Birth Plans (Part 1)

This is the first post in a series on how God has changed me through the ups and downs of pregnancy, childbirth, and miscarriage.

This week my first-born celebrated his sixth birthday. I love being his mom. He’s grown in many ways, but he still has the really great belly-laugh he’s had from early on, and it makes me laugh just listening. I’m a different person in many ways too, since that awful/beautiful day six years ago . . .

Heading into my first childbirth experience, I felt completely confident. I’d had many painful periods (don’t laugh), and was prepared to endure the pain as long as necessary. I estimated labor would last 24 hours since that’s how long my Mom’s first labor had been. I’d prepared as best I knew how, reading the Your Pregnancy & Childbirth book I received from my Obstetrician’s office, and attending the childbirth classes at the hospital.

One night after class I approached the instructor. “What’s the best way to avoid a C-section?” I asked (I had read the U.S. C-section rates were around 30% and that made me a little nervous).
“Put off the epidural as long as possible,” she said.
“I’m not planning to have one . . . unless I really need it,” I said. The “unless I really need it” part was just me being polite. Since I knew I was tough and God didn’t invent epidurals, I was totally confident I wouldn’t need one to have a baby . . .

A week before my due-date my OB said I had dilated two centimeters. “That’s great!” he said. “That usually means a shorter labor, since you’re already dilated this far as a first-time mom.” That was encouraging, but I was still mentally preparing for a 24-hour marathon, just in case.

Around 6AM on a Monday morning (due date was Friday), I woke up with my first painful contraction. I walked around the house a bit to see if contractions would keep coming, while hubby got out the stop-watch and started timing them. They weren’t all that powerful or close together, but they kept coming, so we ate breakfast and got ready for the hospital.

Read the next post here.

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How to Save Big on the Little Things (Part 2)

It’s fun to save money. One reason is because I take pride in finding a good deal and knowing patience equals dollars. Another reason it’s fun is because saving money sometimes means reinventing something.

1. Reinvent


In my last post, I talked about how I try to save money by keeping my options open and waiting for a sale. But another way I can save money is by reinventing an old item. Sometimes the investment of time isn’t really worth the financial savings, but if it’s fun, then the time investment becomes a way to relax.

My husband and I recently repainted our kitchen. I chose a blueish-aqua color, which contrasted really well with the cabinets I had just finished painting a dark brown. But blueish-aqua is hard to match! My kitchen cannisters looked out-of-place, but I didn’t want to let them go since they had been a wedding gift. I googled “how to paint glazed ceramic” and found I could paint them pretty easily and inexpensively. I took them apart, primed them with some old spray-paint, and found a nice matching acrylic and a clear sealer at Hobby Lobby. It was a fun project, and cost me about $10. I had enough paint and sealer left over to re-finish my utensil holder also.

2. Shop Off-Price Retailers
014I also wanted to replace my tired-looking hand-towels since my walls and cabinets looked really fresh, and I was excited to find a set of blueish-aqua towels at Burlington Coat Factory for $5. I love shopping at off-price retailers including Ross, TJ Maxx and Marshalls, because I can find really nice, brand-name items, usually half-price or less. I don’t need brand-name hand towels, but I like finding good-quality items for equal to or less than middle-to-lower-quality items. I also replaced some counter-top items at off-price retailers and found good deals.

3. Use coupons and rebates
083Besides painting, my kitchen make-over also included a new back-splash. My husband carefully tore out the old back-splash with a grout saw and mallet, preserving the wall behind it. Then we found a nice natural stone tile at our local home-improvement store. The tiles cost $11 per sheet and we needed 10 sheets, so we waited to buy our tiles and supplies until the “11% rebate on everything” was offered again. This rebate offer comes around pretty frequently at our home-improvement store, so we waited to make sure we got the most for our money. We also saved money not paying for installation, since hubby decided to impress me and figure it out himself (and he did an amazing job!).

Sometimes the fun of saving money is also about the memories you make as you go. I really love my new kitchen because now when I look at the back-splash I think about my husband’s hard work to make it beautiful, and when I look at the fresh walls I remember staying up late together painting them. And all the little extras like my painted cannisters and bright hand-towels remind me of the fun I had getting a good deal on something special.


How to Save Big on the Little Things (Part 1)

020My husband and I recently bought a new chandelier to replace the old one that suspended over our table. We went to our local home improvement stores and browsed the light fixtures, landing on three we liked well enough to buy. None were on sale, so we waited and checked back, and waited some more. When we checked back recently, we found one of the three had been marked down to almost 60% off. The fixture retailed for $159 (the most expensive of the three we liked) but was marked down to $69. We bought it and saved $90 off retail.

If we hadn’t kept our options open and been willing to wait, we wouldn’t have saved the $90. But since we didn’t have to have a specific fixture, and since we didn’t have to have it right away, we saved some money.

1. Keep your options open

Instead of committing to buy my favorite item (which is probably more expensive), I can save money by picking my “top three” and then waiting for a deal. I may not get my first choice, but saving money is equally gratifying (if not more gratifying) than getting exactly what I want.

Depending on the item, sometimes I still want to stay within a particular brand or type to get something longer-lasting/better-performing, even if it’s more expensive (especially true with appliances and electronics). But if the quality of several items is equal, I can often get an item at about half the price of my “first choice” if I keep my options open (and sometimes I can get my “first choice” half price if I wait).

2. Wait for a sale

Walking away and waiting for a sale is not fun at the time, but it’s even worse to buy something at full price and then see it was marked down later (some stores will honor a later discount if you show your receipt soon enough). It takes patience to watch and wait for a sale, but if I’m already keeping my options open, I shouldn’t have to wait too long. And if the item is available online, I can definitely get a sale by using promo codes, grouping the item with a “percent-off total purchase” deal, or waiting for a seasonal/holiday sale.

Using these two principles can save a lot of money, and saving money is always fun!


My 3 Favorite Skin-Care Products

160I love reading, and one topic I enjoy is natural skin-care. Ever since reading Barbara Close’s book Pure Skin many years ago, I’ve made it a priority to find and use products that will be natural and effective when applied to my skin.

Natural Products

Finding natural products is easier than ever, but some companies advertise products as “green” that aren’t very pure. I avoid skin-care products that contain these ingredients (list is from Pure Skin):

  • Diethanolamine (DEA), Momethanolamine (MEA) & Triethanolamine (MEA)
  • Artificial Colors
  • Fragrance
  • Imidazolidinyl Urea & DMDM Hydantoin
  • Petrochemicals (isopropyl alcohol and mineral oil)
  • Paraben Preservatives
  • Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)
  • Propylene Glycol (PG)
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate

Some of these ingredients can be irritating to the skin, others can affect hormone function and others are potential carcinogens.

Instead of buying products with these ingredients, I look for skin and hair-care products that are primarily plant-based. I buy most of these products online to save money, and can browse ingredient lists before I decide to try something new. Vitacost offers good prices and lots of additional discounts on many natural products.

Effective Products

When shopping for something new, I look for products that fit the above criteria and have good reviews (four stars or more). Sometimes “green” products might be pure but aren’t very effective, leaving my skin or hair feeling gross, but I’m always happy when I find something that is both natural and effective.

Here are my three favorite skin-care products:

Origins Clean Energy Gentle Cleansing Oil

This cleanser costs $29 with pump (but I wait for discounts), and with once-a-day use lasts over a year. I use it in the evening to wash away makeup  (I only use water to cleanse my face in the morning). It removes makeup and excess oil with a base of olive, safflower, sesame and sunflower oils. Most cleansers I’ve used dry out my skin, leading to re-active break-outs, but this product works consistently to remove makeup and cleanse my skin without over-drying.

Derma E Vitamin E 12,000 IU Creme

This moisturizer is $12-15, and with once-a-day use will last me about six months. I apply it to my face in the morning after rinsing, and it makes a perfect base for my makeup. It contains 12,000 IU (4 oz jar) Vitamin E (Tocopherol), which works as an antioxidant to help our skin fight it’s ongoing free-radical battle. I’ve tried other moisturizers that leave my skin feeling greasy or dry, but this one balances well. Derma E has a great line of natural products, but this is my favorite.

NOW Shea Butter

This shea butter is $7 and lasts me about a year. It’s a stand-by product I use for spot-treating very dry skin. Shea butter is a natural fat made from the nuts of the “karate” tree, and has even been known to increase the skin’s thickness because it helps skin retain moisture. It makes a great moisturizer for my hands, but I’ve also used it on my face as a deep moisturizer when I feel my skin needs a boost in the winter.

3 Things You Must Do Before You Make A Big Decision

015Have you ever tried to write straight lines of text on a marker board (it’s not easy!)? You think it’s good until you step back and look at the board from a distance. Then you can see the lines going crooked, though you didn’t notice up-close.

Sometimes I think I have enough information to make a good decision, but I’m too close to the situation to see it clearly. I need to step back and get perspective from other people so I can see what they see. My emotions and fears and hopes and personality and preferences and theology are all tied up in my up-close perspective, making it tricky to see clearly sometimes.

Here are three guidelines for decision-making:

1. I need to ask people who love me what they think I should do

When seeking out advice for a decision, I need to include people who love me and want what’s best for me. Even if they’re not knowledgeable in the specific area of my decision, they’re knowledgeable about me — they can see things I can’t see because they understand how my personal weaknesses and personality tendencies affect my ability to make a decision. They know my blind-spots well.

After ten years of marriage, I’ve seen first-hand how David’s wisdom and feedback have proven true again and again in helping me see things more clearly than I would see on my own. I also turn to my parents and in-laws when I need advice, because I trust them and I know they have my back.

2. I need to hear them out (I should use “God told me . . .” carefully)

If I’ve prayed about this decision and believe I’ve heard from God, then it may be tempting to use the phrase “God told me . . .” to defend myself when they ask good questions. But using this phrase to shut down unwanted feedback is like saying, “I’m the only one who can hear from God about this,” and “I always hear correctly.” True, I may have more invested in this decision than others and I am able to hear from God,  but others can hear from God too and He may be speaking through them about my decision, so I need to hear them out and use “God told me . . .” carefully.

I’ve learned with time that I need to test what I believe is the voice of God, and one way to do this is to hear from other believers who have also been in the habit of listening for God’s voice (especially through His Word). They know what He sounds like, so they know how to help me discern His voice better than I can on my own.

3. I need to compare the advice to Scriptural commands and principles

I also need to find out what ways the advice given aligns with Scriptural commands or principles. Are there any commands or principles my decision would compromise? Commands are easier to catch, but principles are often in disguise, yet they’re woven through Scripture and are an important part of good decision-making. A principle gives me cause/effect information about a decision, helping me predict the end outcome. The book of Proverbs is a good place to start when looking for Scriptural principles. I need to consider these carefully as I come to a final decision.

Andy Stanley has a great DVD called “Discovering God’s Will.” I went through this video and study guide with a small group, and loved the practical advice he gave. Trying to hear from God can be complex, and this study helped clarify some things for me.