Titus 2:11-13

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Unconditional Obedience

God expects unconditional obedience from His children.  Can you imagine God saying, "If you will obey my voice, I will give you $100"?  How absurd would it be if our Heavenly Father purchased compliance from His children through bribery?  And even if He did, what purpose would it accomplish?  The obedience would be the result of a satisfying promise of reward and not the product of love, respect, submission, or fear.  Every instance of obedience would be contingent upon the favorableness of the reward, and no pattern of obedience to God would be established.

The same concept applies to raising children.  Like God, I, too, expect unconditional obedience from my children.  This means that when I give my children a command, I expect them to obey without conditions (i.e. without the promise of a new toy, a yummy snack, etc.)  Granted, this does not always happen naturally or easily--after all, we are talking about sinful human beings--but it can be accomplished through proper training and discipline!  Training and discipline are necessary steps on the path to obedience as well as an investment in the heart of a child.  Obedience should not come as the result of the promise of reward; it should be an outpouring of a proper posture of the heart.  I want my children to obey me unconditionally because they love and respect me.  When submission out of love, respect, and even fear becomes the posture of their hearts, they will not only obey their parents unconditionally but also their Heavenly Father.  And that is why I do not bribe my children.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

God's Purpose Will Prevail

As I have been reflecting more on my seemingly impossible desire to avoid a planned cesearean of my twin babies, God has given me counsel and encouragement that has taken away my anxiety about the situation.  But before I share that counsel, let me back up just a little bit....

After having my hopes of a VBAC assualted at my first OB appointment, I spent the next four weeks in prayer that my second appointment would be a good indication of what our next move should be.  (Should we stay with our current doctor group, or should we transfer to another practice where my chances of getting a VBAC might be better?)  As I mentioned in my post about that second appointment, I didn't exactly get the answer I was hoping for (which would have gone something like this:  "You bet you can have a trial of labor!  In fact, all seven of us doctors agree that's your best option!"); yet I left that appointment feeling an extreme amount of peace that could have come only from God.  I didn't (and still don't) know exactly what our next move is to be, but in that state of peace I knew that my God is not bound by the date of a planned cesearean or even by five of seven doctors (or should I say all but a couple of the doctors in Des Moines) being completely uncomfortable with a twin VBAC.  In my heart I knew that God's purpose would prevail.

To confirm my conclusions, the Lord subsequently gave me a couple Scriptures--the wise counsel I spoke of above.  The first one was given through a friend who, as she was listening to my story, felt led to share Job 42:2 with me.  "I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted."  As she read this verse and the truth sunk deep into my heart and mind, tears of thankfulness filled my eyes.  My awesome, sovereign Father, who had heard my prayers and who knows my heart and who cares for my affairs, showed me once again that He knows all things, He can do all things, and no one can mess up His plans.

The second encouraging Scripture God gave me was in my personal reading time.  My husband and I have been going through the Proverbs a chapter a day, and on December 19th, Proverbs 19:21 sunk into my heart and again confirmed that God is in control.  "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."

I praise God that regardless of my birth plan or my doctors' plan, it is God's plan that will prevail.  I pray that He will reveal that plan to me, align my heart with His, and give my doctors divine wisdom as I rest and trust in Him.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Weaker Vessel

"You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is woman" (1 Peter 3:7a).

The Lord brougt this verse to my mind the other day as my husband was repeatedly obeying it. I realized once again how blessed I am to have a godly husband who loves and serves me, and I thought it would be fun to share some of the ways he "lives with me in a understanding way, as with someone weaker."

  • My husband always fills the cars with gas--something I've come to especially appreciate in this recent frigid Iowa weather.
  • Knowing that I'm always on the cold side, my husband keeps the thermostat in our house a few degrees higher than his preferred living temperature to ensure my comfort. On the cold nights he makes it to bed before me, he lays on my side until I'm ready to crawl in to warm the sheets up for me.
  • A couple days ago when I forgot to return some books to the library, my husband--with no complaints about my forgetfulness--offered to run the errand himself.
  • When I'm not feeling up to cooking (such as during the 1st trimester of pregnancy!), my husband offers to order out or throws something together himself.
These are just some of the most recent examples of how my husband appropriately treats me as a woman--someone weaker. In a culture where many women strive to be "strong" and "independent," I am fulfilled and blessed to live in my God-given womanly role, "weaker" than my husband and "dependent" upon him. God knew what I needed in a husband when He sent me mine!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Making Christmas Meaningful

Tomorrow Travis and I are celebrating Christmas with our children.  I'm not usually one to go for opening gifts before Christmas Day--and at this time in years past I'm pretty sure we hadn't even started our shopping yet--but we are really excited to spend the day focusing on the birth of Christ, family time, and new traditions.

The new traditions part has me a little worked up, I must admit.  As the mom and wife, I guess I feel a self-induced pressure to make the day as memorable as possible and to set some fun traditions that can be carried on through the years.  I have to keep reminding myself that the main point of Christmas is the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and not the food we will eat, the clothes we will wear, or the special activities we will do.  Still, I think it is fun and healthy to have family traditions, especially at Christmas time.  We are a unit, and I think the right kinds of traditions accompanied by a correct understanding of the meaning of Christmas will only make us a stronger unit.

I guess I still don't know exactly what our day will look like tomorrow, but I know that my prayer is that Christ would be at the center of it.

Thank you, God, for sending Your Son to be born as a man, to live and serve among us, and ultimately to die for our sins.  May You, Jesus, be the focus of our family both this Christmas time and always.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Like Mother, Like Son

I have become particularly anal of late about all toys being put away in their proper places at certain times throughout the day: especially before we leave a room, at naptime, and at bedtime. Today I was playing with the kids in Abel's room right before naptime, and a handful of toys not being played with was scattered across the floor. I was noticing these toys and thinking that someone was surely going to step on one or trip over one, but I didn't say anything. Just a few minutes later, Abel paused from our game of catch, looked around his bedroom floor, and said matter-of-factly and with a hint of annoyance, "Me pick up these toys." He and Amariah proceeded to clear the floor of all but two toys, neither of which I even noticed until...

Finally, it was naptime. (I've been looking forward to a nap since about the time I got out of bed this morning.) Abel's room was back in order, he was crawling into bed, and I was heading out the door with Amariah when Abel stopped me. "Uh oh, Mom. There's two toys on floor. That one goes 'Yiyah's' room. That one goes right there." I sluggishly bent over and picked up the toys as I smiled to myself and thought, You've made him this way.

Abel's room now officially in order, Amariah and I headed into her room to lay her down. I noticed some toys scattered on her floor, too, and in my tired state briefly considered leaving them there until bedtime tonight. But thinking of how my 2 1/2-year old had just called me to action in me-like fashion, I again sluggishly bent over and picked up the toys as I smiled to myself. Not the worst habit to teach my kids.

Friday, December 12, 2008

12/12/08 OB Appointment

Bring on the second trimester!  Today I am 13 weeks pregnant!  This morning was our second regular OB appointment, and we met with the doctor who delivered Amariah, my VBAC baby, and who saw me through our miscarriage this past summer.  I was really looking forward to this first meeting with him of this pregnancy, especially after my less than desirable experience with one of his colleagues four weeks ago.

Today's discussion with the doctor went somewhat as I had come to expect.  He gently approached the topic that he surely knew was going to come up anway, telling me that I won't be able to VBAC with twins.  We were able to have a fairly lengthy discussion in this regard that I felt was conducted with mutual respect and understanding.  We got a lot of facts about how a planned cesarean works and discussed his opinions of the risks associated with a twin VBAC vs. a repeat cesarean.  He also reminded me that just because I'm pregnant doesn't mean I've lost my rights, and that should I go into labor before the date of a planned cesarean (should we consent to going that route), I would have every right to refuse a cesarean at that time, "signing my life away" and proceeding with an attempt at vaginal delivery.  He also said that were it to happen this way while he was on call, he would be fairly libertarian in allowing me to make that choice.

I have been praying for the last four weeks that today's appointment would be a good indication of what our next move (if any) should be.  While the doctor didn't say exactly what I had hoped to hear, and while we're not exactly sure what to think or do at this point, I can say that I left my appointment with extreme peace.  I know that my God is the same God today in the face of what seems an impossible desire as He was before I ever had the cesarean that puts me in this situation.  He has known for all time that my scarred womb would be housing these two little babies, and I know with all my heart that the God who opened my scarred womb and filled it with a double blessing will be faithful to see us through what lies ahead.  I believe that He will guide us and grant us wisdom as we seek, trust, and rely upon Him.

The best part of today's appointment was definitely getting to see our two little babies!  I wasn't expecting to get this opportunity today, but apparently using the ultrasound machine is the preferred method of getting twins' heartbeats.  Baby A's heart was beating at 168 beats per minute and Baby B's at 158 beats per minute.  We were blessed to watch as both babies squirmed, turned, and twisted.  We even saw a grabbing of the toes and a feeling of the head (that one must be related to Abel!). :-)  What a miracle is happening within me!

Oh, and in other fun news, my 13-week pregnant uterus is measuring 17 cm (the normal size of the uterus at 17 weeks pregnant with one baby).  Praise God for the healthy growth and development of my babies!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

If in Doubt, Don't!

If in doubt, don't.  But I did.  And it hurt....

About five weeks ago, when Travis and I found out that I'm pregnant with twins, we decided it would be fun to take weekly pictures of my growing belly.  When I looked in the mirror and realized, "This body has to stretch enough to accommodate two babies.  I may never look quite like this again," I decided we better hurry up and get a picture before the growing started.

A couple weeks into taking these weekly pictures, I began to consider sharing them with my friends by posting them on Facebook.  But then the thought crossed my mind, "At what point in pregnancy does it become 'appropriate' to show off a naked belly?  How big does a naked pregnant belly have to be in order to not be 'offensive' or 'immodest'?"... Doubt #1.

So I let the idea ride for while and didn't post any pictures.

A couple weeks later, our weekly picture showed a significant change from the initial this-is-how-my-body-used-to-look picture.  Excited to finally see some change, I thought, "Well, now those initial pictures don't seem immodest because they are just a reference point for my growth."  And despite the doubts I had had a couple weeks prior, I posted the pictures and felt okay about it.

But then people started commenting on the photos--all positive comments, granted--yet with each comment came another twinge of doubt.  "Maybe I should take those pictures off Facebook...."  Doubt #2.  #3.  #4.  Maybe more.

Still I didn't remove the pictures.  Hundreds of my Facebook friends remained able to see my naked, barely pregnant belly.

A few more days passed, and then came the consequence.  As I was getting ready for church on Sunday morning, I noticed an email from a respected and older sister in Christ.  I opened it up to find the most humble, gentle, loving, yet extremely painful rebuke (for lack of a better word) concerning my belly pictures.  Of them, she said, "I believe because of your joy and excitement, you share.  But I do not think it is proper or modest.  I ask you to please consider this.  Today the world reveals all and has no shame, but we are of Christ and are to be modest, discreet, and above reproach.... Many struggle in this culture of immodest dress, and so as women of God we need to be examples."

Totally ashamed and embarrassed, I archived the email before my husband could see it and resumed getting ready for church, feeling horrible and knowing I wasn't really going to hide the email from my husband.  About then he sat down at the computer, and nonchalantly I said, "Honey, do you think I should take those pictures off Facebook?"  I proceeded to have him read the email from my respected Sister, and we then immediately changed the privacy settings so that only I could view the pictures (although I'm not sure my decision at that point was based on anything more than knowing I had offended (again, for lack of a better word) at least one person).

As we walked into church that morning, I felt guilt-ridden and ashamed.  What if people from our church saw my pictures and felt the same as the friend who emailed?  I could hardly get my mind off my own feeling of guilt enough to even engage in converation.  Even through the service, my mind was preoccupied.  I just wanted to go home, curl up in a ball, and retreat to some place inside myself.

Back at home, as I was preparing our lunch, I finally asked my husband, "Honey, why do I feel so guilty? like I did something wrong?"  Responding as with the voice of God (and not knowing about the former doubts which I had ignored), he said, "You're still thinking about that?  Well, if it's really bothering you that much... I'm just wondering... is it possible you sinned against your conscience?"

I don't think I ever really answered his question, but in my heart and in my mind, I immediately knew the answer.  Remembrances of my initial doubts--and of subsequent doubts--all reasoned away by my own justifying conclusions, flooded my memory.  I asked him, "Well... what do I do now?"  And again as if speaking with the voice of God, he said, "Repent."

I would like to say I fell on my knees in broken repentance right at the moment, but no, it took me a little bit to get my heart completely aligned with God's--to rid myself of my pride and to truly agree with Him.  Once I knew my heart was in the right posture, I confessed my sin to God and begged Him to keep my conscience sharp, knowing full well that each ingoring of the conscience has a tendency to dull it just a little more.  When I was done praying, our gracious, merciful, forgiving God took away my feelings of guilt and replaced them with feelings of gratitude that I had been chastened by my loving Father and then forgiven.

I would like to clarify that my feelings of guilt were not because of a Godly friend's opinion being shared with me or even because I had shown my bare belly to the world of Facebook.  My feelings of guilt were brought on solely by the fact that I had sinned against my conscience.  Romans 14:22-23 says, The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God.  Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.  But he who doubts is condemned if he eats (or in my case, if she posts these pictures), because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.  I had condemned myself in what I approved because it was done not in faith, but in opposition to the conviciton of the Holy Spirit.

I would also like to clarify that the older Christian woman who "rebuked" me did so humbly and lovingly, with the proper motivation of preserving me and my testimony and out of total obedience to the Scripture:  Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored (Titus 2:3-5).

Lastly, I would like to say that it is so like Satan to try to talk us out of our convictions.  In Genesis 3:1, the serpent said to Eve, "Did God really say...?"  Be on the lookout against his schemes!  Remember that the Holy Spirit speaks to you through your conscience and that the old saying, "If in doubt, don't," is often a pretty good guide.

I hope the story of my painful lesson in listening to my conscience will preserve some of you from a similar chastening, but with much gratitude in my heart I recognize that the most important point in my story is this:  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

CHRISTmas Music

I love Christmas music--well, maybe not all of it, but for sure the songs that tell of the true meaning of Christmas (i.e. the birth of Christ).  Every year when I hear these CHRISTmas songs playing on the radio, I find myself wondering how many people across the globe are singing along and not really believing the words or paying their truth any attention... and how many secular musicians have recorded them just because they are traditional Christmas songs that tell a good story.  Wouldn't it be awesome if people everywhere were truly changed by these words of truth which we sing once a year in our holiday cheer?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

At Least Give Me a Chance...

I just spent the larger part of my morning on the phone hoping for leads to an obstetrician who will give me a trial of labor.  It seems that so many doctors are opposed to both vaginal birth after cesarean and vaginal birth of twins; so throw my desire of a vaginal birth of twins after cesarean in there, and you start feeling like there is little hope.

The doctors I'm currently seeing haven't given me an answer either way, but one midwife I spoke to this morning, upon finding out which OB practice I'm with, warned me that I need to get out of there as quickly as possible and said that with them I don't stand a chance.  The problem, she said, is that they aren't all on the same page (as I began to discover at my last appointment).  However, I won't completely give up on them until (and if) they nix my idea all together.  And if that happens, at least I've started the grueling process of finding a credible doctor who will give me a chance at labor.  (I did find a possible lead, by the way, pending review of my medical records!)

I do understand that no matter what doctor I'm with, certain factors will have to be just so in order for me to have a vaginal delivery of twins.  It's not that I would refuse a cesarean to the point of endangering my babies' lives.  But I do have a deep desire to once again experience the beauty of natural childbirth, and I am praying very specifically and very often that all these determining factors will take place in order to allow for that.  I know that God hears my petitions and knows my heart, and it's only in Him that I can place my trust.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

He Gave Himself Away

This story is for all you parents out there--including myself--who don't fully realize the intelligence of a toddler....

We spent the week of Thanksgiving at my parents' house--a treat for everyone since we aren't able to make the seven-hour drive as often as we would like.  Abel and Amariah always look forward to all the special things that come with being on my parents' farm.  The chickens--gathering their eggs, feeding them, petting them, even just looking at them--were probably the highlight for the kids.  Every morning and every evening, when it came time to turn the chickens out for the day or to shut the coop up for the night, Abel made sure he was a part of the chore.  (And don't forget Amariah!  The moment she suspected someone might be going outside, she was running for her shoes and coat!)

The aforementioned story comes from one of these outings to the chicken coop.  This particular morning my mom had taken the kids up to turn the chickens out while Travis and I stayed in the house (probably watching HGTV (since we don't have satellite at home!)).  Somewhere along the way, my mom gave Abel some instruction to which he responded argumentatively.  My mom then said, "Hey, don't talk to me like that.  You do what I tell you to."  To which two year-old Abel self-incriminatingly replied, "Okay, Grandma!  Me won't talk back to you like do Mommy!"

Now, don't misunderstand the way we run our household.  Abel definitely gets disciplined... and disciplined... for talking back.  Why he continues to do it in spite of our consistency, I'm not sure.  The point is, Abel knows he "talks back" to Mommy, and now I have proof that he knows!

Parents, your children aren't stupid.  Expecting a toddler to understand instruction and to carry it out with happy obedience is not too much to ask.  Obviously, we are still working on the happy part of obedience; but let this story encourage you (as it has me) to not grow weary!  Don't buy into the thinking that your toddler doesn't understand.  He does!

Monday, December 1, 2008

"A Word to Busy Mothers"

This morning as I was going through my cookbooks looking for new recipes to try, I came across this encouraging poem. I don't know who wrote it, but it comes from the Amish cookbook Tasteful Treasures from the Horse and Buggy Country of Conewango Valley, New York, 2003, pg. 49.

A Word to Busy Mothers
Since you are a busy mother, you have much to do.
Things are often in a rush and you are often in a stew.
Meals to fix, clothes to wash, and dirty floor to sweep,
Little tots and babies, too, to care for and to keep.

Garden must be tended; there is sewing to be done;
Certain deadlines must be met; you are always on the run.
Though this work is all important, keep it in it's place.
Never let it shut out God or stop His flow of grace.

While you are hanging out the wash or ironing with care,
Still your thoughts to meditate and breathe a silent prayer.
Read a portion of God's Word while rocking babies to sleep;
Count your blessings while you work although you feel to weep.

Sing about His goodness as you pick, prepare, and can;
Speak about His praises and His mercies to mere man.
Tell the children of His love while tucking them in bed;
Thank Him daily that His hand has clothed them, warmed and fed.

In the evening leave your work and worry in God's care;
'Ere you start another day prepare yourself in prayer,
And God will surely bless your day and give you grace to do
All those things that must be done and always fall on you.

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