walk in newness (2016)

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. – Romans 6:4

So much of this year – this move, this new baby, this new house – has felt like one giant baptism by fire. In many ways I am a much richer woman at the start of 2016 than I was for 2015, but it has come through much surrender, sacrifice, and sanctification. Last year demanded  we bid goodbye to life in Minnesota, goodbye to other dreams we would have welcomed, and I’m realizing that it was goodbye to another layer of certainty or control,  too. Five months into Missouri, I don’t think we’ve made much progress figuring out what it is we’re greeting with a “hello” here.

I knew I’d hit my life-surprise threshold when the new Star Wars movie came out. Since we had to wait a few weeks after The Force Awakens opened to see family (which was really just a cover for having babysitters so we could go to the movies), I almost read a bunch of online spoilers after I wailed to Aaron that I could not handle even one more big life event curveball. (Star Wars is a life event at our house. We are also in complete denial about the upcoming presidential election — no emotional reserves left for thinking about politics right now.) As someone who really likes goals and dreaming about things that could happen, my stance toward this New Year is extremely anti-climactic. Amid the general hopeful talk of “new years resolutions” and annual goals that everyone else is throwing around, I don’t really want this year to rock. I don’t want to make any big life changes or start any big dreams or have anything else I need to take care of added to my plate. We’re trying to remain positive but realistic about life right now, which means thinking in terms of an entire year is still a bit… much.

What I really want in 2016 is for my life to calm down and be more predictable. And maybe to get everything in the house painted. We’re trying to move from the current Breaking Bad drug den look into more of a “Fixer Upper” feel, and after 7 straight years of remodeling, I would like my house to look decent.

No matter how desperate I am to reduce the turbulence levels of my life this year, I can’t predict what God will bring us in 2016. But on the most practical level I know it is new, and that even when something new is hard, facing it with joy is a practical living-out of Christianity. Paul talks about “newness of life” coming from baptism, and that helps reframe the baptism-by-fire of this fall. Because the Christian life is is both initiated and sustained by the power of the resurrection, this isn’t something we hear once and move on from; it continually transforms us. This means the same resurrection that gives new life in salvation also empowers and compels me to walk in the newness born out of these changes, too. It might not mean I’m marathoning in newness or achieving greatness in any sphere outside of keeping my people fed and clothed. But it does mean we can walk forward step-by-step into this year with faith that this newness is for God’s glory, even without the excitement of big goals or new dreams about what that might look like.

So maybe all we know of 2016 is that it’s new. And that’s a good thing.

ordained beauty

…Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

The past two years have been… a little crazy. I think we are still coming to terms with our Minnesota stint and, while Aaron really likes his job and Thomas arrived safely, we have been managing a never-ending parade of crises ever since moving here and the paperwork burden of registering vehicles, buying a house, and having a baby the day before insurance activates is gargantuan. Despite the tough aspects of moving, we’re excited to have another house we really like with a very short commute for Aaron. (It has come in very handy when I have needed him to meet me at Urgent Care ASAP. Like I said – there have been lots of crises.) The best part of this third house is the huge backyard, which has a pond and lots of trees that just hit their autumn color peak. I think we are really going to enjoy living here.

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anne toddles around the new house, taking in the majestic views. (14 months)

There are things about Minnesota that I will really miss, but Aaron’s research position was really tough on us. If we had to move away eventually, it was good to rip off the bandaid and get it over with. Even though this new job is going really well and I’m excited about the educational options for the kids here, coming to St. Louis with the intention to stick around for good brought some hard realities to light:

Leaving Minnesota means we have to start all over on everything again. 
We don’t live close to our families in Michigan.
We’re not moving back to Iowa.

Staying put or going to a more familiar place would have been welcome adventures, and it’s a little sad to let those hopes go. Even though so much of St. Louis is like “the first day of the rest of our lives,” it’s also closing the door on other beautiful dreams, and that’s hard.

I’ve been thinking about how the colors during the fall we left Iowa seemed particularly idyllic to me, and I remember watching those leaves out of the windows during piano lessons, trying not to dwell on how badly I wished everything about our life could be different. Those vibrant trees stood in silent declaration that God ordains a lot of beauty in seasons of endings and loss. There was a lot of sadness in losing another baby and leaving so many people we loved that fall, and that pain certainly sharpens my perspective on the good things going on right now.

I never imagined how much would happen in the following two years, but it is really fabulous to look out at a new backyard full of more vibrant colors through a sliding glass door covered in prints of Max’s nose and Annie’s darling toddler hands while cuddling Thomas. There are going to be hard things here, of course, and this fall has really been a knockout in many ways, but it’s encouraging to know that this beauty has been established for the griefs and “endings” of moving, and it gives hope for the good things here, too.

Be still, my soul; Thy Jesus can repay
From his own fullness all he takes away.

— Be Still, My Soul, Catharina von Schlegel

to love that well

…This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
– Sonnet 73, William Shakespeare. 

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Our soon-to-be-former backyard, with the vegetable garden from which we will not eat (much) produce.

 

We have fallen forward into a lot of big, different things this year already. And moving right now? It feels like falling so far forward that we’re swinging back around and ending up behind. Only not really, but in some ways, yes, that’s how it feels. (I have a lot of feelings right now, and I’m confused, too.) This year Aaron has been working really, really hard with very long hours, and I’ve been home with a baby and a puppy and the concern/exhaustion/nausea of a new pregnancy, and we’ve been doing a lot of work on our house, yard and garden. It’s not so much that having a job, dog, baby, or house is awful, but this has been an intense year on all fronts. While this all made selling the house a breeze, as long as all the paperwork continues to process appropriately, it’s frustrating that we sacrificed so much in working so hard and really don’t get to enjoy the fruits of these labors in a tangible sense right now.

“And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” – Deuteronomy 6:10-12

Because of that, we read this passage in church on Sunday and groaned because it seems exactly opposite of what this is like for us right now. After more rounds of brutal decluttering, since we mostly have old junky stuff from thrift stores and are paying per sq. ft. of moving trailer space, and watching our tomato plants get bigger and bigger with delicious food we won’t eat… Living with houses full of stuff we didn’t have to acquire with food we didn’t have to plant? That definitely sounds like the Promised Land. Those Israelites may have had it made.

There is grace in it, but moving is still really hard, and I am very aware of this. I have lots of packing to do when I want to just delight in the last days with Annie on her own and take lots of third-trimester naps. Preparations for moving are really taxing, and we’re determined to be significantly more minimalistic and organized than we were coming here, which requires more brain power than I want to give anything right now. Still, we’re making a point to sink in and enjoy every moment we have with what is here: a beautiful home, friends, mild summer weather, Lake Superior, a girl in the most amazing stages of interacting and action, and the wonder of anticipating a little boy coming at a time that clearly points to a greater plan than we would have made. These are gifts we can maximize by loving well even though it is all so very temporary.

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(These couches are not coming with us, which I am extremely happy about, and we decided it’s OK for Max to lay on them for the time being. He doesn’t sit on other couches so we’ll just teach him to stay off new furniture in St. Louis, but right now it’s like he can tell this is his temporary pleasure, too.)

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.

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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.

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

 

peculiar beauty

As usual, our summer has had plenty of visitors and traveling already! A few weeks ago, Aaron’s parents visited and did amazing things like keeping my dog exercised, fixing our lawn mower, and painting trim while I napped. The following week I visited my parents, which required successfully transporting my 8-months-pregnant self and a 7-month-old dog on a 10-hour solo road trip through the midwest without losing my mind. I have been missing the ease of certain things about life in Iowa, but I must say that driving across Wisconsin is so lovely that it’s almost worth the extra time in the car compared to driving across Iowa and Illinois.

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Successful completion of this trip is due in no small part to indulging in a few of the 49 cent ice cream cones at McDonald’s.

After arriving in my hometown, a friend from high school asked if it was weird or hard for me that my sister is expecting a baby without facing any of the heartaches I battled. I can honestly say it noticeably affects how we handle certain aspects of our pregnancies, but I’m mostly glad not everyone has to suffer in the ways I did. We celebrated my daughter’s impending arrival, so I opened presents for her and spent time laughing with my extended family, full of hopes for the two girl cousins growing up having as much fun as my sisters and I have with our girl cousins.

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praising God for all five girls in this picture!

Other parts of the weekend were more sober. I stayed a little longer than I originally intended because my grandparents were both rapidly declining into very poor health, so I was able to spend extra time with them and help my mom, who bears most of the heaviness of their care right now.  Is there something ironic about uncomfortably leaning over a giant belly to wash a sink of dishes for the chemo patient you’re naming your baby after? And having inspiration about what foods might work for her to eat because you’ve also recently experienced more nausea than you ever imagined possible? I thought so. It was certainly a week of peculiar beauty.

This is exactly what I meant when I said that most of life bears witness to the old funeral text: In the midst of life, we are in death. There is tension, there is heartache, there is so much joy and so much awareness that everything’s a little askew. Because I want my baby to know personally how sweet my Grandma is and how special it is that we have this same middle name that keeps passing down for all the girls, and I don’t know if that will happen. I would have loved if we hadn’t lost the babies before her so she would “just” have hand-me-downs from older siblings instead of fancy new duds from a big baby shower. It’s not a sign of discontent to acknowledge that things are messed up and you wish it could be different.

But at the same time, I am so thankful that anything that ever holds together is evidence of grace. We see so much of it right now.

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little max in lake michigan at sunset.

 

A contented heart looks to and … sees the wisdom of God in everything. In his submission, he sees His sovereignty; but what makes him take pleasure in God’s wisdom? It is this: the Lord knows how to order things better than I. I only see things at present, but the Lord sees a great while from now. …I know that the love of God may as well stand with an afflicted condition as with a prosperous condition.”
-Burroughs, Jeremiah. The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (Available for free on Kindle!)

reading round-up (5.30.14)

Happy Friday! This week held a very noteworthy celebration: The first “real” piano student sign up of my Minnesota piano studio! We toasted this occasion with the most despicable-tasting sparkling cider available in the Target clearance aisle. (Seriously. It was awful. We both said something like, “We should have just had champagne. I think pregnant ladies in Europe drink sometimes and their kids are okay…”)
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Here are some reading suggestions for the start of a beautiful weekend…

[One] You guys, it’s been legitimately sort of HOT this week. We haven’t turned on the AC yet (we rebel against that sort of thing for a while), but it’s toasty enough to reschedule Max’s mid-afternoon walk so we can go to the basement for downstairs chores and naps instead. I have been really happy with my strategic door-and-window opening plan, which was inspired by this old post about “Living without A/C and Liking It!” from Like Mother, Like Daughter. We actually don’t know if the air conditioning unit works in this house, so we’ll get it cleaned out and hope for the best when it starts getting hotter! (I keep thinking… if you can’t make it until June for a/c when you live in Minnesota, you’re in serious trouble.)

[Two] I’ll probably whack out a whole post about how ridiculous the “mommy wars” are, especially in evangelical Christian subculture, but this post from Jen Wilkinson was particularly encouraging as I gear up for being a part-time working mom.

[Three] This look at the stairway to wisdom from David Brooks includes some great thoughts about the personal stories behind statistics, especially in relation to teen pregnancy.

[Four] I’ve seen this post about homeschooling popping around among friends quite a bit. I’m not going to deny that if I wrote an article about homeschooling (as someone who was homeschooled, has worked closely in tutoring other homeschool families in upper grades, is married to someone who was homeschooled, and will need to make some decisions about educating my own kid in the future) it would say the exact opposite of this one. In general, my opinion is that 85% of homeschool families need a more serious attitude about academics and a lot less restrictions for everything else. But it’s worth reading and reflecting critically whether you agree with it or not!

[Five] I love these thoughts on “scruffy hospitality” and welcoming people into life as you are!  Good, good words from Jack King.

“Don’t allow a to-do list disqualify you from an evening with people you’re called to love in friendship. Scheduling is hard enough in our world. If it’s eating with kind, welcoming people in a less than perfect house versus eating alone, what do you think someone would choose? We tell our guests ‘come as you are,’ perhaps we should tell ourselves ‘host as you are.’ …Friendship isn’t about always being ‘excellent’ with one another. Friendship is about preparing a space for authentic conversation. And sometimes authenticity happens when everything is a bit scruffy.”

[Six] Two different friends have recommended the “Hillsdale Dialogues” series to me for combating intellectual decay. These lectures on literature have provided some mental stimulation lately, so they are worth checking out even if you’re a little intimidated (or not immediately interested) in hearing about The Illiad or Sir Gawain.

[Seven] Maybe especially because, finally, some things are really coming together —PhDbaby, duckling, puppy… what else could we want?– we’ve been battling a lot of thoughts about hopes, both the ones we felt were dashed so many times in the last few years, and the ones we’re still not sure about for the future. There are questions about calendars and things that don’t look like we thought they should at this point, birthdays that came before all the things we wanted to do by that age were done, and uncertainty about how to redream for some of life. I loved this encouragement from Ann Voskamp:

Time can’t dictate dreams or hijack hope or determine destination. Time may have hands on the clock but it’s arms are too weak to rob anybody of hope, steal anybody’s prayers, destroy anybody’s joy. And so what if time’s got hands on a clock — it’s God who has His Hands on the universe. Every little thing is going to be okay because God is working good through every little thing. All that’s happening is just happening to make miracles. There are miracles always unfolding under the impossibles.
“Joys are always on their way to us,” writes Amy Carmichael. “They are always traveling to us through the darkness of the night. There is never a night when they are not coming.”
Because there is never a night where joys are not coming to us, there is never a road that can’t arrive at Hope.Circumstances can go ahead and run out of time — but the courageous refuse to run out of hope. We can always hope because there is always joy traveling to us down the unexpected roads.

“The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” – Psalm 147:11

The mosquitos are particularly nasty, but we’re hoping for another weekend of bonfires, laughter, Max adventures, and some more painting. (I can tell it’s making a big and beautiful difference in this house that needed a lot of “lipstick and rouge,” but will it ever end? I think “soft flipping” a house and getting a puppy effectively eradicated the possibility of ‘relaxing weekends’ before the baby arrives. )

(You can enjoy more quick reads at Conversion Diary!) 

 

 

 

 

dust and ashes made good (lent/easter 2014)

[A regular round of links seems a little out of place for Good Friday, but I’ll have plenty of those for you next week!]

We’re living in a state of liturgical disorder. Sometimes we joke that our whole marriage feels like a long season of Advent, always waiting for something without really arriving. Our new church doesn’t seem to acknowledge the church year (which is hard for me, but not a deal-breaker) and with everything else going on, the season of Lent has been almost a non-issue. We’re feeling pretty stretched and deprived already, saying “no” to desires and wants all the time — which probably tells you that we’re more spoiled than spiritual. I also feel like I’m in a 9-month-long Ash Wednesday, constantly aware of my child’s mortality as much as her life.

Normally I love Spring’s rebirth, which feels like nature telling the Easter story, with beautiful life pushing up from dead cold ground. The Minnesota Polar Vortex of 2014 declares this year it will not be so. (I told Max I won’t take him out for a walk until it’s above freezing outside so we don’t slide to our deaths on all the re-frozen melted snow, but he doesn’t understand the delay.)
image (12)As much as I’d love to see grass and flowers right now (which… I REALLY WOULD…) I think this is appropriate weather for contemplating death and what a mighty thing it is that God killed death. The entire Christian faith hinges on the validity of the Resurrection of Christ, and even though it’s backwards and seems a little “spooky,” I think this deserves more press time than we usually give it. (Should other people be quicker to say, “Those Christians! Psychos! They are so anti-whatever-hot-button-moral/political-issue-comes-to-mind!” or, “Those Christians! Psychos! They believe someone rose from the dead!”?)

Like Christmas, Holy Week is about things being backwards. He uses ugly things like betrayals and unfair trials, beatings and mobs and lynchings, and three-day-old tombs, to display what redemption really looks like. It’s about God becoming a dust-and-ashes man to fully taste the very worst of the Fall to overcome death and rise again. It’s about God turning things around, so the sinless man takes on the full weight of sin and is victorious over it forever. It’s paradoxical beauty, for sure – death trampling death, resurrection, reconciliation between sinners and a holy God, eternal life. In turning these things around, God embraces us, full of dust and ashes, and calls us into his goodness, which is so powerful we can look at the most horrific, unfair death …and call it “Good Friday.” We celebrate that all this weekend, and with it consider the mini-Easters we see every day with the marvelous goodness God creates through our lives in so many backwards ways.

“Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, so we will also bear the image of the man of heaven!” – I Corinthians 15