No such thing as an ‘oops.’

***This blog entry was saved to my folder, ready to be published when I was announcing our third pregnancy. For whatever reason I was too exhausted to edit it and make sure it was ready to go. The irony is that a few weeks after writing this we learned that we were expecting baby #3 AND #4. I thought it was time to share what was going on in my mind the few days and week before we knew we were expecting our twins. And the obvious reason why I haven’t blogged in a while.

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Have you ever heard parents talking about their kids and refer to their third or fourth child as an ‘oops?’

“This is my son, the soccer star and my darling daughter the spelling bee champ. And *sigh* here is baby Henry. *whispers* He was an ‘oops.’ I told my husband it was time to make the appointment to finalize things but he didn’t listen….”

I don’t normally pay this sort of thing much attention. After all, these parents clearly love their children and are by no means intending to be malicious. Calling their baby an oops is just a cute way of saying that this was an unintended or unplanned pregnancy, right? Well it just took one conversation with a mom whose child had been called the ‘o’ word by others to learn otherwise. I won’t name her in this blog to respect her privacy but she did give me permission to use her story. I will call her Monica.

Much like myself, Monica struggled to conceive. But after years of miscarriages she was blessed with two daughters very close in age and a son about 4 years later. Though she had been given much she continued to prayerfully ask God that He would again bless her with a child if it was His will. She was getting older and she knew that with her history, this was medically at least, not likely. But she knew all things were possible with God and she trusted His will would be done. 4 years after the birth of her son she had another baby. Her friends chuckled when she told them she was expecting. “Hope the valentines day was worth it because you are going to be up to your elbows in diapers, AGAIN!” and from her family “you do know how you get that way, right?” She was shocked. These were fellow believers, those who know that children are a blessing from God, a cherished creation from a loving creator King. She was hurt but she kept it inside. That is until an older lady from her church noticed her struggling to wrangle all of her kids into her minivan one Sunday after service. Her ample baby bump was obvious and not at all intending to be cruel, the older lady said, “my, my! You should have been more careful. I got through my ‘oops,’ you will too.” Horrified and hormonal, Monica unloaded every hurt feeling she had. She knows her reaction was wrong and she has since apologized to the older lady.

But this story really made me think. It’s such a casual thing, to call a baby an ‘oops.’ If the kids are really close in age, we assume it wasn’t planned or wanted by the parents because who would choose that? Or when we see a significant age gap, the youngest must have been unintended, a night away from their preteens with a bottle of Merlot. So we call it an ‘oops,’ a kinder, gentler way of calling the child a mistake or an accident. We don’t mean any harm when we make the comment about ourselves or about someone else. But I think there is harm. I think we rob our creator of His deserving credit. Babies don’t just happen by chance. I learned the hard way that no matter how badly one wants a child, it’s not in our hands. Only God can give and take life and if we believe that, we believe that He is sovereign over all things then we have to trust that, even if the pregnancy was not in your plans, it was in Gods plans before the world began.

Our culture doesn’t revere children and parenthood the way scripture does. So the world is often hostile to children. Restaurants don’t want them, people on airplanes complain about them and you can rid yourself of your pregnancy if it’s not something you think fits into your plans. So I think the ‘oops’ terminology is a quiet creeping in of our societies disdain for what God created and called good. Very good. And I think that, as Christians, we should gouge out this way of thinking and refocus on Him.

So, why blog about this topic now? What spurred on this subject in my heart? Well, I am pretty sure it’s because I am announcing my pregnancy. When this baby is born, Lord willing, my oldest will be 3 and my middle child will be 20 months. And I will have a newborn. I am well aware that I will be busy (FYI, I am busy NOW!) and I know that my life will be a vaguely managed chaos. And though this pregnancy was unplanned by us, it was known by God from the beginning of time. And it has been the most incredible surprise and I am so excited. So this is fair warning, I don’t think it’s a good idea to call my baby an ‘oops.’ My God is sovereign over all things!!!

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Amish Envy

Admiring Niagara

They wear old-fashioned handmade clothes and they don’t use electricity. Owning cars is considered sinful and they opt for a horse and buggy because it is somehow more biblical. They are devout in their beliefs but do not spread the message of His great love to the world of ‘English’ outsiders around them. They seem secretive and are most certainly separate.

And I am intrigued by them.

The idea of abandoning my smart phone, permanently disconnecting my computer and moving away from the drama of our world seems idyllic. Like the families from the movie The Village, I think many of us long for a simpler time.

But what is most enviable about the Amish lifestyle is their sense of community – they seem to have succeeded in a way that the typical evangelical church has not. When tragedy strikes, the community shores up those afflicted in a way I have never seen or experienced. No questions, no strings and without being asked they come in droves. If someone is gravely ill they band together to cover medical expenses. If a home is consumed in a fire they rebuild it – together. While a family is in mourning, their farm and the funeral preparations are taken care of. They don’t pat themselves on the back for their selflessness. It is so ingrained in their culture that it is considered common place, it’s just what they do.

This is the part of the blog you would think I would complain about areas my church has failed me in my times of affliction or ways that I think the body could/should do a better job or won’t/can’t for this reason or that one. Instead I am going to confess that I need to do a better job of being a disciple in community. I need to do a better job and shoring up the afflicted and caring for those in crisis, regardless of the personal cost. When I stand before my maker I won’t be saying the church should have done this or they should have done that. It comes down to me and me alone.

It would be wonderful if the world simply slow and we could go back to an era of playing outside and porch swings. A slower, simpler life. Less consumption and more community. Fewer things and more people. But alas, I cannot control the world. But I can control me. I do have a role to play in how my kids grow up and how we do community. I won’t be making our clothes any time soon but I can slow our world a bit more. I can find ways to protect their innocence a little longer without isolating my children from society. I can be more mindful of which media enters our home and our children’s minds and hearts without abandoning all forms of technology. I can take a drive and show them God’s creation, celebrating our ability to reach it in safe convenience without doing away with motorized transportation. I can unplug for a while and teach them to appreciate silence, encourage our family to be content with stillness, something I struggle with myself.

And Mike and I can model community. Even at our children’s young age they can see us feed and clothe those in need. They can hear us share the gospel with our words and see us share it with our hands and feet. We can do better. I can do better.

But I don’t have to do it by candle light 😉

Trick or Treat? The question of Halloween

Pumpkin Patch 2

 

I know this post is coming a bit late but with a cold/flu making the rounds in my home, yet again, I know you will forgive me!

How do you feel about Halloween?

I get asked this question a lot by friends and fellow parents and even by parents of the kids in our youth group. It’s a difficult question because of the polarized opinions. If people ask the question it usually means they feel strongly about it, for or against Christian family’s participation of anything Halloweenie.

Remember, I am not a scholar or a historian. Nor am I a noted theologian or pastor. I am a mom who lives life in ministry with my husband and we are doing our best to be Christ-like in our home and in ministry.

I grew up participating in Halloween. Cute costumes as a child, trick or treating and pumpkin carving. As I got older I went to high school events and the costumes were a little less cute and a little more flirtatious for the girls and a little more disgusting and gruesome for the boys. Then when costumes were deemed lame we just saw Halloween as a license to roam the streets while the boys did stupid things with eggs and firecrackers. We flirted, they ignored us. They flirted and we ignored them. Such is the life of the average 13-15 year old.

As my opposite in every way, my husband never dressed up and did not give out candy to cute kids dressed as pumpkins and princesses. He occasionally went to the church harvest party but doesn’t remember dressing up. But his parents never lectured about the occult or the dangers of a seemingly innocent pumpkin day.

Now as parents we are trying to define how we will handle such events in our life and for our kids. It’s a big decision that every family has to make for themselves and we do not condemn someone else who has prayerfully discerned a different path for their family.

I get the history of Halloween and its intrinsic roots in paganism and the occult. I don’t want to be a naïve parent and say that it’s just a cutesy hallmark-created occasion. I know that its roots are very dark and yet we choose participate in our own way.

I don’t ignore Halloween because of its history and original intention. If I did that, I wouldn’t celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25 (not the day of Christ’s birth rather the day of the pagan winter solstice) nor would we put up a Christmas tree (another pagan ritual). We use our discernment and best judgment and take what could be negative and use it for the glory of God.

We participate in our churches autumn event and hundreds of non-church families from our community come in costume, play and laugh together. My husband does a big event for his youth as well. We celebrate that our kids invited their non-churched friends to an event (a very big deal for a kid in grade 6 or 7) and this year we know of 24 kids that indicated their response to the gospel message for the first time.

My wee ones dress up in sweet costumes but they are both too young to trick or treat so we haven’t made a decision on future participation. I don’t like the blood, the demons and the grotesque and it will have no place in our home. Although I think that’s inappropriate for all ages, I am especially sensitive to exposing my very young children to that world. I wish stores would get the message on that one and make sure there displays are G rated. But that’s a blog for another day….

Please hear me clearly: If you feel convicted about participating in anything to do with Halloween, then by all means don’t participate. That’s between you and the Spirit of Truth and no one can judge that. But also be careful not to judge those who choose utilize opportunities within our culture to bring light into the darkness. Instead, pray that God would move in a mighty way and that many would come to know Christ this Halloween.

Rejoice in Gods Inability

When my 7 month old son was admitted to the hospital with a mysterious skin condition that left his skin scabbed, bleeding and blistering like he had been burned over 80% of his body, I cried out for God to heal him. My husband didn’t, instead he reminded me to rejoice in Gods inability.

When my 9 week old daughter was admitted to children’s hospital with what we were told was impending emergency surgery, I pleaded with God to keep her in my arms where I could ensure her safety. My husband didn’t. He trusted in Gods inability.

I know that sounds crazy but let me explain it to you in his words. This is part of a devotional he wrote:

There is comfort and security in all that we know God can do. Just take a look through the Old Testament and feel the joy of being an Israelite: miracles like the 10 plagues, walking between walls of water in the Red Sea, shouting as walls crumble, giants defeated, food from the sky, water from rocks and salvation from all kinds of disasters. We celebrate because we know our God is the creator of the miraculous.

As a new pastor, perhaps God was testing me to see how I would react or encourage others in a frightening hospital setting. It was my first experience of this kind of crisis and my baby was the patient. Courtney was obviously distraught and I began to think of ways to comfort her. I could have told her things that she already knew and had been thinking: God can do anything, He is a God of miracles, God knows how we feel. The problem was that I know that she knows those things, so what was left to say? I needed to get her attention and encourage her that while she was petitioning the Lord for the health of our child it had to come from a place of trust rather than fear. I told her that we should be rejoicing in God’s inability, what he CANNOT do!

She looked at me like I was crazy. She had not left our child’s bedside for anything but bathroom breaks. She had tried to sleep curled up in a chair but the worry and exhaustion was written all over her face. I could tell she was overwhelmed and afraid that the child we had prayed so long to have could be slipping away from us.

I reminded her of Malachi 3.6

 ‘I the Lord do not change’.

He won’t because he can’t. And this is worth rejoicing in.

We can rejoice in his inability to betray.

He gives good and perfect gifts and that won’t change like shadows move throughout the day.

                James 1.17

He will change the earth and the heavens like clothing but he remains the same.

                Psalm 102.25-27

We can rejoice in his inability to break a promise.

Politicians have a bad reputation but the Lord is not a man that he should lie or change his mind. Does he promise and not fulfill?

                Numbers 23.19

 I’ve known people who believe in and love our good and sovereign God until they’re shaken from their comfortable life and faced with a crisis. Perhaps it’s a prolonged safe and comfortable environment that begins to settle in our minds that easy is what God wants for us. The clay loves to submit to the potter until it finds out its being made into a dog dish or a leg for the back of the couch, or a shovel on the farm.

So it may have felt as though we were at the mercy of the doctors, waiting days to find out results. But ultimately we are at the mercy of our unchanging God – regardless of good news or bad. And this is what we clung to. It’s because God cannot change that we can completely trust him 100% no matter the situation. Even when we are faithless, he is faithful.

In crisis, my vulnerable faith was shaken. I had tried to build my house on a solid rock so that it would be anchored when the storm came. I learned that while my husband and I kept this house on the solid rock of our savior, I had kept a tree house in the backyard, and it was on sinking sand.

It wasn’t easy. In fact, surrendering my illusion of control was physically painful. And after many many sleepless days and nights I was battling for my sanity, exhaustion and concern overwhelming my body till it shook. But I had to rest in the peace that I worship a God who is good, all of the time. Even when it hurts. Even when I feel ill-equipped for his plans. Even when I want to run He will pursue me until I yield onto His loving path.

“I am the LORD, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed.”

I rejoice in Gods inability.

House Rules

I have a two year old. I don’t know why he is referred to as a ‘toddler’ because he has been steady on his feet since he was 10 months old. But nonetheless, a toddler spends his days making me laugh, occasionally making me cry and pretty much testing the limits of his world while testing every last nerve of mine.

Mike (my fantastic husband) and I are pretty much on the same page when it comes to general house rules. For example, jumping is only allowed on the ground, manners are a must and crying is completely acceptable while whining is not. We try to avoid yelling unless it’s in a situation that could cause harm. All in all, timeouts are a way of life.

As any parent knows, the two’s can be tough. So I decided it was time to figure out our house rules. It isn’t so much to point my kids to; after all they can’t yet read. But something for me to focus on as I imperfectly model the qualities I want them to have.

I don’t want house rules that say “No hitting. No spitting. No kicking.” These are an extension of the bigger picture and, to be honest, I hope that this goes without saying in our home. (I recognize that there may come a time in our lives where that is necessary for our kids but we are not there yet). I want to instill core values which are so much more important to me than a ‘no shoes no shirt’ policy. But regardless of what I have written on a wall or on a poster board I have decorated with my kids, I am their example. They look to my husband and I to see what is and what is not acceptable. I am with them 24/7 and they will mirror all my good and my more prevalent bad. They watch how I treat their father, how he treats me and how he leads our family.

I have decided to post 3 simple rules from Micah 6:8 on a dry erase board on our wall. (I have a bigger and better crafting project in mind for this but I currently don’t have the time or funds to see it to fruition). Here is how it sits today:

 

As my kids grow and can understand more we can expand on these and add others that I want to be edified in our home like:

Love Jesus

Encourage one another and share in others joy

Have fun and laugh

Be bold with others and broken with Christ

Remember that you are beautifully and wonderfully made.

Be a giver and share everything

Always forgive

Be respectful

Be compassionate

What are your house rules?

Mythical Saturday

A few weeks ago I was in the grocery store while my husband took the kids to the park. Moms all over the world can understand why I was taking my time, reading labels and looking up and down aisles I usually have to bypass in order to change a diaper or hurry home for a nap. I was savoring some time to myself even if it was doing a mundane task.

There were these two young women, probably in their mid-to-late twenties, chatting and shopping together for what I gathered was a dinner party they were hosting. They were immaculately dressed in high end clothes, perfectly highlighted hair and their finger nails shined as though they had been steeped in jewels.

I know what you are thinking. That I must have been green with envy.

I guess I would have been had I had the chance to soak in the moment and compare my flip flops to their designer heels. I didn’t have a chance for that though because one of them said something that made me stop in my tracks.

“Stay at home moms are so lucky. It’s like every day is a Saturday!”

I knew right then and there that these women were childless. Not because of their perfectly toned tummies and barely existent hips. But by the sheer fact that no mom, stay at home or work out of the home, would ever say that. When you are a mom, there is no such thing as a Saturday. Saturdays have gone with the way of the unicorn. They are mythical periods of time in which one sleeps in until 10, leisurely does their nails while they catch up on a favorite show and then maybe heads to relaxing late luncheon with their nearest and dearest. But for moms, like Atlantis, Saturdays have been lost.

I said nothing and they continued shopping around me, like I wasn’t there. And I wasn’t. We live in different worlds and for a moment I saw into theirs and one day they may see into mine. For them it’s an elaborate dinner party with sassy cocktails and pan-seared scallops. For us its whole wheat rotini, for which I have a coupon. My world is barely managed chaos. Its messy and its loud and some days keeping everyone dressed, fed and clean (myself included) is mission impossible.

And I wouldn’t trade a second of it.

I am constantly covered in baby vomit. But my daughter is fed and is growing.

My toddler likes to sing songs at the top of his lungs. And I have been blessed to hear his first cry, first coos, first words and I hope to hear many more of his silly songs.

Its not easy. It’s not picture perfect. It leaves little time for a mythical Saturday. But its a blessing. Don’t get me wrong, I am no saint. A morning to myself to sleep in would be heavenly! A pedicure would be pure bliss. But when it comes down to it, those girls were right. The world calls it luck, I say I am blessed. And everyday with my husband and kids is better than any ‘Saturday’ without them could ever be.

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Images by Perfect Moments Photography