Sunday, 15 January 2017

Siblings in January // New Dynamics

These three little people of mine have always had a very definite dynamic... The older two, the best of friends... Stuck at the hip and literally doing everything together. Their interests are similar, their humour is similar, their hobbies and tastes are similar. They are very different characters, but the dynamic has always worked... My chalk and cheese. At eighteen months apart, they have always been incredibly close, and most days they tell me that the other one is their best friend.

And then there's our Jonas boy, the baby of our family, who is adored and loved beyond belief, but who has very much, for the most part, happily kept his own company, as long as he has a ball at hand (or foot!). He has always been happiest left to his own devices, and preferred the company of aforementioned ball to over-enthusiastic, over-affectionate big sisters. One on one with the girls, the dynamic has always been lovely to watch, but when the older two are knee deep in some kind of make-believe, he has always made a swift exit.

Until now...

Suddenly, someone wants in on the action! The past couple of weeks, I have noticed a slow transition beginning to take place. Jonas is wanting to join in the fun, and though he doesn't always play the games correctly, or follow instructions, the girls are doing their best to bring little brother into the pack, and it's lovely to watch!

There is something so unbelievably heartwarming as a parent about watching those little siblings immersed, together, in some faraway land... Coming up with all sorts of adventures and having a wonderful time of it.

Of course, there are times when Jonas' wandering off, or doing something he shouldn't do is a cause of great frustration for his sisters (who have very particular ideas about how games should go...) and when I see his sad little face, or their generous attempts with him being inadvertently snubbed by him, I'm glad we have this little number four on the way...

A little play buddy, all of his very own!

In the meantime, I'm loving watching them learn how to figure out this little three dynamic between them! This little set of siblings, in January.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Learning to Rest // Some thoughts on Sabbath

I was never good at sitting still... stillness does not come naturally to me. As a child I was a fidget; as a teen, a socialite; and in my adult years I have thrived on jumping feet first from one project into the next. For the most part, the duracell bunny in me runs reliably, though there have been definite seasons where I have come dangerously close to crashing and burning. Scarily close. A life-lesson that I seem to need to learn on repeat...

Rest is important... A vital part of our survival, and a part I too often ignore. A creation ordinance, God wrote rest into our psyche from the start... The need to lay down our tools, to sit back and appreciate. The Lord, who needs no rest, chose to rest. The seventh day. Of course, with the fall, his work resumed, and God began the incredible work of bringing his plan of salvation to pass.

But herein lies my problem... My work is never truly done. Though I may sit back at the end of a productive day (why do they seem so rare these days?!) my job is never really completed, and will never bring me the satisfaction of a complete ability to rest this side of eternity. True rest is, in that sense, unattainable in this life. There will always be more to do...

And so, into the framework of human experience, into the culture of his own people, the Israelites, God wrote laws of rest. A day set apart... His Sabbath day... An opportunity to remember their call to rest, and to recognise their lack of it. Their need for rest, and the unattainable nature of it. A day of regulations and rules, of stepping out and drawing near.

And then, 2000 years ago, God sent his rest-giver into the world. Jesus. The only one capable of giving us the rest we so desperately crave. He is the fulfillment of our need for rest. He finished the work and bought our rest for us. As he claims himself, true rest, rest for our souls, is only found in him.

And so after weeks of pouring over texts, essays, and God's word, this is the conclusion I came to... The Sabbath day as a ritual is no longer needed. Our rest is now fulfilled in Jesus, and we do not need to abide by ancient laws any longer. We find our rest in the Saviour, and not in laws and rules and regulations. The rules and Sunday observances that so many recall from days gone by are obsolete...

And yet...

There is something truly helpful about observing a day of rest... A day which is different and set apart. A day for specifically remembering the rest-giver as we step out of our day to day activities and draw near to the Father. A day of enjoying the company of those we love... a day to lay down our tools, our daily tasks and bask in the freedom of space, and time, and quiet. A day for delighting in the great outdoors, for celebrating the Saviour with our church families, for teaching our children that we value the Saviour highly enough to make one day a week look different for him.

It is not a law. It is not a rule. It is not a ritual.

It is a personal conviction...

And so these next few weeks and months, we will be figuring out the practicalities of setting apart Sundays (the Lords Day - the day of the Resurrection; the day the early believers set apart as special) for ourselves as a family, without it becoming a question of law. When I posted a while ago that I was getting my head around this topic, so many of you were so helpful.. had so many wonderful insights and thoughts and ideas. For each of us, the Lord's Day will probably look very different... and it should! The removal of "law" around the topic gives us freedom in Christ to express our love for him in varied ways; the variety and uniqueness with which he created us, means rest will look very different for all of us. For some, setting aside Sunday is not possible as a full day of rest, and a different time may be found.

But as we have read, and talked and mulled over, and discussed, I have realised there are three things we want to make central as we set up this new(/old) tradition as part of our family culture...

A time for gathering together, week by week, with our church family, to celebrate God's work in our lives, to encourage and grow, to challenge and be challenged. Meeting together with our brothers and sisters in Christ is a vital part of resting, because as we gather around God's word - as we listen, as we sing, as we pray and as we share, we will be reminded where our true rest is found!

A day to remember the Saviour... of course, we should be doing that every day, but a day in which we are specifically encouraged to actively remember... perhaps through music, through a devotional time together as a family, perhaps through having friends for lunch and hearing how the Lord is at work in their lives... intentionally remembering Christ's work on the cross for us. I feel like this is the one I'm least clear on (as remembering is something that is part of our everyday lives as Christians - so how do you intentionally encourage it on a specific day? Thoughts welcome!)

Not working... not having our heads in devices... not rushing off to different events and clubs and activities... just savouring and soaking time. Teaching our children the importance of rest, and the variety of ways that can be found... delving into a good book, rambling through the woods on a Sunday afternoon, laughter over a board game, colouring in, chatting over cups of tea, relaxing with friends and making new acquaintances as we invite people into our home... so many different ways... I'm excited to explore this one.

And so my little delve into a question I've long wanted to explore, has brought me out with more than 23 pages of detailed notes  (no joke!)... I'm excited about this new little adventure... an opportunity to purposefully and intentionally set aside a day for reunion, and rememberance and rest. We will not be tied to it... it is not law, but we hope it will be a way to set up a weekly tradition to make our Sundays different...

So what are your thoughts? What do you do to rest? Do you keep any specific day of the week as special? Do you have any ideas for how to set aside a day without it becoming ritualistic? Please share your thoughts and ideas as we set out on figuring this out for ourselves!

Monday, 9 January 2017

When Home is Different // Home Life Project January

Cold, dark days of January unfold. Crisp, icy days, and long nights. Children sit, poring over colouring books, "adventuring" to imaginary Wales, and thrilled at the comforts of home again. After six weeks away, the work on the house is almost completed, and the littles were almost more thrilled to be home than we were.

Home sweet home.

And yet home feels different somehow... the joyful anticipation of being back tempered by the realisation that all has changed. Wonderful changes, good changes... but for a time, at least... home is unfamiliar. Things do not have places... and if they do, different places. Thermostat functions need to be learned, daytime dynamics adjusted, boxes unpacked.

So we sink ourselves into normality, realising that with time, this "new" home will become "home" and there is no better way to make that happen than living out the simple everyday, the mundane ordinary, the hundreds of moments that make up the memories.

It's been nine months of building work, of decision-making, of change and adapting. We are ready for some normality again.

And, with that in mind, I spent a day capturing those moments in our "new home"... joining in, hopefully more regularly this year, with the "Home Life Project"...

The calm before the storm...

The every day ordinary...

The laughter and friendships, the bickers and whinges... family life in all its glory...

And then those little moments that you normally see out of the corner of your eye, and that are gone in a flash... and then you're thankful to have your camera at hand!

Capturing the intricacies of each little character... their interests and hobbies...

Their quirky sense of humour...

Their contemplative moments... and their cheeky little hiding places (one of the pros of living in an unfinished extension!)

A very normal weekend, captured on camera!

Monday, 2 January 2017

New Starts and Fresh Hopes // Welcome 2017

A new year.

A blank page.

A fresh start.

2016 has been an eventful year - My sister's wedding, a long summer in Norway (1, 2, 3, 4), the news of our impending arrival, a huge building project, living with Mum and Dad - it's been busy and it's been hectic and it's been chaotic, to say the least.

And with the start of a new year, comes a deep-breathed sigh of relief... A purposeful and intentional exhalation. Today we move back to our own home; January stretches before us, quiet and uneventful, a month for recovering, recuperating and hibernating; a month for reflecting and planning, dreaming up new dreams and hopes and adventures to be had.

It always feels the same, the month of January, full of hope and promise and expectation... And yet, with each year's triumphs and joys, come the heartaches, the challenges, the unexpected sorrows and the long-endured struggles... And the realisation, that even the best laid plans are thwarted, and the highest hopes are dashed.

And in all the highs and lows and rollercoasters that lay before us in 2017, we can be assured of one thing, friends... Our Heavenly Father remains firm, steadfast, certain. Unchanging and immovable in all the turbulences and tempests of life. He will stay faithful to his promises... His glory will shine with us at the highest peaks of the mountains of joy, and his presence will walk with us, carrying us through the darkest valleys.

Whatever comes, he is faithful.

What hope there is in Christ. What certainty in an uncertain world.

Hallelujah... And happy new year. X

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

The Weary World Rejoices...

I watched my children playing in the garden yesterday morning; carefree, full of energy, laughing and playing. So different from how I often feel myself this time of year... battle-scarred and weary... exhausted and desperate for peace. Weariness versus rejoicing? This advent season, usually diary-loaded, shopped-out and event-busy has left me feeling more crippled with fatigue than ever before. The usual Christmas busyness, complemented this year by a double dose of Christmas productions and parties, a four-month-in pregnancy and a huge building project, not to mention a seemingly endless run of winter bugs, has meant we have been super-busy and I've literally been jumping from one project to the next. My little blog has been very much neglected, and while I feel sad about that, it's OK. Our priority right now is keeping three little people fed, watered and happy while the Christmas chaos unfolds around us (or perhaps more accurately, in our midst!)

And yet there has been a sense that something is profoundly wrong this year. Because busyness prevents us from being still... From waiting... From remembering what advent is really all about. Instead of teaching my children the joy and anticipation of the coming of Christ, I have been scooting them along from one thing to the next, jumping between Christmas craft evenings, Choir rehearsals, school productions, Christmas parties and long, boring shopping trips to town, pausing only for our evening opening of the advent calendar, where another figure is added to our nativity scene.

The world is weary... That is truth. And it's a truth my children need to see... The world is broken. While I still protect my little ones from much of what is going on in the world, they know that suffering is real, that people around the globe do not enjoy the comfort they do here in our little corner of London. Weariness, even in our saturated, materialistic culture is rife... And in desperate need of joy. This year, 2016, tragedy has struck our world in heart-breaking and shocking ways... 

And that is why that old carol strikes a chord with me... 

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices...

Isn't that what we all long for at Christmas? Hope and joy? And yet, so often, it seems just slightly out of grasp... So much expectation and anticipation often leaves us exhausted and disappointed.

Not Christ.

If we pin our hopes on the perfect Christmas dinner, or a harmonious family gathering, or a dream pile of presents, we will have hope disappointed this Christmas... Those things cannot curb our weariness, cannot give us lasting joy.

But Christ? He can. Because that baby, born in an outback barn in an overcrowded city, visited by scorned shepherds and a bunch of mystical foreigners; that baby, chased out of town by an angry King, brought up in a backwoods village called Nazareth, that baby grew up to become the Saviour of the world... A Saviour who brings peace and joy and hope to my own life, even in the midst of turbulent circumstances.

So we're slowing down this week, We're making time amidst the chaos, making sure we don't get drawn into stressing about last-minute shopping and whether the Christmas cookies have been baked.

Taking time to stop and remember the one who brings hope and joy to a weary world.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Preparing Him Room // Advent with Little Ones

"We reveal to ourselves and others what is important to us by the way we celebrate"
- Noel Piper, Treasuring Christ in our Traditions -

Traditions are embedded deep in our identity. From the earliest seeds of memory, established customs followed year-by-year, or day-by-day, form the foundations of family life. Of all the traditions and customs I remember from my own childhood, those formed around the festive season stand out in my memory...

When we became parents for the first time, five years ago, I realised that creating traditions in our new little family unit was something I definitely wanted to invest in. But thoughtful, purposeful, Christ-centred traditions would take some effort and attention. In a celebration that can so easily get lost in all the hype, sparkle and consumerism, treasuring the truth of Christmas, and making that central in our family traditions, was not going to happen without some serious thought, and so, over the years, with a lot of input from those older and wiser than ourselves, we have set out to savour some traditions that we hope will help our children understand, and cherish, what Christmas is really all about.

I love the magic, the reindeer, the excitement about Father Christmas... and while I want my children to enjoy those things, they are not the things I want them to relish in when it comes to Christmas. Instead, our hope is that our children will see that the miracle of Christmas is not some jolly old man who climbs down chimneys, but rather the God of all the universe, sending his only Son on a rescue mission.

And so, year by year, I rewrite this little collection of traditions that we are forming in the hope that it will help some other families, figuring out how to make Christ central at this "most wonderful time of the year". Each year, it adapts and changes as we do, and each year, it is a joy to add new ideas to the list that have come from some of you! So please do share any further suggestions in the comments!

And on the day before December, I wish you and yours the most wonderful advent!

The Christmas Journey: Kicking it all off...
We are really blessed to be part of a church with some amazingly creative people in it. At the end of November every year, our church is transformed into this amazing, hands on, beautiful experience better known as The Christmas Journey. You can read about a previous visit here. The children travel round different tents - Mary's kitchen, the hillside, the stable, the wise men's tent... and meet the characters. Actors and puppets bring the story to life and our children are mesmerised every year. For us, its the start of the Christmas season, and it's a very special one. Why not Google "The Christmas Journey" and see if anyone's running it near you?! (And if you live locally to us, get in touch and I'll tell you where the next one is!)

The Advent Candles...
Advent candles go way back... like hundreds of years back. Four candles signifying the four weeks of Advent in the run-up to Christmas. Each Sunday, another candle is lit... it signifies the hope, the expectation - the countdown that we're looking forward to a major historical event. This sense of expectation and joy is at the heart of what Advent is all about. Our first candle was lit on Sunday (Advent started early this year!) and we usually accompany it with a Christmas reading (for small children, the Jesus Storybook Bible is fantastic, and records the Christmas story in three parts (we tend to split the first story in half!) The Christmas story is all about light - the light of the angels and the light of the star that led the Wise Men to Bethlehem to meet the Light of the world... light is a really helpful visual for children to understand what Christmas really means!


The Advent Book Box...
We started this tradition for Ava's first Christmas. Every year, on the first of December, the children get a Christmas book to enjoy in the run-up to Christmas. As children, the 1st of December was always VERY exciting for us... it wasn't just the day we got to open our advent calendar, it was also the day we were allowed to pull out our Christmas books, listen to Christmas songs and watch Christmas videos (Raymond Briggs' "Father Christmas" and "Muppet Christmas Carol" being the favourites!) An advent book can be a fun christmassy story, or something more thought-provoking that points back to the birth of Jesus. What a wonderful way to prepare children's hearts to remember the Saviour... more on recommended children's Christmas books to follow!


The Kindness Elves...
Our little friends, Nico and Nati, have rocked up the past two years on the first of the month and stayed around til Christmas. Every morning, they would be discovered by the girls up to some sort of mischief, with an idea of how to be kind to somebody that day - baking for our neighbours, sharing our toys, gathering some items for food bank... you name it! I'm sure they will be making an appearance again this year. They are a helpful reminder that Christmas is all about giving... and not receiving!

The Advent Calendar/Manger Scene...After weeks of hunting for a very particular advent calendar I had in my head a couple of Christmasses back, I realised it didn't exist, and resorted to making it myself. It has been a labour of love over these past three years, but I'm thrilled with it now that it's finished, and the girls love it every year. Hidden in the advent calendar each day is a little artefact/figure to add to the manger scene. We build up the scene as advent goes on, with Jesus being placed in it on Christmas eve. As the scene builds, the story unfolds with an accompanying verse bringing the next part of the Christmas story. After hunting everywhere for a nativity set that had 24 parts, I gave up and decided to go with the 8 piece one I had, and make my own extras. Good old Fimo did the trick and its lasting us well.


The Storytelling...
On the evening of Christmas day, after spending the afternoon at my parents, we head back to our house for the retelling of the Christmas story. Using the verses from the advent calendar that are put together to tell the full story, Dave and I use the figurines to re-enact the Christmas story. The girls sit and watched mesmerised, and I'm looking forward to the day where they will be able to do it themselves! Throw in some carols as you tell the story and you have your own little nativity every year. The children love it!

The Gift to Jesus...This was an idea I picked up from Noel Piper's book "Treasuring Christ in our Traditions" (highly recommend!) What are we actually celebrating at Christmas? Jesus birthday! And yet so often, we forget the birthday person! Jesus said "I tell you the truth, whatever you did to the least of these brothers of mine, you did to me"(Matt 25:40), so we can use our "gift to Jesus" to bless an individual, a family, a missionary or a charity. Doing this, again, helps the family remember that it is Jesus' birthday we're celebrating, and stops it from becoming purely a present-opening. We did this with the girls for the first time last year, and it really was special. A small financial gift to them, which they can choose how to pass on. The money is purely for them to think about how they can bless somebody else this Christmas. We are keen for them to understand that the giving is more important that the receiving. This year, I ordered this little craft kit from Baker Ross, so they can make some little gift boxes to keep their gifts in!

And those are our advent traditions!

I'm not sharing these ideas because I think we do it right, or our way is the only way, but just in case you find yourself in the position I did four years ago of asking; "How do I point my little ones to the real meaning of Christmas this year?"

Maybe we can share some ideas!

Have fun!

Friday, 18 November 2016

November Favourites // Little Loves

In this season of social media silence, I have revelled in appreciating the artistic gifts and creativity of others... it was only a couple of weeks ago that I stumbled across this quote below and it really struck a chord with me...


I stuck it on our blackboard straight away, and there it still remains. A daily reminder.

There is something so refreshingly satisfying about recognising beauty around us, for no other purpose than savouring the beauty of the thing, admiring the skill of the artist and giving glory to THE creator who gave the gift in the first place. I am always on the look out for new musical artists, great reads and thought-provoking creativity... and so on that note, after a long time away, I thought it was about time I returned to little loves and shared some of the things I've been enjoying listening to, reading, watching and appreciating... I love a little recommendation from others, and so I thought I'd share in case any of you wanted some new creatives to follow and watch.

And as I said, if there's anyone I'm missing out on, go ahead and let me discover them by leaving a comment below!

Our November Favourites...

Read // Getting lost in those pages...

Reading feels like a bit of a long lost love at the moment... my very favourite hobby, and yet one I seem to have far too little time for these days. And yet, we have at least managed to instill daily read aloud time with our little people, and it is one of my favourite times of day. Little girls, cosy in their jammies, tucked up in bed, staring at the ceiling and taking in words from my own childhood. We have been revelling in the delights of the effervescent Pollyanna (by Eleanor H. Porter) over the last few weeks, playing her infamous "glad game" and really truly learning what it means to be thankful in every circumstance. I love exposing the children to rich, wholesome children's literature... there are so many life lessons to be learnt from heartwarming characters like Pollyanna Whittier (click on the picture for more info!)

For myself, I have been pouring over the pages of an old classic "The Home Beautiful" by J.R.Miller with highlighter in hand... there is SO MUCH wisdom in these pages. It was first printed in 1912 and is just timeless on issues of marriage and parenting and home life and cultivating sibling relationships... ah... I can't recommend it highly enough. There is so much goodness in it, that I'm needing to take my time. Reading a chapter, pondering and chewing it over for a week or so, and then reading some more. But its one of those books I feel is sharpening me, and challenging me and making me think more about being purposeful about those key relationships in my life... and that's always a good thing. (Click on the picture for more info...)

In the blogging world, for sharpening, thought-provoking, quality writing, no-one comes close to Bethany Douglass for me at the moment. Her blog, Cloistered Away, is a little online haven and you just want to go and glean wisdom and I always leave feeling refreshed. If you haven't ever been there, do it! I promise you'll get as inspired by Bethany's thoughtful, purposeful style just as I have!

And in term's of reading of the best kind, I have been wallowing in the lengthy delights of Psalm 119 for the past 3 weeks (yes... it ACTUALLY is that long!) and I'm still not finished! I've been using Tim Keller's fantastic devotional "My Rock, My Refuge" to help direct my thoughts, but genuinely... this one Psalm just has SO much to chew over. Inspiring, helpful stuff that is rooting me firm in Scripture amidst some pretty chaotic going's on around here at the moment. Its loooong (176 verses long!) but each verse is full of treasure to be unearthed!

Watched // Admiring a fine picture...

There are so many angles on this "watched" category, and rather than taking one, I'm going for all of them... but I think it'll be worth it, so stay tuned!! My eyes see so many images over the course of a day - photographs, film, illustration and real life! So here goes...

Instagram - Is still and I think will always be my favourite little online community... its lovely to find kindred spirits all over the world, and the lovely Sarah over at @timeourjoy has become one of those for me. Her Instagram account is utterly gorgeous and well worth a follow if you want beautiful images, seeing the beauty in life's little moments, but also a healthy dose of reality. And she's just such a lovely person to boot!

TV - The incredible Netflix drama "The Crown" absolutely steals this month for me. I've always been a royalist, and never have been quiet about that fact, but boy, it's given me a whole new respect for our Queen. She's lived a pretty eventful life, and yet has remained firm and steadfast throughout (a quality she famously attributes to her faith in the Lord Jesus). So inspiring... and I'm a sucker for a bit of historical drama!

- Art - Literally, nothing comes CLOSE at the moment to the illustrations in the D'Aulaire books. I've been reading "Leif the Lucky" with the children, and I actually want to wallow on each page... so incredibly beautiful. If you haven't read any of the D'Aulaire's books with your children, you MUST invest. Seriously! They are a little on the pricey side, but worth every. single. penny.

- Real Life - the biggest delight has been seeing the hugest grins on our Jonas' face as he has begun to take off on his own. He's still wobbly and has that definite toddler toddle, but its delightful just to sit and watch him take so much pride in his newfound freedom! First steps... so precious!

Made // Creative hands...

I have started dabbling in crafting Christmas decorations already (yes... I know its still November), but we've been preparing for our women's Christmas Craft Night up at Church and so I can't give too much away just yet... but I'm excited... this year's crafts are all super cute and made from reusable and natural materials.  I will share once I can!

I've also been making up lots of oil blend concoctions to diffuse around the house. I found, over the summer, that having some essential oils diffusing just added a sense of calm and serenity to our home that is sometimes lacking when you have three under five! As soon as the morning sickness hit though, I had to bury them... I couldn't bear the smell of anything at all... but this week, I've whipped them out again and been diffusing lavender and eucalyptus to my hearts content. I have a post in the pipeline about some of my favourite oils... and a little bit about the health journey we've been on, but finding time to write is proving difficult these days! Watch this space!

Wore // No longer hiding...

Something other than my green jumper. Seriously, it was the only thing that even remotely hid my ever growing bump, but after three weeks of wearing it, washing it, wearing it, washing it on repeat, I was glad to be able to show the bump off to the world and not feel the need to keep it under wraps any more!

Such a relief!

Heard // A little music...
Click for the links... all absolutely fantastic and pretty much forming the soundtrack to my life at the moment!

- Sovereign Grace Music Acoustic Sessions

- Lauren Daigle

- The Overscheduled Life - AtHome06
^^^ SO helpful and thought provoking! Now just to put some things into action!

Oops...that was mammoth... I guess that's what happens when you go silent on the social media front for a while! But seriously, that's been our November.... now I would LOVE some recommendations for things to read, listen to and watch as we gear up for the advent season... the season of waiting and expectation and excitement!

I hope you find some gems to love for yourself in the above!

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