A Little Nose and Little Fingers and Toes: Reflections on Becoming a Mother

It’s been a little over a month since our little one made her appearance. How does time pass by so quickly and so slowly at the same time? She’s growing and changing as little babies tend to do. She’s smiling more and trying to coo as we talk to her and make eye contact. How beautiful it is to have a baby.

Although the birth was much more challenging and difficult than George and I had anticipated even with all of our preparation, that moment of finally holding her and looking into her eyes for the first time was one of the most precious moments of my life. She was so alert and looking around like she was trying to take it all in. I felt so relieved to finally be holding her after 33 hours of labor. I had reached a point in labor after hearing a newborn cry down the hall that I began to wonder if my baby would ever come, if the pain would ever end. It was still a while until she finally came, but I’m thankful God gave me strength to endure. I’m also thankful for my wonderful husband who coached me through it all and helped me feel confident that I could do this. He’s continued to care for us both in the weeks which have followed. Our little girl sure does love her daddy and will often stop fussing as soon as he picks her up and starts talking to her.

For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a mom. I even dressed up as a mom in kindergarten when we had a “Dress As What You Want to Be When You Grow Up” day. When I did grow up, I struggled with being single as I saw others around me getting married and starting families. I wasn’t sure if it would be God’s will to be a wife and mother, and I had to learn to trust He knew best. All along He was writing a beautiful story and continues to do so while teaching me through it all.

It’s been two years of such big though wonderful changes that sometimes it feels overwhelming. I remember feeling especially overwhelmed at the thought of becoming a mother knowing how important a parent’s role is in shaping a little person’s life as they grow up. I’d just become a wife and now, I was a mother-to-be. How would we know how to raise a little one? The grad student in me wanted to do all the research and read all of the books, but I knew that though I’d find good tips, none of them would tell me what I wanted to know because I need to know who my child is and how best to raise her. God knows best, and He’s given us a sweet little girl to love and raise. If we seek Him, He will show us the way.

There have been some rough times when baby blues have crept in, and I’ve not been sure if I could do this. This especially happens when she’s fussing, and I don’t know what’s wrong. Then, she looks up at me and grins and coos showing her love in her little baby way, and I relax and realize I need to just take it one day at a time. She’s growing and changing and experiencing a lot of firsts, and I know she’ll grow up fast. It’s a sweet though challenging time, and I do cherish her littleness though I often yawn wishing I could also get more sleep.

I can’t say I know much yet about being a mom, but I’ve realized, at the moment, a lot of it just involves love as we care for our little newborn. I began life with George with a new last name to get used to, and now, we have the sweet blessing of getting used to our new names: “Mommy and Daddy”.

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The New Chapter: Wedding Day & Beyond

Two years ago, I had no idea that my life was about to change in so many ways. My last post from nearly a year ago also spoke of coming change as I prepared for this new chapter. It’s mainly because of those big and wonderful changes and the resulting adjustments that I ended up taking a break from blogging. George and I just passed our engagement anniversary on New Year’s Eve and also our six month anniversary was just a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on our wedding day and all the prayers that were answered as we planned last year. I wish to share some details and pics from that blessed sunny summer day in July when George and I became husband and wife.

The Planning

We decided fairly early on that we wanted something simple but elegant that would, most importantly, bring glory to God. We wanted the focus to be on Him and not on ourselves. This desire affected every decision and also kept the stress level down for the most part. George was a tremendous help in this area since we worked as a team planning, and he helped me especially relax when some details and decisions became stressful. It still amazes me to look back and see how God helped us through all the details and provided answers and solutions when we ran into unexpected problems or complications.

So many of our dear friends and family stepped in to help make our day the special blessing that it was. I’m especially grateful to the dear ladies who helped us with the flowers! We didn’t realize that we ordered a completely DIY package from Bouqs that was quite literally do it yourself. We had originally thought it was DIY in the sense of picking out colors and flowers. I watched so many videos on how to make corsages and boutonnières that I was dreaming of flowers and ribbons in the couple of weeks leading up to the wedding. However, these ladies came in and helped us get it all put together the day before the wedding!

I think it’s true of many brides though that there reaches a point during wedding week when you’re just ready for the day to be here. Sometimes this point comes because of a certain level of feeling frazzled and exhausted with last minute details or the unexpected situations which tend to come up. I reached that point the afternoon before the wedding about the time we finished with the flowers. It was time, I was ready, George was ready, let’s get married. Just a few more hours I told myself as I sipped tension tamer tea under orders from my maid of honor and younger brother to relax the night before the wedding.

The Big Day

The morning of the wedding wasn’t nearly the flurry that one might have expected. We were a pretty laid back bunch. Several of us in the wedding party shared an Airbnb house since we thought that it would be more fun (and less expensive) than getting hotel rooms. Sure, there were a few downsides like an astonishing lack of coffee mugs O_O, but most of the issues we ran into were easily handled or fixed. There was quite a bit of laughter, some hugs, and a few statements of disbelief that the day was finally here. I did have some bride nerves when I first got up, but those quickly diminished especially after exchanging a few texts with George. This helped me stop and realize that all the rest was just details compared to the vows we were about to take. Everyone knew what to do and where to be. It was all going to be fine.

untitled-4115As we started getting ready, I felt so much peace come over me that I just felt relaxed as a friend did my hair and makeup. Then, the moment came to get into my dress and veil. As my maid of honor helped me, I thought about how I just couldn’t wait to see George at the end of the aisle. We all laughed and hugged as we finished getting ready. untitled-4168These are the moments I remember sweetly from just before the wedding: the contagious joy all around as we all smiled and hugged while standing in a large bathroom finishing up those last touches on makeup and hair. I had some wonderful bridesmaids who helped with last details and helped me relax. One of our biggest wishes and prayers for our wedding day was that stress would be minimal and that all of us would feel calm and joyful. God answered that prayer abundantly. When Mom and Dad came to see me after I was ready, I could see love and joy in their faces. The day was really here, and it was just about time to leave for the church.untitled-4194

Meanwhile, over at the church, George and the groomsmen were finishing up getting ready, and our guitarist Jimmy was setting up to play for the entrance of the wedding party. I found out later that as they stood outside waiting, George asked the ministers to pray before the ceremony began. This meant a lot to me, and I’m glad George asked them to do so.

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All was in place and the guests would be arriving soon. The time came for us to leave for the church. Dad and I sat in the car and watched the last of the guests go in and through the windows, we saw the wedding party begin going down the aisle. My nephew Chase, one of our ushers, soon signaled that it was time for us to come stand at the doors. As Dad and I stood alone outside of the church, we were both feeling rather emotional as we waited for the church doors to open for us to go in. We only stood out there for a short couple of minutes, but time seemed to pause as through those doors held a beautiful and wonderful new beginning. Dad is not one to usually get emotional, but this was the precious moment we had both been waiting for for a long time.untitled-4274 I’m so thankful for moments like these which you hold onto for a lifetime, the ones when feeling and love speak louder than words. The doors opened as the congregation stood and began singing “Alleluia,” one of the four hymns we picked out for the ceremony. It was beautiful hearing the singing and seeing the faces of all our friends and family who were gathered to witness this special moment.
untitled-4271-2My favorite moment came as we rounded the corner to the aisle! There he was at the end of the aisle, my dear groom! I’d always wondered if I would be nervous walking down the aisle, but no, I wasn’t, my eyes were fixed on George the entire time. When we reached the front of the church, I thought of just how handsome he was and saw joy and love in his face. At the end of the hymn, Brother Shannon, one of our officiants and our pastor, asked Dad the traditional question of who gives this woman to marry, and Dad answered that he and my mother did. George then reached for my hand and the two of us held hands in front of Brother Shannon and Brother Tom as Brother Shannon said the opening prayer. Afterwards, the second hymn we had chosen was sung. This particular hymn entitled Lloyd is one of my favorite Sacred Harp songs, and one I had always wanted sung at my wedding one day. Call me biased, but the singing of Lloyd on this particular day was the most beautiful I had ever heard in all my years of singing Sacred Harp. The acoustics of the old wooden church coupled with the blending of the congregation’s voices in harmony created the feeling that we were catching a tiny glimpse of what the singing will sound like in heaven. It almost seemed as if the angels were joining in with us!

untitled-4299Brother Shannon delivered the charge reminding us of our duties to one another as husband and wife and to serve God together. He exhorted us to remember our romance as well as our Redeemer. His charge was, I felt, to the point and what we needed to hear and be reminded of before taking our vows. Another hymn “My Soul with Joy Attend” was sung next. This hymn speaks of the beauty of when Jesus speaks, and His care and sovereignty over His sheep. Brother Tom, while holding a small rope, began explaining how the rope of three strands is not easily broken. In a marriage, the wife holds onto the husband and the husband holds onto the wife and the two are held together by Christ. On this day, we were being united together as one with Christ as our center. He gently bound our wrists together and had each of us hold one strand of the knot he had just loosely tied for us to tighten. He then smiled and said to the congregation that we had just tied the knot. untitled-4319

He untied our wrists and began the introduction to the vows and the importance of them. He asked for George to face me and repeat after him as he began with the first vows, and then in turn asked for me to do the same. We had read through our vows beforehand and each of us knew the gravity and importance of the vows we were taking before each other and God.untitled-4331-2

As we exchanged rings, I felt a small catch in my throat because of just how sweet and important this moment was. The rings being a symbol of our love and commitment were now on our fingers as we finished the last part of our vows. All I could see was love on George’s face as I finished putting his ring on his finger and saying my vows.

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untitled-4343Brother Tom said the closing prayer and after he said “Amen,” he told George that he could kiss his wife. My heart leapt! His wife–I was now his wife!

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The new Mr. and Mrs.!

untitled-2621As we walked back down the aisle, the congregation stood and sang “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” a hymn we had both wanted sung. God had truly been faithful to us throughout both of our lives up to that point and had richly blessed us in bringing us together. The love story He wrote in our lives is truly more amazing than anything I could have even tried to conjure up on my own. That’s how God often works though, and it is a lesson to me to not question His ways. He always knows better. I pray that as we continue our lives together through all the adjustments, challenges, joys, trials, and changes that we will always keep Him at the center of our marriage.

What followed after we exited the church? Euphoria, of course!

untitled-4389Well, that and plenty of laughs too!

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We also, of course, had so many sweet moments of staring into each other’s eyes feeling so very thankful for each other and so very happy for this special day! We even had a sweet little dance just the two of us, our first as husband and wife.

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I will say also, we had quite a fantastic wedding party! They were relaxed, fun, and ready to help in any way they could through it all. We asked each of them to be part of our day because of how much they have meant to us in our lives thus far. I treasure the memories we made that day and in the days leading up to the wedding. Plus, I know for a fact we had some of the cutest flower girls and quite a dapper ring bearer, all of whom did a wonderful job doing as they were asked and looking  incredibly adorable while doing it.

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We both have also been blessed with sweet, loving families who were a blessing throughout the planning and the day itself. I’m particularly thankful that all of my siblings were able to be at the wedding because it’s never easy to get us all together with our being scattered across a few states. We’ve mentioned to each other more than once since we first began talking how thankful we are for our families! Our families were such an important part of our day, and we’re thankful for each member who was there and each one who willingly took on a role when asked whether it was to be an usher, a bridesmaid, a groomsmen, a flower girl, a ring bearer, or to help with the timing or the host of other duties that go into a wedding.

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God has been so good to both of us, and I am thankful to have a new family to also call my own. I am also thankful that my family has welcomed George with open arms. It is always so much better to have both families behind you filled with joy and prayers supporting you in a marriage. George also won approval from all four of my brothers which was no easy feat. I think a round or two of around the world ping-pong and some good laughs helped in that endeavor. 😉 The time soon came to leave for the reception because as you can imagine by this point, we’d all worked up quite an appetite.

Our reception took place at a French restaurant just about ten minutes away from the church. We were both amazed that we were able to find this place so nearby since our ceremony venue could not host a reception. Monsieur Cadot, the chef, is from France, and was a pleasure to work with.We had both wanted there to be some element of France involved with our wedding, and I’d say we definitely succeeded on that score. One of my requests was for the song “La Vie en Rose” sung by Edith Piaf to be played as we walked into the reception, and he made sure it happened. The lyrics of this song so often makes me think of our story which was why I chose it. You can listen to it here, if you’d like to.

The food was delicious and in my opinion, some of the best I’ve ever had at a reception. This was partly because the food was amazing and also because as we began eating, I realized just how hungry I was. Monsieur Cadot did an amazing job on the lunch, the service, and the cake! Plus, you can’t beat hearing French spoken by some of the waiters. It was all such a scrumptious blessing!

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I’m thankful for each of our guests who were able to make it on a very hot day to join in our celebration and also pray with and for us as we began this big step together. The only downside, I thought, after we left was that I was not able to sit down and have a long conversation with all of our dear friends who had come many from a long distance to be with us. We left amongst cheers, clapping, laughter, colorful ribbons, and smiles from all of our sweet friends and family. As our photographer mentioned later, these are some of her favorite moments to photograph–the “finally” moments. Finally, the planning is over, the vows have been said and rings exchanged, the cake cut, and the bouquet tossed. Finally, it is time to embark on this new journey with all of the love and joy from those around us to give us a good sendoff.

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What comes next? God knows for sure, but I can tell you from the six months we’ve had already together that we’ve had plenty of adventures, some big changes and adjustments, and many laughs and memories made. I have a strong suspicion our biggest adventure is yet to come though. May He ever guide us every step of the way as we journey through life together with all of its up and downs.

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Special Note: All photos in this post were taken by Rebecca Grimmer Photography – Copyright 2017.

Long Days and Mountain Air

I was yawning and scraping the last bit of my fromage blanc (kind of like yogurt) mixed with a little honey and canned peaches out of a bowl when my landlady walked into the kitchen. I looked up and said a tired “Salut”. She mentioned she was tired as she opened a cabinet for a glass, and I agreed that I was too. She looked at me and then said in her typical fast French (had to get her to repeat herself as usual) “Your days are too long! Way too long! This is not good for you.” She’d been observing for the first time some of my school routine during the week. I slowly nodded in agreement and told her that I was trying to see if I could change my schedule a little for the next semester, but I’d have to wait and see if it would be possible. She nodded and said that I definitely should change it up because it just doesn’t seem healthy to be working those long hours. Oh dear, good thing she hasn’t seen me during a typical semester back home.

Things have been incredibly busy and in many ways quite difficult over the last few weeks. I keep coming to terms with the fact that at least while I’m in France, life will most likely not be simple or absent of complication. Though really, why am I so special to think that it would or should be so? I’ve strangely grown accustomed to things not working anyway. o_O On the flip side, I get extremely excited when something does go smoothly.

Happily, I’ve lately received a couple of big answers to prayer. I finally received my medical appointments for the validation of my long stay visa and (1) neither of them are on a Wednesday and (2) they came before I have to leave the apartment for three weeks (long story). I was concerned about retrieving the letter with the appointment dates if I didn’t have access to the apartment mailbox. Thankfully, they came through email. Both were specific requests I prayed for as I waited and waited for my appointments to come. God does indeed work in the details! 🙂 The first appointment known as the “Awkward Chest X-ray to Prove I Don’t Have TB” (in true French form that would be the acronym: ACXPIDHTB pronounced as”AX-PID-HiTiBi”) is on Monday, and the second medical visit is in January. Don’t ask me why they’re spread out like that as I have no clue. After all the trouble I went through to get these appointments, I’d rather not say anything for fear of it all falling apart resulting in my being shipped back to the States before I’ve finished my contract. I’m just so happy to finally be making progress with this long administrative nightmare I’ve been going through since my arrival.

Since my last update, the weather has gotten quite a bit colder. It’s been snowing high up in the Alps! Beautiful isn’t it? The natives are happy because some of the ski slopes have now been able to open. They’d been rather concerned with the Indian Summer we’d experienced that the ski season would start later than usual. 100_1861

It reminds me of how the Alps looked my very first time in Grenoble nearly seven years ago. Maybe I really should try out skiing here this time. The weather is rather chilly but not unbearable. I can still feel my face and don’t have to wear five layers to keep from getting frost bite. 🙂 Can you tell I’ve spent the last two winters in Indiana?

French is also coming along. Sometimes in conversation it feels like I have a little person up in my head going through all of the French files in my brain trying to find words or phrases to try to express what I want to say. This file searching often causes a delay leaving me looking at the person I’m talking to with a deer in the headlights look as I’m mentally urging the little person frantically throwing papers out of filing cabinets to hurry up because I really need that sentence structure/word NOW! This results in a few papers being thrown my way to “make do” which causes the French person I’m talking with to smile and tell me that they understand me but that one should really say it this other way. The little person in my head usually has a sulking expression after his efforts as he makes note of the correction and files it in the MISC cabinet before finding an easy chair to collapse in {Yes, I do think they need to make another version of Inside Out devoted to the multilingual brain}. Sometimes it does get discouraging, but I’m glad to have seven more months to keep on trying.

In any case, there’s so much to look around and be thankful for despite all the long days and obstacles I seem to run into! I have food in the pantry and the ability to make hot coffee in the morning (important skill there). I have family and friends who love and pray for me. I have dear friends here that mean the world to me. I get to wake up each morning and see the Alps outside of my window. I can make myself understood even if it’s not always “grammatically correct”. I have somewhere to go to hear the gospel preached and have fellowship! These are just a few of so many blessings!

Life may not be perfect here, but it is a blessed life because I know Who has given me life and from Whom these blessings come!

A Special Friend

Several years ago over a cup of coffee at a Starbucks on the corner of two busy streets in West Texas, two girls sat down with full, steaming cups and started talking about life and began getting to know each other. Both had been through some tough stuff and had no idea that the other had been through similar things. As the coffee steam subsided and the cups emptied, a sweet friendship began. The two continued talking until it was closing time. They reluctantly parted but promised to meet up again for coffee soon.

In the weeks and months that followed a special bond developed between these two. So many dear memories were made involving movie nights, coffee chats (never going to forget the soapy coffee incident…wow!), game nights with friends, sleepovers, long phone chats and texts, long discussions about life and the future, and more laughs than one could count. These friends cheered each other on in the challenges and were there for each other in the hard times.

Then, change came.

The time came to part ways in the sense that life was leading these two in different directions. What exciting adventures lay ahead for both though tears were shed at the thought of parting. One friend moved several hours away down to Central Texas to be closer to her family. About a month aftLauren and Staceyer her move, the other found out that she was indeed moving to Indiana to continue pursuing her studies…

Oh, dear Lauren, I still remember that night I came to your almost packed up apartment to say goodbye before the moving truck came early the next morning to take you south. We hugged, cried a little, and promised to stay close friends no matter the distance. Just as Anne of Green Gables said “True friends are always together in spirit,” and so we were and continue to be no matter how many miles separate us. God blessed us during those two years that we lived in the same city. He had a plan. He knew we would need each other’s friendship in the years that would follow.

This week dear Lauren had a birthday. What a blessing you have been to me, Lauren, from that first moment when we discovered we were kindred spirits. We’ve both been blessed to see our friendship mature as we’ve prayed for and encouraged each other in the Lord. I’m thankful for our laughs and our many inside jokes.

Let me tell you a little about this dear friend. She’s a sweet one, this Lauren. You will almost never see her without a100_1304 book and consequently, she’s the perfect person to ask if you need book or author recommendations. Her ready smile will brighten your day and her hugs will cheer you no matter what you may be going through. She has a tender heart as is demonstrated in how she cares deeply about others and truly desires to bring comfort and light to those around her.

By the way, she has great taste in clothing and fashion. I still mention to her that a certain purple dress of hers might just mysteriously disappear some time when I’m visiting. Of course, I would have no clue how it disappeared but may coincidentally be found wearing a similarly styled dress later on. 😉 That aside though she’s the perfect one to take along if you need some help finding a new outfit.

God gives us friends for a reason. You see, God can see ahead to what the future holds. He knows the struggles, the joys, the changes, the trials, and everything that we will face, and He knows the friends we need at those specific times. Isn’t God good!?

I’m thankful for each one of my dear friends. Thank you, Lauren, for being such a bright light in my life, and a very happy birthday to you! 🙂