Monday, January 28, 2008

The Solid Rock

Life is uncertain... Decisions are scary.
Obedience to the Word of God can seem beyond our abilities.
Responsibility is heavy.
Choices and their consequences are serious...
Sometimes God's will is dim and hard to decipher...

But we have an Anchor, sure and steadfast.
I'm glad. Aren't you?

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.

When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Make me...

Lord, make me a crisis man. Let me not be a mile-post on a single road, but make me a fork that men must turn one way or another after seeing Christ in me.

-- Jim Elliot

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Today Matters

I used to say, "Sometimes life gets so busy that it's hard to prioritize things and do what is really important..."

That's not true any more. My life is ALWAYS too busy to do everything I need to do. Priorities is a life saving word for me right now, but it still doesn't totally work on a moment by moment basis.

At the end of the day, sometimes I feel satisfied that I got a lot done, but I never feel that I got enough done.

At midnight, there are always 50 more emails to answer, so many things that my little sisters wanted me to do with them, so many documents that I promised to mail to various people, so many more commitments.... There's the feeling of guilt that I missed an important conference call, that I just don't have time to reply to some people who write with questions about this or that, the sinking feeling that I just can't return all of the phone calls I get, that I haven't finished a long over-due article that was promised a publication months earlier...

There's the ugly feeling that I'm doing too many things to do a good job at anything. I love organization and order. My life is currently anything but that. I seem to be perpetually late these days, racing from one thing to another, constantly crossing the non-urgent things off my list, substituting the most urgent things to do... Wishing that I had time to actually do a good job on some project I undertake, rather than looking like I am always late, disorganized, and frantic!

And then there's the nagging, guilty feeling that I haven't done what really mattered - love people. In a tangible way. Sure, everything I do is ministry, stuff I don't get paid for, stuff I'm doing for other people. But often times at the end of the day, I have to ask myself, did my family feel noticed, valued, loved, served... like they were important to me... more so than my projects?

I know feeling guilty about my lack of time to do everything I have to do isn't going to fix the problem. Better time management might help a little, but for the most part, I try not to let a single minute of my day be idle... So, I still haven't come up with the solution... the balance between people and projects.

I want to have God's priorities, and see things the way He does. He showed me yesterday.

I was rushing around town to appointments and running errands. My cell phone ringing constantly, people telling me that there were "emergencies" everywhere that I needed to help them fix. Some of my email hadn't come through, and people at the Capitol needed certain documents NOW. I didn't have my laptop with me and I didn't have time to stop and find internet anyway to re-send things. I wasn't organized for an important meeting in the morning and with my phone ringing constantly, and traffic rather crazy, I didn't even have time to think though what I would say.... My stress level was high, I was agonizing over a decision that would affect my future for a long, long time...

I stopped to see a friend who is on bed rest for a threatened miscarriage. Right over her sofa where she has spent the last few weeks, trying to keep her baby, she had a big red plaque with two simple words. "Today Matters."

I came in the door, feeling flustered and those two words hit me like a ton of bricks.

Today Matters.

That's right.
The way I treat people today matters.
I can't plan to make a better start tomorrow.
I only have today, right now.
And what is important?
What really matters?
Why don't I live in this moment?

Yes, they won't get their emails, but I can't do anything about it right now.
But I can love this person in front of me, and encourage her.
She IS doing what matters.

What else of more value can we take with us to eternity?

Today Matters.

I walked out of her door, thanking God that He had reminded me.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Final (2007) Year in Review Post

I am most richly blessed...

"The Big Three" - Elisabeth (Liz), Jemima (Mice) and Mary (Mare)
Don't ask about the nicknames - they started back when we were all little kids!

God has been so good to me. Of all the things I have been given when I look back over my year, my family would rank a definite first place! I am the person I am today, because of their influence. I'm striving to be the kind of person I want to be tomorrow, because they love me and encourage me and inspire me to walk on and to grow. They are my best friends, and I can just be myself, because they love me the way I am. : )
My sisters and I make memories nearly every night as we all share a bedroom and stay up way too late, talking far too long! But our friendships are worth the loss of sleep! : )

All of the girls together - Liz (20), Ruth (15), Jemima (21), Mary (25) and Joanna (12)

Year in Review, Part 27

Josh and Tyana's Wedding

Josh and Tyana, two young people from the church we go to on Wednesday nights, got married on New Year's Eve. We've known Josh's family for about 10 years and Tyana's family for a 7 or 8 years. Tyana and I have had several adventures, traveling to several out-of-state midwifery conferences together.
It's been a lot of fun to watch them fall in love with each other and get married... although, once again, it makes me feel really old as they are quite a few years younger than me! : )

The groom with his brothers - he has quite a few! ; )

At the reception - friends Becca and Joanna

Year in Review, Part 26

Christmas Eve dinner with friends

Joanna(12) and her friend, Christy, had been dreaming of hostessing a formal dinner for a long time. They made aprons and little lacey white caps like they had seen the maids wear in movies.

They planned a menu... and then the day came. We had Christy's family over for dinner on Christmas Eve, and the two girls were completely in charge and served us about seven courses of food.

The girls cooked and baked from 6 am till about 6 pm and then served till after 8 pm and found out how exhausting such fun dinners can be. We were at the table for several hours, but everyone agreed - it was one of the best meals they had ever had! : )

And, amazingly, Joanna and Christy say they want to do it again sometime. No one minds them sharpening their culinary skills, so I bet we'll have another formal dinner sometime in the future!

Year in Review, Part 25

Winter Wonderland

In Missouri, those who like winter have to take what they can get! Above: Sam (14) is making the best of a dusting of snow with his little friends, Michelle and David.

Ice storms seems to be a theme for 2007 - we started and ended the year with one!
Thankfully, the December ice storm wasn't nearly as bad as the January storm, and we managed to keep our electricity and most of our tree tops.

Year in Review, Part 24

Cows and more cows...

Our dog and one of the calves became dear friends...

Our cows kept us very busy this year - between calves being born, several cows to milk by hand morning and night, and then the milk to process (we usually make 2-4 gallons of the milk into cheese every day), we had our hands full... of cows and milk! Admittedly, Jemima and Mom do most of the "milk maid" chores, and I mostly just enjoy the fruits of their labors! : )

I don't know if the healthy benefits of raw, homegrown milk and cheese and butter are worth the tremendous amount of time it takes to produce it all, but it is a really good feeling to sit down to lunch. One of our most frequent lunch menus is grilled cheese sandwiches - made with homemade whole wheat bread, homemade mozzarella cheese, and homemade raw butter. Yum!
Add some home-grown garden veggies, and it makes a delicious and healthy lunch....

Year in Review, Part 23

Visiting with the Loudons...

Senator Loudon and his family came to town and invited us to meet him for lunch. Like always, it was fun to catch up with their family and see the little guys again. One of their babies, Sammy (pictured above, with Sen. Loudon, and below with me) is a Down's Syndrome baby who they adopted two years ago. He's doing very well, and growing like a weed!

Mary with Sammy

Some of the ladies who were there for lunch:
L-R: Sarah, Mary, Jemima, Becca, Dayna, Dorcas, and Ruth

Year in Review, Part 22

Olivia's Wedding

I have an earlier blog post, back in October, about my cousin, Olivia's wedding, so I won't bore you with the details. But her wedding was one of the highlights of my year, so I just had to post a few more pictures. I don't believe I've ever been so happy for someone getting married, as I was for Olivia and Josh! They are making their nest in North Carolina currently. I wish they weren't so far away...

Olivia with her little sister and flower girl, Yenta.

Part of the Ueland cousins, crammed together in a pew.
The wedding's about to begin... the first cousin's about to get married!

The bridal party. Don't they look pretty in pink?
My cousin, Maria (maid of honor, far right), made all of the dresses.

After the wedding guests left, and it was just cousins cleaning up, some of them put their matching hostess aprons on their head and started to be just a little bit silly! :)

Year in Review, Part 21

Family Camp, September 2007

There are always soooo many little children at family camp. My mother really wanted to see them have some scheduled, profitable activities this year, so she planned a lot of fun stuff, including this "children's parade", led by a couple of the young men - one with a trumpet!

It was hard to line up nearly 100 children and get them all to march together and sing the same songs, but they had a lot of fun, and I believe the by-standers (adults) had the most fun watching!

Volleyball in the afternoons was a favorite for many!

The prelude to the service. So many of the young people play musical instruments and we had a mini-orchestra going!

Year in Review, Part 20

Family Camp, September 2007

Our church hosts an annual Family Camp with Keith Daniel, a preacher from South Africa as the featured speaker every year. (I already posted about family camp last fall, so this will be short on details, long on pictures...) It's always a challenge to coordinate meals, lodging, meetings, activities, etc for several hundred people, but it's a lot of fun to meet them all. This year we had families from Tennessee, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas come to camp, as well as local people.

What would we have done without Mrs. Greer coordinating meals, and these faithful chefs helping her??

Jon serves up a plate for someone. Meal time in the cafeteria is crazy, noisy, and a lot of fun! The little ones always beg to help serving food, too. Sometimes it's a challenge to find something that they can do without slowing down the line, but they feel so important when they are allowed to put a piece of garlic bread on each plate, or serve brownies. : )

Family Camp is a great time to catch up with old friends and meet new ones!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Year in Review, Part 19

August 2nd dawned bright and sunny. With only a couple hours of sleep, our crowd of faithful volunteers were up at the crack of dawn preparing for the day's events, hauling food, chairs, directions, and signs around. While a dozen or so people prepared the Capitol for the arrival of several hundred supporters at the rally, one of our supportive physicians and I hurried over to our attorney's office to prepare for the day in court. After directing the national Fox News folks around, we seated ourselves in the courtroom that was quickly filling up with film crews, microphones, and reporters, pens in hand. Judge Joyce appeared and we listened intently to the arguments from both sides. In the end, we all felt like it had been a very fair hearing for both sides and anxiously wondered what her decision would be. She would issue it about a week later. When the hearing was over around noon there was quite a gauntlet of reporters to interview us before we headed to the Capitol.

Back at the Capitol building, our many volunteers had everything running like clockwork, keeping several hundred people organized. I didn't have to do anything but sit and listen at the rally. It was the most wonderful feeling to be one of the audience, for once letting others scurry around, making it all happen... And I still haven't got over how well the whole event went! It just so far exceeded our expectations. Even the national media expressed shock at "how big this whole thing is!"

We served pizza to everyone who came and families spread out across the Capitol lawn...

Kim, a Missouri midwife donned a creative "Lady Liberty" costume
and made it onto national TV!

The film crew that Fox News sent, interviewing a midwife about the law and midwifery...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Year in Review, Part 18

The Midwifery Law Goes to Court....

Soon after Governor Blunt signed the midwifery bill into law, we began to hear rumblings that the state medical associations were thinking of taking the state of Missouri to court over the midwifery law that had been passed. We thought they must be bluffing... after all, a case like this would cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars. Surely, they didn't think legal midwives were that big of a deal. But apparently they did (and do)!

In late June I got the fateful call from a Missouri newspaper reporter saying, "I'm sure you heard that the medical associations just filed a lawsuit alleging that your midwifery provision was unconstitutional to be included in that bill... What does your organization think about this new development?"
I had to call him back, because I honestly had no response except shock at that point.

My life changed forever that day. Summer became one long blur of interviewing attorneys, learning what words like "amicus curiae" and "Brandeis brief" mean, talking to the media over and over and over and over again, finding homebirth families who were willing to be interviewed to be on television and in the newspapers, and then, once we hired one of the best constitutional lawyers in the state to defend our law, coming up with tens of thousands of dollars to pay him every month or two! The whole court case has stretched my faith, my brain, and my abilities.

The midwifery case was set to be heard on August 2nd in the local circuit court where it was filed. National Fox news as well as practically every media outlet in Missouri planned to cover the story, so along with educating our attorneys on midwives and helping with the case, we planned a huge rally at the Capitol and begged supporters from all over the state to be there on the day of the hearing. The night before the rally and court hearing, a couple dozen people came into town to help with planning and preparing for the rally the next day.

Planning meeting over dinner

After dinner, and figuring things out for the morning, we headed over to the Cole County Courthouse where other supporters were holding a candlelight vigil from 9 pm - midnight.
When we showed up, the crowd was scarce, but there were several reporters there, shooting some film for the 10 o' clock news. Once they left, everyone relaxed a bit more and discussed what might happen in coming days. I enjoyed the chance to just sit quietly and think about all that had happened and muse on what the future might hold. Truly, it was and still is both scary and exciting, especially as my life has become so intertwined with the whole cause.

Year in Review, Part 17

Random Summer Happenings...

Many hands make light work!
Moving Joanna's playhouse/turned lemonade stand!

Visiting with the Barlows and holding their babies!

Picking rocks in the soon-to-be wheat field. We filled a whole gully with all the rocks, and felt very accomplished a week later when the overgrown field was smooth and seeded!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Year in Review, Part 16

Tuesday night prayer meetings...

Our pastor's family hosts a Tuesday night prayer meeting at their house, which we thoroughly enjoy... we usually end up praying later than 9 pm, and then we stay afterwards visiting for longer than we planned... and then we get home really late (we have an hour drive)... but it's worth it for the sweet fellowship!

Above: most of the young ladies, posing by the gate to the field

Year in Review, Part 15

Last summer I helped with a surprise for a midwife who is working on her Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) certification. Her clients and former clients knew she didn't have money for all of the application paperwork, testing, etc, so they schemed and planned and raised money to give her towards her CPM!
They talked her into hosting a picnic at her house on a Sunday afternoon that she thought was just so they could meet other like-minded families. Instead, she had a surprise when they handed her envelope full of money and told her to go take her CPM exam! I'm not sure who was smiling bigger - them or her!
It was so fitting... she has given so much of her life to serve them for very little compensation.
In fact, she often doesn't cover her own expenses, let alone earn any money for her time spent serving many, many home birthing families. At least some of them realize some of the enormous sacrifices she has made on their behalf, and love her with very grateful hearts!

Year in Review, Part 14

I'm trying to hurry and finish my "year in review" that I started before it's March!
There were so many things that happened over the summer and unfortunately (sometimes fortunately!) some of them just didn't get documented with the camera!

The creek and a nearby small lake were favored places during the summer, since we don't have air conditioning and many times the mercury hit 100 degrees!

Adam B, Jemima, CarolAnne B. and Ellie B.

Sam and Abe at the lake

Jemima with Adam and CarolAnne in Sam's homemade "boat." : )

Year in Review, Part 13

Memorable moments....

Josh and Anna had a darling baby girl, Rosalind!

I spent a couple of days in St. Louis, celebrating Shannon's birthday with a group of mutual friends.

Andy and Amy got married! They are expecting a baby next summer...
I can't believe it - people who I thought of as "little kids" years ago are now married, mothers, fathers.... it's all so weird! I feel out of place and old among people five years younger than me who are discussing the houses they are buying and the kids they have!!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Year in Review, Part 12

Part of the Family Spent a LOT of Time in the Hayfield!

It seemed like Dad and the boys were cutting hay, raking hay, baling hay, or hauling hay nearly every day all summer! We had our own hayfields to cut, rented another farm with several hayfields, and cut hay for other people. (I say we; I didn't do much except provide transportation for some of the younger kids and deliver food and drinks to the field some days!) Since construction work was extremely scarce for Dad's business, we were all thankful for another opportunity to make some money, and especially one that the guys were all able to do together!

A picnic in the hayfield - Joanna being, ummm... I don't know... just her usual funny self!
Piggy back rides occurring in the background! : )

Sam and Liz are hot and tired, hoping that they can go home soon!
Throwing hay bales onto a trailer all day in Missouri August heat is not the most exciting job.

Year in Review, Part 11

Last Day at the Capitol

Victory at last! Well, sort of.
The last day of the 2007 legislative session ended with our bill/amendment still intact, on the Governor's desk. Would he sign it into law? We couldn't tell any of our supporters, but an hour before session ended, a couple of us had been given the Governor's word that he would... Still, we knew that everyone would be tensely waiting and hoping that nothing would go wrong until the day that he picked up his pen and it was done!

One of the senators was hurrying down the hall to the Governor's press conference with the Leadership from the House and Senate shortly after session ended, and invited us to come along. So we followed him right through the Governor's office and out onto his private portico and listened to the legislators speak about all the things they had accomplished. It was hard to believe that one of the bills they were talking proudly about having passed contained the language that could free Missouri's midwives from the criminal charges they currently face if practicing!
Afterwards (above), we stood around and tried to decide what to do next. It was hard to believe that this day had come and it looked like midwives might soon be legal in Missouri. We wanted to party, take a nap, cry and shout for joy all at once!

It was with very mixed feelings that we packed up our stuff from all of the offices where it had sat for five months and said goodbye to the many legislators who had become our dear friends.
We hugged a few of the lobbyists and staff who had shown us the ropes around the Capitol, and looked back at the building that would always hold a piece of our lives. I didn't know if I'd be there on a regular basis ever again or not... I didn't know if in a few short months professional midwives would be legal and I would be back to pursuing my midwifery training and certification.
Little did I know of all that loomed ahead, and that the doctor's groups that opposed decriminalizing midwives weren't planning to give up any time soon!

(Note: The Governor did follow through and sign the bill a few weeks later, and our supporters flooded his office with thank you letters.)