A Season of Hope

Advent is one of my favorite seasons. Feeling hopeful, among other positive emotions, does not always come naturally to me. But somehow, each time this season rolls around, that very emotion is stirred in me, and I can’t help but believe with my whole heart that what we are waiting to celebrate is the reality of something wonderful: that the Word became flesh to make all things new. And we wait still for His final return, and the fullness of creation being made new—an incorruptible, eternal heavens and earth.

We try to balance in our hearts and minds the all too familiar paradox of already/not yet that is the theme of Advent. Christ came a couple thousand years ago in humble circumstances. But it’s not all over. Christ will come again, this time in glory. What we wait for in Advent is something that’s already occured—but at the same time, our waiting is just as real as those of the Israelites who clung to the prophecy of their Messiah coming. I can imagine that many were distressed with doubts, wrestling against unbelief, trying to cling to that hope that seems so difficult to always hold without it slipping between our fingers. How often do we face those same doubts, not only that God will fulfill all His promises, but that His presence is something that is real every day in our lives?

The hardest part of our faith is just that: faith. That faith in God that He has kept His promises, is keeping His promises, and will fulfill His promises. And it is that faith that fuels the hope we must cling to in this season and throughout the year: that God is with us.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

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Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and, liturgically speaking, we are about to enter a new year. This is the perfect opportunity for me to stop, reflect, and give thanks for my life and the blessings that God has given me.

Yesterday, I wasn’t feeling thankful for anything. I’m pretty sure that in the midst of my little temper tantrum about the dirty house, that I said something about life being dumb because there’s so much dust. Yeah. Talk about ungrateful (and crazy).

I’ll be honest. Gratitude doesn’t come easy to me. I can be pretty negative sometimes. I’m a bit of a pessimist about the future, and quite a cynic when it comes to other people. So, when I stop and remember to actually be thankful, I can’t say that God has blessed me for my faith, or for my good attitude, or for my godliness, or any of that. All I can say is that He’s blessed me anyway. And it never ceases to amaze me.

Thank You, God, for a new child, Epiphany Joy; she is the highlight of my year.

Thank You for beautiful Kyrie and her quick wit and compassionate nature.

Thank You for Antonio, my little man, lover of dinosaurs and Spiderman, who still likes to snuggle in blankies with me.

Thank You for a husband whose mercy may not endure forever, but comes pretty close.

Thank You for a family that truly, genuinely loves me and wants to spend time with me, talk with me, and have a relationship with me.

Thank You for the friends who are willing to listen and willing to share their lives with mine.

Thank You for the internet. Yep, the internet. For Facebook, for Pinterest, for e-mail, for blogs. Thank you for how these things can be used for Your glory.

Thank You for delicious food.

Thank You for another day where You have chosen to give me breath.

Thank You for washers, dryers, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, blenders, toasters, ovens, refrigerators…all of these things that make life a little (okay, a lot) easier.

Thank You for promises.

Thank You for hope.

Thank You for Your life, death, and resurrection.

Thank You for the promise that we will share in that resurrection and share glorious eternity with You.

Thanks be to God!

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Since starting school in September, Kyrie has made great progress in her reading. More importantly, her enthusiasm for reading has shot through the roof. All she wants to do in school is read. I like to have her read two short readers to me every day in school. She has been telling me lately that she’d like to read six. And she doesn’t stop with the readers, now. She likes to challenge herself to see how well she will read from the books that are in her room. I am so glad that she wants to learn, because it makes my job so much easier. She is catching on more and more every day and I am proud of her. Now, if we can just get her to be just as enthusiastic about her math…

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Being Me Project #3: 5 Things

Five Things I am passionate about:

1. Family. I have always wanted to be a wife and mother, and although some days are so tiring and I get discouraged, I do know that there is no other life I’d rather have. I do love to see my children grow, share moments with them, teach them, and learn from them. And I’m thankful to have a good husband by my side, who is a loving and attentive father.

2. Worship. When I enter into worship with my whole heart and body, I feel transformed. Sometimes I feel a distance from God, and when I do, I feel so broken. When I simply start singing Alleluias, I feel myself being mended again. It’s amazing how a simple word can be such a powerful thing in pulling me toward God and feeling His presence and love.

3. Friends. I love having friends and I love being a friend. I love knowing that I have been a blessing to people and that I am valued and appreciated. I love to know that there are friends who will always have my back and love me through thick and thin.

4. Music. This ties in very closely to worship for me. Music is often like prayer for me. When it’s not, it is still such a great way for me to express a message or feeling that is on my heart.

5. Photography. I want to make sure that I have a lot of memories in print. I love to take pictures, and I love to make them as beautiful as possible. I like to challenge myself to see how well I can capture the emotion at the time so that the memory is preserved even more completely.

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Being Me Project #2: 10 Worst and Best Moments

I have thousands of moments to choose from. And it’s a little overwhelming to try to gather just ten best and ten worst and put them in a list. But, I love lists. So I have to do it. These are not necessarily the best and worst, but ten of the best and worst.

Ten Best Moments, from most recent:

10. Giving birth to Epiphany. This birth was particularly wonderful. It went smoothly, and so much relief swept over me as I held my tiny, bald little girl. It seemed only moments before that Rick and I were able to calmly pray together, and I felt such a bond with him in the moments preceding her arrival. Every birth was magical, but this one was just too wonderful for words.

9. Giving birth to Antonio. Antonio was my first (and only) home birth, and it was a very healing experience for me after a less-than-ideal delivery with Kyrie. I remember not being sure if I should laugh or cry when he finally came, so I did both. He was the most beautiful baby I’d ever seen, with perfect, pink skin. He was chubby and healthy and had the silkiest hair.

8. Giving birth to Kyrie. Okay, you knew I’d have to include Kyrie when I just mentioned my other two kiddos above. I have to admit that I did not experience the same emotional high when giving birth to Kyrie as I did with my other kids. Part of that was because I was drugged. Part of it was because nothing went according to plan. The main emotion that swept over me was relief. I do remember looking at her little skinny chicken legs and thinking about how cute they were. I also remember glancing at her face and thinking, “Oh, thank goodness she’s cute.” I remember getting satisfaction out of the fact that I predicted her to be 7.5 lbs and she was 7 lbs. 9 oz. (when the doctor and nurses all thought she was under 7 lbs).

7. Watching the sunrise with Rick in St. Augustine, Florida. We were on our honeymoon, and we sat on the white sand, waiting patiently and enjoying the quiet (oh, if only we knew how precious that quiet was!).

6. My wedding. Duh. We all have to say that. But really, I loved the chanting in our liturgy. I loved the time of preparation before the wedding, and seeing friends file in. I loved to feel so supported by our church, Salem Lutheran, as the choir members walked in looking positively filled with joy to share the day with us and lend their voices for our service. I loved how Rick and I snuck in “the kiss” during the sharing of the peace, and that our photographer still snapped a shot.

5. My first kiss with Rick. Enough said.

4. The first time I knew that Rick was really falling in love with me. Those intense, brown eyes. Squealing about it with my friend, Evie, and burying my face in my pillow as I tried to wrap my mind around my emotions.

3. Meeting and holding the baby sister I’d hoped so much for, for the first time.

2. Winning the “Most Inspirational Musician” award in junior orchestra. Mostly, knowing that I’d made my dad proud.

1. Picking out my first violin, a 3/4 size, at Hoffman Music.

Ten Worst Moments, in no particular order:

10. Losing baby Salem at 8 weeks. Trying to hold in my emotions as my miscarriage started on our way back home from Spokane to Monroe. Flight cancellations and layovers and bumpy little planes were really unhelpful additions to the grief I was feeling. As soon as we got home, we went to the doctor’s office and got an ultrasound which showed that the baby had died two weeks ago. I cried and stayed in my house for two weeks. After that, I remember that the sun hurt my eyes.

9. Thinking that I would never see Rick again after being caught for sneaking down to Portland with him. Looking out the back window of the vehicle that drove me away from him, and seeing him stand in the middle of the road, looking helpless. Feeling like I had let down my parents, and that I had lost someone I loved. Being overwhelmed with grief, guilt, and anger.

8. Losing a friend due to my theology. Being told that I was not believing the gospel, and that my friend could no longer in good conscience be my bridesmaid.

7. Waking up in the middle of the night with a bad feeling in my gut, and having my mom come into my bedroom a few moments later to tell me that my grandma had died.

6. Losing our assistant priest, Fr. Jeff. We all still miss him so much.

5. Finding out that Epiphany had a CPC (a choroid plexus cyst) and immediately letting fear reign over me. Thankfully, it turned out to be nothing, but being filled with anxiety for the remainder of my pregnancy was emotionally exhausting. I only told a couple people about it during my pregnancy.

4. Learning that friends didn’t feel the same way about me as I did about them. Dealing with the hurt of being excluded and the sense of abandonment and rejection.

3. Getting in a car accident in Portland. It was terrifying, I was all alone, and I was filled with guilt since it wasn’t my own car. Years later, I would still sometimes randomly wake up thinking about it, being filled with guilt and regret about it.

2. Thinking I would probably die in a plane. I have a fear of flying, and we had a turbulent flight. I tried to sing songs to myself over and over again to distract myself, but I really didn’t expect to live throughout that flight.

1. Getting excommunicated from my church. I never liked that church very much.

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Being Me Project #1: My Journey

I’ve lived most of my life as a pretty shy person. As a young kid, I was painfully shy, to the point that other adults would not believe my mom when she told them that I talked to her all day long at home. I would avoid eye contact and couldn’t seem to squeak out a sentence. My shyness was paralyzing.

One day, when I was still pretty young, I remember walking down our dirt driveway and talking out loud to myself, asking why I was so shy and telling myself to change. It’s no fun to be afraid of talking to people, or just plain scared of people. I don’t know why this was a struggle in my life, but it was, and I wanted very badly to change it, but didn’t know how.

As a teenager, I “found my wings,” so to speak, and became very loudly opinionated and flirtatious. I had a lot of friends and a lot of them were guys. I figured out that if I was funny and charming, people would like me, so to a point, I put on a personality that was louder than the real me so that I would be well-liked. I also found confidence as I became a more skillful musician, and struck up some real friendships with fellow musicians that I met through orchestra and music camps.

I was that spunky, flirty, loud teenager when Rick met me. What happened in the months and years to come started to tear down on the front I had, and even started to tear the real me down.

First, I was seventeen when Rick fell head-over-heels for me. Understandably, my parents were pretty protective and didn’t like the idea of a guy that they barely knew taking such serious interest in their little girl. But it was still very hard to suddenly be told who I could or couldn’t talk to, or to have strict restrictions. I also felt a great deal of rejection from my friends at the time who didn’t take a great interest in getting to know Rick, but talked about him and our budding relationship behind my back. This is what began to cultivate a distrustful spirit in me, and I struggle with it to this day.

Long story short, and it goes without saying, I got my guy in the end. But other challenges arose in my life that continued to feed into my distrust of people. I felt it harder and harder to believe that people saw value in me.

A former pastor of mine happened across a blog post of mine back in 2003 where I expressed baptismal views that did not line up with his views. I was called to a meeting, and eventually was excommunicated by the church for “gross heresy.” This pastor and his elders turned the entire congregation, save a few members, against my family. This just reinforced my cynicism about people—a cynicism that I think I have had from a young age, but had worked hard to overcome. It was all too easy to allow it to creep back in.

After something like that, and already being a somewhat sensitive person, it wasn’t hard for even little things to feel like rejection to me. Criticism hurt in a new way, like the reopening of a wound. Still, my personality is an odd mix of optimism and cynicism, and I felt like giving people another chance. Friends who ignored me before Rick and I got married decided to become involved in my life again—something I welcomed.

After Rick and I got married, I was excited about living in a new place, getting away from the hometown of people who’d believed that I was a heretic and that Rick was the mastermind behind it all. Louisiana might be humid, but it felt like a fresh start. I thought the people were warm and friendly, and wondered if maybe I could make new friends and forget about old disappointments and hurts.

The truth is that the friendliness of most people wore off pretty fast. That’s really not meant as a jab at anyone—I think it’s pretty predictable for people to be that way. Matt Wilkins and Jon and Hollie were pretty much the only consistent friends we had the whole time we lived in Louisiana. And it turned out that I got pretty homesick after becoming pregnant with Kyrie.

We would visit Spokane during the summer and I felt loved and accepted by the friends up there. I started to wonder if maybe I would have better relationships if we could move back to Spokane. And now that we were starting a family, I thought a lot about having my kids be able to live near their grandparents. I wanted that for them. My homesickness continued to grow.

In 2008, we did move back to Spokane. By 2009, I again faced rejection and struggled with bitterness and distrust. In 2010, I met a new friend who has become very dear to me. She helped restore a little faith that there are people who are genuine, willing to be vulnerable, and forgiving.

I feel like I’m a recovering painfully shy person. I’m a recovering cynic. I’m just…recovering. And sometimes, I have relapses. But God is healing me and moving me forward and bringing my heart closer to His. It’s a painful procedure, but I feel like I am somehow learning more about life and more about love. And I am learning about what sort of things are just a waste of time in this fleeting life. Moments matter so much. Living fully is what I strive for.

Lately I haven’t had much to blog about. So I’ve decided to start a “Being Me” project where I am just me on my blog. I’m still trying to figure out what the second part of this will be, but I will follow up with something—I promise.

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It’s hard to believe it’s already November. Life seems to move by exponentially faster with each child that comes into our family! Really, it didn’t seem that long ago that Epiphany was our brand new little sleepy baby, a mere eight pounds, and now she’s cruising around and giggling and flashing smiles with those perfectly white and new bottom teeth. For that matter, it didn’t really seem all that long ago that Kyrie was a newborn herself, fitting perfectly in the crook of my arm. But now she’s six, she’s smart, she’s reading, and she can argue circles around us. Antonio is growing, making me laugh, and entirely obsessed with dinosaurs. And while I’ve been busying myself with watching each of my children grow in front of my eyes, it somehow became November.

We had a great night of trick-or-treating last night. We walked up a block and back down it, and by then, both kids had full buckets of chocolate and lolly-pops. Epiphany slept in the baby carrier and I rubbed my hands together to warm them from the chilly air. After the bulk of candy was collected, we made the rounds to our priest’s home and the Thimsens’ home (and remembered fondly how Fr. Jeff had answered the door just last year, wearing a Gonzaga sweatshirt), and by 8:30, the kids had even reached their fill of going door to door for free candy.

And now it’s All Saints Day. We don’t really have any traditions surrounding this day. I did listen to “For All the Saints,” but that’s about it. I know that’s a little pathetic, but that’s the truth.

I’ve always liked November because it means that Thanksgiving will come, and after that, Advent. Advent is one of my favorite seasons in the church. I love the hushed mood of the season, the dim, flickering light of Advent candles, being filled with anticipation and hope of Christ’s coming, and even the increasing chill in the air. To be able to see my breath, hear the crunching of frost-covered grass under my feet, and see sparkling stars in the blackest of skies—it’s all part of the season and how I’ve come to love it. I know that we’re not there, and I’m getting ahead of myself. One thing at a time. But, yes. I like November.

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