Monday, September 29, 2008

An entertaining and memorable event - MG's baptism

"The heart of a man plans his way but the LORD establishes his steps." (Proverbs 16:9)
Before the worship service yesterday, I had these grand visions (or delusions of grandeur) of my 3 older children obediently and angelically standing in front of the congregation as our 4th baby would be baptized.  I even "prepped" them for this event by instructing Christopher to stand close to me and Sarah to hold tightly to Hannah's hand since I had to hold Mary Grace.  Being that John would be doing the baptizing, I was prepared to corral the kids on my own.  At least I thought I was prepared.  Kids have such a knack of going way beyond your expectations...but in a completely different direction!

Now why on earth would I have such ridiculous expectations?  When Christopher was our only child, I remember welling up with all sorts of tender emotions during his baptism.  When Sarah was baptized, I remember wrestling my 19 1/2 month old Christopher just to keep him still and feeling a bit frazzled afterwards rather than misty-eyed.  When Hannah was baptized just last year, I recall both Christopher and Sarah having a grand ol' time hopping down the steps of the stage.  Mary Grace's baptism yesterday proved to be more like the last two and less like the first.    

Here you see John and I straining to listen and respond to our baptismal vows that Patrick was reading to us.  Sarah and Christopher walked up to the front by themselves and left me with Hannah and Mary Grace, so John came to the rescue since I couldn't get Sarah to stay on her task of holding Hannah's hand.  Christopher took it upon himself to grab Hannah's hand and keep her from running away, but he tends to be a little less nurturing and gentle than Sarah would be so Hannah resisted his efforts.  Sarah took great interest in the flower arrangements and all of the cool objects on the communion table.  Hannah kept grabbing the microphone on Daddy's robe and pulling it off.  When we responded "I do" to the baptismal vows, Hannah grabbed Daddy's nose for fun.  Then to top it off, I saw Christopher doing dinosaur charades out of the corner of my eye.  

John put Hannah down, picked up the baptismal bowl and handed it to Patrick.  I handed Mary Grace to John and then quickly scooped up Hannah from climbing on the front row chairs.  As soon as the cold water hit Mary Grace's head, she began to wail and John said, "Well, here Mommy..."  The congregation cracked up because as soon as John started to give Mary Grace back to me, he said, "Nevermind" realizing I already had my hands full with Hannah.  As he began to tell the congregation about Mary Grace, Sarah thought it would be great fun to play hide-and-seek underneath his big black robe.  By this point, the congregation was roaring with laughter and we had lost complete control over the entire situation (not sure we ever had it in the first place).  

John quickly tied up his comments and I soon realized that we didn't have a good exit strategy since John had to go back to the pulpit for the Scripture reading.  I put Hannah down, took a loudly crying Mary Grace back into my arms and began to walk them both down to the nursery wing.  Thankfully Patrick had the presence of mind to walk Christopher and Sarah in the opposite direction to children's church.  Maybe we should have done a "dry run" (no pun intended) beforehand, but then it would have been so much less chaotic and therefore less entertaining.   We captured the whole blessed event on video so that we can remember this 3-ring circus in years to come.

The expression on Christopher's face above suggests that he had been scheming and planning this chaos all along.

Here he is pretending to be an Struthiomimus dinosaur.

Being that Hannah is only 18 months old and has no prior experience standing up in front of the congregation, we did expect the most action from her.  

Sarah LOOKS sweet and innocent...

My mom thoroughly enjoyed being the photographer of the day.  I saw her laughing behind the camera during Sarah's hide-and-seek under John's robe.  As we were packing everyone up to finally leave the sanctuary, we realized that we didn't have any pictures with her in them.  We were too exhausted to round up all of the kids who were running throughout the sanctuary by this time, but we did manage to get a picture of her holding Hannah (above) and Mary Grace (below).

All of this excitement even wore out Mary Grace.  What a day!  

Now that I have had a little time to stand back and reflect, I am truly thankful that God's covenant promises are for believers and their offspring as we seek to raise our children up to know, love and worship the risen Christ.  And even though it made for an eventful day, I also think it is a wonderful privilege that each of our children has been baptized by their Daddy.  

"And I will establish my covenant between Me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you." (Genesis 17:7)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

MG turns 2 weeks old and meets Paw Paw...

Mary Grace turned 2 weeks old this past Thursday and had her 2 week well check-up on Friday. I was curious to hear how much weight she had gained because I wanted to know if she was going to follow Christopher and Sarah on their rapid growth curves or if she was going to be more petite/normal like Hannah.  Pediatricians like to see babies regain their birthweight (plus a little more, I think) by the time they are two weeks old.  My babies have NEVER disappointed the weight gain expectations.  Christopher was 7 lbs. 9 oz. at birth and 8 lbs. 4.5 oz. at 2 weeks.  Sarah was 7 lbs. 6 oz. at birth and 9 lbs. 3 oz. at 2 weeks!!  Hannah was 6 lbs. 11 oz. at birth and 7 lbs. 9 oz. at 2 weeks. Well, Mary Grace was 6 lbs. 14 oz. at birth and weighed in at 8 lbs. 6.5 oz. yesterday.  She started at a lower birthweight than Christopher but weighed more than he did at 2 weeks...and he chunked up into quite a huge baby during that first year!  
It just doesn't seem possible yet because she is still so tiny and lightweight.  The good thing about chunky babies is that they tend to sleep through the night sooner.  All that fatty milk satiates their tummies, I guess.  Mary Grace gave me a couple of nights where she only woke up once in the night, but then reverted back to waking up every 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  However, last night she only woke up once.  I'm hoping she keeps this up and doesn't backtrack again.
Oh, her little umbilical cord stump fell off yesterday as well so I was able to give her a proper tub bath.  She seems wide-eyed in this picture, but she was so tired and the water was so warm that she eventually fell asleep while I was bathing her!

Last night my mom was supposed to fly into DFW around 9:00p.m.  As with most flights these days, her flight was delayed by a few hours and she didn't land until after midnight!!  This morning the kids were all eager for her attention as you can see in the picture above.  She said with everyone talking all at once and then trying to protect Mary Grace from Hannah, she felt so scattered and didn't know who to listen to.  Yeah, welcome to MY world!

Being that my mom is Chinese, she doesn't know how to stop, slow down and rest while on she got right to work.  (As soon as John reads this, he's going to say that I'm one to talk!  Fair enough.  I come by it honestly though.)  Sarah's bangs had gotten so long that we could hardly stand it, so you can only imagine how my mom felt when she saw her.

Now we can see those big brown eyes!

Christopher needed at hair cut as well.  What's funny is that as my mom was commenting on how much hair Mary Grace had, Christopher said, "You need to give her a hair cut, Paw Paw."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Credo: I Believe - preaching on the Trinity this Sunday

As you may know, I have been down since Saturday afternoon with a stomach virus. I am back in the office today but am still feeling weak. My voice is shot from being sick all weekend. I'm sure everyone around me is really happy that I can't talk so much! :) I am especially thankful that Mindy, Mary Grace and the rest of the kids haven't come down with it. I'm praying feverishly that they don't!

I begin this week by picking up a happy burden. This Sunday I have the privilege and, yes, sobering job of preaching a sermon on the great doctrine of the Trinity and what it means for us.

The background to this is also very exciting to me. I am beginning a new sermon series this Sunday on the vision and mission of Trinity Presbyterian Church. It is called "Credo: I Believe". It will be an 11 week series that covers such grand topics as the Trinity, the Gospel, the mission of God, worship, discipleship, community, family and more. I am particularly excited about a sermon handbook that will be given out this Sunday with information about the sermon and a song for private/family worship for each week. A collection of musical accompaniments is also being created today for families to use to help them sing the songs. These will be distributed by CD and/or website. My friend Ben Geist has created some beautiful artwork for these sermon guidebooks as well, so I'm very excited about this resource to put into our church's hands.

Now the first sermon in the series will be on the Trinity. It is the doctrine that teaches that there is only one true God, but that this God exists in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each of these three persons are the same in substance, equal in power and glory. The doctrine of the Trinity has stood for centuries as a legitimate litmus test of what is orthodox, historic, biblical Christianity. The early church perfected its understanding of this biblical doctrine in its major church councils at Nicea (in 325 AD), Costantinople (381 AD), Ephesus (431 AD), and finally in Chalcedon (451 AD). One theologian has correctly called the doctrine of the Trinity "the most comprehensive and the most nearly all-inclusive formulation of the truth of Christianity." Roughly speaking, the whole Bible is really nothing but the unfolding of the knowledge of the Triune God - in creation (Father), in redemption (Son), and in the church and future (Holy Spirit).

When we speak of the Trinity, we are peering into the most mysterious, most glorious of all realities. And as Cornelius Van Til once famously remarked, "Every truth is nothing but the externaliziation of the personality of the Trinity," which is a very compact, formal way of saying that every truth we come into contact with is related back to the Trinity. The fact that I am an individual but am also so connected with others in deep relationship is itself an expression of the unity, diversity, personality of the Trinity. This doctrine is an expression of the heart and essence of who God really is. It's mind boggling! The Trinity informs us that God is both unity and diversity at the same time. The Trinity informs us that God is both vastly glorious beyond comprehension, but also eternally a very personal God. In fact, if God were not triune, then there could be no salvation for us.

"The verbal expression of the Trinity is the most difficult job man has had to do," said J. I. Packer. I definitely feel the truth of these words this week! But shame on me and shame on the church that we do not preach on the Trinity often enough. (If we all followed the old liturgical calendar, at least there would be one day a year in which all churches would preach on the Trinity. But the modern church has taken away Ascension Sunday, Pentecost Sunday and Trinity Sunday and replaced it with Memorial Day, Independence Day and Mother's Day. What a shame.) Back to the point: I am very excited to launch a new sermon series on the vision and mission of our church by beginning at the core of all reality: the Godhead. We begin at the place from which all else flows. Our redemption and our mission begin here. So, just as Moses had helpers to keep his arms up as he watched over Israel, pray for me (if you are a praying person) this week as I prepare an important sermon. Pray that my full strength would be restored as well as my voice. And more important, pray that the glory of the Triune God would so grip my own heart this week that my preaching would simply be an overflow of that same glory experienced by my own soul.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

1 week old...

Mary Grace turned 1 week old today, so of course, this became an occasion for photos.  
While pink is not my favorite color, I'll have to admit that it is fun to dress up my little girls in pink and pastels.  

"One of these children doesn't look like the others..." but I promise you that Hannah DOES belong!  Looks like she remains the only fair-skinned, blond-haired, blue-eyed kid among the bunch.  Funny how genetics works.

Big bro and big sis enjoying a moment with Mary Grace.

Big sister Sarah snuggling with Mary Grace.

Yesterday evening I took the older 3 kids for a walk to the playground while John stayed home as Mary Grace slept.  When we returned, John met us outside and we began chatting with our neighbors.  We didn't notice Sarah run into the house, but John saw her walking back outside holding what he thought was a doll.  Next thing I know, John says, "Oh!" and begins running up the driveway.  Sarah had scooped Mary Grace up out of her cradle and carried her outside to be with us. Thankfully Mary Grace is just fine...but her parents are still recovering from near heart failure.

You may remember when we found out the sex of this baby, Christopher was sorely disappointed.  He was determined that this baby was going to be a boy and had a hard time getting over the fact that he was going to have yet another sister.  I am happy to report that since Mary Grace has come home, Christopher has said things like, "Mommy, I think Mary Grace is beautiful," and "I want Mary Grace to be in our family forever."

The protective older brother holding his littlest sister.

Since we were on a roll and the kids were so willing, I thought I'd see how Hannah would do with 'holding' Mary Grace.  When I asked her, she immediately climbed up onto the couch and laid down on the pillow, so I laid Mary Grace down next to her.  You see the results...

Of all 3 kids, Hannah has been the most enraptured and curious by Mary Grace's presence.  Whenever I get her up from a long nap and bring her out into the family room or kitchen, Hannah's face lights up and she says, "Ah baby!  Ah baby!" She'll then come closer and speak in a soft, high pitched voice, "Hi baby...aahhhh, baby!"  It's very sweet to see.  

So while our adjustment to being a family of 6 has been a bit of a circus at times, it has also been filled with many sweet and endearing moments.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mary Grace's 1st sponge bath at home...

Thankfully, Mary Grace slept much better in between feedings last night and I was able to sleep for 2 hour stretches at a time.  I know that sounds pitiful, but compared to our first night at home when I received maybe a grand total of 2 hours of sleep, those 2 hour stretches between each feeding last night did me a world of good!

Today while everyone else was at church, I decided to give Mary Grace her first sponge bath since we arrived home.  Now, Mary Grace has a LOT more hair than my other 3 children did at birth, so it was kind of fun having to lather up her head in shampoo!  She did not enjoy the bath very much at all, but was very subdued after I wrapped her up in a towel.

Ah chooooo!!

Hey, that bath really woke me up!

Here she is dressed up in one of the new gowns that Nana got for her.


Phew, that bath really wore me out!

...but that camera flash keeps waking me up!

Ain't she sweet??

Saturday, September 13, 2008


John took this picture of Mary Grace yesterday before left the hospital. Here she is only 1 day old and already exploring the world around her.

Even though I had delivered just the day before and then had surgery early yesterday morning (umbilical hernia repair), I was SO ready to get out of the hospital and come home. I just cannot rest in hospitals and I wanted the comforts of my own home. So after waiting hours for the doctors, nurses and hospital to clear everything, Mary Grace and I were discharged around 7:00 p.m. Thankfully, Nana and Pop brought a yummy dinner over to our house where they and our kids were waiting. We were so thankful to be home.

Even though I didn't get much sleep last night, it was quiet, comfortable, and nobody was waking me up to check my vitals! So I got to truly enjoy spending those quiet hours with Mary Grace in our home.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

First pics of Mary Grace

Our beautiful baby girl was born today at 3:51pm, weighing 6 lbs 14oz. She is a VERY squirmy, active one! Here are some first pics...


This will be my last update until our baby girl arrives.  My water was broken around 10 am and I had dilated to 5cm by 12:30pm.  At that time the nurse asked me if I wanted her to call anesthesia and have them pump up the dose of my epidural. I was begining to feel the contractions more, but they weren't too intense and so I decided to hold off. I told her that a part of me was just a bit curious and so, I decided to wait. About 10 minutes later, after she left the room, I had a couple of really good contractions and then pressed the nurse call button. When she came back, I told her that my curiosity had been satisfied and I was ready for a larger dose on the epidural! 

At 2:30, the nurse came back and checked me. I had dialated to 8cm and was all the way effaced. The baby had dropped to zero station and she figured that I'd be ready to push in about an hour. It took me 2.5 hours to push Sarah out, 13 minutes to push Hannah out, and I'm hoping that I can just sneeze this baby out! We shall see. Details to follow, but that's the latest. Signing off until our baby girl is here... 

Off to the races...

We are here at the hospital and ready for this party to get started. Unfortunately, I could barely sleep last night so I'm not incredibly well rested for today's big event. I remember looking at the clock and seeing every hour from 10pm until 4:45am, when I finally just got out of bed. John and I arrived at the hospital at 6am and got into our labor and delivery room shortly thereafter. The nurse got my IV going after 2 attempts (I'm so thankful for local anesthetics) a bit before 7am. After my veins were filled with a couple bags of IV fluids, the anesthesiologist came in around 9am to put in my epidural, which was completely pain-free. Dr. Fogwell (my O.B.) broke my water at about 10am, and so now we continue the waiting game. I've already had a few contractions since he broke my water, but nothing too terrible since I do have the epidural on a low dose for the time being. As soon as contractions pick up, you can be sure I'll be calling anesthesia to come back and pump up the dosage!

When I went in for my O.B. appointment this past Tuesday, I was about 2 cm dilated. Now I'm about 4 cm dilated, 50% effaced and the baby is at the -2 station, which basically means she hasn't dropped down very far yet. Since this is my 4th baby, however, everyone here thinks that this labor should progress pretty quickly. I sure hope so because I'm getting hungry and the only thing they're letting me ingest are ice chips. I'm trying to pretend that they're laced with protein, but my imagination isn't affecting my growling stomach so far.

So that's the latest. We'll try to keep you all updated as much as possible!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Close call...

Today I had my last OB exam for this pregnancy before the induction this Thursday. My mom told me on the phone last night that I ought to pack and bring my bags with me "just in case." I assured her that nothing was going to happen until Thursday, to which she responded, "you never know..."

Well, wouldn't you know that the baby's heart rate registered a bit on the low side (about 108 bpm) when the nurse practitioner was listening for it, then went back up into the normal range shortly after that. My O.B. walked in to check for himself and the baby's heart rate stayed in the normal range. To play it safe, he sent me across the hall to have a sonogram and make sure everything looked normal. If the baby passed the biophysical exam, then I could go home. If not, then I would be marched straight downstairs to Labor & Delivery, which is exactly what happened the day Hannah was born. Needless to say, I was getting nervous.

I called John to be "on alert" and then called his mom, who was watching my kids to also be prepared to watch the kids a little longer. John called back and wanted to stay on the line during the sonogram so he could hear the play-by-play. Thankfully, our baby girl passed 10 out of 10 tests (measurements, fluid levels, heart rate, activity level, etc.) with flying colors. Judy, my sonographer, even said that she seemed more active than most babies at this stage. This is probably an indication that the increased activity trend in my children is going to continue. Oh dear. But I was very thankful for this baby's high activity level today! Judy said the only thing she could see that might be the culprit for the slight dip in heart rate was that our little girl was squeezing the umbilical cord in her hands. We actually got to watch this on the sonogram and I wish I knew how to upload the video from the sonogram DVD onto the blog because it was very cool to see her little fingers opening and closing around that cord. There's nothing else to play with or squeeze in there, so it's no wonder she grabs what's right there in front of her! No wonder babies like to squeeze their parents' fingers and clench tightly to rattles.

So I am home and relieved that I didn't end up in Labor & Delivery with an emergency c-section or worse yet, a baby in distress. Yes, I have finally packed my bags and am ready for what I hope will be a textbook labor and delivery this Thursday morning! We are indeed thankful to the Lord for our healthy and highly active baby girl.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

What a baby shower looks like for the 4th child...

This is the last pregnancy profile shot I'll be getting before I go into the hospital this coming Thursday at 6:00a.m.
Today my small group from church threw me a baby shower (or a "baby wash" as my friend's 4 yr old daughter called it). Since this is our 4th baby and our 3rd girl, I insisted on consumable items only (i.e. diapers, wipes, creams, soap, etc.). My goodness, did they ever deliver!

Stacked here are the diapers and wipes that should keep our little baby girl clean and dry for MONTHS to come! What a blessing!

Martha (Nana) was the only one who broke the rules and bought non-consumables (she's the grandmother, what do you expect?!). Draped over the changing table and the crib railing are some new cute newborn outfits, pjs for mommy, and burp clothes with decoratively sewn pink ribbons.

I would say that we are WELL prepared for this baby to arrive! Now if I could just get around to packing a bag for the hospital...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

An actual family day on a Saturday!

What a deal! John doesn't have to preach tomorrow, so we actually had a "real" family day today! For all of you who are not pastors or pastor's wives, let me just explain what a rare treat this is. Normally John spends the better part of Saturdays at the church studying and tying up his sermon, so the kids and I are on our own. And it's not like I can call up one of my friends for a play-date because everyone is having his/her own regualr family day on Saturdays. Thankfully, John takes Mondays off so we do have a weekly family day. We do try to fit in fun stuff on Mondays, but it is usually filled with the house projects to-do list or errands. All that to say, I was incredibly thankful to have today purely as a fun family day.

For those of you who know John, he's incredibly spontaneous and always has an idea that he's completely ready to execute at the spur of the moment. I'm much more of a planner, but I am learning to be more flexible. This morning as we were finishing up our pancake and bacon breakfast, John says, "Let's all go to Lake Ray Roberts today." In my mind, I'm thinking, 'Ok, that means we'll need to pack lunches, sunscreen, sippy cups, milk, snacks, extra change of clothes...and what if it's too hot? It is Saturday, what if it's too crowded?' As I'm verbalizing all of these concerns to John, he simply says, "Let's just pile everyone in the van and go and we'll find a place to eat nearby."

I consented, but still managed to pack snacks, sippy cups, sunscreen and some sand toys for the kids. I'm so glad that we went because it was such a beautiful day and the kids had a blast. Here is Christopher taking a break from digging for dinosaur bones.

Here is Sarah, also digging for dinosaur bones.

In VAIN, I kept telling John to keep Hannah's outfit from getting wet. Every time he'd pick her up and move her toward the beach, she'd turn around and plow full steam ahead toward the water. I thought about packing swim wear, but didn't because I just figured we wouldn't swim. So much for being a planner! I wish I had at least packed a swim diaper for Hannah because regular diapers simply soak up whatever moisture is nearby. Her diaper must have weighed 5 or 6 pounds when I took it off!

Sarah takes her 'work' very seriously.

Christopher pauses from his work to say "cheese".

Sarah runs along the shore carefully carrying her 'treasure'.

Here is Hannah soaked head to toe, but boy did she have fun splashing around in the water!

There were outdoor showers under which I held Hannah and rinsed off all of the sand that was stuck to her little body (she did NOT appreciate this!). Thankfully, I did pack a change of clothes for her.

After a very enjoyable morning at Lake Ray Roberts, we went to Chili's for lunch and stuffed ourselves with burgers, fries and mac n cheese. I'm typically not a red meat eater but seem to crave a good hamburger whenever I'm pregnant, much to John's delight.

After a full day and a full tummy, Hannah quickly zonked out in her car seat shortly after we left the parking lot of Chili's. She woke up briefly as we unbuckled her and carried her into the house, but fell right back asleep and continues to slumber even as I write.

Thus concludes our last big outing as a family of 5! By next Saturday, we will be a family of 6, Lord willing!