the mom who works.

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mak and girlsWhen we started this venture as family it looked a whole lot different than it does today. Ross was home, full-time with the kids, while I was working 50+ hours a week at my full time ecommerce gig and (trying to) balance an independent design firm on the side. I will never forget my first drive back to the office after having the twins. We had three little girls at home, our oldest a fresh-faced one year old and two tiny three month olds, with a more-than-capable dad taking care of them. I made my trek on the highway to my cubicle space to begin my role as full-time working mom. I got off the highway for the office exit and was getting ready to turn right onto the side street into our office complex, extra strong coffee in hand. Clear as day I heard in my mind (and heart) “Yeah, do this and this only. Work is what you’re good at. Being mom is not.” I wish I could explain exactly where this lie was coming from – probably a mixture of insecurities and lies I believed about myself, but it was so direct that it started a stirring in my heart. I told Ross about it when I got home and thus began our adventure to finding this “balance” we call family/work life. I find myself in this struggle even today. Spoiler alert: I haven’t found the answer yet.

What does it mean to surrender your life to loving and training your children fully, working to provide for basic needs and keeping a healthy environment that offers love, stability and nurturing in each parent role? I am learning more and more that this unique balance is just that… unique to each family. I remember distinctly just three years ago making the decision with my husband that I would be going back to work full time after the birth of our second/and third child(ren) and he would be working as full-time dad because that is exactly what our life demanded in that season. Or, in our belief, what God has asked of us for that time. A season that was just as much necessary and a part of our story as any other and one that we desperately needed to forge this path we find ourselves on today. What I didn’t realize at the beginning of that season was how incapable I actually believed myself to be at being mom. Those words I heard on my drive back to the office that day ended up being a lifesaver rather than a label. They stuck with me and forced me to decide if I agreed or disagreed with that stigma.

The stories and choices that accumulated to lead us to today are really innumerable. There are moments, days, weeks where I hear that lie so clearly and choose to believe it… you’re not capable, go back to what you know, what you’re good at. And still other days, where I choose to believe a much different story. One thing I am sure of, I will never be fully capable or sufficient in my pursuit of both work and family life on my own strength. I attend a women’s Bible study every Wednesday morning and an older woman said something a few weeks back that has stuck with me almost daily. She said she felt like the Lord challenged her to examine her life and find the “good” she did. After she accumulated her tallied list, He reminded her that any and all good that was produced out of her was a direct result of the Spirit of God working through her. Not on her own strength – accomplishment – ability- sufficiency… the list goes on, but because she chose to trust a Sovereign God who was working in her weakness and teaching her to trust. I cling to that hope. Not because I am weak and believe I need a scapegoat to define who I am as “mom” or “working mom” but because I know my identity as a daughter of the King. That might sound trite but I’ve never fully understood exactly what that entails until the last few years of my twenties and man, was it a game changer.

So… I’m mom. I’m wife. I’m daughter, sister, friend. Entrepreneur, artist and designer. Lover of style, music and family. And the umbrella that holds these extensions of who I am and defines each role uniquely different in each season of my life is this – a daughter of a King Who knows me better than I could ever know myself and calls out each unique part to strengthen, discipline, love and direct me.

Working moms – keep hustling. Your strength and commitment is beautiful. I know it’s not easy and the battle rages inside of you each day, whether your 150% convinced you should be at the office/working or longing to be at home. I feel like I’ve been in both places – and each are unique. There’s purpose in each season, walk faithfully where you find yourself today.

Stay-at-home-moms – dang. I always judged you and here I am with you. Do not, for one second, neglect the value or purpose of where you find yourself today. My friend Elizabeth just challenged me today to recognize the responsibility and purpose of THIS moment, not neglecting the value of the mundane, self-sacrifice but rejoicing in the opportunity to serve our children in the here and now (I’m repeating that to myself right now, definitely not my mantra for today).

The in-betweeners – I’m with ya. I don’t know what the balance is for each of us, it’s so different but it’s exciting. Praise God for being able to treasure these baby years and also work together with our husbands to provide for the family we’ve been blessed with, and/or pursue passions that bring more life to our everyday. Who needs sleep, right? 🙂

– MaK

 

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dad life part 2.

Larkyn SmileIn my last post I was really honest with what we are going through as a family but I feel like I made it sound like our lives are nothing but struggle and we have no fun around here. Let me just say, the days can be long and hard but our family still is having fun. Not the same kind of fun we had when it was just MaK and I, or just MaK, Maebyn, and I, but it’s still been a great time of life. So, with that said, I thought I’d share the brighter side of what three kids just one year a part is like.

After we got the diagnoses that the twins had TTTS our lives shifted in a dramatic way and it hasn’t been the same since. MaK and I really relished the time we had before the twins got here because we knew we’d be confined to our house for an unforeseen amount of time after they arrived. With having 2-4 doctors appointments a week and a one year old, our time was still limited in what we could do but we decided we were going to go out to eat while we still had the opportunity. We frequent Mexican restaurants and one time while walking into one of our favorite Mexican joints a woman stopped us (as was the usual with MaK’s huge belly and a not-quite-one-year-old). She asked us what we were having, how old was Maebyn, are you guys nuts, and this that and the other. Upon finding out that we were having twin girls, the elderly woman stopped talking leaned into me and said “Ya know, it takes a real man to blast the balls off.” I was honored by the comment but thought if she only knew I actually wanted to keep the balls on.

Mom and GirlsAnother thing that has been fun to see is how Maebyn has assumed her role as the second mother in the family. If one of the twins is crying, she’s right there with a paci, blanket, or bottle. She may not know how to use them or where exactly they should go but she knows one of those three things usually stops the crying. She already loves her sisters very much. Any time she can get to them, she wants to kiss them and hold them.  She does most things in series of two. Someone’s crying? Two paci’s are needed. If we’re blessed with another child and only one shows up next time, we’re gonna have some serious explaining to do. Also, she got two baby dolls for her birthday and all day long she carries one or both of her babies around saying “baby, baby” all the while rocking, burping, and pushing them around in her shopping cart. We love seeing how Maebyn has adjusted to the craziness of our life and how she already loves her sisters at such a young age.

cousinsAnother perk to being outnumbered by babies is the response we get when we’re out and about as a family. We went to Chipotle last week and not only did the cashier insist on carrying our food to the table but when we looked around the restaurant for a high chair and all were conveniently being used, a sweet family immediately lifted their little boy out of the high chair and brought it to me. The husband gave me a pat on the back and said “you guys need this way more than we do”. It sometimes feels like there must be a huge “HELP!” sign on my back when I take the girls out judging by the response I get.

We are finally starting to enjoy being a family of five. Yes, our lives are much different and mostly about our kids, but the joy that has come from having children and being parents is unmatched to the struggle. It’s taken 2 months to get out of the haze of bringing home 2 tiny babies but seeing them smile, snuggle each other, and get kisses from her sister have started to ease the daily frustrations. MaK and I both want a big family and are thankful for the three kids that the Lord has blessed our family with.

– Ross

dad life.

Dad_DaughterI haven’t written a blog post in awhile and that’s mostly due to the fact that every day is the same. Wake up around 4, hold a baby until 6, feed the twins at 6, Maebyn wakes up at 8:30, feed Maebyn breakfast, feed the twins again, feed Maebyn lunch, put Maebyn down for a nap, feed the twins again, Maebyn wakes up from her nap, feed Maebyn a snack, feed twins again, MaK gets home from work, feed Maebyn dinner, feed twins again, put Maebyn to bed, feed twins again, space out on couch, feed twins and hope to go to bed for a couple hours…. And repeat.

Ross and MaebynThe day to day adjustments have been hard and taking care of three kids is not easy but by far the hardest thing that I’ve learned through these last couple of weeks is I no longer have a life outside of my family. I know this is a season of time but the complete surrender of anything going on in my life has been the hardest part. I know it’s because I have a lot of selfishness inside of me but one thing is for sure, selfishness is getting rooted out of me day by day. All I am is dad. Caretaker of our three kids. Before the twins, it was difficult, but I had time and energy to do things that I wanted to do. I had energy and time to work out, spend time with friends, do Bible studies, and run errands. Now, the sheer task of keeping everyone fed takes up most of the day. God has been slowly stripping me of things I’ve tried to find identity in other than Him. In fact, this has really been going on my whole life. I want to be attractive, a person people consider wise, interesting, influential, a good dad, a good husband, and every time I’ve tried to build identity in those areas on my own accord, the Lord has graciously stripped me of my striving. I know my true identity lies in being a son of the King, my heart just has a tough time deeply believing it. I’m constantly pulled the way of the world.

twins 10 weeks oldWith the birth of the twins, I’m constantly being asked “how do you do it?” Amongst many other comment of astonishment about our circumstances. Every time I hear one of these comments I cringe, because of my insecurities and because of a lot of the undertones that come along with them. “Don’t you want to work?”, “Why doesn’t your wife want to take care of the kids?”. Even though people may not be saying or even thinking these things, I do. Being a stay at home dad is isolating. I don’t have much to talk about with other guys because our day to day lives are a lot different. People may think I’m doing the right thing but ultimately, I don’t feel respected. And we all know that it’s too easy sometimes to fall into the trap of making our “feelings” our reality.

At the end of the day, I’m exhausted, MaK’s exhausted, Maebyn is exhausted, and the twins are wide awake. Hah, funny how that works out. I don’t know how long this season will last and to be honest, the biggest blessing in all of this is that each day is hard enough on its own so looking to the future isn’t even on my radar. The Lord is teaching us many things through this season. I wish I could say we are walking through it better, but sometimes frustration with our kids, each other, and ourselves seems to be the theme of our day to day routine.

I guess at this point of the post there is supposed to be some sort of culmination into how all this corresponds to a bigger, better purpose… well, it does. Right now it’s hard to make sense of it or even understand, for that matter, how it all “works together for good” but I know that it does. I think that is one of the biggest issues our family is facing with this new normal – recognizing that feelings and beliefs can often be very contradictory and we meet at a crossroads of letting one or the other win. Insecurities, mundane routines, exhaustion… all fight with me to trust my feelings. But I’m trying to rest in the confidence of my beliefs and what I know to be true.

Romans 8:26-28 (The Message)

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

– Ross

A Day in the Life.

Dykstra FamilyIt’s been four weeks since the twins were born. Some days it feels like time has flown by and other days it feels like it’s been a year in this “new normal”. We thought we knew what sleep deprivation looked like after experiencing the newborn stage with Maebyn but with two in the mix and a one year old, we’re learning a new side of tired that we never knew existed. 🙂 Thanks to some great advice from other twin parents, we’ve been trying our hardest to keep the girls on the same schedule but lately they seem to have a plan of their own, which includes eating at the same time everyday and rotating who is awake and asleep throughout the night time.

Twin LifeWe’ve been learning (read that as trying to learn) so much these past few weeks. The value of teamwork. The golden opportunity and moment of bliss: nap time. Taking on new roles as the “Need Meeters”, that’s what Ross and I call each other throughout the day, between the three girls and our pit bull, Beazy, we’ve adopted new identities of recognizing and meeting a need pretty much 24/7. Appreciating and loving dear friends and family who have helped out in so many ways from making and bringing us meals to helping us balance watching the girls and adjusting to our new life (THANK YOU!). Receiving unexpected gifts and support is so humbling and appreciated, another thank you to the generous, anonymous person who sent us a huge box of diapers two weeks ago and the countless loved ones who’ve mailed cards and sent supplies over the past month. We truly can’t say thank you adequately.

The_GirlsAnd overall, we’ve been recognizing how wild, crazy, fun and chaotic this new world is for us. We got brave this week and took the whole clan out to an outdoor mall just to walk around and spend some time enjoying the last few days of warm weather here in Cinci. Two baby Bjorns, one stroller, and one giant diaper bag later, we made it to the mall – with an eager, Frankenstein-walking one year old and two newborns. It wasn’t until this trip that we realized just how our situation must appear from the outside looking in. We were greeted by a comment or disbelieving stare from literally each and EVERY passerby and have had some fun conversations with complete strangers sharing stories about their “family of nine”, or their first few years of parenting twins. We definitely welcome these conversations, it’s nice to know we’re not the only crazies out their who long for a big family and welcome the challenging blessing.

Dykstra SistersWhat else are Ross and I trying to learn? That these moments, minutes, days and hours are so fleeting. That feeling overwhelmed might not be such a bad thing and conversations at 3 am shouldn’t be held against one another. That the house will not be clean, probably ever again and laundry, bottle washing, breastfeeding, burping and diaper-changing are all never-ending tasks that show these girls that we love them and are here to serve. That Mountain Dew is fuel. That toys, burp rags, blankies and pacifiers are the new scenery. That making games out of routines helps pass the time (who knew you could get a leg work-out in by balancing your one-year-old while simultaneously breastfeeding?). That dance parties and blaring music is a MUST at 2 pm when everyone is hitting an all-time energy low.

That this stage will pass soon and they really are only little once. That cuddles, baby coos and dreaming smiles are the rewards and should not be taken for granted.

– Ross, MaK, Maebyn, Truette & Larkyn Dykstra

They’re here.

twins bornAbout a year ago, MaKenzie told me that we needed to start a blog because she thought it could make us a little extra money. At the time I didn’t really understand blogs, why people followed them, or why people would get paid for writing their opinions. Nevertheless, about 4 months after MaK begged me to give it a try, I wrote my first blog post. The only thing I wanted this blog to be was something my kids could look back on and see how God has been faithful in our family’s story. I am so thankful MaK pressed me to do this blog, the events that have taken place over the last 9 months have cemented a testimony for our family and for our three baby girls that God is in the details and He can be trusted. Monday night was the beautiful ending to a long but satisfying 36 week and 3 day identical twin pregnancy.

We walked into the hospital at 6:30 am on August 12th (just one day after Maebyn’s first Leaving the NICUbirthday) to start MaKenzie’s labor. Our team of specialists decided that given risk and circumstances with the TTTS, it was time for the girls to come out and induced labor was the route we were taking at 36 weeks 3 days pregnant. Throughout this entire pregnancy there has been countless situations where MaK & I just plain did not know what to do or what decision to make but we’ve desperately tried to seek what God was telling us to do. Sometimes it was very clear and we felt Him very near to us, and other times it felt like taking a step in the dark, completely unsure of whether we were making the right choice or not. MaKenzie labored hard all day long and at about 6 pm the pain and contractions were becoming more and more intense and it looked like we still had a long ways to go, she hadn’t progressed from the 4 cm dilation that we walked into the hospital with and I could tell her spirit was weakening.

I remember thinking maybe we made the wrong decision to have an induction, maybe we should have waited for labor to come naturally, maybe we screwed this entire thing up and made the wrong choice… MaK desperately wanted to have a vaginal birth and the longer the day carried on the more it seemed like she may have to have a c-section. She got her epidural around 6 pm and at that point we both mentally prepared to “settle in” for the long hall which could possibly lead to a c section. Around 7 pm our doctor came in and broke baby A’s water. I’m not a pro at labor stories, so here’s the gist… within 40 minutes contractions were so intense MaK assumed the epidural had not taken and was having difficulty talking through them. She asked the nurse if it was possible for the epidural to “not have worked” because of the pain she was in, this question prompted the medical staff to check her progress again. Within that short hour she had reached completion (10 cm) and Baby A was literally getting ready to make her appearance. Our nurse threw scrubs at me and 3-4 nurses rushed into the room to hurry and wheel MaK into the OR before the first baby decided to come out on her own (all multiples pregnancies are delivered in the OR because of the risk potential). They were in such a hurry they nailed MaK’s hospital bed against the door on the way out, we laugh about it now but at the time … no one was laughing 🙂 Long story short, in about 2 and a half pushes the twins were here. The sound of the two cries was almost too overwhelming to handle. The girls were here. Alive. Safe. Healthy.

the twinsTruette’s skin was much paler than her sister Larkyn’s. Her umbilical cord was smaller and she weighed over a pound less than her “little” sister – True was born about 1 minute before Larkyn. The doctor reminded us that this was the effects of TTTS and not to be worried immediately, she would be checked out in the NICU as soon as possible. We were so thrilled when we found out, just three days later, Truette was ready to go home from the NICU and we could officially start our new “life” as a family of five.

When MaKenzie and I were trying to determine the names for the twins, we looked back on what this journey has meant to us and both decided we really wanted to give each girl a name that meant something and held significance, so that they both would remember and never forget what happened even before they were born. The name Larkyn means “to be crowned in victory” and the name Truette (our little “True”) we wanted to represent truth. Together, the girls names tell the story of what we believe it really means to be “crowned in true victory”… a display of God’s direct intervention and healing touch when all else around pointed to an inevitable loss. We wanted their testimony to be shared. Living in Cincinnati, I’m sure Larkyn is going to hear, “So, your parents are big Reds fans? Is that why they named you Larkyn?”  My prayer is that this is her response (MaK and I disagree slightly on the opening statement, but we won’t get into that here)…

“No. Every member of my family is a devout Detroit Tigers fan!! My name is Larkyn because before I was born, I was supposed to die. You see, I have an identical twin sister and we were diagnosed with twin-to-twin-transfusion syndrome and given very little chance of survival. But, my family and I serve a God who heals. He healed my sister and I, and together our names mean to be crowned in true victory.”

This journey has been special to our family. It has not been easy but it has driven us closer to the heart of our Lord and that is more precious to us than anything. Thank you to everyone that has taken part in this story with us. We honestly cannot thank you enough for the prayers and encouragement you have given to us, you lifted our spirits and made us feel more love than we could ever have imagined. Even though this story is unique to our family, the Author of our story has plenty more stories just like this, full of His redemption and love for His children. We are thankful to be a part of the great cloud of witnesses that stand and proclaim how great is our God.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith.”

Hebrews 12:1-2

Thank you for loving our family, praying for our girls and for taking the time to read a portion of our story.

Ross, MaK, Maebyn, Truette & Larkyn Dykstra

Believe in love.

believe_ring33 full weeks in just 3 days.

Sometimes I have to give myself a couple of minutes to allow this reality to sink in. How was it just 2 and a half months ago we were sitting in a conference room with pediatric specialists, maternal fetal doctors and other medical personnel explaining to us the grave diagnosis of our girls and the long, uncertain road that was ahead of us. Surgery. Heart failure. Growth abnormalities… those words were all-consuming. And now, about 75 days out from that meeting and just a few weeks away from our actual due date, instead of being on my back or coping with an immeasurable loss, I feel two healthy sisters kicking each other (and my right rib cage) as I type.

God’s goodness is unfathomable. My heart aches when I think of people Ross and I love so dearly, friends and family, who have lost a child(ren). I think of these sweet babies so often and pray for God’s goodness to be poured onto their families who are left here on earth to mourn such a deep loss. We love you. And your strength inspires us daily.

The girls’ story has been called – by doctors, nurses and others – a modern-day miracle. One of our RN case workers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital actually called me a couple weeks ago and her words have stuck with me, playing over and over in my mind. She told me she had personally been present for over 200+ TTTS surgeries and cases at the hospital and her hope was that Ross and I both understood fully that what transpired with our girls was truly… (that word again) a miracle. While I know this is true, I guess I’ve been in some denial thinking that I’m just not the sort of person a “miracle” would happen to. I mean, I read about these stories … share the ones I love… but to me? Our little family? No way. I actually looked up the word the other day to make sure I was conceptualizing its definition and meaning accurately. This is what I discovered:

Miracle: A surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is considered to be divine. Highly improbable, an extraordinary event.

Since being pregnant for nearly two years now – yowza, that sounds intense when I type it but true nonetheless – I’ve had to switch out my wedding ring for another, looser option to fit my often-swollen hands. My ring of choice? When I turned 16, I found a ring that I knew I had to have. It’s a simple, thick, silver band with hand-scripted words across the front that spoke to me; even as an overly dramatic, hormone-drive teenager who didn’t know the first thing about love. The scripted words across the band simply say “Believe in love.” I made a promise to myself the day I bought the ring that I would give this ring to the man I would marry, the first man that I fell in love with (did you just throw up a little?). Well, my little plan actually worked. At 18, through sloppy tears and an even sloppier kiss afterwards, I handed this ring to Ross Dykstra and the rest is history. He’s worn it on his pinky since that day and before Maebyn was born last year I found it amongst his jewelry and it seemed to be the perfect solution to my fat fingers and wedding-ring-less left hand.

Tonight, I’m looking at that tarnished, scratched ring and its message carries such a different meaning in my life. The last ten years it has represented my best friend and the best guy I know, my husband and how he allowed me to become the luckiest girl on this planet by picking me as his wife. Now, though, the ring seems to have encompassed much more as it has followed me the past year or so on our family’s journey.

Believe in love.

Believing in a God who loves me more than I’m even capable of comprehending. A God that wants to perform miracles not only in big ways in my life but even in every-day circumstances. A God that operates outside of what I think is best for me and often reveals Himself through the hurt and pain this life can bring, using it to draw me closer to His heart.

Believing in a love that is surprising… A welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is considered to be divine.

I hope He gives me the grace to increase that belief in His love throughout each circumstance our family faces. Tonight, and this 33rd week, I’m believing in love very deeply when I look at my almost one-year old little girl, think of her dad who selflessly takes care of her each day and feel her two little sisters growing and getting bigger by the minute in my belly.

– MaK

30 Weeks

MaK Twins PregnancyWeek 30 starts tomorrow. The girls are near 3 pounds a piece and by the looks of MaK’s belly, growing pretty tall & strong like their older sister Maebyn. Wow… MaK and I can’t stop smiling today, especially when we look back on the past 2 months and think of the journey we’ve been a part of.

When we found out we were expecting twins, we immediately thought (read that as immediately worried about) a few really important “events” that we had coming up in the next couple months. Given the prognosis and the severity of the situation, we didn’t know if we would be able to make them all and MaK and I were having a tough time deciding what to do and what not to do. The first decision we had to make was whether or not we were still going to go to Mexico on our missions trip with MaK’s company, Housh Inc. it wasn’t an easy decision for us. We had a very good reason to back out but we felt like The Lord wanted us to go. Looking back I’m not exactly sure what the reason for us going was, or if we might have been crazy in doing so but I am so thankful that we went. It’s something we will never forget and a huge part of this story for our family.

After the diagnosis of TTTS, we weren’t sure if we would be able to go to my little brother’s wedding at the beginning of June. About a week before the wedding, we received the news that the twins fluid levels had evened out completely (to us, that meant complete healing and an answer to prayer!) and we got the OK to travel up to Michigan. Well, sortof, we kind of didn’t mention it to the doctor. Either way, this was a major blessing. MaK and I would have been devastated to have had to missed Ryan and Taylor’s wedding but the Lord made a way.

The last thing we had on our to-do list was go to Indianapolis for a Hillsong United concert. MaK and I love Hillsong and thankfully we were able to go this Wednesday night. The beauty of this last event was it was the perfect way to come before the Lord, worship and celebrate everything that He has done in our lives over the past couple months. It wasn’t a mountain-top worship experience and neither one of us had an over abundance of energy (MaK worked all day and we headed straight there afterwards) but it was a beautiful night. We were together on a date night and worshiping The Lord. What more could you ask for.

Although our journey is far from over, to start the 30th week (woo hoo!) without having any medical procedures is such a blessing. Since the beginning of this pregnancy, Hillsong United’s newest album Zion has been playing in our house pretty much on repeat. Our favorite song right now and for the last couple months has been “Oceans”. This song has been our family song/prayer. The story of the song is about Peter stepping out in faith onto the water to follow Jesus. It’s a beautiful song with a beautiful story. If you happen to be in one of those situations in life where you really feel like the only option is to trust blindly or run and hide, this is a great song to listen to…

Hillsong United “Oceans”

Hope that song encourages you today as much as it has us over the last several months.

Happy Friday!

Ross