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Soul's Expression

Endearingly Reckless Transparency

Updated: 2018-03-06T15:02:25.205-05:00


What Holy Saturday was like


A few weeks ago I was speaking with one of Adam's co-workers whose position had been eliminated. Have you ever been fired, lost your job, or were "downsized?" I have. In college I lost my part time job. I comforted myself with the knowledge that it was "just a coffee shop job" and that I had another part time job where I was well liked at and it was more stable.

But this wasn't the case for his coworker. This was his career, and his position being downsized at this time did not look good for his prospects.

He and his wife came over for dinner to say farewell. After dinner, as they were heading out the door, we were chatting and his wife said to me, "This was it for us. The last move. We were going to retire here. We're devastated."

I told her that I too was worried about the future for us. That I had regrets and wondered about career moves Adam and I had made. And that I had been pondering the Saturday between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, how the disciples felt.

The scripture tells us they were afraid, and stayed behind locked doors. Absolutely. I imagine that fear was the dominating emotion. But it could not have been the only one. How stupid and foolish they must have felt. To think this dead man was God? Clearly not. What regrets they must have felt. We gave up our fishing business to follow this guy? If we had only known. We would have made better decisions.

It's easy - when life is easy - to follow Christ and see his miracles and presume that we'll be walking around with Jesus, learning from him all the time, just waiting for the New Jerusalem to come down from the sky. We never really think on a daily basis that the big moments will come. Those life changing events that are tragic. Loss on the big scale. The ones that make you fear that the world has changed for you, and that it will never be right again.

On Holy Saturday, the unthinkable has happened, the fear is so palpable, and the future so dim, we easily forget that God does redeem and resurrect the things we think can't possibly return. We fear we've gone too far, beyond his reach.

But then: Resurrection Sunday. God is in the business of raising dead things. And he does it in such a spectacular way, that we'll always look back and say, "If I knew what you know, I would choose this too."

So for you today, if you're standing where we are, with a dark future full of unknowns, I pray for you - as I do us - that we remember that Saturday is only one day between the worst day and the best day. And that the Lord loves overcoming unbelievable odds.

Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.

Thank You Day


It has been rough, these last few days. Lathie isn't sleeping well at night and has had a LOT of difficulty putting herself to sleep, regardless of whether it is time for naps or nighttime sleep.

Which means this mama is getting somewhere in the range of 5-6 hours of sleep a night.

And when I get little sleep, I can feel my temper growing, lurking just under the surface. I suppose this is pretty typical of most people. Little sleep = little energy = lack of physical/emotional resources to manage temper.

So, to manage, I started the day off with Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood for Charis as my baby went down for her first nap. The episode showed the Neighborhood gathering for a Thank You Day. They all wrote Thank You Notes and expressed gratitude for the people in their lives.

And so in the spirit of Daniel Tiger:

  • I'm thankful for Daniel Tiger, but more truthfully, for Fred Rogers, who is able to continue through time and bring his gentle encouragement and teaching to kids (and moms, like me!)
  • I'm thankful for Bible Study Fellowship, for the ladies that care for my kids while I am fed and encouraged by our sweet Teaching Leader and am able to fellowship with my group.
  • I'm thankful for ibuprofen and Tylenol - which help with the headaches that have come each morning after a night of little sleep.
  • I'm thankful for a cheerful toddler when her mamma is just getting by.
  • I'm thankful for a God that rescues and sustains his people (we're studying Revelation 12). I'm glad that the sustenance God provides is both in the eternal sense, and also in the daily, I-didn't-sleep-much-last-night ways.
  • I'm thankful that God has protected my husband's position at the place he works through a time of budget cuts. I'm thankful that my husband works for a man he respects greatly and can learn much from. 

A Successful Day


There has been so very much that has happened over the last year - and so much that I couldn't possibly tell it all in one post - that I'll trust that as I write more, bits and pieces will come out to illuminate my sweet friends that still read this blog. I know. My little blog has quite a lot of dust on it.But for now, I want to write about a moment yesterday that surprised me. Being a mom to two daughters under the age of 2 is busy and demanding, full of interruptions and monotany. And I was a "bored housewife." If by bored, you mean "unable to identify what I had accomplished during the day, but feeling worn out and exhausted."So I saw this sale on a web series from a blog I like, "Money Saving Mom." It wasn't the best time to spend $10 - at the end of a month in which we deviated greatly from our budget - but I was looking for something that would give me a kick start to figure out, "Why am I so cranky every day?"I would lose my temper at my toddler, then feel guilty, then wallow in Facebook, and then watch the historical documentary of choice on Amazon Prime. (Soaps? Why would you watch them when THERE'S SO MUCH HISTORY? Real Life drama!) All the while telling myself, "Well, you kept them alive, didn't you?" And "you need more sleep."It's true. I did need more sleep!But I needed a lot of other things too. So far, I've completed 5 of the webinars and done the little worksheets. It's been very good. They have illuminated a couple of realizations that I needed to come to: 1) I need to get up before my kids and husband.  a) Why? Because I am SOOO SLOWWWW in the morning. I need to sit and wake up with a cup of coffee. Before my eyes even begun to focus. And if I'm sitting and drinking my cup of coffee while my husband (who is Very Productive in the morning) and children (How do they EVEN have that much energy?) get going during the day, I'm about 10 feet behind them for the rest of the day. b) I need that time for myself. I need it. I have never needed alone time - me time - the way I need it now as a mama of littles. I need to refill, and I need to do it with Scripture. Ok, and let me enter my disclaimer:  I'm notoriously bad at getting up consistently before the rest of my family, so we'll see how well I continue, but I do have some determination. And then came the thought that shocked me:2) I had NO IDEA what a successful day looked like. Not. One. Clue.Because each day would come with the good and the bad, but I would feel so out-of-sorts by the time Adam came home. That "JUST PLEASE GET HERE!" feeling that most stay-at-home moms feel at 5 pm. So, I thought and thought about why I never, not once felt like I had a string of good days. Maybe a good day here and there, but not a number of them.  And I realized I was trying to do too much. All the while distracting myself from all the things that I wasn't accomplishing. And failing at getting every.single.chore done every day. ("Really, Hannah? Really? You thought you could get every single chore done every day? Yes. I did. Yes, I was ridiculous.)So now I reveal to you my successful day:I have a list of 1,000 things that need to get done. It's a running list on my Wunderlist app. It is every brain dump thing I think of in the moment. That I can't get done at that moment. I don't do the 1,000 things every day if you think that's where I'm going. No, I do Three And Only Three Things each day. I have a separate list called "Only Three Things" and it's the only one I look at throughout the day. I plan out my Three And Only Three Things for the next day at least an hour before bed. This list excludes keeping my children alive by feeding, reading, teaching and playing with them and it excludes getting dinner prepared and other daily chores that must happen for the world to continue turning.  Items on this list DO include: Showering and washing my hair. Yep. I don't shower each day. True confessions. It includes vacuuming. It includes windexing the dirty bathroom mirror that has been smeared[...]

What 40 days of prayer and parenting a small human does


At the turn of the year, I was in a pretty miserable place.You see, Christmas was hard. It didn't feel like Christmas, for one. Which may have made it a little easier to have not returned to the states to see family, because it didn't feel like Christmas, but there was far more loneliness than we were prepared for. Many of our friends in Indo were sick, and so we mostly stayed at home and did the same things: woke up, went for walks, visited the mall, walked home. It was a fairly mundane 3 weeks.During that time, we started reading Prayer by Tim Keller and I decided I was going to imitate Daniel in the Bible and pray 3 times a day. Twice on my own (morning devotions and once when Charis was napping) and then I counted Adam's and my jointly nighttime prayers as my 3rd. I decided I'd pray for 40 days. In a way, it was similar to a fast.But you see, I wasn't praying to simply know God better or to worship God rightly, as Daniel did. No, I had an agenda.  I wanted God to do what I wanted.Not that what I was asking for was something sinful. Not in a clearly blatantly sinful way. I was just praying for my way. For deliverance to something. For provision. But deliverance and provision in my way.But then God did what God does through prayer. He changes it all.That is what I learned while praying for 40 days and parenting a small human:As I prayed, it started out as "God, please do this. Please give me what I am asking for!"Now juxtapose the image of a 16-month-old girl signing "Please!" 20,000 times a day while pointing at something. Every day.Sometimes I'd give it to her right away (water sippy cup, toys she can play with). Sometimes I'd say a firm, "Oh, you've got to be kidding me!" (scissors, permanent marker, my phone). But often - in fact, incredibly often - my answer was, "Yes! Just wait a little bit. In a while."But that answer was as bad as a "no" to her. Interestingly, the things I usually said, "yes, just wait a bit" were about going somewhere. She loves to go. To get out of the apartment. To visit daddy at work. To see the students.But her timing was off. I was often preparing to go - because if any of you have a small human, you realize you have to pack half the things you own in preparation of going. She, of course, is oblivious to all the things that have to be done in order to go. But they must be done.And as I prayed, I connected the dots - I thought of God as my heavenly father, and how he was parenting me daily. And I was asking 20,000 times - often with tears - "Please!"And maybe my timing is off.Which is where the second part of 40 days of prayer changed me. Eventually, instead of praying, "Please God, do it, I cannot. Please do it now," I began to pray, "Lord, help me trust you. Help me trust your timing. Help me to remember you are my deliverer. You are the God who provides."To the point that on day 36 of 40 we received news that the what I had been praying for was not a closed door. It might not be a "no," but rather a "just wait a bit." And my response was deep ambivalence. I ran to God with fear: "God! Is this what you want? I've just become still and (semi)content in the place you have me. Are you shifting everything? Because I know I've been praying for it, but now I'm bewildered!"And God reminded me: Peace is not some inexplicable internal feeling you cultivate on your own. No, Peace and contentment are inextricably connected to trust. Trust in God. Remembering his promises.And if God opens the door, then his timing is right. And I do not need to fear.What though I wait the livelong night,And till the dawn appeareth,My heart still trusteth in His might;It doubteth not nor feareth:Do thus, O ye of Israel’s seed,Ye of the Spirit born indeed;And wait till God appeareth[...]

My poor languishing blog


So. Yes. Neglected little blog.

In the interest of full disclosure, during the past couple of months I have had many thoughts about posting here. I have refrained for at least one reason: In preparing to leave the US, an expat strongly recommended that any blog posts be very carefully thought out, and refrain from venting online with little thought to the audience.

The second reason, closely related but a bit more personal, is that I didn't want to turn my blog into a constant stream of complaining.

For I have complained. I've complained to God, to my friends and family back home, and (hopefully a bit more thoughtfully, but none-the-less) I've complained to expats here.

The transition has been hard. Things (as is probably typical of most expat experiences) have not gone the way we imagined. There have been many, many good things that have happened, and wonderful people we've met here, and we're careful to thank the Lord regularly for the gifts we have received while being here.

I'm finding, though, that no matter what gifts I have in life, what known balms, the thorns and pain of my experience will always take front and center. I'm sure there are many sanctified people out there who really, truly focus on the blessings of life and are not as innundated with the difficulty of life. I am not one of those people.

Spiritually I am growing, I believe. A friend once said that having a child will reveal cracks in your marriage. I would take that sentiment and say, "Moving into a new culture will reveal cracks in your relationship with God, spouse, children and, well, in everything." The unseen and sometimes undefined pressure that one feels (culture shock) is ever present. Even when I stay at home all day, the knowledge that doing any small task will require hurculean effort causes me to think twice about how desperately I actually need to do that task. (Which is why Charis will be getting her 12 month shots a month late...!)

I pray that the Lord will give me strength in a way that I've never appealed to him before. Adam and I are completely humbled at the sheer number of times we fail each day. (I absolutely, completely and utterly failed at making french toast the other week. FRENCH TOAST. It might be the single most simple dish ever, and yet: Total fail.) Endurence and energy are now commododies that are absolutely vital to me, whereas when I was in the US, it was usually a prayer I'd toss up to God when I'd stayed up too late the night before an early morning at the job. (On that note, I take naps here more days than not.)

I think it will get better. I guess Hope springs eternal, and if I were absolutely hopeless I would have turned around and headed back already. So, it's a good thing.

But until it gets better (I've heard it never gets "easy" per se), I trust the Lord to provide my every need, whether that is simply the energy to clean up the Kitchen, or the energy for a 2 hour grocery shopping trial where you're guessing at prices, translations and "What IS that green vegetable, anyway?"



We've spent the last 3 weeks with my family in Montana, after spending 2 weeks with Adam's family in Philadelphia. It has been wonderful.

It has been hard to come to terms with moving 22 hours by airplane away from my family. Watching Charis love her aunts and uncles, watching her giggle with my mom and adore my dad makes me tear up nearly every time.

And everyone says, "Skype has changed everything" - and in some ways it has. But I was watching Charis playing with a big bin of toys right next to doors with panes of glass leading to a solarium. she crawled around and then discovered the doors- and then she started standing up, bracing herself against the glass, leaving little fingerprints (which probably won't be cleaned off for a long time after we leave).

And it hit me: Skype doesn't leave fingerprints.

My most wonderful memories of growing up around my extended family were created by how we were able to get together frequently. We left lots of fingerprints on the mirrors and glass, both literally and also leaving figurative fingerprints on each other.

I think about how Charis' growth will be witnessed by my parents, but not experienced.

We're excited for this next phase, but as with each change that comes with life, there is also grief and sadness.

What Happened?


So I've had to take the StrengthsFinder 2.0 quiz a couple of times during my profesional life. I can't remember which ones tend toward, but I remember the gist: I always am asking "What Happened?" as a major function of my life.

And, as is par for the course for this blog, it has been 2 months since I last posted. So, What Happened?

Well, April is a crazy month in Academia, as since Adam I live in a residence hall, our life got increasingly crazy.

We endured the crazy that comes with finals, spring weather, busy students and the end of the semester.

We saw the students pack up their things, watched them graduate and move on to the next part of life.

We began to say our goodbyes to friends, slowly but surely. The hardest was the last Sunday in Chattanooga, when we said goodbye to our Small Group/Sunday School group & then went over to our closest friends' house for a final Sunday dinner. But that was just the beginning of goodbyes....

We started packing up everything we owned and put it into storage. (I had a couple of crying jags. Who knew that stuff  had so much meaning?)

A friend came up to help pack and sort through stuff with me. That was incredible. And so very, very needed. One of the RAs babysat Charis and organized all the things we still had to pack off to the storage unit. That was sanity saving.  An RD and his family made dinner for us the last night we were there, and sent food home for me, since Charis had a temperature of 101 and slept for most of the day.

We went to Jess' wedding and celebrated with her, and were terribly tired. And I cried with all the RA girls and with Jess when we were about to leave. And then we celebrated and cheered as she and Eric departed for their honeymoon. 

Adam drove overnight to Geneva College, and is finishing his final 4 classes of he Masters in Higher Education.

Charis and I slept 5 hours and then woke up to endure 16 hours of delays and traveling and airports to get to Montana to spend time with my family. I was awake for 23 hours that day....

So now, I'm at home in Montana, and Adam has 4 more days of classwork before we'll meet in Philadelphia to see his family. It has been wonderful spending time with my parents, sister and brother, my nephew and sister-in-law and with church friends.

And  a little over a month before we leave for overseas....

My Mom


One of the best moments of my life was giving birth to my baby girl with my husband and mom there with me.

One week after Charis' birth, my mom headed home and I was left to mother this little baby with the help of my husband. But as he was getting back to work, there were many parts of the job that were left to me to do alone. Certainly feeding her fell squarely in my court and  I took over most of the bottle feeding as well. Diaper changes, baths, up in the middle of the night, all of this was mostly my responsibility.

But Adam was there. Even if he didn't get up each time in the middle of the night or feed her for the 1,000th time that day, he was an emotional support and often gave me a break by feeding her and getting up at 2 in the morning.  On top of it all, he did the lion's share of housework to keep the apartment in working order.

The difficulty of mothering a newborn was so clear to me, because I knew I had a husband to lean on. When my mom had me, it was just her and me. She had me on her own.

Recently she gave me a couple of letters that she had written when I was a baby to be read during those difficult teen years. While there were some difficult times for me, my teen years were really quite tame (my main emotional and relational support has always been from my family - as opposed to looking for acceptance from my friends). So at 36, I read the letters.

I wept through parts, thinking of how difficult it has been over the past few months to mother such a  little baby. How helpless I've felt, trying to ascertain what she could possibly need. Feeling like a failure when once again what I offered is not comforting her. Over and over again, I was struck with how strong my own mother is. To have done all that I have done, but to do it solo.

When talking about those first 5 years of my life, She will often say that she would consult God as she would have consulted a physical spouse. You know how we say things like, "Well, I wouldn't have chosen [that particular difficulty or suffering], but I grew in ways I could have never imagined"? I know her relationship with God was forged through those difficult years of parenting alone, and that her prayer life was planted and cultivated through those years of loneliness, feeling helpless, and possibly fear of what she might miss out on having chosen to have a little daughter.

God blessed her with many sweet and wonderful moments because she chose to give me life. But she didn't know those sweet and wonderful moments would come. All she knew was how to be faithful at the time. And even now, with some of the difficulties life has presented her in the last 10 years, she faithfully consults the Lord and is a model for me to emulate.

Not too long ago I posted this on Facebook. It makes me teary every time.

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Because the part that undoes me is, "You make me want to fall at my mother's feet and tell her that I get it!"

Mom, You are an inspiration to me and to my sister as we mother your grandchildren.  I love you.

Regarding Common Core


So my facebook feed is blowing up with friends upset about Common Core standards that have been/are being implemented in the public school system. Recently the following link was posted and before I responded that it was crap (because I went to public school and went through standardized testing) I asked a trusted friend who teaches in the public school system if this situation was in fact true. Please read her answer. It addresses the fears and frustrations of standardized testing exceedingly well. (By the way, she and I attend church within the same denomination, before you presume that she is is a liberal talking head...she's not :D)My email to her:This smells fishy to me. 5 year olds being asked about division? you tell me if this is just good old fashioned bull crap? Or are they really doing standardized tests in public school for kindergarteners?Her Response:I'm going to try to answer this as objectively as possible. I have mixed feelings about standardized tests, so take that into consideration.Under the new common core, kindergarten is assessed in reading and math. However, this article seems to be a bit on the histrionic side. It starts with an awful photo, which the author admits was a snapshot of one moment in time when her otherwise happy go lucky daughter was struggling with two math problems. I ask you: what kid LIKES struggle? What child happily works through math problems they've done wrong? I don't know any, and I teach gifted kids. To quote the author "She is a fighter with a resilient spirit. It crushes me to see her cry; to see her struggle. My daughter deserves a happy childhood." The insinuation here is that her struggle with math is somehow jeopardizing her happy childhood. Like I said, histrionics.Research shows that when kids aren't allowed to struggle, bad things happen. Kids somehow associate intelligence with things coming easily - if I'm smart, I shouldn't have to work for it. THAT kind of attitude doesn't prepare kids for the reality that waits outside the front door. If mom shields baby from the big bad math problem that threatens her happy childhood, I'm not sure how baby is going to cope with any type of setback.  This story is an interesting counter to the author's implicit message. As a matter of fact, my 7th graders read this article together and made videos about it. This one is my favorite.Anyway, your original question was about testing kindergarteners. I'm not sure which states currently do and don't test kindergarteners, but my understanding is that under Common Core, this will be the norm. The idea of testing kindergarten kids is completely abhorrent to me, but the idea of standardized testing in general is something I generally support. Kindergarten? No way. Older grade levels? Yes.The problem with standardized testing is illustrated in the article if you can get past the blatant emotional appeal of the darling babies with their tiny teeth and big bows who cannot operate a computer. The issue here is that the test isn't accurately assessing what the kids actually know - do they know how to determine what an equal share is? Maybe, but if they aren't familiar with the word "division" we won't be able to correctly ascertain whether or not they understand the concept of equal shares. If they can't hear what's being said in the big headphones, we can't measure what they know. What is being described here is a problem with PROCEDURE. Is it wrong to ask a kindergartener what they know, and use that as ONE piece of a puzzle that determines the effectiveness of the school? No. That's not wrong. However, the way we deliver that assessment needs to be done more authentically than what is described here. Authentic assessment for a kindergart[...]

He'll Keep You, Too -- No Matter Where.


He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.  And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:2-3

I have been listening to Rain For Roots' songs with Charis. They are short children's songs taken from Sally Lloyd-Jones' "Hug a Bible" for babies. We put the cd in each morning and I sing it to her. At first it was so that I could introduce her to the gospel - it does my heart good to know that she will have heard the gospel no matter what happens. 

But there have been some changes on the horizon that make one song particularly meaningful to me: 

Who heard Daniel when he prayed?
Who helped him not be afraid?
Who stayed beside him in that den?
Who brought him safely out again?
It’s God who kept him in his care. He’ll keep you, too--no matter where! 

Some of you who are on Facebook probably noticed that Adam went to Jakarta, Indonesia. Strange place to visit in the middle of the semester, but you see, he has been offered a position at the International Teaching College at The Universitas Pelita Harapan (University of Light and Hope). Covenant College will be partnering with ITC @ UPH in 2015, creating a branch campus offering a western, accredited, reformed education to students in Southeast Asia. At least, that is the hope, and the paperwork is being negotiated between the two schools right now.

Adam is in the final stages of negotiating his salary for us to move to Jakarta. We'll be getting ITC off the ground starting Summer 2014 and the plan is that he will be working for Covenant College as an Associate Dean when CC takes over in 2015. We have plans to stay for 3 years and then return to the US For Adam to begin work on a doctorate.

Needless to say, I am afraid. Nearly everyone I tell this story to says, "What an Adventure!" and I think to myself, I am not adventuresome. I am a person who likes to stay at home, near family and have coffee on Saturday morning with her extended family. Chattanooga was far enough away when we first moved here! Now we're exchanging a 7 hour flight to Montana for a 22 hour flight to Montana. I am not an adventurer.

But as I sang to Charis yesterday,  "Who heard Daniel when he prayed?" I started tearing up when I got to the lyrics, "Who helped him not be afraid? Who stayed beside him in that den? He'll keep you too -- no matter where!"

Yes, he will stay with me. He will keep me, too. Even in Jakarta.

And I thought to myself: Sometimes? A children's song is more effective then the most beautifully written sermon.

God, Suffering and Tummy Time


Charis is starting to roll over. It is pretty exciting around here!

But what she had to do in order to roll over was pretty miserable for my little sweetheart. She had to endure tummy time.

Oh, the misery of tummy time!  For those of you who were born in the 70s and 80s, (as was I) we were always put down on our tummies for naptime and sleeptime. So there wasn't tummy time, as a specific thing. But now that they've started linking SIDS with sleeping on tummies, it's "Back to Sleep": the recommendation that babies sleep on their back for naps and nighttime.

So, how do we get infants to develop skills and build muscles? That's right! Tummy time.

Charis just hated tummy time. As a little baby, her head was so heavy! She could only hold it up for a short time and then she would be facedown in the mat, crying so hard that her tears and snot would be all intermingled and making a fine mess of the mat.

There were so many times that I would let her cry for 10 or 30 seconds and I bet she wondered if I loved her. Why wasn't I saving her from this? It felt like forever for her.

You see, I knew what needed to happen in the future. I knew that her miserable, never-ending 30 seconds of crying would force her to do little pushups so she could breathe. To force her little muscles to exaust themselves, and then build for the next time.

She only could handle a minute or two of tummy time at the beginning. Then 3 minutes. And then 5. Then, one day, she stayed on her tummy for more than 10 minutes! She was lifting her head like a champ and smiling.

And then, just days later, she was rolling over.

As I watched her suffer for months of tummy time, I thought about the year before I became pregnant. How angry I was with God. How he let me cry for forever, and my tears and snot intermingled and made a fine mess on the mat.  How long it was. It was never-ending. And I didn't know why. Why wasn't he saving me from this?

This isn't a post to make whatever suffering you are going through magically disappear. It's not even to tell you that it will all get better. 

Charis' tummy time reminded me that God's perspective is so much longer than ours. And yes, 30 seconds to him is an eternity to us. And so suffering hurts for an eternity to us.

But, as CS Lewis so wisely wrote, “That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”

Praying that your agony will be turned to glory, and that God's purposes will be revealed as sweet and sure.

I Don't Know


Leave it to my friend Molly to write on a subject with such acuity that it a) explains exactly where I am at, and b) inspires me to write a post in response.

First, Go read her post here.

I could stop here and shout, "AMEN" and let it end at that, (ha ha) but I won't! I'll add my two cents!  

Lately I have been telling my mom and sister that the most surprising aspect of parenthood to me is how deeply I do not know. Being an only child for 6 years and then an oldest child for 30 additional years means that I always think I know, I always think I'm right, and I'm more than willing to boss you around so that you also do the right (in-my-eyes) thing.

Enter parenthood, which brings me to the place of being baffled every. day.

We're currently trying to help/guide/train Charis to go to sleep by herself without 40 minutes of rocking, bouncing, swaying, singing and butt-patting. The minute either of us put her in her crib, she wakes up. And then wails. And Wails. And Wails. She has cried for 90 minutes before. Yes, Internet, I am that horrible mother that lets her baby cry it out. (She was not poopy or hungry. And yes, I felt ripped up inside.)

And it brings up every question you have for yourself when you love someone who does not yet have life skills: Am I doing the right thing? Should I have gotten her up and patted her butt for another 40 minutes? Should I just give in and fall asleep sitting up in the rocking chair while she blissfully sleeps in my arms for 10 hours? (the answer to that one is NO.) Should I let her cry? Is she hurt? What if this time she's hurt?

And Molly defines the issue so well: If I knew, if only I were omniscient, if only I were God, then I would be calm, composed and determined.

But this is where the Lord brings me so that I am dependent on him to know. So that I am dependent on him to do the right thing where my beloved daughter is concerned.

And to know that he loves me just as much as he loves her,  as much as I love her. More.

(Ok, so Molly said all of this, and maybe a bit better. And I could have said, "AMEN!" and have been done with it. But here it is, none-the-less!)

Remember The Deeds of the Lord (or "What A Year Can Do")


A year ago I wrote this post: Advent

And I prayed and wrote in that post, "Jesus I am waiting. Waiting for you to heal this mess, this disaster area that is my spiritual life. Come, Lord Jesus. Come Quickly. Heal me and clean it up."

I was pregnant when I wrote those words. I had no idea that the Lord had come quickly, had allowed such a miracle, and I wouldn't know for another 16 days. I was still desperate.

It's amazing to me as I think back on that juxtaposition: of already having what I had prayed for, but being unaware of it.

These days, I feel peace with the Lord and with my circumstances. Is it terrible that I feel peace when I get what I want (as opposed to feeling peace when I'm in the midst of the storm)? Perhaps... Perhaps.

But I am grateful. And I think the Lord is calling me to remember that he can and does work when I have deep doubt that he will. And that he does love me, even when the contrary seems true, based upon my circumstances. That his love is perfectly timed according to his timing, and not mine.

It's what I pray for those who are still waiting for their babies to be conceived and arrive; or for their health to be healed; or their marriage to be trusting and whole; or for the brokenness and sin in their life to be eradicated. I pray that the Lord's timing will amaze them and their awe and love will turn to shouts of joy.

I pray also that the Lord will be near to me when hard times come again. Because I know that suffering is part and parcel to the Christian life. And I suspect I'll often doubt the Lord's goodness as I suffer. So I pray for his nearness and that I will remember the sweetness of this time, even as I go through future difficult times.

My sister sent this scripture to me today:

Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

Psalm 77:10-12

A post about ....well, not much.


I'm sitting here waiting for Charis to wake up - she's been asleep for about an hour, which in the morning is a very long nap for her.  Because she woke up at 8 and I couldn't fall back asleep, I jumped in the shower. So I'm sitting here, pounding out a post (I have no idea where this post is going to go), towel wrapped around my head, waiting for her to interrupt both the needed hair drying and the blog posting.

Things have been getting better. It has been a tough ride, y'all! Breastfeeding definitely has had its ups and downs (mostly downs) but this week has been good. About two weeks ago I went into the doctor's office with a lump and found out I have a galactocele. ("what's that?" you ask.) Well, it's rare, but it's a a permanent plug (or rather, a cyst) full of milk that is blocked by dried milk protein. Thus the lump. They drained it and it returned within 7 hours, so I know it's full of milk. The Lactation Consultant I've been calling told me that it should resolve itself when I've weaned Charis, but most people's experience (ala Google) seems to be that it will need to be drained again. A nice $600! We'll cross that that bridge when we get to it.

Adam and I decided that  it would be good for me to stay at home with Charis, so I am a Stay At Home Mom! I'm so glad, too, because I really enjoy being able to take care of Charis and also keep things up around the house.  It's a huge financial sacrifice, and I don't think we know the full impact of it, but for now, I am very happy!

I updated the Santiago blog yesterday with a bunch of info about Charis, so if you're interested in that, head on over there.

Otherwise, most of life has been s-l-o-w-l-y getting into somewhat of a routine. I don't feel as though I've been able to keep up with people well, so I hope to have life become somewhat structured so I can connect with others a little more.

Well, I'm off to dry my hair. I hope to post something a little more erudite soon! 

My Identity is not measured in Milliliters


 Oh, Friends. If you only knew how quickly I began to measure my worth in milliliters. ("Milliliters?" you ask)10 days ago, I found the edge of my sanity. My child would not stop screaming and crying, and having watched the "Dunstan Baby Language" she repeatedly said, "Neh!" which means, "Hungry!"This could not be, I thought, because I was nursing her nearly nonstop. To the point that my poor....well, anyway. Pain was ensuing. (We'll keep this PG.)  She must be colicky, I thought. I began to poll my mom friends about gas drops, different prescriptions for infants with acid reflux, etc.And then Saturday happened. I was in the most pain ever while nursing. I broke out into a sweat Sunday night because it was so painful. But Dr. Google assured me that regardless of what was wrong, I should continue nursing. Because whatever WAS wrong, would be helped by draining the milk.Monday I called my doctor and her pediatrician first thing in the morning. The pediatrician saw us right away and did a weight check. It wasn't so much that she had acid reflux. It was that she wasn't gaining weight.She wasn't getting food. My milk supply had tanked sometime between leaving the hospital and this doctors visit. I felt terrible. Here I was frustrated with my baby when she really was telling me all along that she was hungry. I began pumping.In addition, my doctor saw me and said, "you have a terrible case of mastitis! Did you not have a fever?""No!" I said, "I checked and I wasn't feverish, so I thought I was being neurotic.""Well, you weren't," he said. "Go get these antibiotics."And that  is where the milliliters come in. To remedy both feeding her and the mastitis, I pump after each time I nurse (which is followed by a bottle of formula). Most women pump out ounces of milk. An ounce is 30 milliliters.  I pump out 15 milliliters. 20 ML on a good pump session.I began pumping last Monday, and throughout the week the milliliters have stayed frustratingly the same. Because I'm nursing and pumping, my milk supply should be increasing. But if it is, it's maddeningly slow.And that was when I began measuring my worth in milliliters.  How can I be a good mother if I'm not able to feed my child mother's milk? I've always thought I would breastfeed exclusively. Now I'm supplementing? I don't want to supplement!We can't afford formula for 9-12 months. I am a terrible mother.I am a terrible wife.When I was counseling, I always highlighted the "I Am" statement the client was making. It's a statement of identity. And my identity was clear: not producing enough mother's milk means I'm a terrible mother, and a terrible wife.Of course, I repented (kind's still a struggle). I know who (and whose) I am, or maybe I do on a good day. But it is so easy to measure my worth according to what I do, or what I produce, or how successful I am at any given task. Failing at the thing I so desperately want to do, well, it completely undermines my false identity and points me back to the cross. I need Jesus to once again tell me who I am.I am co-heir with Christ. I am saved from my sin and from eternal death. I am victorious in the Christian life.But I may not be producing ounces and ounces of milk. And my child may never only breastfeed. She may always need formula (I'm taking pretty determined measures to hopefully eradicate our need for formula, but it. is. slow. going).But I cannot measure my ability at motherhood and my identity as a person in my production of milliliters of milk.Well, I should not. But that itself is the battle. [...]

Wow, what a month


Well, I can't believe I'm typing out a post. The last three weeks have been full of ups and downs and lots of crying - for both baby and me!(The entire birth story and pictures are here: . I won't repeat the entire story, and Adam does a better job of writing, anyway. But for those of you who are curious, that is where we're doing the great majority of posting about Charis.)After the events of Sept 6-11, we came home and settled into a two week routine that included help from my amazing mother. (I need to write a post on my mom's decision to raise me as a single mom, and how I now understand just how much work it was for her to keep me. But that will be for another day.) Our routine included my mom, Adam and me holding Charis nearly all the time, and me doing lots of sitting and feeding her, and sitting and eating, and sitting and drinking lots of water.Then mom went home, and I'd like to say that I'm exaggerating (and maybe I am), but all hell broke loose. My child cried and pacified and cried some more and wouldn't sleep and cried, and it just felt overwhelming. Somehow I think I believed the subtle lie that all moms believe that if I do "x" I'm going to be ruining my child down the road. For me, "x" was not having scheduled feeding times.You see, as a pregnant lady, you hear all of these stories about magical children that sleep 4 or 5 hours during the night right off the bat. And somehow I got it into my head that a schedule would help with sleeping through the night. So, when my normal child wakes up every hour and half or less and demands to be fed, both my husband and I feel like there must be something wrong - wrong with me, my milk or something. Last night was the worst night. Adam had to finally get up at 3 am when I had been sushing, rocking, singing, feeding her for two hours and he finally got her to sleep. Meaning he got about 4 hours of sleep last night.So, today I decided: screw it. I'm not going to feed her on a schedule - if she wants to be fed every 30 minutes, then so be it.And today has gone much, much better. She has fed more often, but she's also slept longer periods. And I've gotten to sleep during those times too.She's still a bit fussy and finicky. She does much better sleeping tummy down while being held, but since everyone talks about SIDS like "DO ONE THING WRONG AND YOUR BABY WILL DIE," we're still having her sleep on her back. Swaddling helps, but I bet that the minute she's able to sleep on her tummy she'll be sleeping like a champ.So, that's the update. No big epiphanies for this post. Just a new mama learning the ropes with her new (20 day old) baby. Ok, I couldn't resist a couple of pictures....! Who doesn't love a sleeping baby?Charis adores her Mr. Owl[...]



T minus 3 days.

Well, that is what my phone app says, and what my due date is. But who is to know? Only God.

I feel very ambivalent about this upcoming transition.

On one hand, I look forward to a person who is an addition of me plus my husband and our traits, our features, etc. But someone who is also wholly new, complex and unique. A person that I will know immediately, yet also get to discover over the next many years.

I'm looking forward to not feeling like a bowling ball is pushing on my bladder, hips, thighs, etc. Before I go much further, I do want clarify that pregnancy has been absolutely worth the discomfort and that I am NOT complaining about this wondrous experience and person we have wanted for so long. I'll just be a little relieved when the 7 pounder inside me is outside me.

On the other hand, I have really enjoyed being pregnant. I've liked - and even loved - certain aspects of it. There's a tenderness that is impossible to suppress when running your hand over the pushing and rolling of a little one inside your body. The wonder of how much is created so quickly, how internal organs and bones and eyes and heart are all developed so soon in the pregnancy process. I've really loved the entire time (well, excluding my impatience to get to the end and know the little one!)

Yet, the next season is scary. It's the unknown. And Adam and I have enjoyed more than 9 months of some of the sweetest times in our marriage. Lovely, peaceful and supportive. I LOVE our marriage right now. And I don't want to give this up.

Most everyone who has a baby or toddler tells us how hard having the baby was on their marriage. We've been warned. And I believe it. I mean, you have these hormones screaming through your body, you're both focused on someone else, instead of on each other, and then on top of it: Sleep deprivation. Am I ready for this? I fear I'm not.

Each morning I wake up immediately disappointed that contractions haven't begun. But lately, I've been snuggling (as close as reasonably possible with this beach ball belly in between us) next to Adam, knowing that for the next few months, when I wake up, it will be to the alarm clock of a hungry baby, not because I woke up and got to doze for 20 more minutes next to my husband. I think to myself that the countdown to joy and a sweet little addition is also the countdown to fewer quiet moments with my husband.

I cherish these last few days with only him, but also look forward to our little family of three.



On July 23rd, Adam came down to help me bring groceries into the apartment."How was your day?" he asked."Great!" I said. "I got so much done, and the day just flew by. I know it's nice hear when days go well, and today went really well.""Wonderful!" he said."How was yours?""Ok.""Just ok?""Yep."He or I changed the subject, and I trusted he would tell me eventually what made the day just ok. It came as we put the groceries away in the privacy of our home."I don't want you to become concerned, but David has been missing for 40 hours.""Our David?"David was an RA last year on Adam's staff and was slated to return to RA staff for his second year. He was a quiet guy, with a deep resonant voice. A popular soccer player and an excellent student, He had struggled to make his hall his own, but was succeeding bit by bit last year and really was excited to return to the hall. Adam explained he had been hiking in the Swiss Alps, on a little vacation from working with MTW in Spain as an intern. I pushed away fear and anxiety and became a little irritated that he would have kept hiking while the other two people hiking with him turned back.I thought of so many times in high school when prayer requests would come through our group of friends for some high schooler or another getting lost in the mountains. They always returned. I knew, having lived in Montana for most of my life, when it gets dark on a mountain, you hunker down, try to stay dry. When daylight comes,  you find some kind of water and follow it back down to a town or where it crosses a hiking path. I presumed David would know to do so. I presumed he was ok. News would come 30 minutes later, as we were driving down Lookout to get some dinner. My dear friend texted me "Do you know about David?"I sent a cryptic text back, not sure if I was spreading gossip or getting information.She responded, "They found him...He's in heaven."I called her and asked 3 times if she was sure. "Yes," she said, "I'm close friends with his sister." She had just gotten off the phone with David's sister and brother-in-law.Adam stayed up until 3 am that night calling RAs and close friends of David's, including two RAs that were in Africa and Peru. We were in a daze the next day.His family had the funeral July 29th. Adam estimates that about 1,000 people were there. I couldn't go, and won't be able to go to some of the memorial times that Covenant College is planning. It's strange to mourn someone who I still feel is supposed to return to us this Thursday.  Strange to mourn someone who left 3 months ago, and is supposed to be somewhere else. But who is supposed to come back. To know that he won't be back, but not believe it. I'm sending the following poem to his mom and dad. It has been a comfort me since Addie found it in a devotional and wrote it in a bible for me years and years ago. Even for the dead I will not bind my soul to grief;Death cannot long divide.For is it not as though the rose that climbed my garden wallHas blossomed on the other side?Death does hideBut not divide;You are but on Christ's other side!You are with Christ, and Christ is with me;In Christ united still are we.[...]

Moving Right Along


Life has been moving right along. Sometimes it feels incredibly slow, waiting for that time when you know that life will change. We have 7 more weeks before little baby is due to make an appearance. Sometimes 7 weeks sounds like "right around the corner" and other times I think it sounds "FOREVER AWAY."

But in the meantime, little aspects of life have happened. We've been moving through the days of the summer.

  • We are one day away from the end of Summer camps up on the mountain. Covenant rents out its facilities for various camps and the noise level is directly correlated with the a) age of the campers (Jr. Highers are Terrible. They literally run everywhere they go. With big, stomping  Jr. High feet) and b) the maturity of the campers. One week we had high schoolers that were surprisingly loud, though they went to bed at a reasonable hour. A few weeks later, another group of high schoolers came in - this time a group focused on student leadership. They were in bed before we were, I think! I saw them up at 7:15 in group prayer. (Oh, that all camps were like that!)
  • I'm still working - it's getting harder to concentrate each day. Not because I'm thinking about the future, but just because your mind absolutely goes to mush when you are pregnant. So, I'm sure I've made a number of mistakes my office will catch on say, oh, September 12th! 
  • Adam and I are wrestling through the options of me staying at home, me going back part time or me going back full time. It's hard to know, because there are legitimate reasons for all of them. I'm having a hard time really knowing what to do, though I have received a lot of advice from all around :)
  • PRAISE! Two co-workers (one of Adam's and one of mine) have become pregnant after struggling with infertility and going through infertility treatments. We are delighted. We continue to pray for those are on the infertility path. Another co-worker shared with Adam this week that they are starting to look into fertility options.
  •  Adam and I are reading a lot of books on parenting, baby sleep schedules/habits, birthing options - the whole gamut. It has been a fun time for us to ponder the different options and find out what each of us thinks. Amazingly enough, we have different perspectives on things. Who would have thought? < end sarcasm >
  • I miss a lot of the students that have gone. I'm always grateful for the previously mentioned camps during the summer because they help me understand how much better we have it with the college students. At least college students regularly get to bed around 11:30 or so...if only because they can't possibly make enough coffee to get through the night!
  • Most of all, I'm looking forward to the RA staff returning. I'm praying this crew is as great as our last year's group. Of course, I won't be able to know them quite as well, since I'll have other things on my mind and plate, but still hopeful for a tight-knit group.
That's about the long and short of it. Hopefully more to come as my addle-minded brain thinks of things! 

Grief is All Around Us


It's strange (and wonderfully nice), being in a place with less grief. Well,  suppose I mean to say, less potent grief. There is much about my life now that is good and happy and joyful.

And yet grief is still all around.

In the last few weeks, a former co-worker emailed to say her 10 month old nephew has leukemia, a lifelong friend underwent the surgeon's knife to undo a tumor in/around her spine, and a co-worker's 12 year old autistic son went in to have a routine tooth extraction and never woke up from the anesthesia.

I saw my coworker as he return to work this week and and spoke with him. He teaches both at the school I work at as well as Covenant.  (He's a very, very kind man who once responded when introduced to Adam, "Oh, you're Hannah's husband! Good to meet you!" Since we live at the college where Adam works and graduated from, I'm usually introducing myself the other way around. He was so thoughtful about affirming my identity outside of "The Covenant Circle.")

He was gentle and gracious and the pain of losing his only son was there on his face, welling up in his eyes. We talked about the pain of grief - death, stroke, cancer, infertility.

We agreed that there is a place for healing - we get there sometimes on this side, but there's a wounding that will never heal this side of heaven.  We long for Heaven.

He said that it's called The Argument from Desire.

We parted. He turned and thanked me for the note of scripture I had written in a card. I thought about that scripture.  It was given to me as a gift, from a friend, left for me on a sticky note in my desk, shortly after my father's stroke. It has always stayed with me.

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with singing.
 (Zeph 3:17)

And so I had given it to him - the one thing we can give to one another when words fail- the gift of the Holy Spirit speaking love and compassion through his Word. 

Still Infertile


I realize I'm pregnant. The little thumper kicking away right now reminds me of the fact as she pummels the inside of my body with her little knees, elbows, feet, and fists!But as mother's day came and went, and as we have heard more news of friends who continue on the road of IVF, infertility and/or adoption, I find an unusual response occurring in me.I still feel infertile.I think this makes sense personally:First, I'm still somewhat in the same emotional place I was 5 or 6 months ago. After all, when you get to the point in the road that we were coming to (acceptance of our situation, acceptance of not having biological kids, years of the same answer, "no"), 5 months of knowing we're no longer on that road is not a particularly long time to change your emotional perspective.And secondly, the Fear of revisiting the same infertility experiences is real. We have no guarentee that we'll get pregnant again after this one. Statistics are good, but as John Piper writes in his essay, Don't Waste Your Cancer,  "You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God." I thought a lot about this principle as we were going through treatments. After all, Dr. Scotchie gave us about a 5-10% chance of getting pregnant on our own. Odds? Terrible. Christ? Powerful. And while God is powerful to do as he wills when he wills, he is never manipulated by my desires or my recitation of odds and statistics his direction.And I think there are two main origins to the feeling.First is compassion and empathy for my infertile friends: All of this  - the realization that I still feel infertile, still categorize myself as such - came as a friend wrote a letter to me a few months ago. They are beginning the process of infertility testing. She knew I was pregnant and I wanted with all my heart to express to her, "But I'm still with you! I'm still there, in Infertile Land with all it's pain and confusion, even if I have a baby growing in me. It doesn't change it!"(Of course, it does change it.) The second origin is a bit more, well, controlling.  I found an author had written a post titled "Pregnancy doesn't cure Infertility."  I deeply appreciate her overall expression of the experience and her final point is the essential one:I really want control: My shameful secret is that what I most want isn’t another baby, it’s control.   I want to imagine a world where I could pick how many kids I’m going to have and then I could make it happen. I wouldn’t have to wait through times of “trying” or lengthy adoption processes. I could be in charge. Of course, it’s such a false sense of control to imagine that being fertile means you make your children happen. Every conception is an act of God, but I admit I’m envious of those who seem to be able to make it happen (or not happen) at will.(See more at: A Musing Maralee)And while I do want more babies, she writes what my heart cries: To have control. To know what the future holds. To be Omniscient and Omnipotent.  And as I am not God, I am still infertile - infertile to do as I will.But he calls me to trust. As I was called to trust while going through infertility treatments, as I was called to trust as I wrestled with the fear of losing this pregnancy, as I am called to still trust that through all that life has to hold,  Whate’er my God ordains Is Right.[...]

An Exceptionally Good Year


Today is the last day we will see our RA 2012-2013 staff. They will be wandering in for breakfast, after a full Turkey Dinner last night and a full night of cleaning a dorm building that used to be a hotel - 150 rooms!

 And cleaning this building is quite a feat, considering I heard from 3 separate college students during cleaning day last week, "Why do we have to clean? Isn't there a cleaning service?" (Adam and I could write a book on examples of entitlement from this generation....) That aside,

It has been an exceptionally good year.

A year full of depression, struggle and learning. A year full of laughter, mentoring and connection. These RAs, more than any other group, walked with us through our fertility struggles: They were 3 months into their job when we told them what the past years had held for us personally and shared with them that we were likely never to have kids.

When we came back from Christmas, they were the first people we told that we were pregnant. I thought I knew which ones would cry with happiness - I wasn't ready for all of them to tear up and shout with joy!  (Which may explain this video a little!)

We've been with them as two of them became engaged, another start dating seriously and others struggle with longing and disappointment. Adam has counseled each as they've gone through the difficulties of leading college students - sometimes being in the place on confidant and "older brother or sister," sometimes being rejected or the object of anger by those same students weeks later.

They have been a good team. I will miss them!

Big News


If you're curious, there's an announcement here!

I'll write more about the visit later on, right now it's a crazy time for both of us, so I haven't had a lot of time to sit and write it all out yet....

A Holy Saturday Post


On Dec 1, before I was pregnant, I wrote this: Lamenting in the Barren Land. I was not looking forward to Christmas - for the first time ever. Having gone through a year of failed infertility treatments and struggling with my sister's spontaneous pregnancy, presuming I would hear all kinds of "So why aren't you starting a family" kind of comments from friends and extended family.  Believing I would walk through all of it raw and vulnerable. It made me want to hide.

As I wrote "Lamenting", I assumed that the road ahead would lead toward healing, but in the form of contentedness years in the making. 

At the time, I believed I would write a bookend to "Lamenting." I didn't know when, but I thought it would go something like this:  "God didn't abandon me, and this is how I know, etc, etc." I also thought it would be something along the lines of "look at all he has done, though he never gave us children."

Which brings me to this Post: We are not Forsaken. I think it is a better bookend to "Lamenting" than something I could write. 

What I didn't think about during my own post was the effect on God as he watched his only son suffer and die.  Which is why the post is so fantastic. I, myself, couldn't wrap my brain around any other perspective but mine (and Jesus from the cross).

I forgot that parents suffer as their beloved child suffers.

My mom and sister (who has now had her baby) have both made comments recently about how painful it is to love someone as much as a parent loves their child. I cognitively believe it, but I don't understand it - yet. I know I will when our own little peanut comes I'll know experientially.



I like to steal ideas from my blogging friends. So, today, I present the theft of an topic my friend Deanna Davis regularly blogs about: Healthy Marriage Practices.

(You'll hear a - shorter - version of this post at my brother's rehearsal dinner in two weeks, if you are attending. For all of you others, these are the thoughts that have been rolling around in my mind during the past few months.)

Our marriage began as every marriage does: with about 3-5 months of bliss (with some little blips) and then BAM: The Argument. The fight. If you are married, you know exactly what I'm talking about. It's the one where at the end of it you feel both bewilderment that this got out of hand so fast, mixed with a significant amount of "I DO NOT want to be married to you anymore. This is NOT what I thought it would be. Screw this."

Simultaneously, I was finishing my graduate degree in Counseling, and was required by my Internship Supervisor (and Professor) to read a number of different books, and write response papers applying them to a) me or b) my practice.

I clearly remember what my professor wrote on one response paper ( I don't remember what I wrote, but it had to do with words of affirmation in a marriage).  He wrote, "John Gottman states that the Magic Ratio for a healthy relationship is 5 positive comments for every 1 negative comment." 

This blew my mind.

I remember thinking about our short marriage (about 8 months old at that point) and saying to myself,  "How can I ever POSSIBLY remember to say 5 positive things to my husband before I bring up something difficult or critical?"

So, I got into a habit.  I realized that when my husband does chores (the items of life that he said he'd take care of - laundry, the dishes, etc), he is doing a favor for me. If he were not here, I would have to do those things. By myself.

So I began to thank him.

For everything. For The smallest things.

Now, he also would thank me for doing certain things in our marriage, so it was a fairly easy habit for me to get into. But now, nearly 5 years into our marriage, we show gratitude for one another all the time. For miniscule things. The last time I thanked him, it was for filling up the gas tank. I hate doing that. It's so nice when he does it, so I texted him at 9 am when I got to work: Thanks for filling up the gas. I was so appreciative of it this morning! 

I'm sure other couples may find it almost too saccharine to bear, but the consistent, little moments of gratitude make the marriage connection much more stable when the difficult conversations are addressed. You have something to draw upon.

Does everyone have to implement this particular habit into their relationship? No, of course not. I see many relationships that are healthy and thriving and they don't do exactly this.

But in one manner or another, they specifically encourage their spouse with positive, affirming actions and words. Because it is the lifeblood of a marriage together.