Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Weak Mother

It was another one of those days.  Operating on entirely too little sleep, the morning was busy, the toddler was whiny, the baby was fussy and sleeping less than usual.  The to-do list was long, and seemingly nothing was getting accomplished.

When the kids all finally made it to nap time, I got to my baking.  As I stirred the cookie dough, my mind turned over with the usual questions.  Am I disciplining the kids too much?  Or too little?  Maybe they aren't sleeping enough.  Should I put them to bed sooner? Should I let the baby cry more?  Less? Am I spending enough time with the kids?  Am I making enough time to do school with our oldest?  Are they getting too much free play time or is all the play time a good thing? Am I cooking healthy enough or is it all too healthy?  Do they have too many vaccines or too few?  Do I spend too much time cleaning the house or too little?  Am I reaching out enough to people who don't know Jesus or do I need to focus on our kids more?  Am I talking to them about their sin enough?  Am I talking to them about my sin enough?  Am I sharing the gospel with them enough?  Am I showing enough grace?  Will they ever become Christians?

And on and on my thoughts rolled onto a thousand topics, never feeling settled about a single one.  My mind searched my knowledge of the Bible, looking for a verse or two to comfort me that I am doing the best I can, and that it is good enough for God.

But such a verse was not coming.

But God in his kindness, did point me to something in His word.  "My power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Maybe sometimes its good to be a strong mom.  But I find that in my weakness, I depend on God more.  I pray for wisdom on naptimes and bedtimes and meal plans and school plans.  I pray for help to repent of sin in front of my kids.  Most importantly, I pray for God to save them.

In reality, we are all weak moms, but only some of us realize it.  And seeing our weakness opens up room for God to give us His power.  And there is no other power on which I would rather depend.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Home birth and hospital birth: my (hopefully non-controversial) experiences with both

Back when I was pregnant with Esther, I did lots of reading on birth and birth styles.  The conclusion I came to was that the best choice for her and for me would be to have an unmedicated home birth.  However, our insurance situation at the time was such that only a hospital birth was covered, which for financial reasons was the route we decided to go.  Fortunately we had a good midwife, and though our hospital stay wasn't the best (though not terrible) it was short and manageable, and we were able to give birth unmedicated.

Fast forward to Hudson.  Same story with insurance, and a move led us to a new midwife and new hospital.  I really liked our new midwife and this new hospital was certified baby friendly, which made for a much better experience.  In fact, I would even say I enjoyed our hospital stay.

This time when I got pregnant, two things changed: we were now with Samaritan Ministries, which "shares" home birth at 100% (it's not considered insurance, so you can't say "covers" but pretty much the same idea), and my midwife was in the process of moving to a new city.  So this time around the hospital would cost more, and our midwife would not be able to attend.  Though I like my OB, I would prefer a midwife and I don't think there are any other hospital based midwives in our town (and the other upside to my previous midwife is that she was in the same office as my OB).

Long story short, after talking to a lot of people and weighing our options, we settled on a home birth.  It wasn't an easy decision like it would have been with a previous birth, this time I felt that there were some legitimate upsides to the hospital, but in the end I wanted to at least try a home birth so that I could know what it is like.

Right away, I was happy about our decision.  The two biggest reasons were that I really liked the midwife we chose and because having prenatal appointments at home made life so much easier.  I didn't have to find a sitter or even carve out that much time from my day.  The visits lasted about 45 minutes and I didn't have to drive anywhere or wait in a waiting room.  My midwife would even include the kids in on the exam as helpers which they enjoyed and provided them with a learning opportunity.  Another upside is that the whole appointment was face time with my midwife, which allowed for plenty of time for questions and conversation about life and pregnancy.  I would probably say that the prenatal visits were the biggest upside of the home birth experience for me.

When it came to the birth, the biggest upside was not having to make the transition to the hospital.  We now live 15 minutes from our hospital, which isn't the terrible one-hour drive we had with Esther but certainly not the very easy less than 5 minute drive we had with Hudson.  Even a five minute drive isn't fun because there is the decision of when exactly to leave, which for me is as close as possible to the birth without being too late.  In all honesty, the way things went this time I might have had the baby in the car.

Since it was a home birth, my midwife came when contractions were still relatively easy (which ended up being about 2 hours before the actual birth), as she knows my history of fast births.  This is different than hospital midwives who want to come after you are ready to push.  The problem with that for me is that by time I am ready to push, the baby is minutes from being born.  I was worried about feeling like a watched pot with her there, but she mostly laid low in a different room while I labored, only coming to check the baby's heart tones every half hour or so, meanwhile getting everything set up for the birth.  And in the end, Zion came fast enough that even her assistant didn't make it in time, so we all agreed that it was good that she came early when things were still easy.

I also really appreciated that right after the birth, I could crawl into bed, my bed.  And that first night, I didn't have to sleep across the room from my husband, knowing that he was getting a terrible night's sleep.  Instead we were all snuggled up in bed together.  I loved it.

There are some things that are more convenient in the hospital: a closer bathroom, a bed that sits up at the push of a button and the nice rolling table that sits your food, book or computer right in front of you while you lay in bed.  I also didn't love having to take mine and my baby's vitals by myself (my midwife did a check right after birth, at 24 hours and at 3 days, but in between those checks it was up to us).  They weren't necessarily difficult but its just more reassuring when someone else is doing them.

So what will we do in the future?  All things considered, home birth seems like the better option for us.  In a number of ways, it is easier, especially as our family grows, and especially given my history of relatively fast deliveries.  However, if there is ever a compelling reason to have a hospital birth, that will be a fine option for us as well.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Zion's birth story

I woke up at 6am on Friday March 18 with regular, mild contractions that were maybe 5 or 10 minutes apart.  I dozed off in between each but after about an hour I realized I was probably in labor and decided to get up and get my day started.  Things continued to progress and I lost my mucus plug, but then the kids woke up.  And when they got up my brain was like "Hey, I can't have this baby now, I have a life to live!"  We already had plans for free breakfast at Chick-fil-a and a morning full of errands.  With my mind on other things, my contractions slowed down significantly.  I called my midwife and updated her and she said it should be fine to run a few errands, as along as I didn't get "too far from the nest".  I didn't tell her that Chick-fil-a was a good 25 minute drive.

But we got through our morning without things progressing much.  We got home at lunch time, and soon after the kids were down for rest time/nap time.  I scurried around the house finishing last minute things to make the house feel in order and ready for the arrival of a baby (and a week with little cleaning).  I made an early dinner and by time that was done I was to the point of not being able to do much besides give in to labor.  My mom took the kids to a park and I got into the bathtub to relax (I have done this with each labor and it feels great!).  Towards the end of my two(!) hours in the tub my midwife arrived.  The kids came home and Alex put them in bed, and I felt like I could finally relax and just have the baby.  The contractions started getting stronger and I felt like I might be nearing transition, so I decided to get out.

I went downstairs and laid on the couch with Alex and tried to watch some March Madness with him as a diversion.  He texted my friend who was serving as doula to come, as contractions were strong enough that I was wanting some more support to get through them.  For the next 45 minutes or so I continued to lay there with the two of them helping me through each one, as they were getting progressively stronger.  I could feel that I was getting really close to transition so I decided to get up and go to the bathroom and then we would head up to the bedroom (where my midwife had been setting things up for the birth).  Standing up must have caused Zion to move down in a big way because I had a really intense, really long contraction.  It must have been audibly intense because Alex came to check on me.  After one more powerful contraction while I walked around the living room, they helped me to move upstairs.

We got up there just in time because I began to feel a really strong urge to push right when we got to the bedroom. Two pushes later my water broke, and then Zion was born one push later.

I was in a daze after he was born but I remember one of my first reactions was surprise at his light eyes and hair.  For some reason I had it in my head that all of our boys would have dark hair like Hudson and Alex, but Zion's appearance was very similar to Esther's at birth.  After a couple hours of cuddling and nursing, my midwife did his exam he was 7lb even (a half an ounce more than Esther at birth).

It has been a pretty laid back week since he was born and we are thankful.  We are in love with our new little Zion Ezekiel!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

June in our Home: In Pictures

This month's update will be in pictures.  I just got a nice camera before we left for Portugal, and I have been loving it so much!

Here are some highlights from this month, in pictures.

Hudson got his first haircut this month.  Here is a before picture:
And here is after...
Whoops.  Botched that a bit.  In my defence, Hudson was squirming too much to do it the "right" way, so he just ended up getting more or less a bowl cut.  Alex says he looks like this:
We also moved into our new house this month.
 And met some of our new neighbors.
(That's a bison.)
Settling is taking longer than I would thought, so I haven't taken many pics of the inside yet, but here is one of our entryway.  Please come visit if you haven't yet.
The first week of June we were in the Azores, Portugal visiting family.  Here is Esther swinging in the yard of our hotel.
And here she is exploring flowers at a huge royal garden on the island.
Too many beautiful flower pics.
And Hudson being cute.

I have tons more vacation photos (about 2000 to be exact) so I hope to post more eventually!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Thought on the coming persecution

Friday's supreme court decision has really thrown me for a loop.  Not because it was unexpected (it wasn't) but because it has really gotten me to think about persecution.  And for as much good as I logically know persecution does for the individual and the Church, I'll be honest, it scares me.

In the coming years, we are going to see two things happen: churches who preach against homosexuality will be in danger of losing their 501(c)3 status and speaking against this sin will become a hate crime.  The first will cripple many churches financially, and the second will cause many faithful Christians to be sent to jail.

But the government will be generous.  If only a church will refuse to preach the whole counsel of God and bow instead to government regulation, they will be allowed to continue on.

This reminds me of Christianity in China.  Churches can either be government registered, and have to follow government rules about what they can do and teach, or they can be independent (and therefore, illegal) and worship God without government regulation.  Pastors of illegal churches are often thrown in jail.  Meetings have to be secret and there is always the thread of intrusion by authorities.  You see, the Chinese Government wants to be god.  And churches that dare bow only to the True God and not to the Chinese god feel the wrath of this human institution.

Even more, this reminds me of early Christianity.  Early Christians were persecuted in large part not because they worshiped a different God (the Romans had a whole pantheon of gods and didn't mind adding one more) but because they refused to worship the god of the Roman government: Caesar, the one god they were required to worship.

Reading in Daniel this morning, I was struck by two verses.  The context is an uprising by a major enemy of God.

"He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action. And the wise among the people shall make many understand, though for some days they shall stumble by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder" (11:32-33)

And what is the final end of this enemy of God and his people?

"And he shall come pitch his palatial tents between the sea and the glorious holy mountain. Yet he shall come to his end, with none to help him." (11:45)

So let us stand firm on the Word of God and not fear.  Let us not be man-pleasers and conform the Bible to what is currently popular and accepted.  In the end, there is only God.  The US government, and all governments will have their end in time, but He will not.

Sorry SCOTUS, nice try thinking that you have the power to define marriage.  There is only One Creator of marriage, and He created it to be for one man and one woman.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The End of a Sprint

The end is in sight.

We started on a sprint back in February. That month, we started raising money for the community garden we hoped to build.  Around that time, I took on responisbilities for two big events at church.  In March, we started looking for a home to buy, and made the decision to travel to the Azores, Portugal at the of May to see Alex's family (he hasn't been there in 27 years, and I have never been there or met most of his family).  In April, we broke ground on the community garden (and once we started, Alex worked 30-50 hours per week on it, and it took the majority of my free time as well).  In May, our sprint hit a fever pace as we started packing for our move, finished enough of the community garden to get it open, called our loan company often enough to make sure they got things done in time for our closing, closed on our house, and packed suitcases for our trip to the Azores.  All of this was on top of church and home responsibilities that were already keeping us quite busy before the sprint started.

But you can't sprint forever.  And the end is in sight.  Our vacation is almost over, and while it was relaxing in many ways, as is usual at the end of a vaction, you look forward to getting back to normalcy.  When we get home, we will have three days to finish packing and move into our new home.  So one last push, and we will be finished with the majority of the work we embarked on a few months ago (we still need to finish some things on the garden, and then of course there will be the work of making our new house a home).

But God has been very good to us in this very full season.  All of these potentially stressful things could have caused difficulty in our marriage, but instead, it has strengthened us as we have worked hard side by side.  God used this time to strengthen my prayer life (which is still so, so far from where I want it to be) as I have sought to emulate the example of George Mueller who found it necessary to devote more time to prayer in difficult seasons, when our temptation is to pray less.  And we have both felt God's sweet blessing in many ways, as he has made our community garden vision come to reality, allowed us to visit family that we have been trying to see since we got married almost 7 years ago, and given us our first home (even though we know its just temporary, for the next 4ish year we are in Bloomington).

Here are a few pictures from our vacation.  I definitely plan to write more about that (it was absolutely wonderful!) so look for more to come on that.

Alex and Esther walking down a beautiful cobblestone sidewalk.

Behind Hudson is a picture of a small island created by a volcanic eruption.  It is hard to see in this pic, but in the middle is a lagoon, almost perfectly round, the mouth of the volcano.

Hudson on the beach.  The sand is very dark, made from volanic rock.

Beautiful flowers in front of a beautiful waterfall.  I think I have several hundred pictures of flowers from our trip.

And espresso.  Lots of espresso.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Materialism and Asceticism

I can't stop thinking about this blog post I read today.  I recommend reading it, but to sum up the author says that she was concerned about materialism in her two daughters and after getting fed up with their toys, she took them all away.  As a result she has seen more contentment in her daughters' lives.

On one hand I totally get where she is coming from.  When we first became parents, we went from 0 to 4 kids in two weeks, all of them under age four (they were a foster sibling set).  We were incredibly blessed that many people stepped up to give us hand me down clothes and toys for our kiddos.  In fact, within a few weeks we had 4 full bins of toys!  I tried my best to rotate these toys but they always managed to take over the house.  When the kids were reunited with their mom, we sent the vast majority of the toys with them.  Since then I have continually been reducing the number of toys we own, and keeping fewer toys out at a time when we do toy rotations (or at least I try... sometimes the number of toys around the house seem to multiply despite my best efforts).  Having fewer toys around helps keep me sane and the kids really don't seem to notice (especially when I do a good job of rotating).


There is one thing that concerns me about this idea.  Taking away your kids toys is not going to stop them from being greedy.
"If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh." Colossians 2:20-23 (emph. mine)
So taking away your kids' toys to help them be less materialistic?  Maybe if they don't have toys they appear less materialistic and more content.  But setting up these regulations in their lives will not stop the indulgence of the flesh.  Only the Holy Spirit can change your children from the inside out.

Pray for His mercy and soul cleansing work in your children.

And maybe you should take away their toy or at least get rid of a good number of them.  But don't expect that to save or sanctify them.