Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pregnancy during Advent

For much of the Advent season last year, I was pregnant.

If you are a married Christian, I totally recommend taking the opportunity to be pregnant during Advent, should it arise. As my husband put it, "It gives a whole new meaning to waiting for a child to be born." I thought a lot about Mary's pregnancy with our Lord as I carried my son, and as I went into labor (and went into labor... and went into labor... and went into labor). I wondered about her labor, her pregnancy, and Jesus' birth. I don't know if it was particularly more spiritual than other Advent seasons, but it did help me look at the story differently, consider it from new angles.

And on the day we celebrate the birth of Christ, I had a two-week-old son I was struggling to nurse. (No Christmas pageant at my church, though he certainly would have made a sweet Baby Jesus).

What would Mary have been thinking as Jesus was about two months old? Would it have been clear how special He was, if not for prophesy and predictions made to Joseph and her? Was He brighter and more alert than other babies? Was there a glimmer in His eyes of the soul that existed before the world began? His looks were ordinary, that we might not know Him by those. But as Mary fell into the rhythms of life with her Firstborn Son, were there moments when it was clear that He was also the Firstborn of all creation? Or as He ate and slept and pooped and cried and stared at His mommy and daddy, did He seem like any other two-month-old baby, special in how He entered the world but not in how He dwelled there? Were there moments when Jesus woke in the middle of the night and she asked herself, "Is He really who the angel said He would be? How could this tiny, dependent Baby ever be the One to save us all?" Or was it clear somehow even as she bathed and swaddled and fed her son that he was also the Son of the Most High?

It's an interesting exercise, and one I suspect I'll be doing all of Third's life. All children are miracles--all people--and it's hard to imagine that one day these tiny little people who depend so much on me, who started out as single cells, will one day be a grown woman and a grown man. Third may not be a messiah, but one day he could be a pastor or a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant or even a senior software engineer. But now he lies sleeping at my breast.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

In Spirit and in Truth

So now to balance things out with a more theological post... not deep, more of obvious, but theological nonetheless.

Three Sundays ago I started bringing my Firstborn to part of the worship service at church. She is 21 months old. I want her to learn that church is where we worship God--that worshiping God is something her parents do and enjoy, not just something her Sunday School teacher does--that Jesus is there for her, too, when she chooses Him. Heady stuff for a girl who's not yet two, but she understands more than we think, and I don't want to wait until she can grasp the doctrine of the trinity, debate Calvinism versus Arminianism, and distinguish and interpret the allegorical and prophetic portions of Revelation before she came in with us. She knows what music is, she knows what reading is, and she certainly knows what joy is.

I knew it wouldn't be easy or all-at-once. In conjunction with my plan to bring her in, we started family Bible time. Daddy reads a passage from the Bible; we talk about what it means; we pray; and then we all sing a song together. At church we go over what will happen ahead of time, and practice if we get there early. We listen to them play a song or two. We can dance if we want but don't sing along. Then they sing some more songs, and we sing along and can dance if we want. Then they read the announcements while we sit still and listen quietly. Then they read from the Bible while we sit still and listen quietly. Then we go up to the front for the children's message, and we sit still and listen quietly. Then she goes to the nursery. The hardest part is sitting still, for Firstborn. The second hardest part is quietly. If she is not doing the right thing I take her to the cry room, and she has to sit on my lap. If she is good we can go back in.

There was, however, a kink in my plans other than Firstborn's inability to sit quietly (which I believe will come with practice). I wanted Firstborn to see us worshiping God. And I wasn't.

Not because I was too busy tending a toddler and worrying about a newborn, though that was true as well. Because for years I had been going to church but not worshiping God.

And Firstborn was bound to realize this.

See, I don't stand still when I worship God. I dance. Probably not quite like David. More of interpretive movement. But I don't go to a Charismatic church or anything. Everyone else in my church stands up to sing the songs (unless, of course, there's no asterisk by the title--then they remain seated). If someone is really moved they might raise their hands in the air. But that's the limit. I could probably get away with swaying. Sometimes I would picture in my mind's eye how I would move if I were going to move with the music.

But when I worship--if I'm really going to be all there, focused on God--swaying or raising my arms is not going to cut it. If the song says to bow down, I want to bow down. If the song talks about clean hands, I want to raise them up. If the song talks about mighty waters, I want to live them. That's how God made me and how I'm wired, I guess. When I realized that it revolutionized the way I worship. But somewhere along the way I lost that. 'Cause it's weird.

But I knew my daughter needed to see me worshiping with all my heart. So I tried to. I tried to think about worshiping God and not about how silly I looked or what people would think of what I was doing. And then after Firstborn was safely in nursery, I went back in. And I just stood there and sang, because I didn't have to worship in spirit and in truth anymore.

Um, wait. Who am I worshiping and why again?

If I'm going to show my heart and my joy in worship to Firstborn... shouldn't I also be showing it, say, to God? Duh.

If that's the way I worship best, then why aren't I worshiping like that? Doesn't God want me to worship Him in the way He created me to worship?

Something's wrong if I am willing to worship God for Firstborn but not for God.

So I have been worshiping God. I know it is what he wants. I know it is right for me--and I'm not saying anyone else is doing it wrong. And it feels good (even if I still feel silly). No one has said a word about it (though many have commented how cute Firstborn is, even though she can be disruptive.)

And this Sunday I felt full of joy and energy. I started paying more attention to the sermon--not just trying to focus my ears but listening in my spirit. And it is such a joy to worship God with abandon. To recall the joy when I first found Him. To be back in the knowledge--not just in my head but in my heart--that Jesus is awesome. And I want to share what I'm learning and how I'm growing and I want everyone else to have this joy in their worship.

To worship in spirit and in truth.

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Quick update

So much is going on with my little girl!

She's working on transitioning to her "big girl bed." She took a good nap in it yesterday but today wouldn't settle down, so she's napping in her crib right now. Peter's hammock is fine for the moment, but it would probably be good to have some space before her crib became his. I know she understands, it's just a matter of her staying in bed long enough to sleep.

She seems interested in the potty again. Yes, three weeks ago I said she wasn't ready for it. She wasn't. That was three weeks ago. Now she is sitting still longer and is even showing signs of knowing when she needs to pee and going to the potty--I think. I hope. So I will probably be bringing the potty down again and having some no-pants time.

Today she was playing with her letters and was able to identify two of them! She (inconsistently) knew H (the first letter of her name) and I (because lots of times it sounds like that's what she's saying, so we point it out to her.

She was also playing with a large, purple, foam six-sided die. She has been improving in her concept of numbers. She obviously recognizes when I am counting. When she is "counting" she uses the gesture I use when counting in her books--pointing with the index finger. She started doing this when we count while she's on the potty (to teach her to sit there long enough to do anything (or get a snack)). But we don't make that gesture then--we count on our fingers, which is clearly different. So she understands those are the same sort of thing. She made another breakthrough as we were playing with her d6. She would roll it, and I would say the number and count the pips. Previously she would say "two" (dih), "five" (foff), and "nine" (nye), and occasionally copy a number someone else was saying. (Her counting generally goes, "two, two, two, two" (etc) or sometimes "nine, nine, nine, nine....") She happened to roll a one. "One!" I exclaimed. I touched the pip and said "one." Firstborn touched the pip and said two. From then on she touched the pips as she counted! Next she rolled a two. She touched each pip. "Two, two." And stopped. I told her it was a great job. Also, she copied me when I said the numbers three and four. She started calling out the numbers as she rolled them--usually three, but once nine. I think she's close to actually counting. I know she gets the concept of two, because if she gets food for me from her table, she'll get me one thing, but once she wanted to give food to me and to Third, so she got two things. Now to put all of that together....

I am so lucky that I get to be her mom. Even if she does spill my drink on the floor whenever she gets a chance (any advice? Please?)

The doctor thinks Third is advanced for his age--he watches and recognizes people, he tracks, he has rolled over, and he sometimes likes tummy time. He has a lot of awake time, always alert when he's not eating. He is nine weeks old, but most who see him guess 3 months. Who would have thought he started out losing weight, refusing to eat, and sleeping too much! He is so sweet and laid back.

At this rate, I don't have to homeschool Hannah. I figure if she's always above where she "should be" according to public school guidelines, there's no need to formally teach her things. And at this rate she will have mastered her kindergarten skills by two and a half. Unschooling, here I come!

By the way, it turns out whenever I feel overwhelmed, I'm getting sick and don't realize it yet. I'll have to remember that for future reference.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010


Last week my daughter fell into a box.

She couldn't get out of the box herself, but I was watching. Before she even called out I answered her: "Do you need help?"

She said, "Help." And she waited patiently, trusting that I would be there for her when she fell.

And so I extracted myself from her brother's mouth, got up, and helped her out of the box.

I wasn't upset that she couldn't get out of the box. I wasn't upset that she fell into the box, because she hadn't done anything wrong that had made her fall in. I wasn't upset that she didn't call to me and keep asking for help getting out of the box she was stuck in.

Firstborn has also decided not to go down the stairs anymore. She knows how, and has done it many times. She can do it if she wants to badly enough. But she stands at the top of the stairs and stares at her mommy and says "Up!"

I tell her that she is capable of doing it herself. I don't pick her up as soon as I can, most of the time. In fact, if I have other things to carry down (especially her brother, who cannot get down the stairs on his own), I might make a trip down and then come back for her. Sooner or later I help her--after I give her the opportunity to do it herself. If I leave her at the top of the stairs alone she whines and cries and shouts for me. Sometimes she starts coming down a little bit, but never very far.

I'm not mad at her for not going down the stairs. I might be frustrated, but I know her motivation is not willful defiance or a desire for control, but fear of the stairs (which could be dangerous) and a lack of belief in herself. I don't swoop in to save the day right away, but I will return for her. I will never forsake her, because I love her. But her light and momentary sorrow doesn't mean that I'm going to remove her immediately from the situation.

Sometimes she is defiant. Earlier this week we were picking up, and I told her to put a book away. When she did not pick it up, I handed it to her, and told her to pick it up. She threw it down and grinned at me. I explained what would happen if she did not pick up the book, and she stood there. I handed her the book. She threw the book. I put her in time out. Several minutes later, after I had picked up everything else, I picked her up. I told her she had been in time out for not listening when mommy said to put the book away. I hugged her and said that I still loved her. And I showed her the book and told her to put it away. She brought it to the bookshelf but couldn't get it to stay inside. So she asked me to help. She handed me the book, and I put it on the bookshelf.

That time I was very frustrated. I still loved her--but she was not doing the right thing. I had plans for her. My plans weren't really that she put Jack and Jill and Other Rhymes into the bookcase. No, I could do that very easily myself; I picked up the other toys and in the end I was the one who put the book in question where it belonged. My plans were that she develop a servant's heart, that she learn to work joyfully, that she take to heart the importance of obedience. (And maybe getting to bed sooner rather than later.) I did not need Jack and Jill for these things. One book on the floor wouldn't prevent me from going to bed, and wouldn't make our house a disaster (not that it isn't). Picking up that one book did not ensure that she learned joy in her work. But it was a tiny step.

I wasn't angry when she didn't complete the task I gave her. I was only disappointed in her when she did not try. I gave her the help she needed to complete it (though with enough work she could have done it on her own).

And then there's Third. He's a bit over two months old. He is starting to show an interest in the world, and in everything he does his motives are pure, though often selfish--but he can't understand enough even to defy me. When he won't open his mouth wide, and he has a poor latch, I get frustrated at him. I know he is capable of a good latch. But I don't punish him (except that he gets less milk), I help him. When he doesn't sleep at night, I may be frustrated, but not at him. He is hungry or uncomfortable, not disobedient. So I answer his cries; I go to him and I hold him and feed him. All of life is insurmountable obstacles for a newborn. So I place no obstacles between him and what he wants and needs, and help him to get that if he needs help.

Right now I feel like I want help. I am asking God for help.

Maybe I have fallen in a box.

But maybe I am just standing at the top of the stairs telling him that going down is too hard, and I need to be carried.

Or maybe all of life is so difficult right now that he has simply placed a door in front of me that he will not close, and requires only that I walk through, and if I cannot he will carry me.

I am good at resting and trusting. And if I am stuck in a box, that's what I need to do. If I can do nothing, the groanings of my spirit will be sufficient for Him to hear and save. But if I'm at the top of a staircase, He does not want me to stand and wait for Him--he wants me to pick up my Blankie and follow where he has gone before, and he will catch me if I should fall.

The problem is that I don't know which analogy to use.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

A history of my conversion to Christianity as told through attempts at evangelism

I started to write my experiences on the receiving end of evangelism on another blog, but it turned into such an enormous piece I am separating it out and writing it here. I offer this only as my own personal story, and not as a recommendation of what you should or should not do in your effort to make Christ known to someone.

I was baptized as an infant. It was arranged by a Catholic relative.

A family friend took my sister and I to a VBS-type outreach one summer when we were quite young. I don't remember it very well. I do remember thinking it was very unfair, because the other kids were able to figure out which cardboard character was Peter and things like that, which no one ever told me. Anything spiritual I missed out on.

In high school one year I sat with two Christians for lunch every day. Why? Because they were willing to sit with me and no one else would. We played cards. I don't remember their names. The guy--he was a senior, I a freshman or sophomore--invited me to church or something a couple times, and I said I couldn't go without finding out. At the end of the year it turned out he was giving a speech for graduation. I think he might have been some sort of class official. He asked about my views on life and I think I ended up talking about stuff like aliens and life on other planets. The other girl wasn't there that day, but was the next. The next day he asked if I wanted to say what I told him the day before again to her. I felt somehow like I shouldn't. He gave us his speech, which included how some people were looking for answers in things like life on other planets, but that the answer everyone needed was Jesus. Something like that.

It made no impact on me. Not sure I really understood it. Later I remember my mom telling me that this family friend's husband had lost her job, but she believed it was for a reason, because they believed everything happened for a reason. I remember thinking (and likely saying) that it was stupid to think bad things happened for a reason.

I also was mentored by a teacher that same year I think, who in retrospect I think was a Christian, because at one point she took me out of class to explain that many people found it offensive when someone took God's name in vain. I do not think there was a spiritual aspect to the mentoring.

I think at some point--maybe in this year as well--I tried praying. I didn't get it.

I moved. I decided to make up my own religion. I figured something made up 2000 years ago wasn't really better than something made up today.

I had always been free to learn more about God or church or religion if I wanted, but I never wanted. My parents would say they are agnostic. I don't know if that period illustrates more how hard God was working to reach me, or how much my own spiritual blindness and deafness, or Satan, or all of the above, worked to keep the message of God and His Love obscured to me.

Through all of my early life I felt I was missing something. I thought it was friends, which I rarely had in abundance if at all. I was always the kid everyone else made fun of. I say this not to complain or elicit sympathy, (in retrospect there are aspects of this for which I am grateful) but simply to show the picture of who I am.

I told some classmates later that I had made up my own religion, and some of the things I believed. They told me not to tell one girl in particular--maybe because she was a Christian? I didn't. Judging by what happened to a meat pizza on a Friday night, all but one of these were Catholics. The other was a Mennonite, I learned at some point.

I went to a third high school. It was a specialized school for students interested in math and science. Really I'm more interested in English, but I am good at math and science. So I applied and was accepted. While I was there I learned that I wasn't the smartest person there was. There were many other people as smart or smarter than me. Perhaps to most people this wouldn't have been shocking, but for me I think it was a surprise. At the same time I found a community of people like me--not everyone in the school, but a small group who liked to congregate around chess boards at lunch time and talk about obscure topics. You might call them/us geeks or nerds. Belonging was an entirely new feeling for me. I think I may, at some point, have in some way worshiped the spirit of my school and of what I called my people.

And there was a guy. He was definitely a geek, though perhaps not the geekiest of them. I think I first met him during orientation, though he didn't make much of an impression on me then. Later, we were vying for the bottom spot on the chess ladder as we lost to everyone else. So it was decided I had to play him. At first I refused. I thought it was more fun to keep going without ever playing each other. But someone insisted, so we played, and he smashed my face in. In a purely metaphorical sense, of course. And we played many games of chess, with me winning once in a while. And we spent time together, though I was also spending time with lots of other friends. It is worth noting that the school was in the area of 75% male, and that only two of my friends were female. This rarely occurred to me.

At some point I started emailing my guy friend every morning. Why just him, I do not know. I think I would have fallen for any of my guy friends. But he ended up being the one. And we ended up going to the prom together (his senior, my junior--combined at our very small school (~70 or 80 juniors and seniors). And someone asked if we were a couple, and he thought they just meant tonight, and said yes.

We spent more and more time together. At some point I learned he was a Christian. At some point he told me that God would always come first in his life (meaning I could never be more than second). Anyone who wasn't a Christian and had a normal level of self-esteem might have moved on then. But I said "Okay."

What was he doing dating me? I think he just kind of fell into it as we spent more time together. It was a first relationship for both of us. I certainly don't think he set out to date a non-Christian.

I pressured him for sex. He said not yet. I said when. He said when we got married.

He compromised. We did things we shouldn't have--things we didn't know we shouldn't have, like making out, and things he knew very well we shouldn't have as well (not sex), all initiated by me.
(And anyone reading this who thinks that their daughters need to be protected from non-Christians and not their sons, I hope this scares you.)

At some point in high school, he took me to a youth event. There was skating, bowling, a hockey game (we rooted for the referees), and some sort of evangelistic outreachy thing. One of the chaperones asked if I wanted to go down during the altar call. But he got my name wrong, so I said no. Not sure how much I understood then either.

He went to the college that shared a campus with our high school--seniors took college courses there. I followed, mostly because of him. His having a dorm room meant I could do more. He held firm enough not to have sex with me, which I am sure was very difficult. The next year he commuted from home, but I had a dorm room. And at some point, probably counseled by Godly mentors for his own good, he said that he couldn't keep seeing me because I was not a Christian. Of course I was emotionally invested. In that moment I realized I was willing to live a lie for him. And so I said "Tell me more about what you believe."

I started going to his church.

And something miraculous happened--at some point, I started believing what I was hearing. It had nothing to do with a childhood VBS week, or two friends who spent a long year ministering to a girl who felt completely alone, or a teacher who tried to make an impression even though regulations constrained her from sharing spiritual truths. And it certainly was not a direct result of missionary dating.

It didn't have anything to do with a rally and a youth leader who forgot my name--though it might have had something to do with a curious thing I felt in my heart every time I heard that man pray.

I cannot and do not discount the possibility that my baptism as an infant conferred some small measure of grace--especially since nothing similar has happened to my sister, who was not baptized.

It may have had something to do with a night spent with three other lonely, searching people as we stayed in one of their parent's houses while out of town for a larp (live-action role-playing game), crying with each other and feeling alone though we were all very good friends, and my private realization that I was in sin--that God had given me a good man and I had done nothing but try and corrupt him.

It may have had something to do with being willing to live as a Christian and hear the word of God, that perhaps my heart was that much softer, or as I sat in church and heard the words more they started to make sense.

I am left simply to conclude that God used every available means to get at my heart, even the sinfulness of the teenager I would one day marry. And that in the end, it was only through the work of the Holy Spirit in my heart that I was saved, after every human effort to show me love and make me understand had failed. There is not now any doubt in my mind that I am saved, forgiven, and set free from my past and my sin.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010


So two days ago Third finally figured out this breastfeeding thing. Yay! Yesterday he wanted to nurse so much he was not willing to take a bottle unless he got really hungry. Boo! Today he will fall asleep nursing before doing it too much and I am thinking from the wetness of his diapers he isn't quite getting enough (though I am giving him bottles too).

I am also sick and dead tired. It feels like I am failing at even my most basic tasks as a mom. I need to be writing down what he is doing when, but I just can't seem to make it happen.

Firstborn learned yesterday afternoon to climb up on the couch. She used her newfound skills to turn on several devices and call Grandpa (I assume she managed to get into the caller id log or phonebook or redial). I am on antibiotics (which can be fatiguing) for sinusitis and I suspect I had another UTI as well. I called though because I thought I might have mastitis. Now I am fairly sure I have neither that nor conjunctivitis. I have new glasses (got them last week) that sometimes seem to throw off my vision.

Here is where, if I were a good blogger, I would tie this all together with some sort of spiritual truth.


God is love.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

They grow up so fast

I have decided to work harder on potty training, so Firstborn has been spending part of the day running around naked the past few days. Not much success yet, but only one puddle, and I know she's ready to learn.

Speaking of ready, I am also pretty sure she's ready for a toddler bed. We are getting one from some friends who no longer need it, possibly this month. If she naps at Grandma and Grandpa's it's in a big bed. She lies very still--more so than in her crib.

Third has outgrown his newborn clothes and is in the 0-3 month size. Luckily, dh finally bought me a cheap $20 digital camera since we lost ours. But that was less than a week ago and now it's missing too.

All of a sudden Third has figured out this breastfeeding thing! He will eat whenever I put him to breast, starting yesterday. Is it just time? Was it losing the breast shield? I don't know, but I'm glad it's working.

Third has put himself on a schedule. He wakes up in the morning just before we want to, and is up through our and Firstborn's breakfasts. He wakes up again for a quick noontime meal, and then again when it's time to get dinner ready, and is up off and on through dinner, Firstborn's bathtime, and her bedtime, and our bedtime. Then he sleeps until midnight, or two or three. Sometimes he'll be up both those times. Sometimes there will be another brief awake period in the morning or afternoon. It's not exactly a convenient schedule, but predictability is nice.

Third is better at regulating his temperature than I am--he is too warm sometimes in a fleecey sleeper. So much for one-more-layer-that-I'm-wearing. His sister has apparently not gotten the memo, though, and is still quite disturbed if he isn't wearing a hat. She will make an excellent little old lady someday. (Of course, so would Daddy, who's concerned about Firstborn wandering around without socks. Because she takes hem off.)

Went for a walk with Firstborn recently and she kept up with me, and stopped when I told her to. Yay!

I think she might be done napping. A real shame, because I'm not done with her napping. But she wouldn't nap this weekend, then had one yesterday and was up early and during the night, though she fell back asleep. We're trying things without a nap today, and she's doing fine.

God bless y'all

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