Monday, March 31, 2008

Wrapping up the month.

I am happy to report that this week is off to a good start. Any week that has homemade cream puffs with vanilla pudding (cooked on the stove...not instant) and real whipped cream is a good week in my book. =)
I grew up loving cream puffs and often requested them instead of birthday cake for my own birthday. In making this batch of cream puffs, I really did have Chip in mind and knew they would make him happy. We had an early birthday celebration sharing dessert with the kids tonight, because tomorrow Chip and I will be going out for dinner with some friends. The kids didn't mind singing and having fun early. For me, the memories are more important than the date. =)
As we close this month of March, I am looking forward to April and hoping that spring shows up in all its glory. We, like everybody we know it seems, are anxious for sunshine and fresh air. I again want to thank many of you for taking on some of the little 'challenges' I posted here- from sending a card to Lois to help lift her spirits as she battles cancer, to the donations made for the childrens' hospital in Uganda, to your own personal reflections. I love that each day, each week, each month, we have the opportunity to make new choices, discover new things and take on challenges that can stretch and change us in many ways. I wish you all a Happy April!
If you must have the recipe for cream puffs, here it is...enjoy!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a heavy saucepan, combine 1/2 cup butter (1 stick) with 1 cup of water and bring to boil. Next, add 1 cup of flour and stir until it forms a ball of dough. Add 4 eggs, mixing in one at a time, until the dough is smooth. (It will be slightly sticky.) Drop large spponfuls of dough onto a sheet pan...makes about 12-16.
Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Allow to cool for as long as you can before filling them with your favorite pudding, whipped cream, mousse or whatever else you love. =)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

I have the best husband ever.

I got to take a nap today. It felt amazing. Chip has no idea what this meant to me. But he reads this blog. So I figure he might sort of understand how big a deal this really was to me due to the fact that I did a whole blogpost about it.
Just to say thanks.
Thank you, Chip for letting me take a nap while you kept 4 kids busy and even started their dinner.
Happy birthday in two days too.
In case I don't get around to blogging about that.
Just kidding.
His birthday is April 1st. He was born prematurely on April Fool's Day back in 1968. That means Tuesday he will be 4-0.
Maybe I will give him a nap for his big day.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

715 posts...

This post is number 715. That's a lot of pictures and stories and ups and downs and thoughts and ramblings, wouldn't you agree? The truth is I never dreamed I would like blogging this much when I first created Nitty.Gritty. I had read blogs for about 5 months when I finally hit the button, 'create your own blog'. I really thought it was just going to be an easy way for me to share bits and pieces of my life and that of the rest of my family with my family and friends- near and far. Since our tragedy, I had been very good about sending emails and often times found myself 'needing' prayer support or encouragement for some new life challenge we were facing, or just had to share something exciting that had happened in our ongoing recoveries.
When the world of blog opened up before me, I had no idea what I was getting into, nor did I realize how many connections I would make or how many other people would feel compelled to share their stories with me.
It's been quite a ride, I must say. One that has really touched me in many ways. So this post today is kind of a compilation or update post on some of those stories that many of you have followed here in the past 715 posts.
First things, first.
I have been in the midst of a personal concern that has caused some stress in my life. I still am in that...but feel that God has given me peace to accept however it turns out. Still, if you feel led to do so, please pray for that peace and for the final results for me. Also, in regards to the issue of clutter. Thanks for some of your emails and tips on how I can address this. Part of it is just the added stress in my life sort of maginifies all the other 'stuff' that drags us down. I felt much better yesterday after tackling the closet/room that holds most of my girls' clothes. I emtpied out two bags of things they had outgrown and folded and hung up everything else that was out of place. That felt good and made me feel just that much more 'in control'. I think my advice for some of you at this same place I am in is to do ONE thing. Start small- whether it is a drawer or a closet or a single room, or even just cleaning everything off the front of the fridge.
A single clean space sort of gets the ball rolling and I really think it's all part of a larger mental game here. As spring bursts on the scene for many of us, we have this urgent sense to make things 'fresh' around our homes. I am happy to say that my one small step yesterday really made a big difference...and really it isn't that bad around my home. Nothing like the hoarders some of you wrote me that appeared on Oprah. I just feel like I needed a little jumpstart, and I wish you the best as you find ways to feel good about your homes and spaces too. Small steps are the key.
Secondly, many of you were moved and curious about the lives of our friends (the Cerak family of Gaylord, MI) who were told their daughter was killed along with others from Taylor University in a terrible van accident almost two years ago. Weeks later, they learned she had been misidentified as another student in the crash and actually was alive and recovering. They recently co-wrote a book with the parents of the family whose daughter had been killed and now will be sharing some of their thoughts on various tv programs. If you are interested in hearing some of that story and more of how they are doing now, you can see them on the Today Show (today- Thurs. 27th), tomorrow night on a Dateline 2-hour special, or on The Oprah Winfrey Show next Tuesday, April 1st.
I owe a few of you replies to the emails and donations you sent to me on behalf of Teagan's birthday when I invited you to be a part of the gift we are sending to our friend Roxanne Robbin who is serving some needy/special children in Uganda- many who are suffering from cancer and other serious diseases/injuries. We are touched by your generosity and have been in contact with Roxanne. She had sent us an update on Okello Dikens- whom I asked you to be in prayer for as his story had gripped my heart. He was given a fairly good report from his doctors just over a week ago, but this past Thursday he took a turn for the worse and is in a coma and having major complications- including vomiting blood and feeling pain. Roxanne spent all Easter weekend by his bedside and I know she would appreciate more prayers for little Dickens. Chip is planning a golf event to help raise even more money for the hospital and the needs of the children of Uganda. Roxanne said that she would make certain our money goes to meet very specific and simple needs of these children- many of whom don't even have a mattress or pillow/blanket as they lay in the hospital needing care. We have been receiving donations through our paypal account which is should you feel compelled to be a part of this gift as well. We truly appreciate your gifts and prayers and I will continue to bring news as Roxanne is able to share with us even though she is thousands of miles away.
My dear blog friend, Angie, and her whole family can use more of your prayers too. They are facing the birth and death of their daughter, Audrey Caroline, who has multiple concerns and is not expected to live as a result of her issues. I invite you to read their story and pray for God to be glorified even in this most trying time in their lives.
As for our own Wyndham, she is nearing the end of the process she has been through as we wean her off one anti-seizure med and onto another. It has taken weeks and we are almost 'there'. I have appreciated so much support and prayers for her too as she has gained strength and gotten her enery levels up again. She still has some catching up to do with the strength/muscle tone she lost, but she has made much progress and now we are just hoping that this single medication will control her seizures and help us live a 'normal' life again.
Yes, there are more stories and updates I could bring you, but I think that fills many of your hearts/minds. I thank you all for being a part of my blog...our lives. It has been a truly wonderful thing to not only be able to share parts of us and others with you...but to also hear your stories and to be supported and encouraged and inspired by you too.
I hope to continue to do this for many, many more posts. =)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A battle zone

Sometimes my house feels like a 'battle zone' to me- as though I am 'fighting' against the chaos and clutter that 4 kids, a husband and myself create on a daily basis. From laundry to dirty dishes to toys strewn all over the place. Not to mention the papers and piles that seem to come out of nowhere- every single day. All this 'stuff' can easily consume me and get the best of my enery and moods at times. Please tell me that I am not the only one that this happens to. I am trying to figure out how to 'streamline' and find a way to get 'on top of things' rather than just swim and fight my way through this daily stuff.
Beyond the physical battle zone though, I have come to recognize more and more that my spiritual life and mental life have battle zones all their own. In the past few days, I have been in a place of doubt and fear and just wanted to share that I know it's real. I know others of you are in the middle of your own battle zones- especially those who have claimed Christ as Savior and seek to do what He is calling you to in this lifetime. It's not always easy to face battles that we can't see. I just have a sense in my heart that some of you could use the same reassurance and words of comfort that I came across in my morning devotional today.
I have been emotional high and low the past week- for many reasons- including remembering Teagan and looking back on the 'ease of life' I took for granted when she was alive and my family was yet 'untouched' by the reality of evil, grief and pain in that this world sometimes subjects us to.
I have totally accepted her death, and trust that God has always been and still is 'in control' of all that comes our way. Still, that doesn't make me and my family immune to further pain and suffering and so as I find myself in a different battle zone, I am seeking God and His comfort. I found it as I flipped open one of my devotionals- Into His Presence by Charles Stanley today. It's laid out by date...and after I read the devotional for March 25th, I flipped the pages and came to rest on May 21st and these are the words I read...and needed for today. I hope someone else finds this to speak the words your heart is longing to hear.
"Marching into Battle"
Key verse: 2 Chronicles 20:17 "You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem! Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you."

The massive enemy army was coming. We can only imagine how news traveled in Jehoshaphat;s day- by messenger on foot or by rider on horseback. One day life was normal, fillled with regular activity. The next day Judah awoke to news of enemy invasion.
Reports of threat spread quickly, igniting feelings of panic. Even King Jehoshaphat became fearful, but he also recognized that no enemy was stronger than the Lord God.
He immediately proclaimed a fast, and then called the people together to pray. The Lord's Spirit filled the temple area where the people were praying and spoke through the prophet Jahaziel: "Listen, all of you Judah...Thus says the Lord to you, 'Do not be afraid or dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God's...position yourselves...and see the salvation of the Lord who is with you' ". (2Chron. 20:15-17)
God instructed Jehoshaphat to place the choir in front of the people as they marched into battle. What an act of faith by Jehoshaphat!
Can you do what Judah did- march into battle singing? They heard the word of the Lord and understood the victory was theirs. All they were called to do was to watch, pray and praise. When we praise Him, God works in miraculous ways!
The prayer for the devotional is: "Lord, as I march into the battles of this day, I praise You! The victory is mine".

Today, no matter what battle(s) you face, I invite you to claim the victory that we have through Christ Jesus. And to praise Him even as you march through that battle. I thank God for examples of people who claimed His victory...they help me to claim it too.
Thank you God, for giving those of us who believe, all we need to face our battles. I praise you for who you are and what you continue to do in my life. You are worthy of all our praise!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Family fun...

We had a full day of fun today, starting with a trip to see Disney's High School Musical on Ice and then grabbing some deep-dish pizza for lunch. The kids loved the show and it was nice to just have all of us in one place happy and relaxing together. Well, I don't know that Grandpa John had a relaxing time- he had Ava on and off of his lap several times and helped her with her snacks and then had to get up at least 3 times from his spot in the booth for her to take potty breaks at the pizza place. =) But the rest of us had a good time. {He was a good sport...and not pictured here because his eyes were shut on both pics he was in. I'll work on getting a better photo tomorrow.}
Later on in the afternoon we colored our Easter eggs together. The most fun part of dying eggs for the kids was when they got to carry the cups of dye outside and dump them out in the snow. {We got about 4 fresh inches of snow the day before, so there was plenty of 'white canvas' to spray color on.} I think Ava would have put her new swimming suit on and stayed out for awhile if we had let her. She seems to think it's spring already, despite the snow and cold temps. Hopefully it will be here soon!
Here's wishing you and your family a Happy Easter.
May you feel the Joy of this special day in a very Real way and understand the magnitude of all God has done for you, through His son Jesus. I thank God everyday for His grace in my life. I thank Him for saving me even though I am a sinner and deserve nothing good as a result. I thank God that He made a way for me- for you- to be reconciled to Him and to have a Hope of everlasting life in Heaven. Someday.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy kids.

This is a picture of Wyndham eating cake for Ava's birthday the other day. She was so happy. It was nice to see her that way.
Today ALL the kids are happy.
Chip's parents, Grandma Karen and Grandpa John, arrived last night and are spending a few days here with us for Easter break. We haven't seen them since last August. My kids spent at least the first 30 minutes of their arrival yesterday screaming, laughing, jumping up and down and bringing them every toy, dvd and class paper they were thrilled to share with them since Christmas. It was quite a scene in our home, but fun at the same time.
Today, Ava got a new little bike and Wyndham got a new scooter, and they all are watching "Enchanted" as well as "The Bee Movie" too.
I have actually folded clothes and put them in closets and drawers, rather than just having enough time to haul the clean laundry up from downstairs, but not enough time to do anything else with it. What a treat....folded/put-away laundry!
I guess we're ALL easy to please around here.=)

Thanks so much for all the comments, emails and care for all of us as we missed Teagan in a special way this week. We are still 'dragging out' the celebration with a trip to a local arena to see "High School Musical on Ice" show. Teagan would have loved it...and we are going to make some fun, new memories. Life goes on. So does happiness. And that's a very good thing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

If I could....

If I could take back those 4 years in my life, I would. I would soak up the little moments and cherish every smile, every hug, every nose rub, every kiss, every little pinky promise. They forever changed me and made such a deep and lasting impact on my heart. Teagan is in Heaven and I know she wouldn't come back even if she had the chance. I am forever grateful for the gift that she was in my life and the lives of so many others- even in such a short time.
My hope is that her life will continue to inspire me to be a better mom, a better friend, a seeker of Joy and a person who loves life in all its glorious details. If I could take back the time I had with Teagan on this earth, I would do it in a heartbeat.
I wouldn't trade the memories we made for anything. She's still the love of my heart. I am grateful to share some of her life and smiles and memories with you today. Happy Birthday in Heaven!

Remembering Teagan on her birthday

Monday, March 17, 2008

Birthday weekend recap...

It's been a fun weekend at our house. Ava turned four on Friday, but the celebrating continued through Saturday. We went on a family outing to see the new Horton Hears a Who movie. The only spot in the theatre that had enough seats for us all together was in the very front row. So we saw it close up! The kids loved it. There was lots of laughing and popcorn eating and smiles from all of the kids. We grabbed a little dinner at Applebee's and then had 'butterfly cake' and icecream per Ava's request.
I've had several inquiries via email wondering how Wyndham is doing, as well as how I am feeling these days. I am happy to tell you that we are both doing much better than last month. Each week we have both gotten more energy and back and it has made a difference in the moods of all of us. I am 12 weeks along in my pregnancy today. Which is a good place to be as the morning sickness begins to fade some and my extreme fatigue seems to be disappearing too. I was pleased to have gotten two loads of laundry done and a butterfly cake baked and frosted before 11 am on Saturday. Just a week earlier that would have seemed nearly impossible! So I am definitely perking up. {And for those who are really following the details closely, I've gained about 4 pounds already too.}
Wyndham is still in the process of weaning off of one of her anti-seizure meds, but seems to be tolerating the medication with fewer side effects overall. She is still requiring extra sleep and extra help with balance and sometimes with eating, but more and more she is getting back to full-strength. I was so glad that she really enjoyed the movie and party activities this weekend. It was fun to see everybody so happy and it felt good to be having fun and be 'relaxed'.
Today we want to wish my Grandma Shirley and extra special "Happy St. Patrick's Day". It's been one of her very favorite holidays for as long as I can remember. We all have a bit of green on if we were in Minnesota we would certainly get in on her Irish Dinner. Love you, Grandma!
Tomorrow we will celebrate and remember what would mark Teagan's 11th birthday. I have received some donations and gifts in her honor to which we will be sending on to Roxanne Robbins and her work with the children in Uganda, Africa. It is a bittersweet time to reflect and wonder and wish and remember. Still, I thank God each year that we even have this date to celebrate. It means Teagan was a part of our lives. And she will forever be a part of our hearts.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Turning four.

Ava is four. She couldn't be happier about having a birthday today. She has given hugs and kisses and gotten them in return from all her family members. She awoke with a grin on her face and had limited edition Barbie Eggos and orange juice for breakfast. Grandma and Grandpa sang 'happy birthday' to her via the phone from Minnesota before 8 am.
She brought cupcakes with sprinkles to school and shared them with Brock's third grade class. My highschoolers sang to her in yearbook class and she basically announced to everyone she met in the halls and classrooms that she was "four today!!".
She got Madagascar and Ratatouille dvds and an inflatable guitar and Hannah Montana cd...she is a happy girl this afternoon.
The pictures here just give you a small taste of her personality. I snapped them earlier this week when we found ourselves ready to leave home a few minutes ahead of schedule. I asked her if she wanted me to take pictures of her because she was almost four. She said "shore, shore!"...which is "sure, sure!"- only she says it with the cutest pronunciation. These pictures are the results of that informal photo shoot. She can be as sweet as can be...when she wants to be. =)
Today she's being all too sweet. If I get to 'steal' her birthday wish, I'm wishing she'll stay like this for a very long time. There's just something so wonderful about a little girl turning 4.
Happy Birthday, Ava. I love you to pieces. Every little bit!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

My "baby"

My baby Ava turns four years old tomorrow. She is so excited and anxious to celebrate her birthday. I can't believe that she is getting to be so 'grown up' already. In my mind she is still the baby around here, and somedays she still takes advantage of her birth order to get what she wants, or simply to entertain the rest of her family. Bella loves when she uses her 'baby-talk voice'. I have to admit, it is cute in the right context. =)
It's just another milestone for me that hits deeply when I realize how young and small she seems- yet how when Teagan {as our oldest child} seemed so 'old' the year she turned four. I remember thinking she was practically a little lady. I would probably be in tears thinking about and comparing and contrasting Ava and Teagan if it weren't for the fact that there will be yet another Ferlaak baby to start the process all over again. I know Ava is going to seem very grown up in a matter of months. Time is funny. Age, I guess, is just a number. I'm happy for Ava to be turning four and that she is so happy makes me happy too.
I have to share a few more thoughts on my previous challenge post today too. Thanks to those of you who have expressed interest in joining me in sending support to Dickens and the children of Uganda. You can paypal your donation/gift to me at I will send Roxanne a combined gift around the first of next month. I just know it will mean so much to her and the people she is reaching out to in Africa.
I was thinking about how my life is so vastly different than the lives of the people in that country. Most of us in America have it so comfortable and easy compared to so many parts of the rest of the world. I was thinking too, of Oprah's Big Give, and how she keeps wanting people to see that 'little gives' add up to 'big gives' when people come together for a common cause. It's so true. I may not be the wealthiest person in my neighborhood- likely you and the rest of the readers here are not either. Still, we have so much compared to so many. Even if our budgets seem to be stretching thin and the gas prices keep going up and so forth, there are still lots of little ways that we can 'cut back' and give 'big' to others.
My mind goes first to personal ways that I can 'sacrifice' in order to give more to others. It could be something as small as skipping the weekly cup of Starbuck's many of us enjoy- that would mean a donation of about $15.00 that could be sent to Africa or some other charity or needy person in our lives. Another way many of us can 'give big' is to skip one meal out at a restaurant with our families. Staying in and making eggs and sausage and toast, or whipping up some pasta and sauce could mean anywhere from $25-75 dollars- easily. That's how much our tab can run at Red Robin or Red Lobster. And what does it really 'cost' us? Or what about skipping that new pair of jeans and just wearing the ones you have awhile longer. See? Giving doesn't always mean digging deeper into one's pocket, but can mean simple going without something that we don't necessarily need in order to give to others. Or maybe we can clean a closet or sell some items on eBay that no longer are being used in our homes. There are ways to give without actually having to scrounge up money. I think that was what I liked about Oprah's first episode of her show. The people who actually did the 'best job' weren't those who drummed up the biggest monetary donations, but rather it was those who found people that were willing to come together and combine their passions and 'gifts' and resources to make life-changing differences to people with real needs.

Looking at giving as a way of cutting back something in my life rather than having to give beyond what I already give makes it seem 'doable' and really challenges the way I want to live and raise my family. I hope that my kids will learn that sometimes skipping a 'luxury' in life for a few moments and instead using that time/money to give to a worthy cause really makes a difference and can matter for a long time in the life of those in real need. Other times it can be something as easy as making a double batch of dinner and sharing it with someone in need. Charity, I believe, sometimes demands creativity. =)
One of my pastor's used to put it this way, "Maybe there are ways in our lives that we can LOWER our standards of living in order that we can RAISE our standards of giving". It's not an easy thing to make personal sacrifices, but it can be so good for one's heart and soul.
That's my challenge to those of you who want to make a difference in the lives of people you 'connect' with in this world, or even to those you will never meet.
I am trying to 'put on thinking' that allows my heart and mind to take my eyes off of 'me' from time to time and to see the world as a more compassionate person. I am not going for the 'humanitarian-of-the-year' award. But I certainly can use a challenge at times to reach out and give back. I have been very blessed and sometimes the best thing we can do with blessings in our lives is to bless others. It goes without saying that the world is a better place when people live less selfishly. I think many of us in America can use a challenge in giving- from the top down.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Connections made...

I truly hope that my friend, Roxanne, doesn't mind that I took this image out of one of the photo albums she has posted online. But I just had to share it with you, as well as the link to her blog and her story in life at this time. It's been on my heart for a couple of weeks now. I blogged about how I wanted to pose some personal challenges here and invite some of you to join me in those challenges, and today is one of them.
In reflecting back on Teagan's life and how ours has changed since her death, I often think of the may 'connections' we have made; those friendships our family has formed with people whom we might never have otherwise met in life had circumstances been different. One of those people in our lives is Roxanne Robbins, who through a series of unusual events came to be a friend of our family. She 'learned about our story' when she was attending a White House biblestudy and one of the women in that group had read the article from my college alumni magazine telling the story of our loss of Teagan. Roxanne was moved by it and she ended up getting in touch with us through email. Chip did a radio interview with her as part of her job at that time and we kept in touch a bit through the internet. Later she was traveling companion to former tennis star, Andrea Jaeger, as she toured and promoted her book, First Service and raised awareness and support for cancer foundation, Little Star, and during that tour, Roxanne had the opportunity to meet our family and visit with us in our home. She is a fascinating person with stories to tell ranging from political experiences in Washington D.C. to professional sports figures that she has spent time with on and off the field. We fell in love with her and her generous and compassionate spirit several years ago.
I was not surprised when, last November, we got a link to her blog and an update that she was now living in Africa and working with people, especially children in hospitals, who need so much medical attention, love and care.
Late last month Roxanne posted another update to her blog and shared a very personal experience that she had just had with a little boy named Okello Dickens. She has several pictures posted of this little boy and I was touched. I was moved to pray for him often and still do, all the while wishing there were something more I could do for him and so many of the other children at the hospital who need special care. I have been thinking about how I wouldn't even know that little Dickens is suffering and needing my prayers had Teagan not died and our lives connected with Roxanne's.
So in that spirit, I have been reflecting on the reason for this long-distance 'connection'. Teagan's birthday is in a week. I plan to send a gift of money to the ministry through which Roxanne is serving the children of Uganda in place of the gifts I would have gotten for Teagan's birthday. Chip and I have done this in the past- we have looked for ways to give to others on Teagan's birthday as a way to honor her memory. I am inviting any of you who like to be a part of this special birthday gift to let me know by sending me an email with the name "Dickens" in the subject line. { } I would love for all of you to pray for Roxanne and what she is doing in Africa as well as specifically pray for Dickens and the other children who are suffering in the hospital alongside of him.
I will set up some sort of system- either a paypal account or just send out my address- in which you can send donations and I will make certain that our gifts make it to Roxanne. I hope to send my gift to Roxanne at the end of this month.
A piece of my heart will always be missing from the hole that Teagan's death has caused in me- in which there is no way of filling that void. But in giving to others and touching lives of those I never would have had the chance to 'meet' had it not been for Teagan, just helps put some of the pain of grief and sorrow in its proper perspective, as well as gives a sense of hope- that life and death is always connected. No matter how long Teagan has been gone; no matter how 'far away' she is her spirit still moves me to want to do good in this world. This month a piece of my heart has been in Uganda. I can only imagine that Teagan would be excited to know that her birthday present went to some kids who are touched by her love in Africa. Sometimes it just plain hurts to realize Teagan's not here and never will be. Other times it warms my heart to know the world is still a better place because she was in it.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Spring scrap inspiration...

I just had to blog today after seeing this butterfly mobile over at Ali Edward's blog. It is simple and beautiful and totally gets me excited about spring. I hope she doesn't mind me giving you a peek of her project here. I encourage you to go to her blog and see more of the finished project as well as detailed close-ups of the individual butterflies. They are just adorable and fresh for this month- with Daylight Savings happening today, the first day of spring as well as an early Easter too.
Here's to looking forward to the newness of spring!

Friday, March 07, 2008

A beautiful faith...

My own faith has been strengthened and encouraged the past few weeks as I've been following the story of a family who is facing unknowns in the pregnancy of their baby girl, Audrey. I invite you to read back through some of Angie's posts and see the amazing presence and spirit of God in her life. Even in the midst of a 'storm'.
I hope that many of you will pray for her, baby Audrey and the rest of her family as they surrendar this time in their lives to God and wait for His will to be done.
I have been blessed by the music of Selah for years now. It is touching to be able to pray and give back some of the blessing I have received from Todd's music. I hope you will be touched as well.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Music and warm cookies.

I have had several inquiries about the first song on my playlist here at my blog. It's titled "Amazing Grace (My chains are gone)" and it's by music artist Chris Tomlin. You can see a video of the song by following the link here.
I have loved it since the first time I heard it. The music and melody just speak to my heart each and everytime it plays. I have been brought to tears by this song more than once. And if you know me well at all, you know I'm not typically a 'crier'.
Today when I loaded the girls into the van to go pick Brock up from school, I grabbed a couple of fresh baked chocolate chip/m&m cookies and wrapped them in a napkin so that he would have warm cookies for the short ride home, rather than having to wait until we got inside the house. It was a small gesture, but one that was met with much gratitude and surprise. It garnered a "You're the best mom ever...I love you!" and to me that's what grace is to me.
It is something so undeserved, so thoughtful and incredible and unspeakable at times...but something that demands our attention and thought. God has poured out His grace through His son Jesus by sending him to earth as a baby in human form. That baby grew and was crucified, although blameless and without sin. He became sin for us that we might have a way to be justified to God. It was God's plan for redemption of all since Adam and Eve sinned. That is the message of grace. That we were loved and are loved, not because of anything we have done, but because of what Christ has done for us.
The more I grow in my relationship with Christ, the more amazing this grace is to me. For years I felt like following God was about things I could and couldn't do. It was though life were broken into categories for me- one list was the 'bad stuff' and another was a list of things that were okay. And of course, I went through that phase where there was nothing more exciting than wanting to 'push the boundaries' of those lists and really challenge myself to see how close I could get to something on the 'bad list' without actually 'breaking a rule'.
But as I've grown in my understanding of who God is and His desires for my life and recognizing what it truly means to be redeemed and 'set free', I no longer see life as good and bad, but rather I seek to do things that will draw me closer to God and allow me to become more of who He has created and wants me to be.
It is that freedom in which I live and find peace and Joy each day. My 'chains' are gone as I no longer feel as though I am choosing good over bad, and really most 'bad things' in this world no longer appeal to me. I don't say this to sound like a snob or a goody-two shoes, but I say it humbly and as one who truly understands that I do not deserve grace and mercy. I deserve death and punishment, and because of what Christ did for me, I now live with the hope of Heaven and with a peace that my sins are forgiven.
I live knowing I am loved- even though I am a sinner. It makes me want to do good. All the time. It makes me want to tell others that this gift of 'freedom from life's bondage' and redemption is available to whoever wants it in their life. I have been shown love and mercy and now I live my life hoping that will spill forth from me too.
It's like those cookies.
I didn't have to make them, but I love my kids and sometimes I do things to 'bless them'- not because of anything they've done to deserve such treats, but simply because I love them. My hope is that someone who needs love- whether through my words or actions or simply through some other way that God can use me- His broken tool- will be touched and find His grace. It's amazing and free. And it's better than any this world has to offer. I thank God everyday for reaching down and 'rescuing' me.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

It changed me.

This little mushroom is on the cover of the pregnancy album I am keeping as we count down the weeks and months until our baby is born. {You can see it here.}
I have been thoughtful lately for various reasons. As Chip and I prepared to speak at a dinner last week it forced us to look back- not only at our Oprah dvd and story of tragedy, but also at the process and journey we are on in life since we've gone through some heartaches. I also have been reflective, as I said earlier, just because it's March and we mark another birthday that we would have loved to celebrate with Teagan. She would be turning 11 and each year it is harder for my mind to wrap around the age she would be. She talked many times about 'just wanting to be four forever' and in many ways she got her wish. In my heart and mind she will always be my little blond-haired, blue-eyed four year old girl. No matter how many years go by.
Expecting another baby quite unexpectedly has triggered lots of new thoughts, hopes and dreams. In many ways Chip and I have been through such tough stuff, but in many ways I find myself so thankful for those times of adversity. The fact that they have brought so much 'goodness and blessing' still blows my mind, because our human nature doesn't really teach us to go looking for 'bad stuff' in life. On the contrary, we have built in protective instincts and we live in a society that promotes health and well-being and really encourages us to pursue happiness. To live through hardships (and we ALL have our share of them, no matter what they may be...) for me has changed me. It has changed us. I am thankful for that and see how it's such a matter of perspective in things that really matters most in how we 'survive' those crisis.
During Teagan's pregnancy {she was our first} I was depressed and consumed with the changes that a baby was going to bring to my life that I missed all the wonderful things that were happening to me. I missed chances to enjoy the time Chip and I had as just the two of us, because often I was voicing worries or concerns or just feelings of unhappiness. It sapped the fun and joy out of what should have and easily could have been one of the most wonderful 9 months of our lives.
Sometimes my heart aches so much about how I 'was' back then and how I regret being so selfish and focused on stuff that didn't matter in life. I sometimes feel that as difficult as our grief and loss has been, that it has been a wonderful gift at the same time, for it has opened my heart, mind and soul to beauty and joy that used to pass me by. The relationship that Chip and I have now is one that is stronger and deeper than I knew two people could share together. It is not without its moments- just as I still 'blow it' sometimes as a mom and friend and fellow traveler in this world. But still, I am humbled, even moreso at this time in my life than I think I have been at any other. I am thankful for the way that God heals and renews and offers us fresh starts and 'do-overs' in life if we are willing to move beyond our hurt and embrace what the future holds.
These are just some of my thoughts on a Tuesday morning. I continue to be inspired that life comes at us unexpectedly many times, but we still control our destiny. May you be inspired and encouraged to seek Joy as you walk your own journey in life- through whatever life sends your way.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Just plain silly.

Happy Birthday, Aly. From your crazy Aunt Jody and all your cousins in Michigan. We love that we laugh and smile and have fun with you whenever we're together. We miss you today especially and send love and wishes for a really great birthday... today and all year long. Love you! xoxo
My challenge for anyone who wants to take it today is easy. I invite you to watch the premiere of Oprah's new show called "Oprah's BigGive". It airs at 9/8 Central. I think it's gonna be the kind of inspiration I am looking to see. The kind where people realize that their actions can make a big difference in this world. Even if those actions are 'small'. If done with the right motive and in the right time in the right manner, little stuff is what changes the world.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

A new month...some new opportunities.

March 1st and I am ready for a new month to start. The last two have had lots of challenges and stress for my family and I am ready to take on something new. What I have been feeling the past few weeks is that although life has thrown us some curve balls at times, I still have much to be thankful for. We are blessed in many ways.
March is a special month for me as it brings lots of memories of Teagan. Her birthday is March 18th and so it just seems to trigger memories and we always celebrate her birthday and remember her in a special way. In years past we have found ways to give to others in honor of her memory and it just makes me feel good to know that her life still can touch others in a positive way.
So that is part of the thought behind the new challenges I am wanting to embrace. I just have had different encounters and things pop up in my life which seem to be speaking to me to step up and do more. I know that there are many of you who read this blog who would love to join me in some or all of the challenges I plan to post here over the course of the month. Some ask very little of you. Others are going to stretch us- or at least give us pause to think and decided how we will respond. I hope that you will find inspiration and encouragement and blessing as you read along and hopefully get involved too.
The first challenge is one that is being brought to us by my dear friend, Wilna. She has a friend, Lois, who is in the middle of a battle with cancer and Wilna has invited us to send handmade cards to show Lois support and love and encouragment from all over the world. It is a small gesture but when hundreds of people take action it becomes a major statement and hopefully will touch Lois' heart in a way she never thought possible. Wilna has even gotten several people to offer a variety of 'prizes' which one person will receive later on this month. Just as her way to say thanks to everyone who gets involved and reaches out to her friend. All of the information you need is here at Wilna's blog. The artwork you see here is by Wilna too. She is a wonderful artist and has such a big heart. The card is one I just made today for Lois. I wrote a note with this verse inside,
Deut. 31:8 "The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Sometimes truth can be so comforting.
I think this is an 'easy' way to start this month of challenges and I hope that you find as you do things for others that the blessing you receive only fuels your fire to do even more! I think it will be great to think of this 'month of green' as a month of giving; and there will be much growth in all our lives as a result. Happy March 1st! {If you do make and send a card, I'd love for you to just leave me a comment of your name and where you're sending posting your card from. Thanks!}