Tag: inspirational

His Encouragement: Colossians 3:23-24

His Encouragement: Colossians 3:23-24

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

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” — Colossians 3:23-24, ESV

Have you ever been frustrated, fed up, or overwhelmed with your work, whether it is paid or not, whether it is for a living or volunteering? I must admit that while I enjoy my job 75% of the time, there are moments when I am overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work my superiors sometimes expect from one person (me) without any assistance. On a good day, I single-handedly do the work of two people. On a bad day, new projects come rolling in with high expectations and unrealistic deadlines. When I voice my concerns, I am basically told: “Just get it done.”

The last year has been especially stressful due to additional circumstances, both at work and in my personal life. Though I am usually an over-achiever, I admit that there have been times I have been so frustrated and overwhelmed that a part of me actually contemplated (for the briefest of moments) slacking off and letting a project slide just to demonstrate that the workload simply cannot be done by one person alone.

It is not like my job is one with huge consequences on the line. I am a web developer for an university… not a police officer, firefighter, paramedic, nurse, doctor, or any other profession who literally deals everyday with potentially life and death situations. If a website’s content is not updated until next week instead of this week or that latest security update is not pushed through today but tomorrow instead, it really is not going to make that much of a difference.

During my weak moments when such thoughts do flitter through my mind, I am reminded of the apostle Paul’s words to the Colossians. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…”

That is right. Even though in the grand scheme of the universe, my job is rather insignificant, I am called to do my best in all situations — even the overwhelming ones. As a child, I memorized a Psalty song based on Philippians 4:13 that goes like this: “Do my best! Do my best! With Jesus as my strength, I’ll do my best. He’ll do the rest!” That is all we can do.

No matter our circumstances. No matter how tired, overwhelmed, frustrated, or even angry we might be. No matter if we feel like it or not, we should always strive to do our personal best and let God handle the rest. Even in the mundane tasks and toils of every day life, we “…are serving the Lord Christ.”

Now it is your turn! What verse or passage is blessing you today?

 

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

His Encouragement: Psalm 43:5

His Encouragement: Psalm 43:5

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

“Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.”

Psalm 43:5, ESV

 

Let’s face it. Some days are just plain hard.

Sometimes unexpected difficulties arise that throw us completely for a loop. Other times we struggle with challenges that persist in spite of our best efforts to overcome. Some of us may be going through financial troubles, health problems, relationship issues, stress in the workplace, emotional upheavals…  There are so many causes for the hard days!

When you are having a hard day and find yourself struggling, do not get discouraged! It is clear from quite a few of the psalms he wrote that King David likewise struggled with bouts of depression, anxiety, and feelings of being overwhelmed with his circumstances. In Psalm 43:5, he wrote: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?”

He recognized his emotional state, his distress, his confusion. That is the first step towards overcoming the hard days and the emotional baggage that comes with them. We first must recognize our situation and put it into proper prospective. No matter what others might say, it is okay to feel the way you are feeling. Your feelings are valid.

But notice how, after identifying his problem, he does not linger on his turmoil? He continues: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” This is the second step in overcoming the hard days: acknowledging our need for God. When we are at our lowest point, when we feel the furthest from the Lord, when we feel hopeless, when we feel overwhelmed… that is when we need Him the most!

Sometimes all it takes is the simple reminder of these three words: Hope in God.

Friend, no matter what you are going through today, this week, this year, it is my earnest and heartfelt prayer that you always hope in God. May you, too, find exceeding joy and “shall again praise him”.

Now it is your turn! What verse or passage is blessing you today?

 

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

His Encouragement: Isaiah 1:18

His Encouragement: Isaiah 1:18

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

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool.

Isaiah 1:18, ESV

This is one of many Biblical passages that touch my heart and so, this Thursday, I wanted to share it with you. When this verse is often shared, the focus is on the second part: “…though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

And for good reason! This is a beautiful, amazing promise from the Lord that our sins are forgivable. Ephesians 1:7 confirms this promise: “In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses [sins], according to the riches of his grace.” (See also Colossians 1:14.)

No matter what we have done, the opportunity to be forgiven is available to us! But how? We must confess our wrongdoing, our sins, to the Lord and ask for His forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) This is not a one-off experience, though. It is something we must do regularly, day to day, as we spend time with the Lord in prayer.

That is why I find the often-overlooked beginning of the Isaiah 1:18 verse so fascinating. It reads: “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord…” Our heavenly Father, the Creator of the entire universe, wants to spend personal time with me and you to “reason together” regarding our sins. He desires for each of us to come to Him, to confess our sins, to ask for forgiveness, to be comforted, and to be made new by His Spirit living in us. What amazing love!

Amen!

Now it is your turn! What verse or passage is blessing you 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: 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:

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:

Our Breastfeeding Journey

Our Breastfeeding Journey

Almost five months ago, our little Peanut was born. (Six month update below.) I intended to breastfeed exclusively by nursing during my twelve week maternity/family leave and then nursing and pumping after returning to work. I did not need to think long and hard about the decision, I just knew that was what we would do. In fact, I was more nervous about picking out a pump then I was about nursing. I figured that mothers’ bodies naturally produce milk and babies instinctively know how to get the milk.

Unfortunately, our breastfeeding story did not go according to plan.

In fact, it turned out to be more of a journey than a story. Some parts are very challenging and others rewarding. So let me take you back to the beginning.

Peanut was born small. 4 pounds and 11 ounces, to be exact, though he dropped down to 4 lbs. 7 oz. after he had his first bowel movement. Though he was a mighty tiny thing — able to lift his head moments after birth — his small size created a challenge to nursing. We tried hard throughout the night and into the afternoon of Day 2 to get him to nurse even just a tiny bit to get the colstrum he needed, but he just could not get his tiny mouth around my large nipples.

Jacquelyn's baby at two days old and only 4 lbs 7 oz.
Peanut at two days old, the morning we were discharged from the hospital.

Around noon on Day 2, we had our first visit with the Lactation Consultant. She helped me position him, tried coaxing him, and then wrapped him onto my chest for skin-to-skin. She said not to worry and try nursing again in the evening, but I was starting to worry. Something just was not right. Babies are supposed to know how to nurse instinctively, right? I tried to put on a cheerful face when Bradley’s side of family came to visit, but when my parents came later, I shared with them my concerns. My mom tried to cheer me up.

That night, after quite a few more failed attempts to nurse, a nurse helped me select the right size flanges and pump the first time. We collected .5 ounce of colstrum and fed it to Peanut using a syringe. The next day, they were concerned that Peanut had not nursed even the tiniest bit. Due to his tiny size, he had to eat just once, even a tiny bit, before we would be given the all clear. If he did not eat and began to lose more weight, he might have ended up in the NICU.

Despite regularly pumping, after that first time, I was not getting enough colstrum to even get into a syringe to give him. Just a drop on my finger.

So the nurse brought us formula.

I was terrified.

Here I was, only three days into being a brand new mother to this tiny little fellow, and I was praying desperately that Peanut would eat something… anything. I barely slept that night. Lying on the bed with my hand in the bassinet to touch his leg, I just prayed. Please, Lord, let him eat a tiny bit, keep his blood sugars steady, and not let him loose any more weight.

I could not get him to eat from the bottle, the Lactation Consultant was able to get him to eat just a small amount, and a few hours later, my mom was able to get him to eat about 1 ounce. I was relieved yet still a little worried. I thought to myself: “Just once or twice on the formula, and then surely he’ll figure out how to nurse.” After all, he rooted for my breast, he put the tip of nipple in his mouth, he was was showing all of the right signs. Was it just his tiny size? Was I too big for his little mouth?

The Lactation Consultant visited again – a wonderful lady – and worked with us some more.

She then noticed something all of the rest of us missed: Peanut had a severe tongue-tie.

He could not lift his tongue nor move it forward, two motions vital to latch on the nipple and draw the colstrum/milk out. Until the tongue-tie was fixed, there would be no possible way for Peanut to nurse. Unfortunately, the hospital did not perform these minor surgeries anymore, and we would have to visit with a pediatrician after being discharged to arrange for the procedure. It could take days, maybe up to two weeks, before the tongue-tie was fixed!

I was disappointed.

Peanut would have to eat formula until the pumping resulted in actual colstrum/milk that I could give him and the tongue-tie was fixed. Now let me share a disclaimer: I know there are many reasons for mothers to formula-feed their babies. Sometimes it is by choice and sometimes it is the only option. I have nothing against anyone who uses formula. It just was emotionally disappointing for me to learn that, for reasons outside of our control, Peanut needed formula because it had been my desire to breastfeed. I had not even imagined a scenario that would make breastfeeding impossible.

On the day we were discharged from the hospital, my parents bought the pump that was recommended to us and I continued trying to pump every two-three hours. I was determined to get him off the formula and onto my colstrum/milk was soon as possible. Still nothing. By Day 5, my breasts were engorged as the colstrum began turning to milk but the pumping expressed nothing! I tried the electric pump, I tried hand expressing, I tried hot showers, I tried massages, I tried everything to get the milk to express. Nothing would come out! My poor breasts just kept getting bigger and more painful. It became agony to touch them, agony to move, agony to sleep!

At 3am during one of my unsuccessful pumping sessions, I searched the Internet for any piece of advice for how to get the milk to come out. I was terrified that I would end up with mastitis. Most sites and forums dealt with nursing or formula-feeding, and I was finding very little helpful information for pumping. Then I stumbled on to the Exclusive Pumping section of KellyMom.com and one of the first articles I read recommended ice on the breasts for 20 minutes before pumping to counteract the swelling and allow the milk to be expressed. That day at my parents’ house, I rolled two frozen water bottles all over my breasts for 20 minutes. It was sooo cold and hurt sooooo bad, but I was desperate.

That pumping session, I produced 10 ounces of transition milk and the engorgement was gone. I was so relieved that I cried. For the next five or six sessions, I had to roll the frozen water bottles on my breasts before pumping. Gradually, the milk began expressing without the need to freeze my breasts. It was nearing the end of Week 1, and I was finally producing milk. I was able to feed Peanut on mother’s milk and put the formula bottles away.

Though we saw the Pediatrician quickly, the soonest we could schedule Peanut’s procedure to correct the tongue-tie was at the very end of his second week. I was worried it had taken too long. He had been exclusively bottlefed (first formula and now with my milk), and I had heard of and read about “nipple confusion” where bottlefed babies are supposedly never able to nurse again. Fortunately, one of the nurses at the Pediatrician’s office told me that her son had been born with a tongue-tie that took almost a month to diagnosis and fix, and he went from bottlefed to nursing without a hitch. That gave me hope!

Jacquelyn's baby about a week old.
Little Peanut at about a week and a half old. He was still so tiny and thin, but that adorable smile!

Hope died during Weeks 3 and 4.

I was completely unprepared for the Week 3 growth spurt; I did not even know it existed. Week three rolled around and suddenly Peanut was ravenously hungry! I was not producing enough milk to satisfy him. I was determined, though. I pumped every two hours for anywhere between 20-30 minutes. I literally pumped my poor breasts raw and was in pain from blisters. I tried everything to produce more milk. Despite my valiant efforts, I could not keep up with him.

In the middle of the night, as Peanut cried in his bassinet for milk I did not have, my loving husband gently said: “I’m going to give him a bottle of formula.” He picked Peanut up and walked to the living room. I buried myself underneath the blankets and pillows and wept.

I was devastated.

The one thing that was supposed to be natural for every mother, I could not do. I could not provide enough milk for my baby. I had to resign myself to the fact that in addition to what I pumped, Peanut would need supplementing with formula. We bought a can of a standard formula (same brand as the hospital gave us since he did not seem to mind it). After a few days supplementing, I was growing concerned about using a milk-based formula.

You see, I have a severe dairy allergy.

While I was a little apprehensive that my son might have inherited this allergy from me, what really concerned me was that I was beginning to react to the powdered formula. It is impossible to scoop the powder from the can and get it into the bottle without spilling even a little bit. My hands were starting to react whenever the powder touched my skin (my hands would get red and itchy), and as I fixed a bottle, I noticed that some powder always gets into the air. I was concerned that I would accidentally breathe the powder and have an allergic reaction.

Now my allergy to dairy is not lactose intolerance. It is a severe allergy on the same level as many peanut allergies: even trace amounts of dairy will cause me to break out in hives, suffer bad itching fits, and experience respiratory difficulties (meaning I cannot breathe). This was not something to be taken lightly. I began researching non-milk based formulas, but most of the soy-based formulas were over 50% corn syrup. That did not seem right to me.

I did more research and remembered that my dad, when he was a newborn, could not have milk-based formula either. His parents had to give him goat’s milk, and he is one of the healthiest people I know. So I began looking up goat’s milk formula — extremely expensive and not always available — and found websites that shared how to make your own goat’s milk formula at home.

Since I was still pumping and the majority of Peanut’s nourishment was coming from my milk, I just needed something to supplement with. I gave Peanut goat’s milk and waited. He seemed fine and his appetite was finally appeased. Then my mom helped us mix up a batch of goat’s milk that was fortified with some additional nutrients.

Towards the end of Week 4, my husband also found Earth Mama Angel Baby Milkmaid Tea at our local Target. I began drinking it twice a day, and my milk production increased significantly. Soon, we no longer needed to supplement with goat’s milk. A little while after that, I was expressing enough extra milk to start filling up the freezer to use later when I returned to work.

Throughout the first month while all of these things were happening, I was still trying to nurse Peanut. Every other day, I would try to nurse him, but even after the tongue-tie was fixed, he just could not latch. I watched videos and read how to articles. I did everything I could, but Peanut could not latch.

I was an emotional wreck. I was severely sleep deprived. He needed to eat every two hours and it took an hour just to warm the bottle, feed the baby, and pump. Then I would sleep for an hour and have to do it all over again. My amazing husband did so much to help: he would often feed the baby and clean the bottles to give me even just ten or twenty minutes more sleep. He also calmly put up with my emotional outbursts: frustration, fear, self-loathing, fits of crying.

I felt like a failure.

Every time an attempt to nurse failed, every time someone casually said some variation of “Oh, so you’re not breastfeeding?” or “Don’t you know breast is better than formula?” when they saw the bottle of my milk, it was like another nail being hammered into my heart and ego.

Jacquelyn's baby around a month old.
In the beginning, babies sleep a whole lot and they are so cute when they sleep!

After an entire month, one morning I almost lost my temper with Peanut. Even though the logical part of my brain understood that his mouth was just too small to latch and it wasn’t his fault, the emotional part was very close to losing it. Nothing happened, but I was shocked at how close I felt I had come to possibly hurting him, even unintentionally. I laid Peanut back down in his bassinet and called my mom in tears. I told her I had tried for four weeks and I just could not do it anymore. For my sanity and the happiness of our little family, I had to stop trying.

My mom was so supportive and calmed me down. She told me she was so proud of me for trying as long as I did and that I had to do what was best for us. Her words helped get me back in the right frame of mind, and I am so grateful.

That morning, I finally came to terms with something I should have come to terms with weeks earlier: Peanut might never be able to nurse.

Sure, maybe one day in the future, he might outgrow the physical barriers that were preventing him from nursing, but in that moment I had to let go of my unrealistic “dream”. I had to make myself “ok” with the idea that he might never nurse, that I would have to continue pumping to provide him with milk and that, in his next growth spurt he might need to be supplemented again. I had to embrace that reality and let go of my fantasy.

I had to stop treating myself like a failure.

I had carried this beautiful little boy for 38 weeks, gave birth, and was now raising him. I loved him so deeply and would do anything for him. I would gaze at his tiny face while he slept in awe that this precious gift was our son. I was not a failure. So what if he could not nurse? So what if he got his milk from a bottle? So what if sometimes he got a little extra that wasn’t from his mother? He was happy, healthy, and growing incredibly fast.

For all of month two, we did not even try to nurse. We simply lived and were happy. When the Week 6 growth spurt hit, I was producing enough milk that we did not have to supplement even though he was sometimes gobbling up 9 to 11 ounces in one sitting!

At the beginning of his third month, Peanut was rooting around while we snuggled on the couch one morning and so, merely curious, I offered him the breast. To my surprise, he latched! It was a weak latch but a latch! He drank a little bit (not much) but he actually nursed for ten minutes!

At the middle of month three, we introduced the pacifier. He got the hang of it pretty quickly and the pacifier helped to strengthen his sucking muscles. We would attempt a nursing session every few days, but it was very relaxed… nothing like during the first month when I was so stressed out. Just a week after introducing the pacifier, he was strong enough to nurse!

By the middle of Week Thirteen, Peanut was nursing twice a day. We would nurse early morning and once in the evenings. We still fed him a 5-6 ounce bottle of expressed milk before putting him to sleep to help him sleep longer. By then he was usually sleeping 9pm to 4-5am.

Jacquelyn's baby at four months.
Little Peanut around four months. He grew a lot and got a bit chunky!

Today as I write this, Peanut is just shy of five months, and he nurses as if he had been doing so his whole life. I still pump during the day, especially during the week when I’m working, but I try to nurse him before work, after work, and on the weekends. He also is bottlefed during the day and always gets one bottle before bed to help him sleep through the night. He has absolutely no sign of the dreaded “nipple confusion”. He goes from breast to bottle to pacifier and back without even hesitating. Just yesterday, he had his first taste of real “food”. His grandma (my mom) fed him a little bit of oatmeal, and he actually ate it! (It was so adorable.)

Update (March 6, 2017)
Our little one is six months now, and I wanted to share a quick update on our breastfeeding journey. He is still primarily eating breast milk, and he is experimenting with baby food. He loves peaches and applesauce, severely dislikes peas, and has tried tiny amounts of avocado and hummus.

Unfortunately, at the end of December, my menstrual cycle began ramping up again. At four and a half months postpartum while breastfeeding, it was definitely not welcome. I’ve had a period twice since then. While my cycle is not “back to normal” yet, it is causing a lot of problems with my milk supply. The week before my period, my milk supply plummets significantly. So much so that we had to start supplementing with soy-based formula.

It was a decision we made because, unlike before when we used the goat’s milk as just a little “extra” now and then, this time we needed something that would provide for 50% of our little one’s nutrition for two weeks straight. And no amount of trying to boost my supply would carry our little Peanut through two weeks. Since I’m working outside of the home, a lot of the “tricks” that sometimes help are just not feasible like nursing on demand or pumping every two hours. So we found a soy-based formula that is fortified with everything he’ll need during the time my milk supply is low.

Fortunately, by the end of my period, my milk supply goes back up to normal. I’m also trying hard to increase my supply during the plentiful times by drinking more tea and eating more oats. This is hard for me because I cannot stand oatmeal and most gluten-free oat cereals taste horrible. So I’m risking eating Cheerios to try to get the benefits that oats have on milk supply.

Cheerios are not made with certified gluten-free oats, but they now use a process that removes most of the contaminated grains from their oat supply. Unfortunately, every once in a while, I’ll get a box from a batch with just a little too much contaminates; it causes my face to break out and I bloat… the initial signs that I’ve had small traces of wheat/gluten. Still, it is worth it if it helps boost my milk supply for my son.

Sometimes I really feel like everything is against our efforts to breastfeed. If I let the negative thoughts in, I begin to feel like every time we achieve success, something comes along to sabotage us. However, I refuse to let the challenges get me down. I’m still determined to make it to ten months, and when we cross that line, we’ll see if we can make it to twelve months.

Jacquelyn's baby on his third trip to the zoo!
Little Peanut and his daddy on his third trip to the zoo at six and a half months old.

It is my hope that by sharing our long, sometimes painful, breastfeeding journey, I might encourage another mother who is also struggling. My advice is to take all the advice out there with a grain of salt. Some of it is garbage, others might not apply to you and your baby’s unique situation, and some might be helpful. Listen to your maternal instincts. The Lord gave us these instincts and intuition for a reason. And don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help when you need it.

Also get rid of your perfect plans and dreams. The first few weeks after the baby is born is an emotional roller-coaster anyway, do not add even more stress and anxiety by trying to make a dream reality. Embrace whatever path is best for your precious baby. If it is pumping, pump! If it is supplementing, supplement! If it is formula, find the right formula for you and your baby!

You are NOT a failure! You gave birth to or adopted this beautiful, precious little one. You love him or her dearly so treasure those quiet moments with your newborn. They grow so fast and every stage is unique and beautiful in its own way. Don’t be afraid! Don’t worry about the future!

Be present in the moment and be happy!

Oh, and remember that breastfeeding is not synonymous with nursing. While nursing is one way to breastfeed, pumping is another way. In both methods, the baby is eating his or her mother’s milk. One just is from a bottle and the other is from “the tap” sort to speak. Don’t let anyone make you feed less than because you are pumping, whether from choice or necessity.

Week of Gratitude: Day 7

Week of Gratitude: Day 7

Week of Gratitude – Day 7

I am grateful for the weekly Sabbath. The Sabbath is a special time set aside by the Lord Himself at the end of Creation week as a sacred day of rest. It includes physical rest from our usual daily duties, but even more importantly, it offers a spiritual rest. A full twenty-four hour period, from sunset to sunset, to spend in time with the Lord in worship, prayer, study, and fellowship with family and friends. Discovering the Sabbath in 2002 completely transformed my life, and now I eagerly look forward to Sabbath each week. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.” Exodus 20:8-10a

Week of Gratitude: Day 6

Week of Gratitude: Day 6

Week of Gratitude – Day 6

I am grateful for the every day blessings and those precious life moments that are too easily overlooked and forgotten. We have no need for fancy or elaborate things. The Lord has provided for us everything that we need — a roof over our head, food in our bellies, and jobs to pay the bills. We are very blessed. “…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Philippians 4:11

After all, what is most important is not the material things, buying and collecting stuff that cannot bring happiness, but relationships, love and kindness. For these things and all things, we thank the Lord and give Him praise.