Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Happy New Year 2014

Happy New Year 2014, Family and Friends!   Is the end of January too late to post a Happy New Year card?  Probably.  Here's the excuse...we've been a little busy.  You know, the for gifts, trying to keep Jesus the focus, the Nutcracker, Christmas, and oh yeah, a new baby.   The normal December stuff.  We pray you all had a blessed 2013 and that you are tackling 2014 with a renewed joy and hope for whatever the year may bring.   Don't give up on that one year Bible plan can still catch up!
       2013...As I sat waiting for Zach to take his driver’s permit test just a couple months ago, the baby growing inside me stretched, flipped, and kicked proclaiming her ambitions to be free from the constrains of my belly and set loose to move about as she pleased.  Rubbing her active, kicking feet, I couldn’t help but whisper, “You’ll be free soon enough, Little One.” The doors to the testing site opened and Zach’s big grin declared that he was now officially a driver.  The baby inside me protested her bondage.   The young man in front of me stood tall.  Yesterday…just yesterday…this child holding his driver’s permit was the baby that was kicking inside me.  How did we get here?  Who has dared to permit time to pass so quickly?  Torn with emotion, I looked at my oldest, imagined the baby being knit inside me, and battled two conflicting feelings:  1) We don’t have too much time left with him at home.  2) HOWEVER, WE REALLY NEED AN EXTRA DRIVER!  So, we fight for contentment in every stage of life knowing that the birth of one more precious baby gives us another opportunity to parent from the beginning, but also means that realistically we will never, ever, truly, be alone J.  
       Two teenagers…a preteen…an elementary kiddo…a busy preschooler…and a newborn.  9th grade, 7th grade, 4th grade, 1st grade, preschool, and a three-week old.  We are all over the place emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually at this stage of life.    Talking of dating (Umm, no…because we said so!), learning through friendships (Just be nice!), dealing with temper tantrums (Have some self-control, little girl!), fighting some fears (Have we ever been late to get you at soccer practice? Wait, don’t answer that!), and analyzing whether the preschooler’s active imagination is crossing into a complete detachment from reality (How long do we let him tell this story before we remind him that it’s not real?).  There’s some serious fun and some serious confusion within the walls of this house.  Joyfully, we are certain that with the size of our family, we will qualify for a group therapy rate.      

       Eighteen years of marriage and a baby on the way, seemed the perfect excuse for Preston and I to escape to Hawaii alone for a couple days this fall.   We vowed to not talk about the children…so we spent several days in silenceJ.  Actually, we thoroughly enjoyed our trip and we continually praise God that He somehow has preserved our family through many ups and downs and still allows us to find joy in just being together.   The A-10 once again faces funding cuts, yet Preston continues to promise that he will fly this airplane until its last days.  Plan B?  Graciously, he’s volunteered to pay my way through medical school so I can support the family in our later years.  So thoughtful. One reminder that this would mean that he would have to stay home with the kids motivates him to test for his commercial pilot license in the very likely event that the A-10 has its last flying days during his watch.  He spent his free time working with Awanas and coaching Zach’s high school football team’s offense.  In his next life, he’d love to be a full-time football coach.  Me?  Six kids stretch my managerial skills and time.  Juggling schedules, rides, food, laundry, homework, attitudes, discipline, hugs, more food, and more laundry, requires mainly the skill of battling my very real struggle to serve others JOYFULLY J!  I do love running (to burn off the “who appreciates me?” attitude), I love blogging (to process the “who will serve me?” attitude), and I love reading classics with friends (to escape the “where’s my glory?” attitude.)  In my next life, on a good day, I think I’d do it all againJ.           

ZACH, the Peacemaker, gracefully adjusted to a “real” high school this year.  He played varsity football as safety and still continues to swim and play/ref soccer.   His attention to his studies (he loves writing and history) leads us to believe that his threat to live with us FOREVER is merely a ploy to mess with our minds (which it does.)  God knew Zach was the right McConnell to be the leader of this crew as his love for the Lord and his siblings constantly brings peace to our chaotic home.   A mock trial class last spring gave him the “skill” to stick up for his siblings in a more “official” manner.  “Your Honor, this woman who calls herself their mother is badgering the witnesses!” fun.  Sigh. 
JOSH, the Focused, is quick about everything he does:  quick to start his studies in the morning, quick on the soccer and football fields, quick to smile, quick to speak, followed by quick to apologize, quick to encourage, quick to recognize faults in others, quick to recognize his own faults, quick to have a great day, and quick to have the worst day EVER (I totally get that.)  He’s our only kid that has stuck with piano (he actually practices) and we enjoy the nights that his music fills our home. He can turn a tense moment to hysterical laughter with one comment and enjoys teaching Noah songs to share with his preschool friends during church (and they aren’t hymns!).
     MADELIN, the Helper, developed some masterful skills to bless our family.  She taught herself to make smoothies (won Daddy’s heart), milkshakes (won the big brothers), apple turnovers (won the sister), cookies (won Noah), casseroles (won me), and asked for a new blender for Christmas (won Grammy and Papa.)  She loves her new baby sister and continually offers to get up in the middle of the night because she loves rocking babies.  (I'm going to take her up on it one of these days.)  She still balances soccer and ballet, and seamlessly transitions from fiercely competitive to beautifully graceful.  Recently, we overheard her leading her little siblings and cousins in the “hush puppy” game.  When we asked about the game, she winked and said, “You know that game.  If they don’t talk, I promised to make them a bracelet.”  Brilliant.               

SAVANNAH, the Tender, bravely fought through many fears and tackled some new things this year.  She played soccer, danced in the Nutcracker, and learned to give presentations during her homeschool meetings.  This coming year, we are praying strength for her to participate in new things without the prepared pep talk and ceremonial tears.  Fortunately, she brings her own “you can do it” section wherever she goesJ.  She’s gentle and compassionate and loves making other people happy.  Her favorite playmate is Noah and she constantly makes sure that his love for sports is counteracted by a good game of Barbie Dolls.  She’s still a cuddler and has heart for serving others and our family.             

NOAH, the Entertainer, has the voice of the most excitable broadcaster and the imagination of Walt Disney.  He talks from the moment his eyes open to the moment they close at night and has yet to finish the run-on sentence he started 2 years ago when he began talking.   His personality is much bigger than his size and we continually joke that he’s an old soul.  He idolizes his big brothers and while they used to pretend to be “Tim Tebow,” Noah puts on his football gear and pretends to be “Zach McConnell, for the SCA Eagles” or “Josh McConnell, for the Lee’s Summit Pirates.”   Watching him imitate the older brothers touches all of us and hopefully puts a little pressure on those brothers to be GOOD EXAMPLES for the little eyes that are constantly watching them!           

HOPE SELAH, the Gift, was born to us on Christmas morning at 2:00 am.   Could there be a sweeter Christmas present?  We rejoiced the early hours of Christmas morning over the birth of our Savior while marveling at the gift of this precious baby girl to us.   As we are still getting to know her, her name speaks our prayer for this year.  Have HOPE.  And SELAH “pause and worship.”      

 That’s our prayer for our family and for all of you this year.  That you might HAVE HOPE and SELAH...PAUSE and WORSHIP, our Heavenly Father who loves us so unconditionally. 
We thank God for each of you. 

Monday, January 6, 2014


Hope Selah.
7 lbs 7 oz.  19.5 inches long.   
Born Christmas morning at 2:00 am.       
She's here, she's beautiful,  and I'm once again blown away by how quickly I can fall madly in love with someone.  
You could call it love at first sight.   
I'm smitten with her. 
Walking into the hospital only minutes before midnight on Christmas Eve, I knew that unless she fell out on the floor that very second...we were having a Christmas baby.    
And the name that I had been holding in my heart for months spoke new purpose to me.    
Of course that would be her name.      
People asked through my pregnancy, "Do you have a name picked out yet?" 
My mind always shouted, "HOPE.   Her name is HOPE."
But my heart always silenced my mouth and I kept her just to myself.
Like somehow if I breathed her name, I would interrupt the intimacy that only she and I shared while she grew inside me.   
For a time...Hope was only mine. 

From the beginning, maybe even before I found out I was pregnant, she was Hope to me.   
Each of the kids' bedrooms have a word above their doorway.   
The older boys room says, "Faith."
The little ones' room says, "Love." 
My oldest daughter's room says, "Hope."    
The only bedroom that can be seen from our living room is our oldest daughter's.   
Shortly before I found out I was pregnant, I sat reading my Bible in the living room and happened to look up at the bedroom at the top of the stairs.   
I'd seen it everyday for several years.   
But for some reason, on that day, this thought followed:  
"That's her name." 
I remember thinking, "Maybe we're going to adopt a little girl named Hope."  
The thought of her was born to me that day.  
Before she even came to be.

When we found out that I was carrying a girl, I thought,
"Of course we are having a girl.   And her name is Hope."  
But I couldn't speak of her by name to anyone.    She really was just mine.
Even my husband was mostly left out.    
I was afraid that if I mentioned what I called her that he would dismiss the name.   
I knew that regardless of what her final birth name came to be, to me, during this pregnancy, she would always be Baby Hope.  
So, I kept it always to myself. 
Her name held tightly and somewhat desperately in my heart and mind.     

In the last couple months, my mom and I shared a phone call of sadness that we really hadn't had the time to talk about this little one much, or to focus on my pregnancy, or to just sit and watch her move across my belly.   It was just too busy.   There were so many other things going on that there just wasn't time with this pregnancy to fully sit and ponder her the way I could with my first or even second baby.  Some days I would walk by a mirror and be almost shocked at the size of my stomach.   When did I grow so much?   The calendar always surprised me with the turn of a week and the steps closer to her actual due date.  How did another week already pass?    

Within minutes of hanging up that particular phone call with my mom, somewhat tearful that this pregnancy was almost over, and full of some guilt that I hadn't fully focused on the baby inside, a woman walked by me with one word boldly written in capital letters on her shirt.   HOPE.  It was as though the Lord comforted me in that moment and said, "More than any other child you've carried, this one has been on your mind since before she was even conceived.  You didn't have time to bring her to your thoughts always, Michelle, but I constantly kept her in your mind.   She was always there."    

It's true.    
As I reflected, almost every day through my pregnancy, something with the word Hope would cross my path and I always had a second where I would silently think, "That's my baby.  Hey there, Little Hope." And she generally got a belly rub from me because I love rubbing my belly when I'm pregnant.  
The moment would pass quickly, but almost every day God did that for me.    
Shortly before I gave birth, my sister-in-law forwarded me an email from the company where we had ordered my parents anniversary gift last year.   We got them a large decorative stone for their garden with their names and their anniversary date engraved and then little stones individually personalized with all of their children and grandchildren...their legacy.   Her email reminded me that I needed to get another stone to add to the garden.    I scrolled down the email and laughed out loud at the only picture displayed on the company page.     One least a hundred stones filled this one picture.   And every single stone said the exact same word.  HOPE.  One hundred stones all declaring to me this baby's name.   HOPE.   Of course.  That's her name.  One hundred thoughts for my Baby Hope.  

There's debate on what the word means, but it's found all through the Psalms.  One possible definition is that it means, "Pause."    Another translation, "Pause and Worship."   
Pause and Worship.    
Pause and Worship.    
If speaking a child's name ever spoke a sermon to me, this is what I've needed to hear in recent years.  
Have HOPE.  
Of course, that would be her name.  

During the early hours of Christmas, as we met our newest little one and set our eyes for the first time on this beautiful, red-faced, helpless infant, we didn't speak of her name until the room was empty of all the nurses.     
"So, who is she?"  my husband asked.    
The moment of truth.   Would she be to him who she was to me?  
"Hope Selah."    
He asked, "What does Selah mean?" 
"It's kind of uncertain, but one thought is that it means pause and worship."   
His face lit up, "That's who she is.    Absolutely."
And he made the phone call to my parents that their newest granddaughter had been born.   
"She's here.    Hope Selah born on Christmas morning is here."

The nurse gave her a bath and my oldest daughter snuck in with my mom at 4:00 in the morning just in time for big sister to rub lotion on her new baby sister.  They bundled her up and as she quickly fell asleep, the nurse put her in the little baby bed beside me.  "Get some sleep," the nurse said as she left us once again alone in the room. I lay there for a while on my side watching her sleep peacefully.  She felt so far away.  As the sun rose on Christmas morning, I couldn't bear to be away from her more than a couple minutes.  We'd been together every second for 9 months.   As Baby Hope faced her first Christmas, her first couple hours of life, I knew that I wasn't quite ready to let her be away from me yet.   So as my other children awoke to news of the birth of their baby sister, I spent Christmas morning cradling my newborn and watching her every breath.  I'm an old mama with the knowledge that this moment lasts a second and I'm going to enjoy as much of it as I can.      

She's beautiful.  
She's loved. 
She's helpless.  
She's vulnerable.   

She's finally, for now, in our arms.      


For unto us a child is born.  
What a blessed ending to 2013.