The Pursuit of Rest

Rest. What is that?

Is it curled up on the sofa with little warm bodies while you read aloud The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

Is it cuddled in bed with the ones you love telling stories of when you were growing up?

Is it quietly coloring and drawing while you listen to music?

Is it a nap on a Sunday afternoon after church?

Is it a ninja/wrestling match with a seven and two year old followed by a dance session with the baby?

Rest is all of this and more! And it. Is. Glorious!

Our family is in the pursuit of rest this year. I have felt like the Lord has been urging me to observe a Sabbath. The holy day of rest that He created for His people in the very beginning of creation.

1Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
2And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
3And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

This is something that I know many others wrestle with, each in their own way.

It is a hard concept to entertain when you have a busy family and are ushering multiple kids to multiple activities each day of the week. But I have felt and feel even more so that it does not have to be that way.

While I agree that varying activities can enrich your child’s life, I feel even more so that not spending intentional time at home, together, communicating and laughing and sharing space together will shortchange our children on a rich and solid foundation of faith and family. By not building time for rest and connectedness into their lives early on we inadvertently teach them that the only way to be anything or anyone is to go, go, go.

I want to raise our boys to work hard those 6 days of the week but with each day to carry the joy and rest and peace they received the Sabbath before and took look forward to the Sabbath to come. I want them to be able to see God in all of the endeavors and the things that they face all week and to meet Him in the quiet of Sabbath to restore and refresh. I want that peace to shine from their hearts and their faces to the people they meet and work alongside in between.

At first when I began praying and reading about practicing a Sabbath I was a little overwhelmed. An orthodox family would observe from sundown on Friday evening until sundown on Saturday evening. But as I explored further it became apparent for our family that our Sabbath would begin on Saturday evening at 7:00 and continue until Sunday evening at 7:00.

Next became deciding what our Sabbath would look like. This part was a little trickier but provided great conversation at the dinner table as we decided together what we would and wouldn’t do on our Sabbath. The “wouldn’t” was easy; we wouldn’t watch television or utilize any devices, we wouldn’t work on any projects, we wouldn’t do any cleaning beyond tidying up after meals and play, and we wouldn’t work (except for my husband for just a short while – the fish need to be fed!), and we wouldn’t shop or cause others to work.

What would we do? This first Sabbath we spent the first night reading aloud and talking. We went to church in the morning and then came back home. While DH went in to take care of the fish the kids and I warmed up lunch and colored some bible coloring pages. Then DH got back and jumped in on the coloring too. I fed the baby and read some of my book while the littles napped. Then we all got in to a game of UNO before dinner and while it warmed in the oven. We capped off the evening with some glow-in-the-dark racetrack fun and more reading aloud. Then, upon irresistible request, the boys talked DH into some hilarious karate and wrestling shenanigans.


As we observe each new Sabbath in our home we will begin introducing more of the traditional aspects into is such as lighting a candle, speaking blessings upon the children and one another, and Sabbath prayers.

I recently read a book called Celebrating Biblical Feasts: In Your Home or Church by Martha Zimmerman. This book was rich with concept for what it could look like to participate in the biblical feasts as a Christian family. I gleaned so much information and affirmation from it that I purchased my own copy so I could have it to reference as we establish these traditions and blessings in our young family.

I look forward to sharing more as our family grows in this obedience out of love for God.

Do you and your family observe Sabbath? Are you more traditional or is your observance modified a little?

 

With God All Things are Possible!

Matthew 19:16-30

And behold a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness. Honor your father and mother. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great treasure.

And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

verseMatthew 19:26 says, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Now, I want you to close your eyes and say it with all your heart. Ready? Go for it.

Okay, now let us look at the context surrounding this verse. Matthew is sharing about a young rich man who approached Jesus and asked what good deed he needed to do to have eternal life. Now we all know that it is not our deeds that save us but our whole-hearted belief and faith in who Jesus is and what he accomplished for us. But let’s look a little further here. Jesus proceeds to cover several of the commandments; you shall not murder, steal, lie, cheat, disrespect your father or mother, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. The young man replied that those were of no problem for him (most are probably not an issue for us as well) so what is he still lacking. And then Jesus replies with the biggest challenge for him…

“Go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; come and follow me.”

Yikes!

Jesus just told this man to go home and sell everything he has worked so hard for and holds so dear. Sadly, the man turns away because he really loves all of his great possessions.

But I want to draw your eye to something. Did you see how at the end of that command, Jesus gives him an invitation. He says, “Come and follow me.” He is inviting this young man to come and share in the glorious blessings that he soon explains to Peter and the disciples, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life.”

So, now I want to ask you, what are you holding on to so dearly and so tightly that may be keeping you from the closeness you can have with Jesus.

Are you clinging to possessions and pursuing stuff?

Are you holding tightly to a lifestyle that pulls you away from your Savior?

Are you struggling with surrendering an addiction?

Are you pursuing the affections of someone else, either outside of a marriage or someone who may not be the best choice for you?

Are you always searching for the next best thing; best house, best job, best clothes, best technology, best gadgets, etc.?

Let me invite you to pause here, to close your eyes and ask Jesus to search your heart and reveal what is distracting you from him.

Now, let’s look through the rest of the passage.

And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Jesus explains to his disciples that he knows how hard it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. It would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle! And you may be thinking, “I am not a rich person, I can barely cover all my expenses each month!” But, let me tell you, you are rich. You have wealth that others all over the globe could only dream about. And if you have Jesus, you have all the wealth you could ever need.

Now, I would like to challenge you to insert yourself into the conversation between Jesus and the young rich man. Where Jesus asks him to go and sell all of his possessions, I want you to insert whatever God pressed on your heart a few minutes ago.

Are you reading, “________________, go and throw out those cigarettes/liquor bottles and divide that money between savings and tithes; and come, follow me.”

Or maybe, “_________________, turn your lustful thoughts over to me, pursue me and I will give you the desires of your heart; and come, follow me.”

Or you hear, “_____________, there is always going to be something shiny and new to distract you from my teachings, my kingdom, but none of it will ever compare to the riches I have in store for you; and come, follow me.”

page

It is hard, I know. But do you see what Jesus says after he acknowledges how hard it is?! He says, “With man THIS is impossible, but with God ALL things are possible.”

Friend, did you hear that?! With God ALL things are possible!!

Allow me to encourage you to pray and seek his face. Go boldly before the throne of grace and ask God to empower you with his might so that you may be free from any strongholds that are keeping you from the closeness with Jesus. And I am praying with you!

Your faith has saved your, now let the Holy Spirit change you! Trust in God’s plan for you because I promise it will be far better than anything you can imagine. I am not saying it will be easy, Jesus tells us there will be difficulty. But, commit your ways to the Lord and let him bless you with the desires of you heart.

May the LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

Tell Me Once Again Who I Am to You…

I was not expecting this morning. And I am not sure what set it off or how it got to where it went. My guess is the enemy was taking a shot at me and wanted to see how far it could go.

I woke up with a happy mood and a giddy in my step. The kids were all still asleep and I got to sit with my cup of coffee and read my bible before everyone was awake. The toddler woke in his happy mood and everyone else seemed to follow suit.

Our weekend had finished with the construction of our raised garden beds (post with tutorial in the works) and the optimism of garden greens and other delicious goodness were on the front of my mind. In discussing my daydreams with my dear husband when the conversation took a stressful turn and hurtful things were said. You know how that can go, right?

Long story short, I walked away before the tears could fall, feeling like a loser.

“I am not a good enough stay-at-home mommy.”

“I take the fun out of everything when I get in Casey-mode.”

“Maybe I have no business staying home anymore. Maybe everyone would be better if I did go back to work.”

I was a mess, trying to prove my worth by scrubbing our bathroom and the kitchen and trying to tidy up as best as I could. During all of that, my oldest missed his morning bus. It isn’t typically a big deal and doesn’t happen very often so I finished up my current task and got dressed to take him to school.

When he realized he missed the bus, all control of emotions was lost. He slammed his backpack down and declared he was not going to school. I sat on the chair and cried again, feeling more like a failure. Then, I straightened up my mommy hat and followed him into his bedroom. He retreated under his bed. I calmly explained that I would count to 5 for him to come out on his own or I would come under there and get him.

I ended up under the bed to pull him out. Next was getting shoes on and out the door. We made it to the van and were on our way to the school. I knew better than to try to talk to him; when he is feeling this way he is not interested in talking, let alone listening. We drove in silence, both feeling emotional for our own reasons, both upset about how our morning was going.

And then, my child wrecked me…

“I am so stupid.”

“Honey, you are NOT stupid! Why would you say that or feel that way?!”

“I am just stupid.”

“L, baby, you are not and I don’t want you to talk that way. You are smart, funny, talented, kind, and compassionate. I love you and God loves you and he made you perfectly, not stupid. You are not stupid, please do not say that.”

(TEARS ARE COMING BIG TIME NOW)

And then, BAM, God wrecked my heart…

This is exactly how God feels about me. I was playing a slew of self-degrading comments in my head all morning on repeat. He doesn’t want me sitting here talking bad about His creation. I AM a good mommy and God didn’t make a mistake when He made me a mother. He made me fun, loving, nurturing, compassionate, resourceful, driven, creative, and everything that makes me who I am.

Wow, my Father is telling me the exact thing I am trying to tell my baby boy. My child and I are not defined by any word. We are defined by the sacrifice Jesus paid on the cross for him and for me. We are defined by mercy and grace. We are defined by the love our Heavenly Father has for us and that He showed us in Christ Jesus. WE. ARE. LOVED.

God used this moment to teach me and for me to teach my child. And this is a lesson that will be picked back up after school.

Once I started to realize what was happening and how I was doing to me what my child was doing to himself, I prayed. I prayed out loud for God to remove these negative feelings and self-doubt, to replace it with a peaceful heart and turn our day into a good day.

We pulled up to the drop off and he got out without a word. I told him I loved him so much and that I would see him after school.

I also emailed his teacher when I got home to make sure he was able to have a better day. I didn’t want his mood to effect his whole day and hopefully all his friends would cheer him up as well.

The drive home was still a tearful one, but instead of the tears over my own feelings they were for my heart breaking over how L was talking about himself. We are a very warm-and-fuzzy family and do not hold back the I love yous, compliments or positive affirmations.

I am thankful for the teachable moment that came in the midst of our troubled hearts this morning. I am thankful for my God who reaches me and is using my children to teach me lessons on His grace and mercy.

Have you experienced a moment where God used your parenting situation to teach you a lesson as well? Please share!

 

 

 

Tips on Breastfeeding

1622344_10152268271336167_3093539726951921387_o

Breastfeeding to me is such an incredible experience. It is a gift that I give to my children, but at the same time provides a gift for me.

It has also been a completely different experience with each of our three boys and has given me some perspective to how different it is for each mother with each child.

Our oldest nursed from day one but our breastfeeding relationship ended when he was about 13 weeks old. I was a first time mommy that had to return to work after 6 weeks and whose body didn’t respond to pumping very well.

Our middle son was a booby baby through and through. No substitutes, no dummies; only milk straight from the tap. Some of this may have come from my overwhelming desire to make it to a year with breastfeeding so I fiercely protected that relationship.

Our third is 5 months old, drinks only breastmilk but will take it easily from a bottle, has found comfort in both a binky and his thumb, and seems the most laid back of all our boys.

So now I would like to share with you my favorite tips for enjoying your breastfeeding experience. These stem from my personal research and experiences and I hope you find them helpful.

#1. Set Your Goals
As soon as you get a positive pregnancy test your mind starts going with all kinds of thoughts and questions. One of those is whether or not you are going to choose to breastfeed and for how long. At this very beginning, I believe you set the tone for what your breastfeeding experience will ultimately look like. Maybe you want to breastfeed for a few months and then wean to formula when you return to work. Maybe you want to breastfeed for 6 months or until your little one starts cutting teeth. Maybe you want to go a year and then switch to a different milk. Or, maybe you want to go for extended breastfeeding to 2 years and/or beyond. By setting your goals before baby arrives, I feel, you have a better chance to pursue it even when you go through some of the harder days.

#2 The Right Support
Support can come in many forms but I believe you need to have a couple of different kinds depending on where you are at or what your current concerns or challenges are. There are Lactation Consultants and Doulas that can lend some professional and educated support and troubleshooting. They can be invaluable in those early days when you are trying to figure out any latch issues, supply, or other help. Then, your husband or partner is going to be a crucial support person. It is important early on (before baby arrives and while you are setting your goals) to discuss what you want or need from them to be able to encourage and support you. Now, while I realize there may not be a supportive spouse or one at all, having a close person there to encourage you and support you is so helpful. The other support person that I feel is important is a friend or relative that has recently or is well into a successful breastfeeding period. This is who you call when you are exhausted and emotional and needing to hear the perfect “I know what you are feeling and you will be okay” comfort.

10600426_1448968465382721_4782082246370409293_n

Each of these people will be very important to you at one or the entire duration of your journey. Talk to them while you are pregnant, ask them questions, sit with your friend while she feeds her baby. That will be you soon.

#3 Read the Right Stuff…a little bit.
We are in the age where everything is accessible. There is enough information out there available at the click of a button to make your head spin in an instant. While I am a research fanatic when it comes to things like this, moderation is important. I recommend reading 1 or 2 books (like The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding) during your pregnancy and then I found a blog that I became a huge fan of. Her name is Meg Nagle and she is an IBCLC from Australia. Her blog is called The Milk Meg and she is a fantastic resource for breastfeeding mothers. She even provides consultations via Skype. The point is to find a few places for some good knowledge and encouragement but don’t overwhelm yourself.

#4 The Early Weeks
Baby has arrived and you are home settling in. If this is your first baby, your milk will be coming in in another day or so. If it is your second or beyond, your milk has probably arrived. These early days and weeks should just be spent cuddling your baby, drinking water and enjoying tasty food with lots of rest. Your body goes through a lot during pregnancy and then more after you deliver as it tries to balance hormones, blood volume, and heal from birth. Hopefully you have friends and family who offer to come and help take care of things for you so you may recuperate. I know they want to offer to hold the baby for you so you can rest or nap, but if that isn’t what you need from them, don’t be afraid to speak up. When they call, let them know if you are up for a short visit or if you would like to sit and talk and relax together. If they offer to help do anything, LET THEM! Let them do a load of laundry, cook a meal, vacuum your floors, take out trash, whatever will help you not do anything except care for your new baby.

10268525_10152268271051167_1886675150579769340_n

Lots of skin-to-skin! When people aren’t over helping you out, take that shirt off and cuddle your squishy baby right up on your chest! This is proven to regulate baby’s heartbeat, respiration and temperature, not to mention the amazing hormone release that happens between you and baby. This is also a great way for daddy to bond with baby. Just make sure he leaves the aftershave or cologne off.

“When in doubt, whip it out.” This is one of my favorite Meg quotes! Those early days of breastfeeding can be confusing and overwhelming.

“Is baby crying because he is tired, hungry, or has a dirty diaper? But he just ate?! How could he want to nurse again?”

The beautiful things about breastfeeding is that it isn’t just for food and you can’t over-feed a breastfed baby! If baby is upset and you have tried to swaddle and soothe in other ways, try offering the breast. Baby finds the most comfort close to you where he can smell and feel you. You are familiar and safe, don’t deny baby of that because you have been told you will spoil him. You can’t spoil a baby!

#5 It Doesn’t Have to be All or Nothing
I wish I had known this with my oldest son. I gave up because I thought since I couldn’t sustain a supply through pumping that I had no choice but to wean and feed him formula exclusively. That doesn’t have to be the case at all. If you have exhausted all efforts to sustain your supply to breastfeed exclusively, and believe me there are a lot of different things you can try, you may be able to find a balance of breast and formula feeding. In my case, I could have breastfed while at home and exclusively on the weekends but allowed him to receive formula while at daycare.

This is one of those situations where your Lactation Consultant can help you troubleshoot your supply concerns, chose the best and most practical ways for you to try to boost your supply, and if that doesn’t help she can help you add supplementing to your breastfeeding journey.

If you have your goals set, your support in place, and have tried all that you can, give yourself some grace, take a breath, and enjoy YOUR nursing relationship for what it is. It isn’t going to nor does it have to look like anyone else’s.

That brings me to…

#6 Enjoy it
Breastfeeding truly is a journey, even a marathon. From cluster feeding and tender breasts to growth spurts and beyond there will be some trying days. But there will also be days and moments where when nothing else will console your baby, curling up in your arms and latching at the breast will. There will be moments that are etched into your mind for eternity like baby’s first booby grin or silly faces while trying to eat.

16407_1506883086257925_5956294398094939786_n

There is just so much, so much tenderness and nurturing and bonding that happens…to both of you!

Enjoy it all, however long it lasts.

20160504_094143-1

What questions or concerns do you have about breastfeeding?

What other tips would you add for a new mother? Please leave a comment!

 

 

When Waffles Turn into Worship

“The days are long but the years are short.”

This is the truth.

Yesterday was one of the long days.

Who am I kidding, it has been a long week. One of those weeks that just keeps taking from you and not giving you any time to pause, breathe, and refresh so you can keep going. At least not in your usual ways.

My usual “pause-and-refresh” is during naptime. I fill up my mug with coffee or hot tea, turn on some music and dig into a craft, a project, or my bible if I didn’t get to read and study that morning. The littles usually cooperate and nap during the same time so it gives me an hout or so to do what I would like to.

This week, I have not been able to find my refresh moment, until this morning while I was making breakfast.

Still feeling tired, raw, and spent I was trying to get a grip on my day. My time in God’s word this morning was being drowned out by tears and whining. For some reason the truth in the words of my Father couldn’t permeate my heart and wash my tired soul of negativity.

Until making waffles turned into worship.

Worship (VERB): the act of showing extreme adoration and/or reverence for God.

Music is powerful; at least for me. I not only hear it, but feel it too. It has helped me find comfort and peace. It has helped energize me and make me feel good. And I am thankful for worship music at church. It helps me to quiet my head and prepare my heart for the message that day.

Music reached me this morning, too. I turn the radio on in the kitchen and dial it to my favorite Christian radio station. As the songs play and I start to sing and sway, I can feel a shift; a shift in my attitude, a shift in my posture, and a shift in my heart.

As I sing along while making waffles for my sweet family, I lift up my thanks to God. Thankful for a new day, a fresh start, the sweet faces that need me and love me. Thankful for the kiss on my cheek from a husband who loves me (Even when he comes home to me wearing full-on raccoon eyes because everyone else was crying, why not me). Thankful for the food I am able to cook for my family in the home that keeps us sheltered. Thankful for the pile of dirty clothes at the foot of the stairs that need to be sorted and washed. Thankful for the yard that needs mowed. Thankful for everything and everyone that He has blessed me with.

My eyes are closed, my voice sings and my arms are raised. A sweet moment of worship that resets my mood just in time for my 6 year old to sneak in and stick his finger in my armpit.

My days are filled with serving. Serving little humans who thank me with sweet kisses and hugs, a husband who works hard for his family, and other moms who are walking this same journey with me.

I was reading in Colossians 3 and it talks about holy living. In the first part of this chapter it talks about removing what belongs to your earthly nature, to literally put it to death so you don’t pick it back up again. Whatever entices your earthly self and keeps you stuck in a pattern of wanting and chasing after unimportant things or bad behaviors and habits. To instead set your heart and mind on things above, on heaven and the riches promised in eternity. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will also appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:4) We are a new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Christ is all, and is in all (Col. 3:10, 11b).

Now, read this…

Colossians 3:12-17: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you we called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

This passage was the perfect encouragement for me today and I hope you find some in it as well. This season of motherhood is a big teaching period. I know that God is refining me and helping me to see less of me and more of Him. May my eyes be open and my heart obedient.

Go in peace my friend and may God bless you, your family, and your home.

Love,

Casey Renee