Thursday, November 20, 2014

Small Joys: volume 17

Can you believe that my last Small Joys post was in August?  I was looking back through to see what volume number I was on and couldn't believe how far back I had to dig to get to my last post.  The months have been pleasantly busy, and there's surely been a lot of joy mixed in with the exhaustion that night shift continues to bring.  Now that it's late November, I guess I should also comment on the fact that I've foregone November goals this year.  I'm practicing thanksgiving and continuing to work on my word for 2014: present.  It's hard to be present if I'm always striving for the next thing, new goals, etc.  So for November, I've taken some time off from pushing forward and am working on being in the moment with things.  I can't believe a new year is approaching so soon-- I'm already reflecting on my word for 2015. If you're not familiar with My One Word, it's something my home church does instead of New Year's Resolutions.  It's never too early to reflect on what word you want your spiritual and emotional life to be represented by in the coming year.  In any case, onto spreading joy.

No. 1: Living October to the fullest.  I realize October has come and gone, and I have mourned the passing of this favorite month of mine.  But I think this was my favorite October yet, and I can't say that I let the month slip away unnoticed.  We began the month with a trip to northern Indiana to stay in a log cabin with good friends, celebrating at a local Apple Festival, and we ended the month in southern Indiana marveling at the beauty of Brown County and Bloomington.  Scott and I stopped along the way to Brown County to do some apple picking and to check out a pumpkin patch, and I think my heart just felt ready to explode with October joy.  I'm so thankful for the fall and for the rest that it encourages.  I've said before that I feel like it's a season that gives permission to rest, and though this fall wasn't entirely restful, it brought the illusion of rest through its beauty and crisp weather.

Kendallville, IN

Anderson Orchard

Brown County State Park (and yes, this picture has been on the
blog before! I can't help it, I love it so much)

No. 2: Christmas lights.  Do you like that transition there? From fall to Christmas? I'm guilty of being that person who starts celebrating Christmas the day after Halloween.  Shoot me for it, I don't really care.  I laugh at all of the little memes people post about people like me and I realize that it may be completely ridiculous, but I celebrate all major seasons and holidays for 2 months if possible, and that requires me to start early!  I have been wanting to put up our tree for a while but waited until our Friendsgiving was over before I did it.  I didn't want any critics attending our Friendsgiving to think I was a nut, so this week as we enjoy leftover turkey, I have put up our Christmas tree and associated decorations (read: penguins everywhere).

No. 3: Friendsgiving. Speaking of Friendsgiving, I should mention how entirely lovely I found our's to be.  Some of our very closest friends attended, people who have been so lovely and supportive through all of the changes of life we've experienced since Scott moved to Indiana.  They are our Indy village, and you know how I feel about all of my village people.  Friendsgiving isn't so much about the turkey or the desserts or the presentation-- it's about breaking bread with the people you love and expressing gratitude for their presence in your life.  One of our good friends refused to refer to it as Friendsgiving and instead called it just plain old Thanksgiving, stating that this was because he viewed all of us as family.  My hostess heart was just bursting over this celebration with friends, and I'm sad to think that most of these friends will be moving away and will not be around next Thanksgiving to celebrate again.  It was the first and last annual Friendsgiving with these particular friends.  

No. 4: Red cups.  Alright, we already talked about how I feel about Christmas.  But the fact that the rest of the world began celebrating Christmas the day after Halloween with red cups in coffee shops makes me feel that much more ok about celebrating in my heart and home as well.  I have shockingly only had one Starbucks red cup this year, but here's an amazing red cup from Peet's coffee in Chicago.  I thought it was a little more unique that my go-to Starbucks cup, and this white chocolate mocha was simply to die for.  

No. 5: A mini-trip to Chicago.  It seems each point leads to a new point, doesn't it? Scott and I took a mini trip to Chicago for a nursing conference I was attending, and we took a little bit of extra time to explore the city while there.  I have been to Chicago twice before, but it was super fun going at a time of year that wasn't completely freezing and to be able to explore with Scott, who hadn't been before.  We did lots of touristy things while there, though apparently not the most touristy item: seeing the water tower.  I didn't even know this was a thing until I saw the dropped jaws of peers at my nursing conference who couldn't believe I hadn't been to the water tower in my three trips to Chi-town.  I guess I'll just have to take another trip.. what a shame! 

I have to tell you a funny little story about this ferris wheel pictured above.  This is the Navy Pier ferris wheel, which I could hardly believe was still assembled and running in early November.  It's usually more of a summertime activity, and it's supposed to have amazing views of Chicago from the top.  When I saw that it was still assembled and running, I told Scott we HAD to go on it.  But then we saw the price and decided, as frugal-minded individuals, that we could forego it.  We walked around Navy Pier for about 20 minutes and I wouldn't stop talking about the ferris wheel, so Scott said that if I really wanted to we could go on it.  I told him it was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience (overdramatic, much?), and that, it certainly was.  Not only because of the views, but because I had a near panic attack on the ferris wheel as I discovered a fear of heights I never knew I had.  I'm so glad we went on it, but I don't think I'll be on a ferris wheel again anytime soon.  I also have to brag for a teeny second about my husband.  He got on the ferris wheel despite his intense fear of heights simply because I was so excited about it, and I felt horrible afterwards for not knowing about this fear of his.  You think you'd know this about someone after 8 years but I'll blame the long-distance for this one.  He's always sacrificing in these quiet, humble ways, and I'm so thankful and undeserving of this quality of his.  

No. 6: Exploring my own backyard.  I've been so thankful for friends who teach me new things about where I live, and this week I'm thankful for a sweet work friend, LeAndra, for showing me around Zionsville this week.  She had mentioned attending a workout class at a church in Zionsville a couple of weeks ago and we had been trying to find a time that worked with both of our weird night shift schedules.  We found a day this week and started it with the workout class before heading to downtown Zionsville.  I have to say that this town is adorable.  So many cute boutiques, antique shops, and yummy places to eat!  We ate lunch at Serenity, which reminded me of a tea room back home in Wilmington.  I love finding new little gems nestled in places I wouldn't otherwise know about, and I'm thankful for the friends who introduce me to them.  

No. 7: Breakfast with Scott.  Scott and I have been fortunate in being able to share breakfasts together a few mornings each week when the cosmos align and our schedules happen to collide for a brief moment, and I have absolutely loved these mornings.  I used to be a breakfast cynic, thinking that eggs and bacon were too greasy and nauseating to eat first thing in the morning.  I would stick to toast or muffins and call it a day.  Oh man, how many years I wasted on carb-loaded breakfasts, completely missing the decadence of omelettes that melt in your mouth and perfectly seasoned breakfast potatoes.  We've taken to making some sort of omelette (usually involving veggies and lots of avocado) with a side of Polish sausage (sometimes bacon instead) and breakfast potatoes seasoned with seasoning salt and parsley (inspired by Le Peep's peasant potatoes).  As I'm writing this, I'm wishing Scott was home so we could make this RIGHT NOW.  It's just not the same without someone to cook with you-- inevitably, you'll end up over-crisping the breakfast potatoes or tearing apart the omelette because you didn't wait long enough to turn it.  These breakfasts are best done in the company of family, friends, or even your dog if they're skilled enough with a spatula :)

No. 8: She Reads Truth community.  I think I've mentioned this community several times on here, but I love the She Reads Truth daily devotions very much.  I'm in anxious anticipation of receiving the Advent study pack soon, but even without the study packs, these devotions are truth-speaking and encouraging, filled with a lot of thought-provoking material and a lot of Biblical truth.  Since my accountability buddies are all far away, this is a nice way for me to stay in Scripture every day.  It's not the end-all to my Bible reading, but it's a start each day. 

No. 9: A tidy apartment.  In preparation for Friendsgiving, Scott and I went crazy cleaning the apartment and are now reaping the benefits of such a frenzy.  We leave for North Carolina next Wednesday and are hoping to keep the apartment super fresh until then.  However, Christmas crafts have begun in the living room and we may be doomed for the mess that comes with that, but for now, it's nice to have a somewhat tidy apartment and Christmas decor sprinkled throughout.  

No. 10: Warm blankets.  We're stingy about turning the heat on in our apartment, but this month we finally gave in and turned it on.  In trying to keep our energy bill low, we've taken to snuggling under cozy blankets.  Whether we're watching Downton Abbey on the Chancey couch (yes, Scott has gotten very into the dramatics of Downton Abbey) or trying to fall asleep at night, we're pretty much covered with warm blankets.  I love this one that was gifted to me by my former roomies' mama bear.  

And that's all for now, friends.  I've been awake since 6 when Scott jumped on the bed and woke me up before his early morning meeting at school, and I'm hoping this post doesn't reflect the sleepiness of 6AM writing.  One of the books I recently read while trying to begin my book-writing process talked about morning pages as an exercise, and I think this post could be considered my morning pages, the freshest, first thoughts that I encountered this morning.  

And with that, I hope you all have a beautiful day!


Monday, November 17, 2014

Worth and Thanksgiving

I've been struggling a lot lately, friends.  Struggling with this weird life phase I'm in, with where we live, the career I've chosen... my circumstances, to name it all in some larger sense.  I keep wondering what exactly it is that I'm doing, and if I were to wake up tomorrow and it was all taken away from me, what would it mean?  What if tomorrow I had my nursing license revoked and was told that I could never practice nursing again? Would I be ok with that?  And what if Scott suddenly decided that this marriage was more than he bargained for and maybe we shouldn't be married after all (I will be shocked to death if this ever happens as we have both had extensive conversations over the past 8.5 years over what the covenant of marriage means to us and how we feel about divorce, but this is for illustrative purposes)?  What if I got evicted after all of that and had to move back home to North Carolina?

A lot of what if's.  A lot of wondering.  A lot of trying to sort through my life to figure out what I value and where I find my worth.  Is it in my work? My marriage? My clothes, my apartment, my cooking?  I keep wondering, what if everything I have ever loved and valued was stripped out from underneath me? Would I still praise God? Or would I curse him?  Scott and I read through Job a while ago and I think about Job and how he responded to being tested in this way.

If you don't know the story of Job, he was basically a really awesome guy.  He loved God and served Him well, didn't do bad things, loved his family, etc.  But God gives Satan permission to test Job, so Job had his home, all of his belongings, and his family taken away from him.  His children were all killed when a great wind came and struck down the house, and still Job says, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return.  The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21)

After this, Satan sets horrible sores all over Job's body, and though his only remaining family member, his wife, encourages him to curse God, he does not.  Instead, he sits with his friends for seven days and nights without speaking.  Seven days.  What great friends, to sit with him through his suffering like that.  Most of us can't last five minutes in silence sitting across from a family member with a new cancer diagnosis or a friend who is telling you that her marriage is crumbling.

But then, Job finally speaks, and he curses the day he was born (Job 3:1).  And I think that this would be what I would do.   I think I would wallow in self-pity and wonder about why God ever even brought me to be in existence if he was just going to bring all of this horror and suffering upon me.  And so I think of Job when I think about all of these questions that I've been struggling with lately.  I like to think that I could have the attitude of Job in chapter 1 when he sees how the Lord has given and taken away, but I think I would be the chapter 3 Job instead, unfortunately.

And what does that say about my worth? I think it speaks volumes on this-- suggesting that my worth is found in all of these things instead of the One who created all of the things and who chooses to bless me with them.  The job, the education, the apartment, the husband.

With that in mind, I'm really reflecting on what I'm thankful for in this season of thanksgiving in more ways than I normally do; the gravity of all I am thankful for is that much deeper this year, and the idea of not being grateful enough seems so shameful.  I am ever so grateful for the grace of Jesus and the gift I have been given in living a life free of bondage.  The fact that I can worship freely, talk about Him freely, read His word freely, that is worth more than any thing I could ever possess.

Maybe I'm overdramatic and over-analytical and overly emotional these past few months, but I must confess that though I've hated the process of growing and stretching, it's been an immensely valuable and worthy experience for me. It's opened my heart to the life I am really called to instead of the one I had been halfway living.

The pages in my blue Bible have been my life breath, the words on them my oxygen.  As Christmas approaches and the stores go crazy with lights, Christmas carols, sales, and sparkle, I want to remember the reason for all of the sparkle.  I want to remember that it's because of a little baby who is our Savior in the flesh, coming to the Earth to die for our sins such that we might live eternally with Him in heaven.  And I want to remember that this is my life's worth, and that this is it's true value.  It's never been about me; it's always been about Him.  And how many times do I still continue to miss that point? Daily.

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith."  Romans 3:23-25

I am thankful for that redemption.  Lots of love to you all this week.  My heart is burdened with the fear that I will not appreciate and value the gravity of these truths, but my prayer is that I would.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Becoming Mrs. Davis

Photo credit: The 25th Hour Studio 

For the longest time, in fact, for most of my life, I thought that the act of getting married turned you into this beautiful being called a wife.  I thought that marriage in and of itself just made you into the Proverbs 31 woman, and that suddenly you were this encouraging, lovely, never-angry person who your husband just adored with all of his heart.

I've learned that this isn't the case.  If anything, marriage in and of itself makes you the opposite of those things.  It can make you resentful towards your spouse, frustrated, revenge-seeking, and easily angered.  I see how people so easily fall into these traps with their spouses, letting their lack of dish-washing and laundry-doing be a cause for marital strife and discord.  I find myself snapping sometimes, knowing that I'm being completely illogical, but not knowing how to escape from those feelings and ugly words.  

In response to these things, marriage has made me a woman who prays a lot more than I used to.  Though, I do not pray in the same ways that I always have.  I used to wake up in the little green house in Durham, brew some coffee, and crawl back into bed to read my Bible and write out my prayers.  Or I would sit on the living room couch with the fire blazing and Penny the golden doodle nugget sitting next to me on the couch while I read and prayed.  There was so much space for this, so many places I could go for quiet.  In Indy, we live in a 600-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment that affords little luxury in the way of space.  I love our apartment to no end, but it's tiny.  When I lived by myself in the apartment pre-marriage, it felt giant.  I would sit at the kitchen table by the bay window to read my Bible or sit on the Chancey couch or stay in my own bed.  With two people in the apartment, there are fewer places to go to pray.  If Scott is in the living room, I feel like I have to be in the bedroom, out of the way.  Or vice versa.  

And so my perspective on prayer has changed.  I no longer write out my prayers like I used to in my single-lady days.  I pray to God in my head, on my way to work, as I grocery shop, when I'm cooking in the kitchen.  It's in the moment, and not jut once a day when I have time to sit down and write.  I very much want to get back into writing-- I like tracing my prayer journey, looking back to see prayers God has answered that I may have been praying over for months.  But as a newlywed dwelling in small spaces, I'm learning to be less of a snob about prayer.  I'm learning to be more open to praying anywhere and everywhere and not just on paper but out loud or in my head at any moment of the day.  And to be honest, I think that this is good.  I think this might be a sliver of what God calls us to.  As Paul encourages us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17: Pray without ceasing.  It's a change in perspective of prayer as a once a day thing to a continual conversation throughout the day with Jesus.  And doesn't that seem so lovely?  To build your relationship with Him through constant communication? It's equivalent to calling your mom or your friend or  your spouse throughout the day with little life updates or thoughts about your day.  "Hey Mom!  I'm on my lunch break and just wanted to tell you that I got that promotion!"  "Hey Dad, I'm just on my way home from school.  It wasn't a great day today, the kids were so hyper from all the Halloween candy they ate last night. Maybe tomorrow will be better."

Becoming Mrs. Davis has been nothing like I thought it would be.  I have not transformed into this beautiful wifely creature that I thought I had the potential to become when getting married.  I'm the same Cristina I was when I married Scott, but I am becoming a better version of her through trials that we face and through experiences that are growing and stretching us.  I think a lot of that becoming happens through the toughest and most private parts of our marriage.  It happens behind closed doors, with the struggles that people on the other side of the door know nothing about.  The becoming has taught me how to pray better for my husband, how to encourage him, how to pick him up out of the low places he falls into.  And he's done the same for me, growing and stretching beyond what I always knew him as into something even more lovely.  

When I think about this process of becoming, I think about the simplest things, too.  Like my new last name.  Though I changed my name on Facebook and my nursing license, my driver's license and social security card, for a while, it still felt like I was an impostor.  I was at a class at work a few months ago when Cristina Davis was called, and I hesitated for a minute, confused by what I had heard.  I think they said my name-- am I Cristina Davis? For 23 years I was Cristina Poveromo, and this Cristina Davis person sounds sort of like me but with a much easier to spell last name.  

This week at a conference I went to in Chicago, I realized that I really had become Cristina Davis.  And I knew that name to be my own.  I showed up to the conference and saw two name tags: Cristina Davis and Cristina Poveromo.  There was mass confusion because my check that I mailed in was from Cristina Poveromo but my registration form said Cristina Davis.  Which one was I? If I was Cristina Davis, where was Cristina Poveromo? Who was she? I had to explain that these were not two different people-- Poveromo was my maiden name.  I claimed the Cristina Davis nametag and walked away, realizing that the name finally clicked and made sense to me. I am Mrs. Davis.  I am no longer Cristina Poveromo-- that girl was lovely, but this one is in a beautiful process of becoming.  Becoming braver and more confident, more trusting in the Lord's plan for what may come.    Becoming a "help meet" for her husband, an encourager and an unconditional lover.  

Proverbs 31:10-31

An excellent wife, who can find? 
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands. 
She is like the ships of the merchant; 
she brings her food from afar.
She rises while is is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it,
with the fruits of her hands she pants a vineyard.
She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.  
She makes bed coverings for herself,
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them;
She delivers sashes to the merchants.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.  
She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed, 
her husband also, and he praises her.
Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her the fruit of her hands, 
and let her works praise her in the gates.  

I am not that woman.  But I am becoming her.  

Lots of love,