Friday, November 8, 2013

Being An Example To Our Children

Michael was disgusted this morning as he showed me a video of a group of girls engaged in a popular sexually-suggestive dance while what sounds like a grown man cheers them on. These girls appear to be from around 7 years of age to early teens. I watched in growing horror & disgust as they frenziedly gyrated to this man's enthusiastic encouragement. The whole spectacle was repulsive. It was vulgar. It was disturbing. And it brought home to me the very real responsibility we parents have to protect our children. Of course there's the issue of the pervert videotaping & encouraging these young girls to move their bodies in this way. "No decent grown man behaves this way! What on Earth is wrong with him?! And where are the parents of these girls?!" Such were some of the (quite appropriate) reactions to the video. Obviously, that man needs some responsible fathers to come set him straight, if you catch my meaning. But that aside, we need to remember that these sorts of things don't happen in a vacuum . . . which set me to wondering. How many of those outraged people bring (or allow) into their homes the music of the singers who "dance" this way? How many of them have been entertained by such performances on the T.V. or computer? Our children aren't blind; they see perfectly well what we are entertained by & follow suit. After all, if it's okay for a performer to do it, why not our children? We can pretend there are 2 standards here - one for adults & one for children - but we need to remember that children learn by example. So, when we see our children behaving in certain ways, we always need to look in the mirror first to see where the blame falls. (I'm not denying here the doctrine of original sin, but I am saying that our children observe behaviors in us & others that stoke their indwelling sin & even give it new expressions.) And that leads me to one other facet of this video that bears scrutiny, & that is that this occurred in a group. These girls fed off of & emulated each other. Which underscores how very important it is for us to guard our children from destructive "friends". When we see that our children's friends are teaching & encouraging sinful behaviors, then we should erect barriers between them. That is our job, even if no one else agrees, for our children's good. We have a God-given responsibility to guard & protect our children. Just because we won't be 100% successful in this fallen world does not mean that we shouldn't be diligent in that task. Children are moldable, & their young hearts, minds, & affections have to be protected from any influences that seek to harm them. God has given parents that responsibility, & we will answer to Him for how well or poorly we shoulder it. There is grace when we fail, thanks to our Savior, but it is a solemn task we undertake to raise our children in the fear & admonition of the Lord, & we must work at it to the best of our ability. So, all that is to say that I was very forcefully reminded this week that Michael & I must be oh, so careful what we allow into our home, lest we unwittingly encourage our little blessing from God to choose friendship with the world rather than God because of our example. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Rethinking "Working" Mothers

A couple of days ago, Matt Walsh posted on his blog about the animosity toward stay-at-home mothers & how society has it all wrong. Being a stay-at-home mother myself (& a housewife before Emma was born), I've felt the judgment & pressure to "go to work" first-hand from friends & family. So, Matt's post resonated with me, & sharing it sparked a conversation between a friend & myself. As a result, I wanted to take some time to address where I believe Christians are going wrong when it comes to mothers who work outside of the home.

First, I want to be clear that I am not speaking about all working mothers. I am not talking about those mothers who have no choice, who have to help their husbands provide for the family even though their heart yearns to be home with their children.  I am not talking about those mothers who have cut extraneous expenses everywhere they possibly can, who go without cable, the smartphone, the new car, & the bigger house, yet still require her salary to make ends meet.  I am not talking about those mothers who, through no fault of their own, are raising their children by themselves - like my own mother had to - & have to work in order for them to live. Finally, I am not talking about mothers whose children are grown & living on their own. All of these mothers are doing everything they can to take care of their family, & they are right to do so.

But there are an awful lot of mothers who do have a choice, who could stay home & commit themselves to the noble task of being the primary caregiver of their family, but instead choose to work outside of the home because they . . .

     -would "go stir crazy" being "cooped up" at home; or

     -put a lot of time & effort into obtaining their degree & don't want to "waste" their talents at home; or

     -want to be able to live "the good American life" (i.e., cable T.V., iPhone, a new car, a bigger house, designer wardrobe, vacations, etc.).

Amongst unbelievers, these are expected & acceptable attitudes. They have unchanged hearts & unredeemed desires. But those of us who are saved by Christ are to look to God's Word for guidance, not follow the world's "logic". And God tells us that

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled." ~Titus 2:3-5 (emphasis mine)

So, the older women are to teach the younger women "what is good", & part of that teaching includes that the younger women are to be "working at home". Why? "That the word of God may not be reviled". Which means if we don't attend to this, the word of God will be reviled.

Now I realize this flies in the face of what our culture proclaims & even what many in the church practice. I am also aware that some - or perhaps even many - of us may not like this teaching. However, our feelings are not the final arbiters of truth, any more than the culture or even our own opinions are. God's Word is, & whether we like it or not, it's quite plain here what God's plan is for His daughters. The world tells us this is antiquated, outdated, primitive. Perhaps. But that doesn't make it less true or right. And, really, when we take off the blinders to get a good look at how living according to the world's standards has destroyed our society, we see that God’s way is also better.

If Christ is our Savior, He is also our Lord. We can't say that He saved our souls from damnation, but has no right to tell us how to live our lives. If we show by our actions that He's not our Lord in this life, then we show that He's not our Savior from God's wrath in the next. As Christians, we know that we "were bought with a price" (1 Cor. 7:23) & are "bondservants of Christ" (Eph. 6:6). As such, we cannot claim freedom of choice over what God has decreed. God has dominion over every facet of our lives. Our responsibility as Christians is to prayerfully search, study, & meditate upon His Word so that we may discover His will & then act on it.

I'm not saying this is easy. Anyone who has read their Bible knows that we are told that following Christ means going against the world's "wisdom" & enduring hardships. What this looks like changes from person to person & family to family. For us, it's meant hearing repeated questions from family & friends about why I'm "wasting my talents" by "not working". . . & when I will be. It's meant not going on vacations that we felt an almost desperate desire for. It's meant not having cable (or even a T.V.) or a smartphone until this past year. It's meant making do with older clothes, & eating at home (although not as much as we should). It's meant not buying a new car (because what we have works) or a bigger house (because we can't afford it on one salary). It's meant distinguishing between needs & wants. It's meant sacrifice. It's not easy, but the trade-off of being home taking care of Emma - & knowing that I'm obeying God to His glory - are both so very worth it. No matter what we do, in the end, all mothers - whether working outside of or at home - sacrifice something (or someone). But it occurs to me that this sort of sacrifice, the kind where we give up some "things" in exchange for always being with our little one(s), is always worth the reward.

So, all that is to say that for those mothers who do have the choice to stay home with your children, you should make the sacrifices necessary to do so. Not because I think so, but because God says we should be "working at home". And if we claim Christ as our Savior, we must also submit to Him as our Lord.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Learning Lessons

There are all kinds of things I thought I knew about parenting (especially when it came to sleeping) . . . & then I became a parent!  ;-)

I just knew that babies sleep all the time, so it would be no problem to follow everyone's advice to "sleep when she sleeps". Then I had Emma, who seemed to have a built-in radar that alerted her every time I tried to sleep. I don't think she slept more than 30 minutes at a time for the first couple of weeks. I cried a lot because of sleep deprivation, & Michael said, "I thought babies were supposed to sleep" very often.

I just knew that it was easy peasy to get babies to sleep on their own. Then I had Emma, who always wanted to be held while she slept. Which is why she woke up every half hour when she was a newborn. I learned to hold her on my chest while we slept just so we could sleep, & I remember feeling so blessed when I was rewarded with 2 straight hours of sleep as a result. We finally tried putting her to sleep in our hand-me-down musical swing, & that thing was a miracle worker! As long as it was on, she slept. Which means we went through a lot of batteries, because she slept in it all night every night - plus naps - until her feet were hanging over the edge a bit!  ;-)  It was wonderful! If we're ever blessed with more little ones, we'll be getting an electric musical swing for sure!

I just knew that we'd never have a "family bed" & that babies leave parents plenty of time for chores while they nap. Then I had Emma, who slept by herself in her pack 'n' play beside our bed for 3 months before changing her mind quite dramatically. All of a sudden, when she was 7 months old, she simply could not sleep by herself any more. We still don't know what happened, but I followed everyone's advice to "let her cry it out", & was rewarded with a vomiting baby. We continued to try to put her down to sleep, but every single time, we ended up having to clean a vomit-covered baby, bed, & floor (plus ourselves). So, I finally gave up & now she sleeps snuggled up next to (or on top of) me at night & in my arms during naps. It's often inconvenient, but I'm learning to do what I can when I can & not stress about what I can't get to . . . because she needs me, & that's more important.

I just knew that I would be a Mama who got up before everyone else to get a shower & be ready when my family arose every morning. Then I had Emma, who knows when her Mama is not right beside her in the bed & wakes up protesting. One time she even sensed - in her sleep, mind you - that I was fixing to sneak out of the bed, & she woke up long enough to push me back down so she could crawl on top of me. Which, of course, made me laugh!

Actually becoming a parent opened my eyes to all of the things I thought I knew, but didn't. Emma's taught me plenty more lessons than are expounded upon here, & many more are to come, I have no doubt. But there is one more lesson that she teaches me every day, & it's the most important one of all.

I just knew that having a baby would be one of the most profound, most rewarding, most life-changing blessings of my whole life. Then I had Emma, who proved me right even beyond my wildest dreams. She has been such a joy, & each day my love for her grows . . . which always astounds me because my heart almost bursts with love & you wouldn't think it could hold any more! Yet it always does! She has shattered so many of the things "I just knew" about parenting before she came along . . . & I couldn't be happier.

*Note:  This is a light-hearted post about how Emma has changed some of my pre-conceived notions about parenting. I am not looking for advice on how to get Emma to sleep on her own. We're happy with our arrangement for now. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Rethinking Homosexuality

An old youth group friend of Michael’s recently announced that he’s homosexual. This friend still claims to be a Christian, but is embracing rather than fighting his sin. To be honest, the writing has been on the wall in big, bold, uppercase letters for quite some time, so we’re not surprised. But we are sad. Sad because he’s given up the fight & accepted the culture’s lie that his sin isn’t sin, that it’s just “who he is”, & that he should celebrate it. Sadder still is that he does so in God’s name. Meaning that he is reveling in that which is reviling to God while simultaneously worshiping “God”. I say it like that because, unfortunately, the “God” he’s worshiping is one of his own making & in no way resembles the God of the Bible. And even sadder still, he’s going to take others with him.

Look, I get it. I really do. Although I've never struggled with homosexuality, I have my own struggles with sin. Because of some of the things I was exposed to as a child, I've had to fight against sexual images that have been indelibly burned into my mind's eye. And it's been a war at times! There's a reason that sexual sin is the only sin that Scripture tells us to flee rather than fight. It's incredibly alluring, deceptive, & strong. Which makes it deadly. It's not a foe that we can subdue on our own. And that can be so very wearying. We can get so tired of fighting against it - & often failing - that we just give up & give in. Sometimes we may think we'll give in just this once, just a little. Maybe that little acquiescence will satisfy the urge & it will stop hounding us. But it doesn't. It's got a foothold now, & soon it will take over completely, clutching us in a death-grip. So, we have to keep fighting it. We can't just give up simply because we've been at war with little or no relief for so long. We also can't give in because we've prayed for God to take it away to no avail. After all, are we better than Paul? God told him that "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9). We should find comfort & strength here in our fight against sin! We should echo Paul with renewed vigor, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me"!

I know how hard it is to have something be a part of you that others find unacceptable. Honestly, everyone does. Homosexuals do not have a corner on this market. We are all born with a sin nature, every single one of us. And not a single one of those sins is tolerated in society - well, outside of the entertainment industry for some insane reason. But you take any sin - lying, stealing, adultery, anger, murder - none of these are tolerated in everyday life. They're all frowned upon & judged. It may not be comfortable, but it's right. I mean, do we really want to live in a society that encourages our most debased inclinations? I've heard homosexuals give the argument that their sin must be okay because they've "felt this way/had these desires" for as long as they can remember. So have all of us, it's just that our desires are for lying or stealing or venting anger. Go to any preschool & tell me I'm wrong. These innate desires aren't tolerated in toddlers because they're sin. They're wrong. The children have to be taught not only that they should change their behaviors, but how to do so. Homosexuality is no different. Those desires being present your whole life does not mean that it's not sin any more than my temper being with me my whole life means my anger isn't sin. And if you're a Christian, you are commanded - not encouraged or urged - commanded to "put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit" (Romans 8:13, yes, I know I mixed up the order, but the meaning is the same). We're promised, if we do this, that we will live (as in, with Christ in heaven). But we're also promised in the very same verse that if we "live according to the flesh, [we] will die" (as in, go to hell to endure God's wrath). Living a life reveling in our sin, celebrating our sin, & branding our sin "normal"/"okay"/"not sin" is living in the flesh. Whether that sin is anger, lying, or one of the sexual sins, & even if society is suddenly applauding it. And we absolutely, positively cannot live in the flesh and be true Christians. They are mutually exclusive.

Another argument by homosexuals is that "we can't help who we love". But homosexuality is not about love, it's about self-gratification. I know this because God invented love, which means He gets to define it, & He says in 1 Corinthians 13 that

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." (emphasis mine)

God has told us repeatedly throughout His Word that homosexuality is wrong, & God always speaks the truth. Since love "does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with truth", then the person who pursues homosexuality is not pursuing love. Instead they are "insisting on their own way", a way that is in direct opposition to God. This is not love. It's not love toward God. It's not love toward yourself. It's not love toward your "partner". True love means holding fast to the truths & promises found in God's Word. It means that when God says, "This is good", we pursue it & encourage others to do the same. It also means that when God says, "This is evil", we fight it, we flee from it, & we encourage others to do the same. No matter how much we protest, true love will never, ever be found in any relationship where sin is being celebrated. We may not like that, but our feelings are not the final arbiter of truth.

Now, do I believe homosexuals can be saved from their sin? Absolutely! The Bible says so! There is no sin that can't be repented of & taken up by Jesus. There is no sin that He will not forgive & give His righteousness in return. I know there are people out there struggling against their homosexual desires, praying fervently that God will enable them to continue to "fight the good fight" (2 Tim. 4:7). And every day, sometimes every hour, God is giving them the strength to stand firm against their sin. To those men & women who have chosen to believe God's Word rather than man's, I urge you to continue your fight, knowing that you don't battle alone! I know that it is incredibly difficult to ignore the siren's song - especially when society is her backup choir - but God has promised that He has made you a "new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17). Your old self with your fleshly desires has already been defeated by Christ! I love what He says in 1 Cor. 6:9-11, especially the last half:

"Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality . . . will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (emphasis mine)

And then again in Phil. 1:6, Paul gives us the sweet assurance "that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."

You don't have to give in to your sin! God will continue to sanctify you, & one glorious day when you are ushered into His presence, that sin will be completely removed, & you will have to fight it no more! (Which is a good word no matter what sins we may be struggling against!)

Finally, a word to the church. We have failed our brothers & sisters who struggle against homosexuality. We have elevated this particular sin above all others without biblical warrant. We have thumped our Bibles in fury at homosexuality while neglecting to enact church discipline on the adulterers & fornicators sitting next to us in the pew. We have told our brothers & sisters who are struggling against homosexuality that they are going to hell while turning a blind eye to the young woman conceiving a child out of wedlock or the worship leader "having an affair" with the church secretary. All sexual sin is sin, & all of it should be confronted. The cheating spouse, the pornography connoisseur, & the co-habitating college kids shouldn't get a pass just because their sin is heterosexual. All sin is deviant, all sin dishonors God, & all Christians should be confronted in their sin. Lovingly, yes, but confronted just the same.

Then, there are those in the church who have lied to our brothers & sisters struggling with their sin, telling them that it’s not sin & that living a homosexual lifestyle is perfectly fine with God, when Scripture very clearly says otherwise. I know that in doing this you think you’re being loving & supportive, but what you’re actually doing is hastening their destruction. They are speeding toward a cliff, & instead of pulling the emergency break, you’re stepping on the gas! The loving thing to do is help them fight their sin. The whole point of the Gospel is that God loved us when we were yet sinners, & sent His Son to live a perfect life & die an atoning death in our stead so that we would be saved from His wrath & from our sin! Claiming God’s love while living in sin – any sin! – is delusional & damning. If you love someone who is struggling with homosexual desires, then do the truly loving thing & help them in their fight against their sin.

For Christians struggling with homosexual desires, find someone you can trust who will help you fight your sin & who you can also help fight their sin of anger, impatience, worry, etc. Remember to "place hedges" around yourself (to use a Nancy Leigh DeMoss term) to protect you from being tempted in your interactions - such as always meeting in public. And check out these resources from Desiring God & Grace To You. You're not alone, & there is help.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Gift of Suffering

"For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake . . ." ~ Phil. 1:29

I just read this, & felt that stirring in my spirit that always indicates the Holy Spirit's nudging. "Pay attention to this", He seemed to whisper. What caught my attention was the word "granted", which has the connotation of a gift. That means that, according to this verse, not only is our belief in Christ a gift from God, but so is suffering for Him! We could lump in our everyday trials, & in a sense that's certainly true. But the wording, "for His sake" leads me to think of suffering through persecution. That would mean that when our society persecutes bakers or photographers for refusing to serve in a homosexual union ceremony - to use two recent examples - that persecution is a gift from God. And when, like Paul did when he was persecuted for Christ's sake, believers stand firm in their convictions while responding with grace, He is glorified. Just like with Paul, the Gospel will be preached & sinners will repent & believe. What a glorious thought! When viewed through this lens - that our persecution leads to others' salvation - we can see the gift so clearly, & we can rejoice in our suffering, knowing that God is using us to fulfill His purposes! How truly amazing is our God!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Sanctification of Parenthood

And so begins the sanctification of parenthood. Not that it hasn't already been happening, but now it begins in earnest! See, our little angel is a little sinner. A little sinner who has inherited her Mama's temper. Up until now, when something hasn't gone her way, little Miss Emma has simply cried. Like a couple of mornings ago when I was attempting to load the dishwasher while she was doing her darnedest to unload it. "No", says Mama, with resulting sobs from the baby girl. She obeyed, which I think is why she cried, because she flat didn't want to. Only a couple of days later, & she's added in a slap & emphatic "Unh!" when she doesn't get her way. She's sitting in the way of the door she's trying to open . . . slap, "Unh!" to the mean, uncooperative door. Josie comes up to me while Emma's in my lap . . . slap, "Unh!" to the attention-hogging dog. Mama tells her to be gentle & "we don't hit" . . . slap, "Unh!" to the controlling Mama who dares correct her (which makes the correction have to take place again). This is a mirror to me because I often have outbursts of anger. If there's any sin I struggle with, it's anger. When I hit my head on the washer, or when the limp shower head sitting in the tub suddenly springs to life & sprays hot water in my face, or when I have no counter space in the kitchen because I haven't had time to clean it, or when it's taking 2 years to get her down at night because of all the little "going-to-bed" tasks that have to be completed, I respond with anger . . . all true stories. Poor Emma's got her own sin nature, she doesn't need me displaying my own for her to copy! She needs me to learn to control my anger so I can teach her how to control hers. A task which requires my reliance on God. I am convinced that the more I'm reading & meditating on His Word, the more I'm in communion with Him, the more His Word & His Spirit will dwell in me & change my behavior. Which, of course, demonstrates to Emma how to rely on God to help her overcome her own sin. And then, when I fail & allow my sin nature to control me, I need to model repentance for her. She needs to see me admit my sin to God, her Daddy, & her & ask for forgiveness. She needs to see me trust God's promise that I am forgiven in Christ. And she needs to see that I believe His promise to continue to perfect & sustain me. My hope is that one day, when I look into the mirror that is my child, I'll see Christ's reflection gazing back at me. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Adventures in Cloth Diapering

When I was researching cloth diapers just before Emma was born, the following questions almost made my head explode!

Which kind of diaper? (There are dozens!) How many?  Which cover & how many? How many wetbags? How often should I change her? When should I use liners/doublers? Should I use a spatula or sprayer? How often should I launder them? How do I launder them?

We planned on using cloth from the beginning, but life with a newborn was more overwhelming than I had anticipated. Everything was new, & the idea of adding the tasks involved with cloth diapering was daunting. It seemed so much easier to wrap it up & throw it away. So, we started out in disposables, intending to make the switch once Emma was out of the newborn size. But, we found it easier to just continue as we were, so here we are using cloth diapers for the first time on our 14-month-old daughter. Needing to save money, we decided to finally take the plunge, & I am so glad we did because - strange as it may sound - I love it! I love knowing that there are no more chemicals & dyes next to Emma's skin. I love knowing that, in the long run, I am saving money for my family. And I love pulling freshly laundered diapers out of the dryer, clean & ready to be used on my precious girl's hiney. I know from personal experience that making the change can be overwhelming, so I would like to share what I've learned so far as a complete novice, in hopes that I can help other newbies in a very small way.

Okay, so from one greenhorn to another, if you need advice in choosing a cloth diaper, I highly recommend you running over to Kitchen Stewardship for some incredibly in-depth reviews, including videos. She solved all of my exploding-head issues! Which is definitely a good thing! As for our own experiences, because of the reviews on KS, I knew that 2-pieces were a good fit for us. ;-)  I liked the idea of just folding up the prefolds & using the cover to hold them in place. I further decided on the Econobum covers because they adjust as Emma grows, plus they're a good quality at a lower price. I was excited when my box of goodies came in, & I have to say that my enthusiasm hasn't abated!

Alright, so I've just given my choices to answer my "which kind of diaper & cover" questions, so let me tell you what I've discovered so far about the others. Upon advisement, I forget from where, I ordered 2 dozen red-edged & 1 dozen brown-edged prefolds. That has been good advice! With the ones always packed in the diaper bag, plus those waiting to be used or laundered, it's been the perfect amount. Emma wears the red-edged, with the brown being the next size up, & I've only had to use them a couple of times while the others were washing. As for how many covers, I initially ordered 7, but very quickly sent for 3 more because I almost ran out on laundry day. 10 seems to be the perfect number for now. Finally, I have found that 2 small & 2 large wetbags work well for us. I keep one large as a trash can liner (not closed, which encourages fruit flies), & dump this into the wash with the diapers. I replace it with the other large bag, because she's going to have wet or dirty diapers while the laundry is going, & I need somewhere other than the bookcase to put them. I chose 2 small ones so that if one was in the wash, I'd still have the other available if we go somewhere or to hold soiled covers. 

Now, how often should I change her? I had some trouble with this initially. It was an adjustment, because disposables don't have to be changed as often. Also, it's been harder for me to tell that she needed a change. Apparently, the cotton holds in odors better! A plus, but definitely an adjustment. And, unfortunately one that made our little ladybug's hiney break out in the worst diaper rash. She was red, raw, & obviously in pain, & I was very upset with myself. So, I grabbed my kitchen timer & set it next to her changing table. Every time I finished changing her diaper, I set the timer for an hour. When it went off, Emma got her diaper changed (only once has it been unnecessary). It only took one day using the timer to figure out how often I needed to change her. Normally, it works like this: she gets 3 diaper changes in the morning - 1 when we first wake up, 1 right before sitting down to breakfast, & 1 just before her morning nap. We follow the same pattern between her morning & afternoon naps, & again between her afternoon nap & bedtime. All told, she gets between 9 & 10 changes a day. And, it should be no surprise, no more diaper rash! Some will say you don't have to use any sort of diaper rash cream with cloth diapers, but I always slather coconut oil on her, & it works perfectly! We also keep Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm on hand, as it works well, too - & not just on diaper rashes. Both are safe on cloth diapers. When Emma has a wet diaper, I toss the diaper in the pail & hang the cover wrong-side-out over her bed railing. I keep 2 covers in rotation, so I simply grab the other one off the railing to use. If her cover is soiled, I simply put it off to the side until I can clean it (more on that later). While I'm on the subject of changing her diapers, let me address liners/doublers. My sister by marriage gave us a lot of their cloth diaper collection, so I already have these, & I use them 3 times a day - before each nap & before bedtime - to pad her diapers & give extra absorbency. As for storing all of these goodies, I have one basket to hold my diapers & another for the covers & liners.

Spatula or sprayer? I started out using a spatula, but have happily moved on to a sprayer, albeit an unconventional one. You've got some choices here to make, & it may depend on the configuration of your bathroom. Some people make their own sprayers or purchase them. I honestly had one picked out, but we're trying to save money, so I grabbed an empty cat litter bucket, & I use my detachable shower head on the massage setting. I set the bucket in the tub, hold the diaper over it, & spray it with hot water. All of the contents go into the bucket, which then gets poured into the toilet. Thanks to a tiny bathroom & a long shower head cord, I'm then able to hold the bucket over the toilet while I spray out anything that got left behind. Then the diapers go into the wetbag to await laundry day. 

Which brings me to the last questions. As for how to launder them, I will refer you to Green Mountain Diapers, who will send you a comprehensive guide with your order. I highly recommend it! In our own home, I wash the diapers every Monday, Wednesday, & Saturday, with diaper covers being washed the evening before & laid out to dry overnight. The covers are washed once on warm for the long cycle. Because of my washer's settings, the diapers are essentially washed twice, always with detergent. The first go-round they receive a short warm wash, & the second time I set it for the long hot wash*. I've only bleached targeted areas** once & rewashed those diapers separately. I've also used 1/4 cup vinegar in the final rinse once to make sure all of the soap was removed. Once they are done washing, I put them in the dryer on normal heat*** (due to the wetbags). Then I fold them in half & store them in their basket. That's it!

If you're new to cloth diapering like I am, or are considering it but find it daunting, I hope this has been helpful & encouraging. I am the sort who gets overwhelmed by new things, & I can let that hold me back. But I can say with confidence that cloth diapering is just as easy as using disposables once you have a system that works for you. And you'll save money & feel good about the fact that cotton is next to your baby's bum instead of chemicals. Happy diapering!

UPDATE (April 2015):  I highly recommend that you do NOT use the settings I did as a newbie (see * above)!  It took a little while, but my red-edged diapers began to fray & come apart, & I am 100% certain this was due to my "targeted bleaching", "hot wash", & "normal [drying] heat".  The lining on my wetbags all came off, not a one of my red-edged diapers can be used with our next baby, & my diaper covers are now pretty much useless as far as holding in wetness.  So!  Now, there is no targeted bleaching whatsoever; if there are persistent stains, I put a little bleach in the whole wash, but this is extremely rare.  I wash on a WARM setting, not hot.  Drying happens on a low setting &, of course, never includes the diaper covers.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

My God Will Supply Every Need

Dear Anonymous,

I can't begin to thank you for blessing us so profoundly! I don't know who you are, but God does, & I know that your sacrifice brought Him glory, honor, & pleasure. When Michael opened up the card simply signed "Phil. 4:19, Love y'all" & then pulled out $200, he was moved to tears. It can be easy sometimes, because of our wayward hearts, to forget that God is with us in a trial. It's easy sometimes to lose faith. I know that God moved you to send us this encouraging card & money, & I thank you for responding to His leading. Your sacrifice was just like God wrapping a comforting arm around us & whispering lovingly in our ears, "I'm right here. I know your struggle. Trust Me to take care of you." The money is helpful, yes, but in giving it, you gave an even greater blessing in this reminder. Oh, the strengthening of our faith that occurred in that moment! For this & for helping to provide for our needs in this challenging time, you have our everlasting gratitude! From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you, & we pray fervently that God will bless you as you have blessed us. 

The Boyds

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Our Appointment with the Neurosurgeon

Today was Michael's appointment with the UAB neurosurgeon, & all things considered, it was a good experience. For starters, the doctor was fabulous! He spent a very unhurried half hour - at least - with us, & gave us very detailed information about Michael's condition & the surgery we could be facing, including the risks & healing times. My expectation was that he would push for the surgery - after all, that's where they make their money - but that's not what he did at all. He laid out our options with absolutely no pressure, even saying that he didn't feel strongly about either course, & encouraged us to take some time to think it over before coming to a decision. He even gave us direct numbers so we would have no trouble getting in touch with him. Needless to say, we were quite impressed with him!

Okay, so here's the situation. We have two options: a spinal steroid injection (that the local neurosurgeon said he couldn't have) & surgery. There are a lot of factors for us to consider here - the amount of time Michael's already been out of work (6 weeks), how much medical leave he has left (6 weeks), the risks of the surgery, our finances, the likelihood of the effectiveness of the shot, his job security, etc. We basically made the decision according to the calendar. If we choose the surgery, Michael would be out of work around 10 more weeks. While long-term disability will have kicked in by then, his job would be gone, because they only hold his position for 12 weeks total. We have 6 left. If we choose the injection & it works, he could be back to work in a couple of weeks. No need for the long-term disability, & his job is secure. The worst possibility is if the shot doesn't work, at which point we'll have to go forward with the surgery, but with a further delay. Then we're looking at him being out of work for another 12 weeks, with no job to go back to once he's cleared. We're trying not to let our minds go there, though. So, we are going with the injection, praying that it does work. My understanding is that he will eventually have to have the surgery; the injection is a band-aid, & doesn't fix the problem long-term. But perhaps we can get ourselves into a better situation in the meantime.

A thousand thanks to all of you who are praying for us & who have checked up on us. Your lovingkindness means more than we can put into words. Please continue to pray that we would rest in God's sovereignty & love, that our faith in Him would be strengthened, that the shot will be effective quickly, & that God would open up avenues of income so we can pay our bills. Thank you, & may God bless you all. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Well-Intentioned Lie

I saw a purportedly true story today about a teacher encouraging her students to make the most of their education because soldiers fought for them to have that freedom, that right. Sounds like a wonderful story, but to be perfectly honest, it irritated the snot out of me. Why? Because this teacher wanted to instill patriotism, determination, & a love for learning, but it was built on a lie. Let me break this down:

1.) No American soldier has ever fought a war or battle of any sort to defend our "right" to an education. Once upon a time, citizens had to fight to receive an education, but those battles took place in the legal system. They were never fought by our soldiers. 

2.) Education is not a "right" that we have to defend or protect; it's forced on us by our government. Don't believe me? Keep your children out of school & see how long it takes before a truancy officer visits your home. Does such a thing happen if we choose not to exercise our right to speak or carry guns? Those are rights, education is compulsory.

3.) We have a false patriotism in this country that is sickening. We pull out our flags on the 4th & our "support the troops" mantra when it suits, but we spit on the freedoms our soldiers & Founding Fathers DID fight for every time we vote in another big-government, power-hungry politician who is devoted to taking away those freedoms. We champion them in sentiment while spitting on them in practice. It's disgusting.

Do I sound angry? Well, I am. I'm angry with my fellow Americans who mistake loyalty to America with loyalty to our government. I'm angry with my fellow Americans who would rather let the media tell them what to think than to educate themselves. I'm angry with my fellow Americans who think that they have the right to take away my rights simply because they don't want them for themselves. I'm angry with my fellow Americans who vote selfishly & with others who are apathetic, because they're saddling my children & grandchildren - as well as their own - with the consequences just like previous generations did to us. Finally, I'm just flat fed up with my fellow Americans who play at patriotism while desecrating the values & principles that this country was founded upon. 

True patriotism is found in those who fight for the truth at great personal cost. It's found in those who fight to safeguard the freedoms & rights of others that they may not agree with. It's found in those who know that in a truly free society, the freedoms of others may mean that they are sometimes offended or that someone will choose something different from them . . . & they fight for the preservation of those freedoms just the same. True patriotism is costly, it's hard, it often means being ridiculed or maligned, & it should never be confused with loyalty to a government. Nor should it be a punch line built on a lie to make a point, however well-intentioned. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Church is not a Building

We are fortunate indeed. We belong to a church whose members have rallied around us during this difficult time in our lives. They are praying for us, they call to check on us, our associate pastor came to visit us, & we've even gotten multiple offers for them to mow our lawn! And, I've already mentioned how instrumental one of our dear church friends was in navigating paperwork for Michael's medical leave. We are so thankful for their love & support. 

Incredibly, our blessings don't stop there. A little more than six years ago, we became members of a local church. I've told you about them before, along with our continued regret over trading their fellowship for what we thought at the time were greener pastures (to put it in very simplified terms). What continues to astonish me - & warm my heart down to my toes - is how they immediately surround us any time we have a crisis. When I went into the hospital with preeclampsia a month before Emma was born, several people came to visit (one in particular, darling Abby, multiple times). They called, they brought us meals, they sat & talked with me when Michael was at work. In short, they blessed us in a major way! Now that we're dealing with this new challenge, there they are again, sending text messages, calling to give encouragement, even doing what they can to help us generate an income while Michael's out of work! I can't even begin to express what it means to me to have them love us like this. And I know that their actions are bringing glory to Christ as they show the world that His body is not strictly contained between the four walls of a building.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Submission Is Downright Hard

I know what the Bible says about submission. I've read it myself & I've read books studying it. 

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. ~Eph. 5:22-24

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. ~Col. 3:18

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. ~Titus 2:3-5

I believe these words are true, authoritative, & are for my good. Even so, I struggle. I struggle because submission is all about acquiescing to something you don't agree with; otherwise, it's not submission.

For instance, I know that Michael doesn't want me to watch a particular TV show on Netflix because he's unsure of the content. He's a gracious husband, so he doesn't demand that I not watch it, he even tells me that I can. And, honestly, I really want to, especially because I don't agree with his assessment of it. But I know he'd rather I not, & that means I really shouldn't. Even so, sometimes the thought crosses my mind that "he's napping & will never know". After all, I wouldn't be watching it in his presence. True, but that's not really the spirit of submission. Thankfully, God grants me the strength to overcome my desire, & I abstain from watching the program. 

Michael feels that a certain decision is right for our family. I really do not agree. I don't think it's necessary, & I really don't want to do it. Not now, anyways. Or maybe I even think his decision could put us in a tough spot.  I know that as the head of our family I should leave it up to him, & follow where he leads. But I don't. Instead, I keep presenting my case, forcing him into the position of convincing me that he's right. Or just giving in to the path I think we should take. Which means that, ultimately, I'm putting myself forth as the head of our family, & this is contrary to God's design. Eventually, I do realize this & hand control back to Michael. 

I could probably give you dozens more examples of how I fail at submission. Even when I do submit, I often really dislike it. Blame my sin nature, blame the Fall, blame the feministic culture - no matter what the reason, submission is just downright hard. And maybe it's supposed to be - at least post-Fall - because in the end I am brought face-to-face with my inability to fulfill God's command. I'm forced to acknowledge that I need His help to be submissive to my husband. And I don't just need it once, I need it every single day. Which means that I have to keep striving every day, trusting Him to supply the strength & will to fulfill His commands. I hope one day I'll be able to call myself a submissive wife, a wife who is submissive more times than not. But I also hope that I will always remember that it's only by the grace of God that I can be that woman . . . & find forgiveness when I fail.

Friday, July 19, 2013

All About Emma

Our darling girl is just about halfway between 13 & 14 months. That seems impossible! She's positively adorable, an absolute delight. She has the sweetest smile that turns into the cutest smile - her "Munchkin Grin" - when she's really happy or excited. Sometimes she shows me her "Munchkin Grin" & soundlessly snorts, leading the two of us into a snorting competition. She loves to be spun around, either securely in my arms or out away from my body like the swings at the fair. When I swing her out, she kicks her legs & giggles gleefully. Which, of course, makes me laugh, too. She loves to read sitting in my lap, & even handed me a book to read to her the other day. I thought that was impressive! She's always on the go, either crawling, cruising, or in her Joovy. And, boy, is she fast! We expect she'll be walking soon. She loves to play with her toys, but she also is amused by anything ordinary:  sunglasses, ponytail holders, measuring spoons, the contents of the refrigerator, her Daddy's socks . . . you name it, she wants to play with it. She's in love with "Baby Einstein", & that's sometimes the only way I can keep our sleepy girl content while I get ready for bed. She's very talkative, & can say "Mama", "Daddy", "Emma", & "up"; she also said "bye-bye" a few times, but never since. She's learned to wave bye-bye, but she thinks it's always followed by clapping because I always say, "YEA!" & clap when she does it. (So cute!) She hates for us to go in the bathroom & shut the door, so I sometimes do this when I want her to come to me. Sure enough, as soon I close that door, I hear her whining & the slapping of her palms on the floor. (As you can probably tell, she keeps us laughing!) She likes bath time, & her squirting otter is her favorite toy. It doesn't take much to correct her; a point of the finger & a firm "no" will make her cry from hurt feelings. At which point we comfort her. She loves music, & always dances to it, which is so precious when she's crawling because she shakes her hiney! (Yep, another laughter-inducing event.) She loves animals & gets very upset with Callie not letting her pet her. She wakes up happy & vocal. She loves to play "Where's Emma/Mama/Daddy?", especially when we hide behind blankets. She's a really good eater & is doing great learning to drink from a cup. She's opening up better around strangers & family in familiar environments. She's incredibly observant. She doesn't really smile at strangers in public, which has caused some people to erroneously say she's not happy, when she's just watching & evaluating. She likes other children, but I do think she prefers them to be a bit older than she. She loves kisses, cuddles, being sung to,  & being tickled. Her favorite song is "The Itsy Bitsy Spider", & she fusses every time I finish singing it; strangely, she never has that reaction when she hears it anywhere else. She adores her Daddy & loves to play with him. She's still very attached to me, & even sleeps in my arms (which is when I write these posts). We are so in love with her! She is the light of our life, our joy, our angel, & we are so incredibly blessed - rich beyond measure - to be her Mama & Daddy. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Some Days Are So Hard - Like Today

I am exhausted. Completely emotionally drained. This was a very bad morning. A bad morning that began last evening when Michael received a phone call from our primary care physician saying that they were fixing to fax paperwork to Michael's work clearing him for duty. Now, just to give you an idea of how absurdly shocking this is, let me walk you through a typical day here:

-Morning: Michael takes Tylox, Neurontin, Flexeril, & sometimes Advil to get out of bed then grabs his crutches to walk to the dining table for breakfast. He has to sit in an ultra padded office chair that allows him to slightly recline. After breakfast, he uses this chair to roll himself over to the computer (or anywhere around the house). Sometimes he sits in the recliner for a bit.

-Afternoon:  His pain is worsening a bit (uh huh, you read that right, he's even worse now), so that the crutches & chair that were helpful earlier are now needed for movement. He eats lunch with us, takes more meds, & lays down. This is at my insistence, because I've seen how staying up & trying to help me (again, from his chair) are making his pain worse. 

-Evening:  Michael is up spending time with us (I also take Emma into our room sometimes so we're all together; she & I play & he can join in some from a laying position). We eat supper, & he relaxes in the living room until it's time for bed. Once it's time for bed, he can barely move from the pain because the meds aren't working as well now. Now, this is if he hasn't been trying to help out around the house off & on. If he has, then I have to help him get in bed by lifting one leg, letting him slowly lower himself, then lifting the other & helping him get centered.

What do I mean by "pain"? Shooting, searing, cry-out-loud pain that radiates down his back & into his buttocks, pelvis, thighs, & calves. This is accompanied by cramping pains in his legs, as well as weakness & numbness. Some of these are even happening at rest now. Sometimes he feels like he's going to fall over. And sometimes, the pain is so severe mid-move (sitting, standing, walking) that he simply cannot complete it.  

So tell me, does this sound to any sane person like someone who needs to be running around taking care of critically ill patients? No? Not to you either? So, that must mean that the "specialist" who saw him once, did not re-evaluate him, & yet flippantly declared him fit for work needs a mental health evaluation. That's my conclusion, anyways. 

So, that brings us to this morning. Knowing that Michael is being told he has to go back to work tomorrow . . . & knowing that he physically can't . . . & further knowing that if he doesn't he will lose his job, I start my day calling our PCP trying to get an appointment. My thought here is that we need to document his condition & that he truly isn't fit for work. My relief was profound when the scheduler worked us in for 9:30. Until she called back less than 5 minutes later telling us that there was nothing our doctor could do for us, so we needed to go to the ER. Now, I know you can't sit here all night reading this post, so I won't get into the finer points of the tussle that ensued. Suffice it to say that I made them aware of the gravity of the situation, including the consequences they would be facing if they forced him to go back to work & caused him permanent damage. It wasn't long before I got the good doctor himself on the phone. We, too, tussled - which is so very contrary to our normal interactions - until I finally broke down in tears, & told him I wasn't trying to be adversarial; I was just trying to care of my husband. I reminded him that he knows how much we trust & love him (we really do), & we just needed an advocate. All of this was through tears. He softened, called the specialist donkey (3 guesses which word I want to use), & agreed to resubmit the paperwork with an amendment saying that he - in fact - is not fit for work until released by the neurosurgeon. I hung up & sobbed, the sheer weight of all of these pressures finally breaking me.

This has been so hard. Two things that I am so thankful for today are 1) God softening our doctor's heart to be our advocate, & 2) the invaluable help of a church friend who works in Employee Health (& let me sob all over her when I called asking for more paperwork). We are definitely in the Refiner's fire right now, & it's very uncomfortable. I'm so thankful for Him showing us in big & little ways that He's right here with us, carrying us through the fire that He's ordained for our good. Please, Lord, don't let me lose sight of this. For Your glory, for our good. Soli Deo Gloria

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

From a Novice

I just read a blog post that gives some very good advice to "experienced moms". (Seriously, stop right here, click on "blog post", & go read it.) Here's one part that really resonated with me:  "The next time you're tempted to write off a friend's parenting stage or struggle, listen empathetically without relating or comparing her problems to your own."  I can tell you, from a new mother's point of view, I have found this to be needed advice. Especially the italicized portion above. And not even just when a new mom is struggling. I personally haven't received a lot of understanding or support from some of my "mom" friends since Emma came along. Because of that, here are some other tips that this new mom would like to pass along (plus it's good to have this written down to remind myself, lest I forget):

-Everyone parents differently, so please don't judge or look down on me for not doing it like you.

-Every child achieves milestones at different rates, so don't freak me out by saying (with furrowed brow & worried voice), "She hasn't done ____ yet?"  (That's one reason I loved What To Expect the First Year so much, because each chapter starts out saying this.)

-Remember, sometimes it's not what you say, but how you say it. Just with a change in your tone, the same words can either encourage or discourage me. 

-Every child has a different temperament, so don't say with certainty that she's going to do or be like this. That may have been your experience with your child, but it may not happen that way for us.

-Building on the last few points, remember that I'm not in competition with you, nor is my child in competition with yours. So there's no need to "relate or compare" your situation & children to mine.

-Every mom has a different temperament, so I may not be comfortable with the same things you are. Please don't belittle me or make me feel odd.

-Everything about motherhood is wondrous & new to me, & I'm going to want to learn a lot for myself. Sometimes I'll come to you for sage advice, but most of the time I'll want you to be my friend, not my guide.

Now, don't get me wrong, I've had many wonderful interactions with my "mom friends". We've traded "my child did this" stories & "has he done this?" or "how do you deal with this?" conversations. We've had a lot of fun & laughter. But I have also come up against a lot more judgement than I expected, & it's hurt a couple of friendships because I didn't want to walk away from yet another conversation feeling like I'm doing it all wrong, so I stopped pursuing the relationship. So, I guess that's the reason I'm writing this post, because none of us really wants it to be like that, & the good news is it doesn't have to be. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Challenging Times - Take 2

"They say I don't have short-term disability", Michael said incredulously. I sank onto the sofa & covered my mouth with my hand as I grasped the repercussions of his statement. He hasn't been able to work the last 3 weekends because of his back issues. We knew we would have to really cut our expenses, even with short-term disability, which we expected to kick in soon. This curve ball means no money until mid-September, when long-term disability (which we were told we DO have) will kick in. That's 2 months of bills that will come due with no paycheck to cover them. Now, right here, I could have panicked. But I didn't. Instead, I felt this calmness envelope me, & I know with every fiber of my being that it was "the peace that passes understanding" (Phil. 4:7) given to me by God. "Maybe some good will come of this", said my wise husband. I know it will, because God tells us it will (Romans 8:28). I'm not anxious because God tells us that He knows our needs & loves us so much that He provides for them (Luke 12:22-32). So, already something good has come out of this, because my faith is being strengthened. I believe that we will find all sorts of good in this: a more conscious & deliberate thankfulness for what we have, more self-discipline, a crash-course in living ultra frugally, how to not cling to possessions (we'll be selling some things, so be on the look-out!), & I expect more that God will reveal in His time. Thanks for keeping us in your prayers! It means so much to know that you saints are beseeching God on our behalf. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Babies Don't Keep

Ever since Emma was weaned a couple of weeks ago, I've had a little more time to devote to our home. Michael's been such a help this past year, taking on a lot of responsibility around the house - much more than I wanted. But, when Emma was delivered by an unexpected C-section, that meant an unforeseen period of recovery for me. Then came the round-the-clock care of our newborn angel, which didn't leave much time for cooking & cleaning. (In all honesty, it didn't leave much time for sanity because of sleep deprivation!) Then we spent a lot of time & effort establishing nursing, a process that took Emma almost a full hour 3 times a day up until a couple of weeks before she weaned (& even more than that at first!) As Emma's gotten older, I've gradually been able to add some time to my schedule to reverse the load of "home care" back to its proper balance. But I realized today that it will likely be a long time before we live in a perfectly clean house again. And that's actually just fine with me.  I have believed from the first that the little poem "Babies Don't Keep" is spot-on, so I plan to enjoy our little ladybug as much as possible. Because when I look back years from now, I won't regret that there were piles of clean clothes waiting in laundry baskets to be put away or that there were dishes in the sink waiting for an empty dishwasher. But I will regret not spending as much time as possible playing with & loving on my girl. I most definitely will teach her responsibility, discipline, & how to keep a home, but until she's ready for those lessons, 

"...The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I'm rocking my baby 'cause babies don't keep."