Sunday, April 26, 2015

Baby H

People, this weekend was one for the books. It has been nonstop over here, but only full of good things. More on the other things that happened later, but for now I just want to share the amazing excitement that happens when one of your dearest friends is waiting for her daughter to arrive! We had Jen's baby shower at my apartment on Saturday morning to celebrate little Baby H's August arrival. The idea of hosting a shower made me feel simultaneously very much an adult and a panicked amateur. (Spoiler alert: it's not that scary and it all goes perfectly fine.) With in-laws in Indiana and family in Minnesota, Jen spent most of her adult life in Chicago, and I couldn't imagine putting it on for someone better. Jen is one of my lifelong friends that truly feels like a sister. She and her husband live in D.C. but have hopes of returning to the midwest sometime soon. It was precious to look around the room and see friends, moms, sisters, roommates, and small group girls of Jen's, all showing up and there for Jen as she and Andrew take this big step into being parents. I had all the best intentions of using my nice camera to capture this day for Jen, but of course, all the pictures below came from my iPhone. Such is life :) 










Sunday, April 19, 2015

Beer and Hymns? Please and Thanks.


I just have to tell you guys about this amazing experience I had on Friday night. I wasn't feeling too hot after a long week and this was just the thing I needed. Our friends Danny and Reese included us in their work friends' plans at a great spot in Glen Ellyn called Blackberry Market. Go visit, Chicagoans. I've moved its name to the top of my Saturday-afternoon-coffee-date list. 

Beyond the beautiful setting was this amazing idea that someone had to reclaim that old tradition of living out faith in the pubs (holla C.S. Lewis!!), and decided to have a Beer and Hymn night. It was wonderful. The place was packed, the beer was cold, and I just couldn't stop smiling. I think I said "I LOVE THIS" to Brian 47 times throughout the night like the nerd I am. There were a few times where I just stood in awe and had to catch the magic on film. Watch the clips below to get a feel for the atmosphere.  

You guys, I felt like I was in a holy place during these songs. I'm not the best at feeling the tangible presence of God. I like writing about Him, reading about Him, or thinking and discussing Him, but I'm not well practiced in always feeling His presence. In moments like these, it was undeniable: God showed up. And you could feel it.  

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Creepers Gonna Creep

I finally got to run outside yesterday! Fresh air! Sunshine! Breeze! No more hamster-wheel feelings on the treadmill!

It was glorious, other than the one thing that happens to all of us females when we run (or heck, when we stroll) outside at one point or another in our lives: stupid cat calls.

Somehow, at some point, a horrible tradition began somewhere that made it socially okay to yell taunting things at girls who are walking or running in your general vicinity. It happened all the time in Spain, Pilsen, and it happens here too. We live right next to the Illinois Prairie Path, in a little suburb west of Chicago. Anywhere you go, it seems, people think it's okay for this to happen.


I hate the mind games that this makes me play in planning my response. How should I play this? No eye contact? Make mean eye contact? Pretend they're not there? Cross to the other side of the street to avoid people as I run in a never-ending game of Stranger-Danger-Frogger? Am I wearing the wrong thing? Should I respond with a snarky rebuttal, or completely ignore it to show that I'm not playing into their stupid power play?

When I'm running, I'm constantly looking out for the situation where I'm alone with another runner/walker/bystander (thanks dad, for the years of training on Situational Awareness!) who happens to be male, and run the mental gymnastics routine of questions listed above on how to respond to the situation.

In this case, I ran past a little restaurant, where two men were smoking outside, and instead of crossing the street to the other side, I decided I wouldn't give in to that obvious gesture that often causes even more descriptive things yelled at a street's distance. One of the old dudes whistled and called out, "Hey there! Want some company?" as I ran past, and started to take a few steps chasing me as a joke. I know this last part happened not because I saw it, but because I heard his keys jingling in rhythm with my steps for a few seconds in my direction as I kept my eyes fixed firmly on my own feet. Don't give them the reaction they want, I kept thinking to myself, so it took all of my willpower to not increase my pace or turn back to address them.


I started thinking: Are my shorts too short? Did I provoke it by running right in front of them? Nope. Stop Anna. Wrong Questions. I had on shorts and a t-shirt, but that is besides the point. The questions should be more along the lines of Why is this okay? and What do we have to do to stop it from happening? 

I asked Brian once if he had ever worried about being attacked in his life. He said he hadn't. I asked him if he had ever taken precautions not to draw attention to himself out in public. He hadn't. I asked if he had ever walked to his car in a parking lot, or been at home alone, or taken a jog on a Saturday afternoon, and have to confront the fear in his head about being assaulted. He said he hasn't. He is understanding of my crazy thoughts, feels badly that it is that way, but like me, is at a loss of how to change things. I hate the amount of mental energy I spend on being aware of these things. It's not fair that women have to jump through mental hoops to be so proactive for the sake of their own safety, instead of spending their time running thinking about productive things like work, friendships, spirituality, and how Jennifer Lawrence would totally want to be your best friend if she just got the chance to know you.

I've decided to do three things in response:

1. Call it out when it happens (hence this post), and tell smart people like you to do the same. Tell people that you think this is ridiculous so we can start changing the attitudes out there in the ether.

2. Look at insecurity and fear that causes people to act like this. Laugh at it through things like the video below, recognizing the pathetic motivators behind it.

3. Take a note from Taylor Swift, and just keep on going when the Creepers gonna creep, creep, creep. I'm just gonna jog, jog, jog. No need to give in to the fear and banish myself to the tread mills forever. I'll be out there again next weekend. You should join me.

Monday, April 6, 2015

An Easter Life

Today is one of the most exciting days. It's a day when we remember the best thing ever: the victory we have in Jesus because He is alive. It's Easter! I get goosebumps when I think about how exciting it is to be loved by a living God.

I think of so many wonderful things on days like today. I think of overwhelming hope in the face of what used to be overwhelming despair, special church services, favorite hymns, and ridiculous-but-delicious Cadbury eggs. I think of time with family. I think of happy Facebook statuses that take a one-day break from opinions, debates, and arguments for the sake of rejoicing in the good. I think of grace and gratitude and warm sunshine in my soul. I think of everything being new. Easter is great, is it not? 

The hard part, for me, though, is to transport the meaning of Easter to the rest of things. To the rest of the days of the year, even the very Monday that comes after it. If everything that I love about Easter is true today, then I must ask myself: Will Easter still be true tomorrow?


See, I've been weary lately. Not of my life, or the (kind, thoughtful, handsome, wonderful) husband, or the job, but of this world we Christians construct around ourselves sometimes. I've been weary of those debates and arguments we've all been having, in the name of protecting what we have. To be honest, I'm kind of sick of working through who is right and who is wrong and who is in and who is out. That is definitely a naive thing to say, because, I know...discourse! ...righteousness! ...principles! 

Of course it is easier to skip the tough discussions, hard questions, and honest dialogue. There is truly a place for those things. I believe that place happens to be face to face with some relationship-buliding behind it, but hard questions and tough discussions is where growth happens. I am such a sucker, though, for seeing the world in variations of gray rather than black and white, which makes it fun for my black-and-white-minded husband to try to figure out my weird brain. Poor guy.

And yet, I've felt this freedom, today, on Easter, from all of those hard discussions. He has risen. He is alive. Everything can be new again.

I've been tired of being so defensive. Do we really have to argue down every issue or political stance or debate that comes up against us? See, when I think of Easter and how it is so true, I feel this incredible weight off my shoulders that tells me Easter doesn't need fighting for; it speaks for itself. It just needs sharing. If we spent half as much of our time living out the redemptive meaning of Easter as we do typing up snarky rants against those who disagree with it, I think our message of grace would hit much more deeply. This is me preaching to myself as much as anyone: there is something pretty powerful about living a life of love rather than rationalizing a life of rhetoric. Maybe that's silly to you, but as a compulsive over-analyzer, it sounds heavenly to me.

I think about myself and see all the things that God can take and make brand new in me: my confidence, my wanderlust, my self-image, my insecurities, and my doubts. I have an overwhelming hope when I think about Easter intersecting with those things. The same power that allowed Jesus to live again is the power that can come into my life to work in all of those dark corners. He can make everything in me new again.

Do you think we could all be new again? Could the way we address each other, the way we judge one another, the things we assume of one another, all change and be made new, like it's Easter every day? Could we live an Easter life at work, at home, at church? Could we live an Easter life online with one another, too? Even when we're commenting on articles or pictures or blog posts? I really think we can.

As I head into the day after Easter, I'm going to try and see what it's like to spill a little of today's clarity and freedom into the rest of the week. Easter will still be true tomorrow, and every day after that. Hallelujah!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Stuff Students Say: March Edition

I type these words to you from the couch at my in-laws' place in Scottsdale, Arizona. The shoulders are sunburned and the freckle population on my face is back up to its capacity. I'm loving this week of relaxing, thinking, and being with my new family. I plan to return to the real-world with a new resolve to write more regularly. In the meantime, here are some fabulous one-liners from my ridiculous children.

(After reading a series of books about people who were activists..)
Mrs. Whartnaby we are being activists for children's rights! Just like you told us to be activists! Our cause is that we want longer recesses!

I like you because you aren't a mean teacher, Mrs. Whartnaby. It's just that you get frustrated when kids are being talkative. 

So do birds say "cheep" or "chirp"? I need to know for this bird's speech balloon in my story. 

Student: So orange trees....are they a thing?
Me: You mean are they real? Yes, of course. Oranges grow on orange trees.
Student: Well how are we supposed to know? These vegetables and fruits are coming at us from all different ways of growing!

(Settling a dispute on the playground between two kindergarteners. One said that he was being left out in the game of man vs. monster tag.)
Student: He's not being left out, it's just that we're not playing that game! We aren't playing man vs. monster tag, we're playing zombie vs. monster tag! It's two completely different things!!

(We did a Curiosity Project where students got to research an area of interest, passion, or curiosity that they have.)
Me: What topic do you think I would maybe like to research?
Student: Your topic should be Mr. Brian! Or Teaching!

(Before his Curiosity Project presentation)
I'm just so excited to start...I'M SO EAGER!

Wait a minute. The earth is in space too, it's not just the planets in space? So you're TELLING me we're in space right now?!