Six Months of Awesome

I’m having a hard time writing about motherhood.  It’s too much.  I feel all of the things (mostly intense joy).  Also, the “mom brain” phenomenon that I heard about has hit me hard, and I’m not my most articulate self lately.  I’m not so much with the words.  It’s sad, but I’m hopeful that it won’t be a permanent condition.

Our sweet boy turned six months old last Friday in the midst of two weeks of travel and hosting and babysitting, so now I sit down to write about this milestone…and I just…there are no words big enough to describe my thoughts on this subject.  Benjamin is feisty and social and hilarious.  He loves to snuggle but he also loves to move. He is as wild as his hair would suggest and as sweet as his smile would indicate.  He sleeps like a champ and eats as though he’s certain each feeding will be his last.  He’s very verbal and laughs a lot.  He is DETERMINED.  He has a wide range of dramatic facial expressions.  He loves to grab everything in sight (his favorite is having two fistfuls of someone’s hair).  He fights naps because he doesn’t want to miss anything.  He loves music and the great outdoors.  His eyes light up when he’s in a new place or has a new experience (most recently starting solid foods).

He has the ability to completely wear us out, but he has brought us more joy than we ever could have imagined.  Benjamin has taught us so much about our Creator.  Bryan and I are so thankful for this beautiful, vivacious boy and humbled that God chose us to be his parents.  And since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are a few that express the past six months a bit better than I can…

*Note:  The pictures on the striped rug are his monthly pictures, starting with 1 month old.

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Ben’s Birth Story: The Finale

Here is the conclusion of Ben’s birth story!  If you’re still reading, thanks for sticking with me.  🙂

At first, I thought the nurse who was with us during this time was less friendly than the others had been.  Then I realized that she was just focused and serious because she needed to be prepared for anything to happen.  This was the main event.  I pushed for about 40 minutes, with Bryan, the nurse and (toward the end) my awesome OB encouraging me.  It really didn’t feel like a long time, and I was concentrating hard on making as much progress as possible with each push.  I was SO ready to meet my boy!  I remember being surprised that for much of this time it was just me, Bryan and our nurse in the room.  It felt quiet and less dramatic than I imagined it would be.  We also thought they would have Bryan put on scrubs.  Apparently, that’s only for C-sections.  I could tell when the baby was close to being born by the increasing pressure and the rising level of excitement in the room.

My heart was beating fast, and a wave of emotion swept over me as I took in the reality of the moment.  “Look down,” my doctor said.  And just like that, she held him up.  I couldn’t breathe.  It was so surreal.  She placed this tiny, beautiful boy on my chest and time stood still.  It was love at first sight.  I don’t remember the OB showing Bryan where to cut the cord because I couldn’t take my eyes off of my baby’s sweet face.  I did a weird laugh/cry kind of thing and looked at Bryan.  His eyes were as big as his smile.  They took Ben over to give him his first bath and do the tests and measurements.  He was fussing a little bit, which was a beautiful sound for us.  When I heard his weight, I couldn’t believe it.  He was not the big baby I was expecting.  Everything looked good.  Praise God!  Bryan told me that he wanted to go out and tell our family, but he wouldn’t announce the name.  He would let me do that.  He came back quickly, and awhile later we were settled in our postpartum room.

Everyone came in walking gingerly and speaking in hushed, reverent tones.  I loved watching the awe on their faces–all these people who have loved me so well for my whole life.  Now, we were making them grandparents, aunts, uncles, great grandparents, great aunts and uncles and whatever you call your cousins’ relationship to your kids.  They gathered around the bed as I introduced him by name for the first time.  I’ve always loved the name Benjamin, and Benjamin in the Bible was beloved.  The apostle Paul was from the tribe of Benjamin.  Our son’s middle name is Walter after my Pawpaw.  I hope I never forget the look on my Dad’s face when he heard that.  The cozy hospital room radiated with joy.  Just as everyone started to pass Ben around, I saw someone outside the doorway in my peripheral vision.  It was the nurse who helped me deliver Ben, and she was smiling.  She didn’t come in, and I don’t think she saw me notice her there, but I’m so glad she got to see our family celebrating this little life she helped me bring into the world.

It was difficult to choose which pictures to share here, but I’ve included a few of those first few days with our little Easter baby.

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Thank you for sharing in our joy!

Ben’s Birth Story Continued

When they wheeled me off the elevator on the Labor and Delivery floor, I started having a contraction.  I was holding my stomach with one hand and gripping the wheelchair with the other while taking short, fast breaths.  I remember thinking that it felt like how labor is always depicted in the movies.  We wheeled past the nurse who had checked me that morning.  Bryan told me later that she expressed her disappointment as we were passing that her shift was ending right as we arrived.  Very sweet.  We really felt the whole time like the nurses taking care of us loved their jobs.  Their attitudes had a positive impact on our experience, and I was so grateful for each of them.  They got us settled in the room and hooked me up to IV antibiotics because I had tested positive for strep B (not a big deal, apparently, but they want you to have antibiotics to protect the baby as a precaution).

My parents and sister arrived, and we all sat around in the room chatting.  We were excited that the wait was almost over, and I felt so much love and support from everyone.  Our nurse told Bryan that she noticed I was tensing up my shoulders during contractions and encouraged him to help me relax those muscles while I breathed.  I tried to focus on relaxing my muscles, and the contractions continued steadily about 4 minutes apart.  About 3am, I decided to go for a walk with Bryan and my IV pole.  I knew I would probably want an epidural at some point, and I wanted to be mobile while I still could.  We made two laps around the L&D floor, and the intensity of the contractions really kicked up.  I was HURTING!  At this point I had been laboring for more than twelve hours with no pain relief.  I decided I was ready for the epidural.

Our family left the room, and the nurse anesthitist was there within 10 or 15 minutes.  I remembered what to expect from our “prepared childbirth” class, and that helped me to be mentally at ease during the process.  Everything went smoothly and the three parents and my sister came back in.  I was dilated to a 5 or 6 by then.  They decided to go get some sleep at our house since it was close to the hospital.  Bryan and I tried to rest.  The epidural started wearing off on my right side around 10am, so they gave me more medicine.  Suddenly, it was like my body realized how exhausted it was after weeks of not sleeping well, carrying around this huge belly, and then 12+ hours of labor.  I got more relaxed than I’d been since…well, before I was pregnant, probably, and fell into a deep, deep sleep.  It was indescribably glorious.  My friend Julie told me that she experienced something similar, which made me feel less crazy, because, really—what a weird time for a great nap.

At some point, my doctor came in to check me and broke my water.  Bryan told me that our family was back and hanging out in the waiting room area.  My brother was on his way.  It worked out well that the next day was Good Friday, so he would have left that day to come home from college for Easter anyway. The waiting room crew  :)

The waiting room crew had grown by the afternoon.

The next thing I remember is hearing the nurse call my OB and seeing someone wheel an incubator into the room.  They were getting ready.  It was about to be go time!  “I must wake up and give birth!” I thought.

Bryan snapped this picture while I was using the phone screen as a mirror—getting the hair up and getting focused.  Here we go!

Bryan snapped this picture while I was using the phone screen as a mirror—getting the hair up and getting focused. Here we go!

 

Apparently this is going to be a three parter.  🙂

 

Pregnancy is Crazy: Part Two

Here is the link to Part One if you missed it yesterday.  I’m blogging my thoughts on pregnancy this week.  A few more things about this experience that I want to remember…

I want to remember how pregnancy has changed my body image and taught me so much about self-sacrifice and humility.  Some days I feel cute or even beautiful with my curves, thicker hair, perpetually rosy cheeks.  Other days I feel huge and clumsy.  I’ve always thought of other pregnant women as beautiful, so I’m trying to see myself in that same light.  We are often our own harshest critics, aren’t we?  The comments can be disconcerting, too.  Last week someone told me I was going to have a big baby.  Rude.  Today, someone told me I’m only showing in my stomach.  Huh.  Thanks.  These contradictory comments happen all the time.  For the record, Bryan has told me often how beautiful I am to him, and that helps.  My body is changing rapidly, and it’s out of my control.  This is something that I must accept–even embrace–as I focus on my baby’s well being.  My priorities have shifted, and that’s a good thing.

I want to remember the pure, unadulterated joy of family and friends when we shared our news and as the pregnancy  progresses.  Nothing quite compares to being able to tell your parents that they are going to become grandparents and your siblings that they will become aunts and uncles for the first time.  Bryan and I both got to experience this.  Our families mean the world to us.  They have done so much for us and supported us so well in a million different ways.  I will never forget how deeply satisfying it was to share this good news with them and see their smiles and happy tears.  Now we watch their faces light up as they witness my growing belly and help us prepare for his arrival.  🙂  What a blessing.

I want to remember my sheer delight in preparing.  Now that we’re officially moved into our new house and getting settled, I am able to do something that I’ve been waiting to do since about September.  I am nesting!  I will do a future post about Baby’s nursery, but suffice it to say I am loving the process of planning it out and selecting his things.  We have some showers coming up in February, and I’m really looking forward to that.

I want to remember daydreaming about holding him and imagining countless details about the person he will be.  I often wonder what he will look like.  This little boy:IMG_0946Kara2and this little girl:eyesgrew up and fell in love.

What kind of tiny human will the combination of our features make?  I can hardly wait to see him!  I just keep picturing a mini version of my handsome husband, and I have to remind myself that we could have a blonde or even a redhead, and that would be okay, too.  Haha.  I know for certain that we will be completely in love with our little guy.  We already are!  If you read this someday, Baby, I want you to know how loved you were even before you were born.  Your papa and I (and the rest of your family and friends) can’t wait to meet you in just a couple of months!IMG_5586

Pregnancy is Crazy: Part One

Pregnancy is crazy.  This is the thesis of my two part series.  I’m one of those girls that has always wanted to be a mom.  Growing up, I often tried to mother my younger siblings and cousins…with mixed results, I’d say.  🙂  Bryan and I have talked about becoming parents from the beginning of our relationship, and now that it’s actually happening we are in awe.  It’s really unbelievable what God does to bring a child into this world.  And while we marvel at the miracle that is unfolding for us every day, I also want to take note of the often humorous challenges that go along with pregnancy.  I was always taught that you have to be able to laugh at yourself.  It’s the go-to coping mechanism that my family has passed down for generations, and I can see the resilience that it has cultivated.  So, as I celebrate making it to 31 WEEKS this week, here is a list of things I want to remember (highlights and struggles):

I want to remember how out of control my emotions have been.  It feels like every emotion is ten times more intense than usual.  I am basically on the verge of tears at all times.  One minute, everything is calm and fine and the next tears are pouring down my cheeks.  It’s the strangest thing, because even in the moment I can usually acknowledge that I am being irrational, but these crazy hormones prevent me from being able to control my tears or anger or anxiety.  At my worst, I allow my anxiety to escalate to the point that I imagine awful scenarios when Bryan is a few minutes later than I thought he would be coming home from work or take my frustration out on people who love me.  One such occasion during the first trimester is what we now refer to as the “Parmesan Incident”.  I made dinner for the first time in weeks.  I had been so sick and exhausted after work each day, that I hadn’t been cooking.  I love to cook, and eating take out looses it’s charm quickly, so I was thrilled to be making a meal again.  It took all of my energy to get the turkey chili into the pot to simmer.  I went to nap on the couch until Bryan came home from work.  When he arrived, I proudly announced that I had made dinner.  He just needed to put the chili into the bowls and add the cheese on top.  When he walked over and sweetly presented the bowls to me, I heard myself shriek, “PARMESAN???!!”  (Remember, my husband is not from the U.S.  He had no idea that turkey chili is traditionally eaten with shredded cheddar.  He opened the fridge, saw the parmesan cheese, and went for it.)  The horrified look he gave me in that moment let me know that I was becoming someone he didn’t recognize.  Out. of. control.

More often than raging anger, I experience spontaneous ugly crying.  Almost anything can set me off.  I have ugly cried over an episode of Car Talk on NPR shortly after one of the brothers passed away at the end of last year, the movie The Book Thief (if you’ve seen it, you know), sweet prayers Bryan and my family have prayed over dinners, not being able to help paint the master bedroom in our new house, getting rerouted by Google Maps because of construction and having to take a cold shower.  I could go on, but I think this captures it well enough.  Is it embarassing to admit these things?  A little.  But this is part of the adventure.  🙂

I want to remember the stages of growth and development.  It’s been completely fascinating for me to read updates about the various milestones Baby is achieving.  For instance, how is it possible that he was fully formed by the end of the 3rd month?    His heart started beating at about 6 weeks.   Wowzer!  It’s cliche because it’s true–it really is a miracle.  It’s easy to worry about all the things that could go wrong, so I remember feeling a huge sense of relief when I read at 24 weeks that Baby would likely survive if he was born from that point on.  And if the updates weren’t enough to reassure me of how he is growing, feeling movement really confirms it.  Aside from the joy this baby is already bringing to our families, my favorite part of this experience has been feeling him move.  It’s amazing!  His kicking and shifting movements are getting stronger.  He weighs more than three pounds now, after all.  🙂  Occasionally his kicks and punches are even painful, but mostly I love that they’re getting stronger.  Bryan can feel them better, and we can even see my stomach move.   More and more, I feel like there is a human in there and not just a tiny, seahorse-like creature.bump

I want to remember my weird cravings.  I am generally a food lover and not picky at all, so it’s been interesting to have to be so careful with what I choose to consume.  The consistent cravings have been:

1.  Citrus–grapefruit, oranges, lemons and limes.  Bring them on–the more the better!  Some sweet friends made us a dinner of citrus stir fry and citrus cheesecake recently.  I devoured it.  Cooking for a pregnant woman and including her cravings is just the perfect way to make her feel loved, in my opinion.cravings

2.  Chicken.  Other meats have turned my stomach at times, and some are on the no no list for pregnancy like cold cuts and sushi, but chicken has been a faithful friend.

3.  Dairy.  Regular Kara would never drink a glass of milk.  I only liked milk on cereal and had actually switched to almond milk awhile ago.  Regular Kara enjoyed cheese, but not in large quantities.  Regular Kara would choose frozen yogurt over ice cream every time.  Baby loves milk, cheese, yogurt, frozen yogurt, ice cream, cream cheese, whipped cream, etc.  Husband is a big milk drinker, so he finds this particularly hilarious and proudly proclaims, “That’s my son!”

These three have been steady since the second trimester.  Then there are the random ones.  One Sunday afternoon, we were hanging around the apartment, and I suddenly had a realization.  “I want brownies and lemonade!”  I said it out loud, excitedly.  Because I spend so much time feeling super hungry and not knowing at all what sounds good to me, it was great to suddenly want something specific, even something as odd as brownies and lemonade.  I immediately popped up and went to the kitchen to bake some brownies.  I ordered lemonade at dinner that evening, and the craving was satisfied.  Happy tummy, happy baby, happy me.  Another time it was a cinnamon roll, which I don’t normally buy.  Bryan went out to put gas in my car and came back with a box from Cinnabon.  He’s the best.  🙂

I want to remember the physical hardships— gagging every time I brush my teeth, getting mean heartburn from anything I digest, hot flashes, perpetual, voracious hunger, restless leg syndrome and muscle cramps, nausea and food aversions (most recently the smell of popcorn.  so weird.), headaches, overwhelming exhaustion, the inability to breathe through my nose…  These discomforts can be hard to endure, particularly since I’m working full-time (a fact that baffles my Grammy).  But there is something about fighting through challenges as I grow this baby that makes me feel empowered.  The best things in life don’t come easy.  While I know I could never do anything to earn the honor of becoming a mother, it seems appropriate that the road to bring our son into the world is a bit rough and rocky.  We feel incredibly thankful that it’s been a healthy pregnancy thus far, and we pray every day for Baby.

Come back tomorrow for Part Two!!  🙂

Grateful for the Growing

I took a little blogging break this fall, and posts may continue to be more sporadic for awhile.  I will post the rest of our Italy trip, but I need to interrupt that series for a minute to share some exciting news.  Bryan and I are going to have a baby! Announcement When I chose my one word for the year, I have to admit that I didn’t just choose the word “GROW” because we were moving to a new place and starting new jobs.  I hoped that our family would grow this year, too.  Now I’m well into my 2nd trimester.  Aaahhh!  Oh, and we’re buying a house for the baby to live in.  If all goes smoothly, we will be moving in January.  I’ve been wanting to write about all of these life happenings in this space for more than a month, but it all felt like too much to express.  How do you begin to describe such an experience?  I’m still not sure.  But I’m writing nonetheless, because I’m tired of not writing.  🙂

I don’t think we really, fully believed that I was pregnant until the first sonogram in August.  Then I spent the next several weeks feeling horribly ill while trying to simultaneously keep myself from worrying that something could go wrong and also mentally and emotionally prepare myself for the possibility that something could go wrong.  This sounds completely crazy, and it has been, but maybe some of my mom friends can relate?  The first trimester was rough.  It wasn’t until mid-October that I started to get my energy back and feel like myself again.  This is a humbling experience in so many ways, and I’m thankful for all that God is teaching me.

These days, we’re feeling really thankful and full of joy.  Bryan and I have basically been grinning ear to ear since the anatomy scan at Week 18.  That’s only a slight exaggeration.  It’s a BOY!admin-ajax.php

I didn’t think it was possible for my sweet husband and I to be any more sappily in love with each other, but, my goodness, this has done it.  We are both the oldest in our family, and this is the first grandchild on both sides.  So, all of our relatives are going gaga over our unborn child, too.  It’s so much fun.  Do you ever have moments or even seasons of life when you realize that you’re making memories that you will always treasure?  It’s a rare gift (for me, anyway) to be aware of that while it’s happening.  I think it’s sometimes referred to as being nostalgic for the present.  I felt that way the semester I studied abroad and got to travel around Europe with some amazing friends.  I felt it when I met Bryan and periodically during our subsequent dating, engagement and newlywed seasons.  And I feel it now.  This time is so special, and I want to soak it up and remember everything.  I hope to capture some of the experience here with updates over the next few months.  Thank you for reading, dear ones.  We would appreciate your prayers during this incredible time in our lives.  We know that everything is about to change, and we are so glad to be on this adventure together.

Last year at this time, we were saying goodbye to my beloved Pawpaw.  I still sometimes can’t believe he’s not here with us anymore.  I’m so grateful for his life and for the blessing of this new life that brings some much-needed joy to this season for our family.  Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

World Cup Fever & Sicilian/American Weddings: Romance+Food=Happiness

Today I continue my recap of our trip to Italy!  This may or may not be interesting to read, but I want to remember the details.  🙂  So, here we go…

The bride and groom, along with the groom’s family, were wonderful hosts.  They reserved rooms for us at a B&B in a great location with a big wrap-around patio.  That first morning, we had a Sicilian breakfast of pistachio croissants and granita.  Granita is like a snow cone, almost.  I had them twice in Sicily–coffee and amaretto the first time and strawberry and lemon for the second one.  We rented a car along with two other American bridesmaids, and Bryan masterfully drove us through the crazy streets of Catania, impressing everyone.  Driving in Costa Rica would make me nervous.  Sicily?  I think I’d just learn the bus system.  Dario’s mom made us a wonderful lunch of pasta with tomotoes, bread, fresh mozzarella with basil and chocolate for dessert.  Deliciousness

We arrived in time for me to attend a bridal shower.  It happened to be the day that Costa Rica played Italy in the World Cup.   The plan was for the men to go out for pizza while the shower was taking place at the house of Dario’s sister and her husband.  They had graciously offered to let Bryan watch the game at their house before the shower.  My brave (?) husband put on his Costa Rica soccer jersey.  For those of you unfamiliar with the World Cup, Italy has traditionally been a very competitive team.  Costa Rica was happy just to qualify to go to the World Cup.  So, understandably, Bryan thought he would be safe to wear his jersey.  Fast forward to the last half hour of the game.  Husband is perched on the edge of the couch next to me doing a good job of containing his sheer delight while Italian men float in and out of the living room, eyeing the screen with frustration.  “Feel my heart,” he says.  It was racing.  Moments after the game ended with Costa Rica WINNING 1 to 0, I watched him walk away with a group of twenty or so Italian men in his bright red and blue official Costa Rica jersey.  I was a bit nervous for him, truth be told.  Afterward, I learned that they were good-natured about the whole thing, teasing him that the winner buys pizza for everyone.

You can barely see Bryan in the back left corner wearing his Costa Rica jersey proudly.

You can barely see Bryan in the back left corner wearing his Costa Rica jersey proudly.

All the ladies got our hair done for the big day.  I was glad Andrea advised me to bring a picture of the style I wanted since my Italian is not so good.  I went for a kind of Elsa from Frozen look.  Simple, elegant, and lasted all night…Elsa hairWedding date

I loved the bridesmaid dresses, too.  The wedding was outdoors, overlooking the Mediterranean (I know!!).  Wedding aerialThey wrote their own vows, and the ceremony was in English and Italian.  It was so emotional and just super romantic.  I love weddings.  (sigh)  The groom’s two nieces and two nephews could not have been any more adorable.  Pre-weddingThe ceremony was followed by appetizers, then we moved inside for a four or five course meal.  Then there was dancing with a live band.  I have no skills, but there was still fun to be had.  Dancin'Then we went back outside for a feast of desserts.  Wow.  The whole thing went from about 6:00pm to about 2:00am.  One thing is for sure.  Italians know how to throw a wedding!Toast

Most importantly, I was so honored to be a part of the festivities, and I’m so, so happy for my friend.  Dario is head over heels for Andrea, and I can’t tell you how much joy it brought me to see them so happy together.  Husband & Wife

In the next post, we’re off to Venice!  🙂

Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

Howdy!  It’s been less lazy and more crazy lately, truth be told.  June flew by, and here we are in the thick of summer, praising God for a “cold front” this week with highs in the mid 80s.  🙂  I’ll take it.  Cloudy weather is my fave.

The view from my office this morning.

The view from my office this morning.

Husband and I returned July 3rd from a trip we had been planning for and praying about since last fall.  We went to Italy, and it was everything that you might expect.  It was amazing.  I’ll talk about our trip over the next few posts.

I don’t think we would have made the decision to go to Italy just on our own.  We would have had too many justifications for not going.  BUT, the reason we decided to take this epic trip was the best reason of all…LOVE.  Specifically, one of my best friends from college lived in Italy for more than two years, she met a wonderful man from Sicily, and they fell in love.  When they decided to get married in Sicily, we knew we wanted to be there.

We got to spend some time with the happy couple and get to know Dario a bit when they visited Texas before getting engaged.

We introduced Dario to country western dancing at Oplin, a true Texas experience.

We introduced Dario to country western dancing at Oplin, a true Texas experience.

I asked Andrea to be a bridesmaid in my wedding in 2011, and she bestowed the same honor on me.

Andrea is on my right  :)

Andrea is on my right 🙂

So we planned and prepared for many months.  My ambitious husband even started learning Italian, much to my chagrin.  (No, Honey!  If you learn a third language, then I have to get another degree.)  I might have an inferiority complex.  🙂

Anyway…our journey started with three flights.  Texas==>London==>Rome==>Sicily.  The trip went very smoothly, overall.  The first long flight was rough for me for the last two hours or so.  I’m convinced that I have undiagnosed restless leg syndrome.  I could not get comfortable.  Then, in London, the only real almost-mishap happened.  We thought we had about an hour, so Bryan got in line at a sandwich shop while I went to the restroom.  When I emerged, I heard them over the loudspeaker doing a LAST CALL for our gate.  What?!  I panicked for about three seconds and decided to run to my husband (the opposite direction of the gate).  When I got there he was still waiting in line.  I breathlessly conveyed to him that our flight was boarding, and they were about the close the gate.  “I’m going to tell them to stop the plane!  You come as fast as you can!”  I believe those were my exact words.  Please keep in mind that this is after an overnight flight with no sleep.

I grabbed a coffee from him and started running.  Bad combination.  I’m not one to enjoy being stared at (particularly in a negative situation), but there was no way I was letting us miss that plane to Rome.  Latte splashing, purse flopping, I jogged through the terminal and arrived in front of two slightly amused women working at the gate.  I explained as they looked at me with sympathy.  They wanted to know if my husband was running, too.  Minutes passed.  They called him over the intercom.  I smiled nervously.  It seemed inevitable that they would give up and send me on my way at any moment, and then Bryan sauntered around the corner with our sandwiches.  I beckoned to him to run as the ladies reached for my boarding pass.  I was picturing a full flight with every person glaring us down as we made our way to our seats at the back.  Strangely enough, once we made it into the tunnel, we found ourselves in line.  There were at least 15 or 20 people ahead of us not quite on the plane yet.  No one even knew that we were late.  We sat down with our hearts still pounding, so relieved.  A few minutes later a cart came by with–you guessed it–sandwiches.  We just looked at each other and laughed.  And so began our Italian adventure…

Day Three: Inspiration

This quote speaks to the English major in me who sees the world through a narrative lens and the social worker in me who wants liberty and justice for all.  It reminds me to be open to friendship in unlikely places and to give grace where grace is needed.  Does it bring to mind any friendships that you’ve experienced?  🙂

 

Engrave this upon your heart: there isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you heard their story.

—Mary Lou Kownacki

Fireflies

One of the best, most magical parts of summer is when the fireflies come out.  As a little girl visiting my grandparents in the piney woods of East Texas, I would stand beneath the weeping willow tree in the backyard with my sister and cousins forever holding my breath and waiting to see them glow.  My mom helped us poke holes in a baby food jar lid so that we could capture some to keep as pets.  The next morning, as soon as I opened my eyes, I would cradle the jar on the nightstand.  They usually hadn’t survived the night, so I waited for dusk to catch a new batch.  I loved them so.

Fireflies

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They still hold some magic for me.  When I was in college, a friend introduced me to the lovely, mellow music of Mason Jennings.  He has a song with these lyrics…

And honey I’m sure
That you’ve been in love before
Plenty of men have held high places in your eyes
And jealousy has got no use for me
The past is beautiful
Like the darkness between the fireflies

I saw my first fireflies of the season last week, and I’ve had this song in my head ever since.  What an image, isn’t it?  A dear friend of mine is getting married to someone she met while working as a missionary overseas.  In some ways, thinking about their situation and impending intercultural marriage has really taken me back to the past…the early months of my relationship with Bryan.  I emailed her recently about something entirely different and found myself writing about our joys and struggles during that beginning phase.IMG_1539

The fact that we need plane tickets and a passport to travel from one of our families to the other is something that will always be a challenge for us, and we’re constantly trying to balance and reevaluate (especially me).  I want to make sure that he never resents the choice he made.  People often say to my  husband, “Wow, I don’t know how you handle being so far from your family and friends…” or “You moved from Costa Rica to Texas?!  Why?  It’s so beautiful there!”  (only causing me to further despise small talk).  I try to keep my cool on the surface, but those comments really sting.  He moved here to be with me.  We Skype with his family at least once a week and see them as often as possible, but we still miss them so much.  And, yes, he misses the natural beauty of his homeland, too, but there are plenty of things he loves about Texas.

I told my friend that if her fiance ever wants to talk someone who fell in love with an American and moved to Texas, I know Bryan would be happy to listen, empathize and be a source of encouragement.  I wrote that I think intercultural marriages can end up being  strong in a unique way.  There are things that we are hypersensitive to that couples from the same country might take for granted.  We work on our communication constantly because of our cultural and language differences.  [For example, when he looks at me like I’m crazy when I ask about our plans for the following month, we talk through our different cultural perspectives on making plans.  :)]  It’s affirming, too, that we have made sacrifices in order to be together.  Knowing that we chose each other even though it wasn’t the easiest road really gives us confidence in our relationship.  We believe that God brought us together and it’s SO worth the sacrifices and inconveniences.

When I look back on what we’ve come through in order to be together—our first Valentine’s Day via Skype; countless hours of studying for Bryan in his second language; financial hardship; being separated from family; waiting and trusting that God would provide a student visa and, later, a green card; my frustration with not being able to communicate well enough in Spanish to really get to know my husband’s family and friends; so many misunderstandings and moments of confusion or frustration due to cultural differences…God has brought us through all of it.  We all can relate to the idea in the song, I think.  The darkness brings us to a place of light.  We have been through darkness that makes us stronger and more grateful.  So, wherever you are this morning, friends, (literally and figuratively), please be encouraged.  Here’s hoping we see more fireflies before the summer’s end.