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Narratives of Grace

    Fragile

    If being pregnant three times in four years taught me anything, it’s this…

    People say dumb stuff to pregnant women.

    I’ve heard my fair share of all the usual comments…

    “No, it’s not twins.”

    “No, I’m not ready to pop since I’m two months from my due date.”

    “If by ‘any day now’ you mean in eight weeks.”

    “Yes, I am quite large right now, and yes, I do have my hands full.”

    While many women get grossly offended by these comments, I simply laughed them off. I have come to realize the general American public does not understand human gestation at all. Statistically, it very doubtful that it’s ever twins. And even though bodies vary, a 30 week bump looks vastly different than a 40 week bump. If a woman is near near her due date, she is likely carrying a 7-9 pound human inside her uterus. It seems even older women, who themselves have borne children, have forgotten these facts.

    During my most recent pregnancy, I began to contemplate how women can be so fragile. Silly pregnancy comments infuriate us. Conflict on social media overwhelms us. Images on Pinterest make us jealous. A theological disagreement causes us distress. A mother who has different parenting methods is abrasive. And never mind healthy debate in an actual conversation. That’s too scary.

    On the one hand, I think God designed women to collaborate and seek consensus, and that’s a really beautiful thing. I am not advocating for conflict. I personally don’t like it very much. But when I look at my own heart and how quick I am to back out of conversation or justify my actions or cover up my shortcomings or pretend I have the right answers, I am bothered by my own fragility.

    It’s okay to dialogue, disagree, not have the right words, and laugh it off when someone else says the wrong words.

    I often see women who are so distraught over comments about toxins and homeschooling and breastfeeding and multi-level marketing that they don’t have time to talk about the gospel or they back out of conversation altogether because they are so easily hurt and frustrated by others.

    Women, let’s not spend our time proving our strength when we should be humble. And let’s not wallow in weakness where Christ has made us strong.

    Love can bear a thoughtless or critical comment.

    Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. I Corinthians 13:4-7

    As a sinful person, I don’t always say the right thing. Sometimes I speak rashly; sometimes I’m critical instead of merciful. Sometimes I say something funny and it comes across as harsh. Sometimes I’m downright rude or angry. So I can’t expect other people to speak flawlessly either. Proverbs 19:11 reminds us, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Friends, family, acquaintances, strangers on the internet… sometimes they are going to be harsh, judgmental, or rash. I am called to love them anyway. Only Jesus ever spoke perfectly on earth. And he has filled me with love that can bear an insult and endure a thoughtless comment.

    Engage in dialogue.

    Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:5-6

    In my fragility, I am inclined to step out of conversations, ignore criticism, or justify myself when someone disagrees with me. If I post something on Instagram and get one negative response, despite 20 or 30 positive responses, part of me is tempted to remove the whole post. But I don’t think this passive, fearful response is helpful. The New Testament is clear that conversation is important. Perhaps a friend is pointing out my own sin by bringing a word of conviction. Perhaps a non-believer is opposed to my view, but responding to their critique gives me a chance to share the gospel. Although there are definitely reasons to be silent (with fools – Proverbs 23:9, with those who revile and attack the gospel – Matthew 7:6, in marriage – I Peter 3:1), the Bible tells us it is important to speak. Believers should regularly exhort and honor one another out loud. We must tell non-believers about the good news of Jesus. We should not be fearful people who back out conversations when they are difficult. We can be people who, by the Spirit, get better and better at speaking truth with love and grace.

    Examine yourself.

    When someone speaks, it might not be TO you. The internet is a broad platform, and for better or worse, it is easy to share a message with a lot of people at once. But not everything I say is intended for everyone who might hear it or read it. The other day I hopped on Instagram Stories and talked a little bit about consumerism. Over the years, I’ve been convicted of my relationship with Target and how my habits there reveal my sinful heart. I had to recognize that Target was a false place of rest for me and that my purchases were often unsatisfying and revealed poor stewardship of my time and money. I have a haunch other women struggle with the same thing, because I see too many pictures on Instagram of women filling a red shopping cart with clothing and home décor while drinking Starbucks at 9pm at night. Many women responded positively. They, too, have experienced conviction with their shopping habits and have repented by establishing boundaries and fleeing the temptation of loitering in their favorite stores. However, a few women chimed in to say they actually enjoy shopping at Target, especially without kids in tow. It’s a moment of rest for them. My response? That’s totally fine. If you are simply thankful for a kid-free evening, and you have the disposable income to buy yourself a latte while you shop, that’s not wrong. It is wrong to expect Target to fulfill your spiritual needs for rest, comfort, and approval that can only be met in Christ.

    This is why the Bible tells us to examine ourselves (I Corinthians 11:28; 2 Corinthians 13:5). While something (shopping, eating, exercise, viewing a film, drinking wine) might be sinful for one person, it might not be sinful for another. God is at work sanctifying everyone who believes in him, but he does so in different ways at different times. While I might struggle with consumerism, I have many friends who aren’t usually tempted while shopping. They can go into Target, buy their trash bags or laundry detergent, and walk right back out again. They have the freedom in Christ to grab a mocha or a bag of popcorn while they shop. I don’t have this freedom, because I need to fight the sin (of Target) that so easily entangles me.

    However, I see and hear messages all the time about the importance of reading Scripture. Studies show that fewer than half of Christians read their Bible on a regular basis, and this makes me sad. But when I hear a sermon or read a blog post imploring believers to study Scripture regularly, I don’t need to feel defensive or respond with self-justification. By God’s grace, I read my Bible every morning. Is this natural for me? No. It’s God’s Spirit at work within me. Because God loves me and is always sanctifying me, this is an area of life that is not a struggle for me anymore. Do I read my Bible perfectly? By no means. Sometimes I’m rushed. Sometimes it feels mundane. Sometimes I fail to apply the truth I read throughout the day. But if I read a message calling out Christians for their failure to read God’s Word consistently, I can quickly examine myself and praise God for how he has grown me to be disciplined in this area.

    When you hear a sermon or read a message online, you don’t need to feel condemned or get defensive. Test yourself and see how the words might apply to you. You might feel convicted to repent of sin or you might have an opportunity to praise God for the way he has visibly sanctified your heart in a certain area.

    Laugh at the days to come. 

    Proverbs 31 tells us that a godly woman is able to “laugh at the days to come.” The woman described in the passage has so much faith in God that she is not anxious about the future. However, I believe this principle of being able to laugh applies broadly to godly womanhood. I can laugh at a stranger’s comments about my round belly, because I know carrying a child is a gift, and a temporary one at that. I can enjoy conversations about essential oils or breastfeeding, because I delight in a God who gives us freedom in Christ to make personal choices about how to live and raise our families. I can laugh when someone gives me a label such as “too loud” or “too conservative,” because I know I am God’s child. I can even smile when a fellow believer speaks a word of conviction to me, because I am forgiven of all my sins, and I know God might be using a sister or brother to transform my heart.

    It’s time to stop being so fragile. In Christ, even when we are weak, we are strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). We are strong enough to bear an insult. Strong enough to disagree. Strong enough to speak the truth in love. Strong enough to help the needy. Strong enough to stand up to injustice. Strong enough to share the gospel. Strong enough to admit when we are struggling. Strong enough to repent of our sin.

    The Holy Spirit, who raised Christ from the dead, dwells in you. There is no need to be fragile when you are chosen, loved, and protected by the God of the universe.

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    Dear Zianne (four years)

    Dear Zianne,

    I look at you and see myself at four years old. Light blonde hair, large vocabulary, very social, always twirling in a dress or reading a book.

    The resemblance, both in looks and personality, is uncanny.

    Our similarities drive me crazy yet stir deep sympathy and adoration in my heart.

    I sigh with exasperation as I beg you to wear leggings rather than a sundress on a chilly fall day. But then I crack a smile, because I despised wearing pants throughout my youth. I don’t think I wore jeans until sixth grade. Every day after school, I would put on my fanciest dress and prance through the neighborhood pretending to be a princess, a teacher, or an orphan adopted into a rich family.

    Now you are the one with constant outfit changes, running into the living room with a different ensemble every five minutes. Long dresses, short dresses, skirts over dresses, tutus galore. But never pants, unless they are worn under a dress, of course.

    Your demeanor is so much like mine. I declared you an extravert when you were four months of age, and I was not wrong. You are highly social, confident, a lover of conversation. I told you the other day I admire your willingness to try out big words. You had just told me something was “educational,” although it came out sounding more like “vocational.” You tell me when something is “hilarious” or that you are “disappointed.” You are barely four, but sometimes you sound like a ten year-old.

    I love the things we have in common, but I also want to celebrate the ways we are different.

    You are sillier than me. I think you get it from your dad.

    You love school like me, but you aren’t quite as studious. You rush through your tracing without precision and your letters fly all over the page. You would rather paint than write. I’ve never seen anyone who loves art as much as you.

    You might be more outgoing than I was at your age. You are never bashful. Always assured. You know what you want and you seek out friendships. Sometimes you’ll even seek out friendships for me. At dinner, you’ll tell me, “I met a lady for you, mom. I think you should be friends with her.”

    You are always eager to get out the house and explore public places – the gym, the library, a restaurant. I was more content to stay home as a child, but you want to go, go, go.

    You are a beautiful mix of your dad and me, and yet unique and vibrant in your own right. It’s a joy to watch you grow and learn. I look forward to another of year of seeing you blossom. I think it’s time to surrender to the outfit changes and simply delight in watching you leap and dance and twirl your way through life.

    Love you always,

    Mom

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    Le Tote Maternity: Is it worth it? (An honest, unsponsored review)

    Over the past few months, I’ve been packing up maternity clothes and all those silly newborn items you use for just a few weeks but store in your garage for years. I’m looking at you – nursing tanks, boppy pillow, tiny swaddles, and burp cloths.

    Le Tote Maternity

    I’m starting to feel like my non-pregnant self again, mostly sleeping at night and simply needing to lose 15 pounds (easy, right?). I recently reactivated my subscription to Le Tote, where I rent my clothes instead of buying them (see my past review here). During the final trimester of pregnancy, I used Le Tote’s maternity subscription to keep the bump looking cute without buying even more maternity clothes I would later have to stash in a storage bin or pawn off on a pregnant friend. Before I wipe all the maternity items from my closet on Le Tote, I thought I would share a quick review of their maternity subscription. This is NOT sponsored by Le Tote. I just want to fill you in on how you can feel cute during week 39 of pregnancy without spending all your money in the Target maternity section.

    When I was pregnant with Zianne, I had fun buying some cute maternity dresses and tank tops to get my large body through the brutal Phoenix summer. I also had a friend loan me all her maternity clothes. I thought she was being generous, but it turns out she was just being crafty. She was in the middle of moving and lending her maternity clothes meant one less box to pack up and store. After I had Zianne, I realized it’s actually not that fun to own maternity clothes, because you only wear them for three to six months, and then you have to figure out where to keep them. They are necessary, but highly impractical.

    Side note: I know some women solve this problem by wearing flowy, non-maternity items throughout pregnancy that can still be worn after the baby arrives. While I like the idea, I often notice that non-maternity clothes make pregnant women look frumpy and extra large, especially in photographs. I prefer to wear real maternity clothes, at least in the final months of pregnancy. They are more comfortable, since they are designed for the uniquely-shaped body of a pregnant woman, and they extenuate the bump, while allowing the thinner parts of my body to still be seen.

    Even though I’ve only had spring and summer babies, I have found that even the difference of a few months between my due dates has meant fairly different wardrobe needs during pregnancy. Zianne was born on the last day of a typical 110+ degree Phoenix summer. I was not teaching and could float in my pool in a bikini every afternoon. Eisley, however, was born in April in California, which means my bump was significantly popping by Christmastime. I was teaching full-time, so I needed professional, yet comfortable clothing for mildly cold weather. My Old Navy maternity tanks that I lived in with Zianne would not suffice.

    Enter Le Tote. I switched over to their maternity package when I was around 30 weeks, and I lived in their gorgeous dresses for the rest of my pregnancy. I had pretty bad varicose veins with Eisley, so I was desperate to keep my legs covered, but didn’t want to buy more maxi dresses. Instead, I borrowed Le Tote’s dresses and kept my legs hidden in style.

     

    Le Tote Maxi Dress

    Le Tote Maxi Dress

    Le Tote Maternity

    Le Tote Tunic Top

    I loved this dress so much, I added it to two separate totes! (I also loved this black mermaid dress, this striped midi dress, and this striped maxi dress.)

    If I were pregnant right now, these would be my favorite pieces for fall:

    Tops: Ruffle sleeve / High-low textured / Embroidered yoke

    Bell sleeve dress / High shine leggings / Cross front sweater

    To sum it up: I loved using Le Tote Maternity during my 3rd trimester. I own a solid foundation of maternity pieces, but it was great to use Le Tote to fill in some gaps as far as professional clothing, spring styles, and long items to keep my legs covered. I also rented a few nursing items after Eisley was born, but then I put my account on hold for the summer while I was fluctuating sizes and off work for a few months. I love that you can freeze your Le Tote account at any time for as long as you want. I actually extended my freeze for an extra month or two, when I realized I didn’t really have a need for Le Tote until school started up again. But now that fall has arrived, I am using my Le Tote subscription again and I love it. The downside is that the maternity option is expensive. It costs about $10 more per month than the regular subscription. I thought it was worth it, especially since I only used it for about ten weeks and then paused my account for a number of months, but cost may be a hinderance to some people. I truly wish Le Tote would drop their prices a little bit…

    If you are interested in signing up for Le Tote, you can use this referral link for one free tote. This post is NOT at all sponsored by Le Tote; I just really love their service and wanted to highlight their maternity option.

     

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