Evenly 28

“O God, from my youth you have taught me, and still I proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me.” Psalm 71:17-18


You would not assume I have any perfectionist traits if you stopped by my home at any time, particularly right now, since I tried to finish taxes this morning without crating the dog. (The result? I have not finished submitting the taxes and there are bits and pieces of the cover to “Grace Based Parenting” all over the living room. Yes, this is hilariously ironic.) Despite my – hopefully improving – free-spirited tendencies with most details, I do have a teeny compulsive anxiety trait that has plagued me as long as I can remember: I have very particular need for numbers to be in order. I always add the numbers on license plates while I drive, and certain phone numbers or birthdates are more “pleasing” to my numerical senses. In middle school, if I worked on algebra assignments before bed, I had very strange mathematical dreams. When I look at a digital clock, I am doing math problems with the numbers much longer than I’m paying attention to what time it is. (Right now, it is 1:21, which is 11×11. You can also use addition so the ones on outsides to add up to the two in the middle.) This is weird. There is probably a name for this sort of thing. It doesn’t interrupt my life or relationships, so it’s not really a problem – just a quirk. I hope.

The birthdate of April 12, 1986 really works out for me because each number is even. I think birthdays in the Spring months should be on even-numbered dates and fall birthdays should be odd-numbered. (A few years ago, I was pregnant with a baby due in April and told Aaron I was nervous it would have an “odd” birthdate.) So now, in a strange way, I am breathing a little easier to be 28 and not 27 because it feels better to be an “even” age. (27 is slightly redeemed by being “Three-cubed,” or 3x3x3.)

Turning 28 on 4/12/2014 was almost a dream-come-true for my numerical neuroses, even if it is more reason for Aaron and I to joke that we are getting old and crotchety. On the way out for my birthday dinner, he said, “How can you be 28? I’m only, like, 25!” Even when we can’t keep track of the numbers, our life reflects a little more maturity (or boring-ness, take your pick.) We used to speak of camping more often; we now find that cooking over the backyard firepit and sleeping in our own bed is satisfying. “Requiring frequent walks” was a strong argument in favor of adopting Max. I get sick of having so many clothes in my closet. I don’t think I look old now, but pictures from college (or my wedding) do look young. It was a little strange to see that most of the athletes on Olympic podiums this year were younger than me. There is no denial in any of this that life is going forward and that means getting older! Maybe an obsession with that mathematically-pleasing birthdate is altering my senses a bit, but I can’t shake loving the secret I’ve whispered among friends: getting older is good, and it gets better every year.

Even when things don’t look like they were “supposed” to, every year there is more grace and growth, more unexpected gifts, more glory revealed. There is more joy (and less fear), more comfort in my own skin,  more beauty to discover and display, more delight in becoming just who I was created to be. So right now, the excitement of turning the corner into 28 feels like a drop in the bucket compared to whatever lies ahead.

“The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.” – Psalm 92






Reading round-up (4.11.14)

Yesterday I shared a little bit of the everyday beauty of this last week, and today I’ve got some of the bigger, more extravagant graces of the season along with some weekend reading for you!

[One] For as “boring” as Iowa sounded when we first moved there, I always felt it worked out well for us to connect with traveling friends while we lived there. Our house became a common stopping point for many friends and acquaintances traveling between the Midwest and the “Real West,” usually Montana or Colorado. With a comfy couch in the back room, easy quiche and baked oatmeal recipes, and a fabulous patio to enjoy in the warmer seasons, we had a pretty decent bed&breakfast going on. I worried that moving to Minnesota would mean an end to some of that flurry, but I’m pretty sure that is not going to be the case. We have had an amazing influx of visitors in the past little bit! There was our first official hosted dinner with some Hillsdale friends, a few nights hosting my dearest Jenny (also on Hillsdale business), and now my parents are here for an impromptu birthday-and-DIY-weekend. (We really know how to party around here.) Another uncle is likely to arrive a few days after my parents leave, as well. We were gifted with a bed for our guest room, and we’re putting it to great use! Max is not at the greatest stage for hospitality, but he likes people so much that he laid at the door in despair when Jenny’s flight was delayed.


[Two] I usually read a lot in the summer, maybe because it’s too hot to do many crafts. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to do this year, but I know the first place I’ll look for recommendations is Bethany’s blog. (Again — the blogs of real life friends are always the best!)

[Three] I have a funny relationship with controversial religious topics, so I don’t generally mention them on my blog as often as I think about them. I’ve really enjoyed a few articles about the intersection of the church and homosexuality lately. While I would hope and pray this is not a sorrow my daughter has to bear, I hope that she will hear this same truth growing up in our home: “Although I have found the experience difficult, it has never been difficult to reconcile with my faith. One of the best things my parents gave me was an understanding that the Christian life is often difficult, and that God takes and uses our sufferings to make us more like Him.” (From A New Kind of Coming Out in Christianity Magazine, UK.) Additionally, I appreciated Jen Hatmaker’s blog “Where I Stand,” because I think there is a huge need for people who stand for the clear teaching of God’s word on marriage and sexuality AND good neighboring, wound-binding, and loving kindness. These values are not mutually exclusive!

[Four] I thought these two articles were a great balance for each other — one talking about appreciating what we can from polarizing teachers and another on the importance of naming and speaking against false teachers. (For the record, I don’t even agree with a lot of the stuff in the first article because I am so bothered by some of the personalities mentioned! But maybe I need to rethink some of that? Right now I don’t even want to appreciate anything about the influence of Donald Miller, for example.)

[Five] Is Christianity just about pragmatism?Here are some wonderful thoughts on the wild work of a backwards God in our Oprah-driven hearts from Emily at Weak and Loved.

[Six] If you, like most people, get the majority of your information about Genetically Modified crop controversy from links posted on Facebook by people who are not scientists, this article about the true cost of labeling GMO’s would be a good read for you!

[Seven] And on the topic of even more significantly important and controversial advances in science and genetics, this article describing 10 Things You Need To Know About IVF is well worth a read. It’s one of my many soapboxes in life, but really… It’s much better to read and pray about this before you’re possibly in a position to make decisions clouded by years of heartache.

So… Maybe more controversy than I originally intended to mention here? (May as well get it all out there: I use an e-collar for training my dog and plan to both regularly vaccinate and possibly occasionally spank my child if it is the most effective way to keep her safe while she grows up.) You can read other Friday quick-takes over at Conversion Diary, if you’re interested.

Have a great weekend, friends. We are celebrating my 28th birthday with the installation of a dishwasher. This is even better than the year I got a circular saw!

{contentment} morning has broken

{pretty} Spring Wreath, on my door at last!

I’ve discussed “favorite seasons” with several people lately. I usually say Fall is my favorite, but that I love special things about each one, too. I love the turning leaves, hot tea with sweaters, bonfires; and plaid flannel; then I love the fat, fluffy snowflakes in winter, with peppermint cocoa and warm blankets on the couch; when the crocus begin popping up, I love the warmer breezes, the tree buds, the way the whole earth is a manifold witness to the Easter story; and then summer comes, when I love the strong green stalks for juicy home-grown tomatoes, swimming outside, and glasses of ice water that leave rings of condensation all over the patio table.

We’ve reached that beautiful part of the year where the snow is melting here -not quite to the quintessential spring state- but I do not even care any more. This week, with these 50, 60, 70 degree temperatures, with gray ice stacks leftover in shady neighborhood yards, with brown yards and bare trees, with muddy puppy prints all over my house? This week is easily my favorite season this year!


I walk Max every day after breakfast and while he trots along, I hum my favorite spring hymn:

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird.
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning!
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word!

…Praise with elation, praise every morning,
Praise for creation of the new day!”
-Morning Has Broken, text by Eleanor Farjeon.

Spring brings bunnies. Or, in Max’s case: Bunny legs. Ew. He tried to drag a poor rabbit’s hind quarter into the house and I called Aaron in a panic, one of those distressed “YOUR DOG is …!” sort of discussions. When I got Max to come in without his bunny leg, he sat at the door and cried for it. As if I care.


We had the come-to-Jesus moment about furniture in the new house. With current and projected future budgets in our extended vow of intense frugality, a doggie and a little one on the way… Couch discussions had to be, well, couched for a long time. I have really been looking forward to getting a new living room couch sometime. My night time dreams have included shopping at furniture stores. We have looked at shapes and swatches, talking about them and getting excited for how cool it would be to have something we really like. We called these white floral couches “The Grad School Beasts,” and sometimes I tease Aaron by telling him, “today I am pretending this is a nubby gray sectional.”

Last night, my parents arrived for a birthday visit with a few more free hand-me-downs — an unmerited blessing all it’s own. We settled on keeping the grad school beasts, much worse for the wear after surviving the intense puppy stage from which we are now emerging, in the living room without making big plans to get new ones soon, since my meager domestic bliss-and-beauty fund has a LOT to accomplish elsewhere in the house. and I announced: “I am choosing to be really, really, really happy about this furniture!” Maybe it will turn into happiness if I keep saying that? This is real life at the Hummel’s!


Don’t you think capturing the beauty of real life is important? I love seeing “the context of contentment” at Like Mother Like Daughter every week, so I thought I’d share mine today. Happy Spring!

reading round-up (3.28.14)

Max and I are making the most of a few days on our own while Aaron has meetings a few states south of here. It is very Always-Winter-Never-Christmas-ish outside, so I am trying not to be jealous of his travels. I have plenty of wool socks and a cute puppy to keep me warm, which remind me not to complain about the otherwise minor annoyance of not seeing leaf buds or blades of grass even though it is April next week.

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Despite my constant care and affection (and occasional rule-bending) throughout the week, little Max definitely likes Aaron best and mopes around when he reaches bedtime without SpaceDad’s return. We still call him “Little Max” all the time even though he has clearly outgrown his nickname. We might be yelling it out the backyard next year even if he’s 100 pounds by then.

depressed max

I had a marvelous list of links to share, which I have been saving up as I find them… and they are lost somewhere in the great blue yonder because my phone is smarter than my computer. Bummer. Here’s a few things I can remember from that list all for your reading pleasure. Enjoy, and happy weekend!

I especially love reading blogs written by people I actually know, and this series on Fashion & the Gospel from Emily is really encouraging. Although I’m aiming to get by spending less than $50 on maternity clothes (a wild success so far with gifts, sacrificing older stretchy clothes for the cause, borrowing from friends, and GoodWill!) so I’m not exactly highly fashionable these days, she offers a lot of food for thought, particularly in the original purpose of clothes: “to cover, and in so doing, reveal God’s grace…”

One of the other benefits of having awesome friends is that they also have other awesome friends you can meet.  Amanda, who is funny, loves great stories, and has a too-adorable red-haired toddler who could easily be mistaken for a little dolly, is friends with one of my old college room-mates. She wrote some great thoughts on my all-time favorite reality TV show enterprise – MTV’s “16 and Pregnant/Teen Mom” – and I’m really challenged to think about ways we might “step up” to support younger parents like the ones documented in those shows in the coming months and years.

The shared level of frugal sense in our marriage is extremely high. Every family expresses this differently, but we were raised with very similar senses about how lifestyle should relate to income. This has come in very handy since basically NOTHING IN LIFE has turned out like we planned during our engagement, including grad school, jobs, etc., so we’ve been rocking out the not-quite-Dave-Ramsey-style rice and beans life for several years and will continue to do so for at least the foreseeable future. We’ll be fine. The only thing that has been really annoying to me? The pressure to use coupons. I know they can save you big money. I tried being a “couponer” for two weeks and spent my entire weekend running around to different stores. I ended up with two years worth of razors, three tubes of toothpaste for the price of one, shampoo that smelled funny, and a shelf full of cereal we don’t like. I didn’t spend more than usual, but that’s two weekends of my life I will never get back. Articles about keeping up couponing momentum make me want to break out in hives. But… I have discovered this marvelous couponing app called Snip-Snap and now I can save money (yes!) while mooching off other people’s coupon-clipping (yes!). I can quickly browse through the multi-use coupons other users have uploaded in search of only stores I visit or items I need, and I just show the barcode on my phone’s screen at the store to SAVE. Worth checking out, for sure!

I thought this article about how badly kids need “wildness” in their upbringing was really fabulous. We have always said we want to be parents who aren’t all, “Stay on the side of the playground where I can see you, don’t go outside because there are BUGS OUT THERE, keep yourself off that thing because you might fall and get bruised,” and it’s encouraging to see we are not crazy in wanting kids to experience a little grit and risk. We’ll see how this works out in real life, but we do actually have a firepit in the backyard here…

It’s been hard to know how to handle talking and sharing about the coming baby. If it had been up to me, I might… I don’t know… never have said anything, to anyone, at any time, about being pregnant until the baby was born. This is the custom in some cultures, and I totally get it. Sometimes I wish it was like that here, too. I still remember (most vividly) how awful it felt to navigate pregnancy announcements, baby talk, and pictures of bellies. Too many years of frustration, never knowing if it would provoke some hard reaction even when I didn’t want it to happen. Way too many women I love are still in that angst, so I’m not going to be doing much “pregnancy progress updating” or “picture posting,” (a great post on that is already written by Housewifespice!). But we obviously can’t ignore that this seems to be happening, and Aaron is good to remind me that the point of it all isn’t me, it’s the baby. And so, I’ll pop this one up here to celebrate the gift that is our daughter — yep! — coming this summer.


there are two girls in this picture!

[linking up this week with 7 Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!]







Reading round-up (3.14.14)

I did a little painting this morning and ended up with more help than I bargained for…

… I suppose I’ll be saving big projects for kennel time in the future!
There will be looooong-awaited house updates coming soon, but I wanted to say a quick thanks for all the love & prayers from the past few weeks and offer some reading and laughs for your weekend.

Since there’s been an upswing in talk about pregnancy and babyloss around here, I’ll recommend Why Miscarriage Matters if You’re Pro-Life and Pregnancy After a Miscarriage for further reading on the subject. I appreciate how the first article calls out a lot of hypocrisy in the way most people talk about miscarriage, and the second highlights some of the special challenges for women who are blessed with a pregnancy after losing a baby. Good thoughts in both!

I discovered the wonderful world of exercise videos on YouTube and it’s been a great way to stave off insanity while indoors for months at a time. My sisters and I have been long-time fans of the 10-Minute Pilates series, so I was excited to find the model (mix-and-match 10 minute segments for your own custom workout that is as long or short as you want) had branched into some pregnancy yoga sessions available for free online. Max was not cooperative during my warm-up attempt this morning. Apparently “namaste” has too many syllables for a puppy to understand.

Tsh Oxenrider (can I just say for a minute how cool her last name is? So Oregon Trail hip!) has a great blog called The Art of Simple, and she wrote a post about our new theme-word, Risk, which I found very encouraging. “Living a good story means risk.”

Tsh also had a great post about saying “no” to yourself, which is exactly what we do during Lent. Ann Voskamp has a great one about hearing “no” and how we respond — good stuff all around.

Though we don’t have a dishwasher right now –the internet does not have the space to deal with my first-world whining on this topic– and I don’t feel bad about how hard it is for this lady to load and unload her dishes, I really needed the main idea she talks about: adjusting everything to make your dreaded chore easier to improve performance. As silly as it seems…. switching the side of the sink where I set the drying dishes makes it seem a lot easier to get the job done! Baby steps, people.

Finally, speaking of baby steps, I’m a little bit in love with this adorable video…


Happy weekend!

{formed & fallen} overlap


It is a very, very strange thing to be carrying a child who is exactly half-way gestated on the same day doctors would have said a different, older child should be completely at term. In the shocked, overwhelming beginning of this pregnancy, I felt like loving the baby we have was a way of betraying the one we had just lost. Sometimes now loving the other one seems like a betrayal of the one who -by some miracle I cannot yet wrap my mind around- grows right on schedule and has all the right body parts, frequently jabbing them into the walls of the home my own body provides. The other miscarriages were spaced far enough apart that the pregnancies would not have overlapped in any way, so this is a new sort of grieving. (I am not complaining – I think the bittersweet path that leads to a baby in your arms is far preferable to the one that just seems bitter, but it’s a little more intense.)

There was a day in July when I took three naps and developed a blister under my ring, and while I was sick of hoping for news of a baby coming… I knew it was happening. After the Wal-Mart test confirmed this, my college room-mate squealed on the phone with me even though she was in a library in Indiana, and I put a sign on the big blue chicken coop to tell Aaron he had someone even more important to take care of. We hugged and he hoped for a cute little girl like the one he had seen at lunchtime with little braids over her shoulders. I slept a lot – A LOT. I shared the anxious joy of close due-dates with someone dear who had a similar history to me and we prayed for two healthy babies to come this spring.

Just a few weeks later, I bossed my midwife’s new nurse around when the dread crept over me, demanding blood tests that proved I was right to be concerned. Arriving  home from the decisive ultrasound that showed a way-too-small baby who never even had a heartbeat, my computer was playing a song called, “God will take care of you.” To this day I have no idea how it ever got into my music library in the first place. I sat on the couch and sobbed while the friend who had squealed earlier read me Psalms over the phone.

Then I was relieved and guilty about how great it felt to not be sick anymore, and I thought making the announcement sign for the chicken coop -still folded on Aaron’s dresser as if to taunt me- was the dumbest thing I’d ever done. I sat around and it took hours to get anything accomplished. I painted my toenails. I begged Aaron for a puppy. I told him I hated our house, I didn’t want to have kids anymore, and I wanted to pretend like none of this even happened in the first place.

Summer trips were not cancelled, so I drove to Michigan alone and listened to the last Harry Potter audiobook, where Harry prepares for battle by internalizing the inscription on his parents’ graves: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” It had to be my rallying cry, too. My belly was swollen with death, and I made sure to sip wine conspicuously while giving a too-morbid toast at my sister’s wedding, praying that no one would make awkward baby comments to me because I just wasn’t ready to go there. (It felt very strange to hope I just looked chubby.) I hate that negativity seems so much stronger than truth, because the only thing I remember about finally breaking the news to friends and family was hearing that, “God just wants you to get settled after Aaron gets a job and THEN have a baby. You have too much going on to think about that right now!” That still hurts. I’m sure many people told us they loved us and they were sorry.

And while I spent the weeks after in a haze of confusing blood tests, there was so much love all around. I remember the beautiful postcard from the squealing psalm-reader, old friends who visited from afar with gourmet cheeses and Cabernet Sauvignons, and friends nearby who cleaned my closets and made me leave the house with them and brought us meals for weeks. Meals! For weeks! They made my life infinitely easier and cut our household spending that month by almost the exact amount of all the co-pays and lab fees associated with the whole debacle. I heard that song about God’s care ringing in my head every time I heated a meal, paid a bill, and wrote a thank-you note. Was I “over” it? No. Was I cared for? Yes.

Sometimes I still get really angry thinking it would have been better if I hadn’t even been pregnant, or wondering why we couldn’t have just had this baby then. Why mess with the heartache if we were going to get a healthy baby a few months later anyway? I marvel at the ironic mystery that God still said yes to some of the early prayers of anxious summer joy — two babies (healthy twins!) arrived last week for the people we shared our due date with. (I also got the puppy I asked for! hooray, hooray!) None of this makes any sense yet. It might always be like that. Sometimes not knowing is a gift, even when it doesn’t seem that way.

Today I know beyond any doubt that I was created for eternity, proved like C.S. Lewis says, by desires and love that cannot be satisfied by anything on earth. I dearly love two babies, each formed in the image of God, and the strange timing of these pregnancies does not diminish either of them. Both of their lives are worth celebrating, even if I’m not sure how to do it. And my current pregnancy with Li’l Kicker here does not remedy the real problem of any of my miscarriages. Any death happens because of the fall, and while it is very normal to especially long for a miraculous pregnancy, there is no promise that anyone will definitely have a baby, or that having a baby takes away the sting of death. A child always a gift, never a guarantee. I can’t expect this coming baby to answer these questions when I know I have never lacked the only promised child I have ever needed. The remedy for the consequences of the fall is the gospel, not having a baby.

“Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead… for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” – I Corinthians 15

“God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

{Mary consoles Eve} by  Sr. Grace Remington, OCSO

{Mary consoles Eve} by Sr. Grace Remington, OCSO … (yes, I know it is Jesus who crushes the serpent)

I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul. – Psalm 31:7



various updates

I really do not want to beat the dead horse of complaining about the 2014 Polar Vortex, but this week we can celebrate that overnight on March 3rd it stayed… above zero all through the night! I know, it’s practically the subtropics. After properly bundling up, I only lose feeling in my fingers when out for walks with Max now, not my fingers AND toes AND knees like I would in chillier temperatures.

The Max Update: 
This gentle giant weighed in at 35 big ones for his four-month checkup, and he is perfectly capable of getting anything he wants off the dinner table or kitchen counter. (I just found him licking the cutting board I had set in the sink after slicing a thawed venison roast into stew cubes.) For reference, his brother – our “second pick” from the litter and one of the bigger pups – is 23 pounds, so we are expecting him to be massive as an adult. He is fully house-trained (hallelujah) and when we keep him well-exercised, he is a delight to have around. My biggest fear right now is that I might love Max more than the baby after it’s born.


The Baby Update: 
Surprised by that news? In a good way? Us, too. My official due date is July 31, but I am very determined not to be one of those people who complains about “still being pregnant” after their due date, so I’m trying to mentally prepare for going overdue at the height of summer. I’m also mentally counting down the days until reaching “viability,” where the baby would have a chance at surviving if I had to deliver early, and I’m only just now hitting the point where I don’t regularly dream about holding a baby while drowning in blood or planning baby funerals. I know the pre-term labor, NICU, stillbirth, infant loss, late miscarriage, etc., statistics, and my past experiences do not give me a “get out of the bad luck club free” card in any of those areas. I’m taking lots of medicine. I have to get lots of shots, which completely eradicate any “2nd Trimester Energy Surge” I was hoping for. I’m at a higher risk for future bed rest. I still don’t feel very “excited” most of the time, which I feel weird about. In some ways, even though I can feel it kicking and swimming around, this baby seems less real than the other ones. I’m frustrated that I’m quickly approaching another due date half-way pregnant and not all the way there — though several times before I have hit that milestone without being pregnant at all and I think that’s probably worse. We were supposed to discover the baby’s sex at my last appointment, but the baby was very modest and wouldn’t give us a peek of any private areas, so all we know for sure is that Aaron and I have a stubborn baby. (Please, stifle your laughter.) Lots of weird, hard feelings? Yes. But joy, too, and awkward jokes about pregnant ninjas when I have my black long-johns on, sighs when Max wants to sit on me to hug the baby bump, laughter during lighting-speed sprints to the bathroom, and high-fives when we find ways to save on future baby expenses. This feels scarier for us than it might for some people, but there is much love and grace in all this, and we are overwhelmingly thankful!

The House Update:
There will be pictures soon! But for now, we are exercising some mad domestic MacGyver skills and doing everything we can to fix a few things up for free. We’ve already installed new kitchen lights — which make the whole place feel better — and I have high hopes about my $3 bathroom redecorating plan for the upstairs bathroom.

The Rest-Of-Life Update: 
This probably deserves it’s own post as well, but we have been so blessed with a warm welcome to this area already! Being only a few hours away from our old town means we’ve had a few more friends-and-family connections, and being a bigger city means we’ve been reconnecting with old friends from Hillsdale, too. I hopped in to a community Bible study class right away, and we have tried to be really proactive about visiting  churches, which seems to be paying off. Our neighbors seem reasonably friendly despite the chilling temperatures, and Aaron is enjoying the work he does even though the commute is a beast in icy conditions. Still no favorite pizza crust!

So – that is how we are falling forward (sometimes more successfully than others) into the newness of these moments God has given. It’s hard, weird, scary, good, happy, sad, silly, annoying, lonely, funny, and exciting. Sometimes all at once, even. But those good parts are becoming more prominent and  I’m very thankful to be moving every day closer to spring!

“Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.” -Hosea 6:3

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(Looking forward to Spring for sure! It HAS to be coming. And everyone who knows how tall Aaron is should be impressed by this picture!)

stirred by that Ghost

(I’m still in enough of the puppy honeymoon that I think everyone must want to see pictures of this little guy all the time…)


Yes, he is sitting on the couch in a bold moment of naughtiness. Hopefully those moments are becoming less frequent. We’ll see.

Some of the scariest blessings of the new adventure have been wrapped up in anticipation of another very cute little addition to our family. It’s still sad to think about not having a baby this spring, but my doctor assures me we have no reason to doubt this new little one is on track to join us by the middle of August. (I don’t quite believe it myself yet!)

There are still plenty of questions and fear coming with this joy. I have been thinking of this Sabbath poem from Wendell Berry quite often:

A child unborn, the coming year
Grows big within us, dangerous
And yet we hunger as we fear
For its increase: the blunted bud

To free the leaf to have its day,
The unborn to be born. The ones
Who are to come are on their way,
And though we stand in mortal good

Among our dead, we turn in doom
In joy to welcome them, stirred by
That Ghost who stirs in seed and tomb,
Who brings the stones to parenthood.

(Wendell Berry – Sabbath 1982, V, “To Mary”)


(New baby last week, growing strong at four months!)

As you do not know the way the Spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God, who makes everything. – Ecclesiastes 11:5, esv.

Please keep praying for us, but even more for others suffering under the heaviness of any sort of baby-waiting.

hearing and seeing

I’m not wildly proud of this, but moving to the Arctic without lots of social commitments yet means the TV has been on quite a bit more than usual.

Aaron won a huge plasma television in a drawing a few years ago. He was hyperventilating when he called me with the news, and the voicemail he left me about it was so scattered that I honestly thought he had been in an accident. I was eating lunch with a friend and we stopped to pray for his safety. After planning to sell it for a few hours… we caved and kept it with no regrets, immediately surrendering the old clunker we inherited from my parents. (This was the one they bought when I was 7 and we went from a no-television house to having one so we could watch VHS tapes for educational and religious purposes. In the years since I moved out, they built a special theater room in their basement with a huge flat-screen tv and zillions of channels. Of course.)

This story gets shared because I feel like I need to apologize for having a nice TV. It seems silly to have it when we are so thrifty about most things and we would both like to say we are not “TV sort of people.” In our minds, we read books, listen to music, enjoy a drink, and speak of the Higher Things in the evenings. Aaron has insisted that we will start doing Shakespeare nights sometime. I don’t think either one of us has read a line of Shakespeare since college. With time, this glorified vision is slipping away and we’re slowly accepting our old married, frugal, suburban reality, so we were excited to see that our makeshift antenna picks up more than three broadcast stations.

Mostly, this means when Aaron was gone for a weekend, I snuggled up on the couch and turned on my old guilty pleasure, The Bachelor, for “Sean and Catherine’s Wedding.” I really bristle against sentimentality — I had to tell Aaron being cutesy with the notes and flowers and nicknames when we were dating was just too much for me — but I loved watching this couple get ready for their wedding and share about their faith openly. I thought the ceremony was beautiful and appropriately touching until it got to the vows. I almost lost the will to live. She said being in love with him made her feel like she was overflowing with love sprinkles. I had just been reading about Dietrich Bonhoeffer and tried to imagine how he would have delivered their wedding sermon.

“It is not your love sprinkles that maintain the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that maintains your love sprinkles.” (Adapted from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s wedding sermon in Letters and Papers from Prison.)

the bachelor

As I cannot yet get my dog to carry on a conversation, my daily company comes, primarily, from Minnesota Classical Public Radio. Public Radio is known for it’s deadpan reporting, which is fine until they get to the weather. I have a really hard time with the fact that there is no emotion detected when someone mentions we’re under windchill advisory until noon for the FIFTY-BILLIONTH TIME THIS YEAR.

This our second Winter Olympics as a married couple, watched with enthusiasm from the comfort of our white couch. We do our part to match the athletic vigor in snacking. Yes, we plan to sit and watch all sorts of sporting events while shoveling snacks into our mouths with record speed and agility. It’s our tradition. This is also a great time to talk about what you would call any future kids, because you can try to figure out if they seem like “Gold Medal” quality names. Or maybe you decide against one because it sounds a little too “figure skate-y” or “bobsled-ish” and you’d rather evoke a curling or downhill ski slalom vibe. (We might be the only people who do this.)

For me, the Olympics is a great combination of pride in Team USA and celebration of sportsmanship in general. A favorite Olympic moment so far? Men’s downhill mogul last night. Just watching the moguls makes my obliques hurt! Though I have never skiied downhill in any way, I have watched enough Winter Olympics to feel like I can recognize skill and excellence in some of these events. We rooted for the American while he competed, of course, but watching Alex Bilodeau (Canada) nail every aspect of his run was breathtaking.  I probably shed a tear when he told reporters he competes in honor of his brother who has Cerebral Palsy. I was happy to see him win the gold medal for the excellent skiing alone, but his words made it even sweeter to cheer him on.

A long winter and watching the Olympics are making me really excited for the coming days when I can enjoy walking Max for the sake of moving and being outside and not just braving the wind in hopes that he might calm down for a while afterwards!

restoring souls

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside still waters;
He restores my soul.”

For as difficult as moving and settling in a new place is, I’m starting to feel like we’re getting our systems down  Maybe just because I’ve been so frank with friends and family about some of these challenges, they are starting to seem less daunting. The life we’re building here will be different than the one in Iowa, and that’s okay. I have been seeing a new doctor and I like him. Max’s first vet appointment was yesterday. I can get to the dog park on the edge of town without using a GPS, and I even accurately navigated myself home from downtown St. Paul when my phone battery died last week. (Still no luck finding my favorite Chebe Pizza Crust. It must be out here somewhere.)

We’ve had some positive experiences with church hunting, but we had another crazy week that spurned lots of conversations about a bad sermon. We almost left 10 minutes into the service but decided to stick it out because it was so cold that we didn’t want to have to go right back to the car after we had parked so far away. The main gist of the message was that God wants you to have a full emotional tank, which you can’t have if you are stressed out, and that the 23rd Psalm gives you license to back out of anything you aren’t enjoying. You know, because God wants you to have a restored soul. I sat there thinking about what the last six months had brought us (huge family commitments all summer, losing another babydeciding to moveselling our houseclosing a business, moving to an unfamiliar town in a new state, buying a house, etc.), about some of the big things going on this month (Aaron’s commute and new job, setting up the new house, establishing a business when I don’t know anyone, no disposable income until I’m working, puppy, a little extended sickness, no friends yet, unending polar vortex, insurance/registration/licenses/paperwork, etc.), and all of unknowns in the next six months. You know what? I get a little overwhelmed just thinking about it all to write it down. But I don’t, for a minute, question that we might not be doing the right things.

And maybe the sermon came out wrong or I didn’t grasp what the guy was saying, but I think it totally missed the mark. While “stressful living” is not a competition and you shouldn’t seek it out, it is okay to be under lots of pressure. It is okay to be really stressed out. It does not necessarily mean you’re disobeying God or that you need to change something about your life. Sometimes being “stressed” happens because you are overly anxious or irresponsible… but sometimes it’s just the modern vernacular for acknowledging life is risky, which is always true even though it’s obvious at some times more than others. It hasn’t stopped feeling very risky for us in the past few months, and it will probably continue for a bit. (I took one of those online “stress tests” and determined that Aaron and I are both at a very high risk for developing all sorts of illnesses and maladies within the next year.)

“He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.”

If we’re walking in obedience, and I do think we are, then this life right now and every difficulty or blessing that comes with it is our path of righteousness. Even when so much right now feels rough and pretty scary — though I certainly wouldn’t call it valley-of-the-shadow-of-death — the solution is not using pleasure to cover up difficulty. (What does Ecclesiastes say? “‘I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.’ But behold, this also was vanity.”) Instead we have to take comfort in what God is doing, in his presence, in his rod and staff — you know, the things used to beat dumb sheep into getting where they need to go — and in the promises of our future feasting and home.

So, yes, it’s important to make sure we pursue restoration and enjoy life in the hustle right now. For us, this means we need to find good people to be friends with, we need our funny TV shows, and we need to delight in the ruckus that is Max. He won’t be a puppy forever – which is good and bad news, I tell you. We have both already had weekend trips to visit friends, and we’re looking forward to receiving visitors here soon, too. But those things don’t really solve the problem. Instead, stressful times just reveal how broken we are and how deeply we need restoration all the time. Stress has not created this need. When life is more settled, it’s easier to let everyday routines cover that up. Stress also doesn’t get to become the defining factor in our lives, even in seasons permeated by risk and difficulty.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” – Psalm 23.

Would you believe that there may actually be some green pasture-like grasses underneath all these little drops of still, frozen water outside my front door? There is goodness and mercy in all this — even if it is obscured by the fact that the snow is almost as high as the mailbox.