Saturday, November 26, 2016

Not your typical Thanksgiving post

Thanksgiving is a time where it comes more natural to be liberal with our showering and proclaiming of everything that we are thankful for.  Its certainly not a bad thing to sprinkle efforts of having an attitude of gratitude all over social media or throughout our homes in the forms of wall art or throw pillows. It’s an immensely beautiful thing, really – to be grateful.

Sometimes it comes easily, full of “my cup runneth over” moments where you just cannot get the smile of deep content and joy off of your face.  And other times, it is an intentional mindset or an effort of directing thoughts towards the abundance and the good, rather than the shortcomings or difficulties.  And for some, at other times, it may be downright difficult to see through the veil of hardships to identify blessings and believe that things can ever turn around for the better.

Our family of 5 has so much to be grateful for. We try to be intentional about voicing our gratefulness and identifying our blessings.  A thankfulness pumpkin has occupied our kitchen table for the last two months. Every night at dinner we take a few moments to write on its sides the people, places, and things that we are thankful for  (Yes, you might see penguins written down) Its become a dinnertime tradition that we have enjoyed and may have to do in different forms so that we can continue to practice it throughout the year.

This Thanksgiving was a little hard though.

We actually spent our Thanksgiving Day without any family or friend gatherings to attend.  I cracked the whip and made Adam work on getting the basement project started while I tended to the tedious job of painting trim and baseboards on the main level of the house most of the afternoon and into the evening. Much of the day was dreary, cloudy, and sprinkling rain.  And for dinner, we ate at Burger King because it was the only thing we could find that was open.

But none of that was what made it hard.

You see, we had a family gathering the weekend before. And we have another family gathering today. We’ve experienced a full house of loved ones with plenty of food to eat, good conversation, great moments of connection, and people that love us.  We have other family that we couldn’t see, due to distance, that we know love us also. We have been embraced by our new church. The boys are doing well in school. We have a house provided to us that is next door to church, Adam’s workplace, Heath’s preschool, the boys’ school, the local high school and middle school, and has a large parking lot for riding bikes in. We have closets full of clothes, cupboards and a fridge lined with food, bins stocked with various toys, bank accounts with more than enough for what we need.  We can easily think of people throughout the course of our lives that have influenced, affected, and blessed us.  We have 3 boys that are growing, learning, and are healthy. And I still have a smile on my face from getting to see friends all day yesterday as we made a quick whirlwind tour of visiting Grand Rapids.  We have so many bountiful and good things in our lives.  And we have the joy, peace, love, and hope of Jesus.

It was hard because we had volunteered to deliver meals to shut-ins.  Something I thought would have left a more satisfied feeling in my heart.  Helping out is supposed to feel good, right?....

But it didn’t.  It left me conflicted, confused, and heavy feeling, unsure of what could really be done on a grand scale – a feeling of the need being so much greater than what the offering was.  Our route was what I assume to be a government subsidized apartment complex with mostly older people residing in it.  For the rest of the day, I couldn’t shake the image of the woman who needed help getting out of bed so she could use the restroom – not even remotely interested in the meal we brought for her, and me smelling the urine in her bedsheets and asking if anyone stops in to check on her.  Me trying to smile and tell her we hope she has a nice Thanksgiving only to help her back to bed and have her quietly insist that she just didn’t know how it could be. Or the woman who expectantly and excitedly greeted us, even prepared to give us money for being so nice to bring her a thanksgiving meal….only for us to leave and be on with our route and day. Or the older man in overalls who peeked out his door and who wasn’t on our list that then proceeded to follow us from a distance down the hallway, clearly interested in the food that we were handing out.

But we showed up with our eager smiles and our homemade cards that we had drawn hand turkeys on.  The boys excitedly rode the elevator, knocked on doors, handed out our cards, and exclaimed over and over again how our van smelled like Thanksgiving.  I pointed out how providential it was that we had made the exact number of cards needed, even though we had no idea how many meals we were going to be delivering.  And how perfect it was that we ended up having someone on our list who had somehow just received another meal, giving us an extra meal to hand out to the man in overalls who was still following us down the hallway.  We exuded a spirit of joy as we walked in and back out of other’s realities.

But my heart is still heavy and conflicted thinking about it all.  A dose of reality that I know exists and readily admit to – that people are lonely and living in long moments of isolation, have broken bodies and spirits, and have tangible physical  needs , but one that I don’t often enough willingly encounter in doses like I did on Thanksgiving this year.  I’ve gone on missions trips to third world countries, served in the inner city, held babies in orphanages, fitted children with needed shoes, used a “toilet” and visited homes in rural Africa…..I’ve been exposed to “needs” before.  But it is easy to forget. …..or ignore in the midst of my normally comfortable and full life.

How do we live in the balance of being aware and involved in the deep and real needs and hardships of others…..and still enjoy life’s pleasures and embrace our full and bountiful existences of having more than enough?  All of a sudden, many of those things that our family listed on our thankfulness pumpkin seem silly and trite.  And the little we gave of ourselves on Thanksgiving feels like a drop in the ocean.  How are we supposed to do this Jesus?

But I am grateful to have these moments of wrestling.  Moments that make me catch my breath and ask Jesus to help me understand.  Moments that soften and tenderize my heart, open my eyes, challenge my views and thinking, get me uncomfortable, and spur me onto reaching out and doing what I can with the moments that I have been given. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Clyde says goodbye

We had to say goodbye to our cat, Clyde.

We went away for an overnight youth retreat this weekend. We had only been gone a little over 27 hours, but we came home to find that that he had died while we were away. A big surprise for us.

He was over 12.5 years old, so not a kitten anymore, but some housecats live quite a bit longer. Still not completely sure what happened, but it appeared to be simply of a natural cause. We had noticed a few minor things lately (a couple of very small growths on his head/neck.....his fur not being as well groomed as usual), but nothing that would have led us to think that he was going to die soon. Thankful that he did not seem to be in pain prior to this or have a lingering and long illness to suffer through.

We haven't shed any tears over him. I know some pets take on extreme familial roles for some people....but well, we'll be honest, he was our pet. We enjoyed him. We were glad to have him in our home and to allow our kids to interact with and care for an animal. And when kids came into the picture, he was probably mildly neglected and occasionally his food dish would not be filled as quickly as it used to be. :) We think he was happy and content in his life. He'll be missed....but not mourned like a human life.

We got him within our first year of being married....when we lived in an apartment that did not allow pets.

Our other cat, Daisy, will certainly miss him. They've been together for almost 9 years.

He was such a good, tolerant cat to have with young kids! If he got fed up with kids or didn't like all the noise, he would simply go hide somewhere.
He had always moved with us.....from an apartment to a 95-year old house that we a 2-month temporary mission our large family our current house in a new state.
One of the most recent pictures taken of him. And probably one of my favorites.
So peaceful.

Clyde was a very good cat and we will miss hearing his large, padded paws come around the corner on the wooden floors. And how he didn't always want to be petted, but he would rub against your hand to let you know when he did want to be petted. How he seemed to have a bit of a fetish for heads/hair.  How he would sit on your lap and knead his paws back and forth on your legs. How he would come when you would whistle for him.

Thanks for letting us take care of you Clyde!

Heath turned 4!

Heath turned 4. 
11 days ago. But hey, still going to blog about it. 

He was our smallest baby by quite a bit (8lbs. 10oz) - although he was my toughest labor. He was the last one to walk, a little slow to talk....but ahead of his brothers in other ways! 

His birthday was the day after we returned from our Colorado trip. So, well, we didn't do a whole lot besides jumping into regular life.
I took him to Toys R Us while his brothers were at school. They give you a crown and a balloon on your birthday. And he had a $3 off coupon that I let him pick out something with. I let him pick out a new Paw Patrol pup that he didn't have.
He requested pizza and applesauce for dinner. We opened cards and gifts. We had some cake. And we were still recovering from a 3-hour time difference adjustment. :)

He's a pretty easy to please kid, so I think he enjoyed his day quite a bit.

Here's what Heath is like at the age of 4:
- He likes puppies, turtles, and frogs. He has a very special stuffed frog that is named "Speckles."
- He still doesn't usually pronounce "s" when it is at the beginning of some words. Thus, he actually calls his frog "peckles".  And he likes to play the game "Pot It" (Spot It). He likes "tickers" (stickers). And he likes to "nuggle" (snuggle).  
- He loves trying to keep up with his older brothers. 
- He loves having books read to him. 
- He attends preschool 2 mornings a week at our church (from 9am - 1pm). He really enjoys it. His favorite part is usually eating his lunch at school. 
- He still gets pretty shy in really busy social settings or with new people.
- His voice is pretty cute and distinct. A little robotic still. Get him going and he can be quite chatty.
- Still a big fan of trains, tow trucks, fire trucks and cars. 
- He gives great hugs (when he wants to).
- Speaking of "when he wants to".....he's starting to get an opinion and agenda of his own. Seeing some pouting and defiance.
- He repeatedly tells us he wants someone to share a room with. He is very sad about it. Landon and Tate wear the same size of clothes and get up at the same time for school....makes sense that they share a room. And mom and dad share a room. Poor kid feels left out.
- He can be pretty sensitive to the feelings of others.
- We think he is so adorable and are so thankful to be given him as a gift to our family!

Wednesday, November 02, 2016


Check another state off of our "been there" list! 


Adam's dad moved there almost exactly 3 years ago.  On a whim, I looked up airline tickets a couple of months ago and found they were quite affordable for us. So, we extended the boys' fall break and made a trip of it! 

This was the first flight for the boys. There is something so fun about watching these guys take in new experiences. They were so enamored by everything. Navigating the airport. Pulling their luggage. The moving sidewalks. The takeoffs. The snacks on the plane. It was all very exciting for them and they did really well. 

Adam's dad and wife live in Loveland, which is about an hour north of Denver. 
The fun thing about Denver and the route up to Loveland is that they run parallel to the mountain range of the Rocky Mountains.  As far as you can see in both directions you see the line of the mountain range. And if you look in the other direction, you see flatness.  You are still at a really high altitude, but its a huge flat plain. 

We enjoyed scoping out the Rocky Mountain National Park a bit on our first full day there. It is such a vast, huge area that we barely saw a drop in the bucket of it. Its crazy how much colder and windier it gets the higher you get. We mostly drove and would get out at different points to see a scenic view, but we did take a mile trail at one point.  And I must say, my "worst case scenario" mind took several rampant runs at times. Why are there not more guard rails along the road?!?!?! And I'd start sweating when one of the boys would even lean up against a rail while the wind gusted around us. It even led me to later look up stats to see how many people die every year in the Rocky Mountains. Yes, I'm aware that I'm a bit morbid.

Anyways. Super majestic and beautiful scenery. Makes you feel quite small. Definitely a sight to behold. Here's some pics from that day:

On Saturday, we enjoyed a community event in the downtown Loveland area. Kids were in costume and there was lots of businesses with activities for kids. It was beautiful weather and our little guys had a lot of fun. Then Maria and I enjoyed some outlet mall shopping later in the afternoon. In the evening, I made us all try to go out and find a spot to watch the sunset.

On Sunday, we took the boys to a local church in the morning. We debated on whether or not we were going to attend church. We were completely open and willing to attend a Catholic Mass with Mark and Maria. And we were completely fine with just laying low and enjoying some rest time. But, we found a small-ish community church and showed up. We were really blessed. We love being in a ministry position in a church setting.....but its also really nice and freeing to just be able to show up somewhere and worship and take it all in. No expectations from us. No "agenda" running through my head of who I need to connect with or catch. No problem solving if a situation arises and needs attention.  We were blessed by the music and message. And our boys have attended a number of churches over the years and do really well in new settings.  And after lunch, we hiked a stretch of The Devil's Backbone. And then we checked out the historical Dam Store. And oh yeah, it was also Adam's 37th birthday! 

On Monday, we headed to downtown Denver. Our boys are big fans of underwater creatures (especially Tate......No, Tate is not an underwater creature....he's the biggest fan of underwater creatures). There's an aquarium there and we have never taken the boys to an aquarium. And after doing some internet research, it turns out that if kids were in costume (since it was Halloween), they would get in FREE (normally $13.50/kid). There's also a restaurant inside of the aquarium where you eat beside big fish tanks. We had planned to do that also, even though I knew it was pretty pricey. Turns out that kids ate FREE on that day also (saving us another $7.50/kid). These people were speaking my language! The boys LOVED the aquarium. Since it was a Monday morning and area schools were in session, it was not busy at all. We then shed the costumes and walked to a local ice cream place and checked out a few other spots on the way. On our way out of Denver, we checked out the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Arsenal Refuge. It was free and we drove the 10 mile wildlife loop. It was hot and animals were pretty lazy, but we still saw a couple of bison, some deer, lots of prairie dogs, and a few birds of prey. 

On Tuesday, we visited Maria at her workplace for a bit and said our goodbyes to her. Then we visited a local park and played for awhile. It was a great view of Lake Loveland and the moutainscape. For the rest of our day, we just worked on packing up, chilling, and gearing up for our evening flight. 

This is as close to mountain climbing as I got.

Overall, it was a very good trip. Mix in some cooking of meals. Watching the World Series. Dealing with a 2-hour time difference. Trick or Treating. Gazing at mountains a lot. And well, that about sums it up. 

Super grateful to have the chance to visit family. Having moved away from what was our "home" area for the last 13 years, we know it means a lot when people come to see you in your new digs! I'm very glad we made the point to take this trip and spend some time with Adam's dad and Maria. 

Super grateful that God has given us such amazing different landscapes to have in our world. I'm sure the people that live in Colorado get used to the views, but I found myself trying to soak it all up. 

And I'm also super grateful that we had this chance to take a trip in general. It was good "timing" to get away with a short lull in responsibilities lining up with a school break. I'm thankful that my budget-conscious mind was able to get past dropping the money for us to all fly. Plus, we've been busy and it was really good to get away as a family. I'm completely endeared to these 4 guys in my life and I love spending time with them. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Grandma Murdick's homegoing

My grandmother passed away on Friday.  She had a stroke a few weeks ago that began to shut down her body and she declined rather quickly.  When a person is 93, you submit a little easier that it was their time.  Not making their presence from this earth any less missed, but the culmination of a long life lived and the reality that these bodies were not made to last forever, eases this transition.  And most importantly, her Savior was waiting to greet her.  The picture of that moment of longing finally happening is so, so sweet.

January 2012
My childhood memories of her vary greatly. She lived in Florida for most of my growing up.  I remember the anticipation of her Christmas package that would arrive. She must have had a 10,000 square foot roll of a certain tissue paper wrapping. I still remember that it was white with holly berries and leaves on it. We received presents wrapped in that print for YEARS. I remember the several trips to Florida to visit her. I remember her visits during the summertime.  I remember not understanding why she didn’t think it was proper for me to be running around barefoot.  And I remember not understanding why she would always cry when she prayed. Thankfully, I get that now. 

My grandfather died when I was only 2. I remember when she got remarried. I was 10. And I wasn’t sure how I felt about watching elderly people kissing. :) 

I remember how when I was younger I didn’t understand why she seemed to always have an opinion about something or felt the need to make her thoughts known.  At times, it seemed quite critical.  But I also came to admire her strong convictions and unwavering faith.  And over time, I saw an incredible softening.  My phone calls and visits in the last 10-15 years were always extremely pleasant and left me thankful for the time and conversation.  

Several years ago, it was made known that she wondered if I would like to have her piano, an item that she cherished.  I certainly did.  And we talked about it several times.  But I also knew that I did not want to take it from her too soon – before she was ready to part with it.  Taking a piano out of one’s ownership is a little different than a book being handed down.  There would be a large empty spot in her room. And I knew my grandma would cry. And I didn’t want to be the one that did that to her.

After she had her stroke a few weeks ago and while she was in health care, it became clear that she would likely not return to her apartment in the retirement village.  I was encouraged by my aunt and parents to find the time to come and get the piano.  So, we hauled a trailer and drove the 2.5 hours to get it.
When I visited her that day, one of the first things she asked about was when I was going to come and get the piano. I told her we had already loaded it up and I was taking it that day. Her eyes squeezed shut and she began to shake and sob. I sat down next to her and held her hand, telling her how thankful I was to have it and that I would enjoy it for years to come. She calmed down eventually. We had a nice visit. It was clear that her mind was not what it used to be. But she was entertained by our boys wrestling and fidgeting in the small room. She even sang a little song from her childhood at one point. She laughed and joked.  She apologized for her condition and that she couldn’t get up from her chair. She asked about when dinner was.  A lot. And as we were getting ready to part with her, she looked at me square in the eyes and said, “Now when are you going to come and get the piano?”  So….I had to break it to her again.  And again, endure her eyes squeezing shut as she began to sob.

2 weeks ago
I’m thankful to have that final visit with her though.  And I’m really thankful to have such a treasured item from her.  My dad has asked me to play a couple of songs at her funeral on Saturday.  Mind you, I have not played the piano in front of people much (or even to myself) for years.  Makes me all edgy and anxious.  Playing in front of others has always done that to me.  But, I’ve been practicing on her piano these past 3 days more than I’ve practiced in the last 15 years. 

Its sobering to realize the brevity of our lives on this earth.  And most people don’t live to be 93. Thankful to have the time with her that we did.  And thankful to know that she is soaking in her heart’s greatest longing with the One that loves her the most. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

3-year Anniversary

Three years ago today our lives were changed in an instant.
We'll never forget. Much of our life may look "normal"....but we know and we feel it. There are still effects that Adam deals with on a daily basis.

We've moved this summer and are in a whole new community. It is a different feeling to be surrounded by people who did not know us pre-accident. They have no idea of Adam's physical-ness prior to his accident. They were not with us when we were faced with an unknown outcome. They did not watch our kids, clean our house, bring us meals, spoon-feed Adam, rake our leaves, send us encouraging notes, pray, pray, and pray some more. The people we are surrounded with now didn't know us then. I have a feeling they would have stepped up to the plate though. But still, its weird to have such a life-altering event not be a part of our history with our new friends and community. We can't visit the accident site and the altar we built at the 1-year mark. We don't pass the hospital where he stayed for 7 weeks. Adam has shared his story here......but its another thing to be surrounded by people who showed up when you needed it and saw you through such a vulnerable time.

I asked Jory, a youth pastor friend, who was with Adam when he had the accident, to recall that day for me. To walk us through what he alone experienced on that day. To allow us to pause, be taken back to that day......and ultimately to give God the glory for being faithful in our lives, extending to us His peace, and to recognize what God did in our lives and hearts. Here's Jory's words:

"It was three years ago, but when I allow my mind to drift back to that day it feels like it was yesterday.

It was a Wednesday designed to be the centerpiece for the “National Week of Prayer.”  The day was to begin with students, parents and youth pastors gathering around flag poles to pray for their schools and our nation. It was to conclude with a prayer rally uniting youth groups from across West Michigan as they again cried out to God on behalf of their communities and our county.

Adam texted me early that morning – checking in to see which school I had gone to for prayer and what my plans were for the rest of the day.  With the prayer rally later that night taking the place of our regular youth group meetings, we both had unusually empty schedules…Lunch? Lunch. Qdoba? Qdoba. Better yet: mountain biking and Qdoba!  

By mid-morning our bikes were loaded into Adam’s truck and we were headed for Merrell Trail.  It started like all our rides together - Adam would race ahead and then patiently waiting for me to catch up (I could never match his speed and athleticism). Half way through “mix-master” I caught up to Adam waiting by an A-frame that tracked between the split in a y-shaped tree.  Neither of us had ever ridden the A-frame before but Adam was determined to conquer this obstacle. His attempt was anything but reckless; rather, he was methodical and cautious.  He made multiple approach runs, each time going further up the A-frame than the last, until finally he had made it to the peak. The next attempt was going to be the one, he was going for it.  The approach was true but he didn’t gain enough speed causing his gears – or was it a pedal? It all happened so fast – to catch on the wooden ramp.  In an instant Adam was flipping over his handle bars falling straight down head-first.  

Running up to where Adam lay, still straddling the bike with one shoe clipped to the pedal, I asked him if he was ok…I knew it was a stupid question but it was all I could think to say.  Adam confirmed the stupidity of my question even before he told me he had no feeling in his body and that I needed to call 911.  911? That’s for emergencies! As I dialed the phone I asked him if he was sure we needed to call 911 – it was a desperate grab for hope, that maybe it was a fleeting sensation and he just needed to catch his breath. To call 911 was to admit something terrible had happened. I hit “call.” Help was on its way.

It would take time for the EMS unit to make their way along the trail to our location, so after I hung up Adam took charge. I actually remember thinking, “He’s the one hurt, I should be thinking clearly and talking him through it.” But that is Adam. First, he asked me to call his wife and let her know what happened - she didn’t even know we went riding that morning. Next he instructed me to park my bike sideways up the trail so any other bikers would not ride up on him in his vulnerable position.  After that there was nothing else to do so I sat down next to him and we prayed. I prayed with a desperation I had never prayed before. I prayed for a miracle, for healing, for Adam’s peace of mind, for contentment in life, for Becca, for their kids, for healing, for this all to pass over and be a lot of nothing, for healing.  For the next hour, as we waited for help to arrive - in between calling the dispatcher back, redirecting a few bikers, trying to comfort Adam as he dealt with the pain, and shouting to the EMS unit to help them locate us - I prayed.

It was the fire department with a four-wheeler that reached us first. Once they had secured Adam and began evacuating him it became my job to get the bikes back to the trail head.  In my flustered state I had forgotten Adam had changed the gearing on his bike so when I shifted gears the chain popped off…repeatedly. Uh!  It’s such a trivial matter but in that moment I just wanted to throw my hands up and scream, “Really? Are You Kidding Me!?!” I walked his bike back and then ran back along the trail to get my bike.  Once I finally got the bikes loaded I set off in Adam’s truck to meet him at the hospital.  

Half way to the hospital my eyes caught sight of my bike in the review mirror at the moment it was sent spiraling across the expressway and into the path of an oncoming SUV.  A bolt on the bike rack had sheared off.  For the next 40 minutes - as I endured the wrath of an angry driver and as I answered the questions of the state trooper - I prayed. I prayed for self-control, patience, peace, and mercy.  I praised God that no one else was hurt that day.  I prayed for Adam. Finally, the state trooper cleared me of any negligence, substantiated my story with dispatch, and permitted me to proceed to the hospital.  She could have ticketed me but instead she wished my friend well – her husband mountain bikes too.   

I remember all that in vivid detail - far more than I have even described here - but the rest of the day becomes a blur.  I switched vehicles and picked up my wife in case she was needed to help care for Adam’s kids.  When we finally made it to the hospital Becca was already with Adam.  I couldn’t stay long, I still had to take a group of teens to a prayer rally.

I learned a lot about prayer on that Wednesday. If I am honest, I might say I learned to pray anew on September 25, 2013. Not at a flag pole, nor at a rally, but sitting in the dirt in the woods next to my motionless friend. I learned to pray on the side of the highway.  I learned what it meant to call out to God when truly powerless to do anything else. In the days, weeks, months and, yes, even years, that followed I continued to pray for Adam and his family.  We all prayed for Adam. Somewhere along the way my prayers changed again, from requests for healing to thanksgiving.  Now when I pray for Adam I pray for our continued friendship, for our fellowship as ministers of the gospel, for his faithfulness in praising God, and for God’s healing hand.

Adam - Thank you! We are praising God for you and we are excited to see how He continues to work in you and through you.  The next time we are together Qdoba is on me."   

“Give thanks for the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.”  ~Psalm 107:1

This day brings so much gratefulness. Along with my eyes leaking a decent amount. Thanks for taking the time to re-live that day for me Jory. And thanks be to God for making Himself so known to us during that time. We are reminded of our frailness. We are reminded of our dependence on Him. And we continue to lean on Him for the big things, the small things, and everything in between. This life is not about us. Its all about Him.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

13 year anniversary.....and revisiting the proposal

We celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary last week.  Sometimes I still feel like the young adults we were when we got married - 22 and 23 years old. And then at other times, I look around us….and look in the mirror - and the evidence shows otherwise. 

There was no fanfare this year or a big trip…..not even a date. But we both talked about it beforehand and were good with that. We know its important for the two of us to connect and we don’t want to minimize the “essential-ness” of time for just the two of us, but we also just felt like we’d be doing it because we were supposed to…and trying to squeeze it in when we felt like other things going on took a bigger priority in this season.  So, instead we hosted an end-of-the summer cookout in our backyard with youth. Isn’t that what everybody does on their 13th wedding anniversary?! (If not, you are missing out!) Our life and our marriage together is not just about us.  We’re here to glorify God and to connect others to Him - and that really is what we want to be about.  Our marriage feels stronger when we are on the same page about that.  

Upon our agreement to not spend money on gifts or do anything big, Adam still managed to make a point to show me that he knows my love language and that he loves me in extravagant ways. 
I have shared on the blog before about my strong love for movie theatre popcorn. Well, he went to a local theater that afternoon and told them he wanted to get popcorn for his wife for our anniversary.  It was a new request for the staff and they indulged his request and filled up not only a typical bucket, but a large trash-bag size for him as well.  

And that’s my Adam. He has a track record of doing thoughtful, occasionally over-the-top things for me.

I’ve never recorded his proposal on the blog before and since this serves as a bit of a log of our lives, it probably should contain the not-so-typical request for my hand in marriage that he planned.

We were in our senior year of college.  Recent conversations had identified that we both were on the same page about this heading toward marriage.  But recent conversations also led me to believe that this guy had no money for an engagement ring and that he also seemed to be on a slower timeline trajectory toward marriage than I was on.
And his gift of a promise ring to me on my birthday in September of that year really threw me for a loop and left me thinking that a proposal would not be anytime soon. (1. He knew how I felt about promise rings….not a big fan. And 2. Why would he waste money on a promise ring when I was ready for the real deal and he should be saving money for that?!?!)
But come October of that year, I had planned what I thought was initiated by me a weekend with a couple of my hometown girlfriends and our significant others.  Little did I know that he was the one that initiated all of this. 
While we were all hanging out Friday night, my friend’s dad who had a small plane, offered to give rides if any of us were interested.  My one friend really wanted to, but no one else was showing a ton of interest.  It was only a 4-seater.  Adam said he thought it’d be kinda fun and asked if I wanted to. I had never rode in a small plane, so I said sure.
The 4 of us headed to the airport and I honestly had NO idea or inclination that this was anything special.  Completely clueless.
As we flew over our small town, we were looking out of the plane windows and able to identify some areas of our town. I saw my parent’s property, the local schools, etc. It was cool to see the lights that lit up a small town and I was just taking it in…..and also trying not to be nervous about the fact that we were in a 4-seater plane way up high in the sky.
At one point, my friend’s dad asked if I had noticed anything out my window. I was just taking it all in.  As I glanced out my window again, my eyes were drawn toward a “WILL YOU MARRY ME?” message lit up on the ground.  I honestly, honestly thought, “That’s cool. Someone is getting proposed to tonight.”  I really truly had NO IDEA that it was me. And then I looked over at Adam.  He was looking at me and had a ring box open. 
Shock hit. He tried to get out some words over the sounds of the plane and his nervousness.  I could hardly listen and my mind was just blown and trying to understand how this had all happened and had been planned.
Turns out this guy had already talked to my parents. He had asked for the airplane ride. He had talked to my hometown friends about this.  He had mapped out how big letters would need to be to be seen from the sky.  He had bought the ring (at the same time as the promise ring….just trying to throw me off any scent that I might have otherwise picked up). He had driven the two hours from our college campus to my friend’s house in a previous trip to map out the message.  He had bought all of the supplies (hundreds of candles and candlebags).  He arranged for my best friend/college roomie to be along also. He had recruited and prepped the others to put out all of the candlebags once we headed to the airport.  He had this all planned out….and planned out well.  With me not having any sort of clue (I promise, I’m actually a pretty intuitive and intelligent person).

And that’s my Adam.  He knew that my heart wanted the affirmation of a somewhat public show of his affections and intentions and that it would mean a lot to me for it to include the help of people that I was close to.  We had known each other for over a year and a half at this point, dated for a good chunk of it (with a 5-month breakup in between it all) and had even agreed to hold to the decision I had made shortly before meeting him to not even kiss again until I was engaged. 

And that’s just some insight into my Adam.
He’s thoughtful.
He’s great at keeping secrets (making me a little uneasy at times!).
He isn’t embarrassed or afraid to show that he loves me.
He can plan and execute his ideas.
He often goes above and beyond expectations.
He is so good to me. (Note: I did not say perfect). :) 

And there you go. Now you know how this guy proposed to me if you didn’t already. Written down for the archives as we celebrated 13 years of marraige.  (Sorry, no pics.....this was before the convenient age of digital photography). Those hundreds of candles were used in our wedding reception to decorate the tables as we celebrated our vows with over 300 witnesses that we were going to commit to love each other for the rest of our lives. 

And so far, so good. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Camping Trip 2016

We are fresh off of tent camping for the past 4 days.  Fresh might not be the greatest word choice.  Everything, including myself, has a scent concocted of bug spray, sunscreen, dirt, mildew, and campfire smoke.  

This was our only summer vacation trip. Due to spending a lot of our time travelling back and forth between Grand Rapids and Mishawaka, we just didn’t really have much time to squeeze much else in.  And we didn’t leave ourselves much time, school starts for us next week!

We loaded up the van and trailer on Sunday afternoon and headed to Pokagon State Park. (Adam has the boys somewhat convinced that it is pronounced Poh-Kee-Gon – thus sounding a bit like Pokemon….and yes, they managed to play PokemonGo multiple times).

We were rather surprised to find the campground area extremely empty. I mean, we knew we were going mid-week and towards the end of the summer, but it was  s-p-a-r-s-e. Apparently, we are still living in the Michigan culture mindset and consider August a month of summer still….and apparently, people around here don’t think like that. It was almost spooky empty. There was only 1 other site in view of ours that was occupied during our stay.  After going to take a shower late the first night and momentarily thinking that the camp axe murderer had barricaded me into the shower building (only for me to realize I was pushing on the wrong side of the door)(What?! Am I the only one that makes up axe murderer scenarios in my head?!)….I decided that I would only visit the restroom when it was still light. With the campground being so empty and there not being hardly any lights anywhere… was just a bit too creepy dark for me. After walking around some of the other campground loops during the day, we found one that was a little more occupied (plus, had a WAY nicer bathhouse than ours) (Note to self if we go to Pokagon again: Loops 3 and 5 have way better bathrooms).

Everything was going fine into our stay until early Monday afternoon when we started getting poured on while out enjoying the bike trail. We knew more rain was in the forecast thanks to our fancy phones. We hunkered down in our tent, played a few card games, and I even had a slow cooker meal going for dinner. After dinner, we decided we were getting stir crazy. I dropped Adam and the boys off at the Inn that is a part of the park. We knew there were several lobbies and lounges that they could hang out in and watch TV (and they mostly wanted to catch Pokemon). And I hit up the outlet mall that was just a couple of miles away. Every campground should have an outlet mall close by. It was small, but easily entertained me for a bit. By the time I made it back to the guys, it had been raining harder. The TVs were interrupting Olympics broadcasting with weather reports and tornado warnings a couple of hours south of us with the storms heading in our direction. We figured we should at least inquire if there were any rooms at the inn for us to potentially stay in.  There was and we both easily agreed to go ahead and stay the night at the inn. (This is not typical behavior for us. Adam doesn’t give up on things easily. And I don’t like to spend money. One night at the inn was still costing a little more than what we were paying for all 3 nights of camping. We were doubling what we were spending for lodging). By the time we headed back to our site, splashed around in some large puddles and heavy rain to gather overnight items and try to stack and protect things in the tent in the event of flooding, we were finally nestled into our room at around 9:30pm.  We could hardly hear the rain falling outside. Easily the best night of sleep during our trip (apparently, I don’t make up axe murderer scenarios in my head while staying indoors) (And no, I do not watch scary axe murderer movies….this is just how my mind operates). The Inn lost power at some point in the middle of the night for a couple of hours. And something went awry with the park’s water pressure-something-or-other during the storm, which made all water at the park unsafe for drinking and cooking unless boiled. But we enjoyed the pool and hot tub in the morning and by the time we left the inn, the rain had stopped. We felt good about our decision to stay in the inn. I’m not really sure how anyone can deny that a spacious hotel room with a TV, small table, bathroom, coffeemaker and an additional vanity sink is way better to stay in than a tent. Especially during storms.  Pretty thankful that we picked a park that ended up having an "indoor" option. 

I must say that doing life (and in this event, tent camping) with Adam is pretty awesome. He typically handles stress extremely well. He’s a get-it-done, hardworking sort of guy. He rarely ever complains or worries. He does anything that is asked of him. He is knowledgeable and capable of doing so many things. He is selfless and rock steady. Even after we returned home on Wednesday afternoon and unloaded our van and trailer trying to beat a heavy rain that was on our heels, he then left to go help a family that had experienced very significant flooding in their home. This guy. Wow. I hope our little boys are paying attention. 
Photo credit to Landon.
This is me enjoying a peaceful campfire while Adam took all 3 boys for showers.
Having all boys certainly has its perks at times.
I mentioned that the water at the park was affected. They barricaded all drinking fountains and spigots throughout the park. There were signs on every building and bathroom warning of it. They were providing bottled water at the inn, but nothing at the campground that we ever saw. This lasted from Monday morning thru when we left on Wednesday afternoon.  BUT, our campsite happened to be positioned quite close to a trail that led to the Spring Shelter. We had discovered the day before that it was called the Spring Shelter because there was a natural artesian spring at it. So, we had easy access to safe, clean, natural drinking water even though the park was having issues with their water safety! 

We had perfect weather the rest of our time camping. We enjoyed bike riding, hiking, swimming at the lake, visiting the nature center, and in general, doing camping sort of stuff.  Overall, a great trip and the boys are already asking when we are going to go camping again.

Here's a few more pics to satisfy your desire of pictures:
A really cool tree we found while hiking.
I made some pretty good camping food. Here we are enjoying breakfast burritos.
3 year olds are so cute.

Heath and I 'nuggling (snuggling).
Frogs like to take showers also.

The Inn had a gameroom.
Bird watching at the Nature Center.

So….do I LOVE camping?  Love is much, much too strong of language to describe my feelings towards it. 

BUT I do love to watch my boys enjoy the outdoors. I like hiking and biking. I like campfires. I definitely like s’mores (especially when you add some peanut butter). I love taking in God’s creation.  I like vacations that cost less. I love family time.  

I’m sure we will go camping again. In fact, I hope so.