Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sabbath Rest with Small Children

(Reposted from our previous blog, ForMissionaryMoms.com) 

Ever since my first child was born, I have struggled with what it means to have true Sabbath rest. Before kids, my husband and I would reserve one day a week for extra time in the word and prayer, extra time with each other, extra sleep, and rest from our work.

Then along came our first child and suddenly I had a new job that came with 7 twenty-four hour shifts each week. It has been and continues to be a learning process to figure out how to find time to truly rest, as well as to fulfill all my responsibilities as a mother that don’t have the option of being put on hold. Here are a few ideas that we’ve come up with in our family for keeping a Sabbath day restful and truly refreshing. It would be great to hear your ideas too! In our schedule, Saturday is generally our Sabbath day, so I’ll refer to that.

-“My soul finds rest in God alone…” Ps. 62:1 Whether or not our days are physically restful, our souls are always able to find rest. Try to find special ways to focus on God on your own and with your family. Perhaps have a special time reading and talking about a Bible story, take time to pray for each other, take some time to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation in nature or in art, or do something that your family loves doing and thank God for the blessing of one another and for giving you things that you love doing together…

-Prepare beforehand. In biblical times, there was much preparation prior to the Sabbath in order that the Sabbath day itself was protected and free from work. I know that meal prep and clean-up takes a large amount of time each day, so here are some ideas to reduce that time on your day of rest:   prepare food the day before, plan to eat left overs, have easy meals reserved that don’t take much time to prepare or clean up, freeze a meal earlier in the week to have on your day of rest, have necessary groceries on hand, etc. Another thing that I like to do is have my major house cleaning day the day before so I can enjoy a clean home and not be tempted to spend my extra rest time doing house work.

-Don’t get sucked into unnecessary tasks. Often times I do various tasks just because they come to mind and I am afraid that I will forget about them if I don’t just get them done right then.  A way to avoid your rest time being slowly etched away is to keep a small piece of paper where you can write down these tasks as they come to mind. Then you won’t forget them and won’t have to spend your precious moments of rest on things that you can easily do later.

-Think about Sunday on Friday (or whatever days this works out to be for you). Since I usually prepare for the next day the night before, it makes sense for me to take a couple of minutes preparing for Sunday on Friday night. Make sure clothes are clean for church, set aside stuff for the diaper bag, etc.

-Use paper plates/cups. I don’t do this much since we don’t have recycling here, but on occasion it is nice to have a meal with easy clean up. As all moms know, even an extra 10-15 minutes of rest is a huge blessing!

-Don't feel guilty about saying no to invitations. Sometimes I actually pencil "rest" into various slots on my calendar when I know I will need protected time of rest. Then, if someone asks me if I am available to do something, I can honestly say that I have plans for that time.  I've planned to rest, but the details of my plans don't necessarily need to be elaborated on. We don't need to feel guilty about declining invitations, even good ones, for the sake of needed rest.

-Have different standards for the Sabbath. For example, I like to make my bed each morning and clean up the house some before nap time each day. On Saturdays I just close the door to our room and don’t worry about making the bed or straightening up. I also generally don’t take much time to clean up the house when the kids are napping since this is the longest stretch of physical rest that I can get during the day.

-Take turns getting some time away. My husband and I usually take turns getting a little bit of alone time out of the house on our day of rest. I usually just go to a nearby cafe to read for a little bit, but it feels so refreshing! With little kids who are always needing me, getting a little time out does wonders for helping me rest. I am sure the day will come when our kids are older that we can all just have a restful day at home, but with little kids, “rest” has a different meaning.

-Spend time with people, or spend time alone. I am sure we are all familiar with whether or not we are introverts or extroverts. I am an extrovert and am very refreshed by spending time with people. I love good, deep conversations and talking about what God is doing in my life and hearing what He is doing in the lives of others on my day of rest. My husband on the other hand is an introvert, and in order for him to rest well, he prefers to spend time alone or just with our family. I think it is helpful to know yourself and your family with regards to this and make sure that everyone has a chance to feel rested.

In all of the extra opportunities for rest that we can create with a little bit of planning, the important part of course is keeping our focus on God and finding our rest in Him, through the word, prayer, praise, and having our hearts focused on Him. I know that no matter how physically restful a day turns out to be, my soul will not be rested apart from Him. It encourages me to know that the flip side of this is also true.  Even though there are many days , even Sabbath days, that are physically and emotionally exhausting, God does provide rest for us in supernatural ways apart from our circumstances.

How do you approach the Sabbath with the non-stop demands of motherhood? Please share what is most helpful for you in preserving rest on the Sabbath day!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Birth Stories

So have you noticed that most women, in almost all cultures love a good birth store?  We gravite to them over the course of getting to know each other.  I can remember one time I had a conversation with a Costa Rica lady and a South Korean lady about our labor expereinces.  It's just universal.

We just had our 4th baby, and this time around we opted to stay here in Costa Rica for the birth.  Lucía Joy was born April 6th here in San José. And she has quite the birth story!

Because of past c sections we had scheduled the c section for 39 1/2 weeks, and for a while it looked like we might not make it to that date.  Starting about around 34 weeks, I began to have a lot of contractions. Since I've never gone into labor on my own, this was a bit of a surprise.  My doctor had me come in for monitoring and told me stay off my feet.  And just to make sure I knew he was serious, he added "or you can rest in the hospital for the next couple of weeks."  Yeah, no.

Two days before the scheduled c section I had my last pre natal appointment.  There was a quick ultrasound to make sure baby was doing well and fluid levels were good.  We were given a "Everything looks great!  See you Wednesday!"  and we were off to pick up my mom from the airport (insert a huge sigh of relief that we made it to then without having to use plan B or C or D!)

Wednesday morning we headed to the hospital before dawn. I had joked with my OB that all of my Spanish went to the baby, and he was great about it!  He told the surgical team that while my Spanish is perfect (bwhahah, he was being far to kind and lying!) to use English with me.  Our family doctor was there as well, which was a huge help as he is bilingual and works with missionary families all the time.

In the operating room, it took a while for my husband to be brought in, but he was in time for Lucía's birth.  Except her birth wasn't quite right.  Remember, I couldn't see anything and had a spinal so things were a bit fuzzy, but I remember her not crying.  And not crying and not crying.  I asked again and again if she was ok, and the doctors and my husband did a good job at downplaying what was really going on.  When Lucía was born she wasn't breathing and had no tone or movement.  Her heart was beating, but that was about it.

Our OB told us afterwards that it was a miracle she was alive.  He thinks that early that morning the placenta had started to detach, something they call placenta abruption.  This caused bleeding into the uterus, which meant Lucía was not getting the life support she needed from the placenta anymore.  It also meant that as she swallowed amniotic fluid (something babies do) she was swallowing blood as well.  Most of the time, if a woman has a placenta abruption, she has a lot of abdominal pain and she starts to bleed.  I had none of that.  It wasn't until the doctors started the procedure that they knew anything was wrong.

As soon as Lucía was born, the pediatrician used a CPR mask and bag to breath for her.  She didn't breath on her own for around 7 minutes.  Once she started to breath, the pediatrician brought her to my face so I could touch her and then it was off to the NICU.  She was given oxygen, they put a glucose IV into her belly button, and began to monitor her.  I went to the recovery room and my husband went with Lucía.  He spent a lot of time in the NICU with her, singing and praying.

Because they had her under a plexiglass tent for the oxygen, we weren't able to hold her until the next day at around 1pm.  I think that was one of the longest 30 hours of my life.  And because I was recovering from a c section it was around 5pm the night she was born before I really got to see her when the nurses took me in a wheel chair to the NICU.

The doctors and nurses were amazed at how well Lucía did.  When the OB came to check on me the next day he said "It was only God!  Everything was fine on Monday and had the c section been scheduled for the next day or even a few hours later, she probably would have been a stillborn."  He also told me that he was able to hold it together while he saw patients that day, but when he got home that night he just started crying and praying for us.  He said "sometimes this job is really hard." There is something very nice about having doctors that acknowledge that it was God.

It was interesting, in all of the time of bed rest, a friend of mine said she was praying for God's timing for Lucía's birth, not the doctors.  We started to pray that way too, which is sort of a strange prayer for a planned c section, but my goodness, did God answer!!  That morning when I was getting ready to head to the hospital I asked the Lord for something to get me through the day.  He started to talk to me from Isaiah 43
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.

Except I stopped listening as soon as He said "when you pass through the waters, I will be with you." It scared me.  I was afraid of what might be coming.  But He did exactly what He said!  He was right there in the midst of something that could have been so very, very bad.  He kept the waters from overcoming us and Lucía.   He had us surrounded by doctors and nurses who kept Lucía breathing and did what it took to get her stable.

All of Lucía's test have come back saying she is just fine.  She is acting just like any other new born, eating and sleeping like a it's no big deal.  Her name means Light and her little life is already a testament to how great our God is!  We're thankful, very, very thankful!

What about you?  Did you have any of your babies in your host country?  How about in a second language?  Come on, share!  We all love a great birth story!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Worth Fighting For

I've recently started something new... and NOW... I'm wondering why in the world I fought it so long.

It literally seems crazy that it has taken me so long to even give it a try, but then again, I've got eight kids and the past 20+ years have been mind-foggingly busy. I didn't think I had time to try and figure out how to fit one more thing in my schedule, especially something that required time and resulted in very little that could be considered "productive."

I've begun taking a "mini-sabbatical" day - aiming for one such day once every two weeks. During that day, I mostly don't do any of the normal daily work/chores/etc. Instead I read, sleep, try a new recipe, work on the kids' scrapbooks, watch TV or movies, write letters just for the fun of it, just write without the purpose of publishing on a blog or in a partnership building letter, read some more, participate in ministries/volunteer/community stuff that I've never tried before, etc... I'm sure you get the idea.

I say "mostly" because I still have to help pack lunches and get the kids off to school. I still have to help with homework. Dinner still needs to be prepared. Sometimes bills need to be paid on that day, or a kid needs to see the dentist. But for the most part, my husband takes the kids to school and I have an entire day to do what I want instead of trying to get done all that needs to be done, all that I think others expect of me.

I'm discovering that while it's not necessarily been a good practice for crossing things off of that ever-growing to do list, it has been good for my health - particularly emotionally and spiritually. And as I'm not getting any younger, I'm finding that the stress of not ever having any (enough remains on the bucket list) down time has a definite physical impact on my body.

On one of my recent "mini-sabbaticals," I was watching an episode from a favorite television show we'd downloaded, and there was an interesting bit of conversation-leading-to-reconciliation between a young adult daughter and her mom. 


Daughter confesses that she needs to stop defining Mom based on her mother's very worst moments. Instead, Daughter recognizes that life is complicated, that they can disagree and that even in the midst of those disagreements, she can respect Mom for the pretty incredible things her mother has accomplished, as well as the values she has consistently modeled for Daughter.


Stop and think about that.

What if I fought defining the people in my life by their worst moments? That doesn't mean I forget those bad moments or that I continue to allow someone who's hurt me to continue to hurt me and/or others. But it does mean I choose a conscious recognition that people are far more than a two-dimensional caricature. It means acknowledging that every single person is multifaceted, a sinner in complex and broken world, and that probably most of them do not have a personal relationship with Jesus. Thus, I am judging without real knowledge if I try and use a single act or a particular exposure to define him or her. 

In John 7, Jesus gives the instruction to ""Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly." In other words, judgments - as in pronouncing judgment and passing sentence - shouldn't be made prior to a complete - or at the very least, more complete - picture.

I can't help but wonder.

How much better might my relationships (casual or intimate, business or pleasure, lifelong or "seasonal") be if simply refused to give those those momentary glimpses of someone at their worst more weight than any or all others, if I focused more on seeing God's image in that person, and the potential of what h/she could be?

Sadly, it doesn't appear to be a mindset that comes easily or naturally. 

Unlike my new "mini-sabbatical" habit - something that I fought against for a really long time but that is quickly becoming a habit almost as necessary and welcome as breathing, learning to not define people by those vivid and worst moments will be something I'll have to fight for, every day, for the rest of my life as it does not appear to be a governing tendency, desire or instinct that just characteristically flows out of my being.

Besides all that, there's another reality.

As Wayne Dyer so aptly said, "When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself."

Any strategies, teachings, practices you use... or that you'd recommend... to help those of us who struggle with this sort of judgmentalism fight for something different? Something better?