Tuesday, October 15, 2013

For First-Time Parents:Maintaining (or Starting) a Quiet Time

This is Part Five of the First-Time Parents series. Check out the other posts about sleeping, napping, feeding and potty training.


Becoming a first (or second or third…) time mother can be overwhelming. You likely are tired from frequent feedings and the huge learning curve that is your new baby. Life will never be the same so how are you expected to keep on with your previous life as usual? How are you supposed to find an extra 15/30/60 minutes in your day to spend time with God as you did pre-baby? More than likely, you won’t be able to replicate your previous quiet time schedule. However, if you are willing to be flexible and think outside the “quiet time” box, it is possible to still spend time with God in a meaningful way.

Image by graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Your day is made up of multiple cycles of feeding, changing, and putting your baby down to sleep. New parents are encouraged to “sleep when the baby sleeps”. If you have older children at home, this isn’t really possible. In this case, you could begin “quiet room time” for your older child/ren during one of the baby’s naps and use that time with God (or to nap initially, because honestly sometimes that’s what has to happen in order to function). Once you are getting better night time sleep you might be able to forgo the nap and turn it in to your time with God.

There’s another way to spend time with God and still get those much needed zzzs. The great thing about prayer is that you can do it anywhere at any time. Newborns eat 8 to 12 times each day. During that time your arms are occupied, but you can spend that time praying. Pray about your current circumstances, your new baby, other mothers, concerns that you know about, your church – essentially anything and everything. I found this was a great way to spend my time when I was up in the middle of the night for a feeding. It helped me to stay somewhat alert and the time passed a little faster. Perhaps God wants to create a new group of prayer warriors through new moms willing to make use of these chunks of time.

For time in God’s word, get a Bible app for your phone. You can then also read the Bible while feeding your baby (assuming you can feed and still have one hand free). If you need a guide for what to read, YouVersion has a variety of devotionals to choose from including several specifically for parents.

If you are someone who journals, you can attempt to type in a document on your phone, but that’s pretty tedious. Either accept that this part of your qt will have to go on the back burner for awhile or make time for it when your child is sleeping.

You will probably be tempted to temporarily suspend time with God in the early weeks. I would recommend attempting some of the above suggestions instead. You will be exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed, and possibly experience some depression symptoms. You will want and need God’s provision for comfort, strength, endurance, hope, and peace more than ever. Be faithful to God and he will be faithful to you.

Eventually you should be able to get back to time with God that looks more like what you had pre-kids. Now that both of my children sleep all night I have been trying to daily get up thirty to forty-five minutes before my kids to spend time with God before the day takes over. It is a sacrifice for me (I love sleep) but I feel much better when I make God a priority.

Have you thought about how you might continue to meet with God when your current routine changes? Do you already have children and are working this out? Have you figured out a way to carve out time to meet with God each day and have advice to share?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sometimes the Truth Hurts

  I've been posting lately mostly from what has been going on presently in my life. Today I shall continue with that trend. Once again I will be referencing the Seeking Him study. If you are looking to have an authentic, deeper relationship with God I highly recommend this book. It can be done on your own but it has been wonderful being able to talk about it in a group setting with other women.

  Week three of the study was about honesty. Honesty is what allows us to truly connect with God and others (honesty in connection with repentance in God's case). We can't really grow into the people we were created to be unless we are willing to be open about who we are. I know that I struggle with the desire to hide my sins and temptations. I want people to think that I am doing a-okay and have this God-thing down. I have the prideful desire to be seen as having it all together. The truth is that I don't.
Image by stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  At church we've been going through a series called Rise and Fall which follows the life of David. Our overarching verse for the series is 1 Corinthians 10:12, So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! It's been encouraging to be reminded that everyone has highs and lows. There is no one who is not susceptible to temptation. It is also hope giving to see that a mistake does not cut you off from God's plan for your life. It does not mean he can no longer use you. If you are willing to be honest about your mistake, confessing it to him in repentance, your relationship with God can be restored.

  In our honesty chapter two verses were given to us as reminders. Luke 12:2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. and Hebrews 4:13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

  These verses were brought to my mind last week when I found myself in a situation where I could be a woman of integrity and honesty or commit a sin of omission. The kids and I went to Family Christian to purchase a gift. While there I also picked up a few other things I couldn't seem to leave behind. I used a coupon which I was quite excited about. When I got home I looked over the receipt and noticed that two of the items I purchased had not been rung up. Part of me had this thought: Score! It's not your fault that the items didn't ring up so you can keep them. The part of me that is being changed through our study reminded me of the verses above and thought: Even if it wasn't your fault you have realized the error and you should correct it. There's a good chance I wouldn't have shared this dilemma with you if I had chosen not to take the stuff back to the store to pay for it. I was dreading taking the kids back again and spending more time on this errand I thought was finished. However, I did also see that this was a wonderful teaching opportunity for my three year old and I attempted to explain the situation in a way she could understand. [Full disclosure: This may not seem like a big issue to some, but I can be a little tight with money. I tend to jump on opportunities to save. Choosing to pay more money for something when I don't have to is uncomfortable and a stretch for me.]

  A similar circumstance happened a few years ago at a different store. I purchased a few things. It seemed to me that one did not ring up so I said this to the clerk and she said that everything was fine. I paid and went home. At home I looked over my receipt and saw that indeed the item did not get rung up. I did not return to the store to correct the error. At the time I rationalized this choice because I had said something to the clerk during the transaction.

  I am thankful that now my heart is being bent toward greater depths of honesty and integrity. I am not enjoying the random reminders of past instances of dishonesty or compromised integrity God is bringing to mind. They make me uncomfortable and a little disappointed in myself. However I can rejoice in the knowledge that the reminders afford me the opportunity for true repentance and forgiveness.

Do you ever struggle with honesty? The sin of omission? Do you find that, although God's work in your heart hurts at times, ultimately it brings joy and healing?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Preparing for Childbirth

I have been described as organized and a planner. I was a good student in school and did plenty of research for papers and studying for tests. I like to be as prepared as possible for whatever situations I will be facing. This was no different when we decided to have a child. I only have one brother who is two and a half years younger. My family moved away from our relatives when I was three years old. I didn't have younger cousins close by that I spent time with as babies to understand how child rearing worked. I babysat some as a young teen but that was only for a few hours at a time and never for children under one year of age. As an adult I knew very little about taking care of a baby. So how was I going to get ready for becoming a parent? The same way I prepare for anything else.

LB's birthday. More confident the second time around.
I checked out multiple books from the library on pregnancy, labor, delivery and caring for a newborn. I signed up on pregnancy websites that would let me know what to expect each week and month of pregnancy and gave advice about babies and child rearing. I signed up for a class at the hospital. Sounds like normal stuff of every expectant parent. A year or so before thinking I was ready to become pregnant I signed up to volunteer in the nursery at church. I thought perhaps a little hands-on experience might help me feel more comfortable with handling babies, changing diapers and listening to crying. Now that was only about an hour per week, but it was much better than no hours per week leading up until childbirth, and I got to test out the 5 S's I'd read about in Dr. Harvey Karp's The Happiest Baby on the Block book.

The hospital class covered mainly labor and delivery. We received a tour of the hospital and talked about how to recognize the different stages of labor and the many options of coping with pain. I almost felt like I was in the class too soon because I had more time to go than anyone else. I know now I would not have finished the class if I had waited to take the next one. It was kind of fun talking about our ideal scenario for labor and delivery. I thought perhaps I might like to labor as far as I could without an epidural. I wondered if my labor would be short like my mom's was with my brother. I hoped that it would not be like my birth (I started to arrive feet first so my mom was knocked out for an emergency c-section). The only truly useful thing I ended up getting out of that class was to "be flexible".

Because I was undecided about an epidural I took an additional hospital seminar, Everything You Want To Know About Epidurals. I figured getting some information about this specific subject would be useful. It was led by one of the hospital's anesthesiologists. He covered the differences between an epidural and a spinal block and the risks and percentages. Afterward I felt that I would be fine should I decide that I wanted an epidural sometime during my labor.

Fast forward to my thirty-sixth week of pregnancy. My husband and I go into my 36 week appointment together. I had gone by myself the week before and learned that my baby was breach and I had already begun dilating. After stressing and crying about the real possibility of a c-section during the weekend, I came back with my support team. The doctor checks me and then requests the ultrasound technician to take a look at the baby. It is discovered that the baby is still head up and is essentially sitting on the umbilical cord. This means that if I were to go into labor, the cord could come out first and cut off the oxygen supply to the baby which is obviously very dangerous. The doctor turns to us and says, "You are having a baby today!" Definitely not what we were expecting. PB had to drop me off at the hospital and then go home, pack our hospital bags, and come back. And let work know he would not be in that day. Or the next several.

And that is why "be flexible" is the best advice I received from all of my info gathering. Pretty much everything else I read about labor and delivery was not needed. Of course, I should have read more about what to expect with c-sections. No matter what you study, there's always a curve ball on the test.

Looking back on your childbirth experiences, what was the best advice you received? Did you feel prepared?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Lesson in Humility: Part Two

Last week I shared a bit of my struggle with humility thanks to the awesome study Seeking Him I'm doing with some ladies at church. This Sunday we had a guest speaker, Damian Boyd from Vertical Church in Atlanta. I had switched nursery duty with someone and was bummed to be missing him speak as I had heard wonderful things the last time he spoke at our church (which I somehow also missed). After service my husband told me that after last week's post about raising hands in worship I needed to listen to the podcast of his message. Last night I had a little down time so I pulled up the message on my phone and got comfortable on the couch.

Oh man! If you think you know God or love God or are doing it right as a Christian you need to listen to his message. Actually, if you are a person you should listen to his message. It was powerful. It was convicting. It made me sad that I missed it live but thankful for the wonders of the technology age. I will share a little bit of what struck me personally.

He talked about how stoic a lot of us tend to be at church. Some of us are afraid to sing for fear others will hear our less-than-melodic voices. I was there once (and sometimes still am). Some of us are not very demonstrative and keep our hands by our sides or in our pockets. I am there most of the time. Damian sliced right to the heart and asked if that's how we act while attending or watching sporting events (appropriate as it's football season). Ouch! I have been known to yell and cheer and clap for a sports team and yet I don't do that with the same free abandon when worshipping God. How is a team of people - broken, imperfect people I don't even know - worthy of devotion and honor and praise much more than a holy, perfect God who knows me intimately, draws me close to him, guides me and blesses me? Something is messed up here and it's me. If this is how I act am I saying that I don't believe God is worthy of all these things? Or do I not think that he is present in a group of believers? Am I treating church like a religious obligation instead of an opportunity to spend precious time with my Savior and show my adoration for him?

In light of this revelation my little "breakthrough" of moving my arms away from my sides seems like an offering of worthless junk. I can see now that I actually took pride in my "accomplishment". And yet it pales in comparison to what God deserves. Oh, that he loves us anyway! It is blowing my mind at how gracious and compassionate and loving God is. I am thankful that he loves us so much that he blesses us in our small steps toward becoming who we were created to be and fulfilling our purpose. The gap between where I am and where I should be is a chasm that I am beginning to see more and more clearly. However, God has given me hope and experiential evidence that he will help me cross it. I am so thankful for the sins he is revealing in my heart and the truth he is planting. I feel that I am in the midst of a great humbling experience with God and look forward to the blessings it will bring along the way.

There was so much more to this message that cut me to the quick. Perhaps I'll expound some more in a future post. For now I encourage anyone reading this to go listen to it. If you missed the link up top, here it is again: When God Is In Our Midst by Damian Boyd.

Do you worship God as extravagantly as you do when supporting another person in an event? Do you struggle with pride and humility in some way? Have you personally experienced God's grace?