Kryptos Hedera

My original plan was to just trim the ivy as it quickly crept into my view of the back yard sprouting across the window; the roots permanently attaching to whatever surface it came into contact with. It may be pretty to look at and provides a great ground cover, but this plant can also be extremely invasive.
As I methodically begin the task of trimming this vine and that one, I noticed the extensive damage it had done to our window trim, exterior walls and even the window itself. Without pausing, I quickly decided to rip the entire plant off the wall and out of the ground.
It became immediately apparent that I was not the only one upset about this vine being ripped out and angered by the decay it had done to our home. Massive black spiders with bodies the size of my thumb nail scampered out from the displaced vines; up the walls and every direction on the ground setting off alarm to the mild arachnophobia this bug hating gardener has.
I had never been so thankful to have the bottle of Home Defense than at this moment, turning the situation into a battle of spider vs. bug melter with a quick trigger finger ready to spray until death. I turned into a human spider killer that refused to let anything flinching move a single one of their eight legs.

The parallel of the ivy plant to sin is almost identical.
Did you know that ivy is originally referred to as hedera? There are about fifteen different species of the climbing or ground-creeping plant.
At a distance, the ivy climbing on a brick wall creates a variegated green garden or a ground foliage that covers the forest floor. When you step closer, what you see is the ivy choking out the tree it's taken hostage by the thick, invading vines or roots that have taken hold to the outside walls, in some cases, vines that have grown into attic spaces under siding ruining the integrity of a home.
Every time I attempted to rip the brown, sunlight-starved vines off our exterior walls, pieces of paint would be tore off as well.

"And the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!"
1 Corinthians 14:25

Trifecta of Celebrations

Death. Marriage. Birthdays.
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven."
Ecclesiastes 3:1

"...a time to be born and a time to die..."

April 17th, 2018.
Grandpa Broersma (a.k.a Cookie Grandpa) passed away after a failing mind for the past few years and a brief battle with congested heart failure. Grandpa was a stubborn man which is why he fought so hard in the end. I had the honor of visiting with Grandpa in the hospital the day he passed.
Nothing was more touching than witnessing forever love having to say goodbye. Watching Grandma's silent tears stream down her face, knowing those hours were her last with Grandpa, spoke of such tenderness that grew in their relationship.
Being married into the family, I can't divulge any family secrets or stories growing up together. The few years I did have with Grandpa Broersma were profound.
Grandpa guided Tim and I financially giving advice into budgeting and even carrying a small loan for us in the beginning of our marriage. There was never a moment that wasn't teachable. Even when Tim would borrow a garden tool, there was a lesson in how to return it cleaned and put in the exact spot it was found. If I were to list two things that I learned from Grandpa they would be stewardship and wisdom.
How Grandpa lived his life, from taking care of his home and "stuff" he owned to how he managed his life, stewardship and wisdom would cover it all. A straight forward, no fluff, called it as he saw it type of guy. One that loved his cookies in the cabinet by the TV (which all the grandkids know about) to lunch at just the right time in his private office downstairs; Grandpa was precise, scheduled, predictable and yet, in the last few years soft and gentle, sweet and romantic.
You could, and still can, see Grandma glow when she talks about her marriage.
What an incredible gift that is to all the family and a gift to all the grandson's to witness.
Tim grew up across the street from Grandma and Grandpa so you can imagine all the stories he has from his earlier years. One of his favorite pictures is of Grandpa just letting go of his bike without training wheels while Tim takes off pedaling. All that you see is pride on Grandpa's face; excitement and joy on Tim's.
Grandpa, our kids miss you already and Tim has lost a legacy in your journey Home.

Death Clarified Life

"And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, "Surely He was the Son of God!"
Matthew 27:51-54

Death clarifies priorities.

Not the priorities on the 'to do list' for the day, but those priorities that lead to eternal life.
I catch myself getting caught up in the busy routine of life, chasing kids and my husband, when first, I should be chasing God and the family running after me. Those things that seem important for the day really could wait as many times it's just added noise.
I recently completed a thirteen week course on grief as my world turned upside down this past year and found myself needing to check this box off to reassure my grief was on the right track.
As informative as the class was, my biggest take away was a few key scriptures and phrases that will stick with me for a long while.

If there was no sin, there would be no reason for the crucifixion.
If there was no sacrifice on the cross, there would be no reason to hope.
If there was no death, there would be no resurrection.
If there was no resurrection, there would be no eternal life or forgiveness.

Jesus' death on the cross clarified our purpose as believers and extended eternal life to all sinners.
With any life altering situation, death or pain, it truly does clarify what's important to you.
Nine years ago, Tim and I sat on our living room floor on Good Friday, serving each other communion as our first marriage died and we allowed God to give us a second chance at us.
The betrayal clarified our focus on what was real and a priority in our family.
Without Jesus' death on the cross, there would have been no reason to fight for our marriage. There would be no reason to forgive or to seek mercy from others.

Without death there would be no hope.

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
Revelation 21:4

As I've been reflecting on Good Friday and what is to come on Sunday, I can't help but think about the good that has come from death.
Forgiveness. Grace. Mercy. Love. Hope. A reinstated purpose to live more for today.

God tells us in Matthew 6:34 to, "not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself." The challenge to stay in today is forever an issue as fallen humans living in a world of worry and fret.
The promise and hope in Jesus' death, is we know what is coming in three days... life.

"He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering...
For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."
Isaiah 53:3, 12b

If I Could Call You...

...I'd tell you about all the funny stories the girls have created recently and how big the kids are getting.
You'll love this one; I was so embarrassed.
The neighbors have a pussy willow tree that falls a little into our carport and the Little's noticed the fuzzy's in the sky. I decided to cut a small branch for the girls and used some others to display inside.
So far pretty innocent. Just wait.
The next day, when Myriam came home from school, the girls picked up their pre-cut stems, ran to the swings and around the backyard giggling and yelling at the top of their lungs, "Pussy, pussy, pussy!!!" One of those moments my hand couldn't get to their mouths fast enough as the neighbors were also enjoying the early spring sunshine listening to the vulgar sayings coming from the mouths of our little babes. 

Little, sweet baby number four continues to impress us with her knowledge and understanding of things no two year should know at her age. She sings to us, tells us her letters, points out her planets and can count when asked to. The unfortunate part of having a sponge for a mind and having older mouths coming and going is what she takes in when we don't realize it's even being said. Young uncle taught Bee a potty name that she repeats all the time not knowing what it means. Then, when I was being Mom and telling Bee not to play with the toilet brush and plunger, she looked up at me and scolded me stating, "That's b.s." 
Imagine my shock. Yeah. Not happy. Not sure where she heard that, but I'm telling myself it was a one time deal. Mom fail. 

Dad's been stepping up to the role of babysitter and doing a dang good job. He's still a major softy and can sometimes lose control of the situation easily which makes me laugh. One kid ate a shovel of dirt on his watch. Another time the diaper wasn't put on correctly as the little butt was a moving target which resulted in the next diaper draining down the leg. No painters tape was used though so I see it as improvement. Makes me laugh.

If I could call you, I know I'd hear you laughing hysterically to the chaos that unfolded.
I also know I'd hear you saying how proud you are of the Man Cub who is nailing his guitar lessons and doing awesome. Kid always has loved music and has a goal to play worship songs around our fire pit this summer. 
He's also good at spending money at Fairway Drug. Mama was not happy when he shared with me he spent $25 on candy and who knows what else. Almost made him return the junk, but most was already consumed. Maybe he misses all the spoiling and shopping trips by you and was trying to make up for that loss. Either way, I'm not sure I trust him with a nickel let alone a dollar bill!
Music seems to be a theme in the home actually. Myriam wants to take violin lessons and may start soon. She walks around with water bottles and sticks pretending to play. It's cute. I think the classical music and high range of notes could be soothing to her. 
I think you'd be floored knowing Addi is performing in her first musical this week. Yep, on stage, in a costume, in front of people and not shuddering in fear or backing off because she's shy. She privately teaches herself ukulele and just today, after two years, had her braces removed. 
It's terrifying. The pure beauty and innocence scares me. 

If I could call you I'd plan our trip to the tulip fields, but instead I'll tend to my own and wait in anticipation for the pink bulbs to bloom. The dogwood trees are showing signs of wanting to burst with pink flowers reminding me of how you loved spring and blossoms. Fragrant reminders throughout the gardens that make me smile when pulling weeds, trimming vines and yes, getting rid of the dead possum Addi stumbled on under the kitchen window. So gross. So ugly. 
If you could only see how fantastic Dad and Mom look. Crazy. You can't find anything sweet or crappy to eat in the house because it all has this healthy theme to it... unless Dad has treats hiding somewhere and not telling me. Baby brother wore his skirt again last weekend and rocked it playing the drums. 

If I could call you...
Well, the honest truth is that you did. No joke. They put your number back in service and gave it to some lady locally! Miss Bee grabbed my phone months ago and ended up calling you, well this person, hanging up and then that number called me back. Oh you would have been bent over laughing at me when I answered. I had a conversation with myself out loud as this stranger listened in confusion to me. 
"Traci, is that you? No wait you're dead. Traci? Come on it can't be her. You know better. 
Is this 319-XXXX? Are you Traci. Steph, come on. Get it together. Hello?"
Turns out this lady (I actually thought she was a man until she corrected me because her voice was so deep and raspy. I secretly gave her the name of Ol' Smokey.) got stuck on a family thread and after weeks of receiving these threads started to ask about our cousin. Next thing I know Ol' Smokey wanted me to come to her house and tell her what was needed to be approved as a foster home for her grandkids. I think Smokey thought she'd found a new best friend. Seriously, I think you planned this one just to give me some more crazy in my life. The extended family certainly got a good laugh from this too. 

If I could call you...
Well, if I were to be totally honest with myself...
I don't think you'd answer. 
If I were walking the streets of gold with Jesus and all my Bible Hero's, I'd let the machine take a message and send memories in the budding season and hummingbirds too. 
I know this because you did this week.
Until we can sit together and have eternal chats, keep the birds coming. 
I miss you sister. 

Whatcha Reading?

The table next to my prayer chair usually has multiple books in a stack that are all being dabbled in at one given time. Whether it be articles or essays, read many of those lately, or a book on random topics, I have it sitting next to me. I wish I had more time to read and have found that to be an area of discipline in my life needed. I love nothing more than to get lost in a good story or find challenges and inspiration from true stories. Here are a few I have read over the past few months. 

Marilyn was a friend of my sister Traci. I met her many times and always heard stories of the family through Traci. She writes a beautiful memoir of loosing her son to war and the lament that followed. I was challenged in my own lament reading through the pages, but also found it extremely encouraging as I was walking through grief.  Anyone who has lost a loved one by war should read this. 

I just finished this short book about a Dad who lost three loved ones in a tragic car accident; his mother, his beloved wife and four year old daughter. Heartbreaking story, but Jerry Sittser writes in a gentle approach that conveys hope, faith and finding growth through grief. All three loved ones are buried locally with ties to our small town. Sittser also has some great lectures on YouTube. 

I would read this again and again. I find something new revealed to me every time I read this. Addison recently read this copy as well; Auntie Traci's favorite book. You can apply any situation into this story. Yes, a fiction, but I find so many parallels to faith and how we should live in this story. I can't say enough good things about this book! Based from the scripture in Habakkuk 3:19, this story comes alive as Much Afraid finally reaches the High Places.

Double Digits

Oh Charlie.
Mama's Man Cub.
It's unreal that time flew by this fast and you are now living in the double digits; ten years old. 
You were an active little cub in my tummy and things outside have not slowed down much at all. 
Playing basketball probably ranks top on your list of things to do. You are just as compassionate on the court as you are off; putting others first and making sure everyone is included. You are a natural teacher and that shows even in the home. 
Sure, all the princesses can be obnoxious and a bit dramatic, but you can be as well. Baylee has officially surpassed your time out drama fits with her Irish temper. You still show us glimpses of that drama here and there which, you can attest to this, are usually met with laughter from Mom and Dad as you allow the girls to get the best of you. 
That said, you are the perfect brother and protector of these princesses you call sisters. God gave you such an incredibly important roll as their one and only brother. Thank you for loving them, playing and joking around, engaging into toddler activities and accepting them for who they are. 
You have a huge heart. You are a servant. You are handsome with a beaming smile. You are caring, thoughtful and athletic. 
Mom and Dad have so many prayers for you, but first and foremost, is that Jesus becomes real to you; that you would pursue a relationship with the Creator who gave you life. 
We are so proud of you for conquering so many things this past year. 
Ten years old. Hard to believe. 
We are excited to celebrate you and wish you...
Happy Tenth Birthday!

 { Life in a house of girls. }

 { Love is the root; even though it may appear they could possibly tear each other apart. }

 { Basketball adventures with the Ninjas. }

{ No fear; always willing to try something new! }

If You Say So...

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around Him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. 
Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep waters and let down the nets for a catch."
Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. 
But because you say so, I will let down the nets."
When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.
Luke 5:1-6

Jesus qualifies you for who you will become.
The life of Peter is a perfect example of this truth. Jesus saw this ordinary fisherman and immediately changed his name to one that means, the rock or a stone.

 "Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" 
(which, when translated, is Peter)."
John 1:42

A name that speaks of firmness and perseverance; trustworthiness and devotion. 
What an incredible honor to have Jesus see into your heart and call you out on what's to come. Terrifying actually. Think about this...Jesus, the All Knowing, sees into Simon Peter's heart and calls out his obedience in front of large crowds knowing Simon Peter has the human nature to do otherwise. Simon Peter, after a long night on a rickety wooden boat without rain jackets, GPS systems, coast guard approved life vests and a hot thermos of coffee, is asked to go back and fish some more. I would imagine the man was exhausted, hungry, cold and wet and possibly physically sore from handling the vessel all night long. There were no cranes or jimmy-rigs to help bring the nets in the boat; this was completely done by strength alone. 
Then, Jesus says, "Put out into deep waters."
Honestly, I think I would have put up some fight, but Simon Peter was quick to the test and immediately responded with, "Because you say so."

Peter wasn't the only one who replied with "because you say so."
We read about Abraham in Genesis 22:1-4 being tested by God.

"Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!"
"Here I am," he replied.
Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about later."
Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out of the place God had told him about."

Sure thing, God. I'll just take my only son and get right on that.