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At my husband’s suggestion, I watched a birth movie tonight. Not one of the natural births you see in childbirth classes. A movie about birth as it happens in the United States, the good and the bad but of course mostly the bad. And of course, through tears at the end I started asking myself, “what am I doing?”
What am I doing in a master’s nursing program studying pharmacology and genetics when I should be out teaching women about the risks of being uninformed about your maternity care?
What am I doing focusing on chronic diseases when there is so much advocacy for safer maternity practices that must be done?
What am I doing spending my time learning to diagnose and treat ear infections and allergies while women still have limited access to evidence based maternity care?
What am I doing studying hours every day when I could be using that time to make changes in the world.
Deep breath…close my eyes…accept the job set before me.
I did not chose this path. I had no desire to become a nurse. I don’t see myself as a baby-catcher. But there are great needs to be filled in this world and God said go. I cannot see where the path leads, but I can see where my next foot must land. Though I do not know the ultimate plans God has for me, I do know I am fulfilling his purpose for me know.
I do not mean to sound ungrateful. I know there are many of my readers who would change places with me in a moment if we had the chance. But I wanted to share my heart with you because I think sometimes we mistakenly tell ourselves everything will be perfect when we get what we want. But what if, like a little child, what we want is so much less than what our father desires for us? What if we are wishing for a crust of bread while our father is preparing a feast? What if we are so short-sighted that we cannot see beyond our immediate gratification? What if what we think we want doesn’t even come close to the truth about what we are able to do and be in this world.
Ten years ago I followed God’s command on my life to write down the things he told me. Without understanding why, I followed his command to put those writings into a book. Each step of the way God’s command has seemed unnecessary to me, but I have stayed faithful to each call on my life as it is made. To be honest, I could not begin to measure the impact from that obedience.
Ten years ago I could not have forseen that I would write five books.
Ten years ago I would never have imagined the books would be used around the world, translated into multiple languages because women were desperate for the information.
Ten years ago I didn’t dream I would travel to the Congo to help women build their own health care network.
Ten years ago I underestimated what God had planned for me – while I was happy to have 50 page views a day on my small website, God had plans for 15,000 page views a day and more. While I was content to teach a few couples out of my home, God had plans for families I could never meet to be taught from my materials. While I was wishing for someone to change a system I thought was unfair to expectant families, God had plans for me to be a part of that change
So now I sit, writing a mid-term in pharmacology and studying hypertension medications because what God has planned for me is far more amazing than what I have ever dreamed for myself. My dear reader, his plans for you are equally amazing. Take joy in the work he has given you today, because it prepares you for the work he will give you tomorrow.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” Colossians 3:23
I cannot share details yet – I don’t have time to make the full plan until spring break – but I will be hosting a training this summer you might find interesting. It is about helping communities make change.
Although I will be sharing this information from the standpoint of making changes in childbirth, the actual uses are much broader than birth. You can use the same principles to form community groups within or outside the church for any area of development. The key however, is that you are not telling the community what to do – you are simply participating in the changes the community identifies as need.
I know this sounds a bit vague, but I only had a few minutes before I needed to get back to studying. I just wanted to give you a heads up so you can be thinking about whether or not you want to participate. This is not a conference and nothing will be done in-person. The program will be on the internet and all work will be done self-study, you will simply come back and share the group what you have learned. I’ll get some details together in early March so you can decide if this is something God is leading you to do for your church or community.
This week I stepped back into a conversation my husband and I began a few years ago. At the time we were talking about church, what is the purpose and how should an individual participate. We ended the discussion on a question neither of us could answer. That question came up again this week.
“What do I do next to continue to grow closer to God?”
You see, at some point I realized I was a consistent prayer and journal writer, Bible reader and studier. I was a regular participant in church and a volunteer. I was involved in short term mission trips and ministries at home. In every way I would be considered a mature Christian.
Except I didn’t feel like I was done growing. I didn’t get the sense that I had arrived and all I had to do was what I was already doing. But I didn’t know what the “next” was. What do you do when you already have the basics down? What do you do when you already do all the stuff a good Christian does?
It was shortly after this conversation that I began the several month journey that ended in my realization that I was to become a midwife. My “next” was nursing school. My “next” was something I dreaded, something that turned my life upside down.
Are you seeking your “next?” I seem to see many new and expectant mother’s find themselves in the midst of longing for the “next” while they are caring for young children. For some, the new responsibilities are exhausting emotionally and physically- and their normal Christian activities are not “enough” anymore. If you are looking for the “next” step to grow closer to God I encourage you to open your eyes to the opportunities around you. You may be just as surprised by your next step as I was by mine.
I had a wonderful conversation with a young man today who tearfully admitted he was angry with God. My heart broke for him, realizing he has felt this way for a while and felt trapped by this anger. He thought he could not tell anyone, and thought it was useless to talk to God about it since he knows everything anyway. So he continued his life convinced that every bad thing was a punishment from God for his anger.
I share this with you because I want you to know the freedom you have to approach God with any problem, even if that problem is your anger with God. In fact, I would suspect that when the problem is anger with God the first thing you should do is go to God – who else could help you find healing and restore the relationship?
I also share this with you because I hope you will have the grace to be compassionate when someone shares something as deeply painful as this with you. The time of pregnancy and new parenthood can stimulate much fear and can bring up old pain. It can be so easy to jump to common sayings to ease the tension or to try and convince the person they should not feel that way. I recommend acknowledging the fear and pain and hurt they have been hiding for so long. I recommend thanking them for sharing such a private thing with you. I recommend sitting silent and letting them talk as you listen attentively. I recommend accepting this is a problem you cannot solve, and allowing God to bring healing.
I want to share a source of frustration with you, the term “holistic” when it is applied to natural birthing. This is not because I am in any way against holistic birthing. In fact, I encourage women to prepare holistically. What frustrates me is the term, and the inappropriate way it is used and understood.
Holistic really means “whole.” In holistic care you care for the whole person – body, mind and soul/spirit. You worry about the emotions and the vital signs. You ensure adequate spiritual and intellectual development. It is a package deal.
- You are not doing holistic care because you use herbs. Herbs treat the body just as pharmaceuticals do. The correct term in this instance is natural care.
- You are not doing holistic care because you hired a midwife, or because you are planning an unassisted birth. ”Who” helps you does not define holistic. ”What” they do with and for you defines holistic.
- Eating a healthy diet and exercise are getting closer, because they will have effects on mood and overall well-being. But to think your preparations are holistic because you are caring for your physical body isn’t quite the definition of holistic.
So, what do I think holistic preparations really means? I believe true holistic care begins with care for the spirit or soul, encompasses the care of the mind and ensures the health of the body. It involves prayer or journaling or singing – whatever it takes to help you grow spiritually to prepare for this new baby. It involves doing the work to restore relationships and heal from previous wounds, seeking forgiveness for the wounds you have inflicted on others. It requires honesty about who you are and what changes you need to make. It takes the humility of accepting what you do not know and seeking wisdom and information from respected sources. Within all this, is the physical care of the body – which comes in many forms.
In what ways has your pregnancy preparation been holistic?
What changes can you make to be wholly prepared for birth?
Need some ideas? Check out the section on emotional preparation for childbirth.
Learning is a slow process. It requires exploring a new subject, experimenting with it and looking at it from different angles until you suddenly realize you understand it.
All learning is like this, whether you are learning to follow God, learning to speak a foreign language or learning to be a parent.
It can be frustrating to wait. It can be even more frustrating to feel as if you must relearn the same principle over and over because it simply will not stick. If you are anything like me, at times you want to scream at God, “Why won’t you just teach me!”
But, he is teaching you. And you are learning. It may not be as fast as you would like, but it is happening. What areas of your life frustrate you with slow growth?
But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
I love being reminded of the power we have in prayer. I love being reminded how big God is. But I also love being reminded what the Bible says.
As I was reading this verse tonight I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to share that doubt was OK. Asking God questions when I don’t understand is a great way to learn. Asking God to show me the truth when what I see is different than what God sees is a great way to get eyes that see truth. Asking God about things people say about him that seem wrong to me helps prevent me from having a false picture of who God is. Doubt is not bad.
But this verse doesn’t mean ALL doubt. This verse doesn’t mean I shouldn’t ask God questions, or that I shouldn’t seek things to be revealed when something seems wrong to me. In fact, this verse comes right after we are told that if you lack wisdom ask God to make it clear to you. Instead this verse means that I need to understand that when I ask those things, God has the power to provide what I am lacking. This verse means I should not be doubting God is able to meet them if I am asking him to provide for my needs.
I will admit, I ask God alot of questions. I’ve spent many nights explaining that I simply do not understand. But these words are only half the prayers. The other half is the acknowledgement that God is in control, that God is teaching me and that I will be patient while he does.
So if you have been avoiding asking God tough questions about your fertility thinking it meant you were doubting him if you asked, I pray that you now have confidence that God can handle any question and can use it to help you grow closer to him.
One thing I love about the new year is the built in pause to reflect on your life before moving into the next season. This past new year brought many changes for me – the end of my first semester in the midwifery program, my first trip home to see family in a year… and I am looking forward to many changes this next semester. Carrying 20 credits means I will have little time for anything outside school, clinical requirements increase so I will be participating in pediatric office visits as well as midwifery office visits and on call for births. This new year has been a welcome pause.
So here I sit today, on the edge of the next season feeling both eager and anxious. And that reminds me of waiting for labor to start. Wishing it would begin, but being nervous about what labor held for me. Wanting to hold my baby, but not yet knowing who this baby really was. Hoping for relief from sleepless nights, realizing my nights would remain sleepless after the baby is born. So really, as unique as having a baby may be, it takes the same patience and understanding any other change of season may require.
I just wanted to take a moment today to remind my wonderful readers that you can pray for your baby, and say blessings over your baby, at any time. No need for a special occasion, you don’t have to wait for bed time. Use the minutes you have during the day:
- While preparing a snack
- During bathtime
- While rocking baby
- Going for walks
- After reading a book
This is not a complete list, so be creative. Find the daily activities that help you remember and pray for your baby every day – you can start before he/she is born.
I attended a conference for school today – working with victims of trauma. What a powerful message I heard, I couldn’t begin to do justice to it in a blog post. But the main take-home point is one question:
“What happened to you?”
A simple question to ask, but not such a simple question to be asked. Because answering this one question opens all the hurt, all the pain, all the abuse you may have lived through.
As I listened to the speakers, my mind kept going back to the need for a safe place for women to share their stories of hurt and pain. I kept thinking about the importance of beginning to heal this pain before the baby is born, before experiencing labor. And sadly, I kept thinking about how uninviting a church can feel for a trauma victim.
So, dear reader, I challenge you to ask this question of yourself today. Journal your answers and begin to let God heal the hurt.
But even more so, I challenge you to ask this of the women you work with. If we are creative enough, maybe we could design ministries for women that begin to deal with the trauma while we help them prepare for a new baby, It’s just a thought I wanted to share.