12.23.2016

Our Christmas Letter


Hi Sweet Friends,

Merry Christmas! No matter what this year has held for you I pray you will tangibly feel God's love and presence as we anticipate the Messiah being born to save us, to save our world. This advent season (advent just means the days leading up to Christmas) has been extra special for me. Christmas with a baby has all sorts of awe and wonder in it. Although Jackson will have no memory of this Christmas season it has still been so fun meeting Santa, buying presents and talking to him about Jesus coming to redeem this world. 

2016 was a busy year full of seeking God and really discerning His will and what He wanted for our family. It was a hard year but spiritually it was so rich. We grow in the valleys and I am so thankful for the ways God has become so real and sovereign to me and to Mark.  

After a very busy fall of 2015 working overtime every weekend because of staffing changes, we decided to put Mark's schooling on pause. At the beginning of 2016 he enrolled in classes and got started! Mark is working away at his masters of theology from Veritas seminary in California (online don't worry!). I've been so proud of the way he has juggled being a husband, father, working 40+ hours and studying in the evenings.

The beginning of the year I was pregnant and had a lot of pain and physical limitations. I wasn't bed rest but apart of me wishes I was because I had to work until May in pain. Some days Mark would wheel me around in the church wheelchair because I couldn't walk a hundred meters. I had pretty bad pelvic girdle pain ( I didn't know that was a thing either) so the last couple months of pregnancy was not fun.

Then May 12 happened and 2016 changed forever. Jackson Thomas blessed our lives after the longest labour he has been such a joy. I have felt so fulfilled in this calling of being his momma. I feel like I found my calling, my place, my groove. Being his momma is my most favourite thing and this year has been incredible having a wonderful healthy baby. He is such a good baby (minus the sleep) and I can't thank the Lord enough for this gift and miracle of a baby. 

Going on maternity leave and finding purpose again was exactly what I needed spiritually. It was a hard season of working overtime most weeks and then having Jackson and being removed from it all was exactly what I needed. It was so good for Mark too to have another focus to our day. I would love to be able to stay at home and raise my babies but financially that is just very unrealistic so I am trying to be positive about being a working momma. After I changed my mindset I am honestly excited to go back to work. I have so many new ideas and things I want to get done and implement and Mark and I still talk every single day about church, programs and different ministry aspects. 

At the beginning of the year when Mark started school to get his masters I was still hesitant about the whole pastor calling. I trusted Mark a hundred percent and would follow him and support him wherever he believed God was calling our family but I wasn't sure how excited I was to be a pastors wife and raise "pastors kids." Even though we are in full time ministry now, and Mark is a pastor now, being a head pastor was just a whole lot scarier to me. But after my break and taking a step back from ministry I know this is exactly where God is calling us and calling me. I think Mark will be a great head pastor one day... if only we knew when that move would be! Who knows? Next year, five years? We will just keep trusting God and listening to his voice. Obviously I would love to stay in Elmira forever and we would love to have him pastor here but we have no idea of what God has in store so we will continue to trust and wait. 

Along with Mark in school, I also enrolled in a wedding planning certificate course in the fall. Man, these past few months have been even busier with both of us in school but it has been good. After helping brides plan their weddings and loving every minute of it (even the stressful parts) I really felt God saying "yes" to this dream of mine to make it into a small business. Our evenings consisted of putting Jackson to bed around 7pm and then both of us studying, writing papers and doing the online lectures. Thankfully, my course was only one semester and I have graduated! Really excited for what this means, even if my business doesn't take off till after I'm done having babies. 

2016 was good to us and I am such a blessed woman. So so blessed. I have been so wrecked these past few weeks with all the Aleppo news and reading everything. I actually just got on my knees and cried one night at the overwhelming pain these beautiful people are dealing with. I can't imagine Canada being at war for six years, me wondering if my baby will live or if we will have enough food to eat and wondering when the next air strike will come. I am so grateful for food, a roof over my head and my healthy family. I am thankful for health care for great friends and for safety. 

I have lived outside my own little world more this year and let myself feel the hurt and the brokenness that is around me and in this world. I have often been overwhelmed from the election, to Syria, to the momma who doesn't have the resources to care for her baby and the teenager feeling alone and abandoned. Instead of being so overwhelmed I remember what I learned in South Africa all those years ago. Do something...it matters to that person. These two words "do something" have given me hope throughout 2016 and all the craziness. I do not need to do everything, but I am called to do something. I hope to do more financially and with my time in 2017.

Merry Christmas Friends! I pray you will take time to reflect on Jesus coming to save us. He really is the thrill of hope that our weary world rejoices in.

Blessed to know you and thankful for your readership:) 

Lots of Love,

Mark, Maddie & Jackson 

12.15.2016

Dear Jackson // Seven Months



My dear baby boy,

You are SEVEN months already. That is insane how fast you have been growing and how quickly the days have already passed. I held an eight week old baby boy and couldn't believe the difference.. oh my how are you are growing! The days are long between naps and feeds and you never leaving my side these days but I can't believe you are seven months and we are celebrating your first Christmas. 

This month I want to focus on stories and fun things you are doing! Let's begin:)


This month we tried to cut out one of two night feeds. The first night you cried over an hour and a half. It was so painful. By the end of the week you got more into a routine but it is still hit or miss. My milk hasn't been coming in and I had a scare that I wasn't going to continue being able to breastfeed so the night feedings started again this past week because I was afraid you were waking up hungry. So sleeping through the night still isn't happening for us at seven months. Normally we hang out once or twice in the night and you fall asleep around 7:30pm. It all depends on how you nap.... speaking of which, we need to work better on these naps. I also did the cry it out because after six months I was going insane not having any time to myself in the day (to go to the bathroom, make lunch do anything really) and was jealous of those mommas who get hours on end. I knew it was possible so I let you cry and cry. Some days are still twenty minutes, but other days you can nap 1.5 hours! There is no pattern or rhythm to your naps yet but I hope we will get there by the end of the month. I just want some routine.


You now army crawl every where all day long. You can do circles in our home and you love eating shoes, shoelaces and our outdoor mat that is so gross. You get up on all fours and rock but when you start moving you always resort to army crawling. When you aren't moving around in circles your favourite things to go for is electrical cords and outlets and our phones. You think cords are the greatest thing and you love crawling up to them and eating them. This constantly makes me worried that you will hurt yourself, so getting anything done in a closed concept house is hard. Even making breakfast is tough because you find the cords through the blankets and pillows we put on them. It's funny how much determination you have! I love it as a character trait.

The biggest thing this month is the 'sexy pose.' It is the cutest thing ever. You crawl for a bit and then turn around and look back at us or look around and it is the best. In order to balance yourself you put your hand on your hip and cross your legs. You look like a model so every time you do it (which is about 50x per day) we say "sexy pose" and you smile at us and then keep crawling. 


You have two bottom teeth that are in and you are drooling so much. I don't think you can get any cuter but you do, these teeth are the most adorable!

This month you have started loving bath time. You've always sat still and never cried but didn't really play. Now you "kick those leggers" and smile and giggle when the water starts to splash you. My momma heart explodes overtime as you laugh in the bath. It is such a privilege watching you grow up. 

The Christmas tree is up and you love scooting over and grabbing off all the ornaments and trying to eat them. You can't pull yourself up yet, although you are trying and are very close. I think next month's letter I will be able to say that you have mastered this skill. 

I made a small Christmas list of things to do and see...not that you will remember any of it this year. I believe in a simple, not stressful Christmas where we reflect on Christ and not on materialism and I want to start this tradition as a family right from the start. Your daddy loves to bless others through gift giving so I know that will always be a big part of your Christmas tradition but it was so fun seeing Santa with you, watching the parade, going to the nativity and hopefully driving through some Christmas lights. You love lights and I think you will really enjoy that... even if its just for me to get some more photos! A part of me wishes you could play in the snow this year because all of that from your viewpoint would seem so magical but since you slither on the ground you would eat a lot of snow and I'm sure you wouldn't enjoy it. 


You still eat out of your bumbo and are a really good eater. We still stick to fruits but add protein powder, different oils, iron and vitamin D to the fruit to keep you full. I am still breastfeeding but as I wrote above we have had some issues but hopefully they will work themselves out and we can continue a bit longer. My goal is to feed till about a year but whatever happens happens and I have to be okay with that. Not to keep adding to the breastfeeding stories but one of my favourite things is after your tummy is full you always talk in the most adorable voice. Every time you have a good meal you tell us about it and it is so awesome. I hope I never forget that.

Another thing I don't want to forget (hence why I'm trying to write it out... will baby number two get all these blog posts...hmm) is that you started giving kisses. Basically you give us slobbery kisses and you stick your face into ours but man, your Dad and I love it and we think it's the best. Jackson, if you haven't noticed, we think everything you do is the best. 



You are becoming closer to me and most days you never leave my side. When I leave the room you follow me or you whine until I pick you up. The first few days I thought this was awesome and now it is difficult because I can't do anything but hang out with you which is OK but when I'm trying to launch my wedding planning business it is pretty hard to get work done during the day. I am trying to just enjoy every moment with you, to soak it all in, to not forget. You my boy, are worth every minute.


Writing you this letter in a complete snow day. All the roads and completely closed and no one can leave Elmira. I made two different soups and invite my immediate family over. What a crazy day it has been. Too bad I am writing this letter late, but happy seven months my baby. Love you so very much. xo

Love,

Your momma 

12.02.2016

Deep Truth


I've mentioned this before on the blog but last year was a difficult year spiritually. I know I can't sum up an entire year but it was tough. I learnt so many lessons, mainly that Christ teaches His children so much in suffering. It is in the valleys that we grow, that we develop character. I love when James writes that we will experience trials and hard seasons not "if" but "when." James puts it this way...

"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4)

Trust me, I didn't always consider being misunderstood and being overlooked joy. But I did grow. Looking back on my spiritually journey this past year, this hard season is where I grew the most. It is where I sang worship songs with every ounce of my being, claiming those promises over my life and clinging to every word. It is where I journaled for hours as I prayed to the Lord and it is where I memorized scripture more than ever before. It is the season where Mark and I grew closer together, praying and needing to lean on the Lord for our rest, not each other because we were both weary. I am so thankful for our trials last year because I vividly see the endurance it produced in my life... but trust me I couldn't see it at the time. It is so easy to look back on a season and so hard to see the Lord working in it.

I know God and His heart so much deeper and with that, I want more of Him. I would listen to spiritual mentors talk about how much they needed God and if they didn't spend time with Him in the day it was ruined. I was inspired by their faith but didn't really get it. But now, guys I get it. I need God every single day. I know not spending time in His word or in communion with Him is a wasted day. And it's so much better. Life is so much better living it for God, not myself. Obviously I am a sinful being, I screw up so much but I know I break God's heart over my sin... but guys, you can get to a place of knowing deep truth, craving more of Jesus and needing him and it is the most freeing place to live in. So if you are in a rough season, know I was just in one reading these blogs and it not making much sense. Let me encourage you to run to God, to sit at His feet during this tough season knowing that your trial will produce endurance. Know I am cheering you on friend. 

I was listening to a podcast by Christy Nockels and she was talking about deep truth. How she longs and craves it and that our relationship with God gets deeper, sweeter and more full. We don't stay stationary. I had the podcast playing in my pocket, while Jackson was snuggled in my arms getting ready for nap time and I felt the Spirit whisper in my soul "you get it now." Tears stung my eyes with joy at how I could relate to what Christy was saying. I thanked the Lord that I knew he was near and kissed sweet Jackson's forehead praying that He would know the love the Lord has for him.

All this talk reminds me of these verses in Hebrews. It says:

"Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for some one to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil." (Hebrews 5:11-14)

I think we can get into a routine and get stuck. I think Christians believe in God, give him their life and then realize the dishes still need to be done, laundry folded and they have to go to their job on Monday. Then church becomes a routine and the songs we sing just become words, not praise to a holy God. God can just be another thing on a to-do list, another task to check off. There has been days and seasons where I have felt stuck and these verses in Hebrews challenge and convict me so deeply.

I have been a Christ follower since I was a kid. By this time I should be a teacher of the word, not still learning about the beginning truths. I am so thankful that I am craving the word, the deeper truths of God and not satisfied with the elementary principles.

Especially having a newborn baby these verses hit home. I know that Jackson is needing milk right now, he can't have solid food. Yet as he grows, the milk won't be enough for him, he will move on to mashed fruits and then small chunks of food until he is one day eating full meals with meat and gravy. It is such a good, pure metaphor of what our lives with the Lord should be like. Friend, the meat is so much better than the milk. Pursue Christ with everything knowing as you learn the deeper truths it only gets better and sweeter.  

If you've just decided to lay down your life and follow Christ (first so excited for you!) but I don't expect you to be eating the meat and gravy. I expect you to sort out the scriptures and I expect you to fall a lot as you try to navigate it all.

So, where are you at? 

Have you been a Christ follower for a while and are still demanding that people serve you and teach you? I hope to encourage you to start eating the real food, the good stuff. I encourage you to start teaching the word to others, to start serving others to start pursuing the deeper truths of the scriptures.

Or are you in a rough season where you need to be encouraged that trials produce endurance which equals more of this deeper truth? Please hear me out. God will carry you through this and then you can teach and encourage others through the trial and pain.

I love the next verse of the passage and the start of Hebrews 6 "therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity..." 

Will you press on with me? Let's encourage each other, build each other up and press on to be more mature in the Lord. Let's continue to pursue the good stuff.

Praying for you,

Maddie


11.23.2016

What is Your Calling


As early as I could remember people were always asking me what I wanted to do with my life? First off, can we just say that this question is so unfair and so loaded. I had no idea.

I can distinctly remember in grade eight picking whether I wanted to do academic courses or applied for high school. My teacher said if you want to go to university you must take academic courses or else you can't get it. I had no idea what I wanted to be, let alone what university was, let alone if I wanted to go there. It was all so confusing.

In high school I continued to struggle. Part of me wanted to go into business, part of me wanted to be a news anchor but I was never passionate about any one career path. There is half a course in high school to think about careers and as I would take those personality tests they would all come up with different responses. I had no specific path and always felt something was wrong with me. I often asked God "could you please just tell me? What do you want me to do with my life?" I never got a specific response.

Everyone went to university so I followed along. It didn't take me long to realize that I hated it. I was so stressed and did not learn well in a lecture style classroom along with hundreds of other students. It was easy to know that I didn't want to do theory in university but still had no idea what I wanted. Once I turned twenty I felt even more pressure. I knew I was spending thousands of dollars and for what? Thankfully, I was able to live at home (after first year and Africa), fast track my program and work every weekend to not get into too much debt, but still the question loomed even with a university degree - what am I doing with my life?

This has gone on for years but as my faith and relationship with the Lord grows I've slowly been getting clarity on purpose/calling. I was listening to a podcast (I forget which one) and they were talking about calling. The gist was that if you are a Christian you are called to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). That is such a big calling with lots to unwrap but it really is as simple as that. As I was listening doing the dishes I felt the Holy Spirit so strongly remind me of this. "Maddie, it doesn't matter what job you do, your calling remains the same." I feel like I can breathe so much easier hearing and resting in that.

So...

If you are a mom - your calling is to make disciples
If you work at a fast food chain - your calling is to make disciples
If you are a dentist - your calling is to make disciples
If you are a doctor -your calling is to make disciples
If you are a teacher, nurse, personal assistant, wedding planner and the list goes on forever - your calling is to make disciples

Our jobs and careers aren't where we find our calling. They don't define us. Christ does. 


Sure, I believe 100% that God speaks specifics. If He has asked you to be a teacher, than absolutely be a teacher. But please hear me out. If God hasn't given you a specific please don't spend years of your life like I did praying for that specific. God has placed you where you are, right now, to make disciples.

As you are walking in close communion with the Lord, He will tell you whether to move, relocate, switch jobs, move to another country etc. Trust in Him that since you are walking with Him you will be able to hear and discern His voice when He speaks those things. But until He speaks, trust that He has you where he wants you. Trust that you have a calling right where you are. People need Jesus in every job, every career, every volunteer position. No matter where you are serving Christ has you there to be a light, to shine bright for Him.

Walk fully knowing you are called. 

People still ask me what I want to do with my life. I can confidently respond now when people ask "I am called to make disciples." I can do that as a server at a restaurant, working as the children's director, or starting a wedding planning business  (all my jobs currently). I can do all of those things for the glory of God.

I hope this encourages someone who is putting way too much pressure on themselves to figure out their specific job. I hope you can breathe easier and trust God that He has good works prepared for you to walk in (Ephesians 2:10).

Take it from me, who has had this question lurking in the back of my mind since middle school trying to figure out what I should do with my life, terrified that I'll get to heaven and God would tell me - "Maddie you were suppose to be an accountant and you weren't and now you've wasted your life." It's silly typing it out now, but I believed that for way too long. That my job defined my calling. 

God has put you on earth, in this generation to bring glory to Him and make disciples. I pray you are encouraged no matter what occupation you are in that you can bring hope where you are.

Let's also remember it is God working in us and through us and that anything we do on our own strength is useless and ineffective. We can breathe easy and rest in His strength, knowing He speaks through us.

If God has been teaching you anything in the past couple weeks I would love to hear. Please send me an email and let's get in touch!

11.18.2016

Dear Jackson // Six Months




Dear Jackson,

We had gotten to know you for six amazing months! So long and so short all at once. You are such a joy and we still can't believe you are ours and we get to be your parents. Every day I still verbally say out loud how blessed I am that you are my baby. That I get to be your momma.

Each month you continue to grow and each month you are turning more into a toddler and less like a baby yet you are still tiny compared to all the other babies your age.


At five and a half months you weighed 13 pounds 14 ounces. You were in the lowest 8th percentile of babies but no one was worried. You are just tiny. I was small and so was your Dad so nothing to worry about. At five months we started food with you too! I am still breastfeeding every 2.5-3 hours but after I feed you milk we try "people food." Your first food was apples and you loved it. Then we tried pears and you also loved it, then bananas and you screamed. You hated the taste and you would not swallow or eat bananas. It amazes me that you have taste buds and know what you like and don't like at five months. It's just hard for me to believe.


We are doing a different food introduction and kind of not following the normal family doctor guidelines, which I am okay with for now. I have a nutriontist who I love/respect, so we are trying this way! Part of this nutrition plan is that we are only doing fruits and breast milk until you are nine months. Then I add different oils, vitamin d and other things into your fruit in order for you to all your nutrients but we are staying away from grains for a little bit. It may not work, but am happy to try this way until it doesn't work - then I will just try a new way. Who knows what I will be typing out for the next kiddo! I'm sure it could all be different. Anyways these are the fruits you've had until this point: apples, pears, bananas, mangos, blueberries, peaches. You are a good eater and right now you eat about a jar of baby food every time we sit down to eat. You are eating three jars a day. Some days when we are out and about you don't eat as much because I just don't have time to take food with me, and on those days you eat food twice and don't seem to mind.


Another HUGE accomplishment along with food  is that you started to crawl!!!! (I am writing this a week into six months) but on November 15 you made your first attempt and you haven't looked back since. You just suddenly started wiggling across the floor. My mom was over and we were in disbelief. Then you kept doing it. Then Mark came home from work and you continued. Then the next morning I set you down and you immediately started moving across the floor. It's now Nov 18 and this morning you moved from the tv room into the hallway and all the way into the other room. I just had this permanent smile across my face. You my sweet boy are growing up so big and so fast. It is remarkable getting to experience all your milestones. You are so proud of yourself and just love exploring.  I am a bit sad that I now need to baby proof the entire house and can no longer leave you in one spot but am so thankful you are growing and learning new things. It's still a shuffle. You can get on all fours and rock but you are not fully moving. It's the army crawl, but you do get your bum up in the air to propel you further. It is just the cutest thing and we are so smitten with you!


Along with eating and crawling you have started napping better!!! You would only sleep 20-30 minutes every 2 or so hours and it was driving me insane. I couldn't take it anymore and I was getting nothing done. I really wanted to get sleeping at night down before I started sleep training for naps but now I wish I would have tried it all at once. Anyways you put yourself to sleep great in the evenings but I was still rocking you to sleep during the day and then setting you in the crib. But always, consistently after 30 minutes you would wake up. We did the cry it out method for you with bedtime and it worked so I thought I should finally try it for naps. First day was awful you just cried for an hour and then I picked you up and we just continued on our day, though you were super grumpy and no one was happy. Second day, same thing. Third day, if I stayed sitting beside your crib you would put yourself to sleep by yourself. If I were to leave your room you would cry on the top of your lungs.

So I would sit there for hours wasting my whole day until you would finally fall asleep. But after six days you started sleeping for 1.5 hours!!!!! You can put yourself to sleep now and that is so great! This has been major for me. I can get the dishes done, cook supper, shower, get ready for the day, study for my wedding planning exam and just have some time to myself. By the time I put you to sleep at night I am so tired that I often don't do anything for me. It is normal to tidy the house, do dishes, spend time with Mark and sleep by 10pm.

Something you didn't do well with was the time change. I wasn't sure what to expect but I didn't think it would have thrown your schedule off as much as it has. We were pretty much getting to sleep by 7:30, feed around midnight, feed again around 5-6am and then awake for the day around 7:30-8am. So you were getting 12 hours with 2 feeds. Then the time change happened.

Right now you are going to bed around 7:30, waking up around midnight, wake up around 3am, 4am, 5am and ready for the day at 6am. It's dreadful. I got good sleep and now its regressed. I don't want to blame it on the time change, but really that is when you pattern started to change. I know you are teething (there are bumps on your gums but nothing has poked through yet) but I'm not sure that should radically change your sleep pattern for so long. It's been a week and a half of this and I'm not sure if I need to go back to the cry it out method and re train you to sleep.


Ok enough about all the logistics of the momma things I want to remember. When I feed you in the middle of the night and you drift back to sleep I often get emotional looking at you as you fall back asleep on me. My heart explodes and tears flood my eyes and I just stare at you. Jackson, I can't explain how much I love you, how perfect you are. I never thought my heart had this much room to love you but it just keeps growing. I can't fathom loving your brother or sister this much, but I know my heart will make that room it is just so hard to comprehend. I hold you in my arms, and thank the Lord for you. Each night/morning whisper God's promises over your life. What blows me away is all the love I have for you doesn't even scratch the surface your heavenly Father has for you. O Jackson, how he loves you, cherishes you and has such purpose in your life. My baby boy, you were put on this earth for a reason, a purpose. I pray that you would know God's love, you would experience it from such a young age as soon as you can understand. I pray that in all my sin and failures that you would see your momma trying to love you like Jesus and point you to Him. He is all you need, more than enough. So I think all these thoughts and pray them over you, kiss your sweet forehead and place you back in your crib. I wipe the tears off my cheeks and head back into my bed, heart full of love and thanking Jesus for His unending love for you and me. O Jackson, we have such a good good Father.



Keep growing my sweet sweet Jackson. I love you so much.

Your momma
xo

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