#ParentInitiation and the First Month

Little Owen is one month old today! Holy moly.

On one hand it seems like we were just in the hospital yesterday. At the same time, I can’t really remember what we did before he got here! This has been – hands down – the most challenging month of my life. There have been so many ups and downs and tons of trial and error. I’ve started considering it all #parentinitiation.

At about a week and a half to two weeks, Owen started getting extremely fussy – crying and screaming constantly [For you Harry Potter fans, we recently realized that his cries/screams VERY closely resemble those of a baby mandrake]. When we went for his two week appointment (more so at around 2.5 weeks old), we mentioned it to the doctor but because he was continuing to gain weight, the doctor wasn’t concerned with reflux. So we went home.

Side note: at that 2.5 week appointment, Owen weighed 9 pounds and measured at 22 inches long – 2 pounds heavier than birth and an inch longer!

The screaming and spitting up continued to get worse and we began to lose our minds. At three weeks (only 4 days later than the previous appointment), we took him back to the doctor and the doctor prescribed him Zantac for reflux. [They also weighed him and he had gained 6 ounces in that time!] Since that appointment, Owen has been doing MUCH better…therefore, so have Mom and Dad. Owen is not a fan of the medicine and I’m pretty sure he hates me every time I give it to him. I just keep telling myself he won’t remember it. Ha!

We’ve had some rough days these past few days, but we’re thinking he may be going through a growth spurt so I’m HOPING it only lasts a few days. We pretty much live on the exercise ball, bouncing with him!

I keep being reminded that all of this crying and fussing does have an end. Those reminders are helping me push through! He’s certainly worth all the trouble – that truth can just get clouded among the cries and failed attempts to calm him. I’m thankful to be surrounded by family and friends to continue to encourage and lend helping hands!

Each day seems so long with the constant feedings (Owen is still pretty set on being fed every 2 hours – with the exception of at night when he gives me a bit of a break with every 3-4 hours), but this month has absolutely flown by. I can already tell a huge difference between now and when he was born and I am so excited to watch him continue to grow in so many ways!

Mama loves you, little Owen!

Owen collage

A New Addition: Owen Elliott

A LOT has happened since the last update.
– Greg and I graduated from seminary with our Masters of Divinity.
– We have moved from Associates at our campus ministry to Executive Director (Greg) and Director of Spiritual Formation (Alaina).
– My favorite update: we welcomed a baby boy into our family!

I’m going to try really hard to keep our blog updated with different baby updates and thoughts as we figure out this whole parenting thing. Not necessarily because people want to read it, but to look back on one day. Hopefully it can be somewhat entertaining though. :)

We found out we were pregnant at the beginning of November 2014 and the tests were confirmed at the end of the month at my doctor’s appointment and we were told the due date would be July 12, 2015. Words cannot explain how thrilled we were! We told our families at Thanksgiving (8 weeks), but gave them strict instructions that they were not to tell anyone until we reached 12 weeks (end of December/beginning of January) to avoid the heartbreaking conversations in case of miscarriage.

Fortunately, we did not have to endure that hardship and we announced to the world on New Years Day! The pregnancy as a whole was smooth sailing. I had some nausea in the beginning, but nothing terrible. I became uncomfortable and frustrated at not being able to move quite as much toward the end, but the knowledge that our kid was the result kept me in relatively good spirits!

I’ll spare you the intricate details of his birth, but the short story is that labor began at 4:45am and he was born at 4:39pm! Our little guy, Owen Elliott Harrison, was 7 pounds 0.4 ounces and 21 inches long – long and lean! The pretty awesome thing is that Owen was born ON his due date – July 12! Fun fact: only 4% of children are born on their due date. This kid is going to be awesome.

Typically, infants lose about 10% (8-12 ounces) of their birth weight by the time they reach their first pediatrician appointment a few days after they are born. Our guy GAINED 8 ounces, making him 7 pounds 8 ounces! Any concerns I had about him not getting enough to eat were calmed by that point.

The past 2 weeks have certainly been challenging. Overall, Owen and I have developed somewhat of a nightly routine with feedings and diaper changings, but the poor guy seems to have terrible gas so the past few nights have been rough. Greg and I are quite literally taking each day one minute at a time, trying to figure out this whole parenting thing. As tough as it has been so far, it is all worth it when those blue eyes study our faces or he finds comfort when we hold him.

Alaina and Owen

Greg and Owen


Much Needed Update

So turns out I (Alaina) am awful at keeping an updated blog. But I’m going to try this again!

We’re about 1/4 done with our last year of seminary! Hallelujah!
In terms of seminary, this has easily been the best semester of our seminary career. The classes are overall enjoyable and the workload isn’t absolutely terrible.
One exciting piece of news in regards to seminary is that we will be attending an evangelism seminar in the Bahamas on January 2-12 of next year! It counts as a 3-hour credit and a Missions credit which puts us another step closer to graduating on May 11, 2015!
[We are still about $700 short of the cost of the trip, so if you feel led to donate – or if you’d like to know more about the seminar – go to www.gofundme.com/harrisons-to-bahamas!]

So the question is: what’s next?
Well, in March 2015, we will both go before the United Methodist Church Board of Ordained Ministry for them to approve or defer us into provisional membership within the UMC. Basically, Greg will go up to be a Provisional Elder and I will go up to be a Provisional Deacon.
So next spring, Greg will put his name into the “pot” of pastors to be appointed to churches next June. Because I will be a Deacon, I can find a ministry job volunteering wherever Greg is sent.
Greg’s hope is to be appointed as an associate pastor somewhere, learning the ropes of what it means to be a pastor in a church setting while hopefully leading worship at that church.
As for me, my calling has also continued to develop. Within the church, I hope to lead a young adult Sunday School class. Outside of the church, I hope to work at a women’s shelter, helping women escape domestic violence.

All in all, it’s been a good year so far.
And we can’t wait to see what God has in store for us!

Follow your own dreams… whatever that means.

There has been a blog post floating around Facebook in the past couple months about when you should or should not get married and what you should be doing instead. Most of the responses to this particular blog have been quite direct and just about as argumentative, aggressive, and demanding as the first which I think is not quite the way to go about things. That’s not at all to say that I (Alaina) have the answers… I most certainly do not.

[Plus, I do not in any way feel the need to justify myself to anyone in regards to a list of things I was supposed to do before getting married.]

I just feel as though this kind of discussion needs to be handled with love, care and understanding to the opposite side as opposed to sassy or sarcastic.

This is not a blog post to say why getting married at 21-years-old was the best thing ever and why everyone should be doing it. Because, while I truly do believe that there is nothing else that means more to me than our past two years of marriage, it’s NOT for everyone.
Marriage in general is not for everyone and marriage before 23 (that is the age that was in the original blog post) is certainly not for everyone. I went to a women’s college and loved EVERY bit of it. However, I am well aware that a women’s college is not for everyone. I was unaware of how somewhat closed my mind was until I went there and I was among those who allowed my mind to broaden. The smallness of the school as well as the challenge of traditional views (about anything, actually) really are what make the college not for everyone. So when my seniors-in-high-school sisters began looking at colleges, I did not push Wesleyan on them. Likewise, I would not push getting married early on anyone.

I believe it all comes down to what the true desires and passions and goals in your life are.
To be completely honest, since middle school I have known that after I finished school I would be a stay-at-home mom. My mom stayed at home with the four of us kids, even though she had her teaching degree. It was fantastic and it really had a huge impact on me. She set aside any future or personal desires for herself and focused on us. When my sisters go off to college in August, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mom went back to school to get her Masters in Counseling and becoming a licensed marriage and family counselor. She’d be incredible at that.
Anyways, that’s always been my biggest desire: to be a wife and a mom. Anything else I get to do with my life is icing on a sweet, sweet cake. This desire seems to be not so well looked upon in society, but it is what it is unfortunately. SO many times I am asked why on earth I completed my bachelor’s and am pursuing a masters if “all I want to do” is stay at home. People insinuate that I went to college to get my M.R.S. degree, which clearly isn’t true considering I can’t find a husband at a women’s college. My desires are simply misunderstood I think, “outdated.”

I think one of the major arguments I get in response to marrying early and wanting to be a stay-at-home mom is that women have fought for so long (and are still fighting) for us to be able to do something other than stay-at-home. But I don’t think that’s true, not exactly.

I think we’ve been fighting for the ability to make a choice.

The beauty of Wesleyan is the diverse population. I loved it tremendously because I got to hear so many different experiences and desires that I would never have imagined myself. I have plenty of friends from college who had different ideas of what they wanted life post-graduation than I did. One friend in particular really stands out in my mind, Devyn. Devyn and I had lots of classes together because we shared a major and we had lots of discussions with one another about marriage and children and our futures. She heard me out when I talked about wanting to get married and stay at home and I listened to her when she expressed a desire to travel and go into fashion and all these fantastic plans. She said that, sure, she wanted to get married eventually and maybe have kids (or maybe just be the awesome aunt).

And you know what was so incredible about this conversation and friendship?

We listened to one another and respected one another despite our different future plans.

I personally have never had the “travel bug” to go around and visit places. I mean, yeah, I’d LOVE to go to Europe and Australia. But they weren’t things I cared about doing before settling down. I tend to be more of a homebody, honestly. But that’s something Devyn LOVES! So of course that’s something she would want to do before getting settled in! It just makes sense. Even beyond the travel bug, there are SO many women who have fantastic gifts in the work force and sometimes those jobs don’t really let you settle down for a while. And that’s fine too! We are all made with different skills and abilities and passions. Lord knows the world would be insane if there were a bunch of Alainas running around. There need to be all of these different needs and wants!

I suppose this is more of a plea than anything. I’m just tired of reading these blogs that tell a certain group of people how they should or should not live (often with a condescending or aggressive tone) and with the beauty of blogging, there are a thousand equally condescending and aggressive responses. All we’re doing is tearing each other down and trying to “one-up” each other.

My plea is that we listen to one another.
That we respect one another and not belittle each other because of their choices (whatever those may be).
That we LOVE one another. Truly love. Not just “tolerate.”
That each of us would do whatever we were created and purposed to do and that we encourage one another in whatever that may be.

[That’s all for now. I just really needed to get all that off my chest, I suppose.]

Breaking the Alabaster Jar

3 While [Jesus] was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

6 “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Mark 14:3-9

Sometimes I like to think about what it would be like to be one of the disciples who followed Jesus around during His ministry. As we read Scripture, it seems as though their lives were never dull. I mean, one day you’re in this crowded house when all of a sudden pieces of the ceiling start falling in and lo and behold, a man is lowered on a mat to be healed by Jesus. The next day, you’re out at sea when you see what appears to be a ghost walking toward you – on water – and it turns out to be Jesus. It just seems like a giant reality show with crazy events that are actually not staged.

I wonder if the disciples were hoping, in this story, for a calm and non-threatening dinner for a change, where Jesus doesn’t get fussy and rebuke someone or that someone doesn’t rebuke them. I mean, sure, they were eating with someone who had been a leper so there was possible judgment by others there, but Pharisees weren’t present so they should be in the clear, right? Wrong. And the DISCIPLES end up being the ones rebuked instead of this intruder!

But I love how Jesus is always sticking up for the “little guy” so to speak. The disciples begin their grumbling, probably thinking they would get affirmed by Jesus, but instead are shut down.

Jesus says, “she did what she could” and that what she has done was “beautiful.” You see, according to scholars, it was customary to pour a few drops of perfume on someone’s head when they enter your house. The best perfumes were contained in alabaster jars and nard was among the most costly of ointments. This woman did not pour a few drops. She BROKE the jar, meaning she had every intentions of using all of the perfume in anointing Jesus. Because we do not know hardly anything about this woman, for all we know, this jar of nard could have been all she had. Yet she spared none of it.

Two chapters previously, in Mark chapter 12, we see a similar circumstance. Jesus and his disciples are hanging out near the place where offerings are collected. As Jesus is watching, he sees the rich people throwing in large amounts, but in the midst of the crowd, Jesus notices a poor widow who tosses in two small copper coins, worth a fraction of a penny. At this sight, he tells his disciples: “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on” (vv. 43-44).

Jesus places less value on the quantity and more so on the quality or significance of the gift. He says or quotes things such as:
“did what she could,” or
“all she had,” or
“first fruits of our labor,” or
“the fattened calf.”

I don’t know about you, but for me, this concept is nothing but encouraging. I am the definition of perfectionist. If I do not excel at a task or activity, it is likely that I will not participate. I do not do things halfway and if I fail, I have trouble letting it go. For example, I played volleyball in college and I can still remember making an error in the fifth and final set in a match against Atlanta Christian, costing us the game. I can see it happen and I still feel the adrenaline from it. This game was three years ago. These things stay with me. I’m sure many of of you can relate to this feeling.

But here’s the beauty in who Jesus is and what He is asking of us. He isn’t asking us to be the best in our field. He’s not giving us a quota on the number of disciples we are to make for Him. Going into full-time ministry, we all know that we will not exactly have the same bank account as our doctor or lawyer friends. But that’s not the point.

The point is: God is asking for US. He’s asking for our ALL. That’s it. As long as I am giving him all of me and all that I have and all that I can, He will say “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” I don’t want to simply pour a few drops on Jesus’ head. I want to have the strength and the courage to break open the bottle without caution and let the perfume flow.

And I challenge you to join me in this.
To abandon worries of not being good enough.
To abandon feelings of self-consciousness.

And instead, to break open the alabaster jar and to throw in your two copper coins.


We Fill Gaps.

The Harrisons have had quite the past few weeks.

For Greg’s birthday weekend, the two of us – along with Jon Ford and Charlotte – spent a day in Atlanta to see a professional soccer game as their gift to Greg! Let me tell you. You would have thought that Greg was a three-year-old waiting to see Santa or something. When Greg first saw the soccer field through the stands, I wasn’t sure if he was going to cry or pass out or scream out of excitement. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like had the U.S. been playing in that game! First, we watched Panama beat Cuba and then the Georgia Dome transformed into a city in the middle of Mexico as Mexican fans began filling the stadium to see their country play. We decided to leave at halftime and head to the Atlanta Food Truck Park for dinner instead of finish out the game.

On a sad note, last week Greg’s Aunt Gayla passed away after battling cancer and brain tumors. We spent the weekend in Dublin, visiting family and attending the visitation and funeral. While it was unfortunate that those were the circumstances that brought us back to Dublin for the weekend, we were both glad to be able to spend the time with his family, especially because the day of the visitation was also the birthday of Greg’s middle brother.

Yesterday, July 31, marked our four year dating anniversary! To celebrate, we – accompanied by my twin sisters and our friend Jonathan – went to Atlanta to see Pentatonix in concert! Now, if you have never heard of Pentatonix, you MUST stop reading now and go to YouTube and look them up. They are an a cappella group who won NBC’s “The Sing Off.” They are incredible. They consist of Scott, Kirstie, and Mitch who sing, Avi who does bass, and Kevin who beat boxes. Really though. Go look them up. I may or may not have a slight celeb, fangirl crush on Avi. We bought these tickets back in May and have been looking forward to the concert ever since. I think we both agree that it was the best concert we’ve ever attended. They interacted with the crowd perfectly and kept it entertaining. It was wonderful.

To think that Greg and I have spent the last four years together blows my mind. On one hand, it has absolutely flown by and it feels like it hasn’t been that long. But on the other hand, I truly feel like we’ve been together forever and that there was no one before him. Greg and I are not your average couple. Greg and I work together, go to school together (same degree = same classes), and live together. We spend more time together than I would imagine most couples do. So many people ask me how I/we manage doing everything together. Here’s the thing: we’re best friends first. Sure, he is the absolute love of my life and I can’t imagine marrying anyone else or anyone else being the father to my future children. But Greg is also my best friend. He’s the person I vent to, laugh with, cry to. We are completely comfortable sitting in the same room together while he plays FIFA 13 and I watch Bones on Netflix. Most of our nights are spent watching endless shows on Netflix together and then talking about the shows afterwards as if the characters and situations are real. He puts up with me and I’m quite the handful.

It’s like what my trusty hero, Rocky Balboa, says. Paulie, the brother of Rocky’s girlfriend Adrian, questioned Rocky about their relationship once:

Paulie: [talking about Adrian] You like her?
Rocky: Sure, I like her.
Paulie: What’s the attraction?
Rocky: I dunno… she fills gaps.
Paulie: What’s ‘gaps’?
Rocky: I dunno, she’s got gaps, I got gaps, together we fill gaps.

Greg’s got gaps; I got gaps; together we fill gaps.

Hospitality House

Greg and I have been living in our four bedroom, three bath, split-level house for a little over a year and a half now. It’s certainly a house that has much more space than the two of us (and Lucy, of course) really need, but we absolutely adore this house.

What I have realized over the time that we have lived here is that I absolutely love taking care of people. It gives me such joy to have the ability to let any of our friends and family stay the night (or a few nights) at our house and to feed them while they are here. The downstairs basement almost acts as an “apartment” with its own bedroom, bathroom, and living space. That way anyone who stays with us has their privacy.

The house may be a little big for us currently (we would LOVE to stay in this house after graduation when we start having kids… it would be perfect!) but I have come to see it almost as a small ministry for us to be able to love on anyone who comes to our house, even if it’s just for a night’s sleep.