27.1.15

Small Beginnings

Life these days is measured not so much in dates or days, but weeks. Every week brings prosaic tasks and ordinary living, and in those tasks and living I find new awe, for each week also brings new milestones for the baby and I and brings Joel and I closer to the day when we can meet our baby and hold him* and love on him. This week, he has grown to the size of a peach, which is adorable. I am told that my morning sickness should begin to dissipate (would someone please alert my stomach?). We're creeping through a baby name book (there is no short list of favored names yet; all we have is a very long list of mostly girls' names since we have yet to reach the boys' name section); I'm adding to my maternity clothing stash (thanks in large part to Mama!); and I've read enough on baby feeding, umbilical cord clamping, and labor and delivery to know that I have a huge amount to learn in the next six months. It's a happy task!

Joel and I have also been taking advantage of the quietness of DC in the winter to visit museums (Smithsonian Postal Museum was excellent!) and monuments (we're partial to the Lincoln Memorial, since it was the location of our engagement almost two years ago). Truly, "the world will never starve for want of wonders, but for want of wonder {G.K. Chesterton}."


Snow has been a regular occurrence of late, and three beautiful inches currently cover the ground outside. I've been highly tempted to go build a snowman!


This city continues to entrance me with its 250 year old buildings and adorable tea shops. Exploring is always an adventure, and while I've gotten pretty good at walking anywhere within a 3 mile radius, please don't ask me to navigate the multitude of one-way streets by car!

I'm looking forward to teaching music again--I've missed teaching and my dear students so much! So it is with great delight that I'm taking on three siblings from a sweet family at church.

Small beginnings, these. And yet God is so faithful to grow them. He grew a childish admiration into a marriage more wonderful than I could have imagined--and which long-married couples tell me will only grow better. He is growing me to rely upon Him in a place so far from where I called "home" for the first 24 years of my life and so removed from everything comfortable and familiar. Yet He is also growing my friends, activities, and familiarity here, so that I no longer find new and overwhelming experiences every week. And, of course, He's growing this precious child of ours. From two small cells, full of life and humanity even then, to three inches long now and more complex than man can understand.

These small beginnings are beauties to me--miracles which "are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see {C.S. Lewis}." What small beginnings and miracles have you experienced in your life lately?



*We’re not planning to find out his gender until the birth, but I refer to the baby as a “he” for no other reason than ease of communication (grammatically speaking, the masculine pronoun is always used when the gender is unknown).

20.1.15

Reunion!

For the first time since we said good-bye in August, I got to hug my sister.
For one blissful week, Mikaela and I were in the same state.  
For seven blissful mornings, we woke up in the same time zone.
For nearly 168 hours, we couldn't stop smiling, and together with Mama, Sarah, and Joel, couldn't stop laughing either! (Thanks for the entertaining game of Uno Dare, Joel!)

Scroll through these pictures and tell me if you've ever seen a happier bunch!

Coffee is wonderful when you're not sure what time zone you're in and the plane you've just flown in on but were not supposed to disembark from is grounded with steering troubles.  A side trip to St. Louis wasn't in the original plan, but it is now!

We're faking it pretty well here, but our fingers are about to fall off from frostbite awaiting our train in DC in ten degree weather!

Sarah and Mama, happy to have a seat on the Metro after an exhausting travel day!

Could our smiles be any bigger?

Throw some cupcakes in, and the smiles just might grow.

Then add some adorable pandas, with whom we absolutely fell in love!  We accidentally saw a bison on our way to the pandas, but that was entirely unintended.  The pandas were our sole mission at the National Zoo!
Why, you ask?
Well, did you know Bao Bao, the baby, is the most coo-worthy critter in the world?  
Did you know four women could stand for an hour in front of panda bears and still wish they had two more hours to spend?  
Did you further know there is a 24 hour panda cam on the National Zoo website so you never have to be without your daily dose of panda?
(As I've enjoyed informing people, we did accidentally see a bison at the zoo, but other than that we went straight to the pandas!)
Up next, the National Cathedral at sunset.
Washington DC aglow.
Mama caught this amazing photo!  The cathedral was an amazing, beautiful place.  We were even gifted with hearing a casual rehearsal for the evening concert, and medieval instruments resonating through the sanctuary held us completely captive!

Aren't they the cutest couple?
On Saturday, Joel finally got to join us, and we went to a Sight and Sound musical production of Moses in Lancaster, PA.  Phenomenal is too small a word to describe it.  
Comparing it even to a New York Broadway musical, Sarah still informs me this was better. We cried and laughed. We were awed by the massive production at the same time that our hearts were touched by the depth of a single moment brought to life and the power of God's work through Moses.
Afterwards, we were able to meet up with a long-time friend, Leah, who lives nearby!  Lunch and an afternoon together was an unexpected delight!


Over the next few days, various girly activities occupied our time, beginning with helping Mikaela organize, clean, and shop for maternity clothes:
Auntie's dinner date...need I say more?

Face masks with the requisite "creepy ladies" picture!

And tea with the queen but of course!

On our last night in Maryland, we had a "jam" session in Joel and Mikaela's living room. Mikaela and I were on violin, Sarah on piano, and Joel on guitar or penny whistle.  Hymns and fiddle music were the order of the evening, and we had so much fun--it felt like we had never been apart!


To top off the festivities, we had a soda-testing party.  Yes, that's chai cola and coffee soda, but our favorite was the butterscotch root beer.  Yummy!

On our final day together, we took reams of pictures,

fulfilled our desire to actually go up in the Washington Monument,

and took more pictures from the top!  Notice the helicopter in front of the White House in the top photo?

In our last minutes together, Sarah, Mikaela, and I ran down to the Gallery of Art and saw treasures such as these: the ballerina by Degas, and the only painting by Da Vinci in North America. 

My favorite photo from the trip, this picture captures the best-friendship we have together.  And though saying good bye was difficult, not one of us regret that we had the chance to hug good bye in person in the first place.

Mama, Sarah, and I caught our flight home, which stopped in the same airport as before, and, just like before, our plane was grounded with mechanical problems.  At this point, and after such a week, laughter was our only logical response, and the rest of the plane could only stare at us in confusion.  But at last we landed safely on Northwest soil to hugs and love from our families.  

"Real life" started bright and early the next morning for me in the form of teaching, but the real memories, blessings, and love from my time with Mikaela and Joel were all the energy I needed!

13.1.15

The Very Long Wall


On the day before Thanksgiving, Joel and I discovered, to our delight, that I am pregnant! We are overjoyed at the prospect of welcoming a little one into our lives sometime around August 4. Each and every week, I eagerly look up the development of our baby, proudly announcing his* progression from poppy seed- size to lentil-size to kidney bean-size to grape-size and now to fig-size.

My baby causes me to reflect on an experience I had, eight years ago, on my first visit to Washington D.C. It was Father’s Day, and I stood in front of a great black wall that stretched in front of me in an overwhelming expanse, reflecting my solemn face right back to me. Two walls, really—both 246 feet, 9 inches long, with each wall starting just above my ankle and ending several feet above my head. I cried as I read the names of the men who had died or went missing in the Vietnam War—58,272 lives cut short. Covering the bottom of the memorial, and overflowing into the walkway, were hundreds of notes, cards, roses, and mementos—heartbreaking tributes to daddies by children who had barely known their heroic fathers. I’ve never forgotten that day.

I reflect again on our baby, growing inside of me, our own personal miracle of life! Everything I read about him speaks of him as the unique person that he is—developing and growing, fully alive, fully human, and already completely adored. But if I was to google "11 weeks pregnant abortion" instead of “11 weeks pregnant development,” I’d suddenly find a host of the same exact sources no longer using the personal pronouns “he” and “she” but “it.” These sources no longer describe the miracle of a thriving human inside of me who, at but a few months into his existence, already has every part of his basic physiology in place. No, now they pontificate about a blob of tissue as though he doesn’t already have a spirit and a soul.

And somehow this thought, which has always hit me hard, overwhelms me now that God has put this precious baby inside of me, now that January 22 marks the 42nd year since the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade, and this Sunday is Sanctity of Life Sunday. Now, at this moment, I can hardly bear to fathom the enormity of the situation.

In my imagination, I am standing in front of another great black wall that stretches in front of me in an overwhelming expanse, reflecting my tear-stained face back to me. This wall looks exactly like the other one—it is sobering and simple, made up of two walls that each start small and join at the apex, above my head. But this wall is also different. It bears upon it, not the names of thousands of brave servicemen who died for their country, but the names of millions of babies who were murdered before they ever drew a breath. This wall is also 1,000 times bigger. Each part is 246,750 feet long, and I cannot see the end, for together, the two walls are be 93.4 miles long in order to contain each and every name of the 56,662,169 babies murdered in the US since January 22, 1973. I have never walked this far in my life. It will take me at least two whole days—probably three—to walk the entire length of this wall. There are very few cards, roses, or mementos to break up the vast stretch of ghastly black. I put my hand on my stomach and think of my own baby there, and I mourn for the loss of these babies. I begin my walk. Whether it takes me three days or three weeks or three decades, I will grieve the death of these innocent people, and I will never, ever stop fighting for an unborn baby’s right to live.



*We’re not planning to find out his gender until the birth, but I refer to the baby as a “he” for no other reason than ease of communication (grammatically speaking, the masculine pronoun is always used when the gender is unknown).

6.1.15

Ten Things I've Been Doing Besides Blogging

Our beautiful Christmas tree!

10. Lots of baking and cooking!  In the busy days leading up to Christmas and New Year's, we've been decorating gingerbread houses, baking cookies, attempting gluten-free cinnamon rolls (fail) and gluten-free pierogi (success!), preparing our favorite foods for Christmas dinner, and then enjoying eating all of that yumminess! 

9. Celebrating Jesus' birth with family.  My aunt and uncle came over for Christmas, and having them for a few days was a joy.  We went to Christmas Eve service, watched The Nativity Story, and then actually slept in on Christmas morning before opening presents.  We all missed having Mikaela and Joel with us, but we still exchanged gifts with them and skyped with them on Christmas day.

8. Ice Skating!  Papa took us ice skating the Saturday after Christmas, and after wobbling around on my first lap, my sense of balance thankfully returned.  I skated the whole afternoon without falling, and that's worth an Olympic gold medal to me!  

7. Staying up 'till midnight.  While this is more of a regular occurrence than I would like, I purposely stayed up on December 31st!  We had some friends over, and with games and snacks, the hours flew by until it was nearly midnight.  We poured sparkling cider and donned our crazy hats to welcome in 2015.  Melanie kindly pointed out that we are now just as close to 2030 as to 2000.  That is a strange thought.

My first selfie of 2015 with Susanna!
6.  Dancing.  Friends of ours hosted an amazing evening of English Country dancing.  I had so much fun getting dressed up, visiting with friends, and dancing these elegant and refined old dances.  Once a year is not enough for this sort of fun!

5. Family Reunions.  Somewhere in there we spent the day with my dad's side of the family, and for a first time in a long time, all of his siblings and his parents were together!  We ate the fruit of our pierogi labors along with feasting on other yummy Polish foods, caught up on cousin's busy lives, played games, and sang carols to our heart's content.  There is nothing like getting together with family and feeling like you were never apart!

4. Organizing.  You often realize the true meaning in life only when color-coding your sock drawer.  I'm being facetious, but I still get a certain satisfaction in starting the New Year with an organized room and an organized life.  Maybe I'll arrive there by the end of 2015!

Melanie and Emily at Seattle's gum wall
3. Visiting with friends.  Christmas break provided a wonderful opportunity to get together with friends with whom I don't get to spend much time.  Sleepovers, lunch, and coffee dates were filled with lots of laughter, stories swapped, life lessons shared, and deeper friendships forged.  I even got to go on an overnight trip to Seattle with Melanie, Sarah, and Emily!  I'm grateful to each and every friend God has placed in my life!

2. Reading.  I've just started reading What's So Amazing About Grace? and I want to underline every single sentence.  Perhaps I'll share a full review here when I'm done with it, but God is using it to minister to my soul right now!

1. Getting ready to visit Mikaela!!! Believe me, inserting only three exclamation marks shows great restraint in this case.  God provided amazing tickets at just the right time, and I still can't believe that I get to give her a great big hug very soon!  My suitcase is already packed, and I am counting down until our visit!  

Now I want to catch up on your holiday season!  What have you been doing during the last weeks of 2014 and this the first week of 2015?

16.12.14

Why Joseph?

As Joel and I approach four months of marriage, I am more grateful than ever to be married to this man. God's design of marriage is a beautiful thing. So I'm not sure why it surprised me--but it did--to think about Joseph and Mary's marriage and to wonder, "Why did they get married in the first place?"

God didn't use the normal setting of marriage to produce a baby--instead, He miraculously caused a virgin to conceive a child. So Mary was pregnant with the Son of God and Joseph was betrothed to Mary, but he was neither her husband nor her baby's father. In fact, if Joseph was never born in some It's-a-Wonderful-Life alternate universe, Jesus would still have been born as the long-awaited Messiah. If Joseph was never born, God's salvation plan for the world would have continued. If Joseph was never born, Mary would have still been required to travel to Bethlehem, since this was also her ancestral town. If Joseph was never born, Mary very well could have raised Jesus as a single mother in her father's house.

But Joseph was born--and God did include him in the Christmas story for crucial reasons.

From the very beginning of time, God created family. He designed marriage and defined it as the union of one man and one woman; He designed children to be born from that union and raised by a mother and a father. This beautiful unit of the family--the "building block of society"--provides a haven of love, stability, and growth, but it also brings glory to God as it pictures the marriage of Christ and the Church and the Father-child relationship between God and us. 

So yes, Jesus very well could have been born into a single-parent home. After all, God is His Father. But Jesus was miraculously born into a two-parent home, through a series of events so perfectly orchestrated and timed, that only God could have brought them to pass. Far be it from me to sum up the magnitude of God's purposes for Joseph, but I marvel at the importance of his role as simply husband and father. Far from being an add-on to the Christmas story, Joseph is a wondrous emphasis on the importance of the family--the man God chose to complete Jesus' earthly family and to illustrate a picture of marriage and fatherhood to the world for the glory of God.

Merry Christmas!



Photo Credit. Used by permission.
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