Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Beauty of a Christ-Like Husband

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. -Ephesians 5:25-27


When I was in high school I dated a boy who would text me lyrics to Secondhand Serenade songs to let me know he was thinking of me.

My seventeen-year-old self thought this was so romantic.

A few years later, after several boys who sent cutesy text messages and then broke up with me for refusing to give up my virginity, or due to not being able to handle my medical complications, or because I wanted to be a missionary, or what have you, I became a little bit cynical about dating and "love". I felt that I would never be "good enough" to be loved, that I was too damaged and imperfect, but I didn't stop trying. Although I felt pretty doom and gloom about relationships in general, but I still prayed every day that I would find the man I was meant to spend my life with.

On August 22nd, 2011 my prayers were answered.
I met Justin through a mutual friend at CUI just before classes began for the school year. He was blonde, played guitar, and made really lame jokes. And, cliche as this may be, I was head-over-heals in an instant.

It didn't take long for me to realize, however, that Justin was incredibly different from anyone I'd ever met before. We wrote music together, prayed for each other, talked for hours and hours about things most people would be scared to tell their best friends - and we had just met!

After we began dating, I was terrified of things going wrong. I didn't want to be abandoned and I didn't want to feel like a failure. I was scared, insecure, and unsure, but every time even a flicker of uncertainty came across my face, Justin was there in an instant to banish my fears.

When stress boiled over and I had relapses in PTSD symptoms, or when my depression would all but overtake me, he didn't run away, and he didn't just quietly give me a hug, not knowing what to do or say. Instead, he laid his hands on me and prayed out loud for peace. And when peace came, he would ask me to pray with him again for deliverance, for strength, for courage, and for comfort.

When I was in the hospital, still battling the consequences of my 2010 emergency Nicaraguan appendectomy and all the medical drama that followed the surgery, he didn't leave or tell me he couldn't handle it. He stroked my hair and held my hand while nurses blew veins trying to insert an IV. He communicated with doctors and nurses on my behalf when I was pumped so full of painkillers that I couldn't understand what was going on. He fought to make sure that every medical provider was doing their job and not trying to ignore my symptoms just because they were stumped about what was wrong with me. When I would be discharged from the hospital, he would take care of me: Communicating with my professors, grabbing me dinner from the cafeteria, and helping me remember when to take each of my million medications.
Yeah, at one time, I took almost every single one of these multiple times a day. Not fun at all.
When we fought, even when I acted like a complete jerk and fought unfairly, he did nothing but open his arms with forgiveness and love, showing me grace when I least deserved it.

Justin has, and does strive, everyday, to love me like Christ loves His church.

I often find myself overwhelmed by this. I feel undeserving of the kindness and understanding Justin shows me each day, regardless of whether or not I'm reciprocating with mutual kindness and understanding. I can't believe that he would still show me that kind of love and patience, and again, grace, in spite of my flaws and shortcomings.

It's then that I realize the parallels between my marriage to Justin, and Christ's marriage to His bride.

That's the beauty of a Christ-like husband. It's a reflection, although dim and imperfect, of the love, kindness, understanding, patience, forgiveness, and that wonderful world again: Grace, that we are freely given by our Lord through His atoning death on the cross and resurrection. That grace that we definitely don't deserve, and are completely unworthy of. But it doesn't matter, because Christ's love for us is so great and so deep and so perfectly perfect that our imperfections are completely drowned out by the depths of His flawless grace.

And I for one, am so blessed to have a husband who points me to that grace on a daily basis by his actions and words as he strives to be like Jesus. Not only am I reminded that our marriage isn't based on works-righteousness and a need to be "good enough", but more importantly, I am reminded that Christ's marriage to His bride, the church, isn't based on work-righteousness either. We don't have to be "good enough" because Jesus already went above and beyond in that department.

Just as I am so often undeserving of the beauty of the grace my husband demonstrates to me in our marriage, we are, by our sinful nature, undeserving of the beautiful gift of salvation given to us by Christ. But His love conquers and overpowers all, and we find ourselves made new, clothed in white, forgiven.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Week Twenty Five: The Latest News from the Perinatologist

I knew that unborn babies kick, roll, punch, and do all sorts of other fun movements. I didn't know unborn babies were so strong!

Kate has been beating up my insides more than usual the past few days. It's adorable, but I have to admit it hurts sometimes!

After we got back from our first year anniversary trip to Wisconsin (which was wonderful, by the way, but I will post about it another time), we got to see our little Jellie Bean on the ultrasound machine at the perinatologist. She passed her scan with flying colors, although momma didn't do quite as well.

I threw up right before going into the appointment, although I don't think it had anything to do with HG. It was very hot in Wisconsin during our trip, and the ride back to Iowa in my Lebaron with no air conditioning didn't make it much better. I'm fairly certain we both had some heat exhaustion and dehydration issues. We were pretty sick our last day in the Dells.

After my tummy settled down, the nurse called us to the back for the ultrasound. Our doctor said he was extremely confident that Kate will not be born with Down Syndrome, although he couldn't know for 100% fact. However he was still very concerned with why my quad screen was so out of whack when I am such a young mother and have no risk factors for Down Syndrome.

His three ideas:

1. Elevated hCG, or the pregnancy hormone. As I've written here before, this hormone, secreted by the placenta when a woman becomes pregnant, is the hormone that makes that second line appear when you take a pregnancy test. If this hormone is abnormally elevated, it can cause a quad screen to come back with unfavorable results. It's already been established by other doctors that I probably have a higher hCG level than normal, which of course, is believed to be a possible cause for hyperemesis gravidarum. You can see how this could go full circle (I could have high hCG because the baby has Down Syndrome, and the high hCG is also causing hyperemesis gravidarum), or how it could just be a fluke that's making me throw up a lot.

2. Preeclampsia, formerly known as toxemia. You can read about it here. This dangerous condition runs in my family, and my perinatologist wants to keep a close eye on me as I have had some high blood pressure issues (and of course the scary Colorado blood clot incident) throughout the pregnancy. He believes I am at high risk of developing it.

3. A placental injury or problem that could lead to growth restriction later on. The perinatologist didn't go into this much, other than to say that Baby Kate needs to have her growth carefully monitored throughout the rest of the pregnancy. She had a few measurements that were a bit behind her gestational age, but still within normal range. He wasn't worried about it yet, but said that we'll be able to tell if it needs further attention based on her measurements at our next appointment on August 14th. I did suffer a blow to my lower abdomen early on in my pregnancy, but I was taken to the ER after it happened and no problems were found. Hopefully this has nothing to do with that scary experience.

I had no idea number 2 and number 3 could have any effect on a quad screen result. It's definitely been interesting, and in a way, comforting, to learn about a few of the (many) different factors that can throw off a quad screen. I certainly don't hope for preeclampsia or a placental problem, but knowing that the terrifying 1 in 12 result I received all those weeks ago could be influenced by more than just an incredibly high risk of Down Syndrome makes me feel a little bit strange as that sounds.

At the end of the appointment, despite the reassuring opinions of the perinatologist, he thought it would be best for us to go ahead and take the MaterniT21 test, and we agreed. A big part of this decision was because once we get the results, if there is another issue uncovered (in particular, a growth restriction problem), and the test comes back with a good reading, we won't automatically jump to Down Syndrome as the most likely cause. Also, if the MaterniT21 test comes back with good news, it will be easier to pinpoint any further issues with my pregnancy since Down Syndrome will be off the table.

The MaterniT21 test is much more accurate than the quad screen, and according to our perinatologist, very close in accuracy to an amniocentesis, without the risk. The perinatologist also suggested that if Justin and I decide to have any more children in the future, that we think long and hard before getting another quad screen.

I think I will be taking that advice to heart.

I had the test done at Saint Luke's in Sioux City, and apparently was the first person ever to have it at that location. The lab couldn't even tell me when the results would be in! From what I've heard around the web, though, you can expect results in about 10 days. This means I should find out around the 27th of July (which is a Saturday, so probably a little before or after).

Please keep us in your prayers as we await our MaterniT21 test results. We will update you regarding them as soon as we can. Also pray that we might avoid having to navigate the risky territory of preeclampsia or placental problems.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Weeks Twenty Three and Twenty Four: Happy Anniversary!

And what a past two weeks it has been! I have been dealing with yet another HG relapse for the past few days, but am finally starting to feel better, thanks to my new favorite secret weapons that I'll share with you, because I know I have some readers who are fellow HGers.

Grape Powerade popsicles, and peanut butter Power Bars
. Powerade, unlike Gatorade (as far as I know), has a healthy dose of vitamin B6, which as most of us with HG know, can help with nausea...when our bodies cooperate. My sweet hubby has been pouring the Powerade into an ice cube tray, and bringing me a "Powersicle" whenever I'm thirsty and feel like I might be able to stomach more than the teensiest drop of water. Usually, it's successful, and it's way more tasty and satisfying than swallowing B6 supplement pills!

The peanut butter Power Bars are great for middle of the night and early morning snacking to keep nausea at bay on good days. They are much more filling (for much longer periods) than saltines, and you don't get crumbs in your bed. A word of caution, however: Every once in awhile, they give me the heartburn from hell, but it usually goes away quickly with a swig of water (weird), or a few Gaviscon tablets if it's really persistent.

This relapse has been pretty bad. My has weight fluctuated by 6 pounds over the past few days (it finally stabilized and is back above my pre-pregnancy weight again), and I've seen more bile than I'd dare to think most people's livers produce in a lifetime. Needless to say, I am extremely grateful that it started letting up late last night. I avoided the hospital, too. Score!

In other news, my family and I had a nice trip up to Lake Benton, Minnesota the weekend following Independence Day. The men worked on staining the dock, hauling branches, and various other projects. My mom, sister, grandpa's wife Karen, and I went into some of the neighboring towns to shop at the many secondhand stores. I scored a vintage dress, a scarf, a new make-up case, and a tutu for Kate all for under $25. I also got a new set of pajamas and two pairs of shorts for Justin for free, just because of minor damage like broken belt loops, and a couple of stains that came out in one load of laundry.

Yes, it's technically Kate's, but I couldn't help myself!
Before heading back to Iowa, we made our way to my aunt and uncle's farm for a birthday celebration for my aunt. It got a little rainy and the mosquitos were hungry, but it was blast! There was great food, fireworks, and a beautiful rainbow:

Sadie and Leroy also had a great time exploring the farm and running out in the open. Sadie needs the adventure, and Mr. Leroy definitely needs the exercise!

Back to the present, tomorrow (or today rather, since it's after midnight in Iowa) marks the one year anniversary of our wedding! Justin and I are heading up to Wisconsin to visit the Dells tomorrow for a few days to celebrate. We plan on hiking, taking a few boat tours, and possibly going to a waterpark if we have some extra time. No crazy water slides for me (boo), but I can relax in the lazy river while Justin slides to his heart's content - and possibly get some amusing pictures of him, too!

And yes, we're going to be super gross and take along our year old cake topper from our wedding reception...and EAT IT. EAT IT ALL. We each only got the little bit we had during our cake cutting at our reception since we were so busy mingling with guests, so we are determined to finally have some flipping wedding cake! Om nom nom nom nom. Only God can judge us!

Sadie will be coming along as well, since our hotel takes doggies for only ten extra dollars, and there are several activities we are planning on doing that allow dogs, too. She's a little nervous right now since the suitcases are sitting out (still not packed...oops), but as soon as she sees us pull out her leash tomorrow morning, I'm sure we'll have one excited little labradoodle!

Now, off to (finally) start packing...we've got a busy day tomorrow!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day!

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY PB AND JELLIE READERS!!! We hope that those of our readers who live in the United States found many reasons to celebrate the wonderful country we are so privileged to live in!

Among all the reasons I love Independence Day (a reason to celebrate the amazing men and women who fight so hard for our freedom, gorgeous fireworks, and quality family time), I am ashamed to admit that one of my favorite things about the day is that I can get away with wearing blue sparkly eye makeup and fire engine red lipstick outside of a theatrical setting, and without a time machine to take me back to decades past.

I didn't sleep well last night, so Justin and I were slow to get moving today. We eventually made our way over to my parents' place, and went to the Plymouth County Historical Museum with my mom. There was a nice "garage sale", a watermelon feed, and root beer floats.

This evening, we had a lovely time waiting for the fireworks to start at the Le Mars Mutual. Sadie and Leroy (my family's dog) were friendly with each and every stranger they came across, and Justin and I played guitar and sang some of our favorite music until after dusk.

Hipster Hubby!
The fireworks show was shorter than last year, as far as I can remember, but still enjoyable. Sadie was a little scared, but eventually calmed down when Justin and I moved from our chairs back down to our blankets and she could sit between us. Baby Kate didn't squirm too much during the show, but during the Ice Cream Days fireworks show, which we were much closer to, she kicked up a storm.

Tomorrow we head to Lake Benton for a couple of days, and then we'll go over to my Uncle Sonny and Aunt Nancy's for more celebration on Sunday.

We have a busy set of days ahead of us, but hopefully we'll check in soon!

23 weeks tomorrow!


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Weeks Twenty One and Twenty Two

I am proud to announce that I am finally sporting an authentic baby bump, and not a bloated tummy full of Mexican food! People can finally tell that I'm pregnant, although, most wouldn't ever guess I'm 22 weeks along.

As for sweet little Jellie Bean, she finally has been named, as you can see from the bump shots. Catherine Victoria, Kate for short. :) Oddly enough, I was originally supposed to be named Catherine, but my parents switched it out for Eleanor instead, shortly before I was born.

Kate is one active little girl, kicking away each morning, noon, and night. She was kicking almost non-stop from 6:00 p.m. until 1:00 p.m. the next day on Monday and Tuesday of this week - I got absolutely no sleep, but it was still amusing. She finally conked out and wasn't really active again until the next afternoon. I wonder if she's practicing Tae Kwon Do in there, like her daddy, or swimming (or even cheerleading!) like her mommy. Any guesses?

Itty bitty baby tootsies!
Our next regular appointment is next week. We'll see the OB for a checkup and to hear Kate's heartbeat on the doppler. We also see the perinatologist again on the 17th for another ultrasound. We're hoping she is growing and developing well - as this will be a very positive sign after our scary quad screen results from a few weeks ago. If she's not doing well, we will proceed with the MaterniT21 screen (a more active blood test). The perinatologist called us a few days after our appointment and offered us the test, and we were so excited for the opportunity to take it if need be, as we didn't think it was available in our area. If the results from the MaterniT21 test aren't good, we will proceed with an amniocentesis. This is all very scary for Justin and I, but we have faith that little Kate is healthy and strong.

In addition to all the baby stuff surrounding us lately, Justin and I are also on quite an adventure to find housing starting in the fall. School is looking like a no-go this year as tuition is just outrageous at CUI and we aren't getting the financial aid we need. We plan to pick up where we left off and finish school as soon as possible, but for now, a year off is the best choice for us - so long as we can find a place to call home! We have a found a few interesting options, but haven't quite found the best deal that will be the best for our family yet. We ask for your prayers (and welcome your suggestions) as we continue our search!

Tomorrow is the Independence Day, and we are looking forward to relaxing and enjoying gorgeous fireworks in the evening. On Friday, we head up to my grandpa's cabin in Lake Benton, Minnesota, one of my favorite places in the world. It's so peaceful up there.

Grandpa's Cabin
We were there a few weeks ago for Father's Day so Justin, my dad, and my brother-in-law Matt could put the dock in. It was a beautiful day, and everyone had a great time, especially sweet little Sadie:

Chasing after her daddy!
Determined doodle on bird watch.
She ran around the lawn all day, fetched sticks, and chased any bird that dared to fly too low. This little furball is my pride and joy. <3

I'm not sure what this trip's project will be, but I'm excited to go back and spend some quality time with my family.

That's all for now. We will keep you posted on appointments with updates and ultrasound pictures.

Blessings and love,
Ellie, Justin, Baby Kate, and Sadie Lou, too