Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I Thought I Loved Him Then

Wedding Day with all our Little People
Fourteen years ago today, I married my best friend.  I thought I loved him then.  If I had only known how our love would change.

Fourteen years of doing life together - day in and day out - has a way of exposing every weakness and highlighting every flaw.  There is no "putting your best foot forward" because your spouse sees your best foot, your worst foot, your swollen pregnancy foot, your runner's calloused foot, and everything in between.  When you realize there is no place to hide you are forced into intimacy - like it or not.

It took us a while to find our rhythm.  Putting two independent minded people together and saying, "submit to each other, love each other and respect each other" can be a recipe for disaster.  We fought.  We cried.  We got flustered.  We threw our hands up in the air and said, "I don't know how to do this!"  For us, marriage was a big learning curve.

coming out of the water of my first triathlon ALIVE!
July 2010
But God is faithful. Through thick and thin, He patiently led us, guiding our steps and teaching us how to interact in ways that honored Him and each other.  The more we practiced loving and respecting each other, the easier it got.  Things that would have sent us into a full-on fight in the early years barely raise an eyebrow now.

We sure do laugh a lot - October 2010
Through it all, we've been able to laugh.  At our circumstances.  Sometimes at each other.  Definitely with each other.  Laughter is truly medicine for the soul.  

There's something about walking through trials with someone that strengthens your bond.  The times on the mountaintop when life is easy and good are memorable and fun.  But the times we've spent in the valleys - relational conflict, sleepless nights, years of changing diapers, financial stress - are the times that draw us closer together.  When we come out the other side, our dependence on each other and our faith in God is greater, deeper and stronger.
backpacking the Mt. Jefferson wilderness
Carl Lake - July 2011
My man has seen me at my prettiest.  My most successful.  My strongest.  And he loves me still.  My man has also seen me at my most vulnerable.  My weakest.  My ugliest.  And he loves me still.
Ten year anniversary
We're fourteen years into this thing called marriage.  Our marriage has outlived our mattress.  Our four kiddos are growing up to follow Jesus.  They bring huge doses of humility to us and life, volume and joy to our family.  Our love grows deeper, thicker, stronger, and more resilient every day.

Thank you Jesus for fourteen years of marriage and the gift of a husband perfectly suited for me. I'm confident that fourteen years from now, I'll look back on this post and think, "I thought I loved him then..." 
October 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

What Do You Have to Be Afraid Of?

I've been studying the book of Isaiah over the past few months.  It's rich with the depth of God's love for His people and His passion for justice.  God will establish justice - holding the wicked accountable and bringing salvation to the righteous - yet He always adds that His desire is to extend mercy and forgive.  Isaiah 55:6-7 sum this idea up - "Seek the LORD while He may be found; call on him while he is near.  Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts.  Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon."  Isn't that encouraging?

Isaiah chapter 51 talks about how the story ends - when God brings everlasting salvation to His people and makes everything new.  It offers hope both for this life and for the future.  Listen to what God has to say.  These are excerpts from the first sixteen verses that really spoke to me.

Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD:   4 “Listen to me, my people; hear me, my nation: Instruction will go out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations. 5 My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm. 6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail. 

 7 “Hear me, you who know what is right, you people who have taken my instruction to heart: Do not fear the reproach of mere mortals or be terrified by their insults. 8 For the moth will eat them up like a garment; the worm will devour them like wool. But my righteousness will last forever, my salvation through all generations.”

   12 “I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mere mortals, human beings who are but grass, 13 that you forget the LORD your Maker, who stretches out the heavens and who lays the foundations of the earth, that you live in constant terror every day because of the wrath of the oppressor, who is bent on destruction? 

 14 The cowering prisoners will soon be set free; they will not die in their dungeon, nor will they lack bread. 15 For I am the LORD your Godwho stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—    the LORD Almighty is his name16 I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand— I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’”

It's so easy to forget God when we're going through a trial or difficult times.  Sometimes we try to push through it on our own strength and then are surprised when we fall short.  Other times we curl up in a ball and give up.  But God says, "HELLO?  Remember me?  I am YHWH.  The I AM.  Everything that I AM, I will be to you.  Comforter.  Protector.  Creator.  Almighty.  Rescuer.  Provider.  Abba- Daddy.  What do you have to be afraid of?"

Psalm 27:12 says,  The LORD is my light and salvation - whom shall I fear?  The LORD is the stronghold of my life.  Of whom shall I be afraid?"

God says to you, "I've got it covered.  I've got your problems, your fears, your pain.  I cover you with the shadow of my hand.  What do you have to be afraid of?"

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Fun 2011

Christmas break so far has been stellar.  (I almost hesitate to say that out loud.)  When the kids were little I couldn't fathom the idea of a two-week school break, let alone kids that stayed up late or slept in.  But alas - time moves faster than we think it will and we've arrived at that sweet place of trading the rigorous, structured daily routine of school days for two whole weeks of unstructured play.  

The kids have been staying up late and (GASP!) sleeping in until 8 a.m.!  We've tried to do something fun each day.  There has been a good representation of kids monitoring everyone's behavior except their own and we've all had moments of having to choose a good attitude, but overall the Christmas spirit has descended on our house.  My overwhelming feeling the past few days has been, "It's loud, chaotic, and at times frustrating, but I am one blessed mama.  I wouldn't have it any other way."Here's a glimpse of some of the fun things we've been up to.

Katie dancing at half time

Friday, December 16th - School's out!  Paige and I attended an hour long sing-a-long to finish the school day.  Grant and Alli rode the bus home because the bus driver was passing out candy and they didn't want to miss out.  Paige and I dropped Katie off at Holiday Dance camp - a 5 hour camp where hundreds of little girls learned a choreographed dance routine to the song All I Want for Christmas is You and then performed it at half-time of the high school basketball game.

An hour later, Paige and Alli left for a Polar Express party.  Jammy-clad and holding their golden ticket, they excitedly knocked on their friend's door and waved goodbye as they headed in for a night of movie watching, popcorn eating, and Christmas celebrating.  

Don't feel bad for Grant.  He thoroughly enjoyed having Mom and Dad all to himself!

Saturday, December 17th - I went for an 11 mile run with my two running buddies, Carissa and Tanya, to start the day.  It was crisp and cold and we managed to bang out a great pace too.  Merry Christmas to us!  Curt was on call.  It was also his company Christmas party but we all were so busy relaxing and enjoying a quiet day at home that we completely spaced the party.  When we remembered two hours before, it was too late to pull it together.  We opted instead for a quiet family night at home that ended up being very enjoyable.

Girls at the Nutcracker Ballet
Sunday, December 18th - We've been married long enough to outlive our mattress.  How cool is that?  When we went to buy a new one, we spotted a cute bunk bed.  Paige (who is quickly approaching 6 years old) was still sleeping in a toddler bed so buying bunk beds was long overdue.  We left the store with a delivery date for a new mattress AND a new bunk bed.  I don't know who was more excited - Alli and Paige, or Curt and I.

Later that afternoon, the girls winterized their flower girl dresses from this summer and we headed to the Nutcracker Ballet.  A Christmas gift from my sweet friend Kelly, we were blown away that Newberg could put on such a classy production.  The sets were beautiful, the dancing elegant and advanced, and the baby fairy dancers adorable. The girls were on the edge of their seat the entire time and danced their way through the lobby during intermissions.
New bunk beds

Monday, December 19th - the kids played with their friends from church that they don't see very often.  I unexpectedly had two hours to myself so I went for a run and ended up getting a personal best for time.  Super fun!  The kids had a group sleep over in the toy room, stayed up late, and slept in the next morning.

Tuesday, December 20th - we played with more friends from church that live in Tigard.  While they were here, the bunk beds were delivered and set up.  Who knew you could play so much on a bed?!?!   Todd, one of our college "kids," came over for dinner which is always a treat. That night Alli and Paige slept in their new beds while Grant and Katie built and slept in a fort in Grant's room.

Paige scootering

Wednesday, December 21st -  The weather has been amazing this month!  Colder than usual (but still not really cold) and dry (very unusual for Oregon), it's been great playing outside weather.  The kids rode their bikes to the park (I ran) and then we played at the park.  Grant and I ran football drills and then we got all the neighborhood kids together to play Sharks and Minnows.  It was loads of fun to do that in the middle of what should have been a school day.

Grant scootering

The evening was filled with a church Christmas party just for kids in kindergarten through fifth grade.  Three hours of unlimited candy and sweets, gingerbread house making, games, and a Solid Rock style Price is Right game show made 200 kids VERY happy.  Grant's name got called to participate in the game show and he did the worm across the stage before taking his place.  When asked WHY, he said, "Because I had everyone's attention and it's funny."

Thursday, December 22nd - Today I woke up (late) to the kids arguing over whether they should play Wii or watch a movie.  AWESOME choices (although I would have preferred no arguing) given that a few days ago we were rushing to the bus stop at that exact time. 

me baking, only that's a gingerbread house the
kids made and not what I was baking.
While I baked Christmas goodies to deliver to the neighbors, the kids played together.  ALL day.  They rode bikes and scooters outside.  Delivered plates of goodies to the neighbors and practiced caroling.  At one point they were playing church.  Grant was the kid's worship leading and was practicing his guitar to an audience of baby dolls that the girls lined up.  The girls were putting on an adult church service in the play room, complete with mood lighting during worship.  My heart was so full.  I knew the harmony wouldn't last forever (I kept waiting for them to start arguing over who would be the preacher), but I sure enjoyed eavesdropping on their play.

Alli riding her bike

Katie bike riding
Good friends joined us for dinner and their son is sleeping over in a fort he and Grant built.  Life is full and life is good.

Thank you Jesus for coming to earth so many years ago.  Your birth changed everything and I am so grateful!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Book Review of "Love Finds You in Nazareth, Pennsylvania" by Melanie Dobson

Jodi and Melanie arriving in Haiti

It’s hard for me to write objectively about Melanie’s work since she’s one of my best friends.  I’d be her biggest fan even if her writing stunk.  Fortunately, she’s really talented so I don’t have to lie about her work.  WHEW!  This book in particular will always be a favorite because I started it on a plane headed to Haiti for a mission’s trip.  I read it laying in the hot sun by the Caribbean Sea with Melanie sun bathing next to me at the end of a life-changing week in Haiti.  I finished it on the plane sitting next to Melanie as we returned home to our families.  Who gets to do that?

Love Finds You in Nazareth, Pennsylvania is one of those stories that makes you scratch your head and ask, “People really lived like that?” Melanie’s meticulous research laid the groundwork for a fascinating history lesson.  I couldn’t believe the customs that dictated the way the Moravian people lived.  Spouses were chosen by lot, forcing members of the society to at times marry someone they’d never even spoken to.  Once married, they lived their lives out in separated quarters. I definitely would not have lasted long as a Moravian!

I’m not a huge fan of pie-in-the-sky romance novels, which is one reason I love Melanie’s stories.  In Love Finds You in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, Melanie tells an authentic and poignant love story of a couple tackling big marital issues.  She doesn’t gloss over real-life issues like lust, vulnerability, and commitment.  Christian and Susanna, the main characters, battle for their love to survive.  Their love grows through the action, not romantic feelings, of consciously choosing to honor their marriage vows.

Love Finds You in Nazareth, Pennsylvania also has an underlying story of faith tested through trials.  Melanie writes eloquently about the tension that exists in deep faith.  How do we balance waiting for God to speak directly with moving forward on our own based on common sense and the Holy Spirit’s leading?  I found my faith challenged as I reflected on the different ways that God speaks and directs our steps.

now you know what the cover looks like
You may not have the chance to turn the last page of Love Finds You in Nazareth, Pennsylvania and have the author ask, “Well, did you like it?”  But I can guarantee that you won’t regret reading this story of love, history, and faith.  Happy reading.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

All professional photos courtesy of Photography by Elise
It's hard to summarize a year to fit on one page, but this is what I came up with for our annual Christmas letter.  Merry Christmas to you and yours!  Love- Jodi

~~~~~ ******  ~~~~~

December 2011

Merry Christmas! 2011 has been a busy and fun year.  We hope this letter gives you a glimpse into what we’ve been up to.  Feel free to track our family more specifically at www.jodistilp.blogspot.com, and send us your updates too!

Sarah - 22 years
Sarah - We thought we were done having children, but we’re pleased to introduce our new addition – Sarah Lynn Wilmot.  Sarah (22 years) teaches 5th grade math and is pursuing her Masters in Education.  She moved in with us in May and immediately became part of the family.  We are blessed to have her for as long as she decides to stay.

Grant - 10 1/2 years old
Grant (10 years, 5th grade) is in his final year at Mabel Rush Elementary.  According to Alli, “Grant is hilarious and will eat anything.”  He wants to be a professional skateboarder, rock star, wildlife biologist or rocket scientist when he grow up.  He samples each career through his favorite activities – skateboarding, leading 2nd/3rd grade worship with his guitar, backpacking, and building Legos.  Grant’s football team went undefeated this year, winning the championship game on my birthday.  Go Tigers!  Grant saved $100 of his own money to help pay his way to his first week of overnight camp.  While there, he reaffirmed his decision to follow Jesus and said it was “definitely worth every penny.”

Kaitlin - 9 years
Katie (9 years, 4th grade) is gaining confidence as a student and leader.  Creativity flows through her veins and she has composed many short stories, won a coloring contest, and drawn some awesome pictures. I keep asking her, “Did you trace that?”  In line with her creativity, her current career aspirations are “a game board inventor or a shampoo model.”  A quiet but fierce competitor, Katie embraced softball with gusto, earning the nickname Wheels for her speed running bases.  She started dancing again this fall and was so graceful and elegant in her winter performance.  Kaitlin diligently read the entire New Testament this year and will often share with us what God is teaching her.

Alli - 7 1/2 years
Alli wants you to know “I’ve grown up.  I’m seven.  I’m pretty sure you can’t believe it. My behavior has changed a lot. I’m so happy I’ve had a great year in second grade.”  (We’re so happy too!)  Alli’s writing has taken off and she has produced some hilarious and touching work.  Softball didn’t move fast enough for Alli.  She picked a lot of outfield grass and made a lot of infield mud pies, but she loved talking to the other team while she ran the bases.  This fall Alli tried and loved choir, especially the performances where she really hammed it up.  Alli’s heart-felt prayers are pure, raw and intimate.  Her greatest Christmas wish is “a Haitian baby doll so I can tell people I adopted her.”

Paige - 5 3/4 years old
Paige (5 years) started Kindergarten this year.  She has a quiet confidence in herself and loves everything about school.   She is already reading fluently, something I still can’t wrap my brain around.  Paige kept us laughing with her quick wit and her five-year-old phrasing.  In the past year, she’s declared herself “an owl expert,” worn “the only pair of jeans available,” and declared, “Mom – I’m going healthy” after studying the food pyramid.  She has definite opinions about random things like clothes (we see her favorites over and over) and her hair (“dunna never tut it”).  Paige loves dancing and abandoned all inhibitions during her first showcase.  Way to shake it Paigey! 

Curt on his first trip to Haiti
HAITI – In April, Curt led a team to Haiti building several homes for displaced Haitian families.  He plans to return in January, this time leading a medical team.  In October, I joined a team of women from our church in leading a conference for Haitian pastor’s wives.  Our kids are learning Creole and begging for their turn to visit Haiti.  We know God will continue to intertwine our family’s hearts with the Haitians’.

Me with one of the kids in Grace Village

Curt and Jodi - about to celebrate 14 years of marriage
Carl Lake - where we backpacked
Curt has worked harder this year than ever before.  He has handled the pressures of two jobs, house church leader, mentoring, fatherhood, husband duties, and multiple mission trips with finesse and grace.  He even made time to train for yet another Olympic-distance triathlon.  It makes me tired just writing all he’s done.  I (Jodi) spent a lot of time writing, including weekly fitness posts for our church.  It was my first time writing for a specific audience on a deadline and it married several of my passions – encouraging women, running, and Jesus.  I ran three half marathons and was also able to run Hood to Coast for the first time.  Dubbed the Mother of All Relays, this 200 mile, 12-person relay race starts at Mt. Hood and finishes on the Pacific Ocean.  It was epic! 

This summer Curt and I took a four-day backpacking trip in the Mt. Jefferson wilderness.  We fell in love all over again with each other and with our Mighty Creator.  Our trip was NOTHING that we planned and EVERYTHING that we needed.  A verse God has been teaching Curt and I this year (and particularly on this trip) is Proverbs 16:9.  It says, “In his heart a man plans his course but the Lord determines his steps.” It’s our prayer that your upcoming year will be everything you need, even if it’s nothing like you planned.  

With All Our Love,

Curt, Jodi, Grant, Katie, Alli, Paige and now Sarah

Friday, December 9, 2011

I Am Thankful - Guest Post by Alli Stilp

photo courtesy of Photography by Elise

Alli (2nd grade – 7 years old) had to write a report for school titled I Am Thankful.  She actually took her time and used her best handwriting.  It looked so un-sloppy that I honestly thought she brought home the wrong paper.  But no.  It was really hers.  Here’s what she wrote without corrections for spelling or word choices.  She melts me.

“I am thankful for family mebers that I can love on.  I’m also thankful for friends to have playdates with.  I am really thankful for food to fill up my belly.  I’m also thankful for school to fill my brain up with good stuff like writing & math & reading.  I’m thankful for toys to have fun with & play with.  I love giving thanks to God & to my parents.



What are you thankful for today?  Why not write it down?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lavish Love

Thoughts from Isaiah 55

I was reading Isaiah 55 this morning and found myself highlighting large portions of the chapter.  As I went back over these rich verses a theme jumped out at me that I missed the first time through. 

God offers so much to me – none of it deserved.  But much of what He offers hinges on my action or inaction.  Read these verses (2-3, 6-7) and look for action words.

Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.  Give ear and come to me; hear me that your soul may live.  I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.  Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.  Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts.  Let him turn to the LORD and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”

Listen.  Delight.  Give ear.  Come.  Hear.  Seek.  Call.  Forsake evil.  Turn to the LORD.  All of those are actions that depend on me.  And why would I put forth all that effort?

Because by doing this my soul will live.  Almighty God promises an everlasting covenant with me.  He offers His faithful love.  He extends undeserved mercy.  He pardons me from the death penalty I earned and sends His Son to be executed in my place.  Now that is lavish love.

Monday, December 5, 2011

She's a Real Beaut Clark!

This weekend the Stilp Family determined to get their Christmas Spirit on in full force.  Curt’s favorite Christmas movie is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. While I can’t fully endorse it because it’s crass in a few spots (our kids aren’t allowed to watch it yet), I can say that it’s hilarious and it gets funnier the more you watch it.  Curt quotes it all year round, but during Christmas the movie quotes never stop.

We live in a neighborhood that would make Clark W. Griswold (the main character) proud to be a part of.  For the second year in a row, the neighbors have planned and hosted a Lighting Ceremony where they close the two cul-de-sacs and have a big party complete with hot cocoa, Santa, and carolers. The big lighting reveal was Saturday night and neighbors have been preparing for weeks.

the kids by the tree - aren't they cute?
The exterior of the Stilp house is consistently subpar by a huge ratio.  We had a few strands of outdoor lights when we moved in but they kept dying and we didn’t bother replacing them.  Two weeks ago Curt took advantage a non-rainy day and hung up the remaining strands.  We stood in the street and laughed.  To say it was pathetic would be an understatement.  Our neighbors good-naturedly ridiculed our Charlie Brown attempt at Christmas cheer and even offered to loan us lights from their excess supply. 

We decided, in the words of George Castanza from Seinfeld, it was “time to take it up a notch!” Friday night we made a late-in-the-game 4th quarter surge and furiously began hanging the new lights we purchased and the charitable contribution lights from the neighbors.  We worked until after dark and came up with a plan to finish the outside decorating on Saturday morning AFTER we got the family Christmas tree.

family photo
We woke to a crisp, cold and foggy morning.  I put on my “Griswold Family Christmas” t-shirt in honor of going to get the tree.  Over breakfast we entertained Sarah with stories of visits to the Christmas Tree Farm gone awry and laughed about how in spite of hiccups every time, it still is an annual tradition we would never dream of giving up.  The day looked promising. 

However the problems started early.  Our kids dressed themselves like it was summer and then protested when we asked them to wear actual coats and boots.  We spent twenty minutes dealing with bad behavior and pulled out of the driveway with smoke coming from our ears and mumbling empty threats under our breath.

Just before we arrived at Jorgensen’s Tree Farm we drove out of the fog and into bright sunlight.  The normally muddy ground was still frozen and unsloppy. Curt verified the price was really $20 for any tree on the lot – no matter the size – and we set off to find THE perfect tree.  It looked like the day was about to redeem itself. 

She looked smaller in the field
Early into our search the light from heaven shone on a monster tree.  Perfectly symmetrical and round, Curt fell instantly in love.  I mentioned that it looked a little large, but Curt reassured me that she was perfect and that every tall tree comes with some girth.

He and Grant all but disappeared as they shimmied under the tree to find the stump and start sawing.  Grant was bored within sixty seconds and left to find a fort, leaving Curt by himself to cut her down.  Minutes passed.  The only sound coming from under the tree was labored breathing, the scrape of the saw against the trunk, and frequently increasing mumbling.

The girls started bickering and complaining.  Curt hollered from under the tree, “It’s all part of the experience Honey” and went back to sawing. We took an adventure walk to pass the time and give Curt some space.  When we circled back he was still sweating under the tree. I heard him mumble on more than one occasion, “This is the LAST time we’re doing this.  Next year I’m buying a tree off a lot.

never so grateful to see a chainsaw!
We were there so long the ground thawed out and it got muddy.  My offers of help were met with disapproving grunts.  Finally I whispered to Sarah, “Why don’t you go back down to the barn and ask the guys if they have another saw?  We could be here all day.”  A few minutes later our Knight in Shining Armor arrived to save the day.  He rode a four-wheeler with a trailer, carried a chain saw, and laughed when he saw the tree.  “Wow!  That’s a big one!” 

Once the tree was down, we assessed her in all her glory.  She was 17 years old, measured 12 feet tall, and had a stump diameter of 8 ½ inches! Curt, in a much better mood now that he was off the ground and out of the mud, admired his tree and declared, “She’s a real beaut Clark!”

The hired help snickered and gasped when we pulled into the baling area.  There was no hope of getting this gal through the baler!  They looked around for a pickup truck to load her into and then laughed out loud when we pointed to the van.  Those boys – all six of them – muscled our tree that weighed at least 200 pounds on top of the van.  She dwarfed the van with multiple feet of tree hanging off both the front and back.  Everyone was laughing.
who knew the shirt would be so prophetic?

front windshield view
I posed for pictures in front of the van with my Griswold Family Christmas t-shirt and paid our $20 for the tree.  We corralled our kids into the van through the only door that we could close without also capturing part of the tree.  The view out the front windshield was hilariously obstructed.  Curt slid down in his seat so he could see out the window and slowly pulled out onto the highway.  We considered turning on the hazards and driving SLOWLY home, but the old gal seemed to be holding steady, tree needles flying off as we picked up speed.  Who needs a baler?

side mirror view, and yes that's part of the
tree stuck in the door

People in cars coming the opposite direction laughed and honked, thoroughly enjoying a movie being re-enacted before their eyes.  Just as one driver gave us a big thumbs-up, the twine securing the tree to the van loosened.  We all watched in comic horror as our tree slid off the top of our van, bounced down the highway and rolled into the ditch.  Curt pulled into the nearest driveway (about an eight of a mile down the road) and we sat in disbelief.  Did that really just happen? You couldn’t write a movie script like this! 

Curt took the kids to go home and get the trailer.  Sarah and I stayed with the tree.  Our job was to somehow get the tree from the highway ditch to the driveway for safe loading into the trailer when Curt arrived.  We couldn’t stop laughing which complicated our attempt to coordinate our push-pull efforts.  I ended up on my booty on the side of the road before we figured out a system that worked.

why didn't we think of the trailer in the first place?

Our neighbors were out putting the finishing touches on their decorations as we rolled into our driveway. They all took turns gawking and laughing.  “She’s a real beaut Clark” was heard often throughout the afternoon.

The fun didn’t stop once we got home.  Our existing tree stand was way too small, so I had to go buy a new one.  Curt was 90% finished hammering the new stand into the base of the trunk when he realized it was missing a piece.  Back to the store I went. 

Getting the tree in the house was another adventure.  Our front door was much too small so Curt and I had to drag her up our side yard, wedge her through the gate in our fence, and carry her across the back yard.  We pushed, pulled, tugged, prayed, wedged, and wiggled her through the sliding glass door, lugged her down the hall, and unceremoniously dumped her in the living room.  Her tip scraped the top of the ceiling and her girth soaked up the majority of space.  It took Sarah, Curt, and I working together as a team to shimmy her back into the corner.

She's a real beaut Clark!
Somehow Curt managed to finish our exterior lighting system in time for the big party.  At the party a friend of mine overheard the story of our day and laughed.  She went on to tell me that her family had been to Jorgensen’s Tree Farm an hour after we left and chosen a large tree.  The owner commented, “That’s a big tree but not as big as the one that just left with another family.  It was one of the biggest we’ve sold this year and they put it on top of their van.  I sure hope they made it home safely.”

Curt is putting the finishing touches on our tree as I write this. (Come over if you want to see her in real life).   It smells and looks like a forest in our home.  No squirrels or chipmunks have emerged from the branches (thank God) but three very lethargic bees have flown out from the depths.  We are praying there isn’t an entire nest waiting to wake up, but only time will tell.  We may have overdone it this year, but “she’s a real beaut Clark!”

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I Need Your Help

Hello Friends and Readers.  I was invited to attend a writers meeting last night.  When I got the invite, I thought it was a mistake.  But no - it was addressed to me.  We went around the room sharing what we write, why we write, and our journey to being "A Writer."

I felt so out of place and inexperienced.  I have never taken a writing class.  I never wanted to be a writer growing up.  The thought of researching a book terrifies me.  I really don't even read that much, even though I like it, and I can't remember the last time I've been to the library.  I didn't even realize I knew how to write until you all started saying, "Hey, I actually like your Christmas letter.  You're a good writer."

It's about time I took my writing seriously.  I'm in the process of revamping my blog and trying to make it more professional and easier to use.  What you're looking at is a pre-designed Blogger template that I don't love but I like better than the last format.  I want a simpler, more stream-lined blog with less craziness and more calm.

Will you do me a favor and comment (yes - comment even if you have to create a gmail account to sign in) on why you read my blog?  What do you like?  What keeps you coming back?  What don't you like?  What could change?  I'd love your feedback on formatting, frustrations with how the site works, and stuff you'd like to see changed.  What do you want more of?  Less of?

Oh and I need some help with a title.  When I started this blog, it was on a whim with very little thought put into a purpose or a title.  I'm not emotionally attached to "JoJo's Journal" so I'd love some input on a title too.  Maybe something that more clearly captures the essence of this blog, but what exactly is that?

This is obviously a work in progress, so please help me.  I value your feedback!  Love- Jodi

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I Will Not Forget

Happy Thanksgiving.  The Holiday Season is officially upon us.  Our family was talking last night about how fun this time is.  Grant (10 years) said, “My favorite thing about the Christmas season is the spirit in the air.  People are just in a good and joyful mood and it’s so much fun.”  We celebrate family, friendships, togetherness, tradition, giving.   What’s not to love?

But as I reflected on all I am thankful for, it dawned on me that not everyone loves the Holiday Season.  For those who have no family or who have strained relationships with their family, this season can dredge up bad memories or wishful thinking of what should be.  For my friend who just lost his wife to cancer, this season magnifies the depth and breadth of his loss and his grief.  For my single friends who long to have a spouse to share this time with, it can bring up discontentment and feelings of isolation.  To my friends struggling to pay their bills and losing their homes, this season magnifies their helplessness.  Or what of my Haitian friends who live every day without electricity, running water and permanent homes? 

It’s easy to feel alone, isolated, and abandoned by people and by God.  I read Isaiah 49 yesterday and was touched again by God’s intense love, protection, and possessiveness of His most treasured creation – us. 

If you are one of those people who dread the Holiday Season, be encouraged.  This is what the LORD says... (Isaiah 49:13, 15-16, 23, and 26)

“For the Lord comforts His people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones….  Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed. Then all mankind will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”

You are not alone.  Your family may forget you, but God says, “I will not forget you!”  May you feel His personal love and protection over your life this Holiday Season.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lovely - Guest Post by Amanda Jones

Today’s post is written by my sweet friend Amanda Jones.  We met during all the training meetings for our trip to Haiti.  After one summer meeting, we stood in the parking lot and talked for an hour.  It felt we were immediate kindred spirits.  Amanda is LOVELY.  She is flawed.  She, like all of us, bears scars from her past.  She is redeemed.  Forgiven.  Beautiful.  Talented.  Smart.  Kind.  Loving.  Sweet.  Amanda is a passionate Jesus-follower. Amanda became my sister over the past few months.  I know you’ll love her too! Learn more about Amanda at her new blog www.ajfallingintograce.blogspot.com

By Amanda Jones

A few weeks ago as a team of ladies and I jetted from airport to airport on our way to Haiti I poured through the pages of a book loved by Christian women everywhere, Captivating. For years I have listened to ladies just cherish the sweet secrets of every women's heart that unfold in the pages of that book. But to be honest, I had never really read it. I mean I had flipped through the pages here and there. I had from time to time grabbed a verse or read a chapter that seemed needed at the time.  I figured that a long day or two of journeying to a foreign country where our mission was to love and teach women was a great chance to see what I had been missing. What a timely opportunity. If you have read the book you know that more than a few times the author highlights the desire of every woman's heart to be seen as LOVELY.

When I was graciously brought back to the Lord five years ago and began going to church again, I remember looking around and thinking, “Wow these women are so beautiful.”   At the time I believed it was because they had done things right -not at all like me. I had stumbled so many times. The idea that I could even begin to build relationships with these women seemed impossible.  I remember one night going home and weeping to my mother, "I will never be like these girls.  They never laugh too loud or cry too hard, they never say the wrong thing. Surely they have never fallen away or made mistakes that seemed to swallow them up."  I thought they were perfect and I wasn't blind to the fact that I was far from that.  But what I didn't know is these women I looked up to, revered, and admired, were not perfect.  They were Lovely.

The years progressed and the Lord blessed me with friendships, sisters, and women in my life that would open up their lives with vulnerable courage and begin to show me their hearts. I began to see the truth. These were not women that had somehow evaded the trials of life.  They had stories.  They had hurts and wounds, pains and failures just like me. These women were not perfect at all.

The most beautiful women I have been blessed to come to know over the years are not the ones that always have the right answer, dress size, or eloquent speech. Don't get me wrong, they work hard, they seek the Lord to become more like Him, and take care of their bodies and blessings they have been given. But, the most beautiful women I know are the ones who like Esther, went into the palace of the King and were washed clean.

Beauty shines through their love, healing, and surrendered lives. The image of God is what makes their eyes sparkle.  Their smiles draw you to them. They are strong and vulnerable, courageous and dependent on the Father, beautiful and unashamed. This loveliness does not only shine through women in my town, my church, or my family. This is a loveliness I have been blessed to see in some of the ugliest situations and horrific circumstances. In far-off countries like Haiti where the world has literally crumbled around them.

They reflect the Lord’s…

 Wisdom and Kindness

Tenderness and Innocence

Heart For the Broken





Thank you Lord for all the women who have opened up their lives to share their loveliness with me.

With all my heart,