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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful & Blessed

Today I reflect on the over abundant blessings in my life. God has been so good to me and I'm simply thankful.

A warm bed to rest my tired head.
A safe home to lay in ease as my family recharges for the day to come. 
Warm coffee.
The furnace that keeps the chill out of the air. 
A body that is in commitment to get me from point A to point B. 
Cells that produce healthy blood flowing through my veins.
Clothing; whether I see it as old or in style with today's fashions.
Manners that say please and thank you.
A safe vehicle.
Taste buds that enjoy a delicious meal.
Seasons of change.
Twinkly lights that sparkle.
Lotion to meet the needs of cracked skin in the dry weather.
Doctors with the knowledge to treat illness.
Physical therapy; like it or not.
Laughter until I pee my pants (TMI?).
Mountains that get me running.
A good pair of shoes; running or for fashion.
A snickers bar.
International family.
Clean water; for showering or drinking.
My wash machine.
Awesome drying racks (Thanks IKEA).
Church family.
Honey snuggles on the couch.
Dutch Bakery buns.
Ice covered crisp leaves.
Air fresheners.
 Jobs that are enjoyed.
Creative bones to create.
The ability to make a choice. 
Right vs. wrong
Vacuum cleaners and dusters.
Worship music.
Stretchy pants for after a big meal. 

The list could go on for pages, but ultimately, I'm thankful for what is close to me most:
My family.
Our time on earth is short compared to the time we spend next to God in Heaven for eternity. 
I think of Grandpa Van Dyken and the memories that have stayed close to me all twelve years in his absence. Watching Mr. Bean with the kids, I chuckle thinking of Grandpa Haak hysterically laughing and crying with every contorted face he makes. There are great relatives, friends and young kids who all made an impact in my life that I am thankful for. 
Life can be gone in an instant and today, I'm holding those closest to me a little tighter in gratitude for what I currently have in my life. My family brings me joy, contentment and much laughter. 
I am overwhelmed with thanks today.
Jesus, we offer our lives to you in thankfulness for what you graciously gave to us. 

Happy Thanksgiving. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

October Recap

The month started with Tim and I recovering from Jet Leg as we adjusted back to life after Cambodia. In my planning for our trip, I forgot about the 12 mile run I committed to days after returning. Thankfully, we had gorgeous weather and the views were spectacular; east and west, oceans and mountains. The four of us ran with the Cascade Mountain Runners which gave us extra peeps to chat with as we climbed to the top and ran back down all to meet at the Acme Diner for milkshakes and snacks. Unfortunately, my tummy was not so accepting of dairy and sugar back home in the states so I watched others as they chowed down on pie and ice cream. 

{ The kids had an awesome time making waves at the Great Wolf Lodge. }

 { Stoney Ridge Farms }

Sadly, this will be the last year we tour the pumpkin patch, visit the farm animals and savor the warm fall treats at Stoney Ridge Farms. After years of business they are closing the doors, but regardless, we have been able to capture some amazing moments at the expense of many others preparing the farm for thousands of kids to explore. Addison invited her friend from Mp3, Kayden, and Charlie sought out for the best pumpkin to carve. Myriam had a moment at the patch, but we were able to work through it after a few embarrassing minutes for Mommy. We ended our time with yummy pumpkin donuts and continued play dates at home. 

And with a couple weeks to go before the GoRuck Light event I have been diligently training for, I went ahead and tore my calf muscle. To get all medical on you, a grade 2 gastrocnemius calf tear. Next to childbirth, this was the most painful thing I have physically experienced. Our family at E2 Fitness Center has gone over and beyond in providing help to our family as I've been unable to do anything besides sit in my chair with my leg up, heated, iced and popping Tylenol when the pain is to much to handle.  Thanks to my family and friends (Mom, Melissa & April are Rock Stars ) meals for our family, fresh flowers from the garden and care packages filled with sweets, treats, wine and things to do all keeping me from going stir-crazy in my recovery, have been graciously delivered. Myriam has had some fantastic play dates with cousins and friends making the TV take less parenting credit. I started physical therapy and have an intense love-hate relationship with Eric as he feels the need to make me sweat, cause my body to shake and curse his name while "massaging" (more like digging, kneading and giving my leg a tap, tap, tap like an attaboy.) in attempts to encourage my muscle to thread itself back together. No cute heeled boots or holiday shoes for me. I traded those in for a fancy boot that should give me some assistance in walking again. 

{ Thankful for NCCTK live stream from home! }

{ Charlie & Brevin at his last football game. }

{ Russell, Poodles & Biker Chick ready for the Harvest Carnival. }

And with that, October wraps up to be a successful month of graded homework assignments, projects completed, dancing in the leaves had and the official start of listening to Christmas music beginning. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Attitude in the Face of Reality

At this point nothing should surprise me, phase me or shake me in disbelief of, "What's next?" The glass has always, well, most of the time, attempted to be half full verses half empty. The bigger picture has been the perspective of most detours over the years. Most problems lead to other opportunities not expected or planned originally. I would grade my attitude to be that of a positive one with a few brief moments of panic quickly diverted by the truth in my foundation. 


Currently, my faith is that of a seed wondering why it's grown tall and strong only to be knocked down. It started Friday when my sister was given the results to her recent PET scan after failed attempts of a bone and CT scan were done to find the active cancer somewhere in her body. Results show that now the cancer has entered her liver and can be seen hovering in other bone areas which are new compared to the last scans. Spine, legs, hips, pelvis, arms, shoulders...if cancer could be killed by sheer faith than Traci would have survived this cancer a thousand times over and over. 
I, and others, would agree that the hardest part in this long journey would be that of watching two parents strive to find the best, most affective treatment plan for a daughter unable to do so on her strength alone. 
My Hero has been incredible as she retains the promise of eternal life, of eternal healing and purpose throughout this battle against breast cancer. She has remained tall and strong against all odds; faithful to her Maker. She embodies Hebrews 12:1, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by a cloud of great witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." 
Traci is a woman of endurance most of us shudder to think of when running a race almost nine years long. Everyday she runs a new hundred mile journey just to wake the next day to do it again. More needles, newer treatments, possible hair loss for a third time and knowing that today is her new normal; today's pain level the new standard.
I've been training for the most physically challenging event I have ever done. It has added pounds on the dumbbells in more frequent blocks with squats, lunges and push-ups closely behind after a weighted training run is complete. There is no denying that my body has felt the pain of training for the GoRuck Light. I feel the strongest physically and mentally I have ever felt before. Ask me to go for a long run and I can quickly adapt to the distance. My chicken wings have never been made of much muscle so this event was exciting as I was completely changing the way I mentally entered a work out. That all changed yesterday just two minutes into a group run through town. 
All it took to change the course of my plans was a pop and snap of my calf muscle which turns out to be a grade two tear. Crutches are my new friend along with the ice pack and Motrin. If I want to run again, I've been advised to listen when the doctor says to stay off my leg for up to six weeks with the ever so slightly entrance of movement and added weight back to the muscle. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I quickly needed to pull up my big girl panties, wipe the tears of sheer pain and discouragement off my cheeks and 
get on with this new reality. 
I mean, this is exactly what Traci has been doing for her ultra-run, right? I struggle to think of a moment where she let an injury take her spirits down longer than what it takes to down a glass of wine. There have been countless times of serious redirection in her treatment plan causing her to pause, re-group and wake up refreshed and ready for the next change of course. 
As I sit on the couch, shower seat in place, crutches and knee scooter ready for action, I can't stop but think about how silly it is to fuss over my one injury when Traci expects these setbacks regularly. Sure, I can be upset and frustrated, but the reality is this: What am I made of inside that will be the true attitude of my outcome? I pray it will be that of strength and endurance much like my sisters. My race will look different than that of my team mates come November 14th. A bad attitude will get me nowhere; my only option is to look for the good and take advantage of my new view. 
What finds me laughing a bit is how quickly Traci wants to come home to take care of me! That is my goal; my inspiration. To face my new reality with the perspective of hope for a better day knowing God has me running 
His race not mine. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Wolf Pack of Fun

For Christmas last year, my parents gifted our families 
with a weekend of fun at the Great Wolf Lodge. We finally coordinated our schedules and splashed our way through the wave park and ropes course. The last time we visited this place was days after being accepted by our birth parents to adopt Myriam. Tim and I were recounting those moments over the weekend. Time has certainly flown by and the kids are all so much bigger! 
Myriam tackled the Musical Canyon water slide making us repeat the flight of stairs multiple times after a ride of screams and laughter were had. Charlie managed the wave pool without a life jacket and had no problem mastering the outside, four story high rope course. The kids spent over an hour zip-lining, walking across tight ropes, sky-high obstacles and overcoming a fear of heights as they were securely harnessed in way up high. Myriam had a ground level ropes course of her own until she peed and had to quickly race to our room to change to enjoy some more fun downstairs. Yeah, I know...still not 100% trained, but I'm thankful for the 95% that she is most of the time. Auntie Traci taught Charlie how to tie his new Nike shoes which he was quite proud of himself for doing in one night. our trip there and back went pretty well considering the typical Seattle/Everett traffic. Thank you Papa and Nana for another fantastic family trip making memories and thank you Jesus for keeping us all safe on the road!

{ Conquering the Tornado with Daddy. }


 { The girls waiting to get into the water park first thing in them morning. }

 { Arcade fun with Papa & Nana. }

 { Flying high at the ropes course. }

 { Charlie up high & Talan in the green one story below. }

{ Myriam figuring out how to work the harness and ropes. }

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Not Just a Month, but 8.5 Years of Awareness

October is breast cancer awareness month. Not that I or any of our family needs to be reminded of the significance of breast cancer and path 
of destruction it creates. 
1 out of 8 women will be diagnosed with this disease in their lifetime. 
Traci happens to be the one in our pack of eight. 
The news will never be pleasant and the moments leading up to her first surgery almost nine years ago, were some of the ugliest moments of my life. Addison was only two years old and the other kids have only ever known Auntie to be sick, bald or too weak to wrestle. Addi and I often took the train down to Portland to visit Traci and many sleepovers followed as the years pasted on. The disease spread not only to her lungs, but continues to advance throughout her bones. There's been two bald parties after I shaved her head shinny and too many conversations of terrifying results that quite possibly could have given us more more worry than we fretted over. The tumor markers keep rising which causes fear of the unknowns for the outcome. 
One thing stands as the hero in this journey. Faith. 
Traci's faith has been an example to many around her showing how good God still is as she fights everyday for her health. She is the prime example of what not giving up looks like. 
A few weeks ago, my husband was doubled over with food poisoning. As he struggled to keep water down, he made a remark that, yet again, reminded me of the eternal strength my sister fights with, "Traci has done this everyday for years. I have nothing to complain about."
Recently, a few of my e2 friends ran a race most would not give two seconds of thought towards. This is just one story of how Traci has influenced others through her struggle with cancer. This is what he says...

{ Josh, Tami, Kyle & Ken }
"We don't know each other, but we belong to the same family, and I see that our Abba Daddy has moved only as he can.  
I have a little story I would like to share and that I hope will bless you in some way.  

As I worked and trained to run the White River 50, I experienced such clarity and connection with the Holy Spirit.  It was one of the hardest, physical, emotional and spiritual journeys of my life, and I am continuing to see the fruit of that.  Some of that fruit is found in the #319.   When the opportunity came to choose the number I would race with, instead of choosing on my own, I just prayed.  I prayed that the number that I would run with would have a greater significance than just being a number.  When my number showed up, Habakkuk 3:19 came to mind and I was immediately drawn to its significance for my own race through the mountains and all that I would face on July 25th.  I felt His presence and blessing in what He had given me.  That this hard thing that He had called me to, and drawn me so close to Him in would be completed with Him, under His strength, not mine.  When Steph grabbed me at church before our run, showed me her tattoo, and told me your story; I felt His presence and blessing all the more.  I knew that the Holy Spirit was showing me the greater significance in the number I was given and what I was to do on the day of the race.  I, not even knowing you or having met you, would run for you and pray for you when things got hard for me on the trail.  Your "trail" has clearly been more difficult than mine - 2 massive surgeries, piles of pills each day, loosing your hair, and all of the other stuff that comes along with cancer.   I know that just like for me in the hard things of this life,  Daddy has been with you each step of the way, He has brought "family" alongside to "run" with you, "walk" with you and even "crawl" with you. He has given you the strength to not give up.  He is with you, His power is being made perfect in you, and all of those that are being touched by your amazing life and story in Him.  
As I sat in church this morning praising Jesus; it came over me again that it is in the hard things, that all of the best things happen in and around us to bring us closer to Him. I also had the thought that you are quite possibly going to win the biggest and best race of all...the race home to sit on Daddy's lap.

I hope to meet you someday and to hug the lady that ran 50 miles in my heart and prayers."

This is what awareness looks like. It changes people. Impacts people. Encourages us to keep going and to never give up. 
Traci, you have made us all aware of the incredible power of God's faithfulness as you fight each new day with the fuel of the Holy Spirit guiding you; leading you; carrying you to the ultimate finish line. God has never once left you, or those racing with you, alone in this battle. Though the mountain may seem impossible to climb, we still move forward because there is beauty to be seen in the journey. I am eternally grateful for having the chance to be your sister and for our kids to have the strongest Auntie cheering for them in life. 
Thank you for showing us what a warrior of faith, a child of the Lord's army, looks like under battle. 

I continue to run for all of my Hero's:
Traci, Gigi, Lorna, Aunt Carol, Victoria and Kathy
All in the fight or restored. You amaze me. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Can She Really Be 11?

In the rush of packing and organizing where everyone will be and go during our trip, was Addison's 11th birthday! Thanks to some dear friends, we were able to enjoy the last of the hot summer sunshine as Addi and her friends splashed in celebration. 
I honestly can't believe it's been 11 years since I held her for the first time. 
Oh, those sweet moments where it was just the three of us and there was no pull of attention from others. It's amazing how you can look at your babies face and years later still see those engaging eyes, the innocence of her youth and need for mommy to still hold and snuggle what I see as my baby girl. How the newborn face then changes into a pre-teen, but still holds the qualities you held for the first time...it was like yesterday. Oh, sappy moment. 
Addison, Daddy and Mommy were smitten by your beauty from the moment we met you and still are stunned by your beauty today. God has helped you walk through some silent moments and gave you a voice that now encourages, has fun, shares advice and offers compassion to those that need it. You have made solid friendships that we all adore and know that Jesus loves you which gives you a foundation for life. We are so proud of how hard you study for school and love to see your gift of creating things turn into beautiful art work. I love that my love for organizing things has been passed on and that you have a talent of styling hair. Daddy loves that he has a riding partner for his motorcycle. 
You balance us well!
Thank you for trusting us with your life. Thank you for giving us grace in our parenting and forgiving the first time try-outs as we grow with you. Thank you for always offering to help even when you don't feel like it and being an amazing big sister...button pushing and all!
If you can slow down the growing up I would appreciate it...
Knowing that won't happen, thanks for wanting to still hang out with your Dad and Mom, for going and having your nails done together and for still needing a snuggle or two. Your beauty goes further than skin deep as Jesus flows through you like a shining star. Addison, you are a complete joy to watch as you grow and mature. Happy Birthday Sweets!

{ Pool Party }

{ Annie, Addi, Kayden, Eve, Jordan, Teija, Darla & Pearl }

 { Shark bait, Crunchy Seashells, Long Boards (bacon per request), Fish Chum & Pool Noodles. Addi choose to make her own cake and did a fabulous job. }

{ Thank you Hollie for the delicious Cake Pop Beach Balls! }

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Marriage Revived

Dysfunctional communication.
Intimacy misplaced.
Secrets locked in hidden places.
Submission abused.
Disoriented expectations of marriage expressed.

Same struggles. Different culture. Same goals. Different expectations.
There is no difference in the struggles marriages in Cambodia cope with than those dealt with in America. Our cultures are vastly different making the goal of a fulfilled marriage much more challenging as expectations are not met and simple lessons not taught. Understanding a little of the culture will prove the success of what happened last weekend as we invited Hans Molegraaf from Marriage Revolution, to speak at New Life Church in Phnon Penh. 

In order to best learn about the culture marriages live in, I had to ask lots of questions. What I learned  was that essentially, marriages are set up for failure. Men are free to live out their sexual desires, but women are expected to stay pure until they wed. Communication is unannounced and conversations are simply non-existent. If you have anything positive or negative to say, it's just not said at all. Holding hands in public is not accepted and even within the home, intimacy on a playful note is not familiar to this culture. Most families sleep in the same room making sexual tension creatively impossible. Much of the young marriages have no example to follow as many of the generation before was lost in the war. Divorce is uncommon as it's expected of you to stay in an unhealthy, unhappy marriage rather than divorce. 
This is a set up for complete failure. Far from God's intentions of marriage.

I don't believe for a minute that those married want to live like this. I believe it's because they don't know any better or have been taught anything other than what they know. That's what made this weekend so incredible.

Tim and I both knew that we we're called to lead a marriage conference in Cambodia. We also knew there were others better than ourselves to make it happen. The layout of the conference was broken into a few sessions; one for just pastors and leaders of the local church. Tim and I offered support, friendship and prayer as we allowed Hans to share what he's been taught through his marriage. His message is simple: It all relates back to Christ. 
What we experienced after the first session brought us to tears. First, was the unashamed worship resulting in many crying out to God, praying, shouting and singing in many voices to a God that some have just been introduced to and others known for a few years. There was no fear of singing a wrong note, worry about hands held high for too long or boundaries of staying in your seat. It's been awhile where I was brought to tears watching others worship; I can best sum this up by saying it was genuinely unique. 
As Hans found his groove pausing for the translator and keeping his thoughts in order, couples quickly flipped through the pages of notes we had printed for them. It didn't take long to engage these folks. They were hungry for marriage education even if we did ask them to work through awkward projects turning face to face with each other. After the first project, we saw tears, hand holding, a spark being lit and men comforting their spouses. Pastor Sophea asked for couples to share what they had learned after the first session...unreal. I quickly joined in, sharing a few tears of joy, only a few hours into the conference. God was already working in the hearts of the couples in attendance. 

Hans continued to passionately share with a group of Life Giving Network (LGN) pastors and their wives the next morning and again that evening to the entire group. I had noticed one women struggling during worship in the small group gathered. As Hans spoke about accountability among pastors and how to maintain community when in a place of leadership, my heart gravitated towards the women in supporting roles. There were intense interactive conversations and confessions coming into the open and being shared. An extremely powerful time as they learned that community was found together and with each other. 

Later that night, the content was more about the roles of a husband and wife; not an easy topic in this culture. I was able to share a little about how forgiveness played an important role towards my submission to my husband. First, as I was submitting to Christ, and secondly, how in the act of being obedient to Christ, I extended forgiveness to Tim. This then led to more one on one time as couples shared with one another; where more healing was taking place. 

One woman shared that she never seeks counsel with her husband and wants to help him be a better leader which means she needs to seek advice from him and listen to his ideas.
Another woman said she now feels she has the power to speak in boldness, in Christ, to her husband when he's being abusive.
A young man stood up and shared with the group how he only ever shares the negative issues with his wife and felt guilty for not speaking 
into her; encouraging her. 
Another guy stood up, his wife by his side, and said he has never spoken a word of encouragement to his wife before and wants to change that. 
Many couples commented that they now see they need to give each other forgiveness in one area or another after harboring bitterness for a long time. 
A few told me they were excited to go home and tape the project instructions to their walls so they could continue the work once home. 
After a time where couples were asked to pray together; face to face, holding hands and asking for forgiveness, I noticed one couple struggling to speak yet alone face each other. It was the same lady that had tears streaming down her face the day before. I silently sat in front praying for them as I tried to examine their faces. I couldn't take it any longer and walked over to them. 
Pain is a universal language. 
This wife was experiencing the pain of betrayal and struggling with how to navigate the emotions that were overwhelming her. I was honored to share a little of my heart with them together and pray over them as a couple. It was a beautiful thing to see this relationship find traction in healing together and learning ways to communicate with each other as both husband and wife were given new tools to implement within their marriage. Being apart of this couple expressing the desire to reconcile their marriage was a highlight for Tim and I.  

We take for granted that we can drive to a book store full of self-help and proclaimed step-by-step guidelines to fix our problems. The people in Cambodia have access to books, but many have not been taught to enjoy reading. It's on a must have, stand by rather than a hobby of choice. With poor communication and many just learning about Jesus, finding healthy marriages with a steady heart beat is rare. Watching many couples come alive; laughing together, praying tougher and diving head first into the painful projects was a bigger deal than words can express. You got a sense of healing taking place as couples sat alone seeking God to speak to them directly and also together as they worked through difficult topics. You saw husbands comforting their wives as they shared hard stories of the past. The prayer is these couples and pastors of out-skirted villages, will take the conference booklets back home and read them over and over. That they would continue to dig deeper into God's Word learning and seeking biblical counsel as applied to their marriage. 

Tim and I felt honored to sit in the back and to be blessed attending Marriage Revolution as we sharpened our own marriage. We thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Hans on a personal level and to see God work in his heart as he offered his story to strangers. The impact of a stronger marriage will influence all the young kids that scattered under our noses. The newly married and those expecting were given great advice and encouragement that will set them up for success to example to their own families. To witness this was a gift. In a society that hears and sees much about separation, divorce and discontentment, this was a glimpse of hope that Cambodia will someday have healthy marriages, strong Christ-centered marriages from border to border. 

Same problems. Same struggles. Different area of the world. 
Our need for Jesus to be the true foundation, vibrant and alive in all our marriages is very much the same. 

 Our marriage is a testimony to many who prayed for us and to a God that saves all that is good; all that is ugly. Nothing stands unworthy of His grace.