Sunday, December 13, 2015

My Children, My Mirrors

I see myself in my children.

It's thrilling.  It's frightening.  It's frustrating.  It's humbling.  It's revealing.

In Silas, my oldest, I see my raging ambition.  He is ever hungry for achievement, thirsty for praise, and desperate for attention.  He is motivated to perform, to achieve.  He wants it all: all the success, all the praise and all the perfection.  It is a beautiful thing to watch him work hard to be better.  It is a horrifying thing to see his value get wrapped up in it.  I see his tears of frustration "how come so-and-so is always better at everything than me?  How come I am not good at anything?  I'm not good at anything." "I just want it to be perfect, I can't do it..." I hear his cries and they are merely echoes of what reverberates around the walls of my own mind.  And I find myself consoling him with what should console me "it doesn't matter, it's not a competition, you are loved no matter what, there will always be people better at things than you..."  Truly, that is no consolation really.  It's not the whole answer to what ails him, and I.

I love watching Silas push and pull, strive and thrive, and reach for greater heights.  But then I see the impact on those around him.  Competition rubs shoulders with no one.  It pushes down to step on top of, it robs of relationships and the fear that motivates it is the statement: I am never enough.  

As I reflect on what I see in him, it drives me to pray for us both.  "O God, we would never be enough.  All I have, all I am, is in You.  You are my only worth.  Thank you that it has never been about what I do, and it is all about what You have done for me."

In Toby, I see my heart for people.  His empathy, his compassion, his need for connection, for relationship.  He loves to be touched, to be held, to be seen, to be known, "come play with me" he says all day.  It too is the song of my own heart.  I need people, and connection.  I see the tenderness that causes in him and it's beautiful.  And it's fragile. When his needs are not met, when he is so so easily hurt by others, he lashes out in anger and frustration.  He gets mad and shuts himself off. I see him there in the corner, hiding with silent tears down his face "why doesn't he want to play with me,"  and I feel the sadness as he sees his cousins leave today and says "now we won't laugh as much."  I find myself wrapping him up in my arms, wishing I could take the pain away and reminding him "you are loved now matter what, no matter if people come or go, play with you or don't, you are loved."  His deep love for people is his greatest strength but his need for people is his greatest weakness.

I pray for us both, "O God, how much more I need you than others.  Thank you that your love holds me fast. That you always see me, always know me, are always reaching to connect with me.  When all others fail me and reject me, when they break my heart, you never let me go."

And I see the two brothers, always at war with each other.  As these two attributes of myself rage against each other in me.  Fighting to be noticed, fighting to be loved, fighting to be the best, fighting always.  I want to care deeply for others, but I want to achieve.  I need to connect with people but I want to perform.

The answer for me, is the same as for them.  "Remain in His love alone."  A love that is not based on performance, that is not based on other people.  A love that could never be earned and could never be lost. A love that never rejects, that never abandons.  A love that has come down, Emmanuel, God with us.

I see myself in my children and I see my need of Christ, in their need of Christ.  We are all the same: broken, wounded, seeking, lost without a savior.  Love has come.  Love is near.  Lean in, O soul, cling hard, O children, let Him love you and remain in His love.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Christmas Countdown 2015 and Advent

(above: previous years' activities)

That time of year again....where I scavenge the internet and local events for ideas to keep us engaged and having fun together as a family in December.  With Christmas parties and out of town visitors, Christmas concerts and all the rest, it's easy to forget what we're really celebrating.  

That's why the backbone of our Christmas countdown comes from reading from this amazing book I purchased last year:
But if you're looking for some other good ideas I hear many great things about this program
There's still time to purchase the online book!
or there are plenty of these scripture read-alongs you can follow with your family.
Like this:

With that being our focus, I still love to fill little advent boxes with a few little treats, a few little trinkets (for days I'm working especially) and fun activities for our Christmas season.  There's some local events we'll attend, some acts of generosity, and some ideas to fill our days.  Here's our Christmas Countdown List:

Check it out (and join us for any if you wish!)

1st: Set up our nativity set and finish decorating our Christmas tree
2nd: Make snowman pancakes and later in the day head to Port Kell's Nursery (if you're never been there at Christmas time, it's free and decorated beautifully!)
3rd. Panting project to send in packages in the mail
4th Christmas music dance party
5th: Parade (there one in Maple Ridge or Lynden, Washington)
6th: Christmas parties with friends
7th: Make snow play doh (white with glitter in it) and make snowmen
8th Make homemade marshmallows, have hot chocolate, and read stories by the fire
9th: Decorate Gingerbread Houses
10th: Stanley Park Christmas train (If you've never been, it's amazing!  Van Dusen is also a favourite although both are a bit pricey).
11th: Christmas ornament making day
12th: Ice skating or heading to the Winter Wonderland Festival in Vancouver (or to see the Festival of Trees Downtown)
13th: Snowman pizza and Christmas movie night
14th: Making gifts for teachers and babysitters
15th: More crafting! Beads, paper, popsicle sticks and more. Most to give away to friends and family.
16th: Decorating Christmas cookies and Toby's Christmas concert (hoping to make gingerbread nativity characters this year from last year's gifted cookie set)
17th: Involve the kids in decorating all our christmas cards and letters we mail out and a fun trip (free!) to Burnaby Village Museum for their Heritage Christmas
18th: Send packages in the mail and do a random act of kindness for a stranger.
19th: Wintery bath (think: hidden toys in homemade bath bombs, blue water, bubbles, and foam soap)
20th: Snow Tubing! Let's hope Hemlock opens up this year!
21st: Cookie making to give to neighbors, and maybe hit up the Winter Soltice Lantern Festival in Vancouver
22nd: Snow sensory bin day
23rd : Drive around and look at Christmas lights with hot chocolate (christmas light scavenger hunt!)
24th: Fondu with friends, maybe Christmas Eve service and family!

Some other favourites at Christmas for our family:
-cutting down our own Christmas tree
-new Christmas jammies
-lots of stocking stuffers!
-getting lots of Christmas books from the library to read
-we might also squeeze in a Christmas performance: Making Spirits Bright or the best Christmas Pageant Ever

If you have some other local suggestions, send them my way!
What we did in previous years for more ideas: 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Airplane Birthday

I had decided I was going to take a break from themed birthdays this year...but then my 3 old decided he wanted a plane birthday.  How could I NOT want to create a fun occasion for a 4 year old birthday party around that kind of theme?  It turns out that I really enjoy planning these parties and it just had to happen.

One thing I love about crafty home birthdays is that you reap the benefits of your hard work for months to come.  Example: last november Toby had a frog birthday and I made a frog sensory bin made with coloured rice, gems, frogs and other pond finds.  Well...I bagged that sensory bin up and pulled it out at different times throughout the winter and then it became our outdoor summer sensory bin and it was still kicking around in early september when I just threw it out (the rice part).  It may have taken some time, effort, and a little bit of cash in the beginning, but it's a new toy!

Same thing this year- some of the activities we made like a runway- we can store and pull out all winter, or the target we made for paper airplanes?  We can throw other things through those holes all winter.  Win for me and win for long winter days at home indoors with 3 young kids.

In case you need ideas for a plane party, take these:

I sent out invitations that looked like plane tickets to send by e-mail to each child (although it would have been nice to print them and hand deliver them)

I was kind of sticking to the Planes movie colours- orange, blue and white.  I bought a bunch of planes from a kid's swap event (so for only a couple dollars) which I kept aside to decorate with on the table and in the air...and loved the idea of puffy while clouds and a cloud mobile, so I did both!  Hard to get a good picture into the light...

Made cloud table place settings out of posterboard and also made additional planes to decorate the table with out of clothes pins, cololured popsicle sticks, and hot glue gun.

I loved making this paper airplane wall- it had a cool effect coming up the stairs (and was super easy to do)

My crafty 5 year old had to get into the action too and decorated the table with all his plane creations:

We chose this to be an all boy party just because and decided to max out at 8 kids.  This was our itinerary:

Paratrooper Training:
While kids arrived, we decided to throw little parachute men over the stairwell and have the boys try and get them through the crepe paper:

Next up: In Flight Snacks
Snack time.  Cause kids needs snacks.  Kept it simple and relatively unthemed.  (Fruit, crackers) but couldn't resist making cloud cheese (cause it's so darn cute!)

Flight School
Next activity we did (which we didn't take a picture of) was make some pretty cool paper airplanes (we made them ahead of time) which we had them try and fly through holes we made in a large piece of cardboard.  Each hole was worth different points.  They loved this game!

Build-A-Plane & Wings Across the Globe Race
I found these great foam planes (big ones) from the dollar store for $2 each kid.  We had them all make them and then made an obstacle course in our basement to go through (avoid the balloon clouds, go through a tunnel, go through our closets etc).   However, because we had a bunch of boys, we eventually ended up throwing the big foam planes around the backyard and off our deck

Free play:
We made a fun runway and let the boys have some time to just get creative.  They built lego airports, played with their planes on the runway, and made lego planes to fly.

In Flight Service:
Dinner was just homemade pizza, veggies

Plane Cakes:
For his party I just made cupcakes with white fluffy cloud icing topped with a chocolate plane...but I also did this:

In Flight Entertainment:
We watched some of the Planes movie while we waited for parents to pick up and to allow for me to do some cleanup!

Goodie Bags:
(and they got to take home their fun foam fliers and our homemade popsicle stick planes)
Made to look like suitcases out of paper bags:

Included propeller pop suckers:

Jets and Propeller planes made out of a chocolate mould and melted chocolate:

Plane stickers:

Glider plane and toy plane:

So fun to plan and the kids had a blast!  If you ever need tips, ideas, or want me to plan your party- I would totally do it just for fun!

Monday, October 5, 2015

A Poem of Hardship and Hope

With no reason to hope and fear rising within
Unable to face this suffering once again
At the end of myself, the end of my rope
I will choose once again in my Jesus to hope

That He will soon restore me
Bring new life from despair
That He will yet heal me
And comfort my fears

I offer my sorrow
And I take up your praise
I’ll choose joy in this valley
Your name high I will raise

For Your promises are faithful
Your love, it is sure,
Your presence is with me
Your mercy endures

I will not fear the darkness
Another night filled with strife
I will dwell in your goodness
Wait for the dawn of your light

Your ways are higher
Your plans, they are great
I do not doubt you will rescue
I will be patient and wait

For you do not abandon
Those that you love
You bring rest to the weary
And help the lowly rise up

Oh dear potter, I trust you
My brokenness, please mend
I offer all I’ve become to you
This trial to you, I rend.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Productivity: the god of our culture

I have always thought there was something uniquely wrong with me.  Why is it that when I am unproductive, I feel un-important?  Why is it that when I'm not running frantic among the frey, I feel disconnected?  If I can't complain how busy I am, I am somehow not 'in' with the crowd?  Since when did 'busy' become synonymous with 'valuable?' 

I'm realizing more and more that it's not just me.

Many of us feel insatiably busy, frantic and disconnected.  We have a love affair with productivity in the west.  We love it.  We need it.  We idolize it.  We want to be important, upwards moving, adding evermore to our repertoire of skills and abilities so that we are at the very least keeping up with the crowd, never mind soaring above it.

Anyone else out there a chronic over-achiever?

How do we get off this crazy cycle?  To be honest, for me, it comes at a cost to my ego and my desire to compete.  I want to be important.  In fact, I want to look like I have somewhere to be and something to do.   I want to be asked "how do you do it all? how do you juggle so many awesome things?"  It fans the flame of my self-importance.

But, if I am alone, on a tuesday, roaming the parks and soaking in the sunshine I feel an immediate urgency to do more, like somehow the cameras of society will catch me loafing around, and call me 'lazy' or 'boring' [gasp!]  Maybe that's it, we have a complete distaste for anything boring and inane.  Maybe it's our entertainment culture: 

 "Entertain me with your stories of where you've been, what you've been doing, and do it publicly on pinterest, instagram and facebook! If you haven't been doing anything interesting, I don't want to know!"  

Who wants to journey with that person who has had depression now for 5 years, who wants to meet regularly with that single mom to just check in and make sure she's okay, and who in their right mind wants to come over and help you fight for joy in another day at home with young kids?  Those are not exciting, productive things, they are boring, sacrificial things that we don't have patience for.

"No thanks," we say.  

Whatever is 'wrong' with our culture, is actually more a reflection of what is broken in me.  Somewhere along the lines, the gods of our culture have become the god of me.  I have worshipped at the throne of productivity too often.  

Yet I never feel more dead than when I am living to please this god of productivity.  I've been burnt out, spun out, and more alone than I've ever been.   Thing is, I was made to work but working was never meant to be my salvation.  Never meant to be our savior.  

Truthfully, all I really want is to be known and to know others.  To be loved and love others.  To accept grace and give grace. And these things are not 'things' found in what I do, but found alone in the person of Jesus Christ.

We can, without fear, live life in a different posture.  Not frantically searching for meaning and significance in the works of our hands.  Instead, we have a choice.  We can accept Jesus, as our totally sufficient savior, in whom is found our worth, our acceptance, our love, our hope, our everything.  Or, we can continue feeding this lie in us that we must continue to do more in order to save ourselves. 

But accepting true life results in me giving up my old one.  Ouch.  Don't take that promotion because all margin in my life will be gone? Don't work one day a week to have rest?  Don't let my kids do just one more activity so that we can eat dinner as a family? Choose to live in a smaller house so both of us don't need to work full time?  Give up my comfort, my freedom, my opportunities, so that I can feast on true love and offer it up on a shared table with my neighbors?  Trust in God's plan for my life instead of making my own plan with plan b, c, and d in case His plan doesn't feel comfortable?

Ouch. Hard.  But it always comes back to faith.  Do I believe God saved me by the works of His hands or do I not? 

See, we were made for a different sort of kingdom.  One of a different kind of doing. One where the source of our doing is not from ourselves, but from Jesus.  Him working through us what we cannot and could never do from ourselves:  Loving the un-loveable, giving even at a cost to ourselves, dying to ourselves and giving up ourselves for others because we were and are loved in the same way.

I'm hoping to embark on a different season and have started by wrestling through some really hard decisions.  I've said no to a lot lately and it hurts my ego big time.  I want to say yes because the place of those things has become so great.  But I am choosing to believe in the sufficiency of Christ and His work in me.  I am taking steps of faith to let go of this productivity-driven personality and remember His work on the cross, instead.  To know Him, to please Him, to love Him, and to allow Him to work out His salvation in me, even when every part of my flesh is fighting back and screaming to carry on in the way I always have, and in the way the culture around me has always applauded.  

Be gracious, I haven't figured it all out.  Not even close.  In the meantime, to all that have been hurt and damaged by my need to step over you in order to achieve, I say sorry.  To all I have walked past, pushed past, elbowed past and forgotten to engage with, I say sorry.  To all the neighbors I could have known, to all the friends I could have called, to all the family members I have not journeyed life with because I have been too wrapped up in my need for productivity and saving face for the masses, I say sorry.  Because that wasn't Christ in me, that was just me being me.  Christ is so much sweeter, and so much lovelier than I am, so much more giving, so much more generous and gracious, patient and kind. He is the real deal.

I pray God has caught my attention in time so that He can, by His power, change my course.  God, help me find rest in You alone.  In the work you have achieved for me for your glory, not in the work I achieve for myself for my reputation.

"I'm restless, so restless, til I rest in YOU, O God."

Monday, June 1, 2015

To Be Drowned

A little girl with a pony tail.  Sun shining bright on her rosy cheeks, beach clothes whipping around her 3 year old body.  Standing at the shore, ankle deep.

Gazing out at the ocean.  It's sparkling vastness beyond measure.  As far as her eyes can see is blue.

She squints into the distance as her toes dig deeper in the flour-like white sand.  Curled under.  Waves lapping against her legs, again and again.

In her hands, a bucket.  Smaller than a juice box.  Bigger than her fist.

Jaw squared, eyes determined.  She is gonna catch that big blue sea in her bucket.

I was walking along the gulf and this girl caught my eye.  You see, I was in the midst of a conversation with God about His love.  I was trembling at the ocean side, amazed and fearful of the power and depth of the ocean before me.  How great.  How vast.  How relentless in its waves.  And I felt God saying His love is like that Ocean.  Only better.

Endless, deep, measureless, abundant, His love. And in the pounding of the waves I hear His love pursuing me again, and again.

And there I was, seeing myself in that little tiny girl.  Trying to catch His love in my little juice-box bucket. Limiting Him.  Believing Him for so little.

A little girl with a bucket, trying to catch the waves.

But He says, jump in to the endless deep.  Don't be afraid to spill it on the sand, throw it around, dive in it. Be engulfed by it.  Immersed in it.  Surrounded by it.  Dive in!  It will never end, His love.  I don't have to be afraid to lose it.  There is no scarcity when it comes to God's love.  No end to its reaches.  No shore it cannot overtake.

Fathomless.  Bottomless.  And as I step into the waves, each step deeper is a step closer to freedom.

And words penned in these songs ring out in my soul over and over again:

"My fears are drowned in perfect love!"

"And further and further, my heart moves away from the shore
Whatever it looks like, whatever may come I am Yours.
And you CRUSH over me
I've lost control, but I'm free
I'm going under, I'm in over my head.
Beautifully over my head."

Oh to be drowned in the ocean of His love.  Weightless.  Fearless.  Because unlike the ocean, His love will never run out.  Could never be measured.  Will never give up on me.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Silas' Birthday

Ooops.  This happened in January but I didn't post it.  Silas had an Art party and it was SO fun.  He is really into art these days so some of the party activities included:

1. Kids started out by decorating the table which had a large paper over it- with crayons and stickers while they waited for other kids to arrive.  

2. Then while the kids were each making bracelets and necklaces out of dyed pasta, they took turns blow drying crayons to melt them into an 's' shape for Silas to keep.  Note to self: don't over-dry the pasta because they break easy!  Mini disaster but, still fun.  (The kids LOVED the hair drying).

3. Each of the kids had a canvas to do a portrait which was super fun as well.

Some decoration details:
Paint chip banner!  (Free paint chips!), Crayon boxes, crayons wrapped around jars, art supplies all around


Paint palette
the Cake (pretty simple exterior) 

Paint can (empty one) $5, plastic table cloth from dollar store
"spilling paint" effect 

Circle banner- little cut out paper circles strung together by sewing 

Silas wanted to add to the decor and made 'art' signs for the front door

Paint spilling on the front patio

$2 art sets from the dollar store as goody bags


 Paint splatter 'confetti' on the art table
 Melting crayons

Rainbow on the inside!  

Fiona Turns 1

Cannot believe that this sweet little girl turns 1!  I unfortunately go back to work on her birthday so we decided to celebrate the week early.  The boys enjoyed decorating with a bit of pink here and there.  She was pretty crabby for most of her party, but then perked up after a few (first) bites of cake.  She didn't know what to do with it- picked it up, smeared it around, and gave lots of pieces to daddy but eventually took a few bites.  She loved eating the tissue paper from her presents (as usual) and figured out opening presents pretty quickly.

Sweet girl:
You are determined and feisty.  You are always moving and exploring, climbing, and investigating.  You have the sweetest dimpled smile, and funniest 'cackle' laugh.  You love your brothers and they adore you.  You love music and dance and chatter every time it's on.  You love playing guitar with daddy and playing piano with mommy.  You love cheese and snuggles, being held, and climbing on playgrounds.  You love soft things, and being outdoors- exploring, being carried, being pushed in your stroller.  You have added delicate beauty to our home and a sweetness we could not have imagined!

So blessed to have your curious, sweet, fun-loving spirit in our home!
She loves climbing in Toby's bed!

Just figured out how to sew banners with paper.  SO MUCH EASIER.

Pink & Grey themed

My pinterest cake attempt =)

What IS that?

Here you go Daddy!

Oh, this is actually pretty good!

Clothes!  (Such a girl)

Tea Set (Toby liked it even more than Fiona)


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