On Savoring Christmas

For perhaps the first time ever, it is December 31 and I’m ready to take down the tree. I have always loved the Advent and Christmas seasons and always try to savor every last bit, letting decor linger in the hope of capturing every final drop of magic to be had — and, yet, I’m realizing that my desire to hold tightly to what has already passed reveals how I fail in properly awaiting the arrival of Christmas during Advent.

I’m grateful for my children in many ways, but one of the biggest surprises for me has been how differently I internalize the Advent season since they came into the world. Born only seven weeks before Christmas in 2015, P taught me about the insanity of incarnation. This little boy I held in my arms, that I walked circles with in the nursery, to whom I sang every seasonal hymn that came to mind in the black of night — this little boy was flesh and blood and bone. He was an incredible gift we did not even begin to deserve. I wept so much in the Advent season the year he was born. Our own long waiting had concluded with his birth and it ushered in a time of sweet, contemplative celebration. The whole experience was too wonderful, the reality of Christ’s coming more profoundly moving than ever before.

How deeply that first Christmas with P made me wonder just how much Mary knew of the years and life that awaited her newborn babe. How many nights did she walk the floor, singing softly, her heart fully captured by this tiny being but knowing He was not hers to keep? The Word of God became flesh — how much did she truly grasp who He was and what He had been sent to do?

Our two Christmases in between that first with P and the one newly past (2016 and 2017) were also enjoyable. We’ve begun to establish some of our own traditions (Chris makes cinnamon rolls; we listen to The Oh Hellos’ Family Christmas album). My parents came up and joined us for our first Christmas at home in 2016 (in ten years of marriage, the first!). P still didn’t quite understand what was happening, but he still enjoyed our time with family and he loved the Christmas tree.

We went to Idaho to be with Christopher’s family in 2017. All the magic of a big family Christmas with cousins and snow and sledding and all manner of mayhem. It may have been the complete opposite of the previous year’s quiet celebration with my parents. We had to grapple with what to do with the idea of Santa Claus for the first time. I was five months pregnant with A, who was newly known to be a girl. It was beautiful in a very different way — but in the press of a very busy December, I had failed to prepare my heart adequately and, so, I don’t believe it is any coincidence that 2017 marked the longest we’ve ever kept our decorations and tree up (we took them down the first weekend in February 2018, I believe).

And then came this year. Again, I’ve circled the floor with a babe in my arms, singing and humming and marveling at the miracle of the incarnate Savior. After I returned from Mexico, I set many things aside in order to make a few gifts (a tradition I was eager to return to after not having been able to do so in 2017) and to keep the pace of our life slower.

Our boy is now 3 years old and the magic of the season was so sweet to see through his eyes. Every night, he wanted to sing Christmas songs before bed. We bought him an Advent calendar and he loved waking up from his nap every day and finding the right door to open for his treat. He helped Chris decorate the tree and discovered candy canes and enjoyed picking out gifts for his cousins and for his sister. He loved listening to our Christmas records and baking cookies with Grandma and (naturally) playing with all of his new things. We talked of Jesus and he learned songs in Sunday School. On our first ‘Christmas’ morning (the 23rd, before we left for my parents’ house), we piled onto the big bed and read through the Christmas stories in The Jesus Storybook Bible and he was able to engage with them and it was an incredibly meaningful thing to share the earth-shattering truth of Christ’s becoming like us with our son.

I followed along with She Reads Truth‘s Advent devotional once again and, while it didn’t resonate quite so fiercely with my heart as it has in years past, it was still a good preparation — a useful means of keeping my heart attuned to the season in anticipation of celebrating the birth of Christ once again. I also have been re-reading Russ Ramsey’s Behold the Lamb of God, which weaves such a beautiful narrative of the whole story, the whole fulfillment of the promises made by a faithful God from the moment we were separated from Him by our sin. He knew and He planned our rescue before we even had need of it. I pray that reality never ceases to be incredible to my fickle heart.

We had a grand time celebrating the actual holiday with my family (P’s the oldest of the next generation on my side, so it’s a different dynamic altogether) and then spent a few days with Christopher’s uncle and a few other family members. We arrived back at home, unpacked our absurd load of gifts and goodies — and I realized I was ready to take down the tree. There might be a few items that remain behind for a while yet, but most of it will go back into storage until we retrieve them again late next year.

And that’s okay. Amazingly enough, the story doesn’t end in that barn or cave or whatever the true ‘non-inn’ was where Mary and Joseph took shelter that night in Bethlehem. There is much more to celebrate.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Currently ReadingThe Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer, Behold the Lamb of God by Russ Ramsey

Currently Listening to: Thankfully, no more VeggieTales Christmas songs. Christopher decided to start from the beginning of our MRC membership and listen to all our vinyl records in order of receipt. I think that means we’re about to flip over to the B side of Magnolia Mixtape, Volume 1.

On Re-learning ‘Rest’


The last year (and some change) has been a giant lesson for what not to do with my life. We got home from Delaware and I jumped into work, trying to make up for a lower work output while trying to keep a toddler contained and entertained in our sparse summer rental. A few weeks in, we found out I was pregnant with our daughter, which added nausea and exhaustion to the mix. Christopher’s fall semester was insane.

I started maternity coverage for my sister-in-law in November, a few weeks earlier than planned due to our niece’s early arrival, and then I kept going. I pushed hard and pushed through until I finally turned on the vacation responder for my email the afternoon before my due date.

And then I had a baby. This is Anna:


(She’s now 7.5 months)

I started my maternity leave and we went back to Delaware for Christopher’s second summer session (with an 8-week-old). We had family with us for a good portion of the time and it was just so full, it went by quickly. We came home and had some more time with family before Chris jumped into the school year and I tried to go back to work.

It has been extraordinarily challenging to figure out a rhythm for this new season. It’s hard to find an hour during the day to work or just sit in silence. There hasn’t really been a place for resting in my daily life in a very long time.

And so, in July, we decided that I should go to Mexico this November with a good friend. Somehow, in His sovereignty, God knew I would need this trip at this exact moment.

I feel like I slammed straight into the trip trying to go 90 miles an hour. Having been sick since early October, my ability to function on a daily basis had dropped considerably with two rib injuries and lingering congestion. As much as it was hard not to have much work coming in, it was probably for the best because I had no energy and keeping up with the kids took nearly everything I had.

Knowing I was leaving the country on Sunday, I went to see our doctor on Thursday to make sure I didn’t need more than a week off from being needed by my family.

Lo and behold: Walking pneumonia.

I managed to get the first two doses of antibiotics into my system Thursday and Friday.

Friday night, P threw up all night. None of us (except A) slept well.

Saturday, I had energy for the first time in more than a month but the day was interrupted by P still being sick. I took my third dose of antibiotics, stayed up late doing laundry and packing, slept roughly 2-3 hours, and then got up at 3:30 to feed Anna one last time before my friend picked me up for our ride to the airport.

Needless to say, I was in rough shape by the time we arrived at our hotel that evening. Sitting on a four-hour flight aggravated my main rib injury and trying to avoid coughing uncontrollably in an airplane seat caused my back and neck to freeze up. The changes in cabin pressure squeezed my sinuses, with which I already was struggling. I couldn’t turn my head to the right, I felt like I was in a fishbowl because my hearing was so distorted, and I was desperately overdue for a pumping session.

People ask about my trip and if it was all I wanted it to be, and I can honestly say that it was because my expectations were simple. I wanted to remember what it meant to rest (and my body really needed to heal) and I wanted to enjoy and meet with God. It’s hard to be disappointed when those are your expectations.

I spent the week going to bed when I was ready to go to bed. I slept in. I took naps. I enjoyed eating food at the right time and the right temperature and at a healthy speed. I didn’t have to cut up anyone’s food and I didn’t change any diapers. I had two massages to work out the insanity that were my back and neck, as well as a pedicure and a manicure. I slowly found myself able to breathe clearly and to rotate my neck again.

I read everywhere — at the beach, in a Bali bed in the lagoon, at the pool, and (more than anywhere else, I think) in the hammock on our patio. I didn’t leave the hotel property, but I saw monkeys and iguanas and flowers and blue skies and clear water and fish of all shapes and sizes. I rarely picked up my phone. I spent a lot of time praying and wandering, enjoying the fact that none of the noise was my noise.

Because that’s the thing, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter if it’s noisy so much as whether the noise is yours to handle. The baby waking in the night? That’s my noise. The television suddenly blaring in the next room because your toddler figured out how to turn it on? That’s my noise. The timer for dinner? The washing machine finishing its cycle? My phone buzzing with a notification or a phone call? All my noise.

I came home rested and healthier (not fully healthy — I didn’t get that sick overnight) and ready to engage with my family again.

I’m not good at resting and the last year is pretty good proof of that, but I’m working to incorporate elements of self-care and more intentional times of rest into my daily life — even though it’s often very hard to do so. I want to have a slower mentality and less urgency. I need to know what it looks like to take better care of myself (because being sick for eight weeks doesn’t do my family any good). I’m reading more and watching less. I’ve added limits to my phone for the use of certain apps (like Instagram) and deleted others (essentially every game). I’m being intentional to make time for other priorities than my kiddos and work projects.

I am very much re-learning what it means to rest.

And, some days, I’m still not very good at it. It’s easy to get sucked into the constant-pressure rat race of work and family — it’s harder to say ‘no’ and make time for other things.

But making that time is so instrumental in remaining healthy in body and soul. I’m a better mom and a better wife when I don’t feel there’s more to my life than being everyone’s keeper, when I can pause long enough to remember God has crafted me to be, well, me.

Recent Reads:

  • The Fringe Hours and Stretched Too Thin by Jessica N. Turner
  • 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke (SO good)
  • A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle (Re-read)
  • Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery (Re-read)
  • The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp

Currently ReadingThe Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer (Re-read), Prayer by Tim Keller, The Summer of the Great-Grandmother by Madeleine L’Engle (Re-read)

Currently Listening to: Christmas records


IMG_8560.JPGI’m currently sitting on our bed (*ahem* air mattress) in our apartment in Newark, DE. Yes, Delaware. That little slice of peninsula between New Jersey and Maryland, sandwiched between Pennsylvania (“The PA” as it’s referred to around here) and Virginia. You didn’t know where it was, either? Totally a legitimate answer.

But we’re here, nonetheless, and we have been for 3.5 weeks now. Transplanted. We didn’t come to vacate our lives, but to transfer them here for a season. Christopher is three weeks into the first of two summers for his graduate program at the University of Delaware. We left Colorado on June 20 and drove for three days. We spent our tenth anniversary (June 23) at the South Philadelphia IKEA and the local Target trying to find some basic furniture and other items to help our unfurnished apartment seem less barren. It has been an adjustment, certainly, but also a chance to do something different – to have a sabbatical season, of sorts, for our little family.

I have always wanted to live on the East Coast. Something about it has always resonated deeply with me: The trees, brick buildings, ivy-covered homes, cobbled streets, the ability to live in places that are close walking distance to nearly everything you need.

So, the reality is that I have dearly loved being here. It has been a joy to see Chris have the chance to be challenged intellectually, to learn new things, and it has satisfied that deep longing I’ve always had to live here. Our brothers have both gone off with their families to other places, to have grand adventures and build their homes in faraway cities, but we’ve always stayed close to our parents – and we do not regret that. We somehow get to have our own grand adventure these two summers and, in the end, still come home to the people and the places we love best.

Most days, P and I walk Chris to class along quiet residential streets with beautiful homes. Chris has class all day, every day, during the week, but his weekends are free. We have been choosing our own adventures, visiting DuPont landmarks (Longwood Gardens, Winterthur), some historical sites (Fort Delaware, Historic New Castle), the beaches, and making quick friends with the UDel campus and various local eateries. There’s a park only a few minutes’ walk down the trail from us. The trees and the flowers are all in bloom. The campus is lovely.

The whole experience has stirred up in me the desire to write again, which (obviously) hasn’t happened in a very long time (and was very much unexpected, if I’m honest – though I did have intentions to make myself start writing again while I was here).

But, oh my, I did not realize how hard it would also be to be here.

I haven’t been away from home this long ever (4 weeks), even when I was a summer camp counselor while in college (never longer than 3 weeks at a time). I haven’t lived out of state since I was 3, before we moved to Colorado as a family from Indiana (and I don’t remember living in Indiana, so perhaps that doesn’t count).

Our apartment feels a lot like a residence hall: Basic, aging, not taken care of well. We go in and out; we do our laundry in the basement (For $3.50 a load! When did that happen?!); we cook what we can using a hot plate (for whatever reason, it never occurred to us just to buy a cheap microwave?); we hope the A/C unit in the window can keep up on the worst of the hot, muggy days; and essentially the entirety of my life (work, eating, entertainment, sleep) all takes place in the same room (the second bedroom is too warm to sleep in, so we moved our bed to the living area).

I, the eternal introvert, miss my friends and our weekly summer backyard get-togethers with some of those friends and neighbors. I miss our church family. I miss our nice, clean house with central air and our fully stocked and working kitchen. I miss being able to open the window and have it make a difference. I miss our couches and my office and floors that I don’t worry about falling through (our apartment has some serious subfloor issues). I miss having a bathtub where I’m not afraid to bathe our kiddo. I miss having a dedicated playroom.

But most of these are just things in the end, aren’t they? (Naturally people are not things.) It’s fine to miss them – understandable, even – but the reality is that this is enough for the season. Not ideal, but enough. I remember saying before we left how I wanted to know what I could live without because we have the blessing of having so much. Now I know we can live with very little. I’m not always content with very little, mind, but it is enough.

And it seems so strange to think that, one week from today, we will be packed into our car and on the second leg of our drive back westward. So many long days while we’ve been here and, yet, such a short season when all has come to an end.

If you follow both Chris and me on Instagram, you’ve probably been keeping up with our adventures; if not, however, you can look at the #ckptakedelaware tag for a collection of images from our travels this summer (you’ll have to follow me @akatereynolds, since my account is private — Christopher’s is public, @cmrey).

Anne of Green Gables (again)
The Boxcar Children books
Slowly working through (and loving) Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist


The dates we don’t mark on the calendar

Today is July 14. If you look at my personal calendar, it looks like any other day. There are no special events written in, no reminders beyond work tasks and a few personal notes.

I don’t need a reminder for July 14. It isn’t a date I mark on the calendar.

Three years ago today, we were informed by our (very kind, very human) doctor at an ultrasound that I had miscarried (again). It broke me in a very powerful way. I spent some time this morning thinking about it, weeping over it. My heart still aches for the babies I’ve never held, never named. It still affects me in a very real, very tangible way; perhaps moreso because I now have the distinct pleasure of being called “Mama” by this guy:


This is Paul, my son. And, really, there are no words for my heart toward this little guy. I don’t need to put November 2 on the calendar, but I do. It’s a date to mark, to celebrate God’s kindness to us. I do not deserve the gift of being his mama, but here we are 20+ months into this insane journey. So much in life has come easily to me, but this role has been the most natural of them all.

Which brings me back to today, to July 14. As I have watched P grow, my heart has grieved not knowing the others – it has wondered what they would have been like. For all the things I do not know and will never understand, I do know two things for certain:

  1. There would be no little boy sleeping in the next room now if I had not lost the baby before him. It still hurts and I still mourn that loss, but it is undoubtedly true. They were the only set of dates that ever overlapped in our journey to have children. I was due February 12; I found out I was pregnant with P on February 14. God knew Paul was ours, regardless of everything that came before.
  2. God completes that which He begins (Philippians 1:6). Perhaps the greatest comfort in our journey was Christopher’s reminder of this simple truth. God began the process of knitting together all of our babies in my womb, and He will be faithful to complete that process. I don’t know what that will look like, necessarily, but I can trust that He has done it and that it is good.

So, today – a date I don’t mark on the calendar – I will take the needed moments to cry and to remember, and I will hug my little boy close to me and reflect on God’s kindness and my smallness.

And, other than that, it is just like every other day.



A year ago, on July 4, we were in Driggs, Idaho with Christopher’s family. At the time, we were anxiously awaiting a third early ultrasound (we had already had two) after being told at our previous appointment that the baby did not appear to be growing as it should.

Little did we know, though I would come to expect and fear in the days before our next appointment, that we had already lost that little one, too.

It was the furthest I had made it into pregnancy — the first miscarriage that went beyond what they label as “chemical” (such a harsh word when you believe in life at conception, as we do). The renewed hope we had experienced after my cystectomy last spring died quickly and, once more, I felt the keen failure of my body and its inadequacy in keeping our children alive.

The loss total now hit four — two unconfirmed and two confirmed — and I realized that I felt created to be a mother and utterly incapable of becoming one. I didn’t think I could bear the toll of another loss, so we decided to wait until I felt I might again be able to handle the outcome.

In the fall, I threw myself into finally finishing my master’s thesis and making my way through a grief cycle that had become very familiar to me over the last several years. My committee fell into place. I began collecting and dissecting data. It proved a nice distraction.

But December rolled around and I found myself completely terrified that I was pregnant again — I truly, deeply, feared it. I couldn’t handle the prospect. Thankfully, it was not so.

As the new year began, I wrestled extensively with what the previous months (and those ugly fears) had revealed of my heart. The answers I unveiled were decidedly shameful — I had no hope left, no trust in the God to whom I had once looked to for guidance and comfort. While working on our annual AIM resource, I had to (several times) turn off my office light, sit on the floor against the wall, and weep. I didn’t want to see or to acknowledge the places I had dragged my heart. I didn’t want to reopen wounds that I knew would still take years to heal.

And I really, really, really was sick of crying.

In the days that followed, we made a conscious decision to step forward in whatever simple faith we had and work to trust that God had some sort of good for us. We knew we desperately needed to move forward, even if we had no idea what that might look like.

February 12 saw the passing of my due date, as well as the day we had found out I was pregnant in 2013. On February 14, a date I most recently remember as the day we realized I was miscarrying in 2013, I anxiously discovered that I was once again pregnant. The fears of history repeating itself, of stacking another missed due date right next to our 2013 loss, of having yet another reason to despise the second week of February — it was all a little too overwhelming.

In all His grace, that was when God began to write a new story for us. It’s hard to describe without listing through every detail where He showed us that He had been paying faithful attention, that He had not been silent as I had feared — but merely waiting. He displayed full knowledge of my heart’s depths as I recalled dates, sequences of events, and how they so closely tied to each of my fears. Humbling doesn’t begin to cover the experience.

My blood work came back better than it ever had, but anxiety still securely gripped my heart. Those early weeks passed and each milestone was boggling in its details — things I had linked to the last two losses were unbound one by one from the horrible pattern into which I had sunk.

And then, one morning, just before our 10.5-week ultrasound, I was praying and felt God grant me a measure of peace that had been absent for many months. He reassured me that I would survive another loss. He wouldn’t leave me. He would pay close attention to the needs of my heart.

Later that morning, I wept as I watched this little one’s heart beating strongly and as we were shown his spine and his arms and legs. He was growing — and he has continued to grow — just as he was designed to grow.

It has been a very wet season in terms of tears. Joy, sorrow, and shame have intermixed in ways I never thought possible. This child doesn’t exist outside of the story God has crafted for us, that there were those who came before — that there was a season of loss that we lived through (however difficult it was). It all overlaps emotionally and I cannot untangle it.

Somehow, I finished my thesis and my master’s paperwork in those early weeks. The burden I had schlepped along for the four years I had been done with coursework and back in the working world was at last removed from my shoulders.

And, little by little, I have been settling into the fact that I have a healthy, growing little boy inside that will (by God’s goodness and grace) be joining our family in October. It has not been an easy thing to accept — on the contrary, it has been particularly difficult because my heart cannot help but ache for the other four whom we will never know.

But this little one is a beautiful gift. We look forward to loving and treasuring him, to being fully aware that we will make mistakes in raising him. We are grateful that we are not alone in any of it — that we have One before whom we can come and seek grace. We pray this little boy will come to know the same merciful and loving and grace-giving God who has given us so much more than we could ask or imagine — and most certainly more than we ever could begin to deserve.

The last long, hard season has come to a close. We are transitioning into something new and we are so incredibly grateful.

Six Months


It is funny how grief comes on you in waves, and then it abates, and then it sneaks back in to hound you later. Eventually, though, you numb to the water’s chill and you learn how to brace yourself against its powerful rise.

Six months ago, I miscarried. Again.

I’ve attempted to not make a big deal of our desire and inability to have children in this forum, though I have mentioned it once or twice in passing. The reality is, however, that it has been an incredible force of pain and growth over the course of the past three years. And that grief ebbs and flows, continuing through every season.

Four months ago, I had a manic fit and decided both to migrate my blog and bring it back to life. I accomplished one and failed miserably at the other, as the tide threatened to pull me back under in the following weeks. I appreciate your never-ending patience.

Though it has been difficult, depression has not won. Those of you who know me well know that I have experienced freedom these last few years, but it is hard-won freedom. Most days are minor battles, with major ones scattered throughout the landscape. Sometimes, the major battles last for days and sometimes for only hours.

The last week has been a full-out battle for my soul in ways that I may never comprehend. My soul has been so incredibly downcast, my heart so very angry and irritable.

And yet, tonight, one of my best friends gave birth to a beautiful baby girl — long hoped for and dreamed of — and my soul rejoices greatly at that news.

With this incredible new life, however, I also find myself awash in fresh grief that I will not be able to join my friend yet in this new adventure.

It is amazing what can happen in six months. We are trying to wait with eagerness for what God has planned for us in the months and years to come, but it has made us weary. I have somewhat of a love-hate relationship with the verse that says, “A hope deferred makes the heart grow sick.” It is truth, and so I dearly love it. But, alas, it also is so clearly and obviously truth. Of course a hope deferred makes a heart sick! Why would it do anything else?

I guess if you think of us, please pray for us. There are more good days than bad days, but the bad days still hang out with us sometimes. We don’t want to be bitter. Or angry. Or unable to enjoy what God has so graciously given.

Regardless, I’ve made the decision for this blog to stand mostly empty for the time being. Between my workload, my time with and serving my dear husband, the myriad of things we do regularly with our families and church families, and finally attempting to move forward on my thesis and finishing my master’s degree, I simply do not have the time for this space’s upkeep — and I think that’s okay for this season.

You can still find me on Twitter (akatereynolds) and now on Instagram (akatereynolds). Occasionally, I’ll still put together blog posts over at summitview.com/blog (because it’s a part of my job that I’m hoping to be more faithful with).

I’m working on enjoying life, on capturing it through a camera lens, on what it means to rest. Sadly, to report, I’m not very good at any of it, which is all the more reason to do fewer things — that I might grow to be excellent in those things I do choose to do.

I’m sure this will be my endeavor through the many seasons yet to come.

Gingham Revisited

So, if you remember, I finished a purple gingham blanket in October (see https://akatereynolds.wordpress.com/2012/10/21/weekend-workroom-finishing/). Things are beginning to look a little familiar around here, because I began a green gingham blanket in January. I’m about 15 rows from finishing the body. I didn’t use stash yarn for this one, and since they are all the same base yarn, it works up pretty quickly because the yarn is all the same size and feel.

I’ve been working on a bunch of projects again, which is nice for a lot of reasons. It’s great to feel creative again. You should be seeing some of them pop up in the next few weeks, as I have time. I’m not going to try to stick to a particular schedule for the time being because the last few months have been really busy and I’m sure the next few will be as well, but I’ll try to be semi-regular in posting items.