Wednesday, December 8, 2010

hoping for the best, preparing for the worst

Having three good friends who are currently pregnant, pregnancy is once again on my mind… and G-d willing, perhaps I will be experiencing it again for myself someday soon. However, while I am NOT pregnant and still thinking somewhat clearly, I wanted to list some ideas that I or others have had to make pregnancy a little easier for those of us who seem to have our fair share (or more) of morning sickness. Even if, and I would welcome it with open arms, I am not as sick with my next pregnancy (bizrat HaShem), this list and the preparations required could never be in vain because it may prove helpful to someone else out there. So here goes:



Preparing the home:
 When I was pregnant, there were SO many things even at home that I could not stand the smell of, and now living in a small apartment with downstairs neighbors, I anticipate the situation being even worse for a sick pregnant woman. There are things that are out of our control, namely how our husbands smell (which really bothered me) or what the neighbors are cooking for dinner (which fills my tiny bathroom). However, for those that we control, perhaps it will lessen the impact of pregnancy nausea. Here are some ideas that have been rattling around in my head:


Personal care products: try using fragrance-free hand soaps and dish detergent. Many companies make them now (Method), for which I am grateful, and I wish that I had thought of this when I was sick because one of the worst smells I dealt with was the hand soap in my own bathroom. For whatever reason, it was absolutely disgusting, and to this day I REFUSE to buy that scent ever again!! And if you are like me, I didn’t even like the feel of soap on my hands, so I am now looking for fragrance free foaming soap.


I hated having to brush my teeth because it made me more nauseous, but in thinking about it, perhaps the worst part was having to spit out the toothpaste. Now that I have a toddler, I know that fluoride free and “safe to swallow” toothpaste is available (Orajel training toothpaste, J*A*S*O*N brand). So yes, I will be using fruity flavored toddler toothpaste… and swallowing it. :) I have a friend who was able to use orange flavored toothpaste and/or mouthwash, which might be easier to handle than regular mint toothpaste as well.


Body wash (mine and my husband’s) and deodorant did not smell good to me at all either. I’m sure I can find some baby wash/shampoo that is all-natural and fragrance free (or just use the hand soap, who cares!), so my whole family will be using that if it comes down to it!


There are several fragrance-free cleaners available for anything that needs to be cleaned around the house. I use Seventh Generation all-purpose cleaner, and Green Works makes free and clear dish soap and cleaners as well. Free and clear detergent, which I use on little baby clothes anyway, will remove that smell from my clothes, which also bothered me.


The dreaded vitamins: Because my nausea was so severe, I was unable to take prenatal vitamins for many weeks, so my home nurse actually suggested children’s vitamins. If you are able to keep your vitamins down, then continue taking those, but if not, ask your doctor about taking children’s vitamins, which taste much better and come in fruit flavors. I took chewable ones the last time, but I have also discovered some kosher gummies kid’s vitamins that I will try if I need to. They are available on http://www.diapers.com/ and are made by Natural Kingdom. Because they are for children (and not pregnant women), I was informed that I needed to take 4 or 5 a day, so check with your doctor.

Mask it: Having a little one now to care for, I know that the next pregnancy will be a lot different. I don’t look forward to changing diapers, cleaning up messes, or G-d forbid, cleaning up bodily fluids other than my own! So I am planning to wear a mask, possibly live in it, to hopefully mask some of the toddler (and food) smells that will be prevalent. If you find something that DOES smell good to you, put it on the mask if possible. I don’t recall anything smelling “good” to me, except that one time my nephew brought a hotdog with mustard on it into my hospital room, but that was probably because I was on heavy medication and starving to death…. Nevertheless, I do remember that the hospital was one of my favorite places to be at that time because of its sterility and lack of strong odors. How to replicate that at home, I do NOT know! I foresee my husband and daughter having to eat in another room FAR away from me, but it is what it is, and it’s only temporary.

Preparing yourself and your family:
As far as preparing yourself, it seems that all we can really do is pray and patiently wait and see what pregnancy may bring. Each one is different, and each woman is different. Going into it "blind" with my first pregnancy and not having any idea of how sick I could actually get was tough, and I hope that this information will be helpful to those who are in, or preparing for, their first pregnancy. I certainly feel a little more prepared and confident in making it through another pregnancy, even if it is just as bad this time around, because I have an idea of what to expect.

Communicating (and sharing) this list with your husbands (and older children) is very important as well. Men and children can't really be expected to understand what it feels like to be (constantly) nauseous and pregnant, so all they will know is what we tell them. And believe me, I know, the best time to tell them is NOT when you are in the midst of your suffering. Talking was not high up on my list, because as anyone knows, talking make nausea worse! Perhaps make additional lists of items, products, noises, etc. that make you feel worse and give it to them. I remember very clearly how I felt when my husband cooked those scrambled eggs in the kitchen (with no warning to me) while I was sick on the couch, and then tried to get rid of the smell by using an air purifier that made the house smell like chlorine.... I literally wanted to hurt him, but I'm sure he won't do it again. ;) Our loved ones need to know how severely smells can affect pregnant women who, by the way, have the ability to detect the same scents as a hound dog so that they can "smell danger"! Oftentimes, I wished to lose my ability to smell  when I was pregnant, but G-d made it this way for a reason. It's up to us to communicate how we're feeling and how our family members can help, and hopefully, they will try their best to do what they have to do to help.

For those who are currently pregnant and sick, I wish you all the best and pray you feel better soon. And if even one of these ideas help one pregnant woman feel a tiny bit better (even if it's me!), then this entry has served its purpose. For anyone preparing to become pregnant, it never hurts to be prepared. Just as we used to do in Florida when a hurricane is on its way, we hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Pregnancy can be similar to a hurricane, I suppose, because when you least expect it and think it's a small scale event, it can dramatically change your life in a moment. However, pregnancies are much more fun and lead to a much greater end, a precious little baby who makes it ALL worth it!

Moms and pregnant women, please feel free to comment and add to this list any ideas that have helped you. The more unconventional, the better!



 





Saturday, October 9, 2010

fighting to be frugal

Let me give you a word of advice... if you are trying to be frugal and save money, don't move to New York! In my case, there wasn't much choice in the matter, which was a gift from G-d to make it harder for me to get in His way!! I used to be pretty good at being frugal: clipping coupons, repurposing and reusing things, only buying items on sale or on clearance. However, I wouldn't boast in being very frugal at this point in my life. Just about everything costs more in New York! Although I still do all of the things listed above, it doesn't seem to make as much of a difference here. And certain stores that I knew and loved just don't exist here, or I can't get to them! Frugality has become something that I truly have to fight for. Indeed, in our materialistic culture, we all have to fight for it. There is a big difference, however, between spending money on things that we truly need and spending money just to spend money...to fill a void that we are experiencing in our lives. I know that I am certainly guilty of doing both. I enjoy shopping (and it's a good thing that my husband doesn't) for certain things (not groceries). And perhaps because he is the "breadwinner" and provider for our family, my husband is more prone to worry about how much money we have or don't have. I, on the other hand, don't spend much time worrying about where the next dollar is coming from (probably because I am thinking about where I am going to spend it!). The L-rd has truly provided for us in miraculous ways while we have been living in one of the most expensive cities to live in the world! That is no excuse for me to spend money on unnecessary things, though.

In thinking about this, I have come across this verse a couple times in Isaiah (Yesha'yahu): "Why spend money for what isn't food, your wages for what doesn't satisfy?" (Isaiah 55:2) I think that is sometimes the key for us, especially as women, to understand. The world is constantly telling us what we need to spend our money on, but none of it will satisfy.What do you like to spend your money on? I can't say that I look forward to spending money on food. It's usually other things that I think about.

There is a beautiful song that also came to mind. You can listen here: "Jacob's Well" by Nicol Sponberg. This song, especially the second verse: "It's a long hard journey, all the pain it brings... try to quench my yearnings with material things... So I will go to Jacob's well to fill my cup with living water...", sums up what 'shopping' becomes in many women's lives...an unsatisfying and unending quest for fulfillment. It doesn't have to be that way. Let us instead continue our fight to be frugal... for our sake, for our family's sake, and for the sake of telling the world that we have the Living Water-- and it was free.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

new adventure and new siddur...

With the new Torah cycle, I have started doing "Torah school" with my toddler. The lessons are only about 5 minutes, but it's fun. My plan is to homeschool my children, and I have also started a new blog just for that journey: http://www.myfreshwineskins.blogspot.com/.
Visit it to check 0ut the siddur we made! I look forward to this new and challenging adventure as my baby grows up!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

the reluctant chef

The picture was taken from my daughter's children's Bible. It is Martha in the kitchen, begrudgingly working in the kitchen. (My husband tells me that I look like her at times when I am in the kitchen.) I truly wish that I enjoyed cooking/washing dishes more, but that is why I dropped out of culinary school after 6 months, after all... I could never cook for a living! But I would like to cook more for my family. A good friend (who is a good cook) told me that cooking is like her outlet for creative expression because she doesn't scrapbook or anything like that. Well, I write... so I guess I don't need to express myself in cooking! :)

Becoming a mother has made it even more necessary for me to cook, and also helped me to realize that cooking is one of my ministries to my family. I need to be able to provide good, healthy meals for myself, my husband and my daughter to enjoy. Healthy eating habits are formed at home also, so it's really my responsibility to feed them good food. After three and a half years of marriage and nearly two years of motherhood, I am still learning to view my time spent in the kitchen as a blessing. Slowly, slowly... we are all works in progress.

If you are married (or not yet married) and love to cook, then good for you! Keep it up! But for the rest of us, keep trying to serve G-d as you serve those plates to your family! The only way to truly learn to cook for yourself is to practice! As Michelle Duggar says, practice makes progress! Our husbands and children will appreciate the attempt and the love that we pour into each meal. I am forever grateful to the ladies who gave me recipes at my bridal shower, and I'm actually starting to use them! If you need to buy a wedding gift, a bread machine is a wonderful gift... the bride might take a few years to use it, but when she does, she will be singing your praises! ;)

Happy cooking!

Monday, August 16, 2010

because i said so...

Let me just begin by saying that this issue had me perplexed for months, but I can finally put it into words, (hopefully coherent ones!) Perhaps you've heard of the "deed over creed" understanding in many areas of Judaism today. It was really brought to my attention when I was reading a book on parenting using Jewish principles, "The Blessing of a Skinned Knee," by Wendy Mogel M.D. Though intriguing, I wasn't completed satisfied with the idea. However, through this author's explanation coupled with a message I heard my rabbi teach on spiritual maturity, I have come to understand it much more fully now. Oh, the wonderful lessons we learn from parenting children! (and books on parenting!)
Towards the beginning of the book, the author sums up this "deed over creed" idea as follows: "In Jewish theology, deed carries more weight than creed. This means that G-d is more interested in our actions than in pledges of faith, in how we treat others than in the quality of our prayer. The sages of the Talmud taught that G-d said, 'Better that my people should forsake me but observe my laws, than believe in me but not observe my laws.'" (pp.63-64)

As I read this over and over again, it seemed that something was missing. Doesn't it matter what I believe and how I feel as well as what I do? Then I heard my wise rabbi teaching about spiritual maturity... and the pieces came together. In order to become spiritually mature, we have to "do things" that we don't necessarily understand and/or feel positively about. We have to take G-d at His Word and do what He says, just because He said it. Taking Mogel's words into consideration, she is speaking about parenting children... and we are often like children when it comes to our spirituality. When G-d, our Father, tells us to do something, we sometimes ask "why?" just as we asked our own earthly mothers and fathers when we were young. (And I kid you not, I'm certain I have heard my own daughter ask me "why", and she's not even two years old!) Sure enough, just as it did so many years ago, the answer comes booming back, "Because I said so!" As Mogel mentions, it is commonly understood that in Exodus 24:7, "na'aseh venishmah-- you will do and you will understand" was written in that order for a reason. She writes, "First you do. You are welcome to take your doubts along... Every day, you mine the details for opportunities to elevate, to sanctify, to make order and find meaning. From your actions, you begin to learn G-d's wisdom and see the mark of G-d's touch." (p.241) In other words, just do it and understanding will come eventually.
Just as G-d tells us, "do it anyway," we expect our children to obey us, to not play in the street with matches, to respect others' property, to have manners... even if they don't understand what the big deal is, even if they feel like doing the opposite of what we say, and even if they do it while cursing us under their breath. We are responsible for disciplining our children for disobedience, so that they will learn to do what we say, and more importantly, learn the difference between right and wrong. We cannot alter their feelings, but we can alter their behavior. Likewise, G-d has given us commandments to obey (for our own good). Unfortunately, many of us who are adults physically are still children spiritually, so Mogel's comments apply to us as well. In striving to become mature believers, we must do what G-d says. One day, whether it's here in this world or in the next at the Rabbi's feet, when we become mature, we will understand why we did it....

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

why my posts will probably be shorter...



Shalom! Wow, I really miss blogging...


Having returned from seven weeks away from home, I'm in the process of getting back on our family schedule, getting our home back in order, and chasing my ever-so-close-to-two-year-old daughter!


In the next year (or however long it takes), I plan to become more serious about writing and publishing a devotional book for messianic women, which is why I started this blog! So if my posts become shorter and fewer, it's because I don't want to post everything that will be in the book... if I do, what's the point of writing the book, right?? So please be patient as I struggle to get these words out of my head and where I really desire them to be.... in a book, in your hands....


Be blessed, and keep reading!


Joanna

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

one of my favorite series!

I am re-posting parts 1-3 of the Daughters of Eve series and added part 4 so we can read them in order. It has been a year since I first posted part 1! Wow!

Enjoy!

Joanna

RE-POSTED: Daughters of Eve: Part One (Delicate)

In checking the results of my poll question, I see that the majority of you are choosing the same topic I chose as the most interesting one in a book about women: spirituality and Torah. I don’t know yet exactly how I am going to expound upon that topic, but I thought it best to explore the women who are in the Torah and discover what we can learn from them. What better place to start than the beginning: Bereshit (Genesis) and with the first woman: Eve.

Our ancestor Eve has a pretty bad reputation, doesn’t she? For many (including Adam!), the entire blame for sin entering the world lies on her shoulders because she was first to eat the forbidden fruit. At best, she has been deemed a weak woman who was deceived by the serpent, added to G-d’s words in saying that they were never to touch the fruit (the first “fence” around the Torah, which was not necessarily a bad idea), and took her husband down with her by giving him the fruit to eat also. But how often do we get a glimpse of Eve as she was created to be, before the fall? If women are to understand what G-d’s purpose for creating women in the first place, shouldn’t we look to her? Well, I have found a couple of authors who have really opened my eyes to the reality that we do need to look at Eve as she was when G-d created her. Yes, she sinned (and so have we), but she was G-d’s first female. Her reputation needs to be redeemed, and in doing so, perhaps our view of womanhood will be also.

The first aspect of Eve we will explore is what she unveils about a woman’s heart and her design. “A woman’s struggle with her sense of worth points to something glorious she was designed to be” (quoted from the book Captivating by John & Stasi Eldredge. If you have not read this book, I recommend it!) Think carefully about that statement. Do you ever feel like you’re not living up to what you were created to be? Do you or have you ever struggled with low self worth or self-esteem? I don’t know many women who could honestly answer no to these questions. (I’ve seen an article in a parenting magazine that polled moms on which gender is harder to raise: boys or girls. The results were that girls were easier to raise on every subject except those pertaining to self-esteem. In that area, girls were harder.) It seems that women are queens and princesses somehow ripped away from their kingdoms and domains. We always feel like there is something we’re missing, something we desire but do not have. As the authors put it, “the desire of a woman’s heart and the realities of a woman’s life seem an ocean apart.” This would explain why little girls love fairy tales, love dressing up like princesses…why big girls daydream and keep diaries….why women read romance novels… There’s just something missing. Maybe Eve can help us find it…because she had it…

Something we overlook in the creation account is that Eve was the last creature created, not because she was an afterthought, but because she was the crescendo. She was needed to make the picture complete. Perhaps G-d had Adam wait for her creation so that he would appreciate her all the more when she appeared on the scene. Adam needed to understand that she was taken from him because he needed her. As the Scripture says, “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) We often take that to say that men should get married, but here it is saying that the world was not a good creation without a woman: it was incomplete. As we see here, a woman cannot complete (fulfill) a man and vice versa. It was G-d who did the completing, for Adam slept through the creation of Eve! Single women should not feel incomplete (as I will mention later) because G-d is the ultimate source of fulfillment. And He fulfilled His creation mission by creating Eve. I love this next quote (let’s do it!): “Step to a window, ladies, if you can. Better still, find some place with a view. Look out across the earth and say to yourselves, ‘The whole, vast world is incomplete without me. Creation reached its zenith in me.’”(Captivating, p.25) Did you do it? Good. Let’s continue.

We long to be better women, to do more, to love more, to ______ more (you fill in the blank), but we need to understand why we long. We long because we were created to be a holy, loving, beautiful, strong, delicate creature who had a deep and personal relationship with G-d, who walked with her Creator in a Paradise Garden, who had no shame to be naked with her husband, who was the Mother of all the living (hence her name, Chavah), who was co-ruling and subduing the earth, who was commissioned to be fruitful and multiply, who was the perfect image bearer of G-d’s “feminine” qualities…. and we’re not quite there right now, are we? We long because it is G-d’s way of reminding us that we will never be there until we are with Him and know Him as He is… as Eve knew Him…

All women should be able to relate to Eve, as she was the epitome of what a woman was designed to be. In being created in G-d’s image, she possessed His characteristics, especially those that are said to be “feminine” because they are oftentimes more evident in women: compassion, vulnerability, the ability to comfort, tenderness, affection, mercy, desire for relationship, etc. As I wrote about already in “Hide-n-Seek,” women desire to be pursued because G-d desires to be pursued. Women are often G-d’s helping hands, hugging arms, gentle words, and compassionate tears on earth. Writing this makes me want to know more about Eve, makes me love her for who she was…makes me love myself for who I am…I actually look forward to meeting her someday. I have many questions to ask her…but they won’t be accusatory or sarcastic, not anymore. As I will share in the next entry, she was actually trying to do the right thing…


RE-POSTED: Daughters of Eve: Part Two (Bold)

I had no idea that I would have so much to say about Eve, but I am enjoying every minute of it! Moving on, there is a second aspect of Eve that needs to be dealt with: her strength. I stumbled upon another book at the library (yes, at storytime!) called “Lost Women of the Bible: Finding strength and significance through their stories” by Carolyn Custis James. I have only made it through her section on Eve, but I’m hooked!

James sums up Eve’s “lostness” beautifully: “Eve’s role as instigator in the debacle blotted out the wonder and significance of her creation out of Adam’s side, along with Adam’s rapturous delight in her. Rarely does anyone recall her as the sole inspiration for the world’s first poetry. Even if she lived the rest of her life like Mother Theresa, the world can never forgive what she did to us in Eden. There’s no talk of amnesty for the first human being to break the rank and rebel against G-d. No chance we will forget the “rash hand” that reached for the fruit. A few swift movements and it was over. Eve got lost in Paradise—as lost as any woman has ever been. What she was in earlier times is only a dim and distant memory.” As a woman who knows how it feels to be lost, I forgive her… what about you?

Eve, being the ancestor of all females, must have left a legacy that can pertain to all females: married and single, young and old, mothers and childless. We’ve already seen how studying Eve can show us the depths and desires of a woman’s heart. It was that longing that brought Eve to taste the fruit in the first place. As the serpent told her, the fruit would make her "like G-d" (Genesis 3:4). G-d had indeed said that He made them in His image (1:27), and as James suggests, "being like G-d was Eve's true calling as a woman. This was G-d's design for her. The passion of her heart was to be like G-d. The serpent couldn't possibly have offered her anything more desirable" (Lost Women, p.40). The real problem with Eve was that she failed to trust G-d and what He had told them, and she listened to a voice other than His. We can see ourselves here in Eve because we are often tempted by other voices, by our emotions, by our perception of things (Eve "saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes" Gen. 3:6)) and we can understand why she ate it. Her intentions were good, but she failed miserably... as her husband, Adam, stood by aware of the falsity of the serpent's words (1 Tim. 2:14 informs us that he was not deceived) in silence, and then ate of the fruit also. We have to wonder what Adam was thinking. Was he thinking? Was he even paying attention? Was he distracted by her beauty? Did he not want to say no to her? The possibilities could go on and on, and if you're married, I think you understand where I'm going with this. An assertive, passionate woman and a silent, unattentive man do not go well together, and the result was catastrophic. We have so much to learn from this moment in history...



Eve was created to be Adam's " suitable helper" (Gen. 2:18), his ezer kenegdo in Hebrew. Various translations of the phrase are "helper, strong helper, companion, helpmeet", or as is mentioned in Captivating, "sustainer beside him" (p.31, credited to Robert Alter) or even "lifesaver" (p.32). As you may already know, elsewhere in Scripture this description is used of G-d. G-d is ezer in Deuteronomy 33:26, 29; Psalm 121:2, Psalm 20:2, Psalm 33:20, and Psalm 115:9-11 to name a few places. The world needs women just as someone in danger needs a lifesaver ("to do him good and not evil all the days of her life" Proverbs 31:12). Eve was called to be that, and we know that she failed in the garden. Nevertheless, the purpose for woman's creation remains. "The ezer is a warrior, and this has far reaching implications for women, not only in marraige, but in every relationship, season, and walk of life. G-d created Eve with a mission. The man was alone in the world-- the only one on earth who walked by faith. G-d was preparing to launch the most ambitious enterprise imaginable. The potential for overload, burnout, discouragement, and unbelief was enormous, worse considering the fierce opposition the Enemy was about to mount. Adam couldn't fight these battles alone. So G-d created the ezer as the man's staunchest ally in the life of faith and in fulfilling the Cultural Mandate. Together they exercised dominion to advance G-d's kingdom in their own hearts and on earth." (Lost Women, p.36) I couldn't have said it better myself. I don't know about you, but I needed to hear this. I'm sure I've heard something like it before, but there's something special about the way this author expresses it. I am an ezer, you are an ezer (if you're female), and there is an ezer sleeping in her crib now in the next room. We were called to stand beside men in every aspect of their lives. We are a team, a partnership, a blessed alliance. We learn from the creation of Eve that there are two callings that every female is born with: to be G-d's image bearer and to be an ezer.



As ezers, we are called to join the battle. Men are called to be our spiritual leaders, yes, but that gives us no excuse for sitting on the sidelines. We have to be "responsible to think, decide, and act in ways that honor G-d." (Lost Women, p. 39) There are times when we need to be bold and to initiate words or actions. We also need to encourage and support. We were created for these things.



My hope is that Eve's reputation has been redeemed somewhat by this study of her. There is still more to Eve that I will mention at another time. May she inspire us to be who G-d created us to be.



Be delicate. Be bold. Be a daughter of Eve.





RE-POSTED: Daughters of Eve: Part Three (Cursed)

I've already written about Eve before the fall with hopes of redeeming her reputation in Daughters of Eve Parts One & Two, but now with that done I thought it also necessary to write about her after that fateful day. After all, that day did change the future lives of all of Eve's daughters.

In Genesis 3:16, Eve receives her curse from the L-rd. He says, "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and He shall rule over you." In other translations, it says "increase your pain in childbirth" so I'm not sure if the curse was to make childbirth painful, or just to make it more painful. If you think about it, it seems unlikely that it could be without any pain, but I do know women who attest to painless deliveries (and frankly, I would like to be one of them!). Regardless of exactly what it is saying here, childbirth has become a very painful experience and unfortunately, some of our modern day medical 'advances' make it more painful than it was meant to be, i.e. inducing labor, falsely stimulating contractions, and requiring a laboring woman to lie on her back in a hospital bed to name a few. The New King James translation above makes me think that this curse had more to do with than just labor and delivery. That would actually be fairly mild of G-d because most labors last about 12-24 hours, which is nothing in comparison to a woman's lifetime. The verse also mentions 'sorrow' and 'conception.' This coupled with the fact that I am a woman, I would venture to say that our curse involves our entire reproductive system. Not to be too graphic, but do you think that Eve would have had a menstrual cycle before the fall, living happily naked in the garden with her husband? I think not. Nor do I think that G-d created Eve barren, and biologically we know that in most cases at least, it is necessary to have a menstrual cycle in order to conceive a child. It is possible (as anything is with G-d) that Eve was able to conceive without this cycle. So does that mean that our monthly 'visitor' was part of the curse? I don't know (but I'm certainly willing to say yes because it sometimes feels like a curse, doesn't it?). Thanks to Eve (but I still forgive her), we have painful monthly cycles, difficulty conceiving or barrenness, complicated pregnancies, miscarriages, stillbirths, and pain in labor and delivery. It doesn't end here, however.

As commentator Matthew Henry suggests, "The sorrows of child-bearing are multiplied; for they include, not only the travailing throes, but the indispositions before (it is sorrow from the conception), and the nursing toils and vexations after; and after all, if the children prove wicked and foolish, they are, more than ever, the heaviness of her that bore them. Thus are the sorrows multiplied; as one grief is over, another succeeds in this world". In thinking about Eve's curse, this is where my mind went also. What about when the babies and children grow up? Through their disobedience, rebellion, and bad choices, their mothers continue to feel the consequences of the curse (G-d knows what I put my mother through during my teenage years!). Thus far, experiencing pregnancy, delivery, and the first ten months of my daughter's life, my potential for joy has increased drastically: so too my potential for sorrow. Any pain, physical or emotional, she has caused me is multiplied greatly because she is my child. As she develops a mind of her own, she is already discovering her power and her independence to make choices, like refusing to eat what is offered to her or continuing to do things that I tell her not to. And it is this point in her life that has brought me to continue this series on Eve because the curse is already being felt in my heart. Perhaps every young mother goes over these scenarios in their minds: how will I handle it when she starts to say 'no'?; what will I feel the first time she slams the door in my face or tells me "I hate you"?; will she be embarrassed by me?; will she make the same mistakes I did?; will she grow up to be a godly person? Of course, they are some of the milder side effects of the curse. I couldn't imagine the pain of losing a child or not being able to have biological children at all. I refuse to even get a dog now because I can't commit to caring for it as a member of the family. I have had dogs in the past that have passed away because I couldn't afford to take them to the vet or I was too busy for them. That pain is enough for me, but I'm sure it is nothing compared to losing a child. Imagine that one of your children takes the life of another of your children. Eve could tell us what that feels like. We don't hear much about her after Cain murders Abel in Scripture besides the account of her other children, but surely she dealt with the resulting pain for the rest of her life.

I'm not trying to be pessimistic (although this is a serious subject to deal with). By faith, I don't expect my little girl or any subsequent children of mine (B"H) to reject me, be rebellious, or grow up resisting the faith and values that I will work hard to instill in them. In this fallen world, it is a known fact that children cause their mothers a great deal of pain, and vice versa. I guess in my mind I am expecting the best, but trying to prepare myself for the worst. For now, I will just continue to enjoy my precious little gift who cannot really speak yet, and pray for HaShem's wisdom and guidance to bring her up to revere and love Him, and in turn revere and love me and my husband.

Unfortunately, the curse doesn't end here. If it did, it would only affect women of child-bearing age and mothers. It continues, "your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you. I've mentioned earlier that many believe this verse to be dealing with a woman's desire to be in control and to rule over her husband although G-d had given spiritual dominion to men. Henry sums it up like this: " If man had not sinned, he would always have ruled with wisdom and love; and, if the woman had not sinned, she would always have obeyed with humility and meekness; and then the dominion would have been no grievance: but our own sin and folly make our yoke heavy. If Eve had not eaten forbidden fruit herself, and tempted her husband to eat it, she would never have complained of her subjection; therefore it ought never to be complained of, though harsh; but sin must be complained of, that made it so. Those wives who not only despise and disobey their husbands, but domineer over them, do not consider that they not only violate a divine law, but thwart a divine sentence." In this sinful world, where two imperfect people get married, it is commonplace that a man will try to control (even abuse) every aspect of his wife's existence, and a woman will disrespect (even despise)and nag her husband to the point that he wished he didn't exist. If we are both submissive to G-d and His word, however, our marriages will not follow this pattern. I spoke about a woman's most dangerous weapon (her mouth) in my post, "Do you drip?" so I won't go into detail here. Suffice it to say that women sometimes feel a need to be in control of every situation, and this is most certainly a result of the fall. This aspect of the curse also seems to affect a limited amount of women: those who are married. What about the rest of womankind?

If you have not read parts one and two of Daughters of Eve, I invite you to read them now. There I speak of what Eve teaches us about all women: our longing to be loved, to be beautiful, to be accepted, to be pursued...
The curse of Eve affects us all as we strive to fill the voids and the holes in our hearts with anything other than our Creator himself. Without Him, we are lost and indeed continue to be cursed. But with Him, we are magnificently loved, fully accepted, exceptionally beautiful, and constantly pursued...

To be a mother, a wife, a follower of G-d: the sorrows will come, but the unspeakable joys make the journey well worth it.

Daughters of Eve: Part Four (Blessed)

After writing Part Three (Cursed), I realized that I could not end it there because I failed to mention a very important verse in Genesis. I also wanted to end on a very positive note (if this in indeed the end of Eve's series!) So once more, I am peeling away the layers of our mother, ancestor, and model: Eve.

Although G-d is speaking to the serpent in Genesis 3:15, Eve is mentioned. Here, G-d says, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." While I am not equipped to go into an in depth study of all aspects of this verse, I just want to focus on the woman's "seed". The word for "seed" in Scripture other places is used for "offspring," but it is usually directed at men's offspring because the same word is also used for 'semen.' That should make us think that this verse is unique. Eve apparently thought so, too. In Genesis 4:1, she gives birth to Seth and says, "I have acquired a man from the L-RD." She was obviously thrilled to have a son after what G-d had said concerning her "seed." In theology today, this is considered the first messianic prophecy concerning Yeshua. He would be the One who came into the world, being carried in the womb of his earthly mother, but with no earthly father to share His bloodline. He was "her seed."
As I wrote about in part three, Eve had her fair share of heartbreak as a mother. However, I would be overlooking a very important detail if I had failed to mention that one of her descendants would be the Messiah. We can count her blessed indeed! As a mother myself, I can say that my child has blessed me beyond words and she's not yet two years old! Our children have a place in our hearts like no one else. They often receive the best we have to offer... of love, of compassion, of tenderness and care. We long for them to be healthy, happy (sometimes to their detrement), and successful. We drown them with affection and strive to give them everything they could ever need (or want). We spoil them (just admit it, we do!) We love them like we love ourselves because they once were (and in our minds, always will be) a part of us. There is no love like the love that exists between a mother and her children. Knowing this, I am certain that Eve's children gave her as much (or more) joy than hardship.
Writing this series has given me a new and immeasurable respect and regard for Eve and her legacy. As we remember her, let's try not to be so harsh on her. After all, if placed in the same situation and under the same deceptive temptation, we would have probably done the same thing... Let us see her as she was created to be, as we were created to be. She was delicate, she was bold, she was cursed, and she was blessed... not much different than you and I. She was the first woman created in His image and likeness. Surely that is enough reason to honor her...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

why so jewish?

The four words that have often come in some form or another to many of us in a conversation (or a rebuke)... "but you're not Jewish..."

My response to this always comes down to one simple fact: The Messiah was Jewish, I belong to Him, and I just want to be like Him. If G-d had chosen to send the Messiah into 20th century China instead of 1st century Israel, then I suspect that I would be more engrossed in Chinese history and culture. But He didn't...

Just as it was in Yeshua's day, the "spiritual segregation" of Jews and Gentiles (I prefer the terms Hebrews and non-Hebrews) is still going on in messianic congregations and gatherings today. The notion that non-Hebrew believers (like myself) are second-class citizens in the Kingdom G-d, and therefore they are not required to keep the Torah because it doesn't belong to them, is very prevalent... even causing a highly respected ministry organization to change their view and recant their position on this sensitive subject.

This issue has been on my mind and heart lately, as I have had the opportunity to hear for myself an individual who, in his Shabbat message, entirely excluded non-Hebrews from his teaching about observing Torah. He successfully left me and my husband feeling offended, hurt, and less than inspired as he proclaimed that Jewish believers are being led to keep the Torah by the Spirit of G-d (which is true, but what about me? Do I have the "Gentile Holy Spirit"? Is there not one Spirit of G-d?)

I am in the process of researching for the post that could be (from my vantage point) the post of all posts: the relationship between non-Hebrew believers and the Torah of G-d. This is a subject very near and dear to my heart... and perhaps yours too.

As a side note, I am enjoying my "vacation" in sunny South Florida, staying with my Rabbi and his family, and catching up with everyone that I have missed terribly this past six months. It is amazing to be back in my "home" congregation, where visitors have a hard time distinguishing between the "Jews" and the "Gentiles"... I suppose it will be like that also in the Kingdom of G-d, when ALL of His children sit at His feet, learning and doing Torah... just like Yeshua.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

boat tour on the Hudson River









We have been fairly busy with family and events lately. I am also in the process of preparing to leave for Florida on Sunday for a (long) visit. I will try to write more from there! Blessings, Joanna

Thursday, June 3, 2010

my "Called to Cover" interview

I was recently interviewed by a young woman and fellow blogger in her "Called to Cover" series, which I think is a great idea! If you are a head-covering woman, you can go to her blog, http://www.asetapartlife.blogspot.com/ to be interviewed. I enjoyed answering the questions so much that I posted them here!

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your faith
I am a 29 year old wife, mother of one, and "blogger" I have had a relationship with Yeshua for just over 7 years now, and have been pursuing the Torah and a messianic lifestyle for almost 6 of those 7 years. Becoming more and more Torah observant as those years went by, I have come to realize how much Yeshua truly loved and kept the Torah of G-d, and He desires His followers to do the same. My passion and calling in life is to share the Good News of the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua, with His own relatives, the Jewish people. My family is currently doing that in Brooklyn, New York, through the ministry of Chosen People Ministries.

2. Why do you choose to cover?
There are several reasons why I chose to begin covering my head with a hat. For one, it is a constant visual reminder for me that I am to be submissive to G-d always and everywhere because He is above me, and also a reminder to submit to my husband. There is also nothing in Scripture that would discourage a woman (especially a married woman) from covering her hair. Secondly, it sets me apart from other women and has led to conversations with orthodox Jewish women who felt comfortable and curious enough to talk to me about religion because my head was covered.

3. How long have you been covering?
I have been consistently covering my head for about a year now.

4. Do you wear your head covering everyday?
Yes. I wear it whenever I leave my home, or when I have company over.

5. Have you noticed a difference in the way others perceive/treat you?
Yes. I have had people comment on the fact that I seem "different" when I was attending a Christian college. Other than that, it's mostly a difference in the way that men look at me and interact with me that I have noticed.

6. Have you encountered any negative opposition to your choice from friends or family? If so, how do you deal with that?
I don't recall any negative opposition, but some have just asked questions, and when I answer them, they have usually been considerate and understanding. Now, living in a largely Muslim neighborhood, I do get some "looks" for my hat, long skirts, my Star of David necklace, etc. but I look forward to building relationships with them based on the foundation that they also value modesty, and that we are not enemies.

7. Do you have any advice or resource suggestions for women who are just beginning to cover?My advice would be this: The most beautiful thing about covering your hair is that you are saying to the world, "I am not oppressed or abused, I am so valuable that only my husband can see what my hair really looks like in its natural state. G-d gave me my hair as a covering, for the sake of modesty, and as a gift to the one man that I desire to desire me..." Don't worry about what other people think about your hair covering, what matters is your heart's attitude in the matter. Hair covering, like all issues of modesty, is really something that is between you and G-d, and your husband if you are married. A couple of resources that I found extremely encouraging are two articles: one at www.covermyhair.com (scroll down for it), which is an explanation of why Jewish women cover their hair, and the other one is at http://www.aish.com/f/rf/48944771.html which is a beautiful response from a Rabbi's wife to a question about hair covering, and it emphasizes the fact that we are choosing inner beauty over outer beauty.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

the best part of waking up...




"You should wake up with gratitude to G-d for having restored your faculties, and with a lionlike resolve to serve your Creator, you should immediately declare:

I gratefully thank You, O living and eternal King, for You have returned [I say 'awakened'] my soul within me with compassion-- abundant is Your faithfulness."

~ "Upon Arising" from the
Artscroll Women's Siddur~


Thus begins the "Shacharit," or morning prayers in the Siddur. It should be the first thing one says when waking up each morning. If you're like me, perhaps you have mumbled it to yourself occassionally while dragging yourself out of bed to tend to the little one whose gleeful chatter flows from the baby monitor. I know that lions can be fairly lazy at times, but I don't think this is what is meant by "lionlike resolve!" I consider myself a "morning person" to an extent, because that is usually when I'm most productive and have the most energy. However, I cannot even begin to compare myself with my daughter, who is definitely a morning person! When she wakes up, she hardly ever cries. Rather, she jumps right back into the conversation she was having with herself the previous day... she squeals, she laughs, she bangs on the crib...


She has been a great reminder to me that the best part of waking up is not Folger's in your cup (although I do drink Folger's in the morning), but the best part of waking up is waking up! As soon as we realize that we have been given another day of life, there is more than enough reason to exclaim our gratitude! It is only with G-d's help that we are able to breathe at all. As it is stated in the "Bedtime Shema," we ask G-d "may You illuminate my eyes lest I die in sleep, for it is You who illuminates the pupil of the eye." Without His approval, there would be no waking up.


It's nice to read Psalm 5 in the morning, because in verse 3, it says: "In the morning, O L-RD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch." Mornings can be difficult for families, especially with small children. Nevertheless, we should strive to express our gratitude to HaShem and let Him hear our voice, so that we can prepare ourselves to "eagerly watch" and see what He will do throughout the day ahead.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

the faceless child

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb

~Psalm 139:13~

Pregnancy is one of the greatest miracles I have experienced in my life. A topic has arisen, however, that is one of the greatest mysteries in my life... One that I will be reminded of each time I go to a new gynecologist or doctor, which I did two days ago. There is always the question of "how many pregnancies..." and my answer is currently "two." Unfortunately, my answer to how many children is "one."

In my past life, (in other words, before I knew Yeshua), I experienced a miscarriage at the young age of 20 years old. In addition, within the past few months, the issue has been brought even closer to home as miscarriages have affected the lives of family and friends. Experiencing a miscarriage is an indescribable loss, the loss of your own flesh... within your flesh. Whether it occurs when the baby is five weeks old (which mine did) or five months, it's devastating. Since mine happened early on, I can only imagine that the pain would grow deeper as the weeks and months of bonding and anticipation go along. With that said, I feel that a stillbirth would somehow be the most painful of them all. Anything that I remember about the physical process is too graphic to post here, but I clearly remember that the emotional distress was much worse than anything physical I experienced. Tears of sadness, grief, and disappointment mingled with tears of anger and disbelief. The lingering guilt that maybe I had done something wrong... the fear of getting pregnant again... it's all still real to me. The insensitivity of the staff mixed with the physically painful experience at the E.R... definitely not something I would want to experience again. The doctor I was referred to didn't give me any reason other than the fact that "my body had rejected it"... perhaps she found me too young to understand anything medical, so I'll never know what happened... perhaps she didn't know either.

I found this quote today: "Not all suffering can be explained. There is pain, sometimes, that is not punishment and not repair. True, we were given Torah, a G-dly wisdom containing.. things even Moses asked about and was told to be quiet, to cease to ask... We can only know that whatever happens is from G-d, that G-d is just, and that He does not desire suffering. But until the end of days, we will have to suffer the 'why'" ~Tzvi Freeman. Even though there are no answers to the 'why's of my suffering or the 'why's of the millions of other women who experience such a loss, I did come to see that it didn't happen in vain. It was not until years later, after coming to the knowledge that Yeshua was the Messiah and that He was the Author of Life, that I begin to make peace with the tragedy turned blessing in disguise. Although it is not the case for many women who experience this, I was young, unmarried, and in a relationship that G-d knew (I didn't at the time) was fruitless and even destructive. Through this precious soul that He allowed in my womb for five short weeks, I began to see more clearly that my life was not moving in the direction where, deep down, I desired it to go.

In Ecclesiastes 7:1-4, we read this: "A good name is better than a good ointment, And the day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning Than to go to a house of feasting, Because that is the end of every man, And the living takes it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, For when a face is sad a heart may be happy. The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, While the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure." Mourning can lead to some deep thinking. Believe me, I know. Within only a few years, I lost an unborn child, my father, and my grandmother. And a few years after that, I gained a relationship with the One who was the only One who could comfort me, Yeshua. Now, years later, I understand that although G-d did not desire to make me suffer, He used each one of these tragedies to bring me just a little closer to Him.... until "the mind of the wise" led me to His feet.

In wanting to reach out to anyone who has suffered this kind of loss, I searched for some resources (there doesn't seem to be a lot!) to share with you. Although I don't agree with them on everything theologically, http://www.chabad.org/ has proven helpful to me concerning many issues. They have an extensive array of articles just for women. I found two concerning miscarriage (by the way, one of might mention reincarnation which I certainly don't agree with, but the good thing about them is they are from personal experiences): They are: "The Empty Sac" www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/337722/jewish/The-Empty-Sac.htm, and "The Unlit Candle" www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/804487/jewish/The-Unlit-Candle


As far as written materials go, I searched at http://www.christianbook.com/ and got a pretty lengthy list: http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/easy_find?Ntt=miscarriage&N=0&Ntk=keywords&action=Search&Ne=0&event=ESRCN&nav_search=1&cms=1&search=%3CSPAN+class%3D%22big-blue-button+cleartype%22%3EGo%3C%2FSPAN%3E and I assume that they are written from a Christian perspective.


I'll never forget that night several years ago, watching some Christian talk-show on television, that it truly hit me. There is a faceless soul, a child... in the presence of G-d Almighty Himself... who happens to be mine, or at least the one that G-d loaned to me for five weeks in my womb. Now I can honestly say, this brings me nothing but great joy and gratitude.


"See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven"


~Matthew 18:10~

** After writing this, I began reading "The Gospel of Ruth" by Carolyn Custis James. I would recommend it to any woman, especially those who are having trouble conceiving children or experiencing miscarriages, etc.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

teaching tzedakah


"Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the L-rd."
Leviticus (Vayikra 23:16)

With Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks in Leviticus 23, (very informative article on Shavuot: http://ffoz.org/messiahonline/articles/appointed_times/shavuot.php?zoom_highlight=shavuot+tzedakah approaching, many people all over the world are thinking about giving tzedakah (referring to charity, but translated from the Hebrew as "justice" or "righteousness")

This is a beautiful time of year to also teach our children the importance of tzedakah. To teach it, however, we must first make it a vital part of our lives, because children learn what they live. Having a family tzedakah box inside your home is a great place to start, having a common goal of how your spare change could be used to bless someone else's life. I recently came across a "Wonder Pets" family charity bank on NickJr.'s website, and since my daughter loves the show, I'm going to make one. But we already have several places for our change (which is the problem), but the boxes never fill up because the change is spread too thin! Nevertheless, even an 18-month old can put quarters into a bank slot, and she loves to do it! Other forms of tzedakah don't require money banks at all. We can write checks, give online, give cash, give food, clothes, volunteer our time, etc. etc. If we make giving a part of our lives (and do it joyfully), then our children will learn to do the same.

I found this article to be very helpful in explaining a Jewish understanding of tzedakah, so I pasted it in its entirety. Find the original at: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/practices/Ethics/Tzedakah_Charity/Themes.shtml?PRET "Anyone who has ever studied another language knows that there are certain ideas and concepts that can only be understood in their original language. In Jewish tradition, too, there are values embedded in its very language of keywords and phrases that cannot always be adequately translated or explained. The Hebrew word tzedakah is one example.
Although often translated as “charity,” tzedakah is not equivalent to charity. Rather, its root means “justice.” Charity comes from the Latin word caritas, which means “love.” The concept of charity in English is considered voluntary because it comes from the heart. In Christianity, charity is something which people give when their hearts move them.
In contrast, tzedakah/justice is a biblical and rabbinic concept that embodies the idea that Jews are obligated to pursue social and economic justice. Jews must help the oppressed members of society as well as those in financial straits not because they want to, but because they are required to do so as one way of serving G-d, performing G-d’s commandments, and even acting like G-d. (Indeed, in the biblical text the word “tzedakah” is usually used as an expression of

G-d’s own righteousness and justice—and human beings are commanded to pursue tzedek (a closely related word), social justice.) Tzedakah is a way of looking at the world and understanding the human role in creating a more perfect world—and by doing so, imitating qualities of the Divine.
The giving of tzedakah is even equated with a spiritually righteous and expiating act of religious significance. Rabbi Akiba, one of the greatest rabbis from the time of the Talmud, once stated that when the ancient Temple in Jerusalem used to stand, the altar, upon which animal sacrifices were made, used to atone for the sins of the people of Israel. But since the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE by the Romans, Rabbi Akiba claimed that now a person’s dining table atones for each person's sins. How so? By being able to invite needy guests home and to provide them with food.
The talmudic rabbis felt strongly about the spiritual significance of tzedakah, claiming that when one practices tzedakah and justice, it is as though he or she had filled the world with lovingkindness. One rabbinic teaching states that when a beggar stands before you asking for alms, you should know that the holy presence of G-d stands by the beggar’s side
Tzedakah is closely related to gemilut chasadim, which involves actions and commitment beyond mere financial gifts. It can mean donating one’s time and energy to helping others, such as reading for the blind, visiting in a hospital, or volunteering in a food bank. The Jewish tradition requires us to give something of ours, money and time, to those in need. It also recognizes that throughout our lives we will all be in need at various times, of financial assistance or simply of care throughout life’s challenges, and that providing such assistance is required of individuals and communities. In the theology of Judaism, all of our possessions, and even the time we are allotted on earth, are but a loan from the Creator. Therefore, when we engage in the commandment and duty of tzedakah (and the related category of gemilut chasadim), we are securing a more equitable distribution of G-d's gifts to humanity."

This same website also had an article on how to teach children about tzedakah, which is at:

In conclusion, I think the best way to teach children how to give is to show them. If they don't see you giving, then they won't know that you are. Getting them involved in tzedakah projects as a family is crucial to their understanding of tzedakah. As my daughter gets older, I make sure that she "gives gifts" to others, which consists right now of her handing them the gift, but as she gets older, she will be able to give gifts of her own. Young children can "pick out" gifts, can hand money to homeless people, can put a donation into a tzedakah box, can help pack a box that is being sent overseas, can volunteer their time, can make people smile, etc.... so never underestimate the power of a child to give. In fact, it is usually children who teach us adults how to give! And they do it cheerfully, as we are told to do in 2 Corinthians 9:7.

In searching for ways that a small child can be involved in giving, I came across the Pajama Program/The Great Sprout tuck-in (if you watch Sprout on demand, you've heard of it!), which donates new pajamas and books to children in need, many waiting to be adopted. A toddler can certainly help pick out a pair of jammies and a book to give away, and for older children there is a "pajama party" to collect the donations and send them in. All the info can be found here:
www.sproutonline.com/sprout/greattuckin This is just one simple way to teach children to give, but more importantly, they need to see us give... and not just money, of course. Children see and hear everything.... how we spend our time, how we treat other people, how we talk to people, and how we give of ourselves to others, and that is what they will imitate.

In this season of special offerings and gifts (and celebrating the beautiful gift of the Torah that G-d gave us, both the Written and the Living Torah), let us also give... give to G-d, give to others, and give our children an understanding that tzedakah is not something we do every once in a while to feel good about ourselves, but it's a way of life.

inner dialogue...


The past couple weeks have been joyfully busy ones... celebrating Mother's Day and my 29th birthday in the same month, watching movies, reading (I've acquired 7 new books, some from my husband and some I bought for myself as birthday gifts), organizing things around the house, and doing crafts (in order words, making messes) with my daughter. It's been fun, but (unfortunately) has led to me not writing very much.

One of the books that my husband gave me for Mother's Day, Living Simply by Joanne Heim, was a great reminder to, well...live simply! This is something that I have been thinking a lot about lately, and the insight I gained from reading this book was very encouraging. Although there was some information that did not pertain to me because I am messianic (and the author is Christian), it was still a great read.

In striving to live simply, I also want to blog simply! Most (or all) of my blog entries have always have directly connected to what is going on in my life, my mind, my heart, my surroundings, etc. Even though I choose to write them as if I am teaching a lesson, it is always myself whom I am teaching it to! I also plan to publish many in a devotional-type book, so that is another reason I write them this way. I prefer to look at them as an inner dialogue (or should I say dia-blog?) written in a different way than me just expressing my thoughts in a personal journal style. I think that my blog subtitle expresses it best: I'm here to share, inspire, encourage, and connect... and if we learn something along the way, that's just an added bonus! (I have learned a lot, by the way!)

Although I have MANY blog entries that are in the works (some being typed, some just in my head), I don't post them until I feel that they are complete and that I've considered what others have said or written about the issue. So be patient... they're coming!!

I'm also preparing to go to Florida in mid-June to visit family and friends, so that doesn't help me to focus on writing either. It just makes me giddy!! Anyway, thanks for listening, for reading, and for waiting...

Shavuah Tov!

-Joanna

Thursday, May 6, 2010

six months 'til terrible...











In a mere six months, I will be the proud mother of a two-year old. I've worked with two-year olds before at a preschool, so I'm not too worried about her becoming "terrible." I'm more excited than anything. It seems that every day now, she learns something new, expresses herself in a different way. It's truly amazing to watch her grow up. I look at her baby pictures and cannot imagine her ever being that small, that fragile... I've been blessed to be her mother this long, and I look to forward to every day the L-rd allows us to spend together. She's my princess, my little helper, my constant companion...


Looking forward to my second Mother's Day
(with her outside the womb)...

Happy Mother's Day to all of you who are mothers, too!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Shema

video

Our little Elli is a master of imitation. All children are, because that is how they learn to do things, by copying others. We chant the Shema with her twice a day, before naptime and before bedtime. So, in seeing us cover our eyes to remember the holiness of G-d, she now does the same thing. It's so precious to us, and I know that it is even more precious to HaShem.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

the barren womb

"The leech has two daughters, "Give, Give." There are three things that will not be satisfied, four that will not say, "Enough": Sheol and the barren womb, Earth that is never satisfied with water, and fire that never says, "Enough."

Proverbs 30:15-16


As my first wedding anniversary approached, I began to show symptons of a virus that affects millions of women each day I'm sure, "the baby bug." You probably know what I'm referring to... the endless daydreaming of what it would be like to be pregnant, to actually hold your baby in your arms, strolling through the baby sections of every store you enter because the clothes are just so little and cute, thumbing through baby naming books, finding yourself staring at mothers with their babies, seeing the world through pink and baby blue-colored glasses... perhaps you've been there, too.


I remember those naive feelings of bliss, clueless about what it would really mean to actually experience motherhood, thinking that my world was about to transform into some kind of paradise. It continued after the "positive" pregnancy test, and then six weeks after conceiving, the paradise turned into puke-ville! As I wrote about in detail in the post, "A Time to be Sick," I had a very unpleasant three and a half months of severe morning sickness during my pregnancy. It was only then that I learned that having a baby was much more than picking out patterns and clothes, having a shower, and deciding on names. It was the biggest test of self-sacrifice that I have ever and possibly will ever face, giving up your body in a sense in order to nourish and sustain another body, another life. True, pre-pregnancy and pregnancy is the time to be blissfully naive, extremely happy and hopeful, and I never attempt to make pregnant women feel otherwise. They should be smiling, glowing! It's truly an amazing state to be in! When the baby joins the family, then reality has a way of showing up! Don't get me wrong, I loved the last half of my pregnancy, coming home from the hospital with the cries of newborns freshly ringing in my ear, sleeping in the recliner because I was unable to lie flat in bed, and stumbling around in the dark at all hours of the night to tend to my new daughter... It was an incredible, almost surreal experience for my husband and I, and we hope to do it all again.


Which brings me to the present time, recently discovering that a close friend is pregnant with baby number three, and I find myself with a (temporary) case of the baby bug again. For a few days, I found myself repeating those same daydreams, even though I know what reality feels like! So once again, I see the truth and the importance of the above verse from Proverbs. A barren womb is never satisfied... I think we should not miss the fact that barren womb is mentioned alongside death, thus alluding to the fact that both are real and powerful forces. I have mentally and emotionally felt the pull of my own barren womb, so I am aware of its power. Perhaps you've been there, too. I do plan, Bizrat HaShem, to have more children, but not now. In weighing the pros and cons, I've decided it is not the most favorable time for my family to add another member, especially taking my sickness into account. However, just as sure as I hear my biological clock ticking, I hear my womb whispering, "more"...


Being a mother and still experiencing this "syndrome" makes me wonder how childless women must feel. I have heard it said that all women desire deep down to be mothers, and although there certainly are women who are too busy, selfish, and comfortable to be "inconvenienced" with children, I cannot say what is truly going on in their hearts. Perhaps the desire can be quelled or redirected to having money, pets, collectibles, etc. Of course, I am not speaking for women who are unable to conceive children and/or adoption is not a viable option for them... they have my deepest sympathy. Nevertheless, I would like to encourage anyone who does not have children of their own by going deeper in this matter.


Being a mother can mean much more than physically having children. I know of plenty of women who have conceived and given birth, but I would not call them mothers at all. If you are childless, let me encourage you with this verse from Isaiah used to bless single women every shabbat:


"Sing, barren woman who has never had a child! Burst into song, shout for joy,

you who have never been in labor! For the deserted wife will have more children than the woman who is living with her husband, " says Adonai... Don't be afraid,

for you won't be ashamed; don't be discouraged, for you won't be disgraced. You will forget the shame of your youth, no longer remember the dishonor of being widowed. For your husband is your Maker, the L-rd of Hosts is His name. The Holy One

of Israel is your Redeemer. He will be called the G-d of all the earth."

Isaiah 54:1,4,5.


How can the barren woman end up with more children than the mother? By having spiritual children. Think about it, a woman who directs her maternal instincts to forming relationships with spiritual children can have more children than any of us would ever dream of having physically (yes, even Michelle Duggar!) And the quantity is not the important part. You don't need hundreds of spiritual children, just a few good ones. If we are honest, we know that in many cases, the people who had the biggest spiritual impact on us are not our parents at all. All women, whether mothers or not, are called and commanded to teach and disciple younger women. In Titus 2:3-5, older women are told to teach the younger women, and I think age here is more about spiritual maturity than the number of years you've been on the earth.


I have had and am grateful for the many women who have "mothered" me. Whether it was my biological mother who nurtured me, my senior-citizen neighbor who taught me how to cross-stitch, the co-worker who gave me advice regarding health, the friend who brought me chicken soup when I could not eat much more than that, or the many older women who pray for me and offer spiritual guidance. It is very important to have these women in our lives, whether they are spiritual mothers or spiritual daughters. If you have no experience raising children, then pray that G-d would send you a young woman that needs guidance in something you do have experience doing. Teach her to read, to write, to sew, to cook, to love G-d... whatever you can teach her. Surely she will be grateful to have a spiritual mother like you in her life.


So, mothers and spiritual mothers alike, the next time your barren womb whispers to you, "not satisfied," ... just pat your belly and say, "Actually, I am more than satisfied... because I have many spiritual children, because my husband is my Maker, the L-rd of Hosts is His name, and He will be called the G-d of all the earth."