Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end."
Isaiah 9:6-7a

Wonderful Counselor.

Mighty God.

Everlasting Father.

Prince of Peace.

And yet...He was nothing like anyone expected. A baby born to an unwed mother and laid in the animals' feed trough. A man who preached a radical enemy-love rather than overthrowing the earthly government. A Saviour Who died on a cross, hung between two thieves.

Nothing like anyone expected.

Our Advent celebrations are over. Christmas Eve is here. The presents are wrapped and tucked under the tree. The babies are snuggled in bed in their new mama-made Christmas pajamas. Cinnamon buns are baked and ready for Christmas morning. We are surrounded by loving family: my amazing mother- and father-in-law, my two beautiful sister-in-laws, my own sister, and my sweet baby niece, all of us ready to celebrate the birth of our Saviour.

Wishing you a joyful Christmas and many blessings in the new year!

Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe after all we’ve projected
A child in a manger
Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother's shawl
Just a child, is this who we’ve waited for?

'Cause how many kings stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior
All that we have whether costly or meek
Because we believe
Gold for His honor and frankincense for His pleasure
And myrrh for the cross He’ll suffer
Do you believe, is this who we’ve waited for?
It’s who we’ve waited for?

How many kings stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
Only one did that for me

All for me
All for you
All for me
All for you

Sunday, 19 December 2010


This time
last year
you were barreling through,
steam train waiting for no one,
surprising us all.

You joined us
one minute curled in my womb,
the next
with us,
angry howls filling the room
as I cradled you to my breast.
"Oh. There you are. Hello!"
We brought you to bed with us
just like we had every night
for the nine months before
and the twelve months since.
There you were.

Here you are.
You are all contrasts now.
Still so much a baby,
covered in soft baby skin,
rolls folds and creases.
Closed eyes and open mouth
hunting for
and yet -

And yet
you are standing on the verge of toddlerhood.
Standing on strong legs
taking those first uncertain steps,
joy and pride bursting forth
from your toothy grin.
Mr. Personality now
with your flirting
and your peek-a-boos,
with your determined wants
and frustrated tears
and angry cries.
Sometimes it's hard to be one.

And now we enter
a new year for you,
and soon
a new year for us too
promising growth
for you, yes
and maybe for us?

My darling baby,
I love you.

Happy birthday.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Quick and easy homemade Christmas gifts for children

With just one week left until Christmas, here are some simple last minute homemade gift ideas for children.

Fabric birds

These sweet little fabric birds can be made in under an hour from scraps of fabric. They make cute stocking stuffers or small gifts for children. The tail is perfect for tiny hands to clutch, so add a bell with the stuffing for an easy baby rattle.

My preschooler loves to help make these for his friends. He chooses the fabric, cuts out the rough pattern (which I then tidy up before sewing), and helps me stuff the bird before I sew up the tail.


Beanbags are a classic toy for children. Use a variety of textured fabrics to increase sensory experience. These are easy enough for even the most beginner sewer - simply cut out squares, stitch around three sides, fill with your choice of filling, and sew up the fourth side. As an optional final step, topstitch around the entire beanbag for a more professional look and reinforced finishing.

Crayon roll

Another great stocking stuffer, these crayon rolls are ideal for restaurants, church, and waiting rooms. They also make a great addition to an art bag.


(Photo credit: lokiandazreal)

If you have basic knitting skills and some extra yarn, these gnomes are adorable and have great play value. Make them with all natural materials for a perfect Waldorf toy.

Cloth shoes

Another quick project, these cloth shoes can be embellished in a variety of ways. Add them to a stocking or use them to complete a new outfit. Great for keeping baby socks on little feet!

Pajama pants

A classic Christmas Eve gift, try your hand at a homemade set this year. This tutorial is excellent for a pair of basic pajama pants, and for an easy matching shirt, just add an applique to a plain t-shirt.

Envelope shirt

Alternatively, this 90 minute shirt tutorial is easy to follow, and the results are just too adorable. Also makes a cute daytime shirt all on its own. Make it with new knit fabric or upcycle a men's t-shirt.

Baby sets

Also perfect gifts for baby showers, a basic flannel baby set is both practical and cute. I like to include in mine:

  • an extra-large receiving blanket with a basic rolled hem (those store bought ones are never quite big enough after the first few weeks!),
  • a burp pad (cut a bean shape, sew right sides together leaving a small opening, turn, and topstitch around the whole thing to close), and
  • towel-backed washcloths (I cut up on-hand baby towels for the backing, which never find much use around here as we quickly switch to regular towels both for size and absorbency).

Package in a matching drawstring bag for a reusable gift wrap that can later be used to hold toys or bring along activities in the car.

With that, I'm out, off to finish up Christmas pajamas and tackle my frightening to-do list before our holiday travels begin. Happy crafting!

Thursday, 16 December 2010


We've been busy...


and more!

Looking forward to sharing with you again!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010


"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
Matthew 5:16

The verse, read countless times before, stands out this time. I repeat it, meditating, savouring, writing it on my heart.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

We are not saved by our good deeds. No, salvation is a gift, a wonderful, undeserved, priceless gift. But what sort of faith would refuse? If we love God and seek to be like Christ, should there not naturally arise a desire to be as Christ to the world? Being a light, doing good works, bringing glory to God.

We can be that light when we reach out to others, rather than waiting to be reached out to. I am reminded of the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:

"O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love."

We can be the light that meets countless physical needs, feeding the hungry, sheltering the poor, clothing the naked, being generous. We can be the light that meets untold emotional needs, encouraging, loving, lifting up. We can be that light today, right here, to our families, seeking to love and serve and meet their needs, rather than waiting to first be loved and served and have our needs met.

And in doing these things, we can be the light that points to the One that meets our every spiritual need.

Sometimes we get it all wrong. All of us, all different types, have our weaknesses and blind spots. A fair-skinned, blue-eyed Jesus; a pope met with worshipful fanfare that would make Peter weep in horror and disgust; a weak gospel intended to tickle the ears and increase numbers rather than save souls. And on and on and on, errors made by humans but attributed to God. The light flickers.

Sometimes we ask all the wrong questions, blinded by pride and self-righteousness, preoccupied with I'm right and you're wrong, ignoring the injustices happening right in front of us, failing to be a set apart society, turning instead to an earthly government for salvation!

What are the right questions?

How can we be a set-apart people, a city on a hill, a light in a world of darkness? How can we love the least of these? How can we care for the orphans and widows? How can we love our neighbours as ourselves? How can we love God with all of our heart and mind and soul?

We can begin by living the relational community that God designed and laid out for us, Torah persisting through the ages. We are called to be a community, a set-apart people, loving one another and loving our God. The true body of Christ, transcending denominational lines, brothers and sisters bound by love and servitude for their God, the one who knows each person's heart and is not fooled by false humility.

All of our theorizing is worth nothing if we fail to helping in tangible ways, showing love instead of judgement, serving rather than demanding. Being Christ.

If we truly live this way, truly seek to be as Christ to others...what glory. What light.

Monday, 13 December 2010


I took Christmas pictures of the family this weekend.

I bribed the boy with candy.

I bribed my husband with sushi.

I'm not even sorry.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Weekend Reading

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Encouraging generosity in children

It can be hard during the Christmas season to encourage a spirit of giving, generosity, and compassion in our children. The opposite is steadily reinforced with everyone from family to strangers asking them, "what do you want for Christmas?" or "what have you asked Santa to bring you this year?" Difficult or not, there are a variety of ways we can provide our children with opportunities to cultivate generosity:

Purchase an Angel Tree gift

Angel Trees allow families to have gifts for their children under the tree on Christmas morning. Consider having each child choose a gift for a child their own age. Alternatively, purchase a gift for a teenager, as they are most often overlooked on Angel Trees. Contact your local Christmas Bureau for Angel Tree locations and for other ways you can help this season.

Donate some of their own toys

Have children go through their toys and choose some to donate to Goodwill. Not only is this an exercise in generosity, it serves the dual purpose of making room for the inevitable new toys on Christmas morning.

I found this story particularly poignant (taken from this article):
"I know of a mom and dad who had their kids go through all their toys one December and make two piles. The first pile would include the toys they planned on giving away; the second, toys they felt were worth keeping. (This made room for the new toys they’d soon receive on Christmas.)

The clincher was, this mom and dad talked about sacrificial giving, and shared how they planned to give one of their cars to a needy family. Then, they had their children give away the pile of toys they had planned to keep.

Sacrifice is true generosity. It was hard for a few moments, but unforgettable in the end. Those kids still talk about that incredible experience four years later."

Perform random acts of kindness and service

Give your children encouragement and opportunities to find ways to show others kindness. Homemade gifts for a sibling or a small act of service for a parent are great examples, and are even better when done anonymously. Brainstorm ideas with them as to what they can do to bless and serve others.

A tangible way to see the results of these small acts is to add a piece of straw to a makeshift manger with each good dead performed. In this way, they are effectively building a bed for Jesus as Christmas Day approaches.

Bake cookies for a neighbour or emergency service workers

Children can assist in baking cookies and leaving them for a neighbour. Alternatively (or in addition!), take a plate of cookies to your local firestation or police station to say thank you to those spending Christmas Eve or Christmas Day at work.

Make winter kits for homeless people

Many agencies serving homeless people hand out winter survival kits as the cold weather approaches. While you can check with your local program to find what they put in their kits, the typical one will include socks, mittens, a hat, toiletries, snacks, a blanket, and a gift card, all packed into a backpack or duffel bag. This makes an ideal group project as well.

Send cards to friends and grandparents

Give the gift of honour by sending cards to loved one. Rather than a generic Christmas message, have the child be specific in sharing why they are thankful for this person. Similarly, include children in choosing and wrapping gifts for others, allowing them to take part in the joy of giving.


Serving at soup kitchens and visiting nursing homes are popular ways families can volunteer to help others. Christmas Bureaus often need volunteers to sort through toy donations. Volunteering will depend on the age of the children and the opportunities available, so check with your local volunteer agency to see where your family can help this year.


Food banks often feel the crunch around the holidays, and the Salvation Army is out with their bells and red buckets. Kids enjoy dropping coins in the bucket, knowing the money will help those who need it. To make it more personal, they can do chores around the house to earn their own coins to buy a can of food or to drop in the bucket.

Share the season

Christmas can be a lonely time for many people. If you know a college student, widow, single parent, or anyone else who might be feeling alone, invite them to join in your Christmas celebrations.

Put together a box for Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child is a wonderful program that provides Christmas gifts to children in need around the world. It is a perfect opportunity for children to be involved in choosing items to prepare a gift for a child living in poverty.

New this year is Build a Box, allowing you to customize and pay for a shoebox online, to be packed and shipped by OCC volunteers. This option is less tangible for young children, but can be a good alternative if you are short on time.

Order from a gift catalogue

Samaritan's Purse, Compassion, and World Vision all have gift catalogues that allow you to provide real, practical support to those in need. With everything from soccer balls to chickens to wells, there's something for every budget. Browse through the catalogues with your children and involve them in choosing a family gift. These also make great gifts for extended family members when purchased in their name.

Don't stop after Christmas

Cultivating a spirit of generosity and compassion is a year-round venture, and the need for generosity is in no way limited to the holiday season. Find a way to make it tangible for children. One approach is to put cash in a jar, perhaps a set amount each month, a certain percent of your income, or a few dollars every time your family does something fun that costs money (add $5 to the jar every time you go out for dinner, for example). At the end of the month, sit down with your children and decide together what you will do with the money. Choose a charity to donate it to, prepare a kit for a homeless person, or use it to bless a family in need.

Most importantly, talk about how and why we give to others, and model a consistently generous, caring, and compassionate life.

How do you encourage generosity in your child(ren)?

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Rawr!

(at our neighbourhood's Christmas tree lighting festival)

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Just what we needed

A quiet day at home.

A wooden boat built.

A stack of books read.

A cinnamon bun shared.

A load of clean laundry hung to dry.

A long discussion prompted by the day's Jesse Tree reading.

A quiet day at home.

Just what we needed.

Monday, 6 December 2010

St. Nicholas or Santa Claus?

Today is St. Nicholas Day, a day to commemorate the selfless fourth century bishop and honour his gifts of generosity and charity.

It was from this giving spirit that the legend of Santa Claus arose. Sadly, this "new and improved" version of St. Nicholas misses out on the most important aspects of the saint's character. This article on The Real "Santa Claus" describes exactly my thoughts on how we have turned "a classic tale into a shallow, sentimentalized version for mass consumption":
"Somehow, the power of modern culture turned him into something quite different. A human saint was replaced by a jolly old elf. A patron of the poor became a judge of who’s naughty and nice. A church bishop became the CEO of the world’s largest toy factory. A man who walked among his parishioners and served the people in his community became a cosmic delivery man who visits everyone everywhere on one night during the year in his magic sleigh. A saint of the church became an icon of popular culture and a vehicle for commercialism. A story rich in human experience became a modern fairy tale we trot out every year to try and put some magic in our children’s eyes during the season."
It is precisely this discrepancy that has prompted us to leave Santa Claus out of our Christmas celebrations. There are no gifts from Santa, no threats of naughty lists and nice lists, no trips to the mall to ask for presents.

Instead, we talk about St. Nicholas. We celebrated St. Nicholas Day by buying an Angel Tree gift for a child, commemorating the saint's reputation for secret gift giving and charity.

St. Nicholas can help us draw our hearts to Christ. He reminds us of the life that Jesus commanded us to live, caring for the poor and orphans, showing compassion to our neighbour, not needing recognition for our charity.

Santa Claus asks what we want, not what we can give. He asks if we've been good enough to deserve a gift, not offering it freely to all. He tells us that he's watching us, not God.

He's actually kinda creepy.

I understand the desire to make Christmas a magical time for our children. I hope that I am doing that myself, that Christmas will be a time of wonder and delight for them, full of good memories and strong traditions. I believe I can do that without Santa, without magical elves, and without the external pressure to "be good or Santa won't leave you any gifts".

But most of all, I cannot bring myself to mislead, or outright lie, to my child. I won't tell him that Santa left him a gift, because it's not true. I won't tell him the mischievous elves turned the milk green, because they didn't. I won't sit him on Santa's knee, because it's not Santa. It's a cheap representation of the richly generous life of a godly man.

I can't reconcile sitting with my child as we read our Jesse Tree devotional over breakfast in the morning, with telling him elves came to do mischief in the evening. I can't reconcile telling him about the gift of Christ coming down to save us all with leaving gifts from Santa under the Christmas tree. I can't reconcile telling him later that yes, Santa was just a pretend game we played with praying that his faith in God lasts and grows through the years.

Perhaps my hesitance is largely because the effects of Santa hit a little too close to home for me. My sister remains without faith in God to this day because when she was finally forced to accept that Santa was a lie, after holding tight to that belief through the early years of her life, she concluded that the same was true of God. It was just a story to make people be good, just a nice hope to hold on to in the face of death.

I know many wonderful Christian families who are able to include Santa Claus and even elf magic in their Christ-honouring Christmas celebrations. I know many strong Christians who have fond memories of Santa traditions and whose faith wasn't at all shaken after discovering that Santa was a game. But for us, I cannot do it. I cannot cheapen the memory of St. Nicholas. I cannot use Santa as one more external motivator for good behaviour. I cannot encourage additional materialism during a season already rife with it. I cannot lie to my child.

I cannot assume that he will understand that one story is pretend while another is the most wonderful, beautiful Truth in this world.

I cannot.

How do you approach the idea of Santa Claus in your Christmas celebrations?

Saturday, 4 December 2010

The Saturday Evening Blog Post

It's time again for the Saturday Evening Blog Post, hosted by Elizabeth Esther. Elizabeth collects the "best of" posts on the first Saturday of every month, an opportunity for bloggers to gather and share their favourite post from the previous month.

Having blogged almost daily in November, I had a hard time choosing which post to share this time. Word Pictures, filled with so many of my favourite fall memories? Capitalizing on Breastfeeding Moms, where I shared my frustrations over Similac's newest marketing scheme? The Days are Long, perhaps my most emotionally vulnerable post this month? The Hows of Discipline, my year-long "must get this written" work-in-process? In the end, I decided to share Declaration, as this is a post I've been trying to keep at the front of my mind as we enter this busy Advent and Christmas season.

If you've written something you'd like to share this month, swing by her blog and add your link. It looks like there's quite a few other interesting posts to check out, too.

Good night!

Weekend Reading

  • Spare Me Your Awareness Campaign @ Not One of the Herd
  • (Love this one. My poor husband has to listen to me rant about this more often than I care to admit.)
  • Finding Your Tribe @
  • (This is what I deeply desire in my life, and I pray that I will find it soon.)
  • My Christmas Poet @ Internet Monk
  • (Such a lovely introduction to a beautiful woman.)
  • Perfectionism @ A Holy Experience
  • (1 John 1:8 "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.")

Oh, and a bonus for the weekend, because this one had me nodding in fervent agreement while snorting back my laughter: Wonderboobs @ Elizabeth Esther

Friday, 3 December 2010

Oh dear

To the man at the German Christmas Market booth spit-roasting a whole pig today:

Thank you very much for forcing me to have the whole "that's where meat comes from" conversation with my three year old, a little earlier and far more bluntly and in-your-face than I'd planned to.

"Mommy! Mommy!! Why is he burning that pig??? Will the pig be okay?"

I'm not sure which of us was more traumatized by the whole experience.

Unprepared Mother in Vancouver

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Our Advent

Advent, coming, our time of expectant preparation, has begun. Our family is young, our traditions still fluid, and so we take this, leave that, seeking our unique way to prepare for and celebrate the joyous coming of our Lord.

In keeping with our family's priorities, our Advent activities this year have three goals:


We draw our hearts towards His coming. We begin at the beginning, seeing the bigger picture form as we read through our Jesse tree devotional. He is the center of this season, the One we are preparing for. This year we supplement our usual readings with the beautiful words of Ann at A Holy Experience. We keep our preparations focused.


With some sadness, we leave our Advent wreath put away this year. We will be travelling soon, visiting loved ones, and those last unlit candles always feel so unfinished. We sing the old familiar Advent hymns, and we talk, always talk, about the expectant joy of this season, but we leave out those things which threaten to become burdensome rather than useful or joyful. We are careful not to take on too much nor to allow busy distractions to crowd out our time together. We keep our preparations simple.


This season should be simple, yes, and not burdensome, but neither do we want to fritter it away with good intentions and no follow-through. We want to live with intention, and so we create an Advent calendar for our family, guiding our December with thoughtful deliberation. We keep our preparations intentional.

Instead of candy or gifts, each day holds one activity. Some big, some small. Some fun for us, some blessings for others. Some keep us indoors, some take us out into our neighbourhood or further. Each activity is recorded on a sheet of paper, then folded into an envelope and hung, side-by-side with the rest, on a string on the wall. One envelope will be opened each morning, and when the envelopes are gone, it will be Christmas.

In determining the activities, we considered our priorities, local events, and the memories we wanted to create this season. Writing them down ensures that our plans become reality. It also makes it easy to confirm that the supplies we need are on hand and ready to go.

With room for flexibility and other endeavors, these are the activities we will be doing each day:

1 Decorate the Christmas tree
2 Paint a Christmas ornament
3 Go to a German Christmas festival
4 Go to a neighbourhood Christmas tree lighting
5 Make a pinecone craft and drink wassail
6 Go to the mall to buy our annual Christmas ornaments and an Angel Tree gift
7 Phone grandparents to sing Christmas songs
8 Bake Christmas cookies
9 Do a Mailbox blessing
10 Have our friends over for dinner
11 Take Christmas pictures
12 Make Christmas cards
13 Attend the Community Carol Sing
14 Go for a moonlit walk
15 Go to a Festival of Lights
16 Make cookies for a neighbour
17 Watch a Christmas movie (Nestor the Long-Eared Donkey)
18 Leave for Oma & Opa's house
19 (The baby's first birthday) Make peanut butter cookies*
20 Cut down a Christmas tree
21 Make a popcorn-and-cranberry chain
22 Go for a nature walk
23 Read Christmas stories
24 CHRISTMAS EVE - Have a birthday party for Jesus

*The boy was continually asking me if he could give nuts to the baby yet. I told him he couldn't have nuts until his first birthday (rather foolish and arbitrary, really, since I'm quite certain I didn't prevent all of those nuts from making their way into the baby's mouth, but it feels like the "right thing to do"). The boy decided that the best way to celebrate the baby being "allowed" to have nuts would be to make peanut butter cookies for his birthday. Who needs cake? We're having peanut butter cookies!

Focused. Simple. Intentional.

What are your goals for the season? How will you be preparing and celebrating?

Wednesday, 1 December 2010