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

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Living on the other side of a miracle

The Dykstra TwinsI haven’t written a blog post since the twins were born and that’s due mostly to the fact that I’ve been trying to sort out my thoughts, change in daily routine, and the many emotions that go along with living on the other side of a miracle. The night the twins were born MaKenzie and I were so happy, we were so thankful, and our hearts were overwhelmed with gratitude towards the Lord for the miracle that was the twins healthy birth. However, three days after being home the only emotion I was feeling was frustration. Lack of sleep, change in routine, and living in complete chaos has been overwhelming at times and I’ve felt my heart lean more towards frustration than towards gratitude. I’ve been ashamed of how quickly I’ve forgotten about the miracle that has happened and how quickly my circumstances effect my feelings. I desperately want to be grateful for what the Lord has done but I would be lying if I said on a day-to-day basis the frustration doesn’t win out most of the time.

Dad and The TwinsLast week I started reading through Exodus again and one thing began to stick out to me very plainly. As I began to read, I noticed that the Lord was directing the steps of the Israelites to the very last detail. It says in Exodus 14 that God led the Israelites to the Red Sea when He could have taken them around it instead. He did this so His glory could be shown through parting the Red Sea. After the Israelites walked through the parted Red Sea, they sang songs of praise to the Lord for His protection, guidance, His glory, and unmatched power. He delivered them with an unforeseen miracle and the only response was praise. However, three days later the Israelites come to a place without water. They instantly began to question Gods leading because they were thirsty. Really? God just parted the Red Sea and killed their enemies and they think He’s going to let them die of thirst?

SistersIt seems ridiculous but as I read through these stories I began to relate more and more to the Israelites condition. They just witnessed a great miracle three days ago but still their life circumstances were uncertain, scary, and led them to a place of wondering if God was really going to provide for them. I couldn’t help but feel like I’m living in somewhat of a similar state. I’ve seen the mighty hand of God at work, I believe that He is going to see us through, and I know that He is going to provide. However our life circumstances are real, they are overwhelming, and I wonder if they are going to overtake us sometimes. As I read through Exodus I was reminded that God never left His people. He was there before the Red Sea. He was there as He parted it for them. He was there when they were thirsty. He provided time and time again. He didn’t take away the tough circumstances but always provided in the midst of them. As MaK and I move forward our hope is that we don’t miss the provision in the midst of our circumstances.

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And those who hope in the Lord will not be put to shame.”

Romans 5: 4-5

I hate not sleeping. It’s hard not to have a routine, and it doesn’t seem like this phase of life has an end in sight, but as we walk through this season of life our hope is that the more uncertain life becomes the more room there is to hope in the Lord. We aren’t walking through this season perfectly… at all. In fact a couple weeks ago I think I told each girl, including Maebyn, to shut up at the peak of my frustration one night. Not exactly a high point but we keep moving forward hoping in the Lord. He is here. He parted our Red Sea and He’s here in our thirst as well. Hopefully tomorrow I don’t forget that again.

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

The Kruithof’s and Naranjo’s

MaKenzie and I have a lot going on in our lives right now but so do a lot of our friends. It’s been nice to share in the chaos, stress, fear, and uncertainty of life together. At least its nice to feel like we are not alone. It seems like a lot of our friends are either pregnant and due around the same time as us, or just recently added to their families. What’s been awesome to see lately is that most of our friends have also taken huge leaps of faith in order to try and pursue what the Lord is doing in their lives… all in scary, challenging yet exciting new ways. I know I’ve talked before about what our friends The Stone’s are doing this year (Sabbath year) but we actually have a few others doing equally inspiring and challenging things. Their stories and journeys have really encouraged us and my hope is that they encourage you as well. It’s nice to be surrounded by families who are not content with what the American Dream has to offer.Brent and Katie

 

We met Brent and Katie Kruithof last year at our first Story Formed Life group. It wasn’t long until Brent and I were lifting together every Tuesday and quickly becoming great  friends. After spending some time with Brent, it became obvious to me that he and Katie had a couple screws loose just like me and MaK – what a relief! You see, Brent used to be a very successful accountant in the Cayman Islands and he quit his great job (yeah, you read that right), left the amazing beach life and moved back to the United States to pursue a dream. He and his wife are beginning a start-up business off of the ground, called Fly Up Fitness, all the while expecting their first child. Why take the risk? Well, it’s a long story but the simple answer is because Brent and Katie both felt like the Lord was calling them to do this. They wanted to increase their family’s faith more than they wanted to increase their bank account. The business that they have started is an amazing concept and something I truly believe will be a great success for their family. Right now Brent is working on pitching to investors and trying to line up funds to launch his genius fitness product the Fly Up. They are actually currently competing in a local contest to help raise funds and are sitting in second place. If you have about 30 seconds (and love to support new business ideas and families following God’s calling), will you please vote for his company? Click here to cast your vote. It should take less than a minute and will hopefully help push him into first place. After you vote, I would greatly appreciate you passing this along and encourage others to vote as well.Naranjos

Another one of our friends, Anthony and Dawn Naranjo are getting ready to go on staff at Athletes in Action (AIA) later this summer. We met them almost five years ago and they’ve been a big part of our life ever since, encouraging and supporting us through every life event since MaK and I have been married. Anthony is taking a position with the baseball division at AIA and I believe he will have a great impact for the kingdom there. Over the last couple months Anthony has been trying to raise support in order to pursue what He believes the Lord to be calling him to do. I cannot imagine having to raise my own support and have to ask others for money, it is a very humbling process to undertake and I have been so impressed with Anthony’s humility and submission to God’s call on his life while leading his family. Anthony has a powerful testimony of coming to know the Lord and AIA was a big part of his story. They are doing a great job raising support but they still have a little bit to go. If you are interested at all in learning more about AIA, the Naranjo’s story, or supporting them financially in their mission you can email them HERE.

If you feel a leading, please join us in supporting some of our friends.

We love you guys,

Ross and MaK

(Former) Addict.

After spending some time reading over previous blogs I’ve written, several things have become apparent to me. One of those things is, God is telling an awesome story through our family and it’s been such a blessing to witness His hand at work and the other is, I paint myself and our family in a very good light. Even though it’s not my intention (maybe it is… I mean who wants to look bad on their own blog) I can see how someone could read this blog and think to themselves Who is this spiritual weirdo who thinks He has all the answers to life’s many mysteries and problems? God has taught me many things over the past 28 years but one thing is for certain, I’m just as messed up as everyone else. Here’s just one example out of the many…

When I was a fresh-faced 18 year old I tried chewing tobacco. I was playing college baseball at the time and honestly it wasn’t much different to me than spitting seeds, chewing gum, or sucking on candy. It seemed to go hand in hand with being a baseball player. The first time I tried it, everyone said “you’ll get sick” or “you’ll throw up” but I never did. In fact, I didn’t feel a single thing. I don’t know why but I immediately fell in love with it. I think I would have called chewing tobacco my best friend freshman year at college. It was great. We did everything together. We sat in class, played baseball, video games, watched movies, surfed the Internet, homework, TV, road trips… You get the picture?

I know it kind of sounds like, whats the big deal? This sounds like great times and you’re right, it was. I really did/do love chewing tobacco. Grizzly Wintergreen was my brand and if I had my way, I don’t think I would ever quit. However, I came to the realization that I was undoubtedly addicted to nicotine. Realizing this didn’t make me want to quit though… it just made me feel shameful of the fact that I was addicted to something. When I transferred to Taylor University there was a no-tobacco policy. I quit for a little bit every year but to be honest the sheer game of doing it when your not supposed to was alluring. When I met MaKenzie, I did not disclose the fact that I was an avid dipper so when she found out about it I lied, and then I lied again and again (and again) to try and protect myself. I quickly learned that deception in a relationship (no matter the cause) creates nothing but mistrust, hurt and division.

To this day, I don’t think chewing tobacco is wrong, but what it caused in my life wasn’t good. I wasn’t living in the light and I probably told more lies to friends and family when it came to chew than I care to recall. If I could go back to 18 year old Ross I would say Don’t have that. It’s very good and you’ll love it but its not a good decision. I want my kids to know from a young age that dad is not perfect and they can come to me with anything. I don’t want them to feel shamed by their sin because at the end of the day, there’s no difference in what they are struggling with vs. what I’ve struggled with my whole life. The Gods-honest-truth is, I hadn’t fully quit until we got the news of the babies having TTTS. I don’t know why but this scared me straight and I haven’t had one since. For something that has remained hidden in my life for so long, it’s just another way I feel like God is using this situation to draw out a lot in MaK and I’s lives… even in areas we might have preferred to ignore. He’s a good God and He can be trusted, even with the messy parts of our lives.

Well, now you know.

Ross