Posts Tagged Christmas

An Expectant Mother’s View on Advent

It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is just a week away. Since Thanksgiving is so late this year, that means the Advent season is quickly approaching too. This year, at 36–almost 37–weeks pregnant, I am viewing advent from a different perspective. Mary, Jesus’ mother, was at the same stage of pregnancy I am right now waiting for her baby boy to be born. I imagine as a first-time mom, Mary would’ve felt much of what I’m feeling right now: anxious and nervous about labor and delivery (because of not knowing what to expect), wondering when I might go into labor, excitement about being able to meet my son soon, wondering how being a parent will change my life and if I’ll be good at it, etc.

Advent is about waiting expectantly. At Christmas, we’re waiting expectantly for Christ to be born. Now that He has already come and gone back to be with the Father, today we are waiting expectantly for Christ to return at the Second Coming. I think being nine months pregnant gives you a great sense of how we should feel about longing and waiting for Christ’s return. I’m longing for this baby to be born (although somewhat reluctantly sometimes when I think of the pain I’m going to have to endure for him to get here) and I’m ready to not be pregnant anymore. I know the baby can come at almost any time at this point, but I still feel like I have so much to do before he gets here. I need to finish putting baby things away, get a few more baby things that we need, get the car seat inspected in my car, finish up things at work before maternity leave (mostly trying to work ahead), etc. I’m trying to prepare as best I can for baby’s arrival, but I also know he can come before I even get to do some of these things. So in the meantime, I’m actively waiting by doing things to prepare for whenever he gets here.

Similarly, we don’t know when Christ will return and we may feel like there are so many things we want to get done before He arrives (like getting married, having kids, traveling, experiencing life the way you want, sharing the Gospel with those who haven’t heard–hopefully this last one should be more of a priority–etc). Jesus may come back before any of these things happen, so we need to be prepared too by actively waiting for Him and focusing on the things that matter most in eternity. We should be living in a way that is actively preparing ourselves for Christ’s arrival on this earth. I know I don’t generally think in these terms or live with this in mind, but I want to have that kind of focus.

To help me with this, I’m going to be reading through Ann Voskamp‘s The Greatest Gift, this December. It’s a beautiful little book published by Tyndale that traces and celebrates the lineage of Jesus while pointing to the coming promise of Christ. {For full disclosure, I do work for Tyndale, but was not required to post about this book. I’m just personally excited to use it!} I’m not sure how well I’ll be able to keep up with the readings once Baby Stroud is born, but I’m going to try to keep up as I can.

Ann actually did a great webcast today with Liz Curtis Higgs as they both spoke about remembering the true meaning of Christmas. You can watch the entire “Christmas at the Farm” webcast on-demand and I’d encourage you to do so!

So as I’m patiently waiting for Baby Stroud to arrive (still patient right now…if I go past my due date, that may be another story), I hope I can take these feelings of waiting, anticipation, and even anxiety and allow them to remind me that I’m also waiting for my Savior’s return, which should be even more exciting and highly anticipated. May that reminder help me to refocus my attention on what is most important this Christmas season.

Do you do anything special for Advent to focus on the true meaning of Christmas? 

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Birthday Weekend Recap

From my first b-day celebration on Dec. 1 at Buca di Beppo

From my first b-day celebration on Dec. 1 at Buca di Beppo & then Liquid Fusion

Last weekend I celebrated my birthday, but I’m finally getting around to writing about it. I can’t believe how close 30 is getting! That doesn’t even seem possible to me. I know 30 isn’t that old, but I’ll be a little sad to leave my 20’s–this is the decade of transition and where everything big seems to happen (graduation from college, new jobs, marriage, etc.) Maybe the fact that I can still pass for being in high school (this happened not too long ago…like a few months ago) contributes to my disbelief that I’m getting older. I’ll be grateful for this youthful appearance one day (being petite doesn’t help me), but at this stage in my life, I don’t necessarily want to look older; I just want to look my age. (Sorry, side rant).

Speaking of being older, I got to spend my birthday weekend still dealing with shingles. Yes, you can get shingles in your 20’s apparently. As I waited for my prescription at the pharmacy, I noticed all the posters and information about shingles and the shingles vaccine–all geared toward adults 60 and up. How ironic that I, a young adult in my 20’s, was standing there with the disease. The antiviral medication they prescribe for shingles is the same as the one they prescribe for herpes, so one of my friends told me don’t be surprised if the pharmacists  tell you, “Be safe.” They didn’t say anything to me, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they looked at me and thought I had herpes rather than shingles. At my age, that would be the more likely guess. The strange thing is, although shingles is not supposed to be contagious (unless you’ve never had chicken pox or the chicken pox vaccine–you would get chicken pox from someone with shingles–and even then I think you’d need to be in contact with their rash), my boss just had it at the beginning of November, then I got it at the end of Nov/early Dec, and another member of our team might have it right now (but her doctor’s not completely sure if it’s shingles or not). Still…this is too much of a coincidence.

Birthdays are not nearly as exciting or anticipated when you’re older. Since my birthday was on a Saturday this year, I slept in. I would’ve gone for a run, but my shingles were bothering me. Gerald went out and brought me two cupcakes and roses though for breakfast. I got an email from Noodles & Company about a buy one, get one free dish offer if you try their new pork so we went out and had that for lunch and then went grocery shopping (my suggestion). Exciting birthday, I know! When we came home, I ended up taking a nap. Apparently when you get older, you get more tired.

Then we went out for dinner with my family in Evanston–Joy Yee’s Noodles & Argo Tea. I really just wanted to go to Argo Tea and the closest one is in Evanston. All the rest are in Chicago. They need to expand to the northern suburbs!! My family had cake back at my parents’ house so I could have my obligatory birthday picture with the pug.

28bdayThe rest of my birthday weekend was uneventful, but I did get this amazing origami Winnie the Pooh from one of the girls in my youth group!

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Then after church, I took Lexie out to see Santa Paws! Santa doesn’t look too jolly though.

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Lexie’s not looking at the camera because she was so distracted just being in a store. I even let her pick out her Christmas present afterwards. 🙂 Yes, we’re those crazy pug people.

So this was a good way to kick off the crazy month of December. The birthdays are done. Next comes Christmas & my sister’s wedding!

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On Waiting

12/23/10 - Chicago Union Station after getting engaged

Around this time last year I was anxiously waiting. I can’t even explain the emotions I felt, but anyone who has waited for something good and exciting to come–a specific thing–knows the feeling I’m talking about. Lisa Velthouse‘s recent blog post reminded me of those feelings. She captured my thoughts perfectly as she wrote:

“…with all of my breath I have been waiting. Wishing. Wanting. Hoping. Praying that it would happen. And what I have been telling myself is that if this something were to come true it might possibly change my whole life for the better.”

The event I was waiting for was a marriage proposal. I knew it was coming soon because I knew Gerald had talked to my parents about it around Thanksgiving. He probably shouldn’t have given me so much detail because that made the waiting harder. I knew he was looking for an engagement ring because we’d shopped for one together. I knew we were going on a series of dates around Christmas time so I wouldn’t know when the actual proposal was coming (sneaky, but it drove me crazy with anticipation). I was putting so much hope and anticipation for the day I would get engaged knowing that moment would change my life forever and feeling like my life would somehow be more complete once it happened.

Well, that proposal came. We got engaged on December 23, 2010–a year ago today. The event was actually a little anti-climactic because I didn’t even realize what was happening until Gerald practically told me in the poem he wrote. I didn’t have those feelings of anticipation right before because I was being grumpy in the car on the way to the proposal site. If I had known what was going to happen, my attitude would’ve been completely different.

With Christmas just a few days away and the season of Advent coming to an end, we remember God coming to earth in the form of a baby. Since that first Christmas, we’re now also supposed to be anticipating Christ’s return to Earth as the conquering king. Advent is supposed to remind us to look toward that future coming with great expectations. We know what’s going to happen (read Revelation), but we don’t seem to care as much.

I’ll admit that I don’t often think about Christ’s Second Coming, nor do I wait anxiously for it to arrive. Instead, I’m more focused on what I have going on in my everyday life and the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. Christ’s return seems so far away, and yet we’re told that He can come at any time when we least expect it. I’m not sure if I’ll feel the same kind of anxious anticipation about Christ’s return as I did about getting engaged, but I think if I try to focus my attention on things with eternal value, I will be desiring and anticipating that return with more urgency and with greater expectation.

For with engagement came joy, but also stresses and more hard work; but with Christ’s return all the wrongs in this world will finally be made right. And then our lives will truly be made whole.

So what are you waiting for?

Merry Christmas!

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The Proposal

On December 8, 2004 (my 20th birthday), this is what I wrote in my journal:

So I’ve thought about it and in 10 years I’ll be 30…wow. A lot can change in your life during 10 years. I feel like the changes between 20 and 30 are the most drastic ones too.

Here’s my plan: I find a guy this year and we date for 2 years then get engaged. By that time, I’ll have graduated from school and been out for about a year. Then I get married at least before I’m 25. Or by the time I’m 25. Then I have my first child before I’m 30.

I wrote all this back when I was a sophomore in college who never had a boyfriend (I never dated until after college…though there were a couple opportunities). So even as I wrote those words, it all seemed unimaginable because I wasn’t sure if and how any of that would happen.

Already, I didn’t meet that goal of getting married by the time I’m 25, but I’m not going to be too far off from that goal. It’s like God continuing to show me that I need to trust Him with timing and to let things go according to His plans, not my own.

We're engaged!!

On December 23, 2010, Gerald asked me to be his wife! These past few weeks have also shown me how just as I need to trust God with His plans, I need to trust Gerald too. I knew the proposal was coming soon. Gerald told me the ring was my birthday and Christmas gift, so I was anxiously expecting it. It was sooo hard to not be able to tell anyone about our engagement because it wasn’t official and I really wanted to start planning, but felt like I couldn’t do that yet (I’m such a planner anyway).

Gerald knows that about me, so he gave me a few days to keep open because we were going to go on special dates so I wouldn’t know exactly when he’d propose. It could’ve been any one of those days. For the first of these dates, we went to see Wicked then ate at Flat Top Grill and then went to the mall to look at rings. I was a little disappointed because I knew he still didn’t have the ring yet then. It was really hard to trust that he would find one because I felt like he was running out of time. I have a really small ring size (4) and some jewelers said it takes 2-6 weeks to custom make the ring to my size if they’re not able to resize it. Gerald and I already talked about getting married in July 2011 before we even got engaged, so I told him that he could always get a temporary ring until the real one came in.

So our next date was Dec. 23 and the night before Gerald told me not to get my expectations up too high. So I was still kind of disappointed because I’d have to wait longer and I thought he either still hadn’t found the right ring or was waiting for it to be sized and to come in. Our plan was to meet up at my parents’ house and then go downtown.

When we met up late in the afternoon, Gerald told me that he had a gift for me that day because he didn’t want me to be too disappointed. I asked if it was for my birthday and Christmas and he said it was “part of it.” So I didn’t really suspect anything.

Right when we left the house, he told me to close my eyes because he was going to take me somewhere before we went to catch the train to Chicago. I did it, and I still didn’t really think anything of it. I was actually a little grumpy in the car because I was trying to drink the coffee he bought me with my eyes closed and ended up spilling a little bit of it on myself. I was also too busy thinking about if we were going to make it to the train on time (curse that planning mind of mine sometimes). I needed to trust Gerald on this one!

When we finally got to our destination, Gerald led me through the snow up to a gazebo. He told me to open my eyes and to look at him but not look around. I had no idea where I was, but then he handed me three roses, one for every year we’d been together so far. I saw a Starbucks cup sitting on the ground and asked if that was my coffee, but he was like, “Don’t worry about that right now.” Obviously I still didn’t know what was going on at this point.

Getting down on one knee - pic from Tiffany's cell phone

Then he started to read a poem that he wrote for me. Even as he started reading it, I STILL had no idea he was proposing even though the poem started out talking about diamonds! Gerald read poems to me before on dating anniversaries, so I didn’t think it was out of the ordinary until he said “of course following this poem I must ask you the question.” FINALLY I started cluing in as to what was going on. So of course, I start tearing up as he’s reading the rest of the poem.

When he’s done, Melissa, my sister, comes out with our pug, Lexie. Gerald reaches down to take a ring off Lexie’s collar, but it’s this big plastic heart-shaped ring. I’m like, “What is that?” It was slightly disappointing, but then Gerald reached down and picked up the Starbucks cup and said something about how every cup of Starbucks has something special inside (I love Starbucks, so it’s fitting for me). Then he pulled out the ring box and opened it revealing a

The rock. It's just what I wanted!

beautiful engagement ring. 🙂 And he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. Of course I said yes!

Then our friends Pearson and Tiffany came out from the bushes and kept taking more pictures. Only after we’d taken some pictures the Christmas lights in the gazebo finally came on. I couldn’t believe Gerald had actually found a ring (since he hadn’t had one only 5 days earlier) and that we just got engaged. It still feels a little surreal. 🙂 This just goes to show me that I should’ve trusted that Gerald had everything under control–because he did. It’s something I have to continue to work on as we go into our marriage. The same goes for trusting God with the timing of all those significant events in my life.

We missed our train, but we caught the next one downtown and went to eat at Grand Luxe Cafe. Then we came back to my parents’ house and celebrated with my family (at like 11:45 pm). It was a long, but great night. Gerald and I and our families are very excited about our future marriage. One of our pastors even announced it to the whole church at our Christmas Eve service the next day!

And now begins the fun wedding planning part. So if you have any great creative ideas, let me know!

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Gift Ideas for the Runner, Triathlete

Today marks the first day of December. In our family (as in many), December is a very full and festive month. It begins with today–December 1–because it’s my mom’s birthday! 🙂 So Happy Birthday to my mother, Mary!

Then in exactly one week, it’s my birthday too (and my “twin” Wenny‘s birthday). I like to say I was my mom’s birthday gift (though belated). She was not prepared for me since my due date was December 31. Then Christmas is only a few weeks after my birthday (so I’d be the one who could get combined birthday/Christmas gifts). The joys of having a birthday around the holidays. I also seem to know a ton of people with birthdays in December…it’s crazy.

So since this is the season for giving, if you’re looking for gift ideas for a runner or triathlete (like myself), here are some gift ideas you might consider:

Forerunner 305

Garmin Forerunner
Whenever I run, I always have trouble with pacing. I’m never quite sure exactly what my pace is and I can only tell my checking my cheap stopwatch and calculating how long it took me to run the last mile. If I’m running outside, I also don’t really know the distance unless I’m on the forest preserve path with mile markers or if I’ve already measured out my route using the Google Maps distance measurement tool. So for the runner in your life, the Garmin Forerunner 305 is like a new training partner.

The Garmin helps you to know your current pace and tracks your distance because it’s a GPS. There are even special training modes where you can race against yourself. This version has a multi-sport mode, which is great for triathletes too. You can even get a mount for your bike so it can track your cycling pace and miles too. The watch is also waterproof, so you can swim in it. The forerunner 305 is on Garmin’s site for $199.99.

But if you want a version that can track your swim pace and distance, you may want to check out the Forerunner

Forerunner 310XT

310XT. The GPS doesn’t really work well in the water, but it estimates accurately (according to the site). The 310XT retails at $349.99, so it’s quite pricier than the 305. I’m not sure which of these watches I’d want if I got one. I like how the 310XT can do more to track your swimming, but then again, most of my swims will be in a pool anyway, not open water. It’s also a lot bulkier looking. There are plenty of other simpler models on Garmin’s website, so you’re sure to find one that will fit the athlete in your life. I know a Garmin would help me with my own training sessions to make them more productive.

compression socks

Compression Socks
Another thing I haven’t tried, but I thought about getting them. Compression socks are supposed to help increase the blood flow in your legs to speed up recovery after long runs and supposedly even help you run faster because more oxygenated blood is getting to your legs. Whether the part about you running faster is true or not, I don’t know, but I’d be willing to try them if they do help!  The socks can be kind of expensive–the ones pictured are about $60–but from what people say about them, they’re worth the price. I haven’t done any really long runs yet (my longest is 8.5 miles), but since I’ll be training for the Soldier Field 10 Mile race, I’ll probably need all the recovery help I can get.

Vibram FiveFingers
Barefoot running is the newest thing. It’s more natural and is supposed to cause

Vibram FiveFingers KSO

less injury (which would make sense since that’s how God created us to run). I’m interested in increasing my speed as a runner, especially for shorter distances like the 5k. I also don’t want to get injured since I had some problems last year and early this year with major shin and knee pain. I ran through it and happened to come out okay, but I’m trying to be extra careful about that. I had my stride evaluated for my current pair of running shoes and so far I’ve been able to be injury-free, which is great. I’m still curious about trying these Vibram FiveFingers though. I’ve considered looking for a lighter weight racing shoe, but I’d consider trying these too. They look really funny (almost like toe socks), but then again, I was told that you don’t buy running shoes for the color. That’s just a bonus. I’m an overpronator, so it might help me to be able to run more naturally so my feet don’t overcompensate when they’re in shoes. They’re about $85 on the Vibram site, so they’re actually less than what I paid for my Mizunos.

Under Armor
Since it’s winter, I thought I’d just throw in what is a staple for winter running in my wardrobe. I don’t run outside too often in the winter since it gets dark so early, but I love my Under Armor. It keeps me warm and dry, which is so important. Personally, I want to get up to the Under Armor outlet in Wisconsin to see if I can get myself some good deals on more Under Armor clothing. It’s totally worth the price.

So these are just some gift suggestions for the runner in your life. These things are on my wish list too (birthday or Christmas…hint, hint), but it doesn’t matter whether I get them or not. I just love spending time with friends and family around this time of year.

Do you have anything to add to my triathlete/runner’s gift list?

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