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!