To read the story of our precious Harlynn Renae, start here and follow the "next" links at the end of each post. Thank you for coming and sharing with us in this journey.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saturday Special

Today has been such a blessing. This morning I woke up around 6:00, did my first pump-o-the-day and fed my baby girl. She was being a bit stubborn eating this morning, but Brent got her to all but finish her bottle. I went back to bed for a morning nap. Those are so glorious.

My sister called and woke me up - but it was okay. I had been asleep for a couple of hours and it was time for me to get up anyway. We had a fun conversation, as usual, and I got myself out of bed and moving around. I started some coffee, which I love to do in the mornings. Something about the smell of a fresh pot brewing just makes every morning that much more enjoyable. I of course didn't even finish the cup I poured myself, but oh well.

I made myself some coco wheats and toast and started to wake up some. Our groceries were delivered (I love, love, love online grocery shopping, but sometimes the substitutions they make when they're out of what I actually ordered are pretty ridiculous.) At some point Brent made a smart-remark about me actually doing something today, and that brought on a spontaneous wrestling match. A wrestling match I won, mind you. It's always hard for Brent to fight back when he can hardly stand from laughing so hard.

I asked Brent if I looked okay enough to go out in public and walk to the drugstore. He said, "You look like someone from our neighborhood who would be walking to the drugstore." That was good enough for me. I loaded Haley up in the stroller and we walked to the nearby CVS. The thermometer said it was 73, but I swear it was at least thirty degrees warmer than that. Maybe it was the sweatpants I was wearing. In the drugstore, I tried to maneuver the stroller through the narrow aisles. We got our items and the cashier overcharged me, so I had to wait around to have my expense refunded. We walked back in the sweltering heat (the temperature now read 74, but I'm telling you it was so hot!) and made it home before the rain started.

I made myself some lunch and fed Haley again. Haley laughed today! I was changing her diaper and making silly noises and she laughed! Of course she wouldn't do it again for Brent, but I promise you it was definitely a baby laugh I heard. She also watched herself in the mirror today. She is just growing more and more and it's hard to believe the person she's becoming, instead of just being a baby who doesn't do much.

Brent went for an afternoon nap, and Haley soon followed suit. I was able to fold all the laundry and get some new loads washed. (That reminds me, I have a load to put in the dryer yet.....) It was such a sweet part of my day - Brent softly snoring in the bedroom, Haley asleep on her floor gym with her pacifier hanging out of her mouth, the cats snuggled together in the window, and the rain softly falling outside. I enjoyed every little bit of it.

Eventually I woke Brent up so we could try to make it to a farewell barbecue. Haley started to get really fussy, and we figured out she was hungry. Apparently really hungry. It hadn't been but two hours since her previous feeding, and you would've thought it had been two days! It took a while to get her fed, and by then we were about an hour late for the farewell party and not sure what we were going to do with the evening.

We ended up using some of our host family vouchers and attending the Redhawks baseball game - but we left after the 4th inning when the visiting team was up 10 to zip. I wanted to come home and play Guitar Hero instead, because that seemed like it would be more fun.

Here it is way past my bedtime, but I just really enjoyed this day. It's too bad I have five workdays and only two days at home. As much as I enjoy my job, I sure do enjoy days like this a lot more.

Here's hoping your Saturday was great and you were able to relax and enjoy a summer afternoon. May your days be filled with blessings as awesome as baby laughter and husband snores! <3

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bills, Blessings, and Bargains

Our little Haley is nearly four months old. She's doing so awesome, and getting so big - she's about 10 pounds now (we think..we'll find out for sure on Tuesday!) and just as cute as can be. She smiles quite often, she shrieks with delight (or despair, depending on her mood), and she's rolling over! Yes, she is rolling over from her tummy to her back. Last Saturday I set her on her floor gym, walked in to the kitchen to top off my water glass, came back in to the living room and saw her in a different position than when I left! It took me a second to realize what she had done. I turned her over on her stomach again, grabbed the video camera, and in about 20 seconds, she flipped over again. Of course that video isn't posted because for about 20 minutes after she rolled over, I was verbally flipping out. And still recording. No one wants to hear me go berserk over Haley rolling over. Not even me.

In the last several weeks, we've been receiving the medical bills from Haley's birth and follow up appointments. They trickle in one at a time. At first we thought the medical expenses would be manageable....and thank goodness for insurance! However, as the weeks went on and the mail kept coming, we realized things were a bit more involved than we had originally anticipated. We are now into the thousands of dollars for what we owe between my hospital stay and Haley's care. There were a few bills we opened that had me crying, some had me sighing, and others had me holding my head in my hands.

Early on, some dear friends from church had offered to do something along the lines of a benefit sale to help Brent and I pay for the medical costs. I agreed and felt a huge sense of relief. At times we wondered if we really even needed a benefit of any sort. But the bills kept coming. And I kept fretting about our finances.

Anyone who knows me, knows that there's one thing I fret about constantly - one thing that can send me over the edge in an instant. Finances. I am a saver. I never had a checking account until I rented my first apartment and they wouldn't accept cash. I never had a debit card until I was married and Brent more or less forced me to get one. I still have never had a credit card. (Credit cards are the devil!) Granted, our financial situation has been hairy lately - since we bought the house, have hosted athletes and let others live with us, since I became addicted to knitting, etc.... God has always provided for us, though. I could tell you countless stories of when He's provided groceries, gift certificates, refunds, coupons - and all at the exact time I was super close to losing all hope that we'd recover from our issue.

Why was this any different? I don't know why I thought it would be. Mostly because I'm a paranoid idiot when it comes to money. I am about to burst to tell you all the ways He has blessed us in this, though.

First, he brought us to Salem E. Free church where we met and befriended C & K. They're the ones who offered to organize this benefit sale. We don't know why, but they like us. And they have always been the first to offer to help us with anything we need, whenever we need it. They have spoiled us and loved us, and we don't feel we deserve it, but we very much appreciate it. Second, He had called E & M to have a benefit sale to raise money for their mission trip to the Philippines. We got the items left over from that sale, and a ton more donations on top of that. (Someone even boxed up an entire box of yarn and wrote a note on there that it wasn't for the sale, but it was for ME! I have no idea who it was, but I love that person!) I have never seen so many garage sale items in all my life. It was INSANE! Third, he moved the hearts of several people - to donate, to volunteer their time, and to do everything in their power to help spread the word for our benefit sale.

Friday morning I was pumping (sorry, but I was....) when I got a text message from my former boss, Dana. It read, "There is an email circulating around Microsoft this morning about the benefit garage sale for Haley! :)" MICROSOFT! I replied, thanking her, and her response was, "I can't take credit for it - I was surprised when it landed in my inbox. I belong to a parents distribution list and it went out to the whole list. :)" Then she told me who the email originated from (Greggo, Brent's best buddy) and said that she forwarded it on to a friend of hers at MeritCare (the other major hospital in town.)

I quickly headed to the sale and there was a ton of traffic. People were buying things I didn't even know existed in this world. I had a woman come up to me as I was unbuckling Haley from her car seat. "Is this the girl Charlie got to hold for nine innings?" I said, "Yes it is! You know Charlie and Dana?" She did - she was the woman Dana had forwarded the email to. She bought some items and told me that she had posted it to the intranet site for MeritCare and some 5,000 people would hopefully see it. Insert mouth drop here. So Microsoft and MeritCare were in the loop. Sweet!!

And just this morning a woman told me she got the "MOPS email" like I should have known it was sent out. I looked at her quizzically and she said, "the MOPS email group? Do you know (name I don't remember)?" I said no...."Oh. Do you go to Bethel church?" No.... Someone from a church we don't attend (but is a sister church to the one we do attend) sent out an email about our benefit sale! And I don't even know the woman, or how she got the info! We had people posting about our sale on facebook, sending out emails to their friends, I mean really - people know how to get the word out!!

At the sale we had people giving extra money, telling us to keep the change for the items they bought. That happened more times than I can count. People were so giving and so generous. Far beyond what we ever expected. We had one girl in particular who was a savvy shopper, and left her car running so the air conditioning would continue to run. (It was super duper hot.) As she browsed, I sat with Haley in my lap and heard the radio in this gal's car. It was a Christian radio station. When she came up to pay I asked, "Are you listening to KLOVE?" She said, "Yes! I am!" I told her I recognized the song that was playing and as she handed over the money she said, "Can I pray for you and little Haley? Is there anything specific you want me to pray for?" How awesome is that?! And yes I cried about it later, but I held myself together while she was there in front of me. You would be so proud.

Today, Greggo and his family showed up at the garage sale. I was handed an envelope and told, "This is our donation for you." I told them I wasn't going to open the envelope because I would cry. It was too late, though, and I started crying anyway. I had another friend put the envelope in the cash box, and I ended up having to go inside to feed Haley. When I was done feeding Haley I went back outside. Brent told me he had opened the envelope and what was inside. Yep. I cried all over again. I hugged Haley and said, "This is all for you, love! I'm sorry Mommy is such an emotional basket case. But this is all for YOU! God is so awesome!"

We still have a long way to go to cover all of Haley's medical expenses, but we have made a fantastic dent in it from the proceeds of this garage sale. It's a huge weight and relief off our shoulders. I'll tell you what - having people band together to help us out in a time of financial uncertainty has been totally overwhelming. I am in awe of how God works all things for the greater good. We have been able to share Haley's story with complete strangers. We have been able to foster faith in others. We have been encouraged so immensely, and we are so blessed! Since the day I was admitted to the hospital - four months ago tomorrow - I have experienced love and fellowship like never before. I seriously never realized how blessed Brent and I were to live in Fargo, but these last four months have been a powerful reminder. Also, God has shown Himself in such powerful and present ways, I just kick myself every time I remember I doubted Him or didn't spend time with Him or His word. God. Is. Awesome.

He has provided for us in so many ways - financially, emotionally, physically - and with a circle of friends I wouldn't trade for anything.

I want you to know - and believe - how very special each of you are to Brent and me. (And Haley, she just can't verbalize it yet.) We have been so humbled and so moved and so touched by your hearts, your actions, and your encouragement. Thank you. Thank you for letting the Lord lead you and for following His nudges. Thank you, Lord! Thank you!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Changes in Perspective

Last year at this time when I would sit to blog, my two cats would cozy up against me and try to lay across the keyboard so I would pet them instead of type. It was sweet. Annoying, but sweet. I can't tell you how much sweeter it is to have Haley asleep on my chest as I sit here and type. Being a mom to this miraculous little girl is far more rewarding than I ever thought it could be, and fills my heart more than even my two adorable, though annoying, cats ever could.

Haley is smiling a lot. She hears Brent's voice and immediately breaks into a giant grin. She loves when I talk to her while changing her diaper and smiles so big! She's right on the cusp of giggling, but we haven't hit that mark yet. I imagine once I hear her giggle, it will be the sweetest sound to ever fall upon my ears. A lot sweeter than this ultrasonic high-pitched scream she's pegged for when she's really upset.

I'm in my fourth week back to work. It's funny to me how easy it is to fall back into the same rush-rush-hurry-get-it-all-done mindset. I have to remind myself, quite frequently, to slow down and remember there are more important things waiting for me and requiring my energy when the work day is over. I love when people ask how Haley is doing so I can share her story with them. I love when people are so moved by our little miracle, they share in the awe and joy that she is. I love when I can say, "We had hundreds and hundreds of people praying for us, and God graciously answered those prayers." I love when people agree that Haley's life is a miracle and the fact that I'm still alive leaves no room to doubt God's healing hand.

I also love it when others share with me how God has transformed their lives. It happened today.

I was sitting at my desk, leaned back in my chair and sorting data in Excel. You want to be me - I can sense it. It's pretty exciting being me on a weekday afternoon, let me tell you. He came in, wearing a red, white, and blue cap, complete with stars and stripes. His matching leather jacket had ATLANTA on the back. He carried his tattered briefcase in one hand, and reached back to his ponytail with the other.

"Hi there - can I help you?" I couldn't see his eyes through his tinted aviator style sunglasses he was wearing, but he turned his head toward me.
"Is Jess gone?"
"Yes, he actually just left for the day. Is there something I can help you with, though?"

He came and stood in my doorway as I casually slipped my shoes back on underneath my desk and he went on to explain something about mineral rights, 1200 barrels of oil a day, and needing to talk about his portfolio. I couldn't help him, but I told him when Jess would be back and that he was welcome to stop by again at that time. He hesitated before he spoke again.

"That's a nice scripture verse you've got on your wall there."
"Oh...I need to put it in a place I can see it more often as my gentle daily reminder....."

I have 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 printed on a piece of paper that I taped up to the wall behind my desk. I taped it up there when I was pregnant and always mad at everyone for everything.

He stared at the paper for a bit before telling me, "I have a beautiful relationship with the Lord..." and he began his story. He talked really fast, and at times it was hard for me to know exactly what he was saying. I heard enough of his story to know it was an incredible journey he'd been on, though. I won't tell you his whole story but I will tell you the part that gave me goosebumps. As he stood there in my doorway sharing his testimony with me, he had tears that fell from behind those tinted shades and disappeared into his grizzly beard. His voice never cracked, but every word was saturated with genuine purpose and emotion. This guy was the real deal.

We talked for a bit before he went on his way and I sat there at my desk in awe of God and how He reels me back in with profound reminders of His awesome power. Like I said, it's funny to me how easy it is to fall back into the rush-rush-hurry-get-it-done mindset. It's awesome, though, when God gives me a break from the hustle and bustle to witness his amazing grace and power.

I don't know why things happen the way they do, or when they do, or how they do. In my experience, though, just knowing that they happen and that they have a purpose, is enough. He is enough.

May you always have enough.