the first snow

“You know, I think we might be through the worst of it,” I said to John yesterday evening. As soon as the words passed my lips, I wondered if I’d spoken too soon. I don’t believe in jinxing things, but as a new, tired mom, I value sleep as one of the most important things in the world. It must be protected.

To be fair, Daniel has ordinarily (as in, for the previous 3 1/2 months of his life) been a pretty good sleeper. A gloriously good sleeper. But for the last two weeks, our little guy has been doing a great deal of eating and growing without a whole lot of sleeping. I feel like he learns something new everyday. He’s smiling all the time, giggling, talking to us with sweet little coos and “guuuh” sounds, playing with his toys and, to my dismay, rolling over. A LOT.

He started this flipping over business at about 2-3 weeks in protest of tummy time. Then, thankfully, he took a few months hiatus. He’s really not into being swaddled, but he has loved sleeping on his tummy. Until, of course, he rolls himself over. Repeatedly. All night. At which point he becomes quite upset and commences screaming until I soothe him back to his tummy again. And repeat. Did I say all night?

At least it feels that way.

After three great I-think-we’re-out-of-the-woods nights, last night was rough. Since John was flying early this morning, we waged this sleep battle in Daniel’s room. Sleep 10-20 minutes, flip over, get angry. And not a cry for 10-15 minutes sort of angry- this kid has serious stamina. I nursed him, burped him, changed him, cuddled him, sang to him, rocked him, prayed over him. Tried to remember that this is temporary and I’m not actually going to be exhausted for the rest of my life forever and ever…

 It was about 3 AM when I happened to open the curtains in his nursery to discover the breathtaking surprise of snow. Already, everything in sight was blanketed in white with large, sparkling flakes glistening in the dim light of the street lamp. I wept for the beauty of it. Tired as I was, it felt like this sight was somehow meant just for me, God’s gift to my weary, frustrated soul. Baby in my arms, we swayed back and forth in the window watching the snow, talking to God. Peace. Stillness. Quiet.

And, finally, Daniel went to sleep. 

life with the little one

Lately I’m loving:
My little boy’s big, dark eyes as he quietly takes in the world around him.
Kissing his head.  Also his nose and his little mouth, his hands, his super soft feet and that sweet spot in the folds of his neck. And his cheeks- those, too. 
His coos– and something that sounds either like a small bird or possibly a dolphin. I can’t decide.
His sweet, milky baby breath.
His love of baths. I’ve been taking the no-fuss approach of just getting in the bath with him. I wouldn’t trade that time for the fanciest baby tub.
The smell of calendula on his skin.
The way he burrows into my chest, sound asleep in his wrap.
How ridiculous he looks in his cloth diapers. He’ll grow into them eventually…. Too quickly, really.
When he lets out a giant, back-arching, limbs-stretching yawn, then smacks his lips. Nyup, nyup, nyup.
I can’t believe Daniel has been here nearly a month already. I’m surprised  by how normal our new life feels, yet I still find myself astonished that this is our son. Half of each of us. We’ve determined that he definitely has my mouth and chin; we’re waiting to see more of John’s baby photos before we make any further judgments.
I am amazed by our Creator’s design, in wonder that this child was formed in my body for nine months, from a few cells at conception to a fully formed, beautiful baby with fingers and toes and crazy long eyelashes. I am in awe that through the miraculous, challenging, messy business of childbirth, I actually pushed this baby out of my body. And if that weren’t enough already, I’m grateful for the ability to continue to feed and sustain this little person now curled up in my arms.
Psalm 139: 13-16 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Early on in my pregnancy, these verses hit me with a force I hadn’t felt before. I was incredibly, incredibly thankful for an easy pregnancy. Aside from being pretty tired during the first trimester, I felt great. So initially, at least, the pregnancy seemed surreal. Day to day life seemed normal.  I was going about my routine as usual. And yet what God was creating in me during even those earliest weeks is indescribable.

Even with everything we know from science today, we can’t really explain all the complex, miraculous processes involved in the creation of a human being. The Psalmist’s language portrays these processes as the intentional, involved, creative work of God. It is a physical, yet mysterious process- Daniel was created, knit together, made in the secret place, woven—intimately known by the Almighty God.
Thinking about pregnancy in these terms, I am all the more devastated by abortion. It is the deliberate destruction of God’s masterpiece, one created in His very image. It is a crime not only against the vulnerable unborn, but against the Giver of Life. God sees their unformed bodies; it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the moment of conception or eight weeks or twenty weeks or a full-term, “viable” baby. The point is that long before a pregnancy test reads positive, regardless of how that result came to be, God has a purpose and a plan for the unborn child. I am reminded again that it’s not enough to be passively pro-life, if there really is such a thing. If we truly value all life as given by God, we have no choice but to see abortion, the killing of the vulnerable unborn, as a most grievous sin. How will we respond? With prayer and support for mothers and children, with counseling and loving and awareness-spreading, yes. But more specifically? It’s something worth thinking and praying about. 

Fearfully and wonderfully made. We know this full well. 

Moving Matters

After a couple busy weeks of getting everything in order to move overseas (think government passports, sorting orders, a few briefings, microchipping Kaia, medical clearance, etc.), John left for training in Dallas and then St. Louis on April 6th. We tried to motivate ourselves to pack as much as possible before he left, but there’s only so much you can do until right before the movers arrive. It’s also pretty un-homey to live among boxes and sad, bare walls for weeks. Kaia seemed to know exactly what was going on and made a point of climbing into empty boxes to ensure she couldn’t be forgotten.

We were miserably unprepared to leave Los Angeles. I think we might’ve started packing the night before our movers arrived. While our apartment was quite small and we didn’t have much stuff, that’s not a strategy I’d recommend to anyone! This time around, we were in a much better place with a few key “lessons learned” to keep in mind:

Yes, the military moves us (unless we elect to do so ourselves). And the company they contract will pack our stuff. But….

1. Your idea of “packed” and the movers’ definition might be quite different.

When we unpacked in Columbus, we discovered that my wedding dress had been crumpled beneath John’s skis and our outdoor equipment. Our kitchen drawers had haphazardly been emptied into boxes.  Our nice knives were “packed” totally unwrapped- just tossed into a box with all of our flatware and several (consequently ruined) books.


2. The more organized you are before a move, the better. 

This is certainly an ongoing process, one I’m sure is just about perfected by the seasoned military family. We’ll get there in time… 

3. Never underestimate the power of fresh snickerdoodles. 

They may have considerable influence over your movers’ motivation to do their job well. Also helpful are tunes. Lots of tunes.

4. Accept help. 

…maybe especially if you happen to be pregnant and otherwise alone.

I was incredibly humbled by my friends in Columbus who gave so much of their time and energy to help me prep the house for our final inspection. It takes a special someone to be willing to scrub your bathroom or detail your buggy window tracks. Looking back now, I can’t imagine having done it without them!

5. Simplify. Always. 

Since we’re going to be doing this fairly often, we want to use each move as an opportunity to reevaluate our stuff. We’d like to live by this adage:

With an overseas move, this is a bit more clear-cut in some ways. For example, it didn’t make sense to hold on to several appliances we know we’d have to store in Germany due to the electrical incompatibility. Some things are fine with adapters and transformers, but other things just aren’t worth the risk.We sold and donated quite a bit before packing up and now that we’re here, we’re thankful! German homes really don’t have storage, period. 

6. In the end, it’s all just stuff. 

Things will be lost and damaged. It’s inevitable. We actually heard an account of one person’s shipment which was lost at sea…twice. He lost all of his belongings both en route to an overseas assignment and again on the way back! Obviously his is an unusual case; if nothing else, it makes for a really crazy story! 
Our stuff certainly helps to make a new place more homey, but it does not define us. Home is wherever we are together and, ultimately, we know that heaven is our home. I wonder if one advantage to a transient, military life is the reminder that we are but sojourners on this earth. 
—–Wrapping up this post several months after our initial move from Mississippi, we’re finally sitting among the last of the mostly-unpacked boxes. There’s nothing like sleeping in your own bed again and preparing meals in your own kitchen! We’re thankful that our stuff arrived intact and that we are able to so quickly settle here-all things considered, we couldn’t ask for a much smoother process. We are incredibly relieved to see the pieces falling into place as we figure out our new life here in Germany. Discovering and dusting off this post has been a helpful reminder of how far we have come and of the Lord’s abundant goodness to us each step of the way!

Goodbye, 4119 Mississippi. It’s been quite a year!

Beautiful Spokane

While John was away for training in Washington, I flew out to visit Stephen and Jess in Spokane. Unfortunately, John’s schedule prevented our paths from crossing while I was in town, but I enjoyed a few wonderful days of catching up with Stephen and Jess. It had been a whole year since we’d seen one another at their wedding and certainly much longer than that since we’d really had a chance to just hang out. 
Spokane is stunning. It’d be challenging to think of reasons not to live there! John and I passed through very briefly on a cross-country road trip in the fall of 2012, but it was extra special to share the beauty of this city with Stephen and Jess and to catch a glimpse of the life they’re creating together. 
We walked around downtown near the river. 

We spent an afternoon in Manito Park, which offers garden after garden of the most beautiful flowers.

We also hiked a bit in Riverside State Park, breathing in the fresh pine and loving the sunshine.

There was much tea drinking and reminiscing, reading, singing, and Scrabble-playing. What more could I ask for? Thanks for hosting me, Stephen and Jess! So thankful I got to spend some time with you before we head overseas.

Spontaneous St. Louis

Towards the end of his time training in the C-21 in St. Louis, John found himself with a relatively free weekend and became quite determined that I should drive down from Zion to visit. We’d already been apart for about a month and although the separation would only last a few more days before he’d have a few days of leave, it was hard to pass up the chance to see the city together.

All day, he texted reasons for me to drive down.

“You could be here in five hours.”

“We could hang out all weekend.”

“There’s a free symphony.”

“The weather is supposed to be perfect.”

My mom mentioned off-hand that she’d once flown from St. Louis to Chicago for an incredibly great price, possibly cheaper than the cost of gas. It sounded too good to be true- air fare these days can be ridiculous, especially last minute. But just for kicks, we checked and managed to find a few miraculously reasonable seats left on a flight that evening.

We bought the tickets, I packed a bag and left within 40 minutes for the airport. It was possibly the most spontaneous thing I’ve ever done. By 8:30 that evening, John and I were heading back to Scott Air Force Base and making plans for our time together.

Over the weekend, we enjoyed a few great meals out including a delicious “plate of swine” at the Schlafly Tap Room and a night of authentic Peruvian cuisine. The weather was just about perfect; a nice, sunny respite from a week of gloom and rain in the northernmost part of the state.

We visited the St. Louis Zoo, which has quite an impressive number of elephants. 

We walked around downtown and stopped to see the Gateway Arch, naturally. 
It’s so much bigger than I thought!

We enjoyed discounted military tickets to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the historical (stunning!) Fox Theater. We also nabbed free seats to the St. Louis Symphony performing Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, a portion of which I got to sing in high school. 
It was a short but sweet weekend together! We’re definitely looking forward to the end of this transitional time and the opportunity to live in the same place once again. 

Thoughts on Mississippi

Well, my last post here was in August. As in, nearly eleven months ago. John had just been through track select and was settling into the final phase of pilot training. Approximately one million things have happened since then. While the days of pilot training can be incredibly long, the weeks are mysteriously fast. They melt into months at quite the alarming rate so that before you know it, it’s all over. A new chapter begins.

So far, that chapter has been unbelievably hectic and overwhelmingly good. We find ourselves on the brink of many, many life changes. In light of this, it seems all the more necessary to take a step back and reflect. To take a breath. To pause from organizing suitcases and attempt to organize my thoughts about what this year has been and all that lies before us. First up, a few thoughts on Mississippi.

Oh, Mississippi.

I’d be lying if I told you we’ll really miss it. The place, that is.

We don’t love mosquito bites in January. We’re convinced that Mississippi drivers are some of the worst in the country. We don’t particularly care for Southern food. We really miss mountains and large bodies of water. We realized that for most of our lives, we’ve taken for granted access to airports and larger cities with a greater variety of opportunities- theater, music, art, culture, etc. My insect tolerance is pretty remarkable right now.

But the people make a place, and we know that this will be true of any assignment, anywhere. C. S. Lewis said that “friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one…”

Until this past year in Mississippi, we had yet to experience a military community. We’d heard time and again that this community becomes your family. I’ll freely admit that this seemed a bit too mushy to be true- we already have family. We even like our families.

But there is no doubt that we have begun to see the truth in this. We’re so thankful that despite our original intentions in moving to Columbus, we lived on base. It was refreshing to live among people encountering the same challenges and celebrating similar joys. I was encouraged by the common understanding shared among the wives- women who in nearly every way could say “me too”.

I’m thankful for these women who were willing to meet each week for Bible study over a pot (or several) of coffee. I’ll miss the days when we were still together five hours later with no shortage of things to talk about. I’m grateful for honesty and transparency and discussions about identity and value and purpose, about finding our place during a very busy, transient year. I’m grateful for people willing to plant roots and invest, all the while knowing that we’d eventually be sent our separate ways.

I’m thankful for spontaneous day trips to Tuscaloosa for the sake of Target and Starbucks, or outings to Starkville for an afternoon at 929 Coffee Bar or just a change of scenery. We loved shared dinners and evenings of board games. When the heat really arrived, spending free afternoons at the pool with friends was just about perfect.

I’m thankful for Kaia, who has brought such joy into our lives. She has been an especially wonderful companion to me while John is away. We enjoyed many hours at the swamp lake together.

I’m thankful to have had the freedom this past year to support John through a rigorous yet rewarding program. I watched a little boy several days a week- a schedule that allowed me to be out of the house and busy, yet available to adapt to John’s ever changing schedule. It often meant 4 AM breakfasts one week and 10 PM dinners the next… and while far from perfectly, we made the most of it. John worked incredibly hard and put in long hours studying and preparing for flights. Our conversations mostly revolved around future assignments. Somewhere deep down, I’m hopeful we still have the social skills to discuss something other than airplanes!

It was a year of creating home…again. We hung photos and rearranged furniture and tried to garden–mostly unsuccessfully. Mississippi’s heat and humidity were not kind to our vegetables, though our indoor herbs and succulents thrived. We also learned enough woodworking to build a table together.

It was, all in all, a good year. We left Mississippi with such incredible blessings. We have a wonderful dog and good friends. John finished pilot training and earned his wings just as I completed my degree through Moody. We’re welcoming a baby in only a few short weeks. God is good!

Up Next

“What’s next?”

It’s a question we get all the time. ALL the time. And in general, I feel like our answers are pretty unsatisfying.

“We don’t know”, we usually reply. And we don’t, honestly. We have a few concrete dates: track select,  assignment night, and graduation, but everything else is up in the air. We don’t know where we’re moving next. We don’t know what John will ultimately fly. We don’t know where we’ll be in one year, let alone five to ten.

A few years ago, I think this way of life would have frustrated me. I like planning. I like making lists and accomplishing them. I like knowing what’s next, particularly when there are major life decisions to consider.

But this uncertainty is, in many ways, a blessing because it  forces us to place our trust in a sovereign God. God is in control. God is good all the time. “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). These are the truths that I repeat to myself over sinks of dirty dishes and at two in the morning staring at our ceiling fan and on long walks pushing sleeping babies. We are learning for ourselves that faith is not knowing what the future holds, but knowing who holds the future.

Without the ability to make long term plans, I realize more clearly the truth of James 4:13-15. “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit–yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

All that to say, yesterday was one of those concrete dates. On the arduous journey of pilot training, track select is the fork in the road. After five months in the T-6, training continues in either the T-1, which leads to tanker/cargo aircraft or the T-38, which leads to fighter/bomber aircraft. While there are many, many factors that come into play, most will probably make little sense to people outside the pilot training community (and frankly, I’m just relieved to have this decision behind us!), so I’m going to skip to what we now know: John will complete his final phase of pilot training in the T-1.

He’s going to miss flying the T6 (below), but we’re looking forward to a few less intense weeks of academics and getting excited to start thinking about possibilities for our now ever-so-slightly-less-fuzzy- future.

He’s looking forward to flying with these guys…

and learning a new cockpit. So many buttons! 

I’m so proud of him and all that he has accomplished! 

It’s no California.

We were remarkably unemotional when we left California. I mean, we were sad to go, of course, but mostly I think we were distracted. Distracted by the final details of John’s dissertation, distracted by the planning of our ten day road trip, distracted in our efforts to cram as many mini trips and events into that last week as possible. We were distracted by my impending seven week internship in South Africa, by IFS (initial flight screening) for John in Colorado, by the thought of finding a new place to live and everything that moving entails. Shoot- we didn’t even start packing until the day the movers arrived! 

Given those distractions, it wasn’t until we really settled in here after Christmas that we began to reflect on our time in California.
Four miles from the coast in West Los Angeles to middle-of-nowhere Columbus, Mississippi is a pretty big transition. It’s a bit of a challenge to give little Columbus a chance on it’s own. When asked “How do you like Mississippi?”, we’re tempted to say “Well, it’s no California.” Because it’s not at all….and we miss it!
I miss the weather. 75 and sunny everyday doesn’t really get old. 
I miss biking everywhere. 
I miss reading in the park. 
I miss living within blocks of Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods and co-ops and excellent farmer’s markets.I miss our CSA box and fresh, local produce year round. 
I miss unique, delicious restaurants,Yogurtland, good coffee, real sushi, and excellent boba tea. 
I miss the ocean. Oh, how I miss the ocean! I miss sandy feet and sandy pockets and a sandy purse and a sandy Bible. Even though it was usually freezing, I miss long walks with the waves splashing my feet. There’s something incredibly grounding about standing at the edge of the ocean, the edge of our continent, looking out over an endless expanse of crashing blues. Unknown, unexplored, deep, dark and awesome!  J. I. Packer said that “the life of true holiness is rooted in the soil of awed adoration.” Walking the shore, diving among kelp forests, watching blue whales- we were in awe of the Creator. The magnitude and beauty of the ocean drove us to worship the most magnificent and beautiful one.  
I miss hikes after church, hikes to celebrate birthdays and hikes just because. I miss the mountains and the desert and Yosemite valley and groves of Sequoias. In general, I miss living in a place that simply begged to be explored, a place where being active and outside was so natural and easy.
I miss the kids at Broadway Elementary. The sweet ones, yes, but also and maybe even particularly the fighters- the cursing, disrespectful, impossible children, because not even I can begin to understand what a dark and lonely road they are on. And I wonder if anyone is listening to them. I wonder if anyone has assured them that even if your dad is in jail and your mom is a drug addict and you don’t feel smart or pretty and no one expects you to accomplish anything in this life, that you are deeply loved and so very, very valuable. I wonder if they know that there is, by the grace of God, hope for a better story than the one they are living. 
I miss Pacific Crossroads Church. Sermon podcasts are great, but cannot replace the blessing of being involved in a gospel-centered, Jesus-loving, thinking, creative, passionate church. 
I miss our life groups. I miss inductive Bible studies, especially the nights we didn’t think it possible to glean anything new from a particular passage because we were always, always proven wrong. Every time, we came away with fresh insights and a renewed love for the Word of God. Our Bible studies were Spirit-filled and life-giving. I miss our dinners together and the way we prayed for one another. I miss the real community we created. 
I miss our friends. These were friendships we prayed for before John moved out to Los Angeles alone to begin grad school. God answered those prayers immediately and powerfully and, as an added bonus to gaining John as my husband, his friends became my friends, too. 
I miss finishing-a-PhD-John. Because even though it was stressful and hard and involved a few too many all-nighters, our schedule was much more flexible and we had more time for one another. What a perfect way to begin our marriage!
I miss our tiny apartment with its crooked walls and shoddy paint job and creaking cupboards. And I think I miss it most- all of these things, really- because this was where our life together began. This was the place we unpacked together, the place where we first organized our closet and purchased furniture and hung photos. This was the place we first made our own, declaring it to be our home. Ours, our own little family in our own little home. 
And we know that “home” is not 1631 Westgate or Zion, IL or Pleasant Prairie, WI, but wherever we are together. We will move countless times in the years to come. We’ll rearrange furniture and buy different curtains and pack and unpack ad nauseum… but our first will always be particularly special. 
We have many goodbyes ahead of us and I’m learning that maybe distraction isn’t the worst thing. 
Maybe it’s best to not think about saying goodbye, to not pack too many boxes until the movers arrive. Because if we’re always waiting for what’s next, we’ll be missing what’s now. And even though it’s no California, now isn’t half bad, either. More on that to come!

Our Week

Last Friday, we hosted John’s flight for dinner and a chance to wind down from the week. We enjoyed this super simple (albeit not the healthiest!) recipe for pulled pork, my great-grandma’s giant oreos, and a big cranberry walnut couscous salad. I’m learning how to efficiently feed the masses! 

We spent the weekend enjoying the lovely weather with Kaia. We can’t believe how tiny she used to be or how fast she has become.
We also attended the first student squadron Combat Dining Out which was, to say the least, interesting. Dining Outs are usually very formal military events, but this evening was designed to be a mock version of that. We were to wear uniforms from any service/era and come prepared for water balloons, a ridiculous obstacle course, and BBQ. 
We stocked up on the first peaches and nectarines of the summer. Our kitchen smells amazing! 

We have roses in our front yard- who knew?! I’ve been appreciating them on our windowsill.

John hit the first bird of the year for Columbus AFB. Thankfully, it was a small bird and hit the wing of the plane, not the canopy or the inlets. It’s pretty scary what a bird can do! 

Kaia and I spent a lot of time at the lake on base- I bring course work and she swims, chases dragonflies…. 

and cuddles.  There’s something almost refreshing about a cool, wet dog on a hot day. We’re supposed to make it into the 90’s this week, but the locals say that’s nothing compared to what’s ahead. We’ve resisted turning on our air so far because we were told that once it goes on, it’ll stay on through October. Hello, summer!