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Making Music and Babies: Christian Singers Open Up About Motherhood

March 3rd, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

What happens when you’re in the middle of living the dream… and another dream comes along?

Jaci Velasquez had spent over half her life recording and performing Christian music by the time she gave birth to her first son a decade ago. “I remember thinking to myself, How can I ever go back? How can I ever make music again?” said Velasquez, whose No. 1 singles include “On My Knees” and “Llegar A Ti.”

Many popular female artists spend their 20s focused on their careers in ministry, releasing albums, going on tour, and picking up Dove Awards and Grammy nominations. But around 30, these Christian singers confront the dilemma that women across industries face: deciding when to start a family and figuring out what their jobs look like after motherhood.

Amid her uncertainty, Velasquez—now a mother of two, releasing her first album in five years—remembered that “being faithful to God is being faithful to all the things God has placed in your life, that being my husband, my children, and my ministry.”
Faith offers Christian artists a sense of assurance in the messy realm of balancing motherhood. For them, being a musician or a mother isn’t merely their choice but a calling affirmed by prayer and counsel. Still, that God-given confidence doesn’t eliminate the practical struggles of raising a family while writing, recording, and touring.

“While I was pregnant, I remember thinking to myself, ‘Babies are so portable! It’ll be a breeze in the first few months! He’ll just absorb into my life!,’” said Audrey Assad, a Catholic singer and pianist, who gave birth to a son in 2014. “I couldn’t have been more wrong about our own specific situation.”

Kari Jobe with her son, Canyon.

For several months, baby Will would only sleep on Assad’s chest, and she stayed up all night nursing him on the tour bus—forced to nap the next day to recover enough to perform. She now schedules shorter tours, flying back to see a happier toddler Will at home.

No amount of popularity, record sales, or sold-out arenas can compensate for the emotions and exhaustion that accompany the earliest months of motherhood. Multiple moms—including Assad and Kari Jobe—described the intense worry that swelled up the first time they returned to the stage.

“I remember just crying to [my husband] Cody and saying, ‘I feel the weight of going back out to lead worship tonight, and I’m worried I won’t remember what to do,’” said Jobe, who went on tour with Hillsong Worship, Jesus Culture, and Passion six weeks after her son, Canyon, was born last year. “I felt so different, being a mom today and a worship leader tonight. I told him, ‘I don’t know how to change these roles.’”

The 35-year-old new mom felt at ease when her husband, a fellow worship leader at Gateway Church, reassured her, “The pressure not on you. It’s on him. God’s got this.” When the two tour together, they take along a sitter to care for Canyon during rehearsals and while they are on stage.

Meanwhile, male artists typically don’t travel with their young kids. “You’d see them backstage before they’d go out, trying to tell their kids goodnight over the phone,” said Jobe, who’s known for her popular rendition of “Desert Song” as well as hits like “Forever.” “You can tell they miss them, and their hearts are aching.”

While singers like Jeremy Riddle and Matt Redman started their big families early (both have five kids each and welcomed their first by their mid-20s), the female singers on today’s Christian music charts became moms a bit later. Women like Jobe, Kim Walker-Smith, Christy Nockels, and Laura Story had their first kids in their late 20s or 30s.

Ellie Holcomb with her daughter, Emmylou.

Ellie Holcomb, who sang alongside her husband in Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, assumed that once she started a family at 30, her performing days were over. “I really quit the band to be a stay-at-home mom,” the Nashville-based mom of two said. “I was telling the Lord that’s what I was going to do, and he had different plans for me.”

Instead, she spent her pregnancy writing songs that ended up on her first solo album, As Sure As the Sun. Motherhood essentially launched her own career, and she earned the Dove Award for best new artist in 2014.

The Holcombs’ lives with four-year-old Emmylou and one-and-a-half-year-old Huck can be unconventional as both parents tour—sometimes separately, sometimes together. Holcomb learned that to avoid ratcheting up the inevitable “mom guilt” she’d have to stop looking beside her for comparison and critique and instead focus on Jesus.

“I’ve been sent into serious shame storms by conversations with people at shows who don’t intend to be critical at all, but they ask questions like, ‘How do you do that? Are your kids okay?’” said Holcomb, who just released her second full-length album, Red Sea Road. “You’re like, ‘Well, if it’s God’s will for my life to be doing this; it’s God’s will for their lives too.’”

Working in the music industry has given their family the opportunity to talk about calling and obeying God with their kids at a young age. When Emmylou is sad at a goodbye, they explain God has “adventures and good works” for all his children to do. They tell her about how they have said yes to this calling just like she will one day grow up to hopefully say yes to an adventure of her own.

Even with less quiet time for contemplation and writing, parenthood brings its own kind of inspiration for making music, particularly worship music, and prompts a deeper recognition of God’s love for his own children.
“Anything I sing that references Jesus coming as a baby (like “Humble,” or “Winter Snow”) has much more incarnate significance for me now,” Assad told CT Women.
A couple of years ago singer Sara Groves—whose oldest kids are now teenagers—talked about how impossible it is to separate her family life, her work as an artist, and her faith. She told blogger Jerusalem Greer:

Faith, our gifts, our relationships are integrated, like it or not. We might try to compartmentalize our time, but I think the best and most true creative expression comes when we don’t compartmentalize our lives, when we push back against definition/labels, and let some unedited stuff come out… To get somewhere, you have to let it all flow together.

Over the past year, Jobe has approached parenting as a challenging, exhausting gift. The birth of her son following her sister’s miscarriage flowed into the themes in her new album, The Garden. “A garden is just significant in our life with the Lord. It’s a place of life, it’s a place of no sorrow, it’s a place to watch things grow,” she said. “Canyon’s doing that for us as well.”

Since different evangelical settings have different expectations for women in leadership, female worship leaders lack an established model for their role in the church and for navigating transitions like marriage and family, according to Tanya Riches, a Hillsong collaborator and researcher at the University of Birmingham’s Cadbury Centre. (Hillsong’s Darlene Zschech opened up to CT Women a year ago about how her gender was a particular hang-up when she performed in some US locales.)

Jaci Velasquez with her husband Nick and their 2 sons, Soren & Zealand.

Riches emphasizes the importance of connecting with fellow female worship leaders for solidarity and advice and going deeper with worship as a personal spiritual discipline. “And if all else fails,” she said, “put on Brooke Ligertwood’s ‘Desert Song’ and remind your heart by singing at the top of your voice: All of my life, in every season, you are still God, I have a reason to sing; I have a reason to worship.”

Throughout seasons of motherhood, artists also find family demands shifting. Now that Velasquez’s sons are in elementary school, she wants to be as present and as clear about her priorities as possible; her parents worked in ministry and at times neglected her older brother’s activities, so she doesn’t want the same to happen with her family.
She recounted a recent discussion with her son Soren, who turns eight this year, over her tracks for her new album, Trust, which releases next month.

“He goes, ‘Mom, do you like your songs more or do you love me more?’ I said, ‘Baby are you kidding me? I love you more than everything! You are my heart! There’s no question,’ And he goes, ‘Oh, okay. I was just checking,’” she said. “I have to make sure to continuously remind them they are much more important than anything.”

“Am I still beautiful?” An ISIS Victim Clings to the Truth of God’s Love

March 3rd, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle
After suffering an attack from ISIS while trying to escape, a young woman wants to know whether she’s still beautiful.

Christian medical personnel are urgently needed to staff the hospital for deployments of three weeks or longer between now and June 30. Particular needs include trauma/general surgeons, anesthesiologists, emergency medicine physicians, operating room nurses, intensive care unit nurses, surgical technicians, and operating room sterilization staff. Learn more here.

Kaitlyn Lahm is the media relations coordinator for Samaritan’s Purse. She is currently covering our relief efforts among displaced families escaping from Mosul into northern Iraq.

It’s my nature to ask questions, but I’ve learned that it’s never the question that leaves an impact. It’s always the answer. It’s the answer that gives you glimpse into someone’s heart. As a writer, I’m normally the one asking the questions, and I count it a privilege when someone genuinely answers them and allows me to hear their story.

Khayla*, a patient at the  emergency field hospital, gave me this opportunity. She welcomed me to sit at her bedside and hear her heart. Khayla was severely injured when she tried to  escape Mosul. She was knocked unconscious and has no memory of what happened. Medical staff think she was likely involved in an explosion given the deep cuts and burns that cover her face.
Khayla fiercely grabbed my hand and placed it on her face—a face covered in stitches, with one eye swollen shut and dried blood circling her lips, a face bearing the physical scars of the brutality of ISIS.As we wrapped up our interview, Khayla turned the tables on me. She had a request—to ask me just one question and receive an honest answer. Having no idea what question to expect, I boldly promised to be truthful.

With desperation in her eyes, she asked her question—“Am I still beautiful?”

My heart ached with her as I saw the pain and desperation in her eyes, but I knew the answer. I knew she was still beautiful.

She is still beautiful.

Without a doubt in my soul, I saw her beauty. I saw past the bruises, blood, and stitches, and I saw a daughter of the King. I saw a woman created in the image of God. In that moment, I caught a glimpse of how Jesus sees us. He doesn’t see our scars. He sees our beauty.

He sees us as made in His image.
He sees us as His beloved.He sees us as fearfully and wonderfully made.

Khayla’s entire identity was hanging on the words coming out of my mouth. Her question was raw and genuine—was she still beautiful?

As I knelt at her bedside, we wept together, and I declared Scripture over her life. She is beautiful because she is created in the image of God. She is beautiful because she is fearfully and wonderfully made. She is beautiful because Christ calls her His beloved.

Khayla clung to my hands as I spoke these truths. The promises of God washed over her like water in a desert. She asked the question, but she desperately needed to hear the answer.

“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well”  (Psalm 139:13-14, NKJV).

*Name changed for protection.

150 Things to Do and See in the Ottawa Region for Canada’s 150th Birthday

March 3rd, 2017 | 2 Comments | Posted in Events
Ottawa has so many amazing things to see and do – whether you’re a family, an individual or a couple. We wanted to put together a list that you can come back to over and over during Canada’s 150th year. Think of this as your 150 bucket list! As the NY Times mentioned, there’s always something to see, do or explore in Canada’s Capital!

MUSEUMS

1. Billings Estate

Whether you are going to the Billings Estate for a tea party or a preschool play date, this National Historic Site offers family-friendly programming, collections and exhibits all year round.

2. Bytown Museum

Explore the history of Ottawa from its Bytown days to the present at the Bytown Museum. It’s located at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Ottawa Locks on the Rideau Canal and offers beautiful views of the city and natural surroundings.

3. Canadian Agriculture And Food Museum

Open all year, the Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum has things to do and animals to see for kids of all ages. Visitors will learn more about Canadian agriculture including diary cows, pigs, and can even participate in cooking demonstrations and workshops. Spring visits usually means adorable piglets too!

4. Canadian Aviation And Space Museum

The Canadian Aviation and Space Museum is more than just airplanes (which kids find cool anyway). The Museum always adds new workshops, shows and games (a staple is the mini airplanes for the kids like to ride around on.)

5. Canadian War Museum

If you have a child who is a history buff they will love this museum. There are photographs, art and videos as well as artifacts on display. Keep in mind that some of the exhibits may need explaining, so be prepared to talk about war.

6. Children’s Museum – History Museum 

Located within the History Museum, The Canadian Children’s Museum offers guests the opportunity to travel the world, while enriching their lives and broadening their experience. Kids can explore other cultures through exhibitions, costumes, hands-on props, and artifacts, including an extraordinary assortment of toys and games.

7. Cumberland Heritage Village Museum

This small town museum recreates rural life in 1920s Ontario. Visitors can stop by the General Store, take a seat in the one-room schoolhouse, and check out the antique vehicles at the garage.

8. Diefenbunker

Whether you’re a history buff or just like exploring fun and mysterious places, the Diefunbunker is a great way to spend a few hours with the family. There are lots of things to explore, touch and experience, which makes the Diefenbunker particularly family-friendly.

9. Fairfields Heritage House

If you love architecture then you will love this 19th century Gothic Revival farmhouse located in Nepean. It was originally built on 660 acres of farmland and the museum tells its story as well as the history of the areas surrounding it. 

10. Goulbourn Museum

Located outside of Stittsville in the west end of Ottawa, the Goulbourn Museum not only houses artefacts and antiques from the early 1800s, but also offers children’s events and family workshops.

11. Osgoode Township Museum 

Ottawa is rich in history and the Osgoode Township Museum in South Ottawa is an extension of this with artifacts and exhibits from the Township of Osgoode. This museum is also a repository forindigenous Native and pioneer relics.

12. Pinhey’s Point Historic Site

Located in Ottawa’s far west end, Pinhey’s Point features a nearly 200-year-old manor house and surrounding ruins. This site is a popular summertime picnic destination for boaters and cyclists.

13. Canadian Museum Of Nature

Dinosaurs, mammals, birds and more, The Canadian Museum of Nature is housed in an impressive castle-like building that immediately wins the hearts of kids young and old. The Canadian Museum also hosts an adult-only evening on the last Friday of every month (excluding December, July and August) called Nature Nocturne.

14. National Gallery of Canada

The Canadian Galleries are closed until June 14, 2017 when they will then reopen for something special to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. In the meantime there is still plenty to see and do in their other galleries and exhibitions.

15. Vanier Museopark

Vanier Museopark is a park, a museum, a maple grove and more. It is the only francophone museum Ottawa and is dedicated to preserving the heritage of Quartier Vanier and Richelieu Parl.

16. Watson’s Mill

There are always fun family and community events taking place at the Watson’s Mill, located in scenic Manotick. Starting June 4th there is a Farmer’s Market every Saturday from 9am to 2 pm and there are milling demonstrations Sundays from 1pm to 3pm.

ATTRACTIONS

17. Casino Lac-Leamy Sound of Light (August 2017)

If you love fireworks, this show is amazing! There are 5 beautiful fireworks displays from different countries that take place from August 5 to 19, 2017.

18. Major’s Hill Park

Offering some of the best lookouts in Ottawa, Major’s Hill Park is one of the Capital’s main event locations (including for Canada Day celebrations!). When it’s not in festival mode, Major’s Hill Park is a great downtown resting or picnic spot.

19. Governor General Estate 

Rideau Hall offers free family events throughout the year including ice-skating in the winter. It’s located on 79-acres within the city and is only a few minutes from downtown Ottawa.

20. High Tea at the Chateau Laurier

Zoe’s Lounge, located within the Chateau Laurier in downtown Ottawa offers wonderful afternoon tea including cute finger sandwiches and a vast selection of teas (reservations required), including offering younger tea party fans hot chocolate.

21. The Canadian Mint

Located in a historic building in central Ottawa, the Royal Canadian Mint offers 45-minute tours (reservations recommended). The Mint is within walking distance of the Byward Market.

22. Parliament Hill Sound & Light Show

Northern Lights is a 30-minute sound and light show that takes the audience on an unforgettable journey through Canada’s history. It’s a free, bilingual show, presented nightly on Parliament Hill from July 11 to September 16, 2017. 

23. Changing of the Guard

Every morning at 10 a.m. from June 25 to August 26 the Changing of the Guard takes place on Parliament Hill. The Guards march from Cartier Square Drill Hall (south of Parliament Hill) and up Elgin Street. If you’re bringing little ones, arrive at Parliament Hill early to get a good view. 

24. NAC Children’s Events 

The National Arts Centre is rich with musical, dramatic and theatrical performances all year long. They also periodically offer bilingual one-hour concerts as part of their TD Family Adventure Series. 

25. Story Time at Rideau Hall (June 25th to August 20th)

A summer tradition, Story Time at Rideau Hall takes place every Friday and Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. from June 25 to August 20th. It’s hosted outdoors on the lawn of Rideau Hall is a free event! 

26. Ottawa Little Theatre

The Ottawa Little Theatre is Canada’s oldest community playhouse. It presents eight plays per year from September through May. This year the Ottawa Little Theatre is presenting To Kill A Mockingbird, Marion Bridge and more!

27.  Shenkman Arts Centre

From expos to live music concerts, to galleries and exhibitions, the Shenkman Arts Centre, located in Orleans (east Ottawa) always has something on the go for locals and visitors!

28. Centrepointe Theatres

Ottawa is lucky to have many community and smaller theatres. Centrepointe often offers concerts from international recording artists as well as theatrical performances, including this year’s production of Mary Poppins. There is something for all ages happening at Centrepointe Theatres in Nepean (west Ottawa).

29. Upper Canada Village

In the summer Upper Canada Village, a historic village devoted to showing what life was like during the 1860s in Canada, offers educational tours, activities and fun for the entire family. In the fall it’s transformed into a pumpkin inferno and during the holiday season it is Alight the Night with thousands of dazzling Christmas lights!

FESTIVALS

Whatever the weather and whatever the season Ottawa offers visitors many festivals! There is something for everyone including children, food lovers, wine lovers, music lovers and more! Ottawa loves its festivals!

30. Canadian Tulip Festival

31. Children’s Festival

32. Fringe Fest

33. Winterlude

34. TD Jazz Festival

35. Gatineau How Air Balloon Festival

36. RBC Blues Fest

37. Westboro FUSE

38. Franco Ontarian Festival

39. Summer Solstice Aboriginal Festival

40. Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival

41. Ottawa Wine and Food Festival

42. Poutine Fest

43. Capital RibFest

44. Kingdom of Osgoode Medieval Festival

45. Glengarry Highland Games

46. Muslim Summer Festival (MAC Eid Festival)

47. Puppets Up! International Puppet Festival

48. Ottawa’s Children’s Festival 

FARMERS’ MARKETS

49. Ottawa Farmers’ Markets
From east to west and places in between, the City of Ottawa has many great Farmer’s Markets that showcase food, harvests and crafts from local farmers and artisans.

KID’S ACTIVITIES

50.  Cosmic Adventures

Perfect for a rainy day or a day you need to keep some active kids contained. Cosmic has lots of great spaces for kids to climb, run and slide while safely in a space they can’t leave without their parents. There is lots of great seating for parents to have a snack or a coffee and connect to wifi while their kids play as well. Cosmic is a great for a solo visit or buy a membership for the year and visit unlimited times in the year.

51. Funhaven

Funhaven has it all! Laser tag, a nerf ball pit, and now a roller coaster! Whether you are looking for a place to spend a couple of hours or an entire day, Funhaven is a great place for the entire family. You can pay to go once or pay for an annual membership. They even host birthday parties.

52. SkyZone

Have some kids that need to get some extra energy out? Bounce it out!! SkyZone’s trampolines from wall to wall are a great workout for the whole family.

53. Altitude climbing gym

No more climbing the furniture, instead let the kids climb the walls – all kinds of different walls, at Altitude! 

54. Midway Fun Park

55. Putting Edge

56. Kid’s Kingdom

57. Public swimming/ wave pools / wading pools

58. Public Splash Pads and outdoor pools

59. Public indoor skating

60. Tubes and Jujubes

61. Wesley Clover Parks

Wesley Clover Parks is more than just a beautiful equestrian centre, there is also a nearby campground with scenic trails! Wesley Clover Parks also hosts numerous events throughout the year including polo and family fun days.

62.  Nepean Creative Arts Centre and Nepean Visual Arts Centre

We had a blast participating in one of NVAC’s family workshops last Christmas, and there are TONS of other courses for adults, children and families. Movie making, pottery, visual arts, and so much more.

OUTDOOR PLAY

Ottawa is filled with many outdoor farms, trails, events and exciting things to see and do including:

63. Parc Omega

64. Mont Cascades

65. Eco Odysee

66. Calypso

67. Gatineau Park

68. Cumberland Nature Trails

69. Hogs Back Park / Falls

70. Walking and hiking the NCC Trails

71. Rideau canal skating

72. Sens Rink of Dreams

73. CHEO Teddy Bear Picnic

74. Snowshoe under the stars

75. Dow’s Lake boat rentals

76. Pirate Adventures

77. Rideau Canal Locks

78. Feeding the ducks near Billings Bridge

79. Geo caching

80. Saunders Farm

81. Valleyview Animal Farm

82. Strawberry Picking at Proulx Farm

83. Mer Bleu

84. Exploring Mackenzie King Estate

85. NOKIA Sunday Bike Days

86. J. Henry Tweed Conservation Area

87. Mont Tremblant road trip

88. Sugar Shacks

PARKS

If you have kids then knowing where some of Ottawa’s favourite family friendly parks are is important. Here are some parks that are Kids in the Capital approved!

89.  Lansdowne Park

We head over to Lansdowne to check out the Ottawa Farmer’s Market most weekends, and there are a lot of great things for the kids to do! A climbing structure, public art blackboard and skateboard park top the list. If your fur babies need some fun, there is also plenty of space for the doggies to go for a run!

90. Andrew Haydon Park

Whether you’re admiring the sailboats while walking along the river or enjoying the large play structure, Andrew Haydon Park is a great place for playground fun, picnics (when the geese are not ruling the roost) and evening walks.

91. Millennium Park

With two enormous play structures (a pirate ship and one fashioned after the Parliament buildings), and a brand new splash pad that is possibly the best in the city, Millennium is worth the drive from any part of the city to check out!

92.   Brewer Park

Voted one of the best parks in Ottawa, this play area has fantastic slides, play structures and a splash pad.

93. Walter Baker Park

Located in Kanata, Walter Baker Park has a big hill ideal for sledding in the winter or exhausting little legs with running races any time of year! There is also a fitness park for the adults and two play structures. And for those really hot days, Walter Baker Park also has a splash pad!

94.   Strathcona Park

95.  Petrie Island

An east end gem, this beach and natural wildlife area has something for everyone (except your dog – dogs are not allowed!) Take the kids to spot the turtles, take a dip in the Ottawa River, or just enjoy the sun and sand! This is a great place to visit anytime of the year, and we’ve enjoyed our visits in the Spring, Summer and Fall (if you visit in the winter, we’ve heard about great ice fishing nearby!)

96.  Canada Giver Park at Mooney’s Bay

This park has an area to represent each province and territory in Canada – and if you look at it from the sky it is shaped like Canada! This park was built with the help of kids and it’s grand opening is on July 1, 2017. The building of the park will be featured on TVO’s Giver in 2017.

SPORTS

Ottawa is the home of many amateur and professional sports teams – check out a game this year with the:

97. Ottawa Redblacks

98. Ottawa 67s

99. Ottawa Senators

100. Ottawa Champions Baseball

101. Ottawa Fury

102. Carleton Ravens

103. Ottawa Gee Gees

104. Bell Canada Cup

105. Roar of the Rings (Curling Olympic Trials) December 2-7

RACES

If you love to run (or cheer on athletes) then you’ll want to check out these well known local road races:

106. Tamarack Race Weekend

Whether you want to challenge yourself to run 5K or 10K or even a marathon – or participate as a family in the 2K Family Run, Tamarack Race Weekend is the biggest of it’s kind in Ottawa.

107.  Insane Inflatable 5K

This 5K race has you climbing, sliding and crawling through inflatables during the 5K course. A race that’s definitely family friendly, while being fun and a little bit hilarious at the same time. 

108. The Army Run

The Canada Army Run is an event that supports the Canadian Air Force, Army, and Navy. Canadians, current members of and members who have served all come together for this unique race that is full pf pride and community.

109. 9-Run-Run

This family-friendly local run supports Ottawa and area emergency support personnel and first responders including Firefighters, Police Officers and Paramedics. 

DATE NIGHT

Looking for a night out? Whether you are looking for a relaxing evening or a fun adventure, Ottawa has many adult-only activities and venues perfect for any occasion!

110. Ottawa Haunted Walk Tours

111. Le Nordik Spa

112. Wakefield Mill Hotel and Spa

113. Chateau Montebello

114. Options Jazz Lounge

115. Bytowne Theatre

116. Gladstone Theatre

117. Play Food and Wine

118. House of TARG

119. Absolute Comedy

120. Nature Nocturne

SHOPPING & RESTAURANTS

120. Byward Market

This bustling market is the most popular farmer’s market in Ottawa. Purchase both local and international produce, and make a visit to the famous Moulin de Provence for a cookie, just like Obama did in 2009!

121. Bridgehead Coffeehouse

If we are allowed to endorse a coffee shop here at Kids in the Capital, we have to make it Bridgehead. A home grown success, locations now dot the Ottawa map, and they have even made their way out to the suburbs! Enjoy their fair trade organic blends, or sample some of their locally made soups, sandwiches and treats.

122. NEXT Restaurant

Ottawa has many (MANY) fantastic restaurants, but NEXT, located in the middle of the suburbs in Stittsville, Ontario is unique not only because of its location, but because it always offers delicious shared dining experience based on Chef Blackie’s best food and travel memories that change seasonally.

123.  Quitters Coffeehouse

When famed musician Kathleen Edwards decided to pull the plug on her music career, she opened up a coffeehouse (aptly named “Quitters”) in Stittsville – west of Ottawa, this is a place with a true “small town” feel. Visit for a delicious cuppa, or head out for an evening of drinks and music. 

124. Tag Along Toys

We featured Tag Along Toys in our recent Holiday Gift Guide and continue to support their two locations because we know they offer the best in puzzles, games, LEGO, Playmobil and more. Whether you are looking for something in particular or have no idea what you are looking for they friendly and knowledgeable staff at Tag Along Toys are always willing to help.

125. Mansfield’s Shoes

It’s hard to find a good shoe store with quality brand names and customer services, but Mansfield’s Shoes in Manotick is one such shoe store. Family owned and operated with heart, Mansfield’s Shoes carries men’s and women’s shoes, handbags and slippers of all sizes and styles. The owner decides what brands to carry based on the feedback from her customers – how many shoe stores do you know that do that?

126. Mavericks Donut Company

Decorate your own donuts! How fun is that for kids – young and old!

127. Bushtukah

If you are an outdoor enthusiast then you will want to drop by one of Bushtukah’s two locations in Ottawa. This local store has everything you need for cycling, camping, snowsports and more! And it’s local (and we like local).

128. Beau’s Beer

Beau’s Beer is offered in many restaurants across the City of Ottawa and Lug-Tread is the official beer of Canada’s 150th! The brewery, located in Vankleek Hill is open 7 days a week and offers free wours and samples!

129. Sparks Street

Known as the pedestrian mall, Sparks Street features trendy clothing and jewellery shops, boutiques as well as national chain stores. There is something for everyone and it’s only a couple of blocks away from Parliament Hill!

MUST SEE SMALL TOWNS

130. Almonte

If there’s one thing we can say about Almontonians, it’s that they’re really proud of their town! And what’s not to be proud of? Lots of small shops, great local music, and yummy doughnuts from HFT!

131. Appleton

One drive through the village of Appleton and you will want to buy a house there. It’s nestled on the shoes of the Mississippi River and is rich in history and beautiful scenery.

132. Merrickville

Whether you are looking to stay at a quaint B&B or shop for antiques and collectibles, the town of Merrickville is not only historic, but it offers unique shopping and places to eat too. It’s the perfect afternoon destination for the shopaholic who loves to support small businesses.

133. Carp

The village of Carp is located west of Ottawa and was a major centre for agricultural activities in the 1800s. Its history is celebrated every year at the annual Carp Fair and can be seen on a mural located at the Carp Farmer’s Market that runs every weekend from April to October. Carp is also home to the Diefenbunker Museum.

134. Cumberland

Founded in 1802, the town of Cumberland is a quaint, historic town that always has family-friendly activities including home and village tours as well as a harvest market.

135. St-Albert’s

This small town is known for its cheese! It’s worth the drive to St-Albert’s east end simply for the cheese factory. You can buy the very best of curd, flavoured cheeses and stay for lunch at their restaurant!

136. Perth

It’s easy to drive by this small town on Highway 7, but take a few hours and make a stop. Or better yet, do a day trip with some friends or your significant other, and relax at the beautiful Tay River Reflections spa!

137. Pakenham

If you’re visiting the town of Pakenham in the winter be sure to check out Mount Pakenham for family-friendly skiing and winter tubing. Pakenham is also known for its historic five span stone bridge and the Pakenham General Store. If you’re visiting Pakenham in the summer be sure to stop for ice cream at Scoops! It’s a cottager-favourite!

For Canada’s 150th Birthday!

138. Interprovincial Picnic on the Bridge (July 2, 2017)

Residents and tourists from both sides of the Ottawa River are invited to enjoy a historic moment on the Alexandra Bridge – an Interprovincial picnic! The bridge will be transformed into a picnic-perfect green haven with incredible views of the Ottawa River! There will also be entertainment and other activities.

139. La Machine (July 26-30)

La Machine are oversized mechanical machines, including fire-breathing dragons, that are set to take to the streets of downtown Ottawa in late July. Should make for some great selfies!

140. Red Bull Crashed Ice (March 3-4)

If you like speed, the Ice Cross Downhill World Series is for you and it’s taking place at the Ottawa Locks on the Rideau Canal, which not only makes it unique but historic!

141. Grey Cup 2017 (November 21-26)

The 105th Grey Cup Festival will take place at Lansdowne Park. The Festival will include a number of free and ticketed events, that reflect Canada’s rich and diverse traditions, for fans from coast to coast to enjoy.

142. Stanley Cup Tribute (March 15-18)

The contemporary Ottawa Senators may have yet to bring the Stanley Cup home, but this 4-day tribute (conveniently being held over the March Break) will celebrate this esteemed hockey trophy!

143. Juno Week (March 27 – April 2)

The 46th Annual JUNO Awards are returning to Ottawa, which means the city will be crawling with talented musicians participating in JUNO Cup, JUNOfest, JUNO Fan Fare, and JUNO Songwriters’ Circle! The awards are being held at the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata on April 2nd.

144. Magnificance of Chaudiere Falls

In the fall, an ambient lighting display will illuminate Chaudière falls. The lights, combined with music, will evoke the culture of Indigenous people and in particular highlight the Algonquin heritage of the region. This display is in collaboration with the local First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities.

145. Urban Camping (June 29th to July 3rd)

A limited number of urban camping sites will be available (site reservations opened January 16th) in numerous parking lots and green spaces around Ottawa – all in celebration of Canada’s 150th!

146. MOSAÏCANADA 150/Gatineau 2017 (July 1- October 15)

For 107 days, Jacques-Cartier Park will host the biggest horticultural event in Canada including unique sculptures and paintings that reflect 150 years of history, culture and arts in Canada.

147. Kontinuum (End of June to Mid-September)

Touted to be an engaging underground multi-media experience that will project the future of Light Rail Transit in Ottawa now and in the future!

148. Agri 150 (all year long)

Rural Ottawa will celebrate Canada’s 150th with a series of unique outdoor events that will celebrate our local agriculture.

149. Sky Lounge (July 7-22)

Ottawa is known for it’s fantastic dining options and in the month of July, Ottawa is taking diners culinary experience to a whole new level by offering two weeks of dining over 150 feet in the air!

150. Canada Day on Parliament Hill (July 1st!)

Dress in red and white and join thousands of other Canadians to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday celebration on Parliament Hill! There will be live musical and theatrical performances and of course a fireworks display to remember!

For Those of Us Who Grew up in Church, This Article Resonates…

March 3rd, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle
Dan Darling talks about how the repetition of old hymns and programs in his church growing up cultivated in him a love for Christ and His church.

Boring Church Services Changed My Life

While I fought to keep my eyes open, the gospel pressed deep into my heart.

I’ve never really had a moment in my life—39 years—when I wasn’t going to church. My parents got engaged and married in the church. I was born into, raised in, and baptized in church.

My parents, first-generation Christians, were devout church-goers. We went every time the doors were open—and many times when they weren’t. My father, a plumber, volunteered thousands of man-hours helping build church buildings. My mother volunteered, worked as a secretary, and later served as a preschool teacher.

Since the age of five, I sat in church services: Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday night prayer meetings. I wasn’t allowed to draw. I was required to sit up straight—no fidgeting. And I wasn’t allowed to fall asleep.

Up through my teenage years, I thought of church as a bit boring. Sure, there were some life-changing, soul-stirring messages at summer camp or a special service. But for most of my life, including my years as a pastor, I did pretty much the same thing every week: singing familiar hymns or choruses, standing up and reading Scripture, listening to a sermon.

Ironically, one of the axioms of my childhood evangelical faith was this: Church is more than the service or a building; it is the called-out people of God, living on mission every day. Church, I was told, will not get you to heaven. Only a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ will do that.

I still believe this, more strongly now than ever, but I also believe that in some ways church does—or did—save me. It didn’t save me in the ways you might expect: a spectacular Sunday service, a homerun sermon, or a gripping worship set. God’s primary tool to transform my heart was not the conference speaker or the travelling revivalist or the worship concert. Those events were important, but now I realize that, more often, God changed my life using routine worship services in which I sang hymns I didn’t quite understand and heard messages I didn’t quite grasp.

In dark and stormy seasons, what comes into my head first? The lines of hymns I learned as child in church. The verses I memorized on Wednesday nights in my Awana class. The passages of Scripture we stood and read aloud.

During times of fear and anxiety, I drift back to the words of hope from Martin Luther’s epic hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”:

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

When I feel insecure, I recall the lines of the Methodist hymn, “I Stand Amazed in the Presence”:

I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how he could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.

The hymns of the blind poet, Fanny Crosby. The majestic lines from Isaac Watts. The simple melodies of Bill Gaither. These are just a few of the hundreds of hymns that were cemented in my heart from week after week of “boring” church services. As a young child enduring the routines of our Baptist church, I didn’t realize what was happening to me.

In his book, You Are What You Love, James K. A. Smith talks about the way our hearts are formed:

There is no formation without repetition. Virtue formation takes practice, and there is no practice that isn’t repetitive. We willingly embrace repetition as a good in all kinds of other sectors of our life— to hone our golf swing, our piano prowess, and our mathematical abilities, for example. If the sovereign Lord has created us as creatures of habit, why should we think repetition is inimical to our spiritual growth?

This repetition built in my heart a deep reservoir of theology. And now, as a husband and father and pastor, whenever I stand and sing these hymns, I can barely contain myself. At times I cannot sing; I can only weep. Some choruses evoke memories: My father serves communion while “Jesus Keep Me near the Cross” plays faintly in the background. Dad fights back tears as we sing “Jesus Paid It All.”

These rituals train our hearts. We sing to ourselves songs, hymns, and spiritual songs. We hear the same gospel preached to us, over and over again. We lift the cup to our lips and the bread to our tongues remembering, again, our place at the King’s table. Through these practices, God takes our hearts and seals them for his courts above, to paraphrase another hymn writer, Robert Robinson.

Don’t get me wrong. We shouldn’t eschew creativity in the church or stick with only one era of church history to form our Sunday liturgies. We are, after all, “new creation” people, and our churches should find fresh and innovative ways to communicate that old, old story.

But that’s just it. Our creativity should not seek to tell a new story. It should be designed to communicate to our hearts that same, old, wonderful story of salvation.

When I think back on the simple routines—the liturgies—that changed my life, I’m encouraged in my own pastoral role. I’m reminded afresh that the work of ministry is not so much about finding new, tantalizing ways to make people excited about Jesus, but about the timeless rituals that shape their hearts.

Because somewhere in your congregation are children singing words they don’t know, listening to Scripture they don’t understand, and fighting sleep during a sermon that doesn’t hold their interest. They don’t realize it yet, but the Spirit of God is pressing the gospel message, through yet another “boring” church service, deep within their hearts.

Daniel Darling is the vice president for communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC). Previously, he served as senior pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.

“Fighting for You Teaching Video” From Tenth Avenue North’s Mike Donehey

March 3rd, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

St. Patrick’s Day Fun

March 3rd, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle
We love celebrating life! Check out our fun, green treats & ideas to make St. Patrick’s Day one to remember.