Thursday, September 19, 2013

Shoe-less Discipleship: A Lesson in Mentoring from my Infant Son

Today I learned  a truth about discipleship from my infant son.

He loves to walk, but refuses to do so without holding on to something, usually my index finger. When we’re outside in the crisp morning air, rarely does he want to sit and watch the dew sparkle. No, he wants to walk barefoot on the gravel. I call him my all-terrain baby because of his love of new textures beneath his feet.
So, almost without thought, I slipped my shoes off and we walked. As I felt the granite chunks on my heels, a thought invaded: “this is the way to walk through life with someone: shoe-less, so you can feel the road and pick a less rocky path.”

As with most metaphors, I knew this one would be limited. Vulnerability is a tricky thing, and you must step into it much more gingerly than I was treading those stones. But the image of our shadows walking shoe-less, side by side, brought some clarity about discipleship, or mentoring, if you will.

1. It means more to someone that you identify with them emotionally than that you “know what they’re going through.” Just because you can picture it in your mind doesn't mean you can have compassion. In fact, that phrase is the single quickest platitude to infuriate someone who is hurting. It is so much better to find that memory of pain in your heart and feel it freshly with them and hurt together and say, “we can make it through this.” See the difference? One is you looking down on them from a superior and exterior position, and one is you two in it together, fighting as brothers.

2. In dealing with sin, you don’t have to endure the ravages of the same evil in order to identify with someone’s struggle. We all have the same core weaknesses: pride and idolatry. We either give ourselves, someone, or something more pull in our hearts than God’s amazing love. That rebellious core expresses itself differently as it twists what was made to serve God into a self-serving mess. So, if you are mentoring someone with a drug problem, don’t go do drugs in order to feel it. Ask God to identify and release you of crutches you use to escape reality. When that favorite television show has to go, you will be feeling just a hint of what your brother is going through, and you can meet him there and walk with him.

3. This is probably connected to the sentiment Christ was expressing when He said:

“Why do you stare from without at the very small particle that is in your brother’s eye but do not become aware of and consider the beam of timber that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me get the tiny particle out of your eye,’ when there is the beam of timber in your own eye? You hypocrite, first get the beam of timber out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the tiny particle out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5 AMP).

When we choose to mentor and be mentored by others (since we all should find ourselves in both roles in the body of believers), we must seek for God to change our hearts first. Otherwise, we find ourselves in a sick cycle of pointing fingers and acting superior, all the while walking around blinded to our own faults. When we’re caught in this cycle, we often say things like, “if my spouse would just do this” or “Why can’t they stop doing that?” The point in those statements is that you want someone else to modify their behavior to suit your whims. That is nothing like what Christ wanted. He wants us to relinquish ourselves and our desires to His love and allow Him to mold us according to His likeness. We can submit to that process together, focused on Him, or we can refuse to submit and instead mold others into our own likeness out of selfish pride. It’s our choice to make.

So, when we go about shoe-less discipleship in our mentoring relationships, our small groups, our parenting, and our friendships, hopefully that vulnerability will produce patience, gentleness, compassion, and…well, this list is starting to look like the Fruit of the Spirit.

And maybe there is a good reason for that. Christ Himself, when He came, didn't simply speak in the clouds that He knows what we’re going through and we need to repent and stop doing those bad things. Instead, He condescended to live a life of poverty and model to His disciples what Kingdom-focused living was all about. Sure, He taught. Teaching is great! But He also walked, wept, and even died in our place. He accepted us as brothers and journey-mates, and when we do the same for others, the product should be Christlike-ness, the Fruit of the Spirit, and a closer walk with the Father as we are molded into His image, as we were made to be.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

How to save a boatload of money on baby stuff

It's easy to get discounted big-ticket items like furniture and car seats, but it's the little costs adding up that really bite you in the booty. Baby wash, wipes, and diapers are things that constantly need to be replaced. And if you use a special laundry detergent for those precious tiny baby all adds up. Add formula and jar baby food to that, and whoo boy!

So here are some tips for saving money, categorized by level of commitment/convenience and all costs are over 2 years with 1 baby. Obviously, certain of these aren't used the full 2 years and I've accounted for that.

Baby wash
Est. cost : (@$5/bottle and using a bottle every 3 months for 2 years) $40
Easy money saver: Dilute it and put it in a foaming dispenser. Use Subscribe and Save from Amazon or cut coupons to save quite a lot!
Big time money saver: A big bottle of Dr. Bronner's Castille Soap and dilute it by half. You can add essential oils to get your favorite baby smell (lavender or chamomile would be great!)


Est. cost : (I took the average of $3-600/yr depending on many factors)
Easy money saver: Cloth! $22 for 30 washable wipes on Amazon. You can moisten them with water or add coconut oil to the water to moisturize and wipe at the same time!
Big time money saver: Make your own cloth wipes or even disposables. There are tips and recipes for pretty much any of this if you do a search and try what appeals to you.


Est. cost: $2,000 (GASP!)
Easy money saver: Couponing! I've seen oodles of deals that cut big time bucks off of diaper costs.
Big time money saver: Cloth diapering! You can ask for the brand/style you want at your baby shower/s and potentially have no up-front cost! You can also make your own detergent for them and save on the laundry component as well. If you're at home part time and on the go a lot, you can use cloth at home and sposies when out and about.


Est. cost : Hard to say, but it's $2/box more expensive at my local Walmart than equivalent-sized Tide.
Easy money saver: Use your own regular detergent and skip the Dreft altogether.
Big time money saver: Make it yourself! All the ingredients can be found at Walmart. There are recipes online for liquid or powdered. You can also do this for cloth diaper detergent,


Est. cost : Estimate your cost here, but think somewhere in the $1500 range
Easy money saver: There are tons of coupons out there for this stuff. Also, part-time breastfeeding/pumping if you can will cut costs majorly and provide superior nutrition for the baby.
Big time money saver: Breastfeed exclusively and pump ahead for times you'll be traveling. This can also potentially save you a ton of money in healthcare costs, as breast milk contains oodles of antibodies to help the infant immune system along.

Jar baby food/cereal

Est. cost : Hard to say, but here's an interesting DIY versus purchased detailed comparison:
Easy money saver: Use a food processor to blend steamed veggies at least once a week. Mash banana and avocados as snacks. Skip cereals, they're not the best starter foods anyway.
Big time money saver: Make it all from scratch. Freeze in ice cube trays, eat mostly fresh, can in 1,2 pint jelly jars, and pack refilled baby food jars for on-the-go.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Raiden's Birth Story

There are two impressions that the birth of our son has left upon me. The first is that I have been hemmed in on every side with support. Family, friends, and God have all been surrounding me during this time and lifting me up to be able to do what I could never have done alone. The second is that I am most definitely not in control-of my destiny, these events, or my own child.

At my 38 week check-up, I waived the internal exam for the second week in a row, telling the OB that I hadn’t had any pre-labor symptoms that would lead me to think I’d dilated. No Braxton Hicks aside from three little ones one night, no mucous changes, no nothing.

Two days later, I awoke in the morning with the feeling that I’d just started my period. I was cramping mildly and I had a bit of blood on the toilet paper. I called the midwife on duty, who said that I should keep an eye on it and call if I soaked a pad. I called that afternoon and updated her, but took the show for my mucous plug and hoped I still had a few weeks before delivery.

My parents were on their way to visit and bring baby furniture as we moved in to our new apartment. The moving process had been arduous, but we had made great headway and I focused on getting the place ready for my parents’ arrival. I kept having mild cramps, but they weren’t bad—less intense in frequency and duration than period cramps.

My parents came, unloaded the car, and we went to Dalton for some Iron Gate pizza. We had a marvelous time and fantastic meal, enjoying every bite and every moment. We returned, exhausted, and made sleeping arrangements for the evening. Because of David’s 3rd shift sleep schedule, he’d be on the couch, I’d sleep in our bed with Mom, and Dad would have the guest bed. I chatted with Mom as we settled in, then both of us drifted off.

At about 2AM, I had about 5 harder, more painful cramps in a row, about 4 minutes apart. I realized that I would not be sleeping well that night, so I relocated to the living room to join David as he played Skyrim. I curled up on the couch next to him with a sleeping bag and a trash can for vomiting, which I used several times. We spent the night with David helping me through contractions, timing the contractions when we could, and me sleeping between contractions as best I could.

By 8 the next morning, September 22, I realized that I hadn’t felt Raiden move for several hours. I called the midwife, Vikki, and she said to come in and be checked. Mary, an elderly lady, checked us in and remarked that “you haven’t dropped yet, are you contracting, sweetie?” I’d had 4 or 5 contractions while she was checking us in!

Raiden’s heartbeat came in strong and regular on the monitor, and so did my contractions. Vikki’s check revealed that I was a solid 4 cm. dilated and 90% effaced, much to my surprise. I was admitted to labor and delivery, and we called my mom to make the short drive up to the hospital.

Much of the rest seemed to happen in a blur. I’m not sure what “method” I wound up using, but it worked like this: deep breath as the contraction began, focus on focal point, count in and out in slow sixes and relax through the contraction. After some practice, I was able to knock myself out in between contractions and sleep until the next one began to rise in intensity. My mom would call out what the contraction was doing on the monitor and encourage me that it would be short.

Because I chose to “go natural” and avoid pain medication, I was allowed to go off of the monitor for a little while and enjoy soaking in the whirlpool tub, walking around the hall and room, and laboring in a rocking chair. I did have to have an IV for several things, but they gave me a saline lock so that I could be more mobile in between fluids.

The checks throughout the day revealed that I was progressing, but very slowly. Vikki worried some when I got “stuck” at 7cm for a couple of checks, and suggested a “whiff” of Pitocin to get things going after a few other things failed to move my stubborn cervix. She didn’t want me to get to the end and have no energy for the final pushing. I accepted the “go juice” and waited for everything to get strong and hard.

It didn’t. In fact, I barely noticed much difference at all in the contractions. They were maybe a tiny bit stronger, but much less so than I expected. I was getting the minimum dose, so I only noticed that my contractions were a little more hard-working and, thank heaven, a LOT shorter. Nothing about Pit should do that, to my knowledge, but my contractions were about 1 ½ minutes apart and about 30 seconds long.

They progressed in strength until, while rocking in the rocking chair at about midnight, I started feeling antsy, like I needed to use the restroom. I went, but there was nothing there. I knew then that the pushing stage was almost upon me. I waited a few more contractions until the urge was strong enough that it was interfering with my breathing and focusing. I felt better bearing down than relaxing, so I cheated a little when my coaches weren’t looking and breathed through my teeth while exerting mild pressure on my abdomen.

Vikki checked, and I was 10 cm all around except for a 9.5 at the top. She said I had a bit of a double bag that was covering the opening, so she moved it out of the way and called for the pushing preparations to begin. I asked for a squat bar and the nurse set one up for me. During this time, my brother, Chris, whose name Raiden got for a middle name, called and prayed for me over the phone. My mom, Bailee, and David were with me and got me positioned to push.

Vikki showed me a reclined position and suggested I try that one for a couple of contractions. On the first try, I moved the baby lower, but the other two didn’t accomplish much. I scooted into the squat position to give that one a try. The first one, my feet nearly slipped out from under me on the absorbent pad. We moved the pad and I gave it a serious effort. I could tell the difference, and so could Vikki. A couple more pushes and we had the beginning of a crown—time to move the feet out of the way and give birth.

Crowning hurt like nothing had—the other was muscle pain, this was sharp and intense. “Burn” is the word used to describe it, but it’s the burn of a tremendous stretch and was only alleviated by pushing more, even putting pressure on it in between contractions seemed to help. It was over in a minute, followed by Vikki calling out that we had a head, that I should stop pushing. “Too late,” she said a second later, “we have a baby!” I could hardly hear her over the upset voice of my newly born son, who was dried off and placed on my belly for me to meet! I hadn’t even been pushing a full half-hour, but my legs were trembling from the exertion. It was 1:04 AM on Sunday, September 23, 2012.

Raiden squawked for a little while, sitting on my belly and scooting around while we waited for the placenta and while David cut the cord. The little fella played at nursing some, then after a few minutes, I handed him off for the weight and other welcome party events. I required a considerable number of stitches for my 3rd-degree tear, which I had incurred when Raiden popped out all at once, and with his fist in the air. Go, baby. I’m thinking the timing of that rock fist could have been a tad bit better, but it made a great opening statement for a new life greeting the world with his fist held high.

After the stitching, chatting with the medical personnel, introductions to the grandparents, and all the congratulations and pictures, the tired visitors headed home and my mom left us with the makings of a tea party she had packed as a post-labor surprise. David prepared each of us a cup of tea, and we enjoyed sipping it while holding the tiny boy. He was truly beautiful—the spitting image of his father.

 I don’t normally think that newborns are pretty. They are usually swollen, misshapen, purple, and splotchy. Raiden was none of those things. He had soft, brown hair, a slightly dark complexion (at least compared to his pasty parents), and was long, lean, and expressive. As much as he favors his father in looks, he favors his mother in personality. Both of us were content babies, but I was the snuggler, and he definitely kept that trait going. He loves to be warm and close to a body.

There were things I “knew” that I had accepted would be true about this little boy—that he would be a blessing, that I would love him, and that every bit of discomfort, every sleepless night, every frustration, all the work, and all the cost would be worth it. I had no idea why, and I really didn’t feel any of these things until I spent time building the relationship with him. All of those statements are true and I feel their impact now, though a few weeks ago, I’d have thought, “yes, I know it will be, but I just don’t see it now.”

So, welcome, little Raiden Christopher. All 7 pounds, 9 ounces, and 21 inches of you. We accept you with love.
For it was You who created my inward parts;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You
because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made.
Your works are wonderful,
and I know this very well.
Psalm 139:13-14

Monday, July 23, 2012

Well, That Was Easy...

I must admit, I was a little miffed when I read that I had to select a pediatrician in order to pre-register at the hospital for Raiden's birth. One more hassle to go through, and (more annoyingly), one I hadn't thought of or researched yet! I spoke with one of the doctors at the Women's Center, and he listed several that were all excellent recommendation. The options seemed staggering.

Thankfully, a friend from church recommended one of the same ones, and she mentioned that he was  supportive of some of the more "crunchy" (natural) choices she was making with her kids. Those who know me know that I crunch like a mouth full of organic gravel, so I determined to check out who I remembered as "the doctor with the Zs." (Azzouz)

My husband and I went together after he picked me up from my OB appointment (all's well!) and we went to Bright Pediatrics for the consultation. After we were finished, I was happy to not only check off another preparation item, but also to know that we have a very capable pediatrician available who doesn't run at the first sign of crunching! :)

I was happy to see that he asked us several questions and gave some advice to help support us as we went along. I was also very happy with the answers he gave, which I have paraphrased (to the best of my preggo brain memory, so don't consider these to be direct quotes in any way) here. If anyone wants to use these questions when they interview potential pediatricians, feel free to do so!

Q: For the office: What types of insurance do you accept?
A: Medicaid, PeachCare, BCBS TN BlueCare, and other community providers

Q: What is your policy on immunizations? I'm hoping to delay/selectively vaccinate.
A: Vaccination is great and I recommend it. However, I respect your decisions and we will work out a vaccination schedule that works for you.

Q: What is the 1st year visit schedule?
A: Hospital visit in first two days, follow up in 4-7 days in the office, then 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, and 12 months.

Q: What standard do you use to measure weight gain?
A: We base off of the AAP, though each baby needs to stay consistent with his own gain curve.

Q: What are some symptoms that I should definitely call about?
A: In the first two months: fever of 100.5 and up, hacking cough, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Q: What are some symptoms that freak people out but usually aren't serious?
A: We get a lot of calls for low grade fever and stuffy nose. The fever, after two months, usually is treatable with children's Tylenol, but call if it persists or gets too high for your comfort. Do not give young kids sinus medicine except for saline spray to alleviate congestion. 

Does the office seem clean/orderly? (yes, and there was plenty of seating and it was busy, but not crowded)
Were you seen in a timely fashion? (yes, considering it was a Monday right before lunch!)
Does the doctor like kids? (yes, he had four of his own and was very proud of them!)

How about you guys? What are some questions you have or would ask a potential pediatrician?

Friday, July 6, 2012

It's the Third Trimester!!!

Here I sit at 27 1/2 weeks and I must confess, I'm alternating between restlessness and downright panic in this odd cycle where very little makes sense.  Oddly enough, it's all normal--the aches, the appetite rearing its head at strange hours, and being walloped in the gut for bending over or getting stressed.

A few things I've noticed:
The most comfortable seating is not a La-z-boy recliner, it's an exercise ball. A few minutes of bouncing and lounging around, and back pain all but vanishes, like magic.

An evening spent lying on top of (or having one on top of me) a rice heating pad is better than a spa day. It's relaxing and glorious.

Top Gear is a fantastic series. It's funny, has RIDICULOUS camera work (especially for a car show!), and makes clever observations about the world in general, all while test driving very cool-looking cars. I'd love to see an episode on mommy vans.

Not having a nursery while going through nesting is a pain. I'll stop there on that one.

"Advice" has a strange meaning now. I wish I'd kept a list of things people have told me to expect. In fact, here's a breakdown of a few things I expected (whether because I read it or was advised) and how they've turned out so far. I have 11 1/2 weeks to go, so there's still time...

Some typical symptoms I've mysteriously avoided so far:

Cravings: I had preferences and one short-lived aversion, but nothing I HAD to have.
Violent mood swings: There have been evenings where I've been sad and upset. I have been grumpy at times. But it has been nothing worse than PMS symptoms.
Horrible nausea: I have 10 minutes of nausea followed by tossing my cookies if I have
     A. Not had enough sleep,
     B. Eaten horribly, or
     C. Worked nonstop for 3+ hours in the garden in the heat.
Hemorrhoids/UTIs/yeast infections: I technically had one UTI before I knew I was pregnant. I've never had the other two.
Constipation: One sandwich made with fiber-full bread or a breakfast of bran, oatmeal, or French toast, and all is right. I try to include fiber-rich foods every other day or so, just to make sure it all stays in motion.
Braxton Hicks Contractions: Nope, that was just gas. Nope, he just walloped me. No BHCs.
Hot Flashes/Staying too hot: People said I'd be miserable in the summer. I still wear a jacket to church.
Swelling: My OB grabbed me by the foot a few weeks ago and exclaimed, "You still have ankles!!!!" Yes, yes, sir, that I do. I have ankles. Thank you for pointing that out.

Some symptoms of which I've had plenty:

Hunger: I've rarely been ready to cook an entire 5-course meal at 11:30 at night before. Now that I can't, I want to sooo badly.
Back aches: I'm going to a chiropractor to help get my spine and pelvis in order for labor. Thankfully, the discomfort is manageable, though it's not a picnic.
Dislike of noise and stress in environment: Good grief, I hate weekends. There is a lot of noise in my environment, and the more people are off work, the worse it gets. Independence Day was ungodly, and it had nothing to do with fireworks. I'm seriously considering putting up a hammock in the storage building.

Really, honestly, it hasn't been awful. Every time I try to think of more symptoms I've had, I have to add another to the list of things that haven't described this pregnancy.

Anyway, I'm starting to delete more than I'm keeping, so I think it's time to go organize some stuff.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Guilty of Contempt

A friend of mine posted this link in our mommy group a few minutes ago:

The following excerpt is from this article. While I don't agree with everything in it, this particular paragraph on behavior modeling really toasted my proverbial poptart: 

Civil children come from civil environments. Many parents feel free to speak to their children with a level of incivility they would not use with anyone else they know. They bark orders. They raise their voices. They use sarcasm and contempt: "Seriously? That's how you cleaned your room?" They poison civil language with contemptuous tone: "Ryan, please put your shoes on." They patronize. They roll their eyes and sigh. They construct a cocktail of word choice, tone, and body language that they would not serve to a co-worker, friend, or stranger on the street. And then they serve it liberally to an under-aged consumer, the smallest neighbor they are called to love preferentially: their own child. Yet they are shocked to end up with an adolescent fluent in the language of contempt.


Now, I know some homes where husband and wife scream and yell at each other constantly. Some people were raised in an environment where this is the way conflict was handled. It bothers me. It seriously bothers me. I refuse to model that example to my son. Thankfully, screaming and yelling was rarely part of my childhood, so while I have little tolerance for it, I also have little example of it, either. So far in our two years of marriage, David and I have never raised our voices against each other.

But that's not what this article is talking about, though the opening began with that.

The reason this paragraph stood out to me is that I picked up on something much more subtle that was modeled to me, and something that I still struggle with as of last night at 2 in the morning. It's passive-aggressive anger. It's choosing to be darkly silent and cold toward those who have displeased you. You know Jenny's really upset when she's utterly quiet and clinically precise with her tone and mannerisms.

I have been blessed with an incredible husband who has helped me greatly on this by taking the high road and calling me out. He can tell that something's wrong and he'll kindly ask for me to open up to him. When I talk to him and express myself, I make myself vulnerable to that anger, but in an environment where there is love and understanding available to draw me closer, whereas before there was loneliness and bitterness embracing me as I secluded myself to brood.

The uncivil body and verbal language being described here is me to a T. "Seriously?" is one of my favorite unhappy words. Sarcasm easily transitions from being jovial and gentle to stabbing and biting. Closed-off body language is the most infuriating thing my husband can experience from me: "you don't find me worthy in those moments to share what you're feeling."

What could be more hideous to see from my child? Why do I do that to my husband? If I model that type of behavior to my son, that's exactly what I can expect back from him. Where I often rely on my husband to call me out and take the high road, I have got to make the choice to take the high road myself and lay down my pride for the sake of these incredible men in my life.

I think it's time for me to lay down this sin and ask for Christ to forgive me and give me His love for my family. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

My Top 10 Pros and Cons of Pregnancy so Far

My husband LOVES touching my hair. It feels thicker and has more body now.
I got a whole new wardrobe for free (to me). These maternity clothes are cuter than the ones I had!
Lots of back rubs and snuggles.
A lovely glow.
Getting to feel Raiden kicking and moving.
Getting to see awesome ultrasounds.
Lots of glorious sleep!
No time of the month for NINE WHOLE MONTHS!
Having the excuse, "I'm growing a person, what did YOU do today?"
Large...tracts of land.... ;)

A whole bunch of doctors' visits that do little or nothing fun, and quite a few un-fun things.
Having to eat gets old very quickly.
Temporarily losing that schoolgirl figure.
Temporarily losing libido.
My eczema is worse.
Back aches and stretchy pains.
Can't garden as long at a stretch or eat sushi or half-cooked meat or drink booze.
Occasional bouts of PMS-like grouchiness.
Occasional gas and/or nausea.
The bump gets in the way of almost everything.