Friday, December 31, 2010

Finish Line Joys!

So here we are. The last day, the last blog and the last joys of the 2010. I don't know about you, but I'm glad to be crossing this finish line (I might be waddling slowly, but I'm finishing, dang it!). In honor of finishing, I thought I'd include some joys that involve completion.
 91) I have had a major jewelry problem for the past several years, in that I have had too much jewelry to fit in any box that I could find. I don't wear very much jewelry, but I like to get and buy it, so that leads me to needing adequate display/storage, especially for my necklaces. A few months ago, I created the boards on the left out of a cheap pack of bulletin squares w/ stick-ups, scrapbook pages and ribbon for backing and cute thumb tacks. The total for the project came to about $10 and I was very proud of it. Until they all fell off the wall a few weeks later. Not one to be easily daunted, I tried again with a real bulletin board covered with scrapbook pages and ribbon screwed into the wall, with cute thumb tacks to hang the necklaces on. And I am once again proud of it!
 92) About 3 years ago we took the door off the closet in our bedroom, thinking we'd hang a curtain up to give us more space. So for the past 3 years, the closet door has been off the hinges in the space we thought we'd save. Well, today, we finally got the curtain rods up and the curtain hung. Space saved!!

 93) Oh, this is nothing much, just a little bag packed to take to the hospital when we go there to have our baby!!

94) Speaking of our baby, I promised you a sneak peak of Blueberry's room. Well, here's the before, when it was our spare guest room and general dumping ground for random stuff; John and my best friend, Neelka, painting it, and what it actually looks like today. I know, we are so ready for this baby! Don't worry, we'll get the furniture redispersed to where it belongs after the floors are finished tomorrow, and I'll show you the whole nursery when it's really complete.
95) Until then, here's another peek. This is the crib set and memory board my mom made out of the fabric I shipped her (see pile on left). She's amazing! I'm so excited for Blueberry to have this one of a kind nursery made with love by family. (Mom wants you to know the blue pillows are blueberries, not to be confused with blue for boy.)

96) When I was at the grocery store today with half of the other residents of my zipcode, the lady behind the deli counter asked how close I was. I told her I had one week to go and asked if she wanted to guess what I was having. She said she should know after 6 kids of her own and guessed girl. Then she asked me to bring "her" in to meet her next week. I've never seen this lady before in my life, but I think we gave each other a little bit of joy in the midst of a hectic shopping day!

97) It's almost 8pm here. That's 2 hours after the NYE party that we're supposed to be at started. And my wonderful husband is patiently waiting for me to finish this blog so we can go. He will be almost as happy as I am that this self-imposed deadline has been met!

98-99) I started this month of joys with my nephew Solomon, having no idea that he'd be my closing joys as well. He's been in the hospital for the past two weeks fighting numerous symptoms caused by a viscous infection. My brother and sister-in-law, and the rest of us, have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support, prayers and love for this little guy. They want to make sure the staff at the hospital doesn't go unrecognized for all their loving work, so here is our little hero with Drs Chang and Mather. You can just see how much joy they have in this now healthy patient. 

100) Solomon is home! He is out of the hospital. He is done! This is truly glad tidings of great joy to be spread across the land!

And now, so am I. Happy New Year to all of you!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Peaceful and Beautiful and Dusty Joys

My husband asked me the other day what constituted a "joy" for this blog. It's a good question, since I have been using the term pretty liberally here. I've been using it to express things that make me happy, things I'm thankful for, and events and people who bring joy to my heart. So, I guess it means whatever I want it to mean! And with that, here are 10 more:

81) This little device has brought peace to me, which has meant joy for John. When it picks up the sound of barking within 25 feet, it emits a high-pitched tone only Mocha can hear, so she is learning not to bark in the house, or at least to express her opinion in one bark or less! 

82) I've told you how I love getting photo Christmas cards. Well, this specific one I've been waiting several weeks for. This is another little Abigail whose mom and dad are good friends of ours and live right down the street from us. Abigail's mom and I were in a season of waiting together for a while, and had many meaningful discussions of what we were learning and struggling with while we waited for our babies. She let me come take newborn/holiday pictures of her cutie, so it was very fun to see this come in the mail. (The bottom picture was my favorite of the hundreds I took, so I just had to throw it in!)

83) Shannon was my roommate for a few months when she first moved to this area. Her husband was still job hunting, but her job had already started, so she needed a place to stay until he moved down. We've become great friends, and now are expecting our babies only 4 days apart! She came to have breakfast with me yesterday and I so enjoyed discussing this time of our lives-- our hopes, fears, complaints blessed symptoms, and how we are grappling with all the unknowns. (You can go check out her blog here. She's a great writer with a fantastic eye for design!)

84-90) All I can say is Wow! Ok, I will say more, but that about sums it up. Last night, seven of our friends came over to help us move furniture and tear up the carpet on two levels of our house. (We're getting hardwoods put in this weekend! Hooray!) They all had put in full days of work, some of them sacrificing precious time with spouses and children to help save us a couple hundred bucks. These guys and gals jumped right in to move furniture up and down stairs, rip out disgusting carpet and padding, straining backs and bruising knees to pull out staples and tack strips.What we expected to be a two-night job, they finished in about two hours. I just cannot say thank you enough, so I am counting each one--Adam, Erin, John Mark, Robby, Joe, Ben and Liz--a separate joy!

Tomorrow will be the last Joy post and the last blog before I take a little break, and it's gonna be good! I've got some great news about Solomon and some sneak peeks of Blueberry's room. You won't want to miss it!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Belly and Baby (and Bible) Joy

Somehow I've made it almost all the way through this month of joys without sharing one of my main sources of joy - The Bible. 

But with so much to meditate on in the Word, I needed to pick a theme, so I decided to illustrate a few Scriptures with the progression of my belly and ultrasound pictures. I hope you enjoy them (and forgive me for a few out-of-context-but-funny-or-appropriate selections!).

70)  For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light. Mark 4:22 (not quite showing yet)

71) For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.  Habakkuk 2:3 (not finding out the gender)

72) For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.  Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord. Luke 1:44-45 (around this time I really could feel Blueberry moving)

73) Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Psalm 127:3 (ah, back in the cute bump days)

74) I was cast upon You from birth. From My mother’s womb You have been My God. Psalm 22:10

75) The LORD has done great things for us, and we are glad. Psalm 126:3

76) Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. Psalm 126:5

77) For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. Psalm 139:13-14

78) When the LORD your God enlarges your border as He has promised you, and you say, ‘Let me eat meat,’ because you long to eat meat, you may eat as much meat as your heart desires. Deuteronomy 12:20 (I know this is out of context, but isn't it true to the approach we sometimes take to eating when we are pregnant? Plus, I do feel that God is enlarging my borders as promised!)

79) My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.  And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. Psalm 139:15-16 (Even though Blueberry is playing peek-a-boo here, I love knowing s/he will never be hidden from the loving eyes of God.)

80) Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. I Timothy 4:14-15 (Again, I know it's out of context, but I have felt my pregnancy is a literal depiction of this passage. This baby's life is a gift, given after much prayer with laying on of hands. As I have taken care of this unborn baby, learning all I can about it and preparing myself for my entire life to be changed, my progress (physically at least!) is evident to all.)

PS: I get lots of comments that I am not that big. I actually have been measuring a few weeks small, which is why I got to have the two extra 33-and 37-week ultrasounds. Fortunately, Blueberry is measuring just a few days small, so well within the acceptable range. But believe me, I FEEL huge and have gained more than the average share of weight, so there.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Wrapping up Christmas Joys

When you blog about joy in December, you obviously have to include the joys of Christmas. When you don't get to travel to be with family for Christmas, you have to find joy in being right where you are.

Here, through the eyes of joy, is our first and last Christmas alone in our house.

58) Up early due to hunger, rather than child-like excitement to open gifts, I made my first cinnamon rolls from scratch. They were no substitute for Grandma C's monkey bread or my B-I-L's gourmet breakfast feasts, but with strong coffee, they did the trick to get us ready for 59.
59) In John's family, there is only one grandkid (at least until next month), so Christmas starts when he wakes up. We've been there for almost all his Christmases, and this year we were virtually there, via Skype.
60) Four-year-old Jaden was so fun to watch open his mountain of presents. The only thing that kept him from playing with each one immediately was the beckoning mystery of what was in the next.
61) On my side of the family, there are 8 grandkids (until next month), so it's a little more chaotic when it comes to opening presents. Still, we maintain some order by opening one gift at a time in order of youngest to oldest. Here are my sister's twins opening the basketball hoop we sent them. Also thanks to Skype, we were able to watch as each nie-nep (my word for the 7 nephews and 1 niece), except for Solo who is still in the hospital, opened and went right to playing with their gifts, mumbling quick thank-yous in the direction of the laptop
62) Even Mocha's gift from Grandpa W was put to use right away!

63) For part two of Christmas we were actually present with friends who are virtually family. Michael and Mary were part of the "Class of 05" with us--a number of couples from our then-church who got married in 2005. John and Michael were roommates at the time and best men in each other's weddings. We are so blessed to be Aunt and Uncle to their two girls, Sophia and Bella, and have them be the same for Blueberry. This is Mary's beautiful table with her heirloom china, on which we enjoyed the delicious brisket dinner she prepared.
64) After dinner, our new friends Douglass and Andrea gathered the kids around to read the stable animals' version of the Christmas story. Their son, Noah, took advantage of the audience to tell a story of his own.
65) Sophia anticipated each animal's voice and rewarded Douglass with approving laughter.
66) Evie played catch with John and celebrated each time she caught.
67) Bella couldn't decide which was more fun, the purse she got or the little finger puppets that came in it. (The purse won, she carried it around the rest of the night.)
68) Noah was happy to have a "manly" toy to play with amidst all these girly things, but I think his parents were happier that his toy couldn't break or hurt anything!
69) We are so thankful for the magic of Christmas, that turns friends into families and families into friends.

So, dear readers, how was your Christmas (or holiday of choice)? Did you find and give joy? What was your favorite present given and received? 

I'm linked up with the other 100 Joys blogs on Sarah Markley's blog today. Click on the 100 Joys graphic on the sidebar for even more joys.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Still (57)

This is a rough draft of a poem I wrote today. I will probably edit and rewrite and maybe repost it next year, but I wanted to share it with you while it is timely.

I am Anna
I have spent long days in the house of my God.
My eyes have grown weary as I’ve watched and waited
For One.
I long for my Heavenly home but can’t go
Until…. But still,
I need joy this night.

I am Joseph
This is not happening the way I had planned
I feel the weight of the world at the door.
They say it’s crazy. Some say I’m brave.
I’m just trying to obey
His will. But still,
I need joy this night.

I am the shepherds
My life was interrupted by a song from Heaven
And now I’m on a curious mission.
I have rough and dirty hands and can’t fathom why a king would choose
This cold soul on a hill. But still,
I need joy this night.

I am the wise men
My head and heart are full of questions and dreams.
I have come a long way in seeking the truth.
Knowledge I have, but now it’s light I must seek.
Perhaps I won’t find it
I hope I will. But still,
I need joy this night.

I am King Herod
I am terrified of the news of One
Both smaller and greater than me.
His very existence threatens my kingdom
He is the enemy
Of all my hands have built. But still,
I need joy this night.

I am Mary
I am weary from this journey to find a promise kept.
Even the blessing I prepare for has great sorrow to come.
I know all must be done to accomplish
His will. But still,
I need joy this night.

Do you need joy this night?
Joy has come!
He’s here now and is coming still.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Joy

I inherited many traits from my mother. One I did not inherit was her love and talent for Christmas decorations. She knows how to make things very festive by doing things like wrapping furniture (desks, shelves) in Christmas paper.

I typically just put out the few Christmas decorations I've been given over the years to justify them taking up space in my attic. It usually looks pretty pathetic, but it doesn't matter. We're not usually here for Christmas anyway.

As you would expect, with our due date only two (2!) weeks away, we can't travel home, so I felt compelled to do a little more decorating. Going through my decorations and designing a new way to display my favorite things brought new joys.

53) Here's the wide shot. We don't get a tree, we just use our topiaries (this year placed out of Mocha's reach) for the few ornaments I have. A wreath created by my good friend, Nikki, adds a personalized touch and reminds me of what incredible friends I have.

54) This is the only manger scene I've ever purchased. Some children in an orphanage in Kyrgyzstan (where I was deployed in 2006) made it. Makes me smile to think of baby Jesus in a yurt!

55) I don't do stockings. But this is from Blueberry's Grandma C, so it had to go up. So, yeah, we're having a baby!

56) In years past, cards were strewn about and photos went on the fridge, but I remember my grandparents doing something like this with their cards, so I decided to start my own tradition displaying them like this.

I pray your Christmas is full of joy. Even if you don't see or feel it for yourself, why not make some joy for others? Give someone a smile, a hug or, heck, even a kiss! Say a prayer for families stuck in hospitals or homeless shelters tonight. Write a note of thanks to a deployed servicemember on USO's website. I bet once you start looking for ways to bring joys to others, you'll feel it start to creep in your own heart!

Merry Christmas to all of you from all of us here at Anna's Joy!
(Just me, really, but it sounds better to say it that way!)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Joy Bombardment

10 days left and 55 more Joys. Buckle your seatbelts. Here we go!

45) I found this cartoon to go along with my blog about cartoon bears and toilet paper:

46) Gifts to be given to a sibling group of 3 currently in foster care. There is joy certainly in giving, but this giving was made possible because a friend of mine got her dream job working for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. 

47) Remember Joy 26? (hint, it was a trip to IKEA with a new friend) While we were having lunch in the cafeteria, this little bird paid us a visit. Normally, an animal fluttering around where one eats (inside) is not a good thing, but this little one was quite delightful (though it didn't sit still long enough for a good picture).

48) Cookie Brownie Bars. Must have been invented by a pregnant woman. 

49) My husband doing what he loves, working on his Jeep.

50) We went to visit our first foster baby, Baby F. She is 10 1/2 months old, and is doing so well!! She's speed crawling, pulling up, has two bottom teeth, can high-five and has the sweetest, sunniest personality. She came to me right away and warmed up to John in about 5 seconds. She's currently with her older cousin (coincidentally named Joy?) while her mommy, E, is struggling to get her act together.

51) This weekend has been a tough one for my family in Oklahoma. On Friday night, my 3-yr-old nephew Solomon, was admitted to the hospital because he was having difficulty breathing and a rash, among other symptoms. Since then, they have diagnosed him with Toxic Shock Syndrome due to the spread of a strep or staph infection into his blood. For the past few days, he has been on a ventilator and heavy sedation to help him breathe and sleep. Why is this a joy? I have loved seeing the online and IRL community come around my family in their time of need. I can't be there in person, but knowing they are well taken care of and have people all over the world praying for them gives me joy. (You can be sure of another joy reported when he goes home all better!)
52) This picture represents answered prayers (No and Yes). I have to be vague about the specifics for now, but I'll try to explain. We had an idea about the way something should be. We prayed about it. A few months later (last week), the situation where that thing could be presented itself. I jumped on it. It seemed rightish, but needed more prayer. Within only two days, a better Yes appeared and we all felt peace about the No regarding my idea. God supplied the answer to a need for three of our friends and I know He will for us, too!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Googling Joy

Here's what I discovered harnessing the power of Google to find joy tonight:

(38) Joyce Meyer is more popular than "joy"

(39) This 100 Joys project would've been easier if I had this machine:
(40) Joy made the news:
(41) Maybe I should read that article and put it to good use here:

(42) According to Google Images, joy means either jumping or throwing something in the air:

(43) Hmm, never would've connected these words and images:

Here's what the website where I found it ( says:
Intrigued by the military term “finding joy” (referring to the successful establishment of radio contact on the battlefield), Finishing School leads a workshop in which participants build small DIY radios that will be used to detect prerecorded transmissions located throughout the museum. To generate audio content prior to the event, Finishing School will interview members of the MOCA community about what brings them joy.

(44) The Finishing School also, apparently, offers a Finding Joy hotline. I may have to call them tomorrow if I'm drawing a blank again, like I was tonight!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

10 Joy Tuesday

Tuesdays are not usually my favorite days. It's trash day, which means if the noisy trash trucks don't wake me up, then Mocha's barking does the trick. Then, as the neighbors are pulling in their trash cans throughout the morning, she announces each one like she's getting paid to.

However, today I decided to not only find joys, but to do things joyfully even though.

27) I really didn't want to clean my house today, but I needed to because I had a friend coming over. What she doesn't know is that she was really coming over because I needed to clean my house. :-) So,  even though my bed was comfy and my iPhone was providing me all the activity I wanted, I got up and joyfully started a load of laundry. It worked as usual to get me on the productivity train and my house was cleanish by the time she got here.

28) John has been doing his own laundry for the past few months to help lighten my load, literally and figuratively. He left some in the dryer this week, though, so I took it upstairs. Usually I just leave the basket in his closet, but today, I joyfully folded it, even though I didn't have to. It's not a big thing, but it's one of the thousand little things I will miss being able to do for him next year.

29) Living in a four-story townhouse is getting really old at this point in my pregnancy. My joints feel rusty and everything is squished and stretched. I still joyfully vacuumed the stairs (my absolute least favorite part of cleaning) even though it completely wore me out, because I still can. It's hard, but not impossible. Again, trying to get my mind in "I can do this!" mode for what's coming up very-too-soon.

30) I joyfully took my dog on a walk, even though it was super cold and windy and she'd have done her business in the back "yard." I'm trying to be nicer to her and complain less about her as a way to express love to John. I am also trying to convince myself that I really will be a better mom to my child than I am to my dog.

Then, other things I found joy in today:
31) The postal workers at the overcrowded post office were very cheerful. They are not always so. They must be doing the Joy project, too!

32) I discovered the knock-off North Face coat that I got in Kyrgyzstan four years ago fits perfectly over my belly and was the perfect shield against the wind today (thus enabling Mocha's walk).

33) I treated myself to a peppermint mocha while I was out doing errands. I wait all year for these to appear and then feel guilty for spending so much on a drink. But today, I needed it!

34) I received an unexpected email from someone I really cherish and miss, and I'm still smiling about it hours later.

35) John called me at lunch from the lobby of the hotel where he's doing some training to tell me, "Just because they give you a robe in your room, doesn't mean it's ok to wear it down to the lobby." At lunch, mind you. Some people!

36) You! I sometimes wonder if anyone is reading, then someone leaves a comment or a "like," and I know you're there.

Monday, December 13, 2010

(Can't think of a creative title for these joys tonight)

Although I could tell you a long story about each of these joys, I'm striving for brevity tonight. Here we go:
17) I finished a book! Not a baby/parenting book like perhaps I should, but a very good book nonetheless. The kind where you stay up late and wake up early to live in a world painted beautifully with words. If you've read this one (Life of Pi), I'd love to discuss it with you! If you haven't, I recommend you do!

18) Some of these will be Blueberry's, some will be baby shower gifts. I love finding cute, unique gifts and I do believe these will be that gift for the slew of babies coming in 2011!

19) Another package of gifts for others that arrived in the mail. A colorful handmade item, designed by a college friend, that helps keep both the earth and houses clean.

20) I sometimes feel like I should wear a badge on my big belly. I want something that explains I'm not just another pregnant woman, but one who waited and waited for this and sometimes often wondered if it was ever going to happen. This weekend I went to an annual Christmas party filled with friends who need no such explanation. Everyone is excited for us now, but these are the friends who stood with us then.

21) We are ever so slowly cleaning the "just throw it there" pit that has been our office. I found and developed an old, disposable camera. What a delight to find pictures from a family trip in January of 2005. It was easy to find joy in the pictures which froze my sweet nephews in time (this is Grandpa Walter with Yasha and little Josiah peeping in the corner). There was also one of me in rare look-amazing-in-a-two-piece shape. I remember my Poppo sneaking us little kids back to his closet to show us a picture of our Grandma in a bathing suit in her younger years. He was so proud of his hottie wife. Now I have photographic evidence for John to show our own grandkids someday!

22) This past week I've learned that four friends are newly pregnant. Two friends IRL who were trying for their second, and two blogger buddies who were trying even longer than I did. This is the early, hold-your-breath, pray, cherish each day kind-of-joy. Grow, babies, grow!

23) Another badge I wish I could wear sometimes is one that explained that though Blueberry is our first child, s/he is also our fourth. Our first two, Baby F and Baby Z, garnered several bags of pink and blue items from my mom-friends. This weekend, I sorted them, thankful for the friendships, experience and even the heartache of having these babies in our lives. Bittersweet joy indeed.

24) I am so happy to be in touch with our third child, Boy D's, aunt, with whom he currently lives. She sent me his school picture with a glowing report that he is gaining weight, doing well in school and loves going to church! 

(Sorry, no photos for these yet)
25) The holiday cards and newsletters are coming every day! You may remember that this is my favorite thing about Christmas.

26) I accepted help! A new friend from my church's women's group offered to come clean my house, bring me food or go to Ikea for me. I'm taking her up on the Ikea offer and we have a shopping date this week. Yes, I probably should've let her come help me clean, but I'm taking baby steps here!

I've linked up with the other 100 Joys blogs today. If you can't get enough joys here, click the 100 Joys icon on the left to see what others are writing about (linked at the bottom of Sarah's blog today).

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I realized with shock and dismay yesterday after I hit publish, that I had omitted a very important joy of the day. So today, it's all about #16 (not the one I hinted at yesterday, that will have to be later).

Seven years ago, I met this incredible guy.

He is Josiah Israel, and he is my 2nd of 8 nephews. As most nephews are, he is one of a kind. My sister found out she was pregnant only a few weeks after her husband deployed to Iraq. At the time, the Army was only deploying people for 6 months, so we all expected he'd be back in time for the birth. Not so.

They extended his deployment to a year, but he was able to work out his mid-tour break to be when Josiah was due. I took 3 weeks of leave at the same time, so I could go help out with my sister's first born, Judah.
Judah's first snowman, Dec 2003

Those 3 weeks were some of the most precious times with these little guys. I mean, I love love love all my nie-neps, but Josiah was the only one for whom I was in town for his birth. I don't know if I should, but I have a special bond with him, and I'm very proud of him.

From almost the minute he was born, he looked around, saw his older brother and was determined to catch up. He was such a serious looking baby, we were all so relieved when he started to smile! He started walking at 8 months, taught himself to read at age 4 and now in 1st grade he is very bored (but a great student, nonetheless)! He has a great sense of humor, is a chess master and loves to dance (robot style)!
Teaching Uncle John how to play chess
 I have enjoyed many special moments with Josiah in the past 7 years. This summer he made his 3rd trip to visit me in D.C. (the first was in-utero, which he says he remembers. The second was 2 years ago, which I know he remembers!) Part of me can't wait to see what he grows up to be. Last time I asked him, his top three choices for what he wants to be when he grows up were: 1) a chef 2) a sidekick 3) a karate (his words).

But then part of me doesn't want him to get any older. I want to freeze him in time for his innocence, curiosity and sincerity.

I guess if he does have to get older, my hope is that he stays the strong and sensitive, sweet and silly, loyal brother and cousin, doting nephew and grandson, independent, talented and perfect Josiah that he is today.

Happy Birthday, one day late, buddy. I love you!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Well, poop!

I just got home after spending a great afternoon catching up with a friend to find a very unjoyful smell in my house.

I don't want to embarrass her, but Mocha's been having some behavioral issues the past few weeks, manifesting through finding items to chew up. So far the casualties have been; two rolls of ribbon, a roll of painter's tape, tissue from a gift bag, the little box of candy I brought home from a baby shower, a paint stick, several pens, a piece of the neighbor's mail and last night, a CD liner and case. At least she's honest about it and always leaves her doings in the middle of the living room carpet. We think she must be getting anxious about the impending addition to our lives and other big changes coming, because she hasn't done this sort of thing at all until about two months ago. Anyway, after cleaning up the shattered CD case last night, we were talking about how at least she's not using the bathroom inside as we've heard some anxious dogs do.

Well, I take that back now. She's very fortunate I love my husband, that's all I'm going to say. Anyway, this is the month I'm posting about choosing joy, so onward we go with the previously scheduled joy finds.

We took our childbirth class on Saturday, choosing to go with a six-hour "express" class rather than drag it out over a few weeks. I think the instructor did a great job covering a massive amount of material. In a class of 10 couples, we were due the soonest and also the only ones who were waiting to find out the gender. Except for us (but maybe including us?), the class fell right into the statistic of this being the year of the boy. The instructor said 2010 was the highest rate (by a big margin, like 80:20) of boy conception that she'd ever seen and the trend had been consistent all year. She told the 2 couples expecting girls to go ahead and get the shotguns now, because there might be a shortage in a few years!

There was a stack of little footstools on the materials table, which she explained were available for us and our swollen ankles (fortunately, I haven't experienced this yet, but I still partook!). The joy here was in watching the daddies get up one by one throughout the first hour and grab the stools for their baby mammas. (And yes, those are my charity:water TOMS, which I love and are no longer available this time around.)

Since we're on the topic of shoes, here's the next joy. John got on a shoe-polishing kick this weekend, during which I learned something new about him. He told me he used to earn extra money in boot camp by polishing the other soldier's boots. This didn't surprise me, as he used to polish my black boots back when the Air Force uniform included them, and they always received compliments on their shine. I knew I married well, but come on, I got a guy who can shine shoes AND is super cute to boot! I'm so blessed!

 These are the socks my sister and I wait all year to wear. (We're half Jewish, you know) She's showing her's off with her Christmas tree, and I was trying to get a shot of the Cowboys winning in the background of mine, but it didn't turn out well. (I mean, they won, but the picture wasn't good.)

Now, this was a really joyful find. See the little metal stick with the ring on top? That is a cake tester from Pampered Chef that I thought I'd lost. Pampered Chef makes a lot of great tools, but some are really unnecessary. Most people test their baked goods by sticking a knife or a toothpick in them, and that works just fine. But I just love this little tool because it doesn't leave a gaping hole in the item and is easy to just wipe off and have ready for the next use. I was looking for a replacement tester and found out Pampered Chef doesn't make them anymore. Sadness. Then, I found mine. Joy!

Here's what I was baking that I needed the tester for. I was excited to use this recipe for Chai Latte Cupcakes posted by my high school best friend, Sommer, for a sweet treat at the Women's Advent service at my church. It was so fun to bring these cute, unique and tasty treats, and plug my Pampered Chef items as well (I sell Pampered Chef, so I like to talk about it!). For these, I used the mini-muffin tin to bake them (in the above picture), easy accent decorator to, um, decorate them, and the rectangle cranberry platter to serve them. Joy is easy to share when it looks this good!

Speaking of the Advent service, that was an AMAZING time of blessing and joy. After enjoying the delicious spread of savory and sweet items, we gathered in the candlelit sanctuary for a service of songs, Scripture and poetic readings, dance and a testimony. Can you guess the theme this year? Joy. Of course.

I was asked to do one of the poetic readings, and while practicing at home, I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to get through the whole thing without a few breaks for drying tears. Here's the poem I was assigned (and Joy #14):

Participating in the service was another joy!

The First Coming
by Madeleine L’Engle

He came
            Throwing off glory
            Like fiery suns
            Leaving power behind
            Leaving the storms of hydrogen clouds,
            The still-forming galaxies,
            Totally vulnerable
            As he emptied himself

She took him in-
            Into the deepest part of her being;
            She contained the tiny Word
            Smaller than the smallest
            Subatomic particle
            Growing slowly
            From immortality into mortality,
            Mother and child
            Together in the greatest act of love
            The Maker could give the made

Together they created
            Immortality from mortality
            How? His father was Who?

He looked like any child
            From the vulnerable top
            Of his tiny skull
            To the little curling toes

This whispered Word made
            The sun and stars,
            Wind and water,
            Planets and moons, and all of us
            But he left this joy
            To be

God With Us!
            Understanding lowly shepherds
            And two old people in the Temple.
            Later three wise men-
            One from each human race-
            Came, pondering.
            Most of the powerful people
            Were skeptical at best
            God become Son of Man? Nonsense.

Christ will come,
            Expected or unexpected,
            When God is ready,
            Even while we are loudly demanding
            Signs and proofs
            Which close our hearts and minds
            To the Wildness of Love

Word of Love,
            Enter our hearts
            As you entered the virgin’s womb.
            Come, Lord Jesus!

I actually made it through the actual reading with only a little throat clenching on my part, but got some tears out of some others! Oh, to be able to write poetry like that!

Tonight we're working on what I hope will be Joy #16. Stay tuned!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mocha's big move

My dog is moving to another country next year. She doesn't know it yet, so if you promise not to spoil the surprise, I'll tell you how this big move came about.

A few months ago, we learned that John's job was going transfer him overseas for a year. A year that would start a month or so after our baby was due.

We'd known since he took this job, he would be eligible for world-wide reassignment. It's a big world that includes where we live now, hundreds of countries, and a few places where people go for a year without their families.

Before we were pregnant, it was always my plan that if he ever got one of those "solo" assignments, I'd find a way to go "with" him, or at least go somewhere at the same time, whether in a military deployment or working for an NGO.

As it turns out, he will be going to one of those few places I can't go with him. Or "with" him.

Since I'm not trying to have my blog show up in any crazy internet searches, I'll tell you this way. It starts with P and ends with tan. Let's call it P-tan.

Honestly, I was jealous before I was sad, because I can't go. I'm the one who read the Greg Mortenson books first and wanted to jump on a plane and go help over there. I have a genetically inherited wanderlust and have wanted to live in that region since I was 17, when I first visited (a different country) and fell in love with it.

But he's going and I'm not. I'm having a baby. A much prayed-for, long-awaited, precious, miraculous baby. And that baby's first year is going to be way different that our dreams of it would have determined.

Of course, we've had time to process this and we're dealing with it pretty well. We've cried a lot. (Mostly me). We've questioned our decisions, we've questioned "God's timing," we've sought wise counsel, we've prayed and cried some more. We've talked to people who have done this. (Lots of people have done this, like thousands of troops deployed for the past several years. What a proud company of sacrifice for us to be joining!) We've gotten amazing support from our families and friends.

Remember my blog about our bed? This is what I was setting you up to tell you. We believe God has been preparing us for this since before we met. He gave us a thirst for adventure, a love for travel and a desire to live in and raise our kids in awareness and appreciation for foreign cultures. He wove something into the DNA of our relationship that has enabled us to endure, thrive and grow as a couple during our separations.

When we started dating two months before I left the country for a year, we knew that something in the separation was necessary for us to be the couple God intended us to be. And even through many tears and questions now, I believe the same thing. There is some reason, a good purpose, that our family will be shaped in this unique way.

We know it's going to be tough, but here are some of the perks we're focusing on now:
-We'll be together for the birth and the first 6 weeks afterwards. Huge perk considering how many dads in uniform watch their children's births over the internet or not at all.

-He will get three 3-week vacations during the year. That, plus the 6 weeks he's taking off after the baby is born, is almost four months off! He wouldn't get that much time off if we were staying here or going somewhere together.

-He would probably have to do an assignment like this at some point in his career. To be able to get it done in the year Blueberry won't even know he's gone is really a blessing. I can't imagine how much harder it would be a few years down the road with older/more kids.

-In my mind, P-tan is by far the best of the few of the places he could go by himself. The U.S. has had a presence there since 1947, and where he'll be working is huge, safe and well-equipped. Plus, he's super excited about the work he gets to do.

-He will have an advantage for his next assignment, which will of course include me and Blueberry!

-He gets to take Mocha! This is going to be great for all of us. I can't imagine trying to care for a new baby and a very active, needy dog in the winter, by myself. He will have a piece of home with him and his second biggest fan greeting him every day when he's done with work. He even met someone who's going there soon and is taking their lab and they've already agreed to take turns dog-sitting while the other is on vacations. And since Mocha's life revolves around John and food, she'll be as happy as a dog can be.

As for me, I'll be ok. I'll have a baby. I'll spend some time with my families in Texas and Oklahoma. I'll do some traveling. I'll get three 3-week vacations with my husband. I'll cry. I'll write. I'll take hundreds of pictures. I'll get comfortable on video chats. I'll learn and be stretched and grow (and hope to shrink a little bit, too!) in ways I never could've imagined.

I'm counting this a joy, not because it makes me happy and not because it will be so much fun, but because James 1:2-4 tells me to count trials (which I'm pretty sure this counts as) as joy because the testing of my faith produces patience, and patience has a perfect work to do, which will leave me lacking nothing. I think I'm going to need all of that for this next year!

(Oh, and you know I love comments, but please remember comments are searchable too!)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Joy Patrol

If you saw yesterday's post, you know that I'm finding and writing about 100 Joys this month. Here's what I found today.

My church has a women's group that meets on Thursday mornings. It's called Generation to Generation (G2G), and it's awesome. We have a number of moms that attend, but it's not a moms' group. It's exactly what it sounds like - an opportunity for women at different stages in their journey to mentor, encourage, pray for, ask questions, get wisdom from another, etc..., as we study the Bible. 

Usually someone brings a baked good or snack, but we don't have assigned days to do it. It's just pretty much if someone feels like it or has something left over. I really wanted to bring something, so today I brought banana bread. It was a new recipe I got from my friend Heather, so I was excited to try it out. And to my great joy, nobody else brought food, so it was great timing for my bananas to go "bad"!

We're fortunate to have childcare provided during the study, but sometimes the youngest kids stay with their moms. Today, one of the moms decided it was time for her 9-month-old to go in the nursery. Alas, it was not to be. Not 5 minutes in, Abigail was brought back in tears, and for good reason. One of the other dear, sweet, precious little girls had decided Abigail was so sweet, she wanted to taste her finger. So she bit her. (I don't really know what her motive was, but I will give her the benefit of the doubt!)    
Soon, there were many more tears, from Abigail's mom and the other little girl and her mom. After lots of soothing and nursing and snacks and cuddling, Abigail (which means "source of joy" or "Father's joy" by the way) was back to her 4-teeth-smiling-self. The rest of us were smiling, too, as the other girl's mom had snuck out and brought back flowers, and had her daughter give them to the baby. I loved watching these mothers model repentance and forgiveness for their daughters. I wonder if Jesus saying we're to be like a child to enter the Kingdom of Heaven has a little to do with being able to quickly forget when someone else wrongs us.

You all might know that I'm not big on surprises. There are always exceptions, though. Today, on December 2, in near 40 degree weather, I found this growing outside my house.
I am not a great gardener, so we picked this type of rose bush because of its resilience. It blooms all summer and into the fall. But it hasn't bloomed in several weeks and this is the latest I've ever seen it pop one out. Roll your eyes and call me foolish if you want, but I think this is a special gift of my Father God's joy just for me!

Finally, I took great joy in the soup I made tonight. I've been taking a culinary skills class for the past few months, and even though I made a Walmart run today, I resisted satisfying my craving for soup with an easy-to-buy can and decided to make some. My mother-in-law (who was visiting last week) had saved and frozen the turkey carcass, suggesting I use it to make turkey soup. I'd never done that, but I figured with my newly acquired culinary skills, it shouldn't be too hard. And it wasn't. I boiled the bones to make stock, then I pulled all the good meat (4 cups worth!) off of the bones, roasted some veggies (to bring in an extra dose of flavor), threw in the noodles I made in pasta week, added some salt and pepper and voila! Turkey soup.

Why is this even significant? Three reasons (and three joys) as a matter of fact!
1) I have an awesome mother-in-law. Not because she saved the turkey bones, but because she is such an amazing person. She has one of the biggest servant's-hearts I've ever encountered and God is using her to teach me how to do that thing I'm not very good at: receiving. Plus, she raised the world's best man, which is a huge source of joy for me.
2) I got to experience the joy in the process. I usually want to skip the process and just get to the result, which is pretty impossible when it comes to cooking. And really everything else. 
3) The reason I had noodles left over from the pasta class is because the chef didn't have enough marinara sauce for everyone to make the lasagna we were assigned. At the time, this was a point of frustration for me, even to the point where I almost cried (totally blaming that one on pregnancy!).  But this is where my noodles were supposed to be used after all, so my mourning turned to joy!

Did you see, find, or remember any joys in your life today? 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

One Hundred Joys

I'm joining one of my favorite bloggers, Sarah Markley, to find and report on 100 Joys this month.

Besides the obvious appropriateness with my middle name being Joy and all, and this being the season where we speak of good tidings of great joy, I have been challenged personally to choose joy lately.

I have pregnancy hormones running amuck, my body is betraying me, my mind is restless with the unknowns accompanying Blueberry's arrival, so yeah, some days I have to choose joy.

And, I might as well share that joy with you. It's kindof the point of my blog anyway.

To start  us out, here is one thing I have been waiting for ALL year.

This is a fund-raising calendar for the Down Syndrome Association of Tulsa, and my nephew Solo (I've mentioned him once or twice ;-)) is one of the Mr. Decembers. I'm so happy I get to look at his cuteness all month as I hang out in my kitchen.

Here's a larger shot of the one in the upper corner.
These pictures are now a year old, but if that doesn't say "Joy"
I don't know what does!
Photos by Jill Solomon

If you want to join us in our 100 Joys month, head over to Sarah's blog to find out the details.

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