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

{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.

image (11)

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!]







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

image (7)

(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!)

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!

reading round-up (1.17.14)

As I’ve alluded to before, it’s pretty cold. People who voluntarily move to Minnesota at Christmas are not really allowed to complain about this, so I am trying to find ways to celebrate the season. Of first importance, we celebrate that Max is pretty confidently adapting to using his doggie door, which makes the most annoying part of puppy-raising require less time out in the cold for us. Secondly, I’m really enjoying Six Classical Music Portraits of Winter from The Imaginative Conservative. Let me know if you have a favorite!

I really appreciated 5 Tips for Loving People through the Loss of a Marriage. It makes my stomach turn when I think of how much pain I’ve watched friends experience in divorce, and when the people who should be able to love them best don’t know what to do, it seems even worse. I especially loved her points about the importance of avoiding assumptions (you do not know all the details, ever), validating a person’s experience without jumping to advice, and being a safe presence for the long grief journey.

Looking around at this new house splattered with stuff I can’t figure out how to organize, and a non-working dishwasher, I’m grateful (and most needful) of the encouragement about keeping a clean home from Emily. I definitely recommend all four parts of her series, and hope to get to a point where they can be implemented here soon!

I can’t decide which of these pictures I like best. The duck? The St. Bernard? The bunnies? Maybe the bunnies. Agh. So cute.

Aaron’s birthday is next week, and I’m very excited to be substituting these wonderful Chocolate Peanut Butter cups in place of his usual request (“Buckeye Peanut Butter Balls”), because they taste the same and are so much easier to make! Also, significantly less messy. The only question is: big or small muffin cups? I could see this going both ways.

USA Today shares their reader’s photos of extreme weather, which recently featured “my” lighthouse in Michigan. I find some comfort knowing it’s really cold there, too.

photo by Ted Swoboda]