It has become my new afternoon routine. A mad-rush shuffle to get both kids fed, cleaned, changed, read to, and then snuggled into bed for a nap, followed by a hurried prayer as I run up the stairs that Eliana will please, please actually take a nap. I warm my already thrice-warmed coffee from this morning’s failed quiet time, grab my book, and curl up on the couch for ten sweet minutes of quiet solitude. I hope. I pray.
I am reading One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. It has been on my reading list for quite awhile now, and I have scanned through it a few times at friend’s houses, anxious to discover the secret of contentment she seems to have found in simply recording every little gift throughout the day. But so far, I cannot reconcile the testimonies of lives changed by this simple practice, and I feel the need to really, thoroughly read this book myself. I must be missing something.
My days are a continuous blur of constantly meeting needs. From the moment I rise all too early in the morning, to the time that I finally drop, exhausted, into bed at night, only to be wakened two or three time more, it seems I am ever fulfilling someone’s need for something. Do this, do that, wash this, wash that, wipe this, clean that up, put this away. Now do it all over again. And again. And again. I love my family. But I have become bone weary. The multitude of mundane tasks have overwhelmed me, paralyzing me with their monotony, their seeming purposelessness. Each day seems harder than the one before it. Each day, I feel my soul hardening more and more, restlessness, anger, and bitterness seeping out my pores. Something has to change. And soon.
So I warm up my coffee and open my book, praying that God will enlighten me and waken me out of his haze I am living in. As I begin to read One Thousand Gifts, my heart clenches within me, and I am brought to tears. This woman is writing to me. No, this woman is me.
“I wake to the discontent of life in my skin. I wake to self-hatred. To the wrestle to get it all done, the relentless anxiety that I am failing. Always, the failing. I yell at my children, fester with bitterness, forget doctors appointments, lose library books, live selfishly, skip prayer, complain, go to bed too late, neglect cleaning the toilets. I live tired. Afraid. Anxious. Weary. Years, I feel it in the veins, the pulsing of ruptured hopes. Would I ever be enough, find enough, do enough?
To live either fully alive…or in empty nothingness…It’s the life in between, the days of walking lifeless, the years calloused and simply going through the hollow motions, the self-protecting by self-distracting, the body never waking, that’s lost all capacity to fully feel–this is the life in between that makes us the wild walking dead.”
She is perfectly, completely describing me. I am both ashamed and relieved to admit it. I read her words to my husband. He nods contemplatively, a confirming smile on his face. Yep. That’s me, alright. But it certainly didn’t used to be. Where on earth did my joy go?
One thing I know. I am done living the life in between. I want to live again. Fully, completely.
As I pick up my pen to start my own list of gifts, I find my mind wandering, grasping, searching for some mundane thing that I can actually be thankful for instead of gripe about. I scratch out one or two, haltingly, hesitantly. Now I am embarrassed. How is it that I cannot even think of the simple things to be thankful for? Have I drifted so far from the path of Right Thinking that I cannot even think of blessings? Everything that comes to my mind comes with a caveat, a sarcastic, almost bitter smile, or an exception clause.
1. The words “Help, please” from a little mouth (instead of the usual wail, whine, and ensuing tantrum)
2. A near-disaster averted due to my lightning-fast hands and reflexes
3. No nap for Baby. (Oh, well, now I can put her to bed early!)
No, no, no, this is not what she is talking about when she writes about recording gifts from God! Things I love. I can feel the negativity seeping through my pen ink onto the paper, blotting the whole thing into a mess. I am doing this all wrong. Little blessings. Real blessings. Without the complaints along with them. Lord, teach me. Teach me how to do this again. I, like Ann, want to live the fullest life. I “yearn for the stuff of saints, the hard language, the fluency of thanksgiving in all, even the ugliest and most heartbreaking.”
A piercing, mournful wail wafts up from the basement, and I am startled out of my blissful reverie. There will be no nap for Baby once again today.
I close my book, dump the rest of my coffee, and choose to be thankful for the ten minutes of solitude. No, I am nowhere near arrived yet. I am still cynical, doubting, and oh, so weary. But I will pick it back up again tomorrow, keep digging, and keep choosing thankfulness. I will not give up. I will not give in.
It has been pretty quiet on the blog front lately. All I have managed to keep up with are Eliana’s monthly updates, and that is only eeked out because I desperately want her to have those to look back on. I wish I had been able to do it with Jeshuah when he was that age, so I try very hard to at least publish those. I have not kept up well on the Monthly Chemical Elimination. Sometimes I simply can’t find good natural alternatives. Sometimes we just can’t afford them. Sometimes I just don’t have the time or energy to sit down and blog about it. While we began the GAPS diet, we were unable to maintain it. It is very, very hard. And very expensive. Maybe someday…
We have had a lot going on that was either not blog-worthy, or too deep to process in cyberspace. Some of my absence is due to the fact that, while two kids is even more fun than one, it is definitely more time-consuming! Part of my absence is from attempting to be more present with my children and have less of on on-line presence. That I do not regret at all:-) Some of my laxity has been two months of basement renovation stretching into an agonizing six months of boxes, piles, and drywall dust scattered across every corner of the house. Or perhaps it is the fact I have picked up some extra hours doing bookkeeping during the kids naps a couple of days a week. (Those naps are usually when my creative juices begin to flow a bit more freely in the quiet and solitude.) Another issue that has been weighing heavier and heavier on my heart is the fact that, as much improvement as we have seen in Jeshuah over the last year on the autistic scale, there are some markers creeping back up that whisper that he may still have some residual issues that cannot be repaired by chiropractic care. We continue to be concerned about a possible sensory disorder, as well as some mild cognitive and developmental delays. And some days just are so exhausting I feel that I can barely put one foot in front of the other. Some days it is simply the stress and anxiety of the questions of what is wrong and how we can help him that wear on me.
I have been in a season of chaos and disorder. While my house has been in upheaval, so has everything else it seems. I have let slide the routines that have helped maintain my sanity in the past, feeling simply incapable of keeping up, and that perhaps a reprieve from so much order and structure would do me good.
It has not done any of us any good. Especially when we cannot find any clean clothes to wear:-)
I am now trying to re-instigate order, structure and routine into our home to bring it back into some semblance of peace. One of the biggest struggles for Jehsuah is a lack of predictability and order. Watching him these last few months, it is apparent how beneficial boundaries and structure are for him, and how much he struggles when it is absent. So for his sake, as well as the rest of the family, I am trying to be more disciplined.
Most of all, I am begging for grace to accomplish all of the above, and to remember it is not about trying harder. It is not about being stronger, for when I am weak, then HE is strong! It is not about me doing my best. It is about surrendering my life into Christ’s hands and asking Him to do the work through me. He has always been faithful in the past. I know He will be faithful still.
Forgive me for the weighty tone of this post. I am just recently coming to grips with the fact that Jeshuah may still need additional help, and I am exhausted by the mere thought. I am finally admitting to myself and others that we may not be out of the woods. And while I know of so many others out there who have so much more painful, difficult situations that they are facing, this is what we are facing. And it is hard enough. But so thankful that God is good enough. So much more than good enough!
I spent the first 20 years of my Christian life thinking that the gospel was something I had believed in when I was first saved, and now it was time to move on to “bigger and better” concepts.
But over the last couple of years, the Lord has used authors like Elyse Fitzpatrick, C. J. Mahaney, Ted and Paul Tripp, Milton Vincent and many others to open my eyes to the liberating truth that the gospel “ isn’t one class among many that you’ll attend during your life as a Christian–the gospel is the whole building that all the classes take place in! Rightly approached, all the topics you’ll study and focus on as a believer will be offered to you ‘within the walls’ of the glorious gospel.” C. J. Mahaney, Living The Cross Centered Life.
Knowing this fact, though, and implementing this truth have been harder than I thought. To aid me in my pursuit of gospel-centered living, I have been reading some of the great authors who expound on this topic so well.
I recently began reading Elyse Fitzpatrick’s Counsel from the Cross and am so excited about it, I wanted to share some of its treasures with you in a blog series as I am reading through it. As she puts it so well,
“Many Christians love Jesus and the gospel but just don’t know how his incarnation, sinless life, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, ascension, and reign ought to impact them in the ‘real world.’”
I am looking forward to posting some of the gems in this book to encourage us all in our desire to follow Christ!
Facebook. Cell Phones. Internet. Texting, Television. Blogs. Email. Pinterest.
We have so many social outlets available to us in our day and age. And through many of them we can communicate with hundreds of people any time any place, without even leaving the comfort of our home.
I am blessed to be a stay-at-home mom. But lately, I am becoming increasingly aware of how easy it can be to be technically home, but not really be home. From the moment I awaken to the moment I drop into bed at night, there is a constant pull on my time and emotions to keep up with everything that is going on in the world. Whether it is checking my email, replying to text messages, catching up with 15 people on Facebook, or making a dozen phone calls, there is a constant source of need and information at my very fingertips. I could literally spend every waking hour on social media or researching topics of interest in the internet.
But there is a world of entertainment and imagination and exploration within arms reach of me every day, and their names are Jeshuah and Eliana, God’s precious gifts to me. My little ones are growing up before my eyes, and I am missing it by being distracted by the latest piece of news or information.
How did checking social media replace the joys of laughing and learning with our children? How did browsing a long-lost acquaintance’s profile page online become more interesting than sitting down face-to-face with our little ones for completely devoted, undistracted attention to them? How have we begun to allow instantly responding to every text message to have precedence over the real-time conversation we are having with our children?
I understand. Our children are not always a delight to be around. Being at home with small children can become very lonely. Our household tasks can become drudgery as we do the same thing day in and day out, wondering if anything we are doing is even making a difference. Believe me, I know! I know the temptation to escape the mundane and enter a world where there is constantly something new and exciting going on. I know the desire to feel efficient by multi-tasking and checking email while everyone at the table eats lunch. I know the longing to be appreciated for more than just wiping snotty noses and dirty bottoms (oh wait, they don’t even appreciate that??) I know the loneliness and irritation of spending all day every day with children whose only language is whining, fussing, and tantrums.
But what I also know is that when I am with my kids, I want to be really with them. I don’t want to be distracted by texting while I am helping my two-year-old go to the bathroom. I don’t want to be surfing the web, casually responding with “uh huh” to his questions as he eats his lunch. I don’t want to be on the phone the whole time we are on a nature walk. I want to be with my kids, in body, mind, and spirit. I do not want my kids to grow up thinking a screen is more interesting than they are. Technology is good and can be used tremendously to build God’s Kingdom, but we must learn to be disciplined in our use of it.
So that is why sometimes I intentionally leave my cell phone at home while we go outside. That is why I make it my goal to limit my internet/computer time to when the kids are napping. That is why I do not always let myself turn on talk radio to have on in the background while I am playing with my kids. That is why I constantly reassess what I am doing and why I am doing it. Ultimately, I want to be a stay-at-home mom and really be present with my children, despite the plethora of possible distractions available in our own homes now. I want to play with, teach, love on, and truly engage with my children.
I hear a little voice calling for his mama:-) Naptime is over. Lord, give me grace to practice what I preach!
I have a major sweet tooth.
Not only do I love all things sugary, but I love treats of any kind–special somethings at special times. And they are usually food related.
I look forward to eating out at my favorite restaraunt. I enjoy baking warm cookies for game night. When we have an unexpected visitors, I search the shelves for something delicious I can pull out and feed them. And it seems like it is always unhealthy.
Lately, as I’ve been increasingly concerned about eating healthy, I’ve been really wishing I just naturally desired healthier foods. While I enjoy healthy things, I find that if an unhealthy alternative is in front of me, I will always choose the unhealthy.
I have always envied the people who view apples and natural peanut butter as a “snack.” I look with awe at people who are satisfied with a fresh fruit and yogurt smoothie as “dessert.” I have always just assumed this came naturally for them. And I wish my tastes craved the natural, good things as my treat. I have waited all my life for that magic moment when I would suddenly have an appetite and a natural longing for healthy food, and a distaste for unhealthy food.
And then it occurred to me.
That point will never come.
Because of sin in the world, we are naturally bent toward wanting what is wrong. Please understand, I am not saying that eating unhealthy food is inherently sinful; I am simply drawing a parallel. No one has to be taught to enjoy the taste of a cookie or some other sweet. But how many kids love spinach, or beans, or plain oatmeal? Not very many. I am finding that I have to discipline my taste buds to love what is good.
It occurs to me that the same is true in our spiritual lives. We need to develop a taste for righteousness. It does not come naturally. If we are Christians, we have the Holy Spirit within us, and he gives us the desire for holy, righteous things, but if we quench him out, we are left to our own sinful flesh. If we fill our minds up with unspiritual, worldly things, there is little appetite for the holy.
In the same way, if I am full on junk food, I will obviously have no appetite for what is healthy. When I continuously indulge in unhealthy foods, I will not crave the good stuff.
I have been thinking about this a lot in relation to Lent. The point of Lent is to remove a desired item to practice self-denial and direct us towards Christ and His sacrifice on our behalf. 1 Corinthians 6:12 says, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ’All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything.” If you feel that an object, item, person, etc. is required in order to be content, then you are enslaved. What an awful thought! And we are so deceived to think that we are not enslaved–that we simply have to have this thing to be happy, and to give it up would be unbearable! But the very fact that the thought is unbearable reveals that our soul places to high a value on it, and that we are indeed enslaved. And we should not be enslaved to anything but Christ.
That is why fasting is so beneficial. We remove the item of temptation and choose to go without it. At the end of your fast, you realize that you don’t actually need that item as much as you thought you did. You realize you got along just fine without it, and in fact, you now have a liberty that you had not experienced before. And we now have real desires for the good things. They are not manufactured, but they are real! Denying our flesh enables us to develop affections for what is good and right.
But in our culture, we want everything the easy way. We want to simply naturally desire a life of studying and meditating on Scripture. We think that if we have to work at it, it must be hypocrisy or legalism. We just assume the really “Spiritual” and godly people were just born that way–not that they may have cultivated that in their hearts through much prayer and sacrifice. So we just go about our lives, unconsciously being filled up with all the things of the world, so that our appetite for righteousness is nearly nonexistent.
James 4:17 “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” This verse always convicts my heart, because I know the good things to eat, yet, if given the choice, I will always choose the bad thing to eat. If you set a brownie and a salad in front of me and I have to choose one, I will choose the brownie every time.
But if you remove the brownie and simply give me the salad, I love the salad. If the junk food is removed, I begin to desire the good food. I see that my heart longs for so many other ungodly things to satisfy it outside of simply food. In this period of Lent and examining myself, I find that much more sacrifice will be required in order to know God in the way in which I so long to know him. I want him to be my all in all, to fill me up so that I don’t want anything else.
But in order to have room for Him to fill me, I must get rid of all the other junk cluttering things up. I am so thankful for Lent…I will continue to spend this time searching my soul and praying to rid myself of all that is displeasing to God.
Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”
Recently, I blogged about why we should celebrate Lent. Today I want to share what I have given up for Lent, in an effort to encourage you and to be held publicly accountable.
The Spirit has been convicting me lately that I have serious issues regarding my love to indulge myself in pleasant activities.
Especially if it involves eating.
This never used to be an issue for me. In fact, I used to struggle with the exact opposite of overeating. But with this last pregnancy, it was like my “I’m full” button shorted out, and I discovered the ability to eat, and eat, and eat, and eat. And I really liked it! And then I realized I couldn’t stop eating. It was just too delicious. My palate simply had to be satisfied further, most of the time, until I had made myself sick on chocolate chip cookies or a half bottle of sparkling grape juice. Or I would find that I was craving something that we didn’t have on hand, I would load the kids into the car and drive out just to get it. If I did not have something I was craving, I found myself descending into a pit of depression.
I told you I had issues.
But as I am working through this and talking to multiple other brothers and sisters in Christ, I am realizing I am not alone in this struggle. In fact, it seems to be rampant in our land of plenty.
One of the things we often conveniently overlook is the fact that gluttony is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Food in itself is neither good nor bad. 1 Corinthians 10:23 says, “‘I am allowed to do anything’–but not everything is good for you. You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’–but not everything is beneficial.” It is not that food and eating are inherently sinful, it is our heart attitude towards food. Why am I eating? Is it because I am legitimately hungry? Is this food even nourishing, or is it simply fulfilling a lustful craving I have? The truth is, we can actually be eating out of greed and lust, not a real hunger or need for nourishment.
The problem is, eating is one of those necessary evils. We have to eat, or we will die of starvation! So a person cannot simply give it up. This makes it imperative to be disciplined in our eating. We simply must learn to control ourselves.
If you are wondering if you have an issue with food, perhaps you might relate to some of my temptations:
If faced with a particularly doldrum task (like filing and paperwork), I cheer my spirits by allowing myself to enjoy a Pepsi and a chocolate bar. If the kids are not behaving well, and I am tired and stressed, I console myself with looking forward to eating dinner out instead of cooking. When I am lonely or bored, I raid the kitchen to fill my stomach with something–anything to occupy my hands and mouth. If I am gloomy, I decide the perfect treat would be playing games with Stephen after the kids are in bed and eating popcorn and drinking sparkling grape juice, my all-time favorite combination.
The problem, however, is not food. It is my heart. It is my flesh that craves satisfaction outside of Christ. It is my sin that causes me to hunger for something edible to fill a spot of loneliness in my heart. It is believing the lie that that brownie, cookie, or sugary beverage will not only fill my stomach, but whatever emotion seems to be lacking.
As I have been increasingly convicted about this area of sin in my heart, I recognize the temptation to attempt self-denial out of my own strength. And that has never worked before. The Lord has convicted me to give up high fructose corn syrup/corn syrup, a sugar that is in nearly everything processed and packaged, over the period of Lent. And while I am choosing to not eat anything with that sugar in it, to be assessing my heart every time I am tempted to indulge.
To help identify the idolatry in my heart, I am listening to Revive Our Heart’s radio broadcast of “Love to Eat, Hate to Eat” with Elyse Fitzpatrick, as well as reading the book as a devotional. Another helpful resource has been the Toxic Talk Tuesdays with the Fabry’s on food and eating right.
Over this period of Lent, I do not simply want to deny myself for the purpose of self-discipline. I want to rid my heart of the idol of filling up emptiness with food and pleasure. I want to seek God instead and find him to be more than enough for all my desires. I want to say “no” to my flesh in something as simple as eating whatever I want whenever I want it, so that I can say “no” to my flesh when faced with a temptation to sin.
Aside: Because my hubby was not giving up HFCS and one of our special date night traditions is sparkling grape juice, I made the exception of allowing sparkling grape juice throughout Lent. But though I am drinking it occasionally, I am checking my heart for motives and praying over it. Lent does not need to be legalistic–it is for the purpose of examining the heart and coming on our knees before God continually as we recognize our need for Him.
Each year, as Ash Wednesday approaches, I ask the Lord what He would have me give up for Lent. Having grown up in a non-denominational church, we did not celebrate the Church Seasons, but as I learned about their purpose, I was intrigued. Historically, the church has marked certain time periods as significant for various reasons and celebrated them in some form. Some of the more well-known seasons are Advent and Lent.
Of all the seasons, I particularly love Lent. Lent is the period of forty weekdays leading up to Easter Sunday. Traditionally, something is sacrificed during the Lenten season to point to Christ’s sacrifice for us. It is a solemn period, meant to remind us of the depth of our sin and its great cost. Some churches have a particular item or food that they give up during Lent, but I like to make it more personal and fast from something that may be pulling my focus off of Christ.
During Lent, whatever sacrifice God has led me to make causes me to look to Him instead of that item. Whenever I crave the fleshly fulfillment of a desire, I ask myself why I cannot give in. I preach to myself the truth that it is because I am a sinner who requires a Savior, and that Savior came to earth to live, die, and rise again to conquer my sin. What a heavy price to pay! And he paid it for me! When Holy Week comes, I am reminded of Christ weeping over Jerusalem’s lost state on Palm Sunday. On Maundy Thursday, I am reminded of his agony in Gethsemane, pleading with His Father to take this cup of sorrow from Him. I am reminded of the betrayal of all of his disciples–myself included. On Good Friday, I am reminded of that bitter walk up to Calvary.
And all of that suffering because of my sin.
After forty days of denying the flesh and reminding myself of the cost of my sin, when Easter Sunday finally rolls around, my heart is fairly bursting with joy at the thought of the empty grave! I keenly feel the reality of the victory Christ bought for me when he crushed the power of sin under his feet as he rose from the grave. The celebration of new life is so much the sweeter for the sting of death I have felt over the Lenten period as I died to my flesh.
Lent is not about self-sacrifice. It is about looking to Christ for the depth of His sacrifice on our behalf. It is about the victory over the power of sin that He won for us. It is about death defeated, slaves set free. It is about the joy of the new life we find in Christ’s resurrection.
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. It is the day we remember that from dust we were formed and to dust we will return. In years past, I have chosen to give up movies, sweets, chocolate, etc. I have read through Lenten devotionals and particular books addressing the particular sin issue the Lord is addressing in me. I will post about what the Lord has laid on my heart for this year. Won’t you join me in asking the Lord how he would have you and your family celebrate Lent this year? My prayer is that it will be a season of renewal and resurrection in my heart, as well as yours.
For some fun, practical ways to celebrate Lent with your family, visit Lindsay’s blog at Passionate Homemaking.
With the birth of our second little one only a few weeks away, I am beginning all of my final preparations for bringing another baby into our home. Some of the most important preparations this time around have been actually preparing for labor itself. While I had a vague idea of the importance of preparation for labor the first time around, I had no idea the magnitude of its significance. Now that I have been through it once, I am excited to do all I can to ease the way for the second time around.
One of the most profound truths I learned the first time around is that giving birth can be so much more than just something our bodies do after we have been pregnant for nine months. We can either view labor and childbirth passively as something that simply happens to us, or we can see it as something intensely spiritual and even miraculous, with the God-given ability to sanctify us and make us more like Christ through the process.
In light of that fact, here are some of the practical ways in which I am preparing body, soul and spirit to give birth.
1. Prepare Physically
Physical Exercises. Giving birth is a massive physical effort. Our bodies need to be toned and ready for this incredible feat. But preparing physically does not have to be a task of insurmountable proportion! Simply taking a daily walk is extremely beneficial. Most childbirth books will recommend at least a few stretches and toning exercises to prepare for labor. What to Expect When You are Expecting has some helpful exercises. Kegels strengthen the pelvic floor, wall-squats tone leg muscles for giving birth while squatting, the dromedary droop aids in relieving back pain and pressure, just to name a few. I have also done German Stabilization core strengthening (similar to Pilates) throughout my whole pregnancies and felt the positive effects daily. Find a routine that is helpful to you and build these exercises into your morning routine just as you do with washing your face and brushing your teeth. You will find yourself feeling better during pregnancy, throughout labor and following birth if you do! You will not regret it!
Use Herbal Teas and Supplements. Herbs have been used for thousands of years in the physical and emotional preparation for childbirth. Some of the most widely used herbs are red raspberry leaf and nettles. Red raspberry leaf is believed to relieve leg cramps, diarrhea, and morning sickness in pregnant women, as well as tone the uterus, reduce the risk of hemorrhage, ease pain in labor and post-partum recovery and increase breast milk. Nettle leaf is excellent to add to a tea around four weeks before delivery to aid in postpartum milk production. I enjoy Traditional Medicinals pregnancy teas. My two favorite for preparing for labor are their Red Raspberry Leaf Tea and their Organic Pregnancy Tea. Mountain Rose Herbs offers a wonderful variety of organic herbs to brew your own tea at a fraction of the cost. Be sure to check with your midwife before drinking these teas, though, as red raspberry leaf in particular (depending on how strongly it is brewed) can cause contractions and even induce labor. I have been drinking Traditional Medicinals throughout my entire pregnancy with no increased contractions, but as I am at risk for pre-term labor, I am holding off on brewing my own raspberry leaf tea until closer to my due date.’
Visit a Chiropractor. Since our experience with upper cervical chiropractic care dramatically altered our son’s life, we are new “believers” in the amazing benefits of chiropractic care. As there are many different forms of chiropractic–many of them not beneficial–I recommend finding a certified upper cervical chiropractor in your area. Our wonderful chiropractor is Dr. Newhouse of Newhouse Health Solutions, and if you live in our area, we cannot recommend him highly enough! Chiropractic care has been proven to decrease pain and duration of childbirth, can help align the baby for a safe and quick exit (using the Webster Technique), and can help keep your whole body aligned as your ligaments loosen up during pregnancy. For further information on the benefits of chiropractic care during pregnancy, visit here.
2. Prepare Emotionally
Studying the process of childbirth as God designed it has been one of the most amazing, rewarding, awe-inspiring things I have ever done! Preparing my mind for what to expect during labor and delivery, how the body works and functions, what problems can arise, and how to work through them, has been eye-opening and empowering. I cannot recommend enough that each woman study this amazing process before they go through it! With my first, as excited as I was to experience giving birth, I didn’t feel the need to learn much about the process myself. I expected the doctors to handle that department. And I figured my body would just kick itself into gear and do what it was supposed to do whether I informed myself on the process or not. After all, women have been giving birth for thousands of years, right? What’s to know? I actually found that informing myself on the process has helped immensely in relieving fear and anxiety, as well as giving me tools to cope with labor.
Two Excellent Natural Childbirth Resources:
The Christian Childbirth Handbook. I have been so blessed by reading this book! Obviously coming from a Christian perspective, this book details not only the body’s physical process of giving birth, but weaves in Scripture and God’s good design to offer comfort for anxiety and fear during labor. I also love the balanced approach to a desire for natural childbirth and the reality of complications or medical emergency making that impossible. The wealth of information on how God designed our bodies to work in giving birth caused me to stand in awe of our Creator and fall in love with His design. The knowledge it afforded me has increased my excitement and given me tools to cope with the fear and pain involved. It also addresses issues at the heart level and encourages belief in God’s goodness and sovereignty no matter how labor and delivery may differ from what you had planned.
The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth is an excellent tool for informing yourself about the process of birth, as well as what to expect in a normal birth, variations, possible complications, the risks and benefits involved in each medical intervention, etc. A wonderful resource for understanding all that is happening and could be suggested to aid the labor process.
Take a Childbirth Class
Most hospitals offer childbirth or Lamaaze classes for their patients before they give birth. These can be a one day class or a multiple week course, depending on where you go. You can also take more advanced courses on natural childbirth like Bradley offers. These can be pricey, but they are well worth the investment!
3. Prepare Spiritually
Labor is, for most people, intense, painful, and exhausting. No matter how prepared you are for childbirth, the experience can throw curves you did not expect and test even the most educated laborer. Childbirth brings with it not only physical pain, but emotional fear of the process itself. Labor can try your patience, perseverance, and pain tolerance! All of these things can either cause a person to spiral out of control into panic, or you can ask the Lord to give you the presence of mind to allow all of these things to sanctify you and draw you into deeper relationship with Him. Childbirth can be a miraculously spiritual experience of crying out to the Lord and finding his grace and strength is sufficient when you are at the end of your own.
Ushering a new life into the world and then nurturing that life is one of the most amazing tasks the Lord has given to us. It is one of the sweetest and most rewarding blessings. It is also one of the most intensely challenging roles we can possibly have. I had no idea the truth of this statement until our firstborn arrived, and I found myself sorely lacking in spiritual preparation for all that motherhood demanded of me. I have prayed ever since Jeshuah’s birth that the Lord would use the lives of our children to mold and sanctify my heart through the sacrifices required of me. In my pursuit of holiness in the calling of motherhood, I have found a couple of books I particularly refreshing.
Calm My Anxious Heart. Linda Dillow addresses the issue of contentment in all circumstances and its relation to anxiety. She challenges our hearts to rest in God’s sovereignty in all things and not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed with “what ifs” and “if onlys.” As post-partum fear and anxiety was a huge struggle for me after my last birth, I am clinging to the truths of Scripture and words of wisdom found in this book.
In The Mission of Motherhood, Sally Clarkson outlines the importance of the calling of motherhood with Scriptural encouragement to not grow weary of doing good, even when we do not see the result of our labors some days! A great resource to remind us of the eternal value of our roles as mothers.
Comforts from the Cross. Elyse Fitzpatrick has a profound gift for weaving the truth of the gospel into the circumstances of everyday life. With short, almost devotional-length chapters, she addresses multiple issues that we each face daily and confronts them with the gospel. A delightful, easy read full of long-lasting, heart penetrating truths.
Finally, as you do all you can to prepare your body, mind, and spirit for childbirth and motherhood, come before the Lord with hands open in surrender to His will in all of it. Preparation is important and it is a wise task, but it can cause us to claim too much ownership in an area we are meant to continually surrender to God’s providence. We can be tempted to insist that, because we have “done our part,” God owes us a labor, delivery, and baby just the way we prepared for. But I am reminded of Psalm 84:11, “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” However labor, delivery, and recovery progress, God is good in the midst of it all.
Ask the Lord to enable you to let go of your desire for control in the area of both childbirth and motherhood. Entrust the process of birth and the life of your little one into his care, knowing that He knows what is best for us so much more than we do!
Further Childbirth Reading: