God with us, or, why I listen to Christmas music all the time and not just in December

I have always had an awkward relationship with my emotions. Tender feelings only escape me via the written word, and I fear that I never quite get them right, even then. Darker feelings– any wrestling, really, with the world’s cursed realities– I try to put to bed quickly. Run away from the canyon’s edge and you won’t fall in.

That sentiment nonsense is messy, and I hate messes. Especially if they involve crying. I prefer to stew about the problem for a while, talk through it with great animation and volume, and then Move Right Along. Even as a kid I lived a great deal of my life in books, happy to experience other people’s stories but uncertain about what I myself felt.

This is not a good way to live, I found out late last year, because emotions are human. They are a gift, a sharp reflection of God that we get to carry with us. Squashing mine for decades on behalf of convenience and pride was fairly unhealthy. So I stopped squashing. I started to let myself feel, and let myself be an absolute wreck, and often I have hated it– but it has been a holy thing because I have invited the Lord in, to the weakness and fears of my heart, the places that I don’t want to go and certainly never wanted to open up for visitors.

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in the shade of God’s kindness

So we finally had that baby: John Warren, the cutest and happiest one yet. He came at the tail end of May. At ten days overdue, I was anxious and achy and kind of mad. Went to bed on Friday thinking I might have to try induction, then woke up on Saturday in labor. Hurray! It went so smoothly and quickly– with the inevitable pain, but very little fear. I worried my way through Zoe’s birth, and I am so thankful for the courage that God gave me with John.

When I held him for the first time I forgot, at least for a while, the awful things about this pregnancy. All I knew was that a new soul had been safely brought into the world and I was miraculously going to be his mama. I knew that the dark places I had walked during pregnancy had not spoiled my child, that they had not placed any barrier between us or detracted from the love I felt for him. And on the way home from the birth center, I suddenly began to cry, overwhelmed with both joy and disbelief: we had done it. It had been so hard, both the carrying and the delivering of this baby, but we’d come through that wilderness passage and could stop a while in the shade of God’s kindness.

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no truly barren wilderness

Many of us, in our most woebegone moments, like to think that we and our sorrows are unique in world history. No one understands me. Draped elegantly in sackcloth, we wander our internal wasteland convinced that we are beyond comfort or repair.

I do, anyway.  And I’m not even an angsty teenager anymore. A touch of Byronic broodiness just makes us all feel important, doesn’t it?

Of course, that sense of isolation is often legitimate: I don’t mean to downplay the sorrow of living in a cursed world. Our trials are all too real. But even then! Even then, we cannot dare say that no one understands me . . . for Jesus too was alone. He knew the wilderness, if anyone did. When you wish for someone who can share your deepest pain, sufficiently sympathize with your confusion and darkness, just look at the Christ: willingly ripped from his rightful place in Creation, misinterpreted and undermined for his entire life, and finally, abandoned by his Father in the midst of the most agonized humiliation.

I remember where Psalm 27 says, speaking of God’s steadfast love, “My father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.” The psalmist has such reassurance, such confidence that even after the most hurtful human desertion he can think of– his own parents rejecting him– he’ll still have a refuge.

And then I think, for Jesus not even that was true, for the Lord turned his back at Calvary.

So no wilderness is truly barren for us. Our savior and brother Jesus experienced solitude on a cosmic scale, despair in the most searing terms. He knows exactly how we feel, and more.

And in any case, “here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.”

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haul them all before heaven

Farewell, 2016 . . . I can’t say I will miss you!

Well, that is perhaps an unfair assessment of the year. The first eight months brought us many good things. However, since September our life has either been mind-numbing survival mode or sluggish recovery from said survival mode, which makes me hard-pressed to recall what came before. My body is tired. My spirit is tired. I am ready for something new.

A new and quieter season after the galloping pace of the holidays.

A renewed sense of peace as we settle back into the various roles to which God calls us.

A new year of marriage beginning on January 2, celebrating how far our love has come and anticipating how far it has yet to go.

New and welcome changes to our home, from built-in bookshelves to the girls’ cozy pink room to a hopeful kitchen renovation in the fall.

And a new little brother scooting onto the scene this spring. (Ellie firmly believes that our babies “just pop right out” of my belly: may she have the gift of prophecy, from this child forth and forevermore, amen.)

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ponderings from the couch, part 2: above myself

Thanksgiving lately passed us by on the calendar. Of course, for God’s people the season for thanksgiving is always.

When I take time to consider God’s blessings, I can list plenty, so many they surprise me. I wouldn’t be so surprised if I paid closer attention. I have to confess that regular thanksgiving is not a strength for me. God’s goodness fades into the normal structure of my day, hidden among all the things that seem to “just happen,” like sunrises and stinky diapers. Because His gifts are so abundant I take them as a given . . . but when I slide life under a more discerning lens, I suddenly perceive His work.

Notably, withdrawing from social media/the internet in general tends to clear up my mind. I love my online world but it certainly spills out of its boundaries with alarming ease; all the digital fuzz gets to be blurring for this tired mommy brain. When I move the internet to the back of the line, I can more easily see what is truly going on with me and Jesus.

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ponderings from the couch, part 1: because I’m His

Hello! I am alive! Indeed, I am resurrected. If you too have experienced Super Bad Morning Sickness, you’ll understand when I say that moving into the second trimester can feel like emerging from the grave.

Yes, we are having another baby. That will be a good thing, such a good thing, but I confess, with this pregnancy it took me a long time to arrive at that conclusion.

Overall I am one of those annoying women who loves being pregnant. It makes me happy: I feel strong and capable and needed. I think I look awesome with a baby bump. I have natural births and write overly detailed birth stories and am really into marveling at the magic of life and embracing the power of the female body and crap like that (I even encapsulated my placenta last time, for Pete’s sake). I dream of becoming a doula someday.

However, the first couple months of this pregnancy knocked me to the flooooor. Repeatedly.

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an imaginative push.

Last week I told Jared that one of my main projects, for the foreseeable future, was to encourage the girls to play together happily.

I needed them to play, not putz around and get into trouble. They had to play together, and stop demanding that Mommy come draw them a picture, finish the block tower, or build a nest out of blankets. They had to do it happily, instead of the shouting competition they usually lapsed into. In short: how do I get my daughters to occupy each other, without needing an event organizer or a referee, for at least twenty minutes?

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