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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.
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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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It’s amazing seeing little sparks of ambition and calling in my kids’ lives.

Holly Pierlot, in her book A Mother’s Rule of Life, talks  about how parenting is forming persons. A striking thought. It’s neat watching and participating in the formation of these four persons.

Victoria is thinking of becoming an artist. She now has notebooks filled with drawings.

Here, we did a lesson about how to draw and paint a hot air balloon.

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Mostly she finds something and draws it. Here she redrew (left) this photograph that I took years ago (right).

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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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Spirit-Led Parenting is a book by Megan Tietz & Laura Oyer.

Yes, it probably should be read by most Christian moms parents today, especially with the wave of parenting materials that have been so popular in recent decades.

But sidestepping that bed of asps for the moment … I want to say a couple things. From the book. And from my own experience of reading this book.

  • I love their thought on pp. 46-47 that people/books/etc. can give us advice and methods (loads and loads), but only God can give us wisdom. And that He gives wisdom about things like breastfeeding even.
  • Love this, about the Trinity: “With the wisdom and gentle leadership of God the Father, the perfect example of servanthood in God the Son, and the incomparable power of God the Spirit available to us as we parent, there is no reason to lack confidence in the direction we are sure to receive as we call on the Lord to guide us.” (49)
  • “Could we begin to view parenting our children as not so much about what we can do or accomplish, but what He can do in us and through us if we will surrender ourselves?” (52)

I love how reading this book turns my heart to God and to my children. ❤

So I was thinking about Una being “postpartum” just like I am. And I love thinking about the transition from in to ex utero. How to mimic the womb life in some ways, how to make these changes pleasant and smooth. How some things are just different forever now. I love looking in her eyes, warming her little body with my own, carrying her in this womb-like sling, holding her when she cries, feeding her when hungry or thirsty or needs to swallow– she did or had all those things done for her  effortlessly only six weeks ago.

And I was thinking about my older three children especially Skyla and Vika, as they live in our family. Where the baby cries and is picked up asap by some one of us. And how we all love to hug her (especially Andre), and I’m often told that Una wants mommy milk so I feed her, and she sleeps so peacefully next to me,  and we are all ga-ga about how cute and little she is. And I think on some level they realize that they were also loved in these ways. … And I hope that God graciously uses all this loving-on-baby to partially make up for the daily imperfections of my love for my kids 🙂

(And speaking of squishy newborns, I wish my mom could be here! So I’m wondering if my parents would consider living half of each year here with us after they retire again. We could set up a cute little pod-house for them right next to our house … )

 

 

 

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Vitaliy’s been gone for a few days, so I’ve been upping my parenting exertion. I’ve also been doing some nice things with the girls by starting a bedtime routine again–I give them a little massage with olive oils and an essential oil added in, then we read a book together. I’d stopped doing nighttime stuff with them all together, but lately I started missing that special time, so it’s nice to be adding it back in.

I’ve just been thinking about how the longer I parent the more I enjoy it.

I will back up to say parenting is probably the most temptation-filled role that exists, so the sinning part can seem miserable, and I have issues in myself toward my kids that God is constantly, patiently working to transform me. Lately it’s been my tone of voice and words towards the girls. Other times it’s been anger. Other times it’s been the temptations to be overly strict and then lazy in training.

But I’ve just been thinking how, the more I am immersed in and submit myself to the responsibilities of parenting, the more I embrace the bigness of this work, the more I enjoy it. And it’s nice b/c for years it was a huge struggle and I didn’t enjoy it. There were things I liked, but as a whole, it was so hard to do, I didn’t enjoy it.

So anyway, I am enjoying even the imperfectness of myself– because imperfections are the opportunities to grow and change, which means being alive 🙂

I also am melancholic in temperament, so this colors how I view and evaluate myself as a parent. And it’s good to recognize that and temper it with more lightheartedness.

Anyway: ❤

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motherhood journey

I’ve had certain struggles and confusion as I sink into motherhood. So many messages, spoken and implied, become complicating factors.

  • Spending thousands of dollars and almost 2 decades of life on education (from 5yo-around 23yo).
  • Being asked “What are you going to do/be when you grow up?” Implying that I 1) need to know, and 2) have a life plan.
  • Having enormous desires for ministry and mission work that guided my life and major decisions for years.

I don’t really want to drag the word feminist  into all this. I don’t think being well-educated and having desires to serve God on the mission field are just a sinful result of the feminist movement. Though the ability to be well-educated and have those aspirations are the outworking of some of the waves of feminism.

I haven’t really struggled with wanting to have some super career, or any career at all, excepting missions/ministry. So it’s confusing, you  know. Because I didn’t go into motherhood understanding the entire life-soul-body-experience it is. (And the more kids added, the more this becomes undeniable.)

Add onto that, that I really want to do mothering well. Not just survive it.

Add onto that, that pretty much nothing about mothering comes very easily mor me except pregnancy, birthing and breastfeeding (and co-sleeping. Emphasize the sleeping part there :D) Just because God made us women and capable of childbearing doesn’t mean all the requisite expectations and responsibilities come easily. They are learned.

My friend tulipgirl loaned me some books lately, and I sucked up the first one, written by a former? Still? Feminist. She’s not a Christian. But she helped me by spelling out some things. I don’t go into all her personal conclusions, but chunks of her thoughts have helped me.

[She quotes a feminist from the 1980s.] “Years after giving birth, I became a mother against my will because I saw that my daughter needed me to become one. What I really would have preferred was to remain a writer who dabbled in motherhood. … But [my child] would not permit it. She needed a mother, not a dabbler.”

A dabbler mother, those words were a sharp, accusing jab. … I was avoiding my work at home. I was avoiding looking into the eyes of sons who wanted everything and feeling that if I kept giving to them I’d have nothing left for myself. I was avoiding the endless chores that must be done, thanklessly, every day. Restless and wandering all my life, I was avoiding getting stuck in one place too long.  …

Since the mid-1980s, when yuppies were peaking, talk of striking a balance between parenthood and career has been the central angst of our generation of women. For years I have heard all-stars of the fast track noisily complaining about the juggling act that results from caring for kids and spouse and being addicted to, and stressed out by, success. When I became the mother of four sons, I was certain that for all these long debates among ambitious women on ways to balance our lives, the task was insurmountable—with young children there can be no balance, the scales are tipped toward the children and there’s nothing you can do about it. When you give in to that fact real balance comes …

Surrendering to Motherhood by Iris Krasnow (pp. 167-168)

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