Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Greetings!

Dear Friends,
In keeping with our yearlong quest, we continue our journey of doing all kinds of new things including this, our first online greeting card. Our apologies for using technology to send our hearts warmest greetings and thoughts your way, but it has been a year where we have found both our hearts expanded as well as our budget tightened.

2010 has been a long winter for us as we continue mourning and missing our sweet little Luke who was born and passed on January 4, 2010.  His birthday and getting to meet and spend time with our favorite little guy remains the greatest day of both of our lives.  Unfortunately, the days, weeks and months that followed were heartbreaking and difficult for us as well.  We continue to cherish our memories of our time with Luke as we gradually allow our hearts to heal and look toward our future with hope.

A quick recap of our year's big events...
Sarah returned to work from an abbreviated maternity leave in mid-February.

The company where Joe had been working was forced to downsize in April due to lack of venture capital funding.  This put Joe back on the search for the next opportunity at the beginning of May.

We traveled to Estes Park for a short get away together, and then on to Colorado Springs, Colorado for the wedding ceremony of Joe's brother as he married his beautiful bride, Mandy.

In late July, Luke's memorial bench was completed and delivered to its new home in Heartland's Lightbox (our church's indoor/outdoor garden).

In early September, we traveled to Jackson, Wyoming to visit Sarah's brother and girlfriend for a week.   Later during this same month, Sarah began taking a photography class at a local art institute with some dear friends.

In October, we traveled to Nebraska to attend Joe's first Husker home game in Lincoln.  It was one of our most favorite days of the entire year. We also traveled to Stillwater, Oklahoma to visit some of our favorite friends over a weekend.

In early November Joe's brother was deployed to Saudi Arabia for a six month deployment. Later in November, we received the wonderful news that Joe received a job offer at a non-profit here in town called MARC.  He started in November, and so far is really enjoying learning a new software program as well as meeting a wide variety of interesting and wonderful people.

This fall has also brought with it many changes in Sarah's extended family. Her sweet grandmother and great uncle were both moved to a nursing home here in town and her beloved great aunt began chemo treatments to treat a form of lymphoma.  With all three of these elders being over the age of 90, it all continues to come into focus how precious life is and how important it is to treasure time that you have with those you love.

Our biggest blessing of the year after getting to meet and love our sweet son, was receiving the blessed news that we are joyfully expecting a beautiful (and very healthy!) daughter in the spring of 2011.  Her presence in our life has been a true gift and because of her, we are able to begin to feel our hearts beginning to melt a little more every day after surviving this long winter of a year.  Sarah will be writing soon about our experiences with little Miss L. and we remain overwhelmed by His goodness and are beyond thankful for His provision in our lives this past year.

We hope and pray that this message finds you well and warm.  May God continue to hold you in the palm of his hand as you celebrate this season of love, miracles and hope and may your heart and eyes be opened to the beauty that surrounds us all.  Merry Christmas to you, we are so thankful for your presence in our lives.


Joe, Sarah and Baby Girl L. (!)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

11 Months

Our Sweetest Luke,

This letter is filled with so many emotions. We have spent the day thinking about you and as always, wishing you were with us.  We cannot believe it has been eleven months- almost an entire year since we held you close.  Last week we had our first Thanksgiving without you and although it was a lovely time with family, there was a giant Luke-shaped hole in our hearts as we gathered together.  You were not the only one missing from the table as our beloved Great Uncle Ed and Aunt Jean shared a meal at Uncle Ed's new home called The Sweet Life.  Its a nursing home where he moved about a month ago and where your great-grandmother moved only days ago. 

Your dad and I also picked out our Christmas tree and have it all decorated.  There are several ornaments that are yours that will always have a special place on our tree.  It was another bittersweet part of the holiday season for us as last time we did that, you were with us in my belly wiggling around.  Its so hard to mark all of these milestones of a year's passing...knowing that the last time we did all of these special things, you were with us for all of them.  I cannot help but wonder how cute you would look in some extra cute holiday pjs or discovering the beauty of this season for the first time....there is something so special about seeing Christmas through the eyes of a child and my heart aches to miss seeing this year's Christmas through yours.

But like I mentioned at the beginning of this letter, our emotions this year are high.  We have been working on learning to navigate the balance of bittersweet. Because not only are we missing you more than ever and longing to have you with us, but we are also elated and figuring out how to breathe and take giant, scary steps forward into the future of our family.  While we wish we could tell you in person, we are thrilled to tell you that you are going to be a big brother to a beautiful baby sister in 2011!  We are so excited, thankful, terrified and happy for what is ahead.  However, at the same time, it begins a whole new cycle of milestones that remind us of you, our beloved firstborn. This season we are so grateful for you, Luke and your sweet baby sister on her way!  You guys are our greatest gifts.

Merry Christmas sweet boy! We love you forever!
Your mom and dad xoxo

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Girl Time

The blog has been quiet for awhile. My apologies about that. I've been working through some things I will share in a little while, but in the meantime, I wanted to post a few pics of my weekend. I went down to the lake with 15 or 16 (I lost count!) of some amazing women. It was a little get away that was much needed by many of us- myself especially.  We wore comfy clothes, ate yummy food, laughed, talked cried (I did) and shopped. It was a complete blast.  We went down south to the Eureka Springs, Arkansas area and stayed in a beautiful cabin.  It was still beautiful there with all of the leaves in full color. These gals lifted my spirits, encouraged me in the most personal ways and spoke into my heart.  If any of you gals from this weekend are reading this, my time with you this weekend was absolutely life giving. Thank you so much! And a GIANT thank you to JB who planned the entire weekend for us all.  You are amazing and I aspire to be like you someday! Thank you, friends!  Enjoy the glimpse....

(yes, this is a giant Jesus overlooking the ozarks....kind of random..)

Sad to see this time with my friends come to an end....

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Journey · the beautiful fight: how to return

Nearly four years ago, I was longing for something more in my life. I was happy enough on the surface and to the untrained eye. But those who truly knew me could see the girl inside me questioning if this was all the Christian life had to offer. I had a steady job, great friends and loved being involved at Heartland. I had seen God moving in the lives of many around me, but had never really experienced his presence and leadership firsthand. I believed that Christianity was an adventure for some, but had pretty much resigned myself that it was not really going to be that way for me. I believed there had to be more to this life of faith I was living, but I did not know how or if it was even possible for me to play a vital role in the greater story that was being told. I felt lost.

It has been four years since I felt that way and since I decided to put my faith into action and obey what I believed God was calling me to do. Four years since I obeyed his whisper to trust him. Four years since I felt like that lost girl looking around believing that God had saved all of his adventure and wonder for someone else. Four years since I laid my bank account on the line and actually committed to tithing for the next three plus years as part of Heartland’s Go Campaign. Four years since I became part of something God was doing that was beyond myself or anything I could imagine. Four years since my life was radically transformed from ho-hum into a beautiful, wild adventure. I look back at who I was four years ago, and I merely wonder what took me so long to accept and choose to join the
party to which God had been inviting me.

That simple yet difficult decision to tithe for the first time unlocked both my heart and my hands. My heart was unlocked as I broke through the barrier I had built between myself and God. My not tithing as God requests, was saying to him that I really did not trust him to provide in my life. Tithing unlocked my hands because suddenly I was out on a limb trusting God as I never had before. My hands had to be open, not only to let go of what he wanted to remove from my life, but also so I could receive what he had to give me in this new place of trust.

I look at myself today and recognize that I am a different person than I was before the first campaign. Yet I know I am far from becoming the woman I am designed to be in Christ. I am still standing with shaking legs, an open heart, and open hands before God, eager to discover what he has planned next. I have never been a big risk taker or adrenaline junkie, and I’m not a person who practices great acts of bravery in my spare time. However, I now understand with absolute certainty, that giving to God more than we think is safe is a risk that is always worth taking. God honors our faithfulness and not only transforms the gifts we offer for the good of his kingdom, but he transforms the heart of the giver as well...and we are forever changed for the better.

“The ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

~ Isaiah 51:11

§ If you are interested:  click here for The Journey in Word format and click here for the Journey in PDF format. For more resources, feel free to visit the Journey Devotional page by clicking here.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

10 Months

Luke, it’s been 10 months since we met you face to face.  Happy birthday my beloved son.

A friend told us early on we could ask Jesus to pass our prayers to you via him.  It’s a thought that gives me hope that you get these notes from us.  So, I start by asking Jesus to pass this birthday note along to you.

I often sit in wonder, and imagine what you are doing right now?  Who are your friends?  Can you walk, run and play?  Some of your friends here are just learning to crawl, and some even are walking.  Who knows, you may still being cuddled and cared for by your great grandmas.  I’m sure they are delighted with you.  Jesus knows each of the prayers they have had for you; long before I even knew your mom.  God says he delights to give his children good gifts.  So, I am certain you are well cared for by many loved ones.

I wonder how cute you would have been for Halloween?  Your mom probably would have picked a Great Pumpkin costume.  We have much fondness for Charlie Brown and his friends.  In picturing it, you would have been very cute.  However, I doubt Halloween is celebrated there.  I wonder if All Saints Day is a big blow out, or if these saints even want the fame? 

I wonder if you can sing out loud, and shout to God the wonder of His name, and tell Him how great He is for He has come for everyone.  Your little voice on your birthday sounded like a sweet song.  It still brings your mom and me to tears.  It plucks our heartstrings as we hear your little voice.  You get that angelic voice from your mom.  She loves to sing out loud, and I love to listen to her.

We get to see your cirrus clouds, and that gives us great joy.  We got to see them high up in the sky over the Husker game.  It brings great joy to our heart to see those glimpses, and reminders of you.  Those clouds are closest to heaven, but you are far closer in our hearts.  Luke, we think of you often.  You are our delight, and truly our beloved son. 

Your dad

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Journey · the beautiful fight: kingly purses

I used to measure our “wealth” based on the numbers I saw in our bank account. I measure very differently today. I am writing this on the eve of the anniversary of the biggest explosion of generosity and true wealth into my life — and it had almost nothing to do with money.

My husband and I received some unexpected and devastating news that radically shifted our lives, and redefined everything we thought important or valuable. We suddenly had to learn to refocus our eyes and hearts in order to see what remained when it felt like so much was being taken.

Looking back, I can clearly see now, that while God was removing he was also rebuilding. By placing us on the receiving end of people’s abundant generosity and kindness, he revealed to us the priceless value of our faith and community as well as his definition of true riches.

Through our experience, God entrusted us with other people’s stories, friendships and resources. We know we were not the only ones dealing with difficult circumstances during this past year. We humbly acknowledge that the benefits we reaped were purely thanks to people giving generously to us, both through and in spite of their own personal and financial struggles. As a result we remain beyond grateful.

Speaking from experience, it is easy to get caught in the mindset of “it’s not my problem” or “I don’t know what to do” or “my efforts really won’t make that big of a difference.” However, as a recent beneficiary of so many people’s generosity even when it was both financially and emotionally costly, I’m here to tell you it does make a difference — even the small things. While some people know our faces and our story, many do not. However, I know for certain that there are scores more like us out there — hurting, broken, sad, alone and afraid. There are many people with stories like ours, people with broken hearts searching for healing...people desperate for good news in the middle of their storms. I know we are not the only ones.

God entrusts us with our stories and reminds us that not only is all not lost, but by giving, serving and loving beyond what feels safe, we can be a part of how God shows up in the life of someone needing to be found. Our God specializes in ministering to the hurting and brokenhearted through the lives and hearts of his people. While he is fully capable of healing and working miracles on his own, he chooses to involve us in his work and the story he is telling. He longs for us to experience the risk of giving — of ourselves, our time, our talents and our treasure — more than we think is possible. He wants to give us the reward of receiving more than we believe we could ever possibly deserve. He is the giver of true riches, which are often radically different than what we see in our bank accounts, and of much greater value. He promises to bless us, only we must simply give in order to receive.

“The real measure of our wealth is how much we should be worth if we lost our money.”

~ J. H. Jowett

§ If you are interested:  click here for The Journey in Word format and click here for the Journey in PDF format. For more resources, feel free to visit the Journey Devotional page by clicking here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Journey · Is Jesus the Only Life?

I know her…that woman in the bible in Mark 5:21-34. Although we did not live during the same era, suffer the same affliction, share a meal or even a conversation, I easily recognize myself in her struggle for life-giving restoration and her all-out effort to receive this blessing from Christ. While her story shows how her faithfulness healed her broken body, mine is a story of how my struggle to cling to my faith has restored my broken and dying heart to life.

I am only recently beginning to emerge from some of the darkest days of my own history. Days where I felt hopeless and lost; forgotten by God; desperate to believe that He had more planned for me than just suffering. Although I believed that someday things had to eventually improve, for so long it only felt as if things were getting worse; I felt as if there was no life in my life.

I know what it feels like to be desperate for rescue, desperate for hope, desperate for life. Like the woman in the Bible, I too know what it feels like to throw myself toward Christ when all feels lost in a desperate all-or-nothing effort to be restored by the healer. He is the only one who can restore life where there was once death, isolation, ashes, hopelessness and grief. I know this from experience. Although I’m not fully healed yet, I’m on my way.

After all I have been through I still believe in miracles, despite the fact I did not see displayed the one for which I desperately prayed. The absence of this miracle brought forth agonizing heartbreak. After a time, I began to recognize and understand that throughout all of my struggles, I had been gifted with a new life. I developed a deeper perspective, a greater value for my blessings and new eyes to see all of the miracles that did take place surrounding my situation.

It has been a long, slow, and often painful journey. I am still in the process of moving forward day by day. However, I recognize within my heart a new whisper of hope that was not there before. This hope continues to deepen and as it grows, it is restoring my belief in possibility, in God’s promises over my life, and especially strengthening my faith and trust in God. Things in my life are far from perfect, but I now have hope where I once only had despair.

Jesus is the healer of my broken heart, the restorer of hope to my soul. He has returned the life to my breath and is developing streams in my once desert landscape of a heart. I’m here today on this side of my struggle to share that while trusting him with my heart and my hurts has not been easy, it has been absolutely life giving.

“Go forth today, by the help of God's Spirit, vowing and declaring that in life----come poverty, come wealth, in death---come pain or come what may, you are and ever must be the Lord's. For this is written on your heart, 'We love Him because He first loved us.”

~ Charles H. Spurgeon

§ If you are interested:  click here for The Journey in Word format and click here for the Journey in PDF format. For more resources, feel free to visit the Journey Devotional page by clicking here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Jackson, Wyoming- At Last!

This post is so long overdue its not even funny.  About a month ago, we traveled to Jackson, Wyoming to visit my brother and his beautiful girlfriend.  They have lived there for three years, and this was our first trip up there to visit! It is a loonnnngggg drive (20+ hours each way) so we took our time and broke that down into two days of driving.  All I can say is if you have not been to that area of the country, it is a MUST VISIT!  Put it on your list! They live in a small town called Wilson, Wyoming which is located just outside of Jackson.  The town big town is called Jackson and Jackson Hole is the nearby ski mountain resort which is literally minutes away from Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park as well.

In my defense for the delay of this post, just before leaving, I purchased a new camera and well, I went a little crazy on our trip and took over 900+ photos! (I know!)

 So, over the past few weeks, I've been slowly going through them all in effort to weed out the obvious bad ones and to organize the ones I wanted to keep and post for the blog.  I also learned that taking 900+ photos is fun, but kind of a pain to go through when you get back!  So at long last, here are but a few of my favorites from our trip.  We were there for nearly a week and had the best time.

Here you go...

Here is where we that white building on the left.  It is literally at the base of the Jackson Hole ski mountain (you can see some of the ski runs in the background) and right next to the tram (the big red Jackson Hole building).  Its located in Teton Village which is the community of hotels, restaurants, shops and 5 Star hotels.  It was a lot of fun to stay in the village.  Thanks D for hooking us up with such a great place to rest our heads!

This is my brother- He is a real live mountain man and I love him to pieces and miss him terribly! (However, every time I visit him in one of the cool places he's living, I am reminded why he probably won't be moving back to Kansas any time soon.)

This is his beloved dog, Luna.  She has lived 200 lives in her 9 years....

This is my amazing brother and his adorable girlfriend....

This is the house where they live...

This is where my brother works, and with so much wilderness around...needless to say, we learned a ton and were very well geared up for wildlife spotting and wilderness exploring...

gearing up... of the first places we went...I wanted to see "the famous barn" that is in so many photos of this area. Oh, and the Tetons too.  :)

We hiked around Jenny Lake inside Grand Teton National Park one day and hiked to a place called Hidden Falls.

...the spot we stopped for a special picnic lunch...

...some of Luke's clouds were overhead while we beautiful...

...a little hammock that my brother set up when we were hiking back and decided to take a break...(it was the coolest thing and comfy too!)

M & D are a great together and they are also amazing chefs in the kitchen...they fed us very well!

One evening we made Asian food- we had spring rolls and homemade Pho (pronounced Pha) which is a soup. It was delicious!

One entire day we went to Yellowstone and did what is known as "the lower loop." It is about a 12 hour drive round trip- not because you are traveling a super long distance, but because you can only drive 45mph the entire time - and also because there are so many spectacular places to stop and get out to see.... (ps. an especially big thank you to my brother who took us on this trip despite the fact that he has to do it all the time for work! We LOVED getting to see it!)

...needless to say, we were not the only ones waiting for Old Faithful geyser to go off!

Old amazing...

...another geyser we stopped to see...

...a hot spring...

...some scoping at our picnic spot in Yellowstone... (notice M sitting up there next to the river watching for wildlife too...everyone was spotting wildlife...mine were just easier to see...)

Part of the lower loop in Yellowstone contains a place called The Canyon which is amazing and so, so beautiful. 

It contains this famous and gigantic waterfall...

We spent some time there just soaking it all in...

Then moved onto this valley where we watched some wildlife prancing around and killing things...

More Luke clouds overhead in Yellowstone...

...we saw quite a few bison in Yellowstone...they are HUGE...I included this shot so you could get perspective of one next to a Dodge pickup truck...did I mention that they are HUGE?

...another glimpse...

...a waterfall just inside the park where we stopped on our way back to Jackson...

...another look...

One whole morning we hiked to this place called Ule Hill in Grand Teton National Park.  It is well known as a place to observe wolves in their natural habitat.  We were lucky in that we had the whole place to ourselves the entire time we were there, but we were unlucky in that we did not see any wolves.  But we did see plenty of wildlife doing their was a fun morning...

...I know!  Look at those Tetons in the background!

We saw some moose while we were there too...

...and these guys... (really gals)

We introduced M&D to a Swiss yard game called Kubb (pronounced Koob). It is a lot of fun to play and needless to say, the students became the teachers.  I think we won only one game of the 20 that we played....but we had a lot of fun but I'm pretty sure most of those games were close ones!

...the battle zone...

D in action...

... in action...

...the girl is a ringer!

...I'm pretty certain he's about to win the game with this one...

...some of the days we were there were cold and chilly with a little bit of rain, so we played some indoor games as well....

...Remember when I said they fed us well? These are some homemade fries we had one night...

...the griller checking his fish...

...the feast!  Salmon and halibut caught by my brother and the fries (we also had salad too)- (please excuse the hideous cropping. That was the photographer's fault... but trust me, the whole scene was a beautiful sight!)

Remember I said was rainy some of the days we were there? Well, that was down in the valley were we were, but up on the peaks it was all snow! So one day we rode the tram (which on a busy day can hold close to 100 people!) up to the top of the ski mountain at Jackson Hole.  It was really fun and really cold at the top too!

At the top is this little warming hut place that makes waffles for the skiers and snowboarders during the winter.  It was open while we were there, so we went in.  We did not have waffles, but we (I) had a hot chocolate and the boys had some cold ones. It was really fun- and yes, that is fresh snow all around this building!

...along the outside of the waffle place...

In the wintertime, my brother does the daily snow report for the ski mountain.  All of that gear on the roof of the warming hut is what helps him to get his weather info every morning.  Pretty crazy! delicious hot chocolate....first one of the season is always somehow the best! the top...

....our last night in town...

...we took the scenic way out of town and these were some of our final views as we drove away....

...goodbye Tetons....we cannot wait to come back and visit!

To M & D, we cannot thank you enough for your hospitality, your incredible meals you provided and for all of the fun we had visiting you.  We look forward to seeing you again really soon! Love you lots!