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This guy

May 31, 2014

John

Yep, this is going to be one of those annoying “I love my husband THIIIIIS much!” posts. If that’s not your thing, feel free to skip!  But really, this guy deserves some accolades. The years of our marriage have been hard. Not so much the marriage part–that bit has actually been pretty easy–but rather the experiences we’ve walked through together as a couple working toward our future dreams. The years, years of graduate school and chiropractic school, full of late nights of studying, schedules that didn’t line up, working part-time jobs to make ends meet, waiting on things like houses and babies and travel in order to achieve our goals. Then moving across the country, leaving family and friends, to start a new business, and the process of building a business–guys, can I say it again, it’s not for the faint of heart. And walking through the losses we’ve experienced over the past few years–they have been absolutely crushing but somehow we keep reaching for the joy we know this world holds.

But this guy, through it all, has been steadfast and supportive and hardworking.  He is a pretty amazing catch. Wanna know why?

-This guy helps clean and does all the dishes. We share responsibilities in a way that many husbands don’t (or won’t). It is so appreciated. Sorry ladies, he’s taken.

-This guy heals people through his hands–migraines and herniated discs and back spasms and pain in all shapes and sizes and digestive problems and sleep problems and many other complaints have vanished through his thorough and effective care. He is truly living his dream and is rocking at it. It’s been so neat to watch him do his thing and hear the amazing stories that come out of it. Really. Read the stories on our website if you want a sampling.

-This guy is funny. Witty in a way I will never be and his patients love him for it. He makes me laugh every day.

-This guy is slow to anger, quick to forgive, and never loses his temper. I mean never. And from someone who overreacts about little things (yes, I admit it), that is a big deal. So I guess every fight we’ve had has been my fault? Things are getting real here.

-This guy can cook. He is the meat and grilling expert, but he can also bake breads and desserts, and he is much better at improvising a recipe than I am.

-This guy is GREAT with kids! I think it’s because he’s a kid at heart, but he has such a natural ability to connect with kids. He’s going to be a rockstar father.

-This guy is one with nature. He knows his flora and fauna for sure, and always impresses me with his identification of flowers, fish, bugs, etc. Plus he has style on a mountain bike.

-This guy has faith through hard times and humility in good times. He’s always optimistic, always hopeful, always looking for the good in others.

-This guy is my best friend. And that means the world to me.

Timing

April 14, 2014

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So it turns out that making a baby isn’t always easy, and it doesn’t necessarily happen according to our time frame. We didn’t have a short or easy journey getting to this point. Many tears have been shed and prayers have been prayed to create this little bump. We sent two angels to heaven before this one decided to stick around.

When we first decided to give it a shot, pregnancy came quickly and ended just as quickly. We were distraught, but optimistic that the next time would work. We hadn’t been pregnant long enough to connect with the baby, so we felt shock more than grief. We decided to wait 6 months before trying again due to life circumstances, but when we again said, “Okay, it’s baby time!” we expected it to happen just as quickly. But it didn’t. Months went by. And more months. And more months. Months of hoping and praying. Months of negative pregnancy tests. Months of losing heart.  And in the midst of it all, I lost my dad.

A few months later, to our surprise, we had a positive pregnancy test. We hugged and cried tears of happiness, and I felt this was part of God’s plan of redemption. But right around 8 weeks, I started to spot. Just a little bit at first, and then a lot. An ultrasound revealed our baby and its happy little beating heart. “But,” the tech said, “I don’t think you’re as far along as you think you are. You’re only measuring 6 weeks 5 days.” Those words struck a chord of fear into my heart because I knew it wasn’t right. So I asked, “Could that mean the baby isn’t developing how it should be?” She shrugged. “That’s possible, but unlikely.” And we were sent home wondering if our baby would live or die. The bleeding stopped for a few days, and then returned. A week after the first ultrasound, I knew it was over. We went in for a follow up and were told, “I’m so sorry, I’ve looked and looked, and I just can’t find a heartbeat.” Our baby had lived for three days after the first ultrasound, then peacefully passed away.

And we despaired. Days of not wanting to get out of bed, of feeling that the future was bleak. Days of going to work and having to put smiles our faces. Days of yelling at God, asking him how he could take so much from us, why he didn’t protect the life we prayed so hard for. We wondered what was wrong and if we would ever be able to have children. Soon after, I prayed, “Father, please give us a child in 3 months.” And on the third month, he did.

We still have fears. We still pray protection over this little life. We still ask why and we still grieve for the two children we have lost and for my father. But we praise God for today and this moment, and the future to come. And we have to believe that the rainbow comes after the storm, and that healing can come from brokenness.

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Gratefulness

March 20, 2014

Full confession: I struggle to be grateful daily. In the bitterness of my spirit, reflecting on the hardships and grief of the last year, I think, “Pssshhht-what do I have to be grateful for?” Because it has been such a truly traumatic year, I quickly look past what blessings exist and instead find the lack. Discontentment is a regular struggle, but I hate the person discontentment turns me into, so I’m working towards change. And when I think about it, I remember…

-The absolutely perfect match John is for me, and all the sweet ways he looks to serve me (the man makes me breakfast almost every day–I mean, come on!).

-Just a month after my dad died, I was offered my dream job–planning mission trips for ZOE, an international organization that runs an orphan empowerment program. Watch the video to learn more about where I work, and why it is so amazing!

-John has the opportunity to practice what he loves every day, while also getting people out of pain and giving the gift of a healthy life. Though starting a business is certainly not for the faint of heart, and I have days when I worry, God continues to show his faithfulness by sending new patients through our doors.

-My sister also got her dream job (manager of the community garden and learning farm at Camp Chestnut Ridge), and it just happens to be only 45 minutes away from us (when considering an essentially nationwide search). The coincidence does not pass me by.

-Though we don’t yet own a house (one of my sources of discontent), we do have an absolutely charming little rental duplex with a fireplace and back yard, a complete upgrade from apartment life!

-Our new location allows us the flexibility to drive to the ocean or mountains for an easy day or weekend trip. Plus the weather–can we talk about the weather?

-We have incredible friends and family. I cannot emphasize this enough. And you are all SO special to us.

The prayer of my heart

November 6, 2013

This song is the last gift my dad gave to me. A few days before he died, he texted this song to me and my siblings. He had also played it for Mom and Craig at home. Erica and I listened to it together and appreciated it. The next day, he texted again to ask how we liked it. “It’s really good, Dad,” I said. “I really like Matt Maher.” And that was it.

He had never texted me a song before, so something about this one spoke to him. Maybe it was a song that brought him comfort when work and life got tough. Maybe he thought we could relate to it in the challenges of new jobs, moving across country, starting businesses, etc. Or maybe he just thought it had a nice sound. Regardless, he had no idea how this song would speak to us and our hearts in the days and months since he left.

We played it at his funeral, and it was the only time I cried throughout the service. I was too spent, too dried up, too exhausted by grief. And then I avoided the song for months-turning off the radio when it came on, leaving church when the band unexpectedly started to play it, because it unleashed a guaranteed flood of tears and the memories hurt. But today I’ve listened to it on repeat, because truly, it is the prayer of my heart. These days when grief seems to consume me, for my father and for the now two babies that have died in my womb, I can only hope for a better tomorrow, a day when the joys outweigh the heaviness.

So today, this song is my gift to you, too. May it bring you peace, comfort, and blessings.

Memories of my father

June 17, 2013

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On April 22nd, 2013, at the age of 57, my father went to be with Jesus. His passing was completely unexpected and the cause still unknown, though we know he went instantly and without pain. And I find myself in a place I didn’t expect to be for 25+ more years–fatherless.

I wrestle with why. I struggle with anger. But most of all, I am flooded with the memories of the best father I could have imagined. I see his face looking at me, smiling with his eyes. I hear his hearty laugh, the way it sounded after the telling of a joke or story. And I feel the sensation of his arms around me in a protective hug.   And I wonder how to go on, how to find happiness, without his presence in my life.

You see, loss was already a part of our vocabulary this year, as I lost a pregnancy some months earlier. The devastation of the miscarriage hit us hard, harder than I expected, and happiness had been hard to find. But the depth of my pain increased tenfold after that fateful phone call from my mother, letting me know that my father was gone.

But even despite the pain, I’ve learned. I’ve learned how lucky I am to have had a wonderful father for 28 years. I’ve learned what an impact my father left on the community and the legacy he has left. Through the endless casseroles, pies, meat platters, flowers, and cards brought to my mother’s house, I’ve learned how loving and supportive my hometown community is. And I’ve learned that tragedy does not have to defeat us–that we can and will choose to go on and still have a beautiful life.

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So to celebrate my father’s life, here area  few of my favorite memories of him.

-As a child, one of the best parts of my day was when my father would come home from work.  As a large animal veterinarian, he would arrive in his green coveralls, smelling like fresh air and farms. I would ask him, “Did you do anything besides cows today?” and I was always thrilled when he would tell me about the donkey, sheep, dog, or horse that he treated.

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-We grew up with a lot of nicknames, almost all of which came from my father. A few nicknames he had for me were Leonard (and just Len, for short), Mozart, Flip (and Flipper), and Kuda Butt (when I was a baby). Others in the family were nicknamed Bear Paw, Snoopy, Crankshaft, Babs, and more. I seem to have picked up this affinity for nicknaming from him.

-My dad had a wonderful green thumb, and we always had a huge garden. Potatoes, squash, lettuce, beans, carrots, onions, berries, asparagus, and more. We had enough to feed us all summer and fall, plus lots of produce that ended up in jams, pickles, or frozen for the winter months.

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-On Easter a few years ago, John and I went with my dad to attempt to capture some dogs that had been dumped on the side of the road and were running beside the highway. We were planning to catch them and bring them to a rescue, but we only managed to catch one of the five or so (they were not tame). Soon after we brought her home, it was clear that she was not going anywhere and Emma, a Shar pei mix, became a part of the family. For about a month she was afraid of all people, but eventually my dad won her over and she became such a sweet and affectionate dog. She found a way into his heart and he just loved that dog.

-My dad displayed absolute assurance and confidence with animals of any kind, and his expertise came in handy in so many cases, such as 1) freeing an angry raccoon from an (illegal) trap on our hobby farm in Minnesota, 2) stitching up the chest of our horse, Dannyboy, after he ran through a barbed wire fence, 3) helping a badger out of our window well, 4) giving immediate treatment to the family dog, Emma, when she had seizures, and 5) answering the countless questions on pet ownership that we kids have had now that we are adults.

-When I ran track and field in high school, my father was my biggest fan. I ran the same races he did in high school, the 400 meter and the 800 meter. He came to almost every race of mine, even when he had to leave work early or drive over an hour to get there. He would always stand in the same place, the backstretch of the track, because he knew the backstretch on the second lap of the 800 was the most difficult place. I never heard the voices of the others cheering for me, but I always heard my dad, yelling, “Stride out, Elena.”

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-My dad had a wonderful sense of humor. He got a big kick out of what I considered to be lame jokes, and he loved poking fun at his kids. He would also make up funny little songs, such as his own version of “O Christmas Tree” which goes, “O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, how ugly are your branches. They are so brown and all dried out, I wish that I could throw you out, into the brush pile where you belong, then light a match, goodbye so long.” He also had a song called “Rudolph, the Runny-Nosed Reindeer.”

-My dad had a heart for animals that were not wanted by farmers due to being too small or some sort of disability. As a result, we have had a blind cow, a couple of cows with a “dead” leg, and a cow whose front legs my dad fixed by constructing splints. He also had a habit of finding pigs that had fallen off a hog truck, so we raised four or five pigs that he found in that way.

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-One of the sweetest memories for me now is of course when he walked me down the aisle at my wedding. I knew he would be a little nervous because he doesn’t like to be the center of attention, but he did great and looked so handsome in his suit (which we rarely saw him wear!!). At his funeral, one of his friends said my dad told him that my wedding day was one of the best days of his life because I was marrying such a great guy.

–Lord of the Rings was my dad’s favorite movie series, and he loved Gandolf’s quote, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

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My dad grew up in South Dakota, and the place dearest to his heart is the Black Hills. We took a family vacation there many years ago, when I was in second or third grade. My dad always wanted to take us back as adults, and so, two years ago, we managed another family vacation to revisit the beautiful area. We spent the week visiting Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse monument, climbing the boulders at Needles Highway, being surrounded by thousands of Buffalo, visiting Badlands National Park, and just spending time together as a family. I think it was probably one of the best weeks of my dad’s life, and I am so glad we got to experience that time with him.

There are so many more memories I could share, but altogether they tell the story of the confident, hard-working, man of God my father was. We don’t know why he had to go, but we do know that when he arrived in heaven, he heard God say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Birthday at the beach

April 4, 2013

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Sorry for the radio silence this past month! For those who are wondering, we are settling in well to our new (rental) house in North Carolina, which is an adorable brick two-bedroom in a quiet neighborhood, only 5 minutes from downtown Cary and 15 from downtown Raleigh! We are still learning our way around the area (which has many more twisty, winding streets than I am used to in the Midwest!), but feel that we are starting to get the hang of it. John and I have both secured temporary jobs to keep us busy until the practice gets up and running in a few months–I’m working at a paint-your-own pottery studio, which is fun and stress-free, and John will be working for the Duke Divinity School’s Clergy Health Initiative (essentially doing health screenings for Methodist clergy members to test if the initiative is improving their health.) So far, we are loving North Carolina–the culture, 60+ spring weather, friendly people, beautiful landscape, and the great towns that make up the Triangle area.

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Now that we’ve been here a month we decided to take a day trip to the beach (with my sister and her dog) to celebrate my birthday! Though we are looking forward to exploring the Outer Banks later this summer, we decided to go to Wrightsville Beach, which is the shortest drive (2 hours away). It was overcast and in the 60’s for most of the day, but the sun came out later on. A couple of brave souls were swimming, but we’ll wait for warmer weather for that!

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It was Tassie’s first time to the ocean–she approved!

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We ate a picnic on the sand, with lots of yummy snacks from Trader Joes…

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…followed by ice cream cones from a shop on the beach. (Ironically, they sold Blue Bunny ice cream–shoutout to my hometown!)

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Throughout the day we got to see dolphins swimming, LOTS of pelicans, and a couple of these little guys. This one was dead, but we did see a live crab later on.

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The iconic Wilmington fishing pier–makes for a great photo opp!

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Later in the afternoon, the skies cleared up and the sun emerged. We drove 20 minutes south to Carolina Beach State Park to do a little hiking.

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The park lined the bay, and made for some scenic hiking. We found many oysters, tiny shrimp, and saltwater snails.

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It was a beautiful day, and I felt blessed.

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Farewell Minnesota, Hello North Carolina!

February 14, 2013

ImageThat’s right. In possibly our greatest leap of faith to date, John and I are moving to North Carolina to open a chiropractic office! We will be living in the wonderful city of Cary, just outside of Raleigh. This move is what we have been hoping, praying, planning, and waiting for over the past several years, and we are thrilled to finally be just a few weeks away!

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Many people have asked us, “Why North Carolina?” and my response has been, “Why NOT North Carolina?” Proximity to both ocean and mountains, beautiful evergreens and lakes, temperate climate, friendly people, and a great city. When you’re starting a business, you have the opportunity to choose where you’d like to live, and for us, North Carolina fit the bill.

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An especially awesome bonus is that my sister, Erica, also just recently moved to the area! Though we’ve thought it would be terrific to live near each other, we feel that God himself must have orchestrated this one by blessing Erica with a truly amazing job opportunity in Hillsborough, just 45 minutes from where we’ll be living. She has already moved to the area and has been taunting us with the weather report and new discoveries.

Over the next few months, we ask for prayers of blessing from each of you as we embark on this adventure: for a smooth move and good weather, for part-time jobs for each of us until the practice opens, for wisdom in decision-making, for an efficient process in building out the office and starting the business, and of course, that the business would just open with an explosion! We are aiming for a June open date (pending all goes well) but there is much to be done before then. As we venture into the unknown, there is a lot we could worry about, but we go forward with the absolute assurance that God has led us to this place and is opening doors for us.

We will definitely miss Minnesota and the Midwest, especially our friends and family in the area, but we couldn’t feel more confident that North Carolina is meant to be our home.