Monday, November 28, 2011


Starting the advent season, and lighting the first candle tonight (instead of last night, because I, ahem, didn't actually have a wreath until today), I watched my two-year-old gaze around the table in wonder and puzzlement as we lit the candle and sang 'O Come, O Come Emmanuel'.  He kept looking from the flame, to me, to his dad, to his brother and back to the candle.  He is normally full of noise and wiggles, but tonight he sat still in wonder at our liturgy.  Next year, he may recognize the candles, he may know some of the songs, and he might sing along.  Only 18 months older, and now Ethan sits and answers our questions -- "What does Emmanuel mean?"  "Who is the light of the world?".  Matthew sits and stares.

I love the look of discovery and awe during Christmas that little ones can't fake.  It makes me think of how confused everyone must have been when God told them that Jesus was going to be born, that His son was a baby on the earth, or when He told Mary she was going to be His mother.  Can you think of getting news like that?  I imagine they might have looked, even for just a second, a bit like my toddler sitting at the dinner table wondering what in the world we are doing.

Tonight, we light the first candle of advent, the prophesy candle.  We light a candle to remind us that Jesus is the Light of the world.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Decade Past

Ten years ago I was sitting in my barracks room, dreading having to go into work on my day off to study for my Career Development Course exams.  It was a gorgeous day, and I was in an otherwise great mood because I had just gotten approval to move out of the barracks into my own apartment out in town.  I flipped on the TV, then called my mom.  I remember not quite really knowing how to say good-bye to her in that phone call, because how do you say, "I'll talk to you later" while your country is being pummeled with attack after attack and not knowing when it's going to end?  But I hung up the phone and, despite everything, drove to the annex where I worked to start studying.  Once I got there (a little over an hour after we were attacked), the base was locked down and I was studying for much longer than I originally intended.  A few hours later, they escorted a few of us back to our cars, and I drove back to the base where my barracks were located.  My car was searched.  My ID was checked.  Up until this point my military career, as long as I had a base sticker on my car, the gate guard would wave me through without stopping.  In the decade since the attack I have always had a base sticker on my car, but I've never been waved through the gate again.  There is always a stop now to show my ID.  The next day it took me two hours to get into work two miles away because of the searching of each and every car.  I was late for my exam, but it hardly seemed important, even after months of studying and preparing.  It took me another two hours to get home to my barracks.  For more than a week my 5 minute commute became 120 minutes each way, and sitting in my car all that time listening to news report after news report, my inconvenience seemed trivial.

My then boyfriend was just back from shore liberty, on the USS Peleliu in Australia, watching his country get attacked from afar.  I had just visited him in July to see him off.  In the airport I had walked with him to his gate!  Imagine, walking someone to their gate!  Their ship had left from San Diego a month before 9/11, on a routine "cruise" around the world, doing what Marines do:  training, training and more training.  Steve was an Arabic linguist at the time.  I had no way of contacting him any time soon.  E-mail was locked down, and he was in transit, so letters took weeks.  As soon as I realized what this attack meant for him and his friends aboard the ship I had what I think of now as a rather embarrassing breakdown.  Luckily I lived alone, but I called my mother again, in tears, selfishly wondering how I was going to handle him being in combat.  At twenty, everything going on in the world seemed to revolve around how I felt about it and how it would affect me.  Given the navel gazing in this post, I suppose not much as changed, but then again I was planning on not writing this post for that exact reason.

I feel sort of silly, now, writing about where I was during all of what happened on 9/11/01.  Why does it matter where I was when so many were dead and suffering?  My husband came back from the war (and two years later he came home to me again after another war).  I am so blessed.  He was unscathed and we married and have two beautiful sons.  So why does it matter where I was?  When I think of that day I think of my insignificance and helplessness among all that suffering and trauma.  But it is hard to avoid the "where were you when" emotions and questions, especially among the blogosphere and on Facebook, so I came across this post in my reader just a bit ago and felt encouraged to write everything down after reading this:

I feel like I am finally able to admit, perhaps boldly, even though I did not personally suffer tragedy on 9-11, that we all suffered. I was traumatized. I never felt it fair to feel that or certainly not respectful to say so. I still feel so much grief and sadness when I think back to those raw emotions of watching the story play itself out, changing second by second, as I was transfixed for nearly 24 hours a day with a baby who barely even knew she was out of the womb let alone think it appropriate to ever sleep more than a few hours. So it was myself, Isabela, and the television all night long, so many nights. I would not let go of her. I needed her to need everything from me. And even though the contrast of what I was holding and what I was watching could not have been more opposed to one another, I am grateful that I was constantly reminded of the Good because of her precious, new innocence. Like a pill I had to take every three hours as I nursed her, to convince myself that there was still enough good, when I think so many of us questioned it. Didn't we? Thank God for good. So much of it all around us.
So I wrote down my story.  Even hearing the news and watching the memorial coverage today, so many who lost so much on 9/11 seem to have a story of redemption and courage and goodness that came in the next decade.  There is so much good here in this world, so much to be thankful for even amongst tragedy and heartbreak.  Remembering on a day like today and what happened 10 years ago, I am especially thankful that Love has conquered death.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Rest for the Weary

I wanted to blog about the most wonderful thing that happened about six weeks ago, but in order to do that, I have to go back even further.  Around two years ago, my husband was just starting his tour at the Pentagon.  He left for his first day of work, and I thought he'd be back relatively quickly.  My experience with the military is that usually the first day of any job after a move is fairly light.  They want you to get checked in with all the various offices around the unit, and give you a chance to take care of stuff at home, since usually there are boxes to be unpacked and utility companies to deal with and things like that.  Well, my husband left for his first day of work at the Pentagon and...14 hours later he came home.  I should say that I always do poorly on days when I think my husband will be home early.  Every minute that passes the deadline I've set in my head causes my frustration that he isn't home "yet" to ratchet up a notch.  It makes things very unpleasant for all of us!  This day was the day that I had to lower my expectations quite a bit.  I knew the next two years would be hunker down mode for us.

So, that first day was a sign of things to come, and that tour in DC was a very sanctifying experience for all of us.  After about six months or so in to the shift work, long hours, and stress of a demanding job, Steve and I started talking about trying to organize a getaway after the tour was over.  It was mainly just a dream at that point, but we started talking about it. 

Fast forward 18 months to July of this year and my very blessed husband and I were boarding a cruise ship!!  My mother-in-law flew all the way out to our place, stayed with the kids for 10 glorious days while Steve and I cruised up and back down the east coast.  We boarded our ship in New York, sailed up to Cape Breton, then did Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Maine, Boston, and Newport.  We relaxed, we ate, we touristed, and then ate some more.  I look back on that vacation and just think how very blessed we were to be able to do such a thing.  The best part of the vacation is that when it came time to come back home, I was not at all sad that the trip was over, I was just plain excited to see my babies.

Peggys Cove, Nova Scotia

Me, being goofy in Halifax
So happy to see my boys!  (this one sat in a puddle just before I got to him!)
Great to be home

Friday, August 26, 2011

Catechism 101

We are about to get hit with a major storm here tomorrow, and we've been preparing the kids for the fact that the hurricane might be exciting and maybe a bit scary.  We were discussing hurricanes in the car tonight, and Ethan asked me why hurricanes are exciting.  I told him that with big weather like hurricanes we could see the power of God.  He very seriously informed me, "No, Mom, you canNOT see God."

If you have ever catechized your children, perhaps using this little book, you might see where Ethan found my error:

11.Q. Can you see God?
A. No; I cannot see God, but he always sees me.

 I love that the gears are turning in his little brain and starting to make connections between what he's memorized and how it fits in to his life.  Even if he doesn't quite have it down pat yet.

After that, he informed Steve and I that he likes Jesus because Jesus is not scary.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New Places

Well, I've come to the point in my life where I'm once again sitting in a sea of boxes. We've moved again and I'm trying to sort out where everything goes and honestly trying to sort out why we own some of this stuff in the first place. I walked into my bedroom last night, looked at the small area of the floor that is not covered in boxes and noted a newborn onesie, a wetsuit boot, and a name tape from my old Air Force days. Whoever came up with the principle of "everything in its place" was probably trying to help someone like me.  These moves make me feel as though the TV show Hoarders may show up to film my house at any second.  I imagine my reaction to the crew showing up would be somewhat indignant at first and then a shrug while saying, "Yeah, you've got a point."

Moving always makes me contemplative.  Aside from going through all those sentimental items that only come out when we move, there's something about leaving a place where you've lived an made memories that always makes me a little bit sad, even if I wasn't too attached to it or didn't live there very long. We only lived in D.C. for two years and it's not really my kind of city, but we had an amazing church there and some great friends. It is always hard to leave those things.

The other thing that gets me about moving is the kids. With my littles, two years makes a huge difference. When I moved to Washington state 4 years ago, all I had was this:

Then, when we moved to D.C. two years later, I had these:

But leaving D.C., our family looked like this:

The days seem long, but when I look at these pictures, I can't figure out where all the time went.

If moving away from somewhere makes me melancholy, the other side is also true. I love the idea of moving to a new house, having a clean slate (at least until the boxes show up), and looking forward to God's blessings and how he will use us in this new place.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


From this:

To this:

Two years is all it takes, folks.
Happy birthday to my sweet Matty-Moo!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Stolen Moments

Oh what to do with my second-born child?  Adventurous and always pushing boundaries, he's much more inquisitive and care-free than his brother, and he's never known a time when mom hasn't been busy with two children, so he's able to get away with much of his inquisitiveness, often until it is too late and I am the one who has trouble.

Lazy Friday

Today we went to CVS to pick up a few St. Patrick's Day essentials (you know, silly hats and beads and what not), and we checked out at the counter where Ethan charmed the cashier and Matthew sat patiently in his stroller singing a little ditty to himself while I paid for our things.  Or so I thought.  We walked out of the store and were about 10 feet down the sidewalk when Ethan innocently asked, "Does Matthew have candy?".  I had made the executive decision in CVS not to buy any candy, even though the Swedish Fish always taunt me, so no, Matthew did not have any candy.  Again, though: "Matthew has candy."  This is when I decided it would be best to stop sorting change, shuffling bags and actually look through the little plastic window in the top of the stroller and notice that Matthew had a nice little chocolate bar, halfway unwrapped, but as of yet uneaten.  Instantly mortified, I wondered how many people in that CVS just watched my son shoplift and wondered if I was letting him do it or if I was just an oblivious, scatter-brained mom.  I actually hoped, for the first time in my life, that people assumed I was the latter.

So we immediately turned around, went back up to the register and explained ourselves.  Well, I explained myself and Matthew threw a fit because I took his candy away.  The lady sort of chuckled as I got out a couple of dollars to pay for the chocolate.  That's when it happened:  the cashier said, "That'll be $3.52, please."

Three dollars and fifty-two cents for a candy bar.  I'm pretty sure my jaw actually physically dropped while I searched for a $5 to cover the damage.  You see, my son wasn't interested in just any candy bar.  No.  He selected the dark-chocolate, raspberry-filled Godiva chocolate bar.

At least no one can say that he has bad taste.  And lets just say that after paying that much for a candy bar, I wasn't too keen on sharing it with my little thief, cute though he may be.

Lazy Friday

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Love that Covers

Someone I only know through blogging land just wrote an excellent post on one of the many reasons marriage is worth it.  The post struck a chord with me as I read it and looked up at my two handsome boys sitting at the lunch table -- two boys who just about die of happiness every night when their dad comes home from work.  So I'm sharing it here!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

When Nana & Papa Come to Visit

Spending time together on the couch

 Nana builds a mean train track

 A lot of walks are taken around the neighborhood,

 or downtown.

 We all dress up and go to church.

 More walks are taken,

 nature is explored,

 Winnie-the-Pooh's house is found.

Really, the only bad part about Nana & Papa coming to visit is that they have to go home at the end of their vacation.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Book Review: One Thousand Gifts

I just finished Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts yesterday and wanted to write a short review. Looking at the title and the book description I thought this book would be primarily about keeping a gratitude journal, and that is part of it, but the journal itself is a gateway to more fully understanding God in the face of all kinds of circumstances.

Voskamp opens her story recounting the death of her sister when they were both young girls. She speaks about growing up in a household where the resulting deep suffering was the everyday reality. It was this first chapter that drew me in. I have led a very charmed life with very little real suffering, but I have found just in these past few weeks that I have been directly confronted with the deep wounds that this world can inflict on people in the faces of my friends and acquaintances. I do not know, honestly, if God is sharing these stories with me to prepare me for my own hardships to come (sometimes it feels that way), or if He is simply wanting to change my heart in some way to be more tender to those who are grieving. All that to say: I bought One Thousand Gifts almost immediately after reading that first chapter online.

My main criticism of the book, which is more about personal taste, is that I'm not a fan of stream-of-consciousness writing. For me it is much like when you are reading something out loud and realize mid-sentence that you've gotten the subject, verb or rhythm of the sentence wrong. Then you have to go back and read it again to figure out what was actually said. But, it is also in this writing style that Voskamp gets her point across: keeping a gratitude journal, however trivial it seems, is a first step to thinking Biblically, and once we can think Biblically, we can start to internalize those truths and really live them out amidst the worst kind of suffering, or the litany of our daily life, or even more fully appreciate the great joys we are blessed with. She moves deep into the idea that most Christians give lip service to: "Yes, Lord, I'm thankful for all you have given me" and insists that we need to be specific and deliberate about thanking God, not for everything, but for each thing. When we are specifically thankful for even the smallest gifts and when we are actively looking for those small gifts, our thinking about joy, life, suffering, God, and His love really changes us.

I appreciate that Voskamp quotes Lewis and Piper, as well as some more heavy theological texts, and the Bible, of course. She didn't just write a touchy feel good book about thanksgiving.  She grounds all of the feelings and introspection into Biblical principles. But the book isn't preachy. She bares her own domestic failings for all of us to see as we read how she is discovering what thanksgiving means during those moments when we are less than thankful for the kids breaking a glass door, or worse, when a precious child is injured or lost. She deals eloquently with the question of a sovereign God amidst the worst kind of pain, and these passages really struck me so that I read them over and over again, convicted of my own lack of grace amidst trivial suffering, or worse, amidst great blessings!

What do we do when we are so deeply wounded that all we want to do is be angry at the God who would have us feel this pain? How can being thankful for small things help us here? She lays her emotions and thoughts bare on the pages of her book so that we can see her transformation.  Her writings about thanksgiving show a woman wounded, wooed by Christ and ultimately transformed by His love in the little gifts He gives.

So, yes, this is much more than a book about keeping a gratitude journal, and proof reading this review, I notice that I have failed to really capture the beauty and depth in Voskamp's book, but there are many more reviews more beautifully written on Amazon, so go look at them, and then pick up a copy of this book for yourself.

(I do not know Ann Voskamp, nor is my review in any way sponsored by her or anyone else, in fact, she'd probably prefer that someone with much better writing skills review her book!  She does blog at A Holy Experience with beautiful photos and words.)

Monday, January 3, 2011

On Marriage

A lot of posts on my blog roll lately have had to do with marriage. Tips, advice, and stories about long marriages. It got me thinking, and thus wanting to write. I feel a bit under-qualified to write anything meaningful about marriage as an institution since I've been married for less than a decade. But, since I have a blog, what else should I use it for if not airing out my incomplete thoughts on huge issues that have been discussed for millennia by people much smarter than myself?

I've decided that the toughest thing about marriage is loving another person as yourself. Of course you should do this for everyone as the Bible commands, but there is that particular calling to love and respect your spouse above others. The tough thing about loving your spouse above everyone else is that you live day-in and day-out with this person. You see their ugly habits, their sins, their faults up close and personal -- more than any other adult on this earth. So you see those things and live with them and then you have to love them, but not just love them, love them as you love yourself. This is instructive: the only other adult you know as well as your spouse is yourself. So think of your darkest secrets, your worst sins, and then think of how well you look out for number one in spite of those things. We rationalize our own big stinking sins away before we even commit them, but we are constantly getting annoyed at our spouses for things like not changing the toilet paper roll. What is worse: absentmindedly leaving dirty laundry on the floor, or rolling our eyes with a heavy sigh while picking it up, resolving to alert the offender to the error at the first available opportunity?

So, love your spouse as yourself. Thinking about this, I can't help but feel the weight of the impossibility. So what next?

I feel very blessed to have married someone who is very willing and able to keep short accounts. Any time I have messed up in the department of loving or respecting my husband (and there have been many) whatever argument we have usually ends with both of us apologizing and forgiving each other. Lest this sounds like we are the perfect angels about disagreements, this apologizing and forgiveness often comes after some time of stubbornness on one of our parts. God has really given us a lot of grace in this area, because, at least from my perspective, I can think of specific times that Steve and I have fought about something, but I cannot think of one time that we have fought where it hasn't been resolved and wiped clean. I realize that 7 years is a short time to stand on a mountain of accomplishment and proclaim that I harbor no resentment towards my husband, but God has given us a good start in this regard.

Something else that has been key for me in some of our more "spirited discussions" is to do my best to keep from arguing with my husband solely for the purpose of being right or proving my point. It is so easy to get wrapped up in an argument where all I want is for my husband to acknowledge that he is wrong and I am right. Obviously, this is how most discussions end up as arguments. But (if I may be cliche), when arguing just to be the winner of the argument, everyone loses. Defeating your spouse or getting them to capitulate to your own wants should never be the goal of any activity, which is why Steve and I stopped playing Settlers of Catan one-on-one.

Well, I suppose I should end with words from someone much wiser than myself, since for all my rambling on this topic I feel like I know very little about having a great marriage -- other than picking a very forgiving person as a spouse. But I found this quote one day, and it is really helpful in all areas of life, but marriage too:

Instead of assuming that the offending party is the one in the wrong, consider assuming that you are wrong to take offense. Then work from there. It’s amazing how it will simplify your life. --Nancy Wilson

P.S. Hope everyone had a great Christmas and is looking forward with peace and hope to a great 2011!