Ragged, and Utterly Beautiful

The cry over the monitor jostled me out of sleep just before seven. I wonder if he’ll go back to sleep. Oh I wish he would. Of course that’s not the case. I stumble into the bathroom, quickly, before venturing into the little room across the hall. There he is, turned around sideways, cooing and talking to himself, a grin appearing across his face as he sees that I’m staring at him. He looks innocently into my eyes, his face full of joy — the unadulterated kind that’s hard to find as an adult in a very broken world. These days when life sometimes feels overwhelming, the circumstances about us loom, threatening all we believe, but somehow making us believe even more. I change his little diaper, pinch those perfect little butt cheeks until he giggles, and carry him back to bed with me for his first meal. (Second meal, really, but I hardly remember 3:26AM except for the quiet, and the view of half my eyelids mixed with his room.)

There’s nothing quite like birth or death to make you really ponder where you are in life. Today it’s my birth twenty-eight years ago, and the birth of my third son nearly five months ago. What an interesting place I have come to. A beautiful one. Or, since it’s full of boys, maybe I should say it’s rather handsome, striking. I never anticipated this place, except for the husband part. My sisters could tell you all about how I anticipated the husband part. Skipping out of my bedroom in my early twenties, I dreamt often of him, though I could only guess at who he might be, what his eyes might look like as he stared into mine. I had no idea that he would bring along with him two of the greatest blessings in my life, two little men who my heart is suddenly, eternally attached to, who my soul prays over daily and begs God to be extra sweet to in all of His holy mercy. Some things you simply can’t prepare for, but thankfully the Lord sends us on courses that prepare us for things we know not, to right our hearts in ways we cannot understand until a point in the future. I keep that hope tucked carefully in my heart, that He’s always working to bring us deeper into oneness with Him, especially when the war rages around us.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last two years, my heart is not my own. We live alone for so many years, looking out for what I want, making friends that I like, making decisions that seem right to me. It all looks so different now, through a few lenses life must be seen differently. Those lenses are hearts and souls and flesh and bones whose every moment and emotion matter to me. So I grow and change out of the life that used to be lived alone, and into a life that looks like nourishing with meals and words and hugs. Into a life that is closer to a man who calls Himself the Christ, to abide in His truth, to live as He did, selflessly, patiently, and overflowing with a love from the Father to bless those he encountered. I’ll do my best in this imperfect shell of a human body because I love Him and am ever grateful for His kindness to me. Oh, it all looks different now. Loving because He first loved me. I see it in the kitchen when the boys are running through the house all loud and covered in dirt, still wearing the shoes they were supposed to remove at the door. I see it in the way I respond to any given circumstance, whether I am annoyed or deeply moved. I see it in the way I hold my beloved’s face after a long, hard day of work, thanking him for taking care of us. I see it in the way I hug my kids when their hearts ache. I see His love. Through me, it’s quite imperfect, but it’s a deeper love than I’ve ever known before. It’s inexplicable.

Love.

It’s sometimes broken in its message, yet ragged, and utterly beautiful.

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Discoveries

I’m discovering many things about myself, which is no surprise to those who are married and also learned much about themselves during the first year of life with their spouse. More often than not I’ve been told the first year is the hardest, and in our situation it certainly isn’t easy. Our first two months (and four days) have been riddled with difficult relationship circumstances, illness, death, and car problems. (What’s life without car problems?) And woven into the trials are life’s daily joys: the incessant laughter and energy of the boys, the hikes, the game nights, the homemade granola bar dash, the dinner wins (and losses), family story time, lizards, dinner time devotions, after dinner nature walks, birthdays, grandparents, cousins, and the pushing of dad into the pool when he’s not expecting it (well done, Zach!). And between those woven strands of our lives I’m learning about simply being a woman. Like how to hide vegetables in dinners that the boys will devour rather than pick apart, how to ward off baby fever by enjoying the antics of baby animals and other furry woodland creatures…ok, I’m kidding (sort of).

Women, it seems, have some qualities that are pretty much in our DNA, whether we like them or not. We have duties, whether we like them or not (and some are negotiable with the husband, like sweeping, which mine is sweetly doing now). I’m beginning to feel the weight of being a woman on my heart. I still want the things I wanted before, like advocating for the oppressed and writing, but I want them in a different context. I don’t even know what that means, but God will show me so long as I’m daily in tune with His friendship and love.

Update: I want to be a wife, a mom, and an advocate. I’m pretty sure those things were still true a year ago before I met Kelly and the boys, but now my priorities have changed. And that’s alright, because I think my priorities are where God wants them. I want to be learning about Him more than I ever have, because others are now watching my daily actions and attitudes more than ever. I want to be a really good wife, the kind that Proverbs talks about. I want to be a loving, approachable, kind mom with the best food on the block (like my mom!). And I want all of our lives to weave so tightly with God’s purpose that He smiles when He thinks about the Walkers. I guess what I’m trying to say, and what our culture’s idea of femininity has previously confused my understanding of is: I’m a woman. And I want Godly-womanly things. And I know you want pictures, so take a gander below at some Walker adventures looking for wildflowers, camping trips turned stranded in the desert trips, and husband&wife camping getaways.

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Real Life

Yeah, I’m so totally married. And it’s seriously the most amazing thing ever. I highly recommend it – if God says you’re ready. I didn’t think I was ready, but I look back over my life and simply marvel at how detailed God was in preparing me for this time. I gave Kelly a gift the night before our wedding: it was a journal I had kept for just over 6 years and each entry was dedicated to Kelly, even before I knew him. I called him nicknames in that journal years before I met him which I could not have possibly known how accurate they would be. And that’s a superficial little bit of what’s in the journal; there are prayers and dates of events that make my mind spin at how the Spirit moved us for one another. Ok, but this is all really besides the point.

A year ago I never imagined living in Bend – ever again. A year ago I had a hard time believing God loved marriage as much as He did when He first created it. A year ago I never imagined having two sweet, young boys in my life. A year ago I had no idea God’s purpose for my life is as full as it is now and would still be growing.

I’m seeing His purpose for me expand in ways I never imagined possible, ways that are quite honoring to be a part of. I’m beginning to understand the parallel of Paul’s comparison of marriage to Christ and the Church. It’s about grace, every day, coming straight from the Father and flowing from me to Kelly, Kelly to me, and us to the boys. These little bits are just the tip of the iceberg. Heck, I’ve only been married for three weeks. What do I know?!

The Walkers already have quite a few traditions in place – traditions I’m excited for the boys to remember when they get older. These are the things that are gluing us together as a family right now and in the years to come: each night at dinner we read scripture and talk about it; when the weather is nice we do nature walks after dinner and learn about the local plant life; we have big breakfasts on Saturday mornings (today was banana pancakes, chicken sausage and a spiced potato hash with garlic and orange peppers – a total win); and we have dinners with grandparents/family every week. Oh, I can’t possibly forget about Narnia! We read Narnia nearly every night before bed. We’re currently almost done with The Horse and His Boy and next we’ll be on to Prince Caspian.

I wish I could show you every picture detailing all of the fun we’re having, but a few will have to suffice (same goes for the wedding pictures!). Enjoy!

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The Rumor is Now True…

Sweet mercy I haven’t written in ages. Yikes. Well, by now most of you know we’re engaged, and if not, SURPRISE! You’re way behind on the local dish! Here’s how it all went down:

We planned a date night to go cross country skiing together at the end of March (clearly I’m behind on writing…). I had an inclination that Kelly was going to propose that night based on a few things that happened in the days leading up to it. The biggest one was when I asked where he wanted to ski that night. He said, “Let’s go to Tumalo Falls one more time, and then we’ll go other places for the rest of the season.” Tumalo Falls was the first place we went skiing together before we even began dating. I tried not to get my hopes up, but it was hard not to!

When we arrived, the snow was the consistency of a melted, re-frozen sno-cone – not ideal for skiing, but at the end of ski season I’ll take anything I can get. We got to the top of the first large hill on the way to the falls, at sunset, and there he asked me to marry him. We’ve had this long-running joke since we first started dating that we don’t like the term “boyfriend/girlfriend” because it seems so noncommittal, so juvenile. Our separate “dating” theories have always been to date with the purpose of marriage in mind because otherwise it’s just a waste of time. He began his little speech with, “I’m tired of being called your boyfriend, it’s time you call me your fiancee.” And he went on to tell me how much he loved me and how much he is thankful for my presence in his life.

Here’s my favorite part:

When I first arrived home (by this point we already *knew*), he gave me a garnet he has had since he was about 21 years old. It’s a gift he was given by a student while teaching English in Sri Lanka. We talked about incorporating it into my wedding ring, but apparently garnets aren’t as hard as diamonds and the jeweler explained to us it would abrade over time. We decided not to take that risk and to have it set into a necklace once the wedding was over and the purse strings loosened a touch.

I found out Kelly doesn’t like to wait to give me good gifts. He ordered my ring back in February, and of course the wait time was somewhere between 4 and 6 weeks. Somewhere in that time frame he grew tired of waiting to ask me to be his wife, so he had the necklace made and planned to propose with it while the ring was being finished. It worked out wonderfully, because this little garnet I now wear means so much to me – it contests how much I like my ring even. The funny thing about this part of the story is that Kelly got the call at the end of the business day just before he proposed that my ring was done. It wasn’t more than 24 hours before I had two lovely gifts to wear.

There you have it. I’ve finally blogged about the time when Andrea was proposed to by a tall, handsome, and wonderful man.

Expressions of passion

I often find myself going through artistic phases: I draw, I sew, I turn old things into new, and sometimes, but more often than not I find myself writing. I have a countless number of journals, four of which I write in consistently (each journal has its very own purpose, of course). The pen to paper is to me romantic, whimsical, meaningful, beautiful and almost forgotten in this era.

I have found myself falling deeper into a love affair with written (even, spoken) expression. To my mom that is no shocker. For as long as I can remember, she’s loved reading my papers in school, the blogs that I now write and everything else that fell in between. For me, I never really noticed how much I loved writing. It is simply a part of who I am. And then I realized it’s a part of who I am. It seems the realization was something I desperately needed.

Admittedly, I am not a very practiced writer, nor do I feel I always have something important to say. There are many times where words are not necessary; the silence, a soft touch or a look might be all the communication that is needed in a moment. However, I have found that there are many, many words that need to be said. There are millions of people every day who do not get to say or write or express what needs to be communicated. Their voices are smothered and silenced. These are the voices of the oppressed. The enslaved. The persecuted. The tortured. The forgotten. I’ve discovered that more important to me than any silk, any beautiful design, any poem is this raging passion to speak for those who do not have the chance.

In order to cultivate this passion I am headed back to school. This is kind of a hand in hand announcement, I suppose, because this also means I’ll be closing up shop. That’s right, I’m bidding adieu to Ania Designs (and silk, and marketing, and business, and lace…). I have come to realize that when you take time to discover your passion, what truly makes your heart beat, what really sends the blood coursing through your veins, you must take time to cultivate and follow that passion.

Here is a poem I wrote a few weeks ago. I was having a stunning conversation with a friend of mine about love and risk, and even though that was the subject matter in mind when writing, somehow it seems this string of words may fit a number of scenarios. I hope you enjoy.

Life seems to be shades of grey
Seemingly imperfect visions of
What is or is to come
The warmest sun
The coldest wind
Are reminders of truth and reality
Amidst the confusion
As life gives nothing we expect
But all that we hope for
It’s all greyscale
And struggling to find the eye
In the ever pressing storm
The yes and the no
And into the water are only my toes
When deep inside my heart
It screams I should simply jump in
To the dark, the depths, the unknown
That I might explore and taste
Only the most beautiful adventure to be had
A complete surrender and lack of fear
To immerse my life in love and sacrifice

Legacy

I just had a fab conversation with my Aunt about Africa the other morning. Oh how I am glad this post is not going to be in video, because I couldn’t make it through without crying. My late grandfather had a friend named Don who had a heart for Africa, and since 2000 has spent much time devoted to a village in Uganda.

I’ll give you a brief version of the story: Art (my grandpa) and Don were supposed to take off for Africa in 2003, however my grandpa’s health had been deteriorating in the couple of years prior. His health worsened too much to go on the trip. Regardless of his health, he helped provide funds to create a clean water system for this village.

That Christmas, months after Don went on the trip, our entire family, the kids and grandkids were all together for one last Christmas with grandpa. He wasn’t expected to last much longer the way his health was declining. The day after Christmas (or right around there) he got a card in the mail with an overwhelming heart-felt thank you card and photos from this village in Uganda of the fruit of his giving. Only a few days later he passed away. What a blessing for him to see that and to days later meet his Maker.

I only hope I can continue on in this legacy of self-sacrifice and generosity; to seek justice for the oppressed, to plead the cause of the orphan and widow. (James 1:27)