Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Uncomplicated Gospel Part 1: Meeting Jesus, CAD, and being 14.

There are moments in your life that you know you'll remember forever.
Going to youth group for the first time would not normally top the charts of memories for most people, but it does for mine.
Almost ten years ago I went to youth group for the first time.
It was a Tuesday night, and I'm confident I met Jesus in the flesh that night.
Ok, I saw Jesus in the flesh that night. I saw Him in the faces and hearts of His people. I'd never seen Him before until then. I wouldn't meet Him formally for a few more months.

Of course, the details are fuzzy now.
I had been having a really hard time at school.
I was a freshman, and I had somehow wiggled my way into the popular crowd of kids. As much as I was glad to finally have "cool" friends, they weren't exactly the nicest gaggle of gals. I was hurting. Hurting from an eating disorder that was making me sick and weak. Hurting from broken relationships. Hurting from the things I was hiding from my friends and family. Hurting from rumors about me spreading left and right. Rumors so false and hurtful I didn't even want to show my face at school. Rumors that didn't make sense. High school is brutal. 14 is an age I'd never, ever want to go back to.

A friend of mine invited me to her youth group one night.
I had always been curious about church. My family chose the non-church going route, so I literally had zero idea who Jesus was. Zero.
In hindsight, I'm glad I didn't know anything about Jesus -- it allowed me to approach church going without any qualms.
I went with open eyes and ears, not knowing who I would meet or what I would see.
We walked in and I was clearly the new girl. Heads turned, but not in a creepy way. Turned in a "I'm interested in who you are" kind of way. I was asked to stand up and introduce myself. I explained where I went to school and what I did for fun. Ice skating at the local ice rink was on that list.

We sang songs I didn't know. But for some reason I liked them.
I don't remember the message that night -- heck, I barely remember the message from church 3 days ago.
While I don't remember a lot of visual details, I can tell you very clearly the emotional details.
You could see the care in their [the leaders] eyes.
You could hear the interest in their voice.
They were genuine.
They were kind.
They were loving.
And they had no reason to be loving. They had just met me!

I didn't want to leave CAD (Campus After Dark) that night. I liked these people.
Whatever and whoever they were, they were good.

And the next day they showed up at my ice skating practice.
Again, the details are fuzzy. But, I remember them walking into the arena and standing on the bench so they could see a little further over the ice.
I remember the shock.
I remember the tears that built up just on the surface of my eyes, not enough to fall down my cheeks so not to make a total fool of myself.
I remember thinking, "what the heck are they doing here?"

That was love. Love that didn't make sense. They loved me without knowing my story -- without knowing my mess.

Obviously, I was really excited to go back to CAD the next week. Each week was like opening the next chapter of a book I'd been waiting to read my whole life.

-----------------
In our neighborhood group this week, we spoke about the difference between saying super religious or super Christian things in order to advance the gospel and being Jesus in our workplaces, homes, and out in public. We talked about which side we err on and which side, as a group, we wanted to do more of.

I argued that being Jesus makes more of an impact.
What do I mean by "being Jesus"?
Showing kindness when it's not expected or deserved.
Loving others in spite of their sin -- in spite of who they are on the inside -- in spite of everything.
Serving others even when it hurts.
Showing true interest and care for strangers and people we just met.
Staying humble. It's easy to get puffy when we hear the praises of man. Jesus had every reason to be proud, but He never acted in such a way.

What led me to meeting Jesus, other than God pulling me in, was His people. His people that were Jesus to me. They were Jesus to me so I could more clearly recognize the perfect and resurrected Savior.

In this new season of my life, I don't have a whole lot of face to face contact with people, other than strangers and passers by at the coffee shop or grocery store. I've been sharing my heart in the blog over the past few months, more like pouring it out -- and I want to continue sharing in hopes that you might hear something about Jesus that you haven't heard before.

People approach Christianity with doubt, questions, qualms, preconceieved notions, pain, guilt, and lofty (or low) expectations. They approach it like any other "religion".

Hear me, it's not.

Jesus is not a religion.
The Gospel, or the teaching of Christ, is not complicated.

For centuries people, churches and Chrisitan movements have complicated the message of the Gospel.
Today's "Christianity" is littered with anti-gay sentiment, hate, intolerance, and straight up craziness. People are so turned off by what they see on the news and read on the internet, and they should be. "Christians" in many places have turned the Gospel into a self-serving, holier-than-thou, judgy mess.

My hope is that I can shed some light on what Jesus is really all about.
He's about love.
He's about rescue.
He's about peace.
He's the bridge between us and God -- a bridge we could have never built on our own.

This post has unintentionally become a peice of my testimony. Stay tuned for part 2.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Wait.

Here we are 6 weeks into parenthood and we are being to settle into a new normal. 
This "normal" is anything but normal though, each day brings something new and unexpected.



Take today for example, Felix decided to puke up an entire bottle he had just finished while in his car seat -- completely obliterating our plans to go to church because his car seat cover had to be washed ASAP..and then you have to line dry it. I'll tell you what..

Aint nobody got time for that. 

The hardest part of this new normal is that we no longer make our schedule,
 Felix completely runs the show.
I'm not talking plans here, just a plain old schedule...I mean, I can't even dictate how the next 5 hours are going to go most of the time. 



I think one of the hardest parts of adjusting to parenthood has been the complete impossibility of being selfish (and this is probably a good thing for me.)
I'm lucky if I brush my teeth every three days (sorry, Seth). 
I think I've only changed the bedsheets once since coming home.
We still eat on paper plates with plastic utensils because the only dishes I'm willing to do are bottles.
The only thing I continually stock in the refrigerator is half & half, because I'd be even more of a mess without my morning coffee!
Don't get me wrong, Felix is the joy of all joys. 
But my idol-ridden heart is grieving the days when life was easier,
grieving the days when I could "do me", as the hip kids say. 

We are going to three weddings this year. 
My best advice to newlyweds other than "protect the dickens out of your marriage and your spouse"
 is to wait.
Please, wait to have babies.
Unless you know your eggs are going to dry up tomorrow. 
No matter how ready you think you are, you're still not. 
Cherish your time being alone with your spouse.
Snuggle all day, and all night.
Get dressed up and go to fancy restaurants.
Make out whenever you want.
Stay out until the sun comes up.
Go on a road trip.
circa 2010
Yes, you can still have fun and do many of the things you wanted to do in life with a baby.
But guaranteed it will take a lot more time and effort.
Yes, I wouldn't trade anything in the whole wide world for that baby.
But it's hard.
Really, really hard. 

You'll miss the days when you could leave the house in a split second. 
And going to the movies. 
And your pre-pregnancy clothes. 
And wearing your hair down. 
And taking your sweet time to eat a meal.
Or just eating a meal with two hands. 
And date-night. You will miss date nights where all you can think about is how much you love your hubs instead of how much you wonder how your baby is doing. 


You will love the love. 
You will love the coos and sweet little grunts.
You will likely celebrate poop, believe it or not. 
You will laugh when you get peed on.
You will cherish the snuggles.
You will stare at his face for hours, unaware of how much time has passed.
You will wish he would wake up from his nap because you miss holding him.
You will marvel at the bond you and your baby have. 
Your heart will live outside your body, forever.

You will never, ever regret having that sweet baby though. 
Of course, they are worth it. They are way more than worth it. 
But, wait. 
If you can. 
We wanted to, but God had other plans. Good plans. 
Plan's I'm excited to see come to fruition. 
Don't let the pressure of age or eager wanna-be grandparents get to you. 
Babies are not the end-all of marriage.

In six short weeks our life has shifted dramatically. 
We are still adjusting.
We are settling in to our new digs as parents. 
The dust is starting to clear and we are slowly getting the hang of it.
We love the heck out of our boy.
He is as sweet as they come. 













Saturday, January 11, 2014

2013 in Review: Genuine


I know, I'm late to the party. 
Better late than never when it comes to talking about my favorite year thus far. 

On December 31st, 2012 Seth and I were in New York City, finally on our honeymoon! We spent the day walking from the middle of Central Park all the way to Greenwich village, instead of standing in the middle of times square for 20 hours straight. We ate authentic NYC pizza in Greenwich Village, and hitched a cab back to our hotel before the evening festivities began. We spent over $200 to smoke hookah at a fancy hookah lounge and decided to skip a nice dinner for the sake of our wallet...oh NYC on NYE, your prices are outrageous. At midnight we got as close as we could to Times Square, ate street food for dinner, and kissed under the sparkling Christmas tree at Radio City Music Hall. 


On New Year's Day we boarded a cruise ship and headed south to the Bahamas. 

We spent 8 days relaxing on the ship and exploring a new country! We had a blast. 




Shortly after we returned home we brought home our new furry family member, Penelope. 
She was 4 months old at the time. 



She is now a maniacal cat who drives me nuts on most days. 
But I do love her, a lot more than I expected to.


I also learned how to crochet in January 2013. I am proud of what I've accomplished so far, with the reopening of my shop and the growth of my craft!





In March, we became official members of Garden City Church, and also watched some dear friends meet Jesus and get baptized. There is nothing more beautiful than a life reborn in Christ.


Also in March, we got the surprise of our lives.
 Some curious back pain turned out to be a baby!
It's crazy thinking back to those early days of learning we were pregnant.
So much confusion, anxiety, wonder, and excitement filled our minds.
I was and still am so thankful we had 9 months to prepare! (and even after 9 months we still weren't quite ready)

In April we traveled to Seattle to visit my best friends.
Melissa's boyfriend proposed that weekend, and we got to celebrate their engagement!



We also got to meet up with my college roommate Tori, who is an amazing photographer and took some baby announcement photos for us!




In the next few months we did a lot of growing.
Scratch that, I did a lot of growing. 





Over the summer we traveled south to L.A to visit our dear friends Sean & Carolyn. We spent the day at Disneyland and saw one of our favorite comedians Jim Gaffigan live!



I celebrated my 23rd birthday on July 26th. 


I traveled to Portland to visit Melissa and Ashley for one last hoo-rah before the baby arrived! They celebrated me and Felix with a special little baby shower. We also shopped, and found Melissa's wedding dress!



In August we traveled to Tahoe for a baby-moon. Lots of relaxing, waddling, and a fun day of boating too!


In September we celebrated one year of marriage. One crazy and special year it was. 
We kept it low key, since I was super pregnant at the time. But, one of my favorite things was getting to surprise Seth by singing him a song, the song that we had our first dance to at our wedding. It was a teary, beautiful mess indeed. 


We went to dinner at our favorite place in Morgan Hill, ate a remake of the top tier of our wedding cake and spent one night in San Luis Obispo.




We got another surprise in September and found out that we had to move! We moved to a new apartment near downtown Gilroy. It was a big move for us, especially with me being unable to help with most of well...everything. Our new place is cozy, but we're making it work.
I'm finally learning the art of getting rid of crap I don't need!


I quit my job at CRC when I was 35 weeks pregnant!
They celebrated Felix and I with a little cake before we left. 



In October Melissa and Ashley flew down to California for our baby shower. We had a huge baby shower BBQ, and it was fantastic. There really is nothing better than having all of your favorite people gathered in one place. 



In November we laid low. I was due at the end of November but felt like he was going to come at any point. Those last few weeks were quite uncomfortable but we managed to make it to a few baby classes before Felix arrived!



My due date came and went, but a week later Felix arrived on December 8th, 2013 changing our lives forever. 




The rest of 2013 was spent trying to navigate the first few weeks of being a mom. 
Felix is now 5 weeks old. He is growing like a champ! I have learned a lot about myself in these past few weeks, especially with my emotional endurance. Aside from the physical struggles of giving birth, I have had to deal with the emotional stress of not being able to breastfeed Felix. The circumstances have certainly put my pride in check, which is something I so desperately needed. I have also learned to admit that I need help, and also to ask for it! 

I'm also learning to live with my post-baby body, which is a lot more atrocious that I had originally imagined, especially when my plan for weight loss included breastfeeding. I did not make a plan B in case it didn't work out! Pregnancy is so physically hard on your body and I feel like it will never be the same. And yes, I have "earned my stripes". Yes, my body has just done something amazing. Yes, the reward is worth it. Yes, yes, yes. I agree with all of the other cliche things they say about your post baby body in an attempt to encourage a woman who has just given birth.
But, I have struggled with my body image since I was 7 years old, and I wish that could magically change when I gave birth but it didn't. 
And that's ok. 
I guess I need time, discipline, and some will power to get myself back in shape and more healthy. 
No doubt I'll be running after Felix in no time, so let's hope that contributes. 

-------------
Last year, I chose the word genuine for my word of 2013. 
I wanted to be authentic in word and deed. 
I wanted to commit to being fully present, fully aware, fully vulnerable.
I wanted to experience something raw, awe-inspiring, maybe even terrifying. 
I wanted my heart to be full of truth.
Part of that meant not covering up tough emotions or circumstances, masking them because it was easier to throw them under the rug than to deal with the realness of it all. 

I definitely got what I wanted.

2013 was full of surprises, emotional strain, stress, and sometimes even terror. 
On the flip-side, 2013 was full of new experiences, relational growth, maturity, and a beautiful baby.
My faith in God grew in 2013.
My understanding of His love and care for me grew immensely. 
I was more honest and open that I have ever been before. Most of that honesty was written into this blog. I've learned to lay everything out on the table, because I'd rather be honest about how I'm really doing than leave people with a sense that I was somehow ingenuine or trying to cover something up. 
I want people to know the real me, junk, sin, and ugliness included. 
--------------------

I'm sure 2014 will be equally full of surprises.
Seth will be graduating in May, and he will begin the search for a full time job somewhere in the Bay Area. That thought alone is probably more scary for me than it is for him!
We will also be trying to navigate what my work life will be like. I still have the opportunity to do some part time work, but I'm not sure how beneficial working will be for our bank account if we have to pay for childcare. 
Additionally, my Etsy shop is doing well and I would love for it to continue to grow so it could support us more. Any ideas on how to help it grow more are welcomed!
And of course, Felix will grow and change rapidly in this next year. Right now I stare at his tiny little self as he snores away completely in awe of how much he has already grown in the past 5 weeks! 

PEACE
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33


Choosing one word to focus on for an entire year isn't easy, but in light of the craziness of 2013 I want 2014 to have a little more peace. 
Ok, a lot more peace.
 Not that it will be any less busy or crazy, but I want my heart to have more peace in the midst of it all.
I want to focus less on my plans, and focus more on fixing my eyes on Jesus and trusting His plan. 2013 taught me that my plans kinda suck. Or that I just wasn't meant to make them in the first place. 
I want to put my plans to rest, and find peace in the unknown. 
I want to have peace about my lack of control, I am so often crippled by my fear of things I can't control. 
I want to worry less. I want to spend less time being emotionally distraught over circumstances I can't control.
My mother in law put it so perfectly the other day, "It's time to put your energy into things that you CAN change." (This was in regards to breastfeeding but is a good principle for life in general)
I also want to experience more peace about my own life so I can devote time to serving others in the midst of their crazy lives. Serving others is an easy way to forget myself and my pride. 

Part of experiencing new peace will be an acceptance of impending chaos. 
This is the glorious reality that Christ has offered. We are the blank pages and He holds the pen!
 And surely He is a much better story teller than I. 

-------
peace out!
;)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Felix Alexander: One Month

Dear Felix,
You are one month old.
You are 10 pounds and 3 ounces.
Your head is in the 97th percentile - that is crazy big.
The rest of you is growing pretty well too, in about the 70th percentile. 
You are quite the baby. 
In the past month your Dad and I have learned so much more than we ever thought possible about poop, pee, formula, bottles, and other baby bodily functions. 
We have finally settled on a formula for you. It is the fourth kind, but your tummy seems the least upset by this one. 
Speaking of formula, that stuff is expensive. Dang. I'm thinking about becoming an extreme couponer just to save some money. 
Speaking of eating, you are eating like a beast. In just over a week you have moved from 2.5oz per feeding to 4oz per feeding. You are quickly out growing all of your newborn clothes. 


Your nicknames have expanded quite a bit. We call you:
Dude, Little Dude, Bubs, Sir, Mister & Munch

Right now your favorite thing to do is pee on your parents. Yep, you do that just about every diaper change. 
You also like to blow bubbles from your sweet little lips.
You smell like heaven on earth. Oh man, newborn smell is something else.
When you're awake you like to flail your arms and legs all over the place, it's almost like you're making sure they are still there. 
You fall asleep very easily when your in your car seat going somewhere, so Mom and Dad don't mind taking you on walks or drives. 


You are starting to make more noises.
Yesterday your started cooing. It is awful cute. 
I look forward to your first words. 

You have a love/hate relationship with bath time.
We love it though. After a bath you sleep over 6 hours. 
We also like the way your hair is super fuzzy after a bath.

You also are awake a lot more during the day, I look forward to the days when you play with toys and laugh. I know they are coming soon and I can't wait!



You snore just like your Dad. But that's ok, it actually is better for your worrying mama who always is afraid you will stop breathing in your sleep. I can hear you breathing from the other room, always. 
You are also quite gassy.  Your Dad may have given you that lovely quality, because it's certainly not from me. I've heard the gassiness does pass, with time. Heh, heh. 
Speaking of gas, you F-U-S-S when you have gas. And you have gas after most feedings, so fuss is what you do all day. During that time we call you Mr. Fuss or Fussypants. 


You recognize your Mama's voice and face. I love the way you look at me.
You are startled easily by loud noise, yet you need some type of noise on to help you fall asleep.
Speaking of sleep, you are sleeping 6 hour stretches at night. THANK YOU! As if we didn't love you already, your sleep habits make it that much easier. 


You sure are C-U-T-E. 
Everyone tells us you look like a little old man, that your face is so adult like. We tend to agree. You never really looked like a newborn. 
Strangers tell us you look like your Dad. Family and friends tell us they can't really tell. We don't really know who you look like yet either! I'm sure that will change over time. 
Either way, we are captivated by you. 



Your parents are still getting the hang of everything. 
Sometimes we still give each other looks of panic when we can't figure out why you're crying.
But, we watched a pretty amazing video about understanding baby "language", or your cries. We feel like we have a much better handle on what your needs are.
The other night your Dad was in the other room and I was trying to sooth you, he said " I think he needs to burp." So, I picked you up and put you on my shoulder and you let out the loudest burp I had ever heard from you! Apparently Dad paid better attention during that video!



We took you to our church for the first time this past weekend, and you fussed the whole time. That's ok, we're lucky they record the sermons for us to listen to later!
We also took you to neighborhood group, you did really well! We kept you in the car seat the whole time and rocked you back and forth which kept you asleep for almost 3 hours.
If you had a favorite song I'm convinced it would be "Mama, Rock Me"....because you just loved to be rocked all day long!


Your Grandma comes and babysits you every week for a couple hours so your parents make sure to get some alone time. 
Alone time with each other makes us remember we're still a couple, and that we were a couple long before you got here! Our relationship definitely takes a little more work these days, but staying in love is at the top of our priority list. 
We realize that one of the best ways we can show you how to love, is to show you how much we love each other.


Oh Felix, what can I say?
You have turned our world upside down in the best way possible. 
I love your little life. 
I love that your name means "lucky". We are so lucky to have you. 
I can already tell how quickly time is going to by, time is a jerk like that. 
You're the greatest little baby we could ask for.
And, we love you somethin fierce.