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Family

Why I Don’t Use Birth Control And Never Will Again

I, Mandy, boldly declare that I do not currently use birth control and I never will again. I’m about to tell you why, but first…a photo of my amazing family!

Family
Aren’t they cute?

This is a hot topic, isn’t it? Let’s all agree that no matter what our views are, we will discuss this topic in a respectful manner. I’m posting this based on my personal feelings after having researched this and considered for quite some time. I didn’t just get a wild hair and decided to make everyone mad. 😉

First of all, I want to say that in past, I have used both “the pill” and Paragard. I recommend neither for reasons that are both secular and faith-based. The pill I used was Seasonale. What this particular pill offers is birth control with regularly scheduled periods every three months. That’s nice if you hate periods, or, like me, you needed a jump-start to your periods because you hadn’t had one in four years. Yep. I started this pill long before I even became sexually active. I have a long, painful history of endometriosis and ovarian cysts that burst every four months or so, causing me a ton of pain.

Back to the pill. I took this pill for just under a year and then stopped. When I got married to Anthony, I decided I didn’t want to take birth control. To me, it felt irresponsible. When you have sex, you have to know that pregnancy is possible. If you don’t want to get pregnant, don’t have sex. I have always had a strong faith in God, and I wanted to let Him decide the size and timing of our family. It never felt right to prolong pregnancy for any reason. I will touch more on this in a moment, in addition to the downside of any birth control pill, even Seasonale.

Flash forward five years to 2011. I was healing from yet another miscarriage (I’ve had more than I can count on both hands) and I wasn’t dealing with it well emotionally. My husband was deployed again and I was raising our two girls alone in a weird town, surrounded by people I didn’t really know all that well. I felt pressured to stop having babies, and I wrongly succumbed to the pressure. I started a conversation with my doctor that lead to me making an appointment to get an IUD installed in my body. I chose Paragard at the advice of another friend. This device remained in me for two and a half years until I just could not take it anymore and I got the thing out of me. Seven months later, I got pregnant with Jackson. He is now about to turn a year old! Cue the cute baby picture…

Baby Saber
Jackson chose an advanced weapon from a more civilized time as his first toy weapon. That’s my boy!

All that having been said, I’m going to tell you now what issues I had with birth control and will always have with any and every form of birth control. They stop God’s blessings from coming. I do not believe that it’s ever okay to limit what God wants to do in my life. By taking birth control, I would be doing just that.

I am pro-life. This includes suicide, doctor assisted suicide the death penalty and abortion for any reason. It also includes birth control. I believe that life begins at conception and I have not seen evidence to support that it doesn’t. I am open to receiving actual scientific proof, but so far, it doesn’t exist. There is, however, scientific evidence that a flash of light occurs at conception. That is incredibly exciting! You can read the article HERE.

My biggest issue with “the pill” (all types of birth control pills”) is that they thin out the uterine lining, making the womb a very hostile place for fertilized eggs, and keeps them from implanting. Instead, they cause your body to eliminate the egg, fertilized or not. This means you can still conceive a child but thanks to the pill, it will not implant, so the fertilized egg – your baby – will be eliminated from your system. It will be aborted within a week of conception. It’s not a natural phenomena because your body hasn’t just randomly selected this life to end. It ended because your body has synthetic hormones inside that are making it a hostile environment for fragile new life. I’m not okay with that. In fact, I feel really sick to my stomach considering that fact. I was on the pill for a couple of months after getting married. I have had to really pray and ask for God’s forgiveness, knowing that I may have gotten pregnant sooner, had I not been on “the pill.” If you’re interested in reading more about birth control pills and what they do, please visit the links at the bottom of this blog posting.

What I’ve discovered about IUDs is not much better. They are inserted into your uterus and are supposed to prevent sperm from ever meeting an egg, however, they can still meet an egg and you can still conceive and abort a baby while having an IUD inserted, just like being on “the pill” and I am 100% not okay with that. One of the ten commandments directs us not to murder and I take that seriously. I don’t believe that passively murdering the unborn is acceptable in the Lord’s eyes.

All that having been said, I also understand that it’s quite the challenge to raise a large family in this day and age and that everything is really expensive, kids are a challenge and that money doesn’t go too far for most families. Yep. I totally get that! I also know that what is impossible for us to accomplish on our own, God makes possible through His people, through faith and through very hard work. I also know from personal experience that we do not need as much stuff or as many activities as we think we need. But that is a blog post and a discussion for another time entirely. 😉

What should you do if you’re currently on a form of birth control? That is for you to decide. You will need to talk about it with your doctor and make a decision that is right for you and that is in line with your own beliefs. If you’re a Christian, I encourage you to discuss this issue with your Pastor or another trusted member of your church leadership in order to gain more insight. Weigh this against God’s Word. I encourage you to seek out what the Bible says as well. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you, through God’s Word what you are to know regarding this topic. Prayerfully ask God to make clear what He wants you to do. I am not going to tell you what to do or not do beyond that. It’s your body and this is your choice. I encourage you to educate yourself before making any decision. Whenever I’ve jumped into things without ruminating on them for a while, I’ve always regretted it. Don’t do or not do something because someone told you to.

Sterilization is something I’ve only recently heard discussed in faith communities and I don’t feel that for our family, it’s a good choice. I may change my mind later, but right now, my personal belief is that while it doesn’t even allow for any chance of conception, it still limits what God can do in your life. I don’t want to limit that. I want to do what God asks me to do, no matter what. Parenting is hard, but it sanctifies me. It blesses me. It sanctifies and blesses my husband. And it increases the number of God’s people on the earth. In the end, I believe it blesses God, too.

As I was editing this post before posting, I read it to Anthony in order to gain his insight. After all, he is a big part of our growing family! 😉 He said he agrees wholeheartedly. I’m not too surprised since this is a topic he and I have been discussing at length recently because…I have the baby fever again and we are hoping to conceive again, in God’s timing. Our family is not “done” yet.

Having said all that, I am very curious to know what your beliefs are on birth control. Do you believe it’s okay to use it? Do you believe God calls us to use it? What about sterilization? Do you feel that it’s okay to medically sterilize yourself in order to avoid pregnancy? What have been your experiences? Please share them respectfully in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helpful links:

http://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/birth-control-pills

http://www.pfli.org/faq_oc.html

http://www.hhs.gov/opa/reproductive-health/contraception/birth-control-pills/

http://www.rxlist.com/birth_control_pills-page2/drugs-condition.htm

http://americanpregnancy.org/?s=birth+control

http://www.acog.org/Search?Keyword=birth+control

http://www.drugs.com/seasonale.html

http://paragard.com/What-is-Paragard.aspx?&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=paragard&utm_campaign=Branded%207/15&utm_content=sVNUIk71A_pcrid_86316850505_pdv_c

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feed The Pig {Small Savings, Big Reward}

Hey y’all! Do you want to go on vacation next summer? Us too! We can’t afford to make a line item in our budget for a vacation, so we’ve had to get tricky and think outside the box in order to fund our first ever family vacation. Yes, I said first ever. We’ve never been on a real family vacation before, so we’re planning to take one in 2017 no matter what. 

But how will you fund this thing, you ask? We’re feeding our pig! No, we don’t own a real pig. We have a big, chubby piggy bank we’re feeding every time we find a coin or cash in our bottles and cans for money. All of that goes straight into the pig.

Pig
Seriously the saddest photo of a pig I’ve ever seen. This pig needs to go on vacation!

How did you ever get such an odd idea, you ask? I got this idea on my birthday when I was thinking up ways to give a gift to my family because they have given me the gift of love everyday. I shared my idea with them and they love it!

Originally, we’d started saving coins in a clear two and a half-gallon jug, but we could see the coins and after years of emptying it every time we had an “emergency” we decided that just wouldn’t work, so now we’re feeding the pig! So far, we have it about half full already! We estimate there is about $50 in there, but to be fair…it was already about 1/4 full when I first got the idea.  I’m excited to crack that piggy open next summer and see what’s inside!

You might be asking “well, what happens when you fill the pig? Will you empty it out and refill it?” Well, yes and no. We’re going to leave all the money in there until next summer. When this pig is full, we’re going to fill another pig. Ideally, we’ll make our own pig out of fun recycled materials. If we do, I’ll be sure to share the tutorial of how we did it. If not, you know me…I’ll fess up and humble myself enough to tell you we broke down and purchased one at the Dollar Tree or a yard sale. 😉 I estimate we’ll fill this pig by the end of summer, but we’ll see!

We have some ideas about what we want to do. The kids obviously want to go to Disney Land, but I am vehemently opposed. I do not fit that into my list of values. There are much more frugal things to do with that money, y’all! Personally, I’d prefer my kids experience a national park or a cool new beach. I want to experience the outdoors and reset our natural clocks…maybe get Anthony to wake up before 8 am for once? (Yes, I am one of those annoying morning people. I wake up happy, want the house cleaned and children fed before 9 am. I swear, I was meant to be an Army drill sergeant. I missed my calling.)

Anyway, this is going to be a really interesting experiment. If we can all keep up with it, we’re going to have an amazing time. If not, well, I hope the kids like beans and wieners cooked over a campfire at a local campground because I am absolutely serious when I say we’re going on a vacation next year and it’s absolutely not going to be funded by our line item budget – this is all to be funded by coins and bottle returns.

What is the oddest way you’ve ever funded a vacation? Have you ever tried to fund one from bottle returns and coins? How did that work out for you? Share in the comments below. And remember – feed your pig!

 

IMG_20160428_182536
A random photo of my adorable son enjoying his first BBQ rib last night. Because my sense of humor is nuts and I love showing off my super amazing kids. Enjoy! 

RV Life – Week One {Debt Free Journey}

Moving into an RV is hard to do in less than a month! But it’s worth it. I already know by the amount of difficulty we’ve had this far. Whenever our family is challenged greatly, we learn amazing lifetime lessons.

Whenever I’ve encountered a challenge in the last few days, I remind myself why we’re on this journey. I envision the outcome and then I find the strength to keep going.

We spent our last night at our rental home preparing the motorhome to live in full time. That was a challenge! Even though we’d sold, given away and donated about 90% of our stuff – we still have had to face the fact that we have too much! All these years, I’ve thought I needed a glass, fork, plate, knife for everything. Well, I don’t! A coffee cup works for tea, coffee, hot cocoa, cider, etc. It’s a multi-purpose cup! Who knew? 😉 And a steak knife cuts a whole lot more than just steak. Just saying.

We thought that because we didn’t shop excessively that we were being frugal and careful with our money. We thought that because we’d downsized about a year ago (donating over 70% of our stuff) that we’d already entered the  world of minimalism – you know, dipping our toes in, testing the waters. Well, we didn’t even have a full toe nail in the water! I seriously recommend a full two months or more to downsize to just the bare essentials. With a family, I’d increase that to three months because life happens and children are so much more important than stuff – incoming or outgoing stuff. We simply didn’t have a choice this time around. The rental market crashed, our rental home was put on the market and we were given 30 days to move out. We felt God calling us into RV life and we quickly answered “sure thing, God!”IMG_20151008_174432

I’m glad we didn’t think this fully through first. We might not have obeyed. We would be missing out on great blessings.

The amount of work this has required and is still requiring, is teaching our kids to move past their comfort zones.  It’s shaking them up in a good way. Suddenly, they can’t just sit in front of a television. They have to get up and explore the world around them. They can’t dump out all 300 wooden blocks because there is no room for that. They must get creative. And they must begin helping with chores.

A major disservice we’ve done to our kids is to relent when they fight us on chores. Because of that, the girls haven’t learned about the importance of a good work ethic. They’re learning now, out of necessity! Future bosses and co-workers of my children – you’re welcome. 😉 Seriously though, it’s been good for all of us. It’s team building and I see small fruits forming already.  In due season, they’ll ripen and be ready for the harvest.

We’ve encountered our fair share of challenges, but we have hope, faith and spirit. We have love. And we will conquer this mountain and be all the better for it.

God Bless You {Food, housing insecurity}

For the last several years, Anthony and I have struggled so hard with money, attempting to get back on the same page with finances, make ends meet, put food on the table, pay down debts…that we’ve often missed the boat and continue to struggle harder. We rarely have food security. There are entire weeks each month where we have to carefully ration food  to make sure everyone eats 3 meals a day. I cringe hearing my kids tell me they’re hungry because I don’t know if I can make our food last to the end of the month if I give them one more snack in between meals.

Most months we run out of gas money too early. We have to borrow. It’s soul crushing to ask more than once.

Every month we have to watch our bills pile up, debts increasing because we just don’t enough money to pay everyone. It grates on our nerves, threatens to break us. Yet we know – somehow we have more than enough.

I remember once walking through the grocery store helping a friend shop for her family. I hadn’t eaten a full meal in days.  I desperately wanted to grab some fruit, crackers, cheese – anything really – off the shelves, run to a secret corner somewhere and devour the food like a wild animal. I was so desperate for food. I’d been pretending to eat at home, but there wasn’t enough food to go around, so I was saving my share for my husband and kids. I count them as better than myself.

I didn’t steal food that day and I never told my friend how hungry I was. Not too long later, she surprised me with a grocery cart full of food that she’d paid for. It was a gift for my family that she’d felt compelled to give. My faithfulness was being rewarded – for lack of a better term. I’d not grown weary in doing good. The Lord provided.

We are facing similar (but not the same) issues right now. I feel tired – exhausted, really. Every day I wonder when the glass floor will shatter, so to speak, and we’ll be knocked off our feet and lose everything. I know if we remain faithful the Lord will provide. We will not ever need to lie, steal or cheat in order to provide for our family. I pray continually that the Lord will give us wisdom to use our resources wisely. Sometimes I fear we’ll never get it right. We are trying and we are praying. So much is coming at us so fast that it seems like we’ll never float – we’re always fighting not to drown.

We won’t drown. The Lord knows our needs. He will provide.

I share this to encourage anyone else facing the same or similar situation. There’s no shame in asking for help, especially when you have kids. You are going to get through this. So are we.

We’ve been selling extra items, Anthony’s taken on extra hours at work, I’ve worked briefly in the past (but had to quit to save money). We’re cutting expenses left and right and always looking for more ways to do so. Nothing sticks for long. We pray about finances a lot, never wanting to burden anyone else.  This is our problem. Except that it’s not just our problem. It’s a problem millions of people face each day in our country and so many of us pretend we’re alone in this, not wanting to burden anyone else, not wanting to share our shame. We’re afraid that people will think less of us. What does it matter if someone thinks less of us because we’re struggling? Isn’t that indicative of a larger problem within themselves, rather than with us?

We can hold our heads high and continue to look to the Lord for help. Our help does come from the Lord. He is ever present in our time of need and in our time of rejoicing. He can be trusted with all that we are going through, good and bad. Won’t you take some time to share your burdens with Him today?

Remember: Do not grow weary in doing good.  God sees you. He has not left you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. He will supply all your needs. Have faith and rest in Him.

God bless you, Brothers and Sisters.

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays, Brothers and Sisters!

Let me preface this by saying that if it were still pre-Christmas, I would have said “Merry Christmas” instead, but we’re less than a week away from New Year’s Eve and a short hop, skip and a jump away from Valentine’s Day. So Happy Holidays!

364 days
A little humor from yesterday’s Facebook postings. 🙂

December was a really fun month for us. We hosted a fundraiser for our church’s youth group. They’re looking to go to Orlando, FL for Y15 a Methodist youth conference in June of 2015. We raised over $100 which is great for our tiny community. We’ll have another fundraiser around February and another in April. I’m so blessed to have been able to help in any capacity. The kids are truly amazing.

Sunday School has had a slow start, but I keep remembering to be faithful in all things, especially the small things. This ministry will grow with time. One of my downfalls is to want to grow things too quickly, but then I become fearful of the changes and chicken out. God has been working on that with me, yet I keep hindering Him. This is not one of my better traits. I’m praying He will work that controlling, comfort-seeking side out of me soon.

15 weeks
15 week scan. Will find out gender on New Year’s Eve!

Baby “Jacksovelt” is 18 weeks along (19 weeks this Wednesday) and growing well. S/he had a heartbeat of 144 a few weeks ago at my last check-up. Could this be our first boy growing inside of me? We’ll find out on New Year’s Eve! My doctor was so gracious as to schedule my 20 week scan on New Year’s Eve and allow my entire family to be in the sonogram room when we find out the gender! What is so significant about this date for our family is that on New Year’s Eve four years ago, I had a devastating D&C to remove a deceased fetus (“Baby Dill”) from my uterus. I will never forget that day. I was incredibly distraught and in complete denial that the baby had actually died, even having seen proof. For a couple of years, I carried a heavy burden of guilt, believing I had actually consented to an abortion and murdered my precious baby because I wasn’t a good enough mother. I believed I was being punished by God for past sins. Our minds can play funny tricks on us, can’t it? God is so merciful and gracious. He has healed that part of me and has given us a joyful reason to celebrate this day henceforth.

18 Weeks
18 week baby bump! Almost half-way there!

Theresa had three very cute, very sweet class concerts this month. Her teacher (“Mr. Awesome”) has been a really great influence on her, channeling all of her extra energy into positive learning activities. These class concerts required Theresa (and her classmates) to memorize several long poems and detailed songs such as Clement C. Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas” and the classic Christmas carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. Theresa played one of the two turtle doves and blew a kazoo when it was her turn to make bird noises. It was completely adorable and my Mama heart swelled with love and pride. All the children in the classroom worked hard and it showed!

Theresa's Christmas Concert 2014

Chelsea also had a Christmas concert in her classroom. She played the role of the partridge in the pear tree during the “Twelve Days of Christmas” carol. Her tweet tweet had the same effect on my Mama heart as Theresa’s kazoo playing. It was a beautiful sentiment to the season – time spent celebrating with friends and neighbors. Her teacher, “Mrs. Awesome” did a great job of organizing a group of wiggly, squirmy kindergarteners into a beautiful chorus of carolers. I was touched by the effort put into the concert by such young children. Their hard work was evident to all.

Chelsea's Christmas Concert 2014

On the last day of school for both girls, we sent homemade teacher gifts – a hand painted ornament from each girl and a handwritten card from me, expressing deep gratitude for the love and attention that the teachers have poured out onto not only my children, but their entire classroom of students. Both teachers bring out the best in their students and encourage them to strive for more than just the bare minimum. Theresa’s teacher reminds the students to value their education, be kind to others and to be peace makers within their community. Our community is going through a very rough time and tensions are high as crime rate rises and law enforcement coverage significantly decreases due to a lack of funds from taxpayers. Mr. Awesome is consistently reminding the kids to look on the bright side and strive for the best. We couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful teacher for Theresa.

As for Chelsea’s teacher, Mrs. Awesome has really brought our little Chelsea out of her shell. She’s making friends and joining play groups on the playground. I’d been concerned all summer long about her shyness, wondering how and if she’d fit in anywhere. I was afraid she’d hate school and want to come home since she has been so deeply attached to me since her birth. It turns out that I had nothing to worry about. She’s loving school and has made quite a few friends. Mrs. Awesome has a similar dedication to excellence as Mr. Awesome and is routinely encouraging the kids to strive for just a little higher achievement. I love that she doesn’t just let the kids sit in their comfort zone. That is so important, especially at their young age. Pushing past just a little at a time will benefit them in the long run. She’s been such a blessing to her classroom. It’s amazing to see how the kids have grown leaps and bounds in only a few short months.

Opening gifts
Christmas Eve Celebration with family.

And now, onto Christmas! Due to Anthony’s work schedule, we ended up celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve this year so he could get some rest. Most of our family was able to celebrate with us. My mom, brother, mother-in-law, and father-in-law gathered together with us in our little apartment and we had a wonderful few hours together opening gifts, talking and eating a delicious roast beef dinner. Santa came sometime during the night, leaving the girls a 2-1/2 foot tall stuffed singing Rudolph and a gift for each girl. We had a quiet Christmas day with a small outing to the dog park for our beloved pug-mix, Rosie Grace. Titus Aaron, our cantankerous kitty stayed away from the festivities. He’s the Grinch in feline form. We love him anyway.

Theresa, Chelsea and Rudolph

We weren’t able to attend the Christmas Eve service at our church due to its timing. It’s near impossible for me to stay up past 6:00 pm unless someone pokes and prods me repeatedly. There was no way I was going to make it to 9:00 pm for the service, so we had our own version at home. I’ll admit that this hasn’t been the most spiritual Christmas we’ve ever had and I’m a bit disappointed in myself that I didn’t take more time with the girls to explain the magic and mystery behind Jesus’ birth. This is part of me loving comfort, remember? I’ve been incredibly uncomfortable with this pregnancy and I made too many excuses for myself. One of the great joys of God’s grace is that each new day is a chance to change past mistakes. We don’t have to wait until we get it perfect or until the timing is right. We can just pick up where we left off and make different choices as soon as we realized we’ve messed up. I’m doing just that and I encourage you to do this as well. Don’t linger in feelings of inadequacy. Kick it to the curb and move on. You can do better/differently. Life isn’t over. You’re still breathing, right?

So to conclude this little update, I do have some projects and blog post subjects I’ve been working on, but have been busy creating Sunday School content and prepping for the holidays. Also, I’ve been feeling inadequate to write about certain subject matters, assuming I have to know everything about a subject before I write about it. Again, wow. My controlling and comfort-loving side is rearing its ugly head! I’ve been a bit paralyzed by fear as well. What if I’m just not good enough to write about certain subjects? A big part of me remembers who I was a few years ago, and she was definitely not a great person. I wouldn’t listen to a word she said. But now…I’m not her anymore. Praise the Lord! He has done many good and wonderful works within me. I’ve been humbled, deeply and I love who He has created me to be. I learn to love myself a bit more every day, and by loving myself, I’m able to accept His love more as well.

Me
Proud Mama of two girls born into my arms, one on the way and many more born into Heaven.

I wish you all the very best blessings and hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season. Look for new blog posts up within the week. I’ll be sure to update everyone on Wednesday evening or Thursday morning in regards to the gender reveal. I can’t wait!

In Christ,

Mandy ❤

Imparting Wisdom Daily Into Our Children

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

Proverbs 13:20 ESV

This is one lesson I truly want my children to understand when choosing friends. We have conversations with our girls every day about what happens at school, who they’re playing with, etc. We watch carefully who the parents are, what they’re up to in their personal life, and what types of kids the girls are hanging out with. Then we gently speak about the types of people we want them (our girls) to be. We remind them of this lesson and that the more they choose wisely, the more they’ll benefit from it and the more their choices can honor God not just today, but every day of their young lives.

One very simple way to remind the girls who God desires them to be, is to use our last name and say “A (insert last name) is…” and then we fill in with “kind, loving, wise, etc.” (Use your family values here, or quote from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7) We then remind them that we are a family that has chosen to follow God all the days of our lives, no matter what everyone else is doing. Sometimes we stand alone, just the four of us, and that’s okay.

We also speak to the girls about what type of man they should be looking for to marry. We speak specifically about certain qualities and what the family unit might look like – a loving set of parents/guardians, someone who loves God, attends church, is active in their community, respects other people on the playground (our girls are only 5 and 7, so we adjust to their age group to keep it relevant) etc.

These conversations take no more than about 10 minutes a day on our end and can happen over the course of the day. We let them come about organically as the girls share things with Anthony and I. If I’m the one they choose to share things with, I make sure Anthony has a chance later to respond to the big questions they’ve had. This way, they get both gender’s input and we work as a team, validating each other and solidifying our family unit’s value system. We’ve seen much fruit from our labors, which began at each of the girls’ births. (We whipped out our Bibles and read to them within the first few hours of birth and prayed over their little bodies that God would keep them in His hands all the days of their lives.)

I’m daily amazed at how God is working in our family, especially in our girls’ lives.

What I’ve learned through parenting  is that it’s not necessary to plant a whole tree in one day, or to even sit and watch that tree grow intently without ever looking away. Parenting is like planting a seed, watering it, nurturing it and caring for it over time. It grows slowly, may branch off into odd directions, and will definitely need pruning from time to time. When the tree is fully grown, if it’s been nurtured well, will be lush and tall and beautiful. Your community will be able to benefit from the fruits of the tree – from the fruit of your labor. Dear parents, you toil not in vain. You plant seeds not in vain. You – community of Believers are planting an entire beautiful forest. Toil on! One day we will all benefit from the fruit of our labors.

Let’s Pray: Dear Jesus, thank You for the gift of a new day. Thank You for the blessing of our beautiful children. Even when we are tired, discouraged or feeling overwhelmed, help us to plant seeds of wisdom, hope and love in our children. Help us to teach them to love You, love their neighbor and to respect themselves and their community. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Victim and Survivor Shaming Must Stop

Victim and survivor shaming must stop. It’s imperative to the health and welfare of all victims past and current of any type of abuse, domestic, emotional, spiritual and sexual, for the shaming to stop immediately. We must be allowed to tell our stories. We must be allowed to tell them accurately and as honestly as possible. We must be allowed to tell them as often as we feel called to. We must be allowed to tell them in public, online, in books, in stories, in private and to friends and family. We must be allowed to be heard, whether our abuser is a celebrity, family member, friend or stranger. We must not be continually questioned as to the validity of our statements. Even when something is remembered only partway, there is a valid reason for that – the event was traumatic and as a result, the formations in our brains were changed dramatically. Our brains may not want to retain the information, so it attempts to lock it away in a deep dark corner, like stuffing something revolting into the bottom of the trash in order to dispose of it entirely. There is no way to completely dispose of trauma, except to heal from it and move forward. Otherwise, we are stuck in a never-ending cycle of running from it only to find we’re actually running in circles, gaining no actual ground. There is no road behind us except that which is well worn by our own souls – the same sights, smells, tastes, memories on repeat.

When we’re allowed to tell our stories, we take the power away from the event little by little. We effectively state that we are no longer stuck in the past but are actively moving towards a brighter future. We build in our community, hope. For each survivor that speaks out, another victim is listening, gaining strength to someday break free from their own hell and begin to tell their own story. The path to healing is paved by the bravery of the freed survivors – those who were not silenced by hatred and shaming but spoke up anyway. I will be one of those that help pave the road for the next generation. I will be one of the brave and you who hate what I have to say will not stop me. My God gives me strength and in Christ, all things are possible. I will speak up for those who are too weak to speak for themselves. I will inspire the next generation to stand up and tell their story. I will no longer sit in shame, but will look you in the eyes and tell you my story. I am no longer a victim, but a survivor. You cannot take that from me.

Over the years, I have been told that I should not give pearls to swine and that by telling my story openly, I am giving pearls to swine. I respectfully disagree. By keeping my story secret and protecting the identity of my abuser, I am giving pearls to swine. I choose to take my pearls back. My abuser was not only my step-father, but several of his friends as well. Most of the abuse occurred while my mother was out of the home, tending to work or to my severely handicapped sister, Melissa. My step-father was very manipulative and found many avenues for gaining control over me. It seems that one of his favorites was to nurture me. Often times he’d turn children’s shows on the television – shows like Disney on Ice that were meant to fascinate me and hold my attention. He’d then call me onto his lap and proceed to molest me, his hands between my legs and my hands often between his, at his insistence. If I rejected him, I’d often be punished severely. I remember being cornered in a narrow hallway on a few occasions, his leather belt in hand. I’d refused him. He didn’t care for that too much. I learned my lesson. The next time I focused on the television show and did not resist him. I pretended I was somewhere else and that it was not me who has touching him, but someone else. This is how I coped. This is also how the abuse was allowed to go on for so long. My memories were deeply repressed and this abusive behavior became a way of life for me, like waking up and eating breakfast before going off to school. It was habit and I was overpowered, my choices removed from me before I even realized I had a choice to make. I’d also refer to this as brain washing.

It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Luke 17:2 (NIV)

I fully believe my step-father will answer to God for all of his sins against me. The Bible makes it clear that my step-father not only sinned against me, but against God Himself as well. That is a strong statement with lasting repercussions, and it’s one I believe whole-heartedly. If he doesn’t repent fully, I believe my step-father will burn in hell. I see him suffering now in his personal life with work, health, his continued marriage to my Mother, and his fractured relationships with family (his only son, my younger brother) and with friendships. There is a large part of me that finds satisfaction in his suffering, though I am aware that Christ is not pleased with my satisfaction. I pray daily for His Light to overcome the darkness in my heart. If Christ can forgive those who crucified Him, I too can forgive my abuser. I’m finding it’s a daily, if not hourly process. Each time I think I’ve fully forgiven him, my heart finds more bitterness and I lash out. It’s my intent to forgive but never forget.

Out of the pain of the past, it’s become difficult to trust others. In my own personal life, there are precious few who are allowed intimate glances into my daily life, and fewer still who are allowed to remain in my life for long periods of time. The time of abuse from my step-father and his friends has taught me to trust no one, and to keep no one around for long periods of time. Habits form when people are allowed to be near you. It gives people time to manipulate and brain wash you, therefore, relationships must be considered disposable in order to remain safe. This has been the most difficult thought process to overcome. I understand intellectually that it’s flawed and needs to be revised in order to live a full life, but it is one of the hardest for me to address on a consistent, daily basis. It is simply too painful. I will continue praying for Christ’s Light to overcome this darkness in my heart. Could you, reader, pray for me as well? This is a hard battle, and I’m not the only survivor walking it. This battle has threatened my marriage multiple times. I will not allow it to overtake me or my marriage, but I can’t do it alone. Neither can you. I continue seeking help.

Seeking help is another area I want to address in regards to victim and survivor shaming. Over the years, I’ve sought help from many different avenues. Some of them have been entirely appropriate – talk therapy, behavior modification counseling, psychiatry, Christian Bible-based counseling, support groups and prayer. Other avenues haven’t been nearly as successful, especially within friend groups, but they did often lead to other, more helpful solutions. I also gained a better understanding of who my true friends are, and who I am in Christ. The most painful avenues I took were speaking to close and personal friends, entrusting them with information, and then being told that I was too broken to formulate a lasting relationship with. I understand their point of view to an extent; however, the delivery was painful. We are all a broken people in one way or another. This is why we must live in community. We complete the beautiful picture that Christ has painted.

I’ve written many times on the struggles that I’ve overcome – homosexual tendencies, adultery, depression, suicide, addiction…these are nothing new within the sexual abuse survivor community. These are prevalent themes. They’re sins and they need to be addressed as such, but they’re also causes for deep concern. Why are these things happening to our youth? Why are so many survivors turning to harmful avenues as a way of healing from the pain of the past? I have a theory, but you probably won’t like it.
We’re being silenced, shamed, told to keep it quiet and move on, but we can’t. Our stories are banging on the walls, begging to be let out. We can’t move on until we can heal. We can’t do that until we can talk about it, explore the depths of what happened to us and be allowed to move on in our own time. I’ve been told by several professionals that for every year of trauma a survivor has endured, it takes an equal amount of years to heal from that. We can’t even begin to heal until we’ve been effectively heard.

In the news, we’re reading about celebrities abusing youth and we turn our heads and scoff at the victims and the abusers. We make jokes about it and quote famous lines from movies, TV and commercials. It becomes funny to us, but it’s deeply harmful to the victims. I’ve been on both sides of this, and it’s disgusting no matter where you stand.

Satan has twisted scripture for so long and has whispered lies into so many ears. He’s using sexual sins, among others, to rampantly overtake the world. He’s started with the innocent children, molding them into confused, scared little people who grow up to pray on the children they’re entrusted to protect. It’s a rabid hamster running around in the same wheel, in the same putrid cage, breeding and killing it’s own off-spring. We have to treat that rabid hamster, no matter how disgusting he really is on the inside. We have to do it without killing the off-spring and without silencing their cries for help. Each person needs their own space to heal, their own space to tell their stories and their own space to carve out a life for themselves. We cannot continue to group survivors in with the abusers, nor can we continue to ignore either’s cry for help. I know, this is a controversial statement, but it’s one that needs to be made. Perhaps if my step-father had received the help he desperately needed, he would not have abused me, my handicapped sister and my younger brother. Perhaps if we have been removed from the home, we could’ve healed sooner and more effectively. Perhaps if more victims and survivors’ voices were heard, there would be less abuse and more action towards ending it.

I do not propose that simply hearing our stories will end all abuses, but I do propose that it will end for us, the cycle of abuse and begin the path to effective healing. We need more success stories and more survivors to find their voices and call out for action. We need more bravery and less cowardice. Join me now in sharing your stories. Stop protecting your abuser. Speak out and speak up!

My simple prayer for you: May God bless you in your endeavors to tell your story and heal from the horrors of your past. In Christ’s Name. Amen.

And….baby makes 5 (or 6?)!

 

 

 

I’m PREGNANT! I’ve “known” for a couple of weeks, but I had several chemical pregnancies this summer and I’m dealing with endometriosis, so I waited past the point when I felt I should probably test. This afternoon I stopped at the Dollar Tree after church to purchase a couple tests to verify and it’s a BFP (Big Fat Positive)!

I’ve been having dreams that it’s twins, so we’ll see in a few weeks. I have to call an OB/GYN tomorrow to make an appointment for next month. I’m a person who cannot hold a secret, so you’ll be getting to see ultrasound pictures, too.

Positive pregnancy test
double lines!

I’ve had several miscarriages and my blood type is Rh negative, so I’ll need a rhogam shot or else my body will become allergic to baby and spit him/her out. Please be praying for a healthy and safe pregnancy for me. Our girls are really, really excited and I think I made my husband deaf when I read the results and started screaming.

Praise be to God from whom all blessings flow! 

If you’re not familiar with some of the terms used above, I’ve provided some helpful links below. Additionally, I’m including a few of my favorite pregnancy sites.

Chemical Pregnancy:  http://miscarriage.about.com/od/onetimemiscarriages/p/chemicalpreg.htm

Endometriosis:  http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometriosis/basics/definition/con-20013968

Miscarriage: http://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/guide/pregnancy-miscarriage

Rh Negative Blood Type: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/rh-factor/

Rhogam Shot: http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/ask-heidi/rhogam-and-rh-negative.aspx

Baby Center: http://www.babycenter.com/

The Bump.Com: http://www.thebump.com/

 

Do you have any favorite pregnancy websites or Facebook pages you want to share? Let me know in the comments. Also, what’s your most memorable pregnancy moment? Share that in the comments, too!

 

 

 

What is the Biggest Problem in the World Today?

So for this week’s scripture, (and yes, I’m aware I missed it last week! I’m sorry!) I want to discuss the question “What is the biggest problem in the world today?” I googled that question and came up with more answers than I could shake a stick at, but really, for me, the answer is quite simple. Please, sit back with a cup of tea and enjoy!

 

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

-Ephesians 4:30-32 (ESV)

amish

Going Amish?

amish

 

One of my all-time favorite books is Almost Amish by Nancy Sleeth. I cannot read this book enough! Right now, I’m reading it for the fourth or fifth time and taking more intensive notes than I ever have before. God has been placing it upon our hearts to live more sustainable lives and to love and tend His creation. For the last couple of years, Anthony and I have been working really hard to live more with less. We got off track about a year ago when we moved back home to Oregon, but we’re slowly getting back to where we want to be. Eventually, we will switch from 100% electric lighting to 100% non-electric lighting, from owning a clothes dryer, to not owning one (and line drying all of our clothes), and we will cut down on our use of a car for any errand within five miles of our home (unless it’s on the way home from church or work, which are both more than 10 miles from home). We’re selling pretty much everything that is non-essential and that does not honor God. This includes home decor, clothing, and most small electrical kitchen appliances. This change began in the heart, and is moving outward, to our actions. It’s not so much that we want to be Amish, as that we want to honor God in all we do and say, and we want to be sure we’re considering long-term cost to our environment, neighbors, and our wallets, as opposed to short-term gain for ourselves.

The more we pare down, the freer we feel. We live in a small (by “normal” standards) two bedroom, one and a half bath apartment. It’s around 900 square feet and it’s ample room for the four of us. We park in a community car port and we live less than half a block from the schools, and less than one-quarter mile from a local grocer’s. Everything we need is within one mile of our home. Though we do not have a backyard, we do have a small patio, and we are using that to grow some food. We currently have cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, mint, rosemary, basil, oregano, broccoli, limes, lemons and oranges growing on our back patio. There is still room for our two girls to play out there as well. We plan to increase our crop by double next year, adding beans, cilantro, potatoes, radishes, cucumbers (for pickling), and tomatillos or some other type of peppers.

Our girls are expected to help water the plants, feed the pets (we have a small dog and a cat), and clean up after themselves, as well as set the table, prepare some simple foods (like cutting olives with a table knife, tear lettuce for salads, stir baking mixes, etc), fold laundry (towels, wash cloths, socks, underpants, cloth napkins, etc.), and sweep and mop tiled areas, to name a few. I also expect them to clean the bathtub every Monday evening. (They love that particular chore, since it means they’re the first to take a soak in a clean tub!) We do not pay our girls an allowance. We had been using a rewards system to bribe them to do chores, but we’re removing that from our home, since we don’t believe that it’s spiritually beneficial to bribe them to assist the family, or for any other reason. This can lead to a sense of entitlement, and that is not a spiritual blessing in any way, shape or form. Instead, we reward ourselves with time spent outside, such as a daily walk to the park to play on the playground. We live exactly a half mile from two different parks (one in each direction), both with playgrounds. Taking a walk to the park is a daily occurrence, provided it’s not pouring down rain outside. This is ample reason for the girls to complete their chores in a timely manner. They absolutely love going to the park with enough time to spend socializing with the neighbor kids.

We have significantly decreased screen time for our children, to a mere 20 minutes a day (for computer games on Sesame Street.org) and one movie a week, on Fridays, when we make popcorn and settle in on the couch as a family. This week, we watched Beauty and the Beast and all of us girls were delighted to discover that my husband knew all the words to every song in the movie! Anthony and I have cut down screen time for ourselves, as well. We’re working on cutting it down even further. It’s a tough habit to break! He is in online school, working towards a degree in forensics and criminology and I home school Theresa, using the internet as a frequent resource for her. (I have found very helpful videos on YouTube for my visual learner.) We have to be very mindful of how we are using the internet. It’s so easy to become distracted!

Our financial situation has always been bleak. We were love-sick kids who got married on borrowed time and borrowed money. We barely had two nickels to scrape together, and then we started having children. You can guess how that’s all turned out. 😉 We tried chasing after the “American dream” but found that for us, it’s more of an “American nightmare.” We have little interest in corporate America and even less interest in working far from home. We value our time together as a family, and our small home that allows us to be in close proximity to one another. Yes, we do occasionally (read: daily) drive each other nuts, but we also have some insanely funny moments. I would not trade this time with my family for anything, nor would I desire a larger house so that I could “escape” from my husband or my children. We make time for each other, and for ourselves. It all “comes out in the wash” as they say.

Behind our home is an empty property, full of grass, wild flowers, birds and often, deer. We love to stand on the patio, quietly talking to our friends, the deer. Right now there are five young bucks that make the trek to our “backyard”. It delights our girls to no end to see them out there, munching on the sweet grasses or laying lazily in the sun. I love listening to the hundreds of birds outside our window. There is a stream about 50 yards away, down a bit of a ravine, and I know the area is teeming with wild-life. I am in heaven here. There is always something new, something beautiful to enjoy, even in the middle of a small town.

Because we enjoy our friends the birds and deer so much, we want to preserve their land. Limiting our time in the driver’s seat, cutting down our carbon footprint, and reducing our use of non-renewable energies. We’re beginning to shop locally (which is an adjustment, I’ll admit! I love Fred Meyer!), frequenting farmer’s markets, purchasing locally made toiletries, using cloth napkins exclusively, cleaning with water and vinegar, and clearing our home of unnecessary clutter. (Clutter equals fire hazard, among other things.)

The reactions we’ve received about these changes have been, surprising to us, mostly negative. People ask why we’re striving to be so different, and ask why we’re trying to buy our way into heaven. It’s not about buying our way into heaven at all! It’s about ensuring there’s still a planet with fresh air, healthy (recognizable, non-genetically modified) foods, and room to run and play and explore nature, for future generations. Most of all, it’s about living in a way that allows us time to be free to do what we love best, and that is to love God by serving others. I cannot serve others very well when I am tied down to a large house, cleaning lots of things that I do not really need, and working at a job I hate just to be able to afford these things. That, to us, is the opposite of a dream.

God has deeply and richly blessed our family. I can count on one hand the amount of times we’ve discussed leaving this town to go somewhere else and make more money, and on one finger the number of places and situations I’d rather be in. God has planted us here, and we intend to bloom right where He’s planted us. This, above all things, is the Amish way. We will bloom where God has planted us until it is time to be with Him forever in Heaven.