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!


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.


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!


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...)


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.