February: News, Thanks and Prayers

With Grandpa

News and Dates:

  • February 13-29: Dahlstroms in Virginia Beach
  • February 18: Dessert with the Dahlstroms at Ken and Delena Poe’s house

We’re Thankful For:

  • Snow that makes life both beautiful and complicated up here at Snoqualmie Pass. Thankful for safety while traveling and the glory of winter here in the mountains.
  • Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) at Bethany Community Church, which has been a great support to Kristi in these first months of being a mother.
  • Sleep, which after a more than a few sleepless nights is growing more and more plentiful as Luci nears three months.
  • Financial supporters and the encouragement they are to us as we begin to focus on raising additional support in this second half of our HMA year.

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Travel. Pray for us as we travel to Virginia Beach later this month, for smooth travel as we fly with Luci for the first time. Pray that the time in Virginia is rich and valuable, and that God would direct us to the right places, people and conversations as we seek to raise support to return to Germany in June.
  • Financial Support. We continue to pray for new monthly supporters to come alongside us in ministry. Our goal for returning to Germany in June 2016 is $5000 in monthly support, which will cover the added living expenses of our growing family. If you are interested in supporting us financially, please visit our Getting Involved page, or find our online giving page with TeachBeyond.

We continue to be incredibly grateful for the friends, family and churches that have come alongside us in ministry over the past several years. Please let us know if there are ways that we can be praying for you, or if you have any questions about what’s going on in our lives these days.

Peace in Christ,

Timmy & Kristi Dahlstrom

Why Give?

With our return to Germany set for five months from today, we are working to raise about $1200 in additional monthly support before then. We are incredibly grateful for those of you who have been supporting us financially for years; our ministry truly hinges on your partnership. As we look ahead to the future, we are excited for this opportunity to bring new supporters into this ministry at Black Forest Academy.

So who should support this ministry? While there are many reasons we are passionate about serving students at Black Forest Academy, we love to partner with those who are excited about education, young people or overseas missions.

Passion for Education

DebateAs a premier Christian international school in the region, BFA offers a quality education, building a solid foundation for young people from which to become learners and leaders in the world. Since all of the staff and faculty are support-based missionaries, your support allows the school to offer this education to the children of missionaries at a fraction of the cost of other international schools.

Passion for Young People

Winter Retreat 2013The students of BFA often come from mission backgrounds, but most arrive at school at a critical point in their learning and faith development. Many are pursuing a relationship with Christ as they make the transition from childhood to adulthood, and the staff of BFA are privileged to stand in the role of mentors and role models on this journey to maturity. Through the gifts of financial supporters, we have been able to invest in the lives of extraordinary young people as they seek answers about their lives and the world around them.

Passion for Overseas Missions

Central AsiaThe majority of students at BFA are the children of missionaries serving around the Eastern Hemisphere. With especially concentrated populations serving in ministry in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Central and East Asia, BFA facilitates global missions by providing for the educational needs of families serving in these places. Many of our students tell us that their families would have had to leave missions entirely if not for the education and community available at BFA. Supporting us as we serve at BFA in turn supports mission work in over 60 countries around the world!

We love being able to share the work that God is doing with education, young people and in missions worldwide through Black Forest Academy. Please pray about getting involved in this great work and joining our support team for the coming year. If you have questions about our work in Germany, feel free to email me at kristi.dahlstrom@gmail.com.

Choosing Morning

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103:1-5

It’s about 8:30 AM when I decide that it’s morning. Decide, because the definition of morning that I’ve followed for most of my life–the time when I wake up and then need to start the day–doesn’t apply at the moment. The truth is, I wake up often, between three and… one thousand times during the night. Not all of those times are morning. And they’re certainly not all times to get up and begin the business of living in the world.

Upstairs, Timmy has been awake for hours, genially building a fire, making coffee and playing with Luci so I can sleep a bit more. I married a good man, I think, and then I look out the window, which looks like this:

Our bedroom window.

Our bedroom window.

No we haven’t moved into a basement. My parents’ house in the mountains, where we’re living this year, has two floors. Upstairs there are three small bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen. Downstairs is Grandma’s apartment, and our large bedroom. Downstairs there’s also about seven feet of snow on the ground outside, so our windows are rather obscured, further blurring the lines between day and night. A bit of daylight that trickles down the sloping bank, but from where I sit there is nothing else to see. Just a wall of blue-grey snow.

I think sleepily of the verses I read sometime last night, verses from the Book of Common Prayer’s Daily Office. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not his benefits. These benefits, the psalmist goes on to list: forgiveness, healing, redemption, honor and youth-renewing goodness. I think about how easy it is to forget such blessings, especially ones like forgiveness and redemption, the latent goodness we enjoy as a result of Christ’s sacrifice. Wishing for a bit more sleep, I’m forgetting the weight of goodness that awaits me each new morning.

Timmy brings Luci in now to eat breakfast, so I draw this warm, cooing little person close to me. She looks up at me, eyes wide awake, questioning my sleepy ones, then cranes her neck toward the light, a good day-dweller already. …Who satisfies you with good. This, I think, is good. Good that more than satisfies.

The upstairs windows bring new meaning to the glib command to “Get some perspective.” I never understood it until now, when I climb the stairs and look out of the second-floor windows onto the world. From here there are dark-green trees dressed in white, sharp walls of snow lining the road, and austere, wintry forests all around. Light snow falls from light-grey sky, and it’s morning. Real, genuine morning, and I almost missed it.

The front window upstairs

The front window upstairs

Choosing morning–both the real and the metaphor–takes effort. It can be tempting to squeeze my eyes shut on challenges, blind to the places of beauty in the midst of struggle.

It’s just as tempting to stay in the igloo-room, trying for more sleep, extending the night. There’s a time for sleep, yes, but this isn’t it. Coming upstairs means getting dressed, giving up on the night. But here, looking out of a better window on a lovely day, holding my wide-eyed daughter, I realize that the morning is worth it. Upstairs is worth it. This is the day, reads another recent Daily Office selection, that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice, and be glad in it!

And I rejoice in the noisy room, the coffee, the crisp mountain view and the family that awaits on this God-made day, sweet and new and waiting for me.

January: News, Thanks and Prayers

 

Christmas morning with the Dahlstrom family!

Christmas morning with the Dahlstrom family!

News and Dates:

  • Luci is healthy and growing! At six weeks old, she’s gaining weight and length, changing every day. Such a joy to watch this little girl grow!

We’re Thankful For:

  • Holiday visits from family and friends. So thankful for the many people who have made the trek to the mountains in the last six weeks to visit us and our new baby girl.
  • Heat and food during a four-day power outage and winter storm from December 21-25. We were so thankful for our home and my mom, who cooked amazing food on a camp stove, during this adventure.
  • Snow, all seven feet of it, which has reached Snoqualmie Pass. It makes driving an adventure, but we love living in a winter wonderland!

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Health. Pray for continued health for our family through cold and flu season, especially as we navigate the less-than-usual sleep of life with a newborn.
  • Financial Support. We continue to pray for new monthly supporters to come alongside us in ministry. Our goal for returning to Germany in June 2016 is $5000 in monthly support, which will cover the added living expenses of our growing family. If you are interested in supporting us financially, please visit our Getting Involved page, or find our online giving page with TeachBeyond.

In this season of family and gratitude, we have been overwhelmed by the incredible network of support and encouragement that God has built for us, stretching across continents and into all areas of our lives. Please let us know if there are ways that we can be praying for you, or if you have any questions about what’s going on in our lives these days.

Peace in Christ,

Kristi & Timmy

How The Storm Tried To Steal Christmas

I’ve been trying to get around to writing about our candlelit Christmas for a bit now. Oddly, it’s not easy to set aside time for writing (or even thinking, sometimes), with a wriggly six-week-old as a loud and pleasant constant companion. I’m tempted to write in metaphor, some bit about light and darkness that would be profound and not so unflattering to me, but there’s a nagging conviction that I should be more honest about my experience. Anyway, my father’s already written that post here. Read his, read mine, and a belated Merry Christmas to all!

Christmas morning eggs, prepared on the back porch. Photo: Richard Dahlstrom

Christmas morning eggs, prepared on the back porch.
Photo: Richard Dahlstrom

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.

from “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”, by Dr. Seuss

Christmas Day, 1:15 AM. Luci and I are startled awake in Grandma’s living room, where we’ve been sleeping in front of the gas fireplace because it’s warmer than our bedroom. The house, so quiet for three days without electricity, is suddenly alive with noises. The refrigerator hums complacently, white lights wink at us from the Christmas tree, and the washing machine, halted in the middle of a spin cycle, roars to life.

“It’s a Christmas miracle!” I exclaim aloud, since we weren’t predicted to have power again for almost 48 hours. Upstairs, I hear my parents plugging in phones and removing “The Muppet Christmas Carol” from where it was trapped in the DVD player, while Timmy turns the heater back on in our frigid, snowbound bedroom. Ten minutes later everything blinks off again. Oh, never mind.

The falsely restored electricity is just the most recent in a long string of challenges this week. Yes, the power shut off on Monday night (it’s now Friday morning), plunging our rural street into darkness from 4:00 PM to 8:00 AM each day. But we’d already received four feet of snow in as many days at that point, and we’d get three feet more by the time Christmas arrived. This means that the freeway, the main artery between the eastern and western halves of our state, has been intermittently closed, including all day Christmas Eve. So no Christmas shopping, no candlelight service in Seattle. I’m surprised to realized that these things matter to me at all, but they do. I’m sure I’m not alone in remarking that Christmas, meant to be a time of joyously celebrating our Savior’s birth, has taken on layers of extra expectations over the years, and mine have been thwarted this week.

Indeed, I’m a little disturbed by the extent to which the lack of electricity bothers me. Friends guess that this must be difficult with a newborn baby. Not really. Luci goes to sleep when it gets dark, and her most pressing problem is that the ceiling fan, which she loves, is no longer spinning. No, I want to say, this is difficult for me! I can’t bake cookies or cinnamon rolls! I can’t listen to Christmas music! Even the Christmas tree isn’t on! I modify Amy’s lament from Little Women for myself: Christmas isn’t Christmas without electricity.

All of this, of course, is somewhat petty nonsense. I’m reminded of one childhood Christmas, when my siblings and visiting cousins all received giant plush toys–bears and tigers and alligators–while I received a porcelain music box. My grandmother apparently believed that I, at the age of eight or nine, was enough of a grown-up young lady to enjoy something strictly ornamental. No such luck. I was petulant, dissatisfied in a way that still embarrasses me slightly. Unable to appreciate the gift I’d been given, I stomped my feet and wished for what everyone else had, a stuffed animal of my own to play with.

The irony is that Advent itself is a time of expectation, but I’ve taken to expecting the wrong things. Each year we set aside this season to dwell in joyous waiting for Christ’s birth, remembering the beauty of hope fulfilled in Him. This expectation–unlike my constant refreshing of the power company’s estimated power restoration time–doesn’t disappoint. Thank God, quite literally, for a better reason to celebrate than special food, special music, a special tree.

Luci and I, enjoying her first Christmas morning. Photo: Richard Dahlstrom

Luci and I, enjoying her first Christmas morning.
Photo: Richard Dahlstrom

Christmas morning, in the blue-glowing light of day, is a different gift this year, but a gift all the same, which chastens my complaining with its uncomplicated magnificence. Dad makes sausage and eggs on the camp stove on the back porch, while my mother builds a fire. Timmy, Luci and I snuggle under blankets on the couch and look not at the dark tree, but out to the gloriously snowy new world that our street has become. Holly and her fiance, Chris, drive up around lunchtime, and we share a day of laughter and rest. Holly plays her new ukulele and we sing Christmas carols.

Later we gather around the table, eating barbecued chicken thawed from the freezer, and to talk and feast in the candlelight. It is quiet and lovely, rich in the gifts of family and rest. It is Christmas, not stolen by a storm and several dozen snapped power lines. We are rich in love, warm and safe, and infinitely thankful this Christmas Day for the gifts we enjoy, and the God who gave us all of this and the ultimate gift of His son, born for us.

Candlelit Christmas dinner. Photo: Richard Dahlstrom

Candlelit Christmas dinner.
Photo: Richard Dahlstrom

Miraculous & Mundane

Luci examines her first Christmas tree. She might think that trees just belong in the house.

No matter how far along our spiritual pilgrimage we may have come, we need to be shown time after time that humble ordinary things can be very holy, very full of God. We may hope for vision and revelations and wonderful experiences, forgetting that the context of the revelation of God to each one of us is, exactly where we are–here on earth, in this house, this room, this work, this family, this physical body.

Elizabeth Elliot, The Music of His Promises

“How is–?”

This is the beginning of every inquiry lately, as excited friends and family grasp for the appropriate finish to the broad question. How is life? How are you? How is everything?

Everything. As if everyone is aware of the fundamental sea change that’s shaken up our lives for the better, a hurricane in the shape of a tiny little girl who is in love with her own tiny hands and as I write this follows the swirling of the ceiling fan with round grey eyes.

Friends ask for stories from these days, and I realize that with a few exceptions I can tell them the story of every day. Some days we Go Places (capital-letters standing in for the serious quest presented by a trip to the doctor and Target), but most days go like this:

We wake up. Feed Luci. Change Luci. Dress Luci. Talk with family. Feed Luci. Change Luci. Take pictures of Luci. Eat breakfast, lunch, dinner. Read a story together.Feed Luci. Change Luci. Go to bed early. Try to coax our daughter to sleep through the dark hours of night. Eventually succeed and sleep a little. Feed Luci. Change Luci. Wake up again.

I realize the danger of simple sentences, written not spoken. From the outside, this day sounds at best dull, at worst cold and lifeless. A few modifiers would give it texture, no doubt, but there’s no escaping the cyclical nature of these days, Luci’s first in the world and our first as parents. Nor should there be.

If I were counting minutes, I’m sure I’d be amazed at the sheer amount of time that I spend feeding my daughter, or that Timmy spends bouncing her to cooing contentedness. Then there are the hours we spend just watching her, marveling at the way five expressions can pass over her face in a minute, going from pleased to curious to frustrated with remarkable smoothness. This is perfect. It doesn’t matter that it takes me three times as long to finish writing a blog, with breaks to eat and play on the floor with my daughter. This gift of timelessness is exactly how it should be. Our lives lately are an extravagant collection of moments mundane and miraculous.

(Mundane, I know, is a loaded term, conveying images of endless school lectures or days confined to alphabetizing files. Here, though, I return to its original meaning–earthly–rejecting the modern use as a synonym for boring. These days are earthly, connected to the incarnate realities of eating, sleeping and growing.)

The mundane of knowing that everyone was born, was a baby, has lived through these days of eating, sleeping and discovering. The miracle of knowing that everyone–even the seven-foot BFA alumnus who I saw a few weeks ago–started out in miniature, folded origami-style into someone else.The mundane of new rituals–diapers, nursing, bouncing, tiny clothes–repeated on an infinite loop. The miracle of knowing that everything she sees is new, fresh and exciting, just as she is to us, a whole and lovely little person we’re just getting to know.

To be a new mother during Advent is to appreciate, in a profound way, that Christ’s coming is this same balance of miraculous and mundane. The miracles of a virgin birth, an astronomical birth announcement, an angelic chorus welcome. The mundanity of infancy, with its deeply physical rituals and vulnerabilities. Our Savior could have come another way, maybe, with the pomp and circumstance due the Son of God, but instead He was born, like all of us, connecting Himself to the humanity He’d come for. The miracles remind us of His infinite divinity, but the mundane moments of His early life, especially, remind us that He is one of us, a man among humanity.

And like the sunset I take a hundred pictures of with growing amazement, neither Christ’s coming nor Luci’s ever-changing face are losing their luster. I can look at this smile a million times and fall deeper in love every day. And no matter how many Christmases roll around, I’ll still find beauty and wonder in the loving nearness of Christ’s birth, both humble and grand, miraculous and mundane.

December: News, Thanks and Prayers

We were so happy to have this marvelous group of BFA alumni come visit us last week!

We were so happy to have this marvelous group of BFA alumni come visit us last week!

News and Dates:

  • December 3-13: Luci’s Grammy Carol comes to visit!
  • For those who didn’t get our email last week, due to a hack on a government server containing Timmy’s personal information we will be using the last name Dahlstrom for all future communication in connection with ministry. This allows us to protect not only our own identities, but also those we work with who serve “under cover” teaching the Gospel overseas. For more information, read our most recent email here.

We’re Thankful For:

  • Luciana Ruth Dahlstrom, our little girl, who was born on November 21, 2015. We are delighting in the time we can spend getting to know her, and praising God for a smooth delivery and a healthy baby girl.
  • Emily Kelly, our dear friend and former BFA co-worker, who served as our unofficial doula during Luci’s birth. We couldn’t have done it without you, Emily!
  • Time to learn how to be parents. We are daily conscious of the gift from God–and the support from around the world–that allows us to spend this season becoming a family, and we couldn’t be more thankful.
  • Family that surrounds us here in Washington. We are overwhelmed by the gift of getting to spend the holiday season with our our family for the first time in years.
  • BFA Alumni, Class of 2013, who came to visit us the day after Thanksgiving. It was such an encouragement to hear what God is doing in their lives now, and an incredible blessing that they were able to come from all over North America to celebrate Thanksgiving together with the Leavitt family.

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Rest. Pray that in the busyness of the Christmas season, and the sleepless sweetness of new parenting, we find and take the time for rest and reflection on the miracle of Christ’s birth.
  • Travel PlansWe are in the process of applying for documents for Luci so that we can travel in early 2016. Pray for smooth and speedy processing!
  • Financial Support. We continue to pray for new monthly supporters to come alongside us in ministry. Our goal for returning to Germany in June 2016 is $5000 in monthly support, which will cover the added living expenses of our growing family. If you are interested in supporting us financially, please visit our Getting Involved page, or find our online giving page with TeachBeyond.

In this season of family and gratitude, we are so sweetly aware of the incredible network of support and encouragement that God has built for us, stretching across continents and into all areas of our lives. Please let us know if there are ways that we can be praying for you, or if you have any questions about what’s going on in our lives these days. We wish you a blessed and restful season of Advent.

Peace in Christ,

Kristi & Timmy

Hands and Voices

Family After the months
of his pursuit of her, now
they meet face to face.
From the beginnings of the world
his arrival and her welcome
have been prepared. They have always
known each other.

Wendell Berry, from “Her First Calf”

Needle-sharp stars in a black-ice sky. Snow crunching underfoot, clinging to branches that glow grey in the half-moonlight. It’s a night for walking in Robert Frost’s woods, dark and deep, but we won’t be. Like the speaker, I too have miles to go. Tonight, precisely 36 miles, down the dark freeway to the hospital.

LaborAs Timmy drives I watch the green mile markers pass, listen to Sufjan Stevens sing lighthearted Christmas songs into the night. I breathe through each contraction, trying not to worry about their frequency or length. I remind myself, again and again, that this is the design. I’m made for this. It’s supposed to be like this. Don’t worry. At the end of this, our daughter will be born,

Will be born. Such a passive phrase, as if babies materialize magically and quietly into hospitals, delivered like extra gauze or meals on trays. But to state it otherwise–where I’ll deliver my daughter–seems just as wrong. I’m no Moses of childbirth; it will take many people to deliver this one small person into the world, not just me.

A long time ago, I remember watching a TV movie in which a woman gives birth alone, in a cabin in Alaska, sometime in the early half of the last century. Why she was alone escapes me now, but as we drive I think about that fictional woman, who labored in solitude in a wild place, who bit down on a leather strap at the height of the pain and pushed her baby out and then caught him herself. He lived, she lived, they all lived happily ever after.

LuciUnassisted, we’d call the birth now, and we’d idealize it as evidence that women are fiercely powerful, that we can prevail over even the toughest moment that biology hands us without an ounce of help from anyone. We’re just that strong.

Maybe some earlier version of me would have found the Alaska movie awe-provoking, for certainly there’s truth to the notion that childbirth is both marvelous and ancient, old as humanity and just as common. Yet while I love a good girl-power moment as much as anyone, that’s not my story. I can identify with her pain, but I don’t envy her solitude. Not even a little bit. Because apart from our baby girl herself, emerging wet and wailing at the end of it all, what I’ll remember most about her delivery has little to do with me. I was very much not alone, and it’s those who surrounded me that I’ll remember forever.

Their hands. My husband’s, gently untangling my forehead with each contraction. My mother’s, resting on my head, the way it must have a thousand other sleepless nights. A dear friend, Emily’s, busy doing whatever needs to be done, waving a fan or massaging a foot, or taking the beautiful photos she’d later make into an album for us. My daughter’s, wrapping her fingers firmly around one of mine.

EmilyTheir voices. Timmy’s reminding me to relax, reminding me that he loves me, reminding me I’m safe. Mom’s telling me she’s proud of me. Dad’s choked with tears as Luci opens her eyes for the first time. Luci’s giving the reassuring wail to announce her arrival into the world.

Hands and voices surrounding us, this tiny girl and me. And through the sharp, sweet joy of afterwards, with bright sunlight pouring over the mountains through the windows, I’ll remember those things the most. Not the pain, which has already melted into a dull ache of distant memory. Not the power or triumph of my body doing exactly what it was made to do. Just the sweetly humbling realization that at every step it was their hands, their voices, that brought us through the night, delivering Luciana, our little light, into the dawn.

Candles and Community

The top of the wood stove is perfect for making quesadillas!

The top of the wood stove is perfect for making quesadillas!

The house is cold at dawn.

I wake and build the fires.

The ground is white with snow.

from “IV,” Wendell Berry

On the night our daughter is supposed to be born (the “supposed to” determined by an oh-so-precise countdown that started way back in February), we have no electricity at Snoqualmie Pass. We’re actually more than 24 hours into a power outage, since yesterday saw one of the more vicious storms in memory, a storm that took away not only our lights, but those of over 300,000 others in our region.

Yesterday we sat inside and prayed that we wouldn’t have to drive through the tree-felling, road-saturating tempest, 35 miles “down the mountain” to the hospital. Today calm, grey light reflects off of new snow and brightens our house during the daytime. Except for the lack of hot water and Internet, and the pitifully room-temperature refrigerator, we’re not so bothered by the lack of power in the daytime.

Night is different. It gets dark at 4:30 PM these days, so at four I leave behind the Wendell Berry I was reading by the dusk in the window, and light a fire and half a dozen lanterns. My mother arrives a few minutes later with pots of soup from Grandma’s apartment downstairs, where they’d been thawing on top of her stove. She sets them now on the flat top of our wood stove to boil, while Timmy goes to the back deck to grill sausages.

At five, two neighbors arrive, stamping snow off their boots downstairs and then crowing delightedly at the warmth that our stove has provided. One shares harrowing tales of his own house, where it’s 53˚ F inside and his dog and cat sleep with him under the covers. “So warm!” he marvels, stretching out his hands over the glowing orange door of the stove. While we wait for the soup, we nibble on pretzels re-toasted on the barbecue, swap stories of the last two dark days and forecasts of when we’ll return to the 21st century. They spy me, still roundly bulky in the candlelight, and advise that I should “just relax. Babies come when they want to. Just be relaxed, Kristi.”

The truth is, I am relaxed, at rest as we break bread (and soup and sausages) with our neighbors, basking in the familiar warmth of community. Somehow, without my expecting or inviting it, community became a theme of the last five years. Though the process has been gradual, I’m amazed when I remember the studiously reserved and self-sufficient teacher that left the Pacific Northwest in the summer of 2010. I could take care of myself, I thought then, and I was happy to do so for as long as was necessary. Community–the village life that I skirted by being comparatively wealthy and urban–was undoubtedly difficult. It meant sharing life with people different than I, meant depending on some of those people for more than amusement.

And then I became a missionary, connected by relational and financial bonds to a wide range of people, all around the world. I moved to a literal village, where I lived without a car and had to rely on others for rides to the airport and hospital. I ran into my students and coworkers around every corner, and realized that even if I thought of myself as an island, no amount of self-reliance could make it so. So I joined a choir and a women’s Bible Study, and dared to date and marry my husband in full view of my village. Our home became a gathering place, where we shared meals like this candlelit one. I never expected it, this extravagant community, but I needed it. We all do.

It's also ideal for pancake-making!

It’s also ideal for pancake-making!

This little mountain road, flanked with snow and just a few houses, is a new village. I’m still learning community, this time from my parents, who are the kind of people who clean out their refrigerator (and freezer!) and invite the neighbors over for an impromptu candlelit dinner. I feel fortunate to be here, amazed and delighted that this will be Luci’s first home.

Our culture is an individual one, where it’s easy to long for space or independence, financial security or the peculiar brand of “I can do it myself” that defined my early twenties. And then the power goes out and our batteries die, and around a glowing table laden with soup, sausage and bread we share stories and laughter, brightening the early dark.

Weight, Wait

Ponderously pregnant at 39 weeks (and 3 days!), posing with future Aunt Holly

I’m a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.

from “Metaphors,” Sylvia Plath

It’s one of those poems that I have almost memorized by accident, Plath’s “Metaphors,” a “riddle in nine syllables” I’ve set to many classes of eleventh graders. “What is she talking about?” I’ll ask them, and then sit back to watch their too-cool faces screw up into concentration, as if these exaggerated frowns and squints will somehow figure it out for them. It’s a lesson in metaphors, in tone, in scansion. Someone will interpret a metaphor, someone else will count the nine syllables and nine lines, a perfect square of a poem. If circumstances become desperate, I’ll draw the “melon strolling on two tendrils”–a droll, cartoonish image–on the white board, and let them interpret it. It’s all such fun, and eventually someone has an epiphany.

“She’s pregnant!” he’ll cry confidently, only seconds later starting to doubt. “I mean, right?”

Yet though I’ve taught it dozens of times, I’ve only lived it this once, and I identify more than I thought I would. Not with the last few lines, where the tone shifts from ambivalence (“a means, a stage, a cow in calf”) to dread (“Boarded the train there’s no getting off.”), but to the first few amusing images: the melon, the elephant, the house.

It’s the “ponderous house” that resonates now, just a few days before my daughter’s due date. That word, ponderous, means “heavy and clumsy,” but also faintly echoes its sibling, ponder, both descended a Latin word for “weight.” (This Latin root also gives us pound… I could follow words all day.) How appropriate both are at the moment, when I’m feeling both literally heavy and clumsy, but also thoughtful, prone to pondering the nature of the world I inhabit and compare it to her tiny world, this “house” I’ve become for her these last few months.

We’re waiting for snow up here at Snoqualmie Pass, a maddeningly too-low place where the temperature hovers at 33˚ F, and we alternate between rain and snow daily in this late-autumn season. Everything that can change or die has done so, leaving the forest a familiar dark-green and light-brown, waiting for winter’s transformation. Possibly snow tonight, the weather report says. Probably Monday. Rain again Tuesday. 10 inches of snow Wednesday. We’ll see.

So I find myself again identifying with a forest, as I did six months ago in the Black Forest of southwestern Germany. Then we were waiting, the forest and I, for green-leafed spring and the internal and external signs of life after a tiring first trimester of pregnancy. Now we’re waiting for new seasons. For the clean, cold monochrome of winter, for the sleepless love of new parenting. For this little person I’ve gotten to know by touch to introduce herself to my other senses, and to everyone else. We wait, sometimes patiently, for snow and for her.

I know I’m not the only one waiting, and feel fortunate to have the joy of waiting for something so beautiful. The events of the last 24 hours–Paris filled with terror, death and loss–remind me that we’re all still waiting for peace. Across the world, I have students who cross daily from Germany back to France, the country they call home, and others who’ve spent portions of their childhoods in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, and now watch those places crumbling behind them. And millions of people I don’t know but have seen in countless photos, still walk and sail north and west, fleeing war and devastation, searching for home and safety. We’re waiting. For joy, for peace, for hope. For light.

Advent begins soon, another season of waiting. Never has the prophet Isaiah seemed more accurate, his promises more hopeful. Because we are a people walking in darkness, and we have seen a great light. A light that’s already conquered the darkness, though we can’t always tell. We wait expectantly for a Savior who’s already come, who reminds us that He brings peace on earth, good will toward men.

The snow will fall eventually, and sometime between now and the end of November, Luci will make her appearance. And we’re waiting, all of us, for the light, confident in the strength and love of our Savior.