Monday, 2 March 2015

Childbirth "wars" {choices without conflict}





At the end of last week, I shared an article, on Facebook, about the rising c-section rate.  It's something I feel quite strongly about, as I have experienced a c-section, and subsequently a VBAC.

I found it interesting, and sad, the responses I had.  My heart ached for people who had multiple c-sections, yet who felt judged and criticised, by other Christian women, for what they had to go through.  These women had no choice but to have a c-section, for various reasons. It's no small thing to go through. You are undoubtedly left with physical scars, but on top of that you can be left with emotional and mental scars. I was worried that some were thinking that I may be judging people for having  a c-section, so a blog post seemed like the best place to share what I think about it all.

As with anything in life, my starting point is God's Word.

What does the Bible say about it all?

Well, obviously there were no c-sections in the Bible times, so looking at childbirth is the first place to start.

There are definite, unquestionable points you can make about childbirth.

1.  It's the way God designed us to give birth.

God MADE women to have babies!

Under "normal" circumstances, the physical union that God has ordained, between a man and a woman, can lead to pregnancy.  Obviously not always, depending on many factors, which I am not going to discuss.  Circumstances, choices and health, would sum it up. However, as the pregnancy progresses, the inevitable looms.  You need to have the baby exit! The Bible certainly talks about THAT part.  It's not easy, but God designed our bodies to give birth.  I find it incredible, thinking about the whole way it works.  Something so large, exiting THERE! How the baby's skull is designed to squish as it exits.  I have SEEN it moving, straight after delivery, as the parts of the skull gravitate back to where they should be.  UH-MAZ-ING.

2.  It's painful to give birth.

I watched a TV documentary last week.  Some of the women were talking about how we shouldn't HAVE to have pain, and why shouldn't it be a pain-free experience?! Well, I am telling you, it's part of the curse, and it's just a fact - it hurts. Some lucky blessed women seem to have pain-free, or minimally painful births.  How nice for you.... Most of us experience pain.  Most of simply accept it.  Enjoy? Erm, no.  Accept, yes.  When you think how short labour lasts, compared to the curse on a man, who has to labour his whole life, I'll take childbirth and the reward it brings, ANY day!

3.  It's aided and supported by others.

Think of the canny midwives in Egypt, who prevented the death of countless babies, and who were commended by God.

So, there's not much else you can say, Biblically speaking, although they are important points.

Where do you go from there, when thinking about it all, then?

Well, I would shift my attention to the book of Proverbs.

Wisdom.

Knowledge.

You see, my point, in everything associated with childbirth, is that God has instructed us both to gain knowledge, and be wise, in life.  We aren't somehow exempt when it comes to giving birth!

Let me jump back in time.

Years ago, childbirth was an extremely normal experience.  It was an event that was supported by friends and family, and young girls would have known all about it, before having to do it for themselves.  Family and friends would give advice, and they would have helped them to know the "ins and outs" of it all.  There were no hospitals, or ante-natal classes. Just the others around you, to help you through.  Experienced mothers would rally round, and help you through.

Of course, you can't ignore the patently obvious.  The mortality rate of both mothers and babies, in days gone by (and I'm not even thinking further back than about 50-60 years ago!), was much higher.  If there was a complication, there was little they could do. They didn't have the medical knowledge, or equipment to deal with the things that went wrong. It's a sad fact.  Women may have had medical conditions, unknown to anyone, which made delivery impossible.  They would have died. Placenta previa? You'd die.  And the baby, too.  Simple as that.  Anatomical anomalies, preventing birth?  You'd have died.

Now, let's fast forward to NOW.

We are living in a day and age where medicine has advanced INCREDIBLY, in the last 50 years - gracious, in the last TWENTY years!  Babies that would have died 20 years ago, can now have  fighting chance of survival.  Mothers, too, with medical problems, can be cared for so much better. (I watched Call the Midwife last week - sad, sad, SAD..... women who were diabetic and pregnant would be advised to TERMINATE, 50 years ago! I have several friends who are thankful that life has changed since then!)

We have access to so much, that is life-changing for so many, and can save lives left, right and centre.

So, back to thinking about it Biblically.

What has changed, throughout the ages?

Have the medical problems been cured? Not at all.  You just can't "cure" placenta previa.  You can't "cure" a pelvis that's mal-aligned.  You can't always "cure" a transverse presentation.  You can't "cure" a cord wrapped around a baby's neck. You can't "cure" pre-eclampsia.

What HAS changed is the medical knowledge and advancement in equipment.  We have scanning equipment, to detect abnormalities.  We have c-sections available, to deliver babies that would otherwise either not be born alive, or would kill the mother in the process of being born. We have NICU's, packed with incredible equipment and staff. It's an incredible thing, really.

So, what do we do with THAT information?

It's back to the point about knowledge, and wisdom.  Herein lies my concern.

Far too many women today, mostly through the fault of an overly medicalised approach to birth, and partly to do with the pressures of others, end up with births that are far from ideal. The reason? They have not made an INFORMED choice.  Friends, it's God's design for us NOT to go through life without our brains, that HE designed incredibly, unengaged, but for us to THINK, and KNOW.  As I say, Proverbs is FILLED with advice to gain wisdom and understanding.  Did you think, somehow, that childbirth is exempt? Being such a life-changing event, it SHOULD involve us gaining wisdom and understanding! It's a God-honouring thing to make sure we understand ALL the choices we make in life. We cannot go through life passively, letting others make choices for you.

So, why should it matter what choices we make? Our body is the temple of the living God.  We are to care for it, and, in so many different ways, protect it from injury and harm.  Whether that's being wise about what we eat, what we drink, what pursuits we engage in, or how we give birth, we need to care for our bodies.

In this day and age, people are told "this is the way you must give birth", and they don't know enough to make an informed choice.  They don't know if they are being spun a route of "convenience", or if  they actually COULD do things differently.  It's an extreme example, but a documentary I watched recently, talked about "freebirth".  Now, in parts of the USA, I believe, unassisted childbirth (where you don't invite someone medical in to assist in the birth) is against the law.  Subsequently, people think that's the case in the UK.  It's not true. Now, personally, I wouldn't want to do that, but having the KNOWLEDGE to decide for yourself, is good, and right. Some people think that if you have had two c-sections, for emergency reasons (ie, something happens in labour that requires a c-section) then you can never attempt a natural delivery.  Also not true.

Now, there ARE situations that necessitate a c-section.  Placenta previa.  Transverse, and sometimes breech, presentation.  Pre-eclampsia.  A pelvis that doesn't allow the baby to descend.  There are others, of course, but these are common ones. In these situations, the baby, and mother, would almost certainly die, if you allowed a natural labour to proceed.  It would be UNWISE to even TRY! God has GIVEN us both the wisdom and knowledge to know about these things, and the medical world to allow for it.  WHAT a blessing! Had I not had access to medical monitoring, and surgical facilities, Abigail could very well have died.  The cord was wrapped three times around her neck, and round her wrist, so that every time I had a contraction, and she would move further down, her heart rate would nearly disappear.   I KNEW I needed a c-section, and I was VERY glad for it.

With Joshua, I could easily have ended up with a c-section.  At one point, I was in so much pain I think I actually asked them to just cut me open right there in the labour room! I had gained knowledge, though.  I knew that a c-section was harder to recover from.  I knew, especially with my medical knowledge as a physiotherapist, what it DOES to your body.  I knew it can hinder the number of children you can have.  So, we did other things first, to try and prevent a surgical outcome. It worked. (Although, like a c-section, don't ever expect me to voluntarily have an epidural EVER again!)  I ended up with an epidural, and a venteuse delivery. (The little suction cup thingy)  He ended up with ant-biotics.  I ended up with anti-biotics. It was a fairly harsh beginning to motherhood.

I learnt something VERY important, though.  I didn't understand how labour worked, properly, and I trusted medical staff to unwaveringly.  No-one picked up that he was presenting posteriorly.  I laboured in the wrong position, which led to the catalogue of events that resulted. The midwife, who was supposedly monitoring me, didn't work it out, and told me to push when I felt pressure. IT was the wrong advice, and I wasn't informed enough to know any different.

So, after that, I decided to learn more.  I went off and researched how to turn a posterior baby! I began my labour with Bethany with her lying posteriorly, but I managed to get her to turn! Whoop whoop! The next two births, I learnt more.  The briths got a little better.  After the c-section, a new determination came into force! I did NOT want to repeat the experience of a c-section.  My c-section was a purely circumstantial one, and I didn't want an automatic "repeat".  My recovery had been slow, with lots of yucky side effects, which were nowhere near as bad as they CAN be! I researched all the medical concerns of a VBAC.  I researched how to have a labour that was not medicalised or rushed. I researched how to be in control of MYSELF - mentally, spiritually, and physically.  The result? A MUCH better labour, and a VBAC!  By God's grace and help, I did it!  There was NO reason why I couldn't, and so it seemed wise to do things as naturally as possible, and the way that God designed us TO give birth!

I had a baby that was late, next. I thought you had to have an induction at 12 days over, and quite frankly, due to a lack of patience and peace, I just wanted to have my baby.  Thankfully, my induction was very "simple", but still resulted in a near c-section experience, when the baby's heart rate seemed to disappear at one point.  A sensible registrar was all it took to regain composure (an ultra-sound showed us a heart beating very happily, that just was hard to detect with a monitor! - sneaky boy!), and a normal delivery ensued.  But only because I insisted, with the knowledge I had gained, that we didn't NEED to rush the process.  We waited for my body to do it naturally, after my waters had been broken.

My knowledge was stretched further, and prayers for wisdom sought, when I had number 8.  We felt led to attempt a home-birth, first and foremost because child care starts to get tricky! However, as we researched, and prayed, we saw there was no reason NOT to attempt it! Yes, we agreed that any hint of a problem we would HAPPILY go to hospital.  Yes, we accepted that ANY hint of a problem before delivery, we would go to the hospital instead. We used our wisdom, and it worked out amazingly. BEST LABOUR EVER!

OK, so I just got a bit distracted.  Can you tell I find child birth fascinating?

All that to say - we carefully made sure we had the right information, and then we were wise about what we DID with that information.

Now comes the key part.

Is there a "right" and "wrong" in all of this?  Is one choice "sinful" and one more "holy"?

NO!

Anyone who tries to tell you it's a SIN to choose one way or another,  is wrong.  To make someone feel they have done the "wrong" thing, when they couldn't have done anything ELSE than what they did, is plain wrong.  Fellow womankind - we should be doing everything we can to help and encourage each other, not make others feel bad!  Now, that's not to say we shouldn't help others make WISE choices.  I love to be able to help other Mums to know what their choices are, and how to labour "better".  Knowing how much of a difference it can make, to have a quicker, and less complicated delivery, I passionately love to help other Mums!


(I still maintain, if at all possible - ie, there's not a serious medical reason to have a c-section - that you should TRY and have a "natural" delivery.  It's a medical FACT that you recover better from a natural delivery, and you are less likely to have post-partum complications. It's easier to care for your baby, and get back to life as normal (NORMAL life?... whatever that is!...) Having done both, I certainly know how much better you feel after a natural delivery! It's also a FACT that a c-section is "major abdominal surgery".  Anything that involves cutting through several layers of your body, is not something, in my opinion,  you would, in your right mind, CHOOSE! (well, some do, but that's their CHOICE!))

I do not think, however, it is good or right to judge others, when they have already had to make a decision that breaks their heart.  The scriptures exhort us to encourage each other and build them up. Making a woman, who already feels sad that she didn't get to have a natural birth, feel even WORSE, is just not kind or supportive.   People seem to care far more about jumping on hobby horses, and sitting in judgement, than getting alongside other woman and helping them. Is it of any eternal significance HOW you give birth??  OF COURSE NOT! Do you think that God sits, looking at womankind, and somehow marks women down for needing a c-section? NO! He sees the hearts, sad and disheartened, and desires that they feel joy and comfort.  We are the instruments of God - we should be supporting each other, in every way we can.

I don't think, either, that you always have to AGREE with others about their choices! You don't even need to like them.  That's between you and the Lord, just as their choice is between them and the Lord, too.  WE can NOT know the thoughts and intents of the heart.  Only God can.  It doesn't mean you don't help someone when they need it. And trust me, after a c-section, you NEED it! Lovingly, and tenderly, coming alongside someone, when you see a need, is what God wants us to do.  Making someone feel guilty, when it's not our place to do so, is NOT.

We are in a warfare - a spiritual warfare.  Fighting the devil, and all his cohorts, is hard enough, without fighting about things as secondary as childbirth.   We should be able to make choices, without having conflict over it.  It doesn't really matter WHAT you are making a choice about - childbirth, education, family, employment - we need to be more supportive of each other, less defensive, and more encouraging.

Dear, precious, sweet sisters in the Lord, who have ended up having c-sections, when they dearly wanted a natural delivery, I feel your pain. I know the disappointment.  I know the sadness.  Take encouragement in the knowledge that God has been SO kind and good, and allowed you to have those babies.  Ask God for deaf ears, to ignore the negativity of those who would judge.

Dear, precious, sweet sisters in the Lord, who choose to do something different than I would.  I don't always understand your choices, but I have enough to worry about in my own life, which is complicated and confusing at points, without worrying about YOUR choices! I am there to help you in any way I can, if you need it.  I will give you advice and support, if you want it.  Other than that, your life is between God and YOU. Not me.

Dear precious, sweet sisters in the Lord, who have "natural" deliveries that are traumatic and not how you wanted them to be. I feel your pain, too. I have had four deliveries like that.  If you are blessed with more children, I can point you in the direction of articles, books, and other resources, that may help you the next time round.  Get knowledge. pray for wisdom, and step forward in faith, knowing that God is able and willing to answer your prayers. I know He can, because He did it for me.

 Childbirth does NOT need to be traumatic, if you know how things should work, and your medical rights.

Informed choice.

Choice.

That means we choose, and the path will be different for each of us, because we ARE all different.

It doesn't mean it always WILL work out that way.  Knowing you have done all you can, for YOUR body, is the best you can do.

Supporting those who make different choices, is the best ALL of us can do.  Curb your passion, whether it be pro-natural, or defensive about the way things worked out for you, and show grace in everything.

Above all else we are to show LOVE.

"Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 
 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;"


Just because you are passionate about something, doesn't mean you have free reign to throw out love, and all that entails.  Do you see? Patience with others, even if they don't "get" what you choose.  Not being envious of others who get something you DON'T get to do.  Not being proud about what you do, as if someone else, that didn't do it, is lesser to you. Not having unattractive behaviour, that is unkind and hurts others. Not being selfish, and making choices that are only based on what YOU want, without thinking about the effect it has on others.  Not easily getting riled up and angry about what others do.  Not thinking badly of others who haven't been through what you have, or don't choose what you choose.  What we SHOULDN'T be, are bullies.  All over the Christian world, never mind outside of it, there is too much bullying of others, who make different choices.  Bullies mock others, and try to force them to do things that they don't think it's right to do. It's a nasty way to behave, and the polar opposite of the love that we should extend to others.  Get past your own prideful arrogance, and show others gentleness, support and love.  Don't condemn others for their choices. If it's someone isn't sinning in their decisions, you mustn't be condemning.   It doesn't mean compromising on truth.  It doesn't mean you don't advise and encourage others.  It means to have the right spirit and kindness, in all we say and do - showing compassion.  Always. 

All our hearts are sinful, and incline towards thinking we are right.  I know much *I* struggle to understanding the choices of others. When you feel strongly about something, it requires much grace and patience to see the point of view of others.  It's only pride that stops us from behaving the right way. We need grace, love, compassion and kindness, no matter what others choose to do.

To those who are sad about the births they have experienced, I pray that God grants you a healed mind, and a healed body.  My heart aches for you.  Try not to dwell on the past, but focus on today.

For those who have had births that were not ideal, but hope to have more babies, get out there and get knowledge, and ask God for wisdom.  God has designed you to give birth, and with the right support, knowledge and information, it CAN be done! So long as there is no medical reason to avoid it, natural birth IS natural! It's not always EASY (and hey, we weren't EVER promised an EASY life!), but it's "natural".

How can I sum it all up? Natural childbirth was the way God made us to give birth.  Sin has resulted in imperfection, which leads to pregnancy and birth having potential complications. It doesn't always go the way God intended, or the way we hoped. We all need to seek out knowledge and wisdom, then ask God to lead us accordingly, and make the choice that is right for US. Don't judge.  Don't be unkind. Don't condemn.   Be supportive.  Be loving.  Be compassionate. 

I sincerely hope I have never made someone feel sad about their birth.  I will, every chance I can get, advise people to be informed before making choices. I will, until my dying breath, encourage women to do all they can to understand child birth, so they can have the wonderful experience of giving birth without fear and complications. It's an amazing thing, if you are able do it. If you can't, how your child enters this world is NOT important.  No-one ever asks you at a job interview "how did your mother give birth to you?"! The important part is how you raise them AFTER that point.  

And that, my friends, is a whole other blog post!....

I'd love to hear what you think, and always want to learn from others. Please share with us about your experiences - you don't know how it might help! 




Friday, 27 February 2015

The name of the Lord {a strong tower for the overwhelmed Mum}


Yesterday, I had a really bad day. Thankfully, they don't happen very often, but I really felt under attack by the devil.

I ended up felling like millions of woman do in their lives.

Unworthy.

Struggling. 

Weak.

Insecure.

Turmoil.

A tumult of emotions was raging in my mind, and spirit, as I struggled with all that was going on.  It's incredible how ONE thing can spiral into a million things. One incident dropped into my day, and like a snowball, being lightly tossed from the top of a mountain, it gained momentum, picked up extra baggage, until it hit, smack dab, to the bottom. Bam! My day was destroyed, and everything just exploded all over my emotional mind. 

I felt like the most horrendous mother, who has no idea what she is doing.  Completely and utterly incapable of being the wife and mother my family deserves.  

My emotions and thoughts were at a low.  I didn't know what to think, or how to move forward.  I felt paralysed by my inadequacies. 

Strength?  What is that, anyway?  I felt completely drained of all vitality, with the strength of a newborn.

My mind felt like a newborn, too.  A child-like mind, with no wisdom, knowledge or understanding, -  not knowing what the right way forward in the situation.  A mental blank and immaturity. 

Overpowering it all was my tearful heart.  I was so very upset, and the discord of emotions was clamouring in my mind, as I went over all my heartaches and struggles, mentally. 

I was a mess, and it was everything I could do to end the day with any positivity.

Then it came to me.

My "Verse of the day" from my Bible App.

"The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe."
Proverbs 18:10


The solution to my struggles was right there in my heart and mind, where the Lord had planted it right at the beginning of the day, before the trauma even hit.

Don't you love how God works?






It is such a simple rescue plan.  It only involves us fleeing to the name of the Lord.  Rushing, with all our might, to the NAME of the Lord.  Uttering simply His name, and seeing who He is, brings us security.

I say "simply", but as I dwelt upon what seemed such a simple thing, my mind was bombarded with who the Lord IS, encompassed by His names, for He has so many. And, it was Isaiah that my mind was drawn to.  In it, I found fresh strength for the mother who is struggling with all these issues which affect our heart and lives SO often.


"and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."
Isaiah 9:6


How often, these familiar words just become that - WORDS.   WE KNOW that they hold such amazing truths, but the name becomes just a name, instead of a PERSON.

The name of the Lord, here, brings such comfort to the mother.

Do you feel unworthy?  The Lord's name is WONDERFUL.  

Our Lord - our God - is wonderful.  When we feel unworthy, we need only to look to Him - to run to Him - and see how wonderful He is, and our unworthiness is replaced with wonder at His greatness.  The fact that we ARE unworthy draws our minds to how Wonderful He is, too.  A loving God, who sent His Beloved Son, to die for our unworthy souls.  As the hymnwriter writes

"And from my stricken heart with tears, two wonders I confess
The wonder of redeeming love and my unworthiness."

And, because He saved a wretch like me, I stand WORTHY, through HIM. I may not be perfect, and I may not feel worthy of being in my position of wife and mother, but God's grace is greater than my sin - my wonderful God grants wonderful grace.

Do you feel that you are struggling?  The Lord's name is COUNSELLOR.

When people have issues that they are struggling with, in this world, they often go to a counsellor.  There seems to be counsellors for everything, these days, especially on the other side of the Atlantic.  They can be a very useful thing, and provide much support.  But, why go ANYWHERE, when we have our very own Counsellor, whose name we only need to call upon to run from trouble? We can go to Him with all of our needs, all of our struggles, and all of our weaknesses.   His name is Counesllor, and He can give you the wisdom that you need. He will lead and guide you through your trials, and give you all the support you need.  He has the answer to our struggles, right there in His Word.  I'm not saying we will have all troubles vanish, but He will counsel us through them, by revealing Himself to us. 

The other verse that comforted me yesterday, was James 1:5.

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. "

 Not forgetting the promise at the end of that verse - the Lord is a reliable Counsellor - the wisdom we need SHALL be given to us.  Not just in a basic way, but generously, and without berating us for needing to ask. 

If you don't know what to do, and need a solution to your struggles, just ask God. 

Do you feel weak? The Lord's name is MIGHTY GOD.

Oh, how I needed to remember that.  Weak just doesn't seem full enough to describe how mothers can so often feel.  It's not only physical, as we diligently seek to meet the needs of our family, but emotional weakness, mental weakness, and spiritual weakness.  When the devil really attacks, our strength is sapped, leaving us powerless.  

Except, we AREN'T powerless!  We need only call upon the mighty God, and our strength will be renewed.  The simple words of a prayer, lifted from the depths of our fragility, uttered simply - "Jesus" - and we have the Mighty God who is ready and willing to come to our aid.


"He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength." 
Isaiah 40:29  


And how is that strength obtained?  

Prayer.  

Pure, and simple.  

"They that wait upon the Lord"

"Call unto me, and I will answer thee"

Not a lengthy, wordy, intellectual prayer, filled with platitudes and empty phrases.

Simple.

Honest.

Wordless, even.



"Prayer is the burden of a sigh
The falling of a tear
The upward glancing of an eye
When none but God is near"
James Montgomery


The Lord's ear is open to our hearts. He "hears" our  hearts, without us even uttering a word.  He is ready, and willing, to be the mighty God that we need, when our strength has gone.

Are you insecure?  The Lord's name is The Everlasting Father.

When we are insecure, we are thrown into that persona of a child.  Simeon, just today, hurt himself.  His immediate reaction? To call for me, and come running for comfort. A child feels secure and comforted, in the arms of a loving parent. We come to the Lord, as a little child, approaching our heavenly Father.  That Everlasting Father, who is the one who can give comfort, solace and security.

"As one whom his mother comfort, so will I comfort you;"
Isaiah 66:13

" Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;"
II Corinthians 1:3


Do you see that?  Those moments where we feel so utterly useless - when we feel that we have let those we love down - when we have been less than we ought to have been?  Our Father is full of mercy.  Instead of condemning, He showers us with mercy, grace and love.  

He is forgiving.  

He is kind.  

He is gentle.  

He is compassionate.

Just as we know, when a child comes to us, penitent and broken, that we need to show mercy, so does our Heavenly Father extend the same mercy to us.  As our hearts are filled with love, when a child comes to us, so does our Father's heart shower us with love.

The struggling mother, filled with insecurity and thoughts of failure, need only turn to the Everlasting Father, who will give rest to our souls.

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls."
Matthew 11:28-29

Heavy laden.

Burdened.

Labouring.

All such commonplace struggles in a mother's life - yet, we can cast our burden upon our Everlasting Father.

Are you in turmoil?  The Lord's name is the Prince of Peace.

Peace.

Our days, filled with noise, stress and  disharmony, are often the antithesis of peace.  

But...  

BUT,   our Lord is the PRINCE of Peace.  The ruler, the one sitting in high places, above the clamour of the world, bringing peace. 

Robert gave me a plaque last year, that says this...

"Peace.  It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm."
There is so much truth in that, but what is the SOURCE of that calm?  Where is our ONLY source of true peace?

Jesus.  

The Lord.  

The Prince of Peace.


"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee."
Isaiah 26:3

There's the answer.  We need to just keep our very MIND upon our Prince of Peace, to have that perfect peace.  Our trust, placed entirely upon Him, knowing that His ways are perfect, and His plans unfailing. Trust is the acknowledgement of the reliability of God.  WE can rely on Him to be everything we need, no matter what our life brings.   The trials that He allows us to go through can be endured by the presence of His peace. Perfect calm in the midst of clamour, by simply keeping our mind upon Him.  When our mind is focussed on the Lord, we see only who He is, in all His greatness, and our attention is diverted from our unrest.

Oh, struggling friend. Are you like me, and floundering in the sea of life? Are you struggling, feeling unworthy, weak and insecure, with peace seemingly from you circumstances?

The answer is so simple.

The name of the Lord is our strong tower.  All the protection we need, in the battles of life, can be found simply in His name.  We can run into it, and we can be safe.















Thou hidden source of calm repose,
thou all-sufficient love divine,
my help and refuge from my foes,
secure I am if thou art mine;
and lo! from sin and grief and shame
I hide me, Jesus, in thy name.

Thy mighty name salvation is,
and keeps my happy soul above,
comfort it brings, and power and peace,
and joy and everlasting love;
to me with thy dear name are given
pardon and holiness and heaven.

Jesus, my all in all thou art,
my rest in toil, my ease in pain,
the healing of my broken heart,
in war my peace, in loss my gain,
my smile beneath the tyrant's frown,
in shame my glory and my crown.

In want my plentiful supply,
in weakness my almighty power,
in bonds my perfect liberty,
my light in Satan's darkest hour,
in grief my joy unspeakable,
my life in death, my heaven in hell.
Charles Wesley



Monday, 23 February 2015

Children with character {It's "the way God made them"}

Yesterday, we had a lady from Church come to our home for Sunday dinner.

As we were getting dinner ready, Elijah, my four year old, came into the kitchen.  He started up a conversation with our friend, that went something like this.

"Tell me things that melt"

Simultaneously, two adult brains were working overtime, to think of things to tell this little man.

"Ice"

"Chocolate"

"Plastic - definitely when you put it near your gas stove...."

"Snow"

"Metal - although it depends on what type it is." (Verging on TMI for a four year old, there....)

Having, apparently, received satisfactory answers, he went on to his next question.

"Tell me things that die".

Welllllll....

This one he started to answer for himself.

"Well, flowers die -   and, some people die.  Animals die, too."

Our friend, who had Elijah in her arms, said "Where do you get all these big thoughts from?"

"God just made me this way", was his answer.

Truth.

My mind, today, went back through the memories of his life.  He was my VBAC baby. A precious gift after the transforming experience of an emergency c-section.  He was the child who I prayed over, and asked God to give me as a "fresh start" baby.  I knew if I had a VBAC I could carry on with further babies without that whole "ohhhhh, you had a section?" point of view from doctors.  Less pressure.  More "freedom" to receive blessings from God without the Spanish Inquisition. I researched so much about how to have the best delivery. How to be more in control of the experience of child birth.  How to wait on God for His timing for delivery, so I would be less likely to need intervention. More than anything else, I prayed that God's will would be done.  I knew, from the c-section delivery, that you can be ever so prepared, and God says "No, my child, THIS is the way it will go".  I prayed, and I prayed, about that delivery, and God answered my prayer.  I got my VBAC, and to top it all off, it was my best labour,up  to that point, too.

It wasn't long, however, before I realised that there's more to life than the "perfect" delivery.  a delivery lasts hours, but a baby is there all the time.  Elijah very quickly turned out to be my hardest baby to date.  He had, we think, silent reflux.  He didn't like to lie down.  He didn't sleep for long stretches.  He was high maintenance, in a big way.  In order to maintain sanity, I discovered "baby wearing".  It was the only way he was happy - upright. Up until that point, I was becoming a frazzled mess, when normally I am fairly chilled out. IT was hard work to carry a baby throughout the day, whilst still trying to do school, tidy, clean and prepare food. The Lord, in His mercy, still allowed me to find perspective.  I thought about the many others I may be able to share my story with - about researching labour, about trusting God, about my experiences with a grumpy baby.  God used this child to show me more of Himself.  Patience.  Unconditional love.  Gentleness.  Kindness.  Compassion.  Sympathy.

Slowly, but surely, he improved -  once he was sitting up more, and eating more solids.  Except, he wouldn't eat SOLIDS.  Liquids, yes, but anything with a tiny lump would get thrown back up. He was WAY over the age of one before he could tolerate "normal" food.  It was hard work.

Then I was pregnant again - and he was still not sleeping through the night.  We finally got that sorted, by just ignoring him crying in the night.  It was so hard, but my body needed sleep to grow our new baby, and to maintain the energy needed to look after my 6 children.

Older still, he grew, and he had his funny little ways.  He didn't like to be thrown in the air - right from when he was still young enough not to think about it being "scary".  He had obsessions about things.  Very particular about the way things needed to be done. Not very able to cope with things new and different.

Then came his drawing.  That boy LOVES to draw pictures, and, from a younger age than I remember the others doing so, he would draw for endless ages.  He still does, and I find copious numbers of  pictures everywhere.  Pictures, with half of the attempts scribbled out, because they aren't "right".

Of late, the deep thinking has come.  He asks questions, very often of a spiritual nature, and remembers the answers.

"Mummy, did you know God is IN THE ROOM? WE can't SEE Him, but he's here, you know"

"Mummy, when we do bad things it's the devil telling us to do them.  We need to listen to GOD, and do GOOD things.  We MUSTN'T listen to the devil, when he tells us to do bad things, you know."

All said with SUCH a serious expression, and great intensity, making me want to laugh and cry at the same moment.

THIS is Elijah.

The little boy who spoke the words "This is the way God made me".

I don't just have Elijah, though, of course.  I have seven other children.  Each of them unique.  Each of them so very special to us.  They have precious character traits that make them just who they are.

Tenderness.

Helpfulness.

Kindness.

Sincerity.

Humour.

Generosity.

Mischievousness.

Curiosity.

Determination.

Compassion.

Communicativeness.

Too much to list.  All incredibly special traits.

But, the truth of it all struck home, as he uttered those words.  Each of our children, with their traits that come to them as naturally as breathing, are who God made them to be.  No two of them the same - and trust me, having 8 children soon shows you the diversity of character.  A child's character traits, with all the challenges they bring, make them the unique person who they are.

It got me to thinking back to Elijah's whole "Life story".

As a parent, we receive a new born baby with such great pleasure.  As that child is placed into our arms, we have NO IDEA what their life is going to be like.  They are like tiny treasure chests, waiting to reveal the secret of what lies within. We watch and wait, as day by day we see them become just who God created them to be.  As a baby grows older and reaches that age where you see THEM, and not just baby, the story starts to unfold.  Little things they do, the way they do things, and the expressions their face displays.  The way they speak, the way they smile. What makes them laugh, what makes them cry. As they get older still, the things that interest them become apparent. Over, and over again, their individuality becomes clear.

Like Elijah, each child has traits that are not always easy for the parent.  I'm not talking about their little hearts that are born with sin.  That, of course, is the biggest challenge of parenting - training them in "the way they should go".  I'm talking about their character, which can bring challenges.  It brings challenges because it challenges US.  It challenges us, as parents, to nurture their character, and not fight it.  It challenges us to try and understand how their little heads and hearts operate, to better love and direct them as they grow.  It challenges us to move outside the comfort zone of what is "normal" to us, and see that it my not be "normal" for someone else.   It challenges us to embrace the "different", and to love it and appreciate it.

When Elijah was placed in my arms, I was filled with such joy and triumph.  I had achieved something, by God's grace and strength, which I had longed for, for so long. I was relieved, and elated.  Had I known then what kind of child he would be, my joy may not have been quite so full.  I'm so glad only God knows the future! But, with hindsight, I see how God has taught me so much through it all.  Not just through HIS life - although it seemed pivotal in many ways - but through the life of each child God has gifted us with. Each life, created in His image, to HIS glory.  Each life, with  personality that is God-given, and which holds SO much potential to be used to His glory.

Like treasure, we hold each child's character in our hands.  If you hold treasure, it's worthless  unless you see the potential in it, and do something with it.  Treasure that isn't invested, in some way, isn't treasure at all - it's just an object. Likewise, if we don't DO something with the traits that our children have, they are not worth so much.  We have to give them opportunities to develop those traits.  We need to invest them by placing them where they can grow and bring worth.  We need to direct them as to how to harness the potential and make it grow in a good way.  We need to look out for the ways it could make them stumble or struggle, and guide them in using their character wisely.  Each child, a little treasure, full of potential.

Above all else, we need to thank God for them - over, and over, and over.  What we see, as Elijah reminded me yesterday, is the way GOD made them.  When we read in the Bible that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made", that doesn't just mean our physical being.  It's every part of us - and it includes our minds, and how they work.  Those minds that incline us towards different strengths and weaknesses.  As hard as some days me be, as our children stretch the "muscles" of their personalities, and test us as they learn and grow in character, we need to give thanks "In every thing". Give thanks, and train them up in the way they should go.

Our children, all different - it's the way God made them.  Let's give thanks, and invest those treasures to the best of our ability.










My Joy-Filled Life

Friday, 20 February 2015

Friendship {Part 1 - who ARE friends, anyway?}

I have been thinking about writing about friendship for a long time. So, today, I am going to begin a long-thought-about "series" on friendship. No promises about how long it will be, or when it will finish, but I think it's something worth considering.

It's a subject that you hear about SO much these days.

BFFs.

"Friends" on Facebook.

They are catchy titles that fly about with great regularity.

Someone suggested to me, a while ago, that "friends" on Facebook are not REAL friends.  You don't know them IRL (in real life, for those who are NOT up-to-date on such lingo...), so they can't be "real".

Then there are BFFs.  I actually had to look this up to get it right, because it's one of these "popular" phrases of the trendy, of which I am not.  I thought it meant "best female friend". Goes to show how much *I* know about it.  It means "best friends forever".  Now I know.

So, what IS friendship?  It is quite a subjective term, in many ways.  One person may classify a friend in one way, and someone else my consider it differently.

Well, according to the Oxford dictionary, it's

"a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations."

If you are someone who wants to define it in an official capacity, then your husband isn't your friend, and you can't be friends with  your family.

I have a problem with both of those premises.

For me, my husband is my BEST friend.

I know, for some, that's not the case.  I find that sad for a few reasons.  I find it sad because there is obviously a lack of "mutual affection". Affection is being fond of someone, or liking them. How can one NOT be fond of their spouse, or feel affection toward them? I guess if you have an arranged marriage, then things could be lacking in mutual affection.  That can be remedied, I suppose, if  you set your mind to it.

I would suggest, in an ideal situation, that the first level of connection you should have with your spouse IS friendship.  A serious relationship should BEGIN with mutual affection.  When we give guidance to our children about looking to marriage, it's the starting point that we would assert to be the best one.  You begin as friends. It may be that you seek someone with the design that they be  your spouse, or it may be someone you meet through the course of life.  Either way, you begin with making a connection on the grounds of commonality.  You both have the same interests.  You both have the same ambitions. You both have the same desires.  You both have the same goals. You both have the same beliefs and convictions. How can a marriage even be considered unless all of this is true?  You have no foundation for a good marriage, if friendship doesn't start first.  I would guess thaat, although I have no proof for it, other than what I have witnessed for myself, the marriages that last begin with friendship.

If you say your husband is not your best friend, I think it's ultimately a reflection of either a lack of commonality when the marriage was initiated, or a lack of effort to maintain it AFTER marriage.  Both of these situations are sad, and I feel a deep sense of pity for those who are in such a situation.

I would also say that my husband IS my best friend, BECAUSE of the added intimacy marriage affords.  Not only are you connected as friends, with mutual affection for each other and desires that are in union, but you are close in a physical and loving sense.  That combination, for me, makes him the best friend I could possibly have, because he gives me more than any other friend could POSSIBLY give! What a joy, and blessing!  Look no further than Song of Solomon, for a proof.


"he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem."
Song of Solomon 5:16


As for not being friends with your family?  Again, I don't agree.

Friendship is about having a bond, and a mutual affection.  True, family is defined by the bond you have by blood, or by adoption.  However, friendship is something that goes BEYOND that, because mutual affection is something you can have WITHIN it! Without a doubt, I count my family members as some of my closest friends. Family both by birth, and by marriage.  To me, it's a sign that your family connection is deeper than a title of "sister", or "sister-in-law", or "mother" (males included, but I'm not listing EVERY family title!!) .  Family is a bond that is like no other, but family who are ALSO your friends indicates a depth of relationship that goes beyond blood ties. It's a privilege to count a family member as a friend.

So, how DO you define a friend?

If you have a mutual affection for each other, it must stem from knowing them well enough to have affection at all.  It presupposes that you have spent time getting to know the other person, and finding out what they are like.  How do they think?  How do they behave?  What do they like?  What do they love?  Then, based upon that knowledge, you build that mutual affection for each other, which leads to true friendship.

In times past, as well as in the present, friendship was most commonly established through the contact you had with people on day to day basis.  The people in your community, the place where you worked, the activities you are involved with, or those you met with day by day, were all potential "candidates" for friendship. In other words, you had to have SOME kind of contact with them in the first place, in order to begin a friendship.

Back to my "Facebook friends aren't real" statement.

(Not mine, I add.)

If a friend is someone who you have a bond of mutual affection with, knowing them in person, or meeting them physically, isn't necessary. Now, I want to add I can UNDERSTAND people's leeriness about establishing a friendship "virtually".  People can be whoever they want to be online.  I have known people who I have first met online, who I end up meeting in person, and they are NOT the person they portray on the Internet. That's not always a bad thing, I add, but often it's a huge surprise.  Those quiet online, can be chatty in person.  Those quite vocal online, can be unbelievably quiet in person.  People can come across quite normal in the world wide web, but be quite odd in person.  Undeniably, all this is true. You can't dismiss the fact that many ARE very real online, because some are not.  As with anything, you use discernment, wisdom and common sense, to establish whether someone is truly a "friend", or just an "acquaintance".  If you DO ever meet them in real life, and they are not what you expected, you can take things from there!

Undoubtedly, many of my Facebook "friends" are not really friends.  I don't particularly like the generalisation, but, hey, "acquaintances through some tenable virtual connection" doesn't have quite the same ring to it, right?  They are simply those who you have made a connection with, in some way or another.

But, without a shadow of a little doubt, true friendships can definitely be made online.  I have met some wonderful people online, more specifically, on Facebook, who have become incredibly good, and close, friends.  People with whom I have made an initial connection through things we have in common, and who, by further communication and effort, have become those with whom I share "mutual affection". I'm not going to go into the detail in this post, because it's the things I want to deal with as I look at friendship, but those ladies fit the criteria and characteristics I would count as those you would expect of a friend.. (And yes, "ladies" -  as I will expound in another post, I don't pursue friendship with men.  More to come on that subject.)  There have been those with whom the connection just "clicked" pretty quickly, and others with whom I have grown closer to, as the affection has grown from getting to know each other better.  I value them as a treasure, and I am thankful to God for them.   Many of them I may never meet this side of heaven.  I have the knowledge that they are a blessing to me now, and that we will meet "On the other side".  Some I have had the great joy and delight of meeting in person, having made the connection online first. Getting to meet them has only deepened the affection.  Many I hope to meet in person some day.  Due to the fact that the Atlantic Ocean separates us, it's not that likely.  I can live in hope, though, can't I?

I don't rank my friendships in quality according to where they exist - in person, or virtually. They are all unique, but that is because of the beautiful and individual personalities of each friend.  It's also not about how much time I spend with them - it's quality, not quantity.  Most of my friends, due to my location and busy life, are those with whom I don't get to spend a lot of time with - in real life, or online.  My main priority is my family, and I simply can't talk online all day, or always be off visiting friends, or having them come here. I'd never get anything done! But, those friends I DO have, continue to build that "mutual affection" whenever we are in contact. The time lapse between contact doesn't lessen the friendship, because that affection doesn't go away.

I am SO thankful to God for my friends.  I am a very sociable person, and the Lord knows how much I need them, and the value they add to my life. I would go stir crazy without them! I'm not someone who has a lot of friends with a shallow connection.  The friends I have I love, and love deeply.  I don't make friendships quickly, but similarly, I don't break them easily or lightly. So long as that mutual affection remains, built upon the truths that I will go on to explain, in further posts, you will be my friend for life.

So, who are YOUR friends? Thank God for them, because they are a gift from Him.

I hope you are as blessed as I am, and if you are not, I pray that the Lord blesses you, too.





  

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Women of the Word {Jobs daughters - beauty for ashes}





There is no doubt at all that the account of Job is one of great trial.

The experiences that God allows in His life are tough.  They are some of the hardest that can be humanly endured.  Pain, sorrow, and loss.

Yet, as I come to think about these three daughters, at the end of the book - Jemima, Keziah and Keren-Happuch - my heart cannot help but be drawn to an all-prevailing truth.

God is good, and we don't deserve it.

As Job came to the end of his trials - not the least of which was the torment he had to endure from his "comforters" - he didn't conclude with a "poor me" speech.  He didn't lament his losses, and cry bitter tears.  He had much for we could understand if had had a  reaction of questioning and self-pity.

But, that is not where we find Job.

In the end of his trials, we see him speaking these words.

"I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. 
Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." 
Job 42:5-6  

Through all his deliberations with his friends, and the trials he had gone through, he had come to a deeper understanding of God.  He had heard of God and His greatness - but now he REALLY understood.  He had seen, with His own eyes, how great God was.

How great God was, and how small and sinful HE was.

He hated himself, and repented.

You see, when we go through trials, God allows us a glimpse of His greatness.  We see how unworthy we are, beside His greatness.  How deserving we truly are, of any trials God allows. Trials should bring us to the stark understanding that we are NOTHING and God is EVERYTHING.

Job was a righteous man.  He did what was right.  However, by the end of it all, he was a righteous man who knew God in a deeper, more meaningful way.  What a humbling realisation. What a challenge in my own life.

It doesn't end there.

What we read next is God - the very essence of His nature.  The sum total of His being.

"The LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before"
Job 42:10


Wow.

God is not just good.

Good would replace what he had lost.

Good would simply give.

God is not simply good.

God is GREAT.


"Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable."
Psalm 145:3


God is so great we cannot express it.  We can never fully tell of His greatness and His goodness. 

We cannot, but we must try.  

Psalm 145 is FILLED with the declaration of God's goodness, imploring us to do the same.  

Moreover, the way God blessed Job, enabled him to do exactly as the Psalms instructs.   

"One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts."
Psalm 145:4



Job had lost all his children.  They had all died, in one short space of time.  Yet, God blessed him again, for all children are a blessing from the hand of God.  His first 10 children had died, but God gave him 10 more.  

Seven more sons.

Three more daughters.

Ten children to declare God's greatness TO.

Not only that, but they were BEAUTIFUL!

God isn't just good, He is GREAT! 

Job went from mourning and ashes, in the beginning, to abundant blessing in the end. 

God allows trials.  He allows them to bring glory to Him.  So that we can echo, with Moses of old


"Ascribe ye greatness unto our God. 
He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he."
Deuteronomy 32:4-5  



Job was not alone in his experiences.  Reading the Psalmist, in Psalm 71, reads as if Job himself could be speaking.


"Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high, who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto thee! 
Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth. 
Thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side." 
Psalm 71:19-21



Job's daughters were a living testimony to God's greatness.  They were a daily evidence to Job, and his wife, of course, that God is not only good, but He is great.

If we but stop for a moment, and look around, even in the midst of trials, we will see God's greatness.  It's always there, if we look.

His great salvation. (Hebrews 2:3)

His great mercies. (Isaiah 54:7)

His great love. (Ephesians 2:4)

His great faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:23)

His great grace. (II Corinthians 4:15)

His great reward. (Psalm 19:11)

His great Priesthood. (Hebrews 4:14)

His great promises. (II Peter 1:4)

Even if we can't see it right now, we know that God will give greatly, when we receive our eternal reward.

It may be, like Job, that you don't see it whilst you are in the midst of the trial. The trial is real, and it just keeps coming in waves.  Don't despair, His greatness will come. You WILL receive an evidence of His greatness, if you, like Job, remain faithful and true as you go through the trial. That is what God requires of us - to be faithful right to the end, and that will be where we see God's greatness at its fullest. 

"be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."
Revelation 2:10

Precious daughter of the King, keep on through your trials. You may be dragged low, as Job.  You may plumb the depths of despair. Don't look down, look up.   Look to see God's greatness, beside  your insignificance.  Look forward, to the time when you will see the evidence of His greatness.  It may not be now, it may not even be soon, but even if it is not until you reach glory, eternity will be too short to tell of His greatness.

He WILL give you beauty for ashes.





Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Tots on a Tuesday {Walk, anyone?}

Today, I thought it would be a nice idea to go for a walk. It's getting all spring-like, and a walk gives a perfect opportunity to learn in an informal, fun way.  The sun had been shining since first thing this morning, and after a miserable day yesterday, a walk seemed like a nice plan.

Tots love to get out, and Mums love to get tots out.

We love it.  Honestly.

I mean, getting 6 of the children out for a walk is simple.  Simple, I say.

Hmmmmmmm.

"We're going for a walk - everyone come and get reaaaad-deeeeeeeee" was yelled up the stairs, in the hope that all ears would hear, and all feet would start moving in the right direction.

Hmmmmmmm.

So, I had to go up and find the youngest two, who were taking it in turns to turn on and off the tap in the bath.  As you do.

Reprimands issued, they were ushered downstairs, whilst poking my head around the door of the girls' room to tell the other 4 to come downstairs. (Josh wasn't coming, and Daniel was out with Daddy at B&Q).

At this point, they all start congregating, AT THE SAME TIME, in the hall.  All jostling and pushing over each other to find their shoes.  Which are all neatly lined up in the shoe cupboard.

NOT.

(Is my shoe cupboard SUPPOSED to be tidy??)

"MUUUUUUUM.  I CAN'T FIND MY SHOES!"

"Look in the cupboard".

"I DID"

"Did you look properly?"

"Yes"

"Really?  Like, "Mummy" properly?"

Mummy looks, and find shoes.  A repeat of my Sunday morning ritual, usually accompanied by me tossing hats, gloves, dirty socks, spoons, and other random items from in the shoe cupboard, over my shoulder, like a crazed person bailing out water from a sinking ship.  Yes, that's my Sunday morning routine.

It's not yours?

That's nice for you.

"Would someone get Tabitha more socks, and Simeon too?"

Asked again.

And again.

Apparently children doing jobs become temporarily deaf.

So, I go upstairs myself.  Said girl needing socks because apparently it's good to smear pancakes on them at lunch, by standing up in your high chair, on the pancake you've dropped there.

Simeon needs socks because, as tots randomly do, he keeps taking them off.

Why?

"They're "spicy" Mummy"....

What on EARTH are SPICY socks, anyway? I'm guessing that child has some sensory issue going on, but he can't go out in the freezing cold with no socks on.

I sit him on the stairs to put on the socks.

There's a HUGE hole in the bottom of the socks.  A good mother would go upstairs and get another pair.  A starting-to-get-frazzled Mum of 8 just figures it's better than no socks, and it'll be FINE.

I look up at him, and realise his t-shirt has the remnants of pancakes, syrup and ice-cream.

His coat will get zipped up, right? It'll be FINE.

"Where are Tabitha's shoes?", I yell.

"I can only find one - she had the other one earlier and I can't find it".

Great.  That would be the pair, slightly too small for her, that she ended up wearing on Sunday because I couldn't find the other one of the pair she SHOULD be wearing.

So, was I going to need to put an odd pair on!??!  Slippers?  An extra pair of socks?  All of this going on in my mind whilst I search every room in the house.  Behind the sofa.  In the kitchen.  All of the unlikely places a shoe would be, because one-year-olds don't leave things in obvious places, right? Under the dining room table I found one of the pair that DID fit.  Hmmmmmm.  Is this the one I COULD find on Sunday, or the OTHER one?  Back to the shoe cupboard, and I hoked through it again....where I found the OTHER one of the pair that FIT! Which beggars the question, was it there on Sunday all along, and I searched like a child instead of like a Mummy?....

Never mind, two shoes, and on they went.  Jumper on.  Cute baby.

"Can someone get the pram and baby carrier out of the mini-bus?"

"Erm, Mum, Dad went OUT in the mini-bus".

Of COURSE he did.

At this point, a Mum hits a moment.  It's that point where you decide whether you give up, or carry on.  You balance up all the pros and cons, and make a lightening speed decision, based on all the facts you can pull from your brain.  I had already put SO much effort in, I was determined, in a crazy Mummy kind of way, to carry on.  I was sure there was another baby sling somewhere, and Simeon could walk, albeit slowly.

I WAS GOING OUT.

This time I needed to hoke about in the coat cupboard.  The light doesn't work in there, and I swear Narnia is in the back of it somewhere.  It's that big. I stuck my arms in up to the neck, moving them about, blindly, feeling for what may be a sling.

Was that it? Nope, it's a bag.

Ooooh, ooooh - nope, a bag with yarn.  (They are ALL round my house - bags with yarn.  I have yarn issues)

Finally, KA-CHOW!

A sling!

Small people with coats and shoes on - check.

Middle sized people with shoes and....

"Abi - what ARE you wearing?  It doesn't really match, and you're wearing summer shoes.  You look completely home-schooled"  (What?  You don't say that to your children?  Did you know there was even a "home-schooled look".  Don't answer that.  Especially if you send your children to school.  I don't want to know....)

"Never mind - it kind of matches, and it will look better once your coat is zipped up..."

"Elijah and Susie, it's NOT the summer - will you put a coat on RIGHT NOW!"

That will be the Scottish blood in them.  But, they would certainly have been moaning fairly quickly without a coat.

Middle sized people with shoes and coats.

Right, my turn.  Boots.  Hoodie.  Scarf.  Coat.  Sli....

"MUUUUUUUUM!!!!" (punctuated with sobs)  "I fell over..." (now sitting on floor, pulling up trouser leg)  "and my leg huuuuuuuurts".  (revealing a tiny, imperceptible graze)

"Oh dear! I'm sure you'll be really brave.  It'll be fine....."

Moving swiftly on.  (I'm experienced - I know when a hurt needs a fuss, and when a small person needs to man up, in the most loving sense possible...)

Sling on.  Baby in sling.

Print-outs of "signs of spring".  Penc....

"Has anyone seen where all the PENCILS have gone?"...

Shouted out the door, like a fisher-woman.

So common.

A quick glance around finds them under the dining table (maybe I should start EVERY search there?), on the lounge floor, and on the kitchen counter.  Of course.  Isn't that where everyone keeps pencils?

And we were off!

We got as far as several doors down.  We found the first thing from our list to identify "sign of spring".

Oh the sweet moment, when your tot gets excited about SNOWDROPS!

"Mummy, mummy LOOK - it's the flowers from on the paper!"

Then we discovered some pussy willow.  Not on the list, but perfectly fuzzy, soft and stroke-able. OF course, needing to be stroked by them all. Cute.



Then, they heard birds singing, which is also on the list.

Did you know that they only sing in spring - it's on the sheet, so it must be right.

Right?....

I'm fairly certain it's a sign that it's daytime, but who am I but a humble mother?

Then we saw bulbs pushing up.  That was on the sheet - only the sheet specified bluebells, which apparently are some of the earliest to show up - if you live in a dell somewhere, in the woods.  Because bluebells don't really happen in gardens.  But, the picture just looked like bulbs pushing up, so then I had to tell them that they re a sign of spring, but not EXACTLY what was on the list.

OCD Mummy moment.

"But, I can just tick it off anyway, Mum, can't I?  It's a bulb!"

Sure, that's fine.

Why they didn't just have "bulbs" is anyone's guess...

Then we saw another sign of spring.  Two people doing something with a huuuuuge silver tube.

Sorry, not a sign of spring, a sign that children are about to be hugely distracted from the purpose of the walk.

"Mummy, what are they doing?"

Mummy, assessing the scene as quickly as possible, with her omniscient mind working overtime. (Because, as you know, in the eyes of a child, we know EVERYTHING.  No pressure, then...)

"Erm, I think they are putting a chimney liner in"

(Chimney cover was off, scaffolding was up, long thingy looked liked a liner....)

Aforementioned person doing the worked looks over and nods, smiling.

Phew.

Score.

"That one up there is a man, and the one down at the bottom is a woman"  says a small person, very loudly, whilst Mummy hopes she is right, and hasn't just offended a girly looking young man.  Mummy checks for herself, and sighs with relief, realising small person is right.

Phew.

10 minutes from home.  Only YARDS from home.  About 30 minutes after announcing departure.

Daddy drives into the street.

Pram gets retrieved.  Son joins the walk.  We make it out of the street.

It's lovely. Walking in a village.  Signs of spring all around.  Trying to keep small people from running onto the road.  Really relaxing.

Then, a tot sees something in the near distance.

"Mummy, a DOG - woof woof"

"Don't touch it unless you ask!"

Nice chat with villagers.  Awkward moment where they are talking to you like they know you, and you can't think how you know them.  Rapidly trying to remember who they are, whilst they talk to you, seeming to know all about you. (To be fair, family with 8 children is slightly more memorable than "woman with cute dog"....)  Thankfully, I remember, and conversation can become more intelligent. (PLEASE tell me I'm not the only one this happens to?!?) All the while, the children are stroking the lovely little dog, whilst the woman says "He has NEVER bitten anyone", as you hope it's not going to be famous last words, as your tot pulls its tail....

Crowning moment of the day, thus far.  Meeting someone you haven't seen for ages, and they ask "How do you manage to stay looking so YOUNG?"

In my mind, thinking, "you haven't seen my horrendous passport photo...."

Out loud, saying "you're SO kind....." whilst feeling totes awks.....

SHOULD I look older?

Maybe they actually think I'm, like, 52, and then looking 45 would be good?



Who knows...

It's kinda' like the "You don't LOOK like you've got 8 children", as someone said tonight, at the hairdresser, and I've heard SO many times before.  What does THAT look like?  The mother of 8?  Haggard?  Obese?  Stressed?  Grey?  Certifiably insane?

Who knows....

The walk turned out to be lovely.  No major incidents.  No loss of life.  No injuries.

Just lots of children, enjoying the outdoors, finding signs of spring.



(and looking JUST like her Grandma Cordle...)


"Mum, can you take a picture of me with these flowers", as child plunks down, on the wet, dirty grass, for a photo op...



Guess the skirt was going to need washing, anyway...

Oh, there WAS the moment when we walked along and a child asked

"Mummy, what's that building?"

"Ermmmm.... that's a SCHOOL."

"Oh!"

Seriously, I need to educate my children better....

Oops.

Then, we got back.

"Don't walk into the house with dirty shoes on!"

"Put your shoes and co..."

"In the cupboard.  Yes Mum, we know...."

And we were back.  Back from the walk.  It sounds so simple, right?

"Going for a walk".

Welcome to my world.

I vaguely remember the days when I would plan to do something, and immediately execute the plan with no complications.

But then, those were the days BEFORE children.

Would I want to leave these crazy moments behind, and go back to BC? - before children?

NO WAY!

I said to Robert just last night,  being a parent of small children is not always easy. Sometimes it makes you feel like pulling your hair out.  Sometimes it's downright CRAZY! Sometimes a lot of the time, there's mess. But, always - ALWAYS - it's a blessing.  The best things in life often involve effort and are filled with trying moments.  They are totally worth it.  Totally.  And, it will pass. OHHHHHHH too quickly.  It already is. Too, too fast.

I could have stayed at home.  I could have given up.  I could have abandoned my plan.  But, then I'd never do anything with my little ones.  Life simply takes effort, and I like it that way.  You need to embrace the crazy, and go with the flow.

It's like OUR walk, with Jesus.  We can start off the day, hoping to walk well.  We have great plans, but plans don't always work out in our spiritual life, any better than they do in physical life. Distractions come.  We face difficulties and trials. We trip up and fall.  We struggle to find what we need.  But, at the centre of it all is our Father, helping us.  And, just like my walk today, we need to determine to walk that walk anyway, fighting through the things that would try and pull us down or distract us. We know our walk will bring us blessing and joy.  It will bring us a fresh understanding of God, and His greatness, and His goodness. It will bring us a renewed sense of God's provision and patience. Always worth it.

Walk, anyone?....

























Monday, 16 February 2015

Modesty {a heart that wants to be attractive to God}

I have been meaning to write a post about modesty for a long, long time.

It's something that I have thought a lot about, but never got round to putting my thoughts in print.

My husband has inspired me, however.

As a preacher of God's Word, He seeks to share the WHOLE counsel of God.  He doesn't skip over hard subjects -  he deals with the practical, as well as the doctrine from which the practical flows.

This last weekend, in the process of peaching through the book of I Timothy, he came to verse 9-10 of chapter 2.

"In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works."

You are able to listen to his sermon online.  It expounds these verses far more fully than I will do here.  I will, however, touch on some of the same issues.  

So, what is modesty all about?  

It's not about a whole lot of specifics.  I am not going to list a string of "you must do this", "you mustn't do that".  It's not legalism.  

It's also not got anything to do with trousers, or not trousers.  That is more to do with femininity, and also not something you can be legalistic about.  What the trousers are like is certainly about modesty, but the wearing of them, or not, is not the same topic.  

What it IS, is a reflection on the outside of what is in the inside.  It's a heart issue. 

If you look at the verses in I Timothy you will see the words "adorn", and "modest apparel".  In other words - "putting on modest clothes".   It's about what you wear. What you put on the outside of your body.

Come with me, if you will, back to Eden.  That fateful day when Eve yielded to the temptation to be like God, and the day when she convinced her husband to follow likewise. When they ate of the fruit, their eyes were opened, and they saw they were naked. Their reaction? To cover up.  They got big old fig leaves, and somehow "sewed" them together, to cover themselves up.  We don't know how big those figgy clothes were, but we know they were ashamed of being naked.

In the words of my hubby, there is a care we should take.

Adam and Eve CARED that they were naked.  Sweet sisters, there is a shameful prevalence, in today's society, of people - and I am talking CHRISTIANS - who don't seem to CARE that they are dressed immodestly.  Clothes are designed that way, so it must be ok? Right?

WRONG!

Designers are mostly NOT Christians - they do not follow Biblical principles. They don't follow the moral principle of clothing, which is to COVER, not to UNCOVER. In fact, the clothing of today is DESIGNED to stimulate sexual attractiveness, not to modestly clothe.  Just because that's what is out there, does NOT mean we have to blindly follow, with no thought or care for what God wants.  THAT is ultimately the care we should be taking.

Is it pleasing to God, or pleasing to the flesh? Are we more pridefully concerned about what others think, or what God thinks?  When the Israelites entered the Promised Land they were instructed to be set apart. We should have the same principle applied to how we dress.  Are we set apart from the world, and how they view modesty?

Next, we need to look at the specifics of the verse.  How exactly are we to cover up?

Then, there is a concern we should have.

It says "with shamefacedness".

Now, I love my KJV version of the Bible.  I believe it to be the most faithful and accurate translation.  Here lies an example of some parts that are on the tricky end of language.  Who uses THAT word any more? On the other hand, it paints a perfect picture of how we need to be.  It's to be bashful, to avert the gaze, not to draw attention to something.  Our faces should be desiring to deflect any need for shame.

The truth is, clothing of today is not only covering so little, it's drawing the eye to places people shouldn't be looking.. The type of fabric - the cut of the cloth - it's all to attract the eye to places which should be covered up, not shown off.  Shamefacedness is about averting the gaze of others, not drawing it to the wrong places.

Now, this DOESN'T mean we are not be dressed attractively.  The clothing can be attractive, without others being attracted to your BODY.  Femininity is a good thing.  Being a woman who looks like a woman is right, and pleasant.

Robert outlined three things, that I wholeheartedly agree with, which are a good guide to assessing the suitability of clothing.

a) Not too low - we're talking neckline here. A low, or plunging, neckline draws the eye right down to the cleavage. It's drawing the eye to a place which the Bible says is to satisfy a husband, but not anyone else.

b) Not too high - this is skirt length.  This is something that I have known a whole pile of rules to be made about, in various places.  Girls having to kneel down, and do all sorts of things, to check out length of skirt to be compliant with some set of rules. Those kind of rules are just that - man made rules.  However, the shorter it is, the less it leaves to the imagination. The eye is drawn up, once again, to areas that it shouldn't be drawn to, the higher the skirt goes.

c) Not too tight - this is anything! Things that are figure hugging show off the curves and shapes of your body. It's once again not leaving much to the imagination. Sometimes it's just plain gross, but that's a whole other story about people not LOOKING in the mirror. Like, PROPERLY looking.

Robert also mentioned the thing that he knows that I do.  Well, kind of two things. He mentioned the mirror test.  I regularly stand in front of a mirror, in a changing room, and bend over, and stretch up, and do all sorts of contortions.  You see, I'm a mother of small people. It is a frequent requirement of me to bend over and pick up either a small person, or something belonging to the small person.  If, when I bend down, you can see right down to my naval (or whatever comes before that...), then the top is not modest.  If I stretch up and you can see my midriff, it's not modest.

He then mentioned layering.  That, my friends, is worth the chuckle of listening to his sermon.  My husband.  Talking about layering.  No, he didn't really know EXACTLY what he was talking about, but he got the gist of it.  If something is too gapey, or too low, or too baggy under the arm, or too sheer, put something underneath! A gorgeous item of clothing doesn't need to be dismissed simply because it doesn't seem, at first glance, to fit the "modest" category.  I regularly search for vest tops to put under tops that are not quite right.  The one I am wearing today I can hardly believe someone would wear WITHOUT layering. YIKES!




(Everything is from a charity shop, except my denim skirt, from Amazon.)




After a bit of hunting in the charity shops, however, I came up with the perfect top to put underneath, and I can still wear the pretty one over the top. I do long sleeved under short/sleeveless in the winter, and "vests" under less-than-modest tops in the summer. It can be done, with a bit of effort.  Plus, if you find a style that is perfect for using as a layer, buy a few, then you have them. I'm big into colour, and colour-co-ordination, so I ENJOY looking around the charity shops for the perfect match.  My friends will tell you I have the knack for finding the perfect combos! Find an inexpensive necklace to tie in, and I am one happy lady! (Mind you, I am already pretty well stocked up with enough to match any outfit I have...)

This next point is in the centre of the 5 Robert made.  Central is the watchword, here.

It's about the consideration we should make.

The word used is "sobriety".  This has NOTHING to do with the amount of alcohol you consume.  The word "sober" being connected with alcohol is to do with the "soundness of mind" you have sans excess alcohol.  Likewise, here, it's to do with "soundness of mind".  It's about being THOUGHTFUL and CONSIDERATE.

Yes, ladies, this is all about the men.

How WE view men.

Undoubtedly, men are given clear instruction in the Bible to not follow after lustful thoughts and intents. Yes, men have a responsibility to keep their thoughts pure.  Of course there are some with such wicked hearts that they will have sinful desires and actions no matter WHAT you wear. There aare also men that will be attracted to things that are not IMMODEST - it's just something that they personally love.  That's their issue, not the wearers. But, I'm thinking of the normal, everyday kind of man.

Women, however, can be like the spark that lights the fire.  "There's no smoke without fire", as the saying goes. Are you entirely sure that you are doing everything you can to prevent that fire from being lit? Are you dressing in a modest fashion which draws attention only to you as a person, and not you as a body?

Are we being considerate of the men - the BROTHERS in Christ - that we come into contact so often? Matthew teaches us that if we cause offence, we will bring woe upon ourselves.  Ladies, we have a responsibility NOT to cause offence to the men around us, by tempting them to lust after our bodies.

Wearing immodest clothing -  clothing that draws attention inappropriately to our bodies, causing men to lust -  but then taking issue with the MAN, is like saying "I can wear what I like, but don't look at me".

It's not considerate, and it's not thoughtful.

We need sound judgement, thoughtfulness, care and consideration. Don't push things as far as you can in the modesty stakes. Don't see how close to the mark you can get.  Don't see how much you can get away with uncovering.

Be sober.

The next point is the constraint you should exercise.

The next thing Paul talks of is NOT a command to wear no jewellery at all.  If that was the case I would be in BIG trouble! I have three rings that Robert bought me, which mean a lot.  There are my pearls, which he bought me to wear on our wedding day. As for my endless necklaces?!...

When he refers to the gold, and pearls, and costly array, he is referring to the trend of that time.  The trend to do ridiculous extravagant hair dos, embellished with everything imaginable - TO DRAW ATTENTION TO YOURSELF.

This is to do with the motivation BEHIND what we do.  Are you dressing to attract the gaze of others? Whether it's the attention of men, or the approval of women, neither is right.  It doesn't matter what the women think, but it matters greatly what the men COULD be thinking.

If you are single, do you REALLY want to attract men based on your figure? Really? Are you trying to lure them in like a hunter, setting the "bait" of your body to entice them?  To be objectified and noticed should NOT be your goal. Likewise, single men shouldn't be out looking for a wife based solely upon looks.  It's the stark truth that beauty WILL fade.  Your figure WILL change. Don't base decisions on looks.

So, what clothing SHOULD you seek?

What matters, more than ANYTHING else, is to be attractive to GOD. If we are, as the verse states, a woman professing godliness, we will WANT to be modest, from the inside, out.   God is looking for a woman's heart to be "decorated" with a meek and quiet spirit.  A heart that puts on so many other godly attributes, like love, truthfulness, mercy, and humility. A heart that is wise, which is like an "ornament of grace (and a) crown of glory" (Proverbs 4:9)

What statement, ultimately, are we trying to make?  Are we wanting the eyes of others to be drawn to the physical, or the spiritual?  Are we men pleasers, or God pleasers? Are we women who have a humble, contrite heart, willing to change, for God's glory? There are women out there who have NO idea what their clothing could be doing for men - are you willing to think about it and change, if need be? Do we have a teachable spirit?

Do you see all that has been said? No specifics of what to wear or what not to wear. No "wear this length or that length". Only general, wise principles, based on the truths of scripture.

Ultimately, we are each responsible for how we dress - whether modestly or immodestly. Our motivation, and how we live it out, comes from the HEART.  Does our heart want to do everything we can to please God, or are we more concerned about pleasing ourselves - the flesh, and the world?









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