Thursday, November 2, 2017

Letting go of the Malignant.

Malignant, benign, I had heard these words before but usually in the context of cancer or a tumor. We hold our breath as we wait for test results to return. Is it malignant or benign? Listed among the definitions of malignant are words like, vengeful, mean, nasty, hurtful. In contrast benign is described as gentle, kind, warmhearted. Phew, we let out a sigh when we hear that the mass of tissue is just benign. But what about clutter? In his book, "Loose the clutter loose the Weight", Peter Walsh suggests that the masses of stuff that gather around our houses have the same potential to add good or bad emotions to our lives. I surely had never looked at my stuff in this way. And so I began to look around. Is there anything in my environment that could be malignant I asked myself? As I began to listen to the narrative in my mind I realized that the answer is,  "yes".Without realizing it every object is speaking to me everyday. I am a super visual person so this is really powerful for me. Just like how things for me are, "out of sight out of mind" the opposite is also true..."in sight on my mind."Some messages are simple, but they all stack up. The noise sounds something like this:
I need dusted, if you were skinnier you would fit into me, you have no discipline, I need organized, please iron me, put me away, I'm broken fix me, I 'm ready to go please deliver me to the next person, touch me up, straighten me, read me, file me,  buy something that matches me, I'm tired, I'm a color you no longer like, my sleeves are tight, my fabric is scratchy, and on and on the volume rises.


There is a picture that I've had on my bedside table for lots of years now. It was taken 6 years ago this Christmas. Those of you who know my story know that I had a ruptured appendix that was unidentified for 10 days. The short version of this event is that I nearly died and it was awful. The photo on my bedside table is me with my three littles, we were at the Christmas tree farm. My appendix was scheduled to be removed in a couple of days and we were going to get the tree up before my surgery not knowing how my recovery would go. I remember paying extra attention as I applied my makeup that day. Red lipstick, a sparkly red top and a rhinestone necklace. I wanted everything to be just right. I was savoring everyday and mindful in the dark quiet places of my heart that I wasn't fully out of the woods yet and I wanted every photo to be special in case it was my last. The weather was mild and we got a darling photo of the three kids in a sled and Mommy there with them. I always liked that my face is thin in this picture, but the truth is that I had rapidly lost weight when life was slipping through my fingers, this is no reason to be skinny. Henrik my little man has a sad expression in this photo like he somehow knows what's going on. I've kept the picture out in a way to say to myself, never forget. Treasure each day. And yet when I look at this picture every time I think about being sick and weak, and the sorrow of that season.

By God's grace I have experienced healing and a new season of strength. Today I'm replacing that picture. Two frames are going on my table. The first one is a picture of Adam and I on our family vacation to Tennessee this past spring. When I look at it I am transported back to the exact spot. It's a warm spring day and the water is rushing behind us. Adam has his arm tightly around me to steady me as we are close to the waters edge. The kids are all laughing as the camera is in Brooke's hand and in the frame before this she caught us stealing a quick kiss. The second picture is  a current photo of my three strong beautiful kiddos. Their heads close together and healthy smiles that warm my heart. It's not that we forget the past, it's impossible to, but lets move forward and live, really live in today.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Moving Mountains

Less than a month ago I had a garage sale. I thought I'd "combed" through everything throughly and at the end of the day my husband stuffed every inch of his pick up truck and drove to the donation center. Phew...I thought, my house should feel lighter, like it went on a diet. The truth is my house was still fat.

I was feeling a mix of frustration and inspiration as I would tidy up my house each day. I was grasping for a feeling and not quite landing on it. Everything was "organized". I love to sort, file and label. I know all about grouping like items together and using matching containers to achieve a uniform look. Why after all of this organizing was my house still feeling like it was fighting me when I went to straighten up. The root cause...too much stuff.

I put on new goggles and really looked at the stuff that had become familiar, comfortable in my environment. I got really honest and kicked a lot of stuff to the curb. I've made trips to the donation center several times a week and sold so much on my neighborhood Facebook site that neighbors are starting to ask if we are moving.

An amazing thing is starting to happen. It is contagious! My husband cleaned off his desk declaring that he has caught my decluttering fever. My son sorted through his clothes and we no longer argue about what he wears because everything that is left in his closet are things that he chose. My youngest daughter who is a treasure keeper and inherits more clothes than there are days in a year asked if I could help her in her room. I never thought I'd see the day that she would get rid of anything. She has a happy spirit and likes everything so she tends to hold on to things, lots of things. As we went through her stuff a switch flipped and she started to catch the vision. For the first time she had a sense of her OWN style. She loves everything that sparkles. Her favorite shirt says, "glitter is my favorite color." Her big sister likes classic style and is drawn to simple gray shirts. As we sorted Alexa, my youngest daughter started to say, "plain, plain, plain," and tossed several items into the "No" pile. In the end everything she kept had sequins and kitty cats and things that make her light up.

I'm not sure if I should be proud or embarrassed of the mountain that came out of Alexa's closet. In the end she decided that she wanted to be done with having dressers in her room and decided to store hanging clothes in her closet and folded clothes in the hall closet (which was empty due to out efforts over the past couple of weeks.) We sold her dressers and night stand and now she can cartwheel in her room which in her world is one of life's greatest pleasures. I called a dear friend who came this morning and sorted through our mountain of clothes and left with arms full for her girls. I will be so happy when I see them at church or school giving life to some of our stuff. Most of it was given to us and it felt so good to pay it forward. After all, it's all God's stuff, sometimes it is just our job to clear it out and pass it out.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Things that spark Joy.

Relationships. I'm crazy about them. Conversations and time with others are what make me tick.  The highlight of my day is when the kids cram in the truck and tell me stories. One of my favorite quotes of all times is from Jay and Laura Laffoon, they do marriage seminars and they say," for women conversation is play."

So with this bit of information about me one might think that I'd be the gal that you'd find in coffee shops with a friend. Or that I'd be here, in the virtual world, blogging my thoughts. You'd imagine that I'd be playing and creating with my kids. The truth is where you find me most of the time is...cleaning. I often joke that my tombstone will say, Michelle-"The women who wiped things." Wipe the counter, wipe the dishes, wipe the table, wipe noses, you get the idea. But, before I can wipe everything there are endless things that need to be picked up, put away, organized. This chasing of things is swallowing up my life one moment at a time and I am fighting back.

I have recently discovered audio books and they are my new best friends. While I am wiping and picking up they keep me company and engage my mind. In the past couple of weeks I've listened to all three of Jennifer L.Scott's books on "Madame Chic", I've listened to "Good-bye Things" by Fumio Sasaki, "The life changing magic of Tidying Up"by Marie Kondo, and "The More of less." by Joshua Becker. Perhaps you see a theme. All of these books in some way focused on living well with less. And so I am on a mission. I am seeking to unbury my life from the stuff so that I can simplify and spend my time in relationships. After all they are the only thing that I can take with me to heaven.

Here is what I've learned/accomplished so far:

1.Focus on myself. often spend my time straightening up everyone else's stuff only to feel frustrated when they don't maintain my systems or appreciate my efforts. I've decided this time I will lead by example. I'm not touching anyone else's stuff without invitation. I began in my closet with Marie Kondo on my kindle like a coach by my side. I took her advice and got rid of anything that didn't, "bring me joy." Into the pile to leave went anything that needed repair...no more mending on my "to do "list. I got rid of most everything that I had gotten second hand and kept only what I had carefully chosen myself.
2.Keep what you love. My motivation all started with a new dress. While this is an exercise on having less that new dress makes me feel amazing and I want to have that feeling every time I get dressed. I've warned my family that they may just see me in this dress several times a week. I'm just gonna rock it out and wear it out. I'm done saving my good clothes for special days. I realized as I subtracted all that I didn't love that my true style came to the surface. When I'm choosing what to wear everything that I look at makes me happy. I am much more content with less.
3.Edit out the noise. Objects speak to us all day long. My book shelf full of things I intend to read is like a weight on my mind everytime I pass by. "Oh I really need to make time to read," my inner voice says with guilt. I know I've had many of the books for years and I feel like a disappointment to myself that I've not gotten to them yet. Good-bye guilt. You are going to the thrift store.
4.Sell it. My new favorite thing is our neighborhood garage sale site. I write a description, snap a picture, post and wait for money to show up. Yesterday while cleaning my garage I really looked at the shelf next to the door for the first time. It's a ugly shelf. It was left here by the previous owner and it collects junk as people walk in the door. It clogs the entrance point and collects clutter on the top and spider webs on the bottom. It annoys me. I posted it and in less than 5 minutes I had someone who needed it. Good-bye shelf, I'm so happy you're leaving.

I feel lighter. Free. Unburdened. It is like reverse shopping. Each day I visit my own space and say "Good bye stuff." I no longer have the urge to flit away time wandering through Target to see what trend I need to keep up with next. I like the stuff at my house. There is less to wash, wipe and pick up. Perhaps you will see me at the coffee shop, with a friend.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Leave your shoes at the door.

When asked, "What would you do if you knew it was your last day?" The response around the table was  universal and surprisingly simple. The answer was, "I would spend time with my family." In this way it is easy to relate with where we find Jesus during his last days on earth. He has arranged to have a meal with the ones that He is closest to. That meal has become famous and we know it as ,"the last supper."While it is not surprising where we find Jesus, it is amazing to learn what He is doing. John 13:4-5 says, "So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples feet, drying them with the towel he had around him." -What? Wait up...this is his last chance to..preach one more sermon, eat and drink to escape the the pain of the betrayal he know is coming, reveal the future, reminisce. When I get together with people that I know I have to say good-bye to for a long time I love to revisit the highlights of our time together. Jesus had amazing events that they could have reflected on. He could have said, "remember when I filled your boats so full of fish that they nearly sunk? or remember how I made lunch for the crowd of people with baskets left over?" No, instead of an ego inflating trip down memory lane Jesus gets down and starts to wash their feet.
Why did He do this? Actually, it suits his style perfectly. He was both a story teller, and an example setter. All through out his ministry He teaches through stories. He has one last chance, one last thing to cross off His bucket list and He gives one final object lesson. The meaning of it unfolds during his conversation with Peter.(John 13:6-17) At first Peter refuses to let Jesus do this servants job of washing his feet. To this Jesus replies, " unless I wash you, you won't belong to me." In this phrase the conversation turns from physical to spiritual. Jesus is no longer talking about the need for mud to be washed from feet. He is talking about the need to be forgiven through Jesus' act of love on the cross. If there was only one thing I could say to those I love this would be the message. Receive the gift of forgiveness of sins through Jesus. Only He can make our soul clean and ready to meet with God. Jesus continues on with the application, "You ought to wash each others feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you...God will bless you for doing this." The first picture is vertical...between us and God. We must be made clean. The second picture is horizontal, between us and the people in our lives. We are to offer service to others as the obvious application. Then we are to extend forgiveness to others just as Jesus, our example, has extended forgiveness to us.
The picture of washing feet was so powerful in Jesus' culture because it was something that was done over and over again. These men would think of this lesson whenever they entered a home and the servant washed the dirt off of their feet.In modern times this would be like removing your shoes at the door.  My friend Carinn tells a charming story of her Grandfather. In his home you walked into the door and removed your shoes by his desk. As a child she remembers him sneaking candy into their shoes to be discovered when it was time to go home. God promises to do this for us too. Serve others, offer forgiveness and you may just find candy in your shoes.

"Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Locking Arms...Reflections on "Dressember"

Ok so I know it is February, but January was a blur as we added a teenager to our family through an exchange student program. I am just getting to my entry about "Dressember", sorry about the wait.


$462K 
raised in the 2014 campaign!



One of my favorite phrases on Dressember's website says, "Women who are locking arms to face one of the greatest injustices of our time."
This imagery brings to mind the childhood game called "Red Rover."  To play this game all of the kids would lock hands together as tightly as they possibly could. Then the opponent would run towards you and try and break your "chain". 
One particular round of this game I can remember especially well. The cockiest, most athletic boy of the opposing team decided to run right towards me. Instead of breaking the chain, he busted my lip. He had run full force, with all of his might, straight into...my face. In retrospect I think if I had simply let go and let him run through it would have been much easier. This makes me think, what if we didn't always choose what was easier, more convient, most comfortable? What if we stood up, stood strong, and banded together so that the bullies couldn't get through. This posture is less of a fist swinging and more of a clenching of fists united. 
What an honor it was this past December to be a part of that kind of an effort. Through Dressember we were able to raise awareness, raise funds, and fight back by locking arms around the globe. 



Monday, February 9, 2015

Pillow Talk




Mama, Mama, Mama....

Over and over he calls my name. My youngest struggles between fitful sleep and the agony of fever when awake. Too weak to lift his head he calls me every few minutes for help. Just as I am starting to drift into that sweet place of sleep I again hear my name. "Mama", he calls in a weak voice. I will myself be awake. Like a band-aid stuck on skin my head does not want to lift from the pillow. I pray, "Lord, give me strength."From the depths of my spirit I find the strength to rise. I set my tired feet on the floor and go to help my sweet little man.

When I return to the pillow a beautiful thought settles over me. God never slumbers or sleeps. No matter how weary I am, He is never weary. He loves to hear me cry out to His name. His hearts desire is to walk along side me, just as He did in the garden with Adam and Eve. He never tires of me calling out His name.

"Abba Father, Daddy, I need you."

Psalm 121:1-8

 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
 He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
 indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
 The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
 the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.



Thursday, January 22, 2015

Turn Here

We had just spent a week of vacation setting up an office for Adam.We gathered all of the office supplies and files from around the house and organized them in this central command center. Adam cranked up the music on the newly installed surround sound and I was so happy to see him enjoying this little space he could call his own. The next day we got a phone call (isn't that what always what happens when we think we have life all figured out?) it was the coordinator who places exchange students. He asked if we would be willing to house a student for second semester. I laughed. "Well," I replied," our hearts are defiantly still open to the idea, but that room has just been turned into an office so there are some logistics we would have to work through." I told him I would talk it over with Adam when he got home and get back to him in a day or so.

Adam's reaction from the moment of hearing the news was...we'll do it. I was amazed by his confidence and admired his willingness to hand over his space. He said he would never let "stuff" get in the way of obeying God. You have to remember that this stuff had only been in place for a few hours literally. When he built the desk he joked that it was forever staying where it was assembled as it was too heavy to ever be moved. 

Moved it was. By millimeters it fit through the doorway. We had to take apart a closet and take it outside to get it back in as it would not fit through the kitchen, but we moved it. We bought a bed, and linens and made the room beautiful. 

We felt that this was God asking us a question. The question was, "is this really MY house?" You see we often say that it is God's house, but He wanted to know if one of His daughters needed a place to stay if we would welcome her. 

With great joy we welcomed Estelle into our family. She is beautiful, and funny and we love her. I can't imagine what we would have missed had we not said yes. She has brought us so much life, and laughter. I've never laughed so hard as we do at diner each night when we are trying to learn to speak in German. I feel young as I enter her world and take her to the mall and hang out with teenage girls. We exercise every night together and it is so fun as we challenge each other.

Just when I think I have my path all figured out, God says, "turn here". I am so glad that we did.

Estelle celebrated her 16th Birthday with us!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My Dear Friend Sandy crossed the Finish Line.








 This is my dear friend Sandy. She is one of those dear souls who I feel I have lived a much richer,blessed life because she has been a part of my journey.She lived for Jesus everyday of her life. Now she has crossed over the finish line and is with Jesus in heaven. Adam and I often counted on Sandy and her husband Doug to pray for us or to offer us wisdom. Now she is in the very presence of God. Amazing. I can't quite grasp that she has left us. Sandy loved beautifully all who entered her life. Doug and Sandy met us when I was pregnant with Brooke. They were in a small group that met in our home. Then they journeyed with us through our son Dominik's short life. I will never forget the presence of God in our home the night that our small group along with our pastor prayed over us and we shared communion. Those memories are sacred treasures. I picture Sandy stepping into my front door and kicking  off her shoes so that she could slip into her slippers. Her warm spirit was always at home with us. My favorite was when she would bring her homemade peach pie or warm dinner rolls. Sandy had a great laugh, the kind that sparkles and warms your heart. She loved to recall stories of when her boys where young as she watched us with baby Brooke. Sandy was a master quilter. A true artist with thread. When Brooke was born she made her a beautiful quilt. That quilt is Brooke's favorite. It has pretty colors perfectly cut and stitched together, but the real treasure is the hand quilted hearts carefully stitched in alternating squares. There is a whole lot of love in that quilt. Knowing Sandy,I'm sure that she prayed for little Brooke as she placed each careful stitch. When we found out a few months ago that Sandy was sick I would pray for her in my heart each night as I laid the quilt over Brooke in her bed. Now tonight I held it close as if hoping for one last hug, a way to be near to my dear friend. I covered Brooke up and we struggled to get it just right so that her feet wouldn't peek out the bottom. It is getting a little bit small, but nothing can take it's place. Our sweet Sandy, no one will ever be able to fill the special place you have in my heart. You had big slippers to fill (size 11 if I remember right). I celebrate that you are free from this broken world. How glorious to be in heaven with the Lord who you love so much. I am so blessed to have called you friend. Love, Michelle Diane.
Brooke feels deeply, and wanted to thank the special friend who made her quilt. We had good conversation reminding her that we believe in Jesus as our Savior, so we will see Sandy in Heaven someday. 
Look closely and there is a perfect heart stitched into every white square. This makes me treasure handmade things even more. It is sobering to think that our cloth and our stitches out live our bodies. I want my treasure to be in heaven.

Monday, January 7, 2013

2012 A Year in pictures.

Camping at Christian Reformed Conference Grounds...Grand Haven Mi, Lake MI





Craft Barn painting


Carnival, Alexa with her favorite...duckies!





Brooke and Olivia Pelon

Adam and Chris, the Pelon family came up for an evening. 


Michelle, Kamra, and Addalyn

Henrik got to have his second birthday camping.(Cadillac MI)




Papa Doug and Grandma Jackie joined us for a day. 







Silly faces!


Twins? They are really 17months apart, but I get asked often if they are twins. 





Kendall and Lexi...I love how children play to practice for real life. Alexa has a baby in a pack on her back and Kendall in holding a baby while they switch the laundry. 



Alexa's Halloween bucket...made in a pinch out of an ice cream pail...turned out super cute!

Friday night family night...crafts. 




 Happy Birthday niece Lana! I made her apron and chef's hat and Brooke's sundress.
Brooke on opposite day at school.

Easter with cousins Katelyn and Kelsi
Super hero...instead of face paint they used washable marker...brilliant. 



Grandma Jackie and Papa Doug with Brooke, Henrik, Katelyn, Kelsi, and Alexa.
     
Alexa and Brooke
Brooke our beautiful ballerina. 


Grandma Bonnie and Papa Bill with Brooke. 


Visit from Grandpa Milton and Grandma Jo(Adam's Grandparents) from Florida. 

Dolly slumber party. 

Lollipop concert with Mommy. Grand Rapids Ballet with the Symphony. 

Brooke, Henrik, Greta and Ginger Williams. 

Valentines day..dress I made for Brooke the night before her school party out of a red long sleeve Tee and fabric from my stash. 

Brooke in sweater and hat from Aunt Angella. I made her skirt before school out of a tank top of mine that I had saved knowing that the girls would love the shiny fabric for something someday. I just left the original hem and added elastic to the waist band. 

Daddy Daughter Dance. 


sisters

I made the girls dresses, Grandma Jo crocheted the sweater. 

We love Aunt Missy!


Grandma Bonnie Papa Bill at Frederic Meijer Gardens. 

Dress and Ruffle pants I made for Brooke with the help of Aunt Jan. 


Field Trip

Dress and Ruffle pants I made. 



Dresses I made for girls from fabric my little designer Brooke picked. 



Brooke's Friend Jenny from Cross Creek

Brooke's Friend Anna from Dutton Christian with her Mom my friend Erin. 

Happy 4th!

This year Brooke has read so much Daddy says we should change her name to "Booker"

First Day of First Grade-Mrs. Kissinger, Cross Creek Charter Academy. 

Happy 7th Birthday cowgirl Brooke!






Pinata from a gift bag. 

Crazy hair day

Happy Halloween


Pajama superhero party at Ada Bible Kentwood

Friday night...family night..making ornaments.

I love volunteering in Brooke's classroom. 

Papa Doug and Henrik

Shaving cream fun.

Grandma and Grandpa Beemer(Michelle's Grandparents)



Fixing dresser with Papa Bill...Henrik and Grandpa love tools!




July 4th

Henrik gazed out his window one night...looking into the stary sky he said, "I 'm going to play hockey with Dominik".He was set on it, like he could see something we couldn't see. It was precious and a moment of deep grief all wrapped into one. I want his brother here to play hockey with him. While it's true that time helps to heal, there are places that hurt more fiercely now than I ever could have anticipated. We love you Dominik, and Henrik our little hockey guys. 




"I want tools for Christmas Santa."





Henrik missed his nap, then was so tired he just laid down and went to sleep on the floor!

This is a common sight...Henrik getting into my electronics. He is wired just like Adam and likes anything that plugs in , has buttons, or lights up.

A Few pictures...just for fun.Consider it make-up for a year of little posting.  It's January, the time for nesting has come. Christmas decorations are down and a thousand and one pine needles are vacuumed up. My closets again need organizing, my waist needs shrinking,I'm sure there is a list of things that need cleaning, but it's been a good year one worth reflecting on. It's been a very long time since I had a year with out a significant milestone or hardship. Honestly I was shocked when I looked at the calendar and realized that there was no big drama to report. I think the two years previously packed in enough trauma for my lifetime...diagnosed with Crohn's disease followed by my appendix rupture and complications that nearly took my life. This year my big news is things like Brooke my oldest starting first grade, and camping as a family. So, I think I'll let the lists of things to do wait a while and I'm going to linger in the memories of a year that I will always treasure. Thought you might want to share it with me with my friends.