Polishing Off the Old Blog One Last Time in 2013

*Cough* Wow, it sure is dusty in here! *Cough*

A few months ago, I mentioned that I’d be posting less frequently here because of a new hymn-related writing project. (Which, by the way, has been a lot of fun! Check out Systematic Hymnology and follow along on Twitter and Facebook if you haven’t already.) But “less frequently” became “not at all” pretty quickly, so I wanted to squeeze in one last blog post in 2013 to catch up those interested with the twists and turns life has thrown our family in the last few months.

The biggest adventure by far has been learning that both of our daughters were born with moderate hearing loss. When our first daughter was born, she failed her hearing screening at the hospital, and went on to fail hearing screenings scheduled about every 6 weeks until her second birthday. While we noticed that her speech was not developing, our local doctor told us there was nothing to be concerned about and that she would probably catch up on her own, so we didn’t think too much of it. Maybe we should have.

When our second daughter also failed her newborn hearing screening, we began to suspect that there may actually be something wrong. We scheduled an appointment with a different audiologist for a second opinion. Her opinion was that our older daughter should have gotten a referral for hearing aids a year earlier. She referred us to an ENT at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, who seconded her opinion.

Suffice it to say that we aren’t very happy with the local doctor… but I don’t want to dwell on that part of the story. We won’t be back to see him, but we have been extremely pleased with the care we have received from our new doctor, and the entire team at Vandy. They’ve been very accommodating in fast-tracking both of our girls through all the various tests and procedures it took to get their hearing aids, which we received a few weeks ago. We’re still adjusting, but the difference already is amazing! I continue to marvel at the gifts God gives to the world through scientific progress and the development of new technologies that make life easier. The prognosis for both girls is that, while they will likely need hearing devices for the rest of their lives, they should quickly catch up with their peers in all the areas they are delayed. And even though they won’t “need” sign language in order to communicate, we have found that learning ASL has been incredibly beneficial as well as a ton of fun! (If you have kids, I can’t recommend the Signing Time series enough! Some episodes are available on Netflix, and many of the DVD’s are at our local library.)

Blessed as we’ve been through this process, it has been exhausting in many ways. For the last several months, we’ve had appointments at Vanderbilt nearly every week. It has seemed at times that every day we are either making a trip or recovering from one. There have also been hours of research into hearing loss, and the various procedures the girls have been undergoing, and hours more working through tough financial decisions as we adjust to our new reality, and the necessary adjustments it has meant for our family budget. This is definitely the #1 reason for my reduced writing capacity recently!

Added to all this, though, is the fact that our house is currently on the market. It has been showing well and frequently (which certainly doesn’t help with the exhaustion, but we’re not complaining!), but no sale yet. It’s not an ideal time to sell a house, but we have had several very interested potential buyers, and are hopeful that the house will sell quickly after the holidays are over. While we love our current house and location, our desire is to purchase land outside Cookeville, so that we will be able to raise some chickens, goats, and who knows what else, as well as starting a large garden. We have also felt a strong desire to downsize and simplify our lives… which probably should be a separate post at some point soon. We’re excited to see where the Lord will lead us as this process is completed! If you know anyone in the market for a home in an ultra-convenient Cookeville city location, we’d appreciate you kindly directing them to our listing!

One last thing:

As many readers follow this blog for book reviews (of which there have been none for months, sadly), let me assure you that I’ve not stopped reading, despite everything else! I can’t guarantee that I’ll get reviews written for some of these books, but I can at least share what I’ve read recently, along with a brief thumbs-up or down:

Recent Reads

Clash of Titans: Atlas Shrugged, John Galt & Jesus Christ, by Chad Brand and Tom Pratt — Big thumbs up for this one, though it won’t appeal to everyone. If you enjoyed (or hated) Atlas Shrugged, this book will give you a deeper appreciation/understanding of it. It’s the best  critique from a Christian perspective I’ve seen, pointing out Ayn Rand’s merits (of which there are many) while not hesitating to also warn against her flaws (which are profoundly dangerous).

Moral Apologetics for Contemporary Christians: Pushing Back Against Cultural and Religious Critics, by Mark Coppenger — Like the last book, this was written by one of my seminary professors. I loved their classes so much, I figured I’d love their books too, and I was right! Dr. Coppenger has a unique take on apologetics, in which he bases his defense of Christianity on the moral fruit it has brought to the world (e.g., hospitals, universities, ending slavery, etc.). He also does a “fruit check” in the lives of Christian leaders contrasted with the lives of leaders of rival world religions and philosophies. Quite interesting!

Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem, by Kevin DeYoung — This book seemed fitting given my recent circumstances, and it was tremendously helpful. I’d say more, but I really don’t have the time.

Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry — Ever since I read Hannah Coulter (my review), I’ve been looking forward to another visit to the fictional town of Port William, Kentucky. As much as I enjoyed HC, I enjoyed this one even more!

Reading Now

Symphonic Theology: The Validity of Multiple Perspectives in Theology, by Vern Poythress — Admission #1: I bought this book pretty much based on the title alone. That said, it has been really interesting! Poythress (an author I’ve read and enjoyed before) encourages Christians to be open to differing perspectives on the interpretation of Scripture. While the Bible is infallible, our understanding and interpretation of it is now, and it is good to acknowledge that no one perspective gets everything right. We have much to learn from those who view things differently, and from attempting to look at Scripture in a fresh way ourselves. Admission #2: I set this book down a few weeks ago and haven’t picked it back up, mostly because I decided I wanted to use my vacation time to indulge primarily in fiction reading… I’m hoping to get back to it soon.

Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel — This is the second book in the “Thomas Cromwell Trilogy”; I finished the first book (Wolf Hall) last week. The trilogy is historical fiction based in the court of Henry VIII, told from the perspective of his Master Secretary, Thomas Cromwell. I’ve wanted to read this series ever since I heard an interview with the author on NPR earlier this year, and it hasn’t disappointed. Go pick up a copy and read it!

Up Next

Other than finishing the Mantel trilogy, I’m most looking forward to reading The Band That Played On: The Extraordinary Story of the 8 Musicians Who Went Down With the Titanic. I’ve heard wonderful things about this book, and am glad it’s finally staring at me from the very top of my “to read” pile. After that, I hope to be getting back into seminary classes (I’ve had to take a lengthy break for both financial and schedule reasons), which means my reading will once again be dominated by textbooks.

Many blessings to you this New Year!

New Blog is Live!

I’m really excited to announce the launch of my new blogging project, Systematic Hymnology! There I’ll be publishing stories and doctrinal studies based on the great hymns and songs of the Church. So far there are only a few posts  over there, but I’ve got plenty more written and plan to publish 2-3 a week. I’ve been working on it for quite a while (which explains the lack of recent posting here at H&L), and hope you’ll head on over there. I’d also love if you will follow the blog on Facebook and Twitter!

Not to worry, though. Now that I’ve done the hard part, I hope to get back to writing posts (especially book reviews) here on this blog as well. It may take me a while to get into a new writing groove, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Retooling

After taking some time to think and pray about the direction of my writing and the use of my time, I have come to the decision to change the focus of H&L. I’ll still be using this blog to post book reviews (of which I have about a half dozen in the pipeline that I need to finish and post), and will periodically write other blog posts and articles as well, but these posts may become increasingly few and far between… at least for this season of my life. I do plan to keep using the Facebook Page and Twitter feed to link to noteworthy content in the realms of theology, politics, and economics, and look forward to interacting more there.

The reason for all the changes is that I am going to be launching a new writing project soon! This will include a new blog, but hopefully will also lead to other publishing opportunities as well. I’ve been working ahead and have the first couple months of blog posts already written, so when I get a design I’m happy with and am ready to go public, I’ll be sure to publicize it here. I hope those of you who have been faithful readers here will enjoy the new blog as well.

I don’t want to give too much away just yet, but I can tell you that the new project will be in the area of the theology of the arts, something which is a passion of mine and which will integrate well with my job, making it easier to make more efficient use of my time. I’m pretty excited about it! Stay tuned…

Essaying the Situation

The blog’s been quiet for a while, but it’s certainly not because I haven’t been writing! I had term papers due for two classes on Friday, and am currently working on an additional essay project. Once I finish it, I should be free to get back to regular posting, which hopefully will include finish the half-dozen book reviews I’ve got saved in my drafts folder.

When things calm down a bit I may try to post all or part of my essays for those who may be interested. Here are the topics I chose for my papers:

In my “Survey of Christian Ethics” paper, I wrote on the potential war with Syria from the perspective of Christian Just War Theory. Cliff’s Notes version: Stay out of Syria!

I had a lot of fun writing the paper for my “Philosophy of Religion” class. I proposed a new theodicy, attempting to “solve” the problem of evil. Before this one hits the Internet, though, I’d like to bounce the idea around and get feedback from some people (particularly my philosophy professor) and try to refine my arguments a bit more.

The essay I’m writing currently is for the Ayn Rand Institute. Every year they give away a lot of money for essays written on topics related to Rand’s novels. This year will be my first entry, and I’m writing on topic #2 in the Atlas Shrugged competition, which is the only one open to graduate students. I’d like to say I’m not in it for the money, but that’s just not true. I can think of a few things I could do with $10,000…

Worth The Wait

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After our first two children came early (Nate) and on-time (Carrie), I thought the timing would be great to save the 1000th post on this blog for the announcement of the birth of our third child. When I published post #999 on February 26 and Laurie went into labor two days later, I was sure of it!

That was the time we began to fully appreciate this child’s penchant for the dramatic.

With her two previous pregnancies, Laurie had a very predictable pattern of labor. Both times we were able to spend much of the early labor walking our neighborhood, heading to the hospital as things intensified. We spent only a few hours in the delivery room before Nate was born, and even less for Carrie. Not so this time!

Laurie’s “labor” on February 28 ended up being a very convincing fraud. Heading home from the hospital still pregnant was disappointing, but not overly so. We weren’t due until March 8. If the baby wanted to gestate a little longer, who were we to argue?

As the baby’s due date approached, we began to think that we may get ourselves a very nice Anniversary gift. Sadly, March 8 came and passed without a special delivery. Getting to celebrate five amazing years with a night of dancing and dining (and trumpet playing) was a pretty fabulous silver lining, though! I was able to take Laurie with me to a swing dance where I was playing on our Anniversary, and we snuck in a few dances (though not much swinging) between contractions.

Still smiling five years after I put a ring on it on March 8, 2007

By last Friday, we were 41 weeks pregnant and starting to be REALLY anxious to get this delivery over with. We’d tried nearly every home “remedy” folks had suggested, to no avail. The following day we were certain the contractions Laurie was experiencing were the real deal. We waited until they were lasting a full minute and coming every 2-3 minutes before going back to the hospital. Sadly, we were turned away a second time; despite having been dilated to 4cm for over two weeks, the contractions had all been unproductive. Tricked again!

On Monday, Laurie’s doctor told her the baby was still too high to deliver, but that it wouldn’t take much to trigger real labor. She wasn’t kidding!

Laurie woke up with strong contractions early Tuesday morning, but for once didn’t think these contractions were doing anything. When they didn’t gain in strength or frequency after a morning walk, she decided to take a shower, and I was heading out the door to go to a staff meeting at church. Just to be safe, I texted one of the ladies from our Lifegroup to be on standby to come keep the older kids if we needed to go to the hospital.

We’re so thankful she was able to come quickly, because after just a few minutes Laurie came out of the shower saying we needed to go to the hospital NOW! Twelve minutes later we gave a woefully insufficient “thank you” as we hustled out to the car when Miss Debbie arrived.

It was 8:50 when we left our house. A few minutes before nine, Laurie walked into the labor & delivery ward telling the nurses she was in transition. They didn’t believe her at first, and said they’d be back to check on her in a little while after she got changed into a hospital gown. As Laurie was changing, I went back to the nurses’ station to persuade them that this was urgent, but I think they were convinced less by my entreaties as by the blood-curdling scream of “THIS BABY IS COMING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (Edit: Laurie insists it was more a “yell” than a “scream”) that came from the open door.

I’m still amazed how fast those nurses can move in an emergency! Within seconds, despite two other babies being born at the same time, we had everything we needed. Laurie’s doctor was already in the building for a surgery, but was able to sprint to the delivery room just in time to catch the kid. Laurie pushed once, the water broke, and out came our beautiful Eleanor! It was 9:11; Laurie delivered this baby faster than Dominos will deliver your pizza.

We went to the hospital with two girl names, figuring we’d decide what she looked like if the baby was a girl. I think both of us expected to go with the other name, but as soon as we saw her, we knew she was a Nora Jane.

Nate and Carrie were able to be Eleanor’s first visitors, which was what we’d hoped. Like us, they are both very much in love!

Mommy and baby are both doing great. Nate and Carrie are hanging out with some friends for a few days. I’m sitting here in the hospital room losing count of my many blessings, and looking forward to getting back home where our whole family can start our new life together!

Sure, Laurie was pregnant almost a full month longer with Nora than she was with Nate. Sure, it took me three weeks to get to my 1000th blog post. I think both were very much worth the wait!