previa pregnancies that are not prenatally diagnosed end in the death of the child. (Any instance that I could find of a baby surviving a case where it was not prenatally diagnosed they did so through a blood transfusion.)
  2. If a pregnancy is diagnosed as vasa previa, the mother is recommended to be put on bed rest between weeks 30-32, and then Doctors perform a C-section as soon as the baby is deemed able to survive outside the womb, typically weeks 35-36.
  3. It is strongly discouraged to let the mother go into labor and have the baby naturally, but should she decide to anyway, it is necessary to be prepared for a blood transfusion for the child.

The realization of what I was reading began to hit me.

My son was not only in the 5%, my son didn’t require a blood transfusion. Despite the incredible amount of blood that Karen lost he scored higher on the APGAR than any of our other children. He scored higher than children are supposed to score.

Added to that, we had TRIED to get Karen to go into labor. We had gone for walks, worked hard, eaten spicy food, and thankfully passed on the castor oil. If Karen had gone into labor, if her water had broken, anywhere else but in a delivery room, statistics and science say this story ends differently. If we hadn’t scheduled an induction so that Elijah could meet Grandma, if Karen hadn’t decided to get an epidural, resulting in the bleeding being caught right away, if…if….if…All the ‘ifs’ kept piling up.

It began to sink in.

Karen and I began to realize how God had provided for us. How God had blessed us. How miraculous the birth of our little Elijah was. Statistics and Science said that he shouldn’t be here with us. And yet here he was, in my arms. As I watched his chest move with each breath, I felt the tears begin to retrace their steps down my cheeks.

Thank you Jesus. Thank you for my son.

So how do we respond?

The initial reaction is to say, “God is good!” And He is good. But He would still be good even if He had decided to take Elijah that morning on Feb. 3rd, 2017.

Another reaction is to say, “God is faithful!” And He is faithful. But He is also faithful to those who lost their children to vasa previa, or any other complication that takes children too early from this world.

Another response is: ‘Man, God must have some plan for this little guy.” And He does. But it might not be what we would typically classify as ‘amazing’. You see, I believe that it’s similar to conversion, or testimonies. It’s similar to the understanding that those who go through a miraculous ‘Damasacus Road’ conversion experience are not more important to God than those who grow up in the Church, and have always had a relationship with Him. He just used some means that we would deem as ‘miraculous’ to bring them into the fold. I would argue that how he saves each of us is miraculous. In the same way, Elijah does not mean more to God than other babies, God just used means that we would deem as miraculous to bring him into the world.

How God chose to act in this instance doesn’t dictate His goodness, or His faithfulness, or Elijah’s future.

So, again, how do we respond?

With thankfulness that He acted. Karen and I are just so thankful that God chose to bless us with Elijah. We are overcome by humble gratitude. We know that it is not because of who we are as people, or as parents, but because of God’s grace and mercy.

We want to say thank you to all who prayed for us, and with us for the life of this precious little boy. Our God has answered your prayers. We humbly ask that you continue to pray for him as he grows. Pray that he would walk with the Lord all of his life.

It feels like in America, in Western Christianity, we don’t get to see what we would call ‘miracles’ very often. Well, a miracle happened on the morning of Feb 3rd, 2017 in the sleepy little city of Fergus Falls, MN. And if you need a reminder that our God is able to perform miracles, just take a look at this little face and be encouraged.

Praise be to God.

1 Chronicles 29:10-13

David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,

“Praise be to you, Lord,
the God of our father Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.
12 Wealth and honor come from you;
you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.
13 Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name.