One Year of Thankful

Last Wednesday was my twenty-sixth birthday. Reflective person that I am, birthdays always cause me to think back over the past year and notice any blessings, hardships, lessons, or changes in my life. So this year, as I took some time to reflect, I came to a conclusion.

My twenty-sixth year was the hardest one yet.

From moves to job changes to NICU trauma, the year was full of hard things, harder things than I’ve ever gone through before. I started to wonder…was it a particularly hard year? Or is life just hard and I’m noticing it for the first time? It was a depressing thought, but I really was wondering if being a grown up is just plain old hard and I need to get used to it.

Whether it was a hard year or this is a hard life, I decided that I need to work a little more at thoroughly soaking up and enjoying my blessings, and thanking God for them. So I made a resolution. For my twenty-seventh year I want to be more purposefully thankful, deeply thankful.

This is nothing new, I know. But for this year I’m going to try to record one thing for which I am thankful every day. And, since I’m a visual person, I’m going to take a picture for each day, so I can easily look back and literally see some of my favorite blessings. I’m not sure how often I’ll share these on this blog, but I thought I could at least share a few to start.

God is good, all the time, whether life is hard or not. But God has also been so good as to fill my life with blessings. So call them gifts, or Edelweiss, or blessings, or silver linings, or woodchips or flowers…but here we go.

Day 1 – A fresh new year ahead to walk with the Lord

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Day 2 – A husband who will stop at nothing to make my birthday special and show me I am loved

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Day 3 – The opportunity and creativity to redo Lydia’s room, and enjoy the process

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Day 4 – Even when our plans don’t work out well, Dan and I can laugh about it together and still create happy memories

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Day 5 – My first real workout run to train for a 5K

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Day 6 – Dan doesn’t have unreasonable expectations. He sympathizes with the challenges of my job and helps me prioritize. Then he is pleased with the things I do and doesn’t care about the things I don’t get done.

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Day 7 – Watching my girls play together

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Day 8 – A gradual start to an early morning

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Eight days down…357 to go!

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This is Love

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A few nights ago I was up at three in the morning with Abby. Dan had taken a few days off of work when Abby came home but he went back on Thursday and Friday, and he had asked me to start taking over all of the night time feedings, which was what both of us had planned on happening all along.

But I was so tired. As I sat in the glider with Abby my mind drifted off to all of the couples I have seen lately who have recently become engaged, or married, or celebrated their first wedding anniversaries. According to their Facebook pages their days and nights have been quite full with a lot of dates, love letters, flowers, and special time together.

My mind drifted through Dan and my own early days of marriage, then fast-forwarded to the past few months. We spent almost three long months with Abby in the hospital. At times, it felt like one long nightmare. Three emotional, exhausting, painful, long months. There wasn’t time, energy, or money for flowers or chocolate or date nights. We didn’t even have a free moment to just sit together on our couch.

And now Abby is home. Things are happier and much less crazy. Our house is cleaner than it has been since we moved in. But things are still busy, as any mother of two or more would surely understand. And once again there has been no time, money, or energy for date nights or flowers or love letters…you get the idea.

So as I sat there with Abby, so tired, thinking about all these latest events in my life and others, I was struggling to have a good attitude. I began to pray.

God reminded me of the reasons I married Dan. And I remembered my first joy I at being the one who gets to serve him for the rest of his life. I remembered how Eve was created to be Adam’s helper, and how that’s my main job today. And then God brought to mind a passage from Philippians:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

It occurred to me then, that this is true love. It isn’t always happy, or easy, or pretty. This is how Jesus loved us. He humbled himself, came to earth, suffered, was rejected, and died. If this is God’s great example of love, then I can follow His example in how I love Dan. So even when there’s no money for flowers, no time for date nights, and no energy to stay up a few minutes longer together and talk at night, I can still love Dan like Jesus did.

During the late nights, the hard work, and the times apart I can still demonstrate real love to Dan.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the other stuff.

I know it’s an old lesson, and I’ll probably need to learn it again. But it was a good one I thought worth sharing. I made it through the three AM feeding with a song in my heart and a smile (a sleepy smile, that is) on my face. And a couple of nights later the girls were asleep and Dan and I, for the first time in a long time, had the time and energy to sit together on our couch chatting and looking at the lights on our newly decorated Christmas tree.

Abby Update: 18 Days Old

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Weight: Almost 2 pounds, 15 ounces
Feedings: 25 milliliters fortified to 24 cal every 3 hours given over the course of 1 1/2 hours

This week Abby is just making slow and steady progress. Now that she is off the breathing support and has reached full feedings, she really just needs to keep doing what she’s doing and gain weight. Once she reaches 32 weeks, she’ll be allowed to start learning to nurse (although it will probably take two or three weeks before she “gets it”). Until then, this Saturday, no news is good news.

Abby has continued to spit up at the end of her feedings. On top of that, her blood sugars were starting to drop. So the nurses began to check her blood sugars a couple of times a day. This weekend they extended her feedings to stretch over 1 1/2 hours to try to help the blood sugar issue. Dan and I were just thinking today that Abby is literally eating half of the time! Today her blood sugar levels were nice and high so tomorrow she will probably go back to hour long feeds. As for the spit up issue, she continues to spit up, especially if we move her at all, but the amount is small and no one is really concerned.

For about the past week Abby has only been gaining about 15 grams (half and ounce) every two days. Now that she is getting 25 ml every three hours and it’s being fortified to 24 calories, she is expected to gain faster. Since the last weight check (they weigh every other day) she gained 45 grams (about an ounce and a half) which is much better.

On Friday Abigail reached the age at which Lydia was born. I pulled out Lydia’s NICU scrapbook and have been reading my updates that correspond to Abby’s current age. Contrary to how things have seemed to us, Abby is not progressing faster than Lydia. In fact, they’re pretty much at the same pace. However, with a busier schedule and a toddler to chase around, time seems to be going faster this time. And Dan and I were commenting that, although we never would have expected to say this a couple of years ago, Abby makes Lydia look like a chubby baby. Hopefully that won’t be the case for long!

As for the rest of us, we’re doing much better than we were a week ago. Dan’s Mom came down last Wednesday and stocked us up on some fresh produce. Then, his Aunt Debbie joined her on Thursday and together they unpacked us and moved us in. This is the second time we’ve had a baby in the NICU and had to have others move us in and it is SUCH a blessing. Now we don’t have to go home to boxes and dig around to find our stuff.

Our NICU Routine

How do you manage parenting a toddler and spending time with a NICU preemie? Leading up to Abby’s birth I really thought this would be completely impossible. When Lydia was in the NICU we were busy enough, never eating regular meals, never getting to the grocery store, never getting any sleep…however God gives us the grace we need to meet our present needs. Three different families are taking turns watching Lydia from Sundays through Fridays and we keep her all day on Saturdays. For a family that never left Lydia with anyone ever, it’s a little strange to pack her a lunch and drop her off at someone else’s house, but we are grateful for the help. Another family is picking up fresh produce for us once a week and bringing it to us at church. We’ve put together a weekly meal plan and have actually been able to sit down together for dinner almost every night. Other families have helped by bringing food, gift cards, and gifts for Abby. We certainly would be floundering without our family and church family.

Others have asked how they can help. At the moment the best thing anyone can do for us is pray. For those who are able, we do enjoy having visitors and showing off our tiny bundle. I’ll post the times we are usually at the hospital and available for visitors, but it’s always best to give us a call ahead of time to make sure we’ll be here so you don’t waste a trip. The bold times are when we have Lydia with us and are easier times for us to have visitors as we probably won’t be holding Abby during those times. (Getting to hold Abby is quite the process. We have to get her out of her isolette with all those wires and wrap her up in warm blankets with Mom or Dad. Then she gets her feeding while we hold for an hour or more. We usually don’t have people in to visit while we are holding.)

Sunday: 1:30 PM – 2:30 PM (we come right from church) and 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
Monday: 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM and 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
Tuesday: 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM and 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM
Wednesday: 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM and 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM
Thursday: 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM and 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
Friday: 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM and 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM
Saturday: 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM and 4:30 PM – 6:30 PM

Praise the Lord
We are thanking the Lord for:
-Abby’s continued progress with no major bumps in the road yet
-generous friends and family who have helped and are helping with moving, food, and watching Lydia
-a more relaxed pace as we settle into a routine
-a sweet husband who has been sacrificing his turns to hold Abby and letting me hold her instead (he says it’s “good for a Mommy’s heart)

Please Pray
-that Abby would gain weight and that spitting up would not be a problem
-for continued healing for me…it takes a long time to recover from a c-section, I am learning
-for strength, energy, and endurance for all of us as this is a tiring lifestyle