Looking for Blessings in Everyday Life

This past weekend I was feeling very sorry for myself. Tons of bills were due, my back was hurting a lot, I was depressed (I was diagnosed with clinical depression a few months back), Sadie was acting up, my hubby was working for the 6th day in a row…everything seemed to be hitting me at once. I was cranky and feeling absolutely miserable.

…And then God stepped in and I found thanks in all of it.

He showed me that I really need to give thanks in all circumstances like the Good Book says. Perhaps these circumstances seem trivial to you but they felt overwhelming to me. I was in tears when He showed me that His blessings are in all areas of my life. As I complained silently (and not so silently) He very obviously showed me what I needed to focus on to adjust my attitude.

Thank God I had all those bills! I had the money to pay for the fancy cell phone, the electricity in my comfortable house in a safe neighborhood, the renters insurance on all of our material stuff, and other “necessities” than so many people cannot afford. We even had enough money left over for lots of nutritious food, gasoline for our two working cars, and a little bit left over for our vacation in October. It humbles me that God has blessed us with so much. I was a little embarrassed that I complained about those bills when we obviously had enough to cover them. Sorry Lord…sometimes my humanity gets in the way. Thank you for reminding me to keep my eyes on you.

My back certainly did hurt but God blessed me with wonderful medical care and medicine! Sure it wasn’t fun to have that backache (which still hurts today), but I had medicine I could take for the pain and I could go get excellent medical care from a doctor if I needed it. So many people even in this great country can’t say that…but I can. Thank you, Jesus for taking care of me!

I was depressed. So the chemicals in my brain make me feel depressed, make me have panic attacks, and sometimes life feels like it gets too hard…but it could be so much worse! I am very guilty of letting this overtake me, especially in the last few months. It’s been my go to excuse to not do things I to have to do, or like to do. However bad this depression is, I could have a terrible, debilitating mental illness, or a brain tumor, or a terminal illness instead of treatable depression. My illness is pretty effectively treated by the miracle of antidepressants. What a blessing the Creator of the Universe has bestowed on me! Thank God I am only depressed and have Him (and my family) to lean on when it gets hard!

Sadie was being a little stinker for me while Daddy was gone. Oh she was in fine form but she is mine! I know so many people struggle to conceive a child and she came to us quickly despite my polycycstic ovarian disorder. Somewhere someone would have loved to have the “problem” of a little one kicking the walls, yelling no, and acting like a little crazy person. My sweet three year old is one of the biggest blessings I have ever been given. She is a true miracle and God reminded me of that as I sat at the kitchen table bemoaning my “hardship” of a difficult three year old.

Todd had worked 18 long hours that Friday and was working again early Saturday morning. That put me in a horrible mood because I was alone the day before and again that morning with a difficult child. But God reminded me that so many people are out of work and so working long hours is a blessing. Working ANY hours is a blessing these days. And those long hours will pay for all the other blessings in our life – bills, daycare, and food. A secondfold blessing is that I have a husband who works so hard. My husband is the most honest, hardworking man I know. Thank you God for such a sweet and busy man for a husband and his job.

This whole thing might be a little saccharine to some. I get that. But this isn’t just a “look for the silver lining” reminder. This is a reminder to look for God’s hand and blessing in everything, especially the hard to understand or difficult. God is there and He will show himself in those hard times. Try to focus on the blessing and not the hard parts of your life. God blesses us all, in everything! All we need to do is look and He will show us how.

Spiritual Aspects of Breastfeeding

Madonna with the Green Cushion
 by Italian painter Andrea Solario

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” Isaiah 49:15

My husband and I made the decision to breastfeed our daughter. We took the classes, read everything we could on the topic, and, despite an incredibly rocky start, we were successful. I am very proud of this fact because so many women try but end up failing because they don’t have the support at home or work that I had while I was nursing my daughter. My workplace was great about letting me have a place and the time to pump and my husband was my cheerleader and my own personal lactation consultant. My mom constantly told me how proud she was of us, and my in laws never batted an eye when I took Sadie from their arms to nurse her.

I did a lot of praying while I nursed my daughter. She was a reverse cycler, which meant she nursed almost constantly at night, so I was awake a lot in the quiet of night. There is something peacefully spiritual about being up when the whole world is asleep. I would pray and nurse, nurse and pray. It became for me a type of religious experience because of all the praying I did while I nursed Sadie! I thanked God for my baby and how perfect she was. I asked God to bless other mommas who were awake with their babies. He got a lot of prayers for abundant supply so we could keep our nursing relationship strong. I thought about Mary being tired when Jesus needed to nurse 500 times at night. As an older first time mom, I wondered if Sarah worried about being too old when Isaac was little and needed so much from her.

Nursing my daughter helped me to better understand my faith in God. I know what it means to sacrifice myself for another person in a way I did not understand before I was a parent. When Sadie was tiny and needed to nurse every two hours, I did it without a second thought. When she needed to nurse during dinner, we waited to eat so she could. Every break at work was spent with a pump attached to my body. My lunches were a mad dash to daycare with a peanut butter sandwich in hand so I could breastfeed Sadie. She came first…Todd and I came second. We sacrificed sleep, quiet time, and sometimes our sanity so our tiny girl could get fat on momma’s milk.

And get fat she did! Sadie nursed a lot and thank God, I had a strong supply. Sometimes when she was asleep I would want her to wake up to nurse. My breasts would ache from being too full. Once in a while I could get her to “dreamfeed” – nurse in her sleep – but more often I not-so-patiently waited for her to wake up. She often did shortly after I was ready to nurse her as though she knew I was waiting for her. I wanted her to need me and she instinctively knew she needed me. When Sadie was hungry she knew I would be there to feed her.

The momma-baby bond we had made me reflect on the God-human bond. It physically hurt me at times to be separated from Sadie. I can only imagine how God feels when we ignore Him. I could poke and prod Sadie a bit when she was asleep to try to wake her…but she really needed to come to me when she was hungry. God wants us to want him. He pokes and prods us sometimes but really wants us to come to Him on our own. And when He does poke and prod it usually isn’t long before we wake. God is there before we cry out to Him like I was there for Sadie. He stands over us no matter what, and waits for us to call out to Him. I really love that nursing my baby taught me about how God wants me to need Him and does not want to be separated from me.

Just as nursing Sadie has strengthened my faith, weaning Sadie had spiritual allusions for me as well. I wasn’t sure how to go about ending nursing but reading about the weaning of Isaac inspired me: “The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast” (Gen 21:8). So to wean Sadie, we did what all good parents do – we bribed her with the promise of a party!

In all seriousness, we explained that she was a big girl and big girls don’t nurse. We talked about how momma didn’t make much milk anymore (to which she responded by telling me that hers didn’t work either!) After a few weeks of discussing her party and explaining that she was a big girl, we went to bed one night without nursing. It was a wonderful end to a significant chapter in our lives. We later had a party with family and friends to celebrate Sadie’s becoming a big girl. She still talks about her party because it meant a lot to her.

There comes a point in our spiritual lives where we have to graduate from milk to meat too. Weaning Sadie really brought that home to me. It was very hard for me to let go of our nursing relationship and admit that my baby was a big girl who didn’t need the breast anymore. It wasn’t easy for Sadie either but she is flourishing. God has designed us to grow out of our childish things and although I admit that I am still on milk a lot of the time, I am trying to graduate to meat. And I can do it, with God’s help.

New Car Seat Recommendations

Our daughter is still rear-facing in her convertible car seat and she is 2.5 years old. I’ve gotten some odd looks and confused comments, but overall most people don’t really seem to care which direction her car seat faces. However, if you have an infant or toddler, you need to care about how you buckle your little one into the car. The fact is that the recommendations on when to forward-face your infant or toddler have changed significantly in the last few weeks.

We all know that children under 1 year of age need to rear face in their infant seats until age 1 or 20 pounds…but now the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that toddlers stay in rear-facing car seats until age 2, or until they reach the maximum height or weight for their seat. According to the AAP press release, children under age 2 are 75% less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are riding rear-facing. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in children and many more children are seriously injured when involved in car accidents. Extending the time a child rear faces cuts the risk of serious neck and spinal cord injury.

The NHTSA is also touting the benefits of extended rear-facing for toddlers. They recommend a rear-facing seat because when involved in a crash, it cradles and moves with the child to reduce the stress to the child’s fragile neck and spinal cord. A rear-facing seat distributes the force of a crash over the entire body and seat so that the force is not concentrated in the most fragile parts of the body. It is five times safer for a child to sit rear-facing than forward-facing in a car.

There is always a Nosy Nellie who wants to tell me how clueless we are to keep Sadie rear-facing at over 2 years old. I once had someone tell me that if we were in a really bad accident, her legs would be broken. Honestly, if I was in a terrible crash that totaled my car I would be happy to take broken legs instead of the internal decapitation that happens more often in serious accidents where an infant or toddler is forward-facing. And through my extensive personal research on the subject, I have not come across broken legs as a consequence or “side effect” of extended rear-facing during a severe crash.

I have also heard the argument that children are more likely to get car sick if they are rear-facing. This is simply untrue. The view out of the side windows is what makes people queasy when they are in the back seat. As long as a child has a good view out the back window, they won’t be more likely to be sick. Think about when you read in the car; your peripheral vision out the side window is what makes you feel sick. Unfortunately, some children are just prone to carsickness. I was car sick on long trips as a child…and I didn’t ride in a car seat at all. (Heck, no one did!) Even now when I sit in the back seat I get nauseated. So don’t let the worry of carsickness make you turn your child too soon.

The comment I hear most often from the Nosy Nellies is that my daughter must be “uncomfortable” because she is tall and her legs hit the back seat. This too is false. She has never once expressed discomfort and seems perfectly content to sit cross-legged. In fact, many forward-facing children kick or hit the front seats with their legs so that is not unusual to rear-facing children. Children are more flexible than adults so having their legs up on the seat, crossed, or hanging along the side of the car seat is no problem at all.

And really, what it boils down to for me is that I am the parent and my job is to keep my most precious cargo safe. I make her wear a winter coat even when she protests. I force her to wear sunscreen even though she fights me when I rub it on her face. And she will stay rear-facing until she hits the height or weight limit on her seat because it is safest. Her safely is non-negotiable. No toddler enjoys being strapped down and sitting still. Some children will fight the car seat more than others and the protests will happen with some kids whether the seat is rear-facing or forward-facing. Weigh the facts and the recommendations from the experts so you can make an informed decision about car seat safety and your most precious cargo.

Some web links:

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) official press release on their new recommendations.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website for toddler recommendations and videos on how to properly install and restrain a toddler.

NHTSA page with a good overview of car seat safety.

The Car Seat Lady has excellent info on all things car seat related.

Little Prayers

We pray before our meals. Nothing about this is really that interesting except for the fact that our 2.5-year-old daughter Sadie prays with us. That can be quite interesting at times! Sometimes she bows her head and closes her eyes like a little angel…sometimes she bows her head and bites at her plate like a little shark. Sometimes she does something completely sweet and unexpected. At dinner recently, I started praying something like “Thank you Lord, for this meal…” and Sadie decided she needed to pray too so she interrupted with her own prayer: “And for chicken nuggets…and mac & cheese….and Gramma Choo Choo….and Gramma Bebe….and Miss Sherry! AAAAAAA- MEN!” Her amen always sounds like an exaggerated sneeze.

It was sweet. She loves her grandmothers and her teacher at daycare…and chicken nuggets of course. It was the first time she really participated in a prayer at dinner and it made me happy that she understood the concept of giving thanks. Toddlers are known more for the phrase gimme rather than thank you so my daughter telling anyone – especially God – thank you really pleased me. Getting validation that we’re not messing our kid up is really good for my soul. Seeing that we have succeeded in teaching Sadie a little thankfulness made it shine.

After my initial reaction, I really didn’t think much of it until I picked her up from daycare the next afternoon. Her teacher was handing out new books to the excitable children. Miss Sherry is a sweet woman, dedicated to her class as well as her own children. She has a disabled daughter who has many mental and physical handicaps and because of this, she is a fierce advocate for children of all abilities. Sadie loves her and often calls her “my best friend.” I remembered the unusual dinner prayer we had the night before, and told her about it. I thought she would get a kick out of having made a toddler’s short list to God, so I told her about Sadie’s prayer.

Instead she started to cry.

She finally managed to tell me that she was having a very hard time on the day Sadie prayed for her. “You see,” she said, “it was my disabled daughter’s birthday. Her life expectancy is not great and her birthday always reminds me of the short time she will be with me.” She gave Sadie a long hug and told her she was a sweet child for thinking of her. She thanked me for telling her because it made her feel really good that someone had her back on such an emotionally difficult day.

Of course hearing Sherry’s story put me into tears too. Miss Sherry really needed prayers on that day and Sadie prayed for her and gave thanks for her. That struck me. Was it just a random thing? Was Sadie really moved by the Spirit of God to pray for someone in need? Is that was it means to have the faith of a child?

I am not sure of the answers to these questions. But my little girl gave someone hope and encouragement with her little prayer. It was not a grand, important prayer. It was an honest one though. And God, He heard it.

That is what matters. God hears all prayers, even the little ones.