The beginning of every year is one of my most-anticipated moments. I’m the sort of woman who will wait until Monday to start an idea because starting it on Thursday doesn’t make sense. Starting any sort of activity in October is fine, but there is usually a slightly disappointed feeling in the pit of my stomach because it’s October. A January start counts for so much more.

A woman whom I admire greatly challenged me once to think of myself as a tripod – body, soul and spirit. Cutting off one area or neglecting its importance means the tripod can’t stand, she used to say, and in the same way, when I ignore one part of my life, I will face the consequences of a life out of balance. The best way for me to focus on all three areas has been to set specific goals for each one. In the past few years of doing this, I’ve run a 15 kilometer race (a body goal), read a classical novel and tried to learn Tamil (soul goals), and taken a day each month as a personal retreat with God (a spirit goal).

It goes without saying that my life held more than a normal share of change in the past two years. Marriage. Move. Baby. In the mix of these significant life events I have struggled – and am still struggling – to regain a sense of identity and purpose. Who am I now? What is important to me? Where am I going? I don’t know what 2012 holds for me and for my family, but I am settled in knowing that I have time, and this year is for exploration, to give myself time to understand and grow and to give the people I love time and space.

One of my goals is a small attempt at finding what I have lost, and I am putting it here as a means of accountability for myself. As one of my soul goals, I will set aside 30 minutes Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to write on this blog. I am not allowed to edit what I have written after I press publish, I only have 30 minutes to write and I will write about whatever I want. Pre-writing and saving is not an option (I might still do it, but then it will have to be two posts for the day), and no blogging on the weekends. Most of this blog will probably be related to food, after all eating is one thing I have to do every day. And if I run out of food things to write about, tackling the realm of pureed baby food will always be a possibility.

  • Special Rice – In an effort to eat better and cheaper, I’ve been thinking more simply about the majority of our meals. We had left over brown rice from a few nights ago, ground beef was on sale at Coop, and this was so easy to make, a must when there’s a baby who needs my attention.
  • For the beef    fry an onion in oil, add the beef and brown, add whatever flavours and spices you want – ours had Chinese five spice, dark soy sauce and fish sauce. I added spring onions to it at the end.
  • For the rest of it    Put veggie stock on the stove – whatever amount you want (more means it will be a soupier dish, less means it will be more like a rice dish), chop up carrots and toss it in, add the cooked rice to it. Can I just offer a small ad break for brown rice? It’s great for you and will give you lots of more energy for longer than its white counterpart. Add the cooked beef and some frozen peas, and you’re done.

Small One nestles in my arms these Christmas evenings as we spend the last hours of his day cuddled on the couch, surrounded by glowing lights and listening to Christmas music. It’s my attempt to get some touch time with my now scrambling-everywhere little son. I’m not sure at what point my cuddly baby become an active boy. It happened in the past seven months, and a part of my mom heart is already breaking and it breaks a little bit more when I think about the long future we hopefully will have together as he grows from baby to boy to man.

Last Advent I was full of meditations about the coming of Jesus, and this one I have been full of Small One with a few small moments to catch my breath and think. It’s a different time, a different season. There has been too much inside to share in the past six months. I have been enjoying my little one and the sweetness of this stage of our life together.

Don’t get the wrong idea. He’s not cuddling close to me on these winter evenings watching me with glowing eyes. He sits in my lap with a few toys, ferociously going at them with his hands and mouth, his big eyes watching, watching, watching, studying everything and trying to figure out how this toy is working, and eventually when he is bored, he starts hitting it and squirming around. He throws himself against the couch, tries to pull up on the too-soft cushions, cries with frustration until I help him to his feet. Every now and then, he does turn around and look at me with a small smile on his face.

Me? I’m listening to Christmas music and crying into the back of Small One’s head, songs about the baby Jesus as I wonder how he could have been a baby, and did his mother cry as her baby became a boy who became a man?

Fragile fingers sent to heal us… tender brow prepared for thorns… tiny heart whose blood will save us… unto us is born.

Unto us a son was born. Unto us a child was given. People say that babies change everything, that you will never love someone like you love your own child and that you will never sleep again. I can hardly say that the transition to having a small one for me was the life-altering moment that people make it out to be. In many ways it has been the easiest of all the life transitions I have endured (and I do like to think of myself and my family as perennial life-transitioners). There are no answers for this only that somehow this small one was perfect for me, perfect for this time, perfect for my arms and my heart. He has been perfect to hold inside of me.

This is the small bridge for me to Jesus in this season of busyness of heart and spirit, in this time when the time isn’t always there to open my Bible or to breathe, but he is here in the work, he is here in the cooking, he is here in the playing and in the night waking. He is here, and as my heart grows to hold my Small One, Jesus is holding me, His small one.

And so for you, this Christmas season, here’s a little winter warmer that kept Husband and I cozy during one of our Christmas Cheer evenings. It’s apple cider with a warm twist.

  • Christmas Cheer   apple juice (I used the unfiltered kind and think it’s better), cinnamon sticks, a few cloves, a few cardamoms, ginger powder (grated ginger would probably be better), a dash of maple syrup for sweetness and whiskey for warmth. For a liter of apple juice, I used two cinnamon sticks, five cloves and four or five cardamoms. I would grate a one centimeter piece of ginger into it in the future. The maple syrup is up to you based on how sweet you want it to be, and the quantity of whiskey is also up to you depending on how…warm… you want it to be.

Small One screams his head off when he is hungry. I’m sure there is nothing particularly unique about this, but as a first-time parent, I am amazed at his singular focus on food when he needs it (although as a formerly pregnant woman, perhaps I should be more understanding). If I need to carry him to go to our feeding spot or fill a water bottle, he starts alternating between crying and a wide-eyed, desperate panting, his head bobbling back and forth, searching, searching. Sometimes he latches on to my bicep and sucks with all his might and then cries with disappointment.

Are the Somali babies in Kenyan and Ethiopian refugee camps crying because of hunger today or does a baby get to a point where it can’t cry for food any more because it has no more strength?  Yesterday we read the BBC’s special report about the drought in the Horn of Africa. Undoubtedly this is a long and complicated story, but here is the short version: thousands are dying by the day, they have no food, up to 10 million people could be affected.

Today I am trying to imagine a Somali woman my age in one of those camps after her long trek from Somalia to a refugee camp in Kenya. She has more children than I. She is bone weary from exhaustion. She has buried a child or two on the journey. Does she have milk left for a baby or two?  What does she feel when her babies cry and yet she has nothing to give them? I am trying to imagine, but I cannot.

There is no worse feeling in the world than being unable to give your small, innocent baby the food he needs.

“What would Jesus do if he was walking through one of those refugee camps?” I wondered, and the answer in my heart was simple: He would feed them.

And so should we.

Everyone, it seemed, told me that a weekly date night was the key to a happy, long-term marriage. “It’s time you set apart for you and your spouse to just connect,” “Romance! Romance! Romance!” and “You have to prioritise your relationship” were the mantras drilled into my brain.

Husband and I had grand plans of date night-ing after we got married. He would plan one week, and I the next. It would be filled with romance, special memories and fun.

You can probably guess where this is going. Our first date nights were disasters. So disaster-like that we decided not to have date nights anymore. In hindsight it makes sense. We spent every evening except for one and every weekend together; date-nighting was too much pressure and not needed for that season of our life. We were around each other all the time, and we were living out what it meant to be married instead of working toward it.

Now that we’ve been married for almost 11 months, one thing I learned is that some of the best traditions evolve and happen naturally. They don’t need to be forced, and they work not because everyone is doing it, but because it works for us. Our Friday evenings have been some of our most memorable lately, so I started cooking a more-special-than-normal meal for it. Something that would taste good, look beautiful but not necessarily take too much time.

This week’s recipe was a hit. Taken, as always, from my favourite source – Taste. I do not know what I would do without that website. For how tasty it was and how great it looked, it really was too easy a recipe, and it had minimum preparation time and very little fiddling around during the cooking phase.

  • Chicken Roasted with Red Wine and Grapes    I followed the recipe almost exactly, adding a few more bay leaves and more balsamic vinegar. There were only green grapes at the grocery store, and it was no problem to use the green ones, but I imagine that red grapes would be a better complement to the red wine. Cook the chicken for the exact amount of time the recipe recommends as it stays moist that way.

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

from the book of John, chapter 14