Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Creative....

So, it's dress up night for youth group
Here is Mary Poppins and the Holy Bible. I love the creativity of these kids. This was fun. :)





I'll see you later....

Today, one of the best friends I have ever had on this earth, along with her husband, her eight children and her dog, packed up and drove away, headed for Maine.
After almost 28 years of faithful law enforcement service, her husband retired. They sold their house here in Ojai, California after only 5 days on the market. They purchased a larger home on 10 acres in Maine for much less. :)
So, while I'm very sad to be saying "I'll see you later" to my friend, I'm so excited for them and the adventure that is beginning.  They get to have two parents home!!!! This is truly a joy and I'm so excited to see what adventures God has waiting for them ahead.
Today is hard though. In the time we have been friends, we have welcomed seven children between the two of us. (I'm counting Judah since he was just born when we met.) Jennifer Pfleging, I am so honored to call you my friend and I will miss you.  Until I see you again.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Birthday Boy



Dear Noah Benjamin,
     HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! You are 9 years old today!!! The time has gone by so quickly.  We moved back to Ojai from living in the mountains of San Bernardino just in time to wait for your arrival. Hahaha! I started having contractions and we thought you were coming soon!  Both Emma and Caleb had come two and a half weeks early, so it seemed pretty reasonable to expect that you really were coming.  But 26 days later, with contractions on and off, (and one week past your expected due date), the doctor told me there was no choice but to induce labor.
     They even gave me a chance in the hospital by breaking my water first. The contractions came, sure and steady...until your heart rate started dropping and they told me to lay on my left side. All contractions stopped.  You are the only baby that I have had pitocin with during labor, but 2 hours later you were out and in my arms. (Side note: they think your dates may have been wrong and you were born at 39 weeks gestation.)

   You have always been on your own timetable. You have a different rhythm and pace sometimes.  You didn't walk until about 16 months, and at two they wanted you to begin speech therapy because you weren't talking much. But we had a feeling you were just on your own schedule.  And you were!  You are a very bright boy, excellent in your work.  
(This is when you built "Toothless" from How to Train Your Dragon out of Legos)

     In this world of hustle and bustle...you may find yourself hurried along by those around you.  But, you, my dear boy, were created with a different rhythm.  Oh yes, there will be times when you have to work quickly to get things done.  In the grand scheme of it all, however, you will find that this life passes so quickly.  We are in need of those who might slow the pace, and enjoy the beauty of each moment, rather than rushing on to the next. I NEED you, Noah.  I can't tell you many times I have longed for you to hurry up, only to find myself surprised by the joy of waiting...and discovering something I would have missed.  

     You have an incredible smile and a laughing heart to go with it.  When we took you to see the comedian Tim Hawkins the other night, I couldn't help but be just as entertained by your uncontrollable laughter in your seat.  I'm pretty sure your stomach will be sore in the days to come because you laughed so hard.  Don't stop laughing.  Times will come in this life that are painful and difficult to understand, and you have been gifted with a special ability to laugh and bring joy.  This world needs you and your million dollar smile.  It needs your goofy jokes.

     And finally, the thing that perhaps characterizes you the most, is your loving spirit.  I think you hug me goodnight about 3 times every night.  You are always the one to notice when grandma is leaving after having stopped by for a visit, and you are the first one to throw your arms around her because you love her so very much.  You love BIG.  Noah. This world needs men who can love BIG. There are hurting, broken people all around who need the only kind of love that can heal....the love that comes from above.  And that love is often best delivered by those who are willing to HUG, to LISTEN, to SLOW DOWN, to CRY and to LAUGH with another.  

     Jesus knew how to slow down.  He was on a different time table too--He was always on the Father's schedule.  He wasn't bothered by the hustle and bustle around Him because He saw that there was more going on than what human eyes could see.  Jesus knew how to laugh.  He knew how to see humor even in hard situations.  And He loved BIG. He lived, knowing his earthly life would end with stretching out His arms in order to show His love.  

     In one of our favorite family books, Tales of the Kingdom, an apprentice juggler found himself struggling against his rhthym. He kept trying to stifle it in order to bring himself in line with all the other jugglers and their rhthym. But it was only as he revealed the rhythm given in his own heart that he discovered the job the King truly had for him--he was a clown!!!!  He was the best juggler of all because his rhthym was different.

"A juggler with the instinct of a clown! Oh, they are rare! They are rare! What a troupe we'll have! We'll bring down the house! We will make the balls dance!"

So the Apprentice Juggler lost his place in the troupe, but found another.  For all who live by the rhthym of the inner timing, which the King approves, find a place in the Kingdom all their own.  More than any other, they live happily ever after.

     Noah. This world needs you.  So keep teaching me how to wait. How to laugh. And how to love.  I am a better mommy because of you and I am so absolutely humbled and honored to learn from you, as well as teach you.  Happy birthday.

For the King,
Mommy




     

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Happy Birthday Sweet Boy


     Oh, my darling boy. Ezra Lucas Knight Hester. It was 7 years ago that you surprised us by coming so quickly that you became the first of our children to be born at home.  I must say, that that is just one of the many ways you have changed things in our home and in my heart.
     If it weren't for you, I may have gone on, thinking that I knew a thing or two about parenting. But in His kindness, God saw fit to give me a beautiful, rough-and-tumble, blue-eyed, determined, out-of-the-box, mysterious, tenacious, free-spirited little boy to remind me that every good thing that has happened in the parenting department has been by His grace.  Even when I find myself unsure of what to do or how to do it...I do know WHO I am following and trusting for it all.  At seven years old, you can read pretty much anything-including your science textbook. You like roller blading, skateboarding, and pretty much anything else that requires lots of energy. We still have all the knives in a box up on a high shelf, even though you are not nearly as likely to get into them. You haven't lost your fascination with weapons, although you are learning to use them for more honorable pursuits....I think. ;-). You look up to your brother Caleb SO much. Which is interesting, because your mind works in a very similar way.  You love being a big brother. Even though you have to fight other desires along the way... Protection truly is part of your nature. You will often read to Evelyn, and play with Elijah.  You love cooking, Legos, the trampoline, and so many other things.
     Your heart does not know many limits.  This can be difficult and tricky to navigate at times....but it can also come in handy.  I can ask you to do jobs that the average six year old would not even attempt, much less accomplish, as well as you do.  I love taking you to Costco because you are such a gentleman to load the cart with the big flat of water.
     There are so many things I want to say to you, Ezra. I want to remind you how much I love you, how much God loves you, how great His plans are for you. I want to remind you that your greatest accomplishment in this life will be to serve your Great King and Captain by loving Him and His people.  I want to tell you to be bold and courageous.  I want to tell you that this life is harder than you think....times will come ahead which will make you want to give up or give in. But the God we serve...He is always worth the battle.  As long as there is breath in your lungs, you have a purpose and a mission.

     Listen to what was said about the Ezra of the Bible:
"For Ezra had prepared and set his heart to seek the Law of the Lord [to inquire for it and of it, to require and yearn for it], and to do and teach in Israel its statutes and ordinances."
Ezra 6:10

     Under Ezra's leading and instruction, the people repented! They recognized that they were going the wrong way, and they wanted to stop and start going the way that God has asked of them. Ezra set an example-not of never sinning, but of being sorry over his sin-SO sorry, that he would not continue that way. God gave him faith to believe that there was a better way. He "set his heart to seek the Law of the Lord", which is really the Law of Love.

     Right now, we are revisiting a family favorite series-the Chronicles of Narnia.  It does not surprise me one bit, that as we read, every single moment for you, is about when Aslan will come on the scene.  He is the picture of Jesus Christ, out Good Shepherd. It was said of Aslan that He is not "safe." But He is good.

     This is what I want to tell you most. Following Jesus has been the grandest adventure I have ever been on. But it hasn't always been safe and it has certainly not always been easy. It takes a tenacious heart, one who is set upon the Law of the Lord.  And when things are so difficult that you can't see up from down, and you find yourself where you never thought you could be....remember the face of Aslan. Remember how in The Magician's Nephew, one deep look into His face and his shining gold mane changed everything for all the years to come.  This is how it is with Jesus. HE IS GOOD. Not safe. But good. The grandest adventure ever is following Him.  I am forever humbled and overjoyed to be called your mama. I love you.  

For the King! And the Kingdom!
Love, 
Mommy






     

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Big Changes....

This beautiful young lady made me this purple scarf for my birthday to keep me warm in NYC. (My birthday needs a post unto itself).

Seriously, she is so lovely. I can hardly believe she is my daughter.

This was a week of big changes for her! She got her braces, an expander, and must wear rubber bands all at once.

So far, she can't eat or chew, so she's been surviving on smoothies and yogurt. I'm so proud of how she is handling it all, and it's just one more step in her growing up process. 


Braces or not, this girl is a beautiful gift to our family!!!!


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Look Mom...

I'm the Great Sphinx!
Can you guess what we are studying?
Ancient Egypt!!! They colored these while I read The Magician's Nephew out loud. 



Friday, October 09, 2015

From Coast to Coast...


Wednesday night I was dazzled by the beautiful city lights as I walked with some wonderful friends through New York.

Elijah and I made our way back to California. The second flight was rough-Elijah was in loud protest for the last half hour or so. Our plane arrived early and Ben got stuck in traffic....

But once we got on the road I couldn't stop taking pictures of the beautiful sunset that our God painted across the sky in Malibu:

There is so much beauty...so much that reflects the goodness and creativity of our God.  

I am amazed by the beauty I have seen in the people we have met along this journey.

So to the amazing people I was honored to spend time with in New York (and those I missed on this trip).... Those who have given of their time, their talents, their kindness, their smiles....who have loved on Elijah and I, eaten with us, and shared smiles and stories....thank you.

To those who have sat next to a momma and her precious boy who wasn't always quiet but has really been through a lot, and have patiently endured load protests as well as squeals of delight...thank you.

To those who have faithfully walked with us and prayed for us-who have given, have encouraged, and have waited for updates on this side of the country (and everywhere in between)....thank you.

It is the beauty of those who bear God's image through loving and supporting and caring for our family in countless ways....it is this kindness that truly staggers me from coast to coast.  My heart is so full of love, and truly thankful for each of you that I consider gifts from above. 

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Update on Elijah

Elijah is tuckered out. He didn't sleep super well last night. 

He has no new tumors! That's great news. And the tumor that was treated with laser last month (and were told to expect to treat again this month) looked great and didn't need further treatment.

However....one of his old tumors had some new growth.  Because of its lack of pigmentation, the laser is not quite as effective. So today, they gave Elijah an IV and injected a green dye (called ICG). This helps give color to the tumor so it will absorb more of the heat from the laser.  They also gave him a little bit of pain medicine in the IV.

As you can see, he is sleeping now. We will be back in 4 weeks to see how things are going.

Thank you all for praying!!!


Birthday

As an adult, sometimes special days like a birthday can get buried by real life. They get buried by bills, appointments, unexpected life events (like a baby with cancer)....

Ben Hester. We live a crazy life. We have seven kids and we are doing the cancer thing, and the homeschool thing....

Your birthday day is not at all how I would have planned it. I never would have planned to be across the country with Elijah, going to the hospital, while you and the kids are back at home.

But this is real life. We live a real life. It is messy, unexpected, often unplanned (much to my chagrin), and beautiful.

I remember one of our anniversaries early on...maybe our 2nd? Anyway, I was throwing up, you weren't feeling great. I thought somehow that we had missed out on getting to celebrate such a momentous occasion. But then I realized...This is the real celebration of marriage. It's not always pretty, or fancy. It's not always fine dining and having a babysitter. Really, it's celebrating what God is doing in the midst of the chaos we call life.  And by His grace, He makes beautiful things.

Amidst all our differences, we share the most important common things: we love Jesus, we need Him desperately to rescue us, and by His strength, we desire to love people well.

For your birthday, our boys have been at work for weeks on a special project that they weren't able to complete just yet. But they have worked so diligently, because of their great love for you.

Our sweet girl made a piƱata for you and filled it with candy because she loves you (and knows what a sweet tooth you have!).

I'm so thankful that we were able to celebrate together a little early.

But today, even though we are apart, even though it doesn't look like I wanted it to.
I wish you the happiest of birthdays. 
38 looks great on you.  Thank you for doing this crazy life with me.  And especially today, thank you for trusting me to get Elijah what he needs.
And most of all....thank you for loving Jesus. It is the thing I treasure most about you.

Happy birthday. Today, may you know and feel how much God loves you. May you be inspired by that love to love others boldly and courageously. I love you, Ben.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Familiar....

Early this morning, Ben drove Elijah and I to the airport and dropped us off. This time, we just felt like it was best for our family if Ben stayed home (and went to work!). I know he is concerned about me traveling with Elijah on my own.....but we did make it to NY safe and sound. (I know this is due to the faithful prayers of many!)

Some of the sights are becoming familiar. I know, as I am driven past the East River, that soon we will exit 71st and I'm really close to Ronald McDonald.

Sometimes it is sad that all this is familiar...but today, I'm thankful that there is a comforting feeling. I am greeted with joy and hugs by the staff at Ronald McDonald who remember Elijah. I get to see familiar families that I've met before on previous trips, and I know how check in goes.

I know that we are going to go to bed early, wake up at 2:30am for Elijah's last feeding, and be at the hospital at 6:30am.

I'm anxious to see how Elijah is doing.  And despite the crazy circumstances and the stress involved to get here....I am just so thankful to be here. Elijah is receiving such great care, and tomorrow, we will know a little better how he is doing.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Getting ready.....

Even though Hurricane Joaquin has so graciously taken a turn eastward.... We still found ourselves highly unprepared for the cold and wind (and rain!) that may greet us in NYC on Monday.

I usually walk to the hospital on Tuesday morning for Elijah's appointment, so I needed to be sure I could keep the little guy cozy.

They were so kind to us at Patagonia, even giving us a coupon off our purchase. And since we got a 2T, hopefully Elijah will be cozy for months to come.