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Read some thoughts on issues affecting daily life and life around our world. Read and join in the conversation. What moves you? How do you respond to the issues we face today?


During advent, I've been reading through O Come, All Ye Faithful, a book highlighting many traditional Christmas carols. Reading the carols rather than singing them helps me focus on the words and intent of the songs. For example, O Little Town of Bethlehem includes the phrase, "While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wond'ring love." I missed the meaning of that phrase previously. What must that have been like for the angels? Had God revealed to them what was to come? Rather, were they watching with eager anticipation to understand how Christ's time on earth would unfold?
In Hark the Herald Angels Sing, one of the authors describes the scene as "a full military exercise, not a few little kids skipping around on a stage with fluffy robes, coat-hanger wings, and tilting halos" (Tada, MacArthur, Wolgemuth, and Wolgemuth, 91). Herald angels are "a perfect symbol of might and power" (ibid, 91). These great creatures bore witness to God's and sinners' reconciliation. Charles Wesley penned the words,
"Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing, 'Glory to the newborn King.'"
In this season of anticipation, I also mourn Tim's departure from earth. This song reminds me that Christ's advent on earth led to our reconciliation with God; it led to Tim's second and eternal birth. We anticipate the day when we will celebrate together, alongside the herald angels.

recommended recipes

The last Saturday in September, I ventured to the farmer's market with Miriam. John had to go into work since it was fiscal year-end. His colleague joked that I'd go to the market and return with a car-load of goods. He was partially correct -- I ordered a quarter cow. That's 1/4 of a cow or about 100 lbs of grass-fed beef.

Fast-forward to yesterday. We invited friends over for dinner, presenting the perfect opportunity to cook a 4.5 pound chuck roast. After much searching, I came across this SUPER easy and REALLY delicious roast recipe I'm linking to here. It claims to be the Perfect Pot Roast and I won't argue. I cooked our 4.5 pound roast for 4-1/4 hours; I didn't use red wine but just canned beef stock; I did add liberal amounts of fresh rosemary and thyme. I've labored over roasts before and this one was so simple I will probably use it again (that's saying a lot because I don't like repeating recipes).

Our guests brought a fun kiwi spinach salad and I served the roast over mashed cauliflower (I added a little milk and used a hand-masher for a chunkier mash). For dessert, we had apple crisp that came out of the cookbook Paleo Comfort Foods. You'll find the recipe on this page if you search for apple crisp. I used 6 Granny Smith apples and honey for a little sweetness.

I appreciated these non-fussy, appeal-to-the-masses recipes since dinner parties are enough work, what with blood stains on the carpet and screaming babies!

think with your heart

Permit me a "Mom rant." I know, I know.  Facebook is filled with these rants.  But hang in here with me until the end and perhaps this will all strike a chord or maybe a nerve.

I was working out at the Fitness Center on base today.  Usually I go alone while John watches Miriam.  Today I had the little one along to cheer me on.  Aside: she was a champion cheerleader as I deadlifted! As I packed up to leave the room, a couple Fitness Center employees approached me and told me children must be in the kid pen while I'm working out.  Fair enough.  Though Miriam was strapped in her car seat, pleasant the entire time,  getting in no one's way, and not at risk of falling under any one's weights, rules are rules. I could relate since I talked with a woman after her child ran near me as I did push presses. Talk about giving me a heart attack!

But back to today. After lifting, I proceeded to the spinning room. I wanted to check out a recorded spin class we're doing with spouses next week. As I set up my bike, another Fitness Center employee approached me to tell me children must be in the kid pen even when I'm in this room, on the other side of the gym.

At this point, a flood of thoughts rushed through my head. I realized I was getting emotionally upset and quickly left. Possible retorts I came up with later? "Sir, have you ever carried a baby for nine months in your womb, given birth, and then endured painful tearing and hemorrhoids? No? Well, don't expect I'm going to leave the precious product of that arduous experience on the other side of the building where I cannot keep an eye on her!" Or how about, "Sir, do you really think every one's better off with her stuck in a kid pen on the other side of the building, wailing, while I work out here?"  Maybe I should have tried, "You make it exceedingly difficult for a mom to get a solid workout here.  You have only male equipment -- no women's bars, no lightweight bumper plates or med balls, and no low med ball targets. The kid pen is visible from the cardio machines but not from most of the building. And when I think I've found a solution where my little one will inconvenience no one but me (the spinning room is almost always empty), you let me know that's unacceptable. Try thinking with your heart, Sir!"

I usually don't get really upset like this so I started praying about my experience and the resulting emotions. I questioned whether I was overreacting because my hormones are imbalanced or because Tim's death has left me more emotional. I came back to Galatians which I've been studying for a few months.  Paul warns the Galatian Christians that all their good works fail to earn them righteousness in the sight of God. Here I was, trying to be a good mother and I'm told it's not good enough. It really bothers me to be wrong or to be called out on something. I try so hard to be good, thinking my behavior will earn me what? Golden stars? God's love? When I fall short, it really upsets me.

If that example is too much of a stretch, try this one on for size. I clean the house, do Miriam's laundry, make meals, shop for food, and the list goes on. When I don't receive verbal appreciation for these activities, it bothers me. Why, then, am I doing them? Probably it's not because I love my family and these activities are an expression of that love. More likely, I'm doing them to earn righteousness, because they're the good things I'm supposed to do, because they'll win me points with God and with my husband.

Life's not really like that. I don't have to earn love; it's already been freely given as God's gift to me. All my good works are for naught when they don't flow from a heart filled with love for God and others. When I screw up and break a rule, it doesn't jeopardize that love. I can never do enough good deeds or keep enough rules to earn God's love, anyway, so it's futile to try. Let me be the one to begin thinking (and acting) with my heart, only let my heart be set on things above.

Richie Ray

John, Miriam, and I were out to brunch last Sunday.  We happened upon a diner run by Koreans that we'd formerly thought was shut down.  (They serve a kimchi omelette we'll have to return someday to try.)  The table of octogenarians dining next to us loved Miriam as she beamed her precious smile at them.  We exchanged pleasantries throughout the meal then waved goodbye as they left.
We waited for our check and, finally, the server approached and said, "That man paid your entire bill . . . you know him, right?"  We responded, "Uh, no.  We've never met him before."  We waved another goodbye out the window as Richie Ray and his Sunday brunch crew drove away.

"Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less." ~Tim Keller's study on Galatians

Some thoughts on work

In a continuation of  my recent counseling sessions, I write here about work. First off, it should be recognized that I, all too easily, idolize work.  It becomes a measuring stick by which I judge my worth.  As a Christian, I know my worth comes from Christ alone, not from work.  And yet the human side of me tends toward this temptation.  I'm learning to guard against it.
Before departing St. Louis, the board at Arch Grants requested my resignation.  I refused since I had performed admirably and had received no prior warnings.  The board threatened to withhold severance unless I resigned.  I held my ground.  I received a severance check with a termination letter a few days later.
Referring back to my idolatry of work, such an immediate, harsh, and cruel termination of my role as Executive Director of Arch Grants left me reeling.  I questioned if I should have led the organization differently.  I grieved over the very public and underhanded manner in which the board maligned my character.  I disbelieved that any humans, let alone a group of six highly educated and seemingly professional individuals, would possibly fire someone 8+ months pregnant whose husband was deployed to Afghanistan and whose brother had just passed away.  Really, people, this does happen in our oh-so evolved American society.  Worse yet, the board, including a couple lawyers, knew full-well that I was protected by neither state nor federal employment law owing to the small size of our organization.  As you can tell, the entire situation still angers me.
Anger alone serves no purpose, however, so I think about my next steps.  Regardless of how it ended, leading Arch Grants was a tremendous opportunity and resulted in significant experience.  The first steps include updating my resume and LinkedIn, owning all those accomplishments.  Next will be reaching out to find ways to leverage that experience.  And, all the while, I want to remember that God does not measure me by my accomplishments.  Thank God that He cares too much for us to derive our value from paltry goings-on in this physical world.

Postscript to my last blog

Oh, how I loathe pop psychology.  For example, How to Survive the Loss of a Love today queried, "If you want to fall in love with someone, how about trying yourself" (Bloomfield et al, 108). Alternatively, my study of Galatians led me to this passage:
"It is often said today, in circles which blend popular psychology with Christianity, that we must love ourselves before we can be set free to love others . . . But no realistic human beings find it easy to love or forgive themselves, and hence their self-acceptance must be grounded in their awareness that God accepts them in Christ" (Lovelace, The Dynamics of Spiritual Life).
In case you were wondering, I don't recommend How to Survive the Loss of a Love.

How does one mourn the loss of one's brother?

God weeps with us so that we may one day laugh with him.
JΓΌrgen Moltmann

I can't bring myself to say, "Tim died."  He didn't die; he merely passed onto eternal life where he's more alive than I.  So I say, "Tim passed."  Then I don't get weird looks as though I've not accepted Tim's departure from earth.  I don't get into a lengthy theological discussion unless the conversation's headed that direction and I honor Tim's continued existence.

Immediately following Tim's passing, the question reverberating around my head was, "how does one mourn the loss of one's brother?"  Mourning is a uniquely personal experience.  Abolish rules and social constraints.  I break down in tears when I need to, without apologies.  At first, I cried about all the things Tim would miss such as the birth and fathering of his child.  But when I considered all the things Tim might be doing now, such as training in heaven to be God's soldier (that's a story best told by Mom), it seemed that Tim might be engrossed in his new activities while those of us left behind would be the ones intensely missing his participation here on earth.  Now I cry about Tim never meeting Miriam on this earth.  I cry about never backpacking in Patagonia together or taking our kids to India together.  I cry about not being able to call him on the car ride home.  I cry about never singing "Kryptonite"with Tim nor hearing him say, "big blue sky with little puffy clouds" to me.  I miss all those little inside jokes.

In my composed moments, I think of Tim watching everything taking place on earth and I wonder what he would say.  For example, Dad, John, Miriam, and I went to see the Counting Crows.  Although Dad and Tim used to play Counting Crows' albums for hours at a time, the live performance was bad.  Dad and I laughed about how Tim probably already knew the show would be bad.  Sometimes I have these kinds of conversations with Tim though, admittedly, they are always one-way.  I don't hear from Tim like I sometimes hear from God.

I wrote all the above a couple months ago.

Now, I'm seeing a counselor.  She asked me yesterday, "Do you know how to grieve?"  Hmm, I suppose I don't.  She recommended a book about grieving.  She recommended writing about Tim (thus, the completion of this blog).  She recommended talking about Tim.  She listened, too.  She listened a lot.  She asked me to describe Tim.  She said he sounds like a wonderful man.  He is!  She gave me permission to speak about Tim in the present tense.  As if I needed permission!  But you know what? Affirmation from someone outside the situation helped.

I began reading the recommended book, How to Survive the Loss of a Love, and recognized my recent behaviors in the laundry list of grief's impacts: feeling empty, experiencing a loss of concentration, a tendency to be slower in speech.  While grief remains an intensely personal experience, perhaps I can learn how to grieve.

Lessons from Miriam

How can a seven week old, like Miriam, teach a 32 year old, like me?

In, oh, so many ways!

All those things the experienced parents told me about are true.  Of course, my daughter's beautiful and delightful and perfect.  I can stare at her for extended periods of time and be content simply with her lying on top of me as she sleeps.  Miriam wakes once or twice a night, gets fussy only when I consume too much chocolate or in the evenings when over-stimulation from the day catches up with her, and has truly rockstar-worthy hair.  She's a gift.  As a wise second-time parent advised, I realize she's the gifted one and not I because of how easily she eats and sleeps.  I give thanks now since any future children may not prove so easy.

In addition to all the things they told me, there are a few tips I've picked up over the past six weeks.
  1. If someone offers me a place to nurse in private, I take it.  Once, I tried nursing in the middle of a party.  The minute I covered Miriam with my "nursing apron,"folks quickly drifted away from us.  Point taken.
  2. It's important to be able to do Baby Math.  Every time I feed Miriam, the clock restarts and I calculate 2.5 to 3 hours as the next appointed feeding time.  This forces me to estimate what else I can get done during the interval.  HOWEVER, unforeseen obstacles may arise such as baby needing to be held and thus, Tip #3.
  3. Becoming proficient at tasks with only one hand frees the other hand up to overcome the unforeseen obstacle in Tip #2.
  4. Learning how to use a breast pump early can help avoid baby's fit of rage if mommy's gone longer than expected (Like that time I went out with a girlfriend and got home a little too late.  Sorry, Miriam and John.).
  5. Explosive poops, hemorrhoids, spit up, baby fussiness -- all opportunities to put the world on hold and focus on the truly important things in life.
  6. Washing poop-covered clothes with other laundry is ok.  It all gets clean.
  7. Don't worry, moms, the real you will return.  The split personality that emerges as uncontrollable hormones rage through your body are only temporary.
As I sit here typing with Miriam sleeping on my lap, I'll agree with all those experienced parents -- motherhood really is a great adventure!

Heads Up

I've had many competing strains of thought and wonderings wandering through my mind over the past many months.  I'm looking forward to writing a series of essays here about each of them, partly to help clear my mind of the things that keep me up at night and partly to provide some insight into what's been going on in life.  Oh, yeah, and partly to help in processing and healing.
In no specific order, here's a preview of some upcoming topics:
  • Things I've learned through having a baby of my own
  • Grief observed
  • Pointers on building a startup community
  • Holding roles and titles open-handedly, aka Loose robes

TED Talks

"[Courageous people are people who] are willing to let go of whom they thought they should be in order to be whom they actually are." ~Brene Brown

"Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage." ~Brene Brown

food for thought

Actually reading The Economist for THIS week (if you know me, I tend to get WAY behind on my Economist reading), I came across a couple articles that are worth sharing:
  1. The death of a country: Regarding Syria, this article raises too many questions to cover here but I'll whet your appetite so you click through to read for yourself.  The author calls President Obama and America to take action in Syria.  The author highlight that America is the world's super power.  True?  Well, it's our reputation, at the very least, and as such, the author proffers, we have a responsibility to engage and to engage NOW.  The details of the conflict are sundry and confusing.  This article helps explain the chaos, even if it only raises more questions than it answers.
  2. The great experiment: This one may just cause you to rethink your stance on legalization of elicit drugs.  And if you think marijuana's one thing but other elicit drugs are an entirely separate issue, have a read.  The article will challenge your thinking.

What's It All About, Anyway?

"God is not working for our temporal personal happiness.  He is not working so that we would feel satisfied and complete or that we would have a positive self-image or a comfortable lifestyle.  No, he is working to make us lights that shine in darkness, so that people would see our good works and give him glory." ~Paul David Trip, War of Words

Announcing . . .

I know, it's been awhile.  So here I am, last night in CT with the fam for the holidays, finally posting an update with a few photos for good measure.  Now, where to begin?

Fatehpur Sikri, Uttar Pradesh
At the end of September, John and I headed to India.  We spent a week in Delhi with a day trip to the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort up the river from the Taj, and Fatehpur Sikri which was the abode of the grandfather of the man that built the Taj Mahal.  It was just what John expected in a visit to India -- so many colors, sights, sounds, and smells.  We also visited lots of old friends and spent a leisurely Sunday as I used to: going to church then having lunch with the Pillai family.  We stayed with the Pillai family in Gurgaon and enjoyed wonderful times of visiting and hearing about their recent trip to visit relatives in Kerala.
On day hike above Dhel Meadow
Evening in Dhel Meadow

Following a frenetic time in Delhi, we escaped to the Great Himalayan National Park for a seven day trek from the Sainj River Valley into the Tirthan River Valley.  Our wonderful journey was punctuated by evening campfires, a crew of five that did everything from cook meals to carry our portable toilet seat (yes, really), and a death-defying journey across a hail-covered ledge that was no wider than one's foot in some places.  This was the India that John had not anticipated and my favorite part of the trip.  One particular evening in Dhel Meadow stood out as the highlight; we enjoyed a roaring campfire, amazing food, and a view of the snow-covered Himalayas as the sun set.  It was a perfect celebration of our one-year wedding anniversary.
14-1/2 week ultrasound
When we returned to the US, we learned that I was pregnant (I'd actually been pregnant our entire time in India)!  We knew John would deploy in December for six months.  While the exciting news settled in, we also mourned the fact that John would miss much of the pregnancy.  We now pray he'll be home in time for the birth in mid-June.
Thanksgiving Day "baby photo" although I wasn't really showing yet
So there's a quick recap of life since September: India - pregnancy - deployment departure - holidays in CT.  I've enjoyed a 2-1/2 week stay with my family in CT, enjoying lots of laughter, x-country skiing, and meeting my brother's and sister-in-law's new puppy McKinley.  Time to head back to St. Louis . . .