an advent birthday

My sincere apologies for keeping many of you on your toes as you check daily for new posts, I’m sure. 😉 It has been a full month with much joy and adventure and rest. 

I officially turned 26 yesterday! Mark and I slept in and skipped church (a rare event) to enjoy a lovely homemade breakfast. When we discovered that our sad refrigerator did not have any maple syrup, we texted a house neighbor to borrow a couple tablespoons, and lo and behold: she had bought me a bottle of organic syrup as a gift just a few days earlier! It was one of the more delightfully hilarious parts of my day. Mark and I later ran errands, picking up pies and soup for our party later, and enjoyed some biscuits + coffee en route to a celebratory afternoon hosted by dear friends. Julianne even got me some canning equipment to jump-start item #16 on my list!

bang bang birthday biscuits

Since writing my very ambitious list last month, I’ve been able to cross a few items off the list… ahem, with very erasable dotted lines. Many of my goals are intended to be good processes worked upon and perhaps not ever fully completed. As much as I love finishing a good list and tossing it out, it will be a real test for me this next year not to feel the need to finish a project but to let these tasks journeys grow and change. 

Early on in November, I attended a one-day retreat hosted by L’Arche Chicago in Hyde Park. The day focused on the life and writings of Henri Nouwen, a Dutch professor and pastor who spent his life writing authentically about his need for intimacy and the unconditional love of the Father. Our thoughtful group spent much of the time reading and contemplating a portion of Nouwen’s book, The Return of the Prodigal Son, which reflects on the Rembrandt painting and parable of the same name. It was a heavy but good day for me. I didn’t know a lot of people in the group which gave me the space and privacy I needed to pray and journal through private concerns of mine, while still learning much from my new retreat peers. 

Just a couple of weeks ago, I took a mini road trip (another sort of extended retreat) with Mark and his sister, Jenn, to Bismarck, North Dakota. Jenn has worked for J.W. Pepper Sheet Music for two years now and has been promoted not once but twice! First from Wheaton to Westchester, PA as a sales rep and now to their location in Bismarck as Ms. Manager. We are so excited for her, and volunteered to help her move after Thanksgiving. Bismarck is a quaint little city with not a lot open on Sundays, but enough Chinese food and Oberon Winter Ale to keep our bellies happy.

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Bismarck is peaceful on Sundays

Without Jenn’s belongings to unpack (the poor girl is STILL waiting for her things to arrive!), we soaked up the amenities of an empty hotel, dipping our cold toes in the hotel’s hot tub and watching Christmas movies. It was the perfect holiday respite before a busy December. On the way home, we made a pit-stop in Minneapolis to explore and celebrate Mark’s pending graduation. We ate a delicious Korean BBQ pizza at a local restaurant, and I gave him his graduation present: tickets to “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me”. I’m so proud of this guy and can’t wait to celebrate his academic journey more!

I also read a couple of great books this month! Wonder by R.J. Palacio was a quick commute read, being adolescent non-fiction, but I enjoyed its rare bluntness about how cruel middle school can be for kids. This narrative of a boy with facial deformities balanced humor, sadness, injustice, and redemption with grace and intellect. It was beautiful. Stitches by Anne Lamott was equally beautiful. Lamott writes with such personal levity, depth, and honesty that you feel like you’re sitting next to her at a coffee shop as she unfurls her thoughts. Her writing was what my soul needed to hear this month. 

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we are not rags.

I even started getting physical therapy. For a number of reasons, many related to really wonderful insurance opportunities and many personal, I visit the Rehab Institute of Chicago once a week now to work with a PT who is teaching me SO MUCH about my body. Together we learn the difference between good pain and bad pain, determine where my body carries the most stress, discover simple solutions to complex problems (stretching daily, getting plenty of rest, and drinking lots of water does more than you think!), and for my body to restore itself and function as it was intended.

This physical therapy process has reminded me why I love having a birthday during Advent. My body is aging and my hairs are graying. My body was born into the same brokenness, pain, and discomfort as my weary soul. And even though Christ’s birth is sure, our new birth into a new Kingdom with new bodies is yet to come, and we get to live in the in-between. We “tidy the garden and plant the garden and distribute the goods of the garden [because]… it brings us all one step closer to what the Kingdom is meant to be” (Joan Chittister, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily). Until then, we groan and mend, tidy and plant, soothe and rest. And wait. 

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to this present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Romans 8:22-25


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