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The Joy of Unplugging

Over Thanksgiving, Zach and I traveled to Alabama to spend time with our families for the holiday weekend. We stopped first with my grandparents in Northern Alabama before making our way further south to see the Vickerys. We had a wonderful time eating, laughing, and even running (I ran my first 5k after my aunt asked me the night before the race if I wanted to join her!).

On the way to our first stop with my grandparents, Zach and I talked about how much we looked forward to our trips to their house as a time to unplug and live a bit more simply, to breathe a bit more deeply. We knew our time would be rushed but still looked forward to the peacefulness that comes from any time spent at “the lake house”. In all the craziness of the past year, a few days with spotty cell service and lots of home-cooked food sounded like perfection.

One of the holiday traditions in my Mom’s family is putting together (ridiculously difficult) puzzles during our stay each holiday. This year we completed two 1000-piece puzzles in the two days Zach and I were there. It was equally frustrating and fun to work through the puzzles together, personal space becoming minimal as we all reached across each other for the perfect piece to complete our chosen sections. 

It’s remarkable how much better a conversation becomes when phones are put away and hands are busy shifting puzzle pieces rather than scrolling news feeds. And without the television blaring, the stories shared were more poignant, my brother-in-law’s wit more biting (and hilarious), and the laughter of my sister and me much louder. Even though our time was short, it felt like all a Thanksgiving should be. The viral video could wait. I needed my hands to hold my sweet niece (or shovel down some macaroni and cheese!).

When we made our way to Zach’s family, the television and cell service was present, but the family still spent quite a bit of time outdoors battling it out in a home run derby. Watching my father-in-law hit the dirt after my mother-in-law launched a hit right at him was much higher quality entertainment than anything I could’ve found online. 

I wish more of life could be spent at the lake house, or outside in a home run derby. We all could use some time this holiday season without cell service. Because when our hands are full of technology, we miss the chance to hold onto all the truly good gifts we’ve been given. The holiday memories made together will mean much more in the years to come than how many people liked our Christmas selfies or the amount of laughs our throwback holiday photo garnered. So let’s plug in the lights on the tree, turn off the television, and put away the phones. Let’s be together this Christmas with grateful, open hands.

A Girl Called Norman

“Tragedy has struck…”

My stomach churned as I felt an odd sense of what those words might mean. There were no details in the Facebook post, but in my mind I immediately sensed at a gut level what had occurred. I hoped I was wrong and continued scrolling.

This morning, I stumbled upon the post that proved me right and confirmed my fears.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This story doesn’t begin with a Facebook post. It really begins twelve years ago, but we’ll start with the chapter with which I’m most familiar. This past June, Zach and I had the opportunity to represent our undergraduate alma mater at the church youth camp Zach had attended as a teenager. I had visited the camp once before as a college representative, and both of us were excited to be back.

The week before we left, I began praying that God would use me to lead the young girls I would meet toward Himself and His grace. He answered that prayer by bringing me girls full of hurt. My heart broke as I listened to a few girls talk calmly, even flippantly, about being sexually abused by family members and how their mothers left because “she didn’t love us anymore.” So matter of fact. So…clinical.

And then, there was my Norman. My family has always used the name “Norman” to refer to a person in our lives that God sends our way. This person is placed in our path for us to minister to them, but often their personality clashes with our own or leaves us feeling worn down and annoyed. Even so, we meet them with the knowledge – a nudge by God Himself, perhaps – that we have been called to love this person and thus show them the love God has for them. The name comes from a book and movie that I watched in the early 2000s, and the idea has stuck with us all these years later.

This Norman was very unlike the original Norman from the story; mine was a petite, active, and inquisitive pre-teen girl with curly blonde hair rather than the large, lumbering male that inspired the moniker. Their need for love and attention was the same. Throughout the week I would find her plopped on my bed with another question about why she had to follow the dress code or if her inner thoughts and feelings were normal. I sat with her in some of the services and tried to help her focus on the Word of God. I’m not sure I was as patient as I could have been, but even so she took to me. I even had an opportunity to pray with her when she felt doubts about her relationship with God.

Fast forward to this week and the foreboding post I saw. When I read the word tragedy and the name of her youth group in the same sentence, I immediately saw her face, felt intuitively that tragedy had come to her. Unfortunately, I was right. For reasons unknown to me, my Norman lost her life to suicide this week. She wasn’t even a teenager yet.

I don’t really have words to provide application for this post. Not today. Not other than to say, love your Normans, friends. Love those who annoy you, who cling to you, who are so very, very different. Love them most of all.

It’s Okay to Be Needy

I was recently telling a friend about one of my husband’s pet peeves. Often, as he tries to get ready in the morning, I feel a compelling need to be shown love and affection right. at. that. moment. He’s halfway through buttoning his shirt or straightening his tie, even mid-way through brushing his teeth, and I’m engulfing him in a hug or invading his personal space, lips puckered, waiting for a kiss. He is not amused. It does not seem to leave him with the warm fuzzies I feel during those moments. I guess I just have to keep trying!

This week, he is away getting some of our things we left in storage in England and meeting with his advisor in Glasgow. There are no morning routines for me to interrupt. At the same time, there has been a deluge of information parading around me about the importance of independence, but the blessing of community. In our hyper-individualized culture, we all crave community and connection, but the characterization of being dependent on others or needy? We avoid that like the plague. We all want to be strong, independent women who don’t need no man. Or whatever.

I am all about healthy boundaries (regardless of what my morning routine of compulsive affection-giving may indicate). I also prize the individual hobbies and interests Zach and I have and our ability to maintain a personal life that isn’t completely encompassed with the other. However, I also recognize that my husband makes me a better person. Beyond simply liking it when he’s around (which I do! A lot!), being apart from him for any extended period of time helps me recognize my need for him to keep me accountable with my goals, focused on the good in life, and committed to adulting rather than whiling away my hours on Netflix as I would otherwise be wont to do. Can I do these things on my own? Yeah, but it’s much more difficult.

My neediness extends beyond my marriage, though. I spoke last post about the women’s book study I have been able to be a part of this semester. Each week, I’m confronted with my need for godly women of varying backgrounds and ages to speak wisely and lovingly into my life. I need mentorship and the opportunities to converse, cry, and rejoice with women on various stages of their life journeys. I could sit at home alone and read my Bible, pray every day. In fact, I should be doing those things on an individual level. But if that’s all I get? I am missing out, and so are the other members of the church.

And if this weekly reminder of my need for others were not enough, this week our church held a special service focused on covenanting together as a body of believers. I had already begun writing this blog, but I was reminded once again in the sermon that God calls us to meet together, to share with one another the ways the Lord is working (or seeming silent) in our lives. We need one another to spur each other on to good works. God’s Word tells us that we need to be needy. We just can’t go it alone. We need the Lord and His grace above all things, but we also need one another.

So be independent. Be strong. Be productive and efficient and successful. But don’t be an island. See the needs of others and meet them if you can, but recognize your need for others, too. Learn to be okay with being needy.

When God Is Quiet

Last week, I started a book study with some women attending or affiliated with the small Christian college where I received my undergrad. We’re going through the True Woman 201 group study, and I couldn’t more highly recommend it! This past week’s focus was on the need for discernment, and it was a timely lesson for me. I feel like my whole life is currently made up of large, looming decisions that need to be made.

I’m being a bit dramatic. Are we surprised? Not really.

The scary part of these decisions is that some of them are choices I have to make on my own. In the past, when these sorts of decisions have needed to be made, someone else has made them for me, or God has made it exceptionally plain which choice was best. Not so this time. In fact, rather than loudly and clearly proclaiming what my next steps should be, God has remained notably quiet.

It’s always seemed to me that life would be so much easier if God would give us each a book with all the main decision points laid out for our lives, like the one David mentions in Psalm 139:16. But that’s not how He works. Instead, He gives us His Word, with principles on how to live godly lives on whichever path we walk.

Principles, though, don’t tell you where to complete your practicum, or how many children to have and when to have them.

This is why I sometimes wish for a more clear-cut announcement from heaven on where to go next and how long to stay there. What I’m learning, however, is that when God doesn’t shout out the answers, I’m forced to well and truly listen. To seek out his voice. To be still. I said in a previous post that waiting is hard for me. Being still and quiet isn’t much easier – just ask my husband how often (and loudly) I belt out showtunes around the house for proof of this fact.

When I do force my body, soul, and mind to quiet down, I realize that even when God seems silent, He is not absent. He may not be giving me the clear-cut answers I desire, but He is giving me the strength and grace to continue to seek Him in the confusion. He’s provided me with so many wonderful sources of community as well from which to seek wisdom and comfort when I feel a bit lost. He’s also given me His Word, which is such an incredible gift when we stop to consider the vast source of information it is concerning who God is and what He expects, what He has done in the world and what His plans are for its future.

As I slow down to rest in Him, to see Him at work in the small things, and to speak with and rely on other wise and godly people around me, I see that even when I feel overwhelmed and confused, the Lord is at work. The question is, will I only allow Him to quietly work around me? Or will I quietly come before Him and allow Him to work in me, as well?

For even when it’s hard to see or understand, His hand is at work accomplishing His perfect purposes. And even when He’s quiet, God is good.

Bloom & Grow

A little over two weeks ago, my sister gave birth to beautifully stubborn baby girl. Sweet Lucy Marie chose to make her entrance on her own terms, demonstrating the strong will that had been present practically since her conception. Born two weeks early, she entered the world quickly, screaming, and with a head full of black hair.

She entered our hearts just as swiftly, though perhaps more quietly. My sister remarked to me a few days postpartum, “Isn’t it odd that it already seems like she’s always been here?” And it really does.

I was able to spend a few days with Lucy and her parents last weekend, and it was such a joy to watch the ways in which she is already developing. I pretended at being a photographer for an afternoon and captured a few photos of her sweet face, tightly-closed fingers, and stretched-out toes. My favorite part of the weekend, though, was the time I was able to spend holding her and singing my favorite songs to her. I sang quite a few hymns to her, but also incorporated a few quiet melodies from the secular sphere. On my last day with her, I rocked her in the nursery while singing Adelweiss, and teared up when I got to the lyric, “Blossom of snow, May you bloom and grow”.

I hope, little Lucy, that you do. Blossom into your own sweet, perhaps a bit stubborn, person. Thrive under the love of your parents, family, friends, and God. Bloom and grow, dear niece of mine. Bloom and grow forever.

 

Where are we going from here?

clouds countryside daylight environment

This summer has been full of twists, turns, and lots of waiting. Waiting for the next step. For a better vision of the road ahead. For some sort of plan for the future.

And let me tell you, I hate waiting.

But after a summer of waiting, of maybes, of “well we think…”, we finally have some sort of answer to give to the question, “So what are your plans?”

Where are we going from here?

In May, Zach completed his MPhil from Cambridge. (Woohoo!) Up until this past week, we thought we were heading to Durham, England, for him to begin a PhD. I had even typed out a blog post to update you with that exact information. But remember all that waiting we’ve been doing? It’s not an activity conducive to getting visa applications in on time. For over a month now we’ve been waiting for one small piece of information that we needed to continue the visa application process. We came to the conclusion this past week that due to forces outside our control, we would not be making the trek to Durham this fall, after all.

Then, because this is how our lives work, we threw a new twist in the path. Zach emailed a colleague and would-be supervisor at another school he had considered for his PhD, the University of Glasgow. Throughout the process of looking for PhD programs, this was the supervisor under whom Zach most wanted to study. He wanted to make sure he understood all of his options for the coming year before committing to remain with Durham and pushing his PhD start date to Fall 2019. He asked the supervisor if there was an option to begin a PhD at Glasgow from the U.S. and to come to Scotland to be on campus after the first year. Unexpectedly, the answer was yes!

To sum up, we thought we were going to Durham. Then we thought we would have to stay in the U.S. and wait a year for Zach’s PhD to begin. Now, we will stay here for one year and go to Scotland in the fall of 2019. When we leave next fall Zach will have completed one year of the PhD program and I will be completely finished with my own master’s requirements, which will (hopefully) make it easier for me to find work after the move. I’m excited to finish up my master’s degree and enjoy some more time with family and friends on this side of the Atlantic. Zach is excited to start his PhD, work with a great supervisor, and still have continued access to sweet tea, Southern comfort food, and the ability to go deer hunting this fall!

Because of all of these topsy-turvy transitions, I needed to revamp my blog. The Durham/Gallatin/Glasgow Wife didn’t quite have the same ring to it as my previous moniker, and I wanted a name that would resonate with each chapter of my life, even the ones to come. In thinking through this name change, my mind went to one of my favorite hymns from childhood – All the Way My Savior Leads Me. In the second verse, the hymn writer reminds us that God “cheers each winding path I tread”. If there is one adjective that describes the path Zach and I have been on for the past two plus years of marriage, winding would be it. Knowing the lives my family members tend to lead, and considering how God often moves in the lives of His children, I’d wager the paths to come will remain winding, as well.

But that’s how we grow, isn’t it? When we can’t give detailed answers to the “Where are we going from here?” questions, we have to trust that God still cheers each winding path, even when we can’t see the end (or middle, or next five feet) of those paths. We learn to lean on Him and His understanding because we can’t trust our own. We try to enjoy the scenery at each bend in the road, knowing He leads us all the way, and He’s much better at navigating than we are.

Walkin’ in Cambridge

I feel like most of my blogs, journal entries, and phone conversations often begin with the phrase, “It’s been a while.” I am not so great at keeping to structured habits, but I do at least try to fight against the opposing pulls of busy-ness and laziness that often keep me from my goals. It’s certainly a challenge.

One of the things that has been challenging me lately has been a new, regularly-scheduled task that certainly has required my time, attention, and even willingness to be uncomfortable. Since coming to Cambridge, I have been volunteering with a charity organization called Christian Heritage, who operate out of The Round Church. When I began helping out, I simply came a few times a week to the Round Church, which houses a visitor’s center, and volunteered as a “doorkeeper” – taking entrance fees, answering questions, and explaining the purpose of Christian Heritage and the exhibits. I also informed guests about the guided walks of Cambridge offered by several tour guides who volunteered at the Round Church.

Then the fateful day came when I was asked to consider becoming a tour guide myself! I gave my fourth and final walk this week. It’s been a giant step outside of my comfort zone, but great fun as well! The walks tend to take groups around the Round Church, down by the River Cam and into several of the colleges before ending up in the city center. The tours tend to take around two hours, with the main theme being the tracing of Christianity’s influence in Western culture, particularly as it relates to Cambridge through its emphases on education, humanitarian work, scientific discovery, and law and politics. There’s also a lot of talk about the Protestant Reformation, and discussion on the part Cambridge played as the birthplace of the Reformation in England.

Learning the material well enough to give the tour has been a fascinating and enjoyable experience for me, as I hope it was for the individuals who came with me on the tours. There were certainly moments when I felt completely inadequate, particularly when trying to talk about English history as an American. On the first official tour I gave, I met a gentleman and his daughter who were so kind – but the father was the British version of my dad, which meant he knew TONS of information about EVERYTHING I mentioned. I left that first walk feeling fairly defeated after being asked what felt like a million questions to which I couldn’t even begin to find an answer.

However, things have really picked up since then, and now I find great joy in giving the tours, telling people fun facts about the history of Cambridge and England, but even more importantly, pointing out the blessings we enjoy today because of ordinary (and some extraordinary) individuals realizing that their Christian faith could and should affect the world around them in tangible ways. I’ve also been reminded again and again that God uses us in spite of ourselves, and have found such peace in knowing that His strength and Spirit sustain me when I tell others about Him and His people. He has also shown me through these trying experiences that I have an incredible support system in my husband, family, friends, and fellow believers who are constantly there, lifting me up in prayer and willing to give me a pep talk over the phone when needed (I’m looking at you, Mom!).

These beautiful lessons have been reinforced in other areas of my life recently as well, including struggling to finish up schoolwork when the online class meetings, being on Eastern Standard Time, require waking up in the middle of the night. We also have some huge decisions ahead of us about where we’ll be spending the next three years for Zach’s PhD, and we won’t have solid answers on exactly what our options will be until after we’ve returned to the States for the summer. It’s difficult to think that when I come home this summer, it might mean not returning to Cambridge in the Fall. But even in these stressful, uncertain times, God has reminded me of the rest that can be found in Him and the fellowship I can have among His people. The sweet fruits of Christianity that I share with tourists on my guided walk weren’t produced solely in times of antiquity – I’m seeing the abundantly good gifts all around me, even today.

Things My Morning Run Teaches Me About Life (Part Two)

Last week, I told you all about my new running habit, and how something as simple as a morning exercise routine is teaching me important life lessons. If you missed last week’s post, you can view that here. This week, I’ll talk about the last three lessons I’ve been learning as I continue to work at this new practice.

Lesson Four: Looking ahead makes me a better runner.

The route I run keeps me on some pretty uneven pavement, and sometimes it’s hard not to spend the whole run looking at the ground to keep from falling over a loose stone. But I’ve noticed an interesting thing: when I manage to shift my focus to further down the path, I tend to feel more motivation to keep going. I can’t explain how lifting my head and my gaze can have such a psychological effect, but I’ve noticed it again and again.

This concept has played out in my spiritual life as well. It reminds me of what the writer of Hebrews said when comparing the Christian life with running a race: “…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…”

When I spend my days looking at all the possible things that might cause me to stumble or focusing on the difficulties and pain of this life, I can easily become overwhelmed with self-pity, worry, and frustration. However, it’s amazing the change that can occur in my heart when I lift my head, fixing my eyes a bit further down the road on Christ and what He has done for me, is doing in me, and will continue to do with me if I keep running.

Lesson Five: Joy and pain can occur at the same time.

I do not like pain. And because of this fact, I don’t really like exercise. I’d much rather have a Netflix marathon than run in one. So why do I keep at it? Because even in the pain, I have found joy. This may seem impossible, but it’s true. When I crest the final hill of my run and it times perfectly with the song I’m listening to (Go the Distance, anyone?), I feel so incredible knowing that I’m accomplishing things I never thought possible. When I feel the soreness in my muscles, I feel a bit of happiness, too, knowing that the pain means I’m getting stronger.

This paradoxical lesson is also true of life. I have experienced the truth of it in the past year, as my family experienced the death of my grandfather. The loss hurt us (and still hurts us) to the core, but we also felt inexplicable joy knowing our Papa was perfect, whole, and healthy in the presence of his Lord and Savior. We sing a song at our church here that says, “There is strength within the sorrow”, and we felt that personally. I’m so grateful to have experienced this paradox, and know that like I spoke of last week, sometimes pain shows us we’re growing, and even when that growth is undetectable to the human eye, there can still be joy in the midst of the process.

Lesson Six: I can’t get better if I don’t get out of bed.

This last lesson is one I have to repeat to myself over and over most mornings. My warm and cozy bed is so much nicer in those moments than the cold outdoors. But last week, I had to take a whole week off from running because of the snow and ice we had here in Cambridge, and let me tell you, my first day back at it was rough. I had done some inside cardio workouts during the week when I couldn’t run, and those had helped me some, but I am more sore this week than I was when I first started!

The truth is, I’d like to think that staying in bed for a day and skipping my workout won’t have an effect on my run the day after – but that’s just not true! My runs this week have been so much slower than they were before my week off, and I’ve had to really war with myself about whether or not it was absolutely required that I run to the landmark I’d set for myself rather than turning around early and trying again the next day.

The difficult truth is, change is hard work. And when we don’t put in the hard work of changing our habits and developing better ones, or put it off until a “more convenient” time, often we go backward rather than remaining at whatever benchmark we’d achieved. But the positive news is, when we get back at it, armed with the knowledge of where we were previously, we might have more motivation to more quickly reach that previous “personal best”, and even push past it. At least I’m seeing that to be true with me.

If you’re considering trying something new, or changing a habit you have, I encourage you to “get out of bed” and get out there. Learn those lessons, friends! And then remind me of all of them tomorrow morning around 7:30 am when I’m grumbling about wanting more sleep and less exercise.

Things My Morning Run Teaches Me About Life (Part One)

There is this incredible picture of me from about the third grade where I am finishing a lap in my school’s Walk/Run for Charity event. My shoulders are hunched in exhaustion, both arms hang limp at my side, and my tongue is literally hanging out of my panting mouth as I pull as much air as possible into my screaming lungs.

This picture was taken around lap 2 or 3.

The photo aptly sums up my general feelings toward all things related to exercise and particularly the beast that is running. At least, until recently. In the past two weeks, I’ve started back at a practice I’ve been (very inconsistently) attempting over the past five years or so. This time however I feel like I have turned a corner in my attitude towards running, and my chilly morning runs have, in turn, begun to teach me lessons dealing with issues beyond personal fitness. Hopefully, even if your attitude towards running is much more like third-grade Emily than my current appreciation for it, the lessons I’m learning will be applicable to you as well.

 

Lesson One: I can do more than I think I can.

Part of the reason I have hated running for most of my life, even in the times when I’ve tried to do it several times a week, is because I believed I would never be good at it. I have friends who can run a mile in six minutes (cough, cough, Zachary Adam, cough, cough), and other friends who ran competitively in high school. However, I tended to clock out after about 90 seconds of that awkward jog-walking that makes me feel like I must look to the world like an old man with debilitating arthritis. Then, a few weeks ago, something miraculous happened. I pushed through. I discovered that I could in fact keep going beyond that 90 second marker that I had set as a limit for myself, and my legs would not fall off, nor would I die from exertion.

Zach has constantly reminded me during my efforts at getting into shape, “The mind quits before the body.” I think sometimes, the mind quits before the heart, too. We convince ourselves that this task, this career, this goal is too difficult or too lofty, that we’ve maxed out, but there is so much more potential in us waiting on a bit more effort, a bit more perseverance, a bit more will to push through. For the Christian, too, this has another level in that we often limit what God wants to do in and through us because we think we’ve reached the end of our limits for growth, and we forget the extent of the Holy Spirit’s power to both strengthen and redeem.

Lesson Two: Pain can be a sign of growth.

I will not lie to you and tell you that just because I can now jog for 15 or so minutes at a time means my runs have become some sort of careless, pain-free, tiptoe through the tulips experience. False. My legs are normally very angry with me for most of my runs, and my toes do this weird achy thing for the rest of the morning. I will say that I no longer cough uncontrollably for hours after I run like I did when I first started back at running. This shows that sometimes the pain is a sign of better things to come. My lungs and heart are stronger now, better able to deal with longer stretches of exercise, and my legs are strengthening, too.

Sometimes the winnowing periods of life hurt. We experience emotional, spiritual, and psychological growing pains right along with the aching of sore, worked muscles. While sometimes pain is a sign that something is wrong, it can also be a reminder that we are getting better, stronger, and more mature.

Lesson Three: Beauty and positive thinking make difficult things more bearable.

I run a really beautiful route in the mornings that takes me along the River Cam and gives me a lovely view of several of the college backs. There’s this one point in my run where the trees clear and I get this incredible glimpse of King’s College chapel with the sun behind it. It lifts the soul. I also listen to some great music while I run to keep me in good spirits – normally it ends up being some fast-paced showtunes or Disney music, because, really, what else do you people expect of me? But when I listen to the lyrics of The Greatest Showman’s “This Is Me” or Moana’s “How Far I’ll Go” and push myself to believe that I can finish the run I started, when I let myself soak in the beauty that is Cambridge, and when I focus on feelings of gratitude that God has brought me to this place, I find it easier to focus on cresting that next hill rather than on the fatigue in my legs.

I’m going to try not to get too counselor-y here, but gratitude and positive self-talk can have huge effects on our mental health. When I encourage myself to push through the end of my run rather than telling myself to quit because I don’t have it in me, I find myself so much more capable of things I never dreamed possible (like easily running a ten-minute mile last Friday! What??). And then, because I see that I can do more than previously thought, I end up with more self-confidence and am more likely to try other difficult things that will enable me to grow further.

 

This series is not to pressure my readers into starting your mornings with a run like I do, although if you feel empowered to do so and want to talk through the stresses and successes of such a practice with me, that is wonderful! However, I do encourage each of you to find a hard thing to do and set out trying to do it. If a girl who has hated running with a passion since elementary school can take it up and enjoy it, you can tackle a difficult task, too. And who knows? Maybe you’ll learn some lessons of your own.

 

Pancakes and Pictures

For this week’s blog post, I thought I’d give a short explanation of how this week has been, but then allow my readers to see some of the sights of Cambridge. I spent two days this week playing the tourist with my camera, and it was such a nice experience to stop and try to capture the beauty I get to experience here in Cambridge. I will admit that my amateur photography could never hope to do it justice, but it will at least give you all a frame of reference when thinking about what life looks like for Zach and I here.

This week was filled with special occasions- Tuesday was Fat/Shrove Tuesday, or as they call it here in England, Pancake Day. Then Wednesday was both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. Zach and I did not eat pancakes on pancake day, but I did get to try some last Friday at an International Women’s Group I attend at our church. They are much more like crepes than American pancakes, and you typically eat them with lemon juice and sugar sprinkled on top. These are the traditional Fat Tuesday treat here, but I’ve heard they can be quite difficult to make, and I decided that I would just try making them next year if I were feeling braver.

For Valentine’s Day this year, Zach and I bought each other books, because that is just who we are. He got a lovely boxed set of C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, and I got a boxed set of the Harry Potter series. Since these were a bit more expensive than what we usually spend on Valentine’s gifts, and since we both would rather stay in than fight the crowds on nights like February 14, we opted for a night in with homemade pot roast and brownies with ice cream. We even have leftovers! We are obviously not fasting for Lent this year. I have decided to severely limit my time on social media in general and Facebook in particular during this time, and although we’re only two days into the Lenten season, I am realizing just how often I was wasting time on my phone. Hopefully this purposeful “fasting” from social media will help me create more productive habits as it relates to my free time, and will also encourage me to consider in what ways my habits can better reflect eternal, meaningful perspectives.

And now here’s a few photos to document our Cambridge life.