Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Emmanuel for the Weary

“O rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing.”

This year ends mostly on good notes - a merry Mississippi Christmas trip ahead of us with plenty of time spent with friends, family and the world's most adorable nieces and nephews; solid jobs; a sweet baby girl on the way and so much to be grateful for.

Many years, I have limped into Christmas and the New Year, far far more fragile than I am now, full of brokenness, longing and hopelessness. I am comfortable with that- I know how to celebrate Advent in the midst of pain and times of waiting.  This year is different - it ends with mostly joy and hope and blessings, but as I have struggled through December, I realized that this year ends in praise, but it also ends in exhaustion. I am learning how to celebrate the Savior’s coming with a weary soul and body.

Part of that exhaustion is my fault - over committing, trying to do too much (specifically too much for a 30 week pregnant woman!) and part of that exhaustion is that the road to these blessings has not been easy.  I walked through really hard times this year – with Emmanuel by my side- and now that I have survived, I am worn out.

Celebrating and rejoicing in God's goodness to us in the past year does not undo the fact that many tears were cried and much heartache was felt in 2015. Seeing God redeem and restore is lovely and such an honor to witness, but fresh scars still remain on our hearts. Work, relationships, licensing exams, family (or rather growing our family) has not made for an easy year.  A happy one, yes, but an easy one, not at all. Dave feels it too – after months of holding each other up and trying our best to courageously fight through lives battles, we are far more grumpy with each other and life this December than we were last year and we seem to be more sickly and insulated than our normal selves.  We aren't hurting, per se.  We aren't hopeless.  Just the opposite – we are joyful and thankful for our many blessings.  But, we are just plum worn out – and the exhaustion shows – with worn out bodies, in sickness and colds that won’t go away, in harsh words and baggy circles under our eyes.

And, so I limp into Christmas in a different way – not in a “still in the trenches” type a way, not in a hopeless way – but in a weary and worn out way.  This year, “Emmanuel” ( “God with us”) means something different to me.  I have experienced an Emmanuel who helps me through hard roads or strengthens me in the waiting.  I know the Emmanuel who undeservedly blesses me.  And, this season, I am finding that this Emmanuel is also with me in recovery.  Just as he walked me through hard times, He will hold my hand as I heal and rest and find strength again. He is my rest – and He came to offer us ultimate healing and rest.

This year I am coming to the manger weary – and there I will find rest that only a Savior can grant me.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Nor Does He Sleep

I love the good truth found in hymns.  Don’t get me wrong, this traditional Presbyterian girl can enjoy a good praise song, but the heavy meaning found in hymn lyrics always stirs my heart to think deeper and worship.  And, so, during Christmas, I definitely enjoy the carols and Christian songs more than the other catchy holiday pop tunes. Music can subtly slip truth into our hearts and minds while we are mindlessly humming along – so listening to Christmas carols on my daily metro rides not only gets me in “the holiday spirit” – it also reminds me of my Savior and His overwhelming love and faithfulness for His people.

Some of my all time favorite Christmas carol lyrics are:

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”


The pealed the bells more loud and deep;
“God is not dead nor doth (does) He sleep;
 The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”



I am a fairly black and white thinker – and my heart LOVES justice (both personally and for others).  Feeling like I or someone I loved was treated unfairly hurts me deeply. Forgiveness (without apology or recognition) comes hard for me (and is constantly my biggest confession: Lord help me forgive)  Maybe it is my personality or my legal background  or a little bit of self-righteousness, but the way I long for this broken world to be healed is through a “righting” of wrongs – apologies, healed relationships, acknowledged wrongs, correction or punishment of unfair treatment, seeing those who are "right" succeed, etc.

So, this year, my heart (like many of your hearts, probably) has been heavy.  Such brokenness, such  wrongs, coming at us from every corner (we can’t blame just liberals or conservatives or Christians or Muslims or blacks or whites for this)  Terrorist attacks.  Racism. Mass Shootings.  Refugees. Purposeful attacks on conservatives. Christians acting hatefully. Muslims acting hatefully. Awful presidential choices. Selective concern for others.  A PC agenda.  And the list goes on and on…..

So many problems, so much brokenness, so few answers.  In this fallen world, justice is not always realized as quickly as we hope – or in exactly in the ways we wish.  And, if we are honest, in a world full of sinners, as one area finally sees some justice, a new area of hate and discrimination and loss will emerge.  HE will OVERCOME this broken world, but for now, the weight of the brokenness and hurt seems overwhelming.

Usually, Advent is so personal for me – a time of waiting with hope for the Lord, His coming and the ways He personally is faithful to me here on earth.  But, this Advent season, more than any other in recent history, I take comfort in God’s coming on a more general level – that He sees every single hurting person in this world and His birth, resurrection, healing and second coming is for all types of people.  While it often seems this world progressively gets worse, we serve a God who does not sleep, who is watching and working and can and will overcome in HIS timing.

A baby born in the manger was the beginning of the end for Satan and this broken world.  Christmas and Advent are the ultimate picture of hope and grace, but for those like me who long for a world untouched by sin, loss and injustice, the Christmas story is also the ultimate act of justice!  We wait patiently for ultimate justice – but God enables us to be a part of restorative and redemptive justice here on earth through our ministry and outreach to others.  This Advent season, my focus is on justice – longing for it, praying for it and searching for ways to be a part of it. Maybe the HOPE of the ADVENT season can be seen through His people and how they love others and fight for justice in this BROKEN world.


John 16:23 “….In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have OVERCOME the world."

Psalm 121: 4 "Indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither SLUMBER nor SLEEP."

Friday, December 4, 2015

Pregnancy Update: 7 months!

I can't believe it's time for another 4 week update.  Time has flown this past month - I am sure travel and holidays helped the days pass quickly!  I can't believe we are already at the 7(ish) month mark and will meet our daughter in about 2-3 months. CRAZY.  Still so much to do!

SEATGATE 2015: For those who know me well, you know my biggest pregnancy goal was to be offered seats on the metro.   I consider a metro seat to be the Ultimate Preggo Perk.  I had some early luck a few weeks ago(2 seats offered in the span of 1 week),  but since then, I have had no more success. Rude, rude, rude.  Especially when you sit AND stare at my large belly. Folks, you can hate on my home state of Mississippi all you want, but this lack of chivalry would not happen in the hospitality state.  Not that Mississippi has a metro, but if it did, pregnant ladies would be offered those seats.




How Far Along: 

28 weeks (approximately 7 months) this weekend!




The past few weeks....

25.5 weeks - 2 working girls!


26 weeks at Falling Water


27 weeks at the Atlantic Shore


 Baby Size:
At 28 weeks, baby girl weighs in somewhere between 2.25 and 2.5 pounds and is 14-15 inches long and is the size of an eggplant (Dave wishes that the food comparisons were things that he likes to eat - like, today, your baby is the size of a NY Strip, etc...)


Maternity Clothes:

Yes - and now that it's holiday season, I will be rocking cocktail maternity dresses...so lets hope lace and fancy fabrics distracts from the bump haha!


Sleep:

Not sleeping well, thanks to multiple bathroom trips, leg cramps, aches and pains in my back and hips.  It's getting where Dave, me, my belly and the body pillow don't all fit in the double bed very easily.  I already made Dave promise that next pregnancy, we must have a queen or king bed haha!  I still fall asleep fairly easily so if I can make myself go to bed earlier, I tend to get more ZZZs.


Movement:

Yes! And finally, during the past 4 weeks, Dave has begun to feel her.  Little girl is kicking a lot.  She shifted down lower which made it easier to feel her - PLUS, she is bigger so her taps are a bit stronger.  Love those sweet kicks.  As a mama, the past 6 or so weeks have been a lot more comforting as I know she is okay because I can feel her moving around.

Best Moment of the Past 28 weeks:

Dave feeling her kick! Crossing into 3rd trimester!


Food Cravings:

Sweets. Cereal. Fruit. good Salads.  

Food Aversions:

Baby girl is still not a big lover of meat. I mean, I eat it, but I sure don't crave it!

What I Miss:

Wine and sushi.


What I Am Looking Forward To:

Decorating the nursery! Most of the furniture is up and we are starting to order prints and mom and I are looking at fabrics.  Also, we have a month of showers so I look forward to celebrating Anne Douglas all month!


Milestones:

Booked a daycare.  Put up Furniture.  Daddy felt her kick.  Toured the hospital.

AD's milestones: THIRD TRIMESTER!! She is now better at breathing and experiencing hiccups and coughs.  She is starting to fatten up for birth and this process will happen over the next 8-12 weeks - so she is a skinny version of what she will look like on delivery day!  Her lungs are maturing, she can hear voices and may be starting to recognize mine. Eyebrows and Eyelashes are visible. Baby can even dream now (although what is she dreaming about? She has no idea what the world looks like....)



Pregnancy Symptoms:

 Weight gain, achy hips and lower back, constant bathroom trips, and lots of leg cramps (3 last night...)


Gender:

A sweet baby GIRL!!! 


Weight Gain:

Between 17 and 18 pounds!  Four weeks ago, it was 12-13 pounds but I predicted that we were hitting a growth spurt. Looks like I was right as we gained about 5 pounds in 4 weeks.  I try to eat healthy most of the time even if I am eating more, but I find that it doesn't matter too much. If I eat junky food or healthy food, I gain the same amount!!  At least the meat and veggies and oatmeal are keeping her healthy!

To compare, here is how much I have grown in 8 weeks - about 9 pounds and a LOT of inches haha. Oh and I gained a severe preggo face.  I may not like the aches and pains associated with being bigger, but it is nice to look clearly pregnant.  I don't think many people look at me and think "too many donuts or baby?" anymore. 

20 weeks v. 28 weeks


Sweet baby girl, we can't wait to meet you and get to know your unique personality!!! Keep growing big and strong and we will see you soon! Also, if you would like to not stand on Mommy's bladder, that would be nice too :)





Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Far as the curse is found


 “No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground;  He comes to make His blessings flow, Far as the curse is found.”



This past year was hard- yet so, so good.  I am grateful for both- truly, I am. Some advent seasons follow easy happy blessed years full of rest and joy- and some years are hard, weary years where you slowly craw into the holiday season and new year.  Years of great blessing make rejoicing easy but don't help me to properly long and wait during advent – and years of longing match perfectly with the waiting season of advent but make me work harder to find joy during the holiday season. But, this year, I have known both grief and rejoicing– reminding me of my incredible need for a Savior, my longing for Heaven in the midst of a broken world, and of God’s unmerited kindness displayed upon me.  The Christmas carol rings true in my life – He has definitely made His blessings flow in my life far as the curse is found. And the curse and the blessing is making me daily more like Him.

There are two sweet new ornaments on our tree this December, announcing two sweet babies – one that I gave to my husband last December to announce our first pregnancy and baby, and one given to me by mother this year announcing our sweet daughter’s quick approaching arrival.  I refuse to take the first one down – because that ornament is just as much a part of our story – and the story of Advent as the second ornament.  (This is not the first time I have realized loss during the “most wonderful time of the year” and each loss has made Advent all the sweeter in my life) In fact, I can’t think of a better time of year to remember those we love and have lost than Advent – a time when a perfect Savior came as a baby into our mess to save us from death and destruction.  I can celebrate both babies this year because of the sweet baby in the manger that was the beginning of the end for this broken, hard world and the ever-reaching curse of death and sin.

You see, ADVENT is the BLESSING found amidst the CURSE.  God’s people waited for their Savior to arrive (and He did so in a way far different than was expected) – and we, too, await our Savior’s return, the ultimate blessing for a hurting world.  In the meantime, we live in the present with broken marriages, sickness and disease, singleness and childlessness, poverty, abuse and death.  Many of our lives are filled with numerous blessings – yet some years, the good gifts seem fewer and further apart.  And, even among the blessings, we muddle through the ramifications of sin’s curse day in and day out. 

But, then Advent comes – and amidst the curse, we get to set aside a few weeks in December to hope and long for the awaited return of our King, the one who comes to make all sad things untrue.  It is when sin’s curse is most strongly felt that we most desperately need the blessing of Advent and the realization of our ultimate blessing.

And, sometimes, by God’s good kindness on our lives, we get to experience blessings and redemption among the curse even here on earth.  I should be holding a baby this Christmas morning and friends, the curse's sting will be real and painful, but thanks to the Lord’s sweet mercy on me, I will be bigger than Santa Claus at 8 months pregnant, enjoying the promise and hope of a baby on her way. The baby in the manger allows us to not only have ultimate HOPE - but hope even now, in the middle of disappointment and despair and loss.  My prayer is that you see God’s little blessings this season just as much (or hopefully more) than you realize sin’s curse. There is pain, but oh, there is joy also!

Blessings flowing – both now and in eternity.  The curse’s reach may be far, but because of Advent and the beginning of the end for Satan, “sin’s curse has lost its grip on (us).”  The world's long awaited Savior has come - and will come again!  

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Thanksgiving for Two

When you grow up in a large family, the idea of spending any holiday without a table full of opinionated, loud, laughing, sometimes bickering siblings seems a bit lonely. (I know that some of you are thinking, what an AWFUL way to spend the holiday....but for me, it seems perfect)



Despite not being at home for the past 2 turkey days, we have celebrated with plenty of company - the first year, hosting 12 people including my sister, brother in law and nephew - and last year, seeing the Macy's parade before celebrating with friends in NYC.  And, this year, goodness, we tried to make it a full Thanksgiving table.  We had plans to visit my sister in Vermont that fell through - and we invited people over (but most were already heading home...) and so we finally accepted that it would be a "just the two of us" holiday celebration.

I was a bit mopey about this for awhile - but then I had an attitude adjustment.  So many people are alone on holidays - or overseas protecting us or serving on the mission field. So many people recently lost a loved one or may be spending their holiday in a hospital or are going through a divorce or waiting to meet the right man or woman.  A lot of people face Thanksgiving with heartache and longing and disappointment weighing them down, making a day of thanks and praise a hard task. And yet, here I am- a sweet husband, a longed for baby on the way, family and friends back home worth missing, enough money and food and necessities - plus a year where I have witnessed God's faithfulness in many ways.

And, so, fresh new outlook in place, we decided to make the best of our little holiday for two (or two and a half!). And, you know what? It wasn't so bad! Dave is my favorite person to spend time with - and I got to spend the day (and the 4 day break) with him!  At the end of the day, we both agreed that we prefer busy crazy holidays packed with families and friends - but the alternative was not so bad!

We were both fortunate enough to get off work early on Wednesday so we spent the evening watching a movie, going for a short walk to Trader Joe's and watching Netflix.  I also cooked our Thanksgiving pie and cinnamon rolls for the next morning. I have always wanted to try Pioneer Woman's homemade cinnamon roll recipe - and a holiday was the perfect excuse to bake them. The recipe makes several pans, so I cut it in half - and it still made a few pans - so we have a few weekend breakfasts ready to go in our freezer. It's like the holiday treat that will keep on giving - all December long!
As you can see, my rolls weren't all even as the proper mechanics of cinnamon roll folding was learned through the process - but goodness did they taste good!


We woke up and watched the parade while eating homemade cinnamon rolls and drinking hot cocoa. We then went to see a matinee, "Mockingjay Part 2."  We watched a holiday movie and slowly finished cooking our mostly "nontraditional" Thanksgiving Dinner. At dinner, we went through our "Thankfulness" jar - stuffed full of little notes about the things we had been thankful for all month long - and we talked about the holidays, our blessings and what we were looking forward to in the coming year.

Our thankfulness jar (packed full), yummy steak dinner, pie and movie date!




We ended the evening with a little online Black Friday shopping, a holiday movie and a piece of pie! It was truly a happy day - full of thankfulness and time together.



What we ate:

  • Breakfast: Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls (cooked the night before and reheated in the oven the next morning)
  • Lunch: popcorn at the movies (yep, classy folks)
  • Dinner: Steak (with a marinade I looked up online and can't remember where I found it. I had planned to make the steaks without a marinade - but Dave decided that he wanted a marinade last minute, so we were limited to the ingredients I had on hand, luckily it turned out well!), rolls, my mother in law's potato casserole, Alton Brown's baked mac and cheese, sauteed zucchini (one serving as it was for me, only)
  • Dessert: s'mores chocolate pie

How to handle "Thanksgiving for Two"
  • Accept that it will be "non-traditional" but still make it special. Obviously, with just two people, a big Turkey was going to be out of the question.  So instead of a small turkey breast, we decided to splurge on steaks. Also, as mentioned above, I have been wanting to try this cinnamon roll recipe for awhile and this was a perfect day to do it!
  • Don't overcook.  I cut all the recipes in half - and even just sauteed one zucchini for myself.  I knew we did not want to eat leftovers for days.
  • Decide which "staples" you have to have - and which you can do without.  This was especially necessary for me because I have a picky eater for a husband so staples like sweet potato casserole, a hearty fall salad, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie would only be eaten by me. So, I narrowed it down to staple dishes we both liked - potato casserole and mac and cheese (both holiday staples) and added a veggie for me.  Zucchini was the simplest veggie to add because I had it on hand and I could literally just saute it and throw it on the table. Also, Dave dislikes traditional holiday pies so I decided to try a chocolate pie recipe I found online.  A few traditional dishes and a few not so traditional dishes.
  • Use this as an opportunity to start a new tradition or at least do something different.  Cinnamon rolls, the thankfulness jar, and mid-day movie - all new to us.  If we do Thanksgiving alone again next year, some of these new celebrations may stick!
  • Do celebrate. Celebrating for one or two can seem like a waste of time, but truthfully, it's your holiday just like it's anyone else's holiday and you should celebrate, even if just in a small way! Go out to eat, cook a small holiday brunch, run in a local "turkey trot", order a meal from "Blue Apron", etc, etc.  It is a holiday and even without a crowd, it can be a happy day!


We followed up the holiday with a little weekend get away to Chincoteague, VA - a cute little town (with wild ponies and a beach)  Unfortunately, due to it being the off season, most of the restaurants and attractions were closed but we still enjoyed exploring, a little hiking (or waddling), hot tub-ing (legs only for me sadly) and football watching!
wild ponies and cute husband!

Annie D and me - celebrating the beginning of 3rd trimester at the beach!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!


Hot Tub-ing and beer drinking!


This year has been a mixture of really hard and really good.  In the course of a year, we have rejoiced, mourned, waited and rejoiced again.  So, I am thankful for a God that sprinkles good in with the bad and who gently walks us through life's trials while blessing us daily with far more than we deserve.  I realize that this holiday season is not as happy for everyone.  For those that are thanking God through tears, loss, heartache and long periods of waiting and unanswered prayers, know that I admire you so much.  For those going through the motions of thankfulness even when their heart does not feel like praising, you are examples to us all - of faithfully serving and trusting and thanking a good God even when your life does not seem full of blessings.  It is easy for me to praise with a husband and baby and enough food and money.  I realize that it is much harder to thank Him when the ring finger remains naked, the womb is barren, the cupboard is empty or a loved one's missing presence is greatly felt. It is my prayer that your obedience is honored - and that through this Holiday season, you will feel hope and sense God's goodness daily.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Problem with Tragedy

I rarely post anything politically motivated, BUT today, I have to speak up......

In the past week, we have witnessed many lives lost at the hands of Islamic extremists.  Lives of different nationalities, races, cultures, backgrounds and religions.  There has been so much innocent death and loss in the matter of hours or days.  In some ways, our world has united - showing solidarity in the face of evil, showing a sense of courage and resolve in the face of fear - but in some ways, tragedy has only split us more.

What is it about tragedy that digs up our nastiness? Is it that we are scared and hurting? Or is it that we turn tragedy into our own little soapbox? The world is hurting and yet we are fighting each other more than we are fighting those that commit evil acts. Social media allows us to both unite together in the face of tragedy (Parisian pictures, articles on Beruit, offers of prayer and peace, etc) and at the same time, attack each other from the comfort of our couch by taking one statement, one view and assuming the worst in other's statements and beliefs and comments.

This is a problem that both sides are guilty of - liberals and conservatives - making tragedy into a catalyst for our own agenda, hurling attacks at anyone who has a differing view. How sad that we can't just mourn loss without creating sides.

In the matter of one short week, I have seen racist and derogatory comments against Muslims AND also witnessed the unfair accusation that those who are anti-ISIS are bigots who hate Muslims (news flash: being against one group does not make one against an entire religion.)  I have friends who have been more upset about possible backlash against the local Muslim community than they were about the victims of terrorism.

There has been a disproportionate focus on Paris while overlooking other atrocities - but, at the same time, there has  also been a plethora of self righteous attacks shaming people for mourning Paris (because they didn't properly mourn Beruit or other non-western attacks).  While we, as a society, need to be more aware of all lives that are being lost, why are we making others feel guilty for mourning Paris?

I have seen people who attack Christians CONSTANTLY for their beliefs suddenly play the "Christian" card and claim  that their perspective on immigration and refugee policy is Christlike and those who disagree are failing at their faith.  At the same time, Christians are attacking each other.  Those opposed to allowing refugees into America accuse those who sympathize with Syrian refugees and want to open our country's "gates" to them as overly emotional, wanting to make themselves feel good, etc.  Christians on the other side are calling out fellow believers who are worried about refugees coming to the states, claiming that they are ignoring Biblical principles on loving foreigners, etc.

And, probably the silliest thing I have seen is the Christmas story being compared to the refugee crisis.  The story was about Christ, it was not making a political statement.  Mary and Joseph were turned away from the inn (and directed to a stable) because there was no room for them in the inn (due to increased travel during the census) - not because they were unwanted refugees.  Goodness, there are enough applicable biblical principles without having to manipulate the advent story into a policy position.

Why the bickering? Can't someone be anti-ISIS AND anti Muslim discrimination? Can we not protect the rights of those who practice Islam while still mourning the victims? Can we discuss other tragedies that weren't as "hot" in the media without shaming people for mourning an iconic city (and one similar enough to our own "Western" cities that many Americans lost their sense of security?) Isn't there a way to highlight other atrocities without downplaying the Parisian tragedy? Does it have to be a competition? Yes Arab lives matter, but don't European lives matter too?  Can we have discussions about the Syrian refugee crisis without taking an all or nothing approach? Can we recognize that with the exception of a few truly racist hateful people, most of us (believers and unbelievers) mourn for these people and their circumstances - yet disagree with how to handle it? Can we not attack each other as too emotional and sympathetic - or too uncaring and scared- and realize that proper policy will require compassion AND pragmatic thinking?

And for goodness sake, for those who bash Christians year round on any and every political issue, please stop playing the "be a good Christian" card- because goodness knows, when Christians are "good Christians", you disagree with their positions. And, please, please please quit misrepresenting our advent story. There are plenty of refugee examples to use without making one up.

Essentially, let's stop making other people's tragedies about us, our own political agendas, our own self-righteous views.  Let's recognize that other caring concerned people have different views than us - and we may disagree with them and we may have to discuss and debate these important issues, but we don't have to attack.  Can we agree to not get our kicks off making ourselves feel "more righteous", "less bigoted", "more knowledgeable", "more practical", "less overly emotional", "more Christian" etc. than others? And can we agree to take a deep breath before attacking someone on social media? If we wouldn't say it aloud to a person's face, why will we say it in a public social forum?

There is a lot of evil in the world at the moment - let's not add to it. The terrorists obtain one more victory if we turn against each other too.

(This serves as a reminder to myself as well....)


"There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." - Proverbs 12:18

"Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know hos you ought to answer each person." - Colossians 4:6


Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday Loves


It's FRIDAY - who is ready for a weekend?  My weekend is full of socializing, volunteering, relaxing and breaking out the Christmas decor. Go ahead and judge away, but since we always head to Mississippi for a good long trip during the second half of December, I pull our stuff out early - my decorations have to be up 4-5 weeks for me to believe its worth the time of pulling them out!! Plus, not to be all scroogy- but I think I may pack up Christmas decor before we leave for the south so I do not have to worry about it when I get back.


Here are some things I am loving on Friday.....


1. Santa's Bag App



One of these years, I plan on being responsible and starting a holiday fund in January, but unfortunately, that was not this year.  However, I am trying to stay on budget or near budget with Christmas (I love buying others gifts and I tend to justify overspending on nephews and nieces and parents etc....) So, this year I downloaded the "Santa's Bag" app for my iphone - and it has changed how I Christmas shop. I set an overall budget and then individual budgets for my recipients.  Under each person, I can mark what I buy, what I am thinking of buying, how much it cost, and then check each person off as complete when done.  I am able to see how much I have spent in my total budget and how much I spend on each individual person - including if I was under or over their individual budget. This helps me plan accordingly and encourages me to take the time to look for good sales.  For example, I recently watched the toy sales and found the exact gift I was planning on buying one of my nieces for $15 off - so that's $15 in "extra money" I have in case I go over on someone else (which I will inevitably do...)  Jury is still out on whether this keeps me entirely on budget - but so far, so good.




2. Williams Sonoma Quinoa with toasted pecans and dried cranberries

You can find the recipe here.  I LOVE this dish and have made it several times. Basically, anything with nuts and berries makes me happy (I must have been a small forest animal in a different life....)  I made a huge batch for our small group supper club last night and we had a low  turnout due to work, travel and sickness - so lots of leftovers.  But honestly, I am kindof happy because I can eat this all weekend long. (side note: this preggo adds a few more pecans than suggested....)




3. Non Maternity clothing

The other day, while returning a maternity sweater to Old Navy, I picked up a cute vest (one size up instead of maternity sized because some days I just want something NON-maternityish you know? I have a maternity vest which is cute but a bit long and bulky) And today, since it's Friday and a bit more casual, I wore my new vest to work with skinny tan maternity pants, boots, a maternity chambray top and a tortoise shell necklace. And dare I say, I almost felt cute?  Besides the stretchy band at the top of my pants and the fact that the shirt was loose with you know, a baby underneath....it was a normal outfit. So here is my "make me happy" outfit...forgive me if you see some version of this often this fall/winter.



(sidenote: maternity clothes are not so bad in 2015.  I definitely have some of the drawstring loose  tops, but a lot of the items are quite cute - just a bit more limited in selection, so I really can't complain - BUT still, this $17 dollar green vest has made my week...)


4. Blanket Scarves

I also picked up this cute blanket scarf. It's adorable and warm and makes me happy. Only problem is that I now need someone to come to my house and show me how to wear it.....






5. REIGN

Dave and I love finding a good show to binge watch together - and our newest pick is Reign about Mary, Queen of Scots.  It's got history, action, mystery, romance - and of course, lovely costumes.  Something for both of us!



6. Encouraging articles

I love words - and I love words that encourage and uplift and relate.  So I had to share these meaningful words I found in an article titled Singleness, Suffering and Christian Hope. It's so true - I could have written this article (although not nearly as eloquently!)  In fact, I wrote something similar a couple years ago. The pain of waiting for a spouse can be incredibly hard and often undermined by married friends, family and church leaders. (Thankfully, if you are like me, you had excellent company!) The bittersweet reality is that you excitedly celebrate every wedding, every baby, every special moment for friends and family while you wait for your own milestones to celebrate.  You rock babies and silently pray that one day you will have your own.  You spend holidays without a spouse, wondering if you will always be the single adult child that goes home. Even now, happily married, I remember that the waiting wasn't always easy. So, I was so touched by the tender way in which this man writes about his wife's and his years of waiting and suffering.

"Although our suffering (related to singleness, anyway) officially ended that night, every minute of heartache now served to make our present joy greater and fuller than if we had never suffered. Our suffering wasn’t merely being erased or compensated for. Instead, God was somehow using our suffering to enlarge and perfect our joy.

To us, that moment was a picture of our ultimate Christian hope: Ours is the only faith that would dare use a barbaric device like the cross as a symbol of triumph. God is not only with us in our suffering, as He proved at the cross, but He will transform our suffering, as He proved at the resurrection.

Lisa and I have never been happier than we were on our wedding day. But even the very best day of life on earth is only a foretaste — a dim hint — of what it will feel like when we finally meet the Lord.

If you are a Christian who is struggling with singleness, I am praying for your suffering to end. I don’t know how and when it will end, but I can absolutely guarantee that God will one day end it with a resurrection. I love the way Teresa of Avila put it: “The first moment in our Savior’s arms will make the most miserable earthly life seem like a single night in a bad hotel.”

As I finished this article at 1:30 in the morning, I looked over at my sleeping wife. I thought about all the nights she went to bed lonely. The scars are still there. But like the scars that remained on Jesus’ resurrection body, their meaning has been converted from shame to glory.

Tears filled my eyes as I leaned over and kissed Lisa on the cheek and remembered, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4, ESV). Thank God we didn’t meet when we were 21. Thank God He didn’t “spare” us from suffering. My tears of joy were only possible because, in our suffering, we had shed so many tears of sadness."

 I have friends that are still waiting- for husbands, for babies, for healing in their families, etc- and I am still waiting with them, praying for those future happy endings and milestones - and I can't wait to rejoice with them the way they have kindly rejoiced with me.  But, even when those answered prayers come, I will also be grateful for a God that uses years of brokenness to make the answered prayers all the more beautiful.


7. "Just Because" Flowers

I have felt particularly pregnant and big and sore this week (um, and whiney....) - and my sweet DH sent me the sweetest card and flowers. telling me how thankful he was for me.  We aren't usually random gifts and flowers type of people (except for birthdays and holidays, etc) which made the gesture all the more sweet.  Goodness, I am a lucky gal.



Happy Friday all! Just 2 weeks (less actually) until Thanksgiving!  November really is a wonderful month, right? The weather is not too bad yet but the holiday spirit is in the air! I hope you spend all weekend doing things you love with people you love! Or doing nothing, just because you can!

Monday, November 9, 2015

6 months!

As promised, I am keeping up with posts every 4 weeks - that's probably about as much "baby talk" as you folks want to hear! And as much baby talk as I want to give.



Yesterday we hit 24 weeks, and I have two three very important not at all important thoughts:

1. How am I 6 months pregnant?
2. How am I only 6 months pregnant!
3. Why do we call 24 weeks "6 months" because months don't have 28 days so in reality, I am a week or two shy of 6 months right?

It seems AD should be here - and yet it seems we are NOWHERE READY for our baby girl's arrival.... but we are making progress! In the past 4 weeks, we reserved a hospital tour, booked our birthing class (Dave is being bribed to attend the all day class with Buffalo Wild Wings), pre-registered at the hospital, called a daycare, spoke to my insurance provider about how we add the baby afterwards, bought a lot of the nursery furniture. Oh, and I ready one parenting book!

And we've spent plenty of time talking to our little girl - I am pretty sure she thinks we are weird, but she is stuck with us!  I daily announce that I wish she was already here - but that is a lie. I would like a little more time to prep and a little more time to enjoy having her daddy all to myself! Plus we want her to arrive when she is healthy and plump!

And here is what AD and I have been looking like recently.  Unfortunately, she refuses to give me a cute "out in front" bump which is sad :(  I thought my longer waist would be an asset in pregnancy, keeping her from having to wrap around me like babies do a short waisted mommies.  But, nope, just because she has plenty of space doesn't stop her from laying side to side and making me look wide! She LOVES spreading out!

Here are some extra pics of Little Miss on weeks 21-23. (See 24 week bump pic above)  She is starting to really make her presence known!

21 weeks

22 weeks

23 weeks

How Far Along: 

24 weeks (6 months) as of this past weekend 

 Baby Size:
At 24 weeks, baby is the size of a 12.5 inch ear of corn and weighs 1.3 pounds. (1.3 pound gain for baby, 13 pound gain for mommy - seems fair)


Maternity Clothes:

Yes - basically all my clothes (except for a few loose shirts, sweats and tights, why buy maternity tights when I can just buy a size bigger?)

Also, this past week I did some online shopping for a maternity formal dress to wear as a bridesmaid next month. I am ordering 3 and trying them on - surely one will work. The dresses are all lovely (maternity clothing has come a long way from when my mom was pregnant with me...) but even so, let me tell you, your choices for gold sparkly maternity formalwear are limited.  Apparently not many 30 week pregnant ladies walk around in gold sequins...which makes no sense to me.  I am creating life here so I, of all people, should be allowed to wear sequins :)

Sleep:

Not sleeping well, feeling some aches and pains when I wake up in the morning. BUT I ordered a maternity pillow this weekend which I am unrealistically expecting to change my world!! We have a double bed so imagine Dave, me, my belly and a large pillow in the bed at 9 months preggo.  This will be fun - thank goodness for a guest bed!


Movement:

Movement, yes- and  I've felt a few kicks, although not externally yet so Dave can't feel them.  (a) according to the doc, the way the baby and other pregnancy essentials are tucked into my body make it harder to feel her kick and (b) I think that so far, she is more of a squirmer than a kicker....


Best Moments of the Past 24 weeks:

Finally realizing that I was feeling kicks!   Buying nursery furniture! Reaching Viability!


Food Cravings:

Sweets.  Trying not to give into this too much, but I mean, Halloween.....

Food Aversions:

Still not a huge fan of eggs/some meats/ some spices - although I can eat a whole lot more!

What I Miss:

Wine and sushi.


What I Am Looking Forward To:

Decorating the nursery! We are starting to put up furniture - but decorating will be so much fun!


Milestones:




Reaching viability! Now, if Anne Douglas were to arrive early, she would have more chance of surviving than not making it.  Clearly, she would still have tons of complications and we don't want her to arrive yet, but it is comforting to know we have reached the week where life is now a real option!


Putting up baby girl's crib!























Pregnancy Symptoms:

 Weight gain, aches and pains, acne (they say girls steal their mom's beauty....clearly, that was not true for my mom :) but it seems to be true for me!), itchy skin, hungry and hard time sleeping


Gender:

A sweet baby GIRL!!! 

For the record, Annie D LOVES to keep showing us that she is indeed, still a girl at appointments! Ha, we love to be reassured as we have already started planning for a daughter - BUT still, a modesty talk needs to happen.... At 20 weeks, she refused to show us all of her vital organs (we had to return for another ultrasound at 22 weeks) - yet she made sure she flashed us! (and then flashed us again at 22 weeks!) We get it, AD, you are a girl and we are so thrilled - now, cross your legs please!


Weight Gain:

Between 12 and 13 pounds this morning.  I feel like I am about to gain several pounds though - as I think baby girl is hitting another growth spurt. Starting this weekend, I feel like I could eat everything in my kitchen and in yours!


I will update on baby girl again in 4 weeks - at which time she will have experienced her first Thanksgiving AND have entered her third trimester!





Thursday, November 5, 2015

October Book Reviews

Happy Fall Y'all - or if you live on the east coast right now, happy 70 degree days! We have been enjoying a warm front, highest November temps in years!  This doesn't go along with pumpkins and scarves and boot weather - but no complaints from this southern gal.  I fear winter weather so I will be grateful for any remaining "hot" days we have left.  Plus, the cool air is returning this weekend - just in time for holiday season to start!

I have been diving into some great books so far this fall, so here are a few reviews. As you may remember, my goal was to read 6 books during October and November and I so far, I have read 4 books and have started a few others.



Book: The Sh*t No One Tells You: a Guide to Surviving your Baby's First Year by Dawn Dais
Rating: 3 stars


I thought that this would be the best parenting book to start off with - it's funny, full of jokes, introducing me to some of the stresses of motherhood without overwhelming me.  But, honestly, the book was just okay.  It made me laugh at first, but by the end, it wasn't that funny.  The joke remained the same throughout the book - kids are demanding little boogers who wear you out.  True - and this story line can give you a good laugh- but by the end, the joke was old.  Also, although she did offer encouragement throughout the book - apparently, kids are quite adorable and loving too which makes up for being up all night and having blowout diapers and stealing your memory and ability to form complete sentences - but the level of joking and complaining without too much advice had me scared!  I know some of the other "more serious" baby books - on sleep and eating schedules, etc might stress me out - but I think I feel less anxious about life changes when I go in with a plan.  The book wasn't bad - just not right for me at this moment.  I think if I were to read this when Anne Douglas is 3 months old, I will probably relate and have my own war stories.  What I did really like about the book - the company.  A lot of moms weighed in on their own experiences - and it seems that everyone feels overwhelmed during that first year or two - so when I start to stress, at least I know I am normal!




The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly
Rating: 5 stars


I loved this book.  I kept debating between 4.5 and 5 stars.  In the end, I caved on 5 even though I know it likely won't be on your top 5-10 books of all time list. But, for me, an avid Little Women fan, I adored it.  The premise is that these 3 sisters are Jo's great grandchildren - and one of the sisters finds her letters in the attic and slowly gets to know her off beat, opinionated but lovable aunt.  You can see how each of the sister favors one of the 3 living March sisters - Jo, Meg and Amy - and I fell in love with this sweet family (past and present).  As a young girl, when I first read Little Women, I so related to Jo and felt like I discovered a piece of myself in her.  (I guess that makes my other two sisters Meg and Amy which actually the descriptions fit them fairly well ) So watching how the main character in The Little Women Letters discovered her unique Aunt - and a bit of herself- made me relate to Jo all over again.




Prayer by Tim Keller
Rating: 4.5 stars



This has been our small group book this fall - and I have loved it. It's pretty intense - and doesn't read like an easy flow encouraging devo, but more like a textbook. Tim Keller shares a few of his own views - but mostly summarizes and lays out what centuries of theologians have said about Prayer. It is a practical book - laying out formats and plans to improve your prayer life.  It is a book I will need to go through again, pulling out tips on meditation and the structure of prayer, trying out different formats in my prayer life.  There is a lot to take in, and I know that I probably missed some during my first read!  Even so, I already feel that this wise teaching has improved my prayer life.

This book is not an easy read and it's definitely not a "read in one day" type of book, but it is worthwhile and will help you understand the purpose of prayer and ways to properly pray.




For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker
Rating: 3 stars



I mostly liked this book. Jen is real and easy to relate to and has you laughing and saying AMEN at the same time.  Also, I feel like her religious and social views are a lot like mine - conservative in certain areas, but a bit more moderate. She realizes that some of the things we equate with Christianity in our upper middle class white world just isn't true of the Gospel.

My one gripe - was her chapter on difficult people.  She classifies difficult people into two categories - those you can cut out of your life (friends, acquaintances, etc) and those whom you are stuck with so you draw boundaries (relatives).  I am 100 percent in support of drawing boundaries and limiting contact with those who are too critical, emotionally manipulative, etc.  We have to protect ourselves so that we can properly take care of ourselves and our other relationships. However, I do not believe we are excused from loving and befriending difficult people.  In fact, I think that Christians should be those reaching out to those that are hard to love!  In fact, in later chapters, Jen talks about loving the prickly outsiders at church! So, it seems that even in her life she takes on a few "broken toys" (as my dad calls them).  When I look at my own life, I have mutual giving friendships AND friendships where I have to draw boundaries (either literally or personally) and where I won't ever get back as much as I put in.  I hope that Christ can help me show HIS love to these difficult people.  And, in all honesty, I am sure I have been the difficult friend before (or I will be in the future).  So my take on her advice - draw some boundaries and don't surround yourself with only difficult people (and definitely don't let people abuse you all the time...) but keep showing God's kindness to those who need it the most.  We are all difficult people and God chose to love us when we were unlovable - doing that to hard people in our lives will hopefully reveal the same truth to them: God loves them, despite the mess and hardness and unkind personalities!

The second part of this chapter talked about loving difficult people you can't get away from - ie, family.  And I actually agreed with most of her advice here but I cringed when she used one of her children as an example.  (note, not saying at times, all of my children are difficult and here is how I draw boundaries).  That poor sweet child - being singled out as the "difficult one" in the family.  At some point, he or she will read this book and realize that mom was talking about him.  Also, family and friends will read this book and be able to single out which child is the "hard one."  I just don't think it's fair to negatively portray your child like that to the world.  It's one thing to complain to friends and family about the terrible twos or whine about the troubled teen years, but let's be good advocates of our kids.  I want my daughter to feel safe in knowing mom isn't sharing all her mistakes and dirty secrets to the world via a blog or book or whatever. (This is a topic I am starting to think about as I enter motherhood - just like I don't air out all my dirty laundry with Dave on this blog - you know, despite his picky eating haha - I don't want to talk too poorly about my kids as they age too. That's not fair to them)

And what counts as the difficult kid? The reality is that this child of Jen's may be the difficult one today and in five years, it may be a different kid.  That's family - we are all difficult at times. But, oh how my heart hurt for this little child - it's horrible to feel like you are the "hard kid" in your family - especially when your mom made it clear earlier in the chapter that you should cut loose "difficult people" unless they are unavoidable family members.  Maybe I am super emotional (thank you pregnancy) or maybe I relate because at times I felt like I was seen as the "difficult child" (although thankfully my parents did not publish that fact in a book) but what a burden for that child to be known as and treated as "the difficult kid in the family."

That being said, the rest of the book was entertaining and enjoyable - so don't let my opinion stop you from reading it! However, let me know what you think on the "difficult people" chapter.


Here are the remaining books to choose from.  I wonder which book I will choose next!
  1. The Sh*t No One Tells You: a Guide to Surviving your Baby's First Year by Dawn Dais
  2. Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman
  3. Trim Health Mama by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison
  4. His Needs, Her Needs for Parents by Willard F. Harley, Jr.
  5. some type of baby sleep book
  6. The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly
  7. A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable
  8. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  9. China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
  10. The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion
  11. Nice is Just a Place in France by the Betches
  12. Prayer by Tim Keller
  13. For the Love by Jen Hatmaker