When in Autumn..

All the woodland creatures,
From squirrel, to bird or beast,
Come out in glorious splendour
To forage for winter's feast.

The colours of fall shine bright 
In yellows and orange and reds;
The brilliant sun beams through the forest
And glows on the animals' heads.

The light shines off his bright red crest
As the woodpecker climbs up the trees;
The squirrels scurry with great intent
And the birds flit through the leaves.



Pumpkin Spice and All Things Nice...

I opened my inbox this past week to an email from Starbucks announcing the arrival of the famed PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte for the uninitiated).  I was beyond excited, fully intending to run out that night and get my first one of the season.  I waited until later that week, and I was shocked at my disappointment.  Pumpkin spice latte was the drink that started me on coffee, the gateway to my morning cuppa joe.  How could I be over it, after all it did for me? 

Tastes change as we get older and all that, but the PSL really defines the fall season for me, at least it used to.  It signified the chunky sweater weather, the get-out-your-jacket weather, as the leaves turn colour and the air takes on a sweet crispness. It signalled the start of a new school year, my birthday, my sons' birthdays, my wedding anniversary, Thanksgiving, and Halloween, with thoughts of hikes through colourful trails and a tractor ride through a hay field.  

Not enjoying the sweetness of the PSL has me questioning who I am as a person.  If I don't love everything about the autumn season, am I really Ashleigh Rivers? Can I be someone who partakes in every fall activity but the pumpkin spice latte? Will my authenticity as a "fall baby" be doubted? 

I think, to answer these questions, I must look past the glaring offence of my newfound distaste for the drink and look instead at what has replaced it in my life.  I have gone from needing a few pumps of flavoured simple syrup and copious amounts of steamed milk to straight up espresso in ten years- a lot of other things have changed in my life in ten years, too.  I'm gonna go ahead and give myself grace to change in my coffee preferences-despite the symbolic need for the pumpkin spice latte to reflect my love of autumn.  I'm sure I'll find some other thing to signify the end of summer and the arrival of autumn. 

What's your favourite fall go-to?



Losing a Friend...

When I think of the Torries, I can never think of one without the other.  I usually never saw them apart, and I always admired their ‘togetherness’.  You could sense God’s hand working through them as one.  

They had my family over to their house one of the first times we came to the church.  There were five of us kids, but that didn’t matter, we all squeezed around the dining room table and tucked into the first of many delicious meals Mrs. T would make for us.  They looked after my siblings so my parents could go away on a week long trip together.  I’m sure they did many other things that I can’t remember or maybe didn’t even know about.

The Torries are big ‘missions’ people, and were always going on trips here and there around the world, serving the Lord while serving others.  They have such big hearts.  I remember them encouraging me to go on a trip to Brazil with them in 2005.  After much gentle persuasion, I went when I was 19 years old, and it changed my life forever.  I lived and worked with them for three weeks in Aguas Lindas, Brazil, and then again to India in 2008,  and our bond over those trips solidified a lasting relationship.  It lasted all the way through my college years, with sweet birthday cards in my mailbox, and usually a generous cheque or cash to go along with that. They loved me and supported me through those years like family.  When I married Jake, they graciously included him in their love and care, and we ended up being in Brazil around the same time in 2012 when Jake and I went to teach ESL for three months.  Our coincidential meeting there brought back the memories of our trip the first time, and it was neat for Jake to get to know them a little better.  When Jake and I had our first child, again they were there with cards and sweet love for our new little addition.  The love just kept on coming, distance and time didn’t change a thing.  It didn’t matter how long we’d go without connecting, we’d just pick up right where we left off.  

I can’t even begin to describe the impact this unconditional love from these very precious people has had on me in my life. The example of their love and respect for each other, and the way they serve their God in missions, in caring for the poor and impoverished has honestly shaped who I am.  I would never have gone overseas, I would never have seen God work in the way He has, if it weren’t for them and for their persistence and patience in making sure I went.  They are role models for me and my husband.  I want to be serving God in such an impactful way, no matter my age, the way that they do and have done for so many years.  They are a power couple that have changed and influenced so many people around the world.  I remember how they would exchange information with people, leaving their ‘calling cards’ with friends we made in other countries.   The networking was endless, and it was so impactful.

Mr. T just has that sweet way about him, a glint in his eyes, a tight squeeze of a hug and a way of greeting you that makes you feel so special, with that Irish lilt to his voice-”would you like a cuppa?”.  His gentleness and care were so welcome.  He listened without judgment, and was always ready with a laugh. He was so thoughtful and SO generous. He was always interested in what I had to say, asking questions about my life, and encouraging in the ways of the Lord.  I love him like family.  He is a very very dear friend. I’ll never forget all the precious moments we shared on this journey of life. Thank you for being there for me.  I love you and I’m so thankful to call you friend.

Ashleigh Rivers
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Brazil 2012
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Volunteering at Voo Livre in Brazil, 2012


On Turning 30...

This year I'm turning thirty years old.  

I've never been one to shy away from telling people my age.  In fact, I often have to stop and think about the number.  When you're in your mid-twenties, they all seem to blur together after a while.  

Thirty is quite a milestone.  I'm not sure why our society deems it so.  Perhaps we see thirty as something to be accomplished, a maturity that is reached.  Perhaps it's a sign to buy your own home, or to be married or have a certain number of children. 

Perhaps by the age of thirty many of us have successfully risen to new heights in our careers, or we've traveled to various countries across the globe, or we've managed to stay in shape. 

I still remember when my Dad turned thirty years old.  I was ten years old at the time, and my mom threw a surprise birthday party for him. It may have been my first surprise party, otherwise I'm not quite sure why that birthday stood out to me.  To me, thirty felt like a long ways away. 

Here's where I could probably list some things I've accomplished in my thirty years on earth, like getting my driver's license, traveling and living in a couple of countries, graduating university, getting married, and giving birth to two children.  

So I guess I did just list some things that I've accomplished!



What I'm Into: December 2015 Edition

In the Kitchen
Taco Tuesdays...need I say more? Try this Korean beef recipe and you won't be disappointed!

I love pretty much anything from Budget Bytes, but this Creamy Sun Dried Tomato Pasta is to die for. I looked at the recipe, and laughed when I read "1/4 cup parmesan".  A QUARTER CUP of cheese? Just a quarter cup? No, there's got to be a mistake. Well, I took the matter into my own hands and, omitting the parmesan completely, added an entire package of Herb & Garlic Boursin cheese. Oh yes. That made my heart (and belly!) happy.

On my Night table 
Currently Reading: (see sidebar)
Winter's Heart, Robert Jordan: Still trekking with the three ta'veren as they save the world from the evil that threatens to take over.  This is book nine of fourteen-a long investment, but if you like fantasty, it's worth it!

The Ersatz Elevator, Lemony Snickets (A Series of Unfortunate Events): This Junior fiction series is so depressing but cleverly written. Count Olaf is trying to get his hands on the Baudelaire orphans' inheritance, and each book tells a different tale of how they escape his clutches, but only just. 

What a Difference a Mom Makes, Dr. Kevin Leman: This book is written for mothers of boys, specifically, and it was very insightful.  I would highly recommend it; Dr. Leman covers a lot of ground, and caters to moms of all ages. 

Dad is Fat, Jim Gaffigan: I've never seen his comedy shows live, but I've heard he's pretty clean, and his book was excellent.  I found myself laughing out loud, and nodding my head in agreement as he talks about parenting his five children and shared about his comedic and chaotic life.

Through my headphones
Songza playlists, Audien's Something Better , Sia's Alive

Blogilates- Loving Cassey's workouts still. Keep up with her monthly calendar, and you'll notice some amazing results!

In the Word
Jake and I have been trying to spend intentional time together in the Word.  Twice a week we read a chapter of a C.S. Lewis book and then a chapter in Ecclesiastes.  It's been really great for us to take our relationship to a deeper level with the Lord.  Over the years of our marriage we've always struggled with this, so I'm hoping the discipline will stick.

As far as my own study goes, I've been tracking with the She Reads Truth app, doing a Hymn study and a Gratitude study.



Cold weather bucket list...

I admit it.  I'm not really a fan of winter, but I've heard that writing a bucket list of the things you want to do in the wintertime can make it tolerable. So here goes:

*toboggan with Adrian 
*go caroling and get hot chocolate afterwards
*go skiing or tubing at least once
*drink a hot chocolate outside when my fingers are frozen like ice
*fly to Switzerland with Jake and stay in a chalet while watching the snow swirling outside and drinking hot chocolate in front of a fireplace
*fly to Florida and stay in a rented house with a pool and a frozen chocolate beverage, and go to Disney World

There, now I feel much better about winter!



Christmas is for Interior Decorating...

This year, more than in years past, I've been feeling the pressure to have a perfectly decorated home for Christmas.  The stores set up their festive wares early on in the season [can we give Thanksgiving some breathing room?!] and I was struck with just how materialism dictates the pulse of the season.  

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My feelings were intensified after my second annual Christmas home tour.  If you're not familiar with these, they are typically fundraising events in which people with unique or grandiose homes open them up for tours.  There are usually local food vendors who set up shop in the kitchen, offering samples of their creations and hopefully receiving some business in return.  The tour satisfies my psyche in two ways: 1} I get to have a reason for snooping in people's homes 2} I fill up my belly with delicious holiday morsels.  Despite the delightful sensory experience, I felt those old feelings of dissatisfaction and unworthiness welling up within me.  Never mind that those homes were decorated specifically for this event by professional interior decorators.  Never mind that they may very well look as lived in as my own apartment from day to day.  My mind completely blocked out reality, mourning over how shabby my home looked in comparison to such perfectly matching decor.  I remembered all the decorations and accents that I saw in the stores, and tried to imagine how I could make my own home look just so.

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A few weeks removed from this event, my thoughts are a little more clear.  I still feel the need to get the perfect wreath for our door [because wreaths are high on my list of what an immaculately decorated home should have], but I'm pondering how to move through this season while still keeping the main reason in the forefront of my mind. 

The stores might tell me to buy more wreaths.
The advertisements might tell me to buy the perfect decorations.
The magazines might tell me I must have an altogether festive home.

But in my heart I know that remembering Jesus' birth is the only thing worth dwelling on, not what kind of centerpiece to acquire for my table.  God came to earth as a man to save all of mankind, and now there is Hope! All the Christmas decor in the world will not satisfy my longings more than this exciting news.



A Letter to My Firstborn...

Happy 2nd birthday, Adrian! I'm being reminded of some things that I wrote a couple of years ago and wanted to share them here...

On Your Due Date, September 21, 2013:

To my dear little one,

You have been growing inside of me for 9 months now.  Today is the day they said you could make your entrance into this crazy life.  I, for one, am overjoyed to meet you. 

I'll never forget that first moment I saw your little 12 week old existence, waving at Daddy and I from the monitor, moving your little arms and legs to some musical melody that must have been played by God, for your tiny ears alone.  You were really there, this miracle of life that all evidence pointed to, but physical evidence up to that point being only the roller-coaster of emotions I had been feeling.  

I waited for so long, and even when I felt that first flutter of life that could have been mistaken for indigestion I knew that you were going to change my life.  I felt sick and a little queasy when your movements became stronger, and the gravity of knowing I was carrying a human being, a life made in God's image, became very real.  I enjoyed getting to know your movement schedule, and trying to time it so that Daddy could feel you, too.  You weren't always "cooperative".  I think you may have been a little shy.  I had to remind myself that you are your own person, created with a unique personality which I will have the joy and wonder of discovering as you grow.  

I loved how your Daddy asked, "How's baby?" whenever he came home from work.  He would hold my belly, lean down real close and say, "Hi, baby!" in an endearing, high-pitched voice that I had never heard before. 

Sometimes when I feel you moving around I think, "What are you doing in there?" and I wish that my tummy had a little window so I could press my fingers against yours.  

It wasn't so difficult to choose not to know your gender.  I love those moments in the movies when they say, "It's a girl!" or "It's a boy!"  The desire for a surprise was too strong, but now I'm eager to know my little son or daughter.  My child.  You aren't my sibling, or my nephew, or my friend's baby.  You are my child,a true gift from God that is the express outcome of the love shared between Daddy and I.  It is a beautiful mystery how an intricate, perfectly designed human being can be formed from one cell.  

Baby, I want you to know that I love you.  The love grew so strong over the course of 9 months that now there is this physical ache in my arms to hold you.  I need to feel you, to touch you and stand in awe before God.  We never chose to find out if you had a genetic condition.  I didn't want to judge you prematurely, to think of you in any way that is less perfect than how God made you, flaws and all.  I am your mother, and no amount of sickness or disease can change the way I feel about you. 

You are being born into a world that is full of lies, full of hatred, full of people who will want to hurt you and abuse you.  Sin has infiltrated every corner.  But your Daddy and i promise to teach you about Jesus, about the hope that comes with trusting in Him.  He died for you, for the sins you haven't even committed yet  I promise to teach you of the love He has for you, my precious Little Rabbit.  As your mother, I think about nights spent tucking you into bed, reading you Bible verses, teaching you how to pray for others.  I know I won't be the perfect mom, but oh! how I pray that you will give me grace when I fail.  I promise to seek truth in God's Word so that I will not deceive you like the world is wont to do.  My deepest desire is for you to know Jesus in the richest sense of the Word, and that one day He won't be "that guy" that Mommy and Daddy talk about, but that He will be Your Lord and Saviour, too.  May your tender heart turn towards him when you are sad and disheartened.  

My prayer for you is that you will know true peace in Christ.

These days I am likening your arrival to the return of Christ.  I know He's coming back one day, but not when.  I suppose we can be a bit more definite with you, but we still don't know the hour.  I find myself smelling the sweet scent of the baby laundry detergent i bought for your sensitive baby skin, holding up tiny sleepers and onesies to my nose, imagining your little body filling them, filling my arms.  Even though I feel you moving on the inside, I still rub my hands over my belly to get another touch of what must be your foot, knee, bum.  Your movements have never been so uncomfortable.  You never kicked me painfully.  When you did kick, it startled me, making me laugh.  Your movements have been more gentle, like a rolling.  I often got freaked out when I saw/felt a little elbow or knee slide across my belly.  You have been a joy and a mystery, even when a foot pops up undder my ribs so that I have to sit back far.  You made Daddy laugh, a lot,which gave me even more joy.  You should see his face when he talks about you, espeecially this week, since he's finished his paper.  He lights up and gets this goofy "dad" grin.  He can't wait to meet you and always says, "Baby wants to be born!" or "Baby, be born! Come out"  He pushes on either side of my belly trying to find you, wiggling you back and forth.  Then he says, "Oh! There you are!" and pokes and leans down to kiss you (or me!)  He is so in love with you too- never forget that!

My sweet darling child, they say you have a special connectino with a first born.  I'm so excited to meet you, and you are going to change my life forever.  You will teach me how to be a mother.  I await your arrival eagerly and prayerfully.  Mama loves you so much.  Come soon, my precious one!


What Im Into: September 2015 Edition

In the Kitchen
I may be slightly obssessed with graham crackers lately, and I mean buying boxes and boxes, even mid-week.  My favourite thing to do with them (aside from s'mores, of course!) is to spread peanut butter and sliced bananas on top.  It's the perfect way to add a bit of sweetness to an already sweet snack.  

I've also been making a lot of hummus chicken.  Simply cut into cubes some potatoes, onions, carrots, and peppers, toss with olive oil and salt and pepper, then place in a 9x13 baking dish.  Place raw chicken breast on top and then spread the hummus of your choice on top of the chicken.  Bake at 400F until chicken is cooked through (approx 40-50 min).  I've experimented with different vegetables. Our favourite combination was eggplant, mushroom, and red pepper.  

On my Night table 
Currently Reading: (see sidebar)
A Crown of Swords, Robert Jordan: The seventh installment of the Wheel of Time series, we continue on our quest with the three ta'veren and their friends as they battle with the forces of evil to make their world a better place.  I'm about halfway through the series and I feel like it's taken over my life.  The books just keep getting better and better.

Twelve Years a Slave, Solomon Northup: I'm listening to this one on audiobook and have actually become quite attached to the protagonist.  Written in first person, the author tells us his story of being captured into slavery even though he was born a free man, and his struggles and trials therein.  I would highly recommend it.  If anyone has seen the movie, let me know what it was like. 

Longbourn, Jo Baker: Written alongside the story of Pride and Prejudice, this book turns our attention too the downstairs life, the lives of the servants.  I enjoyed the imagination that went in to a book like this, and it was neat hearing the perceptions of the Bennet's life from the perspective of the servants.

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green:  This book was written from the first person perspective of a terminally ill teenager, whose story begins in her mid-teens and spans about a year.  We see her fall in love and acheive a life-long goal.  While witty and interesting, the book lacks much hope.

Through my headphones
An audiobook, the radio, and Songza.  Nothing much to write about here.

Blogilates- Still doing this, although some days are easier than others.  Keep up with her monthly calendar, and you'll notice some amazing results!

In the Word
I'm still following the She Reads Truth program, and working my way through the Fruit of the Spirit series.  Last week we studied about love, peace, patience, and kindess.  I love how much scripture we are set to read each day, and the encouragement from reading with other women.


Peaches and Summer's Not Over Yet...

I made use of the delicious Ontario peaches that are being sold in grocery stores this summer.  Every year I make the resolution to start buying more locally grown foods in order to save some money.  They always say to buy in season, right?  The peaches I bought this week are absolutely heavenly.  I think I've had three already today. What's better than biting in to a succulent, sweet, juicy peach?

Speaking about summer, this weather has been killer.  We don't have AC, so I've just given in to the inevitable-I'm gonna be sweaty, I'm gonna feel sweaty, and it's a reality.  I feel bad for the boys, but in some sense babies don't really notice too much anyway (although their little rosy cheeks don't lie!)

I find myself longing to blog every once in a while, and not knowing what to blog about.  Being a Mom is a big part of my daily life and routine right now, but I don't want a 'Mommy' blog (not that there is anything really wrong with that!) The other inhibitor from blogging has been the lack of a laptop during my downtime during the day (i.e. Jake has the laptop at work when I'm home with the boys, and 'downtime' is whenever they're napping)

However, I recently acquired an iPad mini from a friend (my first Apple product!), complete with a detachable keyboard.  After a little bit of trial and error and a lot of googling "how to connect a keyboard to an ipad mini" I've finally got it working.  I will also add that there is a sense of liberation as I type away on my own device, knowing that nobody else needs it for whatever reason.  I'm extremely grateful to my friend for her kindness, since I've been needing a tablet of some sort for a long while now.

This guy and his hair...it's become such a statement piece.  People are split right down the middle as to whether we should cut it or leave it.  Both Jake and I have agreed to leave it for now.  We all love it and nobody has really mistaken him for a girl because of it.  It's gotten so curly over the summer, with the humidity and all.  

Keep cool in this heat.  We're going to go on a field trip for AC later on.