Monday, January 1, 2018

Seasons of a Pastor's Wife

Below is an article I wrote for the Central Connection, a newsletter for CB North Central. It pretty well captures why I haven't written much during this season of life.

Seasons of a Pastor’s Wife -by Robyn Buhl, First Baptist Church, Whitehall, WI 

This past year has been a whirlwind of emotions. I’ve experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows. Last fall my family and I moved all the way across the country with two weeks’ notice when my husband accepted a Lead Pastor position in Whitehall, Wisconsin. It had been nearly three years since he had held a pastoral position and our whole family was ready and excited to once again step into a ministry role.

However, I must say that I returned to the role of pastor’s wife a little less gracefully than I had imagined I would. I envisioned coming to a new church at 34 years old ready to serve and encourage others with far more maturity than when I first stepped into the role of being a youth pastor’s wife as a 20 year old college student.

Instead, I arrived at my new temporary home in someone’s basement apartment more than a little tattered and worn. I was 28 weeks pregnant with a 10 year old and 13 year old in tow who had just said goodbye to the only home they’d ever known. I developed gestational diabetes and spent the first several weeks as a Wisconsinite trying to get insurance and navigate the seemingly endless doctor’s appointments that were all an hour away. Due to some physical complications I could barely walk and had a hard time sitting or standing for any lengthy period of time—and that was before I sprained my ankle completely immobilizing me just days before moving into our new home. Other people literally had to do almost everything for me. I couldn’t stand, let alone lift a box. I was putting anything but my best foot forward in my new community.

It was humbling. 

More than 3 weeks before we were anticipating our little miracle rainbow baby (a baby born after loss), our sweet little one made his grand entrance into the world via emergency c-section. We were so in love! Life did not slow down however. Before I could even confidently walk again our daughter was diagnosed with a life-long autoimmune disease and we jumped head first into trying to treat it via a very restrictive and specific diet (read: extremely time consuming as nearly everything she eats is made from scratch). Oh, and have I neglected to mention that during all of this my husband was working toward his Master’s degree and I was homeschooling?

We were all so exhausted. 

One day I found myself sitting next to a very sweet older woman from our church. She asked how I was doing and I confessed that I was having a hard time with the fact that we had been here for months already and had hardly been able to lift our heads above water, let alone minister to others outside of Sunday morning services.

She looked at me and said, “You know, I think it’s actually a good thing. It’s easy to put too much pressure on a pastor’s wife, and I think the fact that you’ve been unable to step in and do all of those pastor’s wife types of things is a good reminder that those really are unrealistic expectations to put on just one person. You need to take care of your family first. The rest of us need to not neglect our own responsibilities to take care of the church just because we finally have a pastor.”

Those words were like honey to my soul—sweetly spoken at a time I desperately needed to hear them.

She gave me grace. And she gave me permission to give myself grace. The book of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a season for everything under heaven. I have to assume that includes a season to serve and a season to be served. A season to thrive and a season to survive. A season to receive grace and a season to bestow it upon others.

Embrace your season. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

2017 Family Update

Christmas 2017
I think I will always look back on our first year in Wisconsin and wonder how on earth we survived. We moved to Wisconsin a little over a year ago. What a year it has been!

In September of 2016 we moved our family and all of our worldly possessions 2,000 miles away from the Northwest, the only home most of us had ever known.

We took family pictures at every state sign along the way. 
On our way over we visited treasured U.S. sights like Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore. I was 27 weeks pregnant. We made a lot of bathroom stops.

Rob started a new job as the Lead Pastor at First Baptist Church in Whitehall, WI.

We spent 5 weeks in the basement apartment of a very generous couple while we waited for our home to be ready.

Me, on move in day. 
I spent those weeks trying to get health insurance for me and the kids, and trying to navigate all of the necessary paperwork and verifications in spite of not having a permanent Wisconsin address. It was harder than it seems.

I got established with a new doctor just in time to discover and learn to manage my gestational diabetes which meant obsessing over every carb I put in my mouth while having a difficult time standing up long enough to prepare real food.  

I sprained my ankle at 7.5 months pregnant making it almost impossible for me to me walk or function (not that I was doing either of those things well anyway).

I was humbly served by a number of women who reached out to help us in our time of need. We were given so many meals and they helped with so many projects.

We moved into our new-to-us home. Tons of people (most of whom I barely knew) helped us move and settle in. I couldn’t even bear weight on my ankle so I literally just watched other people do everything.

Our new church home. 
Rob’s aunt and uncle came to visit from Indiana. They helped with some house projects and didn’t even complain that we literally had no place in our living room to sit outside of a couple of random chairs.

We made what felt like endless trips into “town” about 45 minutes away for doctor appointments, shopping trips, and supply runs.

I learned to locate and rock the electric scooters in all of our regular stores.

We had to equip our family and our home to be ready for subzero temperatures, which meant securing a lot of supplies (boots, gloves, hats, snow shovels, jackets, etc). Did you know scarves aren't just a fashion item?

The evil chair that stole my dreams of a warm hot cocoa. 
I may have gotten a little too confident once my foot began to heal and injured myself while trying to test out a rocking chair that was sitting on an end cap in Target. My perfectly calculated 20 carb grams of hot chocolate went flying everywhere and I ended up with a significant bruise on my very round belly. After that I decided that I should probably just hibernate until the baby’s arrival.   

Attempts were made to purchase baby stuff as we had the left over energy to do so.   

My whole world. 
My water broke 3 weeks and 2 days ahead of schedule, because clearly, in the midst of all of this we were already well prepared for him (where’s the sarcasm font when you need it?).    

After 18 hours of labor I had an emergency c-section under general anesthesia due to a cord prolapse (his ambilical cord slipped out of my cervix so his head was cutting off his oxygen supply with every contraction), which made for a traumatic birth experience and very trying recovery process.

The baby I had longed and prayed for for so
many years was finally in my arms!
We gave birth to a healthy 6 lb. 10 oz. baby boy who lit up our worlds and stole our hearts!

I only remember about 3 minutes of my baby’s first 6 hours of life. Drugs are not my friend.

Silas spent his first couple of days in the Special Care Nursery because he was a preemie and his blood sugars weren't yet stable.    

The people at the hospital let us take our little guy home after 4 days because apparently they thought we knew what we were doing. Luckily, my friend Monica flew over to help us out for a while!

This little one has been shown so much love by his siblings!
I attempted to serve a proper Thanksgiving meal to our family since we were celebrating all on our own for the first time. I was still recovering so I let each person pick one dish to include in our meal—then I required them to help me make it. We had turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, stuffing and  chocolate pudding pie. Fun memories!

We tried to furnish our home as quickly as we could after the baby was born, because we had left many of our larger pieces behind when we moved. This meant shopping for mattresses, bed frames, couches, chairs, coffee tables, etc.

I spent all of those weeks before we moved into our new home watching Fixer Upper, so naturally, I also may have bought my fair share of farmhouse style home d├ęcor.

We were so tired of shopping.
But then there was Titus’s Birthday and Christmas, so we shopped some more. Mostly from Amazon.

Zucchini noodles with homemade
speghetti sauce and almond flour
rosemary garlic bread sticks.  
Each of us had a friend come visit and stay with us during December. Eroica, Kajsa, and Kamden stayed with us for a week in early December and Duan came to stay with us for Christmas.

It got cold, the likes of which I’ve never felt. And it was icy. I stayed inside and snuggled my baby for most of the winter.

One of our family members got suddenly and severely sick, and was diagnosed with a life-long autoimmune disease. That meant travelling through the ice and snow for tests and appointments, and many hours spent researching options for treatment.

Every ounce of energy I could muster went toward learning a completely new way of preparing food. No grains (wheat, rice, oats, etc.), no sugars (except for honey), no dairy (except for certain hard cheeses and homemade yogurt that had been fermented for 24 hours). No starches. No fillers. No preservatives. No exceptions. That leaves fruit, vegetables and meat. Suddenly this vegetarian was learning how to prepare meat for every meal and was making everything from scratch. So. Many. Dishes.

Me, Silas, and Monica at the
Magnolia Bakery in Waco, TX. 
A woman who has walked this road before us mentored me along the way and helped equip us to stay the course with this lifestyle change. She was and still is such an encouragement to me.

I spent 5 glorious days in Texas with my very best friends (from California, Oregon, and Texas) and my 3.5 month old baby in celebration of my 35th Birthday. We visited the Magnolia Market and the Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile. It was a much needed break for this weary mama!

Me with my besties getting to meet the Pioneer Woman
at her Mercantile. An unforgettable trip!
We hit homeschool hard in the spring, since we had limped through the winter with the new baby and the new illness. We had continued to do the core subjects throughout, but we picked back up the ‘fringe’ subjects that we had let slide during that time. We found ourselves very grateful for the flexibility of homeschooling!

In late April we flew back to Oregon to visit friends and family for 3 weeks and got to introduce them all to our new addition. It was so good to see our friends and family again since we had left in such a hurry in attempts to get established with a new doctor.

Rob with his brother and dad on
graduation day. 
We bought a new-to-us minivan while we were there since we had left one of our cars behind.

At the beginning of May we attended Rob’s graduation, as he earned his Masters in Business Administration with an emphasis in non-profit management from Corban University. Yes, this means that while all of the above was occurring, he was working diligently toward finishing his degree during every spare moment we could find. I don’t want to brag, but he earned A’s in all of his classes, except one… and that one was an A-.

In June we began to feel like we had a little space and breathing room. So naturally, I decided to do the finish work on a custom built 10 foot farm table and Rob decided to paint the exterior of the house.

The kids took four weeks of summer school classes at the local school.

My beautiful 10 foot farm table!
I also decided to help take on the task of launching Children’s Church at FBC.

In July, Kyndall (Leeann’s birth mom) came to stay for a week. We celebrated Leeann’s Birthday together and had one epic shopping spree at the Mall of America!

I helped plan VBS this year. I was the craft lady and I loved it. It was so good to be able to help with a VBS program again!

I learned to can and process/cook all sorts of food that has been shared with us. It seems like nearly all of our friends grow fruits and vegetables and/or raise animals and we’ve been able to enjoy so much farm fresh nutritious food.

Leeann and Titus enjoyed playing soccer this year. Here
they are with their best friends. The best kinds of a friends
a mama could hope for her kids to have!
All the while, our sweet baby boy has continued to thrive but he still requires A LOT of time and attention from his people. His default mode seems to be “fussy” unless he has recently been fed, or someone is holding him close to them. We have more or less spent his whole life playing hot potato with him. If he falls asleep on you, you drop what you are doing and spend the next part of your day enjoying sleeping baby snuggles. It’s a rough life.  
Leeann and Titus played soccer in the fall and they also started with a homeschool choir and chimes group. That meant regular trips to town several times a week.

It's hard to believe he's one already!
In November we celebrated Silas's first Birthday. Monica flew in to help me plan it and many friends gathered with us to celebrate surviving the first year of his life!

Our nephew, Josh, got to visit with us for Thanksgiving on his break from college. It was so nice to have family here for the holidays. Our kids were over the moon excited to have a cousin here for so many days!

Just a few weeks ago Rob and I got to get away on an overnight adventure to celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary. We travelled to Green Bay and got to tour Lambeau Field. It really was such a neat experience, and of course, it was so good to get away together after such a long and exhausting year.

Our kids with cousin Josh.
There are so many good things that have happened this year, far too many to include in one simple post, but I'd be remiss if I didn't try writing at least some of this down as a record of what a crazy, difficult, beautiful, exhausting year this has been.
I wish I could have spent more time writing down the specifics of this year as it unfolded--but alas, I've had a baby to hold. And we all know babies don't stay babies for long. It's been a delight and treasure to get to know and love Silas. He's such a joy to our hearts. 

We have all made wonderful friends and we continue to absolutely love our church. There has not been a single moment that we’ve regretted or even questioned our decision to move out here. Well, okay… the day it was -22 degrees may have made me wonder out loud who on earth chooses to move to a place where the air makes your face hurt. But, it was fleeting.

We remain confident that God has brought us here and we are grateful for the many blessings he has bestowed upon us throughout this year.

We have no way of knowing what this next year will bring, but we look forward to many new adventures as a family of five. By the time our next Christmas letter comes out (assuming I get around to writing one), Silas will be 2, Leeann will be 15, Titus will be 13, and Rob and I will have just celebrated our 17th year of marriage. It seems impossible that these numbers could be correct, but I've done the math and checked the calendar. Apparently time doesn't stand still even though you beg for it to do so. This is my life and I couldn't imagine it any other way!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our family to yours,

The Buhls 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Dear Little One-- Brudderly Love

Dear Silas,

I took this picture of you this morning. I have dozens of others just like it. From day one, your brother (or 'brudder' as we like to say) has studied you. He quickly figured out how to soothe you, how to make you happy, and my favorite-- how to get you to sleep.

Dare I say it, some days he's better able to soothe you than even I am.

There is an incredibly special bond between the two of you and that really took me by surprise given your 11 year age gap.

Each and every day he asks if he can get 'pinned' during your morning nap. This is a code word for, "Mom, can I please hold him and let him sleep on me while I watch something on my computer?" Lest you think he only asks to hold you when he can get computer time, be assured that he also asks to hold you while you nap even when he can't have screen time.

Your brudder has literally figured out how to get you to fall asleep in seconds and some how he manages to get you to stay asleep for hours. It's almost magical to watch. You start to wake up and he resumes bouncing you with your bum sticking out. He burries his face in yours, shushes you, and gently closes your eyes with his hands. Then he kisses your forehead and you drift back to sleep. We call him the baby whisperer!

He loves his little brudder. A lot. It's so evident.

He's also fiercly protective of you. Since day one he has double checked to make sure your carseat and stroller are buckled properly. Okay, okay, one time I forgot to buckle you in your stroller and you almost fell out and it turns out to be a good thing Titus double checked. I'm sure you can ask him about it because I'm pretty sure I will NEVER live that one down!

When you were tiny, your brudder would sneak in close to your face and ask me if I was sure you could breathe. He checks for choking hazards and falling hazards, and if you cry he will rush to wherever you are to assess the situation. He's even been known to do that when you are fussy at night, even though he's long been asleep himself. He'll stumble out of his room and through tired eyes ask, "Mom, would you like me to get him to sleep?"

He can hardly walk by you without touching you, kissing you, and telling you he loves you.

One of the most significant ways he's taken care of you is by taking care of me. Since the moment he found out I was pregnant, this kiddo literally turned from a boy into a young man. He selflessly asks what he can do, what he can get me, and how he can help. He fetches water, food, burpies, blankets, binkies, diapers, wipes, and sometimes even chocolate. Whatever your mama needs, whenever she needs it!

You are getting bigger and bigger by the day and I'm not sure how much longer he can cuddle you to sleep with his magical hold. Though, I have a sneaky suspicion that even when you can't snuggle up on his lap you will still be snuggled by his side. This bond is unbreakable. And it warms my heart.



Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Dear Little One--The Little Things

Dear Little One,

I haven't chronicled much of your life here on the blog yet in spite of my best intentions. Why, you might ask?

Well, my hands have been full, but not nearly as full as my heart. There's been so much to write about but so little time time to do so. Because really, would I rather write about you or sit down with your sweet head snuggled up on my chest while I stroke your back and smell your sweet baby hair? Option #2 clearly wins out almost every time.

What can I say... I adore you. Not just in an, "Oh, look at that cute little baby!" kind of way. Nope, this is the fierce, determined, heart bursting out of my chest kind of adoration.

Right now I'm sitting on a chair in front of your swing just watching you sleep, unsure of how long I have to write. As much as I'm excited to have a few minutes to sit and pour out some thoughts, it's hard for me to not just pluck you up from your peaceful sleep and cradle you in my arms.

But, the other day your siblings were reading stories from their childhood on my blog and they both insisted that I write more about you so you have fun stories to read some day as well. So here I am.

Just in case I never get to chronicle the nitty gritty details of the past five months let me give you a quick recap:

You sleep a lot. Your preferred sleeping position is curled up on someone's chest. As much as you like sleep, you also like to wake up in the middle of the night. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason.

You seem to always just want to be where your people are. Sometimes you are fussy, but you are usually content as long as you've got one of us nearby. Just like your mama, you're not a big fan of being anywhere by yourself.

Spit up. Let's talk about this. It's a little out of control sweet boy. You spit up. All. The. Time. We soak through a huge stack of burpies and blankets each and every day. Some days I think all I do is snuggle you, feed you, change you, and wipe up spit up. Actually, some days that really is all I do... or at least that was the case early on. I don't have that luxury as much now that you're getting older. It turns out other people in the house sometimes need me too!

This picture was taken by Eroica when you were one
month old. It captures the intensity of your eyes so well!
Your eyes. You have the biggest, brightest, most beautiful blue eyes. I get so lost in them. I seriously feel like I could just stare at you all day long. And your sweet little smile. Don't get me started!

Well, you have now woken up so I'm going to have to end this here. I just wanted to take a few minutes to capture a few of the little things that I hope never to forget. These days can be so long sometimes, but they are oh-so sweet. I'm beyond grateful for you sweet Little One. So. Very. Grateful.



Thursday, January 19, 2017

Dear Little One-- A Labor of Love (Your Birth Story Part 1)

On Wednesday November 9th, the night before you were born, your daddy and I crawled into bed and spent some time discussing how lovely it would be to have you outside of my womb, as the discomforts of pregnancy had taken quite the toll on me--and therefore, everyone else as well. 

Little did I know that would be the last conversation we would have until our lives would forever be changed by your impending grand entry into this world.

If you're not a fan of reading about birth stories or bodily fluids, feel free to wait for future updates, as the rest of this post will contain the story of the day you were born, and well, that's hard to do without including at least a few of the messy details. 

Your Birth Story

I bolted out of bed at 5 am feeling like something was off. As soon as I stood up I found myself stepping in a puddle of liquid so I waddled to the bathroom. "Oh great, let's add complete loss of all bladder control to our list of lovely pregnancy symptoms," I thought to myself. After about 15 minutes of trying to clean myself up to no avail I realized that there was a good chance that I didn't actually lose control of my bladder. So I made my way back into the bedroom and turned the light on and told your daddy, "I think my water just broke." To which he replied, "That means hospital, right?" "Yes, not only does that mean hospital, but that means baby. Wake the kids up and have them help pack."

You see, I had made packing lists for everyone (the day before), but I hadn't yet actually packed our hospital bags because we still had 3 weeks and 2 days until your due date. So we all scurried around while I showered and tried in vain to control the copious amount of liquid that kept making its way to the ground. Let me tell you, it's not a one time event like what you see in the movies!

A friend of ours came over to watch the big kids (she, as a well seasoned mother of 7 already had her bag packed) and Daddy and I eventually made it out the door and somewhat leisurely made our way toward the hospital which is about an hour away. It was nothing like I'd pictured that moment to be like. 

I was convinced that you were going to be born on the side of the road in the middle of a snow storm, Or, I would have fretted all night about whether or not it was "time to go". I had pictured a miserable drive as I was attempting to breathe through contractions while daddy would be speeding along praying he wouldn't have to deliver you in the car. 

Instead, we left our house about 6:30 am after a full night's sleep and leisurely made our way toward the hospital. The skies were blue and the sun shined brightly in the sky. I think it was an unheard of November high of 64 degrees. It was a beautiful day! I made a few phone calls on the way up, including one to the hospital. I let them know that my water broke and that you were still breech, as that combination would mean that you would be born via c-section. As much as I'd hoped for a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) I marvelled at the thought of meeting you in just a few short hours!

We settled into a beautiful birthing suite and the doctor on call came in to confirm your position via ultrasound. With one swipe of the wand she looked up at me and said, "He's head down, fully engaged, right where he should be. Would you like a VBAC?"

I excitedly told her I would love a VBAC and she and I discussed how this day might unfold. Daddy and I settled in for the long haul, clueless as to what we needed to do next, except to sit and wait.

So we did. We made some more phone calls, watched t.v., walked the halls, and waited impatiently for the contractions to come. They were slow and irregular, which was a problem because I was put on an "invisible time clock" the moment my water broke. They don't like you to go more than 24 hours after your water breaks before giving birth to reduce the chance of infection.

I watched the clock tick on without my contractions picking up. My cervix wasn't dilated and it didn't appear that labor was going to start on its own, so the doctor tried a minimally invasive technique (Foley bulb) to help me along. Then we waited some more. Early evening my contractions started to become more intense and slightly more regular, but not regular enough to be considered "active labor". This really threw me off because it was so painful. If this wasn't active labor, I couldn't imagine what "real labor" would be like!

Finally, around 10:00 pm, nearly 18 hours after my water broke, the nurse was trying to hook me back up to the monitor after I had gone to the bathroom. She was having trouble getting your heartbeat to stay on the monitor (as had been the case all day), but then she suddenly got a little more forceful with her words telling me that I needed to turn to the other side "for the baby". She was asking me to do this during a painful contraction which I thought was odd, as the nurses had all previously just let me be while contracting. This happened a couple of times in a row but it was a new-to-me nurse, so I thought maybe she just had a different style than my previous nurse. The doctor came in and during the next contraction she was also telling me to position myself differently "for the baby". I was confused, but did my best to comply, as clearly they were seeing something I wasn't.

Soon the doctor was checking my cervix so we could make a plan for how to proceed for the remainder of the evening. Suddenly she and the nurse started to exchange words in hushed tones. Next thing I knew the nurse was putting an oxygen mask on my face. The moments that followed were all a bit of a blur, but I recall the doctor looking at my husband and telling him that we had an emergency situation on our hands and that she suspected that you and I would both be okay, but we needed to get you out. Now.

She looked at me and told me that your cord had slipped out of my cervix, so as your head was bearing down you were cutting off your oxygen supply with every contraction. She hopped up onto my bed and explained that she was going to continue to hold your head up off of the cord and they were going to have to put me under general anesthesia, but that everything should be fine. Next thing I knew there was a flurry of nurses in my room, unhooking cords, hooking up monitors and moving my bed toward the surgical suite.

At that point I realized all I could do was breathe. I closed my eyes and focused on one breath in, one breath out, wondering what would be the last thing I would remember. I asked the doctor how long it would be before I would wake up so I could see you, but she didn't answer. I was trying desperately not to panic because I knew that wouldn't help you and it wouldn't change anything. All of my visions of minimal interventions, of holding you as soon as you were born and nursing you right away flew out the window. I just wanted you to be here. Safe and healthy.

In mere moments, I heard a code come over the loud speaker, I felt bright lights on me, and I heard equipment beeping. People were scurrying all about the operating room, each doing their job as if they were seasoned actors in a well choreographed parade.

The anesthesiologist was on my left hand side, talking to me each step of the way about what was going on. I don't remember a thing he said, but I remember his presence being a calming one. I grabbed onto his hairy arm and held on for dear life as I was being told to scoot from my bed to the gurney, all while people were poking and prodding and prepping me in a hasty fashion. It was overwhelming.

At one point they were trying to do some very uncomfortable things to me that I was instinctively fighting against and I finally heard the scary blissful exchange of words between the doctor and the anesthesiologist that indicated it was time for me go under general anesthesia.

I prayed that my next memory would be that of you, safe and healthy in my arms.