a decade draws to a close

i only recently realized that not only the year but the whole decade is coming to a close. please tell me i'm not the only one!

while the decade was kind of a bummer on a national scale (9/11, the bush presidency, interminable war, tanking economy), it also marked the beginning of my adult life and some pretty dramatic personal changes.

on the eve of the last decade, i was a 19 year old college student, just beginning to figure out who i was and what i believed. in the summer of 2000, i met jim and two years later we married. we were still babies when we moved to pittsburgh in '02, took first jobs, and learned a little about grace, marriage, and being a grown-up. we fell in love with the city, learned to cook curry, and endured various dramas associated with apartments that rent for $325 a month;)

in the summer of 2005, we moved here to ligonier, trading our third floor walk-up for a big old farmhouse and our bustling neighborhood for a summer camp that is insanely busy three months of the year and a ghost town the other nine. leaving a job i loved directing a youth ministry, i struggled to find my place here. i worked as a waitress, barista, and housing authority caseworker before becoming a mama to dylan in the fall of 2007. twenty-three months later, james joined team paul, and we became what my friend liz refers to as the "family four pack." it's been a busy two years!

it's hard to believe we're coming up on five years here, especially since i really still don't feel that rooted. i think in this new year i need to put myself out there more and be more intentional at pursuing relationships. i dearly love my husband and my kids, but i need more adults and women in my life for sure.

ten years ago, i was a student barely out of high school and my parents' home, and now i'm a wife and mother of two, approaching 30. i wonder what God has in store for the next decade...

Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland. --Isaiah 43:18-19


God with us

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer our spirits by Thine advent here; Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death's dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Desire of nations, bind all peoples in one heart and mind; Bid envy, strife and sorrow cease, fill the whole world with heaven's peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14 (NIV)

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. (The Message)


no crying he makes...

...well, not during the pageant, anyway;)
both kids did a great job at yesterday's lessons and carols.

cutest sheep ever
st. michael's.  beautiful country church


an advent prayer

Lo, in the silent night
A child to God is born
And all is brought again
That ere was lost or lorn.

Could but thy soul, O man,
Become a silent night!
God would be born in thee
And set all things aright.

-15th century

Come, Lord Jesus.


amazing grace

-----Email Message-----
"She was pretty, she used to climb trees. She made jewelry for her family for Christmas. She was the single mother of a son she loved. She tried her hardest, but just like the rest of us, she made mistakes. And we forgave her for them, just like we forgive you."

PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard. i won't link, since it can be R-rated, but submissions like this are such a poignant reminder of our brokenness and need for Christ's redemptive love and reconciling grace--as well as our commission to extend that to a world in desperate need of hope.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. -2 Corinthians 5:17-21


making spirits bright...and ugly

when jim received this awful sweater in his office secret santa, we were certain it would be the ugliest at the ugly sweater christmas party we hosted last night:

this photo doesn't begin to capture its tackiness: embellished with sequins, gold balls, pearls, and wood heart buttons, the sugar plum fairies on the back are wearing three-dimensional tulle skirts. UG-LEEEE.

but everyone was put to shame when this monstrosity walked in the door:

this ensemble was a true work of art. if a hoodless mom sweatshirt can be considered tricked out, it was: chad customized this little ugly with an actual stuffed reindeer, a vest, candy canes and working christmas lights. really, there are no words.

jim made eggnog, following the recipe of our grandfatherly neighbor who got it from his own grandfather. it was unbelievably rich (18 eggs and three pints whipping cream will do that!), potent, and a huge hit.

a few more pics...

weird, wonderful, and so much fun.


a very handmade christmas

well, not handmade by me: i'm not that crafty! the MOPS group i go to is having a craft exchange and i'm bringing little jars of vodka that i infused with cranberries and oranges, because i really don't know my way around a sewing machine or glue gun.

maybe someday i'll learn to create beautiful things, like these lovelies that i have on good authority will be waiting under the tree for miss dylan elizabeth. it turns out santa does his christmas shopping on etsy:)

tiny tutu + hair bow = so much frilly, girly cuteness!

a beautiful sling, so dylan can wear her babies, too

and this one isn't for sure, but it is just so cool. it's an "i spy" game--something dylan is pretty into right now. so we'll see...

is santa bringing your loved ones anything you're pretty excited about?


Voices of the Faithful: Book 2

A devotional that strengthens my faith, engages my intellect, and challenges me to seek God and his Word more faithfully is a bit like my Holy Grail.  For years I read the Oswald Chamber's classic My Utmost for His Highest, and I haven't found a book since that keeps my attention on a daily basis or compares to its theological weight.  I am ever-searching.

Thomas Nelson sent me a copy of Voices of the Faithful - Book 2: Inspiring Stories of Courage from Christians Serving Around the World to check out.  It is billed as a "daily devotional for every day of the year," but I'd say its subtitle is more on the mark.  It tends more toward the inspirational than the meaty, but it certainly has merit as a way for everyday Christians to feel part of--and pray for--world missions.

Voices of the Faithful - Book 2: Inspiring Stories of Courage from Christians Serving Around the WorldEach day's reading is written by an active missionary serving somewhere across the world.  Living a comfortable American life so far removed from the realities of that kind of ministry, it is valuable to hear the stories of how God's Word is impacting people and cultures across the globe and to feel challenged to step out in faith wherever we are.  Whether we serve in the traditional "mission field" or not, we are all called to make disciples of all nations, and Voices of the Faithful demonstrates how all Christians can support and pray for missionaries abroad. 

Readings are short and cover one page.  A short verse introduces the devotion, the missionary story follows, and a prayer sums it up.  If you are looking for a daily devotional that directs you into Bible reading or unpacks and applies whole passages of scripture, this isn't it.  The readings are grouped topically by month ("Prayer, the Priority", "Follow Me", "From Adversity to Triumph", "Hope for the World," etc.) and introduced with a meditation on that aspect of the spiritual life, but its overall focus is not Bible reading or comprehension but rather current stories of God's work in the world. 

I could see readings being used by families around the dinner table.  The stories are appropriate for children and it could definitely pique interest in becoming a missionary as well as serving God wherever we are called.  Voices of the Faithful would be a valuable companion piece in a family's devotional life, but it will not direct you into spiritual disciplines beyond remembering to keep missionaries and world missions in prayer.  Of course, that purpose is noble--it just isn't quite what I was looking for in a daily reader.

Thomas Nelson provided me with a book to read but I was not otherwise compensated for this review.


it's beginning to look a lot like christmas

proof in pictures that i have two kids...

dylan was at one point also wearing a santa skirt (a la Mean Girls), but when i put her in a disposable diaper, it no longer stayed up, so she rocked the ever-chic boots/leg warmers/diaper look for a bit around the house.

our tree is mostly decorated as of tonight, but it took three days. it is hard completing any task around here these days! dylan absolutely loves the tree and lights.

an exchange tonight between jim and dylan:

"santa's coming!"
"what's santa gonna bring, dylan?"
"food? what kind of food?"

maybe he will...

whenever either jim or i have both children in our arms or on our laps, dylan always says, "my kids!"

my kids, indeed:)


fairly traded goodies

looking to give a gift this season that gives back? ten thousand villages, a non-profit that sells gorgeous and fair trade hand-crafted items from all over the world, is offering free shipping for online orders through december 15. just type in the coupon code MOSAIC.

you can find a bunch of other fair trade companies and organizations listed here, too.

i just thought you might want to know:)

(find more gift giving ideas at we are THAT family.)


santa! i know him!

santa came to light up our town the day after thanksgiving. we'd never been before but quickly discovered that it was quite the local celebration. hundreds of people crowded the town square (or "the diamond," as we call it) to watch a parade which culminated in santa's arrival by trolley, accompanied by miss ligonier's court. it was freezing, and dylan was a bit overwhelmed, but all in all, it was quite the festive family outing.

a few more pictures from the weekend with my family who came in from philly and brooklyn:

i think we are out of the woods with the swine flu, praise God. thank you for all your prayers!



i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

--e.e. cummings


possibly the most un-well-child visit, ever

i took dylan and james to the doctor yesterday for their two year and one month check-ups, respectively, and we left with a script for an ear infection for dylan and a lab order for blood work for james, who was running a fever.

some well-child exam, huh?

also, how did i miss that my baby was running such a high fever? i feel like an awesome mother.

i took both kids to the hospital for the blood work on james' tiny little baby arm, and it turns out he has H1N1.

my baby has swine flu.

if you are a praying person, would you lift him up? he's so little, and because of that, susceptible to complications. he's doing well so far, nursing and staying hydrated, and his fever is not so high, but he is just so little!

presumably, dylan is the one who exposed james, and we think jim might have had it this summer. i had a fever and flu symptoms last week but i think it was mastitis, not swine flu, so i could still get sick. and my family is coming for thanksgiving.

nothing like really creating a welcoming environment for guests, huh?

our decision to order thanksgiving dinner from a local restaurant is looking wiser and wiser. i know, not green at all, and not in keeping with my love for cooking, but at least we can hope dinner is being cooked far away from contagion.

and i can have both hands free to cuddle my sweet, sick boy.



i neglected to mention earlier that jim took two deer during archery season this fall: a doe and this nice eight point buck.

he's a regular legolas, if legolas shot deer instead of orc and traded his blond tresses for a camo balaclava...

notice dylan's complete lack of horror. our friend patrick got a deer first, and when it was hanging (i know) and i was out at a MOPS girls' night, jim took our toddler up to see it and let her pet it. all week, all she she she could talk about was "pet pat's deer! see pat's deer!"

oh, we country all right.


happy birthday, 2 year old!

happy birthay, dylan elizabeth. you bring so much joy to our hearts and home.

you are bright and inquistive, and your eye for detail continually surprises us. you are constanting observing, processing, and learning from the world around you.

you're a tough kid: when you take a spill, dad tells you to "shake it off," and you do, every time:)

you make us laugh all the time, like when you clench and raise both fists and declare "excited!" or when you point at me in a tank top and count "two milks: one, two!" (note to self, no tank tops in public for a while!)

you are your father's daughter, imploring always to "go outside," "shoot bow," and "see deer." and of course, you're my girl, too, with your love of books and words.

you never met an animal you didn't like, and you love your family, far and near. you are already a fantastic big sister--kind, affectionate, and so helpful.

we are so thankful for you, sweet girl!

poor thing was sick for her birthday--fever and everything--but we still made cupcakes and our sweet friends came over , figuring they'd already been exposed.
this (and most) of these pictures are ridiculously blurry, but not anymore ridiculous than those sunglasses;)
licking the beaters is the best
checking out the great kitchen set from grammy and poppy

even today, she's still not all better. (her b-day was yesterday.) we'll probably skip church and have a low-key day at home tomorrow.

something must have clicked with dylan turning two, because tonight she is asleep in the big girl bed that that she's been refusing to sleep in for about two months. amazing!


sweet baby james

i realize that i have an infant son and like two pictures of him, but the thing is, i'm ALWAYS holding him, and if he's not nursing or sleeping, he's pretty much crying. not exactly a formula for great baby pics. yesterday, i did get a good crying shot, complete with down-turned lip and quivering chin (oh, the quivering chin!), but even if i wanted to post it i couldn't. our internet and computer situation is less-than-optimal. we have two hand-me-down computers--a PC that refuses to go online but stores our photos, and a Mac that barely goes online. it's letting me type this, but it's only partially reading the page and deleted my post the last time i wrote it. so, no picture posting in the immediate future...

shall i just tell you about the baby?

he is getting BIG. at three weeks james weighs almost 11 lbs, a milestone itty bitty dylan didn't reach for months. of course, he's still a wee little newborn, but he's so much bigger than he was at birth. he's a good nurser, evidenced by his chubby cheeks and double chin;)

james is STRONG. he was actually born with the thick, muscular thighs i never thought existed on babies. his strong legs make diapering a little bit of a challenge!

and speaking of diapering, we tried out the cloth diapers i got on ebay, and it turns out, they weren't such a great find after all. they were listed to fit an 8-20 lbs babe, but they are already too small. they must have sent me size newborn instead, and as james doesn't have scrawny newborn legs, they're unusable. boooo. we have usable covers and prefolds, but i was really looking forward to having little fitted diapers for him.

james is a good sleeper. he only wakes twice a night, so we're actually feeling pretty well rested, which is a huge praise. the downside is that he's sleeping with us now, and we'd really like to get him into his own bed. i hope that once he has more wakeful time and begins to establish more regular sleep patterns, we'll be able to get him to sleep on his own in his cradle or pack 'n play for longer stretches. but in the meantime, it IS nice to snuggle with my sweet baby:)

well, james is actually contently awake in my arms, which hasn't happened much, so i should go enjoy. of course, dylan is having a tantrum. you can't win 'em all!


a lively sense of your presence

"dylan, i've got a song for you," he said, strumming his guitar.

May God bless and keep you always,
May your wishes all come true,
May you always do for others
And let others do for you.
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous,
May you grow up to be true,
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you.
May you always be courageous,
Stand upright and be strong,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy,
May your feet always be swift,
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift.
May your heart always be joyful,
May your song always be sung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

--"Forever Young," Bob Dylan

our internet has been down, so i'm just now posting pictures from last weekend, when my parents, sister bethany, and her boyfriend came out to visit and meet the baby. we had such a nice time together and were blessed with unseasonably beautiful weather.

we took james to church together for the first time, and our priest asked us to come forward so they could pray for our family. it was so meaningful that i wanted to record it here:
Dear friends, the birth of child is a joyous and solemn occasion in the life of a family. It is also an occasion for rejoicing n the Christian community. I bid you, therefore, to join Jim and Suzannah in giving thanks to Almighty God our heavenly Father, the Lord of all life, for the gift of James to be their son, and with Dylan, for a new brother.

Let us pray.

O God, you have taught us through your blessed Son that whoever received a little child in the name of Christ receives Christ himself: We give you thanks for the blessing you have bestowed upon this family in giving them a child. Confirm their joy by a lively sense of your presence with them, and give them calm strength and patient wisdom as they seek to bring this child to love all that is true and noble, just and pure, lovable and gracious, excellent and admirable, following the example of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.


when we were three

i took this photo of dylan and jim in the yard the afternoon before james was born and we became a family of four.

more wordless wednesday: 5 min for mom and momdot


trick or treat

kids in animal ears = one of my favorite things
it is nearly impossible to capture a real smile on this child, but at least this beats the wide-open, mouth agape that we often get when we request a smile!

that tail!
we took dylan out for her first trick-or-treating, and i was so glad not to miss it. the business district in our town hands out candy to kids, and it was such a festive atmosphere. dylan really enjoyed herself and was such a polite trick-or-treater. then we met up with friends, and jim took dylan up another street while james and i hung out. he did not wear a costume; he just slept in the sling the whole time. maybe next year he'll be a kangaroo--it's actually size 6-12 months!


first week on earth

dylan is a fantastic big sister. her first words in the morning are usually "see baby james" followed by "kiss head," "kiss ear," or "kiss nose." (i'm not sure where she got the idea to kiss his ears, but it's pretty adorable.) the other day jim got her up and brought her into bed with us. she snuggled up close to the baby and said "cuddle it now." yesterday, i was changing dylan's diaper and james was hanging out on the bed cooing and making gurgly baby noises that dylan interpreted as sneezes: "God bless you, baby! God bless you!"

i think he looks like his uncle josh here.

if someone can take a not-unattractive picture of my whole face, i would be more than happy to post it;) until then, you'll have to make due with this, (mom).

we're all doing well around here--resting/(not resting), playing, reading, hanging out, enjoying family time, praying against sickness, and eating the meals generously provided to us. it's been a good first week.


welcome baby james!

james edward paul, III made his debut early thursday morning. he was born at 4:04 on october 22, weighing in at 8 lbs, 7 oz. we're both doing well, and we came home yesterday afternoon.

dylan is adjusting so far like a champ, jim and i are trying to catch up on rest, james is nursing well and sleeping fairly well, and all we're thankful that jim's parents have been here, especially to give dylan lots of extra attention.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created." James 1: 17-18
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