Friday, August 30, 2013

Already Beautiful

I thought I knew what I was going to say. I debated saying anything and then I decided that my reasons for sharing my good news were pure.  I just wanted to give God the glory for the great things he's done in my life.

I got my braces off today.  It's been a nearly three year adventure, from initially making the decision to get a consult to getting the first appliance put in to getting the top braces on exactly two years ago to getting the bottom braces on the following December to... today.  Through just a few popped brackets and a gazillion teeny tiny elastics and some unwelcome canker sores to this day.

I was so excited. I pretty near cried every time I thought of it. 

But the day was somewhat anticlimactic.  My braces were off in just a few minutes.  They took the molds for my retainer.  I got my teeth cleaned.  I looked in the mirror and smiled, but I wasn't shocked.

I've been smiling for months now.  When we had our family photos taken for Christmas cards after I had my braces put on, I broke into tears when I saw them.  I was smiling. Really smiling. With my teeth showing.  I wasn't trying to smile and hide my teeth; they were right there.  Already straightening out.  I had never ever seen myself look that way. 

I got more and more comfortable just smiling.  Not curling my lips together, not so concerned about posing for photos. Just relaxing and smiling.

So the only thing different about seeing my smile in the mirror today was that the metal was gone.

It was still me.  I hadn't changed.

You were beautiful back when I made you, I felt the Lord whisper to my heart.  I've always loved you the way you are.  You were just as beautiful then as you are today.

I stared in the mirror.  Ran my tongue over my teeth.  I'd never done that and felt it so smooth.

  A friend of mine, who also had braces as an adult, said that most people didn't notice when she got them off.

I know why.

They loved her the way she was.  They didn't look at her and see an adult with braces, they saw the beautiful person she was, both on the inside and the outside.

The people who loved me yesterday won't love me any more today, just because I got my braces off.  Sure, they'll be happy for me, but they liked me just the way I was.

My husband loved me before I got the braces.  He loves so much more about me than my smile, my body, the way I dress.  He loves the deepest part of me.  He's patient with my weaknesses and he celebrates my strengths. 

The other night I confessed to him that even though I've been exercising and lost some weight and I'm toning up, sometimes I still just feel "fat".  I'm constantly presented with images of what beauty is and start feeling inferior sometimes.  I can confide in him because his love and acceptance of me is so deep and I know that he loves me exactly the way I am.

Seriously, who loves their dentist? Me, that's who!  They are the best!
This is the greatest kind of love.  I've had the wonderful opportunity of going through the process of getting braces as a thirty-something.  As a wife of more than a decade and a mom of three.  As a friend of God.  I've experienced that Jesus is the lover of my soul.  He is the lover of every single part of me. He rejoices over me with singing. I remember when I first heard those words from Zephaniah. They literally stopped me in my tracks.

How can it be?  I'm so messed up.  I'm so flawed, physically, spiritually.  The idea of Jesus rejoicing over me, singing over me, it's almost embarrassing! 

This is all I can compare it to:  One of my favorite movies is The Family Man with Nicolas Cage. He plays a man who gets to go back and see what his life would have been like if he had chosen the path of family instead of career.  The house is a mess.  No more designer suits.  He drives a mini-van.  But he truly, deeply loves his wife and is willing to make a fool of  himself over her.  He finds a video of her birthday party and he's singing to her, in front of all their friends and children.  She's a little embarrassed. But she is captivated by him.  His eyes are fixed on her as he belts out a love song.  Their love is something special and as everyone else stands around watching, they are captivated by it too.

You were beautiful back when I made you.  I've always loved you the way you are.  You were just as beautiful then as you are today.

This was the love song He sang to me yesterday as I looked in the mirror at my smile. 

It can't get any better than that kind of love.

I think of the young girls who are getting braces and are so worried about what people will think of them.  Or maybe it's not braces.  It's probably their weight or maybe a scar or a birthmark or maybe just their second-hand or Walmart clothes they are so worried about.  I want to tell them that the people who really love you will still love you!  And that the other people are not worth your time or energy or one single care.  I want to tell them that Jesus is rejoicing over them with SINGING!

He's singing you a song, girls! He couldn't love you more.  You couldn't be more beautiful to him.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with God's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love which surpasses knowledge- that you  may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine... to him be glory...! 

Ephesians 3:16-21

Friday, August 16, 2013

Nursing Your Rights

Recently in the news was the story of a Chik-fil-A manager who requested that a breastfeeding mom cover up because she was making other customers uncomfortable.  The woman's response was to form a "nurse-in", getting 20 other nursing moms to breastfeed their babies in that very same restaurant, to "raise awareness".  Reading the article, I get what these nursing moms are trying to say.  Breastfeeding is natural.  It's not about boobs, its about nurturing another human being.  It should be normal and accepted to see moms nursing their babies in public because everyone else eats in public too.

It makes sense.  As a mom who nursed all three babies, I understand the frustration of trying to feed a baby under a blanket, trying to be discreet. I understand the difficulty of finding a comfortable place to nurse a hungry child.  I understand that when a nursing baby is hungry, you must feed them right away.

And yes, I think it's amusing that America has pretty much ditched all it's Puritanical roots, and has no problem seeing breasts bulging out of a string bikini (even in the mall) but is uncomfortable with a mom breastfeeding in public.  I think it is somewhat amusing that we even have to have laws saying it's legal to breastfeed in public.  I recently saw a mom nursing her newborn at the beach and to me, it was a precious sight, nothing offensive.  It was, however, amusing that she used a "hooter-hider" when she was breastfeeding, but otherwise was hanging out in a triangle-top string bikini which did not fit her engorged breasts very well.  There was very little of her breasts actually covered.

Our view of  breasts is a little flip-flopped here in America.

So why am I writing about boobs?  My point actually isn't to talk about boobs.  God created them, they are a good thing.  I am a bit more modest when it comes to breasts, and I think they ought to be covered whether at the beach in a swimsuit or nursing a baby in public.  I consider them a private part of the body, whether they are being used in a utilitarian way or purely aesthetic, ie. sexual, way.

But  my real beef is the response to this article on facebook by Christian women.  Up in arms, ready to boycott Chik-fil-A (and I thought Chik-fil-A was the hero of Christians?), and ready to stage nurse-ins all over to "raise awareness".  Responses: How would you like to have a hot blanket thrown over your head while you're eating? If you don't like it, tough!  You cover your boobs and I'll cover mine, you hussy!  It's my right to breastfeed wherever I want. It's your problem if you don't like seeing me feed my child.

It took on a decidedly nasty tone.  I don't see how staging a "nurse-in" raises awareness or makes a positive statement.  All it says, in my opinion, is "hell no, we won't go!"  That's lovely coming from Christian women.

I find my frustration with this is demanding "rights".  And it doesn't surprise me that it centers around breastfeeding, which seems to be elevated to a whole new level of "holiness" among some women in the Church.  These women think breastfeeding is God's only way to feed a child and you are weak, carnal, and a really bad mother if you don't do it.  The subtle (and sometimes blatant message) is that you are more holy and closer to God if you breastfeed.  Wow, that sounds like religion to me.

Maybe it's because I've been reading the book of Romans and 1 Corinthians that I take issue with all this taking issue.  Over and over again I read Paul urging the Christ-followers to give up their rights and freedom for the love of not only their brothers and sisters in Christ, but unbelievers as well.

In Romans 14, he writes "Therefore let us not pass judgement on one another any longer, but rather decided never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.  I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone w ho thinks it is unclean.  For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.  So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil...." vs13-16

vs 19, 20 "So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of breastfeeding food, destroy the work of God.  Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats."

The Corinthian church was divided over who they followed.  Some said "I follow Paul", some said "I follow Apollos".  The Church today is no different. Who or what method we follow seems to be a mark of "spirituality" in our lives.  Paul addressed this as carnal, not spiritual (1 Corinthians 3:4).

Paul called the  Corinthians out on taking their brothers to court.  Isn't there anyone in the Church wise enough to settle the dispute? he asked.  Do you really need to take this before unbelievers?  And even if you can't settle it, "Why not rather suffer wrong?  Why not rather be defrauded?" vs 6:7

In chapter 8, Paul writes "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up" (vs1).  He says "Breastfeeding Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better of if we do.  But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak." vs 8,9

In chapter 9, Paul says that he has every right to make a living off preaching the gospel, but he has not made use of that right because he would rather "endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the Gospel of Christ." vs. 12

 Pauls says "For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them." vs. 9:19

In chapter 10 he says "All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful.  All things are lawful, but not all things build up.  Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor." vs. 23,24  And vs 32 and 33 he says "Give no offense to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved."

To me, it's clear.  As believers in Christ, we have the freedom to do all kinds of things.  In fact, we are not to be a rule based sect of religious people, we are supposed to live lavishly in the grace of Jesus Christ.  However, when we use our freedoms to offend unbelievers or stumble believers, we are no longer walking in grace or love.  Remove the issue of food from any of these verses and insert a freedom like breastfeeding in public, and nothing changes.  If someone is offended by what you are doing, you should stop exercising your freedom.

My husband's grandmother was of an era when women did not breastfeed and she was clearly uncomfortable with me nursing in her living room, even if I was covered up.  So I graciously would remove myself to a nearby bedroom to feed my babies.  Yes, I felt isolated and I felt it was silly, like this was a shameful practice, but the bottom line was that it made her uncomfortable.  It was not showing love to breastfeed in front of her.

I always preferred to be discreet when nursing in public. I appreciate when other women are discreet in mixed company.  As natural as it is to breastfeed a child, there are always people around who are immature, creepy, or just more modest, so I personally think being as discreet as possible is desirable.  There were certain people I knew were very comfortable with nursing moms who weren't covered up, in their homes or in my home.  If I wasn't sure how people around me felt about nursing publicly, I was as discreet as possible or removed myself.  Or sometimes I just asked if they were okay with it.

I'm not saying you shouldn't breastfeed in public.  But as with anything else, the way we dress, speak, etc., modesty is desirable.  Seeking to draw attention to yourself in the name of raising awareness just seems like foolishness and immaturity.  I can think of several people groups these same women would be up in arms about if they were doing the same thing- letting it all hang out to raise awareness.

There is a greater way, the way of love.

I was really bothered by this and I considered Christ, our Savior.  The one we look to for answers.  How would he have made a statement? How did he raise awareness about his earthly mission?

He died.  Literally. Physically.  He died.

He gave his life. He laid it down.  He who had every right to stand on his rights as a Jew, as God's Son, as God Himself, he died.

That is the greatest statement that has ever been made.  And it's what we're called to do as Christians, too.

You have every right to wear what you want, to nurse where you want, to eat what you want, to say what you want....

But let me show you a more excellent way...

Love never fails.

Go ahead and nurse your rights.  You're free to do so.

Or die to your rights.  Make a statement.

PS- I always feel the need to add to my very opinionated posts that I am far from perfect and I can think of oodles of times that I have not laid down my freedoms and rights.  I can think of many occasions when I wish I had.  But I insisted I was right.  Now I think that automatically made me wrong.  With all my heart I pray I am growing in grace and love.  I don't write this to condemn, but to share something I have learned the hard way and to, of course, get you thinking.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


Some things arrive right on time and just when you need it.

This morning I read the first chapter in Seasons of a Mother's Heart by Sally Clarkson.  She's become one of my heroes, mentors, and Titus 2 women this past year.  I read the book she coauthored with Sarah Mae (Desperate) and I began reading her blog, I Take Joy.  She's a mom who laid down her life for her children, and found life in the day-to-day moments of being a living sacrifice for her family.  I so long to be like her.  She and her husband wrote the book Educating the Wholehearted Child which is one of my top two favorite homeschooling books.  Seasons is written specifically for the needs of homeschool moms, but Sally says it's for all moms too.

In the first chapter, she writes about the day of her youngest daughter Joy's fourth birthday party.  It started so lovely, with spring finally arriving and all four children enjoying the outdoors.  But it quickly became stressful and chaotic as the whole family was trying to clean the house and get it ready for the party.  The party itself was a near-disaster, with crying, spills, and tantrums from the young guests. The birthday girl herself  couldn't wait for everyone to leave so she could go back to having a fun time outside. 

It's refreshing to hear that we're not the only family that has these moments and days.  Days of doing too much when the simple things would have satisfied.  Days of everything going wrong, even special days of everything going wrong.  Days of mom barking out orders, trying to gain control of the household.  Days that don't turn out as fun and wonderful as you had hoped and planned.

We've had many days like that around here.

Today, the weather has been absolutely perfect for early August.  Warm sun, but a potent breeze blowing.  The perfect kind of day to be outside. 

But, for the most part, the kids don't want to be outside.  They are inside drawing and playing.  They do come out here and there, one to play baseball, then the girls come out to play on the swingset.  But nobody wanted to come out and help pick blackberries. Petite came for a while, but the grass was wet and a bug was "bugging" her.  She was like Sal, eating the blackberries she picked and trying to steal mine.  It was nice having her out for the fifteen minutes.  Josh and I picked five quarts of berries and then production began.

I made a batch of jam and prepared some berries for homemade ice cream.  I removed the seeds, dirtied every major dish in the kitchen, and processed 4 pints of jam.  I enjoyed it, to a point.  It's fun using the fruit God has provided right outside our door.  It's a blessing to have it and preserve it and eat it.  But when I was all done, I just felt sad.  I exchanged an afternoon with my kids for 4 pints of jam and some homemade ice cream.  And dirty dishes.  And a messy kitchen.  And a tired mind and body.

I know I should get them in the kitchen with me to help.  And I want to.   But they are not interested. They want to play.  They want to draw. They want to be kids on a Saturday and I don't blame them.  As I dipped jam jars into the boiling water, I thought to myself, Someday I'll look back and kick myself for making jam when I should have been enjoying my little ones.

They are barely little anymore.  Petite will be four in two weeks.  My oldest is ten.  My middler is 8.  Oh, they are still young, but not so little.  And I already, already feel that time has just gone way too quickly.  It's a terrible feeling knowing I can't get it back.  It's exciting to think of the years ahead and the maturity they will gain, the adventures we have in store, but every day we are closer to an empty nest.  That's not crazy talk, it's reality.

I'd rather let the berries rot on the branches.  I'd rather buy jelly or  jam, even if it is made with high fructose corn syrup.  I'd rather keep our life simple than fill it up with projects and plans that hold no interest for the kids.  Of course, we must do the things we must do.  Of course, we're trying to train them to work and be good stewards of what God has given us with our land and our home and our time.  But I'd rather not do these things that should be good and worthwhile, but are just not.  Not right now. 

It's time to push Petite on the swing while the breeze blows through our hair.  Mister is putting a roof on his fort.  I want to see it.  Brown-Eyed Girl is bound to want to play the "foot game" as she glides back and forth through the air on her swing.  The jam will set.  The ice cream will be delicious.  But I don't want to miss any more of these blessings today.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Homeschooler Mother's Journal- 4 Weeks Left Til School!

In my life this week...

Planning for our new school year, implementing a new chore chart, filling up the new school room!

In our homeschool this week...

I finally finished reading the biography of Lillian Trasher aloud to the kiddos and now we've moved on to the All of a Kind Family Downtown.  We read the original in the series almost two years ago and everyone loved it.  This one is no exception... they beg for another chapter.  Ah, nothing thrills me more.

Also, like I said, the chore chart!  We're only on day three of using it, but so far it seems to be a success. I'll blog more on it once it's proved it's worth.


Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share…

Oh I hate to say it, cause I love reading books on homeschooling and motherhood and blogs and blogs and blogs but... there comes a time when you should just stop reading and start praying and seeking the Lord for his very unique plan for your family.  He takes the pressure off.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

The kiddos have VBS this week at Grammy's church (a carnival theme).  We'll go visit my parents where they are camping one afternoon, and we're hoping to all go out to the Japanese grill for dinner (this is on our summer bucket list).  I'll be meeting up with a book club friend I haven't seen in ages to sip coffee and relax in bliss as we discuss wonderful literature!

My favorite thing this week was…

working out with my husband.  It was a blast and I love spending the time together.

My kiddos favorite thing this week was…

 most decidedly not the chore charts!  But they did enjoy the bike ride and picnic in the park with friends.

Things I’m working on…

planning our first weeks of home school for the year, plus planning Petite's birthday party and a back-to-school meeting for our school group.

I’m cooking…

I have coffee cake batter soaking tonight in Nourishing  Traditions style.  I don't grind my own flour, but I'm soaking the whole wheat flour in cultured buttermilk which is supposed to do all  kinds of important things to make wheat more easily digested.  This is a fascinating book to read, just because I love all things food.

I’m grateful for…

 these few quiet moments at the end of the day, when the kids are finally, finally asleep in their beds, and when I can take a deep breath and relax.

I’m praying for…

my kids a lot more, and our upcoming school year, and a special friend who seems heavy hearted.

I rewarded my kids this week by…

bringing home special ice cream treats- Orange creamsicles for the girls and mint chocolate chip Klondikes for Mister.

Something I am ogling or have my eye on…

 I must stop looking at curriculum! I've made my purchases and we don't need any thing else.  I'm a junkie, a serious curriculum junkie!

A photo to share...

Mister working on that chore chart!  Woo-hoo! I have to admit, my house is pretty tidy tonight!

Read more:

Join in!