Praises and Prayers For a New Baby

I can’t remember how I connected with Rachel, but I’m glad I did! She’s a blogging buddy, fellow mom, and Christ-follower. Plus she has great taste in burger places… (If you’re ever near Seattle Pacific University, don’t miss Red Mill Burgers.) I am so pleased she agreed to guest post and I’m totally blessed by her sweet spirit. Make sure to check out her blog – Mason Jar Values!

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If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that Em was expecting a baby boy right around now. He’s here (woohoo!) and I wanted to share some prayers you can offer up along side me as the new mom and dad get settled in to their new rhythms of parenting. ~Rachel at Mason Jar Values

praises and prayers for a new baby

Lord, we first want to thank you and praise You for little James Atticus! Thank you for giving his mama the strength to bring him safely into this world and for blessing his daddy to be just the right encourager for the delivery.

We also lift up James’ continual growth and development in this fourth trimester, the first 12 weeks of life during which so much adjustment takes place.

Jesus, we pray for Tim and Em’s marriage, that they would continually set aside regular time to work on their relationship, being intentional even when it feels like the demands on their time are at their peak.

Keep Your hand on Em’s spiritual, mental, and emotional well-being during this time of profound change, especially as her hormones realign and she deals with the emotions surrounding being a new mom.

Lord, thank You for making Em’s body strong and able to deliver James. In these days of recovery, give her the rest she needs to heal and bounce back. Thank You for making her a beautiful woman and remind her of that as she adjusts to her post-baby body.

We pray for Tim’s heart as he leads his growing family in this dynamic time of change. Give him Your strength and wisdom to support and encourage Em as she cares for James and learns the rhythms of being a mother. Guide his thoughts, words, and actions and continue to bring alongside men to support him in this new venture as dad.

Jesus, thank you for this incredible blessing and for giving James such capable and loving parents. Bless them through the sleepless nights, the uncharted territory of new parenthood, and the wondrous creation of new life.

Amen.

Rachel Zupke

My name is Rachel and I’m a stay at home mom to a toddler.  My husband brings home the big bucks as a high school science teacher and I help out $wise by coaching girls basketball and coed rowing as well as substitute teaching at my hubby’s high school (I taught HS science pre-baby).   I write about life – Jesus and family, homemaking, real food and natural living, outdoor adventures with our Siberian Husky, and local happenings.

7 Ways to Embrace Your Body During Pregnancy

Despite my pregnancy body image struggles, I haven’t spent the entirety of the past nine months feeling like a two ton tank with legs. During my more rational and positive moments, I realized there were some things I could do to make myself feel more feminine and fit. Acting like a victim of my pregnant circumstance was not one of them. I still had/have days where nothing seems okay about my pregnant physique (except for the little one growing in there), but I never regretted taking action against my negative attitude, however small the action was. Here are seven simple and practical ways to embrace (or begin to embrace) your changing body during pregnancy.

7 ways to embrace your body during pregnancyPaint those nails – Painted nails are one of my superficial coping methods. Bright, cheery nail colors help me get through the dreary Winter months and just a slick of light pink helps me feel feminine anytime of year. So, it’s no surprise that keeping my nails painted during pregnancy has been a mood lifter. Prenatal vitamins plus pregnancy hormones usually make nails and hair (see suggestion below) grow strong and healthy. Take advantage of the length and strength of those pregnant nails – you’ll feel festive and more put together.

{My absolute favorite nail polish is Rimmel Lasting Finish Pro Nail Enamel. The flat tipped brush makes for easy and accurate application and the colors range from subdued French Rose to trendy Marine Blue.}

Take care of your hair – Even if your hair didn’t benefit from those vitamins and hormones I mentioned (though they really do marvelous things for most women’s hair), a good cut, wash, and styling session can do a world of good for your morale. I recently got my hair cut and felt like a new woman. Investing in quality shampoo and conditioner is good way to pamper your locks, too, if you aren’t in need of a trim.

Maternity Clothes – Don’t wait until you’re bursting out of your regular stuff to buy and wear maternity clothes. Put everything that doesn’t fit away so its not taunting you. Motherhood Maternity and Target were my favorite places to get clothes. (MM has tall jeans!) You may rebel against the thought of wearing things with ruching and stretchy waist bands, but chances are, you’ll look slimmer in them than in regular clothes you’re trying to make accommodate your changing shape.

You also don’t need to replace your whole wardrobe with maternity clothes. A well curated selection of maternity pieces should carry you through your entire pregnancy.  I ended up with 3 pants, 1 pair of leggings, 3 t-shirts, 5 or so sweaters, and 1 dress. Though I’m excited to expand my wardrobe pretty soon, I definitely didn’t grieve for lack of maternity options.

Avoid looking at pre-pregnancy photos – I got into several negative spirals after looking through older Facebook albums. All I could think about was how I wished I looked like I did in those photos instead of how I looked now in my pregnant state. The comparison is unfair and detrimental to your body image. I would avoid going down memory lane as much as possible.

Exercise – It can be difficult to get off the couch to pee in the midst of pregnancy induced exhaustion let alone exercise, but physical activity was truly one of the most effective ways of embracing my pregnant body. Even when nothing but a nap sounded good, I always felt better (and more energized) after getting off my bum and engaging in some sort of physical activity. I stopped jogging pretty immediately after finding out I was pregnant for fear that I would somehow bounce little James right out of the womb. In hindsight, that wasn’t necessary, but walks were a good alternative. I also enjoyed pregnancy workout videos in my living room when Winter really kicked in. You don’t have to let your arms and legs atrophy even though your middle is expanding. If you aren’t sick or bed ridden, I would push past the temptation to stay sedentary and get moving!

Wear mascara – Do whatever it is that makes you feel pretty and put together. For some women it’s a necklace; for others it’s lip gloss. For me, it’s wearing mascara. Most of the time during the past few months, I have looked like a ragamuffin – fuzzy socks, Tim’s sweat pants, unbrushed hair. I think Tim looks forward to Sundays when I make a concerted effort to look presentable. Though it takes some extra effort, I always feel better after I’ve showered and put some thought into my ensemble. But even if I’m staying in my yoga pants, taking a minute to put on mascara before I walk out the door makes me feel more human.

Guard your mind – “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

I think this has been the most difficult, but most rewarding way to embrace my pregnancy body – praying for the strength to keep my mind focused where it needs to be focused. Even if you gain more weight than you wanted to or you just feel like a beached whale sometimes, you are still beautiful and full of life. We can ask God for help in keeping our minds on truth, purity, beauty, and praiseworthy things.

photo credit: Kit4na via photopin cc

The Hardest Thing About Pregnancy: part 2

I gave some background about the struggles I am talking about today in yesterday’s post. If you missed it, I would encourage you to read that post before continuing on.

The hardest thing about pregnancy has been embracing my changing body. Nine months ago, I had complete control of my appearance. I could work out whenever and however I wanted. I could eat what and how I wanted. After years of being in a roller coaster relationship, full of ups and downs and loop-de-loops, with my body I would have characterized our relationship as healthy. But I’ve come to realize that healthy has been a euphemism for control. I like being in control. I feel good about myself when I’m in control.

Pregnancy has taken the control right out of my hands and exposed the complicated network of issues I still struggle with. As James grew, I grew, and so did the insecurities that hovered just below the surface of my controlled exterior. I’m writing without having been fixed, without having come out on the other side of these insecurities yet. I’m still in the mess, but am not without hope.

The Insecurities

Numbers… I’m still a slave to the numbers. My pant size can make me do the happy dance and it can send me spiraling into the blues. The same goes for my weight. I dread the beginning of each OB appointment because of the numbers that will stare back at me from that electronic scale. I make a point of kicking off my shoes, shedding any extra clothing, and emptying my bladder before being weighed, just to shave off a few ounces. I know weight gain is inevitable, but it’s been difficult to see numbers rise higher and higher every month.

Identity… Being pregnant is such an in-between stage. I don’t have a baby in my arms yet, but I’m not my normal unhindered self. My body has been a continuing reflection of a new stage, a new role that I wasn’t quite prepared for in the first place. As my waist line expanded, I grieved the loss of being young and unencumbered. I didn’t realize how much I associated my body image with my season of life. My physical shape is a barrier to the image I so enjoyed embodying (adventurous, newlywed, with no strings attached). The changes in my body are ever hinting at a major life change that still scares me poopless sometimes.

Appearance… I just don’t look the same. I wasn’t always happy with how I looked pre pregnancy, but I definitely liked my appearance more then than now. My arms are softer and my legs have lost their tone. My love handles have grown and my face is more full. I feel unattractive and I miss my pre pregnancy physique. I’ve lost my edge in the beauty battle because I’m round and pregnant (utter shame here for making beauty a competition).

Future… I worry about never fitting into my pre pregnancy clothes again. What if I have to get rid of all my jeans and start from scratch because I failed at slimming back down. What if Tim doesn’t find me as attractive post pregnancy as he did when we first got married? What if I don’t have the will power to eat healthy and get back in shape?

The Conclusions

I’ve been struggling with letting go of my non-mom identity and the physical ideal I can’t hold up as a pregnant woman. When my value is in physical appearance and numbers, I will always be striving, striving to fit into the world’s ideal. When I’m in that mode, I become focused on how to keep climbing the physical ladder. I obsess about being the prettiest person Tim sees every day (my perception, not his), which immediately sets me up for failure, disappointment, and a whole slew of negative self talk. All of which serves to sadden my Creator and alienate me from my husband and those I’m judging and comparing myself to.

There are so many aspects of this season that require grace, rest, contentment, and perseverance. Pregnancy is so much more than carrying around your developing child for 40 weeks. The trials go deeper than morning sickness, aches and pains. It’s a mental, emotional, and spiritual trial that can only be meant to make us more like Jesus.

Thanks for letting me be candid about these struggles. I am very much in process and I realize postpartum is going to be a whole new process in itself. 

For further reading:

What’s been the hardest thing for you about pregnancy? 

photo credit: LeonArts.at via photopin cc

The Hardest Thing About Pregnancy

They say that you take yourself with you wherever you go, that you are your one inescapable feature. I’m not sure who “they” are, but I would agree. You can alter your appearance, but you still look the same inside. You can move to a new city, but you pack yourself with the rest of your possessions. You can start a new relationship, but you have the same wounds and hurt that messed up the last one.

By default, external change does not generate internal change. [pullquote position=”right”]Trying to change who you are inside by manipulating outside circumstances is a dead end[/pullquote]. Transformation that begins in the heart is the only way to change who you are and God is the only one capable of heart transformation. I’ve been learning this lesson first-hand, lately, and it hasn’t been an easy one for me to grasp.

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I’ve had a complicated relationship with my body for years. I’d be hard pressed to pin point one incident that was the catalyst for the dysfunction between me and my body, but rather, I have a host of memories that have contributed to a long standing hyper-awareness between mind and flesh…

Keeping quiet while the other girls at recess compared their weights; my 5’2″ frame holding far more pounds than the average elementary student. Or, my two junior high crushes liking other girls with much slimmer bodies than I had. Or, being nicknamed Big Em by my freshman year math teacher (more for my height than my weight, but still fuel for my poor body image).

By the time mid high school rolled around, I was in full obsession mode. My body and my weight were both things I had previously let control me and now it was my turn to control them. I already prided myself on being goal-oriented and driven in other areas of my life, applying those traits to weight loss and fitness weren’t difficult.

I enjoyed the results, but results became a slippery slope of wanting more. Despite being underweight, I still felt big, like my efforts weren’t enough. Eventually, when my hair started to thin and I became anemic, I realized I may have crossed the line into unhealthy.

[pullquote]In my quest to change my body externally, I totally missed the fact that I was still being controlled internally by my body[/pullquote], just in a more socially acceptable way.

The past ten years have been full of discovery and growth in this area. I know that obsessing about my physical appearance is a way I can feel in control when things in my life feel out of control. I know that I all too often place my value in the world’s standard of beauty. I know that looking a certain way may bring happiness, but it doesn’t bring joy.

I also know that I still struggle with this in a major way.

Being pregnant – knowing that my body was changing to take care of a little one – did not change my struggle. If anything, it magnified that fact that I still let my body control my heart and mind. I brought my body image issues right along with me the past nine months, making my changing form the hardest thing about pregnancy. I’m now three weeks away from James’ due date and am realizing this journey is far from over.

For the sake of this not becoming a novel, I’m breaking this post up into two parts… Tomorrow will be more about my current struggles and what I’ve learned while being pregnant.

Have you ever tried to change who you are by manipulating external circumstances?

photo credit: LeonArts.at via photopin cc

When Marriage Isn’t Fair

A couple weeks after returning from our honeymoon, Tim and I spent a couple days with his sister and bro-in-law down in San Diego. We had done this several times while dating and despite having grown up in Southern California, traveling down to their home always felt like a mini vacation. Part of the vacation aspect was attending their church on Saturday nights.

With Tim in vocational ministry, Sunday sometimes ends up feeling like work instead of worship, but our times of fellowship at their church were always refreshing – a time to be filled, challenged and recharged. That visit, shortly after marrying Tim, was no exception. And wouldn’t you know, the sermon was on marriage!

What I remember from that sermon, more than a year later, is that marriage is not fair. The pastor illustrated his point with percentages. Both people don’t give 100 percent all the time – it’s a balance of resources and the scale is generally never even. When one person can only give 30 percent, the other has to give 70 to make it work. Not easy. Not fair. But neither is love.

when marriage isn't fair

That principle was not new to me, but I have since realized I’m not very good at it, especially the receiving part of the equation. I have my moments, but for the most part, I really enjoy giving to my husband. I like putting in the extra effort to meet his needs and support him in any way possible. It matters to me that I contribute to our relationship. It matters to me that I’m not draining. It matters to me that I give more than my (perceived) half of the effort to make our marriage thrive. It mattered so much that I began to derive too much value from my ability to contribute.

Looking back over our first year of marriage, there have definitely been times when I couldn’t give much emotionally. Our first few months in Idaho were tough and I see how Tim stepped in to compensate for my lack. However, in my mind, I was making up for my low emotional percentages by doing. I felt like I could make things more fair by cooking meals, maintaining a clean apartment, staying physically fit, and being actively involved in youth ministry.  My worth as a spouse was slowly being wrapped up in this contributing scale that I was so desperately wanting to be even.

Then I got pregnant. [pullquote]I have never experienced the truth that marriage isn’t fair in a more tangible way than during pregnancy[/pullquote]. Even if I had started with 100 percent to give, being pregnant quickly depleted my stores. This pregnancy was a surprise so I wasn’t always fully emotionally engaged in the process. (Subtract percentage points there.) I wasn’t prepared for the exhaustion aspects that truncated my ability to make up for my emotional lack by doing. (Subtract even more percentage points.)

Over the past nine months, I’ve watched Tim give and give because I couldn’t. He has cooked and cleaned and run errands after work and on weekends. He has never made me feel like a lazy turd for staying in my pajamas all day or reading when there were dishes to be washed or napping for hours at a time. (I could go on about the sweet things he does for me, but I will spare you the mush and the word count…)

It’s taken me all these 37 weeks of pregnancy to let go of the guilt and accept Tim’s extra percentages of effort for what they truly are – genuine expressions of love. I realized I was placing my worth as a wife in what I could give and have been deeply humbled through this process of acknowledging my lack and accepting Tim’s love without giving anything to deserve it.

I am daily reminded that[pullquote position=”right”] sacrifice is the foundation of love[/pullquote]. Sacrifice was the ultimate expression of Jesus’ love for us and marriage should be a reflection (though it will be murky at best because we’re human) of His ultimate sacrifice.