Just Love that Baby

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Since we still don’t have wifi, and I still have no friends here, I’ve had some time to have Grand Thoughts. Mostly, it turns out, on the subject of parenting, since that’s what I’ve been doing by myself for about 12 hours a day. Yes, life is exhilarating right now. Why do you ask?

I know it’s not the Done Thing for people who a) are under 30, b) have only one child who isn’t even two yet, and c) have no track record of reliability for their Grand Thoughts to hold forth on the subject of parenting, and yet, since I have a blog and am feeling the compunction to post since who else am I to talk to about anything serious in my 12-hours-a-day conversation of “Please don’t scream!” and “No! You can’t pull your dirty diapers out of the trashcan!” and “Would you like to play with your cars?”, I am writing about the subject of parenting anyway. Besides, Done Things are overrated.

Some days (ok, most days), I want nothing more than a set of prescriptions to follow which will make my kid behave perfectly and ensure that nothing I do will wreck him for life. At this moment, I think being the parent of a one-year-old is an exercise in futility, as it takes the millionth time of saying “no” for it to finally sink in—and for most things, we haven’t reached that millionth time! But while I may not have attained to much wisdom yet in the few years I’ve been on earth, I have learned this much—there are no set rules of how to deal with people. Ever.

In fact, there might be only one rule, and it’s one my parents repeated often: you can only change yourself. Your attitude, your behavior, your reactions.

But even though this lesson was drilled into me so often, I still assumed there was a right way to parent, a way that would at least almost ensure that a kid would turn out and have good behavior. Just do these things, show off your mad ninja skills when your lovey numbkins is having a tantrum at the supermarket, and everyone will be in awe of your wonderful parenting.

Strangely enough, it wasn’t having a kid that shifted my paradigm on parenting (I mean, I half raised 3 or 4 by the time I was 20, so of course I thought I had it all down), but simply growing up and reading different viewpoints in the process. If you’re strongly attached to an idea, the least you can do is read the other side’s arguments to see if you’re missing out on something crucial.

The first was an article somewhere or other (probably posted on Facebook) about how “parent-ing” is a new concept. We don’t talk about “wifeing” or “husbanding” or “daughtering” (which looks kinda like “slaughtering”) or “sonning”—it’s only this one relationship, between parent and child, which is talked of in this way, like something to do instead of a way to live. (We do have kidding, though, for what it’s worth.)

Thinking about the relationship between parent and child as any other job, like “housekeeping” or “dishwashing” not only begins to make children into things, but also puts more stress on parents to be the perfect parents. If it’s a job like any other, surely it can be done right, like any other job can. There must be a right way to soothe your child’s tantrums and definitely a way to prevent those embarrassing things from ever occurring, most especially in public where we need to exhibit the fact that we have it all together.

The second was an article published in The Atlantic, which, despite its rather misleading headline which seems to guarantee that with this new info from a child psychologist no child will ever again misbehave (sardonic laugh), still puts the focus where it ought to be—on parents’ behavior. It’s not a power struggle or a fight to the death for mastery, although some days it certainly feels like it. Instead, let’s treat this relationship the same way we treat all our other relationships: as a way for us to become better people, to be sanctified.

This is not the easy way out. Yelling comes to me much more easily than calming down and taking time to evaluate my own behavior. As parents, we have to die to ourselves nearly every minute. Babies are so needy, and they never. ever. shut. up, and they’re awfully fond of feeding me half-chewed oranges. My natural response is not one of warm fuzzies.

I can change my response to JQ, but I can’t change his response to me. I need to look at myself first and make sure my attitude is a good attitude, since what I’m modeling is even more important than what I say. (I’m still fairly certain, however, that he’s never had pulling diapers out of the trashcan modeled to him. That came out of his own little head.) I think we lose sight of this in the struggle to do everything right with our children and make their behavior what we want. Unfortunately, yelling at a kid for screaming is like eating a whole chocolate cake when you’ve just finished reading about the dangers of sugar. It feels so good, but you know it’s wrong—and won’t even get you the results you want!

These are things I want to remind myself of later, when JQ is more than a baby who toddles around drunkenly and giggles at being naughty, when I’m feeling overwhelmed and want only to control behavior. Parenthood is a relationship, not a job: our children are more than objects whose behavior we can control. They’re people who we need to love and teach.

My goal for myself, in 2017 and beyond, is to treat JQ with the respect he deserves as a child of God, and to make sure my attitude and behavior are right instead of yelling at him.

So go ahead, eat that half-chewed orange, giggle at that ridiculous thing he’s doing, keep telling him “no” for the millionth time. These are relationships we’re building, with people who are growing up to be men and women. Soon he’ll be all grown up—and then, I’ll finally be an expert on parenting. Too bad you’re reading this now.

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In Which You Get the Scoop on the REAL Me

Goodness, it’s been quiet around here lately. Only a few finals left till the end of the semester, though, and I’m wondering, is that like being a few fries away from a Happy Meal or a few screws loose on the steering wheel? Let’s hope not.

Anyways, this blog has been a lot of me blithering about me and China and everything else I could think of (which, granted, hasn’t been an awful lot, especially recently!). And while nothing has been happening for us here in China, back in America there’ve been funerals and graduations and weddings that I’ve had to miss. So for a change, I thought you could hear from other members of the family. Enough of me talking about me–now you get to read what others think about me.

So without further ado, here’s my younger brother Seth’s take on farm life in Colorado.


Greetings from the beautiful state of Colorado! My sister Annika being ‘blogged’ out currently and ensnared with the worries and cares of this life has expressed a wish for me to fill some dead air and thus I her little brother Seth will be writing this post. If I do a good enough job, methinks I shall be added on as a regular contributor, which would be fitting seeing as how I introduced ma’ sister to the concept of milk and pickles in the first place. Be sure to let us know in the comments if you think I am “succ-Seth-ful.”

At this point some introduction is probably in order. I am Seth. If you met me in person I probably would tell you something along the lines of, I am a simple sheep farmer who is seeking to reflect the face and affections of God in my life albeit imperfectly—as any of my siblings would gladly tell you (at least about the imperfectly part).

As Annika hasn’t discussed much of her past life on this here blog, I thought ya’ll’d like to see a side of her she doesn’t let on about—the tough older sister who isn’t above doing some spinach picking until her back is sore. A large part of my life includes farming, which is a little different from the gentrified city life Annika’s gettin’ accustomed to here. Well, a typical summer day on the farm starts at 4:56 AM when you wake up and shut off your alarm before it rings because as everyone knows a ringing alarm is the worst way to start the day. Incidentally, even if you don’t set an alarm you will still wake up no later than 5:30 because that is always the time you get up. You then go read the Scriptures. After this time of reading and prayer you go get some “starting fluid” (water, orange juice, or for the strong-stomached, V8), and head out the door to begin the day’s work.

At the field this time of year, me and my ever hardworking younger brothers Abel and Hans (note: names are the same but attributes have been changed to protect the guilty), go out the door, grab a hoe, and begin working like David Copperfield, A Christmas Carol, or A Tale of Two Cities (i.e., like the Dickens). (This is one of the attributes that has been changed, never fear!)

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Abel working extremely hard. Notice how he is outstanding in his field.

But it is not all hard work and early mornings. A few years back when Annika was still at home and she did not appreciate something I was doing—I don’t remember what it was, probably something quite annoying as is the wont of little brothers—anyway, she didn’t like it, and next thing I know I was being chased through the cucumber patch with a crazy woman behind me brandishing a large cucumber as a fearful instrument of war. If we are perfectly honest with ourselves, I think Annika could teach Attila and Genghis a few things about striking fear into the heart of the enemy. It is not every woman that can strike mortal terror into the heart of the enemy with a cucumber. But Annika did not always have to use fearsome weapons: she could also strike fear into the heart of her little brothers—or anybody for that matter—with a look that would in the middle of August freeze every lake in Orlando solid.

Fortunately, Annika did not always freeze us solid all the time, and to be perfectly honest with ourselves she is truly a wonderful older sister. When I wasn’t making her mad enough to chase me with my enormous cucumbers, another exciting thing to do was teach Annika how to drive a manual transmission. She practiced and practiced and when she got good enughf we finally let her have whack at driving a manual transmission with a pickup under it. However, she disliked this “beast,” my beloved first vehicle. For some reason, the two inches of mud on the floorboard, the gaping hole in the dash where the radio was supposed to go, or the seat whose only padding was the old jean jacket, gunny sack, and other oddments that the previous owner had stuffed in there left her immune to their endearing charms. In fact, she thought it was treacherous to her just like Brutus to Julius, liable to leave her stranded in the middle of the highway any time she needed to make a left turn. O All of its charms, such as its rugged good looks and perpetual cleanliness were lost on her and she could only see its faults. Alas, thus is life.

Well I have probably driveled on enughf now so I will let you all get back to your lives. I shall leave you with this quote from the great Groucho Marxs “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” Well, have a blessed day, toodles!

Growing Up Is Hard to Do: Becoming an Independent Adult

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Our neighbors here have the most amazing roses. They’re so beautiful.

When you’re young, you think once you hit the magical age of, say, 18 or 21, you automatically become an adult, with adult ideas, responsibilities, and respect.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. There’s no magical age at which you cease to feel like a child and begin to feel all grown up. I sort of suspect that even when I’m in my thirties and forties I’ll still feel some of the same insecurities and childishness I did when I was twelve.

When I was four, I was adept at spotting self-centered adults. Generally, they were the ones who didn’t have any children of their own yet, or the ones who were high on their own importance. They were the ones who told me I couldn’t have a tiny cup of coffee even though I knew my parents let me, or who wouldn’t let us climb four feet in the air on our playhouse because DANGER, or who yelled at us for being kids and talking somewhat loudly in a hallway. They didn’t care to get to know me, to learn that I was, in fact, the world’s most cautious child (and also generally obedient) and would never do anything that was in the least frightening. Getting me to climb four feet in the air was a real feat. Now that I’ve grown up, I think I can manage five–on a good day.

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Of course children need adults in their world, people to give them boundaries and security and love. But with an overbearing culture of adultishness, where adults are always right and children are always wrong, how do we expect these same children to grow up and have opinions and ideas of their own? As a four-year-old, I felt miffed because no one thought that I had ideas or was a person. As a twenty-something today, have I gained the right to personhood yet?

So here are some suggestions for those twenty-somethings (or teenage-somethings) who are hoping to gain their independence, but don’t know how to balance that fine line between respecting authority and making up their own mind.

1. Start making your own decisions about small things. The small things are a great place to start for people who aren’t confident in their decision-making abilities. Decide what books or clothes you’ll buy or when to do your homework and when to hang out with friends. Don’t always rely on your parents or friends to tell you what to do.

2.Don’t always ask advice from people who you know will tell you the same thing. Seek out different viewpoints and ideas, because how can you really grow if you’re hiding behind other people’s opinions? And once you have the advice, it’s up to you to make the decision.

3. Learn to say no to people. This has been a hard one for me, especially, as I don’t like disappointing people. But sometimes you just can’t take on that 32nd violin lesson, even if you DO have an open hour right at that time. So say no if you have to, even if it might make someone sad or upset.

4. Learn to take responsibility for your own decisions. It’s your decision, not your parents’ or your pastor’s or your friends. And if it goes wrong, saying “The parents you gave to me!” in a whiny voice to God doesn’t make you any less culpable for a bad decision, and it’s not any cuter than when Adam first blamed Eve. Of course you should still honor your parents—and respect their ideas. But that doesn’t mean they’re perfect, and it definitely doesn’t mean that they’re still in control of your life once you’re an adult.

5. So, you should transition from asking permission to seeking advice. Parents should become friends instead of authorities, wise people in your life who you seek to learn from instead of people you fear who seek to run your life.

6. Don’t be afraid to make different decisions than other people around you would make, or even than you would have made a few years ago.  Ending up in China was never my original plan–when I got married, nothing was farther from my mind (or from Jared’s mind)–but it’s been a good decision. We’ve met new people, found a whole new culture, and started learning a language. So don’t let fear of the unknown or of public opinion stop you from making a decision.

7. After all, good or bad, decisions have to be made. And what most of us forget (at least I do!) is that doing nothing is also making a decision. Inactivity can be worse than boldly stepping out and taking charge. And who knows–it might just lead you to your same hometown doing what you’ve always dreamed, or it might just lead you to China!

And since there are conveniently seven points,  I’m linking up at This Ain’t the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes this week!

The Day I Almost Became the First Wife

To the Chinese, they say, there are only two countries in the world: China, and America. This bothers the Norwegians to no end, but we have little pity for them.

This hypothesis was borne out the other day when Jared was getting a shoe fixed in a small shop near our apartment. While he was in there, watching the shop owner carefully stitch up his shoe with strong thread, another Chinese man came in and began talking.

“You so strong! You so handsome! You must be an American,” he said.

Jared replied, “Thank you! I am an American.”

“You’re so good-looking,” he intoned again.

“Uh, thanks.” Jared said. “You are a teacher (he asked in Chinese)?”

“Yes,” he replied in English, “I am professor.” But his English wasn’t quite good enough to specify what it was he professed. So he returned to his favorite subject–the attractiveness of my husband.

“You are so good-looking, you can take care of two wifes,” he matter-of-factly stated.

Jared was a little shocked, but managed to croak out, “Uh, thank you, but I’m happy with the one I have.”

“No,” the man insisted, “you can take care of a second lover, one with nice legs, because you’re so handsome.” (No, this was not a comment on the state of my legs–I wasn’t there, and as far as I know the man had no idea if Jared was even married or had a wife!)

Jared was nonplussed by that, and could think of nothing more to say than, “Um, have a nice day!” as he ran away with his newly-fixed shoes. Chinese may admire America more now, but apparently traditional China isn’t dead yet!

All of this seemed particularly reminiscent to us as we’re reading Pearl Buck’s famous book The Good Earth, which tells the story of a Chinese farmer, Wang Lung, in traditional China. He begins poor. But then he gets a wife who up till then had been a slave in a Great House, and who now works beside him in the fields, bears him lots of sons, and makes him rich through her diligence (and talents at acquiring jewels). He then does what every self-respecting wealthy traditional Chinese man would do, and buys himself a second wife, appropriately named Lotus, for she was the human form of the flower: dainty, sweet smelling, useless in the fields, but my, what a sight to behold. Anyway, in the story, once he gets his Lotus, as you can imagine, the First Wife (O-lan) wasn’t very pleased, and his household became a very unhappy place. Wang Lung then forgets about his First Wife and enjoys his flower. Only when O-lan begins to die does he notice her again, but by then it is too late.

So I’m thankful Jared had the moral fortitude to run away from his hypothetical second wife with beautiful legs. He told me he didn’t need another flower–he already had his Rose.

Whither Sex?

Some days you just feel so. . .assaulted by messages from everywhere. Everyone’s obsessed with sex—who’s having it, who’s not having it, who’s complaining about people having it, who’s trying to “stop two loving people” from having it. Can we just say “Enough?!”

All this obsessing about it makes me think that perhaps you’re actually not happy in all your many sexual relationships because you feel the need to shout to the whole world that you’re happy with what you’re doing and it’s really wonderful and OMG everyone should be doing it. You’re not fooling anyone.

Yes, sex is vitally important. It’s so important, in fact, that the survival of the human race depends on it. And that’s a fact that tends to be forgotten in all the hullaballoo. Sex isn’t only something created to fulfill our personal needs. It does do that, and it’s wonderful, but it’s far more than that. And for this very reason, it should not be taken lightly.

Perhaps it’s your body and you’re consenting—but if you happened to create a new life, would you desire to destroy it with your next breath? Then you’re not ready to have sex.

Perhaps you’re overcome with longing for a person and want to express your commitment to them. But you’re not ready to really make that commitment, to say, “I give you my body, my soul, my whole life—I am wholly yours.” If that’s the case, then you’re not ready to have sex.

Sex isn’t just about love, or about consent, or about any of the other things we’re told it’s about (growing up, becoming a man/woman, expressing yourself…you name it, we’ve all seen it). It’s beautiful, and heartbreaking, and vulnerable. And, at its core, it’s about creating life.

That’s why sex belongs only in marriage between a man and a woman. When a man and a woman have sex, they truly become one. They’re not just making love: they’re creating love. And if they happen to be fertile at that time, their love may truly take on the tangible form of a new human life.

That’s why marriage matters. Marriage matters because life matters. If marriage, or sex, is only about two people who love each other blah blah blah, then they’re both meaningless. Go ahead, enjoy your vain life with the girlfriend or boyfriend or wife or husband whom you love all your pointless days on earth. Lots of people love each other all the time and don’t solemnify it. But marriage is different. Where else can you incarnate love?

Not only in having sex, not only in being open to having and raising children, not only in living together through everything—but in combining all those things. Marriage isn’t about any of them separately. It’s when they combine that they make a marriage. In marriage, two people are united, and marriage itself is an expression of their unity, a strong and true commitment.

Sex isn’t just another way to say “I love you.” Nor is it simply a way to provide yourself with a physical good, like, say, eating is. It’s a giving of yourself, a profound, meaningful, and quite ridiculous way to truly become one with another. And for that reason, it can only be completely experienced where it was designed to be experienced–within the confines of marriage.

Gattaca, Sex, and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Warning: somewhat complicated and/or tedious post may follow. I’m no theologian or movie reviewer. Just a crazy blogger.

A few nights ago, since Jared was sick, we watched the movie Gattaca. Made in the 1990s, it’s a sci-fi thriller that starts with the premise that in a few years, DNA will be the promise of the future. Parents will be able to choose what they want their children to look like, whether they will have any heritable diseases, their IQ—pretty much everything about a person can be decided before they’ve even implanted in their mother’s womb (or perhaps they don’t even implant? The movie wasn’t clear).   These people, the ones who are “GMO” people, are “Valid.” Everyone else is “In-Valid.”

The stage is set for some pretty massive and unstoppable discrimination. Everyone has to undergo DNA testing practically every five minutes. People are identified by their DNA instead of their faces, so companies won’t hire you unless you’re a “valid” person. Dating (or courting, if you insist), is reduced to looking at people’s DNA to make sure they were who they said they were. Nothing about personality, character, or even looks—any of the things we value about ourselves and that make us human—is important anymore. Although these “valid” people had longer, healthier lives, they had become less human. They became valued for a collection of traits, not for who they were. Being a person was no longer enough.

Parents had children not because children were a natural outpouring of the union of marriage, a concrete physical expression of their love for each other, but because they wanted a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy who would never get heart disease and would live the life they wished they could have had. People became commodities that you could choose to have, or not, as you wished. And if you chose to have your child the natural way, you could count on him or her being one of the lowest members of society.

What the movie really showed well, though, was the effect this had on the individuals who made up society. They felt undervalued and worthless—even when they were the most highly prized members. All anyone else cared about was what was in their blood. Their hearts and souls—even their intelligence—were suddenly second-rate.

Gattaca may be an extreme example of what happens when sex and children are no longer connected, but the devaluing of human life does happen, even today. We may not see it as that, argue that it isn’t, but it’s still possible to take something good—like marriage or children, and make it suit our own ends.

What happens when we make people into things? This haunting article makes the point clear: when we deny the humanity of others, whether newly-conceived child or fully-grown adult, we deny our own humanity. If they’re not created in the image of God, neither are we.  And suddenly, if a child who isn’t wanted can be killed, can’t we exercise that same right to “choose” the life of a grown person who annoys us or gets in the way of our life?

Just as we can’t choose to remove people when they stand in our way, we can’t add people when we want them there. Human life—all human life—is sacred.  People have dignity. And this sacredness, this dignity, invades all aspects of our lives, even the seemingly pointless ones. It makes sex not simply about pleasure. It makes marriage not simply about two people. It makes childbearing not simply about the mother, and child-rearing not simply about the child. We can’t deny it, and we can’t get rid of it (though some certainly have tried!).

We can’t reduce people to what they can do for us. It would be folly to choose a husband or wife based on the deliciousness of their chocolate chip cookies, and it’s still folly to choose on the basis of how you feel around them. It’s folly to stay away from marriage because you fear it, but it’s folly to get married because you fear being single. We shouldn’t have children because they can do what we failed to do, or because they can fill a hole in our aching hearts. Children—or any blessings, really—are not ours to command. Just as I don’t believe it’s a “woman’s right” to be able to kill a child whom she has conceived, I don’t believe it’s her right to demand a child when she wants one. Yahweh gives, and Yahweh takes away; blessed be the name of Yahweh.

Obviously I’m not qualified to tell you how to live your life and what specific things you should or shouldn’t do.  So I’ll leave you with a bit of advice from the immortal Shakespeare (did I tell you I’ve watched Much Ado About Nothing five times in the last week? I could practically quote it by heart now). Keep in mind that the middle bit is particularly important: “Serve God, love me, and mend [your ways].”

Have you watched the movie Gattaca? What are your thoughts on GMO people? Are humans inherently dignified, or is that merely a cultural construct that needs to go away?

Christmas with Chopsticks

You wonder what it will be like to have Christmas in China. And then it comes, and it doesn’t feel very Christmas-y. It’s hard to celebrate without family.

You set up your Christmas tree a few days ahead of time, getting it decorated by Christmas eve.

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Who says stockings can’t hang over the Great Wall?

You get out your favorite Captain America sweater and put it on, trying to conjure up memories of home and see how American you can be.

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Actually, it was a gift from some of our fellow expats.

And when all that fails to summon the magical spirit of Christmas, you turn to the old tried-and-true: cooking.

Cinnamon rolls, Christmas cookies, apple pies–food always makes you feel festive!

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Mmmm . . .

But the best way you know to celebrate Christmas is with friends. So of course you stuff your tiny apartment with as many people as it can hold, and rejoice together over the sugar-cookie dough and the eggnog.

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And you find creative ways to make pretty cookies even without cookie cutters.

You find that working together with friends is one of the best ways to feel that sense of community that you generally find with family in the place you grew up, as talk and laughter fill your already full kitchen.

 

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Everybody loves Christmas cookies.

And then, when the cookies are done, and all the food’s ready, you sit down and eat together, and talk about everything you can think of together. But before you do that, you have to take the mandatory picture to document everyone who came and all the food you’re about to eat before it disappears.

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Not as much food as for Thanksgiving, but it was still good.
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And since you want a picture of your BEAUTIFUL hostess. . . (in which her head takes up half of the picture)

And after all this, you read the Christmas story and explain it to people who have possibly never heard it before. Then you sing Christmas carols and everyone knows “Silent Night,” and nobody knows “Joy to the World,” and of course they’re very happy when you play your violin for them.

And you decide that this may, after all, be one of the best ways to celebrate Christmas.

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night! (It’s still only the third or fourth day of Christmas, depending on where you are, so I’m justified in saying that).

An Open Letter to the Recently Engaged

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Pretty much what our entire engagement looked like, when we weren’t in two different states.

And since I mean everyone (there have been at least seven engagements in the past three weeks), I thought I’d just post it here.

Dear newly-engaged-people,

I’m not sure I ever really said congratulations on your news, so I’ll say it now, even though you’re probably ready to tell the next person who says it to you to go jump in a lake. Don’t worry–the well-wishes die down after about a year of marriage. Though they’ll probably start again around the time you have your first child or so, though I’m not an expert at THAT phase of life just yet. So anyways, congratulations!

I’m happy for you both as you start this next phase of your life together, and I hope you’ll be able to keep your sanity together as you finish your next semester of school, plan a wedding, and plan a life together. Engagement is a hard time of life (or at least it was for me), since you’re transitioning from one life to another and don’t really belong in either anymore. I think the best word to describe it is tension, because you’re being pulled by your old familiar life as a daughter and a sister and a friend, and you want to keep those relationships, of course. But at the same time, you are starting a new relationship and defining yourself in a new way in relation to a new person, which means you have to grow immensely in ways you never imagined you would.

I don’t know whether you spent much time daydreaming when you were younger about what it would be like to be engaged or married–but it’s not really much like the daydreams. Of course there are those thrilling moments, but then there are a lot more moments of just life, when you have a headache and school to do and you wish he would just go away and let you do it, or when you have to talk, again, about mundane details of your wedding that you really don’t care about but SOMEONE has to think about them.

Sometimes you’ll get tired of kissing and always wanting physical affection–and sometimes you’ll long for it but will be far apart (though not SO far apart for you two as it was for Jared and me!). And always there will be a core of dissonance at the center of your being as the thing which you’re preparing for is not what you are now.

It’s times like these that enable God to show us what his kingdom will be like and what we, here on earth, are supposed to feel as we prepare for heaven. It’s times like these that make “the bride of Christ” such a powerful image, as you, preparing to be an earthly bride, more fully know what the longing for another person, for no longer being single, is.  Don’t lose sight of that understanding.

I love you, dear friend, and I’m excited to share in this new season of life with you, even though I’m far away. Stay strong!

Your friend,

Annika