The much awaited time has come. This morning, as you read this, we will be travelling up to Wales for "Word Alive" - one of the highlights of our year. Accompanied by 76 others from our church, we are looking forward to joining a couple of thousand others for a fantastic week of great Bible-teaching, beautiful seaside walks and time with family and friends. Over the years, this conference week has come to mean so much. It's the conference Dave and I realised how we felt about each other, it's the conference we served on the youth team for for 5 years, it's the conference we took our 5 week old baby to last year before the nightmare of the following few weeks set it.
It is a conference I have been broken at, overjoyed at, hopeful at... Every range of emotions.
Because every year I come home challenged and changed by the Gospel.
The beautiful truth that the Saviour loved me enough to die for me... Broken, messed up, reckless little me... free grace for me... at a huge cost to Him.
A beautiful, raw, incredible truth. And soaking myself in it for 6 days refreshes it all anew.
So join us for the ride! These next few days I will be posting pictures of what we get up to...
Yes... She's taken those first tentative steps! My little lady is on the move! That little bundle placed upon me 13 months ago is now a walking, talking little girl... when did that happen?!
My baby is moving out of babyhood! And it is bittersweet... Bitter because she is growing up too quickly... motherhood second time round is less chaotic, less excessive, less uncertain... And I am enjoying every second of it. But it's also sweet, so very sweet, because as I watch this little one toddling six little steps before falling into my arms, I realise that our prayers have been answered, that though sometimes, I feel like we're still in the woods, she's here and she's growing and she's hitting every milestone with so much joy.
She stood at the patio door last night: knocking on the window and calling "Papa! Papa!" as she watched her Daddy working in the garden, and it just melted my heart all over again. We have come so far... We are so very blessed.
My heart could not be more full.
So keep growing, Heidi-girl... Keep hitting those milestones. Though Mama may want to slow you down, sometimes, I am just so very grateful for the beautiful gift that you are, and the wonderful, joy-filled, happy and carefree little girl you are growing up to be!
One of the thing that's really hit me since having children, is how little a deal I have made of Easter in the past. As a christian, Easter is the big celebration - remembering Jesus death and resurrection stands at the heart of my faith, and yet so often, the day would creep up on me unexpected, a couple of chocolate eggs would be exchanged, and the day would be over in the blink of an eye.
When I began to think about the time and effort I have put in to preparing my family for Christmas, I began to realise that somehow the balance had got a bit skewed. We spend a month building up to Christmas, preparing our children's hearts to remember what its really all about, and yet Easter got next to no preparation at all.
And so we became convinced that we needed to change that; that somehow, our girls should be as excited in the run-up to Easter as they were to the run-up to Christmas.
And so we have started some traditions. This will be our third Easter with Ava, and our second with Heidi. Gradually, we are building up a set of traditions that help our girls understand what Easter is really all about.
So here are some ideas if you're seeking to make your Easter meaningful this year!
1. Resurrection Garden
The idea here is to make a little garden with you children and place a tomb in it, covered over by a large stone (the tomb is a cut out potato), on the night before Easter Sunday, you can roll the stone away, and transform the garden into a flurry of life, using little flowers etc. It's a beautiful visual of the miracle of Jesus resurrection... and that through his resurrection, life comes! You can see how we made ours here.
2. Countdown Eggs
The idea, similar to our family Advent Calendar, is to unfold the Easter
story bit by bit as the week goes by, and to hopefully help the girls to
understand that Easter is not just about spring chickens and bunnies
(cute as they are!) An egg is opened each day from Palm Sunday, and inside is found a verse and an item which tell the next part of the story... If you'd like to find out more, you can read about them here. They really helped build up to the big day last year!
3. Easter Breakfast
This was something we started two years ago. A special meal is central to
any celebration. We wanted to have a meal together as a family where we
could enjoy each other's company, make the day a bit special and share
the Easter story. Of course, boiled eggs and soldiers were a must, and a
little treat in everyone's place... little easter baskets filled with
chocolate eggs and Easter biscuits... Of course, you could have an
Easter lunch, or dinner... but we wanted to celebrate in the morning the
fact that Jesus had risen!!
4. Telling the Story
The telling of the Easter story is a key part to our Easter breakfast. We highly recommend "The Beginner's Bible" or the "Jesus Storybook Bible" by Sally Lloyd Jones for little ones. Its wonderful to be reminded of the story behind this celebration... and if you've made a Resurrection Garden, it makes a great set for any playmobile or little characters to reenact the story!
5. Easter Nature Hunt
This is a really cute idea which we are going to try for the first time this year. Each child gets a list of items to find on a walk, or in the garden, each of which can be used to tell the Easter story...
1. Something pointed and sharp to represent the crown of thorns
2. Something made of wood to represent the cross
3. Something dead to represent the Saviour's death (a leaf or something?)
4. Something darkness to represent the darkness
5. Something hard and round to represent the stone rolled across the tomb
6. Something alive to represent Jesus' ressurection
I'm thinking Ava's just about ready to give that a go this year!
Yesterday we had a lovely, impromptu day with some of our NCT friends...
I still maintain NCT was one of the best decisions we ever made.
Not for the childbirth classes.
Not for the breastfeeding advice.
Not for the antenatal care.
(Although all of those were good)
But for these little people, and their parents.
These little ones are growing up as good little friends. They do not remember a time when they didn't have each other. And that's because their wasn't a time. All born within three weeks of each other and thrown together by the chance of a local NCT group...
16 people sitting awkwardly in a room, never conceiving the friendships that would be formed, and the lifechanging adventure we were about to undertake together.
And now the adventure is taking more little people on board. Little girls everywhere, as the second round of children grows! Another little girl will join the ranks in the next couple of weeks!
One boy... nine girls!
I am loving watching these little people growing up together. Listening to their little conversations, seeing their joy at being reunited, and knowing that little friendships are being formed here.
This month has seen a real turning point in these girlies' relationship. Heidi is growing up. She is beginning to talk and I'm loving watching the bond between these two little ladies go from strength to strength.
Of course, they wind each other up no end. Ava loves to bundle, suffocate with hugs and be always overly-affectionate. Heidi loves to pull hair, hit out and steal toys. Don't get me wrong. It's not all rosy round here.
But all in all they just are the best of friends and its so lovely to see that unfolding before my eyes. I have no illusions that things will always be as simple as they are now between these two little friends, but my goodness, I am enjoying it while it lasts.