Thursday, October 10, 2019

Facing a Task Unfinished

Facing a task unfinished is no easy thing.  It can not be checked off as completed.  This unfinished task beckons me when I wake and moment by moment throughout the day.  This task often interrupts my sleep, my plans, and my desires, yet it is my calling in this season.  This task exposes my shortcomings.  It teaches me my strengths.  It empties me.  It fills me.  It takes me down roads of unplanned adventures.  It brings me great joy.  It refines me and drives me to my knees. 

To raise little ones that, Lord willing, know the Father's love and on their own seek to make His name great and bless this hurting world with their unique giftings is my longing. 

Mothering well to me can easily be defined by my feelings or a standard I will never attain.  At the end of the day, did I do it well?  Well to me is unattainable.  Did I create a home of happiness?  Did I teach life skills that were honed?  Did the home stay tidy?  Did meals get cooked from scratch with many colors of the rainbow?  Were many books read?  Was creativity evoked in each budding mind?  Are my children learning the Bible?  While all these desires are good, they can easily become a chain around my neck.  When I let these standards become my measuring stick, I end short every day and my household feels like a pressure cooker.  

A few years ago, I learned another way.  I found a well worn path created by many that have gone before me.  (Excellent article here that details that point). 

After the birth of our 5th child three years ago, I came to the end of myself after the complications I experienced from that birth.  I began to realize that wisdom meant asking others whom we respected and had raised children purposely (I did not say perfectly) many questions.  What are things you did well?  What are areas you failed, and what did you learn from those failures?  How did you deal with homework?  How did you deal with screens?  How did you deal with laziness, etc?  How did you prioritize your marriage? 

I started walking in community in a new way and a weight was lifted.  God provided such sweet mentors who came unto my path as I cried out to Him for help.  Around this time I also began listening to the Seven Rivers Parenting Sermons over and over , and most recently my husband and I have spent a lot of time being trained by Connected Families - a great online grace-based parenting resource with podcasts, seminars, and coaches.  Connected families also has a book called Discipline That Connects With Your Child's Heart.  This fall I also joined Loving Moms class at our church that breaks into small groups teaching skills in mothering.    

In the recent years as I have grappled with what the desired end result of my mothering is, I have decided that mothering is primarily about raising children who are equipped to be healthy and function as adults, and for that to happen, I must abandon my independence for a season. I must empty myself so that they can thrive.  Tim Keller explains sacrifice in his book, Jesus the King, chapter 12. "When you have children, they're in a state of dependency. They have so many needs; they can't stand on their own. And they will not just grow out of their dependence automatically. The only way your children will grow beyond their dependency into self-sufficient adults is for you to essentially abandon your own independence for twenty years or so. When they are young, for example, you've got to read to them and read to them - otherwise, they won't develop intellectually. Lots of their books will be boring to you. And you have to listen to your children, and keep listening as they say all kinds of things that make for less than scintillating conversation.

And then there's dressing, bathing, feeding, and teaching them to do these things for themselves. Furthermore, children need about five affirmations for every criticism they hear from you. Unless you sacrifice much of your freedom and good bit of your time, your children will not grow up healthy and equipped to function. Unfortunately, there are plenty of parents who just won't do it. They won't disrupt their lives that much; they won't pour themselves into their children. They won't make the sacrifice. And their kids grow up physically, but they're still children emotionally - needy, vulnerable, and dependent. Think about it this way: You can make the sacrifice, or they're going to make the sacrifice. It's them or you. Either you suffer temporarily and in a redemptive way, or they're going to suffer tragically, in a wasteful and destructive way. It's at least partly up to you" (Tim Keller).  

As my body, my energies, my sanity, my resources, & my time are depleted and stretched day after day, Jesus uses this gift of mothering to force me to see all the areas I fail to love God with my whole heart and how I fail to truly love my neighbor as myself.  As I  beg the Lord for patience and forbearance and grace, he really does work it in me.  When I fail, I repent, and my home changes for the better. I really believe that there is something very powerful about seeing a person admit their faults and seek change.  

I am learning the importance of surrounding my family with others and the church- for we were created to do life with people.  As we live life in community we glean from others and new wind blows into our sails, and we in turn refresh others.  

Not only is it important to do life with others and love the church, but it is extremely important to impart a life of service to our children and that is primarily caught not taught.  Children must see us sacrificing for them and to others as we are able.  This is a favorite book - Raising World Changers in a Changing World - and provides great discussion at the dinner table about this very topic.     

Nearer my God to thee is the key to mothering.  Not my works but my rest.  The more I run to Jesus knowing that I will never do or be enough, the more my soul is at rest because Jesus is enough and he did enough and He loves my children more than I can even imagine and will help me in the daunting task of mothering.  As I embrace these principles, my task that is still quite unfinished of raising children becomes less burdensome and more joyous. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

From Shock to Peace ....Honest Pregnancy Reflections

It was a hot fall Sunday afternoon in South Georgia.  Laughter and screeches came through the walls as five littles and my husband played football in the front yard.  I was eating homemade raw cookie dough as I baked cookies for an RUF (Reformed University Fellowship) college leadership meeting later that night.  My cycle was late, but it could be explained.  For one, I recently held our 4 year old through two scary nights as she battled a nasty case of croup.  I sleep little to none.  Secondly, we had means in place to prevent a pregnancy. I chocked my late cycle to extreme fatigue and a fluke.  To put the issue completely at rest, I took a test.  Positive.  It read positive. 

Pregnancy for any woman requires submission and I am certainly no different.  In each pregnancy I have had to relinquish control and plans to God's divine providence submitting my body time and time again to all kinds of stresses and changes such as utter exhaustion, reduced capacities, morning sickness, complications, weight gain, stretch marks galore, new eating habits, back aches, and the pain of labor all for the wonderful gift of a child.  I have also had to submit to the potential of miscarriage or disability as I cannot will a healthy full term child.  In essence, pregnancy and birth pose great risks to carefully drawn out plans of life especially for a planner such as myself.   

The day we found out we were expecting our first child, we were elated and our joy was evident to all.  A confirmed pregnancy at this point in my life equated solely to pure excitement and hope.  For one, I was totally naive in believing that because I was healthy I was entitled to a healthy pregnancy.  Dreams shattered as we lost that first child and my hope was replaced with fear and anxiety regarding pregnancy and delivery. 

As pregnancy after pregnancy occurred for me, my PTSD from prior pregnancies only mounted. Each subsequent pregnancy brought some form of struggle from epidural injury requiring physical therapy to walk properly again to polyhydramanous and very sick child in the womb to bed rest after preterm labor to the itchiest rash covering my whole body called PUPPS to a severe uterine infection to painful thrombose hemorrhoids landing me on bedrest after delivery.  In each of these pregnancies, I struggled to see potential and actual complications through the lenses of the gospel.  Yet, I was reminded time and time again through watching other mothers' stories as well as my own stories unfold of His grace and goodness in the most horrific and/or challenging pregnancies and childbirths.  God is present in every moment, the hard and the beautiful.  "What if trials of this life, the rain, the storms, the hardest nights, are Your mercies in disguise?" (Laura Story) 

Many times on this journey I tried to put God's sovereignty and providence over fertility in a box knowing good and well that He can work with means, against means, or without means to accomplish His purposes.  As I wrestled internally with many things, it became evident that I must do a lot of self reflection diving into the past traumas and fears surrounding pregnancy and delivery so that I could see truth and experience healing.  My healing did not come as I expected it to in a black/ white sort of way.  My healing came in all shades of grey.  I struggled the entire pregnancy just as I had in others with fear and anxiety yet I began to see past traumas through  different lenses and experience peace despite many unknowns.  As I looked back, I realized that God was actually with me in each of those hard places.  I began to see good that had come out of struggles and the new paths the struggles had led me down.  I saw that grace is given for each moment, not a moment earlier and not a moment too late.  Worry only robbed me of the present moment.  I relished in the goodness of God in the gift of my sweet children and the new one to come.  As this wrestling journey continued, I thought about a concept we talk about a lot in our home: God does not disperse His blessings equally, not in money, intelligence, energy, health, skill sets, and not in babies yet He is sovereign over it all and we must trust that He knows best in His dispersing of these things.   

Little man Turner was born 3 weeks ago.  Grace upon grace was truly in the season awaiting his birth and finally in that room where we met our son.  

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Don't Settle for Easy Fault Finding

 Just yesterday a situation arose where I did the complete opposite of what I am writing about now.  I chose to think & believe the worst.  I chose judgement, complaint, and bitterness.  The Lord did not leave me alone in that mess, but pursued me through the literal dark of the night where sleep would not come and then once again this morning through the gift of alone time in a quiet house leading me to self awareness and then repentance.

I came across this verse in the quiet moments this morning and marinated on it as it was exactly what I needed.  "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer each person" (Colossians 4:6).

I got stuck on the salt part and spent time looking at the many uses of it.  Salt is actually a  multipurpose substance.  It can remove stains from the dirtiest objects, promote wellness, restoration, & safety, deter annoying creatures, and can even eliminate terrible odors  Imagine salt in our speech?!  The world would become a brighter place one conversation at a time.

In order for our speech to be seasoned with salt, we must speak with forbearance, gratitude, and compassion putting off our natural bent to be critical of another and putting on grace which is a work of the Holy Spirit within us.

To extend forbearance to someone we must not dissect the other person's motives by making a quick judgement about what was said or done when we feel wounded.  "He/she must have meant so and so.........I am just sure of it!"  Instead, we must always first offer the benefit of the doubt.  We have never walked the other person's shoes nor do we know what was meant behind the words spoken IF anything.

This morning it was brought to my attention the insanely high standards I have of others- expecting them to see and know all my tiredness, all my stresses, and all my circumstances while never struggling personally.  I want much grace at all times, but do not readily distribute that grace.  Bishop H.C. Moule has said that forbearance is “allowing for each other’s frailties and mistakes; aye, when they turn and wound you ‘in love,’ finding it easy to see with their eyes and if need be to take sides with them against yourselves!”

Are we freely granting allowances for our children, for our spouses, for our friends, for our coworkers, etc?  When someone is tired, do we give them grace when a hurtful word is spoken or do we hold it against them refusing to let it go?  When someone says something we perceive as hurtful, do we assume the best until we get clarification or do we assume the worst?

Complaining is natural especially when we feel pain, yet God calls us to more.  He calls us to live thankful lives.  I think of Kara Tippets who battled aggressive cancer openly through blogs, books, communal living, and much more.  She struggled openly, yet she asked God to help her put on thankfulness despite her horrendous circumstances.  As a result of putting on thankfulness and not allowing bitterness to sink in, she was a facilitator of change in many as she allowed God to use something so terrible for his glory.

Spewing bitterness is easy.  Speaking with compassion and kindness is not.  Just think how easy it is to mutilate a person not present with words by gossip.

Don't settle for easy fault finding.  By speaking with forbearance, gratitude, and compassion instead of judgement, complaint, and bitterness, we offer hope, forgiveness, and life to our hurting world.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Enrichment for Summer

This summer I plan to have roughly an hour of enrichment for the children in the mornings.   This is geared toward early elementary but plan for my younger ones to tag along.  I want this time to be fun!  Living books, fun writing activities, math games, and learning about courage. On my quest to plan out this time, I found some amazing free resources and wanted to share.  I catered these plans to my children’s gifts, areas that need improvement, and enrichment.  We also hope to teach bravery and courage through stories, so I will start the time by reading some tales about the Vikings and then about Christian martyrs. 

Rising third grader goals: writing poetry, loving reading, math, thinking activities
Read 20 minutes of a book of his choice, do one day of the reading, math, and thinking section on ‘all in one homeschool site’ for 3rd grade
extra: break the code (great get that mind working activity)
Other things to incorporate with writing: (This site has incredibly easy and fun ways to teach poetry! This site is amazing!)

Rising first grader goals:  handwriting, reading, and math
read 15-20 minutes with me (he reads a sentence and then I read one and back and forth until becomes second natue), math on ‘easy peasy all in one homeschool site’ each day for rising 1st grader ,

Rest hours: 
We require all children to rest for two hours.  For the boys who do not nap, this means structured rest time.  The first hour they can draw, play leggos, or read.   The second hour they will listen to a story online/  Here are some suggestions:  There are also suggestions directly below. 

Read aloud suggestions by my sister the book guru:
Roald Dahl, Beverly Cleary, CS Lewis, Hobbit
Here's a list of books I have either read with the boys or want to:
1. Mr. Popper's Penguins. LOVE this one.
2. Indian In the Cupboard
3. Boxcar Children series
4. Black Beauty for Mead!!!!
5. Sideways Stories from Wayside School (do you remember these from growing up?)
6. Little House on the Prairie series
7. Hardy Boys
As for books, off the top of my head:
1. Roald Dahl is one of our current favorites. the BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach...
2. The Hobbit.
3. Chronicles of Narnia. The boys always come back to these... have listened to them SO many times!!
4. Charlotte's Web (the boys will like too)
5. The Magic Tree House series... all will love. Jack and Annie go on adventures and the kids learn history, etc. STELLAR!
6. Henry Huggins (and other Beverly Cleary)
The Big Friendly Giant

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

My World's Not Falling Apart, It's Falling into Place

Falling flat on my face again and again in a two month period directly following the birth of our 5th child in a new town away from friends and family felt like more than I could bare- in fact it was.  My world as I knew it fell a part. My health fell a part and I was not able to do for myself or my family. At first it was a flu like fever virus that started the day after giving birth.  Then it was a severe uterine infection.  Then it was strep throat. Then it was allergies that got stuck in my sinuses and caused my ear drum to rupture.  Illness would not let up.  It just kept coming.  My children also became ill during this time- many sicker than they have ever been before. Some had strep and RSV and croup at the same time.  Even the baby got RSV,  but his case ended up being so extremely mild.  To say it was crazy is an understatement.  I remember lying in the bed many a mornings after waking not wanting to get out of bed because I did not want to face the day. I was utterly exhausted and it felt like the intensity would never let up.
The question I asked God time and time again is what am I suppose to learn through this.  What in the world are you doing? I also spoke very honestly begging him to ease the intensity of these trials yet he kept saying no as those trials kept coming. After weeks and weeks of praying the same prayer, my perspective started to change from despair into gratitude: "Thank you that I am simply dealing with sickness.  Thank you that I have children I get to take care of.   Thank you that I have a husband that is bearing the heavy burden of a job, ordination, and taking on most if not all of my responsibilities." 
Not only did my despair change into gratitude, but I also began to see how so many things in my life were out of order.  You want to know what is most important in your life? Look at your check book or credit card report. Where you spend your money is where your heart is.  Natural medicine, herbs, whole foods, essential oils is where I spend my money.  Without realizing it, slowly over time I began to believe that I could control my destiny- that I could actually fully control my health through a whole foods diet, rest, exercise, supplements, herbs, etc. While I may not have said it out loud, I thought I knew so much.  And then this perfectly healthy woman had to take 6 rounds of potent antibiotics in one short month due to a severe uterine infection and strep throat. It was through these trials that I began to repent and see the idol health had become for me.  I began to ask the Lord to put my interests of healthy living in the right place and to forgive me for thinking I could control so many things I quite frankly cannot.  I also thanked him for antibiotics as without them I would have lost my uterus or worse my life if the infection went untreated.  
As I spent many of these weeks on modified bed rest, I had ample time to think. I began to see how overwhelmed I was with my life and as a result how much time I wasted by checking out on social media or texting.  I began to see my little toddler girls take their fake cell phone with them everywhere- that was my wake up call. Monkey see.  Monkey do.  I also saw that I seemed to have an answer for everything.  I talk more than I listen.  Now, I am praying that I will listen more than I ever speak and that I will say "I do not know" way more.
While I was down, my husband began to make order out of chaos.  He made chore charts for the kids so that my load is eased and the kids develop even more by being given age appropriate responsibility.  He made schedules for the day- set outdoor time, set chore time, set reading time, set school work time, etc. He took on the responsibility of cooking a hot breakfast every morning so that I could get some personal time and not hit the ground running. He helped me set a schedule to my day and taught me to make lists instead of keeping everything in my head.  My husband's dying to self is producing life in me.
Looking back on late October through mid December,  my world was not falling apart, it was truly falling into place like the song "Held " describes by Casting Crowns. Many things were out of order in my life that I was completely blind to and it was only through being knocked flat on my face that I was able to see it.
As I look back on this season, I truly feel gratitude that the intensity has let up and we are healthy, but more importantly than that, I feel gratitude for all the Lord taught me.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Sometimes God writes a chapter in our story we would never choose

I prayed. I asked others to pray for no complications after birth.  God said no.  You see this was one of my fears and God saw it best for me to walk through that door.

Soon after labor, I developed low grade fever that eventually turned into a flu like virus making me very ill. That virus ended and I went straight into a uterine infection.  My fever at times spiked to 103.7.  Yesterday in the wee hours of the morning, I noticed stomach cramping that got worse and worse until around 10 am. At this point, I could not move due to the pain. I became delusional and spiked a fever of 103.  We called our midwife who was out preparing for Halloween with her family. She dropped all her stuff in the floor of the store and came immediately to me.  I was diagnosed with a uterine infection and administered fluids and 4 rounds of a potent antibiotics every 6 hours. I could  not walk nor move. I was in excruciating pain yet I knew I was in the best care possible with Lauren.  Lauren was also consulting a top doctor in Atlanta Ga who trained her.

Lauren comes with much experience.  You can read about her here:  She is extremely well rounded and practices evidence based medicine.  She is middle of the road....if a natural method is proven, she utilizes it. If a traditional medical method is proven, she uses it.  I love that.  She is a mix of natural and medical which this world needs more of. She listened as I cried about the idea of taking such potent antibiotics.  She talked about risks verses benefits and told me how serious my situation was.   I trusted her and told her to do whatever I needed.  She was by my side every 6 hours for an hour or more at a time talking me through any and everything and has been available by phone or text as needed.

Today, I am on the upswing I think.  I am hobbling to the bathroom and back now, which originally was impossible. I still have pain and am weak with fever controlled by Tylenol, but am so grateful to know what is going on and slowly but surely get better.  I am confined to my room on bed-rest, but hope to feel like a normal post par-tum woman by the weekend.

I don't know why all this happened, but I do know that I have a father that is o so good.  He was not surprised when I shook my fist out of fear. He was not surprised by my tears or anger at the lot I was dealt. I was reminded of his goodness and embraced it quicker than the last trial as he has given me much practice in dealing with trials.  I am learning to trust and rest in a father that is writing a beautiful story that I am only in the middle of.  I don't rest well nor trust well, but as the years go by, centimeter by centimeter I do trust and rest more- all evidence of his mighty work.  

As I have had time to reflect much the past week since I am incapable of doing anything on my own, I find myself reflecting often on love. I thought I knew what love was when I married my husband close to 12 years ago. Looking back I had no clue- no clue at all.  With each trial, I grow in admiration and respect and love for him.  His strength is mighty.  His tenderness and sacrifice is unending.  This past week he has been asked to do things that are beyond yucky yet he has stomached it and done it all.  That is a man and that is love.

We have been blown away by the love of our community near and far.  I have read every email and text even when unable to respond.  We have devoured every meal and listened to every message.

I have also thought much on those dealing with chronic illnesses and long physical suffering as I now have a tiny glimpse of what they go through.  It has been humbling, but needed.

So now, sick yet recovering, I choose to rest in His plan all the while asking continued protection of our new son.  Would you pray for our little one's health as he is not even a week old?  Would you pray for the Lord to continue to protect our newborn and me as my immune system is shot?  One of our son's is now running fever and feeling lousy.  My husband and my mother are handling it as I cannot.  We are all weary and this just seems like too much with our lack of sleep and one thing after another.  We are asking the Lord that this would not spread.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Birth Story

Birth. Whew.  When I reflect back on little one's story, I cannot help but smile not because I did it well, but because of all the people that played a part in walking me through what I believe is one of the toughest things I have ever done in such a relative short amount of time- give birth to my children.

This was my 6th baby.  First one went straight into the arms of Jesus in the first trimester.  We grieved his loss and wondered if I would ever have children.  At this point, I never knew how common yet how tragic miscarriages are.  Was something wrong with me?  With the second baby, I endured a long labor of 36 hours with epidural injury causing partial paralization and requiring me to undergo physical therapy to walk again correctly and heal. With the third baby, I was told our little child was sick and upon being born would need to be swept away to NICU due to kidney, lung, and heart issues.  I went through the scares and many downs from 31 weeks pregnant until he entered the world at 41 weeks with no medication or epidural after 31 hours of labor.  He came out completely healthy. A miracle occurred. I cried uncontrollably at the gift of not having to walk down a road that seemed certain. The NICU doctors walked away with no Turner baby. He was in my arms.  With the fourth baby, I finally got my dream of birthing at a birth center in the bath tub and it truly was miraculous and everything I hoped.  Labor was extremely quick and lasted only 3.5 hours from start to finish.  With the fifth baby, I again was able to birth at the birth center in the bed after 3 hours of labor but suffered from severe thromboses hemorrhoids following labor- the worst the medical team had seen landing me on bed rest for 3 weeks barely escaping surgery.

And now the 6th baby.

Sometime in the last ten weeks of pregnancy, I started dealing with an intense fear of the pain of labor.  My anxiety would keep me up at night or wake me up.  I at first bottled this fear and then began reaching out to others to pray.  Through the prayers of others, the verses others gave me, and the listening ear especially of my husband,  my fears began to surface less and less.  At the recommendation of others, I began to read positive birth stories and pray that the Lord would help prepare my mind, as natural childbirth with no medication is first and foremost mental and second of course a physical race that requires every part of the body to work. Here is the site where I read positive stories:

Labor came at first with many false alarms starting at 37 weeks and coming and going until 40 weeks 2 days when he was delivered..  With these false alarms, terror arose that I had to work through each time. Three nights before I actually went into true labor, insomnia started.  It was Wednesday around 12 that my membranes were stripped and I began contracting harder yet infrequently. I took an hour nap and by the afternoon, they had not let up.  We called the midwife and she arrived around dinner  time to set up.  There still was no pattern so she instructed us to walk or sit on the birth ball.  This was such a sweet time for my husband and I.  I depended on him in a way I had not in the prior births.  Around 11, she said everything was set up and could leave coming back as soon as a pattern arose.  I panicked at the thought and asked if I could get in the bath, calm down, and see what happens.  Almost as soon as I entered that bath, my body relaxed and I went straight into active labor.  Essential oils were diffused.  Soft wordless music was played. The midwife and her assistant stayed and I labored in the tub, birth ball, standing up, and lying down on the couch.  I went into this labor truly exhausted from the past week of not much sleep. I noticed that my legs began to give out requiring me to need help to stand, walk, etc.  In active labor, we talked- all four of us- in between contractions.  It was a sweet time.  I then got to a point where I would fall asleep in-between contractions both in active labor and transition time.  I listened to piano hymn and praise music and sang and prayed and focused as hard as possible to embrace the contractions and not fight them.  At this point I was in the bath tub and my husband right there in the tub with me.  It was such a sweet time when I reflect back.  He was so extremely selfless.  He endured back spasm and much pain helping to hold me, etc.  He pushed on my back as the baby descended, he held my hand, and sat there fully present with no words. I finally reach a 10 and eventually the urge to push came which is uncontrollable.  I delivered his head and needed assistance with his shoulder so my incredible midwife jumped in clothes and all to assist getting his shoulder out.  He was born at 5 am perfect looking like all his siblings.   It was miraculous.  As I reflect back, I smile.  God met me.  He sustained me.

Now less than 3 days out, I sit here with with all pains of recovery and a low grade fever causing aches and what the medical team thinks is due to severe exhaustion as I have no other symptoms, but yet again, I have to surrender and trust God with my baby and myself.  Covet your prayers that my body would heal and most importantly that our little one would stay healthy and somehow we'd get rest.  Thankful for my team of helpers all around.