Saturday, July 24, 2010

Behold the (little) man...


Here is baby Francis!

And here's a better look at Francis' surprising (to us) head of hair, which he had combed by the nurse after his hair had a shampoo...

His Mom was quite happy to see him...

And he has some ecstatic and doting siblings...

And of course a proud Dad...

Thanks so much for all of your prayers, from the Koops! May you be truly blessed for your kindness and generosity.

Francis is here!


Francis Simon Koop was born today, July 24th, 2010, at 5:42pm and weighed in at 8lbs 4oz and 20 1/2 inches long... Praise God! Thank you SO much for your prayers!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Francis will be here soon!


Well, Molly and I are here in the hospital for Francis' induction, one day earlier than originally planned. Everything is going well and our best guess is that Francis will be born tomorrow but you never know with these things. 

We are in the same hospital where Henry was delivered, and we had a moment as they were hooking Molly up to the heart rate monitor where we remembered what that was like with Henry. This time, a strong blub, blub, blub is ringing out in the monitor speaker (we felt a huge weight off our shoulders as we got past that moment). Now Molly has vowed to keep that speaker turned up loud until Francis is born! (The nurse asked Molly if she wanted the heartbeat monitor turned off during the night. Ummmm..... no.)

Your prayers are so very much appreciated!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Design for our foyer wall


Time for a little house update, and it regards a somewhat unassuming space: the main entry foyer.
The right-hand wall as you enter the house (the left-hand wall in the pic above) has been empty until now, but that certainly wasn't always going to be the case. My brother had designed the foyer with some sort of shelving in mind on that wall, and so the main entry door and the door directly opposite it are actually off-center slightly anticipating shelves taking up some of the space.

For a while I had been thinking of what to put there; it's not like were were going to need more shelves for books or other things. Plus, we weren't going to be able to spend money on a full wall of shelves, whatever went there was going to need to be very cheap. Then I thought it would be nice to have some family photos for visitors to see as they enter the home, which is simple enough. But another requirement I wanted to fulfill was having some clear symbol that this was a Catholic home right up front (i.e. a crucifix of some kind). Finally, I also hit upon the idea that if we were going to have family photos on that wall, it would be really cool to also have some images of saints mixed in; the message being that these holy men and women of God are actually part of our family, the family of God, and though they have left this world they are more alive than ever in Heaven. Another purpose was for our own children to see images of saints that they can look up to as examples, ask about their stories of heroic virtue, and be able to tell those stories to others. Having all these requirements in mind, I set about designing what the wall would look like in the same manner I would approach any design problem at work.

When considering the saint images, there are so many great saints to choose from that I restricted the selection of saints to be only ones that had actual photographs available. So, by extension, all of the saints selected for the wall are saints of the modern era. I liked this as well because it fit with the theme of all being part of the same family (since the images are actual photos just like ours) and it also disarms the notion of being a saint. Here you can see actual pictures of people in the flesh who lived lives of heroic virtue, and especially for our kids I think it's important to show them that with God's grace nothing is impossible. It is not impossible to live a life of heroic virtue; to the contrary it should be our goal.

So with all that, here are the Saints that were chosen for the wall (below). In actuality, not all are yet officially declared Saints by the Church, but those who aren't are either Blessed or Venerable and are well on their way to being declared Saints (just one or two more miracles!). For each, I sought and found a photo on the internet, which I then cropped and fit to a 5x7" aspect ratio, did some image processing, and then if it wasn't already black and white I changed it to be b&w. By the way, you can click any of the names for further reading.

Bernadette received the now famous apparitions of the Blessed Mother at Lourdes, France (now known as Our Lady of Lourdes).

As a Dutch missionary priest, almost completely single-handedly he ministered to native Hawaian people who had contracted leprosy and been banished to the island of Molokai, and eventually contracted and died of the disease himself.

St. Edith Stein (or St. Teresia Benedicta of the Cross) (1891-1942)
Born Jewish and eventually an atheist by her teenage years, Edith converted to Christianity at the age of 31 and was baptized into the Catholic Church and was received into the Carmelite order as a postulant in 1934. She was persecuted by the Nazis because of her Jewish heritage and she wrote and spoke out about the evils of the Nazi regime, even writing a letter to Pope Pius XI urging him to speak out against the Nazis. He eventually wrote an encyclical written in German in which he criticized the Nazism and condemned anti-semitism. Now re-named Sister Teresia Benedicta of the Cross, she was eventually captured by the Nazis, sent to Auschwitz, and died in the gas chamber.

Christ appeared to then Sister Faustina in a series of visions and asked her to record his messages about the need for all to turn to His Divine Mercy for salvation. She did record everything he said to her in her diary, and also painted a specific image of Him which he requested, which has come to symbolize the Divine Mercy of Christ, and also recorded a prayer for mercy from God, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. The first Sunday after Easter is now the Feast of Divine Mercy in the Church. Faustina eventually died of tuberculosis at a young age after great suffering.

St. Gemma Galgani (1878-1903)
Gemma was an Italian mystic who received visions of Christ and of Mary, and due to skepticism about these visions and her poor health she was denied entry by three different convents. Even her regular confessor, Fr. Ruoppolo, had many doubts about her experiences, but later became convinced about their authenticity and would later write her biography. Gemma was eventually given a miraculous suffering by Christ: the wounds of Christ, or the stigmata, would pierce her body during the time of Christ's crucifixion every week (recorded by eye-witnesses, including an astonishing amount of bleeding), only later to disappear.

St. Gianna Molla (1922-1962)
Gianna was a wife and mother, and an accomplished doctor. When pregnant with her fourth child, she developed a fibroma on her uterus and was told she needed to have an abortion in order to survive. She refused, and opted instead to have the fibroma removed in the hope that she could still survive. As her condition worsened, she ordered that if it came between her survival and her child's, the child was to be saved. Her child was delivered by Caesarean section, and Gianna died seven days later.

Ven. John Henry Newman (to be declared Blessed in September, 2010) (1801-1890)
Newman was a member of the Church of England for much of his life, and was an Anglican priest, but later was convinced through his studies to become a Catholic. He wrote many important works of theology, including most famously Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine during his conversion process. Though only a priest in the Catholic Church, he was made a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII.

Fr. Josemaria Escriva was the founder of Opus Dei and taught and wrote extensively on the universal call to holiness, especially lay people, and especially in one's professional work in the world. He wrote many very accessible works on these subjects, including his most widely circulated work The Way.

Ven. John Paul II (1920-2005)
Volumes could be said of the former Pope John Paul II, and so I won't say them here. He will surely be declared a saint in the future, it's only a matter of time. John Paul II is the only one of those in this list that Molly and I saw personally, at World Youth Day 2000 in Rome, and both of us remain very affected by his long and heroic pontificate.

These three Portuguese children received the Marian apparitions at Fatima, and displayed amazing faith amid persecution and threats of death by the government at the time due to the apparitions. Many miracles were associated with the apparitions at Fatima, including predictions of future events and the famous miracle of the Sun that was publicly witnessed by hundreds at the site of apparitions. Francisco and Jacinta both died very young, as Mary told them they would, and Lucia lived a long life as a Carmelite nun. For Lucia, the customary five year waiting period before opening a cause for beatification was waived by Pope Benedict XVI.

One of our favorites (and for whom our fourth child, Maximilian, is named), Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish missionary priest who traveled as far as Japan to preach the Gospel. During WWII he provided shelter to over 2,000 Jews from Nazi persecution, and used radio and print to condemn Nazi activities. He was eventually arrested and sent to Auschwitz. While there he volunteered to take the place of a man who was to be executed. In the starvation cell he lead other men in song and prayer, and was eventually killed by injection as the final survivor of the group. The man whom Maximilian saved at the camp survived and was present at his canonization in 1982.

Like John Paul II, there's not much that needs to be said about someone so well known as Mother Teresa. She founded the Missionaries of Charity and led an amazing mission of charitable work in Calcutta, India, ministering to the poorest of the poor. Suffice it to say her life of self-sacrifice is at once simple to comprehend and yet daunting to emulate. She treated each person she met as Christ.

Pier Giorgio was born into a wealthy and prominent Italian family but spent much of his time helping the poor and volunteering to better society and encourage active growth in holiness among young adults. He was an avid outdoorsman and skier, though despite his vitality he died at a young age due to an illness contracted while serving the poor. He now is held up as an example to be emulated by many college-aged and young adults across the world. Our own Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has a very active chapter of the Frassati Society.

Padre Pio is yet another in this list where no single paragraph can do him justice. He was a Capuchin priest and a mystic who was miraculously given the wounds of Christ and suffered greatly when asked to by our Lord on behalf of the salvation of others. When investigated by the Church, his wounds were observed by an independent physician for a year and found to be unexplainable. He also was given the ability to read the state of souls in confession, and (similar to St. Gemma) was physically attacked by Satan and suffered poor health and physical wounds as a result of these encounters. Many miracles were attributed to his prayerful intercession.

Yet another saint who, though only allowed a short time here in this world, made an enormous impact on the life of the Church. Therese overcame many difficulties to become a Carmelite nun at only the age of 15, after which she wrote what are now thought of as some of the greatest works in the history of the Church (so much so that she was declared a Doctor of the Church, a title reserved only to the saints from whom the Church has derived the greatest spiritual learning). Her particularly unique spirituality is known as "The Little Way," a quest to accomplish acts of heroic virtue in the smallest and simplest of activities for the love of God.

There is no better modern example of holy parents than that of Zelie and Louis Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux. Zelie and Louis had nine children, only five of which survived childhood (all daughters) who all went on to become nuns. The heroic parenthood of Zelie and Louis was documented in Therese's autobiography, The Story of a Soul.

From the list above, we have children, young adults, adults, and elderly. There are men and women, boys and girls. There are priests, religious, and laypeople. Of the laypeople, there are people who were single and people who were married. There is something to be emulated in the lives of every one of these people, and a special role model to be found for everyone.

Here is the final design of the foyer wall, which I modeled in the freely available Google Sketch-Up, and was arrived at after quite a bit of revision. You can click to enlarge.

In order to have somewhere for guests to remove or put on shoes in the entryway we needed a bench, and I chose a reproduction of the 4 ft. George Nelson bench (much cheaper than getting the real deal, and essentially the same thing). The great thing about Sketch-Up is that so many people use it and upload their models, so I just searched for a George Nelson bench and someone had made a model of it which I could import into the design. For some reason I've always liked the Cross of San Damiano, the icongraphic cross that was made famous by St. Francis of Assisi, and so I got a pic of the exact size of the cross we got for this wall and imported that into the model. The shelves I settled on are from Ikea, costing $3 each, and the brackets are also from Ikea, costing $4 each. The frames for all of the photos are 5x7" acrylic from Wal-Mart, costing $1 each.

And here's the real-life result (click any to enlarge):
The spot on the bottom right is awaiting a picture of Francis!

In order to ensure that the wall is "child-proofed" and all of the photos stay in their places, I drilled holes into the frames and attached them to the shelves with screws.

Here's a close-up of the Cross of San Damiano:

Now that the wall is completed, the only changes I expect in the future are updates to family photos over time.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

More wonderful, amazing grace from our Lord...


Many of you will remember that the Lord spoke strongly and clearly to Molly five months prior to Henry's death, putting words on Molly's heart asking for the sacrifice of letting our son be taken to be with Him in Heaven. Molly recorded these words in a journal during a women's Ignatian silent retreat put on by the St. Paul Seminary, a retreat she went on while four months pregnant (gender unknown at the time) in July of 2008.  Later that year in December our son, Henry, passed away, stillborn at full term (see this previous post where I reproduced some of Molly's journal entries). The direct knowledge that this was part of God's plan for Henry, for us, and for our family was greatly comforting, despite the great pain that it caused us, with effects that will last a lifetime.

In June of 2009, despite the deep emotion of the previous year's retreat, Molly decided to go on the same women's Ignatian retreat. Now, she was pregnant again, but just days before the retreat we had received the sad news that the baby would likely not live; there was every indication that a miscarriage was occurring (this was at roughly the 6-7 week point of the pregnancy). I remember discussing with her whether she would really be OK going to the retreat if she might miscarry while there, without me beside her. After prayer, she decided to still attend the retreat, and she ended up having another wonderful experience. In fact, she knew she was supposed to be there, because another woman at the retreat was also in the process of a miscarriage and they both were able to console each other and pray for each other. After coming home, Molly later did miscarry and we named the baby Jude. Jude's remains are buried near Henry's and we know they are together in Heaven praying for us and experiencing the full glory of God.

Flash forward to just last week, Molly and I were driving the kids somewhere in the van and conversing and (surely from God) something in our conversation struck her and she remembered God revealing a scripture passage to her during the 2009 retreat that she recorded in her journal (she also kept a journal during that retreat, similar to 2008). As soon as we got home she went and got her journal and read what she wrote (just as a reminder, at the time she wrote this on the retreat a miscarriage was in process with Jude, but we were praying for a miracle):
June 27, 2009

During mass - Reading from Genesis - to Sarah
"I will return to you this time next year and your shall have a son."

There was a moment after the second ultrasound when "How Great is Our God" came on the radio. (I also heard this on the way to the clinic and I was struck with fear). But this next time I heard it I felt as though perhaps God would show his greatness in a miracle rather in His ability to be the beginning and the end of life as He was with Henry. We had this song at Henry's funeral mass.

Then... during mass (I wrote this on a previous page) my translation says this: (from Genesis 18:10) "The Lord said, 'I will surely return to you in the Spring, and Sarah, your wife, shall have a son'."

I heard during mass, "I will return to you a year from now (or this time next year) and you shall have a son."

Immediately, I was struck that these words were for me. And I believe what the Lord says. It could mean several things:
- The child in my womb will be saved and the child (a son?) will be well a year from now.
- The child in my womb has passed, but the Lord, in His greatness, has in His plans a new son who will be born a year from now.

It is hard to imagine how all of this will come to pass, but I trust that it will. And I know that some day I will look upon the words of this journal and marvel at how God has "worked all things for good" as He promised to those who love Him.
After she read this out loud, tears in her eyes, we marveled how now we were indeed expecting a son -- a new son, Francis -- almost exactly a year after she wrote those words, just as the Lord had said. She was amazed that she hadn't remembered this passage in her journal until that moment in the van. Goodness, if we had comprehended this earlier, the 20-week ultrasound (when we found out the gender) wouldn't have had any suspense, of course this was going to be a boy!

All this was amazing enough to us, AND THEN here we sit in mass this morning, six days before Molly goes in to the hospital to be prepped for Francis' induction, and the first reading was Genesis 18:1-10, with the last verse being (from the NAB):
One of them said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son."
I (maybe dumbly) didn't look over at Molly because I knew it would make her cry (we immediately discussed after mass though :-). What joyful providence and care that the Lord has blessed us with! We know Francis is also (along with each and every one of our children) so very much part of God's plan for us, and we can't wait to meet him this coming weekend (if not before)!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Baby Francis Update


I've been wanting to give an update on baby Francis for several weeks, but I've also been feeling the crunch to become settled in our new home before his arrival! Brendan keeps saying, "Well, by Christmas we should feel pretty settled." I think he's probably right, but I'm pretty sure come late July, I'll be nearly useless in the "getting settled in the home" department as I'll be too busy getting settled with a newborn (which is much more fun, if you ask me!).

Because of our experience with Henry, our wonderful doctor has been very proactive in keeping tabs on sweet Francis' growth and development. I began a second round of twice-weekly progesterone injections at the beginning of my third trimester, which will help to increase blood flow through the placenta. Although we are not sure exactly what caused Henry's passing, certain factors (his size (5 lbs, 11 oz) and the fact that there was no amniotic fluid left at delivery) indicate it is possible that an insufficient placenta may have been to blame. The progesterone will help to ensure sufficient nutrients are getting to Francis.

I have also been visiting the hospital weekly, since week 32, for Bio-Physical Profiling and Non-Stress Tests. During the Bio-Physical Profile, an ultrasound technician watches Francis for fetal movement, "practice breathing", and heart rate, while also measuring fluid levels. Beginning this week, they will also be taking estimated fetal measurements. The Non-Stress Test consists of monitoring Francis' heart rate and movement, particularly how his heart reacts during movement. I'll admit that the Non-Stress Test is the best part of my week. In general, I lay there for an hour sipping cranberry juice over crushed ice. Anyone who has given birth in a hospital knows that hospitals have the best cranberry juice and crushed ice! (I even have a cousin who researched whether it was possible to purchase the particular brand for her consumption at home only to find out that the company only supplies to hospitals!)

We've also started weekly visits with our doctor for the regular end-of-pregnancy care. As of now, the plan is for me to check-in to the hospital to be prepped for induction the evening of July 24. My due date is July 28 and I have gone overdue with our first for children by about eight to ten days. Henry was born at 38.5 weeks. My doctor felt it would be important to reduce risk of a recurrence if I didn't follow my normal pattern of going past my due date. Although, I have become accustomed to making it a couple of extra weeks, I agree that this time my mental and emotional health could compromise Francis' well-being if I were to be overdue.

We have been very blessed by this pregnancy. So far, all has gone as it should and there is nothing to indicate that will change. Sometimes, though, there is no amount of logic or reassurance that can make the anxiety go away completely. Brendan has reminded me several times that we will have to endure a special kind of suffering in this pregnancy and that it is very important that we are able to offer up that suffering and fear. The Lord has been so faithful to us and has recently spoken to my heart as a joyful GIVER. And what a gift He as given to our family in the life of our son and brother.

Here's the most recent photo of Francis' precious face!