Wednesday, September 24, 2014

On Saturday night we crashed a wedding- there was a happy couple celebrating in the same spot where we made our vows ten years ago. We walked down the aisle and around the property. We sat on a bench, watching the dancing and the guests. It was magical. Ok, I should probably be a little more honest, I watched through one eye as the other was swollen shut with pink eye. I imagined the dress and the hair and the make up when I was actually wearing the only clean pair of jeans I could find, thanking my lucky stars that it was dark enough to hide the frizzy mess of hair piled on top of my head, and doused in perfume to mask the baby vomit that was surely caked up somewhere after three days of Sam's virus. Mike sauntered along with me, limping a bit from a recovering ACL injury, brushing off the fatigue that comes with giving your life to medicine, and bobbing his head to the tuba of the mariachi band. We were a sight- luckily the open bar had been going long enough that no one seemed to notice our arrival.

Ten years ago I had a lot of ideas about love and marriage. Some of them were wonderful and wholesome- learned from watching my lovesick parents over the years. Some of them were lofty and grand- my college roommate had a stash of rom coms we would watch whenever the grim outlook of dating at a christian college sunk in. Some of my ideas were stubborn and rigid, some were hopeful and joyful, but mostly, they tried to synthesize a whole lot of input into a formula. A formula that I thought would make us happy and spit out a wonderful life. As we sat together under those same pine branches and twinkling lights this weekend, we laughed and lingered over how the years unfolded. Some of the most fun, most heart wrenching, most fulfilling, most devastating, most amazing years two people might find together. There are decisions and days and weeks I wish I could erase- hurts, miscommunications, selfishness, and self inflicted wounds that threatened our vows. But there are moments of complete grace that leave me in awe- forgiveness, commitment, reconciliation, sacrifice. There is still no dishwasher or house, no dog or evenly spaced children, but there is a deep love that eludes any formula. I am blessed. 


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I surprised the Mike with a trip to NYC for our ten year anniversary. I thought I'd share our adventures as I did quite a bit of research to avoid tourist traps and make the time memorable. I present the "90,000 Fitbit Step Weekend Travel Guide to NYC." I organized all the adventures into envelopes that were opened throughout the day.


We arrived at JFK at 11pm. Pricelined a hotel in Chelsea, it was totally decent. Upon arrival at our hotel, we ventured out and filled our growling stomachs with $1/slice pizza. (it tastes about as bad as it sounds, but who cares when its the middle of the night in New York?)


I recommend conspiring with your husband's best bud to plan a surprise meeting on a random street near the hotel. The surprise was mutual for my girl Kells. They took the Bolt bus down from Boston to spend the weekend with us. We headed out to DONUT PLANT at 220 W 23rd. The Tres Leche donut took the cake, though I doubt you'd go wrong with any choice. We sipped our lattes and headed for the subway toward City Hall to open our first envelope. We took a break on the steps of an old building to enjoy our donuts and take in the city.

Our first adventure was to walk the Brooklyn Bridge over to DUMBO. When the path splits on the other side of the bridge, veer left toward DUMBO and wander around until you reach the water. Spectacular views of Manhattan await. 

We headed over to 19 Fulton St to grab pizza at JULIANA'S. Call in a pick-up order to avoid the crowds, especially when there's a magnificent park just a few steps away. We waited 15 minutes for our delicious Margherita pizza. Grab a scoop at the BROOKLYN ICE CREAM FACTORY to continue your stroll through Brooklyn. We popped into THE POWERHOUSE ARENA. A-Mazing selection of children's books. Seriously, I could write a whole blog post, I'll stop. Just do yourself a favor and go.

Hop on the EAST RIVER FERRY to N. Williamsburg. It's probably faster and cheaper to take the subway, but floating up the river and under the bridge beats the tunnels by a long shot. One way tickets are $6 on the weekend. You can buy the tickets from a little kiosk near the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.

Williamsburg... We could've wandered for days. 
The boys celebrated the first day of Oktoberfest at RAADGAST HALL & BIERGARTEN. My preggo friend and I wandered up and down Bedford Avenue window shopping. Our faves were PINK OLIVE and CATBIRD.  We stopped at TEA BAR for Earl Gray Lavender Iced Tea and enjoyed it on a bench outside. Delish. After a few hours, we met up with the boys in the back garden of EL ALMACEN. The South American vibe was just what we wanted for a slow evening with friends. A bottle of malbec, avocado fries, steaks served on tree stumps, and tres leche cake made for fantastic dining.

After dinner, we hopped back on the subway to the West Village. Walking off the massive caloric ACE HOTEL in the Flatiron District. While I would've loved to stay at the hotel, it was out of our budget. Crashing the bar seemed like a reasonable substitute. Lest you think I morphed into some super hip kid on this trip, I should admit that I ordered cucumber and lime tonic. (as in water) It was a refreshing end to our busy day. 


While we had intended to hit the city early, sleep got the better of us all and we didn't roll out of bed until 9 am. We headed out through Chelsea toward the HIGHLINE HOTEL. (Again, this place was amazing if its in your budget!) They have several outdoor patios and indoor seating areas to enjoy coffee from Intelligentsia.  We sipped our coffee and drank in the fresh morning air.

With some fuel for the day, we headed down the road to CHELSEA MARKET. Like the Ferry Building in SF or Eastern Market in DC, there is more food than you can possibly consume. We let our eyes do the feasting, sampled flavored salts, and headed back out to the street. We landed at THE PARK for brunch and enjoyed the garden patio. The food was good, nothing particularly special. But the location under the high line set us up for our next adventure.

We wandered up the HIGHLINE through the newly opened segment. An old railroad track converted into an above ground park, makes the trek uptown pleasant and unique.

From there, we hopped on the subway and headed uptown to Central Park. We walked straight into the middle of the People's Climate March but eventually made our way through into the magical park.   
Wandering through the maze of paths and forests, we emerged outside the MET. While I would love to peruse the museum someday, our time was ticking away so we made a less than suggested donation for an entrance ticket and headed toward the back of the museum. Winding through the exhibits lands you at the elevator to the roof. We ascended the five stories to the rooftop cafe. The view spans across the park to the downtown skyline. Our weather was a little hazy, but I expect on a cool summer evening it would be a great place to relax. As our friends' bus was scheduled to depart, we head back to the hotel to see them off.

Sunday evening, we embarked on the Adirondack, an 1890's style schooner for a sunset sailing trip to the Statue of Liberty. Seriously worth the ticket price of $64. For two hours, sailed down the river to take in the magnificent views of Lady Liberty, Ellis Island, Governor's Island, and the Manhattan skyline. Our trip happened to coincide with a fireworks celebration near the Brooklyn Bridge. Our captain kept us out late to enjoy the spectacular show.

After dinner, we trekked back uptown to EATALY. We sat at the bar to feast on the end of summer ravioli seasoned with lemon and pistachio. After browsing through the endless market, we settled on a scoop of gelato and made our way back through the city streets to the hotel. 


Once again our plan to hit the town running was foiled by our tired bodies and sleepy eyes. Even the doctor didn't roll out of bed til 8 am!?! We packed up and dropped our bags downstairs with the concierge. The itinerary was full of all the things my husband loves... good coffee, good style, and good cookies. We headed off through the endless food carts of MADISON SQUARE PARK and picked up Chocolate Babka from BREADS BAKERY.  Luckily, we tucked it away to savor with a cup of coffee. Had we tasted it on the spot, I'm pretty sure we would've bought a whole loaf. We continued to walk downtown through NYU and Washington Square Park as Fall arrived. The morning was perfectly crisp and the leaves began to flutter off the trees. I. Love. Fall. We ended at Stumptown in Greenwich Village and sat out on the street to enjoy our treats. 


I solicited the help of STYLE GIRLFRIEND Megan Collins in drumming up a shopping list of must visit menswear shops. If you know Mike, the reformed surf t-shirt, flip flop wearer, you know that this is exactly how he wanted to spend his last afternoon in the city. We visited Carlson Street Clothiers, Saturdays, and Unis. He picked up a pullover and added mental notes to his wish list. (He committed to not buying any clothes for year as an act of discipline... I told him to break the rule once for our anniversary!) We continued through SoHo and stopped for a crepe for lunch. Finally, we ventured back uptown for one last walk through the park. (I had originally planned to rent bicycles but we ran out of time.) We ended our afternoon at Levain Bakery to devour fresh cookies. The most amazingly fresh, fluffy, fudgy cookies ever. 


would love to hear comment of your favorite spots in NYC 


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Three years ago we placed the tiny form our first child into a small box. I copied the words of Psalm 139 onto a scroll and tucked it inside. Clinging to the hope that the psalmist was right, that God knows even when I do not, I said goodbye. We drove to the top of a mountain, opened the book of common prayer to the find the words that escaped us, and buried the child we would never know.

Making our way back down the mountain, we drank a strange cocktail of defeat and hope. Defeat, in that everything we had wished and hoped for was gone, God had not answered our prayer to give life to the child we so longed for. After years of trusting that we might become parents, the child that had finally answered that prayer was gone. Yet in the same moment, hope arrived. It saved us from desperation, allowing us to experience the pain while clinging to something immovable. Visiting us in the tears, comforting us in the silence, resting with us in the emptiness.

Two years later hope revisited when we heard Samuel's heartbeat for the first time, strong and steady. Unexpected and seemingly impossible, his very existence still baffles me.

With the first photo of Jephte's face, the hope surged yet again. It was a frequent visitor in the swells and changing tides of the journey to bring him home. When I returned from Congo without him last December, that hope came to dwell with us in the wait. In the moments when his future was uncertain, it was our constant companion.

Although parts of our story have been difficult and challenging, the truth is that each of us have or will find ourselves in impossible situations. I do not believe God orchestrates death, pain, and brokenness- I do believe that he offers us hope in spite of them. And though I have left Congo and my baby boys are home safe, that hope is so deeply seated in my soul, it changes everything.

If you've read anything I've written, you know that being in Congo is a weighty thing. I don't know how to better describe it. Congo gets into your blood and takes up residence. The images invade your mind, the sounds squeeze into the quiet spaces, the smells occasionally waft past as you walk down the street... the stifling heat in our playroom where the congolese paintings hang, the glass coke bottles mike bought for a backyard bbq, the display of plantains at the store... I can't ignore it. And I don't want to.

Though my boys are in my arms, the glass that sits before me is muddled. There is this angst and tension constantly playing in my heart and mind. Knowing what I know about the realities of life in Congo and knowing what I know about the hope that God gives- its complicated and hard to describe. Like it or not, its a taste I've acquired that will not leave me be. I can't face one without the other.  I think the only thing that's left is to drink it down, the good with the bad, the beautiful with the ugly, the redeemed with the broken.

The photos of the children below are likewise complicated- nearly all their mothers died when they were born. They were resigned to an orphanage with the hope that the formula donated by charities would sustain their fragile lives. Later, once they were strong and healthy, they were reunited with their fathers or extended family members. The fact that life prevailed is no small miracle. They live in a place where the mother will die in 13 of 1000 deliveries and 1 in 7 children will die from malnutrition and/or disease before their 5th birthday. The infant, under age 5, and maternal mortality rates are staggering. (source)

Through the lens of those despairing statistics, you would expect photos of empty eyes and resignation. That's not what you see though. You see children who are no longer called orphan, but son and daughter, niece and nephew, granddaughter and grandson. You see joy, anticipation, determination, and resolve. I'm asking you to embrace this tension with me today. To embrace these lives where brokenness and hope intersect. For $15/month we can pay the school fees to educate a child. Children who want to go to school. Young men and women who will lead their families and villages. Young people who are the next generation of leaders and visionaries. They don't need us to save them, but our willingness to bolster their hope is no small thing. Please visit REEDS OF HOPE or contact me to learn more about how you can help.

Konkwa Kabura
Alazo Luhule
Mukanya Mubalana

Balyahamwabo Bahoya
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