Monday, July 30, 2012

breastfeeding as sacrifice of our bodies

[this is a piece that i wrote for an open mic night i went to this past weekend on the topic of breastfeeding.  i was humbled to hear the stories of massive sacrifice that other women have made in order to give their babies the best milk.  in comparison, my sacrifices seem trivial. but they are sacrifices none the less.]

"motherhood is a demanding job. it is so demanding and intrusive, in fact, that it takes over your body. it uses your body, oftentimes rather roughly... [but] our bodies are tools, not treasures.  you should not spend your days trying to preserve your body in its eighteen-year-old form.  let it be used.  by the time you die, you want to have a very dinged and dinted body.  motherhood uses your body in the way that God designed it to be used.  those are the right kind of damages."  -rachel jankovic, "loving the little years"

"for to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps... He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  by his wounds you have been healed." 1 peter 2:21, 24

motherhood in general and breast feeding in particular involve a lot of sacrifice to our bodies.  that is why many in the world discourage breast feeding by saying:

  • you need to stay beautiful.  you don't want lopsided or saggy breasts do you?  don't breastfeed so that you can preserve your good looks.
  • breastfeeding interferes with "you" time. you can't leave your baby to do all those really important things for yourself like getting your nails done and going shopping.  don't breastfeed so that you can keep yourself as your #1 priority.  
  • your baby now has teeth and is biting you while nursing? you don't have to go through that.  time to wean her!!

and i am tempted to believe these things and demand my rights.

but for me, there is a different story that influences my life and empowers me to sacrifice even when its hard.  i want to share some of that story and how it has affected me.

this story starts with a creator.  he created the stars and the sky and the world and animals and people.  and he created women.  and when he created women he equipped our bodies with amazing capabilities to bear and raise children.

though he poured out his love and good gifts on his creation, they turned from him and chose their own way.  this turning brought about a curse on the world which ushered in pain, death, natural disasters, sickness and broken relationships.  furthermore, the beautiful gift of motherhood became difficult, painful, and even dangerous at times.

he could have kept his distance and stayed in heaven, but instead he entered into the pain and difficulty of the earth with a human body.

and though he lived a perfectly loving and sinless life, his love was offensive and he was sentenced to death.  his body endured torture, crucifixion and death in order to take on the sin of the world and restore his people into a right relationship with their creator.

this is the story that motivates me and empowers me to sacrifice.  knowing that jesus gave his body for me helps me to give my body over joyfully for my children.  so, i can breastfeed on demand, pump milk in odd places, wake up as 1am, 2am, 3am to nurse, endure engorgement and blocked milk ducts, and get painfully bitten on a daily basis with joy knowing that my sacrifice honors and is empowered by the one who made the ultimate sacrifice of his body.

moreover, i can do it because i am not living for the quickly passing mist that is this life, but i am now living and sacrificing for life eternal.

i will end with a quote that i really love, one that encourages me greatly in motherhood:

"so we do not lose heart.  though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  for this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory that far surpasses them all, as we look not to the things that are seen but the things that are unseen.  for the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal"  2 corinthians 4:16-18

 [i would also encourage you to read my friend melissa's story of sacrifice to give her son the best milk.  also, thanks to my hubby alex for helping me to edit and refine my piece.  i'm sure it could still use some improvements, but considering how long i procrastinated in writing it, i was thankful for his help to make it turn out well]

Saturday, July 28, 2012

city girl, country girl

do you ever think about what your life will look like in five years?

i think about this all the time.  probably because it is so uncertain what the future hold for us.

the only thing that IS certain is that our lives will most likely look very different from how they look now.  alex, esther and i (and any other children we will have by then) will almost definitely (hopefully!) be in another country doing mission work. between now and then, we have the big decision of what country we will choose to live in.

but the bigger question (in my mind) is this: will we live in the city or a rural area?

ministry wise, there are many advantages to big cities.  over half of the world's population now lives in major cities, and the numbers are growing (although some believe that this will eventually shrink again at some point).  cities are strategic: reach a city with the good new of jesus, and you will reach the surrounding region.  paul and the apostles knew this, which was why they targeted major cities for their ministry work, including rome, jerusalem, ephesus, galatia, thessalonica, etc.  cities often have large concentrations of people living in need, with opportunities abounding for doing things like loving on orphans (one of the things we could see ourselves doing overseas).

on a personal level, there are many reasons why i would love to live in a major city.  i have always lived in cities, and for most of my time since graduating i have lived in major cities (berlin and the LA metro area).  one of the things i love about cities is that you can easily walk to places you need to go, such as parks or the store for errands.  cities also tend to have pretty good public transportation, which i like to use.  in cities there is always so much going on, and so many options for how to spend your time. alex and i love to go to coffee shops, and with the advent of starbucks, i would guess that every major city in the world now has multiple cafes/coffee shops.  furthermore, though we continue to pray for esther's healing, we may need to live in a major city (or at least near one) so that she can get the medical care she needs, unless God chooses to heal her before we go overseas.

but the other side of my heart sees us living in a more rural area.

ministry wise, rural areas are important to reach in addition to cities.  many missionaries are willing to live in major cities, which usually have modern/western amenities and a fairly high standard of living.  but rural areas often don't have these things, and day to day living is harder.  God has brought us through many things that i could see making us more fit for flourishing in this kind of lifestyle than others might.  in addition, many of the world's unreached peoples are in rural area.  the lack of education in these areas make them a great place to do poverty alleviation type ministries, which is an open door to also teaching about the gospel.

on a personal level, there are many reasons that i could see us living in a rural area.  currently we own chickens, and hope to get goats eventually and maybe other animals.  growing our own food is also a priority for us.  these things are difficult or even impossible to do in cities, but are possible and even sometimes necessary in the countryside.  furthermore, part of me would love to get away from all the pollution/noise/people that fill up cities.  since i desire to live frugally and healthfully, i already make most of our food from scratch, and make homemade cleaning products and health/beauty products.  certain aspects of living in a remote area would be easy for us to transition into (though i am sure aspects of it would be very hard as well.)

i feel like i am in a good spot.  i am open to where God leads us, and i realize that either way He leads us, there will be sacrifice involved (though He will also lavish his grace on us and give us things that we want as well).

in the next year we are hoping to take trips to mexico city and the philippines, and possibly even india to start getting a better idea of where we might end up.  hopefully by this time next year we will have more clarity about our future.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

six months of chickens: the good, the bad and the ugly

our chickens turn six months old in a couple days.  happy birthday chickens!

at the beginning of february, they looked like this:

now they look like this:

'DSC_0020' photo (c) 2007, Sue Talbert Photography - license:

[this isn't a pic of our actual chickens but they look pretty much the same as this]

i have been doing a little bit of reflecting on our chicken experience thus far, and i want to share what it has been like.

::the good::

so far, i am *loving* having chickens.  they are entertaining little critters, poking around in the back yard and following each other around.  they are rarely in different parts of the yard and almost always stick together.  i love looking out the back window and seeing them peck around in the grass.

they started laying eggs about a month ago which is so exciting!  they are finally paying their rent, haha! right now we are getting 2-3 small to medium sized eggs per day.  the eggs will get larger as the chickens mature.  the yolks are a dark yellow, almost and orange (the darker color indiactes that they are higher in vitamins, especially vitamins a and d.  here is a great article about the significant nutritional differences between pastured eggs and caged eggs).  when you crack them open in a bowl next to a store-bought egg, the difference is obvious.  making meals with eggs from our own chicken eggs makes me so happy :)

we tell everyone that they are in the chicken 1% in america.

::the bad::

we've never had a super healthy lawn in the back yard, and now that its summer and the grass is mostly dead, the chickens have been doing a number on it :/  also, i haven't been able to plant flowers in my back yard gardens because they are constantly scratching up the dirt for their dirt baths.  because of these reasons, i recently had to build a fenced in run area for them (i still let them out 2-3 times per week to roam the yard).  my heart is breaking!  i miss seeing them peck around the grass.  after it starts raining again and our grass is growing again, i will let them out more, probably every day or so.  but for now, especially since we are renters and want to respect our landlord's property, they will stay in their run (which is actually a pretty big area.  i would guess its about 25' x 5'. they certainly aren't crowded. its just not as much space as the whole yard).  right now we are having issues with them breaking out, but hopefully i will have their fence fully secured soon.

we've also been having some problems with their nests.  for a while, one wasn't laying in the nests (but i think that is resolved now).  we are also having a problems that an unusually high number of eggs are getting cracked, even though i check the nesting boxes several times per day, so there shouldn't be that much time for them to break.  another issue is that the chickens keep knocking over the boxes i have inside the nesting area, so i need to figure out a way to secure the area better.  none of these are huge problems, just little obstacles to get around along the way.

::the ugly::

one thing i was not anticipating when we got them was all the chicken poo they would produce and the flies it attracts.  unfortunately, since its summer, flies are at their peak right now anyways (and i've noticed lots of flies in other people's gardens/yards, so i know its not completely the fault of our chickens).

the chicken poo wouldn't be too bad if it wasn't for the fact that i host a bootcamp for other moms twice a week in our back yard, so i always have to make sure it gets cleaned up before they come over (the babies play in the grass, hence the need for it to be clean).  another issue is that the chickens (before the fence went up) would sit at the back door (i guess they really like us or something) and leave many piles right on our back door step (thanks, ladies!).

i frequently clean up the poo (by spraying it with the hose) to keep the flies away and i also got a fly trap.  man, that thing smells!! our chicken coop doesn't smell at all, but that thing reeks!  you can smell it from like 10 feet away.  it smells like rotten eggs, because it actually does have rotten eggs in it (that attracts the flies).  there are always flies in it, but there are still tons more flies in the yard.  which also mean more flies in our house :/

over all, i am learning why chickens are a farm animal and not a city animal.  if we lived on a farm, flies and poo wouldn't really bother me.  plus, we would have plenty of space to let them roam and them scratching in my gardens wouldn't be as much of an issue.  but out of respect for our landlords, neighbors and friends who come over, it takes extra effort to make sure our back yard looks nice (though i will never live up to the super high yard standards of southern california).

so there you have it: the good, the bad and the ugly of our chicken experience so far.

Monday, July 23, 2012

homesteading/homemaking is a learning process

today i was trying to cook a batch of rotten egg shells in the oven for about 5 minutes before the stench was so bad that i gave up and threw out the egg shells (it was painful... i hate wasting things!).

lesson learned.  what was the lesson?  when people say to wash the egg shells before letting them dry, they mean wash the dang egg shells.

oh. ok, next time i wont leave unwashed egg shells in a plastic container for a week and expect them not to smell.

[in case you are wondering, i have started saving egg shells to grind up and use as a soil amendment for our garden]

that was today's lesson.  but in the past few years as i have really embraced homemaking as my vocation i have learned many lessons.  and i have learned to have flexibility and a sense of humor, especially when trying new things (and i have been trying a lot of new things recently).  as in many other areas of life, i have learned the most when i have failed at what i was trying to accomplish.

like last summer when i planted my first veggie garden in southern california.  i learned that you need to water you plants.  a lot.  [it doesn't rain here.  so you would think that the need for water would be obvious, but we live in a desert and water is expensive and i am frugal. thats why i use recycled water when its available].  this summer i am actually watering my plants 2-3 times per week and they are much happier [who would have thought!].

also, plants need sun.  thats why my two tomato plants that i planted almost completely in the shade last summer gave me just a small handful of tomatoes.

this summer i learned that you need to be really extra nice and careful with seedlings or they will die when you transplant them.  being extra nice and careful means watering them a lot (especially before during and after transplant) and giving them time in a "halfway house" (ie a larger pot with some soil from the garden after they are well established in their smaller seedling pot).  and singing to them [sometimes].

so far this summer we have gotten a 3-4 pints of cherry tomatoes, 40ish garlic bulbs (most are tiny but some are normal sized.  lesson learned=garlic needs sunlight and protection from chickens) and one bunch of swiss chard.  and we are getting 2 medium sized eggs per day on average.  i am thankful for all of this but i know that we can get a lot more next year as i continue to tweak my methodology (and protect my seedlings from curious and hungry chickens).

what lessons have you learned in your homekeeping/homesteading experiments?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

what is "healthy food"?

a brief history:  i started to be interested in and research healthy food in college.  at the time i followed the typical american advice of low-fat/low calorie, whole grains, little meat, lots of fruits/veggies.  i ate and prepared food this way through our first year of marriage.
'20120506_1262 Ecology Healthy Foods' photo (c) 2012, Edward Kimmel - license:

a couple years ago, i did a total 180 to a more "traditional foods" approach to eating, as i describe here, thinking i had found the "perfect" diet (diet meaning an eating lifestyle, not a way to lose weight). while i have done some fine tuning on small things, since then we generally eat a diet that is balanced with fat/protein/carbs, and prepared mostly from scratch using traditional methods (such as sourdough, etc).  currently (and for the past 3 months) i am gluten and dairy free, which i don't view as inherently more healthy that life with gluten and dairy (and i haven't "felt" better/healthier because of it), but just for the health of my daughter (who is reacting to those things through my milk, which suggests i have a leaky gut.  yet another nutritional problem to figure out.  blah.).

but for the past year or so, i have come across SO much conflicting information in the area of food.  to give several examples: in the past i had demonized white sugar, but now some health researchers think it (along with other refined carbohydrates) might be helpful in raising metabolism and thyroid function, as well as keeping hormones balanced. also, i had previously heard that it is important to eat all leafy greens raw to get the maximum nutrition, but have since then found out that leafy greens contain a lot of anti-nutrients (such as oxalic acid, which contributes to things like kidney stones) and compounds that encourage hypothyroidism (did those kale salads i ate while pregnant cause esther's CH??).

reading this post was a relief.  i am not alone in my confusion! (i recommend reading it if you want a nice long list of conflicting nutritional advice with sources).

but in the midst of my confusion and even frustration to figure out what is healthy, God has been working, retooling my heart.  he has shown me how much of an idol healthy eating is.  he has shown me how much i judge others for not eating by my (arbitrary) standard of healthy (ironically those i judge might be eating better than me, but i don't know it because of all the conflicting info).  and over all, reminding me that the earth is not my home, and that he alone knows everything, including what constitutes healthy (and i'm sure its pretty different from my list).

so for now, my goal is to prepare what i currently think is most healthy for my family, and to try to sort through the conflicting advice about the foods that we eat the most.  but i feel much more flexibility in this, since no one seems to know what constitutes healthy any ways.

that's how i feel right now- but that could change in a month :P

where are you at in your nutritional journey?  what have you changed over the years?  what areas do you feel most confused about?