Here are some pictures of the twins, who were born safely on Friday at 4:31 (and 4:32) pm. They are in the NICU, and are improving in their eating.

This is Abbey (Abigail Ellis), who has been having difficulty learning to eat (thus the tube for feeding). Marcie worked with her to feed her right after this picture, and she drank only 3ccs of the 8ccs they wanted her to have. (approx. 30ccs is one ounce!) She was first-born, and weighed 5 pounds 4 ounces at birth.

Since these pictures, she has begun regulating her own temperature-- which means that she is bundled up with blankets when she isn’t being fed or changed. She hasn’t required any medication, but she has had a couple of episodes of apnea, which means that she has stopped breathing briefly. (The second time was very minor, and she corrected herself without assistance.) But her feeding is getting better-- the tube is out now, and she is eating from a bottle, although it takes a lot of time, work, and patience. They bumped her up to 16ccs yesterday morning, and 22ccs last night.

Here is Caroline (Anna Caroline), who was born at 4 pounds 13 ounces. She is a champion eater, and usually finishes her bottles in a couple of minutes. This bottle (only 8ccs, like her sister) took her less than two minutes; when I fed her this morning, she had 20ccs in less than five minutes.

Caroline hasn’t had difficulty with breathing at all, and she hasn’t had to have any medication either. But she has struggled with keeping her temperature up, so they have kept her bed heated.

You can see from the second picture that they are very small. Caroline’s head is a little bigger than a baseball, but much smaller than a softball. Abbey is a little bigger, but neither has begun to gain weight since birth. They are healthy and doing well, and the nurses are usually more encouraging and affirming about their improvements. Still, they are going to be in the NICU for a while longer yet.

Here’s another picture of Abbey:

And here’s another picture of Caroline:


Twins update

Marcie is scheduled for a C-Section today at 4pm! Caroline's fluid levels were still low this morning, so the doctor felt that the safest thing would be to move ahead.

As of yesterday, all indications were that both girls (well, all three really) are healthy. Both twins are over 5 pounds, both are showing signs of breathing movement, etc. Marcie is 34½ weeks right now, and 36 is considered full-term for twins-- which means that they were pretty close.

Marcie is feeling well, though a bit tired-- and both hungry and thirsty, since she hasn't had anything to eat or drink since midnight or so. She's a little anxious about the surgery, anesthesia, etc., but is otherwise bearing up.

Please join us in praying:
  • For Marcie's preparation and endurance for surgery
  • That the surgery would go smoothly, without pain or complication
  • For the health of the twins and Marcie as they come out of delivery
  • For wisdom about follow-up issues: whether the twins need intensive care, how long before they could come home, etc.

Family man

I’ve mentioned Andrew Peterson before; he’s a guy with a lot of talent whose book I reviewed a while back, and he’s also a talented musician, singer, and songwriter.

One of Andrew’s songs that I love is “Family Man”-- it’s one of those songs that I wonder at how he ever performs live, because I don’t understand how he doesn’t choke up with tears.

Well, others love this song too. One church staffer created a video for the song, and it’s a pretty incredible video. Take a look:

"Family Man" from Trevor Little on Vimeo.


Self-assessment and life plans

Following up on my comments about health and risk, the next question about personal health assessment-- regardless of how you scored on the tests-- is, “what are you going to do about it?”

This is where
a recent post from Michael Hyatt, the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, is very helpful. Michael gives a concise yet complete guide for creating a “Life Plan” which is a self-assessment of how things are in your life, how you want them to be, and how you will get from one to the other.

For example, Michael talks about assessing his own health-- which he is generally happy with (Michael has completed two half-marathons in the past 18 months, so he’s in pretty decent health)-- and where his concerns are. He says:

here’s what I wrote a couple of weeks ago in my Health account: • I feel great. My stamina is great. It's been a long time since I have been sick. • I feel good about my weight and my overall fitness. • I am running (or cross-training) four days a week for at least 60 minutes. • I am not presently doing any strength training. I am concerned this will eventually catch up with me. • I am eating pretty well, but I could be more consistent in choosing more healthy foods.I would share more, but, frankly, it’s too personal.

Michael has a lot of good report of what he learned from doing his life plan, and he even offers a basic template you can download for creating one of your own.

I think this is a solid idea; whether it is related to health, family life, career, church and ministry involvement, or other areas of life, most of us don’t put enough thought and reflection into what lies ahead-- or how easy it will be to get there. Thanks, Michael, for giving us some great food for thought.

Baby news

Many of you know that we are expecting twins in late fall.

You may NOT know that we visited the doctor today and had an ultrasound. Both babies are healthy and right on track for growth and development.

And, it turns out, both are girls.

A note to sitters about TV

For all the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other babysitters out there, here’s a rule of thumb about appropriate TV shows:

Don’t assume that it’s safe or appropriate to watch just because it is animated or drawn.

We were recently at someone’s house for a visit, and they don’t have young children. (No, you don’t know them.) One of these adults turned on the TV for Jack and Molly while we (Marcie and I) were in another part of the house. When I came in, they were watching a show that was an animated cartoon-- so the assumption was that it would be a safe show for them. But, in fact, it was a show with a fair amount of violence and themes that we would prefer to introduce our children to more gradually and through a different channel (sorry about the pun) of communication other than television.

It is difficult to grasp the amount of animated TV available these days, especially if you don’t have children under 20. I can name six or seven distinct channels that show animated productions, and some show only animated stuff. There is plenty of stuff that is animated, but is not even marketed to very young children. There is at least as much stuff that
IS marketed to children Jack and Molly’s age, but that we don’t want them watching. Many of these shows regularly portray one or more of the following behaviors and/or ideas as both appropriate and acceptable:
  • Crude language/joking
  • Disrespect for other people/their possessions
  • Whining and complaining
  • Jokes/mischief at others’ expense
  • Moral relativism
  • An almost religious/spiritual environmentalism
  • Thoughtless foolishness
Now, it’s true that many of the above are common behaviors/ideas among even young children, and many of the shows that are on portray exactly that: children acting like children. But something changes when any of these are shown on a show that makes them seem normal and right, and even appealing. Marcie and I simply aren’t willing to expose our children to that; they’ll get enough of it without feeding it to them through the TV.

On the other hand, the best shows deal with many of the same themes in a way that is good and helpful. Disney produced a show called “Recess” for a few years that frequently portrayed authoritative adults (usually school teachers) in a foreboding and somewhat intimidating manner; however, the show also regularly added in a plot development where the adults that appeared fearsome were shown to be caring, likeable people with normal lives. A show that our kids watch, called “Max and Ruby,” has older sister Ruby displaying a condescending and bossy attitude to her little brother Max in almost every episode; the resolution of every plotline, though, has Ruby realizing that there was something she didn’t know at work, and humility and appreciation were in order.

There are good shows on for children, and I appreciate that many production houses that market to younger children strive to offer some vallue in their shows, even if it is something on the order of a portrayal of decision-making in social circumstances. But it’s a safe bet that the parents of children you know have some distinct preferences about what their kids watch. If you don’t know what these preferences are, be sure to ask before you reach for the clicker.

What God has done in 10 years

Marcie and I celebrate our 10-year anniversary on March 7. (I'm not actually posting this on our anniversary, since part of my anniversary present to her is to turn all computers off for the day!)

Over that time, we have seen the Lord carry us through many amazing transitions. Here's a glimpse:
  • Seven moves. Yes-- we've lived in seven different homes over that time.
  • Eighteen jobs. Seven of them are Marcie's (including one stint as a stay-at-home wife-- in Roanoke and one ongoing position as stay-at-home wife AND mom). The rest are/were mine.
  • Four cities. For all of those moves, we've actually only lived in a relative few places.
  • Two children. That's not many compared to some of our friends-- but plenty for us! (At least for now...)
  • Two degrees. Both mine-- undergraduate and a master's. (Marcie already had both by the time we got married.)
  • Seven vehicles. Believe it or not, we still have one that we started with. (Long live the Bronco!)
  • A handful of "I'll never's" recanted. When we got married, we never thought we would ever own a minivan, serve as a solo Pastor, live in the midwest, teach school, or homeschool our children.

Through all of this (and so very much more), I could not have asked for a better partner in family, ministry, and life. Marcie, you are indeed my favorite companion and my heart's true friend. Thanks for 10 years of patience with me! I pray for 50+ more, and an eternity together in the New Jerusalem.

How Christians view marriage, part 1

...Protestants traditionally have interpreted marriage as a necessary way to quell the temptations of the flesh or as a natural union that will be dissolved in the afterlife...

Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp, in "A Mormon President? The LDS Difference" from The Christian Century, August 21, 2007.

While I'll admit that this statement is not intended to be comprehensive-- and, in context, emphasizes an important difference between Protestant Christian views on marriage from Mormon views-- I would argue that Ms. Maffly-Kipp misses much of the core meaning of marriage for Christians, and thus misrepresents marriage entirely.

The view espoused by Ms. Maffly-Kipp is taken primarily from a single verse, 1 Corinthians 7:9, wherein Paul is discussing how unmarried and widowed believers should approach singleness. Paul says, simply, that for the service of the Lord it is better to remain single (v.8)-- this removes the divided focus of attention that marriage and family inevitably brings. Paul says, though, that if self-control is an issue (and here he means, subtly, sexual control) then they should marry, for it is "better to marry than to burn with passion."

Thus, one can argue that the above claim about the Protestant view of marriage is biblical. Why do I claim it to be inaccurate?

If for no other reason, than this is a chief concern: we should be very cautious (as in, I'll stop just short of saying "never do it") about deriving doctrines and positions from single verses. One of the key principles to understanding the Bible that we should all regularly employ is to let Scripture interpret Scripture-- in other words, the Bible, collectively and in context of itself, will instruct us on how to understand the meaning of texts.

In this case, one could argue that 1 Timothy 5:11 supports this claim of doctrine or position-- thus letting Scripture interpret Scripture. But in the whole context of the New Testament (and, indeed, the whole Bible) a much bigger and fuller sense of how and why Christians should marry emerges. In fact, a more comprehensive-- and I would say healthier-- view of sex emerges, as well.

Perhaps that's what bothers me the most about this quote: it seems to take a fairly cynical view of both sex and marriage, neither of which are portrayed in the Bible as the sort of annoyances that Ms. Maffly-Kipp seems to imply.

In a future post, I'll work through what I see as the "fuller sense" of how the Bible portrays marriage. Meanwhile, what are your thoughts?

Code, ambiguity, and understanding each other

Yesterday, Marcie and I were planning to do some Christmas shopping after we drove the kids to school. Out of the blue, she said to me, "do you think that store would have that thing?"


We smiled and laughed, and eventually she gave me enough hints to decipher what she meant.

But it got me to thinking: a lot of times, one of us (in the church) will say something we think is entirely clear, and it will come across to others like Marcie's statement did for me. It's way too easy for misunderstandings to occur, and we need to be willing to give the benefit of the doubt in times like that-- and quickly work toward understanding.

Hobbes lives at our house

If you've been around our son Jack for long, you probably know that he dearly loves his stuffed dog, appropriately named Puppy Dog (often just "Puppy" or "Pup"). He also has a number of other dogs (depending on the context of his life, these other dogs take on various functions: baby puppies for Puppy Dog, rescue dogs of all sorts-- police, fire, etc., or just a crowd of companions to have along, his own personal entourage). But Puppy is the special one. He loves Puppy Dog with a true Velveteen Rabbit love. If you've ever seen the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson, then you have a sense of how special and alive Puppy is for Jack.

A couple of days ago Jack commented that one of his dogs had knocked him over! This was hard to dispute-- he was literally picking himself up off the floor as he said so. Marcie and I laughed, and commented again about how prescient the Calvin and Hobbes comic was. Surely, Watterson had a boy like Jack.

That reminded me of the first time I made this connection. A couple of years ago (Jack was probably barely 3 years old), I was watching football, and for the first time Jack took enough interest to ask what they were doing. As I explained a very basic version of the game to Jack, I mentioned tackling, and he said, "Daddy, what is tackling?" I told him what tackling was, and he said, "Puppy does that to me all the time, and I DON'T LIKE IT!"

We're so thankful for Puppy Dog-- Jack's life (and ours) would be a little less without her.

Food for the hungry

My friend Megan posted a challenging post on her blog a few days ago. It turns out that Megan read an interesting article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about the struggles that many food banks and food pantries face around this time of year: they simply run out of food, and are forced to limit their services or close doors altogether.

The article points to the unexpected downside of our technological advances: the accuracy of inventory systems in grocery stores means that stores seldom over-purchase, and food packagers don't over-produce, in the quantities that they used to. The net result is that food banks and food pantries don't have the supply of food from the grocery stores and food packagers that they used to. As a result, they run out of inventory themselves.

Megan asks a hard question: what is their personal family responsibility for this problem? I love this question, as it reveals Megan's faith as real and practicable. I also love it because it forces me to consider this for myself, and my family.

In her post, Megan invites interaction about this subject, and I wanted to bring that discussion here, as well. I've also invited my friend Russell Smith to join the conversation. I'd like to work together toward some real answers to this problem-- something that we (as a community) can put into practice on a regular basis.

What do you think? We have a food pantry right here, through Fayette Cares-- my guess is that they are facing the same struggle. How can we answer? What should our personal responsibility in this problem be?