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Our Own Garden of Eden

Many of the families we know garden, or would like to garden, or shop at the farmers market or buy fruits and vegetables. My point is that there is something about growing food that connects us to the earth and to God.

We are all searching for the truth. What God created this world for and why he chose to put us in it. By hanging on to growing our own food we somehow get reconnected to the original “work” of human life.

But the truth is that doesn’t exist anymore. Maybe that’s why we struggle to get along sometimes? Our vision of that garden is different. We have a hard time accepting each others gardens.

Nathan and I have talked about what our garden is. It’s true that we grow fruits and vegetables (not organically, I’ll add). But we truly believe that the fruit of our labors comes from our children. We have chosen to have many children, give birth at home and live life alongside them whenever possible. This is our garden. We believe God comes to us in the evening when we are living in this garden.

It is a garden of hard work and efforts that seem unnatural at times. But we know that when the harvest is over that we will see the fruits of our labors sent out to create their own fruit.  What may appear as lost dreams, shriveled opportunities and worn bodies will be memories of our time and gifts to the greatest gifts we’ll ever be given.  We will finish walking in our garden together and maybe get some rest!

Stories are Gifts

I’ve been thinking about New Years Resolutions.  I normally don’t make any because I figure I do not have enough self control to keep them.  But this year there is something that has been on my heart for a while.  A desire that is deep within me.  Sharing stories.

I’ve always been hesitant to share my stories.  I suppose because I  feel self centered, prideful or self consumed.  The more I get to know myself, God and others I realize that our stories are what we have to give each other.  I’ve shared small bits and pieces of our lives here in the past and will often see someone out in “the real world” who thanks me for my story.  It touched their life because they have stories too.

So with peace in my heart and an honest sincerity I will begin to share my stories.  With anyone who comes here to read them.  For my children when they get old enough to read them, or care enough to read them.

Without apologies.  No more regrets.  Not a drop of guilt from sharing too much.

The Gifts are for HIM

Nathan and I have been struggling this year.  Trying to balance the celebration of Christ’s life as he was welcomed to this world by the young Mary and her betrothed Joseph.  How can the simplicity of that night live up to the grand spectacular event that Christmas is today?  How can we as parents prepare our children for a lifetime of celebrating in him?

Wanting our children to experience the magic of the surprise, the waiting for that special gift they had been hoping for, we find ourselves wanting struggling to find the perfect balance.  On Christmas Even morning the kids awoke to the gifts under the tree.  One by one they opened their special gifts and began to play.  We were encouraged by their satisfaction in the simple, yet thoughtfully selected gifts that they found great joy in.

The day continued and ended with a quiet Christmas service at church.  Returning home in the snow, reading the “real” Christmas story and each one of us writing (or coloring) a special gift just for Jesus was followed by everyone being tucked into bed with a special prayer.

The kids awoke to a special breakfast by candlelight followed by dressing in our warmest clothes.  We gathered candles, our “gifts” for Jesus, the clay Jesus figures the kids had created, and our overflowing wheatgrass that had been planted seed by seed for each act of kindness.

And then we opened the back door and the cold came in.  We stepped out of the warm house and into the white world outside.

One by one we climbed up into the barn.

To a secret place the kids had never been.  Experiencing something new to us all.

It became possible to get away from the shiny and new, the hustle and bustle.  To find peace in a barn with no where to go, nothing to eat, no presents to open.  But the gifts, oh the gifts.  Indeed we received gifts.  Our gifts to him, opened one by one.  Simply written on plain white paper we shared our gifts for Jesus Christ.

What joy is waiting for us when we give ourselves to him.  When we share him with each other.

And with peace in our hearts and favor in the Lord we prepared ourselves to walk back out into the cold.

A {Peaceful} Advent

Remember that episode of Little House on the Prairie where Laura and her family exchanged simple gifts made with their own hands?  The simplicity of what Christmas used to be draws me in and creates a desire for me to experience more of that this year. 

You’ve heard this before and so have I, but it seems to be more difficult to slow down than it should be.  Maybe it’s not so much about doing less, but in doing something different, something more meaningful.  Folding peace into the moments of our day while storing enough joy that we can share it with those who have true needs the rest of the year.  Our homes may be a mess, the kids may not have matching pajamas and the meal may not go as planned.  But our souls will rejoice in the spirit of Christmas.  Please join my family as we search for a new December.

{Gift of Time}

Is it possible that you have adults in your life that would be more than willing to skip gifts this year?  Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate those you buy for and even more importantly who may feel obligated to buy for you. 

Ideas for Giving your Time

*Enjoy a meal together in each other’s home.

*Go out for coffee and spend time catching up.

*Exchange holiday treats or a pot of homemade soup.

{Giving to Kids}

Let’s share peace with our children.  As the day comes to an end turn down the lights and gather around the fire, or a couple of lit candles. Go outside under the stars, bundled up in a blanket to re-tell the Christmas story. Talk to them about the blessings we have and the needs of others.  Bring everything into perspective and watch your child come to life.

Ideas for Christmas Morning

  *Give each child three gifts.  In our home we do this because it represents the gifts given to Jesus by the three wise men.

  *Focus on gifts your child will really appreciate.  The after Christmas clutter stresses children too!

  *Focus on gifts that are made to last, possibly becoming a family heirloom.

{Handmade Gifts}

Photo 1 Caption:  The best part of making handmade gifts is spending time with someone we care about.  Carter and our neighbor Zach with a couple of our recycled crayon cars.

Creating a gift to be given to someone you love is one of the most rewarding experiences.  If you don’t feel like you are “crafty” maybe you have a friend who would be willing to trade for handmade treats or babysitting.  Our family is slowing down, spending more time together and making gifts for those we love.  Our favorite project is recycling broken crayons into crayon cars that can be used again.

  Step 1.  Gather broken and unused crayons.

  Step 2.  Remove the paper and break into small pieces.

  Step 3.  Place into a metal muffin tin and bake at 200 degrees (any hotter and your house will smell like hot wax).

  Step 4.  Let cool and remove from tin.

{Volunteer}

A small group is collecting items to be given to the families of patients moving into the care of Hospice. Your family can help collect items, label them (Hospice-Ted Hitchel) and drop them off at Broadway United Methodist Church (Melrose Campus). 

Items needed:  Socks, Peanut Butter Crackers, Children’s DVD’s, Chewing Gum, Hot Chocolate packets, and Women’s and Men’s Socks.

{Give}

Photo 2 Caption:  Justin and Ashley Guest are working towards full time missions saving children from the streets in Honduras.

Justin and Ashley Guest are missionaries raising support to be full time at the Manuelito Project in Honduras.  They will act as house parents to 40 children who have been saved from the streets.  Your family can partner with the Guest’s on their adventure to literally save lives!  Connect with them on their website and follow them on their journey.

http://www.guestsinservice.com

{Connect}

Connecting to volunteer opportunities can seem a little overwhelming at times.  When you realize how many needs there are right here in Bowling Green you may not know where to begin.  The ALIVE Center is an excellent resource for finding a service opportunity that works for you and your family.  To simplify things for you the ALIVE Center has created a website to give you all the information you need for ongoing volunteer opportunities.

www.wku.edu/alive/ongoing

 

A Moment from Home

Photo 3

The deadline for this article was approaching and I was thinking a lot about the ways that I prepare my home for Christmas.  My mind kept going to our nativity set and I couldn’t remember what our baby Jesus looked like.  The kids were sitting at the table coloring so I decided to go upstairs to find it.  Under gift bags, tissue and a winter jacket I found that brown box that was starting to show wear.  I carried it downstairs and sat down in front of the fireplace thinking that I could get it opened and put on the mantel before the kids noticed something new was going on.  My rush was to quickly get back to my job of picking up shoes, Lego’s and crumbs.  But before I even opened the box my children were at my feet.  One of them reached out to open it and the lid tore.  Another reached in and pulled out several pieces at the same time.  I started to find them something else to do until I looked down to see my sweet daughter holding Mary who had Jesus bundled in her arms.  I had forgotten that our nativity’s Jesus was held in the arms of his mother.  Tears began to fall as I apologized to my little ones, set the box down and asked them to help me.  What could have been a rushed experience that my children never saw became a moment of tenderness and love as we talked about that first Christmas and the sacrifices that Mary and Joseph made as they waited for our savior to arrive.  This figurine will remain on my mantel all year as a reminder that my children are only at my feet for a short time and they are my gifts.

 

A Peaceful Advent Checklist

  Things to Research Goal for 2010 Date Finished Goal for 2011
Kids Gifts        
Gift of Time        
Handmade        
Volunteer        
Give        
Connect        
         

 

Hello, I’m Michelle Howell, and I live in the world of laundry, having babies, and picking up messes.  I tend to be a mess myself which makes me thankful for Grace.  When naps begin I sit down with a cup of coffee and write.  Thank you for letting me share.

and so I write…

I live in stories.  Moments really.

When I think back on my life there are so many events that I can’t remember.  But what is burned into my memory are the moments of meaning.  The one’s that you live over and over again even years later.

My passion is to share my moments with others.  And so I write…and share. 

For whatever reason I have felt that my writings should remain personal.  Maybe it’s because my sweet husband is so humble and private (many of my friends are too).  I struggled with the desire to share my thoughts, photos, personal life.

Writing connects me to myself and creates a deep desire for me to share that with others.

The world is full of lies, sadness and deception.  And I suppose that I am filled with some of that myself.  But there is so much inside that is provided by the Holy Spirit that I want to share with others.

Just as others have shared with me.

So I write.

Faith in Childbirth

 

Pregnancy is often a time of joy and anticipation for women and their families. But it can become a time of fear and confusion, fear of the un-known and possible complications. These fears can only be overcome by having faith in your body, your birth team and, for many, having faith in God. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, faith has a place in the birth process. In whom or what do you put your faith is a question that all women have to answer during the time of pregnancy.
“empowered by my faith”
During my first pregnancy, I was full of fear and doubt. I was a faithful person in many ways but didn’t really connect that faith to my pregnancy and birth experience. Just listening to other women’s stories, watching television birth programs and reading pregnancy “how to” books created a profound sense of confusion and fear. Later in life, I was blessed with more children and was empowered by my faith in both God and his design for birth. Surrounding myself with other women and families who shared powerful stories of blessings and peace during birth gave me encouragement.

Nurturing Faith
Waiting for the birth of a child often causes couples to reflect on who they are and who they want to become. They begin to evaluate all areas of their lives including finances, schedules, health habits, priorities and faith.

“make choices in love rather than fear”

 
Having faith in childbirth does not mean that everything will always go according to plan. Nor does the way you choose to give birth prove your level of faith. Rather, bringing faith to the experience alters your approach to the entire pregnancy and birth. As in all areas of life there are often challenges and unexpected circumstances, focusing on faith allows you to make choices in love rather than fear.

Ways to Bring Faith to Birth
~listen to inspirational songs

~pray for the new child and peace in the birth process

~create artwork that reminds you of your faith

~gain knowledge about the birth process to increase your faith in how you were created

Empowering Families
Pregnancy can be a time of great reflection and dynamic change for not only the mother, but also the entire family. Many couples look to the church during this time and often begin spiritual growth like never before. It is also a time for couples to strengthen their relationship through communication and acts of service for one another.
Relying on faith during labor and birth, dispels fear and creates an environment for peace. Removing fear decreases the amount of tension and stress that a woman has during childbirth. This will allow a woman to relax and cope with the challenges that childbirth present. A woman who has educated her self with the birth process and her options will be confident and secure with the decisions she makes.

Creating Peace in Birth
~learn and practice movements and positions that will be helpful during labor
~take time to experiment with methods that will decrease stress and tension: massage, candles, music, water or even silence
~communicate openly and honestly to make sure that any issues or concerns are discussed before labor begins
~use your birthing time to reflect the love and respect you want to teach your child


Creating Community
Throughout history women have been assisting other women during childbirth. Laboring women need nurturing and mothering so they can go deep inside themselves to find their inner strength. While my husband provided physical strength, I, like other women had a need for another woman to offer a gentle touch or a word of encouragement. For this reason it was important for me to hire a birth doula and attend faith based childbirth classes with other families.
“Laboring women need nurturing and mothering…”

 
After finding very few faith focused childbirth options in this area Heather Vernon and I established Knitted Together Childbirth Services. We will be offering childbirth classes, doula services and community outreach to the South Central Kentucky area. Our mission is to offer a perspective that helps women and families to grow in their faith during pregnancy, childbirth and parenting. We do not pretend to have all of the answers but we will help you focus on the right questions.

The Home Birth of Adaline Mercy

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