Dwell in Advent

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Good thing she’s cute!

The past couple days have been off with our sleep. We’ve totally been spoiled with sweet Elle – she’s been a good, long sleeper from the beginning, so while I was trying to figure out what was wrong the past two days, Frank suggested that perhaps she’s simply acting her age. An adjusted bedtime got us back on track.

It made me think about how with so many things, we get used to the status quo. And then something is off and we remember that an adjustment needs to be made.

This can work negatively, too. When a major tragedy occurs – like the attacks on Paris or the World Trade Center or the kidnapping of the girls in Nigeria last year – we reset and remember that yes, the world is this bad for many people. All the time.

Should we be remembering the terrorism and crises around the world daily? We should! But, it’s easy to get into a routine and not remember those “smaller” tragedies until something big happens. In some ways, we need those big things to jolt us back to the realization that our world is in constant crisis and that we need to recognize the marginalized daily.

As Advent approaches and we dwell in this time of anticipation and reflection, I hope to remember those whose voices aren’t heard. I’ll be praying in anticipation for peace in the big moments as well as in the small, unheard ones.

Will you join me in praying this Advent season for our world? I’m collecting prayers and would love to add your voice. Check out the details here: Button

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Grace in Relief

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
– John Newton

Relief. Breathing a sigh of relief. Letting go. Those are the words that first come to mind, yet as I think of the relief I’ve gained from my faith and my community, I wonder if the idea of giving something to those in need is a better description.

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When I needed an authentic community of women, going through the same questions and struggles as moms, I found relief in my MOPS group. When I needed a community of questioners and thinkers and doubters and grapplers, I found relief in my weekly book club as we sort through thoughts on faith. When I needed to be reminded of hope and caring during tough times, I found relief in those who brought meals, sent texts, and cared for us as a family. Even after seeing a healthy heartbeat on the monitor, the relief of actually feeling this baby move was a much needed relief.

As I think about relief given to me – in big ways and small – I think about how I can offer relief. Perhaps it’s through a kind word, or a meal. Perhaps it’s through a playdate or babysitting. Perhaps it’s through a note dropped in the mail, just because. I often underestimate the power relief can hold and how precious the grace of relieving fears can be.

How have you found grace in relief?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Change

Frank and I keep a change jar in the guest room. We try to throw any loose change we have in pockets or wallets into it. Even if I know I have exact change, I’ll usually break a bill just to help fill the jar. It’s not very large, but about once a year or so, we’ll have between $150-$200.

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In the days pre-Bea, we filled the jar much more rapidly than now. One year we bought a bottle of Dom Perignon. One year we bought steaks and a bottle of wine three times our normal budget. Last year, we went on a lunch date and had exactly enough to cover our three course meal plus bottle of fancy wine.

When Bea was born, we wondered if the change jar would end up going toward household expenses, since we’d be down one income. Once the thought crossed our minds, we decided to choose to spend any change on ourselves – this would be just for us, just for splurges.

Even thought it’s taken longer to fill, I love watching the change in the jar grow. It’s a good reminder that romance, splurges, and just the two of us are the foundation for our family. I’m sure that, as we add kids, it will take even longer, but I’m guessing that means the dates and bottles of wine will be sweeter because we’ve had to work harder for them.

We’re quite a ways from this next jar filling, but I’m looking forward to seeing how we choose to spend our loose change.

Linking up with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Nothing

“When you are waiting you are not doing nothing. You’re doing something. You’re allowing your soul to grow up. If you can’t be still and wait, you can’t become what God created you to be.”

Sue Monk Kidd

When I first read this quote, in my early-twenties, I thought about waiting and how intentional I had to be to allow my “soul to grow up.” Now, more of a grownup in my early-thirties, I read this quote with much more excitement and anticipation.

In the midst of being a grownup, I still struggle with waiting and being content in waiting. But, I also have enough hindsight to be amazed with what a gift waiting can be. When I allow myself to wait, I see experiences, relationships, and opportunities arise that I would have never imagined. When I allow myself to wait, I am able to see the process and appreciate the time it takes for those unexpected gifts. When I allow myself to wait, I realize that things happen I never would have risked or dreamed of on my own.

Whenever I feel discontentment, discouragement, or fear of the unknown creep in, I need to remember to intentionally wait and be present in this moment of waiting.

Are you waiting for something?

Linked with Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Close

It seems as though Frank and I are living in a space of close proximity, but we have to be intentional about our emotional closeness. Dinners are interrupted by questions, timeouts, and general toddlerness. The space between dinner and bedtime is filled with play and cleaning up and more half-finished conversations.

After the bedtime routine is complete, it is so easy to fall into reading the news, Facebook, or Twitter. Or, even sitting separately while we read our books. The intentionality of closeness seems so important during this season.

After realizing this need to seek out this time together, we’ve decided to unplug after 8:00. It’s not news that turning off devices and letting your brain rest helps sleep, but hopefully it helps conversation and our small amounts of time, too. Maybe this intentionality means sitting next to each other on the couch as we read, rather than curled up in the chair.

At first, I was quick to blame our nonstop age of information and difficulty to be present. But, on reflection, I realize that this opportunity to make our time more intentional can be a gift. We are choosing to close down distractions and be together. There’s something special and encouraging in that choice.

How do you unplug? Do you have a routine to stay present?

Linked with Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Garden

“Come! Come, ‘Ma’oes!” Bea eagerly led any guests to our home straight to the tomato plants, towering over her 11-month self. Once she discovered our garden, and especially the delicious cherry tomatoes, Bea wanted to share her wealth with others. At any given moment, her small mouth would be stuffed with red (and often green) tomatoes, as though the plant would suddenly wither and she would have only what she had squirreled into her cheeks.

Tomatoes off the vine
Tomatoes off the vine

Many guests over the summer bonded with Bea behind those tomato plants. You knew you were part of her pack if she led you to the raised beds at the back of our yard. This small act of hospitality reminded me how simple giving to our friends can be. People were delighted to share her tomatoes, and not just because she was adorably offering them. I don’t think relationships require much, and I often need to remember that generosity and hospitality can start with simply sharing a few cherry tomatoes off the vine.

Linked with Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday, a time to sit and write without editing for 5 minutes.

Hero

I’ll be honest: This prompt was tough for me. The word “hero” often causes me to cringe; I feel it’s so overused. The local news segment on everyday heroes invariably include the categories of teacher, soldier, firefighter, grandparent. People rarely cite their accountant, dentist, garbage collector, or lawyer as their everyday heroes.

Frank feels I need to broaden my definition of hero. I tend to think the title should only go to people who catch babies falling from burning buildings. He’s more generous: People who nobly influence our lives are heroes. The teacher who helps a child understand that quarter past 1:00 is not 1:25; the garbage collector who leaves the bin standing upright; the dental hygienist who takes the time to gently scrape the plaque away, rather than digging at it. My view is that they are simply doing their jobs; His is that they are taking the time to do the best at their job.

Since I am a goal-oriented person, and since I love the art of handwritten notes, I decided to take this as a challenge. Over the next few months, I want to look for true everyday heroes in my life and write them a thank-you note. Maybe it’s about time the garbage collector knew how much I appreciate an upright bin.

Linked with Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday, a time to sit and write without editing for 5 minutes.

See

From my corner of the couch, by the window, I see…

A bookcase, overflowing with art history, travel, mountaineering, poetry

Books that reflect who we were and where we hope to go

Knickknacks moved to higher shelves, out of the reach of small hands

Because I don’t want “no, don’t touch” to dominate my day

Dusty finger prints on … everything

Because, who has time?

Pine needles left over from our Christmas tree, even though I swept three times

Our tree with the fewest decorations, but probably my favorite because it reflects us most

Daisy, curled up next to the couch

Our first “child,” who is so patient with her new role as “dog” in our home

Three place mats at our table

Because Bea is too old for a tray on her booster seat now

A china cabinet, filled with wedding china and my grandmother’s dishes

Because, even though we don’t use them often, I love being reminded of special occasions

What do you see, from where you are?

Linked with Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday.