Work and Sleep

People keep asking me how  I feel now that I am pregnant. Thankfully, the Lord has kept me from nausea, and things are going well. But I am definitely tired. For the last 2 months, I have not slept through the night once. I take more naps now than I ever have, but my brain and body seem to always feel a bit sluggish. I have begun to feel like I am falling behind in all of my responsibilities, and the baby is not even halfway here yet!

Then, a few days ago, I was reading Psalm 127 and decided to pray the words of the Psalm to the Lord: “Unless the LORD builds a house, its builders labor over it in vain; unless the Lord watches over a city, the watchman stays alert in vain. In vain you get up early and stay up late, working hard to have enough food–yes, He gives sleep to the one He loves.”

And do you know what the next words are? “Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord, children, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons born in one’s youth. Happy is the man who has filled his quiver with them. Such men will never be put to shame when they speak with their enemies at the city gate.”

It’s like the Lord knows the hard work that goes into having children (even before they are born!). And so He reminded me that all of my work–work for the baby, caring for the house, editing, ministry things, odd jobs–will be in vain if I do not spend time loving Him first. “He gives sleep to the one He loves.” I still have the energy I need to get things done, but what will any of it matter if it is not done for Him?


Why I’ve Been Silent

What do you write about when your brain is consumed by the one thing you’re keeping quiet? The news is finally out . . . We are having a baby! My past few weeks have been full of moments. There were moments of thankfulness, of freaking out, of all-I-want-to-do-is-sleep, of an incredible husband, of sweet friends, and of trying to figure out how our life might look with this big change. But I couldn’t write about them until we were ready for the world to know. And now we are!

Designed by Gregory Lawrence

Designed by Gregory Lawrence

I have quickly realized how unique and personal pregnancy is, yet it touches the lives of everyone in our spheres. How do we balance our desire for privacy in our intimate details with the shared nature of being a part of a wonderful community?

We both believe that life begins at conception, but we weren’t ready to celebrate our baby’s life with everyone until we had passed further through the first trimester. We have friends who announce their pregnancies immediately, and we love to celebrate with them, but I couldn’t stand the though of mourning with acquaintances if anything had happened to our little one so early on. Other friends waited even longer than we did to let the world know when they were expecting.

We have other friends who have struggled and are struggling to get pregnant. We have friends who had babies so much sooner than they anticipated and friends whose families grew through adoption. Some adoptions took weeks while others stretched on for years.

I love seeing the changes that come in each of my friends’ lives. But can I tell you something that comes with these unique stories? Disagreements. And I am terrified of entering into the world of “mommy wars.” There is no perfect way to raise a child, but we seem to enjoy pretending there might be. I pray that as we raise our little hero, we’ll begin to find the balance between accepting the loving suggestions of our community and making our own big, personal decisions. No matter what, I pray that we will be more focused on the Lord and on loving people than we are on competition and perfection.

Will you pray with us?

Beach Days

Palm Trees

There were quite a few moments last weekend. My wonderful husband let me go to Charleston last weekend for some time with my girls. Kara, April, and I roomed together for all three years of grad school before I got married and Kara and April headed to East Asia for a year. Even when they returned to the states, we were all a bit scattered, so we have had to be intentional to spend time with one another. Our weekend plans came together at the very last minute, but when all was said and cone, we all realized just how much we need sweet friendship!

The Beach at Night

On Thursday night, we headed to the beach for some soul therapy, and within just a few minutes, we were talking about some of the hard things going on in our lives. From family to health to fears and future plans, we are definitely all in a time of transition and growing pains. In the midst of it all, I am so thankful to have dear friends to process with, pray with, laugh with, and cry with. Our moments included sitting in silence while we soaked in the sun (and tried to get a tan . . . but two sunburns and one I’m-still-pale later, we gave up), chatting with new friends in Chick-fil-A for over four hours, and wandering around just having fun together. I’m thankful for moments like these!

Sullivan's on Sullivans | You should eat there!!

Thursday and Friday

I woke up in the middle of the night last night and couldn’t get back to sleep. As I lay awake, I began to think about what the night was like for Jesus and the disciples two thousand years ago.

Jesus ate a bittersweet Passover dinner with his closest friends that evening. He knew he would be betrayed by Judas. Even Peter would deny knowing him. Yet he ate with them and invited them to pray with him in a familiar garden. While he prayed agonized words of hope and humility, his friends fell asleep.

The group had celebrated a major Jewish feast the day before, and as I tried to sleep last night, I began to realize how tired they must have been. Jesus had celebrated the Passover, as well, and he seemed to always be teaching; he also had reason to be tired. But he knew the importance of the night and the importance of his relationship with his father. None of them would sleep again that night, but only Jesus was prepared for what was going to happen.

When Judas arrived in the garden, he brought soldiers and priests with him. The night had just begun. Under the cover of darkness, the crowd arrested Jesus. He was taken to the high priest’s house to await daylight and a trial before the council, but he was no guest. He was blindfolded and beaten as he waited for the rest of the world to wake.

In the early morning, the council determined that Jesus believed himself to be the Son of God. They declared his teachings blasphemous and sent him to the Roman governor for punishment. Pilate would not sentence Jesus on charges of blasphemy, and he sent the prisoner to Herod when he realized that he was from Galilee–a region under Herod’s jurisdiction. Herod hoped Jesus would entertain him, but Jesus remained silent in his presence. For their own amusement, Herod and his soldiers spent some time mocking Jesus before they sent him back to Pilate once more.

Two Roman officials had failed to find guilt in Jesus, but the Jews eventually orchestrated a riot the governor could not ignore. Though he declared Jesus innocent, Pilate delivered Jesus over to the crowd’s will; Jesus would be crucified.

A feast on Thursday and death on Friday. Jesus did not sleep to prepare himself for the day of his death. Instead, he prayed. His followers slept, and they were not prepared for the trials they had to face. As I lay in bed last night, I began to thank Jesus for his mercy and for his power. As the council uncovered, Jesus–a man from Nazareth–was the Son of God. He came to earth to save us from the death we all deserve.

He found the strength to face that long night in his relationship with his father. Though the disciples did not fully understand Jesus’ relationship with God the night he was arrested, the Holy Spirit came to give them understanding and strength. Now, the Spirit guides all of Jesus’ followers and prepares us for the trials we will face. His power and the knowledge that Jesus already faced death can make even the most difficult night a bit more bearable.

So far, I have not faced the deep trials that so many others face. For that I am thankful, but I also know that trials come. I pray for my friends who are already facing heartache beyond what I can fathom. I pray they will know peace and rest in the man who faced his own sleepless night two thousand years ago. And I pray that when my own trials come, I will remember Jesus, too, and cry out to the man whose very death allows me to live.

(Luke 22:7-23:25)

A little ditty

In our house, we love the Lego Movie. And sometimes when I get bored or frustrated with work, I change the words to songs to help lighten my mood. So today, Elise and I came up with this (to the tune of “Everything is Awesome”) :

Everyone is angry!
Everyone is mad ’cause they’re all Pharisees.
Everyone is angry,
And they live in Galilee.

Maybe we’ll write a verse next week 😉

Stuff and things

A moment from this weekend:

On Saturday, we sorted through about six boxes of our belongings.

As Greg and I get ready to move to PA, we have been slowly but surely purging our stuff. We have a lot of stuff. Much more stuff than any newlywed couple should have. But as we look around our house, each thing we have seems to be attached to a person or a memory. In our living room, I can only name four things we actually bought (rather than received from the generosity of a friend), and two of them came from yard sales. Our stuff seems so full of people.

It is a lot harder to get rid of things that remind me of people. A couch reminds me of a witty friend who stayed with us for two weeks while she was between graduation and Scotland. Our cake topper (now a decorative statue) belonged first to my parents. The coffee table reminds me of one of our first couple-friends. We experienced dating, engagement, and newly married life together. A grandmother clock first belonged to a grandfather.*

It has been fun to experience nostalgia together as we go through boxes from different phases of our lives, especially since we’ve only been married for two and a half years. Each box holds more things. Each thing holds a memory to share.

And slowly but surely, we are simplifying. We want to be sure that we steward well the gifts God and our friends have given us. The people will be with us even when the stuff is gone.

“Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
Romans 13:7-8

*Just a note: We’re not getting rid of everything I listed. They are just a few examples of the memories our things hold.

Sneaky Springtime

Today’s Moment:

As I let Brodeur out this morning (yes, our dog is named after Martin Brodeur, long-time NJ Devils hockey goalie . . . you can just call him Brody), I noticed that the decorative plum tree in our yard is blooming. I swear there were no buds yesterday! When I saw the beautiful flowers, I had two simultaneous thoughts:

1) How pretty!
2) Aw, man . . . Brody is going to eat those stupid fruit pits and get sick again.

As lovely as the flowers are, I don’t ever intend to plant a decorative plum tree in my one-day-dream-home yard. Maybe some peaches, apples, cherries, and dogwoods, but no decorative plums or bradford pears.

Spring is a sneaky season, and it is my favorite. I can’t wait to see what other blooms sneak up on me.

Sharing My Story

I’ve been thinking a lot about stories lately—my story, your story, his story, her story. Every one of us has a story, but sometimes I think mine doesn’t matter. Or at the very least that it is boring, something no one would want to hear. I love hearing my friends’ stories, reading their updates, and I don’t even mind seeing the sixteenth picture of a friend’s little girl’s pigtails on my Facebook news feed. So why do I think that my story is uninteresting, especially to the people who care about me?

I worry that my friends will think I am over-sharing or obnoxious if I tell too much of my story. Or I think I have nothing interesting to say. I forget, though, that my story isn’t primarily about me anyway. My story matters simply because it is part of a larger story. My life touches other lives, and the Lord who created each person I touch has invited me to be a part of the story He has been writing since before there were people to write stories about (2 Timothy 1:8-9). Because He commanded me not to be ashamed of the testimonies He has given me, I am learning to see my story in a new way.

My individual days seem pretty mind-numbing to me. Take Wednesday for example . . .
I woke up (late) and rushed to shower and eat breakfast—a granola bar and an apple. Then I hung out with my friend’s two-year-old boy and one-year-old girl. We watched Thomas and Friends for an hour while their dad was in class. When he got home, I headed off to work in a boring cubicle at my boring office. (I guess there is one interesting thing about my cubicle: I sit on an exercise ball instead of in a chair. The big blue ball looks a little funny rolled up under my desk. The cleaning ladies have tried to replace it with a chair about six times.) I stared at the computer for two and a half hours.

Then it was lunch time, and I ran home for a quick bite and to let the dog out before driving 45 minutes to a retirement home. Every other week, I help my friend Bobbie with a Bible study she’s teaching in the community. We studied the names of God for about an hour. There was one sweet woman there with hearing trouble, and I’m not sure she heard a word we said. When we left the retirement community, I got to spend some time relaxing with Miss Bobbie. She’s a prayer warrior who really loves Jesus, and we have fun enjoying tea together.

After tea, I headed back home, where I finally got to see my husband. We went out to eat together, and we managed to watch a few minutes of local adult-league hockey before both of us had to go back to staring at a computer screen—me to work and him to study.

A normal day. These are the parts of my life that I don’t find interesting at all. But I think I am starting to realize that the tasks of our days do not make up our stories. Instead, our stories are made up of the moments when we pause to notice beauty or pain, joy or struggle, silliness or grace. These are the moments that impact the people who are connected to our stories. Our stories are interesting when we are willing to share what we learn along the way.

So I have set a new goal for myself. Each day, I will try to find a single moment—a moment that helps define my story.
A moment to share with you.

I will still occasionally worry about whether I seem like an exhibitionist, but I’ll have to remember how much I love hearing other people’s stories. And I’ll have to remember that my story is being written by the Author of all creation. If He thought it was important to write me into His story, then who am I too hide my pages from the world?

Today’s moment:
Over lunch, I had the incredible blessing of hearing my husband tell me about the conversation he had with a coworker this morning. For the last few weeks, they have been meeting to talk about philosophies and worldviews, and today they talked about some gritty stuff. It is so encouraging to see Greg’s face light up when he talks about the depths of our faith. I’m thankful to be married to a man who is passionate about God and about sharing Him with others.

So what about you? Care to share a moment from your story?

My Christmas decorations are still up . . . on purpose

Today, January 6th, is Three Kings’ Day. Though El Día de los Reyes is primarily celebrated in Latin countries, Greg and I have decided to adopt parts of the holiday for ourselves.

It all started when we realized how little time we have to enjoy our Christmas decorations. Since we are still young and childless, we are often the ones traveling to see out-of-state family during the Christmas season. It felt like a waste to put up decorations we’d only get to enjoy for a few short weeks. But not decorating seemed tragic in its own right. So we decided to leave our decorations up just a bit longer than most Americans, and the first week of January came with a holiday that gave us an excuse for keeping the house decorated!

Since I spent so much time studying Spanish and the cultures of Spanish speaking countries, I loved the idea of celebrating El Día de los Reyes on January 6th with my Latin friends. The holiday comes with its own traditions, and we are still working out just which ones we’ll include in our festivities. If I can find one, this year I hope to include a Rosca de Reyes. (You can find a bit more about this fun treat here.) Perhaps when we have kiddos, we’ll have them leave hay out for the camels. For now, we just keep it low-key.

We also enjoy celebrating Three Kings’ Day because it helps us to remember a few facts about Christmas that can get lost in popular nativity scenes. Did you know that the wise men did not visit Jesus until He was a bit older? The shepherds got to see the baby the day He was born, but the wise men had to travel quite a distance before they were able to worship the new king. In fact, Herod’s order in Matthew 2:16 leads most scholars to believe that Jesus was close to two years old when the wise men visited Him. The Bible doesn’t tell us for sure how many wise men there were, either. Three gifts are mentioned, and Christian tradition names three magi, but the Bible itself does not mention a number. Even the title of “kings” does not quite work as a translation of the Greek word “magi” that is used to describe Jesus’ important visitors. There are quite a few things in our traditional ideas about these men that we simply do not know for sure. Celebrating this holiday after the day we set aside to celebrate Jesus’ birth helps us think through our traditions with more care.

Finally, it is just fun to have another reason to celebrate the birth of the King of kings! While Christmas focuses on Jesus’ humanity, we use Three Kings’ Day to focus on His royalty. God loved us enough to enter the world as a helpless baby, but even as a toddler, He deserved the worship of important men from around the world.

So, do any of you celebrate Three Kings’ Day? If so, I’d love to hear about some of your traditions!

Going to the doctor

I am convinced that I should not have to be an insurance agent before I can visit a doctor.

(Please excuse me while I vent a bit today. They say that writing out your thoughts can help you make sense of them . . . and I’d love to make sense of this mess that has been rolling around in my brain and taking up so much of my time recently!)

Since signing up for an HSA, I have become more and more aware of the mess that is our healthcare system. This week, it all came to a head when I realized that I would have to pay more out-of-pocket for a simple check-in with my primary care physician than I paid for a visit to an urgent care clinic that included multiple lab tests. Both offices are in-network providers for my healthcare company, so I began to ask questions.

Apparently, there are certain codes associated with each visit and procedure in any doctor’s office. The insurance company has an “allowable amount” for each of these codes, but the allowable amount differs by state, and they change from year to year. I have to begin my hunt for affordable healthcare by gaining access to the allowable amount my particular insurance company is willing to pay for each code. But there is no easily accessible list of these amounts for me to find. I have to contact the company each and every time I might visit the doctor to find out how much they will cover of the code for that specific visit. Which is tricky, because it means that you have to get the code for your visit from the doctor’s office before visiting.

The doctor’s office does not like to tell you the code before your visit, because things may change if the doctor has to perform additional tests once you arrive. So far, I have been able to secure codes for two kinds of visits, but I was only able to do so after an appointment.

(I also found out that my out of pocket expenses for at least one of the visits would have been less if I had been uninsured! I am paying for insurance and then paying more for a simple doctor’s appointment? Something seems amiss . . .)

If I have a code ahead of time, I can call my insurance company to find out the plan’s allowable amount for the visit that I might make to the doctor’s office. Once they tell me how much they will cover of that code, I can call multiple doctor’s offices to ask what they would charge for a visit coded that way.

Since I now have two codes in my possession, I plan to call a few practices in my area to determine comparative costs for the same treatments I have already received. If I find an office that charges my insurance company less than my current office does, I will probably be moving my family to a new practice. If the doctors will tell me what they charge. My state does not require doctors to share their fees with patients or potential patients.

Before I purchase almost any other product or service in the world, I have the opportunity to shop around and find the best deal. Discovering what I will actually pay out-of-pocket for a visit to the doctor, however, is nearly impossible. But one state has recently made a way for consumers to begin understand how much they can expect to pay for healthcare, and I am a bit jealous of people who live there.

Since October 1st, insurers in Massachusetts have been required to provide price estimates for many procedures. Doctors are even required to tell patients what they charge for certain procedures if the patients ask!* Though I am excited that insurance companies are helping Massachusetts residents decipher their healthcare costs, I would love to see more states require that the doctors themselves reveal what they charge for care.

I’m sure costs vary because different offices use different equipment, employ more staff, or factor in any number of other variables. If price lists are made available to the public, doctors may have to begin to explain what differentiates their practices from one another in order to validate their cost differences. The increased competition might just drive costs down. The increased need for explanation might even make a visit to the doctor a bit more intelligible.

After hours on the phone with doctors and insurance companies, I am ready for a change. I am ready to be a patient and a consumer instead of a researcher, an insurance expert, a doctor, and a financial counselor.

 What about you? How have you navigated the jungles of healthcare this year?