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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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I love listening to thatmom’s podcasts. 

i don’t remember how I found her, but she is a treasure. Vitaliy got me this speaker so I can listen to her more.

DSCN4631Most moms just need continual encouragement. We naturally judge, compare, criticize.

We need to cultivate a nature of gracious encouragement as a mom among moms. Thatmom models this.

I don’t do it perfectly, but I am trying.

Another thing I love about thatmom is that she keeps up on the huge, theological movements/issues going on American home schooling. And she evaluates, teaches, gives a voice to truth.

I hope I can meet her In Real Life one day!

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DSCN4110Paul had instructed Titus to appoint elders in the churches in the area where he left him, so of course, he told him what kind of men to look for.

It’s long interested me how the elder’s “qualifications,” as we so strictly term them today, are often wrapped up in his wife.

It’s like, the elder candidate has to have an assumed unity of godliness with his wife.

Because how many wives could wreck this stuff:

  • having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion—in the final analysis our kids make their own choices. But what choices are we making, as their parents, while we have these childhood years in our hands?
  • For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward
  • not fond of sordid gain—not greedy—are you ready to be content and not nag about money? to not even worry? I have failed in this, for years even, so I won’t get on my high horse while I’m having a secure moment. But God is really working on me with this.
  • hospitable—this takes some investment and trust; some versions add “hospitable to strangers.” I think of this as not just having people over, but actually housing those who have real needs, financial or otherwise. I’m not good at this in some ways. Like it’s hard for me to cook and have friends over. But it’s pretty easy for me to open my doors for needy to live with us long-term. Want to think about how to more diligent in this though.
  • loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled …
  • holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching—going off on any weird tangents? what titillating doctrines are you amused with? is the pure Word enough, or do you need something a little different? exciting? controlling? prescriptive? or wild? and out there? Thinking about this myself.

These are questions I’m asking myself. Because Paul’s instructions are assuming that the elder’s wife is unified with him in these qualities.

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For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known. (1Cor13:9-12)

One element of several popular Christian parenting books that I have found distressing is the confusion (or non-deliniation) between the sin nature vs. the ages-n-stages children go through.  For example, around 2, a child goes through a negative (“no”) phase because s/he is learning a new level of separation from the mother. That little tidbit helped me not to make every No as a battle of the wills, to adapt my mothering to this stage of development.  

The Bible doesn’t criticize childhood. Children go through fairly standard stages of development, mentally and physically. Of Jesus as a child it’s written, “And the Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” (Luk 2:40) Nothing is criticized about being a child. It’s not painted as a time of foolishness or inferiority.

One major mistake several parenting books make is misapplying Proverbs. When Proverbs talking about “foolishness” and the “fool,” it doesn not have in view a small child. It is more talking about a teenaged child. Everywhere in the Bible, children are cared for as children, not treated as fools that need to be beaten.

Here are some examples:

Then Jacob arose and put his children and his wives upon camels . . . (Gen 31:17)

Then Esau said, “Let us take our journey and go, and I will go before you.” But he said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds which are nursing are a care to me. And if they are driven hard one day, all the flocks will die. (Gen 33:12-13)

Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile, … and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid, and she brought it to her. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” (Exo 2:5-6)

Jesus gives us several examples of how He viewed children, and interestingly, there is no condemnation of foolishness or other childlike qualities. Becoming a mature adult is a goal (Gal 4:3), as Paul showed us (I Cor 13), but Jesus points out that there are elements of life and faith that come easily to children that we need to imitate.

Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea. (Mat 18:3-6)

Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mat 19:13-14)

Look at what these children did!

But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant, and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babes Thou hast prepared praise for Thyself’?” (Mat 21:15-16)

God shows Himself to be, over and over again, gentle toward and protective of children. (“In His arm He will gather the lambs, And carry them in His bosom.” (Isa 40:11) And He Himself designed their stages of development! Some of the most valuable tidbits I’ve learned to help me with parenting are basic facts about usual developmental stages and what I can expect.

So, when reading parenting books, I ask myself a few filtering quetsions:

  • Does this book help me understand and respect my children as children?
  • Does this author expect children to behave like adults? (Sure, adulthood is the goal, but there is a lot to go through before that stage.) Does it expect some type of robotic, adult-like obedience?
  • Does this author teach me as a parent to be gentle and patient with my children? Or am I being taught to be authoritative and slow to mercy?
  • Is spanking or other negative styles of discipline the main tools I’m being given, or am I being taught positive skills to nuture relationships while teaching obedience.

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I had an insight a few days ago about this topic.

Let me back up and lay the foundation. . . . Sometimes we talk to unbelievers who accuse God. They say, why does He allow sin and suffering . . .  yada, yada.

Sometimes I am tempted to be angry with God because of something I think I really need or really want that God does not give me, some source of pain.

And I realized a few days ago why this is.

It’s because God didn’t hide Himself from us. He didn’t hide that He is perfectly good, perfectly in control, perferctly righteous, perfect love. He openly tells us these things repeatedly.

Therefore, we expect Him to make the world (in general) and my world (in particular) right, as He is right.

But He doesn’t. So here we are, and we have a God who we don’t just shrug off His actions like a corrupt politician. We don’t just say, “oh, you allowed my child to die, you allowed me not to have kids, well, what can you expect from such a self-serving, disinterested God who only cares about himself.” That’s how we pacify ourselves with the actions of the wicked.  

But not with God. We rather say, “God, how can you create in me expectations of love and happpiness and joy and righteousnes plus the fact that you have ALL POWER to do these things . . . and then you don’t do/fulfill them?!?!”

There’s something really big we are missing about God and His actions to us. And to be honest, I dont’ have the insight-answer all the way yet. Maybe God will give it to me this afternoon 😀 And I’ll be sure to type it out here.

But I think there’s something we need to understand about living in a sinful world with a perfect, all-powerful God.

I will give you a very personal example. We have relatively little support. It actually is rather stressful to live from month to month. Probably not as stressful as for Ukrainians, but it’s definitely something that I am often sinful in worrying about. And I get angry at God about it too sometimes. We have done SO MUCH to raise support. And it very rarely pans out with income. “Why, God, if it is so easy for you to do, do you not do it?”

I don’t know why He doesn’t do it. . . . And I can’t just shrug it off that he doesn’t really care about me, that he is busy with other interests, that he’s taking away money from me to build himself another dacha along the Dniepr River.

God has not hidden Himself or His motives from me. I know He is still perfectly good, perfectly loves me, and this is for His glory. He has perfect reasons why He is orchestrating this. It all perfectly works together for my good, making me like Christ. There is a purpose; it’s not just a random situation.

Anyway, this is as far as I’ve gotten for now.

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words

I recently had an insight about the words of God. I just got to thinking about this idea of the words of God having power, like this:

For the word of God is living and powerful . . . Heb. 4:12

I have always just assumed that once God speaks, His words somehow become a separate, living entity that somehow has power, like a person.

But then I started thinking, what about people’s words? Do they have some type of  power, too?

And I realized this: That words have power because of the person speaking them. The power (or lack thereof) of the person speaking determines the power or efficacy of the words. If I say, “Let it rain,” those are powerless words because I personally have no power to control the weather. There are certain situations where I have some amount of control and then my words have some power because I can control the outcome to match what I have said.

So applying this to God’s words, His words have power because of who God Himself is, not because they become some separate, living entity. God’s words have power because God Himself has all power to fulfill what He’s said. His constant follow-through and involvement in His words as a person is what makes the words “living and powerful.”

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