Saturday, June 27, 2015

Birth Story #3: A Hard Labor

It was almost four months ago now. The birth of our son! His gender was a surprise. With two daughters already via my body, we leaned towards another daughter...but, low and behold, something was hanging off this babe that was new to us - this was a boy!

It was near a month of warm-up contractions. This was the longest I'd experienced warm-up contractions (sometimes referenced to as Braxton Hicks), and the week prior to birth they were more consistent...and of course with all of this warm-up, I hoped for a shorter labor when the time came, but I also knew, labor will be what labor will be. The body has already been wired for the task and it will go at the length that is best.

About 24 hours before active labor kicked in, I was in prodromal labor. It's the real warm up, the pre-workout stretches. I tend to have long prodromal labor, but this was the longest. In retrospect, it was probably because little man was not in an optimal birthing position. Unfortunately, this didn't dawn on me until later, so I didn't offer much assistance in doing exercises or positions to help our son rotate. Our son was positioned ROA (Right Occiput Anterior). This means he was engaged to the right of center when it's best and easiest if babe is slightly left of center, LOA (Left Occiput Anterior). Even though just a little shift would make baby LOA, babies usually will do a near full rotation making them posterior for a time (mom and baby are back to back, and that's painful!) until they arrive at LOA position.  This makes for some harder work for the laboring momma and, in this case - us! :)

Once prodromal labor started I was getting excited, figuring a baby was coming that night or the next day...but, no. I slept through most of the night with a few contractions, but the next morning they did pick up again yet after a few hours they slowed down again. I had a pedicure scheduled for myself that morning (42 week pregnant women can't come close to touching their toes), so I got a pedicure and an unplanned mini manicure because the gal had some extra time. My husband was out with one of our girls, the other was at preschool, and at our home was a gal cleaning the house for us - a gift from some dear friends (four weeks of house cleaning - best gift ever!!!). All this pampering, early contractions, and a clean home to return to was making me feel like it was going to be a birthday...but again, no. I was disappointed and wondering "how much longer?"...but I had to stop the negative feelings and embrace this time for what it is, and that it is good and best.

Earlier that week I had had a prenatal appointment, and my midwife said near the beginning of the appointment "You don't seem yourself...what's going on?" I shared with her I thought I'd have a baby by now and I was feeling disappointed and frustrated...I was really tired of being pregnant, and I had actually been praying for a specific birth date (which was the day of my appointment), but alas I had no signs of a coming labor. She asked me if I had cried yet, a "release" cry...where I let all expectations go and get all my hangups out in a good therapeutic cry. I hadn't done so, and she encouraged me to. She also encouraged me to read the birth stories in Ina May's Guide To Childbirth book, as well as get on YouTube and watch some birth videos. My midwife, she's a gem. Compassionate and understanding, supportive and a heart listener. I left encouraged and with some homework to do. It was all so helpful.

So the night of my pedicure, manicure and house cleaning, I went to bed. I rested, but the contractions were stronger when I was laying down, and they were to the point I couldn't sleep. After an hour or so of laying there (my husband next to me zzzing), I knew labor was here...though my contractions were hard and averaging every 6-9 minutes (though sometimes they would be a few minutes apart or even 12 minutes apart), I hadn't felt that "switch" over yet to active, but I figured it was near. I went downstairs as my husband and eldest daughter slept (our youngest was with my parents), lit some candles, did some things around the house between contractions...I labored alone for an hour or so, mostly leaning up against a wall or on my hands and knees (I HATE contractions sitting down or laying down, you will not find me in these positions!)...I felt the need to call my midwife with my sporadic yet strong contractions. She asked if my doula was there, and if I didn't want to be alone then to have my doula come.  The midwife was not going to come until she thought I was in active labor. I didn't want to wake my husband from sleep, but I wanted someone with me.  I called my doula and she was all ready to go. She came over and I didn't regret my decision for her to come. I realized once she arrived I needed her company - her educated and womanly thoughts, comfort, support, and friendship.

After about an hour of her being there, she thought it was time to fill up the birth pool. My husband had aired it up hours ago before bed. I woke him up from his few hours of sleep and he got to it. He made me a "labor aid" drink (fresh squeezed oranges, lemon, tablespoon of honey and sea salt), filled up stock pots to heat up more water, got food and snacks out (provided by my Grammy!) for birth attendants, and did other things I don't know of because active labor was upon me. I had to get in touch with my inner lioness once again, remembering how to loosen the jaw and almost relax into a contraction with some low groans.  Some nausea was also settling in with the stronger contractions, but I thankfully never threw up.

My midwife and her apprentice were on their way. My two girlfriends were on their way too. When the apprentice arrived, she felt my belly and noticed baby was ROA, so we learned of why the hard, irregular was trying to turn. She instructed me to do some lunge positions during contractions and continue on hands and knees, too. Wow, talk about painful. I'm sure it wasn't comfortable for sweet baby boy, either. We were both working really hard to help him get in good position for birth. His turning during contractions was near suffering...but the most difficult of our mountain climbing we hadn't arrived at yet.

Though labor can be incredibly difficult, I am so thankful to feel it, to experience it. My baby is in labor too, working hard, pursuing exit - pursing me and his daddy, and we find each other in the labor, in the is absolutely a bonding experience. It is a partnering together.  A lifelong memory I will always hold with him. Thankfully, the good Lord gave us some amazing pain-coping hormones and that love hormone of oxytocin is increasing more and more as our face to face encounter draws nearer.

My midwife (who has wisdom and experience and understanding and intuition beyond anyone I have yet to meet in the medical field of pregnancy, birth and babies) instructed me to get into the shower. She said she doesn't know why, but the hot shower spray on the lower back encourages baby to get into position...and she was right!  My husband, our doula and I headed to the bathroom. My husband turned on the shower and the doula left the bathroom to give us a private moment together.  I remember feeling the difference of my husband's counter-pressure on my lower back, his hands were bigger and stronger than our doula's, and the difference felt good in the moment. I got in the shower and began to feel very painful contractions because at the same time I felt baby boy moving.  And when I say very painful, I mean VERY PAINFUL. I, actually, remember thinking there in the shower "my last labor was a breeze" compared to this labor. I got out of the shower and upon exiting an incredibly strong contraction came alongside the baby still moving into uterus contracted, the baby rotated....and this was the loooongest contraction I had ever experienced. My husband stopped giving me counterpressure and massage about halfway through because he thought surely the contraction was over, but I yelled out "What are you doing?! Don't stop!". And then it happened during that long contraction, our son arrived to optimal position - and all of a sudden I felt the feeling to push!!

Now minutes before I got in the shower, I had asked the apprentice to give me a vaginal check to see how dilated I was. This was the first time in my pregnancy and labor for me to be vaginally checked. I'm not a fan of it because for me, it's not worth the emotional effect it has on me - the answer will either encourage me or discourage me. How dilated you are or the cervix effacement just doesn't really mean much (or at least how much focus we put on them) because everyone's bodies vary, circumstances vary, etc.  So the apprentice vaginally checked me and I told her I wasn't sure if I wanted to know how "far along" I was because I was nervous about the answer. I had worked so hard already and wanted to hear I was 9cm along, but intuitively I knew I was not that far along.  At my request, she told me I was 5cm and yes, I was disappointed. I was discouraged because I had worked so so hard already, and to think I was only halfway there was almost unimaginable to me. BUT I got in that shower minutes later and after just 20 minutes or so in the shower, I got out, had that super long contraction, and I was ready to push!! In maybe 30 minutes, I had dilated 4 or 5cm.

I got into the birth pool, rested and pushed, rested and pushed several times. It was such an awesome time! In between a contraction I looked at my husband with expectant joy "We're about to find out if we have a son or daughter!" I reached down between another pushing contraction to feel baby's head, but I just felt what felt like a balloon - my water hadn't broke yet, but it was soon to!  In case you're wondering when the best time is for a woman's water to break, it's really best that it breaks naturally during the pushing stage, though few babies are actually delivered in the bag of waters. The bag of waters acts as padding (an extra comfort) for the baby and the mother during contractions. My water broke during one of my last pushes. Before the final push, my midwife checked for the umbilical cord around baby's neck and had already announced a full head of dark hair, too.

My husband got into the pool, I gave baby all I had and pushed his body into my husband's hands. My husband lifted baby out of the water before me and I saw baby's parts and announced loudly "A boy!!!" My oxytocin levels skyrocketed and I was in euphoric baby bliss. I praised my God aloud again and again who had carried me through and delivered me once again, and I spoke aloud my thanksgiving and declared my affection for my son over and over. If anyone was to know they were deeply loved with a strong unwavering passion and affection, my son surely experienced it in this moment!

The moments after my children's births, particularly my homebirths because of the freedom and comfort of home and only individuals present who I personally know, will always be some of my most vivid and experientially memorable experiences. God made this so because a woman's hormones heighten her memory during this time.

My friend (who was present for my birth) had given me a word when she was praying for me a week prior, she told me God told her to tell me that he is with me in the push. It was encouraging to hear because pushing for me in past births has been the most difficult part for me, and God knew this. During labor the body does the work and you breathe through the pain, but pushing is when you have to push into the pain and that takes focus and determination.  And so there hammered to the wooden beam by the birth pool in our living room I hung a sign so I would see it during pushing stage: GOD IS WITH YOU IN THE PUSH. I thought of these words as I pushed with all my strength, leaning into this truth - God was with me.

Thank you for taking the time to read our birth story. I look at my son as such a rockstar knowing he did a near 360 degree rotation during labor in the midst of a contracting uterus!  HOW AMAZING IS MY SON?!?! And we did it together. It is such a precious experience with him in my heart and memory. I'll always remember those hours of labor with him, both of us working so hard together to meet one another.

Would I have changed my labor for an easier one or would I now? Absolutely not. Oh, the journey. It's all about the journey. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Being Single Is Awesome

I had to have a flashy title to get you to read my blogpost. But yes, it's not a lie. Being single really is awesome. And this is mostly what this post is about. So, let us get started.

If you're an unmarried gal and/or dating around or even in what you consider a serious relationship (and particularly for you youngins like teenagers and early 20s) my question for you is are you with a real man and do you know in your core this relationship is the best thing for you - like if someone who knows you and loves you super well was to dream up the best scenario for you, is this it? Like is it right and good and what should be? Or is it eh and you just feel okay about it or is it that you just like having a fellow around?

Here's why I want to know: Because being single is awesome. It is such a precious season. Some women are called to it for their whole lives and that can be hard, but also wonderful...and for the majority of women, they are called to and brought into marriage...which also can be hard, but also wonderful. Either way, being single is awesome.

I dated one feller when I was 15-17 years old which was a waste of my life/time/emotions, but I was stupid, quite honestly. The teenage fog where I thought the world revolved around me and where hormones and pride and fear of being different and what others thought clouded my thinking to make me do stupid things.

At 18, I grew up and my life perspective changed, and I ditched the dating scene until I was 24 years old...when I met a really handsome chap that literally at our first meeting took my breathe away. We were pals for a year then started dating a year later and in another year, we got hitched - married, said our "I dos" for the rest of our lives. It was awesome.

Now, who is to say that if I was a dating maniac all those years between 18 and 24 if the glory and juice and loveliness of my meeting the man I am married to now (and super in love with!) and dating him would not have been so glorious and juicy and lovely?? Seriously, me and my man have a juicy story. It would blow your mind. It is super fun and surprising and romantic. Dating him was like the best romance novel I've ever read, and the way he proposed to me (complete surprise!) was off the heezie, like absolutely amazing and perfect and had my name written all over it...not to mention, I was completely surprised, and that made it all so much more perfect! But if I had been dating a few or a lot of different guys those precious years, how would it have affected my meeting the right one?

So...there is a point here. Embrace the beautiful and precious and special season of being single!! Seriously, live it up! There is a very strange lie out there that once you are dating Mr. Right or get married, you are complete or your life will feel complete. URGH! This is far from the truth, and if you believe it, you will be disappointed, and for some devastated. Getting married or having children does not complete you. It does not fulfill you. It doesn't do that stuff. Getting married and having children is work. It's sacrifice. It's perseverance. It's preferring others before yourself. It's learning life is not about you. It's not a stroll in the park, people. If you are getting married, prepare to go to work at a relationship every single day. Is it worth it?! YES! DEFINITELY! TRIPLE YES! QUADRUPLE YES! Like anything you persevere and fight for, give generously towards and believe in - you invest, and you get a return. The sacrifice brings joy, it gives life. It does bring a fullness, but it's a fullness you worked for. And the journey makes you more of an awesome and beautiful person, as well.

I can absolutely say that I am more in love with my husband than I ever have been. I absolutely grow in love for him with every year. I respect him more than I ever have. And through our relationship that has been hard and wonderful and good and glorious and work, I have become a more beautiful person. Less selfish. More giving. Less angry. More gracious. Less judgmental. More understanding. Being married helped prepare me to be a momma for sure, and being a momma has brought a whole new world of challenging growth for me. I reckon at the end of my life through marriage and children, I should be an absolutely amazing person...ha! :) I can grow more toward that possibility if I continue to keep my heart and hands and mind open to the good change it can produce in me, and accept the challenges that it poses that I may become an overcomer.

Being single is so good. You get to live with friends in a house with a yard or downtown in a loft or in a dorm room at your university, and share life over meals and after work/school and before work/school, and over coffee in the morning, and throw parties, and get milkshakes, and see movies, and share your struggles and shining moments, and cry and laugh, and LIVE. Live so well! There is a freedom of discovery you get in those single years. "You get" meaning you have the opportunity to seize this freedom, some don't. You also have more time to invest in hobbies and delights, more time to invest in philanthropy and helping your neighbor, more time to travel and experience the world, more time to educate yourself on something you are interested in, as well as the absolutely incredible opportunity to live intentionally with multiple other people under the same roof and be shaped and challenged and encouraged and loved by each other. Living with other people is no joke, but it is soooooo good for the ones who say yes to it. A dear friend of ours named Joe Steinke says "Living in community reads romantically, but lives sacrificially." This is so true. I began this paragraph with the romance of sharing life and a home with peers and others, but the truth is that it can be true, but it is the abundant return from honoring and respecting one another through sacrifice (and FYI, you will mess up! Then you need to apologize.) Some people flow together easily, some don't - and those relationships can be the best kind of relationships, the ones that will wow you, and positively influence your inner being and life and future, and you will always look back and say "Wow, that was hard and so so good, and so so worth it." In fact, you may even forget it was'll just remember the return, and how sweet it was!

The key to living with others is sharing a purpose of living intentionally with one another. Your house is not a hotel where you all check in and check out as you please, but you share meals together including making meals together, you share groceries, you're honest, you share the chores, you stay up late to listen to your housemate share how they are doing, you seek ways to gift and bless others in your home, you fold their laundry left in the dryer, etc.

So, there you go, people. Allison's unexpected blogpost on being single. It's really a great season, a fantastic season.

And I've gotta say something else that I believe is very important. Every one needs every one. What does that mean? It means we are all in different seasons of life and all doing different kinds of things with our lives, and oy do we need each other. We don't need clusters of single people and clusters of married people and clusters of older people and clusters of younger people, etc. etc. We need clusters of all kinds of people in all kinds of seasons. We need some of what everyone else brings to the table. I'm married, and I looooooove hanging with my single girlfriends. I am young and I looooooove hanging with anyone three or four decades older than me. And I reckon it is the same for them. We each receive goodness from each other and are reminded that our stereotypes about people in their seasons different from ours are usually wrong and absurd. We don't need isolation, we need a supportive community.

Friday, September 13, 2013

My Back Porch, Moonlit Birth

It's true. Under the clear night sky on a warm spring night, I did a glorious thing - I gave birth to our sweet baby girl. My husband, smelling of patchouli (one of my fav scents on him), sipped a beer and with the other hand held my hand tight, kissing the top of my head and speaking encouragement when it seemed right. My other hand was held by my doula (I always recommend a doula!), massaging my lower back during those last contractions and coaching me how to breath when it came time to push.

My view was a half moon and a backdrop of stars.  It was beautiful.

Also present was my legendary midwife, her apprentice, my aunt who is more like my big sister, taking pictures and video, and another friend of mine who has had four homebirths and equally ecstatic about childbirth as I am (she also brought a table full of food - fruits and veggies, homemade pizza, soup, all kinds of gluten free treats, lettuce wraps, a bowl of m&ms, and of course birthday cake!).

They all arrived for the last couple hours of my labor and delivery, and all hung out for the after party as well.

My labor was about 24 hours total. The first 22 hours it was just me and my husband mostly. We took walks, got it on (cause hey, it's gonna be awhile!), watched a couple shows of Parks and Recreation (our current Netflix season at the time), ate some of the table-full of food my girlfriend brought, and just hungout. It felt like a really long day.

My doula had come the night before when I started to have contractions to be my friend while my husband worked (he works nights). While I slept, she wrote a song for me which she played/sang for me the hour after baby girl was born. My doula was and is awesome.

Having amazing womanly support around me was just as it should be, at least for me. The month prior to my birth, these gals came over to my home and prayed with me/for me and over my home, my family and birth to be. It was so special. I was so looking forward to having these strong women at my birth to cheer me on and support me during this treasured time.

My labor was slow for the first 18 hours. My contractions were 30-45 minutes for most of that time then down to 20 minutes apart mid afternoon of baby's birthday.

I was having an emotional afternoon. I missed my firstborn who was with my mother and I felt like I was disappointing people (like family, my birth attendants, even my husband) with my slow progression and I was also bummed that things were moving slowly - I had presumed I'd have a shorter labor this time around, but that was not the case.

I talked to my four-homebirths-girlfriend on the phone and told her how I was feeling.  She encouraged me to speak out (after I got off the phone with her) all that was bothering me, all that was making me emotional, and let it go. She also spoke to my heart and mind to embrace this labor for what it is because it is beautiful and special. She reminded me that this little babe I was carrying was so much different than babe #1, so this labor will be different as well - to not compare them. She encouraged me to let it remind me how unique and special this little girl is, and be joyful about her coming at her own pace with my body. Revel in this labor for what it is (special! unique!), and bond with my little babe.

It was just what I needed to hear and after I hung-up with my girlfriend, I spoke out all that was getting me down and asked Jesus to fill me with truth and peace and joy. He did! :)

My mom and sister came over with my niece and my daughter to give us some company, make me laugh and I needed kisses and hugs from my little girl. They hung out an hour and upon their leaving, my contractions jumped up to seven minutes apart!

I called the midwife and things started moving.  My husband aired up the birth tub on the back porch and began filling it with water.  My doula and aunt showed up, then my midwife and her apprentice.

At that point my contractions were just a few minutes apart. I could feel baby coming down.

I absolutely cannot sit down nor lay down during a contraction. I think the pain turns times two! I've gotta be standing up.  It just makes sense too with a baby coming down through your body, right? I gripped the bricks on our fireplace those last couple hours of labor. My doula was so good to me, rubbing my lower back (I have hefty back labor) and she just being beside me was a comfort to me.

My husband was busy filling up the tub. The hot water did run out so they were boiling water on the stove and pouring it in the tub, ha! It was a funny sight to see the gals and my husband back and forth from the kitchen, carrying pots of water to the tub.

There was a chance I'd be delivering baby girl inside, but at just the right time the tub was filled and the water at just the right temperature for me and baby girl.

I got in the birth tub in-between a contraction. I was complete, transition closed, my body rested before pushing stage, then it was upon me - time to push!

This is the hardest part for me. I can do contractions fine because there is that gracious time in between contractions to rest, feel normal, have a laugh, eat a cookie (I have a friend who calls it Christmas morning, ha!). And really during contractions your body is doing most of the actual physical work. As the woman in labor your job is mostly mental - focusing, breathing, letting your body do what it has been instructed to do. It's actually a bit enjoyable for me, the feeling of baby coming down is incredible. I am in awe of the process as I'm experiencing it.

But now pushing is the hard work.  It's where I grunt and yell and feel like I am having the most gigantic poo of my life. Fortunately, we live on eight acres in fine country land and our neighbors' homes are far enough away to hopefully not hear my primal sounds, or perhaps they thought it was a deer delivering triplets in the woods. :)

My midwife and doula instructed me in pushing and breathing.  At one point, I let baby girl's head sit there to stretch my perineum - this was my midwife's instruction, of course. She was trying to prevent me from tearing down there and allowing baby to come out steady and not quickly.  I had to breathe quick breaths during that time, and my midwife said "You're basically breathing her out right now...". I wasn't sure whether to believe her or not, at the time.

My midwife encouraged me to feel her head which I wasn't inclined to do, but she asked me a second time and so I did. I'm glad I did, I still remember that squishy feeling of her exiting head. So amazing.

I remember during delivery thinking "I'm too old for this." You may hear from others and in my experience twice now it's been true, just when you think you can't go any further, your baby is almost in your arms. Just keep on for a bit longer, and you will receive your reward.

Before that final push after my midwife checked for the umbilical cord, Ryan left my side to "catch" baby girl. I gave that final push and baby girl was caught in her Daddy's embrace and given to me.

Her warm wet body on mine, I can recall the feeling like it was minutes ago.  The endorphins and happy hormones flew through my body in that moment. I remember the rush of what I could say was physical joy moving through my body.

I did it. We did it.  Baby girl and I worked hard together. We conquered labor and delivery, and received our prize - each other. It is an incredible moment.

I so wish for every pregnant woman to have such an experience, though I know for some they physically can't and I'm so thankful for hospitals and doctors trained for those specific situations when the body is not doing as it should.

After baby girl was born, we enjoyed her. I delivered the placenta maybe 15 minutes after. The placenta was put in a bowl I bought just for the placenta at Target (how many bowls do they have bought for placentas, I wonder?). With baby in arms, I got out of the birth tub with support of my husband and the women.  We walked indoors to my recovery room.  We let the placenta drain completely (about an hour) so baby girl received all of those wonderful stem cells and nutrients.

She nursed on her own about 45 minutes after birth.  It was so funny.  She was rooting around, so I gave her a little help by bringing her up to my breast.  She then lifted her head back (strong newborn!) and with a mouth wide open planted herself perfectly on the nipple. I laughed. She nursed.

Now if you know me, you know I love a good party. And that is exactly what this was.  The gals, my husband and I, talked, ate, laughed, celebrated.  My husband made coffee for him and the gals, and we all shared in our little girl's first birthday cake.  Delicious! My doula sang the song she wrote for me the night before on her guitar.  And we drank in this glorious night of our baby's birth.

All was precious, and remains so very close to me now.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Learning to sympathize with my two-year-old as God sympathizes with me

A few days ago, my husband and I were reading the words of God through whoever the author is of the book Hebrews in the Bible (ya know, some reckon the author could be a woman!? that's cool.). God encouraged our hearts and gave us a good lesson in parenting and life. I want to share it with you, so that you may be encouraged and if you are a parent or around children (or really anyone!) at all, that you may take hold of this lesson as well.

I have a two-year-old as of a couple months ago.  She is learning to make decisions.  She knows she has the option to make a "good choice" in many daily situations, mostly those opportunities involve listening to and obeying Mommy or Daddy when we ask her to do something with her or our family's best interest in mind.  She has a growing understanding that Mommy and Daddy desire what is best for her that assists her in her decision-making, as well as knowing a safety and trust that has grown in her life with us that is natural because it is what she has experientially known from day one with us.

As of the last few months, our daughter is not always quick to do what we ask of her or be obedient in some situations.  In some situations, it's really hard for her to obey.  Often in those situations, you can see her reasoning within herself - she's not responding with obedience just yet nor is she saying "no"...she's truly considering what to do, beginning to contemplate consequences of the choice that she gets to make - her freedom to choose.  We witness the wrestle in her as she waits to decide what she's going to do, to obey Mommy and Daddy or to not obey - to do what she wants to do in that moment.  Her will is not programmed to our requests.  She is free to choose to listen and obey, or to not.

You know this experience, right? Sometimes it's really hard to make the right choice.  Sometimes it's really really hard.  It almost feels like suffering.  And it kind of is (and in some cases, it really is - there is definitely a temporary suffering one experiences). You are suffering on some level to choose what is good and right, and not what you - that selfish bit of you - wants to choose.  Paul, author of Romans in the Bible, talks about this wrestle: "For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not do to do, that I practice." That is Romans chapter 7, verse 20.  You can look around that verse for more of "this war" within himself that he, Paul, talks about.  And we all know it, right? We can identify with what he's saying.

Our daughter can too.  She is beginning to experience this wrestle within her of choice, to obey or not to obey her loving parents.  I know she loves us and ultimately wants to obey us, but in the moment - confronted with that temptation - it is sometimes difficult to do so.

Well, I mentioned the book Hebrews at the beginning of this post, and to the book of Hebrews let us go and find some encouragement and help for us with this wrestle.

There is some really good messages at the beginning of Hebrews about Jesus unashamedly calling those adopted into God's family his brothers and sisters to another really good message about exhorting the people of God "today" so that our hearts do not become deceived to another good message about the relationship between obedience and rest. Good stuff. Great stuff.  But what's after all this in the book is what I was particularly encouraged by and got my "how to be a mother" lesson from.

Read this, and read it's really good and important:

"Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as are, yet without sin.

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.

He can have compassion (my husband's bible translation/version said "deal gently") on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness."

(Heb. 4:14-5:2)

Okay, this is good. I hope you're already encouraged and have some idea where I'm headed with this - how my husband and I got a parenting lesson in this.

1) God sympathizes with our weaknesses.  Where do you feel weak? God sympathizes with you!  He can relate.  He knows temptation.  Where are you tempted; what tempts you?  Jesus has been there!

And so God says to us, therefore, come BOLDLY to MY THRONE OF GRACE...and I will HELP you in your weakness, I will help you in your temptation!!...So that, we can live in truth and love, make good choices and become more free and fully alive versions of ourselves. We are not to be on our own in our weaknesses or our struggles; Jesus says "I understand that wrestle, and I am here to help you through!"

That is what those last couple of sentences/verses say too about the high priest that was chosen among the Levite people to help us understand Jesus' place as the High Priest toward us - he can have compassion and deal gently with us when we are choosing or living ignorantly or who have intentionally chosen what is wrong, because he himself is subject to weakness."

In Hebrews 5:8 it says of Jesus "though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things he suffered."

There is a suffering, a wrestle, "a war" within ourselves to make the right choice sometimes. And through these times of saying to God "Your desires, not mine - your will, not mine" we also are learning obedience.

2) Parenting lesson.  This is what my daughter is experiencing! And I can sympathize with her.  I know that wrestle to make a good choice.  I know that temptation to not choose what God says is best for me, and to instead choose what I want in that moment.

So what can I offer to my daughter?  Grace.  Patience. An honoring of her process to choose. To not rush her in those moments when she is considering what to do, considering how to respond.

When she doesn't make a good choice, when she doesn't obey -  I can deal gently with her because I can sympathize with her weakness, with the temptation to choose what is not best.  And when she makes a good choice, I can applaud her and praise her, because I know the difficulty - sometimes the suffering - in making a good choice.  I swell with joy over her in those moments.  And you know, she is surely learning obedience through these small (or big for her) sufferings of choosing to say "yes" to Mommy and Daddy because she is learning that making a good choice really is the best decision - it is what is best for her.  Making a good choice makes life more fun, eh?

So there ya go people, I'm going to leave it at that. I could say more, but this post is long enough and I made my point of learning and growing as a daughter and a mother.  There might be more the Lord wants to give you in this subject, so there I will leave you...

Hope this was helpful to you as a brother or sister of Jesus, and as a parent or one around children!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

An Ancient Urging

A few weeks ago I was driving in the car by myself somewhere (love to drive by myself now that I’m a stay-at-home mama – it just doesn't happen very often and oh, it’s a treat!)…and I was talking to God about something that’s been bothering me.  I was asking God how I can be a better American citizen.  “I want to be God, but I don’t know how to be.”

I am not gun-ho about politics or government or politicians.  Most of the time when I overhear a conversation or watch the news on the world of politics, I am annoyed, confused, ignorant or indifferent to whatever it is.  I am not well educated on many government happenings as I am not an avid news reader/viewer, but to me also (part of the reason for my non-interest) there is a lot of mumbo jumbo talk when often I feel like we’re missing the heart of an issue or what’s really happening (media, don’t you mess with me!)…or we’re being quick to make talk or judgments, quick to become angry on the subject (or person) and not quick to listen to the other or the other side, or sit back and think outside of our normal thinking…though this is not the case for everyone nor every conversation nor every new news on the news.  And I am so thankful for those who model patience and gentleness within their passion and they listen and attempt understanding before they attempt jumping to say what they initially want to say.  I personally have a hard time with this myself, and so for those who don’t walk the walk I often walk, I just want to shake your hand and bake you cookies - thank you!

Okay, so back to this talking to God about what I can do to be a better American citizen.  I want to say that I am a faithful voter at every election.  I try to educate myself as best I can about issues on the ballot and candidates running or re-running, but I want to do more than that.  I want to be ahead of all of that. I don’t want to be told what the issues are or which candidate options I have. I want to have influence more than a check on the ballot. I want to have impact, make impact, see love grow up in our government officials and systems and plans, local and federal….but how? (And oy, the fed is so big and I am so small – how can I have any sort of impact there???)

Sometimes I just want to stick to my little checks on the ballot (Though those checks are so important! A blessed freedom, people!  Ask someone not allowed to vote in their country.)…and stay out of all the political talk that can give me a headache and make me say “blah!” to any engagement or desire to influence or shape government.

But you know what ladies? We’ve got to! We’ve got to lead, we’ve got to have influence. We’ve got to have impact and bring shape to our government.   There are nations of people who live – because of their government - in great oppression, in little freedoms, in little opportunity, in little little of little. There is no “liberty and justice for all”.  That alone is a reason we need to be involved in voting and caring about what our government is doing, the decisions they are making, why they are making them, etc.

So my prayer to God “I want to be, but I don’t know how to be” is the honest truth.  I don’t know where to start. And what did God who has been around forever tell me?  1 Timothy 2, he said.  And there I went. To the Bible. God’s words. And what did I find?? Oh, it’s good. So good. An ancient urging. Please read.

“I urge you, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Bam! There it is, ladies. Where we can start and where we can continue…always.  Prayer.  This ancient urging to pray for those in authority. Why do I do it? Because I want people to come to a knowledge of the truth that sets them free.  I want people to come into relationship with Jesus, to get clobbered by his crazy personal love for them.  I believe he is the cry of the human heart, the hope we desire, whether we are aware of him or not, or have faith in him or not.  "God our Savior" isn't a side note. He is Savior! If you have known and have experienced God's rescue then you too also want everyone in the world to know it - to experience his healing, his freedom, his forgiveness, his redemption. If God says praying for those in authority is a way for everyone to know truth then yes - I will do it!  And living lives in peace and quiet in godliness and holiness sounds really nice, as well.  Yes I'll pray for those in authority for that too.

This is where I have been, almost every day since…praying for those in authority, locally and nationally.  And simply by praying for them and bringing them to God through me each day, I’m giving a listening ear to God to speak to me and open opportunities for my prayers to have feet.

To the left of our bathroom mirror I have ticky-tacked to the wall 1 Timothy 2:1-4 and underneath it written “Pray for those in authority today.”  And I’ve been doing it.  And I know my prayers have power.  I know I am having influence.  While I’m brushing my teeth or while I’m putting on makeup or giving my daughter a bath or I’m on the john….I am praying for those in authority…bringing them to the Father – the owner of the Earth and everything in it, asking him to shape their thinking today, to lead their decisions, for them to experience their need of his guidance and help.  Some days a specific petition for someone locally or nationally is on my heart, and I pray.  This is how I am becoming a better American citizen.

I just wanted to pass on to you what I've recently reckoned is an I AM WOMAN trait, and one I want to encourage you in...this ancient urging, 2 Timothy 2:1-4.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Money?? Fabulous dresses??...They ain't no thang! Just read this story...

So my husband and I, with our 18-month old daughter, moved to a new town in a new state a few months ago – right before last Christmas, to be exact.  We moved for some really beautiful reasons that I’m not going to share – not in this post, at least. This post is about living in love. God’s love. God’s faithfulness. It’s about saying to God in all seriousness (which includes joy!), “You care for me.  I trust you.”

As you might know, moving half way across the country costs money and living costs money – that is if you want to eat, drink, sleep under a roof, wear clothes, go to school, talk on a phone, drive a car, visit a doctor, etc.

We didn’t have an income the first three months after our move, so the sweet green we’ve saved over the last year for this transition and my husband’s schooling was dropping low low low, but we were okay – at peace.  It was cool.  We’ve learned to trust God to take care of us.  We really have.  We’ll probably have to relearn someday, but with this move, in this season, we’ve been at a good internal peace with this reality.

So one day, when there wasn’t much to show in our bank account, when some future things were foggy for us and we were in a waiting period to see how it all would pan out, I had an idea.  A great idea. A girly idea. I wanted to buy a dress. A bright, beautiful dress that is a celebration and a declaration of God’s care for us in this season.

Did we have money for a dress? Hardly. Or no, actually.  That’s probably the better answer.  But it was in my heart, my girly-womanly heart.

First, it’s been a long time since I’ve bought a dress – particularly a dress with intention. Probably the last dress I bought was a couple years ago on a clearance rack for $7 – great deal, cute dress, cha-ching.  But you know, I was pregnant a couple years ago, so it was probably the year before that I made my last dress purchase. And that reason brings me to reason number two.  I’ve lost all my pregnant weight! I’m back to pre-pregnancy weight and so now that my body isn’t changing anymore I can get a dress that will fit me for awhile…at least until another body change is in order. J  And reason number three, which is the biggest reason, is I wanted a dress from God. I wanted to go shopping with God and find something fabulous to wear as a marker that “Father God is taking care of me, my husband, and our little girl…worship him, Allison!”

So I shared this with my husband and he gave me one of those okays that a husband gives when he doesn’t quite understand and is maybe a little hesitant about you spending money on something that you don’t really need when your money is tight as it is - money that could go towards the next phone bill, ya know?  I think he liked the idea, but I think he might have been a little concerned about how much that fabulous dress I was talking about might cost.

So I prayed about it that week, sharing my thoughts and heart with God about what I want in this dress, for this dress. God, I want to wear it as worship! As a declaration of your faithfulness! I want a dress, a beautiful I AM WOMAN dress, God!

Well it was a week later - the day before Easter Sunday, actually.  My mother and I took my little girl on an Easter egg hunt at a local church.  It was so fun for all three of us, and afterwards my mom – who knew my dress desire – said “Let’s go find your dress.” Really?! I was excited for a second, but err…I was trying to remember how much was in our checking account and which bills have been paid and which have not. I couldn’t remember, but I said okay to my mom anyway.

We went.  She took me to a store she thought would have it. (By the way, how cool is my mom? So cool!)  My mom is leading the way, confident about our shopping trip for the dress.  I’m this unprepared, not sure how much is in our bank account, is God really going to help me find a dress, girl at the moment.

Before we walked into the store, I prayed aloud with my mom in agreement and my little girl in the stroller, “God, help us to find the dress…the dress I want to declare your nearness, your help, your care!”

Well, we get into the store and the dresses I am pulling off the rack that I like are around $50-$70. Um…I know I can’t afford these! But I’m trying them on anyways. I decided I was just going to try on what I liked/loved and not look at price tags, anymore.  Whatever dress popped as “the dress” was the one I was going to buy, somehow. God-how.

I went to the dressing room with an armful I picked out and an armful of what my mom picked out for me.  I tried them all on. Eh to all, except one super cute, super lovely-looking-on-me, high-waist skirt my mom had picked out. I loved it. It was comfortable, feminine, and could even be an all-four-seasons skirt.  I looked at the price tag after I decided this was it, to find a $4 price tag!  It was originally $50, but not today.  Today it was $4. Whoa!  I was pumped.

Time to find a blouse! I took another two armfuls of blouses to the fitting room.  I tried them all on.  My favorite one?! It was the most expensive one. Ugh.

Well, I decided that because my skirt was so cheap I could splurge on this shirt. I might have to explain to my husband later, but I loved this outfit! I loved it. I figured I could return it later if we weren’t able to afford it.

So I stepped up to the checkout counter with my new blouse and skirt that I absolutely loved and was so excited to wear, to pay for them.  She scans the skirt tag…$4.  Then the expensive blouse….$4! What?! $4!?  The sales clerk gal even said “$4?! That can’t be right.”  She looked at the tag, matched the sku numbers and said “I don’t know, but I guess that’s right.” Ha! I said thanks to God out loud and she replied “Yes, Jesus loves you.” Yes! Yes, Jesus loves me! I went shopping with God! My total was $8.53.

I wore that blouse and skirt all day long on Easter Sunday, worshipping God and declaring His glorious care for my family by the dress I was wearing.  I got compliments on my dress, and I told my dress story again and again.  I praised him again and again.

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7

This is I AM WOMAN living.

You and me, both of us, all of us, sharing our girly-whirly ideas, our womanly hearts, our simple and silly and anxious thoughts with a magnificent God who looks forward to hearing those ideas, to experiencing our hearts, and all the thoughts we have throughout the day and in the middle of the night.  He’s in, ALL IN, to us, ladies.  Worship him today!!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

This Morning

Some mornings (like this morning), I think it'd be nice if our only child, an 11-month-old bringer of joy, would take a few hours or more-long nap...ha! :) (This is unlikely as it's usually only about an hour.) Then I could read a book (currently reading Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning and just LOVEing it! Oh, it is good good good. Please read.) and sip my coffee and eat a pumpkin muffin, and fold a few loads of laundry, and pick up the messes she made before she took her nap (she is into emptying every basket/cupboard/box right now - I think her exploring is good, so I let her go at it!), and write here on my blog, and hmm...maybe do something crafty (I have a list of things I want to do....some sewing, some mod-podging, refresh my memory on knitting, organize photos into an album...). Yes, that would be nice somedays, eh? But, the truth is, she is about to wake up soon. Soon. Sometimes I'm rushing to get things done before I think she might wake up.  I will take it slow and easy the first half hour then the last half hour boom, boom, boom...I'm getting as much done as I can squeeze in! I, admit, the feeling of accomplishment over the household chores feels good...and it looks good. I like when loads of laundry aren't making my living room look like a room used as a giant laundry basket anymore. :)

So, I've been thinking of a few things to write about lately. Um...One, is how my husband and I are growing in and experiencing (after a long stale season) our sonship and daughtership in God more than we ever have in our adult lives (and I want to share how we are discovering this inner work of the Holy Spirit the last two years, especially); Two, how I have been arising to be a fighter (hmm)...a fighter for what is best in this place called the world where horrible things happen...a fighter to bring my Father's heavenly home to earth, and hearing Jesus' prayer in my mind's ear "Your Kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven" with a deep, fierce passion; Three, something I just wanted to share this morning as I was outside with my 11-month-old beauty queen, and here it is...

I love the surroundings of trees, animals, plants, sky, clouds, sunshine, moon, stars, rainbows, etc. that I get to live in everyday. And that you get to live in everyday.  This morning, my daughter and I were outside watching a half dozen squirrels scurry about the yard (which is covered in gorgeous confetti leaves thanks to the tall trees above and God's great idea of "Fall"), gathering nuts for the coming winter. We were in wonder. My daughter stared these squirrels down. How peculiar, I imagine she wondered, like Alice arriving in Wonderland.

(I also love when a whisk of wind goes by us, she looks all around, wondering where this invisible sight and feeling comes from and where it could be going.)

Earlier this week, I was on a walk and my breath was literally taken away and my mind unable to comprehend the beauty of the color of the leaves about us, falling around us, the smell in the air, the coolness of the day and how it felt on my face, the sun's warm rays finding room to reach us through the trees branches, etc. It was just amazing. I knew I was made for this. And I was filled with thanksgiving and joy (I could've danced and shouted right there! - and I kinda did a toned down version) for the glorious environment my Papa God has made for me, has given me, to have rhythm with....and for me to tell myself in that moment that this is just a fringe of my Father's creativity, I was ecstatic and overwhelmed.  This priveleged, beautiful planet (perfectly tilted at 23 degrees producing our seasons, weighing an estimated six sextillion pounds, and spinning me around on it's invisible axis more than thousand miles an hour) tells me "OH, I AM THOUGHT OF! CARED FOR! LOVED!!!"

One more wonderful thing that happened at the zoo earlier this week. (Side note: I am thankful for zoos in that I get to see really cool animals with my own eyes, but I am also so saddened too...I want the singing dogs to have miles to run, not small spaces to pace over and over.).  So the wonderful thing? The polar bear. The polar bear! Oh, the polar bear. He/she was amazing us over and over.  She was swimming around and around her pool, pushing off the glass to do the back stroke. It was soooooooo cool!! Among the 20 or so people watching, I was the loudest with my "Wow! Oh my goodness! So amazing!" and laughter bursts of joy as I watched that big white polar bear push off the glass and swim round and round.  My daughter was also squealing and clapping her hands!  YES, WE PRAISE YOU, GOD!! WONDERFUL ARE YOUR WORKS!!