Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Podcasts {A Great Tool for Redeeming the Time}

I've listened to lots of online books and sermons over the years, but since getting an iPhone this summer I've really gotten into podcasts. Kind of late to the party, I know... but better late than never!

Podcasts are a great tool for busy moms looking to make the best use of their days. They are an opportunity for truth to filter through and renew the mind. They allow you to multitask- doing the dishes, folding laundry, and ironing are all so much more pleasant when you're mentally engaged in a great sermon, interview, or conversation.

If you're new to podcasts, or a longtime listener just looking for fresh ideas, I thought I'd share five of my favorites with you today.

Truth for Life. Scottish Pastor Alistair Begg delivers sound exegesis of Scripture in an extremely pleasant accent. He is super solid, and I am constantly blessed by the nuggets I glean from his sermons.

Ask Pastor John. These sound bytes are usually ten minutes or less {perfect for quick car rides}. Listeners write in with questions, and Pastor John seeks to answer them with a thoughtful look at the Bible, and secondarily his many years of pastoral ministry. Topics cover an extremely wide range, from pop culture to politics to parenting, etc. Always interesting food for thought.

Just Thinking. Ravi Zacharias is an internationally acclaimed Christian apologist. I really enjoy his faith building illustrations and anecdotes, and learn a ton from his intellectual approach to the faith. His work strongly influences the way I think about and interact with unbelievers. A very gracious, very kind and down-to-earth man.

Sermon Audio, Voddie Baucham. This Houston pastor is a riot- excellent sense of humor, but a no-nonsense approach when it comes to the Word of God. I especially enjoy his wisdom when it comes to parenting and growing your family.

The Inspired to Action Podcast. Kat's ministry through her blog and podcast have been a great blessing to me as a mom. Her solid dedication to rising early, praying consistently and meaningful for her husband and kids, and striving to grow in grace for His glory are always hearty admonishment and encouragement to me. You will love listening to her and her guests- a very warm and casual conversation, you'll feel like you are sitting at coffee together. P.S- Bloggers will also enjoy Kat's How They Blog Podcast.

I go through spurts of listening all the time, to not even keeping up with my feed, depending on the season of children and life. The longer sermons {Voddie, and Begg} are harder for me to keep up with, but I love the shorter ones that I can listen to for a ten minute car ride. Sometimes kids are just too loud and attention demanding during the day, so I often do my listening while working on house projects after they've gone to be.

While all of these podcasts can be found via your phone's podcast app, I've shared direct links to the websites so you can listen on your computer or tablet if you're not a smart phone person.

What are your favorite podcasts? I'm always looking for a good one!

Friday, November 14, 2014

The One Book Every Parent Should Read

It seems that most Christian parents have one favorite parenting book. This is the book they most closely adhere to, recommend, and try to model their parenting after. Whether it be Shepherding a Child's Heart, Grace-Based Parenting, Give Them Grace, The Faithful Parent, The Mission of Motherhood, or any other of the myriads of options out there, most people have a particular preference.

Others of us are scrambling to read as many parenting books as we can get our hands on, desperate for Biblical wisdom and guidance from older parents who've been there. We second-guess our every decision, and feel seriously anxious about how we might be messing up our kids for life. Oh how we long to get it right! And oh how inadequate we feel we are for the task!

There are a handful of parenting books that I have truly benefited from, and I always have a new title or two in my stack. But I think we are over complicating things.

The one book every parent should be reading, studying, even memorizing, and modeling their relationships with their children after, is very simply-

the Bible.

Rocket science, I know. But how often do we forget this?

Parenting is hard work. Super hard work. I can't tell you how often I question my decisions and feel the desperation of grasping at straws to come up with how to respond in any given situation. I don't have all of the answers, and the area of my life I've felt that truth most keenly in is motherhood.

Yet its amazing to see how God just gives me heaps of grace, wisdom, and patience on the days that I saturate myself in the Word, and humbly beg Him for answers and help in my parenting.

In and of myself, I am completely insufficient for the task of raising my children. I fail them every single day by losing my temper, responding harshly and impatiently, lazily observing what I ought to be correcting, not giving them all of the attention and love that they need... and on and on the list goes.

The good news is that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness. We have access to His complete Word and His Holy Spirit via prayer.

And when I mess up and fail my kids, His Word is there to remind me that His grace is enough. It fills in the gaps where I fall short. His blood covers all of my sins, even my parenting sins. If my children are going to grow up to know Him, it will be a result of His grace drawing them to Himself, not my valiant efforts or successful parenting savvy.

Parenting books definitely have their place- we can learn a lot from them, just as we can learn a lot by observing other godly parents around us. But what is our primary source for information, wisdom, motivation, and hope?

Let's major in the Word, and minor in the other words.

How is the Bible informing your parenting today?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Signs of a Traumatic Birth

After W's birth I felt embarrassed.

Surely every mother thinks her labor and delivery was the most painful and dramatic birth ever?

People make pain a competition, and I didn't want to be guilty of that. "Oh yeah, you think you had it bad, but here's what happened to me...." A sort of "I had to walk five miles uphill in the snow barefoot," adapted to the delivery room.

Was my experience really that bad? I got my highly coveted VBAC. I was able to follow most of my birth plan to a tee- did I just have rose colored glasses on when I wrote it?  Of course the actual experience of giving birth is much more intense than you could ever imagine before doing was my remaining angst the result of a novice's unrealistic ideals?

So many questions, and so much embarrassment and confusion. Sixteen months later, the thought of enduring another labor still sends me into panic mode. While I'm {finally} physically recovered, emotionally I still feel scarred.

This isn't easy for me to admit. I wince at the thought of being called melodramatic. While I like to tell a good story with theatrical enthusiasm, when something really, really hurts me, I tend to keep it to myself. A punch in the arm accompanied by advice to "suck it up buttercup" is the last thing I'm looking for.

I've talked with many other mother's about their birth experiences both before and after W's arrival. There is such companionship and commiseration when relating one's birth stories. Who doesn't love to hear one, to share their own, to nod "mmmhmmm honey, totally feel your pain," and to finally experience the delightful realization that you are not alone?!? You are a part of this wonderful club of women who have birthed another human being. Miraculous. Truly, breathtakingly incredible.

All of this talking has shed some light on the issue for me.

Is there such a thing as a traumatic birth? Am I just a big drama queen or a wimp? Why do I feel so disillusioned and hurt by my experience?

Survey says that yes, traumatic birth is a real thing. You might have experienced a traumatic birth if...

1. You can't forget the pain. So many times women have told me that shortly after delivery, they forgot the pain. For some women that happens within minutes or hours, for others it might take a couple of days or weeks. In my case, I still can't shake it, and shudder when I think about it. While I really want to have more children, the thought of another delivery is terrifying to me.

2. It takes a long time to recover physically. Six weeks is what the doctor will tell you, and I know women who've felt 100% down below as early as 3-4 weeks. For me it took seven months, and other women I know have taken nine months or more to heal completely. Not for the faint of heart.

3. You felt unsupported by labor staff. My husband could not have been more amazing in the assistance he provided during our son's birth. He was quiet, attentive, and tuned into my every need.
The hospital staff was another story. Yes, they were nice, and very efficient in their work. I just felt like I was being pushed through their system- like a cow on an assembly line to be slaughtered {ok, perhaps that was a tad melodramatic}. I know they don't have time to pamper every patient, and I didn't expect that. But a little bit of genuine empathy and encouragement would have made a big difference to me.

4. Slow bonding with baby, and no incredible after-birth rush. That amazing feeling of ecstasy and overwhelming love for your newborn that I'd read about in all of my natural labor books? Ha. Nope. No rush of endorphins for this girl. Just stunned disbelief. Had all of that really just happened? Was that really my baby?

While I unquestioningly love my son, more and more with each passing day, I almost feel guilty in admitting that I didn't feel any immediate strong attachment to him. I nursed as soon as possible {and frequently!}, but I was just running on auto-pilot, doing what I knew I was supposed to do.

I've really struggled with disappointment over this.

So where to go from here? 

As previously stated, I know that I still want to have more children. Hopefully a few more. Now I'm wrestling with how to work through my past pain and future anxieties. I don't think I have a perfect solution, but here's where I'm at:

Pray through it. Scripture is crystal clear about how we are to handle our anxieties- with much prayer and supplication. To be an obedient Christian, I need to continually bring my cares to the Lord. While birth is one small event in the grand scheme of things, and I know that I am blessed and my problems pale in comparison to the rest of the world's dilemmas, this still feels like a real trial to me. Instead of stewing over my fears, I want to cast them on Jesus. I am praying that whenever the next baby comes {God willing, in His timing}, He will prepare me for that moment with heaps of grace and healing and peace.

Do what it takes to cope. While I am a big believer in the benefits and beauty of natural birth, I live in a community that seriously limits my options. As a high risk mom, I'm stuck with a hospital that doesn't promote or adequately support natural birth. This is really frustrating to me, but I am trying to remember that even this is all within the realm of God's sovereign will for me.

While not my ideal, I am seriously considering an epidural next time around. I believe that given my limited options for position and other comfort measures, and after the trauma of W's birth, an epidural might give me the best possible experience in welcoming another baby.

I'm still open to attempting a second natural birth, and if water birth becomes an option due to hospital policy changes or relocation, that would be my preference. I have to keep reminding myself that this doesn't make me a failure. The most important thing is not how we give birth. I'd rather be able to enjoy and soak in those precious first moments after delivery with as much peace and joy as possible.

How would you describe your birth experience{s}? Any advice for working through birth trauma?

Monday, November 10, 2014

My Husband Isn't My Helpmeet

Often as a wife I've found myself sucked into a downward spiral of ugly thoughts. With all of the laundry, cooking, cleaning, dishes, and childcare, I at times make myself out to be a martyr.

The demands on my time seem to never let up, while my husband works his shift from 7:30-5. Sure, he is a very helpful, hands-on guy around the house and with the kids. But sometimes my selfish, greedy heart piles demands onto him that go far beyond the realms of his reasonable duty.

I'm angry when he doesn't read my mind and vacuum the floor while I'm doing the dishes. I become disgruntled during final dinner preparations if he's reading to our daughter but ignoring the baby's screams. And if by chance he is sitting on the sofa watching t.v. while I'm still slaving away in the kitchen, you can bet a storm is brewing in my heart.

"Why doesn't he help me more???" I stewed on one particularly grumpy evening. All I wanted to do was crash on the couch with him. I was tired and worn out, and it all seemed so unfair.

The thought dawned on me in that moment. A gentle, Holy Spirit guided hush- my husband wasn't made to be my helpmeet. I was made to be his

These dishes, and the day-in, day-out, draining tasks that come with a house full of kids- they're my opportunity to serve him well and fulfill my God given role of being "a helper suitable to him".

When I remember who is supposed to be helping who, it frees me to be grateful for just how helpful my husband really is. It's a reminder to count my blessings, and to do my work joyfully, as unto the Lord and not unto myself or other people {don't they notice how hard I work??? martyr complex...}.

I do think it is good and God-honoring for husbands to help and serve their wives. But when my eyes are on my lofty expectations for what my husband ought to be doing for me, my perspective is way skewed.

Peace and freedom come in embracing the work God has given with joy and a thankful heart. 

"Then the LORD God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.'" Genesis 2:18

Friday, November 7, 2014

How A Busy Mom Makes Time For the Word {Plans A,B,and C}

Before having children, almost every morning at breakfast I would sit down with my nice cup of tea and an open Bible, making feeble attempts at seeking the Lord first thing. Even after having one baby I was able to mostly stick with this routine. You know, once my daughter was sleeping mostly through the night, and still taking 2-3 naps a day.

Now I have a 15 month old and 3 year old, and breakfast is a truly chaotic scene around here. My son simply can't be eating soon enough, and clings to my leg through all of my preparations, pleading for real food {a snack cup of cereal just doesn't seem to cut it}. After he's finally had his fill of pancakes and eggs, he spends the rest of the meal trying to give me a heart attack by climbing out of his high chair. My daughter isn't as hungry, but she can be equally dramatic over the many crises that arise first thing in a toddler's daily existence.

All that to say, I have had to make some changes to accomplish daily time in the Word. Because yikes, is it important. I only have so much time in a day, and the demands {as you all know} are relentless... but He has to come first.

Life with small children is very unpredictable. Usually just once you think you've gotten routines figured out and down pat, something changes- a new tooth comes in, the morning nap is outgrown, the weather changes and suddenly everyone wants to be outside every waking hour. Whatever. You know it happens.

When planning for daily devotions I like to have an ideal plan, a back-up plan, and even a third back-up plan. Worst comes to worst, we thank God for His grace and patience with us, and try again tomorrow. But with a line-up of possible quiet times planned, I'm far more likely to actually get into the Word.

Who wouldn't want to wake up to these faces???
Plan A. Wake up before my children. This is easier in some seasons than in others. For example, only in the last couple months have my children both been sleeping decently enough for me to try this again. And now that daylight savings has ended, they are getting up at the time that used to be mine. If I can manage it, I try to beat them out of bed and read and pray first thing. When I'm nursing a newborn, I read my Bible on my phone at the first morning feeding.

Plan B. My son at 15 months is still taking a morning nap {thank you Lord!!!}. Usually S and I spend that time reading together and working on projects. If I wasn't able to read before the kids got up, I set her up with toys she can't use when W is awake {anything with small pieces that he is bound to eat- her magnetic dress up doll, felt boards, crayons and other art supplies, etc.}. She is happy to play quietly for a long time while I can enjoy that cup of tea and silence. This is also when I take a shower if I haven't gotten the chance to yet!

Sometimes during this time I am wasteful- I check facebook on my phone, loiter around, or read blogs. But by God's grace I am seeking to redeem the time and be faithful in these little minutes. Also it can be hard at 10 a.m. to just sit and read Scripture when you can see all the mountains of work surrounding you and how quickly the day is fleeting. Yet I've found if I just take a few minutes to quiet my heart before the Lord and seek Him, the rest of the day is so much sweeter and simpler. So worth it!

Plan C. If all else  fails, during my kid's afternoon naps I spend time in the Word and prayer. I can't recommend to you enough the urgency of getting your small children to nap at the same time {if at all possible}! Some days my three year old doesn't fall asleep, in which case I set a {looong} timer for her and give her a pile of books to look through quietly in bed.

Also I {generally speaking} refuse to do housework at this time. The days that I work and cook through nap time leave me haggard and grumpy for the hardest hour of the day: pre-dinner witching hour. If I've already spent adequate time with the Lord earlier {well, really I guess there is no such thing, let's be honest!}, I use it to nap, read other books, and write here. Anything quiet and enjoyable to recharge my batteries. Time to rest and recoup is so very necessary for your sanity, mama! You will be a more patient and loving mother for it.

At the end of the day, we all have to acknowledge that we had time for what we made time for. If time in the Word is important to you, you can make it happen, no matter the season. While it may not be as long or thorough as your pre-baby days, something, anything, is so much better than nothing. The day is coming when a handful of little people won't be hanging onto your pants leg, demanding the majority of your hours and minutes. Until then, we've got to just grab what we can, amen?

How do you make time for the Word in your busy days?