My personal blog history

10 years ago everything was new to us.  We were in our first year of living in an area of the country we knew very little about.  My husband was a brand new pastor.  We still felt like new parents as our only child was one years old.  Each day brought about a new opportunity.  There was much to write about so I quickly took to blogging regularly.  My family and “old friends” back in the Midwest appreciated reading about everything we were experiencing.

Then in the summer of 2011 I became a “mom blogger.”  I reaped a few benefits from it and read some great blog posts from other bloggers.  It never generated income, but that was not my intent.  In January of 2007 I began a veterinary distance learning program in hopes of earning an associates degree and becoming a veterinary technician.  In August of 2011 I walked away from it.  Due to two pregnancies, young ones at home, and not wanting to take summer courses, I was not very far into the program at all.  A dream had died.  There is peace when you know you made the right decision but you cannot mask the pain it creates.  Blogging helped me embrace being a stay-at-home mom  and finding joy in even the simplest things.

In 2012 I started helping friends by watching their kids here and there on a somewhat regular basis.  I was not running an in home day care yet and had no plans to do so.  It was more to help friends out so they could work, go to doctor’s appointments without dragging their kids, or help in their older’s kids classrooms.  The following school year I was asked by two teachers if I wanted to watch their kids part time during the school year.  It became a domino affect and I had two others families ask me as well.  Before I knew it I was running an in home day care and I was enjoying it!  I was not sure where this career would take me or if anywhere.  I found contentment in the not planning far ahead and enjoying life in the moment.

About a year ago my day care grew to the point I had to get registered with the state.  I exceeded the amount of kids you can have in the house without going through the registration process.  I had to take several classes and I found that I greatly enjoyed them.  I had this desire to further my education.  I wanted to consider possibly teaching preschool or working with low income children in a Head Start like setting someday.  It was a long decision process to decide whether to enroll in college courses and not one I made quickly.  I talked to very few people about it.  Even though everyone understood why I quit vet. tech. school in 2011, it was still somewhat embarrassing and I did not like talking about it…still don’t.

A couple years ago we also considered becoming foster parents.  Again I thought it was something we were called to do. I probably told too many people and had this romantic view of filling our home with extra children.  Even though I knew it would be difficult and read every book I could get my hands on about foster parenting.  We decided to walk away from it for many legitimate reasons.  Again I knew it was the right decision but I found myself in another mourning process.  Once again everyone understood our decision (and I daresay some were even relieved) but it felt embarrassing.  Again I still don’t like to talk about it.

Now that I am in an early education program and enjoying it, I am realizing that I had to go through different periods of my life to get to where I am now.  While we may not be foster parents, my husband just became a CASA.  Who knows–maybe I will be teaching low income children and some could be foster kids.  This could be God’s calling for this time and place in our lives.

I have a peace about my family life, my education, and my work that I have not had in a very long time.  Yes, my days are full.  Yes, some might consider me busy…maybe too busy.  Yet I don’t feel like I am running from one thing to the next trying to juggle many things.  The weeks ebb and flow–some are full and some are lighter. I feel like I am doing what I am supposed to be doing and that is a really great feeling.

I do not make the time for blogging like I used to.   It is further down the priority list.  I still feel like I have things to share.  It might not be new things we are doing or simple mom tips hence I am not a mom blogger anymore.  I do need a writing outlet so I will still check in periodically.

 

No first day of school photo today

I did not join the crowd and post “First Day of School Pictures” today.  This could be due to number one–I am someone who runs in the opposite direction of the bandwagon rather than jumping on it.  Number two the first day of school is not that picture perfect “take on the world” day.  I should have posted the picture of my kids crying this evening over various drama.  That is a more accurate picture of the first day of school. But I will honor their privacy.

We always deal with overwhelmed feelings about math and homework (3rd grade–always the first day of 3rd grade!) along with goofy behavior like breaking or destroying things because the brain does not seem to be functioning on all cylinders.  No one is obviously adapted to the fall routine so nothing seems to get done even with multiple reminders.  We crash into bed trying not to fixate on the thought, “Tomorrow we do it all over again.”

I await this every year and I am always ready for it.  I think I show greater empathy each year.  Transitions are hard.  We are excited for our kids (and maybe for ourselves) when a new school year rolls around.  There is a bit of mourning summer’s end and the uncertainty of what kind of year we will have.  Maybe our schedules get fuller or our lives move faster.  We want to hold these precious moments in time and really live them–not them past by without acknowledging them.

Maybe I will post the 18th or 19th day of school when we are more settled into a routine.  When the drama has dissipated a bit.  For now I am going to go to bed, get up and do it all over again, and help my children navigate through these transitions.

Summer 2016–10 places!

Summer 2016 is nearly in the books. The last time I blogged we spent a week in southwest Washington at a middle school camp and left only a few days later for a Midwest adventure.

Since that time, life slowed down a bit. I would say we experienced growing pains as we adjusted from a family of little kids to a family with a junior higher, mid elementary and lower elementary kid.  The dynamics in our family are much different than they were even one summer ago.  While at times, I felt like I was ill equipped to parent–the last two weeks God has given me renewed strength.  I daresay we are stronger because of it. I have seen my kids in a new light–or maybe I am seeing myself in a better light.  A bit of both.

With that being said…even amidst challenging times…we saw some beautiful parts of Oregon this summer.  We played, explored, and experienced this amazing part of the country we call home.  Since we came home from the Midwest in mid July these are ten awesome places we visited.

  1. Neskowin:  It is a small little coastal town and one we have grown to love.  It was our second year in a row going here with friends.  It was a bit misty and not very sunny.  That did not stop the kids from swimming in the Neskowin creek that feeds into the ocean and playing in the rocks and crevices.  I love this place!
  2. Devils Lake Campground & D River Beach–Lincoln City, Oregon.  We have been to Lincoln City many times and camped in the same campground last September.  This time we ditched the tent and spent two nights in a yurt.  The weather was very windy and cool.  Again the kids still got wet and had a blast running on the beach.

    3. Harts C0ve–Cascade Head–between Lincoln City and Neskowin.  This was ranked as the #1 coastal hike.  Since the youngest is 6 1/2 I figured she could do an almost five mile hike.  She is pretty tough.  Little did I know this was the exact same hike my husband and I did in the fall a couple of years ago.  We just knew it by a different name.  The kids all did amazing even despite a lot of uphill hiking on the way back.  The cove was spectacular and you could hear the sounds of sea lions.

    4. LL Stub Stewart State Park–Buxton, Oregon.  I love Washington County, Oregon because it is close to the city (Portland) but it is still woodsy and natural.  I took my three kids and my daughter’s friend and we stayed in a cabin.  We went for a little hike through the state park and saw a pretty sunset over the coastal range.

    5.  Henry Hagg Lake–Gaston, Oregon.  After camping in Buxton we drove to Hagg Lake.  This is the lake I did my first open water triathlon on in July of 2014 and also a timed open water swim in May.  The weather was gorgeous.  The lake temperature was perfect.  The only downside was prickly plants along the water’s edge that gave some of us slivers.  I felt like I had to do minor surgery on my foot.

    6.  Scout Lake–just outside of Camp Sherman, OR.  We went to Scout Lake on the final day of our middle school youth group camp out.  This is officially my new favorite Oregon lake.  The water temperature was manageable and there was huge pieces of floating driftwood.  We made our own boats and floating city!  No need for rafts or inner tubes.  I will be coming back to this one!

    7.  Suttle Lake–outside of Camp Sherman, OR.  We camped on Suttle Lake which is about a mile from Scout Lake.  The water temperature was fairly cold, but we managed to swim a bit anyway.  We spent lots of time sitting by the lake, doing a four mile hike around it, and fishing.  Our campsite was spacious and we had amazing campfires both nights.  The downside was I slept terribly the second night in the tent and probably got no more than 4 hours of sleep.  I am bringing an air mattress next time.  We also dealt with LOTS of yellow jackets and I got stung on my toe.  That didn’t stop us from having a good time.

    IMG_11358. Lava Caves–Bend, Oregon.  This was my third time doing the one mile hike through the lava tubes.  I love being underground and seeing all the rock formations.  After hiking the tube and walking through the lava fields (and it was hot–probably in the 90’s) the middle school kids were extremely worn out.  I thought I must be in pretty good shape (especially because I have not done much running this summer) because I still had lots of energy.

    9.  Henline Falls–near the North Santiam River a few miles from Mill City.  My friend wanted to do this 1.8 mile hike.  The fact it was not far from home and seemed more relaxing than grueling–and a waterfall at the end.  We jumped at the opportunity.  It was a nice picturesque hike with a beautiful waterfall.

    10. Minto Brown Park–Salem, Oregon.  You have to explore the places close to you.  Some people live in cities for years without venturing out to the beautiful green spaces only a few miles from where they live.  My son and I went off roading biking at Minto Brown.  It was a little harder than I suspected as my husband’s bike rides different than my road bike.  Plus the path I chose was more stones and rocks versus dirt (I thought it was dirt–I didn’t remember it correctly).  But we still had fun.

    Then today my husband took the kids to Portland for the day.  I did a 5 mile walk/hike starting at Fairmount Park, going through the woods, walking 1/4 mile along a busy road into Minto Brown, along a path at Minto Brown by the river, and then back to Fairmount.  I still love to run and bike.  However, I took a long break from it the last few weeks with hopes of starting when school begins.  I found walking and hiking helps you breathe and experience nature around you. I guess it would be the equivalent of taking a rowboat out on the water versus a speed boat.  I was able to stop and watch a blue heron along the marsh, sit on a bench for 20 minutes and read a book, pick a few blackberries, and enjoy the morning.

    Being from the Midwest having once lived seven miles from the Lake Michigan lake shore, I crave the natural bodies of water.  It was fun to discover a few this summer.

     

     

     

    So even in a summer that might include more times of growth and challenges, we are still blessed.  God’s handiwork is evident in all the beauty we experience and in His own work in our lives.

Summer Travels 2016

So around Thanksgiving last year we were looking ahead to Summer 2016.  We decided to keep it low-key and open since we are headed to Florida in October.  It has always been our desire to stay in a yurt along the Oregon coast.  We booked a two-day camping trip in late July which we are still planning on doing.

However, by around Christmas low-key summer quickly changed into busy travel summer. The husband’s brother had the idea to plan a family reunion celebrating their parent’s 40th anniversary and their mom’s 60th birthday.  Between the four brothers (my husband is the oldest) we represented Oregon, two cities in Alberta & Iowa.  Meeting in the middle would mean a fabulous vacation to Kansas…um…no.  We looked at a few locations and settled on the Michigan lake shore just north of the Indiana border.  We rented a cottage that was supposed to sleep 24. We crammed 19 people in it and we were full.  Not sure where those other five would sleep…the living room couches?

Since we were traveling all the way to Michigan, it made sense for us to see my family in west Michigan and Chicago.  My sister lives in Grand Rapids.  My parents live in Chicago but are moving back to the Grand Rapids area end of July.  So we thought this would be a great “last chance Chicago tour” before they become Michiganders for life.

But I need to back up a bit.  I had committed to attending a middle school camp in Washington I was a counselor at last summer.  Even though I came home sleep deprived, worn out and somewhat discouraged from some issues among our leadership team, I could sense God was at work in this ministry. There is truth that God works through brokenness and weakness and uses the “drama” in ministry for good. He was calling me to continue to be a part of it.

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Not many can volunteer to spend six full days with middle schoolers in the middle of the forest sleeping on a thin camp mattress drinking Kool-Aid for most meals.  Even though I am pushing 40, I enjoy it can survive it with a good attitude.

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Camp was moved to early June not long after school let out as opposed to mid July from last year. One of the advantages of this was not feeling like you are sleeping in a sauna at night and having less dehydrated kids who needed to carry water bottles everywhere.  Around Christmas the husband was asked to be the chapel speaker and I was asked to be head counselor.  The oldest child was old enough to be a camper.  So because three out of the five of us were going it meant number one we got to the take younger two along as staff kids and number two we got to stay in a family cabin thus no skinny camp beds.  We stayed in a little house complete with an old school VCR and library of VHS tapes for entertainment…the only kid friendly one was a strange version of Snow White.

We had an incredible week of praise and worship, crazy camp games, hiking, swimming, archery, new friends and more.  All the drama from last year was no more.  Our team worked cohesively and we learned from our previous mistakes.  God is good.

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Our summer has gone so far like this: the kids were out of school June 8, I worked until June 16, and we spent the weekend of the 17th cleaning the house and packing.  On June 20 we left for Naches, Washington for the week of middle school camp.  We came home from camp Friday, June 24.  We spent Saturday, June 25 cleaning again, unpacking and re-packing, weeding the garden, and running errands.  On Sunday, June 26 we visited with friends from Ukraine who were in town.  We awoke at 2 in the morning on Monday, June 27 and drove (telling the kids to be quiet and at least pretend like they were sleeping) to the airport where we flew to Chicago and then drove to Michigan.

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Even though we were exhausted, going to bed at 9 PM in Michigan did not work…our bodies were saying, “Hey it’s only 6 PM…aren’t we supposed to be eating dinner???”  Thankfully we fell asleep and adjusted to Michigan time quickly.

We stayed in the Warren Dunes area from June 27 until Friday, July 1st.  I love the Michigan lake shore.

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My husband and I lived seven miles from the lake from 2001 until 2004 and that is one of the parts of Michigan I truly miss.  The kids got to hike the dunes, swim in the lake (though it was not much warmer than the Oregon ocean), build sand castles, and bask in the sun…okay well some days it was cloudy.  We got much quality time with the husband’s family and playtime with cousins we don’t get to see very often.

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Then we drove north to Grand Rapids where we stayed until Sunday, July 3.  We spent time visiting old friends and spending time with my sister’s family.  I think the kids enjoyed riding electric scooters and playing video games.  I enjoyed having a campfire in my sister’s backyard and seeing all the fireflies scurrying around.  We don’t have fireflies in Oregon…we also don’t have as many nasty mosquitoes that managed to bite up my ankles.

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Then we drove south again looping around the lake and staying in Chicago (Palos Heights to be exact…suburb of Chicago) where we celebrated the 4th of July.  Apparently most Chicago suburbs set off fireworks on July 3rd.  My parents got secret information that the best less crowded place to see the fireworks is at a nearby train station.  We were blessed to watch fireworks in a quieter area and not fight major traffic.

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We went to a parade the following morning.  It was like trick or treating!  The amount of candy my kids went home with was crazy.  Not to mention frisbees, popsicles, and mini basketballs.  My dad said their suburb has more money so that means better candy at the parade…my kids are used to little cheapie hard candies.

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Our last final day (yesterday) we took the train to downtown Chicago and went up in the Sears Tower which is now the Willis Tower.  I learned Sears Roebuck and Company has no offices whatsoever in the building anymore. IMG_1336

We ran in the fountains afterwards at Millenium Place.  We had Chicago pizza for dinner.

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We flew home last night at 10 PM Chicago time.  The terminal was streaming with people trying to get to Minneapolis and stranded due to thunderstorms.  I was thankful we were headed further west to Portland.  Although we did hit those storms and I felt the worst tuburlance ever.  I was grateful for not being motion sick and that the kids slept through the whole thing. Even though the younger two planned on only sleeping half the flight so they would not miss the drink service, all three kids slept almost the whole flight.  We were in our house by 2 AM…that time is becoming all too familiar.

I talk too much about Michigan with my Oregon friends. I probably talk too much about Oregon with my Michigan friends.  It is a blessing to have multiple places in the country you love in different ways. Being in Michigan brought back many good memories and reconnecting with old friends was simply picking up with where we left off.  While there are some things I will always miss about the Midwest, I am grateful for our life in the Pacific Northwest.  There are advantages about living in multiple places and moving is not as terrible as people sometimes make it out to be.

On our Midwest vacation we saw both sets of parents, all three of my husband’s brothers and their spouses/significant others, my sister and her husband, eight out of ten nieces/nephews, two of my aunts, two of my uncles, one cousin and his spouse and their three kids (second cousins).  Not to mention five friends from high school and their spouses and all their kids (a total of 9 kids not including ours) plus a friend from high school/college and his wife.

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We drove by two colleges we attended along with the seminary my husband graduated from.  We also swung by two of the three house I lived during my childhood and adult years in Grand Rapids along with the house my sister lived in soon after she got married.  My kids were very sick of driving by buildings they did not have much historical ties to.  Mom and Dad’s stories got a bit boring after a while.

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So low-key summer turned into busy travel summer right from the beginning.  Here it is only July 6 and I am exhausted and somewhat crabby.  I feel like the summer is over.  Seeing it is going to be in the 60’s this weekend and rain–I am not sure summer in Oregon has officially arrived yet.

When the husband and I were looking back at the last couple weeks (and it feels like we have been gone a month) we can only give thanks to God for providing us the opportunities to be with many people.  From Mountain Dew drinking middle schoolers who love to slide on shaving cream slip and slides while at the same time ask big questions about God to parents in their 60’s and 70’s who show a devout love for God and their family.  I am not taking these experiences for granted and I am grateful God made a way for us to spend the beginning of our summer in places that are near and dear to us.

January, February, March and now it’s April!

It is April and spring has come here to Oregon.  I have appreciated this season since moving to the Pacific Northwest.  The buds burst open on the trees only weeks after Valentines Day and winter feels behind us by early March.  Although there is still plenty rainy days, there are sunny and warmness mixed in the wetness.

I had meant to write more about the last four months, but new commitments as well as daily obligations did not allow it.  Backing up to mid December…this is where we jumped on a roller coaster ride.  Our friend asked us in mid December if we would be willing to host an exchange student from Korea.  It was one of those moments where I immediately knew the answer was “yes” even though I asked for time to think and pray about it.  The husband and I both talked about how we wanted our home to be a place for children to stay  either for the day or a few months at a time.  While we thought that meant becoming foster parents, God lead us in a different direction as a registered child care home and now an exchange student host family.

The exchange student process happened quickly.  With the Christmas season at its peak and everyone wrapped in their own festivities, I hardly had a chance to tell anyone about it.  We knew we were hosting an eleven year old from Korea for two months and that was about it.  Then only two days before Christmas (and two days before we were leaving on a week long vacation to Virginia) we were asked to take two exchange students–the eleven year old as well as a nine year old.

On Christmas Day we flew out to Virginia where we spent a much needed and blessed time with family.  We flew home New Years Day and our girls were in our house less than 48 hours later.

I would not say January and February were exactly easy but I would not say they were terrible either.  Sometimes I think we write off things as “bad” just because they are hard.  I believe there are situations when God wants us to embrace hard things.  If I had to list the challenges I would say they are the following…

  • Cooking and finding foods they like.
  • Making school lunches was difficult at first.  I think it took 45 minutes the first night.  We could not figure out what food they would enjoy eating at school…and bringing lunch to school was something brand new to them.  It did get easier.
  • Helping them with homework especially math.  Thankfully the husband picked up the slack on most of this.
  • Enforcing rules and discipline although I got much more confident as time went on.
  • Dealing with competitiveness.  Our girls come from a very competitive culture and I am not very competitive at all.  Playing board games & sometimes video games was hard for me.
  • The day to day household challenges–way more laundry and extra cleaning.  There were certain days especially at the beginning I felt like I was doing day care 24/7.  Days off did not feel like days off.
  • We loved showing the sights & activities of our town on Saturdays but it could get very exhausting.  I felt like I was always playing catch up and never ready for Monday.
  • Helping them feel secure as they adjust to being here.  It was not easy for them.  Both of them struggled in different ways.  Knowing how to help them and when to take a step back was not always easy for me to figure out.

However there were plenty of joys and I don’t want to discount those.

  • My kids impressed me how much they embraced it.  It was not easy for them to share and make sacrifices.  When asked if they wanted to do it again–I got a resounding “Yes.”  I love how much they care for others and push through those social and cultural barriers.  IMG_4634
  • I took all five kids to the zoo in January and it was one of the best days I have had in a long time.  I LOVED seeing our girls excited about all the animals and seeing the genuine joy on their faces.
  • Learning about their culture and hearing them share about their lives back in Korea.
  • Opportunities to share my faith and answer their “faith” questions.  We had evangelism opportunities right under our roof.

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  • Eating Korean food.  We still eat eggs and rice for breakfast!
  • One of my favorite nights was a Friday night at home where we made Korean pancakes and then watched a movie together.  I loved having them a part of our family time.

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  • Seeing the eleven year old form a special bond with my six year old.  I loved the friendship they formed.
  • Being able to do many activities together as a family we probably normally would not be able to do.  And including our girls in them.
  • Continuing to learn the art of hospitality and what that means for our family.

But that was only one of the big changes this winter.  In February I passed my second home inspection and became a registered family child care home.  Again I started the process at the peak of the Christmas season and had no idea all the time and effort it would entail.  I am grateful I did not know or my anxiety would have been much higher than it already was.  Paperwork, organizing the house, child proofing everything imaginable, buying a pile of smoke detectors, and taking several classes in a six week period was crazy.  It was much needed because the first week of February I took on my first full time family.  I am grateful for all my wonderful day care kids.  I am blessed by them and grateful for some of the friendships formed because of my great clients.

February turned to March.  I celebrated my 39th birthday…final year of the 30’s.  I am struggling a bit with this one.  I know 40 is not old.  But I find myself talking about what life was like in the 80’s and 90’s to my middle schoolers. I used to roll my eyes when my youth leaders would always talk about what life was like in their day…so I am trying to be relevant to them.  For my birthday we went out with another couple we are good friends with.  On my actual birthday we went out as a family to a seafood restaurant.

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Then I went to Tacoma, Washington for the weekend with my oldest in mid March.  She played in a basketball tournament with her school.  We are not a club sports family at all.  Actually I am not sure I would even classify us a sports family.  Her team was able to play in a tournament with other Lutheran schools.  Although they struggled and have a disadvantage of having so few 7th and 8th grade players (they had to dip down into 3rd & 4th grade so they would have enough players), they gave it their all.  It was fun to watch so many basketball games…even though I am not much of a basketball fan and even less of a basketball player.  I was blessed to be a part of it.  Mostly I loved spending a weekend with my daughter and her friends.

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Then Spring Break came along.  My hope was Spring Break would be a time of rest and reconnection as a family of five.  I would say this happened.  We enjoyed staying home and playing board games and watching Food Network.  We also ate at local restaurants, walked around downtown, went to the Cherry Blossom festival, went geo caching, and worked on science projects.  I enjoyed a three mile hike with my son at one of favorite state parks.  We hiked to some amazing waterfalls.  We also went to a local park and walked by the river later in the week.

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We hit a couple of Easter egg hunts Easter weekend.  We had a quiet Easter celebrating with one other couple and their child.  We enjoyed the Easter service (although I was in the nursery with my son and TONS of kids) and the annual Easter brunch.

I would say I was not totally ready to go back to work…and I know the kids were not excited about going back to school…well except for the kindergartener.  However, we were hit with warm amazing weather last week.  So summer seems to be on everyone’s radar.  Except as of today we have exactly 47 more days of school…but who is counting?

We are in spring mode.  I am starting to get the garden ready for planting…although it looks embarrassingly weeded over right now…hence why I am not posting any photos of it.

And I did my first triathlon of the season last Saturday.  The best part of it was I was way more confident on the bike.  I did better on the transitions.  The downside was I did not beat my original time and I struggled on the swim…though I heard the swim time was not as accurate as it could be so maybe I did beat my time.  I love being active with running and biking outside…and running and riding with my kids too.

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Our days are full and sometimes they feel long (especially when they start at 5 AM with a run!).  But God is good and He is leading us on this roller coaster ride.  I am striving to seek Him as I look forward to new opportunities and continue with old ones.

Indonesia 17 years later…

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In January of 1999 I spent four months in what is now West Papua, Indonesia (back then it was called Irian Jaya).  Recently some of us from my semester have reunited over Facebook.  I also had the opportunity recently to see one of my leaders when he and his family came through my hometown.  He asked me how my time in Indonesia impacted me and how I look back on it seventeen years later.

The picture collage shares some of my story.  I never considered myself a cyclist…still don’t.  Riding dirt bikes on massive hills, on trails, and through pig feces was a stretch out of my comfort zone.  I don’t how many times I fell off that bike.  Then in the picture next to it (which was taken in 2014) is fifteen years later after I completed my second sprint triathlon.  It was eighteen months after I learned to swim (I could dog paddle but could not do any type of stroke) and began cycling again.  Again a step out of my comfort zone.  But triathlon (and running too) has opened up a new world to me I embrace wholeheartedly.

I am still not the most comfortable on a bike.  But I can tell you one of the themes of my whole Indonesia experience is breaking through the fear barrier even if it equals failure.  So here’s more of my story…and if you don’t like reading long blog posts…feel free to end right here.

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Tammy Wisley visited my college in the fall of 1997 sharing about a new semester abroad program in West Papua (then called Irian Jaya) Indonesia.  Ever since some of my friends went to Spain on a semester abroad program the year prior, my interest peeked in doing one too.  I wanted to do one that was ministry focused and Eduventure seemed too good to be true. Studying missions and doing adventure activities in the jungles of Indonesia seemed like something I would love.  At the time I was passionate about Africa and considered taking a semester off college and living in Kenya for four months.  My parents were not keen on the idea.  I could not leave the country second semester because my sister was getting married in March of 1998.  I was the maid of honor and I wanted to be there for my sister.  So both Africa and Indonesia went back in “the maybe” file and I did not think seriously about them for a couple of months.

About one year later in the fall of 1998, I realized time was ticking away if I was going to live my dream of going abroad for a semester.  I pursued Africa again, but it did not seem like a good fit anymore.  Around this time I received an e-mail from Sandi Wisley who specifically told me she was praying for me to come to Indonesia.  It was one of those moments where I felt the Lord speaking to me and saying, “You need to go.”  It happened quickly.  Whereas some questioned the idea of me spending four months in a country I knew next to nothing about, it was my roommate Liz who picked me up in my moments of doubt and questioning.  She encouraged me to do this.  It was like she knew in her heart I was supposed to go even before I did.

I was actually most nervous about all the physical activity.  Which seems funny in my mind after all the 5Ks, half marathons, marathons and triathlons I have competed in…those all came post Eduventure.  I had not played sports past junior high, never did any intense hiking or backpacking, and I did not even know what trekking was.  I had ridden my bike on some short trips, but I did not enjoy biking very much.  Biking on trail or dirt was only something I had only done playing around on my brother’s dirt bike when I was little.  I thought I lacked the ability, but in reality I had little confidence.  One thing Eduventure did is help me find it.

I probably should have been nervous about my anxiety.  I have struggled with anxiety my whole life, but it was at its worst in October of 1995.  I sought help and started understanding my ailment in January of 1996.  At the time I was also battling depression which I was told was triggered by the anxiety.  I made progress through counseling, cognitive therapy, and a low dose of an antidepressant the next 2 1/2 years.  By the time I went to Indonesia in January of 1999, I had been off my medication for a year, and I felt healthy mentally and emotionally.  I believed anxiety and depression were ghosts of my past that would never rear their ugly head again.

When I went on short term mission projects in high school, I was amazed how “good” and anxiety-free I felt on the duration of the trip.  I remember walking the streets of Mexico having a strange feeling like I was “home.” I was in a place I could spend months in at a time even though my trips were one to two weeks long.  I never wanted to go back to the US when the trip was over.  I thought my four months in Indonesia would “feel that way.”

When it came to short term mission trips, my heart was in the right place.  On the applications I always wrote I was going first and foremost to serve my Lord and Savior.  I thought missions could possibly be in my future and I was ready to leave behind the comforts of the USA.

Looking back, mission trips were a good escape for me.  I was in high school in the 1990’s and these were the hardest years of my dad’s ministry as a pastor.  My family dealt with multiple difficulties some related to our church and some centered on our family.  There were times I felt invisible or unimportant.  We moved in 1989 from Indiana to Michigan.  Although I made friends quickly and cherish those people, there were many times I felt like an outsider.  I did not fully fit into our new life in Michigan, and my new church never became “home.”  When I went to Mexico, or inner city Chicago, or down south to Texas on mission projects, I was surrounded by people I could be real with.  I got a break from the stress of my life back at home.

When I went to Indonesia I was on a team of seven girls and five guys.  I appreciated each one of them and what they taught me.  The close authentic friendships I craved with them took time. Due to my anxiety which often made me clingy, I was not the easiest person to be friends with.  There were times I was shy and held back.  Other times I was overwhelmed with emotion which repelled people.  I did not know how to express the difficulties in adjusting to life in Indonesia.  Sometimes being transparent has its costs.

However, it was one of those moments where I realized that God was all I had and that had to be enough.  As I am writing this, I keep thinking of Chris Tomlin’s song “Your Grace Is Enough.”  I had to rely on God’s strength day by day and hour by hour.  It was almost like God was saying to me, “You can suck your teammates dry, but only  I can give you what they can’t.”  It was hard to be honest with myself that I really was struggling.  That I was questioning why I went all the way to Indonesia for four months. But that I had to persevere.

There were too many times I held back and did not immerse myself in the culture as I originally thought I would.  I remember the children that stole my heart on my trips to Mexico and the young people I befriended in Romania.  I thought it would be easier to jump right into the culture and build relationships with the local Dani people.  It was intimidating and I found it easier to interact with some of the children than the adults.  The language barrier was difficult.  Their shyness and my shyness worked against one another.  I made efforts here and there.  The biggest impact for me was seeing the love the missionaries had for the people.  I think I realized the difference between short term missions and long term missions.  It took a tremendous amount of time and sacrifice for these missionaries to invest in these relationships.  That is something I have carried with me in every single ministry setting since.

At the conclusion of my semester, I set several goals.  Recently I found my journal which contained those goals.

  1. Seek to please God not man
  2. Not Gossip
  3. Money budgeting
  4. Work two jobs summer of 1999
  5. Rob
  6. Depression–no longer be on meds
  7. Continued self confidence

Most of these goals are lifetime goals and it is difficult to measure if they were achieved.  Obviously I believe we are tainted by sin and will never reach perfection until Christ comes.  I stopped climbing that ladder of good works a long time ago and instead strive to focus on how Christ’s death on the cross can transform all areas of my life.  With that being said, spiritual maturity can be given through Christ.

Money budgeting stands out as I was not great at managing money.  I went into a marriage gladly handing over the managing of the finances to the husband.  With one being a spender (me) and one being a saver (him) we had our moments of friction.  Getting involved in Dave Ramsey only months after we were married and shedding some stubborn attitudes helped tremendously.

Coming home from Indonesia that summer in 1999 was the starting point of me being more responsible. I wanted to work at a camp for a third summer, but I realized I needed to work two higher paying jobs to help pay for my last year of college.  I learned the benefit and rewards of hard work.  Honestly I was not the hardest worker and maybe slightly lazy before that summer.

I don’t know what #5 “Rob” meant.  At the time we had only been dating three months so maybe my goal was to figure out our relationship.  Some people bluntly said we should get engaged that summer of 1999.  Instead it was a summer that we were able to prepare for engagement because we were not quite ready for that.  We both worked a lot of hours.  When we were not working, we spent quality time together that sometimes included one or two close friends or family members.  It was a simple summer and one we needed.

As for depression and not needing medication, I came to the point where I realized that medication does not equal being weak.  Actually it can be the opposite.  Some extraordinary people I know personally and others I have read about have done amazing things in their ministries and they struggle with anxiety and/or depression.  I am reminded over and over again that God shines through our weaknesses.  Acknowledging our shortcomings and taking responsibility for them is the place to begin.  I have not struggled with what I would define as “depression” for many years.   I take care of my anxiety which I still struggle with and always will to some degree. This was one of the main causes of my previous depression.  Exercising on a regular basis helps as does living in Oregon (I love the Pacific Northwest!) and many other lifestyle choices.  I will fight for my mental health and encourage others to do so.  We don’t need to be entangled and trapped by it and I truly believe God can use it for good.

In many ways I feel like we are living the glory years right now.  We love our home, our church, the various ministries we’re involved in, our jobs, our three kids, and the opportunities set before us.  Our kids are old enough that we can do a lot of fun activities with them but not old enough that they would rather be with their friends.

The last couple years I have run an in home day care.  It’s a job I never in a million years thought I would be doing.  I did day care many years ago and walked away thinking that era of my life was over.  I have grown to love it.  It’s just my business, my work, or my job–it’s my calling.

My husband is a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church, the denomination we both grew up in.  However our kids go to a Lutheran school and are not being raised in a homogeneous Christian Reformed community like I was–something I wanted for them. I grew up in  a community where I could assume everyone on my street was a Christian and/or went to church and now I live in a place where I can assume most people are not Christians.  Youth ministry, community outreach, evangelism looks different here than it did in Michigan where I previously lived. Sometimes it is challenged, frustrating, and draining.  Yet my heart is humbled as I listen to my middle schoolers in my youth group share about how hard it is to share their faith at school with their friends who don’t believe in God.  I love these kids in a deeper way than I loved the youth group kids in Michigan when I was in my 20’s.

We have had hard weeks, months, and some harder years since we moved out here in 2006. I know God will throw more challenges our way and we could be living the calm before the storm.  I never want us to be overly comfortable.  I want us to constantly be seeking the Lord and taking leaps of faith when He tells us to “Jump.”  Seventeen years ago God told me to “jump” when I went to Indonesia.  I am grateful for the experience and like so many have said previously–I use the tools I learned there in every single ministry/calling I have served in since.

 

 

 

Books in 2015

Last year I hit an all time record high of 41 books in 2014.  2015 I only read 24.  I think I started more books and quit than ever before.  About half the books on this list I did not get into at all.  It was not a great year for reading…that is for sure.

I did complete the Harry Potter series and the Hunger Games series–both which I have enjoyed.  I am not nor will I ever be a die hard fan who reads them over and over.  But I do appreciate them.

But 2016 looks better.  For starters, I am overseeing an on line book club which will force me to read a variety of books.  I am really excited about this.

My top 3 of 2015 would be:  Still Life by Christa Parrish, Crazy Busy by Kevin De Young, and the Almost True Story of Rob Stennett.

 

Fiction

Non-Fiction