Friday, May 24, 2013

Why I live (and stay) in the city

It’s a well-known fact that I love the city. And when I say “love,” I mean wholeheartedly adore. But the truth is, I’ve found that my love for the city has changed and deepened over the past few years.

I grew up outside of Sacramento, but I distinctly remember periodic visits to the city with my family. My folks always included some sort of “cultural experience” in our 24-48 hour family vacations.  And most of these experiences highlighted unique parts of an urban center—museums, symphony concerts, Broadway shows, independent movies, unique restaurants, or city parks. I understood the city to be a place of sophistication.

Periodically, we’d go to the city for service projects. Whether it was sorting clothes for the poor or making sandwiches for a soup kitchen, I was exposed to the rougher side of the city. I saw people who couldn’t afford the unique restaurants, but instead ate the sandwiches that I made. I remember seeing those weird stores that were for “adults only” and had women’s silhouettes on the windows and wondering why I didn’t feel good about that part of town. I’d hear stories of drugs and prostitution, and it seemed like a different world. I started to understand the city to be a place of brokenness.

By the end of high school, I started to recognize the complexity of the city, and I found it invigorating and challenging. I started making monthly trips to Sacramento for times of contemplation and reflection. I’d visit a cathedral to sit and be still, wander to a local coffee shop and sit in Cesar Chavez park. It was a fairly busy park but there were plenty of shady people hanging out. I distinctly remember a moment where I felt somewhat uncomfortable in the park, and I thought to myself, “This is what many women experience throughout the world.” It was a moment where my privileged and somewhat “sheltered” self realized a world and experience beyond my own. I began to see the city as place of exposure and challenge.

Toward the end of college, I moved to Chicago for an urban studies program. I interned at a social service organization on the Westside (a rough area, to say the least), enjoyed the local bars and restaurants, mastered public transportation, and experienced racial tensions and structural injustice. I wrestled with the tension of living in a place where sophistication, brokenness, and injustice could coexist—and one’s experience of these elements could almost be determined by the block on which you lived.

These tensions are what keep me in the city. I’ll be the first to admit that I have a privileged experience of the city. Usually I can choose whether or not to enter into the brokenness that persists. But the city does not let me forget these tensions. Simply walking through my neighborhood reminds me of that every day and beckons me to live out reconciliation and redemption in the midst of the complexity. And that’s one of the many reasons I want to have a family in the city. I want our children to learn from people’s diverse experiences and backgrounds, to grow up in complex environments, and to catch a vision for how they can live out the Kingdom. And so that’s why we stay.  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A New New DeLew

Well, we're pleased to announce that there's going to be a new New DeLew entering this world. Yep, there's a bun in the oven, we're expecting a stork to stop by soon, my egg-o is pregg-o, and the eagle has landed! We're amazed, excited, appropriately frightened, and eager to see what God does with this little baby that's in my belly.

Let's just answer a couple of typical questions:

-I'm 13 weeks, which puts us at an October ETA
-Yes, we'll find out the baby's sex (and we'll tell people)
-No, we don't have any names (but we won't tell you what it is anyway...)
-Sure, that's a kind of personal question, but it was somewhat of a surprise
-Yes, we both plan to go back to work after the babe gets here
-Oh yes, we are accepting ALL prayers

We're excited to welcome a new one into the New DeLew clan. It'll be a journey with a ton of learning, but it's an adventure that we believe God is bringing our way. Pretty cool.

And, while in utero, we're affectionately calling it Baby YOLO. Feel free to do the same.

The night we found out about Baby YOLO!

Monday, March 18, 2013

No, No, Yes?

There's a lot of NO's that come at you when you're pregnant for the first time. You want some sushi? No. How about that perfect over-easy egg? Nope. That four-shot latte you desperately need? No ma'am. This one's the worst: Wouldn't a neat Bulleit bourbon hit the spot? Don't even think about it.

Now of course, there are plenty of things you can do while pregnant, but at first, it just seems like you can't do anything-- especially when you're slightly surprised by the pregnancy. Once you learn of all these no's, you think back on your life before taking that pregnancy test and you feel like you lived in a dream world. Back then, I was drinking bourbon, popping fresh yellowtail and raw eggs into my mouth right and left, and downing buckets of caffeine-filled lattes, right? Because that's how life used to be.

But we're having a baby! Isn't that completely awesome? It's bizarre (and fairly silly) that I can view this incredible YES to new life as a NO to my old life. Although God is saying "yes" all over the place, I'm seeing the no's. To be honest, even though I'm not super proud of it, I will admit that it has been difficult to put on hold a fairly superfluous, but meaningful part of my life (like drinking a cocktail). But the truth is, transition is hard. Adjusting to a new normal takes time. Even if that new normal is full of good and incredible life, there's something real about recognizing what you're giving up. So I acknowledge the no's (and the silly pangs of sadness when I can't drink that craft beer), but I look to the yes that's in front of me, and I rejoice.  

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Because everyone wants to know how you found out that you were pregnant, right?

Thanks to typical New DeLew-style of over-sharing intentional openness, many have been aware of our contraceptive choices, mainly the fertility awareness method (aka the natural method). No gory details here, but essentially it means that I know my body like the back of my hand and that I'm quite aware of when I am and am not fertile. This system has worked quite well for us over the past three years.

The idea of having a baby has not been super far from our minds, thanks to my semi-pressuring siblings who have busted out seven nieces and nephews in the past five years. We were in the beginning stages of starting to pray about thinking about the possibility of considering the option of one day wanting to start a family. So, yeah. That was where we were at, but we were praying that God would loosen my tight grip on wanting to manage every aspect of my life. Because I have this strange tendency of feeling like I need to control everything.

The first part of February consisted of super long workdays, very little rest, and a number of high-pressure situations. I've got a pretty high threshold for busyness and stress, and yet for some reason, I was getting hit pretty hard by all of this. I couldn't bounce back. So I decided to take a four-day weekend in order to force some relaxation. Mark and I lazily woke up on Saturday and something was still "off" about me. I casually mentioned to Mark that "I'm not at all concerned, but I'm curious enough to take a pregnancy test." I wasn't concerned because I know my body.

I happened to have one pregnancy test at home (because every married couple has to have a scare at least once). And so I took the test. Then Mark heard from the other room, "Uh oh. That's not good." Positive.

The next few hours included hyperventilating, researching the probability of false positives, going for a three-mile run, lots of confused giggles and smiles, buying two more tests from Target, taking said tests resulting in two more positives, and a good amount of praying. This is real.

So here we are, on this little journey. It's exciting, shocking, mind-blowing, and sobering. This wasn't a mistake, it was absolutely where God is leading us now. Things aren't always exactly as we planned, and actually, that's the confusing beauty of it. We're on a new adventure, with plenty of twists, turns, valleys and peaks, I'm sure. But through it all, I hope to be as the righteous mentioned in Psalm 112:7, "She will have no fear of bad news; her heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord." So, here we go!    

Sunday, January 13, 2013

12 Things about 2012

Since the New DeLews were fairly silent on the blog over the past year, we might as well share 12 things about 2012-- just to give an overview of the year.  

1. Roommates- why have a second bedroom if it's empty? In the spring we had an incredible 6'9'' roommate who painted our walls (thanks, Tyler!), and this past fall, my dear friend (hi Melissa!) who frequently washes our dishes has been staying with us. Although the Medill is small, it's mighty. And we just love having it open for all to use.

2. Three-Year Anniversary- Yeah, we really love being married. It's pretty cool. 

3. Working. A Lot- With a ton of projects and firm deadlines on the horizon in 2012, we dedicated ourselves fully to work. Lots of late nights and weekends, but we felt like it was the right time for us to dive into our careers. We're seeking to have a more balanced approach now because that wasn't sustainable. But it was a learning experience.

4. Nicaragua- In the midst of all that work, somehow we found a way to pop over to Central America. Drinks on the beach, staying with a lovely Nicaraguan family, and eating tons of rice and beans, it was a perfect break. 

5. New Nephews and Nieces- We got to welcome two lovely babies into the George family. Woodrow Morton George and Eden Elizabeth Majorins. I had the honor of staying with Eden in the hospital the evening after she was born. One of the best nights of my life.

6. Becoming Bosses- I'd like to think this is somehow connect to point number two, but both of us entered into the world of management this year. Supervising employees has its challenges, but we're grateful for the opportunity to grow in this way.

7. Indstanbulia- We took a two-week trip to Northern India, which took us to the Himalayas, the Taj Mahal, the desert, and the capital. So many beautiful colors, intense smells, and delicious food. Enroute to India, we had a chance to stop by Istanbul for 30 hours. We found some baklava, whirling dervishes, and hookah while there.

8. Acquiring another AC unit- It was a hot summer. Really hot. Someone had pity on us and gave us a third AC unit. It brought a lot of joy and allowed Mark to keep his shirt on while working from home.

9. Week of Thai Food- In an effort to learn how to make authentic Thai food, we visited a Thai grocery store and bought enough ingredients to make unique dishes for an entire week. It was amazing. We discovered kao soi, which changed our lives.

10. Church Leadership- After attending our urban-focused, diverse church for the past four years, we've been given new opportunities to serve in leadership roles. We're really grateful. 

11. Thailand- Our dear friends (Hi Chuck and Vina!) decided to get married in Thailand, so we figured we should go out and support them. Thanks to our airline miles, we were able to get the flights for free. It was a lovely week of friends, love, and lots of amazing Thai food.

12. Friendships- We're deeply grateful for the friends that made this a full and beautiful year. We're challenged and encouraged by the community around us.

Monday, December 12, 2011

An awakening to Chinua Achebe

I recently finished a compilation of 3 of Chinua Achebe’s novels: Things Fall Apart, No Longer at Ease, and Anthills of the Savannah. It was completely foreign to anything I had ever read before, as Achebe’s utilization of oral tradition, proverbs, Igbo language and non-linear storytelling overwhelmed my senses. Achebe’s distinctly (and refreshingly) non-Western writing style inserted me into a West African culture. It was reading by feeling: the truth of the proverbs, the weight of heritage, the glue of family and community, and the pain of the tragic events caused by the clash of modernity and tradition.

It is this first collision between European colonists and the Igbo tribe in Nigeria that Achebe explores in Things Fall Apart. The reader is introduced to Okwonkwo, a prominent man in the foremost Igbo village at the prime of his life. We see his pride, arrogance, compassion, and honor. Through his eyes we view the unwelcome intrusions of British justice and religion, and their devastating impact on his family, on his standing in the village, his village’s prominence within his tribe, and the Igbo culture as a whole.

I’ll admit that Achebe’s portrayal of the Christian missionaries felt as true as it was frustrating. Frustrating because I identify myself as a Christian, yet sympathized more with the traditionalist characters than the Christian ones. Because in all the I have spent in sub-Saharan African countries I had never once asked a national about their perception of colonization. Because I had never read about the colonization of Africa from an African’s perspective. Moreover, my meager exposure to African thought is still many times greater than that of most other Americans. It is a tragedy that the stereotypes of an impoverished, starving, diseased, corrupt, and violent Africa prevail throughout the Western mindset. More readings of Achebe and other African authors would be the beginning of a new awakening of the West to the diverse cultures and the rich histories that comprise Africa.

The second book in the volume, No Longer At Ease, translates these themes into a Nigeria that is on the brink of independence, yet is under a new kind of imperialism. This story follows the grandson of the main character from Things Fall Apart, and it illuminates the dark path into corruption that continues to ravage the political lives of so many African politicians. This grandson was supposed to usher in the bright future of an independent Nigeria, yet succumbed to the very temptations he vowed to fight. For the first time, I understood some of the pressures that are unique to the West African public official and how the imposition of a Western-style government fails to address the reality of communal bonds and familial obligations. I see in a new light see the impact of the clash of Western modernity and Igbo traditionalism, and I recognize that the vague label of “corruption” is insufficient in describing the challenges that face the Nigerian (and perhaps other African) societies in the 21st century.

Anthills of the Savannah, the final installment of this volume, takes the themes present in the first two novels and develops them into their late-20th century manifestations. The reader is thrust into a chaotic West African dictatorship struggling to maintain a pretense of democracy in the face of an increasingly restless population. Achebe gives a more intimate exploration of the characters’ thought lives, and the novel swells with poetic daydreams and inspiring speeches. The point-of-view transitions from character to character, which makes the first few chapters a bit disorienting when read immediately after the simple third-person narrative of the first two books. But after I was accustomed to this different style and the new characters, Anthills of the Savannah became my favorite of the three works. This book provides a more comprehensive view of a West African nation; the reader meets the president, members of his administration, academics, cab drivers, market-ware hawkers, and slum-occupants. As the regime unravels, Achebe slowly adjusts the focus of the story from the primary individuals onto the community that they become. The rediscovery of traditionalism and community within the urban modern context is the salvation of the people that find their lives upended by the political chaos. The main characters must draw back from their individualism into community which is protective and close-knit, yet open and hospitable story. Once these developments occur, the hope, dynamism, and beauty of these characters, and thus of the modern West African experience, finally shine through the tragedy that was wrought by colonialism and continued by the corrupt and abusive. This sunrise of hope—even amidst the suffering—is made even more precious by the despair witnessed in Achebe’s first two works.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

July and All Its Craziness

July has been one of those months where you go to sleep on the 1st and you wake up on the 31st. Time has flown and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to slow down. To recap, in this month alone, we have:

-celebrated my grandma’s 90th birthday with my extended family in California
-met my youngest nephew for the first time
-enjoyed the infamous 48-hour George Family Vacation
-had a friend live with us for a month
-spent almost a week at the DeLew Family Reunion in Wisconsin
-played on a weekly beach volleyball team
-endured the Heat Wave from Hell (well, I hope we’ll endure)
-half-heartedly started half-marathon training
-whole-heartedly started making tons o’ breakfast smoothies

And there are still 10 days left in July! And in those 10 days alone, we will:

-host my lovely brother-in-law while he visits for a week
-go on a five-day business trip (me)
-help friends renovate their apartment (let’s be honest, Mark will)
-have a bachelor party at our place (Mark again, I guess)
-attend a wedding
-try to survive the rest of the Heat Wave from Hell

In no way do I assume that we are alone in this busyness. It’s summer, this is what happens. But I think it’s important when all you can do is go-go-go, to take a breath and remember what you have done and what you are doing. It’s too tempting for us to go from event to event, responsibility to responsibility and actually miss the significance of each moment. So here I am, listing out each major thing so that I might sit with and appreciate each one. It’s been a blast of a summer. With so much to do, we have so much to be thankful for.