what I’m looking forward to in July

I cannot believe that it’s the first of July already. There is some bittersweetness because my birthday month is over (that’s a shout-out to my friend, Lev, who has encouraged me in his practice of celebrating birthdays all month long), and with it the way June initiates summer and holds the longest day of sunlight. July means H.O.T. humidity. But there are also things to look forward to in July. Here goes – 

1. Fireworks! I love them. I don’t know when it started but somewhere along the way I got over my intense fear of them and actually began to love them. When I say intense fear, I’m not exaggerating. My brother and I were so terrified of the sound and the thought that some stray spark might fall on us that we made my parents bring umbrellas to one neighborhood fireworks display. And my sweet parents did, and they opened them for us as we huddled beneath them. Wow – true love. Another early childhood memory is my grandma taking me into a bathroom until they were over because I was screaming in fear. So maybe I’m trying to make up for all of that lost time, so that’s the one thing I hate to miss on the 4th of July. I’ve dragged my less-than-enthusiastic husband to them every year of our marriage (except for the years when he won out and then I was disappointed and sulky). This year my plan is to meet up with friends after the girls go to the bed, leaving hubby behind for some quality time with his daughters. (He’s only too glad to volunteer.)

2. Freedom from diapers – I hope. We are going to try potting training boot camp [again] starting on Independence Day. We will have three days in a row of both parents on deck; it will be warmer than our last attempt (January 1st); and I think that the traumatic memories of that first attempt may finally be behind all of us. Here’s to hoping!

3. A fallow month – meaning that we aren’t anticipating any major social or work commitments/meetings/etc, and this will allow our busy pastor + counselor family schedule some time to breathe. I am looking forward to time to be spontaneous, to just be together as a family, to be alone, to wrap up home projects that have needed some attention to bring them to completion.

4. Beach days – because of the unscheduled nature of this month, we want to try to take advantage of living so close to the ocean and enjoy the wind, waves, and sand between our toes. (and in our hair, bathing suits, arms, legs, eyes/etc etc) We may even combine this one with #2 and do potty training beach-style. Leave those diapers at home and bring a portable potty with us. What better place for everyone to enjoy potty training than the beach? Just stay clear of our beach spot if you find us – consider yourself duly warned. 

My favorite birthday gifts

Today I creep closer into my “mid-30s” as I’ll add another candle to my birthday cake. And this year more than any other, God has reminded me of the two gifts that are my favorites. My twin daughters who are closely approaching 3-years-old in early fall.

As I began my birthday morning with my daily devotional reading from Psalm 127, it was as if God was speaking right to my heart – reminding me of these two beautiful gifts that are straight from his hand. I so often forget, and I complain that mothering is hard and difficult and discouraging. And of course it is all of those things, but it is also a privilege and a deep joy to have these two girls call me “Mommy.” Psalm 127:3 (ESV) speaks of this so clearly:

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.

So how am I celebrating my birthday? With these two girls and my husband. We had breakfast bagels and coffee at Yorgo’s, and then hung out at the mall play area together and browsed books at Barnes and Noble. Just to keep it real, I’ll also tell you that we had a major chocolate milk spill in the car in which said Mommy-who-loves-her-kids got pretty upset with the offender (who did it on purpose to her twin sister’s great amusement); that we had a major diaper change in Barnes and Noble; and that I was pretty glad for naptime once we got home. I love my alone writing/processing/reflecting/reading time.

But these years of naptimes and tantrums will pass quickly (so I’ve heard), and before I know it these two will be in preschool, and then I’ll blink and they’ll be graduating from high school and I won’t know where the time has gone.

So, God, give me grace not to miss your daily gifts to me in the two sets of blue eyes who greet me each morning (ready or not).

the hidden glory of baptism

This past Sunday, our daughters were baptized by Seth. I was surprised only that I did not cry. I had a delayed response – all the emotions broke through Monday evening, which is a fairly typical emotional pattern for me. But what a moment it was! It has been good to reflect on the poignancy of their baptism – and I imagine that I will be doing so for quite awhile.

As an introduction, in the Presbyterian church we do not believe that baptism saves in and of itself, but that it is a sign that our daughters are part of the visible church because they were born to Christian parents. This means that they will  not be communing members of the church until they each make a step of faith for themselves – saying that they personally need Jesus to forgive them of their sin. As I was reviewing its meaning, I found this quote from “On Being Presbyterian” by Sean Michael Lucas helpful:

“The sign of baptism is rooted in God’s larger unchanging purpose in human history. From the very beginning, God has been redeeming a people for his own possession and for his own glory. While God certainly calls individuals to himself, he has, from the very beginning, especially emphasized the relationship of professing believers and their households, and their place within his larger and unchanging purpose of redemption. … [baptism] is  God’s act of initiating us into his visible people … because God’s promise is offered ‘for you and your children’ (Acts 2:39).”

Lucia and Alethia’s baptism seemed to be  as much about Seth and my promises to raise them in a gospel-saturated home as it was about their receiving the sacrament of baptism. Below are the vows that we made:

We acknowledge our child’s need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, and the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit.

We claim God’s covenant promises in her behalf, and we look in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ for her salvation, as we do for our own.

We now unreservedly dedicate our child to God, and promise, in humble reliance upon divine grace, that we will endeavor to set before her a godly example, that we will pray with and for her, that we will teach her the doctrines of our holy religion, and that we will strive, by all the means of God’s appointment, to bring her up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

So with all of that said, below is a poetic musing on this past Sunday –

ordinary moments become
water, sprinkled, dripping down
the sweet innocent
baby skin

claiming the promise
that the sin hidden beneath
such innocence
needs a Savior
she who is yet unaware
will need the grace
poured upon her
like the water
from her father’s hand

she will need Grace
from her Father’s hand
coming through the
nail-pierced hands of
His Son
to save and to cleanse
like the water alone cannot.

the water does not cleanse
it sets them apart
by grace through faith
for grace
through their faith one day
in the Savior they need –
the One we need
to make such vows.

they smile
look curiously
as the water drips down
“an odd time for a bath, Daddy!”
if they could speak
they will not remember
this moment
but we will
and all who witnessed it
we are to testify
to this sacrament
to fulfill our promises
to them.

as they are unaware
and receive this gift
unasked for
I see myself in them.

This is grace: I accept
the gift I don’t know I need
I am unaware
as my Father pours his mercy upon me.

dressed in white
simple elegance
a picture of the Bride
awaiting her Groom
and we pray she will
know His voice
when she is old enough
that she will see
His love pursuing her
that she will say “yes”
“I do”
this is all we ask.

and I walk away
feeling as if I have
in a common
ordinary moment
taking on
eternal meaning
by the grace of a glorious God.

the best Christmas (and New Year’s) ever

It just wasn’t about the presents this year. Not that it has been for a long time … at least a couple years. (ha, ha) What was so sweet about Christmas was being with family – and having two new additions to our family. Alethia and Lucia didn’t know Christmas was different for them than any other day ~ except for the way their routine was mixed up a bit and there was more large-group family social time (and fewer naps and a later bedtime) than normal. They did sleep a tiny bit later than normal, which was their Christmas gift to Mommy (closer to 8:00 am than 7:00 am). But we knew it was a different day, and the best part of Christmas was seeing their smiles first thing in the morning.

I must say that New Year’s Eve was not the most memorable of them all … or exciting. Having twins really ties you down to the house. And we were actually traveling back from South Carolina, and so it served as a bit of a reality check for how much our lives have changed in a year. What normally is a 6.5-7 hour trip took us 10 hours (!), meaning that we got into town around 8:00 pm. We put the girls to bed and then sat down for dinner. However, the slight problem with dinner is that there was nothing for me to eat. Seth had a pizza, but I had inadvertently bought a pizza that I couldn’t actually eat (I can’t eat red sauce – quite limiting, I know …!). And after determining that all our pantry held was beans & rice or Ramen noodles, neither of which seemed very appealing, I ended up having a bowl of cereal for my New Year’s Eve dinner. Seth and I just had to laugh at the entire evening. And as we sleepily toasted the new year with a glass of champagne (an hour early so that we were semi-awake), our hearts were full despite the meager “celebration” for the new year. For truly we felt as if we had the best gifts the New Year could bring asleep in their cribs in the bedroom beside us.

And, yes, I am just now posting this when January is more than halfway through because, well, that’s life with twins. I started the post on January 5th, if that counts for something. !

celebrating 4 years & 34 weeks

Last Thursday, August 26th, marked our fourth anniversary. (This picture was taken in May of this year.) What a four years it has been! We reminisced, celebrated, thanked God for the grace he’s provided for each season of our marriage so far. And joyfully looked ahead to what will be a markedly different season ahead of us when “Nelson, party of 2” becomes “Nelson, party of 4.” Highlights of the past four years:

  • Both of us graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary, M.A. for me in May ’07; M.Div. for Seth in May ’09
  • Worked together on staff during the first 2 years of a church plant, Cresheim Valley Church, which became like a second family for us
  • Became godparents to my cousins Jillian & Logan
  • Became aunt & uncle to my nephew, Caleb
  • Moved from our 1-bedroom apartment in Philadelphia to a 2-bedroom apartment in historic Ghent in Norfolk, and then moved again into a 3-bedroom house to become first-time homeowners in June
  • Between the two of us, we have worked 8 jobs (4 each … !) ranging from personal trainer to missions recruiter to church counselor & pastor (guess who was what?)
  • Seth was ordained for pastoral ministry
  • Traveled to Costa Rica, Chicago, New York City, Minneapolis, Charleston, D.C., Ohio, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Orleans. The one place we really wanted to get to was a trip  to California to visit friends and see the West Coast … maybe for our 10th anniversary!!

And of course, the biggest highlight of our 4 years is becoming parents-to-be of two twin girls, due October 11th. We are so thankful that God has delayed their arrival long enough for us to get our house in order and moved in (even pictures are hung on our walls now), for us to celebrate our 4th anniversary (actually got to “go out” for breakfast – the first time since bed rest), and for us to continue to wrap our minds around the fact that we are going to be parents soon. We are eagerly awaiting their arrival, but quite content for them to stay growing and developing in utero for as long as possible.

Which brings us to today’s celebration of arriving at 34 weeks!! This is specifically what we have prayed for since the beginning of bed rest, and what so many of you have been praying for with us. We are praising him who always does “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). Who knows? Maybe I’ll even have to be induced …

celebrating in numbers

An odd title for a post, isn’t it? Especially coming from someone who has admittedly never been really fond of mathematics or anything else number-related. Yet I am finding that these days of bed rest, I am paying much closer attention to numbers than before.

For every ONE day further that the babies stay put, that is saving them about SEVEN days in the hospital. So I take each day as a gift, which it always has been, but I am much more aware of that than before.

Yesterday marked ONE MONTH on bed rest. It really has flown by! Restlessness is starting to set in a bit, but I try to focus on just ONE MOMENT at a time. And there’s always grace given for that, whether it comes through a friend’s timely phone call or visit or through prayer, God’s Word, or a cherished line from a book I’m enjoying.

Today “baby A – a.k.a. Anna baby (her nickname)” measured THREE pounds, “baby B – a.k.a. Banana baby (her nickname)” weighed THREE pounds, TWO ounces. Keep growing, girls!!

I have gained THIRTY-SEVEN pounds during pregnancy, which is really good for twins since the mother’s rate of growth is thought to be crucial to the babies’ continued growth. And, yep, I just admitted that. Walking in the light of the truth from my previous post …

And I am now TWENTY-NINE weeks and TWO days along in pregnancy.

Praying for at least FIVE more weeks of growth for these TWO daughters of ours, so that they’re not born until THIRTY-FOUR weeks along.

EIGHT books I’ve completed during this past month of bed rest! And SEVEN blog posts … 🙂

Easter: joyful disbelief or cynical doubt?

As I read and reflected on the Easter story this morning as told by the four Gospels, what stands out is the response of those who heard the news of the empty tomb and the risen Jesus. Initially, there is fear. Yet the fear becomes “great joy” or it gives way to cynical doubt.

There is Mary Magdalene who is one of the first at the tomb on that first Easter morning. She hears the news and is filled with fear. But then she sees Jesus, and her fear turns to the disbelief of joy that he is alive and so she worships him and spreads the news to the rest of the disciples. Most of them do not immediately believe, but persist in cynical doubt. Luke actually says that the disciples regarded the women’s report as “an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” However, Peter went to see for himself. And then he went away marveling at the too-good-to-be-true truth of Jesus’ resurrection.

Thomas persists in his doubt because he missed the first resurrection appearance of Jesus to the disciples. He boldly claims that he will “never believe” unless “I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side.” I wonder why Jesus didn’t show up immediately to dispel his cynical doubt. But he doesn’t. He waits eight days, and then he appears and invites Thomas to, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Instantly, Thomas is transformed from a doubter to a worshiper.

Where are you this Easter morning? Be assured that Jesus can (and will) meet you wherever you are. Maybe he will call your name personally, as he did for Mary in the garden that first Easter morning, and you will be overcome with joyful disbelief. Or perhaps you, like Thomas, are more cynical and it will be a longer journey for you. Jesus can meet you here, too, transforming your doubt into the worship of faith.

He has risen. He has risen, indeed. And he is alive. Let us then worship with joy this Easter morning.

Advent meditations week 3: joy

Christmas joy as a child seems to come more easily than for us too-often-jaded (and stressed out) adults. I reflected on this in a post 4 years ago. The cynical side of me dismisses that with the explanation that a child’s joy is often an adult’s stress (like all of their gifts they open gleefully on Christmas morning). Or with a reflection on a child’s naive belief compared to an adult’s “innocence lost.” (who doesn’t remember how disillusioning it was to learn the truth about Santa?) But then there’s the part of me that is fighting cynicism and remembers Jesus’ words in Mark 10:15 –

I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

And so perhaps this Christmas, we need to learn from the children around us and enter into true Christmas joy. Pure delight and awe and enthusiasm for this season. For Christians, we have every reason to rejoice at what is celebrated – God becoming man – and this week’s Advent readings reminded me of this hopeful mystery.

It began in a strange place: Habakkuk 3, but with a chapter that closes in verses that have given me joy in the midst of some of the darkest and saddest seasons –

17Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

What this seems to mean is that God is his strength. Not his “herds” or “vines” or “fields” or “fig trees.” (I’m thinking “money” or “career” or “marriage” or “friendships” or anything else I think will give me strength only promised by God.) When all of that is stripped away, he still has joy because he has God. And because God has come to earth in the person of Jesus Christ and now dwells in the hearts of all who believe, there is the promise that God will never leave me. And so neither will joy.

Joy is guaranteed by the coming of the “Helper” – the Holy Spirit who will reveal all things and who guarantees that we will see Jesus again and be filled with joy. (John 16:5-28) I get a taste of this future joy now as I pray in my Father’s name and watch him answer prayer. As well as when I listen to and read God’s Word – when God works its effect on me, I will “go out in joy”  and “be led forth in peace” because that is the purpose for which he gives His Word. (Isaiah 55:9-13)

Psalm 66, 96, Isaiah 12, and 1 Peter 1:3-9 expand on the concept of Christmas joy by giving reason after reason to “shout for joy to God, all the earth …” (Psalm 66:1). It’s a joy at the gifts we’ve received, not unlike children on Christmas morning. The difference is that these are gifts that have been guaranteed to last forever and which will impart a joy to carry us even through the trials of life. And perhaps that trial includes Christmas this year – the promise is that there is yet a joy to be found and celebrated.

a picture says a 1000 words

And so I give you the pictures that speak about this past weekend’s celebration of Seth becoming a “Reverend” as he was ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church of America. Our hearts are full from the outpouring of love from family and friends, both old and new, many of whom traveled to be with us in celebration. We feel like it was a glimpse of heaven. Thank you all! (or y’all or yous guys …)

The ordination service as Seth becomes a Reverend through the laying on of hands


IMG_4171My sister-in-law Nicole, “little” brother Jonathan, and nephew Caleb


Caleb was the most excited of all for Uncle Seth …



Family and out-of-town guests on a tour of Norfolk


friends from Philadelphia & my parents


IMG_4190 A few of our new friends in Norfolk

Seth’s family (parents, aunt & uncle) who traveled from New Jersey


IMG_4164And we all know that no party is complete without my youngest brother Bryan!