Dec 4 2017

Kyliesha Selah

by andrew

The strong, virtuous woman trusts in the refuge of her Rock (Yahushua the King Messiah).

Well, I was too slow, and the telling of our adventurous journey from Colorado back to Canada has been quite completely upstaged by the birth of our daughter Kylie. This post is hard for me to write because so many thoughts are trying to be put down all at once. So, let me work on it methodically.

3 Days ago (December 1, 2017) at 3:42 pm our 4th daughter and 8th child Kylie was born at home near Winkler, MB in the house of dear friends where they raised ten children themselves. She was 8 lbs 10 oz and 21 inches long. The raw essence of every detail of this pregnancy and birth-journey is captured in Kylie’s name – both as a testimony to Yah’s faithfulness throughout the process, and Renee’s diligent strength, as well as Kylie’s identity and destiny.

With each pregnancy we’ve had various levels of confidence about the gender of the baby growing inside Renee. Some we knew ahead of time from the ultrasound. Some we had a very strong notion (like with Joy who was the promised girl arriving later than we thought after Jaiden surprised us by being a boy). And with others we had no idea. Kylie was unique in that, not only did we lack all sense of who she might be, but we also had no consensus on name candidates for boys or girls. We had name ideas, but nothing that felt right – nothing that resonated spiritually with the life YHWH had knit in Renee’s womb.

Other new factors with this pregnancy were the additional concerns of higher risk with Renee’s age (the medical community is a little confused and thinks Renee is getting older for some reason), the fact that she was carrying Kylie in a breech position, and abnormal antibodies present in her repeated blood work which meant baby’s blood was mingling with hers. The breech factor was particularly bothersome because we really wanted to have another home birth and if Renee went into labor with Kylie breech, our midwife could not attend us at home. On top of that, they wouldn’t even deliver at the hospital near our friends. We’d have to relocate to the Winnipeg hospital over an hour away… not a fun idea while in labor.

We also had an initial 5-hour drive to our friends’ house to factor in. They live in the same area as our midwife and had graciously and excitedly agreed with the idea of us spending a few days here around the due date. But planning the timing was going to be a little like jumping out of a plane with only a rough map of the landing zone and hoping the winds were favorable for touching down in the right spot. Should we wait until labor started (great thing we DIDN’T do that in retrospect)? Do we pick a date and be there way too early? All those kinds of questions were in play.

So, about a week before the due date, with the impending necessity of finding a name in the background of our brains, and wanting it to be connected with the core theme of trusting Yah with all the details (including logistics, timing, breech, age, risk factors, travel, antibodies, etc.) I came across Psalm 18:2:

YHWH is my ROCK and my fortress and my deliverer, my God is my ROCK and I take refuge in Him; My shield and the horn of my salvation (yeshua), and my high tower.

I would have likely just breezed past this verse normally, but it perfectly resonated with the experience of our need in this season, which stirred additional curiosity. I wondered – why was ROCK repeated twice, and what was the Hebrew word behind it? I’ve often found the Scriptures to use repetition when something is being emphasized and/or hinting at a deeper meaning. I was surprised to discover that although the translators used the same word “ROCK” twice, there were actually 2 different Hebrew words behind them. One of those was:

Selah – literally or figuratively a ROCK, a fortress, a stronghold

Up until then I had only thought of “selah” in the musical sense found throughout the Psalms which indicates a pause for meditation or pondering. These two variants of the root have a different last letter. The musical pause “selah” is SLH whereas the rock and fortress “selah” is SLA – the final ayin (A) having the thematic meaning of eye or “to see” which makes sense because a ROCK and it’s defense and deliverance is something that is witnessed. Kylie is a witness to her Creator.

Then, a day or two later I was reading Proverbs 31 again as it happened to fall into my reading schedule with a new translation, and I read verse 10 with eyes that were constantly, subconsciously searching for name ideas: “Who can find a virtuous woman?” Hmmm, I thought, I wonder what the Hebrew word for “virtuous” is in this case. I was floored to discover it was one of my favorite Hebrew words of all time:

Khayil – a force whether of human or supernatural means, an army, virtue, valor, STRENGTH, able, activity, valiant, worthy.

In fact, this word was the original basis for a character’s name in a series of books I’ve been slowly writing for nearly 25 years now. And with the Hebrew word for “woman” / “wife” in that verse being “isha” (“eesha”) I immediately knew in my spirit – if we were having a girl, her name was Kyliesha (“Kylie” for short). When I presented the idea to everyone else it was it was unanimous (a rare thing in a family of 9). Everyone loved it. And a sense of peace settled into me that we had finally stumbled upon the first truly accurate name-reflection of who this little unborn person was to be… and with that sense of identity I tried coming up with a couple boy variations on the same theme, but I was almost completely convinced from that point forward that it was going to be a girl.

With the strong potential for a complicated breech birth, Renee diligently learned and applied new stretches and exercises to help adjust her body and turn Kylie. She was trusting Yah, but also doing everything she could to act on that belief.

As for the timing… Renee and I both separately asked Father to give us a birth date so that we could plan our drive down to our friends. She got Dec 2 and I got Dec 5 (with a low degree of self-confidence whether or not I was hearing clearly or just making something up in my own mind). Dec 11 was the full 40-week count from conception, but the due date calculator (also based on the conception date) said the due date was Nov 30. So, we had a few data points to work with and decided that the right course of action would be to drive down on Nov 30 (unless labor started sooner of course). We also debated whether or not to just stay put and have the baby in our own home. But in asking Father about that, we felt with great confidence that He wanted the bigger story to include the time with our friends.

As it turned out, that ended up meaning we got to meet another dear sister in the area who came over for Shabbat for the first time in two years since having known our friends from a previous church, which was really special. But I digress.

The rest unfolded like miraculous clockwork:

  • We drove down in (relatively) warm and sunny weather on Thurs Nov 30th (the official due date). Some contraction activity started during the trip and I made sure to take the bumpiest gravel-road route for the last 10 miles.
  • We settled in with our friends at their house and had a wonderful meal and time of catching up together.
  • After a profound, restful sleep (everyone in the house – even out friends – reported sleeping better than they had for a really long time), Renee’s water broke at 8:30am. It doesn’t get much more precise than that 🙂 Thank you Abba!
  • There wasn’t really any contraction activity at that point, but after Renee finished leaking we headed out for our ultrasound appointment at 10:15am to go confirm Kylie was head down (and maybe see if we could tell for sure that she was a she). At that point the breech status was still in question (but we knew she was going to be head down, and the chiropractor Renee had visited on Tues had said as much too).
  • More bumpy roads, the ultrasound-revealed position was perfect (although we couldn’t catch a glimpse of the gender), and our midwife wanted to run a non-stress test while we were at the hospital just to make sure everything was good; especially since there had been a little meconium in Renee’s water. Vitals were perfect.
  • We spent a couple hours doing errands including picking up some new sweet games for the kids from an amazing hobby store.
  • Renee was having regular contractions at this point and Cara (our midwife) said to let her know when they were consistently 4 minutes apart.
  • We headed back just before 2pm and as we were pulling up to the house the contractions had been settling in to every 4 minutes.
  • We sat down for some lunch and Renee almost finished a bowl of “Kate’s Chicken Noodle Delight” soup while the contractions increased intensity before finally having to retire to upstairs around 2:15pm.
  • I called Cara and she was on her way. Later we learned that en route Cara had called the other midwives to come (because she’s not allowed to attend a home birth by herself). When she told one of the other midwives about the meconium in Renee’s water, the other midwife said that she wouldn’t come here and that “they need to go to the hospital” for the delivery. So, Cara was actually planning to let us know we had to move to the hospital for the rest of the labor and delivery.
  • In the meantime, Renee transitioned from the medium hard part of labor to the hard hard part and the contractions were coming on top of each other and getting longer. She asked me to keep praying because she did not at all feel mentally ready for this. With all our previous experiences, each stage of difficulty had gradually progressed into the next so that getting through the levels helped mentally tackle the next ones. And, at that point, we still thought we had a long way to go in terms of total time.
  • In addition to asking Father to fill Renee with strength and energy, I asked Him to accelerate the process and allow us to go into Shabbat with the baby born and entering into His rest with us.
  • Cara arrived around 2:30pm and after checking Kylie’s heart rate (which was great) and evaluating Renee’s progression, she started setting up.
  • While she was setting up, Renee hit the shaking and moaning phase … the hard hard hard intense hard hard hard stage and Cara decided she had better call the other midwives and tell them to come here anyway – there would not be time to make it to the hospital.
  • About an hour later I was catching Kyliesha Selah and Renee’s mom arrived very shortly after that.
  • We watched the epic Sabbath-starting sunset from our upstairs room window and held a miracle in our arms.

We couldn’t have planned it better ourselves. YHWH had all the details orchestrated and in motion, and Kylie gave Zach a run for his money on his record for fastest birth. It might have been a tie. Or maybe Kylie edged him out for the title. In any case, this home has been a refuge of peace for us. It has been a blessing to share the experience with our friends and to enjoy their fellowship.

Renee has been healing well and resting. The biggest difficulty so far (aside from the math related to 1 baby and 7 siblings who all want to hold her at the same time) has been Kylie’s extremely tight lip-tie. It has made nursing her extremely painful for Renee. One option would be to have it cut (which is apparently something they do frequently around here). But 1 hospital visit was enough, and more importantly we felt no peace about force-altering the way YHWH made her. If Kylie wasn’t able to nurse at all, or not getting enough, we’d be seriously considering that option. But in our case, Father has provided an electric breastpump that we can borrow and a soft shield that helps dramatically reduce the pain for Renee. We’re confident Kylie’s lip-tie is going to naturally grow and stretch and become a non-issue.

It was once again such an incalculable blessing to have the whole family in one place – the same place that the birth was happening. Joy and Ellie got to observe the whole thing and meet their baby sister first hand, seconds after she drew her first breath. Joy was a hurricane of delight and excitement – I don’t know how the stairs survived – as she stormed down them shouting “It’s a girl! It’s a girl! It’s a girl!” When Joy introduced herself to her new sister, Kylie looked at her with big bright eyes and cooed intently and wisely back at her. She hardly seems like a newborn. We’re already noticing she’s an amazing and peaceful communicator. She recognizes all our voices and listens intently. Even her crying is filled with meaning; not just “i want something” or “i don’t like something” but it carries tones and inflection and deeper senses of communication in a way that none of our other 7 had (at least that we remember).

I had mentally remembered but emotionally forgotten how awe-inspiring and life-giving it is to hold and snuggle and watch over such a little beautiful one. Right now, she is sleeping peacefully amidst a constant background of the noise and activity of the big brothers who will defend and protect her and the big sisters who will tend and spoil her. Many many thanks and blessings to the Elias family for their generous hospitality and joyful help and participation in this part of our journey. YHWH is GOOD. Blessed be His Name for ever and ever.

Oct 1 2010

Sky Aysh Yachalel

by andrew

Sky – Old Norse: Cloud
Aysh – Hebrew: Fire
Yachalel – Hebrew: to wait on, hope, trust in Elohim / YHWH

He spread a cloud for a covering, And fire to give light in the night.
– Ps 105:39

When יהוה has washed away the filth of the daughters of Tsiyon, and rinsed away the blood of Yerushalayim from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning, then יהוה shall create above every dwelling place of Mount Tsiyon, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night, for over all the esteem shall be a covering, and a booth [sukkah] for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain.
– Is 4:4-6

See, the eye of יהוה is on those fearing Him, On those waiting [hoping, trusting] for His kindness…
– Ps 33:18

As for me, I look to יהוה, I wait [hope, trust] for the Elohim of my deliverance, my Elohim does hear me.
– Mic 7:7

Born on Sep 28, 2010 during Sukkot (the Feast of Booths / Tabernacles) and through extraordinary circumstances, our precious little Punkin #6 has given us a challenge in the naming. There were so many weighty things that his name needed to carry, but it also needed to have the light-hearted nature of the excitement, adventure, and blessing that he is.

Baby Sky.

Sky Aysh Yachalel.

We wanted his name to both carry the character of his birth experience as well as the identity of what YHWH is showing us through the timing. There was also a sense of completeness and new beginnings as he is the 8th member of the family. The biggest themes that emerged for us through all of this were:

  • Trusting YHWH: The adventure of Sky’s birth was filled with unexpected plot twists, difficult decisions, and Father’s unfailing provision in even the smallest details. It tested and stretched us in many ways, but especially in trusting Him.
  • Waiting on YHWH: It is counterintuitive for the 6th pregnancy, but Renee’s labor was longer (by far) than any of the others. 38 hours. There were moments when we thought things might not be normal with this delivery and Father answered our prayers with wise counsel from others and options that we hadn’t thought of.
  • Sukkot: There are so many themes in this one word alone that resulted in many possible name sources – covering, refuge, protection, tabernacle, dwelling, canopy, chupah (wedding canopy), etc. I had been thinking in fairly concrete terms, trying to make an overt connection between the Festival birth and naming, but nothing sounded right. Then I remembered how YHWH Himself became a Sukkah for His Children in the wilderness and promised to do so again – as a Cloud and Fire.

Humorous Prelude

This seemed insignificant at the time, but actually became a factor in Sky’s name. A few weeks ago we were having family cuddles in our bed and talking about possible names with the kids (keep in mind that we didn’t know Punkin #6 was a boy until he was born). They were all pitching in their suggestions and Jaiden said with serious conviction, “We should call him ‘Hot Fire Super.'” Before I realized how serious he was I started laughing uncontrollably until Jaiden began to cry. Imagine trying to explain to your 3 year old that you weren’t laughing at his idea, just at how he expressed it. That was a tough one. He was 100% convinced that ‘Hot Fire Super’ would be a perfectly valid name for his little brother. I guess it really isn’t all that strange after all, and in the end, ‘Fire’ became part of his name.

The Story

On Monday, Sep 19th, we had our first visit with the midwife who delivered our neice a few months ago. Back in May she told Renee’s sister that she’d love to help us if we were going to be in Winnipeg around Renee’s due date. We were blown away by her offer. Even though it was informal, and we didn’t even get to talk to her until we were already here, after praying about it in Pennsylvania we felt total peace about working our way to Winnipeg. We were also prepared to have this baby ourselves somewhere on the road if that was what would unfold.

On Friday, Sep 24th, some out-of-town friends and family joined us here at the campground as Sukkot started.

On Saturday, Sep 25th, we had a whole additional crowd of friends / spiritual family out here for Shabbat and fellowship. They stayed late and went back to their homes in the city that night.

On Sunday, Sep 26th, around 11pm labor started. We were really excited because we figured there was a really good chance of having this baby before our out-of-town family / friends had to leave for home late the next day. The plan was to do the whole thing here in our trailer at the campground with the help of our midwife. We called her around 2am just to let her know that early labor had started.

However, by the afternoon on Monday, Sep 27th, labor was still fairly slow and it became obvious that nothing was going to happen before they all had to leave. By 10pm things had picked up a bit and the testing began. We got in touch with our midwife and she had landed in an impossible situation. She was in the middle of another delivery and couldn’t make it out. She thought she could make other arrangements for us, but we’d have to go into the city. The alternative would be to stay here with the expectation that we would be having this baby on our own without the assistance of a midwife, and that initially felt scary in some ways and relieving in other ways. After praying about it with Renee and her mom we were determined to do this YHWH’s way even if it meant trusting Him completely in new areas and depths.

Then we had an idea. Kind of a long shot, and were were hesitant to pursue it, but felt like we should try. We met a sweet woman who came out with our friends on Saturday. Sitting around the campfire that night she mentioned that she had been a midwife before. She hadn’t practiced in a while, but we thought maybe she’d be willing to come over just to offer advice and experience in an informal capacity. I called my dear brother up here through whom we met her and asked what he thought. He said he’d call her and check. A few minutes later he called back and said she was super excited that we’d ask and she was gathering her things and would be on her way. We were so blessed by her reaction and willingness to come over and help.

We fully expected to have the baby some time that night, but Monday night turned into Tuesday morning. We had a wonderful time together that night – Renee, her mom, this dear new midwife friend who we had just met a couple nights before, and myself – but labor was not progressing as fast as we thought it should and by 5am we were all exhausted. We decided to rest and regain some strength, and one by one we started to snooze. Joy woke up around 6am and was curious to know what was going on. So I held her for a while and fell asleep with her in my arms. Our friend didn’t want to leave, but she had to get her 2 children off to school and we encouraged her to go, expecting to be in touch and return when things picked up again.

After a couple hours of sleep the contractions intensified and Renee started bleeding with each one. It wasn’t a lot, but it hadn’t been like that with any of our other birth experiences either. Our original midwife called to check in after she had a couple hours of sleep herself and we gave her the update. She was a little concerned (as were we) about the bleeding.

One of the complications in the whole arrangement that hadn’t been obvious at the beginning was that we were too far out of the city for insurance to cover our midwife. She couldn’t come out at all, like we were originally planning. But she graciously offered for us to come over to her home and she would check Renee and, if need be, we could have the baby there. She lived just inside the city and not too far from us, which was a total provision and much better than where we’d have had to go the night before.

We really did not want to leave our kids – the whole point was to do this as a family and include them, and that was hard – but the most important thing was to use the resources Father was making available to us to insure everything was ok. Our midwife was even able to arrange an immediate ultrasound for us. The primary concern was that maybe the position of the placenta and/or cord was obstructing normal labor progression and causing the bleeding. We were ready to pay out of our own pocket for the ultrasound, but the doctor didn’t charge us. Isn’t YHWH amazing!

And of course during this whole time so many people were praying for us as well.

The ultrasound showed that everything was perfect. It was only a matter of time after all (with maybe a little help from assisted water breaking). I figured the next difficult decision would be between going back to the trailer without our midwife or leaving the kids out and having the baby at her house (though I knew Renee’s mom was taking great care of them). But even that was solved nicely when our midwife offered and suggested that I go pick them up and bring them back.

We fully expected to have our midwife break Renee’s water to speed things up when I got back with the kids, but by the time I returned in about an hour, she was having constant contractions and hard labor. 45 minutes later her water broke on its own an I was catching my new son. I finally got to catch one!

Zach was so excited. He didn’t leave Renee’s side for a long time once she and Sky were settled in the bed. The different reactions were interesting. Bennah and Reayah have seen this all before and they were content to check things out and move on to other things, but the younger ones were fascinated.

YHWH provided – even down to the car seat. We had shopped around and even had one lined up through a site like craigslist, but they never got back to us about when/where to pick it up. Father had one waiting for us though. Our midwife had been given a few car seats recently around the time of her own granddaughter’s birth and was happy to get one of them out of her basement.

Overall, throughout the entire process, there were so many moments characterized by having to trust and wait on YHWH – Yachalel. And during it all – despite the uncertainties – we felt covered, protected, encompassed by His Presence as a refuge, canopy, chupah, sukkah – the cloud and fire – Sky Aysh.

He is the most precious little thing.  He will be a constant reminder to us – and hopefully others too – especially as we continue into a future that is dark and  uncertain, that YHWH is our refuge and our strength; our cloud by day and fire by night as we learn to trust Him completely and obey His leading.

Baby Sky.

Jul 1 2009

Day 81: An 8-year Circle

by andrew

How many of you can say that you had the chance later on in life to meet the doctor who delivered you when you were born? Maybe there are more of you than I’d guess, but I certainly can’t. Well, today in a cool turn of events it worked out for Bennah (who just turned 8 a week ago) to meet the doctor that delivered him.

We got a good start departing Winnipeg this morning and got into Minot, ND with plenty of time to swing by the hospital where Bennah was born. We were just going to show the kids the building, but on a whim, I thought – what if Dr. A. F. is still working there? So, I went inside, picked up the phone labeled “Information” and asked the nice lady at the other end. Sure enough! And she forwarded me to OB to check on his availability. So, after 8 years and 4 more children, we got a chance to say hi to the kind gentlemen who helped us with our firstborn. Crazy. And of course, he remembered us too… well, our situation was rather unique afterall – Renee on bed rest for 5 months of the pregnancy, and our request for an 8th-day circumcision, and several other unique things about our story, but I’ll leave it at that.

Then, we went past our old apartment (the second floor of an old house and probably the most favorite place we ever lived… tied with the last house in Alexandria, VA maybe… of course, current “home” notwithstanding, which doesn’t count because it’s way too awesome to even be compared)… anyway, it’s still there and it looks exactly like it did the day we left. Same colors – everything. After 8 years.

Of course, the Wal-Mart in town has moved and been upgraded to a Super Center; picked up some necessary road supplies… but the Sammy’s is still here and pretty much all our original favorite places are intact. Both thrift stores. The coffee shop / used book store. The photolab Renee worked at for a while. Etc. Talk about memory lane. It was so much fun to share this all with our kids, even though they probably just wanted to get out and run around and squirt each other with the new water guns from Wal-Mart…

And as for Bennah – I’m sure he just wanted to try out his new bike seat. He just learned how to ride a bike. On literally his second try. And some friends blessed us with an awesome bike for him (they had extras) but it needed a new seat. Up until today he’s been riding it around the campground with a shoe over the post to act as a seat. After he took a few spins around the Roughrider Campground where we’re parked now in Minot, he said he actually likes the shoe better. But he never actually sat on it I don’t think. His bony bum isn’t very comfortable on the new seat that he can actually sit on… but he’ll get used to it.

Long day of driving tomorrow and I should have been in bed a while ago. But this had to get captured. It was another great day.