How Do We Know if God is Calling Us?

How do we know when
God is calling us?
"I feel God is calling me to..."
is what I consider to be Christianese.
Something Christians say that others
may not understand.
What does it look like when God calls 
us to something?
Or sound like?
Or feel like?

I don't have answers to these questions
and am open to any resources you may
have that provides insight to some answers! 

Often times I feel nudges,
urges, deep passions or feelings 
towards something.
A conviction?
A deep moral code?
A strong sensation?
Sure, it may be one or all of those things.
I believe this is the Holy Spirit 
working in my heart towards something.
What do you think?

For several years I have felt called
that our family would move overseas.
I have no idea in what capacity,
or for how long.
I don't know any of those details.
I don't even know if it will happen!
Yet I have felt this kind of pull.
A longing deep within me
that really believes there is something 
for our family there.
Specifically in the United Kingdom.

Spencer and I are very much so
people that enjoy the comforts of home.
Familiarity, security and consistency 
are things we draw comfort from.
Spencer and I have also talked about
this so-called feeling, or longing,
I have felt and he believes it would 
have to be an opportunity that makes sense.
Something that falls into our lap
and works with what we have set up here at home.

That sounds safe, that sounds smart,
that sounds like something we would do!
Heck that sounds like something we SHOULD do.
Yet for the last month I have been really feeling challenged
to step out in faith. 
What does that look like to step out in faith?
Taking a risk when it doesn't make sense,
what it seems stupid, silly and too risky! 
Yet how many times does God 'call us' 
to step out in faith, take a risk, 
and fully put our trust in Him!

When I meditate on this-
what it means to take a leap of faith
and put my trust in Him-
it always leads me back to moving abroad.
What if we just followed Him?

Yet it also brings me back 
to what drives almost every decision I make.
What if?
What if?
What if?
What if we go and it fails?
What if we go and we lose everything?
What if we go and our girls hate it?
What if we go and my husband hates it?
What if we go and it leads to bitterness and resentment?
What if we go and I was wrong?
There was no 'calling' but a selfish desire to go?
What if?

How do we know the difference
between what WE want,
what God wants
and what is just a silly dream?
Has God put this desire in
my heart because He has something in store for us?
Even if its a total flop?
Or is this just me,
wanting to try it out?
How do we know?


Twas the Week Before Christmas...

'Twas the week before Christmas
and all through the house...
the 3 year old was losing her cool,
 the 6 year old was tired of school.
The laundry was piling up
and the toys were all strewn,
Mom and Dad are ready for Christmas break to come soon!

Anyone else feel me?

3 more days and then its winter break!
I am dreaming not of a White Christmas,
but of mornings in our pajamas,
snacking on Gingerbread houses,
watching Christmas classics
and the anticipation of Santa's arrival.

We have had some great time spent with 
family and friends the past two weeks.
On December 10th we had Merry & Bright,
our church's annual Christmas evening of caroling and readings.
This year both of our girls had big roles.
Jane was set to be an angel,
but last minute stepped in to be Mary.
Besides nearly giving baby Jesus a concussion
(don't worry, he was being acted by a doll)
she did an excellent job and adored
her husband Joseph, played by her buddy Ben.
Claire sang Away in a Manger and memorized a verse
from the Christmas story along with the other students.
When it came time for the preschoolers/nativity actors
to sing their song,
Claire stepped up with the microphone
and carried them through on her own.
The little ones were more concerned with ringing their bells,
so Claire who had a solo for one verse was 
more than happy to step in and take on the entire song herself.
If you know our darling Smid girls,
you will not be surprised to hear they were stars of the show.

It was magnificent to have both sets of their grandparents,
along with a great aunt and uncle fill up an entire pew at church.
Our girls were all heart eyes that they had their fan club present.
Having present grandparents and family is not something we take for granted.
It is such a blessing that we can have both sets of parents present in our girls' lives,
cheering them on in everything they do.

Claire had a second performance 
which was her school's Christmas concert.
It was interesting to me that she was more nervous
for her school concert even though she would be singing 
about 80 other students.
She looked so cute in her pajamas and Santa Hat
 for the Polar Express themed song.

This past weekend we ventured out to the Vanouver  Christmas Market
where the girls got to sit with Santa and make their requests for gifts under the tree.
We enjoyed the sights, sounds and tastes of a very North Americanized
German Christmas Market by delighting in the handmade goods
of the  vendors including beersteins, wooden carvings of all types, nutcrackers and other goods.
For lunch we sampled spaetzle, bratwurst and hurricane potatoes.
Oh also bier and spiked cider. 
Then we stopped in at our dear friend Darcy's place to sample her baking. 
We wrapped up the evening with popcorn for dinner and a Christmas movie.

Sunday was our annual McLaren get together.
Hosted by the extraordinary Auntie Kerry and Uncle Bruce
who always throw a beautiful party.
The smell of mulled wine always reminds me
of Christmas parties at their house when I was a kid.
It was so good to see family.
Cousins and cousins kids who are growing up quickly.
Babies to come in 2018 were celebrated,
I met distant family from afar and caught up
 with cousins I hadn't seen since last year.

While it was good to see my family,
there was obvious absence.
This is the second Christmas without
both my grandfather and my cousin.
Both who passed away last summer.
We had a good talk with my aunt about
the reality of losing a child.
She shared with us that the second year is the hardest.
The reality sets in that life is going on without them here.
Christmas is a time of such joy,
but also grief.
If there was one new skill I learned in 2016,
it was to learn to carry grief and joy together.
A good reminder as we are in this season.

May this week bring you moments of calm and peace
amongst the calamity and noise! 

My great-grandma, myself and Spencer. 

This is the Christmas ornament I ordered for our tree. It felt odd having so much of our family being represented on our tree without acknowledging our sweet baby in Heaven with Jesus. This will be a way to honour Mama and Daddy's aching heart.
I also ordered one for Spencer's auntie, who just lost her husband this Christmas season.
Laurelbox is a great online shop for bereavement and hope. 


Christmas Season: A Mother's Heart

Christmas has fallen upon us once more.
Softly, tenderly, like the first snow.
There is something so magical about this time of year!
The twinkly lights,
the cozy evenings spent inside cuddles by the fire and tree.
Hot cocoa, movies, sweet treats galore.

And yet...
this season brings so much more.
We have heard the Sunday School answer time and time again.
"Jesus is the reason for the season!"
With all the silliness aside -
that is the simple truth of it all.

Ever since I became a mother
six and a half years ago,
the weight of the Christmas Story 
felt more real and tangible to me.
All of the sudden, as I sat there nursing my little baby,
I felt so close to Mary, mother of Jesus.

I can still remember is so clearly.
Holding Claire all swaddled in my arms.
I had a sense of sisterhood with Mary.
A bond that stretched over hundreds of years.
Now I could truly feel for her as I thought about
riding a donkey for miles very pregnant.
I thought about what it would really mean to give
birth in a place so not worthy of welcoming the Christ Child!

What it meant for her to have the
King of the World at her breast.
Petting his soft hair as he suckled away,
gaining his strength and nourishment from her.
When I gave birth to both my girls,
I felt like the Heavens had opened and 
handed me the world's most precious gift.
For Mary,
the Heavens literally did open up and
gave her the world's Savior to raise into a man
that would ultimately pay the
Ultimate Sacrifice for the sins of the world.

Joy to the world
The Lord has comeLet earth receive her King
Joy to the earth
The Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods
Rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy

With truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love
And wonders of His love
And wonders, wonders of His love.

The whole world rejoiced
when the King was born.
A baby,
born to Mary.
The King of Kings,
born to a teenage girl
who was a virgin.

Something about that just hit me.
The significance of the 
Christmas story completely changed for me.
And every Christmas after that 
I think about Mary raising this boy.
Every child is special,
but hers,
now He was truly something else.

He rules the world
With truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love
And wonders of His love
And wonders, wonders of His

What about you?
Did you feel a different, stronger connection
to Mary mother of Jesus after becoming a mother yourself?


Called for More

The fog is beginning to lift.
My kids are now 
6 and 3
and they are gaining their independence.
They can get their own snacks,
water, and express their needs (wants),
go to the bathroom on their own for the most part
and need me for the basic necessities
of life a little less.

While I am still tired,
worn out and run ragged most days,
I am feeling a bit more like myself.
The demands and pressures of motherhood
are beginning to take a new shape;
my role is starting to shift into something new.

My kids no longer believe in the magic
of kissing booboos,
but they are into make believe. 
They don't need me to get them a snack
but they do need guidance to make healthy choices.

They are gaining independence,
and so am I.
Its exciting
but its change.
And no matter how good change is,
it is still hard.
We still need to test out boundaries,
to see how this new way of being fits us
and how it looks in our family dynamics.

There are things I miss incredibly about toddlerhood.
(I never thought I would say that!)
But its true.
The rolly legs, how they talk...

Yet I love how I can sit down 
and read my Bible, drink hot coffee,
shower a little more frequently.
Spending that quiet time was something I really missed.
Fitting in time for myself,
to spend with the Lord,
 and to exercise was a stress most days.
By the time I had a moment to breathe,
all I wanted to do was sleep, or space out in front of the TV.
My priorities were a little out of whack,
but my brain was also mush.
So there's that.

As I sat in my new comfy chair by the window this morning,
feeling the fresh air from the rainfall,
drinking my hot cup of coffee I could feel
that quiet voice pulling my heart strings.

The Lord knows me.
He knows me so well.
He knows that time is something I struggle with the most.
Time is precious.
It seems there is never enough of it.
And admittedly I am selfish with it.
I want to soak up every minute that I can.
When we are together as a family,
I feel protective of it.
Days off, evenings, I want to build a wall around us
and stretch every minute out as long as possible.
It has been the source of arguments in our home-
my possessiveness of time.

It is often the source of anxiety for me as well.
If our schedule gets too full, 
too packed of things to do and appointments to make,
I feel overwhelmed easily. 
Time is a gift, and I never want to take it for granted.

As an extroverted introvert 
(someone who enjoys socializing, but 'recharges' alone)
I know I need to keep a close on eye on my balance of
being with people and being alone.
While I love, love spending time with others
it also drains me very quickly and makes me feel tired,
and therefore a bit grumpy.
Which is the part my family sees, and is really not fair.

What I am getting to is this:
I can feel the Lord stirring in my heart 
to make more room.
With this new season of parenthood
that has fallen upon us,
I can feel the selfish pieces of me
yearning to take back the independence that used to be all mine.
I want to curl up in a ball on the couch
with a good book, a cup of coffee and a blanket.
I want bubble baths,
walks in the crisp autumn air,
date nights with my husband
and creating new traditions with our kids.
These are all fantastic things that I plan
to do more of!

The Lord has been asking me,
"What else?"
What else can I do with this
time, space, home?
How can I serve, give back,
encourage and bless others?
Time isn't mine,
it never belonged to me.
How can I use it to glorify God,
and not my selfish desires to use it for myself?

As a parent we are pouring out 
all day every day.
It is our hearts desire.
This will probably always be a desire,
but it will also change again and again
what it looks like.
What is God calling me to do
in this season of life 
to have more for Him,
and less of me?

I would love to hear from the parents who are one, two or several years in front of us.


Untitled (version 4.0)

(because what title do I give it?)

This is my fourth attempt 
at writing this blog post.
The three other drafts
sit uncompleted.
I haven't even taken a second
look at them since I started writing them.

I stopped for various reasons.
One was too descriptive 
and I felt awkward and shameful
for potentially exposing 
so much of myself to the world.
The second time my sentences
were disjointed and didn't flow.
The words weren't coming to me naturally 
and it felt all wrong.

The third time was about a month ago.
I set out to really publish it that time.
My intentions were pure.
Share enough to be authentic and real,
but not enough to completely expose me,
or my husband.
Yet once again I couldn't finish.
The emotions took me by storm
and I ended up sitting with my fingers
poised on the keyboard,
tears freely flowing.
I couldn't write.
I couldn't think.
I just felt so sad.

To be honest,
I really want to write this post.
I almost gave up.
I want to write it.
The words aren't coming easily.
I want to write it.
I really do.

I want to tell the world
just how horrific that day was.
Part of me wants to be descriptive,
gruesome even, to share the details
of what happened with you.
To break the stigma,
to be open and vulnerable.
It seems that women are 
heroic for opening up themselves
so fully when they share this kind of raw emotion.

But I just can't.
I'm not a hero, I guess.

I want to write it.

Instead I will simply say this:
On June 1st of last year,
Spencer and I sat in a tiny room
in the emergency ward of our local hospital.
He sat in a chair next to me holding my hand, 
calling my mom,
staring at the bizarre mural on the wall,
while I was having contractions.
My body was miscarrying our precious baby.

The details of that day will haunt me forever, probably.
I really don't feel like I need to share them here.
I can be really honest, authentic and vulnerable 
when I need to be.
I will share my story with those who need to hear it.
The stories that were shared with me 
did in fact help me when it was my turn.
A few people who were raw and open
about their own miscarriages helped me.
I want to be that for someone too.
But not here.
Not on this blog.
Not on an open forum like this.

It is part of our story.
This baby left a mark
on our family,
immediate and extended,
and he or she is very much apart of me
like my other babies are.
You won't find me shying away
from talking about this little one.
My kids don't either,
and I love that.

Part of me really does want to go into
depth about our searing pain.
What those raw and horrific moments were like.
What I was doing, what I was feeling,
how supportive my husband, my mom, my mother-in-law
and my family was during that time. 
The friends who cried with me,
gave me space, chocolate and hugs.
The story is vast, painful and close to my heart.

The day is coming...
another milestone.
At first I marked it by days.
One day, two days, three...
then each Wednesday that passed marked another week.
And those weeks became months.
And now,
we start to mark the years.
Year 1 without Vanilla Bean.

My heart is breaking.
I don't want another baby.
I want


What Is In This?

As I am now well into my 30s
(I am 31 and a half!)
I am paying more and more attention 
to what I am bringing into my home
(see previous post on minimalism),
but also what goes into and onto my body.

Yikes. It is actually kinda scary.
Like everything, there are extremes.
While I would love to be able to
make all my own clothes, linens,
etc... well that's just not realistic.
I would also love to say that I am 
only going to buy anything that's made in 
Vancouver/British Columbia/Canada
without the use of dyes or bleaches...
 that's not really feasible either.

So I am not going to fully jump
onto this bandwagon, 
but I am gonna hitch a ride for part of it.
Taking a look at the ingredients on
our face creams, make up removers
and body wash is a great start for me.
I have slowly starting eliminating anything with the world
This is one word in a list of ingredients
that is actually potentially listing over 300 harmful chemicals.
Companies are allowed to use this one word
to describe a potion they have created for their distinct smell.
It is like how Coca Cola and Kentucky Fried Chicken
have their secret recipes.
If these companies had to list every chemical in their fragrance,
they are at risk with other companies being able to potentially recreate 
and then rip-off their distinct smell.
So, they are protected by this word fragrance.
(ref. Stink the movie.)

The thing is...
this fragrance can contain some pretty harmful chemicals.
Some which have even been banned 
and are not allowed to be used anymore.
Um - what?! 
So we are brushing our teeth,
lathering our skin,
and washing our face with some nasty stuff.

Some of the ways I have cut out
some of these products is by 
reading labels.
Just like we do with our food.
If it says fragrance, it doesn't come home if at all possible.
I also cross reference it with Beautycounter's THE NEVER LIST.
It is pretty difficult to do!
It seems like so many things have fragrances in them.
One area I am having a hard time letting go is with my perfume.
Ever since I was a teenager I have loved perfume.
I don't own multiple bottles, 
but I do enjoy having one precious scent for special occasions.
I haven't decided if I will be able to give that one up yet.
The other one is candles. 
It is so hard to find a delicious smelling candle
that doesn't use fragrance oil.
These may end up being my two exceptions.

You may be wondering if I went
through my house like a tornado with a garbage bag
ridding everything containing fragrance;
similar to my minimalist rampage.
The answer is no.
I also don't like waste if it can be avoided.
As I am running out of certain products,
I am trying my best to replace them with
all natural ones.

Our little village recently 
is home to a new bath store called Hygge.
I am in love.
The owner is so warm and lovely
and she is on the hunt for as-local-as-possible
all-natural bath products.
She is doing an excellent job!
While some things in the shop do contain fragrance,
it is so amazing to be able to go somewhere that sells 
some of my favourite products and not worry that it is full of junk.
I also love shopping local.

A few weeks ago
I hosted a Beautycounter party
with the hopes of educating myself further,
and also sharing it with my friends.
There are some great local makers out there
that sell some amazing products.
But a few bigger name brands are 
selling quality goods as well.

Here are 11 of my favourite products so far:

1. Nelson Naturals toothpaste in Spearmint 
(I want to try charcoal next!)

2. Beautycounter sunscreen 
(currently only available on their US site)

3. Sapadilla hand soap (I am excited to try their laundry soap and dish soap too.)

4. Beautycounter charcoal cleansing bar

5. Beautycounter Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer 
(If you want SPF, again its only available in the US right now.)

6. K'Pure Natural Body Care Get Closer deodorant. 
(I made the switch last year after finding large lumps under my arms. 
Never going back. 1 large jar lasted me about 6 months. Love this stuff!)

Soothing and hydrating, energizing and calming.

8. K'Pure Natural Body Care Clean Up Dead Sea Mud Masque

9. Bebe DeLuxe Coconut Milk Bath
Like it stays on the label, no nasties. Great for babies, but mamas will enjoy it too.

10. Salt Spring Soap Works shampoo bar in Rosemary Mint
(I really love how this lathers my hair with such a small amount. I have also almost completely rid my eczema on my scalp! My head used to be so itchy and dry, and now it is almost cleared completely! It also makes my hair so smooth and soft. I want to try the conditioner next.)

11. Dr. Bronner's Liquid Castile Soap in Peppermint. 
(We have been using this as a body wash, although I know it serves many purposes, for a long time now. It is the soap that Spencer uses daily, and I love how it makes my skin tingle! It leaves me feeling really clean and fresh. Be careful not to get it in your eyes!)

There you have it.
 I hope this helps.
I want to leave this post by encouraging you to start looking at your labels.
On your food too, but also on your skin care.
If you can, head over to this site and watch the Stink movie.
Beautycounter (linked above) has some good resources on their website as well.
Be careful what you Google, it isn't all reliable, but ask questions
and start searching for your own answers.
The switch doesn't have to be drastic, or all at once,
just like minimalism.
Good luck!


Mother's Day

Yesterday was Mother's Day.
I was woken up when Jane fell off her chair in the dining room.
It was 8am - pure bliss!
Jane was okay, I think.
I never got out of bed to check. 
Shortly after Claire, Jane and Spencer
woke me up with coffee from Stir,
half a croissant, half a cinnamon bun and half a muffin.
 I had the first two. 
After showering me with a spa gift certificate (thank you honey),
and a lovely homemade card handwritten by Claire
I took a hot bath with bubbles and read my book,
drinking my coffee HOT.
Such a treat and a fantastic way to start the day.

The afternoon was spent lazily wandering along
the waterfront of Vancouver.
Taking in the sights, the smells, 
the warm sunshine and watching the girls chase pigeons,
run through muddy puddles and pick flowers.
(Some wild, others not.)

Very exciting way to go downtown - the train was fun. Claire really likes to try and blend in as a city girl.

Finding ways to play games no matter where we are. Hide and seek in a small garden, or tag by the Drop.

We enjoyed watching the planes take off and land in the water.

We ended our time in the city with dinner at
a favourite date night location to share with the girls.
It was the perfect day.

Today was the Mother's Day tea at Claire's school.
They sang us songs, made placemats, flower jars, a craft and a great card.
We had special treats and they served us juice.
There wasn't a dry eye in the place, even the teachers cried! 
Such sweet children. I felt so loved.

This was a poem Claire's teacher read. All the moms were laughing because it is so true.

My favourite part - I am 50 pounds and 30 feet tall. Yup, sounds about right. 

My mom helps me get my lunch ready.
My mom looks the prettiest when goes out for dates.
My mom makes the best food.
My mom is good at cooking contests. (Love that one!) 

It's true that Mother's Day is important and worth celebrating.
As a mom I often end the day very tired,
and I have been everything from a human Kleenex,
punching bag, sometimes even a toilet, definitely a garbage can.
First aid, referee, chef and chauffeur.
The list of things that I, along with millions of other mothers around the world,
do is very long.
And I wouldn't trade it for anything in the whole entire world.
I love being their mother.
It is truly my calling.
It makes these long days where I feel unappreciated, used and abused
worth it when those grubby little hands hold my face and kiss me.
Or hearing them say they love me "the whole world and back-a-the-moon."
Being their mom is simply the best.

But the reason I am writing this blog post
isn't to brag about my amazing day
or that I have the world's best kids.
It is to turn it back to the One who orchestrated it all.
The One who set the wheels into motion
to plan it all so perfectly. 
He was the One who placed each of my babies into my womb.
Who decided Spencer and I to be the parents to the sweet little girls.
Who knit them carefully within me,
gave me the courage and strength to endure
pregnancy and childbirth.
After months (and months and months) of trying for our second,
the heartbreak that goes along with that,
He gifted us with our Jane in of course, His perfect timing.

Then there is their daddy.
My husband.
He deserved big thanks too.
Almost perfect, completely reliable, dependable,
tried and true.
He has been by my side every step of the way.
I am the mother I am because of him.
He supports me in so many ways
and I am proud to say he shares parenting duties with me.
He genuinely wants to be the dad that is around,
helpful and I am so proud that my girls
have a role model of a man that participates 
in the home and raising them.
Raising strong women is a big job for dads
just as much as moms and he is amazing at it.
(Photos by Claire!)

Thank you
to my family for a wonderful day.
I am so blessed!