Thursday, May 31, 2018

Bravery is Staying In the Game

just part of a GIANT oak tree that was on location this morning at my photo session. 

The past three weeks have felt like a time warp of a bad dream we just can’t wake up from. One of my best friends tragically and unexpectedly lost her husband.  Another friend was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Our kids narrowly missed being T-boned by an erratic driver on the highway.  Friends from church were told that one of their unborn twins had died in utero and the other would not survive outside the womb.  Three beautiful women at a homeless shelter shared their stories – marked by grief and tragedy – over dinner in a safe home last night.  This world is broken.  The weight of grief is staggering.  As my friend Di says, “We are not made for this.”

And yet, in the face of bone-aching sorrow, life goes on.  GOOD LIFE goes on. Alli competed in the state track meet.  One of my nieces graduated with honors from high school and another one moved in with us for the summer.  Katie was inducted into the National Honor Society.  I ran a pain-free race for the first time in over a year. Grant was honored for his commitment to high school athletics and another water polo state championship.  Paige’s passion to help the homeless has opened some intriguing doors for our family to serve people right here in Newberg who desperately need help and a lot of love. 

We still have sports practices, school projects, tournaments and award ceremonies. My clients are counting on me to get their pictures to them. My family still needs to be fed and I (for my own sanity) still need to try to keep my house in some semblance of order. 

I don’t know how to Walk With Your Best Friend Through the Death of Her Husband, but we’re bumbling our way through it.  We’ve sobbed together.  Laughed so hard we cried.  Passed the Talking Stick around her table and texted at all hours of the day.  We have shared wisdom and moments of grouchiness, and walked miles and miles. And you know what?  Jesus has been with us every step of the way.  I have never felt his presence more intimately.  

I assumed that “having Jesus in difficulty” would be all rainbows and sunshine, but it’s better than that.  Jesus is with us in our ugly crying and bone-aching sorrow.  He offers grace to cover our grouchiness and un-put-togetherness. He mourns with us.  Gives us exactly what he need for each day.  Jesus Is my portion and He is enough.

This morning I read a story about a young mother who recently walked through the tragedy of her infant son’s death.  She said, “In my life, and maybe in yours too, bravery looks less like a flashy Captain America moment and more like finishing that work assignment, leaning into a meaningful conversation with a friend, laughing at YouTube cat videos again, and going to counseling for the first time.  Bravery is staying in the game. It’s engaging with your life and relentlessly seeking and accepting love even though life has just run you ragged.  The perfect love I know that God has for each of us – that is what keeps me in the game. It’s what makes me brave.”

I can’t possibly know each of your stories or the burdens you quietly bear.  But I do know that Jesus knows.  He sees you. He loves you.  He sits with you in the mire and weeps with you.  He will give you just what you need to be brave and stay in the game. He will give me just what I need to stay in the game. For that… and for the life he gives me… I am forever grateful.

To being brave…

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Happy Holidays 2017: Our annual Christmas Letter

Hello!  I’m pretty sure 2017 was the fastest year on record. It FLEW by. Here are some highlights.

BIGGEST NEWS: Curt is a doctor.  He graduated in June with an EdD (Education Doctorate) and finally has some margin in his days again. WHOO HOO! Doctor Stilp fills that new Time Margin by puttering with projects in the garage, watching football with the kids or his friends, flying his drone, and serving as an elder for our church.  This year he also successfully wrote a grant that funds most of his work at OHSU and is enjoying the challenge of moving the two big initiatives laid out in the grant forward.
Dr. Stilp, MS, PA-C, EdD
I (Jodi) am still running every day and am closing in on 900 days. My run streak is a stabilizing force in our often chaotic, constantly shifting schedules. I appreciate the mental clarity, physical fitness, and miles under my feet (more than 2,000 again this year) that come along with it.  This summer I ran an ultra relay, dividing 216.6 beautiful, rugged miles between six people over the course of 29 hours.  It was the most difficult and exhilarating thing I have done to date. This season of life is one of my favorites.  I love being married to Dr. Stilp, parenting teens, and running my photography business.

Running leg two of six of Cascade Lakes Relay on an ultra team 
Finished the Eugene Marathon with my second fastest marathon time and 2nd place in my division. It was bittersweet since I wasn't able to execute the race I trained to run.
I won my first 10k!
Grant (16 years - Junior) got his driver’s license on his 16th birthday and has been driving everywhere ever since.  I miss the days of carpooling him and his buddies, but love that he can run errands and chauffer his sisters.  Water polo continues to be a giant part of his life.  He and his teammates traveled to California to play in the Junior Olympics this summer, then won their fourth consecutive highschool state championship in November. Grant is also a co-captain of the swim team, continues to play high school golf for “funsies,” skateboards, and plays in drum line and percussion ensemble. When he’s not at the pool or school he’s working – for a vineyard owner, two farmers, an event company or mowing lawns.
License day and he gets to drive "The Whip" - our "new" family car.
Grant - Junior- 16 years - still skateboards every chance he gets.
Half time of the state championship game.  He played every second of this game, defending the other teams' best player.
State Champs - four years in a row
Junior Olympics 2017 - Orange County, California
Junior Olympics 2017 - Orange County, California
Katie (15 years - Sophomore) is officially a permitted driver - 25 mph never felt so fast. (just kidding). Katie sets big goals and then quietly goes about accomplishing them, surprising those along the way that underestimate her fierce determination.  She is crushing high school academics and worked her tail off to earn a varsity letter in lacrosse as a freshman. Katie also plays high school soccer and never seems to get tired.  Katie still babysits frequently, but just put together a resume’ and is applying for jobs around the area.  Her highlights for the year are Young Life camp, going to California on spring break with a friend, white water rafting, and a family vacation to California that included Six Flags amusement park.
Katie - 15 years - Sophomore
Smiling for the camera
She may be little, but she is fierce.
All it did was rain and rain and rain the entire lacrosse season.  Katie plays mid-field and attack.
Soccer - she is so determined.  And so fast.
Katie got moved to defense this year because 1.  She is fearless and will take on any player, any size. 2.  She never gets tired.  She runs and runs and runs and runs....
Varsity letter in lacrosse her freshman year
Alli (13 years – 8th grade) would play All The Sports if we let her, but has narrowed it down (note the sarcasm) to soccer, basketball, lacrosse and track and field.  Basketball appears to be emerging as her favorite, but she also loves lacrosse and jumped over 14 feet in the long jump this track season, so who knows which sport will really capture her heart. Alli comes alive around people and looks for every opportunity to hang out with her friends or babysit.  She also loves her role as Puppy Momma to Piper, a special needs puppy we are fostering.  Piper has already outlived her life expectancy and we know it’s because she gets SO much love. Alli’s highlights for the year are choosing to follow Jesus in baptism, winning the basketball league championship, and finally visiting California.
long jump - season PR of 14' 2". 
Lacrosse defense
lacrosse offense
basketball - taking it to the hoop
4x100 relay - anchor leg
Alli - 13 years - 8th Grade
Soccer season (more rain)
following Jesus by being baptized.
Paige (11 years – 6th grade) started middle school this year.  She has mastered the locker combination and switching classrooms, loves being in advanced math, and regrets her elective choice of band. She still reads a ton, but also enjoys playing with our dogs and hanging out with her friends more.   Paige is emerging as an athlete too – scoring her first goal in soccer and baskets in basketball. She ran well in the 5th grade track meet and is excited to start track and field in the spring. Highlights for Paige this year are going to her first sleep-away camp with our church, riding all the ridiculously scary rides at Six Flags, white water rafting, hanging out with friends, and adopting Piper the Puppy.
Band - "only fun because I'm with my friends."
Look who scored her first basket and she scored three in one game!
6th grade living history night
Paige is the best hiker in our family, even this one in the snow with too big boots.
family at the Junior Olympics.
Six Flags on the baby rollercoaster, the only one I liked.  Paige loved the scary ones.
First time going to a sleep away camp.
Starting middle school.  Say it isn't so. 
Lots of dancing and cartwheels on the soccer field for Paige.
But she also scored her first ever goal this season. 
Paige - 6th grade - 11 years.
This December 27th Curt and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, a testimony of God’s faithful refining in our lives. We thank God every day for the messy, chaotic, beautiful life He has given us. And we thank God for you.  All our love…
all photos from this series are courtesy of Nanci Staley from Nanci Imagery

Curt, Jodi, Grant, Katie, Alli, and Paige (and the dogs: Dusty, Kimber and Piper)

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Four Peat: Oregon 6A State Champions Again

Boys Oregon 6A State Champions - four consecutive years 
Girls Oregon 6A State Champions - second time in the past three years 
On November 11th, 2017, the Newberg High School boys water polo team won the Oregon 6A state championship title for the fourth consecutive year.  An hour later, the Newberg High School girls water polo team also brought home the Oregon 6A state championship title - their second in three years. It's hard to put into words the emotion of watching your child, their teammates, and their coaches make a dream a reality.

Newberg has been dominating Oregon water polo since its inception in 1983.  Jim McMaster, the genius who started the program in 1983, is STILL the head coach of the boy's team and the assistant coach of the girls' team.  He has coached his teams to 37 state championships in 34 years.  Let that sink in for a minute. 

Grant has grown up in the culture that is Newberg Water Polo.  The coaches place a high value on hard work, teamwork, and mentoring.  The older kids help coach the elementary teams and mentor the younger players.  All players are expected to volunteer at home tournaments, keep their grades up, and abide by a code of conduct that honors Newberg High School and Newberg water polo.  The bar is HIGH for these athletes and they willingly step up to meet the expectation. These athletes know they are a part of something unique. They are part of a dynasty.

The year Grant started high school Newberg had just graduated an all star group of seniors from their water polo team.  It created a unique opportunity for Grant and four of his friends to all earn varsity letters as freshman and help their team win an unexpected state championship with a roster full of freshmen.  They earned themselves the nickname the Fab Five and it stuck. The following year, each of these boys earned a varsity letter again and played a larger role in another state championship title.
Fab Five after their junior year banquet
This year was different.  All but one of the Fab Five's mentors graduated.  It was time for our boys to step up and lead the team - both in the water and mentoring the younger players coming behind them.  The first game of the season Grant had a hat trick (three goals in one game) and a big cheering section.  The article in the newspaper mentioned every single one of the Fab Five and a role they played in the victory.  The season was setting itself up to be epic.

Grant with his little buddy Payton.
Hat trick.
The Newberg fans are complacent. It's an unspoken expectation that the water polo teams will bring home the league titles and compete at a high level in the state tournament.  We have very few fans that come to the games, and no cheerleaders or fan fare, which is unfortunate because water polo is so exciting to watch.  But the rest of the state is not complacent when it comes to Newberg.  Opponents resent our success and EVERYONE wants to beat Newberg.  Our players carry the weight of this into every single game.  They can't afford be complacent.

Our boys rolled through the first half of their season, beating every Oregon team they played and only losing once in the championship game of a tournament to the reigning Washington 6A state champions. Then, the unthinkable happened.  Our boys went to Lakeridge High School and got beat 6-4 by a very strong, capable Pacer team.  It was the first league loss for the Newberg boys' team in FIFTEEN years.  It was humbling and just the reminder the boys needed that complacency is not an option.

We played Lakeridge again at home in the last game of the regular season.  For the first time since I've been watching high school water polo, Newberg fans - and even cheerleaders -  came out to support the athletes.  They PACKED the pool deck and stands, cheering wildly and creating an electric atmosphere. It was obvious this game should be a preview of the state championship.  The game was tense and close.  Grant scored a goal with one second left on the game clock to help his team win 7-4, settling the score with Lakeridge.

The win by the Tigers secured a tie for the League Champions and forced a play off game to determine which team would get the number one seed going into the state tournament.  Newberg scored the first goal and controlled almost the entire first half, but the Pacers scored at the end of the second quarter and the momentum shifted.  The two teams battled back and forth through the last two quarters, but Pacers all-star Terran Walker put the game away with a goal in the last minute to earn a 6-5 Lakeridge victory.  Both teams knew the showdown at state would be a good one.

As the season progressed, Grant's strength morphed him into a defensive specialist. He was assigned to shut down the opponent's 2 meter/hole set position.  It was exciting (and a little scary) to watch him battle it out against some of the toughest and scrappiest players in the state.  The stuff that is considered "legal" in water polo is cray cray. Grant had a memorable and incredible performance in the semi-final game, scoring four goals and playing flawless defense.  It is a bit surreal to watch him play every second of these important games and hold his own against some of the best players in the state.

As expected, the Pacers and the Tigers both played their way into the state championship game.  Both teams were hungry for victory.  The Pacers were playing for their first ever state championship.  The Tigers were playing for revenge and to keep their championship streak alive.
team captain getting the fans pumped
Grant being announced before the championship game.
jumping in the water before the game started.
The sprint to start the championship game ended in a jump ball.  Newberg won the jump and went right down and scored a goal within the first ten seconds.  That goal set the tone for the entire game.  Newberg held the lead throughout the entire championship game and earned another state title for their school.
Raleigh winning the jump ball 
Then scoring seconds later to set the tone for the game.
Grant guarded All-League MVP Terran Walker, and shut him down for the entire game, with the exception of one goal.  Lakeridge double teamed our strong players, leaving Alex, our lone sophomore starter, open.  He took full advantage of this, scoring three crucial goals and earning the game ball for his stellar performance. With less than a minute to go in the championship game, Grant scored to put the Tigers up by three goals, a margin too big to tackle with the time remaining in the game.  Final score: Newberg 9- Lakeridge 7.

my boy doing his thing
getting ready for the second half 

It was a tough, physical game.  Well played by both teams.

final minute of the game - just before G scored to put them up by 3.
You did it!

one happy boy
our co-captains
State Champions (but missing a ton of our players in this photo)
Five of our starters earned All State honors, including our goalie Wilson Johnson, who also took home state MVP honors.

I had a Media Pass that allowed me access to the entire pool deck to take photos.  It was pretty cool to  be able to record the excitement of another championship for our boys and their parents.  Their senior year is going to be an emotional roller coaster for all of us.  Just take a look at this little video clip that shows the emotions that go into the semi-final and championship games!

Here is a video of the goals Grant scored in the semi-final and championship game. A huge thanks to my friend Heather who took all these videos while I was taking still shots.

Well done boys.  Four-peat State Champions.  You earned it and we are so proud.  Until next year....