Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Greetings from Spiddal

You may or may not know it, but my husband is Irish. He grew up in a little village of County Galway called Spiddal. We are blessed to be able to spend the holidays with Niall's family this year. It's the first time either of our kids have been to Ireland, which has been delightful {apart from the monstrosity that is jetlag}.

I thought you might enjoy a few pictures of Spiddal. So, without further ado:

The road my in-laws live on. My mother-in-law and I love to go for walks together, pushing the kids in their strollers! It is very narrow, so we often have to steer over into the mud to get out of the way of cars.

One of the sights on our walk. Have I mentioned they live in the country? Cows and horses and sheep galore! The kids love it.

The village craft centre hosts shops of candle makers, weavers, leather workers, and more. Niall's dad is a wood turner {check out his work!}, and used to have a shop here. Now he does his selling from the gallery behind his home. There is also an amazing café here, with paninis and divine baked goods and coffee that is out of this world.

Our walk ends at Galway Bay. The land you can see across the water is home to the Cliffs of Moher, and on a clear day you can even see the Aran Islands. Have I mentioned that being here is amazing? So thankful for the Lord's gifts. And that He gave me a foreigner to marry... because otherwise we probably wouldn't travel.

If it's of interest, I'd love to fill your feeder read or inbox with more pictures from our trip.

I am feeling so happy to be here- enjoying snuggling my new niece and nephew, watching the kids run around their Daddy's old stomping grounds, and eating my mother-in-law's amazing cooking.

Hope that your spirits are bright, and that you are enjoying Christ in this season of Advent <3. Blessings!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Thoughts After Miscarriage

There is something terribly ugly about it. When what is meant to hold the vibrancy of life becomes instead a silent tomb, you walk around feeling like a grave.

Part of you can't wait for it to be all over. Waiting for the pain and the flood can be unbearable. You feel like you are walking on edge. Will it be today, or tomorrow? Will it hurt? Can I just shut this chapter of my life and go on?

The other part of you desperately wants to hold on and keep it, because once baby leaves, that is it. No more tangible evidence that they ever existed. Your time to hold them has ended.

Most people have forgotten now. All signs of pregnancy vanished months ago. They brought the meals, sent the cards, gave their hugs and sorries. We appreciated it so much, felt so very loved. But what was insignificant to everyone else means the turning upside down of the life my husband and I thought we'd be living.

Someone, a real little person, has died. Because other people didn't see their face or hold their hand, they don't realize the gravity of the situation. But we saw the thumping heart, the little head and limbs. Twice. We have the pictures to prove it. This little person had a name and a place in our family. We awaited them with eager anticipation, laid out lovingly constructed plans and dreams for them.

Every month I bleed again and remember. The box of maternity clothes is knocked over in my closet, and I remember. I try not to, quickly stuffing the clothes back in. I look at the calendar and see that February is coming. I remember what I thought was coming with it.

I see the heavily pregnant woman at the grocery store, and I tell her how beautiful she is because I know its hard to remember when you feel as big as a house. I try not to cry as I tell her. I try to stuff down the grief that wells up as I stroll through the store, stand in the check out line, and walk to my car. I feel so very empty.

If you asked me about it, I might tell you the horror story of the night it all ended. How I bled so much that I fainted, hit my head, and took an ambulance ride. I would try to focus on the physical trauma, steering away from the emotional. I probably wouldn't tell you about what happened at the hospital. It's just hard to talk about.

I don't like to tell people, but somehow it is easier when I'm hiding behind a screen. I don't write because I enjoy exposing the hidden places of my soul. I write because in my mind's eye I see other hurting souls hiding behind screens, and I want them to know that they are not alone. I feel it too. You are not forgotten in your pain.

In all this, there is cross comfort. The One who made me, who knit my baby together in my womb for a mere eight weeks, He knows. Even this was in His control, a part of His divine and sovereign will for the world. He has promised good and God-glory, even in this. If I didn't believe that He planned it, controlled it, and is working through it, the grief would be so much uglier.

This doesn't mean that I understand. It doesn't mean that I don't hurt deeply. But it is soothing balm to a chaffing soul to know that He knows, and He loves me. In and through this.

So I now I wait. I wait for the healing that I know will come, eventually.

And while many friends will be welcoming new babies in February, we will not be meeting ours.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

4 Simple Projects for the Beginning Knitter

I've come to terms with it: I will never be a fancy knitter. While I drool over cable knits, darling hats with pom poms, and baby booties, I know that mathematical patterns and complex handiwork are not my forte. For pete's sake, I don't even purl!

I learned how to knit while on bed rest with my son a little over a year ago. And while I don't have any great ambitions for the art, I do love knitting. I find it so relaxing and wholesome. It's a way for me to still feel productive while watching t.v. with my husband, visiting with friends, and going on long car rides.

If you're just starting out, or have mastered only the basic knit stitch, these are projects you should be able to complete with little trouble. I've tried my hand at all of them, and had a good time doing it. Some of them may even pass muster for Christmas gifts. Winter, with its cold, long evenings, is the perfect time of year to pick up this cozy craft.

1. Dish Scrubby. The very first project I ever made. Okay, probably the very first five or six projects I made. Cast on as many stitches as you deem necessary {I think I do around 35- just depends on what size cloth you want}. Since making these I no longer purchase sponges to wash my dishes with. I love that it is cute and simple, but that it also saves money. You can practice on these and make plenty of mistakes, but still use the end product.

2. Basic Scarf. The first scarf I made was a skinny one for my daughter. I just cast on 15 stitches and knit until my roll of yarn was gone {I had already used that roll on multiple dish cloths}. Now I'm into matching father/son and mother/daughter scarfs. Cast on enough stitches to achieve the thickness you desire, and cast off when it reaches your desired length. Yes, scarves look nicer when you know how to purl and can alternate stitches. But it is so not necessary if you have yet to master the skill.

3. Headband. What better way to keep your ears warm this winter? This darling, super-simple pattern also doubles as a cowl. It's the first project I did that felt like a for real knitting accomplishment.

4. Infinity Scarf. This beast might take you all winter to complete, but it is so worth it. I simply cast on 60 stitches and called it done {again} when I ran out of yarn. Then I stitched the ends together with a large needle and my last yarn fragments.

If I ever end up on bed rest again I intend to learn how to crochet- I've heard it's quite a bit simpler and faster than knitting. To quote my friend Em, "Rachel, I pray you never learn to crochet." Until then, knitting it is. :) Happy knitting!

Friday, December 5, 2014

5 Homemade Stocking Stuffers for the Kids

Is your Christmas budget feeling tightly stretched? Are you sick of all the little toys, gadgets, and other paraphernalia that comes with having small children? Worried about how many new toys you're going to have to find a place for after grandparents, aunts and uncles have finished buying for your kids? Yeah, me too.

Good news: I have five ideas for your children's stockings that are easy to make, extremely inexpensive, and all around useful {read: not just clutter}. Many of the required supplies might already be hanging out around your house. Just spend one evening watching a Christmas movie with your husband and crafting {after you tuck in the kids}, and voila! Stockings, done.

Crayons. Collect broken crayons from your kid's art supplies and peel off the wrappers. Sort by color. Place crayons into a clean tin can. Fill a pot with several inches of water and bring to a boil. Hold tin can in hot water with tongs. When melted, pour the wax into ice cube trays, old film canisters, or cookie cutters. After a layer of wax cools and hardens, you can add more layers with different colors for a rainbow effect. These are so fun for kids to use, and it feels good to use up supplies that would otherwise go to waste!

Play Dough. There are many easy to whip up homemade play dough recipes out there. At the top of my "to try" list is this candy cane version {it looks so festive in the little mason jars!}, but gingerbread is running a close second.

Headbands and Hair Bows. My first foray into the tantalizing but terrifying world of crafting, these adorable flowers are EASY {which is so what this gal with two left thumbs needs}. Make them using old t-shirts or fabric scraps, and glue a little bead or jewel into the center if you so desire. Then simply attach to a hair clip or headband.

Felt Boards. My daughter S {three years old} loves playing with felt pieces. They effectively keep her quietly and happily occupied during brother's nap, in the doctor's waiting room, and at church. While she's received store bought boards, she also loves the Mr. Potato Head that I made for her. The sky's the limit here, but other felt board/quiet book page ideas you could try include human anatomy, fish pond, Christmas tree{just make a smaller, page size version}, faces, snowman, or pizza. Roll it up, tie a ribbon around it, and stick it right into their stockings.

Picture Books. Have any unloved board books lying around? Give them new life with magazine cuttings and contact paper. My one year old loves looking at books with faces, so I'm making him a book using colorful pictures of other children. Or pick a theme like Frozen, Cinderella, Christmas time, your child's favorite color or animal, dinosaurs, you name it. You could even use family photos to make a mini-scrapbook safe for little hands. Just cut or print out a handful of pictures related to your theme, glue them to the pages of your board book, and cover with clear contact paper {which you can purchase at Wal-Mart very inexpensively}.

That's my little list of ideas. What homemade gifts do your children love?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Amazima Beads

Out of all the books I read in 2013, the one that most challenged my thinking about lifestyle, idolatry, and what it means to live and love sacrificially, was Kisses from Katie. Originally I was turned off by the title {trite? cliche? overly sentimental?}, but so many people I trusted were recommending it to me that I chose to overcome my snobbish reticence and give it a try. I am so glad I did! Shame on me for judging a book by its title.

Katie is a remarkable young woman. Beautiful, intelligent, and haling from a wealthy American family, she chose to leave it all upon graduating from high school for the starkly different third world country of Uganda. That was 2007. 

In the years since she has personally adopted thirteen Ugandan girls, started an educational sponsorship program for children, a feeding program for kids who would otherwise go hungry, and a self-sustaining vocational program to help women escape lives of prostitution and other unsavory means of supporting their children. 

She is several years younger than me, yet I look at all she's accomplished and it puts me to shame. Jesus is looking for people to follow Him with radical obedience, yet I have a hard time turning off the t.v. or putting down my phone. 

While I know that God doesn't call everyone to drop it all and go to Africa, I do know that He's called me to be faithful in this ministry called motherhood, and to reach out in love with the gospel to those in my community. I have a long way to go, and I needed the reminder. 

Recently a friend gifted me with a necklace purchased from the afore mentioned vocational program. The ministry Katie founded is called Amazima {Ugandan for love}, and the Ugandan women involved make beautiful, colorful jewelry. All profits that do not go directly to the women themselves are used to feed hungry children in their community. 

I love this necklace- it isn't what I would normally pick up at a store, but it is very fun and can be worn long, or doubled for a different look. I like that it reminds me of Katie and the kingdom work she is doing in Uganda. It reminds me to pray for her and the people of Uganda, and it also reminds me of my calling as a Christ-follower. 

If you're looking to purchase a meaningful gift for the ladies in your life this Christmas, would you consider purchasing beads from Amazima? Along with a copy of Katie's book, this would be a great gift! Or they are just as nice on their own with a little note about their significance. 

For more information on Katie and Amazima, I highly recommend reading Kisses from Katie. Or, you can watch a short Amazima promo here, or longer interviews with David Platt and the 700 Club

I have no connection to Amazima, I have simply been blessed hearing about their work. The Amazon link to Katie's book is, however, an affiliate link. That means that if you make a purchase through my link, I receive a small percentage of the profit at no additional charge to you. Thanks for your support of The Purposeful Wife!