Where’s the Line?

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To be honest, a lot of questions arise for me after the recent conviction of the Alberta couple who “failed to offer the necessities of life” to their son who died of meningitis.  On the one hand, I do agree that they failed their son, that they should have sought medical attention a heck of a lot sooner, and that they are definitely partly responsible for the fatal outcome they experienced.

But on the other hand, I also see them as parents who were doing what they thought and felt was right.  No parent – apart from the small group of seriously deranged, abusive parents out there – wills their child dead.  No parent intends for anything negative to happen to their child.  Especially not sickness and definitely not death.

Really, aren’t we all just doing what WE think is best, even if that is different from what someone else thinks is best?

The fact that a couple can be convicted in the death of their child makes me wonder:

  • What about the parents that slowly kill their children by consistently feeding them unhealthy, fatty, sugary, processed food?  What about the years they suffer from childhood obesity and diabetes (not to mention the shame and insecurity should they be teased or bullied in school because of it)?  Most children go on to continue the cycle as adults, and the outlook for them, according to Statistics Canada, isn’t positive when it comes to disease and life expectancy.  Didn’t they fail to offer the necessities of life (healthy nutrition)?  Why aren’t they on trial?
  • What about parents who smoke in the house and vehicle while their children are present?  The health effects of second hand smoke are terrible, and are responsible for over 1000 infant deaths annually.  Didn’t they fail to offer the necessities of life (healthy air)?  Why aren’t those parents on trial?
  • What about the parents of a child who takes his or her life by suicide?  This is obviously a very sensitive topic to touch on, but for the sake of argument, are the parents responsible at all for the factors involved in a child who is so pained they don’t want to live?  Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Canadians between the ages of 10 and 24, making it a very serious problem in our country.  Which begs the question:  Should parents be held responsible, because they failed to offer the necessities of life for their child to thrive?   Why aren’t they on trial?

A person can argue that these cases are too different from the meningitis case to even compare.  And that’s probably true.  And obviously I am just pushing the envelope to make a point and open up some dialogue, even if it sounds or appears completely insensitive.  These examples aren’t indicative of my own heart and opinions, but rather a way of asking “if this ___ is true, then what about this ___?”

This headline story makes me wonder:  Where do we draw the line after this?  Aren’t we all just doing the best we can, based on our thoughts, feelings, convictions, beliefs – even if that ended in the worst case scenario?  And what about the worst-case scenarios of infants, kids, and young adults who have died in less-obvious (and perhaps slower, more painful) ways due to the choices of their parents?

Either way, as parents, we are certainly responsible.  Either way, we will make mistakes or choose a way that someone doesn’t agree with.  Either way, the death of a child is a tragedy, and being on trial in the wake of your grief likely makes it even harder.  Either way, it’s complicated issue that will never have answers.

Those are my un-edited thoughts on the issue.  What are yours?

 

 

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Healing theology: Why it ticks people off.

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I’m not sure I know a doctrine in the North American church that manages to offend and tick more people off than the doctrine of healing.  (Wait, I do know another one:  Wealth. Combine the two, and you’re in even more trouble.  But that’s a touchy subject for another day…!)

Here are the 4 top reasons I believe it is always God’s will to heal:

  1. Because it says in His Word that He came to heal us and make us whole (Psalm 103 and many others).  He came to give us an abundant life (John 10:10) and to destroy the works of the enemy (1 John 3:8).  We know from Scripture that sickness is a work of the enemy, not from God.  How do we know this?  Because only good can come from God.  He is not suffering from multiple personalities – He is either Jehovah Rapha (our healer), or He is the giver of sickness.  He can’t be both, and He only says He’s one of those things.  We know which one if we read His Word.  (Also, why would he put sickness on people, just to have Jesus come and take it away from them?  Jesus wasn’t able to work against the Father, so if sickness was the Father’s work, Jesus would have been working against Him if he healed.)
  2. Because Jesus came and healed ALL he came in contact with.   There is not one place in the New Testament where Jesus left someone unhealed and told them it was God’s will that they remain the way they were.  (The thorn in Paul’s flesh doesn’t count, because it states it was a “messenger of satan” – not sickness  – and it was eventually removed once Paul learned to lean on God’s grace and not himself.)
  3. Because the Greek word for “saved” (SOZO – my favourite topic that I will scream from the mountaintop to free people from religious bondage – and the subject of my recent tattoo!) also means “physically healed”.  In fact, there are many places in the NT where the word “sozo” was used when someone received a physical healing:  The woman with the issue of blood and the ten lepers, just to name a couple.   Healing is part of the same package that salvation is part of.
  4. Jesus told us repeatedly in the Gospels that we are to go out and heal the sick, free people of demons, and raise the dead.  Mark 16 says that healing is actually a sign that will follow those who believe.  Luke 9 says that he sent out the disciples to heal ALL diseases.  He wouldn’t tell us to do something we’re not capable of (with him).  And it wasn’t just the disciples, so don’t let yourself off the hook.  The apostles did it too.  It wasn’t just for them, any more than any of the message of the Bible was solely for those who walked with Jesus.  It was for us too.

Here are the top 4 reasons people don’t believe this is true and it downright ticks some people off:

  1. “Because Uncle John died of cancer and lots of people were praying for him.”  Praying for a sick person is actually something Jesus never did.  (I know, right?!)  And just because he wasn’t healed, why does that change what God’s will was and is?  God’s will is that NONE should perish (2 Peter 3:9), yet people still perish and fail to repent. There is a big gap between what God desires for us and what actually happens, because we have free will.
  2. Circumstance theology:  this is the fancy word for #1.  It’s when people take our earthly circumstances (ie: the healing didn’t or hasn’t happened), and then determine God’s will based on that.  Uncle John died of cancer so that must mean that it’s not always God’s will that people are healed.  A good rule of thumb that I’ve learned, is that NOT EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS LINES UP WITH THE WILL OF GOD.  There are things that have happened in my day already today that were not the will of God.  Yet they still happened, because there are two forces that work against God’s will:  1. The enemy; and 2. My own flesh.  Now, the great news is that both of those things can be overcome.  But if you maintain your belief that whatever happens – even if you activated the church prayer chain about it – is God’s will, you will never get to the point of overcoming those things, because you are missing their involvement completely.
  3. Christians love to spiritualize suffering.  For some reason, we think we are to suffer for Jesus.  Yes, trials will come.  Yes, we are told to take part in Christ’s suffering.  But if you look at the original Greek, we are to “simpatiko” with Christ – to identify with, to have compassion, and to be of one mind with – not physically suffer.  Jesus was called to suffering so that we might be saved through him; my suffering does not accomplish that.  Yes, God will use the hard things I go through to refine me, but He doesn’t author them.  He would much rather I learn through seeking Him and heeding His Word, just like I would rather my children learn not to run in the road because I tell them, and not because they got hit by a car and got paralyzed.
  4. Because we don’t see it happening.  (P.S. You should go somewhere where it is.  It’s way more exciting!)  Just because we don’t see it, again, doesn’t mean it’s NOT God’s will.  It just means we’re missing something.  Remember again how Jesus said, “These miraculous signs WILL accompany those who believe (not just disciples): They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages.  They will be able to handles snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them.  They WILL BE ABLE TO PLACE THEIR HANDS ON THE SICK, AND THEY WILL BE HEALED.”  (Mark 16: 17-18)  Jesus said that, not me!

Part of my journey with this, is that I had to get to the point where I asked myself, “Do I believe the Bible, or do I believe my experiences?”  “Do I believe what God said, or do I believe what I see or don’t see?”

Why can we have faith for salvation, but not for healing?  “Sozo” says they’re part of the same package, so why is one part easy to believe and another isn’t?  I believe part of it is because we never see “failed salvations”.  We don’t know if someone actually went to heaven or not.  But we’ve seen people sick with cancer, or lose a baby, or live with diabetes (or perhaps we ourselves have been the person).  So those experiences taint our ability to accept God’s word about healing (but not salvation), and we eventually decide healing must not always be God’s will.

Friend, God is good.  If you’re not experiencing these things in your life, it’s not because God doesn’t want them for you.  It just means you’re like everyone else and you’re on a journey of faith.  There’s no judgement, no condemnation no matter what you believe.  There is no one waiting to wave a finger at you if you don’t believe these things or even if it makes you downright ticked off.  But I encourage you – do your own study.  Dig into it.  Ask God to show you more of Him and what His desire for you is and what His character is.  I need to do this daily, as I grow and change and realize areas where I’ve missed it.  (And there’s lots!)  But regardless, His love for you is great.  And that’s a doctrine that we can all agree on.  🙂

So maybe your answer to my title question is different than mine.  Perhaps your answer to why this theology ticks people off is because you think it’s wrong, faulty theology.  You’re entitled to that opinion, and I am open to hearing where in Scripture it says that sickness and disease come from God, or that He won’t heal us.  I am always open to some good discussion!

I’ll leave this on this note:  I heard a quote once that really resonated with me, and it said something along the lines of:

The truth that has the most chains around it 

is the one that has the most ability to set you free.

So maybe – just maybe? – has the enemy put enormous amounts of chains around the doctrine of healing in our church, because it is that very truth that has the MOST ability to set people free?  Why does God being SO good anger people the way it does, instead of excite and spur them on to walk in more of His goodness?  I guess that is for each of us to ponder and decide for ourselves.

Peace and blessings.  Thanks for hearing my heart.

 

Why I’m not sure “Curvy Barbie” is a good thing

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Barbie – with her impossibly tiny waist, ridiculously long skinny limbs, and gigantic, perky bust – has long been accused for warping the minds of young girls and forever skewing their ideals of what a woman should be.  As a response, Mattel recently announced their launch of a line of new Barbies with different body shapes.  This move has been met with, from what I have seen, mostly positive responses.  But I’m not so keen.

I guess I never felt like the original Barbie was a bad thing; I feel like I always KNEW that she wasn’t real (her being a DOLL was my first clue…), so the fact that I didn’t look like her never really phased me.  The same way that my inability to look like a Cabbage Patch Doll didn’t bother me either.  (Although I do remember wondering why I couldn’t have a cute little “outie” like they did!)

She was a doll.  I was not.  She was not real.  I am.  Because of those (rather important) facts, I never felt compelled to compare my body with hers.  Her and I were apples and oranges.  The obvious differences between Barbie and Sarah were so real, comparison was not a thought in my mind.  She was SO far on the other end of the spectrum, that any message of “you should look more like Barbie” was never even a blip on my radar.

But now, I fear, that thought of comparison is being put into girls’ minds by the very change that is meant to eradicate it.

Where Barbie was once a stock, unchanging, unrealistic body ideal, Mattel has now made her a little more real.  A little more like us.

Where once girls played with her and didn’t even notice Barbie’s long legs, full chest, and tiny waist, they now will, because she will be beside dolls that don’t have those things, and it will be impossible not to notice.

Because sometimes you don’t notice an attribute until it’s alongside something that’s different.  Of course different is good, different is real.  But when it comes to the argument of whether or not this change is going to make a positive difference in how Barbie will affect a young girl’s body image, I’m not sure this is a good different.  Because now, we’re not comparing apples with oranges anymore.  Barbie is looking a lot more like an apple.  And that is opening up the door for that comparison to happen.

Let’s face it: line up 10 original Barbies, and there’s not much to notice.  There maybe be differences in skin, eye, and hair colour/style, but all have the same bodies.  Then line up 10 new Barbies, that all have different body shapes.  Now all of a sudden, I’m starting to notice the differences.  And because girls are already getting the message of what society wants them to look like from media (I don’t think Barbie is the culprit!), they can look at those different shaped Barbies and compare.  And if I’m a girl who identifies more with short, curvy Barbie, and I’m struggling with body image and self esteem, then I’m not so sure I would like what I see next to tall, slender Barbie.

Do you get what I’m saying?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a big believer in healthy body image for girls and boys, I’m a big believer in self esteem, in being comfortable in your body, whatever your shape.  I’m a big believer that we all have worth; size and weight and shape and colour are what make each of us unique, but they don’t have the ability to decrease our intrinsic value.  I have a daughter and never want her to worry about her body, or about being good enough.  I want her to value her health (emotional AND physical), but never want her to tie that to a certain size or feel pressure to look a certain way.

I have slim friends and I have heavy friends, and everything in between.  I fell in love with my husband when he was 30 lbs. heavier than he is now.  I know we all get affected by advertising and media to some degree, but when I look at a person I care about, I look at them.  I don’t see a size label, or a number on a scale.  I see my friend.

So in a world where we’re so conscious of labels, I’m wondering why we’re so excited about a line of Barbies that is doing exactly that?  That is now labelling women as “tall” or “petite” or “curvy”?  How about just leaving her the way she is?  Every unrealistic inch of her.  She’s not real, who cares what her size is?

Barbie never carried a size label, but now she does.  Now every little girl who buys a Barbie will get to choose what size and shape she wants.  Or will be given a size by someone else’s choosing.  She will now be cognizant of body differences, of labels for those differences, of which shape of Barbie might look like her or her friend.  And how do we choose? How in the world will I choose a Barbie for my daughter, without giving her a wrong message in her tender years?  If I buy her tall, skinny Barbie, she might feel like she doesn’t match up.  If I buy her short, curvy Barbie, she might feel like I’m trying to make a statement about her body.

I often feel like our world makes a bigger deal about size that we should.  I feel like opening up the conversation is great, but somehow we’re all still obsessed about size.  I feel like we’re still giving labels, and in the face of trying to be accepting, we’re actually giving more stock to those differences and those labels.    And now Barbie is taking part too.

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

Drink the Whole Cup

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Yesterday at church, we went up for communion as a family.  Our little Josie sipped the juice out of the cup she was handed, and started to return her used cup back to the tray, when she hesitated.  She had realized that she had only managed to slurp out about half of her juice.  She quickly took it back, excitedly drank up the remainder of what was hers, and we all headed back to our seats.

As we walked back, that picture really made me think.  I used to not get all of what Jesus had done for me on the cross.  I sipped the top, and then blindly handed it back, believing I had gotten it all without double checking.  I was wasting what had been given to me, because I did not even know that more existed.

I leaned over to Kris once we got back to our seats, and told him how I thought that scene was really a picture of our journey out of religion.  Once, we were just skimming the surface of our cup, of what Jesus did for us, but we were leaving a whole pile of it in there to be wasted.  And once we found out there was more in there, we had a choice whether or not we would hand it back half full, or grab it back enthusiastically like my girl had done, and get ALL of what was ours.  We all have a choice.  Are we all being as thorough as Josie, getting in that last sip of what Jesus has done for us?  Are we getting the full picture?

Salvation is an amazing gift.  The forgiveness of all of our sins is baffling and hard to even imagine.  But those things are just part of what Jesus did for us on the cross.  If you’re going to drink any part of what Jesus has for you, that is a great place to start.  But there are promises in there that have to do with this life on earth, that enable us to have victory over the works of the enemy, and that help us have the abundant life He wanted for us (John 10:10).  There is more in that cup than a promise about what happens to us when we die.

So what else is in there?

In the original Greek, the word that was translated into our English language as “saved” or “salvation”  was one word: SOZO.  The Strong’s Concordance tells us that “sozo” means “to save, i.e. deliver or protect (literally or figuratively), heal, preserve, save (self), do well, be (make) whole.”  It was used in places where salvation was being discussed, but also for deliverance, and healings as well.  So “salvation” is really more than just about our eternal destiny.  To accept Jesus only for salvation is better than not, but that would be equal to slurping up only the top portion of that communion cup.  “Sozo” tells us that the cup is also made up of physical healing (the fact that it’s mentioned separately from salvation and forgiveness in the Bible tells us it’s not just a “spiritual” healing; not to mention, many times that a person was physically healed in the Bible, the word “sozo” was used), deliverance (which means complete freedom from oppression), protection, the ability to do well, and the promise to be made whole.

It is a package deal.  It all goes together when you drink the whole cup.  Those elements of “sozo” are the benefits David sang about in Psalm 103, that he did not want to forget.  The fact that he makes a point of saying “don’t let me forget” leads me to believe that the enemy must want us forgetting – or never knowing about – God’s benefits (just drinking the surface), because he does not want us living them out and being a witness of the complete SOZO package to people.  And having Christians just slurping up the top drops of the communion cup – and not even believing more exists – is a great tactic to make that happen.  If I were the enemy, I’d be terrified of believers who were living out all of God’s benefits, and would hate the little Josies who, in faith, grab that cup and take all of what belongs to them.  And like Josie, David didn’t want to miss anything either.  In this passage, he is in essence crying out, “Lord, let me always drink the WHOLE cup!”  He wanted ALL of God’s benefits, which he goes on to say are things like being forgiven, being healed (which he states separately from salvation and forgiveness, so again, NOT “spiritual” healing) from ALL of our diseases, being redeemed from death, having our youth renewed, and having our lives filled with good things.  In other words: SOZO.

If you grew up like me, and you knew about the gift of salvation, but you’ve been handing that cup back half full, I encourage you to seek what else God has for you.  I encourage you to ask God what benefits you may be missing.  I encourage you to seek His goodness and in faith, take it all.  It’s not selfish to receive a gift.  It’s not selfish to make sure you got it all, so that the remainder doesn’t go to waste.  It’s a way to be thankful.  It’s a way to live in ALL of His fullness so that you can turn around and share those benefits with a hurting world that needs it.   It’s a way to tell Jesus that He didn’t pour out his blood in vain, and that you’re going to make sure no drop of it was wasted.  It’s a way to live out what we are called to do – to destroy the works of the enemy and to seek and save the lost.  And we were meant to do those things FULL of the complete sozo package.

Take it.  He thought of you when he spilled his blood, so don’t hand the cup back to him half full.

How to be the Perfect Mom

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Aha – gotcha.  The very fact that you clicked on this title affirms the fact that as moms, as parents, as humans, we’re all trying to be better.

But I think we’ve gotten into a pretty scary cycle.

Not that striving towards excellence and doing-something-different-next-time-so-we-don’t-repeat-yesterday’s-mistakes are wrong.  I’m not talking about that stuff.  I’m talking about “mom pressure“.  I’m talking about the push we all feel to do more and be more, because at the end of the day, we just don’t feel like we’re enough.

I think you know what I’m talking about.  All you have to do is read the articles that pop up on your Facebook newsfeed or check out popular pins on Pinterest.

We should be home.  But we should work.

We should breastfeed, but not too long.

We should bake healthy, home-cooked meals everyday (watch out for GMOs while you’re at it!), but we shouldn’t spend too much time in the kitchen.

We shouldn’t be fat, but we shouldn’t be too skinny.

We should potty-train our kids by 3, but don’t try too soon or you’re pushing your kids.

We should do crafts with our children, but also have clean, organized houses.

We should spend time with our kids.  But we should make sure they’re okay without us.

We should wear our babies, make sure we keep them in rear-facing carseats until they’re 12, take off their winter coats to put them in those carseats, not feed them nitrates or pesticides or GMOs, teach them the alphabet by the time they’re 3, make sure they wash their hands before eating, keep a clean house, stay on top of laundry, keep the kids’ screen time to a minimum, keep our own screen time to a minimum, exercise, attempt to keep up friendships…  and all the while look refreshed, poised, rested, well-groomed, and have sex every night with our husbands if we want to have a good marriage.

Here’s the thing:

Crafts aren’t bad.  But they don’t matter if you’re dying inside.

Potty-training is good.  But it doesn’t matter if you’re exhausted.

Healthy meals are good.  But they don’t matter if you’re not healthy on the inside.

Breastfeeding is good.  But it doesn’t matter if you have no more to give anyone.

Time with your husband matters.  But not if you’re running on fumes.

And those things really don’t matter if you are turning to them to feel good about yourself as a mother.  And if you are using those things to feel good about yourself, I can guarantee you two things: 1) It’s not working; and 2) You’re exhausted.  I know.  Oh, I know.

The real problem here is that we’ve used those things as a counterfeit for worth.  If I do x amount of crafts with my children, then I’m a good mom.  If I feed them organic food, then I’m a good mom If I keep an immaculate home, then I’m a good mom.

(What’s your “if”?  If I _________, then I feel like a good mom.)

We are wearing ourselves out chasing after an ideal that doesn’t exist.  No mother upholds all of those things.  (And if I were to meet one, I’d hug her, tell her to sit down, and I’d be getting her a nap and a therapist!)

The first danger here is that looking to our “doing” for our sense of worth and feeling like we’re enough is a Bermuda triangle that will always suck us in deeper and deeper.  Doing will never fill our tank.  We have to know and believe we are enough, independent of those things.

Another danger lies here – if you are evaluating ourselves based on what you do or don’t do as a mother, you can bet you’re doing that to the mothers around you as well.  I think that’s why moms are so darn hard on each other.  You can’t be judging yourself harshly and by an unrealistic measuring stick without doing the same to others.

The only time we are prone to judge is when we ourselves are feeling insecure.  When we feel like we’re drowning in insecurity and unworthiness, it’s human instinct to flail around and drown the person beside us so we can get our own head above the water again.  I know for myself, when I am feeling bad about myself for how I’m stacking up as a mom (and as a human in general), I look to those around me to find ways and places that I am better.  If I can feel better about myself because I have a clean home and so-and-so doesn’t, it’s a quick and easy (but counterfeit and fleeting) way to feel okay again.  Wow, that’s ugly.  It’s ugly to be on either end of that cycle.  And we are doing no-one a favour by perpetuating those behaviours.  In fact, we end up pushing away and disconnecting from the very people that we need beside us in this journey of motherhood – other moms.

The last danger is this: we can’t give our kids what we don’t have ourselves.  This was a concept I learned years ago, and as a parent am constantly using it to remind myself that most parenting skills are really just a matter of me fixing my own crap.  If we don’t feel like you’re enough, and we look to our performance to stack up, how can ever expect to teach our children that they are enough?  How can we teach them not to put down another person when we ourselves are putting down others daily with our critical eye?  How can we teach our kids that they matter, no matter whether they got an A in spelling or spent the day in the principal’s office?  The simple (but hard) answer is that we can’t.  We really cannot give what we don’t have.

So what’s the solution?  How do we really become the perfect mom?  By realizing we never can be.  But by also realizing we are enough.  Without the crafts, without the homemade-organic-vegan-sugar-free baking, without the storybook marriage, without the lickable toilets.  Go ahead and have those things, but don’t do them to be good enough.  Those things are much more enjoyable when you already know you are enough.

The other solution, for me, is Jesus.  Everyday, Jesus.  He tells me I’m enough.  He loves me when I’ve yelled at my kids instead of using the 6 steps to stop whining.  He loves me when my floors are disgusting and we eat cereal for supper.  He loves me when my hair is bad and I put off my husband and I haven’t had coffee with friends for weeks.  He loves me when I’m tired and spend the day on Facebook instead of doing math activity books with the kids.  Humans (including and especially myself) aren’t nearly so forgiving.  He always is.  He never focused on people’s behaviour; He never defined people by what they did or didn’t do.  Whether it was sleeping with multiple men or being a thieving tax collector.  Even when it was his own friend betraying Him.  He loved, and whispered in His own way to each of them, “you’re enough.  You matter.”

It’s not about what you do.  Take a newborn, for example.  When you’re holding that baby, and love is welling up inside of you like you’ve never felt before, let me ask you – what did that baby do to deserve your love?  We know that the answer is nothing.  That’s the same as Jesus’ love for us.  He loved us before we did one good thing or one bad thing.  None of that matters to Him.  Your heart matters.

The reason this is such good news to us as moms is because it gives us permission to just be.  It gives us the freedom to be real and stop pretending.  It gives us the freedom to exercise and do crafts, but not while being driven from a sense of insecurity and worthlessness.  It gives us the freedom to do those things from a place of knowing our worth and value and doing it just because we want to.  It gives us the freedom to connect with another mom without facades which damage and tear down.  It gives us the freedom to have grace for ourselves and others.

The other great part, is that when we stop trying to be a perfect mom, we actually become the great mother we always were.  We can teach our children the lessons that matter – about authenticity, vulnerability to be ourselves, how to make mistakes and not have it connected to our identity, and that they matter apart from what they do, just like we do.  We can teach them to be real, because we are okay to be real.  We can teach them that they are enough, because we know that we are.

That is how to be the perfect mom.

I used to be an angry mom

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I used to be an angry mom.

I didn’t mean to be.   I didn’t want to be.  And I hadn’t always been like that.

With my first child, sure, I had moments when I lost my temper.  I had moments when my reaction exceeded what was necessary for the situation.   But it wasn’t the norm.  Until I got pregnant with my second child.

Then all hell broke loose.  Or at least, a lot more often than it had before.  And the difference wasn’t just in the frequency of my anger, it was in my total inability to control it.

Oh, I would try.  Milk would be spilled, shoes put on too slowly when I was in a rush, a nap refused when I needed a small respite so badly, toys not cleaned up.  It was like he was 2!  (Oh, wait…)  Without meaning to, my anger would flare and bubble out of me like an erupting volcano.  My little guy was constantly being scorched by the fury that overflowed out of his tired, overwhelmed mama.  And it wasn’t his fault.  A parent’s anger is never a  child’s fault.

I felt terrible.  And the guilt was just one more thing in my already-overflowing bucket of emotion.  The icing on the cake was the day I was trying – trying oh so hard! – to stay calm while disciplining my son down on his level.  I was so proud of myself, feeling like maybe just maybe I had conquered this anger thing.  Then he laughed, threw his head back, and head-butted me square on the nose.

I sat back on my knees and just wept, big pregnant belly bouncing with every sob that shook my shoulders.  That was it.  I was done.

So I did what any good parent would do.  I bought a book.  A book would fix me.

“Parenting Without Stress or Frustration” – that should do it.  Yes.

I read the book from cover to cover in a matter of days.  (In mom-years, that’s really quick.)  It gave me a lot of great tips and a lot of good food for thought.  It talked a lot about how parents need to control themselves and their emotions.  Perfect.  I just needed to act better.

In the following days and weeks, I was gung-ho to implement what I had learned.  Control myself, control my emotions, don’t add more frustration to this situation, stay calm was the mantra I repeated to myself in tough parenting situations.  Sometimes it worked.  But mostly it didn’t.

It was really just more of what I had been doing before.  Trying.  And failing.  And then trying harder.  And failing more.  And then being exhausted.  And guilty.  Oh, the guilt.

Although it was a good book in and of itself, the one piece of the puzzle it failed to mention or address was the ROOT issue.  Dealing with anger and rage is not about controlling it, or having more will power next time.  In fact, doing it that way (and failing) usually just adds to the anger you are trying to remove.  A wise man that I know put it this way:  Wound trumps will.  If you have an underlying wound in your heart that is causing the anger, and underlying belief systems that are not working for you, you can have all the willpower in the world and you won’t fix the problem.

It’s like a tree that keeps producing bad fruit.  You can keep cutting the fruit off, which is what I was doing and what the book suggested, but anyone knows that the fruit keeps growing back.  Cutting bad fruit off is exhausting.   Really, really exhausting.  And if you felt out of control before… well, you will feel worse after that.  Everyone knows that to be rid of the bad fruit once and for all, you need to cut that sucker of a tree out by the root.

So that’s what I started doing.

I began realizing that I had things in my emotional bucket from long before I had a toddler and was pregnant with another child.  The reason that it was bubbling over, was that my bucket had gone down a size.  Where I once had a, say, Big Gulp cup holding all of my emotion and hurt and other issues in (where it fit quite nicely and it wasn’t running over), I had now poured all of that into a grande Starbucks cup.

What I mean is that what I was able to cope with before being pregnant, I was no longer able to cope with because of the extra hormones and added stress to my life.  Any woman knows that once a month, her emotional sensitivity is a little heightened.  But the saving grace of that, is that it lasts for a relatively short period of time, so it doesn’t usually require us to address it.  Pregnancy lasts a lot longer.  As does any other added stress.  This principle works the same for hormonally-related times in life, changes in career, or dealing with an overwhelming situation in your life.  (I also believe that a lot of times, Post-Partum Depression is the same – I believe that the potential for depression was always there, but that we are able to cope with it and function around it up until we have all the hormonal change and overwhelming feelings of having a newborn.  And then when life settles out, we can cope through it again, but the depression didn’t disappear completely.)

You can’t pour your Big Gulp cup into a 12 oz. coffee cup and expect there not to be overflow.  There always is.  And the people around you usually get soaked.

I started digging into my heart and finding out what was there.  It was a bit messy.  It was a bit ugly.  I had a lot of hurt in my life that I had, quite successfully, shoved way down and covered with a nice, tidy little lid.  Smile, nod, smile some more.  I looked great, because no one could see the sess-pool bubbling beneath the surface.  Heck, I hadn’t seen it either.  The Big Gulp cup with the lid on it had done it’s job gloriously.  But now it was time to remove the lid and deal with it.

It was a journey of addressing the hurt and anger in my life, and really getting at the root of it.  I learned that all anger really is is an expression of hurt that has not been dealt with, and has had the chance to take root in your heart.  I had to figure out what lies about myself and my life I had believed through experiences I had had, and then challenge those with the truth.

I had to relive some of the emotions I had felt as  I dealt with my past.  It was like looking through a photo album, and remembering the emotion attached to each photo.  Though these weren’t happy photos.

It was painful, but necessary.  It was like removing a bandage off of an oozing, pus-filled wound.  It was hard.  I had to journal, and cry, and get really mad.

And then I had to forgive.  I had to ask God to show me the truth about people who had hurt me.  I had to develop grace for them, and realize that their intentions had not been to hurt me.  I had to realize that they had wounded me out of their own wounds.  Hurt people hurt people.

I also had to take responsibility.  What I was going through was not just a blame game where I got to play the victim.  Not at all.  I had to take ownership of what I had done with those experiences.  I had to deal with all the people I had hurt as a result of the crap in my life that I hadn’t dealt with yet.  I had to ask forgiveness, from God and sometimes from those people where I could.  I had to repent of being bitter and angry, for not forgiving, and for holding all of that in my heart.  Because people will hurt us, but it is our choice what we do with it.

I had done a lot of self-damaging things with my anger too.  I had made a lot of poor choices because of the crap in my bucket.  I had to sift through all of that too.  I had to ask for, and receive, God’s forgiveness for that.  I had to forgive myself.  And then I had to choose to see myself as the different person I knew that I had become.

God healed me and brought me total freedom.  And He totally sheltered me under His wing as we went through it together.  He never left my side.

And for the record, this freedom feels awesome.  Do I still sometimes feel angry?  Absolutely.  Do I lose my temper and yell on occasion?  Yes.  But I am not in bondage to it anymore.  In fact, when I do start to feel a bit of that coming back, it’s an amazing barometer for the state of my heart; it’s a little bit of an engine light coming on telling me there is something not quite right that needs my attention.  And I deal with it.  Not always right away, but I am getting quicker.

So if you can relate to anything I am saying, and I think you know if you can, I encourage you to get on your knees and ask God what crap you are holding on to that is causing you to be emotionally sick.  It’s that stuff that is keeping you from being your best, that is controlling you and keeping you out of control.  Because let me tell you, dealing with your anger is not an issue of trying harder, having more control, or thinking happy thoughts.  Being a better parent is not an issue of not using Facebook as much, trying to have more patience, or reading more books.  Those things might help, but again, bad-fruit-maintenance or from-the-root-demolition?  It’s your choice.

And please, oh please, don’t buy a bigger bucket.  Empty the one you have.

(As always, please feel free to share these posts with anyone you know who could use my experiences to help them.  We need to stick together and help learn from each other’s mistakes as well as their victories!)

Josie’s birth story

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Although sweet Josephine is already 9 (nine?!) months old, I really wanted to share her birth story with you.

My previous experiences with birth were not awesome.  I remember being terrified, in a lot of pain, not being able to cope, and ending up with epidurals, vacuums, stitches, and really painful recoveries.  Not to mention the horrible symptoms of pregnancy that preceded all of that.  It had not been a lot of fun, and they were not the kind of experiences that had me beating down the door to sign up again.

The year before we ended up getting pregnant with Josie, I had started thinking that maybe birth didn’t have to be so awful.  I remember at Christmas time, hearing a song on the radio about how Mary would have toiled and been in pain giving birth to Jesus.  Right away inside of me, and I believe I even said it out loud without even hesitating, I thought “Yeah right!”  I just didn’t believe that Mary would have been in excruciating pain and having an awful time giving birth to the Savior of the world that would eventually redeem her.

Think about it.  She rode on a camel while she was 9 months pregnant.  She gave birth with no medical staff and only her husband there (that’s a WHOLE  other ball of wax right there!) and in a barn, to boot.  I remember always thinking that Mary must have had a special grace given to her because she was carrying and birthing the Son of God.  It just didn’t seem right to me that Jesus, who healed all that he came in contact with and who walked in the utmost peace and love and mercy, would have come into the world amidst screaming and terrorizing pain.  I imagined a completely peaceful, safe, JOYFUL birth.

But then I got to thinking, couldn’t that happen for me too?  If God could do that for Mary, couldn’t He do it for me?  I remember looking in the Bible at the part where the curse came on Adam and Eve, because that is where we get our idea of birth being painful.  It’s interesting to me that the part of the curse was specified for how it would affect males and females differently: Adam was told he would have to toil to provide for his family, and Eve was told that her pain in pregnancy and childbirth would be increased.  BUT, Paul tells us in Galatians 3:13 that “Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law”.  So was it possible that the curse over women had been redeemed by Jesus’ death on the cross?  I believed it was, but had never heard anyone talk about it before.  It rang in my spirit as such truth, and I was confused as to why we weren’t hearing about this more.  Pain-free child-birth?!  Hello!  Sign me up!

Not long after those thoughts started going through me, I happened to see a book entitled “Supernatural Childbirth” on a friend’s bookshelf.  This woman is an amazing woman of faith, and someone I respect and admire a great deal, and I was so excited to see how God had used her to bring this book into my path.  And at such a time.  I asked about it, and decided to just order a copy for myself, knowing it would be one I would come to often.

It arrived a short while later, and as I enjoyed a nice quiet bath one evening, read the book from cover to cover.  All of the thoughts and feelings I had been having about birth were all confirmed in this short book.  The promises of God regarding pregnancy and childbirth were that they didn’t have to be awful.  I didn’t have to suffer.  I could feel good in pregnancy.  I could give birth peacefully and without pain and toil.  Could it really be so?

I excitedly shared all I had read and learned with Kris, who instantly agreed with me.  We read the book together, and we were in full agreement that it could really be like that.  The only hitch was that we hadn’t really been talking about having a third child.  I remember thinking, as I was reading, that even though we hadn’t really talked about having more kids, that I’d really like to try it all again, just to have a different experience than I’d had before.

As fate would have it (and obviously fate = God!), we ended up getting pregnant that following summer.  I was excited to see how this time around, things would be different.

And they were.  Oh, how different they were!

I did deal with some nausea in the first couple of months, but I knew all along that it was just the enemy trying to convince me early on that I couldn’t have what God had promised.  I pressed on, and kept believing that I had been redeemed from all the crappy parts of pregnancy.  It subsided, and I felt like a million dollars after that.  I had energy, I felt great, I wasn’t sore, I slept like a baby!  I worked out all the way through my pregnancy.  It was amazing.  I can’t even begin to tell you how different it was from my previous experiences.  You really might not believe me anyways.  🙂

Kris and I had a list of things that we were believing for regarding the birth of our little girl. Ephesians 3:20 states, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us”.  What a promise that God wants us to think and ask, and then on top of it, He wants to do even more!  We also stood on the truth of James 4:2 that states that we do not have the things we desire because we do not ask.  So we decided to ask!

So here are some of the things we believed for:  We believed that the day she was to be born, that I would wake up, go into labour, and be done within a few hours.  We had missed whole nights of sleep before our boys were born, and we just didn’t want to do it that way again.  We would be well-rested this time!  We believed I would not be in pain, and that the birth would be quick and easy.  We also believed that although I would not in pain, that I would still have contractions and would therefore actually know I was in labour.  We believed I would be and stay in perfect peace, knowing that fear can create pain, and knowing that God’s perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).  We believed that we would get to the hospital in time and that the right staff would be there.  We believed I would not need stitches and that my recovery would be quick and easy.  We believed I would not go overdue and need to be induced, but that I would also not have her early and that she would be full-term and healthy.

April 7, a Sunday, I had a great long nap in the afternoon.  I woke up, and had an urge to clean the house.  The boys were all playing outside, so I pumped up some great tunes and got to it.  Kris came in, surprised to see me in all my cleaning glory, dancing away and cleaning my little heart out.  Cleaning quickly turned into a dance party, and we had a blast. Oh, and we played swords:

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We both figured that this little one’s birth must be imminent!

That night, I woke early in the morning to the feeling of just need to have a good bowel movement.  I was only slightly crampy feeling, but definitely not uncomfortable.  After using the bathroom and figuring today would be the day, I went back to bed.  I didn’t even bother waking Kris and telling him, as I knew he would wake up and then likely not go back to sleep.  I feel asleep and slept until 7am, when our household usually gets up for the day.

I figured I was probably in labour, and so I hopped in the shower right away.  I was going to look decent if I was meeting my daughter today!  As I was showering, I kept having pain-less contractions.  They were just tightenings of my uterus, just like Braxton-Hicks contractions.  Though they were not painful, they were strong and regular, and I knew labour had begun.  I got out of the shower and texted Kris (we have a two-storey and I didn’t want to run downstairs in my skivvies), asking him to bring me a cup of coffee while I did my hair and make-up.  Then I texted again, telling him he should probably call our friends to come get the boys as it was time to go to the hospital once I was ready.  He didn’t reply, and was at the door of the bathroom in about 1.7 seconds.  He looked at me while I stood there calmly straightening my hair, “really?!”  Yes, really!  I told him that the contractions were strong and regular.  It was go time!

As a side story, our little rural hospital had called us the Friday before (it was Monday now), telling us that our doctor would not be in until after Tuesday.  If we were to go into labour, they told us we would have to go elsewhere.  I was immediately devastated, and then happened to look up to see what I had written on our scripture chalkboard just a few days before:

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Oh right, that!  I decided I would not fear, and it was in God’s hands.  It wouldn’t matter where I delivered, He would keep me safe.

So when I went into labour, Kris said, “you know what?  I’m just going to call out to Daysland and see if we can go there.  You never know.”  So he called, and the head unit nurse told him to absolutely head out!  Our doctor was back and able to deliver our baby.  Thank you God!

The nurse wanted to talk to me to assess where I was at, and when I couldn’t really tell her how far apart my contractions were, and I was chatting away just fine without the need to breathe through contractions, I don’t think she thought too much of it.  She said, “well, why don’t you just come out and we can at least see where you’re at”.  Ha!

So after getting a few things arranged, and waiting for our friends to arrive, we left.  It was about 830, and we had a 1/2 hour drive out to the hospital.  I popped in my Scripture music, and told Kris I just needed to listen to my music and not talk.  It was the most glorious, sunny morning.  I sat and listened to my beautiful music (“Hidden in my Heart” – highly recommended!), while my uterus painlessly contracted away.  At one point I looked over at the speedometer, and was about to give Kris a little heck for not driving faster.  I knew labour was humming along, and he was going a conservative 115!  I decided against it, though, as I knew I just needed to stay in my peaceful state, and let God look after that.  I couldn’t believe that I was able to just sit there upright, totally at peace, while my contractions were coming about 3-4 minutes apart.  I remember thinking, “This is really happening like we believed it would!”

We arrived at the hospital, and the nurse I had talked with on the phone met me.  I smiled and chatted away with them, and they took their time getting me into the delivery room and doing all of my charting.  After about 20 minutes, I was just about to say, “I really, really think you need to check me”, when the nurse said she’d grab the doctor to check me before he headed out.  He did his check, and then said there was only a lip.  I interpreted that as meaning I was only dilated a fingertip, and thought, “crumby!”  I thought I was further along then that.  I asked what that meant, and he said, “you’re 9cm dilated!  There is only a small lip of your cervix left!”  Praise God!  Everyone was shocked and started running around the room getting everything ready.  I was incredulous, even though it was all happening just as we had believed it would.

Below is a photo of me (my last pregnant photo!), smiling while in the transition phase of labour.  (I had an IV for antibiotics for Group B Strep, though in hindsight I wish I would have refused.  I really wasn’t worried about it and they didn’t have time for the full dose anyways.)

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Josephine Sarah was born at 11:16am, just 2 hours after arriving at the hospital.  It would have been much, much sooner had my water broke earlier, but it didn’t matter.  I had spent that time in peace, and it certainly was not horrible as I had remembered labour to be!  I did experience some pain for the last hour, but it was minimal and completely manageable.  By the time it came to push, it all happened very quickly.  The head nurse (who was an obstetrics nurse for 20 years – the perfect staff we had prayed for!) was the one who delivered Josie, since the doctors only made it partway through the pushing!  I pushed only for about 3-5 minutes, and just a few good pushes got her out.  And that part didn’t hurt AT ALL.  I can’t really fully explain it, but it felt amazing to push.  I could feel her as she emerged from my body, pain-free.  It was absolutely amazing.  I did not need any stitches, and my placenta delivered quickly and easily, and the doctor even commented on how much better it had gone than usual.

We were amazed, and the medical staff were amazed.  At one point earlier on in the labour, a new nurse came in and said, “so this is the mom who came in 9cm dilated, smiling and chatting away?  Amazing!”  It was so, so neat and such a testimony of how good our God is.

It was such an awesome journey of faith and believing God.  Josie had been born in the exact timeframe we had believed for, with little to no pain, no stitches, and even the size we had asked for.  (Jack was a 9 1/2 lb baby, and though he was perfect and beautiful, we wanted a baby around 7 1/2 lbs.  Josie was 7 lbs. 11 ozs.)  She wasn’t early and she wasn’t late.  Her due dates were April 6 and 9, and she was born on the 8th.  God is so good!

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She was perfect and healthy, which was the most important thing to us at the end of the day.  And she was, in fact, a SHE!  We were thrilled.  What a perfect addition to our family.

An extra little God-thing, was that we found a knot in the umbilical cord after Josie was born.  I wish we had taken a photo of it.  The doctor showed it to us – it was perfect little knot.  I didn’t know this at the time, but have since heard of multiple babies that were stillborn due to this complication.  The knot inhibits nutrients to get to the baby, and they eventually pass away.  I didn’t even know that could happen, and I am just so, so thankful that my little girl was not affected in the least by the knot.  Wow.

After the birth, I did experience some above-normal bleeding, as some of my placenta had retained.  Though the staff were a bit concerned, and it was a less-than-ideal situation, God was really my rock through that stuff.  I always felt as though my Dad were literally sitting in the chair next to me, holding my hand and telling me it was all okay.  I don’t think I ever felt as close to him as I did then.  And in hindsight, I would have included some post-birth details in our “believing for” list.

Knowing that some tissue had remained and that was what was causing the hemorrhage, we told my body to rid itself of that extra tissue, and shortly after that the piece of placenta removed itself.  (If you’ve ever read “Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth”, she even makes reference about telling women’s bodies to stop bleeding, and they do.  Funny!)  The doctor had mentioned a possible D&C (a surgical scraping of the uterus), or even a transfusion, but no more placenta remained and even though I lost a fair amount of blood, my levels never required me to have a transfusion.  God was so faithful in that part too.  The staff were constantly checking on me and asking if I was dizzy or had headaches, but I felt amazing even though I had lost a lot of blood.  I was a little tired, but didn’t feel as bad as they were expecting me too.  I had a check-up a week after Josie was born, and my iron levels were a decimal point below normal.  Even that part was supernatural.  I felt much, much better than I should have!

Nine months later, I am still sometimes in awe of how it all went down.  I am still praising Jesus for what he did for me during those 9 months and in that delivery room.  I am so thankful that he took the curse for me on the cross, so that I didn’t have to have a horrible time giving birth to my daughter.  I often wish I had had that revelation when my boys were born, but the cool thing about it is that my experiences with them really set me up to want something different.  Those experiences allowed me to put myself in a position to receive and believe God for something better.  Because that’s all He really requires of us – to believe and to receive.

I am so thankful for the gift I have in each of my children.  They are such a blessing to me.  And I am so thankful for my experience with Josie, and I am excited and passionate about sharing my story with other women, so they can experience freedom from fear and pain in pregnancy and childbirth too.  It can happen, because it happened for me.

New wineskins

I used to blog over at a different site, one that I had going for a couple of years.  It’s been nearly 3 years since I have written over there.  When I recently got the bug to start writing again, I battled a bit with the decision of whether to continue with the original blog, or to start a new one.  I started a new one. 

It’s interesting to look back and see the time frame for when I became “silent” on my previous blog.  At that time, Kris and I were weathering a really difficult storm, and we had a pile of things going on around us that were affecting us.  It’s interesting, though, because when I stopped writing was when the worst of the storm was already behind us.  It was like I looked back from my place of safety, when life was good, and just didn’t feel the need to write in that capacity anymore.  

That storm still rages, but we are still inside the safest freight liner around, and we hardly feel the waves.  Even in the heat of what was going on, we really only felt a little bump every now and then.  But the most amazing thing is how that storm has changed us.  Kris and I are the same people as we’ve always, but we’re different in every way.  Is that even possible?!  

God used that season to shape and mold us.  He used it to bring us up to a deeper level of knowing Him, and a deeper understanding of His truth and His heart towards us.  We are the same, but totally different.  Which is where the decision about my blog became muddy.  I wanted to honour where I came from, but I feel like I left that old person behind a long time ago.  About 3 years, to be exact.    

What eventually tipped the scale in favour of a new blog was the following verse about wineskins:

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins.  For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost.  New wine calls for new wineskins.”  (Mark 2:22)

Yes.  I am totally new wine, and new wine needs to be put into new wineskins.

Welcome to my new wineskins.  🙂

 

Welcome!

Hello, and welcome to my blog!  I have had a passion for writing for a long time, and I also have a passion for people to be healed and set free to live the abundant life Jesus has for them.  I am so thankful for what he has done in my life, and what he continues to do, and that is what I want to share with you.

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