Monday, March 28, 2016

My Favorite Milestone

Charlotte laughed for the first time today!  That's all I wanted to say.  And, also maybe that I'm a little obsessed with this baby!!

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Four Weeks

Charlotte turns one month old tomorrow and I know I'm posting one day early, but I think I'm going to CALM IT DOWN a bit this time around.  I'll still be taking monthly pictures for her first year, but I'll probably just post them to Instagram with a line or two.  This led me to think, "poor second baby".    There may not seem to be as much hype, attention, even -- dare I say -- joy the second time around.  But let me attest to the fact that this is not true!  Sure the first time around I didn't have much to do but just stare at Shirley all day.  My hubby didn't expect me to keep the apartment spic and span, I didn't have a toddler to take care of, and my brother-in-law wasn't visiting from Malawi.  (More on that later.)  But is this really all such a bad thing?  I think there is a reason why second children often have more laid back personalities.  The focus isn't just on them all the time and that's actually really good!  They don't grow up with the feeling that the world is centered around them.  I don't know, these are just some thoughts mulling around in my tired little brain.  

All that to say, I am just LOVING this four week old! 

I mean, how could I not, right?  (Wow!  I just realized this picture is from when she was two weeks old and now I see just how much faster these last two weeks went then the first two weeks!  Crazy!)

Charlotte is definitely giving us a "run for our money" as they say.  And really, that is just in comparison to Shirley.  (And that is just according to our memories.)  In actuality Charlotte is a really easy baby too.  She just was more of a cluster feeder in the beginning and she's got a pretty good set of lungs on her when she does cry.  

But she is just. so. sweet!  And yes, she mainly smiles after she eats so it could just be gas, but she really does smile a lot!  Big open gummy grins with these cute little dimples.  She melts me.  Poor girl has some pretty bad acne now, but I keep reading that it will go away soon enough.  Really, it's kinda worse than a teenager.  

Little Zizi has also had a very busy last two weeks.  As hinted at earlier, Kwacha's youngest sibling, Malumbo, is visiting us this month so we have been out and about trying to show him the best of Los Angeles!  Zizi has truly been a little trooper.  And Shirley has been absolutely loving her time with Uncle "Malo".  She always wants to know where he is and she loves holding his hand.  I think he has really helped with her transition to the role of big sister; a role that she has taken on with joy and gusto!  Too much sometimes.  Poor Charlotte has to stay on the alert!  Her big sister is constantly asking, "Can I hold it?"  She gives her little kisses on the forehead and helps me know when she needs her paci.  I have loved watching their (mostly one sided) little relationship so far.

Well, I had originally planned on giving you all a little "day in the life" sorta thing to show how different life is with two!  But I think I'll stop here for now.  Maybe another day.  
For now I'll end with one more picture.  :)

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Charlotte Zizipizgani Simwaka

Well, it's Saturday, February 6th and I had my second little girl two days ago.  I wanted to make sure I recorded her birth story before I get hazy on the details.  Charlotte arrived on her due date, Feb. 4th, 2016!  (Disclaimer:  Maybe don't read if you're a little squeamish.  Although I think I kept it pretty PG.)

On and off last week I had tons of Braxton Hicks and I'd go to bed and have a few false labor contractions.  I always knew they weren't the real deal because they were spaced far apart and never got very intense.  Wednesday morning, Kwacha and I went in for our last scheduled appointment with my OB.  He said that I was between 2-3 centimeters and she was ready to come anytime.  Because I have gestational diabetes with my pregnancies and I also had group b strep this time, he wanted to schedule an induction for that week.  We chose Saturday (which would have been today...crazy!) which seemed a bit early, but then our OB would be on call and he would be the one delivering her which we were happy about.  Still, I really wanted to go into labor naturally and that's what I was praying for.  I figured she had time!

Well, Wednesday night we went to sleep pretty late, around 12:30.  I didn't feel any differently than I had any other night (except I did have a little lower back pain when we went on a walk after dinner), so I thought I definitely wouldn't be going into labor.  Well, around 2:00 a.m. I started feeling those contractions again only this time they seemed a bit stronger.  After a few pretty intense ones I woke up Kwacha and told him that I thought this was it, but I wasn't positive, so we didn't need to get ready yet.  Well, a few minutes later they were coming every four minutes, so I decided to get up and do my makeup.  (With Shirley I didn't do that and I regretted it.  Ha!  I had told Kwacha that I didn't care how bad contractions were, I was getting ready this time.)  Kwacha called my mom and asked her to come over and stay with Shirley.  She was beyond excited.

Contractions continued to get more intense and closer together by now.  They were coming every 2-3 minutes and I had to stop what I was doing to get through them.  But I could still talk through them.  Kwacha called the hospital.  It was probably around 2:45 or 3 by this point.  Even though he told them that my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart, lasting for about a minute, and that I had had them for close to an hour, they still told him that we should stay home for another hour or two!  Kwacha said, "Forget it.  We're coming in."

Up until this point, I had determined that I was going to stay home as long as possible, that I would try and wait to get an epidural until I was farther along than last time, so at least 6 centimeters.  (This was partly in case I have to have a drug free labor in Malawi someday.  I wanted to be prepared.)  But when my mom got to our place I had had enough of the pain!  I said that I didn't care what I had said before.  I was getting an epidural as soon as I got to the hospital!  And why would anyone not get an epidural??

So, Kwacha and I packed the car and drove off.  I had one strong contraction in the car.  I'm still so thankful that we are only five minutes away from the hospital!  When we got to Emergency I seemed fine but told them I was in labor.  Thankfully I had one right after I sat in the wheelchair so I maybe seemed a bit more legit?  Anyway, I was wheeled up, had one contraction on the way, and when we got to our L&D room they told me to change into the gown and give a urine sample.  Well, I had 3-4 contractions in the bathroom, probably less than a minute apart.  This is when I started to get a little concerned.

When I came out of the bathroom, no one was in the room.  Not even Kwacha.  I started to get a little panicky but then Kwacha came in.  I told him I didn't know what to do.  Should I sit?  The contractions just seemed so bad!  Well, I wound up sitting on the bed and the nurse came in and started asking me lots of questions and hooked me up to a monitor.  I was getting lots of contractions and was just miserable sitting on the bed.  I wondered...when is she going to check me?!  Finally she did and she quickly and calmly said, "You're an 8 - 9."  I just said, "Oh my word!  Can I get an epidural??"  And she replied, "Probably not.  I'm not going to lie to you."  I don't even know why I asked it.  I knew there was no way I'd be able to sit still long enough to get one.  As soon as she responded with that, I felt ready to throw up, not just because of the pain, but primarily because of fear.  I felt trapped.  I was not ready for this.  I had never taken a class on natural childbirth.

I started to tell Kwacha, "I can't do this! I can't do this!!"  But another nurse came in and they started getting me ready.  The pain was immense.  And the contractions were right on top of each other.  I always kinda wondered, do you really need to make all that noise when you're in labor?  Well, I was shocked at the sounds coming out of me.  It seemed like the only thing that could possibly help ease the pain.  Pretty soon the doctor was there and it was time to push.  The nurses told me to try and stop screaming and internalize that to power the baby out.  It seemed like the hardest thing to do at that point, but I did my best.  A ring of fire and three sets of pushes after that and she was out! It still amazes me how you can go from the worst pain imaginable to utter relief and bliss.  They laid a little slimy Charlotte on top of me and I was so happy it was all over and she was with us!  It was 4:15 a.m.  Just about two hours after contractions had started.  I had been at the hospital for only 45 minutes.  If Kwacha had listened to the lady who told us to stay at home for an hour, we wouldn't have made it!

All of Thursday I didn't even want to think back on the labor, it seemed like a horror film.  But two days after with a little sleep, it didn't seem all that bad.  God's Word tells the truth, the pain is forgotten with the joy of bringing a new little life into the world.  I still will definitely get an epidural next time if humanly possible!  Ha!  But, at least I know it's possible and you survive!  (And I shouldn't even complain with such a short labor.)

I am just in awe of how God creates these beautiful little babies and gives us the privilege of raising them.  He is so good and a marvelous Creator!  We love our little Charlotte!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Ramblings on Baby Number Two

Poor second babies.  You know what I mean, don't you?  I don't think I have to explain.
But, just so you know, I am definitely JUST as excited for baby # 2!  I just haven't blogged about him or her yet.  I would post the ultrasound picture of our little lemon (lemon being a good thing here, that's how big our baby is right now!), but I'm not at home at the moment and I don't have it with me.  
Even though this baby will be just two years younger than Shirley, little lemon didn't come as early as we had hoped.  But God's timing is perfect and even though it was a comparatively short wait to many, I still learned much from waiting.  And now I am actually thrilled with the two year gap.  

Little lemon is due February 4th and so I'm just into my second trimester.  Definitely more morning (really afternoon) sickness this time, and I have Gestational Diabetes again, but everything is so worth it.  I can't wait to see Shirley as a big sister!  
There are some things I am nervous about; nursing again, trying to take care of a newborn with a rambunctious two year old running around, getting two little kids in and out of the car, flying to Malawi with TWO little ones.  But, I am way more excited than nervous.  
So, that's pretty much it for today.  Just wanted to make sure that if my babies ever read this blog, they know they were all greatly anticipated.  And some of you may not have noticed the little ticker thing up top.  :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Just thinking about Malawi today as I look at pictures of our trip that was almost a year ago!  Hard to believe.  It's also hard to believe that Kwacha's sister, Evelyn, and our niece, Charity, are going to be here in less than a month!  So exciting.

I don't have much to say today besides that, and the fact that this is one of my favorite pictures of Kwacha.  Ever.  In the middle of a tea plantation.

It's love.

Shirley wasn't such a fan.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Thoughts, Shirley and a Recipe

I may have mentioned this before, but one of my favorite songs growing up was, "When I get to Heaven gonna walk with Jesus, when I get to Heaven gonna see His face, when I get to Heaven gonna talk with Jesus, saved by His wonderful grace!  Because I'm saved, saved, wonderfully saved, washed in the blood of the Lamb, Hallelujah! Saved, saved, wonderfully saved, and I'm so glad I am, Hallelujah!"
I still love it, and I think it really simplifies things for me.  I was reading over Matthew 5 this morning, the Beatitudes.  Jesus highlights the heart behind the Law.  He didn't come to abolish it but to fulfill it.  (Major paraphrasing there.)  I was kind of asking myself, how do I know if I'm trying to seek my own righteousness, or Christ's?  And I was reminded of my favorite verse, "Though you have not seen Him, you love Him.  Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls." (1 Peter 1:6-9)
It comes down to love.  When I love God I obey Him.  Just as when I truly love anyone, I sacrifice for them, I seek to please them.  And this is all based on His love for me first.  And all this is mine through faith by His grace!  So simple!  You know, until sin gets in the way.  But Jesus says, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled."  May we seek Jesus' righteousness all the time!

Shirley girly is going to be 17 months tomorrow, so I thought a little update is in order.  How she fills our lives with joy!  She is so full of personality.  Kwacha and I both grew up shy and quiet, but it's like God took our two personalities and canceled them out to create Shirley's!  She still says hi to everyone she sees and she loves to give kisses and hugs.  Especially "fish lip kissies" and "eskimo kissies!"  She has a newfound love for the park.  She just started going down the slide by herself and her favorite person to go with is Bren.   He calls her "Shirwee".  It's just super cute.
Of course, with all this personality comes a fair share of discipline!  She is very independent and strong-willed.  She definitely has whining down, especially when it's dinner time because she just wants more and more to eat!
She is learning a lot of new words and it's fun to see her say things that I didn't focus on teaching her. I taught her how to point to her eyes, ears, nose, mouth, etc.  But one day I asked her to show me her feet, which I had never asked her before, and she pointed to them; the same thing with her toe.  It's just amazing to see the things they pick up.
I just hope that one day, this spirited girl would pour her energy into the Lord and serving Him with her life.

Last thing I have today is a recipe for the most scrumptious, easy dessert!
I found the recipe on Pinterest from this site.

They are called "Flourless Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars" and they are dangerously fast and easy to make.
I tweaked the recipe just a bit:

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 light brown sugar (or coconut sugar - I also added 1 packet of truvia since the recipe calls for a 3/4 cup)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg (at room temp.)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp carob powder (or 1/2 semi-sweet chocolate chips)
1/3 cup old fashioned rolled oats (I used instant and it turned out fine)

Mix the first four ingredients until well-combined on medium, then add in the egg and vanilla and mix on medium-low.  Add in carob powder and stir in oats by hand.  Press into a greased 8x8 pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for 22 minutes.  Enjoy!  They are basically my new version of brownies!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Blessed Assurance

I am writing this post today in hopes of it being helpful to someone out there.  
Anyone who knows me well, knows that in the past I greatly struggled with assurance of salvation.  I guess I should give a little background first.  When I was five, my best friend at the time told me that to become a Christian, I had to ask Jesus into my heart.  I even remember where we were standing.  It was after school got out and we were right outside the bookstore at Grace Community Church.  I had never known a time when I did not know who Jesus is.  I was attracted to everything I knew about Him.  Why would I not want to be a Christian?  Of course I prayed the prayer with her.  Was I saved at that time?  I don't know for sure.  I can't remember what I thought about sin.  I knew I was a sinner, I knew that Jesus died for sin on the cross, but I don't remember having an understanding of repentance and turning from that sin.  

I'm also not sure when I started doubting whether I was truly saved, but I think it may have been sometime in Junior High.  That's when I started having a "quiet time."  (Time reading the Bible and praying.)  I did this with a very legalistic mindset though.  I felt that I needed to spend some time reading the Bible and then I could watch TV the rest of the night.  It was mostly a duty to me, although in High School I know I started enjoying reading the Bible.  But I remember lying in my bed at night, wondering if I should tell my mom that I was scared to die.  "If I tell her", I thought, "she will be so upset to find out that I may not be a Christian."  I'm sure I said "the prayer" over and over.  

Well, fast forward to September 11, 2001.  My family was in Hawaii on vacation.  (The only time I've ever been to Hawaii.)  It was my senior year of High School.  I remember that morning that I spent some time in the Word and I sang a few hymns on the balcony of our hotel looking out at the water.  I felt pretty good about everything.  Then my dad got a call from his boss at work and he told us to turn on the TV.  The first thing I saw was the World Trade Center on fire with the words, "America Attacked."  To say it kind of killed our vacation is an understatement.  From that moment on I was TERRIFIED.  I did not want to get on a plane to go home for fear that terrorists would take over our plane as well!  (However unlikely that would have been.)  I was extremely afraid to die.  So what did that have to say about my salvation?  

For years after that I struggled.  I started doubting everything, including whether or not God existed.  I desperately wanted to believe that He did, but I just wasn't sure.  How could I be saved if I was doubting even God's existence?  Sometimes I couldn't eat.  I thought that if God determined from the beginning of time who would be saved, and He had decided not to save me, then what was the point in living?  Except I was terrified to die so suicide was definitely not an option.  I felt scared and trapped and deeply depressed.  Things only started turning around when I poured out my heart to God and spent time reading His Word.  

Can I say that I think every person raised in the church needs to deal with these questions at some point?  It's not enough to say that if we have Christian parents we are Christian's.  No one is born a believer, we are all born sinners, hating God and loving our own sin.  

I remember later on that year, my High School Bible study leader asked to hear my testimony and at the end he said, you didn't mention anything about your sin.  This sent me into waves of terror again, but it was a good question.  I knew I was a sinner but did I really understand that it was so awful that I was deserving hell because of it?  

In college I really wrestled with this concept of sin and a new worry was forming.  Was I sorry enough for my sin?  I rarely cried over my sin.  Did I hate it enough?  Did I really repent if I wasn't constantly in tears over it?  

I found this quote sometime in college and it's been in a notebook of mine ever since.  I read it in Saved Without a Doubt by John MacArthur.  The main quote is from Ironside.  I don't know his first name, I just have Ironside written down.  :)  It goes like this:

"Test yourself in this way.  You once lived in sin and loved it.  Do you now desire deliverance from it?  You were once self-confident and trusting in your own fancied goodness.  Do you now judge yourself as a sinner before God?  You once sought to hide from God and rebelled against His authority.  Do you now look up to Him, desiring to know Him, and to yield yourself to Him?  IF you can honestly say "yes" to these questions, you have repented...and remember, it is not the amount of repentance that counts; it is the fact that you turn from self to God that puts you in the place where His grace avails through Jesus Christ.  Strictly speaking, not one of us have ever repented enough.  None of us has realized the enormity of our guilt as God sees it.  But when we judge ourselves and trust the Savior whom He has provided we are saved through His merits.  As recipients of His lovingkindness, repentance will be deepened and will continue day by day, as we learn more and more of His infinite worth and our own unworthiness."  

And John added to that, "Do you see the impulses of the new nature in your life?  If so, that's indicative of salvation.  If God's will has become your highest joy, and submission to His lordship your greatest delight, you are indeed a child of God - no matter how strong the pull of sin."  

A few years later I was still struggling when I was at the Resolved conference. One night we sang "Rock of Ages" and it became one of my favorite hymns.  

Here are a couple of verses:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.

Not the labors of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law's demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone. 

John MacArthur has another saying that I have always loved, "It's not perfection, but direction."  

These things were all helpful but I think the thing that really helped settle me was dwelling on God's love for me and what Jesus did on the cross.  I finally realized that good works did not come from trying really hard.  Good works can NEVER save you.  That's super comforting because we can never do enough good works.  God saved me by His grace alone.  He gave me faith in Him.  And because of that faith and that joy that comes from that knowledge, I am a new person.  I want to obey!  It's from the heart!  It's not perfect.  Go read Romans 7.  But that new heart is there!  

A recent joy has been studying 1 John at Every Woman's Grace.  This book, like no other, has deepened my assurance.  That's why it was written!  (1 John 5:13 - "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.")  A true believer believes that Jesus is the Son of God, they obey Him and they love others.  It's as simple as that.  Is that obedience and love perfect right now?  No, but it's there and growing and one day will be made perfect when we see Christ face to face!  

I love what Andrew Gutierrez (the previous High School pastor at GCC) would often say:
Something like, "When we are saved the rest of our life we live in obedience as a big 'thank you' back to God."

I'll end with "Blessed Assurance"

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! 
O what a foretaste of glory divine! 
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.


This is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long;
this is my story, this is my song, 
praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,

visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
angels descending bring from above
echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest;

I in my Savior am happy and blest,
watching and waiting, looking above
filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

If you're reading this and you don't truly know God or you are doubting whether or not you do, please please please talk to someone who does know Him!  

One last thing.  (Okay I guess I didn't really end up there.)  I am so thankful for the body of Christ, the church.  God gives us fellow believers to comfort, strengthen, lovingly rebuke and encourage.  There are SO MANY people over the years that really helped me with all this and I feel like I have to mention them!  

My High School small group leader, Holly.  I must have driven her crazy with my constant questions and concerns, but she was so patient and loving.  Christen, one of my best friends growing up. My college roomie and High School friend, Melissa.  My college Bible study leader and his wife, Clint and Kim.    They had me over one night to their place and gave me many verses and helped me think through things and they talked with me other times too.  Heather.  She talked with me at a college retreat once and wrote me a super long email that I still have to this day somewhere. Beth, one of my Junior High teachers and later I had her in college too!  She talked with me in her office one day.  Glenna, Nicole and Mariejtie.  All three of them discipled me in and after college.  My pastors and the many helpful sermons they preached, John MacArthur and Rick Holland.  And most of all my parents and sister.  They put up with everything for years!  And they were so patient and loving and helpful all the way through.  There are so many others.  God used each of you in my life and I am so thankful. 


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