Seven Months Old

Sue here back from the blogging grave for a moment.  Today is August 1st.  Seven months ago today was Graham and I’s second anniversary.  We were celebrating with some takeout from Olive Garden, eaten in front of the TV watching a movie I can’t remember now.  I had essentially been in labor of one form or another for the past three weeks at that point, so nothing was super comfortable, but it was a good day.  A sweet day.  It felt almost stolen, in a way, after several weeks of hospital stays and bed rest to be doing something so normal and “us.”  From that place, sitting on the couch, eating my fettucine alfredo (yum), it was hard to imagine life any other way than that, just the two of us, loving life.

The next day at the same time, I was in a hospital triage room with nurses and doctors swirling in and out explaining the upcoming surgery, preparing Graham and I for what was to come, telling us we were finally about to meet our babies.

The very first picture

January 2, 2012.  I was just 33 weeks along, but it was far enough.  Evelyn Ann was born at 9:41 PM a whopping 3 pounds and 15 ounces.  Abigail Elisabeth followed (or was brought out ratherJ) a minute later weighing in at 4 pounds and 11.5 ounces.  My little babies.  They took them away right away, I didn’t get to hold them or kiss them.  I met them the next morning.  I couldn’t believe they were mine.  They were so little and small and delicate.  I couldn’t believe they would let me hold them, but they did.  IVs and lines and all.  I was, after all, their mother.  And they were my girls.

Tomorrow my little babies will turn seven months old.  SEVEN.  MONTHS.  OLD.  I would say where has the time gone, except that I can tell you exactly where it has gone:  diapers, nursing, crying (them), playing, not sleeping, more diapers, playing, crying (me), laughing, cuddling and walks and long nights and long days and baths and changing clothes and wiping off spit up and other stuff, and the list can go on.  We’re tired.   It has been the hardest, most challenging, most humbling, most exhausting, and most enthralling, most entertaining, most wonderful thing we’ve ever done.  From where I sit now, it seems almost like a blur, a blink of the eye.

Evelyn is now 14 pounds and is our little Zen baby.  She was infamous early on for these wise, sage-like looks.  She didn’t smile often, and when she did it was hard won.  She looked at us like she was taller than us.  Like she knew a lot more, and was slightly disappointed in our performance as parents.  But then, slowly but surely, she started smiling.  And it’s the sweetest little twinkly smile.  She giggles when you kiss her neck.  She has blue eyes that are starting to look a bit hazel in the right light, little string bean legs that we’re convinced are dancer legs.  We think she’ll be a ballerina- she has the pretty dark hair and delicate features- she’s so pretty.  She talks and blows bubbles and looks at you like you ought to understand and will jabber back when you talk to her.  She sucks her thumb when she’s bored, but wants her paci when she’s tired.  She is so precious and shy and just steals your heart.  And she always crosses her legs at the ankle like the true Southern lady she is.

Evelyn at 6 months (CBM Photo)

LIKES: Her daddy.  Her pacifier (she holds it like a cigarette and takes long drags on it before popping it out and holding it in her hand for a while).  Her teething toy from Amy LaBarr and Nicole Shields (thanks girls!).  Kicking her legs like a crazy person.  Rolling over.  Rolling back.  Being outside, anytime, anyplace.  Avocado.  Her playmat.  Diaper changes.  “Kissing” momma’s nose, and holding momma’s hair.  Stealing toys from her sister.  Rolling on to her sister.  Anything Abby related.  (We also think she probably likes masterminding shennagians involving herself and her sister, and perhaps planning world domination, but she just can’t act on those yet)

DISLIKES: Baby rice cereal.  Being in her carseat for extended periods of time. Going to sleep.  Being swaddled.  Being told what to do in general (I’m a peacock, Captain…you gotta let me fly!).  Dairy (sad for momma).  Tummy time.  Socks.  Shoes.

Abby is 15 pounds and our Wonder Baby.  We’re pretty convinced that every day is pretty much the best day ever for her.  She’s our little extrovert.  She has the bluest eyes, the softest most beautiful skin and these big clear cheeks that just kill you.  We like to say she smiles with her whole body- her little shoulders scrunch up and her cheeks and chin jut out and she just grins.  She has one tooth!  Her hair is light brown and thicker right on top- it curls into an awesome fauxhawk when she’s fresh from her bath.  Her face is so open and precious I just want to eat her!  She laughs this hiccupy little laugh when you do pretty much anything.  She is passionate- whether she’s happy or sad you’ll know it.  She sucks her fingers, but loves her paci.  Her legs are chubby and she just melts into you when you hold her.  She falls asleep with both arms behind her head like she’s on a beach somewhere relaxing- and has ever since her NICU days under the blue bili lightsJ  She sighs sometimes as if to say it’s all so wonderful she hardly knows how to contain it.

The Wonder Baby at 6 months (CBM Photo)

LIKES: Everything.  Her daddy.  Her pink blanket (she sleeps with it over her face now, which freaks me out but she’s deteremined).  Her “book” (teething book).  Anything I have in my hand.  Food.  More food.  Pretty clothes and headbands (she grins every time I dress her up).  Anything her sister does.  Cuddling.  Rolling over and around.  Kicking.  Talking.  Music and dancing.  Diaper changes and laying on the changing table looking at the map.  Smiling, smiling’s her favorite.

DISLIKES: The nasal aspirator.  Anything that touches her nose.  Having a cold.  The sun (solar sneezer!).  Being left alone.  Having to wait to eatJ

We are so blessed.   Tonight was spent quite differently than that night seven months ago.  We fed the girls pureed avocado (they loved it) for the second time, spent equal amounts of time cleaning up what they spit out, and attempted to eat dinner ourselves.  We cleaned the girls up, changed them, put on their pajamas, I nursed, then put them down to sleep.  I are now slumped on the couch in our living room hoping to be in bed by 9pm.  And it’s awesome.  And crazy.  96% of the time, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  The other 4% of the time, I’m just overly tired and don’t know what I want.

Maybe one day I’ll backlog the last few months, but let’s be honest, that’s probably not going to happen.  We quite literally have our hands full most of the day (and night too- praying they sleep better soon!)- but I’d like to.  Until then, thank you for loving our girls!  We are so taken with them, it is icing on the cake to have friends and family who are delighted with them too.

The Fam (CBM Photo)

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Update on Abigail’s Surgery

Abigail in her Karate outfit before going into surgery

Abigail’s surgery went so well. She is already home and resting.

Here is a summary of the events:

We got up this morning at 430 to get ready for our trip to UNC. Surgeries are scheduled by age, which meant we were certain Abigail would win the opening slot. We were there by 630 and of course Abigail was winning all the hearts of nurses, doctors, and any passer-by. Here is a picture with her and the nurse:

Abigail winning the affection and adoration of all

Abigail was taken back at 730, the surgery started roughly around 830, and she was out of there by about 930. Dr. Gage reported that the surgery went smoothly as was expected. The mass was smaller than anticipated, but it had intertwined with some of the muscle. He had to pull some of that back, which will simply cause some more discomfort in the days to come. The muscle itself will heal just fine in time.

The scar is about an inch or so long and a centimeter wide (a little war wound from the effects of the Fall). Most of the discomfort Abigail felt when she woke up was from the anesthesia, but her whimper was tough to bear. The doctors will do a test on the lesion to know more of what we were dealing with.

Abigail is resting well now along with her mom. The next couple of days will be uncomfortable for her, but she has already proven herself to be a warrior. Pray for wisdom in how to best take care of her during this time.

Evelyn stayed home with Nina (my mom), and seemed to enjoy herself almost too much.Here is picture of that:

We were so blessed to have Mimi and Grandpa (Mr. and Mrs. Hall, Sue’s Parents) to be there with us in the hospital. They were invaluable encouragement and support. Nina will be with us a couple more days to help take care of Evelyn while Susan and I can focus a bit more on Abigail during her recovery.

Overall the whole process went so smoothly, and we could not be more thankful for the outcome. We were even able to come home the same day, which was a wonderful blessing.

I cannot thank everyone enough for all the prayers, encouragement, and support. It was truly a community effort, and we are so humbled and grateful that the LORD responded so graciously. We praise the LORD for His goodness manifested to our sweet little girl.

Please keep Abigail in your prayers as she takes the next couple of days/weeks to recover.

Abigail with Daddy right after Surgery

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Prayer Request: Abigail’s Surgery Tomorrow

We are so overwhelmed by the tremendous amount of support and prayer we have received concerning our little baby girl, Abigail. It is humbling, but we are absolutely desperately dependent upon God’s grace through the prayers of the saints. Please labor with us for Abigail’s surgery tomorrow.

Her surgery is at 7:30 tomorrow morning at UNC Chapel Hill.

Here is a quick prayer guide:
1. Pray for the whole procedure
2. Pray for Abigail’s recovery
3. Pray for the logistics of Evelyn, family, hospitals, work
4. Pray for peace and strength to be faithful

Thank you once again. Prayer is powerful and rely on it. We will update tomorrow as soon as we can.

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Face to Face

One of my favorite things during Susan’s pregnancy was the ultrasounds. We went into the first appointment not sure if wanted an ultrasound at all, but after realizing it would be helpful in the long run we decided to go for it.

That is when we found out we were having twins. (Very thankful for that nurse.)

Given the nature of Susan’s pregnancy we went from having one or two ultrasounds to having an abundance. This turned out to be a great joy for me, because I loved seeing my children develop from the size of a peanut to a small grapefruit.

The first ultrasound only showed what looked like dots. The fact that there was a “dot” let alone two was exhilarating. The next ultrasound they looked a bit alien-like (but still ever so lovely). It also looked as if they were dancing. I was absolutely amazed at their development and the technology that could give us a glimpse of the persons growing inside. The 4-D ultrasound was spectacular. It can depict very closely their features that they would carry outside the womb. I remember sitting there absolutely stunned that these beautiful children were mine.

Yet, even with all the technology the images of Evelyn and Abigail were still blurred. At the time I couldn’t imagine what they would look like or who they would look like (this is still very much up for debate). The thing Susan and I kept saying was that we couldn’t wait to officially meet them; to see them face to face.

Then that glorious day came, and I was finally blessed to lay my eyes on their faces for the first time unhindered. Their beauty was more than my mind could ever have imagined. What has been even sweeter is how much they have grown since then. It feels like I am constantly getting to know my daughters, with all the multifaceted features of their looks and personalities. I know that this is just the beginning to what will be a lifelong journey of knowing them and being known.

Such is the relationship of a father with his children, which I am most blessed to experience.

A question I loved to ask fathers before I myself took on the role was, “How has being a father enhanced or changed your view of God the Father?” It was usually a good conversational piece, but it also informed me much about how experiences in this life can teach us about greater spiritual truths.

When I reflect on this experience of seeing my girls’ faces dimly in the ultrasound pictures, then seeing them face to face, it reminded me of the Apostle Paul’s words:

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

If this life and the one after are at all analogous to my girls before and after their birth, then what indescribable joy awaits all those who believe in Him! We see dimly the picture of God’s grace, hope, and joy on this side of heaven, but oh what a promise of seeing God face to face, fully knowing as we are fully known. In expressible joy fulfilled. It is almost too much to bear as we reflect, but it is a hope that we must cultivate lest we grow content with the dim picture, not realizing the hope of an unhindered relationship with our Creator.

I believe that many of our experiences are faint echoes of the symphony of God’s grace and truth. If we could just slow down enough, we might just hear that sweet song and enter into worship of the King.


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Results from Abigail’s MRI

The results from the MRI were as the doctors had expected (which is a good thing). The lesion appears to be a vascular malformation, which would be best if extracted as these things have a tendency to grow. We will know exactly what it is once extracted and a biopsy is done. The lesion is about 5cm x 3cm x 1cm and is wrapped around the muscle in her lower back. By God’s sweet mercy and grace, the malformation is not disturbing the spine at all and there should be no long term effects functionally. (Aesthetically, there will be a small scar, which should be very minimal).
Surgery is still planned for Monday sometime in the morning.

All of this is a sweet blessing from the Lord and a gracious answer to much prayer. It has been a long two days at Chapel Hill but both Abigail and Evelyn were rock stars during the whole time. (And so was their mother…they take after her.) All the encouragement and prayers have been deeply felt and we could not imagine doing this without such incredible support.

We are so overwhelmed by God’s mercy in this situation, and we just glorify Him for this manifestation of grace in our lives.

Thank you for your labor and remember Abigail this upcoming Monday.

Daddy and Abigail waiting the MRI results

Evelyn was like an angel during the whole time

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Update on Abigail

Thank you so much for all your intercession for our precious Abigail. It was so encouraging to see the power of prayer at work not only in explicit expression but also in the intricacies of the seemingly insignificant events of the day.

Susan had been worried that Abigail would be absolutely miserable because she had to go on a four hour fast. (She likes to eat, just like her daddy). However, the Pedialyte seemed to put Abigail in somewhat a drunken stupor. She was so happy throughout the morning, the car ride, and even up to the point that we had to hand her over to the doctors (Check out the photo above taken before we headed to the hospital). Evelyn was just as well behaved. Though it sounds small, this really was a huge blessing, and greatly reduced our stress level throughout the whole process. I sincerely attribute this to prayer.

The MRI went really well according to all accounts of the doctors and nurses. Huge answer to prayer. We were expecting to take her home right after, but because of her premature status, it is policy to keep her overnight to monitor. So, the Michael family will be staying over night at UNC. By grace we were able to change the Wednesday appointment to tomorrow to avoid a three day consecutive trip to Chapel Hill.

We will know more tomorrow after her appointments. It is still looking like surgery, but after such a solid day of answered prayer, we are very encouraged and have all the more confidence as we go forward.

Once again, we could not do this without prayer. The Lord’s Presence has been consistently felt, for which we are most grateful.

I will update this again tomorrow night once all the dust settles from appointments and travels.

Grace and Peace,
Graham, Susan, Evelyn, and Abigail

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Prayer Request for Abigail

I just wanted to let you know the situation concerning our youngest daughter, Abigail. I assume many or all have already heard, but I thought it would be good to give some details on the situation.

Abigail has a lump of sorts on her lower back about the size of a golf ball. It has been there for several weeks now and we have seen various doctors and specialists to find out more. All were hoping it was a “Hemangioma“, which she would have outgrown eventually with little to no treatment. However, the symptoms did not match up (there was no discoloring externally) leaving the doctors uncertain of the exact diagnosis.

The placement of the lump (the doctors are calling it a “lesion”) is near her spine and it appears it continues to grow. The doctors at UNC have decided to go ahead and schedule an MRI for Abigail this Monday, April 23rd to know what we are dealing with and how deep the lesion is. Wednesday, April 25th, we will head back to the doctor to get the results of the MRI. The doctors have already scheduled an appointment for surgery to extract the lump for the following Monday, April 30th. This could change depending on the results of the MRI, but they wanted to go ahead and get her on the calendar.

By God’s grace Susan and I have been able to stay positive and for the most part maintain a sense of peace about the whole situation. We are confident that this will be a routine surgery and there will be little to no long term effects from the lesion. Our present concern is the MRI, and the fact that Abigail has to be put under for the operation. Though Abigail has maintained a weight advantage on her older sister since conception, she is still small and young, and this kind of procedure has its obvious risks. The other concern is the obvious discomfort that Abigail will experience throughout, whether it is the MRI or the surgery. I am comforted by the fact that I will have to explain this whole ordeal to her one day as she won’t remember it, but in the meantime, it is going to be tough for her mother and father to watch her discomfort.

Susan’s parents and my mom are coming to Wake Forest to offer support as well as additional care for Evelyn while we travel between hospital and home.

So, if you have made it this far down the letter, then I just ask you to pray for our family. Pray for Abigail’s healing. Pray for the doctor’s ability and skill in every procedure. Pray for our hearts that we are faithful in the midst of this trial, looking to Christ, finding strength and peace in Him.

Thank you for your prayers.

Post Script: We sincerely hope to update the blog more in the future detailing all the wonderful things that are happening in our lives (we are truly beyond blessed and thankful this whole season), lest every time you see a new blog you think that there is something wrong! We love you all, and we are so thankful for you visiting.

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Out of the Fog

All of my ladies are up in Yorktown, Virginia this whole week. I am taking a week-long class on the Psalms that goes from 8 to 5 and Susan thought it might be best to take the girls and visit family while I can get some sleep and focus on the class before me. This will be the longest I have been away from my daughters and though the sleep has been nice, I already miss my girls. I might write some Lament Psalms of my own before the week is over!

Just to recap the recent events; the week and a half that Susan and I were sick were long and arduous. In so many ways we were just glad to make it through each day. I never realized to what extent lack of sleep could affect a person. There was one night where Susan had Abigail and Evelyn was crying in the other room in her crib. Though I could somewhat make out the cry and at some distant level in my subconscious I knew it was important for me to get up, it took Susan giving me some forceful encouragement for me to fully realize I needed to act. Whether I got up then and came back, or just moved around a bit, I don’t remember, but I somehow I ended up with a pillow on my chest, of which I was comforting like it was my sweet little Evelyn. Meanwhile my real child was still upset in the other room. Susan had to make me aware that I was not in fact holding our child but a pillow.

I hear they use sleep deprivation as a tool of interrogation and torture.

By the grace of the LORD we all got better without getting the girls sick. We are so thankful for all the prayers. Susan’s mom came and stayed with our family and was such a huge blessing. I couldn’t imagine making it through the week as well as we did without her or our blessed small group.

To be honest, it is hard to see out of the fog of little sleep and energy, so hearing the struggles and victories of others is always a welcomed perspective and encouragement. I want us continually to remember the Kingdom of Christ in the midst of this season so that in our struggles we can begin and end our prayers with thankfulness as well as the hope that we are faithfully serving the LORD during this time.

Grace and Peace.

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Running on a Spare

A couple of days ago I (Graham…don’t worry Susan will blog soon!) was trying to get everything together for my Hebrew class. I had a presentation due and I did not want to miss out on the quiz at the beginning of class. Being sick has zapped me of a lot of my strength and energy, and some of the small duties required for my class have become a bit heavier because of it.Though my Hebrew professor told me not to worry about coming to class, I decided to push through so I wouldn’t miss a quiz or my presentation.

I spent two nights before working on my translation that was due for that class so it would free me up the night before the class to work on my presentation. Our presentations are basically going through a verse with that class from the text we are translating, specifically explaining its grammar and theology. To my great fortune I got the verse that only contains four words in Hebrew! Awesome. However, Scripture is a deep ocean and found myself going deeper than I had expect, which meant that I was swimming for quite awhile. Not only that, formatting Hebrew on a word document can be a time consuming monster.

The next day, the day it was due, I worked in the morning and tried to get some time at the library to finish up my presentation. It seemed like one thing after another kept me from getting to the library and even at the library I did not get as much done as I had hoped (c’est la vie). I had about twenty minutes before class started and when I pulled up the document only to find that the Library at Southeastern had not invested the money in buying the Hebrew version of Microsoft to ensure the fonts didn’t change.

Admittedly I hit panic mode and decided to print it at home. I finished typing most of my presentation, called Susan on the way to get her to boot up the computer and printer. I only had fifteen minutes. She didn’t answer the phone.  I rush home, run upstairs totally ignoring my mother-in-law’s request for me to wash bottles, booted up the computer, got the printer ready, and my wife tries to call me. I respond with a quick text that I didn’t have time. The computer came to life and I thought to myself, “I am going to make it!” I get a text from Susan. I ignored it. There was no time because it was game time! I see my document light up the screen with that beautiful Hebrew font. I am about to print when my phone rings again. It is Susan. I pick up and she says, “We have a flat tire.”

In that moment, which wasn’t my best of moments I thought of a thousand scenarios where I could still get to my class, take my quiz, and hand in my presentation. But the weight of those thousand scenarios didn’t measure up to that one scenario, the right scenario, of going to help my wife. I said, “I’ll be right there.”

Even changing the tire was an event that I won’t go into, but in summary I ended up using two jacks for the van, got blood on my face, and a piece on the bottom of the van broke making the vehicle fall two inches before getting caught, scaring us all half to death.

Basically this story is a good metaphor for our season in life right now. I have had all these grandiose expectations on how life should look right now, needs to look right now, and I find myself having to adapt to the reality which is our lives during this season. God’s grace is sufficient and perfected in weaknesses. It is good to learn to take joy in His strength over mine. It is such a good journey for which I am so thankful even if I don’t respond the best in the moment. It forces me to trust the Lord and focus on my own faithfulness to His Kingdom. Right now we are running on a spare in more ways then one, but it is all we need to get where we need to go for right now.

Quick Update: I am on the other side of the mountain of my sickness, getting better by the hour. Susan is at the top of the mountain and hopefully will join me on this side of things. It still seems like the girls have not made an ascent yet (I am guessing the mountain analogy is breaking down by now), but please pray that they will continue to be protected from our sickness. Thanks for all the intercessions for our family! We feel the answer to those prayers.

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Down with the Sickness

Over the past couple of days I (Graham) have become increasingly sick. My throat feels like I swallowed gravel and my energy level is in the red level. This has presented us a whole new set of challenges with new born twins in the house. I fear too much exposure to the girls will only increase their chances of getting whatever I have. At the same time, though Susan is the most incredible mom in the world, she still needs an extra hand especially during that cruel hour in the middle of the night.

This means that I am washing my hands all the more thoroughly, which has come to the point that my hands are breaking open from the mixture of the cold, dry weather and the constant use of hand sanitizer. Reminds me of my days in Bolivia. I am also sleeping on the pull out bed down stairs, which I have realized for the first time that it is not all that comfortable. I apologize to all our guests who have had to endure that bar that can be felt so securely  across the middle of the back. My assistance to my family has been diminished to an occasional feeding and the more trivial of duties like washing the bottles. I’d choose diapers over bottles any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

This morning was also a bit sad for me. After the feedings that occurred at the 2nd and 3rd watches of the night, the girls were right on time for the early morning feeding. I grabbed Evelyn and gave her the bottle. I sat next to my beautiful wife who held Abigail and we just sat there and shared in the silence and a mutual desire to still be in our respective beds. After a couple of burpings and a change of the diaper, I was amazed at how Evelyn was growing fast and even growing some cheeks! I then propped her up in her little boppy to allow her to digest the food a bit better (she has been struggling recently) and my wife says, “You know that is Abigail, right?”

Epic fail.

So, this post is a prayer request that I would overcome this sickness and our overall tiredness without the girls also coming down with the sickness. Between two jobs, learning Hebrew, and lack of sleep/energy/Parks and Recreation, I have arrived well past the point of a desperate need of Grace. And between my wife and me, I have it easy. And to be honest maybe we have always been in that desperate need of Grace, and this is just one of the ways the good Lord reminds us that we truly are always in desperate need of Him.

Pray that we are not only physically rested and restored but our spirits our continually renewed in the strength of Christ.

Post Script:
If you haven’t checked it out yet, take a look at the photos taken by our ridiculously talented sister, Carmen at her blog:

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