Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wacky Wednesday....#ThisIsAllIHavetoGive

I wasn't going to participate in the P31 Blog Hop today because I am just too busy!! But I love writing and it helps to sooth my spirit and calm my anxieties, so I will write a little bit about what is going on. Today is ONE of those days!! Those crazy, never know what's going to happen next, want to just go back to bed days! It's super hot (for northern NH), my husband and I both have colds, I was woken up several times last night, and then this morning we woke up to find out that our oil tank is empty (our water heater runs on oil). So dishes are piling up. Then we find out that our car, which was already in the shop, needs more work than we thought. I am trying to plan to teach our preschool program for our church's Wednesday night ministry and can't get my thoughts together. Meanwhile, I'm still doing all the normal mom stuff! Feeding children, wiping up messes, potty training, changing diapers, playing outside in the kiddie pool, and babysitting two older children. Doing my best to keep them occupied and happy as well! Phew!

So, I was starting to get stressed out and then I just stopped and thought....God's got this. I mean, He's always in the details of our lives, working and showing us things about Himself, right? And since I'm at that point right now where it really is all I have to give...I'm at my max. But He isn't! Because when I'm about to crack under the pressure, then He reminds me that He's the one who has been carrying this load all along.

I often worry more than I should about silly things. Not this time. Well, my sinful nature wants to keep trying to figure out all the big decisions we have to make on top of all the every day stuff. I want to start planning and scheming and think of how I can make it work the best way possible. But....I am reminded, for the millionth time, that I am not the one who knows best! I could plan and plan, but God is completely aware of all my needs and He knows the direction I should take. So I trust in Him to guide me. The reality is, I could give all I THINK I have to give to try to make my plans come to fruition. And...it still wouldn't be enough. But that is ok!! I need Him to guide and direct. I need Him to open doors where He wants and close doors that He wants me to stay away from. I need this because I don't know it all. I can't, and I never will! Sometimes I wish I had more control, I think all of us do at times. But, imagine all of the stress, the responsibility, the fears, and the anxieties that would come with all that responsibility! No, I much prefer it this way. He is in charge, and I follow. I don't have to pave the way, I can sit back and let Him do all the work. That's the life for me. :)




P31 OBS Blog Hop

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Just another Crazy "Crunchy Family"..or Are We?

Disclaimer: This is long. If you read the whole thing, thank you!! But whether you do or not, would you please share a comment below (even something as simple as a smiley face)? I've had some issues with people not being able to leave a comment so I'm hoping to get everyone who reads this to at least try to leave one, so I can figure out where the problem is. Thank you!!

I've been thinking that I wanted to write a post to share more about who we are, for those who don't know us, or at least...don't know us very well. But I wasn't sure where to start until yesterday, after a conversation with a dear friend. We were talking about how it's easy to look at how someone chooses to do something and feel like in order to measure up, we need to be doing the same. It's so hard not to compare ourselves to others sometimes, isn't it? Truthfully, I really struggle with that. It's gotten better lately but especially as Chloe gets older, I find myself more and more influenced by what other parents think and do. It's really kinda ridiculous, because we're all in different places and no two families are alike (or two people for that matter!), which means that no one strategy is going to work for everyone. I'm not sure why we have this whole "Keeping up with the Jones'" thing going on. It's always been a pet peeve of mine when people care so much about living up to someone else's standard....why in the world do we succumb to that? Well, because when we're honest with ourselves, we're all a little bit afraid that we might not be doing things in the best possible way 100% of the time (who does?) and so when we see someone who appears to be doing a better job, we take a mental note and vow to strive to be more like that person. Or we shower ourselves with guilt for not being that person. Or....we justify why we don't do it like that person, better or not, and ignore all the feelings of inadequacy that may come along with it.

Well....this is what I do anyway....hopefully I'm not alone?!?! :)

ANYWAY. I believe there's a better solution. Being realistic and honest with yourself about who you are, and focusing on what God has you focusing on....not what He's trying to teach every single person around you. Because that can be really confusing and I have already lost enough brain cells having 2 babies....so I don't need any more confusion in my life, thank you very much!

Most of you know that our family chooses to go against the grain for a lot of things. Home birthing, cloth diapering, extended breast feeding, natural cleaners, homemade personal care products, building up immunity naturally, home remedies for illness prevention and treatment, chemical-free living, gluten free, food-dye free, (mostly organic) whole food eating, homeschooling (in the future) etc etc etc! I've heard it all....from being told we're crunchy, asking if we're going to ending up being one of those families who use "family cloth" (nope, that's too far even for me!), being told we don't use soap (we definitely DO), and a few variations of "I could never do THAT"  complete with raised eyebrows and perplexed looks.

OK YES! We are that family. We are sooooo weird, based on most people's perception of normal. I used to think people like us were total wackos. Well guess what...."Hi, my name is Melyssa, and I'm a natural living wacko. OH, and I love Jesus, too!!!" But the question that I really want to address in this post is...do these two things go hand in hand? Do we believe it's necessary to do all these things to be a follower of Jesus...and therefore think that all other Christians should be just like us in order to show they really love Him, too?

Nope. Not at all.

These things are not what I call "gospel issues". They don't save a person. They don't make someone better than anyone else. They are mostly lifestyle preferences. They should have absolutely no power to cause division among believers (though sadly, they often do). It's just stuff we do (or don't do). You wash your clothes with Tide? Cool...we are sensitive to the chemicals and scents of commercial detergent so we use soap nuts. You love ice cream sandwiches and brownie sundaes? ME TOO. But I can't have dairy right now because of my nursling and I'm trying to avoid gluten as well. So....we make frozen banana, chocolate, peanut butter, and almond milk smoothies instead. Life is just life and we all make different choices....that's the beauty of the minds God gave us to think and choose and decide for ourselves. He didn't spell it out in the Bible so....as long as we're not blatantly opposing Him, we have options. Side note: This goes both ways....no matter what choices we make, it never makes us better or smarter than someone else or a better Christian (if that's what you're striving for)...it just doesn't work that way.

However, having said all of that, I must add our own personal experience and why we do believe that our choices are an important part of our relationship with God. I tell you this, not to say that you should do it, too, but simply to explain where our hearts are at. Like I said before, we're all in different places.

I could give you a long list of all the benefits we have experienced from changing our lifestyle...but I won't go into that in this post. What I want to do is highlight a few key points to hopefully provide some clarity on where we stand:

1) Natural Living Can Totally Be an Idol (Just Like Anything Else)

If something completely consumes us, we can't stop thinking about it day and night, and we freak out if we can't have it the way we want it...it's an idol. God is clear in His Word that we're to only worship HIM. As believers, we struggle all the time with putting things or people before Him. It's our natural selfish tendency to want to do things our way.  Here are a few questions I try to ask myself to help me refocus:

1. Am I doing this because it's what I believe is what God wants me to do or is it because I want control?
2. Am I stressed out or upset if something doesn't work the way I want it to?
3. Do I care more about the spiritual condition of those around me than I do about this?
4. Do I take it personally if someone disagrees with me or thinks I am wrong?

I read this post on the Passionate Homemaking blog a long time ago before we even started on this journey and I love it. It describes my feelings so well! I encourage you to take a few moments to read it!
 Can Natural Living Become an Idol?

2) Natural Living Is Not Without Its Flaws

It's not a perfect system. Nothing is on this side of eternity. There are natural things that can be harmful (though it is very rare and usually you'd have to consume a LOT before it's even a remote possibility), or that just don't work as well as a conventional method. Case in point, we were having issues with ammonia build up with Chloe's diapers. We did everything naturally to try to "strip" them, and nothing worked long term. We finally broke down and used a little bit of bleach....problem gone. Another example is when I was sick with Hand, Foot, and Mouth at the beginning of June. I had a very high fever...and I know that it's better to leave fevers alone and not try to lower them because it slows down your body's ability to fight the illness. But you know what? It was 85 degrees outside, my temp was unbearable, and I needed to care for 2 kids. So, I took ibuprofen. And it helped me be able to function. So, while I will always go to the natural method first, I'm willing to admit defeat if we have exhausted every option and use a man-made chemical or medicine. If I or my kids are sick and nothing I do helps and we are truly very sick, I will go to the doctor (hasn't happened yet, but that doesn't mean it won't!)....because I'm not anti-doctors or conventional methods or commercial products. I just believe there are a lot of better, safer, non-toxic options that I want to try first. I see all that other stuff as having its place, for sure. And that place is to use sparingly, if completely necessary. Same goes for labor and child birth....but that's another post for another day. ;)

3) Natural Living Is not a Savior

Some people look at doing things their own way because they are hoping it will protect them...that if we take care of our bodies and eat the way God intended (whole foods the way He created them) we will have a long life and never be sick. I am sure that in general, a healthy lifestyle (good diet, avoiding harmful substances, and adequate exercise) causes a person to have a better chance of living longer. BUT, this is not why we do it. Because we believe that God has already decided long ago exactly how many days we have on earth and no amount of worrying or striving can add to that. (Matthew 6) I could have a completely healthy body and die in a car accident. I get that and I am totally fine with it. Because I don't look at this as having some sort of power to extend my life. Instead, because I know that eating and living this way makes me feel better, I want to make the most of my time and energy for Jesus by feeling up to the task. I don't want my love and cravings for junk food to become an idol to the point where I'd rather have that than feel well enough to serve Jesus in any way He wants.
People question why I bother to avoid toxins when there are so many unavoidable ones all around us. "Well, the air we breathe can be toxic, so what's the point of worrying so much? You can't escape everything, you know." I agree, it is impossible. We'd literally have to live in a bubble and this would not be what God would want believers to do. How could we reach out and build community with others if we are afraid of any possible exposure to something harmful? This is where the rubber meets the road....following Jesus is more important that natural living. Here are some "rules" in our house:

1. Food and drink are not issues that should be divisive. So when we are out with others, at someone's house, or at a church function, we don't stress out about what we eat or what chemicals we come in contact with. Fellowship is more important than our preferences. Unless it's dairy or gluten, because those things are specific health issues for us. We usually have something packed for the kids as a backup, but if not, it's not a big deal.

2. We don't argue or debate with people on why we've made these choices. It tends to stir up a lot of emotion and we just don't think it's necessary. If people ask me for suggestions, I am happy to give them. And I am passionate about all the things I'm learning so you'll see a lot of articles and blog posts shared on FB about these topics. And, if you or your child are struggling with a health/behavioral issue and you mention it to me, I might casually hint at a few natural/diet remedies...because I really do believe that a lot of things can be fixed that way. But, I don't want to upset you and I definitely don't want you to feel judged if you disagree (and vice versa)...so I'm willing to avoid that topic in the future. I'd rather have your friendship than convince you why I believe what I believe (except when it comes to Jesus....because this is a matter of eternity, and that's important enough to be willing to lose friends over, as hard as it would be).

3. We focus on what we can do and we don't worry about what we can't. Sometimes, I have a bite of cheese or gluten. Occasionally we go to a restaurant and let Chloe eat breaded chicken or fish. Once in a while (though it used to be a daily thing and I'm over it now), I get an iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts. And often we're so busy throughout the day that at night we're too tired to think about dinner so we order out something that's not all that healthy. My point is, we're not obsessive. We "cheat", and we don't beat ourselves up for it. Because once again, if you get that focused on something, it's clearly an idol, and then, instead of glorifying God, you're putting something before Him. That's the last thing we want to do.



Conclusion: I know this was long, but I'm really hoping that it gave you a better picture of our family, and where we are on the "natural living scale"...if there is such a thing. I'd like to see ourselves somewhere in the middle.  I don't think this stuff is more important than fellowship, commanded by God, or is going to give our family a perfectly healthy, long life. BUT, I do believe that the Bible is clear on how we should take care of our bodies to the best of our abilities, and should be willing to give up anything and everything (gradually, one by one) that we are holding onto simply because we want it. Life is so much bigger than us, and it is a lie from the world that says we should make the most of this short time on earth by pleasing ourselves. Instead, we need to make the most of this time by being willing to sacrifice our wants and desires on a daily basis...to bring God more glory in and through each of us.


Our trust is not in how "crunchy" we are.....it is in Christ. We seek Him and He guides us through all of these decisions....and we place our faith in Him. It's so easy to think we have control....but while I struggle with this at times, I am usually just so relieved that I don't!


Saturday, July 12, 2014

My "Total Mom Fail" of the Week (times two)

Do you ever have days where it feels like everything you do as a parent is just...wrong? I do, all the time. I really want my kids to be well-adjusted, emotionally stable human beings and I don't want to pass a single one of my negative character traits on to them. So when I inevitably let them see a side of me that I don't want them to take after, I think, "Oh no, I'm going to ruin my kids!" As if I alone am the only human being in the world who will have an impact on them and shape who they are.

A good example of this happened yesterday. We decided to get up early and go on a nice family hike. It was a trail that I have been requesting to go on many times over the last few months and we finally had the perfect day to do it. We remembered everything, got the kids all set with their long sleeves/pants and hats for protection from bugs...got Elijah on my back and Chloe on Derrick's back, put our awesome natural bug repellent on, and set out for our walk. I was feeling pretty good about it. A nice day, kids were happy, we were adequately prepared....the perfect scenario. We set off down the trail and everything was fine except for Elijah deciding he didn't like the carrier and wanting to kick and squirm...but I figured he'd settle down eventually. Then, all the sudden I noticed there seemed to be a lot of bugs around us. Then I said to Derrick, "Was there something hovering over there?" At first I thought it was a giant spider, but it flew away. Then, a few seconds later, I noticed another one. "What IS that?" Derrick tells me it's just a horsefly. "A horsefly? They are not THAT big, right?"

This is basically what we were seeing....hundreds of them. I found this pic on whatsthatbug.com  because there was no way I would have stopped long enough to take a picture of the ones we saw!! 
Now is probably a good time to tell you how much I hate bugs. I really do enjoy the outdoors but I really, really hate insects, especially anything that bites or stings. Especially anything that is GIANT and bites or stings. So, when I noticed that these enormous hovering creatures were, in fact, horseflies, I was pretty freaked out. I now noticed that there were not one or two in front of us at a time, but dozens. They would kind of play "chicken" and wait for us to come at them, then start swarming all around. I tensed up, and started walking faster, which did not help Elijah to calm down, in fact, he got more agitated. Then, it got even worse. I felt like I was in some sort of movie with mutant killer bugs. I wanted to scream, but instead I started hyperventilating. I know, what a loser, right? At this point Elijah was full out wailing, and I was done. So, when Derrick finally gave me the out and said we could turn around, I did not even hesitate. "I don't even care what's at the end of this trail anymore, it's not worth it!" So we headed back. Actually, we started jogging back, because now not only were we being swarmed by bumble-bee sized horseflies, but now we were being eaten alive by the most hungry mosquitoes I had ever seen! Needless to say, I was not acting calm. I was upset....I was disappointed that we weren't going to get to finish our hike, and I was feeling guilty for being so freaked out by bugs and being the reason we had turned around. Then, it happened, the toddler spoke up with words that shattered my spirit:

"Daddy....Mama sad!"

So, for the rest of the walk back (which seemed like it took forever), all these thoughts were racing through my head. "I hate that I'm scared of everything! Great, now I'm going to make Chloe scared of bugs, too. I want her to be a kid that's not held back by fear like I was! I want her to grow up and be able to do things and not have a million anxieties about them! Why am I so good at ruining our kids?" And all of these thoughts just made me more upset so by the time we got to the car, all 4 of us were agitated. Elijah mostly because he still did not want to be in the carrier and was not about to settle down since he was clearly feeding off of me. Chloe because she loves hiking and did not want to get back in the car. Derrick because he just wanted me to calm down and I didn't want to. And me because....well all of that. 

As we started to drive away, they both relaxed and Chloe said, "That was fun!" And I instantly realized I was beating myself up unnecessarily, for the millionth time. And we both calmed down too, and just agreed to try going there again in the fall when there are no bugs. Then we headed out for a grocery trip where I brought Chloe in with me and she helped me put things in the cart...then off to a toy and book shop where she had a blast. So all in all, a pretty exciting day for her, the hike (or lack thereof) being long forgotten. I love that about her, she just lives in the moment and enjoys every experience, and lets go of the past. I need to learn a thing or two from my two-year-old. 

This was perfect timing for me because tomorrow, the 13th, I'm starting an online Bible study that goes along with a book by Lysa TerKeurst called, "Am I Messing Up My Kids?". I read the first chapter about how her first daughter was 14 months and in a store with her being a totally crazy toddler, all while she was like 8 months pregnant. It brought back memories of some interesting moments in public places with Chloe while I was pregnant with Elijah! The embarrassment, the feelings of inadequacy, and basically just feeling like your kid just totally schooled you. Yep, been there! I'm so excited to learn from her wisdom as a mom of 5, and am thankful she is willing to be honest about her own struggles as a parent. If you'd like to join the online Bible study, it is done by Proverbs 31 Ministries. You can sign up here. I bought my version of the book on Amazon and I'm reading it on my laptop with Kindle Cloud Reader. They also have paperback available.

My lesson for the day was that, I'm giving myself too much credit if I think I'm the one who can either make or break my kids. They are God's, not mine. He is shaping them and He gave me to them as their mom for a reason. I will make mistakes, I will show weaknesses, and I will return to bad habits that I should be giving up. And yes, they will probably get some of their sin struggles from me. But, what they will learn the most from me is how I handle it when I do mess up. Do I stay in it, or do I let it go and move on? Do I hold onto wanting to be "right", or do I admit I was wrong and apologize? Do I say, "Well, this is just how I am", or do I open up my heart to grow and be changed by God, no matter how hard it is? This is where my example will really matter...not how messed up I am, but how willing I am to grow. 

Growing Together.....I think that really IS the perfect title! :)

P.S. Tonight, after writing this, Chloe fell out of the car while trying to climb out. She's done it by herself a bunch of times and has gotten really good at it so I stopped standing right there every time...and this time I was getting the screaming baby out of his seat. Watching her fall head first was terrifying...I was praying nonstop as we went inside so I could assess the situation. I'm sure all you veteran moms of toddlers are chuckling to yourselves but I seriously considered taking her to the ER since I was alone and couldn't get ahold of Derrick. But, this girl amazes me. She came in, requested to watch Pooh, then asked to use the potty (all while still crying), sat down and peed while asking for a snack. Crying stopped, and she was all smiles, knowing she was getting chocolate chips for peeing on the potty (I may have given her a few extra!). Oh, and, I learned from yesterday. I stayed totally calm and normal on the outside (while inwardly spazzing)....and this helped her to relax really quickly! When I finally reached Derrick, he talked to her and asked her what she was doing. She answered, "Talking on the phone!" (duh, daddy...lol) He concluded from that response that she is most likely ok....haha. Since coming home he has reassured me about 10 times that it's not my fault and that she will be ok. Once again, I am reminded that she is in God's hands, and He is in charge of every step, every fall, every breath. He knows her every need....and even in this, there is no need for mom guilt to overtake me.

Still kinda dreading what that bruise will look like in the morning, not to mention all the people at church asking what happened...oh well, with this independent girl, it's bound to happen again. Might as well get used to it!


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Choose Your Identity...

I just signed on to start working on a blog post, and found a post by a friend that I wanted to read first. When I went to leave a comment, there were these words: "Choose your identity". So really, it wasn't that deep, it was just asking me what name I wanted next to my comment, or if I wanted it to be anonymous. But it was perfect timing because I was going to title this post.....
"Who am I?"
 I am in a lot of different roles right now. Wife, friend, daughter, sister, teacher, mother....the list goes on. I have spent a lot of time thinking of who I am in light of these titles. It's gotten to a point where if people disagree with how I do things, I take it personally. Because if all I am is a mom, and someone thinks I'm a bad one, then where does that leave me? Or if I don't measure up to the kind of wife I think Derrick wants me to be, then am I a total failure? I guess I would be, if those were my true definitions. Thankfully, there is only one role that matters and it is the only one that has nothing to do with my performance.

"I am a follower of Christ."

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

This blogging thing is starting to take shape!

.......I think. 


I have a plan, which is....to write about whatever I feel led to write about. So that's easy. 

I have a format, which is me writing and Derrick adding his thoughts, either all the time or just on whatever topic he feels led to share on. I'm really excited about this part, I think it's going to be fun to do this together!

I have a blog name but...I'm not satisfied with it. Based on what you know about us and the whole joint-blogging idea, what comes to mind? Something short and catchy would be great. :) 

I've also joined a few networks, and my next task is to start connecting with people, then start a FB page, get a Twitter account, and then share share share any blog post, article, photo, product, or idea that I think is awesome. :) The social media part should be easy since I already do some of that anyway! 

I have a lot of things I'm passionate about, and Derrick has a lot of the same passions. So I think we will make a good writing team. But where to start? Well, you'll find out soon....a very open and honest confession from me is coming up in the next day or two, followed by my co-writer's thoughts (which he hasn't let me read yet, so I'm waiting with anticipation!). Looking forward to this new adventure!
If you have tips for me, ideas, suggestions, I want to hear them all. :)