God of the Sleepless Nights

Sleep: a condition of body and mind such as that which typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the nervous system is relatively inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed, and consciousness practically suspended. Source: Apple Dictionary widget

Sleep is a very precious part of every mother’s day. It is where one finds physical, mental and emotional rest to refuel the energy reservoirs so that we can cook, feed, run, chase, play, read, teach, and laugh with our children day after day. However most moms find that they cannot get enough sleep and its a challenge to keep the energy going… which is probably why many of us start drinking copious amounts of coffee at some point!

A young mother gives birth to her first child and for the first several weeks, finds that she has now become either a night owl or a morning person overnight… or both! After a few weeks, the baby gets his or her nights and days straightened out and the young mother is able to get a few periods of 4-5 hour chunks of sleep at a time (this varies from mother to mother and baby to baby). There may even be a period of time that the baby sleeps 6-8 hours which mothers are very happy to call, “sleeping through the night”… at least I call it that! Although there is joy to be found in nursing a baby in the middle of the night when all is quiet and its just the two of you, there are days when exhaustion sets in and you need a miracle of strength to get through the day.

As I have reflected many times on the status of my sleep deprivation over the last couple years, I am reminded that one day, I will have sleep again. One thing that I keep learning is that I have to change my expectations. I need to expect that for the next few years I will not be getting much sleep at night. After having accepted that, I am finally content and at peace with this expectation. To tell you the truth, its been hard to adjust to less sleep. My dad tells a story often of when, one morning, I was sleeping in, and my dad knocked on my door and said, “Time to wake up! You’re wasting your life away (he was exaggerating)!” I knew that he wouldn’t let me sleep in so I had prepared my statement! I cheerfully replied from under my blanket, “I’m not wasting my life away… I’m nurturing the temple of the Holy Spirit!” I was resting! Even Jesus needed to rest! Surely my dad could appreciate that! haha! Now he uses that statement in sermon illustrations!

But I really guard against complaining about lack of sleep. Because even though some days will be completely exhausting, I savor the moments of the day. This season of little sleep is flying by and I don’t want to miss anything! It is a sweet, joyful, fulfilling, and at times stressful, and exhausting, and very sanctifying season of life! God continually shows me a mirror image of myself in my children every time I say, “Be patient, no whining, use kind words, have a happy heart…” God shows me that He is STILL after 33 years of life, teaching me these very same lessons that my 2.5 year old is learning!

God has given me this beautiful season of being a mom to young children and I’m constantly archiving our days through photos, video, and little notes throughout the weeks… I don’t want to forget these beautiful days. The joy of watching my daughter delight herself in books, watching my son walk for the first time, listening to my daughter sing along with me, chasing the kids around the house, playing horseyback ride at the end of a long day and galloping around the house, falling on the floor with them climbing all over me, reading the same book several times in a row just because it makes my daughter smile, waking up in the night to soft cuddles and a head on my shoulder, putting our daughter back to sleep for the 7th time and then falling asleep beside her and waking up to her sweet face and soft purring snores… these are the joys of the Season of No Sleep, a sweet and precious season of motherhood.

And in this season of motherhood, we are drawn to depend on Christ in the same way our precious little ones depend on us for everything! I am reminded of Psalm 121 which teaches us that God also has “sleepless nights”. I’m so thankful that God neither slumbers nor sleeps. And so when I awake in the wee hours of the morning to comfort a crying child, I can come to Him in prayer, and rest in His strength to give me all the energy I need for a new day.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 121, ESV


Artisan Crafts ~ The Teddy Bear

The first time I learned to sew was with my momma! I remember her sewing my sisters and I beautiful decorative pillows for our beds, sewing curtains for our rooms and also several Sunday morning dresses! I also took a sewing class in high school. A couple years ago for Mother’s Day, my husband bought me my very own sewing machine! I literally danced for joy, jumping up and down on our bed! I was so excited to get my sewing on!!!

For Jadyn’s first birthday, I made a little doll for her that I called, Lucy. For Oliver’s first birthday, I wanted to make him a special toy too. So I made a teddy bear! I looked online for free patterns of teddy bears, but didn’t find anything that was what I was looking for. So I made my own pattern. I got my fabric together and began drawing out the shape of a teddy bear, its head, arms, feet, belly. I handstitched the entire bear over the course of a few afternoons during the kids’ naptimes. That’s when I usually get around to working on these types of projects. It was so fun! It didn’t take long to put it together and my husband was pretty impressed! I gave it to Oliver on his birthday and he loved it!

Called to be Mothers ~ Elizabeth Elliott

Elisabeth Elliot is one of my heros! She is not only a role model for past generations, but even in the winter season of her life, she is influencing young women for God’s glory! I value and respect her wisdom. The following is a short piece she wrote on the topic of motherhood. Now sit back with a cup of tea and listen to some wise words from a giant of the faith!

Called to be Mothers
Elisabeth Elliot
Published: Jan 1, 1995

“You mean that’s all you do?”
That’s all? As a mother, your life is given to taking care of people–small ones, to begin with, whose wants never seem to cease. Sometimes when your days seem to be wholly taken up with wiping things–dishes and sinks, little runny noses and big slow tears–you wonder about what “fulfillment” is supposed to mean for you. You wonder about being (besides the perfect wife and mother) the hostess-with-the-mostest, creative, intellectually productive, beautiful… and slowly your dreams seem to evaporate.
You’ve been listening to what they’re telling us nowadays about how important it is to find yourself, express yourself and assert yourself. Maybe you’re thinking that you’re nothing more than somebody’s wife and somebody else’s mother. And what kind of life is that?
There is a tribe in the Southern Sudan called “Nuers” where a woman’s name is changed not when she becomes a wife, but when she becomes a mother. She is “ManPuk”–“Mother of Puka.” Among the Nuers, being someone’s mother is what makes a woman’s life meaningful. Two thousand years ago there was another young woman, of the Jewish tribe of Judah, who understood that truth. The world has never forgotten her–Mary, the mother of Jesus–because she was willing to be known as, simply, Someone’s mother.
Motherhood is a calling. It is a womanly calling… and let’s not be cowed by those who extinguish the light and joy of sexuality by trying to persuade us to forget words like manly and womanly. At the beginning of time when God made the first man and the first woman in His image He put both under the divine command to be fruitful. The woman’s obedience to that command meant self-giving. First she gave herself to her husband–he initiated, she responded–then she gave herself for the life of her child.
A woman knows, in the deepest regions of her being, that it is this very self-giving for which she was made. Single or married, her level of maturity is measured by how much she gives to others. If she’s married, she gives herself to her husband and she receives. If she’s a mother, she loses her life in her child and–mysteriously–she finds it.
A woman knows that no one can really say where the giving ends and the receiving starts. It is no wonder we are confused when urged to look for some “better” or “higher” vocation in which to “prove our personhood.” No wonder we are distressed to be subjected to male standards, or told that the notions of femininity and masculinity are obsolete.
Old fashioned notions they are indeed, but they weren’t our own to begin with. They were God’s. He planned the whole system, and it’s God Himself who calls. He calls some to be single, some married people to be childless, but He calls most women to be mothers. There are, the Bible tells us, “differences of gifts,” and they’re all given to us according to God’s grace. None of the gifts of my own life–not my “career” or my work or any other gift–is higher or more precious to me than that of being someone’s mother.
If our calling is to be mothers, let’s be mothers with all our hearts–gladly, simply, and humbly–like that little peasant girl Mary who spoke for all women for all time when she said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word” (Luke 1:38).

To read Elisabeth Elliot’s daily devotionals, please visit her website ElisabethElliot.org!

Imagination in Reading ~ Julie Andrews

Growing up, I loved watching Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music both featuring whimsical and jubilant characters played by actress Julie Andrews. I even remember writing out “supercalifragilisticexpialidotious” so that I could memorize that phrase and “wow” my friends!

Anyways, our family loves to read! I just stumbled across a quote from Julie Andrews and I would love to share it with you:

As a child I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. There was no greater joy for me than to curl up with a good read. Books transported me— away from war, into the realm of my imagination and to other worlds and ideas. They instilled in me a powerful sense of wonder. To quote the legendary Helen Hayes, ‘From your parents you learn love and laughter and how to put one foot in front of the other. But when books are opened you discover you have wings.’ …

It is an awesome responsibility to write for young people, for I am always aware that they face more choices today and have to make more difficult decisions than I have ever known. In this media-driven world of sound bites, lightning-fast imagery, video games, and‘reality’ TV, I worry that we are spoon-feeding a steady diet of ‘manufactured’ slices of life to our children, so that all they have to do is receive rather than participate in any way.

The joy of reading is that it asks us to use our imaginations…and therefore we engage, and play an active role in our experiences. And I can think of no better way for young people to discover their passions, their values, their world, and their own places in it than through the portal of a wonderful book.

Source: The Julie Andrews Collection

Book Review ~ The Moses Basket

I’ve been asked to read through possible new children’s books for our church bookstore, and I’m very excited to share my reviews here on my blog. I’ll also try to give reviews of other books we pick up from the library or books we already have at home! We love to read here at the Harris homestead!

The Moses Basket is a beautifully illustrated children’s book written by Jenny Koralek and illustrated by Pauline Baynes. I’ve always loved the story of Baby Moses ever since I was a child. My parents read from the “My Bible Friends” series by Etta B. Degering, also an excellent series of Bible stories with vivid pictures. The joy of re-reading those stories and the smell of the pages brings me back to my childhood days. With that in mind, it was exciting to read a new version of the story with new illustrations to share with my 2.5 year old daughter.

One of the first things that stood out to me was the illustrations. After reading the back panel, I learned that Pauline Baynes is also the artist of the original editions of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and also illustrated several works by JRR Tolkien. This just boosted my esteem of her and I was hooked! Not only did she create a beautiful interpretation of the story using creative designs, patterns, wildlife, and pageborders, but I also appreciated her use of different shades of gray to illustrate the evening and then shades of green along with pink and yellow for the day. I also noticed she was very successful illustrating the story using a style similar to that of the ancient Egyptian style of painting. You can compare her illustrations to this painting.

Baynes did a wonderful job of developing the story from the scriptural text. One thing that caught my attention was her focus on the prophetess Miriam’s role of helping her mother prepare the basket and set it in the water, knowing that the Princess would save the child. Another part of the story that I hadn’t fully realized, if at all, was that perhaps the Princess did know what the mother and daughter were doing. I had always thought that she had just seen a cute baby and wanted to have him as her own. But reading Baynes’ interpretation of the story, I wonder if the Princess was completely aware of all that was happening with the mother and daughter.

I also very much appreciate Baynes’ inclusion of the Biblical text at the beginning of the story. In this way, she points the entire story back to the Biblical text and shows readers that she is following with her interpretation of the text.

This book is a delightful version of the story of Baby Moses and pleasantly illustrated drawing young readers to want to read it again and again…which was the case today at our house!

The Book of James

I’ve been going through a Bible study recently on the book of James in the New Testament. The teaching is by Jennifer Wilkin of The Village Church in Dallas, Texas. Its been exciting to read through this book again and either re-learn or learn for the first time many important truths about God. What I have really appreciated is Jennifer Wilkin’s dedication to researching the history and context that this book was written in. For me, the history and context of Scripture, including learning a fuller explanation of certain greek words in the text, bring the Scriptures to life in a new and profound way. The fact that James was the biological brother of Jesus, and that he didn’t believe in Jesus’ ministry or claims at first, bring increased depth to the power of James’ witness of Christ when he finally did believe and follow Jesus. That is huge! And when I read the book of James with that in mind, there is a greater depth and passion behind what James is teaching the early church.

There are 12 sessions in this study and I highly recommend it. I will be sharing more on what I’m learning through this short, but powerful book of the Bible.

Resources: The Village Church Audio (Jennifer Wilkin, Faith Works series)

Practicing a Welcoming and Hospitable Heart

How do you acquire a welcoming and hospitable heart? Like anything, you need to practice it. You need to be intentional. Come up with a game plan, a context for reaching out, a purpose behind what you do. Here are a few brief thoughts on practicing hospitality:

1. Pray that those who come to your home will experience the presence of Christ

Since I was a young teenager, my mom told me that when she walked into my room, it was like a sanctuary. That has inspired me ever since, to create a dwelling place where Christ would be glorified. When people come to visit, I often pray that God will bless our conversation and that those who come will feel encouraged. And when I go to visit others, I also pray for God’s blessing on our conversation. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. I want my home to be a place of ministry & grace. I want people to know we are serious about the redeeming work of God in our lives and in the lives of others and how that can impact the community and the world!

2. Listen

Ask questions, find out where people are at, and then listen to them. Find points of commenality, words of encouragement and moments to stop and pray. I think we need to practice more spontaneous prayer and not just say, “I’ll be praying for you.” If you say that, then stop where you are and say… “right now, let’s pray!”

3. Intentionally reach out

When you look at your own heart, do you find an attitude of welcoming others into your life or do you find that you are reluctant? Most change doesn’t happen overnight. It requires days, weeks, months and years of God’s craftsmanship to mold a human into what He wants that human to be. Today, why not open your heart to someone else, reach out to another person you normally wouldn’t reach out to and see how God works. You’ll be amazed at how many lives God may want to touch through your hospitality, your welcoming and hospitable heart.

4. Your home is for the Gospel

Creating a home that says “welcome” is not primarily for yourself. It is for the work of Christ, the gospel work of sharing Christ with others. Its not always easy to shift our North American consumer-driven focus away from ourselves and onto others. But let’s pray today that God will continue to mold us and recreate us into the image of His Son who welcomed everyone.

Artisan Crafts ~ The Dollhouse


When a little girl is given a home to take care of, stand back and let the imagination run wild! A few years ago, I went to Value Village looking for furniture. I found a $9 brown wood bookshelf. I couldn’t pass up a great deal for something so practical, especially since we didn’t have enough room to store our books. So I bought it and packed it into our little 2 door Toyota and brought it home. I painted it white and then set up our little “overflow” bookshelf. For the last few months, the shelf no longer held books, instead it held toys. But it still wasn’t getting much use in general. Then one fall day, I was thinking that we need to get a dollhouse for our daughter. Suddenly, it was like fireworks in my brain and everything came together! I would turn the bookshelf into a dollhouse for Jadyn!

Over the next few weeks prior to Christmas, I painted each of the 3 levels including windows, fireplace, wall art, etc. I even sewed some curtains for each window.

During the day, I would turn it around so our 2.5 year old wouldn’t see what I was working on but she knew it was her Christmas present! I was so excited! We ordered some Melissa & Doug wooden dolls and Nana & Papa gave her some wooden furniture by Plan Toys. I also used some of my old “My Little Pony” furniture that my parents had given me when I was little.

There is so much joy in creating toys for your children! It was such a delight to reveal to her the “present” I had been working on and that she was so curious about for weeks. I hope this will be a dollhouse that she will cherish all her growing up years and as she plays “Dollhouse”, that she will know how much love went into each brushstroke.

A Welcoming and Hospitable Heart

(Photo Credit: Adam Loewen, Spain 2007)

Creating a home that says “welcome” is not just about having the house cleaned up, the baskets of laundry put away, and having a table prepared with a spread of delicious food. I would say it is more about having an attitude of the heart that says “welcome”. Its about cultivating the selflessness and generosity of putting others before you. That is why whether you live in a large mansion on top of a hill, or a small 1 bedroom house made of concrete in Tijuana, Mexico, you can achieve that goal of having a welcoming and hospitable home by having a welcoming and hospitable heart.

Both of my grandmas passed away last year. Both had a gift of hospitality. My Grandma Eleanor lived in an extended-care home. Her room was small, with a bed, a soft rocking chair from her previous apartment, a dresser, photos of all her 10 children and many many grandchildren, a tv, her Bible and devotional books and a couple other wall decorations. My grandma’s earthly possessions were humble, but her heart was a beautiful garden of the riches of Christ. Whenever I came to visit her, she would always be so thrilled. Even when she no longer remembered who I was, she still welcomed me with open arms and offered me a place to sit and talk. All her life, she had offered us treats and juice when we came to visit, and when she was living in the care home, she would always apologize that she couldn’t offer us anything to eat. She would ask us questions about our lives, our work, family. She always wanted to know if we had enough employment and was concerned if we were thinking of traveling on a long trip. As we finished our conversations, she would give a warm embrace and wish us all the best.

My Grandma Katie lived in an apartment and loved to decorate with photos of her children and grandchildren. She loved to sew, knit and crochet. She made blankets, curtains, table coverings, and clothes. She was a master artisan of fabric and yarn. When we came over for a visit, she would stand at her door down the long hallway and wait for us to arrive. Then she would gleefully embrace us and welcome us in. She loved to prepare juice and little snacks she had stored away for visitors. Then we would sit down in her living room and talk about all the news of our lives. As we left, she made sure to always walk us downstairs to the front of the building and wave goodbye until we were out of sight!

This is the heart of hospitality. This is where we turn off our computers, our phones, our twitter and facebook accounts and we silence the distraction of modern technology, to simply be and to simply welcome others into our lives. Hospitality is the art of opening your life and heart to another and welcoming them as you would welcome Jesus. This is what my grandmothers modeled to their children and their grandchildren and great-grandchildren!

Artisan Crafts ~ The Jadyn Memo Board

There are a lot of things you can do with an old window frame, some fresh paint and pretty fabric! When my husband brought home several old window frames a few years ago from a friend’s house, I started brainstorming about how I could transform these frames into home decor. There are many different things you can do. For example, you can create a picture frame, hang wire and put clothespins to hang some of your favorite magazine clippings, or you can do what I did and create memo boards! The first one I made was for our daughter.

First I had to wash off all the dirt and grime off the wood, remove the glass (carefully!) and then sand it down. I put on a few fresh coats of white paint and let it dry.

I then took some light wood as a backing, glued on some cotton batting, covered it with a beautiful green & pink floral pattern with green ribbons criss-crossing and stapled it with a staple gun on the back of the wood.

I loved the finished product, hung it on the wall in my daughter’s room and inserted some of my favorite newborn photos of her! Here is the finished product!