This is Supposed to Be Hard Work

You’ve seen them…the advertisements touting how this diet will make the pounds melt off of you, or this product will make your housework feel like a walk in the park, or this method will be the answer to all your problems.  The prospect of this sort of thing is exciting, tempting, and…destructive.

SELF-destructive, to be exact.

You see, we all want easy street.  We all want the most efficient, fastest, easiest way from Point A to Point B.  If our map app can do it, surely we can do it in our every day lives.  But, when there is a detour, a roadblock, or even a stop sign in the middle of it all, we get irritated.  We get discontent.  We get depressed.

And we are pretty certain WE are the ones who failed because after all…

It was supposed to be EASY!

What would happen if we embraced the fact that some things are hard? |

I homeschool.  I have a large family.  I have a 2 year old.  I have a newborn.  I have a lot of laundry.  I have 20 extra pounds.  I…

Good grief!  The list could go on and on and on. “I” this and “I” that.  Can’t “I” get a break?

But, what if “I” embraced the fact that this stuff is hard?

Homeschooling?  It’s hard.

Raising a lot of kids?  Yep, it’s hard too.

My 2 year old?  Oh my yes!  Hard!

My newborn?  Naw, she’s an easy keeper.

Aspen 4 months

The laundry?  Hard.

Losing the extra 20 pounds?  HARD!

When you accept that some things are hard, some things you have to WORK at, some things aren’t going to be easy, your outlook on life completely changes.  You don’t see the roadblocks and stop signs, twists and turns in the road, detours and potholes as obstacles designed to undermine your perfect life.  You don’t see homeschooling as the problem, the toddler as the problem, or even the 20 pounds as the problem.  You see things for what they are…WORK.  And yes, sometimes HARD WORK.

When homeschooling my large family becomes difficult – and it does – that doesn’t mean I’m doing something wrong or I should throw in the towel.  It may mean I need to slow down, try something new, or simply PERSEVERE.

When raising my large family feels overwhelming, especially cooking for them and putting out all the fires my 2 year old creates, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have had all these kids.  It may mean I’m in a difficult season, and prayer is the only thing that is going to get me through.

When the laundry is piled to the ceiling or piled on the couch, it doesn’t mean I have too many clothes (Mom 😉 ).  It may mean I need to revamp my laundry system, put away the seasonal clothes, or keep a better eye on the kids and how often they are changing clothes (ahem…you know who you are…).  And when that’s all done, just make peace with the fact that there are 10 of us wearing clothes, using towels, and sleeping on sheets every single day.  The laundry will NEVER be caught up.

And that 20 pounds?  It isn’t going to melt off of me.  I will have to WORK at it.  I will have to have self control.  I will have to say no to dessert and yes to exercise.  I will have to accept that there is no gimmick or pill or super awesome diet that will rid me of my gluttony.  That’s between me and the Lord.

Folks, this life is supposed to be hard work.  Always looking for easy street will only lead to dead ends.  You will never be joyful or content.  You will miss the beauty of the journey, the lessons to be learned, the freedom of surrender.  Work hard, my friends.  Stay strong.  Be diligent.

“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
Philippians 2:12b-13

Read the entire chapter…so, so good!  I’m praying for all of you this week!

The Mission Field in Your Home

One thing I often hear from stay at home moms is that they feel they aren’t reaching out with the Gospel of Christ.  They are so busy running a household, they have time for little else.  (Remember my post on What You Need to Know About Being a Mom Many Littles?)  These woman want to be spreading God’s Word, but they can’t find the time, the energy, or the babysitter.  I’ve even known some women who gave up homemaking and homeschooling in order to make a greater impact on their community for Christ.

What these mamas are missing is the mission field right in their very homes!

The Mission Field In Your Home - "Living and Ordinary Life in the Name of an Extraordinary Savior" |

Before you hang up on me because I’m being trite, please listen to these words written to me in an email by a Saladmaster Cookware representative who visited our home last week:

“Your family is truly amazing and I felt I was on very sacred ground being in your home.  I am in homes all the time and see interaction in all sorts of wonderful families but have to say, yours is a real stand-out!  I consider it a privilege to have been among you.”

That blew me away.  Sure we get comments as we are walking down the aisles of the grocery store or in restaurants, but to have someone who had been around us for more than 10 minutes give such an amazing testimony to the Light of Christ IN OUR HOME blessed my busy homemaking/homeschooling mama heart!

My children as a mission field.

The Mission Field in your Own Home - don't miss it! |

My mission field has always been my home.  I care for children all day long, doing my very imperfect best to instill the Gospel of Christ in them.  My intent is to raise them as arrows for the Lord to one day be shot out from our home and carry the Gospel with them.  Thus, the name of this blog – Raising Arrows.

“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth.”
~Psalm 127:3-4

Often, a mother of young children won’t see the fruit of her labor until much later, giving her the impression she’s not really reaching anyone.  However, a funeral we recently attended gave me insight into what a faithful following looks like at the end of the race…

The gentleman who was being remembered died at 93.  Although he was raised in the church, he did not become a true Christ follower until he was 40.  By that point, he had been married quite some time and had 4 children, but it changed his outlook and attitude dramatically.  However, he lived his life as an ordinary man, doing ordinary things; the difference was that he now did it for and in the name of Jesus.  Because of this, his impact on his world was EXTRAORDINARY.

All 4 of his children are believers, as well as most of their family and extended family.  All of them spoke highly of him and how he ministered to them as a family.  His work in the community was done in the capacity of his various jobs, and he was well-loved by those who knew him.

Once, he counseled Ty not to worry about taking the “right” job, but to do something he enjoyed and work for the Lord there.  He did a lot of work in the church, but again, it was done in the capacity of the gifts and realm of influence the Lord had already placed in his life.

Visitors as my mission field.

The day the Saladmaster representative came to cook us dinner, we all pitched in and cleaned the house.  That was the only thing I did to prepare.  In fact, I’m pretty sure half of my boys had on jeans with holes in the knees.  I had to leave the kitchen several times to change diapers, my 4 year old kept playing with one of the pans, and my 2 year old took off with the 1 pound fat glob the guy brought as a visual to explain how to cook healthy meals.  Perfect it was not.

But, it didn’t need to be perfect.  It just needed to be authentic.

Being a missionary is easier than you thought.

The Mission Field is your own Home - RaisingArrows.netBeing a missionary is a calling all Christians have and it has very little to do with your training or your location.  As a mama, it is about being authentic with everyone you come in contact with from your husband to your children to the mailman to the Saladmaster representative. It isn’t about saying the right thing or looking a certain way.  It isn’t about being the perfect hostess or reaching the most people.  It is about living an ordinary life, doing ordinary things in the name of an extraordinary Savior!

Your life, your home, your testimony - it doesn't have to be extraordinary to reach others with the Gospel! |

So, next time you are tempted to believe you aren’t really doing the Lord’s work, or what you are doing is much too insignificant, remember WHO is doing the work.  It isn’t you.  This isn’t about you.  Be faithful where you are.  The Lord didn’t accidentally give you these children or this life.  It was planned with a purpose.  Work where you are FOR HIM, and let Him do the rest.

Postpartum Anxiety – How I am Coping

Last month, in my post Allowing Myself to Shop, I told you I was planning to write about some of the struggles I have had since Aspen’s birth 4 months ago.  I did write about healing from a c-section, but this post isn’t about my physical well-being.  It’s about something much more difficult to heal from…because it is inside my head.

Postpartum Anxiety - it's not depression, it's outright fear |

I knew I wasn’t dealing with depression.  I’d been there before.  This was different.  This was outright fear.

I was:
*standing over my child, convinced she was going to die any moment.

*not letting anyone else hold her in case she stopped breathing and no one noticed.

*not sleeping because I was watching her breathe.

*keeping the light on all night so I could watch her breathe.

*fearful that my other children were sick and I wouldn’t realize it until it was too late.

*spending copious amounts of time on the internet searching all sorts of “symptoms” I thought I was seeing in my children.

*unable to stay by myself with the children without someone there to distract me from my thoughts.

*wanting to run away from my responsibilities at home so I didn’t have to think about all the things that could go wrong.

Every time I read or heard about something happening to another child, I would internalize it.  It would consume me, and I would make it “mine” – as in, I would become petrified that it was going to happen to one of my children.

In order to sleep at night, I would put on a movie or listen to music on the iPad next to my bed so I could shut my brain off.

I could sometimes hold it together during the day, but by nighttime, I was a wreck.

It started when I was pregnant.  I had a feeling this was a girl, and while I had always envisioned myself being excited to finally have a girl after all this time, I never expected to be so scared of having a girl.  I guess I figured after 7 years, I would have worked through Emily’s death.  I guessed wrong.

And then we got a call telling us Aspen needed to be checked for Cystic Fibrosis.

Struggling with postpartum anxiety can be because of many different factors. | RaisingArrows.netWe were told her first test was inconclusive (it was right below the line of “negative” and “maybe”), and she needed a second test.  Thankfully, that test was definitively negative, but the 6 week process only added to my anxiety.

Add to all of this the fact that we experienced nearly every major life event all within a few months, and I was drained.  I didn’t have much fight left in me.

(affiliate links included)
Right before my 6 week checkup, I decided I had to do something.  I couldn’t live like this.  A friend, who knew I was struggling, suggested a high-powered B-complex.  That’s where I started.

Seeking Health B Complex - in my arsenal for dealing with postpartum anxiety |

I ordered the exact one she suggested – Seeking Health B Complex Plus – from Amazon with Prime shipping.  I was desperate.  She thought I’d see results within a few weeks (ugh), but after 4 days, I was feeling MUCH better!

I continue to take this supplement faithfully.  I can tell if I’ve accidentally missed a day or two.  I knew I had a B deficiency from some blood work I had years ago, but I hate taking pills, and I never felt bad enough to stick with a regimen of taking supplements.  Seeing the difference this particular supplement made gave me the incentive to keep taking it!

Another friend gave me some Peace & Calming from Young Living.  I put it on my wrists at night.  It seemed to help my brain from tumbling about at night.  I’ve also heard Valor helps with anxiety.  (note:  I am not a YL distributor, nor do I endorse any specific essential oil company.)

Then, I signed up for The Healthy Home eCourse:

The Healthy Home eCourse is one of the resources that helped me with my Postpartum Anxiety |

I wish I could manage to tell you how much this eCourse has meant to me.  You can learn more about this eCourse and other offered by Vintage Remedies HERE.)  The second module in The Healthy Home was on natural stress relief, and it was SUPER helpful.  When you purchase an eCourse, you also get access to a Vintage Remedies’ FREE Resource Library with 21 Audios, Videos, and Downloads – one of which is Botanicals for Anxiety.

This FREE audio for students of Vintage Remedies gave me ideas for treating my postpartum anxiety |

That’s where I learned about bergamot (and tons of other remedies!)  It isn’t a sedative, so it can be taken any time of day, but it also helps with insomnia, and it is anti-viral, so it is great to have around for cold/flu season.

I purchased this diffuser to use in our home:

It had good reviews, and it is pretty.  I needed a little “pretty.” 😉

I also needed to get more sleep.  I don’t think we fully realize how much our bodies need sufficient sleep.  It’s as if our brains go haywire with a lack of sleep.  We get more and more irrational, as we get less and less sleep.  The problem with anxiety is that you often can’t sleep, or in my case, you don’t want to sleep.

I really can’t explain why I didn’t want to sleep (and I am still struggling to WANT to sleep), but it isn’t because I’m afraid something bad will happen if I sleep.  It’s more a feeling of needing to keep busy.

I know a lot of people suggest melatonin to help with sleep issues, but one thing I learned from the Botanicals class is that melatonin is a hormone and shouldn’t be your first choice.  I’ve chosen to use teas to help me sleep.  Teas like Earl Grey (which contains bergamot) and Chamomile have a relaxing effect on the body.  The Bulk Herb Store sells a Fast Asleep Tea that is safe for nursing mothers (something you need to look out for).

Because anxiety often happens at night, and often keeps you from sleeping, try something like Fast Asleep Tea (How I'm Dealing with Postpartum Anxiety) |

(If you are using a loose leaf tea, brew it in your Keurig using a Reusable K-Cup, or use a tea ball or tea strainer.)

They also suggested valerian, so I’m looking into that too.

To help with my anxiety, I have to be VERY careful what I read and watch.  Facebook, blogs, movies, or the nightly news can all trigger fears for me.  Prayer requests for sick children can send me spiraling.  Movies with certain subject matter can be overwhelming.  When faced with someone else’s pain, I have to pray my way through it lest I get caught up in it.

The last thing (which really should be the first thing) I am doing is learning to deal with what is causing my anxiety.  Americans like bandaid fixes.  We like to treat the symptoms without treating the cause.  It’s easier.  But, if I’m ever going to fully work through this, I HAVE to face the fear.

I fear what I know.  I know what it is like to lose a child.  My heart and mind tell me I would never survive it if it happened again.  But, the Lord knows my fears.  He knows my future.  He knows the steps I will be taking on this journey.  I have to stay soaked in the Word.  I have to keep my eyes fixed on Christ and the Cross.

Focus on Christ the Cross - How I'm Dealing with my Postpartum Anxiety |

I’m not through the storm yet.  Writing this post wasn’t easy.  There is no magic cure-all because we live in a fallen world.  But, as I said yesterday, I have hope.  Praise the Lord for hope!

Was My Cesarean Necessary?

For some women, the question of whether or not their cesarean was necessary never crosses their minds.  In fact, I’ve even heard some women say they wished they had signed up to have a c-section from the very beginning.

I was not one of those women.

Was My Cesarean Necessary?  A mother 9 with 3 cesarean births under her belt explores this question and the emotions that go along with it. |

If you’ve ever read my Birthing Journey, you know my first child was born via c-section.  You also know I firmly believe he should not have been.  You also know it took me 8 years and 3 VBACs to heal from a 6″ scar.

Was My Cesarean Necessary?  A mom of 9 with 3 c-sections under her belt explores this question and emotions that come from having a c-section. |

When I would tell people that having a c-section was bothering me, most would say, “At least he’s healthy.”  I wanted to scream.  He may have been healthy, but I was not.  I couldn’t get past the fact that I felt broken.  I felt like a failure.  I felt cheated.

The question of cesarean necessity is a complicated one, and it runs MUCH deeper than medical diagnoses.

Very few women go into birth wanting a cesarean, especially in my circle of granola mom friends.  The more natural the birth, the better.  Some are even viciously militant about the way they give birth, which only adds to the struggles a mom who ends up with a c-section feels.  So, my first plea would be to avoid judging anyone based on how they gave birth.  Not every c-section mom is “too posh to push.”  And if you are the c-section mom, understand that you didn’t “cop out” just because you had a cesarean.

If you are a mom struggling with the question of how necessary your c-section was, let me encourage you to redirect that question away from where you were to where you are now.

The question of whether or not my c-section was necessary had consumed me.  I was angry not only about the surgery itself, but also about what this meant for future births.  I was worried what people might think when they found out my very first birth was a c-section.  I worried my home-birthing friends would scoff at me.  I was worried I had lost credibility as a mom.  And the longer I dwelt on the past, the less hope I had for the future, and the more fear I felt concerning that future.

But, I didn’t need to “just get over it.”  What I truly needed was to put the past in it’s proper place…as part of my story.

Was My Cesarean Necessary?  A mom of 9 with 3 c-sections under her belt discusses this topic and the emotions surrounding it. |

When you begin to see your c-section as part of your story, you begin to see how you can use that story to help others and shape a future that accepts its past.  In fact, true healing came in the form of a La Leche League leader telling me to choose to have the best birth *I* could have when I was pregnant with my 3rd child.  She knew what it was like to be disappointed in a birthing experience, but she also knew what it was like to move forward, making choices only she could make.  She chose to use her story, to help me.  And I choose to use my story, including the part she played, to help others.  I learned that my expectations and my reality did not have to be at war with each other.

Several years ago, I wrote a post about birthing expectations on a friend’s blog.  In it I wrote these words:

“I was not a product of my birthing experiences, nor a martyr to my birthing expectations.  I could make a birth plan, I could desire an unmedicated vaginal birth, but that did not mean a different sort of birth was a failure and made me ‘less than.'” 

Following my first c-section, I chose to change OBs and find one who was VBAC-friendly.  I went on to have 4 successful VBACs.  (You can read about those births HERE.)  In 2009, I had a 2nd c-section. I made the choice to try for a VBA2C and worked hard to find a doctor who would support me in that.  (You can read about my first VBA2C HERE and my second one HERE.)  Now that I have had a third c-section, I know I will no longer VBAC.  That too is part of my story.

I made the choice to be fully accepting of the cesareans in each case and fully accepting of the future beyond those cesareans.  I purposely did things to enjoy my pregnancies and ease the expectations I used to feel were so much a part of the experience.  I told myself each moment was another part of my story, and I would make the best choices I could.

If you have had a c-section that you feel may not have been necessary – or even one you know was necessary – and you are struggling with difficult feelings, you may have to face disapproval or guilt or drastic changes to your birthing future, but remember these things are a part of YOUR story, not someone else’s story.  How you birth doesn’t prove what kind of woman you are, it doesn’t give you super mom status, and it won’t get you to Heaven.

How you birth is YOUR moment, but, I can almost guarantee you, God will place someone in your life who needs to hear what you have to share.  It’s part of that Titus 2 mandate for older women (or women further along in this journey)…teach them to LOVE THEIR CHILDREN.  Part of loving your children is loving the moment they were born…that moment when

YOUR story became THEIRS.

Was My Cesarean Necessary?  A mom with 9 with 3 c-sections under her belt discusses this topic and the emotions surrounding it. |

The Relaxing Room – How to find your space in a busy household

A few weeks ago, I was able to connect with an old friend who is a fellow homeschool mom as well as a pastor’s wife.  She was telling me how she has a parlor room in her home that she keeps free from toys and clutter that allows her a place to sit with a cup of tea and relax.

The concept of having a place you can go to relax may sound like a luxury you cannot afford.  Perhaps you feel your home is too small or your time too limited to allow for space to relax.  But, please, lend me your ear for just a moment…

The Relaxing Room - how to find your space in a busy household |

In other cultures and in days gone by in our own, people took time throughout their day to breathe.  Some countries take long lunches.  Some countries take tea.  Some countries even take naps!  However, in America, busyness seems to be a badge of honor.  Now, don’t get me wrong…we are to be busy at home (Titus 2:5), but taking a moment to drink a little tea or coffee, read a chapter in a book, sit and hold a small child, open a window and breathe fresh air are not marks of laziness.  They are marks of thankfulness.

The Bible tells us to be still.  When we are still, we are able to know God more because we take the time to see His handiwork in the trees and clouds, the shadows and light, fresh air, and our children’s faces.  We are more in tune with the blessings we have been given, and therefore, live a life of thankfulness.

But, what if you can’t dedicate an entire room to relaxing?  No problem!  You can find this kind of space other ways.

The Relaxing Room - how to find your space in a busy household |

The chair above is a hideous orange chair my mother-in-law picked up at a thrift store for me years ago.  It is the THE MOST COMFORTABLE CHAIR IN THE WORLD!  But, it’s orange!  So orange I don’t allow it out in public!  It sits in my bedroom with an end table beside it.  It is a place I can go to nurse when baby needs quiet (or mama needs quiet).  It is a place I can sit while I talk to my husband as he gets ready for work.  It is a place I can go to have a heart-to-heart discussion with one of the children.  It is my relaxing room.

I have a set of red-cushioned patio furniture I purchased a few years ago.  Sometimes my relaxing room is there.  I can sit in the sunlight and watch the children play.  I can read a book or work on my computer in the fresh air.  Sometimes I just go there and sit and do nothing but breathe.

Sometimes my relaxing room is a 15 passenger van with the windows rolled down and music on the radio.  It is the place I find margin in my day.  It is the place I praise the Lord for giving me all the little people in my rear view mirror.

Your relaxing room might be a tiny corner of the living room where you keep a rocking chair and your Bible.  It might be a garden with stepping stones made by your children or a front porch full of plants and flowers.  Wherever it is, it is a place you can go to be thankful.  It is a place you can go to find just a tiny moment of retreat…enough to renew and refocus.

Not sure how to find a relaxing room of your own?  Here are some ideas to get you started…

1.  Choose a place you can keep fairly clear of clutter.  I know in a busy household this can be next to impossible, but if you purpose to have one little space that doesn’t get overrun throughout the day, it really isn’t that hard to keep it clear.  Yes, you will have to be diligent about removing items from the area that don’t belong, but trust me, it’s doable.

2.  Put something there that makes you smile – your favorite quilt, a plaque with a Bible verse, a pretty notepad and pen, even just a nice coaster to set your coffee on!  It doesn’t have to be elaborate.

3.  Teach your children to respect the space.  They should know they are welcome there, but they should also respect the fact that the space is for relaxing and not for horsing around or cluttering up.  Granted, children are children and a stray army man or doll isn’t the end of the world.  I’d also encourage you to allow the children to use the relaxing room for their own breathers if need be…or even help them set up a space of their own!

4.  Find a few moments every day to go there and just breathe.  Even if your relaxing room is just a couple of steps outside your back door on a rectangle of concrete, go there every so often and breathe deep.  Thank the Lord for this day.  Thank the Lord for this moment.  Take a sip of tea and head back to your regularly scheduled life a little more relaxed!

The Shape I’m In

I’m 4 weeks postpartum.  I gained more weight this pregnancy than I ever have.  I am down over 30 pounds, but when you’ve gained 60, that feels like a drop in the bucket.  I’m actually below my pre-pregnancy weight from my last baby, but I had high hopes this time I would get a lot of the weight off quickly.

But, if I was being honest with myself and all of you, I would have to say that I always feel this way about this time postpartum.

When Your Postpartum Shape is Discouraging |

I start thinking I need a whole new wardrobe because I have nothing to wear; or better yet, I need to drop 30 pounds overnight so I can wear all my old clothes.  Then I think maybe some new makeup or a brand new hairdo would make me feel better.  I start reading diet books, cut my hair way too short, buy a bunch of clothes I really don’t like (because I don’t want to spend money on clothes that won’t fit me after I’ve slimmed down), and cry myself a river every time I have to leave the house because I’m just not satisfied with anything.

But guess what…

No diet book, new wardrobe, or new hairdo will fix what I’m feeling.

It’s a little bit of head, a little bit of heart, and a whole lot of hormones telling me that the shape I’m in is something to cry over.

Now, I can tell myself a million times over that it took 9 months to get this way, so why in the world would I think a few weeks would be sufficient to get back to the way I looked before, but I’m one of those people who needs more than some overused adage to feel better.  I’m a practical, give-me-something-I-can-hang-onto kind of person.

Here is what I’ve finally learned that is worth hanging on to…

Learn to see weight loss (especially postpartum weight loss) as a journey |

For years, I saw a healthy weight as an end point.  I would journey until I got there and then forget the journey and do something else.  And during those years when I couldn’t seem to reach the end point, I begrudged every step on the path because I never seemed to be getting anywhere.  That was because I wanted the journey to end.  I didn’t want to be on this diet-focused path forever.

I also saw pregnancy as a time to completely turn tail and run head long into my obsession with food.  When you consider I’ve been pregnant 13 times and birthed 9 full-term babies, some of those with barely a year between, you can imagine how discouraged I became after every baby, wondering if I would ever reach my goal, my end point.

It’s taking me some time to wrap my brain around HEALTHY being a way of life, but now that my husband and my son have maintained their weight losses for over a year, I have a better grasp of what healthy looks like in the long term sense of the word.

Reaching a healthy weight is sort of like birthing a baby.  There is a long journey to get to the place where you hold that precious little one in your arms, but the journey doesn’t end there.  You keep taking steps on down the path of motherhood.

I won’t be at my pre-pregnancy weight by my 6 week checkup, but that’s because I started a lot lower than most of my other pregnancies.  I know I have a lot to learn, and I’m going to need a lot of determination and motivation to stay focused and make this journey part of my life and not just something I do for a little while.

The shape I’m in isn’t something to be discouraged by because it’s just part of my journey.  It’s the place I am now.  I am choosing to be a fit mama even when the shape I’m in feels far from it because I am choosing to live healthy!