Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Best Father I Know

Today everyone is posting about how grateful they are for their fathers. And while I am certainly thankful for my father, and now my “bonus” dad – my father-in-law – today I wanted to talk about a different father. Someone that I could not do without – the father of my kiddos.

I don’t talk about Ben very much here on the blog. The kiddos pretty much get the spotlight. But today is Father’s Day, and I didn’t think I could let it slip by without bragging on the awesome dad that my kids have. Especially since I am missing him today, and Father’s Day is incomplete without him.

When we were dating, Ben asked me how many children I wanted to have. My reply was, “Eight.” I’m not sure what made that number come out of my mouth…I always hated babysitting and as a teenager was adamant that I didn’t want to have any snotty nosed kids. Maybe I was trying to scare Ben away, or see how serious he was about our relationship. But as it became clear that we were going to get married, we “decided” that we would “start” with five kids. I didn’t have any clue at that point what five kids entailed (or I may have stuck with my original plan of no kids), or if we would even reach our “goal.” Now, less than eight years later the birth of our fifth child is looming at just two months away.

But with each child we have added to our family I have been more and more thankful for the man I married and the father that he is becoming. The sermon this morning touched on how difficult it is to swim upstream and be the kind of leader at home and church that God requires. Especially with a strong-willed, stubborn woman like me at home, I know Ben has his work cut out for him. He’s not perfect – he would be the first to tell you – but he strives to follow God and lead his family in the right way.

These last couple of years haven’t been the easiest, but they have really made Ben shine even more in my eyes. First, we added twins to the family. While I know some dads who would hardly stoop to change a baby’s diaper, my husband was busy taking “first shift” for feeding, changing, and rocking two babies to sleep.  (And he was good at it!) Many times he pulled an all-nighter at the 24 hour laundry mat so that I didn’t have to go the next day with four kids. He spends his Saturdays helping with the grocery shopping and catching up on housework. We make a pretty good team getting things done on bath night, too! This past week that he has been gone has made me realize how exhausting it is to do it all by myself!

And in addition to this crazy life of four small children and a fifth on the way, we live in a challenging urban setting and a small apartment with no private or quiet space. I don’t know how he studies or gets anything done.  But through all of this Ben has managed to spend a year working two full time jobs – one as a contractor; the other a missionary on deputation. Many nights he has stayed up late (because that’s when the quiet finally comes) to sort through a call list. The next day he spends making calls on his “lunch break” to schedule meetings. And somehow he fits in ministry at our sending church, study time, one or two baseball games, and playing with the kids. He gives them a big part of every night, and it baffles me that he can accomplish anything else. (Or where he finds that energy at the end of a long day!)  My kids have no idea how blessed they are that he comes home and devotes that time to them!

The year of working two jobs was hard. Then we gave up the “security” of a job and consistent income for life on the road.  Life in full-time ministry.  Full-time deputation has its own set of challenges. (You all thought we were just on a big vacation didn’t you?!?) Last month Ben made over 600 contacts between phone calls and emails in a 10-day period. He does almost all of the driving to get us from place to place, and then still finds the ability to get up early before all of us for his quiet time with God. He has taken the advice of other missionaries to keep the pace slow enough for his kids to handle. He has done a fantastic job of making deputation good for them – and not just pushing them along to get to each destination.  He loads the car and unloads the car at each place. He sits in the room until the kids fall asleep in yet another strange environment. He lets them hijack the radio for their video instead of streaming the baseball game.  He’s a good dad.

Yes, I think I married a pretty special man. When I was in conflict about my own call to the foreign mission field and God’s clear direction to marry this guy who wanted to stay in the United States, I remember speaking to my pastor’s wife about it. She told me something I have never forgotten. “When I knew I was supposed to marry my husband, I abandoned my own dreams and began to adopt his.” I’ve been dreaming New York City church planting with Ben for almost eight years. Now we are so close…we know the borough, the neighborhood, and we are almost halfway there on raising our support. Moving to the Bronx is so close I can taste it (it tastes like the best pizza and bagels in the world in case you are wondering), but I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else.

I know I take Ben for granted too often. I’m sure my kids don’t know just how special their Daddy really is. But if he keeps on the same path – the path of leading his family in God’s Will for us, then they will find out one day. And when they do, I hope my sons become just like him, and I hope my daughters marry men like him.

These are a few of my favorite pictures that say my husband is also a father.

Birth of Elaine Cristin Hamilton
This one made him a father on November 5, 2009.  She made quite the entrance with an emergency c-section, and the drama has only increased!

NYC Brooklyn Bridge with the Hamiltons
I love that Ben loves NYC and has taught our kids that this is our city, because this is where God wants our family.

Ben Babysitting the Twins
Quiet time often comes in one of these forms…

Daddy Working with the Twins

Ben sleeping with Nolan
(That’s Nolan)

Liberty's Quiet Time with Ben
(This is Liberty)
I think this may be my all-time favorite picture of Ben!

Catching Fireflies
Catching fireflies

First Tee Ball Lesson  First Tee Ball Lesson
Teaching baseball (and putting up with their odd fashion styles!)

Elaine's first chocolate milk
Life’s important lessons – how to drink chocolate milk!  I must tell you though, it was Mommy who taught her how to dunk chocolate chip cookies!

First Twin Family Park Outing
Going on a walk when it’s a lot of work and not much relaxation…

Or managing them all together so Mommy can get something done too…

Nolan's 3rd Birthday

Wrestling with Daddy
(The couch usually leads to wrestling in the floor)

Happy Father’s Day Ben – from all of us!

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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Pictures from our Week

A few pictures from our week:

We are trying desperately to finish school.  It means double lessons each day while we are settled into one place.  It also means three other kiddos who are "stuck" inside and finding "things" to keep them busy.  Like this...

Pens from Mommy's school box.  She always writes on her cheeks.  Saves me from spot-treating the clothes!

Reading together.  "Go, Dog, Go!" is a favorite.  You should hear Nehemiah read it!

Elaine did four school lessons in one day!  She wants that summer vacation!

We all went and "played" baseball.  Not just batting practice, but running the bases!  We were all on both teams, and the twins rarely ran where we told them to.  But it was fun!

Liberty sat here for quite a while one day because she wouldn't speak to Daddy when told to.  Amazing how much sin affects us - even at this age!

Lunch with old friends, Mike & Gizelle Greene!  Mrs. Greene set up a tent picnic for the kiddos and they loved it!

Last Math paper for K-5

Friday, June 5, 2015

First Memory Verses

This week we began teaching the twins a memory verse in our family devotion time.  Maybe I just don't remember correctly...but I can't believe how well they are talking to do this at age 2 already!  Elaine could say several simple verses (5-10 words max) by closer to two and a half.  Liberty cracks me up with her hand motions and her prodding of Nehemiah!  It's been fun to watch them learn to pray recently also.  We can't ever have just one twin pray - they both have to pray.  They love to give an emphatic Amen! 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Twins in Black and White

I liked the brick background in several of the twins' pictures, but it always seems better to me in Black & White.  I'm having a hard time deciding if I like these or the color ones better!

I think this one is my favorite!

Two Two Year Old Pictures

I finally took a morning to snap a few pictures of the twins for their two year "portraits."  I even got a couple of decent ones!

Even though she's hiding, I had to keep the one on the left because she so rarely smiles!  The one on the right is more classic Liberty.

Wanted some pictures of the twins together, but I kept getting one or the other looking/smiling, so it didn't work out the best!

Nehemiah.  He didn't want to look at me.  Who would when there are trucks driving by on the road?!?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Learning About Essential Oils

I have dabbled with a few essential oils over the past couple of years.  I have used mostly herbs, and herbal remedies.  I make this Elderberry-Echinacea syrup and we take it daily during cold season (only 2-3 times per week otherwise).  I even carry it on the road in deputation!
I have made some other herbal remedies including my own salves, lip balm, boo-boo cream, anti-itch cream, and diaper rash cream.  I also have quite a few herbs for tea.  The essential oils I have were mostly for homemade cleaning products.
However, with traveling so much this year, and not being able to go to the doctor because we are out-of-network, I wanted to have something else to help boost our health. But the amount of information online about EO's is vast, and conflicting, and confusing.  Each company claims to be the best, or to have a superior method of extraction.  Each have different methods of application.  I didn't know which was best!
Somehow I stumbled onto a site called Learning About Essential Oils (Website and Facebook).  There is a corresponding Facebook group called Using Essential Oils Safely.  It is a closed group, so you have to request to be added.  These sites and groups are run by Lea Harris, a certified aromatherapist.  She is not loyal to any one brand of oils.  In fact, you can't mention brand or blend names specifically in the groups!  However, she knows about the properties of different oils and how they can and should not be used.
I have a diffuser that I use regularly.  It has helped with headaches during pregnancy when Tylenol is about the only medication I can take.  I have diffused at night when my kids were sick, with a "Sniffle Stopper" blend, and also a "Nighty Night" blend to help them settle down.  I'm just getting ready to make a bug bite soother and spray, and a "scar eraser" for some scars (and stretch marks).  I haven't bought into the idea that essential oils cure everything, but I think they may have their place.  I'm still learning what really works and what doesn't!
Here are some things I have learned that I did not know before:
  • EO's should NEVER be applied topically unless they are diluted in a carrier oil.
  • EO's should RARELY be taken internally.  Because of the intense concentration of an essential oil, and the process it goes through to be extracted, it acts differently from its herbal counterparts.  It puts too much on the liver to process EO's if taken internally, especially on a regular basis.
  • Some EO's are not safe for children.  If you have done any reading into EO's, you probably came up with Peppermint and Eucalyptus for a cold or respiratory issues.  However, these both contain a certain plant constituent which slows down the breathing.  In a sick child, it is dangerous to slow their breathing down any more than it already is, so these are not good choices for a child with a cold.  (They are also not safe for pregnant women).
  • I found a line of essential oils specifically blended for children by another certified (and well known) aromatherapist - Robert Tisserand.  These KidSafe blends have been very helpful to a newbie like me!
  • Some EO's are phototoxic, so if you have them on your skin when you go outside, it can be very dangerous. 
Here are a few more tips...


Thankful Thursday: Trusting Jesus

Today I want to share something that Lord has been doing in our hearts over the last couple of weeks.  During our short time in Brooklyn in April, I went to see the midwife for a baby check-up.  It was also my 20-week anatomy sonogram.  Baby boy was breech, so it was difficult for them to get all of the pictures they wanted, especially of his heart.  I returned ten days later for a follow-up sonogram. 
At the second visit they discovered that baby’s kidneys are retaining fluid.  This is something that is more common in boys, but it can also be a marker for more serious health problems.  I was so thankful that the midwife I was seeing that day was Jeniffer – she delivered Nolan and the twins, and I have a really good relationship with her.  I felt comfortable asking my questions and talking with her about this difficult issue. 
I decided to have a blood test done which is 99% accurate in pin-pointing the potential problem.  Aside from that, they will continue to monitor the baby’s kidneys via sonogram at each visit until birth, and he will need a sonogram himself very soon after birth to be sure his kidneys have emptied.   
The test results would take at least a week to be returned.  We didn’t really share this during that week of waiting.  We had our own fair share of questions without answers, and we didn’t want to alarm everyone if it turned out to be nothing. 
I have had very uncomplicated pregnancies.  My biggest complaint is acid reflux, but it results in babies born with a head full of hair, so it’s okay in the end.  J  I have sometimes wondered why we have not had to walk through the difficult waters that many of our friends have walked through related to children – whether infertility, miscarriage, special needs babies, morning sickness/bed rest, or health issues in the baby such as reflux, colic, asthma, etc.  Sometimes I wonder if this will be the pregnancy when we get bad news, or hard to handle news. 
But as I walked to the car after my appointment, I had only two thoughts that I remember.  The first was Isaiah 26:3-4.  Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusted in thee.  Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength.  My next thought was part of a song entitled, “Bow the Knee.”  The words that the Lord brought to my mind were these:               
Bow the knee.  Trust the heart of your Father
when the answer goes beyond what you can see.
             And when you don’t understand, the purpose of His plan.
             In the presence of the King, bow the knee. 
And I knew that no matter what the test results showed, the Lord was in this and He would sustain us.  I told Him that I would trust Him.   
I didn’t have many worries about it through the next week.  I was busy packing for our trip and we left Brooklyn before the test results came in.  However, a few circumstances came up that made me wonder.  Maybe it was even a doubt.  It was surely a time of deepening trust in the Lord, and leaning on His peace. 
The folks we stayed with on our first weekend in VA have a grandson with the particular problem which was a possibility for our baby.  They talked about his struggles and how he is thriving and baffling the doctors.  Then at the next stop, the missionary staying in the apartment next door just “felt” like he needed to stop by and give us a pamphlet his daughter-in-law wrote about their journey through special needs with their first baby.  With each of these I wondered what God was doing.  Was He trying to prepare my heart for bad news? 
I clung to my verse, and I prayed a lot, but the day before the test results could come in was difficult.  I just wondered all day.  With each wonder, I tried to remind myself that the Lord is in control of this. 
The test took two extra days to come back.  I had decided to call the midwife on Thursday if I didn’t hear anything.  We were packing the van to go to our next stop.  I had just carried my purse to the car when the phone rang.  It was the midwife, and my test came back fine.  Our baby is fine.  (They still have to monitor the kidneys, but it’s not as serious as it could have been). 
I don’t know the Lord’s purpose in all of this. Maybe He just wanted to test our response.  To give us more bedrock in our trust in Him.  But I know that no matter what the test results could have been, the Lord would have walked with us every step of the way.  And I also know that today, I am very thankful for the blessing of another healthy baby.
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