life is worth celebrating

As 2014 feels close, and 2013 draws to an end, I am thinking back on the year that has past and am so thankful for so many wonderful moments, both big and small. I always want to remember that life is worth celebrating, and a small way that I try and celebrate the beautiful moments, people and places, is through capturing the snapshots with my camera. Here are a few of my most memorable moments from 2013.

The year began with a big focus on finding a house for us to buy. On a snowy evening in January, I went to see a house that was being renovated, and was not yet on the market, as the renovation was still in process. Despite the exposed floor boards and unfinished garden, I fell in love with this house, and desperately wanted John to see it. The housing market was moving incredibly quickly, and I knew that if we didn't act fast, we would lose the house to another buyer. Unfortunately, John was unable to view the house, due to a work trip to Japan, and sure enough, the house was sold before John got to see it.
One of the small features I loved about the house was the original tiling from fireplaces that once existed in four of the rooms in the house. Even though I knew they would be covered up with carpet, I loved knowing that this little piece of the house's history still remained after a thorough renovation.

March was a very exciting month for us. We received a phone call to say that the house that I had seen in January and loved, had come back on the market. John viewed the house as soon as he could, we made an offer, which was accepted within just a few hours, and the following day was John's birthday. As well as celebrating John's birthday, we found out that we had another life to celebrate in the form of the little baby King, who would be joining us by the end of the year.

April held some of my favourite teaching memories for me this year. I started taking my class to the local nature reserve each week in small groups, and we had such fantastic experiences together. Perhaps the most memorable feature of our trips was discovering a swan's nest. The first time we saw it, we were saddened to discover that a dog had disturbed the nest, and as a result, all of the babies had died. This led to some wonderful conversations with the children about life and death, saddness and anger, and the joy in new life. The scene depicted in the photo below reflects one of these conversations where a child shared their theory that perhaps the swan was chasing the duck because it was sad and angry that their babies had died. Thankfully, over the course of our visits, we saw the swans return to their nest, lay more eggs, and successfully hatch signets.

April also saw our last holiday together as a family of two. We stayed in a beautiful cottage in St. David's and enjoyed going running together and talking about the tiny babe growing in my belly, who was still a secret from everyone.

In May, the purchase of our house moved along very quickly, and we received the keys at the start of the month. Needless to say, the rest of the month was spent packing our belongings and starting from scratch with barely any furniture - the only pieces of furniture we owned when we moved in were a desk, a coffee table, a dining table and a bookshelf. I want to remember these days that felt slightly overwhelming but also very exciting, as we turned our house into a home and sought out secondhand furniture around our city and the country.
July saw the start of my adventures in baking bread by hand, and I discovered the fun and fulfillment there is to be found in taking a small amount of time to craft something with my hands, that I had relied on a machine to do for me for the last seven years. Since July, many, many hand made loaves of bread have come out of my oven, and I am hoping that I will be able to continue this craft in 2014.
August brought with it adventures to Barbados with John's family. One of the most incredible parts of the holiday was witnessing hundreds and hundreds of baby turtles hatching from their nests each evening on the beach outside of our hotel. It felt like such a privilege to get to observe this momentous occasion that was the end result of months of growing and days of hard work to travel up through the sand from the safety of their nests.
October and November will remain in my mind as months that were rooted in waiting for the baby in my womb to finish growing. The waiting process brought with it a humility and yielding to the weakness in my body as the babe grew stronger, and a need to just be quiet and still. Never before have I felt the need to hibernate and hide away as I did in those last few weeks of pregnancy. Only four weeks have passed since the highlight of the year of giving birth to our first baby, and yet when I remember how I felt in those last few weeks, it feels like so much longer ago. I feel like I am still getting my head around the fact that I had a baby grow inside of me for three quarters of this year, and now that baby, our beautiful daughter, is here with us. 
At the start of 2013, the lovely T, author of the ever-inspiring blog, A Seed Inspired, offered to pray for any of her readers who wanted prayer, and share with them a word for 2013. The word she gave me was create, and throughout the year, God has spoken to me about creating and creativity in so many ways. Much of this teaching has been around the time it takes to create. We have been blessed by lots of people with beautiful hand knitted gifts for Ruby - I love the beauty of handmade gifts - and I especially appreciate receiving knitted items, because I do not have the patience to learn to knit myself. I value the time that people have invested in sitting for hours with needles clicking back and forth, just to create something for our daughter. 
God has taught me a lot about the value and importance in the process of creating, rather than being focused on the intended outcome. When T initially shared the word create with me, my first thoughts were of what I might create in the artistic sense. And while I have enjoyed exercising a bit of creativity this year in baking, sewing and photography, the learning that has taken place around the word 'create' has run far deeper than the tangible things that I have created. 

This year, I have watched my husband devote hours and hours to removing rubble from our garden, so that we might be able to create a place of beauty. I had to sit back and watch as he laboured, due to the growing babe inside of me. As I felt the weight of frustration of not being able to help John, God taught me about the way that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8 verse 28), and just as I was unable to help John with removing the rubbish & rubble to make space for beauty, He was knitting together and creating the body of the baby in my womb, creating life that I could not work or labour towards. The great beauty of my babe had very little to do with anything that I could or couldn't do, but God was in control through it all, as each beautiful part of her body formed. God reminded me that He is always at work, and sometimes, we just need to plant the seeds and He will do the rest. In those times where we physically cannot work hard, or we feel like we are not being pro-active in life, He is always at work. Not only this, but in the Bible, Jesus invites us, 

'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.' 
Matthew 11 vv 28 - 30'
So I got my hands dirty, planting bulbs, allowing the lessons that God was teaching me about the place and purpose of messiness and time in creating, to take root in my heart as I pushed the bulbs down into the soil so that they might be able to take root and create beauty after the Winter passes. And as this year draws to a close, I will remember that God is the great Creator, who equipped us to create, in so many different ways.