Friday, November 9, 2012

Provision and Complaining

I'm continuing in my reading through the Bible chronologically in a year routine. I've never done anything like this. It's such a good discipline for me because I never know what to read in the Bible, so I end up not reading. This is making me read it because I have a schedule I follow.

Anyway, today I read in Numbers about how God had been providing the people with Manna as they wandered in the wilderness. They were getting pretty tired of eating just manna day in and day they complained. They said, "We wish we had never left Egypt where we had meat." It seems that their complaints in the middle of His provision of Manna made God pretty angry, because when He told them He'd give them meat, He told them He'd give them so much that it would come out their nostrils and they'd loathe it!

When He gave them the meat, though, He was still so angry that He sent a plague among them and lots of people died. Because of what happened there, they called that place 'Kibroth Hattaavah,' which literally means 'graves of craving.'

That hit me when I read it. Apparently, God really cares about us acknowledging His help and provision. The people acted like God wasn't caring well for them when He had been providing just what they needed, every day. And that made Him pretty angry.

I guess it just makes me often I act like my life is going down the drain. I act like no one is providing for me and I'm all alone. Just like the people of Israel. When, in fact, I have God Himself providing exactly what I need, every day.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Community (by sarah)

Just a quick thought for the day that I've been mulling over. My father-in-law preached a sermon recently that was about not spending your energy trying to 'be the greatest' or 'make a name for yourself.' He talked about how so much of what we do is to be The Great make sure people see us as funny, pretty, wise, a good mom or homemaker...depending on whatever your particular path to greatness is. The phrase 'making a name for myself' really clicked with me. That's how it feels when I'm not settled in who God created me to be in social situations. I'm intent on making a name for myself.
So on my way to hang out with some friends the other night, I was thinking about that sermon and how I wanted to not spend the whole evening making a name for myself. All of the sudden, a thought HIT ME out of the blue: when I spend the time I'm around people trying to make a name for myself or trying to be The Great One, I think I'm securing community for myself. I think I'll be safe, and loved, and wanted...that I'll have a group of friends who all love me and I'll be happy. But what ACTUALLY happens when I live striving to make a name or be great, is, I'm RUINING community. I'm actually undermining the foundation of what good community is all about.
I undermine community because instead of being genuinely caring about my friends, I'm only caring about myself. I'm following a self-serving agenda, namely that I would be great...and I'll use anyone to get to my greatness. I think my greatness will bring me to a safe place, a secure place, a place where I'll have community surrounding me because everyone will love me (if I'm honest, the goal I'm pushing for looks like even more than wanting everyone to love almost looks like wanting everyone to worship me). But what I'm doing is actually manipulating people to serve me and my agenda of greatness...
So in a sentence, when I go out with my friends, looking to find safety and security and identity by striving to prove my greatness, I'm actually eroding what would end up being a safe and life-giving place for me if I had followed God's ways and instead used my energy to love, to serve, to look to someone else's good.
It reminds me that God doesn't tell me how to live so He can ruin my life, but for my own good.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pregnancy & Body Image (by Sarah)

Every pregnancy is different...or so you hear about 2,000 times when you're pregnant with a baby who's not your first:) This pregnancy has definitely thrown me for a loop in at least one area: body image. I just don't remember struggling this much with Ava's pregnancy. I think that's because I knew I was doing everything 'to a T' with hers. I ate exactly what the medical world says to eat. I exercised. So I felt that it didn't quite matter as much, or factor in as much, how my body looked. I knew I was doing exactly what I should, so I was healthy.
This pregnancy, though, has been quite different. I didn't start out with my lists and charts of what I should eat. I didn't make sure I had a certain amount of 'yellow or orange vegetables' or 'leafy greens' or to the ounce right amount of protein each day. I just ate what I felt like eating and tried to fit in veggies and fruit. I'm finding out that what I thought would be a blast--lack of structure and discipline--opens a whole other realm of difficulty. I've found myself stressing about how much weight I've gained. To the point that as I've tried to work through it, one motivating factor was thinking, "I don't want to look back on this pregnancy and only be able to remember being afraid of gaining too much weight."
So I've worried alot about how I look this time around. And I've delved into the depths of working out issues of beauty and body image again.
Some of the things that have helped me this time around are:
  • I already mentioned that I don't want to look back on this pregnancy and only remember obsessing about weight fears
  • I've tried to take on a mentality of sacrificial love. My struggle mostly comes that I want to eat foods that are comforting, instead of disciplining myself to eat what's the very best for development of our baby. So then I worry that because I didn't eat the very best, that I'm gaining too much, or I look 'fat.' One principle that has helped me in this battle between comforting and loving, is to realize this idea that love is sacrificial. So instead of indulging in a momentary pleasure, I can sacrificially love my unborn baby by eating what would be best for her development.
  • I have to keep reminding myself to operate in love when I eat, though...because that 'eating what's right for the baby' mentality can easily slip into a 'eating to keep my body skinny' mentality. It's a slippery slope for me because it's about discipline. So I've been trying to eat not to glorify my own self, but to glorify God. I eat disciplined to honor God and the gift He's given me, not to live up to the world's standards.
  • Speaking of the world's standards, One train of thought that has meant alot to me is the idea that there is a physical beauty that is displayed in pregnancy that's not able to be displayed in a non-pregnant woman. I'm not saying a pregnant woman is more beautiful per se, or that women who aren't pregnant or can't get pregnant aren't beautiful. I'm saying that God Himself designed pregnancy. He also designed femininity. And one essential part of femininity is beauty. Pregnant or not, I might not feel pretty, but I just am, because God made the femininity of women to be that way. So since God made femininity with innate beauty, and He made pregnancy, I can pretty much conclude that there's something beautiful about being pregnant! Moreover, if you just look at a pregnant woman, you can visibly see that there's something uniquely beautiful about pregnancy because the beauty doesn't have to do with the world's rules about beauty. It doesn't have to do with striving or perfection, if that makes sense. It is there in extra weight, in swollen ankles, in a rounded face, in a distended tummy, and not even in spite of these things. It's almost because of these things. You can see it if you look closely. Sadly though, it's really hard for me to see it in myself because the world, with all it's rules and definitions of beauty, has trained my mind to believe that beauty is only found in being skinny. But it's not! There's a unique beauty in the pregnant body.

Having My Own Story (by Sarah)

My husband & I are reading through the Bible in a year. We're doing it in chronological order, so that means sometimes we're reading from different passages each day instead of simply reading straight through.

We read some of Genesis and then jumped to reading the whole book of Job before we came back to Genesis again. I really got into the story of Job by the end (although I really didn't like the first 30-some chapters). It gets really interesting because God enters into the dialogue. He interacts with Job! It was amazing for to get to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.

Tonight I started reading in Genesis again, the part where God makes some covenant promises to Abram. It struck me, after reading about God's story with Job, and now God's story with Abram, that God really does interact with us as individuals. He has a specific way He's interacting with each of us.

As a mom this really speaks to me...there's SO many opportunities for comparing myself to other moms, to their stories. For example, just spend some time in a room full of women discussing their labor and deliveries. There's always that subtle comparison aspect. The one-up feel. The nonchalant asking of whether you had an epidural or a C-section. Or talk to that same group of women about their newborn parenting philosophy. Did they let their baby 'CIO'? How long does their baby sleep at night? At what age did they achieve the illusive sleeping through the night phenomenon?

Don't get me wrong, I love knowing the details of my friend's lives. It's often even hysterical to compare notes. Talking about women stuff is a blast. However, under the surface, women are also always trying to decide if there's something wrong with them, with their story, with how they did it. They're defending the validity of what they experienced. And that's where this God with Job/God with Abram things speaks to me. God orchestrating each one's life experiences to have a unique God-encounter with each of them. It's totally different how He expounds on the magnificence of His creation to Job and how He promises Abram an heir when he's an old man and makes him wait even longer for the promise to materialize.

The connection for me is that God interacts with ME uniquely. And with each of my mom friends uniquely. So maybe it's not so much about whether or not I had the epidural or if my birth was completely natural or not. Maybe my labor was tailored specifically for me and what God wanted to work in me, what He wanted to lead ME through? What if how my newborn acts is less about how perfect of a parent I am, and more about what God is needing to teach me? If my friend's baby sleeps 12 hours straight at 3 weeks old, and mine wakes up after 45 minutes every stinking time, maybe it's not about whether I'm a good mom or not...but about God and the things He is working into me, ways He's stretching me to learn to hope in Him in a new way. Maybe my friend with the easy labor and the easy baby needs grace from God. Maybe I need to be challenged.
The thing about this Job/Genesis story is that I think I routinely give God less credit than He deserves. I forget He's even in the equation. And I tend to give myself too much credit (either for ruining my life or excelling in life). I think He's way more present than I let myself see.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

...'Good Mom' cont'd (by Sarah)

I don't have alot of time to blog--in fact, I've already wasted half of Ava's nap just puttering around looking at DIY projects for my sister's birthday. So I need to get my booty in gear! :)
So I'll say what I mean quickly: I very much dislike the term 'Good Mom,' even though it consistently shows up in my vocabulary. I don't like it because it, like the phrase 'good baby' connotates that if there is a good mom, there's also a bad mom.
I hate the idea of there being an option of being a 'bad mom,' because I fear that it's me. I fear that I'm the bad mom. That I don't cut it. Of course, I realize that some moms are really not putting in the effort that they should, and that's called neglect. But I'm talking about doing your best, but still wondering if I'm not really cut out for this job, not really cut out to 'be a mom' in who I am.
This thought came to me one night while I was talking to my husband...I can't even remember what we were talking about, but as we were talking, the thought came to me through a completely different line of conversation, that I am annointed to be Ava's mom. It's not about whether or not I can prove to the world, and more importantly, to myself, that I'm not a fraud, that I'm actually a 'good mom.' It's about the reality that God has chosen me to be her mom. And with that selecting comes empowering...I have all that I need to be a good mom to Ava. It comes to me through all the 'blessings of the heavenly realms' that are mine in Christ Jesus. I don't have to keep wondering if I'm a good mom or a crappy mom. I'm the exact mom that Ava needs, and I have all I need, in Christ. All I have to do is lean into Him in the midst of my mothering moments, and I'll be a 'good mom.'
I hope I can remember this as I go through my days with Ava. That there's a special annointing on my life to be specifically her mom. And I'm exactly what she needs.
(I think the same principle applies to husbands and wives...I'll explain in a later blog what I mean- I think it's a huge point to call women to be submissive to their's a cool thought!)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

..."Good Mom, Good Baby" (by Sarah)

There are 2 phrases that I'm about ready to eradicate from my vocabulary. They've actually been phrases that I've used frequently. But I'm ready to give them a kick out the door of the way I see things in this world.

"Good Mom" and "Good Baby" are the 2 phrases I'm talking about. I've found in this first year of being a new mom that these phrases come up SO OFTEN!

First let me tackle the 'good baby' phrase. I hear it allll the time: "Is she a good baby?" "She seems like such a good baby." "What a good baby." The reason I've come to not care for this particular phrase is that it conveys, through logic, that if there is a 'good baby,' then there's also a 'bad baby' out there somewhere. A baby that doesn't live up to the 'good baby' standard. It opens up a whole world of comparison and competition, of anxiety and performance. Of course I would always want my Ava girl to be labelled as a good baby, not a bad baby. I'd want it not only for her benefit, but also for my own benefit. I'd want her goodness to reflect on my goodness as a mom. It's terrible, but true, that her being called a 'good baby' so often for moms, either in their subconscious or in their heart of hearts, proves to the world that we're good enough as a mom.

So I'd find myself at various times throughout this first year of being a mom, struggling with and using this 'good baby' phrase to investigate my own worth. I'd wonder inside if Ava was a 'good baby,' and I'd measure her actions to determine if she was or wasn't. If she was, I was doing a good enough job. If she wasn't, there was something wrong with how I was parenting. If she sat quietly in her carseat without making a peep while we were at a meeting, or if she didn't give me a hard time in public, if she slept through the whole night, or if she didn't complain or scream when we were around friends, then I thought she was, sigh--thank God, a good baby. And I, by default, was a good enough mom. But if she had a meltdown or fussed alot while we were at someone's house, or needed more attention than the typical 'good baby,' I'd get all worried that she wasn't a good baby and I hadn't done a good enough job parenting her. I'd get confused about if it was her personality-just a 'hard baby', a 'spirited child,' a 'strong-willed girl,' or it was my fault because I was failing as a mom. In trying to vent my confusion, I'd sometimes jokingly call her a 'bad baby' when she wouldn't nap or eat the way I wanted her to.

One weekend, Caleb and I went away to a conference, and out of the blue, God convicted me about this area of my vocabulary. He let me know that He intentionally chose Ava to be our baby, to be in our family. He firmly, but gently told me that she is precious just the way she is. That when I even jokingly called her a 'bad baby,' that I, the one who was supposed to be her biggest fan, her biggest supporter, was placing a label on her that she might possibly carry her whole life. I realized that I want even the way I think about my daughter to infuse her with confidence in her value. And I never wanted her performance to carry so much weight, because mommy's mom-identity was wrapped up in it.

So now I try to incorporate into my mentality and, as a result, into my vocabulary, the idea that Ava is who she is. And who she is, is precious. The gift of her life was given to Caleb and me to shape us, and to delight us. She's exactly what we need. And so is every baby for their particular family. Yes, I definitely agree that some babies are more laid back than others. They seem to be naturally content, naturally compliant. Other babies seem easily upset, more defiant. But I'd like to erase from my mom's worldview that those that don't cry as much are 'good,' whereas those who can tent to be more of a handful are 'not good' as a logical result of there being the idea of a 'good baby.' And hopefully, with God healing me, and my attempts to eradicate the 'good baby' mentality, I'll more and more find out that Ava's temperament and actions will never determine my worth or my identity. It's set, in Christ, as a Purchased, Being-refined One.

I guess that's enough of a rant about vocabulary for now...I'll pick up with my comments on the intricacies of what the phrase 'good mom' connotates later on...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The final card choice

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