Better, But Not Enough

Insufficient

Exasperating

Controlling

Fearful

Worrywart

Cautious

Helicopter

Mother Bear

 

Fighting

Striving

Bravely trying

Stepping off the platform into the abyss

 

I am a conqueror

 

Yet when I step back

You mock my nerves

My sensibilities

 

You who have no idea how far I’ve come

The fathoms of change and growth

You know nothing

To you I will never be enough

 

 

I Love You So Much, I’ll Kill Whomever Gets In My Way, Even If It Destroys You Yourself!

The Yandere

 

The Japanese language has a few words to describe some personality types that don’t translate concisely into English.  A slew of them end with the suffix “-dere,” meaning “lovestruck” (deep love).

There are tusnderes (mean on the outside, sweet on the inside), kuuderes (cold on the outside, sweet on the inside)…

and even the yandere.

Coupling “yanderu,” which means “sick,” with “dere” for lovestruck, gives us “yandere,” which literally means, “to be sick in the head over love.”

Anime loves to portray this kind of person as a stark-raving mad human being, usually a girl, who is obsessed with violence.  She kills anyone who looks tempting to her mate, and she can even kill her love interest himself if she thinks he has been unfaithful.

But that’s the extreme case.  Yandere also comes out whenever anyone becomes obsessively dangerous over someone that they love.  It could be a best friend.  It could be a parent.  It could be a child.

It may not take the form of pickaxe violence and bloody school uniforms (This is not the type of stuff I prefer to watch!)

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It could be a subtle poisoning of the mind, brainwashing of the soul, and depression of the spirit.  A yandere appears to worship the one she loves, but, in reality, she worships herself.  She is utterly selfish toward the object of her passion.  She wants them all for herself.  Her desires and “needs” are really what is worshiped.

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I was the victim of a yandere once many years ago.  I was found to be starving myself for this friend because they were doing it too.  They were thrilled that I got thinner and thinner, hurting my body because it meant I was tortured along with them.  As they suffered other tragic grief, some of their own making, I couldn’t sleep or eat either, and this made them rejoice.  The more pain I felt, the more satisfied they became.  I had to forsake all other friends, or this person became sick with grief, predicting how I would hurt them.  I lived in the yandere’s fantasy world for a few months before someone rescued me.  It was a mind-stealing place.

Looking back on it now, years removed from its grip, the yandere type seems so hard for me to understand.  I am an affectionate, nurturing person.  I want to simply hug my daughters, pat my husband on the back, and be balanced and unemotional when it comes to what’s best for them.  The thought of rising up with a kitchen knife just boggles my mind, yet intrigues me.  How does someone go so wrong?  Where does deep love turn into obsession?

And then the shootings happened.  We have a young man pull a gun on an elementary school, and another on college-aged young people.  Or how about these sexual abuse scandals with children and church leaders?

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And all I can think of is, “What if that were my child?  Would I want to just defend?  Or would I, in rage and panic, fight back?”  It makes me see red.

We live in a scary world, but we always have.  It’s really not scarier than it’s ever been.  There’s always been something lurking around the corner.  If you want to say that 1910 was much less scary than it is now, that there weren’t school shootings every year, I’ll shrug and agree with you.  However, if you lived in 1910, you wouldn’t be fearing for your child’s life every time you sent them to school, you’d be clutching them at night as they burned with diphtheria and tuberculosis, hoping they did not die without medical aid.  You’d be burying a newborn every couple of births.  And, in a few years, you’d be in a world war.

I think the mothers of one hundred years ago clutched their children to their bosoms just as closely.

Fear.  It’s vital that the emotion of fear was created by our all-knowing God.  It keeps us from running across a road while a car speedily approaches.  It keeps us from thrusting a hand into a burning flame.  It keeps us returning to our homes at night and locking our doors.  It keeps us alive.

However, like anything God created, if it rises up and usurps all other emotions, if it pushes God out of the picture and ignores His promises, if it throws Trust off a cliff and boils Peace for dinner, the thing that we fear becomes god in His place.  We worship what we fear.  If our all-consuming fear is about a loved one, we have begun to worship that human being, and, ultimately, ourselves.

“If you are afraid of people, it will trap you.  But if you trust in the Lord, He will keep you safe.”  Proverbs 29:25

In the troubled times we live in, that are a different trouble from our ancestors, yet real all the same, do we live life with the open hand Job had to learn about the hard way?  “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the Name of the Lord.”  Job 1:21

Do we fear everything and everyone around us when it comes to our child?  Medical personnel, germs, food, media, the opposite sex, the very air they breathe?  Are we ready to claw the eyes out of the mother nearest us who doesn’t believe the same?  Are you ready to disown your own child if they get the courage to “go against you” and vaccinate, or spank, or send your grandchildren to public school, or own a gun?  Are we trusting mother’s intuition more than God’s Word and really just living a fearful life with a very finite, small, human-sized brain?  Do we truly believe that we can do everything “Right” and God can still take our child away?  That His purpose, good pleasure, and glory also means it will be good for us to experience that loss?  That He is glorified most by removing that child from this earth?  Or, even yet, spiritually, from His church?  That it’s really not about what we do or not do, but His Holy Spirit at work in that child.  That it will be for our best no matter if that child’s future takes an unexpected turn we could not foresee or change afterward?  Is that shockingly impossible for us to think about?  Does that make you want to lash out at God Himself?

Are we really Yanderes in “mama bear” clothing?

In these troubled times, where the world is accosting our children left and right physically, mentally, emotionally, and where it’s easy to live a life of fear, let’s remember Who holds our hearts.  Who holds the hearts of our children.  Let’s be loving, but not sick.  Let’s love the children we have, for the time we have them, and strive to be the most righteous parent we can be.  And then let’s be happy when God has His pleasure – He’s really not asking your permission – because it will be far greater than we could ever imagine.  He is the same God who promised this to the Israelites:

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future.'” Jeremiah 29:11

 

Do you feel like a yandere at times?  Does your imagination run wild with all of your fears, keeping you up at night?  Can you picture yourself running at the “bad guys” who threaten your children, tearing them to pieces?  How do you keep fear out of your parenting?

 

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RJ’s #1 New Year’s Resolution

*clearing throat and putting down the microphone*     4726_Bible_microphone_large

Psalm 6 was fun.  I got to put a lot of emotion into it.  I’ve always wanted to be an actress – even a voice actress!

My New Year’s Resolution this year is…

… to record the entire Bible in a year.

I’ve been involved in Bible studies outside of the home for 18 years, since I was 9 years old.  I started in BSF, graduated out of that into CBS (both are excellent, by the way), and don’t forget AWANA scattered throughout my elementary years.

However, it’s been at least a decade since I’ve gone a whole year without missing my quiet time a single day.  I miss it frequently.  This pains me a lot, but it’s the honest truth.

Now, there’s nothing magical about reading some of God’s Word and saying a prayer every 24-hour period, however, I can promise you that, since I started a relationship with my husband, Brad, back in 2007, there hasn’t been a single day I missed speaking to him.  Even if, during finals when he was in school, it was just a, “Hello!  I love you.  Goodnight!” I have faithfully spoken to my main man.  Now that he lives in my home, most days involve lengthy conversations about my day, our daughters, or my thoughts and feelings on life.  I care to hear what he has to say, as well, and want to get wisdom, instruction, and love from him.

If God is more important than Brad, and if I am to love Him more, then why is this not the case with my heavenly Father?

My sister convicted me – this sister who has gone something like two years without missing her quiet special time with God – that I need to set my relationship with my Ultimate Main Man above everything else.  If I care about God’s wisdom, instruction, and love, and if He deserves my all, then he should get at least more than a “Hello!  Goodnight!  And fix my problems!”

Because the Bible studies I’m in tend to have things set up for study just six days a week, I thought I would add something to my plate – to make sure I got in that special time with the Person I’ve neglected every single day.

Reading through the Bible in a year.

I’ve never done this, mainly because I’ve always been a studier.  I thought that just reading the Bible was pointless if I wasn’t studying it and answering questions on it and hearing a sermon on it.  I didn’t think God could or would just speak to me with His Word alone.  I thought It needed help from study groups and discussion leaders and commentaries.

But I’m an auditory learner.

Therefore, I can be the type to read at breakneck speed and not really learn anything.  To not digest it.  But, if I was going to own a One-Year Bible, then I knew I’d need to do something beyond just read it – otherwise it might be pointless to me.  Like food that just passes right through without nourishing.

I love to read out loud.  I learn best by listening.  I wanted to force myself to go slowly and think.

So I’m recording myself reading the Bible out loud every day.

Chapter by chapter.

I’m the first week into it, and I’ve recorded 25 chapters so far!  (Following the One-Year Bible plan.)

Passages that I know I’ve read before are suddenly leaping out at me.  I have a notebook (an idea from my mother-in-law) divided up into sections where I can write down potent Scriptures on certain topics.

My husband was like, “What?  But why?”

Reasons for Having the Bible on CD

  • My daughter is suddenly fearful to sleep in her new toddler bed at night.  Instead of music or nightlights or stuffed animals, all of which doesn’t work, she can now listen to the voice of her mother, reading aloud God’s Word to her.  My children can clean their room or color their coloring books or do their chores and listen to their mother read Scripture – even if I’m not there in person.
  • For memorizing Scripture.  However, having read it out loud already, it’s making it easier!  Since I am an auditory learner, I remember things I’ve heard.  This is already helping me recall Scripture.
  • On busy days, I can put the cds in my car.
  • We had a family member with reading difficulties.  He used God’s Word on cd for his personal Bible study.  It was so much easier and more effective than reading it for himself.
  • All Scripture is God-breathed and useful, so the possibilities of this being used for good are endless!
  • I can share this idea with others!

And hold me accountable!  I know how resolutions fall flat, some times as soon as February.  I want to complete this amazing project, and am excited to see how God uses it in my life!

Too Attached to Your Kids?

Amongst the Christian conservative community, there has been a major change in parenting in this past generation.  More than ever, Christian conservative mothers are staying home with their kids.  Homeschooling has increased to an estimated 2 million students nationwide.  It has increased 7 percent in just three years.  Of those who homeschool, more than ever have taken a very achandstive role with their children.  There is a rise in homes going agrarian or more “natural.”  Breastfeeding vs. formula feeding has been growing steadily. The involvement between the mother and her baby amongst certain families has even received a label: Attachment Parenting.  This usually involves some forms of nursing on demand, baby-wearing, co-sleeping, and not letting a baby cry it out.

Many of these parents whose desires to be involved and to be self-sacrificing also seem to be followed around by aggressive guilt-trips to “not miss out on their children’s childhood” biting their backsides.  There are a lot of blog entries, memes, and articles going around with similar themes.  And while the blogs make excellent points for those addicted to technology and entertainment as well as for the fast-paced distracted parent, I also sense a lot of needless guilt being placed on women I know.   And I know a lot of sincerely lovely mothers who are beating themselves up!

I’d like to be the devil’s advocate for a bit and remind you of the flipside of the matter.  How many of us have seen movie after movie where hard-working dad is pictured as the bad guy because he won’t give the finger to his over-demanding boss, losing his job rather than miss his kid’s baseball game?  I’m seeing many of my peers walking around with their heads down over articles they’ve read about how they’re bad mothers because little Emily plays at a friend’s house an afternoon a week or because they go to women’s retreats twice a year with their church.  A woman at my Bible study spent the entire end of our time together in tears the other day because she was convinced she was a failure to her children because she had to work a job a few mornings to help make ends meet in this rough and frightening economy.

Don’t get me wrong.  We are in a fast-paced gluttonous society, a society with entertainment out the wazoo, a society where we can live a false virtual life as easily as anything real.  We meet time and again those lazy, uninvolved, and workaholic parents.  We have even been some of them ourselves.

But, on the whole, this does not describe conservative, Christian, homeschool America.  Not the homeschooling America that I know.

I think our parents’ parents came from a generation of people where family couldn’t always be first priority and where men went off to war, and women were concerned about getting liberated so they worked 9-5 jobs, and where children were labeled “latchkey.”  And so, as is the human way, I think that we schooling-at-home-minded couples have swung far to the other spectrum of things.  How many of us, dear women, are run entirely ragged where we can’t even leave our homes for months on end due to the fact that, even though our bodies says stop, we, deep down, feel like we would be failures if we quit having children?  How many dear sisters are not getting sleep for over a year after having a new baby because, if the child cries, it means they need food NOW, even if it’s in the middle of the night every night for months on end?  (And I’m not talking about a real physical need or concern, but allowing the child to get their own way purely because they want it.)

As a conservative community, I think some of us run around worrying we’re going to miss something, worried our children aren’t going to be “attached” enough.  If I can say, “I want my baby and young child to be truly attached to me above all else,” I’m saying I promote idolatry.  I’m just not hearing, from my own mouth, “I want my child to be attached to God.  I want my child to go to God with their needs.”

Sweet mothers, are we scared that if we aren’t there for that child every moment of every day – and night! – that the baby is going to have an underdeveloped moral conscience that will lead to all sorts of horrors and sins in the future – an emotionally scarred child?

Who told me that I am a mini-god, in charge of the spiritual well-being and conscience of another human life?  I am not omnipresent.  No matter how much I want to be, I cannot be all-in-all for that little life.  Nor would I want to be.  Not if I call myself a Christian.

And I’m not telling my ultra-caring and loving friends not to sleep with their child or not to be Attachment Parents.  I don’t care what it is you do – and you shouldn’t care so much what I do.  There is nothing in the Bible saying one is right or one is wrong.

But the Bible DOES talk about fear – and that’s what I want to get at.  As a culture, are we Christians desperately afraid?  Do we parent out of fear?  Are we afraid that we’re going to screw something up from birth and that somehow it’s all about the mothering that makes the human being?  “There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear.”  (1 John 4:18)  That Bible verse doesn’t mean love more obsessively.  It means love perfectly.  Are our children idols?  Do I disguise idolatry and obsession with my children by calling it “being attached”?

Co-sleeping can be a special thing, for sure, but “Let the marriage bed be undefiled.”  (Hebrews 13:4)  I’ve never really thought of this meaning an actual bed before, and the Scripture really is talking about sexual intimacy with your spouse, but could your child be coming between that?  Maybe not, however, it might be wise to make sure you’ve asked your husband, “Are you upset that you have to share a bed with a child year after year and don’t get that special sleep time with me? “  How many of us, as well, never, ever go on dates?  Do we say “We don’t want to leave the kids” or “We may miss something important with the child” or “It’s just not that important” or “We just can’t get out; someone might need us.”  Does our marriage get thrown by the wayside during the childhood years?  Are we truly being obedient to the Lord and His calling for our life while parenting?  Or are we throwing everything else He might have planned for our family aside to give the kids what they want?

How many of us, dear, conscientious women, go on Internet fast after Internet fast, or even cell phone fasts, claiming that our twenty minutes a day on Facebook, or our desire to keep up on current events, or our emails to Christian sisters are “taking me away from the kids.  Face it, I don’t have time to do anything but feed the baby right now.  My body isn’t my own – or my husband’s!  ‘Tis the age!  All else goes out the window except for the kids for a few years.”  I’m not talking about real laziness, selfishness, or addiction here – and we all need to evaluate our hearts – but it’s silly of me to think there’s something bad about letting the child learn to play by herself for an hour a day, letting her learn that she isn’t the center of the universe!  Do you know what would happen if I went on an Internet and cell phone fast?  I would break my mother-in-law’s heart.  She lives hundreds of miles away and no information is too much when it’s about her son, his wife, and her granddaughters.  If I didn’t post my gobs of pictures, if I didn’t give her a call every so often, I would be shutting her out of our lives.  So some afternoons the kids actually get placed in a playpen and play with each other, or sit at a table with their shelves and shelves of books so that I can think about someone outside of our home for a little bit.  Once a week or so, I have cards I write too.  At that point, the kids know that Mama is going to be inaccessible for a half hour or so because the girl who just lost her family in a car accident is just a bit more important right now.  Writing a card really is such a small thing to do.  I try to time it during their nap, but, if I need to sleep along with them, I’m going to do that too.  I’m going to miss out on their childhood more if I’m grouchy as a bear because I’m sleep deprived.

No one has time for each other any more.  The children have extracurricular activity after extracurricular activity.  Little Madison, Jacob, Jack, Emma, Isabelle… All SEVENTEEN of the kids have THREE sports each!  (Don’t you feel this way some times?  Am I sure I don’t have seventeen children – because where on earth did all of that food go?  And they must all have at least three sports!  :-P)  Mom isn’t a self-sacrificial mom if she doesn’t drive each one around hours upon hours each week.  Far be it from her to say, “This is not a profitable and God-glorifying use of my time – or our time as a family.”  Some would say she would be selfish for thinking so.  “They’re only kids for so long.  How can you miss any of it?  You stand out there in the rain and cold every single Saturday and cheer them on!”  SOCCER MOM!  SOCCER MOM!  Soccer… zzzzzzzzz  (She’s exhausted now!)

Meanwhile, the church suffers.  No one has time for church activities.  No one has time to run them.  How many of our young moms aren’t getting invited over for a meal or don’t have someone come and hang out with her, when parenting, in its newness, is scary and overwhelming and she’s crying out for help?  How many of us never “get the kids together to play”?  Very few of us even make the drive to go see people.

“I’d love to,” the homeschool mom says, “but I’m sorry.  I just can’t get everyone out the door.  It’s too stressful.  Our school day would be ruined.  You don’t eat what we do.  You don’t run your home like I do.  Your kids don’t look and act like my kids.  I really just don’t want to.  It’s too much work.  We’re not organized enough to make it happen.  ”

Okay, nobody really says all of that.  Instead, everyone just uses the big bad B word.  BUSY.

“We’re just too busy right now.  I know I should be reaching out to you and discipling you, but it’s all about my kids right now”  – and they know it! – “I’m too busy making them kings and queens of their own little worlds.”

Yeah, we probably don’t admit that either.  😉

A New York Times article stated that, while Generation Y’ers are closer to their family members, they’re also “coddled, disrespectful, narcissitic, and impatient.”  They’ve never learned to wait for anything, never learned delayed gratification, and use Mom and Dad as slaves.  The unemployment rate for 16-24 year olds is at 17.6%.  They’re unmotivated.

Families, I really feel that we, instead, should be serving together, teaching our children to look outward and recognize needs, to be able to discipline themselves instead of crying for every need and expecting Slave Mama to fix it immediately.  To take initiative.  As church activities shut down around us, I’m startled that the sheer amount of young people doesn’t lend itself towards more of us serving and running the ministries that used to be led by our parents.  “Do hard things” is a motto that has been trampled upon by our children with earbuds listening to their iPods who didn’t see it right in front of them.  The parents, as well, are burned out homeschooling and catering to the needs and activities of said young people.  I could also say much about the woman who physically lets herself go, never exercises, and becomes very unhealthy, causing a danger for herself because she doesn’t get any time away from the kids.  Husbands need to help out there!

The Bible doesn’t talk about nursing babies on demand or scheduling them.  It’s just not a moral issue that needs to divide people and cause discord.  It just isn’t.  Let it be.

There are also no references to “Do not miss out on thine children’s childhood.”  Instead, we mainly see that godly children are called to obedience, respect, and propriety.  Parents are pretty much only told to discipline their child and to “not exasperate their children, instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”  (Ephesians 6:4)

We see Timothy, at a young age, jumping into ministry with Paul.  Rhoda opens the door for the apostle because she is sitting with church members praying for his release.  A little boy who listened to Christ for possibly hours on end donates his own lunch basket to feed the multitude.  The Proverbs 31 Woman has a business buying and trading!  She is not too busy to do anything but coddle the kids.  The early church was very focused on evangelism, ministry, and serving.  Why have we fallen so far from that because of our fears about parenting that lead us to idolizing our kids and ostracizing our friends and church members?  Reading about the lives of many key missionaries, whole families would leave and evangelize together.  I know of one family who limits their children’s Christmas presents, instead deciding to involve everyone in choosing gifts for poor and underprivileged kids and going to their homes to distribute them.  Their children have learned that their wants are not the center of the home.  They are taught early on to look outward.

Hard-working and well-meaning mothers, I feel so badly that you’re being guilted into feeling that if you let your kids play on their own, give your babies some formula instead of just breastmilk, not wear them constantly in a sling on your back, if you schedule to feed them only every three hours, and actually take the time to go once a week to a Bible study or volunteer in the community that they are going to grow up feeling emotionally deprived, love-starved, or become willful, disobedient children.  Do we, unfortunately, find out too late that our husband’s needs have not been first priority and that we have become doormats for our children to rub their messy bottoms on?  Do I do this to try and not lose their love and devotion?  Is this actually about ME and what I get out of being a parent?  Do I want them to be attached to me to satisfy my desire to be loved?

Or do I just think that I control their souls?  Is the devil using headlines like, “Don’t miss a thing!  What are you doing getting on Facebook for those fifteen minutes a day, you worthless mother?  How dare you schedule time for friends?  Don’t you realize you’re missing everything!  Worship childhood!  Put it above your personal devotions.  Put it above your marriage.  Be afraid of something happening to your child – be so afraid that you forget to trust in the Lord, and instead trust in yourself as a mother, in that ‘intuition’ that proves you always can handle it and you know best!”  Is he using such thoughts from the conservative community, that are often well-meaning but get taken too far, to guilt us into thinking we’re failures and into training our children to be “narcisstic, coddled, impatient,” unable to keep a job, unable to see needs in others’ lives, unable to do hard things, and egotists?  I’m very much struck with the fact that it would be better for my girls, even, to do less play and more service.  More chores, more good hard work, and more self-sacrificing of their own!

“The king’s heart is in the hands of the Lord; He directs it like a watercourse wherever He pleases.” (Proverbs 21:1)

So often I have used that verse to remind myself not to fear the decisions made by authorities, but does He only hold the king’s heart?  Does He not hold all of ours?  Should I remind myself of this verse to not fear the choices my children make as well?  I could be the perfect parent who shares the gospel each and every day, who teaches my child selflessness and service, and who is a shining example of Christ’s love in action – and yet my child could still reject the Lord and become a criminal.  It will have had nothing to do with whether I regularly took Internet fasts to devote a fifth hour to playing with them.  Only the Lord is in the business of changing hearts.  (Ezekiel 36:26)  Only the Holy Spirit can woo the soul.  It is up to us to teach them and admonish them in the Lord, to tell them about Jesus who died for them, and to faithfully and often brutally point out that they are sinners – that there is nothing good in them.  My girls are not little perfect princesses who deserve the moon, they are flesh who deserve hell.  Deserve hell but are loved.  By a perfect God.  Cling to HIM, not to me.  Become fully attached to the Lord who will never let you down, will never sin, and who will always be with you.  Even when Mom just cannot – or should not.  Even when Mom rightfully puts Dad first.  Even when Mom sends you off to college or bravely lets you leave the nest.  Even when Mom says, “You can’t live in the basement any more.  Go get a job.  You’re going to have to pay for your cell phone bill yourself from now on.”

Let’s all go on a date with our husbands this weekend (Even if we use up the available babysitters amongst us!)   I’m going to have to part with the girls for a couple of hours even though it’s in my nature to want to be the clingy, fearful, controlling mother I talked about.  Yet let’s attempt to regularly head out on dates with those hard-working husbands!  I also think it’s good that I regularly drop them off in the care of others so that I can enjoy an hour of Bible study with women who spur me on towards love and good deeds.  Let’s all, if we are able, jump in our cars and drive the distance to go visit a church member in need.  I even set my phone to vibrate with new Facebook notifications while I was waiting to receive word that a dear sister in Christ has had her baby because I want to rejoice with her!  Even though I stay at home, spend hours of my day with them, and have begun homeschooling my daughter – even though I’m part of conservative homeschooling America, I have just been so convicted to not give my girls a headstart in rejecting humility.  My life, and the life of our family, does not revolve around them.  Like myself, they are one cog in this wheel labeled Glorifying God and Pointing the World to Him.

Also, if these little princesses of mine really are the wonderful things whose time on this earth and in my home is not worth missing, wouldn’t I want to direct them to bless others with some of that childhood?  😉

Overcomer

Thinking of the elections, the fear of where our country is headed, and worrying about the choices voters can make is frightening.  In the process of moving, I flipped through a couple of my diaries from over the years.  One entry from January 26, 2009 was a good reminder to me – and not just about fearing the world and our present culture, but all fear as well.  Hope it helps all of you right where you’re at.  ❤

God gave me a verse last week that was like a thwack on the head to me.  I’ve been thinking myself silly about souls, being innocent and protected, how much I hate knowing anything about evil, and my fears and hatred of the world.  I’m not balanced, and I know it, and I shouldn’t be afraid.  But I thought I would rather stay with my mentalities and fear.  And then, the verse::

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Romans 12:21

That’s what I’ve done!  Let evil overcome me.  Let it rule my fears.  Let it close off my brain to good. 

Overcomer

And I have been commanded to not be overcome by evil!

It was a light int he tunnel, a rainbow in a grey sky, and a heavy weight to balance the scales of my mind.

The Greek word for “overcome” is neeko.  I went looking for more verses with that word and found more comfort and encouragement than I would have ever expected.

“For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”  1 Peter 2:15

We believers can overcome evil with good, and it’s God’s will that we will silence the world!  All the stupidity.  The fools.  All of it will be silenced because it is God’s will that my obedience will make it so!  I think this should be the key theme verse for Brad and me   For all of the friends like of us.[going into marriage].

And who has done it already for us?

“I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart, I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

Jesus says it will be hard.  Tribulation.  I shouldn’t be surprised by what I see.  But Jesus wants me to have peace.  He says, “Take heart!”  The word is one I don’t know: tharsaytay, but my Greek New Testament translates it, “be cheerful” or “take courage.”  Jesus doesn’t want me to be afraid!  He’s overcome the world and will teach us how to.

How?

1 John 5:4-5: “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

These are all variations of that same word neeko, to overcome!

All who are saved overcome the world.  Not all will, all do.  All believers.  Me!  And with what?  Our faith.  By believing that Jesus is the Son of God, I already have a victory over the world.  Evil grinds its filthy teeth at us – at the faith that ultimately, and permanently saves us from its jaws.  When I have faith in God’s promises, trust His Word, and step out in belief in scary circumstances, I have overcome the world.  Faith is obedience.  Obedience is good.  Overcome evil with good.  Take heart!

Yet another verse in 1 John gives me courage: “Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.  This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.  Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”  1 John 4:3-4

Neeko is also translated “victory,” [from where we get the name Nicole and its meaning of “victorious.”  :-)] If I see myself as a soldier with the whole world against me, I can’t forget that Jesus lives inside my mind as well.  He is in control of all the boxes in my brain.  He wants to set me free from fears.  I am from God.  I feel like a little child, but I can overcome the antichrist!

And now, the most special verse of all to me: 1 John 2:14b 

“I write to you, young people, because you are strong, and the Word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”

You are strong.

I am strong.  Mentally strong.  Strong because Jesus lives in me and it is God’s will.  Strong in my faith.  How much of Scripture lives in my mind, etches Itself into the caverns and crevices of every thought?  Why am I not memorizing more Scripture?  Why don’t I begin with these verses?  He calls for young people, which is me!  I am strong so memorize Scripture.  I haven’t just overcome the world.  I haven’t just overcome the evil in the world.  I have overcome the evil one.

“Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”  Matthew 10:16

Don’t forget the “wise as serpents” part.  I have nothing to fear!  I am fighting a battle I’ve already been predestined to win!

I pray God reminds me to take heart, especially as I get married, grow up further, and become the keeper of my own home out in the world – as I see more evil.

I think it’s imperative that I study 1 John, as well as begin to memorize.  John seems to speak right to me in this book.  God knows what He’s doing.

“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.  So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.  God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have CONFIDENCE for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.  For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”  1 John 4:15-18

The Birth of Rosalie Joyce Conte

The Birth of Rosalie Joyce Conte

July 16, 2012  12:36 PM  8 pounds, 7 ounces   20.5 inches

I went twelve days late with Rachael and then had to have an emergency c-section because the cord was wrapped twice tightly around her neck and her heart rate was plummeting and almost stopped.  Because of the circumstances, I was told I was a perfect candidate for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean).  This I started praying about since week one of Rosalie’s pregnancy!  It was something I strongly wanted – having hated the surgery aspect of Rachael’s birth, hated the recovery, hated being drowsy and sick to my stomach day-of, hated forgetting all that happened that first day and a half in the hospital, and hated the thought of being stuck having surgeries instead of normal births.  I wanted no part of a c-section again.

Therefore, when signs and symptoms of approaching labor happened way earlier the second time around, I became convinced I was going to give birth early.  I got very excited and seemed confident I’d have the VBAC of my dreams – a relief and consolation to what had transpired the first time – a comfort to me that my body could do things right and that I could deliver safely.  My midwife wanted me to set an “end date” – a date we wouldn’t go past before having a c-section.  They preferred I make it my due date, feeling nervous about a VBAC’er going late, but I did hours of research and found no greater risk in setting the date as late as we could manage.  Knowing that even Rachael didn’t come fourteen days late, I set my “end c-section date” at July 23rd – exactly 42 weeks.  If Rosalie didn’t come on her own before then (They will not induce a previous c-section’er.  It ups the risk of rupture to 25%!)  I was sure we’d never even get there and it wouldn’t matter.  I wondered if I’d even make it to July, or if I’d deliver in June.

And yet, the weeks dragged on.

Because our daughter was due on Brad’s birthday, July 9th, she had a good shot of fitting into The Conte Pattern.  Brad’s mom was born on July 3rd, his sister Hope on July 5th, and Brad was on the 9th.  When I met Brad and they found out my birthday was July 7th, we deemed it a sign from God that I was meant to be a part of this family, the missing puzzle piece to a perfect string of birthdays.  🙂

Therefore, I put a ton of pressure on myself that my daughter had to be born on July 1st or 11th in order to be a true Conte and stick with the esteemed Pattern.  It didn’t help that Brad prayed for Rosalie to be born on one of those dates as well!  Although, he just thought it would be fun.  *I* made it a big deal.

On June 30th, I had a list about 20 lines long of all of the old wives’ tales about naturally inducing labor.  Since I wanted to go into labor *that* night, I was going to try absolutely everything on the list, ending with acupressure points on my ankles.

Brad and I walked for an hour, ate a disgusting eggplant dish, I bounced on a big ball, danced, did squats, ate pineapple, drank *nine* bags of raspberry tea, and much, much more.

Finally, by midnight, I sat in my recliner chair and Brad took one ankle and I took the other.  I had heard that there’s a tender point two fingers above the inner ankle where, if you rub in a circular motion, you can start contractions.

Yes, that theory *is* true, but, let me tell you, ladies, once and for all: you can NOT start labor if your body and the baby are not ready!!!!

*None* of these methods worked.  All anecdotal evidence is coincidental.  When I went into my midwife’s office later that week and told her what I had tried and how it doesn’t work, she said, “Thank you!  Can I video you and show all of my patients?”

Seriously, ladies.  You can’t start labor.  Maybe pumping and producing oxytocin would’ve done it, but I decided against that.  Considered dangerous for a VBAC patient due to the extremely aggressive contractions it creates.  Therefore, none of the other old wives’ tales work.

That night Brad and I got my contractions to an average of seven minutes apart for 45 minutes by rubbing the inside of my ankles.  However, by that point, it was super late, we were exhausted, and our thumbs were about to fall off.  When we stopped, so did the contractions.  Yet I kept at it, long after Brad fell asleep, tears in my eyes, determined that I, in my humanly wisdom HAD to have the baby July 1st.  I kept dozing in my chair, I started to lose track of contractions, and I couldn’t remember what time it was.  Finally I feel asleep.

The next day was Sunday and I woke up disappointed, angry, and discouraged.  I hardly talked on the way to church, mad at the whole world.  People at church didn’t make me feel any better, exclaiming about how low, large, or ready I looked, saying, “Tell that baby to come!”  I knew they were just being kind, but I felt like not going back to church until after I delivered.  My attitude was SOUR for sure.  It stunk!  I also had big humongous bruises and chafing in the inside of the ankle I had personally rubbed.  My ankles were swollen knots and, to this day, the mark on the ankle I rubbed has not gone away.  I think of it as a reminder of me trying to play God and feel that, if it turns into a scar, I will have aptly deserved it.

God convicted me that Sunday, it being the first of the month and Communion Sunday.  I felt like I really couldn’t participate in Communion until I had confessed every aspect of that stinky attitude.  And so I did.  Going home later that day, I was convinced I had given it all to the Lord and would have a good attitude from there on out.

But it was a constant battle.  When July 11th (the other end of The Conte Pattern) came and went, I had to spend some time in prayer.  Now that I was overdue, I had to come in for BPP and NSTs (sonograms and non-stress tests) like I had with Rachael.  I was huge, hot, and uncomfortable.  People started asking me if I was having twins.  My stomach measured 47 ½ inches around!  I knew I had another 8 pound baby in there.  I had hit every labor sign without labor.  I had painful, sometimes two-minute long contractions every day that went nowhere.  I was STRESSED.  OUT.  Constantly in prayer, constantly fighting anxiety, constantly trying not to question God, that end c-section date crept closer and closer.  Some days I would spend the evening in tears when I would be contraction-less (I always had them in the evenings, so, if I didn’t, I knew I wasn’t going into labor that night.)  The next day I would be joyful and think I had a handle on it.  Intellectually, I trust God completely and had given it up to Him, but emotionally I had no peace and was constantly on edge and the verge of crying.  To me, the worst ending to this I could think of was another c-section.  I couldn’t understand why God would allow one.  It made no sense to my tiny human brain.  I couldn’t think of being obedient in my attitude if it meant another c-section.

I asked everyone for prayer, but I struggled.  A lot.  My blood pressure had also gone up.  It was still in normal range, but a high normal.  That didn’t help my peaceless days, especially when people started tossing around preeclampsia stories.  But it never got too bad.

Then I read my friend, Bethany J.’s writeup of her eldest’s birth and got excited thinking about my daughter.  In the comments section after reading her note, she posted a link to a blog article: http://www.feminagirls.com/2012/07/06/natural-and-cursed/   As I read the article, I realized I was SO focused on the MEANS of Rosalie’s birth that I had forgotten that THE worst outcome was not a c-section, but a dead baby!  Or a dead me!  That I should be grateful for modern medicine and the fact that I don’t sit around worrying if Rosalie was even going to survive.

Also, I realized that I hated the thought of having an “end c-section date” at all, feeling like it was a fearful thing to do for no good medical reason.  “Could we evaluate going in and doing a c-section just because I hit an arbitrary number of weeks?” I asked Brad.  He agreed that we could pray about that more.  That was an immediate relief!

Sunday of the 15th of July dawned and I headed to church.  I had not been since the gloomy 1st of July because all of the Joni and Friends missionaries had come back with stomach bugs and Brad had not wanted me to catch it.  I had not missed being there that week after all of the comments and had been battling my attitude toward friendly questions as to being overdue.  But *this* Sunday, the 15th, I woke up eager to go to church, hear God’s Word, and see the loving people who had given our family so much, were praying so hard, and cared a lot.  Finally I felt like my attitude was in check.

After church, later that evening, we had another BPP and NST scheduled, this time at the hospital.  When you’re overdue, they want you to go in for the sonogram and non-stress test every three days on the dot to make sure nothing goes amiss, since every day counts.  If that third day falls on a weekend, you go into the hospital to have it done.  In the non-stress test, they count movements and listen to the heart rate.  In the BPP sonogram, they look for four things: fluid level, heart rate, as well as breathing practice and movement from the baby.  Rosalie had always gotten a perfect score in everything up to this point, including the very last time I had been in, only three days prior.

Brad, Squeaker, and I entered the hospital at 7:30 PM that Sunday evening, they hooked me up to the monitor, and we could hear Rosalie’s little heart beating away happily.  All good there.  I had a painful contraction while we watched – all the way up to the 80 line!  (0-100 scale)  But nothing after that.  Like usual.

Then the sonographer came in.  The first troubling comment was, “Your cervix is still long.”

“Do you mean effacement?” I asked.  I did not like internal exams at the end of pregnancy, so I had refused them up to this point – also feeling like I didn’t need the added stress of knowing if I was dilated or not.

“Yes,” she replied.

I was not effaced.  At all.  Unless some miracle happened, I just wasn’t going into labor soon.  Even with all of those contractions.  Why?  I have no idea.

But it got worse.

The sonographer told us, at the end, that she found debris in my fluid.  “It could be meconium,” she said.  “I have to get this to the radiologist.”

I remember staring Brad in the eyes, both of us reading each other’s confused and concerned thoughts instantly.  I pulled out my phone and started looking up how bad it could be if the baby had indeed had her first poop (meconium) in the fluid.  She was already breathing it in and out but was in no distress.  Could that be possible?  Yes, it could, if it were a certain kind of meconium.  There were different danger levels, supposedly.

We waited.

I couldn’t get a hold of my mom, who I just badly wanted to talk to.  I guess it didn’t really matter anyway because I had nothing really concrete to tell her yet.

It seemed like everyone was taking forever.  We waited and waited.  Oddly enough, though, I wasn’t feeling super fearful.  I wasn’t stressing out.  I just sat there, watching “Squeaker” (Rachael’s nickname) squeal as she ran around the room throwing a toy and watching it roll.  I wondered if I would even be allowed to go home that night.

Finally a nurse came in and said the midwife on call, Liz M. from the office, was going to be talking to me over the phone.  When it finally rang, I picked up, wondering if what I heard was going to change my life that evening.

“Hi, RJ,” she began.  “Well, they saw something that could be meconium, but we don’t know that for sure.  It could also be vernix, which is just the coating on the skin.  However, we usually only see vernix on early babies.  Meconium usually shows up when they’re late.  Yet her heart rate is still fine and she’s in no distress.  So we wouldn’t make you do anything because of that.  But, the really troubling part is your fluid.  Your fluid level is down to 8.2.  When it gets to an 8, it’s considered dangerous level.  You had gone from being at a 22, to dropping to a 17 at your next appointment – both numbers are okay.  But, in the last three days, you dropped from a 17 to an 8.2.”

Numbers and “levels” were spinning in my head.  I felt like she was still using medical lingo.  “What options do we have?  So tell me straight – what are the risks here?  What are we talking about?”

Then Liz cut the polite lingo.  “For your fluid levels to have dropped almost in half in three days means your body is shutting down.  The placenta is dying.  You no longer can provide for the baby in there.  At an 8, we consider it emergency c-section level.   Yet, she’s still looking okay tonight, so I talked to Jeanean.” (my personal midwife)  “She knows how much you want to do a VBAC, so she said you can go home tonight and we can schedule a c-section for tomorrow.  That gives you one last night to go into labor on your own.”  (Good ol’ Jeanean!  Even if my water broke and I had a fluid level of 0, they’d still give me 24 hours to deliver, so that made sense.)  “If you refuse to do the c-section, we’d have you sign papers saying that the death of your child is not on our hands.  It would be extremely foolish not to go ahead and get this baby out of there, especially before she goes into distress.  With no fluid, the cord will constrict, choking her to death.  And, even if the cord doesn’t do that, without fluid, she can’t survive for long.  Looks like we can schedule the c-section for noon.  There are too many being done that morning, so 12:00 PM is the first time slot available.”

I hung up the phone.  Turned to Brad.  Told him the news.  Waited to hear how upset he’d be.

“You sure we should go home?  The c-section would be in fifteen hours!  Will the baby be okay?” he asked.

I felt a rush of love for him.  With the impending second c-section, our previous “Worst Case Scenario,” he immediately forgave that and worried about our child’s safety.

I also felt no fear, no utter devastation, and no anger.  I felt what I had been praying to feel for months.

PEACE.

When a c-section was unlikely, labor could happen any day, and everything about my fluid and the baby was fine, I had to struggle not to be worried, moody, and anxious.  And yet, now in the face of a certain second c-section, I finally felt true peace.  I identified why at once.  I could never come to terms with the idea of having a c-section at 42 weeks just because.  I think I would’ve never been able to sleep at night, wondering if we had just waited ONE more day or two more days or week.  But now, we had a reason!  Now we were saving my baby again!  An unhappy medical procedure was the best option yet again.  It was there for a purpose.  Whether I liked it or not, it was going to save my child’s life.  For some reason, my body just didn’t work right.  In the middle of the c-section, Jeanean herself affirmed, when I was cut open, that I would not have gone into labor on my own any time soon – I was not dilated or effaced!!!  For some reason my body was as clingy as I was – grow, nurture, and raise a healthy baby – it does that well – but then keepthemcloseneverletgo!!!!  I don’t know why.  I don’t know if that will be a problem again in the future.  I don’t even have to worry about that now.  I can pray and trust God for that later.

Scheduling a c-section (even if it’s for the next day) is so totally different than having an emergency one in the span of ten minutes.  It was almost ten thirty by the time we got out of the hospital.  We had been there for almost three hours doing the test, waiting for results, and making big decisions.

As we walked out to the parking lot I started calling the family and giving them the news.  Brad decided to take me to IHOP for one last fantastic dairy meal of pancakes.  Squeaker started to fade at the end, but had done so well all evening.  They told me I couldn’t eat or drink anything, even water, after midnight.  That was hard because I had done so well keeping up my water intake.  To not drink a big glass before bed was torture!

We came home close to midnight and tidied up the apartment as quickly as we could.  Brad did all of the dishes while I cuddled my daughter for the very last time that she would be my one and only.  I prayed with her about the next day, prayed for her time at my parents’ house, and prayed about the surgery.  I sang to her and rocked her to sleep.  It was bittersweet.

We got to bed by one am, which was still late, but everything was sitting out and ready for our three-day stay in the hospital.  Obviously, I was sent home to have one last night to go into labor on my own, but Brad and I knew that wasn’t happening – and it didn’t.  I was also supposed to get one last good night of sleep, but, of course, it didn’t work that way either.  Being told I was going to have my baby in my arms the very next day, as well as being told I’d be cut open… I was wide awake, my mind racing.  I tried every technique I could think of to join Brad in slumberland, but it all failed.  I ended up out on the couch, trying a change of scenery.  By 4:30 am, I finally conked out – probably due to sheer exhaustion at that point!  I had meant to get more sleep, I promise!

My parents met us at our apartment in the morning.  Dad picked up Squeaker and all of the stuff she’d need.  Mom was going with us to be there with me.  We all prayed in a circle, holding hands, one of Squeaker’s little ones clasped in mine.  I still felt peace.  I was determined to be a testimony to the Lord through this.  I trusted Him.  I didn’t cry or moan or complain once.  Not then, and not after the surgery.  I attribute that entirely to the Lord.

We had to get there at ten am for pre-op preparations.  Lyndon and Tammy S., my pastor and his wife (and my sister’s in-laws!) met me there at the hospital.  They came to see me beforehand, to encourage me, and to wait with Mom during the surgery.  It was so thoughtful of them!

When Jeanean walked in the room, the first thing she said was, “Hello, friend!  Did you sleep?  I couldn’t!  I was up all night worried about you!”

She was probably praying too.  Oddly enough, the fact that she cared that much made my whole morning.  I was thankful she let me go home.  I had been told by the nurse that if Liz M. (the midwife on call) had her way, I would never have been allowed home the night before!  (It turned out to indeed be vernix in the fluid, so Jeanean was right to give me another night to go into labor.)

I introduced Lyndon and Tammy to Jeanean and, after prepping me and answering any questions, she turned to them and said, “Can you pray for us before surgery?”  What a neat thing for your doctor to ask!  All of us in the room bowed our heads while Lyndon prayed.  It completed the peace in my heart.  I went into surgery with a smile.

The anesthesiologist was a crack-up and kept joking with the doctors and nurses.  As he put in my spinal block, Jeanean held me against her very chest and told me how wonderful Lyndon and Tammy seemed in that brief meeting.

“Oh yes!  And so is their son!  My sister has just loved being married.  When I called them last night, they were out to dinner for their year and a half.  I hoped I hadn’t interrupted them…” I started rambling, hoping to reassure Jeanean I didn’t mind the needle at all.  Truth was, being held just then, I felt very loved and grateful to everyone who was praying and helping and making Rosalie’s entrance into this world a success.  God truly was good.

I got the shakes during surgery and after, which is a natural hormonal thing that happened to me last time too, and even to mothers in natural births, but it’s annoying.  It makes you look like you’re scared – when I wasn’t!  I even joked back with everyone attending to me.  This time I even talked to Brad, coaching him on what I wanted to have videoed.  Although, there was some miscommunication and got one of the baby exiting the incision!  Gory!!  And didn’t make for easy watching later!  Ewwww!  He’s nuts.  😛

I had discussed pain med options with the nurses beforehand and had the best balance this time – I wasn’t in too much pain but I wasn’t nauseated and out of it either.  I had prayed that I would be alert so I wouldn’t miss any of Rosalie’s first day and could be all there for it.  Sure enough, all of my family was astounded at how happy, alert, and vibrant I seemed after surgery.  And I remember every precious detail.

The actual c-section took longer than the first because they were carefully going through an old scar, repairing it, and making it better.  But the same two ladies who did Rachael’s birth: my midwife Jeanean and Dr. Lori H., were there to do Rosalie’s!  This time they talked about Dr. H.’s dog who got heat stroke and how the vet bill was enough that they couldn’t go on vacation this year!  Haha!

Finally a cry went up from the ladies gathered around in that blue-sheeted operating room.  “Hooray!”  “Welcome baby!”  “It’s a girl!” went up around the room.

Brad stood up.  And then there she was.  Jeanean brought her screaming eight pound seven ounce self around and held her right in front of me.

I looked at her and knew her in an instance.  There was the baby who looked like me.  There was my second daughter.  My Rosalie Joyce.

“She’s blonde!” I cried.