It’s a Girl!

Hello world.  My name is Arden, or so I’m told.  Most of the time Sisters call me baby, but Mommy and Daddy are trying their hardest to get them to use my name.  I have 5 sisters!  And there’s never a lack of hands to hold me close, but my favorite place to be in the whole world, as I know it, is in Mommy’s arms.  Daddy’s ok, but there’s nothing like the smell, the touch, the feel of Mommy.  I’m pretty sure she feels the same way, because I can feel her face touching my head and I can hear her breathing me in as well.  I can’t imagine a happier place.

Mommy and Daddy noticed that I already dream when I sleep, but I’m not telling them if I dream of the last couple of days where everything is so bright, or of the day I left my first home, or of when I was still in that warm and comfy place before that.  It was getting really crowded in there, so it’s nice to be able to stretch out my arms and feel the emptiness around me in between my fingers.  But sometimes that makes me scared, and so Mommy or Daddy hold me close with my arms tight against my tummy, and I feel much better.  I really like being close.  When I’m awake, and when I’m asleep.  All the time.

I really didn’t want to come out of Mommy’s tummy at first.  It was crowded in there, but I didn’t want to leave.  I would wiggle my head and refused to go through the right way.  But in the end, I decided to come out anyway, but it had to be my way.  And my way was without my head being squished.  Plus I waited until absolutely everything was just right, which took a while, and then I came out in one push.  Everyone was so surprised!  And then they said things like how big I was.  I guess I’m just a bit ahead of the curve, full of surprises.  They measured me and weighed me and determined that I was actually a week and a half older than they estimated.  But that was after I got some serious cuddle time with Mommy.  It was a little strange feeling her from the outside, but I really love the way she smells, and the way it feels to be against her chest with her arms around me.  Oh yeah!  I can smell!  And breathe!  I practiced all that before but it’s really different when you breathe liquid.  But all that practice really paid off.  The world is lot bigger than I imagined, but it’s ok because I have Mommy to hold me, and feed me.  Oh, and I eat!  That’s new too, but I really like it.  I could do it all day.

Anyway, when everybody saw me, they said things like how big I am, and how my head is perfect – which, of course it is, I worked hard to keep it that way! – and then later they said how I looked like a 3-month old Cosette!  That’s so funny.  She must have been teeny!

Well, I’m getting sleepy again.  I love to sleep.  I could do that all day too!  But before I go dream my secret dreams, I’ll give you some of the other information that those Other People seem to think is really important.

my full name: Arden Credence Martin-Weber – Arden is the name of a forest in England and the setting of a wonderful Shakespeare play they say is called As You Like It.  I’m going to read it later.  Arden means “ardent,” “passionate,” or “excited,” and I think I’m living up to that pretty well so far.  Credence means belief, faith, credibility.  Not sure where I stand on that one yet.

birth date: April 19, 2012 (I share a birthday with my godfather.  We were born 31 years and 30 minutes apart!)

birth weight: 8 lbs 10 oz – record breaking Martin-Weber baby! I may be the littlest but I’m the biggest too!  I rock.

birth length: 21 1/4 inches – not a record breaker, but still, I’m sure I’m long for my age.

I’m a girl – duh.  : )  And that’s just perfect for me.

I have a red birthmark on my forehead (wherever that is – I can’t see it), and it’ll probably fade with time, but it’s the same birthmark that my biggest sister, Ophélia, had, and also my wonderful uncle Preston.  It’ll probably fade with time, and pop up when I get angry, er, passionate about something, because that’s my name.  Arden.

Our kids need prayer too

The hardest part of our imminent training isn’t the number of books we have to read, or the number of papers we have to write, or even fitting those things into our daily routine.  It isn’t the prospect of being in class again (it’s been a long time!) from 8:00 to 5:00 every day.  No, though all of these things are a real challenge for us and are testing our ability to manage stress with patience and determination, the hardest part of the training we’re about spend the better part of a month doing is the reality of being parted from our children for 3 1/2 weeks.

We have no doubt that the family that has offered to watch our kids in our absence is going to be amazing with them.  The kids are so excited to be living with Adam and Sarah, it’s almost annoying that Helena asks us every day how many more days there are before she gets to move in with them.  Actually, all 4 of our big kids don’t seem to mind at all that their parents are going away for a few weeks.  If anything, they’re really excited about it!  To be fair, we’re pretty sure that Evangeline (4) is excited because she understands that we have to leave her for a few days so that we can come back and then leave again with her so she can go and see SNOW!  She’s very goal-oriented right now.

No, the one we’re actually worried about is Cosette (2).

For the 13 years that we’ve had kids, we have only left them twice for overnight stays without us: our very belated pseudo-honeymoon to Wisconsin and our 2-week exploratory trip to France (note: they stayed with their grandma where there is SNOW).  Other than a few isolated sleepovers, our kids see us every day.  Thanks to the flexibility of home-schooling, self-employment and also working for a church that valued the importance of family, our kids haven’t had to be apart from their parents but for short periods of time during the day, either with childcare workers that they know well, or in school (when they’ve been in school).  Admittedly, there were also times when leaving our children with these qualified and trusted workers ripped our hearts out; when our kids made it very obvious that the only acceptable place for them to be was with us; that, in spite of the good times they had without us, we were forcing them into something against their will.  We recognized that this was the way the world operates, and that kids turned out just fine going to childcare all around the world, so our kids should be fine too.  But this never sat well with us.  We hated the way our kids looked at us, their wordless pleas for us to stay or take them with us.  We hated ourselves for putting them through that, all the while trying to rationalize how normal, how natural (?), it all was.

But overall, we’ve been very fortunate as parents, and we believe our kids have too, that we haven’t had many instances where they were forced to be apart from us before they’re ready.

And then there was last Sunday.  The worship services at both the church we belong to and the church Jeremy plays the piano for recently changed their service times so that it has become impossible for us to go to church together as a family (something we hope to remedy soon).  So Jessica wrangled our 5 kids into the car and to church, and, deciding that it was time Cosette try out the nursery, she encouraged her to go through the little pint-sized door under the check-in counter.  Cosette is the most compliant of all our children.  She will do things when asked even if she really doesn’t want to, and doesn’t show us that she’s upset until we have her in our arms and she holds onto us for dear life and cries silent tears.  This happens with the most simple things, like when we have friends over and someone asks is they can pick her up, or worse, just picks her up without asking.  Instead of letting everyone in the neighborhood know what she feels about it, like her big sisters before her, she’ll allow it and just put up with it and then run to her Mommy or Daddy and cling to us when it’s over.  You can imagine how worried this makes us as parents.  As challenging as it is to have strong-willed, opinionated and expressive children, that is exactly what we want them to be.  So with Cosette, until she’s ready to stand up for herself, we really have to watch her body language to try to discern if what she’s agreeing to is something that she really wants to do or if she’s just being compliant.

Back to last Sunday.  Cosette reluctantly goes in to the nursery when her Mommy points out that they have Legos in there (her favorite toy right now).  Jessica then watches her for a few moments on the little security monitors they have set up outside of the nursery and observes that her little Cosette is just standing next to the wall, not engaging.  Troubled, but confident that her little girl will warm up to her surroundings, Jessica goes to hear an outstanding sermon.  About 45 minutes later, she returns to the nursery only to see that Cosette is still standing in the same spot next to the wall, and when she gets called out to join her mother, she runs to Jessica, wraps her little arms tightly around her neck and breaks into sobs.  The rest of the day, she never left her Mommy’s side, and appeared, as best as we can describe it, depressed.  Naturally, we felt terribly guilty about this, wondering if anything happened in the nursery, wondering if she just can’t handle being apart from her parents right now, terrified with how she’s going to deal with the next few weeks.  Maybe she was just coming down with something and wasn’t feeling well – the next 2-3 days, she was congested and not acting like herself.  But maybe it’s something deeper.  With the 20 words or so that she’s mastered, she’s incapable of telling us what the matter was.

Fortunately there will always be at least one sister with her while we’re at training.  For the 3 days she’ll be in Houston, it’ll be with all of them, and then when she’s with us in Illinois, though she’ll be in childcare for a good portion of every day, it’ll be with Evangeline.  Maybe that familiar face will be enough for her to cope with her separation from her parents.  We’re hoping so.

Please keep little Cosette in your prayers, and Evangeline too, as the novelty of snow may not be enough to keep her from missing her parents during the day.  Please pray for the childcare workers that will looking after them, that they would be a great fit for our kids.  Pray for our big kids enjoying time away from their parents, until they start missing us.  Pray for Adam and Sarah, that God bless them with the energy and wisdom to truly enjoy having a house full of kids.  And lastly, pray for us, the worried parents of 5 wonderful girls that they will miss very much.  Because as stoic as we may appear, we are going to miss them like crazy.

Some outstanding values

As a part of the application process with ITeams, we were asked to get familiar with their list of values.  I’ve been wanting to share this list with you for months!  And now that we’re official with ITeams, we can!

Here they are, and if you feel inspired to comment on any or all of them, we’d love to hear your thoughts.  I’ve read a good number of ministry values in the past, and this set really inspires me.


ITeams Values:

We identify with the lostness of the world. We ourselves are utterly lost apart from the grace of Jesus.

Faith is more than a decision. The call to “follow me” means transformed people building transforming communities.

God values one person. We value one person. Without limit. We will go to extraordinary measures to bring the present and future hope of God’s kingdom to each one.

We believe the Church is God’s agent to reach the world. Really. Therefore, we are profoundly committed to the local church in its mission.

There are no marginalized people in God’s kingdom. Never is the gospel of reconciliation more clearly demonstrated than when hearts of hatred are turned to love.

We want to be there before and long after the big campaign rolls through town. We want to build deep and long-term.

We are relational and strategic, living among those we serve.

God is both dangerous and good. Following him is a risk-taking adventure, dependent on a miraculous God.

We believe in people coming from everywhere, going to everywhere. Missions belongs to the whole world.

We are an interdenominational Christian, evangelical ministry living out worship and service to God from our wide range of backgrounds and styles.

Expressive worship of the living God is humanity’s highest calling and ultimate end. We do it with joy, as often as we can.

Fail Forward! Continual improvement is better than postponed perfection.

Exciting new developments

We interrupt the stalled memoirs of a late summer trip that apparently couldn’t find an end to bring you an exciting announcement:

We have switched mission organizations and are now a part of International Teams (ITeams)!

The decision to look for another mission did not come lightly, though we recognize that it was a long time in coming.  It’s a challenging thing, discerning between the difficulties that arise within the center of God’s will, and those that occur when we’re not quite where God would have us.

Before going to our orientation with GEM, we were apprehensive, thinking we would probably not be a good fit with the same organization Jeremy’s parents went to France with.

During orientation, we were very surprised with how well we got along with the missionaries at GEM head-quarters.  We felt hopeful.

Then we spoke with the team in GEM France, and shared how we felt called to serve in Paris.  This is when things started getting a bit hairy.  GEM has no team in Paris, and until they did or until we were considered seasoned missionaries, being in Paris wasn’t an option they were willing to consider.  We were discouraged.

Then a team of missionaries from a couple different organizations, including a few other “green” missionaries with GEM, appeared to be converging on Paris, and the possibility gave us hope!

Then the seasoned leader of the would-be team had to drop out of the game, and we were once again discouraged.

Then there was talk of us working with missionaries from another organization, International Teams incidently, in Paris, and we were excited and energized again.

And then we had a conversation with GEM’s team in France again where they shared that we were about out of time getting to France and we would have to get to France in the next 9 months.  Fine with us!  We enjoy a good challenge!  But then they shared their feelings on how Jessica and I operate in ministry together and how this was at odds with how they like to do ministry with the couples they work with.  And so we felt we were being told that after 15 years of operating one way as a couple with beautiful results, we had to change to fit a mould that we rejected before we even got married – a mould that would tear us apart as a couple.

And that was when it became clear beyond a doubt that we could no longer consider going to France with GEM.  There were other issues as well, such as differences in approach to ministry and level of leadership management that were not a great fit either.

And so, at long last, we took the bold step to look for other mission organizations, still feeling that the call that God placed on our lives had not diminished in the least.

Summer of 2011 led to us narrowing the options down to one: ITeams.  We talked it over with the ITeams Paris leader thanks to the magic of Skype, he took some time to think and pray it over, and after confirming with us that we were on the same page with things like ministry approach and level of leadership management, he gave us the green light to apply to ITeams.

The application process took us the majority of the summer and a bit into the fall, and then we waited.

And we waited.

And the process that was supposed to take about 6 weeks lasted over twice as long.  For the record, we hate limbo.  And just as we were about to make plans for January and beyond, we got word that we were accepted with ITeams!

So here we are now, a day or so away from closing the door on 2011, and we are busy working on completing the required online course (4 books to read + articles, and 12 papers to write) before the January 16th deadline, and flying to Illinois two days later!  This in the midst of Christmas, Cosette’s birthday party (she’s 2), New Year’s, Epiphany, and Evangeline’s birthday (turning 4), all just days apart from each other!

Rejoice with us!  And please pray for us!

Merry Christmas from the Martin-Webers!

True to our long-standing tradition, we went out for breakfast in our PJs and Santa hats on Christmas morning.


A word from our family

And now it’s time to drop everything you’re doing and enjoy a couple minutes of fun family times with the Martin-Webers:

More old friends, and some new – day 6

It would have been obvious 2 months ago when the trip was a current affair which day of the week it was, hence the use of numbered days in the post titles on the blog.  But now, it has occurred to me that not even I am clear on the flow of the days.  So I looked it up.  Day 6 was a Friday.  We left Houston on Sunday, day 1.  So far, we’re talking 5 nights away from home, and only one day away from arriving at the furthest point on this trip: Chicago.

We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Bourbonnais.  I had recently found one of my piano and French students from way back on Facebook and he told us that if we were in need of lodging, his girlfriend worked at the hotel and could probably hook us up with a room.  Our plans to find a place to stay weren’t panning out, so we ended up taking them up on the offer.  It was a treat to have a few nights where we could wind down as a family and just enjoy each other’s company.  Thank you Frankie and Megan!  Let me just throw in also that I’ve stayed in a few hotels in my lifetime, and when it comes to breakfast, the Hampton Inn is doing something right.  That’s enough for repeat business as far as I’m concerned!

After the breakfast feast, we went driving around town, taking in more sights that utterly bored the kids: our second home, the duplex where Lavinia was born, the McDonald’s we would walk to for hot fudge Sundaes when Ophélia was still in a stroller, the area where we took Ophélia trick-or-treating for the first time, dressed up as an adorable Christmas present with armholes that wouldn’t allow her to drop her arms.  Poor thing, but she was really cute!  And we also dropped in on our friends-from-way-back John (the most amazing chiropractor in the world) and Savannah, whose kids Jessica used to nanny and are now all grown up.  I wanted to snap a picture of a local Mexican restaurant chain called Taco Johns for our Houston friends (Houstonians tend to be very proud of their Tex-Mex), just because of their tag-line, something like: “Best West-Mex in town” or something or other.  This may shock some of my Texan friends, but mexican food in the North is pretty darn good, as I recall!

The day was more of the same old feeling of familiarity mixed with the unmistakable marks of change.  It’s been years since we’ve been back and so much of the area hasn’t changed a bit.  And yet, much of it has changed.

We had a wonderful time reconnecting with the Henning family, the owners and teachers of “Dance in the Light” ballet studio.  They were very interested in hearing about all that has been going on in our lives, and what’s just over the horizon.  And we loved hearing about all of their stories as well, as we had some catching up to do with Ruth and her 3 daughters, all of whom we got to know through their instruction at the studio.

We wrapped up the day by meeting our amazing friends Thom and Rhonda, and Soleil and her fiancé Rich, at Monical’s pizza, perhaps the most popular pizza chain in the area.  Jessica taught the owner’s daughters voice lessons way back when.  The local Monical’s tradition is to color your pizza with French and Ranch dressings.  They actually bring both dressings to the table in squirt bottles, and though I once mocked and disdained the mere thought of such an odd and unrefined custom, I eventually tried it and discovered that it was way more tasty than I expected.  I can be a real snob.  But I’m open-minded.  You should definitely try it too!  It was a wonderful evening of reconnection and our kids and their kids running around and being super-cute.

And then we crashed in our hotel beds, looking forward to our first day back in Chicago!