Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Orthodox 40 day Advent Calendar

As the Nativity fast rapidly approaches I am starting to prepare for the onslaught of all things Christmas. I LOVE Christmas time and everything that goes with it! I am one of those crazy people who listens to Christmas music year round and wants to decorate to moment Thanksgiving dinner is over. A few years ago as a part of my preparation I created a 40 day advent calendar out of baby food jars for my kids. I followed the ideas found in this blog but tweaked them a bit. The idea behind this calendar is to give us a different topic each day to discuss to keep us focused on Christ through out the craze of the holiday season. This is especially important as we need to try to keep the sobriety of the fast while society is feasting around us. Every jar has two things in it, a picture of our topic for the day and a small candy. There are short explanations for each topic that can help guide any discussions or simply serve as your message for that day.
This year I am trying something new. In order to help us stay a bit more engaged on our topic for the day I created a coloring book that matches our topics. Now each day after opening our jar we can find the corresponding page in our coloring book and talk about that topic while the kids color. I have no idea if this will actually work but I look forward to trying!
Feel free to download the coloring book for your own family's use!
**If you want to print the booklet please print odd pages first and then flip pages over and print even pages on the opposite side. The words and pictures are staggered to allow for the book to be folded in half and either stapled or sewn together**

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Burn

Growing up my favorite time of year was always the holidays. I loved everything about them. The decorations, the food, the anticipation, the music, the smells. The atmosphere around the holidays is tangibly different. There is eager expectancy that everyone around you is a part of and you cannot help but get pulled into the excitement! I remember vividly being at my grandparents house on Christmas Eve and was unable to sleep almost the entire night because of the anticipation I had for the following morning. It wasn't just opening presents that I was excited about, it was the experience of Christmas. Celebrating a feast to it's fullest. Now I still love the holidays and I will happily listen to Christmas music year round (yes, I'm one of those people) but it is no longer my favorite season. In 2009 I experienced my very first Orthodox lent and Pascha and it was one of the most life altering experiences I have ever had. I had discovered my new favorite season.
Prior to 2009 my experiences with lent were limited and usually involved deciding that I should give up candy, tv, coffee or any number of other things that I knew probably weren't the greatest thing for me but only a few days in I would have totally forgotten my resolution and gone back to my normal routine. There was very little connection in my mind or life with how lent and Easter (Pascha) were related. Fast forward to 2009. Robert and I were inquirers at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox church. We were just starting to get familiar with a lot of the services, traditions, prayers and hymns of the church when we experienced our first Orthodox lent.
When I entered the church for the Great Compline service on the first day of lent the whole atmosphere was different. All of the chairs except the first two rows were cleared out to open up the sanctuary. The lights were dimmed so it was just bright enough to read in the service books. Everyone was standing silently and somber waiting for the service to being. As the chanting and prayers began I was able to follow along pretty well because I was very familiar with Small Compline service. The thing that surprised me in the service were the prostrations. As the choir began to chant the beautiful hymn "Let my prayer arise as incense before you and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice, oh Lord." everyone began to bow down on their hands and knees touching their foreheads to the ground and then stand back up again...and again... and again. Only a couple of minutes in I was convinced that this was the longest hymn ever as my legs were burning from the unfamiliar exercise. As the end of the service I felt spiritually uplifted in my exhaustion. The physical side of worship is something often forgotten about in modern Christianity but it is so essential. The act of prostrating yourself before someone challenges you because it is a physical act of humility. I came away from the service with a glimmer of the power of lent.
The first week of lent is called "Clean Week" as it is a time of intense fasting and extra services in order to have a strong beginning to our lenten season. A strict fast in Orthodox terms means that we are refraining from all meat, dairy, olive oil, and alcohol. While restricting our diet is a challenging part of the fast it is not the entirety of it.
The purpose of lent is to prepare us to enter into the celebration of Pascha. It is similar to training for a big race. We restrict our diets, we spend more time spiritually exercising ourselves and our daily routine changes to reflect that end goal. Our lives revolve around preparing for this singularly huge event. We do everything we can to make our minds, souls and bodies fit to fully participate in the test and then the celebration! Just as my legs burn while doing prostration after prostration in the same way the passions (sinful desires) are being burned away within me. Through out all of lent we fast and attend services frequently. There is a strong sense of community as everyone is struggling together and seeing each other much more often. We encourage each other as we work to draw closer to God and submit ourselves to Him.
Lent is often described in Orthodoxy as a time of "bright sadness" and nothing embodies that quite as well as holy week. Holy week is the last week of lent, beginning Palm Sunday through Saturday. Like Clean Week there are services every night but these services are very special. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings we celebrate the Bridegrooms service which are some of the most beautiful services of the year and through the hymns prepare us for the betrayal and crucifixion of Christ. Wednesday evening we celebrate the service of Holy Unction which is service of healing. It is one of the seven sacraments and is done as another preparation for journeying though the rest of holy week into Pascha. Thursday evening is the 12 gospels service. There are 12 different readings from all 4 gospels that begin in the garden of Gethsemane and go through Christ's crucifixion but stop before he is taken down.
 During the reading of Christ's crucifixion the priest comes out of the alter carrying a large cross on his back and processes around the sanctuary coming back to the front and places the cross in front of the iconostasis and then puts a large icon of Christ onto the cross. After the service is completed a vigil is held in which at least one person is in the church praying through the Psalms out loud all night until the next morning when the Royal Hours service begins. This service is filled with Psalms and Old Testament prophesies talking about what is taking place with Christ on the cross. That afternoon we gather again at 3pm to take Christ off of the cross, wrap him in a white sheet and lie him in a tomb that is covered in flowers. While this service is short it is also one of the most powerful.
That evening we gather for our third service of the day and my absolute favorite besides the Paschal service. The Lamentations service is the funeral service for Christ but half way through there is a distinct change in tone from somber is anticipatory because even in our grief we cannot help but look forward to the resurrection. Saturday morning we celebrate liturgy and Christ breaking the gates of Hades open. The priest processes through the sanctuary throwing fresh bay leaves into the air and covering the floor of the sanctuary with them.
By the end of this service the anticipation for Pascha is so intense and I cannot wait for midnight to come. Finally after almost 50 days of intense fasting, dozens of services, hundreds of prostrations and spending the last week walking with Christ through the events from Palm Sunday to breaking the gates of Hades, we get to celebrate Pascha! The service is celebrated and midnight and so joy filled that is palatable throughout the room.
My priest has give the explanation that we always celebrate at midnight because, just like Christ we do not spend any extra time with him in the grave but triumphantly pronounce his resurrection the moment the third day arrives! And just as well fasted for 40+ days we celebrate for 40 days! At every service, before every meal, during our prayer times we joyfully sing the Paschal hymn "Christ is risen from the dead. By death He has trample upon death and to those in the tombs He is bestowing life". We greet one another with "Christ is Risen!". And we feast!
Lent is my favorite season because through it I have learned how to celebrate our Lord's resurrection. I have learned that celebrating takes preparation. I could not celebrate Pascha fully without going through the purging lent brings. I will end with the lenten prayer by St. Ephraim the Syrian:
 Lord and Master of my life, take away from me the spirit of laziness, idle curiosity, lust for power and vane talk.
But grant unto me, Thy servant, a spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see mine own faults and not to judge my brother or sister. For blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Lenten Calendar

It is that time of year again. We just celebrated meatfare Sunday yesterday with a big turkey dinner as our farewell to meat till mid-April and this week we are gearing up for lent to begin next Monday. Since becoming Orthodox 4 years ago lent has become my favorite time of year. It is also the most challenging. Strict fasting, church services 5 days a week and an intense level of spiritual, emotional and physical exercise make it a challenging yet rewarding time of year.
The past two years I have been working on an idea of how to teach my young children about lent and get them involved. For the nativity fast I created an advent calendar out of baby food jars for all 40 days based off of this link. My kids absolutely love doing "their jars" every day of the fast and it gives us something special to talk about daily. Wanting to do something similar for lent I decided to make another set of jars for all 48 days of lent and holy week.
Inside each jar there are three different things. The first is two quarters (one for each child participating). They each take their quarter and put into a special piggy bank that is for giving to the church. I do this as a way for them to begin understanding almsgiving. On Pascha (Easter) we bring the piggy bank to church and donate all the money they have put in over the past 7 weeks.
The second item in the jar is either a token with a number on it or an icon signifying the topic for that day. Each Sunday of lent is focused on something different (Sunday of Orthodoxy, St. Gregory Palamas, Sunday of the Cross, St. John Climacus, St. Mary of Egypt and Palm Sunday) so for those days I have a small icon of those feasts/saints to use as a tool to discuss the topic. For the other days I divided up the bible stories beginning with Christ's 40 days of temptation in the desert to his resurrection in the "Children's Bible Reader" so there is a bible story for each day. I tabbed out all of the stories with numbers that correspond with a token with that number on it in each jar.
Most of the stories are very short (half page to two pages at most) and have beautiful illustrations for the kids to look at. Starting at Lazarus Saturday through Pascha the bible stories are divided up to track with the events of Holy Week. I also have the story of the Annunciation tabbed to read on March 25th to celebrate the feast. Here is a link to the schedule of readings.
The third and final item in each jar is a small candy for each child. The candy, while not necessary, brings excitement to open their jar daily. During the nativity fast there was not a day that went by without one of children reminding me that we needed to "do our jar" for the day. Even though lent is a time of strict fasting this small treat helps remind them that we are in a special time of the year that is set apart. 
I am so excited to begin our Lenten journey once again and will end with the prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian:
Oh Lord and Master of my life!

Take from me the spirit of sloth,
faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity,
humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.

Yea, Lord and King! Grant me to see my own errors
and not to judge my brother,
for Thou art blessed unto the ages and ages,

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Struggle

I don't know if it is just because I'm getting older, I'm about to have my third child or maybe, by the grace of God, I'm actually maturing in my faith but I seem to daily be facing a struggle that has been weighing heavily on my heart. The struggle is putting the small amount of time I am allotted each day into all of the things that actually matter and try to ignore those things that don't. This struggle isn't a simple one. First I have to identify what things are the important ones, which ones are not important and which ones fall somewhere in between. Then I have to figure out how much time to give the top priority while restricting the time for the least important. Finally the hardest part of the struggle, actually managing my time through out the day to accomplish these goals.
Growing up in the Christian faith I learned from a young age that God should always be the most important thing in my life and if asked I always say that He is. The truth of the matter is that most often He is not the most important thing in my life as my time allocation proves. If I manage to say my morning and evening prayers that day I consider that a huge victory. Reading the scriptures, lives of the saints or anything spiritually edifying is a bonus and I can feel like my day was truly a spiritual success! But is that really what it looks like for me to truly have a God centered life?
So here is the struggle. I am a mother of a one and a half year old, a three year old and will have another little one in only a few months. I am going to start homeschooling my three year old this coming September and am training to become a childbirth educator as well as birth and postpartum doula. With all of this plus normal household chores most people would say "You are doing great just saying those prayers! Don't beat yourself up!" and some days that is totally true. But there are plenty of days when I know that there is much more I can be doing but I choose not to. So how do I daily make God truly the top priority in my life?
As I struggle with this question I have come to realize a few important things. First, prayer is the foundation for the rest of the day. There is a remarkable difference in my attitude and patience level through out the day between days I start with prayer and the days I don't. Setting aside time to focus on praying (even for 5 minutes) not only helps to focus my soul but shows the honor, respect and love that I need to be giving God daily. My relationship with God is just that, a relationship and it needs the same time and attention that I give to the other important relationships in my life. Prayer is a big part of that. Most importantly God promises us his grace and love when we ask for it and that is exactly what I am doing when I pray. What better way to start off my day than to be given the grace and love I need to take care of my family?

Second, my attitude throughout the day is not a result of other people's actions or outside situations but my choice of how to respond to them. If I have a bad attitude this is more than likely a result of my choice to be selfish in my thoughts and actions rather than be thankful and humbled by the things I experience (both good and bad) throughout the day. If I find myself in a bad mood it is on me to calm down, take a deep breath and choose to change, not wait for someone else to cheer me up.
Third, I have more time in the day than I think I do. How much time do I waste on facebook, email, pinterest, TV, my phone or just wasting time that I could be accomplishing all the things I always say I don't have time for? Now there are definitely days that are so crazy busy that I'm lucky I managed to remember to eat but that is not the case all the time. What if all the time I spent online was spent in prayer, reading and doing something meaningful with my kids? My days would look quite a bit different.
Fourth, my role as mother and wife are not distractions from my spiritual life but the way in which I live it. How many times have I had to stop praying because I needed to run and help someone in the bathroom or pick up a screaming child or clean up a mess that just happened? And it is so tempting to get angry, frustrated and want to scream "Can't you kids just leave me alone so I can be a good mom and pray?!" My selfish and prideful feelings of wanting my kids to be quiet, self-sufficient and all together not so childlike keeps me from embracing their needs, fears, excitement and curiosity for the opportunity it is. It is a perfect opportunity to show my kids the grace, mercy and love that I myself am asking God for. The endless piles of laundry and stacks of dirty dishes are my path to humility. It is choosing to do these chores despite what I want to do and doing with an attitude of thanksgiving. My responsibilities to my family are my God provided opportunities to learn spiritual discipline.
Fifth, and finally my struggle to balance my life and prioritize is not just for me but also important for my children. The most important education you receive as a child comes from home. Children mimic what the see and learn behavior from their family. When I tell my children that we are Orthodox Christians and that is the most important thing in our lives but they never see me pray or read the scriptures or tell them about the saints, how will they know what to do? I am so thankful for the example my parents gave me as a child, and I recognize how truly blessed I have been by them. I vividly remember watching my parents daily having their "quiet time" praying and reading the Bible. There was no doubt in my mind that their faith was vitally important to them and it reflected in their actions both towards me and alone. Now having that same burden as a parent to raise my children in the faith I have to constantly be making that choice to demonstrate that devotion and love for God that I so desperately desire for my kids.
It is with these thoughts and struggles that I have to lift it all up in prayer and say "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner." And know that He is faithful and merciful and will continue to bless me even while undeserving.
Lord have mercy!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Why I chose homebirth

I originally wrote this as a note on my facebook page but I have decided to post it here as well. My passion for birth has recently been rekindled due the fact that I am currently surrounded by pregnant women and newborns in my circle of friends. (No, I'm not pregnant) I have been reading and researching much about pregnancy and birth in whatever spare time I can find and I'm sure I will have many posts to come on the issue but I wanted to start with my own reasons for having my children at home. 

Being a mother of two children now I have had many conversations with a large variety of people about birth and our experiences with it. I am always a little apprehensive when people ask about mine because I'm never sure what their reaction will be when I say, "I had two home births." Most of the time they look a little shocked and then say something to the effect of "Wow! Your brave!", some really love it and others clearly think that I irresponsibly put my and my children's lives at risk. I decided to write this note because I want to give a clear explination of why I had my children at home. 
First I want to make a couple things clear:

  • I was not motivated by some macho feminist mentality 
  • I did not feel like I needed to "prove" something by having a natural birth 
  • I do not think hospitals are evil places
  • I am not trying to be trendy or a hippy
  • I did not do this for crazy religious reasons
  • I am not "super brave"
  • I do not believe I have a higher than average pain tolerance

Now that those are out of the way, on to the reasons I did choose homebirth!
When I was pregnant with my first child (Titus) I initially looked into the local hospitals to try and find the right fit for me. I knew I wanted to try a natural birth and had read some great things about waterbirth and it's effectiveness in helping relieve pain. I also wanted to be with midwives rather than an OB. After some searching I found a hospital that met my criteria and started my prenatal visits. The staff was friendly but I felt like there was something lacking in my care. My appointments were 30 mins long but most of that was spent either with a nurse, taking my weight, blood pressure, etc and waiting around for the midwife to arrive. I only really had about 10 mins with a midwife and it mainly consisted of going down the check list of routine questions she had for me, but I had nothing really to compare it to so I just assumed that is how it is supposed to be. After a couple of visits Robert and I were asking about the hospital's policies concerning birth. There were a lot of the typical things like not eating or drinking anything after being admitted but the one that pushed Robert and I into looking for other options was this: Because we were in the height of the H1N1 scare no one would be allowed into the room with me who was not vaccinated against it. Robert and I were both firmly against the H1N1 vaccine so that did not sit well with us at all. So we began looking else where. 
We watched a documentary with some friends called "The Business of Being Born" which started my investigation of homebirth. I found a homebirth midwifery group and made a consulation appointment to check them out. The appointment was an hour long and we were blown away by the knowledge, kindness and enthusiasm about birth that we encountered. We agreed that this was definitely the place for us.
As my pregnancy progressed I became thirsty for information about pregnancy and birth. I read book after book, watched documentaries, talked to lots of people and spent hours online researching different things. The things that became overwhelmingly obvious was that birth is a tranformational experience regardless of where you are, who you are or how it happens. You will be changed by it. Often our attention is so focused on the baby that we neglect the woman during the birth process! It is not just a baby that is being born but a mother as well. Because this process is so important to a woman it is essential that she not only be safe but comfortable. For some that comfort is at home, for others it is at a hosptial or a birthing center. For me, it was at home. 
When I made my decision to give birth at home the most common question I was asked was "Does that mean you won't have any drugs?". Yes, it did in fact mean I would be laboring without any option of pain killers. This is usually when I would get the "Oh man! You are so brave!" or "I would never want to give birth without an epidural!" or "Aren't you scared of the pain?". Honestly, yes! I was scared of how much pain I would be in! I didn't want to be in pain and I would love to have a painless labor! So why not go the hospital and get an epidural? Because there was something that scared me even more than the pain: injury to myself or my baby. (This next part is not written in an attempt to demonize hospitals or critisize anyone who has opted for medical intervention. It is simply explaining the risks that are associated with common interventions in the birth process that are not often known.) Recieving an epidural is actually not risk free. In fact there are quite a few risks associated with it but they are often not known. When you recieve an epidural an injection is given into the spine to block the bodies ability to feel anything from the waist down. This does not work for everyone (in fact, my mom had epidurals with both my sister and myself and it only took to half of her body both times). When your body looses this sensation a few things happen. The first is an obvious side effect, you can't stand up. You loose your ability to move around, not only because of the loss of sensation but you are also hooked up to the epidual machine as well as having a cathater in place. This loss of motion can make laboring much more difficult and even more risky. When a woman lies on her back her pelvis actually becomes smaller and it becomes much more challenging to push a baby out! Standing, being on your hands and knees, squatting or just sitting up all open up the pelvis much more allowing the baby more room to come out.
When you loose the sensation of pain your body's natural pain killer, endorphins, shut off. This means that when the epidural wears off the pain is much more intense than it initially was because you don't have anything helping you cope. The loss of sensation and subsequnt altering of hormonal response can, and often times does, slow or stall labor. If this happens often a labor inducing drug is given to keep things going. Often the contractions induced from drugs are much more intense than natural contractions so the epidural is increased. The problem with this is that while you may not be feeling the contractions, your baby is. Natural contractions tend to be intense but short allowing the baby time to rest between them. Drug altered contractions tend to be long and strong cutting off the baby's oxygen flow for longer periods of time, therefore increasing the risk of fetal distress. 
Assuming the epidual is still in effect when you reach the pushing stage it is remarkebly hard to push when you can't feel anything. The lack of muscle control because of numbness can lead to the need for either vacuum extraction, foreceps or even a c-section. 
On top of all of those risks there is also the possibility of allergic reaction, post-partum bladder dysfunction, nausea, vomitting, maternal fever, loss of sexual sensation and function and even death. And despite what many may claim, the epidual drugs DO cross the placental barrier and can cause drowsiness at birth, poor sucking reflex and there have been new studies out linking epidurals to ADHD. The rate of epiduals in the US is around 75%. I wonder what it would be if these risks were explained to women before they went into labor. 
Back to my pregnancy. My water broke at 4:30am June 19th 2010. I was finally in labor. The first few hours I had regular contractions that were coming about every 5 minutes apart and growing in intensity. By 9:30am I could no longer talk through my contractions and started to enter that "labor land" mindset. My contractions picked up and quickly became more intense. By noon I was have extrememly strong contractions lasting at least 5 minutes with about 30 seconds in between. My midwives checked my progess and found I was only 4 cm dilated. They quickly discovered that he was posterier (facing forward instead of backwards) and stuck. With the help of my mom, my doula, Robert and the midwives we spent the next 4 hours doing everything we could to get him to turn. My contractions were not letting up and were now lasting at least 5 mins up to 10 mins long with virtually no breaks in between. I will not lie, it was extremely painful. Finally around 4pm he was in position and I was fully dilated. I started to push. He was out in 27 mins. Both of us were healthy, happy and tired! Afterwards  my midwives told me that I had one of the most intense labors they had ever seen. That night I was asked by a good friend if I was happy I had him at home. And my answer, YES! Why? Because of two reasons. First, had I been offered drugs I don't know that I would have refused them, as much as I didn't want to have them. Second, more than likely I would have ended up with a c-section had I labored in the hospital. The only reason my labor went as smoothly as it did was because I had at least 2 or 3 people assisting me and trying to get him to turn for close to 8 hours. That would not have happened in the hospital. 
This brings me to one of my biggest reasons that I chose and will continue to choose homebirth. I do not want a c-section! The c-section rate in America is around 35%. That means one in every three births are c-sections.  The World Health Organization (WHO) states that no country should have a c-section rate higher than 15%. We are more than double that. Sadly our health care system has become so broken that it is easier and actually legally safer for doctors to just jump to a c-section then it is to help women labor natually. OBs are very skilled surgeons and such a blessing to have available but have very little training for natural birth. The hospital system is geared towards very medicalized births. (I know this is a general statement and does not apply to all hospitals and is not how all OBs/nurses/midwives see things but as a general trend in the US this is true) Because of the increased likelihood of having a c-section just from going to the hospital I chose to be at home. The risks involved in having a c-section are long but the risks in having multiple are even longer. I want to have lots of children and while a c-section does not stop me from that, it would make it much more difficult. VBACs are becoming harder to do and sadly, more costly. For the safety of both myself and my children I plan on continuing to labor and birth in the safety of my home. 
In America we spend more per birth than any other country in the world but we are 33rd in the world for infant mortality rates and 41st for maternal mortality rates. Clearly there is something wrong with our system of care if we are so far behind virtually every other developed country in the world for mortality rates. I want to end this note with an message to all women out there.  You are strong! We were built to bring children into this world and God created us in a way to do it without help! We have been raised to fear the pain that labor brings but I want to tell you that not only can you endure the pain but that there is nothing to compare to the moment the pain ends and the exhilaration of meeting your child for the first time. Don't doubt your own ability to labor. You were created for it. :-)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Putting down roots

Growing up I never liked gardening. Despite my mother's desperate attempts to give me a green thumb or at least help out in the beautifully landscaped yard that we had, I was never interested and actively tried to avoid doing any kind of yard work. After I got married the feelings didn't change. My husband and I lived in apartments and I was perfectly happy not having to mow a lawn or worry about watering plants or (the worst of all) weeding. Even house plants would usually die after a short period of time simply because I would never remember to water them. This all started changing about one year ago.
I cannot put my finger on exactly when or why I started desiring some kind of vegetation in my life but I remember telling my husband that I, for the first time ever, really wanted a house plant. My desires were slightly satiated when we received a bamboo plant from a friend as a gift. I even managed to keep it alive! (I know, bamboo is basically impossible to kill) But my desire did not stop there. It just kept growing.
This past March our family moved back to Oregon and into a wonderful little townhouse with a small yard. Finally I had a place that I could use all of this pent up garden loving desire! I was so excited to see that there was already a raised bed in the corner of the yard and after discussing options with the landlord decided to work towards putting in more garden space in the future. I was psyched! Over the past few months I have managed to plant and keep alive multiple flower pots, three herb gardens, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes and blackberries. I just planted snap peas, string beans, carrots and lettuce. I am so excited about seeing my plants grows!
After working in the garden for a couple of hours today I was reflecting on why I have become so invested in something that had never before interested me. My answer is simple, my life is no longer about doing the easy thing. I hated gardening because it was hard. It took lots of time, effort and patience to grow a good garden. I had so many other easy things to do that gave me immediate gratification that there was no desire to spend so much time on something so mundane as tending a garden. Now, after many years and life lessons I have come to appreciate those things that take time to accomplish.
I just turned 27 and as I reflect on what I have experienced so far in life and look forward to what's ahead I begin to see that the desire to "garden" applies to all areas of my life. My priest has given the analogy many times that our life is very much like tending a garden. We have to make sure that we are getting enough of what we need and be aware of those "weeds" that are choking out the important parts of our life. This applies to my spiritual life, my role as a mother, my relationship with my husband and all my friendships. As I begin my 27th year of life I am realizing that I need to weed out those things that are not important and really start to put down strong roots in the things that are. Not only will I benefit from this but my family will also enjoy the fruits of my labor. It will not be easy and there will be times it will not be fun but I look forward to watching all of my "plants" grow so that I can enjoy a lush garden later in life.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mother's Day with Sister!

I have been neglecting my blog recently but I feel justified in blaming that mostly on my sister. My younger sister has been living in Thailand for the past year working as a journalist for YWAM and just returned home this past Friday to her ecstatic family and friends. My husband, the kids and I spent the weekend celebrating both my sister's homecoming and Mother's day at my parent's home. It was a wonderful weekend and a fantastic way to celebrate motherhood.
Sunday afternoon, while the family was gathered round the table eating lunch, my sister asked both my mom and I what our favorite thing was about being a mom. My mom's answer surprisingly was birth. She saw the beauty and wonder in the struggle that it is to bring a new life into the world and that unparalleled moment when you meet your baby for the first time. I completely understand why she answered that way. And it is a big reason why I have become such a huge supporter of natural birth (I'm sure there will be many posts on that to come). After thinking about the question for a while I had two answers I couldn't decide between. The first was the absolute joy and wonder it is to get to know your children. It still baffles my mind that these adorable little babies have distinct personalities, dreams and desires that will grow and morph as time goes on. I am made aware of this distinctiveness every day as I try to give both my children the attention and care that they individually need, often in very different ways.
The second answer I had was the great eye opening realization of who you are that comes with being a mom. There are very few things that can humble me as quickly as when I realize that the reason I am getting mad at my child is because of my own selfishness rather than any wrong act. (Don't get my wrong, there are plenty of disobedient acts to get frustrated over, but that is not always why I get angry) Our priest once said that the flaws we see in our children are often mirror images of the flaws we ourselves have. Children are little sponges that soak up everything around them. Sadly this also includes our short comings and mistakes. While I would rather that my children do not learn my bad habits I do see their reflection of them as a way for me to see what I need to change about myself. After I have recognized the need for the change and begun that process can I show my kids the proper way to act. It does me no good getting frustrated at Titus because he wants to play games on my iPhone when the reason I want my iPhone is to play my games. My kids are my best and easiest method of learning patience and humility.
My mom and sister in Thailand
I want to conclude by thanking my mom for teaching me how to lovingly and joyfully serve my family the way she cared for us (and still does). I still talk to my mom at least once a day (often a couple times a day) and while we may get made fun of for it, I pray that my kids will want to call me everyday when they are grown up. I was blessed to have such a wonderful family and thank God for them daily.