Dressing up never ever ever happens in our life here. But Stella has a few fancyschmancy (and beautiful!) smocked dresses that she neeeeeds to wear before she outgrows them. What to do?
Well, hello and thank you Easter!
We celebrated the Resurrection with some friends. It was perfect: simple, time for reflection, yummy food, and our baby girl all gussied up.
Here are some pics. For posterity, of course.
Run to him.
Arms open, body worn, heart rent.
The last month has brought upon our family, quite suddenly, a season of unexpected change. Where we live and how we spend our days are up in the air. I know that I am not defined by these outer characteristics, but in my heart, I sometimes feel as if who I am is being called into question. My heart is anxious, and my hands are busy.
In the midst of turmoil and uncertainty, what does it mean to observe the Sabbath? When your to-do list is linked with a ticking clock and there’s no escaping the tyranny of what must be done, how do you rest?
This one, at least, doesn’t seem to have any problems relaxing.
The dictionary defines Sabbath as a “special day of prayer and rest.” There’s value in that, in withdrawing and setting aside, in making space each week for respite. But to simply pause our activities is not, I believe, what we are asked to do. We are called to so much more.
In this time of uncertainty, Jesus tells me that true Sabbath rest is found in him. Again and again throughout the Gospels, he reminds Pharisees and disciples alike that Sabbath rules are not Lord of him, but that he–the Christ–is Lord of the Sabbath. (See Luke 6:1-11) He does not cease to do good or to care for the needy just because it is the prescribed day of rest, but he shows that true rest comes when we turn to him.
Should we rest? Yes and amen. But that rest must consist of turning from self and turning to him. In this time, for me at least, Sabbath rest means not less than ceasing my “deadly doing,” but much more.
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Or, All’s Well That Ends Well.
Stress? Ha! I laugh in the face of such a tame, easygoing word. The last several weeks have been whooooooooPRESSURE, and it’s not likely to let up soon. Perhaps you are unconvinced? Last Saturday, I tried to eat a marble that Noah handed me. (Thankfully, I spit it out before swallowing.) I’ve taken to pacing around our apartment, and I gave Michael a super stellar haircut. In the midst of all the excitement, I also managed to lose, and find, Stella’s passport.
Wednesday morning. Up early, and subway into the city with Miss StellaB to pick up her passport. Her visa had expired, so it was at a government center while they renewed said visa. The trek into town is a doozy (hour and a half-ish subway ride + 15 minute walk off the subway), and although Stella slept in the Ergo much of the way there, she was wide awake, wired, and hangry by the time I left, passport in hand. So. I took a cab half of the way back. It was only about $5, and, you know, longdaylongweek I deserve it. I chatted with the cab driver, fed Stella, and was pleased with myself and my wise decision to save time and energy by the time I hopped out of the taxi and walked to the subway for the rest of the journey home.
Until. I. realized. I. left. her. passport. in. the. cab.
Cue: shaking, running back to the cab line (too late, that guy is long gone), a frantic hang up to Michael (what could he do anyway?), begging other cab drivers in the line to put something out on the radio (soooooo not that simple), looking for the police.
I ended up finding the police and they were kind and helpful, but about 45 minutes into the ordeal I realized that their plan was to have the local government just make us another American passport. Sadly, it doesn’t work quite that way. I asked them to make an announcement on the cabbie radios, but this they had no power to do. Finally, they sent me on to the local traffic radio station: to get an announcement out, I had to go in person and make a request. One 20-minute cab ride, 200 kuai, four station employees, and several forms later, our announcement was good to go. Careless American mom leaves her daughter’s passport in the backseat of kind local cab. Can anyone please help us get it back?
Let me insert here: those radio people, bless their hearts, were the bestest ever ever. I did have to pay 200 kuai ($25-ish bucks) for them to make the announcements, but they saw that I was low on cash (wasn’t prepared for all the day would hold and didn’t bring my ATM card) and actually threw in some extra announcements so that it would go on the radio every half-hour until the cab drivers changed shifts at 4. They also interviewed me so they could make a story of it, which they didn’t have to do, but was a huge help as that meant that my sad little tale would have more airtime and be more likely to be heard. My phone was also about to die (again, not prepared), so I kicked the guard out and spent about 30 minutes sitting in his shack outside the building charging my phone and making calls to Michael and other, helping friends.
By this point, Michael and a local friend had hopped on the subway to meet me in town and see what else could be done, so I made my way back to the scene of the original mishap. We had just headed back, again, to the police station on the hunt for security camera footage when the newly-charged-up phone rang with news of a discovered American baby’s passport! The cabbie, bless his heart forever and ever, chided me a bit for my carelessness, but the long and short of it is he found Stella’s passport in his back seat and dropped it off at his cab company’s headquarters.
He heard our little announcement and called to let us know where it was and heavens above I don’t know when I’ve been so relieved. All the horrible things that could have happened (baby gets desperately ill and is stuck in-country without passport or access to life-saving healthcare was one of the more vivid scenarios) started really running through my head. Stella and I hopped a subway back home (one big long exhale of it’s OK-ness the whole way), and Michael went to pick up the passport from our honest cab friend.
I’m often hesitant, honest truth be told, to ascribe these things to God. Last week, my friend lost her turtle, but God helped her find it, she told me. I smiled and nodded, thinking inwardly: “Uh-huh, I’m sure he would have turned up eventually.” But the crazy, unbelievable, hard-to-understand thing is: God does care. He cares about my carelessness, and my worries, big and small. About turtles and passports and things even more frightening than that. So often I struggle, but I am grateful that, even when I am faithless, He remains faithful to me.
27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Spent this week’s sunny(ish) afternoon hanging out in the 小区 (xiaoqu, which means my apartment complex) with the neighbors and their babies. Here, that means a hefty helping of grandmother time (they are usually the primary caretakers for little ones) with one or two moms sprinkled in for variety. Here are just a few of the life lessons I picked up:
-I must hold Stella with my arm underneath her booty. I must never perch her on my hip or I will cause permanent damage.
-In America, the government gives you money to have children and you don’t have to pay for them yourself. I know this because one of the nainais (grandmothers) told me that her cousin’s daughter lives in America and told her this about the law. I tried to explain that this doesn’t apply to everyone, but she gave me the side eye and told me she’s sure this is how it is. (Note to self: apply for Stella’s money!)
-Also in America, you are allowed to keep having children until you get a boy. Sometimes you can even keep going after having the boy!
-Beef-flavoured candy is gross.
-Stella is always wearing too few clothes. Until I told the nainais that her purple suit is down-filled, at which point I am immediately informed that she is overheated.
-Everyone already knows where I live, all the way down to apartment building and floor.
-It is a bad idea to feed my baby yogurt at this tender age.
-My neighbors are the sweetest. They care for me and Stella well, and holding her (and comparing how she stacks up against their grandbabies) is the highlight of all of our days.
Hi. It’s been awhile, but I’m still here, promise.
Two months later (!!!), here is a glimpse of our first Christmas with sweet baby girl.
Christmas Eve we went to some friends’ apartment for a candlelight gathering and a Christmas feast. Christmas Eve is my favorite of all holidays throughout the year, and this year was no exception. Michael made a delicious tenderloin (that man can cook! but only when he makes up his mind it’s worth it) and StellaB hung out with her favorite, Addie.
(See the glimpse of green? Finally started cloth diapering. So far I’m a fan, but still figuring out how to avoid diaper rash.)
With Cat and Adelaide. Addie is totally obsessed with Stella, and freaks out every time she sees her.
The feeling is mutual, I think.
Christmas morning Michael and I exchanged stockings and presents (he made a rolling island for me!–y’all, his woodworking skills are truly amazing) and then friends came over for brunch and presents (our little group drew names for the exchange). Stella was so happy all morning long, and we stayed in our pajamas until evening, when we went out for the traditional (ha!) Christmas dinner of street dumplings.
With Jess and Owens.
Matching pajamas for the win!
All in all a great day, and we continue to be more thankful than ever for this little bean we call our own.
Two days, two posts: has that ever happened?
Thanksgiving Day in pictures. Happy heart.
Stella and Sarah. I’m so grateful for friends who are happy to hold her when I rush in like a tornado with a billion things to do. So thankful for friends who love our little girl.
Cat and Adelaide, me and StellaB. Addie is completely obsessed with Stella and it is the most precious thing. She regularly thinks that she is about to win the jackpot and get to hold the real live baby doll for a few minutes. It has yet to happen but a girl has to dream, right?
Our little family at Stella’s first Thanksgiving. Happy, happy heart.
Some of the place settings/decor. Dressing the table makes it feel like a true holiday to me!
Just some of the wonderful people we get to live alongside.
Happy day-after-Thanksgiving to you!
Happy Thanksgiving morn from the other side of the globe.
Michael is out for a run with the pupster man (I regret not having a personal Turkey Trot this year but think Stella is still too little for more than a walk out in the jogging stroller), my crackle candle is making me feel a tiny bit like I’ve got a fire going, and Andrew Peterson’s Christmas music is on. Oh, and Stella’s down for a nap, giving me a happy moment to myself.
I’ve been thinking this week, as most of us have, of counting my blessings. It’s been a long last week, truthfully: Stella quit sleeping through the night a month ago and the last few evenings were particularly miserable. Naps have also gone downhill and there’s been lots of crying. Living in Asia occasionally leads to health issues and one cropped up recently, leading to massive amounts of laundry. Here, of course, that means I’m mostly tied to my apartment as it takes FOR.EV.ER. to run a load through the washer and dryer. So yeah. It’s been a week, and I’m tired. Exhausted.
But. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so grateful in my life. On Monday, as I sat beside her crib holding Stella’s tiny baby hand and rubbing her tummy as she cried, I just thought: this is the best thing that has ever happened to me. (While simultaneously wanting to cry myself–crying babies, at least this particular one, make me so so sad.) For a long time, I questioned God’s goodness in not giving our family the baby we wanted. But having her, holding her, I know for certain there was no way we, I, ever deserved this. This week I heard news of friends who are joyfully expecting but whose little one will face at least one open heart surgery before she is six months, and I hugged Stella near. Why has God given us so much goodness when there is so much pain in the world? And how can I remember to believe this when life is more full of the hard and less full of the joy?
Andrew Peterson has the answer: Behold the Lamb.
Oh, that I would always remember.
Oh. And here are some pics of StellaB. Because there’s no such thing as too many. Right?
Five month old girl is sitting up! Well, maybe slight exaggeration. But I’m her mom, so I’m just going on and calling it.