Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A New Dinner Tradition

When days are busy and nights are long, it's easy for a family to get into a flow of negativity. In our family, I've noticed this most at supper time when we all sit down together and ask each other about our day. Brandon says, "How was your day, Honey?" and I respond by throwing up all the frustration in me.

There was spilled milk and bickering and someone didn't take their nap and the baby cried all the way to such-and-such and we really need to clean the bathrooms.

"And how was your day, Baby?"

He tells me how long the to-do list was and how short the time was and our children are listening and learning how to live their lives with a critical eye. 

I'm afraid my rants will be especially damaging as my children are growing older and they understand that I am talking about them and pointing out their weakest moments to their Dad--the moments they were clumsy, angry, or hurt and it made my day difficult.

A new tradition is changing all that though.

We have started taking turns going around the table first and mentioning when we saw someone exhibit a Fruit of the Spirit that day.

It's the simplest change, but it's breaking the cycle.

Now instead of unleashing the complaint beast, we are seeing and speaking about how God is daily growing our family in love. 

The conversation sounds like me boasting, "Today Rebekah needed to nurse and have her diaper changed right at lunchtime, but Kai showed patience by finding something fun to do while he waited instead of complaining about being hungry."

Then Kai says, "Yes, and Caleb showed kindness today when he let me have a turn with his new yo-yo!"

Daddy points out how mommy showed love by cooking a healthy dinner and I point out how Daddy shows love by getting up to his alarm clock every morning and going into work.

Caleb noticed Joe show gentleness when Joe stopped to hug him after a scooter tumble.

After just two days I also saw these conversations help us open up our eyes more to the moments that we need the Holy Spirit's help. For example, every evening for a couple of months Joe and Caleb have been having a fight about their pull-ups. The pull-ups come in two different patterns--monster trucks and skate boards. Caleb always wants his pull-up to match Kai's and Kai does not want to match. There was an argument about it every single night until we said, "We need the Holy Spirit to help us here. He brings peace. I think we need someone to show love. We either need Caleb to be okay with not matching or we need Kai to be okay with matching." Caleb stepped up to the plate and said, "I can do it. Kai, you can wear whatever pull-up you want. I don't have to match you." Not to be outdone, Kai quickly changed his pull-up to match Caleb's and they both went to bed happy and proud of themselves.

So simple and so powerful.

Once this tradition is really solidified I think it will be a great way to also move other scripture from memory into intentional practice.

If you want to try it out with your family, a great way to help your kiddos learn the Fruits of the Spirit is with song. We love the 90's blast from the past song from Steve Green's CD "Hide 'Em In Your Heart Volume 2".There are a couple great videos on youtube also. This one cracks my kids up. There's also a coloring page here and a pretty printable here.

Have you found any simple habits or traditions that create a more  positive atmosphere in your home? I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What You Really Need to Uncover About Modesty, Beauty, and the Bible

My Dear Sisters, the world has been trying to tell us for a while that there's something fishy about our obsession with high necklines and one piece bathing suits. 

When I read blog posts by Christian wives asking Non-Christian women to cover up so that they will not be a temptation to the author's husband or sons, something seems off to me. I read, "Hey! I know you're not in my club, but could you please follow my club's rules so that you won't tempt my husband or sons into leaving this club to join yours instead?" It's just not the right message. Why do we feel like we have to compete?

On the other hand, the church has been trying for ages to point out that there's something wrong with the over sexualization of our culture and the bikinis and midriff and skin tight jeans.

For years, I've been standing in front of dressing room mirrors trying to make the call "Do I look beautiful in this?"; "Do I look too beautiful in this; is it immodest?"; and sometimes postpartum "Do I look beautiful at all?".

I remember the first time I looked in the mirror after the birth of my first child. There was a great sense of loss and defeat. My figure was gone. The things that the magazine racks said that I needed to be beautiful--a flat stomach, tight skin, and tiny waist--were gone and I had no idea if they could ever return.

I've come a long way since that day. This is me looking in the mirror the day after my fourth child, Rebekah, was born. I think the smile says it all.

As with most things, freedom came in the pages of the bible and in real conversation with real friends.

I grew up in the church and I was taught to value modesty. The general modesty message I heard was this: "Ladies, your bodies are beautiful. When you are uncovered it is difficult for men to avoid lusting after you. You want to spur your brothers on towards holiness in thought and deed so please dress modestly so that your body will not be a stumbling block."

Though it wasn't the point of the sermon I think what many of us heard was this: a woman's body is beautiful. A woman's body attracts the attention of man. It's a very powerful, influential part of a woman--a dangerous part at that. 

I also grew up in the world. I saw the magazine racks and the music videos and I heard a message there too. A woman's body is beautiful, attractive, and powerful if it looks a certain way. If you're size 2, twenty something years old with large, perky breasts and hips that sway just right--then you're beautiful. If you happen to have wrinkles or stretch-marks or a little extra weight, then--have no fear--there's a product to "fix" you. If you've got it, flaunt it. If you don't have it, buy it or move on over.

These two message have created a world of trouble for me as a woman, a mother, a human earning wrinkles and stretch marks, and a soul longing to be lovely.

I'm not the only one who has been hurt by this fascination on externals.

I've seen that when we tell a 16 year old that a woman's body is powerful and then ask her to go to her school dance covered up while all her peers are showing off their bodies then she will feel overlooked.

If we tell a married woman that an uncovered body is a stumbling block and then ask her to go to the beach in a one piece with her husband, then she is going to fight jealousy.  How can she expect her husband to love her in a one piece when she is surrounded by "stumbling blocks" in bikinis who are younger and thinner than her?

The message of modesty that many of us have heard has birthed jealousy and that, my friends, is not a fruit of the spirit.

Yet, when I opened my ears and my Bible, I found a message of modesty that is a breath of fresh air in this stifling body debate. If we look at the one bible verse that commands women to dress modestly found in 1 Timothy 2:9 we find a message that is not focused on externals.

"I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes,
but with good deeds,appropriate for women who profess to worship God."

Adorn yourself with good deeds.  In other words, dress modestly so that your beauty may be seen through your actions, not your skin. It's what you do that is attractive, not what you look like. This is further emphasized in 1 Peter 3:3 and 4.

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."

Peter doesn't say, "Hey! You're too beautiful--cover it up." He says, "Your personality, your mind, your spirit is so beautiful to God. Let what is truly lovely about you shine. Don't distract from it with lesser things."

Paul writes in 1 Cor 6;19, "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?"

My dear sisters, do you not know? Do you not know that you are more than simple canvases to be displayed and looked upon? We are temples of the living God. Your wrapping may or may not conform to society's ever-changing beauty trends, but your treasure--your beauty, your power, your influence--is found within. You are designed to carry the Holy Spirit of God within you.

If you want to be attractive, carry the presence of God.When you possess the fruits of the Spirit, people will
 see unfading beauty and want more of it--not more of you, but more of the God in you. You will be attractive because the gospel that you live is attractive. You will be powerful because the gospel that you speak is powerful unto salvation.

Of course, there is this outer stuff--this skin that we live in. At the end of the day, I still have stretch marks that I must be reconciled with. This outward beauty honestly just doesn't matter as much as Satan would have you think it does. 

Proverbs 31:30 tells us that  "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Notice, please, it doesn't say that a beautiful woman is vain. Beauty is vain. This entire obsession with women and their bodies is vain. This idea of beauty begs us to pay it more attention than it's worth. When we are single, it begs us to think that we must possess a certain kind of beauty to attract a man. When we are married, it begs us to think that we must possess it to keep a man. Yet, it is so deceitful. When you look at history, has skin deep beauty ever kept a man? If it did, celebrity marriages wouldn't be known for failure. What keeps a man loving a woman is not her unchanging skin, but his unchanging character. Likewise, a woman's character keeps her loving her husband and two people set on loving each other is what keeps a relationship beautiful. 

Sisters, we need to turn off the ramblings of the world for a minute and draw close to the God that created us and hear from Him just what makes us beautiful. We need to hear Him tell us the way He knit us together in our mother's womb--skillfully and wonderfully. We need to hear Jesus whisper the way He saw our sin-stained souls and thought we were worth redeeming even at the price of His life. We need to hear the hard words that beauty is available to us all, but it will cost us everything. We need to hear that a beautiful bride follows her Love--and He leads us to a cross. Beauty is love and love is sacrifice.

You need to hear that great beauty is not defined by the shape of your body, but by the way you bear hardship in your body for the building up of others.

Beauty is not wrinkle-free hands with manicured nails, but a hand stretched out offering a generous gift to a stranger in need.

Beauty is not hips that move low to the rhythm of the dance floor, but a heart that is moved with compassion for the lowly.

Beauty is not that we are seen, but that we have encountered the Beautiful One and we carry His likeness to the ugliest places.

Dress simply and modestly so that you don't find yourself distracted from the pursuit of love and falling into a competition of vanity. 

If you must compete, outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10).

 Know what a real treasure God says you are and then go carry real beauty into the lives of your family, your friends, and the world.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Livin' La Vida Loca

6. We are a family of 6 now. Wowza! We chose the crazy life and it's beautiful.

This is our girl we've been getting to know the last few weeks.

Kai calls her Becky. Caleb calls her Rebekah. Joe calls her Buhkaw and it sounds like the noise a chicken makes and makes me laugh every time. Brandon and I call her Bekah, Bekahboo, and Bekahburrito. 

Rebekah means "captivating". Jane is her great-grandmother's name. It means "God is gracious", as does my name and my mom's middle name.

 Her three brothers are definitely captivated by her. Kai always wants to hold her and is constantly saying sweet things like....

"She's so cute."
"I think she loves me."
"I don't want to run errands with you, Dad. I just want hold Bekah alllll day."
"I thought it wouldn't be fun to have a baby sister, but I i really like it."
"I love my little sister so much, I already kissed her 5 times today!"

Caleb loves her, but has kept his distance a bit. I think he realizes that he must be careful with her and he isn't sure how to be. He tells her that she's adorable and told her, "You're just so cute I want to wrestle you!"

Joe is in her face ALL the time. He's very gentle, but absolutely obsessed with her. I have to keep her locked away in a room or wrapped on me to give her a break from Joe's constant pampering and petting. 

Apparently she likes the attention from Joe because he was the lucky recipient of her first smile at two weeks old. ;) 

Miss Lady has been getting along well. She eats and poops like a champ. She sleeps like a champ in the afternoons and not so much at night. She will only sleep in our arms which is a big adjustment for me. Co sleeping is just not my thing, but we're making it work for now. 

Maybe I'll start reading Babywise to her as her bedtime story until she gets the hint. Until then, I'm eternally grateful for the help that my mom and Brandon's mom have given us these last few weeks and also for the meals friends have brought. We have had so much help!
It's really made a difference in navigating through the postpartum roller coaster. There have been some tears and plenty of overwhelmed moments. There have been moments where Brandon may or may not have said to me...

"Woah! Our house smells like dirty diapers when you walk in the front door.."

"Yeah, I could tell you had a rough day when I walked in the door. You had that I-hate-my-life look going on..."

"Are you ok?? You look like a zombie..."

The zombie comment was speedily pardoned as it was followed by an offer to watch all four kids while I took a nap. Brandon could probably write the postpartum Father's guide by this point: "How to Win at Being A New Dad in 3 Simple Steps". He has the formula down pat. 
Step 1: Offer to help with the baby at night.
Step 2: Assume responsibility of all the other kids on evenings and weekends while mom focuses on herself and baby.
Step 3: Tell your wife she's beautiful. She's the most beautiful zombie you've ever seen. 

You get bonus husband points if you let her go to Target all by herself. Brandon let me leave the house on my own last night and it was heaven. Of course, there was that inevitable moment where someone asked me when my baby was due. This time it was priceless because the poor woman was so embarrassed that she couldn't recover. When I told her I had the baby 3 weeks ago she just turned red, fumbled an "Oh", and walked away.  The woman who asked me today if I was expecting another baby WHILE we had Bekah with us recovered just fine by telling me what lovely children we had.

Anyways, I forget where I'm going with this post. Must be the sleep deprivation. I will leave you with some baby pictures because at the end of the night (or day? They're jumbled together.) all of the difficult moments are eclipsed by the sweetness of holding this new little person and getting to love and take care of her. I can't believe she'll be 4 weeks old on Friday. She's already growing out of the NB clothes. My heart!