Monday, November 14, 2011


Derek Alexander Robert Eugene Symmes was born on 11/10/11 at 6:03 PM. He weighed 8 lbs 8 oz and was 21.25 inches long. His APGAR score was a perfect 10.
Amanda is healing well, but definitely doing the post-partum emotions. Nursing is difficult, but improving slowly. Derek screams, a high, piercing scream, any time he isn't absolutely happy. So we have long, quiet hours, punctuated by sudden wild screaming... and then gas. Or a feeding. Or a diaper change. And sometimes it just takes some walking and bouncing or sitting and rocking to get him calm.
Even with all this, Amanda said last night that this is better than being pregnant and itching intensely. Good perspective!
As for the birth itself... that story needs to wait until I've had some sleep. Short version is that she had over an hour of hard contractions and was NOT pleasant to be around. And then they gave her drugs and an epidural, and the rest was a piece of cake. Seriously, she giggled when they told her it was time to push.
I think he's adorable, but the photos don't seem to show that. Maybe I'm just prejudiced?

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

39 weeks

Aren't they beautiful together? This really has been a textbook pregnancy. The little glitch here in the last two weeks is called PUPPP, and basically means itchy red bumps all over her belly. The up side is that the doctor won't let her be pregnant more than two more weeks. She is nearly done, one way or the other.

The church ladies gave her a shower. Friends and family have also showered her with love and gifts. Our little Derek is well-provided for! Just today, he got a bathtub in the mail, something we still didn't have! God must love this little guy.

So do I.

Friday, October 28, 2011

2 weeks, or maybe 4, but no more

That's right. Baby due date is just over 2 weeks away, and Amanda's doctor says he never lets a mommy go more than 2 weeks past her due date. That means that in the next 2-4 weeks, there will be major changes in this household.

Sometimes I think I'm too old for this. But the truth is, I'm selfish. I like our patterns and habits, and I recognize that most of them will change. I'll still go to work and come home, but most of life before and after that will be different.

I know little Derek will bring great barrels of joy, but I also know that he will bring a grumpy Amanda for lack of sleep, and less "me" time, and simply all around another person in the house to be concerned about. And other than the grumpy-lack-of-sleep thing, it's all good.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


“How can a young man keep his way pure?” (Psalm 119:9)

For the second time in the six months that our Amanda has been striving to live a godly life, a young man has severely disappointed her – and us. For the second time, a young man has proclaimed himself to be learning to walk with God, desirous of keeping his ways pure, and then turned around and demanded absolute impurity from Amanda. Praise God, she has held to the truth and the way. She has pushed away the men who tried to turn her from the path of righteousness. But how much of this kind of disappointment can a young lady take?

Is it possible for a young man to keep his ways pure?

These two men have told her that it is not possible, in today’s culture, to remain pure. They have insisted that impurity is inevitable. I am thankful that their true hearts were shown before commitment was made, but I am sad for my girl, that she is not finding young men who are keeping their way pure. I continue to pray for that one man, the right one, who will lead her in the paths of righteousness, love her deeply, protect her and guide her and enjoy her. We haven't met him yet.

Is it possible? Yes, it is possible. “By living according to your word.” “By guarding it according to your word.”

The only way for a young man in today’s culture – or ANY culture – to keep his way pure is to immerse himself in God’s Word, and live it. Guard it.
The same goes for a young woman. And for a grandma, too.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Gifts and growing

When people ask me how I like my new house, my answer is, "We're learning to get along." I'm not sure I can explain it any better than that, but I'll try.

The weeds are finally pulled from the yard, at least the 2-foot tall ones. There is some grass seed we are watering in the front. A couple of trees will find residence in the back yard this week. And we are going to cover the icky back deck with a plastic coating.

Inside, we have fewer boxes and more order. And internet access.

But the sweetest blessings lately have been the gifts God is bringing to our daughter, as her love for Him increases. She is discovering things like, "Mom, did you know that if you make time for the Bible every day, you have plenty of time to do everything else?" and "The more I give to God, the more He gives back!" This morning after church, I saw her make a beeline to a new couple, to make sure they were greeted. She knows what it's like to be ignored.

And the blessings have been pouring in. A crib with Mickey Mouse sheets and a mobile. Two high chairs, one with a fancy fish-themed play area attached. Hand-knit and hand-quilted blankets. Twice as many baby boy clothes in size 0-9 months as one boy could possibly wear, enough to give some away to another single mom, along with two of the blankets and some smaller sized maternity clothes.

Then came a rocking chair that exactly matched the red and black theme in Amanda's room. A cash gift that paid off her credit card bill completely. A bassinet with heart-beat and water sounds.

Our Sunday School class has planned a baby shower for her in about a month.

Somebody loves her. I think He loves her a lot.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

It's a House

When we started this home-buying adventure, we looked at a lot of funky houses, because they were in our price range. Most of them had memorable features, like a circular staircase (no, I can't go down that 3 or 4 times a night to get to the only bathroom!), or a steep driveway (it's icy here more months than not), or no driveway (just park down at Safeway and walk up the hill!?). One had a trap door in the deck. One had the only bathroom in between the bedrooms, no access from the living area. Some were in scary areas where the police would become your new best friend. One was next to an adult shop. One had extension cords coming out of windows and trailing to all the outbuildings. One had a circular couch sunk into the living room, perfect for drug parties, along with some interesting sky-lighted, growing rooms. Some had huge yards (we would need a goat) and some had no yard (hey, I can see from our bathroom window right into their kitchen).

And then we found "our" house. It had a picket fence with lilacs growing on it, a low-maintenance oasis in the back yard, and fun features in the house, like a rock fireplace. It was homey and had a view over the city and the mountain range. The neighborhood was quiet. But the bank turned it down because it needed too much fixing up of functional things like the roof and walls and floor. They just couldn't see the charm it oozed.

And they told me what kind of house they would finance. I knew immediately what houses those were; we had looked at them a few months earlier. They are new, and the builder was trying to short-sale them. But he wouldn't take less than $115k for them, and that was just out of our price range. Mostly, they are just squares, but one of them had a little charm - a kitchen window overlooking barns and fields, and a triangular back yard.

Garry looked around town for something else, but finally came back to those houses. The triangular one had been sold already. The builder had lost them to the bank, and they were in foreclosure. There were four squares left, and the cheapest one was at the top of our price range, $105k.

I pretty much shrugged and told him to do what he thought was best. I didn't even go look at it. He brought me papers on my lunch hour and I signed them in the car, putting an offer on the house. I knew - we're going to get this one. What I felt was resignation.

Throughout this process (and yes, we are buying that house), I have seen God work, and I have delighted in seeing His hand in this. I know it's where He wants us. There hasn't been a single glitch. It's been "ask and you will receive" at every corner. The realtor fixed two holes in the wall and found a free door handle to replace a broken one. When the stock market took a big dip, we locked in a low rate (4.375%). Even our insurance is cheaper than anyone thought possible, because we have been with Safeco for a long time and they gave us a great rate. This is the house God wants us in.

My head knows it well, and I am grateful. But at the same time, I am sad. There is no charm. It's just a bigger apartment. The vinyl siding will never need to be painted. The kitchen is laid out in a straight line, literally. Left to right, refrigerator, dishwasher, sink, stove. I am sure that a creative person would see it as a blank slate, ready for splashes of color and interesting features. Maybe one of them will help me.

The yard is a nice size, but absolutely barren, nothing but weeds and dirt. The kitchen window looks out at the sideyard and fence. Maybe I can get an ocean mural painted on the fence.

I'm sorry to complain. This house is exactly what we need. It's exactly a mile from Garry's school. It doesn't need repairs, except for the yard. It has three bedrooms and two bathrooms and a two-car garage.

I pray that some day it will have some charm, and feel like home.

Thursday, August 04, 2011


Have you ever studied, or at least been told, the stages of grief?

1. Denial - shock, numbness

2. Anger - coupled with pain, and directed everywhere

3. Bargaining - What if, If only, sometimes with tinges of guilt

4. Depression - Emptiness, sorrow, the loss settling into your soul

5. Acceptance - this is the new normal

Sometimes I go through the stages in a hurry, like when we lost house #1, with it's oasis back yard. It was less than 24 hours, but I went through it all.

"No way! God wants us to have this house!"

"I can't believe God let us spend $425 on a house He had no intention of giving us!"

"It can still work out. We just have to have more faith, be willing to invest more, and then we'll get the house."

"It's over. I'm sad. I don't want another house. I'll just rent. Forever."

"Wow. It's really over. Someone else will sit in my oasis."

But when my baby girl told me she was pregnant, the grief stages were much, much longer. Days. Weeks. People are telling me now they are "impressed" with how I am handling this, but you have to know, she was only 5 weeks pregnant when she told me. She was 20 weeks when we told anyone. I had 15 weeks of the grief process, and I didn't talk about it much.

I denied it. Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe she just has the flu.

I got angry. At my daughter for having sex. At the young man who fathered this child. At myself for only teaching her abstinance and nothing about birth control. At Dr. Ezzo and the church for teaching us "how to tell your children about sex" without ever telling them about sex. At God for not preventing the pregnancy.

I bargained. I begged God to fix the situation. Not to cause a miscarriage, but to save the baby daddy so they could get married.

And then I cried. And cried. And cried. Work was difficult that week, because anyone asking, "How are you?" and wanting anything more than, "Fine," made me cry. I ate. I didn't eat. I exercised. I stopped exercising. Nothing made the pain deep inside me go away. Disappointment, fear, doubt, and sadness ruled me.

And then one day, the cloud lifted. I watched the ultrasound, and that was a real baby in there. He waved and opened his mouth and kicked his little legs. And suddenly, it's a baby. There is a little guy in there who needs a family and love and education. He needs hugs and playing and walks in the park. He needs a grandma. He needs me.

I forgave my daughter, the baby daddy, myself. I realized that God was in all of it, and He made this little life. This little guy has a hope, a future. And for a little while, I get to be a part of raising him. He won't be raised perfectly, any more than I was, any more than my kids were. But God will be in it all.

We're having a baby!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lessons from Lazarus

I'm reading Seventh Day, by Bodie Thoene. It's basically the story of Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus, who were friends of Jesus. They were sometimes His hosts, when He was near Jerusalem.

And then Lazarus got sick, very sick. Mary and Martha KNEW Jesus could heal their brother, because they had seen Him heal so many others. He just had to say the word, even from a distance. So they sent Him word that Lazarus, "the one you love," was ill.

They were asking for a miracle, in complete faith. Jesus had done this before; they had seen it with their own eyes. And He was their friend, so of course He would do the same for them. Total faith.

I have done that a few times in recent months. I've seen other people's lives changed in this way or that, and God glorified from it, so why not mine, too? I've asked, believing.

Most recently, I could plainly see how it was amazing that our offer on a short sale home was accepted. I could clearly see us settling into that beautiful oasis of a back yard for years to come. Evenings in lawn chairs, with a breeze rustling the leaves overhead, and maybe a little koi pond nearby, with a waterfall. The house would provide for our needs; the yard would be food for the soul.

And then...

Mary and Martha tended to their sick brother, and he died. What? How? Noooo.... The tears, the questions, the anger. Waiting until the last moment to wrap his body, because even now Jesus could bring life back into this dear man. And finally, acceptance. Wrapping the body. A public burial. The whole town knew that these friends of Jesus were abandoned by Him in their time of need. He healed others, but (they probably speculated) when His life was threatened by local authorities, He was too cowardly to return to heal His friend. Oh, the things they doubtless said about Jesus!

And Jesus, from a distance, tells those with Him that this is for God's glory. That Lazarus has indeed died, but this is for your benefit.

No, you didn't get that house with that oasis yard that you thought you wanted. The deal died. But this is for God's glory and your benefit.

Four days. Lazarus had been in the tomb four days when Jesus walked up the dusty road into town. "If you had been here, my brother would not have died." "It's too late now. His body stinks." "If only you had been here."

If He had healed Lazarus before he died, only those closest to the family would have believed it. But because they had gone through the public mourning, the whole town knew about Jesus' power. "Lazarus, come forth!"

I don't know what is next for us. But aparently we aren't supposed to sit in our own little oasis and sip iced tea. I think maybe I was trying to skip ahead to Heaven. We still have work to do here. May God be glorified.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Now, About That Picket Fence...

The last few days, I have pretty much let Garry do all the house-hunting, while I sat around with my fingers in my ears, singing, "La la la la la...." so I couldn't hear him. He talked to a couple of realtors and picked one. He looked at several houses and showed me pictures. He examined new options for mortgage financing.

And today he told me he would like to put an offer on a house. It's one we saw months ago and really liked, and now the price has come down, putting it in our range. That sounds good to me.

I like it that he is pursuing this. I'm going to not interfere, and sign on the dotted line, unless something really bothers me.

Maybe there is a picket fence in my future still. Maybe. Though we might have to build it ourselves.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

At the Crossroads

"This is what the LORD says:
'Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.'" (Jeremiah 1:16a)

We are standing at a crossroad, again. The bank said they wouldn't loan on the house we had chosen. So we are once again wondering if we are buying or renting.

"Stand at the crossroads and look." Look at the options. Stand still for a moment and look. Don't just blunder on through. Pause. Observe.

"Ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is." What has God done in the past? What do godly people do in this situation? What do your trusted friends and family say? One person tells us to not buy a house because Jesus is returning soon. Others say that this is a great time in this economy to be a buyer. Ask for advice. Look around at what God's people are doing.

Now "walk in it." Take a step. Make a move. Try something and see. Follow good advice. Don't keep throwing a stick in the air, waiting for it to point the way you want to go. And don't be like the people in the end of this verse, who say, "We will not walk in it."

"And you will find rest for your souls." Peace. Deep down in your soul, peace. Peace that passes understanding.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Baby pictures

I could talk about the loss of the picket fence we were looking to buy... but I'm not ready yet.

Instead, let me show you pictures of the baby. They do 3-D pictures in the womb, and these are amazing to me. You can see the little guy's arms and legs and nose and chin. He looks like an old man to me! Or maybe a monkey...

But I'm sure he's a baby. Pretty sure.

We were sort of hoping for a pony.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Girls' Weekend

Chick flicks, shopping, brownies, pizza, Chinese takeout, more shopping, and talk, talk, talk, talk - all add up to a really fun girls' weekend with my prego daughter. We bought maternity shirts and baby boy clothes and tiny little hats. We made a list of what qualities she wants in a man, and prioritized them. That was fun!

On another note, I love seeing God at work in the timing of our lives.

Last January, Michele decided to take a semester off of school. We really thought that was a mistake, but it's her choice. Yesterday, our mortgage officer said that because she still has two years until she has to repay them, we are still a good risk for the mortgage we want! If she hadn't taken that semester off, those loans would be due sooner. And we might not buy a house.

We still might not buy a house, but I'm seeing an awful lot of God's hand in this, and I think just maybe, He wants us to buy the picket fence.

Monday, July 11, 2011

What if...

When Amanda was little, really little, she used to worry a lot about what if's. And to the rest of us, most of them were funny.
"What if an eagle came down and picked up our car and carried us away?"
"What if the color blue is really evil and anyone wearing it goes to hell?"
But she was serious.

Two weeks ago, the ultrasound technician casually asked, "Are there any birth defects that run in your family?" Probably all she meant was, "Is there anything you would like me to look for?" But I heard, "I see something potentially awful and I want to know if you know."

So I've waited two weeks for Amanda to go back to the doctor. I didn't say much about it to anyone, but God and I talked a lot. What if... ? What if this baby has something wrong with him? What if the technician saw something awful?

Today, Amanda went for her checkup. Everything looks fine. Normal. That's no guarantee, but it's reassuring.

On the other hand, I know that whoever this little guy is, however he is made, is exactly, precisely the way God intended him to be. He is wonderfully made. And God knows our little grandson, who he is, who he will be, all of it, now. In the womb. Before any of it has happened. While he floats around and kicks his mama, God knows him and loves him.

Psalm 139:13-18
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The picket fence

Since we moved back from China, three years ago, we have had the Great Debate going on at our house. It ranges from, "Look! A job opening in Nepal!" to "Look! A cute house with a picket fence!" And each spring, we wondered what the next school year was supposed to hold.

Now I have a full-time job I like. So does Garry. Amanda is living with us and working part-time, which is just right for a single-mom-to-be. And yes, there is a little boy on his way to our home in 19 short weeks. So we feel like the answer is pretty clear: stay put.

There is a mourning, a giving up, that happens with any decision you make. You always have to say no to the other thing. That's what we're doing: saying no to living overseas, at least for a few years, and saying yes to the picket fence.

Song of the day:
"What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face, the One who saved me by His grace!
When He takes me by the hand and leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day, that will be!
There'll be no sorrow there,
No more burdens to bear,
No more sickness, no more pain,
No more parting over there.
But forever I will be with the One who died for me,
What a day, glorious day, that will be!"
--James Hill (1955)