8.27.2016

What's in a Name?

For Sylvia's birth story, click here.
Sylvia Jae Oren
If you know me and Jon well, you know we are deep feelers in many realms and carry deep in our souls a very nostalgic and sentimental view of life, people, and relationships. Naturally, this characteristic within both of us lends us to be deep thinkers and feelers when it comes to the names of our children.

Throughout world history, and still in most non-Western cultures, the majority of people name their children either after a prominent season that has happened in their life, after a family member or person who has touched their lives deeply, after a prominent figure in their faith, or for the deep meaning a name carries historically or in and of itself. Rarely, in most cultures do people name a child something "just because they like it." The idea of connecting present humanity, with past humanity throughout names and the sense of belonging, resonates deeply with us. Therefore, naming our children has become a favorite thing of ours- finding ways to tie family present with family past, or a way to bring in deep meaning, or to highlight a particular characteristic or life direction, to honor a great influence, or to reflect a piece of our hearts. Each of our children's names have fallen under one or more of these categories and took a great deal of time and attention in choosing.


Sylvia Jae.

Her name reflects a piece of our hearts, and honors a person who has touched our lives deeply.

Her first name was chosen in reflection of her Daddy's heart. It's no secret that we (and most specifically Jon), have embarked on quite the journey to surround our kids with a certain kind of beauty. It's a different kind of "beauty." It's a beauty surrounded by creating spaces, outside gardens, and orchards that are filled to the brim with all kinds of life. They are spaces that might look "messy" but actually are an intricately woven web showcasing how God created all these life forms, plants, insects, animals, and organisms to work in tandem with each other. Jon's desire is to give our children regular opportunities, right outside their back door, to get in touch with God's creation, to smell the fresh air, to discover toads, butterflies beetles, robins, plants, berries, life growing all around, with homegrown food and animals in abundance. That's his vision. That's his dream.

The deepest parts of our souls cry out to reflect the Creator who made us. The way every person reflects God and expresses various parts of His personality are unique to each and every individual. It's much like the line in the movie Chariots of Fire where the runner Eric Liddle says, "God made me fast, and when I run, I feel God's pleasure." For me personally, my soul finds it's greatest reflection of God through the written word. My solace, my way to connect, and re-connect to God's heart, and the way I personally reflect various parts of God's personality is through writing. God gave me the gift of words, and when I write, I feel His pleasure.
For Jon, the beauty and intricacy of nature is what connects and re-connects him to God. When he is outside among God's creation, smelling and feeling the dirt in his hands, planting seeds, harvesting fruit, and working within God's intricate plan to cultivate new growth and life, he feels alive. God gave him the gift of beauty, and when he works among creation, He feels God's pleasure.

Nature is Daddy's delight. He finds rest and shalom there. It's where He meets with God and where he finds and feels God's pleasure.

That is the heart of Jon.
 When we found out baby #5 was a little girl, we were beyond excited. Secretly, we were really hoping for another girl and were ecstatic  when the ultrasound technician said, "Yes! It's definitely a baby girl." Jon smiled the deep, satisfied kind of smile he gets when "all is well" and said, "I knew it. I can't wait. Another little girl." As soon as we got into the car, the quest for the perfect name started.

As with each child we have named, the first place we usually go to is our family history for family names. We look at names as far back as we know, talk about whether we actually know the person, or just like the family name, or if there are any variations of family names we could use.

From there, we talk about the time of life we are in, important and influential people in our life, prominent figures of our faith, the historical meaning of a name that is personal to us, or even the simple meaning of the name itself.

We tossed around name after name for several weeks. Re-working names, nicknaming old family names, putting them up to the test of Evangeline and Penelope, knowing that as soon as we saw the name, we would likely "just know."

We were driving to our friends, the Wendel's, house one Sunday evening. I had an old little baby name booklet I brought along the ride for kicks, although, we have never chosen a name from a baby name book, ever.  But, I'm pretty obsessed with names and it would be weird to read a baby name book just for fun, so I took being pregnant and this baby girl needing a name as my excuse to read them, and throw out every cute name to Jon. Pretty much every single time his response is, "Why that name? Why do you like that?" And usually I would respond, "I don't know. Just because. I think it's cute." And he would always respond, "We don't name our kids things just 'because they are cute.'" But nonetheless, I continued to call out name after name. This little booklet is old, so there were no trendy names and lots of good old fashioned names. Things that would fit right in with Evangeline and Penelope.

And then, I saw it.... Sylvia.
Something about the way it looked written. Specifically the "y" and the "ia." Strange, I know, but my eye was drawn to the way it looked and I thought it looked beautiful. Then I saw what it meant...

the forest maiden.

"Perfection," I thought to myself.

I said nothing at first but, "Sylvia." He pulled into the driveway and parked and said, "Sylvia. I like it. What does it mean?" I was kind of shocked because this is not his normal reaction. Just going through a baby book and finding one with a "good meaning" is not exactly our idea of "choosing a name for it's meaning."

"Forest maiden," I said.

Daddy got a huge smile on his face and I knew this name was just for him. In our minds, it encompassed all the characteristics of Jon's love of beauty and nature. It was perfect.

For several more weeks, we tossed "Sylvia" around. Saying it to each other at night when the kids were sleeping, texting it back and forth, and whispering her secret name between us. We had fallen completely in love with the "why" of her name- the connection to Daddy and his love of nature, because it's what connects him to God. So for a couple weeks, I poured over several lists of "nature" names, just to be sure we picked the right one that captured everything we were trying to capture with her name. Nothing felt as right as Sylvia.

So we settled on it. It was perfect.
And then came the hunt for the middle name. All five of our kids have a middle name that is specifically named after someone in our life. Mekonen Jack is named after my Dad and Jon's grandfather. Evangeline Rae is named after myself (the nickname many family members and childhood friends call me), and Penelope Mae is named after Jon's grandmother. Our little guy in Ethiopia has a special middle name as well, but we can't reveal his first name online yet for adoption purposes, so we will leave his middle name as part of that so he can have his own "name post" too when he arrives home.

If you notice, both girls have the whole rhyming "ae" names. This was not intentional. In fact, it was my only hesitation on going with "Mae" for Penelope's middle name because it felt "trendy" to make them match, and then I thought, what do we do if we have another girl sometime? Then it WOULD be weird to go with something else that wasn't "ae." My OCD and how the written word needs to appear on paper would not tolerate the only "left out" looking middle name.

From the start of finding out it was a girl, we both wanted to somehow incorporate the name of a dear family friend, Julie Wendel. Joe and Julie Wendel have been monumental in the life of our family and when we think through the importance of our children's names and why we choose the names we do, we wanted to honor these friends for being such a huge part of rebuilding our family legacy.

Julie specifically, has been my biggest support and my biggest cheerleader. Word are so hard to come by when your family literally still exists due to the relentless, unconditional love and perseverance of a person. Through some of our greatest pain and greatest joy, Julie was there, walking every step with us, and specifically with me. She's taught me incredible things about Jesus and what the Gospel really does. Her persistent and fierce love for me and my family taught me what it's like to live with authentic freedom.  She's taught me most what it means to live in light of the truth that at every given moment, at my best, and at my worst, I am eternally loved by Jesus, and genuinely significant because of Jesus- one of the greatest things I've learned in my adult life. She cheers wildly with every success and comforts with every heartache. Jon and I have called her the game changer in our family. And the game changer, deserves a permanent spot in our family, via the name of one of our daughters. 
We decided to satisfy the OCD that secretly lies within both Jon and I and craft a middle name that fit the "ae" pattern of the other girls. In other name conversations in the past we threw around using an initial letter after someone instead of their whole name because it fit a previous name we liked better than using the whole name. The idea of the single letter came back to our mind this time with the letter "J" for Julie, and conveniently enough "J-a-e" sounds the same as just saying the initial "J."

And there we had it.... baby girl's middle name. Jae.

Named for our lifelong friend, Julie.


And God saw it fit for her to not only walk in some of the most painful trenches with us, but to also walk into our house in one of our most joy filled moments, just minutes after Sylvia arrived. She got to be involved in the very first minutes of Sylvia's life... before she even knew her name.



And that's, where her name came from. Two very special people.

We've chosen a special hymn for each of our children upon birth or arrival into our family. To tie Sylvia's story and her name together, we chose the hymn For the Beauty of the Earth. We raise our joyful hymn of praise for the greatest surprise we've ever been given.

For the Beauty of the Earth
For the beauty of the earth; For the beauty of the skies, For the love which from our birth over and around us lies: Lord of all, to thee we raise this our joyful hymn of praise.

For the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night, Hill and vale and tree and flower, Sun and moon and stars of light: Lord of all, to thee we raise this our joyful hymn of praise.

For the joy of human love, Brother, sister, parent, child, friends of earth, and friends above, For all gentle thoughts and mild: Lord of all to thee we raise this our joyful hymn of praise.

For each perfect gift of thine to our race so freely given, Graces human and divine, Flow'rs of earth and buds of heav'n: Lord of all to thee we raise this our joyful hymn of praise.




8.22.2016

Caught by Surprise...The Birth of Sylvia Jae

I snuck into the bathroom, took the test, and stood there, shocked. I walked into Penelope's room, showed Jon the test, and he laughed. A good laugh, and said, "Great! Why not!" Baby #5. Ready or not, here she comes. Little did we know, that phrase would be the exact description of her arrival!


Part 2: Caught by Surprise...The Birth of Sylvia Jae
For Part I of Sylvia's story, click here

Warning, this blog post is long! I won't take offense if you don't actually read the whole thing. But, it's filled with details I personally don't want to forget! :)

My due date was August 10th and both of Sylvia's big sisters arrived exactly on their due dates. It's something like only 3% of babies are born on their due dates. That was helpful in the last weeks of pregnancy when it's natural to wonder and hope if you might go early. I never even went there mentally because I had my sites set on August 10th, or later. August 9th we went to the Indiana State Fair, a family favorite! We couldn't skip it. We didn't make it to every part of the fair we usually do. I thought I would die I was so hot and I was having contractions basically the whole time. Nothing super painful, just constant tightening. We got home and my friend Megan came over to watch the Olympic woman's gymnastics team win gold with me. I had noticed some spotting when I got home and was having so many more contractions that evening that I thought surely I would go into labor that night. I laughed out loud at how funny it would be for this girl to come on the 10th. In between commercials for the Olympics we got the house ready, kind of wondering if tonight the birth team would be arriving. The blue light was on outside the house, the birth spa was set up, all necessary items were out, laundry was done, and the house was clean. We were ready.

But...I woke up August 10th still pregnant. I had my 40 week appointment that day and myself, one of the birth assistants and the midwife joked about how many hours were still left in the day to make my due date babies 3 for 3. Everything checked out great at my appointment and we went over what the protocol was for going past my due date. I remember thinking late that night around 10:30pm before I went to bed, that there's no way for an August 10th baby now, even if I went into labor this minute because who has a baby in less than two hours? HA!!!!

Every day and evening after my due date was spent thinking, "Maybe tonight is the night! Maybe today is the day!" Friday the 12th came and I had no motivation to decide what was for dinner, to cook dinner, and not even really to eat dinner. Tell tale sign for me. Feeling blah, no appetite, etc the day before my babies are born happened every time. However, this time, that feeling wasn't quite as strong, so I didn't think much about it. We went out for pizza as a family and just had a good time hanging out together.

Jon had a meeting afterwards that he went to, so I went home, put the kids to bed, and then worked on a hairbow order for a friend. Jon arrived home and the following hilarious conversation took place.

Me: Babe, you should re-read the labor coach section on coaching relaxation through contractions, in case I have this baby tonight.
Jon: Is this going to be a good use of my time?
Me: Oh really? I'm about to die soon and you want to know if it's a good use of your time?
Jon: What is it generally about?
Me: You know, the stuff we read before. About going down my body during a contraction and coaching the relaxation of each muscle group, deliberately.
Jon: (in all seriousness), oh like taps?
Me: Taps? Are you kidding me?
Jon: yeah, I'm serious. Haven't you heard of it? Taps like this (in all seriousness, he begins tapping the top of his head, and his temples, and continues on). It releases pain.
Me: (a bit concerned he actually thought this might be helpful). If you even dare TAP ME during labor, I will literally kill you. I'm dead serious. I will kill you. Do not tap me, anywhere.
Jon: Oh ok. Well, good thing I asked.

He did sit down and read the book. :)
I finished up what I was doing with my hairbow order and was so exhausted I just wanted to go to bed. But, I also wanted to hang out and watch a movie with Jon as it had been a super long busy week of us both running all over the place. But, tiredness won out and I decided to go to bed...way later than I had planned. After all, I had the constant thought of, "What if I have this baby tonight? I need to be rested." Except, Jon decided to tell me not to turn on Penelope's closet light because it sparked and might be an electrical issue and he didn't want to chance it. Great. Nice. We live in a 100 year old schoolhouse. Everything in it is old. If you know my parent's story, you know house fires are an extreme precaution in my family. I'm talking, we had hammers on our windowsills growing up, kind of precaution. So I asked Jon if our smoke alarms worked. He said no. Bad idea, babe. Bad idea. We bantered back and forth about how irresponsible that is and that it has to be fixed. He said it would be... tomorrow. I said, "No way. Tonight." The end result of 20 minutes of bantering was Jon going to the store at almost midnight to get smoke alarm batteries. My dad will be proud when he reads this. :) Non-working smoke alarms, and not enough smoke alarms, are reason for complete disownment in our family. Jon would've been kicked to the curb! I waited to put my ear plugs in and go to sleep until I heard him come back and start messing with the smoke alarms. Phew... now I could get some sleep! Or so I thought....

I woke up at 3:19am. I was in a deep sleep and having a weird dream (which I can't remember now), but in what I thought was my dream, I had a sharp pain and the same weird pop I had with both girls. With Evie it was my water breaking, not with Penelope, and not with Sylvia. I was startled awake but nothing else happened so I wasn't sure if it was a dream or not. I decided to get up and go to the bathroom, like I had been 3-4 times a night to pee. As soon as I got there I started having contractions and they were the different "I'm in labor" kind of contractions. I was relieved to find that so far they were all in front. Trying hard not to get too worked up so I could maybe sleep a little more, I went back to bed. Penelope's labor was 15 hours long so in my mind I wanted to ride out the early stuff as distracted or "unaware" as possible. I was thinking best case scenario, every labor goes faster, so maybe I'll get lucky with labor being half the time of Penelope's.

I have time, was what I was thinking.

I laid down in bed, had a few contractions, and decided to go with the whole Bradley relaxation techniques that I made Jon study the night before. ;) I remember laying there thinking to myself, "This Bradley stuff is a joke. This guy is a quack! I'm starting to feel like I might die. This is not what the book seemed to describe this early on." I got up, wandered around for a bit, getting stuff ready, knowing I was in labor. Around 4am, I woke up Jon, who was on the couch because he fell asleep watching that movie I was going to join in on. He popped up on the couch and I said, "I'm totally in labor." He jumped up and said, "ok!" and started going around the house getting stuff ready. In the meantime, I kept going in and out of the bathroom, contractions coming quicker and stronger, and to my great fear, they shifted to my back. I started to panic because they were getting really painful and the ever so vivid memories of Penelope's labor with the fiery electrical pain all throughout my lower back for 15 hours, came flooding back. Self doubt crowded my mind and I kept thinking "I cannot do this. I just cannot do this again." Tell tale sign baby is coming SOON!

I told Jon to call Dr. Lane. He made the call at 4:07am. She talked to Jon, talked to me, and listened to me have a contraction on the phone. I described to her exactly what I was feeling, etc. She said it sounded like early labor but that we are definitely having a baby today, we just don't know when! She asked if I wanted them to come. They will ALWAYS come if a mom wants them to, regardless of where she is in labor. Still not thinking I was far along, I agreed to just call her back in about 45 minutes to update her, unless things really changed and we would call then.

I hung up the phone, and it took me what felt like an eternity to get back to our bedroom. I was sweating like crazy and found myself staying in this little small spot between our bed and dresser, right in front of the blasting air conditioning vent. Jon opened up the spa and started getting that ready. At first, I had Jon get out one of the self-stick heating pads for your back, thinking I would knock off some time of being still in the water by walking around with the heat on my back. Nope. Not happening. Way too much pain to even think. I decided it was time to get in the spa. As soon as I got in, I expected a decent amount of relief from the back pain with the hot water, but as soon as I lowered into it, I had almost no relief. That's when I knew this was getting crazy. I told Jon to call Dr. Lane back, but he was also applying counter pressure to my back and the pain in my back was one on top of the other, with no break. Jon would start to lighten up on my back while trying to stretch and reach his phone and I would say, "No! You cannot let up. You cannot stop." Poor guy was torn between my agony and his cell phone, just an arms length away. He grabbed his phone and called Dr. Lane at 4:47am and told her to head this way. We still didn't think she was coming now. We were just dealing with the one after another, after another excruciating back contractions and needed our midwife team here.

Our next concern was our kids. Knowing Penelope's labor was long, I was never concerned about the kids being there. Our dear friend Julie offered months ago to take the kids when we went into labor. We assumed we would have time for her to come get them when I went into labor, etc. Kids at a birth is no big deal in the homebirth world. Many families have their kids involved. But this isn't something we wanted to do. Realizing how crazy fast in intensity this got we realized we needed the kids out ASAP. My concern was them walking in our bedroom door, and Jon having to leave me to deal with them. Not a situation I could even fathom at the time because I was in so much pain. Our plan had been Julie, but she lives 25 minutes away, so we called his mom who lives 12 minutes away because the situation was pressing and time was of the essence. His mom had a prior commitment so we went back to our original plan of Julie. Jon called her at 4:59 am and asked her to come get the kids. She jumped in her car right away! But still, we were not thinking we would have this baby before the midwife even got there. Julie was on her way... phew!!!

All of a sudden, labor was even worse (if that was even possible). My thought process at that point was, "As soon as Dr. Lane gets here, we are going to the hospital because I want them to just knock me out. I just want someone to knock me out and have this baby." I could not even fathom doing this for another several hours. Another tell tale sign baby is coming!! But the thought never crossed my mind that she was coming NOW. Like, within minutes.

Jon was standing there in boxers and I said, "You gotta get some shorts on! People will be here soon!" He was fumbling around in his drawers and finally found his swim shorts. All of a sudden, I had an insane urge to push. My water broke and I had no idea it was my water. I panicked thinking I must've pooped everywhere! haha!! Jon goes, "No, you are not pooping!" It was my water breaking and Jon jumped in behind me. Within seconds, I started trying to rip off my swim bottoms as I said to Jon, "She's coming. She's coming out." I only got one leg out of my swim bottoms and her head popped out.

Time stood still.

I simply cannot even describe the next many minutes. Most people asked me, were you scared? Were you terrified? Freaking out? To my own surprise, the answer was no, and actually, it was the exact opposite. A huge calm filled the room. I wasn't panicked. Jon wasn't panicked. It was still and quiet. We were both calm and in control. It was hands down some of the most intense and intimate minutes of our life.

I tried pushing the rest of her out but wasn't feeling any contractions and so nothing was happening when I did. One's natural inclination at this point would be to panic...like, is she stuck? At least mine would be. But shockingly, I didn't. I reached down and felt her face and the first thing I touched were her chubby cheeks. I kept saying to Jon, "Don't pull on her head. Don't pull her." He kept calming saying, "I'm not. My hands are just right here." I calmly told Jon, "I have to wait for another contraction. Just wait a minute." We waited for what felt like an eternity. We talked quietly as we waited. I told him, "She's going to come flying backwards at you, don't pull her up, just pass her back between my legs, and make sure her cord doesn't get pulled tight."

Another contraction came and with one push the rest of her came sliding out. 

She was born right into Daddy's hands.

If someone were to ask me, "what is the one special thing you want most out of this delivery?" Hands down, it would be Daddy delivering her. I didn't mean without the onlooking professional support of our midwife, but that the first person who took hold of her little self was Daddy. It was something I desired, but was hesitant to verbalize too much because I feared the disappointment if it didn't work out that way. A family mentor friend texted us the day before she was born telling us he was praying for us. I relayed some specific prayer requests to him about labor, and at the end said, "And one other thing...my most desired thing for this birth is for Jon to catch her."

Still underwater, he passed her back between my legs where I could pull her up. I will never forget seeing that little face for the first time. She came up out of the water, calm, eyes looking all over. I quietly said to her, "Hi Baby. Breathe, sweet girl." And then she started to cry. As soon as I put her to my chest she stopped crying.

We did it. We brought this baby into the world together. Crazy. Absolutely crazy. I sat there in the water for a few minutes holding her while Jon had gotten out of the spa and was kneeling next to it. He took some pictures and a little video of her first few moments.

She was here.

After all the crazy in 2016 that led up to this moment, she was finally here. I was overwhelmed with love and pure relief. This was exactly what I needed. Exactly what we needed.

Jon picked up his phone and called Dr. Lane back who was already on her way. "Umm...the baby's here." he said into the phone. With excitement and surprise she said, "What?!?!" He put the phone on speaker and she started to talk him through what to do. It doesn't happen often that baby arrives before the midwife, but when it does, the Dad is almost always on the phone when it happens and Dr. Lane coaches them through what to do. By the time I knew for sure she was coming, there was no time for a phone call!

As her head came out, I had virtually no pain, as crazy as that sounds, except crazy intense tightening on the contraction that pushed her body out. When she came out, it was just relief. No pain. Nothing. I felt completely normal. Stark contrast to my last birth.

Dr. Lane does not like delivering the placenta in water because it can mask an issue with bleeding if there is one. She instructed Jon on how to safely get me and the baby, who was still attached, out of the spa. I remember going over this in class and kept telling Jon, "Make sure her cord isn't tight. Keep her cord loose." I held Sylvia close to my chest while Jon helped me out and onto the bed. We still could not believe she was here. It was so fast. So crazy fast. I have never been so relieved!!!

After me and Sylvia were safely on the bed, which was thankfully right next to the spa, our friend Julie who was coming to get the kids walked up the front steps inside and stood, staring straight ahead, listening intently. Our bedroom is directly to the right, but she was looking straight ahead, obviously trying to figure out where the crying was coming from. She said she thought it was Penelope, but yet didn't sound like her. Then, she turned her head towards our room and saw me, Jon, and the baby. She walked in and goes, "WHAT?!?! I am SO happy for you!!" She knew how much I was dreading another 15 hour back labor and clearly, that was not the case this time. She came right over, realized the midwife was on speaker phone and about to give more directions, and jumped right in to help. Amazing. "Hi friend, can you come get our kids? Oh, and by the way, can you also stay and finish helping deliver our baby?" Now that's commitment! :)

Dr. Lane was still 49 minutes away so delivering the placenta was next. I'll spare you all the nice details, but this was more the part that had us nervous rather than her birth. If there were complications, excessive bleeding, etc., Dr. Lane has all the expertise and equipment to deal with it exactly as the hospital would. The phone was on the windowsill on speaker and Jon and Julie worked in tandem doing whatever she asked. Jon was steady and calm, but I could tell he was nervous. Praise the Lord it all went smoothly and without a hitch! There was almost no blood. Not in the spa and not after the placenta. We were so grateful for how well the whole thing went! Dr. Lane stayed on the phone the whole time until she got here. Sylvia was comfy and cozy right on my chest and while waiting for her to arrive, the three of us recounted the insanity that just happened in the last two hours.

While we waited for them to arrive, I called my parents and told them the baby was here!! They were super excited and of course asked her name right away. Which, was also the first time Julie heard it as well. My mom was in the car, driving the 12 hours to come see us within just an hour or so of hearing that she was born. She's amazing.

The kids were thankfully still dead asleep, so we left them there so the midwife team could do what they needed when they arrived. As soon as she got there, Dr. Lane walked in and said to Jon, "Whoa! This is the cleanest birth site I have ever seen! I think we should hire you." He emphatically said, "No way. That was great and all but I prefer not to do that again."

Once the initial check was good, they let Jon cut the cord.
Sylvia and I were both checked out and everything was perfect! She was doing beautifully and I had no tearing or anything. I was even sitting up! It's crazy how different this was from the last one!


Sylvia Jae Oren
7 lbs. 7 oz.
19 1/4 inches long



The kids slept until around 8:30/9:00, which is extremely unusual. Thank you, Lord! Evie was the first one up, which was super sweet considering she has been the MOST excited child ever to welcome this baby sister. She walked in the door, realized I was holding the baby and got the biggest smile on her face. She was acting very quiet and shy and crawled up on the bed next to me. She has not stopped asking to hold her since!



Mekonen came in next and then Penelope. The first thing Mekonen said was, "Hey mom, all those ladies haven't been here for days so that means they probably didn't eat all the muffins." (He has been wanting to eat the muffins I froze in the freezer for when the midwife team was here for a couple weeks now. I told him that if they didn't eat them all, yes, he could have some). True boy, thinking about food all the time. Haha! When I placed Sylvia in his arms, before we told them her name, he said, "Mommy, you cannot name her Penelope or she will cry all the time." HAHA! I said, "Oh buddy, there is only ONE Penelope." ;)


Penelope was the cutest meeting her sister. Very excited and very sweet. Later that evening she was ooing and ahhing over the baby and then Sylvia started to cry and she tried rolling her off of her lap and said, "I don't like her." She also told me to put her back in my belly a couple times, but otherwise, she is all about this baby! Obsessed with holding her and kissing her, and always VERY concerned as to where she is and what she is doing! Baby lover... just like the biggest Sis.

First glance.... :)



It was so nice to be at home, our kids right there meeting her like it was Christmas morning. Birth at home...it's beautiful!


After their kids got their initial fill of baby Sylvia and lots of snuggles and kisses in, our friend Julie got them dressed and out the door for the day. She is SO good to our kids. Loves them deeply and it is so very encouraging to have such support around us. The kids could not wait to go hang out with her. The day, or days, after having a baby when it's me, Jon, and the new baby, have been some of my favorite days in all our 11 years of marriage. There's something remarkably special about just being alone with this new little human, together. Taking care, recounting God's blessings, and relishing in all the joy that has become this family. It was a quiet, rainy day...perfect for snuggling up this newborn. After the kids and the birth team left, and it was only the three of us, I just sat there and cried. I felt so overwhelmed...in a good way. This baby, this birth, is exactly what we needed. What I needed. What our family needed. Besides the gaping hole still left in our family that our son in Ethiopia will soon fill, all is well and beautiful. 


I couldn't wait to see my mom later that evening and the kids were BUSTING with excitement over Grandma's arrival for a whole week. Our dear friends Joe and Julie brought steak dinner, wine, and amazing cheesecake to celebrate Sylvia's arrival and this crazy, growing family. It was fun to just hang out and talk, and Joe even read some poetry about Sylvia's name. :) These two have been monumental in our lives. There aren't even words to describe it, but this little family exists because they allowed God to use them in mighty ways.


My mom arrived just in time for dinner and was bombarded with three very excited kids and one super sweet newborn. It's always SUCH a relief to see your mom walk in the door after you had a baby. So incredibly thankful she made the long trek out here, on a moment's notice. What a blessing!

Jon's parents and Aunt Martha stopped over later in the evening to meet Sylvia. The kids were very excited to show off their new baby sister.


A huge thank you to Dr. Lane and her staff at Believe Midwifery Services for another wonderful maternity care experience and a beautiful homebirth.

So there you have it! The birth of Miss Sylvia Jae.
Stayed tuned for Part 3: Her Name. ;)





8.18.2016

Her Story- God's Deep Blessing of Joy

Sylvia's Story & Birth- Part 1

I was shocked to log into my blog and realize it's been 9 months since I've written. It makes me sad and makes me long to jump back into the writing world where so much of my heart lies. 2016 has been quite the ride as we added our surprise blessing just 5 days ago, all while we continue to wait for our 2nd Ethiopian son to come home. But, hopefully, I can find some down time, and quiet (ha!) to sit and write more frequently. It's the personal getaway I long for most.  But anyway, now on to the real reason for this post.

As with all of my more precious pieces of writing, such as the stories of how each of our children have arrived in our family, it takes me days of mental processing to let everything sit, to relish in the details that are near and dear to my heart. That somehow, words will reach into my soul and adequately express all that is there. I have no specified writing plan, or specific words, phrases, or categories. Just me, a quiet room, a sleeping newborn next to me, and the sun shining onto the exact spot where she arrived earth side.

The Story of Sylvia Jae.

We found out I was pregnant back in December. I remember it vividly. I walked in the door from working on my thesis all day. The kids were going crazy, and Jon was trying to calm the crazy by reading books to Penelope in her rocking chair. The big kids ran in and out of the room, jumping on the bed, and were basically going insane. It was a madhouse. Christmas was just around the corner, the house was decorated, the stockings were hung, and the kids were excited. (Plus, they had just been with Daddy for about 8 hours straight. haha). I snuck into the bathroom, took the test, and stood there, shocked. I walked into Penelope's room, showed Jon the test, and he laughed. A good laugh, and said, "Great! Why not!" Baby #5. Ready or not, here she comes. Little did we know, that phrase would be the exact description of her arrival!

Crazytown. That's what the new year felt like it was ringing in. Finishing up my graduate degree, working a part-time job from home, homeschooling, riding the long, unexpected roller coaster of international adoption, and preparing for the arrival of a newborn. We were overwhelmed. Jon would often say, "2016. It's going down in the books." And going down in the books it was! There are about a dozen blog posts I could write between the start of 2016 and when we announced at 28 weeks pregnant that Baby Oren #5 was coming. However, that would definitely make this a post longer than anyone would read. Someday I'll go back and chronicle it. But for now, let's just say that those long months riding out the unknowns of the international adoption process on top of everything else listed above, finally came to a head as we surrendered our children, our family, and our visions for how this year would play out, to the Lord. That weekend in late May was by far one of the most emotionally difficult weekends we have been through, but also, one of the most freeing. There is freedom in giving up control and allowing God to do the work He was planning all along.

Over the next few months, our family began to grow and change in ways it desperately needed to. More joy. More contentment in the present. More simplicity. More Spirit-filled. Smaller life. Deeper emotionally. And most importantly, bringing deep joy and the enjoyment of life into the legacy of our family. Seeing it lacking, understanding where the chains of a more solemn approach to life, God, and Christianity came from. Realizing that it damages souls and damages legacies to live in such a burdened way. We wanted our children to pass on a joyful and connected view of family life and one's relationship to God, to their children, and their children's children.

Each of our children have arrived into our family in very specific seasons of life, as do all children when they join a family. With each of them, a special word describing that season and their story always came to mind. 

Mekonen's story is one of God's goodness. 
Evie's story is one of God's faithfulness.
Penelope's story is one of God's mercy.

When I think about the many months leading up to Sylvia's birth and when I think about all that has gone on in our family personally, the descriptor word that keeps coming to mind for this season is JOY. So that's the descriptor word that so easily molded itself to our daughter's story.

Sylvia's story is one of God's deep blessing of JOY. 

We pray that she, and all of our children, grow up in a home that is filled with abundant joy. Not the kind of "solemn 'joy'" that many conservative Christians seem to abide by. The ones where it seems they believe God never smiled, or laughed, or that being in relationship with Jesus is solemn, burdensome, and one that is driven by strict rules and "becoming more righteous." Well, it's none of those. It's about abundant life. Jesus came to give it. If we are His, we have it. It's about living out of the heart He gave us. It's about a spirit-filled life and a spirit-filled home. It's about a life filled with joy. And that dear friends, is what the season of waiting on Sylvia's arrival has taught us. That God has a deep blessing of JOY for each of our families- one that He desperately longs for us to simply take hold of. It makes me wonder all the blessings that God is holding straight out for us, that we simply choose not to grab hold of, or that we are completely blind to even noticing them hanging there, just waiting for us to simply drink deeply.

Stay tuned for Part II - Sylvia's birth...

11.20.2015

A VERY Special Little Girl...

We have a little girl to introduce you to....
Her name is Alice.
I know many of you are probably thinking, "What? A 5th child? Their 4th isn't even home yet!!! These Orens are CRAZY!!!" Yes. We are crazy.

But no this isn't "technically" our 5th child....

You will hear Jon and I say all the time, kids belong in their birth families, and when that's not possible, they belong in their birth culture community, and when that's not possible, they belong with "A" family, no matter what country that family resides in (i.e. international adoption). No child should grow up in an orphanage. For those of us who know and have seen orphanages, you would agree. We've mentioned before that we desire to be involved in a multifaceted approach to orphan care, that we desire to part of the solutions to the devastating truth that there are millions of children worldwide who grow up without a family to call their own. There are no black and white answers or black and white solutions to such complicated issues. The positive to such a complex issue is that there are A LOT of ways to be involved, especially as a Christian.

Alice lives in Nyeri, Kenya and we "met" her on June 28th. 
Our close friend Hillary lived at her home for a year and upon returning to the U.S., committed to the home and ministry that Alice, along with her biological brother Charles, and 28 other kids call home. It is their permanent home, with a woman named Veronica who became their mom. This is NOT an orphanage and these children are not adoptable. The name of their home is, The Belwop Rescue Centre, which stands for "Better Life Without Papers." Belwop is the only place where their existence has been recognized. Veronica, their mom, and a whole team of individuals have committed to showering these children for life with love, care, provision, education, and a bright future of hope. Belwop is changing the LEGACIES of entire generations, in their birth country, with a stable home that has Jesus at the center. When you have "no papers," you have no shot. Belwop is giving life, hope, and a future.
Veronica with 3 of her boys: Peter, Moses, and Rogers.

Orphan care isn't just adoption. So often, our minds only go to adoption when we think of caring for the fatherless. But not everyone is going to physically adopt a child into their family. Should more families do it? Absolutely! But more families should also consider other ways to come alongside those in our backyards and around the world who don't have a place to call home, especially those who have no opportunity FOR things like domestic or international adoption. I get teary eyed just writing this because we watched HUNDREDS and HUNDREDS of people come around our family, and our son in Ethiopia, in order to help bring him home. All of those amazing people are not physically adopting him into their family, but they enabled us to adopt him. They enabled us to give a family to a child without one. That is community. That is commitment to orphan care. Their care for the orphan was just as important.

So, in light of November being adoption and orphan care month, I wanted to highlight the Belwop Rescue Centre and give others the opportunity to help change legacies. The statistics about adoption are that over 80% of Christians at some point consider adoption. But less than 2% actually follow through. What if a high percentage of those families who did not follow through with orphan care via adoption, followed through with orphan care via other avenues? Remember, not every person will physically adopt a child, but over HUNDREDS helped bring our child a family.

Could you be one who helps care for the orphan in this way? By partnering with a place like Belwop? Have you ever wanted to be a part of a ministry that desires to bring the fatherless home? Have you wanted to follow through with orphan care but not had the opportunity to? Join Belwop in their fight for these precious children- to help continue their vision of a society where every child has a safe home and enjoys equal rights and clearly hears the gospel!

Meet Moses, who calls Belwop home. Moses is quite the miracle! He was found on the side of a small road in a basket nearly starved to death. He was the size of an infant but after being brought to Belwop they discovered him to be two years old. Sweet Moses was brought to Belwop nameless and without future. Veronica named him Moses because his story started so similarly to Moses of the Bible. God has incredible things in store for him.

We committed to Alice. Will you consider helping the ministry that Alice and 29 other kids call home? Check out this video and take a glimpse into a Better Life Without Papers.

Belwop has until the end of 2015 to fulfill their financial goal so that their 2016 year can be consistent and full for their 30 children, and so that their ministry can reach more and more people, meet their physical needs, AND share the hope they can have through Jesus!

Maureen and Yvonne were both orphaned after their mother passed away due to an untreated illness. When these sweet sisters arrived at Belwop they were timid and unsure. After a fresh haircut, new clothes, a bath, and a couple months in this stable and Jesus loving home it was like they had been here their whole lives! The legacy of this family will be great.

In the works at Belwop is a Christian school staffed by Kenyan teachers (creating more jobs), and a crisis pregnancy home ministering to girls who have been raped and resulted in pregnancy.
Would you consider partnering with Belwop? What about giving a gift this Thanksgiving or Christmas in the name of a child, a grandchild, or a group of friends?

Here is the link below to Belwop's live fundraising site! If you want more information you can contact Hillary Wolfe at wanderingwolfe4@gmail.com  Belwop is partnered through the organization Extreme Response International which comes alongside ministries like Belwop all over the world. 


Hillary and Monten, home, at Belwop.


10.16.2015

Finally...Moving Right Along


I haven't posted a detailed adoption update because up until a certain point the details can get messy and confusing. So instead, I've been posting little snippets here and there on our Facebook adoption page like, "We need two more papers for our son's file, please pray.", etc.

Well, this evening, we got great news! (I love that our agency is three hours behind in Washington state, well, for the most part I love this, because it means that even though the end of the business day happens here at 5pm, I know I still have a few hours to hear news. Haha! And tonight was one of those times). We have been waiting for word from our agency that we have been submitted to the PAIR process. I knew we were close, so I found myself refreshing my email on my phone while we were out tonight, "just in case." I had this gnawing in my heart that it would be today. And sure enough, around 6pm, the refresh button gave me an email that said we have finally been submitted to the PAIR process and were given a copy of the packet. HALLELUJAH!!!! Now let me explain... ;)

There are TWO things that we need in order to travel and pick up our son and BOTH things are happening simultaneously right now.

1. PAIR approval- this happens on the U.S. side. This is an investigation of all our paperwork AND our son's paperwork (his file for PAIR is what we were missing those two papers for that we finally received after 5 months of waiting). Once all the paperwork is together, it gets sent to the National Benefits Center here in the U.S. and we wait for them to send us their approval letter. The golden ticket. This usually takes about 3 months. So the submission of the PAIR packet is what happened today. This is huge! We've been waiting 5 months for this. So now the approximate three month wait for this approval letter happens.

2. MOWA approval- this happens on the Ethiopian side. MOWA stands for Ministry of Women and Children and is similar to our social services. The MOWA process basically means the court process. There will be a first court date through MOWA (we do not have to be present for this court date), and once that happens we will get MOWA approval. This is golden ticket #2.

SO....once we receive BOTH of those things- the PAIR approval letter & MOWA approval, we will travel roughly 2 weeks later.

And more super great news is that we will only have to make ONE trip to Ethiopia. We will attend the second court date in Ethiopia and stay in-country until we bring our son home.

So while I sit and process tonight, on this quiet Friday evening, while Jon is out, and the kiddos are in bed, I am a bit overwhelmed...

There are SO many emotions in adoption. The roller coaster ride is simply unexplainable and really so very difficult to adequately express. Tonight, more than ever, the joy and grief of adoption is deeply felt. Our PAIR packet was 73 pages long, detailing our adoption case and our son's life. While we are overwhelmed with joy to be moving forward in the process, we are struck at our core over the details of our son's story and the deep sadness and grief that adoption brings.

Adoption is born out of tragedy, and to forget the tragedy is to deny a part of your child's very being. I expressed to a friend earlier how I often find myself wondering how and why God chose me, someone with my sensitivities, and someone who feels things SO deeply I think I might break, to parent two boys who have experienced so much loss. There are moments when I feel like the contents of that PAIR file are just too much to process and if I'm honest, I find myself questioning God's goodness over the life of my son and his birth family, and I question his goodness among this hellish world that left my boys in desperate need of a forever family. I find myself feeling deeper than I ever imagined and fearing that I am so ill equipped to walk children through this. My flesh tells me there is no road map, there is no hope for such sorrow, there is no way children heal from stuff like this.

And then, in a calm, quiet voice in my heart I just hear, "Jesus." That's mightily different than healing the sorrow of this broken world by telling people to "just be more like Jesus," "try harder," "obey," "follow the rules," "make everything black and white" instead of living in the tension. Because that kind of stuff? That's the kind of life Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for living. It's not the kind of life Jesus came and offered. Because that stuff? It doesn't mend the brokenness. It doesn't heal the pain and the sorrow. Jesus does. Jesus is what will give my sons the ability to walk through this life, complete, whole, and free. When the realities of the tragedy of adoption pierce their souls, and threaten to break them, it's not the rules and the confines of "religion" that will rescue them. It is Jesus. In so many ways, I pour over these 73 pages and think to myself, I cannot handle this. But yet, in every other way, God has made me for this.