Monday, February 24, 2014

The birth of Levi, Pt. 2: Levi's first two days

Near the end of our hospital stay:  Ready to bring our 2-day old baby Levi home

Immediately after the daylong events of Levi's birth chronicled in Part 1 (link), we began preparations in the middle of the night to move from the birthing suite at St. Vincent hospital into our new room.  The new Mommy fed our newborn boy while I packed up our things.

Kathy and I remained awestruck at the sight of our beautiful baby Levi, one hour old.  As mentioned last week, Levi was no small baby.  Levi's 9 pounds, 6 ounces somehow managed to beat his older sister Lena's birth weight, although Lena retains the edge for her birth length.  Lena and Levi both made impressive entrances.

But until we birth a 16 pounder like this ginormous baby from the Bay Area, Kathy and I have no room to talk.


Just after 3 a.m. on Wednesday, hospital attendant/ aspiring pro photographer Michael helped transfer Kathy and I down the hall to the maternity ward.  We bid farewell to the roomy comfort of our birthing suite.

Levi's first big move, at two hours old

Two hour old Levi faded out for this part.

Settling into our tiny new room in the maternity ward

Extra cozy digs

Levi's first morning, after a LONG day/night for Mommy and Daddy

Daddy's skin to skin time with Levi

Hospital visits from family and friends

Grandpa Doug/ Bo

Mimi/ Lora

Papa/ Tom

Grandma Susan/ Vive

Pastor Tim

But ultimately, it was just the three of us...

The proud Daddy holds his new bundle of joy-- those two cliches couldn't ring more true

Mommy gets some much need rest with baby Levi.

...minus Lena, who sadly had to stay home.  Thanks to her grandparents, she was in good hands.

At the end of our hospital stay with baby Levi (see our checkout photo above, at the top of this post), Kathy and I reflected on the miracle that had happened:  We were blessed with an unlikely natural delivery for Levi, even after our previous C-section with Lena!  The scary risks of a VBAC delivery had failed to live up to the hype.

It was a relief to finally deliver a baby while not in constant crisis mode (Yep, we’re looking at you, Lena. Glad you and your little brother Levi were born safely!).  Whether via natural or C-section delivery, we again thank God for giving us yet another wonderful child.  Kathy and I love Lena and Levi both beyond measure.


Study, sermon prep, prayer, and a fun little excursion or two will occupy most of my free time this week.  And the next week, Kathy and I fly out to visit friends throughout Europe!  But check back here later in March for The birth of Levi, Pt. 3!

The moment when Lena first meets her baby brother Levi would turn out to be one of the highlights of my life.  We've saved the best for last!!

Monday, February 17, 2014

The birth of Levi James Hamilton, Pt. 1: A timeline

Levi James Hamilton, 36 minutes old!

From Saturday, February 15:

Our baby boy Levi turns one month old today!  Four weeks ago from last Wednesday, our family received the greatest blessing since the birth of our 2 year old daughter Lena (link).

As shown below, both the timing and method of Levi's birth were quite unexpected. Here is a stripped down timeline of the events leading up to that glorious moment:

Friday, January 10: Our yet-to-be named baby's due date

Not a peep from that womb. Kathy stayed home that evening and I volunteered, as planned, with Compassion International at the Roadshow tour. I jumped every time my phone vibrated.

I warned my fellow Compassion volunteers (with Third Day front man Mac Powell within earshot) that if I got The Call, I would disappear in a flash.

Monday, January 13: "Hold tight until Friday."

4:30 P.M. The post-due date followup at the doctor's office ended with us scheduling a C-section delivery for Friday morning. "Don't worry," our OBGYN assured us after Kathy's examination. "It's very unlikely that this baby's going anywhere anytime soon."

Vine video: Our baby boy's heartbeat!  Click the "mute" button in the upper left corner to toggle the sound on/off.

Then, the very next morning...

Tuesday, January 14: And so it begins.

Times are approximate. 

6:00 am- Kathy's water breaks at our house in Beaverton.  So much for the baby not "going anywhere anytime soon."  Was a C-section immanent? Or, after our scary complications with Lena's birth, would this be our chance to finally have a natural delivery?

Over the phone, the on-call doctor advises Kathy to begin preparations for leaving for the hospital.  Contractions hadn't started yet, so there was no hurry.

6:20 am- At PDX airport, I'm outside working my second flight of the morning when my cell phone begins to vibrate in my pocket.  I had no idea that it was The Call.

6:25 am- Kathy calls her parents Tom and Lora in Salem so they would begin making their way to our house to watch 2 year old Lena.  Due to the flu outbreak, heightened visiting restrictions would prevent Lena being at the hospital with us.

6:40 am- As I frantically search for a ride out to my Jeep parked in the airport employee parking lot, Kathy hops in the shower at home.  Who knows when her next chance would be?

7:30 am- After weaving through rush hour traffic, I pull into our driveway. The scramble is now on to throw together some clothes, toiletries, and snacks.  Kathy's scheduled C-section was slated for Friday, four days later, so neither of us had finished packing.

8:00 am- Kathy's parents arrive at the house, we call off our emergency backup babysitters (Steve and Brenda from church), and then I whisk Kathy away to the hospital!

8:50 am- We arrive at the hospital.

Not quite in labor yet, we check in Kathy at Providence St. Vincent Hospital

There was no room at the inn, so they set us up in a triage room for a few hours.

1:00 pm- We finally get moved from the triage area into a full-sized birthing room.

1:30 pm- Contractions begin, but they are irregular.

3:00 pm- Kathy has only dilated to 1 cm.

Contractions slowly pick up throughout the afternoon and begin to intensify into the early evening.

5:30 pm- My dad stops by the hospital to offer encouragement, support, and grub.

Sorry, Bo. No grandson yet.

7:45 pm- Only dilated to 2 cm.

8:00 pm- Kathy requests an epidural when the pain becomes unbearable.  

9:00 pm- No more pain from the contractions.  When no further dilation occurs within the hour, the nurse leaves us alone in the room to sleep for the night.  We would try again in the morning.

Kathy drifts off to sleep. I do some reading, and then get ready for bed.

9:55 pm- Thinking the coast is clear, I quietly sneak out of the birthing room to brush my teeth before bedtime.  A few minutes later...

10:00 pm-  I return to find the room bustling with excitement.  The nurse and Dr. Hoffman are setting up equipment.  They announce that Kathy has somehow increased from 2 cm to fully dilated in the past two hours!

The doc tells us to get ready to have a baby.

11:00 pm- The pushing begins.  The delivery nurse and I physically assist the doctor in ways that I will not describe in this public blog.*

Wednesday, January 15: Levi's big entrance.

12:26 am- While the nurse and I hold up Kathy's legs, Kathy gives one final push.  Our baby boy enters this world screaming!!

The proud, overjoyed daddy cuts the umbilical cord.

We name him Levi James Hamilton.  The name Levi comes from the father of the ancient Israelite tribe who served God in the Hebrew temple.  James was the name of my great grandfather, James Clive Perry.

"Big entrance" is an understatement.  At 9 lbs 6 oz, Levi was no small baby.

Beating Lena's formidable 8 lbs 15 oz birth weight, Levi weighed in at a whopping 9 lbs 6 oz!!
But Levi's 20 3/4 inch length couldn't quite topple Lena's reign as the longest Hamilton at birth.

Apparently Kathy and I only have big babies.  That's how we roll.

We'll continue this story next week and share new photos.

Part 2 brings our family and friends into the picture at the hospital...

...and Part 3 tells about one of the most anticipated moments of my entire life!

*An informal poll among my friends who have experienced labor and delivery confirmed what I already suspected: my level of physical involvement in this birthing process was highly unusual.  Following each instruction from the doctor, I kept waiting to hear, "Just kidding. That's why we have trained hospital staff."

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hold Me Up: A prayer in the face of failure

2/15/14 Unrelated update: The long awaited post about Levi's birth was uploaded today, his one month birthday!  Kathy still needs to approve my pics before it is made public, though.  Check back early next week when I re-release it with exclusive photos from Levi's delivery!

Like several of these types of posts, this one will most likely be deleted soon. Or maybe not. Most of my overly personal, controversial, or overtly spiritual entries are often either banished to my other, limited-audience blog or featured on the other websites that I contribute to.

I'm only sharing this song, "Hold Me Up," on my mainstream blog tonight because perhaps there is someone out there who needs to hear these words as much as I do. As I played a CD from country/pop group 33 Miles at the beginning of our E.P.I.C. student ministry meeting tonight, I didn't realize how much this prayer would speak to me until that very moment:

Our desperate dependence on God's strength is only magnified in those times when we feel like we've screwed everything up. Sometimes that's how I feel.  Okay, often that's how I feel.

As I shared in my teaching tonight, many of us feel inadequate at some point to sufficiently love and meet the needs of others.  But 1 John 4:19 says, "We love because He first loved us."  I understand this Scripture to be encouragement that it's not our own flawed, limited, and occasionally self-serving love that we are capable of showing... it's GOD'S perfect love that we are able to share with others.

So our miraculous capacity to love only exists because we have ourselves received God's love! And I'd rather share God's amazing love than Garth's love, it's cheap knock-off, any day.

The photos and timeline of our baby boy Levi's birth will be featured here this weekend on Garth's Blog.  He turned 4 weeks old yesterday, and Saturday is Levi's one month birthday!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Run - Hike - Climb

Back in my giant beard days (last month, that is): Taking Lena and our newborn Levi on the first hike of his life; More on that in the coming weeks!

The post below is yet another share from my other blog, originally drafted as a response to the U.S.A. athletes competing at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

But no more stalling, and no more slacking...  An original "Garth's Blog" post is finally coming here on Wednesday: A play-by-play of baby Levi's birth!

Barely 30 total miles in January. Pathetic. Recording my hiking and running miles via my preferred GPS sports tracker app last month was quite an eye opener for me. Seems I cover a fraction of the miles that I used to.

Granted, January was anything but typical. A typical month would have fewer missed hiking opportunities due to wimping out in the face of nasty weather. And then there was the minor, itsy bitsy issue of taking a couple weeks off to have a baby boy.

But it's clear that I'll need to step up my game if I'm gonna train this year, as planned, to:

  • climb a couple of the Pacific Northwest's highest peaks
  • run that marathon relay race with our team in Cincinnati (and maybe a mud run or two?)
  • get back in shape for my TV commercial/photo shoots
  • carry Lena and Levi on some backpacking trips, and do more hikes with our students
  • outperform and outlast my former self on the wake board, surfboard, snow skis, bicycle, kayak, and whatever else I can find the time to ride

So much training to do, so few calories to work with. At least, after my raging metabolism has its way with those calories.  Plus, there's always the matter of hitting the free weights harder to add a bit more meat to this embarrassingly lean body frame.


But all of this is secondary to what is really important-- prioritizing time with my family, as well serving the needs of the wonderful people whom God has placed in our church and my life. I could definitely stand to spend more time training for both. Couldn't we all?

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Are youth group Super Bowl parties worthwhile?

This was Sunday's "guys only" blanket... including 2 1/2 week old Levi!  The Vine video from our Super Bowl party is at the bottom of this post.

This is yet another post shared from my other blog.  I've had zero free minutes to work on those upcoming posts that focus exclusively our newborn baby Levi for this main blog.  Chalk that up to focusing on Kathy, Lena, and baby Levi in real life!

For readers who keep asking, the anticipated post with Levi's baby delivery story/photos should drop later next week, after Homecoming weekend at Warner Pacific College is behind us.  In the meantime, I'll continue to include baby Levi in every post and feature new baby pics each time I update "Garth's Blog!"


Until the Dallas Cowboys (remember this trip to Cowboys Stadium?) bring home another Super Bowl ring, I can't think of a happier ending to this pro football season than Sunday's E.P.I.C ministry Super Bowl party. A few students and graduates joined our house party to witness the world domination of the Seattle Seahawks, a.k.a. Super Bowl XLVIII.

Anyone still unaware that the Seahawks utterly defeated the Denver Broncos 43-8 is probably blissfully ignorant of sports in general. More power to ya'll. I'm originally from Washington state, though, so I was pumped to cheer on the local team as they won their first ever Super Bowl title.

More important than the big game's outcome, however, is enjoying opportunities like this to spend time with our students. Save for saying a tough goodbye to a deeply loved graduate who is moving away, there were few spiritually earth shattering moments here. The on-screen gladiatorial combat occasionally took a back seat to our laughing, snacking, gaming on the Playstation 3, and playing with Lena and our 2 1/2 week old Levi.

Some youth pastors in the blogosphere have been skeptical that Super Bowl parties can have any value in a Christ centered student ministry. Objections range from the lack of ministry intentionality to the potential of sexual objectification in the commercials and half time show.

My evolving perspective on nonessential, fun events such as Super Bowl parties is this: Why not?

  1. Can't we honestly discuss those cultural excesses that will be seen by students anyway, instead of pretending they don't exist? The ability to view culture through the lens of Scripture is a hallmark of spiritual maturity, and it may not happen without being taught. Not to mention, a DVR tape delay does wonders for dodging future wardrobe malfunctions-- I'll never forget my own relief (and disbelief) the year when EVERY SINGLE ONE of my high school guys somehow managed to miss Janet Jackson's infamous Super Bowl slip on live TV.  I'm not gonna lie... they were unhappy campers.
  2. Does setting aside time for "just for fun" life moments like sports, capture-the-flag nights, and backpacking trips detract from the more intentional ministry opportunities that we as ministers plan? Granted, time with our young people is precious and shouldn't be wasted. But is wasting time a total waste? One person's perceived "wasted time" may be received by another person as an affirmation of love, acceptance, and validated self worth.

So, are Super Bowl parties worth it?  I can't answer that question for you. While we don't plan on canceling our annual Super Bowl parties any time soon, there are certainly more efficient, effective, and purposeful events that should deserve priority on our ministry calendars.

But if a dedicated Dallas Cowboys fan like myself can take a day off to unabashedly cheer for his second favorite NFL team during their Super Bowl spotlight... then perhaps there's room on our ministry calendars to also have fun with the less essential stuff.

Related:  William Lane Craig: God Hears Your Super Bowl Prayers (from Christianity Today)

Here are a couple of extras from our Super Bowl party:

Lena, Levi, and cornerback Richard Sherman (remember this?) are dumbfounded by the Seahawks' staggering lead.

My latest Vine video on Twitter: Go Seahawks!!
Unclick the "mute" button above for the obnoxious audio.track.

Garth's Blog will return in a few days.