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Zephaniah’s Birth Story

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Although I never posted about being pregnant with baby #2 on this blog, my second son, Zephaniah Matthew, made his “fast and furious” appearance into the world five days ago! Yesterday was his due date. We are so glad he came when he did though proving that God’s timing is always perfect. I was hoping the baby would come at least by August 29. Gerald is starting a new job on Sept. 6 so this gave us at least a full week together before he has to begin training. We’ve gone through a lot of changes this summer and some tough things, but even through the rougher times we’ve been blessed to see God’s Hand at work through that and His provision for us even if it’s not exactly the way we wanted.

I love reading others’ birth stories so if that’s something that doesn’t appeal to you, you might want to stop reading right here. 🙂 I’m not going to go into a lot of graphic details, but I’m writing this mostly so I can look back on it and remember. I also think it helps other moms sometimes to read another woman’s birth experience. Be warned, it’s a little long even though the birth was quick.

Zeph’s birth story begins much like his older brother Jaylen’s. Even though I’d been through labor before, I started getting anxious in the weeks leading up to the birth. It’s hard not knowing when or how labor will begin. Since my water broke (without contractions) with Jaylen, I didn’t know what it would feel like to have labor begin with contractions. Again I was praying that I would know when it was time to go to the hospital. I wanted the baby to come soon so Saturday night before going up to bed I sat on my birthing ball (exercise ball) and started moving my hips in circles in both directions on it for about 15 minutes or so. Supposedly that is supposed to help induce labor.

God answered my prayer. Around midnight on August 28, I’d been sleeping for about an hour (I was staying up late watching shows on my computer to relax). I woke up feeling a little bit of liquid. Immediately I thought my water might have broken again. I went to the bathroom and put on a pad then waited a little bit. Sure enough, I felt some occasional gushes of liquid after that so I was pretty sure my water broke. Praise the Lord, I knew this meant I definitely had to go to the hospital! I went downstairs to call the doctor and she told me to come in (as expected). Then I woke Gerald up around 12:15 and we started to finish getting our things together for the hospital.

The good part about living at my parents’ house temporarily right now is we could easily leave for the hospital and not have to worry about who will come stay with Jaylen. I went into my parents’ room to wake them up, told them my water broke, and gave them the baby monitor to Jaylen’s room. Before leaving I snuck into Jaylen’s room to say goodbye to him, which was kind of emotional for me. I knew his life (all our lives) would never be the same after this. I gave him a kiss on the head, snuck out, and off we went to the hospital around 1 am.

On the drive, I was having some mild cramping, but it felt like nothing more than menstrual cramps. We arrived at the hospital and checked in a little before 1:30 am. They checked me to verify that my water broke, said I was about 4 cm dilated (I had been 3 cm at my last appointment 4 days before) and began the process of admitting me. They seemed to take their time asking me all their health history questions, asking about my previous delivery, etc. I was still feeling contractions every once in a while, but they weren’t too painful. I got hooked up to the IV around 3 am. Unfortunately the nurse did it poorly the first time so she had to get another nurse to come in and redo it on my other hand. I have bruises still from this (actually on both hands). So that wasn’t fun. The nurse said that doctor told her that if my contractions didn’t start getting more regular and stronger by 6 am then they would start me on Pitocin. I really didn’t want to be put on Pitocin again if I didn’t have to be so I really hoped my labor would progress on its own this time.

The nurse came back not long after this and told me the doctor was now at the hospital and wanted to start me on Pitocin as soon as possible. I asked her if we could wait because last time things progressed really quickly after being put on Pitocin and I wanted to see what my body could do on its own. She agreed to wait a little while and I think she came back half an hour later (this is when I don’t really know what time things were happening). She was checking my chart and said my contractions were still about 5-7 minutes apart (I could feel them definitely getting stronger though) and suggested we start a tiny dose of Pitocin to help me labor more effectively with stronger contractions. I told her I was probably going to want the epidural soon since I was planning on getting it again (it made my first labor so nice). By now I wasn’t really able to talk through contractions. I really had to focus on breathing through them because they were starting to get more intense. I remember telling the nurse that I want the epidural now. She left the room briefly and when she came back Gerald told her that I really wanted the epi. Somehow in that short span of time my contractions got super strong and painful. The nurse decided to check me and said I was now at 6 cm. As she was checking me, she noticed I was breathing really hard and she asked, “Are you okay?” I was like, “I’m just feeling pain.” (I’m in labor…what do you expect?) Then she told me I was contracting.

After that she suggested I lie on my side. I was in intense pain, feeling sick/nauseous, and I was gripping the bed rail so tightly. I started to feel pressure and I could feel my body starting to push. I tried not to because we weren’t ready for this! I told the nurse I felt a lot of pressure and I think she ran to get the doctor. At this point I knew I wasn’t getting the epidural and I was going to have to do this without the pain meds–not in my birth plan, but at that point I couldn’t focus on anything except enduring the pain. I must’ve seemed like I was hyperventilating because they put an oxygen mask on me. Gerald said at this point he started feeling like he might pass out because he was seeing me in so much pain. All these nurses were rushing around the room, they checked me and they’re like, “We see the head!” So they started setting the bed up for delivery really quickly. Meanwhile I’m trying to fight the urge to push but I can’t help it so I cried out, “I feel like I have to push!”

The doctor walked into the room and she got ready really quickly and told me, “You can push if you need to!” I wasn’t feeling the need as intensely at that moment but suddenly she’s telling me we need to get this baby out so you need to push now!  The nurses were encouraging me (Gerald was trying to figure out what he could do at this point since they didn’t want him in the way but he wanted to encourage me too) and with two pushes, Zephaniah was born. The nurses and doctor all said he was a one push baby, but technically I feel like it was two. I felt immense relief pushing, actually. I don’t even remember feeling a lot of pain at that point. They did end up giving me an episiotomy too, which wouldn’t have been my choice, but the doctor said it was necessary to prevent worse tearing.

They placed Zeph on my chest and I felt so relieved and couldn’t believe I’d just had a IMG_1895natural unmedicated labor (since that’s not what I was planning on doing). The worst part was getting stitched up afterwards. It felt like it took forever and was so uncomfortable (though not as bad as labor). The doctor and nurses were amazed at how fast the labor went. They said the doctor walked into the room at 4:19 am and Zeph was born at 4:23 am. Crazy to think my labor was less than 4.5 hours from start to finish and they didn’t even use the Pitocin! 🙂

I told Zeph later that he made me realize I’m a lot stronger than I thought.I didn’t think I could handle an unmedicated childbirth, but I did. The nurse even asked me if I did it again if I would’ve asked for the drugs earlier. I’m not sure because I don’t regret not even having to get the epi. It helped that it was over so quickly. If I had to endure those horrible contractions for hours, I would’ve definitely gotten the epidural.

We asked for an early discharge from the hospital so we went home late Monday afternoon. Recovery-wise I feel a lot better after this birth than I did with my first. I was never in a lot of pain and the nurses seemed surprised that I didn’t want more pain medication. This is probably a blessing since I have a 2.5 year old at home that also wants my attention. Now we’re adjusting to life with a newborn again plus a toddler (who unfortunately is getting a little sick now…not good for baby). We don’t have a lot of expectations right now so we’re just trying to go with the flow and nap when we can. Jaylen had a rough night our first night home after being woken up by Zeph (then also crying when he was crying), but I think he’s starting to adjust. It’s cute when he tries to help or wants to take care of the baby, but right now we’re trying to find that balance of him “helping” (and not hurting the baby) but also letting him know that he needs to stay a away a little bit because he’s sick.

We would appreciate any prayers for this transition time. I’m already imagining how hard it will be when Gerald starts working and I’m on my own with two kids. But we’ll take it one day at a time.

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One Word for 2014

Instead of New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve chosen a word to focus on for 2014. My word for the year is intentional. Specifically, there are a few areas I want to be intentional in:

Marriage: I need to be more intentional in giving Gerald attention as my husband and in focusing on building our relationship, especially now that we have a son who demands much of our attention (mostly mine right now). I need to be intentional in the ways I talk to Gerald and to allow space for some spontaneity in our relationship.

Motherhood: I want to be intentional in spending time with Jaylen and in investing in his life. This is especially important when I go back to to work in March. I want to be present for my son when I’m not working.

Spiritual: I want to be intentional in spending time with God. It’s challenging to do right now with a newborn, but the times that I do get to do a devotion, I want to be very intentional on making that time count.

Family: I’d like to be more intentional about connecting with my family, and specifically my siblings. We’ll have to FaceTime Jaylen’s Uncle Nathan more often so he can see how he’s growing!

Time/Activities: If I want to be intentional about the things listed above, I may need to say no to certain activities or serving opportunities in order to invest my time in the relationships and things that I think matter most.

2013 was quite the eventful year for us. We faced marital challenges, buying a house, getting a dog, having a baby, etc. It was definitely one of the more challenging years of my life. So I’m glad to close the door on 2013 and I’m looking forward to what 2014 will bring.

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Pressing On

This month I’ve been reading Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room, an advent devotional by Nancy Guthrie (and it’s published by Tyndale). Today’s devo was very fitting since it was all about pressing on (also my blog title). I thought I’d share some key points with you here:

“As the year comes to a close and we prepare to begin a new year, we know that our family will get busy doing lots of things–many good things. The new beginning that comes with a new year allows us to step back and consider if all the things that we are busy with help us move forward toward what is most important. We want to ask, are the things we’re doing helping us or hindering us from making progress in the one thing that is most important–the one thing that will matter for eternity?

Paul was determined to make sure everything he was doing helped him in accomplishing the one thing that was most important. “I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me,” he said. “I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:12-14) As Paul looked toward the future, he was determined to “press on.” He wanted to continue to make progress in the life of faith–to love and trust God more tomorrow than he did yesterday. He wanted to live his life now in light of eternity. He didn’t want to become distracted by anything that would steal his attention from what will matter for eternity.

What would it look like to “press on” toward knowing and enjoying Christ as you and your family enter another year?…Today is a good day to look back, look forward, and look inward. We want to see ourselves and our lives as Christ sees us and be willing to face hard truths about ourselves. But more important than looking inward is looking upward to Christ. Looking to Christ gives us a goal to pursue, a person to enjoy, a passion to feed. Looking to Christ orients the direction of the coming year–and of our entire lives.

2010 was full of exciting opportunities and I grew and learned a lot throughout this year. You can even read about some of those experiences in previous blog posts.

As I look toward 2011, there are many things to look forward to like getting married, our spring youth retreat, the Soldier Field 10-Mile race, experiencing life as a newly wed, working with some great authors to promote their books, and so much more that I don’t know will happen yet. I also wanted to do a sprint distance triathlon next year, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to since my wedding will be in July. But you never know!

All the life changes are a little scary, but exciting at the same time. But even with all the planning that will be going on for me especially in the first half of this year and all the new adjustments, I want to make sure I don’t get lost in the details and forget to press on toward what is most important–becoming more like Christ.

What are your goals for 2011?

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Traditions

Even though I’ve been out of college for a few years, I always find myself thinking of Taylor University‘s famous Christmas traditions. Even these past few weeks, I’ve been telling different people about them. So it was a pleasant surprise to see a flurry of media hits about one of those traditions: Taylor’s annual Silent Night basketball game that takes place each December on the Friday before finals.

I’ll let this video from this year’s game show you what it’s all about:

On the last day of class during the fall semester, everyone would dress up in their pajamas and head over to Odle Arena for the Silent Night game. It was always PACKED. Everyone sits and is completely silent until Taylor scores 10 points. Then we all go crazy for the rest of the game! There were certain floors from the guys’ dorms that stood on the ends of the court–one floor, Broho, always dressed up as a nativity scene.

My roomie, Rachael, & me at the Christmas Fandango with Santa.

Then after the game we went to the dining commons for the Holipalooza (formerly Fandango), which was basically like a campus Christmas party. We decorated cookies, built gingerbread houses, and did other fun things. Then the university president always read Twas the Night Before Finals.

Those Silent Night games were the only basketball games I ever went to at Taylor, and I never missed them. Even when it was on my birthday one year! I feel so much Taylor pride to see this event getting press on ESPN (which says “prepare to love Taylor University”), SB Nation, Yahoo! Sports, and College Hoops Journal (so far). That’s awesome PR for the school, by the way. 🙂 It was just awesome to have our whole community come together during what is usually the most busy and stressful time for college students. The Taylor community is one of the biggest reasons why I chose the school.

If you don’t watch the entire video, I do think you should skip to the 2:30 mark to see all the students singing Silent Night while the game is coming to a close. The singing’s not all that great, but there’s just something so special about that moment.

What are some of your favorite Christmas memories or traditions? Did your college have any cool traditions?

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Birthday Bonanza Winners

Thank you to all of you for your birthday wishes yesterday. I loved hearing about all the special gifts you’ve given and been given. God’s faithfulness and goodness was evident through your responses. After all, He is the greatest gift giver of them all. 🙂

So, here are the winners of the Birthday Bonanza giveaway! I chose randomly through Random.org.

The Devil in Pew Number Seven goes to Marina!

Asking for Trouble goes to Glenda Alexander Chilton!

Run to Overcome (a signed copy) goes to Rachel Steffen!

In the Beginning goes to Athena!

Congratulations to all of you! I’ll be emailing you to get your mailing address. I’m hoping to update this post with some gingercube and other birthday photos later tonight.

If you still want a chance to win a What’s in the Bible? DVD, you can head over to the Tyndale blog and enter our 12 Questions of Christmas giveaway!

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Birthday Bonanza

Today I’m working from a gingerbread house–or as my coworker, Jesse, calls it, the “gingercube.” My wonderful colleagues on the PR Team here at Tyndale House are always so creative with birthday decorations. My first birthday here, I was the “PR angel,” with clouds and wings in my cubicle. Last year I had a winter wonderland with lots of snowflakes and “snow” all over my desk (which is now still currently sitting under my desk a year later). Maybe I’ll take some better pictures of the gingercube later and post them up for you. I feel like keeping it up till Christmas as Christmas decor, but it says “Happy Birthday” on it.

So today I celebrate 26 years of life. You should also go wish my “twin,” Wenny, a happy birthday too. We were both born on the same day in the same year only 15 minutes apart (but at different hospitals).

As I get older, life seems to go by so much faster. It’s a strange phenomenon, but it’s a good reminder to cherish each day we’re given and to make the most of it. I look back on the past 10 years of my life, and a lot has changed so much within that decade. I know that in these next 10 years–or even the next 5 years or one year–a lot more can change in my life too. This is such a transitional period that never seems to slow down. So many new experiences and changes happen during the young adult stage of life, but I love it. I’m so blessed to have a wonderful family, pug, friends, church, and Savior.

According to Dr. Gary Chapman, one of my primary love languages is receiving gifts.  Other friends have also told me this, so it’s not something I’m making up just to get gifts from people. It’s not just getting any kind of gift either. It’s about those gifts that have meaning. So whether it’s picking up a cup of coffee for me unexpectedly or finding a gift that shows you really know me and understand who I am, that’s one way I feel most loved. Since I feel loved by receiving gifts, I also love giving gifts to others. It brings me so much joy to see their reactions to special gifts I’ve picked out for them. So, I’m going to give some gifts to you today. 🙂

I work at Tyndale, so obviously these gifts are going to be books (and a DVD). Here are a few products I’ve enjoyed and want to share with you:

The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo ~ Although I’ve never gone through the terror Becky experienced as a child, her story is powerful and the message of forgiveness is clear. I don’t know how I would’ve handled being in a similar situation of forgiving the man who terrorized your family for years, but I met Becky over the summer and she is a beautiful example of God’s grace. After all she went through, this woman has such a gentle spirit and a passion for the Lord and bringing people to know Him. You will be challenged to forgive those that are hardest to forgive by reading this memoir.

Asking for Trouble by Sandra Byrd ~ This is book #1 in the London Confidential series. I read this book when it came out back in April, but I finally got to read the last three books in the series in October (when the last two books released). Although they’re geared toward tween and teen girls, I really enjoyed them too! Savvy, the main character, is realistic and Sandra interweaves faith in nicely with the story. Plus the books take place in London and I love London!

Run to Overcome by Meb Keflezighi ~ I haven’t quite finished reading this book yet, but Meb has a fascinating story. It was so exciting to watch him start out in the New York City Marathon this November too to watch him try to defend his title as the 2009 NYC Marathon champion. Although he didn’t win, Meb is very humble and you can tell even in his interviews. The marathon’s a tough distance and I admire anyone who can run any race, let alone a marathon, in sub-6-minute miles! I have an extra signed copy of Run to Overcome to give away–a perfect gift for the runner in your family.

In the Beginning: What’s in the Bible? #1 by Phil Vischer ~ This is the first DVD in VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer’s new series, What’s in the Bible?. I love the concept of this series. It is meant to go through the entire Bible, showing kids (and adults) how all the parts of the Bible fit together into one great story about God’s redemption plan. That’s something I didn’t fully understand until last year, so it’s even better that kids start learning about this now. Even I learn new things about the Bible from these DVDs! Plus they’re entertaining and Phil Vischer gets the messages stuck in your head with his trademark catchy songs.

To win one of these four products, leave a comment telling me the best gift you have given or received and why. Tomorrow, I’ll choose the winners using Random.org. You can get extra entries by tweeting about this giveaway (just mention me–@christywong) or posting about it on Facebook and leaving me another comment linking to your tweet or status update. The Birthday Bonanza contest ends at 12:00 PM CT on Dec. 9! 🙂

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Thanks for What You Didn’t Give Me

Yesterday we had a very meaningful service in place of our regular worship service at church. It was a time of worship and sharing from the congregation, giving and directing all praise and thanks to God. I loved how God-centered all the thanksgiving was–the way it should be. The mics were pointed away from the congregation, looking at the cross. Here’s some of what I shared yesterday (the expanded version), inspired by this Boundless post I read last week from Lisa Anderson.

God, I thank you for the things you have not given me.

Thank you for not allowing me to work at the US Center for World Mission in Pasadena, CA after graduation at my parents’ request. They offered me a job, but if I had moved there, I wouldn’t have met and started dating Gerald and I wouldn’t have worked at the Chicago Tribune, getting me into the public relations industry and giving me future job opportunities. I’m thankful that I did not get the internship at Edelman (a big PR firm), but instead got a job at Tyndale House Publishers, allowing me to work with wonderful people and to help spread the Gospel around the world through the written word.

Heidi and me in what would've been our new kitchen.

Thank you for not allowing the housing situation with Heidi and me to work out earlier this year. We were going to sign a lease on an apartment together for a year, but through a series of events, God led us to give up the apartment. Instead, God took Heidi elsewhere, and I ended up getting a different apartment for myself in a better location than the one we were originally going to take. What seemed negative at first ended up being a blessing.

Thank you for making me wait on things that I wanted even when I didn’t want to wait. I was reading some old prayer journal entries over the weekend. I read one from this time of year six years ago. I was a sophomore in college and apparently at that time I was very obsessed about a guy I liked then. Most of my entries at that time weren’t really directed at God, but were me analyzing this guy’s behavior toward me. He seemed like he was interested, but then it didn’t really work out. I know it was a confusing time for me emotionally and I wrote about wondering if I’d ever date anyone or if I’d ever get married someday. It’s kind of funny when I look back on it now and see how much God needed to mature me and grow me in order to prepare me for a relationship. Even in my first and only relationship with Gerald, he has been showing me how selfish I can be and areas where I’ve needed to change to become more Christ-like. I’ve seen how unlovable I can be at times. Yet God still loves me–and he brought me a man that loves me despite all that too. I’ve always desired different things in relationships–first to have a guy who was interested, then to start dating, then to get engaged and married. I’m still waiting on those last two, but I know they’re not too far off. God didn’t give me those things when I wanted them. He made me wait because He knew I wasn’t quite ready and that’s not what He wanted for me just yet.

I can also thank God for not allowing me to win or place highly in my horse shows

Me on John after our 2nd place ride at a Taylor horse show

in college. It was humbling to say the least. I came in to school thinking I’d be a great addition to the equestrian team because I’d been riding for a while. The competition turned out to be tougher than I’d thought. God humbled me by placing me in a division where I couldn’t compete over fences for the first two years of college. But it also allowed me to improve my riding on the flat and to be more humble about my experience and abilities.

These are just a few of the things I’m grateful God did not give me. At the time, I wasn’t too happy about these things, but I see how God used those times of waiting, of humility, of what I thought were “missed opportunities,” to mold me and shape me. I’ve been blessed with much that God has given me, yes, but I’m also blessed by the things He has chosen to withhold from me when He clearly had something better in mind.

What are some things God did not give you? Have you given Him thanks for those circumstances too?

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A Week of Thankfulness

A couple weeks ago, our pastor challenged us to a week of thankfulness. One week without complaining, worrying, and all that other stuff that makes us forget about the things God has already done in our lives. With our annual youth group Thanksgiving potluck coming up this Friday, I’m going to take this week as my week of thankfulness.

It will be challenging. Whenever something goes wrong (like I feel like I’m getting sick, I’m having a pain in my knee, I’m suffering from some kind of tiny physical ailment, a situation that’s bothering me) I constantly talk (or maybe “complain” would be a better word) about it. Some people would think I don’t really complain about much, but that’s because I mostly do it to the people who are closest to me…and lately that would just mean Gerald, my boyfriend. I know it drives him crazy and I know my motives for sharing those things over and over again aren’t always just so we can pray about it. It’s more for myself. I want to elicit sympathy. I want to feel justified in thinking it is a big deal. I want to know I’m not alone in thinking this way.

So this week, I will try to make a more concerted effort to take my focus off myself and my needs/worries/wants, and I’ll turn my attention toward God, reminding myself of the ways He has already worked and how He is always faithful in my life. I’m not going to post about these things everyday this week, but maybe I’ll post once or twice about some specific things I am thankful for. We should be thankful in everything, but we’re not. Hopefully this challenge can begin building a good habit that will last a lifetime.

Will you take up this challenge to a week of thankfulness?

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Bed Bugs?!?

I got back from my first year as a counselor at Teen Camp about a week ago. Another post to come on that soon. But first, I wanted to write about the little blood-sucking vampires that I seem to have been plagued by for the past few days: BED BUGS! I may or may not have gotten them at Teen Camp. I’m not completely sure, but I’m pretty sure I got more bites since I’ve been home.

It’s kind of ironic because when I was a camper at Teen Camp, my friend Priscilla and I made it a tradition to write sunshine mail (daily notes of encouragement) to all the guys at camp. This year I discovered that’s been our legacy…all the other counselors who went to camp remembered me as “Pristy Chong.” (that’s Priscilla and my names combined).

Anyway, I know at least one year we used to write, “Good night, sleep tight, and don’t let the flesh-eating bed babies bite.” Now we all know “bed babies” is supposed to be like bed bugs, but I never really realized what a problem bed bugs can be until this past week.

You can see the linear pattern of 3 on my bites on my leg.

Maybe I noticed this on Sunday (day after I got home from camp), but I definitely noticed on Monday that I had more red spots on my body. I dismissed them as mosquito bites. Then when I was talking to a coworker at work on Monday, I felt some more bumps on my arm. I also thought I may have been breaking out since they kind of look like pimples too. But then I wondered why I’d be breaking out so much and everywhere. Somehow I started looking up “red, itchy spots on skin” (thank you, Google) and as I read more, I learned that most likely, these were bed bug bites. Bed bug bites look a lot like mosquito bites (and the bites weren’t too itchy for me at first), but bed bugs like to bite in linear patterns, which they call “breakfast,” “lunch,” and “dinner.” Well guess what the meal is? YOU!

Let’s just say, I’ve learned a lot more about bed bugs than I ever wanted to know. It’s kind of gross to think about them crawling all over you at night and biting you. I searched for all the signs of bed bugs in my apartment–looking for the spots on my sheets, checking and vacuuming the mattress and box spring, looking in all the possible cracks they could hide…I found nothing. I washed all my clothes and sheets and blanket in HOT water. I even had Orkin come in and check for me. They also didn’t find any obvious signs of bed bugs, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. It would cost me about $450 (and that’s a special deal) to chemically spray my apartment for the bed bugs. That’s a lot of money, and I don’t really want to spend that if I can help it.

This used to be a line of dots on my stomach, but they all merged together.

So a couple nights ago, my mom bought me a mattress cover and we vacuumed like crazy all over my entire apartment (it’s pretty clean), vacuumed my mattress, put my sheets, blanket, and stuffed animals on high heat in the dryer, and sealed up the box spring with the mattress cover. Then that night I marked all my bites with a washable marker so I’d remember if they were there or not in the morning, wrapped myself up in my blanket like a cocoon and then went to sleep. I woke up these past two mornings and didn’t find any new bites. I’m hoping that maybe there weren’t really any bugs and that I’m safe now.

Needless to say, this causes some paranoia. I come home & I immediately check my bed, mattress, blankets, everything for any signs of bed bugs. If one shows up, I’ll know (hopefully). So I’m praying that I didn’t bring any bed bugs home with me, and if I did, that they just died (which wouldn’t normally happen). We’ll see what happens when I go to sleep tonight. All I know is from now on, I’m washing my sheets every week and vacuuming often and ALWAYS checking for bed bugs no matter where I sleep. Doesn’t matter if it’s a really nice hotel. They can be anywhere!

Have you ever had a bed bug problem? How did you deal with it?

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Review: Picking Dandelions

Author Sarah Cunningham asked me to review her new book, Picking Dandelions (Zondervan, Feb. 2010), as part of her blog tour. I’ll admit that I have to give Sarah my deepest apology because I thought I had given myself enough time to read her book, but somehow life got in the way and I’ve only just begun her memoir. Today is my tour date and I’m only on part two of the book.

So Sarah, I apologize for not being able to read the entire book by the day I’m supposed to review it. I hate to be one of “those bloggers” because I know that as the manager for the Tyndale Blog Network, I want bloggers to post their reviews for scheduled blog tours on time. How horrible that I can’t even manage my own schedule to do that.

From what I’ve read so far though, I’m enjoying Sarah’s writing. This is a memoir of her spiritual journey and I can relate. She sets the beginning of her story in small town Michigan, which reminds me much of the small town of Upland, Indiana where I went to college. We had our single blinking traffic light too and the sole restaurant in the town, Ivanhoe’s, which I happen to like. :)Small towns have their charm.

From the back cover copy:

Sarah Cunningham, the daughter of a pastor, is exceedingly familiar with coming to Jesus and being born again. But it took her a while to realize that a real Christian grows from the point of rebirth–that a God-following person is a changing person.

Cunningham admits that her conversion was sandwiched, almost unnoticed, between ordinary childhood moments. In recounting some of these moments, Cunningham candidly explores how she got stuck in her laissez-faire Christianity and shares what she learned along the way. Whether describing life as a child living next to a cemetery, or her grandmother’s life as a WWII bride from England, the author’s images of growth and renewal, planting and reaping, greenery and weeds remind us that life, even in God’s grace, involves challenges and change.

My Thoughts:
Although I haven’t really gotten very far in the book, I like how Sarah share about her child-like faith–believing so easily in God, Jesus, miracles, and the power of prayer. I can relate to that in a way because I grew up in a Christian family and always knew about God. It wasn’t until later that I realized I needed to allow God to transform me too. It’s not enough to just know about Him.

I also liked Sarah’s subtle, yet satirical ways of describing things Christians get hung up on–like arguing over what color the shingles should be as part of the new church expansion project. When you see this through a child’s eyes, it seems so innocent, and yet you feel the conviction when you realize that what the child perceives is true. Funny how kids often make adults see things the way they really are. I also really like the dandelion metaphor carried throughout at the beginning of each new section. Before part II, I love this last line:

“The seed cannot grow unless it detaches itself from the original plant and braves unfamiliar soil.”



How true that those of us who grow up believing in our parents’ faith cannot fully grow in our own faith until we separate our faith from that of our parents and go out on our own spiritual journey, learning more about God through the trials and joys of life. When our faith can stand alone (on nothing but Jesus Christ), that is when we know our faith is genuine.

I’m sure I haven’t quite gotten to the “meat” of this narrative yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing more of Sarah’s perspectives and insights as I continue reading.

Sarah also asked for three book recommendations. Given that I work for Tyndale, these all happen to be Tyndale books (that’s mostly what I read), but I hope you’ll check these out!

1) Her Mother’s Hope by Francine Rivers (and watch for Her Daughter’s Dream in September!)
2) Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos
3) Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes

Happy summer reading!

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