Monday, December 1, 2014


 December is here, and with it, Advent season. I was completely broadsided by how fast Advent snuck up on me this year. Thanksgiving juuuuust finished and then HELLO! Christmas trees, Christmas music, candles, lights and nativity scenes abound. It doesn't help that Michael and I have been living in a total dream world lately. Wait, 'dream world' probably isn't the right phrase. What I mean is we've been totally out of touch with any sort of normalcy to our lives because we aren't in any regular pattern right now. Ever since September, we've either been away from home, or have been home but traveling every three days all over the country for residency interviews. It's been a tad chaotic. 

It's also getting increasingly hard for me to do simple tasks like bending over to put on shoes. So there's that. (I'm not sure about posting a baby bump pic... not sure if I will ever be there... but in the words of Justin Bieber, never say never.)

I felt a bit worried about not yet being mentally and emotionally prepared for Advent, but then was reminded yesterday about the error in this kind of thinking. Who are we to feel like we have to be ready for the Lord to work in us this season? We don't have to be ready at all. The Lord can and will work in us regardless of how we feel. Ohhhh right right right. I need simple reminders like this ALL THE TIME. 

So, I'm now looking forward to Advent more than ever. I need this countdown to Christmas, to the celebration of the coming of Jesus as a little baby in a manger and to the anticipation of his coming again, every year. 

By the way, did you know that Advent is the first season of the Christian church year? Here is a little 4-minute video that explains the Christian calendar. I loveeeeeee it. Seriously. It's worth watching. And the year starts today! Well, actually, it started yesterday because Advent leads up to Christmas and includes the four preceding Sundays. Will wonders never cease. (Here is the actual link for those reading this post via email as I don't think links come through over email: 

My desire for this Advent season? To be like the wise men in Matthew 2 who "rejoiced exceedingly with great joy" when they saw the star that came to rest over the place where the child was. If the wise men rejoiced exceedingly merely at the sight of the star that led them to Jesus, can you imagine their joy at actually seeing Jesus himself??? It must have been absolutely immeasurable. 

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Nashville Recap

Times flies when you are on the move! But here I finally am, sitting still, on the first cold and grey day of the year, at home in DC, cherishing some moments of stillness. Here:

Here again:

Heeeeeeeerrre too:

(Moments of stillness.)

We've been back from Nashville for about two weeks but really it hasn't felt like that because Michael has flown to five interviews since being back, I spent five days in Dallas, and I just dropped Michael off at the airport this morning for another flight out. After two months of not being in DC, it has been a tease to be home but still so much on the move. I can't wait for Thanksgiving -- it will be a full week of us both being in one spot (upstate New York! brrrrrrr) and it will be phenomenal.

Being in Nashville for October was really fun. By the end of the time, I was REALLY excited to get back to DC, not because Nashville was a drag (far from it), but just because after two months of being away (we were in Durham for September,) you really just want to be back in your own home, in routine, cooking your own meals, seeing your friends, etc.

Contemplating home in the hills of TN

Here's a little story about Nashville hospitality: upon driving into the neighborhood where we were staying for the month, I mistakenly directed us to the wrong house. I had Google street-viewed the house where we were staying, and it was red brick with columns. Well, the house I mistakenly pulled up to was red brick with columns, too. (NOTE TO SELF: check the address. No duh.) The family had told us to let ourselves in and make ourselves at home, so Michael and I pulled the car around back and started unloading. About 5 minutes later, a car pulled up with a husband and wife giving us some major "what the heck are you doing" stares. I had never met the family before (we were staying with a doctor friend of Michael's) so I marched right up and introduced myself like it was the most natural thing in the world. Welllllllllllll -- it took about negative 2 seconds to figure out that we were definitely NOT at the right house. Whoops, small mistake. But here's the thing: Bill and Sherry were so nice. I mean SO NICE. They honestly could have shot us for breaking into their house. (They would have been in the right.) But instead, Bill in his cowboy boots and Sherry in her sweet southern smile just thought we were dimwits and kindly pointed to their neighbor's house across the street and waved us on our merry way.

So that's how we came to Nashville. Not getting shot at. A good start, I'd say.

Our first Sunday in town, we heard a pretty politically-charged sermon that hit on issues of abortion, women's roles in the church, and homosexuality. All in the same sermon. Welcome to the south. I leaned over to Michael and said "this would never happen in DC!" But it was surprisingly refreshing, the preacher was honest and Biblically sound, and it led to some good discussions. On repeated occasions, I also noticed families and groups praying at restaurants before their meals. I about fell out of my chair each time this happened because it's been so long since I've seen a family do that. Again, so refreshing.

There's a radio show on one of the country stations in Nashville called the Bobby Bones Show that I'd listen to every morning in the car. Now, if you pay attention to SEC football, and you really have to if you live anywhere south of the Mason Dixon Line, then you will know that Katy Perry was at the Ole Miss-Alabama game and predicted that Ole Miss would win. Which they did! It was the best. Katy Perry also publicly said that she's got the hots for the OU quarterback and that she wants him to call her. Well, this topic was being discussed on the Bobby Bones Show, and they were debating if the OU quarterback should actually follow through and call Katy Perry. Lo and behold, it was revealed that the OU quarterback has a girlfriend, and so the consensus on the show was that he should remain faithful to his girl and most definitely not call Katy Perry. WHAT! I was blown away that fidelity was winning the day. In this day and age, I guarantee that nearly all talk shows would totally advocate for the OU quarterback giving Katy Perry a call, girlfriend or not.

The point of all this is that the south, at least what I noticed of it, thankfully hasn't lost it's sense of faithfulness, charm, and southern hospitality.

I also have a renewed appreciation for country music -- namely Eric Church. I don't know where I fell off the country bandwagon, but I am happily back on it now.

Two things surprised me about Nashville: how big it is, and the traffic. Since the city has grown exponentially in the past five or so years, these two things naturally go together. I think especially coming straight from Durham where there was barely any traffic ever on the road, I didn't love sitting on Hillsboro Pike for 20 minutes just to go get some ice cream.


The very very best thing about Nashville is that I got to spend time with some of my best friennnnds!! Three UVA besties live in Nashville and are wonderful and brilliant and we're getting married are all doing amazing things in healthcare. I totally zonked on getting lots of pictures of these three women and their cute men, but we shared some good meals (my friends can cook, let me tell you what), some great walks at Percy Warner Park (one word: hills), a bachelorette celebration, and I even got to see this little babe get baptized:

Nothing cuter in all the world.

Let's talk food for a second -- Because the food scene is growing pretty fast in Nashvegas, I didn't really know where to go eat. There are lots of choices, and lots of what I felt like where either casual places or high-end places with not a lot in between. Some of my favorites are -

  • Kalamatas, a little Mediterranean spot in a strip mall in Green Hills with delicious and healthy eats (and live music on Friday nights... but live music is everywhere.)
  • Food and Co, a great lunch spot for sandwiches and salads in Green Hills with the cutest little outdoor patio.
  • Hattie B's Hot Chicken, a Nashville staple. Don't go over the "Hot" level of spice or you really might die. 
  • Fat Bottom Brewery. I didn't actually eat or drink here, but I went with friends who did and it all looked good. 
  • Pancake Pantry, a Nashville institution that I dragged Michael to thinking it would be overrated but still wanting to go. The hour wait is WORTH IT for the sweet potato pancakes. Do it. 
  • Franklin Mercantile Deli, an adorable brunch and lunch spot in Franklin where Michael and I picked up sandwiches to take to...
  • Arrington Vineyards, beautiful land and vineyards outside of Franklin where we spent a lazy Sunday afternoon. The "picnic tasting" for $12 is the way to go. Fun fact: the vineyard is owned by Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn.

I think there are more, but I can't find my little list of restaurants that I made so that's all for now. 

dearest Ellen

All in all, being in Nashville was a treat. Michael really liked the program at Vandy, and I enjoyed getting to know the town. In March, we will find out where we will be living for the next seven years (7 YEARS!) If we end up in Nashville, I think we'd do just fine. But I think this is true of wherever we end up!

We shall see, we shall see...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookies

Because it's fall. Because I finally found pumpkin pie spice at the store. Because I love you.

That's all. Recipe found here.

Friday, October 3, 2014

While We Wait

Don't you forget it

I found out I was pregnant in early July, and immediately flew home to Dallas the next day where I spent 10 days with my mom and dad. I told my parents our news (story here if you need a refresher), but nurtured this little secret growing in me and kept my mouth shut even with some of my closest friends. (This is not easy to do. Especially when you are the only one drinking sparkling water when everyone else is having margs. In Texas. Do you know how hard it is to not have a marg in Texas? It's hard.)

On the plane ride back to DC after that week spent mostly sleeping and having my mom make me soup, bagels with cream cheese, and French toast, I wrote down a lot of my thoughts that I didn't want to forget or to be overshadowed by the new joy and wonder and surprise of being pregnant. Because it wasn't joy and wonder for a long time for me. It was waiting and longing and crying and frustration and thinking that something was majorly wrong with my body. 

I know the sorrow of wanting a child. Of longing to see the double pink lines on yet another pregnancy test. Of crying when a friend announces that she is expecting with an adorable picture of mom shoes, dad shoes, and new baby shoes (Damn you, social media.) In fact, I have no idea when we actually conceived this child because I was having tests done that month to check over my weirdly behaving body, and didn't keep track of when this little life could have been formed. And now that I know a bit more about the ins and outs of conception and fertility, I am truly amazed that babies are born at all. It's a complete miracle. 

During this past mother's day in May, I sat in the church pew simply bewildered that I was feeling as weepy as I was. I was focusing with all my might on not crying from the stronger than normal feeling of sorrow, fear, and longing for a baby that I felt that day. Our church in DC is made up of mostly young people - 40 and under - so it's a rarity to see someone with gray hair. But one of my favorite people at church is Bob, an elder and someone who has been a part of Grace DC since its beginning. I love it when Bob prays, not only because he has gray hair and that means he's lived long enough to earn it, but because his prayers are chalk full of truth that I always need to hear. 

That mother's day, Bob prayed for all the mothers in the room, those longing to be mothers, and those who serve in mother-like roles to the children in our city. And then he said these words that I'll never forget: "Lord, while children are indeed a blessing from the Lord, they are not the ultimate blessing. For your word says that 'greater love has none than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.'" This was 100% what I needed to be reminded of. Children are a blessing from the Lord, but not the ultimate blessing. To love the people in our lives and to really (I mean really) be devoted to them, that is what we are called to do. Those words were balm to my soul. They reminded me so strongly that whether conceiving a baby was in my future or not, I still had purpose and worth and a role to fill. I needed that reminder so badly. 

But there was and is still so much waiting in the process. Waiting to count days, waiting for your body to kick into gear, waiting for your husband to get home so you can get to it, waiting to take a pregnancy test. Then, waiting and waiting and doing the whole cycle again. 

I've learned in the waiting that the Lord shows up. Well, actually, he is there all along, but I finally noticed him while I was in the waiting. During that time, I read a devotional that a man from Dallas had written after three years of cancer treatment. He wrote about reflecting on the character of God from Psalm 86. In those verses, it says that God is merciful, gracious, full of steadfast love, and hears our prayers. He wrote about how we should pray boldly knowing these characteristics. Because God is merciful and gracious, he will do what is best for me. Because he is full of steadfast love, he will give what is best for me. And because he hears my prayers, I know that he knows my heart and my desires and longings. 

Reflecting on God's characteristics wasn't something only reserved for me while waiting to conceive. In fact, one of the sweetest times I've had with the Lord recently came after I found out I was pregnant. I had a minor scare and wasn't sure if the baby was ok or not. There was nothing I could do but wait (always waiting!) and again reflect on what I knew to be true of the Lord and his goodness. Yes, even his goodness if the baby didn't survive. I came out of a time of prayer and felt like Hannah from 1 Samuel 1. Hannah longed for a child for years and years, and the story says that she prayed fervently before the Lord. Although the Lord had yet to answer her prayer, and Hannah had no idea if he would giver her a child or not, verse 18 says that she "went her way, and her face was no longer sad."

Somehow, and certainly not always, but at least for good bits of the time, that's how I have felt during each step of this long process. While waiting for a baby, I would spend time reflecting on the Lord's goodness and no longer be sad. After finding out we were pregnant and immediately thinking of everything that could go wrong, I would spend time reflecting on the Lord's goodness and no longer be sad. And now, almost halfway through this pregnancy and still walking that fine line between worrying and trusting the Lord, I spend time reflecting on the Lord's goodness and no longer feel sad. 

I also am realizing how God's timing is perfect. If you are longing for a baby, I am not wanting my experience to make light of yours. You may or may not have a biological child one day. I may or may not have a biological child one day. But either way, God's timing is perfect. Had Michael and I gotten pregnant on my timeline, we would have had a baby now. And right now would have been a very hard time to have a newborn. We haven't been in our home in DC for over a month, and won't be back until the end of this month. Michael then travels for residency interviews until mid-January, and I'll go with him on some of them. I can't imagine having a baby right now, although that is what I had wanted so badly. But God knew better than me. 

I don't want to forget what I felt for months of trying ('trying' feels like a bad word) and thinking my body is weird and having fertility work-ups. It's frightening and confusing and sorrowful and I wish it wasn't what so many women go through. But the Lord is there in the waiting. I mean, hands down, there is no doubt about that. And he is here in the waiting with me now as my belly starts to pop out little by little. And he will be there forever. 

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him. 
(Isaiah 30:18)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

September Things

Michael and I are in Durham, North Carolina for the month because he is doing an away rotation at Duke. From here we go to Nashville for most of October for another rotation before returning home to DC. It's a mini adventure!

I had no idea that I'd feel this way, but it's been surprisingly nice being out of the city. Well, I mean, Durham is a city, but honestly it feels like a small town compared to DC. Simple everyday things continually amaze me -- like how you can get anywhere in 7 minutes. Even places that are 10 miles away, no sweat. Just pop in the car and you'll be there in 7 minutes. There is literally no traffic. It's weird. And there is always parking anywhere you go. MIND BLOWN. We've been in DC too long. (This is not a diss on DC, just a discussion about city-life making me tired.)

There is also a Chick-Fil-A about four blocks away. This is cause for celebration, wouldn't you say? Hey? Ok? Par-tay? Soufflé?

Bottom line: the pace of life is slower here, and I really like it. It's balm for a weary soul even when I didn't know my soul was that weary. For Michael, he spends most of his waking hours at the hospital so you'd think he'd be exhausted but man oh man, he is ON FIRE when he comes home at night. His long days energize him instead of draining him because he LOVES what he is doing. For me, it's the best thing in the world to see. ("On fire" is perhaps a tad of an exaggeration. He is on fire for about one hour before we both fall asleep. I swear, we're 90 years old.)

I have a few favorite things lately that I wanted to share. Take 'em or leave 'em!

1) New song to love: Spencer Combs and Holly Maher - You Are Mine. It's a little breathy kind of like Joshua Radin, but I meannnnn it's so romantic. I actually found it because it's the song that goes along with this ad for a baby bassinet, but whatever. The song's about love and it makes you want to love your man better. Or watch a romantic movie...

2) Which I just did! I just watched About Time and it is so charming and sweet. I think I am behind the times on this one because I remember hearing about it when it came out last year. Well, I finally saw it. This is the best pick-me-up movie if you are ever feeling blue. You can't help but feel good about life after watching it, not matter what age and stage you are in.

3) I also have another movie rec: The Hundred-Foot Journey. I read the book six months ago and wanted to basically eat the pages, and the movie is the same way. Except I felt like the movie is less about the food and more about the characters -- all of whom are charming and dear. Annnnd I think that now's a good time to move to France.

4) I have a new favorite person to follow on Instagram: Reese Witherspoon. She is totally the girl next door with a few glamour shots thrown in for good measure.  She posts about china patterns and her chocolate lab and the movies she's working on. She is kind of goofy and of course she's Southern and she likes to read. I want to be her friendy.

5) Being pregnant is nuts. The one thing I want so badly, I can't have: a spicy tuna roll with lots of soy sauce and wasabi. Be still my heart. Oh and a margarita. Not in the same meal, but I'd love a frozen margarita. I recently learned about a wine region that I didn't know about before and since I'm not drinking, you should! It's the Douro wine region in northern Portugal. It's far better known for its port wine production, but it also makes magnificent red table wine. And it's one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world. Here is an article about what to do if you go there, and here is an article from the New York Times with suggestions on what to buy.

OK, I'm over and out. Time to go exploring.

ps. THANK YOU for your excitement with us over the baby news! We are beyond grateful for the community of family and friends that this babe will be a part of.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Baby Cat

I'll get right to it.

September comes with some baby news. Michael and I are having a baby! Bambino Catalino is coming in early March! We are completely humbled, amazed, thrilled, and I can't believe there is a little life growing inside me. It feels like such a waiting game -- I'm not showing yet (although I think I am, but let's be honest, I'm pretty sure it's because I'm eating a lot more these days...) and I can't feel the baby kicking yet, so I often wonder "is this real???" Oh me of little faith. I've already learned so much about waiting. Waiting and waiting. I have a lot of thoughts that I've already written down about conceiving and fears and waiting and trust, but that will come soon in a future post. For now, we are just rejoicing and are so thankful for this little life and are happy to share this good news.

The day in July after we found out I was pregnant, I flew home to Dallas for a dear friend's wedding, and stayed in Dallas for 10 days. I couldn't keep the news from my mom and immediately told her, but because of the busy wedding weekend, I didn't have a moment with both my mom and dad until four days later. Over dinner, I told dad I had a belated father's day gift for him, and he unwrapped a box containing a polo shirt baby onesie. It looked just like the shirt my dad is wearing in the picture above, but just in miniature dimensions. Dad was SO CONFUSED. Oh man, I'm laughing just thinking about his face. He just stared at the onesie and didn't say a thing. I was giggling and my mom finally prompted him by asking:

"What is it, honey?"

To which dad replied, "It's a little shirt!"

To which I fully burst out laughing. (I had my phone leaning against my water glass and Michael was watching the whole thing on FaceTime, so he bursts out laughing too.)

And mom then prompted him again by asking:

"And what goes in that little shirt, honey?"

And dad just stared at her.

Then stared at me.

Then looked at the little shirt.

Then looked back at me.

Comprehension finally dawned in his eyes, and he looked at me and exclaimed:


Oh Lord, help me. I've never laughed so hard. What a pastor thing to say. (My dad's been in ministry for most of his life.)

Yes, just call me the virgin Mary, dad.

So there you have it. The big reveal to my dad is one I will never forget. Classic dad. My parents and Michael's parents are of course so excited about becoming grandparents, but boy did it take dad a few to register what was up.

Michael and I can barely contain ourselves these days. He often comes home and sees me and shouts "you're pregnant!" like he just found out that minute. Gosh, what joy. Thanks for celebrating this baby news with us!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Word in your Heart

I have a re-occurring thought that pops into my head every now and then, and it's this:  If I was to be thrown in prison, would I know enough of God's word to sustain me through the duration of my stay?

Ok let's back up. I know what you're thinking. WHY would I be thinking that I'm going to be thrown into prison?? Well, I don't plan on it happening ever. Actually though, I did recently have a dream that I stole a breakfast sandwich from a food vendor at a Les Miserables show and got in trouble with the law. A BREAKFAST SANDWICH??!?? Yes, a breakfast sandwich. To be fair, in the dream, it took them 30 long minutes to make the dang breakfast sandwich and I was exercising my right to complain about bad service by refusing to pay. So I ran off with the sandwich and left the local law enforcement trailing in hot pursuit.

Anyway, aside from some possible stolen sandwiches, I really don't think I'll be going to prison any time soon. Buuuuut the point is, I often wonder if I know and have studied enough of the Bible to last me through hard times (and if God forbid I was stuck somewhere without being able to read the Bible.... again, not likely.)

The Bible talks a lot about knowing God's word, and having it in your heart. So reading it isn't just about reading it, but deeply knowing it -- having the words written on your heart and mind so that you can bring those words to mind when you need it, or when a friend needs it. There have been several times in my life when I was struggling or suffering or sorrowful or anxious or depressed, and God met me in those moments with his presence manifested through his words. Verses that sometimes I knew, and verses that sometimes I didn't even know I knew would pop into my head at just the right time. And these words are always balm to my soul.

Here are a few verses on knowing God's word:

Romans 10:8 - The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.
Deuteronomy 6:6 - And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.
Psalm 119:11 - I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Colossians 3:16 - Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly.
John 14:26 - But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
John 15:27 - If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Michael knows how much I cherish and love to memorize verses (and poems, and quotes, and anything that moves me.... typically on the subject of love or friendship.) So for our third anniversary, he had our friend Jenn write down one of my favorite passages from Psalm 73. Jenn took a calligraphy class and in general has perfect handwriting, so I know it was going to be good, but I was still blown away by her writing when I saw it. Auuuuuhhhh maaaaaaaayyy zzzzzinng.

This little framed piece is my new favorite possession. I see it on my bookshelf every day, and therefore read it and am reminded of these verses every day. It's a win-win: Pretty words on pretty paper in a pretty frame, annnnd re-reading these words every day makes them more and more impressed on my heart and mind and ready to call into action when necessary. 

Bottom line: if you ever hear that I've been thrown in prison, please send me a Bible. But know that I'll be alright without one, too. These words are written on my mind and heart. 

(ps. Happy birthday to my favorite brother in the whole world!!)