from contentment and celebration to complaining and despair

photo from zionsvillelutheran.org

photo from zionsvillelutheran.org

Isn’t it always like this? Our grandest moments of life, faith, work, are closely followed by our biggest days of struggle. I think about Jonah after he experienced an epic personal rescue from the belly of a big fish, and watched God convert an entire city (Nineveh) through his preaching. The book ends with a story of the prophet’s suicidal despair because a worm ate a vine that was sheltering him from heat. It’s ridiculous. Crazy, really. And then there’s Elijah. After he watches God send fire from heaven to consume a flood-drenched sacrifice on Mount Carmel in front of a crowd of frenzied Baal-worshipers, he sits under a broom tree in the desert to die. His exact words?

“It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” (1 Kings 19:4)

What happened to his bold faith glimpsed just two paragraphs earlier in this prayer?

“O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” (1 Kings 18:36-37)

What happened is that Elijah and Jonah, like you and me, are human. “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it/Prone to leave the God I love,” the old familiar hymn goes (“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”). I should not be surprised that on the heels of such celebration at the end of last week with the news of Crossway’s acceptance of my book proposal, this week has felt like a battle against petty disappointment and despair. The things I have complained (bitterly) about include:

  • Our coffeemaker that broke on Monday morning [MONDAY morning, of all days?!!]
  • Twins who whine and squabble with each other over silly things, like who gets the red marker [typical for 4-year-olds, although not desirable]
  • Antibiotics that didn’t work as quickly as I wanted them to in healing a bad case of strep from last Thursday
  • A husband’s very long work day, leaving me with more-than-desired solo-parenting duties for my quickly-waning-parental-patience
  • Credit card fraud – at a random WalMart in Tennessee, of all places, for 5 consecutive purchases of $28.77. This alerted our awesome card company, who called right away. But then you have the *hassle* of switching automatic payments, waiting for the new card in the mail/etc etc

All of these could fall under the hashtag #firstworldproblems , or better, #whinymomproblems. Really they’re symptomatic of a heart fixated on self, who feels entitled to comfort and ease all the time. Diagnosing my problems yesterday didn’t really help much. In fact, it probably made it worse. Then I was better able to articulate (and unload in frustration) to my husband why he, somehow, was at fault for all of my frustration.

Ugh. (There’s a poetic word for you.) I have been blind to grace. Blinded to mercy all around me, and worse still, unable to help myself. Feeling paralyzed from taking hold in my own heart of the gospel-hope I can articulate for others through writing and counseling. Enter grace in the form of the impulse to text a friend for prayer this morning when I awoke still seething with frustration and venting it unfairly to my daughters. She then called after we dropped our kids off at preschool (thank God for this common grace!), and we talked each other through our similar frustrating moments, reminding each other of the grace we know is there. I hung up the phone feeling the slightest turn in my heart towards hope again. Hope not that things will get better, or that circumstances will change, but hope that God’s love hasn’t turned away from me in the midst of my sin and struggle and that his grace is yet deeper than my need for it. Amen?

reflections on my story

20140617-071914-26354591.jpgTen days ago, I celebrated a milestone birthday. Not one of the big “decades,” but one that felt significant nonetheless. Birthdays are great opportunities for reflection, and every year I enjoy writing a bit about the year prior and anticipating the year ahead. In March of this year, I did a retreat that could be the title for my story: “When Good Girls Get It All Wrong.” This past year has been a year of realizing more and more of the ways I get it wrong when I trust my goodness instead of God’s abundant grace. My story is one of the prototypical “good girl.” I am the oldest of three children with two younger brothers. I attended private Christian school through eighth grade and my worst nickname was “Goody-Goody.” The transition to public high school was terrifying and faith-activating. While experiencing being made fun of for being a Christian, my youth pastor wisely identified this as a form of persecution for my faith. And all of a sudden, God’s Word came alive to me. Passages like this one in 1 Peter 4:12-14 made sense to me for the first time:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

When it was time for college, I ventured out to Wheaton College, hundreds of miles from home. I still am amazed at that courage as an 18-year-old who had never lived anywhere but my small hometown in South Carolina. Those four years were full of long, important conversations that can happen in the context of “all freedom/no responsibility” and halfway through college, grace flooded in for this good girl. I was months away from being a Resident Assistant to a hall of 50 freshmen and sophomore women, and God found me through his grace as I realized how much I needed him. I could not rely on my try-harder goodness to carry me through what had become a crippling bout of anxiety-induced insomnia. The summer between my sophomore and junior year is fondly remembered as “the summer of grace,” when grace flooded into my Christian life – transforming what had been black-and-white into full color. Not unlike when Dorothy in Oz travels from tornado-torn Kansas to the yellow brick road leading to the Emerald City.

I will fast forward a few years to the next major turning point of faith for me: Christmas of 2003 which was bookended by news of both parents’ cancer diagnoses. Yes, you read that right: BOTH. My mom received her diagnosis December 23, and then when we gathered as a family again on December 31, Dad shared that he, too, had been diagnosed with cancer. My parents had always been healthy, and I had taken them for granted. This shook me as a young finding-my-way elementary school teacher who assumed life would continue as it always had. The gift to my faith in the midst of this season of questions and wondering how I would make it through is that I questioned. Really questioned and had to wrestle with a God who did not guarantee “the good, healthy and happy life” to his people. I often felt like I was questioning alone – because so many in my well-meaning Christian community jumped to, “It’s going to be fine!” or wanted to give pat answers that failed to connect with my heart. This journey through questions, doubt, darkness prepared me for the next stage of calling: pursuing a graduate degree in counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary outside of Philadelphia.

My parents both survived (and have been cancer-free for over a decade) and my faith deepened; and the gift of counseling has been the gift of walking with others through their questions, their pain, their suffering; their untold stories of tragedy, grief, loss, abuse, dreams imploding. And it has been the gift of witnessing hope emerging, slowly and painfully at times like a butterfly getting used to its new wings as it emerges from its cocoon. My own hope rehabilitation journey in seminary included the unexpected gift of meeting and marrying my pastor-husband, who persevered despite much resistance from this battle-weary woman who had been through a few too many break-ups by that point to easily entrust my heart to another. Being married to him has been good and beautiful and hard and sanctifying all at the same time, often in the same moments.

And then we had twins. I have talked about my journey of motherhood often on this blog, so I’ll leave it to prior posts to fill in those gaps. [suggested: Trusting God When You’re Expecting, Part 3: A New Chapter Called “Bed Rest“;  Tiny Miracles; Twins: The First Month; Confessions of an Angry Mom, part 12, & 3A Prayer for Potty TrainingTears and TransitionsFor the love of poetryIdentity lessons from “Angelina Ballerina”The one voice that matters mostMind the gap]

Needless to say, for two control-freak parents addicted to self-sufficiency and independence, twin daughters has by far been the best and hardest part of our lives as we find our way back to grace over and over and over again.

Where am I now? Full of anticipation for the next years or decades of life left before I go Home. I want to write. I want to write of hope amidst imploded dreams and war-torn hearts. I want to give voice to suffering and permission to speak of tragedy and to ask the hard questions we too often paste over with faith platitudes. I want to connect with you, my faithful readers, friends, family. I want to hear and share stories yet untold and unheard. To celebrate grace and life and beauty in all its forms, and to beg for redemption and healing for all the pain that creeps in uninvited. I want to laugh, to create art, and to unleash creativity in a million little ways. Join me? I’d be so honored.

 

 

When Father’s Day hurts

I was blessed to be raised by a dad who loved me well as his daughter. He cherished me, led me to Jesus over and over again, and proudly gave me away to the man I married almost eight years ago. This man has been a father for four years to our twin daughters, and I daily thank God that my girls have such a father to call “Daddy.”

This isn’t an article about my pain, but it’s an article about the pain so many of you carry on this day. God calls us to bear one another’s burdens, and in my calling as a counselor and friend, I have heard your stories, and I hurt for you today. I wanted you to know that someone notices, sees, and acknowledges today’s pain.

Today may be painful because you’re grieving the father you never knew. The father you wish you had known, but whose absence leaves a hole in your heart and your life. A hole that you’ve tried to fill a thousand other ways.

Pain may show up in many different ways. …

Read more  here at The Gospel Coalition Blog where this article is published today.

Thursday free write

I sit in a quiet, secluded room of the Y, looking out at the Norfolk skyline on the fourth rainy day (or so) we have had this week. A welcome respite for the dry ground, which has not received actual rainfall that counted since August 10.

And here is a picture of my soul this past month. There have been waterings occasionally, but nothing substantial. It’s been busy, busy with good and beautiful things like one last vacation at the beach and the twins’ third birthday and retreat speaking and community group and women’s Bible study and preschool. So I took a soul time out this morning, and I did a yoga class followed by this space. This space of breathing. Of noticing life rather than letting it rush me by. Yoga felt slow to my fast-paced world of efficiency. And isn’t that illuminating?

On a date with Seth last week, I realized a few things – that writing helps my soul to breathe and I haven’t been doing that enough this fall; that when exercise is pushed off my plate it means the plate is too full; and that weekends need to be empty when the weekday rhythm of a pastor and counselor’s family leaves us all coming up for breath at its end.

What am I doing about it? Well … this. Starting to get in the habit of writing again. Saying no to external demands to say yes to Christ’s whispered invitation to my soul to “Come … all who labor … and R E S T.” What helps you to rest? What keeps you from it? Do share. We all need reminders and ideas of how to pursue the rest for which we have been redeemed.

Celebrating Seven Years of a Perfectly Imperfect Marriage

Davis Wedding 049

It’s been seven years of learning to listen to love’s loud message through his quiet, strong, dependable actions. A cup of coffee on a long afternoon after a sleepless night of feeding newborn twins around the clock. His quiet absorption of venomous words spoken rashly. Words of “I forgive you,” spoken as soon as my stubbornness softened to remorseful regret and repentance. Light bulbs changed; garbage taken out; air filters exchanged for new ones; month after month after year after year. Home improvement projects of old floors turned new and showers replaced and woodwork of an old home restored. Bracing himself for another desperate call of a mom in distress and offering the peace of his presence and his words and his prayers. His willingness to listen, to learn, to love through all the twists and turns of our seven years – some planned for; others not so much.

A perfectly imperfect marriage forged through that shaky first year of a wife learning how to be a counselor; of a church imploding; in a claustrophobic one-bedroom apartment; and two seminary students working two part-time jobs to keep  afloat amidst the financial strain. Raging selfishness and two stubborn people learning to add our strength to one another instead of fight to win against each other.

Two graduations – a move from Pennsylvania to Virginia – new jobs; new responsibilities; new life in between us. The day we learned with disbelief that what God had birthed within my womb was TWICE the planned-for new life. The scramble to adjust accordingly; to find our first home. And then the shock of bed rest and premature labor at the fragile time of 25 weeks. Ten tenuous weeks of trust and hope and prayers and work on the home that would welcome these two new lives. My steely man turning tender as he held our newborn daughters. Tears of joy and of frustration and sleeplessness of those first months as parents twice-over.

And then a settledness. No major changes in our lives for the past three years, but a deepening and absorption of all the transitions in the four years prior. A developing into the husband, father, pastor he is becoming in Christ; and the wife, mother, counselor/writer that I am becoming in Christ. Christ as the One who keeps us connected in these disconnected years of raising little ones; of nurturing one another and two small daughters; of helping to build the Church and our city.

It is Christ, the Perfect One, who has kept together our imperfect marriage when it’s frayed with our sin and brokenness and burdens of life. It is He who has loved us perfectly when we have failed one another amidst our imperfection. It is He whose perfection is our hope for many more years and decades of imperfect love and marriage and parenting and ministry to come. His is the Perfection we hope to reflect more and more with each year – a Perfection that comes as we admit our lack thereof; a Perfection that comes as we are being perfected into the image of the Perfect One through our marriage; a Perfection whose glory we will imperfectly reveal in our love for each other.

I close with a quote from my favorite marriage book of all time, The Mystery of Marriage by Mike Mason:

God’s love is, in a sense, the courage to go on living in the face of our sin, in the full knowledge of who and what we are. 

shame and its antidote

After listening to Brene Brown’s first TED talk a few weeks ago on vulnerability, it was time to listen to the second one on “listening to shame.” Shame is different from guilt, guilt meaning the feeling that tells you, “I did something bad.” Shame’s message is much more pervasive and insidious, telling you, “I am bad.” Ed Welch in his excellent book Shame Interrupted says this:

Shame is the deep sense that you are unacceptable because of something you did, something done to you, or something associated with you. You feel exposed and humiliated. … Guilt can be hidden; shame feels like it is always exposed.

Are you beginning to feel it? Beginning to feel the places in your own life where you hear the insidious whisper of shame, telling you that you’re not good enough; you aren’t holy enough; you don’t have the right friends; your possessions aren’t sufficient; that you deserve only bad and not good, and it goes on and on and on.

Brown discusses the way that shame is defined differently for men and women. For women the definition is “conflicted, unattainable expectations of who we should be.” And so I feel shame that I’m not working enough nor am I home enough, for example. Or shame that I’m not more like the perfect mom/wife/friend in my head who’s always available, always loving, always putting others’ needs above my own, always feeding my family organic food straight from our garden …. you get the picture.

For men, it’s a bit more complicated. A bit more hidden. Shame for men is being perceived as weak, according to Brown’s research. And we as women unconsciously support this sense of shame any time we pressure our husbands, fathers, brothers, boyfriends to always be the strong one for us and to never fall apart. Do I give space to my husband to be weak – or am I always expecting him to be together, thus supporting the idea that he can’t be anything but strong? If you are a man reading this, do you have someone you can be weak with? When was the last time you allowed yourself to be weak?

“How do we get back to each other?” Brown asks. A good question, that she answers by saying that shame’s antidote is empathy. Because shame grows in secrecy, silence, and judgment, to be understood and known in our place(s) of shame will eradicate its presence. Brown says –

Vulnerability is the way back to each other.

Who can you be vulnerable with? Knowing that vulnerability takes courage and brings community – how essential vulnerability is yet how unattainable it can feel! I have found that the only way I can be vulnerable with others or even reach out in empathy towards others is experiencing this in my own life. It is in relationships with brave ones who have loved me when I was unlovable; who have entrusted me with their shame-laced stories; who have stood with me without turning away as I began to speak about my own places of shame that I have learned how to empathize and connect. Yet even these ones have not done so perfectly or completely. I have both disappointed others and been disappointed. Where do you go then?

Try the one who carried all of the hurts and shame and guilt of the world. The one described as –

… he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him, despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and one from whom men hide their faces …

Read on about this man.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace; and with his stripes we are healed.

And what’s your connection to him? That shame that was so disfiguring to him? It was yours and mine. Those dark places that you can’t bear to speak about, much less for someone to know? He was there, and he knows, and he will redeem – if not in this world, in the one to come. His is the empathy that heals both shame and guilt as we say “yes! I need you!” to this one. It is in intimate connection with Jesus Christ, who knows us intimately and loves us completely, that we are free to risk vulnerability to fellow shame-laden travelers. It is in relationship with him that we are free to relate to one another; to offer the empathy that is shame’s antidote. 

When Father’s Day is painful

Before I delve into this topic, let me begin with a disclamor: I was blessed to be raised by a Dad who loved me well as his daughter and cherished me and led me to Jesus over and over again and proudly gave me away to the man I married almost 7 years ago. This man has been a father for three years to our twin daughters, and I daily thank God that my girls have such a father to call, “Daddy.”

This isn’t a post about my pain, but it’s a post about the pain so many of you carry on this day. God calls us to bear one another’s burdens, and in my calling as a counselor and friend, I have heard your stories and I hurt for you today. And I wanted you to know that someone notices, sees, and acknowledges today’s pain.

Today may be painful because you’re grieving the father you never knew. The father you wish you had known, but whose absence leaves a hole in your heart and your life. A hole that you’ve tried to fill a thousand other ways but it always comes up short.

Your pain may be the absence of a father you knew and loved dearly and who is now gone. Whose death you grieve today most keenly. I’ve written about grief here, and I pray the God of all comfort will meet you in each avenue of sorrow you will walk through today as you know Him as Father and the ever-present one.

Or maybe the pain comes from a father who violated the protection and trust meant to be inherent in your relationship. Abuse of any sort – emotional, physical, or sexual – breaks boundaries established by God and leaves indelible pain, confusion, and deep wounds. Your journey feels long and hard and impossible and dark. You may not even be able to speak of what happened, and so you have to fake a “Happy Father’s Day” to the man who violated you and did what should not be done. And this only adds insult to injury. I hurt for you and with you, and if you need a safe place to talk about this, find a trusted friend or counselor or pastor and begin to share this pain. Speaking about such things feels as if it will multiply shame, but that’s the kingdom of darkness trying to keep you from coming into the light. When light shines in the darkness, the darkness cannot overcome it (John 1:5).

Then there are those of you who long to be fathers, and whether the delay is due to waiting for marriage or waiting through infertility, this day is a painful reminder of what you (or your spouse) are not yet.

Some of you have a combination of what I’ve mentioned already, and so the hurt is multi-faceted and often complicated grief. Such as grieving the death of an abusive father. Or a feeling of fear and dread as you watch your husband becoming abusive in ways your own father was to you. Or celebrating a wonderful father while wondering whether you or your husband will ever become one.

And then there’s the frustration of waiting for your husband to step up and be the kind of father you had or that you pray he would be for your children. Perhaps you found yourself reading the greeting cards and wishing they were actually true. You feel disappointed and you wonder if and when he’ll ever change.

As you grieve today, I want you to know that you’re not grieving in silence and you’re not grieving alone. Not only do I (and many, many others) acknowledge your pain, but we want to walk with you through it. And even if today passes without any other acknowledgement of the burden you carry, there is One who sees. Who meets you even now, carries your grief for you; atones for the sin committed against you; is the perfect and present Father you long for or miss or never had. He is the one who met a slave-woman and her son when they’d been cruelly abandoned by her mistress and were languishing in the desert, expecting to die. Hagar’s name for this God in Genesis 16:13?

You are the God who sees me.

On this day when you will see all of the Facebook and Instagram posts celebrating fathers and painting pictures of beautiful Pinterest-worthy brunches and picnics and barbecues; on this day when you will feel as if you are not seen or known; take comfort that there is a God who sees you. Who sees your pain and your grief and your brokenness. He sees you, and his seeing brings healing, comfort, and light into darkness. I can’t promise the pain will be less, but I know a God who promises his presence with his people in times of distress. And he is the one from whom all the best earthly fathers derive their name. He is the one Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 –

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies
and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction …

And here’s one last thought. All of the images of perfect families with perfect fathers you’ll see today through posted pictures, at church or the brunch restaurant or your next-door neighbors – well, they’re not as perfect as they seem either. And in fact they could be well-constructed masks to cover pain that might be more similar to yours than you know. Take courage to tell your story, whether beginning today or tomorrow; whether with one friend or in a more public sphere; whether in person or email or a blog. Your story will remind others that they, too, do not grieve alone. And you may even be able to put words to what someone else could never express until they read or hear what’s on your heart.

On my bookshelf

20130610-062659.jpgI am an avid reader. I always have been, and in fact as a child I would often stay up way past bedtime reading by the light of my nightlight or a flashlight under my covers. I was such a rebellious bookworm. (Yes, I agree that’s a bit of an oxymoron.)

Since I’m seeking to write more regular posts, I thought a weekly or monthly “On my bookshelf” would give me something to work with (and something for you to look forward to). You’ll notice that I always have one fiction book, which I usually read just before bedtime and/or at the beach or stolen precious minutes of naptime. Right now I’m reading The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. It’s a murder mystery, a favorite genre of mine ever since Nancy Drew, and so far so good. A little hard to get into the story, but I love the writing.

Next in the stack is a nonfiction cultural read, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I’ve written a little bit about this book already, and you will be hearing more from me on this topic in the future. One quote that resonated with me from Chapter 4 – “Parenthood”:

In many ways, the happiness of having children falls into the kind of happiness that could be called fog happiness. Fog is elusive. Fog surrounds you and transforms the atmosphere, but when you try to examine it, it vanishes. Fog happiness is the kind of happiness you get from activities that, closely examined, don’t really seem to bring much happiness at all — yet somehow they do. … the experience of having children gives me tremendous fog happiness. It surrounds me, I see it everywhere, despite the fact that when I zoom in on any particular moment, it can be hard to identify.

And then I like to be reading some sort of Christian book which will help to strengthen my faith and understanding of the Christian life. I’ve been reading Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage for, well, several months now. Not because it’s not good but precisely because it is so good that I can only digest small portions at a time. I’ll leave you today with this quote from Chapter 3, “The Essence of Marriage”:

To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life throws at us.

Love is …

For this Valentine’s post, I thought it would be celebratory to meditate on LOVE (what else on this day of hearts?). Here goes –

L O V E  is …

  • A spontaneous hug around the legs from an adoring daughter
  • A wet and sloppy kiss from her twin sister
  • Bright smiles to greet you in the morning (even when you quite frankly don’t feel so bright and cheery)
  • A bouquet of yellow roses blooming into orange
  • A friend’s understanding words and listening ear on a hard day
  • The unexpected beauty of a sunset over the river as the day fades, sea gulls’ silhouettes flying into the light
  • A heartfelt note from my husband
  • Dinner shared with friends and family, rich with feasting and conversation
  • A date at Luna Maya while friends watched the girls as part of a baby swap
  • Uninterrupted conversation
  • Conversation interrupted by little hands tugging for your attention
  • Heart-shaped sugar cookies to savor
  • Lavender hot chocolate at my new favorite coffee shop, Stella’s Cafe
  • Timeless words written by God to assure his people of his undying, steadfast, never-giving-up love for them
  • A cross on a hill in Jerusalem where the innocent died for the guilty
  • THE story of love  from where all other love derives its meaning and truest expression
  • My husband’s offer to feed the girls dinner so that I could have a break from a long day that felt rather loveless, not because of him or my daughters but just because it was an extraordinarily hard “ordinary” day of tantrums, fussing, and short naps.
  • Choosing not to write more so that I help him in this “witching hour” before bedtime …

2011 in review

As long as January isn’t quite over, then I think there’s still time enough for letting January be a time of reflection and resolutions. Without further ado, here’s my review of 2011 – in the format of a Christmas letter (which we did not send out this year).

THE (un-sent) NELSON 2011 CHRISTMAS LETTER

What a year for the Nelson family, full of headlines and milestones as we completed our first year with our twin daughters, Lucia and Alethia, and became increasingly rooted in Norfolk, Virginia, at Trinity Presbyterian Church. A few of these, in chronological order:

  • Lucia and Alethia learn how to roll over
  • Heather returns to work as a part-time counselor at Trinity Presbyterian Church after an 8 month maternity leave
  • Seth turns 30 (without the fanfare Heather sought to give him, his request)
  • Reverend Seth Nelson baptizes his daughters, Lucia Elizabeth and Alethia Sarah
  • Lucia and Alethia begin solid foods – pureed peas and bananas are the favorites
  • Trinity Presbyterian Church votes as a congregation to promote Seth to “Associate Pastor”
  • Davis Family Kiawah Week 2011 introduces the twins to the beach; their favorite activity: eating sand
  • Lucia and Alethia learn how to crawl
  • Seth and Heather baby-proof their home, finally giving in and moving all valuables up a few shelves and moving toys into the living room
  • Seth and the other assistant pastor at Trinity “hold down the fort” while our senior minister takes an 8-week sabbatical during July and August
  • Seth and Heather celebrate their 5th anniversary with a brief overnight getaway to the Chesapeake Bay, while Hurricane Irene makes its way toward Norfolk
  • The Nelson family evacuates Norfolk for Aunt Maryann and Uncle Glenn’s house in Raleigh, NC, as Hurricane Irene is predicted to make a direct impact
  • Their home and neighborhood are spared; however their 11-year-old car breaks down – they purchase a newer one with much needed extra space 
  • Lucia and Alethia turn one with a ladybug birthday party; Lucia loves her cake – Alethia does not
  • Alethia takes her first steps and begins walking
  • Heather returns to Wheaton College for her 10 year reunion – leaving the girls (and Seth) for the first weekend since their birth
  • Lucia takes her first steps and begins walking
  • Alethia and Lucia begin talking – favorite words are “ball,” “dog,” “baby,” “bath,” and “door”
  • The Nelsons travel to New Jersey for the girls’ first Christmas with Grandma & Grandpa Nelson; then they travel to South Carolina for New Year’s with Gigi & Pops

This captures the events of our year – and what a year! – yet falls far short of describing the fullness of our days. How I (Heather) am learning how to embrace my new calling of full-time mom without losing my sanity (which involves lots of prayer to a God who is always near, many great friends with similarly aged children, “Mrs. Becky” who watches the girls biweekly, a husband who takes my calls and rescues me when I’m really desperate, weekly women’s Bible study and baby music class). How Seth’s gifts continue to be grown and developed through his responsibilities training teachers, developing Sunday school curriculum, leading community group ministry and our missions team. How we are both learning the how’s and why’s of disciplining infants-turning-into-toddlers whose wills are exerting themselves strongly. The books we have been enjoying this year: The Help, One Thousand Gifts, Loving the Little Years, The Foundations Trilogy, East of Eden, among many others. One thing the girls are already showing is a shared love for books and “reading” like their two bookworm parents. They will often sit and just flip through board books for 10-15 minutes at a time (an eternity for 15-month-olds!). Then there’s the growing delight in Lucia and Alethia as their personalities continue to emerge, like Lucia who giggles often, waves to strangers while shopping and gives a “cheesy smile” upon request and Alethia who calls every stuffed animal “baby,” stays close to mommy in new situations and enjoys learning new skills like walking backwards (her latest greatest).

Although it’s an often quoted cliché, we are finding it to be quite true for this stage of our lives: the days are long, but the years are short. We find it hard to believe how big our girls are, increasingly thankful that these 5 week premature babies eat sooo much and are in 50th – 70th percentile for weight and 90th – 98th percentile for height. It is a gift to watch them grow and to be their parents. And it is a gift to be in a community, both locally and long distance, of ones who love us and them so much. Thank you for being part of this community!