Marlowe's Newborn Shoot

When I was pregnant with Jackson a sweet friend did our maternity photos and then offered to take newborn photos as well. Jenn is the best human and I love her photography style. We were so thankful for those photos of Jackson - I look at them all the time and am so thrilled we have them. So when I was pregnant with Marlow I knew I wanted to invest in newborn photos. After meeting a new friend through play groups, I found out Natalie was a photographer was so excited to have her take pictures of Marlowe. I just love them and am so grateful for her talent and skill. If you are in the Muskoka area, definitely check out Tangerine Photography .

Here's to Miss Marlowe - oh how we love you baby girl. Enjoy some of my favourite shots of our family of four:)


Tribute to Mark Pennels

I was sitting in my dorm room freshman year of university miserable. I knew there was more to life than the way I was living. I knew of God and his unending love and professed it in so many ways. I was His child apart of the family of Christ but I wasn't living in full surrender. I wasn't free. There were still parts of my life that wanted to please the world and follow what it said. I questioned if complete surrender to Jesus, if counting that cost would really bring true abundance and freedom?

I wanted more, but was running. I sat down with one of my professors in my peace and conflict studies program and confessed that I hated university and needed an out. As any professor would say, he encouraged me to continue my education but to take a break.

My mennonite college had a program called SALT (serving and learning together) which allowed a "young twenty something" to live in another country for a year and do social justice work. I would get university credit, international experience in my field of study, and "find myself." I laugh typing this. How naive I was, and how amazing the Lord is. That I thought I was going for social justice when looking back it is so clear the Lord had mighty plans to get ahold of my life. My eighteen year old self could never have predicted what was coming as I booked my flights for South Africa.

July 2011 I boarded a flight knowing very little what I would be doing or who I would be living with. I was told by my wonderful directors that I would have a "host family" that I would live with on weekends. I would 'retreat' there from the week of work, living at the boarding house with eighteen children and working at the not for profit in the schools and teaching computer classes. Living with strangers who I'd never heard of or met was unnerving but those nerves only lasted a moment. Meeting Anne and Mark Pennels was one of the very best things that has ever happened to me and I am not saying that lightly. 

Mark passed away this week from cancer and I've taken some time reflecting on him, our time together and the legacy he left. I listened to his celebration of life today via livestream and saw a packed room hearing testimony after testimony of his love for others and for the Lord.

I said to my Mark when I heard of his passing that there are very few people on this earth that I love and respect more than Mark Pennels. The Lord used the Pennels family in my life to ground me in Him. So with tears streaming down my face, I am writing this to you.

Dear Mark, 

The first weekend I moved into your home was my birthday. I was so homesick and doubting what I had committed to do. I figured no one knew it was my birthday and longed for familiarity. As I put my bags down, you greeted me and had thrown a party for me with the few people I have met. I distinctively remember laying in bed that night, tears streaming down my face from being so homesick and thinking "wow this family is amazing. I am so lucky to be living with them." My first impression only grew as I spent more and more time with you and Anne. I can't thank you enough for opening your home for this random teenage girl to live with you. How Christ-like is that? Not many people would do that - but you and Anne did and loved me so deeply and so like Christ and I'm forever changed.

It was you and Anne who showed me through the way you loved others, your family, each other and the church that Jesus was worth it. That true freedom was found in Jesus, if I would only surrender every piece of myself to Him. I can't thank you enough for your example. Your love. You said yes to God by letting me live with you guys and He used you to impact my life eternally. From letting me come with you Saturday mornings when you sold honey at the market, to making me the most delicious suppers, to always looking out for me on Sundays at church - you were the most incredible 'host father'. Thank you for being my South African Dad. 

It was you and Anne who showed me what a pastors life could look like in the most genuine and real way. In no way did I think I would be a pastors wife but your example and testimony of loving the church and letting the people you've been given to pastor seep into your very being made me ok with saying yes to this ministry call God placed on Mark and I. You both modelled this so beautifully as I got to witness the start of your church plant in Ixopo. Thank you for letting me be apart and enter in. Thank you for showing me that this life is best lived serving others, rather than trying to make any gains for myself. 

It was you and Anne who showed me what marriage could be like. It was the first time outside of my parents marriage that I got to intimately witness someone else's. When I came to you at the beginning of September I was still looking for love from other people rather than Christ and when I left your house a year later I was certain in who Jesus says I am, and certain I was going home to date and marry my Mark. Watching your marriage through such a transition in my life was pivotal. Anne, Mark loved you like Christ and was crazy in love with you till the very end. Watching you guys love each other was a gift I will never forget. Thank you both for showing me what laying down your life for one another looked liked up close. Thank you for showing me marriage was worth it, and worth fighting for. Thank you for letting me process my thoughts and feelings about loving my Mark and what that would look like. 

It was a no brainer then, when I got engaged the following year that I would want you to marry me. You and Anne are my favourite and I couldn't imagine you both not being such an important part of my wedding day as you have reflected such an important part of my life. As I sit here now with tears streaming down my face, I am so grateful that you married me. So grateful that I got to show you some of Canada and my family and so grateful you got to meet my husband. What a beautiful gift it was for you to meet my Mark. I cherish that so much that Mark got to spend time with you both because you are such a massive part of my life. You spending Christmas 2013 with us is the most special memory- thank you, thank you, thank you for making the trip over to enter in and be present. I will never forget that. 

I so wish I could have flown over to visit again, but as life and finances would have it for both of us that just wasn't possible. But I am so grateful for technology. For our skype calls and text messages. Thank you for still loving me from afar and checking in. I knew that you loved me, prayed for me and cared deeply about me. I will miss you so much.

When I talk about my life and my story, I have a 'before Africa' life and 'after Africa.' I refer to this so often when I talk to others and process life. Before Africa, I wasn't living free and continued to live for things of this world that didn't satisfy even though I kept trying.  After Africa, I knew who God was and what He said about me and what I was suppose to do with the rest of my life. After Africa, I was free and although I am still learning how to flesh it out in everyday life, I haven't doubted God's love and purpose for me since then and that is thanks to you and Anne. The magnitude that God used you in my life is insane. You showed me Jesus was worth it in your everyday actions. I've said this before in this letter but I'll say it again - I can't thank you enough. 

I love you Mark Pennels and I miss you a lot but I know for certain that I will see you in heaven and we will be together in eternity with the Lord. Thank you for loving your family and living for the Lord till the very end. Your legacy is amazing. I want your legacy. I want a packed room when I leave this earth of hundreds of people saying how because of Jesus you changed them. 

Thank you for your legacy. See you soon,

Love you Canadian daughter

What Mark commented on this picture. Precious words I will hold dear forever.

"We love you so much too. And you are such a huge blessing in our lives. I admire your maturity and wisdom in the Lord too. Keep your eyes fixed on Him and your love for Him steadfast - always - and He will make your paths straight. Love you and am praying that you will wake up healed in the morning. Just had a thought. It is God who puts us in families - and He sure doesn't make mistakes. ."


Dear Marlowe // One Month

Dear Marlowe,

I’m currently holding you as you are snuggled into me after a feed. I’ve tried setting you down seven different times in the past hour so I could write this letter to you but every time you wake up and cry so snuggling into me it is... I decided since I am so short on time (your brother could wake up from his nap at any minute) that I’ll just type this letter to you on my phone and upload it later.

Wow, what a month. You are one beautiful stunning baby and I am beyond grateful to be given the privilege to mother you and watch you grow up. Your Dad and I would have been so happy with either gender but we both admitted (almost daily) that we wanted a girl. I am not meant to be pregnant and this has nothing to do with you - but I was in pain and sick pretty much the entire nine months and that is beyond miserable. I have more energy now with no sleep than I did well pregnant. So your Dad and I have already talked at length that being pregnant with two children would be next to impossible when most days I had to spend in bed. And we wanted a little girl so bad so when the nurses held you up after a few scary moments of you not breathing and exclaimed “it’s a girl” my heart instantly exploded.

I was too weak to hold you so they put you on your Daddy right away and I couldn’t even believe you were ours. A girl. A baby girl. Miss Marlowe Barbara. I had a harder time bonding with you while being pregnant because of the sickness and also we didn’t know your gender (different than Jackson) but the moment I saw you nestled into your Dada, none of that even mattered because the love I had for you in that moment could never be described.

You are a miracle and a true blessing. When it comes to babies being made and actually living inside of another human for nine months- it is all just so insane and mind boggling to me. I still can’t fathom that you hung out for nine months inside of me- I don’t know how people don’t believe in God when they see and experience this miracle. Also if evolution is a thing why hasn’t this making/growing a baby thing ever evolved over all this time? Anyways, those are thoughts I could get into for another time.

Miss Marlowe, you have been out in this world for a month and brought everyone around you such joy and love. I love being your Mom and am really looking forward to all these upcoming months we get to spend together. It’s different for sure having a brother already. I have had to fight daily “mom guilt” sharing my time between the two of you and sleeping when your sleeping inside of holding you and praying over you. But I know different isn’t bad or doesn’t mean I love you any less. Besides, you have the greatest big brother who loves and adores you so much. I had such low expectations on how he would react to you coming home but he has included you in everything and embraced you from the moment we brought you home in the “brrrmm brrrmmm.” His love for you is so evident even at his age and one of the things I’m
looking forward to the most is seeing your sibling relationship grow. Jackson is always giving you a blanket, bringing you your soother, rocking you in the “ba ba” and giving me diapers and wipes when needed. When I put him down for a nap and bedtime he demands that you are in his crib and after we set you down he gives you kisses and lays down beside you. When you are fussy and crying he will run up to your Dad or me and alert us (like we couldn’t hear your screaming) that you are upset and run to your side. It is something I never want to forget because I know sibling relationships go through seasons but this one when you are both so little is so sweet and so good.

You are a champ and are growing and gaining weight. We were able to leave the hospital only hours after you were born and you were greeted by your grandparents! Your Grammie was at your birth and your Grandma and Grandpa at home watching Jackson. After myself or Jackson gave everyone gastro flu unknowingly (even to my midwife) I felt so awful and defeated. Everyone that wanted to help us, 
we gave them the worst 24 hour flu. Also, your Momma had a rough birth. I was in so much pain and when reflecting on your first month - most of it is described as painful. I was in so much pain. I couldn't hold you because I was so weak and I missed giving you your first bath which broke my heart. My stitches still haven't healed but rocking and soothing you that first week was near impossible with the pain that brought. I am so thankful that most of the discomfort is going away and happy to report that I was able to walk to the park and around this week. 

OK, Miss Marlowe here are some fun facts I need to remember (may be boring for others to read):
Weight at birth: 7'11
Weight after a week: 8'02
One Month: 9'14

Nursing every 2.5-3 hours - latched great, but you spit up a lot and have gas pains - we are now giving you probiotics to help with the fussiness/gas/pain you are feeling  - I so hope it gives you relief and more sleep for the family

Fussy times in the evening of sudden crying for a couple hours but otherwise you are really happy. You did have you days and nights confused for the first two weeks but now you fall asleep soundly around 1230-1am and then nurse around 4am and then again by 7am and normally go back to sleep within the hour of waking up at night - there isn't a long awake time. 

I have prayed for you and am so beyond grateful to be your Momma. I don't love the newborn days but I know this is just a season and we will both find our rhythm shortly. 

I love you Miss Marlowe, happy one month!


Your Momma 

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