Friday, September 27, 2013

August in our Home: an Addendum

There are a few things I failed to mention in my August in our Home update.

First of all, I had a birthday last month.  Yay, happy birthday to me, I turned 28.

Secondly, we took a trip to Las Vegas, to celebrate a friend's birthday.  It was my first time in Vegas.  It was HOT.  We only spent about 24 hours there, so we just saw a lot of the main sights.  I really enjoyed watching the water fountain show at the Bellagio.

Thirdly, I failed to mention my main activity of August: sitting on the couch.  Actually, more like laying on the couch.  Almost every day in August, for Esther's entire nap time.

Because... I'm pregnant!!  Yay!

I'm about 12 weeks along now.  First trimester is almost done! :D  I've been pretty nauseous so far (hence all the time on the couch), and I'm hoping it gets better second trimester.

I am due mid-April of next year.  We can't wait :)

Oh, and I have to mention that all my nesting in July was definitely God's grace because by time we figured out that I was pregnant I was already so nauseous that I was worthless for housework.  So all the cooking and cleaning I did ahead of time was vital for getting us through the month, even though we didn't get another foster child soon after baby girl left like we were expecting.  Thank you, Lord!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ladies: Offer your Bodies as Living Sacrifices

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.(Romans 12:1-2, ESV)

The Bible teaches that Christians are to sacrifice everything- our time, energy, money, even our bodies, in service to a Worthy God.  This isn't something we need to work hard to force ourselves to do; its a natural response of gratefulness to the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus first made on our behalf, and is empowered by his Spirit.  And though at times these sacrifices may be difficult or even painful, our sacrifices here on earth will have eternal impact and benefits, and ultimately will be something we don't regret.

One of the biggest sacrifices (with the most potential for eternal impact) we women can make in service to Jesus is to become mothers: to bear and raise image-bearers of God for His glory.  This is Biblical truth.

But the problem is, that the world is screaming in our ear.  The world says to protect your body, so that you will be truly happy.  The world says, delay or avoid motherhood so that you don't have to experience the pain of childbirth or give up your freedom or your perfect body (the irony with this fear is that women are delaying child bearing into their mid to late thirties, when the body is least able to recover physically from pregnancy.).  And the world is screaming at us so loudly, it is often drowning out the paltry amount of Biblical truth we are allowing ourselves to imbibe on this subject.

The Bible does not say motherhood will be easy.  In fact, as a result of the fall, the things the world is saying about motherhood is true: it limits your freedom, it is painful and it will change your body.  But in God's economy, these sacrifices are small compared to the reward they will reap.  Second Corinthians 4:16-18 puts it this way:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 

The Bible paints a picture that sacrifice for the Kingdom of God is eternal, while preserving your body is not.  Keeping your perfect body "untainted" by motherhood or keeping your free time open to do whatever you want might be convenient for a few years here on earth, but 100 years from now, this wont be a thought in your mind.  Your only concern about life on earth in 100 years will be what kind of eternal impact your life has had.

So ladies, when you are tempted to protect your body, to selfishly keep it to yourself rather than pour it out in service to others or your children, meditate on the body and blood of Christ, shed for you.  Think about what Jesus has done by giving his body up for us, and not holding it back.  Meditate on scripture (such as those above) about sacrificing your body and living for eternal good.  Repent of the transient things you are living for, and ask for an eternal perspective on your life.  The only way to overcome the screams of the world is to douse them with the Word of God.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Wicked vs. Righteous [Meditations on Psalm 37]

Before reading this I highly encourage you to read Psalm 37 in its entirety.

Wicked... and righteous... these are two of the most used words in this psalm.  Wicked is used at least 15 times by my count, and righteous at least 7.  In addition, there are many synonyms to these two words, such as evildoers, cursed, wrongdoers, saints, blameless, and blessed.

What does Psalm 37 say about the wicked?  The wicked are like grass, and will wither away.  They will be cut off from the Lord.  They plot against the righteous and borrow without repaying, but God laughs at the wicked, because he sees that his day is coming.

What about the righteous?  The righteous will never be moved.  They will delight in abundant peace.  They are never forsaken by their God.  They are delivered from the wicked by God.  They are known by God.  They will live forever.

In which category do you fit?  Maybe you would say that its not black and white; that you have some evil and some good in you.  But this is not a category the Bible lays out.  The Bible says that every person is either wicked OR righteous with no grey area in between.

And to make it even more challenging, the Bible also says,
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-18, ESV)
 This means that all of us are born into wickedness and enmity with God.  We turn away from his love repeatedly and reject him from being king over us, and rightly deserve his punishment and curse.  Because God is holy, perfect and just, we have no way to earn or work our way towards the blessings and favor from God that Psalm 37 lays out.

But God...

These are possibly the two most important words in the Bible.  Let me show you:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:1-6
Every person is born into wickedness... but God can and does choose to save some.  He died for the punishment that we deserve.  By paying our debt, cleansing us from the inside, and causing us to be reborn, he has transferred believers from the category of wicked to the category of righteous, from cursed to blessed.  And it it is not because of our righteousness, but because he generously bestows on us his righteousness.  This is amazing.  This is grace.

So if this applies to you, bask in the truths of Psalm 37.  Rejoice that God will not forsake you, his saint.  Moreover, rejoice that you did not earn his favor (nor could you) but that God was rich in mercy and love and has made us alive, made us his.

As Pslam 37 says in verse 39, "The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble."

Friday, September 20, 2013

Links I Like This Week: Prison Rape, Introverted Motherhood and The Human Shield

Here are a few articles that struck me this week:

9 Things You Should Know About Prison Rape - This makes me really sad.  Its also a topic we shouldn't ignore.

The Human Shield - This article really resonated with me because it describes something I see a lot.  Frequently, when I talk about controversial subjects on this blog, everyone wants to throw up a human shield.

The Introverted Mother - I have been meaning to write a blog about being an introverted mother for a while, but it looks like someone beat me to it :) Though, I do have a few more thoughts to add to what she said, so keep an eye out for it.  Her premise is that almost everything that is difficult for a mom is much more difficult for an introverted mom.  This has been my experience exactly, and I highly recommend the article to you whether you are introverted or not (or a mother or not :) ).

Have you read any good articles lately that you would like to share with us?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Little vs. Abundance [Meditations on Psalm 37]

"Better is the little that the righteous has,
than the abundance of many wicked" Psalm 37:16

These verses are amazingly true, and have been comforting in my life.

I would say that we are in a season of having a little right now.  And its because of the choices that we have made to follow Jesus.  

Living in expensive Southern California, and choosing to live off of one salary so that I can invest full time into discipling our children and choosing to live in a house (rather than a smaller apartment) so that we have enough room to be foster parents, and choosing to care for widows and orphans and choosing to support many missionaries and choosing to open our home for our missional community and other church activities and choosing to serve faithfully at church and choosing to have children rather than the ease of the "child-free" life... all of these decisions are because we follow Jesus.  But these decisions also mean that we have very little time, energy and money to spend on ourselves.  Much of it is being poured out to others.  

And sometimes I get jealous.  Sometimes I want to grab it all back, and stop giving away the best of my time and energy and possessions to other people.  But in those moments of selfishness, God is gracious to patiently remind me that it is better that I serve him faithfully and have only a little left for myself (and get all of Him), than to not know Him and get to keep it all to myself (and have none of Him).  After all, Jesus himself said "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).

However, it is important to remember that the believer does in fact have abundance, even if it is not always in material goods.

"But the meek shall inherit the land, 
and delight themselves in abundant peace." v. 11

"[the righteous] are not put to shame in evil times,
in the days of famine they have abundance"

Believers are offered abundant peace from God and are protected from his judgement (thus His provision for them in the midst of famine that is a result of evil).  This reminds me of the widow who offered to give Elijah the last her her flour and oil to make bread, and God blessed her step of faith by renewing her oil and flour day by day until the famine ceased.

The point is, God is not stingy with his children.  We need not think that his hand is too small or that his arm is too short to give his children what we need.  He provides exactly what we need when we need it, and the fact that he does not always give us our desires is his mercy.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Three Reasons to Avoid the Pill

Like most pharmaceutical products, the contraceptive pill has been touted as safe and effective for years, calling it "like a vitamin".  And, as with most drugs, doctors have been bribed and paid and encouraged in other ways by Big Pharma to prescribe it to patients.  And the drug companies profiting from this drug also had another ally: millions of feminists who touted the drug as giving freedom to women.

The problem is, the Pill is not completely safe.  And the problem is, while the Pill has "freed" up women to not get pregnant, it has also enslaved them to inadvertent abortion, bad health and infertility.  Is that really freedom?

'Birth control pills' photo (c) 2013, lookcatalog - license:

There are three ways that the birth control pill works to prevent pregnancy.  The main way is to prevent ovulation.  The other two ways are to thicken cervical mucus so that it is harder for the sperm to reach the egg, and also to make the uterine lining an inhospitable environment for a fertilized egg.

The biggest concern with the Pill for a Christian stems from this last method.  In this way, the birth control pill can cause a spontaneous abortion, which is a grave consideration for Christian couples to take.  Some have argued that this is not a big concern because this is not the normal function of the pill, it usually prevents a pregnancy through the other methods listed above.  However, for anyone who stands against the murder of the unborn, if there is even a tiny chance of preventing your baby from living, this is a grave consideration to make before a holy God, before whom you will give an account of all your actions one day.

Though this point is the shortest in length, the moral implications are the most profound.  Don't ignore the possibility of abortion just because you will not know that it has happened (until you get to heaven and meet your child).  Do not ignore the possibility of abortion because many other couples you know are putting their head in the sand.  Please research this point extensively, as it could be a life or death decision.  I recommend that all Christian couples considering use of (or using) the birth control pill read Randy Alcorn's pamphlet "Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?".


The pill has an adverse affect on women's health in several ways.

One effect that is becoming more well known of recent is the impact on gut health.  Birth control pills (especially when used for many years on end) cause a disruption in the normal bacterial balance of the gut, killing good bacteria and allowing bad bacteria to overpopulate.  There are more bacterial cells in the body (mostly in the digestive system) than there are human cells in your body by a ratio of about 10 to 1!  In fact, bacteria make up about 6 lb of body weight in the average person, and help with various functions of the body from digestion, immunity, psychological health and even growth.  Research into this area of the body is very new and there is a lot more that we will learn in the coming years.  But suffice it to say, messing with the bacterial balance of your body is a bad idea.  The noted autism researcher Dr. Campbell-McBride discourages women from using the birth control pill because of the likelihood that it contributes to autism through bacterial imbalance passed on from a mother to a newborn baby.

Another health concern with the birth control pill is the fact that the hormones that it contains are not bio-identical.  The reason that the hormones are not bio-identical is that if they were identical to the body, pharmaceutical companies could not patent their product or market it as unique (it all comes down to money.  Surprise, surprise.)  So they take the hormones of the body and change them in slight ways, so that they are still effective in preventing a pregnancy, but have been shown to not quite be compatible with the body.  This can be seen during pregnancy, for example.  If a woman takes artificial progesterone through the depo-provera pill, her baby is at higher risk for birth defects.  But taking bio-identical progesterone during pregnancy has not been shown to cause harm, and may even help towards having a healthier pregnancy.

Another consideration to make with the Pill is that the hormones from the Pill cannot be filtered out or destroyed from water, even with the strongest, best filter (not even by my beloved Berkey which gets pretty much everything else in the world out of water!).  My father-in-law, who is on the water board of a major midwestern city, was the first to alert us to this fact, that all of us are drinking in low-levels of birth control every day.  It should be noted that birth control pills are not the exclusive contributing factor, as industrial chemicals and farm use of hormones in livestock are also a cause of our estrogenic water.  What are the effects of this on the general public?  No one knows for sure, probably because there is no one who would benefit (financially) from this information.  But at least one study sees a correlational link to prostate cancer in men and another study has shown the hormones to cause a condition known as intersex in fish in affected waterways (which has lead to declining fish populations).  There are also theories that our estrogenic environment is contributing to the rise of precocious puberty, breast cancer and thyroid imbalances.  One Forbes op-ed even went so far as to say that women on the birth control pill should pay and extra $1,500 per year in pollution tax for the societal cost and environmental impact of that choice.  This is an extreme proposition, but goes to highlight that birth control pills are causing pollution, which should not be ignored.


Have you ever wondered why there has been such a surge in women struggling with infertility in the past few years?  Doubtless there are a number of causes, such as the surge in estrogenic chemicals in our environment and water (for example almost all plastic, including the well-publicized chemical BPA).  But the Pill has contributed to this in a number of ways.

First of all, as noted above, the Pill does not use bio-identical hormones and may alter or affect the body's ability to conceive.  Many alternative health specialists recommend that women use an alternate form of birth control for 6 months after stopping use of the Pill to clear their body out from the artificial hormones which may have an effect on the pregnancy or baby.  In a similar stream, it may also take the body some time to start ovulating normally after extensive periods of unnatural suppression, especially as many women are now on the pill for 10, 15 or 20 years before trying to conceive.

Secondly, the Pill can mask fertility problems.  Some women start on the Pill when they are in their teens for the purpose of regulating their cycle.  The Pill regulates them for years, but never fixes their underlying reproductive health issues.  When they get to 30 or 35 years of age and want to have kids, they are eager to get pregnant but don't realize it may take years to fix the underlying issues that they have spent years (and lot of money) ignoring.  In some cases they may never be able to fix the underlying issues once they have reached this age.

Last of all, the Pill encourages women to wait until the least fertile years of their life to have children.  It could be argued that this is the case with all birth control methods, which is true to some extent, but the birth control pill is the "easiest" method (which is probably why it is so widely used) and requires the least awareness to the fact that it is indeed suppressing fertility.   This has lead numerous women to ignore their ticking "biological clock" until sadly, its too late.  As one article put it,
"Suddenly, one anxiety—Am I pregnant?—is replaced by another: Can I get pregnant? The days of gobbling down the Pill and running out to CVS at 3 a.m. for a pregnancy test recede in the distance, replaced by a new set of obsessions. The Pill didn’t create the field of infertility medicine, but it turned it into an enormous industry. Inadvertently, indirectly, infertility has become the Pill’s primary side effect." (source)
The thing that concerns me most about the Pill when it is used by Christian couples is the lack of thought that goes into it, which is my main motive for writing this article.  The Bible says that our lives will look very different from the rest of the world, which plays out even in the areas of birth control and childbearing.  Just because many Americans use the Pill and think it is quite normal, doesn't mean that its use should be normalized amoung Christians.  But too often we get our cues from the world and don't even consider the matter through a Biblical lens.  A Christian couple certainly needs to consider the possible abortifacient side of the Pill when considering if and what birth control method to use and, to a lesser extent, whether the health and fertility effects of the Pill are wise stewardship of the body.

I'm not in the camp that says that all birth control is bad or sinful (though I will be quick to add that it is overly relied upon in our culture of chasing affluence).  I think that it is something that should be approached with prayer and discernment and seeking the wise counsel of others.  The two methods that I would recommend are any kind of barrier method or natural family planning (which is highly effective as it has been refined and improved in recent years).  NFP has the added benefit of being very inexpensive, completely chemical-free (even barrier methods expose you to some plastic or latex and usually a chemical coating) and helps a women to understand her fertility better, which will be an added benefit when the couple decides to pursue pregnancy.

I welcome discussion over this topic, but please keep your comments factual, to the point and God-honoring.  Please avoid character attacks and emotional tirades.  I encourage you to read our comment policy.

Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions? By Randy Alcorn
The Better Baby Book (which I reviewed here) By Dr. Lana and Dave Asprey
Gut and Psychology Syndrome By Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride
Three Ways the Birth Control Pill Works
Waking Up from the Pill (originally published in the New York Magazine)
How Bacteria in our Bodies Protect our Health (originally published in Scientific American)
Prostate Cancer may be Linked to Birth Control Pill in Water Supply
Women on Contraceptive Pill Should Pay $1,500 Per Year More in Tax (Forbes)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fret not yourself [Meditations on Psalm 37]

Psalm 37 is one of my favorite psalms.  I find myself running to it over and over in hard times.  Over the next few weeks, I am going to write out some of the themes that I see and cherish in this chapter, in hopes that you come to love this psalm as I have.

Before reading this meditation, I would encourage you to read the whole chapter of Psalm 37.

"Fret not yourself because of evildoers." v. 1a

"Fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices" v. 7b, c

"Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil" v. 8b

Fret not yourself.  This phrase is repeated three times in a matter of less than 10 verses.  What is it referring to?

First of all, the who.  Fret not yourself over evildoers.  It is easy to look around in the world and see all the people who oppose God but are doing very well for themselves.  Their life looks so easy, they have all that they need.  Maybe you fall prey to comparing your life to a celebrity, a co-worker, a neighbor or a friend.   If you are like me, there are times in your walk with God that following Him is so difficult that you almost wish that you could not follow Him in order to have an easy life.  If you weren't following Jesus, you could live by the mentality "Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die" (1 Corinthians 15:32) and life would be so carefree.

Or would it?  We see the folly of the wicked person's thinking in verse 13.  "The Lord laughs at the wicked for he sees that his day is coming".  As believers, we are living for a Day and that day is not today.  The Day we live for is the day when God will look at our life and determine our rewards based on our faithfulness in this life.  And if our faithfulness in this life necessitates hardship (as the Bible almost certainly guarantees it will) then all the more reason to look forward to that Day and not worry about today.  We may have few carefree days in this mist of a life, but in our eternal life, every day will be carefree.

Another important question about this theme.  Why not fret ourselves?  Because it tends only to evil (v. 8).  If we are fretting about evildoers, we are probably sinfully judging them (believers are only to judge other believers, 1 Corinthians 5:12), lacking trust in God and keeping our minds from what is "true, noble, right, pure, lovely", etc (Phil. 4:8).

So what if we are fretting about evildoers?  What is the solution?

Repent of this sin.  Admit it before God, and thank him for already taking the punishment for it and forgiving you of it.  Ask him to fill you with his Spirit and to give you the ability to think only of what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8).  He delights to answer such a prayer.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Am I Able to Love Again? Our First Couple Hours with Our New Little Man.

Last week we got a call.  A really exciting call.  A call for a 21 month old Hispanic girl who was actually adoptable.  We were thrilled.  Not only was she the exact age we were hoping for, but she was actually adoptable.  That is super rare in the age range we are open to.  But long story short, things changed with her family situation, and yesterday they decided to adopt her with her 10 year old sister, not separate, as was the original plan.  So she would no longer fit in our family.  Though we tried to guard our hearts from getting too excited about her, it was a letdown when we found out that it wouldn't happen.

Then we got another call today.  For a 6 month old African American baby boy.  His situation is much different from hers, but very similar to all the other kiddos we have had.  He may or may not end up being adoptable, things are very unclear at this point.  He was taken from his family this week, languished for two days at a DCFS office while they sought out a family (because of the foster care crisis in LA right now) and then we got the call.

And its risky, but we decided to say yes.  Why did we say yes to a risky placement when we really want to adopt?  Three reasons.  All placements are risky, no matter what it looks like at the beginning.  Anything could happen.  Everything is risky in the foster care system until the judge slams the gavel down and finalizes the adoption.  Secondly, because God is sovereign.  Period.  Whatever he wants to happen will happen.  Thirdly, because as much as we want to grow our family, we also want to serve kiddos in need, even if that is just for a short time.  Though we would like for it to be a long time :)

But at the same time, it IS a risky placement.  And we had the possibility just yesterday of having a pretty-for-sure adoptable little girl.

So I found myself in the hours before his arrival pondering.  Questioning.  Wondering.  Can I love again?  Can I put my heart out there to love another baby who might not stay very long?  Will I be selfish with my heart, put a protective box over it, lock it up with a key, so that it will be safe?  It would be easy to just take care of him in the physical sense, keeping him clean and fed, but could my affections go there again?  Can my heart stretch that far to love the sixth child in the past three years?

And after thinking for a long time, I came to a conclusion.  Yes, I can love him.  Just as I plan to love Alex until we (Lord willing) grow old and wrinkly together.  Just as I loved Esther before she was born.  Love is not a feeling, it is a choice.  I have the choice of whether to love baby boy or not.  And I choose love, by God's grace.  And it is God's grace: we can only do this foster parenting thing because of the love Jesus first showed us by dying on the cross.  So I can pour that love into baby boy, especially since loving him is really loving Jesus.

And when he came in our front door and I saw him for the first time, I knew it was true.  I will love this baby.  I will snuggle him.  I will kiss his forehead.  I will rock him late into the night if needed.  I will sacrifice for him.  I will help him to have the healthiest, best childhood possible for the time that he is with us.  Every child deserves these things, how could I hold them back from our little man?  I will not hold them back.  As God pours out love into my heart, I will pour out love to our little man.

(Note to self: make sure you are going to God daily to be filled with His love, so that you have plenty to pour out to the kiddos and to Alex).

And here are some highlights from our first couple hours with our new little man before he went to bed.

*Set him on the ground for tummy time and he started crawling.  On his knees!  He seriously just turned 6 months old yesterday and he started crawling.  He's also super long so we have concluded he will be a basketball player.

*For a half second I was starting to think "Well, six months is a bit younger than we wanted, but at least he wont be moving yet so he'll be easier in that way."  Yeah.  Right.  We would get the six month old crawling prodigy.

*Although I have to say, I am thankful that he is not delayed in this area.  He could very well be delayed considering his history. Many foster kiddos have developmental delays.

*Esther is so thrilled to have a playmate in the house again.  It took about .5 seconds for her to warm up to him.  She took just about every kids book on the shelf off and gave it to him.  How sweet. :) I don't think he's too into books yet, but we don't have to tell Esther that.

*Since we became parents three years ago, we have had two to four kids in our house for the majority of our parenting time.  Many people have asked me "How do you do it with so many kids?".  My question over the past month (since baby girl left) to moms of only one child is "Seriously, how do you do it?!"  Esther has been markedly different without a sister around to bug (er, play with). Kiddos need playmates.  Kiddos want siblings.  Its good for them.  I am so glad that Esther has a new Bubba to play with (Bubba is her current nickname for him).

*When putting him to bed, he was clearly tired (I can only image what he has gone through in the past 72 hours).  I tried to pat his bottom and sing to him until he fell asleep but it only slightly placated him and didn't get him to sleep.  So then I picked him up and laid him on my chest as I laid on our bed.  He was out in less than a minute.  It was the sweetest feeling to feel his body relax and melt into mine.  And now he's in bed sleeping peacefully.

He came to us after 6p and was in bed before 8p so that is all so far.  But we will continue to update in the next few days.

Lastly please pray for us.  Please pray that God will give us the strength to love him well.  Pray that baby boy will grow up to love and know Jesus.  Please pray that we would trust unwaveringly in God through the difficulties of foster parenting.  Thank you for walking along side us in this journey!

Sow, Mama, Sow (part 2)

"Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, he will also reap.  For one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will also reap from the Spirit eternal life.  And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up."  Galatians 6:7-9

"Sow for yourselves righteousness,
reap steadfast love,
break up your fallow ground,
for it is time to seek the Lord, 
that he may come and rain righteousness upon you."
Hosea 10:12

A few weeks ago we looked at why we labor at sowing without losing heart.  Today we are going to examine what we are sowing.

The Bible makes it clear that you will reap the crop that you sew.  You cannot sow weeds and expect to reap tomatoes.  You cannot sow grass seed and expect beautiful flowers.  
'Flower Border 3' photo (c) 2011, Tony Hisgett - license:

In terms of our faith, we cannot sow towards our fleshly desires and expect to reap spiritual fruit.  In terms of our children, we cannot cultivate sin and expect them to love righteousness. 

To make it more practical, it will be hard to cultivate love for God if your first two activities of the day are to make coffee and check Facebook.  If you want to reap love for God, start your day by sowing prayerful dependence on Him and drinking deeply from His word.  In the same way, you cannot reap the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) if you are indulging the lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh and boastful pride of life (1 John 2:16).  

Think about what you are sowing in your children as well.  If you are generous towards your children you are cultivating generosity towards others in them as well.  If you are repentant of sin in front of your children, you are cultivating seeds of repentance in their own heart as well.  But if you are too lazy (or too soft) to discipline your children, you are sowing seeds of rebellion in their hearts, and the Bible would go so far as to say you hate your children (Proverbs 13:24).

Have you been sowing to the flesh and sin?  Of course you have.  I have been, too.  Repent, and turn to Jesus and ask him to change you; ask him him to empower you to sow to the Spirit.  He delights to answer such a prayer.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Hot Days, Cold Drinks: Nutritional Boosters

We hope you enjoyed the "Hot Days, Cold Drinks" recipe series.  To wrap up, I want to give a few suggestions for nutritional boosters to add to your drinks.  I am always looking for ways to get more nutrients into our diet, and adding them to blended drinks is often pretty easy.
'Ice cold drinks by the beach' photo (c) 2011, Ivan Bandura - license:

Bentonite Clay - Clay is good for digestions, had lots of minerals, and draws out and removes heavy metals and toxins from the body.  Bentonite clay can be added to any drink that has a milk/yogurt base because it has a neutral, slightly creamy flavor.  I usually add about a teaspoon to smoothies, iced coffee and chocolate banana shakes.

Spirulina powder - I order this in bulk and add it to our food whenever I can.  Spirulina is an algae that is really high in protein, phytonutrients, betacarotenes and many other nutrients.  The taste is hard to describe, its not a strong flavor but also not pleasant (by itself).  I usually only add a half or whole teaspoon per serving, so that it is barely noticeable.  This mixes well into green tea shakes and fruit smoothies.

Flaxseed meal - Flaxseed meal is high in omega-3's and lignans, and has been linked to many health benefits. It has a nutty flavor and a texture (once its in a drink) similar to peanut butter.  I order whole flaxseeds and grind them in small batches in my blender, which helps assure they are fresh and not rancid.  I find that flaxseed meal goes well in vanilla peanut butter banana shakes and (like everything above) smoothies (smoothies are just so easy to hide things in!).  I add one or two tablespoons per serving.

Did you miss anything in the series?  Here are all the recipes we covered:

Chocolate Banana Shake - thick and chocolately
Green Tea Smoothie - creamy and energizing
Mocha Avocado Shake - my favorite pick-me-up
Hazelnut Iced Latte - slightly bitter but balanced
Vanilla Peanut Butter Banana Shake - smooth and rich
Homemade Lemonade - tart and refreshing
Coconut Iced Chai Latte - sweet n' spicy
Sun Tea - brisk and easy
Green Peach Smoothie - nutritious and fruity

Did you try any of these recipes? What did you like, and what would you change? Share your experiences!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Should You Adopt or Have Biological Children First?

Four years ago when we decided to start our family, we had a decision to make: we had an equally strong desire to adopt AND to have biological kids, so which one should we try for first?  This was a question that we researched and asked others' opinions on.

'Korean adoption boy' photo (c) 2009, Paul L Dineen - license:
Long story short, we chose to adopt first, but our first sibling set of foster children ended up being reunited with their mom and I got pregnant while they were with us, so God chose for us to have biological kids first.  So, I feel like we have a unique perspective on this question, and I would like to share our insights.  I don't think that one way or the other is definitely the right answer, so I will share some positives and negatives on each side that we have seen and experienced.

Adopting First

The main reason that we chose to pursue adoption first was because we wanted adoption to be the priority, not an after thought.  Many couples have several biological kids first, and then adopt later in life.  This can make it seem like biological children are the priority, and adopted children as the after thought.  I'm not saying that this is the intention of couples who go this route, but that it can at least be perceived this way.

The upsides
Adopted kids need lots of attention at the beginning, which is important for bonding.  Often times they have come from a traumatic situation and will need lots of extra patience and grace.  If you have no other children in the home, you will be able to give them more love and attention and time for bonding.

If you pursue adoption first, you are not limited by having to make considerations for your biological or already adopted children.  The children already in your home will usually limit the age of kids you can adopt, as well as the types of behaviors you are willing to bring into your home.  This is a consideration we now have because of Esther: not only are we limited to only getting children younger than her (this is by personal choice after a lot of prayer and consideration) but we would probably have to say no to accepting a child with more extreme behaviors that we may have felt ok to handle before she was born.

If you are pursuing foster care adoption, it may also be easier to go this route first before having biological children because you don't have to worry about the impact of foster children coming and going through your home on your biological children.

The downsides
With adoption, you are thrown into parenthood, oftentimes with a child who is older than a newborn, so you don't really get to figure it out from day one.  It might be hard to know what to expect from a 13 months old if you haven't been there with them from day one (unless you have a lot of previous experience with kids).  You may also be thrown in to dealing with behaviors that you have no idea how to react to.  While these are difficulties, all parenting is a bit figure it out as you go, so I wouldn't say these things are deal breakers, just something to take into consideration.

If your first pregnancy occurs after you have adopted children in the home, you risk not knowing what to expect from your pregnant self.  True, every pregnancy is different, so you never really know what to expect.  But it may be difficult to be experiencing the ups and downs of your first pregnancy while you already have several kiddos underfoot.  For the first 4 months of my pregnancy with Esther we had four kiddos in the home.  While I did need extra help from Alex and my mom, we made it through just fine and I don't regret being pregnant at that time.

If you are close to or above 30 years of age, I personally wouldn't recommend adopting first.  It gets harder and harder to get pregnant the older you get (plus the chance of birth defects gets higher).  Also, carrying a pregnancy is harder with an older body.  It makes more sense to start with trying to get pregnant if you are close to this age, especially if you want more than a couple biological children.  This is especially true with certain kinds of adoption which may take many years to complete.  I was 23 years old when we decided to start a family, so this wasn't an issue we took into consideration for ourselves.

Biological Kids First

Though we pursued adoption first, as I mentioned God did the unexpected and chose for our first child to be biological.  Because we had a sense for what it would have been like to adopt before Esther came around, I am now glad that God chose for Esther to be our first.  Although if it had happened the other way, I would probably be happy with that as well :)

The Upsides
Generally, the younger you are, the easier it is to conceive and carry a baby.  Having biological kids first will allow you to use the most fertile years of your life towards pursuing this end.  I would guess that this is the main reason most families pursue biological children before adopting.

Coming into a home where they already have brothers and sisters can be beneficial for adopted children.  This gives them other playmates and helps them to learn more quickly what type of behavior is expected of members of this family.

If your biological children are a bit older when you pursue adoption, it is a great way to help them understand the gospel and God's love.  Older children are usually very eager to help out with adopted children, and you can explain to them some of the unique needs that adopted children may come with.

The Downsides
If you are pursing a foster care adoption, there are rules and laws about many aspects of your parenting, some of which probably conflict with what you currently practice with your biological children.  You will be questioned in depth about your parenting methods of your biological children.  For example, we know a perfectly healthy family who had to go through parenting classes before they could pursue adoption because their social worker disagreed with some of their parenting practices.  You also may have to treat your foster children different from your biological children until the adoption is finalized.  For example,  maybe you like to snuggle with your children in bed while reading them a bedtime story. This would not be allowed with a foster child, so either s/he would have to sit separate from the bed or you will need to find a new way to read bedtime stories at night.  So, getting foster children after you already have biological children may disrupt some of your normal family patterns.

What has your family chosen?  Have you pursed pregnancy or adoption first?  What has your experience been like?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Our Two Most Favorite Storybook Bibles

We have two different storybook Bibles.  We love both, but for different reasons.

The Big Picture Story Bible

This storybook Bible is unique in that it doesn't break the bible down into individual stories (such as Daniel and the lion's den, David and Goliath, etc) but each chapter of the book covers many chapters (or even many books) of the Bible.  The book as a whole does a great job of portraying the creation-fall-redemption narrative of the Bible.  A major theme touched on throughout the book is God's people, God's place, God's rescuer and God's blessing, and how these themes played out through each time period of the Old and New Testament (and the fulfillment of all these things in Jesus).  I appreciate that when appropriate, the stories in this book quote the Bible in a seamless manner.

Each page has just a few sentences, which makes it a great story bible for the youngest of kiddos who will sit down and listen to a book.  We have been reading this book with Esther since she turned one (but, as the pages are paper and not cardboard, you will need to keep it out of reach of little hands!).  However, it is not just a book for young kids.  The concepts are still valid for older kids, and I think that children up to 7 or 8 would still enjoy this book, especially to help them understand the larger narrative of the Bible.

This bible comes with a CD but we have never listened to it (probably because right now we don't have a working CD player in our house or car!).  I know families who listen to the CD while in the car, which is a great way to help your kiddos learn truth even during mundane activities like driving.  You could also use the CD to help children learn how to have a personal time with the Bible each day, even before they are able to read (as they can listen to the CD while looking at the book).

The Jesus Storybook Bible

I also love this story Bible.  The writing is high quality and the pictures are even better (though I do suspect the drawings are the kind of art that will be seen as really outdated in 20 years, but we'll see.)

This story Bible is along the lines of other story Bibles, where various accounts from the Bible are retold in a story format.  The subtitle of the book is "every story whispers his name" and this is definitely a theme throughout  the whole book, how every story points to Jesus as the Main Story of the whole Bible.  I appreciate that below the title of each chapter are the chapter references where the original account from the Bible can be found.  I find that I am often even struck by the stories, convicted of sin or worshipping God for his goodness.

The one downside that I see to these retellings of Bible stories is that it is definitely written for a post-modern crowd as stories are very feelings-based and talk a lot about God's "heart" and how God is feeling.  These things make this a more culturally-conditioned Bible storybook in my opinion (although of course all retellings of Bible stories will be culturally conditioned in some way, but this book seems strongly so).  Some would also point out that the Bible was written to be understandable to the everyday person (as it was written in Koine Greek), so this could be part of the motivation of why this book is clearly aimed at a post-modern audience.  It could be that this is the best way for a child that grows up in this type of society to be introduced to these stories, but I personally am always a bit hesitant when I see too much of culture seeping into something like this.

This story Bible is definitely for an older crowd.  I read it sometimes to Esther (more because I like it than her, ha) but she gets bored pretty fast.  The stories are long, and there are many words on each page, so I would say that four is the minimum age that kids can start getting something out of this book.  This also means its usefulness extends higher as well, to at least age 8 or 9.

This book also comes with a CD, which we also have never listened to (see above) but I have heard a few of the recordings which have been made into YouTube videos, and the reading is high-quality.  If I remember correctly, the reader is a fairly well known British actor.  Here is an example of one of the videos that I mentioned, which will give you an idea of the writing style and illustrations:

If I had to recommend one of these two books over the other, I couldn't (unless the judgement was based solely on the age of the child).  There is no reason to limit the number of quality Bible story books, so I recommend owning both, especially since each fits a different niche.  Since neither book is the actual Bible, owning a few helps kids to see that these stories are retellings of the real stories, each of which might draw out different features or highlight different points.

Monday, September 2, 2013

August in our Home

Baby girl was reunited with her mom the first week of August.  It was bittersweet; we were happy for the reunification in a way but also sad to see her go.  Esther certainly misses her playmate and sister.  The week after the reunification baby girl's family came to church with us.  When Esther saw her sissy, she was crawling over the seats to get to her!  She couldn't climb fast enough.  It was so precious to see, and a reminder of how much Esther loves her sister.

We have gotten one call so far for a possible next placement, but we ended up saying no because it was one girl and not a sibling set like we had asked for.  As of yet we are still waiting for a call on a possible next foster care placement, despite the fact that there is currently a crisis shortage of foster homes in LA county.  Will you please stop and pray for a minute that God would raise up more Christians to step up and love these children in our county?  Pray that God will make his love known through the love of the army of Christian foster parents he will raise up.

In my free time (since we are down to one kiddo again) I have been doing quite a bit of sewing.  This month I have sewed 3 dresses and 4 pillow covers and I am going to start working on a purse/bag for Esther soon (it will be a birthday present for her).  I love sewing but don't often have time for it (plus baby girl's crib is in our bedroom which is where my sewing machine is, so I couldn't sew during nap time while she was with us), so it has been fun to get back into it.  I just wish I had a wider set of skills, but I'm sure that will come with time.

And on the 29th of this month, we celebrated our five year anniversary.  What a crazy ride our marriage has been! I'm sure we have gone through more in our first five years of marriage than most couples go through in 20.  We've had to trust God like crazy and I am happy to say that it has made our marriage stronger.  In the past five years we have moved three times (one move was cross-country).  We have had five foster children and one biological.  We have had to stand together as we were persecuted and then Alex was "let go" from a ministry we worked for because of our theological convictions.  We have sacrificed and learned to live on one income in super-expensive California even while being criticized for our convictions about mothers focusing on the home.

When we got married, both of us would probably have guessed that we would be living overseas by now, doing missions work.  We had also planned to adopt by now, but that also hasn't happened. But God has other plans for us.  In fact, he seems to continually change our plans without our permission :)   And in the midst of it all God is growing us and our marriage, and has given us other blessings in the process.

I am thankful to say that five years into our marriage, our marriage is stronger, we have learned a lot, we have sacrificed ourselves in serving God and are on our way to deeper and wider ministry, by the grace of God.  Even if the externals haven't been what we planned, we couldn't have asked to be in a better place than we are.  And I am so thankful that I have gotten to walk these past five years beside my love Alex. :)