my gallbladder and my zipper

In the two weeks following my surgery I started to feel great.

One day I went out to run errands by myself while my parents were still visiting. This occasion was extremely special in that I was wearing clean clothes that were almost starting to fit me and I had put earrings on for morale. I was feeling pretty good. As I prepared to pay for something at one stop, the nice girl behind the counter smiled at me in a really shy way. “I just wanted to tell you something before somebody else comes, I’m just trying to be nice, I hope you don’t think I’m weird or anything, but . . .” and she said something more that I couldn’t make out over the music playing in the store. She’s probably going to tell me I look like Ashley Judd or something, I thought. (I think someone said that to me once in dim light about thirteen years ago.)

“What was that?” I said, smiling.

She said it again and I still didn’t catch it. I think I leaned in a little. “It’s okay, but I still haven’t heard you.”

This time she was much louder. “YOUR ZIPPER’S DOWN.”

(And pride, people, cometh before the fall. Or before I learned of the fall, who knows when it fell.)

So as you can see things were returning to normal.  I was rebuilding routines, fishing dirty socks out from under bureaus, flossing my teeth. Life was chaotically refreshing. I started checking stuff off the List(s).

Now I’m wearing dirty socks in the hospital and the only chaos comes from my roommate’s television, which has been blasting the Cartoon Network for nine hours each day. (I can only tell you that because I am fairly certain she does not read this blog.) After several acute attacks of abdominal pain Alex took me to the ER in the early hours of Tuesday and I’ve been making friends and listening to Sponge Bob here at the hospital ever since.

As it happens, I am experiencing complications after gallbladder surgery. Basically I have a bile leak inside of me. Yesterday I underwent more anesthesia to place a stent inside me that should help stop the leak and facilitate its healing. There is a pocket of leaked bile still there that may present me with pain for some time until it reabsorbs. There has been lots of talk about drainage tubes and CT scans and such but my original surgeon feels it is best to wait and let yesterday’s procedure take effect and see if I can rally without additional measures. If further complications do not develop I will be allowed to return home in the next day or two. Then I return in about six weeks for more anesthesia and the removal of the stent.

I can only say, in the words of an excellent haiku sent me by a talented friend during the last crisis:

Betsy’s gallbladder-

Needless and vindictive thing-

Good riddance, thou knave!

I was not really planning to spend the week in the hospital but must conclude that God was planning it. I keep reminding myself that this is where he plans for me to be right now, so this is where I want to be. I am tempted to ask, “Why this, Lord?” and “Why not heal me, Lord?” and especially “Why right now, Lord?” but Jesus prayed, “Your will be done,” so I make that my prayer, too. At least I pray that I would pray that, which, given God’s faithfulness, is much the same thing.

Posted in Keep Calm and Carry On | 4 Comments

my gallbladder and my heart

IMG_2352Something about January makes us want to get our lives sorted. We make lists and set goals and start digging through closets. This January in particular things are moving around here, as I need to lighten our load once again and be ready to hone our possessions down to what we will ship overseas this summer. With homeschooling and four little people and housework and all the other logistical details of leaving that keep popping up, I struggle to focus and my efforts are scattered at best.

I try to write long do-lists of all the things that should be done and then I lose them. I find them later and in the meantime I’ve drafted other lists that have completely different things on them. I lay awake at night sometimes over questions like what to do with photo albums and sweaters. My urge towards productive procrastination no longer serves me well, instead of getting things done ahead of time that will help myself later I pick strange times to begin emptying cupboards and making piles, like ten minutes before church or at suppertime on a Wednesday night. Thus half-emptied cupboards, half-finished projects, and piles of Things To Be Dealt With are everywhere. It’s preparation: headless-chicken style.

With all this going on it took me weeks to realize the pain wasn’t going away. Sometimes acute, often debilitating and uncomfortable, I had a persistent abdominal ache. I kept thinking I had a stomach virus. But those aren’t supposed to last eight weeks. I finally went to the doctor and x-rays revealed that I had a great many gallstones. These have been linked to pregnancy, fluctuating weight, and cholestasis, all of which I’ve had. In my case, given the pain and our imminent departure, prompt gallbladder removal was in order.

That’s abdominal surgery (which I had on Thursday). And recovery. And moving slowly amidst the piles of Things To Do and not doing them. What a test for this Martha-type! And that’s not Martha Stewart, people (as much as I enjoy her)! That’s Martha, to whom Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.” (Luke 10:41-42).

It seems Jesus would call me back to “the good portion, which will not be taken away from her”, which Mary chose. It seems he is less concerned with my gallbladder and more with my heart.

Posted in Keep Calm and Carry On | 3 Comments

my fitness program, free for you today

I stumbled on a book the other day entitled You Are Your Own Gym:Use the Body You Have to Build the Body You Want. All 171 pages of this paperback volume are no doubt packed with good things, but I will not be opening its covers for much longer than it just took me to see how many pages it has. I have a fitness program all my own.

I’m calling my version of this classic work Your Toddlers Are Your Gym: Use the Bodies You Have to Build the Body You Want with the subtitle Make Your Kids Work For You!

For optimal results the trainee should have children available in a range of sizes, lighter weights to use for high reps (definition) and heavier wights for low reps (muscle mass).

IMG_6038Below are some sample pages from the existing book. I then demonstrate how these same exercises can be successfully accomplished using the weights above.

IMG_6061“Overhead press”:
-1“Thumbs Up”:

IMG_6013One gem of wisdom I spotted on the book’s pages that is relevant to my program as well: “For an exercise or workout to be functional, it must resemble the event being trained for as closely as possible” (9). For my version to be most functional, there should be laundry everywhere, a newborn crying, and smoke coming from the kitchen.

One functional exercise I suggest based on the principle above would be running into the grocery store in the rain, laden with a purse weighing 20 pounds, pushing a baby buggy, carrying a flailing toddler, and screeching, “HARRIET! Give me your HAND!”

IMG_6059IMG_6020IMG_6058IMG_6026IMG_6030“Interval training,” says the author, “is the repeated performance of high-intensity exercises, for set periods, followed by set periods of rest” (14). I call those periods Nap Time.


“The hardest part is often just getting started. Next time you don’t feel like training, try kicking yourself. . . it doesn’t always have to be so structured or serious” (42). Hear that, Mamas? Try kicking yourself.

Posted in Being Mommy, Keep Calm and Carry On | 4 Comments

new happy year


Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

of the incarnation

IMG_2515 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  –John 1:14

Literally, when Jesus came, he pitched his tent among us. He moved right into our neighborhood. When he put on humanity, he didn’t put it on as one puts on clothes (and takes them off again). He didn’t put it on as one puts on a play and enacts an imaginary scenario for a while. Jesus Christ came in human form and it became his very being. A man like no man ever. God in dirty sandals.

Why did he do it? Was the most glorious, the most divine form imaginable to the mastermind that crafted the solar system a human one? What in God’s nature could best be communicated by becoming as one of his own creatures? How could the unchangeable God take on human likeness permanently (for he inhabits it still)? The measure of the cosmic condescension God demonstrated when he became a squalling newborn must be the measure of the love and mercy God waits to pour on our heads.

It’s difficult to believe, challenging to explain, impossible to understand. No one has ever seen God, say our neighbors of other beliefs. “No one has ever seen God,” agrees John, who walked beside him. But Jesus, he says, “the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18). We’ve seen him, John calls insistently to us from the pages of history. We’ve touched him with our hands (1 John 1:1). If God is, as the minister Walter Chalmers Smith wrote, “immortal, invisible God only wise / in light inaccessible hid from our eyes” then Jesus made him visible and tangible.

Thus we have One to come to. He approached us so we can approach him. And the beauty of it, the astonishing, merciful, crazy-incredible of this incarnation is, we can approach with anything. This means I have a place to bring fear. One to find in loneliness. It means when I am ashamed of my ugly behavior or I cry bitterly over my failures there is one whose every impulse toward me is kindness and every response unconditional love.

When James wrote “draw near to God and he will draw near to you” he knew just how nearly God had already approached: God was his older brother. When we draw near to him this Christmas, we can (wonder of wonders) do it with confidence: such mercy awaits!

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4:15-16




Posted in Jesus | Leave a comment

of stretching and meatloaf

20141209_162931Strangely, I just observed that most of my posts in the “Being Mommy” category are also filed under “Keep Calm and Carry On” . . .

We have four kids now. I know because I keep counting them. Also because Alex texted me the other day: “I just saw my wife out the window with FOUR kids. Are they all ours?” Answer: Yes.

The transition is going well, I think. Walter is still a sleepyhead, I’m getting at least five hours of sleep most nights, and hot meals have appeared on the doorstep more than once. I did not cling to my mother’s jacket when my parents departed Sunday before last (though this may only be because I was holding a child with each arm, it is still a triumph).

I am holding Walter right now and I just found a sticker with a pink rose on it affixed to his right knee cap. That pretty much sums up his siblings’ feelings in regard to him–they all adore him and demonstrate it constantly with improbable offerings and displays of affection that are, at best, uncomfortable for the wee chap (at worst, life-threatening).

One thing that’s happening in this phase, I’m growing. I can tell by the growing pains. This is the fourth time now and finally I’ve caught on to the pattern. Just like a growing baby inside means physical stretch marks, a baby born means mental and emotional ones. It’s learning to juggle all over again. I’m a little calmer this time, my heart’s a little quieter. Perhaps I’m finally learning to expect to not know what to expect.

20141202_080148For example this morning. I might have expected it to go smoothly. I chose to get up for the day after the five o’clock feeding in order to get back to a pattern of early starts, which are my secret weapon. I showered, did devotions, tidied up, sorted and started laundry, emptied the dishwasher, started the coffee, opened the blinds, and plugged in the Christmas tree before 6:45. I am Superwoman and I am going to have a Good Day, thunk I.

But I forgot to tell the children. Things went well through breakfast and getting dressed, with the exception of one (feigned) broken ankle on the part of one Little Miss and sympathy tears on the part of one Little Mister.

Then I tried to make a simple meatloaf in the kitchen. It should take about ten minutes. I pack a ton of vegetables into my meatloaf, so I began peeling carrots. Enter Norah, who wanted to help. I am trying not to be such a cranky “Not Today” Mommy so I said yes. Mid-way through her second carrot she accidentally capsized the carrots and all the peelings onto the floor. While we were cleaning it up, Hugh fell down and began to weep and Walter started screaming like a raptor from his chair in the dining room. I went to Hugh first and Norah began to pull the string on the chopper-thing to cut up the carrots. She accidentally pulled too hard and the whole bowl flipped off the counter and scattered tiny bits of shredded carrot all over the kitchen floor. I settled Walter, then went to help clean up the carrot. While we were at it, Walter began to scream again immediately and Hugh pulled open a craft drawer and grabbed a huge bin of teeny-tiny plastic beads, which he ripped open and dumped all over the dining room floor. While Norah and I cleaned them up he grabbed handfuls of beads and dropped them down the back of my shirt. I gave Hugh magnetic plastic letters to stick to the fridge and picked up Walter, still screaming. Suddenly Hugh began to cry and grab his diaper. The next ten minutes are now a blur but I know eventually I sent the girls up for a diaper for Hugh and put Walter down (still screaming). Inside Hugh’s diaper I found a large plastic magnetized letter R, which could not have been pleasant for the poor chap. It then dawned on me that perhaps Wally was hungry, so I nursed him right there on the kitchen floor amidst the carrot residue and some dried-on tomato stains. Once I was incapacitated, Hugh wiled away the next few minutes drawing on the floor with brown marker and throwing crayons at me from a safe distance.

This was about thirty minutes. During the above I also reheated my coffee three times, doing it too long the last time and causing it to erupt in boiling java all over the microwave. Also Norah and Harriet, between them, asked me if we could “please do the craft kit now” thirty-nine times. The craft kit is Norah’s prized birthday gift which involves permanent paint that cannot get on clothes, furniture, or skin and about three million pinhead-sized styrofoam balls. (Being, apparently, the wicked witch of the west, I will not let them engage on this without assistance.)

Also through all of the above, think   s  –  t  –  r  –  e  –  t  –  c  –  h.




Posted in Being Mommy, Keep Calm and Carry On | 19 Comments

an advent invitation

IMG_1784Do you have very young children? Have you thought about how to celebrate Advent with them in ways they can understand?

Alex and I struggled with this question back in 2011 as the season approached. When we couldn’t find readings that suited, we decided to write our own. We wrote 24 Advent Readings For the Very Young to use in the days leading up to Christmas Day (when we read the story of Jesus’ birth from the book of Luke). The readings accompany a manger scene, which we introduce piece-by-piece–in hopes of using the concrete ideas, so attainable for young children, to illustrate the abstract.

We posted the Readings on this blog in case they would be useful for other parents also as we all strive to be faithful to share the gospel with our little people. Each Advent I like to reissue the invitation–if you have very young people around your tree this Christmas, you are very welcome to them. I link to them above or you’ll find a list of the readings with links (and/or a printable PDF) on the menu bar.

As some of our young people are now getting on a bit, at six and four, we think they are at an appropriate age to begin celebrating Christ’s coming in a different way. We plan to read through The Advent Jesse Tree by Dean Lambert Smith and hang wooden ornaments on a “Jesse Tree” together nightly. We’re looking forward to studying together how Jesus Christ was God’s incredible, gracious plan of redemption from the very beginning. I thought about making the ornaments, but it was one of those projects that I just wasn’t going to get to–so I found a lovely set on Etsy.

Whatever your plans, may this Advent be a time set apart for your family to delight in our great Savior.



Posted in Advent Readings for the Very Young, Bible Time, Events | Leave a comment

of which baby is which

I think maybe two people guessed it rightly–and this includes (very) close relatives, people. Thanks for playing–I enjoyed seeing the guesses. I also had to ask myself, if I hadn’t taken the pictures, would I be able to tell Norah, Hugh, and Walter apart. Not sure I would! Here’s the answers:

Fluffy little baby number One is our Hugh.

IMG_5016Baby number Two is Norah, that first little bundle.

IMG_1212Baby number Three? Walter.

IMG_5447And hairy baby number Four is Harriet, also known as the Chickin’ Lickin’.


Posted in Our Little Ones | Leave a comment

we welcome wally

When Walter was about 20 hours old, my parents brought the children to the hospital to meet him. Alex brought them up and Wally and I waited in silence for their arrival. And suddenly there they were, flushed from a cold rainy day and bringing with them a noise of great rejoicing. Alex was filming, the girls trying to climb up on the hospital bed, Hugh trying to dive onto me from my mother’s long-suffering arms, my father’s flash bulb going off like a strobe light, everyone talking at once. It was glorious and I loved it.


Here we are, being six.

IMG_5383Hugh was extremely keen on baby and we granted him the first cuddle. As soon as Walter was properly settled in his arms, he jabbed a finger directly into baby’s right eye and exclaimed, “Eye!” very loudly. I am proud to report that Walter didn’t even notice. What followed was a hair-raising investigation of baby’s countenance. Then he leaned forward and presented Wally with a big kiss. He laid his little face right down on baby’s and gave me a big smile. After that he was mostly interested in sitting in a chair and snacking on Goldfish. Babies come sometimes, but one’s appetite is a constant.

IMG_5401IMG_5400No Goldfish required for the girls. Norah sat on the bed and held him four times in a forty-minute visit and asked to hold him eleven more. Harriet cooed over him over and over and kept trying to unwrap and inspect his little arms and legs. Their delight in him has continued without abatement the entire week.

IMG_5428My mother presented Wally with his own special Nana Quilt. She has made one for each member of the family and they are like family heirlooms in our house. Cozy, comforting, constants in our oft-changing environment. Wally’s is beautiful.

IMG_5433Twenty-four hours later Alex and I buckled Walter into his car seat (They always seem so tiny that first time on the road!). We headed home together in the cold sunshine. I loved that drive, one of life’s perfectly happy moments. And then there was a happier one, as the children came spilling from the house and leaping across the front yard, kicking up leaves and yes, all talking at once. The girls decorated the door, my father had put a huge bouquet of stunning flowers on the table, my mother had lunch in the works.



He’s adjusting well, our Wally. He’s already started to gain his weight back and has shown a decided preference for sleeping that is always so encouraging in an infant.


Bringing him to the bassinet yesterday I found this:

IMG_5464Welcome home, Wally.

Posted in Our Little Ones | 8 Comments

which baby?

And today, just for fun, our babies. Early in the life of this blog, when Harriet was a newcomer, I wondered if my readers–who were mostly family and friends then–could tell the two girls apart (don’t go back and cheat now, cheaters never prosper).

Now that Wally has joined us, the comparisons have begun again. For the regulars: can you tell which picture is which baby? The names are Norah, Harriet, Hugh, and Walter and I’ve chosen pictures all in the same baby chair, which is our most treasured piece of baby equipment.

Number ONE  IMG_5016Number TWO

IMG_1212Number THREE

IMG_5447Number FOUR


Posted in Our Little Ones | 16 Comments