Biblical Response to Cutting/Self-Injury

I gave myself a rare treat tonight; a nice hot bath. As a mother of 4 (and counting) taking a bath is an indulgance I don’t often get to enjoy. I was listening to an audio book of the gospel of John, when I noticed the marks all over my body.

First, I looked at my tattoos. I tend to not see my tattoos, really see them, because I have had them for so long since a young age. They kind of just look like my skin to me. But tonight I noticed them and thought about the journey I have been on, each one meant something to me at the time. I used to hide my tattoos with long sleeves and high collared shirts after becoming a Christian, but now I usually don’t hide them. It’s not something I can change, and it brings up conversations with people who might otherwise not have talked to me. Many of my tattoos represent a previous belief system.

Similar to a previous belief system, my scars represent a previous way of life and thinking as well. My eyes moved from my tattoos to the countless white scars covering my left forearm, all around it, every inch.

They used to be bright red, but have now faded into a pale white. They form ridges and valleys, layer upon layer upon layer; 10 years of self injury. I looked at the tiny white dots surrounding some of them, scars from the stitches I was given for the worst of them. I turned my arm over and recalled being 14 years old, 16 years old; I still remember the places and the objects I used. Burns and cuts alter my body forever.

My heart felt sorrowful. I felt compassion and sadness towards my former self. I was only 11 years old the first time I took something sharp and used it against myself for relief. I was 21 the last time I did it.

Now, I can’t fathom hurting myself intentionally. The very idea is horrifying, but this was far from the case when I was younger. The pain was so deep, so profound, and I lacked the ability to cope with it.

I began to think of the reasons why I once found it acceptable, even irresistible, to hurt myself; and then God gave me words against those reasons. Truth sets us free. I want to expose the twisted thinking behind my self-injury to the light of the gospel. I hope it helps those still struggling, and gives insight to those who have not.

1.) I self-injured because I preferred the physical pain over the emotional pain. I didn’t think I could handle the severity of my depression. I ran from the emotions that hurt me by deflecting it.

Psalm 147:3 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds”

Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…

He is with us in our pain. He does not leave us alone in it. Even in the valley of death, we can find his comfort and love with us. He may not remove the suffering or circumstance, but he never makes us walk it alone. We have his help!

2 Cor 1:3-4 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Yeshua Messiah), the Father of compassion and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we may comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God”

When we are comforted by God, we can then extend that comfort to those who find themselves in the same situations we once faced. I can talk to people who have endured mental illness and addiction and abuse, because I have been there. I have experienced his comfort in that, and help others with it now. This is part of how God uses what was meant as evil for good.

2.) I self-injured because I believed that I deserved to be hurt. I hated myself, and I punished myself.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”

Romans 5:8 “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”

Zeph 3:17 “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing”

Romans 8: 37-39 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Yeshua Messiah)”

1 John 4:9 “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him”

There are SO many bible verses about God’s love for us that I could not possibly list them all. We have been saved by grace, there is NO reason to punish yourself for real or imagined sins. We are called his children, do we want our children to hate or hurt themselves? Of course not! In fact it would grieve us terribly if they did, just as it grieves our Father in heaven when we do. Knowing and accepting and believing in His LOVE for us heals self-hate. How can we hate ourselves when we are made in His image and loved so very much by him?

3.) I felt at times like I was detached from reality, and hurting my body felt like a reminder of what was real

Phil 4:8 “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”

The scriptures point us to the greater reality, beyond the things of this world. We are not merely flesh and blood, but also spirit. We can focus our mind on the things above, on what is true. That is the reality that I seek to remember now.

Finally, what can we tell people who believe but are hurting themselves? First of all, start with compassion and understanding. Gal 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ(Messiah)” 

Remind them of how loved they are. Remind them that they will never be forsaken. Remind them that they are forgiven. Remind them that our Savior himself is very familiar with pain, he can relate to those who are suffering because he suffered so much. Isaiah 53:3 “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain…”

Explain that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and we are not our own. Our body and our life is a gift from God to be cherished. Weep with those who weep, mourn with those who mourn. Do not let your brother or sister be in pain all alone. Come alongside them, and don’t minimize their pain.

Lastly, I want to remind Christians that mental illness is a serious thing. We are physical, emotional, and spiritual beings. Some people will take medication to help them on their path of healing, some will not. Too often well meaning believers encourage others to stop taking their medication, this can be a dangerous thing to do. The withdrawal process alone can cause serious psychological and physical issues. Please do not offer advice on these matters unless you are very knowledgeable on the subject, and only when the person themselves wants that help. There are varied ways to health and healing, taking medication does not mean one doesn’t have faith in God anymore than using a wheelchair means you don’t believe you can be healed.

I hope my experience can be helpful, and I am open to other suggestions from those of you are in recovery or helping people in recovery.

Shalom.

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Simple Cat or Bear Doll Sewing Homeschool Project

I have a sewing machine that doesn’t get the attention I’d like it to. I have decided to get my girls, ages 7, 5 and 4, involved in some sewing projects. They really love to create with me, and it is a wonderful skill to pass on.

So, I got the pattern from a pattern book. It is copyrighted so I can’t post it here, but honestly it is a simple design that you could draw out on your own.

I took the girls to our local walmart and let them choose the fabric they wanted. Then, we changed one of the cat patterns into a bear for my middle girl, which was done by changing the ear and belly shape, and making the face slightly different.

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Shopping for fabric

Once they picked out their fabrics, we copied the patterns onto the fabric and cut it out. I decided to add the belly, ears, and face appliques before sewing the whole doll. My 7 year old did a great job hand sewing all those pieces on! My 5 year old did it with some help, and my 4 year old watched me do it for her (she showed me how she wanted everything to help out).

My oldest daughter did some of the machine sewing herself with my supervision, which she loved.

The dolls came out looking handmade (lol) but not too shabby for our first doll project. I was proud of their participation, and they enjoyed having something uniquely theirs.

16 Weeks Pregnant and Breastfeeding

So, the weeks are flying by this pregnancy. I think having my first totally unassisted pregnancy is contributing to that feeling, because I don’t have my weeks punctuated with doctor’s visits and ultrasounds. Taking care of my four children, especially my toddler, is taking most of my mental space. Speaking of which, my little 21 month old tornado is breastfeeding! I made this choice for a few reasons, and it is very important to me, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy.

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For starters, my milk is almost entirely gone. This means that nursing is for comfort mainly, and not comfortable for me at all. In my previous pregnancies, I weaned my toddlers because I had severe nursing aversion (imagine nails scratching a chalkboard, spiders crawling on you, and wanting to scream). Thankfully, my aversion has been mild, but nursing is still not fun without milk.

Nursing positions will get harder as the belly gets bigger. At this point I can still fit my son across my lap, but that will certainly not last too much longer. I will have to find a way to do it without bothering my belly, probably laying down on my side. This may limit how often I can nurse him.

Oh the sensitivity! Pregnancy hormones increase the sensitivity of your nipples. That may sounds like a good thing, until you consider a toddler is using them for comfort. OUCH.

Why do I want to do this? My son is not ready to wean yet. I feel that he deserves a gentle weaning process, on his own time schedule. He is having trouble gaining weight, so the longer I can nurse him, the better for his health. He is very attached to me, and I hope that continuing to nurse him after the new baby is born will help ease the transition to big brother (yea…I hope).

Also, nursing calms the savage toddler beast and gives me 5 seconds to sit rather than chase him around the house minimizing his destruction. Who knew a tornado could be so adorable?

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14 Weeks Pregnant Already? (Unassisted Pregnancy Journal)

The belly is obvious, and soon I will feel kicking (I usually feel my babies around 16 weeks). I cannot believe the 1st trimester is over already. I was feeling really exhausted and sick, so I am thankful to be mostly back to my normal self again. Of course I am still exhausted, but the typical I-have-four-kids kind.

So far this pregnancy has been totally unassisted. I have never gone 14 weeks without even an official confirmation of pregnancy before. It honestly feels very normal and casual. I can’t relate to the constant worry that many American moms experience during pregnancy, and I myself have felt before. I think perhaps because most women don’t have more than two babies, they never get to the point of “eh, it’s all good”! There are the rare ones who find UC and freebirth with their first baby, and for them I am happy.

My husband wants me to get the anatomy scan at 18 weeks to check on the baby, and he wants to know the sex. We have always found out the sex of babies (girl, girl, girl, boy). I would like a surprise this time! I understand his desire to check out the baby, and I agree to some extent, but I just “know” everything is fine and do not really want to subject myself the medical system for no reason. I have to think about it, and weigh how much it would bother me with how important it is to husband. If I were to go through with the scan, assuming all is well, that would be the first and last assistance I would receive.

The girls are very excited about the prospect of a new baby, and tell me daily they hope it’s twins. I don’t have a feeling it’s twins, even though the belly is bigger than usual at this stage for me, that is probably because it isn’t my first rodeo.

Anyway, happy 2nd trimester to me! (and the baby)

Shalom.

 

5 Reasons Having a Big Family is Good for Kids

I often see in the news that my generation does not want children, and I see this in my life when I reconnect with old school friends. I am definitely in the minority, being married with children. Of those who DO have children, it is rare to find a family with more than two.

I understand there are many reasons women and men have for putting off marriage, and for limiting family size. Most cite their education and career goals as being the priority. Many of them may end up having children later in their 30s, or even 40s as it becomes increasingly common.

But what about the idea that having more than 2 or (gasp) maybe 3 children, harms the children themselves?

“You won’t have enough time for each child!”

“It is too expensive, the kids miss out!”

“You can’t show enough love to each of them!”

“The older kids raise the younger ones!”

“The kids resent their siblings!”

I would like to address these common objections here with experience from my big-but-getting-bigger family of 6 (soon to be 7).

  1. We make time for each child. Sometimes that means scheduling a special mommy/daddy and me day with one child, alternating who it is. During the week, Daddy takes individual kids out for a walk around the neighborhood. They enjoy some time alone, getting all the attention for themselves. I rotate which child goes food shopping with me (they actually love this haha). Also, we homeschool! I spend a lot more time with my children than many parents do for that reason alone, even though I have more of them.
  2. I do not find babies or toddlers to be expensive, they don’t need much and since I have had children already we reuse many of the same items. When they get older and want to participate in activities, it can get costly but this is where we teach them how to think critically about what they want to do the most. This past year classes included dance,music, robotics, and cheerleading for part of the year. This coming year there will be dance, music, choir, cheerleading and STEM. This does NOT include the many free or low cost activities available, often at a steeper discount for siblings. We have a YMCA membership which allow us to swim, and take classes for a low fee or for free. We make serious use our local libraries, who always have fun and free classes for the kids. State parks are favorite as well, and we have some nature loving kiddos. Lastly, many of us homeschoolers get together and make our own fun for free.
  3. Of course we can show enough love for each of them! Our hearts expand with each child. I have a mommy sixth sense for which child needs some extra loving, and make sure to check in with them regularly. We foster trust and communication, so that they can come to us if they need anything, or feel left out. Not only does mommy and daddy give them love but they have the added benefit of many siblings who love them. The older kids adore the hugs and kisses from baby brother!
  4. The older children do NOT raise the younger ones. This accusation often comes when people don’t understand the dynamics of a large family. In order for a bigger family to keep the household running well, everyone pitches in. That includes chores, and helping with the little ones. That said, I feel it is a benefit to give children (including the littlest members) some responsibility. We love each other, and families help one another out. This is our home together, so we all chip in to keep it nice and help each member of the family. I would never give my older kids too much responsibility, and believe me, it is momma alone who is ultimately responsible and takes on the majority of the work. I do not delegate child-rearing to my other children, and much sure that nobody feels like they are being unfairly burdened. They love “babysitting” their baby brother, and enjoy helping him and their sisters.
  5. All siblings get on each others nerves sometimes, but we really make their relationships a priority. They are best friends, and when we take them out individually they always insist on bringing something back for their siblings. I was amazed at how they adored their baby brother, even my toddler followed their lead and never expressed much jealously (unlike when I had two children, and my oldest wanted to return her baby sister). I am expecting their newest sibling in January and they are all very excited to meet the baby, in fact, they keep hoping for TWINS.

So there you have it, I do not buy the what they naysayers are selling. Big families are often close, and homeschooling is something that I believe fosters even closer relationships between siblings (and parents). If your typically sized family is happy as it is, wonderful! But do not allow society to convince you against adding more if it is your hearts desire.

Children are a blessing and a heritage!

Shalom

Unassisted Pregnancy Journal- 12 Weeks “Why an Unassisted Pregnancy?”

How did I come to the seemingly radical decision to avoid all medical assistance during pregnancy? It started 8 years ago.

I am currently 12 weeks pregnant with my 6th pregnancy. I have 4 children, from 7 years old to 20 months. I had a miscarriage two months before my 2nd baby was conceived.

I was 22 years old with my first pregnancy and followed things by the book, more or less. I wanted a natural, vaginal birth but I never considered seeing anyone besides the OB/Gyn I was already seeing before pregnancy for well women care. I never considered a homebirth. I did watch The Business of Being Born and my eyes were opened to the cascade of interventions. I sought to avoid that by talking to my OB, despite his terrible attitude towards me, and writing my birth plan.

Oh, the birth plan! That two page list of wants and do not wants. It was taken from me with a roll of the nurses eyes, and they said “well, we will see how it goes”. I wont get into my whole birth story here, but suffice to say it was traumatic emotionally. I did end up with a vaginal birth, but I didn’t avoid many other interventions.

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My firstborn! Miss Noemi

For my second baby. I decided that I would see midwives. I was taking suboxone (as I had been for years) so they would not do a homebirth for me, not due to any actual increased risks but because of the burdensome laws midwives work under. Many things make a woman “high risk” under the current system, even when it makes little sense and lacks credible evidence. So, a hospital birth it was. I had a bigger room in a different hospital, and I was able to labor in a tub but I found that I preferred land.

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Labor of Love

My midwife made me feel like I was inconveniencing her by coming to the hospital in early active labor, and she didn’t treat me with the warmth I expected. It was far better than my first birth, and I was focused on going through my first all natural labor. Towards the end of my labor, after about 12 hours, I was starting to say “I can’t do this!” (always happens before baby comes!). The midwife suggested she push aside the last bit of my cervix so I could push. I agreed, but once it started and I realized the tremendous pain it was causing me I cried out for her to stop. To my astonishment and hurt, she did not stop. I told her about my history as sexual abuse victim. I told her how my OB forcibly broke my water with my oldest child. Yet, she kept her hand inside of me as I screamed “AMY *(not her real name) STOP!”.

After that I had to get ready to have my baby, because she was coming down the birth canal quickly. I breathed and breathed, and she was born without too much pain although I was stunned by the sheer power of it all. She was my tiny baby, 6lb6oz.

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I tried to minimize and excuse that violation and how I was made to feel like an annoyance. When I realized I was pregnant again, I knew that things had to change. I wasn’t sure who to see, so I went to a new OB practice as I gave myself time to consider my options. I was still talking suboxone, so no midwives would see me at home. And to be honest, I was less than thrilled by my experience anyway.

I had regular prenatal care with a team of OB/Gyns until I was 20 weeks. They started to pressure me about doing the Gestational Diabetes test, that disgusting glucose drink that is worse than soda. I knew I did not have GD, and I knew I was not willing to drink that garbage. I started to think about WHY am I seeing these doctors?

I realized I had NEVER been helped by a doctor during pregnancy. No doctor or midwife did anything to improve my health or my baby’s health. In fact, I had been physically and emotionally injured. It dawned on me all at once that I was doing this solely because society says pregnancy is dangerous and needs to be monitored and overseen by professionals. I realized that it was indoctrinated fear.

My experiences all contradicted this fear, and this belief that pregnancy is a medical condition to be closely monitored. I saw clearly that I was simply a woman who was pregnant, and this was a completely normal and nature state of being. I was not sick, or diseased, or in danger. I did not need help, testing, or assistance. All I received from prenatal visits was stress, which was hardly good for me or the baby.

I left that appointment and told my husband my plan to go unassisted, and have the baby at home unassisted too. He was very supportive. I felt free!

Unfortunately, my little one was facing OP (her face to my front instead of my back). This caused a very long and very painful labor. I had never experienced back labor before, and I had no relief from the severe pain. I managed to endure it for 23 hours, but my mother was very fearful. I cannot blame her for my choice, by any means, but her fear kept rubbing off on me. Finally I checked myself and I was more than 9cm dilated. I knew  my baby was almost here. I could see the worry and concern on my moms face, and she suggested we go to the hospital. I knew that it was either right then, or never, because birth was imminent.

Out of fear, I choose the hospital.

I arrived there with my mom and my husband. I refused their IV and other interventions. The OB was condescending but didn’t fight me. I allowed him to break my water, and immediately my baby was coming down. I was on my back, legs in the air (the typical hospital birth position). I started screaming, really SCREAMING. It was difficult, and everyone was yelling PUSH at me. I pushed as hard as I could, knowing that I was damaging myself in the process. The pain was too severe to insist on changing my position.

The OB yelled at me once again to push, and he pulled on her, and out she came. She was 8lb12oz, my biggest baby by far. She was perfect. Although I had only superficial tearing, not requiring any stitches, my insides hurt badly. I was in a lot of pain, and unable to resume normal sexual activities for 6 months. I knew that being on my back, and forced to push so hard was the cause of my suffering. I resented that, and I was angry with myself for allowing it to happen.

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My Big Beautiful baby girl

My next pregnancy came when my 3rd daughter was two years old. I felt elated to be having another baby. I saw the same OB practice just long enough to get confirmation of pregnancy for his birth certificate, and to get an ultrasound. I found out that we were having our first boy!

I chose to have an ultrasound/anatomy scan, because I wanted to make sure that my baby had no serious health issues before having an unassisted birth. If my baby had a heart defect that needs immediate attention, or some other condition that required medical help, I wanted to know that. Many women having a UP/UC forgo ultrasounds, and that is a perfectly valid choice as well.

My birth with our son was finally, finally, my freebirth! It was everything I knew birth could be. It was a dream come true. I was so excited about it that I told everyone who would listen. You can read about my freebirth story here

After that incredible experience, AND a peaceful pregnancy where I did not have to constantly defend my right to choose my own medical care/refuse testing and interventions; I could not imagine NOT having another UP/UC!

So, really the question is, why NOT have an unassisted pregnancy and birth?

Shalom!

 

 

 

Thoughts on Turning 30

Psalm 16:11 
You make the path of life known to me.
Complete joy is in your presence.
Pleasures are by your side forever.

There is a path of life and a path of destruction. Ten years ago, I was on the wrong path and quickly heading towards the grave. In the blindness of addiction and mental pain, I never imagined another way was possible. I have not always followed the path of life smoothly. There have been stumbles, doubts, and falls. The important thing is to never give up hope, and hold onto the truth because the truth truly sets you free. I am beyond grateful for this life I have, and I want to keep growing and learning and loving in each year I am given.

Jeremiah 29:11
I know the plans that I have for you, declares Yahweh.They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope.

What a powerful thought it is, to realize that there is a plan for our lives. Sometimes, it sounds corny when people say “God has a plan for your life”. Often times its said during a time of loss or difficulty, as a way to diminish someones pain. But, if we truly consider the implications of our creator having a plan for us, it can help to rid of us the anxiety of modern living. Will we get that job? Will those bills be paid? Maybe, and maybe not. Regardless, he has a plan! It is a good plan, a hopeful plan. I am seeking to let go of my feeble attempts at controlling things that are beyond me, as I enter into this new decade of my life.

John 16:21

A woman has pain when her time to give birth comes. But after the child is born, she doesn’t remember the pain anymore because she’s happy that a child has been brought into the world.

I met my husband when I was 20, and we welcomed our first child together when I was 22. I have had three daughters and one son in my 20s, and I’m expecting my 5th baby this coming year; my first baby in my 30s. Becoming a mother has changed me profoundly, not a single cell in my body or aspect of myself has been untouched by their amazing presence. They are the greatest blessings in my life, along with my husband who helped give them to me. I look forward to watching them grow in my 30s. When I turn 30 tomorrow, I will have a 7, 5, 3, and 1 year old. Ten years from now when I turn 40, I will have a 17, 15, 13, 11, and 9 year old. What a difference this next decade will be!

Psalm 27:4

I have asked one thing from Yahweh.
    This I will seek:
    to remain in Yahweh’s house all the days of my life
        in order to gaze at Yahweh’s beauty
            and to search for an answer in his temple.

I want to set aside what snared me in my youth, and let go of the guilt and shame. I will choose to gaze on His beauty instead, all the days of my life.

Shalom! I’m 30!!! (Its midnight)