2013
07.13

My daddy and me

For someone who two weeks ago had never changed a diaper and looked a bit like he was handling a bomb when handed a baby, Jeff has taken quite quickly and naturally to fatherhood.

In fact, he’s probably changed more diapers than I have in the past twelve days.

He’s taken the late night fussy shift so I can get some sleep, as well as forced me upstairs for naps.

He’s folded laundry, cleaned the kitchen, and comforted his slightly very hormonal wife.

He’s insisted on hairbows and run to get one whenever visitors come to call.

He’s burped, and swaddled, and rocked, and cradled.

He willingly donned the requested outfit and posed for countless photographs without a word of complaint.

He’s created more nicknames for our little one than most collect in a lifetime.

During one of the busiest seasons at work, he made the decision to be home for two weeks.

And made his wife fall even more madly in love with him.

Miss Eliana, you do not know how blessed we are. One thing is for certain, though, we sure are going to miss Daddy when he goes back to work next week.

 

2013
07.09

What’s in a name

Dear Eliana,

There was one thing for certain, I wanted your name to have significance. This could be because I lived in China for a number of years, and in China a name is chosen with utmost concern as to its meaning. A name is seen as charting a course for your life. While I believe there is One, and only One, who charts the course of your life, I respect the care and attention placed on naming in China. This is a tradition not just in Chinese culture, but one from the beginning of time. There was nothing arbitrary about the first names for that first man and woman, and there was nothing arbitrary about the names by which they called on the Lord. These reasons for carefully choosing the meaning of your name may sound high and lofty, but the other fact is I just simply love a good story. And I wanted your name to have a story. A story that perhaps could provide a bit of an anchor and a purpose in those future moments when you may ponder and question your identity.

When your Daddy and I found out you were a girl on Valentine’s Day, we began combing the name lists; searching for the perfect name with the perfect meaning. Since our family name is quite common, we wanted somewhat of a unique name. Not so unique that people give the polite, “Oh, what a nice name” and then mutter under their breath, “What were they thinking?”, but unique enough that you perhaps would not encounter too many people with your exact same name. And so we parsed through the lists, tossing around a few for a couple days, but not really settling on one.

I was sitting in the parking lot of Safeway, the song Holy (Wedding Day) was playing (don’t ask me why I remember this minor detail), when the name Eliana came to me. The only Eliana I had ever known was the daughter of a friend from grad school, so it seemed to fit the unique requirement. I pulled out my cell phone to look up the meaning…and I knew you were named. Of course, I needed to get your Daddy’s input as well, but I was sold. I could hardly pick up my groceries quick enough before going home to tell your Daddy.

Eliana, derived from Hebrew, means “My God has answered me.” My sweet girl, you are in many ways the culmination of the Lord answering in my life. Growing up the only thing I ever really wanted to do was to be a mother. I can remember playing in my room, shoving stuffed animals up my shirt pretending I was pregnant. When I went to college, my great dream was to find a husband, move to the suburbs and start having babies. However, (and thankfully so) the Lord had bigger dreams for me. I didn’t find a husband in college, but I did find a path that led me to China. That path was a long and winding one that I will tell you the story of another day. Suffice it to say, one year into my time in China I faced a decision. I could commit to remain there for an indeterminate amount of time, or I could return to the States. At this time friends were getting married, my sister was starting her family, and I had plans to start grad school with my best friend out in California. I knew staying in China meant the postponement and perhaps the abandonment of many dreams. With the God we serve it was surely possible I could meet my spouse in China, but not that likely. Like Abraham, I felt called to take these dreams and desires and place them on the altar…trusting in the one who commanded the sacrifice that were it for good, He could return those desires to me. And thus my one year sojourn in China morphed into six. Those years are some of the richest of my life, and taught me that there is no better place to be than on the crazy unpredictable path of following the Father’s movements.

Little did I know during this time, that the Lord was working in a very special man’s life in a far off city in Washington. He was carving out a path for your Daddy as well, and working out circumstances such that at a certain moment in time he happened to be looking for a wife through an online dating service just when I happened to join the same service as well. The story of how we came together is one for another day, but is packed full of “the Lord has answered” moments.

Your daddy and I got married up in the mountains of Leavenworth on June 16, 2012 and set about adjusting to married life. We had both agreed that we wouldn’t even broach the possibility of kids in the first year of marriage. Worldly wisdom told us that we needed to establish a strong marriage first, and that there were things to be enjoyed before we brought a little one to the mix. However, in the early fall of 2012 I was praying about what the Lord wanted me to be doing in Wenatchee. I had applied for several jobs with no result, and didn’t really know what to do with myself. The only call on my life that I felt certain about was the call to be a mother. However, this was not a direction I wanted to push your Daddy in in any way. And so I prayed. I handed it over to the Lord saying if this is your timing, then I want him to bring it up. Two days later, out of the blue driving home from Gospel community group, your daddy comes out and says, “So I’ve been thinking it might be time to start a family.” It took me a bit to wipe my jaw off the floor. And so, our man made plans got thrown out the window, and you my dear came along even faster than your Daddy and I anticipated. But once again, my God had answered me. And two weeks to the day after celebrating our first anniversary, we held you in our arms for the first time.

It is my hope and my prayer that Eliana is descriptive not just of the story of how you came to be, but also of your days to come. I hope you come to know the Lord in an intimate and personal way, and that you will also collect countless stories of the moments (both big and small) where your God answers you. Because here’s the mind boggling, astounding fact–the creator of the universe loves and treasures small, tiny, and yes even insignificant, you enough to answer in big, powerful, detailed, personal ways. May you see this fact written on the pages of your life, and may it never cease to amaze you.

And then there is Elizabeth. This name too has significance. First and foremost, it is special because it is your Aunt’s name, my big sister. You are our first daughter, just as she was the firstborn. You will be the leader and trailblazer and like it or not model for your siblings, just like your Aunt. It is my hope that you will one day have a special relationship with your siblings just like I do with your Aunt. We were pretty certain you would carry Elizabeth as your middle name, even before we chose your first, and weren’t particularly concerned about it’s meaning. However, after I looked up the meaning, it fell perfectly into place with Eliana. Elizabeth, derived from Hebrew, means God’s promise. And so my daughter, I pray that you will know this God who answers all His promises. Because you are our first, I’m sure your Daddy and I will have plenty of bumbles along the way raising you. But I have no doubt that if your identity, your confidence, and your foundation is placed with our answering, promise giving God, your story will also be filled to the brim with testimonies of your Father’s perfect faithfulness.

So thankful for the Lord’s answer in you,

Mommy

2013
07.05

Introducing Eliana

Eliana Elizabeth entered the world June 30, 2013 at 1:26 pm (7 pounds, 6 ounces, 20.5 inches long) after…well, after too many hours to count of labor. We’re all at home adjusting to the new normal and falling madly deeply in love with this little gift. One little picture to whet your appetite…much more to come, including the story behind her name.

 

2013
06.15

Father’s Day

Exactly one year ago this Father’s Day, my dad gave me away. Gave my hand and my heart to another man. He graciously stepped aside from being the man who held the greatest authority and greatest affection in my life. But this relinquishing and letting go simply ushered in a new phase in our relationship.

There is just something special about the dad daughter relationship, and I am thankful for a father who, while not perfect, taught me what it meant to be cherished, respected, and honored. He was the first to give me flowers, the first to take me on a date, the first to open doors for me, the first to provide for me. And in all this he raised the bar wonderfully high for the man I was to marry. With a dad who loved me like that there was going to be no settling.

This Father’s day there is much to celebrate, and almost a coming of full circle. For (really any day now) another father daughter relationship is about to begin. Tomorrow Jeff and I will celebrate one year of marriage, and the imminent arrival of our little girl. Something tells me he’s going to captivate, protect and guard this little one’s heart in much the same way that my dad did for me. I can hardly wait to see her in his arms that first time!

2013
05.29

The bump

When Jeff’s brother Greg came into town about a week ago we decided to take advantage of having a fellow photographer around for some maternity shots since I haven’t quite mastered the self-portrait. I had been fulfilling the “barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen” stereotype all morning preparing a family reunion meal, so my ankles were swollen about three times their normal size and my feet barely fit in my flip flops. Ahhhh, the joys of pregnancy. But there have been many requests for bump shots, so without further ado, here is the belly in all its glory. 35 weeks down, 3 to go? 4? 5? Hopefully not 6 or 7?

 

2013
05.27

{Alternately titled: making sense of tedious labor}

Currently I’m sitting in our eating nook looking out at my hard-working husband, friend and father as they labor in the back bed of our yard. It’s a project that we’ve been chipping away at for awhile, and especially this weekend.

What grew in the berm before were what my husband likes to call “weed trees,” but perhaps would be better titled “trees from down under.” Likely purchased because they are (A) incredibly cheap and (B) incredibly fast growing, these trees look deceptively healthy and pleasant. However, they are also incredibly malicious. They send a vast and shallow and extensive root system throughout the yard. These roots not only create a hazardous and bumpy landscape, but also send up tiny shoots of mini evil trees all over the yard. We’re talking little forests of trees that grow to at least six inches in between mowing. Sure, with constant surface level maintenance, the insidious effects of these trees can mostly be hidden, but we knew from the moment of purchasing the house they would have to go. As painful as it is to cut down mature, tall trees, we knew that in the long run we’d be much happier with them gone.

The actual cutting down of the trees was quite quickly taken care of in a couple hours on one afternoon (largely due to the efforts of a skilled former farm boy that Jeff works with). While this task was visually the most dramatic, in terms of amount of labor, it was nothing in comparison with what was to come.

We hired a stump grinder, and then set about to the real work. There was river rock to be cleared (a tedious job done handful by handful as it was sifted from dirt and debris). The berm had to be leveled. Rocks dug out of the soil. Huge roots dug up, hacked at and removed. A clearing out of the old, so that new trees with new roots could flourish in the area. Granted, you could probably plant some new trees without doing this clearing, but with all of the obstructions down below, those would have no chance of thriving.

The work has been hard and the hours days have been long and I cannot count the number of times my husband has commented, this is taking much longer than I expected. Just when work seems to start flying along, a huge boulder is discovered…I just watched the crew unearth what must be at least a two hundred pound boulder.

I took part in the tedious river rock removal…but boulder digging and root hacking? Not exactly a feasible nor an appropriate activity for this 8.5 month pregnant body. However, as I sat for hours on Friday and hours on Saturday removing handful after handful of river rock, I began to muse about what might be the spiritual gem hidden within the activity. Call it a coping mechanism, but when confronted with a somewhat repetitive and unpleasant task, I tend to begin a search for the gospel hidden within it. I firmly believe there are traces of this story of all stories within much of life, and as I sifted rock, I sifted for its message within the dirt and the rocks and the roots.

And it didn’t take long before I began to reflect on the roots and rocks of unbelief that lay buried in the landscape of our lives. We can put on a pretty good show, look quite mature and put together, especially with enough external upkeep and maintenance. However, below the surface we all have layers of unbelief. Rocks and roots and disease that send up constant shoots of anger, or impatience, or discontent. When contemplating the labor it would take to fully eradicate this deep buried unbelief, it’s easy to see the temptation of more surface level maintenance. It is so much easier and so much less time consuming and so much less back-breaking. And yet, as we seek to plant the gospel in our lives, it will fail to flourish in soil that is invaded by unbelief. And so we take out the axe and shovel of the Word and community and Spirit and we set to work. The more obvious patterns of sin and disbelief may quickly and easily be felled, but their roots? Oh how often we will comment, “this goes deeper and is much harder to uproot than I thought.” The task is by no means glorious. It’s dirty, tedious, long and laborious work–however, work that becomes more tolerable and feasible when tackled in community. And the result? A life of fruitfulness? A heart in which truth flourishes and grows? So worth the effort.

Looking forward to showing the fruits of this labor in the coming weeks. Hopefully before the baby comes.

 

2013
05.01

Just a few words to chew on tonight as we seek what it means to live in community with one another. {Taken from Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.}

Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.

By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash.

Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship, because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. We thank God for what He has done for us. We thank God for giving us brethren who live by His call, by His forgiveness, and His promise. We do not complain of what God does not give us; we rather thank God for what He does give us daily. And is not what has been given us enough: brothers , who will go on living with us through sin and need under the blessing of His grace? Is the divine gift of Christian fellowship anything less than this, any day, even the most difficult and distressing day? Even when sin and misunderstanding burden the communal life, is not the sinning brother still a brother, with whom I, too, stand under the Word of Christ? Will not his sin be a constant occasion for me to give thanks that both of us may live in the forgiving love of God in Jesus Christ? Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can ever live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together–the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. When the morning mists of dreams vanish, then dawns the bright day of Christian fellowship.

2013
04.30

One week ago I left my Perspectives class early with my head swimming under the pressure of an oncoming cold. Since then, I’ve taken up permanent residence on the couch…today will mark the first day I will venture beyond the mailbox since that day. Below are my observations from the week, none of them particularly profound, followed by a few pictures to perhaps redeem this otherwise insignificant post. We moved into our house in late November, and while for the most part our yard currently looks like one giant weed factory, there is one bright spot…a gorgeous flowering cherry right outside our front window. Of course I didn’t grab the camera in time to capture it at its peak (uh, the brown edges on the flowers add a nice artistic touch, right?), but I did manage to drag myself off the couch the other day to capture a few shots–a task all the more important due to the fact that my husband has threatened to tear out the tree. Now anyone who knows Jeff knows he has an extraordinary (perhaps over the top?) love of all things green, and especially trees; however, he has concerns about the proximity of this particular tree to the foundation of our house. Here’s hoping the tree can remain…now onto my observations:

  • The human body can produce a ridiculous amount of snot.
  • When one is going through an average of one box of kleenex per day, the brand does matter.
  • Misery really does love company.
  • Marrying a man who can make a mean pot of soup was a very wise idea.
  • Marrying a man who brings home flowers with the ingredients for said soup was a very wise idea.
  • Being laid up sick on the couch does not decrease (if anything increases) the frenetic flip flops of our baby girl.
  • One can spend a decent amount of time debating whether 48 hours of severe food poisoning (while pregnant) or a week of a severe head cold (while pregnant) is more tolerable.
  • DayQu*l and NyQu*l are God’s gift to the sick. It’s a shame these cannot be consumed while pregnant.
And now onto the pretty pictures… (nice transition, right?)
2013
04.27

Hello? Anyone there?

I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to list the excuses or try to explain the reason for utter silence the last…has it really been eight months? My goodness. I must admit, part of me has struggled with what to make this space. In China the opportunities for stories, photographs and reflection seemed endless. But now? Life in the States? Days filled with church, errand running, work, small groups…where is the extraordinary in that? How do I speak out of that to edify, challenge, entertain and engage others?

And yet, that is exactly why I return to this blog this Saturday morning. I want to return to that seeking of the transcendent within the mundane of life. That glimpse of eternity within the common. That pursuit of beauty and truth when tempted to view all as ordinary. I want to be compelled to pick up my camera more often, to worship and to marvel as I seek to capture one slight fraction of the complexity of creation.

And so, if there is anyone still out there, I ask for patience and grace as I stumble to find my words again. Something tells me there may be more ample material for both images and reflection very soon though.

Yes, while this space has been silent there has been a lot going on. And in about two months a sweet little girl will be making her arrival.

2012
08.21

Instead of one really long post of pictures, I’m going to do a couple of somewhat long posts of pictures from the wedding day. All shots were captured by the talented Heidi Michelle, who in addition to beautifully telling the story of the day was simply an incredible asset to have around. I show you the following image of Heidi and I to illustrate this point:

But onto the pretty pictures. Below are some of my favorite captures of me and my man. One thing we love about Heidi is she leaves you pretty much alone, and just takes pictures of you being you. These are real, unposed life…in all their cheesy, sappy, romantic glory.

{Sidenote: flowers by the extraordinarily talented artist Patti Bosket}

Yep, that pretty much describes how happy he makes me….

Jeff hates this last picture of him, and I agree, it’s not the best capture of his handsome face. But it is a beautiful capture of my veil, which I absolutely love. So ignore the man and just look at the pretty veil.

I know Jeff is also not a fan of the above shot, but I can’t help it, it just makes me smile. The funny thing is we were chatting after the ceremony, and I think he was describing something that happened during it. However, for the life of me, I cannot think of an event that warrants that facial expression.

Whew…that was a lot of pictures. Any favorites?

Still to come: the ceremony.