Our new home

img_4829

The view outside our living room window. It’s my favorite.

Well friends, it’s been a month…One full month we have lived in New York City. A month full of subways and parks and long walks and Central Park and church visits and meeting new friends. It’s been full of new noises and quiet feet in the apartment and learning that NYC is extremely (I mean, EXTREMELY) hot in the summer.  It’s been a month already full with all the foods (Dominican, Thai, Chinese, Malaysian, Dim Sum, Indian, pizza, hot dogs, BAGELS).

And it’s been full of new things for each of us.

For me that means learning to be at home full time with the kids again. Fighting those feelings of insignificance, trying not to nag about the little things, AND being content in things being less than perfect. I’ve learned the joys of groceries delivered and sending your clothes out to be washed and folded and brought back. Also, it means reading more…because social media does weird things to your brain AND to your heart and I really need to lay off. 

For J and E…well they’re learning to walk with quiet feet and to be aware of their surroundings. And that screaming in public is never a good idea. J has already become a subway and street walking expert. E…well, she’s very content in her stroller and we’re happy to keep her there a little while longer. The kids have learned that every park either has a sand pit or splash pad (or both!) and that they can share their toys with all the other kids. And the best day is when someone brings water balloons to share with everyone else. And, if you walk your bike to the park, you have to walk it back…even if you’re throwing a giant tantrum at the time.

Brandon has figured out the transit system and has jumped in to a new job with a new organization. Oh, and he’s also secured another book contract. Because, why not write another book or two in the midst of a big family transition.

So what’s the verdict? We kind of love it here. We’re enjoying the noise. We’re LOVING the parks. We can’t get enough of Central Park. We’ve found a school for J that seems ideal for him. We’ve met neighbors in our building that have kids the same age. We’ve visited a lot of great churches who are doing tremendous ministry in and around the city.

We even have a new family hand shake developed by J and taught to all of us. AND it turns out I actually can rock a hat.

And there you have it. The O’Brien 4 are happy and thriving and tired and all the things. We’re eager to make friends and find our church. We love who Brandon works with. And we love walking and exploring.

So what’s next? More family Central Park visits, more subway rides, more adventures, exploring the great areas around the city…and continuing to fall in love with this grand place.

Here are a few shots for your enjoyment.

Advertisements

Embracing the Tears

 

tear

Lately I’ve been crying a lot. Due to some imbalances, I can’t help it… over the sock in the hallway, over the episode of Jane the Virgin, over the youtube video…

(Don’t you think Brandon’s world is just wonderful right now?!)

Here’s the thing… Crying at silly things makes me mistrust my emotions. My assumption is that my tears are (probably) unreasonable and (most likely) not actually “real.”

And it makes me feel like a crazy person.

But, recently, I decided that I was done with judging the validity of my tears. If I’m going to cry, I might as well embrace it.

And, friends, I began to see some beauty in that brokenness. Being quick to tears isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I began to see my tears as a gift.

This week I cried during worship.

I cried over a story from my son.
I cried as my children snuggled on a hotel room bed and watched a cartoon.
I cried when I saw pictures of devastating flooding in Louisiana.
I cried when I hugged my Nana.
I cried when I said goodbye to my brothers and when I saw my niece for the first time.
I cried as Eliza screamed for almost an hour on a road trip.
I cried as I looked with despair over the mounds of laundry and the mess in the living room.
I cried when my son accidentally kicked my shin.

And, with each moment, I became more comfortable with my emotions. Because some of these moments were worth stopping to feel. Some of these tears drew my attention to a moment that needed to be savored.

Sure, many of them were silly. But, as I learn to see my excessive tears as a gift, I begin to see moments that I (probably) would have missed.

I’m hopeful to gain some sanity back with some new treatments. I’m already seeing more ability to regulate my emotions.

It will be nice to not break down in tears while reading a children’s book (with my son looking at me like I’ve gone insane!)

But, honestly, I’m not ready for the tears to totally go away. I don’t want them to disappear.

They truly are a gift. And I am learning to enjoy them.

A New Dream for the New Year…Kind of.

2015-12-26 09.56.41

It’s January 10th and I’ve been struggling with how to process this new year. In so many ways I am eager, excited, encouraged and energized for the coming year. I sense God’s leading in ways I have never before. I see his steps for me more clearly than I have known before.

But, if I’m honest friends… I’m exhausted. Absolutely, exhausted. Tired…could fall asleep at any moment…just. beat.

(Parenting young children can do that to you.)

But it’s not just the kids. When we first moved to Conway I wrote about how I was trying to learn to live fully and completely here. Brandon and I felt convicted to stop making plans of what our future could hold and start living fully and completely in the now that God has given us.

And we have begun to see God’s hand in amazing ways.

But, while God called us to live fully and completely here. He hasn’t let us settle. He keeps directing our attention to something else. Something beyond our imagination, something we can’t even see yet. I believe God has given us a godly restlessness. A restlessness which allows us to both live fully here and ready for what’s next. A restlessness that, if we’re paying attention, points us toward the Giver of all good things.

But, a restlessness, that’s kind of exhausting.

 

2015-12-31 10.10.35Brandon and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary on December 31. For maybe only the second time in our marriage, it was just the two of us. It seemed appropriate for us to dream about what our lives would look like 10 years from now.

And, honestly, neither of us had much of anything to say.

And, that sounds terribly unromantic and depressing. But, I’m not saying we are unhappy. Or that we don’t have ambitions and dreams.

No, Brandon and I are wonderfully content and happy with each other.

And we have more plans for our future than most people, I think. (Planning the future is my love language. )

But, here’s the thing…

We could never have dreamed what we are doing now. We could never have written how our family would come together. We couldn’t have planned the course the last 10 years would take.

No list could have gotten us here. No strategic plan could have articulated the reality that we live in.

In fact, as we looked back over the past 10 years we laughed that almost every single one of our plans didn’t work out the way we planned it.

So, moving into this new year. Moving into our next decade together. We’re not making many plans.

Now, we’re continuing to study. We’re continuing to minister. We’re continuing to enrich. To professionally develop. To be mentored and to mentor others. We’re working to grow in our faith, to make plans for our children. We’re continuing to budget, to schedule, to discern, to parent… We’re going to Europe in June…

But, we have no idea where the next year, 5 years or 10 years will lead. We just don’t know. And, we’re learning to be okay with that.

We’re learning to move forward with our hands open. We’re learning to trust when things don’t look how we wanted. We’re learning to plan expectantly for the unexpected. To dream for that which we could never imagine.

And, we’re still learning how that works. But, each and every year, we are loving it more and more.

Happy New Year, friends.

A pair of basic brown flip flops.

Today, dear friends, I suffered a loss. One month ago, we brought home a new dog from the shelter. She’s awesome, her name is Romy and we love her.

Before you worry, she’s still alive.

But, today she chewed up my favorite pair of flip flops. Obliterated them, rendered them useless. After 8 years of wearing this more than any other shoe in my closet, they’re gone. I’ll be honest, I was definitely bummed and a little sad. The struggle is real.

Now, while most of you may not understand the depth of my grief over this beautiful pair of basic brown flip flops, I’ve got someone in my corner. Jamie, our 3 yr old, really felt where I was coming from. He hugged me, patted me on the back, and talked about how sorry he was that my shoe was gone. He was sad. Truly sad.

And this got me thinking. I think we could learn a lot from Jamie’s response. Not about shoes, mind you. I mean, it’s a pair of shoes. And, if I’m honest I loved them so much because they were cheap AND lasted 8 years. But they will be replaced. They’re no big deal.

So, if not about shoes, then what?

What I loved about Jamie’s response is that he was sad purely and completely because I was sad. He has no attachment to the shoes. (If he had his way, I would wear my bright red heals every day.) No, this wasn’t about the shoe for him.

This was about his mama. His main love.

When someone around us is grieving, we often try to first put ourselves in their shoes, in order to muster up a reason to grieve. Or, we offer commentary on the validity of their grief. Or advice to avoid it in the future.

Whatever we do, why isn’t our first response to just feel sad. Why? Because someone we love is sad. End of story. Who cares about the reason? Who cares if we understand?

In the end, isn’t this what the grieving among us really want? They just want you to come alongside, admit that this sucks, and allow them to cry. Will there be time for advice? Sure (though not as soon as we often think). Space for empathy? Absolutely. Room for commentary? Well, probably not.

But the first thing that needs to happen is grieving with those who grieve. Mourning with those who mourn.

And our preschoolers among us, can probably show us exactly how this works.

What’s Next?

For the first 7 and 1/2 years of our marriage, Brandon and I were consistently waiting on the next thing.

It wasn’t because we were discontent. No, we were in grad school and trying to start a family. And with every degree that one of us earned we discussed our next step. And with every decision made about infertility measures or adoption pursuits, we learned to wait for the next thing.

So, while we were fully invested in the people in our midst (and in our church family where I served as Children’s Minister), we were also consistently applying for and pursuing multiple opportunities.

And we were waiting. At our best, it was expectant waiting. On hard days, it maybe sounded like frustration. And at our worst, discontentment ruled the day.

But, overall we didn’t mind so much. We loved where we were and we loved dreaming about what was to come.

Then “it” finally happened. In January of 2013, we felt like a change was imminent for our family. And, in what can only be described as a “God thing,” we felt a very clear leading to move to Conway, Arkansas. We say it was a God-thing because I suggested in. And it was fairly unlikely that I would have suggested a move to Arkansas on my own. (Nothing against the state, but it wasn’t terribly familiar to me).

And, having grown up in the state, Brandon had never felt a deep desire to return. Don’t get me wrong, he loves his home state and missed it. But he had never imagined himself moving back.

Simply put, Arkansas had never been a part of the plan.

So we began to prepare for a big move. That July, we packed up our belongings and drove 12 hours to our new home. I, with the toddler (who screamed the whole way) and Brandon, in the moving truck with the cat.

Within a few months Brandon had gotten a new & incredible job, we bought our first house, we bought a car, we reconnected with old friends and are making new ones. I taught my first college course and picked up some writing jobs. Brandon planted a garden. And now we’ve been here almost a year. And in that time, so many of our dreams have come to fruition.

But you know what? It’s hard to shake that whole, “What’s next?” feeling.

So we are learning to live in this new place fully invested. Honestly, we don’t know what the next 5, 10 or 20 years will hold. But we do know that God has called us here for this season. And part of living fully where we have been planted is letting the “What’s next?” question remained unanswered for a little while.

And, that’s hard. But also good.

Speaking for myself, it’s not totally natural. But I’m learning. Slowly, but surely, I’m learning.

I’m back…with our Adoption Story!

Jamie's first Sunday at church... on Palm Sunday.

Well, friends. The past 2 months has been nothing short of a whirlwind. I’ve been asked to tell the story of how we got our sweet little Jamie, and something has kept me from it. 😉

But, now, as I look at going back to work tomorrow, I thought I’d take some time while little man is napping.

A quick disclaimer: Brandon and I have been wrestling with how to share Jamie’s story with our friends and family, but also protect this story for Jamie. So we’re seeking balance. If details seem vague, that’s why. 

March 9 started just like any other day. We knew that there had been movement at our agency, but hadn’t heard any details. I was anxious to hear back from our caseworker, Cristina (whom we love, love, love). But movement has happened before, so we didn’t really think anything of it. My day at work came and went. Brandon had lunch with a friend who asked how things were going. He expressed that we were just in that difficult waiting time.

Brandon picked me up at work (because I had accidently let my license expire…oops!) and we both worked from home that afternoon. At around 2:45 Cristina called. I knew something was up, because she doesn’t call with bad news. She asked if I could put Brandon on speaker phone. I came into his office, told him it was Cristina and we both started shaking. So much, in fact, that I hung up on Cristina before she could tell us anything.

So we called her back and she began to tell us about a little boy. He had been born March 2 and was a safe-haven baby. This means that his birth mother had brought him to a safe haven (hospitals, fire stations, police stations) on March 3 because she felt as if she  couldn’t care for him.

Our first glimpse of our little boy. We couldn't wait to kiss those cheeks!

And at the end of the description Cristina said that she would like for us to take him. She had some pictures she would send us, but she wanted us to make a calm decision first. Well, we didn’t need any time to excitedly say yes. We learned that we would pick up Jamie at 1:00 on Monday, March 12.

For the next few hours we called our family and friends. We alternated because sobbing and laughing. We were amazed. Over the following 3 days we watched as our community dropped off all of the supplies we would need. Brandon lined up substitutes for his classes and I prepared to go on Maternity Leave in a matter of hours. And we looked at Jamie’s pictures every 5 minutes.

We were told to get some rest. But when you have less than 72 hours to prepare for a baby… rest doesn’t come easy. 🙂

We learned some interesting things about ourselves as we waited to meet our son. Brandon was eating all the time, and I would eat a few bites of each meal. At night I would take 2-3 hours to fall asleep, and Brandon would fall asleep immediately and wake up every hour.

But we made it. Monday came and we drove to ECFA to pick up Jamie. Amazingly, Cristina met us in the waiting room with him, and we got to hold him while we signed paperwork. And in only 30 minutes we were back in our car taking Jamie home.

He cried the entire way. When we got him home we immediately fed him a bottle. And within 4 hours he had peed through 3 outfits, thrown up all over me and had his first pictures taken.

Photo taken by Annika Durbin. She did a beautiful job with our little boy!

Photo by Annika Durbin. Brandon is the sweetest dad!

Photo taken by Annika Durbin. We do a lot of laughing in this house.

Over the next few weeks we watched with amazement as Jamie impressed his pediatrician and passed every medical test with flying colors. He was immediately affectionate and smiled often in his sleep. In fact, after having a large amount of blood drawn, he let out a big belly laugh and smiled from ear to ear. We joke that he had perspective. 😉 In short, for a boy who had had an unusual start to his life, he was doing amazingly well.

Aren't baby yawns awesome?

And over the course of time we have become deeply thankful and proud of his birth mom. Why? We don’t know her, and most likely we never will. But what we know about her is that she took good care of this child. He was a healthy baby in every way. When she felt she couldn’t care for him, she could have left him anywhere…You see that in the news all the time. But she brought him to a safe place. A place she could be sure would take care of him. Simply, she cared for him.

This Wednesday Jamie will be 2 months old. He is such a happy baby. Has slept through the night 3 times (not in a row, of course) and smiles constantly. He loves his crib and his changing table. However, he’s also pretty social. He talks to us and loves for us to be near him.

Seriously, he LOVES his changing table.

And we rejoice in his life daily.

Love that grin!

The last four years haven’t be the easiest, but we are so, so thankful for our son.

much love, dear friends.

A Lifetime

Last night I spent some time praying / journalling before falling asleep. As usual I opened my heart up to the Lord… I voiced my exhaustion over this wait for our child, my trust that his planning and his timing was perfect and ultimately began to pray for our child and their birthmom.

I have spent so much time praying for our child now. You see I believe that even now, even if our child has not been born, that God can speak to them. They are a soul who can begin to learn the voice of God (ask me sometime to tell you about the secular studies that back this up). And I have pray fervently for them right now. I pray for wisdom and peace for their birthmom. I pray that the bond between us would be strong. And suddenly it hit me. I pray very little for our future. Last night it hit me that I am going to have this precious life for a life time. There is so much to be prayed over.

And I began to pray over school, and friends and teachers. I prayed for their after school activities and for our wisdom in both making decisions and allow this precious one to make decisions. I prayed for their spouse.

And I rejoiced that I get to be their mom. That Brandon gets to be their dad.

When you spend four years working to have a child, I think it becomes easy to forget that there is so much after that initial birth or adoption. There is a lifetime of memories to be had.

And I am so thankful.

Fridays are for Favorites (even if written on Sunday)

I began a blog post on Thursday because I knew that Friday would be a very busy day. But I didn’t get to it. So now here I am at 10:30 on a Sunday and what’s on my mind?

Well I’m thanking God for the man I married. Yes, in an incredibly cheesy move, Brandon O’Brien is my favorite for today (and arguably every day!).

Brandon’s the type of man who loves me no matter what my hair looks like, patiently waits for me to take pictures of food (even if that means he must wait to eat), hugs me even when I’m in a bad mood, will drop whatever he’s doing to listen to my thoughts….

He loves his friends and family deeply, he is as loyal a friend as you can fine, he’s an honest and sincere spiritual leader in our home…

He is patient, kind, wise, silly, creative, fiercely intelligent, compassionate…

and he’s all mine. 😉

Living in the Ordinary

Yesterday I got to work from home.... which means I got good coffee in my favorite mug...one of my favorite "ordinary" things.

My routine has resumed.

What do I mean? I shared before that I was feeling knocked out, incapable of doing life. Well, lately, I have begun to find my footing. I have begun to find life much more doable.

And ordinary tasks have helped. Now I have had to be patient with myself. Anytime one struggles through a time of depression or hardship, often energy is the first thing to suffer. And I have had to train myself to feel better about doing less.

And maybe I should do less to begin with. I’m trying to sort out what is necessary in my life and what is unnecessary. But that’s a discussion for another time!

So today I’m running errands. I had breakfast with some women that I am so blessed by. Then I got to do some fun birthday shopping for my darling husband. Now I’m back home working on freelance assignments (and blogging along the way)…

And I find myself encouraged.

And I find myself feeling at peace with the state of our lives. I wouldn’t say I’ve bounced back (because I think that’s not a helpful metaphor)… but I’m living. I’m accomplishing things by the power of the Holy Spirit that three weeks ago I did not feel I had the energy to do.

And it’s not by own strength, but by Christ who strengthens me.

And I think that’s all I have to say.

And I hope you’re okay with that. 🙂

Thanks for reading, friends.

Love, love, love these precious girls!

P.S. Just for grins I thought I’d post a picture with some of my favorite girls who I used to nanny for. I miss getting to spend time with them every week.

Simplicity in Abundance anyone?

Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider

As Brandon and I struggle to maintain 6 jobs between the two of us, prepare for our child and try to keep the romance alive… simplicity is something that we crave. In fact, lately I have found myself picking up every book I can that talks about this topic. Now, I realize the irony of adding a new thing to do in order to simplify more… but I’m just craving insight in cutting out the unnecessary and living life more intentionally.

One of my favorite books is Organized Simplicity. If you have time, or even if your time is significantly limited, you should definitely pick it up. It’s an easy read and gives practical advice for simplifying everything in your life. I read it in 10 minute spurts while nannying and LOVED it!

But that’s not why I’m writing today. One of the benefits of having a husband in publishing is that he often gets free books. By often I mean 3-5 a week at times! He reviews those he thinks the magazine would like and then passes on the rest to friends in ministry… or me!

So, as I try to blog more often I’m realizing that I need some prompts. So I thought Mondays would be a great day to blog about books that I’m reading. A cyber book Club of sorts.

Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace

 

And what’s my choice for this first series? Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace by Jan Johnson.

Simplicity. I’m longing for simplicity and I can’t wait to see what Jan has to say! Join me!