Friday, January 27, 2012

Why I believe: an honest account

I got to thinking recently about why I believe in God. I’ve been noticing a lot of vehement anti-God things in social media and from various news outlets lately, and while I don’t want to get into any of that, I do want to explain (to anyone who’s interested in hearing) why a twenty-something girl in the twenty-first century subscribes to seemingly ancient, irrelevant beliefs. I don’t really have philosophical reasons for my belief in God, and I don’t know if many people could merely be talked into believing in Him anyway. I believe in God because I’ve experienced too much of Him in my life to believe anything else. Here’s what I mean.

For one thing, I have experienced God’s blessing in the form of my husband. Our whole relationship is a testimony to God’s orchestration; it was all planned, and not remotely coincidental. We never should have met, or started dating, or maintained a relationship, but here we are, ten years on and going strong.

We never should have met because he is from Australia, and I am from Canada. We did meet because his parents are diplomats, and he lived for a period of three years in the nation’s capital, where I happened to grow up. His parents came to the church where I have been going since I was four years old. They liked it so much that it became their home church, and Rob and I became friends, then boyfriend and girlfriend, then husband and wife.

We never should have started dating because Rob was growth hormone deficient. He was part of an experimental study in Australia on synthetic human growth hormone, during which he had daily injections of HGH from ages 5-15, and it worked. I never would have considered a relationship with him if he had been shorter than me (shallow thing that I am), but here we are, both six feet tall.

We never should have maintained a relationship because we were in a long distance relationship for two years, first between Canada and Australia, and then France and England. During that time we were immature and alternately impatient, clingy or emotionally distant, and yet we made it to the altar and beyond.

Because of Rob’s HGH treatments, we didn’t know whether we’d be able to have children. We had been married for just over four years when our daughter Daphne arrived, completely healthy. Her sister Maeve followed two years later, colicky but healthy, too. These girls are a tremendous blessing to me; I have always wanted to be a stay-at-home mother, and because of them, I am. Pregnancy and birth gave me even more reason to believe. My humble body, which I’ve at times despised or at least underappreciated, has been thus far able to bring two very big babies (9lbs 13 oz and 10 lbs, respectively) into the world.

I don’t believe simply because my life has gone well for me; to be honest, my life has been far from perfect, and those who know me well can attest to that. I have my own insecurities, fears, and struggles, and Rob and I have our frustrations and fights. In fact, I believe because of my own weakness and sinfulness. I have done, and continue to do, things that I know to be wrong. And while I may cringe at recalling them, I feel no guilt when I have confessed my sins to God and asked His forgiveness. He forgives me and takes away my guilt.

I believe because when I look around at creation in all its beauty and diversity, I know in my heart that it couldn’t just happen. It had to have been designed.

I believe because I have seen miracles in the lives of people I know well; people who have had terrible, debilitating things in their lives that should have destroyed them, and yet they are stronger in their faith in God than ever. It’s not an act, it’s not blind faith, and it’s not wishful thinking. It’s supernatural in that it makes no human sense.

I believe because I have sat under some amazing teaching that comes from ordinary people used by God in a powerful way. In particular, my pastor, Rick Reed, is able to explain God’s word in a way that is deeply personal, relevant, and practical. Through his teaching, I meet with God every Sunday.

I believe because I read and understand the word of God, and I know it to be true. It has convicted me of sin and motivated me to give my life over to God again and again. I believe because I have experienced answers to prayer, even though they’re not always the answers that I’ve wanted.

I believe because I have experienced God’s provision. By all accounts, my family and I shouldn’t be able to own a house and live on one income. And on many occasions (mostly when we were first married, and I was in school, and Rob wasn't a permanent resident so he wasn't allowed to work), we’ve had God provide for us when He prompted other people to give us what we need, such as money, gift cards for food, even a car.

I believe because I have seen God’s timing. One example among many: on an ordinary Sunday last spring, from the moment I woke up, I knew I was supposed to go and share the gospel with my grandpa. He had been sick for many years, and had outlived his doctors’ predicted life expectancies many times. I didn’t want to go; I get very emotional about matters of faith, and as a result I don’t always speak very clearly. But I went. It was the last lucid conversation I had with my grandpa, and when he died three weeks later, I knew for a fact that at least once in his life, he heard the good news of Jesus Christ and had a chance to respond. Now I want to share that same gospel with you, so that if you happen to still be reading this, you will definitely have heard the good news and had a chance to respond.

We are all sinners. You, me, and everyone we’ve ever met. It started when the first two created people, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God’s command. Since then, every person ever born has had a propensity towards evil. You don’t need to look much further than a young child (including my own) to see this: we don’t have to teach them to do what is wrong, but we do have to teach and reinforce what is right. The thing about sin (our selfish and immoral thoughts, words, actions and inactions) is that it separates us from God, who made us. There are no degrees of sin, by the way. No one sin is worse than another. Homosexuality is as much a sin as talking negatively about someone. Abortion is as much as sin as judging people. God doesn’t compare us to one another, but to Himself. He is so holy that he can’t even be around sin. In fact, sin requires a payment, in the form of death. In the Old Testament, when you sinned, something had to die; an innocent sacrifice had to take your place.

There’s only one person who has ever lived a completely innocent, sinless life, and the Bible tells us that it was Jesus. Not only did he live a perfect life by God’s standard, but He paid the debt that every one of us owed when He was killed. He showed Himself to be even more powerful than death itself when He raised Himself from the grave three days after His death. And if you believe that He paid for your sins, you get to claim His righteousness for yourself. God sees you as righteous, and you get all kinds of amazing things through that. You get forgiveness for your sins, and freedom from guilt. You understand the purpose for your life: to glorify him in what you do. This is what we were made for. You also get to live with Him in heaven forever after you die, and spend eternity the way you were meant to: bringing God the honour He deserves. We don’t deserve this, and we can’t earn it. It’s grace, a free gift to us from the God who loves us enough to send His Son to die for us.

Do you believe that you aren’t perfect? Do you believe that Jesus paid the price for you? It’s easy enough to understand that a child can become a follower of Christ, as I did when I was seven years old, and as I pray my children will do when they are old enough. I am so thankful that I was told about all this when I was young, and I can’t imagine living any other way.

Here’s a prayer you can offer up to God if you believe these things:

Dear God,

I know that I’m a sinner, and deserving only of death. I’m turning away from living only to please myself, and trusting in Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection as my only hope. I accept You as my Saviour and the Lord of my life. Please come into my heart and life today. Thank you for forgiving me and giving me eternal life.

Amen. [May it be so.]

Happy Australia Day!

As much as I would have enjoyed the irony of celebrating Australia Day at Ottawa U's Snow Festival (not to be confused with Winterlude), it was -18 with the windchill and my personal cut-off for spending time outdoors with babies happens to be -10. Instead, we went shopping, and decorated the cookies that we had baked the day before. Please note the lovely table decorated with a beach towel and a bunch of stuffed koalas. I believe this is the traditional way it's done. We also dressed in clothing that was either summery or purchased in Australia.

Like her new apron? So does she, to the point of wearing it on its own.

While we were out, the boys worked in the basement, which is looking spectacular and very nearly done. By boys, I mean Hubby, his dad, and his uncle. That's right, people, the in-laws are here and it is wonderful! Mealtimes have been going really well; so far I've served shepherd's pie (big thanks to Erin for her recipe which includes BBQ sauce, and is amazing), spinach & chickpeas with flatbread, and coming up tonight is beef stew. Lunches have been leftovers for the most part, or sandwiches. The boys have had fast food a couple of times. It's been going really well!

Last night's dinner was sausages (aka snags) with sauteed peppers and onions, and way too many egg noodles. Hannah came over and brought a Greek-style quinoa salad, which was well received. I was even able to eat the feta, and it pleased me to no end. We Skyped Tracy and Eug, Hubby's sister and brother-in-law in Oz, so it was fun to catch up with them. They're coming for a visit in March! Eug can't wait to see snow.

Can you identify the Australian animals hidden under all that green and gold icing? We've got kangaroos, kookaburras, koalas, echidnas (echidnae?), playpuses (platypi?), and frill-necked lizards. And I've clearly got to work on pluralizing unfamiliar nouns.

Monday, January 16, 2012

It's complicated: the story of Damask

Our weekend away was just delightful. I got to visit with family that I hadn't seen in years, and meet some new-to-me cousins, as well as introduce my girls to that branch of the family. In addition, the travel time gave me a chance to work on Morgan's sweater... and to finish my lacy scarf, Damask.

This is the most complex, intricate piece of knitting I've tackled to date. Nine charts, ten pages of written instructions, and one ball of lace-weight (which took me an hour to wind from a hank into a centre-pull ball). The yarn made a great souvenir from our trip to DC, and a reasonably-priced one at that! Only 13$, and then another 5$ for the pattern.

My notes:

June 2nd: I’m a little nervous about running out of yarn, so I redid the 297-stitch cast-on 3 times. Even using bamboo needles, my fingers were very sore!

November 8th: After casting on and knitting the first four rows, I put this project down in favour of a lot of baby things, and now that my baby’s here, I’ve resumed work on the shawl. I’d really like to have it done by Christmas, especially since winter white will go perfectly with my red coat!

November 14th: It took me ages to figure out why I originally thought the total number of rows was 126, then 158, and actually 142. Different sizes. As it turns out, it’s wise to read the pattern all the way through. Anyway, since I picked the shawl up last week, I’ve done 22 rows. At this rate, it’ll take me another 40 days to finish. I can live with that. I do enjoy that the rows are ever decreasing, so it may not even take me that long, if I can just stick to doing a few rows a day.

January 13th: Only 28 rows to go- I’m tantalizingly close to the end!

January 16th: I finished knitting it on a road trip this weekend (on Saturday, to be precise), blocked it last night and wove in the ends today. I love it. And I still have a few meters of yarn to spare.

Game-changer for our colicky babe

Now, I'm no medical professional, but I am the mother of a colicky baby. I am pleased to report that we have found two working colic remedies! It's only been five days, but those days have been a great improvement over the past two months. The relevant links:

This is the one we started with; it's a tiny tube that you squeeze into the baby's mouth (I would nurse immediately after), and you can repeat it after 15 minutes if baby's still screaming. It worked after two doses, but our kid doesn't like swallowing liquids other than breastmilk.

This is one that a patient of my dad's recommended, as it worked for her child. We read the reviews and the cases in question sounded so much like ours! With these remedies, they come in the form of a tiny, quick-dissolving pill, and for infants, you can either dissolve it in a teaspoon of water, or place the pill right in their mouth. We did the latter, and since starting them on Friday, we've not had to wait more than about eight minutes for the remedy to take effect. It's the same deal as the Cocyntal, where you wait 15 minutes to re-dose, up to eight times. (This is all on the bottle, by the way.)

I should mention the obvious: this is not our immediate go-to when she cries. We know babies cry to communicate, and we always check to see if she's in need of a feed, a burp, a change, a cuddle, or some playtime before we dose her. The remedy is what we turn to when other options have been exhausted and she's clearly in some pain; we've come to recognize her colic screams and body language. Previously, the only thing that would calm her down was copious walking/bouncing, and we can't do that all the time.

She did great on our road trip to Windsor this weekend, too! (D was another matter; she was pretty good as long as we had DVDs on, but this meant she didn't sleep, and consequently got quite whiny.) M was able to sleep most of the time, and when she did cry, it was because she needed a feed or a change- just like a normal baby! Even though she was in a number of unfamiliar places, she was just fine. I probably used the remedies on her 3 or 4 times a day, which is about how many screaming fits she'd normally have.

I don't think it's celebrating prematurely if I say I believe we have turned the corner. And not a moment too soon; we have some very special houseguests arriving a week from today: my beloved in-laws and uncle!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

On turning a corner

To all the mothers out there who told me the second baby would be easy, shame on you. Just kidding. (Sort of.) The past eleven weeks have been anything but easy.

Miss M, as it would seem, is an entirely unpredictable babe. She is very fussy, and it seems to be stomach-related; we think she's lactose-intolerant, or possibly has a milk protein allergy. At the beginning of December, I cut out all dairy for six days, then went back on it for a day, and determined that no further testing would be necessary at that point. For the day and a half following my dairy intake, she was miserable and screamed almost constantly.

The thing is, even though I've been off dairy (mostly... a girl sometimes just needs to eat cheese), she still gets upset at random times, and for no apparent reason. We can often get her to calm down by walking around and bouncing her. But if we can't settle her down, she'll scream until she just gets beyond herself. And it's a pain-related cry, not just the grousing that can be allayed with a feed, a change, a pacifier. M will outright reject breastfeeding when she gets like that, even though she must be hungry. A couple of days this week, she barely fed for hours on end. I remember with D, she could almost always be calmed by nursing, unless we were in the car. Oh, the scream-filled drives we endured! At least M is a pretty happy traveller.

Last week, at our last midwife appointment, M had one of her screaming fits, and the midwife recommended Cocyntal, a homeopathic remedy. It was very easy to administer, and M is not a baby who suffers medicine gladly. She was deeply mistrustful of me for hours after I gave her post-vaccination Tylenol, and I'm her food source! So we tried the remedy, and it seems to be working for now. Today, she has only had two screaming fits (or maybe three), and every time she calmed down after one dose. I hope this continues (the immediate soothing, not the fits); we need to turn a corner with this colic business soon.

We also think that M is a bit of a homebody. She doesn't mind going out, as long as it's limited to one trip per day. If she gets shunted around multiple unfamiliar places, she gets unpleasant, to put it mildly. That should make this weekend interesting: we're driving to Windsor to visit family and attend the Detroit auto show. (The latter is applicable only to my dad and sister Rach.)

For the moment, Hubby is out at Bible study, D is in bed, and M has nursed and is asleep in her swing. I will be enjoying apple sharlotka and my nearly-completed Damask. It's a good thing M is so cute. Look at the smile we're treated to when she's happy.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Handmade Holiday

There are not too many occasions when it is more frugal to knit something than it is to buy it. (This is probably one of the biggest misconceptions about knitting, at least it is in my experience. People say "You knit? You must save so much money!" False. I knit because I like to.) However, I have had two such occasions recently.

1. A birthday gift for a little boy whose mother appreciates handknit items. We had talked in the fall (prior to M's arrival) about the possibility of making him a sweater, but I had too many projects on the needles and didn't know how much knitting time I'd be afforded once I was a mom of two. Happily, I do still have some time to knit, although not a toddler sweater's worth. Instead, I made him a red, white and grey striped hat with thumbless mittens to match; the patterns were my own adaptations of something I found in a book, and something I found on Ravelry, so I didn't have to pay anything for them, and the yarn was already in my stash. Little Zac's parents were suitably delighted.

2. A gift exchange among my crafty (in the creative, not nefarious, sense) friends prompted me to peruse my yarn stash, and I found some beautiful variegated turquoise yarn that a fellow fibre friend had given me (she sews and quilts, but doesn't knit, so she passes on any yarn she receives). Another Ravelry session yielded a free pattern that I loved, and the yarn self-striped beautifully. Here's the proud recipient:

Here, also are the other handmade gifts:
Beautiful fridge magnets (clear glass with fabric modge-podged underneath and strong magnets affixed to the back). This mom was so happy to have pretty ones, as opposed to her son's bright cartoon ones.

Fabulous fabric baskets (one for each member of the recipient's family). Isn't that a great idea? And the pattern came from a sewing blog!

An amazing apron, which is prettier than most dresses I own, and even reversible. How I wish I could sew that well! The seamstress in question found the pattern in a library book.

Homemade lip balm, hand cream (just in time, too- my skin is horribly dry) and soap, and a classy circular needle case (I shamelessly requested this, as it was no secret who had which name).

The evening of the exchange, Wednesday, was lovely not only because of the gifts we gave and received, but also because of the wonderful food we had (appetizers and desserts were the theme, and one of many reasons I love these ladies is that they enjoy their food!) and the company. Between us, we have seven children, six of whom were being looked after by their respective dads. M was the only baby there, and she was pretty content, leaving us to chat and laugh way into the night. I didn't get home and in bed until 12:30, which is the latest I've stayed up since M was born, I think! A tremendously good time was had by all.

[Clockwise from top right: cream cheese-toffee dip with apples, devilled eggs, chocolate peanut butter squares, cranberry baked brie and crackers, and fig-goat cheese blooms. And I guess some healthy clementines sneaked in there.]

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Food frugality in 2012

Although I haven't calculated the totals yet, I'm pretty sure we didn't overspend on food during the past month of festivities and such. To be fair, I've only done two proper grocery shops including meal-planning since M was born (now 10 weeks ago), and a number of quick dashes to various stores. Regardless, I want to make food savings a priority in 2012. One strategy I'm particularly excited about it getting into a new cookbook.

Now, I have more cookbooks than I really need, but this one is something special. It was sent to me by my friend Morgan a few months ago, who discovered it as a resource to help social work clients. It's called The Basic Shelf Cookbook, and it was designed in 1987 by the City of York Health Unit for penniless students, senior citizens on a fixed income, families on a tight budget, etc. Not only are the recipes frugal, they are also nutritious and (I assume will be) delicious. As the title would suggest, the "basic shelf" refers to non-perishable items, and the authors provide a list of grains, meat alternatives, seasonings, baking ingredients, produce that can be kept for a long time without refrigeration (in most cases). They also have nutritional information for each recipe, an excellent substitution list and lots of tips on getting the most out of what you buy.

I'm very much looking forward to testing out several of these recipes for some special visitors we'll be having two weeks from now: my in-laws! And they're bringing an uncle with them, so I'll get to see what it's like cooking for five adults (and one toddler). I've started the meal-planning already, and we're using some of our Christmas money to invest in a chest freezer, which means I may even get some of the cooking out of the way before they arrive. The biggest challenge, I think, will be lunches, since D and I tend to keep it very simple: dinner leftovers, PB & J, egg salad, tuna sandwiches, and the like. I don't imagine we'll have a ton of leftovers, and I don't think most people would enjoy such basic sandwiches day after day. We'll see how it all plays out.

Eat well for less, doctor's orders!