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Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Letter 2012

Christmas 2012

Joy to the World

The angel proclaims to the shepherds in the field “Don’t be afraid.  I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master.” Luke 2:10, Message.

This Advent season has been much different for us than in years past.  We have a greater understanding of the joyousness of childbirth and I have a better appreciation for how Mary treasured up all the wonderful moments in the stable following Jesus’ birth.  Our own gift this year of a baby girl has been life changing.  While this sounds so cliché it is the only way to describe the months since her birth.  So in this season it has been rewarding to immerse myself more deeply in the joy that is Christmas: our Savior born to change the world through his amazing life and death and resurrection.  (I invite you to read my Advent letter on my blog for more on this.) Regardless of what your year has held I hope that you too can enter into a season this year of experiencing this joy that is like no other.

Our year started out quiet.  We were waiting for the birth of our daughter and to discover what becoming parents would be like.  Ryan found these months a challenge.  He was getting antsy.  We normally vacation in January; but this year instead we were in Chilliwack every day of that rainy month!  Indeed, apart from the birth of our nephew, Kaleb on January 6th whose birth we celebrated from afar, there was not much going on in the early months of 2012.  I however, did not mind this slower pace of life: it fit my slower pace of everything from walking speed to mental processing!  I was pleased to feel fabulous during my pregnancy and enjoyed walks and occasional hikes up Teapot hill (I was proud I did this hike 8 months pregnant).  I worked until a week before Rayna was born and it was only a couple days before Rayna’s birth that I wondered if I would be able to continue my walks along the river that I enjoyed.

Rayna Katya Maria Rostek entered our lives on March 17th at 4:32 AM (again if you are interested in more details of her arrival, her birth story is also on my blog).  Life would no longer be slow-paced and to give a true Christmas analogy it has felt like before she was born our hearts were 2 sizes too small and with her cuddles and smiles and laughs and milestone developments, like the Grinch, our hearts have grown beyond the heart-growth chart.  We are so blessed to have such a beautiful, healthy, bright, content little girl.  We are also so blessed with wonderful friends who brought us so many meals.  And so many friends and family near and far lavished gifts on us.  Further, Ryan’s parents arrived home from wintering in Florida when Rayna was two-and-a-half weeks old and served as consistent babysitters for us allowing us to regularly go on dates in Rayna’s early months.  To everyone we take this extra opportunity to say: Thank you!

I do admit that the freedom of no longer being pregnant and no longer being tied to the punch clock of work felt freeing.  So in April we decided it was time for Rayna to meet her Okotoks cousins (my sister’s kids) and Ryan began his first of many trips where he worked remotely.  Rayna’s first road trip was a success and even included a dip in the Banff Hot Springs (my sister, mother of 3, taught me that there is much you can do with a 6 week old and I learned a lot from her in my new motherhood).  A week after our return my parents were able to come out to meet their 4th grandchild.  It was nice to be able to spend my first Mother’s Day with my own mom. 

June was highlighted by the celebration of our 10th year wedding anniversary.  Initially we thought we would consider our trip the past November to Kauai as our celebration.  However, we had some ‘travelling’ to make up from our dormant months and so we embarked on a lovely vacation to Whidbey Island in Washington State.  We rented a cozy waterfront cabin where Rayna had her own sleeping loft and Ryan and I were able to enjoy the romantic ambience that the cabin, its hottub and its view afforded.

In July we hit the road again for our Saskatchewan road trip.  What a wonderful whirlwind!  We introduced Rayna to great grandmas, great aunts and uncles, second cousins, and friends from both my side and Ryan’s.  It was so good, as always, to reconnect with so many important people in our lives and this year to be able to have the time to lengthen our trip and take our time with the drive.

Highlights of August included Rayna’s first camping experience.  We joined our friends Chris and Vicky at Chilliwack Lake for a wonderful campfire evening and Rayna’s first sleep in a tent.  It melted our hearts when Rayna woke up in the morning in between us and looked first to Ryan with a look that said “Dad?” then to me “Mom? What are you guys doing in my bed?”  It was such a neat experience to have our baby with us in a tent.  At the end of the month we hit the road again and headed to Shushwap Lake where our friends Joseph and Rahimay graciously invited us to join them for a few days.  The lake was perfect and the waterskiing and the company were great.  Rayna also enjoyed her naps on the beach in her playpen (or was that just mom and dad who thought it was awesome to be relaxing on the dock while their baby slept a few feet away?)

We returned to Chilliwack to settle into September.  I continued volunteering with youth and began attending Tuesday morning Women’s group at church.  As well I started full-fledged running training for my upcoming 30KM trail race.  Ryan started playing weekly tennis with a group of guys and his soccer league restarted.  And we both continued to meet bi-weekly with our close guy/girl friends for guys’ night and girls’ night as well as our weekly small group from church.  We were just settling into the routine and I completed my “30 give ‘r take” trail race around Cultus Lake, when we packed our bags again.  This time Rayna would have her first plane trip: destination Palm Springs to meet up with our friends Brad and Ashley and their little guy Raymond.  We enjoyed the simplicity of this vacation which included daily swimming, trips to the park, golf for the guys, and shopping for the ladies.

In the past my sister and I celebrated our birthdays by getting together sometime in November.  With the freedom of us both being on mat leave this year we decided we would re-implement this idea.  Somehow the idea transformed from me flying to my sister’s for 2 or 3 days, to mom joining us, to Ryan and my Dad coming too and lengthening our trip to a week, to a 10 day venture in Okotoks!  The main reason our trip was extended was to be able to watch the semi-final game between the Roughriders and the Stampeders at McMahon stadium.  While we had to watch our favorite football team lose in person for the third time, we enjoyed the experience of the game (cold weather and all; we haven’t softened too much living in the lower mainland of BC!).

Now as I write this letter it is December and we anticipate the joy of celebrating Christmas with family.  We have the privilege to be able to spend Christmas in Swift Current with my family followed by New Years with Ryan’s family in Florida.  What a great finale to a year that has abounded with gifts and opportunities!

We hope wherever you are this Christmas that you may find yourself immersed in the joy of the season as we celebrate the birth of our Savior Christ Jesus.

Merry Christmas from the Rostek family: Ryan, Cheryl, Rayna and Fritz.

PS: This year I actually have some pictures to go with my letter; but, due to frustration with uploading them to my blog I may or may not be adding them for your viewing pleasure:)  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Advent Letter

This is my Advent Letter.  Advent is a time of “expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus” ( In the past Advent has been of little importance to me; some years I have failed to even acknowledge it’s occurrence and the most attention I have ever paid it is recognizing the advent candles if they have been specially lit during church service.  Sure there have been times when I have tried to focus on the true meaning of Christmas as it approaches so as to not be bombarded by the barrage of commercialism and busyness and stress that our secular Christmas has birthed.  However, usually I fail quite miserably in this effort.  This year though the idea of Advent has been presented to me through a “Life with God” class I have been participating in at my church.  The class’s whole intent is to teach tools to help create spaces for God to speak and for us to listen.  In this context Advent becomes so much more important to me as an opportunity for God to speak and for me to ask questions like ‘How may receiving Christ in this season impact my life?’ and ‘What is God’s invitation to me this season?’ and ‘How might I need Christ?’ and ‘How will I be different?’.  In my initial Advent reflection the many things I’ve been learning over the last months came together into a coherent progression of teachings and “aha!” moments of God speaking to me that I want to share.  And so is born my Advent Letter. 
            Joy to the World

The angel proclaims to the shepherds in the field “Don’t be afraid.  I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master.” Luke 2:10, Message.

Not too far into the year of 2012 a joyous event of my own occurred: the birth of my beautiful daughter.  I cherish her and love her immeasurably.  There are many moments that I soak in and treasure because they are so precious: her giggles, her smiles, her cuddles, the way her beautiful blue eyes look into my own, and how she’s learning to move.  But the past 8 months have not been full of exclusive joy.  Oh no, loneliness has been a common theme surfacing regularly despite successful efforts to socialize.  Frustration and incompetence have shown themselves as well.  I never really expected it; but, it is readily apparent that even a precious child whom I deeply desired cannot create a sustained joy in me.  There have indeed been numerous struggles and challenges in these past 8 months.

Beyond loneliness I have struggled with lacking validation.  What a huge life change and what a huge shock to my ‘center of worth’ becoming a mom was.  No longer did I feel so accomplished and self-sufficient and confident.  Certainly, there have been many times where I felt like I was not doing much at all and in not doing what worth am I?  Of course in my head I knew this was a lie.  I knew that I held innate worth and furthermore, I was indeed keeping our daughter alive and thriving.  However, there is that heart center, that emotional depot that can be hard to convince even when the mind has ‘got it’.  So as a person who believes in the value of prayer and in the ability of God to hear me when I pray, I would pray about these challenging feelings.  They continued to challenge me off and on.  I would have periods of vacation and traveling and I would push aside these feelings and though I wasn’t feeling more validated, I was feeling ‘good’ and ‘happy’ and ‘busy’ so it didn’t bother me.  This became a good way to cope.  I could ask myself: “Am I lonely?  Am I feeling invalidated?”  And I could answer: “Oh don’t worry Cheryl you will be going away again soon and then you won’t have time to think about it.”  And inside I would think: “Thank goodness my husband has the ability to work on the go and we can get away so much!”

Then one day in October while my daughter was napping and I was again feeling lonely and invalidated I practiced some techniques I had learned in the class I was taking at church.  Low and behold, God spoke.  He said:

“Revel in this time Cheryl.  Don’t lament that you’re not accomplishing this and that; revel in the opportunity of time that you’ve been given.”

But isn’t it just so hard at times to be fully alive in the present moment?  To immerse oneself in the blessings that today has to offer instead of trying to escape through busyness or through emotionally projecting oneself into the future?  Essentially what God was saying to me was enjoy this time.  Savour the moments that you have been given to practice being, rather than doing.  I fought against this notion.  Of course I was trying to cherish moments with my daughter and of course I felt grateful to live in a country which expects you to take a full year off work to spend with your child.  Of course this was all wonderful.  But, I still struggled.  I told myself that while I was a good mom and would continue to be a good mom, being a mom of a baby was not particularly my natural strength.  I get such satisfaction from my work and enjoy it so much and am pretty good at it that it would be good when I return to work to restore some balance to my life. 

This time was a blessing, but also a struggle. I am an introvert and so I gain much renewal from solitude and time alone to think and read and reflect.  Even so, this maternity leave had afforded me a different kind of time and a different quantity of this time than I was used to embracing.  It just wasn’t natural for me.  I really didn’t take well to this idea of learning more what it meant to be.

You can see this clearly in the following life example. Nearly immediately after starting my year away from work outside the home I channeled my desire to achieve and perform into running.  My body physically fought against my persistence to whip it back into shape.  It was much slower of a process than I had anticipated and hoped for to get my cardiovascular fitness back to its pre-pregnancy condition.  However, I pressed on and decided perhaps in all this it would be good to give myself a goal.  I decided I would run the 30KM trail race around Cultus Lake which would take place 6 and ½ months after I had given birth to my daughter.  “That’s reasonable, right?” I thought, “That will be an accomplishment I will be able to feel good about.”  Well, it ended up being a great event, but getting there was this love/hate relationship with my training.  While I enjoyed my weekend training runs with my running partner, I nearly loathed my mid-week runs.  This was partially about regaining fitness and conditionally, and more about doing something BIG, since my daily life now felt so small.

But God had something to tell about this too.  As I was sitting in my “Life with God” class the week after completing my trail race He spoke again:

“Know child, you are just as alive sitting here in these moments as you were completing your last running endeavor.”

And then the invitation:

“Be. Alive. In. Me.

And the affirmation:

“I love you child.”  
Humph. There it was again.  Be.  Not do.  Simply be.

I was beginning to slacken my resistance to this idea of practicing being.  I still didn’t really know how to do it and was trying to figure that out (yes I was a beginner student of this call to be, unable still to segregate ‘be’ from ‘do’).  But I was familiar with the story of the sisters Mary and Martha in Luke 10, so I thought about it.  Martha is the doer.  She’s the hostess with the mostest and is good at it.  Her and her sister have Jesus in their home and she’s bustling about making sure the floors are swept, the linens are clean, the meal is done just right and there is Mary just sitting there.  Lazy Mary’s just enjoying conversation with Jesus.  Martha is right ticked.  She wonders why Jesus doesn’t say anything.  Of course other men are often oblivious to when a woman could use some help because she overloaded with household duties; but this is Jesus, surely he knows how much work she’s doing all by herself.  Finally she can’t bite her tongue anymore and says to Jesus, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work?  Tell her to come and help me.” (vs 40, NLT) And Jesus replies, “My dear Martha, you are so upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about.  Mary has discovered it – and I won’t take it away from her.” (vs. 42, NLT, emphasis mine) 

I can’t remember the first time I heard this story, but I do remember thinking that it just didn’t quite make sense.  Mary wasn’t doing anything! Now here in the present I was beginning to see clearly how my current situation was lending itself well for me to develop my Mary-self and the benefit it could afford; but still I wanted to be Martha.  And then God emphasized to me that it is not simply important to be present with Him, it is the one thing of vital importance above all. Mary has discovered this one thing, could I?  God drove this point home when I read Psalm 27:4 “The one thing I ask of the LORD – the thing I seek most – is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life.”  Here in this Psalm David is saying that the one most important thing that he longs for is presence with God.  I was beginning to see that being in the presence of God is indeed the one thing essential to my spiritual health.

Despite this, again I began to find myself lonely and even dejected.  I journalled one day, “I find myself in spaces and places where I am longing to feel loved, where I am yearning to be special.” Thankfully I wasn’t truly depressed so I was able to determine that these feelings were not truth, I was indeed loved and special, but they were still there and penetrating me.  So, to counter them I started a mission to be a really good wife. Since I was feeling kinda awful, I was feeling awful about my performance as a wife and decided that was the first place to start working to improve matters as it is my most important role.  Looking at Proverbs 31 and the commonly touted accolade of what a godly wife should strive to be like, I felt so far from the mark.  So I asked myself:  “what can I do to be a better wife?”   I didn’t even realize that this word do was coming up again. So I compiled a resource list of a few things off the top of my head that I could refer to in order to work at being a better wife.  These were all good things, including Proverbs 31 itself, and listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit.   What I didn’t realize was that being a good wife and godly wife wasn’t about doing, it was about being: being present with God and then being present daily in the tasks of life.  Of course life does require doing, however it is the being that precedes the doing that matters.  So two days into my pursuit to be a better wife I ended up feeling lost.  “It’s been 10 years of marriage” I thought, “and I’m still so awful at doing the things a super wife should”.  And in this frustration I started to feel hopeless.  I cried out to God “I feel like a lost little girl and I want to find You so I can be the woman you want me to be, so I can be a woman paralleling the Proberbs 31 woman.” 

And God answered as I sat in our church service 2 days later:

“Now you’ve finally got it my child.  You feel like a lost little girl, because that’s exactly who you are without Me.”

The sermon was on Romans 3 hallmarked by verses 23-24 “For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.  Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty.  He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins.” The pastor reinforced the message of this scripture highlighting that no one is worthy, no one is good and it is only through knowing who we are without God that we can begin to see more fully who God really is.  In feeling like a lost little girl, God was able to more fully show me that He is my Father who cherishes me so deeply as his precious child and that I desperately need Him.       

The One thing.  Being.  Because I am so very lost otherwise.
I began to see how there is this innate longing in women to be loved, to be special, to be cherished, to be beautiful to someone, to be someone’s princess.  I was no exception to this.  I felt it strongly in those few days.  And I realized that particularly as a woman I need to acknowledge that being a better wife will not enable my husband to completely, wholly fill the gap of that longing.  Certainly I desire that my own husband and the significant men in other women’s lives will be working to fill that desire; but, a human man’s fallibility is guaranteed and not every woman has a significant man in her life.  And so my subconscious ulterior motive to be a better wife in order to have a better husband became apparent. And further, I realized my need to guard against desiring another person to fully fill this inborn longing. I could do this by being present with my Father who can truly love me unconditionally and infallibly.   

How grateful I am for the way God has used this time of maternity leave to speak to me. 
Or perhaps I should say how He has used it to allow me to listen to Him speak.  These months have opened up spaces in my life which try as I might, I could not cover well with busyness and this has allowed rich teaching in my life.  The blessing of my daughter has expounded twofold: her birth into our family and the life change that has ruffled ‘the going through the motions of life’ to create space to hear God.

 Now as we begin Advent I’ve been challenged to continue practicing being.  To listen, to take time to see the joy in Christmas and the joy that Christ in me can create.  I’m challenged to be changed by being present with God.  Mark 1:7-8 tells me this is possible.  John the Baptist says “…I’m baptizing you here in the river turning your old life in for a kingdom life.  His baptism – a baptism by the Holy Spirit- will change you from the inside out.” (Message)

My daughter cannot give me true joy, nor can my husband, but Christ can.

So this Advent I ask myself: “Jesus changed everything when he was born, will I now let him change me?”

Will I allow myself to fully experience the Joy of being God’s cherished child?

My Advent prayer is to be reminded that God loved me so much that He gave his son to be born into a cruel life, so He could show me how cherished I am.  John 3:16-18 says:

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. (Message)

I also pray that I will allow God to grow bigger and that I will grow smaller (John 3:30) so the light of Joy may radiate from me and so songs of Joy may spill from my lips.

This Advent, it is my desire that you may contemplate how Christ’s birth has changed the world and to experience the deep joy of Christmas that only Christ is able to bring.

Joy to the World the Lord is Come.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Race Day Reflections

I have now completed the 30KM run around Cultus Lake aptly named Around the Lake Give ‘R Take 30.  It felt different crossing the finish line for this race than it did when I completed my half-marathon a year and a half ago.  In the latter I had this incredible high and an incredible sense of accomplishment, second only to giving birth to my daughter.  But today, I feel more of contentment.  The run was challenging and the training to get there was arduous; but doing the actually race was simply enjoyable.  And the finish line filled me with a huge amount of thankfulness.  Yes, I am incredibly thankful for my health and the capability of my body.  However, even more than that I am so deeply thankful for my husband and my daughter.

It was just yesterday that I got this notion that I was running this race for Rayna.  I’ve been excited that I would dress Rayna in her Puma ‘running’ outfit for race day.  But as I was feeding Rayna breakfast yesterday I began to tune my thoughts to my last race.  I started thinking about how that race was on the day that was the due date of our first child who was miscarried and how I especially chose to run that race with that in mind.  And here, present this race day, is my beautiful daughter.  I started to think about seeing her at the finish line dressed in her oh so cute outfit and I decided this race is for her in some way or fashion.  My excitement grew and I was very much looking forward to giving her a big soggy hug at the completion of my run! 

I began to feel emotional as I approached the finish line.  Like I could have cried had I wanted to (I did not).  So as I neared the finish line and saw my handsome husband with his camera ready I felt such complete gratitude. There before me was my incredibly supportive husband.  And right by him was my daughter in my mother in law’s arms.  My absolutely beautifully precious daughter.  As the hours pass since that moment, I am realizing to an even greater extent that I am immeasurably blessed to have a beautiful family that I love so inexplicably completely. 

Now as I eat my post run Smart Pop laden with loads of butter, I think of the beautiful golden leaves that surrounded me on parts of my run and I am turned to think of thanksgiving.  Not Thanksgiving, as in a single day to demonstrate thankful hearts, but thanksgiving, a state of heart that embraces all these moments that make up the path of life and appreciates each one of them for where they take us. 

These thoughts compel to speak my heart right here and say: Thank you Ryan for being the man of my dreams, a husband I can pride myself to stand beside, and an incredible father who makes his daughter laugh like no one else and who will garners the utmost respect as she grows up.

So how was my trail race?  It was really great.  And was it worth all the love/hate training feelings I had?  Absolutely.  Even when I popped out a rib? Certainly.

Yeah, this trail race was real good and this one was for you pretty girl!  Your mama loves you so much. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hug Someone You Love

What is it that us humans so easily forget about our mortality?  We strive to push harder, become stronger, build higher, and achieve greater excellence.  These are the power words we want to flourish our resumes with.  We try to defy the hours of the day by minimizing sleep and maximizing our caffeine consumption.  We think that if we can just ignore these signs of being flesh and blood that daily grows older and weaker and more vulnerable, perhaps we will beat the odds.  But the odds are 0.  We are born, we live, we die.  These bones will not defy death.

Now you may ask, why such pessism?  Should we not embrace the life that we have?  Absolutely.  But I am reminded in these moments that we can not fully embrace life without countering it with death.  It is in these moments that my back aches from a knot that spontaneously appeared.  Last week it was right low back, today it is my left shoulder.  I am training for this feat of accomplishment: a 30 KM run around the lake in the mountainous trails.  It is arduous, but I am committed.  I will do this.  And then my body reminds me, I am flesh and blood and I am innately a weak and vulnerable being.  I am 30 years old; young, but not that young guess what? I’m getting older every day.  Which means it is likely that these sorts of ailments will only become more frequent.  I try to be healthy and I stay fit; but that only goes so far.  Yesterday I could not even lift my daughter.  My daughter who I painfully and beautifully gave birth too in the most incredible physical feat of all, only 6 months ago.

It is in having my daughter that I am reminded of the dependency bell curve of life.  We start dependent and we end in some level of dependency too.  I was pushing my daughter in a stroller when I was running this past week and a middle-age man commented about how we start as we end.  From diapers to incontinence supplies.  From stroller to wheelchair.  And sadly as I am starting to feed my daughter solid foods and she opens wide to tell me she’s ready for more, I am reminded of feeding my grandmother her meals in the end stages of her Alzheimer-ridden life. 

I am near the height of the bell-curve and that is why it is so demoralizing that I have an injury.  For the most part this body does me so well.  I am near the height of the bell curve and so I do not let death hold much real estate in my mind.  Foolishly, I was near whimsical during my own mother’s recent health ordeal.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 7 months pregnant.  But, immediately she was given the assurance that it was not life-threatening.  What an assurance that was!  However, in the knowledge of medicine having my mom’s case under control I selfishly found myself thus annoyed that her health would delay her ability to come and visit me and our first born baby.  Annoyed not at my mother, but at the situation.  Annoyed.  I balk at that now as I am reminded of the fragility of life.  My mother too, is not that far from the height of the bell curve of life (though granted on the other side of it); but her life is still delicate, just like mine and just like my daughter’s. 

When we acknowledge death, life in and of itself becomes fragile.  So today I am grateful for the lives around me, for the life within me.  And as disappointed as I was that I could not do my training trail run yesterday and my hopefulness for, but uncertainty of completing the trail race itself, I am thankful for the reminder that each action of life from conceiving, to breathing, to sharing life with cherished family, to running up mountainsides is a gift.  Just as I am thankful for the spiritual and emotional life that Jesus gives, so too, I am thankful for the physical breath God has given these lungs.

Genesis 2:7
“And the LORD God formed a man’s body from the dust of the ground and breathed into it the breath of life.  And man became a living person.”

John 10:10
[Jesus says] “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”

Psalm 39:4-7
“LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered, and that my life is fleeing away.
My life is no longer than the width of my hand.
An entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
Human existence is but a breath.
We are merely moving shadows,
And all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth for someone else to spend.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
My only hope is in you.”   

So I will probably continue to push, become, build and achieve.  But I hope my new “life-resume” will begin a little more like this: Cheryl Rostek is an accomplished appreciator of  every opportunity she is given and that she creates to cherish the God-given life within her and surrounding her.

Cheesy? Yeah.  But you get my point.  Now go hug someone you love.    

Thursday, August 23, 2012

It was the summer of 2012

My friend Rebekah’s request for a blog post is all the encouragement I need to gather my thoughts and get some writing up on this blog (it’s a bit of a long one people!).  It’s been a busy, wonderful summer and we are enjoying a week of reprieve before we set off for a final mini-trip to the lake to meet our friends from Calgary.  In the busyness it has been a bit difficult to find moments where I’m able to gather my thoughts.  I like it when I’m always pondering and reflecting and growing personally and spiritually.  However, it is in moments after temporary busyness that I am able to revel in the small pleasures and blessings, like Tuesday afternoon when Rayna had a particularly long nap and I simply sat outside on our ‘couch’, closed my eyes and just embraced the still moment of nothing being required of me.

Three weeks of our summer was spent traveling in Saskatchewan.  I will share what I wrote while we were driving home below.  Otherwise, I have been enjoying working on my novel.  It is slow (because I’m not spending as much time at it as I like), but sure.  And every time I sit down and write I love being with my characters more and more.  What else can I say other than that I think I’m on track for finishing my first draft by the time I go back to work in March and I think I actually have a good read (I really like it anyway!).  And then there is running.  I find myself thankful for many small things, but particularly 2 things: every single moment I am blessed to share with my daughter and the amazing capability of my body to push and perform.  I am training for the ’30 give ‘er take’ which is a 30km run around Cultus Lake.  In the hills.  It is incredible to run in the trails.  Sometimes I’m not sure if I can do it, but as of last week my running partner, Sarah, and I have implemented a jump in the lake at the end: so worth it!  There is nothing like running a couple hours and then jumping, running clothes and all, into the chill lake.  It’s refreshing and invigorating and makes me feels like a giddy kid.  So come October I will be running this race (probably not jumping in the lake after it given the time of year), whether I am completely ready or not!  And until then I am going to be spending more $ on groceries as I feel like I have the appetite of a teenage boy; with nursing and long runs I am literally always hungry and trying to keep myself healthily fueled.

This summer has also been spent sending friends off in love.  In spring our dear friends moved firstly to Surrey, then back to Manitoba to spend some time there prior to moving overseas.  And then we packed up our other dear friends and bid them farewell to Alberta where we anticipate a rich, fresh life for them.  However, we still have many wonderful friends still here and were excited to be able to join Chris and Vicky at Chilliwack Lake for Rayna’s first camping adventure.  She did awesome sleeping in the tent which was pitched and waiting upon our arrival.  My favorite moment being the morning when she woke up and first rolled to her left and saw me lying there and you could see it in her head ‘Mom?’ and then she rolled to her right and there was Ryan and she surely was thinking ‘Dad?  What are you guys doing sleeping in my bed?’  Oh how I love my precious munchkin!  We also had the honor of watching the Roughriders lose both in Regina and then in Vancouver.  I still carry my green-pride, though I think Ryan’s may be waning now.  But let’s not spend our time talking about the Roughriders.
            Saskatchewan.  Always home.  Here are the highlights of Saskatchewan 2012 trip.

Homeward bound.  What a fantastic summer vacation, introducing Rayna to Saskatchewan and to many new faces.  As we entered our home province I was captivated by a sense of freedom: the expansive plains and the crisp clean clear skies made me breathe deep.  It is a different kind of freedom to see the horizon continue miles in the distance; different than the freedom experienced by conquering a mountain by hiking to its summit.  The fields were beautiful and it was great to see blue in the skies that I hadn’t for some time: a blue that is unadulterated, unpolluted, and free of cloud.  And then my captivation of the nature beginning to surround me became obstructed by a phenomenon I had forgotten:  a windshield full of bug guts.  Big juicy bugs splattered all over the glass and streaky bug guts from trying unsuccessfully to clear them with the wipers.  How could I have forgotten?

En route Rayna was able to ‘catch up’ with Auntie Carmen and cousin Kaleb in Okotoks.  Rayna and Kaleb even got mistaken for twins in the double stroller!  Of course, it was wonderful for Grandma and Grandpa Elias to see Rayna again when we reached Swift Current.  She had grown so much in size and development in the 2 months since they had seen her last.  At Grandma and Grandpa’s house cousins Rachael and Isaiah awaited Rayna’s arrival during their 1 week stay away from their Mom and Dad.  Rayna got lots of attention.  Isaiah ‘read’ her books.  And Rachael spent much time an inch away from her face saying hello and stroking her hair with her index finger.  Rachael also loved to hold Rayna, though only for a moment before saying “go to Mommy” and pushing her out of her arms.  Rachael also loved to declare “Rayna nice.”  We went to the farm (my mom’s cousin’s farm) Friday before Carmen and Jason returned to relieve Grandma and Grandpa of full time duties.  At the farm Rayna met my second cousins and her 3rd cousins and Wanda of course!  Wanda (my mom’s cousin) is a hit with the kids and we are so glad to have her farm as a place to take the kids.  Rayna even experienced her first quad ride! 

Rayna also enjoyed a day with Grandma and Grandpa and Auntie and Uncle and cousins while we went off to watch the Roughriders (lose) with Chris and Vicky and Chris’ family.  After the game we met up with my friend, Megan (and Bevan).  A late night home and a new day, Sunday meant more visits with more family.  Our family BBQ brought more introductions of Rayna to her second cousins and great aunts and uncles.  Ryan and Jason and Chris made some new friends and played football in bare feet and managed to come away free of much muscle pain.  We also managed a chance encounter with friends Mark and Erynn, followed by a wonderful dinner at their place a couple days later. 

It was a full house at my parents until Carmen and Jason packed up their family, dog included, and squeezed into their Jetta car bound for home in Okotoks.  That was Monday.  Tuesday we all slept.  A lot.  Rayna couldn’t nap enough!  Those cousins of hers are hard work!  We enjoyed a few more days in Swift before heading on to Saskatoon

With a bit of miscommunication we arrived at Ryan’s aunt Bonnie’s place Thursday night at 10 PM unexpected to her!  It all worked out just fine and we enjoyed our luxury accommodations at her place and began a new onslaught of visits.  Friday held breakfast, lunch, and supper dates!  First Great Grandma Braun and Great Aunt Shelley, then Great Uncle Darryl, then Brad and Ashley and Raymond.  What an exciting introduction to almost 1 year old Raymond!  He loved her pink button on her jeans and they smiled and talked.  

Saturday, I had a lovely breakfast with my friend Erin followed by an afternoon family BBQ with Ryan’s cousins and introductions to Rayna’s second cousins.  Sunday we introduced Rayna to the Meewasin trail and took her swimming at the pool with Brad, Ashley and Raymond.  Try as he could, Raymond couldn’t get Rayna to hold his hand (Rayna was getting a bit short on sleep by this point and it took everything just to stop her from crying).  But, no time for a nap, straight to another family dinner and a chance to meet Great Grandma Rostek. 

One more full day and full it was.  Rayna met yet more second cousins, on my side.  We had a wonderful visit at my Auntie Anne and Uncle Kip’s place with them and my cousins and cousins’ kids.  Luckily, Rayna managed a nap there before it was off to Great Grandma Rostek’s and then Fuddruckers, of course, for supper.  Following was a night with Brad and Ashley playing Dutch Blitz.  Maybe it was me, but I feel perhaps parenthood has slowed our evening play of this game…or maybe that’s just my excuse for not winning!  One more sleep in Bonnie’s comfie bed for us (and in Bonnie’s closet for Rayna!) and one more breakfast date with Great Grandma Braun before we packed our bags.

Though, this was not the end of our visits!  Oh no, Rayna, you will learn, if you haven’t already there are many faces to see.  We enjoyed another Breakfast date with Ryan’s longtime friend, Pam, in Edmonton.  And now it is off to Hinton for a dinner date with my wonderful former coworker, Laurie, before stepping foot on BC soil in Valemount.  One more sleep until we return home to Chilliwack.  We’re a-coming Fritzy boy, we’re a-coming!

What a fabulous trip.  Rayna has learned that she can stay up past 6:30PM (her usual bedtime)! That sometimes there’s just no time for napping!  That great family and friends are so important and they love her dearly.  And that we love Saskatchewan (and the Saskatchewan Roughriders---even when they lose) even though we live in a province that claims to be the best place on earth.  We have ourselves a good little traveler and thoroughly enjoyed Saskatchewan road trip 2012!               

Friday, June 15, 2012

Women of Impact: Story 2. Kerri

I reconnected with one of my first ‘college’ roommates the other day over Facebook chat.  She is a Facebook friend I rarely see.  But unlike other Facebook friends who may really not be friends at all, this woman has exemplified devoted friendship. 

When I moved to Saskatoon to go to University I lived in a house with 4 other girls that I previously had no connection to.  My friend was one of these girls.  I was new in town with pretty much no one to hang out with.  However, there was no time to be lonely.  My first evening after moving in she invited me to come out with her and a friend.  And so that evening I cruised 8th street in a pick-up truck!  While in other circumstances the idea of driving up and down a main street in Saskatoon wouldn’t have thrilled me, that night that was, like, the best invitation ever!  My friend took the effort and made me feel amazingly welcome.  She has this special gift of naturally making any situation a fun place to be and we had so many great times together that year and the photos to prove it!  

My friend is able to impact lives through her invitingly fun personality and her willingness to initiate friendships.  However, she doesn’t just initiate friendships she is a friend that you can count on to make the extra effort.  My wedding date fell on the weekend that she was to write her certifying exam at the end of her veterinary technician course.  Bummer, right?  Well she didn’t hesitate for a moment.  She made arrangements to drive all the way to Edmonton to write the exam on a different date, so she could attend my wedding.  That was more than a gesture of friendship.  That was an exemplary action of how committed to friendship this woman is.  She loves her friends and she makes sure she shows it.

I mentioned that I hardly see this friend.  This is true.  In the past few years I have seen her once or twice.  However, again just recently she blessed my heart.  She was going through a difficult situation and found my blog and just encouraged me incredibly by taking the time to open up to me about her situation and share with me how my blog gave her the words she needed in those moments.  I admire this woman for how easy she makes it to be real together.  Life is full of many people living 2 lives: one on the surface and one underneath.  But this woman lets you into her life, the one underneath, so that she only lives one life, and because of this you feel so special to be blessed with sharing this life with her.  And you know, that she cares about not only what’s on the surface of your life, but also what’s in the guts and depths of your life too.  Indeed, she is exactly the friend you are so glad to have graced your life.

My friend is an incredible woman of impact through her gift of giving meaningful friendship.  And for that I thank her.    

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My Body: A Temple

Today I listened to the daily audio bible as I was doing some of my yoga stretches.  I’m a bit dismayed by how my body feels these days.  It aches from the way I hold Rayna.  It feels beat up from a 5 Km run.  It’s tight, it feels weaker than I think it should, and it seems to be holding onto those last few pregnancy pounds with an extra tight grip.  But as I stretch my body, it responds.  And as I push my body athletically, it performs.  And as I look in the mirror, I know that my body is beautiful regardless of the extra pounds, because it is my physical house here on earth and a gift from God.  And so I embrace my body and marvel at its wonder this morning. 

I love, like really love, physical activity.  There is nothing like running and hiking and strengthening my body.  Sometimes it is really difficult.  Just on Sunday when I was running with Ryan and Rayna I was complaining about being hungry, about the run feeling so much harder than I thought it should, etc.  I complained for a full 10 minutes off and on before I realized what a whiny-pants I was.  Then on completion of the run I thought, “Wow, that was a good run!”  Good.  Good because it was done, for one; but, also good because I am so thankful for my physical vessel.  I am aware that some people’s bodies fail them early in life and so I am thankful for each step I can walk, each push-up I can do, each moment I can pick up my daughter and hold her soft skin close to my own.

We have fascinatingly beautiful bodies.  I have a degree in Biochemistry.  The chemistry of the body is absolutely mind-blowing, from the Krebs cycle* to the central dogma.  It is so intricate, it is so precise, it is so orderly.  Our God is the Creator, undoubtedly when you look at our bodies!  Furthermore, I have had the blessing of being pregnant with and delivering my daughter.  The miracle of pregnancy and child-birth are unparalleled.  Feeling Rayna kick me in the womb was ‘crazy’.  When I stopped to think about it and the growing child within me it was indescribable.  While I have believed in God for as long as I can remember, in this experience it was so evident that truly it is only possible for a child to develop within me by the hand of our God.  In addition, child birth was incredible.  Incredibly painful, yes; but, pushing my daughter out of my body with all my might was like no other experience.  When I crossed the finish line of my half-marathon last year, I was overwhelmed by the high and the accomplishment.  But that was nothing compared to child-birth.  When my daughter was born, I have never felt more proud of myself and I have never been so overwhelmed with such pure and complete satisfaction.  This body of mine is indeed amazing.

In I Corinthians 6:19-20 the bible tells us that our “bod[ies are] a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in [us], whom [we] have received from God.” A temple that is what my body is!  It is a gift and as a Christ-follower it houses the very spirit of God.  Furthermore, I Timothy 4:8 tells us that “while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”  Therefore, I conclude with resolve to embrace with thanksgiving every opportunity to train my body and strengthen this physical vessel and enjoy what it is able to do.  But, training of my body is not the final key to full satisfaction.  Only godliness gives satisfaction in every way.  And so I also have renewed commitment to continue my journey towards godliness. As I struggle to ‘unstick’ these last few pregnancy pounds and regain my fitness level, so too I strive to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles [me] (Hebrews 12:1, NIV) so I may be found spiritually fit on the day I find myself crossing the finish line of this life.       

*Indeed, when I was memorizing the Krebs cycle, as required for one of my first biochemistry classes, I really thought my mind might burst with all the details I was trying to pour into it; it really felt like it was too much detail that as I put one part of the cycle in, the rest wanted to fall out!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Women of Impact

I have wanted to write my memoirs for a while now as a way of writing about the women who have impacted my life and helped shape me into the woman I am today.  I don’t think I will be sitting down anytime soon to embark on the complete endeavor of formulating a book; however, I want to shape a portion of my blog into something a little more consistent. I want to honor real women, present and past, in my life through my words, through this blog.  And so today as you read my first story (of many to come) of a woman of impact we will honor her together.

My encounter with a woman of impact this past week: Gina

This past week I went hiking with a friend, who is a single mom, and her son.  I am just starting to get to know this friend; she is relatively new in my life.  I don’t know the details of her story; but, I do know she is a committed mom who loves her son.  As we were hiking I began to see more glimpses into her life. 

As mother myself now I appreciate when Ryan comes on board to be “fun-dad” to our daughter when I am tired and don’t have any conversation or smiles left for her.  I appreciate when Ryan is there so I can pop out for half an hour or an evening and our daughter is in good hands.  I appreciate that Ryan is there to verbally and physically share the struggles and stresses of parenting.  I appreciate that I have a partner in parenting.

My friend does not have these luxuries.  She has to be “fun-mom”.  She has to be ruling setting mom.  She has to be a provider.  She has to be care-giver.  She has to be present.  Always.  I mean she has assistance in some people, but for the most part day in day out she has to be there: to calm her son into sleep, to play with him so he can burn off steam, to talk to him so he can voice his dreams of what he wants to be when he grows up, to put food on the table to nourish him, and so many other things that I don’t even know about parenting yet since my child is not yet so grown.  She has no co-pilot in parenting. 

I said to her: “you must have lots of energy and patience.”  She replied, “I pretty much am exhausted all the time; but you get used to it.”

My words are inadequate to describe the impact this woman has on a daily basis.  She is impacting her son’s life.  She is so committed to her son.  She loves him so much.  She has to work so hard to be mom to him.  You can see she is doing everything she can, the best that she can, to be the best mom she can to him.  Daily she gives so much, fighting exhaustion, to give him the best. She is giving her all, so he can have the best of this life.  I can only imagine she feels like she turns up short as she tries to fill 2 roles.  And while she alone cannot replace the constant daily presence of Dad in her son’s life, she is indeed a mom and a half to her son, doing a wonderful job! 

She is also impacting my life.  I mentioned that I don’t know this friend that well yet.  This is true.  However, I admire this woman and I admire the mom that she is.  She is humble, hard-working, doesn’t complain, and has a faith rooted in God.  I am glad to have her as a friend and truly believe that as our relationship grows, so will my admiration for her.  This woman of impact is doing an incredible job at navigating this challenging life and with whatever credibility I have, I say “Well Done!”  Thank you for the positive impact you are having on my life.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Depend on Me

I have been struggling lately with a lack of confidence in my competence as a mom.  The other day I found myself in my husband’s arms in tears because I wasn’t sure I was a good mom and I felt like there were all these eyes on me judging how I was doing as a mom.  Sometimes I’m really just not sure what is best for my daughter and when the fatigue takes over my lack of confidence turns into my questioning my competence.  I begin to ask, “Am I fit to be a mom? Do I have any clue at all what I am doing?”  In the back of my mind I acknowledge that these questions are not valid and that in fact they are tools of our spiritual enemy to tear down my God-given strength.  But in the ‘moment’, I have found myself wishing this new role of mine has a set of ‘best practice guidelines’ to follow.  You see in my job as a pharmacist the golden documents to follow in patient care are evidence-based best practice guidelines.  But this new role of mom is more than a job.  It is more than a career, even.  It is a commitment unlike any other and while there is numerous writing on the topic of parenthood, there is not one document that has been agreed upon by the parenting community to be the guidelines for how to be the best mother to your child.

This is where I am in life right now: a confident, proven and accomplished medical professional trying to figure out how to add such prestigious adjectives to my new title of ‘mother’ without much success. (Indeed I have read this can be a struggle for women such as me who are goal-oriented, successful professionals.  We try to transfer our approach to our career to mothering and it can be frustrating not to mention ineffective.)

Isn’t it great then that at least I know what my ‘issue’ is, so I can work towards addressing it?  Knowing myself is exactly what I embrace through my practice of journaling and reflecting regularly.  However, the full illumination of this issue didn’t shine through until I was listening to the sermon this Sunday morning.  The message was on Jonah chapter 2 and was entitled “From Misery to Mercy.”  While the main premise of this teaching was about self inflicted misery and rising up from it, the principles were practical for addressing any challenge.  Pastor Ron first highlighted the need to get real with God.  You see Jonah didn’t skirt around his issue.  He clearly named why it was that he was praying from inside the belly of the fish.   I have long admired another biblical character, David, for his realness with God and have just been reading again about David’s life in 2nd Samuel.*  So, the idea of being honest and real with God is not a new one to me.  But, in that moment in church I sat there and realized I hadn’t been real.  I was not naming what my issue really was.  SELF-SUFFICIENCY.  I have been struggling at being a mom because I have been trying to do it on my own.  (Not to say that there won’t be struggles in motherhood; but they shouldn’t be the mind-struggles that I have engaged in.)

So in naming my sin of self-sufficiency God spoke to me, “DEPEND ON ME.”  And it was in this moment that I realized there is a single, go-to document in motherhood: the bible. 


Furthermore, I not only have this tried and true document, I have been given the Guide Himself.  As I was sitting there in church I was brought to the question: “Who is God to me now?”   So I asked myself who has God been to me in the past?  And I was thinking and thinking so hard.  I mean I elucidated who He is to me on video only a year ago in front of the whole church when we became church members and there I was trying to remember, “Who did I say God was to me?”  And then it came back.  I have consistently viewed God as my Guide.  And He is my Guide still through His words in the bible and through His voice in my life as the Holy Spirit.  I have the most incredible Guide to navigate this life with, to navigate this role in my life with, and have been given this God-breathed document, the bible, to structure my life on!  Amazing! Incredible!  These words are truly not adequate descriptors.  And there I was a week ago longing for some sort of guidelines to motherhood.  This was certainly a ‘knock me over the head’ kind of moment in church on Sunday in which I was truly so glad to be a part of a church where God speaks clearly and loudly through His servants in our pastoral team. 

You see by believing that Jesus Christ is God’s Son who has removed the mark of sin on our lives by dying on the cross we are given “real and eternal life, more and better life than [we] ever dreamed of.” (John 10:10, The Message, emphasis mine)  I believe in God’s promises and so today I start my day by saying “I’m all in!” to God’s call to me to depend on Him.

 *Well, technically, listening not reading since it is through listening to the Daily Audio Bible— that I am finding a practical way to get into the scriptures on a pretty much daily basis.    

Friday, April 20, 2012

A blob post on SLUGS

(I apologize for the cheesy title, but with a blog about slugs I surely had to come up with a somewhat creative title.)

This spring I find myself longing to see a slug or even better a family of slugs.  I do not remember the exact first time I met a slug; however I do know it was after moving to British Columbia.  Ryan and I were out on some trail and he introduced me to the slimy, slow moving blobs.  I was fascinated by the creature and sat and starred at it and scolded Ryan as he poked at it with a stick.  Ryan informed me that if you put salt on them they shrivel and while I have had no desire to try this tactic, it further piqued my curiosity of these mucousy critters.  From then on I take note of each slug that I meet, marveling at the particularly huge ones and making sure I introduce other non British Columbians to them at every opportunity. 

Now you may be wondering why am I going on about slugs?  Yes, I am intrigued by these slugs, perhaps more than I ought to be and perhaps because my first encounter with one happened so late in life.  But more than being intrigued I like what slug spotting signifies; it signifies being out in nature enjoying trails and foliage and trees and mountains and the wonderful smell of fresh air that accompanies these items.  So a few days ago while I was out for a walk and spotted some snails on the sidewalk it got me to thinking about the fact that I haven’t seen a slug in what seems like ages.  This got me itching to find myself in a place where I’d be able to officially welcome spring with my first hello to one of the slimy critters.  Here’s to hopes of lots of slug encounters this upcoming season.  And by all means, if you yourself have never met a slug, please do come for a visit and allow me the privilege of introducing you!          

Friday, April 13, 2012

A dying plant, a fat cat, and a lovely baby

Prior to March 17th there were 2 living things I was responsible for: my house plant and my cat, Fritz.

Thank goodness I am better at taking care of a baby than I am of taking care of my house plant. You see, my friend who’s an interior designer recommended that a nice substantial plant in our window corner would be ideal. Of course, she said that it could be artificial, it didn’t have to be real. But, do you know the price of artificial plants? Why would you spend that much money on a plastic shrub? This thought intensified as I walked by this nice real plant in Walmart for something like $15. For $15 I figured if I killed it what was the loss and this one was even labeled low-maintenance!

My husband informed me just the other day that he thinks my plant is dead. And this dying process did not begin after the baby was born, so I cannot blame it on being tied up as a new mom. No, you see we were away for Christmas and so it didn’t get watered over those 4 days and then I forgot when I came home and I think I’ve remembered once since our return…..or was it our trip in November to Hawaii when we were gone for a week and I kept thinking I should really water the plant to catch it up on its moisture? Surely, I’ve watered it more than once in the last 5 months….maybe twice??? Apparently plants like to be watered and this one indeed must truly be low maintenance because really considering the amount I’ve cared for it, it does look pretty good! (Though I’m sure my friend Michaela would not agree that it is the look she was suggesting for our window corner.)

And then there’s my cat, the other living creature I am responsible for. And he, well, he has a problem of the other end of the spectrum. He is overweight. Well, he hasn’t been to the vet since he was neutered, so the vet would probably say he is obese. Indeed that cute pudge of a belly that sways when he runs and covers his back feet when he sits all proper is indicative of a substantial weight concern. The other day we were driving by the vet and there was a sign out front: “Obesity is a life shortening disease.” The health of our cat is also not an area where I can show that I’ve excelled at supporting the life of another living creation (though I do blame….is that a harsh word? husband for a large part of Fritz’ weighty issues, since he finds it so wonderful to have Fritz beg for food and love him for giving the cat his every tasty desire. The cat certainly has an insatiable appetite for most every food; however, I believe, though he disagrees, that it is Ryan who helps continue to fuel this appetite.)

So I am ever grateful that my cute little human in my care is thriving. Perhaps I would forget to feed her too, but her cries are ever-reminding me and it seems that the food I give is nourishing her well. Just 2 weeks ago I was frustrated that I could not find a dress that was small enough for her to wear on her first Sunday in church. Now at 3 weeks old, she is out-growing her newborn clothes and is moving into the 0-3 month clothes. My little girl is growing up already! Today her daddy told her, “That’s good Rayna, you grow nice and big and then we can move you out.” Oh the humour that’s going to drive our children nuts later in their lives! (As an aside he also told her after smothering her with kisses that he would give her enough kisses so that she didn’t need to get any from boys….awww the protective daddy already!)

At any rate, I think I’ve managed to keep my daughter in the healthy range such that she is certainly not withering, but I haven’t fattened her up too much yet either! Here’s to a good start in nourishing this little life. Cheers!

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Birth Story

My daughter is now 5 days old and I have managed to figure out how to get both my hands free so I can take an opportunity to write her birth story as I’ve been wanting to do since she was born. Rayna Katya Maria Rostek entered the world on Saturday March 17th 2012 at 4:32 AM, but as Ryan puts it, her arrival was not without a bit of drama.

We knew that Rayna’s arrival was imminent in the wee hours of Friday morning, when my water broke at 1AM. Ryan frantically packed his hospital bag as I showered and off we were to be assessed at the hospital. With no contractions the nurse sent us home after confirming that baby sounded healthy. We were instructed to get some rest and return in the morning for further assessment and possibly induction. I was excited at the possibility that Rayna may be born on her cousin, Rachael’s, birthday! When we returned to the hospital at 7:30AM my contractions were about 10-15 minutes apart and though I had been able to rest I’m not sure who would be able to sleep through contractions even at 15 minutes apart. With our arrival at the hospital we were informed that March 16 was a busy day at Chilliwack hospital maternity ward and I would not be induced until further notice or at the very latest on Saturday morning. Also, my doctor happily examined me to confirm my water had broken (when a woman who has never had her water break before knows without a doubt that her water has broken, you would think confirmation would not be required, but protocol is protocol). He subsequently informed me that as of 4PM he was on vacation, told me that I would do great, and let me know that his former resident, whom I saw a few times in the office, would be covering for him. So back home to wait for my contractions to either get regular or for the hospital to call.

At this point I was very uncomfortable, but I would not really say I was in too much pain. I wanted labour to progess and there are all the stories of walking or jumping or physical activity to get labour going; but, I was in no mood for any sort of physical activity other than showering and having Ryan hold me as I sat through contractions. To help pass time Ryan and I pulled out Tribond and Ryan implemented the rule that when I lost my turn I had to walk around the table. I tell you that walk around our dining room table felt as strenuous as any bodyrock interval work-out I’ve done!

Finally I received a call from the hospital that Dr. Loch wanted to assess me at 7 PM. Since Dr. Loch is a brand new family doctor and with my previous experience with her, I knew that she would be a bit more conservative and probably push to have me induced sooner rather than later. I was correct and there was a bit of tension as the nurses were informing her that they could not handle another induction and she was really wanting to get me induced. However, by the time I was examined (4 cm dilated) and pumped with 1 liter of saline since I was a bit dehydrated, my contractions started to get more regular and I was far enough into active labour to be admitted. From here my true labour began. I understand the importance of monitoring baby’s heart rate, but I tell you I sure did not care to be forced on my back with monitors strapped to me while enduring a contraction. I much preferred to be sitting and later into my labour I spent much time kneeling leaning against an inclined bed. I’m not sure at what point I decided that labour really hurt, but it was then that I asked for drugs. I was given my first dose of Fentanyl just before Dr. Loch returned at 1:30. Now I really don’t know what it would have felt like without the Fentanyl, but thank goodness for drugs since labour felt barely tolerable with the Fentanyl! I felt really light headed and dopey between contractions and Dr. Loch looked a little worried as I was getting the first rush of Fentanyl.

Let me tell you a few thoughts that went through my mind as the pain of labour really set in. Firstly, having a focal point during labour? Seriously? I wanted to focus on Hawaii, the waves crashing and the tranquility so we had a piano spa track with waves playing through out my labour. Now the music was nice to soften the feel of the institutional hospital, however, there was no way I could even bring my mind to a place of thinking about Hawaii. I was in a place that was the furthest thing from Hawaii. It really hurt! Furthermore, in my yoga DVD part of their mantra at the end is to thank yourself and your baby for a great workout in preparing for an amazing birth. I thought numerous times to myself, this is NOT an amazing birth! In addition, there were moments when I kept thinking of when Rayna was breech and there was discussion of a c-section and I just really didn’t want a c-section. Well, in these moments of labour I was thinking that it would have been real nice to have had a c-section.

“More Fentanyl, please.” I asked the nurse. She had to check me again and at that point I was 8 cm dilated. Seriously 2 cms left to go??? I suppose those 2 cms were the worst; the pressure begins on the bowels and you’re not supposed to push and I kept saying through my contractions, I really want to push, hoping the nurse would just reply, Ok let’s get you pushing! Ryan says I was less vocal than he thought I would be, but I thought I had many grunts and painful moans and even found myself saying “ow”. Understatement. Finally, I informed Ryan who informed the nurse that I was ready to push. I’m not sure I felt that much different than for the previous amount of time, but I was through with just taking the pain and ready to do something. Thank goodness I was 10cm dilated.

Onto my back to assume the position of pushing. I didn’t realize the practice it took to get the hang of pushing, but then I got it and my labour became the athletic endeavor I had anticipated. I must say that pushing was the absolute best part of labour and I did not really find it painful; however, as soon as I started pushing my contractions slowed as did my progress. The drama began here. I was given some oxytocin at some point to bring on more contractions. Dr. Loch called in the obstetrician at the 2 hour mark. His assessment (and let me tell you it is not very fun having someone assess the baby’s position internally at this point!) was that things were not progressing fast enough and a c-section was warranted. He asked me if I wanted to keep pushing, I gave a big absolute ‘Yes’. I did not go through all that to end in a c-section! So he gave me 10 minutes to see how my progress would go. The nurse was fabulous and got me on the toilet for a few pushes to try and speed things up. Then at the 10 minute mark, the obstetrician called in the c-section team, Ryan and I signed off on the surgery and removed my jewelry in resigned preparation. Thank goodness for the wee hours of the morning. The obstetrician gave me the okay to keep pushing until the team got there and if I beat them then I would "win". Well I pushed with all my might and as she really engaged it became so awkward feeling that I just wanted to get her out. The team arrived and at this point the obstetrician noted that I had made enough progress, but would need an episiotomy to get her out promptly. He was ready to cut me with my next push and it was with that push that out came Rayna, no episiotomy required!

I can’t tell you the pride I felt at the end of all that! I was proud of my ability to have my daughter naturally, that I was able to bring her into the world with my might and determination. And here she was a beautiful baby girl on my chest! I could barely keep my eyes open (in fact I had almost been nodding off between contractions during pushing) but I was loving every moment! And there inside and just outside my room was a whole host of physicians. My family doctor, the family doctor resident, the obstetrician, the anesthesiologist, the pediatrician and the pediatrician’s resident! Rayna arrived with fanfare!

Rayna is a beautiful girl. She has taken a part of my heart. I cannot believe how much I just want her to stay tiny and precious. I usually shy away from holding infants and here I have my own and I don’t want her to grow. At times I cannot believe she is mine, she is ours; but, she is and what a precious gift. Thank you God for our Rayna, for our song of the Lord. We praise you for this incredible gift. Take her, protect her, grow her into a beautiful young woman.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Savoring the 9th Month

This is my journal entry from a week ago that I wanted to blog to capture my thoughts of labour/delivery and parenthood, before they become realities. Really how can I know what to expect? So I wanted to write down my thoughts so I can reflect on them after the fact. I invite you to share in them with me and we can reflect together in a few weeks time (and maybe laugh at my naivety) with a little more experience to guide my thoughts.

Can I savour this moment? It’s been a grey winter. We haven’t left Chilliwack area since Christmas. We have an impending major life change approaching in a time line that I can’t control, nor precisely define. I’ve had a busy, but very productive and pleasant work week. And now I sit here with my laptop, with this blank work document ready to have words scattered on its page and I am excited to write and I am excited that I am excited to write. The sun is shining and today I am going to go conquer Teapot hill at 8 months pregnant and I feel healthy and my baby feels well within me. I have less than 2 weeks left of work before I embark fully mind, body, soul into this new endeavor of challenging parenthood. I come from employment where I feel accomplished and where the remuneration is considerable to a vocation where I have no idea how I will fare with the certain challenges and where the hours are long and there is no punch clock and where financial benefits do not exist.

Can I savour being here, by myself, empowered by the Holy Spirit living within me and having a quiet moment to let Him fortify me with calm and excitement all in one time of reflection. People tell me at work to enjoy these days, because “boy, life will change soon.” And the look in their faces give these words as cautions for what’s ahead. And I do not rush the future, but at the same I do not fear, nor do I dread some of the changes. However, in this moment I am thankful for my uninterrupted quiet and think that perhaps I could develop myself as a writer in these next months. That I could carve out time to escape the wild life of being mom, to sit in a moment and think and put those thoughts onto a page that will last. That I can be open in sharing my life in the way that makes me feel so real and so enriched. Can I mention it again, that I love to write and I love to love to write. What I mean is that when I have thoughts that I want to share and they formulate themselves into words that I can put on paper, well it makes me feel so satisfied. I can savor these words and I can reread and re-experience these words. So here I am in that place and I thank you for joining me here and for sharing in these moments and in these words. Isn’t life just too rich to not want to capture it somehow?

I am excited in these moments! While I look forward to being more limber and being able to walk briskly (never mind run) without clenching my pelvic floor so I don’t feel like I’ll pee myself at any moment, I am also savoring these last moments of pregnancy. I tell people I really feel quite great and it is true! My body is being good to me and that foot that presses out from my belly is so unreal; that foot belong to my child whom I’ll get to meet in a few brief weeks. Physically, pregnancy is a crazy phenomenon. Stop and think: there is a child growing inside of me! The human body is amazing. While I embrace my spiritual existence, I welcome being human, being a physical being. I thank God for the health He has given me that I am able to move my body and stretch it and in this pregnancy that I am able to be part of a physical miracle that is so commonplace we perhaps, fail to stop and think enough about how incredible it is.

In this last month of pregnancy, my feet are starting to swell, my hands go numb just sitting, my belly makes me less agile, my hips ache at times. But I am doubly alive! I love my walks and I love my prenatal yoga. Because it has grown so gradually, my belly doesn’t even seem that big to me. I look in the mirror and picture where my abs once lied and then I realize ‘my goodness look at me’! Now I know that part of how my pregnancy is progressing so well is simply luck, genetics, just the way this pregnancy is. But I am embracing being as healthy as possible in this pregnancy. It was good to keep running through the beginning half of the pregnancy, pushing through the incredible 1st trimester fatigue. It was good to go hiking, to explore Kauai on foot, on kayak. It’s been great to keep limber with my prenatal yoga. It was good to go to the gym and modify my once intense work-outs to maximize what I could do. It is lovely to enjoy walks with Ryan and by myself along the Vedder trail. Physically, I feel as ready as one could possibly be for labour and delivery. In many ways I look forward to this physical challenge and accomplishment (hence really not wanting a c-section). I say “bring it on!” I’ve run a half marathon, but I have never given birth to a child; that will be my marathon (and Ryan will be my ‘running’ partner)! No pain, no gain! So I don’t know exactly what to expect, but I expect endorphins to kick in. When I run, I run 10 minutes and walk 1 minute. So my contractions will be my run interval and my break will be my walk interval. At about Km 10 in the half marathon, I knew I could do it, but there is still a lot of road left ahead. I imagine labour will be like that too; so much pain and in the beginning so much time ahead. But I want to press on, knowing Ryan’s right there beside me, ready for the endorphins to kick in when I hit KM 19 and only have 2 KM to go and my legs are tired, and the pain will get even more intense, but the goal is just ahead. In a way, I just can’t wait for labour. Let’s do this thing! (And I pray that God would allow a smooth delivery with respect to aspects out of my control such as baby’s positioning and baby’s progression through the birth canal and baby’s general health during labour and delivery.)

So here I am in these last weeks in a ‘funny’ state. I don’t mind being pregnant, I’m really not that uncomfortable. I have some moments of quiet which will soon require much more effort to obtain. Ryan and I can sleep in on days off. I can arrange my schedule. But I am ‘ready’ for this next challenge.

I cannot speak of this next challenge without discussing my current thoughts on impending parenthood. I suppose I have a similar philosophy to labor and delivery. Really you can only be so ready, and so I feel as ready as I will ever be and therefore, let’s just do this thing and see how we do! (Yesterday, I had a mini-epiphany. Well perhaps that’s too dramatic a statement. But, you see I’ve been really not wanting to deal with grumpy people at work lately. The irrational people. The people who have a mandate to make life miserable for everyone. I realized yesterday, that though I have only 2 weeks of work left, 2 weeks of potential encounters with ‘grumpies’ that I am responsible to deal with, there is life ahead of potential ‘grumpies’ living in my OWN home! So let me just consider that dealing with grumpy people is a life skill well worth having.)

After going through our prenatal class together, I think this little bundle growing inside of me is going to capture our hearts in a way we cannot predict. Neither of us are newborn fanatics, but I think we will think she is adorable whether she has a squishy head or baby acne etc. We love her already. We call her by name. We desire life’s best for her. Becoming a parent makes me think of what I want to teach our child. I love to teach and I am so thankful for all the formal and informal education I have been granted. I can only feel that through the differences in Ryan and me, our daughter will have a solid foundation to thrive in life and I cannot wait to start learning from her as well.

After all this writing, I just can’t wait to meet you baby girl and announce your arrival to this world!