Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Coke Float Day.

Today our family affectionately terms this day "Coke Float Day". Coke float day marks one month prior to the day we said our last goodbyes to Teagan and happens to be a day we captured a special moment in her life and ours in this photo above. The day was June 30, 2001; Teagan stayed up late as she often did to say goodnight to Daddy after he'd been away at work all day. This day we made that goodnight extra special by letting her and Chip have Coke floats- served at her little table in the 'special' tall malt glasses. She was so excited to have this time with Chip. She always was a Daddy's girl and I'm so glad I thought to grab the camera and snap a photo of this late-night date they shared that day.
We had already learned that life was precious and we should make the most of the time we have together because of an incident where we found Wyndham unresponsive and purple months earlier that same year. We had already learned to let go of some of the frustrations in life and to take in the fun times together or make a memory out of an ordinary day.
What we couldn't have known was that Teagan's days were coming to an abrupt end and our lives would never be the same in a matter of one month. What we couldn't have known was that this simple late night Coke float date would become one of our cherished memories we would have with her and wish back more times than we could count. What we didn't know is that this picture would looked old and dated and capture the way we would remember her for years to come. What we didn't know is our quiet, unassuming lives would be changed in an instant and our faith would be the only thing left to stand on.
We are grateful for this time and the wonderful memories we made with Teagan while we had her and we cherish them for what they were and still are to us. Her life and death have taught us so much and we never want to forget to make the most of the moments we're given here on earth. Today- Coke Float Day- reminds us again to enjoy the here and now, to do something 'special' just because we can, and to celebrate the simple and ordinary moments we have with one another.
We invite you to join our family today, or tomorrow, or whenever the opportunity arises in your own life to do the same thing. Be in the moment. Enjoy THIS day. Hug a little tighter; share a smile with someone around you. Give yourself permission to let something else go and make a memory you'll cherish for a lifetime. Even if it means staying up past bedtime and going a little over the top to make the memory extra special. It shouldn't take a tragedy for us to all see the gift of what we already have. Our family has learned the significance of now. Today we remember it again and share it with you too.
May you have a special Coke Float Day- or Pepsi or rootbeer or cupcakes or movie night or however you choose to "celebrate" now.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Summertime + free = I like

I haven't done a "double-blogpost" in a long time, but found good reason to do so today. How about a link to some free printable notecards and other stuff. Like pretty desktop wallpapers! No need to thank me. Just click here: Kindred- inspired together.
You're more than welcome!

The front door

Brock just got home from camp a little over an hour ago. We're all happy to have him back. He's on cloud 9 and has lots of stories to tell us, pictures and videos to share and about 6 bags of dirty laundry. His sisters are most excited to be playing with the new flashlight he got. There is lots of chatter in the background right now. This is the stuff I love about kids and summer and savoring the little stuff.
Speaking of savoring, the non-camping kids had their own fun outdoors this week including an impromptu picnic on the front step. Isn't it interesting how just a little change of scenery can turn something like sandwiches, chips and carrots into a special memory?! It's always a good thing to shake things up a bit and do things out of the typical routine. Which is why I took a break from doing laundry the past 2 days. It was a real treat for me. =)
If you were to come through my front door right now I would probably offer you some fresh-baked zucchini bread. Ava helped me bake this morning. I have posted the recipe here somewhere, but it was prior to my posts with tags, so I am re-posting it here as requested by a couple of you via email to me this week. Now, if you click the recipes link on the sidebar, it will pop up for you. It's actually my mom's recipe- one of my favorites since I was a little girl. So, sometimes it's fun to change things up a bit. But there's something to be said about things that are tried and true too!
My Mom's Zucchini Bread Recipe
2 cups grated zucchini
3 eggs
3/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
3 tsp. vanilla
1 can (11 oz. drained) mandarin oranges
2 cups sugar (I always cut this back to about 1 3/4 cups)
3 cups flour
Mix zucchini through oranges together in large mixing bowl. Add sugar and flour until well combined. Bake in pre-heated 325 degree oven for 1 hour 15 minutes. Makes 2 large loaves or 4 mini loaves. Bake mini loaves from 40-50 minutes. {Check for doneness.}

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A simple "yes"...

I posted on Facebook that today marks 15 years since Chip asked me to marry him and I said yes. Fifteen years ago I had NO IDEA what the future held for us, and I'm quite certain I wouldn't have believed it even if you had spelled it all out for me.
What I do know 15 years later is that I still feel very blessed to have met Chip, fallen "in like" with him, and then I started to see his potential, my potential and then "our potential" when I let myself dream a little bit at a time. I'm very humbled that God brought us together and pretty much blew away any picture I had in my mind of how our lives would turn out together. I'm still amazed that Chip was "smitten" by me. I wasn't really the "smittening-type" of girl back in those days. I was {and sadly still am far too often!} a selfish girl that judges quickly and feels entitled to get her way. I can be picky about little things- and even nit-picky about littler things. Fifteen years ago I never imagined that our lives would blossom beyond just an "us" to include several more little people, who very quickly and thoroughly, taught and continue to teach me that there's more to life than just me.
As I pause and think back to that moment in time {at Rice Park, Saint Paul, Minnesota} when Chip asked me to be his wife and one little word- three little letters- changed the course of my; changed the course of OUR lives, well, it's nothing short of amazing to me. I often joke, at times when life gets stressful and Chip and I are at odds with how to proceed through whatever it is life is handing us at that moment, I say to Chip, "Remember...you asked ME to marry YOU", and we laugh and it helps bring us back to 'reality'. Our crazy, wonderful, challenging, sometimes-ready-to-throw-in-the-towel, up and down again, all-around amazing reality that is our life.
I'm thankful that he asked me.
I'm so glad that my selfish, unprepared self said yes.
I couldn't imagine anyone else next to me through these past 15 years.
It's been wild. It's been hard.
It's been more than I imagined, and for all of it, I'm grateful.
I never knew a little yes could change so much.
I love you, Chip and I would say yes all over again.
This time, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Enjoying the views.

We had the chance to grab dinner overlooking Lake Michigan the other night. It was a perfect, summer night to be outside and take in the scenery that we don't enjoy often enough, despite living only minutes from this great beach.
We put our name on the waitlist for dinner and then let the kids grab dessert first at the local {one of our favorite spots!} Dairy Treat. They still ate their dinner really well and we took in the fresh air and watched the big boats go by at the same time. The sun set was spectacular and the kids ran on the beach for a few minutes just as it was going down. I love that something so beautiful and captivating comes at "no charge". It's almost magical to see the colors swirl in the sky and to let the kids chase the seagulls with the sun going down behind them... listening to their laughter and making simple memories- it's priceless. I just thought I'd share a few photos of our nice evening.
Brock was testing his new camera and is now at camp for the week. It's our warmest week of the summer, thus far, so he picked a good time for outdoor games and fun! I have to add though, that I'm sure he's having a great time and not homesick for us. He was excited and ready to be gone for a week. Bella on the otherhand is having 'reverse homesickness' and sobbed and sobbed last night at dinner. She said she couldn't even eat because she missed Brock so much. I wasn't prepared for her tears, but did manage to finally get her calmed down, eating and even laughing by dessert. I'm sure Brock will be touched that his little sister is missing him that much. =)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Distorted view...part 1.

I've had some thoughts going through my head about perfectionism and self-image and how those things affect our joy and contentment level in life. At least there seems to be a connection between them as I look at my own life. So I'm going to blog some of my thoughts and they may turn into a mini-series here if I get them all out of my head. I just don't know how coherent or meaningful they will be to you. But feel free to read along with me as I 'talk outloud' and as always, I'll read your comments and reflect on those too.
The pictures here (aside from the one of Crew, which I posted just to show you his grin and adorable tongue again...ha!) were some I forgot we took during spring break when our family visited the Grand Rapids Children Museum. Apart from waiting outside for about 35 minutes in a chilly breeze, we all enjoyed the activities and fun that took place in early April. The family picture we got in the ripple mirror just happens to be one where we are all looking into the camera at the same time. Isn't that the way it goes? The one time we actually all have our heads in the same direction is the one time we're standing in front of a mirror that takes at least 4 inches off your height and adds at least 25 pounds! But look at our smiles! We were all having fun and actually smiling more because of our mishapen bodies.
Which brings me to one of the points of writing this post. I'm well beyond my middle school and teen years in which I had such low self-esteem, and yet sadly, years later, I still find myself seeing my 'flaws" first and most obvious each time I look into a mirror or see my reflection somewhere. I'm wondering when and if that ever goes away?! I've fully come to accept my short height (I'm 5-2) and know that I'll never be a size 2, and that doesn't bother me. I've been size 8-14 for several years now and have found little correlation between the reading on a scale when I step on it and the happiness I experience in my day-to-day life. Don't get me wrong, I can get crabby and find myself grumpy about food when my weight starts to tip the scale more than I like, but it certainly doesn't hold true all that often. I've been my lowest weight and also been most unhappy too, so it's obvious to me that numbers don't determine happiness.
Just as true about weight is money, if you ask me. Having more of it doesn't automatically mean you'll be happier. Some of the people I've been around that have money/material wealth also have had a lot of heartache over 'stuff' and broken relationships too. More often than not, it seems to me that having money just adds to stress levels in life. As someone once said, the millionaires are striving to become multi-millionaires and the more you achieve, the more work it takes to try to achieve the success you are aiming for. Once you've arrived where you want to be you find there's another world awaiting you and you start climbing the ladder to the next level of success. It's never-ending and certainly doesn't get easier on the way up.
But that's sort of another topic all on its own.
What I've really been thinking about is how God loves us as we are- whether we've accepted His grace and love in our life or not. Other than asking Him for forgiveness and inviting Him into our hearts and lives, there is nothing we can do to earn His favor.
That reality- that God loves us as we are- is such a comfort to me and one I've been trying to think about as I go through my day-to-day activities, oftentimes doing the same tasks over and over, feeling as though they really aren't that significant in the scheme of life. But it's in the very ordinary, mundane tasks that I feel most affirmed in who I am too. It's crazy how that works, but I'm beginning to finally accept that I never will be {or ever claim to be!} SuperMom or SuperWoman or SuperAnything, and that's perfectly okay. It doesn't mean God can't use me or that I'm failing in my life. My faults, downfalls and inadequacies actually build in me more humility, more empathy, keep me dependent on God and serve to remind me that I'm forever a work in progress.
I know this is getting a bit long, but I have one more thought to get out of my head. I've been thinking about some of the "stories behind the stories" that I grew up listening to and now share with my kids from the Bible. One of my favorites has always been the story of the loaves and fish. Do you know the one? Jesus was teaching a great multitude of people and the day got longer and longer and soon the disciples realized that the people were going to need a dinner break. They went to Jesus and told them that they had no food to feed the thousands of hungry people and they asked him what they should do. Jesus basically said, "feed them". With what, the disciples wondered? So they went through the crowds and in the end found only one little boy with a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread. They brought it to Jesus and many of you will recall that Jesus not only multiplied the little lunch, but there were 12 baskets leftover too!
Recently, as a mom, when I read that story again, I couldn't help but think about the mother who packed the little sack lunch for her son. The Bible doesn't tell us anything about her, but I just wonder if she wasn't an overworked woman with household chores and duties that seemed never-ending and even a 'waste of her time' most days. Yet, she made sure her son had nourishment and she sent him off to hear a teacher one day and went about her business. I wonder what she thought when her boy came home full of excitement and out-of-breath, anxious and tripping over his words as he retold the story of the miracle Jesus did with his little lunch. I wonder if her heart was forever changed from that day on as she went about her day-to-day chores. What had once felt mundane and like drudgery, now served as a reminder that God didn't need her to be a superhero or even do anything all that significant. What He did was take what she had, which in this instance was a boy who was willing to share his lunch that his mom had made- she obviously had taught him to be generous and the combination of his little lunch and willing heart fed thousands.
I get overwhelmed at times- not with the tasks that I have to do each day- but more often than not, it's from a distorted view of who I am and what I should be doing. I thank God that He can take what I have to give- no matter how big or small my gifts may be- and He can use them and even multiply them in my life and others. How great is our God?! He has proved Himself in my life and others to be faithful and good, time and time again. I'm so glad that He doesn't demand perfection or even some crazy, expensive payment in order to receive His grace and mercy. He'll take whatever it is we have to offer. And He has the ability to turn it into something great. That's just who He is.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


First of all, don't worry about Crew and that doorstop as a choking hazard. I've pulled on it and it's very snug; in addition, when he's in the bathroom, there is always someone supervising him. So this is all just fun and entertaining for him. It's rather fun and entertaining for the rest of the kids in the family too!
I just think it's interesting how he is exploring every little thing that crosses his path these days. He is thoroughly interested in the mechanics of toys and non-toys alike. =) It's just how little people are wired, I guess. They just want to know how the world works. I'm still trying to figure it all out myself.
Lastly, do you see that little tongue of his sticking out?! I think he really IS part puppy. Frogs and snails and puppy dog tails... ahhh, gotta just love little boys!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Five kids= busy!!

I'm finding that the concept of "free time" doesn't exist here at our house in the summer. At least not as we try to establish some routine and get into the swing of the "laid back, lazy days". Crew is into EVERYTHING and is a full time job all on his own. He's starting to pull himself up next to things and he eats everything left lying under the dining table and takes advantage of every chance he gets to go into the bathroom and 'boing' the little doorstop behind the door. It's his most favorite thing in life right now. Besides getting a Cheerio all the way into his mouth. =)
Wyndham has loved riding her bike and sleeping in most mornings. Ava, Bella and Brock have been taking swimming lessons- which means we still have to be somewhere by a certain time most days.
Busy, crazy, exhasuting and sometimes I wonder if I should just get a housekeeper.
Nah. My house would be clean and I'd feel pretty useless. I'll try to be back sooner than a week next time. I've missed my own blog.
Is that sad? Or good.
I'm undecided and too busy to think about it. =)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

In the moment.

I am big believer in living and loving the right here; right now. I happened upon the quote posted above by Ayn Rand through this blog. It's a quote so poignant and inspiring. Too many people waste their days longing and wishing for something they can't have- something from their past, or thinking something is out-of-reach in their future. The desperation they feel starts out maybe as a small twinge in their heart/soul, but as time goes on they give into that belief system and soon they have a roaring fire ranging in them that literally controls their life.
It's sad, but happens all too often, leaving in it's wake broken relationships, bitter hearts, self-pity, gloom and dismay. Do you know anyone like this in your life? It can happen suddenly too. I sat in a dark valley myself realizing at one point that there is always a choice to divert from life's dark path and choose a new Way. Fortunately in my situation I had many friends and family and a God who loved me and gave me a feeling of Hope that choosing a better way out of sorrow would make life worth living- even after Teagan's death. In the depths of despair, I felt the need to move beyond that and wanted something More in life. I wanted beauty and Joy too.
I thank God for giving me many blessings- even on the twisted, winding path I've been walking for years. It's been wrought with pain and sorrow and confusion and questions, but I've learned that not wallowing in it or closing out the world and hiding in the pain has opened up new and amazing moments. Moments I would have otherwise missed. This is what I hope to inspire out of the pain of my life. That no matter what comes- and pain and heartache DOES come, there is always a chance to find beauty and Hope.
One of my friends has a beautiful story of hope in her own life. She has learned some of the same lessons in life that I have- that you can choose beauty and Joy and hope is never out of reach. Andrea is giving away a class on her blog if you stop by and leave her a comment. You will love some of the creations she makes and she has some really wonderful techniques to inspire you too. Stop by and tell her Nitty.Gritty. sent you. =) She'll get a kick out of that.
I challenge you to embrace your moments today. Big or little; exciting or mundane; challenging or comfortable. Imagine there is no tomorrow, how can that thought impact the way you live today? Choose contentment; let go of an expectation; forgive a wrongdoing; see something in a new way; live in this moment and find it can make all the difference in the world.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Thinking about faith.

In the online Biblestudy I'm doing with some of my friends we were invited to write down our definition of faith. (Link here to homepage of Biblestudy for those of you who have emailed and asked me about it. I think it's a good one!) I've shared my favorite definition here before, but think it bears repeating. I heard it several years ago and it's never left me. It says, "Faith is believing in advance that which only makes sense in reverse".
Read that through and let it sink in for awhile. It's really that good and true. Since I already have a definition that I think sums it up so well, I decided to think about and compose a short statement summing up what faith is to me. Here's what I've come up with:
"Faith is nothing until you find it's all you need" or "Faith is nothing until it's all you're holding on to".
I've really had my faith tried and tested and stretched and questioned and out of all of that, it's grown stronger, deeper and defined what I know to be true in this life and beyond than anything else ever had or could. Many of you know that I was a pastor's kid for most of the years as I was growing up and into college and beyond. I was "raised in the faith", you might say. I know more words and verses to hymns and Scripture than a lot of people I know. I can whiz right through the Bible category on Jeopardy. I get almost all the Bible crosswords right in Sunday paper puzzles. I have a lot of 'faith knowledge' in my head... although I also know there is a never-ending amount of theology and faith-based topics to debate and discuss and ponder that I could never fully understand it all. Even after all the years studying and learning about faith and the Bible and other religions, I feel I've barely scratched the surface most of the time.
However, all this knowledge does me no good unless it goes from my head to my heart and actually changes and/or affects the way I live. Just as someone could hold the cure to cancer in their head, it serves no purpose unless it is applied to the life of one who has the disease. In the same way, I have learned that for many years I understood what faith was, but I rarely needed to put it into practice in my life or let it "consume me". It was just there.
I think that happens to too many of us. We might think we know all the right answers. We might trust that we have faith and feel comfortable knowing that if anything "really bad happens", we have something to fall back onto. But the fact is faith is so much more than just having the right answer at the right time. It's not supposed to be just a security blanket we carry around and pull out when the going gets tough. Rather, a deep-rooted faith should be life-changing. It should guide and direct our steps and teach us to be patient when our heads and hearts are full of anxiety. It is real faith that gives us peace in the midst of life's darkest storms. It is faith in the unseen that allows us to have Hope when all else appears hopeless. Faith is also having Joy when there seems to be nothing worth singing or dancing about in our lives.
My faith is something that I have come to depend on every day. I used to think faith was about following a set of rules- a long list of 'do's and don't's that God handed down to us through the Bible". I'm glad I was wrong about my former definition of faith. I'm grateful that, even through life's hardest struggles, God has shown me faith isn't about what to do or what not to do, but rather it is His gift of assurance and Hope and promise to me to always be with me and to have my best interest at heart. God isn't holding a rolled up newspaper over my head waiting to use it when I mess up and fail to follow the rules right. No. God is waiting with arms open wide with a Plan for all our lives and a Hope for our eternal future- our sins have already been covered by the blood shed by His perfect son, Jesus, who died for everyone of us. There is nothing we can do to earn (or learn!) His favor. It's a gift to us, given freely, to those who choose to believe. And in so doing, we begin a life of building our faith and trust in Him that I have found, compares to nothing I ever had before.
Faith is so hard to put into words, and yet so worth the effort of trying. If I can ever encourage you toward a faith that matters in this world and beyond, it is my honor and privilege to do so. If you ever have questions about faith and if I can begin to answer them or share what I've learned, I am more than happy to do so. I feel like I've been so lucky, SO changed by what God has done and given to me through His grace. It's undeserved and yet something I'm thankful for every minute of every day. Without faith, I know my life wouldn't look the way it does. Without faith, I know I would be worthless;lost. Without faith, I know my future would be hopeless.
If I could have only one thing in this world, it would be my faith. And that's all I would need!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Let the summer games begin! =)
One of my favorite "inspiration bloggers" is celebrating her first anniversary online by hosting a big giveaway on her blog. All the pictures posted here today were taken from Danni's blogsite "Oh hello friend". Hop on over to see all the links and prizes she's featuring and good luck to you if you enter! Even if you don't enter the contest, I'm sure you'll be inspired by the many unique and beautiful items she blogs about each week. I have a long list of blogs that I frequent, and her'sis one I've bookmarked in my top 10 favorites. Maybe I'll share more links with you as the summer goes on. I do love a good many blogs! Or should I say "too many" blogs! Feel free to leave a link to yours or your favorite one here. I'm always happy to add to my growing reading list!
Speaking of reading and contests, my kids just had a reading contest of their own. Isabella says she wants to be a librarian when she grows up and she has a small library in her room. She wrote out invitations for her reading contest and invited all the family to join in. Brock won for the most number of pages read in the hour and 15 minute long event. Bella gave him her iDog as a prize. I read to Wyndham and Ava for a portion of the event, and feel like I won, because I had a quiet house for over an hour! I think I'll encourage Bella to hold more reading contests each week. =)
If you want some enjoyable online reading, I'd encourage you to start reading from the earliest post at this blog, "Patterns of Ink". It's written by a friend of our family and he's got such a gift for making his stories come to life. They are rich with detail, imagery and history. I'm sure you'd enjoy the tales Tom weaves as he writes memories and stories from his past.
Another one you might like to check out is a story that is being written, sort of as it unfolds. This blog, by "ironlindsey" is another by a friend of mine and she is seeking God in the restoration of her life. Her past has been shaping the stories she writes of now, and most certainly will keep shaping who she continues to become. I'm sure she'd love for you to stop by, read and leave comments of support too.
As for Wyndham and her "story", thank you for your prayers and concerns. Her gait study went well although we will be waiting for results/analysis for awhile yet. We know that God knows how her story and surgery will turn out already and so we are looking to Him for our guidance as we make decisions for her and we trust that He will give her the comfort and strength she needs to endure all that lies ahead.
Until then, we're in full-on summer mode. I even painted my nails and Ava's today too! It's nice to be able to do stuff that's not all that big and exciting, but fun none-the-less.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Summer smiles

We're kicking off summer at our house today. It actually started when we walked in the door from our last 1/2 day of school on Friday. I snapped all these pictures just after everyone dropped their backpacks and locker contents inside the door and declared, "Hooray! We're on summer vacation!". We have had one family outing practicing our golf swings and putting at the driving range. We've had one movie (Madagascar) and popcorn night and look forward to more family fun like this.
Although this is the first official day of summer for our family we unfortunately didn't get to sleep in. Many of you are praying and following Wyndham's developments as she grows and learns, and you can be thinking of her today. She just left with Chip for an in-depth gait study, which is one of part of the process she will go through to help determine how her surgery will take place later this fall. It's a computerized procedure and shouldn't be painful in anyway. It's more time-consuming and not exactly how one wants to kick off their summer. But we managed to get up early and get her off to this appointment and she even had a smile as she headed out the door.
It's not always easy having medical issues, but they sure are easier to swallow when there are smiles all around. Thanks for caring about Wyndham and her challenges. Our family has been blessed by the support of not only our family and friends, but by many of you we may never meet. So thank you, from all of us as. We look forward to lots of fun and smiles this summer. And hopefully only the occasional medical procedure that disrupts the fun- but still is laced with smiles.
Happy summer to you and yours!