Wednesday, August 17, 2016

40 Realities of a Surprise Pregnancy

(20 weeks)

      For anyone wondering what it's like to have a surprise pregnancy, an unexpected fourth baby, here's a little story for you.  It goes something like this...   

1.  Your period is a few days late, but you think, “Eh, no big deal. I’m NOT pregnant, but hey, I’ve got this old pregnancy test here in a drawer.  I’ll do this just to make sure.”  Your husband is gone.  You don’t even tell him what you’re doing because it’s no big deal.

2.     You glance down at the test, 100% expecting the “Not Pregnant” line to appear, and it does, but then… “WHAT?  There’s no way.  Nope, I’m imagining things.  That can’t possibly be a second line appearing??!“  Your heart starts pounding.  “There’s no way.  There’s no way. There’s no way” you repeat under your breath. 

3.     You put it down, walk away.  Because there’s no way.  Two seconds later, you’re picking it up again.  The second line is darker than before.  You can’t breathe.   

4.     You pace back and forth, the oddest mixture of dread and excitement pulsing through you.  You hear the garage door.  Husband’s home to pick up his computer before heading off to the office.  You wait, perched on the bathtub.  He comes in, and with wide eyes you silently point to the counter.  He looks down with confusion, sees the test, looks back at you with more confusion, and then takes a closer look to see what the test actually says. 

5.     “What??” You stare at each other in disbelief.  He leaves immediately to go get more pregnancy tests… tests that are not expired. 

6.     He comes back.  Two more tests confirm.  This is actually happening. 

7.     You lie on your bed, head on his chest, both of you in shock. 

8.     


Yes.  This is exactly what it feels like. 

9.    You were just coming out of the haze of eight beautiful, but fully draining years of pregnancies, nursing, night wakings, and toddler tantrums.  Seven and a half straight years of diapers.  You were just enjoying being stroller-free. You’ve just run three back-to-back marathons and somehow you are now staring at the starting line again.

10.   You begin telling family and closest friends.  You look like a deer in the headlights every time. 

11.   Your heart breaks in two when you have to tell dear ones who are trying, longing for a little one of their own.  You wish your fertility was something you could have gifted to them. 

12. You don’t want the world knowing this pregnancy was such a shock, because you fear your baby will grow up feeling like their life was unwanted.  But you don’t own a poker face.  There’s no concealing the shock.

13. You have never in your entire life been this EXHAUSTED before.  You have a newfound compassion for people with chronic fatigue. 

14. You stop all your other reading, because your brain just wants comfort. So you read the entire series of Anne of Green Gables, because Anne Shirley is laughter and a warm blanket for the soul.

15. You cry when Anne says goodbye to Marilla and Matthew before going off to college.  Then you sob when Matthew goes out to the barn and says, “She's been a blessing to us, and there never was a luckier mistake than what Mrs. Spencer made--if it WAS luck.  I don't believe it was any such thing.  It was Providence, because the Almighty saw we needed her, I reckon."  

16. You know one day you will feel exactly this about your child.          

17.   You plan to keep it a secret from the kids until 14 weeks, but by 12 weeks, your worn-out mama abs are hiding it no longer.  You wear yoga pants and a tank top around the house, and your six-year-old looks at you quizzically and says, “It kinda looks like there’s a baby in there.”  Your eight-year-old rolls her eyes, and says, “Mom and Dad are done having babies.”   

18.   You tell them the news a few days later.  They are equal parts surprised and excited.  Then they end the announcement video with, “Mom, there’s a bug on your foot.” 

19.   You wonder why the first trimester never ends. 

20. You approach the gender ultrasound feeling more nervous than any ultrasound before.  You feel like this child is meant to be a girl.  If you’re honest, in the recesses of your heart, you always wanted another girl, a fourth child, two boys, two girls, but you were never willing to take the plunge.  So the plunge was made for you. 

21. But what if you’re wrong?  Of course you’ll love a boy, but there will be that undeniable sense of loss for the daughter you thought would be. 

22. And the longer you’ve been a mom, the more friends you’ve journeyed with. You know now that pregnancy is wrought with far more complications and risks than you ever feared as a young first-time mom.  Would this ultrasound bring news that could affect the rest of your life?       

23. You lie back, holding your husband’s hand in the dark, big screen glowing above you.  Warm jelly oozes on your belly.  The wand rolls up and down.  Images appear.  There’s your child.  Click, click.  The heart of your child measured in numbers.

24. The image flashes between the legs.  You hold your breath, eyes squinting.  And then it appears on the screen: “GIRL.” 

25. “Really??” you choke out, barely a squeal.

26.  Tears.  Instant tears.    

27. You see her face, in 3-D her beautiful, delicate (albeit alien-like) face.  And you think your heart will burst.  A few more clicks confirm, a healthy little girl is indeed surprising her way into this world.     


 8. You float out of the office and go buy pink confetti poppers to tell the kids. 

29. When the first popper blows, big sister jumps up and down, her dream come true, her prayer for a sister answered.    

30. But the youngest, he has a royal meltdown.  Apparently, he really wanted a boy. When he finally calms down, he realizes the downer he’s been on this special family moment.  He grabs an unpopped popper, and says, “Does this say ‘re-do’?”  Yes, yes it does.

31. So you do the poppers all over again, and now the new big brother won’t stop planting kisses on your belly.

 

32. He’s nicknamed the baby “Pickles,” which may or may not be related to the ridiculous amount of pickles you’ve consumed this pregnancy.  The nickname sticks. 

33. You pack up your home and move and road trip for two weeks, and think you literally won’t make it through a day if you don’t get your survival nap in.

34. You wonder why it already feels and looks like there’s a bowling ball in your pelvis when the baby only weighs one pound.  You want to see your chiropractor daily.

35. You have to say “no” to multiple make-your-heart-flutter kind of opportunities for travel and ministry, because… baby is due. 

36. You don’t know how you are going to keep up with leading a growing ministry, while doing big kids and life and home and… a baby.

37. When you think about the sleepless nights ahead, of feeding every two hours, of diaper blowouts and constant toddler surveillance, and potty training, you want to cry because you have to do it all. over. again.

38. You’re too old for this.  This is the worst timing with all the uncertainty that's going on in your life right now.  You were done having babies.  You should have made 100% sure of that.      

39. But then… then you think of a warm, wet baby placed on your chest, of her baby soft skin and rolly polly thighs, of tiny dresses and first steps, of sibling snuggles and baby giggles and diaper dances, and you’re crying because you get to do the wonder of this all over again. 

40. You know you will be the mother bawling at high school graduation because, my word, it went so quickly. Just look!  Look at who my baby girl has become.  As she walks across the stage, you’ll be back in that moment in the bathroom all those years ago… when you got the very best surprise of your life.                

Monday, August 15, 2016

Announcing Our Change of Plans



“So when are you guys leaving? It’s mid-August… Shouldn’t you be gone by now?”

Yeah, about that… Let me try to put into words the crazy journey we’ve been on these last few months. 

You may remember that our plan was to move to Thailand this summer.  Notice the word “was.”  

We were so sure, so confident that this was God’s leading for us.  It felt “meant to be.”  All of the pieces just fit.  That is, until they didn’t.  Until one by one all of the pieces began unraveling.  

Family and close friends journeyed with us through weeks of confusion.  They prayed with us while we wondered, “God, what in the world is happening?”

When you feel so sure of something, when you’ve dreamed about it, and done hours of paperwork for it, when you’ve told literally everyone you know that this is what you’re doing, it’s a painful process when that plan starts coming apart.    

I remember the moment I knew.  The moment I realized this dream of ours was probably not going to happen.  I went to my room alone, and closed the door.  In an all-out honest moment with God, I prayed through tears and said, “I feel like I’m losing this dream!  This dream that YOU gave us.” 

There are very few times in my life where I feel like God has given me a specific “word” from him.  But in that moment, that Holy Spirit sense gave me this question:  

Will you let me prune your dreams?             

What?  

Will you let me prune your dreams?    

To prune – to cut away at good branches so that more life, more fruit will come?  

But God, the cutting away, it hurts!      

Do you trust me?

Do I?  Do I know him to be anything other than a Good Gardener?  Do I truly trust that he will be that for me?  For my family?

That was my moment of surrender.  That was the beginning of letting go of our Thailand dream, (for this year anyway).

It’s funny.  All during this unraveling time, there were amazing doors opening.  Again and again we were shown the needs and the opportunity that were right in front of us.  Both Aaron and I felt incredibly blessed in our ministries this past year.  Aaron continued our work in Asia by serving and training teachers in his director position for our organization, and he taught at the local Bible college.  I continued to lead Velvet Ashes, which is flourishing in large part due to connections God has provided here in the States.  

Our kids are thriving here.  Our whole family feels a sense of belonging and community here thanks to precious friends who have said, “We don’t care how long you’re here, we’re going to do life with you.”  I get a big thankful lump in my throat when I think about it.  

Aaron and I both love pouring into the college students here, and when those students first started asking us if there was anyway we’d stay, we said, “Sorry, we’ve got this PLAN.”  

But when that plan didn’t come together, when we surrendered it to Him and stopped trying to force it to happen, we realized we were already exactly where we needed to be for right now.

….  

Then came the big shocker.  A positive pregnancy test.  WHAAAAT???  

As our daughter said when we told her the news, "But I thought you were done having babies!"  Yeah, so did we.  But apparently we’re not done yet.  Clearly, God wants to gift us with another child.  The fourth little Wheeler will be arriving in December.  (You can read more about that whole story over here).  

Suddenly it became even more clear we need to stay put for the coming year.  So that is the plan.  In ways we never expected, God is pruning our dreams, bringing new life and fruit through it all.

….

Wait a minute, that’s a nice story and all, but what about the practical side?  Family of five with a baby on the way… We kind of need a place to live.  We had to move out of the campus house we were in.  But then what?  Rent?  But we don’t own any furniture. We have a $12 lamp. That’s it. We quickly learned that furnished rentals are not a thing in this area.

I’ll spare you the details of all the twists and turns, and just say that after weeks of one housing possibility after another not working out, God connected us to a family who is going overseas for a year and needs someone to housesit their house for them. 

Yeah, pretty amazing.
….

I haven’t been able to articulate these last few months until now.  I wanted to share, to take you along on this ride, but so much of it has been complex and deeply personal.  And I needed to be more concerned with living the story than with sharing it.  But I believe more than ever in the power of sharing your story, and I have a sense that I’ll be writing out the layers of this season for a long time.  


There are still questions about what comes after this next year.  We’ll let you know when we know.   Honestly, there are days when it's really hard, when we want plans and permanence, but it's pretty clear that's not our story right now.  Instead God is simply asking for daily steps of surrender, trusting in the hands and purposes of the Good Gardener.        

Thanks for all your love and prayers along the way.             


What have been your "Do you trust me?" moments?    

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Announcing a Life Change

A year ago, I never would have imagined that I’d be writing this.  That I’d be announcing this life change for our family. 

Last December we sensed that a change was coming, a change was needed. That sense caused lots of angst in us.  We loved our work in China, and we loved the people we did that work with. So when our family showed signs of needing to leave China, we ached, thinking that would mean giving up the work that we loved, the work we felt called to, meant for.

We lamented what we thought were our only two options: return to China after our one year home leave, knowing that certain needs of our family would not be met. 

Or say goodbye to the work we loved in China, and head into the unknown of a completely different life somewhere in America.

Aaron and I would lie in bed at night, praying for direction, praying for a release from the angst we felt as we stood at this crossroads.

We shared our hearts with leaders and friends, and through that sharing an idea was birthed.  A third path we never once had considered as an option.

What if we could continue serving with our organization, what if Aaron could continue in his director position (that felt like a perfect fit for his gifting and training), and what if we could do it from Thailand? 

Thailand. 

A place we knew and loved from the yearly time we’ve spent there.  The place Aaron and I first went to Asia together as a dating couple nearly thirteen years ago.



The place of our daughter’s birth.      



A place that holds memories for our entire family.



A place that has the opportunities our family needs in order to thrive. 

A place that acts as a hub for women serving overseas, the perfect place for me to lead Velvet Ashes

A place that offers potential for connection and development with students that we’ve been working with in China for years.  A place that has opportunities we'd love to tell you more about in person.  

Sometimes you can’t see the answer to your prayer, because you didn’t know to pray big enough.

Although the dream was planted, it involved months and months of waiting to see if it would become reality. 

Waiting in the tension, wondering through the “what if’s,” and then finally, finally the confirmation.

We’re moving to Thailand!

As planned, we’ll spend the next five months living and teaching on a college campus here in Missouri.  (We’re SO excited about this!)  And then come summer time, we’ll be packing our 10 suitcases once again, and this time our flight to Asia will take us to Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The release of angst has come.  In its place is that deep down sense of knowing, the sense we’ve had each time we’ve made a significant life move.  That this is where he’s leading. 

We’re incredibly grateful to those who have walked with us through this time, who have prayed for us and sat with us in the waiting. 

And to all of you who are a part of our journey, part of our service to Asia, we say “Thank you.”  We are only ever able to serve because of you.      
  
While we know where our journey leads, there are still steps we need to take to get there.  We have two significant needs.   

Would you join us in praying for a part-time teaching position for Aaron in Thailand? (This would provide us with a visa and supplement our financial needs).

Would you consider partnering with us to meet our increased need in support?  We have a total of $23,000 additional support needed for the coming year.  We’ve already raised $10,000 of this.  If you’d like to financially partner with us, check out our new support page here. 

We're excited to share this next chapter with you as it unfolds.  I'll be sharing most of our daily life pictures on Instagram, so you can follow along here: @daniellemwheeler.  If you're not on our newsletter list and would like to be, email me or personal message me on FB with your mailing and email address.  If you're interested learning more of the details of our work in Thailand, we'd love to meet with you, or share with your church.   

Thanks for praying us through this next transition.  We are forever grateful for your love and support!  

We're about to pile in the car to road trip many miles to be with family on this, our American Christmas.  Wishing you and yours all the wonder and joy of celebrating Immanuel.  Merry Christmas!      

Thursday, June 11, 2015

How to Purge Your Home When You're a "Stuff" Person

I am a “stuff” person. 

I get emotionally attached to stuff.  When I look at an item in my home, I see memories.  I see the face of the giver.  I see a need to save it for when I’ll use it again. 

This is not a good thing for a person who has had to fit her life into suitcases.

I’ve read books and blog posts about people who simplify, who get rid of their excess stuff.  They talk with almost annoying perkiness about how freeing it is.  “Just get rid of your stuff, and you’ll feel so much better!”    

This has not been my experience. 

No, getting rid of my stuff, dropping it in the donation bin, selling it for next to nothing at a garage sale, leaving it next to the dumpster, it has never felt freeing.

It has felt like loss… and grief… and fear… and then some shame layered on top.

I grieve the loss of memories.  I fear for the future, that I won’t be able to find or afford to replace what I need in my new home.  And then I feel ashamed that I’m so attached to stuff, that worldly possessions affect me this way, that I’m not trusting in His provision.

This has been the story of my multiple global moves…   

Until now.

This time, it’s different. 




Fair warning before you read it, the author, Maria Kondo, is a little… out there.  She’s borderline obsessed with “tidying” and she talks to her purse.  So there’s that.  BUT, she’s not whacko. 

Her words have made a huge impact on how I am purging my possessions.  This process is being forced and expedited by my impending global move.  But I would be inspired by this book whether I was moving or not.  It's not just a "how-to organize," it gets at the root issues, which was what made it different than other things I've read.   

Here are some of the gems Kondo offers:

“Don’t organize by room, organize by category: clothes, books, papers, etc… Take everything out.  Everything.  Handle each item and ask yourself, ‘Does it spark joy?’  If the answer is ‘no,’ get rid of it.” 

“If you come across something that does not spark joy but that you can’t bring yourself to throw away, stop a moment and ask yourself, ‘Am I having trouble getting rid of this because of an attachment to the past or because of a fear for the future?’”

I’m paraphrasing here, but she says to acknowledge your emotional connection to the item, appreciate it for what it was, thank it even for what it did for you, and then release it.  It has served it’s purpose.  Just because it once had a purpose for you, doesn’t mean it still does.  Send it off with joy to make room in your life for your current purposes.

Her words validated my emotional attachment to stuff.  Now, instead of feeling guilty for the attachment, I can acknowledge it.  That acknowledgment somehow helps me to release it. 

This time, the getting rid of stuff process has actually been freeing.

Attachment to the past…. 

When I was pregnant with my first, I waddled all over Beijing, hunting for a rocking chair.  I could never find what I wanted.  Nothing looked remotely comfortable or affordable. 

So I found a rocking chair from Target that came in a 50 lb box, and I had my in-laws check it as a piece of luggage for their trip to China.  When I brought my daughter home for the first time, my dear father-in-law had it built and waiting for us.  Oh, the hours I’ve spent in that thing with each of my three babies nestled to me.

Soon my beloved rocking chair will go to a new home.  The loss of the chair is not the loss of the memories though.  Nothing will take away the importance of that season.  I can release the chair to be something special for someone else now. 

Fear for the future…

We’re heading into a lot of unknowns.  We’ve made faith leaps before, and those leaps held a lot of angst for me.  I still have my moments, but this time, there’s a deeper level of trust. He’s carried us before, and provided for us in ways beyond what we could have imagined. 

Fearing you won’t have enough, is no way to live.  

As Kondo says,

“Life becomes far easier once you know that things will still work out even if you are lacking something.”  

Living with less stuff and less fear, it’s kind of amazing.  Even just in these weeks that we’ve been purging clothes, toys, books, papers, junk, our home feels lighter, more peaceful.

I love opening my wardrobe to this...

  
“What would it be like to have a home that has only items you love?”  -- Marie Kondo 

I’m still in the process of getting there.  But I’m convinced now that living with less is better.  And for us global nomads, it doesn't have to feel like loss and fear and shame.  

Our life is getting whittled down to 10 suitcases.  I know from experience though that it does not take long for a home to accumulate too much again.  But this peace and lightness that comes from having less, it's too good to let go of.