Sunday, December 9, 2007

Christmas Story

This season, I hope you're taking time to delight in the story of God's love for you, that breathtaking story of extravagant love. Each day of Advent brings us that much closer to celebrating His birth, but does each day also bring you one step closer to Him? Don't let the busyness pull you away from a deeper relationship. Instead, take time to revel in the intensity of His love, the greatness of His plan, and the power of His sacrifice. Our perfect High Priest came and reconciled us to God our Father once and for all. That is so much more exciting than Christmas trees and cookies, as exciting as those are. So let that consume you. Not the hustle and bustle.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Cora update

Cora received a few early Christmas presents from her Grammie last week. She has since been zooming around the house either pushing her baby in a stroller, or collecting everything she can find into her shopping cart. She is a delight to watch.

Everyone is asking for an update on her Tuberous Sclerosis. Not much new news, which is GOOD news! She is not on anticonvulsant medication yet, against all the doctor's recommendations, and yet it has worked out to be so fortunate because we now know that her lack of any more seizures is a result of God answering prayer and not medication! The doctor on Monday was quite surpised that she hadn't had any more, saying that once they start, they usually really start since the tumors have grown enough to start really aggravating the brain. There is concern still about sub-clinical seizures which we cannot see or know she's having unless we observe a slowing or regressing in development. An infant development specialist will help to discern this (we are on a waiting list), but from our perspective, she seems to be developing quite well. She is learning new things everyday, and often surprises us when she responds in understanding to things we say. We're especially encouraged that she shows no signs of autism after seeing the frightening statistics of about 50% developing it in some form or other. She is as sweet and cuddly and social as could possibly be.

Our biggest prayer request right now is that we can get through holiday travels seizure-free. Then we do not have to further consider meds or have the stress of hospital visits while we are at home in the U.S. Please also continue praying with us that she will remain on the mild side of any and all symptoms resulting from the TS. Thank you!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

December the 1st

Today was the start of Christmas for us. Oh, we've had a little tree lit up with lights and some holly and red candles scattered about for a couple weeks already. Christmas music, too, has been occasionally on the stereo. But today, it truly felt like Christmas.

Maybe it was the snow. Yep, almost a foot of it. All day large white flakes fell hard, starting early this morning as the three of us lay warm and cozy in bed together watching it through the window. Throughout our unhurried breakfast and couple cups of coffee, reading Cora some books and each other some Scripture, we watched Vancouver transform into a winter wonderland. Then we bundled up and went for a walk, Cacao bounding about with a white snout, and Cora tromping through it in her pink boots. The afternoon flew by as both Dave and I wrote diligently on our papers, but sitting next to the frosted window with hot tea and beautiful Christmas music playing made even the hard work absolutely delightful. An afternoon snowball fight between David, Jason, Cacao and I, while Cora looked on in consternation, was a fun break.

Or maybe it feels like Christmas because of our first Christmas party. This evening, we all dressed up, Cora in a red gingerbread man dress with even a little gingerbread man barrette to match, me in a coordinating red skirt. Then we drove through the swirling snow (passing by a couple wrecks on the trip there and back!) to the Regent Christmas party, where we socialized for a couple hours and then had a service of singing and meditations. Cora did even more socializing than us...she was buzzing about as the life of the party. She's very popular. Maybe we could learn some popularity hints: smile a lot, hold people's hands, and cuddle close if they want a hug.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

All Cozy Inside


In the past couple of days, brilliant white tips have appeared on the mountains. Our wet and chilly autumn is slowly creeping into a wet and icy winter. But inside we have been toasty warm with frequent crackling fires, steaming soups and stews, and warm blankets added to the beds. Our lives, too, have been buffetted on the outside by freezing cold winds, hitting our faces and taking our breath away. But inside there is warmth and peace from the fire of the knowledge of God's goodness.

This afternoon since returning from the church potluck, I have been wrapped up in blankets in bed. First for a nap while Cora napped, now for reading and writing while David took her to the park. My mind is consumed as always by our recent events, but less for fear of Cora's future than in simply attempting to synthesize and assimilate all the many loving revelations the Lord has been teaching me. This has been such a painful experience because I of course want to protect Cora; my love wants to shield her from suffering any pain or difficulty in the future, which this disorder she has been diagnosed with will certainly cause. I want only good things, happy things, an easy road for her. But God knows that the easy road is the worthless, meaningless road. He likewise wants good things for His children: for me and David and Cora. The difference is that He in His infinite wisdom knows what is truly good. And this trial is good. It requires us to lean more on Christ; it flames in us a desire to seek the things above rather than the things of earth; it drives us to take refuge in God's shelter and to seek comfort from His Word; it changes each of us into more of who God wants us to be. And so I praise Him for this inner warmth amidst the icy cold blasts, and I look with hope and expectation to the fulfilling of all His purposes.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Halloween

My weekend at the monastery was a time of quiet, meditation, prayer, and study. It was a beautiful place, up on a hill in the Fraser Valley, surrounded by golden woods and near a high bluff with a spectacular view. I loved awakening before dawn to boisterously ringing church bells. The first morning I stole away to a lookout room to pray before breakfast, watching the sun rise behind black mountains, gradually lightening the river down in the valley below. We were hearily served delicious meals of fruit and vegatables grown by the monks, and beef from their own cattle. Our professor, a benignant and gentle old man, had a manner very conducive to learning about spirituality. And in between the trenchant lectures on integrating spirituality with ministry, we had plenty of time for assimilating and prayerful introspection in the quiet of the woods or our own room. One afternoon, one of the brothers spoke to us about Benedictine spirituality. Afterward, we joined he and the other monks for their sung evening vespers, their deep and reverent voices filling the high vaulted ceilings of the cathedral with worship. Sunday morning, we went to mass, after which the 20 of us (Protestants) celebrated our own little private communion table, praying for each other before each one took the elements. That was a special time, as we had quickly grown to know and care for each other in the course of the two days.

I was happy to return to my family, although they had had a really bad night. A teething Cora had kept her daddy up most of it, and they were both exhausted and ill feeling, while I contrastly was physically relaxed and spiritually invigorated. Poor things.

Since then, the pace of life has been pretty furious, hence the reason I am only just now writing. But I have been diligent to not lose hold of some of the gleanings over the weekend. They are still fresh, and God just as present, even in the hectic busyness as they were in the still places.

Tuesday, we went to the doctor for both Cora and I to have our checkup (same doctor!). Cora got 4(!) vaccinations, a tramatic event which she took like the super tough girl she is. Only a couple minutes of frantic crying after the four consecutive and increasingly painful shots were given. She cuddled close to me and watched the doctor after that like a hawk. She is not quite even 21 pounds. Her little buddy who's a month younger than her is 26 pounds!

Halloween was a new experience. On Wednesday mornings I always go to a playgroup at our church, a leisurely time chatting with other moms while the kids run around. Cora usually falls asleep on the way home, and I gently transfer her to her crib. But this time she woke up from the catnap wired and their was no getting her back to sleep that afternoon. Early in the evening, we joined our pastor's family for a bit of trick-or-treating along their street before heading back to the church for a fall festival. We have quickly become good friends with Barton and Heather. They have a 3 yr old (Cora and I will be going to her birthday party tomorrow) and a 9 mo old, and we share a lot of things in common. For her costume, I had gotten Cora an adorable little monkey suit (what else could she be?) from Baby Gap, and boy, she was a hit! She was so cute following Emily (the 3 yr old) around. At the doorstep, people would hold out their basket of candy for her to choose a piece, but instead of taking one, she would put the piece she was holding (and had been gnawing on) into their basket. What a good sharer! Then we were off to the festival, where there were games and snacks. On our way back home, we discovered a huge crowd of people outside a church near our house, and we were drawn into it by the yummy smells and loud music. They were waiting for a fireworks display (fireworks are a big part of Halloween here), and so we stayed for the show, eating hot soup and a hotdog while we watched. Cora put her head on my shoulder and watched with eyes glazed over. By the time we got our monkey home to bed, she was exhausted, but so happy. She just loves being out and about so much. Hmm. Wonder where she gets that from.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Weekend Plans


Autumn continues in all its breathtaking, brilliant splendor. We have never lived in a place where the colors are so glorious everywhere. Makes me always want to be carrying my camera so I can capture some of it. But then I always forget.

Cora is walking around this frosty morning in new white furry slippers I found at the dollar store yesterday (although like pretty much everything else there, they did not cost a dollar). They are adorable on her, only I didn't think about one thing. They are furry all over--no grippy soles--so her feet keep sliding out from underneath her on our slippery hardwoods. She keeps plopping down, and as she tries to get them underneath her, they slide out again so she's almost doing the splits. Once she gets up she walks very slowly and deliberately, careful to have each foot secure before the next step.

She has started to become a true girl. She loves to put on necklaces, which was for a long time the dog's chain collar. Finally I got her some plastic beads which are much more appropriate. She likes to try to carry my or Melissa's or Alesha's purse if we leave it lying around, although we all have big purses, so she really struggles.

This weekend I am heading off to a monastary a couple hours away for a weekend course: "Ministry and Spirituality." I will be leaving this afternoon and returning on Sunday afternoon. So David has a very full weekend of daddy duty ahead of him. He has frozen chili (from a big chili party we threw last Saturday night) and fish chowder I made last night to at least help out in the food department. I am looking so forward to the time away, immersed in a quiet place of beauty and God. Of course I'll miss the loud, chaotic fun always going on here, but the change of pace will be refreshing.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Surprises

Last night we had the perfect date night. Seriously. Perfect. Let me describe...

With the absence of an afternoon nap, Cora went down easily by about 7:30. Leaving Jay and Melissa in charge (just one benefit of a community house--free babysitters), we jumped on a bus into the city. There we went to a trendy lounge/restaurant we'd been hearing about and wanting to try. After a short wait in the crowded bar, they sat us at a quiet table over by the large grated fireplace that radiated warmth on such a cold rainy night. Stylish decor, cool music, dim lighting, interesting drinks, and delicious food made us understand why it's so popular. As it was our first night out for quite a while, we were a bit more liberal with our ordering, getting an appetizer and a couple drinks in addition to our main meals. The conversation and laughter were nonstop, and somehow didn't even revolve around Cora like most conversations seem. Our waitress was sweet and witty, and we enjoyed chatting a little here and there about Vancouver and why we moved here and such. At the end of the night, Dave and I were oblivious in deep conversation when a young man walked up to our table, pulling us back into our surroundings. He introduced himself as the night manager, and said Tanya (our waitress) had told him about us being a really great couple. He asked about our evening and we raved about the food and drinks--they really were awesome. After a bit of chit chat he began to hand us our bill and said, "Well, you guys are the type of customers we love to have here, and so we just want to do something special for you. So tonight we've covered the bill." Stunned silence and gaping looks exchanged, followed by awed appreciation and profusive thanks to him and our waitress. I mean, what restaurant does that?!!!! We sort of were expecting him to perhaps offer us a couple "10% off your next meal" coupons or something. At the most a free drink. But the entire bill?!! It was just so God. I said I felt like I was just chosen for a huge prize. It was the most amazing feeling: a completely unexpected gift given with no expectation of anything in return. Sometimes God just blesses our socks off.

The whole thing gave me a sense of grace. That's what it felt like. A completely undeserved, unexpected gift that makes you giddy inside. There is no reason we should have been chosen for such a gift. They knew we are young grad students (at seminary no less) and parents to a toddler, and so we don't get out much. We're not the type that will be able to return often to spend the big bucks. But we were "chosen" despite our unworthiness. On the way home, the song "Freely, freely, you have received. Freely, freely give" was playing repeatedly through my mind.

Another really happy thing happened today. Our garbage got picked up for the first time in over 3 months. Yep. Those guys have been on strike, and we never imagined it could last this long before they came to an agreement. The garbage building up in our garage--just imagine: 5 people plus a baby!--has been absolutely disgusting. Oh happy day to have it finally gone!

Also, I wanted to explain the last two pictures on the previous post. Those are Cora with her "baby," the first thing to which she's become really attached. She was always holding the baby doll at the church nursery, so finally I got a clue and got her one of her own a few weeks ago. She loves it and is always saying "baby" to it. It's really adorable!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Week in Pictures

Last night I turned in a 10-page paper to my professor that consumed me over the weekend, and so finally I can once again think about writing about something other than the psychological dysfunctions relating to burnout.

Last week was Reading Week at Regent, a break from classes to catch our breath. It started with the Thanksgiving weekend where we had no less than 4 full-out turkey dinners. No joke. Despite their Thanksgiving not having any interesting roots like America's (I asked about 10 Canadians and they could tell me nothing about its history), these Canadians certainly know how to celebrate. Friday was a potluck dinner with some Regent friends, Saturday was a more formal dinner of 10 at our pastor's house, Sunday our housemates Jay and Melissa threw a small dinner party (Melissa's first turkey--you should have seen her and David trying to frustratingly stuff the turkey at the wrong end), and finally, Monday, Thanksgiving itself, was spent at the aunt's house of another Regent friend with yet another gorgeous meal. It was incredible, but I probably gained 15 pounds. Here are some highlights:















The rest of the week included plenty of family time. The gorgeous autumn weather was perfect for leaf-crunching in the park, taking Cao to swim at the beach, fish and chips at the harbor, and a visit to the pumpkin patch and local produce market. Some more picture highlights:



































































































Thursday, September 27, 2007

Walking

I am proud to announce that Cora is a full-fledged walker. At the retreat over the weekend, with all the students and faculty paying her so much attention and coaxing her to toddle several steps back and forth between them, she gained her confidence (and her balance) and now walks everywhere instead of crawling. She's been doing a few steps here and there since her birthday of course, but always resorted to crawling when truly determined to get somewhere. She is still slow at it (fortunately), but it's so fun to see her, arms thrown out for balance, taking a tumble every now and then (on Sunday evening she took a bad one...after our long drive home, we took her and Cao for a walk down to the park to let them get some exercise. She took one long walk to Daddy and then fell against his shin and busted the inside of her lip. It bled and bled, and I had to hurry the several blocks home with blood pouring out of her mouth onto her and my clothes!)

I wanted to get a video of her walking around outside, but it's a rainy, rainy day today. So we are walking about indoors and thought we'd give you a little tour of our bedrooms while we're at it, since I described it a bit in a previous post.


video

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Night and Day

Last night, Cora was tired. She didn’t want to eat dinner. At least not what I fixed her. So she fussed. And so I put her to bed. And of course, she woke up hungry. At 1:30. For almost an hour, we suffered her intermittent cries, getting up to comfort her for a moment, only to hear her start up again 5 minutes later just as we were beginning to drift off once more. Finally, Dave made her a bottle which she guzzled and by 3:00 she was fast asleep. At 4:30, we were still staring at the clock. Such frustration. Dave finally moved into the guest room because I was evidently moving too much. When I woke up several hours later, I assumed Dave must be skipping his first class for which he leaves at 8:30 since I hadn’t heard him yet. But getting up, I discovered he was long gone…I had slept right through his moving about our room while getting ready.

My plans for the day were pretty much nil. It’s so dark and rainy outside, and I decided it would be an inside, do-nothing day, as the last three days have been spent out and about running errands, and doing church and Regent things. So, mid-morning I lazily let Cao out to do his thing. When it was time to come back in, he looked at me pitifully. Cora did worse. She screamed. Rain or shine, she always wants to be outside. They were too much for me, ganging up like that. They always take each other's side. So I fixed a second cup of coffee, and the three of us strolled out into the dreary and deserted neighborhood streets. It was silent except for the stroller wheels rolling along on the wet and gritty sidewalk. The air was chilly and tingly, the smell of rain melding with that of a fire somewhere nearby. We all three were very quiet, using our noses and ears and not our too-often exercised mouths. Gradually, my heart that started out tired and dull became enlivened and invigorated. At one point, we passed a tree that was thick with a congregation of loudly chattering birds. Just one tree; they all evidently had gotten the memo of where to be today. Then silence again as we walked out of earshot. When we came back home, my coffee cup drained and my nose cold, those two were still loathe to go inside—Cora cried and kicked all the more instead of being grateful for the outing. They have no concept of rainy days being indoor days. Well, I’m appreciative that they pulled me out, out into what I thought might be uncomfortable, but in truth was moving and vitalizing. Like so much of what God does in our lives. We fear risk and discomfort. Usually, it turns out to be transforming.

Tomorrow we leave for the annual Regent retreat, a weekend of socializing amongst students and faculty. The theme is "Surprised by God: From Fear to Longing". It is at Warm Beach in Washington, which evidently does not have a beach, nor is it warm. Many of the students are camping. We’ll stay in a dry cabin where Cora will sleep much better (what a good excuse so we don't look like wimps not camping in the rain.) Childcare is offered during the sessions, so I look forward to the break. I’m doing several loads of laundry today in preparation. Thankfully, we now have a dryer. For a few weeks last month it was broken, so we were using the line. It’s one thing to have to hang the clothes to dry in August. It’s another thing entirely in September. Just the few weeks without made me extraordinarily grateful for the convenience of a dryer. At first, I was enthusiastic about the line: I had an idealized view of hanging the laundry out, saving energy, the clothes soaking up the wind-born scents of the outdoors. In reality, it is simply annoying. My clothes were stiff and wrinkled, sometimes they wouldn’t get dry before the sun set, then I would find them lying in the dirt where they had fallen off. And hanging up 25 cloth diapers, only to take them down twice when it started to rain, and then when they finally did get dry, were so stiff there was no way I could put them on a bare bottom, was not fun. But for all the hassle, I must say...is there much sweeter than a line of baby girl clothes blowing in the wind? Simply adorable. So, big tangent, but I’m happy to say, the laundry is almost all dried and folded and put away.

Tonight, a neighbor couple that we met while out for a walk one evening a couple weeks ago is stopping by for a glass of wine. They have a blonde dog almost exactly like Cao. So while the dogs run and play in the backyard, we plan to get to know each other a bit more. So much of our community is either Regent or church, so we are excited about extending it to include some neighbors.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Autumn Musings

The Autumn chill is in the air. Somehow, in what only seems a few days, we have lost an hour of daylight, and they continue to shorten by several minutes each day. On this bleak and windy day, Dave and I, taking a Sabbath break from our studies, curled up in bed as Cora napped to read aloud the Wind in the Willows. We're at the chapter where Mole rediscovers his forgotten home, a story that infuses warmth for one's own home. We talked at length afterwards about old homes and this our new home. We contentedly looked about us at the glow of lamplight on the rich wooden walls and floors of our bedroom, the deep reds and browns of the oriental rug and throw pillows and furniture, our books spilling off of bookshelves and nightstands and tables, the fireplace ready for the coming freeze and the mantle covered with pictures and candles, our two cozy reading chairs on either side of a little tea table. It is by far the most cozy bedroom we've ever had. Perhaps we should christen it Mole End. With Cora's awakening, we took a long walk in the drizzle for some fresh sourdough bread to go with my homemade chicken noodle soup. It just simply had to be a soup day. There was no question.

My sweet mom was here for the past week, a blur of coffee chats, sunsets on the beach while watching Cao swim lap after lap after his ball, walking and bike riding around town, and laughing over Cora's antics. The weather was just gorgeous every day: bright blue skies, crisp air. Each day was a special treat totally devoted to enjoying each other. The house feels empty without her now. (Although we do have 3 missionaries in need of housing for a few days filling up the space). This morning when I awoke to the dreariness, I thought, "How appropriate." Then I pulled on the velvety-soft grey cashmere sweater she had bought for me on a Costco run, and pretended it was a hug.

This past week has seen us throwing ouselves heart and soul into a new semester of books and courses. David, to the disbelief of all of our friends who we struggled side by side with last semester, is revving up the course load to 13 hours from the 11 before (which was still 2 more than most others who take only 9). He is taking Old Testament, Church History, Intermediate Greek, Christian Thought and Culture, and Soul of Ministry. They each involve not only lecture time, but mandatory tutorials, in addition obviously to the multitude of papers and reading work. The most crazy of his days, Tuesdays, after 9 hours at Regent (6.5 of class time, 1 of chapel, 1.5 of lunch and recoup time), we meet up to trade off Cora so that I can attend an evening course: Intro to Counseling. After much prayer and deliberation this summer, we have decided that I will pursue a degree here as well...slowly, but surely. Some of the requirement can be fulfilled by audio courses, even after we leave Regent. For a Masters in Christian Studies, I will have to fulfill 60 hours of coursework; quite a load for only part time. But since I can benefit from a spousal 50% credit, we decided we should take full advantage of our being here so we are ready for whatever God might bring our way. So, I'm taking this counseling course which is going to be demanding, thought-provoking, and even a bit disturbing as it attempts to better understand this broken world full of broken people. Mom came along with me to the first lecture last week, and it gave us a lot of fuel for conversation.

Well, with this long post about our goings on, I will leave you now. David just appeared with tea, so it's time for our nightly cuppa as we quietly wind down in our reading corner, each independently absorbed with a book, yet bonding just the same through a communion of mutual understanding, appreciation, and familiarity. I bet we're still doing this when we're 80.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Canadian Rockies

Most people spend an August vacation soaking up the sun on the beach or a cruise. Not us. We spent ours freezing our bums off amidst icy glaciers and frigid lakes. We also didn't do much lying around and relaxing either. Each day involved either a big hike or bike ride, sometimes both. We filled the week full to the brim. Poor Cora was successfully inaugurated to the typical Jenkins method of travel: see and do everything you can possibly manage, and more. She had to find time for little catnaps in her carseat, the backpack, or even the bike seat. But she was amazing. The last couple days at home has been catch up time for us all on sleep.

It would take too long to tell of all the adventures we had, but you can get a glimpse of our week in our photo album (well, more than just a glimpse actually--it's a lot of pictures.)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Birthday Party!


Has it really been a year already? I look back over the extraordinary 365 days that I have been with Cora, and I thank God for such a precious year. I want to savor it more fully, especially as I imagine it will only begin to go faster and faster. After a crazy day of birthday celebrations yesterday, today I am taking some time to contemplate and consider what she means to me, what I have learned this year, and lessons I must carry forward into future years.

Yesterday was a delight. Cora seemed to sense that this was a joyful day, a day not for sleeping, for she napped only an hour in the morning, and even though she was in her crib for 2 hours in the afternoon, never fell asleep despite Daddy and Mommy's alternate rocking, singing, carressing, and soothing. She was not unhappy; there were few tears. She just sang and played in the curtained darkness.

Finally, although fearing she would be exhausted for her big party, we brought her upstairs as the guests began to arrive. 18 people gather together to make the day special for her. David manned the grill, while I made frosty pink lemonade drinks. Cora tasted her first hotdog...surprisingly, she's much more enthusiastic about green peas than hotdogs. We all gathered around to sing a boisterous "happy birthday" and watch her dig into her bunny-shaped carrot cake. She was cautious and dainty, a bit unsure what to do with the large ear placed before her. I don't know whether it was all the people staring at her, a desire not to get her fingers dirty, or simply that my healthy cake made with honey and whole wheat was not very tasty to her, but she did not dive in as expected. She patted it a little and allowed her daddy to feed her bites, but was not eager to forage into it herself.

Presents time was all so new and fascinating. The curly, colorful ribbons were especially thrilling, and reaching into bags to pull out books or shoes was a great game. She received a jack-in-the-box, a wooden puzzle, magnetic building pieces (which Jay and David found absorbing), books, clothes, 3 pairs of Robeez shoes, and some old-fashioned wooden toys.

Gradually the guests filtered out until it was just family: Grammie, Poppie, surrogate Auntie Melissa and Uncle Jay, Mommy and Daddy. We sat around in the living room playing with the new toys. She circled from person to person, from toy to toy. Then to our surprise and delight, she took her first few steps, going from Daddy to the coffee table on which were her pretty shoes. The next half hour was spent in a flurry of excitement trying to get her to do it again for the video camera. Teasing her with toys, shouting encouragement, she gave some effort but took a lot of tumbles. Things began to quiet down, the others began cleaning up, David began playing the piano, only Poppie and I sat with Cora. I stood her up before me and then with great concentration and deliberation, she took 4 good steps into Poppie's arms. What an amazing culmination to a wonderful day. It's strange to think that before long, she will be running!

As David gave her a bottle that night, she drank only 2 oz. before she was fast asleep. She woke up at 7 this morning, only to have a diaper change by Daddy and crawl into bed with Mommy where both slept again until 9 (poor Daddy had to go to Greek class.) We were exhausted from the festivities!

For a visual presentation of the day, make sure you look at our picture site: http://picasaweb.google.com/mtnbikedavid

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Catching up

The paradox of my blogging attempts is that when I actually have something to write about, I generally have no time to write. The last couple weeks have been a swirl of activity, and so I am merely popping up my head in the midst of it all to catch up a bit.

2 weekends ago was our 5-year anniversary. When we were married in Jamaica, we said we'd try to go back for our 5-year. Perhaps we'll put it off until the 10-year. Instead, we celebrated by taking full advantage of our own spectacular city, which we don't do nearly enough. Plus, the temperatures here are much more to our liking than the steaming islands...we have had clear, brilliantly sunny days but with mild temps. In the morning and evenings, it is actually quite chilly.

We began the celebrating early by getting a friend to babysit Cora on Friday night while we went out kayaking with a few other Regent friends. It was breathtakingly beautiful: a placid cove nestled in the mountains, deep blue water, evergreen lined shores, a shimmering sunset.

On Saturday, July 28th, our actual anniversary, we arose early to a gorgeous day and rode our bikes, pulling Cora along in the bike trailer, to our favorite coffee shop, where we sat outside drinking lattes and eating breakfast.

All good anniversaries should have metaphorical fireworks, I guess, but lucky for us we got the real thing. The Celebration of Light is going on in Vancouver as it does every summer, where countries compete against each other for the most impressive and technologically advanced fireworks display. This summer, Spain, Canada and China compete. So, we packed a picnic and went down to the beach to watch Canada's display over the English Bay. It was choreographed to jazzy music including, appropriately, Nat King Cole's Unforgettable, which we danced to at our wedding. We brought Cora with us, keeping her up way past her bedtime. She had a blast, excited by our late night rendez-vous and enthralled by the fireworks.

On Sunday Shelli arrived to spend the week with us taking care of Cora while I took a short but intensive writing course at Regent taught by Lauren Winner, an author I love. In the midst of the studies, we have been enjoying plenty of eating out, shopping, and walking around, the typical things when parents come to visit!

Tomorrow we plan to celebrate David's birthday by going out to a French restaurant. Then we are preparing for a big birthday bash for Cora on Sunday. When it rains, it pours. I do love the rain.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Communal Living

I was laughing with a friend last week about how I feel like I've once again been initiated into "proper" adulthood. No longer living with parents or in an apartment the size of a dormroom, we actually now have a house, a car, a dog, a baby, all the conventionalities of a successful married adult. Chuffed at having progressed so far, she brought me back down a bit. "Except that you're sharing the house." Oh yeah...except for that. "And you don't have any income." Ooh, yeah, employment. That's a biggie. Okay, so maybe we haven't quite reached the settled down, successful adult phase after all. Eh, who wants to grow up anyway?

Our friends Jason and Melissa who are sharing our house came back on Saturday after three weeks visiting family in Toronto. Soon we will begin the hunt for a single to also share our abode. We are beginning to settle into the rythms and patterns of community life after having spent a good amount of time arranging details: dividing up the cooking and cleaning load, dealing with grocery and bill logistics, organizing kitchen space, etc.

Recent memoirs I've read on convent and monastic living have given me insight into both the intention and the nitty-gritty of communal living. Indeed, love and grace and service will be demanded in abundance, availing us of new avenues for spiritual development. Yoking ourselves together, we desire to push upwards, attempting to attain the unity that the New Testament elaborates, but which the Church seldom endeavors to live out.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Books, Books, and More Books

My book stack is becoming ridiculous. You would laugh to see my nightstand. Between the Regent library, the Vancouver public library, and Amazon orders, I am overwhelmed with volumes that are already begun or anxiously anticipating being cracked. Browsing the stack and choosing which to read for a half-hour coffee break during Cora's nap or the reading hour before bed is pure delight. Not much could be better than a stack of great books waiting to be read, except perhaps the satisfaction of completing them one by one...which takes a long time when you keep starting new ones before finishing the old. There is quite a disparity between David's and my reading methods. He is systematic, never having 2 "pleasure" books, meaning non-school although they tend to bring a lot of pleasure as well, going at the same time, while I obviously am a willy-nilly, pick up anything that strikes my fancy reader. So, onto my book list, which I have failed to keep updated on the sidebar because it would take a lot of time to list the books that come and go off my nightstand.

Books I am in the middle of:
  • The Genesee Diary, Henri Nouwen--Highly recommended.
  • Dakota, Kathleen Norris
  • Stalking the Divine, Kristin Ohlson
  • Gilead, Marilynne Robinson--Highly recommended.
  • The Philosophy of Tokien: The Worldview Behind The Lord of the Rings, Peter Kreeft--Highly recommended...also doubles as an intro to philosophy textbook.
  • Men and Women in the Church, Sarah Sumner
  • Creative, Confident Children: Making the Most of the Preschool Years, Maxine Hancock (a Regent prof)
  • Happiest Toddler on the Block, Harvey Karp
  • My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers (daily devotional reading)
  • The Message of Ephesians, John Stott--Highly recommended.

Then there are the books I'm reading aloud with David:

  • Pilgrim's Inn, Elizabeth Goudge (This we started during our time at home in May and should have been long finished by now except that we started listening to Atlas Shrugged during the car trip, which obviously took a monumental amount of time to get through.
  • Life as a Vapor, John Piper (devotional reading on most nights)
Then there is the awaiting pile of books on the bottom shelf of my nightstand, but I am trying to be disciplined (ha!) and keep my nose out of them.

David is plowing through a 600-page Jonathan Edwards biography and loving The Ragamuffin Gospel, although he spends about 8 hours a day on Greek these days, so they are both going quite slowly.

Usually I am not quite this bad at being in the middle of so many books. Really. I just happened to get a bit carried away at the libraries. This infatuation with books perhaps accounts for my frustration and restlessness with mundane household duties that I blogged about a few days ago. It is truly a big lesson for God to get through to me that the holiness and sanctity of physical work actually can exceed that of the intellectual. Nouwen's question keeps echoing in my head when I am frustrated with a too long to do list: "Why do I always want to read about the spiritual life and not really live it?"

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Moment in Time

This morning as I nursed Cora, she looked up and gently touched my face. "I love you," I whispered three times. Still drinking, still touching my face, still looking into my eyes, the corners of her mouth turned upwards into a tender smile. A moment of understanding. That is happiness.

She is my little Maiden of Grace, revealing the continuous droplets of God's grace to me...and, at times, teaching me to be a woman of Grace myself. :-)

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Holy Living

Recently I came across this article and found it both comforting and inspiring (please don't skip this all my hurried, skim-reading, mommy friends...this one's especially for you):
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/may/30.48.html

I love when she says, "Mothering teaches me that spirituality is not only about folding hands and closing eyes. As my daily life has become more physical and immediate, so has my experience of God." Disciplines of solitude, fasting, and study like those Foster's Celebration of Discipline promotes, a book I adore even if it is quite daunting, are simply unrealistic right now, a fact I appreciate being reminded. But that does not mean my spiritual life is going down the drain until Cora goes off to school (even then, there might be more young 'uns under foot.) Rather, I have never grown so much in my life as these last 11 months, though it has been through more unorthodox means, as Paris so accurately describes.

This idea of the sanctity of everyday living has been reinforced through my reading of Henri Nouwen's The Genesee Diary, an account of his seven months living in a Trappist monastery. Belying my expectations, he discovered that the contemplative life eluded him in this place where he anticipated it would come so naturally. He finds the manual labor irksome and continuously frets that he is not having as much quiet study time as he had planned. Through several diary entries, he writes:

"Why didn't I really enjoy the work, and why did I want to go back to my books to read about the spiritual life? Is selecting stones in the creek bed [for me: cooking, changing diapers] not the best spiritual life possible? Why do I always want to read about the spiritual life and not really live it?....
If I have learned anything this week, it is that there is a contemplative way of working that is more important for me than praying, reading, or singing. Most people think that you go to the monastery to pray. Well, I prayed more this week than before but also discovered that I have not learned yet to make the work of my hands into a prayer....
The spiritual life does not consist of any special thoughts, ideas or feelings but is contained in the most simple ordinary experiences of everyday living."

Yearning for extended study and prayer times such as my single friends are able to enjoy only leads to discontentment in my banal duties of cleaning, cooking, and caring for an energetic and attention-demanding 11-month old. Yet God is using these very things, these holy things, for my sanctification and spiritual development in this season of my life. I can and must daily exchange my restlessness for "greater" things for the quietness of a heart tuned to God's abundance surrounding my life call: "In quietness and trust is your strenth" (Is. 30:15). My daily chores of changing diapers and grocery shopping, when married with prayer and purposed for the glory of God, are equally as spiritual as that of monks...or seminary students.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Home sweet home...

The past few days, we have been arranging our new home. Here we are, coming up on our 5-year anniversary at the end of this month, and we've just moved into our 6th home together. We're rackin' 'em up. Someday we'll settle down. Maybe.

The rest of the trip went smoothly, as far as the car was concerned. As we'd hoped and prayed, we got the troublesome stuff out of the way first. It ended up being 9 days in Nashville altogether. Thanks to our gracious hosts, Tom and Sallie, who at least pretended like they never got sick of us, the time was actually very enjoyable. It was only the talking to the mechanic part on the phone that would get us all fired up. Other than that, we just relaxed and enjoyed our time together with the two girls. Kate is just 3 months older than Cora, but what a difference that period makes! I can't imagine that Cora might be walking and talking like that so soon.

Finally, over a week late, we made it to St. Louis, where we spent an amazing two days with our friends from Edinburgh, Mike, Shayna, and daughter Bella, who is one month younger than Cora (there was a baby girl explosion amongst all of our friends last summer--Cora has 5 baby girl cousins or friends all within just a few months of her!) We explored the St. Louis zoo and watched "Rick Steve's Edinburgh" so we could relive the sights and memories of our beloved city.

From there, it was a grueling 5 days straight to Vancouver (with a fun one-night stop at my college roommate's house in Denver). Long days with Cora in the car, punctuated by stops at Walmart, Family Christian Bookstore, Barnes and Noble, and Timbuk Toys where we, the desperate, frenzied parents, plunked down any amount of money for more toys, books, videos, whatever, just something new to keep the baby happy and occupied! Things I never thought I'd do, like let her eat on my TCBY strawberry milkshake, suddenly became a self-defense mechanism for a moment of peace (at least she learned a new skill...suddenly she had no problem figuring out how to use a straw.)

In truth, she was actually pretty amazing, all things considered. It's just she couldn't sleep very well in the car. Poor thing, you can imagine why...my neck gets a crick when I'm trying to sleep like that too. Short naps and long periods constrained in practically a straight jacket just somehow don't work for a feisty 10-month old. But we got through it, and Wednesday night, two weeks after we left Atlanta, we arrived in Vancouver, quite a sight for sore eyes.

We have quickly made this house into a home. Between the items from back home we brought in our trailer and some great buys on Craigslist that have sent us all over the city, it is becoming incredibly cozy. I'll post pictures soon, just a little more fixin' up first. We have also gone for a walk every day to explore the neighborhood; within a few blocks is a Starbucks, grocery store, Choices (think Whole Foods, only on the smaller Canadian scale--this country doesn't seem to require everything supersized), and a field where Cacao can run his (very little) energy out.

We have also been catching up with friends. Sushi on Friday night with our cute British friends, a coffee visit this afternoon from a girlfriend, and tea tomorrow morning with another.

Finally, a note on the weather, as any worthwhile conversation includes. We came from a heatwave in the southeast to a coldwave up here. Rainy and chilly (everyone wearing jackets and sweatshirts, of which we are really lacking until we can get some boxes from a friend), our first couple days were spent reliving the June of Edinburgh days. But today, the 1st of July, a new Vancouver appeared and we may finally be in the clear. Literally. We kept hearing summer would be really nice. It just dawned on me however that people do have different standards of what nice means.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Roadtrip...hooray.

It's so depressing. We're supposed to be halfway between Denver and Montana right now. Instead, we're sitting in Nashville only 4 hours from our starting point. Same place for 6 days and a whole country still to traverse. It's the transmission. Killed over on the first leg of the trip. Such a bad start.

I've been very patient. We keep saying it's God's car, God's money, God's time. We'll just hang out and trust it'll all work out. But then this morning, 6 days after we give it to the transmission guy, he calls to say the part he ordered can't be ordered. Hel-lo. What have you been doing all this time? 6 days later and you only just find out you can't get the part? He gave some excuse like there may be some other way to fix it or something, but it seems a bit fishy to me. The price keeps going up, too. Like 1000%. It started at $300 so you can do the math.

God's car, God's money, God's time. Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Did we skip May this year?

After being reprimanded by my Edinburgh friend (sorry, Em!) over my lack of updates here, I suddenly realized...May is gone! My goodness. Time doesn't really exist on vacation. And that is what we've been doing. The whole month was quickly consumed as we hungrily ate up all the time with family and friends we could muster. It's been a happy, chaotic mess of living out of a suitcase and traveling back and forth between the houses of friends and family. Our first 2 weeks consisted of a tour of the southeast with stops in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Tennessee. Eventful May held the wedding of my niece, the death of my grandfather, the birth of my best friend's baby. High highs and low lows.

Cora's been having a blast. Except for the not so fun sick part, she has been loving the attention of her adoring grandparents. And Dave and I have enjoyed dates again and a nice break from 24-hour baby care.

Here are some pictures from the Wallace clan vacation to Florida: 1 massive house holding 8 adults, 14 kids, and 1 dog. What a week! (lots more pictures too over at our Picasa web page over on the sidebar...)






Monday, April 23, 2007

Back From the Island...


We are back from 4 heavenly days on Galiano Island. Staying on the farm of a Regent professor, a Schaeffer-esque theologian/philosopher who chooses a long commute over the hectic city, we were refreshed with great food, relaxing atmosphere, and stimulating conversation. Dave and I planned and organized the much-needed retreat for our small group of friends. There's a lot of stress in that, planning meals and logistical details, and hoping it all meets expectations. Well, the weekend went far beyond any expectations.

The location is magnificent. The farm, forests and rocky cliffs meet the sea that sparkles and flashes in the sun. Scattered on the beach are bright purple starfish and crabs. Animals, wild and domestic, are everywhere. Seals and otters scramble about the rocks and play in the waves, sea birds dive at fish and hummingbirds dive at us, the sheep graze peacefully until Gibbie the sheepdog decides to have some fun, an early morning deer boldly tastes the trees near the house, and bald eagles soar majestically over our heads.

The house too is a comforting haven. Books and books and more books line every room. I don't think B&N could have more books than the abundance this house contains. Quiet perusal of the volumes and curling up to skim a few selections was a favorite late afternoon pastime after enjoying a hike or working in the garden. And reading nooks abound for this purpose, offering spectacular views of the beach. I particularly enjoyed the bookshelf specially devoted to the Inklings.

Meals were enjoyed around a large wooden table lit only by candelabras and a rodiron candle chandelier. These times were some of the most convivial: passing bowlfuls of delicious hot food amidst laughter and teasing and rousing discourse. With the many hands to help with preparation and clean-up, I never felt like I had a lot of work to do. Fresh mussels, homemade bread, thick chili, Thai chicken curry, local wine...we banqueted like royalty every meal.

Sunday morning we took an early morning row. Professor Wilkinson has a couple of Spanish longboats, exact replicas of those used 200 years ago. With 8 oarsmen rowing in sync, the knocking of the oars against the wooden boat creating a hypnotic heartbeat, we sped along the beautiful island coastline.

In return for our room we helped with some gardening: spreading mulch over garlic and leek plants, weeding the strawberry patch, mowing the expansive lawn. It felt good after a semester of intellectual work to dive into some manual labor and get our hands dirty.

Our professor considers ecology and conservation of the environment to be intrinsically integrated with theology, and through his words and actions he imparted to us a greater love and care for nature. The priority of preserving nature surpasses saving time or convenience. Only natural foods (mostly homegrown) and products are used, and paper products, saran wrap, and other rubbish-producing items are scorned (toilet paper was the only paper product I could find and even it was 7th Generation recycled paper.) All rubbish that comes on the island must be carried off again ourselves--no local garbage pickup. Composting and recycling is of upmost importance. We are so far removed from the source of our food and the resting place of our rubbish that we no longer take much heed of these things. I appreciated being reminded.

I can't even begin to say how much we were revitalized and transformed over just a few days. Our fellowship was sweet, our energy restored, our love for God strengthened, our tired minds revived. A true retreat.

It's nice to be home now though, even if only for one week. It's a bit sad...changing homes once again. It was just long enough to get a bit attached to the flat and our location. Now we are cleaning it and packing up our things. We will be home in Atlanta for May, and then back to a new home, though we're not sure where that will be yet. That is the prayer for this week--a place to live!!!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Cora's 8 Month Birthday

Today Cora is 8 months old. What a month it's been too! Each month makes a big difference, but perhaps this past one has been the biggest leap so far. She is impressively mobile, actually crawling on hands and knees much of the time now rather than only the military crawl on elbows and tummy. She pulls herself to standing using the cushions on the back of the sofa, and then will even walk along it if something a few feet away catches her fancy. She monkey climbs over everything, constantly bonking her head on chair legs, her mouth on windowsills, her bottom as she falls. She wails for a moment and then is back at it. She walks so well with us holding onto her hands. She says "Baa" a lot. Her two bottom teeth have poked through. She can pick up cheerios or peas or grape bits and feed herself. Her personality is becoming more prounounced. She understands "no" very clearly and already will pout or protest when we say it (though surprisingly she does usually stop.) Yesterday we visited with her two boyfriends, Jonah on the left (2 months older) and Lucas on the right (1 month younger), neither of whom are moving at all yet, so she was crawling circles around them...not that they don't up her on other things. For one, they'll sit through book readings, while Cora gets mad at me if I don't let her chew on them. Perhaps they'll be more booky and she'll be more athletic. :-)

Also today, David finished his finals. What an accomplishment. I am still completing a last paper to turn in tomorrow; right now I'm sitting at a coffee shop down the street, drinking a latte and working away at it (minus a little break to blog!) while finally-free Dave plays at home with Cora. Tomorrow after I turn in my paper, we're going to meet a couple friends by school for a lunch of sushi (of which Vancouver has an abundance for very cheap) to celebrate. One semester down. About 11 more to go.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Easter Sunday and Monday

Yesterday was an idyllic Easter. It began with a Dave specialty of fluffy, scrambled eggs, waffles with maple syrup, and coffee. Then a walk to the beach for a celebratory service on the shore. As we looked out on the water lapping the sand and the mountains disappearing into the clouds, we meditated on Christ's appearance to his disciples on that similar shore by the Sea of Tiberius and his subsequent ascension into a cloud. Afterwards, they fed us more coffee and gooey cinnamon buns from the best place in town. Then we walked back home where we finished preparing a feast fit for, well, for a pack of hungry students. Here, see some photos from our lovely day. Cora's sweet Easter skirt, sweater, and shoes were a shower gift from my dear friend Lanier. She looked so pretty, and everyone told her so (hence the sweet smiles)!















Easter Monday was also a lovely day. As I mentioned earlier, my friend Melissa (of "Jay and Melissa" who have become our closest friends here) was keen to go somewhere for her day off, and the guys are in study mode--it's finals week. So, I also thought it'd be good for Cora and I to get out of Dave's hair for the day. We had planned to go to Victoria, but decided last night that for a day trip, a closer island might be better. So, this morning we took a bus an hour north to the ferry terminal and then a ferry to tiny Bowen Island, a tranquil, scenic place where the pace of life is slower, the way of life more simple. It's a particular type of person that chooses to escape and live the island life, and today, we were those people. We walked wooded trails with occasional glimpses of the sea, sat on a bench and read aloud from a Henri Nouwen book on solitude and prayer, enjoyed a pot of tea and lunch on the deck of an harbor restaurant.