Tuesday, December 27, 2011

We're headed to SEBTS Wake Forest

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls,

We are heading to Wake Forest for Josh to attend Southwestern Theological Seminary. The goal: A Masters in Philosophy and possibly, continuing to complete the Masters of Divinity program in preparation for ministry. I write this note, as requested by many lovely dear friends, to alert you of how you can pray for us:

Pray that we have suitable housing assigned that also allows us to begin the 2 day drive on January 7th as we hoped. Orientation in on the 19th and we would like to have time for unpacking, settling and job hunting before school starts.

Pray for safety on the road. The longest I have ever driven personally, as a driver, was to Houston which is 276 miles. I believe this trip covers over 1200 miles and 7 states: Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Josh will drive the truck, I will follow with the three little ones in the car. I am nervous, but excited about getting to see so many new places on the drive.

Pray for Josh to be able to find a suitable job when we arrive. The school is fantastic about helping students find work and we have had lots of encouragment from friends. You can also pray for our projects and that the Lord will use them to fund us financially. I am launching my photography business, Josh is working on music and art. If you have prayed and feel like you would like to help out our journey, you can use this link http://www.gofundme.com/br8ns

Pray for adjustment for our children, that they can settle into the new surroundings and enjoy it. We've had a lot of change and we are hoping this is a stable home for several years. We have no intention to move again anytime soon!

Pray for God to lead us to a good church home, where we can be a part of a family of believers.

Pray for our preperations these next few weeks, that we would accomplish what is needed, that all the pieces of the puzzle would fall into place such!

Pray for our hearts and minds, that we continue, at all times to seek the Lord and keep our eyes on Jesus!

Also pray for Josh as he works to get The Christian Watershed Non-Profit in action. It's an issue so close to our hearts! The purpose of it is to raise awareness, increase involvement in issues of social justice, especially directly ministering to victims human trafficking. After working with victims of human trafficking, Josh and I have prayed and feel strongly that this is an area of ministry in which we are called.

Thank you so much for you prayers, we are so thankful for them. Please know that we pray for you and ask that you freely contact us to ask us to pray for you and your family.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Who you are.

We enter a time of year in which our lives can simultaneously be filled with the most wonderful of joy and the deepest of pain and sorrow. At Christmas, the problems we face, our personal challenges and the hurt that has been done towards us is somehow more magnified... a missing family member, a broken relationship, lack of money to participate in the commercial aspects of the season.

It is a season is which I believe, more of us ASK, Who am I? What is my life worth? Am I truly loved? Am I making the most of my life? Who is this Jesus, and does He truly have any relevance to my life in the here and now.

The answer is a resounding YES. Did you know, that you are precious to God? Do you know that you are made in His image and that HE, the God of the universe, HANDMADE and DESIGNED YOU. Yes YOU. He cares so much about every detail of your life. He cares if you are hurting, He cares if you are tired and weary.

It doesn't matter to Him, what you have done or where you have been. You are the apple of His eye, and as a mother welcomes home her wayward son, or a father embraces his daughter despite her mistakes, your heavenly Father's arms are open to you. He is waiting for YOU, to run into His arms.

Perhaps you, you have had some terrible wrongs done to you in life. Perhaps someone has done something to you or you have experienced something, so awful, that it influences you everyday and you cannot escape it. Do you know if breaks God's heart? Do you know that He wants to comfort you, to bring you healing?

GOD came to this earth as a mortal, tiny, child, because He loves you so much, that HE was willing to die for you. What other God, is there, that would be willing to be put through humiliation, beatings, mockery and a painful death, so that he could pay the debt of your failures and sin. So that, when you put your trust in HIM and make Him LORD in your life , you are are REMADE. You are NEW. Everything in the past is washed away. You are WHITE and PURE as snow.

That is not all. Not only are you remade, YOU are now the child of a KING. You are the son, or the daughter, of the greatest, most just, good, , king there ever was and ever will be. Nothing can change His love for you. This Christmas, accept the ultimate gift, the gift of LOVE. You are can apart of the family of God, and have a father that will never abandon or forsake you, that will always have your corner and fight for you.

You may wonder about me, about my faith, and this song below echo's the very thoughts and conflicts I have had... if you are lonely, empty, in pain, searching this Christmas... perhaps it will touch your heart...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The 1st Week of Advent

We have entered the 1st week of advent. Until a few years ago, the only thing I knew about advent was that as children, we always had advent calenders, with a door for each day, which hid a yummy chocolate!

As I sought and prayed over, ways to bring the focus to Christ more, in our family, during the Christmas season, I was introduced to Advent, as since our Decembers have been enriched, as our hearts and minds dwell on our Emmanuel, Christ among us.

Advent means 'coming', and in this season we prepare for the coming of our King. Jesus.

How sweet is the time spent together, with Daddy reading scripture, children listening in wonder, and then, lighting a candle. THIS is what I desire my children to remember, with presents, christmas trees and parties fading into the background,... and Christ, beautiful Lord, coming a new into our lives, more vivid and real, with each new advent!

If you like to begin recognizing advent in your home, here is a good resource for protestants! http://www.intothyword.org/apps/articles/default.asp?articleid=32879&columnid=3881

I have not read the whole website, just this page, so I can't vouch for everything else on the website :-)

30 Days of Thanks - Epic Blog Fail!

Well. I made it 15 days of blogging. Thankfully, my heart didn't stop giving thanks just because I didn't blog! So, I will close this chapter, now we have entered the season of Advent, and leave you with a few thanks that stand out!

I am thankful for....

Friends that pray for me and my family,
Sweet girls who are loving, affectionate and compassionate,
A wonderful husband desires to love me as Christ loves His bride - the Church,
A delightful little boy, who reminds me, as I look at him, of how amazing it is that Christ became flesh, a little baby boy, so small and vulnerable.

We had a lovely thanksgiving week. We spent our time reading Thanksgiving books, especially 'A Cranberry Thanksgiving'. We made Cranberry bread together, learned a new hymn together, learned about New England, Cranberrys are much more!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

30 Days of Thanks - Days 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15!

11 - Today we had a wonderful time with friends at Joel's 1st Birthday party, I teared up, because I am so blessed to have such beautiful, marvelous friends!

12 - I am thankful for family that love and adore my children, and invest time in them. It's easy to forget, that is this is often not the case in many homes.

13 - I am thankful musical theater and the talented people who participate! We had a wonderful time the night before watching Daron and the cast as The Plaza Theater in Cleburne preform ' Crazy for You'

14. I am thankful for people like Geoff and Renee at The Barry farm, who work hard to farm, as farming should be done and their commitment in making others aware of, and think about, what they are putting into their bodies and how they are interacting with God's creation.

15. Today, I am thankful that I have the opportunity to home school. I love that life, the world and our home is our class room, that dinner can be a lesson and I am the one that get's to experience my children exploring new things, concepts and cultures.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

30 Days of Thanks - Days 7, 8, 9 and 10

It appears, that I am quite ridiculously behind! So here are some authentic things I have been thankful for these days of absence:

Day 7 - Open fields in which small children can run and explore jubilantly.

Day 8 - Warm blankets to snuggle under with soft, sleepy children on a cold November morning.

Day 9 - Facebook, on which I can daily feel closer to the family, friends, places and foods that I so deeply miss, in England.

Day 10 - The wonder of children at the marvelous discoveries we take for granted.

Life is beautiful. Oh Lord, my God, yes, it is!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

30 Days of Thanks - Day 6

I am so utterly, amazingly, besotted with all my children and I am so overwhelmingly thankful to God for them. Today, I take a break from my 'unconventional thanks' to tell you how thankful I am for my little boy.

I focus on my little boy today, because he will be 1 on Friday. 11-11-11. I was browsing some photo's of his first days home and comparing them with recent photos. My heart if bursting with love and affection.

I was amazed at how he has changed. His eyes were so dark and so was his hair, yet now he is the fairest, blondest of my three little ones. He is a sweet little chatter box. He has discovered 'no' this week and is overusing it, it's pretty adorable the way he is experimenting with it. He also has entered the pointing and saying 'whatsdat?' stage which is wonderful!

He is the sweetest, gentlest soul with eyes that light up with the beauty of his lovely soul. His sister adore him and lavish affection on him. Two mini mummys!

Today, I am thankful, that God blessed me with this sweet, gorgeous little chappy who melts my heart every hour of the day. He has brought so much joy to me this year. Who can lack joy, with a scrumptious baby cooing and cuddling you?

30 Days of Thanks - Day 5

Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful! If you've no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Well. Maybe it's not snowing, but we are pretty consistently hanging out below 75 and have even made it down to the 40's. It's SWEATER weather people! The triple digit weather days are long gone for a few short months!

It's been quite a summer. Droughts, wild fire, plagues of mosquitoes, unrelenting heat.

I used to enjoyably mock Texan's whom piled on layers of fleece, wool and thermal the moment it dropped below 80 degrees. On a day in which Blackpool beach would be swarming with eager, pasty skinned Brits, the Texan's are raiding the closets for last Christmas's sweater and stalking the Target aisles for boots and winter hats.

I do however, sincerely and truly repent of this harsh judgement. For now, I am one of these sweater wearing people.

How eagerly I wake up in the morning, knowing that even though I might be a tad toasty, that I can actually wear a really cute scarf and sweater, put on some cute barely worn socks that have been worn maybe 4 times in as many years, and look forward to pumpkin pie and hot chocolate.

I have all these really cute sweaters and long sleeved tops that are dying to be worn. I refuse to miss my moment of opportunity.

It's because it's so hot ALL the time, that the moment we get a glimpse, of cool weather, we all suddenly go ' It's FALL! It's WINTER! It's time for CHRISTMAS'.

If you are British and reading this, please know that we have had 90 degree Christmas days here. Do you know how un-Christmassy that feels? You have a house full of snowmen and fake snow on the window, and it's hot enough to have a BBQ outside.

Indeed, I am even guilty of wearing sweaters when it is in the triple digits, because when you go into a store, they have the AC blasting so cold, that you'll catch your death of cold if you go in wearing shorts and a t-shirt.

Ok, ok.... so what I am thankful for?

I am thankful for cold days in Texas. I am thankful that we've already had days in the 50's and that I have a small window of time, to feel, British again, and feel justified in making hotpot or oatmeal to warm up.

When you are in England, you dream of stepping outside and feeling warmth, not having to wear a coat. When you are in Texas, you dream of cozy cold days.

You know what else I am thankful for about this colder weather? Is that it has turned my thoughts, prayers and activities more towards Christmas preparation earlier than ever before.

I don't mean Christmas shopping, but preparing for advent. Planning times of family worship, gathering materials for our Jesse tree, reserving books at the library about St Nicholas and the Nativity.

I am preparing a Christmas curriculum, planning crafts, preparing activities to show Christ's love in our community.

I am thankful for cold weather, for turning my heart move towards Christ.

Friday, November 4, 2011

30 Days of Thanks - Day 4

There is nothing like holding a pile of deliciously intriguing books in your arms with the anticipation of taking them home to devour with a warm drink, in a cozy chair by lamp light.

There is something akin to the delight of waking up on their birthday, for a child to gather books like flowers and tote them home to be explored on mommy's lap.

I love book stores, so much, that Josh and I often take book store dates! We will go get a coffee at the Starbucks in Barnes and Noble and roam the aisles oohing and aahing, talking about our discoveries and browsing sat cross legs among the towers.

Today, I am thankful for libraries.

Oh wonderful libraries, it almost seems as though your knowledge expanded purely at being in the presence of such tremendous works of literature and volumes of non-fiction wisdom.

Our library actually lets you take home up to 50 books. We all become children in a candy store in which you can fill your bag with whatever catches your fancy for no additional cost.

I so much enjoy my child sitting surrounded by books, asking ' mommy! can we take this one home???' and then excitedly begging ' can we read our books now?' the moment we shed our coats and shoes.

Yes. I am thankful for public libraries and how they enrich our lives, and for the moments that come about after a visit... a journey of joy, daring, delight and adventure snuggled on the sofa, children wiggling and piled up and we turn page, after page, after page, and then, take those precious books back, to then, borrow more.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

30 Days of Thanks - Day 3

It may be November 3rd, but if you were out last night, near my car, you may have thought it was still Halloween if you happened to have pulled up next to me next to a stoplight!

What does this have to do with being thankful you may be asking yourself, quite understandably I might add.

Well, today I am thankful for 'driving alone at night'.

Yes, perhaps this is the most unconventional of unconventional 'thanks' thus far.

Why, you might be thinking, are you thankful for driving alone at night?

Ever since I was little I have loved being in the car when it's dark, it's relaxing and exhilarating all at once. Especially as an adult.

The past month, every car ride is accompanied by a perpetual performance of Veggietales stories. The same three. 'Lyle the Friendly Viking' 'Larry Boy and the Fib from outer space' and 'King George and the Rubber Ducky'.

I know the whole audio script perhaps. I do by no means begrudge it, I adore, most sincerely listening to my girls sing along to the songs and play out the parts of Junior asparagus or the giant fib. It's a true delight.

When I am alone, driving at night, I get to choose what music I play and I get to have it as loud as I want.

SO as you sat at a red light last night, feeling bass vibrating your poor car and ears, throw out your stereotype of the teenage boy in dad's car and instead picture this:

' A little mom of three in her empty mini van, playing air guitar and drums to the new Switchfoot album and having a blast'

Oh yes. It was fantastic my friends.

And today, I enjoyed a glorious morning driving around Fort Worth listening to veggietales with my darlings, and enjoying it just as much too.

PS. Here is a little sample so you can have a mini experience!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

30 Days of Thanks - Day 2

Today I am thankful for tea. Yes, you read right. Simple, unassuming, quite scrumptious hot, black, tea with milk. No sugar, thank you!

There is nothing that says ' I love you' in the morning like a perfectly brewed cup of tea brought spontaneously to you in bed.

Living in Texas, I ashamedly confess that in some area's of life and culture I have succumbed to the pressure of my peers. Can y'all say 'I need a refill of iced mango tea please?'

Yet, despite the chips and queso, cowboy boots, y'alls, fixin's and pick up trucks, I cannot escape the impact a cup of PG tips has on my soul as a result of entrenched cultural programing.

I find coffee a little overwhelming in the morning. Coffee is like the kid that runs into your bedroom at 5 in the morning, jumping and bouncing 'WAKE UP MOMMY NOW!!'. Tea, however, has the effect of gently arousing one from a cumbersome drowsiness with subtlety and perfect manners.

When I pull out the coffee in the morning, before the tea, it means I am seriously sleep deprived and you might as well insert an IV of caffeine.

Ok, ok... Let's be honest though, it would only be right to be thankful also, for my husband and his ability to make the perfect cuppa that suits my picky British palette!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

30 Days of Thanks - Day 1

As we enter into November and the season of Thanksgiving, I have decided to journal my thanks for each day of this month. I pray that it shall be a journey that will lead me to deeper knowledge and understanding of God's grace and thus, may my life be filled with deeper love for Christ.

I shall begin, with perhaps, will be a daily giving of thanks - For my God, my husband, my children, my friends and my family!

This morning, I was texting with my friend Jessica, she asked me how I was doing. I replied " I am tired, but the good tired, I am loving being busy'.

Today, I am thankful for being busy. Let me explain.

This last year, I have been home a lot. I have had very busy weekends, but my weeks had been somewhat long and lonely. Our schedule, combined with one car and the nature of my husbands place of work, meant that we and the kids getting out anywhere was very challenging. Even going to the grocery store was a challenge.

Seeing friends, going to play dates, the park or another event was a once every 1-2 week thing.

This week and last, we have been back in Fort Worth. I am thankful that I am busy.

That I can wake up and say ' We are going to do school, then go to the park, then we are meeting this friend and then we have to the store and go home, make dinner and go to bed!"

I am thankful that I can decide I want to visit someone and I can call them and just go! Or I can run out of milk, and just be able to drive to the store. I am thankful that I can read 'Fort Worth Child' and look at the free events going on and, just go!

We went to Fort Worth Nature Center last week where the children met with an owl and a snake close up and personal, as well as a Fall Festival at Gateway with friends, and then we went to The Kimbell Museum, and took a tour of the exhibit of baroque paintings.

I am so excited about the dynamic that having a car and being able to be out and about is bringing to our homeschooling routine, it's just so enriching and the children are loving the increased activity, interaction and intellectual stimulation. We just have so much to talk about and they are even more thirsty to learn than ever.

I love being busy, going places and being around people. I did not know this about myself before this year. I thrive on being busy, I am more productive, happier and have more energy!

Perhaps this is the strangest 'thanks' you have read today, and expect more bizarre thanks, because, I am just being honest. Before writing, I thought ' Wouldn't it be better to writing something all appropriate and mushy, about being thankful for my children etc, which I am, of course, but before even decided to do 30 days of thanks, I said to God, 'Thank you Lord, for allowing me to be busy!' So it just seemed the most authentic and honest thing to write about.

Thank you God for the seasons of change you bring to our lives, seasons of quiet and seasons of busyness. Thank you that in both you teach us, humble us and sanctify us!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Touch of Light *Photo Challenge*

I have been building up the courage to enter a contest on I heart faces for a while. So here it is. Rachel. With a *Touch of Light* in her hair and a smudge of dirt on her face, acquired from playing hard. I thought about removing the dirt, but then thought better, for it paints a much more honest tale of childhood. Rachel. Taking a rest from playing hard.

Go and visit I HEART FACES for more wonderful entries, tutorials and tip!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pain in the offering.

Friendship. We are under the illusion at times that friends should be people whom are easy for us to get along, our minds work the same way, we laugh at the same things, we cry over the same movies, we parent our children the same way, we enjoy the activities and generally, it comes with ease, other than the small tiffs that are quickly made up.

I am here to tell you different though. The friendships that challenge you, are the ones that bless you more, make you a better person and change lives.

I have amazing friends. Not everyone of them is a person I personally would have chosen to be close friends with. However, God told me to pursue a friendship with them anyway.

We came from different walks of lives, our temperaments are at odds with each other, according to many experts and often with have little in common.

What we do have to common is this: We are created, human beings made by a loving God, whom knows each of our names, whom knows the number of hairs on our heads, who knows our innermost beings and loves each of us, more passionately than a mother loves her child.

This draws me to one conclusion. That every person we encounter, each made in God's image, can teach us more about God, and that every person is worth spending time with and getting to know. No matter how hard it is, how much it hurts and how confusing it can be at times.

Being true, life - long friend requires brutal honesty, sharing our hearts, our lives and becoming vulnerable. Which inevitably means, a friend, has the tools, to bring you much pain. Someone you do not care about, who you have closed out from your heart, whom you have put walls up to stop them getting too close, cannot hurt you the way someone can who you let it.

It also means, that when you are close to that person, you will suffer their pain also. When two minds and hearts, are tuned it, the level of empathy and compassion runs so deep.

It takes YEARS to cultivate friendships, a lot of trials and tears.

When you first meet a new friend, it's like the first year of marriage, in some ways. You are filled with excitement, it's warm and fuzzy, it's exciting, you delight in having a new companion to share with and to tell stories, you connect with.

Pretty soon, one of you fails the other, and you FALL. Fall hard from the pedestals you put each other from.

It hurts. Your dreamy, wonderful friendship is in ruins.

I entreaty you though. Don't give up. Don't walk away. No matter how much it hurts to work through it. Because when you get through this first hurdle and all the ones to come, your friendship will become richer and more vibrant than before.

When you embrace the things that are challenging about a person, their weaknesses, their failures as well as their talents, gifts and strengths. This is where beauty is found.

Beauty that in how Christ loves us, we love our friends. God died for the very people who despised and crucified Him.

Beauty in walking with someone as they battle the darkness in their lives, speaking love and truth into their lives even when they have nothing to give you in return.

The beauty when you, feel weak and unlovable, and a friend comes and sacrifices time and tears to serve you.

Lately I have experienced some topsy turvy friendships, where it is somewhat harder in the beginning, because the way we communicate, think and feel is at such different ends of the spectrum, that even understanding each other in the beginning is hard, and somewhat painful. You kinda wanna give up and invest yourself in a friendship that has an easier and quicker feel good factor.

Don't give up on these relationships. Don't litmus test people and decide whether or not they are worth your time. These are the friendships that often, transcend all reason and understanding, and bring true glory to God.

The people whom are your polar opposites are the people that challenge you to challenge yourself.

The people whom at first it seems like you always misunderstand each other and accidentally hurt each others feelings - when as lovers of Christ - we battle through the pain - there is joy to be found.

I entreaty you... let Jesus sanctify you through friendships. Even when they hurt. For there is pain in the offering, but the joy my friends, that is found, is worth every single tear.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Homeschooling in the Brown home, for the first year!

I have had so many questions about how we are adjusting to homeschooling Esther through Kindergarten and what curriculum we are using. So what better to do than blog about it!

We've laughed, we've cried. I have succeeded wonderfully and I have wondered if it's too late to enroll in public school, but overall, it has been a blessing so far.

It deed, it has been quite a natural transition, not especially traumatic, in that we have always nurtured a learning environment in our home and lives, and the children have adjusted well to increased pace.

When do you find time?

I am very blessed in the my husband works a slightly later shift. I do miss him very much at the dinner table and when doing bedtimes, but in the mornings he puts himself at our disposal to help make sure our home school goals are achieved.

However, the way it plays out, due to having one car, often one of us has to go and do something, like grocery shop, go to a meeting in the morning. On days like this, I wait until Joel's nap time, which is somewhat unpredictable in time and length.

I also try to keep things simple on days I know before hand will be like this, and just do our Five in a Row curriculum, which really requires being done 5 consecutive days. All the other curriculum is pretty flexible.

Plus, the nature of teaching one child, one on one, means that lessons go by really quick, and even with doing all the different subjects, it's rarely more than 2 1/2 hours total throughout the day.

How does your daughter handle learning from you?

So far, we have had no problem, as long as I am patient, and read her ques well - tiredness, frustration, overwhelmed etc and respond accordingly with compassion and empathy, and find a way to work through it with her, we have had little to no conflict. She is eager to do her lessons and is learning well.

I know my child well, and have had 5 years of learning her strengths, weaknesses, passions and learning style and I am loving this opportunity to get to know her more.

What curriculum are you using?

Right now we use several. At our core we use Five in a Row, which is a literature based curriculum.

Each week your studies are focused on one book which you read at the beginning of each lesson. Each lesson from history, geography to math, science and language arts stem from this.

Math - we are supplementing with 'Saxon Math'. So far I love this, it is 100% scripted and Esther does really well with it. It requires little to no planning on my part, other than a quick overview of the lesson before hand.

Phonics - We are using 'Explode the Code', this is not scripted, but gives lots of suggestions, workbooks, activities. It is a perfect pace for Esther and really easy to use.

Handwriting - We are using Handwriting without Tears. It is wonderfully genius! Esther's handwriting already impresses me after just a few lessons, it is very easy for the child to understand, and really is handwriting without tears, with lots of fun ideas, songs etc.

What do you do for PE and social interaction?

Esther is attending soccer twice a week, also at home the girls have quite a love for learning ballet, so we have been using a book that introduces basic positions and famous ballets.

Socially, we are heading to the Girl Scout rally this weekend for her to join a troop. In addition we are at church frequently, out and about often at parks and museums which pose the opportunity for her to play with other children.

I had hoped to find a home school group to join, but so far I have had no luck!


It is easy to fall into the trap of viewing homeschooling as a burden, another thing to accomplish in a long list of never ending 'things' a mum has to do. It requires discipline, routine and patience, not of which are my forte.

On the other hand, it makes our home life so dynamic and rich, it is helping me get to know myself more, to understand my children more and gain more rapport and connection with them.

It is teaching me to pray more and rely more and more on God's strength and provision.

It is truly a sanctifying experience.

I love that at the end of the day, I have something to show in my little folder where I have been storing Esther's work, that I can already, look back and review progress.

I delight in partaking in their learning experience, seeing the wonder and excitement of their discoveries of the world around them or when they achieve something new.

In summary, I think I can say that so more, I feel like homeschooling is giving our family a more full and vibrant life, one more in tune with each other, our world and God.

To finish - I really could NOT achieve what we have already without God, He is my constant source of strength, patience and encouragement.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Children's Artwork!

I love children's art work, it warms my heart and gives me so much joy and delight! We have piles of new 'art' everyday. It is so wonderful to see a child's perspective on paper, the pictures reflect the things their minds are filled with, what excites them. Also it's amazing to watch a child grow in their skills. Here are some of our most recent!

1. This is Wendy, her brothers and Peter Pan by Esther
2. A horse by Esther
3. A bowl of cheerios by Rachel
4. Our family, our house and the apartment pool by Esther

Friday, July 29, 2011


Do you ever have that feeling, that you have so much to accomplish that rather than get up and do it you become frozen, and each breath feels labored? It comes after months, nay, years of sleepless nights, of being pushed and pulled in many directions, of being struck down every time you stand up.

Bombarded with the Christian mantra of servitude and self sacrifice, I pour out and out, then fall, fail, collapse and I am useless. A wretch. I ask " Why is this happening? Why can't I keep going? Why am I not strong enough? Why have you forsaken me God? I can't do this any more! Haven't I been faithful? Haven't I given everything?'

Pride. Selfishness. Masked as servitude. That is the answer.

Pride that I can do this, that I need to be strong, that I need to use MY gifts to do this. If I ask for help, I admit that I failed, that I am weak.

Selfishness. Not allowing depending on God's strength, my pride clothing me, I deny my husband, family, friends, the body of Christ, the opportunity to see what God can do through me when I die to myself. Instead they receive a shadow. An imitation. Someone trying to be like Christ but not allowing Christ to fully enter in.

So, I come, broken, humbly before the cross... Jesus Christ, let me be saturated with YOU. Don't let me try to imitate you in actions, but let me be like you, in mind, heart, body and soul.

Humility. Cloth me in this Lord.

The burden is too heavy because it is not your yoke I carry, but the yoke of the world, of my insecurities , of the societal pressures,

I gladly accept your yoke on my knees Lord, on my knees with tear... take my heart and change it... take my will and conform it... not my will but yours...

Destroy my idols... the perfect mum, wife, housekeeper...

Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner...

This psalm I pray today...

Psalm 103.

1 Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.

7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.

19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the LORD, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the LORD, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.

Praise the LORD, my soul.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Learning to Pray

Lately, I have been praying, to learn how to pray. Through the leading of the Holy Spirit I have began to include some beautiful prayers in my day. Here is the prayer that I start with my day with...

A Prayer Morning of St. Philaret of Moscow

O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace, help me in all things to rely upon your holy will. In every hour of the day reveal your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that your will governs all. In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by you. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray. And you, yourself, pray in me. Amen.

Here is another prayer that I adore also by Metropolitan Philaret:

My Lord, I know not what I ought to ask of Thee. Thou and Thou alone knowest my needs. Thou lovest me more than I am able to love Thee. O Father, grant unto me, Thy servant, all which I cannot ask. For a cross I dare not ask, nor for consolation; I dare only to stand in Thy presence. My heart is open to Thee. Thou seest my needs of which I myself am unaware. Behold and lift me up! In Thy presence I stand, awed and silenced by Thy will and Thy judgments, into which my mind cannot penetrate. To Thee I offer myself as a sacrifice. No other desire is mine but to fulfill Thy will. Teach me how to pray. Do Thyself pray within me. Amen.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

1000 Gifts

My lovely friend Renee from iMMERGENT brought a copy of 1000 Gift to church one saturday night. How wonderful, that the book, was a gift in itself.

I had a whole lot to read and another book seemed a little overwhelming. Yet, as a battled with the fatigue and challenges of having a young family, the tag line leaped from the book cover every time I saw the book on the end table. 'A dare to LIVE FULLY right where you are'.

I knew I wasn't living fully. I was discontent. I was complaining about little things. I knew this wasn't how I was meant to be living because I had lived fully in my life and it was clear to me that I had left that path. Something in my heart was holding me back now. I knew I wanted to live fully right where I was once again. To embrace the small things now. To be content. To break free from the depression, the ungratefulness that was permeating through every thought.

I am about 5 chapters in so far. Ann Voskamp knows what it's like to be a busy mom. To have more to do than time. To be giving emotionally continually and to feel drained. To be un-thankful.

She embarks on a journey to find God's gifts and grace in the ordinary everyday workings of life.

She has reminded me, that when you change your heart, to look for the good, for God's goodness, you will see it in everything. From the big things... an answered prayer, a new child to the small, a cool breeze on a hot day, colors reflected in soap bubbles.

Living life fully, is to be Thankful, and give God praise in ALL things. So, I accepted the challenge, to list 1000 gifts. To once again, give praise in all circumstances. To see the beauty in the gray, until the gray fades away and my heart looks for the rainbow, does not focus in on the clouds.

1. Friends, like Renee, sharing books.
2. Flowers. Mrs Leslie gave me the flowers to take home. I don't think she know how much I love flowers. I am not exaggerating when I say, my day is brightened and filled with emotion every time I see them on my table.
3. Little girl dancing to music, care free, twirling, skipping

Friday, April 1, 2011

Conversations with Rachel.

Rachel. Oh my Rachel, our middle child. She makes me laugh so much everyday. She is our monkey, our clown. She is always into mischief. Yesterday she painted her whole hands with nail polish. The day before that, she scatter newly washed and folded clothes everywhere. She climbs bookshelves. She puts toothpaste in her hair. She intentional puts her foot in an ant pile to see what happens. She leaps from great heights before you can stop her and then laughs when she lands even if its with a hard thump. She also lavishes affection on her family and cares so much for her siblings. Here is a conversation I had with her this morning.

I am in the Kitchen cleaning. Rachel walks in and I pick her up.

Rachel: I'm a bug
Mommy: What kind of bug?
Rachel: A something bug.
Mommy: Do you bite?
Rachel: Yup (leans forward and bites my shirt)
Mommy: Do you sting?
Rachel: Yup (pokes me with sound effect)
Mommy: Are you a cute bug or the ugly kind? Cute I think?
Rachel: Nope. I'm an ugly, scary bug (Said in funny voice and comical mean facial expression)

She makes me smile.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A brief 360 of iMMERGENT

A lot of you are praying for us down here and ask questions about the church, our building, so, here is a quick 360 I took with my phone video camera, so as you think of us and pray for Montrose, you can have a 'picture' in your mind!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ready to serve.

Driving on a hot summers day, the air conditioning blasts, a cold coke sits within hands reach, condensation rolling down that 44oz cup. You're singing. Songs of praise and worship. As you slow for the red light, you see him, old, rugged, skin - sun baked, dry, holding his sign: 'Need help, homeless'. Junkie. Alcoholic. The first thoughts in your mind. You think about the cash in your bill fold, would he just use it for his addiction? The light turns green and it's too late. You leave, but something nags, you feel uncomfortable. His face stays in your mind for weeks, months. Every time you pass that spot, you look, is he there?

It's cold. You're on your way home from Christmas shopping, trunk loaded, Starbucks close by in the drink holder. You see her. Bundled. Arms wrapped around tight, shivering. Face worn for pain, hurt and abuse. You blame her. There is help if she wanted it. But she's choosing this, why should you help, when she wouldn't help herself? Yet, you can't help the guilt, the shame, as you go home safe to your loving family and friends.


iMMERGENT has started a wonderful new ministry. It's not what you would imagine. It's phenomenal. Every second Saturday, Mrs Leslie Smith appears at the childrens church with boxes of supplies. Toiletries, socks, blankets, t-shirts, bottled water, snack bars, fruit, gift cards.

She has each child pack a bag. The child makes a craft and then places in also in the bag and says a prayer for the person whom will receive the bag. With childlike joy and compassion, they eagerly await an opportunity to give.

The bags sit in the car. The first two months, the bags went to the same two men. Frank and David. They always slept in the same spots. So we would pull up. Josh would go out and give them the bags and pray for them. Well, Frank liked the prayers, David didn't. Then they were were gone. The girls wept. Where were they? What had happened?

So the bags sat. One day. We stopped at a red light. There a lady stood, forlorn, gruff, the beautiful person created in God's image hidden below years of hurt and anger. My heart leaped, we grabbed one of the bags and handed it to her, with the cut out heart and message from Esther. The girls whooped and cheered. Their faces shining with a joy that came from the deepest part of their beings.

The next week, once again, an old man. In a wheel chair. Eyes blood shot. He looked dangerous. He'd been waging a war his whole life against himself and it had led to destruction. He still belonged to God, this man, the apple of his heavenly Fathers eye.

This time, the girls shouted 'Mommy! The bag! Give him the bag!'

It dawned on me, what must in mean to these people, even the most hardened, for a bright eyed child of 2 or 4 to have personally made them a bag and card. To have prayed for them.

What must it feel like, to know, that a stranger, had prepared something, just waiting for God to place you in their path so they could share. Even if it touched them for just a few minutes. It's worth it.

Oh the faith and love of a child.... what it can fathom and accomplish that we adults cannot.

In my heart, it was amazing, no battle, no calculating what was in my purse, no lowering my eyes to avoid that look; the 'lady, can't you give just a little, even if it is for a beer, because it would help me feel better' look.

We were ready to serve. Thank you Leslie. Thank you for making our family ready to serve.

We are all equal, all precious, all worth time, patience and love. Because we are made by God, a personal God.

No one should be written off or given up on, because God never gives up on us.

How humbling... how convicting... how liberating.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Compassion Photography

I first saw Mia's work through a mutual friend. She has an stunning talent for capturing atmosphere and personality. She adds her creative flair, bringing out the art and simply beauty in life.

What is more stunning, however, is how she is using her unique gifting from God to encourage families struggling with the reality, pain, heartache and struggles of having a sick child in and out of hospital. She knows about this experience first hand...

Mia writes:

"Especially close to my heart are families who are battling the illness of a child. My daughter Lauren, spent a lot of time during her younger years in and out of children’s hospitals, due to the dysfunction of her kidneys. We were showered with love and support during those days, but it was still the most difficult time of our lives. From the desire to give other families the same loving support and compassion we were given, Compassion Photography was born."

Compassion Photography is working directly with Cooks Children's Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas.

"Compassion Photography is a non-profit company. Working directly with Cook Children’s Medical Center, it is our earnest desire to provide professional photo shoots -at no cost- to families in the midst of battling an illness. At such times as these when money is tight, emotions are untamed, and the world seems upside down, familiy pictures aren’t exactly at the forefront of your mind. But it is essential to take some time away from the stresses and fears that come along with this life experience. A session with Compassion Photography allows you to step into a new scene for a while and just enjoy your family. During the time we spend together my main objectives are to make you smile, share some laughs, and tell a beautiful story of your family with my camera. Though times aren’t feeling so great for you right now, sometime soon you will be able to look back at your Compassion photographs and see that His arms were, indeed, wrapped tightly around you when you needed Him most."

You can see more about Compassion Photography's vision, see Mia's work and learn about their sister company 'BeCompassion' at www.compassionphotography.com

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Friends, Rye Crackers, Eggs and The Barry Farm.

Today we spent time with Renee Smith and her sweet children Layla and Seamus. Renee brought some delicious food! She made rye crackers, FRESH in my kitchen and then served them with a delicious Quinoa salad. You can find some of her delicious recipes at www.smithfamilyliving.wordpress.com

Afterwards, we took the children for a walk around the lake, looked at the ducklings, threw rocks and played some more.

Renee and her husband are quite an inspiration. In addition to growing their own produce and having egg laying hens in their yard, they have recently leased a plot of land and begun a community supported farm that has become Houston's newest and only pastured egg CSA, filling a much needed gap.

I encourage you to visit The Barry Farm at www.thebarryfarm.wordpress.com and to head over to the Barry Farm at on Facebook. and 'like' them!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Week 2 : Lentil by Robert McCloskey

The girls are really getting into the stories and anticipating 'school'. Sometimes Rachel joins in, sometimes she doesn't, it depends on her mood and the activity. Esther has amazed me with her attentiveness and dedication. So far she is an excellent student, soaking everything in and jumping right into the story. Last week we lived and breathed 'Ping'. From discussing life lessons and human relationships, geography, music, art, math, science to eating a rice cross-legged on a low table while drinking jasmine tea.

Lentil had the girls asking 'again, again!', they laughed at his funny singing, they empathised when they too couldn't whistle, they got frustrated at Sneep's schemes, they celebrated when Lentil used his unique gift of playing harmonica to save the day. The story is wonderfully rich with lots of beautiful illustrations and a plethora of discussion points.

When I was writing up tomorrow's lesson plan, I realised how much of the topics we had already discussed since, we read it three times today alone! Plus, now the girls are looking for details in the pictures and story, asking questions, we get carried away!

Here is a video of the girls playing harmonica along to 'She'll be comin' around the mountain', the song that Lentil played for Colonel Carter! (Right after we'd played the instruments in the bath tub, to see why that was Lentil's favorite place to play!)

Spring has sprung!

Spring is my favorite time of year. Warm days. New Life. New beginnings. Each sunny day full of promises of things to explore, hills to roll down.

On friday, we spent time with Charity, Rowan and Reese. It's fantastic because Rowan and Esther are both 4 as well as Rachel and Reese being 2. Plus, they are all blond and blue eyed. A beautiful band of girls who are often found strolling and skipping hand in hand in hand in hand...

Later on that day, we saw new baby ducklings with their mummy! It was wonderful! We spent a lot of time just watching them and talking about them. Every day we look out the window in the morning to see if we can see swimming with her babies in tow. We counted EIGHTEEN! That's a big family!

Also, we have seedlings! Our seeds are GROWING! A flower bloomed on our Jalapeno plant today too! The chives and rosemary have not germinated but I am still optimistic. Soon we will have fresh jalapenos, tomatoes, strawberries, oregano, cilantro, basic and thyme for our kitchen but some beautiful flowers to sweeten our day. The girls run to the porch window after looking for the ducklings to see how much growing their plants have done. Last week they took sang to the plants. Today, they played the harmonica for them and also the plants are prayed for nightly. No wonder they are doing so well!

We also went to the farmers markets at Pearland and Froberts, how wonderful to have honey from local beekeepers and locally grown fruit and veg. On saturday, I shopped the stalls while Josh and the girls played 'soccer' on the adjacent field. Yes, spring has sprung and I plan to enjoy it before the long, hot, Texas summer...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


For some time I have been praying over and pondering Lent and what I would 'give up for lent'. It's actually the first time I have done this and it's something I am excited about. 'Sugar' has been on my heart. I love sugar and I know it's bad for me, yet that isn't enough to stop me from my indulgence.

I have tried to give it up on my own strength and failed.

Something I have mulled over for a while also, is why do I struggle to run to God, to the cross when I am in a time or situation of hardship? It seems to be a running theme in my life.

Blurry eyed, disorientated and surprised that it was already alarm clock time, I reached for my Bible to read a my morning psalm. It's a rule I have to help me start my day off with my mind on Christ before a small child lures me from my warm blanket cocoon.

I read:

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

Psalm 62: 1-2

The reason to give up sugar this Lent, my first lent, is because I do not always find rest in God, I don't plant my feet on Him and allow myself to sand firm. Instead I eat. I eat sugar.

Tea with cookies. Ice Cream. Coke. Cake. I bake.

When something goes array, when I am emotionally shook up, I think about comfort food. Sugar. The warmth and comfort of that sugar boost. The sweet, familiar taste. Then I feel better. Temporarily.

Yet, the problem in still there, the hurt, the worry, the concern, the fear, the sin. I just sunk it deeper within me. To wait and fester until it get so big, it isn't a little prayer to resolve, but I hurtful, difficult problem.

So this year, while I resist temptation, I will be receiving something even more wonderful than my so called, seemingly trivial, 'sacrifice', compared to Jesus's... I will be learning how to run to God. The enemy will loose this foothold he has in my life.

God you will be be the rest my soul needs. My Rock. My Salvation. My everything.

I am truly looking forward to what God teaches me, on the first lent I have observed. Perhaps I don't understand all the Theology and related liturgy, but I am already learning something more about how to be closer to Jesus. How to receive the Grace and Mercy, that are mine, ours, through the Cross.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Home Cooking, Part 1: The value of a well stocked fridge and pantry

It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the plethora of ingredients presented in homecooked meals. Looking down the recipe one quickly feels their bank accounts emptying in order to fund the supply of both exotic and familiar foods that are vital to the success of the much coveted home cooked dinner steaming on the table, greeted by a wide eyed, smiled husband and hungry children.

It doesn't have to cost the earth however to home cook and it doesn't need to be fancy either. There is a small investment at the onset, but that is exactly what it is, an investment.

A well stocked fridge and pantry.

Filling the refrigerator and pantry with an assortment of commonly used items that are used for multiple recipes drastically reduces the cost of each meal when spread over the course of days, weeks and sometimes months.

Here is a good list starting list (much more could be added!):

• Dijon mustard • Olive oil • Red wine vinegar • Balsamic vinegar • Plain flour • Self-raising flour • Cornflour • Confectioners sugar • Brown sugar • Cocoa powder • A variety of dried pasta • Egg noodles • Chickpeas • Kidney beans • Tinned chopped tomatoes • Rice (your choice or a selection) • Almonds • Chicken, vegetable and beef stock cubes • Soy sauce• Dried Basil • Table salt • Black peppercorns • Ground cinnamon • Dried oregano • Bay leaves • Ground cumin • Chili powder • Curry powder • Baking soda • Vanilla extract• Baking powder • Nutmeg • Honey • Oatmeal • Mayonnaise • Ketchup • Cinnamon • Ginger • Cloves • Garlic • Cumin • Peanut butter • Butter • Sour cream • A selection of cheeses • Cream cheese • Whole wheat flour • Almonds • Yeast • Black Beans • Potatoes • Onions • Sea Salt • Table salt • Black peppercorns • Castor sugar • Dried oregano • Bay leaves • Ground cumin • Chilli powder • Plain Yoghurt • Coconut Oil • Lemon Juice • Apple Cider Vinegar • Bread Flour • Pearl Barley • Molasses • Cayenne Pepper • Vegetable oil • Tabasco • Eggs • Dried Thyme • Dried Rosemary • Ground sage • Dried oregano • Raisins • Various nuts/dried fruits • Maple syrup. • Worcestershire Sauce • Apple sauce

With these basic ingredients, you are ready to make *almost* any dish with the addition of the needed fresh fruit, vegetables and meat. In Home Cooking, Part 2. We'll talk about selection fresh produce and meat, how to shop for it and optimizing it's use with a meal plan.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Week 1, Day 1.

WOW. What a day. What a start to the week. God is so good. We started day one of officially homeschooling with volume 1 of 'Five in A Row'.

Each week you read a classic 'living' children's book. Each book explores different cultures, country and concepts and encapsulates geography, history, language arts, religious studies, science, social studies and art.

This week we began with 'The Story about Ping' which is about a little duck who lives on the Yangtze River in China. He decides to avoid a consequence by running away but learns that being away from his family is much worse.

At the beginning of every day, you re-read the book so that the child is able to not only be reminded of the story but is able to pick up on new aspects that they might have missed in prior readings.

Today, we introduced the book with an explanation of where the title was, who the author was and the illustrator. We discussed concepts such as discernment and also that it's best to face up to our mistakes than avoid dealing with them.

We also introduced Esther to the world map, showing her the locations of friends and family around the world and marking them with a star. We also located our first picture disc of Ping in China. We found a the Chinese flag and colored it in.

Esther then continued the lesson with her curiosity 'Mommy, what kind of music and dancing do they do in China?', so we quickly did some searching on youtube for videos of traditional Chinese music and dance.

She is so excited, tonight she thanked God for 'school' and told Him she can't wait to learn more about the place where Ping is from.

I think Josh and I enjoyed ourselves as much as she did. It's so much fun to learn as a family. We are learning knew things too!

Making the most of it...

I've dreamed of my own vegetable garden for a long while. Fresh veggies, hens roaming, perhaps a peach tree, apple tree, small children devouring their harvest with wonder... a herb garden infiltrating my lungs with it's aroma, flavoring the food I lovingly create... a lilac bush sprinkled with butterflies... climbing jasmine over a seated arbor in which me and my love read and talk in the evening sun... lavender sharing it's perfume which sneaks in through my windows to greet me in the morning heat.

But, I had no where to make this dream come true. So, I gave up and waited for my garden.

My decision to try and grow on the tiny balcony was somewhat because Esther asked me if we could grow something. I didn't want to deprive her of that experience because in my heart I couldn't have the paradise my selfish flesh desired.

I needed to let life and beauty grow and nourish our families souls, even if from a plastic pot on the porch of a city. Indeed, perhaps there is something particularly special about green springing from the potted earth in a jungle of bricks, gray and telephone poles.

There is something miraculous about a seed germinating. An event so beautiful from something so unspectacular appearing. A brown or black seed is put in dirt. Every time I plant, I wonder : Can something grow? Will something grow from the dirt?

Yet, moist soil, air, sunlight and water combine and bring forth the bright green of new life surrounded in an otherwise lifeless pot of soil.

What joy and wonder a little garden on the balcony brings. So many teaching opportunities and also a reminder that, like a seed soaks in the basic elements contentedly and grows unhindered, beautiful, that we too should take what we have, no matter how basic and contentedly use it to bring joy and beauty instead of grumbling with dissatisfaction, wanting more and shunning what we have.

"Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, 'I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,' so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid" (Hebrews 13:5-6)

"If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content" (1 Timothy 6:8)

"Besides You, I desire nothing on earth" (Psalm 73:25)

"But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment"
(1 Timothy 6:6)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Soaked Baked Oatmeal

This is a recipe that my dear friend Sarah Kouba at Bread and Honey shared with me and I just had to pass it on. It is always devoured with delight at our gatherings along with tea.

It really can be enjoyed anytime of day, breakfast, a snack or over tea!

2-1/2 c. oats
1-3/4c. buttermilk*
1/2 c. coconut oil
4 eggs
1/2 c.sugar, maple syrup or honey (I use raw honey)
1tsp. baking powder
1/2tsp. salt
2tsp. Cinnamon (I don't use this if using a different fruit ie. strawberries, blueberries etc)
2tsp vanilla
2c. raisins**
2c. chopped apples or pears**
Optional: 2c chopped nuts mixed in or sprinkle on top.

Soak oats and buttermilk covered on the kitchen counter overnight. In the morning, beat oil, sugar and eggs until glossy. Add baking powder, salt, cinnamon and vanilla; beat. Stir in oats, raisins and chopped apples/pears. Pour into 9x13 baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes (Sarah I generally find in needs 25-30 minutes, but 20 is what the original recipe states)

*Sarah's notes!

Instead of buttermilk, use the same quantity of coconut milk plus 1-2 tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Also, you can use as little as 1/4 cups of honey.

** Rosie's notes!

You can really substitute the raisins/apples for any fruit/nut combo you fancy. I loved it with strawberries and blueberries. Josh wasn't a fan of the texture so I substituted for:

1 cup of dried cranberries
1/2 cup of shredded coconut
1/2 cup of sliced almonds

You can see I have used less fruit etc than the original recipe as a personal preference, but you are welcome to double my quantities if you would like!

Authentic Memories.

This last week we have visited a lot of tourist places and taken many pictures. I love capturing the moment. I try not to pose the kids, just snap quickly. Sometimes it doesn't work out to hot since I am making myself shoot only in manual.

I also noticed other families taking photographs. One mom determined to make all the children sit still and smile. She was getting stressed and so were the kids. This is not an uncommon sight.

You hear it - at the zoo, at the park, at play dates - SMILE!!! SAY CHEESE!!! SIT DOWN, SMILE! LOOK AT THE CAMERA. Families getting more irate as they try to get a picture.

Why are they taking the picture? Why do people take pictures of their family and friends smiling somewhere together?

Because they want to remember the fun they had.

Then I started thinking, are we really having fun? Are we really enjoying our family? Or are we just taking a picture with fake smiles to share on facebook or frame on the wall? Perhaps we are trying to prove to the world 'we had fun! we are awesome and cool!'

I asked myself: When we are together as a family, I am I making to much effort to get a good picture and forgetting to actually enjoy the people I am with?

Is my determination to get a picture actually sabotaging the fun we could be having instead?

This week, I can answer that I think my picture taking was healthy, but in the past in might not have been. Anyway, I left the camera at home for a few days, just in case.

Lets try and make all our photos of authentic, happy moments. Not just posed pictures that were so hard to get and left us exasperated.

When you look back at your photo albums, you'll remember that special moment, the sights, the smells, the laughter, the conversation...

Here are some shots I took, that made my heart filled with joy, because of the joy and beauty of the people in them that was so clear at that moment. They aren't the best photos, but they are authentic memories.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Changing the Standard.

We set way too high expectations for ourselves as mothers.

We believe we should have this supernatural freaky super hero power to daily prepare hearty yet healthy foods, have a clean house, teach the two year old how to quote Shakespeare, sew something, read something intellectual yet practical to our daily lives, have written 10 blogs and then welcome our husbands home with a perky smile by the end of each day (oh and attended a play date or two).

This is unrealistic. Women have always competed on the home front and in child rearing but I believe that the world of Facebook and blogging has added extra pressure to the mom.

Every time she logs onto her computer she is inundated with status's of her friends accomplishments, how so and so's 2 month old counts to 52, how such and such made matching dresses for all 20 of her kids - You get the point.

I start reading blogs and all the women seem perpetually happy with sweet anecdotes. They always have a witty light hearted comeback for every difficult situation and never seem to be tired or frustrated.

As a result I look at my own life and productivity in comparison and have feelings of guilt and inadequacy as a mother and wife. I am trying to be someone who is unattainable.

As with photographs in media of airbrushed supermodels, blogs and Facebook have a habit of 'airbrushing' lives to where you only see the highlights and not the daily struggles that we all have.

It's time to change the standard. God's standard.

Let this years standard be to love. To love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength and to love your neighbour as yourself.

This year, come on the journey with me, let God plan your day and activities. Feel the burden taken from your shoulders. When our children look back at the happy times, they won't remember so much all the 'stuff' but they will remember our relationships with God and how it beautifully transformed your love for them.

They will remember to love between you and your husband, as you model the relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church.

You don't have to climb a mountain of tasks each day. Just walk down a path God leads you on at a pace He has set for you.

Take each day slow. Set small goals. Do what you do for God, not because you feel like you need to live up to s standard that you see on social networks or in parenting magazine.

Don't just keep adding stuff to your life to 'keep up with the Jones'. Not making your own laundry detergent, ordering fast food every now and then, not always getting everyone out there PJ's and watching tv, having a good ol' cry doesn't make you below par, it makes you real and human. We are a work in progress, trying each day to be more like Christ. Not that we are perfect from the get go.

Pray about what is a priority in your life. Pray about what gifts and talents God wants you to use in your home to show love and beauty.

Our job is not to be super woman, but to super LOVE the people in our lives.

Living in the future: When did I get old?

Ok, I get it, I am not really old. But when kids already refer to things you thought were new and exciting as 'old fashioned' and you find yourself saying things like 'Oh yes, I went there but it was, hmmm, 18 years ago' - You feel old. So, it got me thinking about all the 'cool' things that are old news now.

When I was a kid
Compact Disks were scary.
We didn't get the point.
A cassette worked just fine and they were cheaper.
Now CD's are old school. What's a cassette? A record, what?
Pass me the iPod.

I'll admit. I still haven't got into the blu-ray thing. It was not that long ago we were buying VHS. I'm still adjusting to DVDs. Give me more time.

I remember schools getting the first computer labs,
Pioneering new territories in education. Most of the class was taken waiting for the computer to turn on.
We used Ask Jeeves, what's Yahoo?
If you were cool, you had a hotmail account.
Does anyone use hotmail anymore?

Video conferencing was this crazy futuristic thing.
The whole webcam thing was amazing.
Now you can skype from your iPhone.
Seriously, that wasn't something that was supposed to be possible while I was alive,
That was 'THE FUTURE', space agey kinda stuff.

Not all cars had seatbelts. Unleaded fuel was green. Electronic cars, again - space age material.

Remember those HUGE Nokia bricks that everyone had with the big antennae?
We actually thought those were small. Phone charms - enough said.

I know I am not the only one who got excited watching 'Aladdin', being amazed at the animation.
Being blown away by the special effects on Jurassic Park.

Back to the internet. Only rich people had that. Do you remember Libby Kennedy arguing with Carl about getting it, but he was resistant it was so expensive! Oh and dial up. I can't believe we actually couldn't use our phones when the internet was on.

And just for fun...

Slap Bracelets
Adidas pants
The Spice Girls
Take That
Boom boxes
Teenage girls talking like the teletubbies

And back to the point:

I am living in an era, in which the things that seemed like they wouldn't happen for hundreds of years until people lived on the moon and drove flying cars are actually happening.

It's just strange. I am beginning to believe that I'll see people frequently transporting like in Star Trek.

And that leads me to another thing... watching old space movies and thinking how old tech the computer equipment looks on the space ships.

Tecnology and trends move so fast. Yet, the awesome thing is, that God is the same, He still loves us and seeks a relationship with us.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Crockpot Roast Beef: The Busy Mom's Lifeline

It's been a busy year. A VERY busy year. Especially the fall. We moved, we had a baby, Josh started a new job, thanksgiving, Christmas... I have been busy, tired and not had much time to cook and still haven't established a routine.

One thing that is important to me, amongst the craziness is to provide my family with healthy meals each day.

Crock pot beef has been my lifeline. It's so easy, it wins you mega mommy points and you can do so much with it. Sure, I enjoy being more creative at meal time, but with change and a new baby, that is going on the shelf and we're in survival mode when it comes to meals.

Here's what I do and it tastes great every time.

1. Buy an enormous pot roast
2. Cover the roast in flour
3. Sear both sides very lightly
4. Put in crock pot
5. Add 2 cups of beef broth, some salt, pepper, garlic, oregano and half a chopped onion
6. Put on low, I normally leave it on the 12 hour setting. Walk away and don't worry about dinner.

There is so much you can do with this, to make it last several meals. Here are some I have come up with so far, that can get you through 2-3 days.

Beef, Gravy, Roast Potatoes, peas, carrots
BBQ Beef, baked potatoes with sour cream, corn
Beef sub sandwiches, mustard, provolone.
Use it for a soup.
Use it for a pie.
Use it in a salad.

In the past, I had avoided the big roasts because they seemed so exspensive, but they are not, because you can make them work through several meals and it saves a lot of time, which is important, because there aren't many minutes in the right now that I am not attending sweet little ones.

REVIEW: Oliver's Labels

How often does a sippy cup get left behind at a play date? A coat at the jump zone? How many tears have been shed over lost luvvies and favorite dolls gone astray?

Oliver's Labels seek to solve this long standing dilemna with their cute, durable name tags which come in a variety of cheerful designs and are made with long lasting adhesive backs to stick to a an array of well loved items.

The folks over at Oliver's Labels were kind enough to send me some sweet labels for the girls to take on a test drive. Their customer service is prompt and friendly. Even though I had requested labels that said 'Esther and Rachel Brown', they were kind enough to make the girls individual labels pointing out that "With two young girls and a baby at home, we just know having two sets of our labels will help keep you organized." They definitely understand the importance of being organized to a mother of three.

For the girls, I picked out the nature design, but there were so many choices: Sports, Sea life, Flowers to name just a few.

I was especially impressed with their allergy labels. They provide labels for allergies against dairy, gluten, eggs, seafood, peanuts and http://www.oliverslabels.com/Designs/Products.aspx?DesignID=39. As a parent, something that is always of great concern is the safety of my children. I cannot imagine having the extra worry of a child with severe food allergies. I believe these labels can help put a parents mind somewhat at ease.

So, back to helping kids not loose their stuff! Oliver's Labels have designed and incorporated a nifty little system called 'Found-It'. A 9 digit code is applied to each label. Upon finding an item, the finder can log in to www.oliverslabels.com, report the item using the code and you are notified by email.

Oliver's labels acts as an intermediary, so no personal information is ever shared. As their website says, Found-It really is a homing device for your lost item!

Ok, so here in the moment you have been waiting for! The photo's! Here are so pictures of the items with have tagged so far. Aren't they cute? My girls just love them.

So, what else can you use your Oliver's Labels for? Hats? Toys? Baby gear? Lunch Boxes? Back packs? Use your imagination!

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com and the Tomoson weekly featured sponsor Favorite Wigs - Shop Name Brand Wigs at Low Prices! Large Wig Selection of Forever Young Wigs, and other Quality Wigs. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. Tomoson Product review & giveaway Disclosure.