Friday, December 31, 2010

white christmas


Christmas morning we woke to a perfect blanket of snow the likes of which this area had not seen since 1965. The kids all pounced on our bed staring out the window. It was completely magical for them. Christmas was peaceful this year. We went back and forth from playing in the snow, to tea with friends, to playing new games and then dinner with my brothers little family and sitting around the fire with friends. By far my favorite part of the season though was those simple times spent in worship and anticipation with my little family. We spent most nights by the fire reading, singing and talking about the joy that is the incarnation, the hope He brought to our broken world. We collected catalogs full of Christmas presents for Jesus and let them choose which one they would work toward. This was the second year of this tradition started by Juden last year to help teach them that when we give to the "least of these" we are really giving to Jesus. Our hearts were full as we remembered the power of a baby inside a young girl who changed everything.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

December loves

Here's a few of the Christmas things we've done so far. We spent the day with Mimi making a gingerbread house. Mimi loves pretty things and her house is full of them...

things that little hands want to touch, things with a story behind them...

and she bakes the best cookies ever.

We had a slumber party with the cousins and lots of sleepovers with Nana.

All the girls went to the nutcracker.

Here's Naya just a few days before Christmas, can you tell?

O Come

(reposted from December 08)

I find myself a few short days from Christmas with a heart full of thoughts. I've said before I'm just a little crazy about Christmas. I love helping to create some of the magic and meaning of the advent season with my little brood. I think there are hints of Christmas in every room in the house; paper snowflakes in the windows and the smell of pine and baking fills the house.

I'm not sure when it happens but somewhere along the line the innocence we have as children is lost. The forever-long wait until the 25th, filled with all manner of festive wonders is traded in for being the one responsible for making it all happen. So days quickly pass with shopping, parties, baking, cleaning, visiting, and just being the mama and making sure everyone is happy. Despite the busyness, I love every minute of it. This year though, something has felt different.

This is a portion of a book called Watch for the Light which I like to remember this time of year.
"What if on Christmas Eve people came and sat in dim pews, and someone stood up and said, "Something happened when you where out at the malls, while we were baking cookies and fretting about if we got our brother-in-law the right gift: Christ was born. God is here"? We wouldn't need the glorious choruses and the harp and the bell choir and the organ. We wouldn't need the tree strung with lights. We wouldn't need to deny that painful dissonance between the promise and hope of Christmas and a world wracked with sin and evil. All of that would seem gaudy and shallow in comparison to the sanctity of that still sanctuary. And we, hushed and awed by something greater and wiser and kinder than we, would kneel of one accord in the stillness. A peace would settle over the planet like a velvet coverlet drawn over a sleeping child. The world would recollect itself and discover itself held in the womb of The Mother of God. We would be filled with the fullness of God, even as we filled the emptiness of the savior's heart with ours."
---Loretta Ross-Gotta

I heard a sermon last week that captured so much of how I have felt this season. This season of advent really is about rejoicing in our manger-born King who became like us so He could rescue us and about our longing for Him to come again. My pastor read this story from a recent issue of the New York Times about a cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe that killed the youngest five children of one family a few weeks back. This month, in this season of celebration, my heart has at times been heavy. We have had some grey days as of late. Some so grey when I woke I wondered if it was still night because the darkness dragged into the day, and I sipped my tea watching the cloud-shrouded dripping mountain instead of the pink glow of morning sun lighting it up. I don't suppose I'd stopped long enough to sort through how I'd been feeling. On one such grey day last week I found myself on a lonely stretch of highway peering through water streaming down the windshield and down my cheeks. There was a weight on my shoulders of loved ones hurting, broken relationships, the struggle of our flesh. I thought of those precious children whose little bodies' fought for life and quickly lost under deplorable health conditions. For the woman whose husband abandoned her this year, the man diagnosed with cancer, the family that lost their house and is broke. What does this baby born so long ago mean for them? And I wept for those children who suffered and for the ones they left behind, wept for thousands of others who are suffering all over the world. I was not despairing but longing, expectant for the day His sword will yield the final death blow to suffering and sin.
Certainly there is no easy tidy bit of rhetoric to dissolve these gut-wrenching issues. But with that said, I cling to the hope that is Christmas. That the King and creator of all that wrapped himself in human flesh was so pained by the sadness and suffering of the people he loved, that he made a plan to rescue us. It didn't end in a manger or on a cross, our Prince of Peace will obliterate and destroy the sting of death and disease. This is what I know, so I wait... and whisper through tears, O come, O come Emmanuel.

Today I held my friends brand new baby girl. Her name is Selah Grace. Selah was taken from the Psalms and is believed to mean to pause and reflect, what a lovely reminder. It is in the light of such darkness that I was awed by the beauty of her tiny face, the wrinkled skin on her hands, her smell. The contrast of such suffering and such blessing. The strength in Josh's arms around me, the sweet spirits of my children, these blessings that I am overwhelmed to be the recipient of. As Christmas draws near my soul rejoices in the love that our God has lavished on us and in the promise of hope and healing.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Hands for Hope

Here's one of things that has been keeping me busy. A few months ago I went to a Sara Groves concert. She is a huge advocate for women and the concert was a benefit to raise money to help stop sex trafficking. A local non-profit called 1040 connections made a presentation to help raise awareness and funds to help these girls being trafficked from Nepal into India. They are doing an amazingly powerful work to rescue these women and girls from the the bondage of life as a sex slave. We all know it happens. No one wants to think about it. But seeing their faces and hearing their stories was heart-breaking to say the least. Since seeing the presentation I was incredibly compelled and could not just shake off the stories of these women. What does Christ want of us in the midst of such suffering? I came home that night blessed but also deeply sorrowed.This burden compounded after reading the book Half the Sky. Again, the book told of horrific things that these precious girls are suffering. I shared this experience with the women's group I've met with for the last several years and one thing led to another. We've talked before about how difficult it can be at our stage of life, having little ones to find the freedom and time to be involved heavily in ministry. We started thinking about something more we could do than just pray.
The people at 1040 set up stop points along the border with the support of local law enforcement. Then they separate the women from the men in the car, they compare their stories and offer the women a way out if they want it. The women who would have been trafficked are taken to rescue homes and taught various trades such as tailoring to prepare them to have sustainable income; something that simple, saving hundreds of lives.
So what could we do? God turned our hearts collectively toward this effort and we decided to pool our gifts and work with 10/40 to be Christ to these women in whatever way we could. I happened to be in a group with some really creative and talented women. We sewed, knitted, and made whatever we knew how, to donate the earnings to help these women, thus our name Hands for Hope. Two weekends ago we set up at a local 24-hour holiday festival. We had original print cards, handmade books, beautiful soaps, headbands, doll quilts, baby slings, aprons as well as jewelery and art from other local artists who donated. After a day spent in a cold off-and-on drizzle, I was thrilled with how much was earned and how interested people were in our cause. Even something this small God can use for his purposes just like he used the widow's mite. It bonded us together, all of us thankful to be able to use our hands to help these sisters across the globe.

We still have quite a bit left and I'm hoping to find more places to sell and set up some type of online shop. Some of what we have left are ring slings like the one pictured below in a linen color. They are suitable for infants through toddlers.

We also have cards, handmade journals, and the last one of these adorable pixie baby hats in a soft pink 0-6 months. Below is my little gnome modeling hers last year.

We also have framed photos and these knit headbands.
I'll keep you posted about online purchasing, but if you see something you like, just message me. Fair trade gifts make Christmas shopping so much easier. I love to give gifts but I also like to know where my money is going. For the last few years I've been a part of Mocha Club and they launched a new initiative called fashionABLE selling these beautiful scarves, directly benefiting exploited women in Africa who made them. Here is another great idea that a few on my gift list will be receiving this year. Thanks, Christine.
Take a few minutes to see more of what they're doing.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Since when did time go into warp-speed directly following Thanksgiving? I'm still trying to catch up to the fact that we are in mid-December. Time to catch up a bit. Suffice it to say, I've been pretty busy lately, busier than I'd like to be. I am realizing that while I love all of the things I'm committed to, I have a tendency to over-commit. I think I was so sick in my first trimester I was trying to make up for lost time. As a home-schooling pregnant mom of three, sometimes it doesn't work. Then I stop and breath and try to figure what are the things God wants me to do?
Fall has long since breathed her last and slipped into a freezing December. We had a wonderful full month.

For several years now I have spent the anniversary of my dad's death with my family on a mountain trail called Rock Town. This year marked six years since I've seen him and there's something about being surrounded by God's face in nature that brings peace to that place of sorrow. All of our paces seem to slow as we take in the fading colors of the season and the musty smell of the earth and decaying leaves. I watch my kids climb and explore and play and I remember him... who used to watch me just like I'm now watching them. And the missing is as fresh as the last time I held his hand.

Below is every single one of his grandchildren.We got to spend Thanksgiving week with my sister and family from NJ. With my mom and siblings and a few friends we've adopted into our family we had 28 total for dinner, and so very much to be thankful for.

A few other changes; my boy is almost halfway through his first year of school and he is sprouting faster than I can believe. Here's a shot of his sleepy self about to go to school in the dark cold morning. I can't lie I miss him tons every day but he is doing wonderful.
And lastly, the belly is growing and the little one swimming and nudging my insides is indeed a boy! I had sensed this all along, always saying "he" when I prayed for him and referred to him. I didn't really have a preference although Juden did pray for a brother every night. We are so excited to see who this little guy will be.

Okay, now that I have caught up a little hopefully I can find the time to write about how we are enjoying this precious season of Advent.