All posts by apeaceofmom

About apeaceofmom

I am a home schooling mom of 2 children, half of a pastoral couple heading a church plant, and a freelance medical illustrator.


grace_blog pic

My daughter’s middle name is Grace.
When we chose the name, our simple definition of GRACE was that it is
“an undeserved gift”.

I have a lot to learn about GRACE.

I have been reading a lot from moms lately; mostly about guilt and fear of failure and intense pressure to “get it right”. What’s up with that?

It appears that women in general, and moms in particular, are harder on themselves than anyone else. Grace is a tough concept to grasp. I think this is partly nature and partly nurture. Nature (the way God created us) has wired us this way, so that we work to do things well. Our culture “nurtures” (not the right term at all in this case!) the way we view our roles as women and mothers.

Any woman who has given birth has likely experienced the abundance of “blaming” terminology that plagues obstetrics and post partum care:

  • The woman on bed rest because of her incompetent cervix
  • The woman with the “smaller than dates” fetus who is told “your baby isn’t happy in there” (when in the end her little girl is simply a very healthy petite child)
  • The woman who labors well for hours upon hours and eventually needs a C-section due to failure to progress
  • The woman with the small, slow growing baby is written up in her medical record as: baby: failure to thrive
  • The woman who can’t produce enough breast milk is told she has inadequate milk supply, though all her prenatal preparation told her that “breast is best!”, and that the body will always supply enough milk for the baby

What do women hear in these messages?
My body isn’t good enough

We don’t stand a hope of feeling good about ourselves with this kind of language attached to us. These labels travel far beyond our medical records into our psyches.

The media tells us we’re not thin enough, not young enough in appearance or in body, not wealthy enough, not skilled enough. The information super-highway of the internet and books and magazines and journal articles offer up an over abundance of excellent information about how we should mother and how we should work and how we should love and how we should play; and an equal amount of information on all that we should not!

How do we filter all of this? Information is good but the pressure it places on us is enormous. I love information! I love to read and I love to hear different angles on things that matter to me. I am learning to filter, to take what fits for my life and my values and my family, and toss the rest.

But the pressure is still strong to be the perfect WOMAN. And that is where I (we!) need to learn about GRACE. How do we find this elusive grace?
When I speak badly to my husband or my children, is there grace?
When the house is a mess and the schoolwork isn’t done, is there grace?
When I say the wrong thing and I know it, is there grace?
When I forget something important, is there grace?
When the baby is small or the breast milk isn’t coming in, is there grace?

In all of these circumstance I know that I, for one, am the last person to offer up grace to myself. Others offer it up far more quickly.

Grace is a gift.
When a gift is given, we can choose to receive the gift, or refuse the gift.
The gift does not become mine until I actually take it.
God offers grace.
“He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.””
~ 2 Corinthians 12:9
What a relief that is!! Power made perfect in weakness. Wow. Now all I have to do is allow myself to be weak. This will take some learning…

Grace2_blog picI recently read these quotes about grace.

“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace–only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”
~ Anne Lamott

“The art of celebrating life isn’t about getting it right, but about receiving grace.”
~ Ann Voskamp

Apart from leaving me wondering if there is something special about the name Ann(e) that predisposes one to saying profound things, I am left with a renewed understanding of the meaning of grace. It’s not about getting everything right. It’s about leaving the situation changed; changed by having received (willingly!) the gift of grace from both God and others; and reminded to offer up grace not only to others, but to myself.

Grace be with you on your journey.

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Gifts from Heaven

To Malaika, love Susan
To Elijah, love Christopher
Christmas 2013

Susan died April 14, 2013 at the age of 51. Christopher died August 25, 2011 at the age of 10. Yet there were gifts from them under the tree this Christmas. And in the tree was a note from heaven that read:

“Merry Christmas from Heaven”
I love you all dearly,
Now don’t shed a tear,
I’m spending my Christmas
With Jesus this year
Does Malaika (age 3) understand that Susan, whom she has never met and will never meet this side of heaven, has given her a hand-me-down music player and a nice hat and socks that she never had the opportunity to use? Does Elijah understand the significance of the play mat with the roads on it, the mat that Christopher used to construct elaborate roads and tracks for his cars and trucks? Probably not. Yet the value of these gifts is priceless.Gifts from heaven blog pic

Those who have gone before us leave us so much, the physical things being the least important yet often the most valued as they are the only things we can concretely grasp. In Christopher’s home there are pictures of Christopher everywhere, there are cups with his name on them, there are gift bags from years past addressed to him; but most importantly, his presence is always evident in the hearts of his  family. Stories of Christopher are recounted regularly, sometimes with laughter, sometimes with tears. This is a beautiful thing. He continues to live in the lives of those who loved him because his family is healthy enough and comfortable enough to keep him in the present while knowing fully that he is physically gone.

This year I really valued the gifts that I received from heaven. My cousin Susan suffered from a debilitating condition called Rett syndrome so what I knew of Susan was her smile and her dark eyes. My nephew Christopher spent 8 of his 10 years in West Africa so my time with him was intermittent and limited. Yet the loss of these 2 precious children of God has had an enormous impact on me.

At Susan’s funeral, I was impacted in ways that I still don’t fully comprehend. My struggle with “the ways of God” was bigger than I had initially thought. Why does God allow such suffering in a life? Yet listening to her sisters speak about her and listening to the deeply touching songs about being children of God affected me deeply. Susan’s life was significant! She didn’t achieve her way through life; she didn’t have that ability. But here is what was said:

Sister 1:
I believe there are angels in heaven and I also believe God gives us gifts on earth. Susan was a very special gift from God given to our family. She taught us so much in her 51 years of life about love, endurance, patience, compassion… Her infectious smile will surely be a welcome addition to Heaven.

Sister 2:
Early on, she helped me recognize the sanctity and uncertainty of life.
Susan opened our eyes to the sheer improbability of existence, the nobility of the human spirit and our own individual capacities to experience joy as well as sadness.
We will remember her as a very special person with an indomitable spirit, infectious smile and the clear, attentive gaze of a child- and we will miss her.

Sister 3 (about their mother, my aunt):
Watching my mom snuggle with Susan, care for her, comfort her and say good-bye to her, my understanding of a parent’s unwavering love evolved. It was so apparent that a mother’s love is forever, no matter what the circumstances.

When I see my children singing and dancing to the kids music player that came from Susan, I am reminded of the message that Susan’s life so strongly conveyed to me at her funeral: Come to God as a child and stop trying so hard! (Matthew 19:14) Susan’s life was an example of a life lived in simple innocence, before God; a life that had an improbable impact on so many. Receiving a gift to Malaika from Susan under the tree brought all of this back to me.

When I see my children playing with Christopher’s play mat I am reminded of the fragility of life and how suddenly everything can change. And I take a breath and give thanks for these 2 who consume so much of my energy yet offer back more joy than I could ever articulate!

Gifts from heaven are lasting.

Thank you Susan and Christopher for your beautiful lives and your beautiful gifts.

We see where we focus

We arrived at my parents around 5pm in a snow squall, 3 year old soundly sleeping, 5 year old wildly excited. My brother and his wife had arrived the night before. All converged together at the family home to celebrate Christmas.

My 3 year old should never nap! Come bedtime she was wide awake, eventually drifting off to sleep at 10:45pm in bed with her grandmother. I carried her, finally in dreamland, to her own bed in the loft next to her snoring brother.

5 adults, 2 children and a cat, all in close proximity, made for a night that was reminiscent of a circus act. Sounds of snoring rang through the darkness. The bathroom door revolved endlessly on its axis. A shout emerged from an active dream life. A brother’s nocturnal thrashings resulted in an unceremonious “whack!” to a little sister. Crying ensued “He hurt me!!!”, followed by further yelling protests “She woke me up!!!” Then, small feet carrying sleep deprived but excited little passengers scampered about at the crack of dawn.

This is what family Christmas gatherings are all about, right? I was awake more than I was asleep, but woke up strangely content. I wandered downstairs to the scent of brewing coffee. A glance out the front window revealed a slowly rising sun over a wide expanse of river that was disgorging its heat into the cold winter air, slowly giving way to ice. Powdery snow covered the landscape surrounding the house, shimmering, the kids said, “like jewels”.
outdoor beauty
How could I let my sleep deprivation deprive me of this beautiful moment? It’s all in where we focus, isn’t it? I could have focused on my exhaustion, on the reality that this was only night #1 of our 2 weeks of holidays, on my irritated throat and sore neck. But that would have robbed me of the joy of this moment.

Even through the night, I was able to frame the interruptions with gratitude. My 3 year old won’t go to sleep – but she is happy and behaving well. My 5 year old whacked her in his sleep and I am up, yet again – but there is life, there is breath, they are well, and I am up because they ARE. These little people that I longed for, that I prayed for: they ARE.

As I cleaned, bleary eyed, my son’s pee from the back of the toilet this morning (little boys know how to aim but are apparently too distracted much of the time to concern themselves with minor details such as actually hitting the water in the toilet), I was once again reminded of something my sister-in-law said to me: “the toilets are easier to clean now that he’s gone”. She was referring to her son, who died of malaria at the tender age of 10. This statement wasn’t meant as a good thing, but rather, as a statement of just how much changes in one’s life when there is such a profound loss. So now I clean up pee with gratitude – because my son IS, because he breaths, because he is healthy and able to pee all over the place.

As I walk into Christmas, I want to keep my heart in this place of gratitude. I want to frame each moment, whether “good” or “bad” as a moment to give thanks. God is ultimately the reason that I am able to give thanks in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18), but Ann Voskamp helped provide me the tool I needed to get there: a gratitude journal (One Thousand Gifts: A dare to live fully, right where you are – check it out!).

Christmas, (as at all times!) is a time to give thanks and love one another. I challenge you to try to find the good in every demanding or difficult circumstance that comes your way. The disruption of holidays is a both/and scenario – both good AND hard. It’s not either/or – one or the other. Particularly with young children who become over-excited and over-tired and over-sugared and lots of other “overs”! Enjoy family, enjoy friends, give thanks for what IS and for WHO IS.

I thank God for this glorious day of exhausted fun!

Family sillies






of, pertaining to, or characterized by defects or weaknesses

Imperfect = defective?
Imperfect = weak?
No wonder I struggle with perfectionism! Who wants to be defective and weak?

Or is there another way to look at this?

2 Corinthians 12:10 “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

There is no person alive, past, present or future, who is perfect. Apart from Jesus Christ. So why do we strive so hard for perfection? I am learning to let go of it. To recognize that “perfect” isn’t really so great after all.

Yesterday I finished up this year’s home made Advent calendar with my 2 children (ages 3 & 5). The calendar is made up of 3 ribbons with walnut halves glued on them, each containing a piece of paper with instructions for an activity (ideas we have created together, that I have written on colourful paper). We open one walnut each day of Advent. The 3 ribbons are now proudly hung on the wall by the dining room table.

Perfectionist me says “The ribbon widths don’t match, the nuts are not evenly spaced, the ribbon lengths are uneven, the colours are all different…” I don’t need to go on.

The new(er) me, the me who is learning to live in each moment, the me who is reaching for gratitude in the small details of every instance, says “Wow! What a beautiful time spent with my 2 wonderful children. Look at their faces glowing with delight at their special calendar made of ribbons they chose and nuts they cracked!”

Tonight, the first Sunday of Advent, we peeled off the first walnut. As instructed, we chose some gifts to donate to others in countries in need. After much discussion about what it means to be without clean water, and what it means to have no clothing, we have chosen to donate towards the creation of a well along with tuition for a woman to learn to sew. And in honour of our nephew, Christopher, who died of malaria at age 10 in Benin, we are donating mosquito nets.

How would this scene have played out if I had obsessed about trimming ribbons and insisted that the colours match and that the nuts were evenly spaced? If I had robbed my children of the opportunity to fully engage at their own level in this precious activity? Would my words have held any credibility as I told them about cholera and typhoid and lakes filled with sewage? I think not.

Perfectionism is a toxic poison that robs us of the moment. It causes us to lose sight of what matters. It clouds vision and causes pain to those that we don’t even see in our mad clamber for “better!”

It is also contagious and probably genetic. When my daughter was 2 years old I had to ban colouring books and colouring pages. She became enraged if she coloured ever so slightly outside of the lines. This, from a 2 year old! Oh dear…
So, she was confined to plain paper without any guidelines that might suggest she was making  a mistake. This was the kick that I needed to work on my own perfectionist inclination.

And so it goes.
Mismatched ribbons and colours and walnuts. And it is so good to live in the moment, learning to ignore the insignificant details that once seemed to vanquish all else.

For when I am weak, then I am strong!

The matter of words

Mrs. Hill told me I should write. That was 27 years ago.

Words have a way of sitting in the vault until a time when we need to access them, a time when they become more relevant. Words matter.

“…the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire…” – James 3: 5,6

The words that a high school teacher spoke 27 years ago now have some substance, a new form in my new place in life. My journey as a mom is teaching me how much words matter, how much children absorb, how much I have absorbed in a lifetime of words.

I want to honor my words; choose them carefully; write words that make a difference, if only to me. Writing is a means of sifting, filtering, formulating, assigning meaning to otherwise jumbled thoughts. Organizing the mind brings peace. I am learning a lot about peace these days and it is bringing new depths of joy to mothering and family life.

So begins the journey of assigning words to my inner sanctum.

“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.”   ―     Ludwig Wittgenstein