Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Conception through Early Childhood Resources

I haven't posted in almost three months!  It was an intentional, albeit unannounced, break from blogging because I just didn't care for the tone with which I wrote on August 21.  I don't ever desire to even sound to myself as if I have all the answers, and that's what I was "hearing" when I re-read my last post.  Plus, the time off for our first semester of homeschooling was a good move because it has taken a major adjustment in my daily and weekly routines to get a handle on our new normal. 

I come back to blogging today because I was asked to share my resources for all things conception, pregnancy, natural childbirth, breastfeeding, and parenting.  I always feel like when I'm asked to address something, God directed it as an opportunity for me to be that Titus 2 woman to someone.  This blog also helps me to be able to refer again to a place I collected all my thoughts if someone else should ask me for them. 

Since the beginning truly is always a "very good place to start," I'll begin with conception.

Praise God, I'm blessed to be a Fertile Myrtle!  It isn't something I take lightly, as I have several close friends and family who have experienced infertility.  God has declared in His Word that "children are a reward," (Psalm 127:3)  According to one of my resources, Your Pregnancy Week by Week, most women's first major measurable loss of fertility is at twenty-seven years old.  Knowing that many of us may not be so naturally blessed with fertility, that we were designed to bear children in younger years, and that God says children are a reward, I believe we should not delay our childbearing years.

The first step toward conception is (marriage, duh!) to see your doctor if you are on any type of birth control.  He will guide you toward deciding how long you should wait to try.  I understand one month of a regular cycle is recommended most often when coming off of a pill form of birth control, but your doctor will know what's best for you.

From my experience, having a normal twenty-eight day cycle, I just googled an ovulation calculator to conceive my first child.  I wanted to make sure we tried at the right time!  God saw fit to bless us right away.  Other than that, I can't recommend any specific resources.

What to Expect When You're Expecting is one of the most popular pregnancy books of our time!  Unless you've been living under a rock, you've most likely heard of it.  It is a good resource, not at all from a Christian perspective, but it covers everything moms need to know about pregnancy.  Many doctors' offices give this book to first-time mothers.  I was given one by my OB when I was pregnant with my third. 

A better resource to me is the book I mentioned earlier, Your Pregnancy Week by Week.  My sister-in-law loaned this one to me during my first pregnancy, and I liked it so well that I bought a copy to own myself.  Rather than taking the reader through monthly changes, there's something new to read with each week!  Again, not written from a Christian perspective, but everything one needs to know about the medical side of pregnancy.

Also, make sure you like your doctor or midwife.  If possible, a Christian obstetrician is great because you want to know that the person responsible for the life of your unborn child is pro-life!  Know, too, that the doctor is competent to take care of women in high-stress situations.  Ask other women, or even better, ask a nurse or someone else that works the labor and delivery unit in some way, who they recommend.

Natural Childbirth
The perfect childbirth experience is not the be-all, end-all of motherhood.  It's important to step back and realize that a healthy mom and baby are all that really matter when it comes to delivery.  We cannot beat our chests and become self-important when we look back at our deliveries, but praise God for His love and mercy to us through the miraculous experience He has given us to bring forth life.

That said, I do believe that natural childbirth is usually what is best for mom and baby medically speaking, and from my four deliveries to date, praying, seeking God's peace through contractions - those were awesome times of spiritual growth and reflection.  And I didn't do it perfectly!  Some really crunchy, all-natural moms would claim I didn't really go naturally because while I had no form of pain relief through medication or epidurals, I was induced into labor each time with Pitocin. 

Labor plans are important, but also be flexible as you listen to your doctors or midwives.  In order to be prepared, the #1 thing to do, especially the first time around, is to take a labor and delivery class at your local hospital.  I took Lamaze, but other methods, such as Bradley, may better suit you.

A word about c-sections here: Many hospitals are making great improvements in order to insure moms and babies don't miss the bonding that takes place during a regular vaginal delivery.  While being trained to be a breastfeeding peer counselor, I learned about laid-back breastfeeding.  I was able to watch a video of skin-to-skin contact immediately following a c-section.  Here's a link.  If you know ahead of time about the need for a c-section, you may able to make this happen. 

One of the most obvious ways God made women to nurture their children is through breastfeeding.  There's no denying it: women have milk glands, men don't.  When I hear moms say that they want to make sure Dad doesn't miss out on feeding the baby, I want to scream, "Who did God create to feed baby?"  - but I generally hold it in.  Most mammal mothers are very protective of their babies, not allowing anyone else to do the nurturing in their babies' early lives.  We in America are all too eager to hand our children to someone else.  Yes, breastfeeding takes time, and no, it isn't always easy to get, but it's worth the effort for you and baby!

Ok, so for the resources:
The Nursing Mother's Companion is one my favorites - and I actually only use the little pamphlet adapted from it, "Nursing the First Two Months" - but the original will get you through weaning, optimally at least twelve months into life. is a great on-line resource.  With my fourth child, I was able to self-diagnose thrush with this resource, and then confirm it with a phone call to my favorite lactation consultant at our hospital. is a new resource for me, and it is written by a Christian with a world-view to match!  I recently wrote the author, Krista, a question I had even though I'm not still nursing, and she responded very quickly!  Krista also writes about her childbirth experiences, both natural childbirth and c-section.  I highly recommend you check her out!

One more thought for expecting moms: If you plan to breastfeed, please don't stick a bottle in your baby's mouth out of fear they'll starve.  Healthy babies aren't born hungry, just with the desire to suck and be near mom.  Please either see a trustworthy lactation consultant or call an experienced friend for help first!  Some babies have no issue with nipple confusion, but others really struggle to take the breast after having a bottle in those first few days.  You don't want to create more hills to climb for yourself!

Parenting:  Here's where I'm going to have to take a break!  I have lots of resources, and if you've been reading this long, you're exhausted too!  I'll post soon!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What I'm NOT Looking for in a Homeschooling Titus 2 Woman

My two oldest girls are in their third week of homeschooling.  They are in second grade and kindergarten.  I do have a four-year-old, but I don't count K4 because I just don't think it necessary that school begin formally at so young an age.  She already recognizes her letters and numbers, so I'm working on all the letter sounds and including her in social studies and science activities with her older siblings as appropriate.

It has been a really fun three weeks!  I expected it to eventually go smoothly, but I thought school would begin with some bumps.  Praise God for His goodness to our family!  The biggest challenge is coming up with extra activities to fill the time because one is flying through her language arts curriculum and the other is flying through her math curriculum.  The oldest broke her arm the weekend before school began, so she hasn't been able to begin handwriting or do any real physical activity safely.  I expect that'll help to fill the necessary 4.5 hrs required each day by our state's law. 

I joined a large local homeschool group because I wanted my kids to have a chance to meet other kids outside of their church and so I might be able to meet some other parents further along in their homeschool journeys.  It seems to be a great group, serving five counties, with a Christian orientation (though it would've been fine with me if it were secular), and with plenty of opportunities to get together.  There's a meeting once a month for parents to hear speakers, a monthly roller skating event for the kids, field trips, science fair, and several groups and clubs that meet.  There's even a football team, new this year!  How awesome is that?

Tonight is the first meeting for parents, and I am so eager to meet others in the same position as me!  I do have a Titus 2 homeschooling mom in my life, but she lives on the other side of the state!  She's my dear friend and family member, Nicole.  She has been so encouraging, but I know she wants me to meet some folks nearby.

While I'm keeping my eyes open for a local Titus 2 homeschooling mom, I can't describe exactly what I'm looking for (other than what's listed in verses 3-5), but I do know what I'm NOT looking for:

A know-it-all.  The decision to homeschool was not a decision my husband and I made lightly, but that was only the first decision (to begin).  Once someone decides to homeschool, there's curriculum to consider, subjects to include or not to include, educational methods to employ - the list goes on and on.  Maybe it's because I'm eclectic in my methods, but I want someone who understands that each family and each child is different, and acknowledges that I will do what is best for the ones I teach. 

A big spender.  On that same vein, I don't want someone that goes overboard and has the most "pinworthy" school room and has spent thousands on curriculum.  Let's keep it real.  One of the reasons we decided to homeschool is because it's more economical than public school.  I need someone more willing to put her heart and effort into homeschooling than her checkbook.

Neither someone too structured nor someone too flexible.  I need someone who can help me roll with the punches because I tend to lean toward major routine and schedules.  I also don't want someone who really unschools.  That gives me the heeby-jeebies.  I want to know that I'm leading my kids, not them leading me.

I'm looking forward to tonight, and I'm praying that soon I'll know that Titus 2 homeschooling mom God has for me! 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Change is Inevitable

Last week, my husband and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary!  We couldn't believe how time has flown by so quickly.  While taking a week-long break from our kids, thanks to the generosity of one of their aunts and their Granna, we reflected on the changes in our lives since we said "I do". 

Gulf Shores, Alabama (which we took by storm celebrating our anniversary)

We are very different from those star-eyed young'uns we were ten years ago.  We've had some knocks that have grown us more Christ-like.  More time out of our parents' nests has made us do things "our way" (though there was nothing wrong with the way either set did life).  Essentially, we became who we are - Clint and Lauren.

Sadly, "he's/she's not the same person I married" is something we might hear from folks deciding to divorce.  It is heartbreaking to think that rather than growing together in marriage, many grow apart.  Change will happen, whether we want it to or not, so it is in our best interest (and in the interest of the little people who depend on us) to cultivate growing together.

I mentioned this last year, but I've learned it bears repeating.  Get away together!  Overnight.  Once a year.  If possible.  Make it possible!

Embrace and encourage each other's interests.  I now watch Nascar - who'd have thunk that ten years ago!  My husband helps keep my flower beds mostly free of weeds, and he cheers for me when I run, and he receives his just reward.

Be realistic, and learn to love the physical changes that come with time.  I actually really like the mature look my husband is beginning to have - maybe it's because I haven't watched Magic Mike or soap operas throughout our marriage.  Encourage your husbands to have realistic expectations of beauty after multiple children by remaining physically available to him so he might not struggle so much with lust or possibly pornography.

"This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh." -Genesis 2:24

The one flesh relationship God created can still be just as beautiful in your marriage as it was in the beginning.  I'm happy for the changes in my marriage and pray the same for yours!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

One of my friends, Amanda, hosts our church's youth girls to her home every week throughout the summer for fellowship, kitchen training, and for an older woman to come teach them on any number of topics.  This week was my turn, and we met at a different friend's home, and I thought I'd share what God laid on my heart to teach them. 

I asked the girls what they want to be when they grow up, with graduation from high school just around the bend.  I remember as a very small girl, still in Mission Friends, that I wanted to be a nurse.  I don't know why, but by the end of middle school, I wanted to be an occupational therapist because I wanted to help people who'd been injured in some way to regain their life skills through the use of dance and art.  That summer, I began volunteering at one of our local hospitals, something I would continue to do the next three summers.  While I loved being a youth volunteer, I quickly discovered, that being a nurse was out for me because I couldn't believe the hours the nurses in the hospital worked.  By that fall, I knew for sure even occupational therapy was out because I'm not gifted in science.

I failed to share this, but I decided to become a teacher because I was in our high school's Teacher Cadet program.  As part of the class, I went every week to help one of my former primary school teachers.  Standing in front of the empty classroom, waiting for my teacher and her class to return, I just knew this is where God wanted me to be, at least for a season.  It was actually while studying childhood development in college, that I made the decision to stay home with my children, something my future husband also wanted.

After sharing about childhood dreams, I turned to Scripture.  First, the Scripture that is the basis for this blog:
In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to much wine.  They are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, pure, good homemakers, and submissive to their husbands, so that God's message will not be slandered. -Titus 2:3-5
 We also read about the Proverbs 31 woman, paying special attention to verse 27, "She watches over the activities of her household and is never idle."

I have been so happy to see many of our youth girls make efforts to embrace femininity in the ways they dress for worship, wearing dresses, and I had heard that on the mission trip, they were good at serving the men who were working.  So now, I wanted to continue to encourage them to embrace femininity as they graduate, possibly go to college, take on careers, and/or marry.  I wanted these scriptures to serve as a basis for our understanding of what God wants a woman to be in her life.

A little side note here, I realize not everyone will marry, but most will, and if you don't, you're still called to be life-nurturers, even when you don't physically bear children.  Single women or infertile women are often some of the most helpful to women dealing with the rigors of daily caring for children.  They can be of great help loving on our children in a number of ways through babysitting and Sunday School teaching, just for a couple of examples!

I went on to give the girls a quick lesson in our roles from the beginning of time.  Genesis 1:27, we find that God created both man and woman in His image and are both accountable to him.  BUT, Adam had the huge responsibility of being the first-born and was given authority and jobs to accomplish.  Woman was created with physical differences that made her suitable to be a helper.  I learned from Mary Kassian that the only other time the word for helper is used in Scripture is describing God as our Helper.  This is a huge compliment, not a secondary-type-citizen role! 

Then, the FALL came.  Adam failed to intervene, so he born responsibility for sin first.  And one of the consequences, along with the pain of childbearing, is that woman would "desire" her husband, meaning she would want to overpower and manipulate him.  Even little girls figure out ways early on to sweetly manipulate their daddies.  The sinful idea of "Girl Power" comes from this desire.  Ever since then, women have seemed to struggle with their role.  In modern times, we see women struggle to both have careers and be good mothers.  Even women who have decided to be at home often label themselves as "just a housewife".

However, if we remind ourselves of those first Scriptures, obviously God has an interest in women caring for their homes and families.  We can embrace what God created us to be and find joy in it rather than drudgery. 

I'm not saying all women must be at home, though if I didn't think it best, I wouldn't be doing it myself.  I do think it wise to at least consider careers that are helpful to the family.  As young women, if you desire to study further after high school, perhaps you can choose something that can also help you in your God-given role as wife and mom.  I know my education degree has helped me more with my own children than it did in those two years I taught school.  I think cosmetology is an awesome field.  One of our church members was able to be at home while earning an income by having her shop in her home.  While we were in seminary, I knew several nurses who were able to work just one day a week and still keep their families' insurance coverage.

The reason I was drawn to teach on this topic is because I see far too many women delaying marriage and delaying children so long that they sometimes miss the blessings God has in store for them.  They may delay marriage because of a career.  They may delay children because they see them as hindrances.  Our best opportunity for discipleship comes through parenting.  Paul did say to remain as he was (single) because singleness makes folks more free to ministry, but it's also better to marry than to burn (1 Corinthians 7:9).  So marry, but then don't delay having children too long because the "children are an heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward" (Psalm 127:3).  We need to value children rather than see them as hindrances.

My final thought is that young women should seek the Lord's will for the work He has for them to do throughout their lives and in all the seasons, to reexamine their motives for whatever work they may be doing.  Money, a comfortable lifestyle, the fact that being at home is hard work, whatever - none of that matters in comparison to what God deems as important.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bikini Season

It's the time of year for "hot fun in the summertime": swimming in or lounging by the pool, boating on the river, and going to the beach.  I love this time of year because I love to be in the water.  When I'm pregnant (not now), it is so nice to float weightless, and always this time of year, it's just plain refreshing to get out of the heat and cool off a little.  At the beach or the river, our family enjoys God's creation, the beauty of the marshes and the awesome wonders of the ocean.

Head to most any beach or public pool, and you will see many, if not most, girls in bikinis.  I can't imagine letting my little ones run around in nothing more than their underwear covers in front of strangers, though I know it is the norm.  Most modest women reading this are in full agreement with me at this point, but...

I'm not saying we should do away with bikinis.  I own and wear several bikini sets myself.  GASP!  What is the preacher's wife saying?

When modest women dress, they not only need to consider that they're representing God, but they need to dress for their husbands.  If you've got a private backyard or a boat that takes you to a quiet place, your husband may be happy to see you in a bikini and erase any mental images he may have of other women.  If you go on a vacation, don't be afraid to pull out a bikini (or strapless maxi dress) to whoo your husbands, who were designed by God as visually stimulated creatures.  Keep the spark of your marriage alive as you dress for your husbands!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ministering to the Bereaved

Last week, my husband preached his maternal grandfather's funeral.  It was a great honor to him, to be able to reflect on his father's life publicly and to share the gospel with those who need the Lord.

I was unable to attend either of my grandparents' funerals.  I took a toddler and four-day-old baby (along with the aide of my husband and mother-in-law) on a six hour journey to see my grandfather just before his death.  Upon our return home, literally just after walking through the door, I received the phone call that he had passed away.  Grateful to have seen him and had a good conversation telling him about his new great-granddaughter, I didn't want to put my family through the torture of traveling again for his funeral.  When my grandmother passed away, I again had a newborn, less than a week old.  Then, with three children, my husband made the journey alone to help preach her funeral.

Reflecting on these times anew because of our recent "loss" and the gracious love poured out on us, I was reminded of all the good things we can do to show love during times of bereavement.  I have to admit that I had grown a little callous in the way I've handled preparing meals for those in their sorrow.  I needed the reminder of what a ministry it can be to do these simple tasks.

It is incredibly helpful to prepare meals for those going through the loss of a loved one.  When I came home after seeing my grandad, a church member brought our family a meal and a simple Christmas wreath for my door (it was December).  After the long journey, it was nice to just be able to sit down at mealtime.  Again, this time, it was so nice to not have to think about getting meals together.  At least two churches and some coworkers of folks in the family brought meals.  We didn't have to worry about lunch or dinner.  Some great friends (a brother and sister in Christ) even brought breakfast to us one morning.  I hope to not forget this blessing in the future.

Attending a funeral is an especially touching gesture.  One of the ways the pain of a loss is softened is by seeing loved ones.  The impromptu family reunions that come about through funerals is a bittersweet blessing.  Older folks are much more inclined to attend funerals, and I suppose it is because more of them are free to do so because of retirement, but when younger folks can be free, it is so nice.  I was especially touched by one of my husband's cousins (on the other side of the family), her husband, and baby attending the funeral.  I knew it took effort, but I felt such love from them for my mother-in-law.  It was worth it.

Providing childcare is a big help!  My oldest daughter (almost seven) wanted to stand in the receiving line prior to the funeral, and it was great to see her be so ladylike.  On the other hand, there's no way my youngest two, especially, would've made it through that or the funeral.  Praise God for some friends of the family we knew could be trusted to care for our children (mine and my sister-in-law's) for a couple of hours.

Hopefully, going through this time will help me to minister better in the future!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Thoughts on Kids' Bible Selection

Mother's Day 2012 may go down in history as my favorite of all time.  "G Bug", my middle daughter, was baptized!  She had made her public profession of faith in Jesus as her Savior two weeks before.  Ever since her sister was baptized on Father's Day last year, she has had many questions about salvation.  Having always struggled with her behavior more than her older sister, she totally understood depravity and the "blackness" of sin.  She knew Jesus was needed to clean it all up, and she came to us (her parents) wanting to have a final talk about making Jesus the Lord of her life.

G Bug just received her first "real" Bible for Christmas this past year.  When we've given our oldest two their Bibles as gifts, my thoughts and prayers have always been that our children could become Christians through reading them.  God has answered those prayers!

Bible selection wasn't easy.  I asked several friends, but many of them (being in the same stage of life as myself) didn't really know what Bible choice was best either.  Now that I've been through this with my husband and been happy with our choices, I thought I'd share how we arrived at them.

First, Scriptural wording isn't a foreign language in our home.  Most mornings, we read from God's word, and for that family time, we often choose to read the Holman Christian Standard because of the literal translation from the original Hebrew and Greek texts and for the easy-to-understand, modern wording.  I'm not saying this is the translation your family should use.  As my husband often says, the best translation is the one you read.  I'm just sharing why we have chosen it for our family.  We also read a children's Bible storybook at bedtime.  These are obviously condensed versions of the stories we know well from God's Word.

Secondly, we considered the translation my husband uses to preach.  What does your pastor use?  This is helpful to consider because beginning readers need all the help they can get to follow along during worship services. 

When my oldest daughter was just beginning to read, and before we bought her Bible, she carried a children's devotional Bible to church, which mainly had pictures and sections of Scripture throughout the book.  She commented to her dad one Sunday that the words he preached weren't in her Bible!  Being a very biblical, expository preacher, that didn't sit well!  We knew she needed the translation he preaches from, which for full disclosure is usually the New King James Version.  Occasionally, he may use another translation, but most of the time, our daughters can follow along when he preaches because they have a Bible with all of the same words.

When our girls were baptized, they were given a copy of God's Word from their church, and this was the Holman Christian Standard version.  This is what they study from during their quiet times and what they memorize.  So finally, we have them using a translation that is easy to understand but that has not departed from the original intent of the authors God inspired to write.  This means they have one Bible for church and one for home use, but it works for us.

I'm not saying that our way is the only way to choose a Bible for a child, but considering all of this really helped us to feel like we were making wise decisions.  Maybe it may help you as well!