Archive | March, 2022

Comfort and Deprivation {Lent 2022}

27 Mar

We’re about halfway through the Lenten season. I don’t always give up something for Lent (I don’t believe it’s biblically necessary to do so) but I do like how it increases the anticipation of Easter, much like Advent does for Christmas.

Often when someone gives something up for Lent, they use the time or resources they would’ve spent on said thing and focus on God instead. Instead of scrolling social media, they pray. Instead of buying Starbucks, they donate to a charity. Travis and I gave up grains for Lent, which hasn’t really resulted in either a time or money savings (in fact, it has cost more money and taken more time to prepare foods that don’t contain grains).

So what’s the purpose then? Well, not eating grains has prevented me from eating the usual low-hanging fruit of cereal, bagels, quesadillas, toast, mac & cheese. And those first few days were rough, because it felt like I was hungry all the time, but couldn’t just go grab something. I had to slow down and make something to eat. As I reflected on that, I saw how my soul is constantly thirsty, but I often try to appease it by grabbing the easiest thing — another cup of coffee, a glass of wine, a movie, a book, shopping, social media. My real need is to slow down and nourish my soul with God’s word.

After those first few days, we adapted and it wasn’t as big of a struggle to not eat grains. But as the days went by, I noticed how much comfort I usually derive from my food. Not that I was emotionally overeating before, but I never felt deprived. Now I felt deprived, because certain foods that I enjoyed and wanted to eat were off-limits. The feeling of deprivation is the reason why I don’t do diets, but for the period of Lent, I let that feeling remind me that I’m not supposed to feel comfortable and satisfied here on Earth. This world is not my home. I am a sojourner, an exile.

Because we stopped buying bread, tortillas, mac & cheese, etc. during this time, the kids have also been “deprived” of their normal foods (though they do still eat some grains in the form of crackers and stuff). They have done well overall with the difference, but it gave us an opportunity to talk with the girls about the anticipation of heaven, and how we shouldn’t feel completely at home here, because the world does not love Jesus.

I will confess that I haven’t stuck to no grains 100%. There have been a few times when I was so. hungry. (breastfeeding mom here!) that I caved and ate a bowl of oatmeal. It’s also birthday season in our house (all our kids’ birthdays are March, April, and May), and we had Neola’s dedication. So there’s been some cake. But giving up something for Lent is about the heart, not some legalistic requirement. Since it has caused me to reflect on and examine my desires for creature comforts and the lack of deprivation in any area of my life (except sleep!), I would say that it has accomplished its purpose so far.

It has also shown me that while I don’t plan to continue the no-grains thing indefinitely, I do differentiate between grains that are worth eating, and grains that are not. A grain that is worth it for me is a burger bun. Eating a burger without a bun is just soooo not the same. Another would be pizza — I love me some pizza (though the cauliflower crust kind from Costco is great too!). A grain that is not worth it for me is spaghetti, or really any type of pasta. I don’t ever crave pasta, so I don’t feel deprived not eating it.

Only 3 weeks to go until Easter!

Hope: Don’t Give Up {2022 Focus}

23 Mar

My word for 2022 is HOPE. The subtitle for that word is Don’t Give Up. The Scripture God gave me for the word HOPE is Lamentations 3:21-23 —

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

An alternate translation of verse 22 is:

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.”

It is God’s mercy to me that I am not consumed by this season of life (parenting four young kids and homeschooling). It is because of His compassion to me that I haven’t given up and curled into the fetal position indefinitely. There are so many moments, even whole days when I am tempted to. Because it all feels like too much. From my viewpoint, I am falling short in every area — parenting, homeschooling, homemaking, personal goals.

When one is trying so hard to do something right and well, but still meeting with failure, it would be understandable to just give up, right?

But God’s steadfast love prevents me from giving up. He sustains me by giving new mercies every morning, mainly in the form of HOPE.

The way I’m viewing HOPE is this: Hope doesn’t give up. Hope doesn’t look at the challenges before it and grow discouraged. Hope isn’t cynical or pessimistic. Instead, Hope continues to believe that things can change. Hope keeps showing up, pressing forward, living faithfully into God’s calling for that day. Hope accepts what God allows, even if it is not what was wanted.

I can’t count how many times I’ve had to “call to mind” God’s mercies for HOPE so far this year.

When I want to work out in the morning, and be productive after the kids go to bed, but sleep deprivation from baby Neola makes extra sleep the greater priority, I have to remind myself of hope.

When I feel incapable and daunted by the thought of and need for potty training Corbin and sleep training Neola, I remind myself of hope.

When the girls are showing troublesome attitudes and Corbin is throwing yet another tantrum, and I am tempted to feel like I’ve failed them as a mother because of what I’ve allowed them to do, or acted like myself, I remind myself of hope.

My natural human reaction to these discouraging and overwhelming situations is self-pity. Like Oswald Chambers writes,

“Most of us collapse at the first grip of pain. We sit down at the door of God’s purpose and enter a slow death through self-pity.”

(Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest)

But HOPE reminds me that I don’t have to give up, or collapse in the face of these challenges. God gives new mercies. I can trust Him to keep providing, day by day, what I need. I can trust Him even if I don’t meet my goals, if I lose my temper again, if my house is a mess, if I can’t figure out how to get Neola to sleep better. My purposes may remain unfulfilled, but HIS purposes will be accomplished.

God’s provision of new mercies every day won’t mean that I wake up in the morning or enter different situations feeling competent or on top of things. I hardly ever feel that way, and I actually think that is intentional on God’s part. Jesus fed 5,000-plus people with just five loaves of bread and two fish. He didn’t produce a banquet table laden with food. He just stretched the existing food farther. He takes the little that we have, and He makes it enough, as we need it.

As I’ve been digging into Lamentations 2:21-25, I read in a John Piper sermon transcript (from almost exactly 28 years ago),

“Our task today is not to have the strength needed for tomorrow’s burdens. Our task today is to live by the mercies given for today, and to believe that there will be new mercies for tomorrow. Today’s mercies do not include strength for tomorrow; they include faith that tomorrow’s unseen mercies will be sufficient for tomorrow.”

(John Piper, “Today’s Mercies for Today’s Troubles,” March 13, 1994)

I love that. Like the manna given to the Israelites in the wilderness, God gives just enough for each day. I must live in moment by moment dependence on Him. And because His provision of mercy for this day, this moment is always sufficient (and abundantly so!) for my need, I can always have HOPE.

Here’s to a hope-filled year.

Neola Bethany: 10 Months

20 Mar

Neola is 10 months old as of March 12!

Size

Neola went to the doctor on March 6 for her 9-month checkup, and was 20 lb 9 oz (80%), 29 inches tall (85%), with a head circumference of 18.5 inches (98%).

She is wearing mostly 18-month clothes now, though some 12-month things still fit. I will say that I have zero tolerance for annoying clothes with the #fourthchild so some things that Emma and Annabelle wore quite a bit, I haven’t used at all with her because they are just so high maintenance (mainly dresses and non-onesie shirts). So I did just buy her some more long-sleeve onesies and pants in size 18 Months, because she’ll use them even during spring here in Minnesota.

This month, I also passed along a lot of our baby gear to a friend who is having her fifth (and thought she was done after four, so got rid of her baby stuff then). I got rid of all baby clothes 9 months and under (I’ve saved a few things, but most I am donating), our Bumbo seat, Rock n Play, all our bottles, pacifiers, bouncy seat, playmat, and swing. I will probably be sad later, but right now, I am just on the high of freeing up space!

Sleeping

Neola’s sleep is still a struggle. I just went back and read all the 10-month blog posts from our other kids and it’s safe to say that Neola is the worst in the sleep department. (Neola, your sleep is the woooooorst!)

Her naps are *almost never* over an hour long (on a rare occasion, she will take a longer afternoon nap, if I nurse her the whole time). Most of the time, her naps are 30-45 minutes. She nurses to sleep 95% of the time (I try not to, but she fights me until I do it), but I can detach her, hold her for another 5-10 minutes, and then put her down in the crib. She will stay sleeping initially, but always wakes up after 15 minutes or so. So I try to only do that for her morning nap (I don’t want her to get overtired).

Because her naps are so short, she still takes three naps a day (occasionally four). She is usually up for the day around 6/6:30 and goes to bed around 7:30/8. Her bedtime should probably be earlier some nights, but that means Travis has to put the older three to bed by himself then, and I feel bad doing that night after night.

We have worked out a decent system though — once all kids have put pajamas on, brushed their teeth, and gone potty/had a diaper change, I go nurse Neola, Corbin watches iPad, and Travis reads a book to the girls. When he’s done reading, the girls go to bed, and Travis moves to Corbin’s room (Corbin has developed a bad habit of wanting us to sit in his room until he falls asleep). This is also the routine I follow if I have to put all the kids down by myself, though I put the girls down earlier and then nurse Neola in Corbin’s room while he falls asleep. Four kids at these ages/needs is a juggling act!

I’m kind of in a quandary for how to fix Neola’s sleep habits, because our house is always so loud, and Corbin almost always interrupts her naps, and how do you time a baby’s naps while taking care of 3 other kids and homeschooling?? And then at night, even if we wanted to let her cry it out, Corbin’s room is right next to hers, and the girls’ room is right below. Uff da.

Between Corbin’s intensity and Neola’s sleep struggles, this season of parenting is relentless and has humbled me more than any other, save the season of when Emma was a newborn. There is rarely a moment when I feel like I have things under control, and even when those occur, they are invariably followed by an incident that reminds me clear as day that NO, no, I do not have things under control. I am not in control. God is in control. (See me doing a science experiment about bird beak shapes with the kids {fun! success!}, followed by Annabelle and Corbin fighting over a laundry detergent pod, and it exploding all over Neola’s nursery, staining the carpet blue. 🤦‍♀️) I have many more thoughts on this, but will stop there. Maybe the rest will make it into a different blog post.

Eating

Neola is a champion eater. While we were in Florida, she decided that she didn’t want to eat purées anymore. She would let us feed her a few bites, but then wave her arms in front of her face, knocking the spoon down.

So now she eats table foods. And the only food that she has tried and not liked was avocado. She does like: grapes, clementines & mandarin oranges, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, bananas; chicken, turkey lunch meat, taco meat; teething wafers, puffs, waffles/pancakes; cheese, yogurt, scrambled eggs; cooked broccoli, bell peppers, potatoes, green beans.

She has also tried ice cream and cake, and liked those!

She is still having issues with constipation. 😕 It got better when we were taking her to see a chiropractor, so we thought it was solved, but then she started pooping only a very little bit again back in January. Our pediatrician recommended giving her watered-down apple juice, and that has helped. We’re also going to try a prebiotic. If those don’t help, we’ll probably go back to the chiropractor.

Neola is still nursing. I nurse her before every nap (trying to move this to after her naps so that she doesn’t nurse to sleep), and she still nurses in the middle of the night. We tried giving her a bottle of formula in Florida when my milk was low after being sick, but she had no idea what to do with it (we haven’t given her a bottle since she was about 3 months old). We have an anniversary trip planned in a neighboring town at the beginning of May… hoping to have a couple kid-free nights but we’ll see!

Development

Neola is mobile, but not crawling. She gets around by leaning forward on to her belly, then scooting backwards and spinning around. She also rolls from her belly on to her back, but then kind of gets stuck there. She is also not very steady standing up yet, and doesn’t pull herself up at all, though I can see that she is getting more curious and wanting to do things like that.

She started saying “nana” in addition to “dada” and it is so cute! Baby talk is just so precious. She has also started fussing a bit if she wants a toy but you don’t give it to her, or if you take a toy away from her that she wasn’t done playing with. Love seeing their personalities emerge!

Neola hasn’t figured out how to use a spoon yet, (but we haven’t really given her many chances), but she does know how to tip up a sippy cup.

A few firsts for Neola during her tenth month of life were:

* going to the ocean

* riding a Ferris wheel

* swimming (I think technically her first time was before she turned 9 months while we were in Florida but 🤷‍♀️)

She also started sleeping in my bed toward the end of February… 😩 Now I’m on a mattress on the floor in her room.

And that’s Neola at 10 months!