Friday, 28 September 2012

Weekend Reading

Sneaking into Worship @ Adorate
They’ve grown up being urged, “Now, everyone can just worship God however you might want. Just let the Holy Spirit move you. We are all different.” So now some are seeking worship where the implied advice is, “Now, everyone leave your hyper-individuality at the door. Let’s say words together. Let’s make gestures together. Stand together. Kneel together. Let’s listen to the wisdom the Holy Spirit has given over the centuries."

Why I’m Not A Dream Chaser @ Jumping Tandem
As stewards of the dreams of God, you and I get to lean in close to Him and hold on tight for a crazy ride. He never takes the path we’d take. He never uses the resources we’d choose. He never gets it done in the timeframe we’d prefer. But it’s His dream, not ours.

God doesn’t dream in American. God dreams in love and grace and mercy and hope. God has wired each of us in a unique way, and He invites us to help Him make His dreams come true. It’s not about chasing a dream. It’s about chasing after the Giver of Dreams, dreams that will change the world (but not necessarily our bank accounts, or our status, or our blog traffic), because His love for us — all of us — is extravagant like that.

In which she’s thinking about it @ Sarah Bessey
She cried and said, But, Mum, I’m thinking about it! I’m thinking about how much I love them, everyone, all the time! I think it! I just don’t know how to do it right.

I ran my finger across her eyelashes, holding her tears for her, and said, gently, gently, Sweetheart, sometimes thinking about it isn’t quite enough for us, is it? And right now, you need to start loving them in a way that they will understand and see and feel. Love with your life, with your hands, with what you do, with your words, okay?

I Refuse to Spoil You, Daughter @ Nurshable
There is too much talk about spoiling children and too little talk about preserving the qualities that they are born with. I believe strongly that they are one and the same. I can spoil you by ignoring the things that need to be paid attention to just as easily as I can spoil you by burying you in toys and candy. And I can spoil you more easily by denying you trust and love when you need it than I ever could by being there for you when you need those things.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Fall Leaf Sugar Cookies

Part of our journey towards a more intentional life has included incorporating rhythm into our days, weeks, and years, ensuring that the things we value are not forgotten as our time idly slips away from us.

One aspect of such rhythm has been the deliberate observance of the passing of the seasons. Last autumn we canned pasta sauce, salsa, and cinnamon peach preserves, hoping that the process of slowing down after summer and preparing for winter would become a new family tradition.

This year, however, with a new little one in my arms, I simply wasn't feeling up to the slow work of putting food away for the winter. We still wanted to celebrate the beginning of a new season, but it needed to be something less involved.

And so the boys and I made fall leaf sugar cookies. Simple, fun, and memorable, they declared it the best day ever.

(Thank you, Pinterest, for the inspiration!)

We began by whipping up a batch of sugar cookie dough (I used this recipe based purely on ratings). Before chilling the dough, we separated it into batches and added food dye.

Once it was chilled (and dinner was finished), we moved on to the fun part!

Pull off pieces of dough and arrange them in a patchwork on your floured (or, in our case, "parchmented") surface.

Roll the dough into a smooth surface, 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.

Beginning cutting out your cookies! We made leaves, turkeys, and pumpkins. The boy and I each used a toothpick to draw designs on the cookies. The toddler ate the dough.

The re-rolled dough had more of a marbled effect. (By the third re-roll, the mixed colours were looking pretty dingy.)

The rest is self-explanatory! Bake 6 to 8 minutes at 400F (or as per your recipe) and cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Gift of a Midwife: Shanti Uganda

I birthed my first child in a hospital, nurses and doctors and residents gathered around.

I birthed my third child at home, leaning on my husband as the midwife caught our baby girl.

But my second child, he didn't wait for a doctor or a midwife.

That one was born screaming into his Oma's hands, his Daddy on the phone telling the paramedics that yes, yes, the baby is being born RIGHT NOW!! My unexpected baby-catcher was trembling, and I was leaning on a bathtub instead of my husband.

The paramedics arrived and then the midwife soon followed and everything ends well, praise to God, with this story. It was, afterwards, merely a small blip in a pregnancy otherwise filled with excellent care and support.

Halfway across the world, another mother is not so fortunate.

For this woman and far too many others, the lack of a midwife or doctor is neither a too-fast accident nor a deliberate choice. Instead, it is the reality of life in rural Africa. With a severe shortage of doctors across Africa and access to care very limited in rural areas, 1 in 22 women die during childbirth.

Enter Shanti Uganda. The Shanti Uganda Society is a registered Canadian charity and Ugandan non-profit organization whose mission is to improve infant and maternal health, provide safe women-centered care, and support the well-being of birthing mothers and women living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda.

One of Shanti Uganda's primary programs is the Shanti Uganda Birth House & Clinic. Located in the rural Luweero District of Uganda, the solar-powered Birth House provides mother-centered pregnancy, birth and postnatal care. Its team of six trained Ugandan midwives are dedicated to improving birth outcomes and reducing maternal and infant mortality rates in Uganda. From the Birth House, Shanti Uganda also runs prenatal education classes, a Community Garden Program, a Teen Girls Program, and a Women’s Income Generating Group.

Shanti Uganda’s Founder and Executive Director Natalie Angell-Besseling has seen the difference that the Birth House makes in the lives of mothers and children:
"Over 100 women die giving birth in Uganda every week. Not only is Shanti Uganda providing a safe, empowering environment for women to give birth, but we are defying these statistics and creating a new norm for birthing women in Uganda. Of the over 100 women who have given birth at our centre in our almost two years of operation, 100% have left healthy, happy and supported by our dedicated team of midwives."

Here's where you come in.

In order for the Birth House to continue, it needs a stable funding base. Shanti Uganda's Birth Partners program makes it easy for supporters to contribute a monthly donation.

While one-time donations are always gratefully received, a regular monthly donation helps Shanti Uganda to provide consistent levels of support and care with the least amount of administration costs, stretching your dollars even further.

As a Birth Partner, your donation is used to provide consistent care to expectant mothers and their babies in rural Uganda throughout pregnancy and birth. A monthly donation of $25 supports the birth of one baby every two months.

Each month, your donation will support a mother and the safe birth of her newborn baby by providing:
  • 24/7 midwifery care,
  • pre- and postnatal nutrition and education,
  • all lab tests, and
  • sterile equipment and birth supplies.

Birth partners will receive a special welcome gift, quarterly email updates, and an annual tax receipt. What's more, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that you're standing up for maternal equity, healthy mothers, and healthy babies.

Consider becoming a Birth Partner today. Together we can work toward a world where every birthing mother has the care and support she needs and deserves.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Some days

My husband, thoughtful and loving man that he is, often phones on his way home at the end of the day.

Most days I answer cheerfully:
"Hello! How was your day?"
Some days get a more subdued response:
"Hey. What's up?"
Other days, days like today, days filled with an unusually high number of dirty diapers and runny noses and puke and spills and will the work never end??, he is greeted instead with something more like this:
"Oh my goodness! Will you people just leave me alone for FIVE MINUTES?? Every time I tell someone to be quiet and leave me in peace, someone else insists on talking to me! Look at this, Mommy! Can I have that, Mommy! Read to me, Mommy! GO AWAY!!"
...and then he tells me that he was just calling to see if I wanted anything from Starbucks on his way home.

Way to make me feel like a donkey's rear end.

(But yes, I'll take a salted caramel mocha frappucino, if you don't mind.)

Natural Parents Network: The Best of Babywearing

As a volunteer editor with the Natural Parents Network (NPN), I have discovered a thriving community of natural-minded parents and parents-to-be who seek to inform, empower, and inspire.

When you visit the NPN’s website you can find articles and posts about Activism, Balance, Consistent Care, Ecological Responsibility, Family Safety, Feeding With Love, Gentle Discipline, Healthy Living, Holistic Health, Natural Learning, Nurturing Touch, Parenting Philosophies, Practical Home Help, Preparing for Parenting, Responding With Sensitivity, Safe Sleep, and so much more!

Today the NPN volunteers would like to share some posts that highlight all aspects of babywearing. These posts were featured on the personal blogs of the Natural Parents Network volunteers.

We hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as we enjoyed writing them. We are always looking for new volunteers so please, contact us if you are interested. Just a few hours per month can help other mamas in a huge way!

Benefits of Babywearing/Reasons To Babywear

Types of Carriers/ Choosing A Carrier

Babywearing Safety

Babywearing How-Tos

BabywearingToddlers/More Than One Child

Personal Babywearing Stories and/or Photos

Babywearing Series/Multiple Topics

Babywearing - Other Interesting Topics

A special thank you to Erika Hastings of the blog Mud Spice for creating and sharing her babywearing art with the world!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Weekend Reading

Yes and No @ Momastery
Audrey - say yes to people and trips and activities and books and dreams and plans and conversations that feed you, that fill you up, that make you feel like Audrey. You need no other reason or excuse or explanation for your yeses. You are like a scrapbook right now. Instead of cutting yourself, cut and save and paste experiences and poetry and people that feel like Audrey. After awhile, you will know who you are by looking at all the things and people you say YES to.

Say No to everything else.

Eyes Open Prayers @ Kristin Lucas Writes
The first day we met in the small, tucked away room at our church and brought our spouses and kids and bagged lunches and toys and diapers, and we sat with the guitar among encircled chairs to pray, it was a challenge.

My eyes were open the whole time. I cannot tell you the last time I kept my eyes open for worship, let alone prayer, and it was different. I never realized how much being in the dark, quiet recesses of my own mind had become necessary when approaching the throne of grace. But I had no choice. If I’d closed my eyes, I would’ve missed my daughter following her little friend around with a hairbrush and bow, attempting a ponytail on a reluctant customer. I wouldn’t have seen her grasp her friend’s head with both hands, just trying to keep her still for goodness sake, and I wouldn’t have noticed that she was on the verge of completely strangling the poor girl in time to stop her. I also wouldn’t have seen them uprooting the potted plants in time to save the plant, the carpet, and the girls’ dresses. And I would have missed my sweet daughter going up to the tiny baby and rubbing her chubby cheek gently, oh so gently, and the beautiful exchange of smiles that passed between the two of them. All the while, we circled ones leaned in and strained toward heaven, words bubbling up and floating away toward the skies.

The High Cost of “Accident Free” @ Abundant Life Children
Young children need lots of practice learning to manage risks when the actual risk of injury is very low.

When children don’t get lots of practice learning to trust their physical bodies, they are actually at greater risk of injury! The more they learn when they are small, the safer they will be in the long run, because they learn to negotiate situations that carry risk.

The Pleasure of Not Wanting and a Case for Random Plastic Things @ Cat's Meow
What struck me and my aesthetic eye, were the several mismatched plastic bins, the cooking utensils, the stuff on the shelves, everything in plain sight, in all it's utilitarian, plasticky, random glory. There is nothing in the way of decoration here. Yet I find it oddly beautiful. Me, who has a longstanding dislike of anything plastic and/or ugly.

This image stopped me in my tracks.

Nothing is inherently ugly or beautiful, it's just the way we have been conditioned to see it.


Also, the giveaway! Don't forget to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a quilted Bible from Zondervan's new Style Line series. Not your style? No problem! The Style Line Bibles would make a perfect gift for the upcoming holidays. Entries close Sunday at 11:59pm PST, so head over to the post to enter.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Happy One Month, Sweet Girl

Sweet Girl,

A month now you've been with us. As always, I wouldn't believe it if the calendar didn't tell me it was true. It seems as though you've just arrived and yet have also somehow been with us forever. You fit so perfectly.

So far, you've made the transition to three easy on your mama. Thank you, darling. You have your fussy moments but usually you're calm, content to be snuggled up next to me as we go about our day. The feeling is mutual, my love; it's so nice to get to kiss your sweet head as I wash the dishes or prepare snacks for your hungry brothers.

You've got your Daddy wrapped around your finger already. You sleep on his chest and then when you wake up, you smile your mouth-wide-open, eyes-lit-up smile at him and he's done for. Anything you want, it's yours. He says you like him more than the other two did but secretly, I think you're just benefiting from being the third child: newborns aren't so frightening and mysterious to him as they were the first couple times around.

Then again, you sure do smile at him a lot. (They say it's still reflex, those smiles, but they sure do seem deliberate. We'll take them either way, darling.)

You're just as free with your smiles when it comes to your brothers, too. Their fascination with you hasn't worn off one bit in the past weeks. They still tell me how happy they are that you're here. It is such a gift to watch them adore you.

The older of your brothers takes his role so seriously, watching over you while I switch the laundry or use the washroom. When you cry, he touches your head and tells you it's going to be okay. He sits in the middle in the car, often holding his brother's hand on one side and your head on the other. More than once I've gone to get you out of the car and discovered that between your sweaty head and his dirty hand, you've ended up with a muddy face in desperate need of a washing. It's a small price to pay for the comfort he gives you, though.

The younger of your brothers - oh, I wish I could adequately describe it. He can't get enough of you, little one. Every time I turn around, there he is, rubbing your head as he tells you how cute you are and how sweet you are and how much he likes you. He talks to you in the sweetest high-pitched voice. He watches you nurse, then he asks to hold you again as soon as you're done. You'll be pleased to know that while he still wonders where your eyes have gone when you're sleeping, he no longer tries to pry them open to see. A vast improvement, I'd say.

And as for me...well, it's like I said. You just fit perfectly. I can't get enough of you. I love all the little things, like the way you always burp twice in a row, hold my breast with both fists as you nurse, and lay silently for a few minutes after every diaper change. I wonder what you'll be like in the future, but mostly I'm just cherishing every moment of today.

With so very much love,

Style Line Bibles (and a giveaway!)

I'm not the girl with a matching purse and shoes to go with every outfit. I can count on one hand the number of times I've worn makeup in my life. My hair's lucky if it gets blown dry instead of left to air dry as I go about my day. In short, I'm pretty basic.

But the things I do have, I really like. I only have one purse, but it suits me perfectly and I love it. I only have one pair of sandals, but they're comfy as anything and I wear them every day I can get away with it. On those days when it's too cold, I have one pair of boots, my time-to-be-a-responsible-adult purchase after my first child was born. No more risking frostbite by wearing sandals year-round. It took me months to settle on that single pair of boots, but I couldn't be happier with them.

You'll understand, then, when I say I'm not one to put a lot of stock in fashion. Just give me my simple but well-loved things and leave the rest to those more stylish than I.

So when I heard about Zondervan's new Style Line Bibles, I was skeptical. After all, a Bible's a Bible. How many people would be grateful just to be able to read their Bible without risking their lives? How many people would simply love to own a Bible in their native language, never mind a pretty Bible? What sort of privileged frivolousness was this?

And yet there was something really nice about the idea of a pretty Bible. I collect journals the way some people collect postage stamps. I am particular to a fault about the layout of my bookshelves. I like a book with a nice cover - and don't even hand me a book with a movie edition cover (the horror!). So the thought of curling up with a pretty Bible sounded, well, rather cozy. I agreed to take a look at a few samples of this new line.

I can't pretend I wasn't intrigued when the parcel arrived. I made myself comfortable outside and opened the box. Inside were five Style Line Bibles.

First up, a bright cherry red quilted cover and a zebra stripes cover. Umm...not so much. These are definitely for women far sassier than I am.

Next, a dark brown Bible with copper flowers on the cover and a bronze edge. Very nice! Hot pink, eh, not so much for me.

And then, wow. A wool grey cover with a cute button covering the clasp. It basically had my name written all over it. Simple but fun. It felt like my purse, my sandals, my boots - it felt very me.

It's soft wool cover feels nice in my hands. Less clunky than my large study Bibles, it fits easily in one hand - not too heavy, not too big - which means I can read it while I'm nursing the tiny one. The font size and clean, open layout make it highly readable. The clasp protects the pages when I carry it with me in my purse. And, however shallow this might be, I just really like the way it looks. As I said, it feels very me. And I like that.

Browsing through their collections, I see a few others that I would love to own or give away as gifts. The floral green cover from the Thinline collection is lovely. I love the entire Craft collection. The owl cover from the Flora and Fauna collection is sure to be popular. There's definitely something for everyone here, from the quiet to the bold to everyone in between.

More than just another pretty cover, the Style Line Bibles feature a presentation page, a ribbon marker, an extra-thin format, and the words of Jesus in red.

So much for my lofty "a Bible's a Bible" ideals. What do you think?


Zondervan has generously offered to give away one copy of their cherry-red quilted Bible to a lucky reader.

The NIV Quilted Collection Bible features a stylish, stitched binding. The cover, made with colorful Italian Duo-Tone™ material, has been stitched with a quilted pattern giving it a fresh and unique look. The convenient size of this full-text Bible allows it to go just about anywhere.

To enter, leave a blog post comment sharing which of the Style Line collections is your favourite, and then mark your entry in the Rafflecopter system below. See the Rafflecopter system for bonus entries to increase your chance of winning after completing the first mandatory entry. All bonus entries are entered directly into Rafflecopter.

Giveaway open to residents of Canada and the US.

Comments will be closed on Sunday, September 23th at 11:59pm PST. The winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter and announced Monday morning. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, 11 September 2012


I keep thinking I need to write, I need to write about something, anything, besides this beautiful little child on my lap. You're an intelligent woman, I tell myself. Surely you have something to say beyond the ramblings of a love-struck mother.

But I don't. Not yet, anyway.

One day I'll come out of this baby fog. I'll remember that I am a person in my own right, someone with my own thoughts and interests. I'll stop being so distracted. I'll be more conscientious when it comes to my other responsibilities. I can't blame it on exhaustion or a slow recovery or adjusting to three kids. This is all I can offer you by way of explanation, complete and utter infatuation.

For now, though, I'm giving myself permission to be entirely lost in her.

She's growing so fast, you see. I swear, I can almost watch it happen. Each diaper change, she's a little bit bigger; each morning, she's a little more alert. Her tiny newborn legs are already filling out. The smallest of her sleepers will soon be packed away.

I sit down at the keyboard to write and all I can write about is her. I wake up in the morning and find myself still curled protectively around her. When she naps in bed instead of on my lap or in a sling, I don't know what to do with myself after a while. I begin wandering aimlessly through the house, tidying things here, sorting things there, until she wakes up and I can have her in my arms again.

I am completely captivated.

And I know, hormones and biology and they're made to draw you in and all that stuff, but that's okay. I'll raise a glass of oxytocin and prolactin to toast her Creator, because she truly is a masterpiece.

I hope you'll forgive me, then, for writing about little else during these early weeks. One day I'll talk about our official entrance into the world of homeschooling. I'll share what's been cooking in my kitchen, forming on my needles, or playing on my laptop. I'll swoon over my fabulously creative boy and my ridiculously sweet toddler ("You are the one I love," he told me earlier today). I'll share the beauty of revelations discovered as I come to know more deeply this God who sings over His children. All of it, more, it will come in time.

For now, though, I'm all wrapped up in this little one. I'll tell you about how very precious she looks sleeping on my husband's chest (and how very very sexy my husband looks with a baby sleeping on his chest), how unbelievably soft her skin is, how dark her beautiful eyes are. I'll be slow - forgive me - in replying to your emails and tending to my to-do list. I'm simply busy taking her in, taking in every moment of this too-soon-gone newborn season.

Because tomorrow she'll be walking and the next day she might be walking down the aisle, just like that.

I don't want to spend that day wishing I'd held her more.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Weekend Reading

Geese, Girlfriends and Graceful Gifts @ Redemption's Beauty
Life’s dealt a bevy of disappointments over the past year. Dreams swirl down the drain in the turned backs of the faithful, leaving fragments of soapy bubbles clinging the sides of the sink. And I think about her words. How little in life goes the way we plan, but opening yourself up is the best way of all.

I’m practicing this like a daily sacrament at the altar.

Raising A Future Feminist @ From Two to One
During the idealism of my pregnancy and into the tired happiness of the newborn months, I looked admiringly at gender-neutral toys and clothes. Ever practical, I gratefully accepted the many generous gifts and hand-me-downs that were clearly meant to be worn by a boy. Yet I knew that in the future, if my son wanted to question gender stereotypes, I would be happy to let him do so. I pictured my son joyfully nurturing baby dolls, playing dress up, rocking long curly hair if he wanted to. Expressing his individuality. Challenging cultural norms. All that good stuff.

The Giant David Could Not Kill @ Internet Monk
These are people who know me, know my faults and failures, see me as I really am and still accept me. They are there to stand with me, encourage me, fight with me. They are not afraid to tell me when I’m doing something in a wrong or hurtful manner...

I’m not as strong as I think I am. I cannot do this faith thing alone. I wasn’t meant to. And yet that is my temptation these days. Just let me have my books and blog sites and fellowship occasionally over lunch or coffee and I’ll be fine. But Abishai sees right through me to my exhaustion, pushes me aside and kills the giant that would have killed me...

So that’s why I go to church. That’s why I can’t turn my back on this faulty, failed institution. I need the broken church because I, too, am broken.

I was the sun and the kids were my planets by Beverly Beckham
I was the sun and they were the planets. And there was life on those planets, whirling, nonstop plans and parties and friends coming and going, and ideas and dreams and the phone ringing and doors slamming.

And I got to beam down on them. To watch. To glow.

And then they were gone, one after the other.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Being present

He heard me sigh as he walked past the bedroom where I sat with our little girl. She'd been crying off and on all evening, unimpressed with my efforts to soothe her, to help her fall asleep. And all I could think about was my growing to-do list, each item becoming more urgent as another day passed.

"What's wrong?"

I wanted to say nothing. I always say nothing.

But this time, I didn't.

"I'm frustrated because I want to be able to put her down and do all the other things I need to do..."

I wish I could express how monumental those words are, simple though they may be.

"I'm frustrated because..."

How different from my usual response. "Nothing," that's all I ever say, all I can ever bring myself to say. The real answer is screaming in my head but my tongue refuses to give it life. Give me a pen or a keyboard and I'll show you my soul, but ask me to say it aloud and the words simply won't come out. I don't remember a time when it was any different. Always me, words in my head, throat closed, tongue still, thoughts unspoken.

But oh, in that moment, when thoughts became spoken words, what freedom. Once it was said, once my frustration over the disparity between my desire and my reality was acknowledged, I was able to move past it. I stepped back into the present and simply accepted it, saw it, enjoyed it for what it was.

And it was beautiful.

I noticed the way I can cradle her entire body in my arm, the way her head fits so perfectly in my hand. I breathed in her milky breath and the lingering newborn smell in her hair. I felt her soft cheek and looked in her dark eyes.

I stopped trying to get her to fall asleep, for what good is it to seek to achieve a goal over which I have no control? I stopped worrying over my to-do list, for what good are distractions and worries and failed attempts at multi-tasking? Such unnecessary frustrations when peace can be found in savouring the present moment. Forget fruitless strivings and overrated to-do lists; I'd rather enjoy these times while they're still here.

I still do it too often, I know. I glance at my email while reading a book to my boys. I rush them through mealtime instead of lingering at the table with them. I try to get work down while nursing the tiny baby. I live too often with attention torn, one eye focused on present distractions or future worries, leaving me half-blind to the fullness of the moment.

Will I never learn?

But they're teaching me, these three children of mine. Unconcerned with anything but the present and all of us so much happier when I join them there, they're teaching me.

And more and more often, I'm remembering.