Living counter-culturally within the counter-culture
Here I am, mother of nine, transplanted American happily living in Canada for almost half of my life now. Taking care of a large family doesn't allow me much time to write but I still manage it now and then.
On Monday, April 19th, at eight days past my due date, I had my last prenatal appointment. It was possibly the best one I’ve ever had, especially so late in pregnancy. The doctor confirmed that baby was head down – a relief because he was transverse at my previous appointment. He then asked me if I wanted to come in and be induced. I said no. He said okay. He asked me if I wanted a membrane sweep. Declined that as well. No problem. He asked me how long I was comfortable going over. I said I felt totally fine about going to 42 weeks. I told him that I was happy to go in for non-stress tests to make sure baby was happy but I definitely wouldn’t want to be induced without good cause because of past experiences. I explained how things had gone when Lucas was born and how an aggressive pitocin induction was something I wanted to avoid. In the end I agreed to go back on Thursday afternoon for a non-stress test and I left the clinic feeling excited and confident. I had two appointments with this doctor in a row and I don’t think I’ve ever seen one who was this relaxed, especially considering my history and perceived risk factors. I felt I had full autonomy and that he wanted me to be the one calling the shots.
On Tuesday night I realized that I was a little bit afraid of the unknown – if I was going to go until 42 weeks or be induced, whether I would get the intervention free birth we had prayed for or not. I repented for that fear of the unknown and had a good four and a half hour sleep without interruption. At 4 in the morning, I woke up suddenly wondering if I might have peed myself. I knew it was very unlikely but I was just not expecting anything like this. The bed wasn’t wet but I knew something had happened. I jumped out of bed realizing that it might possibly be my water breaking. I started leaking as I speed-waddled to the bathroom. I made it to the toilet but the gush came before I could sit down. This was unmistakable. It was also the first time my water had broken outside of the hospital and was only the second time my water had broken on its own. The fluid was totally clear which was immediately reassuring. The funny thing was that this was something I had prayed for a few times, knowing how unlikely it was that my normal pattern would change from past births.
I woke Mike up and adrenaline kicked in. He was just as excited as I was. We got up, had breakfast and I started feeling some cramps and then very mild contractions. They became more intense but never really became painful. We were playing worship music and I was sort of trying to get things moving but at six I started feeling really tired. I told Mike that I wanted to go back to bed, even if all I could do was rest. We turned off all the lights and music and went back to bed. I dozed for about an hour total, even though I was still quite restless. Mike confirmed that I was asleep because he heard “the sweet sound” of my snoring. When I’ve struggled with sleep through this pregnancy, he has loved hearing me snore because it meant I wasn’t struggling. ❤ I was aware of some contractions while I was in bed but mostly ignored them and they definitely slowed down.
At eight, Mike got up to get the youngest boys some breakfast and I had a burst of energy and decided that it wouldn’t hurt to take a few laps around the block. We woke Jenny up and told her that things were happening which was absolutely thrilling for her. I was so glad at that point that we had time to let her sleep longer. We went twice around the block and things picked up again. I wasn’t timing them but Mike said if he could guess, the contractions at that point were 20 metres apart. 😂
When I decided I was done walking, we went inside and I used my birth ball a bit and eventually went back to bed and finished an episode of One Born Every Minute I had started the night before (a labour and delivery show, of course). My contractions were obviously stronger and getting closer to something I could call painful. That time is still very fuzzy to me – I know I moved around in a few different positions and tried to rest and breathe through contractions. I was messaging my sister and a friend in the States about my progress during this time as well. At around 11:30, Mike came in and we talked a bit and I asked him to run the bath for me. I knew the water would feel good and that if things suddenly progressed, it would be the easiest place to contain any mess made by birth, even though I was certainly not sure it would happen there. At this point, I wasn’t sure of what I wanted to do. I just knew that I wanted to wait as long as possible to avoid intervention in the hospital. Mike was 100% on board with the idea of staying home for the whole thing but I wasn’t quite there.
I got in the bath at noon (thank you, timestamps on conversations with my sister…I was totally unaware of the time for most of the day). I had a birth playlist playing with worship music that I had made during my last pregnancy and a mixture of orange, lavender and frankincense oil in a diffuser as it was a scent I was really enjoying at the end of pregnancy. As things progressed in the bath, I prayed, sang between contractions and made declarations of what this birth was doing in me. I knew God was giving me a testimony even though I didn’t know the outcome yet. One amazing thing that happened was that while the playlist was on shuffle, each song that played seemed to be exactly what I needed at each moment during the next two hours. I know that was the Holy Spirit ministering to me.
For half an hour, things picked up but were manageable. I could tell I was out of early labour at least. At 12:30, I prayed that the baby would come in half an hour and decided that I would probably want to head to the hospital at that point if it hadn’t happened. I told Mike this and he stayed close by after that. Some time later, I asked him between contractions what time it was and he said it was 1:18. I knew this was outside my time frame but I felt I was managing just fine and I didn’t really want to get out yet.
It was likely not more than twenty minutes after that when I started feeling a bit overwhelmed and realized I might be in transition already. It was so different not being checked for dilation this time so I was just going off of how I felt. It was getting hard to manage and feel in control and I expressed this to Mike a few times. I absolutely thought a few times that I wanted to be in the hospital where there was nitrous and possibly stronger drugs. Mike was nothing but encouraging, praying for me and reminding me that I was made to do this. I never really made a decision about staying in the bath but if someone had tried to get me out at that stage, I definitely could not have moved. I could barely change positions and eventually got fully “stuck” in a semi-reclined sitting position.
After three or four of these transition contractions, I started feeling pressure. Not really an urge to push, but more like my body was moving him down. I assume it was probably around 2:00 that I knew I needed to push. I felt to see if baby’s head was obviously coming and it was probably halfway down the birth canal already. I had hoped to really experience fetal ejection reflex and let my body push this baby out without pushing the way I had always been coached to do. In the moment, though, I had this instinctual feeling that this baby needed some help getting out and I was going to have to put some hard work in here. I won’t lie – it was very hard. I’ve had babies between low seven pounds and mid nine and this took a lot more effort than my littlest ones. As I was pushing, I heard an audible pop and knew it was my tailbone – this had happened when I had Jenny nearly sixteen years ago and it led to six months of recovery from a bruised or broken tailbone. In the moment, it didn’t hurt but I couldn’t ignore the sound.
I knew exactly when baby was crowning and I definitely said something about how much it hurt but didn’t actually tell Mike that he was crowning. Then once his head was out I may have said something or maybe he just looked for himself but he was astonished that I was that far because in the hospital, he had always seen the baby’s head long before then. I pushed again and felt like I had to give birth to a second head – I can only assume his shoulders were broad because I don’t remember any of my other babies taking that kind of effort.
Mike reached down for him once the first shoulder was out and lifted him out once both came. He was still underwater until that point. He picked him up out of the water and I reached down for him. I immediately felt as I put my hand under his bum that he was a boy – not a surprise at all to me. He was making a bit of noise, was definitely purple but not limp, and right away I saw the bath was totally brown – he had pooped at the end at some point, quite possibly when I was pushing because that was the first time we saw any evidence of meconium. He also had a thick coating of vernix on his back which I had never seen on my other babies. I rubbed his back, flicked his feet a few times and scooped some mucus out of his mouth. I had watched some unassisted birth videos and also had a few friends who had their babies unassisted so I knew what to do if a baby was struggling a bit at first. Very quickly he pinked up and started crying. This happened fast and somewhere in there Mike looked at the time and called 2:12 pm for time of birth. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say pushing took no more than ten minutes.
Jenny was apparently listening at the door at the end and heard me pushing but didn’t believe I could be so close already. It felt like a long time but I was only in the bath for two hours before I started pushing. Once she heard a cry, she came in fast and totally stunned and excited. Shortly after that, Mike covered me with a towel and the boys all crowded in to the bathroom to see their new brother.
I nursed him right away and waited for the placenta to come. This is a part of my birth stories that I’ve likely never bothered to tell in the past but it was so different again that it seems important (also might come across as TMI if you’re just not into birth like I am). I knew it should come within an hour or so and could feel pressure but couldn’t push in the position I was in. Eventually I knew I would have to stand up so I carefully passed Owen to Mike and shortly after the placenta came easily and I caught it myself. We asked Jenny to get a bowl but should have said a bucket because she grabbed a frequently used salad/chip/popcorn bowl from the kitchen. Thankfully it was old and cheap. 😂
After this point, we did everything with a baby wrapped up in a towel and a placenta in a salad bowl. Mike did his best to clean things up and prevent a bigger mess from being made and we eventually were able to move to our bedroom so I could rest while we decided what to do next. Elias made me probably the best grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever had and I phoned the hospital to explain the situation and see what they would advise. I suspected I had torn so I thought it best to at least go in to get checked.
The decision was made that we would go in, cord attached to placenta and all and get checked out. I assumed we would stay the night so I brought my hospital bag along. We left home at around 4:45. I had a very small first degree tear that required two stitches and otherwise everything was fine. I never had an IV or even the standard shot of oxytocin in the thigh that they typically give you when baby is out. I said to Mike later that this was truly an intervention free birth – far beyond what I expected as I thought I would have to either fight care providers for what I wanted and make people angry or give in and compromise on my hopes for this birth. The staff were all very kind and some of them familiar from past births – I told them very honestly that I hadn’t really planned to stay home but that there came a point where I just couldn’t get out of the bath anymore. No one scolded me or questioned that decision at all, which was a relief.
The biggest shock I had in the hospital was his birth weight. I only gained twenty-five pounds this pregnancy and never felt or looked huge at all. I had an inkling that I had a long baby – he was 20 3/4″ – but thought from holding him that he was around eight and a half pounds. I believe the nurse said something along the lines of “hold onto your hats” when she told us his weight – 9 lb 13 oz! My biggest baby! Jenny had held the record for nearly sixteen years.
We were originally told we could go home roughly twenty-four hours after his birth but due to antibodies I had during pregnancy and a pediatrician who seemed to want something to be worried about, it took us a bit longer than we had hoped. We have been dealing with him and odd blood results all week now, honestly putting a damper on the first week at home, especially when Owen seems to be perfectly healthy and has no obvious symptoms of the issues the pediatrician is concerned about. We will hopefully have some more clarity on that within the next few days and be done with all the follow up.
Owen is being well loved and snuggled by everyone here and no one has expressed any disappointment that he is a boy. My recovery has only been made difficult by the tailbone injury and that seemed to be at its worst about three days postpartum and has been improving since. Owen nurses well and sleeps soundly in between feeds and lovely alert periods where we all oooh and aaah over him and his big eyes. He looks almost identical to Ben as a newborn which is amazing and he has jet black hair and fairly dark skin – completely opposite Lucas who is blonde and very pale.
This birth experience was full of answers to prayer and outright miracles. Here I am, a “geriatric” mother, a woman who has many children, putting me at higher risk of hemorrhage (although I have never hemorrhaged), a woman with two previous cesareans and a history full of inductions and other interventions that have truly made me lose faith in my ability to labour and birth naturally. I have had only one other fully natural labour and all the others had at least one type of undesirable intervention. Many led to the “intervention cascade” that leaves women feeling like they are broken and certainly left me feeling that way at times.
One of the miracles of this birth was that our children got to meet their baby brother immediately after his birth. They have always had to wait at least a few hours but this time, they would not have been allowed to come to the hospital to see us, due to covid policies. Jenny has always wanted to come to a birth and did come when Simon was born but that ended in a cesarean so she missed seeing an actual birth. She didn’t witness Owen’s birth but was there moments later which was so special for her.
Another interesting answer to prayer is that I had half jokingly said that I was praying for a two hour labour. I genuinely did pray for it but when my water broke at four and I didn’t have a baby at six, I decided that one wasn’t being answered. But then when I looked back, I realized that labour was so manageable until around noon that my “real” or active labour was really only two hours long. I’ve had many hours of labour that intense in past births and I was so glad to only have two hours of intensity like that and really less than one hour of the kind of labour that sometimes makes you feel like you can’t actually do it.
Mike and I both knew that an intervention free birth – at home or in the hospital – would minister healing to both of us. He was absolutely amazing throughout this experience and made me feel so loved and blessed to be his wife. He did everything I needed him to do and in the end, we just thanked God over and over and knew that this prayer had been answered – we both feel so healed from the damage done in past birth experiences.
Throughout this pregnancy we have been blessed to have a community of people around us who have truly become family. They have encouraged us and prayed for us all along and have rejoiced with us in welcoming a new son in this incredibly unique way. And since his birth, many have brought food and baking and given generously to us so that we can soak in this time and not be under the pressure that running a large household can bring, particularly in the area of meals. I really believe that we could not have done this so confidently without these beautiful people in our lives.
I am currently four days “overdue” with our ninth baby.
I realize that I never announced anything here. It’s been a weird year for blogging. And life in general, if no one has noticed yet.
For the last few weeks before hitting my due date, I kept doing things that had a deadline – such as reading certain books of the Bible with a specific number of chapters that ended on a day I thought would be nice to have a baby or eventually on my due date itself, which was Sunday, the 11th.
Monday morning I got up and wondered what to do now. I decided it was time to go back to reading what I felt led to each day. It was a Psalm that first day, another the following, something from 2 Samuel yesterday and today a chapter of Romans.
I was explaining how I felt about this time to my husband and a good analogy came to mind. Imagine you are on a cruise ship and you know that you will be on it for seven days before you reach your port of final destination. You have a few stops along the way that you can look forward to – one or two days in between each one and they are always on schedule. Then you get to day seven and rather than pulling into port so you can leave the ship, you are placed on a lifeboat a great distance from the beach and without any oars, left to drift into shore, having no idea of how long it will actually take you to get there. You float aimlessly, relying on the waves to get you there. Sometimes you seem to be pushed farther out to sea and your view of shore seems fuzzy. There are a few things to do on the lifeboat so it’s not completely boring but not enough to keep you busy all of every day. There is at least promise of reaching shore – you can’t actually stay at sea forever.
I’ve had days of prodromal labour now – hours of intense and regular contractions that could easily be early labour, but aren’t. They fizzle out and I go to bed (thankfully I am sleeping quite well still) and then the next day go about my business until it seems they start up again in the late afternoon nearly every day. It feels like being adrift on the lifeboat. There are things to do – both relaxing things and work that needs to be done – but much of it is just sitting there feeling the waves and hoping that this time, they’ll bring me into shore. I am struggling with some physically painful things but trying to stay patient and just wait for this baby to be properly ready for birth – inductions in the past have mostly not been very positive and I would far rather wait this one out, even if it means being really “late.” Baby is also not always head down so any kind of self-induction methods are out for the time being.
In the meantime, I have much to be grateful for and I know that. I’ve had a number of strange potential complications during this pregnancy that panned out to be nothing at all. Baby appears very healthy and happy and every time I’ve dealt with some kind of physical issue, it has passed within a few weeks or a month rather than sticking with me for months like some have in past pregnancies. I was approved to deliver here despite my history of two cesareans (baby number eight was born seven hours away because hospital policy said no VBACs after two cesareans). This pregnancy has also flown by, mostly thanks to us not even telling our kids until I was seventeen weeks pregnant. Most people did not know until I was twenty-one weeks.
We prayed for an early baby the whole time, hoping to avoid the pressure to induce towards the end. So far I haven’t really had any of that pressure, and I realized that the majority of my babies have come at forty-one weeks or later so if baby comes this week, it would still be “early” on my calendar.
I am certain that nearly every woman who has ever been overdue will agree with me that it’s a strange time. That knowledge that in theory, baby could come any minute, but also that it could be weeks still, is a slightly uncomfortable thing. And of course when you add people commenting multiple times a day, messages and texts coming in asking if you’ve had the baby, etc. it is tiring.
In the end, God is my strength and I am doing my best to stay at peace and trust Him that His timing is perfect. He knows when this baby and my body will be ready. He knows when just the right people will be present at the hospital to make this birth a positive experience. I just have to keep reminding myself that the waves will eventually get strong enough to bring me to shore and get this baby out of my belly and into my arms, which I long for each day.
I dream a lot. Like, almost all the time. And my dreams are vivid, complicated, sometimes confusing, sometimes really out there. Usually I wake up, shake my head, maybe tell someone in my family about the weird dream I had last night, and that’s it.
Last night I had another vivid dream, but this time it was so relatable to my life that I thought it must have come from the way things have been lately with my house. In the first half of the dream, we had bought an old house. It was full of extremely outdated finishes and had a really strange layout to boot. We tried moving things around and hashing everything out but we just couldn’t make sense of how to fix it and make it livable. In the dream, we were only fixing it up to sell it again, so it didn’t need to work for us, but had to make sense for someone else. One day as we were looking at all the mismatched flooring and making plans for what we would put in its place, we thought we would see how things looked if we knocked out a wall to a bedroom. I feel as though we were planning to rebuild it, but as soon as it was done, we could see that the problem was space and as soon as we turned the three bedroom house into a two bedroom house and moved the living room that was next to the kitchen into the new space so that a dining room could be next to the kitchen, it all made sense. We became excited for the potential in this new space we had created.
In the second half of the dream, we were living in a too-small house and trying to fix things all at once – getting half a project done before starting a new one. It wasn’t just us working on it, we had hired a few people as well. The floors were mostly torn up but not replaced, walls were half painted, etc. It was a mess and I felt hopeless in the dream because the finish just seemed to be so far away. Halfway through this part of the dream, I walked into the living room and looked up and suddenly saw that the ceiling was full of cracks. Not just little ones, but huge cracks that were starting to gape. In the back of my mind, I knew there had been a few cracks present before, but this was the entire ceiling in that room. I turned around and saw one area bulging downward and water dripping from it. I panicked and ran out through the back door to catch Mike as he was walking away from the house to go pick up something for a project. He came back in and with him came a few of the guys who had been working on the house. One was a man we know, a respected pastor and prophetic voice in Canada. He does a lot of construction which I see on Facebook, so it made sense that he was there in the dream. He walked to the back of the room after seeing the crack I was so concerned about at the front and reached up behind the fireplace to the relatively low ceiling and grabbed a piece of it. A huge chunk of ceiling came out with a slight touch and a piece of the chimney swung down and nearly hit him. Suddenly, the whole ceiling on that side of the room was gone and we could see this huge vaulted expanse above it. At that moment, it wasn’t dismay that filled me, it was excitement – I said to him, “Now when we fix it, we can have a vaulted ceiling!” He laughed and said, “Sure, why not!” I knew it would make this house feel bigger and as I studied the space, I realized we would even have room for a loft. I imagined a master bedroom loft in this new upstairs space that hadn’t been there before and the fact that it would free up another bedroom on the main floor in this house. All the frustration about the state of the house was gone realizing that there was this huge potential there now.
When I woke up, it was all still very fresh in my mind but at first just felt like another weird dream. And really, one that was very relatable to me as our house has a long list of issues that need fixing, and at the moment, it feels like more than we can manage while the house feels all the time “too-small.”
But after thinking for a bit, I realized that this was not a dream about a house or construction, but about seemingly awful circumstances revealing great promise. About choices made to remove something in order to make room for something better. How could we have been living in a house with low ceilings and not see that the roof was so high and there had to be room for so much more in that house? And why had someone built it that way?
Sometimes we do what is easy and avoid or cover things up because we can’t handle the potential work it will take to get the job done. I’m not speaking about the physical as much as I am about the spiritual. We know that studying the Word, spending time in prayer, being mentored and digging deeper will produce good things but it feels like too much so we build the ceiling a little lower where it’s a whole lot more comfortable.
I think this dream has two meanings. The first is that we are not to limit ourselves by building our ceilings too low or making our life so compartmentalized that we miss the potential for bigger things (like the bedroom that was taking up valuable living space in the first house). The second is that we are sometimes overcome by circumstances beyond our control. A caved in ceiling sounds like a nightmare, but in this case, it revealed an expanse of space behind it that had so much potential. I think this part of the dream can apply to most of us right now in the season we’re living in. This year has often felt like a caved in ceiling. And we can choose to only see that if we want. For some, it’s a lot harder to see promise after this year. I am not making light of the horrendous things some people have lived through in the last eight months. But I do believe there is promise after this. We have had our systems broken down – they have caved in on us and for some, have nearly crushed us. We have been powerless to stop it and dismayed and depressed watching it happen. But there is this expanse of vaulted space beyond it – I believe that. The Church has the opportunity to come into a new season, new ways of doing things that may actually be better than before. In our own lives, we have the ability to help pull down those ceilings full of cracks and reach for something greater.
In the second half of my dream, I remember thinking that because of this seemingly awful thing that had happened, I could now see a way that we could stay in this house instead of moving out due to a lack of space. Maybe the caved in ceilings in our lives are showing us a new and better way to continue in areas we thought we had to walk away from.
Personally, I’m going to let this one simmer in my heart and mind for awhile. I’m going to ask God what my ceilings are, where my unnecessary bedroom spaces are that need to be pulled down to make room for more important things. What areas need to be shifted to see their full potential. Maybe this dream was just for me, but maybe one of you will see meaning in it as well. It just pressed on me a little too firmly to let it be something I write off to an active imagination, and I knew it was something I needed to share.
Yesterday I suddenly became overwhelmed with all of the impossible we are facing right now.
We have been driving two vehicles since the end of June when we swapped our dying 15 passenger van for a minivan. We look regularly for another big van but everything we’ve seen is either way beyond our budget (which is pretty low) or is very far away from home.
We live in a province that is not seeing an increase in hospitalization or deaths from Covid-19 and is in fact looking at fairly low numbers in general but are being placed under increasing restrictions due to rises in positive cases in certain regions of the province. One restriction directly affects our family and many others as the newest order does not allow people to have more than six people visit their home. We have eight kids. Under this order, we would not be allowed to visit anyone else in their home.
We have a house that feels as though it is falling apart bit by bit. The list of projects continues to grow, right at the time when I’m starting to feel like we need to look into selling and finding something more suitable for us. Again, money must be spent, and we don’t have a whole lot.
There are other situations we are in the middle of that also feel impossible – no matter which way I play them out in my mind or talk them out with Mike, I cannot see how they will be accomplished.
I took a bath yesterday and put on an unfamiliar worship playlist from Spotify. The first song was one we sang in church on Sunday: Yes, I Will. The chorus rang out and the tears started flowing:
“Yes, I will Lift You high In the lowest valley Yes, I will Bless Your name Oh, yes, I will Sing for joy When my heart is heavy All my days Oh, yes I will”
My heart is heavy and I feel as though we are in the lowest valley right now. I know I need to lift Him up regardless of all of this but it’s not easy.
Then Rattle played: “Since when has impossible ever stopped you?”
I have seen God deal with the impossible in my life before. I’ve seen Him do it in the lives of others as well. Why do these mountains feel so big? Why does it all feel like too much?
Each of these situations on its own may not pull me down but it’s a bit overwhelming right now when they all present themselves in front of me as things that cannot be solved with anything I do. And I know this is true – I cannot stop the government overreach or lack of transparency going on in response to Covid in Canada. I cannot instantly acquire $30,000 to buy the van I’d really like and another $50,000 to fix all the things wrong with my house. I cannot make all of those other situations play out perfectly or disappear, no matter how hard I try.
In Matthew 19, Jesus told His disciples that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. They marveled and asked, “Who then can be saved?” He said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
All things are possible with God.
All things are possible with God.
All things are possible with God.
I’ve been in the habit for the last year of telling mountains to leave in the name of Jesus. Mountains of migraines, cancer, illness, depression, etc. And sometimes I have seen healing happen after those commands. I just haven’t been very good at telling my own mountains to be cast into the sea.
And even with all my prayers of “God, fix this! Deliver and protect us! Provide! Give us direction!” I will admit that my faith in His response has been weak. I have struggled to really believe that we will be delivered, protected, provided for, directed. I need to build my faith and at the same time let these things go and stay in His hands instead of constantly pulling them back out to worry over.
I think we’re all facing mountains right now, in one way or another. Some are very personal and others are societal. We look around at the world we’re living in right now and sometimes it’s hard to feel a lot of hope. Facing the impossible has only one response – give it all to Him and let Him deal with it. When we need to act, He will show us what to do, but if we try to hold it all and lean on our own understanding, we will flounder and become overwhelmed.
I will admit that even writing this I have a hard time believing that it’s all going to be sorted out. That’s because I think with my finite mind and cannot see what is going on behind the scenes in the spirit. He is working on these things even when I cannot see or feel it.
“Even when I don’t see it, You’re working Even when I can’t feel it, You’re working You never stop, You never stop working You never stop, You never stop working”
I sing these words easily enough but it’s time to start believing them.
It’s not that I’ve been avoiding this place. I haven’t been feeling well this last month and have only had one or two times when I had an idea for a post at all. This one came weeks ago but today I decided it was time to dive back in.
I had to make a doctor’s appointment and at the moment, they all start out with a phone appointment where they decide whether you need to come in or not. My house is full of noisy people (crazy, hey?) and so when I got my appointment time booked, I took my Bible and notebook out to my van and closed myself in. I could have gone into my room and locked the door but every time I do that, there is an inevitable fight that breaks out or a demand on me that I can’t ignore.
When I shut the door to the van and settled in to read my Bible while I waited for the phone call, I realized just how quiet it was. I hardly ever experience real quiet. I try to get up before the kids in the morning, and most days I succeed, but usually only by ten or twenty minutes. My daughter gets up before me anyway, so she is often around and wanting to talk. In our house, the little kids go to bed between eight and nine but the baby doesn’t go down until after ten and the oldest five kids go to bed when they want to – sometimes as late as midnight. They are supposed to stay quiet but we recently had to move the oldest boys out of their bedroom downstairs and into the family room there. So now they are directly below the living room and my bedroom, meaning late night quiet isn’t really a thing either.
I soaked up the quiet in the van for around fifteen minutes before the phone rang. I thought about how silence is a bit scary to me at times – I just want to fill it with music or speech or something to laugh at. But I know it’s needed, especially with a life like mine, full of people and sound.
It has been a trying six weeks. I developed gastritis from the stressful situation I was in at the beginning of August and haven’t fully shaken it yet. We had a bit of busyness that was unavoidable and I got wrapped up in things that only distracted me from opportunities for silence and reflection.
When I was a teenager, I went to twice yearly “silent retreats.” Now this didn’t mean that we were literally silent the entire time and didn’t fellowship with each other, only that we had hours at a time to go off by ourselves and be quiet before the Lord. Ideally, I would have time each day to read the Word and talk to God in the silence before my kids get up, but I have learned that some stages in life require creativity.
This is not profound or anything, just a reminder to get away in silence now and then. We live in a noisy world – kids or not – and a little bit of silence is a beautiful gift to ourselves.
Not in the way many people seem to be, constantly checking to see if their posts have new likes or comments, seeking validation. I actually barely notice whether things I post get any response and don’t really mind if no one likes my photo or status update.
It seems that my problem is a combination of fear of missing out and a desire to obtain information and knowledge. For example, I may open the Facebook app to see if I have any notifications, any questions to answer (I have both a blog page and a business page and recently made a group to sell some of my Usborne), any updates from family members, etc. But whether I have notifications or not, I inevitably start the scroll. I’ve read about this behaviour before – you scroll down and your aunt has posted something about her dog, your neighbour posted an item for sale, your sister posted pictures of her kids. None of these things are new to you – they are sorted to the top by a particular algorithm – and so you keep scrolling.
In my case, I always feel this concern that I might miss something that someone posted that is important. What if my cousin or a good friend posts a pregnancy announcement and I don’t respond? What if a barbecue is posted for a really good price on Marketplace or a buy and sell group and I miss it? We need a new one and I wouldn’t want to miss a good deal! What if there is a new article or blog post that I haven’t seen before that will help me to better understand my kids, my faith, marriage or something else? So when the first five or six posts on my feed are old or not interesting to me, I scroll. Sometimes for a very long time. Then I catch myself doing it – this usually seems to happen without very much conscious thought – and I put my phone down. Time goes by – five minutes or even a few hours – and I pick up my phone again. The cycle starts over.
What amazes me is that I can and do go days without Facebook and do so without any anxiety over it or missing it at all. This is where it is not quite drug like for me – I don’t have withdrawals, rather I have a weight lifted off of me. I have less swirling thoughts in my head due to much less useless information landing there. I suspect that I could go weeks like this pretty easily.
But then I go back to “normal” (my Facebook free times happen most often when I am out of cell service for a few days or am doing a media fast) and as much as I want to be moderate in my use of it, I go back to the same habit. “Oh, I haven’t been on here in three days, I wonder what happened with that friend’s doctor’s appointment or my brother’s job?” And for some bizarre reason, I am more likely to scroll, scroll, scroll than I am to go straight to that person’s Facebook to find out what is happening with them. Like I think the answer is going to appear before me in my hours of daily scrolling.
At the moment, I have the Facebook app on my phone. I don’t remember exactly what happened to make me download it again after years of only using my phone browser to access Facebook but I do know that when I got it again, I set my “time on Facebook” reminder to two hours. So every day that I reach two hours on Facebook, the app alerts me. And I close the alert and keep scrolling.
So is the answer leaving Facebook completely? Sometimes I think so. But I live very far away from my family and it has been a good way to connect with all of them. Do I set rules for myself about how often and how long I check Facebook? Maybe that could work, but I’ve tried it before and found myself back to the same habits again.
For now, I start with this confession, and another one: I don’t like this and I want to stop. I know it clutters my thoughts, I know it distracts me from my work and the ability to be present for my kids. I know it steals time from God and His calling on my life. But I don’t totally know what to do about it.
Today I will start by deleting the app again. And trying to limit myself to checking Facebook on the computer, which does not hold the same scrolling appeal as my phone (anyone else agree with me here?). But what really needs to be done is addressing the root issue here. I have a need to know that must be dealt with. My fear of missing out must be dealt with. So I will go to the Father and ask Him to show me how to do this. I pretend too often that He doesn’t care what my relationship is with social media but I know that is not true. I believe He mourns for the lost opportunities while I was distracted and that He has a greater plan for me than this.
If this has never been an issue for you and you are shocked by my confession and just can’t understand it, then this post was probably not for you. But if you are also tied to the scroll – on Facebook or some other platform – and can’t seem to break yourself free of this thing, now you know that you are not alone. Ask God how He wants you to fill your time each day. Ask Him what it is that you are missing that needs to be addressed so that you can find freedom from this. He is gracious and compassionate and quick to forgive us, and I know He has the answer.
Just wait, this has nothing to do with that kind of mask. I’m not going to get into that. Okay, read on.
For the last few weeks, this place has been filled with inspiration. I have written fluidly and have felt there was real meaning in what I was trying to say. Today I felt I should probably write something.
I have something important that I’m working on mentally but I’m not quite there yet, so not that.
Anything amusing to talk about? Not really.
I could talk about how I changed my hair colour again (it’s two colours now actually, split right down the middle), but I am so determined not to be shallow. Is it shallow to talk about dying my hair?
Maybe not. What if what should be said is that we really need to start taking off the mask? I wore one for a long time, one of a typical young mother, devoid of personality in what I wore or what I did with my hair or my face. To be clear, my face is still very much bare, but that is a choice I’ve made, rather than a decision based on my desire to look like something I wasn’t.
Listen, I’m not talking about vanity. I’m not talking about self-love in the self-centred way that the world is. I just mean, if the colour red draws you in but someone once told you that you shouldn’t wear it because it was attention grabbing, maybe it’s time to let that go and buy a red sweater. If you’ve always wanted to see what it was like to have pink hair because it just sounds like fun and for goodness sake, it’s just hair, maybe it’s time to go for it, barring any real world/work scenarios where it would be inappropriate to have pink hair.
When I shaved my head, it was a stripping off of one more layer of the mask. It was liberating. And it turns out, my husband actually loves me for me and enjoys watching me change my hair colour every so often (he was the one who shaved my head for me, too). Did everyone around me like that I had done it or approve of it? No, of course not. But that’s not the point.
I think I have been a people pleaser all my life. I did things right, did things well, worried that I wasn’t good enough – constantly – and said yes to things I shouldn’t have out of a sense of obligation. Here’s a heartbreaking thought – it’s likely I didn’t move away or call out for help when being groped by a total stranger in a public hot tub when I was ten because I didn’t want to cause a scene or upset anyone.
What are we saying to ourselves when we continue to wear these masks? What are we saying to God? He made me LOVE colour. I am filled with joy when I can put on a bright green hoodie with a floral print dress or a purple skirt. I buy a white shirt and have to tie dye it (not just because I spill on everything and could never keep a white shirt clean, honestly). So why would I tell myself to buy all black and blue and brown and just blend in with the crowd? I realize some people love the sleek look of all black and good for them! I know people who thrive on a neutral wardrobe. It’s just not me.
These are my thoughts tonight, ones I’ve had before and may have even shared, but maybe they need to be said again. Maybe my tiny bit of bravery will help someone else to pull off the mask they’ve worked so hard to perfect.
For the first time that I can remember, I felt led to a page number in my Bible recently, rather than a book and chapter. Page 444 in my Bible is Nehemiah 4:3-5:7. It was verses 10-23 of chapter four that I felt drawn to, possibly because the title of this section is “Opposition through Discouragement.”
When Nehemiah led the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem, much was against him. Threats, rumours, bribery, slander and more were thrown at him and the Israelites building the wall. Here in chapter four, they find discouragement because they expect their adversaries to come and overtake them while they work. Nehemiah has a solution for this and it is one I believe we should pay close attention to right now.
Nehemiah 4:17-18a “They which built on the wall, and they that bore burdens, with those that loaded, every one with one of his hands wrought in (carried on) the work, and with the other hand held a weapon. For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so built.”
We all have work to do here. This work varies for all of us, beyond the things we are all called to do when we are saved. But how easy it is to get swept up in work – even ministry work – and forget that we have an enemy that prowls about. And how easy it can also be to become overwhelmed and discouraged by that enemy and neglect the work we ought to be doing.
The answer is not one or the other; some believers working and others fighting. The answer is in carrying the tools of work in one hand and the weapons of our warfare in the other.
They had guards and took shifts solely watching and guarding as well but what struck me was that these people were ready for work and war at the same time. Have you forgotten your work while you wage warfare? Or have you forgotten to hold your sword while you get the work done on Earth?
This is a simple concept, probably not very profound, but it meant something to me. My workload feels insurmountable sometimes and so does the state of things in the spiritual, especially right now. Now is the time to ask God what your work is meant to be, which part of the wall are you supposed to be rebuilding, and then remember your sword and keep watch while you build.
A few days ago, I was back at it with an old foe. Self-image, weight issues, hearing words from long ago echoing in my mind. Thinking about how I can’t seem to lose weight without obsession or extreme deprivation, thinking about what certain members of my family might be saying about me behind my back if they could see me right now. It’s something I’ve dealt with for a very long time and is just not something I’ve beaten yet.
It’s easy to imagine what other people think and then start feeling like God probably feels the same way. Disappointed that I still have baby weight from last time, disappointed that I am not athletic, that I am not a socially accepted size. I was going down that road when I felt Him whisper, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made.”
I turned in my Bible to Psalms 139 and read this familiar verse again:
“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made:
marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knows right well.”
I have for many years imagined myself to be overweight, even when I wasn’t. When I was a young teenager and had to stop wearing junior sizes and wear women’s clothing, I thought this meant I was now fat. When my friends wore size fours and I wore a size ten, I thought this meant I was huge. I look back at photos of myself and feel grieved that I spent so many years thinking that way. So why do I still do that? I’m not talking about making excuses for bad eating or sitting around doing nothing – those are things I’ve been working on for a very long time – I mean focusing too much on clothing size and the shape of my body and what I look like in photos.
He has done marvelous works in my life, both physically and spiritually. I have been delivered from depression, healed of allergies and given the opportunity to carry and birth eight children, even though I once said I wouldn’t have more than three and when I got married, assumed I would be done by the time I was thirty. My body certainly shows the signs of carrying those babies but why don’t I wear it as a badge of honour? Why do I obsess?
The day after this gentle reminder, I asked God how I could lose a bit more weight. He answered quietly, “Just stop eating so much.” I tend to believe that I need to calorie count, work out all the time, eat perfectly, etc. to lose any weight at all and because of my weakness when it comes to perfectionism, I often give up when I realize I can’t do all of that perfectly. But what if I don’t need to be a size ten again? God knows what is right for me and I believe that the first step is moderation. Moderation in what I eat and how I exercise. Not giving into gluttony but not starving myself or becoming obsessive either – that side of things isn’t moderation any more than eating at a buffet every day would be. Not sitting around doing nothing but not spending all my extra time on exercise.
There are practical things I can do to lose weight or at least stop gaining but if my view of myself is broken and I do not see myself through God’s eyes, my motives will always be wrong. I have watched people with a terrible self-image have amazing success at losing weight and it’s just never enough – they still see themselves as too fat or not fit enough. I’ve been down that road, doing crazy things to just lose a few more pounds to hit a goal. That’s not what I want. I want to look at myself and know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I need to love myself regardless of extra weight, wrinkles, stretch marks or blemishes. If I can figure this out, it won’t matter what I look like and I can finally win this long battle.