A Summer Intermission

Summer Intermission (I'm taking summer 2016 OFF)  // jessconnell.com

“So, anyways, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty” (<—– in my head, that is in Nacho Libre’s voice, in case you’re wondering).

Summer is here and I need to breathe deeply and find my way to some fresh headspace.

I’ll be back; I always come back. Writing is in my blood, but it’s time for some assessment and reexamination of the whats and whys. As always, I want to write things that:

  • are helpful for women
  • are biblically faithful, because teachers are accountable for what we teach
  • intersect with the real places where women actually reside — in both their practices and their hearts.

But for now, I need a lengthy intermission.

I need to

  • go on hikes,
  • say “yes” to playing Spades, going on walks, planting seeds, drawing with chalk, having picnics with the kids… summertime requests that we don’t always have time to carry out
  • get podcasts edited and ready for publishing,
  • reexamine where my writing efforts are best spent,
  • water my blueberry plants more often so they don’t shrivel up,
  • enjoy the no-school lull when my mornings are more my own than they are during the school year,
  • clean my house up and organize all this stuff we collected from thrift stores and gifts over the past year or two,
  • grab full hold of our summer and try to find a time when we can have time away together as a family.

We’re in dreaming mode… which maybe is a constant thing for us… but summer has given us more freedom to do it. What could this summer hold? A family backpacking trip? A deep-cleaning and a hefty garage sale? A summer of heady reading for our big boys?

At the end of this summer, Lord willing, I’ll be a 36-year-old, 30-week pregnant mama…

But I could also be a 36-year-old, 30-week pregnant mama who:

  • is in better shape than I currently am,
  • has a quiet, settled heart,
  • is well-rested and amped up for our next school year, (gonna have my first high schooler this year! wheeeee!)
  • has experienced more scripture than social media,
  • dwells in a less cluttered, more steward-able house,
  • has an even-clearer vision of my purpose and goals for this next season,
  • and maybe even has completed a multi-day-backpacking-thru-hike with our family of 9.

I don’t know what all this summer holds. But for now, it doesn’t look like it will have a 3-day-a-week writing commitment in it.

So.

I’ve decided it’s summer intermission. I hope not to lose you along the way.

  • Be sure to follow me on Facebook so that we don’t lose touch. (I’ll still be posting articles from the archives and links of interest to you there.)
  • Follow my JessConnell.com Pinterest Board & you’ll know exactly when I start posting again.
  • You can still use my contact form to get in touch if there are personal things that hit you that you want to talk through.

Have a great summer!

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Motherhood 101: The Class We Never Got

Instead of having a good idea of what motherhood entails, most of us learn the ropes of motherhood while we live it out.

We’re already in the role by the time we realize we’re almost entirely unprepared for it. This often leads to stress and anxiety for new moms as they not only take on the hardest, most selfless job in the world, but they do it while having not been well-prepared for it. The modern mother faces massive amounts of postpartum stress, and a lot of it is due to the fact that it’s the hardest job we’ll ever take on, that we’ve never really learned anything about or been prepared for.

When we moved overseas, someone shared with us a basic approach for language learning, and I think it applies beautifully to motherhood, in all stages. While it’s not “Motherhood 101,” it’s a really useful, simple tool that can help you assess where you are, and what you need to do to make progress.

Our friend called it “The Barefoot Method” of language learning. The acronym for it is “GLUE”:

G- GET WHAT YOU NEED.

Overseas, that looked like (for me) starting with the basics of grocery item names; that was what I needed most when we arrived on day 1 in a new country.

In motherhood, that often looks like tackling the thing that’s the most pressing/out of control. What do you actually need today? 

  • A laundry system?
  • Encouragement to go the distance in breastfeeding?
  • Insight into how to bring sex back into the marriage relationship alongside the demands of a new baby
  • An effective approach to tantrums?
  • What do you need today? THAT’s the thing you need to focus on getting… other things may be chaotic, but if your marriage relationship is falling apart, THAT’s the thing you need help with. Reach out to your husband. Talk to an older woman with a strong, godly marriage.

Whatever you’re facing that’s most challenging, seek input from wise, godly people who can help you get what you need. Don’t look to people who complain about the same things you do. Choose to learn from people who are STRONG in the area where you are weak. 

L- LEARN WHAT YOU GET. 

Really pay attention to what the wise, godly people tell you. Rather than having an attitude that your children “can’t” do what she’s suggesting, LISTEN to the mom who has obedient, pleasant children. Instead of acting like that couple has a marriage you could never relate to, determine that you’ll learn anything and everything they share with you.

(Also: beware of adapting it before you try it the way she does it– you may find she has good reasons for doing it the way she does!)

Don’t let the lessons people share with you fritter away and go unheard. Take them to heart and learn what you get. 

U- USE WHAT YOU LEARN.

Try to implement it right away. Commit yourself to the advice you’ve been given. USE this new method of communication, or tantrum-stopping, or approach to meal-planning.

Don’t fall back into old habits and patterns. Use what you’ve been given!

E- EVALUATE. 

Ask yourself— has this been fruitful? What has come from following this advice? Overseas, we would ask ourselves, “is my method getting me to where I can communicate better in this/that situation?”

In your life, you should be asking yourself questions like,

  • Are we communicating with each other more clearly than we were before we started meeting with the pastor?
  • Now that we’ve implemented that family/book’s advice, are we sleeping better than we were a month ago?
  • Is this meal planning approach taking stress from my life, even if it means a few days a month of careful planning?
  • Do I feel stronger today than I did before I regularly started exercising?
  • etc.

And then consider— WHAT do I need now? (Then the whole cycle starts again.)

This was the non-stop pattern for the whole first 6 years of my mothering journey… I felt like I literally would get one thing under control before it was time to tackle another:

  • Learning breastfeeding,
  • figuring out our approach to healthy sleep habits (even for babies)
  • learning how to pack & move,
  • facing tantrums,
  • how to give effective spankings,
  • reaching out for community with other women,
  • learning to cook from scratch,
  • meal planning,
  • a good laundry approach,
  • learning hospitality,
  • house cleaning norms,
  • getting the kids’ schooling to a place where it worked for us,
  • finding a better system for storing clothes,
  • coming up with a workable chore chart the kids could follow, etc.

It was just non-stop.

And it still is like that in some ways. I’m still learning stuff about teens. And occasionally one of the little guys will come up with a new tactic or sin area and I’ll have to learn new approaches for that.

Additionally I’ve got a ton of things I know are on the horizon:

  • navigating social media with teens
  • figuring out our approach to car/phone rules, as that becomes an issue
  • when/how/where we’ll allow them to take jobs outside the home
  • preparing them for college
  • sorting out what career things they might want to pursue
  • handling adolescence with a daughter for the first time
  • etc.

On top of that, I’ve still got all the old cycles still going.

Adding more people means the chores increase from time to time (and that new little people need to be added to the chart!). I currently re-evaluate the chore chart about once a year. At least twice a year I have to do “the great clothing switch out”, for seasonal clothing changes… but with younger babies, it’s often more than that. So that’s still the case in our house. Here in Washington, the changing of seasons means that for about half the year, we’ve got rain boots & jackets galore by the back door…. but then, in the spring, that gets swapped around for tennis shoes and flip flops (that’s when I implement the rule that each person can only have ONE light jacket hanging at the back door).

In motherhood, the cycles never end. There is always something new to tackle, refine, reconsider, and do better. Re-evaluation is always needed. We never get to the end of the need for tweaking and making things better.

IN THE COMMENTS: So what is most pressing in your life? What do you need? Let me encourage you: reach out to someone today to start the cycle: GET what you need. 

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Is Homeschooling a Safeguard Against Rebellion?

Is Homeschooling a Safeguard Against REBELLION? // jessconnell.com

On a list of my favorite quotes about homeschooling, one reader took an issue with this:

“We cannot continue to send our children to Caesar for their education and be surprised when they come home as Romans.” ~Dr. Voddie Baucham

She commented:

I do not agree with #11. I homeschool my children, but I was public-schooled. All of my Christian friends I grew up with were also public-schooled. Most of us are all following the Lord. And the few who aren’t, it had to do with familial issues, not public school. I believe children CAN be raised for the Lord even while attending public school. Homeschooling is not a safe-guard against rebellious children, in my opinion.

And I can understand this response.

In truth, I’ve never wanted my site to be a place for feeding on bitterness between the various schooling camps. (Which is why I put the disclaimer at the top of that list of quotes!)

When I write an article encouraging breastfeeding, it could unintentionally wound a mom who’s had to choose formula… or when I write an article talking about the blessing of a big family, it could hurt a wife who would love more children but has submitted to her husband (to stop at two children)… or if I talk about the beauty of marital intimacy, it could deeply hurt a wife who has a husband that continually refuses her in that area. So, please understand that my goal in writing that list was to encourage homeschooling moms, not *bash* a different method, or slam those who choose it.

But any time we choose one thing, it can’t be avoided: we are making some sort of determination about the other choices… and sometimes it IS a negative judgment. There’s no way to avoid this happening. If you attend a church for a few years, and then leave it for a non-necessary reason (i.e., not because you moved 4+ hours away), there’s no way for it to NOT be a judgment (of some kind) against that church.

So with that said, in response to this commonly-spoken idea, that–

  1. good kids can come from public school, too, ya know!
  2. homeschooling isn’t a safeguard against rebellion!

here are my thoughts:

I, too, was educated in public schools.

I am thankful for so many things I received in my small-town Texas school system:

  • a love for and solid foundation in writing and language
  • a love for and rich education in choral and orchestral music
  • opportunities to learn a wide variety of academic subject matter (I had excellent teachers in biology, algebra, physics, and percussion)
  • chances to interact with, and learn from, many Christian teachers who poured themselves out for us, year after year
  • a great liberal arts foundation that prepared me for college and whatever future I desired to pursue

That said, I received other things as well.

I still fight poor training picked up there. I still fight against judging people based on their clothes, hairstyles, and “coolness,” rather than the inner heart and beauty of the inner person. There is still a “pecking order of coolness” residing in my brain (where I always come up short and feel “less than,” no matter who I’m around) that crystalized in those formative years.

I remember the fear of running in my house as fast as I could because two bullies had teased me all day in the halls, followed me home, and were banging on the front door within 60 seconds of me getting inside.

I remember being hit on and leered at by male teachers. I remember being hit on and leered at by male students– in the hallways, in the parking lot, in detention, before school, after school, constantly.

I still fight thinking that more money = more success, even though God’s Word says otherwise.

I still carry scars from the sexual ethos I adopted by continually rubbing shoulders, in that place, with sexually promiscuous peers.

No, I’m not a “Roman” and yet, I bear the marks of one who was educated by Caesar and has to work to erase those patterns, and their effects, in my life.

Yes, God has made good of even the negative things in my life.

And yet, are those things all best? Are those things wisest? Homeschooling does not remove the inner heart of rebellion- so we can not look to it to do that, and yet it does remove the external influence of foolish peers and a sexually indulgent culture of permeating the THINKING and ACTIONS of our children while they are yet young.

Surely, every child must one day grapple with the culture they are in, and yet, must they do so at such a young age, while their thinking and worldview is so very fragile? And who will be the primary influencers of their thinking while they form that worldview? Whose approval will they seek, and to what will they be aspiring?

I can’t speak for you, but for me, my (often-foolish, no matter how “intelligent” they were) peers were the primary influencers of my thinking… not my parents who loved me best of all. No, their influence I spurned and rejected.

Even in situations where my parents’ spoke up with sensible counsel and pleas that would have protected me from harm, I willfully turned away from the people who loved me best and ran after the world. My heart had been knitted to seek the approval of people who rejected me, and to turn away from even loving wisdom offered by my family.

Praise God, He is the Shepherd who seeks the wayward sheep.

For my part, though, I am not aiming for a lack of rebellion– that is a matter of the heart… and I’ve written about that before– we can not remove the flesh from our children’s hearts… and YET, we CAN be purposeful about the input they are receiving while they are under our roof. We can allow, or disallow, movies. We can allow, or disallow, foolish/wayward friends. We can allow/disallow certain activities that would become a controlling influence in their lives, etc.

I am not contending that homeschooling removes the capacity for sin and rebellion– nor would Dr. Baucham say that, I believe. In fact, he said the opposite last year.

Rather, I’m contending that homeschooling allows us to influence our children’s thinking and moderate the influences in their lives while their thinking patterns and approach to life are still being formed, so that they bear fewer scars, and might prayerfully be positioned to honor God with their lives if He calls them to be His children. (And I pray that for all of my children!)

There are no guarantees, and certainly a public schooled child can be greatly used by God. I am thankful for the way He calls out His children from every walk of life. And yet we do not commend every way of life that He calls people out from as the best possible preparation for a godward life.

As the parent, I consider: who am I giving influence in my child’s life… and for my part, primary influence will not be given away to a wicked and wayward government, its educational entities, or a herd of foolish peers who do not have their best interest at heart.

Thus, I choose homeschooling.

Thanks for your comment & interaction.

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Christian Fasting, for Moms

Christian Fasting (for Moms) // jessconnell.com

WHAT IS CHRISTIAN FASTING?
Simply put, fasting is choosing (for a set period of time) not to eat food in order to devote yourself more single-mindedly to the pursuit of God through Scripture and prayer.

Christian fasting differs from the ritual/scheduled fasting found in other religions, and is not done in order to earn favor. Like prayer and giving, it is primarily a private practice undertaken for the purposes of spiritual discipline.

Some variations include:

  • A partial fast (fasting from certain kinds of foods, but allowing others– say, eating only fruits and veggies)
  • An absolute fast (fasting from everything– even from water… this is much more rare and should not be practiced without the input of a physician)
  • Fasting from other things (devices, spending money, watching TV, eating dessert)– though, this is not mentioned in Scripture as “fasting,” and is thus a human add-on to this practice.

For the purposes of this article, I am talking about Christian fasting as a spiritual discipline of abstaining from food. 

Specifically, I have had such trouble finding anyone who discusses these things from the perspective of a Christian mother.

When I became a mom, I had questions like:

  • Can pregnant women fast?
  • Can breastfeeding moms fast?
  • Is it OK to not fast if we’re limited by these real challenges of motherhood?
  • If not at these times, when CAN I fast, as a mom?

In this article, I want to look into the challenges moms face, amidst pregnancies and breastfeeding, and propose some thoughts and solutions I’ve come up with about how to approach this practice of Christian fasting, as a mom.

WHY FAST?

The #1 reason is because Jesus anticipated (or even expected?) that His followers would fast.

When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” ~Matthew 6

Jesus said, “when you fast.” The irony here is that no Bible-believing Christian would say:

“Well, Jesus didn’t really mean we’re to PRAY when He said, ‘when you pray’… and c’mon, He certainly didn’t mean that we should make a practice of GIVING when He said, ‘when you give.’”

But that’s exactly what many Christians do with fasting. We overlook this phrasing and look, instead, to our experiences, to determine how we’ll understand this topic. To many, it seems like a weird, fringe thing. Or a legalistic thing. Or a Jewish/Muslim thing. Or a practice one would only do in an attempt to earn favor (“but we’re under grace!”). Or something mystical that we don’t really understand that was for “the olden days” but not for now.

It was a significant practice in the life of Jesus (Matthew 4:1,2; Mark 1:12,13; Luke 4:1,2). And He is the one we follow. In addition to Jesus,

  • Moses fasted (Deut. 9:9,18)
  • David fasted (1 Sam. 12:16-22; Ps 35:13; Ps. 69:10; Ps. 109:24)
  • Daniel fasted (Dan. 9:3)
  • other God-followers fasted (a sampling: Luke 2:37; Ezra 10:6; 1 Kings 19:8)
  • the disciples and early church fasted (Acts 9:9, Acts 13:3; Acts 14:23; 1 Cor. 11:27)

This is no fringe practice. It’s not only found in the Old Testament. It’s not legalistic or mystical. It’s not only Jewish.

It’s something that, yes, has fallen away from practice in many places, but as something that our Lord did, and as something He talked about with a seeming an assumption that we *would* practice it, I think we should (collectively) take it more seriously than we do.

While this is not an explicit command, John Piper writes:

“it seems that He expects that His followers will be fasting. But even more clear in this passage is that Jesus insisted that our fasting not be for the sake of impressing other people. In fact, we should go out of our way, He says, as much as possible— washing our face, combing our hair — to keep other people from knowing that we are fasting. And that gives fasting for Christians a radically Godward focus.”

Later in that same article, Piper challenges us:

“let me summarize the heart of Christian fasting and why Christians do it. One way to say it is that fasting is the hungry Christian handmaid of faith. Fasting is not a replacement for faith in Jesus. Fasting is a way of saying with our stomach and our whole body how much we need and want and trust Jesus. It is a way of saying that we are not going to be enslaved by food as the source of our satisfaction. We will use the renunciation of food from time to time to express that Jesus is better than food. Jesus is more needful than food.

Food is good. Let there be no mistake about this. We are not ascetics in that we deny the goodness of God’s creation. Food is good. It is a gift of God and we glorify God with it in two ways, not just one way.

1. We feast on it with gratitude for God’s goodness, and
2. We forfeit food out of hunger for God himself.

When we feast, we gladly taste the emblem of our heavenly food, the bread of life, Jesus Himself.
And when we fast, we say: I love the reality more than I love the emblem.

Both feasting and fasting are worship for the Christian. Both magnify Christ.”

Other verses that discuss fasting: (along with prayer: Psalm 69:10-16; for sickness/healing: Psalm 35:13-14; alongside prayer as an expression of desire for the advancement of the Gospel: Acts 13:1-3)

Other reasons/benefits include:

  • There is power in prayer, in general, and when I fast, I find that I have much more time for prayer, because there are roughly 90 minutes a day when I would otherwise be eating, when I can devote myself entirely to Scripture and to prayer. Fasting enriches my prayer life, makes me more aware of my dependence on the Lord, and gives me more time to cultivate that relationship of prayer (see also 1 Peter 5:6-7)
  • Fasting is a self-chosen posture of physical humility. “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Mt. 23:12) Fasting is a way for us to physically humble ourselves as dependent creatures before our All-Powerful Creator. It is a practical way we can turn to the Lord as we remind ourselves that we are dust. Weak. Frail. Dependent on Him for all things (see also Isaiah 58:10, James 4:8-10)
  • Reduce the power of “self.” When we choose to exercise self-control over our physical bodies by fasting, we are choosing to deny ourselves a very physical, natural longing of our human body, in order to (for a time) turn to the Lord alone for sustaining strength. This is why it is called a “spiritual discipline.” As we fight the pull of “self” we grow in our ability to master, rather than be mastered by, the desires of our bodies.
  • Deeper intimacy with the Lord Jesus. I find that I more readily identify with Him– His sufferings, His longings, the sweetness of His Word– when I am physically reminded of my dependence on Him. It reminds me that Christ took on the weakness of flesh, even fasting for 40 days, in order to make a way for me.
  • Greater sensitivity to the Spirit. I have found that fasting increases my sensitivity to the voice of the Spirit at work in my heart. Every hunger pang gives me the opportunity to inwardly express, “I want you more than food, Lord. Make your words more precious to me than food. Teach me to love you and trust you more. Let me hear your voice more than I hear my own longings for food. Teach me to depend on you even more than food.”
  • Helps sustain a vibrant, passionate relationship with the Lord. As Christians, we don’t fast to earn favor, or to heap suffering upon ourselves, or to merit grace or mercy. Rather, we fast in order to temporarily turn away from food, in order to see the Lord as what we really need. When I fast, I am reminded that He is the One I truly depend on. HE is what I need. HE is what is most deal. HE fills me up and gives me all things richly to enjoy. It actually increases my right understanding of the place of food, to enjoy times of fasting, and times of feasting, in between times of everyday life.
  • Broadened spiritual understanding and illumination. When I fast, I find that I am more sensitive in general to things of God. Truth from Scripture stands out more clearly. I become more aware of the fragility and neediness of people around me. Patterns in Scripture jump off the page. I find that I am better able to see connections in Scripture. I don’t know how to say it except that fasting helps me have greater biblical clarity and insight.

John Wesley, Andrew Murray, Bill Bright, and many, many other Christian leaders have had regular fasting as part of their lives. A great many “awakenings” and missionary endeavors have been hemmed in on all sides by godly people committed to the practice of Christian fasting.

Other kinds of fasting:

  • 1 Corinthians 7:5 talks about fasting from sexual relationship in marriage in order for the couple to devote themselves (unhindered) to prayer.
  • Many people view the “Daniel Fast” as a fast, because he and his friends abstained from meat and rich foods, in order to devote themselves more singlemindedly to the Lord.

MY EXPERIENCES WITH FASTING, IN GENERAL

When I was in college, I began the habit of regular (and irregular) fasting. I had no real-life examples for it, and didn’t really understand it all, and sometimes (now) I look back and realize I didn’t do everything “right,” or for the right reasons.

(Truly, though, isn’t this the way it is with all spiritual disciplines? I didn’t always/don’t always do everything– praying, giving, serving in church, singing a song, teaching a class– with the perfectly right motives and approach. And yet, we press on in striving to serve God with ever-purer hearts as we grow in the Lord.) 

But I looked to those words of Jesus, where he said, “When you pray…” “When you give…” and “When you fast.” It just made sense to me that we don’t question whether or not to pray, we don’t question whether or not we should give… but because many of us had no examples and no teaching on the matter, we think fasting is an old thing we no longer have to practice.

My view is that Christians are supposed to be doing all three of those things– praying, giving, fasting. They’re all to be part of the typically-unseen-but-spiritually-vibrant practices of a God-follower.

So then, since college, I’ve been on a journey of learning how to fast, what it’s for, and what the proper place for it is, in the life of a believer.

The type of fasting I most experienced in college was lengthy fasting. At that time in my life, without anyone else (husband/children) depending on me, I found it easier to commit myself to a full fast of multiple days, rather than doing more regular/intermittent fasting in life.

What I learned most about fasting, during those years, was this:

  • Fasting made me more sensitive to God’s voice
  • Fasting gave me more time in and sensitivity to God’s Word
  • Fasting clarified what my longings were, and helped me center them on Christ

MY EXPERIENCE WITH FASTING, AS A PREGNANT & NURSING MOM

But once I became a mom, fasting became a challenge for me. I had questions about it and wasn’t sure if it was even safe. Could fasting be an option for me ever, now that I was a mom? Whether pregnant or nursing, I didn’t want to risk harming the baby, or limit calorie provision.

I searched over the years, on the internet, for both biblical and medical input about it, and came up mostly empty-handed. There just aren’t many places that talk about this. I even looking into what other religion’s norms were (not to determine, spiritually, what I should be doing, but rather to try and understand, medically, what a pregnant or nursing mom’s limitations were, by learning from other people/nationalities who still regularly practice fasting).

What I found, in general, was this:

  • Most religions (even the most devout/rigid) give a “pass” to pregnant and nursing moms, allowing them to drink and eat for sustenance (i.e., not participate in fasting) during declared/public days of fasting.
  • Medical sites urge caution for pregnant and nursing moms, not only because of the lack of nutrients/support going to the baby if mom fasts, but also because toxins are released from fat cells into the blood and breastmilk when a pregnant or nursing mom fasts.
  • There are conditions under which a pregnant/nursing mom might be asked to fast for a limited number of hours before a bloodtest or procedure, so this limited form (of missing the equivalent of a meal or so) is not absolutely forbidden.

SO then, my general approach for fasting, since becoming a mom, has been to:

  • never fast when I am pregnant
  • only, rarely, and for hours (not even a full day) fast in the later stages of breastfeeding, once the baby is already taking a regular amount of solids and water apart from breastmilk
  • take full advantage of the times when I am neither pregnant nor breastfeeding, and choose to fast regularly, and occasionally exercise lengthy fasts, during those (short) intermittent seasons of motherhood.

Some ways to practice fasting as a mom:

  • Fast for one meal– This is a way virtually ANY of us can fast. This is the least stringent, and the most accessible, even for most pregnant or nursing moms. Certainly you should talk with your doctor, especially in case of pre-existing medical conditions. I’ll be honest, I don’t do this very often, but I think, if practiced with purpose, this could be a great way to set aside small portions of time for intensive intake of Scripture, without risk to the little ones who depend on us.
  • Weekly fasting– this is a way we fasted together as a couple, and occasionally with other believers, for many years of our lives. We would choose one day a week to devote ourselves to prayer and Scripture reading through the breakfast and lunch hours, and then break our fast together in the evening at dinner time. I freely participate in these during the last few months of breastfeeding (when my baby is 9-12+ months old), and when I am neither pregnant nor breastfeeding.
  • Multi-day fasting– When I am in between-baby seasons where I can fast, this is one I am most likely to choose. For me, I find it easier to “go big or go home” :) (I like committing all the way to fasting while I can, since I never really know if I’ll be pregnant or not at some later date). I choose a particular length of days (most often, 2-5 days) that I anticipate fasting (this is not rigid/legalistic, but an idea so I won’t overdo it but also won’t give in too quickly. I try to choose days when we have few/no commitments as a family, and I plan in advance to make meals simple for the rest of the family so that I can make the most of these days. Fasting for anything beyond a meal or two makes me more physical tired, so I also will typically take naps with my toddler/preschooler on these days, and often go to bed early. These facts also mean that (even though, generally, fasting is to be a private practice) I tell Doug my plans for fasting so that he understands why I am more tired, and why I withdraw during meals to read and pray, on those days.

For more specific details about the practice of fasting, you may find it helpful to read:

TALK TO A DOCTOR
Certainly if you have any medical challenges or concerns, you will want to speak with your physician, and many people do so in advance of a lengthy fast, even if they are in generally good health.

TALK TO YOUR PASTOR & OTHER STRONG BELIEVERS
If you have more questions, talk to your pastor.

Just as you might talk to generous Christians you know if you wanted to develop a right attitude about giving, if you want to learn more about fasting, talk to godly people who you know have fasted.

HOW LONG CAN MOMS FAST?
If you are not pregnant/nursing, and if you have no medical concerns, longer fasts may be a possibility for you.

I’ve had a number of friends who have done 40-day fasts (all of them have done this as a juice and water fast, with a glass of fruit juice permitted once, or perhaps twice, during the day). One was a mother who began hers immediately after her baby weaned. As a single woman, I was able to (and enjoyed doing) lengthier fasts.

As a mom, however, I’ve found it more realistic to do 2-5 days fasts, because of the physical demands of motherhood and the way these little people need for me to be physically able to lift them, help them, run to their assistance quickly, etc. While fasting is not generally harmful, it does limit your physical stamina and energy. During these years of motherhood, I am not my own. I am not able to make decisions independent of the real responsibilities God has put on my plate.

This is why I no longer set an absolute goal for number of days to fast… because I’ve found that I need to be sensitive to the genuine demands of life. If a need comes up, and my husband isn’t available to be around in the evenings as he might normally be, I might need to break my fast in order to have enough energy and strength to carry out the normal events of the evening alone.

But in general, in my life as a mom, I’ve found that I can accomplish 2-5 day fasts in those seasons when I am not pregnant or nursing. Those fasts serve to strengthen my spiritual walk, remind me who I depend on, illuminate Scripture in my heart and life, and intensify my prayers.

If you’re a Christian mom wondering about whether or not you can fast, I hope these meandering thoughts and experiences from the past 20 years of my life can help you discern what God would have you do in regard to fasting.

 

IN THE COMMENTS, PLEASE SHARE: Have you wondered about fasting? Have you ever tried it? Any thoughts/experiences you’d like to add for the benefit of other moms?

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How to Set Your Kids Up for Obedience

How to Set Your Kids Up for Obedience // jessconnell.com

I was recently at an event where I was, for days, in a stationary vantage point of watching a wide swath of parents interact with their children amidst stressful circumstances.

One mother stands out to me. Unfortunately, not for good reasons.

She stood by watching as two of her young children destroyed part of the building. She feigned shock and concern, before laughing at them (yes she laughed), and hiding the evidence of their destruction in an out-of-the-way place.

Later in the day, she bawled out an older son, humiliating him in front of an onlooking mass, because he (while left alone with the cooler without instructions) ate her food. She set him against the wall, told him to wait there and not move, and went to a different room and apparently forgot him there. Over 90 minutes later, the crowd was helping her look for her son because, “he got mad and ran off.” Truth was, he got forgotten and got bored, and like (most) 8 year old boys could reasonably be expected to do, after over an hour had passed, when someone came by talking about basketball, and his mom still hadn’t come back for him, he ran off to play.

For hours, she expected her children to instinctively know how to act, as, all the while she only, ever, parented reactively.

But let’s not get on a high horse and act like this woman is a rare anomaly among mothers.

Instead, let’s consider ourselves, and our own mothering:

  • Have you gone into a store before realizing you failed to give instructions to your children about how they were to behave?
  • Do you sometimes find yourself overcommitting, so that you lack time for behavioral/attitude prep-work and follow-up-work from events?
  • When you’re in a church group or group of ladies, are you apt to get distracted by conversation and let your kids get into a position where you have no idea where your kids are and what they are doing?
  • Have you ever found yourself seeing your children AS a distraction to your real purpose, rather than seeing them as your primary purpose?
  • How many times have you been irritated with your children for how they’re acting, before realizing that you hadn’t given them enough/adequate instructions to prepare them for the situation?

Sadly I see those tendencies in myself, all too often.

When I’m with friends, I want to be able to visit undistractedly. Too many times, especially when my kids were younger, I headed into a store without adequately prepping them for that next 30-60 minutes of life. And it’s easy to get overcommitted and let the kids be the thing that takes the backseat to all the busyness of life.

Without proactive parenting and training, we can all be like this mother I observed. It is not enough to perpetually spank after the fact, or to only tell your children what they shouldn’t have done.

We need to be mothers who anticipate the challenges of a situation, and proactively instruct and train them in what our future expectations will be (at various events/locations).

No one– not the onlooking world, not her wide-eyed humiliated child– is impressed with a mom who bawls her kids out for doing what they were poorly instructed about. It is not worthy of respect to inconsistently punish children for doing the childish thing when they have been given no other direction.

It wasn’t respectable when she did it; but more importantly for you and I, it’s not respectable when WE do it.

HOW TO SET OUR KIDS UP FOR OBEDIENCE

  1. Accurate Anticipation- We have the responsibility to reasonably think through what our children will encounter in upcoming situations. Are there temptations natural to their age/stage? What potential dangers/unknowns do we anticipate? They need us to think ahead on their behalf!
  2. Faithful Instruction- Our children need to hear from us what we intend for them to do. (This sounds like: “You will keep your hands inside the buggy.” “I want you to always stay in the room with mommy and not run to different rooms while we are at the so-and-so’s house.” “Do not ask for candy or treats. This is not the time for that.” “We will go to the park after the restaurant. You are to sit still while we eat and you will have a chance to play afterward.”) We have to consider what they already know to do/not do, and explicitly say the parts that either: -A- they don’t yet innately know, or -B- is not yet second-nature for them.
  3. Near Watchfulness over the Unproven Child- For children who are not trustworthy when out of your presence, they should be near you, and you should be watching them, guiding them, and pulling them back when they are foolish or sinful. This is our job as moms. They should not be running around outside of your field of vision and ability to hear them. Leaving children to themselves sets them up for the rapid overtaking of their own foolishness and sin (not to mention leaving them open to the effects of the foolishness and sin of others).
  4. Grace for Childishness- (including sickness, tiredness) Do not punish your children for being overtired when you have opted to extend your day rather than making it a priority to get home for nap time. They shouldn’t be punished for curiosity or even foolish mistakes (like eating what was in the cooler because it was past lunch time and the child was hungry and had been given no instructions about which parts were/weren’t for them). On Memorial Day this year, we decided to take a family hike for the better part of the day, which meant that our 3-year-old would be skipping his nap. When he was grumpy from time to time, I wasn’t surprised, and I didn’t get angry. I coached him through what to do, and he and I talked about outright rudeness and having an angry attitude. But I knew– our choice to skip his nap was directly affecting his ability to choose self-control, and so throughout the afternoon I coached, rather than disciplining, him through his attitude. Certainly, after acts of childishness, there should be instruction about what to do next time, but we should not be surprised and angered by our children acting like tired, sick, hungry, or naturally curious children.
  5. Prompt, consistent discipline and follow-through. Every time. Your discipline should be faithful, consistent, dependable, so that your children see your teachings as a normal “boundary” of life. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, you’re tired. Yes, it seems like it’s not “working.” Or like it never stops. But you keep on, not because it is easy or because you are made of boundless energy or because it all perfectly works out every time, but because you are committed to being a mama who fiercely loves her kids by taking your role as teacher and disciplinarian with sobriety and commitment. 

 

IN THE COMMENTS, WOULD YOU SHARE?

  • In the past, how have you set your child(ren) up for disobedience?
  • How do you work to set them up for obedience?

 

 

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE TO READ:

A Child Left To Himself… // Practical Biblical Parenting Advice // JessConnell.com

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Here’s Why the Arguing and Complaining is Non-Stop in Your Home

Here's Why the Arguing & Complaining is Non-Stop In Your Home // jessconnell.com

Q: “With 4 children ages 10, 6, 2.5 and 15 mo, the discipline and training (especially of the 10 year old, who has a propensity for argument and complaining and always seems to thinks she knows best) could seriously interfere with normal, everyday activities like supper, bedtimes, homework, etc. Am I looking at this the wrong way? Help!”

A: YES, these things could definitely– and WILL definitely– interfere with normal everyday activities.

The arguing and complaining can feel like it’s non-stop… because sometimes (often?) it is.

We’re dealing with people. People with sin in their hearts. People who need guidance and correction. People who:

  • bump up against each other all day every day, and
  • irritate one another, and
  • expose each other’s weak places, and
  • like for things to always go their way, and
  • do mean things on purpose, and
  • are quick to take offense when someone does something they don’t like, and
  • keep making the same noise over and over, and
  • think they’re always right, and
  • don’t do the thing you were relying on them to do, and
  • do the thing they shouldn’t do, and
  • have no idea why they did what they did, and
  • then to top it all off, they do all this with crummy attitudes that perpetually need correction from us.

But can I encourage you to flip this on its head?

Can you see THESE THINGS– the attitude correction, the behavioral coaching, the parenting moments– as your “normal everyday activities” and let the other things be done AROUND this?

I think it will make a huge difference in how you perceive how your days are going. THIS is why we are mothers. THIS is the stuff that matters MOST. So then if we eat frozen pizza for a night, rather than something home cooked, but we worked through big attitude issues and the 10 year old willingly did her chores and worked alongside us, that’s a WIN! Even if bedtime gets pushed back or things get swapped around.

Because the attitude/mothering WORK is the real work of life.

I do want to absolutely affirm what you’re saying: if you’re doing mothering right, it WILL overtake your life. This is why we are mothers. This is why God gives us these children. So that we can counsel them biblically, train them faithfully, observe their tendencies, and rightly prepare them for life. They were given to us so that we can wisely, lovingly raise them up.

This is why we have time.

The other stuff (daily activities like supper, homework, bedtime) is important, yes, but it comes AFTER attitude and behavioral stuff.

800-7265-150

The other stuff can be let go for a time, while this gets shored up, but if this gets lax and carelessly done, the other stuff won’t ultimately matter a hill of beans. Supper, bedtime, and homework are all important… but if they totally get messed up for a season, because you’re fighting the hard battles of character… but you end up with a godly daughter who has a responsive attitude and a good relationship with you, wouldn’t that be worth it? Conversely, if you have a home that runs like clockwork and the homework gets done and she’s a straight-A student but she continues having this sulky, argue-back, entitled, irritable attitude toward you and your husband, will it be worth it?

Of course not!

This is why the complaining and arguing is non-stop in your home:

  • because you are taking on the battles and not letting them go
  • because you are faithfully doing your job as a mom
  • because you are still NOTICING and CORRECTING the things that need it
  • because you care enough to do what’s right.

Keep going & don’t let her go now that she’s hitting “hormones.” You can still have a pleasant, enjoyable relationship, amidst work and conflicts, even with hormones.

This is the real work of motherhood! Don’t lose heart!

 

You might also like:

"Why Have More Kids If You're Already Exhausted?"

Stress, Yelling, & Sin // jessconnell.com

How to Handle Tantrums // jessconnell.com // step-by-step walkthrough of dealing with (rather than ignoring) temper tantrums

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Sometimes I Don’t Want to Be Godly

Sometimes I Don't Want to Be Godly // jessconnell.com

Sometimes I want to be selfish. I like having things go my way. I like being in control and I don’t like it when things happen that are

  • A- outside of my control, or
  • B- directly the opposite of what I would want to happen.

Sometimes I want to sit in my room and pout and hide from all the noise and chaos.

Sometimes I want to hide away rather than be in public and have someone ask me how I’m doing (“do you really want to know?”).

Sometimes I want NOT to read my Bible.

Sometimes I want to throw a pity party and have a navel-gazing session where I think of all the reasons why I have it harder than anyone else.

Sometimes I want to stew in anger.

Sometimes I want to feed my bitterness rather than forgive.

Sometimes I want to tell a complaining woman that even though my husband is a pastor, it doesn’t mean he’s perfect and sometimes I feel disappointment like she does.

Sometimes I deliberately choose to reach for my phone rather than my Bible.

Sometimes I feel like sitting around in my pajamas.

Sometimes I don’t want to get up to give the much-needed spanking.

Sometimes I don’t want to cook the meal listed on the meal plan.

Sometimes I’d rather sleep in even if other things suffer.

Sometimes I don’t want to clean a single. ever-lovin. thing.

Sometimes I’d rather think ugly, critical thoughts in my heart rather than believing the best about someone.

Sometimes I don’t want to read aloud even though I think it’s important.

Sometimes I want to grump and complain rather than “count it all joy.”

And all too often, I give in to these “wants.”

I’m thankful that even in those times:

  • I am precious in the sight of God.
  • I am justified and God sees me hidden in the righteousness of Christ.
  • I am loved and part of God’s chosen people.
  • I can rest and not “DO” out of an attempt to earn my salvation or God’s favor.
  • I am not “less” than I am in my moments of godliness.

I am also thankful that in those moments, I can count on:

  • God’s grace to help me choose the good that I don’t (in my flesh) want
  • God’s Word to come to mind from the Holy Spirit at work within me
  • God’s conviction to break through the strength and noise of my selfish will
  • God’s people to come alongside me and be the “hands and feet” of Christ to me
  • God’s previously-begun work to be completed in me

I am thankful that my confidence isn’t in ME. Right in the very moment when I am weak and unfaithful, He is strong and faithful.

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Q&A: Getting Stuff Done with Kids Underfoot?

Q&A: Getting Stuff Done (with kids underfoot) // jessconnell.com

Q&A: My 2 practical questions are:

I have a 2.5 yr old and 11 mo old twins….all boys….all active. The twins swarm my 2.5 yr old and it makes him angry, so he shoves / etc. We discipline him for this, but I have a hard time blaming his reaction when they are coming at him from both sides. I have no idea how to keep all of them near to me AND keep them separated or how to train them to get along.

Secondly, how do you get things done while also paying attention to your kids and bringing them along with you? If I let my twins near me, they are literally crawling all over my body. My two year old immediately starts competing for attention when they do this because he feels left out. For instance, do you have any resources about blanket training? What age do you start? Is there an age that is too late to start?

A: You said: “I like the idea of keeping them closer, but also need to die to my desire to do chores and my ‘own thing’ un-encumbered by littles latched at my knees.” And I just wanted to say– me too. So when you’re praying that for you, pray it for me too. Cause that is hard for us all.

I think we all are easily given over to the idea of getting things done, and much less apt to be honed in on the work at the heart-level, with day-in, day-out presence. The checklist and things done shows up so easily… we can see what we’ve done, and others can too, and we feel achievement in that. (And pretty much all of us in this modern world have been reared with a heart seeking after achievement.) So we run to that which is measurable, and that which is less measurable (the incremental change of little hearts) can easily be pushed to the side.

So. Practically… first, for the 2.5 year old, I would try to set up some sort of space where he can play on his own from time to time (things like pattern blocks on the dining table) where they can’t mess up what he’s doing. Cause, yeah, that is frustrating, to feel like you can’t do anything, build anything, etc, without being swarmed. LOL. Poor little guy.

At the same time, I would try to build in some times of “wrestling” on the floor– you with all of them. Things like– tell the two year old that his goal is to try to, for example, make your legs go flat. All the while, you’re able to kiss, snuggle, twist, tickle, grab and growl, etc., with the twins. If he gets your legs flat to the ground, he wins. Boys love this kind of play… Or, take turns lifting them up on your shins and bouncing them. Getting him to, at times, learn how to gently wrestle with and love on them, so that they aren’t always seen as little pests, but he can (on his two-year-old level) see how to have fun with them, how to be gentle, etc. It’s not going to be perfect. He’s two. But he can start to have a good time with them at intervals in the day, without it constantly being that they’re messing up his fun.

And on the second question, in your case, I would definitely try blanket training, or using two pack and plays, and letting the 2 year old help you in the kitchen, for example, help make lunch, help put dishes away, etc. He is old enough to stand in front of the dryer while you hand him laundry to throw in. Yes, it will take longer. For a year or two. But he will eventually start being able to truly be a help to you. The only way that happens is for him to learn to help you at times when it isn’t actually a help to you. As one of our friends said, with a smile on his face after our 2 & 4 year old “helped” him with dishes, “Thank you boys SO MUCH for doing dishes with me… with your help, it only took TWICE as long.” :)

For blanket training, 11 months old is actually a really great time to start. It will be slow going at first (for a week or two) while they “get it”– which means you won’t be able to get as much done during those times. But it will pay off if you are diligent and consistent, because it will go from just 5-10 minutes of independent play to being able to do 30-45 minute stretches happily on the blanket, engrossed in their own toys/books/etc. The alternative (if that isn’t appealing) would be to use two pack and plays, or two sealed-off areas (gates?) that are visible to you, where they can safely play on their own. (Here’s a pretty thorough “how to”/”why” post about blanket time… that’s a good start for you to have a picture of what it is I mean when I use that term.)

Also, honestly, when they are little, I used nap times to try to tackle any “must do” items that I couldn’t get done with them awake.

Sometimes parenting/training really will take up most of your time, especially in the early years, but then, the pay off is that it produces peace and joy in your home later on. :)

Keep at it.

And don’t feel too much guilt about wanting to “get them settled with toys so you can get others things done.” That’s OK too. I bet Mary did that to Jesus, and I think every mom does. That’s just normal.

It’s not that every minute of every day has to be with them attached at the hip. But it’s that you’re purposeful as you go about your day, training as you go, bringing them along to help and learn to be contributors to your home, etc., smiling at them, spending time together laughing and learning, teaching them what a cup of flour means, etc.

Sometimes it will also mean setting them down with toys to play so you can get things done. There’s no harm in that. Hang in there.

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Big Family Life: It’s Harder… and Easier.

Big Family Life: It's harder... and easier. // jessconnell.com

It’s probably the most common thing I hear in the grocery store: “I couldn’t handle any more children. I haven’t even got patience for these TWO!”

The funny thing is that I don’t ask people why they don’t have more children.

Especially when I’m going through the checkout line… I can assure you my mind is fully occupied! I don’t have time to sit around wondering why perfect strangers have made the fertility decisions they have. But many of them offer this information immediately after exclaiming shock at how many children we have.

And.

To be fair.

We do have seven children. And I’m now showing with baby #8.

(The lady at the discount grocery store cackled the other day when I confirmed her suspicion about my belly. CACKLED. I’m so glad to have these years of taking these things in stride and learning to smile about it. Anyway, it really was funny to see how much joy it gave her in her everyday routine. It clearly made her day. And Ethan and I laughed about it for  a while afterward, so maybe it made our day too.)

But if I could write a letter to the random strangers , here’s what I’d say:

Dear Stranger Looking at Our Large Family:

There’s something I think you’re missing when you look at us.

You look at this trail of stairstep children and heap of groceries, and think, oh there’s no way I could ever do that!

Maybe you think, “WOW! That takes EXTRA patience. EXTRA super-hero mom stuff.” Or maybe you think, “that lady is NUTS. Who needs that many kids? Just know when to call it QUITS already!!”

And I get it. I do.

I think I would have gawked at us. I probably would have counted them all to be sure, like you just did. Back when Doug & I met and were dreaming of a life together, we wanted “more kids than average,” but for us I think we meant something like four. Five, max. Having eight kids would have sounded to my ears like something akin to joining the looney bin.

First, let me tell you about this “patience” you accuse me of possessing. I don’t have much. Truth is, in some ways I have less than I used to. But yes, in some ways I have more. Just like anyone who faces challenges in a particular area of life, our capacities expand to the demands we face. So while I do have more patience than I used to, I am still just a normal gal who has to work to love the people in my home.

The thing is… you’re right in many ways– it’s harder.

  • I can’t be as selfish as I want to be. While I do prioritize self-care, I don’t get a ton of me-time. I don’t get as much sleep as I might prefer.
  • I can’t let discipline stuff go, cause it gets out of hand FAST. So I can’t be as lazy in parenting as I want to be.
  • I can’t control it all. There’s no way. I’ve had to relinquish control again and again.
  • I have to have better systems than I used to have. We just started a 6-week meal plan again, after about 6 years of flying by the seat of our pants for meals. But it was time to start that bad boy back up again, so now each day I know what’s for dinner. Yay, systems!
  • And there’s just more. More strain on furniture, more time spent letting a virus cycle through our family, more quantity of food to cook, more noise, more shoes piled at the door, more spankings, more tantrums to handle.

But I think sometimes the thing you don’t know is this: in many ways, you’re absolutely wrong.

In many ways, it’s easier.

  • I can’t be as selfish as I want to be. Not if I want to be an upright person. I suppose I could try to be a hypocrite, but I have 14 eyes that would (if not now, eventually) call me out on that ruse. It’s such a GIFT that I can’t be as selfish as I want to be. This ultimately makes my life easier… making me less of a whiner, less of a navel-gazer.
  • I can’t let discipline stuff go. And how GOOD that is! Even when it’s driven by a selfish desire for easier days ahead, I can’t be as lazy in parenting as I would naturally be… and that is SO GOOD… for me and for them! It makes me a more consistent mother, and gives them a more consistent upbringing.
  • I can’t control it all. This is a wonderful thing for me (as a woman) to come to grips with! No, I can’t micromanage my life and the lives of everyone I love. It’s GOOD for me to go ahead and give this up now rather than trying to cling to it and have to face reality when they head out into the wide world. This forces me to rely fully on God’s grace and sovereignty. He is good and faithful and I can trust Him to control and work in all the ways I never can.
  • I have to have better systems, and this is just flat out good for me. I would SOOOOO be a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants gal, but this large family kicks my tail into gear, and I’m grateful. It’s part of the way God is changing me into a more self-disciplined person.
  • And there’s just more. More smiles, more snuggles, more opportunities to ask for forgiveness, more opportunities to offer forgiveness, more personalities to make me marvel at God’s creative power, more up-close chances to see God at work in various people’s lives, more funny quirkiness to enjoy each day in our home, and more people who might–by God’s grace– come to Heaven with Doug and I… there’s just more.

The truth is, I couldn’t be more grateful for each of these little people. They each are a unique expression of God in terms of personality, faith, weakness, and strength.

And God uses each one of them to grace the world, and to change my heart in unique ways. I’m so thankful for them! Even with the tantrums and the noise and exhaustion.

God’s gifts are always so good. Each one is so RIGHT. And these particular eight gifts God has given us…

Well they probably look like they make life harder. And they do.

But they also make it much, much easier.

~Jess

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How I Built A First-Aid Kit for our Large Family

How I Built a First-Aid Kit for Our Large Family // jessconnell.com

 

We’ve got 7 children. 6 of those are boys, but actually, our daughter ended up having the worst traumatic accident we’ve encountered yet (so don’t count out those girls!). We’ve had dozens of ER runs, and dozens more of NEAR-ER runs, where I carefully assessed the damage and ultimately decided to stay home and fix the wound or injury at home.

To do both, I keep a nicely-stocked home First Aid kit. Whether we end up going to the ER or not, it is really nice to be prepared for those GASP-y moments when someone comes rushing in to tell you that their sibling has been hurt.

WHY NOT THE STORE-BOUGHT KITS?

I’ve looked at the little already-prepared first aid kits they sell in stores, and I have three problems with them:

  1. They’re CRAZY over-priced for how little you get.
  2. They’re never big enough for the first-aid needs of an active, large family.
  3. You’ll quickly run out of some items, and then be sitting there with a weird set of random items you’ll probably never use, in your tiny plastic box.

So, after about 6 years of having a piecemeal approach to first-aid care, here’s what I now keep in our large family’s First Aid kit: 

  • steristripSteri-strips. These are great for cuts/slices that look nerve-wracking but don’t actually need stitches. The material is strong and holds the two pieces of skin together tightly. They don’t stick to as much skin as a bandaid, but they hold stronger. And they’re thin enough to cut down to the size you need.
  • Super glue is another surprisingly easy way to close up small cuts. We did this when our (then) 3-year-old son fell back into the metal radiator our first week in China and got a big gash, and we’ve used it again and again for various cuts and slices on our kids.  If you have family allergies, try this out before using it, but this is a common way ERs still close up wounds (they use a fancier one but it’s basically super glue), and is a sound method for closing small to mid-level cuts.
  • Antiseptic liquids. At our home, we keep a bottle of isopropyl alcohol and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide on hand for giving a quick clean to wounds and scrapes. (These often go on sale for a $1 at drug stores.)
  • But we also go on a few trips a year, so I’ve come to prefer having a box of individual-wrapped alcohol wipes on hand as well.
  • Gauze pads. I find that in the heat of the moment, it’s really annoying to have your gauze pad be way too big, or too small to actually cover the wound… so I like having both the 2-inch gauze pads, and the 4-inch gauze pads to pull from when someone has a scrape, cut, or slice. Even if we end up heading to the ER, having these keeps blood from dripping everywhere in the house, on the clothes, and in the car on the way there.
  • In addition to gauze pads, I keep rolled gauze on hand. It allows me to wrap around a wound if it’s in an awkward or bendy place, and it’s easy to cut to the length I need.
  • Fabric tape and/or self-adhesive bandage wrap. This (paired with gauze) is great for helping (especially younger) kids get over the “hump” of a bad scrape or cut, while waiting for enough healing to go with a smaller bandage, or no bandage at all. It keeps everything nice and snug and cuts or tears easily to the length you need. This can also wrap a wound securely if you’re headed to the ER.
  • Variety-pack of bandaids. It’s nice to have a variety of sizes, but I like for the majority to be the normal sized bandaids, as those are the ones we use most.
  • Scissors. They just need to be sharp. I prefer small haircutting shears like these. These are helpful for cutting bandages, fabric tape, or even cutting ripped clothes out of the way so you can get to a cut more quickly.
  • Neosporin. Classic for cuts and wounds. I have started buying mine at Dollar Tree because they’re nice little tubes for a dollar.
  • Epsom Salt. This is something I always keep in our bathroom, so for times when we’re home and a child gets bad stings or bites, it’s my first line of defense. A warm/hot sink of water, with a cup or two of epsom salts will greatly soothe fire ants bites, bee stings, and other bug bites (this worked like a charm in Texas, where our kids regularly got fire ants bites!). It’s also a great thing to add to the bathwater of a child having fever, stomach problems, or itchy skin, as it draws out toxins and soaks their body in magnesium to help them relax.
  • Sting Care—  I didn’t used to have this in my first aid kit, because we were almost always at home with epsom salt close at hand, but now that we do some camping and outdoorsy trips, I’ve added it. If we ever do get a bad sting or bite, I want to have something to offer my little people to give at least some help.
  • When we head out on a trip, I carry a simple ziplock with sample size portions of over-the-counter medicines for common maladies: Ibuprofen, Immodium, Benadryl, Dramamine, cough drops, chapstick, Tums, and (now that we have some migraine-sufferers in our family) Excedrin Migraine. I don’t carry enough to treat days and days of an affliction, but it gives me enough to offer someone a few doses to start off with, before we can make it to a store to get a full pack.
  • One final tip: we keep our First Aid Kit in cleaning caddy containers with the handles in the center. This allows us to easily carry it with us on multi-day trips as a family. I like, too, that this lets me grab the entire kit and carry it to where the person is (whether outside, or even just up to the counter while I’m treating a cut/scrape).

(Note: all links in this post go to the best deals I could find on Amazon.)

A couple times a year (usually right before trips), I assess what’s still in the kit, locate any missing items (like scissors) and make sure we stock back up on anything that’s gotten low (usually bandaids and neosporin… occasionally something else).

Having a hearty first-aid kit comes in handy when:

  • your 3-year-old busts his chin on the tub and the “good” ER is 30 minutes away.
  • your 8-year-old’s hand goes through a window
  • someone gets a nasty-looking scrape from doing scooters on the sidewalk
  • your child is standing in the middle of an ant pile getting covered and bitten by them before realizing they’ve done so.

IN THE COMMENTS, SHARE: Are you happy with your current first aid solution? Do you have everything you need in an accessible place when those near-ER-moments happen?

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