Author: Jacquelyn

I'm a Seventh-day Adventist Christian with a passion for Christ and His Gospel. Also web developer, aspiring author, artist, frequent blogger, loving wife, and new mother to an adorable little boy.
His Encouragement: Titus 2:11-13

His Encouragement: Titus 2:11-13

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…” — Titus 2:11-13, ESV

Continuing the thought from the last few weeks, let us take a closer look at why Jesus came. What was His mission, His purpose?

Way back in Eden after the dreadful plague called sin entered our world, humanity was separated from our loving Lord and Creator (Isaiah 59:2). Jesus came to bridge that gap, to bring reconciliation and redemption. (Romans 3:23-25) After all, the ultimate penalty of sin is death, but through His life, death, and resurrection, Christ conquered sin and offers the gift of eternal life to all who accept it. (Romans 6:23)

The Bible also promises that one day soon, He will return again to purge the world of sin and bring complete restoration. (Titus 2:11-14; Isaiah 65:17; Revelation 21, 22) This is our blessed hope! This hope gives us peace and strength to face a world filled with trials, sorrows, tragedies, death.

 

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

His Encouragement: Luke 2:10-14

His Encouragement: Luke 2:10-14

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

‘And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”‘ — Luke 2:10-14, ESV

This time of year can get busy with festive parties, decorating, various holiday activities, rushing to secure presents for loved ones, enjoying traditions, and visiting family and friends. To some it might even be stressful as you try to balance all of these extra activities on top of your usual routines. While many find this time of year to be filled with joy and love, it can also be emotionally challenging for others.

Christmas is only days away and I am so tired.

Unlike previous years, I am not taking any extra time off so I am only getting the official holidays provided by my workplace. This is for two reasons: I used the majority of my vacation hours back in November for the family trip, and I’m trying to accrue as many new hours as possible so I can use them towards the end of January before our second son is born.

Working all day, trying to doing at least some holiday stuff during the few hours available in the evenings while playing with our toddler, finding gifts for everyone while staying in budget, sending out cards (very late), trying to make holiday desserts, and whipping together a last-minute wiseman outfit for Peanut for this Sabbath’s special Christmas program — it is not easy.

I now understand why some people get holiday burnout.

But as much fun (or stressful, depending on your experience!) as the holidays can be, I always try to take time away from the hustle and bustle. Quiet time to reflect on the meaning behind the holiday. Why do we celebrate the birth of Jesus? Because He is the promised Messiah, the “Savior, who is Christ the Lord”. He left heaven to come to earth, taking on our humanity so that He would share in our trials, all to save us from our sins. (Philippians 2:8-10) Through His perfect life and willing sacrifice, we are forgiven and reconciled to God. (Romans 5:10).

Why? Because God loves us— loves you!— that much. So no matter what you are going through, whether you are worn out or stressed or sad or lonely, always remember that God is with you. That, after all, is one of the titles of Jesus: Immanuel, meaning “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

And that, my friend, is worth celebrating! That is the “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” proclaimed by the angels to the shepherds that night so long ago.

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

His Encouragement: John 1:14 & 16

His Encouragement: John 1:14 & 16

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. […] For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” — John 1:14 & 16, ESV

In twelve short days, a significant portion of the world’s population will celebrate, in some way, December 25th. While many call this day Christmas, it has not always been associated with Christianity. The pre-existing winter solstice celebrations were eventually adopted into mainstream Christianity as a holy day associated with Jesus’ birth. Over the centuries, many traditions from different origins have merged to create the modern holiday we are familiar with.

While it may be hard to believe nowadays, Christianity has actually had a love-hate relationship with this holiday from its introduction. Due to the pagan origins of the celebrations and most traditions, there have been and continue to be heated debates within some Christian circles on whether or not this holiday should even be celebrated. (The Puritans, for example, outlawed its celebration.)

Interestingly, the Bible does not give us a date for the birth of Jesus. It does give us some clues as to the year and general season, but not an exact date. Why? Perhaps it is because the Word of God places more emphasis on why Jesus came to earth instead of the when. Though His birth was cause for great celebration in heaven and among those on earth who were aware of it (Luke 2:8-20) due to the fulfillment of Messianic prophecies (Matthew 2:1-12), the main focus is on who Jesus is and His mission, His purpose.

Today’s encouraging verse reminds us that Jesus, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” … “for from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” Jesus left His glory in heaven to take on our sinful humanity. He lived a life tempted just as we are, yet He did not commit sin (Hebrews 4:15), so that He could bear the penalty of our sin on Himself. All so that we may have the opportunity to be reconciled with God.

Why would He do such a thing? Why would He leave His glory, leave heaven, to suffer and die in our place? Why not just scrap the whole “humanity” project, erase all trace of sin from the universe, and start over? Because He loves us that much! “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation [reconciliation, reparation, peace offering] for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

He loves YOU that much!

No matter your stance on Christmas, what traditions you keep or eschew, there is no denying that this time of year gives us a very unique opportunity to share the love of Christ with family, friends, and neighbors. Individuals who are usually closed off to religious matters and conversations may be a little more open during this unique season. They may even ask you about your holiday traditions or beliefs. We are encouraged to “…be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15, KJV).

We should not miss this opportunity! Let us not be so focused on ourselves that we forget to share the message of Christ with those who desperately need to hear it, through our compassion, our words, and our actions! “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

His Encouragement: Philippians 4:19

His Encouragement: Philippians 4:19

A warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a small group of bloggers will each bring you a Bible verse and a little discussion filled with hope and encouragement. We welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your daily verse as well.

We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:19, ESV

Last week, I confessed to struggling with turning my burdens and worries over to the Lord during times of high stress. I would venture to say that a lot of us wrestle with the inclination to try to do it all ourselves, forgetting that we need to surrender it all to our Lord.

Well, when the circumstances of life seem especially difficult, it often happens that our focus begins to shift. That narrowed concentration on the negatives will influence our attitude, our behavior, and even our normal thinking patterns until we only see the rain clouds.

We may even start to exaggerate our circumstances by using broad-sweeping generalizations, harboring thoughts like “Everything is going wrong right now.” or “I cannot do anything right!” or “I can never…” or “Why me? Why now?”

We are like Peter, who began to sink beneath the waves when he removed his eyes from Jesus. He was filled with terror at the sight of the wind and waves all around him. Why? Because he had allowed his focus, though not consciously, to be drawn away from what was most important: the Lord. He desperately cried out: “Lord, save me!” And Jesus, in His love and mercy, did just that with a very gentle rebuke: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (See Matthew 14:19-31.)

Why did you doubt? This is what Jesus asks you and I today. Why do I doubt that the Lord has my life and situation under control? Why do I take so long before asking the Lord for His help and guidance? Why do I try to fix things on my own? Why do I continually treat prayer as a last resort instead of the first (and only) option?

No matter what circumstances you are facing, what worries are bogging you down, or how overwhelmed you may be feeling, today’s verse is gentle reminder that we need to keep our focus on the Lord. Even in the midst of the biggest, darkest storms of life, our Lord is right there with us.

We need to know that “…God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Instead of focusing on the wind and waves battering your life, focus on the blessings He has given to you, whether big or small.

When I begin to really stress out, the Lord often brings to my mind a song that Bing Cosby sang in the old movie White Christmas (1954) called “Count Your Blessings.” (Listen to it.) The simple words of this song are very humbling and remind me to count my blessings, giving thanks to the Lord for each and every one.

When I am thanking the Lord for every blessing, I realize how many more blessings there are in my life than trials. The wind dies down, the waves calm, and the rain clouds dissipate.

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: 30 Weeks

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: 30 Weeks

It has been quite awhile since my last pregnancy update. Time sure does fly. We had a very busy November and now we are already at 30 weeks (if the updated due date is accurate).

Jacquelyn Van Sant at 30 weeks pregnant and 14-month-old son at Thanksgiving 2017.
This photo was taken at almost 29 weeks with our 14-month-old son “Peanut” at Thanksgiving 2017.

How far along: 30 Weeks

Size of baby: I’m actually not sure exactly because our next doctor’s appointment is this Friday. They say that an average baby would be about 15-inches long and almost 3 pounds around this time. I do know that usually, from this point on, the baby will grow about half a pound a week.

Movement: This little fellow is extremely active throughout the day and night. His preferred position is definitely long-ways right above my hips. (Like last time, I’m carrying low.) Often when sitting down, my belly rolls like ocean waves as he moves and shifts. He also seems to love kicking the right side of my belly, which gets sore more often than the left.

Sleep: My sleep has been disrupted for a number of reasons lately and not all pregnancy related. We do have an active 14-month-old who has had some difficult nights. Some nights I’m so exhausted that I seem to pass out. Fortunately, when it comes to positions, sleep has gotten a little easier and my body is not aching as much as it was a few weeks ago.

Workouts: I do my usual daily activities and lift/carry a somewhat heavy 14-month-old all the time. I do try to do the kegel exercises and side leg lifts daily, and I have been doing quite a bit more walking the last couple weeks.

Maternity clothes: My stomach is now officially larger than it was when Peanut was born at 38 weeks, and some of my maternity clothes are no longer fitting properly around my expanding tummy. My husband was nice enough to buy me a new pair of jeans in a larger size and a few skirts so I can be comfortable again. Well, as comfortable as possible.

Symptoms: There for awhile, I was experiencing quite a bit of muscle soreness and body aches. This last week the aches and pains pretty much went away. However, earlier this morning I experienced a somewhat painful Braxton Hicks contraction (I’m guessing) that lasted approximately 10-11 minutes. It is like my whole lower belly tightened and would not “release” for over 10 minutes. I was almost in tears.

Needless to say, it was a little concerning, and I am trying to drink more water just in case I am dehydrated. I’ll also mention it to my doctor at the appointment this Friday.

Cravings/Aversions: No cravings to report. As for aversions, rice and beans (which I usually love) have not been sounding good to me so I’m eating more potato, quinoa, and lentils than I usually do. Not sure I am getting enough protein, though. I need to work harder on that this week.

Missing most: Definitely being able to bend over without severe pain and pressure. It is also getting harder to breathe in certain sitting positions, too.

Preparing for baby: We pretty much have all of the clothes, accessories, and items we will need for another baby boy. We have continued to (slowly) work on purging and re-organizing the entire house, both to make it more toddler friendly for our son and also to help elevate the stress of clutter for when Baby #2 arrives.

Cannot wait for: the arrival of our sweet little boy!

I am starting to really feel tired of being pregnant. This pregnancy has been harder than my first. I am much bigger in the stomach, more uncomfortable, and my metabolism does not seem to be working as fast as last time either. I know others have it much worse than I do so I try really hard not to complain and to just carry on “as usual”. But some days I’m so wiped out that I collapse on the couch after work and can barely do basic things like make dinner, wash dishes, or play with Peanut.

Is it bad that I’m praying this one comes early like his big brother did? (Just without the worry that accompanied Peanut’s tiny size!) However, it is all worth it to be able to welcome our new son either at the end of January or beginning of February!

I’m still hunting for the perfect pseudonym for Baby #2 to use here on the blog. Since I call our first son Peanut, I was thinking about continuing with the “P” trend or maybe the food theme or maybe both. Pancake, Pumpkin, Pickle… Any suggestions?

His Encouragement: John 14:27

His Encouragement: John 14:27

A warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a small group of bloggers will each bring you a Bible verse and a little discussion filled with hope and encouragement. We welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your daily verse as well.

We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” — John 14:27, ESV

Some weeks are hard to get through.

I admit it. I have had a very hard two weeks now. I’m in my third trimester of pregnancy, was recovering from a week long (but nice) trip that required an uncomfortable two-day car drive there and then back again, my sleep has been severely interrupted for a number of reasons, my body was aching something terrible, I was low on my vitamins and iron, I was not eating properly, work is becoming increasingly stressful, and our finances are tighter than I am comfortable with.

I have felt so overwhelmed that I broke down and cried twice in just the last week. And I do not cry easily. One or two or even three things I could handle but it seemed as if everything was happening all at once. As the saying goes: When it rains, it pours.

Perhaps you, too, are going through some challenges right now. Maybe you are also feeling overwhelmed by your current circumstances and feeling anxious for the future. Come. Let us read John 14:27 together. In it, our Lord Jesus gives us an important promise that we both need to hear: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you…”

Especially during times of troubles or chaos, we need this gentle reminder. The Lord loves us so much and He offers us a peace that surpasses earthly understanding (Philippians 4:7). A deep, reassuring peace that calms our worries and gives us the strength (His strength!) to face the challenges of life. That is why we can “…let not [our] hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

That does not mean it is easy. There are times, like the last two weeks, where I struggle! Really struggle. Sometimes I try to do it all myself and forget to let go and let God. I need to be reminded to turn to the Lord. After all, He wants us to come to Him with our troubles, our worries, our burdens. Nothing is too big for God to handle and nothing is too small or insignificant for His attention either.

How comforting it is to realize that we don’t have to go it alone.

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

10 Tips for Staying in Budget This Holiday Season

10 Tips for Staying in Budget This Holiday Season

Here in the United States, we are now in the midst of the holiday season. Thanksgiving has just passed, and with December only a few days away, many of us have turned our minds to purchasing presents. With Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and some stores offering deals all week long, a lot of people are eagerly on the hunt for the best sales.

There are plenty of holiday parties with family, friends, or even at the office to attend soon, and many may include secret santa or white elephant style gift exchanges. Charities and various non-profits are also upping their advertising in hopes of getting more donations. There are also adopt-a-child and adopt-a-family style programs to help the less fortunate in our local communities.

With the social expectation of lavish gift giving during this time of year, how does the budget conscience person stay within budget?

I recently read an article on CNBC that shared approximately half of Americans surveyed went into debt to finance their 2016 holiday shopping — and many are still paying it off!

Don't go into debt this holiday season! Here are 10 tips to stay within budget. Click To Tweet

While we have always tried to keep to a reasonable budget during the holidays, this year we are having to tighten our financial belts even more. We have transitioned to a single income household and due to a few unforeseeable emergency expenses over the last few months, it is has been a bit of a struggle to maintain our “normal”. We had to dip into our savings more than I would have liked and have not been able to replenish it (yet).

So this year, we are on a very tight Christmas budget. Here are 10 tips we will be following on staying within budget this holiday season.

1. Set your budget in stone.

Decide on how much you can afford this holiday season. Be sure to think about all aspects of the holidays: gifts, dinners out, parties, decorations, food ingredients, charitable giving, etc. Be realistic but firm in your budget decision. Make a commitment to yourself that you will stay within your budget no matter what amazing “deals” you might see advertised or who asks for donations.

2. Make a list and check it twice.

All joking aside, seriously sit down and make a list of everyone that you would like to give a gift to and/or situation that may require a gift. Set a price limit for each gift and evaluate the total estimated cost. Then prune your list down as far as you can possibly go — both the recipients and the cost per gift.

3. Give a thoughtful card rather than a gift.

In some situations, a nice seasonal card with a personalized note could replace a more expensive gift. If you are like me, then you probably have blank holiday cards left over from previous years so you may not have to buy any new ones! It just costs you a little bit of time to write the note and maybe the cost of postage (if mailing).

4. Make a list and shop carefully.

This is the time of year that retailers and shops use many (often successful) tactics to convince you to overspend. Do not fall for their marketing gimmicks or get sucked into buying more than you need because of “good deals”.

Know what you are going to buy before you walk in the store and stick to that list.

5. Shop dollar stores.

You might just be surprised by all of the things now available at dollar stores. This should be the go-to-stop for the frugal shopper. For example, why spend all of that money on expensive gift baskets when you can put together your own, customized gift basket using items from dollar stores?

6. Shop secondhand.

Not everything has to be bought brand new, in the original packaging and with price tags still attached. There are many thrift and secondhand stores that sell interesting or unique items of good quality at affordable prices.

7. Re-gift.

There are times for birthdays and holidays when we might receive a nice gift that we already have or cannot use for some reason. The thought behind the present is extremely meaningful so why not pass these unused items on to bless others? Just be sure you do not accidentally re-gift an item back to the original gift-giver — that might lead to an awkward conversation!

8. Shop in your home.

While similar to the last tip, this one is even more personal. Who among us is not trying to simplify our lives and declutter our homes? I know we are!

During the purging process, we sometimes find items that we really love or have used previously but no longer need or have a place for. Instead of donating these items to strangers, why not give them as a gift to someone you know (or hope) will appreciate it? To make the gift extra special, write a nice note about what the item means to you and why you are giving it to that person.

9. Re-use gift bags and wrappings.

I started collecting birthday, special occasion, and holiday themed bags and gift wrappings a few years ago when my husband and I married. We even save tissue paper if it is in good condition. (I fold tissue paper neatly for storage.) This has been a lifesaver when it comes to saving a little money on the “wrappings”.

If you don’t have any bags to re-use, go for a fun vintage feel by wrapping your gifts with old newspaper or brown paper from grocery bags.

10. Be honest with family and friends.

If you are going to be changing your giving habits noticeably, be sure to let your family and friends know ahead of time that this year you do not have much to spend and will be cutting back to stay on budget. You do not need to go into detail, but be honest and genuine. Most people will be more than understanding.

Bonus Tip: Homemade gifts

Inspired by the comment below from our friend, Trisha, if you are crafty in any way maybe you had make a few gifts yourself! Handmade gifts are treasures to keep for years to come! Depending upon how crafty you are, you may already have plenty of things lying around your house that you can use to make a homemade gift.

The perfect gift can be anything from a card to an ornament to a home decor piece or framed drawing/painting or going to a local print shop and printing photos, canvas, mousepads, etc. You could put the ingredients for the perfect hot cocoa or cookie recipe in a mason jar and write cooking directions on a little label. If you are not sure what to do, browsing Pinterest is a good place to get ideas!

 

It is our intention that, by following these ten tips ourselves, we will be able to stay within our meager holiday budget without having to sacrifice the joy that comes with gift-giving. It will take careful planning and a commitment to our budget, but if we can do it, so can you!

His Encouragement: Psalm 37:3

His Encouragement: Psalm 37:3

Welcome, welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a small group of bloggers will each bring you a new Bible verse and a little discussion of hope and encouragement. We welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your daily verse as well.

We pray that these Thursday posts become a source of encouragement to you and help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.” — Psalm 37:3, ESV

Last week I ended with the first part of this verse: “Trust in the Lord, and do good…” so today I figured we can take a slightly deeper look at the verse in its entirety.

The first thing that popped out to me is the curious wording of the second part. “…dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.” What does “befriend faithfulness mean”, I wondered. That is when I noticed the Bible I was using had a little footnote attached to the end, and the footnote read: “Or and feed on faithfulness, or and find safe pasture.”

The imagery that this phrasing brought to my mind was very reassuring. I was reminded of a video I saw not too long ago of shepherdesses in the desert of southern Israel who lead their sheep among the hills. At first glance, the hills appear to be barren; nothing but dirt and rocks; however, as you go closer you see tufts of green grasses poking up here and there.

Since there is not enough to eat in one place, each goat or sheep has to rely completely on their shepherdess’ knowledge of the landscape ahead. It is not a lush green meadow like we are used to seeing, but nestled among the dirt and rocks of those forlorn-looking hills is enough grass to nourish their little flocks… as long as the flocks keep trusting the shepherdesses and follow their leading. Nibble here, move along, nibble there, move along.

Notice that the beautiful promise in Psalm 37:3 is conditional? We too will “find safe pasture” and “feed on faithfulness” in the land we dwell in as long as we “trust in the Lord” and “do good”. We must let go of our need to control and rely completely on our Shepherd, the Lord, trusting that He will always care for us. We also must not neglect to obey His teachings about loving and caring for others, for doing good in the world around us. (See Micah 6:8; Galatians 6:9; and Philippians 2:13 for starters.)

We, like those little flocks, may not have an overflowing abundance of material wealth nor will we always avoid danger and trials, but we will have the most important thing of all: a Shepherd who protects us and loving guides us through the challenges to safe pasture.

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

The Challenges of Pumping

The Challenges of Pumping

Long before I had children of my own, I knew I wanted to breastfeed any children I might have. I did not know what that would look like in a practical sense, I just figured breastfeeding was natural so it would happen smoothly. I was optimistically naive.

After our son was born, I discovered that breastfeeding is not always smooth. Due to complications, I pumped exclusively for the first three months… Well, almost exclusively. There were two different short periods where we had to supplement with formula and fortified goat’s milk.

Around the time our son was finally able to nurse on his own, I went back to work full time so I continued to pump during the day and nursed overnight and in the mornings.

I am going to be blunt: pumping is hard.

No, seriously.

There is no way to sugar-coat the reality that pumping, whether exclusively or routinely during working hours, can seem to be an insurmountable challenge wrapped in many obstacles and sprinkled with discouragement.

But through it all, I am so grateful I was able to pump for ten months.

I was fortunate in many ways:

1. I had 9 weeks of complete maternity leave and then 3 weeks of part-time before returning to work full-time. Many women here in the United States only get three weeks and any additional days their saved vacation and sick hours might provide.

2. My office has a private wellness room with a lock, power outlet, side table, and comfortable chair that was perfect for pumping, and occasionally when someone else was using the wellness room, I had access to a private unisex bathroom with an power outlet and long counter. Many women do not have a private place to pump and have to make do with storage rooms or their cars. Or the only room available is a long distance from their actual place of work.

3. Most days, unless there were multiple meetings, I was able to pump three times throughout my work day for twenty minutes each. Many women are limited by rigid work schedules and can only use their regular ten-minute breaks (if they get breaks at all) and lunch time.

4. My supervisor was very supportive of my decision to pump and as considerate of the time I needed as a boss could be. On very busy days, I would take a small work laptop with me to the wellness room to continue working while I pumped. On light days, I used the pumping time to relax or doze. Many women do not have supportive supervisors/managers and are pressured into stopping pumping (and often complete breastfeeding) earlier then they intended.

To all of the mothers out there who have chosen to pump in order to provide breastmilk for their infants, you have my greatest respect and sympathies. No matter if it was for a month or a year, you sacrificed many hours worth of sleep, many comforts, and suffered indignities and awkward moments for your precious child. He or she may never fully understand your sacrifice, but let me speak on their behalf: “Thank you!” and “It is worth it.”

To give everyone a small glimpse into what life is like when you are pumping, here are some challenges that a pumping mother faces.

+ Hearing variations of the “You’re not breastfeeding?” question (often accompanied by looks of disapproval) whenever you pull out a bottle of your own milk to feed the baby in public.

+ Trying to avoid the unsolicited follow-up advice on how to get your baby to breastfeed, as if you have not tried everything already.

+ Having to lug a pump and all of its accessories (bottles, caps, cleaning wipes, etc.) around with you every time you leave the house because you have to pump every 2-3 hours to provide enough food for your baby and to keep your supply from dropping.

+ Trying to find a private place to pump while away from the house and feeling very awkward because it takes 15-20 minutes just to pump. Flanges, bottles, tubes, etc. is not as easy to unpack and pack again and require rinsing/cleaning to stay sanitary.

+ Having to spend money on enough bottles and nipples to cover pumping and storage, plus a bottle brush, special soap that breaks down the residue breastmilk leaves behind, and a rack for drying everything.

+ Losing even more sleep than usual because, after feeding the hungry baby a bottle, you have to go spend about half an hour pumping… every 2-3 hours.

+ Figuring out how to even use the pump, what size flanges to use, how low/high to have the suction, etc. Reading tutorials and guides online do not always help and it is often a process of (painful) trial and error.

+ Having to miss visits with family and friends or fun outings because of either your pumping schedule or because you forget an important piece of your pump. Did I mention you have to pump every 2-3 hours? Oh, I did.

+ Using lots of nipple cream to ease the soreness.

+ Experiencing engorgement if you don’t pump often enough, blocked ducts, blebs (milk blisters) and real blisters. Crying into your pillow or in the shower because of the pain.

+ Being forced to skip a pumping session, then suffering from the pressure of the milk building up in your breasts or leaking.

+ Constantly worrying if your baby is getting enough, tracking the milk expressed down to the milliliter or ounce, and fretting when a pumping session results in less milk then usual.

+ Doing tons of research and trying so many things… including herbal teas… every time your milk supply decreases in an often futile effort to reach whatever time goal you had for breastfeeding. And every time you think you can stretch the time between pumps to four hours, your supply plummets and you desperately go back to every 2-3 hours.

+ All those awkward moments: lugging a heavy pump with you everywhere you go, sitting in your car with a small hand pump trying to express milk while your hand cramps and milk spills because you cannot keep it suctioned right, or sitting in the nursery at church trying to pump really quickly so your crying baby can eat and people (including men) keep walking in to “talk”.

 

Every women’s experience is unique. Some women have amply supply of milk and do not have to pump as frequently. Some women, like myself, struggle with low supply. Some women are able to push through the obstacles and make it to their breastfeeding goals. Others are forced by their circumstances to stop breastfeeding early.

No matter your situation, I want you to know that you are a wonderful mother. Pumping is hard, and yet there are many women who are courageous and selfless enough to face the many challenges, whether due to circumstances or choice.

At least for me, it was all worth it. And I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. In fact, I might have to do it all over again with Baby #2.

To those who have never had to pump, let me just give you a little word of advice: next time you see a mother give her infant a bottle, don’t judge. First of all, you have no idea what the food in the bottle is. It could be expressed breastmilk or it could be formula, and either one is absolutely fine.

You also have no idea the emotional rollercoaster that mother has been experiencing since the birth of her child. One judgmental look or condescending comment can literally be the nudge that pushes her over the edge of discouragement and into depression.

If you really care about that new mother, ask if there is anything you can do to help ease her burdens. Offer to come over to clean her bathroom(s) or cook dinner or vacuum the living room or watch her little one for an hour while she naps. That is how you show you care.

His Encouragement: Psalm 147:3

His Encouragement: Psalm 147:3

Happy Thursday, dear friends! Welcome to His Encouragement. Every Thursday, a small group of bloggers will each bring you a new Bible verse and a little discussion of hope and encouragement. We welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your daily verse of encouragement as well.

We pray that these Thursday posts become an encouragement to you and help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” — Psalm 147:3, ESV

There have been a lot of tragic events in recent days, weeks, and months both here at home and also around the globe. Throughout the Gospels but especially in Matthew 24:21-22, Jesus warned us that there will be times of great trouble and His followers will experience great challenges. However, it is one thing to read about what might happen in the future or hear about trouble happening in far-away places. It can be jarring when we see such trouble starting to take place around us, effecting our immediate communities and our families.

How do we cope with the tsunami of emotions that such traumatic events bring? Immense sadness at the loss of life, righteous anger at the evil behind it, and perhaps even fear and anxiety. If you are feeling any of these emotions or notice members of your family, especially children, trying to process the evil and sad events that are happening more and more frequently, do not try to walk this road alone.

First and foremost, take your all of your concerns and anxieties to the Lord in earnest prayer. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to “…cast all your anxieties on him [God], because he cares for you.” Bear your heart to Him and let Him take your burdens and fears away. Because “…God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7) No matter what is happening, remember that God promises to “heal the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds“.

Claim that promise and hold on to it. Take comfort in the knowledge that this broken, sin-filled world is not our home and one day evil will be completely and utterly vanquished. Until then, as the psalmist wrote: “Trust in the Lord, and do good…” (Psalm 37:3)

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday: