About

The best job in the world

One of my favorite parts of working with Discipleship Training Schools is being able to walk closely with a couple of the students, hearing about how God is challenging them and transforming them through the teachings and outside-of-class activities in one-on-one conversations and in reading their weekly journal assignments. One of the greatest challenges for me is not being able to have this opportunity with every single one of the students, because I love what comes from those one-on-one times – the quiet pauses, the bursts of laughter, the uncontrollable tears, and even the “uneventful” reflections on the “usual” of each week.

I have one of the best jobs in the world. I get to walk with incredible people, on a journey of them discovering their gifts and dreams and hopes. I get to pray for them and encourage them as they overcome their fears and learn more about who they were created to be. I get to affirm them as they discover truth, and I get to lift them up in the midst of their battles. I love how God created us to live in community, to each have a unique function that forces us, yet allows us to work together and never alone. I love finding myself in awe of the talents and gifts that God has given others, admiring the things they create and the dreams they imagine.

So today I want to give you a little glimpse of what I have the opportunity to be a part of. With their permission, I want to share with you some of the creations of two of my students.

Before DTS, Sandra didn’t draw, but nobody could have guessed that! One of my favorite things about reading her weekly journal is getting to admire the way she expresses herself and what God is speaking to her through her artistic creations.

The following is a form of poetry called a French Pantoum. The week before last, our teacher was John Ray, and in his teaching on Identity in Christ, he challenged the students to do this exercise. One of our students, Olivia, wrote this as her response:

I must endure burning
Jesus came to restore the oneness
Repent, the Kingdom of God is here
Constantly be adjusting

Jesus came to restore the oneness
Jesus came to demonstrate how to live
Constantly be adjusting
We get to live!

We get to live!
Repent, the Kingdom of God is here
Constantly be adjusting
I must endure burning

Something else that I really love about working with Discipleship Training Schools is that I am also challenged in my own walk with God, to go deeper and to keep discovering more about who He created me to be. John Ray’s week for me was so refreshing, and was challenged to write my own French Pantoum:

Only the obedient believe, only the believer obeys
Your hardship does not intimidate God
Your struggles and suffering help you speak a unique language
Leading and discipling is more about transparency and vulnerability than perfection

Your hardship does not intimidate God
We cannot think our way into a new way of living
Leading and discipling is more about transparency and vulnerability than perfection
We have to live our way into a new way of thinking

We cannot think our way into a new way of living
Your struggles and suffering help you speak a unique language
We have to live our way into a new way of thinking
Only the obedient believe, only the believer obeys

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You’re not a slave

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“You’re not a slave. You’re a son, you’re a daughter.”

This week in the Discipleship Training School, we have our dear friend Jack Kody teaching the students on the topic “Father Heart of God.” We’ve known Jack since he taught in our DTS back in 2010, and since then, he has been someone who has had a great influence in our lives. He has become family to us, so when he comes to share in our schools, it feels like a piece of our hearts returning for the week, reminding us how much we are loved and cherished.

This morning he asked the students a question, “So, on your birthday, or at Christmas, after you open your gifts and see how wonderful they are – you thank your friends and family for the gifts, and then you pull out your wallet and ask them ‘how much do I owe you?’ Right?”

From my perspective, Continue reading “You’re not a slave”

Baby Sleep – An Art & A Science

I never realized how passionate I was about sleep until I had a baby. Nine months later I feel like a sleep guru who could solve any sleep problem on the planet. However, even though I think I would love to be a pediatric sleep consultant in my spare time (haha… what spare time?), I am not a professional – just a new mom who has gone through the journey that is creating healthy sleep habits for a tiny new human creature. Who knew that sleep was so tricky?!

Before I get into it, I just want to say that every parent has their own ideas and philosophies when it comes to baby sleep, and every family has to decide what works best for them! No judgement here… just me sharing my story of how we got to where we are now and where we started. More than anything, I want to share because as much as I tried to prepare for Olivia’s arrival, I really wish I would have had more honest stories out there to guide me, to tell me that I wasn’t alone, and that it would get better.

Here goes… well, actually, I’ll come back to this later as I need to go wake Olivia up from her nap… yes, you read that correctly – and it wasn’t always like this.

Okay, I’m back (one day later… life of a full-time volunteer & parent!)

In the early days, Olivia was a terrible sleeper. We were bouncing on an exercise ball at every naptime and bedtime to try to get her to sleep, and then tiptoe-ing to the bedroom and try to lay her in the bassinet without waking her. We tried the pacifier (actually, we tried about six different types of pacifiers) for weeks on end to no avail, until a close friend was kindly taking care of her one morning around 6 weeks old, and actually got her to take one.  We thought it was a heavenly miracle until a few months later when it was causing her to wake up ten times a night (yes, we actually counted) and we had to stumble out of bed in the dark, desperately searching the bassinet for the paci and put it back in her mouth without really waking her – but I’ll come back to that another time.

The point is, before every nap and bedtime, I was anxious about how long she would sleep, and how long it would take to get her to sleep. Whenever she was asleep, I was online or reading a book about strategies to get a baby to sleep well. Anyone else?

So, before she was born, we had asked some fellow parent friends (thanks Drew & Jen!) their best advice for before Olivia’s arrival, and both of them told us to read Babywise. I had never heard of it but I am so glad we listened to their advice. Later on, I heard that it was a bit controversial in the parenting world, but I still don’t understand why. For us, it just made sense that the best thing we could do to assure our baby grew to be healthy and well-developed was to implement healthy sleep habits from a young age. The guidelines offered in the book are based off of years of thorough research in the areas of baby sleep, eating, and playing needs, natural rhythms, physical developmental milestones, SIDS prevention, and so on. The basic philosophy is that if a baby has a full-feeding (which requires they be fully awake), they will then be able to have the nutrients and energy they need to play well, and fully fed babies who play well, will then sleep soundly for a good amount of time without the issues of under- or over-tiredness, or hunger, interrupting their sleep. It seemed easy enough: Eat, Play, Sleep and repeat. For me, this simply made sense. Why would I want anything else than to make sure my little one was eating enough, playing well, and sleeping enough and doing it well?

We made the plan and I printed out guidelines for the first weeks (did you know that newborn babies need 16-17 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period?) of Olivia’s life, according to the samples offered in the book. I also read lots of other research-based articles written by pediatricians who were saying the same things – start baby out on a routine right away. I also read the Baby Whisperer book by Tracy Hogg, which is basically the same philosophy using different words, and giving a little more wiggle room in regards to scheduling. All this to say, I was convinced that starting out with a routine and introducing healthy sleep habits early had to be a priority for us, and I would do my best to make it happen!

We took all that we read, and as we went along learning and getting to know Olivia’s needs, we found out what worked best and we made great effort to keep things consistent. In the beginning, we sometimes made sacrifices to accommodate, and it was beyond worth it. Even in the early weeks and months, because we had a routine, she would easily nap in the car or in the sling while we hiked or went to the farmer’s market for groceries. Just ask the people who took us around Costa Rica in the first six weeks of her life! For me, making sure Olivia got the sleep she needed was a priority because I knew that the sleep habits she formed early on would be the ones she carries with her for the rest of her life.

Nine and a half months later, Olivia puts herself to sleep for every nap and bedtime without any sleep props. She will sleep anywhere. She takes a 1.5 hour nap in the morning and a 1.5 hour nap in the afternoon, and sleeps 11.5-12 hours straight every night. We often have to wake her from her naps, and she is happy all the time. She is a very healthy weight, and has been a bit ahead of her peers with most developmental milestones. It’s easy for close friends and family to take care of her, because she is so consistent. I am a really big believer in sleep for the well-being of all people, and especially for babies as they are learning and growing so rapidly.

I must say, at first, all of it seemed a bit overwhelming when it came to solving sleep issues and adjusting her routine. But now, after combining what I learned with my everyday experiences, it started to become quite instinctual. Like I said at the beginning, at this point I feel like I could solve the sleep problems of any baby, ha!

I hope that what I share here and in my following baby sleep posts will be help to many fellow parents out there. It’s not an easy role, but it’s one of the most important in the world, and I am passionate about seeing parents who are well-rested (babies aren’t the only ones who need sleep to thrive!) and able to care for their little ones with confidence.

I will go into more detail (such as when and how to drop feedings & naps, how we progressively helped Olivia get to sleep on her own, and how to make it so the schedule works for your entire family) about the journey of forming healthy sleep habits in some upcoming posts, so be sure to subscribe if you’re interested!

Below, I am posting Olivia’s tentative schedules from her first month of life. Feel free to leave your questions in the comments and I will try my best to help!

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Olivia’s Tentative Schedule Weeks 1-2
Waketime is approximately 30 minutes and naps are 1.5-2hrs

Early Morning
6:30-7:00AM Feeding
7:00-7:15AM Waketime (minimal, includes diaper change and hygiene care)
7:15AM Down for a nap

Mid-morning
9:15AM Feeding
Waketime (minimal, includes diaper change and hygiene care)
10AM Down for a nap

Afternoon
12:00PM Feeding, diaper change and hygiene care
Waketime (minimal)
12:45PM Down for a nap

Mid-afternoon
2:45PM Feeding, diaper change and hygiene care
Waketime (minimal)
3:30PM Down for a nap

Late Afternoon
5:30PM Feeding, diaper change and hygiene care
Waketime (minimal)
6:15PM Down for a nap

Evening
8:15PM Feeding, diaper change and hygiene care
Waketime (minimal)
9PM Down for a nap

Late Evening
11:00PM Feeding, diaper change, back to sleep
Allow baby to wake up naturally, but do not let sleep longer than 4 hours continuously at night for the first four weeks.

Middle of the Night
1:00AM Feeding, diaper change, and right back to sleep (could be 1:30AM)

Pre-morning
4:00AM Feeding, diaper change, and right back to sleep (5AM at the latest)

Olivia’s Tentative Schedule Weeks 3-6
Waketimes extend (up to 30 mins. beyond feeding), naps are still 1.5-2 hrs

Early Morning
6:30AM Feeding, diaper change and hygiene care
Waketime (minimal)
7:15AM Down for a nap

Mid-morning
9:15AM Feeding, diaper change and hygiene care
Waketime (minimal)
10AM Down for a nap

Afternoon
12:00PM Feeding, diaper change and hygiene care
Waketime (minimal)
12:45PM Down for a nap

Mid-afternoon
2:45PM Feeding, diaper change and hygiene care
Waketime (minimal)
3:30PM Down for a nap

Late Afternoon
5:30PM Feeding, diaper change and hygiene care
Waketime (minimal)
6:15PM Down for a nap

Evening
8:15PM Feeding, diaper change and hygiene care
Waketime (minimal)
9PM Down for a nap

Late Evening
11:00PM Feeding, diaper change if necessary, right back down for sleep
Allow her to wake up naturally, but do not let her sleep longer than 4 hours continuously at night for the first four weeks.

Middle of the Night
3:00AM Feeding, diaper change, and right back to sleep

*You can start the morning feed anytime between 6-8am, just adjust all other times to fit.  

*At this age, baby’s waketime basically consists of eating and getting a diaper change. Watch for sleep cues like yawning, rubbing eyes, and start the nap routine as soon as you see a sleep cue!

*The late night, middle of the night and pre-morning feedings should be as quiet and as dark as possible so that baby can go right back to sleep. Don’t talk to baby during these feedings.
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For you parents-to-be, or already-parents who are expecting again, here are some notes I found helpful when embarking on the sleep journey with Olivia:

-Sleep props to avoid: nursing to sleep, motion/vibration props, sleeping with baby
-Hunger cue always trumps clock. No matter what the schedule says, feed baby if they are giving you a hunger cue.
-To measure healthy growth: 7 wet diapers per day after first week, 3-5 yellow stools per day for first month
-Growth spurts likely occur 10 days after birth followed by three weeks six weeks three months and six months (baby eats more and wakes up 40 to 50 minutes early from naps)
-The first and last feedings of the day are most important and need to stay consistent
-By 5 weeks, most babies can extend their sleep time (at night) by 1 hour each week
-When baby first starts sleeping through the night, there should be 7 feedings during the day
-In the first month, DO NOT let baby sleep more than 4 hours without eating
-Newborns routinely cry 1 to 4 hours per day
-Abnormal cry – during feeding, immediately after feeding and in the middle of a sound nap 
-Normal cry – before feeding, during late afternoon/early evening, and when put down to nap/sleep
-If nursing is the only form of comfort, other real needs will be missed

Soon I’ll be posting more sample schedules and hopefully helpful tips from our experiences!

Photo Update – January 2017

The New Year is here… well, it’s been here for two weeks already. This January marks a major time in our lives as we believe it’s the start of something truly great, and something that launches us very intentionally into Continue reading “Photo Update – January 2017”

December 2016 Photo Update

December was a fun, but crazy busy month! It started out with Ryan going on his third trip to film a video, while Olivia and I were home preparing for the January Discipleship Training School. Upon Ryan’s return, we had a fun Sunday morning breakfast with our friends Carlos & Sidney and their beautiful daughter Selah, who is 11 months older than Olivia. Six days later we boarded Olivia’s 14th flight Continue reading “December 2016 Photo Update”

the weight of the world

Sometimes I feel like the whole world is on my shoulders.

Sometimes it seems that I’m responsible for the needs of every person I face.

Sometimes I feel like the expectations of me are higher than the mountain tops.

I want to bring healing to all the sick, provision to all the poor, family to all the lonely. I want to bring freedom to all the captives, hope to all the broken, and love to all the abandoned ones. I want my friends to know I would do anything for them, my enemies to know that nothing could stop me from loving them, my family to know that I’ll always belong to them. I want my children to know nothing can change my love for them, and my husband to know I will always choose him.

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But can I be honest? Continue reading “the weight of the world”

Free to Be

One of my favorite things is to spend time every day letting Olivia play on her own, without interrupting. I lay her down on the rug and put a few toys out. It’s truly fascinating to watch what she will do, the noises she’ll make as she experiments with her voice, and the little sights and sounds that catch her attention. I don’t always have the time, or take the time, to get out the camera and capture these moments, but this morning as I was watching her play, the morning light came in through the big window in her room and I couldn’t resist! Continue reading “Free to Be”

The Cubs, Reddit front page, and a little boy with bread

Last night was unforgettable.

The Cubs won the World Series for the first time Since 1908, making history.
This photo I took (my Father in Law’s clever idea) was reposted and on the top of Reddit’s front page again and going viral.

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Enough fun and excitement for one night. But before I was even aware of those things, I was in a mid-sized room with concrete floors, gathered with people from at least 20 Nations, ranging in age from newborn babes to grandparents, listening to a story about a little boy who gave all that he had so others could live.
I had heard this story before, but the Costa Rican man who shared it with us presented it from a perspective that I had never recognized before.
The story goes like this… Continue reading “The Cubs, Reddit front page, and a little boy with bread”