Our family is growing! Why adoption?

In two weeks, we will legally be a family of five!

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No, I am not pregnant — and this is something we’ve been actively anticipating for much longer than nine months: adoption.

So, first, the exciting details. It’s a boy. He is 2 years, 9 months old. He lives in Harbin, China. His English name will be Haddon, after (or inspired by) the theologian C.H. (Charles Haddon) Spurgeon. Peter and I leave in just over a week to bring him home!

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I had intended on documenting the entire process from the start here, but instead found it easier to share this journey via conversations and prayer requests to friends rather than by sitting down and typing it out. At some point I do want to go back and write more about the details that led us to this point, though.

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First, I’ll tackle a question I’ve gotten (not surprisingly) a lot. What made you decide to adopt?

I think if we didn’t have biological kids or were older than we are this question might seem nosy, but for a relatively young couple with a healthy boy and girl, adoption is puzzling, or at least curiosity-inducing, to a lot of people.

I understand why and don’t begrudge anyone for asking. Most people think of adoption as something for people who can’t or don’t want to have biological kids. Adoption is a great choice for those people.

Or they think of adoption as something for very saintly people who want to give unfortunate children a better life. Adoption is the only way millions of kids worldwide have the opportunity to grow up with a family. (Though I would say saintliness is an unhealthy motivation for anything in life, including adoption.)

The reality is adoption fills a need and desire for both parents and children, and I think it’s healthiest to acknowledge both parties’ needs.

So the short answer to “what made you decide to adopt?” is because we want more kids and there are kids out there who need families.

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From the start of our relationship, Peter has talked about wanting to adopt. Before then, I had never really considered it, mainly out of ignorance. It just didn’t cross my mind, but I had no qualms about it. As we talked about it more and because Peter felt strongly about adoption, it quickly became a foregone conclusion as we thought about the future. We are fortunate to have come to know a number of adoptive families over the years and that just encouraged us even more.

So the superficial “why” I sometimes find myself reciting to people quickly when they ask why we are adopting is, “We’ve just always wanted to.”

But there’s more to it than any of that. Why do we feel called to be one of those families when it would be far easier to just have more biological children? Why would we choose to take on the expense—monetary, emotional, mental, physical—of adoption?

Our deeper motivation comes from looking at our status in relationship to God. Through Christ’s redeeming work for us, we “receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:5) We are born under the law, but through Jesus we are called sons of God, receiving the full inheritance of Christ.

In Romans 8:14-17, Paul writes:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

The Creator of the universe loved lowly, little me enough to adopt me as his child. Adoption is a beautiful, mysterious picture of our relationship with our Father—not because we were born His, but because he pursued us and made us His own children.

I’m not equipped to explain it all very well in my own words, but John Piper has an excellent exposition on adoption, where he lays out eight similarities between God adopting us and us adopting children.

Number seven is especially moving to me. A snippet: “The distance between what we are, and what God is, is infinitely greater than any distance between us and a child we might adopt. God crossed the greatest cultural barrier to redeem and adopt us.”

Jesus paid the greatest price for our adoption, so any cost we bear in adopting our son is pennies in comparison. We rely on God’s grace for the strength we will need for the job (just as with parenting our biological kids) and rest in His promises.

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Learning through food: Resurrection/Easter Story Cookies

Throughout history, food has served as much more than physical nourishment for mankind. Sharing a meal with others is a bonding experience, a sign of hospitality and respect and a way to show love. Cuisine is a huge part of every culture, and one that many people take pleasure in.

No matter how much we eat, within hours our hunger returns. As one of the essential needs shared by every person on earth, food is powerful. We celebrate with food. We mourn with food. We worship with food. It connects us to one another and to the past.

We see that especially this time of year—those who are Jewish honor Passover by eating unleavened bread as their ancestors did in their hasty flee from slavery in Egypt; the lamb shankbone on the seder plate commemorates the sacrificial lamb God required of his people that night he freed them (and for Christians this symbolism goes further to represent Christ’s sacrifice in order to free us from the bondage of sin); eggs represent new life, in the most basic springtime sense and also in the context of Jesus rising from the dead; empty eggshells remind us of the empty tomb Jesus’ loved ones found the morning he was risen; and the Lord’s supper, first celebrated just before Jesus’ death, is a sacrament that has brought Christians together in worship for millennia.

Food as a metaphor is a beautiful thing.

This weekend I decided to use baking cookies as a hands-on storytelling device with Corban and Mara. At age 3, Corban’s eager little heart is soaking in the Easter story, and I hoped to use this as another way to help it take root. At age 18 months, Mara just was excited to be helping in the kitchen with us, and that’s good too.

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These Resurrection Cookies or Easter Story Cookies can be found all over the Internet. Each ingredient and step tells a part of the Easter story with scripture and symbolism. I used this handy printable sheet to guide us, along with our shiny new Reformation Study Bible, but halfway through it was getting too chaotic to flip through the pages so I just stuck to reading the scripture verses off the recipe.

The ingredients are simple—all things we already had on hand.

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1 cup pecan halves

1 teaspoon vinegar

3 egg whites

Pinch of salt

1 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place the pecans in a plastic freezer bag and have your child break them into small pieces by beating them with a wooden spoon. Explain that after Jesus was arrested, Roman soldiers beat him. Read John 19:1-3.

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Have your child smell and taste the vinegar before adding it to a mixing bowl.

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Explain that Jesus was offered sour wine/vinegar to drink while He hung on the cross. Read John 19:28-30.

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Add the egg whites to the bowl, explaining that eggs represent life and Jesus loves us so much He gave His life in order to give us life. Read John 10:10-11.

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For some reason they were blowing in the bowl.

Sprinkle a pinch of salt into your child’s hand and have him taste a bit before shaking the rest into the bowl. Explain that Jesus’ friends and followers cried salty tears when He died. Read Luke 23:27.

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Of course, after tasting the salt, you have to let them taste the sugar. This was by far Corban and Mara’s favorite part. Let’s just pause and observe.

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Yes, I let that happen.

Gradually add the sugar to the bowl while beating the egg whites on high with a whisk attachment. A stand mixer helps tremendously for this recipe. As you add the sugar, and your kids lick the spilled granules off the counter, explain that even though Jesus died, the story is sweet because He did it because He loves us. He wants us to know we belong to Him. Read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16.

Continue beating the egg whites until they are glossy and stiff peaks form (peaks stand straight up when whisk is removed). This will take a while—10 to 15 minutes.

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While you beat the egg whites, have your child observe how white the mixture is and explain that white represents purity and Jesus cleansing us of our sins. Read Isaiah 1:18.

I’ll be honest, I had to be somewhere so I rushed it and didn’t quite let the egg whites get to stiff peaks. This was a big mistake—make sure you keep beating until the peaks stand straight up and don’t fold over when you lift the whisk out!

Gently fold in the pecans.

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Drop the mixture by spoonful onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper or parchment paper. Explain that these mounds represent the rocky tomb where Jesus’ body was laid. Read Matthew 27:57-60.

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Can’t resist a little taste.

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By this point the scripture passages were background noise, but I still was able to have meaningful discussions with Corban about the symbolism. Since this wasn’t his first (or last) time hearing about these concepts, it was fruitful as another way to let the story sink in.

Now it’s time to put the cookies in the oven. Close the door and turn off the oven immediately. Have our child put a piece of tape over the door and explain that Jesus’ tomb was sealed and secure. Read Matthew 27:65-66.

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Now go to bed. Ask how your child feels to leave the cookies until tomorrow, and explain that Jesus’ friends were very sad when He died and was placed in the tomb. Read John 16:20, 22.

Leave the oven closed until the next morning. Then remove the cookies and have your child examine them.

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The sides of the cookies will be cracked. When they taste them, they will find that they are hollow. Explain that on Easter morning, Jesus’ friends were surprised to find the tomb empty. Jesus was alive! Read Matthew 28:1-9.

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Now I have to confess that our cookies were not hollow. (Womp womp.) I believe it’s because the egg whites were still at soft peaks rather than stiff peaks when I stopped beating them.

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But do you see these faces? Do they care?

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We pretended they were hollow. The kids were still excited Jesus was raised from the dead. And mostly just thrilled to be eating cookies at 8 a.m.

I’m sure this activity will bear more spiritual fruit as they grow older, but I think baking is a wonderful teaching tool even at this age—or maybe especially at this age. Food has that way of connecting with us all.

Happy 3rd birthday, my favorite little boy

Three years ago today, my favorite little boy came into the world.

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On Corban’s third birthday, the biggest thing on my heart is overwhelming appreciation.

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Appreciation for God’s loving creation. For the incomprehensible detail of our bodies, minds and hearts. For the privilege of witnessing this little boy’s healthy growth. For Corban’s curiosity and sense of humor, his funny phraseology and lack of self-consciousness. For his abiding love for his family and friends. For the luxury of spending time with him (even if every minute isn’t easy — sometimes far from it). For the gift of being a mom — his mom — and the growth that it has brought to me as a person and a Christian.

Corban’s first two birthdays made me reflect a lot on his birth and newborn days, but this year I’ve had to consciously bring back those memories. No, at age three Corban’s birthday is all about Corban at age three. He has been eagerly anticipating it for months (ever since Mara’s birthday in September) and has reveled in the rituals of songs, gifts, family visits and cake. He also knows that December 8th = his birthday, so while there has been some confusion between what was his birthday party (Saturday) and his actual birthday, all I had to tell him was that today is December 8th and he understood that it’s “still” his birthday.

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It worked out for me to take the day off work today, so we’re headed to the children’s museum and out to lunch with Peter. I considered setting up a play date with his friends today, but that would distract me from spending time focused on him, so we’re keeping it low key. We celebrated formally with family on Saturday, and I’ll share the details of the Peter Rabbit-themed party soon.

I just can’t overstate how thankful I am to be entrusted with this little life — and to be able to celebrate a happy, healthy “big boy” today. I don’t want to take for granted what a blessing this moment in time is.

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Baptism celebration and easy, make-ahead menu

Mara was baptized on Sunday. Such joy!

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Elmer Sparks photo

Elmer Sparks photo

Elmer Sparks photo

Elmer Sparks photo

Elmer Sparks photo

Corban talked through our time up front, asking for his “boc,” a.k.a. pacifier. No amount of discreet shh-ing can quiet a toddler who wants to be heard!

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Elmer Sparks photo

After, he got his wish.

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Elmer Sparks photo

We were blessed to have Mara’s grandparents, great-grandparents, aunt and uncles there to share in the occasion.

Elmer Sparks photo

Elmer Sparks photo

After the service, we had lunch at our house with a simple, make-ahead menu.

Mara’s baptism lunch:

Since I knew we’d all be arriving back at our house at the same time, and right around lunchtime, I wanted to have everything pretty much ready to go when we walked in the door. The key to making this work? Using the slow cooker, delegating side dish duties and getting the house 100% ready the night before.

Peter’s mom brought her signature dinner rolls. My mom brought the potatoes, ready to just pop in the oven for 20 minutes, and the green beans (haricot verts from Trader Joe’s), which she sautéed in olive oil for about five minutes and tossed with sliced almonds. My grandma brought the appetizers. Their help really made the meal come together easily!

I set the two tables the night before with a simple, fall theme.

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I used my Goodwill mismatched “china,” dollar store placemats, my favorite (er, only) chargers and homemade coffee bean candles.

Just like when Corban was baptized, Peter chose two verses of scripture for Mara. The first, from our perspective. The second, from her perspective. Cards with the verses also went on the table to share with our family.

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3 John: 4: I have no greater joy than to know that my children are walking in the truth.

Psalm 139: 14: I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are you works; my soul knows it very well.

I also made a point the night before to get out every serving dish, pitcher and utensil that I’d need. That way it was all out on the counter and I wasn’t digging through cabinets when our guests were here.

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The slow cooker Italian beef turned out great – juicy, tender and full of flavor. I mixed all the spices the night before then zombie-walked out of bed at 5 a.m. to put it all in the Crockpot. The recipe is, appropriately, from our church cookbook (and too good not to share so it’s at the bottom of this post).

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I made two easy cocktails, one alcoholic and one not.

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Sparkling Cranberry Punch (left) and Champagne and Cranberry Juice Sparkling Punch. And that’s her birth announcement (more on that in another post) and newborn footprint and handprint in the background.

I also have to mention the cake. I had high hopes for the cake recipe I selected, White Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting from Add a Pinch.

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It’s a triple layer cake, which I had never attempted before. Sadly, I greased my pans but forgot to flour them, so one of my layers would not come out of the pan, and ended up in a huge pile.

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Fortunately, I was able to piece it together as the middle layer, and you really couldn’t tell the difference! Unfortunately, my layers didn’t seem to rise as much as the photo at Add a Pinch, so while I thought the cake had an excellent flavor, the texture was denser than it should have been. There also wasn’t quite enough frosting to cover all my messy crumbs from the jumbled layers.

Despite its imperfections, we enjoyed the cake and I have had no trouble polishing off the leftover pieces over the past few days.

After lunch, we spent the afternoon enjoying time with family and, of course, enjoying lots of Mara snuggles.

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I was in love with her little outfit and didn’t want to take it off her at the end of the day.

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How wonderful it is to be able to celebrate God’s covenant to us and publicly welcome Mara into our church family.

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Slow Cooker Italian Beef
Makes 14-18 servings

6 pounds boneless chuck or rump roast
1 packet onion soup mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning (I used a pinch each of basil, oregano and parsley)
1/2 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoned salt
1 teaspoon Ac’cent (I didn’t know what this was so I used Mrs. Dash — don’t ask why I own that…)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 to 1 cup water

Place meat in slow cooker, sprinkle spice mixture over it and add water. Cook on low 8 hours. When beef is done, slice or shred and leave in juices (the longer it sits, the better it tastes) until serving on buns.

Thy kingdom come

I had a Corban update post ready to go for tonight, but it seems inappropriate to write about anything other than what’s been on my mind since shortly after 2 p.m. this afternoon.

I’m usually not one to get all-consumingly wrapped up in breaking national tragedies as they unfold – I’d rather wait until all the facts are out and then think and read about it – but for a good while today I couldn’t peel my eyes away from Twitter and the Boston Globe’s live blog. Maybe it was the gruesome photos that made it seem so real, or the fact that I am (or was) a long-distance runner myself, but the horror seemed so close despite being more than 1,000 miles away.

This morning I logged on to She Reads Truth for the first time in some weeks and read a post that I’ve been thinking about again tonight in light of this terrifying and tragic act. The post was on kingdom praying. When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray in Matthew 6 he started with, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Kingdom praying is asking God to bring Heaven here to earth, to marry His space with ours, to accomplish His plan. Can you imagine if we started all our prayers here? Matthew 6:33 says to “seek first His kingdom.” What would happen if we didn’t pray for our Earthly needs first, but for those things that matter for eternity?

To be perfectly honest, my first inclination after seeing the blood and hearing the injury reports from the streets of Boston was to thank God for my own safety, my intact limbs and my family safe at home – things I all too often take for granted. But then I remembered what I had read about kingdom praying this morning.

I’m sure many people look at these events and doubt God’s sovereignty, wonder how this can be His will and feel hopeless on this broken, scary earth. Without God’s promise of eternal life, I would too. So I pray for them. I pray that God reveals Himself to those who suffer and grieve. I pray for comfort and peace and that His kingdom comes.

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Image source

Happier at Home: Possessions

I picked up a copy of Gretchen Rubin’s new book, “Happier at Home,” from work last month (our books editor gets sent lots of books to review, and some of the rejects end up on the “up-for-grabs” counter, as I like to call it). I haven’t read her book that skyrocketed her onto the New York Times bestseller list, “The Happiness Project,” but I was vaguely familiar with the concept behind it – intentionally making small changes in your life that overall add up to more happiness. It sure sounds like an interesting experiment, right?

So I opened up “Happier at Home” and started reading. It’s the same concept as “The Happiness Project,” only focused on home life rather than life in general, I suppose. The book is divided into chapters by month – each month Gretchen focuses on a different aspect of the home and sets several goals or changes to make to see if they result in more happiness. Lest you write this off as navel-gazing, I should note that Rubin does an excellent job of incorporating research in with her anecdotes and personal feelings, so it reads as more than a diary. At least so far – I’m only one chapter in, ha.

Conveniently, the book starts with September, the beginning of the school year – oh yeah, and the month the book was released. Before this starts to sound like a book review of a book I’m only one chapter into, I’m sure you can see where this is headed. Seeing as it was September, and I love a good personal challenge, I decided to maybe, kind of, sort of go along for the ride with Gretchen and partake in some of her goals each month.

Now, before I continue, let me get one thing out of the way: I’m not entirely comfortable with her use of the word “happiness.” From what I’ve gathered so far, her philosophy is that happiness is a thing to be pursued daily, and that pursuit is, a lot of the time, in the small details of everyday life. I totally agree that it’s the little things each day that determine a lot of my mood and enjoyment of life. But I believe that true happiness is something that comes from above. No matter how hard I try to achieve happiness on my own, I’m still broken and in desperate need of a savior. I can have all the little details of my life nailed down and be miserable without God’s mercy. On the other hand, I can live in chaos and physical despair, but have peace in my heart because of His love. (Side note: what a comfort that my hope is found in something much greater than this world!)

So essentially, I think if Rubin is searching for true happiness, or even a mere glimpse of it, she’s looking in the wrong places. But if we’re just talking about improving quality of life, as long as the activities of this pursuit don’t become idols – that is, essential to your happiness – then I think this project can be useful.

That’s the tough part though. It’s a fine line. John Calvin wrote: “Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.” We’re so naturally inclined to put anything and everything before God that I struggle with whether any sort of “happiness project” that doesn’t involve God is right. There’s no black and white answer.

That being said (wow, this post got a lot deeper than I originally intended! Funny how that happens when you stop to really think about what you’re thinking about), I’m going to treat this book as good motivation to focus a little more on some things that can help make my life easier and more pleasant, and be aware that in and of itself, this project will not lead to true happiness.

OK, so back to September…

Rubin’s first month’s topic is possessions. An interesting place to start, right? Possessions can bring much joy, but they also can weigh you down. I’m not going to go into too much detail on the chapter, but the three resolutions Gretchen set were cultivate a shrine, go shelf by shelf and read the manual.

Cultivate a shrine: Rubin said her goal was to “transform areas of my apartment into places of super-engagement.” She did this through tasks like swapping out photos in frames, displaying meaningful mementos and reorganizing her workspace.

My take: I am just awful at printing and displaying photos. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve gone years at times with frames displaying the generic black and white photos they came with. In fact, I’m staring at a giant, empty collage frame I bought for like $10 on Black Friday, um… three years ago? Maybe four. Oops. So, while the collage frame escaped my newfound motivation to just put some darn photos in the frames (I guess it’s just become a natural part of the scenery in here, so I didn’t even notice it. Pathetic.), I was inspired to make use of some empty frames on my desk and fill them with a few nice, recent-ish photos. Now I can gaze up at friends and family while I’m browsing the Internet. How lovely, and long overdue. I still have some progress to make in other rooms, but this little photo frame task has made a worthy impact on the pleasantness of sitting at my desk at home.

One source of stress I’ve noticed in my life surrounds my morning routine. When my closet and bathroom are messy and disorganized, I get frustrated while trying to get ready for the day. So this month I “cultivated a shrine” in my closet and bathroom (that just doesn’t sound right!) This move was actually inspired by my mom and sister, who both recently created very shrine-like closets for themselves, but it fits right in with this chapter of the book. I’ll save the details for a separate post, but I made a few simple changes that dramatically impact the overall agreeability of my morning routine.

In thinking about this idea of making your favorite areas in your home really comfortable, I also came up with a plan for our sunroom, which is a lovely space that doesn’t get used to its full potential. It’s the perfect spot to relax with a book (something I wish I did more of) so why don’t we keep our books in there and turn it into a mini library? I’ll keep you posted on how this plays out.

Go shelf by shelf: Gretchen had some useful tips for clearing out and reorganizing her house. Things like: clean as you go, abandon a project that you know you won’t finish, buy what you need and clear surfaces. I liked her recognition of the difference between something that wasn’t used and something that was useless. It’s OK to keep something for purely sentimental reasons. Just don’t keep everything!

My take: Gretchen has way more time than I do to actually go shelf by shelf, but I did make a tiny bit of progress. I purged our shoe closet of flip flops I hadn’t worn in years. I cleared several piles of junk off my desk (you can see the surface again!) Throughout the month I continuously added clothes and objects to half a dozen bags I plan to donate (now to just take them to Goodwill…) I recycled old boxes I had been saving and got rid of or filed a bunch of papers. These were all small steps, but any little dent helps in keeping your possessions from overtaking your home, and even a little bit of clutter-clearing gives me a sense of satisfaction.

Read the manual: Funny how just taking a few minutes to properly learn how something works can make life so much easier. I can’t think of any specific examples of how I put this to work last month, but it’s a good piece of advice to bear in mind.

I feel like I could stay quite busy concentrating on these September goals for the rest of year, but alas, it is October, and this month’s topic is marriage. Yikes. I’ll write another recap at the end of the month. Care to join me? Grab a copy of the book and let me know your thoughts!

Getting his hair washed with God

When I was about two and a half years old, my mom showed me a photo from my baptism and asked me what was happening in the picture. Without much hesitation I replied that I was “getting my hair washed with God.”

Well, Corban “had his hair washed with God” yesterday, and it was quite a special day for us.

He donned a tie for the occasion.

I was nervous that he would get fussy or make inappropriate gastrointestinal noises while we were in front of the congregation, but he just snoozed and then woke up and squirmed around when the water hit him.

(Photos courtesy of Elmer Sparks, who happened to have his camera while working the sound booth during the service)

He actually barely has fussed at all this entire weekend. I think he really likes being held and being around people.

Peter’s parents, my parents, my siblings and my aunt and uncle came into town for the occasion and we hosted lunch after the baptism. You know I’m out of food blogger mode – or just too distracted as a mom and hostess – because I forgot to take pictures of the food and the table setting I created. Just pics of this little guy.

After everything was cleared away and my family hit the road, I snapped this shot of the cleaned up aftermath.

I used my mix-n-match Goodwill “china” set and homemade Dollar Tree cloth napkins and placemats. The cupcakes were a hit – buttermilk chocolate with fudge frosting and carrot cake with cream cheese frosting (to make 12 cupcakes I halved that cake recipe and baked for only 20 minutes. Frosting recipe/amount stayed the same).

Also on the menu was my absolute favorite pulled pork recipe, Pioneer Woman’s green beans, fresh fruit salad, my mother-in-law’s delicious rolls and my mom’s Chinese salad.

We had these verses at each place setting:

Peter picked them out — the first is from our perspective and the second is what we hope will be Corban’s perspective in the future.

The whole weekend as I thought about Corban’s baptism I was so thankful for our faith and the wonderful church God has blessed us with. Corban’s baptism isn’t a saving act, but a commitment to raise him in the covenant family with the hope and trust that he will one day believe. I loved how our pastor explained this during the service, especially since both Peter’s and my families come from different backgrounds and beliefs on the issue of baptism. Here is a nice explanation of our beliefs.

This was also a special moment because of the very meaning of Corban’s name, “a gift from God, dedicated to God,” from the Hebrew word Korban, which means “offering.”

Now we have two days to recover from the weekend’s excitement and then we’re off to Florida for a nice little vacation! More on that (hopefully) soon.

Goals for 2012

I know, I know. We’re already 1/12th of the way through 2012 and I’m just now getting around to writing about new year’s resolutions?

I did set a few realistic goals for myself at the beginning of the year, and have been following through successfully on some of them (which I will share at the end of this post), but there’s one goal that I’ve only been kinda-sorta-not really achieving. And after reading this commitment from Sarah, I realize I need to renew my devotion to this goal.

Reading God’s word. I’ve never been good at doing this regularly. I can’t use the excuse of not having time, because I read many other things – blogs, books, emails, news – so there is indeed time for reading in my daily schedule. Unfortunately it comes down to lack of desire, which pains me to admit, but is evidenced by my decision day after day to spend time reading the aforementioned before reading the Bible. I know that’s no excuse either, but I believe my lackadaisical feelings toward reading scripture can and will change if I just make it a habit, as Sarah said she aims to do over the next 30 days.

My goal at the beginning of the year was to spend 15 minutes a day reading scripture or a devotional or other teaching literature. Just 15 minutes. So simple. (I wanted to set myself up for success, not failure, and you have to start somewhere.) I haven’t completely neglected this intention, but I haven’t been as consistent as I should. I realize now, a month into the year, that a big part of my inconsistency is that I haven’t been setting aside a specific block of time each day. I also haven’t been holding myself accountable.

So here I am, publicly recommitting to spend at least 15 minutes each day reading scripture. My schedule with Corban can be all over the place in the mornings, so I think my devoted time will be easiest to schedule in right after I put him to bed each night.

My other goals for this year are:

  • Work out at least 3 times each week (100% success so far this year!)
  • Read 20 books (this is the third year in a row I’ve set this goal and I’ve always fallen short by only a few books. I’m determined to meet it this year, and I’m already halfway through my fourth book.)
  • Run a half-marathon (I would love to run another full marathon, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to commit to that kind of training this year)
  • Eat dinner as a family at least 3 times a week (this goal is currently on the back burner until we get on a more predictable schedule with C, but we do make an effort when possible to eat together)
  • Be more present and stop to appreciate the now (this is an immeasurable goal, but I really feel like it’s made a difference in my stress level and overall joy each day)

Last year I set goals that were way too ambitious and I ended up not meeting them, but I think this year’s are definitely realistic. I am also okay with focusing more on certain goals one month and others the next. In January my focus was on fitting in my three weekly workouts, and February’s big push will be daily scripture reading. The hope is that after a month, these ambitions will become habits.

Did you set new year’s resolutions? How are they going so far? If you’d like to join Sarah and me in our 30-day commitments, I’d be thrilled 🙂

Merry Christmas!

Wow, do we feel like we got the best early Christmas gift this year!

We’ve enjoyed a relaxing weekend with Peter’s parents and brother Eli at our house. This is our first Christmas at home in Wisconsin, and while it feels a little strange, it also seems a fitting year for the change. My family is coming to visit tomorrow, so we actually won’t be traveling at all.

Having a newborn at Christmas has given me a new perspective that I wasn’t necessarily expecting. Listening to the lyrics of “Mary Did You Know?” sung beautifully at our church’s Christmas Eve service and looking down at my little infant made Jesus’ birth seem more real and relatable than ever. It hit me just how vulnerable our savior made himself. I heard “When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God,” and “The sleeping child you’re holding, He is the Great, I Am,” and thought about my tiny little baby. Jesus was just like him, crying for food and comfort, and completely dependent on his parents for everything. Wow.

Anyway, hope you’ve enjoyed as happy and meaningful a Christmas as I have!

1 week: Corban James

I was planning on writing a quick one-week update on Corban’s and our lives, but realized that the letter I wrote him today sums most of it up. This is the third letter I’ve written him since I found out I was pregnant, but the first in which I got to use his name! I’m not sure how often I plan to write these letters, but probably just whenever I feel the need to capture a moment in our lives. And I fully realize they’re more for me than for him.

Anyway, here’s a glimpse at our first week.

Dear Corban,

Today, you’re one week old! You really surprised us by making your debut 3 1/2 weeks earlier than your due date.

When I went into labor – right at the end of a long day of work, just before I was about to head to the newsroom Christmas party – I was so scared that we weren’t prepared or you weren’t developed enough. On the drive home, I prayed that you would be healthy and ready to face the world. Lists of things I had wanted to get done before your arrival whirled around in my head. I couldn’t believe it was finally time to meet you.

And now that you’re here, it seems like you came right on time. I know God chose your birthday long before you were even a thought in our minds, and He prepared us well for that day.

You are a tiny peanut, though. 6 pounds 8 ounces at birth, and down to 5 pounds 10 ounces four days later. Now you’re back up to 6 pounds and looking good, Dr. Jeruc says. Right now you’re sleeping on a billi bed, or a light therapy bed to help combat jaundice. I call you my little glow worm. Your dad was so concerned when we first found out you had jaundice. I’ll never forget the urgency in his voice when he confessed, “It makes me so worried.” We’ve been to the doctor every day this week, and you’re recovering well. We’re hoping that tomorrow you can stop the light therapy and we can cuddle you as long as we want without worry. That’s all we really want to do to you right now – snuggle you close and kiss your sweet little head.

On our way out the door to the hospital on the night you were born, I stopped and looked at Daddy and told him the next time we’d be here we would probably have a baby with us. He was still in denial that this was really happening. On the drive there, we debated, for the final time, names for you. If you had been a girl, it would have been a little more difficult, since we were still discussing girl middle names even in the hospital room. Daddy called your Uncle James and asked if it was OK if we used his name for your middle name. He, of course, said yes. We love your name, Corban, and its meaning – a gift from God dedicated to or sacrificed for God. It comes from the Hebrew word Korban, which is an offering.

Your first weekend in the world was probably the happiest of my life. We spent almost two days in the hospital, learning all about how to care for you, resting, telling friends and family about you and posting lots of pictures. Oh, and snuggling your tiny body close to us whenever we had the chance. Nana D, Papa, Aunt Lauren and Uncle Kevin came to visit on your first day in the world, and we had a champagne toast to your birth. Everyone was fighting over who got to hold you next.

When we posted pictures of you on Facebook, we were flooded with comments, messages and posts. It was overwhelming and wonderful to have so much love and support. There are so many people out there who already love you, Corban.

When we came home from the hospital (I cried the whole way home, out of pure joy and sentimentality that our life together was truly beginning), we were greeted also by your other grandparents, and a “Welcome home, Corban!” sign that I still have hanging on the front door. Our families were so helpful in getting the house ready, cooking food and making sure we had everything we needed for you.

Nana D stayed with us this week and was more helpful than I ever could have imagined. You gave us some rough nights at first, crying and fussing until the early morning and waking up to eat even just after you’d eaten. I spent one night sleeping on the floor next to you in your billi bed and another awake until almost 5 a.m. Last night you were an angel though, and today I feel rested for the first time since your birth. I’m hoping things will continue this way, but I’m sure we have many more rough nights ahead, and you’re worth every one of them.

Tonight we gave you your first bath at home. You didn’t exactly enjoy it, and you cried through most of it. After we wrapped you in a little duck hooded blanket, though, you became perfectly content. You sat in my arms with your little fist on your cheek, and your deep blue eyes looked around in wonder.

Because of the light therapy, you live mostly in your diaper and nothing more. I love carrying your around curled up in the fetal position on my chest. It’s hard to believe that just a week ago you were like that inside of me.

You make the most adorable faces, raising or furrowing your eyebrows, smacking your lips when you’re hungry and just looking around in awe of the world you’ve been thrust into. You have long, skinny legs, arms, hands and feet, and you sometimes throw your arms into the air when I lay you down on your back.

You like to have your hands close to your face at all times, and you’re still figuring out how to suck your thumb. Today at the doctor’s office, you found your thumb, but had the rest of your hand covering your face with your fingers in your eyes.

You’ve turned our world upside down, Corban James. We are amazed at God’s handiwork and praise and thank him for blessing us so richly. I want to enjoy every stage of your life, and this snuggly newborn phase is so easy to enjoy – I just have to look at you and my heart swells.

Love,
Mama