Motherhood, mothers day, Uncategorized

Mamas and strawberry lemonade

My mom is genuinely my best friend. My husband jokes about the amount of time I spend with her…but I explained to him how she’s not like “most moms”. How she will stand with me in the pit at a concert drinking wine and dancing or go totally natural with our similar wavy hair or the way she chases adventure and gets me to teach her how to ride horses. I explained to him how she was just nice to be around, a kindred spirit now that I’m older and out of the house. We’re just enough different and just enough similar.

I’m an old soul and my mom and I share a love for antiques and nature. So we both enjoy reading the old timey magazine called Victoria magazine. I saw where I could send in a letter for Mother’s Day explaining what I loved about my mom. I saw this at 8 am and not even 20 minutes later I had written something to send in before work. It was so easy to write and recall all the ways she was a good mother. It got published in the magazine for the May/June issue along with many other women writing about their great mother’s. It was cool to see my mom’s attributes displayed in a magazine we both loved alongside so many other amazing tributes to women’s mother’s. It made me realize how powerful womanhood and motherhood is.

I thought I’d go ahead and share with you what I wrote in honor of Mother’s Day and in remembrance of all the amazing mothers out there who work so hard to cultivate lives full of joy and peace:

“As a child, I would always tiptoe down the stairs in the morning-greeted by the aroma of fresh coffee-to find my mother wrapped in one of her pink or floral robes. Before doing anything else, I would crawl onto her lap and rest my head on her chest. Planting a kiss on my forehead, she would ask me how I slept. She always smelled like peonies, and I think this was because she adored them. I believe that what you love, you in some way become.

Today, newly married, I have a painting hanging in my house of a woman with auburn hair smelling roses. Her eyes are closed, and her head is lifted, as if she is inhaling the best perfume in the world. This portrait reminds me of my mom because it captures her approach to motherhood: soaking it up for all it’s worth and savouring it completely. She cooked heavenly food, cultivated an inviting and orderly home, and loved us with grace and kindness. As I grow older, I realize what a job that was and how she took it on as her purpose.

She raised five women, all of whom have grown and are thriving but still dearly love their mom as a friend and confidant. I notice qualities my sisters inherited from our mother in the way Claire cooks, how Mary loves coffee and can brew the perfect pot, the way Lauren nurtured so tenderly, and how Cate loves to keep things homey and clean. And me? I love flowers. I pray everyday that when I have children, they will see things in me that make them feel safe and warm inside, just like we all feel with mom. But more than anything, I hope I will smell like flowers.”

Here’s a recipe to treat your special mom with a refreshing drink you can make on Mother’s Day. It’s a delicious strawberry lemonade that she will love.

Simply smash in a sieve 4 or 5 fresh, ripe strawberries or frozen, thawed, into a two cup measuring cup. Squeeze two lemons into the cup. Add three teaspoons of sugar or stevia ( I use Pyure) to taste. Fill with water and stir vigorously. Taste and adjust sugar and lemon to suit your taste. Pour into glasses, add ice and garnish with lemon slice and mint.

Serve immediately to your mom!

Xoxo,
Nan
Easter, Family Life, love, Miracles, The Cross, God’s Faithfulness, wedding

A Miracle


It’s a few days before Easter.
  And as I reflect on the cross and the miracle of Jesus rising from death, I am awed once again.  That the Son of God would die for me and you, is miraculous in itself.  But it didn’t end there, he conquered death and our sin, so we can live victoriously now and forever!! This causes me to reflect on the miracles God has performed in my life .  And really, there are many. Some are big and some are seemingly insignificant to anyone but me.  I have a story that I want to tell that reminds me that to the God who overcame death, NOTHING is too small for him.  I call this story The Miracle Mixer. It’s all because of God’s faithfulness that this story is possible.  I love this scripture, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Phillipians 4:19.

 

This story begins in 2009, when I became reacquainted with a friend whom I had not seen in 17 years. Cathy had two little boys back then.  I remember her boys being cute and well mannered and Cathy as a smart mama who sewed and made beautiful things.   The last time I saw her, her oldest son, Witt was 10 and my second daughter, Claire was 5.  I have a picture of our homeschool co-op group sitting on a wall dressed in Medieval costumes and Witt brandishing a sword and looking brave and Claire sitting with her sisters and friends, just past the toddler age herself.  Fast forward 17 years, now Cathy and I each had two more daughters.  My daughter, Nan, and Cathy’s daughter, Rose, became  fast friends in the Bible Study we attended that year.  This was Cathy’s first and only year attending this particular Bible study. I had been going for years, but had decided not to attend this year because I had young teenagers that I was homeschooling and I felt I needed more time at home to accomplish that.  But God impressed upon my heart that I should attend, so I signed up at the last minute.  I’m so glad I did because we spent each Thursday after Bible study, together, eating lunch, becoming fast friends again.  And as you might have guessed we re-introduced Witt and Claire and they fell in love and married a year later.  We could not be more in love with this godly, caring and handsome man and we are so blessed to call him our son.  Nan loves to take credit for bringing Witt into Claire’s life.  

 

And now here is the mixer story. The  circumstances and timing of these previous and next events, that I’m about to tell you, can only have come from our good Father, who sees all and knows all.  I think of the story of Esther in the Bible.  She saw God work on her and her people’s behalf through what seemed like random circumstances. God used her for big things, to save her people.  We might never be called to do anything big like she did, but we are called to be faithful and to bring all our requests and needs before God.  Have you ever seen God work on your behalf?  What seems so random to us, is all a part of Gods plan for our lives. 

 

I told you Claire and Witt fell in love and wanted to get married. Before this, Claire had been a nanny for a missionary family in Paris, France .  While there she took French lessons and applied to culinary school, as her time as a nanny was drawing to a close for she loved Paris.  And she already loved to cook.  She was accepted to the school, but due to many reasons, some financial and some logistical , she disappointedly decided to come home, not sure what God was doing in her life. She finished up her college education at a local University, with a degree in creative writing. It was during this time she met Witt, fell in love and became engaged. 

 

Weddings are exciting and this was our second one with three more weddings to plan one day. We had college educations to pay for, braces, contacts and just the general expense of a large family living on one income.  Someone was giving Claire a kitchen shower and she had on her registry many wonderful things, but one thing she wanted more than anything was a Kitchen Aid Standup Mixer.  The one she had chosen was cream colored, Almond they called it.  It was out of my price range at that time in my life.  I remember praying that God would show me what I should get Claire.  I wanted to get a very special gift for her, one that would be useful but something she really wanted.  

 

I remember going to lunch with my husband on a Tuesday , we usually went on Fridays .  Hart worked from home then, so we had made this our special treat. But I grabbed him from his office on Tuesday and said let’s go get some thing to eat so we can talk. We went to our favorite, but inexpensive, hibachi restaurant in our small town.  I remember telling Hart about the kitchen shower for Claire.  He said he wished we could afford the mixer but it was not in our budget.  After our Friday lunches we usually browse Goodwill where Hart likes to look at the books and I wander the store.  So on this Tuesday he asks me if I still  want to go to Goodwill. Sure, I said and headed over to the appliance section. And what did I see on the very bottom shelf, covered in dirt , but a Kitchen Aid Mixer!!  Excidely I pulled it out and called to Hart, we plugged it in.  It worked!   I looked in the mixing bowl and there were all three accessories! We couldn’t believe it!  We took it to checkout and paid 25.00 for it. I remember getting it home and washing it with just hot water and soap.  How surprised and taken aback I was as I looked at it.  This mixer was in perfect condition , not a scratch on it and it was the prized Almond color!!  The only thing missing was the original box!  How did I get Claire’s dream mixer for 25.00 when on the registry it was listed for 399.00! All I could do was to exclaim God’s goodness and faithfulness . When I took my gift to the shower and told the story of God’s blessing  and provision there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

 

I love the many stories of George Mueller, a man of God who prays about everything .  He once said if you receive a parcel and it is tied up in string and you can’t open it because you don’t have a knife or scissors, pray about it and ask God to help you untie the knot.  How I love that illustration about how nothing is too small or insignificant to God .  God knew Claire would need to be in the US so she could meet the man we had been praying for since her birth, that both Cathy and I should attend the Bible study that year and that God would arrange it so I would be at that Goodwill  store, on that particular day, that someone had decided to get rid of a perfectally good mixer.  It’s times like this, that I can always go back to when my days seem hard and I feel like can’t see what God is doing in my life right now. These memories strengthen my faith and I know that God cares about the seemingly insignificant things in my life.  I can be sure he is working on my behalf, my family’s and yours as well. 

 

What are some ways you’ve seen God working on your behalf or your family’s?  I’d love to hear about them, for it gives God the glory and strengthens the faith of those reading it.

 

Have a very blessed and wonderful Easter!  For Christ is Risen, Risen indeed! 

Love, Nancy

Family Life, foster care

How You Can Support Foster Families

One night this week I was overcome with anxiety. Getting in my car seemed a little dramatic so I left the baby with my husband and ran downstairs to the garage. A room I particularly loathe due to the abundance of camel crickets and lawn equipment.

I crouched down and held onto the side of the old stroller and sobbed. At times my breath came in gasps and I wondered if I was having a panic attack. I remembered how last year I would gag with nausea when things got particularly stressful as a foster parent. We were going through a difficult time with a teenage foster son.

I hadn’t felt nauseous in a while but I did that day after court for our foster baby. And as I sat on my ankles in that damp room, with the stacks of Bob Dylan CD’s and the rows of paint cans, I cried out. God. Don’t forsake me. Don’t hide your face from me. I cried until there were no more tears left.

Then I went back upstairs, got the baby ready for bed and read books with my daughter. I had felt like I couldnt breath but I took the next breath. And so the night went on.

I wrote the above last summer on my blog when we were going through a particularly difficult season as foster parents and I never published it. Maybe I didn’t want anyone to think I was losing my mind, though those closest to me knew how greatly the court case was affecting me. How much I cared for this little baby and what happened to him. I wanted him to be safe and I didn’t have that control. It’s a hard place to be and it can feel all-consuming.

As I write this today our foster baby is still with us and his case has greatly improved. So it feels like we are in a much better place. But for the past few years it’s been tough trying to fulfill this calling to help children in need.

Maybe you’ve thought about being a foster parent but you aren’t in that place right now. You might know how great the need is and want to help but aren’t sure how you can. I wanted to share three ways you can support foster families. Hopefully these ideas will give you a little insight into what a family in your group of friends, church or community might need.

1) Throw A Shower

Often foster families are licensed for more than one child or have decided they are open to receiving placements of different ages. So it’s nearly impossible to plan for every child who may come into your home. Often children arrive with nothing but a trash bag of clothes and sometimes they come without anything. We picked up our baby from the hospital and went home with only the outfit he was wearing and a bag full of blankets hospital volunteers had donated. We spent over $1000 that first week just getting basic things we needed. I was SO grateful for friends who gave me bags of baby clothes from their attics or sweet relatives who sent clothes or dropped by with an outfit or bottle warmer. We had less than 6 hours from the time we got the call to the time we brought baby home. So that’s not a lot of time to prepare.

Yes, maybe it feels strange to throw a shower for a child who could leave at any time. But foster parents are required to send anything bought for the child with the child if they leave- so not only are you helping a foster family but you are also helping a biological family in need. And, the stipend for foster care is low. Many assume it covers everything and foster families are set. Families who want to truly provide for the child in their home end up spending A LOT of their own money. As you do with your kids. And when kids are coming and going this can really tax a budget.

And isn’t every child worth celebrating? Hosting a quick get together is such a sweet and supportive way to show you care and are ready to embrace this new child. Don’t know the family well enough to give a party? Handing them a gift card is also a wonderful way to show your support. And is so appreciated.

2. Treat a New Placement like a New Baby

When your sister had a new baby you probably brought over a meal. Or maybe offered to babysit her other kids so she could get some rest. No matter what the age of the new foster child coming into the home, foster parents could use some help. Between trauma the child has experienced and getting no sleep because a child is scared of their new bed to signing up for new schools, going to new doctor appointments and navigating home visits, bio parent visits, shared parenting- all in the span of the first week- foster parents are exhausted. We had a couple from our church that we didn’t know well drop off a pot of soup and salad one night after we brought our foster baby home. We so appreciated the effort and thought. Can you become a respite babysitter? Often it just takes a background check and you are approved to babysit so the foster parents can take an evening off.

A call or text means so much and instead of saying, let me know how I can help (we’ll never let you know – it’s too awkward!) just say, I’m thinking of dropping off a pizza tonight in case ya’ll could use a break, is that ok? And this is also appreciated even when the child has been in our home for months. Sometimes that’s when a lot of foster parents can get burnt out trying to care for children from hard places. It often gets better- children get more settled, routines get established- but sometimes it gets worse.

Kids who are now in a safe place step out of survival mode and then the difficult behaviors start up. We’ve all navigated the tantrums in the store- but magnify that by 100 when trauma is involved. It can be hard and we need to know we are doing a good job. Once my sister mailed me a care package with the essential oil Valor in it. Just that name made me tear up. I wasn’t feeling brave- I was scared that foster care was becoming too hard. And her sending that made all the difference.

3) Watch Your Words

This one is hard, because I have had so many well-meaning people say hurtful things. And I know they didn’t mean to be hurtful! So I wanted to tread lightly- but still let you know what’s important to hear and not hear as a foster parent. First, we can’t share details of the bio families. So asking if the baby was born on drugs – or where the parents are- or what they did- it’s best just to avoid these questions. Especially in front of the kids. Even young kids can understand that it’s not normal to not be with their birth families. And questioning the details in front of them makes them feel like THEY aren’t normal. I had someone ask a previous teenage foster son how he liked his “new” parents. Actually, he would much rather have been with his “old” parent, his bio mom, and again- the question made him feel like there was something wrong with him.

I always introduce my foster kids as my sons or daughters. Because at that moment, that’s what they are. So when you are speaking to them or about them, treat them the same way. And let’s avoid the horror stories. The ones about friends who fostered or foster kids you read about in the news. Foster care is nuanced and every case is different. Just because you saw on CNN that a teenage foster child burned down the foster families house does not mean every teenager in foster care would do that.

Another question I get asked all the time is, are you going to adopt so- and- so? The reality of foster care is we often don’t know. And some families are fostering just to foster and not to adopt. Again- saying this in front of the child is a definite no. They know deep down that their futures are up in the air. Some want to be reunited with their birth families and some would like to adopted. But they don’t have a say in the matter and neither do we. So a better question would be, how can I pray for you?

And that leaves me with the last point, which I’ll just leave under this one. Pray! I cannot tell you how thankful I am for ALL the prayer warriors who pray with us and for us. Even people we don’t know well will let us know they are praying for us. It means more than you can know.

Support for foster parents can make all the difference in whether these families continue to foster or give up because it gets too hard. You play such an important role as supporter. I often think of my extended family as a foster family too- because they are helping and encouraging us and that’s a ministry in and of itself.

So thank you!

-Claire

gratefulness, unselfishness, letting God, morning pages, morning ritual,, mornings, Motherhood, Uncategorized

Morning Pages

I’m not a morning person by nature. I’m a two cups of coffee and maybe I’ll talk to you kinda person in the morning. Some days it is three cups and a shot of espresso but whose counting…

Unless I’m on vacation. Then I can’t wait to wake up. I’m like a kid on Christmas morning. I can’t wait to see what the day holds!

Who doesn’t love waking up to Mickey waffles??

Or when the kiddos wake up before the sun is up but then God puts on this display

Baby Piper

Sunrises over the ocean are worth waking up for

Waffles on the dock at Aylen Lake, Ontario

But everyday mornings, I’d rather hit snooze. Then one day it all changed. As the girls got older, started sleeping better, I started to see I valued my mornings. I learned I love sipping my coffee and watching the sunrise. Reading my devotional and having some alone time before the craziness that is our lives starts.

I read the book, “The Artist Way” last year. The author suggests doing what is called morning pages. You simply write down whatever comes to your mind. Not documenting your life. Not to pass down to your grandkids or to be published. Never to be read again. It’s like brain dumping on paper. The author, Julia Cameron says any thought that causes anxiety that is left in the brain creates chaos and turns off creativity. I have found by simply writing down my thoughts, however dumb to me or petty, it is so relieving. I have come to really enjoy that time. And I leave feeling refreshed. Something that has been bothering me greatly feels less urgent. I can think more clearly about it.

Julia Cameron says, “The morning pages miniaturizes our Censor. The Censor is part of our leftover survival brain. Any original document pretty dangerous to our Censor. Morning pages will allow you to detach from your negative Censor. It may even be going to seem like a grumpy cartoon character. Doing your artist date you are receiving opening yourself to insight, inspiration, guidance.”

Amelia Island Plantation

I have found that taking the time, even if it is five minutes, even on my most stressful crazy days sets the tone for my day. I usually read my devotional, do my morning pages and end in prayer. Just taking that time every morning has been so helpful in maintaining a better stress level and having a clear mind.

You can use any notebook for morning pages. It takes a little bit of time to get used to just writing what comes to your head and not journaling. But once you do, it really is amazing how therapeutic it is. If you are worried about people reading what you write and it is inhibiting how freely you share, take the paper you wrote on and trash it. Ball it up, burn it or tear it to shreds. Remember, the goal isn’t to document but to free your mind. And once that starts to happen, you will start to notice a difference in how you feel about mornings too.

Enjoy the sunrises of life friends! And a good cup of coffee.

-Lauren

gratefulness, unselfishness, letting God, Uncategorized

A green velvet couch

All week I had been waiting for the weekend. No work, no school, we got our tax returns back and could finally buy a couch! I had it all planned out. I woke up that morning with a joy and excitement that I hadn’t had all week. I sat down on the our old broken down, “free” couch and began to write, sipping coffee, taking my sweet time, and basking in the slow morning where I would probably make a huge breakfast and enjoy it while listening to a podcast by Yoga Girl, versus my usual rush out the door with a piece of peanut butter toast and throwing together a dinner in the crockpot. Suddenly I get a call from my co-worker. She pulled her back out while working and needed me to cover for her today. I sat on the couch annoyed to the point of tears. It had been a week full of exams, work days full of trudging in the mud because it hadn’t stopped raining all week, and coming home slightly pissed off and dissatisfied. “Why did she have to pick today to pull her back out?” I asked myself reveling in my selfish annoyance. I slapped some toast together, got ready and headed to the farm to work. As I was driving I felt God say to me, “Are you grateful?” Those words hit like a knife sliding down my gut and getting caught in the tough places. I thought about it for a moment and then I begrudgingly texted my coworker saying, “let me work all weekend for you. A pulled muscle takes a long time to heal and I know you need rest.”

I didn’t want to send that text. But I did it. And immediately my heart calmed. It was pouring rain at work and I was knee deep in mud and manure but I felt happy as heck. My heart was light and I thought to myself, “Is this what it feels like to let go of my control and just let things be?”

After work my mom and I were on the hunt for a couch. I had been telling her that it was hard moving to a new place and not having a place where my husband and I could both just sit and be together. It somehow didn’t feel like home yet. It’s hard in general moving somewhere new and I just wanted a little bit of consistency and the idea that this was in fact my home. We went to four different used furniture places. I loved all the high end, expensive couches and Perrin had to keep reminding me that our budget was incredibly low and we couldn’t spend our entire tax return on a couch. I again, dug my heels in and pouted and decided that if I couldn’t get a nice couch that would last a long time, then I wasn’t going to find a couch today. It was pouring rain and I was just frustrated with the entire day and how it hadn’t gone according to my plans. But my mom had one more idea. Lot 25:40. A salvage building that collects donations of furniture and other nicknacks and all the proceeds go to homeless. I walked in and saw a bunch of couches that were in decent shape and had amazing prices, but they all had been sold and were on hold. Mom and I walked around and then I reached an antique little vendor in the building and there was a cute and funky looking Victorian/70’s couch. I loved it. It was not the high end I was looking for, it was not the generic couch I had imagined, but I was in love with it. I looked at the price and it was within our tiny budget. I asked the man if I could put it on hold so my husband could come by and see it. He walked over to the couch flipped the price tag and said, “ma’am you do realize it’s 40% off of the original price, right? You might want to make a decision today.”

As he said those words I noticed writing on the floor directly in front of the couch and it read: “And my God will meet all your needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:19

I felt like someone had slapped me across the face. This life wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about my schedule or my agenda or what I thought was right. It was about God. It was about messiness and disorder and maybe things aren’t going to pan out the way we had hoped. Maybe instead of the neutral average couch, I’ll find a green velvet one. Maybe instead of staying home and not working all weekend, I’ll work and I’ll do it with joy. Maybe life is about giving. About others. About living each day as if it’s the weekend. Waking up with an excitement and a joy and an anticipation that this life is really the best ever. We don’t only live once, we live everyday. And I can promise you it feels so much better when you wake up with hands opened from their tight fist, teeth unclenched and eyes wide open. Accepting everything as it comes and everyone exactly as they come. It’s uncomfortable and it’s very unnerving because it means they’re is no more control. But I can honestly tell you…it is beautiful. So this week, live like it’s your day off. Wake up with anticipation for whatever God is going to give you and say thank you. You might find what you were looking for.

Cheers to today!

Blogpost by Nan Ketchum nanbystillwaters.wordpress.com