What is the Glory of Motherhood?

“Will you awaken mothers to the glory of their calling?”

I keep hearing the Holy Spirit asking me that question.  And I have to answer with a question of my own.

“What is the glory of my calling?”

Honestly, I am having trouble seeing it in the midst of one big mess after another.  Courage’s birthday was a perfect example of this.

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It had been a pretty peaceful day.  I had time to get the house cleaned and ready for the party celebrating our fiery three-year old.  All of his presents were wrapped.  The supper was prepared in advance.  I had gathered the ingredients for Courage’s heart’s desire; a chocolate dirt cake with gummy bears.  I had also made two additional desserts with special ingredients to accommodate the more delicate members of our family.

I was sitting on the sofa, waiting for dinner time.  “This is an important part of motherhood right here,” I thought.  Celebrating my children and creating happy birthday memories for them.  I was hoping that Courage would feel loved and special and that the entire family would have fun.

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I started setting the table and getting the food ready when my perfectly planned birthday celebration began to unravel.

“Chai just threw up on the carpet!!!” I heard an excited child yell.  At first I tried to ignore it and continued the dinner preparations.  Maybe they were exaggerating as children are prone to do, or maybe someone else would take care of it.  No such luck.

I went from working with food in the kitchen to scraping stinky puke off the living room carpet.  Chai had suddenly gotten sick and ended up sleeping in his bed for the entire birthday party. The smell and the germs were not what I had planned.  Thank goodness my mom was the only guest, and we didn’t have a house full of people!

As I began scrubbing the carpet with cleanser, I heard the sound of some sort of ball hitting the side of the house.  This didn’t go on for long before I heard Chris yell out the window, “Cole, stop kicking the soccer ball against the house!”

Did Cole heed his father’s wise advice?  No, the banging continued once more, twice more, and then…the sickening sound of shattering glass!  Cole had just broken our living room window.  Thankfully, it was the storm window so none of the glass came into the house.  But there was glass all over the back patio.

“Oh well, I can’t worry about that right now,” I thought to myself.  “I have to throw in some laundry, get the boys to take out this trash, scrub my hands about fifty times in hot water, and then finish putting the food on the table.”

Back into the kitchen I went.  Then Areli came to me holding the cup used to measure the laundry detergent.

“Courage just handed this to me… filled with his pee!” she told me.

“Of course he did,” I thought. I was bracing myself for the next catastrophe that was sure to come.

Amazingly, the rest of the evening went just fine.  We all sang “Happy Birthday” very loudly.  Cake was eaten.  Presents were opened and played with.

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We made a big mess and cleaned up a big mess.  We put all the children to bed and prayed that no one else would throw up during the night.  We got into bed late to get up early and do it all over again.  Doesn’t seem very glorious, does it?

“Will you awaken mothers to the glory of their calling?”

Rick Joyner heard a great Queen ask him this very question in a vision that he wrote about in The Torch and the Sword.  He said that she was astonishingly beautiful and seemed to be motherhood in all of its glory.  She explained that she was Jerusalem above, the mother of all who worship in Spirit and truth, the church as it was called to be.

She asked Rick, “Will you awaken mothers to the glory of their calling?  Will you give my daughters swords and torches?  They are the ones who keep the torches alive, and they will wield the sword wisely.  My daughters will stop the death and bring back the life!”

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Perhaps to see a bit of the glory of my calling, I should find out what these swords and torches are all about.  Here are a few excerpts from the book and I hope it is encouraging to you!

The Lord handed Rick a torch and told him, “This is the light of My presence.  If I was not close to you, you could not hold it.  If you drift from My presence, it will become heavy.  If you drift very far from Me, you will have to lay it down…It is yours to carry for as long as you stay close to Me…No power on earth can put it out if the torchbearer walks with Me in this realm. Its brightness and power depend on the life of the torch-bearer, and on how close he stays to Me.”

Then Rick met Tomas a Kempis who told him, “You can set people, cities, and even nations free with the light of this torch…The torch you carry has been the source of every true movement of the Spirit.  The leaders of these movements were all torchbearers…If you are going to endure to the end, you must stay close to the Source of this light and fire.”

The Lord spoke about Thomas, “Men thought of Thomas as a humble laborer, one to cook, wash dishes, and weed gardens [sounds a lot like a mom’s job!], but he, too, carried this torch.  From his post of washing dishes, he became more powerful than kings or emperors.  He prophesied to millions over generations.  Even today My message goes forth from his writings to help prepare the coming ones.  You can be more powerful washing dishes and staying close to Me than you would be leading armies or nations but drifting from Me.”

I need to read that again!

“YOU CAN BE MORE POWERFUL WASHING DISHES AND STAYING CLOSE TO ME than you would be leading armies or nations but drifting from Me.”

To be torchbearers, to carry this fire that brings life rather than destroys, we must abide in Jesus.

Rick met Enoch who had so much of this life flowing through him that he never died.  Enoch said, “The Lord makes His messengers flames of fire.  You cannot walk with God, or fulfill His purpose for you on the earth, unless you keep this fire burning in your heart.  Lukewarmness is your deadly enemy.”

Lukewarmness can easily creep into the mind numbing daily grind of a mother.  It is the overwhelming hardships and challenges of motherhood that push us into his presence!  How I want to be one of the chosen torchbearers!

Jesus told Rick, “You will know these chosen ones by the fire that already burns in them.  They will never be content with religious practices, for they yearn for Me and the reality of this realm.  Because they seek Me, I will be found by them.  I will give them their heart’s desire – My fellowship.  I will be their inheritance.”

Later in the vision, Rick found himself preparing for a battle.  The only other warriors with him were a young girl and John Wesley.  Wesley told him, “The Lord called a dozen men.  He changed them and then they changed the world.  In your time He is going to do the same with the children.  It is also the time of the lioness.  Great are the company of women who will preach the gospel.  There will be many great men of God in your time – but the great marvel and great honor will be for the women and children who walk in the ways of the Lord.”

Later the Lord gave Rick a sword and said, “It will only become heavy if you wield it in your own strength.  This is my Word of redemption.  It cannot be destroyed, but will stand forever…No power on the earth is stronger than my redemption…This is the sword of the Spirit…You are holding my living Word…to receive my word into your heart must be your quest every day.  Then you will begin to see.  Then you will have understanding.

                “It was by my Word that the universe was created, and it is by My Word that it is held together.  My Word is the answer to every human problem…The sword that is being given to my messengers in the last days can break any yoke, and cut through any chain.”

“Will you awaken mothers to the glory of their calling?  Will you give my daughters swords ad torches?  They are the ones who keep the torches alive, and they will wield the sword wisely.  My daughters will stop the death and bring back the life!”

                “I am a woman.  I am a mother.  I am the keeper and sustainer of life here on earth.  Heaven stands in honor of my mission.  No one else can carry my call.  I am the daughter of Eve.  Eve has been redeemed.  I am the opposition of death.  I am a woman.” – Christianna Reed Maas

The reality is, we can carry the living fire of His presence and the powerful Word of redemption into every part of our day – the fun celebrations and the puking parties, the playtime and the hard work.  That is glorious even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.  We don’t need any special skills or qualifications.  All that is required is that we seek Him first, abide in Him, and receive His words into our hearts every day.

How Does God Feel About Mothers?

 

bc2I never considered it a sacrifice to be a mother.  I have always thought it was a privilege and the most amazing calling.  It is powerful and world-changing to be a mother, to grow and nourish the next generation.

Yet, now that I have been a mother for 17 years, I am getting a bit weary.  I have realized that I really don’t have my own life.  My days are filled with the needs of my husband and children.  I find myself daydreaming about what it would be like to be alone in the house with nothing to do except exactly what I WANTED to do.

Most of the time, I enjoy being at home with my children.  It is my favorite place to be.  I just assumed that it was my children’s favorite place to be as well.  One night Chris was working late and I was sitting at the dinner table with all of my nine children.  A peaceful meal is so refreshing to the soul; enjoying the smells and flavors, exchanging stimulating conversation.

A meal is never a peaceful affair at my house.  That night the children were all so loud, I couldn’t follow any one conversation.  Several of the boys were discussing topics not appropriate for the table.  The three-year old kept getting up and wandering around, and the 6-year-old kept standing up on the bench.  In an attempt to regain control, I lifted my voice and shouted above the noise, “Everyone be quiet!  We are going around the table and I want each one of you to tell me your favorite part of the day.  The rest of you just listen!”

The chaos quieted to a dull roar, and the children shared with me what they most enjoyed about their day.  The elementary school boys all enjoyed playing kickball at recess.  Cadin, who is fifteen, just started Cyber School after being homeschooled.  He had to go take the PSSAs for the first time.  He had never had to sit for 7 hours in a classroom before, and I thought he would hate it.  Yet, when it was his turn to share, Cadin said, “My favorite part of the day was taking the PSSAs.”

“Really?! Why is that?”  I asked.

“Because I didn’t have to be at home,” he answered.

“You don’t like being at home?” I asked, feeling very hurt.

“Well,” Cadin started with an apologetic voice, “I got to get a break and I didn’t have to do any chores.”

“I understand how he feels,” said Areli, my 17-year-old daughter.  “My favorite part of the day is when I do school, alone in my room.”

Now the small ache in my heart was growing.  “Well, I never actually get to be alone,” I said.  “Except maybe when I am in the bathroom.”

“You do get a nap every day,” Areli countered.

“That is true, and I so appreciate that nap!  But I am still not alone.  I have to share the room with the baby and wake up when she wakes up.  I am really never alone.”  I said.

Cole, the 15-year-old cynic, chimed in, “That’s your own fault for having so many children.  You and Dad went a little crazy,” he pointed out.

I felt the wind go out of my sails.  My own children didn’t even appreciate my willingness to carry them, give birth to them; give up sleep and privacy and alone time for them.  They couldn’t see the purpose in this crazy, loud, mess that is the Brandenburg household.  Sometimes I lose sight of it too.

When I look down the corridors of history, I don’t see the stories full of mothers heroically laying their lives down for their children.  I see men who fight battles, conquer, and enslave.  I see men who fight battles, conquer, and set free.  I see stories of kings and rulers.

When I turn on the TV, I don’t see news stories about the amazing mom who changed 24 diapers in the last 24 hours with only 3 hours of sleep the night before.  I see lawmakers and lawbreakers, politicians and rebels.

When I watch an awards show, I never see a mom who looks like me get up on stage and accept a prestigious award for her amazing ability to check items off a to do list and keep 9 children clothed and feed.  That is for the talented artists who receive the praise of millions of adoring fans.

What I thought was my little fan club was now telling me that they would rather be out of the house or alone instead of spending time with me.

I turned to a book that always helps me gain an eternal perspective, The Final Quest by Rick Joyner.  He shares a prophetic experience he had when he was in the throne room of heaven. He started in the very back of the room.  On his long walk to the front where the Lord was, he passed crowds of believers who had already died.  The multitudes standing at the back were more glorious than Rick had imagined people could ever be.  He was shocked to find out that these were in the very lowest rank in heaven.

One man he had known on earth explained it to him this way, “There is an aristocracy of sorts here.  The rewards for our earthly lives are the eternal positions that we will have forever.  This great multitude are those whom the Lord called ‘foolish virgins.’ We knew the Lord and trusted in His cross for salvation, but we lived for ourselves more than we really lived for him…there is no greater folly than to know the great salvation of God, but then go on living for yourself.”

This man was still more glorious and full of joy and peace than Rick had ever imagined possible.  It was simply because even a moment in the lowest part of heaven is much greater than a thousand years in the highest life on earth, and every person there had received so much more than they actually deserved.  As Rick moved toward the throne, he learned from the mistakes of those in the lowest ranks, and discovered that those same mistakes resided in his own life.

A great Christian leader during his life on earth told him, “What looks good on earth looks very different here.  What will make you a king on earth will often be a stumbling block to keep you from being a king here.  What will make you a king here is lowly and unclaimed on earth.”

Later, a famous reformer stepped forward and Rick couldn’t believe that he was in the lowest rank. The reformer told him, “God does have a different set of history books than those on the earth.  You have had a glimpse of this but you do not yet know how different they are.  Earthly histories will pass away, but the books that are kept here will last forever.  If you can rejoice in what heaven is recording about your life, you are blessed indeed.”

Then the reformer gave Rick some advice, “The high calling is not out of reach for anyone that the Lord has called.  I will tell you what will keep you on the path of life – love the Savior and seek His glory alone.  Everything you do to exalt yourself will one day bring you the most terrible humiliation.  Everything you do out of genuine love for the Savior, to glorify His name, will extend the limits of His eternal kingdom and ultimately result in a much higher place for yourself.  Live for what is recorded here.  Care nothing for what is recorded on earth.”

As Rick continued walking towards the glory of Jesus, he saw that each rank was many times greater than the previous one.  He described it like this, “When I was still not even halfway to the throne, what had been the indescribable glory of the first rank now seemed to be outer darkness in comparison to the glory of those I was now passing.  The greatest beauty on earth would not qualify to be found anywhere in heaven.  And I was told that this room was just the threshold of indescribable realms of glory!”

Rick learned from those who had fallen short of their destinies and also learned from those who had overcome and remained faithful to Jesus.  “Those who stumbled did so in many different ways.  But those who prevailed all did it the same way: They did not deviate from their devotion to the first and greatest commandment – loving the Lord.  In this way, their service was done unto Him, not to men. These were the ones who worshipped the Lamb and followed him wherever He went.”

Finally after what seemed like years of traveling, Rick reached the throne.  “Near the judgement seat of Christ, those in the highest ranks were sitting on thrones that were all a part of His throne.  Even the least of these thrones was many times more glorious than any earthly throne.  Some of those on the thrones were rulers over cities on earth and would soon take their places.  Others were rulers over the affairs of heaven, and still others ruled over the affairs of the physical creation, such as star systems and galaxies.

“It was apparent that those who were given authority over cities were esteemed even above those who had been given authority over galaxies.  The value OF A SINGLE CHILD (emphasis added) surpassed that of a galaxy of stars because the Lord has chosen men as His eternal dwelling place…

“At one point the Lord looked toward the galleries of thrones around Him.  Many were occupied, but many were empty.  He then said, ‘These thrones are for the overcomers who have served Me faithfully in every generation.  My Father and I prepared them before the foundation of the world.  Are you worthy to sit on one of these?’

“…I looked at those who were now seated on the thrones.  I could recognize most of those seated had not even been well-known on earth.

“Many of those on the thrones had been missionaries who expended their lives in obscurity.  They had never cared to be remembered on earth, but wanted only to be remembered by Him.  I was a bit surprised to see some who had been wealthy, and rulers who had been faithful with what they had been given.  However, it seemed that faithful, praying women and mothers occupied more thrones than any other single group.”

I have read this passage many times and every time my eyes flood with tears and my heart swells like it will burst!  My Lord has so honored mothers that many sit with him on the highest thrones in heaven!  My Lord so honors mothers that he allowed Rick Joyner to write down the revelation so that we could read it and be encouraged.

Mothers, let’s receive His grace to walk this path like eternity depends on it.  Jesus gave Rick this wisdom, “Those empty seats could have been filled in any generation.  I gave the invitation to sit here to everyone who has called upon My name.  The seats are still available.  Now the last battle has come, and many who are last shall be first.  These seats will be filled before the battle is over.  Those who sit here will be known by two things: They will wear the mantle of humility, and they will have my likeness.”

I am right where God wants me to be.  I am in the perfect place to love Him and to serve Him.  I don’t need to be famous or acclaimed or recognized or talented.  I just need to be who He has made me to be.

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I don’t need the world to understand the importance of what I am doing.  I don’t even need my children to understand and appreciate me.  I know that Jesus understands and he sees.

I don’t feel at all able to walk this path perfectly.  I am full of selfishness and I get off track so easily.  I realize that I can’t even do the basics, loving my husband and children, on my own.  I need His great grace!  But I am in the perfect place to receive His Grace…every…single…day!

An Answer for the Guilt of Motherhood

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I think most mothers feel some level of guilt every single day.  I know that I do.  I have heard it said that guilt is just part of the job description.  Should it be? Surely God doesn’t intend for us to carry this heavy load.  Wouldn’t we be much better mothers if we were free from guilt?

But I have so many opportunities to feel remorse!

When my third grader can’t read. (I am a horrible homeschool teacher!)

When my baby wakes up and I can’t calm him. (Surely I should understand a baby’s needs by this time!)

When I yell at my eight year old and he hides in the linen closet and cries. (I am so mean.)

When my teenager yells at ME for outlawing the indiscriminate consumption of sugar. (I am so unreasonable and extreme.)

When my oldest daughter is stressed out because of the amount of house work she has to do. (I should be doing more of the work myself.)

When my special needs girl is crying because I am forcing her to do therapy (what kind of monster am I?)

When my two year old screams so the entire grocery store can hear. (I have failed at disciplining him and instilling a sweet and joyful personality.)

I have realized that all moms have times like these.  So if we are all universally dealing with the guilt of our motherhood failures, THERE MUST BE AN ANSWER!!!!

Let me take you on a journey of extreme guilt and perhaps you will recognize your own journey.  I have a daughter who was born after a more difficult birth requiring Pitocin.  I wrote all about it in my article,  “Birth Story, Part 3.” She looked perfect and beautiful to me, but the hospital staff was convinced that there was something wrong with her.  She had unusual facial features and two toes on each foot were partially webbed.  They continued to “find” more and more abnormalities in her internal organs that could have had serious consequences.  Yet in just two days, she went home with me; a healthy, happy and totally normal baby!

Or so I thought…until I received a call when Ashlyn was 6 weeks old. The chromosome analyses revealed that she was missing a piece of her 6th chromosome.  No one had ever heard of such a thing and no one knew what this might mean.

Chris and I were convinced that our daughter would be just fine.  She could grow up without physical or mental handicaps because God would show us exactly what to do.  I read and researched and read and researched some more.  Other children like her had been able to maintain higher than average intelligence when put on an intensive therapy program developed by the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential.  I opted to enroll Ashlyn in a similar program at the Family Hope Center. 

It required taking Ashlyn to the center every six months for an evaluation and to learn the home treatment plan.  Each trip would cost $5,000.  We weren’t able to take her until she was three or four years old.  I felt terrible about losing those valuable first years, even though I tried to institute the therapies at home that I had taught myself by reading their books.  We were able to raise and save the money to go to the Family Hope Center a total of three times in the 12 years of her life.  Each time the Family Hope Center infused me with great ideas and many wonderful therapies.

But there was a problem.  How could I possibly accomplish 6 hours of therapy with Ashlyn each day?  I found it a struggle to devote even two hours to her with all the needs of my other children, the house, and my husband.  Many times Ashlyn would be very uncooperative or sick, and we got nothing accomplished at all.  I watched the years pass by and her developmental delays became more and more pronounced.  The gap between her actual age and her neurological age grew wider and wider.

I took some comfort in the fact that all the crawling around on the floor she was doing was organizing her brain, and that someday she would eventually walk.  When that day came, her intelligence would be much higher because of the abundance of cross pattern crawling she had done.

What I didn’t know was that she was developing a progressive club foot deformity.  Perhaps it was because of her chromosomes, perhaps it was because of the lack of weight bearing on her feet, perhaps it was because of the poor position of her legs and feet while crawling.  Her large shoes created a crawling form never taken by a normal baby.  The handicap crept up on me and all of her healthcare providers until…her muscles and bones formed abnormally.

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She became unable to stand up or walk normally and may never be able to.

I felt like this, along with all of her other physical and emotional issues, were my fault.  Whenever I looked at her twisted and painful feet, I would feel deep sorrow and crushing guilt.  God had given her to me, and surely he had given me the tools to help her, but I had failed.  Failed not just in a little thing but in something that will greatly impact the quality of her life…her entire life.

Everyone who saw Ashlyn would always comment on how well she was doing, how much progress she was making, and what an amazing job I was doing.

But I never believed them.

Chris was always saying that Ashlyn WAS doing so well because of all the time I spent with her and all the good things I have done with her.  Without my intervention, he said, she would still be lying like a blob on the floor.

But I never believed him.

I continued to blame myself for her every deficiency.  Therapy was a chore, and Ashlyn was very often unhappy.  How happy could you be when the sight of you reminded your mother of her guilt?

OK, this is an extreme case of guilt, but I am sure all of you mothers (and fathers) out there can relate to some degree.  Does my guilt sound reasonable and rational to you?  Have I been a horrible mother?  Does God want me to carry this burden?

Nooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!

And he doesn’t want you to carry it either!

So let’s clear up a few things, mothers and fathers out there.  I am going to tell you some truth, and I want to open up your ears and hearts and BELIEVE ME!

When something goes wrong…it is not your fault!

When your child is not perfect…it is not your fault!

When the world around you is not perfect…it is not your fault!

When you are not perfect…well, that may be your fault, but it is ok!

God, in his infinite wisdom, knew that you would not be perfect, yet he gave you that child anyway.  He knew that you were the very best parent for that child.

You cannot save your child from their sin, their bad habits, or their circumstances.

You cannot heal your child; not their bodies or their souls or their spirits.

You cannot mold them and shape them into the person you think they should be.

ONLY GOD CAN DO THAT!

Sometimes God does those things THROUGH you in his time and his way and you may be totally unaware that he is doing it.  The closer we are to God, the more our minds are filled with his wisdom, the more attuned we are to his voice, the more he can flow through us to our children.

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The vague feeling of failure that most of us moms carry around is not from God!  The thought that if we were better parents our children wouldn’t be so….whatever it is that they are…doesn’t come from God.  It comes from the Enemy of our souls.  He knows that we are the perfect parent for our child and that God is using us in amazing ways.  He wants to make us ineffective in this most important calling.

It is true that sometimes we do things wrong and we need to ask forgiveness from God and our children.  If we are listening to the Holy Spirit, he will show us when these times occur.  He will convict us in a very specific way and give us hope that there is forgiveness and healing through him.

Here is an example:

Condemnation from the Enemy: If you were smarter, more organized, and more loving, your daughter would have walked years ago.

Conviction from the Holy Spirit: When Ashlyn was crying during her walking therapy today, you continued to push her.  You should have slowed down, looked her in the eyes, and talked to her gently.  You could have showed her that you saw and acknowledged her pain.  You could have investigated the specific location of her pain and asked me for wisdom as to whether she was just whining out of childish self-pity, or whether she had a real injury.

Condemnation must be answered with the truth.  Conviction must be answered with saying you are sorry and changing your behavior.

What is the truth?  You can find it in the pages of your Bible.  You can find it in the eyes of your Savior.  You can find it in the voice of your Father.  In his presence there is fullness of joy.  Joy because in his presence he tells you how beloved you are.  He shows you how in control he is, and how your little mistakes can’t derail his plan.  I have found that conviction is a rather small part of what the Father does.  The large part is lavishing his praises and love and encouragement on us!  Being in his presence makes me a much better mother than guilt and self-criticism ever did.  I wrote about how I try to get into his presence during a hectic mommy day in my article, “Grumpy Mommy Morning.”

Have you ever had this experience in worship?  Your heart is bursting with love for God.  Your gratitude is so deep that you can’t express it in words.  You have so many things to thank God for that you are glad you have an eternity, because that is how long it will take! You wish you could do something worthy of your wonderful God; singing, dancing, painting a beautiful picture, writing a 300 page masterpiece…yet all you can do is just stand there and let the overwhelming joy wash over you.  Wouldn’t it be awesome to feel that way all the time?  To mother our children out of that kind of joy?  Someday, maybe we will.

Have you ever thought that maybe God feels that way about you?  That being with you brings him overflowing joy that will last forever.  That he is so thankful for you and your life!

Blows your mind!!!  That’s what happens when you start listening to God’s voice.  He blows your mind with a new perspective that sends the guilt and shame packing.

Once I was sitting on my sofa, miserable with morning sickness and feeling like an awful mom.  God broke into my despair and said to me, “Thank you!  Thank you for being available to carry this child.  Without you, I couldn’t have brought this child of destiny into the world.”

THAT is the truth.

You may feel very imperfect.  You may be sure that you are messing up your sweet innocent child, and that they will need inner healing as a result of your poor parenting techniques.  But without you, they would never have been born.  They would have never had the chance to experience life, love, laughter, and sorrow.  They would never get to see the sights of this earth or heard the sounds.  They would never have gotten the chance to choose right from wrong.  They would never have the opportunity to try and fail and try again.  They would have never had the opportunity to be messed up and then healed!

So thank you mom!  Let me say a big “thank you” to you from God, your child, and the world!  Thank you for giving your child life.  Thank you for doing your best.  Your best is a wondrous reality full of deeply textured experiences.  It is not all sunshine and roses, but even the chance to experience sadness and suffering is a gift.  Thank you mom for that gift.

Did you know that God uses motherhood as a picture of abundant prosperity?  Is 66:10-12 compares the prosperity of Jerusalem to nursing and being satisfied at a mother’s breast and drinking deeply in her overflowing abundance.  Then verses 12-13 says, “I will extend prosperity to her like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you will nurse and be carried on her arm, and dandled on her knees.  As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.”

God compares himself to a mother!  God is going to comfort us like a mother!  Ahhhh, what a wonderful, peaceful image that is.  Mothers – God is using you to show himself to your children.  Your nursing and cuddling and soothing is revealing to your child what God is like.  You may not do it 100% perfect all the time, but there you are, doing it and giving your child a frame of reference for the love of God!

This world is not perfect.  You may think you are doing a very poor job of protecting your child from the toxins in our food, the poisons on TV, and the bullies at school. Let me remind you that this world is not our home.  It is a hostile warzone, full of danger.  It is hard to see the warzone because it is disguised by the white picket fences and flower boxes of suburbia, but it is a warzone, nonetheless.  We are living here as missionaries, trying to show the love of God to those who will violently oppose us even as we love them.  We were created for a place much more beautiful and holy and perfect than this. But we are here because God has a wondrous plan.  To raise children in the muddy trenches of this harsh environment is difficult.

No, it is downright COUREGEOUS! 

Mother, you are a mighty and strong warrior!  If you and your family are splattered with grime, fight bravely on!  Your Champion has already won this war, and soon his victory will be evident to all.  He is able to keep your children safe.

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All of these pictures were taken on a trip to the Family Hope Center we took with Ashlyn in 2010. Here is an old cemetery seeming to encroach into the sacred boundary of a park for children. Yet joy and sorrow, life and death dwell together in surreal beauty. Joy that Ashlyn is alive and healthy. Sorrow because of the realization that all my best efforts cannot heal her.

And in the midst of this war zone, God gives us a little piece of heaven, our own paradise… if we can learn to abide in him and open our eyes to the beauty in the brokenness.

A few months ago I was talking with a woman whose sister was a teacher for 35 years.  She taught at an institution for severely handicapped and damaged children.  She told me that most of the children had been abandoned by their parents.  She would prepare classes for the children, because they were eligible for free education until the age of 21.  She would stand at the front of the class room and teach letters, numbers, days of the week, etc. to a room full of wheelchair bound children who couldn’t talk.  Some would never interact or show any evidence of learning anything at all.  She would try to organize fun activities and field trips for them since they rarely had visitors.  She would put on a parent’s nights to highlight what their children had been learning and usually, no parent came.

I marveled at the love and special grace this woman had to continually pour into these children and young adults with very little encouraging results.  It took me months of pondering this before I realized…this could have been Ashlyn.  If she had never had me as her mother or Chris as her father, if she had been taken care of by a collection of paid state workers, what would she be like right now?  Was Chris right in saying what he had said many times before?

“Without all that you have done for her, Anne, she would still be laying like a blob on the floor.”

Ashlyn is a unique treasure that God has given me.  And I am a gift to her; a loving mother who shows her how much God loves her.

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A new perspective sure does a lot.  In fact, that is the answer to the guilt of motherhood.  Get your eyes off of yourself and onto Jesus.

Why don’t you put on some worship music like David Leach Worship or Bethel Music and seek God for his perspective on your mothering career.  Let that guilt just walk out the door!

Special note to mothers who may have legitimate guilt over huge mistake that you have made in the past.  You may have killed your child, mistreated him badly, or abandoned him.  These are serious offenses, but not unforgivable.  Most of the major players in the Bible had grievous sins and were very bad parents!  Yet God forgave them and loved them and used them to bring untold numbers of people to himself.  Guilt is God’s mercy to bring you to him.  Seek God for that kind of forgiveness and transformation in your life.  Once you lay your guilt down at the cross, don’t ever let the Devil convince to pick it up again.  Jesus signed his name to your sin and died as the punishment for it.  It is finished!  You are loved and you have a future full of hope.

 

 

 

 

 

Tell Me a Gummy Bear Sto-whee!

 

Christmas 2015-Febuary 2016 144Bed time is such an important time for young children.  Over the years, our good-night routine has evolved and changed.  I started by singing songs to Areli, Cole, and Cadin as they lay in their beds in their darkened room.  I think I enjoyed the peaceful melodies even more than they did.

Then I heard that if you read poetry to young children, they will grow up to be poets.  Who was I to hinder their writing careers, so poetry reading became the norm.  My favorites were always from A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson.  I must admit that none of them enjoy writing poetry now as teenagers, but perhaps someday they will hear one of those familiar rhymes and be taken back to a sweet childhood memory.

More babies came and Areli, Cole, and Cadin didn’t command as much of my attention at bed time anymore.  They would read to themselves in their beds, followed by music or books on CD.  Sometimes this was great!  Other times, not so much.  I would find out later that a particular child would be frightened by a certain story, usually something that I wouldn’t have expected.  Other times, Cole would be bothered by the noise while he was trying to sleep.  Areli was such a creature of habit, that she couldn’t fall asleep without the tape or CD on.  She would pull the tape player over to her bed, turn the volume down, and listen to it under her pillow.

Once Areli came to me late in the evening.  I had put a lullaby CD on for her at bedtime and thought she was sleeping.  She was crying and shaking and said that the songs made her sad.  She has no idea why, but she dislikes lullabies to this day.  I discontinued the practice of leaving them alone with a CD at night and favored listening to stories all together at lunchtime.  Then I could talk about the story with the children and understand how each one felt about each book.  We had some wonderful times listening to all the Chronicles of Narnia, Little Women, and even Jane Eyre.

Areli, Cole, and Cadin grew big enough that they didn’t need someone to tuck them in at night.  It was now Ashlyn, Chai, Cooper, and Calvin’s turn. I found Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime stories published in 1951.  This book was full of short stories; each one was true and contained an important life lesson or moral.  I loved these stories!

Other times I would ask them to share what they enjoyed most about their day.  Then we would take turns praying.

I am a natural storyteller, so it is funny that it took me 17 years into my mothering career before I started telling bedtime stories.  In fact, storytelling is in my blood.  My Papa used to delight my brother and I with his bedtime stories about a tiny but feisty girl named Squeegee.  She was so little that she could crawl through a Cheerio.  She had a pet mosquito name Quito who she rode like a horse.  I always begged Papa for Indian stories. His voice would transport us to a remote Indian village where I was transformed into an Indian princess and my brother, Jason was a young brave.  Of course, Squeegee was always there too.

I loved those stories, and we still have some of them preserved on cassette tapes.  It is strange that I never thought of telling bedtime stories of my own…until now.

It was Courage Justice who started it.

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He wanted a bedtime story, so I began a yarn about the first thing that popped into my head…gummy bears.  More and more details spilled out of my mouth until I had a whole cast of characters (four special gummy bears and their friends, Cooper, Calvin, and Courage).  The adventures would be something little boys would enjoy, and I received plenty of suggestions and help from the three young boys themselves.

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They would take trips to Venice in a rocket ship.  They would visit their grandparents in Colorado where they splashed in Uncle Wilber (those of you from Colorado Springs will understand), climb mountains, and parachute from planes.  The gummy bears found tiny sombreros and toured the southwest with a Mariachi band.  This led to an appearance on Good Morning America and a trip to Walt Disney World where the gummy bears and the boys dressed up as dwarfs and took part in a parade.

We just finished talking about the summer they all spent in Texas on Hank’s Cattle Ranch learning to be Cowboys.  The four gummy bears spent most of their time enjoying the view from Courage’s cowboy hat.  Sometimes they had to take it easy UNDER Courage’s cowboy hat because they realized that too much sun made them squishy and too much rain made them melt.

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The five-day cattle drive was hard, but they met a lot of new friends along the way.  Who could forget the turquoise lizard that wanted to travel along in Cooper’s saddle bag or the dragonfly, Zip who became Calvin’s pet? They also enjoyed a pow-wow at an Indian village and had quite a shopping spree with all the money they earned after the cattle were auctioned off.  Each boy had to buy their mom a special present, of course.  I must admit, I was hoping for some Native American jewelry or maybe even my own horse.  Courage was quite proud when he announced that he had purchased for me… a toothbrush.  Oh well!  I do love to brush my teeth!

Courage enjoyed these nighttime stories so much, that he began coming to me many times a day.

“Tell me a gummy bear sto-whee!” he would say.

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I wasn’t always available to snuggle with him and tell a story, so the older children would begin to continue the adventure with their own stories.

It is amazing how these stories take on a life of their own and transport all who listen to a magical place.  I enjoy all the adventures that I have had with Cooper, Calvin, Courage, and the gummy bears.

I do not recommend that you allow your children to eat gummy bears. They are bad for you in about 10 different ways.  But they are also our friends, and we do not eat our friends, do we?

I do highly recommend them as traveling companions into the imagination of a child…and then into peaceful landscape of dreamland.  If all the gummy bears are unavailable, you could try looking up a tiny woman who is known for her courageous spirit.  She is in her 40s now, but still young at heart and up for a good bedtime adventure!

 

A Photo Shoot with All Boys

I had gotten a lovely picture of my girls for our Christmas card.  Each girl had a sweet, picture-perfect smile.  All I needed was an equally good picture of my six boys.  I could imagine the stunning photo in my mind.  Six fine boys, all with distinct features yet all with the similar Brandenburg look – a winning smile and handsome eyes.  They would look like an ad for some designer label.

I put my daughter, Areli, on the job with high expectations.  Then  reality hit!  Here is the adventure that she had, trying to get that perfect shot.

“Ok, let’s get all the boys into bright, simple shirts and line them up together on the porch.”

“Boys, you have to get closer together.  Smoosh!  Good, now smile!”

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“Boys, nice smiles!!!”

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“Look at the camera BOYS!!”

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“I see that your collective attention span has reached its limit.  Let’s take a walk in the woods and look for a scenic spot to take a picture.”

“Alright, this place is nice.  Now all get together and smile.  Look handsome! “

(You think you have the perfect shot and then, in the blink of an eye – a squirrel up in a tree becomes quite fascinating!)

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“Look at the camera boys!”

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Well, this is getting better!  This is a good one…wait…where is the little cutie?  The star of any photo shoot is always the littlest one with the cubby cheeks, but WHERE IS HE?

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Courage was mad that he couldn’t have a “nola” bar, and decided that he was done with pictures.

“Courage, Come Back Here!!!”

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There it is, little Courage making his way in the lonely wilderness.

We might as well take a break for a little fun.

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That photo shoot turned out to be less than what I was envisioning and the boys gave Areli such a hard time!  I was not yet defeated, so I got the boys dressed up again in special, matching outfits.  We all tromped outside to try again.

“Ok, boys.  Lay down in the grass and put your heads together in the middle.”

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Pandemonium ensued.  Apparently boys consider it very uncool to lay down in the grass, especially with EACH OTHER.

Areli and I tried to get some pictures amidst the arguing, complaining, rough housing, and shrieking…but alas.  Every single picture showed Courage’s once handsome face contoured into a grimace.  He cried the entire photo shoot.

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That was the end!  The boys were free from their torture and I was mad!  Where was my perfect picture of my dashing young men for my epic Christmas card?

This is a lot like life.  We have expectations of perfection. We make excellent plans.  Give straightforward instructions. Yet everything happens except perfection.  Disappointment is guaranteed. What is a mom to do?

I looked through the photos to see what I could salvage.  I actually found a few good ones mixed in.

The boys-november 2015 003There are my handsome boys!  The moment was so fleeting, I almost missed it.

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This photo was my favorite.  They don’t all have perfect smiles but I can appreciate each boy in his uniqueness and I LOVE them each so much!

Life never gives us what we expect and it is never our version of perfect.  But if you pay attention and look closely enough, you can find the gems hidden in the dirt.

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Or in this case, the little boy smiling in the tree. (Smiling because the photo shoot was over and he was free to climb!)

Sweet and patient Areli has become quite the photographer! She has just launched her own website and offers photo shoots and prints for sale.  Please check it out!

Areli Endura Photography

 

 

 

How to Let Go of the Pain

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Usually the weeks and months after I give birth, I am so happy!  I love caring for a newborn, nursing, snuggling, and looking into that precious little face.  That face contains all of the wonders of the world, and I bask in the glory of it.  Even in the midst of sleep deprivation, I feel the bliss of motherhood.  This time I experienced something unusual for me.  Amazing joy and deep sadness side by side. Sometimes in those rare moments of peace and quiet while nursing Annalise, I would begin to cry.  I was so happy about my little girl, yet so sad about how she had to come into the world.  The sorrowful thoughts kept coming, even though my life was so good.  I had seen many women go through a C-section with strength and grace and never complain.  Why was I having such a hard time?

My recovery was much slower than with my natural births.  When I returned home from the hospital, I couldn’t walk and hold my baby at the same time.  I would sleep any spare moment of the day and night and still feel dog tired.  Yet that was not why I was so sad.

During the difficult days of pregnancy, I would envision my lovely birth and the ecstasy that would follow.  That birth would make all the suffering worthwhile.  Yet this C-section birth had not produced that bliss.  In fact, as soon as Annalise was born and whisked away to the recovery room, I was left alone with a hollow feeling that went deep into my heart.  To read the whole birth story read, “The Heartbreak and Joy of having a C-section.”

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Having to give up my dream of a beautiful, natural homebirth had challenged many things that I had held to be true.  It had shaken my faith in what I thought about life, what I thought about God, what I thought about my own body.  It had challenged my ability to hear God’s voice.  I thought that God had told me that natural, easy labor was my inheritance as his daughter, yet mysteriously I was denied access this time.   I couldn’t figure out why.  Scriptures God had given me during my pregnancy told me not to fear disaster.  To me, having a C-section was a disaster.  God didn’t design my body to give birth through an incision in my abdomen.  If this thing could happen to me, this disaster that I couldn’t control or predict; what else would God allow to come into my life?  What other catastrophic events were on their way?  Maybe something could happen to steal the health and life of my precious baby.  If I had so misinterpreted God’s voice concerning this birth, how could I ever be sure of hearing him again?

These thoughts are similar to the thoughts that any person has after a trauma, whether it is small or life altering.  It occurred to me that this is a small part of what causes post-traumatic stress syndrome.  A person lives through events that destroy their assumption that life is good, safe, enjoyable, and fair.  They have to come to faith all over again.  They have to find their way back into the arms of a loving father.  It is a tragedy that once the horrible events are over and they are truly safe, they may never feel safe again.

I have lived through many such traumas.  They don’t seem like much compared to what other people have had to endure, but they were earth shattering to me at the time.  Each time I had to seek God again for the truth that would set me free and the love that would cast out my fear.  Each time God would draw so near to my broken heart and bring healing.  I would love to share what he has taught me, using my recent C-section as an example.

  1. Pain demands to be felt. Don’t shove it down or pretend it isn’t real.  Don’t deny it because you think you should be strong enough to be happy in all circumstances.  Suppressed emotions always surface in one way or another.  Feel what you feel.   Grieving is an important step to healing.  God is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Revel in his closeness through your nights of sorrow.
  1. Don’t stay in your pain forever! What caused your pain may be the reality you are living in right now.  Seek God for a higher reality, a reality that goes beyond what you can see.  A reality that is forever.

My body was scarred and bruised from a surgery I had done everything to avoid.  God had not answered my prayers for him to move my placenta out of the way.  I felt betrayed.  I had offered him my body as a living sacrifice, and I thought he would protect me from this.

I thought about my God, and realized that he could never betray me.  It goes against his loving nature.  Jesus was betrayed, yet he would never betray.  He was scarred and bruised for my sake.  He had proven his love for me.  He COULD NOT EVER betray me.  If he didn’t answer my prayers, it was because he had something better in mind.  He would bring good out of this situation, even if I couldn’t see it.

  1. Ask Jesus to show you where he was and what he was doing before, during, and after the traumatic event. Read through your journal entries during that time or look at pictures taken during that time and ask Jesus to speak to you about them.

I read through my journal that I kept during Annalise’s pregnancy.  I saw God calming my fears again and again, promising to protect the life of my child.  He did that when I had spotting around week 15.  He did that when I was having signs of preterm labor around week 34.  He did that when the marginal placenta was diagnosed at 38 weeks.  My little girl was safe in his hands the entire time.  He told me not to FEAR disaster, not that a “disaster” would never happen.  He was simply telling me that there was no disaster that I needed to fear because he was with me.

I also had a dream toward the end of the pregnancy. Annalise came out through my belly and she looked up at me with ice blue eyes.  She was a serene as could be.  This dream turned out to be very accurate. God had been preparing me.

  1. Talk about it with trusted friends. Many times they can see things with a clarity that isn’t clouded by overpowering emotions.

A week after Annalise was born; I was able to attend a birthday dinner for a friend.  During the meal, I confided to the ladies that I still felt sad about the C-section.  I was sharing about how I love to minister to other pregnant women, to pray for them and give them peace and confidence about labor.  Now I wasn’t confident about anything anymore.

One of the women said, “Do you think you have more empathy now for women who have had a C-section?”

I most certainly did!  She continued to say, “There are so many women out there who are feeling inadequate about some part of their mothering.  Perhaps they couldn’t give birth naturally; perhaps they were unable to nurse.  You are able to understand and minister to them.”

“Yes,” another friend chimed in, “God has just extended your authority.”

I had never thought about it that way, but it was really true.  There was meaning to my suffering.

Another friend sent me a text before the procedure, because she knew I was very distraught.  She said that God was increasing my trust in him.  That has been true as well!  I trust him more because he brought Annalise and I through beautifully.  If a circumstance brings me closer to God, then it was worth it!

  1. Give Jesus the pain and receive his joy in return. He gives us the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.  He already carried the weight of all of our pain.  Let him carry your pain right now and every day. (If it was another person who caused the pain; forgive, forgive, forgive.)

I kept giving him my sorrow, every time it resurfaced, even if I didn’t totally understand why I was feeling so sad.  It became less and less. He already carried the weight of my pain so there was no reason for me to try and carry it.  One of my favorite songs remind me to “Turn my eyes Upon Jesus.”

  1. Take care of your body. Your body, soul, and spirit are so interconnected; one affects the other.  Eat good food.  Take probiotics.   Get some exercise.

Once Annalise and I were both able to sleep through the night, it was amazing how much better the whole world looked to me!  For help with that, read “How to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night.”

  1. Thank God for everything you can think of, every morning, every evening, every day, now and forever. When you realize all he has given you, all he has already done for you; gratitude begins to eclipse the sorrow.  Fill your mind with all the good things, and the disappointment doesn’t have room.

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When I shared with my friends and family that I was going to have a C-section, I was overwhelmed by all the love and support and prayers I received.  I would think of each person and feel so thankful for their love.

My homebirth midwives spent 7 hours at the hospital with me even though they couldn’t attend the birth.

My mother-in-law drove all the way from Florida to help.

My mom was so excited about the new little girl and brought me a rose and blueberries in the hospital.

My other children were amazing and took care of each other at home.

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My husband Chris was a hero in the hospital.  After the surgery, I felt uglier, weaker, and more pitiful than I ever had before.  Yet I never felt more cherished!  My husband tenderly helped me to walk, to go to the bathroom, to take a shower.  He slept on that horrible hospital chair night after night and never complained about a thing!

Annalise has been one of my easiest, happiest babies.  She is worth any pain I had to endure.  Now when I see my scar, I don’t think about my disappointment.  I think about my little bitty pretty one and I am so THANKFUL that she is here!

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Looking back over my life, I can say that the worst of times were always transformed into the best of times because of God’s voice.  When I am desperate, God always meets me and shows me his love.  He always speaks words that impact me deeply.  His words and his close presence during my times of sorrow have changed the way I see the world for the better.  They have shaped the person I am today.  Even though I still have to walk through hard times, I know that amazing joy is waiting for me on the other side.  And I know that the journey is worth it!

 

Should You Be Afraid to Let Your Baby Sleep on Her Belly?

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When I was pregnant with my first baby, I read every parenting magazine I could get my hands on.  Each one contained an article about SIDS, the silent and mysterious killer of babies.  What could be more terrifying to a new mother than a condition that she could neither predict nor understand?  What was a concerned parent to do to protect her child?  Simple.  Place the baby on her back to sleep.

The doctors and nurses in the hospital had me so paranoid about sudden infant death syndrome, that I religiously complied with their back to sleep recommendation.  If I couldn’t hear Areli while she slept, I would check on her.  The first few times she slept through the night, I would wake up almost in a panic, wondering if she was still alive.  When she was a few months old and sleeping in her own room, I would wake up in the middle of the night and worry about whether she was ok.  I would slip out of bed to check on her, because if I waited until morning, it might be too late.  Finally, after this happened several times, I decided that I was being ridiculous.  I could not worry constantly about her safety!  I would drive myself insane!  I decided to pray a simple prayer instead.

“Please, Holy Spirit, protect my baby.  Wake me up and tell me if there is something wrong with her.  Make sure I am there if she needs me.”

The Holy Spirit did wake me up one night.  It was still and quiet and I found myself in the hallway.  I don’t even know why I was there.  I became aware of a strange odor and followed it into Areli’s room.  Areli, the sweet baby that she was, must have felt sick, quietly vomited in her crib, and then curled up in the only clean spot left.  She was fast asleep!  I cleaned everything and put her back to bed, so thankful that she didn’t have to stay in that state until morning.

I still put Areli on her back to sleep, but as soon as she learned how to roll over, she would choose to sleep on her belly every time.

When my second baby was born, I also put him on his back to sleep.  I was a bit more relaxed, having seen one baby safely to toddlerhood.  Cole just was not a good sleeper.  He was restless and fitful.  Friends of ours returned from a class they had just attended at the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential in Philadelphia.  They shared with us what the Institute thought about the Back to Sleep Campaign.  The entire campaign had been based on a fairly small study that they considered to be very flawed (grouping infants who had been crushed under sleeping parents with the belly sleepers).  Sure, a baby sleeping in a bed surrounded by blankets and pillows and other people may be in danger of suffocation, but what did that have to do with belly sleeping?

The Institute noted how there is not a single animal that sleeps on its back.  Why is that?  Because there is no protection and no function.  All animals naturally prefer the belly down position and babies are no different.  They feel more secure, more comfortable, and what’s more, they develop faster.  They build their muscles and achieve their developmental milestones faster.  The Institute not only suggested that all babies sleep on their bellies, but that they also spend most of their waking hours that way as well.  In fact, if you wanted a physically and intellectually superior child, you could build him a crawling track and allow him to sleep in it (and be awake in it as well) to encourage crawling which stimulates the brain.  Babies are able to start belly crawling immediately after birth and should be allowed to do so.  We observed this first hand when we put Cadin on the floor to sunbathe when he was just a few days old.  We let him sleep there for a few hours and he crawled halfway across the room!

“A floor equals civilization,” they would say.  This means that any culture that has floors safe enough to place their babies on, would develop a written language and higher math skills.  Cultures that could not allow their babies time on the floor, such as some American Indians and primitive tribes in Africa and South America, stayed more…well…primitive.  In these cultures, mom would carry her baby tightly wrapped up on her back because it wasn’t safe or efficient to put them down.  This allowed the babies little opportunity to move, roll over, scoot, or crawl.  They became brilliant craftsman and hunters but never developed a written language or higher math skills.  We need to be careful that we don’t adopt a more modern version of this method of child rearing; restricting our baby’s movements and development using baby slings, baby swings, exer-saucers, and car seats.

To learn more about the amazing programs and results of the Institute, read How to Multiply your Baby’s Intelligence and How to Teach Your Baby to be Physically Superb (or the updated version Fit Baby, Smart Baby, Your Baby).  I love these books and have used many of their techniques with most of my babies.  The old pictures in the Physically Superb book are Matthew and Carol Newell with their young child.  I worked with Matthew and Carol when I took Ashlyn (my special needs daughter) to the Family Hope Center, which they started.  By that time their son had graduated from college, and they reported that he had amazing grades, was a Shakespearian actor and a triathlete.  I know that this is a bit off topic, but I find brain development to be fascinating.

Once I heard the viewpoint of the Institute, I decided to try it.  As soon as I turned Cole on his belly to sleep, he immediately slept better.  His sleep was longer and more peaceful.  He was also able to get rid of gas by pulling his knees up and let out little baby toots.  My fear of belly sleeping was officially gone.  Since then, I have laid all of my babies on their bellies to sleep, and they all have been very happy that way.  Of course I made sure that there was nothing else in the bed with them and that their sheets were fitted tight around the mattress.

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My opinion of the Back to Sleep Campaign is that it is very similar to most of the campaigns launched by the medical community – propaganda based more in emotions (usually fear) that in real science.  If you would like to read more in depth about this subject with specific studies, Click here. I was notified of an excellent article that offers real answers to crib death and real prevention that has been 100% effective in preventing crib death in New Zealand;  Has the Cause of Crib Death Been Found?

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Parents, you do not have to live in fear that SIDS might claim the life of your precious child!  Only God knows the plans he has for your child, only God knows the number of his days. Yes, some babies do die unexpectedly, and it is always sad.  The number is really very small, only around .06% of all babies.  I believe that there is a reason for those deaths; theories include vaccinations, second hand smoke, toxins in the mattress, bacteria, or a toxic overload of many things at once.  I do not believe it is caused by a baby sleeping on his belly.  I am not saying that you SHOULD put your baby on his belly to sleep.  I am simply giving you the FREEDOM to do so if you want to.  (I also hope you have the freedom to question what health care professionals and the media tell you.)

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So parents everywhere, pray over your little ones.  Put their lives into God’s loving hands.  Ask him for the wisdom to eliminate dangers and bring peace into your home.  And enjoy a good night’s sleep, free from fear!

How to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night

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Sometimes I am confident that I know a few things about babies, and sometimes I feel that I know nothing at all!  But each one of my nine precious and exasperating little bundles has taught me something!  Looking back I can see clearly what has worked and what hasn’t.  Helping your baby sleep through the night is mostly about what you do during the day.

Sleeping through the night is really, truly wonderful!  It helps me to be a good mom.  It helps my baby to be a content baby.  Sleep allows me and my baby to recharge, dream, rest, heal, and grow.  It is essential for a happy and healthy life!  New babies have to eat every 2-3 hours around the clock and I am happy to oblige.  But once I know that my baby can sleep through the night (around 8-13 weeks), I am all for it!  I want to shift from survival mode to real life as soon as possible.

There are some major schools of thought that drive what a mother does with her baby day in and day out.

Demand feeding is when the baby is in charge.  Scheduled feeding is when the clock is in charge.  Parent directed feeding as when the parent is in charge.  You would think that the parent would be more able to direct the feeding schedule than the baby or the clock, wouldn’t you?  Yet the parent doesn’t always know what to do.  Take me for example.

When I first became a mother, I didn’t know what I was doing.  God gave me the easiest baby in the history of babies.  Areli was sweet, adorable, and LOVED TO SLEEP!

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I practiced a sort of demand feeding.  Areli was sleeping through the night at 6 weeks.  At two months she would sleep from 8pm to 8am without waking up.  She was happy and content all day long.  Yet she stopped gaining weight for two long months. I was so worried, and the doctor wanted to do all sorts of blood work on her.   Finally I realized that the wisdom of “you never wake a sleeping baby” was absolutely false!  Once I started waking her up at 10pm to give her an extra feeding, she started gaining weight again.  Phew!

My second baby was completely different!  Cole was my first boy; loud, grumpy, and not a good sleeper.  I would feed him whenever he seemed grumpy, which would usually be every hour and a half.  I ended up nursing him before and after each nap, yet he often wasn’t content.  I realized later that nursing my baby so often caused him to get into a bad habit of “snacking.”  He would drink the foremilk but not get the richer hind milk that would have satisfied him for hours at a time.  This little boy didn’t sleep through the night until he was over a year.  We were not well rested or happy a lot of the time.

My struggles with Cole led me to read On Becoming Babywise.  I love this book!  It gave me the knowledge to leave demand feeding behind and embark on the adventure of “parent directed feeding.”  I will take it one step further than the book and suggest “Holy Spirit parent directed feeding.”  No book or parent has all the answers, yet there is someone who ALWAYS does, and He gives wisdom to all who ask Him. I ask Him EVERY DAY for that wisdom.

The seven babies that came next were all put on a “Babywise” type schedule, and they have all slept through the night between 8 and 13 weeks.  Two have been girls, 5 have been boys, all have had unique personalities.  Yet each of them have done very well with a predictable daytime schedule.

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The first few weeks of a baby’s life outside the womb is all about bonding and holding and getting one full feeding at a time.  Don’t look at the clock.  Don’t worry about sleep. (I know, easier said than done!)  Just make sure every feeding is long enough (half an hour to an hour) to establish a good milk supply and create a good habit of drinking both the foremilk and the hind milk.  The challenge here is keeping the little guy awake long enough to keep nursing!

Summary for Baby’s first year of nursing

Week 1-8: Stabilization

Start with 8 or more feedings a day.  During the day you should feed your baby when she wakes up.  Then try to get some awake time.  As she gets older, wake time will become longer. Once you know your baby is tired, put her down for a nap.  Her naps should usually last and hour to an hour and a half.  The end of the nap is the time for the next feeding and the beginning of a new cycle.  Every cycle should be similar (2  ½ -3 hours long): eat, wake, sleep.  During the night you simply feed your baby and put her back to bed.  She will slowly extend her night time sleep until that glorious day when she drops the middle of the night feeding and sleeps until morning (usually around 8-13 weeks). The important part of this schedule is to feed your baby when she wakes from nighttime or naptime (or perhaps you will have to wake her to maintain every 3 hours during the day and every 4-5 hours a night at first).  After the feeding, attempt to keep your baby awake for a little while.  Newborns are so sleepy and this may not always work, but try.  Soon she will be able to be awake for ½ hour to an hour at a time.  When it is nap time, lay your baby in her bed while she is still awake.  Usually she will fuss a little and then go to sleep.  Some babies, like most of my boys, may cry very loudly!  This is where the Holy Spirit comes in.  Ask Him for wisdom.  Sometimes it is appropriate to allow you baby to cry for a few minutes before nap time.   The payoff is that in a few weeks, he will learn that nap time is for sleeping, and he will snuggle in and sleep as soon as you lay him down.  Other times the crying indicates that he needs something extra: more awake time, a diaper change, or a snuggle.

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Weeks 9-15: Extended Night

A baby can gradually extend his nighttime sleep to 9-10 hours.  By the end of the 13th week, your baby can average 5-7 feedings a day but never less than four.  Between weeks 12-15, most babies gradually extend their cycles to 3 to 4 hours.

Weeks 16-24: Extended Day

Your baby can sleep for 10-11 hours at night during this phase.  Babywise states that during these weeks you will be able to drop the late night feeding and begin to introduce baby food during the day.  There are many ideas about the best time to begin with food and which foods to introduce first.  This is another time that I pay attention to my baby and ask the Holy Spirit.  I prefer to look to traditional societies as a guide to introducing food to babies rather than to modern advice.  Click here for more information on how to feed babies.

I usually wait until 6-11 months to introduce solid foods.  I also like to keep the late night feeding (around 10-11pm).  My milk is the perfect food and it is always ready, so I am not in a hurry to start other foods with my babies.  Plus I love nursing so much!

I will include the Babywise recommendations for those who are introducing foods early than I do. During this time period your baby will maintain 4-6 liquid feedings in a 24 hour period, three of which will be supplemented with baby food(or not).  Nurse first and then offer food.

Weeks 25-52: Extended Routine

A baby can transition to three meals a day with the rest of the family by a year.  Of course there are always snacks for young children, usually two a day (maybe afternoon and bedtime). Babies at this age will only take two naps a day, 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours in length.  They can still be nursing 4-5 times a day.   I always try and nurse my babies as long as possible(12-18 months), but some of them had weaned themselves by this time. Others I slowly weaned because I was pregnant again.

Sleep props

Sleep props are anything that your baby needs in order to fall asleep.  The way you get your baby to fall asleep MOST of the time, will become your baby’s preferred routine.  Don’t start a habit that you are not willing to continue indefinitely.  Sleep props include nursing to sleep, rocking, music, pacifiers, sleeping in mom and dad’s bed, etc.  If you start (after the first few weeks) to lay your baby down for a nap with no sleep props at all, he will learn to fall asleep on his own very quickly.  I have found this to be invaluable!  Imagine a busy day with a house full of children.  When it is nap time, I simply carry my baby up to her bed, lay her belly down in her crib, speak some words of love, and walk out of the room.  She immediately snuggles in, starts sucking on her fist and falls asleep!  Sometimes there is an air conditioner or fan running, and sometimes there is not.  The most important part is to lay her down when she is still awake MOST of the time.  This will not happen all of the time, since newborns are so sleepy!  If your newborn falls asleep in your arms or on your chest occasionally, don’t worry.  Just enjoy the fleeting moment!  Love and hold the little precious one, for they won’t be so little for very long!

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Babies that need extra help

Some babies are fussier than others.  Some are so colicky that it may seem like they never stop crying.  This can be so emotionally and physically draining for parents.

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I just found a resource at the library that may help calm the difficult baby.  There is a book and DVD called “The Happiest Baby on the Block.”  It explains how to trigger the calming reflex in your newborn (up to three months) which can calm him in minutes!  I wish I knew about this long ago!  I haven’t gotten to try it out because my baby is now three and a half months old and is so happy.

Some babies may have suffered some trauma while in the womb or during birth or after birth.  This trauma can be greatly reduced or eliminated with chiropractic care, craniosacral fascial therapy(CFT), and prayer.  To learn more about CFT click here.  I took a class in CFT and it was wonderful.  They are the happy baby people, and they say that every baby can be happy, peaceful, relaxed, and healthy.

Some babies may have an allergy or sensitivity to something in mom’s milk, usually wheat or dairy.  Eliminating those two things helps in many cases. All nursing moms (and everyone else for that matter) should eliminate all caffeine and stay away from sugar, processed foods and medication. For a diet for pregnant and nursing moms, click here.

What if I didn’t start a Baby wise schedule when my baby was born but I want her to sleep through the night now?  How do I start?

Start by getting your baby on a good schedule during the day.  Begin the eat, wake, sleep cycles and putting your baby to nap while she is still awake.  It will take some time, maybe weeks, for your family to adjust to this.  Don’t give up!  Don’t worry about the nighttime just yet.  Get the daytime straightened out first, and the nighttime usually follows.  It is much more difficult to allow your baby to cry at night for fear of waking the rest of the family.  Some crying before naptime during the day is much better.  Think of it as practice for good nighttime sleeping.

What if my Baby’s daytime routine has been great for weeks but he is still waking up at night?

Move your baby into his own room or into a part of the house that is away from the other bedrooms.  Sometimes that alone did the trick for me, because I wasn’t reacting to every little whimper I heard in the crib right next to me.  Many times babies, just like the rest of us, will wake up at the end of a sleep cycle and get a little noisy or active until they fall asleep again.   We don’t have to nurse them every time they stir.

If you just can’t wait any longer for your baby to sleep through the night on his own, you know that he doesn’t need a feeding at night, and he is older than 13 weeks; then you can prepare yourself for a few nights of training.  Pick a weekend when the family can sleep in the next few mornings in case you don’t get much sleep.  Warn everyone beforehand that there may be some crying, and it is ok.  If your baby wakes up, first wait to see if he will fall asleep in 5 minutes or so.  If he doesn’t calm, then check on him, love him, whisper assuring words, but don’t nurse him.  It would be awesome if Dad did this part!  Hopefully after a few nights, baby will get the idea that nighttime is for sleeping and not for eating.

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My life right now

Annalise is three and a half months old.  She is a very easy baby, easier than most of my boys.  Here is what my schedule looks like right now.

6:30am  Annalise wakes up or I wake her up to nurse

7:00 I talk to her, change her diaper, and then lay her in a pack-n-play so I can eat breakfast.

8:00 Naptime

10:00 I get Annalise up from nap and nurse

10:30 One of the other children holds her and talks to her. Then a diaper change and some belly time.

11:30 Naptime

1:00pm Nurse and then playtime and diaper change

2:30 Naptime

4:30 Nurse and then play with Dad and diaper change

6:00 Naptime

7:30 Nurse, lay on the floor on a blanket, then get ready for bed

8:45 Bedtime

10:30 Nurse and put right back to bed

Annalise sleeps so much that I usually have to wake her from nap.  I like that because it gives me the flexibility to wake her a bit earlier or a bit later if I have to be somewhere at specific time during the day.

All of my babies have had seasons when they started waking up at night after they had been sleeping the entire night through for some time.  It could have been a growth spurt that required more milk, a bothersome stuffy nose, belly aches, or teething.  Sometimes I would nurse them and sometimes I wouldn’t. Sometimes I would sit up with them and hold them, sometimes I wouldn’t.  I would always ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom on how to comfort them and nourish them without starting a bad habit.  Usually they would start sleeping through the night again soon on their own.

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I have spent nights trying in vain to comfort a fussy baby and have been utterly convinced that I wasn’t a very good mother.  I have also had many happy days fueled by many peaceful nights.  When my sweet, content baby giggles at me, I feel like a brilliant mother!  I am neither a genius nor a failure in the mothering department.   I am simply a normal mom who has a really great God!  A God who loves my babies more than I do!  If I can get my baby to sleep through the night, then you can too!

Born on the Fourth of July

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My third child becomes a teenager today.  Cadin Christopher, “Confident Follower of Christ”, was born on the fourth of July with the shaggiest head of dark hair like his mom and the deepest brown eyes like his dad.

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He was a good and content baby.  He and his older brother and sister became a happy trio.

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They were always together, yet Cadin never felt compelled to do things the way they did things.  He had his own unique talents and tastes from the beginning.  When the other children were happily doing arts and crafts with Grandma, Cadin would be building a model.

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When Areli and Cole would be picking out bathrobes from the Disney Store, Cadin would want Power Ranger Pajamas instead.

He was a sweet and thoughtful boy, yet he had a power that could take you by surprise.  When Cadin was four years old, he and Dad were chasing each other around the house and rough housing as boys love to do.  His dark eyes were shining with joy and his chubby cheeks were bouncing with each step.  I was sitting at the kitchen table when I observed Dad run into the living room with Cadin on his heels.  I saw Cadin take a flying leap into the air right before the kitchen wall obstructed my view.  I heard the most incredible “Boom!” It was the sound I had always imagined when the Giant fell to the ground at the end of the Jack and the Beanstalk story.  I ran into the living room to see what had occurred.  Dad was on the floor laughing hysterically, and Cadin had his arms tightly wrapped around Dad’s legs.  Our four-year old had single-handedly tackled his father to the ground!

As Cadin grew, his eye for detail was incredible.  I would give him the special chores around the house, because I knew that he would do them properly.  He would place the pillows back on the sofas with the stripped pattern matching exactly.  He would put away the silverware with every large spoon and every small spoon in its perfect place.

He struggled with reading for years until suddenly in third grade he began to read everything in sight.  He would pick out special scriptures in the Bible and write them down in his notebook and read them to me.  I was very often encouraged by those words of truth that he had found intriguing.

Just this past school year, Cadin was a lifesaver for me!  I was tired most of the time from being pregnant.  I was still trying to homeschool Cadin and do therapy with my special needs daughter, Ashlyn.  All the other boys were in public school except for Cadin and Courage; the very loud, very demanding, and very active almost two-year old.  Cadin would watch Courage, follow him around, and take care of him almost all day long.  Cadin would even change his diaper and put him in his crib for nap, since Courage was too big for me to lift.  Most of the time Cadin carried out this duty with patience and a fun-loving attitude that Courage just loved.

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I have not yet successfully potty trained a child before the age of three. There might be hope for Courage, however, because Cadin has made this his personal mission. One day I simply suggested to Courage that he should try to go pee. Cadin appeared out of nowhere, scooped up little Courage and held him with one arm. With the other arm thrust out in front of him and pointing towards the upstairs bathroom, Cadin tore through the house at top speed yelling, “GO! GO! GO! This is not a drill!”  This time Courage was the little boy with the bouncing cheeks, loving every minute of this adventure in potty training.

Cadin would complete his homeschool assignment each day while Courage was playing with blocks or sleeping in his crib.  Cadin was very self-motivated.  He has always been a whiz at math, being a year ahead in his math curriculum.  He would organize numbers and solve math problems in ways I had never thought of.  He loves to read books with all sorts of science and history facts.  His joy of learning is evident as he tells me from memory how many feet long the Titanic had been or that a squid has 10 arms.

He has a good heart that wants to do what is right.  He will walk away from watching a TV show if he senses an inappropriate scene is coming.

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He has a fun-loving heart, full of songs for every occasion.

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He is sensitive yet strong; painfully shy at times yet confident.

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I cannot believe he is a teenage already.

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I cannot believe he is my teenager and how incredibly blessed I am to call him my son.

 

Adjusting to Life with a Newborn…Again

I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in three months.  I know that it is going to be any night now, yet every early morning I am awakened by her sweet snuffles and cries for milk.  I feel like I am on the brink of total exhaustion and my brain is mush.  I haven’t written much lately because I am not sure whether I can put coherent thoughts together.

I have done this before, eight times!  You would think that I would have it down.  Yet somehow it is all new, with this new little, bitty, pretty one.

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I don’t know much for sure, except that there is nothing like motherhood to reveal your weaknesses.  Motherhood is able to bring even the most confident woman to the realization that she knows almost nothing at all.  But what a gift that revelation is!

To meet this new person that I have felt wiggling inside of me is pure magic!

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Her skin is soft as silk.

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Her eyes are big blueberries.

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Her lashes are so long and curly, just like a little girl’s lashes should be.

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She sleeps a bit more than the boys did, and her cry is softer.  She begins to smile and I see that she has dimples around her mouth like I do, and a big dimple in her cheek like Daddy does.

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She seems very peaceful, thank you Jesus!  But the next week she is awake for hours at a time and doesn’t seem to want to sleep, oh no!  By the next week she has settled into a predictable three hour feeding pattern.  But the next week after that is totally different!  Finally I think I have her figured out; she will sleep until 5am and pretty soon be sleeping the entire night!  Yes!! I can get my life back!  I can regain my energy, plan my day, exercise, and fit back into my normal clothes again.

But then I find myself sitting in the chair again at 3am, nursing the little bundle in the dark.  I am so tired.  My eyelids are heavy.  So…hard…to…stay…awake.  My head sinks to my chest.  WAIT!  My head snaps back up.  My eyes are open.  I must…stay…awake!  I have fallen asleep in this chair night after night and now my neck has a kink in it and my back is sore.  I must feed her quickly and get back into bed!  I must be strong!

Little Bitty One is totally unaware of my concern.  She nurses lazily and takes almost an hour.  I hear the very first bird song at 3:45am.  Why are those crazy birds awake so early?  The sun won’t be up for hours.  How I wish I didn’t know when the first bird starts singing.  How I wish I was sound asleep, blissfully unaware of the secret life of birds!

I guess I could be enjoying this quiet time when no one else is awake.  I suppose I could spend this time praying.  Alright God, here goes.  God, please help me to not fall asleep in this chair.  Please, please, please let Annalise sleep through the night tomorrow night!  I feel like I can’t do this one more night!  Please, please, please let her get into a predictable schedule.  Then I can start getting up before the rest of the children.  I can start to have a quiet time each morning. Then I can start to pursue you more, God.

Suddenly it hits me.  God’s grace is for me RIGHT NOW!  Not at some point in the future, but right now.  It is always RIGHT NOW.

Joseph Garlington shared this definition of grace – “God’s enabling presence that empowers us to accomplish our created purpose.”  God’s presence is with me right now, in the middle of the night.  His voice is whispering words of love and truth right now to my sleepy brain.  He is wooing my worried heart.  If I spend every moment thanking Him instead of wishing for something else, I can bring His presence closer.  I can cultivate my awareness of Him and accept His power to do what He wants me to do…RIGHT NOW.

And what could possibly be a better time?  His power is perfected in weakness, and I am so weak.  He says that His grace is sufficient for me in times like these.  Not just enough to survive.  No, this is an overflowing, abundant grace that is more than enough for me…RIGHT NOW!

Nursing this baby 6 to 8 times a day for an hour each time means I can’t accomplish very much.  Trying to figure out how to do my normal grocery shopping and errands and therapy appointments each week in the two hours between each feeding makes my brain hurt.  Thinking about having to give up my afternoon nap just to get important things done sends me into a panic!  No, I don’t have much time to check off items on my to-do list.  But I do have plenty of time to sit and nurse, admire my Pretty One and snuggle.

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Time to pray and read and think.

As I think back over my life, I can see some things very clearly.  I see that most things I have attempted to accomplish I have done because I felt like I SHOULD.   Because I would feel guilty if I didn’t.  Because I wouldn’t be as good of a mother as someone else.  I did those things out of my own strength, my own ability, my own effort.  And I failed at most of them.

I think about Solomon’s words in Ecc 3:14, “Everything God does will endure forever.  Nothing can be added to it and nothing taken away from it.”

I think about Jesus’ words in John 15:5, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”  Nothing of eternal significance that will endure that is.  I have done a lot of things!  I have spent a lot of energy and time and have gotten grumpy and stressed out to do a lot of things.  But those things WILL NOT ENDURE.

Now that I am in a position where I feel like I can’t get anything done, it dawns on me.  That is the point!  That is what God is trying to teach me…RIGHT NOW!  His grace is sufficient and when I rest in Him, He is accomplishing things through me that are significant beyond my imagination.  Like growing this little girl, one feeding at a time.

Someday my life might get easier.  Someday I might have it down and be able to coast effortlessly through the day.  Maybe.  So I must make the most of this season…this wonderful and difficult season.  Because this season of weakness is how God is showing me His amazing grace.

RIGHT NOW!