Monday, January 28, 2019


A snowy day where I probably shouldn't travel allows me the time to sit and type out some thoughts......

Our church worship team shared this song yesterday following the message. I'm really glad that I didn't have time to fully prepare my heart and process it then. Becuase now that I have, I find myself completely overwhelmed and emotional.

I'd heard it before. Actually, quite a few times. I may have even gifted myself this CD in my stocking this past Christmas. (Yep, we still occasionally buy CD'S. We have vehicles that are older and if you want to listen to music, it's either the radio or a CD.) 

It was just last week one night while carting boys around to practices that one of them said, "Is this song like God is the one singing it to us?" 

I smiled and replied, "Exactly like that." 

[Don't think for a second that your kids aren't paying attention to the lyrics in the songs that they hear. Sometimes they may not be. But I cannot count the times where someone has piped up from the backseat of the van and asked what a lyric meant or commented about a phrase they heard. They are soaking up whatever we put in front of them. Let's make sure we are giving them true words that will sustain them, grow them, and give them positive messages to reflect on.]

Anyways. This song followed a message that was reflecting upon how the church/Body of Christ is supposed to look and operate, especially in regards to each other. It's been a whole series we've been working through. After the song, the pastor reflected that God can use US to be that army for one another on His behalf. 


God is always there. He is always available. He will give us shelter and peace. He is our armor. He will quietly speak truth into our hearts when we are fighting the lies that feel like they are being shouted loudly in our ears. He is enough. He will fill all the holes and voids in our life. He is the only one that can truly save us.

But it's His spirit living through the lives of His people that help us tangibly experience this many times. And we can't always experience that if we isolate ourselves. We were meant to do this life together. The joys, the heartache, the beautiful, and the ugly. 

Sometimes it feels easier to isolate. Safer even. Protective. Less likely to be hurt or let down. 

We were not meant to depend on others. Our dependency needs to be totally on God....but  He can certainly use others to help provide for our needs and to be a part of the rescue process as we go through trials and valleys. 

It was exactly a year ago where "our plans" came crashing down and we were left confused, wounded, and people in the church.  

I became physically sick, lost my appetite, and struggled with sleeplessness for the first time in my life. Sure, I had been hurt by others before. But not like this. 

I'm so grateful that God instilled in us a love for His church and His people (possibly slightly wrongly placed at times....still working through that). Even in our hurt, we had no intention of ever sliding in and out, hiding, or taking a break from gathering with others to worship and study. We both have been so fortunate to have a rich history of a church family and involvement. We knew it's where we needed to be. 

Our new church has been a salve to us over this past year, part of the rescue process for our hearts. Building community with others is slow going. Really slow going at times. And it involves vulnerability and intention. But we were grateful to be led by God to a place where we feel valued, have a place to serve and worship, receive sound doctrine, and connect with some pretty great people. 

We are so grateful that our God is in the business of rescuing and redeeming. And when we offer ourselves up to Him and seek Him, He reveals Himself to us and lets us be a part of His work in bringing others to His saving love and grace. He is the God who sees us and He is constantly at work bringing Glory to His cause in making beautiful things from messes. 

How God's people treat one another, and how they aim to be a part of God's rescue, is one of the greatest tools for the unbelieving world to see and know of God's love. 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

A few family Christmas gatherings...

Wanting to make sure to include some pics and notes from our Christmas gatherings from last month.

First, was the Jackson Thanksmas (Thanksgiving + Christmas) at the beginning of December. No pics, but a fun time. (You'll catch on....I'm kind of bad at taking pics)

Then, the Strahm Christmas.
 And the youngest member of the family won the coveted Hot Wheels Grand Prix. I don't think she was fully aware what all the excitement was about. The day also included a hike in the woods, yummy food, a Christmas flannelgraph story, and some manly men choosing to be smart, manly men and not risk their lives. That's all I'm going to say about that. :) 
Then, we had some of our far away family come and stay with us. Our basement is not inhabitable yet, but we shuffled some beds and rooms around and had fun hosting them for a few days. 

We set up a photoshoot (which means, we put our camera on a tripod and the self-timer) to try to re-create some pics from 5 years ago. Unfortunately, we didn't actually look back much at the original pics and we got a few boys in the wrong laps. :) 

The cats wanted in on this picture. Oliver crawled up on the ledge of the couch so perfectly and looked straight at the camera. He's such a weird and special cat.

 And we even tried to recreate the CrAzY pic also.



 We made a yummy brunch after opening presents. We also went on a Christmas Day hike in the woods, took in a Christmas Eve church service and played quite a few games. 

And there was a fair amount of this that went on also.

Then we travelled to the Grand Rapids area for the Willis family gathering. The food and fellowship was wonderful. And I even got to throw a dodgeball at my father-in-law....that's always fun. But this was the ONLY picture I took.

But I did manage to take a pic of the boys a couple weeks later in the super handsome vest and flannels from Great Grandma Willis (missing in the pic is Heath's vest...just imagine's a dark green).
 And while in Grand Rapids, we had the chance to stay with and visit some friends.
Plus, a lovely wedding of some young friends.
Once again, no pics. But it was all lovely.

We also got to take our favorite Taiwanese friend out to lunch.

After returning from all of that, we finally opened presents with our boys (it was December 28th at this point). :) 
And then Poppy and Moppy got to stay with us for a few nights before flying back across the country. We had fun playing games with them, taking them to church with us, and going to see a movie in the theater. 

And that wrapped up 2018 for us. 
We are so grateful to have so many family and friends to see during the busy time of the holidays.
They make our lives so much richer!

Walking into 2019 knowing and trusting in God's goodness and abundance.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Heath in the Spotlight

Heath has been in the spotlight a lot lately (Well, a month ago anyways....Sometimes I wish there weren't date stamps on these posts..... :) Always a little behind.) 

First, he managed to be the first of our kids to need to visit the ER. I tried to visit our primary physician, but there weren't any openings til much later in the day. And then the Urgent Care doctor poked around for a couple of minutes and just said to go ahead to the ER. I was really hoping his tummy pain wasn't just a virus or a reaction to something he ate, especially if I was going to have to now pay for an ER visit. He didn't have a lot of the other symptoms of his appendix acting up (fever, vomiting, etc.), just debilitating pain that was seeming to get worse. But they were able to diagnose it pretty quickly with an ultrasound. Within a couple of hours, he was having his appendix removed, and then a couple of hours later, they were sending us home. Easy peasy, right? 

He was doing very well until about the 2 week mark. The morning of a follow-up appointment, he woke up and complained of pain in his side. I gave him some Tylenol and sent him off to school. (Yep, that's the kind of mom I am). By the time he got home from school and it was time to leave for his appointment, he was clearly in physical pain, although no fever or other issues. The doctor was concerned about his pain and sent us around the corner to get bloodwork done. When the results came back, they said his white blood cell count was crazy high which means there is likely an infection. They pointed us in the direction of the ER. (I believe I said, "Really? There's no other way to handle this....?") So, we waited in the ER. For a pretty long time. Poor kid hadn't had anything to eat since lunch. By the time they determined there was an infection and he had an abscess (basically, a pocket of pus), it was now 9:00pm. Oh, and its REALLY hard to find decent little kid's programming on TV channels once it gets past 8:00pm. We were going to have to be admitted and have a procedure done the next day. Because it was going to be the next day, he was now allowed to finally eat something (me too!). I then convinced the ER nurse to bring us all the food she possibly could.....applesauce, graham crackers, milk, jell-o, popcicles. We had a grand feast. By the time he was wheeled up to a room, it was almost 10:30pm. He was beyond tired. They had some issues writing the correct prescription for pain, so he was a bit of a mess. But overall, he handled it all really well. The worst part is when he wails when he knows they are going to poke him with a needle and I have to help hold him down. 

With the help of antibiotics, the abscess was already shrinking by the time they went in him to drain it the next day. If it hadn't, they would have likely had to have left a drain in his side for a week or two. I would have had to learn how to empty a drain bag. Eww. Thankfully, they determined it was not necessary and certainly not ideal for a little boy. We had to spend another night for monitoring and to keep antibiotics pumping into him. Thankfully, we had a few visitors and people who sent gifts. Made the time go a little faster. Plus, in the pediatric wing, they had an activity bag and movies to choose from. 

The medical bills have finally started rolling in mixed in with Christmas Cards. We'll meet our deductible for the year pretty quickly. Do you think the rest of us can opt-in to have our appendixes taken out also so that they aren't an issue in the future?.......

And then a week later, Heath turned 6! We kept it pretty chill. He invited 1 friend over to play and have dinner and cake with us and open presents. He chose chicken wings, yeast rolls, and green beans for dinner. 

Our church happened to have a fun family event going on that same night. So, we all went to that also. Heath got to go up on stage where he was wished a happy birthday. And then he got to participate in one of the on-stage competitions (and broke a record for the game!). I'm still trying to figure this kid out and wasn't sure if he would like all of that attention as he can still get pretty shy when addressed by people he doesn't know very well. But by the smile on his face, he seemed to love it. 

We love this kid and are so thankful that God has blessed our family with him!

Here's a snapshot of what Heath is like at 6:
- Still favors his momma. Will frequently ask to snuggle. Or will randomly show up and ask me for a "huggie" and then turn and walk away once he's gotten it.
- Doing great at picking up reading and kindergarten math skills. 
- He can be slow to wake up in the mornings. 
- He likes frogs, turtles, and cute dogs (unless they get up in his business too much). 
- He doesn't sleep with stuffed animals very often anymore. He says they "keep him awake." Although, he still has a special snuggie (blanket) that he is insistent upon. 
- He is a hot little body. Still wants to sleep in just shorts most evenings (even though our thermostat is set at 60!). 
- Likes wrestling and being very physical. 
- A bit dramatic at times when things don't go his way.
- Can be a bit of a homebody. If he's been away a lot or just doing social things, he oftentimes will just want to have some time at home. Even at the end of a school week, you can tell he just wants to be home. 
- Loves to eat pineapple. You leave a container of fresh pineapple in front of him and turn your will likely be gone. 
This is a zoomed-in shot during a recent family photo session.
Seriously kid?! 

Friday, October 12, 2018

Gratefulness Abounds

Heath had to have his appendix taken out earlier this week (maybe I'll blog about that next), so I find myself with a cleared out schedule and being forced to stay at home. I've already washed all the bedding in the house and brought out kid's winter clothes......I don't really feel like cleaning the bathrooms...or anything......So, here I am updating the blog since it's pretty far behind.  Here's a little look at the last month+. 

We celebrated my mom's 70th birthday party last month. It was one of my brother's ideas to do this and we all quickly jumped on board. We certainly felt like she was worth celebrating. So, we picked a date that worked for all of us (which isn't always easy). And then we booked a location. And finally, we told her about it. Of course, she was surprised and didn't want us to go to that trouble. But at that point, it was already too late. We invited a number of family and friends and spent a beautiful day celebrating her. 
Mom and her children....and their children.....and their children.
And I'm so glad we did! I'm beyond grateful that I still get to have my mom present. A month before her birthday, I was sitting and talking with 3 other women. They were all reminiscing about their mothers - all of which are no longer alive. And it hit me how blessed I am to still have her here. I don't want to think about life without having her here. I already fully know that there is no love like the love of a good mother and I don't even want to think about that inevitable and gaping void. So, we celebrate what we have! There is not a person I know that is more humble, more giving, more joyous, more generous, and more kind. If you don't know her, you are missing out. 

We also passed the 5-year anniversary of Adam's biking accident that left him with a spinal cord injury. Nothing momentous was done. It was actually a really busy week for us. It just left me with a deep thankfulness that we can even lead such a busy life and that Adam can do all that he is able to. We certainly don't want to forget how life can change in an instant. Or how God gave unexplainable peace and comfort when there were so many unknowns. Or how God healed him much more than what could have been predicted by professionals. Or how God moved people to be so good at caring for us. I talked with the boys about all of that recently. Landon is the only one that actually has some memories from that time. He was 5 then. 
This is how old the boys were when Adam's accident was. (5 1/2, 4, and 10months)
They were all being ninjas in this picture. Not much has changed.
As for an update on where Adam is. At his yearly appointment with his spinal doctor last spring, he actually succumbed to being put on some medication to help with spasms and nerve pain. It's the biggest bother at night and in the early morning. Adam has always been a light sleeper, so it doesn't help when his body is spasming and tightening up. It's a low dosage, but he has been taking it regularly. He's not completely convinced he needs it. Otherwise, Adam is as active as he can. He's hunting this fall, coaching Heath's soccer team, and by considerable prodding and encouragement from his wife, will be finishing our basement in the coming months. We were doing backyard races last month, thanks to a fun timer that Aunt Jaime had given us. He even joined in and raced 5-year old Heath. He lost to the kindergartener, but he says it was because he was laughing so hard (which he was laughing considerably hard - which is always fun to watch). (Don't you want to know who the fastest in the family is??!?! This race consists of hitting a timer and then running across the yard, touching the fence and hitting the timer again at the start line to stop the time.) (It's me. That's right, 38-year old me - another milestone we celebrated this past month. I figure I need to live it up as long as I can before these boys can beat me. Landon and Tate are still a good second behind me.) (However, we don't need to talk about how badly my hips and butt hurt the next couple of days from all of that sprinting. Yee-ouch!).

Adam's new teaching job is busy. He has 5 classes to prep for, plus oversees service projects and the weekly chapel session. He has work to do most nights. But he feels valued and finds purpose in what he's doing. And that is good. 

I had a weekend with girlfriends from high school days recently. Fun and refreshing! So glad we are still connected and able to do this! Thankful for these women and I look forward to this annual weekend so much! 

Adam and I had found ourselves feeling busy and basically high-fiving in the driveway as one of us was coming/going. So, when a dear man from our old church in GR passed away, we both took the day off and made the trip together. A sort of day a funeral. But let me tell I sat in that service, I honestly was so moved by the choice and singing of hymns, by the beautiful testimony of this man's life, sitting and holding hands with my husband....I honestly could not think of anywhere else I would rather be. It crossed my mind that there was no sporting event or concert that I could have imagined to have been better. Really. This was a glimpse of a 90+ year life on this earth well lived to the very end. Taking that in is way better, and more impacting, than any sort of competition or entertainment. 

Looking back, I'm so grateful to have multiple things happen recently that have reminded me to relish loved ones in my life, live intentionally, and to be grateful for the life God has given me. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

15 Years of Fighting

We celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary last week. 

I look at the bright, shiny, freshly married couples we know.....and I feel like 15 years is a LONG time! But then I look at the more weathered and wise couples around us that are celebrating decades or a half of a century together.....and I feel that we are babes that have hardly begun to experience our life! 

Either way, 15 years of being married has been a gift that we cherish! We are aware (most days) that we should never take a single day for granted. We complement each other pretty well and from the very beginning of our relationship, we know where our priorities and eyes should be fixed. I wouldn't have had it any other way. If his affections were not on God, he wouldn't have stood a chance with me. 

And that's what's been most pivotal for us and kept us together. I wouldn't know how to love Adam very well if I didn't have Scripture and Jesus to guide me. I would stink at it. I just know it. 
And I'm human and slow and stubborn at times, so some days I still stink at it. But that's where grace and forgiveness comes into play. Which again, I wouldn't fully understand if it wasn't for Jesus. 

I recently heard a quote that "Marriage is an adventure, like going to war." (Chesterton). And I thought, "YES!" Not that we are going to war against each other.....but that we have entered into a lifelong challenge and commitment to fight for one another and for our marriage.

Some days I can almost feel Satan and my own evil desires breathing down my neck. Tempting me to be critical of my husband. Trying to tell me that I'm not doing a good job. That Adam's not doing a good job. Making me look around at others around us and compare finances, credentials, or looks. Tempting me to be cold because I felt he was cold towards me. Using a simple miscommunication to cause my anger to flare when it wasn't even his fault that the text didn't go through. Sheesh. Every day we can encounter things that can drive a wedge between two people that are ON THE SAME TEAM! 

Anyways. Fight for a good marriage. It's worth it. 

Our anniversary weekend lined up nicely with a wedding invitation that we had in GR. And it also lined up very nicely with my mom's availability to keep our boys for a few nights. So, we booked a sweet little Bed and Breakfast outside of South Haven and made a weekend of it. (My apologies that we didn't take great pics....a couple of phone pics will have to suffice).
If you knnow me at all, you know I love a good bathrobe.

The house only had 3 guestrooms and we enjoyed chatting with the other couples in the mornings over generous portions of scrumptious breakfast foods! The Kal-Haven bike trail was literally a few hundred yards from the house. Too bad Adam sold his bike 2 weeks before ("What?!?! You knew we would be riding bikes on our anniversary weekend! It was one of the perks of where we booked! Why would you sell your bike?!?!!!!") (I'm just showing you my tendency to let stupid things come between us). Anyways. 

We still brought along my bike and he looked stunningly handsome on the purple cruiser that the hosts had in their garage for us to use. (Don't worry, we met up with someone from a Craigslist ad on the way home and he has a bike again). We explored South Haven, did some window shopping, walked the pier, etc. An absolutely lovely time together. 

And my goodness, everyone should attend a wedding so close to their anniversary. Such a good reminder of your vows. But this wasn't just a wedding. Don't get me wrong, I could probably get teary watching complete strangers get married. Any bride walking down that aisle would probably get me choked up. And maybe I just found it all more moving because it's our anniversary and we've had a rough year that has brought us closer. This wedding though, this one will likely go down in the memory bank. I lost track of how many times I got choked up! I couldn't tell you what the flowers or centerpieces looked like....I'm sure they were probably lovely, but it's not those things that leave an impact on me. 

Even though the vows were recited after the pastor, I've never heard a bride say them with such genuineness. She sold it and I had to swallow real hard and blink back tears with her last line of "You are my beloved." Then it was followed by the groom's sisters singing an a cappella version of "It is Well" while the bride and groom participated in washing each other's feet. And hearing the toasts and testimonies of their family members during the reception. WATERWORKS! The young couple is certainly in love, but it was also incredibly clear that their faith had guided them and brought them to this point in time and is what would lead them on. (And this young woman didn't deal solely with the typical teenage and young adult stuff....She'd battled cancer starting at the age of 11.) I don't know that I have ever felt so privileged to witness a wedding before. We saw this young man go through middle school/high school and we are so proud of who he is and the woman he has partnered in life with. 

(And to everyone else whose wedding I have attended....Yours was absolutely lovely as well. Don't worry, I'm sure I got teary-eyed and choked up. It's what I do.) (And sorry for not including a pic of us schnazzied-up for the wedding. You'll just have to imagine how nice we looked).

So grateful that Adam and I had the chance to get away and enjoy each other's company for a few days. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Tate turns 9!

Better late than never. Thanks to my mom documenting my documenting, she recently pointed out that I hadn't done a blog post for Tate's birthday.....So, here I am. 

Tate turned 9. It fell shortly following our trip out west, falling on the day of an out-of-town family wedding reception, and right before he left to spend a week with grandma at church camp. We celebrated, but not in typical fashion. 

We let him pick out a restaurant the night before his birthday as we drove out of town. He made his usual choice, Buffalo Wild Wings, where he can eat chicken-with-the-bones-in-it dunked in hot sauce and where they have free tablets for kids to play. The servers shouted at him (it's what they do instead of singing) and brought him a dessert. 

My creature of habit's request for his birthday was to go fishing. Third year in a row he's made this request. Adam made arrangements with a buddy of his in the GR area and they went out on his boat early in the morning to do some fishing. 

Adam had seen online an event at a youth center in GR where they were going to be unveiling a new Ninja Warrior Course at their facility. Happened to be on Tate's birthday. There were giveaways, bouncy things, and the chance to meet a couple of American Ninja Warrior competitors. Stuff that boys' dreams are made of. 

Then we attended a family wedding reception. It was a lovely occasion, but probably not what little boys' dreams are made of. :)......But Aunt Jaime was there from DC and brought lots of table activities to keep the boys happy and occupied and then she kidnapped them to take them back to her hotel for some pool time. They didn't have suits with them, so she even took them to Meijer where she let them pick out new towels and swimsuits. 

Tate said it was a great birthday. Next year for his 10th birthday, I promised him a party with friends-if that's what he wants. We will avoid taking any trips/vacations at that time. :) 

Here's what Tate is like at 9:
- Could spend hours and hours examining bugs, rocks, creatures, water, etc. Loves nature and the outdoors. Some of his prized possessions are geodes, animal bones, and "really cool" dead bugs. 
- Has trouble finishing books. Doesn't have trouble starting them. He gets $1 for every chapter book he finishes. 
- Got a Garmin VivoFit Jr for his birthday. It tracks his steps and activity. He typically has more steps than his dad and older brother who also have fitness trackers. The kid doesn't sit still for long. 
- He can be really loud at times (random yelling and noises)....but also extremely quiet at times and a deep thinker and asker of deep questions. 
- A very restless, active, and light sleeper. Even anxious at times. We got him a weighted blanket. Not sure if it has helped much as he's usually pushed it off of him. 
- He's long and tall for his age. His feet are the same size as mine. He is 9! I wear a women's size 7.5/8. 
- He has moments of being very sensitive and showing deep concern for others. It really bothers him when others are picked on or left out. He has a very generous heart. 

He is an absolute gift and we are so blessed to have him in our family! 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

South Dakota

We road tripped it to South Dakota for a vacation! 

I actually had someone ask me why we would go to South Dakota. 
Uh, super easy answer..... 
There's people that we love there!

So, the bulk of our trip was about spending time with Adam's mom and stepdad.
Kevin grew up there and they've owned a place there for years, but they officially retired and moved out there about 2 years ago. The boys had never gone out there. Adam and I last went 13(!)(What?! Time flies!) years ago.

We took a few trips with them to some amazing sights on a few different days, but we also spent a fare amount of time just enjoying time at their place together.
On the route there, we stopped at Wall Drug for dinner.
I'm hoping they boys will re-enact this photo in 20 years for me. 
Hanging out at Mt.Rushmore.

Sylvan Lake

This was our favorite wildlife on the Wildlife Loop at Custer State Park.
The rest of the animals were hiding.
Devil's Tower (Wyoming)
People climb this thing!

Spearfish Canyon

And dinner at a biker bar in Sturgis

 We also enjoyed hanging out together at thier house.

Eating at Grandma's counter.

The boys got lessons in slingshots.

Setting up targets in the backyard.

And the older two boys got lessons in shooting guns. And don't ask Adam who won in a shooting contest between him and I. (IT WAS ME!!!) 

Grandma is pretty famous for her Schleich animal collection. The boys love playing with them.

I've requested being considered to have this named to me in their will.

The neighbors showing up to bale the frontyard.

A tub of water entertained these boys for HOURS on a couple of hot days!
And a neighbor happens to own some animals that were fun to see:

Please don't decide to ram our truck! Pretty please! 

Adam and I even got to have a hiking date one morning and hiked to the top of Bear Butte 
(the boys thought it was more fun to call it Bare Butt). 

The boys had a fun treasure hunt at Mt.Rushmore. My brother and his family had visited this site last month on their vacation adventures. He created a map for them and buried a treasure off of the trail a little ways for them to locate! They thought it was quite fun! 

And a few other pictures to remember:
We went to multiple locations where there were fun rocks to climb on. This is the boys getting a talk about how they need to be careful if they don't want to fall and get hurt/die!

Tate really wanted to find an abandoned deer antler out in the abundance of acreage. And he did! Tate is easily our biggest nature/outdoors/rocks/water/creatures lover. He's already asked if he can come back and stay for a month.
 And special times with grandma and grandpa:

Overall, it was such a nice time away as a family and we made some good memories! The boys can now fully picture what grandma and grandpa's house looks like....too bad it's a 15-hr car drive away! Plus, we saw some BEAUTIFUL sights and locations and enjoyed having some slower days of relaxing. This girl would nearly always choose mountains, scenery, and a slower pace over busyness, cities, and commercialization.