welcome, little thomas!

hummel family

Thomas Ephraim Hummel, Sept 8, 2015

Because, of course, on the day I’m supposed to run a bunch of errands to settle a contract for a new house we’re supposed to buy, and then get a little fix made on our new van, and then take a deep breath about dodging the COBRA health insurance paperwork bullet because the new health insurance from Aaron’s job starts the next day… This baby, who I’m assuming is probably one of the most eager individuals on the planet, would decide to be born and nearly redefine the idea of a “precipitous birth” in the process. Every little bit of his existence over the last 9-10 months so far can be summed up with the phrase, “He’s not Annie.” After plenty of discussion over nearly every name used for  men in the English-speaking world, he is named after our favorite apostle Thomas and the second-born son of Joseph, Ephraim (“fruitful”), because we share his blessing: “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (Genesis 41:52)

annie and Thomas

Annie and Thomas

These two dear children are full of many little needs, and our “babymoon” this time around has included: horrendous world-class chigger attack recovery (Aaron), nasty cold/sore throats (Aaron and Annie, just a little one for me), lots of paperwork and inspections and decisions in house-purchasing (Aaron and me), more struggles with eating (Thomas), and not enough space, privacy, or peace with all of us and Max in our echo-y 700 sq.ft. apartment. This is a little nuts, and absolutely no detail of this summer and fall is what we expected at the start of this year! This move, Aaron’s new job, and especially this little boy are good, good gifts we would not have dreamed of even asking for or expecting this year. And it’s a little crazy to say this, but with one-and-a-half days of Daddy being back at work with me at home, my growing suspicion is that doing the newborn/toddler/dog care during the day when Aaron works regular hours is going to be less stressful than managing the newborn/puppy care while he was gone 15 hours every day in Minnesota. thomas sleeping!

Welcome to this chaos, Thomas. Our family will never be the same and we are so in love you, little boy!

Joseph said to his father, “They are my sons, whom God has given me here.” …Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face; and behold, God has let me see your offspring also.” Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger. … And he blessed Joseph and said:

“May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day,
the Angel who has delivered me from all harm
— May He bless these boys.
May they be called by the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
and may they increase greatly upon this earth.”
Genesis 48. 

blessed sojourning

The Lord watches over the sojourners – Psalm 146:9

Every single pregnancy I’ve experienced so far has had some milestone in the first week of August, from the first positive pregnancy test several years past to Annie’s delivery twelve months ago. Her birth and losing a baby right before that pregnancy mean both last year and the year before, I spent this date in labor. That’s about as detailed as any public birth story will get from me, but I think it’s an ironic blessing that I spend this week once again exhausted with crushed ribs, heartburn, and the constant presence of the rolls and punches of a child who seems to have some particular athletic inclinations even in the womb. I don’t know if moving makes this stage of pregnancy harder, or if it’s being pregnant that makes moving harder, but I’m not going to lie: this has been a tough week and I think it’s going to stay that way for a while. Yet my sentiments from last year still stand: There is no third trimester anywhere near as uncomfortable as the one that doesn’t happen. We’d be very surprised (and in a state of medical emergency) if the new baby were to arrive this week, so I think our big move to St. Louis will suffice for this year’s Notable Early August Event.

These feet are not as swollen as last time! Which is unbelievable, but really awesome!

These feet are not as swollen as last time! Which is unbelievable, but really awesome!

How’s moving? It’s hard, but good. Last Saturday we were in Minnesota, where Annie woke us up very early so she could get some extra springy-doorstop play in before we left. All the stuff that survived my extreme-minimalist purging had been packed into a moving container earlier in the week, so we spent the morning cleaning out the “Coon Ranch,” the house we bought at the end of 2013 before I had seen it in person, for the last time. I will not miss scrubbing the cracked ceramic tile floor in the kitchen. We said good-bye to that house, then returned a mattress to our neighbors who were also dear friends, and she said, “Even though you have to leave, I am so glad you came!” I shed a few tears and agreed with her. We drove a few hours south, and right before we fell asleep on a guest bed in Iowa, Aaron said, “I miss the Ames house more than the Coon Ranch.” Maybe nostalgia is still just a huge liar? Who knows, but I agreed with that sentiment, too. Traveling south reminded us clearly of good things in Iowa, different good things in Minnesota, and even more unknown good things to come in Missouri, (which, apparently, does NOT sound like “misery” in the local dialect!? Who knew?).

Aaron locking up the Coon Ranch for the last time...!

Aaron locking up the Coon Ranch for the last time…!

After a quick stop in Iowa, we drove to St. Louis with a poor baby girl’s carsick moans accompanying us the whole way. It was tough on her, but at last we made it! We’re staying in a furnished apartment for now, which has the marvelous bonus of an outdoor pool (saltwater, so fancy), luxury bathing facilities for humans (a sweet soaker tub) and pets (a “Dog Spa” shower room down the hall, which means Max is cleaner than he has ever been before in his life), and generally the ritziest living conditions we’ve ever had. I have stayed in a hotel fancier than this… maybe twice in my life? First-world comforts make these 700 square feet feel very tight with all of us here, so Annie sleeps in her pack-n-play in our walk-in-closet, just like she did in Minnesota, and I am certainly hoping we won’t be here long after the new baby arrives. Still, it’s great to have a nice place to land while Aaron starts his new job.
annie in toybox
And now my eyes are glazed over from looking at so. many. different. houses online, and I’m extremely impressed at what a trooper Annie has been for our real estate excursions so far. Most of these houses we’re investigating have enormous backyards (one right on a private lake!) with lots of bedrooms and space, and it’s pretty marvelous to think about enjoying one of these places long-term. (HA! WATCH US MOVE AGAIN!) This doesn’t exactly feel real! It’s easy to look back at the last two years and wonder what on earth just happened?, but this craziness has been matched with so much joy in having little Anne here with us for a whole year. I usually sing her the Doxology before naps and bedtime, but the several thousand times the familiar Psalter tune has sounded with this sweet girl in my arms this year does not seem to be enough to express the wonder and thankfulness all around.
Anne, five days old.

Annie, five days old. How has it been a year already? We love you so!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!

reading round-up (5.15.15)

Both of our Minnesota springs to date have negated the adage “April Showers bring May Flowers” for different reasons. Last year, it was because there was too much snow for too long. This year winter ended at a reasonable time, but we just haven’t had much rain. Now in May, it is finally coming down and our grass is finally coming up. (Aaron far prefers working outside, so he is glad to be done with the new floor and seeing progress in our lawn and garden!) This year we’re just doing tomatoes and green beans.

Both of our Minnesota springs have included excitement about other kinds of growth, too. We’re ecstatic and humbled by another healthy pregnancy! This one means welcoming a baby boy to our family this fall, and by some sweet mercy, the first half of pregnancy has been significantly easier (physically and mentally) than the first half of my pregnancy with Annie. I’m especially grateful for an easier pregnancy while managing an adventurous nine-month-old, and I’m still blown away to think we’ll have two children. I spent a long time wondering if I would ever have any kids, and this
really feels like winning the lottery twice.

Parenting
I thought there were some great thoughts in 8 Items for Christian Parents to Ponder, especially the encouragement to “Consider that there is no one in the world more likely than you to be instruments of their eternal good. ” It’s easy to get bogged down with the idea that we could possibly be really ruining some aspect of our kids’ lives, and I’m grateful for the reminder that we’re also in the position to be the greatest instrument of goodness and blessing for them, too.

I also really appreciated 9 Things Adult Daughters Want Their Mothers to Know. It resonated with me as a daughter and inspired me as a mother.

On the flipside, Raising Gentle Boys was good encouragement for thinking about the new baby. He’ll be himself in so many ways that are more about just being his own person and not necessarily about his gender, but since I don’t know anything about those other things yet… this is what I’ve got to think about: ultrasound technology reassures us that the baby seems to be developing normally and is, in fact, male.

Personality
This post on the benefits of knowing yourself was great. I’ve followed Kristin’s blog for a while and really appreciate so many of her reflections on frugality and family life. I remember the sense of relief that came when I decided I was done with “couponing” and then again in the last few months when I decided borrowing baby clothes was more stressful for me than it was worth, and her advice here resonated deeply for me:

“We don’t all have to be good at the same things, and we don’t all have to love the same things.
(No one can possibly be good at everything and love everything!)
The important thing is to live within your means and manage your money responsibly, and there are a zillion ways to do that well.”

If knowing yourself means identifying with a Myers-Briggs personality type, this Definition of Hell for Each Myers-Briggs Personality Type might extremely accurate. I am an ENFP, but just barely on to the extroverted side; I’m pretty sure Aaron is exactly the opposite, an ISTJ. Hell for an ENFP is essentially the description of the job I held for 3 years when Aaron and I first got married, and it was just nice to (again) be affirmed that I wasn’t being dramatic when I told people it was like a living hell.
For the ENFP:  Every minute of the rest of your life has been scheduled for you – and it’s a long series of arbitrary, solitary tasks.
For the ISTJ: You are expected to complete a highly esteemed project with absolutely no guidance as to what’s expected of you.
In some ways, this describes both of our current occupations as well, which is particularly laughable. (I will say, the monotonous aspects of life as a stay-home mom are much more tolerable after living through some of the truly horrendous -for me- tasks in my old job. and both of these descriptions apply to quite a bit of parenting.)

Productivity 
Aaron has been reviewing different management and productivity materials for companies he is interested in working for… There’s a lot of interesting stuff out there! This Tedx Talk from David Allen (who wrote “Getting Things Done”) is an oldie-but-a-goodie. We were just talking about some of the stuff he says here, and I think it’s very much worth 22 minutes of your time. (Grab a notebook to take some notes and jot down some thoughts afterwards!) We were just saying we might need to review this together every few months… It’s not a bad idea.

Science
Another Ted presentation from Pamela Ronald talks about the intersection of “Organic” farming and GMO crops hits on some good points for lay discussions on agriculture and biotechnology.

Miscarriage 
This blog from Mandi covers a lot of great topics about recurring loss and pregnancy after miscarriages. In some ways she seems like my Catholic twin in reflecting on those topics and I think this blog is a great resource for interested parties.

Reading 
I recently rediscovered LibriVox, full of free audio books in the public domain, and I’m enjoying working through the Anne of Green Gables series again. I find that YA literature is just right for listening while I’m working around the house — it’s engaging but not so dense that I can’t get something else done, too.

Music
Annie recently discovered the joys of hitting things with a plastic spoon, so I gave her some tupperware to beat and turned on Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare For the Common Man. So much fun. So much proletariat ire. (Copeland was a phenomenal American composer with strong ties to progressive/socialist  politics. I’m linking to it’s performance at a 9/11 memorial to compensate on the other side, maybe?)
Musician mama side note: I really like showing her videos of musical performances where she can see the instruments!


We’re looking forward to a low-key weekend with a few little house projects, playing outside with Annie and Max, and lots of much-needed relaxing. Have a happy weekend, friends!

under the shadow (mother’s day 2015)

This year’s avoidance of any Mother’s Day greeting card displays has been due mostly to having a little more to juggle while I’m at the store these days, and less to do with feeling like everything inside me was shriveling up every time I thought about children or the idea of being a mom. I definitely like it better this way.

annie at store

 

The past nine months of real-life mothering have been so dear. I wouldn’t wish the journey I had before this on my worst enemy, but I wouldn’t trade the lessons coming from that and my sweet girl for anything, either. It’s also a little pointless to think about what I would trade because I can’t go back and change anything, anyway. My initiation to motherhood was not at all what I expected, and this means so many of my attitudes and perspectives about life as a parent are different than they would have been otherwise. Sometimes that is still hard, and today I still come in to relationships with the shadow of past grief, carrying a lot more baggage on the topic of children and pregnancy than I would have liked. I have been profoundly blessed by the example of Mary, who was also decidedly shocked by the way she became a mom, too. I take comfort to know that she saw clearly how the purpose of her role as a mother was not primarily that she would have a baby, but that she would encounter the Messiah and the fulfillment of God’s promise, even when it happened in ways that confused her and seemed so different from how she might have planned it.

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you; and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” – Luke 1:35.

While I was pregnant with Annie, I wondered how mothering a child would differ from the sort of “mothering” that came out of my miscarriages. There is everyday stuff to sort through, yes, and more to juggle than before, but at the core I think these things have been mostly the same. The everyday acts of raising my daughter are hard work. They require sacrifice: of my time, my pride, my selfishness. I am diligent to read and pray and make decisions we deem best on every topic imaginable, like medical care during pregnancy and delivery, how to feed the baby, where she sleeps, what kind of structure we have to our days and nights, consoling her or letting her cry, vaccinations, education, spiritual formation, etc., and then continue carrying on relationships where other people have also thought long and hard in making those same choices for their kids and somehow come to the wrong conclusions. I know. But the demands I experienced before: sacrificing so much without a choice in the matter, battling so much insecurity and uncertainty about the future, and navigating awkwardness in some relationships because I was so tender? That was also incredibly difficult, and it happened without the obvious joy of a child to bring such delight! Parenting now is difficult because I feel the weight of responsibility so heavily. A child is a real person; the stakes are high. But I take great comfort to know that parenting Annie — and the new baby coming this fall! — is supposed to be overwhelming, and the strength needed for this task comes under the protective shadow of the Holy Spirit. The difficulties of life before and after the arrival of a baby are both satisfied by the same faithful promises of help and joy. Even with the reality of parenthood, the true satisfaction of life is not found in relation to a human child but a heavenly father.

Several people have asked me if motherhood has provided any “healing” from the losses and heartache of the last few years, and it has been interesting to think about. There is so much joy and delight in the very places I was so sorrowful, yes. Maybe even more happiness than I might have experienced otherwise? Who knows. It is not difficult in any way to look at my beautiful girl or my again-expanding midsection and wonder how this could be a blessing, like I had to do with the babies I lost before this. But “healing”? I don’t want to think of it in those terms. The answer to the true problems posed by those miscarriages, the wrestling with death and grief and what it meant to be a mother? Those questions are met with the same gifts I find for the troubles of today: The presence of the Holy Spirit now, and the coming full understanding in the resurrection, when the shadow of death is removed completely.

Many people are burdened with desire for many things — having a baby was not the lone thing I longed for — and the beauty of any wait is that it is not a waste when it clarifies the source of true fulfillment. I look back and say the grief-shadowed wait was beautiful not because it led to children, but because it led me closer to the everlasting shadow of God’s love and protection.

There he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears. – Isaiah 25:7

My soul will be satisfied… for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. – Psalm 63:4-7

Coon Ranch: the house i had not seen

coon ranch

Did you know I signed on the dotted line for this house without having seen it in person? The transition from Iowa to Minnesota was a little bit nuts, and buying a new house I had not seen seemed appropriate, given that all of life felt like such a leap of faith in this move. Would we ever have a baby? Would Aaron like his job? Would we have a doctor we liked? Would we make friends? Would we find a good church? Would we regret not waiting for something else to come together? Would I find any grocery store I liked as much as Fareway? I had no answers about the future, so it felt normal to add, “What kind of house will we have, and will I like it?” to the mix.

(After 17 months I reflect on those questions: Some answers were yes, some were no, and a few things are still up in the air.)

We looked at a bunch of houses together and fought like crazy about them (this is embarrassing but pretty normal when househunting, I think), and our schedules conflicted enough that Aaron had to shop on his own on during the last week of our house-buying window. If he didn’t find one, we would probably be renting (and therefore probably not getting a dog) for the next several years. We looked at pictures of puppies online and prayed that something would work out. He found one and told me it was boring but that boring was the best choice for us right now. I closed my eyes and signed like Ariel giving her soul to Ursula.

Ariel contract

 

And I will say, this house is perfect for what we thought we needed, and yet… we don’t really like it. This is a total first-world problem. It works, it has the details we were looking for (a guest room, a good spot for piano lessons, a fenced in yard for little Max, etc.) and was in the right price range.  I think it’s just that the “cool factor” of our old house is a hard act to follow. We have nothing that compares to the old vaulted wood ceilings, fireplace, crawlspace storage, stone patios, or wooded outdoor stairways. Instead, we are in a neighborhood full of the exact same 3-bedroom 2-bath 1960’s rambler. And not just “similar,” I mean, THE SAME. Our floor plan is identical to every other house on  our street, and the next street, and everything else around here. (A few people in the neighborhood got fancy and put an enclosed walkway between their garage and their house, but that’s about it. Why anyone thought detached garages were a good idea in Minnesota is a mystery I will ponder until the grave. It’s right up there with why there was carpet in the kitchen at the old house before we tiled it. I spilled some leftover chili on that one time and you just can’t get something like that out of carpeting, you know?) Where the old house was in meticulous shape (though out of date) when we moved in, the people who lived here before us were more of the TV-watching and only-mowing-the-lawn-once-a-summer kind of family. It’s a new challenge to take over a home from people who didn’t value their stewardship, so we’ve had to do lots of “maintenance catch up” projects, too.

The past few months have included a lot of work, and we now have a bit more to be proud of here: Lots of grass seeding and careful watering. New windows. A dishwasher – glory be to God. Beautiful floors and sharp white trim in the upstairs. Massive amounts of decluttering (what? how do we have so. much. stuff?) and reorganizing. Getting a tall filing cabinet so we can keep track of our official papery things like adults. Pulling some more of our decorating stuff out of bins and feeling a little more at home.

IMG_0660

 

photo (2) (1)

this is not finished, but it is on the way! painters tape will go, fabric for new curtains are all ready to make, etc.

 

Finishing things up like this gives me the heebie-jeebies — what if it means we do have to move soon?? — but it is nice to have the hopes of enjoying the fruit of our labor here. And while I really like these floors and the new rug and all that, I have to say I’m a bigger fan of the fact that we’re too tired to watch TV in the basement and that we trip over the little toys that get strewn about, because for all the details I’m bored by, I love that this “lame” house is home for more people and more joy than we had before.

living room
Even with plenty of things I don’t love or would have done differently (um, garage-style flourescent lights in the bedroom?), our “Coon Ranch” has been a beautiful picture to me of the mysterious ways God has provided for us during a stage of life that is very sojourn-ish. While it doesn’t take up as much room in this blog (or my heart), it’s been a good place to learn and grow, and I am learning to love that very, very much.

reading round up 2.13.15

[What We’re Up To] 
This has been a fairly out-of-control few weeks. My grandmother recently passed away, so Annie and I spent over a week in Michigan for the funeral, and came  home with wicked colds. I’m still not entirely recovered, probably due to her waking up congested/crabby/hungry 4-6x every night for the past several weeks. We’re surviving, but we’re also wearing our pajamas for several days in a row and the house is a complete disaster. (As in, “it’s a good thing no one is calling CPS on us” dirty.) But! The disarray is also here because we’ve got stuff pulled out all over the place to prepare for installing the new floor in the whole upstairs starting this weekend! Then we’ll use a gift card and go out to eat, because making progress on DIY projects and not having to cook speaks love and romance to me in so many ways. Aaron is a good man and he knows this about me.

Annie is now six months old, so in celebration we presented her with an exciting, but not quite age-appropriate, toy. Max understands it better than she does. (And now that enough time has passed and I’m sure my thoughts on the whole thing are not crazy, or at least they haven’t changed with this much perspective, I may get brave/annoyed enough to share some *non-graphic* thoughts on the “birth culture” in America.)

[Valentine’s Reading]
My all-time favorite treatise on love and finding contentment with the simpler life is The Romance of Domesticity, written by the husband-half of one of my all-time favorite couples.
Despite a few nagging theological differences, I think a series on marriage from a while back at Like Mother, Like Daughter really hit the nail on the head for me. I was very encouraged to know we’re building something of spiritual value in marriage, even before we had kids, and even when building up marriage and each other comes at the expense of other “good” things. Now, this can be taken WAY TOO FAR, and I think the book below provides some balance to that, but there were some encouraging thoughts found here. 

[Books]
I’m reading You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan, which can be purchased on their website or downloaded free in PDF format. (I chose the free PDF.) I really appreciate the focus on the Kingdom of God instead of the glorification of marriage, which is what usually oozes out of stuff I read. If I hear one more thing about how the primary key to Christian life is “Building a Marriage-Centered Family” or something like that without this balance, I might scream. (It’s dangerous and idolatrous.) Instead, I’m finding this very refreshing:

You are more than a spouse. If you have been blessed with kids, you are more than a parent. You have a unique role in the Kingdom of God, and he has great works for you to do… For some of you, it isn’t about the “Christian Bubble,” it’s just the plain old idolatry of the family. I want you to seriously ask yourself: Do I spend more time focusing on being a good spouse and parent, or more time focusing on being a godly person?

[Science] 
This excellent Ted Talk asks, “Can You Feed 9,000,000,000 People?” and goes over much of the truth the “organic” crowd misses when they condemn GMO crops. I’d ask any of my friends to thoroughly examine these claims before condemning genetic engineering in crop science.

[Music] 
Mostly classical and nerdy this week…
The Firebird Suite by Igor Stravinsky
Toccata and Fugue in D-minor, BMV 565 by Johann Sebastian Bach.

[Fun]
One-Star Book Reviews are just plain fun. As I think about children’s literature, I can’t help but appreciate the kindly reviewer for The Flopsy Bunnies: “The focus on killing baby bunnies and fighting over what to do with their bodies once they were dead, wasn’t very child friendly.” Duly noted.
These New Titles For Children’s Books (Based Entirely On Their Covers) is providing much entertainment here. My favorites? “Whoever Is On That Boat Is About To Be Disemboweled,” and “When The Colorblind Decorate.” Maybe “Midget Girl Adopts Satan’s Puppy,” too.
Unrelated to kids’ reading, Elizabethan Superheros is also worthy of a few chortles.

Happy Valentine’s Day, and happy weekend!

undisguised blessings

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me one of my miscarriages was a “blessing in disguise” …I would have a lot more money than I do now.

blessings in disguise

 

***

A few months before Annie was born, I carefully watched the unfolding news about that Christian doctor in the Sudan who was imprisoned on false charges of religious conversion. She was also pregnant, and a little younger even than I was. I “just knew” she was having a girl, too, and I immediately sensed a fellowship with her. I thought about how uncomfortable she must be, facing the rest of her pregnancy in shackles, with an order for torture and execution to come after delivering her baby. I hoped she could still believe that God would take care of her. I wondered if I would be brave enough to obey in the same circumstances. Knowing that Annie was growing strong in safety, I felt more blessed than I ever expected to, and I was so humbled to have the luxuries of safety, freedom, and good health care during this miraculous pregnancy. When I saw pictures of this woman holding her daughter and visiting Pope Francis in Italy after escaping Africa, I wept. About that same time, we read that Christians in Syria were crucified as martyrs. (It’s hard to type that out.)

On the way to the hospital for Annie’s birth, Aaron had several powerful sneezing fits and hoped aloud that she would be blessed with not inheriting his seasonal allergies. When she was born, we heard her (very cute-sounding) sneeze over and over. He was especially nervous… Turns out it’s normal, since babies are a bit waterlogged at first; we don’t know about seasonal allergies yet. But we noticed those sneezes, and tears sprung to my eyes every time I responded, “God bless you, baby Anne. God bless you.” It wasn’t just me being polite — this was a prayer. I wanted God to take care of her, to give her good things, to keep his hand upon her. I meant it.

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A few hours after Annie was born, after a nap and several hours of nonstop eating, I laid her on the bed next to me and marveled at how perfect she was. I think my sense of awe, relief, and gratefulness may have been a taste of how that Sudanese doctor felt when she landed safely in Italy. I noted that Annie’s small feet were shaped just like Aaron’s, which was no surprise to my ribcage, and she had the sweetest fringe of soft brown hair hanging over a tiny roll of chubbiness around the back of her neck. That same day I heard rumors of Christian children in Iraq (a country already fraught with emotion for us) being beheaded by more of those violent radical persecutors who had been in Syria. I’m sure moms in the middle east think their children’s hacked-off necks were particularly adorable, too.

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I can look at my life and say I am blessed because I have this hardworking husband. Because I have a house – with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fenced-in yard, and a refrigerator so full of food that I lose track of things and end up throwing some of it away. Because I have this daughter – who came to life where babies before her did not, who is healthy and robust and vibrant and sleeps almost all night. Because we are managing without a full-time income from me, so I spend the majority of my days caring for my child, walking my dog, running the home. But that’s pretty prosperity-gospel-ish. My friends who are single, or renting, or living off the generosity of others, or childless, or balancing work and parenthood are also very, very blessed.  I was blessed –that is, receiving undeserved gifts from God– before this, when I did not have a baby. And there is blessing in challenging babies, awkward-looking babies, non-sleeping babies, or babies who won’t latch on to nurse… and there is profound blessing in babies who develop differently. So we misuse the word blessing when we think it only references things we want to call “good.”

In fact, scripture gives us an entire paradigm shift about a blessed life. God doesn’t really mention the specifics of my circumstances in the description of blessing. Instead he says, “Blessed are you…
…when you are poor in spirit.
…when you mourn.
…when you are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”  (Matthew 5)

And this is not the sort of “persecution” wherein you petition the local library to keep objectionable content off the lowest shelves and then have an awkward moment seeing your opponents at the store later.
It’s the sort where you give birth in a dirty prison because your brother-in-law called for your death while you were pregnant with his niece.
It’s the sort where you race your kids up a mountain without enough food or water because you’re being pursued by people who will chop off their heads.
It’s the sort where you get beaten up and nailed to a cross and die in agony.

This is what God calls “the blessed life.”

***

Now, if I had a dollar for every time someone talked about my daughter and asked, “isn’t she just such a blessing?” I would also have more money. The answer is yes, she is… but that barely scratches the surface of what a blessing even means.

The same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him.  (Romans 10:12) 

first bond with the wilderness

“Always in the big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into.” – Wendell Berry

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We’ve had nearly a month with Annie, who is essentially the dream-come-true, perfect baby in every sense. I’m getting afraid to tell people how fabulous she’s doing with sleeping and eating, because they invariably tell me I’ll pay for it when she’s a teenager, or, if they are in the throes of a regular baby’s sleeping and eating woes, I think they might throw an exersaucer at me in their sleep-deprived stupor. I was extremely determined not to complain about any part of life with a newborn, but I haven’t even had much worth complaining about. It has been pure joy, joy, joy to have her here and take care of her.

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Maybe because Aaron and I are both extremely inclined to imagine and prepare for the worst possible scenario in every area of life, and because we had a definitively “bad start” with growing our family, this pregnancy lacked much excitement or anticipation. What I really remember most about the past year of anticipating this time is being afraid. So many changes! So many questions! So many new things! We moved into this house knowing I was pregnant, but neither one of us could talk about where to arrange furniture or belongings in order to prepare for the baby. Before nearly every OB appointment, even well past the “danger zone” of the first trimester, I would listen to I Corinthians 15 on my phone and hold Max and cry. When we found out Annie was a girl, I panicked when I thought about how much pink stuff we were likely to accumulate and specifically told friends and family I didn’t want any pepto-bismal-colored clothing or gear. I probably would have been concerned about clothes with too many blue whales and orange foxes or something like that if she had been a boy. More than all this, I worried that the anxiety would spill over in to life with the baby, that it would prevent us from connecting with her, that being afraid of her meant I didn’t love her, that I was letting it steal the joy we had waited for.

But now, with her here safely, I look back and realize Wendell Berry was right in what he said about standing at the edge of the woods. We had the curiosity and excitement, for sure, but the sense of dread for the uncertainties ahead was unshakable. Now I think that fear was part of our first bond together, and I’m sure it’s part of the wild adventure of raising a child. It hasn’t robbed us of anything we need to love and enjoy her now. We really are delighted by every moment with this girl, who is, as Aaron put it last night, “much pretty.” (Proper use of irregular adjectives is one of the first things to go if you are overworked and a little sleep deprived, I suppose.)

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Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will even make a way in the wilderness… – Isaiah 43:19

 

she’s here!

We are delighted to announce the birth of our daughter, Anne Rebecca. Her name means “God has been gracious” and honors the prayers of Hannah, which I have often echoed, and the example of the prophetess Anna, who found her life’s satisfaction not in a child of her own, but in the salvation offered in the only child ever promised to anyone – Jesus. (Her middle name runs in my family, and she joins a long line of wonderful women named or middle-named Rebecca stretching for eight generations now.) This has been quite a journey, and our Annie is an undeserved gift from the God who has been gracious every step along the way.hummel family

 

 

“May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day,
the Angel who has delivered me from all harm
— May He bless this girl.
May she be called by the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
and may she increase greatly upon this earth.”
-from Israel’s blessing to his grandsons Ephraim (“God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction”) and Manasseh (“God has made me forget my sorrow”) as recorded in Genesis 48.

eager patience

Well, a month of radio silence here… I just thought you should know I have not fallen off the face of the earth nor have I had the baby and kept it a secret. I also have not experienced complete mental atrophy, since I have about 20 blog posts half-written.

Mostly…
party… I would probably feel like this every day even if I wasn’t pregnant, but coffee makes my feet swell three times their normal size, much like the Grinch’s heart overlooking Cindy Lou-Who at Christmas, so I can’t really do anything about it.

Caffeine issues aside, I’m not really reading anything, which is probably the biggest setback to writing efficiently. Between the responsibility of caring for energetic Max and a new baby coming any time now,  I’m not expecting to sleep much in the next several months so  this reading situation is unlikely to improve. I need to jump back on the audio book bandwagon very soon, which will at least start recalling the brain I know I have somewhere. It might even be the preventative measure that protects against committing some of the tackiest common mom-offenses: saying things in person or online (1) about bodily fluids to anyone other than the child’s father or grandmothers, and (2) claiming the “victory” of “keeping the kids alive” all day to anyone, ever, at any time.


After spending three weeks of hearing “You’ll go in to labor any day now! I mean it! You’ll have a baby before your next visit with me!” from the doctor every time I see him, I’m planning to go all Buddy-The-Elf on him if I get to the next appointment and haven’t had the baby yet.

With what seemed to be a medically-indicated earlyish arrival on the horizon for weeks, it’s been a new thing to wake up every morning and say, “If the baby is born tomorrow, what do I want to have accomplished today?” instead of working every day towards some extreme list of weekly/monthly/annual goals. This is good discipline for a planner like me, and every day is a new lesson in eager patience as we wait. And somehow at the same time, the latest possible day she could be born still seems extremely soon compared to all the waiting of the past. Part of me feels like I’ve been (emotionally) pregnant for about five years, so what’s a few more weeks compared to the past half-decade?

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. – Romans 8:22-25