Nature Themed Stamped Muslin Favor Bags

 

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I know we have a lot of readers that are here for the 31 Days Bible series, so sorry if children’s party favors are not your penchant! ;-) I’m hoping to get another post in the series up sometime this week.

I LOVE play based learning, children’s parties, gift giving, and nature. So last year, for my daughter’s birthday, I thought it would be fun to give some fun and educational party favors to her sweet friends (yes, I’ve been meaning to write this post for a year now). Favors that (hopefully) wouldn’t get tossed in the trash after a couple of days, but that would inspire their curiosities and/or be used again and again. I decided to order muslin bags and personalize them with stamps for each of the kids. We’ve had a couple of these muslin bags for a while and my kids use them to collect nature finds or for nature treasure hunts.

Inside each favor bag we included:

  • A cookie-cutter bird feeder (wrapped in wax paper bags that I had on hand). Directions for the bird feeders are here.
  • A magnifying glass. We used these ones.
  • A bird warbler whistle, like these.
  • A granola bar, bubble gum, and fruit leather.

Other fun additions would be a card-stock or laminated nature treasure hunt card, a mini hand-made flower press (like the one seen here), or mini hand-made bird watching journal.

Here are the bags, alphabet stamps (similar), butterfly stamp, feather stamp, and ink we used, but you could use any nature themed stamp you already own.

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Made for Beauty

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Genesis 2: 5  Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, 6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. 7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it…

18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” …

21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

 

When I read the creation account—and specifically when God made Adam and Eve, I find the order of events to be very significant…

There was only dirt—no plants—and God formed Adam out of the dust. That’s where Adam’s life began. Then God created Eden—a lush garden—to be Adam’s new home. After moving Adam into Eden, God then created Eve.  Eve’s life began in the beautiful garden. It seems so providential— part of God’s perfect design—  that He would give women our beginning in Eden instead of in the dust. Perhaps this is symbolic of the unique way in which he designed us women to be bearers of beauty to the world.

It seems that from the beginning, God created women with an inherent inclination for beauty. We are the ones who gather others to feast around the table, who value creating an inviting and festive atmosphere, we decorate, create centerpieces and place settings, cultivate lush gardens, light candles, and are the civilizers of society…

Read the rest at Mom Heart.

Shedding Some Light On a Convenience Culture

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(This is a little sign I have hanging in my kitchen to remind me each day of the truth of which it speaks.)

We as a culture want what is convenient—quick, easy, efficient, comfortable, as little work as possible. We highly value convenience.

But should we?

Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for modern conveniences like washing machines and water heaters! And I mean that wholeheartedly because I’ve lived without both at various times in my life!
The problem lies where this desire for convenience permeates our parenting… and because parenting is area where we cannot rush or even control the process, the tension of living with what is “inconvenient” surfaces and our cravings for convenience stare us in the face.

When we place such high value on convenience that it undermines our relationships with our children and our parenting, things get very skewed….

Follow me to Mom Heart to read the rest?

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Giving Your Children the Gift of Reading {And a Giveaway}

My children are typical kids—they do not love to pick up their things or do chores, and it is an area in which I am constantly working to train them. But a curious thing happened recently. They became completely captivated in a way I have never seen, while I read aloud a little story from Eloise Wilkin Stories , called We Help Mommy. It is a sweet story about a brother and sister who cheerfully help their mother with chores around the house. When we were finished reading my kids asked—begged actually—to do some of those same chores in our home. Because of this book, my oldest has developed a newfound enthusiasm for doing laundry! It got me thinking about the gift and power of good books… and this post. :-)

Loving God With Our Minds… Jesus calls us in the gospels to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength. One way to encourage our kids to love God with their minds is through reading. Reading engages the mind. As my kids get older I will encourage them to read diverse authors and books because it offers opportunities to exercise critical thinking as we examine a book’s message from a Biblical worldview. Paul modeled this practice more than once— as he quoted the poets of his day and interpreted them to his audience in light of Gospel truth. (This type of critical thinking also equips us to do what 2 Co 10:5 talks about.)

Literature and books cause us to think, they expand our imaginations, they captivate, instruct, mentor, and inspire. They enlarge our understanding of and capacity to reflect Him in whose image we were made. Therefore, one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a love for reading. And when we give this gift to them when they are young, we lay a foundation for reading to become a lifelong habit.

Read the rest and enter the giveaway at Mom Heart.

The light of the cross

As I sat, the stillness of the house felt like a welcomed stranger. The early morning light had yet to break as I relished some holy moments.

Winter had been long with its white skies and white fields, without the rows of barren trees punctuating black I wasn’t sure where the fields ended and the sky began; the days folding into one another.

Would the sun show its face soon? join me at Mom Heart today…

A Child’s Letter Writing Center

(This was my February post over at Mom Heart but I forgot to post it here, so I am doing it now.)

Because we are made in the image of God who is a great communicator and a relational being, we also have a great capacity (and are designed) to be communicators and relational beings.

Of all the ways God—who calls himself the Word—could have chosen to create, he decided to speak the universe into existence. He has passed down history and truth through relationship with His people and through His written word, the Bible, where His story and rescue plan are revealed through His love letter to us.

We pass on Biblical worldviews to our children when we teach, nurture, and encourage these image-bearing realities in their lives.

A fun way to do this— to encourage our children to develop a great capacity to communicate and relate—  is to set up a letter writing center for them.

Follow me over to Mom Heart to read the rest and see our letter writing center.

Weathering the Hard Seasons of Motherhood {Or When You’re Stuck in a Rut}

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I came home from the Colorado Mom Heart Conference with my cup overflowing, ready to dive back into life with my man and kids. The renewed sense of vision and commitment to ideals—imparted at the conference—kept me afloat for a few weeks as I returned home to sick children. Ear infections, viruses, sinus infections, and a couple of rounds of the stomach flu hit us—back to back and with little respite in between. It didn’t take long for my cup to feel depleted once again.

These seasons of sickness and sleepless nights can be so tough to weather; they are the seasons that I feel like I get into a rut—loosing patience and snapping at my children and more frequently than I’d like to admit, arguing with my husband, or losing a sense of vision and significance in my role as a mom. In his book Christian Coaching, Gary Collins refers to research on why individuals or organizations get stuck in life (aka in a rut). The research showed that most of us get stuck for at least one of the following reasons…

Follow me over to Mom Heart to read the rest.

Not just for the Birds!

We have been schooling around our dining room table for about three years now. It has been an incredible gift and blessing. It’s also very challenging, as I find my children are always a great mirror, revealing my inadequacies, hard and broken places, but it has been a good opportunity of God’s refining as I am so acutely aware of my need for him on a moment to moment basis.

Let’s just say that if patience were a prerequisite to home schooling we wouldn’t be around the table!… God may lead us down paths and through doorways that He purposes, we don’t necessarily need to be equipped before hand. In fact, it seems he likes it that way

This year of schooling for us has been interesting as we are learning to navigate our days with and around a two-year old. Some days it feels like we school all day but the way we school is very much integrated into our life. We have our set rhythms and goals to accomplish but I don’t look at school and life as two separate things, they are intertwined, mixed together (more these days with Si!) so that the lines of learning and life are blurred and all is woven together in our attempt at a one piece life.

One thing that has become a favorite is to combine nature study and drawing.

Because we live on a  farm with bush and ponds in abundance we have the privilege to engage with nature intimately, daily. I have realized that this is a great gift and not one that we want to squander. But alas we live in the Great White North, AKA Canada where the winters can feel like they go on and on and on and… oh anyway you get the point! Even though we aren’t outside as much, we still like to learn about nature so we have taken to learning about birds in the winter, which may sound funny since we don’t see very many out and about during these short, cold days but hey it works for us and it’s so fun to start spotting many of them come spring! Side note: Its super cool when your kids are way smarter than you are!

This past summer I found the book, The Cuckoo’s Haiku, which I think I have mentioned here before as its soooo beautiful!

It set the gears moving for a little make shift unit study that we can throw in every few weeks to give our lives some beauty, imagination and creativity. I thought I would share with you how we are using this book in the hope that it might inspire you whether your schooling at home or not.

It’s a great hour around the table for any sort of quiet morning or afternoon. (AKA when baby Si is sleeping!)

The book is laid out by season which, wallah, gives you major direction right there! So since we are now in winter we just turn to the winter birds, pick one and go for it. Each bird has a haiku that goes along with it, revealing many qualities and habits of the bird. It has been really fun to see how the girls pick up on the haiku to learn about the bird and how it helps them to remember things about each bird. Gotta love poetry! :)

Each bird has a two page spread with beautiful water-color renderings of the bird and some of its habitat. It also has some smaller notes and information about the bird to further learning and understanding.

Once we read and dissect the Haiku and talk about what we have learned, they take out their nature notebooks and do their own drawing of the bird. Many times they want to copy what is in the book, which is fine by me as this helps them to produce a great finished product that they are happy with.

While they are drawing I find a correlating story in the Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton W. Burgess. This is a sweet living book that gives notable information on each bird while telling an engaging story. We also like to look up some information and pictures online as well as listen to the birds call or song. As we talk about the bird they will write down in a corner of their drawing some things they want to remember or find interesting so they have a resource to come back to.

We usually do tea right before with a little muffin or cheese etc… I find I love this as it sets a tone for the table of gathering, peace, and focus.

If this all sounds very well and good, out of an Anne of Green Gables story line well… you might be right!

It’s one of my favorite times; seeing their drawing skills get better and being inspired by a beautiful book! I love that they have their nature notebooks as a record of our life, and progress and interesting information!

I have found that some of our favorite learning times together have been when we are inspired by things that we already own and just put them together to form interesting, engaging ways to learn. If you school at home or even if you don’t I am sure that you have many resources that are hanging out on your shelves to create moments of learning to fill a low-key, (it’s a blowing, freezing, cold stay inside) day!

If you have been inspired by nature or books I would love to hear about it!

Happy learning,

Lenten Reflections

I’m sorry to our few faithful followers that I’ve been absent around here the past couple of months! We have had just about every type of virus that is common in these winter months and with that, a lot of sleepless nights and I have been so, so tired! I also started a Life Coaching Certification course right after Christmas so I’ve had weekly homework assignments and appointments to attend to. I hope to share some of what I’m learning with you soon.

In the meantime, I wanted to share a few resources related to Lent. I grew up in a non-denominatal Christian home which did not usually lend itself to embracing the traditions of old. Today— as an adult— I tend to like churches that are figuring out how to reach and relate to people here and now. The idea of contextualizing the gospel to unique cultures is a concept I love which is rooted in Scripture. Paul was known to quote the poets and philosophers of his day—  interpreting such sayings in a way that illuminated the gospel. John used the language of the Greeks and wrote his gospel to and for them using terms that would make sense to them. Likewise, Matthew wrote his gospel to Jews, showing how Jesus fulfilled the Scriptures, Mark wrote to Christians in Rome with an emphasis and aim of encouraging them the midst of persecution, and Luke wrote telling Gentiles that Jesus came to seek and save them— the lost. So, churches that think about modern/relevant (I hesitate to use the word relevant because it often gets associated with “watered-down”) ways to relate the unchanging gospel—  excite me.

But in our modern culture I also see the value of tradition. Not as something to hold onto or over people like a law. We live under the covenant of grace and traditions in my opinion fall under the category of liberties. I agree with the theologian who said “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” The benefit I see in celebrating church traditions— like Lent— is that they offer us an opportunity, reminder—  or call, to reorient our lives heavenward. Traditions cause us to slow down and recognize that all of life is sacred and an act of worship. I think traditions also help create strong family identities and memories for our children. Kids often need to see or experience a thing to understand and remember it… to learn, so celebrating traditions together both instructs and unifies.

So… where does Lent come from? The following is a passage from Family Celebrations by Ann Hibbard:

Since the early days of the church, this (the six weeks before Holy Week known as Lent) has been a season of self-examination, sorrow for sin, and commitment to Christ. The beginning of Lent can be seen in the early church’s practice of fasting before the Paschal feast, the celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection on Easter Sunday. Easter became a time for baptizing new belivers, based on the Scriptre “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4). Fasting preceded baptism as a means of spiritual preparation.

When Constantine declared Christianity a legal religion (AD 313), Christianity became very popular. Persecution, which has sifted out the “nominal Christians,” was no longer a threat. But now those who converted did not need to be so committed. It was at this time that Lent was lengthened to the six weeks. The purpose was to strengthen the commitment of those in the church… and prepare those who would be baptized into the church on Easter. It seems fitting that we too prepare for this celebration by examining our walk with Christ. Are there bad habits in our lives that we need to forsake? Are there good habits, like prayer and Bible study, that we should establish? This season reminds us to look at these things… and to reexamine our commitment to Him. … Lent provides a perfect opportunity for teaching our children about Jesus’ death for us.

To teach our own kids and those in our small group about Lent, we let each of them plant a seed in a little pot. We explained to them that planting the seed is symbolic of death— the death of Christ and the dying of self and our old nature. Then during Lent the seed (hopefully!) grows and comes to life, which is symbolic of the resurrection of Christ and the spiritual reality of His resurrection life that is alive in us. I came across some other great ways to celebrate Lent with kids here and here.

For personal reading I love Bread And Wine: Readings For Lent And Easter and Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross. Also, you can sign up for free emails from the Henri Nouwen Society and with that they send weekly Lenten devotional readings.

Do you celebrate Lent? What are some of your traditions or favorite reads for celebrating with your family? I’d love to hear!

Joy comes in the morning


 

There are days where I start and end in the rocker, holding the baby boy. The early mornings when he needs to go back to sleep, I need him to go back to sleep. We aren’t laughing ourselves to sleep then, I can tell you that much!

Being back in that rocker after a longer than anticipated break has brought me right back to the toddler years where some moments there are hard and I fight it, fight him to sleep and some moments are pure gift, joy that flows with God’s amazing grace and provision.

Sleep is scarcer, patience runs thin some days, rhythms are interrupted and I always feel like the kitchen is open.

This is what the days bring now that the long awaited answer of our baby boy runs us bone tired, makes our sides ache with laughter, pushes those buttons that I thought, maybe hoped, had been buried forever.

The miracle of him in flesh, sitting at our counter eating, wrestling with his sisters, yelling “Mama” when I leave the room, some days has me upended with quiet joy at God’s amazing plans. Amazing provision. Amazing Grace.

A year ago this week we were waiting to hear if the most precious, amazing sweet thing that we spent an hour with in an orphanage in Ethiopia would legally be our son. We had to leave that beautiful country not knowing if we would see him again.

Its amazing what time and faith will tell you.

A year ago this month would be the beginning of one of the hardest fights of our lives, getting this son of ours home.

As life would have it we chose the wrong line to be in. We chose the long way home and we didn’t even know it.

How can you make a choice 2 years earlier that could alter the timing and ability to bring your baby home when your heart and time are finally in sync and the only thing separating you from him is a paper that says permanent resident and not citizenship.

Those were powerful days, on our knees. Closer to the source of divine sovereignty than we have ever been, clinging to “thy will be done” trying not to let the broken heart bleed all over the sweet ones we already had.

In the midst of phone calls and long talks, paper work and faxes the tears would surprise me and the broken places and fears would rise up as his sweet face would etch itself in my mind.

These moments felt foreign to me. Not usually one for over emotional displays of feelings written there on my sleeves, but it felt good. It felt natural. I felt relieved that I loved this boy this much after an hour.

That journey a year ago feels like a million years away and yet I can still remember the physical sorrow that overcame me at times and it’s almost like an Ebenezer; a stone that marks the event; the moment in time that needs remembering. To remember this is to remember the answers; the unfolding of His plan and goodness and greatness.

I may loose my way sometimes and my faith may grow small but I will never forget the way that God unfolded those begging prayers into a family and turned all things right side up that felt so upside down. How he moved paperwork and people’s hearts and we flew back to start our physical life together, joining the hearts that God had always known would love each other, want each other, need each other?

So when my day starts in the rocker at 5 am and I selfishly want to crawl back into my warm bed instead of being the mama arms he needs to settle, I remember my Ebenezer, the longing to hold my little man and if I let God have his way, I smile in the dark of those mornings and utter prayers of relief that this baby of mine is in my arms and I know the joy that comes in the morning. 

 

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