"If the God you believe in as an idea doesn’t start showing up in what happens to you in your own life, you have as much cause for concern as if the God you don’t believe in as an idea does start showing up. It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling." ~ Frederick Buechner

31 January 2011

My Husband & Our Baby Journal

Nich and I have been writing letters to our baby boy since the first day we heard his little heartbeat (at eleven weeks). We keep them in a journal, and both of us write whenever we want to. There's no system, no schedule, no set topics. We just write our thoughts. Sometimes they're silly, sometimes they're reflective, and sometimes, we're just telling him what's going on with him at the moment and how we feel about it.

I like to tell Baby G about his daddy.

Mostly, that's because Nich is the one person with whom I am sharing this experience most intimately, but it's also because he's one person in the entire world I love the most. He's smart, noble, kind, so darn funny, and most of all, a godly man.

Recently, a friend asked me how I knew that Nich was someone I could marry when we started dating (which had been my strict standard for dating). I didn't even really need to think about it. The reason I knew was that when I met Nich, I knew that there was no way that I -- or anybody else -- would ever come before God to him. He has his priorities well-aligned, and that more than anything else in his character, gave me the confidence to know I could trust him with my heart.

Now we're waiting for this little boy to arrive, our little boy. And I love sharing this journey with Nich. Because when the eleventh person asks us on a Sunday morning whether we know "what" we're having, Nich will say, "Yes, it's a turtle," just to make me laugh. When they ask what the baby's name is going to be, Nich will come up with the most ridiculous names (the current one is "Buford Beauregard") because I'm getting tired of telling people that we're not sharing until Baby G is born. And when I get grossed out with all the sneezing, sniffling, coughing, red-nosed, germ-infested people who insist on coming to church, he'll walk out and sit in the foyer with me for the service. He gives me back rubs, foot massages, helps cook dinner, thinks it's "cute" when Baby G moves (which is still quite frequently), and talks to the baby to convince him to come out: "Hello, baby! You can come on out now! Your room's all ready for you!"

He still goes into the nursery once or twice a night to "just look," and I love how excited he is to be a daddy.

And finally, I love that in my tenth month, I don't weigh anywhere near what Nich weighs. I know that sounds kind of dumb, because Nich's pretty slender, but I was determined to not surpass my husband in weight with this pregnancy. I told him this last night, and he got quite the kick out of it.


A girl's got to have goals.

I probably won't write about the weight thing in Baby G's journal. Or maybe I will. He's got to learn sometime about being sensitive to women and our idiosyncratic needs, right? Even if they make absolutely no sense to him, at least he'll be aware. Or he'll just laugh, which is okay, too. After all, we can't take ourselves too seriously.

Snowflakes & People

The entire East Coast has had so much snow this winter that everyone's complaining -- even the north-easterners. But we have had our share of sunny days, too, and those are my favorite in the wintertime. There's something beautiful about sunshine and blue skies against all the crisp, white snow.

And when people whine, I just say, "Well, then move." That usually makes it stop.

Or they go into a million reasons why they can't move, which is all just very silly. We all have a choice to be where we are.

This is why I have "learn God's grace" on the display of my phone. My greatest weakness is lacking grace for His people. He keeps saying to me, "If you have known my grace, you will show it to others." I know He has shown me abundant grace; I'm just terrible at giving it naturally, especially toward people I don't particularly like.

My friend Stephanie lives in Scotland with her husband Wes, who is attending seminary there. Recently, she posted a "Things We've Learned in Scotland" list, and one of them was about "getting on with it." She said, "We are often challenged and compelled by the strength and stamina that we see in Scottish people, especially in hard times. Rarely do you observe people wallowing in fear and misery, unable to do anything. Rather, they ‘get on with it.’ While there is certainly an extreme here to avoid (i.e. never reflecting, just pushing through things without properly dealing with it), we are generally refreshed by this pragmatic approach, which challenges us to do the same." I admire that determination and stamina, probably because this is how I was raised by my parents. You don't let circumstances discourage you and dictate how your day/week/month is going to go, much less your life. Saying something "ruined" you day is utterly ridiculous when it's as trivial as who won the Super Bowl or the weather. I hear that sort of negativity a lot around here, and I find it bothersome. But even if I don't agree, I'm slowly beginning to understand.

You see, on a snowy night a couple weeks ago, I was sitting in the car at the gas station while Nich was filling it up with fuel. We were on our way home from a dinner date out, and I had turned around in the seat to smile at him.  When I turned back, I was seeing stars (this had happened to me once before that week already, and the doctor said that as long as my blood pressure was normal -- which it always is -- I was fine). I closed my eyes to allow my vision to readjust, and when I opened them, I focused on the snowflakes falling gently onto the windows. And I realized that they were so big, I could see the perfect beauty of their crystalline shape for a brief moment before they melted against the warmer glass.

I got to thinking about how each snowflake is supposed to be unique. I said to Nich that I would almost find it more believable that every snowflake was exactly the same than to think that all these billions of snowflakes we see are different from one another. He brought up the point that the billions of people who have lived on this earth are supposed to be unique in that way, too.

What I need, then, is to be able to catch those glimpses of beauty in each person, glimpses of God. I need to look for them, because that is what will remind me of His grace.

30 January 2011

You Learn Something New Every Day

I've been sick and feeling sort of cooped up for the entire weekend, so I decided to take a nice, hot bath tonight. With a lot of help from Nich, I got settled into the tub with a tall glass of ice water and Harry Potter for an hour of relaxation.

The trouble came afterward.

I drained the bathtub, got out of the tub (again with Nich's help) and we stared as the sink gurgled up a bunch of water and crud. And then -- and maybe this was pretty thoughtless of me -- I used the toilet. Well.

Thankfully, nothing overflowed, but now we know.

Four to five months and we're outta here.

28 January 2011

A List of Ten

My brain's going a mile a minute today, so I'm too distracted to pull together a concise, on-topic post, so here's a list.

1. Nich and I have started a new one-year Bible reading plan. We haven't done this together since we were dating, so it's exciting to be doing it again. This time, we're following a chronological reading plan. It's sort of weird to leave Genesis behind after a few chapters, jump into Job's misery, and then go back to Genesis, but it will also be nice to not feel like we're just trudging through from front cover to back cover.

2. My hospital bag is mostly packed. At least, I have the essentials in there. Oh, okay, fine, I just have a change of clothes for me, a coming-home outfit for the baby, and a blanket for the baby for the car trip home. Whatever. I've started.

3. My usual laundry schedule is once every two weeks. I take a day and do three loads (lights, darks, whites). I wash, dry, and fold it all in one day and then Nich comes home and puts it away. Lately, though, I've been feeling like I should do it more often, because I don't want to come home to a pile of laundry if I go into labor. Isn't that funny?

4. People say ridiculous things to pregnant women. I wish they had "Mute" buttons.

5. I'm learning to sew cushion covers with a friend from church. Lesson learned so far: I do not like to iron small things with a steamer iron.
 a. It burns your fingers if you're not careful.
b. It smells funny.

6. I'm not sure how the whole "nesting" thing is supposed to work for those of us who are already a bit compulsive when it comes to keeping our houses clean and organized. I've heard a couple women say that they did crazy things like scrub their kitchen floors with a toothbrush. I'm sorry, but I really don't think I'm going to be doing that. That just sounds dumb and pointless.

7. Even if I go past my due date, I will not be drinking caster oil. That's disgusting.

8. I feel a little grumpy when people ask me repeatedly if there's anything I "need" still.
a. Of course there is. For the first time in our lives, we're trying to prepare for a new little person to live with us.
b. I've already told you where to find our registries. What else am I supposed to tell you? That you can buy us one of the $100 items on them specifically or that you can come over and do my dishes every day? I'm sorry, I have more class than that.
c. Please don't give me your gross hand-me-downs. Would you have wanted to get stained things to use for your baby, especially your first, when you were pregnant? If it's something you obviously don't want to use anymore, why would you give it to someone else? And don't tell me to throw it out if I don't want it. Throw it out yourself and save us a trip to the dump. Don't get me wrong, I love hand-me-downs and used stuff. Just have the decency to make sure it's in good condition. Your life may be busy, but do you think I have time or energy to do extra sorting or laundry right now?

9. I think the snow is beautiful, even if I do have to shovel some of it once in a while. Stop griping, people. It's called winter, and it happens every year. If you don't like it, move. Also, pregnancy is not a sickness. Pregnant women are not invalids. We are capable of shoveling, and if we possess a smidgen of a brain, we know to listen to our bodies and not push it too far. Thank you to those who help us shovel or even better, come over with your snow blower, but all the rest of you sitting in your warm homes lecturing us? Save it for someone who wants to hear your "advice."

10. I'm feeling a little snarky, lately, can you tell? :~) And even though I've warned people about leaving snarky comments on my blog,
a. It's my blog, so I can be snarky if I want to be.
b. I'm pregnant, and I've been VERY good for the past nine months about not complaining. Mainly because I think it's incredibly lame that women use the "hormone" excuse for having bad attitudes about life, whether that's in pregnancy or when they have their periods. I figure, I can be a little gripe-y this once.
c. If you had practical strangers coming up to you regularly, staring at your belly (which already makes you feel physically uncomfortable), and saying stupid things, you'd eventually want to punch someone, too.

*11. Because I can ... and because I want to end this post on a cheerful note :~)
One of my favorite things right now is seeing how excited Nich is about our baby. We set up our crib this past weekend, and ever since then, Nich has been wandering in there a couple times in the evening to "just look." I love it. He has also been putting his head close to my belly and saying, "Okay, we're ready for you to come out now. Your room's all ready, and we want to meet you!" I like it.

The End. I think I'll go do some laundry now.

Good Food for Thought Here

21 January 2011

On Being Buff 'n' Tough

I don't know if this is a universal secondary school experience, but it seems like when you enter middle school or high school, it becomes a compliment for girls to be called "buff." It's supposed to connote strength, toughness, and ... it's just supposed to be a positive thing.

Well, honestly, I have to admit that whenever I hear "buff," I immediately think either "in the buff" or of those extremely muscled, oiled heavy-weight lifting women on TV (which I think is gross). It's just not one of those phrases that makes me feel affirmed.

Until now.

Nich and I were talking recently about labor and delivery and how we wanted to begin praying very intentionally and specifically for that process. After reading up on the various options for pain management during labor and taking our very informative birthing class, we have decided that it is right for me to go drug-free (unless there are complications, obviously). I shared with him how our friend Jess had said to me early on that she totally felt like I could do it (which meant more to me than I think she knows).

And wouldn't you know it, my terrific husband says, "Well, honey, you're a tough girl. Sometimes, you get scared before the pain, but once it's there, you deal with it pretty well."

I'm so glad for the support I've had from friends about cloth diapering, breastfeeding, labor, amongst a myriad of other aspects of pregnancy/mommyhood, and I hope that continues. But having a husband who is thoroughly supportive is a gift for which I am so, so, so grateful. I don't know how some women go through this transition in their lives without spouses, because truly, having Nich share in this joyful anticipation with me makes all of it that much more beautiful.

Because I'm feeling all warm and fuzzy this morning, I'm going to leave you with these photos from the immensely talented Kerianne Brown. Check out her website; her work is absolutely lovely.

13 January 2011

Parenting and "Spousing"

Why isn't there a word for being a spouse? Or is there one and I'm just having a moment of oblivion?

A portion of this entry will be from my journal, and although that entry was a week and a half ago, it ties in well with my thoughts tonight, so I thought I'd include it, with some modifications of course. After all, there's a reason I keep a journal along with this blog.

With the start of each year comes that inevitable, familiar question: What's your new year's resolution? I used to make up these grandiose plans for each year when I was younger, laying out incredibly lofty, profound goals for myself to be a better person, perhaps naively thinking that by writing down my resolutions, I was already on my way to becoming the someone I wanted to be.

"I've sort of ignored the question in the past few years. I don't know if this is due to contentment with who I am and the life I live or because time has shown that most new year's resolutions are shelved by the end of January, put away and forgotten along with all the holiday decorations. It's probably a mixture of both.

This year, among the flurry of new year's greetings on Facebook, I noticed that one of our young, college-aged friends had asked the question. Initially skimming past her post, I found myself returning to it, wondering what my primary goal for this year really was. All the usual, fanciful resolutions flittered through my mind rapidly, but once those initial thoughts dispersed, I suddenly realized I did have one true goal for this year.

I want to be a good mommy.

This, I believe, encapsulates all my other dreams and desires in life, because in order to be a good mother, I must first be a plethora of other good things. I must be a good wife to my husband, a helpmate and a friend who encourages, loves, respects, and supports him. I must be a good homemaker -- which is not at all the same as being a good housekeeper, although that too, has its place -- creating a safe and pleasant haven for our family and friends. I must be a good friend, demonstrating that people and relationships ought to be cherished above things and circumstances. And above all, I must be a child of God, redeemed and full of grace.

As we ready the nursery for the arrival of our little one, as I launder his clothes, blankets, and diapers, as we ensure the safe installment of his car seat, and as we faithfully go to our weekly doctor's appointments, I want to keep at the forefront of my mind that I must ready my heart for motherhood. I haven't really felt the nesting instinct yet, but more important than getting my house spic and span, I want to sweep out the cobwebs of irritation and the dust bunnies of impatience. I want to wipe away the muddy footprints left behind by selfishness.

As in marriage, I am learning that my life isn't just my own to do with as I please when I please. Family is communal living at its most intimate, where all the members have an intrinsic calling to love one another, just as He first loved us.

It seems altogether fitting, then, that my ladies' Bible study has chosen to study Danny Silk's Loving Our Kids On Purpose and that our couples' community group is going through Focus on the Family's Higher Love. Working on my studies is a daily reminder that in order to be a good mom, I need to keep my priorities straight. I need to spend time fostering my relationship with God, reading my Bible, and praying. I also need to keep my husband ahead of my child, which isn't hard now, but probably will get increasingly difficult once Baby G is here.

So with this new year comes yet another lofty resolution, but somehow, I have a feeling that I won't be shelving this one by the end of the month.

10 January 2011

Sunrise, Sunset ... and Showers of Love

When Nich and I first started dating, we had a conversation about which are more beautiful, sunrises or sunsets. He was in favor of the former. I, on the other hand, have always enjoyed the "quieting down" that sunsets signify.

I've seen a fair number of gorgeous sunrises lately from my bedroom window, and if we had that same discussion now, I'm not sure that I would be so definite in my answer anymore. The sunrises we've had lately have been breathtakingly beautiful, and I'm sort of* kicking myself for not going out to take a picture, especially this morning. There's something lovely about the effect of the sun coming up behind the dark silhouettes of the trees down the streets of the neighborhood, reflecting color and light off the wispy clouds, the snow-covered rooftops with the steam coming out of the chimneys, the stillness of winter mornings...

We are now less than a month away from our due date, and only a week away from being "full term." Although there are a few other things that we need before our little boy makes his appearance, I'm getting more prepared for his arrival. All his NB and 0-3 M clothes are washed and mostly put away, I finished stitching up his curtain over the weekend and it's hanging up in the nursery, and we ordered his crib (thanks to my parents!). We have a friend who is an incredible seamstress (who is making us a sailboat baby quilt using a pattern called "Ahoy Matey" which is just adorable and perfect for Baby G), and she's going to help me make cushion covers for my rocking chair and a crib sheet, so that will be ready in the next couple weeks.

A sweet friend told me that there is a box coming in the mail this week with a gift for Baby G, which is always exciting. We've been very blessed to have experienced the generous love of friends here where we live but also to be "showered" with gifts from friends who live far away, too. I hope that as life gets busier with a baby, I will still remember to love on our friends who live farther away, because it has meant a lot to us during this transition season to feel loved and supported through these lovely gifts that arrive on our doorstep.

In a way, it's like having a surrogate family, which means more to us than we could ever put into words, as my parents are far away (thank goodness for Skype - we get to talk to them fairly regularly and my mom has enjoyed seeing my belly grow) and I guess we're just not close enough to Nich's family to really be "on the radar" with them (it seems like it's pretty much out of sight, out of mind with them). There have been times when both of us have felt kind of sad about the two of us not having a close-knit family support system, but then I am reminded that we really aren't on an island, and that we're surrounded by a lot of beautiful souls who love on us well.

Here are some pictures from our showers here. I wish I had taken a picture of the boxes that came from our "long distance" shower friends!

*Only sort of because it's cold out there, and there isn't much that justifies freezing your hiney off before seven in the morning.
The women in my fall Bible study group held a party in honor of Baby G.

A car full of gifts after our "here" shower (as opposed our "long distance" shower, where some of my dear college friends sent us gifts via mail :))
An outfit for Baby G
Beautiful friends who planned and hosted our baby shower here

08 January 2011

Potty Talk

We all know that feeling.

It happens often when you're a kid and playing hide-and-seek. You've found the perfect hiding spot, and you're crouched there, breathing as quietly as you can, listening for the person who's "It," every nerve tingling at the prospect of being discovered. After a few minutes pass, you realize you really, really, really have to go to the bathroom.

And when you finally get to go, it's pure relief.

Going to the bathroom these days is such an anticlimactic experience. I get that feeling to really, really, really needing to go -- which is especially unpleasant at 4:30 in the morning -- and when I get to the bathroom, there's no more than a mere trickle. I have to admit, even after several days of this, I sit there thinking, "That's IT? Really?"

Anyway, this is all probably too much information for most of you, but it's ridiculously early for a Saturday morning, and I had nothing better to do than share about my latest bathroom experiences.

At least that's pretty much the extent of my pregnancy woes. I'm grateful for the little things in life right now.

06 January 2011

Bright Morning Star

My favorite types of contemporary worship songs are the ones where I am encouraged to reflect on the various aspects of who God is. Songs like "You Are Holy (Prince of Peace)" come to mind immediately. I don't know if it's a Chris Tomlin original or if Michael W. Smith wrote it, but I absolutely love that song.

Our worship pastor at church recently introduced Mark Roach's "You Are" to us. The lyrics are simple, not entirely poetic, but definitely worshipful.

At the end of the chorus, there is a line that names God as "the Bright Morning Star." I've always thought of sunrises when we've sung that line, but this morning changed my mind. As I was standing at our living room window, waiting to wave goodbye to Nich as he headed off to work, I was watching the narrow strip of deep pink, dark orange, and gold widen into the deep bluish purple of the dawn sky when my eyes were drawn higher up into the dark sky.

There, shining alone in the inky blue, was a bright gem of a star, shining steadily above the neighbor's tree.

And God brought this song immediately to my heart.

You are holy, You are faithful
You are Savior, You are friend
You are all I'll ever need
Lord, You are

And You are every question's answer
You are every reason why
You are moving, You are still
Lord, You are

And You are the Lord on high
And You are the way, the truth, the life
And You are the Word made flesh
You are the Bright Morning Star
You are

You are glory, hallelujah
You are hope of peace on earth
You are Alpha and Omega
You are

And You are comfort, You are refuge
You are love personified
And You are kindness and compassion
You are

You are my God and my King
You are the words that I sing
You are the reason I make this offering

02 January 2011

Did You Ever Have to Eat Mustard Sandwiches?

I was watching a biographical documentary on Shania Twain, and in describing how she grew up in complete poverty, she mentioned that she went to school with plain mustard sandwiches to "save face" because it was too embarrassing to show up to school day after day without a lunch.

Thinking, "Wow, that's pretty poor," I turned to Nich and said, "Did you ever have to eat plain mustard sandwiches for lunch?" He shook his head and said, "No, mayonnaise. That's how I developed a taste for Miracle Whip."

It's when I hear stories like this, especially from my husband (and I've heard a few from his childhood), that my heart breaks. I don't understand how some people have so much that they grow obese and others have so little that they have to live on things like mustard or mayo sandwiches, especially little children who need protein, vitamins, grains, and all that other good stuff to grow.

It actually makes me cry from time to time to think about these things.

I said to Nich, "That's so sad."

And being the cheerful soul that he is, he responded, "Children are resilient. A kid can learn to like what's available."

I hope we can avoid ever having to live in such poverty, but even more, I pray that our family will always have compassionate eyes and hearts to see and give to those around us who have even less than we do.

Why, hello there, Twenty-Eleven

We have about five more weeks to go until Baby G's due date, although I'm sort of hoping that he'll take after his mama and be early to everything.

I haven't been one of those pregnant women who spend their every waking minute thinking about the baby or baby-related stuff, but now that I've been home a lot more working on getting ready for his arrival, I find myself being more reflective. This is probably a good thing, considering he could be here a month from now.

One of the thoughts I had this weekend as we rolled into the new year was that to our baby, the 1900s will seem FOREVER ago. He will never have known living in the twentieth century. What's weirder was that I realized that he (and all our other children) will be born in an entirely different century than Nich and me. I don't know if this is at all mind-boggling to anyone else, but it was to me.

Something else I thought of yesterday: I was lying in bed, looking at the wedding picture we have on the wall of our bedroom and thinking how sometimes, it seems like just yesterday we got married and other times, I feel like we've been married forever (in a good way). Then I got to thinking about visiting other (older) people's homes and seeing their dated, yellowed wedding pictures. By the time our kids have the critical thinking skills to process our photos and memories, our wedding pictures will look to them as those old pictures do to me right now. This thought made me aware of how fast time is flying by.

2011 is going to be an exciting and challenging year for us. There are a lot of changes that we're anticipating, changes that will stretch us, grow us, mature us, and hopefully, push us closer together as a family and to God. I just listened to a sermon by Mark Driscoll on "fear not" and what that really means. I pray for a spirit of love, courage, and resilience as we enter 2011 and all it will bring.