Sunday, March 30, 2008

the kind of help God gives

At least, the kind of help He gave me.

One day (not last week, I don't think, but the week before - and yes, this is the first chance I've had to write about it) recently, I was sitting on the couch, feeding one baby with one arm and hand and holding the other in the other arm, which was hard enough by itself, when I heard my toddlers begin to go after each other in the other room. My hands were, literally, full. I was taking care of two of my children, barely, and was unable to go and take care of the other two.

So I prayed, un-eloquently, something along the lines of, "God, help!"

And somehow, I don't remember exactly how, within a minute, my two older children had come and joined me on the couch and were paging through a picture book for me so that I could read it to them.

I was still holding a baby in one arm, and holding and feeding the second baby in the other (which hurt) and I was using my eyes to read and my mouth to speak and it was very all-consuming, but I was taking care of the needs of all four of my children at the same time.

Which hadn't even seemed possible a minute before, when Bess and Gamgee were in theo ther room fighting.

So, I thought afterward, sometime when I had space to think again, that is the sort of help God is going to give me. I had been wanting to pray that he would make it less work, somehow. But that's not it, quite. Instead, he just stepped in and made it possible. I couldn't walk into the other room and get my toddlers while still attending to the needs of the babies, but God brought them over to me. He really did. I have no other explanation for them being in their room, fighting, and then in the next minute sitting next to me on the couch, helping me to read them a book. He heard my prayer and stepped in beside me when I was by myself and didn't have enough hands. He led my two oldest over to me, bringing them to where I could help them. He helped me.

So I feel like I know a bit better how to pray to him now. I need to pray not that he would take away the work (the hard work, the good work) that he's put in front of me, but just that he would help me to do it. To ask him to do it with me. Or maybe, rather, to let me do it with him. And he's shown me now that he will. "God, help!" is a prayer I now know that he answers. I just wanted to share the way that God has been kind to me, to praise him publicly for it. He indeed "gently leads those with young".

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, March 15, 2008

links: birth control and bovine flatulence

Here's an article by Barbara Curtis on some ways to celebrate Holy Week with young children. I like especially her reminder of some of the simple things that are easy to foget, like teaching children the traditional Easter morning greeting and response: "Christ is risen!" "He is risen indeed!" (though she uses "Lord" instead of "Christ"). Especially as little kids love being allowed to YELL.

And here's an interesting one from John Piper on birth control.

Also on that subject if you haven't ran across it yet, here's a link to Amy's Humble Musings, and her very gracious post on birth control. Don't neglect the comment thread. Though there are a few exceptions, it is overall the most charitable internet discussion of birth control that I have ever seen. Lots of grace and lots of good insight from a number of women.

And finally, for my fellow Episcopalians (or those of my other readers willing to pray for us Episcopalians), here's a link to some observations on the presiding bishop's Easter sermon which was (no kidding) largely about cow farts. Lord have mercy on us. (More seriously though, this article, while taking an appropriate amount of time to make some fun of a very silly sermon, also points out what is actually at stake when we forget what Easter is about.) Hat tip to Anne Kennedy.

and by "this month"

I meant "this coming month" as the March issue of Touchstone is already out. My article is going to be in the April edition. Thanks for catching my goof, Emily!

Friday, March 14, 2008

buy Touchstone

Commercial enough? I have had a link to this magazine on my sidebar for a long time, and have been a reader of it even longer, but I have a special reason for recommending it this month: I have the honor to have a short article in this month's edition. So even though our twins' arrival is keeping me from posting very often these days, you can still read a bit about homemaking through the church year. The article is actually the sum of what I've learned since I began trying to practice the church year as a wife and mother.

But buy the magazine for more than that; check it out because it is a consistantly excellent monthly collection of essays and more. And it has writers from all three of the great divisions of Christianity, and they never pretend that our differences don't exist but instead acknowledge them while at the same time working to think well about how what we all believe (summarized in the Nicene creed) influences - no, rather, dictates - how we ought to live.


Speaking of the church year, Easter is coming up, and our oldest daughter is scheduled to be baptized at the Easter vigil service. Does anyone have any tips on how to prepare a toddler for baptism? I mean prepare in a practical sense; obviously you want to have been teaching her to love the Lord and explaining to her what baptism means, etc. But did anyone practice the service with her child or do any of you have a "learned it the hard way" story about your young baptismal candidate getting stage fright (so to speak) during the service or freaking out about getting wet? Our girl is excited about getting baptised, and I think she understands it as well as a three year old can, but I'd like to do what I can to help it all to go well. I'd be grateful for any tips from moms who've done this before.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, March 9, 2008

babywearing two


I've discovered that it's true: you can babywear twins! In the above picture I have our two new babies snuggled together in a sling made for me by a lady at our church. Given that our twins aren't even supposed to be here yet, I think that having them snuggled together, womblike, in a sling is a good thing. I understand that later, when they can hold their heads up properly, I can double sling them, with one on each hip, or put one in a mei-tei on back and the other in a sling on the front.

Today I carried them through Sam's Club like this, and laughed almost the whole time at all the double-takes I got. "There's two in there!" "Mommy, there's TWO babies!" "Oh my goodness, you have two!" It was a bit of a problem because I couldn't get through the store very quickly, but I have to admit that it was kind of fun. By the end I just smiled and kept walking, but it was a hoot!

It's fun to have people exclaiming over my babies for pleasanter reasons than, "Oh, they're so tiny!" (Which, well, they are, so it's not like it's a silly comment at all, it's just nicer to hear "there are two!" or "they're so cute!")

Anyway, I think that these girls will live in the sling once my husband goes back to work. I've been worried about how I'll handle two toddlers and two newborns on my own, but the success of this babywearing experiment heartens me considerable. Now if only they'll twig onto breastfeeding exclusively! (Being premies, they're lazy eaters and still primarly bottlefed. But we're working on it!)

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, March 6, 2008

prayer in less-than-ideal circumstances

My babies are home. Hence the lack of posts the last few days.

And my heart is full. There have been several times the last few days when I have glanced around the room, seen every single one of my family members, and closed my eyes in a moment of absolute pleasure, simply savoring the presence of all five of them: husband, son and three daughters, in the same place as me, for the first time in over two months. (Well, the first time with all of the daughters on the outside.)

And my hands are full. (By the way, am I the only woman who gets "boy, you have your hands full!" from every chance-met stranger in the store, on the street, at the library? Not the worse thing to hear, certainly, but awfully repetitive.) Our twins aren't yet nursing exclusively, and so in addition to taking one hour out of every three to feed them, my husband and I are spending lots of time washing bottle and breastpump parts, and I'm spending time pumping. And we're taking care of our two older children. And no, I don't know how I'm going to do it when my husband goes back to work, but I have the suspicion that God will provide grace to me when that happens, and not before.

Anyway, on a liturgical note, Jen's suggestion that one ought to pray more when one is busy and not less has been ringing in my mind. And I have to agree with her. Just about the best thing that came out of my month and a half long hospitalization was a deeper sense of God's presence. After all, it was mostly just me and Him every day, for all those days.

But my prayers the past couple of days have been scattered and worried, something long the lines of, "Please help them eat, Lord. Oh they did. Oh, thank you. Oh dear, what should I do next? Do you know? Of course you do. Hmm, wish I did." And so on.

The best remedy when your prayers sound like that is to 1) be okay with it. After all, we listen to OUR children babble, and why wouldn't our heavenly Father listen to us? and 2) Take the time to pray a few prayers that were a) written by people who were further along on the path of sainthood and b) not sleep-deprived.

There are, of course, lots of prayers like that in the Book of Common Prayer, and even more in the Psalms. But what's worked for me the past few days has been singing hymns. But not just singing them, but praying them as I sing them. I've found that after singing several hymns, with all their good theology and excellent music (yes, such hymns exist), my babbling prayers during the rest of the day are less worried and more just contentedly tired. More full of trust and less full of anxiety. Because the hymns have reminded me of the nature of our Lord, and how is He is both ever-ready to help those who turn to Him and ever-powerful to perform that help.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

p.s. I would, of course, appreciate your prayers, should you feel led. Especially that our little girls continue to eat and gain weight, and maybe even learn how to nurse. :) God bless you!