Archive | my faith



I always felt like every year in college was totally different from the year before… almost like I was attending a different school each time.  Some things stayed the same — the Lawn, mochas in the library, and tried and true friends that I’d had since school started — but everything else shifted.  New faces became dear and familiar.  A new house or roommate changed my living experience.  New professors or classes changed my school experience.  New organizations or clubs (or friends to enjoy a slow glass of red wine with) changed my social life.

All these things made each year entirely different than the last.

Real life is like this, military life especially.  Every year people arrive.  You might even add a new baby to your family… how’s that for major transition!

I am feeling the crunch of transition right now.  I looked at my “Favorites” list of numbers in my phone and realized all those friends have moved away.  (Well, except my husband, thank goodness.)  At my women’s Bible study in the fall, I will only know about 5 people there instead of 20; everyone else has moved away. The friends that we have loved and relied upon since Day 1 in Sicily are no longer here.

And suddenly we’ve turned into the old fogies.  We’re now the ones who speak the most Italian (what?!), the ones who know the best places to eat here, the ones who know where to park there, the ones who can lead the caravan of friends’ cars instead of follow it, the ones who can say, “Well, two years ago winter storms killed the orange blossoms, but last winter it wasn’t so bad, and so I think the blood oranges will be plentiful this year.”

(^ dork alert ^)

Suddenly, even more frighteningly, I am the one who needs to welcome, invite, include, initiate.  I have always been on the other end of this, first as the newbie and then as just a friend.  Now there are so many people who need me, who need to be found, who need to be befriended, who need another mom who will suggest we pack multiple children into hot cars and head off on a mid-week adventure, just because it’s Sicily and why not?!

Can I love as I have been loved?  Can I — with mere months left here — hold open my arms and say, “Hi!  Want to be my friend?  Are you free on Thursday?”

Last night Elliott and I were praying together, and I prayed that we would “make room” in our lives for new friends.  I called this blog “Making Room” because we want this to be a habit in our lives: welcoming people into our home, offering friends and travelers our guest room, having new and old friends over to dinner, participating in Bible studies/community groups that include whole families in each other’s houses, seeking out needs of others and clearing our schedules so that we can meet these needs.

We’re not good at this.  We confront our own selfishness (or busyness, or introverted-ness, or exhaustion, or internal strife… this is a safe space!) every day.  When faced with these frustrations, we usually choose to make excuses instead of making sacrifices.  We choose self over service every day.

But thankfully, we have two things to combat our selfishness and help us “make room” this year.

The first is that we serve a God who not only made room for us in His Kingdom but gave life to us, welcoming us just as we were and then gently and faithfully continuing to sanctify us year by year.

The second is that we have had wonderful examples.  So many friends here have opened up their lives, homes, refrigerators, minivans, and hearts for us, welcoming us just as we were.  They have never assumed anything of us, other than that we’d like to be included.  They have made this strange and wonderful land a home for us, a place we love because they loved it first and showed us why.

Can we do this for others?  Can we seek out the newcomers and tell them what we’ve learned?  Can we catch them before they escape after church, shy and overwhelmed, and ask them about themselves?  Can we get their numbers and invite them to dinner?  Can we take them to our favorite beaches, pizzerias, hiking trails, and agriturismi?

Can we love as we have been loved?

12 :: in friends, military life, my faith, Sicily, thoughts

my new necklace


On July 7th, I woke up to find a little white box addressed to me by the kitchen sink.  This beautiful necklace was inside: three rings on a gold chain.  The gift was from my three sisters-in-law (Eden, Jess, and Erika) and it was given on the occasion of the first anniversary of my sister Julia’s death.

I haven’t said anything about this anniversary or the painful ache of missing Julia on here, even though these things were very much on my mind recently.  I wish I had some brilliant and articulate post to write about grief and missing Julia, but I don’t.  I just miss her.  Maybe wise words will come eventually… but for now, I feel empty and sad.  I often go back to my dad’s words about thankfulness in the midst of grief.

This necklace means so much coming from my three Garber sisters, and the rings symbolize a great deal to me as I think of my sister Emily, my sister Julia, and myself.  Each of us is so different, each of us is so much the same.  I also love that there are three rings because rings symbolize continuity, wholeness, and eternity.  Although Julia is separated from her body now — as Emily and I will be sooner or later — one day our bodies and souls will be united, perfect, and whole in the new heavens and the new earth.


I don’t wear much jewelry — usually just my wedding rings and a ring that Julia’s friends made with Romans 8:18 inscribed inside it.  Now I have this beautiful necklace too.  Do you wear special jewelry that was given to you by or reminds you of a loved one?

10 :: in grief, Julia, my faith

itchy feet, baby kicks, and still waiting

Back in the day: 2-week-old Lena.  *cue heart melting*
Well, based on some excitement this morning, we thought today might be the day that our little boy would be born!
But it wasn’t.  I’m still pregnant.
It all started last night when I yanked off my slippers and told Elliott, “My feet are so itchy.  Why is that?  So weird.”  That night the itching continued and even got worse.  The soles of my feet and my hands both itched, at times so much that I couldn’t sleep.
When we Googled these symptoms in the morning, we learned that they are related to cholestasis of pregnancy, a condition in which bile flow from the liver slows or stops.  “Cholestasis of pregnancy,” says the Mayo Clinic, “poses no long-term risk to the mother. Cholestasis of pregnancy can be dangerous for a developing baby, however.  Early delivery is usually recommended.”
Ummm… yikes!
And when I called my OB, she thought so too.  We spent the morning at the hospital for a non-stress test, amniocentesis fluid level test, and several labs.  The results of all of those so far show a happy, healthy, kickin’ away baby who has plenty of resources in there to keep hanging out for awhile and no apparent distress.  They sent us home, all smiles, and told us to come back if the itching got much worse.
So no baby today.  And thank the Lord, frankly!  When I got off the phone this morning and we knew we had to go in to the hospital (and might come back with a baby), I looked around the house and felt bubbling concern.  I’m not ready to have a baby!  There is still so much to do!  I have to organize his clothes in his room, I have to put our files in order, I have to clean the kitchen.  I still haven’t packed my hospital bag or frozen a single meal!
“And,” I said to Elliott.  “It’s January 17th!  I don’t want to have a baby on January 17th!”
“Why not?” Elliott said, unperturbed by the possible new birthdate of our baby.  “Let’s see, one-seventeen-thirteen… that adds up to 31.  31 flavors of ice cream.  It would be a good birthday.”
Thank you, honey.
So not today.  A little more time to prepare.  A little more time to look at the mess in my house instead of look down at a little bundle in my arms.  A little more time to plug through a to-do list (which will be just as long when the baby comes anyway).  A little more time to realize I am worrying about the wrong things and to thank God that this–the timing, our health, our baby boy’s birthday–is all in His hands.
Did you feel ready when your baby arrived?  Or were you overdue and more than ready?
16 :: in Baby Numero Due, family, motherhood, my faith, thoughts

not ready to say goodbye yet

on a hike near our home in Sicily in early January 2012

I’ve attempted to write this post several times and it just isn’t flowing out of me.  “Goodbye 2012, you were great!  Bring it on, 2013!”  That is anything but what I feel right now.  When you stare at your computer screen, attempting to write, and then end up sobbing in bed instead, you know there’s no joy in your heart about sweeping out the old and welcoming the new.

How do you say goodbye to a year in which your baby sister died?  How do you make yourself look forward?  How do you celebrate what a new year could bring when this last year brought such sadness and loss?

The tears were mostly caused by looking back through old photos and videos.  I was trying to find a photo from a year ago that I could use in my post, but this search led me to albums of images from the trip my family and I took to the Balkans last year.  I found a video of Dec 31, 2011, when we were exploring Zagreb, Croatia.  It was just a simple clip on my iPhone, but it included a scene–such an ordinary scene!–with Elliott and Julia standing side-by-side and taking pictures of my parents with Zagreb behind them.  At the end of the video, Julia walked forward to show my parents the picture she’d just taken on my dad’s phone.  Everything about that moment was so ordinary, so familiar: the way she walked, the shape of her hands, the expression on her face as she glanced at me to see if I was done filming before she started talking.  She was so real in those few seconds, so present, so alive.

I guess I haven’t watched any videos of her since she died; maybe that’s what shook me up so much.  Or maybe I am so busy a lot of the time that I just don’t think about it.  Unexpected moments like this take me back to Square 1 of grief again.

And so… I don’t know.  Sometimes I think I’m still in the denial stage of grief.  (Actually, what I really think is that you go through all the stages multiple times… probably for the rest of your life.)  And so, on this New Year’s Day, I hold many different emotions in my heart.  Sadness as well as joy.  Sorrow as well as hope.  Disappointment as well as thankfulness.  Anguish as well as peace.

I often go back and read this letter from my dad, which reminds me of truths I confess, truths about Julia, truths about life even when the night is very dark. Truths that give me joy, hope, thankfulness, and peace, even in the midst of sorrow.

This will be, I do hope, a beautiful year for our family.  We will be welcoming a new baby in about 4 weeks!  We will be making important decisions about Elliott’s career, our life after Sicily, and the future for our family.  I also have a lot of personal goals and hopes, which I’m eager to share with you soon.  Even this blog will see some exciting changes.  We have good reason to be hopeful, thankful, and faithful. 
And yet… there is this fear that instead of respite from turmoil and sadness, I may in fact experience more turmoil and sadness, or worse.  I wonder if I was just living in a happy bubble before Julia died and now I really know “the truth.”  The truth that most of life is sorrow, that the peaceful times are the exception, and that sadness and suffering is the rule.  It’s a rather bleak picture, but perhaps it’s a more accurate way to view this life.  What do you think?
11 :: in Balkans, grief, Julia, my faith, thoughts

every day with grief and gladness

This is what every morning looks like these days.  Lena begins to rustle around in her crib around 7:30 or so.  I slip out of bed, gather her up into my arms, and plop her into my pillows in my bed.  I grab a big stack of books from the basket underneath my bedside table and snuggle under the covers with her.  Then we read books and talk about how we slept and what we’re going to do today, until eventually she says, “Mmm!”

And I say, “Are you hungry?  Do you want some breakfast?”

And she says, “Mmm!  Mmmm!”

And then we change her diaper, put on clothes, I put on clothes, and we go downstairs, where she eats approximately 10 bowls of Raisin Bran (her favorite) and I sip half-caff coffee and munch on Grape Nuts and bananas (my favorite).

These are peaceful days here in my parents’ house, and I am so grateful for this chance to spend extended time with family.  I have found, though, that being here at home has meant that I have begun missing Julia all over again.  Every time I come upstairs, I see her smiling at me from her high school senior portrait, glowing with fresh young beauty.  Her picture is on the wall in the entry way, above the trunk on the landing, in the photo collages in the basement.  Even now as I sit in bed writing this I can look up and see through the door into her room.  We still have barely touched her room, and I’m fine with that for now.  It’s a good place to go and miss her, and cry a bit, and think about what you have lost and what will never be.

I had lunch today with my dear friend Kim.  I told her I feel angry about Julia’s death, which is an emotion I really haven’t felt until this visit.  I had a hard time expressing my anger to Kim because it was so wrapped up in trust in and need for God at the same time.  Kim suggested that perhaps I wasn’t angry at God, I was angry along with God.  Together, God and me, we are angry.  We are angry at the presence of death in this world, we are angry that this world isn’t fair and good, we are angry at the hole Julia has left in family and friends’ lives.  Something clicked for me when she expressed the idea of being angry along with God (an idea which, coincidentally, she got from our mutual friend Sarah, another grieving friend in this sad world).  Does it make sense to you?  I love, believe, and need God in the midst of this aching, bleeding, angry loss.

I catch myself thinking, “If only Booie would come home and make us all laugh again!  We’re so sad and serious these days!” and then I remember she can’t and never will.  But then I try also to remember that she is so very happy and that we have so much to be thankful for

And I get up and face another day.  And I am thankful that each morning in this house starts so sweetly, with baby snuggles and board books, with physical presence in the momentary absence.  Until Paradise.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
14 :: in family, Julia, Lena, motherhood, my faith, Virginia

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes