Saturday, December 26, 2015

It's a Christmas Miracle

This photo:

Danielle, Ty, Brinn, Marisa, Nathan, Claire, Brady
Christmas Morning, 2015

All SEVEN kids together on Christmas morning. It happened. First year ever. And second time in several years that all 7 of the crew were in the same place at the same time.

A Christmas Miracle.

(and my wish-come-true)

Friday, December 25, 2015

It's an Upside Down Merry Christmas

Christmastime has always stretched me a bit.

Financially, I tend to get caught up and caught behind in purchasing just the right gifts.

Emotionally, I have ALWAYS struggled when it comes to trying to make it to EVERYONE's Christmas celebrations, having to say no to some invites just in order to keep some sanity to the days. But then when I do say no, that sanity turns to feelings of guilt.

Spiritually, I sometimes struggle because when I get caught up in the financial and emotional strain, I lose sight of the true meaning of the season.

So every day this season, I have tried to just flip this scene upside down.

"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born.'"
Luke 2:10

I'm focusing on the good news.
The great joy.

And it is hard to admit this, but it isn't easy to apply this upside-down Christmas thinking. The joy, the good news, the Jesus still sometimes gets too mixed in with all the other "things" of the season, rather than being the reason.

But it sure has helped.

And when I get wrapped up in the other stuff, feel down about not having the perfect family gathering, bake my own treats, send out "real" christmas cards, or can't bring the exact gifts for the kids....I stop.

And I turn it all on it's head.

And focus on the only true joy. The best news. The perfect gift.


How do you keep Christ in your Christmas? I'd love to hear from you.


And for the purpose of recording it here on the blog, here is our family Christmas card.

Merry Christmas friends and family.  I'm hoping you find true joy and peace wrapped up for you on this Christmas Day.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Throwback Post: How I make like Mary in the busyness of all the days:

Thanks for stopping by.

I apologize for my absence over the last couple of months. Life has a way of getting crazy-busy this time of year. Throw in a holiday or two, a foot surgery, and a few kids in sports and suddenly I blink and realize that what seemed like yesterday was really a couple of months worth of yesterdays.


Today's post is a throwback from a year ago. It still seems to fit.

When you're done reading, stop by my new home on the world-wide-web and see what you think:

It's how I make like Mary in the busyness of all the days:

So I am doing this advent-like devotional using my you-version bible app. I love this. These are just short and sweet snippets of bible and devotion that help me get into the right mindset about the Christmas season.

Anyways, today I read a few verses out of Luke chapter 2 where the shepherds had come to see then new baby Jesus (I remind myself of "Ricky Bobby" from Talladega Nights when I say the words baby Jesus out loud.) and then they went out to tell everyone about Him before returning and praising God for everything they had "heard and seen." (See Luke 2:17-20 if you want to read it.)

There was one thing that jumped out at me in the middle of these few verses.
Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
verse 19

With all the things going on, Mary just quietly treasured it all and reflected on these things in her heart.  

That made me think of why I take pictures. Lots of them. 

First of all, I love it. There is something about capturing the moment and not realizing that it was the moment until I get to go back and ponder and reflect on it.

It is how I like to remember things. Words, yes; but images too. 

Taking pictures is my way of freezing a moment (my superpower) in time that I never want to forget so I can pull it out later and remind myself. Of all the things. Not just the fancy things. The posed for pictures. But the random moments that make up each day.

I wonder if Mary knew in those first moments that she would have to give her baby up to the world. 
If she later went back to those moments she tucked away in her heart for comfort.

I know it's different, but I'm pretty sure I am already getting pretty sentimental about sending my babies out in to the world. 

I'm glad for the moments I took time to treasure up.

How do you take time in your busy life to reflect and treasure up? Do you take pictures? Journal? 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Dear Claire,

I remember when you were like 15 minutes old. 
And now you are 15.

You've had a pretty busy year.
You got your permit and started  high school.

You drive.

You went to DC, to San Francisco, and you went on your first missions trip to Philly.

High school cross country

I remember when you were little and I would tuck you in at night. I would sing "sunshine" to you and we would say a prayer. 
I'd say: "you are so special. I'm so glad God gave you to me." 
That was our routine.

You don't say a whole lot, but when you do, it counts. You are funny and smart. You hate talking about school. Last year for my birthday you let me ask you anything I wanted and you promised to answer with words that didn't include "yes," "no," or "I don't know." 
I took more left turns to get home on that trip than I ever had. Our 4 minute drive took about 20.
And it was the best birthday present ever. 
Now it is your birthday.
Part of me wonders how this happens.
How does 15 years go by so fast?

But I already know the answer to that:
One day at a time.

 Today, I am thanking God for each day with you.
I hope that your birthday is special.
Because, are so special. I'm so glad God gave you to me.
Love, mama

Monday, October 5, 2015

When Ignorance is Bliss...

I'm going to ignore some things today.

And by some things, I mean--my feelings.

I received some news over the weekend that was unexpected. I was looking for this news. But I was expecting it to go a different way.

It is writing-work related.

I had some tears. I even drove to my parents house to get a hug from my mama.

She hugged me. We talked about other things. And when I left she said:

Don't stay upset.
Don't let this stop you.
You have more to do.

Oh, mama. You know. Even when you don't think you know, you really do.

So today, I'm still a tiny bit upset. 

But I'm going to ignore that. 

Because I have more to do.

Thank you mama. I love you so much.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Next Page

Back-to-School usually means the start of a new chapter in our house.

This year is no different. Except for the part that it is way different.

For one of us, it's not just a new chapter, it's a new book.

When we shopped for school supplies, we skipped the crayons, protractors and wide-ruled notebook paper and went straight for the laundry soap, futon, and surge-protected power strips.

Huh. Not sure how that happened.

I remember walking the kid to school while pushing his sisters in a stroller and walking him up to his line in front of the school. I waited with the sisters with all of the other mommies until the teachers came out to let the lines all in to school. The backpack was full of art supplies, tissues and hand sanitizer for the classroom

I remember driving to school when the carpool line led me to the other side of the building. The mommies dropped their pre-teen babies off in time for them all to "hang out" on the steps until one of the teachers opened the door. The backpacks stuffed with gym clothes and axe deodorant and body spray.

I remember the first day when my presence was no longer required. The Wildcat drove him and his sisters to school. I stood in the street and waved.

This week we turn the page to begin a new chapter. The sisters will all be doing the last first day of high school, the first day of high school and the last first day of junior high.

And the Wildcat will be a Bulldog. It's not only a new page, it's a new book. And it's his.

In this story, I play the part of a character that I am still familiar with....I get to help pack the backpack (car), and I get to drive up in the carpool line at school, where I will drop a piece of my heart off then leave it there.

Two hours home.

And stay home while he stays at school.


It's Nathan's turn to write the story.

Dear Bulldog,

It's the next step
The next chapter
The next story.

I have every confidence in you.
Not even a single doubt exists
That your college years will be nothing less
Than a page-turner.

Be kind to the other kids
Take turns
and raise your hand for the teacher to call on you.
Share your crayons
Eat your vegetables
Brush your teeth twice a day.

oh, and by the way
Your mama is so proud of you
she misses you.
You should call her.

Love, Mama

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My Brand

I'm just coming off a writers' conference high.

Loved the sessions. Loved the people I met. Loved the stories I learned.

I had the pleasure of attending a class that did not turn out like I thought it would. I had expectations for what I thought the class would be like, then found out that it wasn't anything near what I thought it would be like.

Lesson #1 of the Weekend: Throw away my expectations and let God fill in the blanks.

I went to the conference with an idea for a ministry. I didn't have a book proposal. I didn't have a speech written. I had an idea to share. A dream.

It's my dream. It's not one that you grow up dreaming about. More like a vision that just won't go away. The kind of dream that you can think of a 1000 reasons why it is just nonsense. But it just. won't. leave.

Trust me, I've tried to discredit it. Or discredit myself. I've argued with God about how I'm not the right person for the task. I have done this back and forth thing with God for about a decade.

Funny thing I've learned about God and dreams: He doesn't really force them. It's more like an invitation to be a part of what he wants to accomplish.

Another funny thing: while he isn't forceful or angry or mean with these dreams, it is still the sort of thing that keeps me up at night and wakes me up in the morning.

So that is what I went to the conference with. An idea. A dream. One that won't let me sleep.

Lesson #2 of the Weekend: Apparently this dream is a good one. Not a unique idea, but unique approach. This is the sort of thing that requires branding and marketing.

Hmmm....another foreign language to me.

Lesson #3 of the Weekend: While I am comfortable writing, speaking and serving need to come in to play at the forefront.

Gulp. Public Speaking.

Oh how I wish that I could be all about JUST serving and writing. But speaking is where things will start.

Are you ready? Here is the nutshell idea that was confirmed over and over at the conference:

1.  I'm a speaker. I can be encouraging for your moms/womens/ministry group. I have three distinct topics to visit about. And none of them are about me. They are about YOU.

2.  I am a missionary-at-heart. I am not going to Africa. But I will come to your hometown and visit your non-profit, your church group, your ministry or your home and WORK ALONGSIDE you as a volunteer. I want to learn your story and how God is doing his completely awesome God-thing through the work that you do. And I will share that with the groups I am speaking to. And writing for.  And my world.

And I want to encourage you and those alongside of you that YOUR STORY is important.

I also want to note that although I love to write, working alongside of you (YES YOU!) is the primary thread to the ministry of my heart. YOU need to know that the work that you do, even if it seems small or insignificant, matters for eternity. YOU make our homes look different. YOU make our communities look different.

YOU are making heaven look different.

YOU and YOUR story matter.

3.  As I (gulp) speak for your group and work alongside of you in your local ministry, I hope to compile all of these experiences in a book or blog or you-tube channel. I want to spotlight your story in a way that inspires others to actively engage in their own stories.

Stories that make Heaven look different.

This is something I have learned in my years of working in journalism and writing the stories of others: EVERYONE has a story. I have been fortunate enough to get to learn and share them with others. And even though NONE of these stories have been my own experience, it makes me want to live my own story better.

And the last note (for now) from the weekend is something I shared above: EVERYONE has a story, but not everyone can write or knows how to share their story.

I am a ghostwriter. (BOO!) But don't be scared! My giftedness seems to be in sharing the stories of others, either in writing or photography or journalism.

This is an area that I am hoping to develop.

I learned a lot from the Speak Up Conference in Grand Rapids.

But I mostly learned a lot about what I still need to learn. Marketing and Branding.

And from what I can tell, my brand is YOU.

What's YOUR story?

How is God working through YOU?

How can I come alongside YOU in service and encouragement?

Because that is my story.

Can I add YOUR chapter?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Some Newlyweds go on Honeymoons...

....and some of us go to Walmart. (and then visit our kids in college, or go to a high school sporting event) and call it a honeymoon.

That is the story of when Brian and I were married a few months ago. If you missed that one, you can read about it HERE.

Suffice it to say, with all of the kids and college visits and orientations and sports and kids (did I say that already?) we haven't had the time to throw a reception or go on a trip that revolved around the two of us being married.

And we still haven't, but we are pretending that this trip to Grand Rapids is a honeymoon, kind of. Because it doesn't revolve around our kids.

Brian is going with me to the Speak Up! writers' and speakers' conference. He is pretty romantic like that.

So even though this trip doesn't revolve around our kids, and even though the purpose is sort of for me...I just wanted to tell my husband that I appreciate him SO MUCH for supporting me in my writing and ministry dreams.

And he will no doubt get in some good practice in the art of timely "head-nodding" and "uh-huh-ing" because we will only be in the car together for like 12 or so hours as I tell him all about editors and publishers and ministry leaders and some of my favorite speakers and experts in the industry.

Anyways, this post goes out to my love, my husband, Brian. I love you, honey!

And I can hear it now: "uh-huh. oh you, too!"

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Baseball and Life

I knew it was coming.

The last play in the last inning in the last game I would watch my Wildcat play baseball.

Even though I spent the last 13 summers watching the kid play ball, that last game sort of seemed to sneak up on me.

I remember when baseball was playing in the dirt, snacks and popsicles.

I remember when baseball was the post-season pizza parties.

I remember when baseball was little league and All-Star teams.

I remember when baseball was the first step in to high school.

I remember when baseball was a walk-off win. And when it was the 3rd-strike loss.

I remember when baseball was the deciding factor to come home after a semester away. When the Wildcat just wanted to play one more season.

And then one more game.

When I think of summer, I think of Wildcat baseball.

And summer won't quite be the same again.

Dear Wildcat,
It has been one of the greatest joys of my life
to watch you play the game.
Keep living your life like it is a 
3-1 count.
Don't be afraid to go after life's 
"first pitch"
Don't watch life go by
without taking a swing at it.
Remember that strike-outs in life
And any strike-out in life that you face
Just brings you one step closer
to the next
Home Run.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Love at First Sight

It's the 17th anniversary of the moment when I first experienced love at first sight.

The year was 1998. It was a Monday morning, 8:28 a.m. to be exact. 6,205 days ago.

We didn't know each other, but the connection we had was if we had known each other forever. Like we were meant to be together.

I fell in love with all 9 lbs, 3 oz., 20 1/2 inches of my sweet baby girl and that love has grown every single day since.

Just look how this love has grown!!!

The McCaughey Septuplets happened to still be in the news on this day of Love at First Sight. But my world-news revolved around being mama to you, and your brother.

First few minutes at home, You were crying and your brother, Nathan instinctively tried to take care of you.
I think he has been trying to do this ever since.
You can love him or hate him for this. But it started on Day 1.

You have been an excellent example to the sisters who have come after you.

And as it turns out, you are very much like your mama. That could explain a lot of head-butting that goes on in our relationship. I'd like to think that this isn't a bad thing; that we both are growing because of it.

But anyway, sweet baby girl, YOU are the one who was there when I experienced a "love at first sight" moment.

I love and treasure every single moment since then.

I realize you are counting down the next 365 days. I get that.

I am too. 18 has always been sort of a "deadline" for making sure I have done my job as mama. But now that you are here, I realize I have done what I set out to do over 6,000 days ago. Now it is up to you. I also know that I will never be "done" being mama. My role just changes.

AND I will continue to treasure each moment. Because love at first sight is love at first sight.

I guess what I am trying to say is:

Happy 17th Birthday, Marz!

Love, Mama

"Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart"
~Luke 2:51
P.S. Your birthday gift is what you asked for.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sticky-Note Prayer: Answered

A couple of years ago, I started this thing with the kids where I would write a prayer for them on a sticky note and stick it on their bedroom door. Usually it was a bible verse that I was praying for them.

For the most part, it seemed they went sort of ignored.

But I knew it was appreciated, or at least noticed, about a year ago when I was the recipient of a sweet, sticky-note prayer from Marisa.

I had just been notified that a story I wrote, which made the first couple of rounds of acceptance, was cut just before the book went to print.

And I walked in to my room to find this sticky-note-prayer on my desk:

"Galatians 6:9
Dear God,
Please be with mom and give her strength. Remind her that you have a plan. Make sure that she doesn't give up. Amen.
Love you mama
Love, Marzy

If you are wondering, Galatians 6:9 reads "Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

Thank you for praying for me, baby girl. I didn't give up. And God answered your sticky-note prayer.

In two months, I will be published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering and Giving Back.

It's not just a dream come true for me, but a specific prayer request answered. 

A prayer that was sharpied on a post-it. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

So this is what "afraid" looks like:

I've been this super amazing and awesome mom.

if i do say so, myself.
(which I do. It is my blog, after all)

At least when it comes to being able to aptly and confidently encourage my children to try new things, explore talents, and step out of their comfort zone in order to embrace seasons of their lives and use the gifts given to them.

Some of these gifts, talents and good-old-fashioned HARD WORK has paid off for them.

So I find myself in new territory today.

I find myself on the receiving end of

of advice that I have
of my kids.

And now I know what it is like to have to face a new situation and be completely scared out of my mind to do it...

....but to know that it is, without a doubt, the next

to do.

Pray for me.
Wish me luck.
Hold me.

I'm jumping in.

In Grand Rapids at the end of July.

I won a scholarship. If there is anything I have learned about what scholarships mean it is this:
they are an investment.

Here I go.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

It's a Big Day in our House

It's a big day in our household.

So much of the last few weeks and days have been spent working on putting together a graduation party for Nathan.

Today may look like a big graduation party. But tucked inside of that party is the major event of the day:  WE HAVE ANOTHER TEENAGER!
(and it's my baby)
(and I might be a bit sentimental about this, shocking...I know)

Danielle is 13.
She has spent the last 61 days warning reminding me of the countdown until her impending day of becoming a teenager.

And I have spent each one of those days warning reminding her of how she is still and always will be my baby. If there was I way I could put a stop to all of this time and growing up thing, I would.

But try as I might, I haven't figured out how make time stop. Haven't even figured out how to slow it down.

Dear Tookie,

I know you are growing up, and apparently this has to happen. I like the parts of this where you are doing your own laundry and shopping for some of your own things, and making some of your own meals. Even having your own tube of clearasil on the bathroom shelf is kind of a significant milestone.

But I miss the parts of tucking you in earlier than I go to bed, snuggling with a book, a prayer and a song, and even all the Disney Channel theme songs that would get stuck in my head.

I miss the days where you believed me when I said that your teeth would fall out if you skipped one night of brushing, or that if you crossed your eyes, they would freeze that way.

Ahhhh, the good-ole-days.

Actually every day with you in it is a good day.

Happy 13th To You!
I am so proud of you.
I am so proud to be your mama.
I love your sweet spirit, your quickness to forgive and your willingness to lend a hand.
Keep working hard and trying new things.

My best advice for your teenage years is this:
Keep God first
and always remember that quality chocolate will never do you wrong.

I may not have figured out how to slow time down, but I can freeze moments of it. This one is for you, my teenage-baby-girl:

love, mama

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Dear Wildcat,

I'm having trouble sleeping tonight.

Tonight you are a Wildcat. But by this time tomorrow, you will be a Bulldog.

Tomorrow you graduate.

By every measure of the school and state
and even above and beyond both of those,
you meet and exceed the requirements set that say you are a graduate of high school.


I knew this would happen.

Somehow, when you were born and I started to feed you, something inside of me said that you would grow up, drive cars, date girls, excel in school and move on. Great. So feeding you seems to be where I went wrong.....

....if keeping you close was what the goal was.


I guess I knew from even before you were born that I would have to give you away.

You know the story of before you were born. How I thought I was losing you. How I promised to give you to God if He would please let me keep you.

He did. And you entered the world at a whopping 10 1/2 pounds.

thanks God. Not exactly what I meant but, cool. Way unforgettable. Love how you work in those ways....

So since you were such a giant when you were born, it turned out that the doctors were concerned with your brain and your collar bone. One was broken during the whole entrance in to the world. The other was deprived of oxygen for longer than they thought would render you as "normal."

So you are my miracle.

And just so you know, "normal" is a setting in the dryer.

You have been defying "normal settings" ever since....well, before you were born.

And you have been doing this as a Durant Wildcat.

I know you have been moving on and doing extremely great things both in and outside of Durant. Some of those things have been recognized. For example, I can't fall asleep tonight without mentioning how you were named the National Youth Leader of the Year, or that you were one of eleven students in the state that served as a page for the Iowa Senate. Just of those two things, you were ONE in the nation and ONE of ELEVEN in the state. 

Whether recognized locally or not, I think these are truly amazing.

When we wake up tomorrow, you will be preparing to address your classmates as a Wildcat. And when the ceremony is over, you will be a Bulldog.

I don't know what to say.  Other than this:

I am so proud of you.
I am proud of all you have accomplished
And all you have had to overcome.
I am proud of your drive.
Of your willingness to find a new dream
When the one you had was taken away.
I am proud of your dedication to your team,
and to your class.
I am proud of your dedication to the community
And to our State and Country. 
I am proud of your dedication and drive to take the next steps
to follow your dreams
believing that no matter the cost, 
that God has placed a dream on your heart
and you are going after it....
....even without certainty.

So mostly,
I am proud of your 

Because that is what you are operating on right now.
If I can give you any advice it would be this:

God has brought you this far,
You will face more obstacles.
But I don't think He would place these dreams on your heart 
only to let you down now. 

Honor God.
Live Your Dream.
and always know that there is someone on this side of heaven who believes in you.

Love, Mama

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Being Foolish

I love April Fool's Day.

I love jokes. I love it when my kids try to play jokes on me. I love dishing it right back. I'm on to all this April Fool's Day stuff.

Need to take your pregnant friend to the doctor, you say?
Take the bus. And I have always wanted to adopt.

Need me to bail you out of jail, you say?
Enjoy the balogna sandwich. We are out of bread anyway.

Dropping out of school to join the circus, you say?
Not much different than home, except people buy a ticket. Maybe we should start charging admission?

(as a bit of a side-note here, I should probably mention that the day is not over, and I could have a completely different take on today by the time tomorrow hits.)

Anyways, all of this April Fool's stuff actually makes me think of something that I want to say and it could be foolish.

Maybe not so much foolish as it is bold. And being bold may seem foolish. But it is something that I want all of my kids to be.

Want to graduate from college debt free? Do it. Go for it. It is a lofty goal, but what is the worst that could happen if you try?

Want to say that you will make it to state in your sport? Go for it. I'll save up the money for the hotel room so I can watch you meet your goal.

Want to travel this summer? You have saved all year for your DC trip, your missions trip and who says you can't go on that cross country trip? You never know if you don't try.

What are your goals?
Are you willing to be bold enough to seem foolish to achieve them?

I want to write a book. Actually, I want to write two.

It seems silly for me to say this, because I have wanted to write a book for at least a dozen years.

But this is my goal.
Not even joking.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Method to my March Madness

It's time, folks.

I'm sure there are several bracketologists out there just waiting for this blog post.

In the past, I have used an unconventional way of choosing teams for my bracket. You can read a little about it here:  MY MARCH MADNESS 

This year I just did not have enough time to take all of these steps to study and choose my teams.

So I worked backwards and forwards based entirely on the team MASCOT.

If, during the team choosing process in the bracket, I did not understand what your mascot was without looking it up, or if you just didn't sound as tough as the other team...then you lose.

If you were a Wildcat or a Bulldog...then you automatically advanced. Because I am partial to those. EXCEPT in the case of the first round Iowa vs Davidson game....I love my Herkey the Hawkeye.

But even Herkey loses to a Bulldog.

In the end, it's all a big dog and cat fight.

And the Wildcats Win!

Because I am especially partial to Wildcats!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

So What religion are you?

“So what religion are you?”

If you are asking if I am a Christian, the answer is yes.

If you are asking me what I am religious about, well that is a completely different topic. 

And tonight, it is one that is close to my heart, especially when one of my cubs is feeling attacked from those on the outside. About “religion.”

I’m not a good one to answer the question…”what religion are you?”

I grew up near a baptist church. Raised my hand and asked Jesus in my heart there. Was baptized, took communion, and went to my first youth group class there. 

And spent every other weekend at an evangelical free church with my dad and step-mom.

After a few years, my mom and step-dad felt like the little baptist church in stockton lacked a certain appeal for high school youth when it was obvious that WE were the high school youth. So every other Sunday, they packed us in to the Chrysler Labaron and we drove 30 minutes to my Aunt Bitsy’s church. Can’t remember what it was called. But it was a Pentecostal church and had a pretty good reputation for their youth program. 

At 15 years of age,  I missed my Stockton Baptist (Boring). It was home. At least every other weekend it was.

So as a young adult, if you asked me what religion I was, I would say “draw a card.” I was a baptist, an e-free, a pentecostal, and I married in to a catholic family. If you asked me where my church home was, it was at Calvary, a church that has baptist roots, but I would compare them more with non-denominational.

But religion is more than just church.  I know people who are very religious and have never set foot in a church building. You can be just as or even more religious about your job or your favorite sport than you ever are about Christ. Can I get an amen? You know what I mean.

And if I were to actually follow the example of Jesus himself, He didn’t really even hang out with the “religious” types.  He associated with tax collectors, lepers, thieves, those of ill-repute, and, well…you get it. I don’t know how else to say this, but he didn't preach to the choir. Plus, he was Jewish. So, bam. 

I’d like to say this about “religion”: I’m pretty sure when the day of our judgement comes and we are standing at the gates of heaven, God isn’t going to say, “What was the name on the outside of the building that you went to church to.”

In other words, He isn’t going to say, “What religion are you?” 

Obviously I don’t know this for sure, but I’m guessing that at the gates of heaven, God is going to be a little more concerned with this: “Who is my Son, Jesus, to you?” 

He is going to look on the inside of every minute of our hearts, not the outside of the buildings we spent one hour a week in. 

I am 41 years old. I have been a christian for much of my life. But if you ask me what religion I am, if you are looking for a denominational answer, I am not sure I can answer that. 

And I don’t even know if Jesus would want me to. 

(and I am almost 42. I feel I should say that should lighting strike)

So to my dear, sweet child who is feeling attacked about religion: I can see your heart. But more importantly, God can see your heart. And that matters more than the name of the church you went to today. 

Matthew 22:36-40New International Version (NIV)
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Saturday, February 14, 2015

And that's how we role: the wedding edition

It’s been a fun weekend so far.

Last night we took Claire and Tookie to see the movie “Old Fashioned” and out for supper.

Today had a list of things that needed to get done: pick up some groceries, go to the bank, get some cat food, stop by Radio Shack, bake brownies for the church thing, gas up the car for our trip to see Nathan in Des Moines, elope, go around and tell everybody about it, give the dog a bath, feed the kids, eat, drink and be merry.

So you know, a completely normal day. Except I have a new name. 

In case you missed it, that was a wedding announcement. 

We got the piece of paper.

We have been planning a wedding for a long time. The problem is that I am a horrible planner. And I am kind of cheap. And we have been trying and trying (3 times in the last two years to be exact) to get everyone together and throw a small, surprise wedding. Plans just didn’t work. Life just didn’t cooperate. The excitement of planning a wedding started to be not so exciting. 

I didn’t wanted my wedding day to not be exciting. As it turns out, I didn’t really need all of the hoopla to make it great for me. 

Brian and I have been together for a long time. We didn’t necessarily need to go out and get the piece of paper to make it official. But we wanted to. We wanted to make a statement about our relationship that honors God. We wanted to show our friends and family that even though we have done a few things backwards, this was still important to us. 

That it is never too late to take the opportunity to do what is right in your heart.

And we couldn’t wait for the perfect time. With 7 kids between the two of us, we have learned over and over again that the perfect time to get everyone in the same place at the same time and on the same page doesn’t actually exist. There is no perfect time. But there is the right thing.

So today is the day that our commitment became official. We visited with our pastor and we got married. Tucked in between all of the other things. Because that is us. That’s just how we roll.

Tucking our marriage vows in between a couple of days of work with nothing too special leading up to it or after it may not make for an exciting, storybook wedding day. But it is our story. 

I love our story. I love our day. 

On the outside, tomorrow may look absolutely no different than yesterday. But because of today, we are different. We are Mr. and Mrs. Brian Grunder. 

So if we had invited everyone to the wedding, what you would have witnessed:

On the day of the big event, the bride was adorned in what she will now refer to as her “wedding jeans.” Slightly faded and in a boot-cut style, they complimented the bride’s made-for-comfort sweater perfectly. Both can be viewed at the next choir or band concert. Or ballgame. 

The groom was looking dapper in his very own “wedding jeans,” formerly known to the couple as the “best deal at Farm and Fleet.” His chosen shirt was a black thermal which did not clash at all with the sweater worn by the bride. 

While this official statement about their wedding may appear to be somewhat unorthodox, rest assured that their wedding vows toed the line of unconventional as well. 

In their vows, the couple recognized each other’s proven commitment to each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, and the bride read a statement kind of like this:

Dear Brian,

You have been there for me when all is well:  the good days of parenting, the exciting times, days when I am feeling on top of my game and on top of the world.

You have been there for me on days of nothing special:  the days of going through the motions, we eat, work, sleep and wake up and do it all again the next day. 

You have been there for me in times of trial:  when good health wasn’t a guarantee, when kids veer from what we think is best, when money in the bank doesn’t exist, when motives have been attacked by those on the outside.

You have been there for me even when you weren’t sure you understood me:  you listen to my off-the-wall way of making sense of things, you show me grace when my mouth doesn’t take the time to filter through things that should have stayed in my head.

The last few years have been full of life and everything that it means.  Fun, games, humor. Happy tears, sad tears, trials of many varieties.  Kids…mine and yours. 

The writer in me knows that every good story worth immersing yourself in takes the reader through ups and downs, with love, action, mystery and even conflict. A good story is one in which the reader feels connected with the words on the page.  Our story has not been the perfect fairy tale.  But it is a story that I am connected to on a soul-level, and one that is still being written.  I love our story. My only regret is that it has taken us a while to get this part right. Today is way more than just getting that piece of paper. That piece of paper is a statement about honoring God in our relationship. That piece of paper is the first page of a new chapter in our story.

As your wife, I will proudly walk with you through each chapter of the rest of our lives.

The couple regrets not being able to have everyone they love share in this special day, but do hope to celebrate their wedding sometime this summer when all of their family can be present. 

I’m guessing it won’t be a formal event. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

I remember it like it was yesterday...

It was yesterday 
that I found out that I was expecting my first child.
That I was panicked because the situation wasn't ideal.
Definitely not perfect.
A day that I resolved that I would try to do better.
To be better.
For my child.

It was yesterday
that I was starting to show.
That I first knew the meaning of true love.
A love that would do anything to save the life that I thought I was going to lose
The one closest to my heart
In my womb.
A love that was revealed by your footprint through
my skin.

It was yesterday
that I begged God to please let me have you
to not lose you
And I promised to raise you
To love and know HIM.
If He let me have you,
I promised to give you back to Him.

It was yesterday
that you were born
In such a traumatic way
That I was told it was a miracle
That you survived.

It was yesterday
that the first glimpse of you I had
Was from across a crowded room
I saw your fat little thigh
Through a bunch of white coats
And heard nothing but garbled voices
Until one
Finally broke through.
Your cry.

It was yesterday
That I walked around a small apartment
Carrying you in my arms
Singing to you
Because you hated it
When I sat down.

It was yesterday
That I walked you in to your first day of school.
Your sister cried.
She didn't know what to do without you.
And I cried too.

It was yesterday
That a teacher and principal called me in to the school
Because they didn't know what to do with you.
You were acting up
And out.
I blamed myself.
But I understood that you needed
to walk when you talked.

It was yesterday
that you taught yourself how to ride your bike.
You waited and waited for me to be done taking care of your sisters
And I looked out the window
And you were getting ready to balance on your bike
And you yelled at God
to stop the you could ride your bike.
And you rode your bike while
yelling at God.

It was yesterday
that I sat through a parent-teacher conference
And your teacher told me how they loved
having you in their classroom
But you tended to
I was reminded of your first days of you being way more calm when I walked and talked with you in my arms.

It was yesterday
That I thought I was losing you
A rare blood disorder
That mimicked
Threatened my every dream.
Until you proved it wrong.

It was yesterday
That I thought I lost you again
When a police officer showed up at my door
Explaining that there was a roll-over car accident
They thought you were involved in
But had not located you yet.

It was yesterday
That you decided to not let any bad circumstances
Dictate what you did with your life.
You went from QB on the high school football team
To Kicker
Because that was your only option
And you
Made it work.
Because that was the team you wanted to be on.

It was yesterday
That you started to apply for scholarships
And leadership conferences.
You won a local position
You went on to the national conference
And it was yesterday 
that you won the highest honor at that national level.

It was yesterday 
That you applied for a position at our State's Capitol.
And you got it.

It was yesterday
That I prayed for you
And prayed for you
Through all of your days.
Days before you were born
And every day since.
Days that I thought I would lose you
And days that I saw you thrive
Days that I held on to you
And days that I knew I had to let you go.

It is today
That I know that I have to let you go
for real.
The Day
that I knew that no matter what
I had to give you back
to God
and to the world
to do what God has planned for you.

You are a leader.
You are an encourager.
You are who God made you to be.
The person I prayed for before I ever saw your face.
The person who has already overcome so many odds.
The person who has already inspired so many others.

The Bible says that Children are a heritage from the Lord. A gift.

You are the first of THE GREATEST gifts
I have ever known.
You have been and continue to be
Big Brother.
And a son....
You are a "heritage from the Lord."

And it feels like it was
Just yesterday
that we just met.

And now it is like practically tomorrow 
that I have to let you go.

I really don't want to.
But I know
Just yesterday
I promised to give you back.

And I do so
that you have the tools
stand strong
and be courageous
and live each day
With the purpose
That God has had for your life
Since before you were born.

When if feels like people are against you
Remember that nothing is impossible
When you have God on your side.

When it feels like you are not enough,
Remember that God is. 

Remember that God Hand-Picked you 
You were chosen
By Him
to live with purpose and passion. 
Live it like an adventure.
Acts 26:16
Isaiah 41:10

And it is okay if you don't always get it.
For real.

I did not know everything when I first knew of you.
But intuitively
I knew
That one of the greatest things in this world that I would ever do
Wouldn't be something that I did myself
But be in the
People I raised.


I have loved you with my life.
And my heart.
And my soul.

It is not because you are an adult that I let you go.
And I really do not even let you go.

I give you back.
To God
To Bless the World
To leave your footprint on the world
The same way you left your footprint on my skin
From the inside

To go
And Make Your Mark
On this world that you 
Live in
A world that is better
Because you are here.

I thank God for all of these yesterdays.
And I pray for every day
And every tomorrow
That God will continue to bless
Through you.