Monday, December 30, 2013

on throwing a neighbourhood party

I wrote this on the 22nd of December but, you know, life and all that. Many of you have been asking how our neighbourhood drop in went and so I wanted to do a bit of a write up for you all. I also wrote this in the hopes that someone may be inspired to do the same and just go for it! 

Jude's got the flu but is finally feeling well enough to cozy up on the couch with some cartoons. Noah is doing the same and Jamie and Blaise are in the basement playing/watching sports {I would imagine}. I am sitting at our dining room table with a freshly brewed cup of coffee now that our power has come back on!
We got hit pretty bad with the ice storm last night and our power conked out this morning but we're hoping it stays on now! {All reminders of being in Uganda with power outages, although I would like a little bit of heat if I'm going to lose power.}
So thankful to have a house and warm clothes and smartphones to stay in contact with the outside world. 

Many of you were wondering how our neighbourhood Christmas drop in party went so I thought I'd update via blog post.
In short, it was perfect. At least that was what Jamie said when all was said and done. And I don't mean perfect in that everything was out of a magazine. No, it was far from that. We don't even have baseboards up in the living/dining room or the guest bathroom. It was beautiful. I guess it was perfectly beautiful. I've been reading a blog where the mantra is, "it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful." And that's exactly it. I chose to love my home with all it's flaws and "not doneness" and welcome people into our home and our lives. Perfectness only serves to alienate I think. When others see that you are just like them, it helps in providing an atmosphere of authenticity and vulnerability. Okay. I'm done my rant. The nitty gritty:
We had about 10-12 people drop in and most of them stayed for the entire time, which was pretty cool. 
There was music and candles. 
I pulled out a bunch of chairs from the dining table and kitchen into the living room and had the dining table set up buffet style. I put out a few plates of Christmas goodies (including the ginersnap s'mores which were as easy as they were awesome) and had some hot drinks in the kitchen (of which there was way too much left over, but that's part of the guesswork with drop ins). People mostly sat and chatted and the boys ran around (Blaise was in bed before the guests arrived) and snuck extra sweets. 
We engaged in "get to know you" type conversations and I was surprised how often religion and spiritual themes came up. It was interesting and I often found myself just listening to others. Which was great! 

I am so glad I did it and if you've been thinking about doing something or reaching out to someone or you've been dreaming a big dream, Go For It! You won't regret it, but you probably will regret not trying at the very least. 

I will definitely do this again next Christmas and I'm already dreaming up some warm weather get together ideas! 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas morning 2013

So I did it! I did adjust the position of the camera a few times and it's not perfect, but it's real life. Here's a taste of what our Christmas morning looked like! Enjoy!

Christmas morning 2013 from Vanessa Strickland on Vimeo.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas from the Stricklands!

Wishing you so much love and joy and peace this Christmas and in the new year!

These verses have been stirring in my heart with hope and sometimes I feel like I might explode with the kindness and love of God. We were in dark. Lost. And then He came. The Word became Flesh. For me For you. 

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.

Isaiah 9:2

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:1-4,14

It's because of the Word becoming Flesh, it's because of Jesus that there can be peace and joy. No matter the situation, no matter the circumstance. There is peace and joy because of Jesus. 
Merry Christmas to you!

Friday, December 20, 2013

weekend {before Christmas} links!

It's the day of our Christmas party and I'm excited and happy that I got a lot of what needed to be done ahead of time so I can enjoy the day with my family.
The boys and I built a snowman this morning and I got to Facetime with my friend Kelly and see her brand new baby girl!
About an hour before the party I'll put together the cinnamon infused hot chocolate in one slow cooker, and the wassail in the other {thanks to my friend Christina for lending me hers!}. The cookies will get put out, the candles will be lit, the music will be playing and we will wait for our first guests.

You like the way those cookies above look? They're gingersnap s'mores and they were ridiculously easy and the perfect party food as far as I'm concerned! While I'm all for making everything from scratch, when you have a lot to do and you're hosting a bunch of people, sometimes it's best for your sanity to do things the easy way. There ain't nothing wrong with easy now, is there? Check out the instructions here for Gingersnap S'mores.

Have you seen the video with Jean Claude Van Damm where he's standing between two trucks and then does the splits? If you thought that was impressive, you can be sure Chuck Norris can make that look like doing hopscotch! Merry Christmas from Chuck Norris.

I read this blog post from Jamie the Very Worst Missionary about how Christmas isn't always candy canes and presents for everyone. It can be a difficult and painful time and we need to be aware of this {if you aren't already}. Sometimes Christmas can be sucky.

My friend Beth wrote a post the other day that speaks to this balance of experiencing joy and peace in our own lives, and yet holding in our hands the pain and suffering of those around us. She quotes CS Lewis in this: To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. Check out her post here. It is both beautiful and vulnerable. 

On the same note, if you are the praying type, would you please pray for my friend Andrew? He is battling Leukemia for the second time around and his situation is not looking good. Just today, his white blood cells have jumped to a very dangerous level and there is risk for stroke and brain hemorrhage. He's married to a close friend of mine, Suzanne and they have two little boys (aged 3 and 8 months). My heart is breaking for them and we are praying our hearts out for a miracle for Andrew.

I've posted this video before {this is a typographic version}, but every year it speaks to me so strongly and I pray it encourages you and reminds you of what we wait for during Advent season and why we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

a kindness

We survived 10 days without Jamie! He got in last night and we were all super psyched to see him again. I love watching my boys love on their Daddy. Seriously. Is there anything more adorable?

And this morning it was as if my body knew Jamie was home and I woke up feeling nauseous and with a migraine. I slept for a bit and now I'm feeling a bit better, but honestly I don't have time to be sick! I want to enjoy every last second of this season and I also have a bit {okay a horseload as my friend Tamsin would say} of baking to do before our neighbourhood Christmas party on Friday.

Also my brain has gone completely mushy and I totally thought yesterday was Friday and almost wished Jude's teacher a good weekend. Goodness. And then because I was all mixed up, I forgot that we had made plans to visit our neighbour who has chickens. But being the sweet lady that she is, she came over with six lovely eggs for us! I felt so bad, but we're going to try and head over there on Thursday during the day some time and meet the chickens.

We had scrambled eggs for breakfast!

Yesterday I lost my phone and I almost had a full-on cry in the parking lot. I had Blaise with me and had thought my phone fell out of my pocket and so there I was, walking around staring at the snow and slush covered parking lot for my white and brown phone. Awesome. I must have traced and retraced my steps three or four times. And I wasn't really upset about the phone itself. I meant I would have been sad as it was expensive and I've only had it for a few months, but it was everything else! Lists, to-dos, people's numbers, pictures, videos; everything is on there! Eventually I went into a store and asked to use their phone so I could call my phone. And then mercy of all mercies, someone picked up! A man had found it and had come inches away from running it over. He was working in the pizza shop and I could pick it up there. Thank you Jesus!

I have just experienced the sweetness and love of God in so many ways this past week and it's been in the little things and some unexpected blessings. One thing I've wanted to do forever is pay for the person behind me in drive thru so while the boys and I were picking up hot chocolate for a friend we were about to see, I decided I would do it. Well the lady at the window was such a sweet heart and ended up giving me three large cookies for the boys for free {especially cool as we were able to share a cookie with our friend's son too!}! It was so sweet and a cool way to show my boys that sometimes when you show kindness to those around you, people often will show kindness to you.

So all that to say, I'm hoping that our neighbourhood party would be a kindness to the people we live near and that this would be a fun first step in building a true community of people who look out for one another and freely show kindness to each other.

If you remember, pray for our little party this Friday night between 7-9pm!

Friday, December 13, 2013

weekend links! {let it snow!}

Of course it would snow practically every day that Jamie's been away. I haven't shovelled the driveway yet. Eep. It is beautiful and it seems like it's here to stay so we'll have a lovely white Christmas!

I'm sure you've seen this video, but if you haven't please watch it! It's happy and it made me teary. Well done, WestJet!

So I wanted to share how excited I am about something big coming up: we're doing a Christmas drop in for our street next Friday! Me and the boys will hand out the invites today after school and I'm hoping we'll get to know a bunch of people on our street! We'll be serving hot drinks and Christmas goodies and I'm thinking I might serve up this awesome cinnamon infused hot chocolate! I mean, it's Joy the Baker. You can't really go wrong with Joy.  Although I might have to test it this evening. You know what they say, never try a new recipe when you have people coming over. Right?

Another great post from the Art of Simple. Three simple tips to keep the joy in entertaining and at this time of year, it's always a good idea to do a heart check.

So I have really dry hands. I think it's a combination of my skin adjusting back to this cold, dry weather and perhaps just getting older {eep!}, but I have never seen my hands look and feel so cracked and dry. It's horrible and makes me want to weep. I'm constantly moisturising but what I really need is a pair of dish washing gloves. Yes. That is what I need. So anyway, I came across this list of 7 ways to keep your hands soft this winter and I might try all of the things. What do you do to keep your skin (specifically your hands) soft and moisturised? Please tell me you have a magical cure and what it is.

And one last video. Check out The Lower Lights for some fabulous, folksy tunes. They have two Christmas albums and I can't get enough of them!

Happy Weekend!

Monday, December 9, 2013

learning to lean

I am not the most spirit-filled person at 6am. Especially when it's 6am and I am changing wet sheets on the top bunk. True story.

I was driving home from my parents' house on Saturday night and all three boys were asleep. At a stop light, I turned around and stared in their sweet, sweet faces as they breathed deeply in absolute peace and relaxation and I felt so blessed. I am blessed. And in that moment, thoughts of wet beds and early mornings are about the farthest things from my mind.

But then 11:30pm comes and Jude throws up all over himself. And it's sheet-changing time again. But we get through it. And both boys {Noah had a fever} napped on and off all day on Sunday and today woke up feeling well enough to fight with each other so I sent them both to school. Also a true story. 

Last week while I was sick, Jamie took Blaise and Jude {on his non-school day} to the Y in the mornings and one morning, Jamie came to pick up Blaise and he was on the other side of the play area, away from the other kids. The childcare worker handed Blaise to Jamie and said, 
So Blaise had some difficulties this morning with other children.
He was hitting children.
On the head.
With a book.
Oh my. I laughed out loud when I heard this but not out of pride {of course I'm not proud} but it's just what it is. Poor kid has learned to hit from his older brother and is doing what he knows. So we're continually emphasizing his need to be gentle and not to hit. When we were out for dinner last week, Blaise was getting rough with Noah as he was grabbing Noah's arm and pinching him so I said, 
Blaise, be gentle. Gentle touches.
Blaise looked at me and then looked at Noah and embraced his arm and gently stroked it. Again, I laughed. He's a smart cookie and he knows. So we'll keep working on it, but it's good to know that he's learning to be gentle and understands how to do it.
And today after a wicked spin class at the Y I picked Blaise up and they said that instead of throwing a ball at the baby's head {!}, he waved instead. Progress indeed!

Right now I'm sitting in a very quiet house. Blaise is asleep. The boys are at school. I'm munching on sugar snap peas and hummus {I'm trying to be good although I totally sabotaged myself by buying a bag of peanut butter cups. Sigh.} and it's so quiet that I'm tempted to put some music on. But then I stop and just embrace the quiet. There is so little quiet in my life that I need to soak it up and remember what quiet feels like.
Today the wind is blowing and it's a winter wonderland out there. I am thankful for a home with heat and hot showers. I am thankful for a good school for my kids and a fridge with yummy food in it. I am thankful for parents who come and spend the day with us on Sunday to help keep the crazies at bay. I am thankful for Jude and his sweet heart that I see tuned towards Jesus, especially in prayers like this, "And thank you God for sending Jesus as a baby and that He died on the cross so I didn't have to die." Such a gem. Such sweetness in my heart.
Even though I am missing Jamie, I am learning how to lean even more heavily upon Jesus and His people.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

weekend links!

Today we went with my family for the annual Christmas tree hunt and chop. It sounds so barbaric. But it's always so much fun, even if it is ridiculously cold and the baby is melting down by the end of it. And this year's tree {my parents'} is bigger and better than ever before. At least I think it is. Noah snagged a stray branch and I just finished cutting it up into smaller pieces and placing them in jars around the house. My house smells like a Christmas tree and I'm loving it!

Have you started listening to Christmas music? If not, WHY!? If so, check out this free album from Sleeping at Last on NoiseTrade {you can leave a tip if you wish}. It's a great acoustic album and if you like Sigur Ros or Bon Iver you may like this too! Plus, it's free. Just sayin'.

I have a confession. I don't like egg nog. It kinda grosses me out. But egg nog waffles? Now that I can get on board with. For reals. I do feel bad about not liking egg nog as it just seems so festive, but with these, I can partake in the merry without feeling like I'm drinking a raw egg {which is what egg nog has in it, folks. Just sayin'.}.

My friend wrote this blog post a little while ago and it went viral. If you're buying presents for a child this Christmas, please read this.

And on a materialistic note, I am absolutely in love with this shop and this shop on Etsy. Such lovely, beautiful things on Etsy. I can't go on there too often. It makes my heart want, want, want.

Okay, it's 9:45pm on Saturday so I'm going to just post this and call it a night. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

December THREE {on the fourth}

I've been dog sick for the last two days. It's kinda weird, actually because I wasn't hugely congested although that was part of it, it was mostly a brutal migraine that made me want to pass out and throw up all at the same time. So that was fun.
But I'm so over-the-moon thankful for my husband who happened to have this week off. And although shuttling around kids and cleaning wasn't his idea of how we'd spend this week together, it was exactly what I needed. Because if I'm going to get sick, let it be now when he's around! He flies to Tanzania on Friday and it's just me and the kiddos for the next 10 days.

Oh yes. These three crazies. Jude had a complete meltdown tonight when we had our friend Trevor {who we lived with for our first year in Uganda} over for dinner. He refused to come down and ended up going to bed without dinner because he just didn't want to come and see Trevor. I felt bad for both of them, but I think Jude was just tired after another long day of school. These long days really tire him out! Hopefully the early bedtime will mean a more rested {and happy} kiddo for me tomorrow.

You can see Blaise & Jude really enjoying the window stickies. That was yesterday's advent activity. Simple, yet enjoyable. Today's {paper snowflakes} just didn't happen. Oh well. Tomorrow I am excited to teach them about St. Nicholas and leave out their shoes at night and see what happens {a chocolate coin in the morning!}. There seems to be confusion about Santa around our house these days. They know he's not real but sometimes liken him to God because they can't see either. So what's the difference?
I tried explaining it to Noah tonight and talked about how if God doesn't exist then we've wasted our lives ambition and especially the last two years in Uganda. Persistence in teaching what is true and consistency with how we live our lives as parents I think is key in guiding our children and teaching them God's Word. The rest is prayer and the mercy of God.

I've been a bit emotional these days and I'm sure there are many contributing factors but I am trying to be more introspective and as I listened in to Jamie explaining communion to Jude in church this past weekend, I almost burst into tears as the sacrifice that Jesus made was revealed in a fresh way to me. Skin and bones and blood, just like my little Jude sitting on the chair next to me. And for me He died! Gratitude overwhelms my heart and the tears spill over.

I love these kids. My heart yearns for them to love Jesus and know Him as I do. Some days I feel like I'm not doing them any favours by planning fun little advent activities. I should be reading the Bible more to them. I should be seizing more opportunities to explain the gospel to them. I should pray more for them. I should pray more with them.

I am never going to be a perfect mother. I was never meant to be. Again, thankfulness overwhelms that I don't have to be perfect. Jesus already did that.

He's so good. Every time. All the time.

every month I {try to} take pictures of my boys on the third. see past months here
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