[A regular round of links seems a little out of place for Good Friday, but I'll have plenty of those for you next week!]

We’re living in a state of liturgical disorder. Sometimes we joke that our whole marriage feels like a long season of Advent, always waiting for something without really arriving. Our new church doesn’t seem to acknowledge the church year (which is hard for me, but not a deal-breaker) and with everything else going on, the season of Lent has been almost a non-issue. We’re feeling pretty stretched and deprived already, saying “no” to desires and wants all the time — which probably tells you that we’re more spoiled than spiritual. I also feel like I’m in a 9-month-long Ash Wednesday, constantly aware of my child’s mortality as much as her life.

Normally I love Spring’s rebirth, which feels like nature telling the Easter story, with beautiful life pushing up from dead cold ground. The Minnesota Polar Vortex of 2014 declares this year it will not be so. (I told Max I won’t take him out for a walk until it’s above freezing outside so we don’t slide to our deaths on all the re-frozen melted snow, but he doesn’t understand the delay.)
image (12)As much as I’d love to see grass and flowers right now (which… I REALLY WOULD…) I think this is appropriate weather for contemplating death and what a mighty thing it is that God killed death. The entire Christian faith hinges on the validity of the Resurrection of Christ, and even though it’s backwards and seems a little “spooky,” I think this deserves more press time than we usually give it. (Should other people be quicker to say, “Those Christians! Psychos! They are so anti-whatever-hot-button-moral/political-issue-comes-to-mind!” or, “Those Christians! Psychos! They believe someone rose from the dead!”?)

Like Christmas, Holy Week is about things being backwards. He uses ugly things like betrayals and unfair trials, beatings and mobs and lynchings, and three-day-old tombs, to display what redemption really looks like. It’s about God becoming a dust-and-ashes man to fully taste the very worst of the Fall to overcome death and rise again. It’s about God turning things around, so the sinless man takes on the full weight of sin and is victorious over it forever. It’s paradoxical beauty, for sure – death trampling death, resurrection, reconciliation between sinners and a holy God, eternal life. In turning these things around, God embraces us, full of dust and ashes, and calls us into his goodness, which is so powerful we can look at the most horrific, unfair death …and call it “Good Friday.” We celebrate that all this weekend, and with it consider the mini-Easters we see every day with the marvelous goodness God creates through our lives in so many backwards ways.

“Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, so we will also bear the image of the man of heaven!” – I Corinthians 15

“O God, from my youth you have taught me, and still I proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me.” Psalm 71:17-18

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You would not assume I have any perfectionist traits if you stopped by my home at any time, particularly right now, since I tried to finish taxes this morning without crating the dog. (The result? I have not finished submitting the taxes and there are bits and pieces of the cover to “Grace Based Parenting” all over the living room. Yes, this is hilariously ironic.) Despite my – hopefully improving – free-spirited tendencies with most details, I do have a teeny compulsive anxiety trait that has plagued me as long as I can remember: I have very particular need for numbers to be in order. I always add the numbers on license plates while I drive, and certain phone numbers or birthdates are more “pleasing” to my numerical senses. In middle school, if I worked on algebra assignments before bed, I had very strange mathematical dreams. When I look at a digital clock, I am doing math problems with the numbers much longer than I’m paying attention to what time it is. (Right now, it is 1:21, which is 11×11. You can also use addition so the ones on outsides to add up to the two in the middle.) This is weird. There is probably a name for this sort of thing. It doesn’t interrupt my life or relationships, so it’s not really a problem – just a quirk. I hope.

The birthdate of April 12, 1986 really works out for me because each number is even. I think birthdays in the Spring months should be on even-numbered dates and fall birthdays should be odd-numbered. (A few years ago, I was pregnant with a baby due in April and told Aaron I was nervous it would have an “odd” birthdate.) So now, in a strange way, I am breathing a little easier to be 28 and not 27 because it feels better to be an “even” age. (27 is slightly redeemed by being “Three-cubed,” or 3x3x3.)

Turning 28 on 4/12/2014 was almost a dream-come-true for my numerical neuroses, even if it is more reason for Aaron and I to joke that we are getting old and crotchety. On the way out for my birthday dinner, he said, “How can you be 28? I’m only, like, 25!” Even when we can’t keep track of the numbers, our life reflects a little more maturity (or boring-ness, take your pick.) We used to speak of camping more often; we now find that cooking over the backyard firepit and sleeping in our own bed is satisfying. “Requiring frequent walks” was a strong argument in favor of adopting Max. I get sick of having so many clothes in my closet. I don’t think I look old now, but pictures from college (or my wedding) do look young. It was a little strange to see that most of the athletes on Olympic podiums this year were younger than me. There is no denial in any of this that life is going forward and that means getting older! Maybe an obsession with that mathematically-pleasing birthdate is altering my senses a bit, but I can’t shake loving the secret I’ve whispered among friends: getting older is good, and it gets better every year.

Even when things don’t look like they were “supposed” to, every year there is more grace and growth, more unexpected gifts, more glory revealed. There is more joy (and less fear), more comfort in my own skin,  more beauty to discover and display, more delight in becoming just who I was created to be. So right now, the excitement of turning the corner into 28 feels like a drop in the bucket compared to whatever lies ahead.

“The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.” – Psalm 92

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday I shared a little bit of the everyday beauty of this last week, and today I’ve got some of the bigger, more extravagant graces of the season along with some weekend reading for you!

[One] For as “boring” as Iowa sounded when we first moved there, I always felt it worked out well for us to connect with traveling friends while we lived there. Our house became a common stopping point for many friends and acquaintances traveling between the Midwest and the “Real West,” usually Montana or Colorado. With a comfy couch in the back room, easy quiche and baked oatmeal recipes, and a fabulous patio to enjoy in the warmer seasons, we had a pretty decent bed&breakfast going on. I worried that moving to Minnesota would mean an end to some of that flurry, but I’m pretty sure that is not going to be the case. We have had an amazing influx of visitors in the past little bit! There was our first official hosted dinner with some Hillsdale friends, a few nights hosting my dearest Jenny (also on Hillsdale business), and now my parents are here for an impromptu birthday-and-DIY-weekend. (We really know how to party around here.) Another uncle is likely to arrive a few days after my parents leave, as well. We were gifted with a bed for our guest room, and we’re putting it to great use! Max is not at the greatest stage for hospitality, but he likes people so much that he laid at the door in despair when Jenny’s flight was delayed.

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[Two] I usually read a lot in the summer, maybe because it’s too hot to do many crafts. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to do this year, but I know the first place I’ll look for recommendations is Bethany’s blog. (Again — the blogs of real life friends are always the best!)

[Three] I have a funny relationship with controversial religious topics, so I don’t generally mention them on my blog as often as I think about them. I’ve really enjoyed a few articles about the intersection of the church and homosexuality lately. While I would hope and pray this is not a sorrow my daughter has to bear, I hope that she will hear this same truth growing up in our home: “Although I have found the experience difficult, it has never been difficult to reconcile with my faith. One of the best things my parents gave me was an understanding that the Christian life is often difficult, and that God takes and uses our sufferings to make us more like Him.” (From A New Kind of Coming Out in Christianity Magazine, UK.) Additionally, I appreciated Jen Hatmaker’s blog “Where I Stand,” because I think there is a huge need for people who stand for the clear teaching of God’s word on marriage and sexuality AND good neighboring, wound-binding, and loving kindness. These values are not mutually exclusive!

[Four] I thought these two articles were a great balance for each other – one talking about appreciating what we can from polarizing teachers and another on the importance of naming and speaking against false teachers. (For the record, I don’t even agree with a lot of the stuff in the first article because I am so bothered by some of the personalities mentioned! But maybe I need to rethink some of that? Right now I don’t even want to appreciate anything about the influence of Donald Miller, for example.)

[Five] Is Christianity just about pragmatism?Here are some wonderful thoughts on the wild work of a backwards God in our Oprah-driven hearts from Emily at Weak and Loved.

[Six] If you, like most people, get the majority of your information about Genetically Modified crop controversy from links posted on Facebook by people who are not scientists, this article about the true cost of labeling GMO’s would be a good read for you!

[Seven] And on the topic of even more significantly important and controversial advances in science and genetics, this article describing 10 Things You Need To Know About IVF is well worth a read. It’s one of my many soapboxes in life, but really… It’s much better to read and pray about this before you’re possibly in a position to make decisions clouded by years of heartache.

So… Maybe more controversy than I originally intended to mention here? (May as well get it all out there: I use an e-collar for training my dog and plan to both regularly vaccinate and possibly occasionally spank my child if it is the most effective way to keep her safe while she grows up.) You can read other Friday quick-takes over at Conversion Diary, if you’re interested.

Have a great weekend, friends. We are celebrating my 28th birthday with the installation of a dishwasher. This is even better than the year I got a circular saw!

{pretty} Spring Wreath, on my door at last!
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{happy}
I’ve discussed “favorite seasons” with several people lately. I usually say Fall is my favorite, but that I love special things about each one, too. I love the turning leaves, hot tea with sweaters, bonfires; and plaid flannel; then I love the fat, fluffy snowflakes in winter, with peppermint cocoa and warm blankets on the couch; when the crocus begin popping up, I love the warmer breezes, the tree buds, the way the whole earth is a manifold witness to the Easter story; and then summer comes, when I love the strong green stalks for juicy home-grown tomatoes, swimming outside, and glasses of ice water that leave rings of condensation all over the patio table.

We’ve reached that beautiful part of the year where the snow is melting here -not quite to the quintessential spring state- but I do not even care any more. This week, with these 50, 60, 70 degree temperatures, with gray ice stacks leftover in shady neighborhood yards, with brown yards and bare trees, with muddy puppy prints all over my house? This week is easily my favorite season this year!

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I walk Max every day after breakfast and while he trots along, I hum my favorite spring hymn:

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird.
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning!
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word!

…Praise with elation, praise every morning,
Praise for creation of the new day!”
-Morning Has Broken, text by Eleanor Farjeon.

{funny}
Spring brings bunnies. Or, in Max’s case: Bunny legs. Ew. He tried to drag a poor rabbit’s hind quarter into the house and I called Aaron in a panic, one of those distressed “YOUR DOG is …!” sort of discussions. When I got Max to come in without his bunny leg, he sat at the door and cried for it. As if I care.

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{real}
We had the come-to-Jesus moment about furniture in the new house. With current and projected future budgets in our extended vow of intense frugality, a doggie and a little one on the way… Couch discussions had to be, well, couched for a long time. I have really been looking forward to getting a new living room couch sometime. My night time dreams have included shopping at furniture stores. We have looked at shapes and swatches, talking about them and getting excited for how cool it would be to have something we really like. We called these white floral couches “The Grad School Beasts,” and sometimes I tease Aaron by telling him, “today I am pretending this is a nubby gray sectional.”

Last night, my parents arrived for a birthday visit with a few more free hand-me-downs — an unmerited blessing all it’s own. We settled on keeping the grad school beasts, much worse for the wear after surviving the intense puppy stage from which we are now emerging, in the living room without making big plans to get new ones soon, since my meager domestic bliss-and-beauty fund has a LOT to accomplish elsewhere in the house. and I announced: “I am choosing to be really, really, really happy about this furniture!” Maybe it will turn into happiness if I keep saying that? This is real life at the Hummel’s!

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Don’t you think capturing the beauty of real life is important? I love seeing “the context of contentment” at Like Mother Like Daughter every week, so I thought I’d share mine today. Happy Spring!

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With every day a  mad rush to get the entire house “nested” (for free, of course), get the dog exercised and trained as well as possible, get my fledgling business off the ground, and maybe eventually get over my deep loathing of infant car seat research so we can start amassing baby gear… I find myself tired, even though it doesn’t seem like I’m accomplishing much. In these days of unseen (and generally unrewarded) labors, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve been called to, and how this little girl’s presence will require new and beautiful things from me. These will be mostly unseen and generally unrewarded, as well.

I’ve thought, prayed, and cried much over the topic of motherhood in the past few years of miscarriages and waiting, and I think what came out of that only strengthens and supports whatever new adventures come with mothering a living child. Those years of difficulty and wrestling revealed that childless mothering is still a legitimate vocation, even when I resented it. Sometimes I still do. What is it, really, to be a mother? Isn’t it essentially to love, to give yourself away, to be brave? And isn’t that required even more of a woman who grieves a child than a woman who raises one? I think so. There are little babies I will never really see, hold on my lap, pack lunches for, or read Bible stories with, but I am still their mom. The loving and giving that happens because I’m their mom is expressed in different ways, usually in connecting with other women who are distraught about their own losses and teaching others how to be caretakers and truth-tellers. Even though I wish everything had been so different, these works are just as significant as the work I will do in bringing up the daughter I’m pregnant with now.

It seems weird to talk about miscarriages, being pregnant again. It’s probably weird for other people to hear about. I realize this. It probably makes these months a little more anxiety-ridden for me — I dreamed last night that this girl had died, and I woke up crying inconsolably. I didn’t know it was just a nightmare until she started moving around ten minutes later. Maybe it’s like that for every pregnancy? I will never know. Despite what hardships this brings, the grief and wrestling that accompany this pregnancy impress on me that the world needs brave women all the more.

Case in point? I met someone recently who heard my history from a mutual friend, and felt the need to tell me, “I’ve never lost a baby or had problems, but there is no way your first-trimester miscarriages were as hard as my friend’s stillbirth. I mean, she had already felt the baby move and had to deliver it. And now you’re having this baby, so it worked out.” Though I wouldn’t judge someone who responded to those comments with violence, and would probably be willing to lie defending them in a court of law… I managed to graciously reply that grief isn’t a competition, every life matters, there is no reason to dismiss my experiences, and babies aren’t replaceable. (And really — every day she grows is a gift; pregnancy doesn’t guarantee survival.) Was it a little awkward? Well, yes. I told her she was out of line. It would have been even more awkward to let that slide, knowing those comments could be repeated to someone who was still very traumatized. I needed to respond with bravery, since that lady might need to be someone else’s caretaker someday. It’s always the right time to speak the truth in love.

There will be new, hard, and beautiful expressions of motherhood that come with this baby girl, but just as she doesn’t erase or solve the problems of the miscarriages we had before her, my calling to mother her doesn’t eradicate the callings that grew out of those experiences, either. I’m confident the loving courage needed for each kind of motherhood can only support and uphold the other one. Since the world needs more brave women in every generation, this is the best example I can set for my daughter, too.

(Before we get into serious discussions about bravery, I will warn her about stranger danger and eating yellow snow. We need to take these lessons one day at a time.)

 

Max and I are making the most of a few days on our own while Aaron has meetings a few states south of here. It is very Always-Winter-Never-Christmas-ish outside, so I am trying not to be jealous of his travels. I have plenty of wool socks and a cute puppy to keep me warm, which remind me not to complain about the otherwise minor annoyance of not seeing leaf buds or blades of grass even though it is April next week.

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Despite my constant care and affection (and occasional rule-bending) throughout the week, little Max definitely likes Aaron best and mopes around when he reaches bedtime without SpaceDad’s return. We still call him “Little Max” all the time even though he has clearly outgrown his nickname. We might be yelling it out the backyard next year even if he’s 100 pounds by then.

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I had a marvelous list of links to share, which I have been saving up as I find them… and they are lost somewhere in the great blue yonder because my phone is smarter than my computer. Bummer. Here’s a few things I can remember from that list all for your reading pleasure. Enjoy, and happy weekend!


I especially love reading blogs written by people I actually know, and this series on Fashion & the Gospel from Emily is really encouraging. Although I’m aiming to get by spending less than $50 on maternity clothes (a wild success so far with gifts, sacrificing older stretchy clothes for the cause, borrowing from friends, and GoodWill!) so I’m not exactly highly fashionable these days, she offers a lot of food for thought, particularly in the original purpose of clothes: “to cover, and in so doing, reveal God’s grace…”

One of the other benefits of having awesome friends is that they also have other awesome friends you can meet.  Amanda, who is funny, loves great stories, and has a too-adorable red-haired toddler who could easily be mistaken for a little dolly, is friends with one of my old college room-mates. She wrote some great thoughts on my all-time favorite reality TV show enterprise – MTV’s “16 and Pregnant/Teen Mom” – and I’m really challenged to think about ways we might “step up” to support younger parents like the ones documented in those shows in the coming months and years.

The shared level of frugal sense in our marriage is extremely high. Every family expresses this differently, but we were raised with very similar senses about how lifestyle should relate to income. This has come in very handy since basically NOTHING IN LIFE has turned out like we planned during our engagement, including grad school, jobs, etc., so we’ve been rocking out the not-quite-Dave-Ramsey-style rice and beans life for several years and will continue to do so for at least the foreseeable future. We’ll be fine. The only thing that has been really annoying to me? The pressure to use coupons. I know they can save you big money. I tried being a “couponer” for two weeks and spent my entire weekend running around to different stores. I ended up with two years worth of razors, three tubes of toothpaste for the price of one, shampoo that smelled funny, and a shelf full of cereal we don’t like. I didn’t spend more than usual, but that’s two weekends of my life I will never get back. Articles about keeping up couponing momentum make me want to break out in hives. But… I have discovered this marvelous couponing app called Snip-Snap and now I can save money (yes!) while mooching off other people’s coupon-clipping (yes!). I can quickly browse through the multi-use coupons other users have uploaded in search of only stores I visit or items I need, and I just show the barcode on my phone’s screen at the store to SAVE. Worth checking out, for sure!

I thought this article about how badly kids need “wildness” in their upbringing was really fabulous. We have always said we want to be parents who aren’t all, “Stay on the side of the playground where I can see you, don’t go outside because there are BUGS OUT THERE, keep yourself off that thing because you might fall and get bruised,” and it’s encouraging to see we are not crazy in wanting kids to experience a little grit and risk. We’ll see how this works out in real life, but we do actually have a firepit in the backyard here…

It’s been hard to know how to handle talking and sharing about the coming baby. If it had been up to me, I might… I don’t know… never have said anything, to anyone, at any time, about being pregnant until the baby was born. This is the custom in some cultures, and I totally get it. Sometimes I wish it was like that here, too. I still remember (most vividly) how awful it felt to navigate pregnancy announcements, baby talk, and pictures of bellies. Too many years of frustration, never knowing if it would provoke some hard reaction even when I didn’t want it to happen. Way too many women I love are still in that angst, so I’m not going to be doing much “pregnancy progress updating” or “picture posting,” (a great post on that is already written by Housewifespice!). But we obviously can’t ignore that this seems to be happening, and Aaron is good to remind me that the point of it all isn’t me, it’s the baby. And so, I’ll pop this one up here to celebrate the gift that is our daughter — yep! — coming this summer.

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there are two girls in this picture!


[linking up this week with 7 Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!]

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a little bit crazy to admit this, but one of the big sacrifices in moving to Minnesota was a bit of a vow of poverty. The income scenario is fine, but it’s not what we had been dreaming about for the past five years while Aaron was in grad school. When we were deciding to accept this job, we made peace with continuing a very frugal lifestyle with a few “non-negotiable” life upgrades: smart phones (and thanks to Ting, our bill is smaller than it was before so it’s not even a sacrifice), a guest room, and a doggie. My piano studio growth is going slooooower than we have hoped and I’m essentially a stay-home-dog-owner right now, so we’re on the path to some much-needed home improvements that are entirely free. We’ve always tried to be cautious and wise about spending on our house, but since we have tools and actual DIY stuff leftover from our last house, a $0 budget is a possibility in ways it wasn’t when we started out with the Iowa house.

There is often a lot of freedom in limitations — and our big limitation of using resources already on hand is working well so far. We’re calling this our time of Domestic MacGyvering. Just like that old TV show, we’re in a situation that threatens our sanity and survival, and we can only work with what we’ve got.

First off, we started with the kitchen. I moved here from a kitchen fit for queenly entertaining, remodeled to my exact specifications. While I would change just a few things about the designs if I were doing it over, it worked well and majorly spoiled us. Our house had charm and lots of impressive details. We were a little obsessed with it and called it lots of pretentious names in private. (Usually “Riverwood Heights Estate” or something like that.) In contrast, we now have a boring 1960 Ranch that has the same floor plan as half the neighborhood. It’s exactly what we needed, but it’s nothing special as far as houses go. The kitchen in the Coon Ranch is not as spacious and has ugly cracked tile floors that we are probably not replacing. However, the situation here was perfect for implementing one of the big lessons we learned in the first house: lighting is everything. As you can see, the lighting situation in the new kitchen was an awful mess of not-even-done-right-suspended-flourescent-lights, and those ceiling lights usually aren’t a great choice in the first place anyway. It drove Aaron crazy enough that he broke his no-project vow (made while prepping the old house for sale and shopping for a new one) after 2 months of living here. New lighting made all the difference in the old kitchen, and we had high hopes for a similar effect here.

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We talked about painting the wood frame white and replacing the plastic with new, crisper inserts. But as soon as Aaron pulled out the yellowing panels and saw there was an actual finished ceiling behind the ugly frame, we had reached the point of no return.
Our MacGyvering came to the rescue because we had some leftover track lights in the garage. They are the same finish as the handles on the cabinet pulls and other light fixtures in the house. Several years ago, we overbought off a clearance sale when Lowes discontinued our favorite track lights, with plans to put more up in the living room. Though it drove me nuts, we never got around to installing them, and efforts to recoup any of the original cost by selling them before moving were entirely unfruitful. We brought them up with us “just in case.”

Good thing!

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With a little spackling, texturing, and priming (all leftover materials), and painting touch ups with the buckets labeled in the basement, it feels like a new kitchen! My mom and I made the window valance with a $1 dowel rod, recycled coffee cup hooks, and a pretty cloth napkin I originally bought on a Target clearance and now sacrificed for the cause.

We still need to paint the rest of the ceiling, where a crisp white is going to make a huge difference. We’re also lacking a light fixture for above the sink, and I think MacGyver might have to go to Menards with some pocket change to get out of that particular pickle. Though I already have my permanent dishwasher, countertop, backsplash, and faucet upgrades in mind, I’m entirely over the moon with how much more awesome it feels in here now. And without a working dishwasher? That’s really saying a lot.

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(And I wish everyone a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day! Did you know it’s one of my favorite holidays? Read more about Patrick as a true hero of the gospel so you can honor his legacy of faith and obedience today while you enjoy corned beef brisket!)

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