Wednesday, 31 October 2012

What I Am Into - October 2012

What I Am Into :: OCTOBER 2012

On My Nightstand:

I just finished Richard Foster's "Life with God", and I truly can't say enough good things about it. It was as challenging as it was encouraging. There were so many passages I wanted to highlight, and I may have to purchase a copy of my own so I can do just that. I look forward to reading more of his books, particularly "Streams of Living Water" and "Celebration of Discipline".

In the meantime, I've finally begun reading N. T. Wright's "Surprised by Hope". Already I'm finding it both beautifully hopeful and deeply illuminative.

Want to Read:

I am looking forward to reading Rachel Held Evans' newly-released book "A Year of Biblical Womanhood", because as Rachel says, how can we hold valid conversations on the book if we refuse to read it first? The topics raised are too important to ignore. It may be easier to simply write her off as a "liberal nut" or dismiss her as having "no love or reverence for the Bible", but taking up the challenge of engaging these ideas is more productive than attempting to discredit her without first sincerely hearing what she has to say.

On the screen:

Same old, same old. I am still loving Once Upon a Time. So far Season 2 has been just as intriguing as the first season was. We've also worked our way through the first six seasons of Doctor Who and are eagerly awaiting the next episode in Season 7. In the meantime, we've been occupying ourselves with another watch through of the one and only season of Firefly. Good stuff, good stuff.

In My Kitchen:

Our oven has been out of commission for the past three and a half weeks. (You hear that, landlord of ours? Three and a half weeks. And counting.) Fortunately the stove top still works, but it's our crock pot that has really come through for us. Even so, it's getting really old not having a functioning oven. I miss cookies! And banana bread! And muffins! And baked dinners!

In other words, having no oven should be doing wonders for my waistline.

As we wait for our oven to be fixed, I've found a few delicious new ovenless recipes. Our favourite stove top one has been this savoury beef and broccoli stir-fry. As for the crock pot, it's been home to this chicken coconut curry three times since our oven bit the dust. This stuff is delicious. Fight-with-the-husband-over-the-leftovers delicious. I did make a couple of changes though. I put the chicken in raw rather than browning the pieces first. I added a can of chickpeas and three sliced carrots in place of the potatoes and onions. I used a full can of tomato paste and added a tsp of cinnamon. I put everything except the coconut milk in the crock pot and cooked on low for four hours. Then I added the coconut milk along with 1.5 Tbsp of cornstarch and cooked on high for one hour. Served over rice with some naan and plain Greek yogurt, this meal is pretty much perfect.

Finally, I cannot get over this delicious chicken stew with butternut squash & quinoa. Since I'm all about convenience in this particular season of my life, I simplified the recipe a bit, which makes it even better in my books. I used 1 litre of butternut squash soup as a base, omitted the chunks of butternut squash, and used some pre-shredded chicken I had stored in the freezer from a previous meal. Served with biscuits or crusty bread, this makes a beautifully filling fall dinner. It's a perfect guest recipe too, which I'm always on the lookout for. As if all that weren't enough, simply replace the chicken stock with veggie stock and the shredded chicken with chickpeas, and you've got yourself a recipe you can even serve your vegetarian guests. It just gets better and better.

And now I'm salivating. Moving on.

In My Ears:

Guys. The cuteness. The boy just made his very first mixed CD last week, and he's so proud of it. He plays it all day long and already has the order and corresponding track numbers memorized.

He spent an evening at my computer, browsing through my iTunes songs and choosing the ones he wanted. I put them into his own playlist and then burned the CD for him. It starts off with The Purple People Eater, moves into bagpipes, then continues on with a few Christmas carols. He's got some Brooke Fraser, some folk music, some hymns, even a Great Big Sea song. Makes his momma proud, that boy does.

Pinterest Finds:

Here's what I'm loving on Pinterest lately:

The boys and I did this fun little project last week. Easy but fascinating, it was the perfect project for little people! I'll be blogging about it soon over at The Hippie Housewife Homeschools, just as soon as I, you know, find time.

Source: via Hippie on Pinterest

These salted caramel shortbread cookies are going on my Christmas cookie list this year. To the recipients, you're welcome.

This summery picnic quilt immediately jumped to the top of my long list of Quilts I Must Make Some Year. I figure if I start thinking about it now, maybe I'll have it done by summer 2014. Maybe.

What I'm Looking Forward to in November:

Christmas music! (What? November's not too early, right?)

Actually, our November calendar is eerily empty right now. I know it won't stay that way - it never does - but for now I'll pretend that November is going to be nice and relaxing. Maybe I'll even get some sewing and knitting done! Goodness knows I've got enough planned projects to keep me busy for years to come.

Well, friends, that is What I've Been Into this past month. What about you?

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Giveaway: $20 Gift Certificate from Dysfunction Designs - $20 ARV {Worldwide; 11.25}

This is a joint giveaway between Natural Parents Network and many other natural parenting sites. You may enter for all of the giveaways at one site only. Please find the section marked "Win it!" for the mandatory entry and optional bonus entries.

Natural Parents Network Holiday Gift Guide

Welcome to the Natural Parents Network Holiday Gift Guide!

Natural Parents Network, The Hippie Housewife, and 24 other natural parenting bloggers are giving away 89 items perfect for gifting for the holidays as part of the Natural Parents Network Holiday Gift Guide. The combined total value of all of the items is $2,550.

Have you finished your holiday shopping? The NPN Holiday Gift Guide is a great opportunity to complete your gift-giving purchases for family and friends, while supporting many naturally-minded small businesses. The companies who have provided items for giveaway are almost exclusively made up of small businesses or work-at-home families.

Please stop back to enter the giveaway. The Rafflecopter entry system will be live November 1 on this post (and on every post participating in the Gift Guide). Please visit some of the other review posts listed below and read about the fabulous companies offering giveaways in the Natural Parents Network Holiday Gift Guide.


Please continue reading to learn more about Dysfunction Designs, which is offering our readers a giveaway of one $20 gift certificate.

About Dysfunction Designs

Dysfunction Designs specializes in unique handmade tribal jewellery for women and men. Kirsty Rice, owner of Dysfunction Designs, desires to create jewellery that allows individuals to express themselves in their own way.

According to Kirsty, "I'd like to think I put a little of my own personality into my designs and creations, but it's only when you wear the items that they really shine."

Kirsty's passion is for the alternative culture. From vintage-inspired to tribal, skater to bohemian, Dysfunction Designs offers handmade jewellery for free spirits of all kinds.

You can keep up to date with Dysfunction Designs on FacebookTwitter, and the Dysfunction Designs blog.

About Dysfunction Designs' Handmade Jewellery

Dysfunction Designs' jewellery is available in a variety of styles and materials. The beads used include wood, bone, pearl, and polymer clay beads sculpted and textured by Kirsty herself. With no two pieces quite the same, you can be sure you are purchasing something unique.

The jewellery is sent out wrapped in hemp fabric, ready to wear or perfect for gift-giving.

The quality of Dysfunction Designs' jewellery is excellent. The clasps work flawlessly and the elasticized bracelets are discretely secured, with no noticeable knots or loose ends. The jewellery feels sturdy and although it is not made for children, it easily survived a few minutes of dress-up play from my own boys.

Jewellery is available as stand-alone pieces or in sets, and Kirsty is always up for working with customers on customized items. Whether you're looking for elegant, funky, or something in between, you're sure to find the ideal one-of-a-kind piece at Dysfunction Designs.


You can purchase your own handmade jewellery at Dysfunction Designs. Bracelets start at $8 and necklaces start at $14. Dysfunction Designs offers free shipping worldwide!

And just for Natural Parents Network and Hippie Housewife readers, Dysfunction Designs is giving a 5% discount on all orders from now through December 31, 2012. Enter code NATGIFT5 during the ordering process.


For your own chance to win a $20 gift certificate from Dysfunction Designs, enter by leaving a comment and using our Rafflecopter system below. (Rafflecopter will be live November 1-25).

The winner will receive a $20 gift certificate for use on any order from Dysfunction Designs. Contest is open worldwide.

Our Rafflecopter entry system opens November 1.

MANDATORY ENTRY: In the box provided in the first Rafflecopter entry, tell us where you would have your prize shipped if you are one of the winners. You must enter your name and email address while leaving a comment in the Rafflecopter system for your entry to count.
Leave a valid email address so we can contact you if you win. Email addresses in Rafflecopter are not made publicly visible. Please leave the same valid email address in your mandatory comment so we can verify entries.

This is part of a larger giveaway hosted by Natural Parents Network. You may enter the whole giveaway at one site only, and we'll be recording IP addresses to ensure that there are no duplicate entries. That said, please do visit and enjoy all of the participating sites!

Please note that each entrant can win only one prize, and NPN will be randomly assigning prizes to the winners. One of the giveaway questions asks which are your top five prizes so we can try to match winners to their preferences.

See the Rafflecopter entry system for bonus entries to increase your chance of winning after completing the mandatory entry. All bonus entries are entered directly into Rafflecopter. Give it a try, and email sponsorship {at} or leave a comment if you have any questions!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Giveaway: Libre glass 'n poly Original Tea Glass from Libre Tea - $24 ARV {US/Can; 11.25}

This is a joint giveaway between Natural Parents Network and many other natural parenting sites. You may enter for all of the giveaways at one site only. Please find the section marked "Win it!" for the mandatory entry and optional bonus entries.

Natural Parents Network Holiday Gift Guide

Welcome to the Natural Parents Network Holiday Gift Guide!

Natural Parents Network, The Hippie Housewife, and 24 other natural parenting bloggers are giving away 89 items perfect for gifting for the holidays as part of the Natural Parents Network Holiday Gift Guide. The combined total value of all of the items is $2,550.

Have you finished your holiday shopping? The NPN Holiday Gift Guide is a great opportunity to complete your gift-giving purchases for family and friends, while supporting many naturally-minded small businesses. The companies who have provided items for giveaway are almost exclusively made up of small businesses or work-at-home families.

Please stop back to enter the giveaway. The Rafflecopter entry system will be live November 1 on this post (and on every post participating in the Gift Guide). Please visit some of the other review posts listed below and read about the fabulous companies offering giveaways in the Natural Parents Network Holiday Gift Guide.


Please continue reading to learn more about Libre Tea, which is offering our readers a giveaway of one Libre glass ’n poly Original Tea Glass, a value of $24.00.

About Libre Tea

Libre Tea is committed to sustainable people and planet practices, excellent customer service and engaging tea moments for all to enjoy and relax with. They are proud to be a 100% wholly owned Canadian company. Their mission is to inspire tea moments anywhere, anytime.

Wendy Weir, CEO and founder of Libre Tea, was inspired to create these glasses by her passion for loose leaf tea: "Tea, for me, is symbolic of an ancient ritual celebrating the secular as sacred. It is a space to take a breath, reconnect with oneself and the world. It is a time to stop — to enjoy life, people and the planet and remember the joys that life has to offer."

Share your favourite tea moments with Libre Tea on Facebook or Flickr. You can also follow Libre Tea on Twitter and Pinterest.

For updates and special promotions, sign up for their newsletter at

About the Libre Tea Glasses

Libre glass 'n poly Tea Glasses are an innovative all-in-one system that allow you to brew and drink loose leaf tea while on the go. These convenient travel glasses are available in the original 9oz size, the large 14oz size, and the 10oz mug style with an easy-to-hold handle.

All styles feature a glass interior, a durable polycarbonate exterior, and a stainless steel tea filter surrounded by BPA-free polypropylene.

Libre Tea Glasses can be used in two easy and convenient ways. For use with tea in the glass, simply add the tea to the glass, fill with hot water, cover with the filter and lid, and let steep. For tea with a limited steeping time, add the tea on top of the filter, fill with hot water, cover, and invert for steeping. When ready, twist off the lid and filter together, then enjoy! For more detailed instructions, safety warnings, and a helpful how-to video, see Libre Tea's how to use your tea glass page.

Libre Tea glasses are elegant and stylish, with a lovely motif both topping and encircling the lid. When steeped directly in the glass, the swirling loose leaf tea adds an additional touch of beauty; the extra-fine filter effectively prevents the tea leaves from leaving the glass while you drink.

The quality of these tea glasses is equally impressive. Despite their glass interior, the polycarbonate exterior grants them a surprising ruggedness. The double-walled construction keeps your tea hot or cold for up to one hour and makes the glass comfortable to hold.

Libre Tea glasses make it easy to drink loose leaf tea wherever you are - at home, in the car, at work, or outdoors - allowing you to take full advantage of loose leaf tea’s health benefitsenvironmental benefits, great taste, and infinite blends. These glasses are the perfect gift for the tea-lover in your life.


You can purchase your own Libre Tea Glass at Libre Tea. Tea glasses start at $24.00 plus applicable shipping fees, or find a retailer near you!


For your own chance to win a Libre glass 'n poly Original Tea Glass from Libre Tea, enter by leaving a comment and using our Rafflecopter system below. (Rafflecopter will be live November 1-25).

The winner will receive one Libre glass ’n poly Original Tea Glass. Contest is open to the US and Canada.

Our Rafflecopter entry system opens November 1.

MANDATORY ENTRY: In the box provided in the first Rafflecopter entry, tell us where you would have your prize shipped if you are one of the winners. You must enter your name and email address while leaving a comment in the Rafflecopter system for your entry to count.
Leave a valid email address so we can contact you if you win. Email addresses in Rafflecopter are not made publicly visible. Please leave the same valid email address in your mandatory comment so we can verify entries.

This is part of a larger giveaway hosted by Natural Parents Network. You may enter the whole giveaway at one site only, and we'll be recording IP addresses to ensure that there are no duplicate entries. That said, please do visit and enjoy all of the participating sites!

Please note that each entrant can win only one prize, and NPN will be randomly assigning prizes to the winners. One of the giveaway questions asks which are your top five prizes so we can try to match winners to their preferences.

See the Rafflecopter entry system for bonus entries to increase your chance of winning after completing the mandatory entry. All bonus entries are entered directly into Rafflecopter. Give it a try, and email sponsorship {at} or leave a comment if you have any questions!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Weekend Reading

But Now I'm Found @ A Deeper Family
Jesus came in the quiet, in the still and the small, and I opened my arms and said, I’m here I’m here I’m here. Take me, take my soul, bind my wandering heart to Thee. Help Thou my unbelief, but I believe.

Theology of the Kitchen Table: Fragments @ A Deeper Story
I need to say all of these important things by first showing this other, this person, this cosmos sitting across from me that they have been seen, that they have been loved, that even in our disagreement, they have been heard.

There’s something about the Eucharist in this.

Something about how at that Table, we are even in the presence of our enemies.

In which it’s not much fun being The Project @ Sarah Bessey
One after another, their big projects, their church plants, their ministry launches, they all failed. And quickly. In less time than it takes to travel once around the sun, these charismatic preachers went home to the Bible belt, and their parting shot? It was our fault. “You Canadians” are a hard-hearted people. (Now, I think they meant that we weren’t as loud or communicative as they would like, they prefer a big show of emotion and we weren’t very good at that kind of thing, you see. We didn’t respond according to the textbook.)

I wonder now if it’s not so much “Reaching Canada For Christ” as wanting us to adopt their version of church and culture and success. They wanted us to worship like them, to lead like them, to process like them, to think like them. They truly believed that their way was the Biblical and Best way. Bless them, it must have been hard and confusing work in a different culture.

Why Al Mohler doesn’t get Rachel Held Evans @ Mercy Not Sacrifice
When I look at how Jesus interacted with the Pharisees and what Paul had to say about his theological opponents, it sure doesn’t look like they were constrained by the pseudo-morality of the privileged that we call politeness. They called a spade a spade often quite rudely out of solidarity with the people who had been damaged by the bad theology of their opponents. Now I do agree that there is mockery that is just mockery, but there is also a legitimate role for teaching that follows Jesus’ model of “You have heard it said… but I tell you…” in order to let the rapidly expanding crowd of the ex-churched and never-churched know that the Pharisaic hypocrisy that made them leave the church or never consider it is not the only Christianity that’s out there.

There are so many smart kids growing up today who have gifts that God wants to use in His kingdom even though they would never be able to live in Pleasantville or believe that a guy named Jonah really spent 3 days without oxygen not being dissolved by the stomach acid of a whale (as if 2 Timothy 3:16 prohibits God from breathing out legends that are useful for teaching and equipping disciples). Rather than ridicule their “sophistication” and name it as spiritual pride, it is worth stepping out on the treacherous tight-rope of speaking the postmodern world’s language without getting sucked down into its nihilism. Not everyone has this mission field, but Rachel does.

Friday, 26 October 2012

My Church Mosaic (Part 5): Authentic Church

Twenty-nine years of the church and I have been shaped by her, become part of her, loved her and despised her and didn't know what to make of her.

These are my stories.

(Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4) (Part 5)


Finding peace in imperfection

That first meeting and the ones that would follow it were everything we had hoped for since losing our Community Church. We met in the evening and shared a potluck dinner each time, breaking bread together in the truest sense, communion at its deepest. We would worship together, discuss the Word together, pray together. Our children played quietly right there with us, looked at books, snacked on cheese cubes and apple slices.

Most of all, there was a sincerity that drew us back each week, hungry for authentic community.

* * *

The boy was drawing a picture of a truck while we discussed the passage. Something was said about Noah, I don't recall, but the boy looked up.

"I know about Noah," he said. "Noah built a boat."

"Yes he did," one of the men smiled. The discussion continued.

My heart swelled with joy. This was what I had been searching for, a place where my children were truly included, free to join in the discussion with the rest of the church. You wouldn't know he was listening, so intent was he on his drawing, but he was. He always was.

* * *

Sometimes I think everything hopeful is too good to be true. Can nothing ever just be what it seems to be?

Things began to change.

First we moved from meeting in homes to meeting in a building. Well, it didn't matter where we met, so long as we kept doing it together.

Next came the children's program. But we'd put four years into gently teaching our children to sit quietly with their activities through church services, had always been able to smile politely and move on when someone would mention their excellent children's program, so we would just continue to do so. Likely some parents appreciated having the option. Still, it was discouraging. Are we so unimaginative? Must we always fall back on what we know?

Then came less Bible, more business. Buzzwords, books, talk of change and growth and just get me out of here, I'm so tired of it always coming down to this. It had all been so good, so very exactly what we hoped for. Now we drove home feeling discouraged, more cynical with each passing week. Maybe we should just forget it. The desert had been so peaceful.

* * *

Backed into a corner. That's how I felt that night.

"The women and children will go to the children's program while the men stay for this quiet exercise, and then then men will go with the children while the women have their turn."

I should have just left. But I didn't. I silently seethed as I allowed my children to attend their first children's class. It was the typical Sunday School experience, cutesy songs and an "age-appropriate" Bible story, then some games and time to run around.

Church was never the same after that. He wanted to go sing and run around - of course he did! - and what used to be a non-issue became a weekly meltdown.

I was torn. Go against my conscience and let him go? Stand my ground and have church become a battlefield, a place of unhappiness for him? There was no winning, whatever I chose.

* * *

Hours. That's how long I would lay in the dark, long after we'd said good-night, writing and rewriting long letters in my head.

Do you know what you've taken from us? We used to drive home after church and all of us would discuss together, and he'd ask, always, "what did they mean by this? what does that mean?" and now nothing, nothing. I ask him what they talked about in Bible class and he can't remember. "Nothin'," he says. "I don't remember." Do we really need silence as we talk? silence as we pray? What of our example? What of embracing a small bit of children's noise in exchange for all the good it does all of us in the long run? Their little observations, their funny interjections, they have such a unique way of looking at things. Let them in! Let them watch us wrestle with the meaning of the text! Let them watch us pray - really pray - for each other! Let them see us cry, let them hear prayers answered, let them celebrate with us! Trust us to teach them in their own language at home, but at church, let us be a family, whole and together and not broken up by age or stage or anything else. You've released so much of the typical Sunday service - can't we let go of this thing, too?

But I never wrote them. Never initiated those conversations. I was too new - what right did I have to criticize their decisions? I was too defeated - what difference would it make anyway? I was too scared - how could I ever explain why this was so important to us?

(And I am the reason nothing ever changes in this world.)

* * *

One night came the official announcement. They had a new vision, one that had arose from much prayer. They sought to form missional communities, first one and then more as the church grew and more opportunities for focused missions arose. They wanted those of us who were willing to commit to that vision to join them in this new expression of church. They would support us, equip us, answer our questions and listen to our thoughts.

We wrestled over the issue together, the husband and I, for weeks. We had our questions, doubts, and uncertainties. We struggled to wrap our minds around these changes; what we had originally joined so perfectly fit our vision of church and we were hesitant to let that go. What had felt organic now felt increasingly structured and constricting. We felt angry, even betrayed. This wasn't what we'd signed up for.

We stayed at the crossroads for a long time.

* * *

It always came down to the same thing. Whatever their vision, whatever our differences, we couldn't deny their authenticity. We'd grown to love this community and their dedication to living a balanced life - inward, outward, upward - even when we disagreed on the finer points. These were people who loved with their whole selves, and that kind of sincere love isn't easy to walk away from.

Truly, love covers a multitude of wrongs.

* * *

We met with the leadership, asked our questions, talked over a shared meal. We were still hesitant, unsure of how this would all play out, afraid we'd be stepping straight back into everything we'd walked away from, the whole church thing instead of a living Christ-centered community.

We talked some more. Prayed some more.

In the end, we chose to commit.

* * *

It's been a year since that new vision was announced. We've stepped outside of our comfort zone and been blessed in doing so. As the dust of new change has settled, we've seen good things come out of it, felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in this work and been surrounded by sincere love.

This is a community that pours themselves into each other, breaking bread over a shared meal each Sunday, gathering together throughout the week, encouraging and challenging each other, serving others in the neighbourhood, seeking God throughout it all. This is a church that genuinely seeks to be a family.

We had sat at the crossroads for so long - step out in faith to walk with them towards this new vision, or jump ship before we get hurt again? - and even now we acknowledge that where we are doesn't line up in every way with our ideal picture of church.

(But then, wouldn't we go back to our Heart Church in a second if we were to live there again? Typical church in every way, vocational ministry, Sunday School, programs, preaching...and oh, that beautiful liturgy. Truly, I am a walking paradox.)

But we are finding peace in that incongruity as we witness the ways in which authentic community and sincere love cover over these small differences. So long as God's Word remains the foundation and Love remains the way of life, maybe we can learn to let go of some of the things we clutch so tightly. Open our hands and receive love in exchange.

This feels like the beginning of healing to me.

* * *

Thank you for joining me in the space, for listening to my stories. There are so many more - God in my childhood home, years of summer camps, the incredible blessings and deepest hurts of the greater online Christian community - but it is a relief to have written down even this much. Slowly I am learning to love the Bride amidst this broken institution, discovering a kingdom of love that is already beginning though not yet complete.

This journey will continue, guaranteeing as it does both blessing and pain as broken people walk together towards the promise of wholeness.

Learning to bear with one another in love means learning to allow one another the freedom to follow the leading of the Spirit. Your life experience is just one note of grace among the melodies and chords swirling throughout the assembled throng [of the People of God]. Only together will all of you, and each of you, discover the mighty song that the Spirit of God is singing through you.
- Richard Foster, "Life With God"


Are you searching for a welcoming community of Christ-followers in the Vancouver area? Wherever you are in your own journey, please do feel welcome to contact me if you would like more information on this place we have come to call our church home.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

My Church Mosaic (Part 4): Unchurched

Twenty-nine years of the church and I have been shaped by her, become part of her, loved her and despised her and didn't know what to make of her.

These are my stories.

(Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4) (Part 5)


Into the desert

We had found what felt like true community and it became church to us. We gathered each week for food and fellowship, prayer and worship, study and discussion. We served food at soup kitchens and carried each other's burdens and it was everything we had imagined church could be.

But then our friends and small group hosts became pregnant with their second child. They chose to step down from leadership for a time. A new leader was brought in. A new host was chosen. A new location was settled on.

And children were no longer welcome.

* * *

Just like that, our community was yanked out from underneath us. We maintained friendships but it wasn't the same as gathering together each week. It had only been a small group, yes, but these people were the only church family we had.

We felt the need for a church home, tried a couple churches, but our heart wasn't in it anymore. We were too hurt, too angry, too confused, too burned out on the typical Sunday expression of church.

We gave up.


Our time in the church desert proved unexpectedly nourishing. We found great peace in our time of "unchurching". Old trappings were shed as we regained our focus. We hadn't turned from God but rather turned more fully towards Him.

What do you want from our lives? How can we bring you glory and blessing? How can we worship you with our whole selves? We'd lost sight of Him amidst all of the church distractions and now we sought instead to find Him where He was, here, everywhere, not bound by four walls or familiar practices, not buried under too much baggage and pain.

I didn't want church. I just wanted God. And He found me there in that desert.

Leaving the desert

It is said that a little child shall lead them, and so it was for us as well.

It had been months since we'd last been to church, when out of the blue he asked it. "Why don't we go to church anymore, Mommy?"

I didn't have an answer for him, but I knew it was time.

And so began our hunt for a church home.

* * *

So many churches. Hours, days, weeks, we browsed websites, read statements of faith, explored, dug, prioritized, what was preference, what was necessary, what could we live with, how could we find our way back into this broken system when we'd found such freedom outside of it? What was "church" supposed to look like, anyway?

But we knew we needed our brothers and sisters. We narrowed our list down to three.

* * *

Church #1 was a Mennonite Brethren church. Familiar to my husband from his own childhood, he felt at home there, while beside him I squirmed uncomfortably. I was the only woman with an unadorned head; I kept wondering whether someone would discreetly drop a tissue over my exposed hair.

There was a time of open sharing - bring a hymn, a verse, a word of encouragement. One young man stood up and told of his time hiking the day prior, told us how very big God is, just so big. I burned in the row behind him, burned to know that he could offer such grandiose insight while I had to remain silent, lacking the proper parts between my legs to afford me the privilege of speaking out.

I didn't even make it through the service. I left, stood outside with the baby and cried, waiting for my husband and older son to join me when the service was over. I could already feel the weight of heavy expectations, extraneous burdens, empty practices, pretense and hypocrisy and everything else I'd witnessed over the years.

I don't want to go back to all of that, God!

* * *

Church #2 was non-denominational. A relatively new church plant, it was far smaller than we had expected. Still, the people were friendly and it seemed like a church we could feel at home in.

Because we desired to attend the entirety of church as a family, we were relieved to find that there was no children's program - but then, there were no children either. There were a few teenagers, polite and engaging young people who played with our children after the service, while the remaining members were adults in various stages and circumstances of life.

We went back, hopeful, the following week. But we still had one more church on our list.

* * *

Church #3 was another non-denominational church plant. We almost didn't go because their calendar hadn't been updated in a couple of months, maybe they weren't meeting anymore, but in the end I phoned anyway because it sounded so perfectly in line with what we were looking for. I was given a time and an address and an open invitation to their next gathering.

We pulled up to the yellow house, nervously entered a stranger's home with our two children in tow. Inside we found seven adults and two small children gathered on couches and chairs. There were introductions all around. After a few more minutes of talk, the meeting began.

* * *

We strapped the boys into their carseats after the gathering ended. "Well?" he asked.

I grinned.

We had found our new church home.

To be continued...

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

My Church Mosaic (Part 3): Community Church

Twenty-nine years of the church and I have been shaped by her, become part of her, loved her and despised her and didn't know what to make of her.

These are my stories.

(Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4) (Part 5)


A new home?

The time came for us to leave our Heart Church behind. I followed that boy-now-man to the other side of the country, this time with a child in tow and another just beginning inside.

But as fortune would have it, our Heart Church had a sister church in our new city.

* * *

It started off so hopeful. The people seemed welcoming. The preaching was the same expository preaching we were accustomed too, shared with the same depth and background and context and language study and all the rest. It was even Newcomer's Week! We were treated to a lovely lunch, given a tour of the grounds, greeted by several people, asked about ourselves and our background and everything else. We left that day feeling that this church, despite being much larger than we were used to, could be our new church home.

* * *

The following week wasn't Newcomer's week. No one spoke to us at all.

* * *

We persisted, hoping that in time we would find community. We were happily surprised to find old friends there, another young family from our Heart Church. Our toddlers became close friends. We spent time at each other's homes. They felt like a lifeline in this sea of silent strangers.

Finding community

Our friends became both host and leaders for one of the church's small groups. Would you like to join us? Of course, yes, we'll be there.

Each Wednesday evening we would gather in their home, eat together, pray together, study the Bible chapter by chapter, worship and discuss and fellowship together.

It was here at last that we found true community, people bound not by some common age or stage in life, but rather by love for each other and love for our Saviour. Our children played at our feet, our babies nursed at our breasts, and together we poured over the Word of God.

This felt like what church was meant to be.

To be continued...

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

My Church Mosaic (Part 2): Heart Church

Twenty-nine years of the church and I have been shaped by her, become part of her, loved her and despised her and didn't know what to make of her.

These are my stories.

(Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4) (Part 5)


Venturing out

I moved out, followed a boy halfway across the country, loved him, married him. We spent our first three years together in our Heart Church, the one that just won't let us go. Or maybe it's that we won't let it go, maybe it has become in our minds something So Much Bigger than it truly was, because all I remember is that it was good.

* * *

I chose that church before I'd even arrived. I browsed the websites of every Anglican church in the area - all one hundred and twenty-seven of them - not sure what I was looking for but looking for something all the same.

I remember when I clicked on the website of the church that would end up stealing our hearts. The page opened and I knew, knew immediately and without a doubt, that this would be our church home. That's the one, I heard it almost audibly. It was only halfway through the list but I persisted, told myself I was being silly to be so certain, there might be another one. I got to the end of the list and still I knew that I had found it.

* * *

We were alone in that new city. The first holiday arrived - was it Thanksgiving? - and we prepared to spend it on our own. But then came an unexpected invitation from our minister, join us, and we did. Their house was full of young people who had no other place to go, and I marvelled at this unexpected gift. I was used to the minister being invited into others' homes; I wasn't used to a minister who invited us instead.

* * *

I wish I could put into words the things that caused this church to plant itself so firmly in our hearts and minds. Was it the diversity of people - young and old, married and single, different backgrounds and languages and all the rest? Was it our minister, his verse-by-verse expository preaching, the way we left each week feeling as though we had learned something new? Was it the sense of friendly welcome? Was it their passion, passion for those outside of the church, for discipleship within the church, for those in need? I truly don't know.

No, wait. I think I do. It was their Love and the way it encompassed everything else.

* * *

It wasn't perfect, though (then again, neither were we). I carried a secret within me as we walked through those doors, but some secrets can't be hidden for long. They politely averted their eyes, said nothing, pretended along with us that nothing was out of the ordinary. He proposed, I accepted, we had marriage counselling there, and still through it all the subject never arose.

Seven months later, we flew back to our childhood home for our wedding. We came back to church the following week, wedding rings on and congratulations all around.

And suddenly they could talk about it. "Oh, when are you due? Congratulations! How exciting!" I felt defensive for my child - could this growing life only now be acknowledged? Was he or she only now worthy? I resented both their former silence and their sudden interest, while my new husband was more gracious, assuring me they were only being polite and tactful. He saw the best in their intentions when I could only see the worst.

* * *

But the past became the past and I grew to love those people. Our minister and his quiet wife, their ten children from the very little to the grown and married. Another beautiful family of eleven; the husband talked tech with my husband while the wife took me under her wing, showing me that hospitality required only an open door, not perfection. I marvelled at her calm, her gentle grace, her beautiful children who acted so very much like children, polite and yet wildly carefree. Others, too, young families like ours, older couples whose children had left, newlyweds who played with our baby. They were beautiful, all of them.

* * *

I remember the red carpet. Us parents and our babies gathered back there, behind the rows of pews seating the rest of the congregation, and from there we listened to the sermon while the little ones rolled and crawled and pulled themselves up. We pushed pamphlets out of their reach and swept crayons out of their mouths.

I loved that red carpet. I loved that beautiful church. I loved her beautiful people.

To be continued...

Monday, 22 October 2012

My Church Mosaic (Part 1): Childhood Church

Twenty-nine years of the church and I have been shaped by her, become part of her, loved her and despised her and didn't know what to make of her.

These are my stories.

(Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4) (Part 5)


In the beginning

I grew up in my Childhood Church.

For twenty-one years, this church was my Sunday home. Three ministers, two children's choir directors, more Sunday School teachers than I can remember. A cradle Anglican, I was baptised into the church as an infant and confirmed those vows twelve years later. My most cherished memories of church happened there; my worst experiences of church happened there too.

* * *

I remember that he was a kind man, our second minister. He was missing two and a half fingers; odd, the things that stick in a child's mind.

I don't recall a thing he taught but I remember what his wife taught me. I was just a little girl but she never treated me like one. She took us church kids under her wing and she taught us to sing - to really sing. She included us, not in the patronizing way with Jo-Jo-Jonah and arky arkies, but with a sincerity and authenticity that made me feel like I was really and truly part of this church family.

I still remember the songs we sang under her gentle guidance. The Lord of the Dance remains my favourite, and I think of her every time I sing it, the way she'd strum her guitar low and slow when Jesus died, and then loud and fast again when He danced on His grave. I picture her eyes closed, smile wide, curly hair bouncing as she nodded her head along with the music.

* * *

Five years old, I did my first reading in that church. I read from Luke and I still remember practicing, over and over, words burning into my brain and sinking even deeper into my heart. I can recite it by heart even today. I felt so valuable, then and every time after, just another person on their list of readers. I'd step up to the microphone with shaking knees but I'd do it anyway and it's only now as I look back that I realize what a gift they gave me.

But new ministers meant new methods and soon the readings were left for the adults. Oh, they still "included" us younger ones. We'd have "youth Sundays" every few months, where we did a cute little play and sang a cute little song and look at us, being "included". The rest of the time we filled in worksheets and drew pictures in Sunday School.

But inclusion isn't showy. It isn't overdone. It isn't made a big deal of. It simply is, each of us a true member of the church family, discovering and honouring and using our God-given gifts. We recognized the patronizing pat on the head.

* * *

Soon I was the only youth left in my church. Lonely and wanting the company of other Christians my age, I accepted a friend's offer and joined the youth group of a nearby evangelical church.

I met my husband at that youth group. We were 12 years old.

I was playing soccer with the guys in the church basement and I checked him, hard. All bets were off at that point; no longer did gender afford me a hands-off status. It was only a matter of time until the boy asked me to marry him, this girl who refused to act like one.

They tried, though. I grew cynical in that youth group, weary of the growing emphasis on "biblical" manhood and womanhood, surface "modesty", no we can't play that game anymore because a boy might touch a girl, no she can't be the youth group president because that would send the wrong message about a woman's proper role but perhaps she'd like to be the secretary or treasurer? We all kissed dating good-bye thanks to the wisdom of Joshua Harris, and yet it was all we ever talked about, dating and purity and how far was too far anyway?

Like I said, I grew cynical there.

* * *

I spent my teen years caught in the familiar trap of rededication. In my Anglican church, my baptism and confirmation were enough, that was it, get on with living like a new creation. But it wasn't enough in that evangelical youth group. We travelled to big youth events, screamed along with the rock bands, cried through each emotionally-charged session, rededicated ourselves over and over and over. Maybe this time we'd be sure; maybe this time it would stick.

It was all so much more exciting than my quiet, reserved, boring Anglican church.

I craved the emotional stimulation. I craved the late-night pour-your-heart-out conversations. I worshiped our young single youth leaders who assured us they knew how we felt, they understood us in ways our parents didn't, they cared for us and were here for us if we ever needed to talk.

* * *

It wasn't until my early twenties that I finally learned to appreciate the liturgical service. It became beautiful to me, rich in its depth and history. I fell in love with the church I'd grown up in, the church I'd tried to run away from in my quest for something more exciting.

* * *

But I learned heartbreak in that church too. It was there that I first discovered that grace can too often be a false grace, a mockery that scoffs at sin and blames the victim - it was probably just tickling that went too far - and then sends him off to help with the Sunday School to demonstrate their trust in him. It was almost too much, almost the end of wanting anything to do with God's holy people.

To be continued...

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Weekend Reading

Scarlet @ A Deeper Story
He pauses for a moment to let this sink in. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to wash Judas’s feet. I don’t like Judas. I certainly don’t love Judas. I’d like to kick Judas or push him down the stairs or knock him upside the head. Jesus washed his feet. And after he washed Judas’s feet, he looked at every single one of his disciples and told them, ‘By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ If you love one another.”

Harvey stands and prays, “Jesus, Your body was broken, Your blood shed for our forgiveness. And we all need forgiveness—for contrary thoughts, for hard hearts, for thoughtless, unkind words. Hear our prayers of confession.”

Yeah, God, I pray, forgive TJ for his thoughtless, unkind words. And in that moment I realize that I am doing the exact thing for which I’m denouncing him. Haven’t I spent hours this past week imagining conversations that make me look smart and him look stupid, that make me look godly and him look like a sinner?

I don’t want a real conversation any more than he does. I just want to be right. And I want him and everyone else at that party to know it. And then I want him to grovel at my feet and apologize for making me cry.

Why the Battle for Joy is Really Worth it @ A Holy Experience
And every nerve ending in this highly sensitive body is already feeling unraveled and gory and I don’t even want to go to this thing and I feel the iron weight of time and kids and expectations all pressing down on the lung and his howl is jet thunder in the frayed veins.

No matter the jarring, a jar of fresh water can't spill filthy water.

When Sunday School is For Mommy @ Mama:Monk
The only way to bear Holy Spirit fruit is to be a Holy Spirit tree, to be a vessel of the Spirit, rooted and built up in the love of Christ (Colossians 2:7, Ephesians 3:16). I can't will patience and kindness any more than an apple tree can try really hard to produce peaches. What comes out of me indicates what kind of tree I already am, not the other way around.

Inspiration Addiction @ Church Dreamer
I now realize we must add a new deadly drug, one that kills the soul. A steady dose of ecstatic Christianity is deadly. Inspiration addiction is quickly becoming an epidemic.

I believe that in large part the numerical success of the American mega church movement is because of inspiration addiction. The orchestration of the music, lights, message, video, and even the announcements are geared to creating an internal flood of adrenaline. That adrenaline is confused with the Holy Spirit.

Friday, 19 October 2012

My Name is Abigail

You can find me over at Mashena today, guest posting on the story of Abigail.

Courage and intelligence. Discernment and initiative. Humility and wisdom. These were the qualities that saved Abigail, Nabal, and their household from death at the hand of David and his men.

With discernment, she did what needed to be done.

In wisdom, she concealed her plan from Nabal.

In courage, she traveled to meet David.

With humble grace and tact, she appealed to him to stay his hand...

Read the rest over at Mashena!

Nicole is seminary grad school student who seeks to make her life one that offers stability, rest, and welcome. She is passionate about issues relating to social justice, faith, and health at every size. She writes an ongoing series Fridays about girls, women, and female imagery and personification in the Bible. Be sure to check out some of her other posts while you're there, as well as the rest of her Feminine Friday series!

Thursday, 18 October 2012


There you are.

I always whisper it to them, my babies, when their gaze locks with mine. Ah. There you are. We smile and coo and make faces and all is right with the world as we look into each other's eyes.

I get it, now, why the toddler is so intent on seeing her eyes. "Where did her eyes go?" he asked at first, whenever she was sleeping. "I want to see her eyes."

(It took a couple days to convince him not to pull her eyelids open whenever they were closed.)

She fusses, squirms, cries, looks wildly around the room or scrunches her eyes shut tight. I whisper her name softly, lean closer until her eyes catch mine. "There you are," I smile, and she calms.

* * *

He's two, so very two, and some days I weary of the crying. I want to empathize but I also want to roll my eyes, it's just a toy, calm down, dismissing him right along with his feelings.

But I pull him onto my lap instead and as I do, I catch his own searching gaze. And there are his eyes, his wide toddler eyes with their beautiful long lashes, right now so very sad over the injustice that occurred over that toy.

Ah. There he is. And I can dismiss him no longer.

* * *

He's five and his words come out angry, passionate, and I fire back with passionate anger of my own. "You will not speak to me that way! I am your mother! You will not be rude to me!"

He defends himself, I yell more about his constant arguing with me, he defends again, I yell again. Such a foolish endless cycle.

"I'm not trying to be bad! I never try to be bad!" He yells it through his tears and I know it's true, I know his good heart, but it's so easy to pretend otherwise when I'm not looking at him. It's so easy to pretend he's doing it on purpose, he should know better!, easier to criticize wrong than it is to teach right.

But I lift my eyes and look into his and I can't deny it any longer.

Ah. There you are. I'm so sorry I stopped seeing you.

* * *

I've been holding the baby all evening as she fights sleep. My head hurts and my work remains undone but at last she gives in. I leave the room for a glass of water and there are the dinner dishes, there is the afternoon mess on the living room floor, there is more work to add to my list of not done.

I give him the cold shoulder, refuse to even look at him. The words fly hot and fast inside my head but outside is only the icy silence. He asks a question and I shrug wordlessly, keep my gaze focused firmly on the dishes I'm now washing.

If I look at him then he'll see the hurt behind my anger. Anger protects me; I've never been good at vulnerability. And I know that as soon as I let myself look at him, my anger will fade, it always does when I see the concern in his eyes. He may be thoughtless at times, but not intentionally so, and his eyes always reveal the truth in that.

But I can't avoid it forever. Eventually I look.

Yes, there you are. I remember now.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Thy Kingdom {of Love} Come

And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.
- Mark 12: 32-34

I had stepped out with the children as our minister began to speak. We slipped back in a few minutes later, just in time to hear the familiar three-part covenant refrain: Knowledge of God leads to knowledge of our identity in Him leads to love-born obedience to His commands.

When our identities are shaped by our understanding of God as Father and ourselves as His children, we desire to obey Him, for "if you love me, keep my commands." And what is that obedience? To love God with your entire being and to love others as yourself.

All of this I've know. Familiar words, long-discussed ideas. But then came that jewel, that moment of clarity when multiple ideas come together and form something greater, a bigger picture, more complete understanding.

(And here I wish I'd written it down, wish I could express it as eloquently as I heard it in that moment.)

After the scribe correctly summarized the greatest commandment, Jesus told him that he was not far from the Kingdom of God. It was his understanding of love - love for God, love for others - that had brought him near, for who is God Himself if not Love? And what is His Kingdom if not a Kingdom of Love?

We pray in the Lord's prayer for His will to be done, and we find that His will is that we love God and love others. We pray for His Kingdom to come, and here we find that it is this love for God and others that brings us near to it.

N. T. Wright describes the gradual coming of God's Kingdom with his usual beauty and wisdom:

"The earliest Christians believed, in fact, that resurrection was what every human being really needed — not just in the end, in the new world that God will eventually make, but in the present life as well. God intends, in the end, to give us a new life, in comparison with which the present one is a mere thing of shadows. He intends to give us new life within his ultimate new creation. But the new creation has already begun with the resurrection of Jesus, and God wants us to wake up now, in the present time, to the new reality. We are to come through death and out the other side into a new sort of life; to become daytime people, even though the rest of the world isn't yet awake. We are to live in the present darkness by the light of Christ, so that when the sun comes up at last we will be ready for it. Or, to change the image, we are already to be penciling the sketches for the masterpiece that God will one day call us to help him paint. That's what it means to respond to the call of the Christian gospel."

The coming of the Kingdom of God on earth began with Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension. It will be made complete one day. In the meantime, it is the work of the Church to walk towards His Kingdom in the world. This Kingdom work is simply to love. That is what we mean when we say "thy kingdom come" - help us to love God and love each other more perfectly.

This, for me, is the most hope-filled image of the Kingdom of God.

Not vengeance - May your Kingdom come that the wicked would receive what's coming to them!
Not ease of life - May your Kingdom come that I would be free from this burden!
Not happiness - May your Kingdom come that sadness would be no more!
Not reunions with lost loved ones - May your Kingdom come that I would be with him again!

But Love. Love at its purest, Love in its fullest, Love at its most complete. All of our deepest longings are bound up in that love - justice and mercy, freedom from sickness and pain, complete release from the bondage of sin, deepest relationship, perfect beauty, all of it. Love encompasses it all, perfects it all, draws it all together into something greater.

Love is both the goal and the method, both what we are to work toward and how we are to do it. Love is what we are to reflect and how we are to live as we walk towards this Kingdom, not waiting idly but actively heading in that direction, committed participants (through His authority and power) in this work of God.

"We cannot worship the suffering God today and ignore him tomorrow.
We cannot eat and drink the body and blood of the passionate and compassionate God today,
and then refuse to live passionately and compassionately tomorrow.
If we say or sing, as we so often do, 'Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit',
we thereby commit ourselves, in love, to the work of making his love known to the world that still stands so sorely in need of it."
― N.T. Wright

Linking up with the Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday community...

Friday, 12 October 2012

Sleepy mornings

She's pressed warm against me when my alarm goes off. I'm curled around her, her feet resting on my thighs, her hair brushing my chin. I inhale her sweet baby scent. It seems so unfair that I have to get up and leave her here sleeping.

But I get up anyway. The toddler follows me out of the room. He's always the first one awake, wide-eyed and cheerful and ready to jump into the new day with both feet. Me, I prefer to carefully test the day with my toe, maybe sit on the edge and let my legs dangle in for a while, wake up slowly with chai tea and new emails. I don't understand him but he makes me smile anyway.

I shower quickly and prepare for the daycare child's arrival. That one's going through a stage right now, cries at every drop off. His mother hands him over and he cries harder, clutching his blankie, as she closes the door behind her.

The toddler is already engrossed in his play. Gandalf, laser gun in hand, is riding in a truck with the lion and the cowgirl. It all makes sense to him somehow. He offers a different truck to the daycare child but that one's not quite ready to play yet.

A few more minutes of play and then the toddler requests breakfast. Today he wants Raisin Bran and milk. He gets the dishes while I get the cereal. Feeling especially helpful this morning, he opens the fridge and hauls out the full jug of milk; I get there just in time to catch it before it hits the floor. The first mess of the day has been averted.

The baby lets out a squawk from the bedroom. The toddler hears, sits up straighter in his chair. "Go get the baby!" he commands, and I obey.

She's blinking when I quietly slip into the bedroom. She hasn't fully committed to waking up yet, so I stand quietly and watch, waiting to see what she will do. She blinks a few more times, closes her eyes, then opens them again just when I'm sure she's gone back to sleep. I lean close and she smiles; there's no sleeping now. I pick her up and kiss her head and we silently leave the room, the boy still breathing softly in his sleep.

This girl, she greets the day just like the toddler. She blinks in the bright light of the living room but is wide awake, legs pumping, arms swinging, smile turned on high for her mama. I admire these two morning children of mine. If it were up to me, I'd still be sleeping with my night owl in the bedroom.

For a while it is just the four of us. The house is still quiet. The toddler continues to eat, the daycare child wanders around the room, and the baby and I smile and coo at each other.

Then I hear the click of the bedroom door as it opens, the shuffle of feet, and here he is, the boy. He wakes up like me, glaring at the day and the insult of being awake in the morning. He drops down sullenly beside me. I greet him with a good morning and then let him sit in silence. He'll let me know when he's ready to be talked to.

A switch flips and he officially wakes up and suddenly the three boys are in a pile on the floor, wrestling and rolling like puppies. The noise picks up and there's a crash and someone yells.

The day has officially begun.

Linking up with The Parent 'Hood...

Thursday, 11 October 2012

A season for convenience (and a giveaway!)

There are ideals, and then there is reality.

As much as possible, I try to keep the two lined up. Sometimes, however, reality wins. Expectations are lowered. Convenience is embraced.

Right now, during this time of new babyhood, the convenience that I'm embracing is food. I don't like it, but there it is. I'm all about simplicity right now. It's been months since I've made my own granola. I'm buying frozen pizzas and lasagnas. I keep Larabars and granola bars on hand instead of making my own. Canned beans and chickpeas. Pre-made soups and pie crusts. I made this incredible chicken stew with butternut squash and quinoa last week, but I cheated and used a carton of butternut squash soup as the base instead of roasting the squash myself. Keep it simple, you know?

And yet my food-related ideals haven't been set aside entirely. I still want to feed myself and my family food that is nutritious and free from all the "extras" most convenience foods are filled with. I just want good, simple food - with a bit of help.

Shopping around here is a bit of a sport. Small town living made it so easy - I bought all my groceries at the good ol' Grub. But moving to a big city? Wow. We get our bulk items from Costco, our beef from a local ranch, our produce from the farmer's market or a produce market, our miscellany from Superstore, and our "just need to grab one or two things" from Safeway. Grocery shopping days can feel a bit crazy.

It was during one such shopping trip recently that I noticed a new brand on the shelves at our local Safeway. Claiming to be "100% natural", these Open Nature products had nice simple ingredient lists. Less is usually more when it comes to ingredient lists, so I put those in my basket in place of my usual brands.

So when Safeway contacted me regarding a review of Open Nature products, I already knew this was a line of products I was interested in exploring further and comfortable sharing with you all.

Open Nature products are made with all-natural ingredients, without artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. Their ingredients are so simple that they list them right on the front of each package. Always the skeptic, I expected to see additional ingredients quietly slipped in to the official ingredient list on the side of the package; surprisingly, the lists matched exactly.

Open Nature products are available throughout the store, from the bakery to the deli, frozen foods to meat, dairy to pantry.

Now there's no pretending these are health foods. They might use sugar instead of HFCS, but it's still sugar. Their meat might have no antibiotics, nitrates, or added hormones, but it's still not free-range grass-fed beef from a local rancher. These are convenience foods and they don't stand up to a well-prepared homemade equivalent. But when convenience is a priority, as it so often can be during certain seasons of life, it's nice to have an option that I feel comfortable feeding my family. I don't have to sacrifice all of my ideals on the alter of convenience.

Even better, I don't have to sacrifice taste, either. When sampling Open Nature's line of products, we discovered that their lasagna was the best store-bought lasagna we've ever tried. Their Korean BBQ marinade was an excellent alternative to our usual marinades. There were mixed reviews on their frozen pizzas, but the pizzas were certainly nothing to complain about. Their granola was excellent (I was a particularly big fan of their chocolate hazelnut granola, because hello, chocolate for breakfast). I enjoyed the granola bars for a quick on-the-go snack (especially the cherry dark chocolate one - are we sensing a chocolatey pattern here?) while the husband favoured their crisps for an evening snack. The sweet-toothed boy loved their 100% juices, and the toddler, our little hummus fanatic, devoured their garlic hummus at every opportunity.

As a final bonus, all of the Open Nature products were priced similarly to other brands' equivalent products. While I'm willing to pay more for quality food, it's even better when I don't have to!


Want to try these products for yourself? Safeway has generously offered to give away a $50 Safeway gift card to one lucky reader.

This giveaway is open to residents of Canada.

To enter, leave a blog post comment sharing your favourite convenience food item. (For me it's hummus - none of my homemade attempts have turned out quite right!) After leaving the comment, 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.

Comments will be closed on Sunday, October 14th at 11:59pm EST. The winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter and announced Monday morning. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Just around the corner

Some days I think I'm finding it, my "groove", that new normal that everyone tells you about after a major life event. The baby's napping and the kitchen's clean and I'm reading to my kids and everything's shiny, lovely.

And then there will be this moment when I'm sitting somewhere - just sitting there, sleeping baby breathing against my chest - and suddenly I'm a nervous wreck. What am I doing, I'm going to mess this all up, holy swear word I can't do this.

One day I'm tackling a new recipe for the dinner. The next day it's a fridge-cleaning leftover free-for-all. Breakfast for dinner? Why the heck not.

One moment I'm telling stories with the boy, the next moment he touches my foot and oh for goodness' sake will you just stop TOUCHING ME for one minute??

I wonder if they can put their RESP money towards therapy instead.

I'm caught up on the laundry but behind on work. Those to-do items have been on my list for so long that my eyes automatically skip over them; my brain remembers, though, late at night when I need to be sleeping but instead I'm feeling guilty because I didn't get around to that editing gig again and those baby announcements are still sitting on my desk when am I going to address them and I just want to write a blog post but it's hard when there's always a baby in my arms but oh she's so perfect I could just cry maybe I will.


I'm always thinking five things at once and usually doing none of them.

I'm happy and relatively calm but I just want my brain to stop for a while. Stop thinking about what needs to be done, stop feeling guilty for being behind, stop racing ahead, just stop.


But I feel like I'm getting somewhere. Finding a bit of rhythm amidst the chaos. Maybe it'll always feel like normal is just around the corner; then again, maybe it really is.

Mostly though, I'm still just feeling lovestruck. I've got this perfect cuddly baby girl, a spunky wide-eyed toddler, and a fascinatingly creative growing boy. The ups and downs are just life.

There. I'm feeling better already.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Introducing: The Hippie Housewife Homeschools!

I'm so excited to share this with you!

As part of the boy's homeschool portfolio, we've created a blog to record some of our daily activities. You can follow along over at The Hippie Housewife Homeschools!

While not every aspect of our learning is included (as if we could!), this blog represents a sampling of our activities, conversations, and achievements. At the bottom of each post, I have included the category in which the activity best fits on the boy's Student Learning Plan for the year.

On occasion, a larger activity may be shared on both blogs. For the most part, however, our daily homeschooling journey will be detailed over at The Hippie Housewife Homeschools, while general homeschooling posts (philosophy discussions, etc) will remain over here.

Come on over and browse the archives, which so far include a crumbled leaf tree craft, a Lego maze, baking soda and vinegar trays, and more!

We hope you'll follow along! You can subscribe via feed reader or email.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Learning to Love the Bride

The baby and I spent the weekend at a Christian women's retreat.

Baby Girl, you spent the weekend at a Christian women's retreat with your mama.

By the time the weekend arrived, I was in complete panic mode. What had I been thinking when I signed up for this? My introverted side wanted to know how I was going to survive a whole weekend surrounded by 50 other women, most of whom I had never even met before. My cynical side wanted to know how I was going to survive a whole weekend at a Christian women's retreat. I mean, come on.

But I'd already registered, back when I was nine months pregnant and a weekend away sounded really appealing. Clearly pregnancy messes with my judgement.

Baby Girl, don't grow up to be like your mama. Don't let bitterness and cynicism
take root in your heart. It's so very hard to get rid of, Baby Girl. I pray that when
you grow up, the idea of a weekend away with sisters in Christ would be a balm to
your soul, not a cause to roll your eyes in judgement before you've even arrived.

Three of us moms with babes were going down together, so we piled into the van and drove for two hours. The three babies were content to sleep most of the way (the first miracle of the weekend). We arrived at the camp and immediately all of my fears about a Christian women's retreat were confirmed.

Two women saw each other, squealed, and then hugged.

I know, right??

I briefly considered demanding the keys to the van so I could drive myself straight back home, but I bravely decided to soldier on. You may all pat me on the back now. I stayed despite the hugging. I'm pretty much amazing.

Baby Girl, keep your soft heart. Don't become hard-hearted like your mama.
Hug others freely and joyfully, allowing them to bless you even as you bless
them with the same.

After signing in, claiming our rooms, and putting our things in order, we headed to the main hall for the first session. It started at 7:30pm and lasted for two hours. 7:30 is when I start checking out for the evening. The dishes are done, the husband is getting the boys ready for bed, and I'm preparing to settle in for a nice long evening of not being touched or talked to at all. Clearly something was wrong with these people. Probably some sort of cult. It's the only explanation for being expected to have any sort of brain left at that time of night.

But again I soldiered on. More pats on the back, please. Thank you.

Baby girl, it was good to spend those two hours with you in my arms.
You are unbelievably precious.

And then came the ice-breakers. I think the people who created the idea of ice-breakers did it for the sole purpose of torturing those who, like me, attempt to turn invisible as soon as the ice-breaker begins. "Alright, ladies! Now find someone you don't know and tell them, 'you look fun, where ya from?!' Stand up now, go on, I'll give you five minutes!" There was precisely zero chance that I was going to say this. I put on my best oh-look-baby-in-my-arms-what-can-I-do face and clutched her like a lifeline.

I breathed a sigh of relief when the session was opened with the assurance that we would not be subjected to any emotional manipulation this weekend. Maybe there was hope for this retreat after all!


Go ahead. Watch it. Grab the tissue box. I'll wait.


That's right. No emotional manipulation my rear end.

I was crying by the time the video was over. I was perhaps rescued from all-out bawling because I've watched it before, so I knew what to expect right from the beginning. A quick glance around the room confirmed that this was not the case for the other women in the room, most of whom were only one sappy Hallmark commercial away from full-out sobbing.

Baby Girl, I pray the stories of God's mercy and love will always touch your heart
and bring tears of gratitude and joy to your eyes.

And yet they also played this song...

...and it was the first thing that resonated with me all evening. Me, the jaded. Me, the bitter. Me, the cynical. Me, the one who grew up in the church and saw all the show and hated it. I have seen too much and my deepest hurts were formed there and my heart has been broken over and over and over and how can I not hate it all?

Baby Girl, I pray that when you think of Christ's beautiful Bride and your time spent 
fellowshipping with her, it is cause for you to smile. Forgive Her imperfections,
for She is only human, broken, just as each of Her members are.

The session ended and we sang songs of worship. My initial reaction was to scoff at the usual praise choruses, each one bringing back memories of summers at Bible camp. Praise choruses. Give me my hymns. Depth, reverence, more than seven words, all that good stuff.

But secretly - very very secretly, and I'll never admit it so don't even ask me - I loved it. The simple choruses, the voices of all those women blending together, the whole thing. I loved it.

Sing, Baby Girl. Sing from your heart, praise your God. Don't scoff at the ways in
which others chose to worship. Join them instead, and be blessed in doing so.

I left the session that night with cheeks sore from smiling. Not happy-smiling, but polite nice-to-meet-you-smiling, yes-she's-a-good-baby-smiling, I'm-from-such-and-such-church-smiling.

Those women that I met, Baby Girl? They were some of the nicest, kindest people
I've ever had the pleasure of talking with. Most people are good-hearted if you just
give them a chance.

It was a relief to spend a quiet evening talking with only a few other women, and an even greater relief to have a room of my own to go to afterwards. I sat in the silence and wrote down my thoughts until my eyes demanded that I give in to sleep.

I woke the next morning determined to give this thing a real chance. What can I say? Those women won me over. I wish I could tell you I made it through the day without rolling my eyes - but come on, scrapbooking? Really? And flowers and butterflies and candles and could we possibly be any more girlie?

Embrace the beautiful, Baby Girl. God created the beautiful things and the soft
things and the gentle things just as surely as He created the grand and majestic.

But then I watched, and I saw sincere love. I listened, and I heard gentle truths. These sisters of mine, they were beautiful, and yet I had come determined to hold them at a distance as I preemptively assumed the worst.

I came this weekend expecting fluff and superficiality. I left, humbled, with all the lessons I had learned.

I learned a lot about not judging other women before I'd even talked with them.
I learned that even though I extend grace to many, I still hesitate to do so when it comes to the Bride of Christ.
I learned that when I entered into a covenant with God, I was also entering into a covenant with the Body of Christ.
I learned that when viewed through the lens of cynicism, anything can be cause for scoffing, eye rolling, and accusations of insincerity.
I learned that everyone has a different way of expressing love and joy, and no one way is more valuable or more correct than the others.
I learned that it is best to love freely and to love well.
I learned that I have a voice and I can best use it to bless others and to bring glory to God.

Give others a chance. Assume the best in everyone you meet. Extend grace. Love
freely. Love well. Find your voice and use it to bless others and to bring glory to
God. Embrace all the beautiful ways we can express joy, hope, love, worship,
and all the rest. Love the imperfect Bride of Christ.

And slowly - so painfully slowly - I am learning to let go of bitterness and love the Church.