Friday, December 19, 2014

Why We do St. Nick and Not Santa


 Jolly Old St. Nicholas....

I began forming my views on Santa long before I even thought about having kids or getting married. Maybe because I tend towards a black and white analytical and critical view of everything, or maybe because I had believed in Santa until I was ten... I am not sure. But I have had strong opinions on the guy for awhile.

Let me first of all say that if you are reading this and you do Santa that is awesome. My opinion really doesn't matter. If you're comfortable with your traditions and you've arrived at them prayerfully then you are probably doing the right thing for your family. We all have the freedom to change things up too if you read this or other blogs and realize maybe you don't want to "do Santa".

This blog post probably won't be anything new or revolutionary. There are dozens of blogs about Santa and St. Nick that are more insightful and detailed than this one, and I will link to them. Below is just my heart and what we've decided for our family.

St. Nick

I grew up celebrating St. Nick's Day on December 6th and it was always a lot of fun to see what he would leave outside for us to find. (I still get St. Nick gifts as an adult and the family member has yet to reveal themselves). I've read a whole book on St. Nick called The True St. Nicholas, given to me by a family member trying to convince me to do Santa. The book actually deepened my conviction to not do Santa as I learned that the original St. Nick and the modern day Santa really have hardly anything in common.

As we had started having children we hadn't established whether or not we would do St. Nick's day. Last year I ran across this blog at The Art of Simple about celebrating St. Nick's Day and my heart was rekindled for approaching St. Nick in a Christ honoring way, not as a saint to be glorified, but a man that can point us to Jesus.

We purchased these two books on St. Nick to read the night before or morning of St. Nick's Day.
St. Nicholas, the Real Story of the Christmas Legend
The Story of St. Nicholas
On the morning of St. Nick's they get a new Christmas book, movie, or craft, or some combination thereof. The point is the St. Nick's gifts point them to the true meaning of Christmas. We tell them we are playing the St Nick game and that the gifts are from Mommy and Daddy, since St. Nick is dead of course. It is fun for them to pretend, knowing it is us playing St. Nick.
In the future I'd like to play St. Nick to someone else and have the kids think of a way to bless a poor or needy family, just as St Nick did, as St. Nick followed the example of Jesus.

So that's how we incorporate St. Nick. I really appreciate them learning about the real St. Nick.

 We don't do Santa for several reasons. The first being that I see him as a distraction when incorporated in the traditional way on Christmas morning. We don't think he is evil or Satan, but he is a HUGE distraction. We don't think the birth of Christ needs anything extra to make the day more magical. If the incarnation isn't magical enough then we all need to check our hearts and try to really think about how miraculous Christ's birth actually is. Because it truly is... miraculous!
Second of all, because we want to focus on Christ, we try to keep gift-giving to a minimum and to instead focus on giving gifts to Jesus. A great book for this is The King's Christmas List.    It is really tough to do Santa and keep gift giving to a minimum. Not impossible, but tricky.
Third, we don't like the theology that modern day Santa teaches. Just think about the words to Santa Claus is Coming to Town. For thoughts on this I turn to Noel Piper. : 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

His Law is Love and His Gospel is Peace

Christmas Reflections 2014

I realize not everyone reading this celebrates Christmas, or at least may not celebrate Christmas in a religious sense. Just humor me if you would be so kind. :)

Every time I turn on the news or see news reports on the internet I just get so heavy hearted. There is so much heartbreak in the world right now; such mass killings overseas, death from diseases like Ebola, and injustice here in the U.S. that so many still experience. Then add on all sorts of other awful things like cancer and Alzheimers and child abuse and hunger and poverty, and it is so easy to become downright depressed and hopeless. I suspect many are.

This is my third Christmas with a young baby. There is something about having a baby in my arms during Christmas that makes me more reflective about how it must have been for Mary. My heart ponders things. As I have been singing through Christmas carols this year there has been something that has stood out to me. Let me share some lines from the songs with you. I think these words speak timeless truths and apply to all the calamities and strife occurring in the world today.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, verse 4: “O Come, Desire of nations, bind all peoples in one heart and mind; bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease; Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.”
Joy to the World, verse 4: “He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love.”
O Holy Night: “Oh holy night! The stars are brightly shining; It is the night of the dear savior's birth! Long lay the world in sin and error pining, Till he appear'd and the soul felt it's worth. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn! Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices, Oh night divine, Oh night when Christ was born.
Truly he taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother, And in his name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise his holy name. Christ is the Lord. Oh praise his name forever. His power and glory forever more proclaim. Fall on your knees…”

All the things I mentioned above can leave us hopeless, unless we know that one day things will be made right. The baby that was born to Mary grew up to be a Savior and a King. You see, Christ is the desire of all the nations. People of all nations yearn and long for a message that gives hope and peace. A message that promises that one day things will be different. Christ is that message. He came to bring unity, peace, and love. When we see unfair leaders, governments, and terrorist groups, we can be reminded that right now He rules the world with truth and grace. This world is weary. I’m weary, aren’t you? I am weary of the sickness, of the hate, of the violence, of children being beheaded because of their faith, of people being shot and killed, of gov’t that is unfair. I am weary. But, there is a thrill of hope inside my heart and I rejoice. My hope is in Christ and in eternity with Him, so this is cause of much rejoicing!

The words that have been bringing the most meaning to me this Christmas season are from O Holy Night. It says that He taught us to love one another, and that His law is LOVE and his gospel is PEACE.  We may not ever experience a law of love and a world of peace while on this earth, but one day, when we are with Christ in heaven or when He sets up His kingdom on earth, we will certainly experience a perfect law of love and a world of peace. We will truly see all people as our brother and sister with no distinction or prejudice, and all oppression will cease. Oh how I long for this day. How beautiful does that sound? And oh how it will be truly beautiful.

We can all experience that in our heart now, even in the midst of this crazy world. His gospel is peace. Those who trust in Him and believe that He is the Son of God can experience this love and peace right now. This is why we can have hope and rejoice!

“Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel”  We can rejoice because Emmanuel has come. He came to give us a way to know perfect love and peace, and that way is Him. Will you celebrate Him this Christmas? Maybe for the first time. I pray you will find hope in the Christmas story in a fresh and new way this year.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Elliot's Home Birth


Today marks Elliot being 1 week old and at right about this time I was in transition and in much pain. Let’s start at the beginning.

First of all, let me say that with each pregnancy Braxton Hicks contractions became more frequent and started earlier. With Elliot, I had them for at least the last 2 months and I was so over them and ready for him to come by about 35 weeks. :) He was also really low and caused a lot of pain in my lower pelvis when he moved a lot, which was usually at bedtime, the little night owl. Needless to say, I was ready for this little guy to come.

We picked the name Elliot for a few reasons. For one, it was one of the few Ben and I agreed on. We have the hardest time agreeing on names. Elliot is the Greek form of Elijah, meaning “Jehovah is God”, so we like the biblical meaning and also the man of God Elijah in the Bible. Elliot is also the surname of one of my favorite missionary couples, Jim and Elizabeth Elliot. I love their story and I love Jim’s heart and zeal for the Lord, and how he was willing to give up his own life to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ. The surname also has a lot of significance in that it has a rich Christian heritage. And we just like the name, plain and simple. His middle name is Joseph. We absolutely love and have found so much encouragement from the life of Joseph, Jacob’s son, in the book of Genesis. There is also the great godly man Joseph of Arimathea, and Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. It is also my maternal grandfather’s middle name.

With the girls labor I had experienced 2 very different labors. Brooklyn’s was very slow, lasting 16 hours, and the active labor was very manageable. I started labor at 6 am and she was born just after midnight. My postpartum was awful but the labor was great. Annalise’s labor started quickly and intensely, with contractions starting at 3 minutes apart, and transition lasting for what seemed like forever. Her birth was 11 hours and most of it very intense, but both had only about 45 minutes of pushing. With Brooklyn I tore awfully, hence the horrible postpartum recovery, but with Annalise I didn’t tear at all. I decided I would rather have a painful and intense labor and a great post partum. So there were pros and cons to each of theirs. With Elliot I was praying for an easy daytime labor that was quick, but not too intense. Hah!

We were hoping for a “cool” birthday date, like 7.7 or 7.11. When 7.7 came and went I held out hope for 7.11 and seeing that there was a full moon on the 12th I thought there was a good possibility. I had been having dance parties with the girls, taking labor prep herbs, getting adjusted regularly, and whatever other safe labor inducing activities I could think of. I thought all of this and the fact that it was a third baby would guarantee a quick labor.

On July 10th I was nursing Annalise to sleep and I felt some pains in my lower abdomen that seemed to be contractions. They were very mild and very short, but I thought it could be the beginning. I took this as a sign to really soak up what could be my last night nursing Annalise to sleep for awhile, and my last night with her as my baby, so I stayed in there and prayed and rocked her for about 45 minutes. All the while the contractions came pretty frequently. When I stopped nursing her and came downstairs the contractions went to about 10 to 15 minutes apart and still pretty mild. Around 11 we went to bed after I took some CalMag supplements to slow down labor. I was able to sleep for about 4 hours, just barely noticing the contractions in my sleep coming about 15 to 20 minutes apart. Around 4:30 am they were a little too painful to sleep through but still really far apart. At around 6am I took a bath and they slowed down a bit. I woke up Ben after this to ask him to go downstairs with me and make me a smoothie. I labored on the couch a bit. There were still at least 6 minutes apart but getting more intense. I moved to the guest room, which is where we set up the birth pool, and labored on the bed as they got closer together.

By about 8:30 they were 4-5 minutes apart and my midwife Martina prepared to head my way. She checked me when she arrived around 9:30am and I was only at a 4, but I decided to get in the pool and hope for the best. My contractions slowed down a good bit for awhile when I got in the pool, but I absolutely love the birth pool and can’t imagine labor out of water. It is amazing! Well, as amazing as it can be where labor is concerned.


From here things just got more and more intense. I quickly had to change from simple breathing techniques to more vocal tonal sounds during contractions. I would liken it to whale calls, but some might say otherwise. :) The girls were coming in and out of the birth room occasionally. Brooklyn was so ready for brother to be born and wanted to stay in the room and wait for his head to come out. Annalise wasn’t quite sure what to think. My mom and mother in law whisked them away for some errands and lunch to give us some peace and quiet.

 During all of labor I rotated between my Pandora “Sovereign Grace” station and my “Nature sounds” station. I sipped on my smoothie, "shaklee-aid" popsicles, and water. The verses I had taped up were Isaiah 41:10, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Hebrews 12:1-3, and Matthew 11:28-30.

I labored in the pool mostly, but got out for about 5 contractions at some point. As I got back in the pool I began having really painful contractions and I just wanted to push this baby out NOW. My midwife kept checking me and telling me I wasn’t ready but that I was progressing nicely. I had told them in my last appointment to not tell me how much I was dilated, so as not to discourage me, but  at some point I had to know. I was a 7. Not the news I wanted. I was feeling really “pushy”. I had a major meltdown and begged Ben to take me to the hospital so I could get an epidural. I started crying and begging and really hit a brick wall. Brooklyn was in the room at this point and said “It’s okay mommy. Once baby brother comes you will have to do this zero more times.” After the midwives explained the process for going to the hospital and how I probably wouldn’t get the pain meds in time I decided to stay home. To those of you ladies who have natural births in the hospital, you are my heroes. To say no to drugs that are right at your fingertips and have a natural birth is truly amazing to me. A big reason I birth at home is because I would probably “give in” and have drugs if they were available to me.

After my breakdown, we all decided I should get out and see if I progressed quicker. I labored on the toilet for a few contractions and started pushing. My water broke, and in my past two births my babies came about 30 minutes after my water broke. My midwife then said she could try to manually push back the rest of my cervix. Um, yes please! She was successful so I was given the go ahead to get back in the water and push. Hallelujah!

I began pushing and crowned pretty quickly. I tried my best to breathe through some contractions to give everything time to stretch. My midwife also applied counterpressure to help prevent tearing. After a bit more pushing my midwife felt inside near the head and felt the cord so she worked quickly to get it out of the way. She asked me to flip to hands and knees and in about two more contractions and pushing, Elliot was here! I held him as he caught his breath and began crying and pinking up. Goodness, I was so relieved he was here. He came into the world on 7.11 at 1:58pm after about maybe 25 or 30 minutes of pushing.

The rest is placenta delivery, then nursing sweet Elliot, health assessment and weighing. He weighed in at 8lbs, 10oz, and 20.5 inches long. Big baby!

He was born while Annalise was napping, which was a good thing. I was screaming like an amazon woman. Brooklyn was in there for the last hour of labor and saw her brother be born, although she did have to cover her ears. :) I hope she remembers seeing her brother be born always. She was a champ. My 2 midwives were there, Martina and Melissa, as well as our photographer Ana, and both of our moms. It was such an intense and humbling (yet empowering) birth, that I am so glad it was a small crowd.

He is absolutely precious and we are so blessed to have a son. The girls absolutely adore him. To say they are obsessed would definitely be a correct assessment.

We are so thankful to the Lord for allowing us to conceive. The miracle of conception and the growth and birth of a baby are truly miraculous. God is amazing! That’s all I can say.

We are so thankful to Full Circle Midwifery as well for wonderful prenatal care and an amazing birth experience.

And that’s all she wrote….

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Our First Home, A Memoir

This, our first home, will be hard to leave. So many memories have been made here indeed. This has been my first real home as an adult, my first home as a wife, my first home as a mom. This home is so much more than brick and mortar and four walls. This home is full of memories and love. This home will be hard to leave.

This is the home where I visited when dating my husband. This is the home where he proposed. Candles and rose petals everywhere, he got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife. I can still see it all now ever so clearly. Memories etched in my mind. This is the home that became ours, transformed from a stale bachelor pad to a beautiful home where we would start our life.

This is the home where we entertained friends and made new ones. This is the home where we hosted international students from all over the world, squeezing into our tiny home that felt so big with love. This is the home where 5-15 girls from all over the world would come to and learn about Jesus for many months. This is a home that God allowed us to use to serve Him and others.

This is the home where we made our babies, and literally birthed our first two. In the “nook” of our bedroom I laid in the water tub laboring and bringing forth new life into this world. Never has this bedroom been filled with so much love. This is the home where I bounced colicky newborns and snuggled them in my arms. This is the home that was filled with laughter and noise as our family grew from two to three to four.

This is the home where I hosted my first, second, and twentieth playdate, as I formed my first “mommy” friends and shared deeply from the heart the joys and struggles of motherhood. This is the home where I learned to cook and bake and fill my families hearts and tummies full with food and love. This washer and dryer have washed loads and loads of clothes to keep my family warm. This bathtub has bathed my girls and kept them clean. This yard has provided hours and hours of fun and entertainment.

These neighbors at my first home are the most amazing thing of all. I wish I could pack them all up. These neighbors at our first home care and love relentlessly and selflessly and are always there. I know this block like the back of my hand. I know their cars, their comings and goings, their dogs, and many of their stories, yet I wish I knew them all more. The streets of Colonial Acres I know very well. I have walked them for five and a half years. First it was the two dogs and I, then the first baby and I plus the dogs, now the two girls and I, and one dog. Five years of walking and praying and enjoying the landscape of beautiful homes and majestic oak trees, but most of all smiling faces and warm “hellos”.

I will be sad to leave these neighbors, these streets, our first home. This home where we went through job changes, and family changes. This home where we laughed, cried, and prayed. This home where we loved and hoped, and tickled little bellies.

Chances are the kids won’t remember much about this, our first home. They are young enough now, that it will be a faint memory, that only pictures will shed light on. They will remember our next home as their “first” home and have memories there. But my husband and I will always know this was our first home, where we became husband and wife, and parents. 4680 Flamingo will always be our first home.

Our home is for sale. If in Memphis please check out the Zillow ad and spread the word. 
4680 Flamingo Rd on Zillow