Monday, November 28, 2011

God's Hands

We had a great time staying with my aunt and uncle, Pam & Doug Walker, over Thanksgiving weekend in Auburn, WA. They are so easy to spend time with and talk to - we sincerely appreciate their hospitality and truly made us feel at home. We love you guys!

Matt & I are now staying in a hotel in Seattle, enjoying some down time while we wait for Anna's arrival. Isaac will come visit us over the next couple of days, which we are looking forward to since we've missed his company.

We attended North Seattle Church of the Nazarene yesterday morning, and felt so welcomed and loved on. Pastor Dave Ness had already shared our story with some of the members, and told the congregation about us while we were there, so many came up to us after the service offering encouragement, prayers, and support. The family of God is truly beautiful.

My sister and her husband came up from Olympia to visit us yesterday afternoon. It was great to see familiar faces and be somewhat distracted for a few hours. Thanks, Katie & Jason! Yes, I'm in a wheelchair in this photo. Jason had fun pushing me around, and hey, I've gotta take advantage of all the help I can get. :)

Something that keeps coming to mind and carrying me through is the truth that Anna is in God's hands. Everything about her coming is unknown to us, but not to Him. She's always been in His hands, and that's the best place any of us can be. Not only is Anna in God's hands, but so am I. He's caring for me in ways only He can. He's holding me close, enveloping me with peace that I can't explain. A dear friend, Lauren Gubbe, gave this cross to me several weeks ago, which I have hanging in my kitchen so I've seen it numerous times a day since. 

Every time I've passed it, it's helped me breathe a little bit easier. A gentle reminder to surrender this entire journey to His loving and perfect plan again. God's hands are strong, gentle, capable, powerful, caring, creative, and good.

Isaiah 40:11
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
   He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
   he gently leads those that have young.

In my head I'm singing the song "You Hold My World" by Israel Houghton. 
Some of the lyrics are...

Take my heart
Lord, will you take my heart
As I surrender to Your will
I confess You are my righteousness
And until You move me I'll be still
And know that You are God

You hold my world in Your hands
You hold my world in Your hands and
I am amazed at Your love
I am amazed that You love me

You hold my world in Your hands
You hold my world in Your hands and
I'm not afraid, my world is safe
In Your Hands Oh
In Your hands

You won't let go of me
You won't let go of me
You won't let go of me
You won't let go, never let go

You will take care of me
You will take care of me
You will take care of me

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Update by Matt

So, here we are in Auburn, getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving. We had another appointment yesterday at UW. But that was after we went to St. Peter's Hospital in Lacey Tuesday night because Alissa had about 11 contractions in an hour. And before you all start freaking out thinking "What!?!? They're in labor?!?!" I'll tell you that we are not in labor. Actually, there's no "we" involved, is there? It's "she's" in labor...

Yes, we went to St. Pete's, they checked Alissa out, monitored the baby for a while, and said "Yer okay - go home and sleep. Go to your regularly scheduled appointment tomorrow." They gave Alissa a magic pill to help her sleep (I asked for one too, but they wouldn't give me one (sigh...)). So we got home at 2:30am, called the select few we notified before we left that we were okay, and went to sleep.

On a side note: At St. Pete's, the doctor on call was someone we had dealt with before, and she was pretty gruff in our previous engagements. So we were a little nervous about having her take care of us. However, when she came in, she was great! Just another one of those God-moments. I'm pretty sure all of those prayers that you and yours have sent heavenward helped make the horrible-bedside-mannered doctor into a warm-and-caring-bedside-mannered doctor. Thank you!!

Now - back to the story - we are residing for a few days in the home of Alissa's gracious aunt and uncle, Pam and Doug Walker. None of their kids came home for Thanksgiving, so we thought we would have the run of the house. However, Alissa's Grandma and Grandpa (who I call Trouble 1 and Trouble 2) decided to come over. Had I known they were coming over, I might have moved direct to the hotel, but hey - whaddya do?

Some of you may be asking: what now? Well, we'll keep moving forward with the regularly scheduled program - which is stay here in Auburn this weekend, move to Seattle Saturday or Sunday (we booked a hotel), stay there until Sunday, Dec. 4th, then check into the hospital for the induction ceremony.

Another question some of you may ask is: What entails inducing Alissa? Well, the short answer is: it depends. (Anyone notice I've used a lot of : things in this post? me too...). They may give her something on Sunday night, but then again, they may give her something Monday morning. It just depends on what Alissa's cervix looks like. Either way, we hope to have Anna on Monday the 5th.

Aaaannd - the waiting game continues. Alissa has been doing pretty good since the "episode" on Tuesday night. We're going to try and let her just sit back and relax this weekend. As such, I may declare a cell-phone holiday for her. So if you send her a text, and she doesn't respond, it's not because she is ignoring you, it is because I have confiscated the dratted device and rendered it temporarily inoperable. Now, don't get me wrong, we certainly appreciate all of the well-wishing, prayers, scripture, concern, and general checking-in-on-her, but she does need to be able to not have the stress of responding to the copious amounts of texts that she is getting. So if you really need to know something, contact the people listed in the side bar on this blog - or anyone else in our family, who should have up-to date information. I guess you can contact me, but there's no promises that 1) I'll respond, 2) you'll get the info you need (I am, after all, a guy, and as such just don't know it all...), or 3) you will like or appreciate my response. Also, there's no need to panic. If we go into labor early, you will know. One way or another, you will know.

I also suppose all of you were expecting me to write about what I'm thankful for, since it is actually Thanksgiving. So, I guess I'll do the expected. I'm thankful for my wonderful, strong, steady, gracious, peaceful wife. She has been such a trooper during this whole ordeal. From the first moment we heard Anna may have heart issues, she has placed her trust in God. We've taken body blow after body blow, and even a few uppercuts, and she has remained steadfast in her faith in God.

I'm thankful for my in-laws. They have been stupendous in helping us out. Specifically, I'd like to thank Randy for praying for me since probably before Alissa was born. "uhhh...what?" you may ask. Well, I was told when Alissa and I got married that Randy had prayed for Alissa's husband since before she was born. Of course, I think his prayers were directed more towards providing a good husband for her, but I believe that those prayers were reciprocal for me too. After all, if I was to be a good one for her (some people tell me I am, so I'm not tooting my own horn, but just retelling what others are saying, so there!), then she was going to be a good one for me. So thank you, Randy.

Then there's Katie. What a saint! And no - Katie - I'm not going to let you try and deflect my praises like you normally do. I absolutely forbid you to wave it off like it's nothing. It is something, and you have made our journey that much smoother. So accept my thanks and know that your administrative skills have been put to use in a wonderful, and successful way. Criminy! I'm getting teary just writing this. Thank you!

I'm thankful for my family. While we're spread across the northwest, they have been with us through it all. Mom even cancelled her normal grandchild watching duties in Idaho to resume the same duties here in Washington. Thank you thank you thank you!!!!

And yes - there are a lot of other family members, not to mention non-family members, who have been helpful. So in the sake of keeping this post somewhat short (yeah, right!!!!) I'll just do the Academy Award version: thank you to all of you, and sorry for those I either forgot or just didn't mention. There, is that good?

I'm thankful for football, good books and movies, computer games, and cats.

I'm thankful for my God, who has sustained me and showed me the true meaning of having the peace that surpasses understanding. I wish I could describe that peace, but the further we get along in this chapter of our story, the more I'm convinced I can't describe it. If you've never gone through a difficult time, you can't understand. If you have, you likely can. Much like a parent can't describe their love for their child to a non-parent, I can't explain what God's peace means. So, I apologize. And I while I can hope you never have to exprience His peace in this manner, I have faith that you can if you have to.

Love you all, and thankful that we have such a great group of people surrounding us. Oh - I forgot - thanks for our small group! You have all been spectacular and gracious enough to take us under your wings and shelter us!!! I'm kinda surprised, knowing that I give you all too much lip in our weekly meetings. Even so, thank you.

Here's another way someone can help out: pay for a class so I can learn to keep my writing short and succint. Geez! I'm long-winded, aren't I?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I'm not ready

My breath caught in my chest this evening when the calendar told me that I have to leave my little home in Tumwater in just 3 days. I'm not ready. I need to pack, yes - but that will get done somehow. I'm not ready to face the inevitable. I'm not ready to have a baby! I'm not ready to leave my toddler son for days at a time, missing his giggles, waddle-run, new words, and loves. I want things to stay "normal".  I want to celebrate Thanksgiving without the pending unknown always weighing down in the back of my mind. I want to put up Christmas decorations and start baking after Thanksgiving like years past. But this will be a holiday season like no other, and God has always known what 2011 would hold for me. 

After the quick onset of anxiousness seeing the calendar, I was reminded that leaving home comforts doesn't mean leaving God's presence. He goes with me. He goes before me. His Spirit, His angels, the prayers of His people all go with me wherever I must go. One step at a time, one breath at a time...

I'm not ready, but Jesus is. He will carry me. 

Psalm 62:5-6
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

Deuteronomy 31:8
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The God of quarterbacks

By Matt Peppley (Anna's daddy)

Okay – I'm going to get a little philosophical here. I'm sure the only reason I passed philosophy in college was because the professor played baseball with my dad when they were in college, but that doesn't mean I can't get philosophical, right?

So, here we go. The interesting thing about decisions is that lots of people will give you advice on what you should do, whether or not you ask them. But – here's the interesting part – none of those same people will make the decision for you, no matter how much you ask. Why is that? Simply put (here's the philosophy part…), because no one wants to make tough decisions! Especially if there is something major on the line – like life or death. After all, what if that person is wrong and death ensues? Who wants to live with that, right?

That being said, some people are paid to make decisions. Quarterbacks on the football field, firemen in a burning building, case workers in the system, and surgeons hovering over an operating table. These people typically relish what they do. Interesting, fun, challenging, whatever it is that drives them to do what they do, they often are successful at what they do.

Sadly, Alissa and I are neither getting paid to make this decision, nor are we relishing this decision we have to make for little Anna Joy. I'm sure I could ask again, but I know no one will decide for us. Sigh…

At least we have a God who is bigger than all of this. The God of the quarterback, surgeon, case worker, and fireman is the same God for Alissa, Isaac, Anna and I.

PHILOSOPHICAL SIDETRACK WARNING –Can God be the God of both the quarterback and the defensive back? If both pray, which one does he answer? If both athletes can do all things through Christ who gives them strength, what if both sides are Christians? It's too bad so many Christian athletes use that verse so often. Not only is it a self-canceling prayer (assuming someone on the other side is praying the same prayer), but it is used completely out of context. Does the athlete realize that Paul is writing about living in need and want, and being able to praise God in either situation? How does that apply to playing in an athletic competition? I'll never know and eternally regret using that verse to get through my athletic career…

Okay – okay, I'll get off my soapbox and back to Anna.

Where was I? Uhh…let's see…oh, yeah – God being our God. Actually – the above paragraph may be a good segway. God is our God in the good and bad. Alissa and I have had some good times, and this is definitely a bad time. I'm pretty sure we praised God in the good times, and as difficult as these last few months have been, we've still been able to praise God. Granted, we've questioned, cried, begged, stomped our feet in fits of temper-tantrums, and much more – but we've more or less managed to remain firmly rooted and grounded in His love.

So, after all of this rambling, I'm sure some of you are thinking: when in this great, green world is he going to get to The Decision? Sorry to say, but we haven't gotten to one as of this writing. So, you may have to wait for the next post to find out. That being said, I'll give you my thoughts.

Mind you, I haven't articulated these to my wife yet, but I'll let her read this before we post it. So sometime after it's posted, we might be able to give you an answer. BUT – we do have until Nov 16. You might have to wait for then to find out. So there. Neener-neener.

Here are my thoughts: Just this afternoon Isaac sat in his chair, happily and messily devouring a peanut butter and honey sandwich, goldfish crackers, and mac and cheese. As he yammered, I stopped, grabbed my wife, and gave her a hug. As we held each other I started to cry. All I could think was "I don't want to lose her." Anna – not Alissa. Well, I don't want to lose her either, but I was thinking about Anna when I was hugging Alissa. If you didn't follow that, it's okay. I don't think I do either…

Well, I told Alissa I didn't want to lose Anna. So she started crying too. Isaac, for his credit, kept yammering and playing with his food. Alissa said she didn't want to lose our baby girl either. She said she keeps picturing another blondie running around with Isaac here at the house.

It was sometime during that long hug and tear-filled exchange that I decided I wanted to do everything I could to provide that dream for my wife, myself, and Isaac all to enjoy.
A little while later, I sat on one of our comfy couches (the ones I purchased all by myself before Alissa and I ever met – and yes, I'm really proud of them, and still ecstatic that Liss has let me keep them this long), I watched Alissa sitting on the floor amidst a pile of baby shower gifts. She was sorting through them. Isaac sat next to her, intensely interested in everything she was doing. She instructed him on what tape was after he pulled off a rather long strip of it. She asked him to throw away something in the garbage (which he did! So cute!). She showed him this and that, interacting with him as she went through Anna's presents. And I couldn't help but think: what a good mom! I hope she gets to do that with Anna too!

Bam! Another confirmation moment that I wanna help little Anna Joy if I can.

If I can…such simple little words, yet - - not so simple. What can I do, after all? Probably the hardest thing I can imagine, I guess: just let the doctors take her right after she's born, hook her up to a bunch of wires, and put her in a warmed plastic box. Hold her in my arms? Nope. Cradle her in my warm embrace? Nope. Let her fall asleep on my chest? Nope.

I suppose there is another thing I can do. I can still wait on my God, the God of the quarterback, defensive back, the surgeon, the fireman. Oh – and the case worker too. Even though the doctors still tell us she has problems, God could still heal her. It's still possible that when she's born, the hospital staff will look at her and say "uhh…she's turning pink. She's not supposed to do that! Let's take a look (short interlude while they get the ultrasound wand out, squirt some jelly on her chest, and fine tune the instrument on her heart). Oh, my gosh, she has a whole heart! And her veins are dumping right into the heart, just like it's supposed to! Look, there's that one vein that was supposed to be obstructed, but it's not even connected anymore! I guess her body doesn't need it anymore!"

Then Randy dances a jig, Katie checks on Alissa to make sure she's okay, and Joe collapses in a heap of blubbering tears, and Isaac just yammers on, quite oblivious to the drama happening around him. Anna's placed in her momma's arms and her dad just sits back and smiles. He was, after all, a quarterback. And since God is the God of quarterbacks…

Friday, November 4, 2011

"Trust me"

So many times God has reminded me of how He feels for me or taught me a lesson on perspective as I have parented Isaac over the last year and a half. This morning I experienced another of those moments.

Isaac is getting into the stage where he throws fits if he doesn't get his way. Simple things that were once no big deal have become dramatic fights of will. Lots of tears, screaming, twisting out of my grip... you get the picture.

This morning I told him "no" and he was not accepting it well. I said, "Isaac, when Mommy says 'no' it's for a reason. Trust me!"

It immediately hit me. How many times have I cried and fought God's ways, striving to be released from His grip when it's exactly where I need to be? I'm not hearing what I want to hear from Him, so I let Him know that I'm angry. Don't you see my tears? I don't approve of how You're handling things right now, or what You're telling me to do, or how it appears things are going for me. That's just it... "how it appears" to me is completely different than how it appears to Him.

Same for Isaac. He doesn't understand why I tell him "no". But I have a logical, healthy, safe reason. I have his best interest in mind. I can see what he needs. His 19-month-old perspective is so limited compared to what I can see as his mama.

So I let him cry. Fight. But I still do what is best for him. I don't always pick him up when he asks. Sometimes it's the right moment to show him what I'm working on, and other times it's not safe for him to see from my perspective.

I've been wanting to know what God is up to in this journey with Anna. Are you going to heal her? Am I going to have to say goodbye to my precious baby? Lord, I don't approve of what You're doing here! Please let me see from Your perspective. Up! Up! Pick me up! 

He'll show me when it's time. Right now He says, "Everything I do has a purpose, and I know what needs to be done. Trust me. Someday you'll see. But for now, you need to rest in knowing I'm your daddy, and I want nothing but the best for you."

The best. God's best is often different than our best. He has such a bigger picture than we do. But He still stays close, walking before, after, and with us every step of the way. Comforting when we don't understand the purpose of the painful fight, the tears of confusion and disappointment.

Just like I say to Isaac when he's upset, "Shhh... it's ok, Buddy. Mama's here..." God the Father says to me, "Shh... it's ok, Love. I am here. I AM." Rocking me in His arms, wiping my tears that keep falling. His heart bursting with love as He looks at my face He created and longs for me to accept the peace He offers.

"Trust me."