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Archive for the ‘grace’ Category

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!

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So, for my 40th birthday party … Which was wonderful ….

40birthday

I prepared a brief testimony of main things God had done in each decade of my life. I would like to record those thoughts here.

Birth to 10: I had a normal, happy childhood. And for this, I am very, very grateful. (Wonderful parents, loving friends and family.)

Annie & pets

From 11 to 20: During this period,

  • I came into saving faith,
  • I was in a terrible car accident that became one of the greatest blessings of my life,
  • and I grew in a great church (a church that wasn’t on a “kick” or fad or emphasizing one right way to do secondary things, but taught us the basic Christian disciplines of regular Bible reading and prayer and evangelism. (This is our sending church.)

From 21 to 30, God led me into the two most life-shaping decisions of my life:

  • I moved to Ukraine as a missionary (at last!)
  • I met and married Vitaliy.

30s

From 31 to 40, the Lord gave me:

  • Our wonderful church, Light of Life, from which we serve in Ukraine,
  • and my four amazing disciples.

 

Thank You, Lord.

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God provides

We have plenty. But God still provides.

This is sort of a repeating theme for me in Decembers.

So this December I spent about $1,000 getting a billion cavities drilled and filled. And Skyla getting some dental work done, too. And Vitaliy is going on a short-term trip to the taiga in Siberia (hopefully repeatedly), so the extreme-cold clothing is one-time costs, but it adds up.

And I have been hunting for a new pair of winter boots, as mine are gone. And delaying the purchase because there’s nothing I really like and it’s moneymoney. And Vika required a new winter coat as she is growing. And you know how it just goes on and on. Multiple doctor visits. Mountains of medicines. Unexpected car repairs. Loaning a friend a few hundred dollars in an emergency….

So I’d pared things down to one Christmas present for each person in the family. (It’s really not suffering, because they get things often.)

So how did this come about???!!! See all those gifts?

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I’d ordered some games and stuff from Amazon a while back, and my mom wrapped them all! And they added a couple things to the box, also wrapped. And the box actually came quickly!! And so we have more Christmas gifts!

God provides.

And the new boots? Last night Vitaliy dug through all the bagged up really-winter stuff, and I found an old pair that are wearable and suit my style as well!

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I’m also very thankful for a few things we’ve been given in previous years and they are the provisions for today. Someone passed on a humidifier …

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and someone gave us this awesome nebulizer,

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and with these respiratory sickness with the kids this winter, they’ve been goinggoingoing.

God provides.

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Personality types.

So, you know, I have a personality type where it’s hard for me to talk about things that are controversial. I don’t want to be noticed; I don’t want to argue with anyone; I want everyone to be happy and peaceful.

But there are also issues that burn inside me. Topics and questions that are very important to me. That are important to God, too, but He doesn’t give everyone the same interests– so if you don’t care about this to the degree I do, that’s OK with me; there are most likely issues you really care about and I don’t. To various people He gives various issues to care about because we are finite.

So, I have to reconcile two things about myself– my desire to be only nicely noticed and not be involved in controversy while at the same time, speaking out the things that God makes burning issues in my heart.

I am learning to speak (instead of remaining silent) in a calm, peaceful, non-argumentative but assertive way about issues that I care about deeply. They are hard for me to talk about because people are already so assertive, and loudly so, and argumentative about these topics. And the church of God needs to be very careful about what issues we argue about and how we “argue.”

I want to say also, this issue does not define my life, and I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who do not agree with my position.

First, to define my subject: breastfeeding (or infant feeding) and babies crying and reflecting the nature of God as mothers.

Second, I want to define my audience.  Ideally, I’m talking to women who are struggling with their consciences in this issue. As mothers, we should want with our whole beings to feed and comfort the cries of our babies. God made us this way. So, ideally, I’m talking to moms who are in the balance on these issues.

Third, here’s my (very simple) message:

  1. Feed your baby.
  2. Answer your baby when he cries.

Some of you may be amazed that we need a theological argument for doing these very simple, innate (natural, instinctive, unlearned, inborn) practices.

I myself am amazed by this.

But, if this is the need of the age, then … I will accept that.

I will also shoot from the hip and name names. I think it’s mainly today Ezzo’s book (“Babywise”) that promotes scheduled feeding as “God’s way” of feeding babies  and ignoring your baby’s cries as essential for good parenting. This book is very popular among Christian parents.

I think its seemingly “godly” strictness, its flashy promises of a lengthy list of benefits, and the name advertising it boldly as “God’s way” make this a formidable issue for a remarkable number of Christian women …

I want to pause here. You see that paragraph above? That is why I am writing. I am writing boldly and assertively, though it is not my nature to do so, because others (ie., Ezzo) are making bold, assertive statements. I will answer with a corresponding boldness and assertiveness, though I have no desire to argue.

So, back to my message.

I. Feed your baby. Feed your baby. Feed your baby. Babies feed for many wonderful reasons. They are hungry, they are thirsty, something hurts, they want to be close to mommy, the sucking action itself is comforting. … God made babies to feed– it’s designed to be both physical and emotional. Babies need this–physically and emotionally. He didn’t turn your breasts off and on every three hours, which He could’ve very easily done. He made most women capable of feeding their babies very frequently.

I know Ezzo has mocked (in his book) those who cue feed and portrayed it as something horrible. But I want to tell you– he’s lying to you there. I have 4 children, ages 9 to 10 months. I have exclusively breastfed each one for the first ten months of life. I never ever looked at a clock about this issue. I have flown back and forth over the Atlantic numerous times with happy, complimented, non-sleep-medicated babies and children. I have traveled around the States, we love camping, I have lived, lived, lived a joyful mostly-in-motion life– all breastfeeding almost nonstop for about 10-11 years now.

I have slept. SleptSleptSlept. My babies have all slept very well at night right next to me. They’ve all slept for long stretches. The current baby sleeps all night and wakes up with me in the early morning to refeed and fall back asleep and I get up. I don’t recall that I have ever put my feet on the floor to stand up during a night. Ever.

My point is not that parenting is easy. My point is that Ezzo (or whoever) is lying to you when he says that schedule feeding is easy, or at least easier than cue feeding. It’s not.

I would also be so bold as to say that my choices have probably made my life easier and my children easier to handle. I’ve not had any breastfeeding issues. I’m not promising that you won’t if you do what I do. But what I mean is that scheduling and other such rules can make breastfeeding and sleeping actually harder.

As for E’s ideas about God’s orderliness and it’s supposed application to breastfeeding … stand back from the Word of God and look at It’s entirety in your mind…. Pan through the whole of Scripture…. Now lay over the ideas of strict scheduling. …

You know, it’s really not there. Really. It’s. Not. There.

In fact, I could give you a lot of “Bible verse” reasons for cue feeding:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! Is.49:15

Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children. I Thess 2:7

Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Luke 11:11-13

I could wax on and on, loading up reasons why God wants us to generously cue-feed our babies and respond to their cries, using these verses (and several others). But I won’t. I don’t think I should twist into Scripture what is not really meant there. Ezzo, however, has no such compunctions, and that is my point.

My message is, dear mother, you can feed your baby freely and generously with a non-accusative conscience. God designed you to do that, and to want to do that. You can comfort your baby at your breast. I will tell you from experience, it is sweet to do that. It is handy! And it’s a great way to affirm that special bond that God created to be between you and your child. Don’t let someone steal your joy by creating rules that have “an appearance of godliness, but deny the power thereof.”

I want to talk for a moment about “independence.” Several baby masters use this term in a desirable fashion, to mean things like your baby should fall asleep independently, your baby should play independently, your baby should emotionally soothe himself independent of you.

I am trying to speak carefully here, but I want to say, in very strong terms, that that kind of thinking is dangerous. And here is why:

God specifically designed human babies, babies made in His image with parents made in His image, to have long, vulnerable childhoods, to be extremely (compared to other mammals not made in God’s image) underdeveloped when born and to have complex needs (compared to a baby animal’s needs).

The neediness of infancy, childhood, and adolescence is all designed. God designed our babies to need us to soothe them, to need us to help feel safe, to need us and our responsiveness in order to develop emotionally. Babies are not capable of emotionally soothing themselves. For example, they are not learning to “soothe themselves” when they cry themselves to sleep.

Especially small babies. Don’t haste to harden your heart toward that neediness, toward that baby. If we accept it, and give ourselves to serve our babies, then as they gradually grow into independence, we can give that over to them, too, with wisdom and while having a strong emotional bond formed with them.

I will speak personally for a moment. I have been very thankful for the bonding “dependency” disciplines of mothering–gestating, birthing, breastfeeding, wearing my babies in slings close to me, sleeping next to them, and answering their cries. Giving myself over to serve them as God created and only I can do.

Because I particularly struggle with feeling emotional bonds with my kids. And I struggle with keeping them connected when I lose that contact of breastfeeding and wearing and all. I am still learning how to sustain emotional bonds (dependence, if you will) with my kids as they grow older.

2. I want to shift into including my second message: Answer your baby when(ever) he cries.

Hmmmm. I have raised these kids with responding to all their cries and breastfeeding generously, and accepting their neediness and serving them in it … And they are growing up quite “independent,” ready to go off to camp without me, walk to the store without me, fall asleep without me …. I even dare to say that consistently responding to them has helped them grow in feeling confident and secure.

And at the same time, I still keep us close, working to keep our emotional connection strong and healthy.

I haven’t been run ragged, I’m not yanked here and there by the whims of my children. I have grown in dignity and confidence and love as a mother. These disciplines, plus developing a fuller understanding of God’s nature expressed through motherhood, have grown me into loving the job of mothering. It becomes easier and more enjoyable.

So if someone is claiming otherwise– that responding to their needs will ruin your children, and ruin you, it’s a lie.

Vitaliy was recently at workshop for rehab center leaders. Two American men came to Ukraine– they lead biblical healing groups for people enslaved to various forms of sinful s’xual behavior. They talked about childhood, what should make up a normal, healthy childhood. Their words are very insightful:

  • Children need to be children (play, develop, etc).
  • Children need to imitate their parents.
  • Children are basically emotional humans– they do not understand logical reasoning.
  • Children need to know that their parents will fight for them, protect them.
  • Children need to have strong emotional connections with each parent.
  • The main work of parents is to meet their children’s emotional and physical needs unconditionally (only God can meet their spiritual needs).

Selah.

Selah again.

As I have grown in my ability to be patient with children who are being children, I have become a more loving person. As I have invested years into meeting my children’s physical and emotional needs, I have become a more loving person.

God has designed the neediness of childhood. He designed it with parents in mind–to make us more able to express His image.

Feed your child–God made him to need you. Answer his crying–God designed him to need you. It is a blessing for you that he needs you so deeply, that he so strongly wants to be connected to you. This neediness will be your friend for years as you continue to guide your child into relationship with the One upon whom we are all fully needy and continually dependent.

Also, I’d like to share that I have practiced cue-feeding and responding to my babies’ cries, and I love it. I really love it. My husband loves it, too. The older I get and the more perspective I get, the more I love it and the more thankful I am for it. We both are.

We have a close, intimate, wonderful marriage. Cue feeding and answering our babies’ cries (and co-sleeping, etc) have only helped us grow in loving each other and each member of our family. If someone tells you that this is not possible and these things will wreck your marriage, I’m here to tell you that it is possible, and that lack of love and selfishness are what wreck marriages, not meeting children’s needs.

I want to end here by re-stating that I don’t talk about this a lot openly for several good reasons. 1) It’s important, but it’s not that worth arguing about. 2) It doesn’t define my life or the whole of parenting. 3) I have quite a few friends who would disagree with me, and that is OK. I thank them for this quiet space to express who I am and how God has blessed me.

I will end with the prayer our pastor often parts with:

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

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Since marrying a Ukrainian, my admiration for this people has soared. Such intelligence, inventiveness, determination they have demonstrated! I’m impressed by their understanding and use of technology, for example. By the creativity they possess. The beauty they delight in and create.

Such a history, too. Much of it full of suffering, hardship, endurance, injustice—of being used for others’ purposes.

I pray for you, Ukraine.

I pray for you to seek God’s kingdom first of all. It’s a struggle for all of us to do that, and so much more when you are in the crosshairs of East and West; when you have united, large, looming forces on either side. You are pulled here and there, to seek this kingdom or that. You are promised, pushed, forced, bounced first here, then there. Instead of East or West, may you look Up primarily, and seek the Kingdom that never ends, the Kingdom that never robs, steals, nor betrays its citizens. The Kingdom of guaranteed victory.

I pray for you to seek God’s righteousness first of all. We all want to follow a cause, to lose our hearts to something greater than we are, to seek salvation in some type of right-ness. But it will all work against us and destroy us in the end. Only God’s rightness can be trusted to never sin against us or betray our loyalties. He will always do us right because He is the essence of rightness.

I love you, Ukraine. I admire your courage. Your spirit. Your bravery. Your sacrifice.

I pray for you.

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DSCN5879I almost was a major idiot about hanging these curtains today.

There is a double-thick strip of ribbon across the top, and I grabbed a small pair scissors, and i was going to snip little holes across the ribbon so I’d be able to hang them on the little pokey-things that they hang down from (in Ukraine-style curtain hanging).

Vitaliy sees me, and suddenly, he has his own idea how he wants to hang the curtains. It’s more of a pain than just snipping holes, but he really wants to do it. … So, being an avoider of conflict and generally polite person, I leave the curtains with him and want to wash my hands of it all.

Because it made me mad that my idea was so simple and easy to do, and why should he care about this curtain and hanging methods, and I’m the crafty one, and can’t a woman be in charge of her own curtains for pete’s sake, and steam, steam, steam it all went on inside me.

So I was fuming over the stove, and suddenly, God gave me this thought: Just give him grace.

Now, I’m theoretically all about grace … so I think, OK, no problem, let him do the windows, it’s no sweat off my back, etc.

And God continued by pointing out that that wasn’t all-the-way grace either. Grace enters into and favorably participates in the other person’s ideas and choices in this type of situation, Grace does not just put up with them/avoid them.

So I helped him do his idea. I didn’t sigh, groan, or make disparaging comments. Then I hung the curtains.

It was fine.

It was grace. Rescuing me from being an idiot destroyer.

Maybe next time I’ll do even better, like get wildly excited about doing my things his way.

😉

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