Off to the Philippines!

My husband and I depart this morning for the Philippines to participate in the Compassion Bloggers team. I am thrilled to see and hear all that God has in store for us! I will be blogging daily here this next week (May 29-June 3) about all our adventures, so stay tuned!

I would appreciate your prayers for our safety, health (at 30 weeks pregnant!), and the ability to express all that God desires me to communicate with you! I want to see my vision for His mission expanded!

Join us in sponsoring a child from the Philippines! We get to meet our special little girl, Jerry (age 4), during our visit!

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Favorite Reads on Motherhood

I wanted to finish out our series this month on motherhood by sharing a few of my favorite resources on the topic. These are excellent books to help inspire you further!

Mission of Motherhood: Touching Your Child’s Heart for Eternity by Sally Clarkson – my all time favorite book on motherhood drawing our hearts to the beautiful purpose in it all of loving and guiding their little souls to know Christ. Gives such vision for your role as a woman and mother through Scripture with fresh inspiration for every aspect of life.

Ministry of Motherhood: Following Christ’s Example in Reaching the Hearts of Our Children by Sally Clarkson – I love the counsel in this book towards viewing our children as our disciples and learning from Jesus’ training methods. Powerful!

The Mom Walk: Keeping in Step with God’s Heart for Motherhood by Sally Clarkson – Making sure our hearts are in tune, focused, and in line with the purpose of God. Encouragement for the weary mother.

Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman – Fresh courage and wisdom for disciplining while getting to the heart of the matter peacefully and with joy.

Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches by Rachel Jankovic – Are your arms full with the challenges and joys of mothering little ones? Find sweet laughter and honest wisdom from this mother of 5 little ones under 5.

Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry by Katrina Kenison – A sweet reminder to slow down and enjoy the precious moments of life with lots of creative ideas towards investing fully in a holistic life.

A Mother’s Heart: A Look at Values, Vision, and Character of the Christian Mother by Jean Fleming – Encouragement to moms of all ages and backgrounds by showing women how to distinguish between their role and God’s role in raising children, explaining how to take a spiritual inventory of a child’s life, and discussing how to pray effectively for children.

Every Child Needs a Praying Mom by Fern Nichols – Learn the value and art of praying for your children.

Womanly Dominion: More Than a Gentle and Quiet Spirit by Mark Chanski – While this book is written about godly womanhood as a whole, it has a powerful chapter on motherhood. If you are seeking to understand God’s heart for women, this book is my top pick!

Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney – Carolyn addresses the various aspects of the Titus 2 woman and includes excellent discussion on women in their role in the home. Beautiful book!

Be strong in the Lord, dear sisters! Your role as mothers is beautiful in God’s sight!

For my recommended resources on natural pregnancy and birthing, visit here.

What are your favorite reads on the topic?

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Little Souls Entrusted to Our Care

God designed motherhood to be a deeply meaningful role. We mothers have the opportunity to influence eternity by building a spiritual legacy in the lives of our children. Through our teaching and influence, morality can be learned and modeled, love and kindness are taught and received, purpose and vision are ignited and passed on.“ – Sally Clarkson

I have two precious souls (with one more making his/her entrance soon) entrusted to my care.

Two little hearts tender to be formed and molded into a man and a woman of God.

Two sweet bodies to be loved and nurtured so they may in turn love others.

Two bodies to dance with and enjoy the beauty of life together.

Two tender minds to be taught the love of learning so they might be equipped to discern truth from error.

Two little mouths to be filled with nourishing food to sustain them and grow them healthy and strong for the Master’s use.

Four little hands to be trained to help, serve, and give gifts of grace to others.

Two little warriors to be equipped with truth so they might be sent out to cause damage on the Enemy’s camp.

Two little voices to sing together in uttering God’s praises for all eternity.

I am called today to pray for these precious gifts, to create life together with them, to offer a listening ear to the cares of their hearts, while always depending hourly upon the Lord for the grace to fulfill this task. To abandon perfection and strive for faithfulness. To be willing to confess my stumbles and short comings.

It will require frequent trips to the bathroom to address heart issues, wiping of many noses, rocking of sick children, many sleepless nights, repeating the same book numerous times, preparing endless meals for thankless children, and many more seemingly mundane tasks. But when I focus on the goal that they are precious eternal souls entrusted to my nurturing care to be brought up as warriors for my King, then I can persevere, as it all becomes worth it. I stand in a very powerful influential place, one that I want to take seriously.

And when I see their smiles, their sweet “I love you, Mommy,” I know this is the best thing I could be doing. When I embrace God’s purpose for me during this season of my life, there is fresh joy to go the distance. They are part of the treasure I am storing up in heaven. Each moment is precious. Each moment is a gift.

I was designed to be a life-giver and to impart life into every day.

Are you giving life today?

“The world may not applaud us for wiping running noses, driving in carpools, or talking with our teenager into the wee hours of the morning. And until they are trained, our children might not thank us either. But as we set aside our own selfish desires and glorify God by joyfully serving our children, we are pursuing true greatness according to the Bible. Let us do so with tenderness, affection, and with a smile!” – Carolyn Mahaney

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Motherhood: My Only Gems

“She came tonight as I sat alone, the girl I used to be…
And she gazed at me with her earnest eye and questioned reproachfully;

Have you forgotten the many plans and hopes that I had for you?
The career, the splendid fame, and all the wonderful things to do?
Where is the mansion of stately height with all of its gardens rare?
The silken robes that I dreamed for you and the jewels in your hair?

And as she spoke, I was very sad for I wanted her please with me…
This slender girl from the shadowy past the girl that I used to be
So gently rising, I took her hand, and guided her up the stair
Where peacefully sleeping, my babies lay innocent, sweet, and fair.

And I told her that these are my only gems, and precious they are to me;
That silken robe is my motherhood of costly simplicity.
And my mansion of stately height is love, and the only career I know
Is serving each day in these sheltered walls for the dear ones who come and go.

And as I spoke to my shadowy guest, she smiled through her tears at me.
And I saw that the woman that I am now, pleased the girl I used to be.

- Author Unknown
Quoted in Womanly Dominion by Mark Chanski

Republished from the archives…

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How to Make a Flannel Swaddling Blanket

Written by contributing writer, Trina Holden.

Swaddling has been the secret to many babies sleeping well, but most blankets are too small once the baby grows past the infant stage. This blanket is made from a 45in. square of cloth – a generous size for swaddling, draping a car seat, or even a play blanket when the baby is older.

You can often find cute coordinating nursery prints on sale so the total cost of a blanket can be as little as $6.  I love to make them for new moms because I think no one should have a baby without one of these great blankets!

What you need:

1 yard, 10 in. of 45 in. wide flannel fabric

1 yard, 10 in. of 45 in. cotton fabric in a complimentary print or pattern

Matching thread

Scissors

Iron and Ironing board

Sewing machine

Pins

Step One: Trim and Pin

Lay both squares of fabric on top of each other, right sides together. Trim edges to a tidy square. Smooth wrinkles and pin all the way around the four sides.

Step Two: Sew

Sew all around the blanket with a straight stitch, using a ¾ in. seam allowance, and leaving a 6 in. opening for turning.

Step Three: Trim Corners

Clip excess fabric from the four corners of the blanket so the corners will be able to turn nicely.

Step Four: Turn and Press

Turn the blanket right-side out, using a blunt pencil or knitting needle to poke corners out neatly. Iron the blanket, pressing the seam allowances inward at the turning hole – you will be top stitching this closed.

Step Five: Finishing

Set your machine to a decorative stitch if you have one, or just use a zig-zag stitch. Choose a thread that will stand out against your fabric to add to the decorative effect. Sew all around the outside of the blanket at a ¼ in. seam allowance. This will close the opening you used to turn it and keep the blanket from rolling and wrinkling along the edges.

Now go wrap up the nearest baby in your lovely new blanket!

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The Value of A Labor Doula

Looking back over the births of my two precious little ones, I have treasured the presence of my doula, Amber. She was the perfect comforting support person that facilitated a peaceful atmosphere during my labor. She provided that reassuring presence with her knowledge and expertise in the birthing process. Her service to me has been the launching point of my desire to serve others in this way. I wanted to be able to encourage women that the birthing process is a beautiful and natural experience.

What is a Doula?

Servant

A doula is an ancient Greek word and literally means “mother’s slave”. Her aim is to accompany women in labor to help them have a more satisfying birth experience.

Advocate

A doula provides you with emotional support, physical comfort and, as needed, be your advocate in communicating with the staff to make sure that you have the information you need to make informed decisions as they arise in labor. She is not taking the place of medical staff, but helps guide parents with balanced information and perspective. She can help you form your own birth plan and support you each step of the way.

She will not offer medical exams, but will help provide information so a couple can make informed decisions. She understands the birth plan, the desires of the mother and father, and seeks wholeheartedly to be an advocate for them. Her desire is that birth would be a beautiful experience for the family and that all would come away feeling the wonders of God’s design in the creation and birth of new life.

Wealth of comfort measures in her doula bag

A doula can provide reassurance and perspective to you and your partner, make suggestions for labor progress, and help provide physical comfort through massage, labor positions, hydrotherapy, optimal fetal positioning, aromatherapy, acupressure, deep relaxation and visualization techniques. My doula was extremely skilled in providing just the right comfort measures (from back massages to the rebozo technique – an excellent excellent for correct positioning of babies) and position changes for every stage of my labor. She offered that quiet support that was not intrusive in the least. She was there to continually remind me to keep breathing deeply, taking long slow breaths, to stay on top of the contractions, and encourage me with the right words continually.

Does not replace Dad

A doula does not take the place of a husband or partner. She is one that helps provide the father with ideas to support the mother. She is one that offers reassurance, reminders, and tips that he might be most effective. A doula has most often been through labor and delivery herself and can thus relate to the pain of the mother, and help the mother’s spouse/partner understand possible alternatives, comfort measures that they can team up together in providing for the mother.

My husband specifically loved the presence of a doula at our births. He saw her as one who did not take his place in the least but provided him with the tools and reminders of how to serve me most effectively. She helped him be my #1 support!

Constant Support

Especially in a hospital setting, nurses and doctors will come and go, but a doula will stick with mother, father and baby through the whole labor and delivery. She will often be available to help with immediate breastfeeding after birth. Postpartum doulas are even available to hire after the birth to attend your needs at home and help you through the transition process. This is a huge asset especially if you do not have family in the area. It would be an excellent gift idea!

Benefits of Doula Use

Studies on labor support show that the benefits of doulas are tremendous!

  • C-sections reduced by 50%
  • Length of labor reduced by 25%
  • Oxytocin (induction) use reduced by 40%
  • Use of narcotics reduced by 30%
  • Forceps reduced by 30%
  • Epidurals reduced by 60%

Long-term benefits include:

  • Improved breastfeeding
  • Increased time spent with baby
  • Decreased postpartum depression

Doulas are independent and self-employed. I highly encourage you consider hiring a doula, especially if it is your first birth. They can be that knowledgeable support that is totally unique to even midwives.

To find a doula near you, visit Dona International or CAPPA.

Photo Credit

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Make Your Own Nursing Cover

A nursing cover is a huge asset to have as a new mom as you begin exploring the world of breastfeeding. I have been making my own for several years now. I love to give them as gifts to new moms because they are so nice to maintain privacy and comfort on the go. Nursing covers can be relatively expensive and easy enough to make in the comfort of your home with some basic supplies and simple sewing skills. I usually spend no more than $8-10 for all the supplies necessary for this project. Here is a little tutorial of my most recent cover for your use. This is a large nursing cover, measuring about 42″ x 30″ in the completed product. Most of the standard nursing covers on the market are far smaller and make it more awkward to keep yourself fully covered. I purposefully made this latest one significantly larger to test. The recipient shared that it was a huge improvement! You can certainly adapt the pattern to your own needs by adding extra or decreasing in size as desired.

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Q & A’s for Mission-Minded Families: MOTHERHOOD

by Passionate Homemaking’s monthly contributor, Ann Dunagan.

As I’m writing this article, it’s Mother’s Day morning. It’s not even 7am, but my husband and I have been awake for hours. Outside my little round window, I’m looking out over the fluffy clouds, and feeling so overwhelmingly thankful. Right now, Jon and I are en route to California to welcome “home” our oldest son, a USMC 1st Lieutenant in Ground Intelligence, who returns tomorrow from a dangerous military deployment in Afghanistan. It’s an exciting life-moment, but for this time to coincide with Mother’s Day is like a special gift, just from God!

This month on Passionate Homemaking, Lindsay asked if I would share my 5 top tips for mothers.

So, how do I put a lifetime of principles into a few concise tips? I’ve come to realize motherhood is a complex calling. It begins with a tiny little person growing inside of us, but the ramifications this has on every area of our life and future are HUGE!!! Successful motherhood is not easy, and it’s definitely not for wimps. Good motherhood demands everything we’ve got, plus more. It requires strength of character; discipline; reliance on God’s grace (and lots of help from friends and family); endurance; a new heart for intercession, like we never knew before; lots of laundry soap, Comet, and Windex; laughter; and VISION.

Just to let you know, I absolutely LOVE being a mom. Some of you may have struggled with accepting the idea of motherhood, but not me. Even from the time I was a girl, I’ve always longed for the whole package-deal. I was raised as the oldest child in a fairly large family (with six kids), and throughout my childhood and youth, I always looked forward to being a mom. At our wedding, Jon and I requested a prayer of blessing for lots of kids. And then, once we started having babies, we’ve been praising God for this dream come true!!!

A fun mommy moment, with our youngest child, Philip (a few years ago)

I love the feeling of a baby growing and kicking inside me (and that season when laying on the couch and eating well gives me a feeling of productivity). I love the challenge and work and JOY of giving birth. I love nursing and nurturing a precious newborn (and seeing those big eyes looking up at me). I love snuggling with toddlers, managing a houseful of rowdy munchkins, mixing batches of yummy cookies at a crowded kitchen counter, enjoying deep conversations with teens, envisioning possibilities with young adults . . . and aiming our arrows into the world to do some SERIOUS damage to the kingdom of darkness. WOOHOO!!! I love it!!!

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The Joys of Home Birthing

My home birth team at Titus' birth - March 2009

I write this post today merely to share of my personal experience home birthing, but I want to clarify from the outset that there is no condemnation here for any one who chooses a different route – be it hospital or birth center. I know you can have a beautiful experience in all three of these environments when you chose to embrace the process. My purpose today is simply to share my personal testimony of my experience and encourage you all to weigh the pro’s and con’s of every birthing option.

I have been so extremely blessed to have two beautiful and peaceful home births and we anticipate our third this summer. I’m even throwing around the idea of birthing in our hot tub! ;) If you think I’m nuts, your not the only one…I still have to convince my husband. ;) With my two births I have experienced the true beauty of giving birth.

Birthing each of my children has been a empowering experience and a sanctifying work in my own heart. It has changed me more than any other process, event or circumstance. I have had to lean on the Lord more intimately than ever before. And in the process, I have grown to truly love the birthing process. I have learned that fear only tightens our muscles and causes delay in birth, whereas a wholehearted embracing and working together with contractions and pain has allowed for a smooth, peaceful transition into motherhood. God designed this pain to bring that fruitful sanctification in my own heart and He extends grace for every birthing environment.

Here are some reasons why I love home birthing:

Comfort of my own home

My favorite aspect of home birthing is that I can stay within the comfort and security of the environment that I am most familiar with – my own home. My home is a place that I have made my own. It is a place I love to be because it encourages relaxation. I feel secure because it has been decorated and arranged to my taste. Home birthing views birth as a integrated part of our family life as we celebrate life together with family and friends. During early labor, I enjoyed baking in my kitchen to help keep me distracted.

Continuous labor support

With a home birth midwife you experience continuous labor support. My midwives are with me through the duration of labor rather than being distracted by the needs of others. They are continually available to answer questions, offer suggestions, and facilitate the birth as I desire. There is an absence of multiple nurses changing duties or coming in at undesirable hours.

Privacy

In my own home, I enjoyed the beauty of birthing with my dear husband by my side and my midwives, whom I have gotten to know extensively over the nine month period of pregnancy. There is no one else there unless I desire them. I am comfortable because these are people I am closest to. And when I am comfortable, my body relaxes, facilitating a natural delivery.

Freedom

I love the ability to set the mood in the room with calm music, dim lights, lighted candles, or whatever else might encourage my relaxation. I can move around as needed to encourage the process of labor. Numerous labor positions, space to walk, climbing stairs, and the like, all help encourage the passage of baby down the birth canal. I can eat during labor and satisfy the needs of my body. I can labor or birth in a tub if desired. In this freedom there is so many options and means of relief.

Lack of interventions

Any interventions are going to cause greater risk to mother and baby. It is important to evaluate the potentials risks of interventions when considering epidurals, cesareans, and inductions. These are often accepted as lifesavers without thought. It is also important to consider the slippery slope of intervention as well. Statistically, once you add an epidural you are at a much higher risk of induction (due to the way that epidurals often numb our bodies to the extent that it slows down the birth process), and both these produces increase the rise of cesareans. With these pain medications and such not being available, I am allowed to work together with my body in the birthing process. I can focus on embracing the pain rather than fighting it, which leads to a quicker delivery. Please note: there are certainly extreme cases when these procedures can be life saving in high risk pregnancies. I am thankful for advancement of technology in our modern culture, but also leery of how often it is utilized unnecessarily in low risk pregnancies.

Encouragement for immediate bonding and breastfeeding

Early breastfeeding helps mom stop bleeding, clear mucus from the baby’s nose and mouth, and transfer disease-fighting antibodies in the milk from mother to baby. I loved being able to bring my baby forth on my own or via my husband’s arms and carry directly to my chest. I loved having extensive time to just enjoy each other with uninterrupted time.

I have intentionally avoided addressing all the debate about the ideas of safety and conflicts that are attached to the idea of home birthing, because I believe there is plenty of information available for your own review. I’ve shared a few resources below.

Ultimately, studies show that home birthing is just as safe as a hospital setting. If you are low risk (which represents 85-95% of pregnancies), have a trained professional licensed midwife, and ideally have a hospital within close proximity and a working relationship with a physician in case of transfer, there really is nothing to fear. There is certainly instances when you want to avoid home birthing if you are diabetic, for example. And there is certainly a valuable place for modern health care in a hospital setting. Home births have been a natural way of life since the dawn of time. Statistics show that countries with large numbers of home births have less maternal morbidity and mortality than the United States.

I believe that God has beautifully designed your body to give birth in whatever environment you chose. It is ideal for the most successful birth that you do chose an environment that you are comfortable in and that will encourage the relaxation of your body. It is important to research your options and become knowledgeable in the pros and cons of every option so you can make an informed decision. Pray together with your husband rather than just embracing all the assumptions of our day and age.

Further Reading:

Karis’ Homebirth Story - learn about the crazy and miraculous events surrounding our Karis’ breech home birth delivery!
Titus’ Homebirth Story
- read about the adventure of welcoming our second little one into the world!
The Thinking Woman’s Guide to A Better Birth
- a balanced view addressing all the issues relevant to natural child birthing.
The Christian Childbirth Handbookmy favorite book on the topic of natural birthing with a sweet God-focused approach!
Bradley Birth or Brio Birthing ClassesI highly recommend every woman to take a serious birthing class – wherever you chose to deliver. The hospital birthing classes are unfortunately not very thorough or practice intensive. Bradley or Brio birthing classes are highly recommended because they really help train you how to work effectively with your bodies. They include lots of practice and help to work through any fear or anxiety you may be experiencing. The best thing we did in preparation for our births!
American Pregnancy Association
– thoughts and resources on home birthing
The Homebirth Choice – an article by Midwifery Today

What birthing option have you chosen and what were the pros and cons of your experience? What do you think are the pros and cons of a hospital, birth center or home birth setting? Please keep comments considerate and respectful or they will be removed. Thank you!

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Learning to Enjoy Our Children

Enjoying smores in our backyard

Blowing bubbles, chasing butterflies, zooming cars, and dress ups are treasured moments at our home these days. These are little glimpses into the beauty of motherhood. With two toddlers, aged 2 and 4, I confess I find it challenging to stop the daily to-do list and sit down by their side and explore the world together. It takes deliberate focused action. I am not one so eager to slow down when I want to be most productive with each passing minute. Dinner is calling, dishes fill the sink, and Karis asks for a story. But these little ones are growing up before my very eyes. When I chose to be intentional, my children blossom. They are so much more happy, secure, and satisfied even when I just take a few moments to focus on their interests in particular on a regular basis.

How hard would it be to invest an intentional 30 minutes with each child on a daily basis? That has been the gentle call upon my heart lately. I don’t want to miss out. I want these precious gifts in my hands to be lovingly cared for, nurtured, watered, and brought to fruition into a full beautiful full life. My little ones have been entrusted into my care by a faithful and loving God who has honored me with this task of motherhood. I need to refocus. I need to stop focusing on all the work involved in raising them up, and start enjoying the special things that delight and bring laughter to their souls.

Could I stop today and dance together with them across the living room floor? Could I get down on my hands and knees, even with belly protruding, and get enraptured in “zoom” noises with little cars? Could I enjoy apples and peanut butter on our back deck and talk about the latest favorite book, story, or event on my daughter’s heart? Can I just stop and see? Can I see the delight in their eyes when I ask them what they want to do and then do it with them? Can I let go of the laundry and sit down and play a roaring game of “Go Fish” with a girl who loves games? It is these simple moments that memories are made, relationships are built, and the joy of living becomes more fully known. This is where my heart and theirs is nourished and restored.

Here’s a little inspiration for investing in your children (thanks to Gospel Centered Families):

  • Show love – Our first responsibility as a parent is to love our children. Be affectionate. Tell them you love them. Always say good night. Take time to simply snuggle together. I remember snuggling with my daddy up until I was married.
  • Take time to talk – Your children won’t talk about deep, personal stuff with you, if you haven’t first talked about a load of trivial stuff. Write letters to each other.
  • Eat together – Meals are beautiful times for talking and bonding. Turn off the TV and enjoy each others company. Make the dinner table gathering a sacred event.
  • Be creative together - Read to them. Build lego castles. Bake cakes. Start a shared hobby.
  • Play with them – Kick a ball in the park. Pretend to be pirates. Board games. Get on your hands and knees.
  • Plan memories – Growing sunflowers. A treasure hunt. Sleeping in a home-made den. A special date out with each child individually enjoying coffee or simply a walk around the park.
  • Telling stories – Create your own stories or share stories from your past. ‘Do you remember when…?’

Ultimately, it doesn’t require a lot of planning…just the ability to stop, get down to their level, and enjoy life from their view! When I stop, my joy and love for them grows. Each day becomes more beautiful.

“We can remind ourselves that we do not need to judge our daily lives by how much we accomplish. There is real value in simply being present, for our children. For when we reclaim the realm of motherhood, we also protect the honor and province of childhood.” - Katrina Kennison, Mitten Strings for God

 

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