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.

max in lake michigan

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!)

to laugh or cry?

Before I share the following snippets of life in the past few weeks, I must note that while Scripture doesn’t explicitly teach that God has a sense of humor, I feel like it’s an undeniable truth.

As an expression of jealousy that the bigger chickens have successfully laid eggs for several weeks, Snowflake saw an opportunity to fly-hop herself out of the coop and decided to do a little free-ranging in the back yard. Oops. I eventually scooted the other chickens to their roost and created a Hansel-and-Gretel style trail of scratch and watermelon rinds for her to follow into the coop of her own volition. It worked. Considering that I will probably eat her someday when she has given me all the eggs her body will produce, it’s disturbing to see I am fitting into the role of the fairy-tale witch pretty well here.
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Though I have been mercifully spared from any additional medical catastrophes accompanying our recent miscarriage, I am obediently taking quite a bit of physician-recommended ibuprofen. I find this warning most …ironic, I suppose.
ibuprofenI found out Walgreens has been selling a generic product that makes a very, very bold claim. (I considered rubbing it all over my tummy just in case.)
downsize (7)Apparently the shower needed some ultimate healing, too, because the caulk mysteriously peeled itself up, so we were without a shower for a while until I VERY CAREFULLY cleaned it out and applied the new caulk. Then we waited even longer than label directions indicated before testing it out, just in case.0813131624In that process, I scratched my eye, which was depleted of it’s natural defense mechanism (tears) due to excessive crying jaunts,  and then ended up in severe pain with symptoms of infection that necessitated more visits to the Doctor’s office and a very expensive bottle of antibiotic drops, which made me gasp even after my insurance kicked in their share.
downsize (9)When I say this corneal abrasion caused “severe pain,” I really mean that THERE ARE NO WORDS to describe it, which is saying a lot coming from me. All is mostly well now, I’m just overly sensitive to bright lights yet and wearing sunglasses most of the time.

In every one of these little situations, I haven’t know whether to laugh or cry in response… but there has been plenty of both of those happening at our house, sometimes even at the same time. I think this is healthy. I have learned it is possible to be so overwhelmed by emotion that you are laughing and crying simultaneously, which happened when I was telling Aaron the only thing I wanted in life was to become hermits, get a dog, and hike the Grand Canyon until we died of old age, and I was suddenly struck with the inspiration to name the dog “Burro.” It is more awkward when one person is in agony, as I was during my opthalmological issues, and another unnamed individual is laughing, saying things like, “It seems you are a picture of perpetual misery.”

Other than all this, I snuck in another  summer road-trip to Michigan. Crazy? Yes, but it means I spent a weekend on the beach with some of the best girls in the world AND got to see almost everyone on both sides of our family for a few hours when we weren’t immediately setting up for a wedding, which is rare for us.beach weekendPlenty of laughter and crying happened during that trip, too, in addition to several stops at the same family-style diner for breakfast several days in a row, because that’s how we do things. This unpredictable mix of joy and sadness is all as it should be for now, I think.

ready, set, go!

Since moving to Iowa five years ago, a full day’s drive away from both sides of our immediate family, Aaron and I became the family outliers. We’re the furthest away from everyone else, and we’ve made that long journey back several times a year, sometimes in very inclement weather. (I still have bad dreams about the “New Years ’09 Road-Trip from Hell.” It involved fog, blizzard, icy roads, my first ticket, traffic delays, construction, an electric thunderstorm, more fog, mixing up the direction of the time change, all between the hours of 10:30p.m. and 9:30a.m. Never. Again.)

If we know anything now, it’s how to road-trip well on a budget. So when it was time for the first of at least three summer drives back to Michigan, I was prepared. For best results, fill up on gas the day before leaving, then pack a cooler. Squeeze a little water out of  water bottles and freeze them for 4 hours prior to leaving; use flexible icepacks; bring a combination of good food like carrots and trash like Salt & Vinegar chips; and plan at least one real “treat,” like the Greek Gods brand honey yogurt, which tastes better than ice cream.  All of this is about the same price as stopping for lunch without risking that awful feeling of sodium overload.   roadtrip

Outdated technology necessitated a “hipster” GPS:

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The first part of the weekend included celebrations for Aaron’s brother, Jack and Caroline. While, of course, there was plenty of Bachelor partying, rehearsing, setting up, marrying, eating, and dancing, our main responsibilities are pictured here. I bossed the wedding party around before they made it down the aisle; Aaron’s responsibilities as a groomsman paled compared to his cherished role as Chief Niece Spoiler/Teaser. (The root beer is closed. She is probably contemplating at this very moment how silly it is that adults think it is a treat to suck on cold aluminum cylinders.)

wedding weekend

I also made a fabric banner to compliment the Hobbit-inspired tent reception, and I think it turned out well.
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Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the sweetest, happiest couple on their big day. It was an action-packed weekend full of setting up and driving around, and I only managed to get a few pictures … they are all of the toddler. Despite the lack of photographic evidence, this weekend was an answer to prayer. We had been hoping for this wedding since we first met Caroline, before they were dating!

We drove from the reception straight to my parents house and arrived well past midnight so I could host a bridal shower for my sister, Beth, the next day. I picked a “Lovebirds” theme, and it turned out very cute!beth's shower

And of course, we made it to Lake Michigan for a little while before driving back. I think you can tell which people pictured don’t have regular beach access. Ahem.

family beach

We are so thankful for a safe and happy trip. It was exciting to start celebrating this summer of love and family!