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“Fear Not, For I Am with You”: The Vocation of Vulnerability


I’m scared. I admit it. I wish there was a different word to use to describe this emotion, but what mother isn’t at least a little bit anxious in the days leading up to the labor and delivery of her child?

While there are certainly physical issues to be concerned about, mostly, I’m scared of the pain.

I’ve done this before. Five times. (Seven times, if you count babies too bitty to live. Somehow, those labors and deliveries seem just as painful, but less physically and more emotionally.) I know there’s a beautiful, wonderful, kissable, squishy, precious baby on the other side of the pain. But, I won’t get that baby until I go through the pain. And it’s the going through it part that scares me.

I’ve been wrestling with the fear of this pain. On the one hand, I know and believe that God will be with me through this labor and delivery. On the other hand, I realize that God doesn’t promise Christians a pain-free existence (1 Peter 4:12) and that pain in childbirth is a very real result of the fall into sin (Gen. 3:16).

The pains of labor can quickly make a woman feel like a “victim.” An unwanted force is being inflicted upon her. Any rational person would try to flee from pain. Of course I should be frightened! And yet, God commands His people over and over to “fear not.” And so, the paradox: I am His child. But, how can I not fear? The sin of fear seems so natural, easy, and inbred in me.

And yet, how can one be a victim to one’s own body, especially when the force of the pain truly brings about good, a baby? There is such obvious purpose in the suffering and pain of labor, that it makes one question if the word “victim” is really the right one.

Perhaps a different “V” word fits the situation better? The physical struggles we endure in the birthing process leave a woman vulnerable. And it’s not just that we happen to be vulnerable, but rather, that we have a specific calling to be vulnerable.

The calling of motherhood is a calling of love. To love is to allow oneself to be vulnerable, to hurt, to have pain, on behalf of others. While the sacrifice of vulnerability is against our selfish human nature, it is the beautiful journey of those newly created in the image of Christ.

Jesus took on flesh for the very purpose of suffering. He became a vulnerable human person because of His great love for me, for you. He isn’t a God from afar, watching impersonally as I experience pain; rather, He goes through the pain with me and hurts as I hurt. It’s not that God isn’t powerful enough to take away the pain and suffering, but rather that He understands infinitely better than I do the good that He plans to build through this hurt.

On the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, He prayed in a garden. As true God, He knew the pain that would be his—the pain of the suffering and guilt of the entire human race. He took that to the cross, exchanging His life for mine, for yours.

Yet, as He prayed, he prayed as a true human, asking God to make a different way for salvation. He asked His Father to take this “cup” from Him (Matt. 26:38–39). He was overwhelmed as he considered the difficult road before Him. Jesus allowed Himself to be humbled, vulnerable to the point of death, because of His great love for sinners. Even knowing what was before Him, He rose from prayer, strengthened and determine to save us.

With this in mind, can I forgo fear as I face labor and delivery? Logically, I know there will be pain, so I look to God’s truth to combat my fear.

  • Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil (Psalm 23:4).
  • The very hairs of my head are numbered. Do not fear therefore (Luke 12:7).
  • Fear not, for God is with me…. God will strengthen me, yes, He will help me, and uphold me with His righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).
  • I did not receive the spirit of fear, but the Spirit of adoption by whom I cry out “Father” (Romans 8:15).
  • God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power and love (2 Timothy 1:7).
  • I may boldly say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear” (Hebrews 13:6).
  • Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).

My love for my child, while very strong, is certainly not perfect. I even have selfish reasons for welcoming labor (excessive waddling, internal organ compression). My love for this child alone cannot not cast out all my fear. But, Christ’s love for me (and my baby) is both strong and perfect. Only when I rest in His love, will I find relief for the anxiety and fear of pain that must come, through the vocation of vulnerability brought about by the travails of labor, to bring this baby into the world.

And when I cannot cling or rest in Him because of my sinful fears, I know I remain His child, with His arms wrapped around me. I have been bought with the price of His blood. He cannot let me go. He will not abandon me to the pain and suffering. He Himself has suffered greater than this because of His love for me. That love made Him vulnerable to the point of death. He will bring me through to the other side of vulnerability and pain, holding me through it all.

“Fear not, I am with you; O be not dismayed,

For I am your God and will still give you aid;

I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand,

Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose

He will not, He cannot, desert to his foes;

That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,

He never will leave, He will never forsake. (ELH 521:2,5)

When the time comes, and the pains are great, how can I cast out fear? It won’t be with my own strength, or with logic or false hope; it can only be with truth and Jesus. When I’m feeling afraid as the labor pains pick up, I hope to:

1. Pray like Jesus in Gethsemane:

Under great emotional strain, He laid His request before His Father. His honest emotions still accepted the will of God. “Not my will, but Yours be done” (Matthew 26:39).

2. Fix My Eyes on Jesus:

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12:1–3).

3. Give Thanks:

Thank you, God, that the baby is safe. Thank you, God, that this will be over soon. Thank you, God, for surrounding me with my loved ones and people who are keeping me safe. Thank you, God, that I don’t have to give birth in a prison camp, or in the elements, or alone. “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

4. Think About Baby:

“Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

5. Focus on the Eternal:

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

6. Cling to Christ’s Peace:

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

“In Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)

Thanks to my midwife Erika Urban for helping me sort out some of these feelings and the language of victim verses vulnerability.

 

Mrs. Marie K. MacPherson, vice president of Into Your Hands LLC, lives in Mankato, Minnesota, with her husband Ryan and their children, whom she homeschools. She is author of Meditations on the Vocation of Motherhood (2018) and editor of Mothering Many: Sanity-Saving Strategies from Moms of Four or More (2016).

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Mothering Many Book Excerpt: Family Portraits


Excerpted from Mothering Many: Sanity-Saving Strategies from Moms of Four or More

Many moms in smaller families are religious about getting their children’s photographs taken professionally. Is this something you do? Are there alternatives?

  • We had 2 family pictures taken in the past 8 years. We had the children’s photos taken in old-fashioned clothes, offered as a fund-raiser for a local group.—Sheri
  • We get them done once a year at Christmas at a place where they can accommodate large groups and there’s no sitting fee. We are considering having a photographer take us somewhere else, though, as we’ve been getting sighs and comments from our children when going to the studio the last two years.—Lissa
  • I let school pictures take over. Ordering smaller packages really helps. It was important to me and I was faithful about having their photos taken.—Shannon
  • We buy the basic Walmart portrait package whenever we have a 6-month-old. If it weren’t for family members who expect this kind of thing, we probably wouldn’t even bother with that.—Betsy
  • I don’t think my fourth child has had professional photos taken. It’s not a huge priority for me, or it would probably have happened. My husband does photography as a hobby, so we have a lot of interesting pictures of the kids, although not posed.—Ann
  • I’m not regular with it, but we have professional pictures taken at Christmas. I would rather have great photos of all of us together. However, I have thousands of digital pictures of each of the kids. We are fortunate, because our friend is a photographer and does it for free when we have the family shots taken.—Kate
  • Not since our third child! Instead, we take a lot of digital pictures and transfer them to CD-ROM and try to keep scrapbooks current and on display throughout our home. Good shots are enlarged and framed for that purpose. Those shots hold special memories that can be shared and they are usually more reflective of our children and family than posed or professional shots.—Janet
  • We did this more when we had smaller, younger kids. Now we don’t bother much. We take tons of pictures with our digital camera! We also recruit friends who seem to have a natural gift for photography to take family pictures for us.—Christy
  • Jesus brings life. Do whatever brings life to you and your family. We don’t do professional photos. Some of our children are great with the digital, and I’d rather look at candids.—Karol
  • I’ve had each of the kids’ pictures taken in the hospital and at one year of age. In school, they get taken every year, which does add up financially. I know of one family who had school pictures taken every other year to save on expenses.—Betty
  • My husband enjoys photography and used to do some as a hobby when he was single. Of course, once we started having children, they became his favorite subject for photography! I think outdoor pictures are so lovely and far better than indoor professional ones. I also agree that the time and expense of doing so many pictures professionally would be too much.—Sarah

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How Would You React If Your Health Insurance Company Cut Your Premium by 7%?


Health Insurance Premiums
2018 vs. 2017

  • +27% Average ACA Policy Nationwide
  • +38% in Summit County, Colorado
  • +47% in Florida, Statewide
  • +49.5% in Maryland, PPO
    (who would dare round this up to 50%?)

In an era when double-digit inflation has become the norm for health insurance premiums, a mere 7% hike on rates would be most welcome. But who can imagine a 7% cut?

Perhaps this would be unthinkable in the health insurance marketplace, but participants in medical cost-sharing ministries occasionally receive mail like the following, from Samaritan Ministries in January 2017, announcing a 7% reduction in members’ monthly shares:

samaritan reduced 7 percent

And again, in June 2017, announcing a 6% reduction:

Samaritan reduced 6 percent

Or what about this one, in reference to an 18% discount in October 2016? A lean and efficient administration sent savings right back to healthcare consumers. Can you imagine that?

samaritan reduced adm

How would you react if your health insurance company cut your premium by 6%, 7%, or even 18%?

Samaritan members, already having budgeted for the full amount, often respond by passing their savings along to others in need. Samaritan Ministries lists as a “Special Prayer Need” someone who has a medical need not covered by the ordinary medical cost-sharing arrangement. “If every member could send just $25 for their suggested SPN,” explains the mailing, “all these needs would be met in full.”

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Le Tote Maternity Clothes Rental Review


blogshirt

 

blogdress

Rent maternity clothes? And why not?! I saw an ad on Facebook for Le Tote, and thought that if I were ever to rent clothing, it would be during pregnancy! Seeing as pregnancy is a common time for both regular and maternity clothes to not fit one day, when they fit just fine the other day, rental sounded like a plausible option. Also, when you’re “only” pregnant every several years, the styles seem to change quite a bit between pregnancies. In addition, some pregnancies take place in the opposite season as a previous pregnancy, leaving the owner with little ability to wear prior maternity clothes. Clothing rental could also be a great choice for someone changing sizes rapidly from dieting or post-partum. When Le Tote sent me a coupon for 50% off my first month's rental, it sealed the deal for me!

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The Basics of Christian Apologetics (Book Review)


In The Reason I Believe: The Basics of Christian Apologetics, Allen Quist reveals “the forgotten and untold secret of our time,” namely, that the apostles grounded their teaching of Christ’s resurrection upon well-supported and widely known facts, which secular authorities also documented during the first and second centuries A.D.

reason i believeQuist identifies four objective criteria by which to distinguish true from false prophets in the Old Testament era:

  1. True prophets authenticate their ministries with sensational miracles.
  2. True prophets agree with the teachings of Moses.
  3. The predictions of true prophets always come to pass.
  4. True prophets avoid the marks of false prophets (that is, they avoid telling people what the want to hear, making self-serving predictions, promoting false gods, living immoral lives, and making predictions that fail to come true).

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7 Quick Steps for Configuring Ubuntu 16.04 Linux and LibreOffice for Hebrew Text Entry, with Vowel Pointing and Cantillation Marks


New: The most updated and accurate keyboard map file is il.iyh-2017-10-05 (see below for instructions and a download link).

Typing Hebrew—including vowel pointings, accents, and cantillation marks—need not be a cumbersome process. Here is a convenient method to configure your Linux system to handle your scholarship in Biblical Hebrew.

1. Download a Unicode Hebrew Font

Your Linux distribution likely contains several fonts that already have full Unicode Hebrew functionality, such as Georgia. Additional options include the Society of Biblical Literature’s free copy of the SBL Hebrew Font, available here.

If you choose a different font, be sure that it follows the Unicode conventions for mapping foreign language characters. (For example, Unicode fonts map U05D0 to the letter Alef and U05D1 to the letter Bet, with similar patterns specifying Hebrew vowel pointings, etc. A font designated as “Unicode” follows these “universal codes” to ensure compatibility with fellow Unicode fonts.)

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