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mothering groove

I’ve started enjoying mothering so much … that I want more kids …

It’s really becoming a pleasure. It’s hard still, but I have self-control that I didn’t have earlier, thanks to the Holy Spirit.

Like, Vitaliy left Friday on a whirlwind 2-day trip, then left Sunday night for a month-long trip. I had guests, then was alone with the kids. ….

And I’m not falling apart! I’m actually liking it.

Andre, you know, is three. Not just three. But three-and-a-half. And if you’ve read Ames & Ilg’s child development books, you know that  3 and a 1/2 is a challenging period of development. And we have challenges, Andre and I. Like Monday and Tuesday (baby shower in the evening and a bit of no-daddy craziness). But we made it through pretty well…. I made it through. And I’m even flourishing.

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I’m not all I want yet–like a can’t get into all the reading aloud I imagine doing– but … it’s SO … FULFILLING! FUN??!!! INTERESTING! CHALLENGING.

Cool. Thank You.

Otherwise entitled: Becoming a non-issue-driven Christ-follower.

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I don’t know how it is for everyone, of course, so I’m writing about how God has led me.

Honest moment: It took a long time for Jesus to be enough for me…. Not for salvation– Jesus is the only one and enough. But for Jesus …. to interest me for “the rest of my life.” I mean, I get saved, and I still have years and years to go here on earth.

Looking back, I see now that I needed some “big idea” to add to my Christianity for finding life significance. Like: Jesus is my salvation, plus believing that using birth control is wrong (for life significance).

Or, Jesus is my salvation, plus homeschooling (for life significance).

I kept tacking on things, for significance, for identity. Like clothing styles (skirts, or whatever). Or rules. Or a movement. Or gender roles. Or certain theological beliefs.

I didn’t realize I was doing this, of course. I mean, shucks. Who realizes it? It seems like it’s all about Jesus. OF COURSE. And then something happens, and you realize, it wasn’t really about Jesus. It was a stage of maturing.

When I didn’t understand how Jesus related to my sanctification (my earthly life), He was just relegated to dying on the cross for me. It was a little hard just applying His death to living every day. I mean, yes, I die to myself to live and serve others. That’s every day.

But that’s how I lived: just applying His death to my life. It’s OK. But I didn’t see a lot about applying His life to my daily life. Like this: He was a man. He didn’t have a home–His three years of ministry was traveling, not making a home. He didn’t speak very clearly to people–it’s not surface-easy to grasp His meanings. He didn’t gather any possessions. And He stepped His way deliberately toward dying on a cross at a fairly young age.

It was hard to relate to all that. To understand it and find meaning and purpose in it for every day life.

It was about 2009? that Vitaliy went through a spiritual stage of growth, where he began to understand the meaning of Jesus being our sanctification. And we read together, talked together, and grew together.

And I realized that Jesus, as He walked the earth, lived out, to the four corners, every command of God. He lived out the true meaning and purpose of every one of God’s laws. He lived out, for Anne Sokol, the perfect life of doing and being–heart, spirit, body, mind, strength–the entirety of God’s will.

Suddenly, when I grasped this, Jesus’ life became fascinating. Jesus’ life became more than enough for my life. I started devouring the Gospels in a way I never had before: How did He perfectly fulfill God’s command to do such-and-such? And now, how do I do it, too? “How do I follow Him?” became my consuming question.

And Jesus became enough. Much more than enough. His life became an endless realm of exploration and application for me. He Himself was so interesting. So applicable to my daily life. …. A lot of issues fell away from me, or I should say, they re-prioritized. They had to, if I was to be honest about following Him.

I have more, so much more, to learn. But this was a big step for me.

Thank You, God.

God, My Sanity

In my particular life experience, I have come to thank God for this role He’s played in my life. In very literal senses, He has been my sanity.

It’s been a few years since I’ve felt myself on the edge, and I will say that my brushes with crazy have been relatively brief, but the buildup, of course, the life circumstances, were more extended.

My first summer in Ukraine, I had no home, no place of my own. I remember sleeping nights on the couch in a church office and then living during the day no where in particular. (They had a large church, cafeteria, etc, so there were people to talk with and places to sit, etc.)

And that summer I went to help out at a church camp, and I was sleeping in a huge room with lots of beds and lots of people. And this moment came,

when it all overwhelmed me, all the no-alone-time, nothing is mine, nowhere is mine, this is too much, way too much, weeks of way too much.

And it wasn’t as simple as it sounds now, years later.

This moment came when … I wanted to put myself on that bed, pull the covers over my head, freeze up my body, and never, ever, ever come out of that frozen-up condition.

I wanted to go crazy, to get out of my crazy.

But. At that moment, God was my Sanity.

There were other times in my life after that, too, especially, after we married, with the way we lived in such hard conditions in a place where you don’t expect to live in hard conditions. Months of it. And making small choices to keep myself mentally … OK with my reality. Making sacrifices I didn’t want to make. And small kids added to that. Man.

It’s dark and weird trying to remember those times. At that time, I have thought of my sister, too, and how she lived with 2 small kids building a house in the cold. She probably had her moments of wanting to quit it all….

So, anyway, I don’t know the Hebrew word for “sanity,” but I want to thank God for being my Sanity.

Sausage is a thing here. You know, buterbrod (bread, butter, cheese, sausage– or some combination of that).

So, I mentioned to Vitaliy’s mom that I’d like to try making sausage. There are just a lot of chemicals added to the store sausage. And I knew people here  did magic like this, like making your own sausages.

She wasted no time. She arrived yesterday with washed pig colons (she washed them, Thank her for doing that!) and her manual meat grinder.

I supplied the chicken breast and pig meat. She cut everything into small pieces. At first, I didn’t understand why she did this– I though, shucks, the meat grinder will mix it all up, why are you cutting it? But then I realized that you have to feed already-mixed-up stuff through the grinder right into the colon so it feeds into the colon in mixed up chunks and not huge chunks of chicken, then huge chunks of pig, etc.

So, our recipe was diced chicken, diced pig meat, garlic–pressed, salt and pepper. (I want to experiment with more spices later, but this was a calm recipe suitable for children’s stomachs.)

She set up the grinder on the table. We split the work–one grinds and ties the thread on the ends of the sausages, the other feeds the meat into the grinder and guides the filling of the colon. I said I would grind and tie. But we needed to wait for the KievEnergo guy to come and check out our electricity counter… Then we could get started. It’s a process better not to stop until it’s done.

Here’s how it went:

Putting the colon onto the grinder so the meat could feed through (while gradually pulling the colon off the grinder as it fills).

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Woo Hoo!!! Grinding is fun!

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Then I pricked holes in the colons (so they wouldn’t puff up and explode while boiling). Then they boiled for an hour.

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Then she fried them, then we ATE! We didn’t eat all of them, but I see that they can disappear pretty fast around here. Tastes great!

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And there we go!

I’m giving a little talk about childrearing to some of our ladies tomorrow (hopefully). Just sharing from my personal experience things that God has taught me over the years. Here are some of my notes:

A few things I realized:

*** I had studied birth SO MUCH, and that’s why birth and breastfeeding were so easy for me. And I was so confident and enjoyed it! But now I had to do this with childrearing–  I had to interest myself in it and study it and grow in it, and then I would enjoy it more and more and be skilled and good at it. I had to take slow steps to learn about this.

*** Childrearing books are really about parent-rearing. They are teaching YOU, not your child. So I had to ask myself, what am I learning and who am I becoming through this teaching?

***Because I realized that how I rear my children will be the number one influence on my sanctification for the next 20 or so years. And it will affect my relationship with my children for life. I have no choice now: If I don’t grow and don’t invest myself in my kids, I will become evil—lazy, unrighteous, etc.— because right now, it is the will of God for me to raise my kids.

**** I also saw that I could just get used to my kids irritating me and just …. get used to it so it doesn’t bother me so much and I not react to it. But that doesn’t mean that I’ve actually become more like Christ—it means that I just got used to it. I saw that I really wanted to become a loving person– a person, who, at the end of my 20+ year journey of raising kids, is a person full of love, giving, generosity, patience, gentleness, joy, faith, etc.

**** I realized that when I interacted with my children, especially when I correct bad behavior, I have to guard very carefully what is in my heart. Because I am a sinner! We are much worse sinners than our kids! And in our hearts can grow the desire to revenge—and we take action, take something away or whatever, with an evil heart because we’re angry. No resentment that this is so hard, or makes me so uncomfortable…. And when I’m proud of my child, what grows in my heart? Pride? The desire to show off my child? It should be thankfulness and humility (that YOU did it, God!).

*** My challenge right now—I have reached a humanly acceptable level of goodness in motherhood. I’m not perfect and my conscience doesn’t bother me! But that is my trap right now, that I not stop at this level, but that I keep seeking God and His level for me! That I train my conscience to be more sensitive to God’s ways, and not just our human level of goodness.

*** I realized that there were key moments in my childhood when God spoke to me, or guided me, many times through His Word or in my thoughts. And I realized that, yes, my parents were wonderful and God used them in my life amazingly. But as a mom, I prayprayPRAY that God will talk to my kids. Because I can’t change their hearts, I can’t change their sins. They need to have their own, personal walks with God.

Some main things I learned from books that have really transformed and guided my parenting and my relationships with my kids.

  1. The first level of discipline is showing my kids I love them. This made most discipline issues disappear. Ross Campbell, Relational Parenting and How to Really Love Your Kids.
  2. I lead them (childrear them) through relationship. Clay Clarkson, Heartfelt Discipline—our kids are made to be dependent on us (there is a purpose for all this dependency! Breastfeeding, holding, etc.), our kids are made to be particularly open to us (parents), and our kids are made to be open to believing in God.

I’m just amazed and thankful today, and I want to write about it here.

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My first child was born in 2005 (then 2007, 2012, & 2014), and for years, it really bothered me that I didn’t really experience warm, fuzzy lovey-dovey feelings for my kids. I figured I was just emotionally a bit defunct in this way, but heigh-ho, on we go, and God can fix it if He ever wants. But it did bother me at time, sometimes a lot. I think I’ve even prayed about this, too.

Being my analytical self, I analyzed about this. Like, I had “negative” loving feelings— I could worry about them. And I knew I would be terribly sad if one of them ever died.

But I didn’t feel what I imagined most moms have- warm, happy lovey feelings.

But you know what? After 10.5 years of parenting …. Today I did. Today my heart felt positive, happy love. It feels warm and big. Inside. It’s like a consciousness of a real happy-type love feeling. A fullness. Warm and big. Inside. In the seat of my emotions. It’s physical.

And I want to record a bit of the path the Lord’s led me on in order to develop this.

The early stages of parenting, I was pretty good at. I’ve been reading about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, etc., since I was about 15 years old. Piece of cake. (I just didn’t realize how much it was a piece of cake because I had studied it so much prior!)

But yikes. Actual childrearing?

I don’t think I’d read even one book about it! The one parenting book I started parenting with was Ted Tripp’s book– a friend mailed it to me.

I will merely say, at this moment, that people have various reactions to this book’s content. I react to it by becoming strict and demanding, and as he teaches only spanking as the means of teaching a child (and words), I was woefully inadequate and just unaware of what else existed as far as childrearing was concerned.

The assumptions or foundation that this book is laid upon is that children are sinners and have hearts that need to be turned to God (through punishment/spanking and words).

What if I had never turned from digging down that path? What if …. ? What would my heart be today towards my children? (Not, what would be every single parent’s heart who’s read that book and liked it… just my heart.)

God sent other Christians my way, in the form of books and friendships. Ross Campbell is one– I highly recommend Relational Parenting. Clay and Sally Clarkson were others. Clay Clarkson is the author of a book called Heartfelt Discipline.

Some of his main assumptions or foundations are these: That children are designed by God to be especially dependent upon their parents, and they are designed by God to be especially open to the teaching and influence of their parents.

At the time I read this, I was so struck by it. By the enormity of my role in the lives of my kids. Those are such positive and life-opening perspectives! It made all their (heretofore irritating) dependency upon me have a great spiritual purpose! They are so designed to be dependent and it correlates with their openness to my influence!

And I didn’t realize until recently, when I went back and reviewed that book, how much those assumptions had taken root in my heart. And they have grown and grown.

And then Ross Campbell’s teachings about communicating unconditional love to my kids, and how, exactly, to do that….

And all the other books I have since studied that have given me tools to work with my kids in teaching them … character, behavior, how to be in relationships, etc. The books explaining their stages of development (and I was just reviewing the 3-Year-Olds book, as Andre is in the 3 and a 1/2 stage of negativity… and how to go through it gracefully and full of love).

And also, in all this process of learning to parent, seeking not to just become used to the irritations (and just accept them on that level), but to actually follow Christ and become a transformed person, a person who, by the Spirit, is actually more patient, gentle, meek, kind, self-controlled, etc.

And …. So today, I was tasting some of the fruit of these good years of my discipline–my hard exercise of learning to do something difficult. The fruit is this big, warm feeling of love in my heart. Finally.

Finally. When I had even stopped really thinking about it.

And I still have miles to go!

And thank You, God! It is Your will that I go on, in Christ, growing into His love and Person.

Thank you, God…. I want to remember. I am remembering now what You have done all these years!

I realized today, after cleaning the kitchen floor well, that I’m getting the warm fuzzies for my kitchen. In all my years of homemaking in Ukraine, I’ve never had this. So. Let’s have a little party.

Well, OK. Let’s not have a little party, but let’s at least record the moment!!

My heart ornament from my birthday party ornament exchange–hung above the stove–oh, and there’s a part of my heart right below it, too!

20160123_130603I love these colorful rugs!

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A Bible verse on the windowsill– reminded of the time in my life when I lived this verse: “God is my portion forever.”

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Notes, cards, pictures– hung across the window–I like the friendly busyness.

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